Let's Get Political - Again
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The next two days passed in a blur. Justin quietly did his own thing as he watched from a distance as Brian typed away on his computer and spent the vast majority of his time on the phone. As if the continuing success of Kinnetik wasn't enough, Brian had truly invested himself into the Concerned Citizens for the Truth. When Brian was in the loft, Justin would occasionally slip a plate of food in front of Brian. The man would all but grunt "thanks" and pick at it while continuing his work. Justin knew that Cynthia was making sure Brian ate while he was in the office.
Justin glanced at the clock; it was nearly one in the morning. "Brian?"
"Huh?" The brunet asked without looking up from his laptop.
"You need your rest."
"It isn't that late, I'm fine." Brian said, trailing off as he noticed the time.
Justin crawled off the couch and made his way towards Brian. Standing behind the older man, Justin gently began massaging Brian's shoulders. "I know this is important to you, Brian. It's important to me too. Wearing yourself out though won't make it any better?"
Brian exhaled loudly, pressed further back into his chair and focused on the sensation of Justin's fingers kneading his flesh. "I know. I just want to get it done."
"How much more is there?"
"Not much. I'm meeting with the video production guy again tomorrow and he's supposed to add the new stuff." Brian spun around in his chair and pulled Justin onto his lap. "Thanks."
"No problem," Justin said with a smile. "Feel better?"
Brian nodded and his voice took on a serious tone, "You always make me feel better, Sunshine."
Justin couldn't help but give the man a smile.
"Let's get some sleep," Brian said as he and Justin stood and the two made their way to the bedroom.
A short time later Brian lay in bed with Justin lying against him, breathing softly and sound asleep. Brian tipped his head so that he could look at Justin. Truth be told, he was hard at work on the ad, but more than anything he'd been avoiding Justin avoiding the talk that he knew they needed to have. Brian's mind wandered back to William and Henry and their lifetime together. He didn't know why, but since meeting them - and even before that - his attention had been focused on his relationship with Justin. He knew how he felt about Justin. He stopped fighting the feelings and was beginning to learn to accept and appreciate them.
Brian leaned over and gave Justin a kiss on the forehead before pulling the duvet up to cover them and drifting off into his own dream world.
Brian dropped the tape off at the video production place on his way to work. That afternoon he left Kinnetik and headed back to see the new and improved finished product. He had to admit that Michael did come up with a good idea. Now it all depended on Senator Baxter. Brian climbed into the Corvette and quickly sped through the congested city streets - he arrived at the local Democratic Party headquarters just as a young woman was locking up the front door. She let him in and listened as he explained who he was and what the tape was about. She explained to Brian that Senator Baxter had spoken personally to her earlier in the day and she was waiting on the tape.
Brian left the building and made his way towards the loft. He'd done all he could. Now it was up to the Senator and her skills as a politician.
Several days went by with no response from Senator Baxter. Brian and the other Concerned Citizens for the Truth hoped that she was out selling the tape to the Kerry campaign. It was going to be a tough sell no matter how you looked at it. Kerry had made it clear along the way and specifically in the debates that he supported the rights of same sex couples to have a civil union or sign up as domestic partners, but he did not support same sex marriage. None of them were at all sure that their tape would change that attitude.
Brian had lots of work to catch up on at Kinnetik. He tried to put the tape out of his mind and concentrate. He had spent far too much time and effort on the fucking commercial. He didn't even fucking believe in same sex marriage, but he knew lots of people did. He had done it for Michael and Ben, and for Debbie, and maybe someday for him and Justin. Christ, he couldn't believe his mind was edging in that direction. Thoughts of him and Justin married were sacrilege as far as he was concerned. And he knew a fucking lot about sacrilege.
Refocusing on the bubble gum ad he was working on, Brian tried to force such thoughts out of his head, but they just wouldn't let him be. Finally he stood up and grabbed his coat. He walked out to Cynthia's office.
"I'm going out for a while. I won't be back."
She nodded, about to ask him where he was going, but he had already turned and was walking out the door. She wondered what was going on with him. He had seemed restless and distracted for several days now.
Brian opened the door to the comic shop and Michael's face lit up with pleasure as he saw his friend.
"What are you doing here in the middle of the afternoon?" Michael asked with a smile.
"Research," Brian replied. It was as good an answer as any.
"Research on what?"
"I'm working on an account for Double Bubble."
"Double Bubble? I didn't even know they were still in business."
"That's exactly why they need me."
"I guess so," Michael chuckled. "So why has Double Bubble brought you here?"
"I think they need to advertise in comic books. That's the target market they're after."
"I think they used to do that, but I don't remember one of their ads being in a comic for a long time."
"They went through a phase with sugarless gums that really took away their market share. They cut way back on advertising to save money. Exactly the wrong thing to do."
"So what do you want from me?" Michael asked. "Copies of their old ads for research?"
"Hell no! I don't want to look at their ancient crap. I want to know where the best placement of an ad in a comic would be. Where are kids most likely to pay attention to it?"
"Besides the cover you mean?"
"Yeah, back cover?"
"No, absolutely not. The back cover is the last thing they look at."
"You want it on the bottom of the first page," Michael said with certainty.
"You're sure about that?"
"See, I knew I came to the right place," Brian said giving Michael a kiss and turning to leave. "Oh, by the way," he said seemingly as an afterthought, "has Deb heard anything from Senator Baxter?"
Michael shook his head. "She's getting worried because it's taking so long. The election isn't that far away."
"Yeah. I hope our tape will make a difference."
"Even if they don't use it, we tried."
"I don't want to just try. I like to win."
"I know," Michael said with a grin.
"Are you and Ben happy?" Brian asked out of the blue.
"Of course we are," Michael said with a frown. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, you're sort of married. I just wondered if it made any difference."
"It's not really official here, but it was great having the ceremony in Canada. I feel like an old married woman."
Brian grimaced. That was definitely not the feeling he was going for. "Thanks for your help, Mikey." And he was gone.
Brian left Michael's shop and was heading towards home when his cell went off. "What?" Brian all but shouted into the phone
Brian took a deep breath and pulled his emotions under control, "Deb?"
"Yeah, is everything all right?"
"I'm just busy, Deb. What do you need?"
"I heard from Senator Baxter."
Brian waited for Debbie to continue. When she didn't he prompted her, "And?"
"The Kerry people declined to pick up the ad."
Brian was silent.
"Brian? Did you hear me?"
"Yeah, Deb, I'll talk to you later." Brian ended the call and tossed his phone onto the passenger seat just as he pulled up in front of the loft. He got out of his car and slammed the door shut; he headed into the building and took the stairs two at a time. He fumbled with his door key, finally unlocking the door and opening it. He walked into his loft and immediately saw Justin sitting at the table working on a project. Brian exhaled wishing that he had the loft to himself, at least for a little while. He needed space right now.
Heading towards the bedroom, he could tell that Justin was so involved in whatever it was that he was doing that the blond was oblivious to his arrival. Brian stood at the bottom of the bedroom stairs for several moments and stared at his lover.
Justin felt eyes on him and turned to see Brian staring at him. "Hey, I didn't hear you come in."
Brian remained stoic. Justin stood and began making his way to Brian, immediately picking up on the older man's mood. "What's wrong?"
When Brian didn't respond Justin reached out to touch his arm, but Brian pulled back before contact was made. "Just leave me alone." Brian said quietly, wanting more than anything to be alone at that moment, but for some reason his feet wouldn't let him move.
"Brian, what the hell is the matter with you?" Justin asked with a nervous chuckle.
"Just leave me the fuck alone!" Brian shouted. Gaining control of his legs he began to go up the few steps into his bedroom, he paused and looked at Justin's mess on the table and nodded towards it. "And clean that mess up. This isn't a fucking hotel, Justin."
Justin wasn't about to argue. He quickly gathered his artwork and papers, slid them into his portfolio and slipped out of the loft. The last thing he heard was the sound of the shower running.
Michael was just closing the shop when the bell indicated one last customer. He sighed as he finished tallying his sales with what the computer said. Never turn down a sale. He looked up.
"Justin," he said.
"Yeah, do you know what the fuck is the matter with Brian?"
"He was here a while ago, but he seemed fine."
"He just came home, screamed at me to clean up my mess and basically told me to get out."
"And you did?"
"When he's like that, it's a good idea to give him some space. There's no point in trying to reason with him."
"Yeah, he can be a little hard to deal with sometimes."
"You can fucking say that again! Did he say anything unusual to you?"
"I don't know. I'm just trying to figure out what set him off."
"He was doing research for a Double Bubble gum ad," Michael explained.
"Double Bubble? I thought they went out of business."
"Nope. Brian's working on a new campaign for them."
"Did he say anything else?"
"He asked if Ben and I were happy being married?"
"That's weird," Justin said with a frown. "He never asks if anybody is happy."
"I think he's worried that we haven't heard if Kerry will use the tape."
"Haven't you heard anything?"
Michael shook his head. "I could call Ma and see if she has. Maybe she knows what is wrong with Brian."
Michael picked up the phone and hit the speed dial for the diner. When he got his mother she was in a hurry as the dinner rush was just beginning.
"Have you heard anything from Senator Baxter about the tape?" Michael asked.
"I told Brian earlier that they won't use it," Debbie said. "I thought that asshole would let you know."
"Well, he didn't. Have you seen him since?"
"No, is something wrong?"
"No, everything's all right. Bye, Ma."
"So what did she say?" Justin asked.
"They turned down the tape. That must be what Brian's pissed about."
Justin looked thoughtful. "So that's it."
"What are you going to do?"
"I 'm going to get Thai takeout, a couple of bottles of wine, and I'm going to fuck him senseless," Justin declared.
"Sounds like a plan," Michael said with a grin as Justin exited the shop.
Justin slid the door back and stepped into the dark loft. The small amount of light pouring in from the landing wasn't helping. He stood still waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim conditions. He could feel Brian's presence in the room. "Brian?"
"You came back," a quiet voice stated.
"Of course I did. Did you think I wouldn't?" Justin asked as he took another step forward.
"I didn't know to be honest," Brian said.
Justin chuckled as he slowly felt his way towards the island so he could set the wine and food down. "You really think that getting after me for my mess would make me leave you?"
"I don't know," Brian confessed. "I guess well it doesn't matter."
"You guess what? Tell me," Justin had put the stuff down and was walking towards the couch where Brian's voice was coming from.
"It's not important," Brian said with finality.
"Don't give me that shit, Brian." Justin said, his voice taking on a hint of anger. "You're always so fucking quick to shut me out. I know you think you're protecting me, but I'm a big boy. Now tell me what the fuck is going on, obviously it's more than just the ad being rejected."
"Fuckers," Brian said as he took a drink from his glass.
"Their loss," Justin said.
"No," Brian said quietly. "It's our loss, our community's loss."
Justin stumbled slightly as he sat on the opposite end of the couch as Brian. "Yeah, maybe so, on the other hand maybe Kerry will be the kind of leader our community needs."
"Maybe," Brian said noncommittally.
"Brian, I know there's something else that's bothering you, spill."
Brian took another drink and pondered Justin's words. "William and Henry, the two old guys from the ad, they invited us over for dinner some time."
"That sounds like fun." Justin said. "Is that what's bothering you? Having to have dinner with a couple of old guys?"
Brian ignored Justin's question and asked one of his own. "Do you think about what you'll be doing when you're that age? Or who you'll be with?"
"Is this about you and me?" Justin asked.
"No," Brian said quickly, too quickly.
"Brian," Justin said quietly as he inched closer to the other man who he could see silhouetted against the soft street lights outside. "Brian, listen to me. I love you. You make me feel things that no one else does. You can kick me out as many times as you want," Justin said, referring to Brian all but ordering him to leave earlier that evening, "But I'll come back every time."
"I'm sorry, Justin. This is your home; I shouldn't have acted like that." Brian said sincerely.
"Look, I know you never planned on having a boyfriend or any of this other stuff, but that doesn't mean that you can't have it. It's up to you to take what you want."
"How many more chances will you give?" Brian asked. "How many times can I fuck up before you'll realize I'm not worth the effort?"
Justin moved closer to Brian, close enough that he could feel the man's body heat but not yet touching. "I don't know to be honest, Brian, but honestly as long as I believe that you feel something for me, and I for you, then you can kick me out on my ass every day and I'll come back."
"Persistent little shit, aren't you?" Brian asked his voice soft and full of love for the blond.
"So I've been told."
"So," Brian asked, reaching out and putting his hand on Justin's thigh, "you think I need to be more proactive and take what I want?"
"Uh huh, I do."
Brian pulled Justin onto his lap and gently ran the tips of his fingers over Justin's face before tenderly kissing Justin's forehead, silently telling Justin what he couldn't say out loud.
"I love you too, Brian. Now, if your little drama queen moment is over, I brought dinner."
A few days later Brian and Justin rang the bell at William and Henry's house. Brian had brought a very nice bottle of wine and they were both decked out in casual but elegant duds. Henry answered the door.
"Brian," he said. "Come in. And you must be Justin."
"Nice to meet you," Justin said shaking the man's hand.
"We've been looking forward to meeting you. We had such a nice lunch with Brian the other day."
"It was nice of you to invite us," Justin said. They got rid of their jackets and sat down on the couch.
William appeared from the kitchen and greeted them too. "I'm cooking duck a l'orange," he told them. "It should be ready before long."
Justin could feel Brian groan. Duck and orange sauce would be calorie city as far as Brian was concerned. Justin thought he would probably end up eating both their portions if Brian could figure a way to get it onto his plate.
"Now don't worry about calories or fat. I'm an expert at adapting recipes and taking out unneeded fat and sugar. At our age we have to be careful. I think you'll really love it."
Justin glanced at Brian. He had a smile plastered on his face. Justin knew it was just a façade. If there was anything Brian hated more than fat and carbs after seven it was imitation food that had been made to resemble something it wasn't. It would probably taste like shit. Justin groaned inwardly. He was the one who would have to eat it.
Henry appeared with a pitcher of martinis which he said had been stirred, not shaken. That was the only way to prepare them as far as he was concerned. Gin had never been Brian or Justin's favorite drink, but liquor was liquor. They each took a glass and sipped. They were actually quite good. Justin had to ask what Henry did to them.
"I have a secret ingredient," Henry said with a conspiratorial whisper.
"Are you going to share?" Justin asked with a chuckle.
"It's a secret," Henry laughed. "Maybe I'll tell you before you leave."
"If we pass the acceptable company test?" Justin said.
"Something like that," Henry admitted noting the quick wit of this young man. He and Brian made a formidable pair. Henry turned his attention to Brian.
"You're quiet tonight," Henry said to Brian. Justin squeezed Brian's leg.
"I have some bad news about the ad you gentlemen helped me with," Brian said slowly.
"They don't want it," William said.
"That's right," Brian said sadly.
"We expected that might be the outcome," Henry admitted. "I thought we might be able to get legally married before one of us passes on, but I guess that's not about to happen."
William leaned down and gave Henry a kiss. "We're not dead yet," he whispered.
Henry looked at his partner of fifty years and there was such love in the look that both Brian and Justin blinked and looked away.
"You would still get married after all this time?" Justin asked after a minute or two.
"It would be the consummate ending to our relationship," William said with a smile. "Wouldn't it, Henry?"
"It's not going to change anything one way or the other," Henry said patting his partner's hand. "You'll still be stuck with me."
"And I wouldn't have it any other way," William stated. He cleared his throat. "Listen to us, acting like a couple of school girls. I didn't mean to spoil your appetite," he said with a chuckle.
"Not at all," Brian replied. Justin looked at him and could swear there was a tear in the corner of his eye. Suddenly he felt Brian's fingers entwine with his and squeeze gently. Justin squeezed back. He suddenly felt very happy. There was no place he'd rather be.
Dinner was interesting. Brian and Justin heard the history of Henry and William, how they had got together in the navy, how they had been together ever since. Brian and Justin could see and hear the love between the two men. Brian and Justin told their story in return, even the bad parts, including the prom and the bashing. They didn't mention Ethan by name but they said they had split up for awhile.
William and Henry told their own story of being apart. They had been fighting for months about seven years after they got together. They swore there was truth to the seven year itch. So they had split up for awhile, but neither had been happy without the other being around. They told Brian and Justin to watch out for that seventh year, and be extra nice to each other.
The dinner was very good despite the trepidation of Justin and Brian. William was an excellent cook. Justin even asked for the duck recipe thinking he might make it for Brian since the man hadn't slid all of his onto Justin's plate. Justin had actually seen Brian eat at least half of what he was given.
After dinner they sat at the table with fresh fruit and cheese and mugs of coffee. It was very warm and homey and sweet. Justin wondered if his life could ever be like this with Brian somewhere down the road.
"Has it always been easy for you two?" Justin asked wanting to know. These men made it seem so easy.
Both men snorted. "Not with this asshole," William said. "He fought me every inch of the way."
"That's what made our time together so interesting," Henry said with a chuckle.
"So you had to work at your relationship?" Justin asked wanting more information.
"I wouldn't say that. A relationship that's work is not likely to succeed," William said. "It should be fun and exciting and a source of constant adventure and wonder, but it should never be work. Now that doesn't mean that it's easy. There have been lots of fights and disagreements, but then there's makeup sex." They smiled at each other.
"Sounds a bit like our relationship, doesn't it, Brian?" Justin said.
Brian snorted but he also nodded his head in agreement. "We should probably get going."
"We're getting into dicey territory for Brian," Justin explained. "Relationships aren't his thing."
"He seems to be doing pretty well with this one," Henry said with a smile.
As they reached the door, Brian and Justin thanked their hosts for a lovely evening. They were about to leave when William said, "You should tell them."
Henry looked at his partner and smiled. "You boys have passed the acceptable company test. A dash of bitters, ever so slight, but just enough to cut the taste of the gin."
"So technically it's not a martini," Brian said.
"It's our version of one, just like this relationship is our version of what a marriage should be. You have to find what works for you, and then screw the skeptics," Henry said.
"Sounds like a philosophy for you, Brian," Justin said with a chuckle.
All the way home Brian had something new to mull around in his head.
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