Close to Home II
+ Twelve +
Brian drove his van towards his latest appointment with Dr. Johansen. He was pretty sure everything was fine. He felt great and he had had no more recurrence of the bladder problems. Justin was extremely careful about what they ate, and Brian had decided to be a lot more careful too. This time Justin sat beside him in the van, and Brian was content to have it so.
"Brian," Justin said, "if you hate this van, why don't you get a car? Maybe something sporty?"
"Is that your expert opinion on the subject?" Brian asked sarcastically.
"It was just a suggestion."
"Well, keep your suggestions to yourself."
"Why? What's the problem about a car?"
"Okay, okay," Brian sighed rubbing his hand across his face. "Let's suppose I have a really great car."
"That sounds good," Justin said with a smile.
"What do you picture?"
"How about a Mercedes Kompressor or an Infiniti M45?"
"Christ, you do have expensive tastes. What the fuck kind of house are you going to want?" Brian demanded.
"Only the best. That's all I ask, just the best," Justin chuckled.
"Okay, let's look at the Mercedes. Which model?"
"Oh, the little sports convertible."
"With how many doors?"
"Two, I think. Why?"
"You're me in the chair. You roll up to your little black Kompressor. Tell me what you do."
"I open the door, hoist myself into the driver's seat. The car will be fitted with hand controls."
"Of course. So now you're in the driver's seat. What next?"
"I close the door and drive happily away," Justin said smugly.
"Really. Didn't you forget something?"
"I I don't think so."
"Where's your wheelchair?"
"Oh, shit, it's still back where I got in the car."
"Exactly. So go back to when you hoist yourself into the driver's seat. What are you going to do with the chair?"
"Um put it in the back seat."
"There is no door to put it through. How are you going to get it in there?"
"If it's a convertible, I could lift it up and drop it in," Justin said with a grin.
"Right, if the top's down. That will be great in January too."
"Oh. Won't it squeeze through between the back of the seat and the door?"
"It's possible, but it's a struggle. I've tried it, but it tends to scratch the car or the chair."
Justin groaned inwardly. Trust Brian to want everything perfect. "Well, what about the Infiniti?"
"Every car with four doors is basically the same. You get in the front seat. How do you get the chair into the back?"
"If I open the back door before I get in "
"The door's in the way."
"So there's no way to do it?"
"Not that I know of."
"Unless, of course, you take me with you."
Brian snorted. "Now that's the best reason I've heard for getting a car." Justin smiled at him. "But you can see why I ended up with this van. I was alone and I needed to be able to travel on my own with no help and no bother, and I could afford the van."
"Okay, I get it," Justin said deflated. He thought for a moment and then brightened up. "There's a Saturn car, the Ion, I think it is. It has back doors that open the opposite way."
"It does?" Brian frowned.
"That would work, wouldn't it?"
"Maybe," Brian said.
"Can we check it out?"
"Are you trying to bankrupt me? Cars and houses and dinner parties and God knows what else?"
Justin giggled. "You have all that money. You might as well enjoy it."
"And you're going to see that that happens?"
"Bien sur, monsieur."
"French! I am so fucked."
"Like Morticia Addams?"
"Oh fuck, yes. I loved that show."
"Me too. It was strangely wicked and exciting."
"You are a bad influence," Brian said.
"I'm just trying to spice up your life."
"Let's save that till we get done with Dr. Johansen," Brian said as he pulled into the handicapped space at the front door of the building."
"You do get great parking spaces with the gimpmobile."
"Yeah, one of the perks of useless legs."
"Let's go," Justin said. "We can look at cars when you're done."
Brian groaned for effect as he wheeled himself off the lift of the van. It might be interesting to check out the Ion and see what it was like.
Several hours later Brian and Justin returned to Brian's loft. Brian had a clean bill of health from Dr. Johansen and the papers for his new Ion that should be delivered in about six weeks. He shook his head as he set the papers on his desk.
He wasn't sure exactly what Justin did to him, but he seemed to have no self control where it came to his blond lover. Justin's enthusiasm was infectious. He could see the fun in almost anything, and he was not above baiting or tricking or cajoling Brian into trying anything. And the strange part was that Brian always enjoyed whatever Justin suggested. He had locked himself away in the loft for so long, and now the whole world seemed available to him once again. At least that's what Justin made him believe.
"Have you talked to your mother about possible houses or apartments?" Brian asked.
"Maybe we should get another realtor."
"Why?" Brian asked frowning. He had a sneaking suspicion but he wanted to be sure.
"She she's very busy," Justin said looking away.
"Too busy to earn a sure commission and commissions off both our places as well?"
"She doesn't want you hanging around a cripple, does she?"
"Will you stop calling yourself that!"
"I only use it when I'm made to feel like one."
"She has some problems with us being together," Justin conceded.
"She hasn't fucking met me, so it has to be the chair."
"She just thinks I should take things slower."
"Like ten years from now."
"She's not a bad person."
"Of course not. She's your mother, and she's perfect. I have such a fucking headache. I'm going to lie down."
Brian wheeled himself up to the bedroom and hoisted himself onto the bed. He did have a headache. All the joy of a clean bill of health and buying a sleek new car was lost with this latest revelation. Brian knew Justin was close to his mother, and he could only imagine what her disapproval of their relationship would mean to him. He wondered if their days might be numbered. He rubbed his temples, trying to make the throbs of doubt dissipate.
"Here," Justin said standing above Brian.
Brian opened his eyes to see Justin standing there holding out his hand containing some extra strength Excedrin. Brian pushed the hand away. "Fuck off!" he barked.
"Take the damn things. I don't want to put up with your moaning and groaning."
Brian grabbed the pills, threw them in his mouth and took a swig of water from the bottle on the nightstand. "Happy?" he asked with a glare.
"Ecstatic," Justin snapped. Then he softened. "Brian, just because my mother doesn't want the job of finding us a place, doesn't mean that we can't find one. There have to be at least a thousand other realtors in Pittsburgh."
"Come on. I'll go look in the Yellow Pages right now."
"Sure, Pollyanna, you go right ahead."
"You know, sometimes I just want to wring your neck. You are so pissy and exasperating!"
Justin stomped down the ramp and went to find the fucking phone book. He wondered why he bothered. It took next to nothing to put Brian into one of his moods. Maybe this relationship crap wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He grabbed the Yellow Pages and started thumbing through the real estate section.
He knew he didn't want anyone except his mother to find them a place. He wanted her to be happy for him, happy that he had found someone to love most of the time. He glared up at the partitions that hid Brian from view. He wanted his mother to accept his choice in a partner. Even if Brian drove him nuts there was no one else he wanted to be with. There was no one else that he wanted to share his life with. He didn't think there ever would be anyone for him except the annoying, petulant, sexy, funny, smart asshole up there in the bed. He slammed the phone book shut.
"Call her," Brian said from the bedroom.
"Who?" Justin asked.
"Your mother. You know you don't want any other realtor."
And clairvoyant, Justin thought with a little snort. "What makes you think that?"
Justin chuckled. "I was just sitting here thinking about what an annoying asshole you are, and then you go and say something like that."
"Proved your point?"
"But what good will it do to call her?"
"Invite her over. She's never met me. Maybe I can charm her pants off."
"Shit, Brian! Stay out of my mother's pants."
"Fuck, don't put that image in my aching head. I'll be scarred for life."
"You really want me to call her?"
"Yes. Invite her for dinner if you want to cook."
"If I invite her for dinner you're getting out of that bed and helping. That is, if she'll even come."
"Give it a try, and I'll help you. I'm starting to feel better."
Justin sighed. He wanted his mother to come over and he wanted her to look for a house for them. He wanted her to meet Brian and like him. He wanted her acceptance. But he didn't want her to turn him down. He wasn't sure he could stand that.
"Go on. Call. I'll kiss it all better if she refuses," Brian called.
"Asshole!" Justin snorted.
"Call," Brian said sternly.
Justin picked up the phone and held his breath as he dialed.
Two hours later Justin turned down the roast and vegetables that were just about done. His mother should be there already, but she wasn't. When Justin had called and practically begged her to come to dinner, she had given in. Now that the agreed upon time had come and gone Justin began to wonder if she had merely said yes to get him off her back. She must have changed her mind and decided to stay away.
"She's only fifteen minutes late," Brian said. He sat on the sofa having decided to vacate his chair for a bit and try to appear normal when Mrs. Taylor arrived.
"She's not coming," Justin said shaking his head.
"I used to be late for everything."
"You're not my fucking mother."
"She's very punctual. She would be on time, if she was coming."
"If she doesn't come," Brian said philosophically, "there'll be more roast for each of us."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" Justin glared at him.
"I was hoping," Brian said with that little grin.
"Hmmpfff," Justin replied.
"Come here and I'll make you feel better," Brian said with that husky voice.
Justin took a step towards Brian when the buzzer went off indicating someone was at the front door.
"She's here," Justin said with a grin forgetting all about Brian's promise. He ran to the intercom to buzz her in. "Top floor," he said. "Are you ready for this?" he asked looking over to Brian.
"As ready as I'm going to be." Brian felt that little twist of uncertainty in the pit of his stomach.
Justin pulled back the loft door as the elevator came into view. He could see his mother's somewhat apprehensive face staring at him through the grate.
"Hi, mom," he called and went out to lift the gate and give her a kiss. "I didn't think you were coming."
"Hi, sweetheart. I was showing a house and the couple kept wanting to go back for one more look." Jennifer Taylor kissed his cheek and glanced nervously towards the open door.
"Did you sell it?"
"They're thinking about it."
"Come on in, mom, and meet Brian."
"Sure," she said plastering on some semblance of a smile.
They walked into the loft. Brian looked at them from the sofa. "Hello, Mrs. Taylor. You'll excuse me if I don't get up."
"Of course," she said flustered by Brian's statement. Was he putting her on? Was he being sarcastic? He was a handsome devil. Devil probably being the operative word. She could see the wheelchair parked at the end of the sofa where Brian sat.
"Mom, why don't you have a seat in the living room? Would you like a glass of wine?"
"Love one, honey," Jennifer said as she made her way slowly towards Brian.
Brian noted her nervousness. It matched his own. He patted the sofa cushion next to him and she sat down at the other end leaving as much room between them as she could.
"I don't bite," Brian said.
"I'm sure," Jennifer replied with a nervous chuckle.
Brian thought she didn't seem sure about that at all. "So, do you think you could sell this place for me?" he asked having had enough of the useless small talk.
"It's a lovely loft, very modern and slick."
"Don't you mean sleek?" Brian asked.
She had the good grace to blush. "Yes, of course."
"Want to list it?"
Justin appeared with three glasses of wine. He handed one to his mother who took it and drank greedily. She hoped it would steady her nerves. This man her son had found was certainly different, and very disconcerting.
"I told Brian that you preferred not to look for a house for us," Justin said sitting down.
"I I think you might be better with someone else," she said hoping that sounded like a reasonable explanation for her reticence.
"Someone we don't know and can't trust?" Brian asked sarcastically.
"Of course not," she said annoyed at his tone.
Justin stood up. "Dinner's ready. Why don't we eat before the meat turns to shoe leather?"
"Why don't we?" Jennifer agreed. Anything to get off this subject. "Can I help you?" she asked Justin.
He nodded and led her over to the kitchen. He pulled the roast out of the oven and turned to find his mother staring at Brian who was hoisting himself off the couch and into his chair.
"You could get the vegetables out for me," Justin said handing her a hot pad.
Jennifer dragged her eyes away from Brian. How could her son saddle himself with a cripple, even if he was a handsome cripple? This was happening way too fast. Justin obviously didn't understand what he was getting into. She had to do something before it was too late.
"It's too late," Justin said like he had read her mind. "I love him, and we're going to be together no matter what you think about it. I'd rather have your approval, but quite frankly I don't need it."
"Then why did you invite me here?"
"It was Brian's idea."
"He wants me to be happy, mom. He thought maybe if you met him you might think differently about him."
"He's different all right," Jennifer said with a sigh as she dished out the vegetables while Justin carved some meat. She was trying to ignore the handicap but Brian was so in your face about it. She knew it wasn't politically correct to feel this way, but this was her son's life.
Brian had rolled over to the counter by this point. "Want me to do anything?" he asked.
"Pour some more wine to have with dinner," Justin said with a smile.
Brian rolled back to the living room and picked up Jennifer's glass and his own. He held the stems between his knees as he returned to the table. He set them on the table and turned back to the kitchen. Justin handed him his glass and the open bottle of wine. A look of support and reassurance passed back and forth between the two men. Brian then took the wine to the table in the same way as before and filled each glass.
Jennifer watched all this noting how Brian handled himself. She had also seen the look that passed between them when they were close to each other. She began to realize that her son was very serious about this man and there didn't seem to be much she could do about that.
Dinner progressed with lots of small talk and a bit of joking. Jennifer seemed to relax as the evening wore on. They decided to retire to the living room for coffee. Justin said he would bring it over which left Jennifer to walk with Brian to the other end of the loft. She glanced into the bedroom on the way by. This man certainly had good taste if his loft was any indication, and he had chosen her son. She wished she could be happier about that.
Brian decided to sit on the sofa once again. He managed the exchange without any trouble, pushing the wheelchair around the end of the couch almost out of sight. Jennifer sat down beside Brian.
"I know you don't like the idea of your son being with me," Brian said quietly. Jennifer opened her mouth to protest, but Brian continued before she could formulate her lie. "Don't bother denying it. I told Justin to invite you tonight because I thought I might be able to change your mind about me. I'm not helpless. I don't need Justin to take care of me. I'm perfectly capable of doing that for myself. But I do need him. I need him in my life. And he wants to be here. I hope you can accept that."
Jennifer hesitated. She wanted to tell him that her son would be better off with someone else, but she knew Justin didn't think that. She admired how Brian handled himself and the way he dealt with issues face on. He seemed confident and self-assured, not someone who would depend on her son for everything. Maybe some of her assumptions had been wrong.
Before she could say anything Justin arrived with a tray of coffee. Justin held the tray out to his mother. She took a cup and sipped hers black. Justin extended the tray to Brian who took a cup and loaded it with sugar. She watched Justin's face as Brian shoveled in the heaping spoonfuls.
"Diabetes," he mouthed.
"Back off," Brian mouthed back. Then they both grinned.
Jennifer took a deep breath. "So when do you want me to list your lofts and start looking for your new home?"
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