I Know What You Wished For

(Prequel to "Between Love and Hate")

by Lane Carson

Brian shifted in his seat. He was tired and uncomfortable. The file he'd been looking through slid off his lap as he moved to adjust his seat. Reclining the chair slightly, he gave himself enough room to move the laptop from his tray table to that of the seat next to him. Cynthia had gone somewhere; to the can he supposed. They'd taken a six o'clock flight out of Pittsburgh and just over two hours into the flight Brian was going stir-crazy. He ran his hands through his hair and rubbed his eyes before pressing the call button. A young woman, violet eyes... Brian thought as she approached him, '...probably contacts'.

"Can I get you something sir?" Sleepily, Brian asked for black coffee, some extra sweeteners and aspirin.

Cynthia returned in a flourish. Clearly she'd had more sleep than he the night before. Catching Brian's glare, she tempered her smile slightly and set about picking up the file that Brian had dropped on the floor.

"You have to be at the Madrigal meeting by 10:00am. It'll be a breakfast so don't eat too much of this airline crap." Cynthia continued speaking as the flight attendant returned with Brian's coffee and pills. "I'll go on to the hotel with the bags and set up. I'll meet you in midtown for eleven-thirty. We have to be at Cooper & Collins by noon."

Brian swallowed the last of three pills and let his head loll against the window as she continued. Six meetings and then a reception at the firm's Los Angeles office in honor of some sales record that office had set. Brian was the keynote speaker. It would be at least two o'clock tomorrow morning before he would be able to get some sleep.

He'd spent the previous evening and well into the early morning fixing fuck ups in the copy and the graphics for his first presentation of the morning. Gritting his teeth Brian thought, 'they don't pay me enough for this shit'. It seemed as though no one bothered to proof his or her work before leaving it for Brian's okay. The Madrigal account involved a sugar-laced soda that was being marketed to the young not admitted without a parent or legal guardian set. Since it wasn't the most challenging sales account in the division the legwork on the file had been left to junior executives. This left Brian responsible for giving the pitch his final approval and doing the client presentation.

Cynthia nudged his arm slightly and reminded him that he would have to change into his suit on the plane. Brian checked his watch, fifty-five minutes to go before they landed. He put up his tray table and stood as Cynthia gathered up the laptop and moved aside to let him pass her and stand in the aisle. Brian smirked as he noticed the man sitting across the aisle from them. The man had been studying what appeared to be cue cards for the better part of half an hour.

Brian furrowed his brow and addressed the man angrily, "What? Are you going to deliver a fucking speech over breakfast?" With that Brian pulled at his suit bag and carry-on and walked to the middle of the plane. The man looked quizzically at Cynthia who just smiled and turned away before settling herself in front of the computer.

Brian had been seething from the moment Ryder demanded that he work with Connelly on the Madrigal account. Dan Connelly was as green as they came and a little stupid to boot. Along the way Brian had learned that Connelly was some relation to a member of firm's Board of Directors. Consequently, stupidity didn't prevent his working on the $20,000,000 account. It was Connelly's work or lack thereof that had kept Brian awake for half the previous night.

Brian took a look at himself in the mirror as he closed the door behind him. His eyes were puffy but not too bad. He ran his hand across his jaw and up to his temple. He had managed to shave before leaving that morning but hadn't managed to shake the headache that started when he woke up after an hour's worth of sleep. He washed his face, brushed his teeth and touched up his hair before applying a slight trace of cologne. The past few weeks had been draining to say the least and now he was faced with at least two weeks worth of meetings crammed into the space of a few days.

Brian dressed quickly and carefully not wanting to soil or snag his suit. After all packaging and presentation was more than half the battle. He straightened the cuffs of his shirt under the sleeves of a deep blue Armani he had picked up the last time he'd been in Los Angeles. He'd have to see if he could sneak in a visit to that shop if he had some free time in the next few days.

Brian emerged from the washroom catching the attention of the violet-eyed stewardess. She smiled and blushed visibly. Brian managed a half-smile having long since grown accustomed to the effect he had on men and women alike. The seatbelt sign was on when he returned to his seat and he nestled into his chair resigning himself to closing his eyes for the remainder of the flight.

Michael swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for the alarm. He didn't have to be at the store until ten-thirty but had gotten used to getting up at six o'clock when David went for his morning run. Squinting and rubbing his eyes he let his gaze travel around his old bedroom. Even though much of his stuff was still in storage it felt familiar to be here and it felt comfortable. He hadn't felt comfortable staying on at David's even though the people who were to sublet the house wouldn't be there for another month. Michael walked quietly through the living room and to the kitchen. He was careful not to wake Emmett who wouldn't be up for another couple of hours. He got cereal and poured some juice before settling himself in front of the computer. He would check his e-mail and then check the messages on David's answering machine. 'David's house, David's machine,' Michael tried to shake that thought away as he logged on. There was one new message. It was from Brian.

Thursday 3:17am
I'm getting into bed now, not that it's going to do me any good since I have to be up and out of here for five. I'll call from L.A. on the weekend, till then I don't imagine I'll have time to even scratch my ass.


'Routine, we're back to our routine,' Michael tried unsuccessfully to force this thought from his mind. Emmett startled Michael as he shuffled passed him into the kitchen. "Sorry if I woke you," Michael offered. Emmett waved his hand absently explaining that he had awoken to nature's call. Emmett moved to set the coffee pot on brew and then hesitated, turning to ask Michael if he wanted to go to the diner for breakfast. Noting that he hadn't touched the food he had laid out, Michael shrugged and said he was game.

Emmett scanned the e-mail as his friend got up and went into the bathroom. 'From Brian'. Emmett thought it was a good thing that Brian would be away for a few days. It would give Michael some perspective and maybe give him and the others another crack at talking some sense into Michael at the same time.

Ted had met them at the diner and as they slid into the booth he quipped that their little 'Breakfast Club' had been neglected in the last few weeks what with Brian being so busy and... It wasn't quite instinctive yet but they were each careful not to mention Justin's name.

The airport was loud. There were loud people, several loud announcements clashing over the speakers, loud colors and not to mention how bright it was outside in the sun. Brian squinted and strained to reach the sunglasses in his breast pocket without dropping his briefcase, his laptop, his carryon, his suit bag or his suitcase. Cynthia had corralled one taxi and was signaling for another. Connelly reached forward to grab the carryon as it slipped from Brian's shoulder. Brian having never been one to demonstrate open appreciation merely softened the frown he had been sporting.

Once the bags were safely loaded in Cynthia's cab Brian and Connelly got into the other. All the while Cynthia was still shouting reminders that they had to be in mid-town by eleven-thirty. The cab ride was quick. As they made their way through the city Brian became more alert and more focused. After all he had done this hundreds of times before. He wouldn't get any sleep for days on end and then he would show up and knock the socks off a few executives. No one was ever the wiser to the fact that Brian would sometimes have to concentrate to hear what people said to him because his head was pounding so loudly.

Viscotti's was housed in a three-story building with what appeared to be a terrace for a third floor. Removing his sunglasses as he got out of the cab, Brian hoped that they would be dining in doors. Connelly looked nervous as he fussed with his tie and his hair. He hadn't noticed Brian looking at him across the top of the cab.

"Give me the cards," Brian said in a flat voice. Connelly stopped fidgeting and searched Brian's face for some explanation of the demand.

"Give me the fucking cue cards," Brian repeated hotly. Connelly handed them over. Brian held Connelly's gaze as he crumpled the cards and turned to enter the restaurant.

The restaurant wouldn't be open until the lunch crowd. Brian pressed the buzzer to the left of the door and then handed Connelly his briefcase and laptop. An older man opened the door and showed them through an ornately decorated corridor to a large sun-filled courtyard. As he strode confidently behind the man, Brian could see a small group of people through a doorway on the far side of the courtyard. All eyes were on Brian as he crossed to the center of the room and introduced himself to the man he recognized as Peter Madrigal. Brian was introduced to the next generation of Madrigals including Peter Madrigal's son and daughter. Madrigal's daughter was straight and his son was not. Needless to say he elicited distinctive responses from each. Brian took business cards from the pair when they were offered but didn't bother to make a conscious note of their first names. The pleasantries were completed with the introduction of Connelly and a few of Madrigal's people. Brian, in total control of the situation, motioned for them all to take their seats.

"Shit!" Directing the bellhop to put her boss's bags in the next room, Cynthia raced across the room towards the sound of the ringing telephone. Downstairs she had just instructed the desk clerk to forward all the calls for Brian's room to her line.

"Cynthia Mulligan." Working for Brian she had always amazed herself at how calmly she could greet telephone calls or clients especially on the heels of any one of the hundreds of frenetic demands and tongue lashings she received from Brian on a daily basis.

"Hey, Cynthia... its Justin Taylor. Is Brian around?" Cynthia didn't need the introduction having ferried any number of messages from this particular caller.

"No honey. He'll be in meetings right through the day and evening." She added, "And that's no bullshit, he really is in meetings today." Justin was quiet, thinking for a second or two before deciding whether or not to leave another message. Brian knew that he wanted to talk to him and Brian had even gone so far as to give him the number for the hotel where he would be staying. Justin resigned himself to the fact that he would have to wait for Brian to contact him.

"Just let him know he can give me a call back whenever he has a minute, even if it's really late, I'll be up."

Staring blankly at his computer screen Justin felt for the telephone cradle and replaced the receiver. It had been four days since he'd last seen Brian and two days since he had last been able to reach him. Justin had left several messages and had been out when Brian returned his last call. He'd have to wait; wait to see what the fall out of their last discussion would be.

He buried his head in his hands before running his hands coarsely through his hair.

"So what'll it be?" Debbie smiled at the trio.

Em chimed in first, "Waffles and O.J. for me." Ted ordered scrambled eggs, "Egg whites only." Michael recreated his earlier pickings having only come for the company, "Cereal and juice."

Knowing that she wouldn't be given an opening Deb asked, "Is Brian still avoiding this place like a lovelorn trick?"

All eyes were on Michael who just stared straight ahead. Finally he held his mother's gaze and responded sternly, "Brian's out of town on business. He's been dealing with a lot of stuff plus on top of that they're trying to kill him at the office by piling on more and more work. He's just been busy that's all." Michael winced when he heard what he had said. It was true that Brian had been busy but if the lovelorn trick his mother was referring to was Justin then Brian had been avoiding the diner in the last few days.

To say that Michael sounded more than a little defensive where Brian was concerned was to admit that you'd missed the dynamics of their relationship over the last sixteen years. When Brian was angry or was in pain he would lash out or shut down and Michael would explain and try to smooth everything over. It was part of their routine and Michael knew that he was just as much a helper to Brian as he was an enabler.

No one said anything after Debbie moved away from the table to fill their orders. Michael hadn't expected her to drop that topic of discussion so easily and neither he nor the others seemed to know what the next thread of conversation could possibly be. Michael thought back to the events of the last evening. He had gone to the loft after work and found Brian laying out the suits and clothes that he had planned to take with him to L.A.

Sliding the door closed behind him, Michael followed Brian up to the bedroom. As he crossed the loft Michael took note of the nest of take-out containers on the kitchen counter and the fact that nearly every surface in the living room area had been covered with papers or product layouts.

"Are you still working?" Michael asked as Brian stood at his chest of drawers throwing socks over his shoulder and unto the bed.

"I never stopped," Brian appeared to be looking for something and had given up the hunt by slamming the drawer shut and turning to stand facing Michael with his hands on his hips. "This place is a fucking disaster area. I can't find anything. I've got at least four more hours of work ahead of me and I haven't packed a thing."

Scanning the growing pile of clothes on the bed and the floor Michael guessed they had laid where they landed as Brian tossed them out of his closet and in the general direction of the bed. "You're making it worse," Michael said bending to pick up a few things from the floor. "Do you really need these many suits for a five day trip?"

Exasperated by more than Michael's question Brian rolled his eyes and reminded his friend that he would be suffering through no less than twenty hours days and an unyielding barrage of meetings in the next few days. To pull this off he would be making more wardrobe changes than an Oscar host.

"I'll finish it up." Pointing towards the desk and sofa Michael added, "Go see if you can't find someplace that isn't covered in papers and cover it."

Brian considered the offer briefly before shaking his head and turning towards the closet, "You don't know what I'll need. Just help me and it shouldn't take that long." Directing Michael to start loading the suit bag, Brian began to pack the small carryon he had set at the foot of the bed.

"So when are we going to LA?" Michael quipped as he arranged a fifth suit in the bag.

"When I quit my job in a last ditch effort to stop myself from slashing my wrists instead." Brian's words were muffled as he crouched down on all fours reaching for shoes in the back of his closet.

Michael chuckled, "You've been just as swamped before, if not more, why bring out the straight razor now?" Brian ignored his comment tossing a pair of brown shoes and two pairs of black shoes into the carry on.

All joking aside Michael had come over here for a reason. "So you talked to Justin lately?"

Brian's body tensed visibly at the mention of the name. "I ran into his mother on Liberty Ave. She'd been visiting my mom." Michael tried to make his statement sound as devoid of emotion as possible.

Brian didn't answer at first so Michael continued to search his facial expressions and body language for any clues as to Brian's mood.

Finally Brian flatly said, "His mom's become a fixture on Liberty now hasn't she?" Still no direct reaction to the mention of Justin's name.

"Yeah, she and my mom have become fast friends... You know what with everything that happened." Michael thought he saw Brian's expression darken but he couldn't be sure. "It's just that he hasn't been by the diner much in the last few days, and I wondered if you kn..."

Brian cut him off, "Why didn't you ask his mom or your mother?" Brian was looking directly at him now and Michael could see that he was angry. Killing any prospect Michael had to broach the Justin subject further, Brian said pointedly, "You're no good at beating around the bush Mikey, so just drop it." Brian zipped up the carryon and put his plane ticket in the side leaving Michael to finish putting a few more things into the suit bag.

Back at the diner Emmett spoke up first, "Well I'm going to ask the pink elephant sitting on our table to please move its' ass. Why is Brian doing this?" Emmett's question was directed at Michael.

Michael turned to look at his mother as she approached with their breakfast orders. Acknowledging the fact that his friends saw right through the events of the past few days, Michael shrugged and said, "You can ask him when he gets back."

"Hello," Lindsay said holding the phone in the crook of her neck leaving both hands free to hold on to the wrestling baby on her lap. "Brian... Brian is that you?" The connection was bad but she made out something about being in L.A. for longer than he anticipated and him being sorry he had missed seeing them before he left. The crackling on the line had begun to clear and Brian threw as much silk into his voice as he could muster for his apology.

"The fuck you are!" smirked Lindsay. "Now that you've clawed your way to the top of the proverbial heap you no longer have time for us little people."

Brian smiled, "Where's my son?" His request was met with happy gurgles and what Lindsay described as the wet snotty kisses Gus was giving him back in Pittsburgh.

Connelly straightened a bit in his seat. He had no idea that Brian had a kid. Everyone in the office had either heard or seen blatant evidence that Brian was into men and that he was no family man. Brian continued his conversation by explaining that he'd just finished selling crap product number one and was on his way to the second bullshitting of the day. Cynthia thrust an elbow into Brian's ribs and mouthed for Brian to say hello to Lindsay for her.

Brian complied and promised to call Lindsay in a few days before snapping his phone shut and returning it to his breast pocket. He settled back into his seat as Cynthia gave him a twenty-second digest of the next client and the next product meeting.

Brian looked across the limo towards Connelly. The man couldn't meet his eyes. Brian guessed Connelly was embarrassed for his less than stellar performance at the Madrigal meeting. As much as Brian couldn't stand the fact that the man had gotten to this point in the game based on his name, Brian understood what nerves were like at your first client meeting. Smiling to himself, Brian decided he would let Connelly stew in self-pity a while longer before letting him off the hook.

"...called the hotel and wants you to call him as soon as you get back tonight. Said it didn't matter what time it was when you called back." Cynthia's voice crashed inside his head.

Justin...Justin had called...again. Brian wasn't looking forward to the rest of this day and now he was faced with yet another hurdle before he would be able to close his eyes on the first leg of this trip. He had pushed Justin out of his mind last night when Michael brought up his name. Brian had been thinking about Justin and what had happened for nearly every waking moment over the last four days. Justin had wanted too much. 'Too much.' Justin would have to understand that and everyone else would have to understand as well.

Brian remembered that Michael had dropped the Justin discussion more easily than he had expected. Justin would never have been so obvious in raising a topic and he wouldn't have let it go so easily. After a few minutes of silence, Michael had emerged from the bedroom and they'd fallen into their familiar pattern of joking and insults.

Inserting another CD into the drive, Brian watched as Michael put the empty take out containers into a large garbage bag. "You don't have to do that you know," he called to Michael across the room, "I actually pay someone to clean up my shit. She's coming tomorrow afternoon."

"I know but the smell is killing me now," Michael said crinkling up his nose.

They'd ordered dinner and were eating. Michael regaled him with yet another tale of Emmett's 'Nelly' adventures while he busied himself with backing up his presentations on CD.

"Are you gonna see Dave any time soon?" Brian asked.

Michael shot him a dirty look. "I'm delaying the inevitable for as long as I can," Michael bit into his sandwich again. He pretended not to be caught in Brian's unwavering gaze. The question had been benign enough but the implication and the way Brian delivered it made Michael feel like the temperature in the room had risen by several degrees.

Swishing the vodka around in his glass but not actually taking a sip, Brian continued, "Cause I'd hate to see your first class ticket to Pissland expire before you got to go." He knew he was baiting Michael. He wanted to hear not only what Michael would say but also what he wouldn't say.

"Fuck off Brian." Michael left his spot on the sofa and crossed to the kitchen dropping his dish into the sink atop the growing pile. Judging by the hardness of the crust on some of the plates Brian hadn't made any attempt to tidy the loft up in days.

'Not so easily little one,' Brian thought. He reached the counter is several smooth strides and poured the rest of his drink over the dishes in the sink before stacking his glass atop the one Michael had been using. "Why are you still here Mikey?" Brian didn't blink in the next ten seconds and didn't break his eye contact with the other man until Michael looked away.

"Packing your shit. You don't pay anyone to do that." Michael brushed passed him and reached for his jacket which had been hanging on one of the bar stools.

'He won't leave,' Brian thought as he fingering the stack of glasses on the counter, his back to Michael. He didn't turn around when he heard the door to the loft open and then close quietly.

"You don't want to talk about Justin and I don't want to talk about David so please leave it alone," Michael said quietly. He threw his jacket across the back of the sofa having never put it on.

Brian turned and resumed his seat in the lounge chair directly across from Michael's spot on the sofa. Michael retook his seat and the two sat quietly for some time.

"I want to talk about you and me," Brian finally spoke up. "You're my best friend." Yet the term didn't quite fit what Michael was to him. They had known each other since before forever and they knew each other better than they would ever consciously recognize.

"We're not kids anymore, though you should know that publicly I'll deny those words with my dying breath..." Michael didn't laugh or even smile, Brian's smile at the statement having only been skin deep. "... I don't want to stand in your way Mikey...if any of this is even makes any sense." Brian got up and walked to the cupboard. He fished out another glass and poured himself another shot of vodka. Returning to his seat he began to swish the liquid around in his glass again. He wasn't actually drinking it.

Then Michael finally spoke up...

They were here. Round Two. Brian emerged from the limo and put on his sunglasses. Meeting number two went by quickly. Brian's pitch had been lapped up like warm honey. His lunch meeting and the three that followed were even easier to stomach because he wasn't center stage at any of these. At the last meeting Brian had gotten the distinct impression that the young Los Angeles executive who was delivering the status report had been trying to impress him.

"Six down and one to go." Brian stepped out of the shower and toweled off.

"You got a chance to sleep at the last few but now you're on Mr. Magic," Cynthia sat at the table in the corner of his room proofing and printing the final draft of his speech. "Is it Chambers, Whitley and Tatum or Chambers, Tatum and Whitley?" she called through the half opened bathroom door.

"How the fuck should I know, check the Client Services Report." Brian replied running mousse through his hair.

"Its Chambers, Tatum and Whitley."

Brian repeated the name quietly and made a mental note. The last thing he needed was to get the name of the office wrong.

Brian crossed the room. He'd laid his tux out on the bed. Oblivious to Cynthia's presence he let the towel slide from around his waist as he put on his cologne and found his underwear.

Cynthia had continued to type even as her eyes tracked Brian's path across the room. Brian looked good in anything that he wore and he looked great in this towel but words couldn't describe how he looked naked. His hair was styled but still looked wet from his shower and whatever products he had put in. His skin was smooth and the light picked out the contours of the muscles that ran down his back and arms. She let her gaze drop down to his ass and oh what an ass. It was like any piece of classical marble sculpture she'd ever seen. Cynthia thought that it looked firm and forgiving to the touch at the same time. She allowed her eyes to skim his legs, his arms, his chest and his cock. Bolstered by Brian's 'Have you never seen a naked man before?' attitude Cynthia continued to proof the speech and check for the accuracy of the names mentioned. Despite her best efforts her breath caught in her throat as he turned around and let his eyes settle on hers.

'Green today...greenish gray yesterday...sometimes almost blue or even hazel depending on the light.'

He had asked her something.

'Oh shit. What did he ask me?'

Speaking slowly and enunciating every syllable, Brian repeated, "Who-is-Ga-rret-Nich-olls?"

Finally catching herself, Cynthia looked down sheepishly and answered the question. Brian suddenly became aware of the fact that he was naked. Cynthia was used to his yelling at her in the office, over the phone, via e-mail or via whatever medium he had available but it was quite another thing to dress her down when he wasn't dressed at all. Not bothering to cover himself Brian started to laugh. He turned to show her his ass again and while still looking over his shoulder he bent over mockingly as he pulled on his underwear.

"Fuck you Kinney," Cynthia raged. Her eyes disclosed the fact that she too was laughing, albeit on the inside.

He suddenly felt... hot. 'No, not hot,' he felt '...red.' Justin thought he wasn't making any sense. He could hear his own voice echoing in his head. There was also a pounding in his head and a pounding at the base of his skull. He felt as though he was being held down. Struggling against his own skin, he fought to open his eyes and found that he couldn't. Suddenly he couldn't breathe. What was this place? There were no sounds except the sound of his voice and that pounding. There was no light and now it seemed there wasn't any air.

He was panicking.

Fighting his way to the surface, he grabbed at the darkness and screamed. That did it. There was a flash of light before the brightness flooded into him. Every sense was sharpened. He thought he could even hear the light that surrounded him. Humming. He could feel it against his skin and he felt cold, colder than he had ever felt before. His mouth tasted red. Not making any sense at all.

More sounds joined the humming of the light. These sounds were like dry leaves rustling on a branch. He tried to separate the sounds and tried to make sense of each. There was the pounding and then the humming and now the rustling.


They were far away. The voices weren't whispering. They had been yelling and yet no matter how hard he tried he couldn't make out what they'd been saying to him. He reached out blindly. Even though it wasn't dark any more the light had been too much and he couldn't discern anything.

"Justin!" His name punched through all the other sounds and stung his ears. Too loud. Everything was too much. As he tried to cover his ears he felt...there was someone else there with him in the light. He reached out again and was met with a hand. It was pulling him forward. Justin could feel the wind on his face as this unseen hand pulled him through the light.

"Open your eyes sweetheart."

'Mom.' She was here in the light holding on to him. The wind rushed against his skin accompanying her voice, "Open your eyes Justin."

More flashes of light and then he could see.

Justin slowly opened his eyes staring blankly into his mother's face. He could smell her hair because she was leaning so close to him. Her lips moved and feeling her breath against his skin he recognized the wind. Jennifer turned to address Debbie who had been standing just over her shoulder, "Get the nurse!" Debbie wheeled and turned the second the words had escaped Jennifer's lips.

His eyes slowly focused and he could see his mother standing in front of him. The most incredible light blocked the edges of his mother's face. Justin had to maintain his focus on the most central part of her face or else the light would close in the obscure her eyes or her mouth.

Moving from shape to shape Justin identified his surroundings. He was in a hospital room. There was a whirr of voices as the nurse entered the room followed by Justin's doctor. The doctor moved to shine a light in his eyes and Justin winced at the pain. He didn't want to let his eyes close again for fear that he'd be unable to open them.

Justin felt as his arms and legs were moved and prodded. More lights and then questions. He understood the questions and even answered them but at first he didn't realize that he hadn't been speaking his answers aloud. "Yes," he knew where he was. "Yes," he knew what had happened. "No," he wasn't in any pain. "...Wait, yes the pounding." He could still hear the pounding and now he could feel it more clearly.

His mother's face was moving away from him and he grabbed after her to hold on. "Mom," he said weakly reaching up towards her. She stopped moving and held his hand. With that one word uttered Justin's throat began to convulse. He was going to vomit. Wave after wave of nausea rocked him.

Justin's body wretched in dry heaves. There was nothing in his stomach to come up. He'd been unconscious for the past forty-four hours. Jennifer held on to her son's writhing body as the heaves subsided.

'Will I chance it?' Justin asked himself. He needed to know but would he chance speaking again so soon? "Where is Brian?" Three words and no convulsions.

Jennifer heard his question and stared down at him as though she had never heard the sound of his voice before. He couldn't repeat himself so his pleaded with his eyes for an answer.

"He's here sweetheart. He's right outside." She finally replied, stroking his chin and neck.

The doctor flashed the light at Justin again and repeated his earlier line of questioning. Satisfied with the answers the doctor moved away from the bed. The doctor whispered in hushed tones to Debbie and his mother that they would be running several tests to see how bad the damage was.

'Damage. I've been damaged.' He could see the snarl on Chris's face and he could hear the crack of the bat. His mind had recorded these images in surround sound and in Technicolor.

Debbie held Justin's hand as the doctor ushered his mother out into the hall. "Just signing some forms Sunshine," she soothed noting the concern that had spread across his face.

In the next three hours Justin was subjected to x-rays of his neck and back, CT-scans of his head and several dressing changes. They'd also given him blood because he'd lost so much and his wound wasn't clotting properly.

Justin turned to his mother who had been sitting close to his bed. She had been staring at the cover of the magazine in her lap for the last forty-minutes and hadn't opened it. As she stirred, she looked up to find Justin's sharp blue eyes fixed intently on hers. "He isn't here, is he?"

Jennifer knew Justin wasn't referring to his father. Craig had called the hospital twice since the news that Justin was awake but hadn't yet made any effort to come in person to see his son.

"No he's not Justin," Jennifer said flatly. To embellish the situation or try to make excuses right away would have hurt Justin even more. "But he was here, I just don't think he could take it any more."

"But he knows that I'm awake right?" Justin asked, his wounded expression remaining unchanged.

"I think so... yes, I told Michael and Michael told him."

Justin turned his head back to face the ceiling and closed his eyes.

When Michael got to the hospital he found that Brian had broken down. All his emotions had been laid bare for anyone and everyone to see. Tears continued to slip from his eyes, pool around his nose and stain his cheeks. They slipped quietly at first and as the last of his composure drained away from him, Brian turned to bury his face in Michael's neck as his sobs quaked through his body.

Michael held him this way for what seemed like hours. He could smell Brian's sweat and he could see Justin's blood. Brian's neck was red with blood and it was on his face, lips and hands. It was soaked into Brian's scarf but Brian wouldn't let Michael take it off him. He had covered Michael's hand with his own when Michael attempted to remove it.

"Brian," Michael spoke quietly, letting his own tears fall into Brian's hair, "I am so sorry." He had seen Brian this bad only once before. It was the night that he met Brian at the bowling alley for his tribute to Jack Kinney.

Michael desperately wanted to put Brian back together somehow before everyone else got there. He had been so used to keeping Brian's secrets that he instinctively knew that Brian wouldn't want them to see him this way. Brian had leaned his head against the wall behind his chair once again. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open. He had stopped crying. There was blood everywhere and his black clothes seemed to have taken on a deep red hue.

Jennifer Taylor had arrived first with Debbie in tow. Michael remembered that his own mother hadn't been able to say anything. Debbie simply covered her mouth with her hands and shrieked when she got a clear look at Brian. The reaction from Justin's mother was even more disturbing. She simply stopped in her tracks with her hands shaking as they hung by her sides.

He couldn't face them and Michael knew it. Moving quickly to intercept his mother who was now moving up closer to Brian, Michael pulled Brian up and tried to move him to the washroom across the hall from where they had been sitting.

"Michael?" His mother pleaded with him for some explanation of what had happened.

"I don't know anything Mom." Michael shot back quickly, all the time still pushing Brian towards the door. Having noticed the new arrivals, Brian's shoulders sagged even further and he seemed to lose all the strength in his body. Meeting Jennifer's searching face, Brian's composure broke once more and he choked back a dry heave that threatened its way up his throat. Pushing out of Michael's reach he lunged towards the washroom and pushed against the door.

Jennifer turned sharply as if released from a spell and ran towards a nurse that had emerged from behind the doors at the end of the hall. "Please, can you tell me where my son is? Justin Taylor, they just brought him in." The nurse led her down another corridor. Michael wasn't paying attention to what they said instead turning to follow Brian into the washroom.

Brian knelt against the toilet and fought to keep his stomach from flying up through his throat. As he wretched violently Michael pushed at the door and pleaded with him to move aside so that he could come into the stall. Finally squeezing through the door, Michael fished Brian's hand out of the toilet and struggled to get his friend back on to his feet. Pushing against the wall of the stall, Brian tried to keep himself standing as the room swam around him. 'How could I have let this happen? How had I been so stupid?' He felt Michael's arms steer him towards the sink.

"Brian drink some water," Michael repeated his plea several times until Brian finally moved to swallow the water from his outstretched hand. Steadying himself against the basin Brian concentrated on getting his breathing to slow.

The door flew open to reveal Emmett and Ted. Michael thought that Ted's eyes were almost as red as Brian's. The two men found answers to how serious the night's events had been when they saw the blood tinged puddles that Brian's hands were leaving on the edge of the sink. Brian turned to look at them and then turned his back on them almost immediately.

"You can't be in here right now," Michael explained to Emmett, Ted having already started to move back towards the door. "His mom is here somewhere but we don't know what's going on yet," Michael tossed his head pointing to the man over his shoulder as he explained. Teddy and Emmett moved out into the corridor quietly. A teary Emmett slumped into the chair Brian had been occupying for the last forty-five minutes. 'I guess you're never too young,' he thought.

Lindsay rushed towards the seated men, "Where is he and where's Brian?" Ted pointed across the hall just as Brian emerged from the washroom. Flashing her a stony expression, Brian raised his hand warning Lindsay not to touch him. Brian had washed his face but she could still see the blood on the side of his neck and on his throat. Michael let her follow Brian down the hall.

Debbie was seated on some benches across from the nurse's station. She was sitting on her hands casting a worried look towards the floor. Michael sat down quietly beside her and reached for her hand. Debbie met his eyes and said, "They don't know if he going to be okay. He's been having seizures and he stopped breathing a few times." Debbie had begun to cry.

Brian had walked the entire length of the corridor and come to a stop with his forehead resting against the glass doors leading to the next wing of the hospital.

"Bri." Lindsay said tentatively as she reached up to touch his shoulder. Brian didn't turn around.

"I let this happen," Brian's voice was flat and dry. "I didn't have to but I let it happen."

"No. You didn't do this," Lindsay flashed. "Justin didn't do this." She would have to reach Brian very quickly before he convinced himself of his version of the truth. Lindsay was well familiar with the reality that once that happened nothing anyone said would alter Brian's perceptions.

"Brian, please look at me," She touched his neck now. 'There was so much blood.' "This is not your fault, you did not make this happen and no one in their right mind would think that you did." Her words weren't getting through. Brian's eyes glistened but they were just as stony as they had been moments before. Pressing herself against his body, Lindsay hugged him until she felt his arms encircle her. He didn't cry.

About three hours into the reception Brian was forcing himself to laugh at the most stupid 'fag' joke he had ever heard. Once the man who had delivered the joke had finished patting himself on the back for his raucous humor, despite the fact that no one but Brian had laughed, Brian leaned in and threatened not only the man's job but also his physical well being if he ever repeated the joke again. Brian moved away from the small group leaving the man dumbstruck. The others just shook their heads and rolled their eyes at the man's grave error. Brian finished the last of his drink as he joined Cynthia at the bar. "I'll see you back at the hotel," he instructed leaving Cynthia wallowing in the affections of a very bald and very drunk man.

Brian moved through the crowd thanking any senior executives he happened upon for their hospitality. Shrugging off his tuxedo jacket, he made his way through the entryway of the room. "Kinney, not leaving already?" The man said looking down at his watch, "It's barely one-thirty."

Brian turned and smiled, "Well it is school night you know." Brian knew him. 'Tall, blond hair and very good-looking, if you went for that sort of thing,' Brian thought devilishly. He had gone for this particular morsel once or twice before.

"Well wait up then and I'll walk out with you." Brian identified the real meaning of the invitation immediately. The words 'not interested' touched Brian's lips and then disappeared. Draping his jacket over one shoulder, Brian turned and let the man follow him out of the room. Although she was already about a mile past being tipsy, Cynthia hadn't missed this abbreviated seduction scene.

Justin closed the book and tossed it on the bed beside him. It was already two in the morning where Brian was and he still hadn't called back. He had thought that he would have to fight the urge to go to sleep as he waited for Brian's call but had soon come to realize that he was so worried he had no desire to fall asleep. He kept replaying the events that had transpired the last time that he saw Brian. He replayed his words and predicted and measured how Brian had probably interpreted them.

Maybe he had pushed too hard. "No," Justin resolved. Hard was the only way to push when it came to Brian. He'd been determined to get Brian's attention and Justin was sure that he had achieved that goal. But to what end. Now Brian was avoiding him more than he had been before. Justin certainly hadn't expected Brian to turn and run into his arms but he had expected something. He'd expected some reaction to the things he had said: annoyance; rage; contempt; anything other than the silence and calm with which Brian had opened the door to his loft and asked Justin to leave.

Justin got up to check that the phone was properly on the hook. He'd already checked three times before.

Brian fixed his stare on the man's face as they rode the elevator down to the lobby. The other man had peeled Brian's clothes off stitch by stitch with his eyes and redressed him only to undress him again by the time they were settled in the cab. Looking at him languidly, Brian remained aloof choosing the scenery outside his window rather than the straining bulge in the other man's pants.

Brian inserted his card key into the slot and pushed the door as the green light appeared next to the lock. He moved aside slightly to let his guest in. The man brushed against Brian's body, as much for the sake of the physical intimacy and for the fact that Brain had left him such a narrow space to enter. Their faces passed inches from each other. Brian drank up the man's scent as he entered the room.

Garrett Nicholls began to undress immediately. First he removed his tie and shirt and then his pants and underwear. 'Smooth,' Brian thought sarcastically as the man fought to disentangle his pant legs from around his shoes. Turning his back to the man, Brian flicked on the lamp in the corner of the room and removed the change and business cards from his pockets. Brian laid them on the table and kicked off his shoes before turning to meet his guest.

Nicholls lay on the bed naked watching as Brian slowly undressed. Letting his pants slide down his legs, Brian ran his hands over his groin and pushed his underwear down. Nicholls was mesmerized. Brian walked towards him and positioned himself at the side of the bed directly above Nicholls' outstretched legs. Finally understanding Brian's signal, Nicholls raised himself on his arms and moved to sit up. His hands, first on Brian's hips and then reaching around to cup Brain's ass cheeks, pulled Brian towards him.

"Slowly," Brian instructed as Nicholls anxiously moved to take Brian into his mouth. The man immediately began to move his head vigorously up and down Brian's shaft. 'Not much for technique...' Brian thought as he let his shirt slide down his arms'...but effective nonetheless.' After a few minutes of that attention Brian moved to kneel on the bed. Crawling across the bed, he pushed Nicholls back so that he was lying on his back once again. Brian straddled the man's head. Placing his hands on either side of Nicholls' face, Brian began to thrust into the man's mouth slowly at first and then more deeply and harder. After several long minutes Brian pulled out of the man's throat jerking his dick away from Nicholls' lips. He was close.

Arranging himself on top of the trick, Brian kissed the man deeply thrusting his tongue in and out of his mouth before pulling back to lick the other man's lips hungrily. The man stroked and kneaded the skin of Brian' back and ass pulling Brian impossibly tighter against his own body. Moving his way down Nicholls' body, Brian kissed and licked the man's neck and chest, his nipples flushing under Brian's touch. Moving even lower Brian rimmed Nicholls' belly button before diving down to slowly trace his tongue along the length of Nicholls' cock. Brian sucked at the engorged member and weighed the man's balls before allowing his fingers to travel even lower and stroke the man's anus. Nicholls was moaning loudly now. He laced his fingers through Brian's hair pulling and pushing Brian's head up and down at his groin. Brian groaned, the sound exciting the other man as it vibrated around his shaft. Brian continued to suck even as Nicholls released his head and groped blindly for the sheets by his side. White-knuckling the sheets, Nicholls arched his back and met Brian's lusty gaze before flooding his mouth with his salty taste.

Brian's lips were red and swollen and they shone with spit and cum. Brian rocked back on his heels dangerously close to the edge of the bed. Reaching across to open the drawer on the nightstand, Brian found a condom and fished out a tube of lubricant. His eyes were fixed on Nicholls' and Brian's expression was one of utter and complete carnal need. It didn't matter that his partner had already gotten off because for Brian that certainly wasn't the point of this interlude. Moving the man's legs up so that they were bent at the knees, Brian pressed his body up against the trick's and let his own penis rest between the "V" of Nicholls' legs. Condom in place and coated in lube, Brian thrust sharply into Nicholls' body as the other man raised his legs further. Brian hadn't wanted this to be a gentle fuck and hadn't bothered to prepare his partner. Crashing against the backs of Nicholls' thighs Brian groaned, his motions pulling the sheets from under the edges of the mattress.

Brian closed his eyes and his thoughts became a blur of images. He could see the way he looked, the ecstasy on his face and see the need in every gesture. Brian could see that he had closed his eyes now and was pulling labored breath after labored breath through his teeth. Brian looked down for some time to just watch as his dick disappeared and reappeared from inside the stretched pink skin, becoming hypnotized by the rhythm. He could feel the strain that was just starting in his legs and thighs. In this position he was balancing the other man's weight on his thighs and had to lift that weight as he pushed into each thrust. That familiar tingling had already begun and was now crawling its way around from his lower back and making its way across his testicles. Brian had stopped looking at him now and had instead been relying on the sounds that the other was making. 'He keeps calling my name...and each time he does it I feel like I'm going to cum.' Brian's thoughts looped each time the other man repeated his name. Opening his eyes for one last look, Brian thought, 'He's beautiful.' His lips had flushed blood red and his skin had taken on a deep ruddy shade. It was the kind of blush that Justin only got if he was very cold or very close.

Nicholls writhed beneath him and ejaculated again, this time against Brian's stomach. His eyes still shut tightly; Brian's body lurched forward as his own orgasm gripped him and turned him over in wave after wave. Finally subsiding, Brian's muscles relaxed and he fell against the man beneath him.

Michael had let the door clang noisily on its tracks as he shut it behind him. The sound reverberated off the walls of the large room. Brian had already covered the distance of the room and was searching for something in a small box on his desk. Quickly crossing to the kitchen he filled a glass with water and from what Michael could see was knocking back three or four small white pills.

Michael thought to chide his friend on getting high at a time like this but quickly dismissed the words. Brian didn't need to be there in the present. If anything he needed to take a break from the horrendous reality that had overtaken his life in the last several hours. They had fought through a throng of reporters as they left the hospital. Michael shook his head as he thought back to the flash bulbs that kept going off and the reporters who kept asking Brian if he was the man Justin had danced with at the prom. He watched as Brian walked more slowly towards his bedroom and climbed the steps into the room.

Brian came to rest by dropping himself on the sideboard that ran around the perimeter of his bed. Michael moved forward helping Brian to unbutton his shirt and free his arms. There was blood on Brian's chest in the pattern of the weave of his shirt. Motioning towards the bathroom, Michael helped Brian to stand and watched as the man moved into the next room.

Michael had turned on the shower and guided Brian under the jets before moving to pick up his pants and underwear from the floor. Michael picked up the car keys that had fallen on to the marble beside Brian's pants. Balling the pants up along with Brian's shirt, Michael took them to the kitchen and looked for a plastic bag. Brian would decide what to do with them later. The pill bottle Brian had pulled out earlier lay on its side on the counter. Michael studied the bottle, Valium, no engineered highs this time just a heavy dose muscle relaxant. He'd been about to call the hospital when Brian emerged from the bathroom. Michael thought that he'd seemed calmer, his movements more sure. Brian dropped his towel and began to dress.

"Do you want something to eat?" Michael spoke realizing Brian hadn't had more than coffee in the last thirty plus hours they had been at the hospital.

Brian shook his head and said, "No." It was the first thing that he'd said since they had pulled out of the hospital parking lot. Lying down on his side Brian pulled a pillow under his head and closed his eyes.

His thoughts quickly traveled back to how hot Justin's blood had felt against his fingers and how quickly his skin had begun to get cold. A crowd had already begun to form. 'Where the hell had all these people been a few minutes ago?' Brian flashed a look across his shoulder to check where the fucker who had done this was. He was still groaning to the left of them; a smaller group had encircled him. Brian could hear the sirens closing the distance towards them. It seemed to take hours as Justin's blood continued to pump against his fingers and pool on the asphalt beneath them. 'It would be too late by the time...there was already so much blood and he was already so cold.'

They pushed his hands aside and rocked Justin out of his grip and he stumbled back. His hands were sticky and his skin was crawling around him.

"What happened?" The police were here now. They moved him further away from Justin. The paramedics seemed to be moving in slow motion as they continued to push on Justin's chest. He wasn't breathing. 'I'm not breathing,' Brian thought. "Sir, can you tell us the victim's name?" Brian turned to see that another officer was questioning the groaning man now. Brian could see his face now. Bastard, it was the kid from Liberty Avenue, the one who had been attacking Justin for the last eight months.

"Bastard!" Brian shrieked as he lunged towards the man.

Hobbes screamed, "He did this to me, him!" as he pointed towards Brian.

The police grabbed after Brian, moving him a few feet away from Hobbes. "What is the victim's name?"

"Justin Taylor," Brian's lips felt very heavy.

"What happened?" Brian slowly retraced the events of the last twenty minutes. Had it only been twenty minutes since he and Justin had been inside dancing. Minutes since Justin had been so happy. Brian explained that he was in his car and had turned to see another man come around the corner and knock Justin to the ground. Brian pointed towards the bat. More questions. His name? Did Justin and Hobbes struggle or fight? Did he attack Hobbes? How did Brian know Justin? More questions.

They had been trying to move him further away from Chris Hobbes but all Brian could understand was that they were moving him away from Justin. He pulled back and out of their ushering hands. He would answer all the questions they wanted but not now. He had to go with Justin. Brian could remember closing the door to his Jeep. He figured the keys would be in his pockets somewhere but he couldn't remember actually putting them there. Following Justin's limp body into the ambulance Brian was in shock. He had so much blood on his own body that the paramedics had stopped him to check him over. He waved them away and got into the ambulance; all the time his eyes never leaving Justin's white face.

Debbie was holding his hand. She didn't have to ask what was on his mind. "He wanted to be here Justin. I have absolutely no doubt about that."

'You and I both know that if Brian wanted to be someplace nothing at all would stop him," Justin didn't open his eyes.

Debbie continued, "He went home to change his clothes, maybe eat something. Sunshine he's been here non-stop since Friday." When Justin finally turned to look at her she continued, "Michael said that he fell asleep. He took some pills on an empty stomach."

"Drugs. He picks now to get wasted?" Justin shot her a pained look.

"It's what he knows sweetheart." Debbie said quietly as she stroked his hand.

Brian's breathing had slowed to a familiar pace and this calmed Michael. Brian was asleep. Leaving his friend for a few moments, Michael fished through his carry-on bag for a clean shirt and his toothbrush. "I'm just going to clean up a bit," he whispered as he passed Brian to enter the bathroom. The floor was wet and Brian hadn't completely closed the shower tap so the water had continued to run noiselessly. Turning up the spray, Michael stepped under it trying to wash some of the past day from his body. He could hear his telephone ringing on the vanity where he'd left it. Stepping out carefully so as not to slip on the waterlogged floor, Michael reached for the phone.

"Hi Michael its Jennifer Taylor, is Brian with you?"

"Yeah, he is... is something wrong?" Michael's voice dipped at the end of his question.

"Justin is awake and the doctor's seem hopeful. I wanted to let Brian know but Debbie said you two had already left and Brian's phone isn't on."

"Brian is going to be really happy to hear that Mrs. Taylor. We'll come back as soon as we can."

Michael hung up, nearly stumbling when he tried to reach the bathroom door to tell Brian the news. Brian had turned unto his back and was snoring quietly now. Michael thought back to the sleeping pills Brian had taken earlier and realized that he wouldn't be able to wake him for several hours yet. Pulling the covers over Brian's hips, Michael turned and went back into the bathroom.

When Michael woke up Brian was standing at his desk. The intermittent chirps from the machine told Michael that Brian had been skipping through the messages on his answering machine. Michael, still half asleep struggled to raise himself to a sitting position on the couch.

"What did Deb say when she called?" Brian sounded alert. He was now thumbing through his Rolodex having put the telephone receiver to his ear.

"She didn't, I mean she just wanted to know where we were in case of anything" Michael rubbed his eyes and looked around trying to fully gain his bearings. "Justin's mom called after though, she said that he was awake."

"When the fuck did she call?" Brian dropped the telephone receiver back unto the table.

"You were out cold, I tried to wake you up." Michael looked at his watch. He had been asleep for three and half hours having fallen asleep on the couch after his shower.

Brian pulled on his leather jacket as he crossed to the door. "Shit. Where the fuck are my keys?" His hands were fumbling wildly in his pockets.

Still rubbing his eyes Michael quipped, "Your keys are on the counter, the question is where the fuck is your car?"

Brian turned and scowled at him. Had Michael really meant that to be a joke? Brian shot him a look, translation, 'Not fucking funny Mikey.'

As Michael was finishing his shift, he'd found himself refereeing a battle between two customers over the last of the half-priced camping tents. His mind had been elsewhere all day. He had traveled back and forth between his last conversation with David and his last conversation with Brian before he had left for L.A. These men who positively hated each other had echoed each other's thoughts by wanting to talk to Michael about the same subject.

"Why are you still here?" Brian had asked him while still playing with the liquor in his glass.

"Because you're still here," Michael whispered, releasing the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.

That was the most blunt of the several responses that swam in his head in the eons since he'd heard Brian's question. Michael had so much more to say and pushed himself to actually say them to Brian's face. Nothing came to him. Where could he start? David had been merciless in driving Michael to confront himself where Brian was concerned. David had shone a bright light on every crevice of Michael's mind and his memories of Brian. Now here he was, Brian had brought the subject up and Michael had his attention. So why couldn't he say anything?

Finding Brian's face, Michael thought he recognized the expression. Panic, panic and something else. Hadn't he seen that same expression on his friend's face more than a few times in the past month? Brian knew what he wanted to say and... 'Brian knows, Brian has always known' ...Brian didn't want to hear it.

Fighting the roadblocks in his mind, Michael searched his conversation with David the day before. David had left him and Michael had let himself be left behind. David wouldn't share anymore. In David's words, Michael would have to face up to the place that Brian occupied in his life and open his eyes to the fact that Brian knew. As David had put it, either Brian both knew and cared or Brian knew and didn't care. Michael thought, 'I don't know which one would be more frightening.' Either way, no matter which one was ultimately the case, David had begged him to take a step forward.

Brian had stopped playing with his liquor and now swallowed the shot in one gulp. Michael continued to search his face before speaking again. It wasn't panic that he saw on Brian's face so much as acknowledgement.

Brian thought, 'Tonight, tonight after all these years is when it's going to happen.'

Michael continued slowly, "I love you. All your bullshit." Brian had let his gaze drop to the floor in front of Michael. "It was my big secret, no it was our big secret," Michael corrected himself. "As long as you and I didn't talk about it then it never happened and it wasn't real..."

'Not tonight Michael, please not tonight,' Brian thought.

"...in love with you Brian." Brian's hands opened and closed around the empty glass in his lap. "You don't have to say anything, I'm saying this stuff for me." Michael thought his words sounded strong and clear and hoped his voice wouldn't betray how scared he was of what Brian would say.

"I love you too Mikey. How long have we known each other?" Brian responded in a monotone whisper, not raising his eyes.

"I don't mean it like that, didn't you hear what I said? Michael wouldn't let his revelation be swept aside. "Brian I just told you that I was in love with you". Michael didn't think that his voice sounded strong or clear anymore.

Still not looking at him, Brian stood and moved so that he was standing behind the chair that he had been sitting in. He had set his glass down noisily on the table beside him. "You know better than this Michael." There was no expression on Brian's face but his eyes danced wildly.

That was it. That was his answer. Brian had called him Michael. Whatever line Brian had drawn in the sand around himself, Michael had just crossed it. Either Michael would step back now and try to find an 'out' to explain his uncharacteristic behavior or it would be up to Brian to redefine the boundaries. How many times had this happened over the years? How many times had Michael said something stupid about not finding anyone else like Brian, or let a playful peck on the lips linger for too long or become too deep? How many times had Brian caught Michael staring at his body? Each time Michael had found an 'out'. Each time Michael had found something funny to say or some way to explain his behavior. 'Routine.' Could he do that now? Did he want to?

There was silence in the loft except for the low sound of a jazz piano that danced out of Brian's stereo.

'He doesn't care.'

Michael stood up. He'd found more strength in his legs than he'd thought he could muster. He couldn't look at Brian. Now more than anything he felt ashamed. He wasn't terrified and he wasn't worried, he was just ashamed.

"It's just that you've been in my life for so long Brian that I don't know any better. I wish I did, but really, I don't know any better."

This time he did leave. Brian listened as the door slid closed behind him.

Justin hadn't told anyone about what had happened between he and Brian the day he woke up at the hospital. Not even Daphne. Justin instinctively knew that Brian had shown him something that he hadn't intended for him to see. It was important that he keep Brian's secret and guard this revelation jealously.

He'd waited for his mother to go out into the hall and let Brian in. Brian had come back to the hospital and he was going to come in at any moment. Justin caught himself trying to look less like an assault victim and more presentable before Brian came into the room.

'Should I close my eyes or keep them open?' Deciding he wanted to see Brian's face as he came in, Justin opted for the latter.

Here he was. The door opened slowly. Brian was wearing a black pullover sweater and dark blue jeans. He looked tired and his hair looked as though he had just gotten out of bed and run his fingers through it. 'The patented Brian Kinney 'I've just finished fucking and I'm looking for some more' look,' Justin thought he looked amazing. Brian made his way closer to Justin's bed, which was on the other side of the room by the window.

Now Justin thought he looked serious.

'I'm alright..." Justin smiled weakly, "...just a little bump on the head." The heavy white bandage obscured the entire right side of Justin's forehead. There were purple bags under Justin's sunken eyes and his skin had taken on a sallow yellow color.

'Not fucking funny,' Brian thought.

Brian still hadn't said anything. He just crossed the room and stood at Justin's bedside with his hands hanging at his sides. Justin reached out and Brian took his hand. Justin pulled him gently until Brian sat down in the chair by the bed. Brian looked at him and he looked at Brian. Neither of them said anything for the longest while.

"Do you blame me?"

The question had caught him off-guard but Justin answered quickly, "No."

Justin had to push past the pain at his temples and force himself to keep his eyes fixed on Brian's. He knew the other man would be searching his face for the slightest flicker that he didn't believe what he was saying. Any doubt at all and this moment would end. Any doubt at all and whatever had started to happen between he and Brian would die in its infancy. Brian blinked and looked away. The interrogation was over but Justin wasn't sure of whether or not he had passed.

Slowly, Brian had hung his head lower and lower until his face fell against the sheets next to Justin. Justin was tentative as he stroked Brian's hair. Brian was crying. 'Brian was crying.' This was uncharted territory and he didn't know what to do. Not daring to say anything, Justin continued to stroke the hair at the back of Brian's head.

Brian raised his head under Justin's hand and finally spoke up, "You look like shit, how do you feel?"

Justin noticed that his eyes weren't red or even moist. Maybe he had imagined that Brian had been crying since the man's face showed no evidence of that now. "My head hurts a lot and so does my neck. They said they would do some more tests to see why that was exactly." This was a surprising line of inquiry coming from Brian but Justin would let Brian steer this conversation wherever he was comfortable going.

Brian got up from the chair and paced slowly to the window. With his back turned to Justin, he let the words flow out of his mouth unchecked.

"I know I said that sorry was bullshit. I mean... I think it is bullshit because most times people don't mean it when they say it. I mean it when I say it now, I am sorry for what's happened to you."

Justin wanted to interrupt him but if his history with Brian had taught him nothing else it was that these moments of actually saying what was on his mind were few and far between for Brian. It was best to just let him run his course.

"Your mom thinks that I shouldn't have gone, Deb does too, most everyone thinks that. Even if they don't let themselves say it, I know that's what they're thinking. I went because you wanted me there and hell the shock value of it all wasn't lost on me either. You've got balls Justin and you're not stupid and you weren't wrong in anything you did or how you've lived. I want you to know that...even though its dangerous I don't want you to back down now." Brian breathed that last statement out in almost a whisper, the strength of what he had been saying seemed to have been lost on him.

Justin heard him, "You think I'm going to chicken out now?"

"Shit changes people," Brian thought, 'I should know.'

"Things have changed Brian. I'm not sure how yet but I know they have." He could feel himself tearing up and forced his emotions back. Brian had done his best not to cry in front of him and he fought to match Brian's resolve. "I'm not sorry. I said it was the best night of my life and it still is."

Brian was looking at him now. It was the same unwavering stare that he had fixed Justin with just moments before when he asked Justin if he blamed him. Justin turned his head and found Brian's gaze. He repeated his words, "I'm not sorry Brian." Justin held out his hand hoping that Brian would let himself take it. Brian moved towards him and stood at the side of the bed just out of Justin's reach. As Justin continued to search his face he was silently willing Brian to take the next step. Brian moved closer allowing Justin's hand to find his chest and close around a fold in his sweater. Justin didn't pull him closer, at least he didn't pull him physically but Brian felt the pull nonetheless. Leaning closer to his face, Brian slowly brushed his lips across Justin's. There was no sex in this kiss only a need to feel a connection again.

Justin could feel Brian's skin against his face. He could feel Brian's eyelashes against his face and the hairs were wet. He could hear Brian's breathing and it was wet as well. Brian was pulling away and Justin was desperate not to lose their contact. He snaked his left arm around Brian's neck and kissed the man's cheek.

"Please Brian," Justin whispered against his ear. Brian swallowed hard and carefully pulled Justin towards him.

Brian pulled the door open and stepped inside. He was exhausted. His workload had all but doubled in the last two weeks and the stress level in his life had skyrocketed. It would be two weeks ago tomorrow that Justin had been attacked and Brian wasn't sleeping well; he relived those moments every night in his dreams. He hadn't been able to bring himself to talk to Justin since that first night that the kid woke up. Justin made him think things he was better off not thinking and made him say things he was sure that he didn't want to say. Justin woke up on the Sunday following the prom and Brian hadn't spoken to him during the week they kept him in the hospital or in the last few days since he'd been staying at his mother's.

The loft was dim but not totally dark. 'Did I leave that light on?' Dropping his briefcase beside his leg, Brian reached up to disarm the alarm. 'The alarm isn't on.' He had set the alarm before leaving that morning. He looked around the loft quickly searching for anything at all out of place. Nothing. Everything was where it was supposed to be and there was no one else there except... 'There is someone here.' Justin.

"What are you doing here?"

Justin was standing beside one of the large windows in the corner of the room.

"I've tried everywhere else and you won't see me so I figured you had to come home sometime."

He crossed the room slowly making sure to stop at least a few feet away from Brian. "I still had the key." Justin produced the small silver key and put in on the table beside Brian's computer. He had planned to retrieve it later or leave it there depending on how the evening unfolded.

Brian looked at him and sighed deeply. "I've been busy."

"Too busy to come and see me. You didn't even come to the hospital the last two days," Justin flashed. Though Justin could tell by the scent of Brian's cologne that he'd been to visit him, he hadn't laid eyes on Brian since the Sunday that he woke up in the hospital.

"I went almost every day," Brian said quietly to himself. Brian rubbed at the tightness that was beginning to form at his temples as he turned away from Justin. He'd been getting a lot of headaches lately. Brian crossed to the bar and took off his jacket.

"Only after that first time you made sure I didn't know you were there."

'Shit,' Brian thought. The kid still had perfect hearing.

Brian tried to stifle the tension he was feeling. He was determined that Justin wouldn't bait him.

"Why won't you see me anymore Brian, I thought we were okay." Justin's words trailed off weakly.

"What? Did you fucking think I would come and hold your hand everyday? Bring you flowers and shit? Is that what you wanted, my pity?" Brian's voice was steely and flat but his intensity was revealing his actual emotions. He had to get control of himself because nothing Justin was actually saying deserved an extreme emotional reaction.

"Not pity, just show me that you give a shit."

"Justin don't piss me off." Brian covered the distance between them quickly and his breath was hot against Justin's face as he spoke, "If you don't know that by now then fuck you." Brian's eyes traced the thin red line that ran for a few inches just below Justin's hairline.

This wasn't going the way Justin had intended. He watched silently as Brian strode away from him towards the bedroom. Brian was angry and Justin's thoughts were a whirr. He had to diffuse this situation quickly before rage alone made Brian push him away further. The fact that Brian was this angry was proof enough that he did give a shit and Justin cursed himself for setting Brian off.

Justin walked quietly across the room and climbed the steps of the platform. Brian looked menacing and his eyes flashed as he caught sight of Justin. Swallowing hard, Justin continued to move towards the other man who had now stopped tearing at the buttons on his shirt to fix his stare on Justin's face.

"I just missed you." Justin said quietly as he moved in close and let his arms fold around Brian's body. Justin let his face fall against Brian's semi-bare chest as he listened to the pounding of his own heart in his ears and the pounding of Brian's in his chest.

Brian's senses reeled. The smell of Justin's hair and the pressure of his body were familiar. How long had it been since he had felt both these things. 'Not since that night, not since they danced, not since I held him while...he was bleeding.' His arms moved of their own accord pulling Justin closer and holding him tight.

'Is this really happening?'

Brian was inside him. Justin concentrated on slowing his breathing and relaxing his body. He didn't want this connection to ever end. His skin burned and tingled under Brian's kisses. Brian's hands felt warm and strong as they traced paths across the fronts of Justin's thighs, spreading him impossibly wider. Justin's breath caught in his throat as he played his tongue across Brian's mouth and tangled his fingers through his lover's hair. 'My lover.' That thought alone almost sent Justin over the edge and forced him to clamp his hands into the bed sheets as all his muscles contracted. Brian raised his head and met Justin's lust-filled gaze with heavy lidded eyes. He had felt Justin's contraction around his length and moved to slow his rhythm, not ready to completely lose control just yet.

They continued to rock together as their climax continued to build. Justin's eyes locked on Brian's; Brian's never leaving Justin's.

'He's fucking me with his eyes, he's fucking my mind,' Justin's thoughts were wild.

He touched Brian's face, his neck, his back and his thighs. Justin was immersed in every sensation that he had ever identified with Brian's person. He was overcome by the weight of the man; consumed by his smell; the salty taste of the sweat that dripped from Brian's face and hair; the illicit moans and grunts that were now coming from Brian's throat; and the tightness of the muscles on Brian's stomach that were wreaking havoc with Justin's senses as they tightened and relaxed against his throbbing erection.

"Harder...oh...please." Justin didn't say these words as much as he breathed and gasped them. Brian complied; he wanted to be buried in Justin and surrounded by Justin. If he thought it was physically possible he would have crawled right inside of Justin's body to live in it and breathe in it.

Brian rested his weight on his elbows, his breath ragged as his hands continued the thread wildly through Justin's hair. As Justin continued to lose himself to the sensations, Brian thought he had never looked more beautiful. Driving himself into Justin once more, Brian buried his face against Justin's neck as his body shuddered and convulsed wildly.

It was all too much and Justin felt his own body start to slide over the edge into his orgasm. Brian was moaning loudly now. Justin could hear and feel the hum and vibration against his neck. Just before losing the ability to form all conscious thought, Justin clamped his hands into the skin of Brian's back and screamed the other man's name through gritted teeth.

The clock on the stand beside the bed read 2:44am. Justin had gotten to the loft at around seven o'clock the evening before and let himself in.

Justin could remember how nervous he'd been to see Brian again after knowing that the other man had been avoiding him for the past week. Staying with his mother had been exactly what he had needed physically. He hadn't been particularly enthusiastic about the idea when the doctors suggested that he find a quiet place where he could be undisturbed during his recuperation and where someone could look after him twenty four hours a day. His mother had volunteered to take a few days away from work to care for him and Justin was somewhat comforted by the idea of being in his childhood room again.

Justin thought that he knew part of the reason that Brian had stayed away. His father was no longer living in the house but that by no means meant that the Taylor manse was a welcoming environment to the thirty-year old who had deflowered its teenaged son. Justin could see the tension between his mother and Brian. While she'd been doing her best to love her son, understand his life and come to grips with the fact that she couldn't control his decisions, Jennifer couldn't hide the fact that she wasn't comfortable with the lengths that Justin seemed to be willing to go in living his life out in the open.

He'd overheard his mother talking on the phone to Debbie when she'd learned more of the details of what happened at the prom. She couldn't fathom what they'd both been thinking when they danced and kissed on the dance floor. But that was just it, Justin thought, they hadn't been thinking. Justin simply knew that he was elated that Brian was there and that just by being there it meant that Brian had pushed passed whatever thoughts had made him scoff at Justin's earlier invitation.

Justin sighed heavily at his thoughts. He turned on to his back, his eyes searching the dim light for Brian's body. Not surprisingly Brian wasn't there. Justin thought that he could count on two hands the number of times that he'd actually witnessed Brian sleeping through the night. That was a trait that Gus seemed to have inherited from his father. The baby was almost a year old and he would wake at least once during the night. Just like his father, Gus seemed content to wake up and muse quietly, not wanting to make too much noise so as to encourage others to disturb his nocturnal reveries.

Justin raised himself up on to his elbows. The dull ache in his lower back and thighs reminded him of how out of swing he'd been when it came to spending time in Brian's company. He could see Brian through the blinds on the left side of the bedroom. He was sitting in one of the two armchairs in front of the TV. There was no sound coming from the other room but Justin could see that the television was on from the changing colors and levels of light that danced across Brian's features. Deciding against disturbing him, Justin turned on to his other side and continued to watch Brian through the glass divider.

'What am I doing?' Brian had asked himself this question several times over the course of the last few hours. 'What am I promising?' Jennifer had all but begged him to stay away from her son and despite his anger at what she had said to him, Brian thought that he might have actually been complying with her request in the last several days. What did he feel for Justin? He thought he felt sorry for him, angry that anyone would hurt him and he was glad that physically Justin would recover. He didn't share Michael's view that Justin was an annoying little shit. Brian thought back to what he and Mikey had been like at Justin's age and laughed to himself. The two of them had been annoying little shits.

It had felt good to be with Justin tonight. 'Of course it had felt good.'

Brian hadn't had the urge to visit any of his familiar haunts during the week that Justin was in the hospital or during the last few days since his release. This however hadn't made any dent in his weekly quota of tricks. On Monday there was the guy who'd been stepping off the elevator as he got to the office that morning. The next day, some guy he met outside the diner and then the kid from the deli who'd been delivering refreshments for an afternoon meeting. He had fucked the Deli and Diner guys (the names Brian had christened them with) within two hours of each other. He'd also invited 'Tacky Tie Guy', a guy he met at the supermarket, over to the loft on Tuesday night. Yesterday, he'd spent two-thirds of a department meeting eye fucking the new guy in the sales division. He promptly fucked 'New Guy' in the men's room as soon as the meeting was over, the Kip Thomas incident having taught him nothing.

'Justin had always been different.'

Justin had always pushed for more and he had always pushed back to refuse him. 'Had I ever really refused Justin?' No matter how much a trick wanted to stay in the morning or to come back the next day, Brian had made him go and had never looked back. He made a conscious effort to stay disconnected from them by never doing them the courtesy of remembering their names.

'But Justin had always been different. I only pretended not to remember his name that morning after Mikey reminded me at the hospital.'

The sting against his fingers drove Brian out of his thoughts. He looked down to see that his cigarette had burned all the way down to the filter and the ash had singed a spot between his index and middle finger. Stubbing it out in the ashtray on his lap, Brian turned off the TV and crossed to the kitchen. He ran his fingers under the tap before examining them in the light of the fixture above the bar. He would have welts for the next few days but if he were lucky the burns wouldn't blister.

Justin was on his side facing away from him when he went back to the bedroom. 'He isn't sleeping.' From the sound of the kid's breathing he was awake. Brian figured that the months of his reaming Justin out about coming to find him when he left the bed during the night had finally taught Justin to leave well enough alone.

Brian slipped off his robe and climbed into the bed convinced of the fact that Justin wouldn't turn over to meet him. Tentatively he moved up closer to Justin's body and closed his eyes. Seconds later, Justin closed his own eyes as he felt Brian's hand and arm encircle his waist and felt Brian's breath against the back of his neck.

Brian thought, 'If I don't think too hard about this, maybe things will go back to being manageably again. Fuck. When did I start to hold him like this?'

"Here's your tea." Emmett passed the cup to Michael who took it and rested it atop one of the many boxes that now littered the living room of the small apartment.

"Thanks. Sorry for all this, my plan is to get it all unpacked today and tomorrow." Much of Michael's clothes and personal stuff had finally arrived from Portland and Emmett wasn't happy to see it come. Not so much for the mess that Michael thought it was making of the apartment but because it was one more sign that Michael was determined to stay in town.

Seizing on the opportunity Emmett spoke up, "Maybe you should just unpack the stuff you need on a day to day basis, so that you won't have to box it all up again later." Emmett picked up one of the robots Michael had laid out beside him and played with the little chrome rifle.

Michael glanced up quickly. He was trying to decide how best to fend off yet another of his friend's gentle hints that he should get the hell out of Dodge.

Emmett continued, "You know I hear they have this pride celebration is Portland that is entirely themed on feathers... 'A Feather Ball' if you would."

"That's a scary image Em." Michael chuckled quietly. He had started to take unpack a large box of shirts and socks. Michael's heart sank slightly because the clothes belonged to David. "Shit, these are David's. The boxes must have gotten mixed up."

Emmett reached over and pulled one of the shirts from the box, "Ooohhh, I almost forgot what a big broad chest the good doctor has." Emmett held the shirt up to his own chest, taking in the fact that the shirt could almost fit around his trim frame twice.

Snatching the shirt back, Michael gave him a rueful warning to stop making hints about David and him.

"What?" Emmett replied wounded, "You were the one to mention David's stuff. Besides this will give you an excuse to call him up, see 'what's up' in Portland this time of year."

"Emmett just back off, I'm not going to Portland. I'm not going to David. I've made my decision, David knows and sooner or later everyone else is going to have to come to terms with that fact."

Getting up from where he had been sitting cross-legged on the floor, Emmett retrieved his own cup of tea from the table beside him and crossed to the kitchen. "The trouble with that statement is that I don't think that you've made a decision at all. I think that as usual you're just going with the flow and seeing where or to who it takes you."

"Come on Em, please don't start this again," Michael whined plaintively.

"Brian is moving on with what he calls his life," Emmett paused, "...for whatever that's worth. And so should you." Emmett had begun to unpack the dishwasher.

"This has nothing to do with Brian." Michael didn't think he sounded particularly confident in his statement.

"The fuck it doesn't," Emmett was now back in the living room and was gesturing wildly while holding a stack of plates. "You were at the airport about to get on a plane with David, Brian calls with a crisis and thankfully that crisis has passed but you're still here. The only thing that I see still standing between you and your decision to go with David is Brian."

"No Emmett this is not about Brian, it can't be about Brian." Michael tossed the shirt he had been holding back in to the box and moved to put his still steaming cup of tea on top of the television.

Emmett had seen the tinged expression on Michael's face when he made that last comment and moved closer. "Michael, I asked you before what was going on with Brian and you wouldn't tell me." Emmett let his words linger hoping that Michael would be more forthcoming on this attempt.

For a long time Michael just stood there silently deciding whether or not the events of the last week had even happened.

Michael spoke, "I went to see him right before he left. To talk to him..."

Emmett tried to gauge whom Michael was referring to and deciding to wait for the explanation instead of interrupting to ask.

"...I told him everything and nothing happened. The world didn't stop spinning and it didn't explode."

When Michael fell silent Emmett touched his arm, "Sweetie?"

"Then I just left. I don't know exactly where that leaves me but I know now that it's not with David and it's certainly not with Brian." Michael looked defeated and tired.

"Michael, do you mean Brian? You went to see Brian? What did you say to him? What did he say?" Emmett's questions flew from his mouth in one breath.

Answering the last question Emmett had asked, Michael said quietly, "He told me that I knew better." Michael turned a sad look on his friend and whispered, "It can't be about Brian."

Justin stirred. The sun had already come all the way up and he could hear Debbie in the kitchen downstairs. The annoying chirp of a dial tone greeted Justin as he rolled over. He pulled his cell phone from underneath him and realized that at some point in the night he had hit the send button and the line had been left open. His heart raced as he read the display. There were two missed calls. Justin had set the house phone up close to his bed in case Brian had called Debbie's line. Just before finally settling in he had brought his cell phone to the bed realizing that Brian wouldn't call the house line if he thought Vic and Deb were asleep.

God, he had missed his call again. Justin scrubbed his eyes and studied the numbers on the display. Brian's cell. Both calls had been from Brian. Punching the keys to his message box, he hoped that Brian had left a message. Justin's heart raced again, '...one new message.'

"Justin, I don't see why you'd be on the phone right now but... Just returning your call. I'll be here until Thursday at least. I'll try to call again before then." Justin thought that Brian's voice sounded far away.

Brian's legs felt stiff. He had kicked off the sheets earlier when he had reached over to the phone to answer the wake up call. Squinting, he stalked across the room to the large windows and pulled the drapes open. He was naked but thirty-five floors above the city he didn't feel particularly modest. His guest had already gone. At some point before he had called Justin he'd woken the man from his nap and pointed him to the door. Brian thought back to his call to Justin. He'd been more than a little nervous returning the call and he was actually relieved when he got the voice-mail.

Finding his organizer on the desk, Brian brought the book back to the bed and began to review his schedule for the day. His schedule allowed him to sleep in and it was now just after ten in L.A. His first scheduled appointment wasn't until one o'clock that afternoon. He still had to review some of the mock-ups for the meeting but he didn't think that it would be too involved a process. Brian reached for the phone beside the bed and dialed for room service. He ordered what Justin would have called his 'I need to replenish my fluids because I've just spent the night fucking' breakfast.

"I'll have the fruit plate, only I want just the cantaloupe and honey dew. Give me a pot of coffee and a box of orange juice, not a glass. And just some eggs, no toast." Brian had already hung up by the time the polite young woman on the other end of the line had finished her pleasantries.

A few minutes later Brian answered the knock on the door still clothed in nothing but an angry scowl. The man who wheeled the cart in immediately averted his eyes and in his most professional tone asked Brian where he wanted it. In a more playful or more horny mood Brian would have found that double entendre grounds for some flirty response. But today he wasn't in either of those moods. He pointed the man towards the desk before turning to pick up the ringing cell phone.

"What?" He huffed as he pulled his wallet from the pants he had left on the floor by the bed last night. Pulling out a ten, he half-turned and handed it to the man without meeting his eyes. Brian assumed the other man was still checking out his ass, as he had been the entire time he was unloading Brian's breakfast.

"Hey! I finally caught you."

It was Justin. Brian almost dropped his wallet having been truly caught off guard.

"Yeah, you almost didn't though. I was just heading out." Brian lied.

"I missed your call last night, but...um...I guess you don't have time to talk right now?" Justin waited for Brian's response.

"I can talk for a bit Justin. I've got to eat quickly and then I have to go." Brian sat down heavily on the edge of the bed hoping to defer the subject Justin really wanted to discuss for a little while longer.

"Then you eat, I'll talk."

Shit. Just what was that tone in his voice and what was it about the way he said that? Brian didn't know but he certainly wasn't anticipating what he had just heard in Justin's voice. Justin began yammering on about something Deb had said to him earlier that morning that had apparently gotten Justin thinking about Brian. Justin was quick to add that it wasn't as if he hadn't been thinking about Brian all along. She'd mentioned that Gus's birthday was coming up and that she'd decided to make him something or maybe knit him something.

"That got me thinking that I had to get you a present too." Justin finished.

"Why the fuck would you have to get me a present for Gus's birthday?" Brian puzzled as he pushed another piece of fruit into his mouth.

"You wouldn't let me give you anything for your birthday and this will sort of be an anniversary for us too." Justin was very quiet when he said that last part.

'That's what I heard in his voice before', Brian thought.

Deciding to play dumb, Brian asked, "And just which anniversary would that be, the first time that I tore through your virgin ass or the first time that I dumped your ass?" Though delivered in a joking tone, Brian hadn't intended for Justin to take any of it as joke.

Justin didn't find it funny but having prepared himself for the fact that Brian would probably be cruel, he shot back quickly, "No, just the anniversary of the first time that in spite of yourself you didn't fuck things up. With you having Gus and with you having me."

"Are you trying to piss me off or have you gotten so good at it that you don't actually need to try anymore?" Brian turned his attention to spearing the eggs on his plate.

Justin was quiet for a while deciding if he should play the card that he still had up his sleeve. In all his rehearsals of this conversation he hadn't decided as yet whether or not this would actually be necessary. Now that he had Brian's attention, did he really want to push him any further?

"I thought we could get him something together... from you and me... and then... give each other our own gifts." Justin trailed off as he heard the sound of cutlery dropping against a plate at Brian's end of the line.

"I'll give you one chance to tell me that you're fucking kidding or else I'm hanging up." This was similar to the reaction that Brian had given him a few days earlier when they had last seen each other. This same barely controlled warning for Justin to back off before it was too late.

A few days before Brian left for L.A. Justin had spent the entire weekend at the loft, having never left once they'd come back from clubbing around four o'clock on the Saturday morning. Their game at Babylon on Friday evening had been a public announcement that the events of just over a month before wouldn't deprive the patrons of Brian and Justin's particular brand of entertainment.

Brian had arrived with the guys in tow. Michael was still in town having still not decided where things stood between he and David. Emmett was his usually queeny self and Ted was still moping over "what's his name". Brian had been quite dismissive towards Blake for two reasons, neither of which had anything to do with the man's drug problem. The drug problem as Brian saw it was that Blake couldn't afford to get enough of what he needed and had forgotten to keep that as his primary focus. 'If you lose your job then you can't get high, so don't lose your job.' Instead, Brian had dismissed Blake because in his opinion any man that Ted Schmidt could get wasn't worthy of his attention and second Blake had rebuffed Brian's Ecstasy induced pass a few weeks before.

These thoughts dripped out of Brian's head as the effects of the pills he had taken earlier started to show themselves. To anyone who saw him his movements seemed sure and calculated but to Brian it was the music and the drugs that dictated what he did next. He stood against the railing just inside the entrance of the club. The others had moved off towards the second floor bar.

Brian was wearing a smoky gray color from head to toe. He wore a silky looking long-sleeve jersey top that hugged his chest and arms deliciously. His tits had been itching since just after he popped the first pill and his nipples stood out hard against the fabric of the semi-sheer top. His slacks were tailored to fit tight across his crotch and ass while skimming the form of his legs and thighs just so. For Brian this was one of those outfits that you could be fully covered in but feel completely naked and wanton in at the same time. Wanton described him perfectly tonight. The cut of his pants and they way they fit across his cock made it perfectly clear that he wasn't wearing underwear.

He found Justin easily. He had instructed Justin to come dressed like sex. His exact words were, "Everyone who looks at you has to immediately associate you with the words cock, fuck and cum." If that didn't happen then Justin had failed at dressing for the part. Brian half expected the kid to turn up naked; he certainly had the balls to do it and the bouncers and patrons certainly wouldn't have minded. But naked would have been too easy and Brian didn't expect Justin to cop out of this preparation for their game so easily.

Justin was wearing blue and from what Brian could see as the crowd parted slightly he was wearing leather pants. He wasn't just wearing leather pants, he seemed to have acquired leather for skin; the pants were stretched so tight against his ass. Justin saw him and gave him a nod of his head before moving to climb the stairs to where Brian stood. As Justin approached, Brian gained a new appreciation for his sense of style and wicked streak. Justin's pants were tight and were clearly having an effect on his cock. Justin was hard and his dick had been stretched against his left thigh and held in place by the confines of the leather. Justin was wearing a deep blue silk shirt that was closed only by one button at the middle of his chest. The shirt fluttered open when he walked showing off his belly and his cock. The single button also left his thin white neck and collarbone exposed. Brian could taste them. Justin had coiled a thin strand of leather around his neck so it formed a choker that spiraled up a few inches against his throat. That choker went straight to Brian's dick.

As soon as Justin was in range Brian leaned over and snaked his tongue across the choker tasting the leather and Justin's skin. The other man sighed and smiled as Brian pulled away.

"You can't just kiss me hello can you?" Justin breathed against Brian's ear.

"You made me think cock and fuck and cum. What did you expect?" Brian shot back with a growing smile.

Justin grinned at the compliment as he took in Brian's ensemble. "I suppose you do realize that your pants are see through and that everyone down there is talking about the fact that they can see your cock."

"Yeah, it was very distracting for my tailor when I went for the final fitting."

"I'm sure." Justin quipped running his right hand up Brian's left thigh to stop just under his balls.

"So? You gonna touch 'em or tease 'em?" Brian raised his eyebrows.

"I'll lick 'em and suck 'em till you cum if you want?" Justin was still grinning.

Brian turned his attention to the dance floor below them sifting through the late evening crowd. Standing close at his side Justin pointed out the guys that he had noticed since he had arrived at the club.

"That guy there," Justin pointed to a tall red haired man standing close to a flight of stairs, "he tried to pinch my ass but his hands kept slipping off. He gave up and started rubbing my cock instead." Justin chuckled into Brian's shoulder.

"Is that why you're rock hard already?" Brian quipped.

"For your information, I've been rock hard since I took these damn pants out of the shopping bag. You should have seen the condition I was in when I was trying to buy them. I had to jerk off when I got home and twice before I left the house. No matter where I put my cock these pants start rubbing me off whenever I move." Justin paused his very matter of fact description, taking his eyes off the crowd for a moment to look at Brian, "I guess it's like you said, I'm into leather."

Brian's eyes skimmed the choker again and his dick continued to harden as he fought back a mental image of Justin wearing nothing but the pants and the choker. 'From what that outfit is doing to me, I guess we're both into leather.'

Noticing Brian's attention, Justin focused his gaze on the other man and asked, "Do you want to call it off and just go back to the loft?"

Brian took a deep breath and a deep whiff of Justin before responding, "No. Fucking. Way. The game is just beginning."

The game was indeed just beginning and the object was quite simple: the first one to cum in his pants was the loser. They were the players of this game and they could choose any of the willing patrons of Babylon as their playing pieces. They could touch or undress the other men but under no circumstances was either of them to touch each other, touch themselves or remove a single item of their clothing.

"Him." Brian purred. He had been staring the shirtless man down for the last several minutes and was sure he could win this game before Justin even knew what hit him. Though Brian didn't really have a type, he knew exactly what kind of guys Justin seemed to go for most of the time. This guy was tall and had dark hair and deeply tanned skin. He was a bit bulkier than Brian but not over muscled. Brian thought the guy's face was the clincher; the guy looked a lot like Brian.

Justin took in the look of the man and immediately understood what Brian was doing.

"You think I'll come the minute he touches me, don't you?" Justin challenged.

"You always do when I touch you." Brian offered a smirk as he moved off to retrieve the chosen man.

From where Michael stood at the bar he was able to see Brian and Justin the entire time they talked. He saw when Brian reached out to taste Justin and noticed the fact that although this was the only purposeful contact either of them initiated, the two of them had been touching the entire time they talked. First it was the way that Justin leaned his shoulder into Brian's arm as they stood together facing the crowd. Then it was the way that as soon as Justin moved away Brian's body followed him and resumed that light touching and proximity. Michael had continued to track Brian as he made his way down the stairs and on to the dance floor. He watched as Brian sidled up to some hottie and immediately begun to weave his spell.

On the face of it there was nothing unusual about this situation. Brian flirting or fucking other guys in front of Justin was nothing new. While to the casual onlooker nothing was out of the ordinary Michael immediately knew different. Justin hadn't moved from his spot on the platform where Brian left him. He had also tracked Brian's movements on the dance floor; his eyes never leaving the gyrating couple. The kicker was the fact that Brian seemed to have positioned the man so that he Brian could keep his eyes on Justin. Michael watched as Brian kept a keen grip on the man's hips to keep him from moving them out of that position. In the past while they may have started out the evening taunting each other in this way, Justin never willingly watched what Brian was doing for too long. Michael thought the kid just didn't have the stomach for it.

Now Justin was moving towards Brian and his trick. He crossed the room slowly, having to shake off several admirers trying to pull him into a dance. Justin stopped walking only after he had fused the entire length of his body against the shirtless man's back and legs and then began to match the couple's slow gyrations.

"What are they up to?" Emmett asked as he handed Michael the Diet Pepsi that he'd asked for.

"Brian seems to have lost something down the guy's throat while Justin seems to be trying to hide something up his ass." Ted assessed the situation dryly.

Michael said nothing.

The lights dimmed quickly before throwing the whole club into a sea of blue light as the next song began. In this light the skin on Justin's face and chest appeared to glow. As Brian finally released his partner from the kiss, the man turned around to see who exactly it was who had been knocking on his backdoor for the last few minutes. Justin looked up in that moment and treated the man to a flash of eyes that looked like ice water rimmed in lashes that looked like warm sunshine. Justin smiled and extended his tongue to the man for his tasting. Brian released the man's hips and allowed him to turn around slightly so that he could accept Justin's proffered tongue.

"What's your name?" Justin asked above the din of the music. "I'd ask him only I'm sure he doesn't know."

"Daniel." The man beamed back at Justin before Brian caught his chin and turned the other man back to face him.

His partner offered no complaints as Brian proceeded to lick the sweat off his neck before drawing his lips back into a crushing kiss. Justin focused his attention on the man's back. At one point he crouched down slightly so that he could run his tongue from the base of the man's spine up to the base of his neck. This was a move that Justin knew Brian loved and Justin hoped that Brian had seen him do it. Brian certainly hadn't missed it. He had opened his eyes when the other man begun to sigh into his mouth and was able to catch a view of Justin straightening up and pulling away, his tongue still caught between his teeth.

Brian moved his attention to the man's ears and began to whisper something to him. A few minutes later he turned the man around so that he was facing Justin. Cupping Justin's ass, the man bent low and placed a series of wet kisses against Justin's clavicle and throat before licking up the side of Justin's neck and wetting his choker. Justin swooned, his mouth falling open as his jaw slackened. His dick was hard and the other man grabbed and squeezed it as he continued to lick. The ministrations to his neck echoed what Brian had done to him earlier and Justin was sure that the trick hadn't thought of it on his own. Catching Brian's eye Justin pulled out of the man's reach and staggered back as he tried desperately to regain the tenuous control he held over his body.

As the group watched from the bar they noticed the looks passing between Brian and Justin. Justin looked a little pissed and Brian was smirking.

Still grinding himself against the man's ass, Brian called above the music, "I can't touch you but he can do it for me."

"Fine Brian we'll play dirty." Justin responded before stepping back into the man's reach once again.

"That's the only way to play Justin." Brian grinned against the back of the man's neck.

"I'm so horny. Let's go to the back," The shirtless man who's name Brian didn't remember called out.

"Not yet, we aren't through dancing." Brian punctuated his statement with a quick thrust of his dick against the man's ass. In that moment Justin pushed his body against the other man causing the man's ass to in turn push back against Brian's dick. This slight movement sent shockwaves through Brian's groin and momentarily wiped the smirk off his face. He was already close and his senses were even more heightened now that the E he had taken earlier had fully kicked in.

"Let's go to the backroom Brian." Justin breathed over Daniel's shoulder, he didn't want to give Brian the chance to recover.

"You're so sure I'll come?" Brian drawled as he bluffed.

Daring him with his eyes Justin pulled back and started leading their trick away. Justin turned his head slightly to see that Brian was indeed following closely behind. By this time the number of spectators for their little game had grown from the three friends by the bar to all of those in their general vicinity and those who had noticed them from the overhead platforms.

"And they're off." Ted gestured towards the threesome with his chin. Michael had turned his back on the show just after Justin had stepped back into the trick's embrace. When he found them in the crowd again it was just in time to see them disappear down the stairs. Ted continued, "They actually have the discretion to save some of it for when fewer prying eyes will see."

"What the fuck are you talking about fewer? Half the club is in the back room." Emmett raised his Cosmopolitan to his lips once again.

Justin moved the man to a spot inside of a small alcove in the corner of the dimly lit room. There was a couch in the alcove and Justin was sure that he didn't want to see what this couch looked like under good lighting. Pushing Brian down on to the couch, Justin turned to the trick and unzipped the man's pants. Brian watched as Justin lowered himself to his knees in front of the man's open fly. His nimble fingers quickly found the man's cock and pulled it out. Settling himself on his heels Justin let the tall man's cock hang down to his upturned face before snaking his tongue out to taste the air just below the tip. Still not actually touching the man's cock, Justin turned his gaze on Brian who sat transfixed by the sight.

In all the time they'd been fucking they'd never included a third person. Sure Justin had been forced to watch or listen to Brian fucking tricks on many occasions and just a few months before the tables had been turned on Brian. Justin remembered one time where Brian and his trick of the hour had rolled over on to the cordless phone activating the speed-dial for Justin's number. Justin had been treated to a twenty-five minute recording of Brian fucking his trick before the voice-mail message finally cut out.

Justin raised himself back on to his knees and blew on the flushed organ in front of his face. The man above him groaned audibly. Justin cupped the man's balls in his left hand before pushing his pants down and reaching between the man's legs to run the fingers of his right hand up and down the man's crack. Still rubbing across the trick's anus Justin began to rain kisses across the man's stomach, rimming the man's navel the way Brian had done to him on so many occasions.

"What should I do to him?"

It took Brian several long moments to realize that Justin was talking to him and his tongue felt heavy as he breathed his response. "Finger-fuck him."

Justin turned the other man so that Brian had a clear view of the man's ass and Justin's hand moving between his cheeks. Rocking back on his heels again Justin offered the man the fingers on his right hand and told him to suck. When the fingers were thoroughly wetted Justin moved both his hands to the trick's ass and spread his cheeks wide offering Brian a clear view of the winking hole. Justin peeped out from beside the man's hip watching Brian's reactions carefully. The smell of this man alone was enough to make Justin's mouth flood with saliva but just watching the way that Brian's pupils dilated as he focused on the man's hole made Justin want to cum.

With his still slick fingers, Justin began to work small circles against Daniel's anus. The other man gasped and kneaded Justin's scalp all the while trying to push Justin's mouth towards his cock. Justin struggled to keep his eyes on Brian as he pushed one finger inside the other man's hole.

Brian sat mesmerized by the sight. 'Why haven't we done this before,' Brian thought as he watched Justin push two fingers into the man's hole and pump them wildly. Brian's hands, which had been resting lightly on his thighs now moved to grip the soft fabric of the sofa and he immediately cursed himself for moving. He had almost lost it just then; the fabric of his pants having become a maddening teasing against his dripping cock.

Justin was breathing hard. His wet ragged breaths fell against the trick's dick as he continued to pump now three fingers in and out of the man's hole. Justin watched the growing tenting at Brian's crotch and saw the way the man moved his hips faster and faster to rub his length against the thin fabric of his pants. His own pants had never felt tighter and Justin could feel his own cock burning against his thigh. Still panting and clearly close to the edge, the trick began rubbing his dick along the side of Justin's sweaty face. Justin sighed as the man's cock grazed over his overheated lips and the small sound went right through Brian's body. Brian closed his eyes and willed himself mind and body to calm down.

'It's not that hot. Don't look at the fingers...God he's pucker is so swollen now Justin is rubbing him raw. His lips are so swollen and red...I love Justin's lips when they get like this...Shit... Think about something else, try to focus on some other sound.'

The trick screamed and arched his back and Justin thrust into him one last time. When the trick moved aside Brian could see the semen on Justin's cheek and lips. From the way Justin's eyelids hung half-opened and by the glassy quality his eyes had taken on, Brian knew that Justin had cum too.

Smiling, Brian pulled himself up from the sofa and pushed the trick aside before pulling Justin to his feet.

"Feel better?" Brian asked while supporting Justin by the small of his back. Justin looked drugged. This was the way he always looked when he had cum particularly hard. As Justin pressed his weakened body up against Brian's, the older man was again reminded of the urgency of his own condition. Justin felt it too.

"I guess you win." After a brief pause Justin added, "This round."

Maneuvering Brian into a seated position once again, Justin opened the zipper on Brian's pants and closed his mouth over the hardened member.

"Fuck...oh God...yessssssssssss." Brian's voice was strangled as he gritted his teeth. Justin pulled Brian in deep before opening his mouth wide to let Brian's cock just lie against his tongue and play over his lips. He looked up at Brian from beneath his blonde lashes before drawing the organ down his throat again. Justin kept up this maddening motion of sucking Brian hard and deep and then letting go to let Brian's dick just throb against his tongue. Brian met his gaze with a tortured look and Justin sucked him in deeply again. Brian was close; Justin could smell it. He gently tongued just the tip of Brian's cock before flattening his tongue and running it up and down the underside of Brian's length.

"Cum for me baby," Justin breathed against Brian's cock. When he saw Brian close his eyes Justin positioned his tongue just below the slit. The thick warm liquid pulsed out against Justin's tongue and the boy showed it to the man above him before swallowing.

Justin wasn't with Brian when he finally rejoined his friends, having excused himself to the washroom to clean up.

"Did you kill them?" Michael asked from his perch at the bar.

"Have you guys moved from this spot at all tonight?" Brian avoided the obvious question.

"Well when you have some of the best seats in the house why trade them in?" Ted offered his own question.

Brian ordered two bottles of water and vodka on the rocks. The guys had just begun to tease him about actually sticking around to buy drinks for a trick after he had fucked him when Justin sidled up. Brian thrust one of the bottles into Justin's hand before downing his own bottle and starting on his vodka. Brian Kinney didn't buy anything for tricks and Justin certainly was no trick.

When they finally made it back to the loft the two had fucked then slept then fucked again, having forgone further rounds of their game and opting to dance instead. They had repeated this pattern over the course of the Saturday, giving Brian the chance to become more closely acquainted with Justin's new choker. Now on Sunday Justin had gotten pensive and quiet. Pensive wasn't that unusual for Justin in the weeks since the attack but quiet was definitely not typical Justin behavior.

"Want me to fuck that thought out of your head?" Brian offered playfully as Justin raised his head from his sketchbook.

"In a minute." Justin gave Brian a half-smile. It was even more unusual for Justin to not react more enthusiastically to Brian's offer of sex. Pushing the keyboard away Brian shut off the monitor and walked over to where Justin was sitting. Brian looked over Justin's shoulder and found that he had been drawing a picture of a withered rose with painstaking accuracy.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Brian chucked the back of Justin's head as he walked away. He tried to shake the haunting image that Justin had been drawing.

"I was just wandering how long we were gonna keep this up?"

"What, marathon fucking? You have to give me more to go on than that cryptic comment Justin."

"You fuck me. You spend all of the little free time you have with me. You give me everything that you have except what I really want. And while all of this is going on, we're just going around in circles and fucking wasting time." Justin set the book down on the table in front of him and turned to face Brian who was now standing frozen in mid-movement in front of the open refrigerator door.

"I'm not just tricking with you Brian, when are you going to admit the fact that you're not just tricking with me?" Justin's voice was quiet but firm.

"Now I'm wasting your time?" Brian slammed the fridge door causing the contents to shake and some of the appliances on top of the fridge to crash against each other.

Determined, Justin didn't flinch as Brian covered the distance between them and came to tower above him. Justin slowly rose from his seat and offered Brian a challenging look. Brian had tried this before. Justin would bring up the fact that their "relationship", knowing full well the fact that Brian hated the implications of that word, was about more than just mutual physical release and Brian would rebuff his advances by trying to frighten him. Justin admitted to himself that he had scared easily before. Afraid that Brian would simply call the whole thing off, Justin had thought to try the tactic of giving Brian space and time to deal with his feelings.

But now Justin didn't see time quite the same way as he had before. Time was something you weren't guaranteed and every moment that you spent not doing what you truly wanted to do you had to be conscious of the fact that you were wasting some of the little time that you had. He thought that Brian sort of understood this concept considering the way he lived his life. Brian seemed to live for pleasure on fast-forward. Looking for the next high or the next release even before the one he was presently experiencing had worn off. He flitted through his experiences, his goal to do as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Even though he thought that on some level Brian saw things the way that he did, Justin thought Brian's methods were fucked. Brian was running through the same experiences repeatedly. Brian wasn't doing everything and anything before time could run out like he thought he was. He was just doing the same things over and over again until time ran out.

"Please don't get angry." Justin tried to soothe Brian. He hadn't intended for this conversation to become so confrontational. "You know how I feel about you, you don't want to hear me say it, but you know just the same and I know that you believe me."

"I don't belong to you Justin." Brian said flatly.

"But for now I belong to you."

"I never asked you for that." Before responding Brian had taken note of the qualification in Justin's statement.

"Yeah you did." Justin responded firmly. "You put your mark on me from that first night and every time you touch me I can feel you making sure that it hasn't worn off. These past few weeks have been hellish for me Brian because you've just brought us back to our same old routine."

Brian let out a bitter chuckle. "The way you were fucking screaming my name and the scratches up and down my back all point to the fact that you've had a pretty good time." Brian shot Justin that snide remark before walking off into the bedroom.

Justin followed him after some time and continued to speak as if there hadn't been any interruption. "You need me to stay the way I was and for us to stay the way we were, but like you said at the hospital, shit changes people. I want more now Brian. More than just a good fuck."

"I'm not giving you shit," Brian lay propped up against the pillows at the head of his bed. He had pulled on a black wife-beater to match the black jeans he'd been wearing when he stormed out of the living room. He had been toying with the stress balls that he kept on the night table and with Justin's last statement he threw the balls across the room where they struck the wall beside the entrance to the bathroom.

From where Justin stood by the blinds on the left side of the room he could see the small dents that the heavy metal balls had left in the wall board and he realized what was happening. He had really backed Brian into a corner and there was only one of two ways that Brian would react. He would either detach himself from the situation, not saying anything, or he would come out swinging intent on drawing blood.

Justin held the cold stare that Brian shot him from behind half-lowered lids. Brian's eyes were a steely gray, a color reserved only for when Brian was truly infuriated. Brian held his head with his chin tilted in towards his body making him look even more like he was about to pounce. The tension showed in his body as well. Even though he still lay on his back, he had pulled one knee up so that it was bent and he rested a balled up fist on top of that knee.

"Just think about what I said. Don't just react for the sake of scaring me because this scares you," Justin dropped himself on to the low shelf that ran below the blinds.

That was when Brian got up from the bed. He crossed the bedroom slowly stopping in front of Justin and reached towards him. Looking at the undecipherable expression on Brian's face, Justin wouldn't have been surprised in that moment to have Brian either pet his cheek gently or slap him silly. Brian bent slightly and picked up Justin's bag from the floor before turning away and walking down the stairs and out of the bedroom. He stopped only to retrieve Justin's sketchbook from the table and pull a twenty from his wallet before opening the door of the loft. Justin stood in the doorway of the bedroom and watched him.

Brian put Justin's things in the hallway and put the twenty on top.

"You'd better leave now Justin. Use your cell to call yourself a cab from downstairs." Brian stood aside in the doorway and tracked Justin progress as he made his way towards the door. Justin looked scared and dumbfounded and Brian remembered thinking, 'That makes two of us kid.'

Brian slid the door closed as soon as Justin had cleared the doorway and he hadn't seen him again before he left for L.A. four days later.

"So when do you leave for L.A.?"

"Thursday morning." Brian lifted the baby from the change table and put him back into the playpen before taking a seat at the dining room table.

Lindsay had been watching him the entire time that he was changing Gus. She always found any interaction between Brian and his son to be mesmerizing. It was like she was peeking into something secret about Brian that no one else got to see. All of Brian's movements and mannerisms, which spanned the gauntlet from graceful to dangerous, gave way to the gentle manner in which he handled Gus and spoke to him.

"What do you want?" Lindsay asked snapping herself back to reality.

"For everyone to stop telling me exactly what to do with my fucking life." Brian huffed as he pushed his chair away from the table and strode out of the room. Gus looked genuinely concerned from where he stood holding himself up against the edge of his playpen.

"It's okay honey," Lindsay offered soothingly as she reached over and stroked the baby's cheek.

"Brian? What are you doing?" The man in question was busy searching through her kitchen cupboards as Lindsay made her way through the pantry and into the kitchen.

"You don't have anything harder than cooking sherry?" Brian thrust the bottle of reddish liquid back into the cupboard before slamming it loudly.

"Look under the sink." Lindsay was trying to keep her eyes on the six-foot tall baby making a mess of her kitchen as well as on her own baby in the other room.

Brian picked a tall brown bottle from Lindsay and Melanie's stash before moving back to the cupboard that he remembered held a bunch of glasses. Instead of pulling out a small tumbler or a shot glass, Brian chose a tall water glass and poured two-thirds of the contents of the bottle into it.

"Shit Brian, it's three o'clock in the afternoon. Why don't you just have the whole thing?"

"Don't mind if I do." Brian closed the cupboards and moved back into the dining room with glass and bottle in hand.

"Brian, what's the matter?" Lindsay retook her spot on the sofa and held out a small stuffed penguin to Gus in the playpen beside her.

"It's nothing."

"Okay, since I haven't gotten anywhere with that question the three times I've asked it in the last hour, how about I try this question? What's the matter with Justin? He was here last night babysitting Gus and he was behaving just as cagey as you are right now. Cagey is common for you Brian but what did you do to Justin?"

"Have I told you to fuck off yet today?" Brian scowled over the top of his now half empty glass.

Lindsay smiled and took a moment to think about his question before responding, "Why actually you haven't but just remember that you're the one who called and said that you wanted to talk. Gus and I are listening, so spill it."

Brian looked at his son. The baby looked more and more like him every time he saw him. Brian was very proud of that fact even though he didn't say much when people commented on the baby's good looks or the resemblance. The boy was blonde like his mother and had long dark lashes that framed eyes that were carbon copies of Brian's. The baby's eyes were the same shape and the same chameleon like hazel-green color. The kid had Brian's nose and Brian's lips. The only thing he seemed to take from his mother was his blonde hair. Brian smiled as he thought about his own baby photos. He had had that same platinum blonde hair until he was around four and then it had started to darken to the shade it was now. Judging by the color of the baby's lashes Lindsay would be wise to not place any bets that her son would remain a blonde.

"Remember that first time you called and reamed me out about Justin?" Brian was still looking intently at his son as he asked the question.

"Be more specific." Lindsay was joking but she was careful to keep her tone semi-serious because it was obvious that Brian was finally ready to talk about whatever was on his mind.

"When he first started staying with me and he walked out on me and that trick."

"Yeah, I remember. You didn't talk to me for a week."

Brian let his thoughts drift back to those events and the look on Justin's face as he pushed away from the kitchen counter and ran out of the loft. The kid wasn't gone long and when Brian heard the door opening and saw Justin return he remembered thinking that he would have to up the stakes in order for the kid to get the message. Justin hadn't stayed though. He'd simply moved around the loft and gathered his things. He even had to come into the bedroom at one point to get his school shoes out of the closet. Half out of his mind on drugs and booze at the time, Brian had thought the situation was hilarious and had actually laughed out loud. There he was lying on his back, his dick half down some guy's throat and there was Justin quietly retrieving his shoes as if he didn't want to disturb them. When Justin left the second time Brian knew that his message had been received loud and clear.

"That's when it started."

"When what started?"

"All this shit with everyone telling me what I should do and what I needed to do." Brian turned his attention on Lindsay's face. "And you started it."

Lindsay was quiet and waited for Brian to get into the full swing of his rant.

"Before then, when was the last time any of you gave a shit what I did with one of my tricks or how shitty I treated them? But after him it was a whole different story. You with the, 'You need to take responsibility for your actions Brian.'" Brian whined this last sentence in his best imitation of Lindsay's voice. "Debby and her, 'He's different from the others Brian'. None of you taking the hints I was leaving in ten-foot letters to stay the fuck out of it."

"That was because we all saw it as clearly then as we see it now. He has always been different from the others Brian. In fact you confirmed that for me that very same day you just mentioned. You started to get real decent after Justin whereas before you would have told us to shove our comments and opinions."

"What the fuck are you talking about now?"

"I'm talking about the fact that you actually started listening and modifying your behavior when people started telling you what you were doing wrong where Justin was concerned. That fact alone told everyone that this one was different."

"I didn't modify shit." Brian finished the glass of liquor and turned his attention to the bottle by taking a deep gulp. Lindsay got up from her place on the sofa and snatched the bottle from his hands.

"You have to drive back to the office remember?"

Brian didn't offer any protest. His throat had already started to burn and a half a glass ago he'd realized that he didn't want to have this conversation with Lindsay while he was drunk. He didn't trust himself not to say too much or reveal too much in that condition. "Tell me what Justin said last night?"

"He didn't say much. He just drew and watched T.V. with Gus while I graded assignments. He stared at your photo a lot though." Lindsay flicked a finger at the framed photo on the side table of Brian and Gus.

"He gave me an ultimatum."

Lindsay was intrigued. The mere fact that Brian wanted to talk to her about this meant that he was actually considering whatever it was that Justin had said to him.

"He said that I was wasting his time and that he didn't want a fuck-buddy any more." Brian spoke quietly and his tone was bitter.

"What did you say?"

"I told him to fuck off. What did you think I would say to him?" Brian got up from the chair he'd been perched in since returning from the kitchen and stalked over to the window.

"What do you want Brian?" Sensing that a smart-assed comment was brimming on Brian's lips, Lindsay continued, "Honestly. What you say to me will not leave this room. What do you want?"

"Nothing complicated and nothing messy. Justin complicates things and makes things very messy," Brian whispered.

"But if you want Justin you have to figure out a way to deal with complicated and messy."

Lindsay hoped that by filling in the lines that Brian was doing his best to avoid she would help him get through what he was saying.

Brian made no attempt to deny or confirm her speculation.

"You know it's not an either or situation Brian. It doesn't have to be fuck-buddies on one hand and old married couple on the other hand. I'm sure Justin's not looking for that right now."

"The fuck he isn't! Do you know what I caught him doing last week? He was writing his name over and over in his sketchbook only it wasn't his name. He was writing 'Justin Taylor-Kinney' over and over." Lindsay tried to suppress her smile. "I mean how fucking juvenile is that?"

"You don't have to look at it as juvenile. You could look at it like it is Brian; he's in love with you."

"A fucking chicken is having picket fence fantasies about me and you guys actually want me to entertain them."

"Sure Brian, he is young. You keep talking about this being juvenile and him being a chicken but don't forget how mature Justin really is. I don't believe that anything he's doing or feeling is coming just from this being a crush or puppy love or a phase and you know that. Whatever you showed him about yourself and whatever he thought he saw, he fell for you. Now you have to deal with it from that level. Don't think a 'twinky is having picket fence fantasies'; think about the fact that someone you've actually come to respect and like as a person wants to be with you." While she was talking Lindsay had moved over to the window and was standing close to Brian.

The man was quiet for a while and then with patented Brian Kinney venom, he finally spoke. "I knew I couldn't expect anything less than romantic tripe from such a lovely little lipstick lezzy." Brian pushed pass her roughly as he spoke.

"Brian, do you know what I admire most about you?"

"No, but I know what your worse half admires most about me, my low-hangers."

"Actually, she thinks your finest feature is your retreating back." Lindsay smiled to herself. "It's that you're honest and most of the time you're actually honest with yourself."

"I'm always honest."

"You think you are." Brian rolled his eyes at this statement. "You have a relationship with Justin, whatever form that takes for the two of you, it's definitely there. Justin sees that for sure now or else he would never have backed you into a corner. He would never have taken this chance six months ago, four months ago or even a month ago. So stop pretending to yourself that this isn't happening."

"Nothing has fucking happened and nothing is fucking happening." Brian was almost rabid in denying her comments.

"He's not just some trick Brian. When was the last time you heard of a trick, especially one of your tricks, moving in for two albeit bumpy months or coming back for seconds or thirds or one thousand and thirds. When was the last time you spent so much time with someone who wasn't Michael and when was the last time you agreed to finance one of your trick's college education."

"You assholes want me to be kind and then you try and hang me with it."

"Brian," Lindsay said plaintively.

"You know for someone who apparently has all the answers and sees what's going on so clearly, there's one thing that you're not mentioning."

"What's that?"



"Didn't you think it would be him? I mean after all this time." Brian was looking at Gus again.

Lindsay considered his statement quietly before moving to sit beside him on the sofa. "Not the way you mean but I did imagine that I would have this kind of heart to heart with you about Michael at some point or the other." Brian offered her a quizzical look and Lindsay continued, "I thought that at some point you guys would have to make a decision but I always thought that it would be along the lines of Michael growing out of you and you figuring out how to give him up."

Brian sighed and continued to speak, "I owe him."

"Brian. What do you owe him?"

"If I do this with anyone Lindz, it should be Michael."

"Brian, please don't hang up. You said that we would talk about this."

"I'm not getting into this with you now Justin." Brian had lost his appetite and flipped over the chrome lid to cover the remains of his breakfast.

"Alright," Justin said weakly. "When are you coming home?"

"Probably Thursday at the earliest."

"Are we gonna talk before then?" Justin was trying anything he could think of to keep attention on their unresolved issue.

"Not about this. Not over the phone." Justin was quiet for a long time and Brian added, "You still there?"

"Yeah, I'm here. So I guess I'll talk to you when you get back."

"So if I don't want to talk about this then we can't talk at all?"

"You can call me if you want Brian but it's just that I don't really have anything else on my mind but this right now. I'm sure you'll hear it in my voice no matter what we talk about."

"Fine," Brian saw what this was all about. It was clearly a ploy. If he didn't take Justin on his terms then he couldn't have Justin at all. 'Fine.'

Brian hung up.

'Fuck,' Justin thought replacing the telephone receiver. His bluff had gone terribly wrong. He glanced around the small room taking in the disheveled bed-sheets and the dirty clothes. 'When did I stop cleaning up this room?' Justin had become quite the tidy-bug after his experience of living with Brian. Justin raised himself from the chair and started to get dressed. He would have plenty of time to curse himself about the way he handled the call over the next week because he was sure that under no circumstances would Brian call him back. Justin noted that this afternoon's appointment with Dr. Flaherty would be just as good a place as any to start his mental flagellation.

"Sunshine, you ready?" Debbie was calling him from downstairs. Sometimes Deb would drive him to his appointments but more often than not it was his mother who would take him. He'd started his twice-a-week visits to Dr. Flaherty a few days after he was released from the hospital. The doctors and his mothers thought it would do him some good to have someone to talk things over with. The psychologist was in her mid-thirties and married with two small children. At first Justin wasn't very comfortable talking about certain things with her but she was patient and after all they'd had a history together. She'd been the doctor who refereed the fall out after his 'I Like Dick' speech to his mother.

Debbie smiled as she watched Justin come bounding down the stairs. He'd been back living with her for almost three weeks now. She was relieved to see that he had his energy back even though she could tell that he wasn't in the best of spirits. 'I'll take payment for that one out of Brian's hide the next time I see him,' Debbie pushed these thoughts aside as Justin sat down at the kitchen table for his lunch.

"Eat this sweetie," Debbie put a sandwich in front of him. "I'm just going to grab my things and then we're out of here. We barely have enough time to get there so hurry up." Turning her attention away from Justin, Debbie yelled, "Vic, come eat the sandwich I made you." Noticing the grimace on Justin's face, she cutely added, "Sorry. Was I that loud?"

Justin waved goodbye to Debbie and walked up the steps of the low-rise building as her car pulled away from the curb.

"So how are you sleeping since we last talked Justin?" The doctor asked as she arranged herself in the high backed chair.

Justin noticed that she'd pulled out a notebook that had his name written across the front of it in neat cursive writing. He'd noticed the doctor's careful handwriting during his very first visit to her so many months before; after all he tended to notice everything about how a person used their hands. Back then he didn't like this woman very much at all. His mother had all but thrust this doctor on to Justin while pleading with the doctor to 'fix her fucked up fag of a son.'

'Okay, he was making it sound more harsh than it was,' Justin thought. His mother had hoped that the doctor could help their relationship but he didn't think she ever thought of him as having a psychological condition that was in need of fixing. Justin smiled as he thought back to the t-shirt that Jennifer intended to wear during her inaugural attendance at the upcoming Liberty Pride Parade. It was red and emblazoned with the slogan, "I LOVE MY GAY SON".

"Not much better actually, although it's not so much about Chris Hobbes or the attack," Justin offered.

"Does it have anything to do with Brian?"

"It has everything to do with Brian. I did what you said I should, I talke..."

The doctor interrupted his next word, "I didn't tell you to do anything Justin."

"Sorry. I did what you suggested." The doctor was smiling again. 'Fucking shrinks,' Justin thought jokingly. Dr. Flaherty had this way in which she conducted the sessions so that she never answered any of his questions or requests for advice. She only asked more questions in response or made general suggestions. She'd told Justin when he started seeing her after the attack that the pace his progress took would be from his own leading and not hers.

"How did he respond?"

"Well he didn't tell me to go fuck myself. At least, I don't think he did. He's just not talking to me about it. He just asked me to leave." Justin was picking at the candies that the doctor kept on the low coffee table that stood in the center of the office.

"How does that leave you feeling?" Dr. Flaherty made a note of the way that Justin was toying with the candies as he spoke.

"It leaves me feeling...it leaves me feeling," Justin was making an effort to 'connect with his emotions', as the doctor had put it. 'Its funny really, I don't think me and my emotions have ever been closer. I've been crying every night for the last five days.' "It leaves me feeling pretty damned shitty."

"Have you changed your mind about how you wanted to handle this?"

"I don't think so. In fact I'd say I'm still twisting the blade where Brian's concerned," Justin said humorlessly remembering the bluff that had cost him his last conversation with Brian.

"What does that mean Justin?" The doctor listened as Justin gave her a summary of the conversation he had had with Brian earlier that morning. Her response was to ask him a million questions about his motivations for saying the things he did and his fears about Brian's reactions.

His motivation and his fear were clear. It was the same motivation and the same fear that kept coming up every time the subject matter of his sessions turned to Brian Kinney. He was motivated towards being with Brian for the rest of his life and he feared the reality that any expression of this motivation would make Brian turn tail and run in the opposite direction.

"We'd started to talk about this before and I want to continue discussing it. Do you remember I asked you why it was so important that you do this now? Why is it so important to have Brian define your relationship?"

"It's always been important. We've been going around in circles over this for a long time but now I don't know... It's just that I want him and I know he wants me. I just need him to take the next step, you know. Like, I know he's not gonna marry me or anything but I just want him to give me something." The doctor made a note of Justin's explanation. For a second or two Justin couldn't decide what he found more annoying, the fact that she wrote down practically everything he said or the fact that she seemed to be going to great pains to record his words in handwriting so fine it rivaled calligraphy.

Today of all days he couldn't get her out of his mind. Of all the things for his mind to stick on, Brian couldn't shake the memory of one of the last few times he'd talked to his mother. There wasn't any rhyme or reason for why he couldn't focus on anything else. 'Well no other reason than the fact that dear old Mom has forced the levels of hatred I have for her to heights that not even I thought were possible.'

Brian turned his attention to shaving, having given up on trying to concentrate on reviewing the mock-ups for the presentation that afternoon. After cutting his chin twice he forced himself to sing the alphabet song out loud in order to block out his recurring thoughts. As a little kid he'd discovered that if he could make his thoughts loop on something mundane that didn't require any concentration then he could stifle the encroachment of less desirable memories. 'Booze, drugs, sex, alphabet song. Hey, whatever gets you through the night,' Brian thought.

He'd been pretty pissed off when he hung up the phone with Justin and Brian knew there were a million reasons why his thoughts should be looping on Justin instead of Joanie Kinney. And yet, here he was. Ever since that Sunday night after the attack, thinking about Justin had invariable made him think about Joanie Kinney.

"Hello." He'd been sitting on the sofa staring into space, still reeling from his visit with Justin, when the cordless phone beside him began to ring.

"Brian, it's your mother." The one time Brian had answered his telephone with a civilized greeting he'd wasted it on a phone call from his mother.

"Why are you calling?" Brian asked coolly.

"Well so much for a pleasant word from your lips." Brian had rolled his eyes and moved to end the call before what Joanie said next stopped him cold. "I saw the news. Your father always said you'd make headlines with the trouble you caused."

"I'm not having this conversation with you." Brian again moved to hang up the phone. He was awestruck at the implications of what his mother now knew about him but he certainly wasn't going to let her see that it even phased him.

"How could you be so public with this? This is private family business and it shouldn't be on the damned news."

"What upsets you more Mom, finding out that I'm a fag or the fact that you just got outed to the neighbors."

"Nothing upsets me where you're concerned Brian, what with the low expectations and all. None of this information is news to me," the woman huffed.

Brian took in what she'd said before asking, "When did Dad tell you?"

"Your father told me during one of his morphine induced stupors towards the end but just like everything else in his life, Jack Kinney never beat anybody to the punch."

"When did you...how?"

"I've known about you since you were fifteen," his mother sneered. Brian thought her voice was practically dripping with disgust.

'Just like I expected,' Brian thought.

"That teacher was messing with you and now you grow up and take a boy who's not much older than you were then," Joanie spat angrily.

This second kick to his gut was delivered with cunning and precision and Brian actually thought he might pass out. He was quiet for a while before regrouping, "Yeah. We like them young. Us fags and us Kinney men."

"Stop it Brian! I took it from your father all these years but I will not take it from you. How could you be this way? How could you do this? What were you thinking? How could you embarrass me?"

"Wow! Thanks mom. That's what I forgot to add to the con section of my pros and cons list when I was deciding to go out Friday night. Don't go because you might just embarrass Mom." Brian taunted before cutting her off and throwing the phone across the room.

'What the fuck just happened?' Brian thought. Sure there had been reporters as they left the hospital but why the fuck would this be evening news. 'I'll tell you why, cause if one of the straights makes us bleed enough then the politically correct straight masses can't move fast enough to show their disapprobation. But it doesn't mean shit.' Shit. His mother knew. 'The bitch has known since I was fifteen and she didn't say a word.' She didn't breathe a word of it to his father and Brian knew she probably hadn't repeated it to a soul. 'Expect for the priest at confession though,' Brian was sure.

'Shit,' what had she said about the teacher? There was no way in hell that she could know about that. Back then Brian hadn't told anyone other than Michael and there was no way that Michael would have given up that secret. Brian puzzled for a few minutes, his thoughts running from imagining himself on the news, to his mother and then to his job. Marty Ryder watched the news. Brian could see himself in one of those stupid clips where the unwilling interviewee was trying to walk through the crush of reporters while shielding their face. 'Shit, I'd told them to fuck off didn't I? I wonder if they showed a clip of that?' Then it occurred to him. He knew how his mother had found out about Andrew Martin.

August 17, 1986. 'That's the day I lost my virginity or rather, the day I gave it away for the sake of the experience.' There was a lot that Brian Kinney pretended to not take note of or to not remember but the truth of it was that very little slipped by him unnoticed or unrecorded. He remembered exactly how warm it had been that day and he remembered the way the sheets scratched at his back the entire time.

He wasn't sure how she came across them but he was sure that Joanie had found the letters. 'Sentimental shithead,' Brian chided. If there hadn't been any letters then there wouldn't have been anything for Joanie to find. Brian stopped himself and thought, 'But then again, if there hadn't been any letters then there wouldn't have been any insurance.' The man had written to him every day for two months straight. Brian remembered feeling disgusted by the drivel that Drew wrote and feeling empowered by the fact that this man was under his spell. He'd kept the letters just in case he might need a favor from old Drew. 'You were just a stupid kid and he wasn't that old. He was totally hot.' Although Brian had to admit he couldn't quite remember what Andrew Martin looked like anymore. 'He had to have been totally hot for me to have gone after him.'

The Kinneys had lived in the same house since Brian was seven. He could remember when they first moved in. He remembered fighting with Claire to get the bigger bedroom and he remembered that he still ended up with the shit end of the stick when he got stuck with the small bedroom next to his parents' room. His mother had reminded him that Claire was the oldest and it was only fair that she get the larger room. Mr. and Mrs. Kinney used similar lines on him over the years to explain why Claire should get three times his allowance or why she was deserving of any number of other special little perks.

He'd kept the letters under a loose floorboard in the corner of his room. He'd trusted this hiding place to keep his most precious possession as he was growing up, his running money. Living in that house had made Brian very secretive and he knew his family recognized that. This was the reason why he'd invested sixty-five dollars in buying a strong box that he kept under his bed. He never kept more than twenty bucks in that box. He'd needed the strong box and the decoy 'secrets' because he'd long discovered that Claire went through his stuff when he wasn't around. He'd told Jack and asked him if he could put a lock on his door. This had earned Brian a backhand and a lecture on the fact that Jack was the man of his house and there weren't going to be any locked rooms that he couldn't enter.

So he'd bought the box and filled it with 'secrets' (which included several straight skin-rags that he'd dog-eared to make them appear used) and booty of twenty-two dollars and some change. He'd hidden the key by taping it to the top of his closet door. Claire was a mean kid and she was cunning. Brian was sure that on one of her many safaris to his room she'd find the key and unlock the box. If he made it hard enough for her to get to these secrets then he was pretty sure she'd think she'd bested him and she wouldn't bother to look for anything else.

Meanwhile back at the floorboard, Brian secured those things he truly didn't want his family to find. The contents of that small space included a tin with two thousand eight hundred and fifty-six dollars and seventy-four cents in cash. Brian didn't do mementos or old photos but he did make sure to hide Drew's letters. Joanie had found the hiding space and she'd looked at the letters. Brian didn't remember ever missing any of this money but he certainly knew when Claire had been through the strong box. She always put back whatever money she took so Brian pretended not to notice. No, Joanie hadn't been after money when she found the hiding spot, she'd been after information.

Brian had started it. He'd been lusting after the man for months and had joined the soccer team for the express purpose of getting Mr. Martin's attention. He didn't think about what he was doing. He just knew Martin looked like prey and he was compelled to give chase. 'Even when I was fourteen it was all about the hunt,' Brian thought. Brian had always known that he liked dick. Sure he'd made out with any number of girls and touched a few bare breasts but that was just his cover. Fags got their heads dunked in toilets so Brian wasn't going to be called a fag. He'd studied this man for weeks deciding just what he wanted to do to him and had gotten hard at some pretty inopportune times thinking about it.

Martin always took a shower after he thought everyone had left and that day Brian wasn't just going to hide and watch. Telling Mikey that he'd forgotten something, he'd turned back about a block away from the school. What happened to him that afternoon was history; "The Most Famous Shower Scene Since Psycho." He'd gone back and walked into the showers and he'd gotten to taste the first of what would become a long succession of dicks. The man never knew what hit him. He remembered Drew Martin just groping blindly for something to hold on to while Brian sank down to his knees. He remembered how the man kept apologizing to him afterwards and begging him not to tell anyone. Brian had been surprised. Sure he knew his teacher would get into trouble if they got caught but he never fathomed that this man would think he'd rat him out. Brian had offered him some stupid quip that he didn't kiss and tell, all the while drying his hair.

One year later, Brian hadn't told a soul except for Michael. Brian stayed on the soccer team but his coach wouldn't touch him after that first time. This disturbed Brian greatly. The man always looked at him when he thought Brian couldn't see him but he seemed to go to great lengths to make sure they were never alone together. He'd also discovered that the coach now locked the doors to the showers after he let everyone out. Brian had gotten what he was after with the coach that day. Back then he didn't want to fuck. He just wanted to sort of make sure he knew what he was and to confirm that he could have this man. But now things were different. If he was as spellbinding as everyone said he was (girls followed him home all the time and by fifteen as legend had it, he'd already slept with half of the girls in his class), then why didn't this man want him?

Brian decided to stake his claim. "Why don't you want to fuck me?" Brian asked. He always went straight for the jugular.

"Would you keep your fucking voice down?" Drew scrambled to close the office door behind Brian while looking around for anyone who might have been within earshot. "What the hell is this about?"

"It's about the fact that you haven't looked straight at me for a whole fucking year." Brian leaned against the office door. He was gorgeous, having been spared any awkward period between his transformations from a beautiful child into a beautiful young man. He was tall and thin and had a defined physique that made him look lithe and strong at the same time.

"I'm never touching you again. I could lose my job and you know that."

"I told you that I wouldn't tell and I don't lie."

"Brian you're just a kid. Go find some one of these guys and experiment but you're not going to experiment with me."

"Who says I'm fucking experimenting?"

"By what I hear it's a wonder you're not pushing up here with any number of baby-strollers."

"I haven't fucked any of them, they're just stories." Brian said moving to sit across from the man at the desk.

"I'm married Brian. I have a family. I could lose my job. Are you getting any of that, is it sinking in?"

"Don't talk to me like I'm a child. You want me and I want to do it so who gives a flying fuck about any of the rest of that shit."

"You've gotta go. You can't be in here."

"What? You afraid someone may have seen us talking and they're going to suspect? Me, king-stud of the school and you my soccer coach talking after soccer practice and you think they're actually going to start thinking that we're fucking."

"Would you keep your damned voice down?" The coach moved from behind his desk and took Brian's arm as he pushed him towards the door.

"Aren't you afraid of standing so close to me? What with your wife and your kids and your job to protect."

"Are you threatening me Brian?" The man scowled.

"No. Way. I told you that I wouldn't do that. This isn't a big deal okay. I'm just saying if you want it you can have it, I'm game." Brian moved away from the man and opened the door. "There's got to be a first and if you want, it can be you." Brian closed the door behind him and left.

That was how Cynthia found him. Standing in the bathroom in front of the mirror with shaving foam drying on his face.

"We're going to be late. Didn't you hear me knocking?" Cynthia asked while still looking at Brian closely.

"No. How'd you get in here?" Brian asked as he moved to rinse away the stiff white patches of foam on his face and neck.

"The door was open."

'Right,' Brian thought. He now realized he had never moved to lock the door after his breakfast had been delivered.

Cynthia was reading his movements for any evidence that he was on something. If he was in a bad enough mood Brian made no secret of the fact that he smoked, drank and even got a little stoned while he was working in his office. She was watching him closely now because not once since she'd been working with him had Brian drank or drugged on the job beyond the point of just mellowing himself out or just smoothing out the edges. Today he looked sluggish and agitated at the same time and Cynthia thought his pupils looked way too dilated.

Would she even dare ask the question? "Brian did you take something?"

"What do you mean?" He responded quietly.

"I don't know. You just seem a little spacey that's all."

"I'm fine," he said focusing on her face in the mirror. "I was just missing my Mom."

'Right,' Cynthia thought. Something was definitely wrong here. She'd been in the room for over five minutes and Brian had yet to bark at her or turn an angry tone on her. "I'll let you finish getting dressed. I'll meet you in the lobby alright." She continued to talk to his back as he moved passed her into the bedroom and began pulling out some clothes.

Brian had heard her leave but offered her no response. He couldn't even focus on a ten second conversation with his secretary, how was he going to get through the rest of the day? He smiled when he thought, 'Gus better start talking soon so I can teach him the alphabet song.'

Andrew Martin didn't take him up on his offer until two months later. On some pretense of doing an inventory of the equipment room he had asked Brian to stay after practice. The man had laid out the ground rules and for the most part Brian remembered that he had respected them. Martin arranged for them to meet the following weekend. His wife would be out of town and his kids would be staying with grandparents. Brian had thought that it was one of the cheesiest things he had ever heard. The wife would be away so Brian 'the other woman' would be snuck in and out of the house before she came back. No not the house. He remembered now. That first time they didn't do it at the house. Martin seemed petrified by the idea of Brian knowing where he lived. The coach had picked him up from the pizza place about a block from his house and taken him to a suburban version of the 'No Tell Motel'.

"A real classy establishment, all the rooms open on to the parking lot," Brian had said as they arrived.

Brian chuckled when he remembered back to how covert an operation the whole thing had been. Martin had made him get out of the car and wait across the street while he got the keys to the room, telling Brian to watch and see which room he went into and then follow him a few minutes later. Brian had watched as the man parked in front of the office and went in. He tracked him as he emerged from the office and walked up the stairs that ran along the exterior of the two-story building before going into a room on the second floor. Brian stubbed out his cigarette under his sneaker and went up to the second floor.

He'd told Justin that he'd been scared the first time with Martin and that was the truth. He was scared that first day when he walked into the showers and he was scared that first night he walked into that motel room. He'd felt like he was on autopilot and that his body had been taking him through motions that it had apparently already learned how to do. Brian had been with a few guys in the year since he'd last been with the coach but he hadn't done much with them. Brian had sucked a few of them off and had the favor returned but beyond that it was just jerking off and heavy kissing. They'd all been around his age and with these guys he'd always been the lead. He knew more than them and they were all willing to let him show them what to do. Brian was comfortable with these guys, even the ones he'd just met. Unlike his other experiences and although it didn't show, Brian was positively petrified at the thought of being with Andrew Martin.

Even back then Brian had possessed the gift of making "positively petrified" look like cool reserve. He'd walked into the room and tossed his jacket on to the bed looking as comfortable as if he'd been entering his bedroom at home and tossing his book bag by the bed. Martin was sitting at the foot of the bed waiting for him and Brian took that as a cue that the man wanted to get started. Jean jacket already removed, Brian had moved to tug his t-shirt over his head when the man asked him to stop. The shirt was already over his head and Brian pulled his arms free while looking at the man for some explanation.

"I thought we could just talk for a bit."

"Talk about what?" Brian asked. He'd moved over to Martin and now tossed the t-shirt on to the bed next to his jacket.

"I don't know. Just talk you know, I barely know anything about you."

"What's there to know? It's not like you just met me or anything?"

"I don't mean who your parents are or where you go to school. I mean I don't know anything about you." Martin pointed towards him as he finished his statement.

"Look, I figure you pay for this place by the hour so could we just save the chit-chat for the ride back?" This was Brian's cool reserve showing through again. The last thing that he needed when he was already feeling vulnerable was to start some gushy conversation with this man. Brian unbuttoned his jeans and unzipped his fly and then waited.

It was hot in the room and instead of air-conditioning there was only a small table fan that perched on the night table on the other side of the bed. The coach had been sweating. Brian had to walk around to the other side of the bed to reach the fan. He'd walked passed where Martin sat and turned on the fan before moving back around the bed and standing in front of the older man. Brian stood there for what seemed like hours while Martin just looked at him. The room was reasonably well lit but it wasn't bright and Martin studied the wash of shadows that fell across Brian's face. 'Why has this kid chosen me?' the man thought while willing himself to dress this boy and take him back home before it was too late.

Brian stepped in closer and Andrew Martin could smell his body. He smelled like cigarettes and sugar. Martin had continued to look at him even as Brian moved in closer. He now stood between the man's legs with his open fly inches from the man's face. Here was yet another invitation from this beautiful boy and yet the man couldn't bring himself to take it. Brian raised his hands and slipped them behind the man's neck pulling the man's face closer to his body. That did it. Martin's face fell against Brian's belly and the man immediately started licking at his stomach.

Martin had kissed his stomach and his tits over and over again before pulling Brian down to kneel in front of him. He'd then slowly reached out and brought Brian's mouth to his for a kiss. The kiss was light at first, almost a tasting, before deepening to the crushing kiss that Brian would come to master as a result of his experiences with this man. Andrew Martin had kissed him and stroked his body until Brian's knees started to ache. He'd been on his knees in front of the man for half an hour. Martin had stood up and pulled Brian to his feet before undressing him. The man's eyes seemed to catalogue every inch of skin on Brian's body as it was revealed. Once Brian was naked the man stopped all his ministrations again and just looked at him.

"God.... look at you." Martin sighed as he ran his hands up Brian's thighs. Brian stood quietly and let his body be worshipped. "What do you want me to do to you?"

"Everything." Brian mouthed.

"Everything?" The older man continued to look at Brian as he felt the teenager's hands close around his cock before moving to tug down his sweats.

From what Brian could remember the man had done everything to him short of bringing out bondage equipment or produce. Martin had sucked him off twice and fucked him three times before they'd left the room the next morning. The first time he'd gotten fucked Brian hadn't been at all prepared for any of it. Just when he thought it couldn't hurt any worse, Martin would move in another hair's breadth and Brian swore he could feel himself being split open. Brian thought back to the panicked expression on Justin's face that first night and the way Justin cried out when he first entered him. Brian remembered that at his first impalement he hadn't made a sound. He'd simply gritted his teeth and taken all eight and two-thirds inches of what Andrew Martin had to offer. It wasn't until Martin reached down to wipe at Brian's eyes that Brian realized that he'd been crying.

The second time had been better. He'd straddled the older man's cock and taken only so much as he could handle without it hurting too bad. 'The third time,' Brian thought, 'the third time was the charm.' It hadn't hurt him at all when Martin entered him. He'd almost immediately started to feel this intense pressure inside and his ass and cock and balls had started to pulse and tingle with each of Martin's thrusts.

'Brian Kinney as a bottom,' Brian smiled at the thought, 'Well even the most legendary tops had to start somewhere.' Brian remembered that after he and the coach were done that night he'd been so sore he actually had to limp back to the car and sit on one buttock to avoid the pain. He thought back to Justin again. If the kid had been sore after their first night he certainly hadn't let Brian see. 'I chock that up to the fact that I'm a fabulous fuck.' Brian thought. After all he had spent forty minutes rimming Justin before fucking him in order to make sure the boy wouldn't be too tight.

His hurtful cunt of a mother had dredged up all of these memories. Independent of this new association with Joanie Kinney, Brian remembered the time he spent with Andrew Martin as eventually being comfortable and even playful. Now, with his mother's leering voice describing the whole situation as his being "messed with" by his teacher, the whole experience seemed colored with something ugly and dark that Brian hadn't remembered being there before. On top of that, she'd managed to paint the last eleven months of his relationship with Justin as being just as lurid and just as sinister.

'Relationship,' Brian thought, 'there I go again.'

Brian managed to curb his involuntary sprints down memory lane by about the third meeting of the day. Watching him during the first two meetings, Cynthia thought that he looked just as unfocussed as she had seen him at the hotel earlier but both clients appeared none the wiser. Brian Kinney had the ultimate game face. It was so impermeable that Cynthia chided herself for worrying; Brian could do this in his sleep. As they saw the last client out Cynthia offered him a tender sympathetic nudge that was entirely out of the ordinary course of their relationship. She'd just come up behind him and squeezed his arm and smiled gently before telling him that he needed to get some rest over the weekend. Brian had smiled in an equally uncharacteristic manner before asking her what she planned on doing for the next forty-eight hours that she wouldn't have to spend being his lackey.

"Yeah right. As if I get time off when you know where I am," she smiled before continuing, "You know which room I'm staying in and that's enough. If you can find me in my room then you find me but otherwise I'm not telling you where I've escaped to."

Brian offered her a smirk as she moved around the conference room in the firm's L.A. office gathering up the material that had been used in the presentation. They both turned to greet the knock at the door.

"Hi. Mr. Kinney. I'm Peter Stewart. We met at the status meeting yesterday." The young man offered his hand to Brian and glanced over at Cynthia.

"Yes, I remember. What can I do for you?" Brian remembered that this was the executive who kept piping up to answer questions that Brian hadn't addressed to him. The young man had seemed eager to impress Brian with the fact that he knew everything there was to know about every campaign Brian had ever done.

"Mr. Whitley suggested that I come and see that you were settled and ask if there was anything you wanted to do with this weekend in the city. I mean, there're a number of shows and events going on and the firm could get you both tickets if you wanted to do some sightseeing." The man glanced over at Cynthia again seemingly having forgotten for a few seconds that she was still in the room.

"Well, my assistant has all but announced that I'm persona non grata for the weekend that she has off so I'm sure she's not interested in spending her time around me," Brian teased.

"That's right," Cynthia smiled, "but I'm sure Mr. Stewart wouldn't mind keeping you company."

Brian turned his attention back to the man to gauge his reaction to Cynthia's last comment. The two of them could work as a tag team some times. Cynthia would drop a hint about some piece of eye-candy that Brian had noticed and he would follow through and figure out whether or not the man was interested in him. All Brian really had to do was figure out whether or not the man was gay; if he was gay then it was practically a given that the man would be interested.

"I could send over some information to your hotel. You'd just have to call our Events Department over the weekend and they'd get you reservations or deliver the tickets to your room."

"Thanks." Brian offered while fixing his 'I'm So Going To Fuck You' gaze on the fine-featured man. Brian watched as the man practically stumbled his way back to the door of the conference room and left. Turning to Cynthia he said, "There's one more thing you can do for me before you punch out for the weekend. Get me his home telephone number." Cynthia just smiled.

Brian checked the clock by the bed as he dried his hair. It was just after six-thirty in Los Angeles. He'd made dinner reservations at a restaurant across the street for eight and thought to fill the time by getting a massage. Cynthia was right about the fact that he was feeling tired and beyond having a late dinner alone Brian intended to spend the rest of the evening in his hotel room asleep. 'Friday night in L.A. and Brian Kinney is planning a hot date with Mr. Sealy. Mr. Sealy Mattress that is,' Brian grimaced at the thought.

He changed into a pair of tear away track pants and a t-shirt before making his way down to the hotel's recreational facilities. There was a full gym, pool and sauna on this floor and the clerk pointed him down the corridor towards the massage rooms. He'd ordered the 'Platinum' package, which included a full body deep-tissue massage and hot oil rub. Brian stripped and arranged himself on the table before moving to pull the sheets up over his ass. The female desk clerk had asked him if he minded having a male masseuse and he'd smiled and responded no. He thought he'd seen her smile slightly at his response. Brian guessed that most straight men didn't take too kindly to being rubbed down by another man; especially in light of the fact that it was usually around the time that the short-skirted masseuse with the big breasts entered the room that the cheesy porno music started to play in their ears.

He heard the door open and turned to meet his masseuse. Brian half expected some big Swedish guy named Sven to enter the room but instead his masseuse was a short stocky looking man. The guy wasn't bad looking but Brian wasn't interested in him. Brian turned his face back into his arm and closed his eyes.

He'd had to shower again to wash off some the excess oil that had pooled in all his creases after his massage but he managed to make his reservation on time.

"Kinney, party of one." He said to the maitre de as he made his way towards the pedestal by which the man stood. The sharp-eyed looking man inspected him briefly before finding his name and showing him to his table. The restaurant Brian had chosen was as highbrow as they came. The dcor was casual and trendy but the atmosphere spoke of the exclusivity of the environment. He'd been seated at a good table and Brian thought, 'nothing but the best for Chambers, Tatum and Whitley.'

His waiter came immediately and took his drink order before handing him the small menu describing the restaurant's appetizer offerings. He'd studied the menu and then ordered caviar stuffed mushrooms when the pert looking man returned with his drink. Brian scanned the faces of the elegant looking crowd. Most of the people were older and the occupants of each table screamed money. He'd finished his drink when the waiter returned with another. Brian thought to compliment the man on his efficiency seeing as though he Brian had planned to order another as soon as the man returned.

"With compliments from the couple seated at the third table from your right." The waiter offered. Brian turned and looked in the direction the man indicated and was met with the smiling faces of a man and woman he didn't know. "Mr. and Mrs. Hockley," the waiter finished before moving away from the table. Brian lifted his glass to the couple in a toast and they reciprocated. They continued to study him as he sipped his drink.

Brian relaxed into his chair as his dinner was served; filet mignon perfectly aged and bloody served with a bottle of red wine. Everything was impeccable. The china was a crisp Prussian blue porcelain that was rimmed in gold and the cutlery was heavy. From what Brian could tell in the dim candlelight, it appeared to be gold as well. He unfolded the dark colored linen napkin and draped it in his lap. Brian was perfectly at home in his surroundings and looked every bit as much like money as the other patrons of the restaurant. He'd changed into dark gray slacks, a matching sport jacket and black cashmere round necked sweater. Brian caught his reflection in a mirror across the room and he smiled remembering the black eyes and the cold meat sandwiches he'd gotten around dinnertime at the Kinney residence.

His plate was cleared and he ordered an after dinner drink. The crowd in the restaurant hadn't thinned much since he'd been there. It seemed the elegant faces of the people who'd been there when he arrived had just been substituted for others who were just as well dressed as soon as the first ones had left. Brian was starting to feel the wine and drinks he'd had before and after dinner and signaled for the check. The waiter came over and bent towards his ear before telling him that his dinner had also been taken care of by Mr. and Mrs. Hockley. Brian turned to see whether his benefactors were still seated at their table and discovered that they were gone.

"They're still here Sir, they've retired to the martini lounge upstairs." The waiter pointed towards the archway at the far side of the dining room and the staircase beyond it. Brian wiped his mouth and brought out his wallet. He deposited a one hundred dollar bill on the table in front of the waiter before standing and moving towards the archway. He'd have to figure out what had earned him such kindness from these strangers.

Brian moved up the marble staircase and stopped to survey the room from the landing. The air was hazy from cigarette smoke but it wasn't thick or stale. The people he had been looking for had seen him come in and were signaling for him to join the group that they'd been sitting with. Brian crossed the room and was intercepted by a pretty young man who offered him a tray of variously colored martinis. Brian accepted a glass before moving up towards the small group of people.

The tall man stood and extended his hand. Brian thought the man was older than he was but he couldn't have been out of his thirties. "I'm Andrew Hockley and this is my wife Amanda." Brian shook the man's hand and offered his own name before turning to greet the woman who he had indicated was his wife. "We noticed you dining alone and thought that we would have to see to it that this city showed you more hospitality than that on a Friday night," the group of people smiled and laughed quietly.

"Actually the city has proved quite hospitable so far," Brian smiled and said before getting to the point of why he'd come up to the lounge, "I just wanted to come up before I left and thank you both personally."

"Oh you're not leaving already are you?" Amanda spoke up before standing to take Brian's arm and move him away from the small group of people. Her husband followed them close behind. Brian thought he'd pretty much figured out what was going on. You didn't walk around as good-looking as he was and move in the circles that he did without getting the occasional, or in his case very common, indecent proposal. "Andrew and I are having a small get together later on. A few friends from here," the woman turned to gesture towards the group she had been sitting with, "and we thought you might join us."

Brian sipped his drink coyly before running his tongue along the inside of his cheek. "And what kind of get together might that be?" The woman smiled and turned to look at her husband. The man exchanged looks with his wife before letting his gray eyes settle on Brian's. Brian let out a small laugh before moving his eyes up and down the man's body.

"You're not bad," Brian locked his attention on the smiling Andrew Hockley before turning again to face the man's pretty wife, "but I don't do pussy."

To this statement the woman grinned widely. "I assumed as much. Don't worry you're not for me." Amanda Hockley turned and gestured towards a thin dark-haired woman who was sitting next to the chair that she had vacated. Brian hadn't noticed the woman before but it was now evident to him that the Hockleys thought they'd each located their playthings for the night.

After a few more drinks the foursome had ended up at a posh hotel suite a few blocks away. The Hockleys were apparently on their second honeymoon and were bent on celebrating with decadence and hedonism. The women had excused themselves to a bedroom on the second floor of the suite leaving the two men downstairs. Brian was drunk and in full predator mode. He could feel his cock hardening and lengthening as he crossed the room towards Hockley. Brian stopped inches from the man's face.

"When was the last time you got fucked by a guy?" Brian breathed against the other man's mouth.

"It's been awhile." Hockley responded.

"So, do you want me to be gentle?" Brian teased. He couldn't abide fags who got married and hid but this particular marital situation was intriguing to him.

"Do what you want." The lust dripped from the other man's body.

That's just what he did. Brian pushed the man up against the bar and kissed him roughly while reaching down to unbuckle the other man's pants. Their tongues alternated between wrestling against each other and sucking at each other's necks. Hockley dropped to his knees in front of Brian and pulled off his pants before settling into a rhythmic sucking at Brian's dick. Brian fucked the other man's face before pulling him up to return the favor. Hockley had been leaning against the back of a sofa still clothed from the waist up while Brian ceremoniously worshipped at his cock. The man was close to ejaculating within seconds of Brian sucking at him. Turning the man around to drape his body across the back of the sofa, Brian dropped down behind the man and spread his cheeks.

"Are you clean?" Brian asked. His voice was hoarse with his desire.

"Yeah," the other man breathed. He let out a loud gasp as he felt Brian's tongue snaking up inside him. Brian rimmed the man to within an inch of his life before retrieving the ever-present condoms and lube from the pocket of his discarded pants. He worked the liquid into the man's hole before setting about preparing himself. Brian apparently wasn't moving fast enough for Hockley because the man turned around to plead with him, "Do it now...come on... fuck me."

"I'm gonna fuck you so hard your eyes are gonna roll back in your head." Brian growled over the man's shoulder as he pushed his dick through the tight ring of muscle. He quickly established a punishing rhythm and Hockley moaned loudly beneath him. Brian grabbed the man by the hips and sank his teeth into the skin on the back of Hockley's neck causing the man to cry out even louder. Hockley hadn't asked him to be gentle.

They'd fucked like that over the back of the sofa for over an hour. Hockley had cum against the white sofa pillows twice and would have an interesting cleaning bill to settle with the hotel when he checked out. Brian for his part came once and he came hard. He couldn't hear the applause at first over the thudding of his heartbeat in his ears. When they'd both straightened up from their position on the sofa they'd noticed the nude women standing on the stairs above them. Amanda Hockley came over to give her husband a gentle kiss on the lips before turning to kiss Brian as well. "Thanks," she mouthed against Brian's lips. Brian took his leave of the Hockleys' little get together when it became obvious that the next event would be co-ed.

From what Lindsay could tell Justin was talking on the phone to Daphne when she arrived home that afternoon. He hadn't heard her come in and she made sure to make her presence known as soon as she realized what they were talking about.

"I can't give in...it's too late now...if I go back on this he'll never buy anything else I ever say and it'll be an open invitation for him to walk all over me...okay smartass, he'll walk over me more than he does already...No way, I can't call him back...Daph, you don't understand what he's like... oh wait a second...I gotta call you back later alright...Yeah bye.

"Hey Justin, how was he?"

"Oh he napped most of the time. He wasn't any trouble at all." Justin sat up in the sofa and discreetly dusted the cookie crumbs off his lap and the chair cushions. Lindsay had crossed the room to peek at the sleeping baby on the blanket by the window.

"I'm really sorry my appointment took that long. I didn't mean to spoil your Saturday afternoon."

"You didn't spoil anything, I'd have just been at Deb's hanging out."

Lindsay smiled, "You want to stay for diner," She held up a grocery bag before moving towards the kitchen.

"Sure, I could help." Justin called following her out of the room.

"Great, I thought I'd make some lamb chops, do you like lamb chops?"

"They're not my favorite but I'll eat anything," Justin chuckled as he investigated the contents of the shopping bags. "Brian likes lamb chops a lot though so I've made them before."

"Good, why don't you start chopping the carrots," Lindsay handed him the bunch of carrots and put a pot of water on the burner to boil.

They had spent the next few hours in easy conversation talking about anything and everything while not discussing anything too heavy. The subject matter of their conversation however seemed to keep making a natural progression back to Brian Kinney.

"I remember thinking that he was a real asshole the first time I met him. In fact I thought the same thing the second, third and fourth times I spoke to Brian," Lindsay let out a good-natured laugh.

She had told Justin the story of how she met Brian several months before but the teen never tired of any insight as to what Brian had been like before Justin met him. Lindsay was twenty-two and in her Greenpeace phase. Brian was twenty and much like the current incarnation of his personality, he didn't do groups and he held a very special place in his heart for those people who were into joining clubs. Lindsay had met Brian when they mowed each other down in the quad at Penn State. Lindsay had apologized even though she was pretty sure that it wasn't her fault. Brian just shot her a dirty look instead of apologizing as well. She called him on it and called him an asshole and he called her a bitch.

"It was hate at first sight." Lindsay summed up the events of that long ago day. Justin laughed and watched as Lindsay got up to adjust the dials on the stove. "I've got something I know you'd be interested in seeing, a little bit of 'the way we were'," Lindsay beckoned him as she went into the living room. She opened the chest that stood by the window and pulled out a scrapbook. "Brian would burn these if he knew I had them so you can't tell him that you saw them." She took a seat beside him and began to leaf through the pages.

"Oh my God!" Justin exclaimed as his eyes focused on the picture. "Is that Brian?"

"The one and only." Lindsay said as she smiled over Justin's shoulder. The photo had been taken at the wedding reception of one of Lindsay's childhood friends about two summers after she and Brian had met. She and Brian both looked so young. "We look like babies in this picture."

In the photo Lindsay and Brian were seated at a table and both were smiling genuinely into the camera. Lindsay's hair was long and curled against her shoulders before trailing down her arms. She wore a bright green dress that had a big green fabric flower just under the collar.

"The first time that he saw me in that dress he told me that the Jolly Green Giant had called and asked for his produce back," Lindsay was still smiling. She was sure that Justin wasn't listening to a word she had said; his focus seemed to be continuing to narrow on Brian's image. The man in question looked beautiful. Justin thought that it wasn't anything that Brian was wearing or anything particular about the way he was groomed. There was just a quality about Brian in this photograph that was magnetic. Justin unconsciously let his fingers trace along Brian's natural looking smile.

"You should save this one for Gus. I have a picture of my mom and dad similar to this one. It's a candid shot taken a long time ago. Most people look really good when you catch them like that; when they're not posing or anything." Justin was still tracing Brian's smile.

"I actually made this book up for Gus. To show him his family." Lindsay flipped a few more pages and revealed pictures of Michael and Debbie over the years, pictures of the rest of the guys, pictures of her family, pictures of her and Melanie, pictures of people Justin didn't know. There seemed to be pictures of everyone Lindsay identified as touching Gus's life.

"These are of Brian's family. They were taken one Christmas. This is Brian's mother, his dad and this is his sister. I think there's another group shot in here with his brother-in-law." Justin took in the faces of people he had never laid eyes on before. Brian didn't display pictures of his family at the loft.

"How come you were there?" Justin asked.

"Oh that's another story. It was sort of a camouflage date. He went with me to The-Peterson's-Do-Thanksgiving and I went with him to A-Very-Kinney-Christmas. Brian wasn't out to his parents."

"I know," Justin said quietly. Thanks to Justin, Brian was now out to his entire family and then some. "So what was it like?"

"It was really reserved at first. Everyone was barely veiling the fact that they wanted to be anywhere else but in that house. Then Brian and his dad got really drunk, his mother stormed out and they all called it a night."


"Shit is right." Lindsay said looking back down at the Christmas photos. Brian looked pissed in every one of them. "I didn't want to use these but they were the only ones I had of his family." She continued to leaf through the pages and stopped on a blown up copy of an image that Justin had seen before; he had in fact memorized that image.

The photo had been taken at the small birthday party they'd had for Vic back in January. Justin remembered that it had been really cold that night and he was pretty much near frozen by the time Brian finally picked him up in front of the loft. Brian had been working late and had changed at the office in order to make Vic's party on time. Justin remembered exactly what Brian had been wearing and this photograph documented the way Brian looked that evening perfectly. By coincidence both he and Brian had been wearing all black and both of them were wearing black turtlenecks.

'Photos can't do justice to the way he smelled,' Justin thought as his eyes washed over the picture.

Ted had been walking around snapping pictures of groups of people talking and comic shots of people stuffing their faces with cake. Justin was perched on the edge of one of Deb's easy chairs when he heard Ted call out to Brian to say 'cheese'. Justin hadn't had a chance to react with anything more than a smile by the time he felt Brian pull him up from the chair and move up against his back to embrace him. In the photo Brian was grinning with his face tucked up against Justin's cheek. Brian's right hand was draped over Justin's heart and Justin's left hand lay over top of Brian's hand. 'Brian kissed me right after that...' Justin thought and then admonished himself, '...but don't forget the rather moving rendition of the We're Not A Couple speech that he gave you while driving you back from the loft the next day.'

Lindsay noticed when Justin's expression darkened and reached for Justin's chin turning him to face her.

"I talked to Brian before he left and Justin I think you're doing the right thing. Brian needs a push. Sometimes he needs a kick in the ass where his feelings are concerned." Lindsay looked at him kindly.

"What did he say?" Justin didn't even try to hide his excitement at the prospect of an insight into Brian's reaction to his new found resolve.

"Hon. You understand that I really can't say, right? I mean, Brian barely tells anyone anything and when he does it's only because he expects it to remain in the strictest confidence."

"Sorry I asked Lindz, I know what you mean." Justin accepted what she said but he knew he had to find away to gain some insight into where Brian's head was before his next face-off with the man. "Everything with Brian tends to be a fucking state secret. Everything except for tricking that is and then everything tends to be a big production." Justin smiled wanly before changing the subject. "I don't think I've ever heard you say anything harsh about him. I mean besides calling him names."

"He's not a bad person really; not at all actually. He just acts badly because people expect him to and being the good soul he is he doesn't want to disappoint them. That's why you have to push him Justin and why you have to expect the best from him."

"Most everybody disagrees with you as far as me and Brian are concerned," Justin sighed.

"You see the good in him and so do I."

"Brian's second biggest fan right." Justin chuckled humorlessly.

"Yeah. If I wasn't a dyke and he wasn't a cocksucker I might give you a run for your money," Lindsay smiled as she moved up to hug Justin.

Brian woke up at around one o'clock on Saturday afternoon. He'd gotten back to the hotel at just after two the night before and had spent another hour downstairs in the hotel bar. He could remember the Hockleys but he couldn't quite remember what he'd done between leaving the hotel bar and coming back to his room. He searched the bed beside him for any evidence of company. His mouth was chalky and his throat was sore. It felt as though he'd swallowed a bucket of nails the night before or had been yelling at the top of his lungs. Either was possible considering the way he felt. Squinting into the light from the open drapes Brian had managed to retrieve his stash from his suitcase. Aspirin did nothing for hangovers like the one he was currently experiencing and Brian knew he needed something stronger. After dry swallowing two little white pills, Brian closed the drapes and crawled back under the covers. He planned on spending the rest of the day right where he lay.

'Shit!' The telephone next to the bed was ringing. Brian buried his head under his pillow and tried to no avail to drown out the painful sound. He finally answered while still trying to get clumsy fingers to close around the receiver. "Who the fuck is this?"

"Uh...um...Mr. Kinney it's Peter Stewart. Have I got you at a bad time?" The man stuttered into the phone.


"Peter Stewart from the office." The man's confidence was bleeding away by the bucket load.

"Yeah." Brian finally placed the name.

"I'm really sorry to disturb you but we have a problem with the Madrigal account. The copy and material is supposed to go to production Monday morning but Madrigal is having second thoughts about some of the language."

"What language? Isn't their slogan 'Drink Our Shitty Soda And You'll Be Cool'?"

"Something like that. If you could...I mean...A few others have already come in and I couldn't reach your secretary..."

"I'm coming in." Brian said flatly. It was his account and Ryder would have his ass if it didn't go off on schedule.

"Great. I'll send a car to get you from the hotel." Brian listened to the man's further apologies for disturbing him before hanging up the phone.

'Fuck and shit and then fuck some more,' Brian thought. He'd only managed to get another thirty-five minutes of sleep since he had woken up and taken those pills. He stood up slowly already feeling the effects of the drugs. He managed to down three bottles of water and a pot of coffee before the car arrived to pick him up.

Brian looked like shit and Cynthia told him so. "Hard night?" she asked him slyly. Apparently Stewart had managed to track her down.

"Didn't you promise me that I wouldn't have to see you for forty-eight hours?" Brian snapped.

"Look sweetness and light this isn't my idea of a Saturday afternoon away from the office," Cynthia made that last snipe before settling into professional mode. "What do you need me to do?"

"Get me some numbers for Madrigal's people or see if you can't get me a meeting with him."

"You can't go to a meeting looking like that." Cynthia warned him. Brian hadn't shaved and his hair was sticking up in weird places. "Did you even take a shower today?"

"Yes I took a fucking shower. Why do you smell me?" Brian was not in the mood for this.

"I can smell liquor if that's what you mean." She accepted one last dirty look from Brian before leaving the conference room the firm had offered him as a temporary office. Brian scrubbed his fingers through his hair and rubbed at his temples. "Madrigal junior is on line two," Cynthia called out a few minutes later as she peeked around the doorframe.

"Brian Kinney." Brian said. His game face was slipping into place.

"Hey Brian, sorry to drag you into the office on such a lovely day."

Brian interrupted the useless niceties, "I understand that there are some problems with the copy."

"Not so much the copy but the message we're sending with the ad. Some of the imagery isn't quite what we were looking for."

"If you could be more specific I'd get a better idea of what the problem is." Brian was trying to project calm.

"Well for one, the kids we've used in the ad are a lot older than our target audience." Brian patiently explained that by using older teenagers in the ads, instead of the pre-teens the products were targeted to, they were offering the kids the chance to feel more grown up. Madrigal junior had then raised issue with the branding and the colors that had been chosen for some of the product layouts. Brian listened and carefully explained away problem after problem for the better part of an hour. When Madrigal was finally satisfied Brian had drawn up a confirmation letter that the firm could proceed with production and had it sent to the other company to be signed. By four-thirty that afternoon the threatened break in the dam had been patched and Brian was ready to make a second attempt at sleeping off his hangover from the previous night.

Brian put on his sunglasses before pushing through the heavy revolving doors of the office tower and stepping into the sunlight. The office district was deserted and there were no taxis to be seen. He walked towards an intersection hoping to have better luck at hailing a cab. He'd left Cynthia to tidy up the details.

"Mr. Kinney." Peter Stewart was jogging up towards him. "I never got the chance to tell you how amazing it was the way you just handled that." Brian furrowed his brow. This guy could give Justin some stiff competition in the Brian's Biggest Cheerleader contest.

"Call me Brian. Mr. Kinney is my father." 'Was my father,' Brian thought.

"Brian," the man smiled. "I have my car if you need a ride back to your hotel."

Brian scanned the street. There were still no taxis to be seen. "Sure. Why not?" He replied before turning in the direction that Stewart indicated he had parked his car.

"So have you been able to see much of LA?" The man had started the small talk before they'd even buckled into the seats of the silver Boxster.

Brian ran his palms across his forehead before turning to Stewart and whispering, "I've got the worst fucking headache of my life. Do you mind if we skip the chit-chat for another time?"

"Right. Sure." The man hadn't missed noticing the perfume of liquor that Brian was sporting.

They drove quietly for several blocks before pulling up in front of the hotel. "Thanks for the lift," Brian offered as he moved to get out of the car. It appeared that Brian hadn't noticed the way that Stewart had been stealing glances at him the entire time they drove or the way the other man watched him as he walked away from the car. With Brian Kinney however, appearances could be very deceiving. 'I'm too tired to fuck him today. Now I know he's interested, I'll just fuck him tomorrow,' Brian thought as he walked towards the entrance of the hotel all the while watching the reflection of Stewart's car in the highly polished mirrored doors.

Justin set up the canvas and the small easel by the window. He'd only painted a couple of times before, preferring instead to capture his universe in charcoal or pencil. He'd be going to PIFA in the fall and he thought he might as well start experimenting with some of the stuff Lindsay and Melanie had gotten him. He heard when Michael came in downstairs and his heart started racing almost immediately.

'Why the fuck are you so nervous about this?' Justin put back his brushes and wiped his hands in the rag that lay on his lap. He stared at the blank canvas while listening to the sound of Michael's voice downstairs. He could make out that Deb was asking Michael about work but he couldn't quite hear what they were saying over the sound of the running water in the kitchen. He'd have to take a step with Michael sometime. Justin sighed heavily and got up from his chair.

"Hey Michael." Michael was eating one of the left over muffins from breakfast and turned to give Justin a wave because his mouth was full.

"Sunshine show Michael where the stuff I want him to clear out is." Deb was referring to yet more of Michael's childhood belongings that still cluttered his old room.

"Ma, let me finish eating before you remind me yet again that I don't have a place here anymore." Michael crabbed.

"Oh sweetie," Deb moved to kiss him sweetly on the cheek, "You'll always have a place here, but Sunshine needs the room to spread out his things. I've been asking you to clear this stuff out for weeks."

Justin didn't like that Deb had chosen now to start harping on Michael. He didn't need for Michael to be in a bad mood for what it was he had in mind. Justin retrieved one of the muffins for himself before walking back towards the stairs. "Just come up when you're done." Michael waved him off and turned back to face his mother.

Back in his room and seated in his chair again, Justin could hear Michael griping downstairs. It didn't sound like Michael was pissed at him. It just sounded like the man was feeling squeezed. Every time he came over Deb saw to it that Michael took another bunch of his stuff out of his old room. Justin thought it was her way of hinting that Michael needed to move on.

"You're drawing again." Michael called as he entered the room. Justin hadn't bothered to shut the door.

"I'm gonna try out some of the stuff Lindsay got me. I've never really been much into painting though." He ignored the part of Michael's comment that referred to the fact that he hadn't really been drawing that much during the first few weeks after the attack. He hadn't been able to draw anything that didn't look ugly to him. The drawings were accurate and true to life but Justin could only bring himself to draw the less attractive side of life. Justin remembered back to how much Brian had hated his 'Withered Rose' series of drawings.

"So where's the stuff Ma wanted me to take?" Michael asked scanning the room.

"Over here," Justin moved to retrieve the cardboard box from the corner. Debbie had helped him to clear out the chest that stood at the foot of the bed and a few of Michael's shelves. Justin would need the space to keep his art supplies. "We didn't touch any of the comics, she figured you'd want to pack those up yourself."

"Thanks," Michael said dryly as he picked through the box.

"Um...have you talked to Brian yet since he's been away?"

"Nah. He said that he would call me on the weekend but I didn't hear from him." Michael was focused on deciding whom he would string up first, his mother or Justin. Someone had apparently packed one of his robots without wrapping its arms in tissue paper. "Who packed X3015Z?"

"What?" Justin didn't think he heard what Michael had said.

"The robot. Who packed it?"

"I did." Justin was starting to sense he was in trouble.

"Without wrapping up the hands. Justin, do you know how fragile they are?"

"I put him in the corner of the box. I thought he'd be okay there."

"Wrong Boy Wonder." Michael was annoyed and he used quick tense movements to repack the robot before getting to his feet and lifting the box.

Sensing that his window of opportunity was closing, Justin spoke up. "Did he tell you what I said?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Brian. Did he tell you what I said?"

"You know it might surprise you to find out but Brian and I don't sit around talking about you. Not since day one." Michael was busy trying to balance the heavy box in his arms.

"But you know what's going on right?"

"I know he's in a shit mood where you're concerned."

Justin looked away uncomfortably before responding, "Yeah, I've committed my worst sin yet, 'Thou shalt not back Brian into a corner'."

Michael gave a small laugh finally focusing on what Justin was revealing, "What did you do?"

"I asked him for what he'll probably never let himself give me." Justin got up from the chair and paced towards the bed. He sank down on to the bed and scrubbed his face with his hands before turning back to face Michael, "Brian doesn't do love, but you're the exception."

"Wrong again Boy Wonder." Michael put the heavy box on the floor in front of him. "Brian does do love, he just doesn't do crossovers." Michael's thoughts traveled back to his last conversation with Brian. He'd attempted to exchange his recurring appearances in Brian's life for a co-starring role and had failed miserably.

"Yeah, I can imagine the kind of love you mean. Friend or Fuck right?"

"You're not listening to me."

"Michael I need you to help me. I need you to help me figure out some stuff about Brian." Lindsay wouldn't reveal much and Justin hoped to get a little further with Michael.

"Don't confide in me Justin. I'm not your friend, not like that." Michael looked away not noticing the piercing stare Justin had fixed on him.

"I know you don't like me Michael. I know you never have."

"That's not true." Michael let out a bitter laugh before finishing, "What's not to like about you?"

Justin continued to look at him quietly.

"I saw what you were from day one and no matter what I did you wouldn't go away." Michael leaned heavily against the wall as he spoke. "I've watched Brian for years. I know what he does and for a little while there it still looked like he would do the same thing with you. I mean he's done repeats before you but..." Michael's voice became really quiet as he trailed off. "...nothing like this. It's like he made a whole new category for you."

Justin was still watching Michael intently. He noticed the way that Michael wouldn't look directly at him and he noticed the way the man's hands kept opening and closing unconsciously.

Michael seemed to have forgotten Justin and was just talking through the thoughts as they came into his head. "With Brian and his tricks it has always been the same question. 'Do you wanna fuck?' If they say yes then it's understood that he'll fuck them and then they'd better fuck off. But you... It's like you got another choice. It's like he offered you a fuck and then gave you the choice of going afterwards or staying."

Justin thought back to what Brian had offered him the first night. "Not any more. He made me leave after that last time."

"You'll go back. Of that I have absolutely no doubt." Michael finally let his eyes settle on Justin's face.

"Sunshine you need to get out."

"I don't feel like it Deb. Maybe tomorrow night." Justin busied himself with unloading his laundry from the clothes dryer.

"What about all the exciting things you'd planned to do this summer? You haven't been down to Liberty at all in more than a week. Yeah I know your number one bad influence isn't around but that's exactly the reason you should go out."

"This doesn't have anything to do with Brian."

"Yeah and this is my natural hair color. You gave up all your shifts at the diner last week so you wouldn't have to see him. He's been away for the last six days, he was away for the entire damned weekend and you didn't set foot out of this house except to go to Lindsay's to sit with Gus." Debbie snatched away the shirt Justin was folding in a last ditch attempt to get his attention.

"Come on Deb. I'm just..."

"You're not tired. You've been fucking sleeping the entire day. You don't have to go to dinner at your Mom's, which was last night's excuse and you've already finished doing your laundry. So unless you have to wash your hair princess, you are going with Emmett and Ted...and don't bother giving me that look." Debbie dropped the shirt back on top of the dryer and made her way out of the laundry room.

Resigned to his fate for the evening, Justin picked out a shirt from the pile and laid it out away from the others. He'd wear that one.


He'd only been in the place for ten minutes but it seemed different. What was the point of coming here if there wasn't any anticipation of seeing Brian walking through the crowd or feeling his arms grab him or hearing Brian's voice purring nasty things into his ear?

"Can I buy you a drink?" Justin turned to meet the face of this stranger. The guys were dancing on the dance floor downstairs and Justin had thought that Ted actually seemed a little less down tonight. Emmett was certainly doing his best to help Ted out of his funk.

"Thanks, but I'm not drinking anything much harder than Evian." Justin had rebuffed the man but the stranger was compensated with a smile that was so breathtaking it more than made up for refusing his offer.

"You the designated driver?" The man gestured towards Emmett and Ted on the floor beneath them. This man must have seen them all come in together. Emmett wasn't doing his Praise Jesus anymore and now seemed to be trying to teach an unwilling Ted some even more unusual dance move.

"Something like that." When the stranger kept looking at him as if he wanted a further explanation, Justin offered, "Some medication I'm taking."

The man nodded. "Yeah, I heard you got hurt." Justin offered him a questioning look and the stranger continued, "I saw you on the news a little while back and I remembered your face from the King of Babylon winner's photos." Justin blushed when he thought back to the fact that photographs of him in his underwear and a cowboy hat were still gracing the glass display cases close to the front doors of the club.

"So, are you at least dancing?" The man was about his height and he was gorgeous. Justin's thoughts flashed immediately to Brian. He compared every aspect of this man's appearance to Brian and decided the guy came up short. Then again every guy came up short when Justin measured him by that standard. No, this guy was no Brian Kinney but he was hot. He had dark wavy hair and very light brown eyes and his complexion was flawless. Justin thought he looked like he'd been dipped in plastic; his skin was so perfect. The guy reached around to put his arm around Justin's waist and pull him closer and Justin could feel his body now. It was hard, everywhere.

Justin smiled. "Sure." He put his bottle on the bar behind him and turned back into the man's hold on his waist. "So I guess you know my name, what's yours?"

"Ethan," the man smiled.

The two made their way through the press of bodies to a spot in the middle of the floor. The song had a heavy base to it and Justin found his rhythm immediately. Ethan followed Justin's movements with his eyes and then matched them. "You're a pretty good dancer," Justin breathed against the other man's ear before stepping back and continuing to dance. He definitely thought this guy was hot.

Ethan moved in closer, invading whatever passed for personal space on a crowded dance floor, "Can I kiss you?"

Justin was taken a back and smiled widely for a while, his eyes still locked on the other man. No one had hit on him like this in a while. It was almost as though the other guys could smell Brian on him or see the territorial lines Brian had drawn around Justin's body to keep other predators at bay. When Brian was around he wouldn't even let Emmett, who he knew, touch Justin for a minute before he would move in to retrieve him and fix the other man with a glare.

Ethan was grinding against him now and Justin found himself pressing back into the touch. 'This guy is hot and I'm getting hard,' Justin thought. 'Is this what Brian feels? No attachment beyond the thought of what this man's cock could do for me. No feeling other than lust.' "Yeah, you can kiss me." Justin breathed into the close distance between their faces.

He'd picked up the phone twice before and set it down again each time. Who was he going to call? Would he call Justin or would he call Michael? Brian put the receiver back into its cradle once again and paced towards the small bar in the corner of the office. He poured himself a third of whisky. It was the kind his old man had drunk. Brian set the glass on the desk and sat down in front of it. His old man had drunk that same brand of whisky for over forty years.

He wasn't going to go down memory lane where his father was concerned. He'd taken that trip already with his mother over the last two days. His pattern had pretty much been set since college. Think about one or both of his parents for way too long and then booze it up to get the thoughts to stop. Brian pushed the glass away and turned his mind back to what he was really trying to avoid.

Justin or Michael?

He'd slept away most of Saturday and fucked away most of Sunday. Finding men was never hard for him. On Sunday there had been the bellboy and the guy in the hallway on his way to get ice. Last night he'd fucked his waiter in the linen closet after dinner in the hotel's restaurant. They'd all been willing and Brian had a need, a need to not have to decide just yet.

He thought he could understand why Justin was pushing him now. Even if he would never admit it to himself, he'd become pretty well attuned to what was going on in Justin's head. He'd watched Justin sleep fitfully in the weeks after the attack and Brian knew something was brewing. Justin had come pretty close to dying just four months after his eighteenth birthday and most people didn't walk away from an experience like that unchanged.

Justin had never been reckless and although he could be wild sometimes, he'd never thought himself invincible. He'd been a lot more grounded than Brian was at his age. Hell, Justin at eighteen was a lot more grounded than Brian was at thirty. The kid had always aspired to doing responsible things with his life. Brian remembered back to Justin's comments that as soon as he turned eighteen he would finally be able to vote, get married and even join the army. Brian forced back a laugh at that last thought, 'General Sunshine.'

Justin was pushing because he'd now had first hand experience of the fact that time was fleeting. You could be smiling one minute and then bang, lights out. You'd wake up in a hospital and find out that some sick fuck had stolen two days of your life and very nearly could have stolen the entire thing. No chance to vote or get married or join the army. 'Justin is pushing because he thinks I'm wasting his time. He's pushing because he thinks I'm wasting our time,' Brian thought as he eyed the glass in front of him.

"He'd waste his entire fucking life if he stuck around me." Brian huffed. And yet it wasn't that easy. There were so many reasons why he was no good for Justin but there were almost no reasons why Justin was no good for him. 'You can't just think about yourself, that's selfish. Well I've been called worse things,' There was a duality to Brian's thoughts.

He could see Justin. Justin always smiled just so when he looked at him. No matter what was going on or where they were, all Brian had to do was look at him long enough and Justin would blush and smile. Even though he'd long come to recognize his power over other men, it amazed Brian to see the power he had over what Justin felt.

Brian couldn't see him smiling any more. All Brian could see was the look on Justin's face when he made him leave the loft the Sunday before he himself left for LA. What did he feel about making Justin hurt that way? 'I feel bad,' Brian admitted. He felt bad ever since that first time. Brian had felt like he'd been slapped across the face the first time he made Justin cry. He'd just stood there barefoot in the street watching as Justin drove away. 'I threw the trick out after I went back upstairs, didn't I?' Brian shook his head hard and tried to clear his thoughts. The kind of power that Justin was willing to give over to him deserved a promise that it would be used only for good and never for evil. Brian just didn't think he had it in him to make that promise.

He lit his twelfth cigarette of the evening and blew a smoke ring. 'There's another reason that Justin is good for me. I don't smoke as much when I'm around him.' Justin still smoked but he was cutting back and by damned if he wasn't taking a kicking and screaming Brian along with him. It had been a while since anyone new had that kind of influence on Brian's life.


'Has Michael influenced me all these years or have I influenced him? I can make Mikey do pretty much anything that I want him to and I can make him believe that it was all his idea in the first place. I've been good with that power most of the time, haven't I? I've treated him like shit but I've always looked out for him, haven't I?' Brian stubbed out his cigarette and got up from the desk.

He crossed to the window and took in the view of the city lights after dark. From the seventy-third floor of the office tower he could see most of the city and he thought about what both men were doing back in Pittsburgh just then. Was Justin waiting for him to call back? 'Probably not. He only wants to talk about this and I told him I wouldn't do it over the phone. Michael's probably waiting for me to call though.' Brian had said he would call Michael on the weekend but he hadn't. He hadn't called because he didn't think he could stand to listen to Michael try to pretend nothing had happened.

What Brian couldn't understand was why Michael had made a move now. After sixteen years and after all his plans with David, why now? Michael had been with a million guys before David and Brian had insulted and derided each of them until they finally went away. But David was different. 'David wouldn't go away because he wanted Michael just as much as I wanted him gone.' The man held an extra special place in Brian's heart because Brian hated him above all the others. The only way that he could finally be rid of Dr. David Cameron was to let Dave take his Mikey with him when he left.

'Yeah, I've looked out for Mikey. The only thing that was keeping him in Pittsburgh was me and I'm a bad bet. So I sent him with Dave. Only he didn't go,' Brian thought. He felt the need for another cigarette.

Debbie had begged him to let Michael have a chance for his own life and he'd done his best to give her what she'd asked for. He'd backed off. He'd even talked Mikey out of leaving Dave when he found out David had been visiting the baths. For the sake of letting Michael have a relationship with David, Brian had managed to convince Mate-For-Life-Monogamous-Michael that David's fooling around outside their relationship wasn't grounds for a breakup. Michael had forgiven most of David's faults. So when David put it all on the line and told Michael it was now or never, seemingly out of the blue Michael had chosen never. He'd stayed and the only thing that had really changed since he'd made the decision to move away with David was the fact that Brian was staying in Pittsburgh.

"Michael didn't leave because I didn't leave," Brian was talking to himself again. He lit up and took a deep drag, holding the smoke in his lungs until they felt heavy. 'Sure their relationship was fucked up. David had found himself an older son and Mikey finally got the daddy he never had, but that wasn't the reason Michael broke it off. Mikey sent Dave packing so he could stay with me,' Brian thought that was the bottom line. No matter how controlling David had been and despite the fact that Michael had finally come to realize that he was the proud owner of a spine, Michael had told Brian in no uncertain terms that he stayed because Brian stayed.

He'd been doing it to him for years. Brian had been making Michael do things without realizing that he was pulling the strings. He'd done it in the early days of the relationship with Dave. Brian remembered back to the time that Justin's father had wrecked his Jeep. Brian had told Michael that he shouldn't cut his vacation with David short in order to come back and tend to him even though Brian knew full well that all he had to do was plant that seed and Michael would come running back. Brian thought of the countless times he'd done that. He'd done that with small things and he'd done that with big things that had ended up influencing the direction that Michael's life took. He'd been wielding his power in Michael's life badly and he'd been doing it for all the wrong reasons. 'I didn't want him to leave me alone, I couldn't have done any of it without him,' Brian thought honestly.

'I must have said something or done something to make Mikey think this was the time to do this, to make him think I wanted this or else he wouldn't have done it,' Brian searched his mind for just what he'd done. He looked through the smoke at the frameless picture on the desk. 'Why did I bring this with me?' His eyes focused on the photograph. In the picture Justin was smiling and Brian was standing behind him grinning with his face tucked up against Justin's cheek. One of Brian's hands fell casually over Justin's heart and Justin had clasped his own hand over top of Brian's. 'I kissed him right after this was taken,' Brian remembered.

"Brian," Peter Stewart called out as he poked his head through the open door. Brian looked up and focused on the man's face. "We're almost done setting up."

"What time are we due to start?" Brian asked while moving to cover the photograph on the desk.

"Forsythe and his people should be here for six-thirty." Peter Stewart had moved up to stand in front of the desk. "We're having dinner sent up before then, do you want anything?"

"No food, but I need to see a copy of the campaign sales projections." Brian was trying to force his thoughts back into the details of his work and this fast approaching meeting.

"I gave all that stuff to Dan Connelly yesterday. He should still have the copy with all your notes or if you want I can get you a fresh copy from downstairs." Peter Stewart was flustered and he had the look of a man who was trying desperately to confirm in his mind that he was telling the truth even as the words were escaping his mouth.

"I need to see the copy with my notes. Where is Danny Boy right now?" Brian didn't look up as he spoke.

"I think he went back to the hotel to change."

Brian huffed and cursed under his breath. Dan Connelly had proven to be just as useless to him on this trip as he had expected.

Justin slid the door back on its tracks and stepped inside. The place was dark but he quickly found the lights and turned them on. He knew that if asked to he could chart every feature of this place exactly. The loft seemed empty. Everything was as it was when he'd last been there, except everything seemed more precisely placed and more sterile. Brian's cleaning lady had obviously been in the loft this week. Brian was neat. Actually, Brian was fanatic when it came to there being a place for everything and believing that everything had its place. Justin thought back to the weekends that Gus spent at the loft. The man had gone nuts more from the mess than from the baby's crying. As Justin continued to look around, he realized that now there wasn't just that organized feeling to the place. There was also a sense that every corner had been dusted, every dish was clean and all the couch pillows had been fluffed and not yet dented by the weight of a body.

Justin took a deep breath. The place still smelled like Brian even though his smell had been muted by springtime scented sprays and lemony cleaning solutions. The woman had aired out the rooms and diffused the smell of Brian's cigarettes. Justin knew she did that under strict instruction from Brian. He didn't like smelling smoke in his sheets or in his furniture so he had her open the windows for at least an hour even when it was freezing outside.

Justin crossed the room and climbed the stairs into the bedroom. The bed looked big and cold; the crisply made sheets were steel gray and the pillowcases were black. Justin let his hand brush across the pillows slowly. The bed sheets had been blue the last time he was there and the bed hadn't seemed at all cold the last time he slept in it. Justin walked around to the other side of the bed. Brian's side. He let himself sink down slowly to sit on this side of the bed and fanned his hands out to rub the sheets. Brian hadn't slept in these sheets since they'd been washed but Justin thought he could smell him most clearly here. He knew it was just his mind playing tricks with him and just a memory that he'd managed to make seem real. The tips of his fingers continued to play against the soft fabric and he let his mind wander.

What else could he make real if he thought of it or wished for it hard enough?

Kicking off his sneakers, Justin let his body fall back against the cool sheets. He turned his face into the pillows and sighed deeply. He could definitely smell Brian here. He could smell the feather fine wisps of hair that fell across Brian's forehead and fell across his own forehead when he and Brian danced face to face, fucked face to face, or slept face to face. Justin wrapped his arms tightly around Brian's pillow and closed his eyes.

In his mind's eye he could see them together. Right there in that very same spot on the bed. Brian had pulled Justin on top of his body and then had just lay quietly while Justin looked at him and stroked his face. He could see Brian under him and he could see the way Brian studied his face as if he was memorizing him. He could see the way Brian sighed into his touch and turned to kiss his palm whenever it came near to his mouth. He could feel Brian's lips against his ears. He could feel each breath as Brian called out his name and he could feel it when Brian told him he loved him. Justin knew that hadn't been his mind playing tricks on him that day. Brian hadn't said it aloud and hadn't said it to his face. He'd mouthed the words against Justin's skin and Justin had felt them.

What Justin remembered most about that day was the fact that they didn't have sex. Most people assumed that all they did together when they were alone at the loft was fuck until one of them couldn't fuck anymore. That wasn't true. Contrary to what was written on the bathroom walls at Babylon, Brian Kinney wasn't driven to fuck twenty-four hours a day. Brian talked to him when they were alone. Brian talked to him about work and about articles he'd read or about movies he'd seen. They talked about politics and debated current events. Brian even let Justin talk about himself and he actually listened and remembered what the teen had said. The man also took great pleasure in calling Justin over from wherever he was in the loft to come sit by him on the couch so he could show Justin what was wrong with the TV commercials that he hadn't worked on.

That day they hadn't fucked.

Brian had worked for most of the afternoon and then taken a nap while Justin did homework. Justin had gone to lie down next to a sleeping Brian and had woken up to find Brian staring at him. Justin remembered Brian reaching over and pulling him to lie against his chest and Justin remembered smiling impishly, sure that now they would fuck. But they didn't. Brian just held on while Justin stroked his face.

"God...I miss you," Justin sighed into the pillow. He thought he just might take back everything he had said to Brian if it meant that this pillow would be transformed into the man in that second. He rolled on to his back again and looked at the beam work and the ceiling of the room. He remembered the number of times on other days that he'd turned to counting the slats in the ceiling in order to get his mind off whatever torturously amazing thing Brian was doing to his body. He'd been desperate to slow his reactions, wanting just once to last as long as Brian. Only now he didn't want to take his mind off the things Brian did to his body. He wanted to remember and to conjure a memory into some semblance of reality. He wanted to feel Brian's hands on his body. He wanted to feel Brian's hot breaths and Brian's hot kisses. Justin let his mind travel to the events at Babylon earlier that night. Ethan's hot breaths and hot kisses had seemed cold compared to just one foggy memory of something Brian had done to him.

Justin let his hands travel over his chest and he imagined that they were Brian's hands. He stroked lightly down his sides and across his thighs, ignoring his stomach and the bundle of nerves between his legs. He'd been getting hard ever since he started smelling Brian in the sheets. His hands retraced their path and came to rest on his chest again and Justin closed his eyes. He could see Brian looking at him and smiling and he loved it when Brian looked at him like that. It was like Brian was hungry and he knew that Justin was nothing less than delicious and satisfying.

Justin's hands moved up to stroke his neck, then his face and his cheeks before letting his fingertips play over his eyelids. They felt like the little kisses that Brian would rain down on his face whenever he wanted to take things slow and soft. Justin opened his mouth and let the fingers tease over his lips, his tongue darting out to taste the sweat that was forming on his skin. He sighed deeply before taking one of those fingers into his mouth. His mind flashed on an image of Brian's face in pure ecstasy. Brian's mouth hung open and his eyes were closed tightly. Justin watched as Brian breathed heavily through his mouth all the while running his tongue across his burning lips. Justin could see Brian forcing his eyes open so he could look down the length of his own body to focus on what Justin was doing. Brian had lost his battle to keep his eyes open when he'd felt the head of his cock slip down Justin's throat. Now Justin closed his lips tightly around two of his own fingers and sucked them deeply, his tongue tracing out every ridge and vein of Brian's length.

Justin could taste him. He could feel Brian shudder and hear him moan as Brian released salty beads of cum into his mouth. Still sucking at the fingers of his left hand, Justin let his right hand snake up under his shirt and find the skin of his stomach. His skin was hot and as his fingertips skimmed over his belly Justin let out a low moan. Brian touched him there to tease him, or turn him on but Brian knew not to touch him there when he was too close. Justin could cum just from Brian sucking at his stomach and rimming his bellybutton.

He let his fingers travel up to his nipples and he squeezed the left one hard. No matter how much Justin begged him to do it harder or even bite him there, Brian rarely attacked Justin's nipples with anything more than his tongue or his lips. Brian had squeezed him there after he'd gotten his nipple pierced and it bled a little even though the squeeze hadn't hurt Justin that much. Brian had been the one to notice the blood on Justin's chest and Justin remembered that Brian was absolutely turned off at the thought of making him bleed. It had taken a lot of fast-talking and a lot of cock rubbing to get Brian to fuck him that night. Justin spread his fingers out on his chest so that he could touch both tits at the same time. He let his thumb slip through the hoop in his right nipple and he pulled. His breath caught in his throat and he let the air in his lungs flow out of him in a sigh. Every nerve ending in his body was humming now and now he missed Brian even more.

Tugging his shirt over his head, Justin fell back into position on the bed. Brian hovered above him, his eyes fixed on Justin's tits. Brian licked his lips and moved in to kiss at the right one. At first he just brushed his lips back and forth over the nub until the skin began to flush and tighten. Then he'd let the tip of his tongue flick over the tip of Justin's nipple before opening his mouth to wash the skin under his broad tongue.

Justin was rubbing wet fingers over his tits now and he could truly feel what Brian was doing to him in his memories. He moaned loudly, his head tossing from side to side as the tightness between his legs continued to build. He wouldn't rush this. Brian had taught him how to slow himself down and he wouldn't cheat himself out of any of the sensations.

Squeezing his left nipple between the wet fingers of his left hand, Justin let his other hand trail down his belly to find the buttons of his jeans. He opened the buttons one by one and then moved his hand away. His cock was already growing to fill the new space that had been created when its confines were loosened. Justin reached back to his waistband and pushed the pants down over his narrow hips. His underwear got caught under his fingers and he tugged them down as well.

In his memory Brian knelt between his legs. He was licking his lips again and Justin was his feast. Brian moved slowly, his face inching ever closer to Justin's penis.

"Just your tongue," Justin had only recently taken to providing instructions as to what he wanted Brian to do to him in bed.

Brian had opened his mouth wide as if he meant to ignore the instruction and then he'd smiled and licked his lips again and then swallowed. His mouth seemed to be unable to hold all the saliva he was producing. Brian had shown Justin his pink tongue and watched Justin's face as he moved in to lick Justin's cock from the base to the tip in one stroke.

"Oh...God" Justin gasped as he fell back against the pillows. Brian continued to swirl just his tongue against the skin of Justin's cock. Justin thought it felt like fabric, like velvet. Brian licked him like he was cleaning dripping ice cream off the sides of a cone before moving to flick his tongue over the head of Justin's cock. Justin was going crazy. He moved his hips so that he could rub against Brian's tongue and Brian stopped all his movements in order to let Justin's cock lick against his tongue and lips instead.

Brian grabbed Justin's hips and held him still when Justin tried to push his cock into Brian's mouth.

"You said just the tongue, remember." Brian's voice was a low rumble.

Justin was frantic. "I want you to put it in your mouth."

"And do what? Tell me what you want Justin." Brian's breath was almost as torturous against the side of Justin's cock as his tongue had been moments before.

"Suck it," Justin gasped, "I want you to suck it."

"Do it hard or just tease you?"

"You're teasing me now. Just suck it till I cum. I wanna cum in your mouth." Justin watched as Brian smiled and licked his lips again.

Brian opened his mouth wide and closed his eyes as Justin slipped inside him. He let his lips tighten against the base and he let his tongue find and bathe the sides of Justin's cock. Justin moaned and ran his fingers through Brian's hair. The time for teasing was over and Brian moved into a steady sucking, pulling the blood from the base of Justin's cock to the ripening tip. Justin's fingers were still catching in his hair and Brian moved into high gear. He pulled his mouth off Justin just long enough to catch his breath before moving in again to devour the head of the organ, letting his teeth scrape gently against the sensitive tip. Justin was thrusting again and Brian relaxed his throat and moved in closer letting Justin thrust his cock deeper and deeper down his throat.

"Aaahhh...oh God...what are you doing to me?" Justin was almost yelling and Brian stifled a pleased laugh.

Up and down, in and out, Brian's head continued to bob at Justin's groin. Brian alternated between deep sucking and rolling his tongue in figure eights across the surface of Justin's cock. Each movement brought Justin ever closer to his orgasm.

"I want you inside me...Brian please...I want you inside me." Brian raised his eyes but didn't raise his head. Justin had asked to cum in his mouth and Brian wasn't going to be cheated out of tasting what he'd been working so hard to release. Brian held up a single finger for Justin's inspection and the teen eyed it hungrily before bringing it to his mouth to suck at it.

"Put it in," Justin ordered. He closed his eyes and raised his knees to his chest to give Brian access to his hole. Brian pushed in with a single stroke and Justin's cock immediately started trembling in his mouth. Brian sealed his lips tightly around just the head as he continued to work his finger in Justin's hole. He loved to watch Justin cum. Like everything else he did, Justin dove head first into any experience he chose to have and cumming was no exception. Justin was at his most uninhibited. He gave himself over to every contraction in his body and rode every wave until they stopped rippling through him. Brian watched Justin's body shake and then he tasted. Justin was sweet. Brian sucked and swallowed until Justin begged him to stop, he didn't want to waste a single drop.

He'd been rubbing himself ever since Memory Brian had started to tongue his cock and it was now standing rigid and purple inside his fist. Justin jerked his hand up and down his dick in time with Memory Brian's sucking and he reached down between his legs when he remembered Brian displaying that single digit for his inspection. He was sweating and his hands and his crack were wet. Justin used his own sweat as lubrication as he found his hole and began spearing it with abandon. He was starting to cum and his balls felt tight and heavy.

All he could think about was Brian's face and the fact that he needed more hands. He needed another hand to touch his balls the way Brian touched them while he fucked him. He needed more hands to squeeze his tits and he needed more hands to simulate the feel of Brian's broad hands teasing over his legs and holding his ankles in place. Justin was breathing hard now and he could feel Brian slipping that finger up into his hole. He could feel it graze over his prostate and he could feel as Brian pushed it against the sides of his asshole as if charting his own map of the terrain. He was cumming now, just like Memory Justin had started to cum as soon as Memory Brian started to play in his ass. Justin was cumming hard.

"Oh God...ohhhhhhh...huh...yesssssssss...Oh God Briaaaaaaaan...ohhh," Justin's screams echoed through the loft. He was louder than he realized.

The room was spinning around his head and Justin fought to slow his breathing. His hands and legs felt heavy and he could feel his cum cooling against his belly. Justin looked down to find thick splatters across his stomach and little beads of cum in his pubic hair. He looked around to make sure he hadn't gotten any on the sheets and found that they were wrinkled but unstained. He let his head fall back against the pillow. He'd clean himself up later, for now all he could concentrate on doing was remembering how to breathe.

He needed to focus. One more meeting and he could go home. This campaign was the big one. With this account alone the agency would earn two times what the eight others Brian had signed over the past few days would pay combined. The meeting, originally scheduled for Thursday, had been rescheduled twice already and Tuesday afternoon Brian had been told that they would get their shot at making a pitch later that same evening. The presentation was tweaked and fine-tuned and Cynthia had commandeered three other assistants to help her set up the large conference room that would house the meeting. No less than twenty-five representatives of the client company would be there. The meeting would include everyone from managing partners, to the Board of Directors, to members of their advertising department and even down to their lawyers. The company was already late on its advertising deadlines, a previous contract with another agency having fallen through, and they were prepared to sign with the Ryder Agency and Chambers, Tatum and Whitley right then and there if they liked Brian's pitch.

Looking at himself in the men's room mirror, Brian stretched his neck and his shoulders and tried to release some of the tension in his muscles. He was already rewound so tight despite having a very thorough massage only four days earlier. He needed to land this account.

"Showtime." Cynthia called as she stuck her head in through the washroom door.

"Come in here a sec." Brian continued to roll his neck as she approached. "Tell me what they look like."

"Old. Stodgy. No fags." Cynthia reached up to brush a hair off the back of Brian's suit.

"You can tell if there are any fags just by looking?"

"My gay-dar is getting to be pretty good, you've trained me well." Cynthia shot back with a small smile. She was nervous because she knew what was at stake in this meeting. This was the reason they'd come. Ryder had handpicked Brian for this and with everything that had happened after Justin's attack, Brian was back to having to prove yet again that he was more of an asset to the agency's success than he was a liability to its reputation. Never mind the millions he'd already made the agency on this trip alone. Brian needed to regain his golden boy standing in Ryder's eyes and this two hundred million dollar account just might do the trick.

Brian smiled. "Did you meet Forsythe?"

"Yeah. To you he'll look like the epitome of old, stodgy and straight. I think he looks distinguished and he's very well preserved," the woman leaned her back against the counter so she could look directly at Brian's face.

"Old, stodgy and straight huh?" Brian focused on his reflection. "Remind me to tell you about Marvin Telson some time." Brian took one last stretch before moving to the door and stepping outside.

The conference room took up two floors with its high ceilings and two storey windows. There were catwalks running along what would have been the ceiling of this room had it occupied only one floor. These catwalks led directly from the executive offices and fed into a monolithic steel staircase that stood at the front of the conference room below. The set up of the room made for quite the entrance. Brian moved up to the railing at a shadowed section of the catwalk and looked at the room beneath him. The clients occupied the end of the immense oak table that was furthest from the staircase. The man he assumed was Clifford Forsythe sat at the head of that end of the table flanked by four men Brian recognized. Other lesser representatives flanked ten seats along the two sides of the table.

Cynthia squeezed his arm and moved past him to make her way down the staircase. "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please? We're ready to get started if everyone would just take his or her seats. I want to ask that you turn on the television monitors that each of you has directly in front of you and direct your attention to the packages at each of your places. In your packages you'll find copies of all the layouts and all the drafts that'll be displayed. You'll also find details of all the statistical information that'll be referred to. Also please take note of the audio sets on the arms of your chairs. You'll find your earpieces in the pouch below the controls."

Brian watched as people took their seats, monitors were turned on and papers were shuffled. He quietly made his way up to the head of the stairs, took a deep breath and listened as Cynthia continued. "May I introduce you all to Brian Kinney."

Brian thought of how formally the presentation had been choreographed. It was just stupid. He felt like the headline act at a concert, the audience having been whipped into a respectable frenzy in anticipation of his making an appearance. Yet that was exactly what they'd intended. Chambers, Tatum and Whitley had announced that they were bringing in one of their best to work on this campaign and the agency had managed to sell Brian with the same mystique and allure that it planned for the actual product. His audience would finally get to put an actual person to the promise of Brian Kinney and he would once again have the challenge of living up to that promise.

Michael and Justin were the furthest things from his mind as he descended the stairs.

The look was perfect. Brian wore a finely tailored black suit that buttoned high on his chest. He wore a deep charcoal gray shirt and a tie that was just a hint lighter than the shirt. The colors complimented the touch of gold his skin had developed over the last few days in LA. In the light of this room his hair looked to be a deep chestnut brown and his eyes took on the color of his shirt. All eyes were on him as his tall figure descended the stairs and came to stand at the head of the conference table. The thirty plus members of the Chambers, Tatum and Whitley advertising team who'd been occupying the other end of the table all stood as Brian approached and took his seat.

"Let's begin by looking over your current campaign." Brian addressed the entire table but fixed his attention on Clifford Forsythe.

Two hours later, the presentation was over and the participants moved to another large room across the hall for refreshments. Brian remained at the center of the conference room and accepted compliments on the presentation as people milled out of the room. This was the time that decisions would be made. Forsythe had already trotted his entourage to three agencies over the course of the day and Brian knew that people at those offices were still at their desks waiting to hear whether they'd gotten the contract or whether it had gone to Chambers, Tatum and Whitley.

The man himself was approaching now and Brian moved to meet him.

"Mr. Forsythe, it's a pleasure to meet you." Brian accepted the man's extended hand.

Clifford Forsythe was in his fifties at least and he was tall. Brian sized up the older man's features and decided that had the man been twenty years younger he would have described him as hot. Forsythe at fifty had a full head of wavy black hair that had taken on more of a silvery quality with his age and his body still looked hard and defined. Brian dismissed these last few attributes without even noticing them; he didn't do old.

The man settled sapphire blue eyes on Brian and answered, "Likewise Mr. Kinney, likewise."

"Please, call me Brian."

"Brian," Forsythe continued to shake Brian's hand before adding, "If you'll call me Cliff. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and I think you have some unique ideas about the direction we should be taking. I do have a few questions though."

Brian smiled, "Cliff. What do you say we move upstairs to the executive offices where we can discuss matters more privately." Dan Connelly and another Account Executive now flanked Brian; each bearing copies of the contracts Brian hoped Forsythe would agree to sign during what he'd planned would be a mini presentation upstairs. Several of Forsythe's people also moved up to join the small group as Forsythe turned to follow Brian up the stairs.

"Gentlemen," Forsythe turned back to address the group that was following he and Brian. "If you'll excuse us for a moment, should and when it becomes necessary for you to join us with the contracts we'll send for you." Forsythe waved off his hangers on and dismissed the Chambers, Tatum and Whitley executives. Brian stood momentarily confused and then quickly regrouped. He covertly retrieved a copy of the contract package from the executive who was standing closest to him and led Forsythe up the stairs. Visions of Marvin Telson danced through his head as he led the man across the catwalk.

"Just through here," Brian showed the man into a luxuriously appointed office that overlooked a view of the glittering LA skyline. "Would you like a drink?"

Forsythe considered the well-stocked bar and requested a rum and coke. Brian closed the door to the office and turned to mix the man's drink.

"So, you're from the Pittsburgh office Brian."

"That's right." Brian moved up and handed the man his drink. Brian had poured himself another third of whiskey; he'd never touched the one he poured earlier.

Forsythe was considering the skyline outside the window. Brian watched as the man played with the change in his pocket and sipped his drink. "I've been in Pittsburgh a few times already this month. We're based here but we do a lot of business there."

"So you know the city well then." Brian sat down in one of the chairs that stood facing the windows.

"Not as well as I'd like to. I've never found the right tour guide..." Brian thought Forsythe looked at him a little too long when he made that last statement. Maybe Cynthia's gay-dar wasn't yet as developed as she thought. Forsythe continued, "...and never had enough time to see much besides hotels and office towers."

Brian arched an eyebrow and continued to sip his drink. He studied the man's profile and readied himself for whatever direction the man might try to take this conversation.

"I have a similar complaint about LA, beautiful city, yet all I tend to see of it are office towers and hotels." Brian continued to watch the man as he took a seat across from him.

"Maybe you just need the right tour guide." Forsythe smiled.

Brian rolled his lips into his mouth to moisten them before continuing, "Maybe I just need more time on my hands the next time I visit." Brian noticed the way Forsythe's eyes focused on his lips and he felt a chill. He hadn't been trying to seduce this man or be sexy when he moistened his lips and yet he was obviously having that effect. "You said you enjoyed the presentation but needed some clarification." Brian let his words hang in the air. He wanted to steer this conversation away from the somewhat seedy undertones he was getting from Clifford Forsythe. He didn't fuck for accounts. Ryder didn't pay him enough to sell what he wouldn't even consider giving for free to this or any of the other Marvin Telsons he'd come across on the job.

Forsythe set his glass on the low coffee table that stood between the two men. He set his hand to his jaw as he leaned his body against the armrest. "The last few times I was in Pittsburgh I managed to catch the news on you and your young man. He must have the patience of Job, I hear that you can be quite wild in your affairs Brian." Forsythe was positively leering at him while he slowly said those words.

Brian didn't respond.

"How long are you staying in LA Brian?"

"I thought of flying out tonight after our meeting." Brian replied flatly.

"So you're not in town for very much longer?" Forsythe was slowly running the fingers of his left hand across his lips now and Brian could see the platinum wedding band.

Brian was silent. This man had yet to turn his attention to anything having to do with the presentation. Brian felt like prey.

"I'll be blunt Brian. The contract is yours. If you want it?" Forsythe's eyes roamed across Brian's face and body.

"If I want it." Brian repeated the man's words slowly and stood up from his chair.

Forsythe smiled, "Something for you and maybe then something for me."

"And what would that be?" Brian was pissed and he was letting it sound in his voice. He'd lost his professional tone when this conversation took a turn toward being anything but professional.

Forsythe stood up from his own chair and moved to stand directly in front of Brian. The two men were the same height and their eyes locked. Forsythe stepped in closer and ran his hand along the side of Brian's face letting his thumb graze over Brian's lips. Brian brought a hand up to the older man's chest and pushed him back. Brian's jaw clenched angrily and his eyes danced.

Forsythe stepped forward again, "I'm sure that we understand each other Brian." The man's breath was hot against the side of his face and Brian's jaw clenched again when he felt Forsythe reach around and grab his ass.

"Take your hands off my ass. You're not fucking me," Brian hissed pushing Forsythe back with both hands.

"What Brian? Two hundred million dollars not worth playing for?" Forsythe teased.

"Do I have fuck me because I want your account written across my forehead?" Brian sneered, his voice sounded of controlled rage.

"Yes, you do," Forsythe countered as he stepped in close again. The asshole had money and he knew that with it he could buy almost anything. Forsythe ran his hands up Brian's back stopping when he'd reached Brian's neck. He closed his fingers around the back of Brian's neck and pulled him closer. His face was inches away from Brian's and he opened his mouth to kiss Brian full on the lips. "You put a lot of work into this, you might as well follow through. Hmm? Weeks and weeks of preparation and all you have to do to walk out of here with this account is work for another hour or two. What do you say Brian? I certainly think you're worth spending two hundred million for." Forsythe leaned in then and tried to suck at Brian's lips.

"Get the fuck off me." Brian pushed Forsythe back again. The man lost his balance and nearly fell over the coffee table.

"What are you doing?" Forsythe demanded as Brian strode away from him. "You can't be this fucking stupid."

Brian crossed the room to retrieve the contract package from the bar and a pen from the desk. He turned and set his eyes on Forsythe again before moving back to stand in front of the man. He'd made his policy of not fucking for contracts somewhere after his encounter with Telson but Brian had no illusions about what this specific account represented. Ryder had been cold with him since the Kip Thomas incident and with all the publicity after what happened to Justin, under no circumstances could Brian leave LA without this account.

Brian's lips were turned up into a snarl and he brought his mouth close to Forsythe's ear. "I know exactly how to play the game, fuck or get fucked right? Like I said, you're not fucking me." Brian pushed the pen and the contract against the other man's chest until he reached up and took it. Somewhere along the road he'd become prey and Brian had no intention of continuing in that role.

Turning his back on the man, Brian crossed to the other side of the room unbuttoning and shrugging off his jacket as he went. He checked that the door was closed and locked before turning again to face Forsythe, "Sign the fucking contracts and then we'll see if I can't give you a nice sore spot to remember me by."

Brian stepped under the spray and let the water beat against the crown of his head for several minutes. Reaching for the bar soap on the ledge above him, he began to wind small circles against his chest and stomach. He'd gotten out of there as soon as they were done. Cynthia as usual would see to the details. The contracts were signed and all necessary approvals had been made. The deal was done and the deed was done. There was no point in thinking about it ever again.

The water was hot and the steam had begun to rise in the stall around him almost immediately. Brian looked down at his body through the fog. He moved his hands across his cock and balls washing the man's spit and sweat away. He turned his face into the spray and let the hot water sting against his skin. His face would be flushed when he got out and the skin would probably burn when he tried to shave tomorrow but he wasn't thinking about that now. Brian opened his mouth and let the water run over his tongue and down his chin. He wanted to wash away every trace of the man's taste. Holding some of the water in his mouth, Brian gargled and then spat. He repeated this process three times. There was something stuck between two of his teeth and Brian reached up to pull at whatever it was. 'Fuck. I've been wearing a pubic hair in my mouth for the last hour.' Brian looked at the hair for another second before washing it down the drain and spitting again. He turned his back into the spray and let his eyes focus on the tile work on the back of the shower stall. He'd turned around when he realized that his face was starting to burn.

He ran the soap across his body in slow strokes. He moved soapy hands across his neck and throat. When he'd looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror a few moments before he'd noticed a small bruise forming on his throat. Forsythe had bitten him there. 'I thought we weren't thinking about this anymore?' Brian scolded himself. He'd done nothing but think about the man for the hour that it took him to get out of there and back to the hotel. Considering the fact that Brian disregarded his tricks before he'd even managed to pull his pants back on, he should have forgotten Clifford Forsythe somewhere between readjusting his tie and calling the others to join them in the upstairs office. But that wasn't going to happen that easily this time. Not this trick and not this fuck. Forsythe had managed to rob him of any satisfaction he got from landing this account. All his hard work on the campaign meant shit compared to the bottom line. He'd gotten the account because he fucked and he fucked well. Brian soaped the skin on his cock again.

There'd been one message when he got back to the hotel. Lindsay had called to ask him to stop by a specialty toy store in Century City if he got the chance. She'd ordered something and hoped he could pick it up for her instead of her having to wait for delivery. Going the delivery route might mean the order wouldn't reach Pittsburgh before Gus's birthday next week. 'Sonny boy has already gone and gotten a year older...tick...tick...tick,' Brian thought as he scraped his fingers through his hair. He rolled his neck again and let the water beat down against his shoulders. He was tired but he would have plenty of time to crash on the plane. 'Sorry Lindz, no toy store visit this trip. I need to get out of this fucking city.'

His back was starting to burn now so Brian turned off the spray. He stood there for a moment or two just watching the water drip down his body to pool at his feet. He didn't realize he'd been in the shower as long as he had; the skin on his palms and the soles of his feet were pruning. Brian stepped out on to the cool marble of the bathroom floor and reached for a towel. He scrubbed at his hair and neck, managing to turn the small bruise on his throat into an angry welt by the time he was finished.

Fixing the towel around his waist, he moved through the door of the bathroom to the entryway of the suite to answer the knock at the door.

"Let me guess, you came all the way over here at eleven o'clock at night to tell me how amazing the presentation was." Brian addressed the man. His voice was flat and humorless.

Peter Stewart stood shell-shocked for a moment before responding, "Actually I brought your airline ticket. We couldn't get a courier and Cynthia said you hated picking tickets up at the gate."

Brian reached out and took the small manila envelope from the man before turning away from the door. He hadn't dismissed the man or invited him in. Brian opened the envelope to read the departure and arrival times. He'd be back in Pittsburgh by ten-thirty the next morning. Brian turned to address Peter Stewart who stood stock still in the doorway.

"You coming in?"

"Yeah. Sure." The man moved into the room tentatively before turning around to close the door. Stewart eyed the tracks that Brian's wet feet had left on the floor of the entryway. "We've arranged for a car to come get you in time for the flight and we've arranged for a wake-up call." The man was nervous. The fact that Brian was looking at him was making him nervous.

"Who's we?" Brian asked while tapping the envelope against his left thigh.

"Cynthia and I...I gave her a ride back to the hotel just now." Stewart had stuffed his hands into his pockets as he spoke. Brian noted how tense he was.

"Why didn't Cynthia bring me my ticket instead of you coming all the way up here to give it to me?" Brian thought he already knew the answer. Cynthia had delivered Peter Stewart to him as a present. His secretary must have figured he'd have a little tension he'd want to work off after such a hectic schedule so she'd had a little midnight fuck delivered to his room.

Stewart was stammering through a stupid answer to Brian's question while Brian tried to decide whether fucking him would help to work out the tension from his earlier command performance with Forsythe. Brian decided that it would. He could reestablish his role as hunter by catching and devouring this man.

Brian turned and tossed the envelope on to the desk to his left. He unwound his towel and let it fall at his feet as he turned to face Stewart again. Brian fixed his stare on the other man and said nothing as he stalked across the room.

Licking his lips slowly, Brian reached out and took hold of the man's tie. Stewart had stopped talking and stepped closer to Brian when he felt the tug on his tie. Brian brushed his nose against the side of Stewart's face before snaking his tongue out to lick the man across his cheek. Brian pulled back and looked at Stewart's face. A fine layer of sweat had sprung up on Stewart's forehead.

"Take off your clothes." Brian's voice was still flat and he stepped back a little to watch as Stewart slowly began to undress. When the man was naked Brian reached out and closed a fist around his balls. Brian weighed them and watched as the sweat continued to spring up across the rest of the man's body. Brian kept his eyes on Stewart's face while he slid his fingers up to close around the man's cock. He squeezed it slightly before moving both hands up Stewart's chest and letting them rest on the other man's shoulders. Stewart slowly descended to his knees as he felt Brian's pressure on his shoulders.

"Open your mouth," Brian whispered.

Stewart licked and lapped at Brian's balls before taking the length into his mouth. Brian alternated between pumping into the man's mouth and pumping into his own fist. When there was no cock in his mouth, Stewart busied himself with tonguing at Brian's balls again. Brian pulled the man to his feet after a few minutes, he was breathing heavily now. Stewart walked towards the bed and moved to climb in.

"No. Not the bed." Brian pulled the man back and pushed him towards a low cabinet in the corner of the room. "Bend over, spread your legs." Stewart did as he was told while watching as Brian retrieved a condom and a small tube from his carryon. He pushed his ass back against Brian's groin when he felt Brian move up to stand between his legs.

"I've wanted you right there since the minute I saw you," Stewart sighed.

"No shit." Brian responded nonchalantly as he ripped the condom package open between his teeth. He reached over to grab the lube and squirted a dollop into his palm before coating the condom and pressing his palm against Stewart's crack. The man was moving against his hand now. "Stop moving," Brian positioned himself at Stewart's entrance. He pushed through slowly while at the same time pulling the man tightly against his body. Brian started to fuck the man furiously and the cabinet rocked under their combined weight. Stewart cried out and grabbed at the edge of the cabinet to keep his balance under Brian's assault.

Cynthia peeked her head out of her room and crossed the hallway to press an ear to Brian's door. She could hear Peter Stewart's voice but she couldn't hear Brian's voice. The man was begging Brian to fuck him harder and judging by the fact that his words were making less and less sense, she guessed Brian was doing just that. The woman smiled a satisfied smile and returned to her room. Her boss could thank her when she joined him back in Pittsburgh; Cynthia planned to relax in LA until their original departure time on Thursday.

Brian threw his bags into the elevator and winced when he realized he'd tossed his laptop case against the floor as well. He punched for the sixth floor and leaned back against the slats on the side of the car. All he wanted to do was crawl into his bed and sleep for the rest of the week. Bringing home close to three hundred million dollars worth of accounts had earned him the balance of the day plus Thursday and Friday away from the office. 'They don't pay me enough for this shit,' Brian thought. He smiled when he let his thoughts drift to the size of his performance bonus this year, 'Okay, maybe they do.'

It took him several minutes to unload his stuff from the elevator and Brian cursed himself for not accepting the cab driver's offer to help him with his bags. He cursed himself again when he realized he'd zipped his keys into a pocket of one of the bags when he got on the elevator and now he couldn't remember which one it was.

"Fuck," Brian reached for his carryon and fumbled with the zippers. Instead of getting closer to his bed he was locked out in the hallway searching for keys he'd had in his hands just moments before. Finally locating the small bunch, Brian pulled the door open and kicked his carryon into the loft.

Bag by bag, he transferred all the stuff from the hallway and finally leaned against the right side of the closed door. His cleaning lady had been there. Brian thought that if she hadn't hated him already she certainly did now, considering the condition the loft had been in when he left it last Thursday. Brian dropped his keys on the counter and made a mental note of where he'd put them. He had no intention of searching for them again. He shrugged off his leather jacket and tossed it across the back of one of the bar stools before turning to climb the steps into his bedroom.

'What the fuck?'

Brian quietly crossed the room towards the sleeping figure and studied the form. The man had kicked off the sheets at some point during the night and they lay in a twisted heap down by his ankles. He was breathing slowly and Brian watched as his chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. The light glinted across the gold hoop in his right nipple with each breath. Brian thought back to the last time they'd been here together and the last time they'd talked.

Justin lay on his back with his face turned towards the closet. Brian studied the flawless skin and let his eyes travel across the sprays of light hair that thickened in a line on Justin's stomach and between his legs. Justin had morning wood. 'He always has morning wood,' Brian thought. Brian rounded the bed and slowly sat down on the sideboard next to where Justin lay. He was sleeping on Brian's side of the bed. 'My side. Justin's side,' Brian didn't realize what he'd just let himself think but he knew that despite all his confusion he was glad Justin was there.

Justin opened his eyes slowly and focused on Brian's face. He knew he was awake and he knew Brian was actually sitting next to him on the bed. He let a smile play across his lips.

Brian took note of how blue Justin's eyes were and he let his own eyes skim across the full flushed lips. He smiled and brushed his fingers through Justin's hair, "Looks like Goldilocks has been sleeping in my bed."

"Are you pissed?" Justin was still smiling but now he remembered that he had reason to fear Brian's reaction to his presence in the loft.

"No, just surprised." Brian looked at him for several moments. "Have you been staying here the entire time I was gone?"

"No, I just came last night. I wanted to...I just didn't...I didn't want to be alone." Justin wasn't sure that what he was saying was even making sense.

"You had company?" Brian asked his question in a low whisper as he let his eyes skim across Justin's naked body.

Justin was momentarily mesmerized by Brian's voice. Whenever Brian asked him a question in that volume and tone Justin's mind went numb and he knew he'd probably agree to anything Brian asked him in those seconds. This had happened to him many times before. Brian would ask him a simple question and Justin would get caught up on just the sound of the man's voice, his mind unable to concentrate on the actual question.

"No...I...No...I didn't." Justin finally managed. He hadn't been with anyone but Brian the night before. A little kissing and petting on the dance floor of Babylon certainly didn't count.

Brian offered him a questioning look and waited for some further explanation. Justin wasn't making any sense. The man continued to just look at him for a few more seconds before shrugging his shoulders and rolling his lips into his mouth. He'd decided to chock Justin's nonsense up to the fact that he was probably still half asleep. Brian let his eyes skim Justin's face some more and Justin started to blush. Brian noticed the reddening in Justin's cheeks and the tips of his ears and he listened as Justin's breathing started to change. Here it was again. All he had to do was look long enough and he'd get this intense reaction from Justin's body. Brian started to move away and stand up. The air around him had suddenly become too warm and he thought he could feel his own blush creeping across his face.

"Brian please," Justin reached out and let his fingers close around one of Brian's wrists.

"Not now. I can't get into this now." Brian pulled his hand loose and stood up from the bed. "I need to take a shower."

"Do you want me to go?" Justin was sitting up on his elbows now and he watched as Brian kicked off his boots.

Brian turned his back to Justin and unbuttoned his shirt. He didn't respond for quite a while and Justin looked away. Justin was trying to remember where his clothes were and trying to figure out how he was going to manage to leave the loft without bursting into tears in the next few minutes.

"No." Brian shrugged off his shirt and walked into the bathroom.

Justin watched him leave before he reached down to tug the sheets over his body. He was suddenly feeling very cold.

Brian focused on his reflection in the mirror as he reached down and undid the buttons of his jeans. He could still see the bruise/welt on his neck and he let his mind drift over the possible explanations he could give for the mark. 'Fuck it,' Brian thought. The mark looked like a hickey and given that it was on Brian Kinney's neck that was exactly what everyone would think it was. He stepped out of his jeans and toed off his socks before crossing to the shower and turning up the spray. Brian glanced back out into the bedroom. From this angle he could see the lower half of the bed and he could see that other than covering himself up, Justin hadn't moved at all. Brian pushed down his underwear and continued to focus on what he could see of Justin's form under the covers. He'd made his decision on the plane and he wandered now if he would actually be able to see it through.

Justin could hear Brian undressing. He could tell when Brian took off his pants because he'd heard the sounds of Brian's belt buckle and loose change hitting the marble floor. After a little while he'd heard another thump against the floor but Justin couldn't figure out what this one was. He'd heard Brian close the lid to the laundry hamper and he heard when the man turned up the spray. He knew Brian wasn't in the shower yet. Brian had always let it run for a while so the water could heat up to scalding. Justin couldn't hear any other sounds of Brian's movements for some time and he figured it was probably because Brian wasn't moving. Justin had the overwhelming sensation that he was being watched.

Brian let his eyes settle on the floor and he realized that he'd dropped his phone. Bending to retrieve it, he flipped it off and stowed it on a shelf before opening the stall door and stepping inside. The water stung at his face and he adjusted the spray so that it wouldn't hit him higher than his chest. He turned in the shower and looked through the glass. The room and the glass had already started to fog up but he could still see Justin's form under the covers. He'd been glad to see him but now Brian couldn't think of what he would possibly say to Justin when this shower was finally over. Brian reached for the soap and turned around to face the spray again.

Justin wanted nothing more than to throw off the covers and go into that bathroom. He needed to know that Brian still wanted him. If Brian only saw their relationship as fucking then Justin didn't even want to think of where he'd be left if Brian didn't want to fuck him anymore. Justin didn't move. As much as he wanted to be with Brian another part of him wanted to be anywhere in this world but in that bed when Brian finally came out of the shower. Justin didn't move. He just lay there listening to the changing sounds of the water striking at Brian's skin. He'd been afraid to face Brian that Sunday when he'd told him what was on his mind but today his fear was crippling.

Brian turned off the spray and stepped out of the shower.

Justin watched as he moved into the room slowly. Brian was smoothing the towel over his chest and he was leaving wet tracks on the floor.

"I don't want to talk about this now Justin." Brian whispered as he lowered the towel to his side.

"Okay." Justin nodded his response. He watched Brian's eyes for some time before moving over in the bed and holding the covers open. Justin knew what was happening. They were both scared shitless of the conversation they would inevitably have so any delay at all was welcome. On top of this mutual fear Justin still needed to know he'd have something with Brian no matter what and Brian needed to not think about anything. Sex. Sex would satisfy both their needs.

Brian got into the bed and settled down into the warmth that Justin had left behind. Justin turned on to his back and watched as the other man moved in closer to him. He could see the reddened bruise on Brian's neck and his mind flashed on a million scenarios for how it got there. All of them involved Brian fucking.

Brian was moving to lay on top of him now and Justin spread his legs under the man's weight. He pulled his knees up on either side of Brian's body and closed his eyes when he felt Brian's cock slide against his own. Brian's skin was hot and wet under his fingers and he spread his hands out to touch as much as he could reach. He could feel Brian's lips brushing at his neck and he turned into the touch. Justin let his fingers thread into the damp hair at the base of Brian's skull and Brian lifted his head into Justin's hands. They were looking at each other now and Justin tilted his mouth up to Brian's. He wanted to be kissed. He needed to be kissed. Brian lowered his head slowly. The kiss was light, almost feathery and Justin sighed. He could feel Brian's tongue sliding against his lips now and he opened his mouth in an invitation to deepen the kiss. Brian licked across Justin's lower lip before letting his tongue slip inside. Justin was hot inside and out and Brian pushed in further. Brian was moaning into the kiss now and Justin moved his hips against Brian's body allowing their cocks to slide together again.

Brian kissed across Justin's cheek before kissing across his temple and then up to his hairline. His lips grazed over the raised line on Justin's forehead and he opened his eyes to look at it. Justin was looking at him again but Brian didn't notice. He wasn't focused on Justin's eyes. Brian closed his lips over the reddened line and kissed at it before continuing his journey across Justin's face. Justin's thoughts traveled back to the night before. These were the feather kisses that he'd come to love. Brian wanted to take this slow.

Justin arched his back into Brian's touch as the man pushed back the sheets and trailed kisses down his neck and across his collarbone. Justin wanted so much to be able to kiss Brian's lips but Brian was continuing his descent. He kissed across Justin's nipples now, just washing the skin under his tongue. Brian moaned as he drew the skin into his mouth and Justin responded with his own moans. Justin thought Brian's lips felt like fire as they moved across his skin and he could feel every nerve ending in his body spark and come to life.

Brian was kissing his stomach now and Justin arched even further into the touch. Brian lifted his head for a moment just watching the expressions play across Justin's face before lowering his head again to lap at Justin's bellybutton. He sank his fingers into Justin's hips to hold his writhing body still. Brian knew when Justin couldn't take much more and he raised his head again, this time to look down Justin's body at the dripping cock. It was an angry red color and Brian heard and felt Justin wince when he closed his lips around it. Two strokes and no more. Brian raised his head again; he didn't want Justin to come just yet.

"Let me touch you." Justin was reaching out to touch Brian's hips and Brian crawled back up the bed so that he was within reach again. He knelt between Justin's legs and watched as Justin reached out and closed both his hands around his length. Justin was stroking him and Brian closed his eyes and let his head loll back and to the side. They had been taking this slow but Brian was already very close. Every touch and every kiss had felt so intense. Brian reached over and took a condom from the bowl next to the bed. He focused his eyes on Justin's face and handed him the small foil wrapped disc.

Justin continued to stroke with one hand while tearing at the corner of the package with his teeth. The stroking stopped only for the few moments it took him to roll the condom down Brian's cock and his eyes never left Brian's face as he started to tug again at the man's cock through the latex. He could feel Brian's fingers between his legs and he truly couldn't remember when it was that he'd drawn his knees up again or when Brian had located the lube. Brian was moving in towards him again and Justin moved his hands away from the man's length before opening his arms to accept Brian's body. He could feel Brian hands on the backs of his knees and he lifted his legs on to Brian's shoulders.

Brian lay down against him very slowly. The man was relishing the softness of the skin and the firmness of the body beneath him. Brian lowered his face into Justin's hair and kissed at the strands that got caught under his lips. He brushed his face over Justin's cheek and kissed him softly on the lips before moving to rest the weight of his upper body against the backs of Justin's thighs and his chest. The stretch was amazing. Justin could feel the big muscles in his thighs throbbing and pulling under Brian's weight and he hooked his knees further up on to Brian's shoulders to alleviate some of the pressure. Brian was looking at him again and Justin bit at his bottom lip. He hadn't seen this look on Brian's face before.

"Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhh." He didn't get a chance to decipher Brian's expression; Brian was pushing into him now. Justin was almost rocked back on to his shoulders under the force of Brian's thrusts. Taking things slow and soft was torture to Brian's senses and it always meant a hard fuck for Justin in the end. Justin was gasping for air now as Brian kissed and bit at his neck again. He closed his fingers into the skin on Brian's back and held on as the man continued to rock into his body. Justin could feel when each thrust connected with his prostate and he could feel the sting against the skin of his opening each time Brian pushed back into him. Brian had selected a ribbed condom and Justin could feel every line and bump as Brian moved inside him.

It was Brian's turn to cry out. He rocked back on to his elbows before catching Justin's ankles in his hands again and pulling them higher above his body. Justin was completely open to him for the taking and he couldn't get enough. Brian slammed against his body again and heard his own voice echoing around his head as he called out Justin's name. They'd been cumming together like this over the past few months. It was as if all the tension from their movements would coil in each of them at the same rate and explode in the same instant. Justin could tell when Brian was about to lose it and that knowledge alone had sent him over the edge. He pulled Brian closer to his body and ignored the protests from his muscles. All Justin understood in that moment was that he wanted Brian's lips on his in the moment that they came.

'That was just a fuck. That was just a fuck. That was just a fuck.' This mantra sounded in Brian's head as he lay under Justin's weight. Justin lay on his side with his arm thrown across Brian's chest. They'd both fallen asleep but now Brian was wide awake. Brian looked down after a while and found that he'd laced his own fingers through Justin's. He could feel the pressure of Justin holding on to him in his sleep and Brian wanted desperately to get up. Justin rolled away from him at some point and Brian took that as his opportunity to beat a hasty retreat from the bedroom. He didn't go far. Pulling his robe around him, Brian pushed open one of the glass panels that enclosed the room and looked through at Justin's relaxed body. He hadn't wanted to take his eyes off Justin but in those last few minutes the feel of his body in the bed next to him had become overwhelming. It was just too overwhelming to feel the heat from Justin's skin against his. He'd known that none of this was going to be easy.

The phone rang just then and Brian spun around to answer it. Too late. Justin was waking up. Brian crossed to the desk to retrieve portable and realized that it wasn't there. He could hear Justin's sleepy voice answering the phone in the other room. Brian looked down at the message light flashing on his answering machine and he wondered why Justin had even bothered to answer the phone. No one, including Justin, had expected Brian to be home before Thursday.

"Hullo," Justin sounded drowsy and Brian listened to his side of the conversation. "No thanks. No. No thanks. We don't need any of that. No we don't need that either. We don't have wall-to-wall carpeting so you can't sell me on a cleaning. Yeah. Bye." Justin dropped the phone on the floor beside the bed. Brian couldn't stop the smile that was spreading across his lips; even half-asleep Justin was always so damned polite. He knew that had he been the one to pick up the phone that telemarketer would have gotten an earful of fuck offs and a receiver slammed in their ear within seconds.

"Hey," Justin was looking at him from the bed now.

"You should go take a shower." Brian offered quietly. He watched as Justin looked down to examine the flaky stuff on his belly before looking back up and smiling.

"I guess I should." The thought of asking Brian to join him flashed through Justin's mind and he quickly filed it away. Now was not the time for frisky bath time play.

Brian watched him slip out from under the covers and move into the bathroom. When Justin was gone Brian turned his focus on the wreck that had been made of the bed sheets and he let his thoughts drift back to what they'd just done. 'We fucked. Nothing more and nothing less,' Brian dismissed his thoughts of Justin again and pressed the button to replay his messages. He'd let these outside voices drown out the confusing messages in his head.

"Hi Debbie, it's Jennifer. Is Justin around?"

"Tell Justin we're bringing him presents to cheer him up!" Molly called out in the background. She was busily unwrapping a giant chocolate bar that Jennifer had known she would regret buying.

"Hey Hon. Sorry but Sunshine's not here." Debbie turned off the faucet so she could hear the other woman more clearly. Jennifer sounded far off and Debbie could barely hear her over the static. "Where are you, under a bridge?"

"Sorry Debbie. Is this any better? We just drove out of the underground parking at the mall."

"Yeah that's a lot better. I was saying that Sunshine's not here."

"Do you know where he is? I tried his cell phone before but it's turned off." Jennifer was driving, talking on the phone to Debbie and trying to keep her eye on the chocolate mess Molly was making of herself and the passenger seat.

"Um. He called last night and said he was staying out for the night." Debbie would've much preferred that Justin do the honors of telling his mother his whereabouts.

"Last night? Debbie it's two o'clock in the afternoon. You mean he hasn't come back at all since last night?"

"Don't have a conniption or anything, he's fine. I know where he is and he's probably still there." Debbie could hear car horns honking and she swore she could hear the muffled sounds of Jennifer cursing under her breath.

"Well where is he?" Jennifer turned in mid-sentence to give a disapproving look to the driver who'd just cut her off.

"Um. He's at the loft."

"The loft? What's he doing there? I thought Brian was out of town?" Jennifer jammed on her brakes a little too sharply and sent Molly's chocolate flying against the dashboard. Now the chocolate mess covered Molly, the passenger seat and the dash.

"One question at a time Hon. He told me that he just wanted to go over there and sort of just hang out. I didn't think it would do any harm considering how he's been pining for Brian and besides, to answer your last question, Brian's still out of town. He'll never know."

Jennifer sighed audible and Debbie heard the relief in her tone. "So he's alone then."

"Yup. Brian's still in LA."

"Where's Justin?" Molly chimed in again.

"He's not at home sweetheart." Jennifer turned to address her daughter.

"But I wanted to give him his presents." Molly was starting to whine and after four hours at the mall with an eight-year-old, Jennifer was getting a hell of a headache.

"You can go over there if you want. It'll do him some good to see you guys and he'll probably want to bum a lift back here." Debbie listened to Jennifer's silence for a little while longer before reaffirming the statement she'd made moments before. "Don't worry Jennifer Brian isn't there."

The woman sighed again. "Alright we'll go over. I'm gonna try his cell again and then I'll call the loft. Talk to you later Debbie." Jennifer hung up.

Justin's cell was still off and there was no answer at the loft. She'd considered turning around but she realized that they were only two blocks away. She'd take the chance that Justin was still there and she hoped he was, if nothing else she'd have a chance to wash the chocolate off Molly's hands before she could do any more damage to the upholstery.

Just moments before Jennifer parked her car in front of number six Tremont her son had been upstairs wondering whether or not Brian expected him to get dressed again or wanted him to stay naked. Justin had decided to get dressed. He'd thought it was probably presumptuous to think that Brian would want him to stay after the fuck. The man in question had taken a quick shower after Justin went back into the bedroom and now he was shaving. Justin watched him for a while, deciding yet again that he liked it best when Brian wore these red towels after his showers. The white and black towels were oversized and although they hugged Brian's form very nicely, Justin preferred the smallish red ones because they forced Brian to cinch them really tight around his body. Justin thought these towels made for a good view coming and going.

"I was gonna get going." Justin called through the open bathroom door.

Brian stepped away from his shaving bowl and crossed to the doorway. "What did you say?"

"I said I was gonna go...you probably want to unpack and everything."

Brian took note of the fact that Justin had gotten redressed. "Whatever." He turned and went back into the bathroom. The downstairs buzzer sounded just then.

"Do you want me to get it or just ignore it?" Justin asked from the doorway.

Brian had been contemplating that very question since he'd first heard the buzzer go off. Nobody knew he was back. "You can get it if you want."

Justin watched the razor slide against Brian's jaw for another second before moving off the get the door. "Yeah." He released the talk button and listened.

"Sweetheart its Mom..." He heard his mother's voice first and then another voice cut in.

"And Molly." His little sister had come along for the ride and oh what a ride that would be. He'd get yet another chance to watch the little dance that always played out between his mother and Brian.

"What are you guys doing here?" Justin whispered into the intercom.

"We brought you presents." Molly yelled back at him from the speakers. He could have sworn that Brian would hear her. Justin took a step back so that he could see into the bathroom and he made sure that Brian was still occupied with his shaving.

"Honey, she really wanted you to have them today and we thought we'd give you a ride back to Deb's." Jennifer called out.

"Thanks." Justin responded very quietly. He was in a daze.

"So are you going to open the door?" It was slowly becoming obvious to Jennifer that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark.

"Oh. Sorry." Justin's thoughts had suddenly started flashing on everything he'd learned in physics about fusion and explosions. He pressed the door release and leaned heavily against the beam closest to the intercom. Justin thought out a hasty plan. If he met his mother and sister at the door then he could leave with them and his mother wouldn't even have to know that Brian was there. He'd say his goodbyes to Brian and flee before the two were aware of each other's presence. 'Shit,' Justin thought. His mother and sister were already knocking on the door. He hadn't even had time to find his socks much less put them on.

"Sweetheart." Jennifer took in the fake looking smile that Justin had plastered to his face. Something was definitely going on.

"Hey you guys." The words had barely escaped his lips when his sister bounded into the room and ran straight towards Brian's wide screen T.V.

"Molly don't touch anything, okay." His mother called out her usual warning. Justin's heart kept hammering in his ears. There was absolutely no way that Brian wouldn't be able to hear their voices in the loft and no possible way to avoid the meeting.

"I'm just looking at it." Molly was already reaching for the buttons that lined the bottom of the television. "Give Justin his present."

"Your sister bought this for you." Jennifer stepped through the doorway and handed Justin the small shopping bag. She watched as her son peaked inside the bag.

"Thanks Mollusk. Thanks Mom I know it was your idea." Justin kissed his mother lightly on the cheek and moved behind her to close the door.

Jennifer was still eyeing him. She'd known something wasn't quite right with him for the last two weeks. She'd actually thought something was brewing ever since he got out of the hospital and Jennifer suspected that it had less to do with the attack and more directly to do with a certain Mr. Kinney.

"You seemed a little down when we saw you for dinner on Monday, so I thought we could get you something nice and maybe get your mind off it." Jennifer ran her fingers through her son's hair. She remembered wiling away hours doing just that when he was a baby.

"Thanks again," Justin said quietly while he flipped through the contents of the bag. They'd gotten him at least ten CDs and Justin could tell which ones his mother had gotten the store clerks pick out and which ones had simply caught Molly's attention with their colorful jewel box cases. "So you guys spent the day at the mall." Justin said this with a slight grimace because he knew what it was like to go shopping with his little sister.

"Yeah, did I mention that she's had chocolate today." Jennifer smiled. "She got it everywhere."

"Molly don't touch any of Brian's stuff if you still have chocolate on your fingers." Justin dropped the shopping bag on the sofa and moved to stand closer to his inquisitive sister.

Jennifer took this opportunity to take a good look at the place. She'd been here a number of times before and on each visit her eyes would zero in on some new detail that told her just that little bit more about Brian Kinney. She'd already met Brian's sterile approach to decorating, she'd met his overzealous attitude towards neatness and she'd even met the six-foot tall nude in the corner. Today there didn't seem to be anything new. The loft looked much like she remembered it. Jennifer took note of the perfectly arranged cushions and the spotless kitchen. She let her eyes continue to wash over the space. The bedroom. Everything was neat, perfect and spotless except for the bedroom and especially the bed.

Jennifer took note of the riot of sheets and pillows just thrown haphazardly around the large bed. She'd taken a step back reflexively as if repelled by the thoughts of what could and probably did happen in that bed. 'Is that where my son lost his virginity? Is that where Brian takes all those men?' Nothing bothered her more about their relationship than the fact that Justin would give so much and the fact that Brian would take it all for granted. She tore herself away from her thoughts and focused her attention on her children again.

She'd moved over to the sofa now and from this angle she could see the bags and the suitcase that had been sitting on the floor all along. She let her eyes wash over the rest of the loft again and now she saw what she hadn't noticed before. She saw what she knew to be Justin's jean jacket tossed over the back of a chair and now she took note of the second jacket on the back of one of the bar stools by the counter. She noticed the little bunch of keys close by. She remembered Justin's strange greeting and then her eyes swept back to the bags again and she noticed the airline tags. Brian was here. 'Justin and Brian did that to the sheets,' this thought flashed across her mind.

"Falcon Studios. Justin what's a "Man Rammer?" Molly eyed the plain cover of the DVD case.

"Shit." Justin had been watching her from nearby but he'd been distracted for a second or two by the strange look on his mother's face. "Gimme that." Justin moved forward to grab the case and close the cupboard Molly had been snooping through.

"Mom, Justin said 'shit' again." Molly teased. She'd already forgotten all about Man Rammers.

"Molly come on. We're going now." Jennifer crossed the short distance quickly and took Molly's chocolate covered hand. She turned towards Justin and whispered, "I'm sorry Justin. I didn't know he was here. I tried to call first but there was no answer. I'm sorry."

Justin's eyes settled on the bags and he realized that his mother had figured it out. "It's okay. He just got back this morning. He wasn't supposed to be back until tomorrow." Justin was suddenly feeling very defensive about his presence in the loft. "I didn't know he'd be here."

Jennifer was pushing Molly towards the door and throwing cautious looks behind them as they went. It was like she was walking through a lion cage and she wasn't quite sure where all the lions were.

"Mom. Mom." Justin was calling to her back as he walked behind her. She'd pulled the door open and stood in front of it.

"I'll call you later sweetie. Molly say bye to your brother." His mother had that stiff polite tone in her voice. Justin had always called it Country Club Disapproval. His mother meant well but when things got too uncomfortable she'd retreat quickly while making sure to cover her actions with polite niceties.

"At least let me clean up her hands before you guys go." Justin took his sister's hand and pulled her into the kitchen to get a dishrag. He could hear his mother fiddling with her keys as she stood in the doorway.

"Who was at the door?" Brian's ears had yet to pop from his flight. He hadn't heard them.

Justin could hear Brian's voice in the bedroom and he could see the man's form behind one of the glass panels. The glass distorted the image so he couldn't quite see details but he could still decipher basic colors. Justin could see the red from the towel up around where Brian's head should be and he could tell by the long line of flesh coloring that Brian was naked. Justin's eyes flashed to his mother who was still standing by the door facing into the loft. From the look on her face she was seeing something that she hadn't expected of this visit.


Justin heard Brian's word. Molly had started to turn so she could see over her shoulder to the source of the sound. In any other circumstance she would have already chimed in to tell her mother that someone had said 'shit'.

Jennifer raised her hands in front of her, "I'm sorry, we didn't know you were here."

Justin watched as his mother's face turned beet red. He noticed that she'd averted her eyes only to return them to Brian's form for the ten thousandth time in the last four seconds. From the effect that the man was having on her Justin could definitely tell that Brian was naked.

"Molly come here now please." Jennifer tore her eyes away again and moved to retrieve Molly. She was careful to maneuver the girl so that she couldn't look behind her into the bedroom.

"Justin, a word please." Brian was calling him to the bedroom. Justin approached slowly noting the fact that Brian hadn't even bothered to cover himself up. He'd been wiping his face in the towel when he came into his bedroom and the towel still lay casually around his shoulders.

"I didn't know it was them." Justin started apologizing immediately.

"You could have said something before they came up or said something so that I wouldn't walk out and flash your mother." Brian had taken on a modest tone that Justin would've thought unheard of.

"When since did you have any problem flashing people?" Justin was desperate to lighten the mood of what had just happened.

"Go talk to your mother." Brian had switched from modest to nonchalant as he turned and walked towards his dresser.

Justin caught up to them downstairs. His mother had finished loading Molly into the car and was moving towards the driver side door. "Mom. Mom. I'm sorry." He called as she moved to sit down.

Jennifer stood up again. "Sorry for what honey? You guys didn't know we were coming. It's not a big deal." This was her Country Club Disapproval tone again.

"Mom come on. It's me you're talking to." They'd always been close and Jennifer had always tried to be honest with him.

Jennifer sized up his expression and realized she'd have to be candid. "Sweetie. It's just...It's nothing...I have no right to say anything about...I just want you to be happy. I'm worried that Brian...Brian won't...He won't make you happy and he won't make the effort to make you happy." Jennifer finally said what was on her mind. "Never mind anything I'm saying, it's just me being an overly worried Mom." The woman offered him a weak smile.

Justin just looked at her for some time before speaking. "Mom. I know what you're saying. I know you're scared for me but my eyes are open, okay. I can handle this," Justin breathed slowly. He locked eyes on his mother and she offered him a sympathetic look before pulling him into a hug.

"I know Sweetie." Jennifer spoke into his hair. She was entirely unconvinced.

"I've got Uncle Vic's refills." Michael put the pharmacist's bag on the kitchen table.

"Thanks honey. He's goes through that stuff so quickly." Debbie was checking through her purse to make sure she wouldn't forget anything. She had to be at the diner in ten minutes. "So you'll give me a ride over to Liberty?"

"Yeah sure. You ready?"

"Uh huh." Debbie had been pretty distracted all day and she realized that she'd left her house keys upstairs. "I just have to go up and get my keys. I'll be right out."

"Okay. I'll wait in the car." Michael grabbed an apple from the dish on the kitchen table and moved to the front door.

Michael watched from his car as his mother closed the door and made her way down the steps.

"Step on it." Debbie was smiling as she got into the car.

"You're in a good mood." Michael managed a half smile and his mother noticed his lack luster effort.

"And your mood is for shit. It's been for shit for the past week." Debbie was still smiling but her tone was blunt. She'd noticed her son's mood and it seemed to coincide with a certain person's hasty retreat from the Pittsburgh scene.

"Ma please." Michael was rolling his eyes. He pulled into traffic and headed towards Liberty Avenue.

"Michael I'm your mother so give me a little credit. Now tell me what's wrong with you." Debbie shifted in her seat so that she could face her son.

"There's nothing wrong with me so can we just drop this?" Michael stepped on the gas a little. He wanted to get to the diner as quickly as possible so that this conversation would end.

"Michael Charles Novotny. Don't bullshit me. What did Brian do to you this time?"

"Why do you automatically think it has anything to do with Brian?"

"Because everything to do with your moods has to do with Brian Kinney."

"Can you make me sound any more pathetic?" Michael turned a sharp look on Debbie.

"It's not pathetic but it is true." Debbie whispered. She couldn't remember how many times they'd had versions of this same conversation over the years. "Sweetie, you can't keep letting him get to you this way."

"Ma, this doesn't have anything to Brian. Okay?" Michael pulled to the curb in front of the diner and looked expectantly at his mother. "We're here."

"I'm not getting out of this car until you tell me what's going on." Debbie fixed him with an unwavering stare. "This started with Sunshine and it's happening to you and I know for certain Brian Kinney is at the root of all of this."

"I don't know what's going on with Justin. I only know what's going on with me..." Michael realized he'd just admitted he was having a problem so he quickly added, "...and nothing's going on with me."

"Fucking bullshit. Brian didn't set foot in the diner for the entire week before he left. Justin wouldn't work any of his shifts. You kept defending Brian and now you tense up every time I mention his name. So based on all these little clues I've decided that something is going on and you're going to tell me what it is."


Debbie cut him off by holding a finger up to his face, "Don't you dare."

Michael sighed deeply. "You're going to be late for work. In fact you already are."

"Fuck 'em. You're my kid and family comes first. So tell me what's going on."

Michael sighed again and shook his head. "I just did something really stupid that's all."

"What'd you do?" Debbie asked quietly.

"I said some things and now everything is totally fucked up. You can't ask me about what's going on with Justin because Brian doesn't ever talk to me about that stuff. He hasn't even called me the entire time he's been away." Michael was speaking very quietly. He remembered the impersonal message that Brian had sent him the morning after they'd talked.

"If you don't know what's going on with Justin, you can still tell me what's happened with you and Brian." Debbie noticed the set of her son's shoulders. Michael looked like he was about to burst into tears. "What did you say to Brian?"

"I told him."

Debbie heard her son's whisper, "Told him what?"

"I told him how I felt."

Debbie couldn't believe her ears. "You talked to Brian about what's been going on between you two?" She'd had the displeasure of watching her son love Brian Kinney from a close and dangerous distance for sixteen years. She'd watched as Brian kept Michael exactly where he wanted him and how he wanted him and she'd watched her son let it happen.

"I told him I loved him." Michael was sporting a bitter grin now. He still couldn't believe what he'd done.

"What'd he say?"

"Nothing. Not a God damned thing." Michael turned his face away from his mother and looked out the driver's side window.

"He ignored you?"

"He didn't say anything about how he felt. He just told me I'd gone too far."

"What a fucking prick." Debbie was pissed. "How do you go too far by telling him what you think? He's spent sixteen years kissing you and pawing at you every chance he got. He's driven every man out of your life and then when he's done playing with you he's put you back on the shelf for later." Debbie saw the angry look that Michael shot her when she made that last comment but she soldiered on. "And you go too far if you say anything about it?"

"You don't get it. It's my fault. This is what Brian's like. I've known that for like, forever. It's my fault. He never promised me anything all these years."

"How is this your fault? How many times have I told you that you need to stand up for yourself and to know yourself and your own self-worth?"

Now Michael cut her off before she could say her next word. His mother had spent a lot of time over the years 'telling' him when he should stand up for himself. "I'm not sorry for what I did. That's not what I'm saying. I've never spoken my mind and I've never rocked the boat. But now it was time. I just wanted him to know. The stupid part is that I thought he might react differently, you know?" Michael was quiet for a little while before continuing. "It was stupid to think that and that's the part that's bothering me." Michael was tapping at the steering wheel now.

"Sweetie. I'm sorry for what's happened." Debbie reached out to pat his cheek. "I just didn't want you to wait for something that wasn't going to happen."

"I'm not waiting anymore Mom. I'm not. I just have to figure out what all this has cost me. Brian's my best friend or at least he was." He didn't want to talk about this anymore. Michael glanced over his mother's shoulder. "You better go in there."

Debbie followed his gaze. The diner was packed and she was now twenty-five minutes late. "I want you to come over tonight. My shift's over at ten and I want you to come to the house because we're not finished with this. Okay?" Michael nodded slowly and Debbie pulled him close for a tight hug. "I love you baby. You did something very good for yourself and we'll get through this." Debbie pulled away after some time and got out of the car. She kept throwing worried glances in Michael's direction as the car pulled away from the curb and disappeared in the distance. Brian Kinney had his own set of problems but he'd been taking those problems out in her son's life for years. Debbie was honestly worried for them both.

"Do you think your cousin Rita will want to come?" Lindsay and Mel had been on the phone for the last half-hour.

Melanie flipped through the brief on her desk. "She didn't come to his bris and she still doesn't approve of the fact that we're back together, so why would she come to this?

"I'll put her on the list anyway. Killing people with kindness and all that." She could hear Mel flipping through papers. "You listening to me?"

"Lindz my lunch hour is over. I promise we'll talk about all this when I get back tonight."

Lindsay swallowed hard. Things between them had been next to perfect for quite some time but they hadn't managed to talk about this the last few times Mel had promised they would. "I know things are really busy with you but Gus's birthday is in a week. I'll make something special for dinner and then we're definitely doing some planning tonight."

"Definitely. I'm sorry I haven't been helping you plan all along Lindz. I really am."

"I love you Mel. I'll see you tonight." Lindsay hung up. She sighed and glanced over at her sleeping baby. He'd be up soon and she still had a few more calls to make before then. Lindsay moved down her 'to do' list and scanned the next entry. She hit the speed dial to the loft and waited for Brian's message machine to pick up.

"You know what to do." Brian's voice sounded cool and nonchalant. Lindsay smiled. It was exactly the kind of impression that Brian projected in every other aspect of his life. Lindsay knew from experience however that cool and nonchalant in Brian Kinney covered up for the warm and fuzzy parts deep on the inside.

"Hey you. It's me. I've been trying your cell since this morning but it's off. Don't worry this isn't an emergency or anything. I just wanted to see if you were able to pick up that stuff for me in Century City and to remind you that your firstborn son will be celebrating his very first birthday in six days. Call us back cause I want you to help me plan his party. Don't worry it won't be anything as big as the bris or the Muncher's Brunch as you called it. All right, I'll talk to you soon Bri..."

"Lindsay!" Brian picked up the phone and the machine clicked off.

"You're home!" Lindsay had been about to hang up.

"I got back this morning. What's this about Sonny Boy?"

"Brian don't be a shit. Do not tell me that you've forgotten our son's birthday is next week." Lindsay's anger was rising.

"I didn't forget. I mean what's this about a party."

"Mel and I want to have a birthday party for him." Lindsay glanced over at the baby again.

"A party for a baby? He won't even know what's going on."

"It's not like he'll know now but we'll have pictures and he'll have them to look back on later. Brian I want you to help. We're doing this for Gus."

Brian rolled his eyes. "How much money do you need?"

"I don't want your fucking money. I want you and your time. This is your son Brian, do better than just giving money." Lindsay was trying not to raise her voice.

"What the fuck do you want me to do?"

"You're home now so come over and see your son."

"Lindsay I've barely slept in the last week. I'm off tomorrow and Friday, I'll come see Sonny Boy tomorrow." Brian sighed into the phone.

"Not good enough. You can sleep tomorrow. Come and see your son today. I mean it Brian, we'll be waiting for you." Lindsay hung up before Brian could offer any more protest.

"Shit." Brian clicked off the portable and dropped it on the kitchen counter. He'd just been roped into planning a kiddy party and Brian wondered how much further down the slippery slope of middle-aged decency he'd have to go in his quest to be a better Daddy. He reminded himself to call Cynthia and get her to pick up the stuff in Century City before her flight tomorrow.

It was just a little after five in the afternoon and Brian had yet to slip into his bed for that relaxing sleep he'd been promising himself for the last few days. Justin had finally left and Brian thought that'd happened none too soon. Justin had seemed bent on talking when he came back up from seeing his mother out and Brian had no doubt that Jennifer had said something to him. Brian was rummaging through his fridge now. His cleaning lady definitely did much more for him than the standard arrangement. She took out and brought back all his dry-cleaning, she did his laundry and she did the bulk of the grocery shopping. Outside of restocking his provisions for mixed drinks or the occasional loaf of bread, Brian didn't do supermarkets. He pushed aside a bottle of orange juice and reached for a deli packet of turkey and some cheese. He'd just pick at these while he drove over to Muncherland. Lindsay was sure to feed him properly when he got there.

"Look who it is sweetheart." Lindsay cooed at the sleepy baby.

"Come here kid." Brian reached out to take Gus as soon as he cleared the doorway. "Did you miss your old man or what?"

"I'd say he did." Lindsay was smiling as she closed the door and followed her two men into the living room. Brian had plopped himself in the middle of the sofa and was jiggling the baby on his knee. Lindsay sat down next to them and reached over to give Brian a big wet kiss on the cheek.

"What was that for?" Brian eyed her wearily.

"For not being a shit. For coming to see your son even though it's obvious from just looking at you that you need some sleep."

Brian rolled his tongue against the inside of his cheek and accepted her mixed compliment. He turned to look at his son again. The baby had come to life in his hands and was now bouncing himself on his father's knee.

"He loves it when you do that." Lindsay reached over to brush a wisp of hair out of the baby's eyes.

"Hmmm. So Sonny Boy likes to bounce on men's knees huh?" Brian was smiling and Lindsay could tell where he was going with this. "Its okay if you're gay Gus and I know I'm irresistible but I'm your dad okay." Brian broke into a full laugh as Lindsay punched him in the arm.

"Yeah you're just his Daddy not his Sugar daddy." Lindsay got up and disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes. "Here, you can feed him." She handed him the warm bottle and watched as Brian arranged the baby in his arms. The man was a natural.

"You hungry Gussy Gus?" Brian slipped the bottle into the baby's mouth before he realized what he'd just let Lindsay hear him say.

"Gussy Gus?" Lindsay was brimming with excitement at this revelation. Brian had always softened whenever he was with Gus and she'd often wondered just how soft he got when no one else was around to see them together.

"Yeah, like fussy Gus." Brian tried to downplay the fact that he, Mr. Cool and Aloof, had given his son a cutesy nickname. Lindsay was still smiling. He was clearly busted.

"So how was your trip?" Lindsay decided to spare him further embarrassment.

"It went well. Sonny Boy's college tuition is definitely covered now."

"That's good to hear. So you think your schedule will slow down a little in the next while?"

"It should." Brian had refocused his attention on the baby but he still managed to detect the changed tone in Lindsay's voice. "Why?" He'd turned to eye her face.

"Cause I want you to help me with Gus's party. I don't want you to just come I want you to help make it happen. It's next Saturday and since you won't be so busy next week, you can help get everything ready."

Brian had decided in the car that he would go along with the party idea but he'd also decided that it made for bad precedent if he came across as being excited about the whole prospect. "What do you need?" He said indifferently.

"I want you to get all the supplies and the cake." Lindsay said quickly. She'd assigned Brian his tasks days ago knowing that he would agree to everything.

"All that? What does Muncher Mel have to do?" Brian sniped.

"Never mind about what Mel's doing. This is the part that you're doing so concentrate on that."

"She's not helping, is she?" Brian picked up on the tension in Lindsay's voice instantly.

"Mel's pretty busy right now. Just like you've been for the last little while, so I'll just pick up the slack until it passes."

"You tried that strategy before remember." Brian pointed her back to the last few months.

"It's not like that so stop." Lindsay said sharply. "She's trying and so I'm trying, okay?"

"Okay." Brian continued to look at her. She'd given him a reprieve about Gus' nickname so he would give her a reprieve about Mel. "So supplies and cake huh. I guess I can rustle that up," He was looking at his son again. "By the way, Cynthia will bring Gus's stuff with her when she gets back tomorrow."

"Great thanks a lot. I'm still finalizing the guest list and I want to send the invitations out tomorrow." She pointed at the large carton of pre-printed invitations that sat on the dining room table.

"I thought you said this was going to be small."

"It will be small...relatively small." She could feel Brian's eyes drilling into the side of her head.

"Just make sure your cake can feed at least...fifty." Lindsay drew herself up into a tight ball on her end of the sofa and prepared for Brian's onslaught.

"Fifty fucking people." Brian was loud and he lowered his voice when he felt the baby wince in his arms. "Fifty people for a baby party? You don't have fifty friends."

"Well, I thought we would invite all those people who supported us in trying to bring Gus into the world. It'll be nice Brian, you'll see. I promise it will be quiet and tasteful and I know Gus will have a really good time. He loves having lots of people around." She could see Brian softening and she moved in for the kill. "Plus how often do people get to see him with his gorgeous Daddy, now they'll get to see for certain just how perfect the resemblance is."

He saw through her words instantly but he still knew he'd end up going along with her plans. She'd managed to talk him into having a kid and he figured she'd probably be able to talk him into almost anything else.

"So. Who else have you seen since you've been back?"

"I've been in town for..." Brian turned over his wrist to look at his watch, "...just over seven hours, who do expect me to have seen?" He knew just whom she was referring to but he'd planned to make her work for any information she received.

"Justin. What's happened with Justin?"

"I saw him."

"You went to see Justin?"

"No. He was in my bed when I came home."

"He knew you were coming?" She was leaning in closer now.

"No, he'd just stayed at the loft the night before. It was a coincidence."

"Very few things are coincidences Brian. Anyway, tell me what happened." Lindsay was smiling now and she was anxious to know what Brian had decided to do.

"We fucked. That's what we do, so we fucked."

"That's not all you do." Lindsay was giving him that disapproving look again. "What have you decided since you were here last time?"

"Michael." Brian fixed his gaze on her face. "Michael said some stuff to me before I left and I'm gonna see if I can give him what he wants."

"Brian don't be stupid. You don't just get up and decide to love somebody that way. Either you do or you don't. When it comes to Michael you don't." She watched as Gus started to refuse the bottle and she reached over and took the baby into her arms.

Brian was studying his cuticles. "I've thought about this carefully Lindz. Justin would waste his life if he was with me and Michael has already wasted his life because of me. Justin can go off and do something with himself before it's too late and me and Michael, we'll do what we should have done a long time ago.

"If it's that easy then why do you keep getting drawn back to Justin?" Lindsay was tense but she tried not to show it. She busied her hands by trailing small circles across the baby's back.

"I never said it would be easy but I can make it happen and that's what I'll do." Brian was still studying his cuticles.

"Michael would never be stupid enough to fall for that and you would destroy Justin in the process. This is not the best thing to do. You're not going to make anything better if you do this."

"Michael will believe me. I can be pretty damned believable if I want to be." Brian thought back to his performance with Clifford Forsythe the evening before.

"What about what this will do to Justin?"

"He's strong. He'll deal with it." Brian whispered. He settled his gaze on the box of invitations on the table and tried to get rid of the stinging in his eyes.

"How can you be so fucking horrible to yourself? When are you going to let what I'm saying actually penetrate your thick skull? Justin Taylor is in love with you. Justin would do anything for you. He would do everything for you. You're not going to do him any favors by turning your back on him."

"This isn't going to be pretty Lindz. I've already fucked up Mikey's life but I can do it to a lesser degree in Justin's life if I walk away now." Brian spoke heatedly and Lindsay could see tears in his eyes.

"You're fucking up your own life Brian. You've got to help Michael to deal with this but you've got to grow up too. You have a chance with Justin and you can't throw that away. Don't do this for either of them Brian. Do what you know is best for you because that's the only way you'll be able to live with your decision." Gus burped softly against her ear and she continued to study Brian's profile and the set of his jaw.

"I'll see you guys later." Brian spoke quietly as he pulled himself up from the sofa. "I'll call you and let you know what's going on with the party stuff." His voice trailed off weakly as he left the room and Lindsay listened as the front door closed quietly. She knew she couldn't sit by and let this happen. She'd have to do something.

"So did you guys talk at all?"


"You just had sex?" Daphne passed the cigarette back to Justin.


"Enough with the one word answers Justin. Talk to me. What are you going to do?" Daphne turned around so she could see Justin's profile. They'd been sitting with their backs to each other on opposite sides of a two-sided park bench.

"Nothing. I'll wait until he tells me what's going on with him. I'll wait until he tells me what he's decided." Justin dropped the remains of the cigarette and stubbed it out under his sneaker.

"I think you should go back over there instead of just sitting and moping and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just get it over with." She reached out and touched his shoulder and Justin reached up and took her hand. He was still facing away from her and he thought about what she'd said.

He hadn't seen Brian or heard anything about him in the last three days. Debbie never mentioned Brian and Michael seemed to only come to the house when he was sure that Justin wouldn't be there. Nobody was mentioning Brian's name, not even Lindsay. Justin was sure this was a sign that he didn't want to hear what it was Brian would say to him when they next talked.

"I'll be with you no matter what. I'll help you through it okay." Daphne felt Justin squeeze her hand again and she heard him sniffle. When Justin didn't say anything for a long while, Daphne offered, "So you still coming to my house for dinner later?" She could tell that her friend didn't want to talk about Brian anymore.

"Yeah, I'll come." Justin breathed quietly. "I won't be good company but I'll come."

Debbie stepped into the loft and Brian closed the door behind her. He eyed her suspiciously. Debbie Novotny never paid him a visit at home unless she felt he was in need of a sound beating.

"If this is about Justin just stay out of it." Brian walked over to the desk and flipped on his computer.

"No this isn't about Justin. This is about you."

"If you're here to tell me what a shithead I am don't bother, I've already heard." Brian kept his back to Debbie as he waited for his computer to boot up.

"No this isn't about you being a shithead either. I just wanted to make sure that you know that I love you Brian." The man turned to look at her and Debbie continued. "I think people forget to say that too many times and then other people forget that they're loved."

"What are you talking about? Where's all this coming from?"

"I remember when you were a kid. You were so tough and so cool and nothing ever seemed to faze you. That's when I started to keep my eye on you. Nobody was that tough or that cool unless they were hiding from something. So I watched out for you and I took care of you and I got to know you. You know what I found out?" Debbie had paused but her question was rhetorical. "I found out that you weren't tough and you weren't cool. You were just a little boy who was trying his best to look out for himself." Brian looked away from her and swallowed hard. Debbie continued. "You still are that little boy Brian. You're still trying to be tough so that no one will hurt you."

"Shit. Is this 'Analyze Brian Kinney Week' and I missed all the flyers when I was out of town?" Brian pushed away from his desk and turned to face Debbie again.

"Just listen to me. Jack Kinney was a loser. A bastard who didn't know what to do with his own life so he made a game of fucking with his son's life."

"Shut the fuck up Deb." Brian had gotten very angry very fast.

"No. I'm gonna finish. Once and for all I'm gonna finish this Brian." Debbie eyed the vein that was now throbbing at Brian's temple as she continued to speak. "Joan Kinney was a bitch when I knew her and she still is. One of those high and mighty so called Christian hypocrites who forgot the part that said 'love thy neighbor like you love yourself'. She was never there for you Brian so I stepped in and boy did she hate me for that." Debbie took a breath and swiped at her eyes. "You're not mine Brian but I've tried to do right by you and I feel proud when I see what you've built for yourself. But when I see you hurt people and when I see you hurt yourself I'm so pissed at you and I'm so ashamed because I think that I didn't do enough for you."

Debbie was voice was trembling now and she was starting to cry. Brian had to get away from her. He moved off to escape to his bedroom and she caught his arm quickly and turned him to face her.

"I should have gotten you away from them. I should have taken you myself. I shouldn't have stood by and watched those bruises form all over you and listened to your bullshit stories about accidents at school. I should have taken you myself." Debbie was crying now.

Brian gave her a hard look. "Taken me and done what? Take care of Michael and me by yourself while still sending money to Vic? Taken me away from my perfect looking home with my perfect church going mother and my hard working father? Everything you're saying is shit Deb. Why the fuck are you doing this?"

"Because Michael told me what he did and I can just guess at what Sunshine did. You pushed them both away and I know why."

"Let go of my arm." Brian was pulling away again.

"You've got to let somebody love you Brian. You're not going to be any different than you are now until you do that."

"And just what's wrong with the way I am now?"

"You're all appearances Brian and it's a fucking wonder that you've survived this far. Everything looks perfect on the outside but I know for a fact that it isn't the same on the inside. You can't tell me that you're happy with your life. That you feel content when you wake up in the morning."

"Everybody's life is a fucking mess Deb. Why should mine be any different?"

"Most everyone else tries to change things for themselves Brian. They don't just keep going around in circles and making the same mistakes." Debbie was smearing her makeup as she tried to dry her face in her sleeves. "Brian I don't give a shit who you choose. Just let somebody love you." The woman was pleading with him now and Brian stared back at her with glassy eyes.

"I've made my choices Deb. Just stay out of it." Brian dropped on to the sofa and closed his eyes. He wouldn't let his faade crack in front of Debbie Novotny. If it managed to slip, it would happen when he was alone.

Brian pulled up in front of the building and let the engine idle for a few minutes. He could see that the lights were on upstairs and he steeled himself for what he was about to do. He flipped off his seatbelt and turned off the engine.

Michael turned down the T.V. and got up to answer the knock on the door. Brian just looked at him and Michael finally offered, "You've been back for days and now is when you finally come by?"

"Hello to you too Mikey. Can I come in?" Brian's voice was low.

Michael stood aside in the doorway and Brian moved into the apartment slowly. Michael had been preparing himself for the moment when Brian finally came by and he thought he could handle what would happen. His visit with Lindsay had proved invaluable. Without the heads up from her, Brian would surely have managed to pull his plan off successfully.

"You didn't call me even once while you were away and you didn't call when you came back. I figured you weren't gonna talk to me at all." Michael was trying to make his tone sound matter of fact but he'd truly been hurt by the brush off.

"I'm here now aren't I?" Brian was uncomfortable but he didn't look it. Michael watched as he pulled off his leather jacket and tossed it across the back of the chair next to him. "I just needed some time to process all that you'd said that night."

Michael tore his eyes away from Brian's face and looked around for something to do. "To process what? You told me exactly what you thought right then and there."

"You don't just drop a bombshell like that on somebody Michael." Brian was eyeing him intently.

"It wasn't a bombshell Brian. It wasn't anything that you didn't know before." Now Michael had managed to muster up a steely tone. He picked up his dishes and moved towards the kitchen and out of Brian's reach.

"I want to give it a try Michael."

"What?" The dishes Michael had been holding broke as they crashed against the edge of the sink. Michael didn't even notice that he'd cut his finger in the process.

"I said I want to give it a try." Brian repeated himself slowly.

Michael eyed him warily. "Are you high?" Lindsay had warned him about what Brian would do but hearing the actual words still surprised him.

"Nope and you're bleeding." Brian gestured towards the blood dripping down from Michael's finger.

Michael looked down at his hand in a daze and looked back across the room at Brian. "Please stop fucking with me." Michael whispered these words but Brian heard him. Michael watched as Brian slowly crossed the room and stood in front of him. Everything was moving in slow motion as he watched Brian reach for the roll of paper towels on the counter and turn to swab at the bleeding finger. Michael was mesmerized by the sight of his blood pooling into the sheet of paper and he watched as the spot of blood on the outside of the sheet grew bigger and bigger under Brian's pressure. He could feel Brian's hand against his own palm and he had to look away.

Brian had been staring at Michael's face the entire time. He'd seen the play of emotions across the other man's face and he knew that his plan would work. There was no way on earth that Michael would refuse what he would be offered tonight.

"Thanks. Thanks." Michael jerked his hand out of Brian's grasp and walked back into the living area of the apartment. He could hear Brian following him and he wished hard that Emmett would come back or the telephone would ring. He wished something would happen to give him more time to clear his head.

"Michael I thought about what you said." Brian was speaking very softly now and Michael took note of the fact that the man was calling him by his name. "I think I know why you said it. I've been jerking you around for years but I've always loved you Michael. If you're ready for this now then I'm ready to try." Brian wasn't looking at him anymore. He'd been studying a spot a few feet over Michael's shoulder as he spoke. Brian's voice had taken on a silky tone but his words still sounded scripted.

"What are you talking about?" Michael was looking at him as if he'd sprouted a second head. "I told you because I needed to tell you. I needed to do that for me. I needed to be honest and do something just for me for a change. I'm not gonna lie and say I've never thought about you saying those same things to me but I'm not stupid Brian. I know that's not you and that's not how you feel right now...but I just wanted you to know."

"Don't back down now Mikey." Brian moved in to stand across from Michael again.

"Brian what game are you playing? Because none of this is funny."

"No games."

"You're doing this because of Justin. Justin is pushing you and you're running and hiding. What? You figure you can push him away with me?"

"This has nothing to do with him."

"The fuck it doesn't. I know you a little bit better than you think. Nothing I said to you is new information for you. The only thing that changed is that I actually opened my mouth and told you with words. You wouldn't be saying any of this shit now if you weren't running from Justin."

"Michael..." Brian was moving closer to him again.

"Please don't come any closer to me."

"Why Michael? You afraid of what'll happen?"

"I've never wanted this Brian. I've never wanted to be one of your tricks, I've never wanted a fuck when you were half out of your mind and I've never wanted to feel like I was the lesser of two evils for you." Michael was moving further away from Brian again. "You should go home and figure out what you really want to do with yourself."

"No. I've thought about it and I'm staying here."

"You're making this worse than it already is Brian. Just please go home."

Brian reached forward and pulled Michael towards him. He cupped Michael's face in his hands and looked at him. Michael had been surprising him tonight but he still had a few tricks of his own up his sleeves. He locked his eyes on Michael's and leaned in slowly. He had to hold Michael's head tightly to keep him from pulling away and Brian kept kissing him as he waited for Michael to relent. Michael was still fighting and Brian hissed and pulled away when the other man bit into his bottom lip.

"What the fuck did you do that for?" Brian could taste the blood in his mouth as he sucked at his swelling lip.

Michael had turned away from him and was wringing his hands. "Just please go Brian. You don't want this and I don't want this." Michael thought, 'I don't want it to be like this. I want you to want me for real.' "I just want my best friend back. I don't want anything else from you and you don't owe me anything else. You can let yourself out." Michael walked into his bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Brian moved through the following days without feeling much of anything. Justin had called him at work the following Tuesday and asked to meet at the loft that night. Brian knew what was coming and he agreed on the meeting. There wasn't any point in delaying the inevitable any more. Michael had surprised him but Brian was still sure that he had no intention of further complicating Justin's life.

"You have no fucking clue what my life is like." Brian had been staring in silence at the floor in front of his chair for the last ten minutes. He raised his glass and finished off his drink. Every personal conversation that he'd had over the last week had left him feeling bruised and Brian had made sure to start drinking early so as to numb the effects of this conversation with Justin.

Justin didn't speak. He held his spot across from Brian and kept his eyes on the other man's face.

"You think you want me but you don't. You want the fuck, you want the excitement and you want the fucking fairy tale. You don't want me." Brian raised his eyes to look at Justin's face and continued. "Every one I've ever come across in my life has thought they knew me; my parents, all the people when I was a kid, my fucking friends, my boss, everyone. Everyone thinks they know me but they don't know shit about me. If all those people can get it so wrong what fucking chance does anyone else have?"

Justin knew that he was the 'anyone else' Brian had just referred to. He watched as Brian lit another cigarette. "I want you Brian. I want you." Justin's tone was flat and unwavering.

"Fuck you. You don't know shit?" Brian got up from his spot on the sofa and crossed to the kitchen. Justin watched as he poured himself another third of liquor.

Justin let his eyes drop to his lap and he eyed the angry bruise that was starting to form on his right arm. "I know you could hurt me if you wanted." Justin saw Brian wince as he heard the words. "You could make me want to leave you. You could make me hate you. I'm strong Brian but I'm also pretty realistic. I know I'm not strong enough to stay around for everything you could possibly do to me." Justin's eyes had been sweeping over the bruise again. "But I've seen a lot already Brian and I still want you."

Brian turned to face him. "I did that to you Justin. I did that. I was angry and I hurt you and I did it on purpose. You strong enough to put up with that?"

"No." Justin said decisively. "But I know you'll never do it again."

"And how do you know that?" Brian's tone was cool almost cold.

"Because I saw the look on your face when you did it and I know why you did it. It hurt you more than it hurt me and it scared you more than it scared me. You can't even stand the thought of me bleeding Brian. You're not Jack Kinney and no matter what he did to you he couldn't make you into him."

"I told you never to talk about him. You don't know shit about Jack?"

"Very little about the details but I know about the effect."

"Don't you fucking analyze me Justin. I've taken psychology too remember. My daddy treated me like shit so I won't let myself love anyone right? Isn't that what all that bullshit says?" Brian's voice was dripping with sarcasm as he remembered what Debbie had said to him.

"It's true." Justin whispered. "I know scaring me was your intended effect; yet another attempt to make me leave and never come back. It didn't work and I know it hurt you so I know you'll never let yourself do that to me again."

"You presume me to have a lot of self control." Brian whispered over the top of his glass. He'd returned to his perch in the chair across from Justin.

"Everything about you is control. There is next to nothing that you do by chance. Every move and every word has a calculated motive and when in that rare situation that you don't know what's gonna happen, you'll only go through with something if you're willing to just roll the dice. You're pushing me away because you've decided you can't want this. It doesn't fit into your grand design and it would mean throwing caution to the wind, which you're not willing to do when it comes to us."

"There is no us."

"The fuck there isn't. I know you love me Brian. That's not the problem here. The problem is that you don't trust me enough." Justin's voice was a low whisper. "You trust me with most of your life, most of your secrets and you trust me with your son but you don't trust me with your feelings. I feel like I want to apologize to you for the things that have happened to you because I think somebody should. I know everything you've seen and every relationship you've had has made you feel the way that you do today. I thank God for Debbie and Michael because if they weren't there all those years I don't know what would have happened to you." Justin pushed back the tears that were starting to burn at the corners of his eyes. "All I want is a chance to show you something better, to show you that people don't just lie to each other and call it love. I want to show you that it can be real. Somebody can love every good thing about you and every bad thing too and they don't stop loving you just because you've done bad things."

"Your logic is fucked Justin. You want the fairy tale but you just said if I hurt you like that again you wouldn't come back. Why wouldn't you come back if like you said you could love every bad thing about me?"

"Like I said Brian you'll never do that to me again. I couldn't be with you like that and you wouldn't respect me if I could bring myself to accept that. But I would always love you."

"Tricking? You could love me even though I brought tricks home to our bed?" The sarcasm was back and Brian offered Justin a sneer.

"I've never asked for you to be monogamous. I know why you trick Brian and it has nothing to do with us. What you do with them couldn't be any farther away from what you do with me." Justin searched Brian's face for a few moments. "It wouldn't change how I felt about you."

Brian dropped his head and scrubbed his face in his palms. "You don't know shit about me Justin."

"Then tell me." Justin kept his eyes on Brian and this time he let the man see him wipe away his tears.

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me why you think I can't love you." Justin kept his eyes on Brian's face.

"Because I'm an asshole. Is that clear enough. You would be wasting all your fucking time if you stuck around me." Brian was eyeing every spot in the loft around him but Justin's face.

"Let me decide that Brian. Tell me." Justin continued to stare at Brian's face.

"I don't love anybody besides me." Brian huffed quickly.

"That's not true." Justin replied flatly. "You love everybody Brian. You love Gus, you love Michael, Lindsay, you love them all. The only person that you don't love is you."

"Thank you Sigmund."

"Stop it Brian. Please. Nothing I say is going to change anything that's happened to you. But I know what I see. You're one of the kindest and most loving people I've ever met. You keep yourself pretty guarded and that's why you've got all these prickles in your personality. But once somebody gets past the prickles, once you let them in...you try Brian. You do everything you can for them and even if it doesn't come out right the first time, you keep trying." Justin sniffled and Brian focused on his face again.


Please don't say no. I know you love me. Just please Brian, take a chance. I know everything in your head is telling you that saying no to me is for the best. Things wouldn't be complicated, you could go back to the life that you could handle and I'd disappear." Justin dropped his eyes and wiped at his tears. He could feel his chest tightening now. "I know it wouldn't be best for me. I think about how much you've changed my life since I met you. I think about where I'd be right now if I hadn't gone to Liberty that night. I'd known about myself since forever but I'd never be out right now if it wasn't for you."

Brian huffed bitterly, "Yeah, out of the kindness of my heart I outed you to your entire school when I dropped you off that morning."

Justin continued as though Brian hadn't said anything. "I remember that you asked me where I was headed that night. My exact words to you were 'no place special'. You told me that you could change that and you have. Without you I'd probably be the closeted little queer on his way to Dartmouth and a bright shiny future in business management."

"Don't give me so much credit Justin." Brian said dismissively.

"But I do. You're very strong Brian and you've given me a lot of strength. I want to give some back to you. Please don't say no. Just jump Brian. Just take a chance. Please."

Brian was scrubbing his face in his palms again. Justin watched him for a long while and he watched as Brian got up and walked to his bedroom. Brian climbed the steps on wobbly legs and closed the bathroom door behind him. Justin listened as Brian wretched and threw up.

There were balloons everywhere. The decorations were garish and it spoke of the fact that Brian's tasteful decorating ideas had been shot down by the majority vote. Debbie had been put in charge of the balloons and like everything else the woman did the final result was over the top. Brian could feel a headache starting. Not only were the colors too much, but the music and the company was starting to prove unbearable.

Lindsay had invited everyone and the 'little' get together had turned into a gathering of every dyke in Pittsburgh and seemingly every person who knew Gus even existed. Brian eyed Jennifer Taylor from behind a clown face curtain that had been strung across the doorway between the dining and living rooms at Muncher Villa. Jennifer was sipping punch and making small talk with a very large woman. He'd seen the guest list before and he'd known she would be there. Brian remembered Lindsay's not so funny joke that Jennifer was practically his mother-in-law so he had every reason to feel uncomfortable around her. He pried his attention away from the two women and turned his eyes towards the sound of Debbie's raucous laughter. Debbie was holding Gus above her head and making airplane noises. Gus seemed to be having a ball. Brian wanted a cigarette and he wanted desperately to leave.

"Having fun Daddy?" Lindsay came up behind him and gave him a squeeze.

"I'm going out of my fucking mind Mommy." Brian said dryly. He raised the can and took another sip of his soda. He'd poured half the contents down the sink and replaced it with vodka and Lindsay could smell the combination.

"Give me this. You're not getting drunk at your son's party."

"Gus is having a blast." Brian turned to look at Debbie again. "He won't notice and plus I need to get happy if I'm going to be able to stand listening to that children's choir singing 'It's a Small World" for the fiftieth time today." Brian was referring to the tape that had been playing in the background since he'd arrived two hours ago. It kept looping back over the same songs every twenty minutes or so.

"Gus loves this music. It's his party so we do what Gus likes."

"Fine. Now give me back my happy juice." Brian reached out to snatch the can from Lindsay's fingers before moving through the curtain and rejoining the crowd. He glanced over to Debbie again and quickly averted his eyes when he saw her looking back at him. He took a seat in the corner and looked around himself some more. He recognized a lot of the faces but he didn't know half of their names. It seemed like everyone was there. Brian watched as Emmett, Ted and Michael moved through the groups of people making small talk. Emmett seemed to know everyone in the room and Ted actually seemed happy. Michael had come over to talk to him few times and Brian had made several failed attempts to apologize to the man. Saying that he was sorry just didn't come easily to Brian. Like always, Michael had decided to forgive him. He'd have to figure out a way to fix things but Brian was pretty sure they'd be okay.

Brian turned his attention away from his friends and searched for Justin. He'd heard him in the kitchen earlier but now Justin seemed to have disappeared.

"You should go upstairs." Mel was standing next to him.

"Can you appear and disappear at will because I swear you weren't standing there a second ago." Brian chugged the last of his drink and stifled a burp.

"You didn't notice me because you're on your way to becoming piss drunk. It's fucking four o'clock Brian. Go lie down and don't embarrass yourself."

"Aw shucks Mel. Don't tell me you're concerned for the upkeep of my good reputation." Brian answered her sarcastically. "Besides I'm not drunk."

"If not to lie down, then you should still go upstairs and talk to him." Melanie had folded her arms and was eyeing Brian like he was a stubborn toddler.

"Talk to who?" Brian was crushing the can in his fist now.

"Oh no one. Just the person you've been looking for since you got here but keep dodging when you think he's coming into the room. Justin. He's holed up upstairs."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Brian got to his feet and moved through the crowded room again. Justin had been there when he'd arrived but he'd only laid eyes on him once. Just like with Michael, Brian knew there was something that he desperately wanted to say but he just couldn't get it out. Instead of going up to Justin and talking to him Brian had bolted for the nearest cover.

Debbie released Gus to the care of one of Melanie's relatives and she cut Brian off as he moved through the pantry and into the kitchen.

"Sunshine's upstairs if you care?"

"I heard." Brian located one of his cigarettes and stepped out the backdoor. Debbie followed him.

"Do you even remember what else happened today?" She talked to Brian's back.

"Yeah I do." Brian lit the cigarette and took a deep drag.

"So are you going to say anything to him because he's sure that you're avoiding him?"

"I am avoiding him. I think." Brian said that last part very quietly.

"I heard what you did with Michael. I don't approve and I'm glad he was smart enough to send you home."

"I thought you wanted me to let someone love me." Brian offered sarcastically.

"Someone you love not someone you feel obligated to. If you loved my son for real I'd be fucking planning the wedding. Only you don't, so it wouldn't have been right. Like I said I'm glad he saw through it."

Brian sighed heavily; his mind wasn't on Michael right now. "Do me a favor Deb. I'm leaving as soon as we do the cake. I gave Gus his presents already. I want you to tell him something for me. Ask him something for me." Brian turned to face her as he puffed out a breath of smoke. "Ask him to come to the loft later."

"Ask him yourself." Debbie had known they would eventually get back to talking about Justin.

"No. He'll just say yes without thinking about it. I want to give him a chance to think about what I'm offering."

"What are you offering Brian?"

"I don't know. I guess I'll use the time to figure that out too." Brian took a deep drag and turned away from Debbie again.

Debbie turned her head in the direction of the kitchen door as she heard Lindsay's voice. "It's time for the cake Brian. We finally got all the candles lit so we've got to do it fast."

Brian stubbed out his cigarette and went back inside. All the while he was trying desperately to avoid seeing the sympathetic glances that Debbie was throwing his way.

The cake, if that's what it could be called, was difficult to move and difficult to balance. It took four people to lift the large tray and move it from the kitchen through the crowded entry way and on to the dining room table. Brian listened from the periphery as everyone complimented the spectacle. He'd watched as Justin made his way to a spot on the other side of the room to look on as well. For his son's cake Brian had selected an assortment of brightly decorated cupcakes. The cupcakes had been stacked in seven tiers from a wide base at the bottom to a single cupcake on the top. Almost every one had a lit sparkler in it and Gus was thoroughly enjoying the sight as the candles on his cake shimmered and popped in front of him. Lindsay handed the baby to Brian and took Melanie's hand before she began to describe the significance of the cake.

"This cake was Brian's idea and we think he's made a really good choice. There is a cupcake here for every single person in this room. You are all special to us and you've given us so much of your support and love in bringing Gus into this world. Our baby is a whole year old today and it still doesn't seem real to us because we feel so unbelievably blessed." Lindsay took a breath and wiped at the corners of her eyes before continuing.

"You're doing great so far Hon." Debbie offered her some moral support. Debbie had been admiring the little family in front of her and she'd snapped a picture. There they were, Lindsay and Melanie holding hands and Brian standing next to them holding his son. Debbie thought Gus was pretty lucky.

Lindsay smiled, "We have so many hopes and dreams for our son's life and we'll do our best to make them come true. But we know we can't do it alone. It takes a village to raise a child and we want your help. Gus is just a baby and he can't make a wish this birthday so we want you all to do it for him. When you guys blow out the candles we want you to make a wish for Gus' future. It doesn't have to be anything big. In fact it should be something that you know that you can personally help him with. Wish him to be able to ride a bike before he's four. Wish him to learn a new word every day. Wish him to hear a joke everyday. Anything you want. Just make a promise to yourself that you'll stay in our son's life and help him to grow up to be someone wonderful."

Lindsay was crying now and Melanie squeezed her hand before finishing the sentiment. "Gus will give you a wish in return. Make a wish for him and then make a wish just for yourself. Something that you want for your own lives."

Debbie chimed in again. "That's the most beautiful thing I think I've ever heard." She focused her attention on Brian again. "This was your idea Brian?"

The man just rolled his eyes at her surprise and those in the know laughed in unison. "The candles are burning out so can we just get this show on the road?" Brian said with a smile. Gus was still bouncing happily in his arms and Brian looked in Justin's direction and met the other man's eyes.

The room was quiet for a little while as everyone thought of their promised contributions to Gus' life. Lindsay broke the silence, "Alright everyone. We'll do this on the count of three. Don't forget to make a wish for yourselves too. Okay. One...Two...Three. Everyone leaned in and added a breath to the collective effort.

At around ten o'clock Brian turned out all the lights in the loft and went to bed. Justin had had the last few hours to think about what he wanted to do and Brian was sure that Justin had made his choice. Brian's thoughts flashed on the weeks after the attack and all the good reasons that Jennifer Taylor had given him for why Justin would be better off without him. The woman had been calm and she'd offered Brian indisputable reason after reason. Brian had agreed with every one of those reasons right up until the point that he looked at Justin's eyes at the party earlier. Now he didn't think he agreed with her anymore. He was a shit but he was no where near his full shitty potential when Justin was around. He thought about everything he'd ever done to Justin and he thought the good stuff actually out measured the bad. He'd made his wish for his son and then he'd made his own wish for himself. Brian hoped it still had a chance of coming true.

He'd dozed off at some point and according to the digital display on the stand by his bed it was now just after two o'clock in the morning. Justin hadn't come. Brian turned on to his side and flipped on the light above his bed.

"I know what you wished for."

Justin's voice startled him and he turned around quickly. "When did you get here?"

"A few hours ago. I buzzed and then used my key to come in. You were asleep." Justin had been sitting at the corner of the bed the entire time. 'You never sleep through the night so I figured you'd wake up eventually."

Brian sat up in the bed and focused his eyes on Justin's face. "Did you mean what you said?" Brian was speaking very quietly now and Justin watched him carefully.

"I meant everything I said Brian and how I feel isn't going to go away." Justin was moving in closer now and Brian kept his focus on Justin's face. "I love you Brian. I always have and I always will."

They were inches apart now but Brian still hadn't made any move to touch him. Justin watched the last of the struggle play across Brian's features and he reached out and let his hand close over Brian's covered thigh. "Just jump Brian. I promise I'll catch you."

"What should I say?" Brian sounded unsure.

"Whatever you want." Justin was breathing against Brian's cheek now and he felt Brian's arms close around him. He could feel Brian breathing against his ear and he whispered again. "Just jump Brian. Take a chance."

Brian swallowed hard. "I love you." He'd finally said it.

Justin woke up just after light the next day. Every part of him ached in that delicious way that Justin recognized as happening to him whenever he'd been thoroughly explored by Brian's body. Justin traced a hand across his bottom and touched himself lightly. He could still feel Brian inside him. It was like he was still there.

The loft seemed warm and every part of his body was flushed. He wasn't hot or uncomfortable. He just had a sense of being conscious of the heat from his own body and from Brian's body next to him. The man was asleep on his side and Justin let his eyes sweep across the broad expanse of Brian's back. It was beautiful. Everything about Brian's body was beautiful but Justin found most of those parts he wanted to stare at for hours in this side of Brian. He let his eyes skim across the slow slope from Brian's shoulder and he followed Brian's arm until it disappeared around the other side of the man's body. From his arm, Justin's eyes found the side of Brian's torso and followed it down to the valley of muscles above the man's hips. This was one of Justin's favorite parts of Brian's body and one of the reasons he didn't mind when Brian slept on his side facing away from him. This slope from Brian's side curved up into the man's hips and automatically led Justin's eyes to man's beautiful bottom. Justin smiled when he thought of what Brian would say if he knew how many times Justin woke up and stared at his body this way. Justin figured it would be something snide or witty. After all the man had legitimate reason to believe that most anyone who walked behind him was checking out his ass.

Justin rolled closer. He wanted so much to reach out and touch Brian but he didn't dare. Brian slept very lightly and any slight touch would wake him up. Justin moved closer and watched some more, his eyes skimming across skin that looked so smooth and so soft. Brian had small faint freckles across his shoulders and Justin thought back to how many mornings he'd woken Brian up by kissing across those freckles. Tearing his eyes away from that temptation, Justin watched the muscles in Brian's back contract and relax with his quiet breathing. He found the man's spine and traced out that slow gentle slope again. Justin's eyes switched between the curve of Brian's spine and slope of the man's side and hips. He wanted so badly to reach out and touch him. Brian shifted just then and Justin froze. The man straightened out one of his legs and leaned back against Justin's body before settling down to his quiet breathing once again. Justin let out the breath he was holding and relaxed his body against Brian.

'Yes,' Justin thought. Now he was touching Brian's body and he hadn't woken the man up in the process of doing it.

Justin settled his head into the back of Brian's neck and took a deep breath. He'd long ago discovered that Brian Kinney was the best thing he had ever smelled in his entire life. Now Justin was fighting a battle to not stick his tongue out and lick at Brian's neck. After last night's activities Brian had to be tired and it was still too early to wake him up. He'd have to endure the torture of lying still with his body pressed against Brian's gorgeous back and beautiful ass while drowning in the awesome smell of Brian's warm skin.

'Some torture,' Justin smiled again.

There was no movement in the loft for the next several minutes and then Brian started to shift again. Justin could feel him moving his hips and he tried to look down to see what Brian was doing. He could feel what Brian was doing. Brian was rubbing back against Justin's cock and where Justin was semi-hard before, he thickened immediately. Brian was asleep and Justin was sure that if Brian felt the hardness it would wake him up. Like kissing at the freckles, he'd managed to wake Brian up this way as well on many occasions. Justin lifted his hips and slowly tried to move his body away. After a few minutes Brian's body followed him and resumed the contact. Justin grinned quietly. Brian's breathing still hadn't changed and he was still sure the man was asleep. What would Brian think to find out he'd been rubbing all across Justin's hard cock in his sleep? After a few minutes of that rubbing Justin stopped all his grinning and realized that he needed to concentrate on not letting himself rub back against Brian's ass.

Brian leaned more of his weight back against Justin and Justin struggled to free his face from behind the man's neck. He couldn't breathe in this position. He thought Brian realized what was happening to him because the man moved his head forward on the pillow he and Justin had been sharing, giving Justin some room to breathe. Justin couldn't tell whether the movement was just coincidental and he searched for more evidence of whether Brian was awake. When Brian didn't move at all for a little while, Justin relaxed against him once again. Justin froze in place a few minutes later when he felt Brian's arm reach back and felt Brian's hand close around one of his ass cheeks.

"Brian, you awake?" Justin whispered tentatively. Nothing. There was no response for a few seconds and Brian stopped his movements. Justin let his head dip back into Brian's neck and closed his eyes. He should have realized the man was still asleep. Brian never did anything like this with him when he was awake; the only way he'd do this was in the safety of his sleep.

"Yeah." Brian's word was spoken so softly that Justin swore he'd just heard the sound of his ear rubbing across the pillow beneath him. Then he felt Brian squeeze his ass again and he was sure that Brian was awake.

Justin remained silent. Brian made one last rotation of his hips against Justin's length before leaning his weight forward and moving away from Justin's body.

"I'm sorry," Justin mouthed.

"For what?" Brian was facing away from Justin and he spoke quietly against the pillow.

"For waking you up."

"You didn't wake me up Justin." Brian breathed this last bit even more quietly than his previous words.

Justin was confused. Brian started to shift again and Justin's confusion increased ten-fold when he felt Brian reach back again and pull him against his back. Brian was rolling over and he meant for Justin to come with him. Somewhere between feeling Brian's hand on his ass again and realizing he was lying on top of Brian's back, Justin's heart missed several beats before finally settling into its rhythm again. After a few minutes in this position Justin matched his own breathing to the swell and fall of Brian's body beneath his and he lay quietly waiting for Brian's next movement.

Brian lay with his body pressed into the mattress under Justin's weight. His head was turned to the side and Justin could finally see his face. Brian's eyes were closed and he had rolled his lips into his mouth. The man was rotating his hips again and Justin gasped. Justin's eyes focused on Brian's lips and he watched as Brian slowly bit at the lower one. Brian was rubbing himself against the sheets beneath him and he was rubbing himself against Justin's body above him. Justin was hard and his cock was caught between his belly and the taut muscles of Brian's ass. Justin bit his lip hard. Brian was barely moving beneath him but even these slight movements were driving Justin's senses wild.

"Justin." Justin felt the word vibrate through his own body. He'd let his head fall against Brian's back and he felt the tremors as the word escaped Brian's diaphragm and up his throat.

"Yeah," Justin breathed.

"Do you know that thing you do to my back?" Brian whispered his words into the pillow.

"Uh huh." In that moment Justin was sure he'd lost the ability to form actual words.

"Do it."

Justin had discovered this little trick very early in their sexual play. He thought it was one of the most sensual and most intimate things he did with Brian because he was sure that no one else ever did this to Brian's body. Brian had slept with countless numbers of men but Justin was sure that none of them ever touched Brian this way. It was off the beaten path. An endless stream of men had sucked Brian's tits and sucked his cock and maybe even rimmed him but Justin didn't think any of them took the time to tend to this most erotic part of Brian's anatomy. It was the kind of thing that only a lover would know that Brian liked and only a lover would take the time to do.

Justin raised his head off Brian's back and slid himself up the man's body so he could reach the back of Brian's neck. Justin kissed him there and Brian sighed beneath him. Justin kissed him again, this time more lightly than he'd kissed him before. He let his lips brush back and forth over the skin at Brian's hairline before turning his head so that his cheek could skim across the places he'd kissed. Brian sighed again and raised his hips against Justin's body. Justin rested all of his weight against Brian's back before bringing his hands up to either side of Brian's shoulders and transferring the weight of his upper body to his own arms. He kissed at the knot of muscles at the base of Brian's neck before slowly guiding his tongue across the smooth planes of Brian's shoulders. Justin bathed the freckles that had been teasing him earlier and he listened as Brian moaned beneath him, still moving his body against the sheets. Kissing down the center of the man's back, Justin lapped at and bit at each ridge of Brian's spine. He traced over the swell of muscles licking and biting the skin as he went. He slid his body lower and lower and repeated his movements until his face was in the valley of Brian's lower back. Brian raised himself into Justin's touch again and Justin let his right hand slip under the man's body and find his cock. Brian turned his face into the pillow and bit down into the fabric when he felt Justin's fist close around him.

Justin looked up just then and he saw the wet ribbons his tongue had traced across Brian's back. Each ribbon would be cooling now and Justin knew this was the part Brian liked best. The man flexed the muscles of his back as if trying to roll his skin under the wet streaks.

"Justin," Brian breathed against the pillow again, "Go lower."

He understood what Brian wanted him to do. He kissed across the man's lower back before dragging his tongue lower and skimming across his tailbone. What Justin did next, he did very slowly. Moving his hand out from under Brian's body, Justin pulled himself up on to his knees and cupped Brian's cheeks in both hands. He let his fingers sink into the skin and then he moved the two globes apart. Brian could feel Justin's breath against him first and then he felt his tongue.

Brian had done this to him hundreds of times before and Justin had the technique down pat. He'd even had the opportunity to display what he'd learned to Brian a few times before. Brian didn't ask for the back thing unless he wanted to be rimmed as well. Justin found his rhythm easily and stiffened his tongue to float against the tightly drawn skin. Brian was moving against his face now and Justin reached up to hold on to his hips. He followed Brian's movements and increased his pressure as Brian pushed back against his tongue. The man was sweating now and Justin flattened his tongue in Brian's crack and drank up all the fluid. Justin traced out the hole with his tongue and pulled at the skin with his lips. He let his right hand slip back under Brian's body again. Justin felt the heat of Brian's body and he closed his fingers around the swollen head feeling Brian's sweat and dots of cum wet his hand. Brian was pumping into his fist now and Justin could hear his breathing changing. The sound was raspy and heavy and Justin looked up again to find that Brian was gripping the sheets on either side of his body. He let his eyes focus on the cords of veins and muscles that stood out on Brian's forearms as he held the sheets in tight bunches.

Justin raised his head and breathed against Brian's opening. The skin was reddened and Justin was hypnotized as he watched Brian's hole spasm and felt the man working into his fist. He licked across the skin again, his tongue inching ever deeper into Brian's body.

"Ahhhhhhh," Brian moaned into Justin's touch. He was arching his back now and as he relaxed Justin pushed in further. Brian reached under himself and met Justin's hand on his cock. Cupping Justin's hand in his own, Brian stroked his length in time with the movements of the tongue in his ass.

Justin kissed and licked and lapped at Brian's hole, all the while pumping his own cock against the backs of Brian's legs. Brian was calling out his name now and this drove Justin to pump his own cock harder, deepen his strokes into Brian's anus and to tighten his grip on Brian's length. The tempo of their movements was maddening and Justin congratulated himself. They'd done this only four times before over the last year and each time Justin had shot his load within seconds of getting near Brian's ass.

"I don't want to cum like this." Brian was looking over his shoulder at him now and Justin forced himself to meet the gaze. The man had moved his hand away from Justin's hand on his cock and was fisting the sheets in both hands again.

Justin's lips felt very heavy when he tried to talk, "What do you want me to do?" He'd stopped sucking at Brian but he was still pumping the man's cock in his hand.

Brian opened his mouth to answer and Justin felt Brian's entire body spasm and contract beneath him. As soon as the small wave had finished rocking him, Brian reached under his body again to still Justin's hand on his cock. He opened his eyes slowly and focused on Justin's face before pulling Justin's hand away from his cock and using it to pull the teen up his body. Brian was pushing his body into Justin's cock again and Justin bit down on the inside of his cheeks to keep from screaming out; he was so close.

"I can't...I can't. Not like this," Justin gasped against Brian's shoulder. "I won't last, I'm too close." Justin's head was spinning. He'd topped before but never with Brian. The last thing he wanted to do with this his first chance was cum before he'd even gotten inside.

"Breathe Justin...just breathe." Brian's closed his eyes and tightened his fingers around Justin's hand. He listened as Justin fought to slow down his breathing. "Justin."

"Huh." He couldn't believe what was happening. He hadn't planned on this happening. He'd just woken up content to bide his time staring at Brian's naked body until the man rolled over and fucked him.

"I want you to do this." He could still feel Justin hard against his ass and he wanted it even more than before. "Don't you want it?"

"Yes, but I don't wanna disappoint you." The words rushed out of Justin in one breath.

Brian shifted his weight under the Justin's body and the teen transferred the weight of his upper body to his own forearms once again. Justin could see what he was doing. Brian was reaching under the pillow now and Justin knew what would come next.

"You won't," Brian whispered as he handed the small tube over his shoulder.

Justin took the tube and arranged his body so that he was straddling the backs of Brian's thighs. Brian let his face fall back against the pillows when he heard the cap of the tube flip open and he swallowed hard when he felt Justin run one hand from the base of his neck down to the swell of his ass. Justin needed to take things slow if he was going to be able to slow himself down so Brian needed to be patient.

Justin was kissing his back and Brian arched into the touch. Brian bit into the pillow again as he felt Justin's fingers skimming against his sides and felt the tickle of Justin's hair as he ran his face down Brian's back. Justin's fingers were spreading him apart again and Brian opened his legs to give him access. Justin could feel the strength of the muscles in Brian's thighs as the man shifted his legs under their combined weight. He was kneeling between Brian's legs now. He held Brian's cheeks open with his left hand while he rolled the clear gel around in his right hand. When Justin thought it was warmed enough, he let the tips of slick fingers skim lightly across the hole; it spasmed under his touch.

"Do it, Justin." Justin tore his focus away from the winking hole to look at Brian's face. He could see three-quarters of Brian's profile from the way the man had buried his face in the pillow beneath him. Justin bit into his bottom lip again when he let one of his fingers slip inside. There was no possible way he was going to last if he put his dick where his finger was now.

Brian was pushing back against his hand now and Justin could feel the most intense pressure against his finger. Brian was tight and Justin was transfixed by the sight. He slipped another finger into Brian's body and moaned deeply when he felt Brian's muscles crush around him again.

"Brian," Justin whispered as he began to spread his fingers and push back against Brian's pressure. He scissored his fingers slowly and Brian moaned beneath him again.

"Now Justin." Brian's voice startled Justin out of his trance and he reached over to bowl beside the bed and retrieved a condom.

"If I touch myself to put this on I'm gonna cum." Justin spoke slowly.

"No you won't. I showed you how to stop yourself remember."

Justin remembered the rather painful last resort method of delaying an orgasm that Brian had shown him some time before. It had hurt like hell and it was definitely only to be used when there was no other way to avoid cumming. Deciding that counting slats in the roof would be useless in this situation and impossible from this position, Justin gritted his teeth and did what he remembered.

He was still breathing hard but some of the urgency was gone. Brian was arching his back under Justin's touch again and Justin watched as Brian moved his pillow from under his head and slipped it under his hips. Just watching Brian's movements had caused that sense of urgency to start creeping across his balls again and Justin tore into the condom and rolled it down his length with clumsy fingers.

Justin lowered his body against Brian's back and licked at his skin. Brian's body was hot to the touch now and this amplified the scent Justin had been drinking off his skin earlier. He let his face brush over Brian's shoulder and Brian turned his face to look at him. Justin had planted his elbows on either side of Brian's back and his arms lay along side Brian's arms. Brian reached out to him first. The man closed his hands around the sheets near to Justin's hands and Justin shifted to thread his fingers between the spaces of Brian's fingers. Brian was still looking at him. Justin squeezed Brian's fingers in his grip and lowered his pelvis into position. Brian rocked back against him and Justin buried his face in Brian's back.

"Just push," Brian's voice rumbled through his body and vibrated against Justin's ear. "Push hard."

Justin could feel the small contractions against the tip of his cock and he pushed into them. He swooned and his jaw slackened against Brian's back. The man was arching up into Justin's weight again and Justin kept up his pressure against the small hole. He could hear Brian's choked breathing and he could feel as Brian's fingers dug into the sheets more tightly. Justin kept pushing. He raised his head off Brian's back to look down the length of the man's body at the place where they were to be joined. Something was wrong. He could see the depression that his pressure was causing around the skin of Brian's hole but he couldn't push through the tight ring.

"Briaaannn..." Justin was gasping for air again, "...Let me in."

Brian shifted beneath him again and pushed himself back into Justin's length. That's when it happened. All the pressure Justin had felt against his fingers moments before closed in around his cock and Justin was sure that he could see the white light and hear angels singing. This had to be heaven because nothing on earth could feel this good.

Brian's skin was burning now and Justin wanted nothing more than to be incinerated where he lay. He could feel his own pulse throbbing through every inch of his body and he could feel Brian's pulse throbbing around him. He breathed deeply and he could smell their combined sweat in the air. He licked across Brian's spine again and the man thrust himself against the pillow beneath them.

"Fuck me Justin." Brian could feel every vein of Justin's cock and every rib in the condom as they pressed into the confines of his channel. Brian flexed the muscles in his ass and squeezed Justin tighter. Justin's body jerked against him and Brian thought Justin might actually have passed out. "Do it," Brian breathed.

Justin raised his weight on to his elbows and then on to his hands giving himself the leverage to withdraw slowly. Brian's muscles contracted around him again and Justin went momentarily blind. Easing himself out so that just the tip of his cock remained, Justin took a deep breath before pushing in again to rest his balls against the skin of Brian's ass. Brian exhaled sharply. Justin pulled out again before slowly pushing back into that glove. He now realized that it wasn't just Brian's tongue that felt like velvet. Justin's movements were smooth and steady and Brian rocked back into each stroke. Brian wanted more. He moved his hand out from under Justin's fingers and reached under their bodies to find his cock. Justin followed him and cupped his fingers over Brian's fist. Brian had softened a little bit but his cock grew harder and harder inside the grip of the two hands. Stroke for stroke, Brian matched the rhythm Justin set inside him and stroke for stroke, Justin's hand followed Brian's movements on his cock.

Brian turned his head so that just his forehead rested against the pillow. He'd propped his body up on one elbow and now he could see his and Justin's hands around his cock. Brian pushed back into Justin and cried out when Justin met his stroke and pushed back into him. They were both breathing hard now and Brian felt prickles of sweat breaking out all across his skin. He could feel Justin kissing at his back and the combined sensations blew through his mind.

'It hasn't felt like this before,' was the only complex thought Brian's brain could process as he felt Justin's body slamming into him. He'd fucked and been fucked thousands of times before but it had never felt like this. No matter how many times Justin had asked for this he'd always refused him. Not because he had any particular aversion to being fucked but because letting Justin do that to him wouldn't be like the others. He'd let the others fuck him simply because he was in the mood for feeling a cock up his ass. There was no other reason than the fact that he had an itch every now and then and he'd wanted it scratched. This time with Justin it wasn't just about scratching an itch. A part of Brian had known for a while now that he wanted to do this with Justin.

Justin didn't know when it started to happen. He only knew that he felt as if every fiber of his being was being sucked through the base of his spine, down through his balls, up through the length of his cock and out through his slit. He felt the spasms rock through Brian's back and he felt it when his hand was drenched under Brian's body. He'd heard Brian call his name twice and Justin had heard his own lips answer Brian's call as he repeated the man's name over and over. These sounds were the last things Justin heard for some time. He passed out.

When he came to his first thoughts were of how soft everything around him felt. He was lying on his back against the bed and he could feel...No he wasn't laying against the bed, he'd been lying against Brian's body. Justin had been lying on his side and leaning back into Brian's body and as he shifted, Brian slowly opened his eyes.

"I thought I'd killed again." Brian said slowly. Justin could tell he was half asleep.

"You've killed before?" Justin was smiling.

"Uh huh. Quite a few times actually." Brian's voice was still breathy and drowsy.

"Well you can kill me any time you want." Justin reached up and stroked his hand across the side of Brian's face. Brian closed his eyes again. He was smiling. "Did I hurt you?" Justin whispered his question as if he was unsure he even wanted to hear Brian's review of his performance.


"I did?" Justin turned over on to his stomach now so that he could look at Brian's face. He wanted to know if the man was joking. Justin had suddenly wanted to hear Brian describe in detail every sensation he'd felt. "Tell me what it was like for you?"

"Not now. I need you to go back to sleep for a little bit Justin."

"Please Brian, I wanna talk about this." Justin pleaded for Brian to stay awake. They had so much to talk about and Justin had a feeling that if he and Brian didn't talk now it would be a long time before they ever did, if it ever happened at all.

Brian wasn't trying to avoid the questions. He was legitimately tired and wanted nothing more than to sleep the sleep of exhaustion and satisfaction that one sometimes only experienced after great sex. He opened his eyes one last time and fixed Justin with his greenish gray stare before whispering into the other man's hair, "Please go to sleep Justin." Brian pulled Justin against his body and folded his arms around Justin's back before closing his eyes again. Justin lay against him and continued to search Brian's face for some time. A stream of sunlight had floated in through the window above them bathing Brian's hair and shoulder in light. Justin listened as Brian's breathing slowed and watched as the muscles in Brian's face slowly relaxed. The man did look truly peaceful. When Justin was sure that Brian was too far gone to wake up if he touched him, he reached out and ran the back of his hand across Brian's cheek. Brian didn't move and Justin did it again.

"I love you Brian, more than anything else in my life. I'll spend every minute you let me have showing you that I'm telling the truth." Justin buried his face in Brian's chest closed his eyes.

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