CHAPTER TITLE: Because I Know He’s Right
It’s Up to You_Seventy-Eight of One Hundred
RATING: these chapters: PG & PG13ish -@ the very end
WORD COUNT: these chapters: 1,080 & 2,560
WARNINGS: these chapters: some angst _ 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: ‘…and the only thing he could think to do was hide, to crawl down into some deep dark hole somewhere and hide like he was an animal doing something wrong, so he did.’ &
'So Justin told him as if he were reciting a particularly hated poem at school.'
Justin experiences the ending of one way and the beginning of another
Jayden shows Justin how their lives are really being lived
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
Because I Know He’s Right
Six Months Later - Around Six Years - New York
His bosses had him in a part of town, an apparently up-and-coming art enclave, previously unknown to him, having asked him to check out two artists they’d heard some good things about and report back to them. ‘Go and discover’ they’d said and he’d figured ’whatever’ despite clearly understanding that this wasn’t the way Jaen Gallery business was normally conducted. Either both Charles and Maureen had discovered a previously undiscovered respect for his fabulous art instincts or they were just feeling exceedingly lazy and ultimately, was this not what came from working part-time at a small yet prestigious gallery? There was certainly a lot of room to grow and in a multitude of directions and his new growth potential had at least gotten him outside for the afternoon, which was sweet enough. If only Tristan could have come, all would have been perfect; still, the art had been good. One of the guys especially had caught his attention. He’d spent a little time with both of them, had gotten to know a little of their stories and had now only to report back for his day to be done and on a high note, feeling certain his job was secure for at least one more week. Pulling his weight, keeping Brian happy, all important stuff.
Time had come to head back, still, Justin drifted down the tree and store-lined street, not really all that much in a hurry to head straight back. Passing by a little bookstore, he paused for a few minutes to check out the window display realizing so many books…so little time. Sighing, he moved on continuing to scan the storefront windows for something…anything intriguing.
Five years, he’d been with the Jaen Gallery for five years, Tristan and him at the Jaen and they got along well, working the clients together, when the situation called for it, and alone, otherwise. And he was good at it too, good at understanding the work of the gallery’s artists; good at remembering the relevant information that would help a client intelligently choosing their next acquisition and good at both helping to guide the serious collector toward their next best direction, while also helping to guide the novice toward their best beginning direction.
Still scanning, now directing his attention toward the opposite side of the street, he found there an apparently authentic Italian restaurant and a boutique hotel, a very interesting antique store and a handwritten sign announcing the opening of a brand new art supply store. Apparently, the other side of the street merited further investigation, so Justin decided to cross and, checking first for on-coming traffic, he was stopped cold in his tracks.
Because Brian and that guy, that Jayden, were jaywalking from the opposite side of the street and instantly, where he had been warm, now he was cold, shivering even, his skin gone all clammy, his stomach sick, all in a matter of seconds. Still, he couldn‘t stop from watching them as they jogged toward his side of the street their heads bowed laughing together, their hands brought tight together and the only thing he could think to do was hide, to crawl down into some deep dark hole somewhere and hide like he was an animal who had done something wrong.
So, he did. He ducked behind a light pole and watched as they went into the bookstore’s little cafe. He squatted for a minute, still shivering; his back pushed hard against the light pole for support, his eyes tightly shut, his face buried in his hands, just trying to calm himself, just trying not to hyperventilate, just trying not to throw up. When he finally looked up, when he finally scanned across to the other side of street to the only place they could have come from, he found the hotel. They had been there.
He stood, and turned back toward the bookstore café, he knew that he needed to see them; he knew that he had to see them together. Moving low and quick, he took cover to the side of the large plate-glass window fronting the street. He could see them from this position, but he couldn’t be seen. Brian sat with his back to the window; Jayden to Brian’s left side, in profile. They had only ordered coffee, they wouldn’t be long and for his part, Justin wouldn’t let himself think, refused to allow himself to imagine, what they’d been doing and for how long? For how fucking long? Because he didn’t really need to think to know, to realize that they’d been with each other since they’d run into one another at his show, at his fucking show, six months ago. He knew
Finally looking away, forcing himself to look away, he leaned against the wall, his head back, his eyes closed, his fingers clutching and scratching at the brick of the building behind him, defeated, telling himself, “Don’t cry…don’t you fucking cry…you’re twenty-eight years old, for fucks sake…don’t you cry.” And he didn‘t. At least not then.
He heard the door opening, heard the little bell above it ringing and dropping back into the narrow space between the two buildings, not even an alley really, back into the shadows, he watched. They stood together at the curb as Jayden hailed a cab. When it pulled alongside them, he opened the backdoor for Brian, who hesitated before pulling him into his arms for a goodbye kiss, but Jayden pulled away laughing. Brian laughed too, before finally allowing himself to collapse into the backseat. Shutting the cab’s backdoor for him, Jayden waived to him as the cab pulled back into traffic, watching until it had almost disappeared from view.
“Justin, I think we need to talk,” he said, without turning. “Don’t you?” When he did turn, he held out his hand to him and repeated, “Come with me, Justin, please. We need to talk.”
He took Jayden’s hand because he was right, he felt sure his was right because his beautiful day, his beautiful life had all just shattered into a million tiny pieces because of him and so, maybe he was right. He took his hand and he let him lead him away because Jayden had told him that they had needed to talk. And he was right.
It’s Up to You
The Day Goes By - New York
Not knowing what else to do, he took Justin into the café, understanding that for him it must have been like revisiting the scene-of-the-accident. “Get whatever you want.” And Justin did. Four-shot espresso, caramel-laced and cream-topped; undoubtedly having decided that it was the very least he could do. And it probably was. For himself, he chose house coffee black.
Taking his hand, leading him back outside and with Justin just standing quietly beside him, Jayden had a little time to organize his thoughts. He walked them toward a little park he knew of only a couple of blocks away, a quiet place dotted with shaded and comfortable benches, all of which mattered since they’d probably be there awhile.
It’d been like he’d intuitively known not to say anything to Brian when he saw Justin ducking behind that pole, even if every fiber of his being had wanted to go to him. Instead, he’d hurried Brian along; all the while his thoughts had been with Justin, wondering if he did stick around, what then? When he saw him duck by the window, he suddenly and clearly knew just what he had to do; he’d try in some way to connect their two not-so-disparate worlds, if not seamlessly, than at least somewhat together.
Walking together, he held Justin tightly to him, imagining he’d pulling away, but he didn‘t. The man was resigned, as if he’d been down this road so many times, he was used to just rolling with the punches. He’d imagined that he and Brian had finally made their sweet little for-two-only world and now, he knew differently. Halfway to the park, he laced their fingers together though he wasn’t sure why. Just safer? Maybe. Justin looked at him then, as if he were crazy. No matter they were almost there. Arriving, finding a bench sheltered from the sun, for a minute they sat quietly next to each other, regrouping.
“I’ve always liked this place,” Jayden started. “It has a good feel to it like maybe meaningful things have happened here, have become a part of its very atmosphere, y‘know?” Brian would have smirked, Justin didn‘t.
Nodding, Justin said, “This your neighborhood? Did you grow up around here?” He was leaning forward, his hands between his knees, gripping his coffee, rolling the cup a quarter-circle forward, a quarter-circle backward between his palms. Over and over.
“No, not here, but I used to come to this area often to visit a friend --”
“And now you just come here to fuck Brian. Good to know.” Justin half turned to look at him before returning his hurt eyes back to the ground. He said nothing. And when suddenly Justin sat up straight, stretched and then slouched back against the bench, back just a little next to him with the coffee sitting beside him, he still waited, wanting to let Justin take the lead as much as possible, wanting to understand how much he already knew.
“Look, Brian told me about Pittsburgh, y’know? After he ran into you at my show.”
“That was a total accident, I swear to --”
“I know, I know. I just don’t understand how it got to that…oh fuck never mind.” Words that were at first almost a whimper, became nearly a growl. Justin rubbed the heel of his palm hard across his eyes as if trying to push away unwanted images. And for his part, he stared across the park, out through the trees and toward the tall buildings in the distance, wishing he could just fly the fuck away. ‘Have you been seeing him since…since that day?”
“Not since that day, no. Since around two months or so later.” Again, he waited, but Justin didn’t say anything more for way too long and he could actually feel the agitation, the irritation and the just plain pissed-offness building in him, so he broke the silence. “What’d he tell you about Pittsburgh?” Not safe ground, but safe enough.
So Justin told him, as if he were reciting a particularly hated poem in school. “He said that you are an architect, that you met at a dinner party, that the two of you hit it off, that it lasted about eight months and that then, you went away to Seattle and that was that. That you lost touch and that when he saw you at my show, that was the first time he’d seen you since you’d left. How’d I do?”
“Well, you certainly hit on most of the touch points except --”
“Oh, he also told me that you helped with Michael and Ben’s remodel, so I guess that means that everyone in fucking Pittsburgh knew about you…when I didn’t. So sweet. Y’know, when he told me you stayed on for eight months, I should’ve known you weren’t just some fucking trick. We had a deal, a fucking deal, four months tops. You stayed twice as long and really, it only ended because you transferred to Seattle. Otherwise who knows, right, who the fuck knows?”
“Not transferred, relocated. I asked to be relocated.” Sitting with his head bowed, with his hair falling forward as if protecting him, he confessed, “I wanted to leave.”
“Excuse me?” Now Justin leaned toward him as if trying to get inside that protection, as if trying to see his eyes.
“I…I wanted to get away from him, Justin, I needed to get away.”
“And he doesn’t know.”
“He doesn’t know.”
“Why the fuck?” He was incredulous, couldn’t blame him.
“Yes.” Justin was yet to say his name.
“Fuck.” He breathed deep, said, “I fell in love and I knew he’d never leave you, so what was the point, just to torture myself? I finally remembered my self-respect and when I did, I got out. Now do you understand? He’d never be mine and that hasn’t changed. I take what I can live with. Question is, what can you live with?”
“I’ll tell him I don’t want him seeing you. Easy.”
“You could do that and he might go along for awhile, but let’s just take a moment and actually think this thing through” Justin was now sitting diagonally to him, his knee touching his thigh, so slightly, studying his hands, gazing around vaguely lost, he shrugged and he took that as Justin’s way of saying yes.
“Let’s play a little game of compare and contrast.” Ignoring his ‘you’re nuts‘ look again, h he said, “Let us compare say…you with Brian during the past four months and contrast that to say…you with Brian at any given time before the past four months.”
“Why?” Justin said, suddenly itchy, scratching his nose, scratching above his ear; scuffing his shoes in the dirt, he shrugged again.
Obviously there was some serious communication going on here. It’d had occurred to him some time ago that maybe instead of thinking of Justin as an adversary…the enemy…his nemesis, that maybe he should be thinking of him as--
“Hel…lo,” Justin said.
“Fine. About tricks.”
“What” You want me to say the first thing that pops into my mind?”
“You. You are a trick.” Justin said, pushing out a sad little laugh.
“You wound me,” Justin shrugged his indifference. “My point being, how does his tricking now compare to his tricking before four months ago.”
“Before he tricked and now he…doesn’t?” He watched as this realization played out across Justin’s mind, as he grasped what his words meant. “So, what you’re saying is that it’s all because of you that Brian’s not tricking anymore? All…Because…of You?”
Pissed? Why not? Undoubtedly he’d believed that it was all because of him that Brian had given up anonymous sex with nameless strangers and mostly Justin was right. Mostly. “Partly…yes.” But, he’d also had a fairly substantial part to play, and Justin needed to understand that. “Truth? For the past four months Brian hasn’t been tricking, period.”
“Not at all?”
“No, Justin, not at all. He comes to me. Better or worse? That’s for you to decide, but if he were mine, I’d rather he was with you than off fucking who knows who, who knows where, who knows when. Answer me this, do you really believe he’ll ever not trick at least on some level?” Justin didn’t answer, his look said it all. “At least you know I’m safe --”
“You’re not fucking anyone else?”
“Did I say that? I do see other people, just less and less as time goes by, but I am safe, so can we at least agree that, in theory, it’s better that he’s not tricking, except with me.”
“Don‘t know. I…I don‘t know.” Justin said, reluctantly. “Anyway, there’s more, isn’t there, you…you have more you want to tell me, don’t you?” He didn’t want to be swayed, but he was being swayed nonetheless. He didn’t want to agree, but realized he probably would, sooner or later. “You won’t take him --?”
“If I were going to take him from you, I would have. In my own way I tried and in his own way he said not to. Why I left, so, unless you leave him no choice, you‘re golden. Should we continue?”
“Do I have a choice, really?”
“Not really. So now, about your fights --”
“Wait a fucking minute --”
“Stop with the indignation, alright?” Justin was angry, so angry, but he needed to make his position clear. “When you were in Pittsburgh, what would he do when you had a really bad fight?”
“He’d kick me out. Who in the greater Liberty Avenue area doesn‘t know that? So freakin’ humiliating.”
“Because since the loft was his, he thought he had the right to do that?”
“Yeah. He was such an asshole sometimes. He thought that he had the right to make anything that annoyed him go away. Just go away little annoyance, leave me the fuck alone. Instead of dealing, he would just get rid of me.” No longer itchy, Justin sat trembling at his side.
“And after he first came to New York? I can’t imagine all your disagreements vanished.”
“No…no. In fact, for a while things were tense, too many complications, too many changes.”
“He couldn’t just kick you out like in Pittsburgh, right? The place belongs to both of you, so what’d he do?”
Justin didn’t want to tell him, that much was obvious from his prolonged hesitation. He stared off somewhere beyond the trees, eyes glazed, finishing off what must be his now cold coffee, dragging the time out, but eventually he said, “He’d disappear for one, two, even three days sometimes. He’d just be gone. I knew he was alive because I’d call Babylon and they’d tell me they’d seen him, but he never happened to be around when I called. Imagine. Oh, and I always got voicemail when I’d call his cell, busy, busy, busy. I’d leave messages, but he wouldn’t return them. Then he’d simply show up like nothing had happened, like all was just as right as fucking rain. God, I’d be so pissed, but he’d get this glint in his eye like saying ‘you sure you really want to push this, little man? You sure you really want to go there?’ And pathetically I’d usually back off, not always, but usually. So fucking fucking fucking pathetic, Jayden, really.”
Finally, his name. One day he’d get him to smile and all would be right with the world. Meanwhile, “And now?”
“Now? I don’t know. We don’t seem to argue as much and when we do, it’s not as bad. He does still disappear, but usually only for a day at most.” Justin paused; suddenly realizing their reality. “You. He goes to you. And what? You make it all better. You fuck all the bad shit away and then you send him back to me all right as fucking rain?” He was now up, pacing in front of him, the length of the bench and back.
“Something like that except usually it’s the talking not the fucking that --”
“Well Fuck This. This is shit. It’s not because Brian and I are now together for real, working out our own problems, right? It’s all because of you. With…out you we’d still suck at all of this, right? Is that what you’re telling me?” He was as close to tears as he had ever seen him.
“No, that’s not what I’m telling you.” Maybe enough was enough. “Look, let’s do this. I promise you, I’ll stay away from him for the next month and you think about what was said here today. We’ll meet back at the café in four Fridays from today.” Receiving Justin’s very fragile nod, he said, “We’ll talk then, see where we’re at. Maybe?”
“Yeah, yeah… maybe. But really, I don’t know what to think, Jayden. I really don’t.” And for the first time, Justin really looked at him and he felt the stirrings of their coming together. Just maybe they had a chance.
‘Let’s go.” Walking to the street so he could hail Justin a cab, during the wait, he had one last thing that needed to be said. “I know who Brian was before you, Justin, I was a regular club boy believe it or--”
“I believe it,” Justin said. “You’re beautiful enough--”
“Thanks. But point is…I know who he’s becoming because of you. He’s a better man, Justin, because of you. The changes are both dramatic and profound, but I think I’m good for him as well. I think I help him center himself. I have no right to ask this, but please don’t tell him. Wait until we’ve talked again, will you?” The cab was at the curb, it was time for him to go.
“Yeah.” Justin said, hesitating at the cab’s backdoor and, unexpectedly leaning into him, Justin brushed his lips across his cheek, and then climbing in the back seat of the cab, he was gone.
Jayden returned to their bench and when darkness finally came, it would find him still there.
The Brian Kinney Operating Manual - A Life Examined
the chapter titled ‘Justin & Jayden - As to Their Outcome’
As strange as it must sound to many, Justin finds himself actually looking forward to meeting with Jayden in ‘four Fridays’, as he also does the following month and the month after that until they finally decide to meet twice a month. By the time they decide to meet once a week, Justin has found a friend for life.
In warm weather they meet at the park. In cold weather, they meet at the bookstore’s little café, which eventually becomes a home away from home for them both. And even though Justin doesn’t ask him to, Jayden changes the boutique for another little hotel Justin will never know about even though he will pass by it once or twice a month for years.
It takes time, probably more for Justin than for Jayden, but ultimately they will come to realize that they can no longer imagine life without each other. Fortunately, they wouldn’t have to, at least not for a very long time. Until then, they mostly talk, which Brian thinks they both like to do way too much, and every once in awhile, they’ll fuck. And while we can only ever speak for ourselves, that sounds pretty damn sweet to us.
Next Chapter: As his family watches on, Gus starts finding his way
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