Brian lay staring at the ceiling as he listened to Justins deep, even breathing beside him. At least one of them was sleeping.
The room was slowly illuminated by the rising sun as Brian replayed the last few days over and over in his head. He never wouldve imagined and yet, here they were. And then there was today. How in the hell was he going to get through this?
The answer stirred next to him and the artist reached over to stroke his cheek. "Did you sleep at all?" Justin asked, his voice low and husky from his slumber as he settled his head on Brians chest.
The older man wrapped his arm around the blond and resisted the urge to pull him closer as the younger man carefully arranged his leg over Brians. "Too many--"
"other things to think about," Justin parroted with him. It had become Brians standard response lately and Justin was hoping once today was over with things would go back to normalat least as normal as things could be after everything that happened. "Bri, you cant change it, so just--" The rest of his statement was cut off by the detectives mouth on his.
Brian too could repeat what the blond was about to say, but he chose to occupy himself with something else instead. Who knew how much time they had before the outside world crashed in on them again? And time was something Brian was keenly aware of now.
He gently rolled the younger man onto his back and kissed the scar on Justins chin, along his throat, and down his pale torso. The younger mans hands twined in his hair and Justin keened as Brian rubbed his teeth over a sensitive nipple. He then rolled his tongue over the hardened nub before moving to the other side.
The detective looked up at the flushed cheeks and heavy-lidded eyes and saw a smile spread across the younger mans lips. "I love you," Justin whispered.
"I know." That was what had gotten him through the last month. Just when hed thought Lindsays death would tear them apart, it ended up making them stronger. There had been a lot of unanswered questions that would never be figured out and the potential strife between Brian, Justin, and Melanie due to their confusion, guilt, and anger was enormous. But in the end, they managed to agree that they were all hurt by the womana woman that they realized they didnt really know at all-- and they needed to support each other to move on with their lives.
One very good reason for moving on was then knocking on the bedroom door. "Daddy! Wake up! Justin! Can I come in? Please?"
The couple exchanged exasperated sighs, then smiled. "Come in," Brian called back.
The door opened and a rambunctious boy bounced into the room, slopping a cup of coffee. It was only half full so he wouldnt spill and burn himself, but he still managed to lose more of it than was left in the cup when he made it to the bed.
"Happy birthday, daddy!"
"Thanks, Sonny Boy." Brian managed not to grimace and Justin patted his arm. The older man accepted the cup of coffee and kissed his son on the head.
"Mommys making breakfast and she said to hurry up or itll be cold."
This time Brian did cringe. "What makes lesbians think they can cook?" he asked.
"I heard that," came back from the kitchen.
"You know," Justin whispered so Melanie couldnt hear him, "maybe you should consider getting a cook that will do a little housework. Im sure Cookie could recommend someone." He didnt want to offend Melanie, but since she and Ricky had moved in with Brian a few days ago, the detective hadnt eaten a thing. If they could convince Melanie they needed a maid who could help out with chores and watching Ricky, Brian could get his appetite back. And start sleeping again when he wasnt worried about Melanie burning his house downor turning it into a lesbian loveshack. He had already banned all scented oils from the house that werent from virgin olives.
"You tell Mommy Justin and I will be out in " he looked at his lover, "thirforty-five minutes."
Melanie appeared in the doorway. "Because its your birthday, you got an hour, and Ill take you out for breakwell, I guess itll be brunch then. Come on Ricky, lets go wrap daddys presents."
"K," the boy agreed. He gave his father another kiss, and one to Justin too, before bounding out of the room, politely closing the door behind him.
Brian stretched back out over the blond, looking to pick up where hed left off. He admired the soft milky skin under his fingertips and felt a slight pang for the blue lights in the upstairs bedroom where Melanie now slept. He knew it made more sense for him to use the downstairs bedroom because Justin couldnt get up the stairs easily when he stayed over, but he still missed the embedded fixtures. Maybe he should have another set, maybe even a different color, installed in histheirnew bedroom. It was all about accepting change and moving on
"So youre forty," Justin chortled, finally giving in to temptation. He knew Brian was hyper-sensitive about this day, but he couldnt resist one good dig. "How old is that in dog years?" he asked without remorse. Brian had teased him mercilessly with all kinds of cracks about doggy-style sex since his little hallucination in the hospital so it was about fucking time he got one over on the other man. And Brians reaction was well worth the wait.
"I cant--" the man sputtered in shock. "How--"
Justin let him wallow for a few moments before taking pity on the man. "I love that youre not a young pup anymore. It means you have way more, um tail wagging experience that I am happily reaping the benefits of."
Brian finally composed himself and glared at the younger man. "You think Im going to fuck you now?" he demanded.
The artist grinned cheekily. "No. Be a good boy and roll over."
Aaron was just finishing up a patients massage when he saw his lover walk into his office. He gave the patient his instructions for the next week and dismissed him. The therapist told the receptionist to give him five minutes before she sent the next appointment back and slipped into his office, quietly shutting the door behind him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked anxiously. They were rarely ever seen together for a reason.
"How was your session with Justin yesterday?"
Aaron eyed him skeptically. They couldve talked about this later. "Fine. Hes still struggling to walk greater distances so well continue to work at it several times a week. Hes so driven to regain his mobility and make Brian proud, yet he wants me to help him instead of Brian because he doesnt want to be a burden, what with Brians new family responsibilities and all."
Although Aaron feared murdering the Peterson woman would expose them, his lover was quite pleased with the outcome, and he had to admit he was as well. Since theyd been spending more time together, Justin really seemed to be opening up to Aaron. And since Justin was so enamored with Brian, he was constantly talking about their relationship. And of course, Aaron was more than happy to indulge his friends need to dish.
"Do you have your tux for Detective Dicks birthday bash?" the other man asked.
Aaron smirked. "Yes, so theres no need for you to crash the festivities, Ive got everything under control." He raised an eyebrow. "Youre not planning to impersonate anyone today are you? Caterer, band member, security guard?" He knew his lovers penchant for costumes and make-up.
His lover rolled his eyes. "Its been a risk being around as much as I have, Im certainly not going to walk into a roomful of people who would recognize me." He gave his lover a mischievous wink. "Im leaving everything in your capable hands." He took Aarons hand and pulled the man to him, but the therapist suddenly frowned and squirmed away.
"I can still smell that whore on you," he seethed.
"Jealousy is not an attractive look for you," his lover warned, but he didnt push. Theyd waited patiently over the last month for things to settle down again and now that he was ready to move forward with his plan, he didnt want Aarons possessive nature to jeopardize his hard work. Instead, he walked back to the door, pausing with his hand on the knob. "Come over before you dress for the party. I want to watch."
Aarons anger dissipated in light of his lovers obvious lust. No matter what they had to do to achieve their goal, they would always be together.
After brunch, Brian, Justin, Melanie, and Ricky went to the tailors to pick up their costumes for Brians party that evening. Emmett insisted on throwing Brian a blow-out at his house, and in honor of his guest and best friend, its theme was great lovers in history. Couples were encouraged to come as their favorite pair, otherwise formal attire was required.
Emmett and Ted originally planned to attend as Romeo and Juliet, but quickly decided ill-fated lovers were not a good omen and decided to be Katherina and Petruchio instead. Melanie would be Belle, the Beauty, and Ricky would be her little Beast. Debbie, Michael, Vic and Larry had come down for the weekend and were attending as well. Vic and Larry would be Alexander and Hephaestion, and Melanie took Debbie and Janine shopping for ball gowns. Debbie had a blind date for the evening with Brians Lieutenant, and Janine was attending alone because her busy investment banker boyfriend was once again in Europe. Surprisingly, Michael was bringing his new beau instead. Theyd been dating for a few weeks now, but no one had met him yet.
The only couple whose attire was a complete mystery was the guests of honor. Neither Brian nor Justin could be cajoled into giving even the slightest hint. Particularly when their choice seemed so obvious to them.
After the group left the tailors, they went to the Shickel estate to join in the final party preparations. When they arrived at the house, Justin could see the tension mounting for Brian again so the blond insisted the older man take Melanie and Ricky horseback riding instead of forcing him to wade through decorations and prep tables.
Justin checked in with the staff to make sure everything was moving along per Emmetts orders because Emmett and Ted had to run downtown for some last minute errands. Once he was sure Jonathan had the details firmly in hand, the artist went to his cottage to check on the other guests. He knocked on the door before poking his head inside. The smells wafting from the kitchen made his mouth water. "You decent?" he called. "Can I come in?"
"Of course, Angel, its your home," Debbie yelled back. "Get that bubble butt in here and taste this cannoli."
Justin was surprised to see Debbie in his kitchen. "Hi, Deb, I just thought Id check and make sure Vic and Larry werent cooking in the nude again." Hed been more than a little surprised to catch them early one morning when they stayed with him a few weeks ago.
"They were getting a little hot under the collar so I sent them to the pool to cool off," she cracked. "Otherwise you might have."
Justin laughed. "I thought you and Michael were scouting that restaurant this morning."
"We did, and we spoke to the owner. I think Michael is going to buy it, and well, well have to wait and see."
Justin nodded, he knew she was referring to Michael possibly moving back to Pittsburgh to manage the new restaurant. Since his relationship had been strained at best with Brian over the last month, Michael had been doing everything in his power to reconnect with his friend. Despite everyones advice to the contrary, he was convinced if he bought the restaurant and moved back to Pittsburgh, everything would be the way it used to be. And now that he was dating someone else, he thought he had the perfect cover for his real agenda, but no one was fooled.
"Hows everything coming along?" the blond asked as he finished the cannoli Debbie had offered.
"Fine, all the hors doeuvres are finished and Vic and Larry have stored them in the main kitchen. Cookie should be just about finished with the cake, and then shell make the pasta. All thats left then is for the boys to finish the sauces."
Justin took a spoon and dipped it into the alfredo sauce. "Remind me to save some of this for later," he groaned as he licked it off. He knew Brians favorite was puttanesca, but the artist thought Vic made the best alfredo in the world and he would love to repeat the feast he had with Brian last time. The older man had been covered in the rich sauce
"Oh, no, were too late," Vic lamented as he walked into the kitchen with his lover close behind. The man snatched the spoon away from the artist and shooed him away from the stove. "Brian warned us not to let you get near the sauce."
Justin rolled his eyes. "Hes just afraid it will tempt him and wreck his girlish figure."
Larry laughed. "At his age, he needs to be careful." Vic and Debbie both swatted him. "What?" he cried.
"Dont let him hear you," Vic chastised.
"Or well never hear the end of it," Debbie chimed in.
"But its true," Justin whispered conspiratorially and Larry laughed harder.
"Thanks for letting us stay here again," Vic interjected to change the subject.
"No problem," Justin replied. He was at Brians most of the time anyway.
"I still dont understand why you dont just stay at the big house with me and Michael," Debbie complained again.
"Listen to what you just said," Vic shot back. "It sounds like a prison," he teased. And he wasnt keen on being trapped with his overly exuberant sister for long periods of timeit sometimes felt like a life sentence.
"But its lovely," Debbie cried. "And fucking huge!"
"Its great if you want to have an orgy, Sis, but we wanted to have a little hideaway of our own, and this is perfect."
"I see why you love it so much," Larry added to Justin. "Its so perfect."
"And if you two werent taking it over," Debbie sniped, "he could enjoy his own home instead of being driven out to Brianswho also has a full house now."
"Deb," Justin sighed. "You know were perfectly happy just the way things are."
He didnt want to get into it with everyone again. It was Melanies decision to sell her house because she couldnt handle the memories. And it was Melanies decision to give Justin the money from the sale to repay what Lindsay had stolen. They had fought vehemently over it, Justin wanted her to keep the money and get herself and Ricky a new home, but she was adamant. In the end, Justin accepted the money, but he put it in a trust fund for Ricky. However, that still left mother and son homeless and Brian insisted they move in with him because he wanted to make sure Ricky had a stable environment with two loving parents after having his world turned upside down.
"Angel, I know you love Brian, but I also know what a handful he can be. You need to have some space to yourself or youll go crazy," Debbie advised again.
Justin just nodded and smiled, again. He knew she was right, but that was all it was to him now. A little escape if he needed it, but he hardly considered it home anymore so he didnt mind that it was slowly being converted back to the guesthouse.
That evening, the final preparations had been finished and everyone was milling around the foyer in their costumes, assessing and adjusting as they waited for the guests to arrive. Brian and Justin came through the house to check everyone out on their way back to the cottage to change into their own costumes.
"Holy shit!" Debbie cried, "What happened to you two?" The couple was soaked to the bone.
"Obviously," Ted drawled, "they went for a swim."
Justin blushed and Brian wiggled his eyebrows. They hadnt intended on it, they were just locking up the poolroom so no drunks would fall in and drown, and theyd fallen in themselves.
Despite Justins protests that someone could come looking for them at any moment, Brian was determined to have a few intimate moments alone with his boyfriendand the danger of being caught only made the need greater.
Just as the crowd was shooing them along to get dressed, Jonathan announced the arrival of the first guest. Brian and Justin tried to hurry away so they wouldnt be seen before they were ready, but the sudden gasp from their friends made them pause and look back.
A tall brunet was kissing Michael. Justin noticed Brians friends mouths were hanging open, while Emmett looked on curiously. Then he saw Brians eyes widen.
Michael broke the kiss and looked over his shoulder, deliberately seeking Brian out. Everyone elses head turned as well, holding their breath as they waited for Brians reaction.
"Well," the detective said finally, "isnt this a surprise?"
The guests eyes darted from Brian to Michael. "Michael," he breathed nervously. "You said you were going to tell him."
"I did tell him that I was bringing a guest," Michael replied defiantly. "Who Im dating is none of his business."
"Michael!" Debbie slapped her son upside the head. "I cant believe--"
"So, John," Brian stepped forward, taking Justins hand and pulling him with. "Its nice to see you again. Welcome to the party."
"Um thanks, look, Bri, I didnt--"
"Justin," Brian cut him off, "this is John Ryack, hes a pediatrician at Pittsburgh General. John, this is my boyfriend--" he looked at Justin and squeezed his hand, "my partner, Justin Taylor."
Despite being stunned by the other mans presence, Justin managed to welcome their guest and shake hands.
"Its a pleasure to finally meet you," John said to the blond. "Ive heard a lot about you."
Although he knew John only meant to be polite, Brian saw Justin flinch and unconsciously pull his robe tighter around him. The older man wrapped his arm around his lover and Justin automatically relaxed against himanother sign theyd made a lot of progress together.
"Shouldnt you two be getting dressed?" Vic interrupted. Brian gave him a grateful nod, the two men exchanging a look. Brian would talk to Justin and Vic would talk to Michael. Not that either one of them thought it would do any good with the conniving restaurateur.
"Yes," Brian agreed, again leading Justin away when the door opened once more and Janine and Aaron entered.
"Look who I found waiting outside," Janine crowed as they swept inside. "It looks like I have a date after all."
Justin saw Aaron grimace and stifled a grin. Aaron was the biggest heterophobe hed ever met.
Melanie stepped up and gave the other woman a hug. "You need to freshen up, honey," she whispered discreetly. Janines make-up was smeared quite a bit. "Were you mauling that poor boy in the rosebushes?"
Janine laughed. "No, I was mauling my man in the car on the way here. He gave me a ride on his way to the airport and I needed to stock up on some loving so I didnt do anything to get myself arrested tonight."
Justin eyed her suspiciously and nudged Brian. "Your friends arent bringing their handcuffs tonight, are they? I dont want to encourage her."
Brian rolled his eyes. "Between her and the alphabet interns, I didnt know whether to invite the boys as guests or hire them as extra security."
"Dont forget Roz," Justin laughed. After Lindsays death, his friend had come to Pittsburgh for the funeral. She immediately dubbed Brian the anti-Christ from Lindsays description, declared herself a big fan, and she and Brian were tight friends ever since. There was no way she would miss the party, particularly if she could meet some of Brians friends and get a private dick of her very own.
"Definitely need more security," Brian groused good-naturedly and Justin was glad Brian was in a good mood.
Other than a few more employees from the gallery and Justins mom and sister (the siblings had started to smooth things over since Jennifer had insisted Molly go to therapy), the rest of the guests attending were Brians co-workers. The artist knew it was a big step for Brian to invite his friends from the station, besides just Danny and his wife. The detective had always been very private about his personal life, but after what happened with Lindsay, nothing was private anymore, and Brian didnt mind as much as he thought he would. It was all just part of moving on
"Who are you two supposed to be?" Aaron asked, reminding the lovers of their current undress.
"Our well-fucked selves," Brian shot back. He still didnt like the guy much, but he had to admit the therapist was helping Justin regain his mobility again and as long as Aaron kept his hands from roaming beyond the blonds injured leg, they didnt have any problems.
"Come on, Bri, we need to get dressed before anyone else shows up," Justin urged, again feeling uncomfortable by Johns gaze after Brians comment.
As soon as the couple was safely shut away in Justins cottage, Brian locked the door and pushed Justin up against it before devouring his lips. Unfortunately, Justin saw through his tactics and reluctantly dodged his lovers plunging tongue.
"John," he gasped, "John is the doctor you dated, right? Before me."
Brian brushed the younger mans hair from his eyes. "Justin--"
"And now Michael what is he doing? That is totally fucked up."
The detective sighed. "I know but it doesnt matter."
"It doesnt matter," Brian repeated, looking him straight in the eye. "I cant control what Michael or John do, alone or together, and I dont care. You are whats important to me. You know that." He gently kissed the blond. "Tell me you know that."
Justin nodded. "I know."
"Good. Now, lets get this over with--"
"Brian," Justin protested as he was led to the bedroom.
"What? I agreed to put up with the party, but you cant blame me for wanting to speed things along so we can be alone."
"Well, no," Justin smirked.
Brian pulled their costumes out of the closet. "Good, cause the sooner Holmes and Watson make their entrance, the sooner we can call it a night and I can get back to my earlier inquiries." Brian punctuated his statement by pinching the younger mans ass.
Justin swatted him away with a grin. "Ah, yes, I expect a thorough probe into that, uh, area later, Detective."
"Count on it, my dear Watson, count on it."
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