Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
Justin slowly opened his eyes and immediately met hazel ones staring back at him. His mind ran through the events of the previous night and he sat up, taking a better look at Brian's appearance.
"Hey, how're you feeling?" he finally asked.
"Better," Brian replied. "What are you doing here?"
"I…uh…my trip ended earlier than expected. I found you in here when I came home. You…didn't look so good so I stayed close by in case you needed me," Justin answered cautiously.
"I see. So, Arthur called you and told you I looked like shit, huh?"
Justin grimaced. Arthur had been right. Brian knew exactly what had happened. "Don't be mad at him. He's worried about you; and so am I."
"I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself," Brian retorted as he gingerly got out of bed. His balls were still sore after being burnt to a crisp over the last four weeks and the mornings were the worst.
"I can see that. Are you going to tell me what's going on or are you going to give me the same lame excuse that you gave Arthur?"
"Look Justin, I'm fine. I've been a little under the weather lately but everything's going to be okay." Brian reached for the sweat pants he discarded the night before, wishing he had just gone to the Hilton like he planned.
"Funny, that's what John used to say when he first got sick. I could see the changes taking place in his body, yet he continued to insist that he was just a little under the weather, but he would be fine. Now he's gone," Justin said softly, his emotions clearly written on his face. Seeing Brian so sick brought back a lot of very bad memories for him.
Brian could see the fear and concern in Justin's features and hated that he put them there. "I'm really okay; I promise. I was sick, the doctors treated me, and now I'm going to get better."
"Brian…" Justin began, only to be halted quickly.
"Justin, please just let it go. I don't have time to do this with you. I have to get to the office. I'll take my things and move to a hotel."
"You don't have to do that. This is your house too. I'm not going to throw you out just because of how we left things last time," Justin told him.
"You just want to check up on me," Brian said, a hint of humor in his voice.
"That's not true." At Brian's skeptical look, he faltered. "Okay, that's not entirely true. There's no reason for you to stay at a hotel. This place is more than big enough for the two of us. You'll be more comfortable here."
Of course he would be more comfortable there…physically. He somehow doubted though that staying in the same house with Justin was good for him mentally. "Fine, I'll stay here. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to shower and get moving. I have some work to do."
"What's going on with Kinnetik? Do you need my help for anything? I could always come with you and…"
"That's okay. I've got it under control. You go about your business and pretend I'm still in Pittsburgh."
"Are you sure?" Justin asked, trying not to let Brian's cool demeanor get to him.
"Yeah, it's better that way," Brian replied as he made his way into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Seeing Justin again was harder than he had thought and he needed to get out of the house before he did something stupid. He couldn't have Justin now even if he wanted to. Thanks to cancer, he was only half a man.
Justin waited until Brian was gone and then called Arthur and filled him in on what happened. Arthur agreed to head to Kinnetik instead of waiting for a call from Brian, leaving Justin to sit at home and think about his next move. Arthur was right; whatever Brian had was more than just a bug he picked up in some foreign country. He wracked his brain, trying to find a way to get the answers he needed until he finally had one thought come to mind. He ran to the phone and called the one person close enough to Brian to give him a clue, blocking the number so he'd have the upper hand.
"Ted, thank God I was able to reach you," Justin said as soon as he heard the other man's voice.
"Justin?" Ted asked in surprise.
"Yeah, it's me. I didn't know who else to call. I'm really worried about Brian," Justin explained.
"Brian? Why are you worried about Brian?"
"Because he looks like shit. I tried talking to him but he won't tell me what's wrong. I was hoping that you'd tell me," Justin replied, hoping that Ted would be foolish enough to leak some information that he could use.
"Wait, where are you?"
"I'm in Denver."
"Brian's in Denver?" Ted exclaimed as realization set in. "What the fuck is he doing there?"
"There's a problem in the Denver office and Brian came here to work it out. He flew in last night."
"Last night? But yesterday was his final visit to UPCI. He's not supposed to be jumping a plane to Denver."
'Bingo,' Justin thought to himself as he quickly scribbled the letters UPCI down on a notepad. "I figured as much considering how he looked. Ted, tell me what's going on."
"Justin, you know I can't do that. I've been sworn to secrecy. If Brian won't tell you anything, there's no way I can," Ted said.
Justin sighed dramatically, hoping that it sounded sincere. "I guess not. I'm just really worried about him. Can you at least tell me if he's going to be okay?"
"Well, he doesn't share much with me. The only reason I know anything at all is because he needed someone to help cover for him at the office. I'm pretty sure that he's going to be okay. I mean, he told me that everything was going to be fine so I guess it is."
"All right. I guess I'll just have to accept that. I'm really sorry I put you in this position, Ted. I was just really worried about him and I didn't know who else to call," Justin said apologetically. "Please don't tell him I called."
"I won't, but I'm going to call his cell phone now and check on him. He should've let me know if he was planning on going out of town. I'll pretend to think he's at the loft."
"Thanks Ted. For looking out for him. He needs someone to do it and it obviously can't be me anymore."
"Yeah, and it's not an easy job. I don't know how you stood it for so long," Ted chuckled.
"It was easy for me. I love him," Justin said, his voice growing slightly husky with emotion. "Take care of yourself, Ted."
Justin hung up the phone and wiped away the stray tear that fell down his cheek. It was silly, but admitting to loving Brian to an almost stranger was harder than he thought it would be. He shook those thoughts away and headed for the computer. After waiting for everything to load, Justin put in a search for UPCI on Google and was horrified by what he saw. UPCI stood for University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
"Oh my God, Brian had cancer," Justin moaned to the empty room as those damn tears began trailing down his cheeks once again.
Brian was sitting at Matt's desk, going through the computer files when he heard a pounding on the door to the office. He got up and went to answer it, not really surprised to find Arthur on the other side.
"What do you want? Haven't you done enough?" Brian asked as he stood back and let the other man enter.
"I'm sorry, Brian; I didn't know what else to do. You were so sick and I was worried," Arthur tried to explain.
"I told you I just picked up a bug from…"
"Look, Brian, tell me to mind my own business, tell me to fuck off, just don't lie to me. You and I both know this isn't just some random bug. I thought Justin had a right to know you were sick. He loves you and only wants what's best for you."
"What's best for me is if everyone would just leave me alone!" Brian exclaimed, his anger finally reaching the limit. "I'm 35 fucking years old and I want to keep my personal life to myself, that's my choice. I don't need you or Justin or anyone else sticking their…"
Arthur saw Brian start to sway and became concerned. "Brian, are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Brian lied, as he felt the room start spinning. "I just need to sit down and…" he never got a chance to finish his sentence as the world suddenly went black.
It only took Justin ten minutes to get to the hospital once he got the call from Arthur, and in those ten minutes he nearly went insane with worry. All Arthur said was that Brian collapsed at the office and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. The paramedics said that his vitals were stable, but he hadn't regained consciousness. As soon as he walked through the front doors, Justin went to the reception desk and had Roger paged. He knew that if anyone was going to help him figure out exactly what was going on, it would be Roger. They'd become very friendly during John's illness and Justin was counting on that friendship to help him learn the complete truth. Since Brian was still unconscious, Justin gave Roger the information he had, which was very little. He explained about Ted letting UPCI slip during their phone conversation and Roger immediately got on the phone and learned all the rest. By the time Justin got to Brian's bedside, he knew the whole story and was just waiting for the patient to wake up so he could give him a piece of his mind.
Brian knew before he even opened his eyes that he was in the hospital. He just wasn't sure why until the details of the last 24 hours began running through his brain. He finally opened his eyes enough to figure out that it was evening, and that Justin was asleep in the chair alongside his bed. He had a really bad feeling that his secret was out. Grabbing for the bed controls, he slowly raised his head a little, the noise from the bed waking Justin from his slumber.
"Hey, how're you feeling?" Justin asked as he quickly came to.
"A little better, I think. What are you doing here?"
"Waiting until you woke up so I could tell you what an asshole you are," Justin replied.
"I hate to break it to you, Sunshine, but I already knew that," Brian joked, trying to ease the anger he could clearly see in Justin's eyes.
"How could you keep something like this from me? From everyone? A bug from Ibiza? You have fucking cancer!" Justin shrieked, not caring whether he disturbed anyone.
"Thanks for sharing, but I already knew that too. What happened? Why am I here?"
"You passed out at Kinnetik. Thank God, Arthur was there. You're malnourished and dehydrated, probably from all the vomiting from your radiation and you weren't supposed to be traveling. They've got you hooked up to a couple of IV's, hoping to get your electrolytes back to where they should be. If all goes well, you'll be released tomorrow as long as you promise to stay put for a few weeks and let your body heal," Justin explained.
"I can't stay here. I've got a business to run in Pittsburgh, remember?" Brian argued.
"Not for the next couple of weeks, you don't. I've already spoken to Ted and he agreed to cover for you until you can make it back."
Before Brian could respond, Dr. Robinski walked in and smiled at Brian. "It's good to see you again Brian, although I wish the circumstances were better. How're you feeling?"
"I'm fine," Brian replied with a pout. "I really wish everyone would stop asking me that."
"You know, Brian, most people would kill to have someone care for them as much as Justin cares for you," Roger pointed out as he took the chart from the end of the bed and looked over the notes that had been written on it.
"Yeah, lucky me," Brian replied sarcastically.
Justin felt his heart break at Brian's sarcasm and quickly excused himself before running from the room.
Roger sighed and turned to Brian. "You know, it wasn't that long ago that I heard a rumor about a guy who told off the receptionist in our ER for refusing to give him information on Justin and his condition. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
"That was a long time ago," Brian said softly, as he turned to gaze out the window. "Things are different now. I'm not the same person I was back then."
"Oh? And how are you different?"
"Well, for one thing, I could satisfy Justin back then," Brian mumbled, his eyes still trained on the window.
"Satisfy? Oh, you mean sexually? You do realize that most testicular cancer survivors live completely functional lives, right?"
"Most of them. Who knows what's going to happen once I recover from all this shit. What happens if I can't…perform? You think Justin's going to be happy living with half a man? You think he'd be content living with someone who can't even get it up?"
"Don't underestimate him. I think Justin would be happy with you, no matter what your medical problems were. Besides, your impotency is a reaction to the radiation, not the surgery. Give your body time to recover and you'll be fine. I'm sure of it. In the meantime, don't throw away something you need because you think it's something you can't have." Roger made a small notation on the chart and then put it back in its holder. "Try to get some rest. You need it."
Brian waited until Roger was gone before rolling over onto his side and curling into a ball. He was tired, so very tired, of trying to be strong and handle everything on his own. He thought back to his time with Justin, how easy it was when he had someone at home waiting for him; someone to share his concerns and his achievements, and someone to encourage him when things weren't going his way. Did he really want that? Could he have that again with Justin? Maybe it was finally time to grow up. Maybe all that bullshit he had been spewing since he was a teenager, about not believing in love and not needing anyone was just that, bullshit. He continued to lie there, thinking about what the right answer was when Justin came back into the room.
"Hey, I just came to say goodbye. I know that you need to hang around for a couple of weeks so I'm going to go back to Chicago. I'm sure Marjorie can fit me in somewhere and this will give you your space at the house. Unless I hear from you, I'll just come back in two weeks. If you need to stay longer, let me know and I'll postpone my return," Justin said softly, trying to hold back his emotions. "I hope you feel better soon. I hope everything works out for you and you're back on your feet. Take care of yourself, Brian."
Brian watched Justin turn and begin to walk away and knew in his heart he couldn't let him leave. He still wasn't sure if there was a future for them, a way they could be together, but he knew that he couldn't give up without even trying. "Don't go."
"Huh?" Justin murmured as he turned back around, sure that he must've misheard Brian's plea.
"I said don't go," Brian repeated. "I don't want you to leave."
"What are you saying?" Justin asked tentatively.
"I'm not sure. Look Justin, I don't know if I can change. I don't know if I even want to. All I know is that I don't want you to walk out that door. I don't want you to catch the next flight out to Chicago. I don't want to go back to the house alone. Is that enough for you right now?"
"Oh Brian," Justin sighed as he walked over to the bed and placed a gentle hand on Brian's forehead, pushing back the hair that had fallen there. "That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
"I'm…uh…kind of tired. I think I'm gonna try to get some sleep."
"You do that," Justin said, smiling down at Brian. "I'll be here when you wake up."
"Thanks," Brian mumbled as he closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.
"Anything for you," Justin whispered. He placed a soft kiss on Brian's lips and then settled himself down in the chair again, feeling hopeful for the first time in months.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For