Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
The big day finally arrived. Brian was due at the treatment center at nine for his final dose of radiation. He managed to pull off four weeks of hell without anyone other than Ted knowing about what was happening to him. Being Friday, he'd taken the day off completely; deciding to give himself the whole day to suffer in silence, knowing that by Monday he'd be ready to go back to work. The grueling weeks past had been hard on him, and his body showed the toll it had suffered because of the disease and treatments, but he had survived it all and hoped to be able to bring his body back to top shape quickly and move on. As he sat at the counter, looking over some work files he'd brought home while waiting to leave, his cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID and frowned at the number on display.
"Kinney," he growled into the phone.
"Brian, it's Amanda. I'm sorry to bother you, but I thought I should give you a call," she replied tentatively.
"What's going on now?" he asked, although he already knew.
"We lost another one. I feel really bad about this. I like Matt a lot, but he's just not cutting it here. Especially without you here to keep an eye on him," she explained carefully.
"Fuck!" Brian barked, rage coursing through him. He took a moment to think about his next move and knew he only had one choice. "Look, hang tight and don't let on that you talked to me. I'll catch a late night flight and be in the office first thing in the morning to look over his accounts and see where we stand."
"Thank you, Brian. I really am sorry about this. I know you're busy trying to get things off the ground in Pittsburgh. I just hate to see things here fall apart in the process."
"It's okay, Amanda. It's not your fault. I appreciate your drive. I'll give you a call sometime tomorrow and let you know what our next move is going to be."
Brian hung up the phone and slammed it down on the counter harder than was necessary. This was the last thing he needed right now. His brain scrambled for the best course of action, but he knew that no matter what, the flight to Denver was going to be a nightmare. He called the airline and secured himself a six o'clock flight and then quickly threw the necessary items in a bag so that he could relax after the radiation and be ready to go when the time came. Then he placed a call to Arthur. They'd kept in touch since his return home and always discussed Kinnetik during those calls. He was a sound businessman and Brian hoped he'd be able to offer him some good advice about what he should do.
"How're things on the east coast," Arthur said after the preliminaries were out of the way.
"They're good here. It's Denver that I'm having a problem with." Brian then went on to explain what he knew about the mess Matt was making. Once he was finished with his explanation, he waited to hear what Arthur had to say.
"Wow, sounds like he's a really big problem. Four accounts in a matter of months is not the right way to handle a business. What are your plans?"
"I'm not sure. I'm flying in later tonight. I figured I'd go through his files tomorrow while the office is closed and see what else he's been up to. I was wondering if we could maybe meet afterwards and you could give me some of your vast wisdom," Brian replied with a chuckle.
"Always the flatterer," Arthur teased. "Of course I'll help you."
"Thanks. I really appreciate it. I'll give you a call after I check into my hotel and we can set up a time."
"A hotel? Why would you stay in a hotel? You own half of a mansion, remember?"
Brian sighed. "I know, but I figured it would be easier if I stayed at the Hilton. Things were pretty bad between Justin and me when I left. I don't want to cause him any grief."
"I can understand that, but you two are going to have to talk eventually. You have too many connections now. But fortunately for you, it doesn't matter at the moment. Justin's in Chicago meeting with Marjorie Atkins from the Hammersmith Gallery. They want to include him in an upcoming show. He won't be back until the middle of next week. He even gave the staff the time off, so the house would be all yours," Arthur told him.
Brian tried not to think about the disappointment than ran through him. Even though he knew he couldn't see Justin; at least not on this trip, he was secretly looking forward to being in the same city with him. So much for that. "Well, I guess I lucked out then. I hadn't booked a room yet, so I might as well stay there. With the time difference I should be landing just after seven."
"Great. I have a dinner engagement but I'll swing by after that and make sure you have everything you need. Maybe we can even talk a little bit more about what's going on."
Brian wanted to object, knowing that he wouldn't be feeling up to seeing anyone by the time he got to the house, but he felt bad about that. Arthur was helping him and he didn't want to seem ungrateful. The old Brian would be ready to go clubbing right after landing. Besides, he'd be seeing the man the following day and he'd learn soon enough that Brian had been under the weather. He'd just give him the same story as everyone else. The bug from foreign lands. "Sounds good. I'll see you later tonight."
As soon as Brian hung up, he grabbed his keys and headed out, mentally preparing himself for the long day ahead.
The three hour flight to Denver wasn't the hell Brian thought it would be. It was worse. He'd been sick since early afternoon and despite the comforts of first class, he just couldn't seem to settle himself down while trapped inside the small body of the plane. He managed to control his stomach through part of the flight, only racing to the bathroom a handful of times to empty the contents of his stomach. The flight attendant took pity on him and constantly came by to check on him and bring him some ginger ale. Luckily the seat beside him was empty so he didn't really bother anyone much during his ordeal. As soon as the plane touched down and opened its doors, Brian was out like a shot, racing to the bathroom in the airport. Through it all, he silently cursed Matt for putting him in his current position. He'd packed sparingly so he didn't have to check his luggage and finally made his way outside to catch a waiting cab.
The ride to the house was shorter than normal, probably due to the fact that he looked like death and the driver was anxious to get him out of the car, and Brian was relieved when they pulled up into the winding driveway. He paid the fare and then hurried inside, needing to finally be able to relax and catch his breath. On top of the nausea that wracked his body regularly, he was more exhausted than he'd ever been before. The radiation was taking away any strength that Brian ever had, leaving him feeling weak and useless. He took his bag upstairs, resisting the urge to look around and think about how things used to be. He didn't have time for nostalgia on this trip. The spare room looked the same as it always did, and Brian was surprised that the picture of Gus that Lindsay had sent to him while he was there was still on the nightstand. He'd forgotten to take it with him when he left. After a long, hot shower, he dressed in a pair of sweats before going back downstairs to wait for Arthur. He lay on the couch, listening to the familiar ticking of the grandfather clock, and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Arthur walked into the house just after nine and noticed a light coming from the living room. He called out to Brian, and when he got no answer, he went into the room. He figured the younger man might have been in the shower and planned on waiting there for him. What he hadn't planned on was finding Brian sleeping on the couch. He was about to tiptoe out of the room and leave Brian to his rest, but when he took a better look at the sleeping figure, he was suddenly very worried. Brian looked horrible, and for someone like Brian Kinney, that was saying a lot. Despite his attire, Arthur immediately became aware of the weight loss Brian had suffered. On top of that, the man's complexion was bordering on ashen gray. Even the dark circles under his eyes stood out on his sleeping form. He quickly thought about how Justin had been looking lately, but somehow he knew that there was more than a broken heart behind Brian's appearance. Concern caused him to wake the man, needing to make sure he was all right.
"Brian," he said softly, gently nudging Brian's shoulder. "Brian, it's Arthur."
"Hmmm," Brian murmured, as he was pulled from sleep. "Hey, what time is it?"
"It's just after nine. I didn't want to wake you, but…Brian, are you all right?" Arthur asked hesitantly.
"Yeah," Brian replied weakly as he struggled to sit up. It was the wrong move as his stomach lurched and bile rose in his throat. "Excuse me," he mumbled as he shot up and raced to the bathroom.
Arthur watched in horror as Brian ran from the room and a few moments later he heard the faint retching sound coming from the bathroom down the hall. He began pacing the room, anxious to find out what was going on with Brian. He considered the possibility that he was just reacting to the travel, although he'd never known the man to have a problem with traveling, but his rundown appearance suggested that whatever the problem was, it had been going on longer than a day. He was considering going down to see if Brian was okay, when the man in question staggered back into the room, looking even more haggard and drawn.
"Sorry about that," Brian said, his voice scratchy and hoarse.
"Shit Brian, what's going on with you? You look horrible."
"It's good to see you, too," Brian joked, trying to force a smile to his lips. "It's no big deal. I picked up some strange bug while in Ibiza. I'm going to be fine, although I think it would probably be best if we skip our talk tonight. I'm beat and I need to go to bed. Under the circumstances, the flight took a lot out of me. I'm sure I'll feel better in the morning."
"Are you sure that's all it is? I mean, your trip was weeks ago. Surely you'd be…"
"I'm sure," Brian assured him, once again hating the lies. He always prided himself on his honesty. "A good night's sleep and I'll be feeling much better. I'm sorry to make you come all the way out here for nothing."
"It's not a problem. Do you need me to do anything for you?"
"Could you just lock up behind you? I'm going right up to bed," Brian replied.
"Sure, I'll take care of it. Get some rest and give me a call in the morning. I'll go with you to Kinnetik and help you look through those files."
"Thanks Arthur. I'll talk to you in the morning."
Arthur waited until Brian was out of sight before dropping down in the nearest chair, his brain a flurry of activity. He was really worried about Brian's health, but what had him more concerned was the way Brian made up an excuse instead of telling him the truth. There was no way his condition was caused by a trip to Ibiza, and Brian's cover up told Arthur that whatever was wrong was really serious. Knowing what he had to do; Arthur reached for the phone, hoping that Brian would forgive him for meddling.
Justin was in the middle of having dinner with Marjorie and a few of her associates when his cell phone rang. He silently cursed himself for forgetting to shut it off and excused himself to answer it.
"Justin, it's Arthur." Arthur flipped open his computer and began his search.
"Arthur, can I call you back in the morning? I'm in the middle of a late night dinner with Marjorie and a few of her associates," Justin replied as he glanced back into the dining room.
"Justin, you need to come home," Arthur said typing in some information..
"What? You're the one who encouraged me to come here. Marjorie really likes my work and thinks I'll make an excellent addition to the show," Justin said, beaming with pride. "Whatever it is, can't it wait until next week when I get back?"
"Brian? What about Brian?" Justin's heart rate kicked up a notch at the mere mention of the man's name.
"He's here in Denver," Arthur replied.
"Oh," Justin said softly. He suddenly wished he was in Denver, too. At least they'd be in the same city. He put on a brave face. "All the more reason for me to stay here."
"He's sick, Justin," Arthur said.
"Sick? What do you mean by sick?"
"He called me this morning. The Denver office is having some problems and he wants my advice. When he told me he'd be flying in, I suggested he stay at the house. Since you're not here and it belongs to him too, I didn't think there'd be a problem," Arthur explained.
"Yeah, and…?" Justin asked impatiently, Marjorie and her people momentarily forgotten.
"Well, I told him I'd meet him here after I finished up with my dinner plans. When I got here, he was sleeping on the couch. I was going to just leave him be when I got a good look at him. He's so thin and his coloring…the only color on his face is the dark circles under his eyes. I woke him up. I wanted to make sure he was okay and he could barely sit up and then ran to the bathroom and threw up. I asked him if he was okay, and he told me that he picked up a bug overseas and that he was fine."
"Okay, so he's a little sick, but I'm sure he's going to be okay. He probably went to the doctor and got something to take for it," Justin said, trying to rationalize the situation and force away his concern.
"Justin, he went to Ibiza weeks ago. Even if he did pick up something there, they'd have it under control by now. The fact that he outright lied to me has me even more worried. I have a really bad feeling about this, otherwise I wouldn't be calling you," Arthur told him.
Justin was silent for a moment, letting it all sink in. He was right. Arthur would never call him to come home unless he was really worried. "You don't think it's…"
"No. Brian's not like that. No matter what was going on between you two, if he tested positive, he would've called you and let you know for your own safety," Arthur assured him.
"So what do you think it is?" Justin asked fearfully.
"I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it's really taking a toll on him. It's bad, Justin."
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Just let me say goodbye and get back to my hotel," Justin replied.
"I knew you would say that. I just booked you on the next flight out. You need to be at the airport in 90 minutes. Think you can handle that?"
"If I have to break every traffic law in the city, I'll be there," Justin promised. "Arthur, do you think you could…"
"I'll stay here until you get here."
"Thanks Arthur. I'll see you sometime in the morning."
Justin closed his phone and sent a silent prayer that whatever was wrong with Brian wasn't too serious and then went back to his table to make his excuses. Once he explained that someone very close to him was very ill, Marjorie all but pushed him out of the restaurant, promising that she'd call him the following week to see how things were and to set up their next meeting. Justin raced from the restaurant and paid the valet an extra hundred dollars to find his rental fast. A quick trip to the hotel and he was at the airport with twenty minutes to spare. He checked in and made sure the flight was on time before he sat down to wait, giving his brain time to absorb everything that was happening. As time went by though, he was making himself crazy. All sorts of scenarios were playing through his head, each one scarier than the last. By the time he boarded the plane, he was almost in a full blown panic.
The flight took just over two hours and Justin's panic hadn't diminished any by the time he landed. He grabbed his bag and almost ran from the plane, anxious to get home and see Brian for himself. He'd parked his car in long-term parking and hurried through the lot, his mind so scattered that he'd forgotten when he left it. He finally found the car and was on the road in minutes. He pulled into the driveway after speeding through the deserted streets of Denver at just after three. He fumbled with his key before unlocking the door and making his way inside. Arthur was pacing the floor when he found him.
"Where is he?"
"He's upstairs in the guest room. I just peeked in on him a little while ago. He was sleeping soundly. I'm sorry to pull you away from Chicago. I'm just really worried about him and I thought you'd want to be here," Arthur replied.
"No, you did the right thing. I've been frantic ever since your call, imagining all kinds of things. I don't know what I'll do if he…" Justin's voice trailed off. He couldn't even begin to complete his thoughts.
"Justin, you can't think like that," Arthur said gently.
"I know, but I just lost John last year and even though Brian and I aren't together anymore, I still love him. If he's really sick, I just…I don't know what I'll do."
"Look, we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Maybe it's not as bad as it seems. In fact, he could be telling the truth. Maybe it is just some weird bug he picked up and all he needs is a little time. There's no need to think the worst until we know what he's dealing with," Arthur said, trying his best to offer as much comfort as he could.
"You're right. Freaking out isn't going to help any. Thanks for staying with him. You can go on home now. I'm sure you're exhausted. I expected to find you asleep on the couch or something."
"I considered it, but I wanted to be awake in case Brian…well, in case he needed me. Call me in the morning. Brian was supposed to, but I imagine that once he finds out what I did, he won't be speaking to me."
"I won't tell him you called. I'll just say that my trip ended earlier than I thought and I came home and found him here," Justin said.
"I doubt that'll work, but thanks. And don't worry too much. Try to get some rest. You look exhausted."
"I will," Justin replied. "I'll call you tomorrow."
Justin walked Arthur to the door and watched him get into his car before locking the door and heading upstairs. He needed to get to Brian and see for himself just how bad it was. He quietly opened the door to the spare room, leaving the hallway light on so that he could see where he was going. Brian was sleeping curled up in a ball and even in the bad lighting; Justin could see what had Arthur so concerned. It was even worse than his imagination conjured up and Justin couldn't control the tears that sprang to his eyes. Whatever it was that Brian had, it hit him hard and left him looking nothing like the healthy man that left only two months before. Without thinking about the consequences, Justin stripped down to his briefs and climbed in the bed beside Brian, taking the almost frail man into his arms. Brian stirred for a moment, but then let out a loud sigh and snuggled into Justin's embrace, as if seeking and finding comfort there. Justin just held him, fighting his tears, and eventually drifted off into a fitful sleep.
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