Now That You're Here


Chapter 6

Justin spent about a half hour entering the invoice into the computer, impressing Zander with his speed and accuracy, and then helped Brian as he prepared the books and began stocking the shelves. He wasn’t surprised when he saw a special display set up for Zander’s favorite author. Chris’s books were separate from the others, standing out where everyone who entered could see. It was sweet the way their professions intermingled the way they did. Justin glanced through the books and realized that Chris wrote mostly adventure. He’d have to take the time to read one or two. He knew that Brian would have a copy of each at home.

Justin was surprised by how busy the book store actually was and before he knew it, the day passed and it was time to go home. He and Zander had fought over his pay until Justin finally agreed to take fifty dollars for the day. It was the only compromise that they could both live with. After locking up the store for the night, the three of them headed for home, thrilled when they found Chris in the final preparations of dinner. He knew that delivery day was hard on Zander and always tried to get home in time to prepare a meal. Through dinner, Zander and Brian filled Chris in on Justin’s plans for the website and Justin sat listening to them, very pleased with the way things were going in Arizona. Maybe his life didn’t end on the night his parents died.

Just as they were finishing up, the phone rang. Chris was the closest so he got up to answer it. Everyone was surprised when he told Justin that the call was for him. Justin got up tentatively and reached for the phone.


“Hey Justin, its Dane. I thought I’d give you a call to say hi and see how you’re settling in,” Dane said when he heard Justin’s voice come on the line.

“Oh…um…hey. Things here are good,” Justin replied as he looked around the room and noticed three sets of eyes watching him. “How’re you?”

“Okay, enjoying my school break before work starts up again. I run a summer sports program for a children’s day camp. Basically I get paid to play ball for a couple of hours a day,” Dane laughed.

“That sounds cool.”

“Yeah, it is. I enjoy it. Listen, Justin, I was wondering if you’d want to go catch a movie tonight. I’m a sucker for Tom Cruise and I haven’t seen Mission Impossible III yet,” Dane asked nervously. He’d been back and forth trying to decide if asking Justin out was a wise move considering how protective Brian seemed the night before, but he decided to go for it. He’d been thinking about the blond all day. “I promise not to keep you out too late.”

Justin’s heart started beating a little faster at Dane’s invitation. He’d never been on a date before. He never even knew any gay people before. He wanted to say yes, but he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. He had a feeling that Brian wouldn’t be too happy about it. But then again, why would he care?

“Um…I don’t know,” he finally replied.

“You don’t know if you want to go?” Dane asked.

“No, I mean I don’t know if I’m allowed. Uh…hang on a second.” Justin pulled the phone away from his ear and turned towards Chris and Zander. “Um…is it okay if I go out for a little while tonight? I promise not to be home too late.”

Zander smiled at Justin’s nervousness. “Of course it is. You have the same rules as Brian. You have to be home by midnight.”

“Thanks,” Justin said before putting the phone back to his ear. “Yeah, okay. I can go. I just have to be home by midnight.”

“I figured as much,” Dane chuckled in relief. “I’ll pick you up around seven-thirty.”

“Okay, see you then.”

Justin hung up the phone and went back to the table, trying hard not to notice the strange looks he was getting. He knew they were all dying to know who he was going out with and waited for someone to ask. Chris was the one who broke the silence.

“I didn’t realize that you made any new friends yet. Who are you going out with? Anyone we know?”

“That was Dane. We kind of talked a little bit last night. He wants to go see the new Mission Impossible movie and asked me if I wanted to go. He seems cool,” Justin replied as casually as he could while his mind was still reeling from the invitation.

Brian sat there speechless as his anger began building. He told Dane to stay away from Justin the night before and twenty-four hours later they were going to a movie together. He couldn’t wait to get his hands around Dane’s neck. “I’m going out,” Brian stated before getting up and storming out of the house.

“What’s wrong with him?” Justin asked as he watched Brian go before looking over at Chris who seemed just as clueless.

“I have no idea. Was something bothering him today at the store?”

“He seemed fine earlier,” Zander said. “Then again, you know how moody he can be sometimes.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Chris sighed although he doubted it was just a case of being moody. “Well, since Brian’s gone and Justin’s got to go get ready to go out, I guess you’re stuck helping me do the dishes, Babe.”

“I can help,” Justin offered. “I’ve got an hour before Dane gets here.”

“That’s okay, Justin. You go on up and do what you’ve got to do. Chris and I can manage without you,” Zander said.

“Okay. Um…Zander, do you need me to help down at the store tomorrow?”

“No, but if you want to come hang out, you’re welcome to,” Zander replied.

“Actually I think I’m going to stay here and spend the day on the computer. There’s a lot I need to do before I can start working on the website. I don’t have any of my old programs here. They’re still on my computer back in Pittsburgh,” Justin told him.

“I didn’t see a computer in your room. Do you still have it?”

“I stored it in the attic. After what happened to my parents, I didn’t really have the desire to be on the computer anymore. After I finished the work on Mom’s site, I packed it away,” Justin explained.

“Oh, well do you want me to call Mrs. Johnson and arrange to have it shipped here?”

“No, that’s okay. I have my important files backed up on discs that I keep with me. The rest of the stuff is easily replaced. The computer you guys got me is way better than the one I had. I’d been begging my father for an upgrade for months now. I should be able to have everything I need by tomorrow afternoon.”

“Alright, just let me know if there’s anything you need. I’ll leave the phone number for the store on the refrigerator in case you need to call for something. This weekend we’ll go out and get you on our cell phone plan and we’ll get all of our numbers programmed in for you so you’ll always be able to reach one of us,” Zander said.

“Thanks. I guess I’ll go upstairs and get ready now. I promise to be home by midnight,” Justin assured them before heading upstairs to get ready for Dane with a knot of anticipation in his stomach.



Brian drove a little bit recklessly over to Steve’s house, fuming all the way. He couldn’t believe the nerve of Dane to go behind his back and call Justin after the warning he had given him the night before. He was happy to see Steve’s car in the driveway. He knocked on the door and than walked inside without waiting for a reply. Steve’s parents had insisted on it the year before, since he and Steve had become such close friends. He said hello to Steve’s mom, who was in the kitchen cleaning up the dinner dishes before going up to Steve’s bedroom. He found his friend lounging on his bed, listening to one of his favorite CD’s.

“Hey Brian, what’s up?” Steve asked as he used his remote to turn down the music.

“Nothing,” Brian replied with a sigh as he dropped down on the futon that Steve had for overnight guests.

Steve observed his friend’s dark expression and obvious upset and knew that something was bothering him. “Don’t give me that bullshit. What happened?”

Brian thought about lying, but knew Steve would be able to see right through him. He figured he’d be better off just telling him what was wrong, rather than have him spend the next hour trying to pry it out of him. “Justin has a date with Dane tonight. After I told Dane to stay away from him.”

“Wow, that was fast,” Steve said without thinking. He immediately knew he said the wrong thing when he saw Brian’s scowl. “Sorry, I just meant that I didn’t think he’d ask him out so quickly.”

“You knew he was going to ask him out?” Brian asked harshly.

“Sort of. It’s not like Dane told me he was going to ask, but I just kind of figured he would by the way he was hanging all over Justin last night. It was obvious he was interested,” Steve explained carefully. “Besides, what does it matter? Justin’s a big boy. If he’s interested in Dane then good for him. After everything he’s been through, I’m sure he needs to get out and have a little fun.”

“He does, but not with Dane. Look, Steve, you don’t get it because you bat for the other team, but Dane’s not the kind of person Justin should be involving himself with,” Brian replied.

“Why not? You were involved with him.”

“Exactly, so I know what I’m talking about.” Brian sighed before continuing, “Justin wasn’t even out back in Pittsburgh except to his parents. He’s completely inexperienced. The last thing he needs is someone like Dane taking advantage of him.”

“Bri, I may not be gay but I do know Dane. I don’t think he’d do anything to hurt Justin. He’s not a rapist or anything,” Steve reminded him.

“I know that. I don’t mean he’ll force himself on Justin or anything. I just think he’ll take advantage of Justin’s inexperience and make him do things he’s not ready for. He’s smooth and Justin will fall for his bullshit before he even knows what’s happening.”

“Oh, so in other words Justin is stupid and doesn’t have enough sense to make up his own mind.”

“No, of course not. He’s just naive when it comes to people like Dane. He’s going to get in over his head,” Brian insisted.

“Brian, I’m your best friend, right?” Steve waited until he saw Brian nod in agreement before he went on. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really got you upset?”

“I did. I’m just worried about…”

“Bullshit. Admit it, my friend. You don’t want Dane taking Justin out because you’ve got the hots for him yourself,” Steve said.

“I do not,” Brian denied harshly. He scowled at the smug smile on his friend’s face. “Okay, maybe he’s hot and all, but I definitely don’t have the hots for him. And even if I did, Chris would beat the shit out of me. And if I was lucky enough to survive his wrath, I’m sure I wouldn’t survive Zander’s so it doesn’t really matter anyway. I just like him. He’s a part of our fucked up family and I don’t want to see him get hurt.”

“Well, unless you have something better to offer him, I’d say you have no right to put yourself in his business,” Steve replied rationally.

“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that if you don’t want him, then he has the right to find someone who does,” Steve explained. “Look, Bri, Justin may be inexperienced, but he’s seventeen years old, just like the rest of us. Sex is top priority at our age. How many times have you gone out on the prowl? We all do it. Justin’s behind in his sexual maturity. It’s about time he caught up. The only thing I can suggest is to sit back and keep your mouth shut. Let Justin learn a few things on his own. He’s not stupid. If he doesn’t want what Dane’s offering him, he’ll tell him to fuck off. Ordering Dane to stay away from him is not going to work and you know it.”

“I know. I just…oh, fuck it. You’re right. What Justin does is none of my business,” Brian said wearily. “Forget we even had this conversation.”

“That’s better,” Steve said with a smile. He was happy that Brian was willing to let his infatuation with Justin and Dane go. “So, what do you want to do tonight?”

“What do you say we go to the movies?” Brian asked with a gleam in his eyes.

End of part 6

Return to Now That You're Here