Now That You're Here


Chapter 9

Zander was not having a good day. On top of being extremely busy now that school was out for the summer, he’d spent the whole morning watching Brian mope around. It was way out of character for the teen, but he refused to admit that something was bothering him. Zander thought back to the night before and the conversation that he and Chris had, and wondered if Justin’s date had anything to do with Brian’s mood. It was possible, but Brian seemed fine when he’d gotten home, so unless something happened between him and Justin after that, it had to be something else. Zander was never so happy to see Steve as he was when he walked into the shop just after noon.

“Please tell me you’re here to take grumpy ass out of here for awhile,” Zander said as soon as Steve was in earshot.

“Uh oh, rough day, huh?” Steve laughed. “Maybe I’ll just sneak back out and pretend I was never here.”

“Oh no you don’t,” Zander replied. “If you don’t get him out of here, I’m going to have to kill him and then you’ll be minus a best friend.”

“If he’s as bad as you say, that might not be a tragedy,” Steve teased.

“That’s real nice, guys,” Brian said as he approached them. “Do you always talk about me like that behind my back?”

“It depends on the day,” Steve laughed.

“Go to lunch and I expect the old Brian to be here when you return,” Zander said.

Brian shot Zander an evil look before grabbing Steve by the arm. “Let’s go.”

As they walked down to the deli, neither one of them said a word. Steve was just waiting for Brian to begin, knowing that Justin was the reason for his bad mood. Once inside, they ordered their usual and found a place to sit down. The minute they were settled, Brian began.

“Okay, so I was a jerk,” he sighed dramatically.

“Yes, you were,” Steve agreed. “Have you called and apologized to him yet?”

“No, not yet. We’ve been pretty busy this morning and I’d rather not make the call around Zan. There’s no reason for him or Chris to know what happened.”

“True, but Zander’s not here now and if I know you as well as I think I do, your cell phone is in your pocket. Why don’t you call him now and get it over with?” Steve suggested. “I’m sure he’s calmed down by now.”

Brian hesitated before pulling out his cell phone. Although he had the home number on speed dial, he took his time to punch in each number separately; giving himself a few more moments to figure out what he intended to say. Justin answered on the second ring.


“Hey, it’s Brian.”

“Hey,” Justin replied softly.

“Look, I just wanted to call and apologize about last night. I was a jerk,” Brian offered, ignoring Steve’s watchful eyes. “I still don’t think that Dane is right for you, but it’s not my decision to make. From now on, I promise to keep my big mouth shut.”

“Is that possible?” Justin teased, immediately accepting Brian’s apology. As mad as he was, he liked Brian and didn’t like the thought of fighting with him.

“I’ve been known to do it on occasion,” Brian joked back, relieved that Justin’s anger had disappeared. “So, does this mean we’re cool?”

“Yeah, we’re cool,” Justin smiled. “And just so you know, I don’t have a problem with you giving me advice. I just don’t want to be told what to do, like a child.”

“I get it. Just do me a favor and be careful with him. I really do think you would be better off finding someone else to get close to,” Brian replied carefully.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Justin promised.

“So, what have you been up to today?” Brian asked, effectively changing the subject.

“I’ve been on the computer all morning, working on layouts for the website,” Justin told him. “I’ve come up with a couple that Zander can choose from.”

“Cool, I can’t wait to see them,” Brian replied excitedly. “Hey, what do you say we hang around the house tonight and watch a couple of movies? I have Wednesdays off so we can just veg out in front of the TV and maybe take a late night swim.”

“Sounds good to me. After being trapped in the house all day by myself, I’ll need the company,” Justin laughed.

“I bet. This weekend I’ll take you around and show you the town a bit, so you can go out during the day and not get lost. Chris works from home a lot and I know that he’d let you use his car until you got one of your own.”

“I’ll have to see about getting a job first. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that I won’t be getting any money from my parents’ insurance money until I turn eighteen. My small savings won’t buy me much at this point.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure Chris and Zander will help you,” Brian assured him.

“I don’t want them helping. They’ve already done more than enough,” Justin insisted.

“Trust me, they’ll help you. They’ll tell you it’s for you, but they’ll actually do it so they have another errand boy. They’re known for sending me to the store and to pick up their dry cleaning and shit like that. Now that I’m working four days a week, I don’t always have the time. I’m more than willing to pass the torch on to you.”

“Thanks,” Justin laughed.

“Anytime. Now I’d better go. I’m on my lunch break and I don’t have much time left. I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” Justin replied before hanging up the phone. He felt so much better now that things with Brian were resolved.

Brian put his phone back into his pocket and picked up his sandwich, ready to dive in, when he noticed Steve watching him intently. “What?”

“Nothing. I was just wondering how long it’s going to take until you piss him off again,” Steve replied, struggling to keep a straight face.

“Asshole,” Brian murmured, smiling to take the sting out of his words, yet he couldn’t help but wonder the same thing.



As soon as Justin refocused his attention back on the computer, the doorbell rang, startling him a bit. He hadn’t been expecting anyone and considered ignoring the bell. He was the only one home and figured that whoever was causing the disruption wasn’t looking for him. When the bell chimed a second time, he sighed and pushed back his chair, eager to get rid of whoever was at the door. He was shocked when he found Dane standing on the front step.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m sorry, am I interrupting something? I wasn’t doing anything so I thought I’d say hi. If it’s a bad time, I can go,” Dane offered, feeling slightly foolish for stopping by unexpectedly.

“No, that’s okay. Come on in,” Justin replied, stepping back to allow Dane’s entrance. “I was working on my computer and assumed that whoever was here was looking for Zander, Chris, or Brian. I’ve only been here a few days and wasn’t expecting anyone to come here for me.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll just…”

“Stop apologizing. I didn’t say you’re unwelcome, just unexpected. Do you want something to drink?” Justin asked, remembering his manners.

“Sure, anything you have is fine,” Dane answered as he followed Justin into the kitchen, his eyes focused on the ass in front of him.

Justin grabbed two cans of coke and then led Dane through the house and out back by the pool. It was a beautiful day and although the temperature was reaching 90 degrees, there was a light breeze that kept it from being too warm. They took a seat next to each other at the table and Justin found himself at a loss for words.

“So, you said you were working on your computer. Can I ask what you were doing, or is that being too nosey?” Dane finally said, to break the silence.

“No, not at all,” Justin laughed nervously, trying to force himself to relax. He didn’t understand why he was so nervous. The night before, once they were out of the movie, he felt pretty comfortable around Dane. “Zander’s looking to expand the store on the web so I’m working on building him a site.”

“Really? You know how to do websites?”

“Yeah. I used to run my mom’s and a few of her co-workers. When Brian said that Zander wanted to branch out on the net, I offered to help him,” Justin replied.

“Cool. I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that. I’ve been struggling to figure out what to major in when college comes around. I’m stuck between computers and teaching. Could I see some of your work?”

“Uh…sure. I guess,” Justin hesitated.

“Hey, if you’d rather not show me, it’s okay. I was just curious.”

“No, it’s okay. I’m just a little self-conscious about my work. I haven’t had any formal training or anything. I only took one computer class in school and that was just random instructions about how to navigate Windows and stuff like that. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Justin wasn’t sure why he was suddenly so nervous about showing someone what he’d done. Usually he was proud of all his accomplishments when it came to his sites. He could only figure that it had something to do with Dane and the possibility of their growing relationship or whatever it was that was happening between them. He wanted to impress.

Once they were upstairs, Justin showed Dane the same sites that he’d shown Zander, ending once again with his mother’s. Then he waited for Dane’s reaction.

“Wow, you did all this?” Dane asked, in awe of the pages before him. The memorial created for Jennifer Taylor was beyond anything he’d ever seen before. “And you learned it all on your own?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t that hard. I love computers so spending time on them isn’t a chore for me like it is for some people.”

“Your Mom was beautiful,” Dane said softly as he watched the slideshow of the blond woman run across the screen.

“Yeah, she was,” Justin agreed, as he felt his throat tightening up with emotion. He hated that he still got choked up when talking about her.

“Shit Justin, I’m sorry,” Dane said, noticing the sadness washing over Justin. “I shouldn’t have asked you to show me. I wasn’t thinking.”

“It’s not your fault. And I don’t mind. Really. It’s just so hard to see her sometimes, knowing that she’s gone and I’ll never see her again,” Justin said as he wiped the dampness from his eyes. “I don’t mind talking about her or anything. I just can’t seem to control my emotions that well yet.”

“I know this doesn’t even begin to compare to what you’re going through, but when I was little, we had a dog. She was a yellow lab named Sierra. My mom named her after the town because we had just moved here. She died when I was eleven. I remember that for the longest time I didn’t even want to look at another dog. My dad wanted to replace her, but I was hysterical over the thought of having another dog in the house. It took a long time before I could even think about her without getting upset.” Dane stopped for a moment, thinking about his beloved pet. “Like I said, it’s not even close to what happened to your parents, but I understand the concept of losing someone or something you loved. I can think about her now and just remember all the fun I had playing with her, instead of thinking about how sad I was when she died. Do I sound like a big jerk?”

Justin hesitated, as if he had to think about it for a moment, and then laughed. “No, you don’t sound like a big jerk. You sound like a really nice guy. Thank you.”

“Would it be alright if I kissed you? Or would that be totally lame?” Dane asked carefully.

Justin felt his heart skip a beat. “I don’t think that would be totally lame at all.”

Justin saw Dane lean towards him slowly and closed his eyes as he felt warm lips cover his own. It should’ve been nice, being in his room with another guy, and doing something that felt as natural to him as breathing. It was something he always dreamed of having the freedom to do. So then why, when a good looking guy that was attracted to him made a move, did it feel like he was doing something wrong? He hadn’t felt that way the night before, when they were sitting on the back of Dane’s truck. A vision of Brian materialized in his head, causing him to pull back quickly.

“Hey, are you alright?” Dane asked.

“Uh…yeah. I just, it feels a little funny being here with you.” At the hurt expression on Dane’s face, Justin tried to clarify. “I mean, being in Chris and Zander’s house. I don’t know how they feel about it. I guess I’m just trying to figure out where I stand with them.”

“Justin, it’s your house now, too. I don’t think either Chris or Zander would object to you having company over. I used to be over here all the time when Brian and I were together,” Dane said as he leaned in, hoping for another kiss.

Justin pulled back quickly and jumped out of his chair, thoughts of Dane and Brian running through his head. “Are you hungry? I could go make us something to eat.”

“Justin, you knew Brian and I were together, right?” Dane asked carefully.

“Yeah, I know you two have a past,” Justin replied.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Like I said, it just feels weird being here with you right now. Like this. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright, you don’t have to apologize. If you’re not comfortable, I’ll go. Do you want to do something tonight? Maybe go grab dinner or something?”

“I can’t. Brian and I already have plans,” Justin told him.

“Oh, okay. Well, maybe I can call you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, okay. I’ll walk you out,” Justin offered.

“That’s okay. I took up enough of your time. You stay here and get back to the website. I know my way out.”

Justin watched Dane leave, feeling guilty for pushing him away, but he couldn’t help it. It did feel strange having Dane there, kissing him, while no one was home. The reminder of Brian and Dane’s past hadn’t helped any either. Whatever the reason, he just didn’t feel the spark with Dane that he felt the night before, and that confused him. How did everything change in less than 24 hours? Rather than dwelling on it, Justin sat back down at his computer and got back to work, leaving his thoughts for another time.

End of part 9


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