Author's Note:  This story came basically from listening to that old song There's a Pawn Shop On the Corner of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania (lyrics here: http://www.lyricsdepot.com/guy-mitchell/pittsburgh-pennsylvania.html).  I'd been mulling a story based on the song over in my mind for a while,   and then the Gift challenge came along, and it all just seemed meant to go together.   RL got in the way of me finishing it earlier, but here it is at last.

It's set in an AU where Justin and Brian meet while they're in college. 

Hope you enjoy, and Merry Christmas to all.

 

***** 

 

Brian stood once more outside the pawn shop trying to work out whether or not there was any other way to come up with some fast cash short of turning to crime (or turning tricks).

He'd already hocked the silver trophies he'd won for soccer, the fuck-ugly tie pin that had been his share when the family divided up his uncle's stuff the day after the drunken bastard's funeral, and even the bowling ball that his father had given him in a rare moment of generosity for his fourteenth birthday.  The gift had been based on some misguided - or, more likely, drunken - notion of father-son bonding over a weekly game.  That delusion had foundered on the reefs of Brian's total lack of interest and his resolute refusal to share any more time with his father than he absolutely had to, and the bowling ball had sat at the back of the wardrobe until Brian had dragged it out to take to the pawn shop.

He hadn't gotten much for it, but enough to pay the cover charge at Babylon and buy a round or two of drinks.

But now Christmas was coming up, and as well as knowing that Justin was going to want to go out and party on New Year's Eve, Brian wanted to get his well, whatever the fuck Justin was a present.  He suspected no, he knew that Justin would get him one, and he had to be able to reciprocate.  Had to.  Just like he had to be able to pay his own way when they went out.

It wasn't like Justin was some spoilt princess, expecting Brian to pick up the tab all the time.  In fact, he'd probably be perfectly happy to pay for both of them.  But Brian's pride simply couldn't stomach that idea.  It was bad enough that he was having some kind of thing with a preppy young blond.  Having that blond treat him like he was the princess was simply out of the question.

But Brian was finding it financially a challenge.

While they were both in college, Brian was struggling on a scholarship and the small income provided by his internship, while Justin received more than generous financial support, not from his parents (his father seemed to be a first class asshole and not in a good way) but from, apparently, doting grandparents. 

Before he'd met Justin, Brian had been ready, willing and able to find more than enough guys who were happy to buy him a drink or pay for his cover charge in the hopes of wrapping their lips around his cock - a favor Brian was more than happy to grant most of the time.  But it was different with Justin.  Brian refused to think about why.  It just was.  Justin was different to anything and anyone he'd ever known before. 

In fact, their worlds were so different that it was some kind of miracle that they'd ever met at all.  Although he was gay, Justin didn't hang around any of the gay bars or clubs that were Brian's hunting grounds and they would probably never have crossed each other's paths except that they were both interning at the same firm - Brian with the sales team as part of his marketing degree, and Justin in the art department as part of his degree from PIFA.  They'd literally bumped into each other one rainy night as Brian was racing to catch the bus and Justin running to get to his car before he got drenched.

One look into those blue eyes, one glance at those beautiful fucking pouty lips, and Brian had had to have him.  He'd been at first amused and later somehow not grateful, but well something that Justin was a virgin.  But not some shy little shrinking violet; no, Justin had been nervous but not shy.  He'd just never had time, he explained later to Brian.  Not adding that he'd wanted his first time to be if not special, then at least memorable for more than the awkwardness and discomfort that were inevitably part of it.

And somehow, after that first night, they'd kept seeing each other.  Not just at work, but well, pretty much everywhere.  They'd even had a couple of what, if he thought about it too much, even Brian might have had to admit looked pretty much like dates.  Well, they'd eaten together, and gone to a movie and but that was just two guys who happened to have similar taste in movies hanging out.  That's all.  And as for the fact that they regularly seemed to find themselves in the same bed, in fact their cocks seemed to regularly find themselves in one another's orifices that was just just something.  A great fuck.  A series of great fucks.  That was all.

And as for the gift well, that was just because it offended his sense of taste and style to see the little twat cart around his sketches and stuff in that crappy old piece of plastic shit folio; that was no way to make a statement to anyone he needed to impress.  And when he'd seen the embossed leather one that would be so perfect well it just he just needed to get Justin to upgrade, that's all.  To something more worthy of the blond's undoubted talent.  And Justin would never buy it for himself; the guy had no taste at all - look at the fucking clothes he wore.  So it was left to Brian to do it for him.

But right now Brian only had one thing left that he could hock - the watch his grandfather had left him.  It wasn't a great watch; in fact, it was kind of lame and the catch on the band kept coming undone, and he'd nearly lost it twice.  But it was gold.  It should fetch enough to make up the difference between his meager savings and the amount he needed.  Hopefully, there'd even be a little left over for a few drinks on New Year's Eve.

So why the fuck was he hesitating?

He didn't believe in sentimental shit, it got you nowhere.  So his hesitation had nothing to do with the fact that this was the only thing he had to remind him of the single person who, during his childhood, had seemed to believe that Brian was worth something.  The only reason he had the fucking thing, the reason that it hadn't been pawned long since by one or another of his drunken relations, was that the old man had specifically stated in his will that he wanted Brian to have it.  Brian had only been twelve then, and his grandfather's death had left him feeling completely alone in the world.  Not that he'd seen all that much of him - he'd lived in eastern Pennsylvania, and there had never been money to travel much - but once he was gone, there was no one.

Well, till he'd met Michael, anyway.  And then Michael's mother, Debbie; and his uncle, Vic.  They had sort of given Brian some sort of substitute family.

But even that small safety net came with strings; he had to deal with Michael's unrequited longing and Debbie's resentment of that; even Vic wanted things of him - he wanted Brian to be smarter and more ambitious and just fucking better than anyone had ever given him credit for being.  All the things, in fact, that Brian wanted for himself. 

But sometimes it got exhausting, and he just wanted someone who

Well, it didn't fucking matter.

And as his dear old Dad had pointed out, if his grandfather had lived long enough to see how he'd turned out, he'd probably never have left him the watch.

Especially if he'd found out that Brian was gay.  He'd have kicked him to the curb.  Just like Jack and Joanie would.  Well, fuck them!  It was his life, and he didn't give a shit for their opinion.  They had no right even to know.  But the whole fucking clan were bigots and homophobes of one kind or another, and his grandfather would probably have been just like the rest.

So what the fuck did it matter if he pawned the lame old watch?

Better to do that and get some cash for it, than either spend money he didn't have getting the watch band fixed, or worse still, lose it completely when it just fell off his wrist.

 

*****
 


Brian had expected Justin to spend Christmas Day with his family, but to his surprise, the blond didn't seem in any hurry for him to leave when they awoke on Christmas morning (after a marathon fuck session Christmas Eve). 

Last night had been amazing.  To Justin's surprise, he'd raced home from handing in a critical assignment to find Brian waiting for him inside his tiny apartment.  That had made Justin's night to start off with; he'd given Brian a key a while back, but Brian had never used it, which had made Justin feel stupid for giving it to him.  So to find him ready and waiting, stretched out on his little couch, wearing only a half-buttoned pair of jeans and a lazy grin, had gotten Christmas Eve off to a great start.  And then to find that Brian had brought with him some beer and a couple of old black and white DVDs and was ready to order pizza and just stay in rather than hit the clubs had made it just about the best Christmas Eve ever.  Okay, so Streetcar Named Desire and Rebel Without a Cause weren't classic Christmas fare.  Who cared?  Brian was here, with him, just the two of them and that was all that Justin could have asked for.

To Brian's own surprise, he'd found that it was pretty much his best Christmas Eve ever as well.  He'd thanked his something very thoroughly later, in all the ways he knew best, and had slept more soundly and deeply than he could remember for a long long time.

Justin had woken him with a blow job, and after Brian had returned the favor in the shower, they'd stumbled into the tiny kitchen and Brian had made coffee while Justin heated some frozen waffles and concocted some kind of syrup that he only persuaded Brian to eat because of the unmistakable whiff of alcohol. 

"It's just a little Cointreau," Justin had explained.  "I got one of those miniatures, just so I could make this sauce for Christmas breakfast."

He didn't say that he'd been hoping and praying that he'd get to spend Christmas morning with his maddeningly elusive lover.  Justin hadn't managed to become "the guy Kinney fucks more than once" without a considerable amount of self-restraint and an almost uncanny ability to know which buttons not to push if he wanted Brian to stay around and not stage a major queen out and stalk off just to prove his complete and utter independence and freedom from any hint of a relationship.

In fact, as he stirred the syrup and then poured it over the waffles, Justin was trying to figure out how to manage the whole issue of Brian's Christmas gift.

He'd had it for over a week now.  He'd hesitated over the purchase, knowing that Brian could well freak out completely over so expensive a gift.  But from the moment he'd seen the beautiful platinum watch, sleek and elegant, just like Brian, he'd wanted to get it for him and replace the tatty old thing that he always wore.  Justin sensed that the old watch had some kind of sentimental value for Brian, but it was really a bit of an eyesore, and didn't at all match the image that the man was so intent on presenting to the world.  Justin had never known anyone to dress as well as Brian, let alone someone on such a limited budget.  But, although his clothes were never flashy, he somehow always looked fabulous.  Except for that old watch.  And then a week or so ago, Brian had finally stopped wearing it.  He'd said that the catch was gone and that the fucking thing kept falling off; which Justin knew was true.  Once he'd been the one to catch it, just as it had slipped off Brian's wrist. 

So it seemed like it was just meant to happen and that Justin had actually found him the perfect gift.  If he could only persuade Brian to take it.

Of course, it meant that he couldn't replace his old portfolio which was seriously starting to fall apart with something better and more stylish, or buy the new brushes he really wanted for the oils class he was starting next semester.  And he'd have to cut back on a few luxuries like - well, like Cointreau in his waffle sauce.  In fact, he might have to live on the traditional student staples like Ramen noodles for a while; the allowance he got from his grandfather's will was generous, but it didn't run to extravagances like platinum watches.  But that was okay.

And if he and Brian spent more time staying in than heading out to the clubs with their heavy cover charges and expensive drinks - that would be even better.

Supposing that after today there still was a "he and Brian".

"Stop thinking so fucking loudly," Brian's sardonic voice cut in on the scurrying thoughts.

Justin smiled at him, a little uncertainly, and then, making a sudden decision, moved towards the tiny tree he'd set up on a little table in the corner.  He picked up the small, but
surprisingly heavy package that sat there and, bringing it back, thrust it awkwardly towards Brian, still sitting at the kitchen counter.

Brian took it just as awkwardly, staring at it as if it might explode.

Justin felt an almost over-powering urge to go back to biting his fingernails, something he hadn't done since grade school.

"Well, open it," he heard himself croak.

Tentatively, eyes still fixed on the package as if it was a threat that required all his concentration to deal with, Brian slid off the ribbon, slipped a fingernail under the tape and pulled it open.

That left him staring at a box.

A jeweler's box.

It seemed to take an immense effort for him to lift the lid, and when he did, he sat transfixed. 

Justin swallowed hard.  "If you hate it, I can ..."

"Of course I don't fucking hate it!" Brian's voice sounded hoarse, uneven.  "But it's too fucking much, Sunshine.  I can't "

Justin felt his heart threaten to crack.

"Brian, please it's it's just I saw it and straight away I thought of you.  It it felt like it was made for you.  Please don't "

Brian sat shaking his head for a moment, then he got up and after seeming to hesitate for a moment, walked towards the coat stand in the small entrance way. 

Justin felt sure his heart was breaking.

But Brian didn't grab his coat.  Instead, he reached behind the stand and pulled out another gift-wrapped parcel.  It was large, a large flat box.  Justin's heart stopped cracking and began to thud very hard.

Brian carried it back and with a shrug that held more than a touch of fatalism, held it out to Justin.

The blond man took it carefully, noticing that the parcel seemed to be jittering in Brian's hands as he handed it over, and that this continued once he was holding it himself.  He realized it was because his hands were shaking; probably as much as Brian's had been.

He sank down onto his small couch, tore off the wrapping paper and carefully opened the box.  As he peeled back the tissue paper which cradled the contents softly, he gasped.

It was beautiful.  Leather of such a dark rich brown that it was almost black, although it shone with gleams of red where the light caught it a certain way, it was embossed with scroll work across the top and down one side, and the handles were beautifully tooled, plaited and braided, but soft as velvet to the touch.  He imagined walking into a meeting, an interview, and pulling his work from such a holder and knew that the very case would give him confidence, would make an impression on his audience.

But it must have cost a bomb.  Brian couldn't afford this.  How the fuck was he meant to accept this?  Or how the hell could he reject it without damaging the extremely sensitive pride of his lover?

He looked up at his lover.

"Snap!" he said weakly.

Brian's brows drew together, as he realized what Justin was saying.

"Sunshine, it's just a fucking case, that's all.  I'm just tired of that ratty old thing you lug about everywhere."

"And I'm tired of trying to catch that old watch of yours every time it falls off your wrist!" Justin returned, his mouth set in determination.

"Well, you won't have to worry about that anymore!" Brian retorted.  Then snapped his mouth shut quickly, aware of where that little tidbit could lead.

"What do you mean?  Did you lose it?"

Brian shrugged.

"Brian "

"I fucking hocked it, okay?  I needed a few more bucks to tide me over Christmas and I hocked it.  I'll get it back in the New Year, when my next pay check comes in."

"Brian "

"Look, I'm sorry I don't have rich grandparents who are prepared to support me through college, but that doesn't fucking mean that I'm some charity case "

"They don't support me!" Justin snapped.  "My grandfather set up a trust fund to pay for my college tuition and support.  He died a few years ago.  When my father found out I was gay he and my grandmother tried to have the trust terminated, but they couldn't.  That's the only reason I have any money.  And if it's any consolation I'll probably be eating noodles for weeks after this Christmas.  And the thing is my asshole father was right about the Trust fund, because if my grandfather had known before he died, he would have fucking cancelled it himself.  Alright?"

Brian stared at him.

Against all reason, he found himself starting to laugh.

Justin glared at him.

"I'm glad you find it so funny."

"My grandfather left me that old watch.  And if he'd known I was gay, he probably would have thrown it in the river first," Brian said, not laughing now, but with tongue firmly in his cheek.

Justin met his eyes and then stood and walked into arms that were suddenly open to hold him.

He wrapped his own round Brian tightly.

They stood clinging together for long moments, lips meeting lips and tongues stroking tongues.

That led to an inevitable conclusion and it was much later, lying in his small bed, head pillowed on Brian's shoulder, that Justin said, "I just don't want you to go without just to buy me something that is beautiful, but that I don't really need."

"Ditto, Sunshine," Brian responded.

Justin sighed.

"Brian what you give me what you've always given me it means more to me than anything else."

Brian stiffened, still not ready to hear some fucking declaration of love - even from the man he knew in his heart that he did love - and probably always would, one way or another.

"You let me be me," Justin said simply.  "You're the only person in my whole life who has never tried to make me be anything other than me.  That's the gift you give me every day.  I don't really need anything else."

Brian was quiet then for so long that Justin thought he might have gone to sleep.  Then, his voice hardly audible, he whispered again, "Ditto, Sunshine."

Once more Justin turned into his arms and hugged him fiercely.  Brian clasped his face between his hands and kissed him.

Then he seemed to come to some decision and huffed out a sudden breath.

"Listen," he said, "Are you listening to me?"

"Yes, Brian," his lover responded as patiently as he could, wondering what Brian was going to come out with next.

"We're both going to get bonuses for working our asses off over the Connex account, right?"

"Well, yeah.  In the New Year sometime."

Brian nodded.  "So we can just hang out till then, okay?  And not fucking stress out over how much these fucking things cost.  Right?"

"Right," Justin said thoughtfully.  "Or "

"Or what?"

"How long do they have to hold pawned items?" Justin asked.

Brian shrugged.  "Up to 90 days.  Why?"

"Well, we could always pawn these," Justin said slowly.  "And get each other something cheap, just to tide us over.  You could get your old watch out of hock, and I could buy a new band, and you could get me a couple of paint brushes or something, and then when we get our bonuses, we could get these back."

Brian was silent for a long moment.

"What do you think?" Justin asked anxiously.

"I think " Brian said, a slow grin crossing the face that his lover was studying so anxiously, "that it's an okay idea."

Justin snorted. "It's genius," he responded.

Brian didn't argue.  Just kissed him again.

 

*****
 


As soon as the shops opened next day, they made good on their agreement.

After visiting the pawn shop, they headed for the mall where Brian bought Justin one (just one, Justin insisted) of the sable paint brushes he lusted after, and Justin brought Brian a bracelet, his lover having decided that there was no point in spending money on a band for a watch he'd never wear again once he got his new one back.

Justin thought the bracelet looked kind of cheap, but for some reason Brian loved it.  The soft black leather caressed his skin, and the swirls of the cowry shells reminded him of Justin's delicate ears - a thought he would never verbalize to a living soul - including his lover.

Then they went back to Justin's apartment to celebrate with pizza, beer, and a long fuck session.

It had been, as it turned out, a very happy Christmas.

And life was good.

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