Close to Home II

+ Two +

Justin stood outside the comic book shop. It was kind of a rundown neighborhood. The store sure didn't look like much. He wondered how anybody could make a living from a place like this.

Slowly Justin opened the door to the store. There were a couple of kids looking at bins of comic books. A man about Justin's height with dark hair and dark eyes was behind the counter. He was talking to a customer that seemed to be buying something. Justin was surprised that there were that many customers in the small store.

The man behind the counter glanced up when Justin entered. He gave a little smile of welcome. He had a pleasant face. He wondered if that was Michael Novotny.

Justin made his way over to a rack of comics. He began looking at them and turning the rack. All the while his attention was really on the man behind the counter. He had googled Michael Novotny and had come up with this business. He had trouble believing Brian's best friend would run a comic book store, but this seemed the most likely of the results he had found.

The customer left and the two boys took their selected comics over to the man behind the counter. As the man rang up the sale he kept glancing over at Justin. Justin began to wonder if he was making the man nervous, or if the man was making him nervous. He was beginning to wonder if trying to find Brian's best friend was such a good idea. This man certainly wasn't what he had expected.

Finally the boys left and the store was empty except for the two of them. The dark haired man came out from behind the counter and approached Justin.

"Can I help you find something?" he asked in a soft voice.

"I'm not sure," Justin said unsure what to say to this man that might be Brian's best friend from so long ago.

"Well, if you tell me what you're interested in, maybe I can help," Michael suggested.

Justin stared into the brown eyes. This man seemed like a kind man. "Brian Kinney," Justin said suddenly.

"What?" Michael said obviously taken by surprise. "What did you say?"

"I said 'Brian Kinney'," Justin repeated.

"You know Brian?" Michael asked, his eyes getting very large.

"Yes, I do. Are you Michael Novotny?"

"Yes, I'm Michael," Michael said with a strange look on his face. "How do you know Brian? And what the fuck do you want?"

"I have gotten to know Brian very well over the last few weeks. He mentioned that you two used to be best friends." Justin watched Michael's reaction. Michael blinked like Justin's words had hurt him somewhere deep inside.

"Yeah," he sort of sighed, "we used to be."

"What happened?"

"If you know Brian, then you know what happened," Michael said frowning at Justin.

"You mean the wheelchair?"

"Yeah, and how it changed Brian."

"Would you expect it to do anything other than change him?" Justin asked. It sounded like Michael was blaming this all on Brian. Justin didn't like that one little bit.

"You don't understand," Michael said shaking his head.

"That's why I'm here," Justin stated, "to understand. I want to know why you abandoned your friend."

"Abandoned! Fuck! I didn't abandon him. He refused to see me. He drove us all away. How could we remain friends when he wouldn't fucking talk to me or answer my calls or let me into the hospital?"

"He got out of the hospital eventually," Justin said flatly. He tried to keep his voice level and not sound too accusatory. "Did you try to see him then?"

"Brian was in the hospital for a long time," Michael said slowly. "I don't know when he got out. I guess I just gave up after a while."

"What kind of best friend gives up?" Justin demanded.

"He didn't want anything to do with us," Michael tried to explain. "It wasn't like I had a choice."

"You did have a choice. I can't believe that a best friend would just walk away from their co-called 'best friend' in the hospital who had been in a terrible accident and was confined to a wheelchair and had no one else to rely on. I wouldn't call that being a best friend! Not by any stretch of my fucking imagination."

Justin was about to walk out when Michael caught his arm. "You don't understand," Michael said.

"And just what do you think I don't understand?"

"That Brian was … is a very proud man. He didn't want us to see him crippled and confined to a wheelchair."

"So you left him alone for his own good … to preserve his pride? Unfuckingbelievable!" Justin said in amazement.

"It was what Brian wanted," Michael said looking at the floor. He couldn't stand the look of disgust on this guy's face, maybe because he knew he was in the wrong in the way he had treated Brian. Michael had wanted to be Brian's friend, and he did regret walking away from the man.

"I can believe that was what Brian wanted at the time, but it's almost three years since that accident. Didn't you ever wonder what happened to Brian?"

"Of course I did! I'm not heartless."

"Sounds pretty heartless to me. Couldn't you pick up the fucking phone? Or walk over to the loft on your two good legs?"

"Brian's still at the loft?" Michael asked the surprise evident on his face.

"Where did you think he'd be?"

"I … I don't know. I guess I thought he would be in a … facility of some sort."

Justin made a face of disgust. "Just because his legs don't work doesn't mean that he's a vegetable. He's still a fucking human being. He's still Brian."

Michael studied Justin's unforgiving face. He knew he had done the wrong thing in following Brian's wishes, but he hadn't been able to do anything else. And … it had been easier to walk away, if he was truthful to himself. "Is … is he all right?" Michael asked in a small voice.

"He's still in that fucking wheelchair, and he always will be. But…" Justin paused for effect, "… he's alive, has a job, a new son."

"A son?"

"Yes, his name's Gus."

"Holy shit!" Michael said with a big grin. "Brian's a father." He shook his head in disbelief. "Is he married?" Michael asked as the thought struck him.

"No, he's not married. He's still gay," Justin said slowly. "Did you think being in a wheelchair turned him straight or something?"

"No, no, it's just that I couldn't imagine how he would have a son … under the circumstances."

"Maybe you should discuss that with him."

"Do you think he would talk to me?" Michael asked.

Justin heard the hope in Michael's voice. He suddenly felt slightly sorry for Michael, but the man had brought this situation on himself by turning away from his best friend in his time of need. "Truthfully I don't know," Justin admitted.

"He doesn't know you're here, does he?" Michael asked.


"So he doesn't want to see me?" Michael asked tentatively.

"I just thought I needed to see who he still calls his best friend."

"He calls me that?" Michael said with a smile.

"Yeah," Justin said. That was sort of what Brian had said.

"Are you building this into something it isn't?" Michael asked warily.

"I just thought you should know that Brian's still around. I know that he won't contact you, but I thought maybe…" Justin let his voice trail off.

"You want me to call him?"

"Only if you want to."

"I … I don't know. It's been so long."

"Yeah, it's been a long time. It's up to you now." Justin turned to leave.

"But … I … can't you tell me more about Brian?"

"I've probably told you more than I should. It's your move now," Justin said and walked out the door. As he closed it behind him, he hoped he had done the right thing in hunting down this man. Brian might not see it that way, but he wanted Brian to have his life back, to have a normal life with friends and family. He hoped this would work out for the best.


When Justin arrived at the loft that night Brian was working on something on the computer.

"Hey," Brian said as Justin came in.


"Where have you been all afternoon? I left you a couple of e-mails and I even called," Brian said.

"Missed me that much, did you?" Justin grinned. He was always pleased when Brian needed him or missed him or said that he wanted him around.

"Just wondered where you were," Brian said nonchalantly. He had actually been a little worried. "I … like having you with me all the time," Brian admitted.

"That just earned you lasagna and Greek salad."

"Sounds delicious," Brian said with only a slight hesitation.

"I picked up takeout from Luigi's on the way home. I'll set it out now if you're ready to eat."

Brian finished what he was doing on the computer and then helped open a bottle of chardonnay to have with the dinner. Soon they were eating the food in happy contentment.

"So what were you doing this afternoon?" Brian asked chewing on his lasagna.

Justin debated telling him about his visit with Michael, but if Michael chose not to call, Justin didn't want to get Brian's hopes up for nothing. Or bring the wrath of Brian down on himself for interfering.

"I had some shopping to do," Justin began. "And I ended up going into a comic book shop."

"Comics? I didn't know you were interested in them," Brian said continuing to eat his dinner. Comics didn't seem to ring any bells or attract Brian's attention.

"I'm not particularly, although they are graphic art … of a sort."

"Do I detect a slight trace of snobbism?"

"No, not really. Some of them are really pretty good, at least from the art end of it. I don't know about the stories."

"Didn't you ever read Superman as a kid?"

"Sure, didn't you?"

"Yeah," Brian said. "I even belonged to a comic fan club."

"You didn't?" Justin gasped in amazement. "For what comic?"

"Captain Astro."

"Who's Captain Astro?" Justin asked never having heard of a comic book by that name.

"He's a gay superhero."

"No shit! Gay?"

"Yeah, Michael started a fan club for Captain Astro. He and I were the only members," Brian said shaking his head at the memory. "We got T-shirts and drew Captain Astro on them with marker. We were such nerds back then." Brian smiled slightly as he remembered.

"I think it's kind of sweet that the two of you did that. Do … do you miss Michael?" Justin asked holding his breath as he waited for a reply.

Brian shook his head. "I … guess … I do … sometimes," he admitted slowly.

"You could call him," Justin suggested.

"No, I don't think I can … not after all this time … and the way I treated him."

"Surely if he was your best friend he would forgive you … under the circumstances."

"I don't know. It's too late."

"It's never too late."

"According to who?" Brian asked.

"According to me," Justin replied with a smile. "Why not give Michael a call?"

Brian stared at Justin. "Dinner was delicious," he said.

Justin knew the discussion was over. One thing he had learned about Brian in their short history together - when Brian changed the subject, don't try to go back to the previous one. That was asking for a fight. And that was the last thing he wanted to do right now.

"Are you done?" Justin asked as he stood and started gathering up the dishes.

"Yeah, want some help?" Brian asked adding his plate to the pile.

"I'm good, and I didn't have to cook tonight."

"You know you never have to cook," Brian said stressing the word 'have'. He wanted to make it clear that he wasn't expecting Justin to cook all the time.

"I know how much you love my culinary masterpieces," Justin said with a grin.

"You mean the mega-cal specials you come up with?" Brian teased.

"You love my specials. Seems to me you clean your plate every time."

"I do love your cooking. After years of takeout and eating alone, having you here with me is … not half bad."

Justin snorted. He knew Brian meant that as a compliment. "Not half bad" from Brian meant it was actually very good. It never ceased to amaze him how much trouble Brian had giving compliments about anything. He wondered if that was because he never received compliments as a child. Brian had told him a bit about his family, enough to know that they should be pictured beside the word dysfunctional in the dictionary.

"I'll take that as a compliment," Justin said.

"It was meant that way," Brian replied. He didn't know why he couldn't just straight out tell Justin that he loved his cooking, loved having dinner with him, loved doing anything the young man wanted.

"Why…" Justin began and then thought better of saying anything more.

"What?" Brian asked.

"Nothing, never mind."

"Come on now. We said we were going to be truthful with each other. Tell me what you want to know."

"You won't like it."

"So tell me anyway," Brian said getting annoyed.

"Why do you find it so hard to take the initiative, to say what you mean, when it involves feelings?"

Brian stared straight ahead. He frowned as he thought about Justin's question. "How the fuck should I know?" he finally blurted out.

"See, I knew it would make you mad," Justin said.

"I … I'm not mad," Brian said keeping his voice even. "I don't know the answer to your question."

"I think you do," Justin replied staring at Brian with those unwavering blue eyes.

Brian knew he wasn't going to get out of this lightly. He would have liked to have told Justin to fuck off, and in the past that would have been exactly what he would have done. But somehow in the short space of time that he had known this wonderful and often infuriating man, Brian knew that he could not say that to Justin because he never wanted him to go away. He had come to mean far too much to Brian.

"I … I don't like emotions, feelings. I don't trust them," Brian said hesitantly.

"But you trust me, don't you?" Justin asked.

"Yes, I do."

"Then why do you refuse to tell me what you're feeling?"

"Sometimes I just can't. I don't know how to do it."

"We'll work on it together," Justin said with a smile. He had also learned how far he could push something with Brian and this was about it.

"I'll try," Brian said with a note of hopelessness in his voice.

"That's all I ask. And … I have another reward for my very special student," Justin grinned at him.

"Do you now? And where is this reward?"

"Why it's up in the bedroom."

"And does it involve nakedness and touching and rubbing … things together?" Brian asked with his own grin.

"Have you been reading my mind?" Justin asked batting his baby blues at his lover.

"I don't have to. You have a one track mind." Justin smiled as he sat on Brian's lap and let the man ride them both up to the bedroom. "Sometimes a clear sense of purpose and an unwavering search for fulfillment are misinterpreted for a one track mind," Justin explained on the way up the ramp.

"I didn't say there was anything wrong with a one track mind, especially when it's on the track that yours takes all of the time."

Justin giggled as Brian pulled up by the bed and snaked his hand under the waistband of Justin's jeans. Justin felt his cock respond immediately. He and Brian had worked out the best ways to make love, but he never needed any help in getting started. Brian just had to touch him and he was hard. With Brian it was a bit different but they seemed to have managed very well.

When they lay spent and satisfied on the bed sometime later, Justin rolled over to look at Brian. He was so beautiful, and with the chair not in the picture at the moment, he looked normal and happy. Justin wished it could be like this for Brian all the time.

"Stay tonight?" Brian asked.

"Okay," Justin replied. He liked sleeping with Brian but he didn't like being awakened at the crack of dawn by Brian doing his exercises. He could stand it for this one time. But it seemed that more and more often Brian was asking him to stay. They needed to make some new arrangements if this was going to be what happened every night.

"Go to sleep," Brian said.

"Sure," Justin replied although he wasn't very sleepy. Justin knew how strenuous their coupling was for Brian even though Justin did a lot of the work. He closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.

He had never been happier than these last few weeks with Brian. The man was a handful, and Justin was still learning, but he knew he had very strong feelings for the man, and Brian seemed to return those feelings. They did need to improve their living arrangements though.

And then there was the question of Michael. He wondered if he had made the right decision in seeking out Brian's best friend. Only time would tell if Michael would call. He had done his best to make that happen. Now all he could do was wait.

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