Close to Home II

+ Ten +

It was almost a week since Brian had been forced to go to the hospital with the bladder stones. He had had some discomfort, but nothing like the first stone that he had passed. He was scheduled to see Dr. Johansen tomorrow, and Justin was determined to go with him.

Brian grimaced. He never thought he would want Justin to leave him alone, but he did. The man had become obsessed about being there for Brian, as he called it. He stayed every night at the loft. They ate all meals together. Justin worked on some sketches while he was at Brian's; that is, in between cooking, cleaning, tidying and fluffing the fucking pillows. He rarely went to his own loft, only to get clothes as he needed them. Justin occasionally left the loft long enough to shop for the both of them. He bought only the foods on the list that he had read in one of the pamphlets. He prepared them meticulously as was indicated in the same pamphlet. Brian couldn't fault anything that he did.

At first it had been fun spending every minute together. They had watched TV and worked side by side. They had cooked together and eaten together. Justin was most solicitous. If Brian needed anything Justin was up in a flash to get it. That had been cute … for a while. Now it was becoming nothing short of annoying. Brian couldn't even get a bottle of water from the fridge without Justin holding the door open for him. It made him feel like he was two years old or a complete imbecile or a fucking invalid. And Brian did not want to be any of those things.

And then there was the hovering, and Brian hated hovering. Justin was always there watching everything that Brian did, asking questions all the time, checking that Brian was feeling all right. It was like he was afraid that if he blinked at the wrong moment, Brian would become sick again, and it would be his fault. All this care and attention was driving Brian insane.

Brian ran his hand through his hair as he sat in front of his computer. He had been pretending to work while Justin cleaned in the kitchen. He could feel Justin's eyes on him the whole time. He didn't know how many more furtive glances he could take before he blew a gasket.

He wanted to tell Justin how this was affecting him, but he knew how seriously Justin had taken his past mistakes. Brian was afraid that if he asked Justin to back off and give him some space, Justin would be hurt. The last thing Brian wanted was for Justin to leave him … totally alone. He couldn't stand that to happen. He just didn't know what to do about this situation. He wanted things back the way they used to be.

"Justin," Brian said hoping he could carry this off.

"Yeah?" Justin said coming out from behind the kitchen counter.

"I … um … I was thinking that I might ask Michael to go with me to … um … see Dr. Johansen tomorrow."


Brian could hear the hurt in Justin's voice. "You know … I told you that he offered to help any way that he could. I thought this would give us a bit of time to be alone instead of just talking on the phone. We could get reacquainted while I wait to see the doctor. I haven't seen him face to face since that day he first came here, and talking on the phone isn't really the same. And … and, it doesn't look like we're going to have that fucking family dinner any time soon."

"We can have the fucking dinner whenever you feel up to it," Justin retorted. He didn't like the sound of this at all.

"It's not about the dinner."

"Wanna tell me what it's really about?" Justin questioned. He could sense there was more to this than an hour spent with Mikey.

This wasn't turning out the way Brian had hoped. "Justin, it's just a fucking trip to the doctor."

"That you don't want me to come on with you…" Justin gulped. He would not get upset. Brian could take anyone he wanted with him, and obviously the man didn't want him.

"I thought … I thought you could use a break," Brian said hoping that didn't sound as pathetic to Justin as it sounded to him.

"Don't you mean you could use a break?" Justin demanded the light beginning to dawn. Brian was sick of him. That had to be it.

"You're here every day all day. Your work has to be suffering. I haven't seen you paint since you decided to stay here."

"I didn't want to bring all my crap up here. I was just thinking of you," Justin said softly.

"I know," Brian sighed. He wished Justin would stand up to him and assert himself. He missed the old grumpy, snarky Justin. This new one got on his nerves. "You could go to your own loft and paint for an hour or two," Brian suggested.

"I don't want to leave you alone."

"Nothing's going to happen to me. I'm fine."

"Like you were the day we went to see Gus?"

"No, not like that. I think we've solved the bladder problem for now." Shit, he hated discussing shitting and pissing. Bodily functions weren't something to be talked about.

"So you want some time with Michael?"


"Couldn't you invite him here?"

"Of course I could."

"Then do it."

"Justin, you need some time to work on your paintings," Brian repeated.

"Like while you're at the doctor's with Michael."

"Yeah, like that," Brian said brightening since Justin seemed to be more receptive to that idea.

"Maybe you'd like me to spend a lot more time in my own loft," Justin said testing Brian's reaction.

"I'm all right now. I don't need you…"

"Got it! You don't need me. You don't want me here. You can manage on your own."

"I can, you know," Brian felt compelled to say.

"Then let's just give you that opportunity," Justin stated. He would get the fuck out of there while he still had some of his dignity intact. He would not stay somewhere he wasn't wanted. He walked to the sofa, grabbed his sketchbook and stomped towards the door. "I'm sure you'll be just fine without me. I didn't realize I was in your fucking way."


"Don't try to explain. I'm not totally stupid. I can tell when I'm being eased out of the picture. You go ahead and get Michael to take you to that appointment, and while you're at it, get him to come and cook and clean and jerk you off. I'm out of here." Justin pulled the loft door closed as forcefully as he could. Sometimes he would love a good, old fashioned door that you could really slam. He ran down the stairs fighting back the tears.

"Justin," Brian called but he knew it was no use. Well, he had got his wish. The old snarky, stand-up-for-himself Justin was back. And that Justin would leave him alone. No more hovering or furtive glances or sunshine smiles or gentle touches or scorching sex. Shit!


"Okay, Mikey," Brian said. "If you can be here around two that should give us enough time to get to the doctor's office. "See you then."

Brian cut the phone connection. Michael would go with him to his appointment with Dr. Johansen. He had seemed pleased that Brian had asked him. Maybe this would turn out to be a good thing. But it didn't change the fact that Justin was still mad at him. Brian stared at the phone that he held in his hand. He had tried to call Justin three times since he had left. What was one more?

Brian dialed willing Justin to answer. The rings finally ended with the answering machine picking up.

"Justin," Brian said. "Justin, please pick up. I know you're there. Let me explain." Brian waited. There was no reply. Maybe Justin wasn't even there. Maybe he was out getting a decent fuck from someone with two good legs. Brian could hardly blame him if he was. That's what he would have done if he had two good legs of his own.

Brian set the phone down on its base. He thought about wheeling himself out to the elevator and going down the one floor to Justin's loft. But what good would that do? If Justin wouldn't talk to him on the phone, he sure as shit wouldn't open the door and talk to him.

Then it hit him. He would compose the perfect e-mail and send it to Justin. He could make him listen if he chose the right words and put them down just so. He could sell himself. He could convince Justin that he should forgive him. He could make Justin see that he was trying to make things easier for him, that he needed some time for his own life. He could show Justin that he cared about him and wanted him around. He could make Justin come back, if he could only find the right words. He could do it.

Brian rolled over to the computer and called up the e-mail. Now all he had to do was figure out what to say.

Hey BB,

I'm sorry about what happened earlier. If you had given me a chance to explain, you would understand that I wasn't trying to drive you away. Come up and let's discuss this.

Brian read what he had written and immediately deleted it. It sounded much too casual, like nothing major had really happened. Brian knew that was not the case. Justin would see that e-mail as condescending. He needed to try again.


I wish you had stayed a little longer. I didn't want you to leave. I'm sorry about how it must have sounded about me taking Michael to the appointment instead of you. I never meant to upset you. I want you here. I need you.

Brian read over this text and immediately deleted it too. It sounded too apologetic and needy. If nothing else came from this flare-up between them, they at least needed to understand the need for space and independence. Brian remembered that he had intended to talk to Justin about new living arrangements. He wondered if they had a bigger place if they could have got through this medical problem without being in each other's face. He started another e-mail.


I'm not going to apologize for what happened tonight, because I think we need to sort out a few things. Please read the rest of this before you delete it. It may be one of the most important things I've ever written.

When I first met you, you treated me like any other person, and that was what I loved about you. I never felt like a cripple. You got me to venture out into the world again. You helped me reclaim some semblance of my life. I want to thank you for that.

Ever since I had the episode of bladder problems things have changed. You've started to treat me the way they did in the hospital. That's why I stopped seeing my friends back then. I couldn't stand their worry and pity and their need to never let me be alone. There are times I actually like being alone. I lived alone for a long time and I've been alone a lot ever since the accident.

I wish I had been able to tell you all this before you ran out, but I was afraid as soon as I started to say I needed some space, you would take it the wrong way, and you did.

You have become very important to me since we finally met. I can't envision my life without you. I want you near me. I need you. Maybe just not hovering over me twenty-four-seven.

I hope that doesn't sound like a put-down, because it's not meant that way. I want to go back to how we were when we first met. Do you think we can do that?


Brian read through what he had written. It was the truth and it was heartfelt. It also sounded sappy and much too needy. He thought Justin might respond to it, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to lay himself bare like that, especially when Justin might not even be able to go back to the way they had been.

Brian's finger hovered on the mouse. He rolled the cursor back and forth between delete and send. He didn't know which to do. He felt like he needed to know Justin was still willing to try to make a go of their relationship before he told him all these personal thoughts. He was about to push delete when he changed his mind and put the e-mail in the draft section. Maybe later.


I miss you … a lot.


Brian hit "send" before he could change his mind. He was such a fucking coward and he had so little experience with this relationship shit. At least he had told Justin that he missed him. He hoped Justin would respond to that admission.


Brian drove slowly along the streets that would take him and Michael back to the loft. Michael was like a kid in a comic store.

"So what is that switch for? Is it hard to brake? Do you think I could learn to drive your van? Wouldn't it be fun to take a trip somewhere in the van?" Michael jabbered.

"Four way flashers, no, no, and I don't think so," Brian replied to the string of questions.

"You're in a shitty mood today," Michael reacted. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. I'm just peachy."

"Fuck, Brian, I thought we were going to spend some time together and you've hardly said ten words to me since I arrived at the loft. Something's going on."


"Is it that Justin guy? Where was he today? Is that what the problem is?"

"Just shut the fuck up about Justin."

"So it is Justin," Michael said surmising from Brian's reaction that Justin must be the source of Brian's foul mood."

"It's not Justin," Brian stated. He wished Michael would just give up.

"What did he do?"

Brian groaned. He did not want to discuss Justin with Michael. "When is your mother having another family dinner?" he asked hoping to change the subject.

"She isn't. She's waiting for you to have it."


"Don't you want to have the dinner now?"

"I don't think I can pull it off."

"I thought this Justin was going to help you do it," Michael said. He wondered what had happened between these two if Justin was no longer willing to help with the dinner.

"He's going to be busy with his art," Brian said hoping Michael would leave it at that.

"Too busy to give you a few hours on one day? Some friend!"

"He is a friend and he is busy."

Michael stared at his friend who maneuvered the van into its parking space. "You might as well tell me what he did," Michael said.

"He didn't do anything," Brian said lowering the lift so he could get out of the van.

"Then where is he? Why won't he help you?"

"I drove him away."

"You fucking did what?"

"You heard me."

"Why the fuck would you do that? I could tell the guy really cared about you."

"You could?" Brian asked wondering that it would be so obvious to Michael.


"He's mad at me. He won't answer my calls or e-mails."

"Why don't you go see him? He lives one floor down from you, doesn't he?"

"He won't talk to me."

"When did all this happen?"


"He should have had a little time to cool off by now. Why don't you try again?"

"I don't think it will do any good," Brian said as they made their way into the building. They got on the elevator.

"Should I push three or four?" Michael asked.

Brian hesitated for a split second and then barked out, "Four!"


Justin finished up the abstract he was doing. It was dark and mean looking … just like Brian. That was how he felt about the asshole at the moment. He mixed what he could only describe as a cold red and smiled at the concoction. It was perfect. He practically threw a blob of it at the painting. It landed slightly off center. Perfect, Justin thought. It represented Brian's cold, uncaring heart.

Justin wiped his hands and started to clean up the paints and brushes he had used. Every few seconds he glanced at the painting. He really liked the effect and the heart was a nice touch.

However, he knew he didn't really feel that way about Brian. He had tried to do everything for Brian, and if he was truthful, he had probably overdone it. The strain of being on duty twenty-four hours a day, and then being cheerful all the time on top of that had begun to wear on him too. If he had been in his usual frame of mind, he knew now that Brian's words wouldn't have upset him so much. But it had felt good to get all the anger and hurt out in the painting. Maybe now he could come to terms with what Brian had said and done, and his own reaction to it, or maybe that should be his own melodramatic over-reaction to it.

Justin was drying the last of his brushes when he heard someone pounding on his door. He frowned, wondering who it could be. No one had buzzed. He wondered who could have managed to get to his door through some other means.

"Brian," he thought, his hopes soaring. He quickly opened the door only to see Michael standing there. "What do you want?" Justin demanded. Michael wasn't one of his favorite people at the moment.

"I need to talk to you," Michael said walking into the loft as Justin stepped back.

"Oh no! Is something wrong with Brian? What did the doctor say?"

"There's nothing wrong with Brian … any more than already was. But he is in one fucking mood, and you're the cause of it."


"Yes, you. What the fuck did you do to him?"

"I didn't do anything. He told me he didn't want me around … so I left."

"But he does want you around."

"How do you know that?" Justin asked with a frown. "Did he say that?"

"Not exactly, but he was like a bear with a sore paw the whole time we were at the doctor's. He said he's been calling and e-mailing and you won't answer him."

"He could have come down here to talk to me."

"You don't know what Brian was like," Michael said hesitantly. Justin looked at him quizzically. "Brian never went after anybody. The fact that he even vaguely admitted that he misses you is a major about-face for him."

"It is?"

"It is."

"So you think I should just forgive and forget?"

"I think you'll make up your own mind about that, but give him a chance to explain."

"Why did you come here?" Justin asked curious about Michael's role in all this.

"I think we both want the best for Brian. He's had a hard time of it. You came after me and got us back together. I thought I'd return the favor," Michael grinned.

"You think I'm the best for Brian?" Justin had to ask.

"What I think doesn't matter. It's what he thinks. Don't wait too long," Michael said as he walked back to the door.

"Michael," Justin said. Michael turned to face him. "Thanks for doing this."

"I've always said I'm Brian's best friend. I'm just trying to live up to that title."

Justin closed the door behind Michael and decided maybe he should go listen to his messages and read his e-mails.

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