CHAPTER TITLE: A Way Completely Unfamiliar_Twenty-Six of One Hundred
RATING: this chapter: PG
WORD COUNT: this chapter: 2,250
WARNINGS: Brian & Justin implied other_Mark, Justin POV
DISCLAIMER: Nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already? Not mine
Originally Beta’ed by herefordroad, all subsequent mistakes are mine
Story throughout contains excerpts from The Brian Kinney Operating Manual including commentary from the Editors
SUMMARY FROM THE EDITORS: I knew then that I was definitely going to throw up It was practically a done deal. “Brian --?”
Brian and Justin continue discussing ever more relevant things as they relate to life
AUTHOR‘S NOTES: This story projects 59 years into the future and reflects all that that entails, many of the loose ends are tied-up. I dance with POV, I dance with time, in essence, I just dance to the song Brian & Justin sang to me.
Contains: Brian_others, Justin_others. They grow old, they are always together for just as long as time allows, but, ultimately, they will die.
As someone wise once said, ‘In the end, it’s all about Brian and Justin’ and I can only agree
A Time From Now
A Way Completely Unfamiliar
Thirty Minutes Later - Pittsburgh
Last time, when he’d surprise-visited for his mom‘s 50th, all had gone well. Brian had been unpredictably happy to see him and for the nearly two days he was in Pittsburgh, was always at his side, even at his mom’s party. And while he clearly understood he was crazy chancing an encore return so soon…whatthehell? At least he knew Brian’d been at the loft half an hour ago. Very sweet of the Center to have generously provided him with an art-related excuse -- needing to discuss their minor changes in person -- for him to come back just four short weeks later.
He was quiet in the backseat of the cab. With eyes unfocused, he allowed the nighttime city lights to blur into colored dapples, reflected in the windows and on the still-wet city streets…broken rainbows…impressionism in dark hues. And soon they arrived. Paying the driver, he left the safe cocoon of the cab for Brian’s alley. He punched in the code and taking the stairs two at a time, he knocked.
And soon enough I realized this wasn’t going to be a repeat of last time, I didn’t know the guy answering Brian’s door or as importantly why the fuck he did knew me.
“You’re Justin,” he asked. “Right?”
“Yeah, I am. Where-the-hell’s Brian?” And he chuckled. Fuck…Er.
“I’m Mark. Come in, I’m glad we finally have a chance to meet. Weren‘t you just on the phone?”
He stood aside for me, sliding the door shut behind me. It was disconcerting being allowed into the loft. It was…wrong.
“Brian’s in the bathroom, figured I should answer. He doesn’t seem to get many people just dropping by, thought it was probably something important like the landlord or…something.”
Figured all that out all by yourself, did you? “Thanks,” I said, walking in like I owned the place, which I didn‘t. Under other more normal circumstances, I’d have found him hot, like Brian kind of…tall, darkish-blond yah-yah, but since he was obviously cooking in Brian’s kitchen and since he knew about me plus things about Brian he shouldn’t‘ve, I was having at great deal of difficulty finding him the least bit attractive. At all.
“Just a minute,” he said, and walking over to the bathroom, he tapped on the door.
“Yeah, Mark?” Brian asked.
“Brian, come out okay? I…well…there was a knock on the door so I answered. I hope I didn’t fuck-up too bad.”
I heard the door slide open, but I still couldn’t see Brian. I was so uncomfortable, standing in the middle of the loft just waiting. I shouldn’t have felt uncomfortable, I still considered the loft my home but I did. Then I saw him put his hand on Mark’s shoulder, telling him it was okay and he walked toward me. Mark stayed there, leaning against the wall, also just waiting. Brian hesitated at the top of the stairs and a panic, sudden and intense, rose up in me, but when he smiled that lazy crooked smile, ducking his head and basically doing that vulnerable thing he did just so well, I was maybe a little better…but not really. I, actually, felt like I was going to throw up.
Mark spoke first, asking, “Should I go?”
“No,” Brian answered, his eyes never leaving mine.
I knew then that I was definitely going to throw up. It was practically a done deal. “Brian --?”
“This isn’t what you think Justin. At least not entirely. It’s alright.” He was coming toward me deliberately like he was dealing with some wild animal that was either going to lunge at his throat or bolt. I hadn’t quite made up my mind which. “Weren’t you just on the phone?”
“Whatthefuck?” I finished my thought. And then he was in front of me, within my personal space.
“Eaten yet? Have dinner with us.”
With us? Have dinner with us? I was shaking and my mind wouldn’t settle enough to find any words I was willing to use in front of the actually pretty hot maker-of-dinners and whothefuckknew what else. Mark must have sensed that I was about to implode and explode, a sun going all nova because he hustled into the kitchen, obviously looking for something.
Apparently for his excuse to bolt because he said, “Shit, I have got to go to the grocery store immediately before dinner’s ruined.”
“Why?” Brian asked, still not taking his eyes from mine. “What do we need so immediately?”
Not expecting an inquisition, Mark hesitated, eyes scanning, before answering, “Sadly, none of your wines will do, Brian. We need red and you only have white.” He paused when passing by Brian and smirked, “Fucker,” into his ear, which so cutely made Brian grin. He also gave me an I-am-so-fucking-sorry smile. At the door while putting on his coat, he said, “I’ll probably be gone at least fifteen minutes.” Then, slamming it shut behind him, he was gone. He was nothing if not considerate.
Kill or bolt? Kill or bolt? I was still debating my options when Brian said,” This shouldn’t have happened, not like…this.”
No shit asshole, still, I asked, “What, Brian. What shouldn’t’ve happened like…this? What is…this?”
“It’s just…this, Justin,” he sighed while lowering his eyes and with a sweep of his hand he indicated that that should be enough of an explanation, but we both knew it wasn‘t. “A minute, okay?” And he wandered into the kitchen like he was checking to make sure everything was alright. He lowered the heat under a saucepan like a degrees to justify the fact that he was so buying time.
He considerately added a third plate to the two already on the dining table and grabbing a couple of beers, meandering back to me, he tentatively putt his hand on the small of my back and he walked me to the living room, to the sofa where we sat. For a few minutes we were quiet. I was anxious about saying anything and he seemed the same. Finally, taking a cigarette from the silver box on the coffee table, he offered one to me, which I took. He mumbled that he was trying to cut back and smiled while lighting up. I took a long deep drag, trying to quiet the shaking inside.
“It’s this way, Justin. I don’t like coming home to an empty loft every night, not anymore. I don’t like waking up alone every morning.” He rubbed between his eyes, the cigarette smoke curling around his fingertips, his face. “I’d gotten used to having you around and then, when you weren’t anymore, I thought I’d just go back to the way I’d been. But I realized that doesn’t work for me anymore. Mark…he comes over a couple of times a week and I guess you might think we’re playing house but to me, it’s just having someone here…when I come home…when I wake up…just once in awhile.”
He stopped, I guess waiting to see what I’d say but I was still trying to process what he’d just said. He’d fucked him more than once. Shit, this guy was no trick. I should’ve known, I guess I did, but I guess I also needed confirmation, which I now had. Fuck…me. He picked up on my not so subtle body language, when my shaking worsened, when I buried my face in my hands, shit like that and he moved closer. Wrapping his arms around me, he pulled me into him and no matter how much it hurt, I let him. I folded into his arms, and big boy that I was, I murmured over and over, “Oh god, Brian, oh my god.”
“Yeah, Justin, I have fucked him a few times, but it’s not like with you and me, it’s not like with us. Mark and I have an understanding; we’re like fuck-buddies, if I understand the concept correctly. And he is my friend, Justin; you do need to understand that. I don’t know if that makes this any easier for you but after all, in a way, it is your fault.”
I pushed away from him then. “What the fuck do you mean my fault?” I was definitely leaning toward kill first; go straight for the jugular, and then bolt.
He leaned back casually on the sofa and explained. “I was fine on my own, not fantastic looking back but okay but now…not really. The boys aren’t around to play with as much for one thing.” And we both reflected for a moment on how all our friends were now sweetly paired-up…weird. “But it’s also because I’ve learned from you. Look Justin, nothing’s changed…not really. I want someone here a couple of nights a week and for now, that’s Mark.” He shrugged and went quiet, waiting for my response.
Now I was leaning toward bolt, somewhere I could sort things out but where? I’d planned on staying here. “Brian, I don’t…I need…I guess I need some time to think because…because --”
“Because you don’t know where this leaves us?”
That would be it so I replied, “Yeah.”
“That’s up to you. I told him about you, how it is with us. I was planning on telling you about him the next time you were in town. We talked Justin, before you left, you said you understood. I can‘t do this their way. I can’t be like Mikey and Ben, so if that‘s what you still --”
“Were you with him when I was here for my mom’s birthday?”
“You mean like what? A month ago?”
“Yeah, I mean like what? A month ago.”
“No need to get bitchy and yeah, I was. I’ve known him for awhile, but we hadn’t fucked or…maybe we had. He’d stayed here by then I think…I don’t know, maybe…maybe we’d fucked. Is that what you‘re asking? We’d gone to dinner a couple of times, I‘m pretty sure. I really don‘t calendar this shit Justin, I don‘t have some little diary or scrapbook somewhere --”
“You’d gone out to dinner?” I sounded childish. “Like a date?” And I didn’t care.
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “A little like a date. We eat, we talk, sometimes we fuck, sometimes we don‘t. But not like with you and me.”
What was there for me to say? I looked at him like I’d never really seen him before. Who was this man? Why was I here? When exactly had I fallen through a crack into some parallel universe? During the flight. This was the kind of shit that always happened during long ocean voyages or nighttime plane flights. Reality twisting in on itself until becoming unrecognizable.
“Stay, alright? I want you to stay. I’ll tell him to leave after dinner if you want. I’d rather not but it’s your call. This can be fine, Justin. Don’t get hung-up again on their conventions. Remember…our way. I’m just trying to get through this…this transition.”
That was when I noticed it; I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t sooner. Okay, maybe a little distracted but still, he was wearing our wedding band on his right hand ring finger. I touched it before looking up into his still so very vulnerable eyes, and I suddenly remembered that he hadn’t been wearing it the last time I was here.
“Ridiculously romantic huh?” he asked.
“Yeah, ridiculously romantic.”
“Really, I wear it to remind myself of when I nearly sold my soul --“
“Asshole,” I laughed. ”Do you…still have mine?”
And he gave me a look like ‘of course’. He walked to the shelf above the credenza, where I now saw the little red box. He returned and he handed it to me. I opened it, remembering clearly the last time I had, my last night in Pittsburgh. I never thought I’d see it again and I never had asked about the rings because I’d been sure he’d returned them. Sold Britin. Returned rings. In that order and I really hadn’t wanted to know. But my beautiful band was here, safe in its red box. He took it out and put it on my right hand ring-finger and I realized he was right. We could do this.
So Mark came back and one -turned out he was a great cook and two -turned out he was an even better fuck and three -turned out he did understand. We had an amazing night together and I was fine with it. Obviously, this was something new I’d need to deal with, but I guess I should’ve felt proud. Apparently, under my influence, Brian had become aware of a need inside himself that he’d felt compelled to deny for a very long time and no longer did. Still, the change…Brian’s newfound need scared me. Not everyone was Mark. The next guy might be someone who wanted to stick around. Shit, he might be someone Brian wanted to stick around.
Justin was settled into the plane seat, his eyes were closed and the laptop was now tucked under the seat in front of him. No work would be done during this flight. This flight would be occupied with thoughts unfamiliar to him, of Brian with others he actually cared about, of a future not quite as clear as it once had been. Justin spent nearly the entire flight trying to make sense of things he really couldn’t because he hadn‘t been given all the relevant information. And he spent nearly the entire flight touching his ring.
Next Chapter: Justin with Jamey, Mychael & Tristan discuss relevant things about Kansas but mostly about Pittsburgh
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