Brian sunk his final ball in the corner pocket, then stood and grabbed his glass, swallowing its contents in one shot. He was finally, after three hours of booze and drugs, feeling no pain and was ready for a little fun of a more energetic sort.
Stepping away from the table, he eyed his opponent. Moving in closer to the well-built brunet, he said, "Let's go," but was rebuffed.
"One more game," the brunet said.
"I'm ready to go now. Are you coming or not?" Christ, whatever happened to easy, uncomplicated fucks. If he'd wanted to put this much work into getting laid, he'd have talked Justin into finishing his little school project tomorrow instead of tonight.
The brunet leaned back against the table and said, "I thought we could make things a little more interesting this time."
"The only thing I'm interested in is fucking," Brian said with finality.
Deciding that he was wasting his time, Brian turned to walk away, but was stopped when the brunet said, "I can get you the Organic Delights account."
Brian turned, drug-hazed mind trying to focus on what he'd just heard. "What?"
"You heard me."
"How the hell could you get me the Organic Delights account?"
"I'm one of the owners."
Brian stared at the man through narrowed eyes. Was it possible? The guy was around Brian's age, a little young to co-own one of the bigger chain stores in the area. But how else would he know that Brian's firm was vying for Organic Delights' advertising dollars?
He'd put a lot of effort into forgetting about work tonight. Being a full partner in an advertising agency had been harder than he'd thought, and he'd thought it would be a nightmare. Now, it was Friday night and he had planned on forgetting a thing called "work" existed.
But work did exist and if he was going to keep his job then he needed to add new clients. "What exactly did you have in mind?"
"One last game. If you win, then Vangard is Organic Delights' new advertising agency. If I win, then I get to spend the night with that walking wet dream you were with earlier."
"Walking wet...Justin? You want me to wager Justin? Do I look like fucking Woody Harrelson?"
The brunet shrugged. "It's up to you. If you don't think you can win..."
"I don't need to win at pool to get that account."
"Maybe not, but it would certainly make things a lot easier, wouldn't it? Tell you what, if you're worried about Justin, nothing happens that he doesn't want. All I'm asking for is dinner, a little dancing, nothing illegal."
Brian tilted his head and contemplated the situation. He'd played three games with this guy and hadn't lost one yet. Unless the man was a hustler, there wasn't much chance of him losing. And, even if he did, it was just dinner. Justin needed to eat. What the hell did it matter if he did it with this guy?
"Alright, you're on."
The grating buzz of his alarm pulled him into the land of the living long before he was ready. With a groan, he rolled over and onto his feet. He was in the middle of peeing out the copious amounts of liquor he'd imbibed the night before when he realized that it was Saturday. He shook off and flushed, cursing violently, and headed back to bed.
He crawled back under the covers and closed his blurry eyes. He must've had one hell of a time last night. He hadn't been too stoned to remember what he'd done since the night Gus was born. At least this time he wasn't waking up with a love-struck teenager.
Although, he wouldn't have minded waking up with a hot, horny twink. He hated it when Justin pulled an all-nighter at PIFA. But, then again, he hated paint splatter on his hardwood floors even more.
Absently mulling over what he could remember of the night before, Brian started to drift off. Seconds later he sat bolt upright, "Fuck!" He remembered. "Son-of-a-fucking-bitch." He remembered exactly what he'd done the night before.
That bastard had hustled him.
And there wasn't even anything that he could do to get even. He couldn't afford to piss off a man that powerful. Not if he wanted to stay in business.
And now he had to get Justin to go to dinner with the guy. Tonight.
He climbed out of bed again and headed for the fridge. He needed a drink, but he'd settle for water because he was going to need a clear head to deal with Justin.
He took a swig from the bottle he'd pulled from the fridge and tried to remember what Justin was doing today. Brian was pretty sure Justin had a shift at the diner this morning and he'd said something about visiting his mom and sister later.
He checked the clock and decided that he had time to get dressed and head over to the diner for breakfast. He'd tell Justin about his plans for the night then.
Justin finished pouring a refill for the transvestite at the counter and turned to slide the coffee pot back onto its burner. He looked up at the sound of the bell over the front door and flashed a bright smile at the man walking in. "Brian, I thought you weren't coming today."
"Changed my mind," Brian said and slid onto an empty stool.
Justin retrieved the coffee pot and flipped the mug in front of Brian so he could fill it. When he was done, he put the pot on its burner again and returned to Brian. He rested his elbows on the counter, still smiling, and said, "Morning," in his brightest, cheeriest voice.
"Could you tone down the perkiness? It's too early in the fucking morning."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"I had this unbearable craving for burnt, hours-old coffee. It wouldn't let me sleep, so I got dressed and came right here."
"You know, all you had to do was say that you missed me. It would have taken a lot less creativity and fewer words, too," Justin said.
"If I'd missed you, then I would have said so."
"Right." Justin rolled his eyes. Like, he believed that one. Brian would rather chew glass than come out and say that he felt anything for anyone.
"I did want to talk to you, though," Brian said after taking a sip of coffee.
Justin arched an eyebrow. "Really?"
"If you've got plans for tonight, cancel them."
"Why would I do that?" he asked, a little annoyed. He wasn't at Brian's beck and call, not anymore, and he didn't appreciate being ordered around.
"Because you're having dinner at Le Fleuron."
Justin whistled. "That's the most expensive restaurant in Pittsburgh. What's the occasion?"
"You'll find out when you get there," Brian said. He stood, dropped a few bills on the counter and said, "Be there at nine sharp, in the bar. And remember to dress appropriately. No jeans and make sure you wear a tie."
Justin moved out of his slouch. "I didn't say that I would be there at all," he said when Brian started to walk away.
Brian stopped walking and turned to glare at him. Justin gave in with a sigh. His only plans had involved hanging out with Brian, anyway. "Fine. I'll be there."
"Good," Brian said and walked out.
Justin stayed where he was for a moment wondering what Brian was up to, because it sounded an awful lot like he'd just been asked out on a date. Well, not asked, exactly. But, still...
Reality setting in, he couldn't keep a joyful smile from forming. He was going on a date with Brian.
He couldn't wait to tell Daphne; she'd die.
Justin tugged nervously at his suit jacket and straightened his tie. He felt like he was back in his school uniform, which at any other time could be considered kinky fun, and was, in fact, wearing the tie (it was the only one he owned). He looked up at the building across the street and took a deep breath. Brian was waiting inside.
He felt the goofy grin that had been present for most of the day re-forming and quickly suppressed it. He didn't want to come off like some silly school boy. He needed to be calm and mature about this whole thing or it might be the last date he ever had with Brian.
Finally feeling composed, he crossed the street and allowed the doorman to get the door for him. At least this wasn't his first experience with haute cuisine. His family hadn't exactly been the Rockefellers, but they'd been well off. So, Le Fleuron wasn't completely outside his experience. It just wasn't his kind of setting.
He preferred the diner, really -- a laid back place where you could be yourself. Le Fleuron was uppity and proper. Le Fleuron still required a jacket and tie. But Le Fleuron was where Brian wanted to go on this date and, like they said, beggars can't be choosers.
He smoothed a hand over his tie and looked around for Brian. Not spotting him, Justin settled down at the bar to wait.
The bartender came and went, leaving a beer in his wake, without any sign of Brian. Justin checked his watch and saw that it was just past nine. It wasn't like Brian to be late; he was usually early. Although, three minutes past nine wasn't really late. Still...
He shook his head and took a sip of beer. He was acting ridiculous. Brian wasn't going to stand him up and even if he was, Justin needed to wait longer than three minutes before worrying about it.
"Justin Taylor," he heard breathed into his ear and nearly jumped out of his skin.
A strong hand closed over his own to catch his beer before it could drop onto the floor and he looked up into dark green eyes.
He took a deep breath to calm his nerves and smiled apologetically. Ever since the bashing he'd been extra sensitive to sudden approaches. "Sorry. I..."
"No need for you to apologize; it was my fault, after all. I'm the one who should be doing the apologizing. Forgive me?" the handsome stranger asked with a smile.
"Um, sure," Justin said. He checked out the man in front of him and liked what he saw. If it was any other night, he might...
That train of thought abruptly derailed when it registered that this guy had known his name.
"Have we met?" he asked.
"Not formally." The stranger sat down and offered his hand. "My name's Darren Welch. I'm your date for tonight."
Justin froze, hand in mid-reach, and he could actually feel the blood draining from his face. He pulled his hand back and, after a moment, said, "My date," in a clipped, precise tone.
Green eyes looked him over and then Darren said, "You had no idea, did you?"
Justin laughed. Fucked over by Brian once again, he thought to himself.
"Maybe you should explain," he said to his "date".
Darren looked away, catching the bartender's attention. Justin waited quietly while Darren ordered a scotch and took a swallow. "I've been wanting a chance to spend time with you since I first spotted you at Babylon a few weeks ago."
Justin examined the man in front of him; if they'd encountered each other at Babylon he might remember the face. His artist's eye and love of portraiture meant that he had a pretty good memory for faces, but there wasn't anything familiar about this guy.
"I don't remember meeting you."
"You didn't. You were with Brian Kinney. It was obvious that I wasn't going to get anywhere near you, what with the way he was hanging all over you."
Justin grinned, amused by the idea of Brian's reaction to hearing someone describe him as "hanging all over" Justin. It wouldn't even come close to making amends for this little set-up, though.
"So, how exactly did we wind up here?" Justin asked.
Darren finished off his drink and fiddled with the glass.
"Shit," Justin said under his breath, wishing he'd ordered something stronger than beer. I'm going to hate this.
He listened while Darren explained who he was, co-owner of Organic Delights, one of the biggest organic food markets in the region. They'd recently opened two new stores and were looking for a better firm to handle their advertising. Brian had been trying to land the account.
He didn't interrupt while Darren explained about running into Brian at Woody's.
He didn't speak when Darren told him, sheepishly, about the bet they'd made. But he was thinking plenty.
Brian had known exactly what he was doing when he'd talked to Justin this morning. Being careful to imply that he would be here tonight without ever actually saying he would. And while Justin had said that he understood what Brian wanted from him and he was comfortable with that, this wasn't part of the deal.
He could accept the tricking. He could accept the emotional distance Brian needed. What he couldn't accept was having his feelings for Brian used against him. He thought they'd gotten beyond all this bullshit when Brian asked him to move back in.
He didn't know if he could forgive Brian this. He wasn't a whore, and if anyone should know that it would be Brian. After all, he'd been right there during Justin's time as a dancer at Babylon. Brian had seen what that had done to him.
"So, what, I fuck you and Brian gets the account?"
Darren winced. "No." He turned to face Justin.
Eyes intent and voice firm, he said, "I would never do something like that. Whatever happens between us tonight has nothing to do with whether Kinney gets the account or not."
Justin figured the odds were good that Darren was being honest -- that nothing that happened between them tonight would have any effect on Brian's business dealings with this man. He wasn't sure that he cared. Or maybe he had hoped it would have an effect, so he could walk out right now and make Brian suffer the way he was suffering.
Justin's hand clenched around his beer bottle. "Ya think?" Of course he was fucking upset. The man he was in love with had traded him away for the chance to land a prominent account and then hadn't had the guts to tell him. He couldn't ever remember being this enraged at Brian.
"You're leaving then?"
Justin stood, planning to do exactly that, but changed his mind. His lips parted in a feral smile. "After Brian went to so much trouble to get me here? Besides, I'm hungry." He swept his arm out towards the dining area. "After you," he said.
Darren gave him a wary look and then stood. Justin could have eased his mind, if he'd wanted to. He wasn't particularly happy with Darren, but the one that really needed to worry was Brian.
Angry, hurt and totally fed up with Brain's bullshit, Justin allowed the door to hit the end of its track with a loud thump. The second he walked through the door he could hear and see that Brian was busy fucking another one of his endless tricks. (Justin was beginning to wonder how he managed to keep his "no repeats" rule when he fucked two of three different guys a night. There couldn't possibly be that many hot gay men in the country, let alone the city of Pittsburgh.)
Justin stalked into the bedroom, keeping his eyes averted from the sight of Brian driving deep and hard into the tight ass of a handsome man with black hair and dark eyes.
Doing his best to ignore Brian and Tall, Dark, and Well-hung, he pulled an overnight bag out of the closet, but he could still hear the grunts of rutting men and the slap of wet flesh against wet flesh.
He realized he'd finally been noticed when all sound abruptly ceased as he carried the bag over to the closest bureau. "What the fuck?" He heard the trick ask. "Who's he?"
"Oh, don't mind me," Justin said as he stuffed a couple shirts into his bag. "I'll be out of your way soon enough."
He headed into the bathroom and collected his toiletries. When he returned to the bedroom, he ignored Brian's glare and continued packing.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
"Christ, must you always be such a drama queen?"
Justin couldn't help himself; he had to turn and look at Brian. "Even you can't possibly be that dense."
Brian pulled out of the trick's ass. Shoving the man away from him, he said, "Get out."
"Are you kidding me?" the trick asked Brian, ass still hanging in the air.
"There's no point in stopping on my account," Justin said. He finished filling his bag, zipped it shut and stood up. "I'm on my way out."
He headed for the still open door, but was stopped by Brian stepping in front of him. Justin debated whether to stay and fight it out or to walk out, but he could tell by the look in Brian's eyes that there was going to be a fight no matter what he tried to do.
He crossed his arms in front of his chest and waited for the trick to leave. Once he was gone, with a few choice comments that would have made any foul-mouthed sailor proud, Brian grabbed a bottle of Beam off the counter and filled the empty glass sitting beside it.
After taking a swallow, Brian waved an arm and said, "Let's have it. Tell me all about what an asshole I am."
Glass halfway to his mouth, Brian stopped and looked at Justin, "What?"
"I'm sick to fucking death of this. You treat me like shit, I get hurt, you treat me like shit for getting hurt, do something nice to make it up to me -- without ever admitting or acknowledging that you did anything wrong, I let it go, and then we start all over again."
"If it's such hell then you know where the door is."
"Yeah, I do. Only, stupid, silly faggot that I am, I love you. I kept thinking that you'd realize that you could trust me. I kept thinking that it would get better. But you won't and it's not."
Justin shook his head. "Your parents really fucked you up," he said, anger fading and giving way to pain.
"Spare me the psychoanalysis, Sunshine. You knew exactly what you were getting when you started this, so don't come crying to me now because I haven't bent to your will and turned into some lezzie."
"You're right. I did know what to expect. I guess I just didn't realize that only dykes and breeders can give a shit about someone other than themselves.
"You whored me out tonight for the sake of a business deal. I can't just shake that off. Not when I know that you'll never even admit that you fucked me over, let alone apologize for it. So, I'm leaving. Unless you want to tell me you're sorry and that you'll try to recognize that I'm not some mindless, lifeless possession."
Brian laughed. "Don't hold your breath."
Justin shook his head. "Yeah, that's what I thought."
He started for the door again and this time Brian didn't stop him. He stepped out into the hall and slid the door closed, face turned away so Brian couldn't see the tears in his eyes and so he wouldn't have to see disgust, or worse, on Brian's face.
Brian slammed his hand down on the alarm's off button, shutting off the annoying sound, and lay back down. He'd forgotten to shut the damn thing off, again, and now his head was pounding, again.
He curled up slightly, memories from the night before flooding his mind. He'd done his best to drink himself into oblivion after Justin left, and he'd succeeded. Unfortunately, the effects weren't permanent, because he could still remember, with perfect clarity, the look on Justin's face right before he'd walked out the door.
He'd never meant to hurt Justin, but the kid just couldn't seem to get it through his head that they weren't a couple of breeders living Happily Ever After. They were fags. Fags didn't make promises or commitments. Fags fucked whoever they wanted whenever they wanted.
Hell, Justin should be thanking him for setting the kid up with Darren. They guy was fucking hot.
Instead he got all girly about the whole thing. Well, fuck him. If he couldn't take it, then he was better off finding himself someplace else to live and someone else to fuck. Brian had better things to do than pacifying some whiny twink.
Realizing that he wasn't going to be getting any more sleep, he climbed out of bed and headed for the shower, alone. He sighed and told himself that he wasn't missing the blond who'd made an art form out of interactive showering.
By Monday morning, Brian was convinced that Justin would get over his latest snit soon enough and come back. He might even be there waiting when Brian got home that night.
He occupied himself on the drive to work by picturing the coming night. Justin would probably act like nothing had happened, pretend that he hadn't flounced out of the loft in a huff a couple nights before. Brian, on the other hand, thought maybe he would push the issue a bit. It was time that Justin grew up. He couldn't keep throwing tantrums whenever he didn't get his way. This was probably the perfect time to teach Justin a little lesson because he was getting tired of the guilt trips Justin was always trying to send him on.
His reunion with Justin was on his mind, off and on, throughout the day. He was almost looking forward to it. In fact, the pleasure of winning again was satisfying enough that he didn't really need to hear Justin admit defeat.
He would be magnanimous, he finally decided on the way home that night. Justin would know who'd come out on top in this little skirmish and it was the same one who always topped. He grinned to himself as he approached the loft, but schooled his features into a more severe expression before opening the door.
Finding the place empty left him feeling liked he'd just been punched in the gut. He'd been so sure...
He looked around, at a loss, because Justin always came back. It was a universal constant. Only, now, he seemed to have slipped into an alternate universe where Justin didn't come crawling back.
He didn't like this universe at all.
One week, three days, and sixteen hours after Justin abandoned him, Brian sat on a barstool at Woody's and downed shot after shot of JD. Once he was good and plastered, he'd take a few hits of whatever Anita had sold him and then head to Babylon. It was his new routine -- one he'd begun one week, one day, and nineteen hours ago.
After finding the loft empty of Justin and most of Justin's stuff (and just plain empty without Justin), Brain had headed straight here to drown his sorr...to resume his life.
If Justin wasn't interested in Brian Kinney, warts and all, then fuck him. He snorted and smirked before sucking down another shot. Looked like it wasn't "love" after all.
He'd gotten to Woody's a little early tonight. Seemed ol' Vance thought he "needed to take some time off" because he was "working too hard". Just because he'd smashed a set of boards and reamed out the worthless piece of shit that had been responsible for the crap drawn on them. Was it his fault the man was incompetent?
He'd admit that he'd been a little hard on Cynthia over the past few days. He regretted that; she was one hell of an assistant.
He'd have to try to get her to reconsider her resignation. But it would have to be tomorrow, he was busy right now.
He reached for his next shot, but was stopped by a hand closing over his forearm. He tried to shake the hand off, but his coordination wasn't what it should be. He frowned and carefully turned his head so he could see who the hand belonged to.
He scowled at the interloper. "What the fuck do you want, Mikey?"
"To talk to you."
"That's too bad, 'cause I don' wanna talk to you."
"Shit, Brian," Michael said as he sat down next to Brian. "It's not even five and you're already plastered."
Brian made a wavery toast. "Not yet, but 'm workin' on it," he said and swallowed the booze.
"You can't keep doing this."
Instantly enraged, Brian turned on his friend. "I can do whatever the hell I want. Nobody runs my life, but me. You got that?"
Michael narrowed his eyes. "You're only partially right. Nobody runs you're life, not even you. You're a train wreck waiting to happen."
"Well then, stick around and enjoy the show."
"You know, I used to think that you were the strongest person I knew. You put yourself through school, got a great job, could have any man you wanted with just a look... But that's all just so much bullshit. The truth is you're a pathetic basket-case, too afraid of getting hurt to let yourself live."
Michael stood up and leaned in close to Brian's ear. "I never thought I'd say this, but that little shit loves you. If you'd given him a chance, you could have been really happy."
He pulled away and Brian grabbed him this time. Too drunk to think clearly, he found himself saying something he barely let himself feel. "I don't deserve him."
Michael, who had tensed up when Brian latched onto him, relaxed. "That's where you're wrong. You deserve to be happy. More than almost anyone else I know."
He leaned in and pressed a kiss to the top of Brian's head. "Sober up, clean up, and then go find him and make up. It's what you both deserve." He gave Brian's shoulder one last caress, a final good-bye to what might have been, and then walked away.
Brian sat there for a long time, staring after him, too unsettled (and drunk) to function. Eventually, he turned back to the bar and stared sightlessly down at the handful of empty shot glasses in front of him.
Michael was right. He was a pathetic basket-case; he was afraid of getting hurt. But he had every reason to be. How many times had he been beaten and screamed at when all he'd wanted was to be loved? When had he ever reached out and not gotten kicked in the teeth?
Except, that wasn't fair. Mikey had always been there for him and so had Debbie. The two of them loved him. He could trust them. But what about Justin? It was so much more intense with Justin, and had been from the moment he'd first laid eyes on the beautiful blond. No one had ever made him feel as good as Justin did. No one had ever made him feel as ravaged as Justin did.
He shuddered as memories of blood and terror filled his mind. He could still hear the bat striking flesh and bone; still see Justin covered in tubes and wires, barely clinging to life.
He'd almost lost Justin that night.
And he was going to lose Justin now, if he didn't do something. He signaled the bartender and when he came Brian ordered coffee, and lots of it. Maybe it was time to break a few long held rules.
Breaking his rules turned out to be harder than he thought, not because he couldn't bring himself to pursue Justin, but because Justin had made himself scarce. He'd finally resorted to begging Justin's work schedule out of Deb. She'd given in only after subjecting him to a lengthy lecture about the proper care and feeding of pretty blond twinks and ensuring that he intended to do right by Justin this time.
It was now Monday afternoon, day one of his suspension, and he was standing outside the diner watching Justin work and waiting for Justin's shift to end, so they could talk in private. He'd initially thought about making a public declaration, but he wasn't sure that Justin would actually appreciate it. He might feel manipulated.
And the last thing Brian wanted was to expose himself to half the queers on Liberty Ave. He'd do a hell of a lot for Justin, but that was asking too much. For right now, anyway. Maybe in another thirty of forty years...
He shifted his weight and looked at his watch for the hundredth time. Time seemed to be crawling by at a snail's pace. He shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned back against his jeep's fender.
He watched Justin head into the back of the diner, stripping out of his apron as he went, and knew that the time was nearly here. He took a deep breath, stood up straight, and walked over to the diner's front door to greet Justin when he came out.
To say Justin was shocked at his presence would be a serious understatement. The boy gasped out loud, flushed bright red, and then stood there for several heartbeats looking like he'd just seen a ghost.
"What...I...Shouldn't you be at work?"
Brian shrugged. "I'm taking a few days off."
Justin's eyes narrowed. "You never take time off."
"It wasn't exactly voluntary, but I'm hoping to put it to good use."
Justin softened instantly and moved closer to Brian. "What happened?" he asked, then stiffened back up and started to step away. "I shouldn't have..."
Brian put a hand on Justin's shoulder to halt his backward movement. "Yes, you should," Brian said. "I'd been a complete and utter bastard over the past several days. Vance finally had enough and told me to get lost for a couple weeks. I was pissed at the time, but he was right. I was well on my way to self-destructing and I could have taken Vangard with me."
Justin was staring up at him, stunned. Brian grinned crookedly. "Shocking, I know, but...I didn't handle your leaving very well."
"I'm surprised you noticed I was gone."
"I noticed, Sunshine. The loft feels...lonely without you there."
"I'm sure you had plenty of company to fill the place up while I was gone." Justin pulled away. "I should go."
Justin started to step around him, so Brian moved into his path. "Wait. Please. Can we talk?"
Justin eyed him for several of the longest seconds of Brian's life before saying, "Do we have anything to talk about?"
"We do. At least, I have something that I need to say. Will you listen?"
Justin nodded his head and stayed where he was, waiting for Brian to speak. Brian stared deep into Justin's eyes and broke another rule. "I'm sorry," he said.
Justin's mouth dropped open. "What?"
"I'm sorry," he patiently repeated. "I never should have made that bet with Darren Welch. It was thoughtless and tactless and I deserved everything you said to me that night."
"I thought sorry was bullshit," Justin said.
"It is. Normally. Probably even more so now, because sorry doesn't even begin to cover it."
"It doesn't," Justin said and then smiled gently, "but it's a start. It's also more than I expected," he said with a grin.
Brian reached out and stroked the backs of his fingers down Justin's cheek. "But less than you deserve."
Justin leaned into the caress for a moment before sighing and pulling away. "It doesn't really change anything though. I want more from you than you're willing to give and it's making us both miserable."
Brian knew what he should do, and he'd intended to, but his courage deserted him. Settling for something less than the whole truth, but sincere none the less, he said, "I'm willing to give it another try."
"But I'm not; it hurts too much. Good-bye, Brian," Justin said and began to walk away. Brian turned, watching him leave, knowing that he couldn't just let Justin go. So, he did something he'd sworn he'd never do and put into words what he'd been feeling for years, despite all his protests to the contrary.
"I love you," he said, loud enough so Justin could hear him.
Justin froze. He turned around and took a couple steps closer. "What?"
"I love you," Brian said once again.
Justin took a few more steps closer, eyes wide. "Did you say...?"
"I love you," Brian said, trying to let Justin know that he meant those three big words and everything that went along with them. And he must have succeeded because seconds later Justin was wrapped around him, head buried in Brian's chest.
Brian could hear happiness and tears in Justin's voice when he said, "If you think this means you're forgiven, then you're right. But if you ever do anything like this again, then no amount of 'I love you's' will matter. You asshole. And I love you, too."
"I know," Brian said. And he did know, all of it. They were getting another chance.
Hopefully, they wouldn't blow it.
Brian fisted his hands in silky blond hair and gently pulled Justin's head back. He captured Justin's mouth with his own and savored the taste and feel of the warm, wet cavern he'd been missing.
An eternity later the kiss ended and, lips still touching, breathing deep, Justin said, "Let's go home."
Brian nipped at Justin's lower lip and then stroked his thumb over the swollen flesh. "Sounds good," he said.
They reluctantly separated and he took Justin's hand in his, then changed his mind and wrapped his arm over Justin's shoulder, pressing his body close to Justin's as they crossed the street.
They both knew that they hadn't solved or even addressed all their problems. But Justin now knew that Brian was willing to try, to meet him halfway and that made all the difference.
Looked like he could do this "relationship" stuff after all.