Close to Home II
+ Four +
Justin awoke to the sound of Brian doing his exercises. Brian was banging weights and grunting. Justin was pretty sure that it was all an effort to wake him up. He opened his eyes and through the frosted glass partitions he could see the shape of Brian on the bench pressing weights.
Justin closed his eyes again and thought back to that phone call last night, the one from Michael Novotny. He had been surprised that Michael had finally called. It had only taken him a week to make that decision. Justin knew that his role in all this was going to come out, but there was nothing he could do about it. Brian would either be happy he had contacted Michael or he would be pissed. It would probably depend on how Brian's meeting with Michael went. He would know by tonight.
Justin opened his eyes and focused on Brian's shadow through the partition. He wondered if Brian had given any thought to his suggestion about going back to work at the office at Ryder. He had planted the seeds. He wondered if they would take root. He hoped that they would. He wanted Brian to have a good life, a full life, and that meant getting out in the world, not staying locked in the loft all the time. Going back to work at the office could be that first step to a new life. There was nothing more he could do about it. It was up to Brian now.
Thinking over their conversation last night, Justin vaguely remembered Brian starting to say something about their living arrangements, but then the phone had rung. He wondered what Brian was going to say. It would be so much easier if the loft had more privacy, if they had a separate bedroom where he could close the door and sleep while Brian rattled around with his weights or entertained guests. But it was a fact of life that this was where Brian lived and there was next to no privacy.
Justin groaned and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He needed to get up and go to his own loft before Michael arrived. He stood up and scratched his balls. As he went into the bathroom to piss, he felt Brian's eyes on him. But he said nothing, just kept moving. He was not ready to talk yet. Maybe after he splashed some water on his face he would be more communicative, but he doubted it. He just wasn't a morning person. He wanted a couple more hours of sleep. That's all there was to it.
When Justin came out of the bathroom he gathered up his clothes and threw on enough to get him down to his apartment. He stepped down from the bedroom and saw Brian drinking one of those God awful protein guava juice drinks that he was known to imbibe in the morning. Justin wanted to throw up as he looked at the foul concoction.
"I'm going home," Justin muttered as he passed by.
"And a cheery good morning to you too," Brian snarked.
Justin growled and kept going. "Let me know how your visit with Michael goes."
"If he shows up."
"You don't think he will?" Justin asked turning back to look at Brian.
"Let's just say that I'm not getting my hopes up. It's only been two years since I last saw him. We can probably pick right up where we left off," Brian said sarcastically.
"At least give him the benefit of the doubt."
"I don't think I can stand your overwhelming optimism first thing in the morning," Brian said with his tongue in cheek.
"Fuck off, asshole," Justin retorted as he headed out the door.
Brian chuckled and then his face sobered. He didn't know what to expect from this visit with Michael. He didn't know if Michael would be pissed at him for having been driven away by Brian's tactics in the hospital. Michael might hate him for what he had done and be coming by to tell him off. Brian wasn't even sure how he felt about Michael anymore. He was a little ambivalent about their relationship. He knew on some level that he had always hoped Michael would try to get in touch with him when he got out of the hospital. But so much time had gone by. He wondered what had precipitated Michael's call. He should find out in a few minutes.
Brian logged on to his computer and decided to leave an e-mail for Justin. He thought for several minutes trying to decide what he wanted to say. Finally he started typing.
I know I was a bit of an asshole as you so graciously labeled me before you left. Thanks for staying with me last night and leaving before Michael arrived. I know you want us to have privacy, and that's probably a good thing since I really don't know what to expect from this visit.
Michael and his family were very important to me when I was younger. I have missed them, but I've refused to think about it for such a long time now. I guess I'm nervous about what Michael has to say to me. I would hate for him to tell me to fuck off, and then just leave.
You know, there are a lot of things that I'm afraid of. I'm just beginning to realize that. This meeting with Michael is one of them. Don't they say that fear of the unknown is the most common. That's what I have. Fear of the unknown Novotny factor has me quaking in my chair. I know I'm rambling, but it's time for Michael to be here and he isn't.
I wonder if he's not going to come at all. I want to know why he called. I want to settle a few things. I don't know what I'll do if he doesn't show up. Shit! Am I pathetic or what?
I hope you have a few more hours of sleep. Maybe you'll come cheer me up when you wake up. I might need some TLC. Michael's already five minutes late. Shit!
I don't know what else to say. I'm just trying to use up time until Michael gets here, if he comes at all. The buzzer! Gotta go, Sunshine. Talk to you later.
Brian buzzed Michael up without saying anything. He thought their first words should be face to face. He pulled back the loft door hearing the elevator start its ascent. Brian could feel his heart racing and his breath becoming somewhat ragged. He was hyperventilating. Jesus Christ! He needed to get a grip.
Brian tried to catch his breath. He couldn't believe how much this meeting meant to him. He had to appear cool, calm and collected. He couldn't let Michael see his trepidation. He had to find out what the man wanted after all this time. If he wanted to be friends again, that was one thing. But if he wanted something else and couldn't care less about Brian as a friend, then Brian didn't want to betray his feelings. Brian never wanted to give away what he was feeling.
The elevator stopped and the gate was pushed up. Brian stayed on his side of the loft door but looked out at the man who emerged from the lift. It was Michael looking like he always looked, Big Q T-shirt and jeans, dark eyes and a goofy smile. His hair was different but it looked good on him.
"Brian," Michael said with his smile getting even bigger.
"Mikey," Brian breathed in response.
Brian wheeled his chair back so that Michael could come in. Michael looked like he might have wanted to come closer, maybe give Brian a hug, but he hesitated and the moment was lost. Michael looked around the loft.
"Things haven't changed too much," he said.
"Not in the loft," Brian said cryptically.
"It it's good to see you again," Michael said staring at Brian.
"It's been a long time." Brian hoped that that didn't sound like an accusation. He didn't mean it that way.
"Yeah, too long."
"What prompted you to call?"
"Blond guy, about my height, read me the riot act."
"You know who I'm talking about, don't you?" Michael asked with a frown.
"Did did he tell you that I wanted to see you?"
"No, he didn't say that. Did you do you want to see me?" Michael asked unsure what was going on with this guy Justin.
"I'm always glad to see you, Michael," Brian said trying to keep his answer non-committal but not too negative.
"Like you were in the hospital?" Michael had to ask.
"That that was a bad time for me," Brian said softly.
"It was a fucking bad time for all of us!"
Brian grimaced. Here it comes, Brian thought. Now he's going to tell me off and walk out. They stared at each other neither wanting to break the silence, neither knowing how to break the stalemate.
"Why did you drive us all away?" Michael finally asked.
He wasn't yelling. He hadn't walked out. He sounded like he really wanted an answer to that question. "I couldn't stand it anymore," Brian almost whispered his reply.
"Stand what?" Michael demanded. "Stand us? Stand the hospital? Stand people caring about you? Stand me?" The hurt in Michael's voice was obvious.
"All of the above," Brian said sadly. "I couldn't stand anything. I hated myself, hated what I had become, hated that fucking hospital, and the futility of it all. I couldn't face one more sympathetic face, one more fucking day!"
"We cared about you," Michael said in an accusatory tone. "We all did our best to help you, to make it easier, and you locked us out."
Brian shook his head. "Don't you understand that nothing could have made it easier? I didn't want it to be easier. I just wanted it to to be over. I should have fucking died in that accident. It would have made much more sense."
"Well, fuck you! You didn't fucking die. You fucking lived, and you were still our friend. Or we thought you were until you refused to see us."
"I wasn't your friend then. I wasn't myself. I wasn't anything."
"You'll always be Brian fucking Kinney and I will always love you, you big asshole."
"Mikey," Brian croaked in a strangled voice.
Suddenly Michael had a hold of Brian and they were hugging and kissing and everything suddenly seemed like it used to almost.
"I love you, Brian," Michael said with tears in his eyes.
"You too. Always have, always will."
Michael stepped away and wiped at his eyes. Brian took a deep breath and tried to steady his pounding heart.
"We're a couple of blithering idiots," Michael said.
They both chuckled at the reference.
"Speaking of lesbos," Michael said, "I hear you're a father."
"Have you kept in touch with Mel and Linds?" Brian asked surprised. They had never mentioned it.
"No, haven't seen them in ages. Justin mentioned that you were a father, and I kind of assumed that it would be Lindsay," Michael explained.
"Don't think I could find anyone else to impregnate?" Brian smirked.
Michael looked at Brian and glanced at the chair. The direction of Michael's eyes was not lost on Brian and he shuddered involuntarily. "You can always find someone, Brian," Michael stated. "You could always have your pick male or female. Nobody doubts that."
"Don't fucking lie," Brian reacted. "Those days are long gone."
"If they are, then who's this Justin?"
Brian thought about that before he answered. "That's kind of hard to explain. He lives in the loft below this one." Michael's eyebrows went up at that statement. "He we he has been coming up here a lot lately. I like him."
"I'd say he likes you too, if he went to all the trouble to track me down for you."
"I didn't ask him to," Brian said feeling the need to make that clear.
"He couldn't believe that your best friend would abandon you."
Brian looked up startled. "He said that to you?" Michael nodded. "I'm going to have to talk to that boy."
They looked at each other for a minute not sure where to go with this reunion. "Would you like some coffee?" Brian asked. "I could make a pot."
"Sure," Michael said with a grin. He always was so easy.
"Have you got any pictures of your son?" Michael asked. "I'd like to see if he looks like his dad," he teased.
"Have a seat. I'll put the coffee on and then you can have your fill of Gus pictures."
"Gus? Is that his name?" Michael asked sitting down on the sofa.
"That's his name," Brian replied. "Good butch name, don't you think?"
"The other choice was Abraham," Brian said as he finished filling the coffee pot and switched it on.
"No shit! I'm glad you chose Gus." Michael smiled mischievously at Brian as Brian came over to the living room.
"That was Justin's choice." Michael was surprised that Justin would have had any part in the naming of the child. He'd have to find out more about this before he left. Brian hesitated for a moment. "Michael, I'm glad you came today, for whatever reason."
"I'm glad I did too. Now where's those pictures?"
Brian brought out the little album of pictures that Lindsay had given him. Suddenly he was glad to have them and have someone to share them with. When the coffee was ready, Michael helped Brian bring it over to the sofa and they sipped it as they talked. Brian found out that Debbie and Vic were both doing okay. Vic seemed to be stronger lately although they had thought he might die not so long ago.
"I'd love to see Vic again," Brian said. Vic had been his mentor on and off through his teen years. Vic had worked in New York when Brian had first met him, but he had taken Michael and Brian under his wing whenever he was home for a visit. "And Debbie too," Brian added. The woman had been more of a mother to him than the warden ever had.
"They'd love to see you too," Michael said.
"Even after the way I treated them?"
"We were upset when you shut us out. We tried to see you so many times, and then you left the hospital and we didn't know where you were. They wouldn't give us any information."
"I told them not to," Brian admitted.
"Where did you go? I called here and came over several times, but there was never anyone here. I thought you had moved away."
"I went to a convalescent hospital. They taught me exercises and how to live in this fucking thing," Brian said smacking the side of his wheelchair. "If you can call it living."
"You look pretty alive to me."
"Do I? Until until recently I would have argued that with you."
"And what happened recently to change that?" Michael asked.
Brian wasn't sure how much he should reveal, but he knew Justin was in his life for as long as the young man chose to stay there. "Justin," was all Brian said.
"Are you going to tell me who he is? Is he your neighbor or your boyfriend?"
"I'm not sure what he is," Brian answered truthfully. "He is a persistent little twat, and and I like having him around."
"So he is your boyfriend?"
"In an unconventional, non-defined kind of way I guess he is," Brian admitted. He wondered what Justin would say if he knew Brian had just told that to Michael.
"You're smiling," Michael told him. "Every time you mention Justin you smile."
"Do I? He's made such a difference in my life in the few short weeks I've known him. He's given me a reason to care about living."
"More than Gus has?"
"I wouldn't have been at Gus' birth if Justin hadn't forced the issue in his own unique way."
"I'll have to get to know this Justin," Michael said with a grin.
"I'd like that, Mikey, if you want to stick around in my life," Brian said staring into Michael's eyes.
Michael knew that was a question. "I never wanted to be out of your life, Brian," he said softly.
"So what have you been doing since I last saw you. Still working at the Big Q?"
"I'm proud to say that I told them to fuck off. I have my own business, a comic book store," Michael said proudly.
"A comic store!" Brian snorted. "Jesus, Mikey, are you ever going to grow up?"
"No, asshole. I'm going to be like Peter Pan, and stay young forever, and read comics forever."
"Remember that pathetic Captain Astro club that we started?" Brian asked. Now he knew why Justin had been asking all those questions.
"Yeah, the founder and the only other member," Michael grinned pointing to each of them.
"And have you found someone?" Brian asked. He hoped Michael was happy, happier than he had been until he had found Justin.
"His name's Ben. He's a professor at Carnegie-Mellon."
"Wow! Mikey has a professor. You always hated school."
"Ironic, isn't it?" Michael chuckled.
"Are any of the others still around?" Brian asked. He hated to have Michael know that he was still interested in Temmett and their pathetic lives.
"You mean Ted and Emmett?" Michael asked with a laugh.
"The very ones."
"They dated for awhile," Michael said and waited for Brian's reaction.
"Well, fuck me!" Brian reacted. "And what happened?"
"They finally came to their senses and realized they made better friends than lovers."
"That must have been a relief for everyone." Brian shuddered at the thought of the two of them together.
"It was," Michael laughed. "Ted's still at Wertschafter's and Emmett's trying to start up a party planning business with Uncle Vic."
"Emmett still works at Torso though, until he can get enough business to do the party stuff full time."
"And do you make a good living off the comic store?" Brian asked.
"I'm okay. It was tricky at first. I took over Buzzy's old place when he retired to Florida."
"That's where we were supposed to go," Brian said somewhat wistfully. "Two old queens living out their days in West Palm."
"Yeah, lots of things."
"I should probably get going," Michael said looking at his watch. "Uncle Vic's looking after the store until lunch time. I better get back."
Michael started towards the door, Brian trailing behind in his wheelchair.
"Michael," Brian said as his friend pulled open the loft door. "Thanks for calling and coming today. It was nice, catching up."
"Yeah, it was."
Michael buzzed for the elevator. "You know," he said turning back to face Brian, "we could do this every once in a while, if if you wanted to."
"I'd like that," Brian replied. Michael's smile was enormous.
"I'd like that too. In fact, Ma's having a family dinner next week. You remember those, don't you?" Brian nodded. "Why don't you come? Ma would love to see you, and so would everybody else. You could bring Justin, and Gus, and maybe the Munchers."
"I I don't know," Brian said thinking about the steps up to Debbie's front door. He was not going to be carried in like some fucking invalid, even if that was what he was. Brian saw the look of disappointment on Michael's face.
"It's not because I don't want to come. It's just that your mother's house isn't wheelchair friendly."
"Oh," Michael said. "I never thought about that. Let me see what I can do."
"Don't don't worry about it," Brian said quickly. "I'd like it if you came by again though."
"Count on it," Michael said with a smile as he pulled down the gate of the elevator.
Brian watched him disappear from view and then went back inside the loft closing the door behind him. He had a lot to think about and then there was a certain blond who needed a good talking to.
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