Justin sat unnaturally still on an uncomfortable chair trying to staunch his
tears that threatened to fall. He ignored the quiet buzz of activity around him.
His entire focus was on his lover’s pale sallow face surrounded by stark white.
Every once in a while someone would give him words of encouragement reminding
him to be brave and strong. Justin didn’t want to be brave and strong. What he
wanted was Brian in all his glorious snarky bitchy asshole splendor.
After a while Justin reached for his ever present messenger bag to pull out a sketch pad and a pencil. He opened the pad and kept turning pages until he found a clean sheet of paper. Tapping his pencil against the pad, it didn’t take Justin long to figure out what to draw. He’d sketch his number one favorite subject but not the figure lying in front of him. Justin had another picture in mind. With a small smile forming on his face, Justin began his sketch from memory.
A sixteen year old Gus was spending the entire summer with his Dad and Justin. For some reason Lindsay’s family had decided to hold out an olive branch. They invited the girls to spend the summer at the Peterson family vacation compound. They were trying to “embrace” Lindsay’s lifestyle with Melanie. They could even embrace JR since biologically JR was Melanie’s child. But in their weird illogical logic, Mom and Dad Peterson couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for Gus.
Their loss was Brian’s gain. Brian and Justin embraced the notion of spending the whole summer with their Sonny Boy.
It was one afternoon at the loft when Gus asked Justin about how to make spaghetti sauce. Justin opened a cabinet, took out a jar of store bought sauce and waved it in front of the teen. Gus laughed as he shook his head. Gus wanted to make sauce from scratch. After some poking and prodding, Justin got Gus to reveal that JR rarely saw Debbie. The young girl missed her Grandmother and couldn’t understand why her mother kept them apart. Gus was old enough to remember Sunday dinners at Deb’s and her famous sauce.
Justin hugged the boy, stowed away the jar then took out a dog-eared notebook from a drawer. Gus, recognizing the scrawling handwriting of his Grandmother Deb, gasped. Putting a finger to his lips, Justin whispered, “Shhh.” The co-conspirators flipped through the book until they got to Debbie’s sauce recipe. Quickly taking stock of the contents of the refrigerator, the boys made a trip to the gourmet market. Once back at the loft they prepared to make the sauce.
A tired Brian was forced to walk up the stairs to the loft instead of taking the elevator which was out of order, again. It was at that moment when the number one adman in Pittsburg, owner and CEO of Kinnetik decided he was getting into the real estate business. He made a mental note to consult with Ted and Jennifer, then buy the damn building and fix the fucking elevator.
Looking forward to a quiet evening at home with both his Sonny Boys, Brian pulled open the door. Silently he made his presence known as he scowled at the mess in his pristine kitchen. Justin and Gus must have used every utensil, every pot and pan. There were tomatoes everywhere. Not to mention, onions, garlic, and every fresh Italian herb known to man.
Gus and Justin froze with that “deer in the headlight look” as they waited for the inevitable Brian Kinney explosion. Brian gazed at the mess on the counters, the stove, and on his boys. While looking upwards searching for some divine intervention, Brian squinted as he realized there was sauce on one of the high steel beams. His boys followed Brian’s gaze then snickered as they saw the same thing. Brian closed his eyes as he pinched the bridge of his nose. He turned then went to his bedroom leaving two stunned boys. A few minutes he was back, barefoot, in his favorite jeans and tank top.
“So when’s dinner?” Brian asked. Two ecstatic boys flew into action setting the table and getting dinner plated up.
A familiar scent washed over Justin bringing him back to the here and now. By the gentle squeeze to his shoulder Justin knew it was Gus.
“How’s he doing?” Gus asked as he sat next to Justin, worry evident in his voice.
“Better. If you hadn’t found him on that sidewalk in time…”
“But I did and he’s a stubborn bastard,” Gus quickly retorted.
“That he is.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“That fucking bleeding ulcer. And it was almost gone! Why the hell was he working on that fucking campaign when he has you? The damn idiot is retired for fuck’s sake!” Justin growled.
“Because my dear Dad keeps saying he’s semi-retired,” Gus admitted.
“Well that’s news to me. He swore to me that he was turning over everything to you, including Cynthia,” Justin grumbled.
laughed. “Cynthia was not too pleased when she learned she was part of the deal.
She shouted at Dad saying that she couldn’t be discarded like last year’s Armani
“Seriously, but then she and Dad went to lunch at her favorite restaurant and she came back to the office carrying a Coach bag. I think they came to an understanding,” Gus laughed. And he got a few chuckles out of Justin.
“But that still doesn’t explain why he felt compelled to work on a campaign.”
“Do you remember Eyeconic Optics?” Gus asked. Justin thought a minute then his eyes grew wide.
“I thought that bitch retired years ago!”
“She did but for some reason when it’s time to renew the contract they drag her out of mothballs. Then she and the old man go at it.”
“Orange is the new blue,” Justin murmured.
“Exactly,” Gus said. “She kept fighting him on the color of the font. So he brought in focus groups, six of them.”
“Six? Isn’t that a lot?”
“Yes. One or two is the norm but she didn’t believe him that the orange font had become iconic for Eyeconic.” Justin gave Gus a poignant look. Gus blushed as he shrugged his shoulders. “Finally their CEO had enough and shut her down. It looked like we were ready to sign when she wanted to change the font size. That’s when Pop lost it. I knew he was about to pitch a fit but no one else knew.”
“The great Kinney stoic face,” Justin said. Gus nodded.
“We brought in one last focus group who liked the ad but they all said something was off. When Dad put the first mock up with the original font on the easel, the group loved it. She stormed out. Then Dad left. We renewed with Eyeconic and then I left.”
“He knows his stuff.”
“That he does and I’ve learned so much. I’m still learning, but I do know where to find him if I need his advice,” Gus said. Justin smiled at the face that was so like Brian’s.
A set of choked swear words made both men stand up. Justin moved closer to stand next to Brian’s bed.
“Where the fuck am I?” Brian mumbled.
“Alleghany General. You’ve been here four days,” Justin explained as he placed a few ice chips on Brian’s parched lips. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“Scared the shit out of me too,” Brian admitted. The ice chips were helping his throat. Gus moved himself within Brian’s field of vision. “Hey, Sonny Boy, did you get the bitch?”
“Yes, we did. How are you feeling, Pop?”
“Peachy,” he snarked. Then more gently, “Sunshine, when the men in the white coats spring me, what would you think about us going on a cruise? One of those long around the world ones.”
“Seriously. I think Sonny Boy can handle Kinnetik. Besides Cynthia may cut off my good ball if I don’t keep my ass out of her hair. What do you say, Gus, you ready to fly solo?”
nodded. He gave his father a hug and a kiss, relieved his dad was on the mend.
Then he left the hospital to give Justin and his dad some privacy.
“Brian, you could have died. You scared the life out of me. This whole thing could have been avoided if you’d only stayed retired. I’m so angry that…” Justin huffed, moved away from the bed to stare out the window. If he didn’t love Brian so much, he’d leave.
“Sunshine, even though I’ve made a few mistakes I think you’d be making an even bigger mistake not to give me a second chance.”
“I see,” Justin said as he turned away from the window.
“Because now I understand what you want from me and I know what to expect from you.”
“Once you’re fully recovered you do understand that you may be required to work long hard hours sometimes deep into the night.”
“It’ll be a pleasure to work under and over you, Sunshine.”
“And that you’ll never ever work on another campaign without clearing it with me first?” Justin commanded with a smile.
“Good. Well then, you can start as soon as you’re discharged,” Justin said with a wide grin.
“And you don’t mind me being a kept man?” Brian asked as he reached for Justin’s hand.
“Not at all,” Justin replied as he leaned down to kiss Brian’s lips. “Just as long as I’m the man who’s keeping you.”
“Always,” Brian said as he began to drift off.
Justin smoothed the blanket around Brian’s chest then went back to his uncomfortable chair, once again focused on his love.
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