Now That You're Here
Justin listened to the sound of the jeep pulling away from the house and couldn’t help but worry. He wanted to go with Brian. He hated to think of his boyfriend being alone after the way he reacted to his last therapy session, but Brian insisted. The week before was hard on both of them. On Brian for obvious reasons, and on Justin because he had to watch Brian in pain and he couldn’t do anything about it. Waking up in Brian’s bed had been surreal. After their talks of being careful not to get caught, breaking the rules so openly had freaked Justin out a bit, but Brian assured him that even if they had been caught, they would’ve been able to talk their way out of trouble. He would’ve just told Chris and Zander that he didn’t want to be alone and asked Justin to stay with him. Justin could see his point, but that didn’t make him any less scared until he had seen the two older men and were sure that they hadn’t seen a thing.
As Chris predicted, by the morning after the appointment Brian had been back to his old self. At least he tried to be, but Justin could still sense some lingering pain and sadness in Brian’s eyes. That was one of the reasons he hated that Brian wouldn’t let him go to the second appointment. He knew that Brian wouldn’t want to talk afterwards, but he could’ve at least let Justin drive him home so that he knew Brian was safe. He glanced at the clock, wishing he could speed up time until Brian walked back through the door. It was going to be a long afternoon.
As soon as Brian took his seat in Megan's office, she began.
“So, how are you feeling after last week’s session?”
“Sad, pathetic. How are you?”
“Brian, I’m serious. I was worried about you.”
“Well, that makes it unanimous. Chris and Zander have been hovering all week and Justin…”
“I don’t know. I feel him watching me all the time. Like he’s waiting for poor Brian to have another breakdown.”
“I’m sure he’s just worried about you. Did you talk to him about what happened here last week?”
“No, why would I do that?”
“Because you care about him and want to share yourself with him?”
“Yeah, right. And what would I say? Sorry Justin, but you seem to have gotten yourself hooked up with a nut job? I don’t think so. It’s bad enough that he knows I have to be here.”
“Okay, I know it’s been awhile but do you remember our rules from last time? No name calling. You’re not a nut job. You’re just a young man with some issues that need to be worked out.”
“Okay, let’s talk about Justin. You said that you had no problem with him moving in. What was the first thing that popped into your head when you met him?”
“So you were attracted to him.”
“Yeah, but it was different with him. I’ve been attracted to plenty of guys in the past, but not like this. I can’t really explain it. The minute I saw him, I wanted him, but it wasn’t about sex. Well, not only about sex.”
“And you told him this?”
“No. In fact, I tried my best to keep things between us strictly platonic.”
“Why is that? If you were attracted to him and felt some kind of strong pull towards him, why wouldn’t you act on it?”
“Chris and Zander. I figured they’d freak if they found out that we were dating or whatever. You know, two young gay boys living together.”
“So, how did they react when you told them?”
“I haven’t told them. Justin and I only gave in to this a few weeks ago. There’s only two other people that know what’s going on between us. One lives in Pittsburgh, and the other one was sworn to secrecy.”
“I see. Okay, so what happened to change your mind about getting involved with Justin?”
“I couldn’t not get involved with him.”
“I tried to fight it, but there’s just something about him. I couldn’t stay away. We were away on vacation the first time we kissed. I didn’t mean for it to happen, and we almost got caught. After that, staying away got even harder. All I could think about was that kiss. And the day we did get together, I didn’t plan it. It just happened again and I realized that fighting it wasn’t going to work. So we talked it out and decided to keep things quiet for awhile and see what happens between us before going public. I mean, there’s always a chance that the attraction grew from wanting something you can’t have. No need to upset everyone if it turns out that the chase was worth more than the actual reality of being together.”
“Do you still feel that way? Now that you’re together, do you still think it could be the chase?”
“No. Not for me, anyway. I think I’m falling in love with him, which makes this whole jealousy thing even worse. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to let him go.”
“Why would you have to let him go?”
“Because I can’t be in a relationship with someone I resent. I can’t be jealous of him.”
“Brian, listen to me. Your feelings of jealousy stem from your insecurities, not Justin. Once we work on that, things will change. There’s no reason to even think about letting Justin go.”
“Thank God. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”
“Those are strong words from someone who is only seventeen.”
“I know and believe me; it scares the hell out of me. I know we’re young but like I said, I can’t explain it. There’s just something about him. I’ve been with other guys before; in relationships and just casual flings. I’ve never felt about anyone, the way I feel about him. I don’t want to lose him because I’m fuc…messed up.”
“We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen. You just need to let go of the past so that you can look towards the future. Now let’s go back to when you were living with your parents.”
Brian pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine, but then sat there for a moment to get his thoughts together. The second half of his session with Megan was tough. Reliving the days of Jack and Joan Kinney was always hard for him to handle. Yet his emotions weren’t nearly as raw as the week before. Having Megan tell him that he could find a way to get past his jealousy without losing Justin made all the difference. She suggested that Brian share his thoughts and feelings with Justin, but he wasn’t ready to do that. All he could do was keep going to see Megan and work as hard as he could to undo the damage that his parents had done to him, so that he and Justin could be together without his stupid jealousy getting in the way.
Justin glanced out the window again, wondering how long it was going to be before Brian actually came inside. Chris and Zander had a township meeting to go to, so he was the only one home. Neither man wanted to leave before Brian returned, but since Zander was a local merchant, they felt obligated to go to all township meetings and make their presence known. Justin had assured them that he’d make sure Brian was okay and would call one of their cell phones if there was a problem. They droned on and on about what a good friend Justin was, and he felt guilty for deceiving them now that he and Brian were in a relationship, but told himself the situation was the way it had to be. Justin finally heard the jeep door close and went to the door to greet Brian. He looked directly into Brian’s eyes as he came through the door, looking for signs of distress.
“Hey, how’d it go?” Justin asked tentatively.
“It went okay,” Brian replied. “Where are Chris and Zander?”
“They had that township meeting tonight. Why? Do you need me to call them?”
“No, I need to do this,” Brian said as he pulled Justin close and devoured his mouth.
Justin was startled by Brian’s actions, but quickly gave in and kissed him back with everything he had. The therapy session was momentarily forgotten.
Brian eventually pulled back and looked into Justin’s eyes. “You don’t need to worry about me so much. I’m okay.”
“I believe you, but I’m not going to stop worrying about you. Are you hungry? Chris made an early dinner and put a plate in the fridge for you.”
“Actually, I’m starving,” Brian admitted. “I skipped lunch today.”
Justin took that as a good sign and grabbed Brian’s hand, dragging him into the kitchen. “Well, sit down and I’ll heat it up for you.”
“You know, you don’t have to wait on me,” Brian said as he took a seat.
“I know I don’t have to. I want to,” Justin told him as he went about fixing Brian’s dinner. “Any chance you want to talk?”
“Not about me,” Brian laughed. “What did you do today?”
“I worked on some of the sketches for Mr. James and made some changes to Zan’s web site. He got three more orders in. I printed them out so he could send them out tomorrow. Oh, and Chris and I talked about the car. We decided to go with the black Saturn.” The four of them had gone car shopping the weekend before and narrowed the search down to three favorites. “He called the dealership. I’m picking it up tomorrow.”
“I guess you won’t be needing me to chauffeur you around anymore,” Brian sighed.
“No, but I still need you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I know. I need you too.”
The next few weeks flew by faster than Justin would’ve liked. He wasn’t ready to start his senior year in a new school. Each day that passed caused him to become more anxious, yet he didn’t share his fears with Brian. He wanted to, but he knew that Brian was still dealing with his weekly therapy sessions and all the feelings that those sessions brought up. None of the sessions had caused Brian to turn within himself as the first one did, but Justin could still see the toll each week caused and didn’t want to burden Brian with anything else.
On the morning of the first day of school, Justin woke up at five and was unable to go back to sleep. He was dressed and ready to go before Brian even climbed out of bed. He knocked lightly on Brian’s door and told him to meet him in the kitchen and then headed downstairs. He pulled the eggs and bacon out of the refrigerator and started making breakfast for each of them. Zander found him there a few minutes later.
“Wow, you’re up early. I hope you started the coffee.”
“It should be ready in a few minutes,” Justin replied with a forced smile.
“Justin, are you okay?”
“Me, yeah. I’m fine. I guess I’m just a little nervous. I never had to change schools before. And I know I’m being ridiculous. I already know Brian, Steve and the gang, but still…it’s a little nerve wracking.”
“It’s not ridiculous. Look, I kind of feel like we’ve all been so focused on Brian, making sure that he’s okay, that we haven’t asked you how you’ve been doing. How are you doing?” Zander asked as he poured his coffee.
“I’m really okay. I’ve had first day jitters every year since kindergarten. They’re a little stronger this year, but it’ll be okay once I get there,” Justin assured him.
“I’m not only talking about today. I mean overall. You know, you seemed to just fit right in here and I keep forgetting that you lost your mom and dad a few months ago. Are you handling that okay? Do you like being here with us?”
“Are you kidding? I love being here with you,” Justin insisted. “Look, I can’t lie to you. I still wish that they were alive and I was at home with them, but they’re not. And if I can’t be with them, then this is where I want to be. You and Chris have been so good to me and Brian…he’s been such a good friend. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
“Well, we love having you here. Just remember, this is your home. Regardless of where you end up after graduation, this will always be your home. Understood?”
“Yes sir,” Justin teased.
“Sir? Watch out or he’s going to think he’s important or something,” Brian joked as he walked into the kitchen.
“I am important, and you better not forget it,” Zander replied as he ruffled Brian’s hair.
Chris joined them a few minutes later and the four of them had breakfast before Brian and Justin left for school. They’d decided the night before that Brian would drive to school that morning. Unless one of them had something to do in the afternoon, there was no reason for them to take separate cars.
As Justin climbed out of the jeep, he took a deep breath and prepared himself for the day.
“Okay, my homeroom is right around the corner from yours. As soon as the bell rings, I’ll rush over so we can compare schedules and see if we have any classes together, okay?”
“Um…yeah…okay,” Justin said.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay.”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t mind me. I’m being silly.”
“No you’re not. Just remember that I’ve been where you are. I had to start over again, too. It’ll be fine,” Brian promised. “So, let’s get this over with.”
They walked into the school together and Justin wasn’t surprised to hear so many people greet Brian as they walked through the halls. He always knew that Brian was one of those people who made friends wherever he went. Eventually they met up with Steve and Matt, and finally Zac and Trent. Justin had learned over the summer that despite everyone that hung out at the river, the five of them we the closest of friends. He had a feeling that Dane used to be on that list, but after what happened at the party, no one was talking to Dane anymore.
Justin was relieved to find out that Matt was in his homeroom. At least he had someone he knew when he walked thought the door. He followed Matt to the back of the room, and sat down at the desk beside him.
“So, are you ready for this?” Matt asked as they watched the room fill up.
“As ready as I’m going to be,” Justin replied nervously. “Thanks for walking with me. I feel a little bit better knowing one face in the room.”
“Hey, it’s not a problem. We don’t know each other all that well yet, but you’re one of the gang. We all stick together,” Matt told him.
They were stopped from further conversation when Mr. Talbot, their homeroom teacher, called everyone’s attention. He took a moment to announce Justin as a new transfer student, causing everyone to look in his direction. He could feel his face turn bright red and hoped no one noticed. Once that was done, Mr. Talbot handed out everyone’s schedules and took the time to read through the school policies before handing that out, too. Justin quickly found out that first day homeroom lasted an hour so that the teachers could go over everything that the students needed to know. Once Mr. Talbot was done, the class had about fifteen minutes to talk amongst themselves before the bell rang. Justin was happy to find out that not only was Matt in his homeroom, he was also in his History class and lunch. Things were looking up already, and he’d only been there for an hour.
As promised, Brian met up with Justin outside of homeroom. A quick glance at their schedules showed that he and Brian had Calculus and Chemistry together, and that he shared lunch with both him and Matt. Unfortunately Justin’s next class was English, at the opposite side of the school from where Brian was going to History. He said goodbye and started down the hall, hoping that Brian’s directions would get him where he needed to go. He didn’t want to have to look stupid pulling out the map that was given to him on the day he registered. He sighed with relief when he found the classroom without any problem. Sadly that relief was quickly squashed when he walked through the door and saw Dane sitting in the last row talking with some girl. Hoping he wouldn’t be noticed, Justin took a seat at the opposite side of the room and pulled out the paperwork he’d received from Talbot. He started reading through the policies but was quickly interrupted when he heard someone sit down at the desk alongside of him. He was thrilled when he looked up and saw Steve smiling at him.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Truthfully? It would be better if Dane wasn’t sitting over there,” Justin pointed out.
Steve looked over at Dane and then back at Justin. “Shit, don’t worry about him. He won’t bother you with me around. He knows how tight Brian and I are and I don’t think he wants to mess with Brian again. He was lucky to come out unharmed the last time.”
Before Justin could respond, Trent walked through the door and headed their way.
“Hey guys! Looks like this class isn’t going to be so bad after all,” he said as he took the seat in front of Justin. “How’re you holding up?”
“I’m good,” Justin replied. “I already know someone in homeroom, four classes, and lunch. I think everything’s going to be okay.”
“Glad to hear it, man. Hey, did Brian tell you that we all meet at the river after the first day to compare schedules and talk about what extracurricular activities we’re going to join? You should’ve gotten a list of them in homeroom. Oh wait; you’re a swimmer, right? You’ll be on the team with me. We have practice twice a week after school until five and swim meets on Saturday mornings. Maybe I could give you gas money and you could drive me for awhile. I lost my job last week so my dad took my car away.”
“Sure, that’s not a problem. I just got a car a couple weeks ago.”
“Cool,” Trent replied.
After that, the teacher silenced the class and all talking stopped, but that was okay with Justin. Regardless of what happened next, he was happy with the way his first day turned out. Thanks to Brian and his friends, he felt like he was where he belonged.
Justin quickly got into a routine. He loved his classes and although he had a few of them without Brian and his friends, he started making a few friends of his own. The swim team started practicing the second week of school. Justin had to try out, of course, but with his talent he was accepted immediately. Between school and the swim team, and his art, as well as the web sites for Zander and Chris, Justin’s life was busier than it had ever been. He was happy, but it didn’t leave a lot of time for him to spend with Brian. Brian was just as busy as Justin was. He’d decided to join the soccer team again and practice was three times a week with games on Saturday mornings. Zander scheduled him at the bookstore on his non practice days and on Sundays. He was also still seeing Megan, although he was only seeing her every other week now that school was back in session. For two people who lived in the same house, they didn’t see a lot of each other. The only time they knew they had together was Saturday night, and it was hard juggling time for themselves when their friends all wanted to see them, too. They talked about it one Saturday night as they sat by the river waiting for the others to show up. School had been in session for almost a month and Steve was still the only one in Arizona who knew they were together.
“This is crazy. We live in the same house for Christ’s sake. How is it that we never see each other?” Brian groaned as he held Justin’s hand.
“We both just have a lot going on,” Justin replied gently. “Soccer won’t last forever and that should free you up a bit.”
“No, it won’t. Mrs. Reynolds talked me into joining the yearbook staff. I’m going to start next week, although she’s going to work around my soccer practices until it’s over. I still haven’t told Zander yet. There might be times when I can’t cover the store if I have to be at the school for something.”
“Shit, well I can cover the store for you as long as I don’t have swim practice, but that’s not going to help us see each other more. I’m so tired by the end of the day I can barely stay awake to do my homework, let alone spend time with you,” Justin said.
“I know. I almost fell asleep in History yesterday. I thought senior year is supposed to be an easy year.”
“Not if we’re trying to make our college applications look good. Which reminds me, I have a meeting on Monday afternoon with my guidance counselor to talk about my college choices, so I’m going to have to take my car that day.”
“Damn, that’s the only day we can drive in together. I like having that time to ourselves. Maybe we should drop out of sports and I’ll tell Mrs. Reynolds that I can’t do yearbook. Then we’ll only have to worry about the store,” Brian suggested half-heartedly.
“No, we can’t do that. Look, Brian, I know it’s hard, but it won’t be forever. And at least we live in the same house. That thirty minutes I get to see you before bed is the highlight of my day.”
“Mine, too. Okay, so how about if we tell the gang that we’re together? At least we wouldn’t have to spend our Saturday nights pretending to be just friends or make up excuses on why we can’t hang out with them.”
“Are you sure you want to do that? Weren’t you afraid that it would get back to Chris and Zander?” Justin asked.
“I was, but we have to do something. What’s the point of trying to keep our relationship a secret if we’re too busy to have a relationship? And besides, it’s not like anyone ever really comes to the house anymore. We’re too busy. How can they let something slip when they never see Chris and Zander?”
“Yeah, you have a point,” Justin agreed. “Okay, if that’s what you want to do.”
“I think it’s time we come out of the closet…again,” Brian teased.
No one really seemed surprised when Brian told them that he and Justin were together. Apparently they all talked about the possibility the week before when Brian and Justin decided to spend the night alone instead of with their friends. Steve was sick that night, so he had no idea what was said. He wasn’t able to warn Brian about the rumors. Everyone was happy that Brian and Justin had decided to take a shot at a relationship, just as Brian knew they would be. It reminded him how lucky he was that he had such good friends.
It was almost 11:30 when everyone said their goodbyes and left the river. Justin was pleased with the way the night turned out. He and Brian still hadn’t found a way to spend more time together, but at least they didn’t have to hide their relationship from their friends. As Brian drove towards home, Justin held onto his hand and thought about his life since moving to Arizona. Everything was falling into place nicely. He was happier than he could ever remember being and knew he owed it all to three special people in his life. He somehow knew that his mom and dad were watching over him and happy for him. With a silly grin on his face, he looked over at Brian just in time to see headlights coming at them from a side street.
“Brian, watch out!” Justin screamed. He heard the unmistakable sound of metal on metal and then everything went black.
End of part 23
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