Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
The next morning Justin and Brian walked into Lyle's office. They had arranged the meeting, both of them prepared to go ahead with their declaration that they were together. Brian had Justin's hand firmly in his as they entered the office. He could see Lyle looking at them.
"Good morning," Brian said as he released Justin's hand. They sat in the two seats across the desk from Lyle.
"This looks promising," Lyle said with a smile.
"We're … together," Brian said bluntly.
"I see," Lyle said. "How long has this been going on?"
"It actually started before John died. We both noticed … that … that there was something there," Brian said, hoping that sounded all right. He glanced at Justin.
"Is that right, Justin?" Lyle asked. Justin nodded but didn't say anything. "So, why did you want to see me besides giving me this good news?"
"Um … We … I … I've been thinking about starting my own advertising agency,"
Brian finally managed to get out.
"Really?" Lyle asked. "That sounds like a big undertaking."
"Brian's brilliant at what he does, and he has an asshole for a boss at the moment," Justin said, defending the man he was supposed to be in love with. The only problem was that Brian was the man he loved, but Brian didn't seem to feel the same way about him.
"So, what do I have to do with this undertaking?" Lyle asked, but he already knew.
"I need some start-up capital," Brian stated, deciding there was no point in beating around the bush.
"Out of John's estate?"
"How much do you think you'll need?"
"As much as I can get," Brian said honestly.
"John left you money to use at your discretion," Lyle said carefully. "You get the balance of the estate if you and Justin are still together after a year."
"A year?" Brian repeated, making it almost a question, but not quite. It was like he was weighing whether he could pull off this farce for that long. At least that's how it sounded to Justin. Justin's eyes bore into the back of Brian's head, but Brian refused to look at him. Justin felt a little piece of his heart die.
"You will be together after a year, won't you?" Lyle pointedly asked.
"Who can say what the future holds?" Brian said, trying to keep his answer as ambiguous as possible. "I could be dead by then," he added.
"Brian!" Justin said in alarm.
"What?" Brian asked rather harshly. "I'm just stating a fact."
Justin shook his head but didn't say any more. It sounded to Justin like Brian might rather be dead than be tied to him.
Lyle watched the interchange and wondered just what was going on with these two. He could have sworn he saw real affection between them when they first came into the office, but now something had changed. Brian seemed reluctant to project their relationship into the future. That troubled Lyle.
"So, what have you planned for this new business?" Lyle asked.
"Not too much is concrete at this point. I just need to know if I could get some start-up capital from John's estate. The first couple of years are always the hardest for a new company."
Lyle nodded. "Did you have a non-competition clause at Vangard?" Lyle asked as the thought occurred to him.
"Yeah," Brian admitted.
"So, where are you going to open your new business?" Lyle pursued.
"But, with a non-competition clause you're leaving yourself open to a lawsuit."
"I'm sure I can work around it," Brian said confidently.
"Most clauses of that type are pretty airtight," Lyle explained. "Owners of companies have learned how to include them and protect themselves and their companies from renegade workers. I doubt that you can successfully break it."
"Fuck!" Brian muttered. That wasn't what he wanted to hear at all.
"Do you know what the terms are?" Lyle pursued, as a thought came to him.
"One year from severance from the company and a two hundred mile radius."
"Then, Pittsburgh is out," Lyle said gently.
"But, that's where all my contacts are. I've already approached some of my clients and they would be willing to come with me," Brian said desperately. He could feel his dream slipping away.
"That will leave you open to lawsuits, and your company will be dead inside a year," Lyle said knowingly.
"Fuck!" Brian repeated.
"What about opening your agency here in Denver?" Lyle suggested. This would keep Brian and Justin in John's mansion and closer to the dream that John had for them.
"Denver?" Brian asked in surprise.
"That could work, Brian," Justin said after a long silence. He felt a tingling of hope. "You said you had already lined up a client here in Denver."
"Yeah, but one fucking client won't make an agency," Brian protested.
"So, go out and find some more clients," Lyle suggested.
"But, my home is in Pittsburgh. My son is there."
"And you're here, and you have been flying back and forth," Lyle said. "What would be so different?"
"It would be … permanent," Brian said with a frown.
"Can't permanent be a good thing?" Lyle asked.
Brian hesitated. He wasn't sure how to answer that. He had always wanted to move to New York and make it big there. He wouldn't have hesitated for a second if that had been where he was going. But this was a move to Denver. He didn't know anybody here except the people in the room with him. He didn't even have John's comforting presence to make it easier. He shook his head.
Justin watched the emotions wash across Brian's face. He could see that Brian really didn't like the idea of moving to Denver, and he knew that Gus was only a small part of that. Brian was really fighting against uprooting himself and moving to Justin's territory. At the same time Brian had thought nothing of asking Justin to do exactly that in Pittsburgh. Maybe this whole thing had been one big mistake.
Lyle watched the two men and wondered what was going on. It seemed like something wasn't quite right. After a minute, he ventured to say, "Brian, if you started your business here and worked on it for a year, maybe by then you would be able to open your own agency in Pittsburgh. The non-comp would have run out and many of the clients at Vangard would be renewing their contracts. That would be the time to strike."
Brian looked up into Lyle's eyes. The man had a point. "I need to think about this," Brian said.
"Of course, my boy," Lyle agreed. "Think carefully. I want you to succeed. That's what John would have wanted too."
Brian stood up. He did indeed have a lot to think about. He headed for the door to the office and had almost passed through it when he realized that he had left Justin behind. He stopped and turned around. Justin had got up from his chair and was looking at Brian. The look of pain and hurt on the young man's face nearly tore him apart. Brian realized that he had not included Justin in any of this.
"Let's go home," Brian said softly holding out his hand to Justin. "We have a lot to talk about."
A faint smile flickered across Justin's mouth. He walked across the office and put his hand in Brian's. He felt Brian give it a little squeeze. Justin turned and smiled at Lyle. "Thanks," he said.
"You're welcome," Lyle replied. That was what he liked to see, the two men together and seemingly on the same page.
As they walked out of the office, Justin turned to Brian. "Did you mean it?" he asked.
"Mean what?" Brian frowned.
"About us going home. You know, the mansion could be our home."
"It wouldn't be so bad living here in Denver … with me, would it?"
"No, of course not, but that wasn't our plan," Brian stated.
"It wasn't your plan, you mean."
"You want me to stay here and open my agency in Denver?"
"Of course, I do. This is my home. I love the mansion. There are so many memories there - good memories. John would be very happy if we lived there together. I could paint and you could have your business." They got into the car and Brian started the drive back to the mansion. "Doesn't that sound like a good plan?" Justin asked hopefully.
"I don't know. I really need to think," Brian said. He wasn't sure where Justin was coming from. He knew Justin thought of Denver and the mansion as home, but that wasn't the case for Brian. His home was the loft, and his son was in Pittsburgh.
Justin heard Brian's words and he felt fear creep into his heart. He had thought Lyle's suggestion made perfect sense, but obviously Brian didn't feel the same way. Maybe Brian never would want to build a life with him.
They rode the rest of the way to the mansion in silence.
* * *
Brian spent the afternoon thinking about the meeting with Lyle. If he wanted to get out from under Gardner's thumb without having to wait a year, working out of Denver seemed to be his only option. And like Lyle suggested, it didn't mean he had to stay in Denver. Once the year was up, he'd be free to go wherever he wanted to go, whether it be back to Pittsburgh, or even New York. A year wasn't that long to wait and he was sure he could get Lindsay to visit often with Gus as long as he paid their expenses.
The problem was Justin and his weird connection to him. He had already given up the idea that he was just a fuck, but he still wasn't sure exactly what it was between them. When he had thought up the idea of the two of them posing as a couple, he figured it would be an easy task. They were getting along, the sex was great, and Justin knew going in that they weren't going to end up a couple of happy homos with matching rings. He figured that going back to Pittsburgh would help him keep his life together without causing more confusion with Justin. Now he was faced with being stuck in Denver, having to rely on Justin even more, and alienating himself from his old life. Wasn't that how things between him and Justin got out of hand in the first place? The two of them facing an uncertain future together with nothing to distract them from each other and their growing desire for one another. Although, were things between them really out of hand? Their pairing was an act. That's all it was and all it ever would be. They were playing a part for those around them, so he could get his hands on the money he needed to work on his future.
No, staying in Denver for a year wouldn't be a problem. He was Brian Kinney, for fuck's sake. He didn't do love and relationships and no one, not even a hot blond, was going to change that. He reached for the phone and called Cynthia, letting her know about his change of plans before going in search of Justin. He'd been uncharacteristically quiet on the ride home from Lyle's and he needed to make sure he was still on board.
Justin had been sitting outside thinking about the future when Brian found him. He'd been hoping for a little more time alone before confronting the man with his thoughts. He hated the way Brian reacted to the suggestion of opening his business in Denver and was once again reminded of the reality of their situation. It was only temporary. Once Brian got his hands on John's money, he'd been gone and Justin was a fool to think anything else. He had been trying to decide how to tell the older man that he wanted out of their deal, when he was found.
"Hey, I was looking all over for you," Brian said as he sat down alongside Justin on the wrought iron bench. "We need to talk."
"Look Brian, now's not a good time. I have a lot on my mind and I'm not ready to share my thoughts with you yet," Justin replied coolly. "We can talk tomorrow."
"Well, you may not have anything to say, but I do. It wouldn't kill you to listen." Brian waited to see what Justin would do and was satisfied when he didn't run away. "I've decided that Lyle was right. I would be too limited if I tried to start up my own company in Pittsburgh. Gardner made sure of that with his fucking clause. I've spoken with Cynthia and she's agreed to stay on at Vangard and be my eyes and ears while I stay here and work on the foundation. I'll need to find some office space. I was thinking of something fairly small, maybe a month to month lease so that when I'm ready to go back, there wouldn't be too much to settle here. I also want to fix up one of the guests rooms so that Gus will feel comfortable when he visits. You know, put up some of those Disney characters on the walls or something. I thought about asking you to paint something, but I figured that wall hangings would be easier to remove once I'm gone. Oh, and do you think Arthur would be willing to help me set things up until I can find my own assistant? I'm going to be lost as it is without Cynthia, but I'll need someone to help me out while I'm here."
Justin listened to Brian go on about his short term plans, as hurt and anger bubbled up inside of him. He tried to hold back his feelings, but it was just too much for him. He couldn't sit there and listen while Brian made plans based on how easy it would be for him to walk away. "You just don't fucking get it, do you?"
"What?" Brian asked in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
Justin fumed. "Brian Kinney, you are the most infuriating man on this fucking planet! I'm going out. Don't wait up."
Brian watched Justin storm off, completely at a loss as to what had just transpired between them. He knew that Justin wasn't too keen on moving to Pittsburgh for the year and wanted Brian to consider living in Denver. Why was it that when he agreed, Justin wasn't happy? Isn't that what he wanted? To stay in Denver for the duration of the commitment? This was why he never did relationships. Even fake ones were more complicated than he ever imagined.
Justin downed another shot, knowing that he had reached his limit more than an hour ago, but refusing to care. He couldn't believe the nerve of Brian. How had he ever thought that the plan they devised would work? The thought of spending a year under the same roof was almost more than he could take. Yet the thought of never seeing him again…well, he couldn't even think about that. He was well and truly fucked and he didn't know what to do about it. When he felt a hand on his shoulder, his heart sped up, thinking that Brian had come to find him and bring him home. He even had a moment of joy as he pictured the apology Brian would give him before he took him back to the house to ravish him. It was amazing how alcohol played with the mind. As soon as he turned around and saw the red head that was touching him, he laughed at his stupidity and drunkenness.
"I'm not interested," Justin slurred as he signaled the bartender for another round.
"Come on, Baby, I can make you forget all your troubles," the red head persisted.
"No you can't. Now get lost," Justin barked, just before he clumsily fell off his barstool.
"Shit, man, I think you've had enough."
Red head helped Justin over to one of the booths in the back of the bar and then went over to the bartender. Justin watched through blurry eyes as the two men exchanged words. He had known the bartender for years. Tony was a friend of John's from his days of bar hopping, and Justin last saw him at John's services. He wondered what the man thought of Justin now. He felt two pairs of eyes on him and then saw Tony reach for the phone. He wondered if he was calling the police to have him arrested. Maybe falling drunk off a barstool was against the law. He dropped his head down on the table and waited to find out his fate.
Brian was sitting in the study, watching the clock and worrying about Justin, when the phone rang and pulled him from his thoughts. It was after one in the morning so he reached for the phone quickly, hoping that Justin was all right.
"Uh…I'm looking for…I think his name is Brian," Tony said.
"This is Brian. And you are…?"
"My name's Tony. I was a friend of your uncle's. I met you briefly at his services. Look, I wasn't sure if you were still in town but I didn't know who else to call. I'm a bartender at the Foxhole. Justin's down here and he's in no condition to get himself home. I think he's passed out in one of our booths. Do you think you could come and get him?"
"Shit," Brian mumbled. "Yeah, just let me call a cab and I'll be there. What's the name of the place again?"
"The Foxhole Lounge. Just tell the driver the name and he'll get you here. Everyone knows where we are," Tony told him.
"All right, I'll be there as soon as I can. Don't let him leave."
Brian hung up the phone and called information. He promised himself that he'd start checking out the area as soon as he could so that he wouldn't feel so helpless without having Justin to guide him. Once he was promised that his cab would be there in fifteen minutes he ran upstairs and threw on his jeans and a wife beater. He grabbed a jacket and his wallet before going outside and down the drive to wait for the cab. There was no reason to make the car drive up to the door.
Twenty-five minutes later, Brian was dropped off outside the Foxhole Lounge. He walked inside and went right up to the bar, recognizing Tony immediately.
"Where is he?"
"He's over there in the corner. Thanks for coming to get him. I've never known him to drink so much before. I guess he's taking John's death pretty hard," Tony replied with a sad smile.
"Yeah, he is," Brian agreed, although he knew that John had nothing to do with Justin's drunken state. Whatever it was that Brian did wrong, he had sure managed to piss Justin off if he ended up passed out in public. He didn't need to know Justin that well to know that it was out of character. "Thanks for calling me."
He went over to the blond and practically carried him out of the bar without Justin so much as stirring in his sleep. If it wasn't for the rise and fall of his chest signaling his breathing, Brian would have thought that Justin was dead. He took some comfort in the fact that when Justin woke up in the morning with the hangover from hell, he'd wish he was.
Luckily Justin wasn't a big man. It made it easier for Brian to carry him into the house and up the stairs to the room that they were sharing. He stripped the man down, still with no reaction, and tucked him into bed. Then he stripped himself down and climbed in alongside of him where he immediately fell asleep.
* * *
Justin didn't even need to open his eyes to know that something was seriously wrong. It was a good thing too, because he couldn't open his eyes. To do that would require energy he just didn't have. He tried lifting his head, but that didn't work either. The slightest movement caused every part of his body to ache in a way that made him think he had been hit by a truck. If it wasn't for the fact that his bladder was screaming for relief, he'd just roll over, careful not to let his head fall off the bed, and try to go back to sleep. While he lay there and pondered his next move, the sound of the door opening, a sound he never remembered being so loud, caused him to try to open his eyes. A brief glimpse of daylight caused them to slam shut in protest as he let out a groan that resembled that of a wounded animal.
"You're finally up," Brian said, louder than he normally spoke. Having been forced out of the house in the middle of the night left him feeling rather uncharitable.
"Shhh…can't you see that I'm dying here?" Justin whispered. "What the fuck happened to me?"
"I take it you don't remember much about last night?"
"Last night, last night," Justin croaked. "I vaguely remember going to the Foxhole, but everything's a little fuzzy after that."
"Well, then let me refresh your memory. You went to the Foxhole where, according to Tony, you proceeded to order shot after shot of Jack Daniels, drinking yourself into a stupor. He called me to come and get your ass after you passed out in a booth," Brian explained as he pulled up the blinds and let the rest of the sun shine in.
"Fuck, I don't even drink Jack," Justin moaned.
"Apparently," Brian replied dryly. "Now I'm on my way into town to take care of a few things. I'm taking it by the lovely shade of green you're wearing that you don't want to come with me. You might want to get in the shower. It'll make you feel a little better. Do you need anything before I go?"
Justin slowly sat up, feeling the room spinning as he opened his eyes and focused on Brian. All three of him. He was about to say something about being able to take care of himself when his stomach churned violently at his movements. He covered his mouth with his hand and raced into the bathroom in just enough time to empty the contents of his stomach in the porcelain bowl. For the next ten minutes he sat over the toilet as his stomach purged itself of everything that it had, while Brian stood close by in case he was needed. Once Justin was sure that he had nothing left the produce, he stood up on shaky legs and reached for his toothbrush. Brian leaned into the shower and started the water for him, and then helped Justin strip down. He took his reeking clothes and brought them into the bedroom to toss them into the laundry hamper. He went back to the bathroom to check on Justin one more time before leaving and found the blond curled up on the shower floor half asleep. With an irritated sigh, Brian took off his clothes and stepped into the shower, carefully helping Justin back onto his feet.
"You know, you're really throwing off my schedule today," Brian complained as he reached for the shampoo and started washing Justin's hair.
"You don't have to help me," Justin replied. "You could just leave me here to die in peace."
Brian had thought about leaving him alone to deal with his hangover on his own, but he knew he couldn't do it. He could see how much the younger man was suffering and couldn't just walk away; especially since he was the reason for the man's over-indulgence. "No, I'd rather take care of you now and have you be indebted to me later."
Justin didn't reply. Instead he took comfort in Brian's gentle ministrations, wondering if he'd ever feel human again.
Brian finished washing Justin up and then dried him off before leading him back to bed. Once he redressed himself, he went downstairs and made a couple pieces of toast and grabbed some Advil and water before going back to his patient. He stood by while Justin choked down one of the pieces of toast and swallowed his pills. Justin was asleep again in a matter of minutes. Brian brushed back the hair that fell across Justin's face and placed a soft kiss on his forehead, smiling at the soft moan that Justin released.
"What am I going to do with you?" Brian whispered in the silence before he walked away to get started on his errands.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For