Now That You're Here


Chapter 21


Justin was in the kitchen cooking up some eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes when he heard someone walk up behind him. He turned around, ready to defend himself with the spatula when he saw Brian looking down at him.

“What are you doing here? How come you’re not at work?”

Brian dropped a quick kiss on Justin’s lips and then took the spatula out of his hand. “Definitely not my weapon of choice. I switched shifts with Stacey yesterday. I’m not going in until four. Originally I thought it would give us some time to be alone since Chris isn’t working at home today, but apparently I’m going to need the time to apologize for being a complete jerk last night.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Justin began.

“Oh yes I do. I was a total ass when I should’ve been supportive of you and that was wrong,” Brian admitted as he took over frying up the potatoes. “Zander told me that you were really upset and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Look Brian, I don’t have to do this if you don’t want me to. Chris can just tell Mr. James that I’m not ready to show my work,” Justin offered.

“No, no, no, no, no…that’s not what I want,” Brian insisted. He put down the spatula and gently took Justin’s face with both hands, looking him right in the eyes. “Justin, I am so proud of you. Your talent is amazing and you deserve everything it’s going to bring you. I would never do anything to hold you back. I’m so sorry for making you think otherwise. It’s just…I still have some issues from when I was with my parents. I guess I didn’t realize how messed up I still am until I hurt someone I really care about.”

“You care about me?” Justin asked tentatively.

“Yeah, I do,” Brian assured him with a smile. “And I need you to know that. I need you to know how important you are to me, and that I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you.”

Justin looked deep into Brian’s eyes and saw the sincerity in them. “You’re important to me, too. Which is why I’m willing to pass on this opportunity if you want me to. I would never do anything to hurt you, either. When I saw how upset you were last night…I don’t know. It hurt to know that I was the cause of it.”

“You’re not the cause of it. Jack and Joan Kinney are the cause of it, but that’s still no excuse for acting the way I did. They’ve been out of my life for three years now. I have to stop letting them control me. It’s time to really put the past behind me and move on. Before I came downstairs I called the counseling place I used to go to when I first got here. I have an appointment next week.”

“Wow…um, that’s good. Do you want me to go with you? I mean, not go in with you, but to be there for afterwards?”

“I think this is probably something I should do by myself,” Brian replied. “But maybe we can go catch a movie or something afterwards.”

“Okay, that sounds good. Now why don’t you grab the eggs out of the fridge? I didn’t know I was cooking for two and the potatoes are almost done.”

Brian and Justin finished cooking together and then ate their breakfast while discussing the upcoming school year. It was already the middle of August and Justin was getting more nervous as time went by. Changing schools for senior year was tough, but at least he already knew a few people. He could only hope that some of those people, preferably Brian, would be in his classes. Once they cleaned up the kitchen, they put on their swimsuits and went to the pool. There they spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon goofing around, enjoying the freedom of being able to touch and kiss each other without fear of being caught. Time flew by and before either one of them knew it; Brian’s cell phone alarm went off.

“I got to go jump in the shower and get ready for work.”

“Before you go, can I ask you something?” Justin said as they made their way to the shallow end.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“This may sound lame, but did I do something wrong?”

“No, not unless you did something and didn’t tell me about it,” Brian teased. “Why?”

“I don’t know. The other night when we…I mean…when you…oh, never mind,” Justin sighed in exasperation. “Just forget I said anything.”

Brian pulled Justin into his arms and kissed him gently. “I don’t want to forget it. What’s on your mind?”

“It’s just…the other night…you…” Justin was struggling to find the right words.

“I…gave you the greatest orgasm of your life?” Brian teased.

“Yes, you jerk,” Justin laughed. “You did, and I was just wondering how come you haven’t…I mean, we’ve been here alone all day and you didn’t try to…you know. God, I sound like a complete idiot, don’t I?”

“No, you don’t. Relax, Justin, you can talk to me about anything. And I didn’t try to…you know today because I think it’s best if we take things slow. The other night was just me momentarily losing my self-control. I don’t regret it, but it shouldn’t have happened. Not the way it did. Listen, one of the reasons I was opposed to you and Dane was because I know you don’t have any experience with dating and sex, and I didn’t want him to rush you into something you’re not ready for. I’d be a hypocrite if I rushed you. We have all the time in the world.”

“So, it’s not because you don’t want me?”

“Don’t want you? I’ve been dying to get into your pants since the moment you got here, Blondie. I just think it will be better to wait. Trust me, when the time is right we are going to…you know, all night long,” Brian promised.

“Sounds good to me,” Justin replied with a huge smile. “Do you want me to go into work with you? I don’t mind keeping you company.”

“No, that’s okay. We’re pretty steady at night. I won’t have a lot of time to talk. I’ll just see you when I get home. Now kiss me like you’re going to miss me so I can go get ready.”

“I will miss you,” Justin said before taking Brian’s mouth in a heated kiss.

Once Brian was gone, Justin jumped into the shower and then went downstairs to make dinner. Chris wasn’t due home until late so it was just going to be him and Zander. He browned some meat and threw it into some jarred sauce that he found in the pantry. He waited until just after five to start boiling the water and by the time Zander walked through the door, dinner was ready. After they ate, they settled down in the living room to watch TV. The news was just going off when there was a knock on the door followed by the sound of someone walking in. Steve appeared in the doorway moments later.

“Hey, where’s Brian?”

“Oh, he switched shifts with Stacey. He’s working 4-9 tonight,” Zander replied.

“Really? He hates working the night shift. Hey, Justin.”

“Hey, Steve.”

“You want to sit down and join us? We were just getting ready to channel surf,” Zander offered.

“No, that’s okay. I’m meeting the guys down by the river. Justin, do you want to come with me? We haven’t seen you in awhile.”

Justin looked at Steve in confusion. “You want me to go with you?”

“Sure. You haven’t been here long, but you’re still one of us. We can swing by the bookstore and let Brian know what we’re doing. I’m sure he’ll meet up with us once he gets off.”

“Uh…sure. That sounds good,” Justin said before looking over at Zander. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Of course not. Go on, get out of here. I’ll be fine here all by myself,” Zander said.

Justin followed Steve out to the car, trying hard to think of something to say. As many times as he’d been around Steve, Brian was always there to make him feel comfortable. He really didn’t know the guy all that well. Luckily Steve didn’t seem uncomfortable.

“So, are you anxious about school starting next month?”

“Yeah. It sucks having to start over in a new school. Back home, we all grew up together so I always had people I knew in my classes.”

“I know what you mean. I’ve been living here my entire life. Even if we’re not good friends, I know almost everybody. I can’t imagine having to start all over,” Steve admitted.

“Well, I have Brian. And all you guys. At least there will be a few familiar faces in the crowd,” Justin replied. “And thanks for inviting me out tonight. I know you were really looking for Brian, and I appreciate it.”

“Like I said, you’re one of us. Everybody’s been asking about you lately. Between your trip and having your friends here, no one has seen you in awhile. In fact, Trent was taking bets that Brian pissed you off and you went back to Pittsburgh.”

Justin laughed. “Not likely. Arizona is my home now. I doubt Brian could piss me off that much. He’s been really great to me since I got here. It couldn’t have been easy for him to have some guy show up right smack in the middle of his life, but he never complained.”

Steve came to a stop at a red light and looked over Justin, smiling at the way the mention of Brian softened his features. “You’re really into him, aren’t you?”

“Is it that obvious?”

“I’m afraid so,” Steve chuckled. “But if it makes you feel any better, he’s really into you too. He’ll probably kill me if he finds out I’m telling you this, but he called me up in the middle of the night on Sunday to tell me that you guys were together. He was like a kid on Christmas morning.”


“I swear he’s been driving me nuts ever since you got here. Justin this and Justin that. Did you know that we were sitting in the theater about four or five rows behind you when you went out with Dane that first night?”

“Are you serious?” Justin couldn’t help but laugh. “I knew he wasn’t happy that I was going out with Dane, but I never expected him to follow us.”

“Wasn’t happy is an understatement, but I better not say anymore. I think I already compromised the best friend code. I’m just happy that you guys are finally going to give whatever it is between you a shot. I’ve never seen him this into anyone before. If you’re even half as interested as he is, then you guys have nothing to lose.”

“Thanks, Steve. And don’t worry; I won’t tell him you said anything. This conversation never happened.” Justin looked out the window at the passing scenery as his brain digested everything Steve had told him. He knew that Brian was attracted to him, but hearing what Steve had to say gave him a warm feeling like he’d never felt before. He couldn’t wait to get to the bookstore and see the guy he was slowly falling in love with.

Brian had just finished ringing up a customer and was on his way around the counter when he looked up and saw Steve and Justin walk in.

“Hey, what are you guys doing here?”

“I stopped by your house to see if you wanted to hang out with everyone tonight, but Zander told me you were working. I asked Justin to come with me. I figured you could meet up with us when you get off,” Steve explained as he hopped up on the counter.

“Sounds good to me,” Brian replied as he grabbed Justin’s hand and pulled him close, giving him a soft kiss. “Hey, you.”

“Hey,” Justin said softly. “You don’t mind that I’m going without you, do you?”

“Of course not. I’m glad to see you’re not sitting at home. My friends are your friends, if you can stand them.”

“Hey, I heard that,” Steve complained.

“You were supposed to,” Brian chuckled before refocusing on Justin. “I miss you.”

“Me too. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather me stay here with you? We can go to the river together when you get off,” Justin suggested.

“As much as I love having you here, you should go with Steve. If you stick around, I’ll never get my work done. I’ll be too busy doing this.” Brian took Justin's mouth again, this time in a long, passionate kiss.

“Hello? I’m still here,” Steve teased.

Justin gently shoved Brian away, hoping neither one of them noticed how red his face had gotten. “Sorry. Brian doesn’t have any manners.”

“That’s okay. I’m used to it. See you later, Loverboy. Your boyfriend and I are out of here.” Steve hopped off the counter and grabbed Justin by the arm, leading him out of the store. They could hear Brian’s laughter behind them.



Justin looked at his watch again. It was the tenth time he looked in the last five minutes. It was almost 9:30 and Brian would be there any minute and he was beyond anxious.

“Relax, he’ll be here any minute,” Steve said quietly so that no one would hear him. They were all sitting around a few of the picnic tables talking about the upcoming school year, but it was obvious to him that Justin’s mind was not on school.

“Am I that transparent?”

“Like a piece of glass. By what I’ve seen, I don’t know how you two went this long without hooking up.”

“A little bit of willpower, and a lot of cold showers,” Justin laughed. “Which is how things are going to continue, considering that we don’t want anyone knowing about us right now.”

“And why is it such a secret again?”

“Because Chris and Zander would have a fit if they knew we were together, and I’m sure they’d move one of us down to the basement,” Justin replied.

“Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe they would just give you guys some rules and trust you to follow them,” Steve said.

“Trust Brian?” Justin asked doubtfully.

Steve chuckled. “Point taken.”

“Hey, look who decided to grace us with his presence?” Trent called out, pulling Justin from his conversation with Steve. It took everything he had to keep from running over and throwing himself into Brian’s arms.

“Well, I knew you wouldn’t be able to have any fun unless I showed up,” Brian teased as he sauntered over and dropped down on the bench alongside Justin.

“Your ego is astounding,” Trent threw back.

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with knowing how great I am,” Brian drawled as he moved his hand under the table and placed it on Justin’s thigh. He hated not being able to kiss his boyfriend in front of his friends.

Justin fought to keep still as he felt Brian’s hand on his thigh. He also fought to keep his face expressionless as Trent and Brian bantered over Brian’s inflated ego. If only their friends knew how insecure Brian really was. Justin shuddered to think about all the demons that lay just beneath the surface.



Two hours later, Brian and Justin were on their way home when Brian brought up the following day.

“So, I was thinking that we should probably be on the road around eleven. This way we have time to get lost, just in case.”

Justin sighed. He’d forgotten that Brian was supposed to drive him to meet Mr. James. He didn’t want to do anything that was going to upset Brian. “If you want, I could rent a car or something and drive myself. Or maybe Zander would let me drive him to work and take his car.”

“Justin, I’m fine. I told you this morning that I’m okay with this. I want to be there for you,” Brian insisted. “Now, as I was saying, I’m thinking we should be on the road around eleven.”

“Okay, that works.”

“So, are you nervous?”

“Not really.”

“Do you have your portfolio ready?”


Brian looked over at Justin. He could tell by the short answers he was receiving that Justin was trying to hold back for his benefit, and he didn’t like it. He really screwed up with his outburst the night before and didn’t know how to make things right. He turned up the radio and continued driving until they reached the end of the street where they parked on Sunday night to have a few more minutes alone. He pulled over under the trees and turn off the engine.

“Justin, look at me.” As soon as he had his boyfriend’s attention, he began. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, but I’m really, really okay with you doing this. I don’t want you to hold back with me. If you’re excited or nervous or whatever it is you’re feeling, I want you to tell me about it. Please stop shutting me out.”

“I’m sorry, Brian,” Justin replied. “I know you said you’re okay with it and I believe you, but I don’t want to take a chance that I’ll hurt you. I don’t for one second want you to feel bad about yourself. I think you’re one of the greatest people I ever met, and if you can’t see that about yourself yet, then I’ll be patient while you figure it out. There’s no reason for me to go on and on about myself anyway.”

“Justin, I love when you go on and on about yourself. And yeah, maybe I don’t look into the mirror and see whatever it is that you see, but it’s okay. Having you for a boyfriend is going to be a great ego booster.”

“Boyfriend…wow that sounds so strange hearing it out loud,” Justin chuckled. “Are you sure?”

“I’m positive,” Brian said.

“Okay, well then I’m terrified. I’ve packed my portfolio three times, constantly changing what I want to show him. I’m afraid to get my hopes up for fear that he’s going to take one look at my work and laugh me out of his office. And what’s worse is that I’m also afraid he’s going to like what I show him and want me to work for him, but then I won’t measure up to what he’s expecting. How’s that?”

Brian couldn’t hold back his laughter. “Well, at least you’re opening up to me. Take a deep breath. First of all, there’s no way he’s going to laugh you out of his office. He’s already seen some of your work, which is why he’s meeting with you to begin with, remember? As for not measuring up to what he expects, you’re brilliant. You’ll have no problem exceeding his expectations.”

“Apparently having you for a boyfriend is going to be a great ego boost for me, too. Thanks, Brian.”

“Hey, I just call it like I see it. Now come over here and kiss me so we can get home before curfew.”

The made it with just two minutes to spare.

End of part 21


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