Now That You're Here


Chapter 18


“What?” Justin asked in terror. “What do you mean, the way I’ve been watching Brian? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Relax, Justin.” Jason laughed at the look on his friend’s face. “I’m not going to judge you, and I promise not to tell Sean. I just thought you might want to talk about it.”

“I…it’s…”Justin stammered.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you. I kind of had a feeling you were gay a couple of years ago, but I didn’t want to say anything. I figured if you were; you’d tell me when you were ready. If you’re not ready now, it’s okay. I’m your friend and whatever you want to do is fine with me. I just want you to know that I’m here if you need me.”

Justin took a deep breath, knowing he had to be honest with Jason. It was time. “Yeah, I’m gay. And I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. I just…I don’t know. I guess I just wasn’t ready for everyone to find out. My parents knew. I told them a few years ago and they were great. They kept encouraging me to tell you and Sean, since you were my closest friends, but I wasn’t ready. I kind of knew you’d be okay with it, but I wasn’t so sure about Sean. He can be weird sometimes.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. But let’s face it, Jus. If he isn’t okay with it then would he really be a true friend? Wouldn’t it be better to find out sooner rather than later who your true friends are?” Jason asked carefully.

“I guess you’re right, but I don’t think I was ready for anyone to find out before. Besides, I wouldn’t want to put you in the middle of anything. I mean…if he wasn’t cool with it, then you would’ve been forced to bounce between the two of us, instead of all of us being together. That wouldn’t have been fun for you,” Justin replied.

“See, that’s where you’re wrong. If Sean had a problem with it and didn’t want to be friends with you because you’re gay, he and I wouldn’t have been friends either. Are you forgetting about my aunt? I could never and would never be friends with anyone who turned their back on someone for being gay, regardless of who it was.”

“I guess,” Justin sighed. “It was just so many different things. It was okay, though. Between my mom and my dad, I wasn’t alone. And now…being out here with Brian, Zander, and Chris has been an eye opener. I’ve been out since I got here and it’s great. It feels so good not hiding who I am. When Sean asked about visiting, I panicked. I wasn’t even sure if I could go back in the closet. Brian talked to his friends and explained the situation so nobody would say anything, but it’s been driving me crazy. I knew I had to tell you guys before you went back to Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t planning on saying anything until the end of the week so if there was a problem, it wouldn’t ruin your trip. I didn’t think you’d figure anything out.”

“Well I did; which brings us back to the topic at hand. What’s going on with you and Brian? Are you guys together?” Jason asked.

“No, we’re not. Nothing’s going on between us. I mean, he’s hot. I noticed that the first time I laid eyes on him, but we’re just friends. That’s all we ever can be. Chris and Zander wouldn’t be happy if something was to happen between us. It’s just…”

“It’s just…” Jason encouraged.

“Saturday night when we were up at the lake, Brian kissed me. We were hanging out watching TV and it just sort of happened. Thank God Brian heard Chris and Zander coming in and stopped it before they saw us, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since,” Justin admitted.

“I don’t think he’s been able to stop thinking about it, either. Did you guys talk about it?” Jason prodded.

“A little bit. We both agreed that it was an accident and it wouldn’t happen again. He’s already apologized a couple of times, and he’s right. We’re family. We can’t let anything happen again. It wouldn’t be right,” Justin insisted.

“Maybe, but it might not be that easy. Listen, Jus, I don’t know Brian that well, but it’s so obvious that he’s been thinking about you as more than just family. And sometimes we can’t help who we fall for. If there’s a strong attraction between the two of you, don’t you think it’s worth exploring? What if you guys are soul mates and miss out on each other because you don’t want to rock the boat?”

“Soul mates?” Justin laughed. “You don’t really believe in that crap, do you?”

“Yeah, I do. I spent my entire life listening to my parents talk about how they managed to find each other against all odds. I guess it kind of sunk in. But that’s beside the point. You don’t kiss someone by accident. If it happens, there’s a reason why. Don’t you owe it to yourself to figure out the reason? What if you and Brian really belong together, but never get together because you think it’s wrong? That would be such a shame.”

Justin took a minute to think about what his friend was saying. Could Jason be right? Was the kiss really an accident? Is it possible to accidentally kiss someone? Somehow Justin didn’t think so. “Maybe you’re right. I guess I have a lot to think about before deciding what to do next. But regardless of what happens, thanks for listening. I really appreciate it. I obviously can’t talk to anyone else about this under the circumstances.”

“Hey, that’s what friends are for,” Jason replied. “Now I don’t know about you, but I’m beat. I need to get some sleep.”

“I’m right behind you,” Justin said as he threw the empty coke cans away and turned off the kitchen light. Despite everything going on in his head, he felt much better having someone to talk to. Now that Jason knew, some of the pressure was off. He hoped that Sean took the news as well as Jason did, but if he didn’t, at least he had one true friend by his side.

The next few days passed quickly and before Justin knew it, Saturday night arrived. He was extremely nervous about telling Sean he was gay. His friend had tried to bring Brian and his “watching” up a few more times during the week, but Jason always seemed to get the subject changed and Justin was thankful for that. Now he knew that he couldn’t avoid the topic anymore. The boys were scheduled to fly back to Pittsburgh the following afternoon and unless Justin opened his mouth, his friend would go back home never knowing the truth and that wasn’t an option. The more he thought about everything Chris, Zander, Brian, and even Jason said about true friends accepting him for who he was, the more he knew he had to be honest regardless of the consequences. He already had Jason on his side. Just one more to go.

The three friends watched endless movies throughout the day and were taking a late night swim when Justin somehow found the courage to speak his mind. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the right words and ended up blurting it out right in the middle of Jason sharing a story about his sister.

“I’m gay.”

Jason and Sean both immediately turned their attention to Justin. Jason in disbelief over the way Justin just made his announcement; Sean just in disbelief.

“What?” Sean asked, sure he misunderstood his best friend.

“I said I’m gay. I…uh…thought you should know,” Justin stammered as his heart raced in his chest.

“No you’re not,” Sean replied with a laugh. “Knock it off.”

“Yes I am, Sean. I’m sorry to just blurt it out like that, but it’s true,” Justin assured him.

“No it’s not. You can’t be gay,” Sean insisted. He looked closely at his friend, waiting for a sign that he was joking. When he didn’t see one, he glanced at Jason who didn’t seem surprised by the news. “Jason?”

“Don’t look at me. Your friend’s trying to tell you something,” Jason said.

Sean looked back at Justin with an unreadable expression. “What the fuck did they do to you?”

“What? Who? Sean, what are you talking about?” Justin asked in confusion.

“Them,” Sean replied angrily as he gestured towards the house. “Chris, Zander, and Brian. You’ve only been out here a couple of months and they’ve already turned you gay?”

Justin stared at his friend in horror. “Excuse me?”

“Sean, maybe you and I should go for a walk so you can take a few minutes and think about what you’re saying,” Jason offered, trying to diffuse the situation. He got no response as Sean continued.

“How could you let them get to you?”

“Sean, this has nothing to do with Chris, Zander, and Brian. I was gay long before moving out here. All they did was help me find the courage to admit it to my closest friends. How could you even suggest something like that? Being gay isn’t a disease. It’s not something you can catch or be coerced into,” Justin explained calmly despite the growing anger building inside of him. “And you were okay coming out here when you knew they were gay. Why are you getting so upset now? So I’m gay, big deal.”

“They’re not you. They’re not one of my best friends. I haven’t had sleepovers with them for over ten years. They haven’t seen me changing, or coming out of the shower…they mean nothing to me,” Sean spat as he climbed out of the pool and quickly pulled on his t-shirt without bothering to towel off.

Justin lost the little bit of control he’d been hanging onto. “Well, apparently neither do I!”

“Look, I think we all need to calm down here,” Jason said as he followed Sean out of the pool. “Justin, I think Sean and I are just going to take a walk down the street. Why don’t you go jump in the shower and we’ll be back.”

Sean stormed off to the side of the house, obviously deciding that getting away was a good idea, leaving Jason and Justin both speechless.

“I’m sorry, Justin,” Jason said quietly, once they were alone.

“It’s not your fault,” Justin replied. “I just…I can’t believe he reacted like that. I mean, I’ve always worried about other peoples’ reaction, but deep down I didn’t think I’d lose you or Sean over it.”

“You didn’t lose me,” Jason said, reassuring his friend that he understood. “And I don’t think you’ll lose Sean, either. He might just need some time to adjust. It’s a big bomb to drop.”

“You didn’t need time,” Justin pointed out.

“No, but I’ve had a feeling about you for awhile,” Jason reminded him. “And my favorite aunt is gay, remember? I’m probably as big a part of the gay community as you are. He doesn’t have that kind of interaction. It’s new to him. Let me get him away and talk to him. I’m sure he’ll regret what he said once he’s had time to think about it.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Justin sighed. “There are blankets and a pillow in the downstairs closet and the couch in the living room pulls out to a sleeper. I’m assuming he’ll want to sleep as far away from me as possible.”

“Jus…” Jason began, only to be cut off.

“Look, maybe you’re right. Maybe he just needs time to think about this. But even if that’s the case, I doubt if he’ll suddenly get over it by just taking a walk down the street. It’s almost midnight. He’s going to need a place to sleep. You guys need to be at the airport by noon tomorrow. If sleeping in my room is going to be a problem, just let him crash on the couch. It’s not worth disrupting the whole house over,” Justin replied as he dried off.

“Alright,” Jason agreed. “I’ll be back in a little bit. Are you going to be okay?”

“One of my closest friends in the whole world just basically told me that I disgust him. Yeah, I’ll be fine,” Justin snapped.

“Justin…that’s not what he said,” Jason told him, but he could tell by the look on his friend’s face that he didn’t believe it. “Okay, just go on up and relax. When I get back, we’ll talk.”

“Yeah, alright.”

Justin went inside and threw the towels in the laundry room before heading upstairs. He couldn’t stop shaking from his altercation with Sean. He never in a million years thought his friend would take the news so badly. Not once he agreed to come to Arizona knowing that Brian, Chris, and Zander were gay. He was glad that he’d waited until the end of the trip to say anything. Otherwise the whole week would’ve been a disaster. At least he had six good days to remember before it all turned to shit.

Without thinking about anything except the look on Sean’s face, Justin found himself outside Brian’s door. Things between them had been normal for most of the week, but part of that was because they really didn’t spend a lot of time together. Brian was around, and he’d spent Wednesday with him and his friends, but otherwise they really hadn’t been alone together all week. Now Justin couldn’t help but seek him out. He needed someone to talk to and couldn’t wait until Jason calmed Sean down and returned. He knocked lightly and was relieved when he heard Brian call out for him to come in.

“Hey, you guys finally got out of the pool. I was beginning to think you were going to stay in there all night,” Brian teased before noticing the look on Justin’s face. “Justin, what’s wrong?”

Justin could feel tears building behind his eyes and tried to keep them at bay. “Um, I told Sean that I’m gay…it didn’t go over too well.”

“Shit, come here,” Brian replied as he approached Justin and took him in his arms. “Tell me what happened.”

Justin took a moment to enjoy the comfort Brian was offering and then pulled back and wiped at the single tear that had managed to escape. He sat down on the bed and began telling Brian the details of what had happened by the pool. By the time he was finished, he was drained and no closer to believing what had transpired.

“That’s totally fucked!” Brian exclaimed as he paced the room. “He claims to be your friend and then pulls something like this? And what the fuck? Does he really think you were straight and that we brainwashed you into being gay?”

“I don’t know. Jason thinks he just needs time to think about it. He says it’s just shock, but I’m not so sure. He had this look on his face, like I let him down or something. I don’t know. This just sucks. I never should’ve let them come out here,” Justin said softly.

“Jus, I know this sucks, but you did the right thing. If this is the way Sean’s going to act, then it’s better to know. And at least it’s out in the open. You still have Jason, right?” Brian saw Justin give a slight nod and continued. “Then that’s what you have to focus on. I like Jason better than Sean, anyway.”


“I don’t know. I got this weird vibe from Sean when I met him. I guess I just didn’t trust something about him. It was almost like he was fake.” Brian saw the confused look on Justin’s face and felt bad for sharing his thought. “Shit, sorry. I know he’s your friend. It’s not that I didn’t like him.”

Justin laughed at Brian’s attempt to retract his feelings. “It’s alright. You don’t have to like everyone I like. What did you think about Jason?”

“Besides him being hot?” Brian replied.

“You think Jason is hot?”

“Well, yeah. He is. Haven’t you ever noticed?”

Justin had to think about it for a moment. “I guess. I don’t know. I never really saw him that way, probably because we’ve been friends since we were little kids.”

“Yeah, that must be it. But besides that, I think he’s a good guy. And a good friend. You need to focus on that right now. Maybe he’s right and things will work out with Sean.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Justin sighed, although he really didn’t believe that. Not with the vision of Sean’s anger still fresh in his mind. “Well, thanks for listening. I’m going to go jump in the shower and get ready for bed. Something tells me that tomorrow morning is going to be a little rough.”

Justin got up and headed towards the door, but turned around when he heard Brian call his name softly. He was surprised to find Brian standing right beside him.

“Try not to worry too much. It’ll all work out,” Brian said as he reached out and softly brushed a few strands of drying hair off Justin’s forehead. He knew it was wrong. He told himself that he shouldn’t touch Justin in any way for fear of a reenactment of their night at the lake, but he couldn’t help it. He hated seeing the deep sadness in those beautiful blue eyes. Of course the slight touch caused a burning heat to course through his body, but he fought with everything he had to keep from tasting those soft, warm lips again.

“Um…thanks. I…uh…goodnight,” Justin stammered before turning around and fleeing the room. All thoughts of Sean were momentarily forgotten as the feel of Brian’s touch lingered on his forehead. The heat from that one brief touch sent every nerve ending on fire and he needed to get away. He went to his room quickly, grabbed a pair of sweats, and jumped in the shower, hoping that the cool water would calm the rapidly beating heart that Brian had caused. And it did. It took a few minutes, but as the water washed over him, Justin was able to put aside what happened in Brian’s room and refocus on the real problem at hand. Sean and his attitude. Brian was right. At least it was out in the open. And if Sean didn’t come around, as much as it would hurt, it would be okay. He still had Jason and everyone he’d met since coming to Arizona. Losing a friend that lived halfway across the country wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. A friend that was never really a friend in the first place.

Justin wasn’t surprised when Jason came through the door alone a short time later.

“I take it Sean’s downstairs,” Justin said.

“Yeah. I’m so sorry, Justin. I tried talking to him but he’s just really upset right now. He pissed me off so bad that I was going to leave him outside, but I couldn’t do it. I have to at least be civil until we get back to Pittsburgh, but then all bets are off,” Jason replied as he sat down on his rollaway bed. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. He’s never had an issue with Aunt Susie.”

“That’s different. It’s the double standard. Straight guys think two women together are hot, but two men together are disgusting. I don’t get it. I have no desire to sleep with a woman, but I don’t think a man and woman together is disgusting. It’s just not for me.”

“Hey, you don’t have to tell me that. I agree with you. In fact, I have a confession to make,” Jason said sheepishly. “I kind of think two guys together is hot.”

“Wait…what?” Justin asked. “You mean you’re…”

“Gay?” Jason laughed. “No…maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t think I was. I mean, I’ve always been into girls. And don’t tell Sean I said this, but I do watch Alyssa. She’s sweet. It’s just that sometimes I see a guy and I think, wow…he’s hot.”

“So you’re bi?”

“I guess…maybe. Look, Justin, I really don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ll ever sleep with a guy or if I just like looking at them. You know how things are back in Pittsburgh. If there are any gay people at school, they’re not coming out. I haven’t really had the chance to explore this and see what happens, and I’m okay with that. I’m just as happy when I think about getting closer to Alyssa, you know? Of course, if I had a bedroom with Mr. Hottie right next door like you do, it might be different.”

“Brian? You think Brian’s hot?” Justin laughed.

“Why is that so funny? You think so, too,” Jason pointed out.

“I know. It’s just ironic. He said the same thing about you when you were out with Sean,” Justin explained.

“Really? Maybe now’s a good time for me to explore this and see what happens,” Jason said as he stood up and made his way towards the door.

“Hey!” Justin exclaimed.

Jason turned around with a huge smile on his face. “Just kidding,” he laughed.

“That’s so not funny,” Justin said, smiling at his friend.

“Well I might be kidding now, but if you don’t do something about Brian soon, I’m not promising anything for my next visit,” Jason teased.

“Then you’re not invited back.”

“That’s no way to treat your best friend, you know.”

“You’ll get over it.” Teasing back and forth with Jason was helping Justin to forget not only Sean’s outburst, but also the encounter with Brian. He was really going to miss his friend once he left the following day and he told him so.

“I’m going to miss you, too. But now that you’re settled and everything’s out in the open, I’m hoping that it won’t take weeks or months for you to call me,” Jason replied.

“Once again, I’m sorry about that. I promise to stay in touch from now on. And you have my number, so you can call me, too. I’d like to talk more about you and this whole guy thing, too. I mean, if you want to.”

“Yeah, actually I do. I was going to talk to Aunt Susie but I didn’t want to put her in an awkward position where she had to lie to her own sister, and I don’t want to say anything to my parents until I know exactly what I’m feeling. And I only really realized it about a year ago so it’s still kind of new to me. I kept hoping that you’d come out to me so I had someone to talk to.”

“If you were so sure that I was gay, why didn’t you just talk to me about it? It would’ve made my coming out easier,” Justin said.

“I wasn’t sure about you. I just had a feeling. And you know why I didn’t mention it. The same reason why you didn’t mention it to me,” Jason replied.

“Yeah, you’re right. I really wish everyone would get over this whole gay thing. The world would be a better place if everyone just minded their own business and let other people live their own lives. Then we could all feel safe being who we are instead of hiding.”

“Me too, my friend. Me too,” Jason agreed.

“I guess we should try to get some sleep,” Justin suggested. “It’s after one.”

“Are you feeling better now?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I hope that Sean gets his head out of his ass and comes around, but if not it’ll be okay. I still have you,” Justin said.

“Yeah, you do. Goodnight, Jus.”

“Goodnight, Jason.”

End of chapter 18


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