Now That You're Here
The days and weeks passed in relative peace after Ryan’s attack on Zander. As promised, Chris kept Zan close the week of the attack and forced the younger man to allow Brian and Justin to pick up the slack at work, with Jason and Zac helping out when needed. None of the young men complained, making Zander feel very thankful for all the people he had in his life. Nobody had heard a word from Ryan, and although Chris felt like he had gotten through to the other man during his “visit”, he wasn’t quite ready to believe that the whole mess was over just yet.
With February just around the corner, so was Brian’s birthday. Justin had been wracking his brain, trying to figure out what to get his boyfriend that would show just how much he loved him. He wanted to give him the perfect gift, and knew something that could make the day special, but he was going to need some help in the preparations. He considered going to Zan, but then decided that Chris would be easier to approach, especially considering the past conversations they’d had.
He waited until Brian and Zan were both at work one afternoon before seeking Chris out in his home office. He knocked lightly, hoping he wasn’t interrupting at a bad time. He waited until he heard Chris call out to him before opening the door.
“Hey, do you have a few minutes?”
“Sure, come on in. I was just getting ready to take a ten minute break. I’ve been on a roll since early this morning and my back is killing me,” Chris replied as he stood up from his work desk and stretched. He motioned towards the couch and waited until Justin was settled before joining him. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh no, it’s nothing like that. I just…um…I need a big favor.” Justin hesitated for a moment before continuing. “Do you remember when we talked a couple of months ago about…well, about sex?”
Chris smiled at the blush that spread across Justin’s face. “You mean when you told me that you and Brian haven’t, shall we say crossed that bridge yet?”
“Um…yeah…that. Well, I want to cross that bridge. I mean…I’m ready to cross that bridge now and…is this too weird for you? Should I not be talking to you about it? I mean, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have talked to my mom or dad about this, but you don’t seem like a parental figure to me. You’re more like a big brother and I always imagined that if I had a big brother, we’d be close, like you and Brian are. And that we’d tell each other everything, you know? But maybe I shouldn’t be talking to you about this. You know what? Never mind. I’ll find some other way. Just forget we ever had this conversation.”
Justin jumped up so quickly that Chris had to think fast to reach out and stop the blond. “Hey, sit down and relax. We are like brothers and you can talk to me about anything. It’s okay. In fact, I wish I had someone to talk to about things like this when I was your age. What do you need?”
“Well, Brian’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and I thought that I’d surprise him with a trip. I was doing some checking online and Albuquerque is only a six hour drive from here. I thought we could leave here right after school on Thursday the 3rd, that way we’d have all day Friday and Saturday before having to drive home on Sunday. We’d only miss one day of school. I checked out the area and there are museums and a Bio Park that has a zoo and an aquarium. We could even go see a show. There’s a lot to see there. And…well…we’d be staying at a hotel so we wouldn’t…you know…we wouldn’t be under your roof.”
“I see,” Chris hid his smile. “And you need help paying for it?”
“Oh no, I’ve got more than enough money. I just can’t reserve a hotel room without a credit card. If you let me use yours, I’ll give you cash.”
“Okay, let me make sure I understand what you’re asking. You want to use my credit card to secure a hotel room so that you can have your way with my little brother?” Once again, Justin jumped up and tried to make his way out of the room in utter embarrassment. Chris was laughing so hard, he almost didn’t reach him in time. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m kidding. I couldn’t resist.”
“Chris,” Justin moaned.
“I know, that was mean. You’re just too easy to tease sometimes.” Chris pulled himself together and smiled at Justin. “Why don’t you let me pay for the room? You can save your money for things to do, like eating.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Justin replied.
“I know I don’t. I’m offering. Let me do this for you guys. Think of it as my way of apologizing for all the crap that’s been going on around here in the last few months.”
“No, seriously Justin. When I…did what I did, I never thought about how it would affect any of you. It’s bad enough that I hurt Zan so much, but you and Brian got caught up in the whole mess, too. Hell, poor Brian had to walk into the bookstore and find Zan lying there unconscious. I’m sure you guys could use a mini vacation away from all our drama. Let me pay for the room. You can handle all the rest. Okay?”
“You know that we don’t blame you for anything, right? I mean, I guess technically you did get the ball rolling, but you never meant for any of the bad things to happen. You made a few bad decisions, most likely because of being raised by your parents; something that you had absolutely no control over. Trust me, Brian and I do not sit around talking about how it’s all your fault. You’re family, and we love you. You don’t owe us anything,” Justin insisted. He wasn’t too surprised when he was suddenly pulled into a tight embrace.
“I love you guys, too. Both of you. So please let me do this for you. If not as an apology, than as a way of showing you both how proud I am of you for being such great kids.”
“Alright…fine. If you insist.”
“I do. Come with me.”
Justin followed Chris into his bedroom and waited while the older man found his wallet and pulled out his credit card. “Here, I only use this one for emergencies. Hang on to it and take it with you when you go. Just don’t let Brian get his hands on it. The last thing I need is to fund one of his shopping trips. Between his clothes and his shoes, it’s a wonder that there’s enough room for him in his bedroom.”
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Justin laughed. “Thanks Chris. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem. Just make sure you guys have fun,” Chris replied. “Now, I’d better get dinner started. I didn’t realize how late it was. I took chicken out of the freezer, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.”
“You want me to do it? I don’t have any homework and I’m not doing anything right now. This way you can keep writing while the ideas are coming,” Justin offered.
“If you don’t mind, that would be great. I’m really not ready to stop for the day just yet.”
“Then keep going. I’m just going to go upstairs and reserve a room for the trip and then I’ll take care of dinner.”
Justin went upstairs and booked a room for him and Brian and then he went downstairs to start dinner. He really enjoyed cooking and liked it when he could cook for everyone. As he was breading the chicken, the doorbell rang, followed by the sound of someone walking in. He called out to whoever it was and then waited until Dane joined him in the kitchen.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Not much. Is Brian around? I saw the jeep in the driveway, but since your car is gone and you’re here…”
“Yeah, he took my car so that I could take the jeep to get an oil change. Sorry,” Justin replied.
“Aww…how cute. You’re like an old married couple,” Dane teased.
“Oh shut up,” Justin shot back, trying to hide his laughter. Dane wasn’t the first person who had called him and Brian an old married couple. “Did you need something or were you just coming to hang out?”
“Just hang out, I guess.”
“Is everything alright?”
“Um…yeah. It’s no big deal. I’ll just wait until Brian’s around,” Dane replied, looking uncomfortable.
Justin could tell that something was bothering Dane and wanted to help. “You know, Dane, I know I’m not Brian, but I’ve been told that I’m a pretty good listener. I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Oh, it’s not that,” Dane replied quickly. “It’s just…well, after what happened; I didn’t think you’d want me dumping my problems on you. It’s not like we ever really became friends. I mean, we went out a couple of times and then I…”
“Dane,” Justin said, interrupting before he could finish. “Let’s not even go there, okay? I thought we all agreed that what happened is in the past and long forgotten. You’re right though, we never really became friends. Maybe we could change that now. I know how close you and Brian are, and I know how much he cares about you. We’re going to be in each other’s lives anyway, so we might as well be friends…oh wait, that came out wrong. Let me try this again. I’d like to be your friend, not because of Brian but because I know that you’re a good guy and would make a good friend.”
“I’d like that, too,” Dane said softly before clearing his throat and smiling. “But since now we’re officially friends, are you sure you want your first duty as my friend to be listening to me whine?”
“Sit. Talk,” Justin demanded, trying to hide his smile. “Want a Coke?”
“Sure, but I’ll get it. You just keep doing…whatever it is you’re doing.”
“I’m breading chicken to make Chicken Parmesan. You want to stay for dinner?” Justin offered as he grabbed another chicken breast.
“You’re smart, funny, beautiful, and you cook? Damn, Brian got lucky,” Dane teased.
Justin blushed down to his toes. “Do you want to stay or not.”
“Hell, yeah! It’s fend for yourself night at the Sommers abode. I’d probably end up having peanut butter and jelly if I went home.” Dane popped the top on his can and took a long swallow of soda. “Mmmm…that hit the spot.”
“Good, now talk.”
“Damn, you’re pushy, too. It’s no big deal. I guess I’m just freaking out about the baby.”
“Well that’s understandable. Sandy’s due in what…? Two months?”
“Six and a half weeks,” Dane sighed.
“Exactly. I would imagine that anyone would be starting to freak out a little bit about now, even married couples. You’re eighteen years old and gay. I think that earns you the right to freak out more. Have you talked to your parents about it? And your therapist?”
“A little bit. I don’t say a whole lot to my parents because they get that look in their eyes. You know, the one that says I’m a huge disappointment. I talk more to the therapist, but all he does is try to get me to talk to my parents,” Dane chuckled humorlessly.
“What about Sandy? Have you tried talking to her? I’m sure she’d understand,” Justin suggested.
“Yeah, she would but I can’t do that to her. She’s going through her own stuff right now. She’s more terrified that I am. Not only is she worried about delivering a baby, but she’s also trying to figure out how she’s going to raise a child on her own with minimal help from the kid’s gay teenage dad. I can’t go crying on her shoulder.”
“Dane, I get that you wouldn’t feel right crying on her shoulder, but maybe sharing your fears with her will make her feel better. Maybe knowing that she’s not the only one worrying about the future will help a bit. I’m not saying to act like an ass and make it all about you. I’m saying to share your feelings with her and see if you can offer each other some support. It could bring you guys closer, which wouldn’t be a bad thing considering that you’re going to be parents.”
Dane was quiet for a few minutes, thinking about what Justin said. “Maybe you’re right,” he finally replied.
“It couldn’t hurt, and if she’s not receptive, then just change the subject.”
“Do you think Brian would mind if I used his room?”
“No, go ahead. I’ll be down here if you need me.” Justin smiled to himself as Dane left the kitchen to go call Sandy. He couldn’t imagine being in Dane’s shoes at his age, but a part of him was jealous. Ever since realizing that he was gay, Justin had been sad about the thought of never having children. Yeah, the world was changing and adoption was always an option, but he really wanted at least one of his own; preferably a little girl with soft blond hair and deep blue eyes. Saying goodbye to that dream hadn’t been easy. In fact, it had been so hard that he refused to mention becoming parents to Brian for fear of finding that it was something that Brian absolutely didn’t want. He already said goodbye to one dream, he wasn’t ready to lose all hope.
When he heard the sound of a car door slam out front, Justin looked at the clock and was surprised to see that an hour had passed. Since Dane hadn’t made his way back downstairs yet, Justin assumed that his conversation with Sandy was going well. He smiled to himself as he checked the oven. The Chicken Parm was cooking nicely. He’d just closed the oven door when Brian walked in, coming right over for a kiss. Justin took it willingly.
“Hey, Blondie, what smells so good.”
“I made Chicken Parmesan. Chris was on a roll so I offered to cook so that he could keep writing. How was work? And where’s Zan? You guys usually follow each other home.”
“He had to stop at the store and pick up a couple of things for work. Pens and staples and stuff. Is that Dane’s car parked out front?” Brian asked as he went to the fridge for a Coke.
“Yeah, he actually came by looking for you but we ended up talking. He’s pretty freaked out about the baby coming. Did you know she’s due in six and a half weeks? I suggested he talk to Sandy and maybe they could freak out together. He went upstairs about an hour ago and hasn’t come back down. I’m taking that to mean that I gave him a good idea.”
“You always have the best ideas,” Brian replied as he grabbed Justin and pushed him up against the fridge, kissing him deeply. After a few moments, he pulled away and looked into Justin’s eyes. “Thank you for trying to help him. I know you guys haven’t been that close. Not as close as you are with the others.”
“No, we haven’t been, but that’s over now. We had a nice chat and agreed to be friends. I was just helping out a friend,” Justin told him.
“God, I love you.” Brian dove in for another kiss, deeper and more passionate than the last, momentarily forgetting where they were. A casual clearing of a throat reminded him quickly and he pulled back, blushing slightly at the look he was getting.
“Um…hi, guys. If memory serves me, we’re standing in the kitchen and the only cooking that should be going on in here is the kind with food,” Chris said, fighting to keep a straight face. He was used to making Justin blush, but it was a rare moment when he caused Brian to turn red.
“If memory serves me, I distinctly remember an incident involving you, me, and the old kitchen table that we used to have in here before Brian moved in,” Zander said from the doorway, surprising them all.
“That’s different,” Chris chuckled.
“Oh yeah? How?” Zan inquired innocently.
“I don’t know. It just is,” Chris lamely replied. “We were adults,” he added proudly.
“Oh get over it already,” Brian sighed. “I’m going to be eighteen in two weeks and Justin will be two months after that. I don’t think the whole adults versus children rule really applies anymore.”
“How about we own the house and you guys don’t” Chris tried.
“Nope, that won’t work,” Justin piped in. “You told me when I moved in that I was welcome here and that it was my house, too.”
“Damn, then I have nothing. Oh well, if you can’t beat ‘em…” Chris pulled Zan to him and kissed him deeply, earning a groan from both Brian and Justin.
“Alright, alright, I get the point,” Brian laughed as Chris and Zander ended their kiss.
“Thank you,” Chris laughed as he walked over and ruffled Brian’s hair. “You can’t win with me. You should really stop trying.”
Before anyone else could reply, Dane walked through the door completely oblivious. “Hey guys, what’s going on?”
The room erupted in laughter while Dane stood there looking completely confused.
“Never mind, Dane. You had to be here. Now someone start setting the table. Dinner will be ready in ten minutes and set a place for Dane, too. We’re saving him from a night of PB&J.”
The kitchen emptied quickly, leaving only Dane and Justin. “Thanks for the advice. Sandy and I had a really good talk. I’m going to go see her this weekend. The people she works with threw her a baby shower and her boss gave her a nice Christmas bonus that she’s using to buy the crib with. I’m going to take her shopping and then help her get the nursery ready. She wanted to ask me for help, but didn’t want to push. I’m glad I called her.”
“I’m glad you did, too. Look Dane, I can’t even imagine how scary this all is for you, but you’re not going through it alone. Your parents might not be happy with the situation, but they love you and will be there for you if you need them. Talk to them. They’ll listen. And you’ve got your friends, too. We’ll be here for both you and Sandy, I promise. You have my number. If you need to talk, call me, okay?”
“Thanks, Justin, for forgiving me, and for being here for me today. I really appreciate it.”
Justin allowed himself to be pulled into a tight hug. Dane really was a good guy, despite what had happened the previous summer. Justin was glad that it all worked out in the end. “You’re welcome. That’s what friends are for. Now I hope you’re hungry, because I made enough food to feed an army.”
“Sounds good to me. I’m starving,” Brian answered as he walked back into the kitchen. “You guys want to go see a movie after we eat?”
“I don’t know. Are you going to sit beside me or about ten rows back?” Dane asked, smirking happily at Brian.
“How did you…”
Dane laughed. “How did I know? Please, Brian, how long have I known you? I wasn’t dumb enough to think that you were suddenly okay with Justin and I going out on a date. I imagine you were furious when I called him.”
“Wait, what are you guys talking about?” Justin asked in confusion.
“Our first date? The movies? Brian and Steve were sitting about ten rows behind us the whole night,” Dane explained.
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Because he was secretly falling in love with you and didn’t want someone like me trying to take you away,” Dane replied, seeming very pleased with himself.
“That wasn’t…I mean, I didn’t…that was right after he got here. We hardly even knew each other,” Brian protested weakly.
“Well then I guess love at first sight really is possible. You were so cute, warning me to stay away,” Dane continued to tease, enjoying his friend’s obvious discomfort.
“Really? Brian, I had no idea,” Justin said, half teasing despite the small part of him that took pleasure in knowing that he affected Brian so much right from the start.
“Oh please, it’s not like you were any better,” Dane added, turning the spotlight on Justin. “All you talked about when we were together was Brian. You even turned me down for dates to hang out with him. Face it; you were both off the market the minute you met. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I think it’s kind of sweet. Now, to answer your question, yeah, let’s catch a movie. I could use the distraction.”
Zander walked in at that moment, ending the conversation they’d been having about “love at first sight”, which was just as well. Regardless of their separate reactions to each other, Brian and Justin were together and that was all that mattered.
Before Justin knew it, two weeks had passed and it was time for their trip. Brian was a little confused by the weird schedule Zan gave him for the week leading up to his birthday, he’d only requested to have off the actual day, but he didn’t push for an explanation. He just did as he was told, which was why he was working Wednesday night, making Justin’s job easier. Justin had gotten home from school at his usual time and went right upstairs, gathering everything he needed. He bumped into Chris on his way to the laundry room, his arms filled with Brian’s clothes.
“Um…what are you doing?” Chris asked in confusion.
“Brian’s laundry,” Justin answered as he squeezed by and dumped the clothes in the machine. “I need to pack him clothes for the weekend, but I was afraid that if I took his clean clothes, he’d notice they were missing. He only does laundry on the weekends so he’ll never notice missing dirty clothes.”
“Okay…um…won’t he notice an almost empty hamper?”
“Nope. I filled it up with towels and left a few of his things on top,” Justin explained as he turned on the machine and dumped the detergent in. “He’ll be so tired when he gets home tonight, he’ll never notice.”
“Wow, you thought of everything,” Chris laughed.
“I hope so. I’ve already gotten him to agree to let me drive tomorrow. I’ll have our bags in the trunk. I have all the directions printed out, as well as a list of things to do in the glove compartment. We’ll be all set to leave right from school.”
“You have the credit card I gave you, right?”
“Yep, it’s in my wallet. I also wrote down the hotel information for you. It’s in the junk drawer in the kitchen. I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything,” Justin replied proudly.
“It doesn’t sound like it,” Chris smiled. “I’ll have to have you plan my next trip. I’m always forgetting something.”
“My mom used to tease me when I was younger because I was so anal about packing whenever we went anywhere,” Justin admitted sheepishly. “I’m not exactly sure where it came from. Maybe it’s from all those times we went away when I was young and had to go somewhere to buy whatever it was that my parents managed to forget.”
“That would probably do it,” Chris agreed.
“So what are you and Zan doing this weekend while we’re gone?” Justin had started the washer and then followed Chris into the living room. Zan had called and told them he was bringing home pizza for dinner so neither one of them had anything to do but wait for dinner to arrive.
“We’re going out for dinner and a movie on Saturday night, but other than that, we’ll probably just hang out here and enjoy the quiet.”
“Damn, I hope when Brian and I get older, we don’t get as boring as you two,” Justin teased.
“Hey, first of all I think we deserve a little bit of boring after the last few months, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I guess you do,” Justin agreed.
“And second, don’t think for a minute that we’re not going to take advantage of having the house to ourselves. There are plenty of things we can do from home, all over the house, that are far from boring.”
Justin turned beet red at the implication. “Ewww! I don’t even want to think about what that means.”
Chris laughed so hard his eyes watered. “Hey, that’s what you get when you call us boring.”
Luckily the front door opened, signaling Zan was home, and ending the conversation. The three of them ate together and then Justin went off to finish up the last minute details before Brian got home. He couldn’t wait until the two of them were alone for three whole nights. He couldn’t wait until he finally felt Brian inside him. Overall, he just couldn’t wait.
End of part 43
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