Brian stood outside Debbie's door. He hoped that Justin had gone there after their fight. Otherwise, he would have to explain to Debbie why he was looking for Justin. That was something that he sincerely wished not to have to do.
He grabbed the knob and opened the door. Debbie and Vic were seated at the kitchen table having coffee.
"Brian," Vic said, "good to see you.
Come on in."
"Thanks Vic," Brian replied squeezing the man's shoulder.
"What are you doing here?" Debbie asked, her trouble radar pinging like crazy. Why was Brian there, and without Justin? Something wasn't right.
"Just came to see how things are going," Brian said by way of explanation. He knew now that Justin wasn't there or Debbie would have been all over him like white on rice about why he had hurt the boy.
"We're just hunky dory," Debbie replied. "But you don't look so fucking great." Debbie had noticed the bags under Brian's eyes and that old familiar hung over look.
"I'm fine," Brian lied wishing he could beat a hasty retreat and try to find Justin somewhere else.
"Where's Justin?" Debbie asked pointedly.
"Doing his own thing."
"Oh?" Debbie looked at him very skeptically.
"I better be going, got things to do," Brian said heading for the door.
"Thanks for stopping by," Debbie
said. "Next time I see you you
can tell me why you really came here."
Brian glanced over his shoulder as he went out the door. Debbie knew something was up, but she had let him escape thankfully. Now he had to tackle Jennifer. That must be where Justin was. He wasn't looking forward to her scathing comments any more than he had Debbie's. "Suck it up," he told himself. He had to make things right with Justin.
On the short drive to Jennifer's Brian debated pulling over and simply calling. He would be able to find out immediately by her reaction if Justin was there. If he was she would be either iceberg cold to him or irate. That would also tip Justin off that he was looking for him, and make it that much harder to get him to talk to him if he was still refusing to do so. Justin might even take off.
The best thing was to go to Jennifer's door and throw himself on her mercy. She didn't hate him the way she used to. Maybe he could even get her to help him convince Justin to listen to him.
Brian pulled the Corvette over to the curb. He was a few blocks from Jennifer's. He needed to think of what to say to convince her to let him in to see Justin. As he thought about possible tacks to take with her, something else occurred to him. He pulled out his cell phone and hit Justin's number. Maybe he had had enough time to cool off and would finally talk to him. Then he wouldn't have to talk to Jennifer at all.
He waited as the phone rang, once, twice, three times, four. He was about to turn it off before it went to voicemail again, when he heard a voice say, "Hello?"
"Justin," Brian said quickly.
"Where are you?"
Justin ignored the question. "What do you want?"
"I want to talk to you. I I'm sorry."
"I'd tell you that sorry's bullshit, but you already know that," Justin said wearily.
"No, it's not. I really am
"You got what you want, Brian. Just leave me alone."
Brian knew Justin was about to hang up. "Please, please, Justin, don't hang up," he begged.
"Why shouldn't I?"
"I have to talk to you," Brian said desperately.
"Now you want to talk? Why couldn't you talk to me yesterday?"
"I I don't know. I'm fucked up."
"You're fucked all right. Now
go away. Just leave me alone."
The line went dead. Brian looked at the phone and wanted to scream. Justin wouldn't talk to him. He wouldn't listen. He wouldn't let him explain.
There was nothing else to do but confront Jennifer and make her let him in to see Justin. He started the 'Vette and drove the short distance to Jennifer's condo. He parked in the street and walked slowly up to the door. How was he going to make her let him see Justin?
He rang the bell and waited. Suddenly the door opened and Jennifer said, "Brian?" seemingly totally surprised to see him. Justin must not be there.
"Hi, Jennifer," Brian replied not knowing what else to say.
"What are you doing here?"
He couldn't think of a good excuse. "Justin's not here?" he asked.
"No, what made you think he would
"He said he might stop by and see
you. I needed to find him."
"Is something wrong?" she asked looking more intently at him.
"No, no," Brian replied. "I
just thought he was here, that's all."
"Did you try his cell phone?"
"Yeah, but he must have it turned off or the battery's dead," he lied. "I I better go and let you get back to what you were doing," he said ready to make a hasty retreat.
"Brian," she said as he turned away, "are you sure everything's all
"Sure," he said quickly. "Talk to you later," and he quickly headed back to the car before she could ask him anything more.
He glanced in the rear view mirror as he drove away. He could see Jennifer still standing in the open doorway staring after him. She knew something was up.
Justin wasn't at his mother's and he wasn't at Debbie's. Where would he have gone? Then it hit Brian. He would go to Daphne's. He had even said something about Daphne being willing to take him in. Brian vaguely remembered having dropped Justin off at Daphne's once or twice, but he wasn't exactly sure where her apartment was. Justin had always told him where to go. He drove in the direction that he thought it might be. He thought he recognized some street names and turned the corner. Up the block was the building that he was pretty sure was where Daphne had her apartment. He found a parking space and climbed out of the 'Vette.
He checked the names on the mail boxes and found what he thought was Daphne's. He made his way up the stairs. He paused outside the door bracing himself for facing Justin. He raised his hand and knocked. When no one answered he knocked again.
Suddenly he heard the locks being pulled back. The door opened to reveal a none too happy Daphne staring angrily at him.
"Go away, Brian. He's not
"Where is he?" Brian asked peering into the apartment and wondering if Justin was hidden within.
"He doesn't want to see you."
"Is he in the bedroom?" Brian asked.
"I told you that he isn't here.
He left a few hours ago."
"Where did he go?" Brian asked a look of fear crossing his face.
Daphne's resolve faltered when she saw that look. "I can't tell you," she said firmly.
"Then you know where he is?"
"Brian, just go away. He's very hurt and he doesn't want to have to deal with you right now."
"Tell me where he is, Daphne. I have to talk to him."
"I can't. I promised him."
"Please, Daph. It was all
a big mistake."
"Yes, I screwed everything up like I always do when it comes to relationships."
Daphne heard the pain in his voice. "I can't tell you where he is. I promised him, but come in if you like and tell me what happened."
Brian did not want to discuss what happened with anyone but Justin. However, it seemed that only Daphne knew where Justin was and she wouldn't tell him. Maybe if he told her the whole story she would take pity on him and help him find Justin. He hesitated, debating if he could talk to her about such personal things.
"Come in," she said with some force, taking his arm and pulling him into the apartment. "You are both miserable, so tell me what the fuck happened."
Brian was startled by her vehemence. "I I don't know whether I can " He allowed his voice to drift away.
"You can and you will. Now sit down. I just made some coffee. We're going to have some, and you are going to tell me the whole fucking story. Do I make myself clear?" she demanded.
"Yes ma'am," he said knowing that he was trapped and praying that he could do this.
She poured some coffee and brought him a cup. He took a sip and found it was already sugared. He looked at her quizzically. "How did you know?" he asked.
"Justin tells me everything."
"So what did he tell you about what happened between us?"
"He said that you asked him to leave for a few days and wouldn't explain why."
"I explained," Brian said weakly.
"What? That you wanted some time alone to think. How lame is that!"
"Pretty lame, I guess," Brian admitted shaking his head at his own stupidity.
"He was really afraid, you know."
"Afraid? Afraid of what?" Brian asked.
"Afraid that you didn't want him
anymore. Afraid that you had
found someone else. Afraid that
you were going to start tricking again."
"I wouldn't do that to him," Brian said with a grimace.
"You fucking better not! I
know that you do it raw. You
have to keep him safe, Brian."
Brian stared at her. Jesus, Justin did tell her everything. "I want him safe. I'd never do anything to hurt him."
"You hurt him beyond words when you asked him to leave."
"But that wasn't what I meant to do. That's why I have to find him and explain."
"Why did you do it?" she asked wanting to understand what had been going on in Brian's head when he had asked her best friend to leave. She was very relieved to hear that none of Justin's worries seemed to be true.
Brian ran his fingers through the back of his hair. He looked at her again and instinctively knew that if Justin trusted her so much, it should be safe for him to trust her too. "Did he tell you about the rings?" Brian asked.
Brian glanced at her again. He hadn't told a soul, but obviously Justin had. It had been his friends, not Justin's, that they were keeping it a secret from. "I'm surprised," he said. "It was supposed to be a secret."
"It is a secret. I haven't told anyone."
"Did he tell you how he reacted when I gave them to him?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"That hurt me a lot."
"I can imagine, but
he didn't really mean for it to turn out that
way. You took him by surprise."
"It took both of us by surprise, just like this time."
"What?" Daphne asked frowning at him and trying to understand what he meant.
"That's the reason I asked him to leave."
"What reason? I don't understand
what you mean."
"I wanted some time alone to figure out how to convince him to wear the ring. It's time."
"That was your only reason for asking him to leave?" Brian nodded. Daphne's mouth hung open in amazement. "You want to ask him to go public with your committed relationship? That's why you needed some time alone? I don't get it."
"You know what his reaction was last time. I was afraid that if I didn't ask him the right way he'd do something like throwing up again. And and I don't think I could stand that." Brian shook his head knowing what a mess he had made of everything.
"Brian," Daphne said softly.
"Brian," she repeated when he didn't look at
her. Finally his eyes met
hers. "Is that the truth?"
"I don't lie," he said. How could she think that, when he had laid himself bare in front of her?
"Justin says you don't. But
but, if that was what you wanted to ask him, why couldn't you just
"I told you. I was afraid of his reaction."
"But to ask him to leave. He took it all the wrong way and thought you didn't want him anymore."
"I said I'd go to a hotel," Brian said in defense of himself. "But then he grabbed his stuff and said he was never coming back."
"He doesn't intend to ever go back."
"He said that? Never?"
Daphne nodded. "He was very upset. I've never seen him so despondent."
"He wouldn't do anything crazy, would he?" Brian asked fear clearly showing in his eyes.
"I don't know. I hope not."
"Where is he, Daph? You have to tell me. I have to find him."
Daphne sighed. "You better fucking fix this, if I tell you." She stared at him waiting for him to promise that he would.
"I'll do my best, if
it's not too late."
"Don't say that. I'll tell you what he told me. You have to go get him."
"Where is he?" Brian asked a spark of hope now racing through him.
"He cleared out his bank account and said he was going to
"Dale Dale Martinez."
Daphne could see the wheels turning in Brian's head as he tried to figure out why Justin would be going to
"You got it. Apparently Justin has stayed in touch with him ever since the course. He e-mailed him from here and Dale told him to come for a visit. Justin said he didn't want to be in the same city as you, so he was going."
"I told you he was really upset.
I don't think he's told anyone else, not even his
mother. I think he might decide
to stay there. You have to get
"When did he leave?"
"It was a couple of hours ago. He got a taxi to take him to the airport."
"Do you think he would still be at the airport?"
"It's worth a try," Daphne said.
"I'll do my best. Do you know what airline?"
Daphne thought for a moment. "I think I heard him say something about Liberty Air when he was calling about a flight."
"I'm gone," Brian said getting up. "Thanks for telling me." He gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"You better not make me regret telling you," she called as he quickly ran out the door and back to his car.
He made it to the airport in under half an hour and found the Liberty
Air counter. They listed a flight
He raced to security which looked skeptically at him because he had no luggage or anything else with him. Finally they let him through after a thorough search and a little more of the metal detector wand than Brian cared for. He wanted to ram it up the ass of the scrawny bitch that was wielding it. When they let him go, he ran down the concourse to Gate 26.
His eyes flashed around the seats in the waiting area. There was no sign of Justin. His heart plummeted. He had guessed wrong. Justin must be somewhere else, a different flight or a different airline. It was probably too late to catch him now. Maybe he had already left. Brian felt a tear hover in the corner of his eye. He had failed.
Brian turned dejectedly to leave. Suddenly he felt the hairs on his neck rise up. Justin was nearby. He knew it to the core of his being. He turned back and scanned the concourse. Down the long hall he saw a blond head moving through the people. He held his breath. As the man came closer Brian could see that it truly was Justin sucking on a straw in a soft drink. Brian's heart leaped in his chest. He moved behind a nearby pillar and watched as Justin found a seat in the lounge and continued to suck on his drink.
Brian turned behind the pillar and rested his head against the column thankful that he had found the blond. Now all he had to do was figure out how to get him to stay, how to get him to come back to the loft. He wished he knew what to say to make everything right. He was so bad at this kind of thing. He decided the truth was the only way to go, telling Justin every stupid thing he had been thinking and feeling when he had asked him to leave. Maybe it would be enough.
He felt a hand tug at his sleeve. He yanked his arm away and turned to glare at the mother fucker who had the audacity to interrupt his thoughts. His eyes met Justin's and his heart skipped a beat.
"Are you fucking stalking me?" Justin demanded.
"How did you know that I was here?" Brian asked bewildered.
"I have Kinney radar," Justin said. "The hair on my neck stands up when you are around."
"You too what?" Justin asked.
"The hair on my neck stands up when you're
around. I thought I'd chosen
the wrong flight and was about to leave when I felt
it. You were coming down the
Justin looked at him like he almost didn't believe him. "What do you want, Brian?"
"I need to explain."
"Explain what? I'm leaving. I'll be out of your way permanently so you can trick and be a free agent and do whatever the fuck you want." The hurt in Justin's voice and eyes was very evident.
"I'm sorry, Justin," Brian said sincerely.
"What happened to no apologies, no regrets?" The accusation was clear and the bitterness palpable.
"It's a crock of shit," Brian said vehemently.
"You heard me. Most of that
crap I told you is bullshit. I
realize that now."
"Well, it's too late, Brian. Go away and leave me alone. I don't want anything more to do with you." Justin turned to go back to his seat.
Justin looked back at Brian. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"I mean I'm not going away. I'm going to tell you what happened at the loft, how I'm a fucking pathetic excuse for a partner and how I truly am sorry that I hurt you."
"You're absolutely right," Justin
said. Brian raised his eyebrows
at that statement. "You are a
fucking pathetic excuse for a partner and I don't want to talk to you about
Justin turned to leave. Brian grabbed his arm. "You have to listen," he said.
"I don't have to do anything and if you don't let go of me I'll call security."
Brian released him at that. Justin again turned to leave sure that they were through once and for all.
"I love you," Brian said. It was the only thing he could think to say. He saw Justin hesitate.
"So?" Justin said turning to face
him. "What difference does that
make when you treat me the way you did?
I can't do it anymore. I
want something better."
"Please please don't leave me. I need you."
"I can't come back." Tears had begun to form in Justin's eyes.
"And I can't live without you," Brian pleaded, tears in his own eyes.
"Why did you ask me to leave?" Justin demanded fighting back the tears and wanting to know.
"I told you that I needed some time to think," Brian said defensively.
Justin glared at him and turned on his heel. Brian just didn't get it. He never would explain himself. Brian watched him start to walk away. He took a breath.
"I want you to wear the ring," Brian said loud enough for Justin and
several other people to hear. A
shiver ran down Justin's spine, but he didn't turn
around. "I wanted to figure out
how to ask you to wear the ring. I
afraid that you'd refuse again
I wouldn't have
been able to stand it."
Justin turned then and looked at his lover. "Why couldn't you have told me that at the loft?" he asked fighting back the tears.
"Because I'm pathetic. I'm
a coward. I'm useless."
"Then why would I want you back?" Justin asked with a crooked smile.
"Because you love me?"
"I do love you, but I can't keep doing this," Justin said the little smile disappearing.
"Give me another chance
Justin was sure he had heard Brian say please more times in the last five minutes than he had said it in all the time that he had known him. "Come and sit over here," Justin said making the hardest decision of his life. "I want you to tell me the whole story, and if you don't, we are finished."
"Okay," Brian agreed ready to grasp at any straw.
Justin looked warily at him. He
wasn't sure he wanted to do this.
He had made up his mind to leave
Justin and Brian moved over by the window in a lounge that was now empty as the flight had just departed. They sat down side by side. Brian reached out to touch Justin, but the blond drew away.
"We're just talking, Brian. Nothing has changed."
"Okay." Brian drew back and looked into Justin's eyes. It was now or never.
"So get to it. Tell me what the fuck you were doing asking me to leave our home."
"It's kind of hard to explain," Brian began. He saw Justin tense up and was afraid he was ready to get up and leave. "But I'll try to explain." He took a deep breath. "I've been thinking about the rings lately. I look at them after we make love. Sometimes I see you look at them too."
"So?" Justin wasn't going to cut him any slack.
"I've been wondering for a while now if maybe it was time to start wearing
"You think we're ready for all the flak we'll get?" Justin asked obviously not believing that Brian was ready.
"I don't care about the flak. I
want everyone to know that I love you and that we belong to each other
only to each other."
Brian saw Justin's clenched jaw relax. His face softened. "You're ready to tell people that?"
"I'm ready. I just didn't know if you were. I was trying to think of all the things to say to convince you, but I didn't know what words to use. I never say the right thing. Look what the fuck happened when I tried to ask for some thinking time."
"Did you really think you could come up with a way of asking me that would change the way I feel?"
Brian looked surprised at that statement. "I am in advertising. I thought I could work up the perfect copy, the perfect campaign, and you wouldn't be able to refuse me."
"That's what you thought, huh?"
"That's what I thought. Was I wrong?"
"You have no idea."
"You're right. I don't." Brian stared at the floor thinking this wasn't going the way it should be.
"Brian, look at me, please."
Brian looked up. Justin's
blues eyes stared into his heart and into his
soul. He wanted to kiss those
lips and hold that slender body. He
glanced away to hide the raw emotion.
"Don't turn it off."
"Turn what off?" Brian asked risking another look at his partner.
"Your emotions. Don't you get it? If you would just be honest with me, we wouldn't be in this mess. Don't cover up what you're feeling. Don't you think I want to see the love and longing that was just on your face? That makes everything we go through worthwhile."
"I can't help it," Brian said softly.
"I've always hidden my feelings.
I had to. I can't help
"I understand that, Brian. But you can help it. When I ask you to tell me the real story, just fucking tell me. Don't give me some bullshit about needing space. Tell me what you're feeling."
"It scares me."
"What are you afraid of?"
"That you'll think I'm weak and pathetic and then you'll leave me."
"So is it better that I think you're cruel and a complete ass and leave
Brian stared at Justin. "Is that how I come across?"
"Pulleease! You know you have the asshole don't-give-a-fuck persona down pat."
"But not to you."
"Sometimes that's how it appears to me too," Justin said softly. "That's how it was at the loft."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out that way."
"Why didn't you stop me or come after me?"
"Almost too late."
"Almost?" Brian asked hopefully.
"Christ, Brian, I thought we had gotten past a lot of this crap."
"We have, but then I find new ways to screw up."
"At least you understand the problem."
"But I can't fix it."
"You can if you want to."
"Will you give me another chance?"
"I don't know. It gets harder and harder."
"Please?" Brian looked as pathetic as he could.
"All right, but you have to talk to
me. Say it
"I will talk to you," Brian promised dutifully.
"Okay," Justin sighed, "we'll give it another go."
"Can I kiss you now?"
Justin nodded and found himself crushed against Brian's body, his lips locked in the most passionate kiss.
"Stop. Stop!" Justin moaned pushing Brian away. "We can't do this in the airport."
"What if we did it in
"You have a ticket to
"You do?" Justin asked with a grin.
"Did we just get married?"
Brian made a face. "I think
we've been effectively married for quite awhile now, but we still need to
talk about the rings."
"They're making the last call for our flight. Let's go. We can talk and maybe settle this in
"Anything you want, Sunshine," Brian said holding Justin's hand.
"Let's go." Justin picked
up his bag. Hand in hand they
made their way to the gate.