Now That You're Here


Chapter 17


Justin couldn’t stop pacing the airport waiting area, anxious to see his friends after so many weeks apart. It felt strange to him. Despite the fact that they’d been friends for so long, Justin was nervous about seeing Sean and Jason again. He was sure it had a little bit to do with anticipating his admission, but a big part of him was worried about just seeing them again. He’d managed to put most of his past behind him. As hard as it was to think about his parents, he was able to look towards the future and not dwell on all that he had lost. Now he was about to be faced with his old life in the flesh. He wasn’t sure if he was ready.

“Justin, calm down,” Brian said as he stood in Justin’s path and looked him in the eye. “You’re wearing a hole in the rug.”

“Sorry,” Justin replied softly. “I’m just thinking too much.”

“You? Really? That’s so unlike you,” Brian teased.

Justin couldn’t help but smile at Brian’s sarcasm. “I know, I know. I just can’t help it.”

“Are you still worried about how they’re going to react to you being gay?”

“No, not really. I mean, yeah, I’m a little worried. I can’t help but worry about it, but considering that neither one of them batted an eye when I told them about Chris and Zander, I’m beginning to think it’s not going to be a total disaster. I think I’m more worried about being thrown back into my old life, you know?” Justin tried to explain.

“I didn’t even think about that,” Brian replied. “You haven’t said much about your mom and dad lately. I sometimes forget that it’s only been a couple of months since the accident. Are you alright?”

“Yeah. Moving out here made it easier for me to deal with losing them, you know? I mean, I still think about them every day, but I’m not surrounded by constant reminders of the life I used to have before the accident. When Sean and Jason walk through that doorway, I’m going to have two strong reminders staring me in the face. I guess I’m not really ready to face it again,” Justin said softly.

“Are you sorry you invited them out here?”

“No. I’m looking forward to seeing them again. I’ve really missed them. I just wish they could leave the memories back in Pittsburgh,” Justin smiled sadly.

“Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think. Maybe you’ve adjusted enough to living here that the memories won’t be so hard to remember,” Brian suggested. “And if not, and you need someone to talk to, you know I’ll be here for you.”

“Thanks, Brian. I appreciate it.” Justin said just as he caught sight of his friends coming through the door. All thoughts of nervousness and uncertainty left as he ran towards them and got caught up in a group hug. Brian hung back and smiled.

“I can’t believe you guys are finally here,” Justin said as he pulled back and looked at his two closest friends. “You guys haven’t changed a bit.”

“Jus, it’s only been a few months since we saw each other, not years,” Jason laughed.

“Yeah, what did you expect?” Sean teased.

“I know,” Justin laughed along with them. “It just seems like it’s been a lot longer. Come here. I want you to meet Brian.”

Justin made the introductions and then walked with his friends to baggage claim. Once the suitcases were retrieved, the four of them walked out to the jeep and headed back to the house. Justin wasn’t surprised to find Zander already there with Chris, and both anxious to greet their guests. Dinner was a laid back affair, with Chris cooking on the grill while Brian, Justin, and his friends swam in the pool. Justin was having a great time and barely noticed when Steve showed up and he and Brian left to go meet everyone at the river. It wasn’t until long after the sun set that it dawned on Justin that time had passed.

“I’m so glad you guys are here,” Justin said for the tenth time since his friends’ plane had landed.

“Me, too,” Sean agreed. “So, where did Brian go?”

“He was meeting the guys at the river,” Justin explained, feeling a little twinge of jealousy at his friend’s comment. Why was Sean wondering where Brian was?

“Oh, so tell us about him. Is he…you know…gay, too?” Sean asked tentatively.

“Why? Are you interested in him?” Justin snapped.

“What? Me? Of course not,” Sean insisted. “You know I like girls.”

“Then why the sudden interest in Brian and his sexuality?”

“I don’t know. It’s just…well, I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but he was kind of watching you earlier,” Sean admitted.

“What do you mean, watching me?” Justin prodded.

“I mean watching you. Every so often when we were talking about the old days, I would look over and catch him watching you. He would get this weird look on his face, you know? Kind of like how Jason watches Alyssa when he thinks no one is looking.”

“Hey, I don’t watch Alyssa,” Jason interrupted.

“Sure you don’t,” Sean said to Jason with a smile before refocusing on Justin. “Have you noticed anything since you’ve been here?”

Justin wasn’t sure how to answer that. Yes, he had noticed Brian watching him from time to time, but he never thought anything of it before. Since their kiss up at the lake though, he started thinking more and more about all those little moments that he had chalked up to his over active imagination. Was it possible that Brian had been watching him out of more than just plain curiosity? How was he supposed to answer his friend without telling both of them about himself and opening up a can of worms? Luckily he was saved from answering when Chris came out the sliding door.

“Guys, it’s getting late. Zander and I are going to bed. Do you need anything before we turn in?”

“What time is it?” Justin asked in surprise.

“It’s almost eleven. Zan wants to be at the store early and I have to drive to Phoenix for a meeting with my publisher so we’ll both be out of here early. Do me a favor and make sure Brian locks up when he comes in. He tends to forget when we’re not up to remind him and I don’t think he’ll be back until late. He mentioned going to the movies.”

“No problem, Chris,” Justin promised. “I guess we’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be a long day. I left some money on top of the microwave so you guys could order in food for lunch tomorrow since you’ll be stuck here without a car. Brian will be around on Wednesday and then I’ll be working from home Thursday and Friday so you can take the SUV if you want to go exploring,” Chris told Justin before turning to his friends. “Sorry guys. Zander and I haven’t gotten around to getting Justin his own wheels yet. Maybe we can go check out the car lots this weekend and you can help him pick something out.”

“Chris, I told you that you guys don’t need to buy me a car. I have enough in the bank for insurance and once I find a job, it shouldn’t take too long to save up enough for something decent,” Justin replied.

“And I believe that we told you we wanted to buy you a car. Guys, help me out here. Tell your friend how foolish it would be to turn down a free car.”

“Dude, what’s wrong with you?” Sean asked incredulously.

“Yeah, what the hell?” Jason added. “Mr. Kinney is right. You don’t turn down a free car.”

“That’s it, boys. You work on him before the weekend,” Chris laughed. “Oh, and Jason. Mr. Kinney is my father…and an asshole. My name is Chris.”

“Sorry, Chris,” Jason said with a sheepish grin.

“Alright, I’m going to bed. Be careful out here and try to get to sleep before the sun comes up,” Chris said before heading inside.

“Why are you arguing with them over buying you a car? I’ve been begging my parents to buy me a car ever since I got my license and they won’t budge,” Jason said.

“Yeah, and my parents made me buy my own with the money I made last summer. It was a piece of shit that broke down two months ago and I still can’t afford to fix it,” Sean told him.

“But that’s different. You’re talking about your parents. Zander’s my cousin and Chris isn’t any relation at all. Look around at all they’ve done for me already. I can’t ask them to buy me a car. It’s too much,” Justin insisted.

“You didn’t ask them to buy you one. They offered…hell, they’re almost insisting on it. Take the damn car and say thank you,” Sean replied as he lifted himself out of the pool. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I’ve had enough swimming today.”

“Yeah, me too,” Jason agreed. “I’d kill for a hot shower and a late night snack.”

“Well, let’s go. I’ll jump into the shower first and then scrounge around and find us something to eat. We have a spare freezer in the garage and I’m sure it’s got plenty of late night snack food,” Justin laughed as he wrapped a towel around his waist and led his friends inside.

Once the three of them were upstairs, Justin grabbed some spare towels out of the closet and then jumped into the shower. When he was finished, he left his friends and went in search of food. Just as he predicted, the freezer was packed with options. He decided on frozen pizza and grabbed a plain and a pepperoni. Within minutes, the pizzas were in the oven and Justin had a few minutes to sit by himself and think about what Sean had suggested. He planned on waiting until the end of the week to tell his friends his secret, so that if either one of them had an issue with his being gay, the trip was almost over. Now he was beginning to wonder if he'd make it that long. If Sean was observant enough to pick up signals from Brian, despite the fact that they’d only been together for a few hours, Justin had no doubt that he’d slowly start figuring things out for him. He'd have to be extra careful around Brian until he shared his secret. Just because he stopped stressing over Jason and Sean's reaction to him being gay, didn't mean he was quite ready to share his secret.

Brian circled the block a few more times before he finally gave up and decided to head home. He’d been purposely avoiding the house for the last few hours in hopes of finding that Justin and his friends had gone to bed. He had every intention of staying out past curfew, using the excuse of seeing a late movie, but those plans had been nixed when Steve’s brother had suddenly shown up to surprise his family with an unplanned trip. He’d moved out to California more than six months ago and no one had seen him since he left right after the Christmas holiday. Brian knew he was welcome to stay at the house with everyone, but he felt like he was intruding on the happy family occasion and opted to leave. Everyone else was either busy or unreachable and he had nowhere to go, so he'd been driving around for the better part of two hours like an idiot to avoid everyone at the house.

He'd been happy that he and Justin had worked through the kiss from the other night, but working it out hadn't stopped the thoughts that kept going through his head every time he looked at the blond. Nothing could stop the image of the blond underneath him, his face flush from exertion due to the wrestling they had done leading up to the kiss. Nothing could stop the visions of what could've happened if Chris and Zander hadn't arrived when they did. Nothing could stop the regret he had that they did show up when they did. His brain had been so consumed with thoughts, that Steve's arrival was a welcome relief. He needed the escape before he did something stupid, like grab Justin in a heated kiss right in from of Chris, Zander, Jason, and Sean, effectively outing Justin and causing his guardian's wrath all in one fatal moment. He planned on talking to Steve about it, but he never got the chance. It was probably for the best, though. Once his friend found out about what happened at the lake, he'd be more determined to get Brian to make a move that he knew in his heart he couldn't make. There just wasn't a future between him and Justin beyond the friendship that they'd formed when the blond moved to town.

Brian walked through the door and into the kitchen to find Justin sitting at the table by himself. He contemplated slipping back out, but he immediately sensed something was wrong and couldn't just walk away.

"Hey, where are Sean and Jason?"

"Oh, hey," Justin replied distractedly. "Um...they’re upstairs taking showers. I came down and threw some frozen pizza into the oven. You're home early. I thought you and Steve were going to the movies."

"We were, until his brother showed up. He moved away six months ago and they haven't seen him since. He walked in tonight and surprised everyone. Needless to say, Steve wasn’t up to going to the movies after that,” Brian explained as he took a seat at the table. “Is everything okay? How come you’re sitting down here by yourself?”

“I’m just thinking,” Justin admitted softly.

“About what? You’re not stressing over talking to them again, are you?” Brian could tell by the look on Justin’s face that he was. “Jeez, I can’t keep up with you. One minute you’re worried about talking to them. Then you say that you’re not worried about that anymore; that you’re sure it’ll be okay, but you’re worried about seeing them again. Now you’re worried about talking to them again.”

“I know. I’m a flake,” Justin laughed. “I can’t keep up with myself.”

“Look, you need to just relax before you drive yourself nuts.”

“Just relax, now why didn’t I think of that?”

Brian laughed just as Sean and Jason appeared; their hair still damp from their showers. “Hey, Brian,” Jason said as they made their way into the kitchen. “What smells so good?”

“I put a couple of frozen pizzas into the oven. They should be ready in about ten minutes,” Justin replied as he got up and went to grab some paper plates. “Brian, you wanna join us?”

“No, I’m kind of beat and I’ve got work tomorrow. See you guys later.”

Once Brian was gone, Sean turned to Justin. “Did you see that?”

“See what?” Justin asked as he took three cans of coke out of the fridge.

“He looked at you funny before he left. I’m telling you, Justin. He’s into you,” Sean insisted.

“Give it a rest, Sean,” Jason said. “You’re making Justin uncomfortable. Even if Brian is interested, it doesn’t matter. Justin isn’t interested in him so who cares?”


“Sean,” Jason said again, issuing a warning by a simple look.

“Oh alright, forget I said anything,” Sean sighed as he opened his coke and took a sip.

Justin mouthed a silent thank you to Jason before getting up to check on the pizza. Jason was always the more compassionate of the two. The one that Justin, and all their other friends, went to when they needed advice or someone to vent to. As much as everyone loved Sean, he lacked the proper gene to listen and understand a person’s feelings when it came to the important things in life.

They ate their pizza through fits of laughter as Jason and Sean told countless stories of their friends back home. For the first time since the accident, Justin was able to hear about his old life without being thrust into the pain and despair of losing his parents. His time in Arizona gave him the ability to remember the past fondly instead of dwelling on all that he lost, and it felt good. Once the pizza was gone and the kitchen was cleaned up, they went upstairs and climbed into bed; Jason and Sean exhausted from their travels, and Justin exhausted from the excitement of seeing his friends again. It wasn’t long before they were all sound asleep.

Tuesday was another good day. Justin, Jason, and Sean spent the day swimming in the pool, walking through the neighborhood exploring, and just being the Three Musketeers again. Since they didn’t have transportation, their activities were limited, but it didn’t matter to them. They just enjoyed being together. After dinner, Brian went over to Steve’s house, but Justin barely missed him. He happily stayed behind and watched movies with his friends. When Brian got home, they all jumped into the pool and had a late night swim, making plans to hit the mall the following day, before going to bed.

The next morning, the four of them slept until almost noon and found their way to the mall by two. They ate lunch at the food court and then walked around until the movie theater opened. They managed to make it through the end of the movie, which wasn’t easy considering the giggling they were doing. The usher had to warn them more than once to keep it down. Once it was over, the four of them went down to the river. Justin was a little nervous that his secret would come out, but Brian assured him that his friends knew the situation and would keep their mouths shut. They played a couple games of volleyball and had a great time. It was almost eleven by the time they made it home, exhausted from their day. Brian had a great time despite being the odd man out and was glad that he got a chance to know Justin’s friends. After listening to Jason and Sean telling stories of growing up in Pittsburgh, Brian felt that he understood Justin a little more than he did before. He was happy when he said good night and went to his own room.

Justin tried falling asleep, but he couldn’t seem to stop thinking about the day. He enjoyed having Brian with them all day and was even able to forget about the awkwardness between them and have fun. Unfortunately, once Sean and Jason were asleep, his thoughts went right back to the kiss from the weekend and his growing feelings for Brian. After tossing and turning for over an hour, Justin gave up and went downstairs for a drink. He didn’t want his restlessness to wake his friends. He was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a coke, when Jason appeared in the doorway.

“Hey, couldn’t sleep?”

“No,” Justin replied. “What are you doing up?”

“I couldn’t sleep either. Once you left the room and I didn’t have your tossing and turning to keep me busy, I got bored,” Jason teased as he grabbed his own drink and joined Justin at the table.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you up. That’s why I came down here in the first place.”

“Care to tell me what has you so keyed up?” Jason asked.

“Not really,” Justin admitted.

Jason looked closely at his friend. “Does this have anything to do with Brian?”

“What would Brian have to do with this?” Justin asked nervously.

“Look, Jus, I wasn’t going to bring this up because of your reaction to Sean when he mentioned Brian watching you, but it’s obviously bothering you, so I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

“Let me guess. You agree with Sean. You think that Brian’s been watching me, too,” Justin sighed.

“Yeah, but that’s not what I meant. I was wondering if you wanted to talk about the way you’ve been watching Brian, too,” Jason replied carefully, knowing he hit the nail on the head at the look of sheer terror in Justin’s eyes.

End of part 17


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