Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
Brian dropped himself down on the couch and grabbed the remote, refusing to think about what day it was. There was a movie marathon on AMC and he planned on spending the day watching the classics and the night in the back room of Babylon. Michael had already called him to wish him a happy birthday, and that was all the acknowledgement he was going to give it. Thirty-four…he still couldn't believe he was thirty-four. Where had the time gone? It seemed like just yesterday that he was escaping Jack's wrath and running to Mikey and Debbie for shelter. Michael had been his best friend ever since his family moved to the Pitts, supposedly for a better life. That might have actually worked if his old man bothered to work instead of drinking so much. Thank God he had found the Novotny's when he did. He had barely spoken to his own family since he graduated from high school. The Novotny's had always been there for him and in return he had done anything he could for his surrogate family. But that had been before…before Debbie married that detective and cut way back on her hours at the diner. Before Michael had met Ben and adopted Hunter, making them the closest thing to the Cleaver's and making Michael too busy to hang like he used to. Now all Brian had was a job that he loved, but left him wanting more, the occasional trick, and a couple of acquaintances. People he talked to, but never would consider friends. He never believed in love and relationships, but it didn't mean that he didn't occasionally long to have someone to call family.
Pushing away those thoughts, Brian engulfed himself in the marathon and was startled when he heard a knock at the door. It was very rare that anyone would stop by unannounced on a Saturday. He turned off the TV and went to the door, curious as to who was on the other side.
"Brian Kinney?" the delivery man asked as he thrust a clip board into Brian's hands. "Please sign on line 32."
Brian signed for the large envelope and mumbled a thank you before closing the door and looking at the manila object in his hand. He didn't recognize the return address and the only name on the front was his, so he was clueless as to whom it was from. He walked over to the coffee table and dropped the envelope down before making his way into the kitchen. He was hungry and wanted to grab something to eat before he looked into the envelope. For some reason he had a strange feeling that whatever was inside was important and he wanted to be prepared for it.
Once his lunch was made, he grabbed a bottle of water and walked over to the couch. He got comfortable and took a few bites of his sandwich before curiosity got the better of him and he reached out for the envelope. He opened it carefully and pulled out its contents, staring at them in confusion. He took a better look at the plane ticket in his hand, wondering who would be sending him a ticket to Denver. He didn't know anyone in Colorado. Laying the ticket aside, he opened the smaller envelope that was also addressed to him and pulled out the letter that was inside. He was shocked by the words on the paper and had to read it a second time to make sure he understood what he was seeing.
I'm not sure if you remember me. It's been a long time since we've seen each other. I think you were about three years old the last time I laid eyes on you. I'm your Uncle John. I'm Jack's brother, although I'm sure he would dispute that if he were still alive. We had a bit of a falling out years ago and he made it clear that he'd rather not have a brother, than have a brother who's a fairy. I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. I followed his wishes and walked away, but I managed to keep tabs on everyone through the years. I know he passed away a few months back, and I'm sorry for your loss. I also know that you and I have a bit in common, don't we? It's pretty ironic that poor old Jack disowned his brother for being gay and his only son shared that same passion for men.
Anyway, I'm not doing too well these days and got to thinking about you and how much I missed out on while you were growing up. Being gay caused me to realize early on that I would never have children so when you and your sister were born; I took to you both instantly. Before coming out to Jack, we were very close and I spent more time at your house than my own. Claire was a cutie, but you and me; we shared a special bond back then and I'd like to get the chance to see you again before I join up with my brother. Won't he be surprised to see his fag brother in heaven?
I've enclosed a plane ticket in your name. It's very presumptuous of me, but I'd really like it if you were to use it and come for a visit. It would make a dying man very happy.
Uncle John. Brian thought back to his younger days. He didn't remember much before first grade, but he did have a faint memory of an uncle that used to come around a lot. He used to think it was his imagination, but now he was beginning to wonder. He saw that John had enclosed his phone number and address. Maybe taking a trip wouldn't be such a bad idea. He wasn't too sure if his uncle was someone he could really relate to, but it was his only chance of having a family, if only for a little while. It couldn't hurt to pay the old man a visit. He had more than enough vacation time saved up at work. He could take a week or two without any trouble. He reached for the phone and called Gardner Vance at home, wanting to check with his boss before making any plans. Once he was given the go-ahead, he dialed the number on the letter. Uncle John's personal assistant answered the phone and explained that John was unavailable, but assured Brian that he'd let him know that Brian would be there the following weekend. Brian thought it was a little strange that he wasn't told to just call back, but it didn't matter. He'd have plenty of time to talk to his uncle once he arrived in Denver. He had one week to straighten up his accounts and get things in order before his trip, and that was all he would focus on until his plane left the runway.
* * *
Justin walked through the front door and immediately knew that something was going on. He could hear the sound of John's laughter coming from the living room. During the last couple of months, John hadn't made it down the stairs much due to the pneumonia that had set in back in January. It was a complication from being positive and not the first time the older man had taken ill, but it seemed to be the worst case so far, and Justin had been really worried about him. Hearing his happiness caused the blond to smile. He missed seeing his friend happy. He dropped his sketch pad and charcoals down on the table in the front hall and followed the sound to where John and his assistant Arthur were sitting around talking.
"Did I miss something? Jeez, I leave the house for a couple of hours and you two decide to have fun without me," Justin teased as he walked over to where John was sitting and leaned down, kissing the man's cheek with affection.
"Now Justin, you know I never really have fun without you," John replied with a smile. "Guess what? My nephew called today. He's going to be here next weekend."
"That's great, John," Justin said, hoping that his friend didn't notice his hesitance. "I'm really happy for you. I know how much it means to you to see him again."
"It means the world to me. I loved that boy like he was my own until that bastard brother of mine forced me to walk away. I've waited a long time for this. These last couple of months had me wondering if I was going to be around to see him again. Looks like I might just make it."
"Of course you're going to make it. I've been telling you for years now that I'm not ready to let you go," Justin told him. "Did you think I was kidding?"
"Justin, you know that I don't have a lot of time left. I've been very lucky, but one day you're going to have to face the fact that I won't be around forever. I won't be leaving you by choice, but I don't know how much longer this tired old body can fight," John said softly.
"You've got a lot more fight in you than you think," Justin replied solemnly. "And I expect you to use every last bit. You know I don't know what I'd do without you."
"All right, enough of that," Justin insisted, blinking back the tears that were building. "I thought we were celebrating? Arthur, go tell the cook to fix something special for dinner. I'll take John upstairs for his nap. We'll eat around five."
Justin waited until Arthur was gone before turning his attention back to John, who was watching him intently. "What?"
"You know how much I adore you, right?" John said quietly.
"Of course I do," Justin smiled. "Almost as much as I adore you. Now let's get you up to bed. I don't want you to waste all this newfound energy before dinner."
Justin helped John up to bed and sat with him until he fell asleep before going down the hall to his own room. Once he was locked away in his own space, he let his mind wander over the news John had shared with him. Brian Kinney was going to be arriving the following weekend. That thought scared Justin more than he was willing to let on. Some people might think that Justin's nervousness was due to his own selfishness, but they'd be wrong. Yes, John had been a big support to Justin through the years, but he was twenty-two years old and ready to go out on his own if he had to. In fact, Justin had mentioned getting a full time job and moving out to John on more than one occasion, but John refused to even discuss the matter. No, his fear came from his desire to protect John from pain, just as John had done for Justin for so long.
Justin had been a senior in high school when he first met John. He had just won an art contest that the school had participated in and had to meet with the owner of the gallery that sponsored the event. He remembered the day well. He had been sporting a black eye that he received the night before, compliments of his father, and had tried to get out of the meeting. Of course, his principal and guidance counselor refused to allow him to back out. Instead he was forced to sit through a boring meeting with quite a few important members of the art world. Normally that would've been a dream come true, but he hated letting anyone see him looking like he spent some time in a boxing ring…and lost.
Everyone seemed to ignore the flaw on his otherwise pale face, and eventually Justin relaxed enough to mingle and enjoy himself. John Kinney approached him just as everyone began dispersing. He told Justin how impressed he was with his work. Then he gave him his card and asked him to call and set up an appointment for them to meet to further discuss Justin's future. Justin had been over the moon.
During the next few months Justin had spent a lot of time with John, learning all there was to learn about getting his work shown in a gallery. Of course he hadn't shared his experiences with his father. The one thing Justin knew with certainty was that his father would hit the roof if he knew what Justin was doing. Craig Taylor had plans for his son's future and none of them included art.
John had promised Justin that he'd help him out with making contacts and offered him a summer job in his gallery so that he could learn some of the ins and outs of the art world. Justin had asked him time and time again why he was going out of his way to help some high school kid. John's only reply was that he never had his own children and felt that he could offer some of himself to others as a replacement. Justin was skeptical, and wondered what would happen if John knew that Justin was gay, but decided to take the help that was being offered for as long as it was being offered.
Unfortunately Justin never made it to his first day of work at the gallery. Two nights before, at his senior prom, one of his fellow classmates decided that Justin's obvious desire for boys needed to be knocked out of him. In the parking garage, while Justin waited for his boyfriend to grab their coats and join him, a bat to the head turned Justin's whole world upside down. He was in a coma for almost a week and when he woke up, it was to find out that the police had outed him to his parents. Craig Taylor wasted no time in showing up at the hospital to inform him that he was dead to the family. He refused to have a fairy as a son.
Justin was devastated and scared out of his mind. His family was gone and his boyfriend had disappeared, probably because of the attention the incident was bound to draw. He had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. As the days passed and Justin began to recover, his fear grew in intensity. The hospital would be releasing him soon, and he didn't even have anything to wear out the front door. He thought about making his way to the roof. One jump and all his troubles would be solved. He wouldn't have to worry about how to get through the rest of his life. On the day he decided to follow through with his plans, John appeared. Justin was surprised to see the relief in John's eyes as he walked through the door.
"Justin, I've been worried sick. When I got a phone call from Arthur saying that you didn't show up for work I knew right away that something was wrong. I was in Milan and got back as soon as I could. By the time Arthur learned that you were here, I was on the plane. I came right from the airport. What happened?"
Justin was so touched by the concern in John's eyes, concern that his own father didn't have for him that he broke down and ended up telling John his entire story in between sobs. Instead of being put off by his story, John took Justin in his arms and comforted him, assuring him that he wasn't alone anymore.
From there Justin moved in with John and their friendship grew even closer than it was before. Justin tried to get a job to pay his own way, but John wouldn't hear of it. He still had the part time job at the gallery, but he wasn't allowed to spend his money on trying to pay his own way. John had also arranged to have Justin enrolled in The Art Institute of Colorado. Objecting was useless, so instead Justin focused all his time and energy on doing his best to make John proud of him. Sadly, soon after Justin started his freshman year, John had been diagnosed with HIV. Justin was devastated, but John seemed to handle the news as well as could be expected under the circumstances. He assured Justin that he was still healthy and would do his best to stay that way. And he did, up until a few months before, when the pneumonia kicked in. John had to be rushed to the hospital and the doctors weren't sure if he'd make it through the night. Luckily he had, but since then his health had been deteriorating. It was then that John decided to try to get in touch with his nephew. Justin wanted to object, but he knew that he couldn't. John deserved to be happy and if finding Brian Kinney gave him that happiness, who was Justin to try and stand in his way?
But deep down inside, Justin had hoped that contact would never be made. There had never been anything sexual between John and Justin, but Justin loved John more than anyone else on earth and he was worried that a rejection from his nephew, or worse would send the man into his grave earlier than he should. Now it looked like he'd have to sit back and hope for the best, making sure to keep an eye on the younger Kinney for any signs of maliciousness. It was all he could do for the moment. Justin sighed as he stood looking out over the lush lawn and prayed that Brian Kinney would be good for his dearest friend. Otherwise Justin would find a way to make Brian pay.
John was sitting in the living room anxiously awaiting his nephew's arrival. He couldn't believe that after thirty-one years he was finally going to be reunited with Brian. He had done his research and learned as much as he could about one of Pittsburgh's most successful ad executives. He had kept tabs on his family over the years and knew that Brian had not only graduated in the top of his class from Penn State, but he was immediately signed on at the Ryder Agency, earning a salary that matched most executives after years in the business. His campaigns earned him numerous awards and his name was well known throughout the US and even parts of Europe. He also learned that Brian was known as the stud of Liberty Avenue and that information gave John a chuckle. His nephew was following right in his uncle's footsteps in that regard. He just hoped that Brian was more careful than John apparently had been.
Ever since hearing that Brian would be making the trip west, John had been feeling a little more like his old self. He wasn't foolish enough to think that he was going to get better suddenly, but it seemed like someone above was going to give him time to get to know his nephew before taking John away from those he loved. John couldn't help but be thankful for whatever time he was given.
The only thing to dampen his excitement was Justin. He knew since the day he mentioned locating Brian that Justin wasn't happy with the idea, and was reluctant to discuss it. He and Arthur had talked about it a few times and John knew that his friend was just being cautious. That was an endearing trait in the blond. When he loved someone, he went out of his way to make them as happy as he could. It had worked for John over the last four years. He didn't know where he'd be if not for their friendship. Others looked at them with mixed emotions. He knew a lot of his friends thought that John was a dirty old man, seeking the sexual favors of someone so young, where others thought Justin was just using him for his money. But John and Justin knew the truth. They shared a special bond that neither of them understood, but both greatly appreciated. Given time, Justin would see that finding Brian was a good idea; especially if his plans worked out and he was able to get the two of them together.
His Pittsburgh contact had explained in detail his nephew's "I don't believe in love, I believe in fucking" motto, and Justin had said on more than one occasion that relationships just weren't his thing. John had a feeling that the boyfriend who disappeared after the fateful prom incident caused Justin's jaded views, but couldn't succeed in getting Justin to rethink his opinion. Growing up with Jack Kinney explained Brian's attitude and it saddened John to think of two wonderful men refusing to enter into a relationship because of their pasts. They were both strong, talented, intelligent men and he imagined that together, they would be a powerful couple. He wasn't going to be around much longer, and knew he would rest easier if those closest to him were settled down and happy. Step one of his plans, getting Brian to Denver, was accomplished. Now he had to move on to step two; getting them to see that being in a relationship wasn't the death sentence they thought it was. It was actually a privilege that they both deserved.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For