C'est la Vie
"So, we should be home in about three hours," Brian said as he and Justin sat in first class of the airplane on the last leg of their trip back home.
"Do you think we should have told Bree we're coming?" Justin asked with a frown.
"I think she will love the surprise all the more because she doesn't know."
"Yeah," Justin said contentedly. "I miss her so much. What are we going to do when she leaves home?"
Brian frowned. "Have another daughter?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye. The twinkle quickly turned to a big frown when he saw the look on Justin's face. "I was kidding. You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I guess I do," Justin said with a sigh.
"Hey, we're too ... old to start over again."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I'm being ridiculous." Justin closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the seat.
"You're never ridiculous," Brian whispered. "I was just kidding."
Justin opened his eyes and looked into worried hazel ones. "Don't sweat it. I don't think I could handle another Bree," he said with a gentle smile.
"The world doesn't know what it's in for," Justin said, as both he and Brian chuckled.
Ben walked into the house dropping his briefcase by the front door. "Michael," he called. There was no answer. He let out a long breath. He had decided that today was the day to tell Michael that he was going back to the lane as soon as the semester was over. It had been a long and hard decision, one that he was still dreading. Michael not being home gave him a few minutes to gather his thoughts and prepare himself for what he knew would be an angry response from his husband. He almost snorted at the thought of Michael as his husband. They had shared so little for so long that Michael was more a stranger than a husband.
Pouring himself a drink of juice, Ben wondered how long he would have to wait for Michael to come home. It was after five, and Michael was usually waiting for him when he got home. Now that he had summoned the courage to state where things stood, he didn't want too much time to think about it. He just might chicken out.
Finally the front door opened and Michael walked in. "You're home," Michael said spying Ben in the living room. Michael took off his jacket.
"Yes, I was expecting you to be here."
"I like to be unpredictable sometimes."
"Yes, really," Michael stated. He didn't like it when Ben doubted what he said.
"So, where have you been?"
"I went for a long walk and did some thinking," Michael said smugly.
"Why do you doubt everything I say?" Michael asked with a frown.
"I guess it's because that's not something you usually do," Ben replied.
"What? Walk or think?"
It was on the tip of Ben's tongue to snap back with 'Both!', but he refrained. There was no sense in fighting over this nonsense when he had more important things to discuss.
"Are you hungry?" Michael asked.
"Um...maybe we could talk," Ben suggested.
"You want to talk?" Michael asked in disbelief. "For weeks you hardly speak to me and now you want to talk!" Michael realized he was sounding slightly hysterical, so he bit his lip and stopped talking.
"I think it's time to clear the air," Ben said softly.
"Is that what you're calling it?" Michael scoffed. "I bet you just want to tell me what to do ... like you always do."
"You think I tell you what to do?" Ben asked in amazement.
"You do it all the time."
"Like when?" Ben asked with a frown.
"Like when you told me I can't go to dinner with our friends, and that I can't entertain here," Michael declared. His arms crossed on his chest like they always did when he was defending himself or his position.
"I didn't tell you that you couldn't do those things. I asked you to consult me before you agreed to them."
"And if I had asked...?"
"I ... probably would have told you that I didn't want to do those things," Ben admitted.
"Exactly! So why would I even bother asking?"
"But ... you could still do them," Ben said.
"Yeah, right ... by myself. Where's the fun in that?" Michael wanted to know.
"You know that's all true," Michael said staring Ben down until Ben looked away.
"Have you ever given a moment's thought as to why that's true?"
"What? What are you talking about?" Michael asked with a bewildered look on his face. He had thought he was winning this argument.
"I'm asking if you ever think..." Ben was tempted to stop right there, but decided not to be so cruel however much Michael might deserve it. "Do you ever think why I don't want to go to dinners and entertain the people you want to be with?"
"Because you're ... mean to me," Michael said weakly.
"I'm mean? Who left the lane in a huff and wouldn't speak to me for weeks? Who would rather be with their friends here in Pittsburgh than on the lane where your supposed best friend lives?"
"Brian is my best friend," Michael declared.
'It never changes,' Ben thought to himself. "You're the one who makes the ultimatums."
"I ... I do not!" Michael stated with a frown. He didn't like how this was going.
"I wanted to talk to you about how we've grown apart," Ben said trying to keep his voice level. "The things you want to do aren't often what I want to do."
"You want to hole up on the lane and write ... and shut me out completely."
"I want to write and the lane is the perfect place for me to do that. I wanted you to stay there with me."
"And that's not what I enjoy, sitting around watching you write," Michael said with a sneer.
"That's why everyone's tried to get you interested in other projects, like the new website."
"Yeah, sure. I don't really like doing the website. It's so complicated," Michael whined.
"Then find something you do like doing."
"I like entertaining and having dinner with friends and being part of a social scene."
Ben shook his head. "All the things I couldn't care less about."
"When David and I were together..."
"Don't even go there," Ben warned.
"He taught me about the finer things in life," Michael insisted.
"Did he now?" Ben asked skeptically. "I don't think that has any bearing on our situation now."
"I think it does."
"Whatever..." Ben responded. He hated that expression, but it fit so well into this scenario.
Michael studied his husband for a minute or two. "So, where does this leave us?" he asked.
"I'm going back to the lane as soon as the semester is over. I want to write."
"And you don't want me to come with you?" The statement was said as a question. Michael hoped Ben would at least ask him to go to the lane, even though Michael didn't really want to go.
Ben hesitated. "You could come if you want, but I don't want this to be an ultimatum as you just called it."
"And if I don't want to go...?"
"Then you could stay here."
"I guess so," Ben said.
"What if I don't like either of those options?"
"Do what you want to do, Michael," Ben said wearily.
"I want you to stay here and be nice to me and do some of the stuff I want to do," Michael declared.
"That's not going to happen," Ben stated as he walked towards the door. He needed to get away from this place.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know, but I don't want to be here ... with you," Ben added as he grabbed his coat and briefcase and walked out slamming the door behind him.
Michael stared at the door in disbelief. He knew he was taking a chance by laying out what he really wanted from Ben, but he hadn't expected Ben to walk out on him. Now what was he going to do?
He paced back and forth across the living room several times trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. He wondered if Ben would come back. He needed to talk to Brian, but Brian was still in Europe. He'd have to figure this out by himself.
Ben rang the bell at Ted's apartment. Allen answered and buzzed him in.
"Ben," Ted said, "what a nice surprise to have you here."
"Maybe not so nice," Ben stated with a grimace. "I just walked out on Michael. I have nowhere to go and I'm not going back to the house with Michael."
"Are you sure?" Allen asked. "I guess we could make up the spare bedroom for you."
"That's very kind of you, but I wondered if you might contact Brian and ask if I could stay in his loft until the end of the semester. Then I'm going back to the lane."
"Brian and Justin landed a couple of hours ago. They should probably be home by now," Ted said. "I'll call and ask, and I have a key for the loft if it's okay with Brian."
"Thanks so much," Ben said gratefully.
"Have a seat. I was just making dinner," Allen said. "We have lots for a third person."
"You guys are the best," Ben said sincerely dropping wearily into a big, soft armchair.
“Ben?” Brian said when Allen handed the phone to Ben. “Ben, what’s wrong?” Brian gently asked sensing something was radically wrong with his big brawny friend.
“I’ve left him,” Ben softly murmured.
“Excuse me,” Brian all but shouted, not believing what he heard. Ben and Michael were inseparable; this couldn’t be happening.
“I’ve left Michael,” Ben repeated more succinctly.
“When did this happen?”
“About an hour ago.”
“Go back and fix it.” As Brian’s voice got louder, Justin went to his side.
“I don’t think I can.”
“What do you mean you don’t think you can? Of course, you can. You go back home, apologize for whatever shit happened, kiss and make up. Easy. Now hand the phone back to Allen, get your coat and go.”
“I can’t, not now, not yet, I need time,” Ben forced out.
Brian sighed, loudly; he felt Justin rubbing his arm. “Okay, okay, here’s what you’re going to do. Take the key to the loft, stay as long as you need to but please let Michael know where you are. And for fucks sake, call Alex! Do you hear me?”
“Loud and clear, Brian. Loud and clear.”
“Thank the fucking gods,” Brian muttered. “Sometimes I wish I still did E. I don’t think Beam is going to dull the pain from all the shit I’m going to get from Mikey.”
“What?!” Brian pinched the bridge of his nose as he waited for more bad news. Justin fidgeted, bouncing on his toes.
“You may want to prepare yourself for more shit.”
“Why?” Brian groaned.
“I’m coming to the lane when the semester is over. I’m finally taking that sabbatical I’m owed so I can finish my book.”
“I am so fucked,” Brian swore. “No, I’m not taking the heat alone. We’re fucked! You and I, Professor, because the minute Debbie finds out about this our lives may never be the same,” Brian stated dramatically.
“I’m sorry, Brian.”
“Bullshit! No apologies, no regrets,” Brian automatically spit out. He took a deep breath to calm himself. “Do you want me to talk to her?” The “her” in question was understood.
“No, this is my mess, I’ll speak to her and make sure she understands you have nothing to do with this.”
“Fine; not that she’ll believe you. Anything else I need to know?”
“Welcome home?” Ben stated meekly.
“Shit,” Brian said as he hung up the phone.
“Is it as bad as it sounds?” Justin asked.
“Worse.” Brian sat with a thud in the closest chair.
“The short version,” Justin said as he went to pour them both something strong.
“Ben left home. He’ll be staying at the loft until the semester is over then he’s coming here.”
“And Debbie doesn’t know.”
“She will soon, Ben’s going to call her. I’m sure we’ll hear the shouting.”
“We need to warn everyone,” Justin stated.
“And we will after we spend some quality time with our daughter,” Brian said after he downed his drink in one gulp.
Justin took a few genteel sips then put down his glass. “Let’s find Bree,” Justin suggested as he held out his hand for Brian. “Then we let the guys know.” Brian agreed.
“Maybe we should just go back to Paris,” Brian helpfully suggested. Justin sadly agreed.
At Gus’ behest, Pierre brought together the principle players of the three galleries that would soon be home to a bevy of Justin Taylor originals.
“I was under the impression that you and Raymond were still on your vacation,” Pierre commented as they all settled around the conference room table.
Gus and Ray shrugged their shoulders as they chowed down on delicate pastries and sipped mocha coffee before the meeting commenced.
“Only youth can eat like this and still stay so trim,” Stéphane commented to Pierre. Pierre smiled as he nodded.
“Gus, since this was your idea,” Pierre began.
“And Bree’s,” Gus added in between bites.
“Yes of course, how can one forget the lovely Mademoiselle Briana, who you will all meet in a couple weeks. Gus, I hand over this meeting to you.” Gus took another sip of the excellent coffee before speaking. Pierre was fascinated by Gus’ instant transformation from mischievous young man to professional adman.
“On behalf of Kinnetik, we thank you for joining us this morning…”
A few hours later, all parties had a solid timeline of events, were looking forward to the exhibits and the return of Justin Taylor to Paris.
“Hi, it’s Ben.”
“How are you?”
“I could be better.”
“Where are you? You sound like you’re in a tunnel.”
“The loft. You mean the loft? As in Brian’s loft?”
“Please tell me he’s conducting business in the city and you dropped by for a visit.”
“I’d like to, but I can’t.”
“I’m afraid to ask but I must. Why are you there?”
“I moved out.”
“And when the semester is over, I’m filling your prescription. In the meantime, I’ll stay here.”
“Does he know?”
“Michael or Brian?”
“Brian yes, Michael, not yet. And before you say it, he’s my next call. I just wanted to ask if you have time for me tomorrow.”
“Ben, even if I didn’t I’d make the time. Call me tomorrow morning to confirm.”
“Thank you, Alex. And I’m sorry for calling so late; please apologize to Glen for me.”
“Not a problem, besides you’ll be getting my bill,” Alex said eliciting a snort from Ben.
“Good night, Alex.”
Alex scrubbed at his eyes then hung his head. He felt drained.
“Let me guess,” Glen stated as he rolled into the den with a couple of beers. He gently knocked a bottle against Alex’s hand. “That was Ben.”
“Yup,” Alex sighed as he accepted the beer. He twisted off the cap and took a good long pull.
“By the look on your face, Ben didn’t invite us to witness the renewal of their wedding vows.”
“Give me the short program.”
“He ran away from home and is staying at Brian’s loft until the end of the semester. Then he’s heading for the lane.”
“No shit,” Alex confirmed.
Glen whistled long and strong. “Do you think they can fix this? Although, I never did understand what Ben saw in Michael. They’re so different.”
“So were we, when we first got together,” Alex pointed out.
“Yeah, but I grew on you,” Glen said with a smirk.
“Sort of like…” Alex began.
“Uh uh uh, be nice,” Glen warned.
“I’m always nice,” Alex protested.
“Sure you are. You were going to say I grew on you like a fungus,” Glen stated as he got in Alex’s face.
“Maybe, but if I was going to say it, I’d say it with love.” Alex leaned forward and kissed Glen’s lips. The boys placed their beers out of harm’s way so they could properly hug. “I love you.”
“And I love you,” Glen confirmed as they locked lips. “You do know that their separation is not your fault,” Glen said as he held Alex’s gaze.
“I know it’s not, but I really feel this one,” Alex admitted.
“I know you do. But all you can do is give Ben the tools. It’s up to him to use them.”
“Sometimes you’re too smart for your own good.”
“But you love me anyway.”
“Yes I do and I have plans to demonstrate how much I love you for the rest of our lives.”“Lucky me!” Glen said with a big smile.
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