Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
Justin was wandering the house aimlessly. It was well after midnight and yet he couldn't seem to find the peace he needed to fall asleep. It was the same thing he'd been experiencing every night in the weeks since Brian had left Denver. Although he pushed himself every day in the studio, trying to work through his sadness as well as work on his career, when it came time to go to bed at night, sleep eluded him. His mind was too wrapped up in Brian and the presence he left behind in every square inch of the house. The dark circles under his eyes told everyone he came in contact with that something was wrong, but he refused to admit to anyone just how upset he was by Brian's departure. He'd told Arthur and the house staff that things between them just weren't working, mostly due to the fact that Brian was starting up a new business and needed to be free to focus on that. He'd claimed that the break-up was a mutual thing and that they were just taking time to get their lives together. He basically alluded to the fact that their separation was a temporary thing, hoping to keep the pity at bay. At first it seemed to work, but as Justin became more irritable and the circles under his eyes darkened, he could sense everyone's concern and he hated it. It was another reason he found himself locked in the studio most of the day. Everyone knew not to bother him when he was behind closed doors.
After going through his nightly ritual; having a drink or two, watching a little TV, pacing the house, he finally managed to fall asleep somewhere around five in the morning only to be up by seven. It was exhausting to be running on so little sleep, but there was nothing he could do about it. Until he could get Brian out of his mind, sleeping wasn't really an option. He had just gotten downstairs, ready to go into the studio when he heard the front door open. He walked into the entranceway, surprised to find Arthur standing there looking like he just rolled out of bed.
"What the hell happened to you?" Justin asked with amusement. He didn't remember ever seeing Arthur so disheveled.
"Nothing happened to me. I wanted to talk to you before you locked yourself up in your studio again, so I had to get up extra early. I haven't even had my coffee yet." Arthur motioned for Justin to follow as he walked to the kitchen to put the coffee on.
"What's going on? If it's about business, you could've just left a message with Margaret and I would've given you a call," Justin assured him as he pulled two mugs from the cabinet.
"It's not business related," Arthur told him. "It's personal."
Justin sensed where Arthur was going and wanted no part of it. "Look Arthur, if it's not about business then I really don't have time right now. I'm in the middle of some major projects and need to be getting to work."
"Justin, have you looked in the mirror lately?" Arthur asked, ignoring Justin's response. "When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? And you've lost weight, too. Shit, look at you! John would kill me if he knew I let this happen."
"I'm fine. I've just been really busy lately and don't always remember to eat. There's nothing to worry about. Once I finish up the paintings I'm working on, I'll gain the weight right back and then some," Justin lied as he avoided Arthur's gaze. "Besides, I'm a big boy and I can take care of myself. There's no need for you to watch over me."
"The hell there isn't!" Arthur yelled, surprising both himself and Justin. "Look, you can lie to yourself all you want. Just don't lie to me. You haven't been the same since Brian left. You don't think anyone's noticed? How stupid do you think we are?"
Justin turned around, keeping his back to Arthur as he walked over to the window and stared outside. He couldn't speak as he felt his tears welling up once again.
"Justin, talk to me. I may not be John, but I could be your friend," Arthur said softly as he approached Justin slowly and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You really love him, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. Oh Arthur, I miss him so much. He's always on my mind and I don't know what to do about it. I've never felt this way before. It's like I can't eat or sleep; everything is just so screwed up," Justin cried tearfully. "I don't know how to get past it all."
"Why don't you go see him then? You told us that it was a mutual thing and that it was only temporary. Maybe you just need to go be with him for awhile. Have you told him how you feel?"
"No," Justin whispered.
"Why not? I'm sure he could…"
"I lied, all right!" Justin barked, unable to play the charade any longer. "It wasn't mutual and it's not temporary. We weren't even really together!"
"What?" Arthur asked in astonishment. "What are you talking about?"
Justin sighed, wiping at his fallen tears as he tried to find the words he needed to explain his non-relationship to Arthur. After everything that happened, he needed to pour his heart out to someone before he went insane. "Brian and I were never really together. In John's will, he offered Brian a large sum of money with the stipulation that he settle down with a partner by his birthday. At first Brian planned on refusing. He claimed that he didn't need the money and wouldn't let John dictate his life. But then things got really bad for him at work and he needed to find a way to go out on his own. The money would make that happen."
"So he asked you to lie for him?" Arthur was appalled.
"No, it wasn't like that. At first he asked me to help him find a partner. I set him up on a few dates, knowing that they would bomb big time."
"Because John wanted us to be together. In the video tape he left me, he made it clear that he wanted us to be together and he told me what he did to Brian so that I could make it happen. By that time we were already getting along really well and we were sharing a bed most nights, so I figured it would be easy enough to pull it off if I just let him think that I wasn't interested in being one of his prospects. When he suggested that I become his partner, I knew he only planned on staying with his partner for a year, but I thought that after spending so much time together, he'd see how perfect we are together."
"Wait, I'm confused. Why would he need help in the first place? And why did he have to lie? Brian's gorgeous. I'm sure there isn't a shortage of people willing to make a permanent commitment."
"But that's just it. He didn't want permanent. He wanted the least amount of complications. Brian doesn't believe in love and relationships. He plans on spending his life alone and he refused to let John's offer get in his way. So we agreed to stay together for a year. It was pure hell. Every time I felt we were getting closer together, he'd push me away. It was so frustrating," Justin admitted angrily.
"So that's why you went to stay in New York?"
"Yeah. I could've worked from here and just flown in for the opening, but I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't stand listening to him come home late at night and tiptoe down to the guest room instead of coming to my bed; to our bed. I knew by then that I was in love with him and I thought it would be easier if I put some distance between us."
"Then what happened? You both seemed so close around the holidays," Arthur asked, intrigued and disgusted at the same time by the story he was hearing.
"Brian happened. He showed up unexpectedly at the opening. Once we were alone he told me that he missed me and wanted me back home. He still said that he would be going back to Pittsburgh after his birthday, but that we could still enjoy ourselves until he left. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help it. I agreed. I mean…there he was, the man I fell in love with, wanting us to be together. I was powerless to do anything but agree. And things were really good after that, up until I had my accident. After that, we drifted apart again and didn't really see much of each other until the night he left. Now…now I don't know what to do. I really love him and I was hoping he could love me too."
"But he does," Arthur replied quietly.
"No he doesn't. Haven't you heard a word I've said? He doesn't believe in love. That's our problem," Justin pointed out.
"Justin, trust me on this. We could all see how much he loved you. Even before you told me your story, I always believed that he loved you. But now that I know what happened, it's even more obvious. It explains why he looked so sad the night he left. Don't you see? If he didn't love you, he never would've gone after you in New York. He would've stayed here and enjoyed his freedom. He called me on the morning of the accident beside himself with worry. I bet if we saw him now he'd be just as miserable as you are. Look, I was a little skeptical of his intentions when you first got together, but hearing the fear and concern in his voice when you were missing more than convinced me of how deeply he cares for you. Give him time. I'm sure he'll realize how important you are to him one of these days and come rushing back to you, begging for forgiveness. All I ask is that while you're waiting, you take care of yourself. You really do look dreadful and you wouldn't want to scare him away now, would you?" Arthur chuckled at the last comment, bringing a slight smile to Justin's face. "Now why don't you let me make you something to eat? I know it's Margaret's day off and you need to start putting some weight back on."
"I'm not really hungry," Justin began, but then saw the determined look on Arthur's face and caved. "But maybe I'll have a little something."
"That's better. Don't worry too much. These things always have a way of working out. Brian's got a deep connection to Denver now, and I'm not just talking about his company."
"Thanks Arthur. Despite the fact that the man I love is as dense as a forest, I feel a little better now."
"What are friends for?" Arthur replied with a smile before getting to work on making breakfast.
* * *
'This is ridiculous,' Brian thought to himself as he paced the loft. He'd been back for over a month and although Kinnetik of Pittsburgh was thriving, his social life was lacking greatly. He just couldn't find his old self. The self that prowled the bars every night, looking for the hottest tricks and losing himself in anonymous sex. Not that he hadn't tricked since returning to his playground. It's just that the playground didn't seem to hold the excitement that it once did for him. He missed Justin. After spending a year with the blond, he had gotten used to having someone there for him. Someone to listen to him brag about his newest account, or bitch about a difficult client. He hated feeling so alone, but that's exactly how he felt. During his time in Denver, everyone he'd left behind had moved on. Michael was now with the good professor. Ted had reunited with Blake, the now reformed drug counselor; even Emmett was seeing a guy that he'd met during his first catering gig. They still went out, the four of them making sure to maintain their friendship by meeting at Babylon at least once a week to dance the night away, but it was different now. They all had someone waiting for them, giving them a reason to drink a little less and go home a little earlier. Even Vic had someone, having met his new love interest at an HIV gathering. Brian was the only one who didn't have anyone to share those special moments with. The worst part of his pathetic life though, wasn't that he didn't have anyone at home waiting for him. He always figured he'd be alone at the end of the day. It was what he'd always wanted. No, the worst part was that after his year in Denver, he now knew what he was missing. Memories of Justin were constantly clouding his brain, causing him to compare everyone he came in contact with to the blond. They all came up short.
Deciding it was time to put Justin out of his mind, he grabbed his wallet and car keys and headed to Mel and Lindsay's. Spending an hour or so with his son was bound to lighten his mood. As luck would have it, he got there just in time to read Gus a bedtime story and tuck him in for the night. Lindsay was on her way out, due to an incident at the gallery that needed her attention, but strangely enough, Melanie was kind enough to let him stay, giving her a chance for a little quiet time to work on a case she had coming up. Once Gus was sleeping soundly, Brian kissed him on the forehead and slipped out of the room. He went in search of Melanie to tell her he was leaving and was surprised to find her sitting in the living room with a bottle of Jack and two shot glasses.
"What's all this for? You got a hot date coming over while your wife's at work?" Brian teased as he entered the room.
"Fuck you, asshole. I thought that you and I could talk," Melanie bit back as she filled the shot glasses.
"And what is it exactly that you and I have to talk about? The weather? It looks like rain," Brian replied sarcastically.
Melanie sighed loudly and downed her shot, waiting until Brian did the same, before speaking. "Linds is worried about you. She seems to think that Justin meant more to you than you're willing to admit."
"Well tell your wife that she doesn't know what she's talking about. Justin and I were together, and not surprisingly, now we're not. End of story," Brian said emotionlessly.
"I tried to tell her that, but you know how she is," Mel assured him. "But truthfully, I think I have to agree with her on this one."
"Shit, not you too," Brian barked angrily before reaching for the bottle and taking a swig, forgoing the glass. "What is it with you lesbians always trying to butt into other peoples' lives?"
"Look Brian, I've always been completely content trying to ignore your existence…"
"Unless you want my money," Brian butted in.
Melanie ignored his remark and continued. "But even I can see the changes in you. Ever since you came back from Denver, you've been more…human. You're spending more time with Gus, not totally pissing me off every chance you get. Ted says that you don't even go out to Babylon as much as you used to. I know that Justin is the reason behind your sudden turn around. What happened between the two of you?"
"Mel, I know you'd love to have me sit here and cry on your shoulder, but I'd rather go bottom in the back room of Babylon to the nelliest queen out there for all of Liberty to see. I'm not having this conversation with you." Brian took one last swig on the bottle before handing it to Melanie and making his way towards the door. Mel's voice stopped him as he turned the knob.
"Brian, I didn't really expect you to talk to me. In fact, Linds doesn't even know I'm doing this. Just keep one thing in mind as you race off to go get your dick sucked. If you love Justin as much as I love Lindsay, and I think that you do, don't be a fool. Don't let pride stand in your way of finding happiness. Fifty year old club boys aren't as attractive as you'd like them to be. Spending your life in the back room isn't exactly the future you're going to want."
Brian didn't reply as he stormed from the house, needing to get away from his least favorite dyke. He angrily started his Jeep and peeled away from the curb, ready to find someone to take his mind off Melanie's words and the lesbianic thoughts that were plaguing him. It didn't take long before Brian was backed up against the wall in the back room of Babylon with a stud attached to his cock by his mouth. The blow job was excellent, with only mild thoughts of Justin making it just less than perfect. As soon as it was over, and Brian was pulling up his pants, his world as he knew it changed. The trick said four small little words that brought everything to a crashing halt.
"I found a lump."
"Excuse me?" Brian asked, assuming he heard wrong. He had to have heard wrong.
"I'm a doctor. I felt a lump in your left testicle. Now before you panic, it appeared to be rather small, but you should get it checked out as soon as possible," the tricked replied. "Caught early enough, testicular cancer can be treated successfully. Come out to the bar with me and I'll give you the name of a good doctor who specializes in these things."
Brian didn't hear anything except a loud buzzing in his ears as he finished buttoning his jeans, ignoring the man in front of him, and stumbled out of the club by the back door. This couldn't be happening. The trick was wrong. He had to be wrong. Brian barely heard the sound of someone calling his name as he made his way to the Jeep and jumped inside, needing to be alone. He drove home on autopilot, his brain not even registering that he was behind the wheel, and then silently made his way up to the loft. He grabbed a bottle of Beam and walked to the bedroom, stripping off his clothes as he went. After downing a good portion of the bottle, he climbed into bed and lay down, his heart beating wildly in his chest. He didn't want to do it, was actually terrified to do it, but Brian brought his hand down to his balls, gently searching for anything that seemed out of place. It only took a moment to find what he was looking for and his blood ran cold as his fingers felt the lump. It was there. He had confirmed it. Brian Kinney had a lump in his testicle. And there, alone in his bed where no one could see him, Brian gave in to the tears that had been threatening to fall and cried.
Three days. It had taken three days to get an appointment with a doctor to have the lump examined. Didn't they realize how long three days actually was? While Brian waited, he did his best not to let anyone know that something was bothering him. It wasn't too hard after years of keeping his feelings inside, and if anyone noticed that he seemed a little more grumpy than usual, no one said anything about it. Finally the big day arrived and Brian went into the office, ready to face whatever he was in for. The appointment itself didn't take too long. The doctor explained the procedure with great detail, more details than Brian actually wanted, and then the decision was left up to Brian. He either had to have surgery and lose his left testicle, or he could pretend that nothing was wrong and wait to die. Not too much of a choice, but it did need further contemplation. And that's exactly what Brian did. He spent two days lost in thought, wondering if he should just say fuck it and wait for the inevitable to happen. He never really expected to live a long life; not with the way he abused drugs and alcohol almost daily. Maybe it was just his time to go. But then again, there were other things to factor in. He was quickly becoming a success in the advertising world. Kinnetik was becoming a household name and he really wanted to keep going and see how far he could take it. Then there was Gus. Even though he never imagined being a father, he'd come to love his son, and enjoyed watching him grow from infant to little boy. There was so much more to come that he wanted to be a part of.
And on top of all that, there was Justin. Despite all that had been said between them before he left Denver, Brian still hoped that once Justin got past the pain and sadness of their separation, they would be able to reestablish their friendship. He really missed being able to talk to him and had to stop himself almost daily from reaching for the phone to call him. Did he really want their last time together to be the awful goodbye scene that they had the previous month?
By the end of his second day of contemplation, Brian knew he'd made his decision. He'd have the surgery, and spare his life, hoping that once he was healed he'd be able to resume the life that he'd been living for thirty-five years. Once that was done, everything seemed to move at high speed. His surgery was scheduled for the following week, ironically six weeks to the day of his return, and plans were made. He'd be going down to Maryland. Johns Hopkins was one of the leading cancer hospitals in the country and if Brian was going to put his life in someone's hands, it had to be the best. He concocted an elaborate tale of a trip to Ibiza so that no one would know where he would really be, and despite their shock at his unplanned vacation, no one questioned him. He thought about calling Justin, sharing his fear with someone who would understand, but decided against it. Justin still needed time to deal with what happened, and Brian didn't want him to fly to his side to play nursemaid. Or worse, not even care that he was sick.
The surgery went well, or so he was told. It was over quickly and after spending a few days in the hospital to make sure there were no delayed complications, Brian found himself back in Pittsburgh, stiff, sore, and minus one ball. The emotional aspect of having testicular cancer was worse than anything that could be done to him physically. For someone who prided himself on his sexual prowess, losing a ball made him feel like he was less of a man. The doctor had assured him that with the insertion of his prosthetic, no one would be able to tell the difference, but that didn't matter. He knew. He knew deep down inside that his body was no longer perfect. After years of taking care of himself, working out regularly and watching what he ate, his body still turned on him. It was a big pill to swallow and caused him countless hours of mental turmoil. He had two weeks to recover after his return from Johns Hopkins before the radiation started and Brian used that time to catch up at the office so that he could carry a lighter load on the days when he was scheduled for treatment. Three days a week for four weeks. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends off. It was a grueling schedule, but it was needed so Brian didn't have much of a choice. Strangely, the first day was the easiest. He went to the cancer center and thought about Justin while the techs did their job. Thoughts of the blond, which were normally unsettling, got Brian through the worst of it. He even managed to make it back to the office. Unfortunately by mid-afternoon the nausea and sweating began to set in and Cynthia found him sprawled out on the couch in his office, fighting to keep from throwing up.
"Brian, are you all right? You're not looking so good."
"I'm fine, Cyn. I just think I might have picked up a bug or something. It's no big deal," Brian replied carefully.
"Picked up a bug? But in all the years I've worked for you, I've never known you to be sick," she said, becoming increasingly alarmed at the pale shade of Brian's skin.
"Well then I'm past due, aren't I?" Brian snapped before quickly regretting the way he yelled at her. It wasn't Cynthia's fault that he was sick. Or that she didn't know why. "Sorry, but I'm okay. I just don't feel too good. Where's Ted? I want to run a few things by him and then I think I'm going to head home."
"I'll…uh…go get him," Cynthia stammered as she hurried out of the office.
Ted appeared almost immediately, startling Brian as he tried sitting up.
"Bri, what's wrong? Cynthia said that you're sick. Is that even possible?" Ted asked nervously as he took in Brian's ragged appearance.
"What the fuck's that supposed to mean? Of course it's possible. I am human, you know," Brian replied indignantly.
"I'm sorry, Bri. I guess I just forget sometimes. Cynthia said that you wanted to talk to me before you went home. What's up?"
"I need you to keep an eye on things here. I know Cynthia can usually handle everything, but she's in the middle of working on a project for me and I'd rather her focus on that. Keep an eye on Kyle. I need the boards he's working on to be finished by tomorrow afternoon and as talented as he is, he's a slacker. I need someone to crack the whip now and then. Also, I'm expecting a call from Leo Brown. He wants to set up a meeting sometime in the next month or so. Check my calendar and see when I'm free, but you better make it at the end of the month. You know what? Give me about six weeks. Tell him I've got a lot on my plate with trying to run two locations. I'm sure he'll understand. Oh, and give Mikey a call and tell him that I can't make it to dinner tonight, but don't tell him why. Let him think it's work related or I'll never get a moment's rest. You got all that?"
"You do realize that I'm your accountant and not your secretary, right?" Ted asked.
"Okay, just checking. I'll take care of it. Is there anything else?"
"Yeah, could you call me a cab? I don't think I can drive home," Brian replied weakly as he lay back on the couch and shut his eyes.
"Yeah, sure thing, boss. I'll let you know when they get here. If you need anything, just give me a call." Ted left the office to call a cab and then waited around till it arrived so that he could help Brian out the door. Once the boss was gone, Ted jumped in with the favors that were asked of him, his mind constantly drifting back to how sick Brian looked. He hoped the man would be okay.
Brian barely made it into the loft and then the bathroom before losing the contents of his stomach. From there he dragged himself into the bedroom to change into sweats before heading back into the bathroom, where he spent the rest of the night, heaving his guts out and wishing he'd chosen to die over the surgery. The phone rang a few times, but he was too weak to answer it and didn't bother listening to the messages that were left. He finally stopped vomiting somewhere around nine and made it to the bed where he drifted off to sleep.
The next morning he was feeling a little better and even managed to choke down a dry piece of toast before going to the office. His stomach ached from all the heaving the day before, but the nausea settled down a bit and the sweating had stopped. He wasn't great, but it was a big improvement over the day before and he'd take what he could get. As he sat at his desk and went through his messages from the day before, he wondered how he'd ever manage to keep his secret for the next four weeks.
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