Be Careful What You Wish For

Chapter 22


*   *   *


Justin looked around his studio space. He had eight new canvases completed to go along with the six that were winging their way to New York from Denver. His show at the Gerard Manley Gallery was to open in two weeks. They had actually moved the date back a little since Justin had been on a creative binge ever since he had arrived in New York.

Gerard loved the new canvases that Justin was turning out, and he wanted to be sure they were included in the show. The one Justin was working on was almost finished. It would be completed in a couple of days. That would make fifteen canvasses altogether. That would be a most presentable showing for his first time in New York.

Justin smiled to himself as he cleaned his brushes. He had really loved his time in New York City. It had got him away from all the memories in Denver. Not that he wanted to forget John, because he certainly didn't. But somehow everything in Denver had seemed to weigh him down. Since he had come to New York he had felt energized. He loved walking the streets and feeling the vitality of the city. It was totally different from Denver.

And he was far away from Brian. He had to say that he missed his pretend partner, but not as much as he had thought he would. They had talked maybe three times on the phone. Brian had been pissed when Justin called after his first week in New York and told Brian that he wouldn't be back in Denver until Christmas time. Brian had just about blown a gasket, but Justin hadn't really cared at that point. He wondered if Brian would have even realized that Justin wasn't in the same city as he was, if Justin hadn't called to inform him of that fact. Probably not, was Justin's conclusion.

Justin stuck his clean brushes upside down in the jar where they would dry overnight. He yawned and looked at his watch. It was after eleven at night, and he hadn't even stopped to have dinner. He grabbed his jacket and decided to walk the three blocks to the small apartment that he was subletting from someone Gerard knew. Justin was glad the gallery owner had taken him under his wing and had helped so much with all the arrangements for his stay in New York.

Gerard reminded Justin a lot of John. He was kind and helpful, and treated Justin like he was his son. No one would ever take John's place in Justin's heart, but he did appreciate everything Gerard had done.

As Justin walked along the street he decided he would stop at the little deli in the next block. He could get some kind of sandwich to take home with him. He realized he was quite hungry. He walked into the deli noting that there was one customer ahead of him. It was a young man ordering a sandwich, just like Justin would be doing as soon as the guy was finished. When Justin walked up to the counter, the man turned and looked at him. Justin's gaydar started pinging immediately. He had to admit the man looked very tempting and he certainly seemed interested.

Justin averted his eyes not wanting to start anything that he wasn't going to finish. He had not fucked anyone since he had left Denver, and for whatever reason, he didn't intend to start now. He had a fleeting thought about Brian, wondering if he was still following Justin's wish in that regard. If he was, they were both becoming totally dependent on their right hand. Justin tried not to groan as he thought about Brian and Brian's lips and Brian's body and Brian's cock. He realized he was getting hard as he let the thoughts sift through his brain. He looked up and saw the young man at the counter smiling at him with that knowing look. Justin shook his head, but the man just grinned as he waited for the counter man to finish making his sandwich.

When the man had received and paid for his sandwich, Justin placed his order. The young man put his change in his pocket and picked up the bag containing his sandwich. He turned and looked Justin in the eye.

"I think I'd enjoy this sandwich more if I ate it with you," he said.

Justin almost agreed. Some part of him wanted to, but some part of him knew where that would lead. He wasn't ready to do that until he was sure everything was finished with Brian. He shook his head. "Maybe some other time," he said slowly.

"Too bad," the guy said and walked out of the deli.

By the time Justin got his sandwich he had lost his appetite. He wondered what the fuck he was doing. He had turned down a potentially very pleasing encounter with a handsome young man so that he didn't cheat on his fucking pretend partner. He needed to have his head read.

Justin stomped along the sidewalk heading for his apartment. He was getting angrier with every step that he took. He remembered his other two phone calls with Brian. One Brian had initiated to say that he was going to Pittsburgh to spend the weekend with Gus. He wanted to know if Justin would accompany him. A part of Justin had wanted to say that he would go, but he had finally turned down the offer. He didn't like Michael's skepticism about their relationship, and Justin also remembered what had happened after Lindsay's visit. He didn't want to get involved with Brian's extended family. He was enjoying his time painting in New York, and he wasn't going to interrupt it to have a miserable weekend in Pittsburgh.

He could have probably had mind blowing sex with Brian if he had agreed to go, but he refused to let sex be the only deciding factor. He wanted more from Brian than sex, and until he thought he could get it, he would just keep his distance. Either that or he would end this charade once and for all.

Justin entered the old building where his apartment was located. He was on the third floor and he had to walk up. He started the climb thinking about the last time he had talked to Brian. That had been the day they had finally set the date for the opening of his show at the Manley Gallery. He had called Brian to tell him when it was and that he would like his partner to be there at his side. Brian had been very non-committal. Justin had gotten ticked about Brian's lack of enthusiasm for the event. He hadn't been able to convince Brian of what a big deal a New York showing really was. He had finally hung up in frustration not knowing whether Brian intended to come to the opening or not. He still didn't know.

Justin unlocked his apartment door and stepped inside. He dropped the bag with his sandwich on the counter. Suddenly he wasn't hungry at all. He was tired, very tired. He headed into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He needed to get clean and just go to bed.

When Justin stood in the shower, he didn't have the strength to even move. Sometimes thinking about Brian and their so-called relationship just paralyzed him. He couldn't believe he had voluntarily made the decision to get into this mess. His fucking life was so screwed up.

Visions of Brian Kinney danced in his head as he soaped his body. He could see Brian's smirk and wondered if Kinnetik was continuing to be a success. It probably was. Brian seemed to be able to turn his advertising ideas into gold. Why couldn't he do the same thing with his personal life? Justin felt like he was in some kind of limbo, living his life like he was part of a couple, having all the problems that couples had, and none of the fucking benefits. He had to be crazy to live his life like this.

Justin's hand reached for his dick and he tugged on it looking for some kind of release. "Brian," he mumbled as he started to shoot. Why was that man always in his head?

He turned off the water and dried himself quickly. He walked out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, which wasn't very far in the small apartment. He looked at the sandwich bag deciding that he didn't want it. He tossed it into the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of water. He downed about half of it before heading for his bedroom. He crawled between the covers with visions of a triumphant opening of his show in New York City. And right there beside him was Brian Kinney with his patented smirk, looking like a million dollars.

"Fuck!" Justin muttered as he tossed and turned and tried to find sleep.

*   *   *

Brian stood by the window in his office, looking out at the city, trying to decide what to do next. The last time he talked to Justin, he refused to commit to a trip to New York, claiming that he had a lot of work to do. It wasn't a lie. Kinnetik was growing faster than he anticipated, leaving him little time for a social life. But that wasn't the reason for his apprehension. The real reason was the blond himself. Every time they got together and played the part of the happy couple, Brian sunk deeper and deeper in the charade, and it scared the heart out of him. Then, when he put some much needed space between them, Justin got hurt. He could see it in the sad blue eyes when he gave yet another excuse for a lengthy absence. He didn't want to be the reason for Justin's pain. He cared about him too much for that. Hell, that was part of the problem. The feelings he was developing for Justin were beyond anything he ever expected to feel for someone, causing him to pull back before he did something completely stupid and totally out of character. It was becoming harder and harder to hold on to his fuck-all attitude and that was something he just wasn't ready for; would never be ready for. So instead, he pushed Justin away time and time again, counting down the days until he could get on with his life.

Unfortunately it wasn't as easy as he hoped it would be. It had been agony for him to force himself to stay late at the office, occasionally sleeping in the empty building to avoid the connection that the two of them seemed unable to ignore. Then Justin took off to New York. Brian had been pissed when he found out that the blond left without telling him for the second time, making him look like an ass when one of the house staff told him of his partner's plans. But worse than that, he hated how much he missed having Justin in the same state. He knew it was crazy, considering that they rarely saw each other, but he liked knowing that Justin was right across town if he wanted to see him. He even gave in and called Justin the month before, letting him know that he'd be visiting Gus for the weekend and asking him to go along. Justin had pretty much refused outright, claiming that he had too much to do before his show. Brian had been disappointed, yet a little relieved to know that they didn't have to put on a happy face for the gang.

Now here he was, the night before Justin's big New York opening, struggling with the idea of flying to the city to be by the artist's side. He knew it was expected of him. As a partner, Brian would be obligated to go to the opening and show his support. Everyone expected him to be there; everyone except the blond himself. Justin seemed to have given up his role of partner, asking for nothing of Brian, and expecting nothing in return. Brian didn't really want to admit it, but it kind of hurt to have Justin brush him off like he was just an acquaintance. And where had those feelings come from? Wasn't he the one who wanted to put distance between them? Wasn't it his idea to spend more and more time apart, communicating occasionally through phone calls and emails? Why all of a sudden was he wishing that things between them were different? Maybe it had to do with Christmas being right around the corner? He'd never been much of a holiday person, but since Gus had been born, he'd begun almost enjoying the holiday cheer that December brought to everyone. He briefly wondered if Justin would be home for Christmas. The last time it was mentioned, Justin said he'd be home at Christmas time, but that didn't give him a specific timetable for the blond's arrival. Would he make it back in time to open the gift that Brian had bought him? He knew it would be hard for Justin with John being gone, and he didn't like the idea of him being all alone in a strange city for the holidays. Then there was the trip to Pittsburgh. Brian had decided to close down Kinnetik for the week between Christmas and New Year's, using that time to fly home to see his son. Justin was expected to be there, too. What kind of partners would be separated for the most important holidays of the year?

Making a snap decision, Brian reached for the phone and called the airlines, booking himself a first class flight into LaGuardia for the following afternoon. With any luck, he'd be able to check into his hotel, shower and change, and make it to the gallery just in time. It was time he and his partner laid down a new set of rules, because the ones they'd been living by just weren't working for either one of them anymore.

*   *   *

Justin downed the rest of his water, fighting back the panic that was threatening to set in. The doors to the gallery were opening in fifteen minutes and the butterflies in his stomach had grown to the size of a Boeing 737, swooping down and making him feel nauseous. He'd had minor showings before, back in Denver, but nothing on the same scale as New York. And during those showings, he had John by his side for support. He never heard from Brian after their last conversation and it took him awhile to get over his anger and hurt from his partner's obvious brush off. He had mentally prepared himself to be on his own, but now that the time had come, he'd give anything to have someone there for him. Instead he went to the bathroom, needing to relieve his bladder of all the water he drank, and possibly splash some cool water on his face. He was suddenly feeling overheated. Glancing once again at his watch, he realized that his time had run out. The doors were about to be opened and all he could do was put a smile on his face and hope that he didn't make a fool out of himself by passing out the minute he walked out of the bathroom. He could do this. He had to do this.

Brian walked into the gallery at exactly seven o'clock and scanned the packed room for Justin. He found him quickly, standing off to the left of the room, locked in a conversation with three men dressed in business suits. He decided to give Justin his space and went over to the bar and ordered a drink. Once he had a glass in hand, he walked over towards where Justin was standing and leaned against the wall, watching silently as the blond charmed his audience.

"He's pretty special, isn't he?"

The voice behind him pulled Brian from his thoughts and he turned around to come face to face with its owner. "Excuse me?"

"You're Brian, right? I've seen enough sketches to spot you a mile away," the man laughed as he extended his right hand. "My name's Trevor. I'm the manager of the gallery. I've been working closely with Justin since he arrived here in New York. All that talent, wrapped up in a body like that? He's amazing."

"Yeah, he is," Brian admitted, surprising himself and Trevor with his answer.

"Then why is he always so sad? Why has he been here all by himself? If I had someone like that to call my own, I'd be more careful about hanging on to him," Trevor replied before walking away without a backwards glance, leaving Brian to stare at him in confusion.

He didn't like the way Trevor insinuated that he knew all about the relationship between him and Justin. Brian glared angrily at his retreating form for a moment before turning back to where Justin was standing. The men he'd been talking to had left his side and the blond was now alone, staring at his paintings on the wall. Brian used the opportunity to approach the man unnoticed, wrapping his arm around him from behind.

"Any chance you know the artist? I was hoping you could help me get a private meeting with him," Brian teased, speaking softly in Justin's ear.

Justin pulled away and spun around in surprise. "Brian, what are you doing here?"

"I thought I was invited."

"You were…I just figured that you weren't coming. You never said…"

"I didn't want to commit in case I couldn't get away," Brian said, only partially telling the truth. "It turns out that not having a social life helps to get a lot of work done. Besides, I thought I'd surprise you."

Justin looked into Brian's eyes, trying to remember all the anger he felt towards the older man so that he wouldn't just give in and forgive him for all the pain he caused. He failed miserably as he threw his arms around Brian's neck, bringing their mouths together in a heated kiss, blocking out everyone in the room but them.

Brian relished in the warmth from Justin's lips as he deepened the kiss momentarily, but then pulled back when he remembered where they were. "Easy, Sunshine. I don't think that's the kind of show these people were looking for."

"Fuck them," Justin whispered huskily.

"That's a pretty tall order. How about if we wait until the evening is over and then I'll fuck you instead?"

Justin's cheeks reddened with longing and lust, but before he could reply, they were joined by Gerard who was looking rather pleased.

"Justin my boy, it looks like I was right in my instincts. We've already sold four of your paintings and we've only been opened for half an hour. I have a feeling we'll be sold out before the night is over."

"Wow, really? That's amazing!" Justin exclaimed, struggling to keep his voice low enough that the whole room didn't hear him. "I never expected to sell everything."

"I never had any doubt," Gerard replied confidently. He glanced over at the tall, auburn haired man standing next to Justin and smiled. "It's nice to finally meet you, Brian. You must be very proud of your partner here. His talent is outstanding."

Brian didn't even hesitate. "Yes, I am."

Justin beamed, more from Brian's reply than Gerard's praise. "Brian, this is Gerard Manley. He owns the gallery."

"It's nice to meet you," Brian replied as he extended his arm and shook Gerard's hand. "How long is Justin required to stick around? We haven't seen each other in awhile and have some catching up to do."

"Brian!" Justin cried out, mortified by Brian's insinuation.

Gerard only laughed at Brian's question. "It's okay, Justin. I completely understand. My partner and I live on opposite sides of the country. We don't see each other nearly enough." He smiled and turned to Brian before continuing. "Let me have him for another hour and then he's all yours."

"Thanks." Brian smiled with mischief in his eyes, enjoying the blush on Justin's face. "I'll just have a look around while I wait."

Justin waited until Brian was gone before apologizing to Gerard. "I'm really sorry about that. Brian tends to say what's on his mind without thinking first."

"It's not a problem, Justin. I really do understand," Gerard assured him. "I thought you said Brian couldn't make it."

"I didn't think he could. Opening his own business has kept him pretty busy. I guess he managed to finish up what he needed to," Justin explained.

"He's even more impressive than he is in your sketches," Gerard commented as he looked across the room to where Brian was standing, observing some of Justin's work. "I didn't think that was possible."

"Yeah, he is," Justin replied proudly. "Look, I can stay longer if you need me to. I'll just send Brian on his way and meet up with him later."

"Nonsense. I know how much you've been missing him, and don't even try to deny it. I see the sadness on your face every time you mention his name. Hang around for another hour and then go…catch up." Gerard's smirk told Justin that he knew exactly what they'd be catching up on. "You don't have to come in tomorrow morning. Just make sure you resurface by seven tomorrow night."

"Thanks, Gerard. I really appreciate that."

"Anything for my favorite artist," Gerard smiled. "Now I'll leave you to your adoring fans while I go mingle. If we don't talk again before you make your exit, have a good evening."

Brian stood around for the next hour, watching Justin interact with the gallery patrons while his cock thickened in his trousers. Just seeing Justin across the room made him hard, thinking about what he had planned for them when they returned to the hotel he had reserved. The Jacuzzi that was waiting for them was going to be put to good use. As soon as the hour had passed, he sought out the blond and steered him out the door, oblivious to the jealous eyes of those around them. His only thought was of finally being able to sink himself inside Justin's tight ass. Few words were exchanged between them as the cab Brian hailed drove them through the busy streets of the city. The anticipation of the evening was weighing on both of them, each one looking ahead to what would happen once they were behind closed doors. Their sighs of relief could be heard by their driver as he pulled up outside the hotel.

As soon as the elevator doors slid shut, Brian had Justin in his arms, bringing their lips together in the passion that had been missed during their separation. It was moments like the one he was in that had him wondering why they were ever apart. He just hoped that once he was momentarily satisfied, his fears didn't make him run for the hills again. Their time together was running out and he vowed to make the most of it before it was too late.

Justin's head was spinning as he stepped out of the elevator and quickly followed Brian down to his room. His brain was telling him he was making a mistake; one that he would regret as soon as Brian disappeared from his life again. But his heart; his heart was telling him to just jump in once again. He was already hopelessly in love. What difference did it make when his heart was shattered? He laughed softly as Brian struggled to open the door and when they were finally inside, all thoughts were quickly tossed aside as they stripped down and became one right there in the entranceway.

Round two took place in the Jacuzzi and three happened in the bed before either one of them were sated. Brian lay on his back with Justin curled up by his side, his head resting on Brian's chest. It seemed like the perfect end to a perfect evening, but Brian knew that it wasn't over yet. He promised himself that no matter how much he hated the thought, he and Justin had to settle things between them. He took a deep breath, hoping he didn't screw up all he planned to say, and then turned on his side, Justin face to face with him.

"I guess we should talk."

"Do we have to?" Justin asked nervously?

"I thought you'd want to," Brian replied, a little surprised by Justin's reluctance.

"I don't. I mean…I do, but not now. Not tonight. This evening, from selling my work to having you appear out of nowhere has been like a dream. I just don't want to be woken up yet," Justin explained tenderly. "Can we just leave all the bullshit behind for now? We can talk tomorrow."

Brian looked deep in Justin's eyes and saw the fear there. Fear of the unknown, of impending disappointment and heartbreak, fear of what the future held for them, and kicked himself for handling their whole situation so badly. He wondered for the hundredth time if the money had been worth it. If the scheme they concocted to abide by the clause in the will, would be worth the pain he knew Justin was going to endure. Somehow he doubted it.

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