Now That You're Here
As expected, Zander walked into the bedroom and found Chris pacing and mumbling to himself.
“Babe, sit down before we have to replace the carpet,” he teased as he took Chris’ hand and led him over to the bed. “I know you’re just trying to help, but making Brian feel helpless isn’t helping. He’s a smart kid. He’ll ask for help if he needs it.”
“Zan, he almost died last week. I can’t get that thought out of my head. I just want to make sure he’s okay. Is that so wrong?” Chris’ voice was choked with emotion.
Zander took Chris in his arms. “Of course it’s not wrong. Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to lock both him and Justin in this house and never let them out of my sight, but that’s not possible. He’s tired and in pain. Pissing him off is not going to do anything but make him even more unreceptive to our help.”
“I know.” Chris sighed and lay back on the bed. He covered his face with his arm, and then peeked out from underneath it to look at Zander. “I don’t know where he gets his stubborn streak from.”
“Hmmm…I wonder.” Zander lay back alongside Chris, facing his partner with his head propped up on his arm. “Listen, we need to talk.”
“Oh God, why do I get the feeling that I’m not going to like what you’re about to say?”
“We have to decide what to do, if anything, about Brian and Justin. I spoke with Jason a bit this morning. He said that they’ve been together since his and Sean’s visit and that they really are pretty serious,” Zander explained.
“That was months ago,” Chris barked as he shot up off the bed and resumed his pacing. “God only knows what’s been going on upstairs while we’ve been down here oblivious. I’m going to strangle them both.”
“No, you’re going to calm down so we can discuss this rationally. Jason said that they’ve been um…respectful while in the house.”
“Respectful? What the hell does that mean? Bullshit. If they weren’t doing anything wrong, they wouldn’t have felt the need to hide,” Chris growled.
“Maybe they hid because they knew you’d act like a lunatic. Now would you please come over here and sit down? Jason said that they tried to fight their attraction to one another because they didn’t want to upset us, but they couldn’t. Do you remember how immediate our attraction was to each other?” Zander gave Chris a moment to remember before continuing. “From the first night we met, we were inseparable. I couldn’t have stayed away from you, even if I wanted to. I get the feeling that it’s the same way with them, which is why I don’t think overreacting to the situation is going to get us anywhere. They’re afraid we’re going to make one of them move down to the basement and forbid them to be alone together.”
“They’re pretty smart. I’ll give them that. I want Brian moved down into the basement immediately. Jason’s still here so he can help us since Brian and Justin are both still out of commission. And then we lay down the ground rules. The bedrooms are off limits to each other. If they want to spend time together, they can do it in the living room.” Chris spoke rationally as he continued pacing.
“Chris, are you even listening to yourself? You’ve let Brian bring home boyfriends before and didn’t ban them from the bedroom,” Zander pointed out.
“What’s your point?”
“My point is that they’re good kids, they’re almost eighteen, and they really care about each other. I don’t think separating them so much is going to help.”
“And what do you suggest we do? Put on some soft music and dim the lights?” Chris inquired sarcastically.
“Babe, I just think we need to talk to them. They’re both really great kids who haven’t done one thing to shake our trust in them. Why don’t we just lay down a few simple ground rules and trust that they will follow them? If that doesn’t work, I promise we’ll go with your way. Deal?”
Chris didn’t answer right away. Instead he thought about the last few months and how hard Brian and Justin had been working, especially since school started. Neither one of them had much time for a personal life, yet they didn’t complain. Instead they went about their days, trying to fit all their obligations in before passing out from exhaustion. Maybe they did earn the right for the benefit of the doubt. “Fine, we’ll handle this your way for now. But if they screw up, you’re going to get it.”
“Hmmm…that sounds promising,” Zander replied suggestively. “For now though, why don’t you just make love to me? I haven’t had you since before the accident and I really miss you.”
Chris sighed as if he had to think about the request. “Oh alright, if you insist.” Zander didn’t have time to comment back because Chris quickly grabbed him and took his mouth in a passionate kiss. All thoughts of Brian and Justin were completely forgotten.
Jason knocked lightly on Justin’s door before entering to find Justin curled up on his bed crying softly. He closed the door behind him and walked over to his friend, laying a comforting hand on his back. “Shhh…it’s okay. He told me to tell you he’s sorry and that he’ll make it up to you as soon as he’s feeling better. He’s just tired and sore and taking it out on those around him.”
Justin rolled over and faced his friend with a hint of anger in his eyes. “And he thinks he’s the only one? I haven’t slept more than a couple hours at a time since before the accident. In fact, every time I thought I was going to get a good night’s sleep, he called me and woke me up because he was lonely. But did I complain? No, of course not. And pain? I know all about pain. I’ve hardly taken any of my painkillers because they make me so drowsy I can barely see straight. I haven’t taken one since he woke up because I didn’t want to sleep through a trip to the hospital. And did I complain? Of course not. I’ve been at the hospital every fucking day being Mr. Sunshine so he would keep his spirits up. How dare he take his moods out on me!”
“Shit Justin, why didn’t you…”
“Say something?” Justin interrupted. “Because I wasn’t worried about me. All I cared about was Brian getting better and coming home. He threatened to go back to the hospital if we didn’t leave him alone? Good, let him go back to the hospital. See if I care.”
“Jus,” Jason soothed as he took his friend in his arms and held him while he sobbed. It didn’t take a psych degree to figure out that Justin’s outburst had nothing to do with Brian’s mood. It was the combination of his pain and exhaustion mixed with his love and worry over Brian, stretched out over time. It was the buildup of the last six days all falling down on him in one sudden moment. The breakdown was exactly what Justin needed to start putting what had happened behind him and move on. Jason was just glad he was there for his friend as he settled back on the bed and offered whatever comfort he could.
Justin was finally able to pull himself together and stop his tears. He didn’t know what came over him. All he knew was that Brian’s harsh words seemed to hurt more than they should have. Wiping away the dampness from his eyes, he struggled to sit up and looked over at Jason, feeling very foolish for his outburst. “I’m so sorry about that.”
“Hey, there’s no need to apologize. I’m here in Arizona to help you through a really tough time. If that includes being a shoulder to cry on, then so be it,” Jason grinned. “Besides, now I don’t need to shower.”
“Oh hush,” Justin giggled as he sat up straighter. “Have I thanked you yet for dropping everything and flying halfway across the country to be here?”
“Maybe once or twice,” Jason teased. Justin had been thanking him non-stop since his arrival.
“Well, let me just say it again. Thank you for being the very best friend a guy could have,” Justin said, his voice choked with emotion.
“Oh come here.” Jason pulled Justin into a fierce hug and tried not to think about how much he was going to miss him, all of them, when he left on Sunday.
Brian woke up feeling a lot better than he did when he first got home. Sitting up carefully, he was surprised to find that he wasn’t as sore as he was earlier. He walked down the hall and knocked lightly on Chris and Zander’s door, but figured they were sleeping when he got no reply. Then he slowly made his way upstairs, needing to see Justin and apologize to him. He knocked on his door and walked inside, only to find both him and Jason asleep. He chuckled to himself as he started backing out of the room, but stopped when he heard Justin’s voice.
“Hey, are you alright? Do you need anything?”
Justin was already struggling to get out of bed before Brian could reply. “No, I’m okay. I was just trying to apologize to everyone for earlier, but no one is awake.”
Justin looked over at Jason and then motioned for Brian to go, following him out of the room. “Well, it’s been a long week. Everyone’s kind of worn out,” Justin offered. “Seriously, how are you feeling?”
“Like an asshole? I never should’ve yelled at you guys earlier. It was stupid. I was just so tired and sore, but that’s no excuse. You were only trying to help.”
“Yeah, but we were kind of pushy,” Justin admitted. “And maybe carrying you into the house was a little over the top.”
“Just a little,” Brian agreed with a smirk.
“Okay, so we’re both sorry and we can move on,” Justin stated happily. “Now, is there anything I can do for you?”
“You can lay down in my bed with me and let me hold you,” Brian suggested softly. “I’ve really missed touching you this week. A grope here and there while Chris wasn’t looking just wasn’t enough.”
“I told you that he already knows about us. We didn’t have to hide anything.”
“I told you, I know that he knows but I didn’t want to throw it in his face. I figured that if we kept a bit of a low profile, he wouldn’t be mentally preparing for my move to the basement,” Brian explained again.
“Oh yeah, cause he’s just going to forget all about the two teenagers upstairs who could possibly be having sex in his house,” Justin grinned. “I’m surprised he hasn’t had Jason help him move you downstairs yet. You know, my cousin is so much cooler than your brother.”
“No shit,” Brian laughed. “Now are you going to come lay down with me or what?”
“Like I could ever refuse an offer like that.”
Justin led Brian into the bedroom, helped him strip down to just the sweat pants that he wore home from the hospital and then got them both settled in bed. Although cuddling in bed was something that rarely happened between them before the accident, it felt right for Justin to be lying there in Brian’s arms. Neither one of them spoke as they lay there together and drifted back off to sleep.
The next time Brian woke up, he was disappointed to find that he was alone in his bed. He’d been hoping to wake up in Justin’s arms. He got out of bed, went to the bathroom to relieve himself and then went in search of anyone, but a certain blond in particular. Justin’s room was empty, so he slowly made his way downstairs. He found everyone, including Steve, in the living room. He stood in the doorway and watched his friends and family interact, and tried not to think about how close he’d come to losing it all. Steve noticed him first and jumped up to greet him.
“Hey, Bri, how’re you feeling?”
“Better than I did a few days ago,” Brian replied as he accepted Steve’s gentle hug and then walked over and sat down alongside Justin. “How long have you been here? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“I didn’t want to disturb your sleep, but I haven’t been here long. I was just telling Chris that I managed to keep almost everyone away from the hospital, but now that you’re home, all bets are off. They’re pretty anxious to see both of you.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine,” Brian insisted. “They can come by anytime.”
“Brian, I don’t think…” Chris began but was stopped mid-sentence by the look his brother gave him.
“I’ve got an idea,” Zander spoke up, trying to prevent another sibling squabble. “Why don’t you have everyone come over tomorrow for a barbeque? That would give Brian one more day to rest up and give everyone a chance to see him. Chris and I will do the cooking and Brian and Justin can sit back and relax.”
“Babe,” Chris sighed.
Jason could see that Chris was about to argue and jumped in. “And I’ll help, too. Zan, I’ll go shopping with you and make sure we have everything we need and help with the set up and clean up.”
Steve caught on quickly. “Yeah, and I’ll swing by in the morning and see if you need any additional hands.”
Everyone turned to look at Chris, waiting for his response. He finally gave in.
“Oh, alright. But these two better take it easy between now and when everyone gets here or I’ll send everyone home.”
“Yes, Dad,” Brian and Justin replied in unison, causing everyone to break out in laughter; even Chris.
“Now, Zan and I need to talk to these two,” Chris said as he stood up and pulled some cash out of his pocket. “Steve, why don’t you and Jason go to that new sub shop in town and pick up some dinner. Just get a bunch of sandwiches and crap and we’ll just share it all.”
“Yeah, sure, no problem. Come on, Jas.” Steve gave a sympathetic look to both Brian and Justin and then followed Jason out of the house.
Brian and Justin looked at each other and took a deep breath before Brian started in with an apology. “Look guys, we’re sorry that we didn’t say anything sooner, but we weren’t necessarily trying to keep it from you. We just figured that until we saw how things turned out between us, we’d keep it all to ourselves. Time just seemed to get away from us. Steve and Jason were the only ones who knew until the night of the accident.”
“Yeah, it wasn’t like we were flaunting our relationship to everyone but you,” Justin added. “Are you like…really mad?”
“Justin, we’re not mad. We’re just a little concerned about what’s been going on behind our backs,” Zander replied.
“No, I’m mad,” Chris snapped. “How could you two do something like this without even telling us?”
“Do something like what?” Brian spat back. “Fall in love? Oh, how stupid of me to think that my relationship is none of your business!”
“Brian, take it easy. You’re not up for a screaming match,” Justin said as he placed a comforting hand on Brian’s thigh before turning to Chris. “It’s not like we devised this elaborate plan to lie and sneak around. We just kind of fell for each other. And let’s face it, gay or straight, teenagers don’t usually share all the personal details of their relationships with their parents.”
“But we’re not your parents,” Chris replied.
“No, you’re not. So stop acting like it,” Brian said. “Look, Chris, when I moved in here you told me that you were not going to treat me like some stupid kid, and you haven’t. You’ve always treated me with respect and gave me the room to grow and learn things on my own. What’s so different now?”
“What’s different? Are you kidding? I can’t even begin to think about all the nights we were lying in bed with you two doing God knows what right above us!”
“Good, then don’t think about it. I don’t spend my time thinking about what you and Zan are doing right beneath us!”
“Brian,” Justin warned. “Listen, Chris, not that I necessarily think that it’s any of your business, but Brian and I aren’t having sex so there’s no reason to worry about what’s going on right above you.”
“You’re not having sex?” Chris asked in confusion. “Two teenage boys in love and you expect me to believe that you’re not sleeping together?”
“Believe what you want to believe, but it’s the truth. Brian didn’t want to rush me and we just haven’t,” Justin insisted. “And trust me, even if we were, we wouldn’t be doing it right above you. We’re not that stupid.”
“Look, guys, we’re just concerned,” Zander said carefully. “Being in a relationship at your age is never easy, but this? You live together. We’re a family. That can make things so much harder on both of you, not to mention on us.”
“You think we don’t know that?” Brian asked rhetorically. “That’s one of the reasons we didn’t tell you right away. It’s one of the reasons we tried to fight our attraction to each other to begin with. But I have to say, it’s working for us. And it hasn’t been easy, either. Between work and school and all the extra-curricular crap, not to mention hiding from everyone, we barely have time to breathe, let alone spend any real time together. But we’re making it work without letting anything else in our lives suffer because of it. Please don’t ruin that for us by taking away the little bit of time we do have together.”
Zander cleared his throat before speaking. “We don’t want to ruin anything. After a serious discussion, we’ve decided to leave things as they are for now, provided that you follow a few simple rules.”
“Okay, like what?” Brian asked skeptically.
“No sex,” Chris barked.
“What your brother means,” Zander jumped in to clarify, “is that we want you to treat this like any other teen would treat their relationship. Just because we’re not your parents doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want in our home. I believe my first sexual experience was in the back seat of Billy Madison’s mother’s Buick. We wouldn’t have dared to go to either of our houses for something like that, although I’m more partial to your no sex policy right now,” he added with a smirk.
“Is that it?” Justin asked.
“And you’re both to maintain separate bedrooms. You’re too young to be living together as a couple. I don’t want you thinking that you’re suddenly going to share a room,” Chris continued. “And any arguments between the two of you stay between the two of you. I refuse to come home and be thrown into the middle of a lover’s quarrel.”
“Oh, but it’s okay for us to be thrown in the middle of yours and Zander’s arguments?” Brian threw back at Chris.
“We’re not talking about Zan and me. We’re talking about you two and…”
“It’s fine, Chris,” Justin said, effectively cutting Chris off. “If Brian and I get into a fight, we promise to keep it to ourselves.”
“Okay, then that’s settled,” Zander said as he stood up. “Chris, why don’t you come and help me get the plates and cups out so when the guys get back, we can eat?”
Chris grumbled but got up and followed Zander to the kitchen. Brian waited until they were gone before speaking. “Geez, what the hell is his problem?”
“Relax, Bri, it could’ve been so much worse. We weren’t ordered to stay away from each other and no one’s moving to the basement. Why were you trying to start an argument?”
“I wasn’t. I just hate that he’s treating us like we’re children who have no idea what we’re doing,” Brian replied. He took Justin’s face in his hands and looked directly into his eyes. “I’m not some stupid teenager who’s just trying to get into your pants. I’m in love with you and if nothing else, last weekend taught me just how quickly everything can just disappear. We don’t get to spend enough time with each other now. I refuse to waste anymore time hiding what we have.”
“I love you, too. And trust me, after almost losing you I plan on finding the time for us to be together. Starting with dropping the swim team,” Justin said.
“Jus, you can’t do that. You love swimming,” Brian replied.
“Yes, I do but I love you more.” Justin took a deep breath and curled up against Brian’s side before he continued. “Bri, you have no idea what last Saturday night was like for me. Looking over and seeing you there, slumped over the steering wheel like you were…I thought I’d lost you. And from that moment up until you woke up, all I could think about was how little time we’ve had together. We’ve been so wrapped up in everything else that we haven’t taken time for us. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t ever want to feel the force of regret that I felt when I thought I was going to lose you.”
Brian wiped away the stray tears that were sliding down Justin’s face before kissing him gently. “We’ll work something out. I promise. From now on we’ll find a way to be together, regardless of what we have to sacrifice. Okay?”
“Okay,” Justin whispered right before Brian’s mouth covered his again, taking away any lingering thoughts he had.
End of chapter 28
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