Shickel You on the Spot, pt. 1
"Okay, Mom, I will. Thanks Love you too and Moll .k, bye." Justin snapped the phone shut and closed his eyes, leaning his head back on the car seat. Hot angry tears burned behind his lids and threatened to spill out. The blond bit his lip to stop the trembling and forced himself to take long deep breaths to control the hurt and anger. He felt Brian place a large warm hand over his, gently stroking his thumb back and forth in a soothing caress. After a moment the tightness eased and Justin opened his eyes, blinking away the last unshed tear.
Justin nodded and Brian lifted his arm for the artist to slide over the seat next to him. The blond gave him a grateful smile and practically crumpled into his arms, sighing as he rested his head on Brians shoulder.
"Is she always such a drama princess?" the detective asked.
Justin snorted against his neck. "Shes queen now. Brings new meaning to royal pain in the ass.
"Shell get over it," Brian said flatly.
"I dont know," the artist replied. "You didnt hear--"
"I heard," Brian cut in. He was surprised Justins ears werent bleeding from his sisters banshee-like screeching over the phone.
The blond grimaced. He felt worse now that Brian knew what Molly said. All he wanted to do was let his mom know about their weekend away when Molly started in about how Brian ruined her life and Justin was a traitor for sleeping with him.
Brian turned the younger mans chin up so they were eye to eye. "I knew I was never going to be Mr. Popular when I took this job. It comes with the territory. Shes not the first and she wont be the last. But she will get over it. Shes still grieving. For the man who died, and the man she thought loved her. I just hope your mom gets her some help soon."
Justin sighed again. "I tried to ask her about that, but she didnt want to talk about it with Moll in the room. I can understand that, but I think if Moll hadnt been there, Mom wouldve found another excuse. Shes always got an excuse. Moll shouldve been in therapy with me after I left home, but Mom always insisted she and Moll were fine, I was the one who needed help because I was a fag."
"She took you to a shrink?"
"Its not what you think. She didnt think being gay was just in my head or anything. She was just worried about what dad did would do to my self-image on top of being gay, so she made some calls and found a good counselor for gay teens and made me go. She was right, I needed the help, but what she didnt get was that Moll, and herself actually, needed help too."
Brian noticed Justin didnt mention his dad in this scenario, but he let it go.
The blond smiled sadly to himself. "My mom is the strongest person I know. In one day, Id turned her life upside down, but she didnt miss a beat. She went from country-club WASP to PFLAG mom in the blink of an eye."
"Theyre not mutually exclusive."
"I know, I just meant, one minute shes hosting cocktail parties for my dads colleagues, and the next shes at Woodys meeting Emmett for a drink because she wanted to know where I hung out. He even gave her the grand tour of Liberty Avenue!"
Brian laughed. "Bet that opened her eyes."
Justin laughed too. "Youd think, but not my mom. Not on the outside anyway. Like I said, shes strong. Too strong. She was so determined to take care of me, she neglected herself. And Molly."
Brian kissed his temple as the car was pulled up to the gate of the Shickel estate. "I saw her face, Justin, when I told you about the tapes. Your mom understands Molly is going to need help getting past this. Shell do the right thing."
Justin nodded and kissed Brians cheek in return. "Thanks." He then lowered the partition between themselves and the driver and asked to be dropped in front of the main house. "Hell take your bags to my place, while we stop here for a minute," Justin explained to Brian. "I want to give you a quick tour and introduce you to the staff. Then we can decide what to do next."
Brian agreed and they piled out of the car. "So were free and clear now, right? Its just you and me for the next two days?" the blond asked as he led the older man the door.
The detective nodded. Hed talked to Melanie and Danny while Justin talked to Emmett earlier. Brians friends actually knew the truth about where they were for the weekend, in case of a serious emergency, but everyone else thought the couple was in New York again. They didnt feel too bad about lying to their other friends since they both had their cell phones. Justin had wanted to turn them off as well, but Brian was interested in seeing if Justin got anymore mysterious calls. Which he figured was also the reason Justin wanted to turn it off.
"Okay then," the blond beamed, swinging the door open. "Welcome to Fantasy Island."
The two men spent a little over an hour in the main house. Justin quickly showed Brian around, breezing through many of the rooms unless there were any interesting stories to share. Brian got the impression it bothered Justin to be in many of the rooms because he still missed George. It also made him wonder what Emmett was like inside the house. The one time Brian had been there previously, Emmett had quickly ushered him outside. He made a mental note to ask Ted, just out of curiosity.
When they were back on the ground floor, Justin took more time in the entertainment room and pool area that they would be using later. Brian couldnt wait to sink into the whirlpool. Most of the aches and bruises from the accident were gone, but he wouldnt pass up another dip with Justin. There was more room for them to really get the full benefits in this one.
Once the tour was over, Justin took Brian back to the kitchen where the staff was preparing an early dinner for them since they skipped lunch. He introduced his lover to Jonathan, Cookie, and Isabel, the live-in butler, cook and maid. He explained that Cookie and Jonathan were married, and Isabel was Jonathans sister. The three lived together in the other cottage just west of the house.
Jonathan and Isabel were carbon copies of each other. Each had the same milktoast, slightly freckled complexion, and softly lilting British accents. They were in their mid-sixties, tall and slim with sleek silver hair and the traditional black and white staff uniform. Cookie, on the other hand, was a stout German with hands like meat cleavers and a ruddy, pug face. She wore a plain gray frock and white apron, her long drab hair pulled tight in a severe bun and covered with a hair net. She looked older than the siblings, but Brian guessed she was younger by her demeanor. Watching the three work together laying out the small feast, Brian was keenly interested in their interaction. He couldnt even begin to imagine how the couple had ended up married, or how all three co-habitated in the little building across the way, when it seemed by all outward appearances that they despised one another.
But regardless of their cold attitude toward each other, and the guest in their midst, they were all overly attentive to Master Justin. Brian raised an eyebrow and Justin rolled his eyes, grimacing slightly as Cookie exuberantly pinched his cheek. The artist explained to them that although he and Brian would be at the cottage for the weekend, no callers were to know anyone was at home. Jonathon assured him he would make sure the rest of the staff, Brian figured it to be six or seven other people who lived off the grounds, would be informed.
While they ate, Justin and Jonathan chatted quietly about some maintenance requirements at the cottage while Brian contemplated the easiest way to earn one of the servants trust. If he didnt get one of them to warm up to him, he would be stonewalled at every turn when he tried to ask questions later. Jonathan was the most obvious choice because he was ultimately in charge of making sure every aspect of the estate ran smoothly, but he would also be the toughest to get through to, the detective suspected. Despite the butlers obvious affection for the younger lord of the manor, Jonathan was responsible to Emmett, his true employer, first and foremost and would therefore balk at giving any assistance until he had Emmetts permission. Although it was an annoyance for the moment, at least until Brian brought Emmett into the loop if necessary, it did reassure Brian somewhat that no one else could idly get past the spry gentleman either. Justin appeared to be relatively safe within the confines of his home.
Since Jonathan was out of the question, Brian automatically eliminated Isabel as well. He doubted she knew much about anything that happened outside the house and she seemed too dependent on Jonathans opinion to form one of her own. When he breathed, she breathed. Which only left Cookie. He watched as the woman put another plate of dumplings in front of Justin. The young man started to protest hed had enough, but the woman squeezed his shoulder with a meaty fist and insisted he was too skinny.
Brian leaned over and discreetly pinched the blonds bottom. "Shes right, Angel, theres no such thing as enough."
Justin scowled half-heartedly at him, vowing revenge under his breath as he speared another bite.
"Yah," Cookie nodded approvingly at Brian and smiled. He had his ally.
"You too," the German added as she refilled Brians plate as well and Justin snickered.
Isabel and Cookie ran ahead to make sure the cottage was properly stocked and tidy enough to withstand a few days without attention so the men could have their privacy, while Justin led Brian to the stables.
"Have you ever been riding?" Justin asked.
"Just this morning," Brian smirked.
The blond blushed, shooting an embarrassed glance at the groom but he was too far away. "I meant horses."
"Yes," the detective answered absently as he also noticed the groom had turned his back. Suddenly, he pushed the younger man into the empty stall behind them. Once they were out of view, he attacked the younger mans mouth in a hungry kiss. In the back of his mind, he wondered what the fuck was going on. Hed always loathed anything remotely country because of the summers he was forced to work on his grand parents farm as a teenager, but now the atmosphere was having a very different effect. The combination of crisp cool air and the heady scent of fresh hay, mingled with the stomping of hooves and excited whinies and snorts from the powerful animals surrounding them were spurring his feral side to take control.
He roughly shoved Justin against the wall, knocking his cane away, and pressed himself against the smaller frame. He pushed his hands beneath the waistband of the artists jeans and grabbed two handfuls of the firm mounds. Justin whimpered and Brian tightened his grip, squeezing the globes harder as he ground their hips together, moaning himself as their cocks rubbed together in the tight confines.
The artist somehow found the strength to push the older man away, reluctantly tearing their mouths apart. "Stop," he gasped.
Brian blinked at him, fingers still twisted in the younger mans waistband. "What?"
Justin had to tear his eyes away too before he gave in to the entrancing hazel eyes and beckoning ripe lips. "Not here," he groaned. Despite the temptation of the warm hay beneath his feet. Oh, shit, they had to leave before he gave in and the groom came back.
The blond blocked out the sultry voice and tried to remember what hed been talking about before. Right, horseback riding. "Have you ever done it bareback?" he asked, trying to change the subject back. He saw Brians eyebrows shoot up in surprise and realized what hed just said. Oh, fuck. Not helping at all.
"I hope youre talking about horses," Brian responded, knowing he waited a beat too long to answer. He mentally kicked himself for even thinking about it. The answer was a resounding no to either scenario, no reason to hesitate. But he had, because he wanted to. He abruptly realized the horses, and hay, and fresh air had nothing to do with his sudden desire. It was just Justin.
Justin was nervously rambling about bareback versus saddle riding and how both affected his leg since the accident but Brian was only half-listening. Actually, he could only hear part of what the blond was saying over the loud erratic pounding of his heart as it slammed against his ribcage. The overwhelming desire of a few minutes ago had just been replaced with bone-chilling fear.
The cottage had been renovated so the kitchen, living room and dining room were one big open space with sliding glass doors, big bay windows and a sky light, and the dining room was now being used as studio space. Two bedrooms and the bathroom between them were still sectioned off at the back of the house.
Justin stood in the center of the open space, flinging his arms wide. "Ta-dah! This is it. Our own little hideaway. Will it do?" He flung his coat over the back of the sofa and tugged Brians off as well. "Were completely isolated for as long as we want. Knowing Cookie and Jonathan, weve got enough food and firewood to last us until the end of the month," he laughed giddily. "Ill give you a personal tour of the master bedroom later, but right now why dont you sit in front of the fire and warm up while I get us some wine."
He started toward the kitchen and Brian mutely wandered around and sat on the sofa. The blond frowned slightly, a little disappointed with Brians reaction. He was really surprised the man had gone into such a funk since Justin had turned him down in the stables. It wasnt like they hadnt been fucking non-stop for the last few days, or hadnt planned on a lot more over the weekend, so what was really eating him?
Brian instantly felt at home in Justins space. He thought it probably wouldve seemed a little too bizarre for him if hed seen it before getting to know the younger man, the flow of the room appeared very disjointed and unorganized, but he now understood how it was perfectly adapted for the artists needs. He leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes, letting his tumultuous feeling settle for a moment.
It surprised him in a detached sort of way that hed panicked in the stable. Hed known every step of the way that he liked Justin, desired him, even cared for him, and he just expected things to continue. But it hadnt ever occurred to him that it would develop further, into what? Love? Commitment? Fucking bareback? He could honestly say hed never contemplated anything beyond fucking with anyone else. He liked intimacy. He liked companionship. He liked routine.
But he didnt like complications.
Justin came back and handed him a glass of wine. Brian took it and Justin limped around the older mans outstretched legs and settled on the other end of the sofa. The detectives focus snapped back to the present. "Wheres your cane?"
The blond jerked his head back to the counter where his cane was propped. "Only got two hands."
Brian felt a twinge of guilt and Justin guessed that was the flash in his eyes. "Its ten feet, Im fine. Just a little tired."
Brian quickly squashed the larger pit opening in his gut as he remembered being a little rough with the younger man in the stables. Justin wouldve said something if he needed to. Brian needed to remember that and trust the other mans honesty and judgement regarding his own needs. If he reacted any differently, Justin would get defensive and theyd be back to square one. Again.
Instead, Brian decided the change the subject and scanned the room. Ah, getting back on track The detective jumped up and went to the bookshelf next to the fireplace, scanning the labels of the various photo albums lining the shelves. "Do you mind?" he asked as an afterthought. "I want to see the great artist globetrotting," he said as he selected exactly what he was looking for.
Justin saw he had chosen the album from his time in Europe, when he dated Eric. "Theres nothing of real interest there," he replied softly, especially since hed destroyed most of the pictures that used to be in it. "Why dont you pick another one."
Brian knew the blond was deliberately avoiding the obvious and although it foiled his plan, he recovered smoothly and picked another album. He guessed it was primarily focused on George and Emmett, but it seemed to encompass the same timeframe, two years before the accident, so he might get lucky. "How about this one?"
Justin nodded. That one had always been his favorite. Brian sat next to him, slipping his arm around the artists shoulders and opening the book across their laps. Justin eagerly began to narrate and Brian found himself entertained by the mens antics together, and deeply moved by the depth of Justins feelings for his benefactor and friend.
Brian was so engrossed he almost missed the opportunity hed been looking for. He had to give Justin credit, he was smooth. The blond barely skipped a beat when he turned the page and saw a photo of Eric with Emmett, George and himself in the garden. He pointed to the photo above, explained its significance, regaled Brian with a long tale about a similar incident, and when he returned his attention back to the book, he skipped to the next page, launching into another hilarious anecdote.
Brian didnt give any sign of noticing and let Justin finished going through the book. When Justin closed the album, Brian took it and set it aside before leaning over and kissing the artist soundly. "I think I wouldve liked George a lot."
That earned him a bright smile. "Yeah, and he wouldve liked you."
Brian felt his heart thud hard again and he sighed resignedly. There was no avoiding something so complicatedly simple. He was in love.
"Bri?" Justins brow furrowed in frustration. The older man suddenly looked pensive again.
"I asked if you wanted some more wine."
"Yes," Brian agreed. "You get that and Ill put the album back. Want to look at another one?"
Justin shrugged, although Brian sensed the tension in him. "If you want," the artist replied tightly.
"You know, actually, Im feeling a little stiff since I didnt take anything today," Brian lied. "How about we soak in the whirlpool for a while?"
The blond visibly relaxed. "Yeah, thatd be great." He took Brians glass and turned to the kitchen.
While Justin was preoccupied, Brian quickly took the photograph of Eric from the album and slipped it into his coat pocket before replacing the album on the shelf. He would put it back after he asked Cookie a couple of questions tomorrow. Hopefully, nothing would come of it and Justin would never have to know.
Brian briefly wondered what happened to his unbreakable policy of complete honesty. Then Justin turned and smiled at him and he had no doubt he was doing the right thing. Keeping Justin safe and happy overrode everything else. Telling the younger man he was investigating his former lover would definitely make him unhappy and scared. The detective again hoped nothing would come of it.
The older man walked over to the kitchen an accepted the glass of wine Justin held out for him. He kissed the blond. "Thanks."
"Youre welcome." Justin kissed him back. "Okay, lets get your bags unpacked so we can find your trunks, and then well go soak for a bit."
Brian nodded and let the younger man lead. He wanted to tell Justin to use his cane when the artist left it behind again, but he didnt. Justin would definitely use it to walk the several yards to the main house though, or hed carry the stubborn twat.
As they headed to the bedroom, Brian noticed an easel haphazardly propped in the corner. The surrounding art supplies scattered at the base looked discarded. "Hey, wait." He grabbed Justins shoulder. "Show me some of your new stuff," he said, gesturing to the covered canvas on the easel.
He noticed Justin averted his gaze from the corner. "Youve seen it," he replied, trying to continue walking.
Brian wrapped his arm around the blonds waist. "Ive seen your old portfolio. What have you done lately?" He pointed to the easel again. "Whats that?"
"Nothing? Its obviously something, Angel." Brian curiously reached out to uncover the canvas and Justin angrily slapped his hand away.
"Dont. Touch. It."
Not really surprised by the reaction, Brian took a step back, hands in the air. "Okay," he said contritely.
Justins bluster faded somewhat, but not entirely. "Its really nothing, alright? I havent painted anything new in the lastin a while," he huffed.
Brian looked him directly in the eye. "Why not?"
The artist stared back at him defiantly. "I havent had any inspiration."
Justins eyes narrowed. "Fuck you."
The older man was a little taken aback by the blonds vehemence but ignored it. "Tempting, but not tonight. I have something else in mind." He reached for the canvas again.
"Brian," the artist warned. He remained frozen in place but his fists were balled tight.
"Trust me." Brian waited a second and when Justin made no move to stop him, he lifted the canvas off the easel, keeping it carefully covered. He would never look at it without Justins permission. The older man set it down against the wall and pulled the easel back to the center of the work area where he spread a tarp across the floor. He selected a fresh canvas from a pile in the corner and placed it on the easel and turned back to the blond. "Come here."
The artist shook his head, in no mood to be sweet-talked. The other man just didnt understand. "Brian, I dont feel--"
"I can change that."
Something in Brians tone caught Justins attention. He chewed his bottom lip anxiously. He wanted to believe him. "How?"
Brian held out his hand. "Come here, and Ill show you."
Justin shuffled forward a few feet, then hesitated. "I dont need a model."
"Im not volunteering."
"Not that you wouldnt make a good one."
Justin walked to the stool in front of the easel and Brian pulled the sweater over his head, dropping it on the floor. He reached for the hem of Justins sweater, but the younger man stopped him. "Im not going to paint you. I mean on you."
Brian snorted. "Damn right youre not. Im too fucking otired to be rolling on the floor leaving imprints of my balls. Besides, that shit cant be good for your skin."
"Then what are you doing?"
"Take your fucking clothes off and youll see. Damn twat."
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