Be Careful What You Wish For
* * *
Brian tried to open his eyes, but the blinding light from the window made it almost impossible. That and the pounding in his head. His brain was scrambled, but after a few minutes, the memory of the night before came rushing back to him. He had an argument with Justin, threw him out, and then proceeded to go out and get fall down drunk. When he stormed out of the loft, the only thing he could focus on was Justin's knowledge of his impotence. It hurt. Realistically he knew that it shouldn't. If anyone would understand and be sympathetic of his circumstances, it was Justin. But his ego, whatever was left of it, wouldn't allow him to sit down and talk to the man about it. Instead he acted like a complete ass and pushed him away once again before going out and doing further damage to his already fragile body. He had started to head towards Woody's, but decided that he didn't want to take a chance of running into anyone he knew. Especially Michael. He'd had enough of his possessiveness and his obvious dislike for Justin. Instead he drove across town to a little dive bar that he normally wouldn't be caught dead in and drowned his sorrows. Pathetic, he knew, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. After a few hours though, he realized his mistake and went home to try to fix things with Justin. Unfortunately he was too late. Justin was gone, along with everything he had brought with him from Denver. He'd fucked up once again.
Struggling to get up, Brian had to stop and take a few deep breaths before actually making it to his feet. Once he was there, he reached over and turned his cell phone back on, leaving the landline still unplugged. Thirteen missed calls. Apparently someone was anxious to talk to him. As he listened to his voicemail, he made his way to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water and some aspirin, hoping to stop the throbbing in his head. Two were from Michael, calling to apologize for their argument. One was from his mother, no doubt needing more money from him. She didn't say that in the message, but the cheerful tone of her voice was a dead giveaway. Two were from Lindsay. Shit, he'd forgotten that he was supposed to go see Gus the night before. Now he was in even more trouble. Seven of them were from Ted. Obviously Justin felt the need to sic his nerdy accountant on him. The last one was from Justin. Brian put the phone on speaker and let the sound of Justin's voice drift over the wide open space.
Hey, it's me. I know you're really upset with me right now. All I can say is I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to interfere. I really just wanted to help you. That's what people do when they love someone. I wish you hadn't turned off your phone. By the time you get my message, you'll know that I asked Ted to go looking for you. Again, I wasn't trying to interfere. I'm just worried. I'm at the airport. I managed to get a flight back home and we're getting ready to board. I just wanted to tell you that I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry for making you uncomfortable by falling for you. I'm sorry things between us got so out of control, and I'm sorry I forced myself back into your life in Pittsburgh. I really thought that my being there would help you get better. I won't bother you again. Just please, do me a favor and start taking better care of yourself. There's plenty of food at your place. Make sure you eat it and get plenty of rest. I guess that's it. Just…don't work too hard. Goodbye Brian.
Brian stood there against the counter; long after Justin's voice had ended, thinking about what he should do. He opened the cabinets, smiling to himself at all the things sitting on the shelves, waiting to be used. Then he opened the refrigerator and saw that it too, was filled with healthy food. Fruits and vegetables were neatly arranged by color, along with a variety of juices. Finally he opened the freezer and actually laughed out loud at all the containers stacked according to size. He pulled a few out and saw that they were labeled by their contents. Since they'd been back in Pittsburgh, Justin had waited on him hand and foot so there'd been no need for him to even go into the kitchen. He had no idea Justin had done so much for him. His days had obviously been filled with cooking and washing the dishes during Brian's time at the office.
Closing the door, he grabbed his phone again and walked over to the couch, dialing the direct number for Ted.
"Brian, where the hell have you been? I must have left you at least a half a dozen messages."
"Seven to be exact," Brian replied with a chuckle. "You can relax, Theodore. I'm at home safe and sound, and aside from this monster hangover, I'm fine."
"Thank God. You know, Justin…"
"I don't want to talk about it. I'm just calling to tell you I'll be a little late this morning. If Mr. Simmons gets there before I do, keep him entertained until I get there. I'll see you in a little while."
Brian hung up before Ted could mention Justin's name again. There was no point. Justin was gone, and it was for the best. Now maybe they could both get on with their lives. He sighed and got up, slowly making his way to the shower so that he could prepare for the long day ahead of him.
* * *
Justin finally made it home just before noon. Arthur greeted him at the door, looking rather surprised to see him.
"I didn't expect you home so soon. How's Brian?"
"Brian's…Brian. He doesn't need me anymore, so now I'm back. Look, Arthur, if you don't mind, I'm going to head up to bed for a few hours. I spent most of the night sitting in the airport waiting for a flight and I'm beat," Justin replied, stifling a yawn.
"Forget it. Things between Brian and me are no better than they were when he left here last time and I don't want to talk about it. I just really need…I just need to forget him for awhile. All right?"
"Whatever you say," Arthur said, noticing for the first time how worn out the younger man looked. "I have some foundation work to do and then I'll get out of here so you can be alone."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
Justin went upstairs, but instead of going to his own room, he found himself lying down in the guest room. The same bed Brian had been sleeping in during his last stay. And as he drifted off to sleep, he smiled slightly as Brian's unique smell enveloped him.
* * *
"This is fucking ridiculous!" Brian exclaimed to the empty room.
It was a Friday morning, two weeks after Justin's departure, and Brian had decided to work from home since he didn't have any client meetings scheduled. The problem was that he wasn't getting any work done. He hadn't been getting much work done in the last two weeks. His mind kept straying to Justin. He could still clearly remember the pained look on Justin's face as he told him to get out of the loft. It was that look that haunted him regularly over the last two weeks, driving him close to insanity. It took everything in his power to keep from calling Denver. In fact, there'd been plenty of nights when he had the phone in his hand, and even a few where he had started dialing the actual number, before his senses returned and he realized he was wasting his time. The last thing Justin needed was to have someone so completely fucked up in his life. Not only was he emotionally inept, but he was now sexually inept as well, putting himself one step up from a derelict in the partner category. The only difference was that he had money and a job, something that Justin didn't need anyway.
He laughed at the bitter irony of the situation. He never wanted a partner, never believed in love and relationships in his life. Now here he was, at 35 years old, wondering if he'd been wrong, and unable to do anything about it. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to do anything about it, but with the possibility taken away from him, he was starting to see the pros to having someone by his side. In those last few weeks that he'd spent in Denver, along with the short time Justin was in Pittsburgh, he kind of enjoyed having someone there to take care of him. No, he didn't need it. No one his age needed someone to take care of them, but it was nice to have someone do it because they wanted to. Do it because they cared enough to want to. It was a scenario he never thought he'd be in.
He kept replaying the words that Justin had said on their last night together. That he didn't care about the impotence. The look of love and compassion he saw in Justin's eyes told Brian that he meant it when he said it didn't matter, but it wasn't enough. Maybe at this point, it really didn't matter, but what would happen in a month, two months, six months, when there was still no improvement? It had been almost two months since the surgery, and there were still no signs of improvement. Justin was a very sexual person, almost as sexual as Brian. Would he really care when he was faced with a future of jerk off sessions with no real fucking? And when he did eventually get tired of not receiving any action, would he look for Brian's permission to go out and get it somewhere else? Brian might be skeptical of monogamy and willing to keep tricking in their lives, but how would he feel if Justin was the only one doing the tricking? If he had to sit at home at night thinking about what Justin was doing with various strangers? Doing something that he longed to do but couldn't? No, it was better that Justin was back in Denver, getting on with his life, while Brian stayed in Pittsburgh waiting for the end of his.
Frustrated with his thoughts, Brian got up and stormed into his bedroom. He knew he still had a little pot left in his stash from before the surgery. He needed to find it. He needed something to take his mind off the thoughts that were plaguing him, before he went insane. As he searched his drawers, his hand came across something that made his blood run cold. He pulled his hand back, as if he was burned, and looked at the offending object. It was the tape that Lyle had given him before he left Denver behind. The tape that John made for him. Brian hadn't wanted to watch it after returning to Pittsburgh. He wasn't ready to hear what else John had to say to him. At the time, he just needed to focus on Kinnetik and all he had to do to get the office open and functioning. The missing pot forgotten, he took the tape and walked over to the entertainment center, ready to hear what John's final words to him were. He turned everything on and placed the tape in the VCR, then grabbed the remote and sat down on the couch. He took a deep breath and then hit play, surprised by his reaction to seeing the older man appear on the screen.
Hello Brian. I'm sure by now that you've figured out my plan. My hope of bringing you and Justin together. If everything went as I hoped it would, you and Justin should be living a good life together. But somehow I doubt that. You've got that Kinney blood running through your veins and are probably as stubborn as a mule. I know how it is. That was me once upon a time. We're not really all that different, but I'm hoping to change that. The one thing I want more than anything is to save you from the kind of life I've lived. Now don't get me wrong. I've had a decent life. I made my fortune and there was never any shortage of willing bodies under me, but it wasn't enough. It's not enough now. Justin has been a godsend for me. He gave me something to live for during my darkest days and if he hadn't been around, I probably wouldn't be either. But he's not my lover. He's not my significant other. He's not my partner. When I was first diagnosed, I thought I'd be strong enough to handle everything I was facing, and I put on a pretty good show for those around me. No one knows the pain I'm in every night. No one knows how much I ache for someone to hold me tight and whisper words of love in my ear. It surprised me at first. The loneliness that I feel is so strong that sometimes I think I can't take another day. When facing your own mortality, every thought, every belief you've ever had is suddenly thrown out the window and all that's left is a lifetime of regret. And I regret so many things. I regret that I didn't stick around and force Jack to accept me. I regret that I didn't do more to keep you in my life. But my biggest regret, the one thing that keeps me up most nights, is that I never allowed myself to find someone special to share my life with. If I did, would I have ended up sick? Who knows? Maybe I'd still be here waiting to take my last breath. But I know unequivocally that I would be more at peace to know that I had someone to be there for that last breath. Please Brian, I'm begging you, don't make the same mistakes I've made. Don't keep your heart locked up so tight that no one can get in. Justin is smart, funny, beautiful, everything that any man on this earth would be lucky to have. But on top of that, he's loyal, protective, and loves with everything he has. He has a few faults, like everyone does, but he's as close to perfect as anyone can get, and he's exactly what you deserve. If given the chance, he can give you more love and joy than you've ever experienced. Just take this opportunity that I've given you, before you end up like me. An old man, dying alone, and wishing he'd done so many, many things differently. I love you, Brian. More than you could possibly realize. I want what's best for you, and Justin is it. Trust me on this and you'll never regret it.
As John disappeared and the screen went black, Brian noticed the dampness that had begun forming around his eyes. He kind of knew how John had felt. During his hospital stay, there were moments that he wished he had someone there for him. Moments where thoughts of Justin would pop into his mind and it took all of his willpower to keep from calling Denver and begging the blond to hop on a plane and come to him. From there he went into his long, grueling weeks of treatment and the desire to have Justin with him was so strong, it literally hurt to even think of him.
He thought about John's description of Justin. Loyal, protective, loves with everything he has. Although their relationship was strictly platonic, Justin stood by John until the very end, never regretting a single moment of their time together. Was it possible that Justin would do that for him? Was it possible that the love he had for Brian was strong enough to weather anything, including impotence and a possible return of cancer? And even more importantly, was it possible that Brian wanted that? Yeah, it was possible. For the first time in a long time, maybe even forever, Brian couldn't help but think of the pros to having one special person in his life that he could count on. Maybe it was his age, or maybe it was the cancer, but suddenly everything that he believed in didn't seem to matter as much as it did before. A relationship didn't seem as horrid as it did before, and if there was ever a person in his life that could make him want that, it was Justin. Because he loved him. He loved Justin like he never thought he would. He always believed himself to be a well educated and intelligent man. Was he smart enough to reach out and grab what was right there in front of him before it was too late?
He had his answer as soon as he finalized his purchase online. He had a late afternoon flight to Denver. An open-ended ticket with no return date. He didn't know how long he'd be gone, but he knew that he had to go and see if he had passed up an opportunity of a lifetime. He reached for the phone to begin making his plans. The first call was probably the easier of the two.
"Hey, it's Brian."
"Hey Bri, what's up? I was getting ready to call you. I just got off the phone with Peter Scarsdale from Bio-Lab. He wants to set up a meeting with you to go over a new campaign. He's not happy with the company he's been using and heard about you from Leo Brown. I told him that you've been really busy, but that I'd get back to him by the end of the day with an appointment. Your calendar is clear on Monday. Do you want me to have him come in early, or after lunch?"
"Actually, Ted, if he's that interested, have him contact Amanda and set up an appointment in the Denver office. I'm flying there tonight," Brian replied.
"Denver? Why? Is there a problem out there? I spoke to Amanda this morning and she didn't mention anything. Is there a problem with Matt's replacement?" Ted asked.
"No, everything is fine there. This trip is more of a personal venture," Brian said, leaving Ted to draw his own conclusions.
"Oh…oooh…I got it, Boss," Ted said as realization struck. "How long are you planning on being gone?"
"For as long as it takes. I have to set a few things straight. Will you and Cynthia be okay on your own for awhile?"
"Of course we will. You have a few meetings set up next week, but I'll either see if I can redirect them to Denver, or I'll handle them myself. You take your time and do what you have to do. We'll take care of things here," Ted assured him.
"Thanks, Ted. Tell Cynthia that I'll call her on Monday and we can go over everything in detail. Have her fax a copy of my schedule to Amanda and I'll look it over so I know what needs to be done."
"Will do," Ted replied. "Tell Justin I said hello. And Brian…good luck."
Once the call ended, Brian placed the more difficult of the two calls.
"Hi Arthur, it's Brian."
"Brian, how're you feeling?"
"Much better than the last time I saw you, that's for sure," Brian said with a chuckle.
"Good, I'm glad to hear it. This way I won't feel so bad about telling you off," Arthur replied.
Brian winced at the tone of Arthur's voice. "Telling me off?"
"What the fuck is wrong with you? How many times do you have to kick the poor guy when he's down? When he showed up here a few weeks ago, he looked like hell. It took me days to get him to eat again and I still don't think he's sleeping properly. Look, I like you Brian. You've grown on me in the last year or so, but I can't stand back and watch you hurt him anymore. I know you both own some assets jointly, like the house, but I think it would be best if you just stayed away for awhile and let him get over you. I've kept my mouth shut until now, but…"
"…I can't stay silent any longer."
"The man needs a chance to catch his breath and having you pop in and out of his life is not helping him any. He needs…"
"Arthur!" Brian exclaimed, hoping to shut the man up for five seconds so he could say what he needed to say.
"Is he in town?"
"Of course he is. He was supposed to reschedule his trip to Chicago, but he hasn't been feeling very artistic lately," Arthur replied accusingly.
"I'm flying in this afternoon. Don't let him know I'm coming. I want it to be a surprise," Brian said."
"Haven't you been listening to me?"
"I heard every word you said," Brian assured him.
"Then why are you coming here? If it's work related, stay at a hotel. He'll never get over you if you keep coming out here."
"It isn't work related, and maybe I don't want him to get over me." Brian waited a moment, giving Arthur time to absorb his words.
"But, if you don't want him to get over you, does that mean…"
"Look, I've got to come back. I just wanted to make sure he was in town before I got there. Do me a favor. Make sure you're gone by six. I want privacy," Brian said.
"No problem, Brian. I'll be long gone by then," Arthur agreed. "Um…you know, well, what I said before? I didn't mean…"
"Yes you did," Brian said. "But it's okay. You were just looking out for him. I'm glad he's got someone like you that cares about him."
"I care about both of you. I want to see you both happy."
"So do I, Arthur. So do I. If all goes well, we won't be talking to you this weekend, but could you meet me at Kinnetik on Monday? Say around eleven? I have a business proposition I'd like to discuss with you."
"Sure. I'll see you on Monday. And Brian, good luck."
"Thanks. I'm probably going to need it," Brian laughed. "I royally screwed up."
"Yeah, you did. But he loves you. I doubt if you'll have a hard time getting his forgiveness. Just don't screw up again," Arthur advised.
"I'm gonna try not to. See you on Monday."
Brian hung up the phone and then packed what he needed for his trip. Once that was done, he called Lindsay and arranged to stop and see Gus before his flight. He didn't know how long he'd be gone and wanted to say goodbye. Once that was done, he made one final stop before the airport, parking his Jeep outside the comic book shop before going inside.
"Brian, what're you doing here? How come you're not at work?"
"I came to say goodbye. I'm flying to Denver tonight," Brian said carefully, bracing himself for Michael's reaction.
"Denver? Again? How long are you going to be gone?"
"Depends on what?"
"On whether Justin is willing to move to Pittsburgh," Brian replied.
"Justin? What does he have to do with this? And why does it matter if he wants to move to Pittsburgh?"
"Because I love him, and if he's not willing to relocate, then I'm going to have to," Brian admitted, realizing for the first time that what he said was true. If Justin wasn't willing to live in Pittsburgh, he'd have to move to Denver. It was as simple as that.
"You love him? That's crazy!" Michael exclaimed.
"Yeah, it is. But it's true. Look Mikey, I know you always hoped that it was you I'd fall for. And I even know that despite having Ben, you still harbored hope that one day we'd be together, but it's not going to happen. I love you, Michael. You've been my best friend since we were kids. But I don't love you like you want me to. I can't. I refuse to even try. You've been the one person in my life that I could completely trust. I can't take a chance on screwing that up and losing you. Do you understand that?"
Michael thought about it for a moment, and understood what Brian was saying. If they were to get together and things didn't work out, they'd lose that special friendship that they'd shared for over twenty years. Losing Brian for good would be devastating, more so than standing on the sidelines watching Brian be with someone else. "Yeah, I guess I do understand."
"Mikey, I need to ask something of you."
"Brian, you know I'd do anything for you," Michael replied.
"I need you to lay off Justin. He's going to be a major part of my life. At least I hope he is, and I can't have you two at each others' throats. He'll never be comfortable living here with you constantly on his back and I don't want to live in Denver, so far away from my son. Do you think you can do that? Can you give Justin a real chance? I'm sure that once you get past your jealousy, you'll see what a good guy he is."
"You really love him, don't you?" Michael asked, looking directly in Brian's eyes. He could see the answer reflected back at him.
"Yeah, I really do," Brian said.
"Well, then I guess I don't have much of a choice. If he's going to be a part of our fucked up family, I'll have to be nice," Michael sighed, but the humor in his eyes let Brian know that he was teasing. "But if he hurts you, I reserve the right to kick his ass."
"As if you could," Brian laughed.
"Hey, you know…I've been thinking about my dream; the one where I create the gay superhero. Maybe, if he has some time, Justin could draw up a few sketches from my ideas? You know, make it a little more real."
Brian saw Michael's idea as an olive branch and smiled at his friend lovingly. "I'm sure, if you ask him, he'd been willing to help you out. And…uh…thanks, Mikey."
"No need to thank me. I'm just sorry it took me so long to see things the way they are. Tell Justin I'm sorry, too."
"Maybe you can tell him yourself the next time he's in town," Brian suggested.
"I will." Michael walked over to Brian and hugged him tight, letting the last of his hopes for their future together drift away. "Despite everything, I'm really happy that you found someone to love. You deserve it."
Brian held him for a moment and then stepped back, anxious to get to the airport. "You do, too. Say hello to the professor for me. I'll call you next week and let you know what our plans are."
"Okay, have a safe trip."
Brian smiled and then left the small store, a goofy grin on his face. Now all he had to do was convince Justin that he was an ass, an easy task, and get him to agree to give them one more chance. His future depended on it.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For