On The Move
It was just after New Year’s 2027 when Gus and Ray decided to drive back to New York City to begin the arduous process of moving to Pittsburgh and making the loft their new home. Brian invited himself along with the excuse that he hadn’t terrorized N’rgy for a while. In reality, he wanted to be on hand in case the boys needed help, so he followed the boys to Pittsburgh in his own Jeep and left it there. With a quick stop at the loft to drop off their business trip luggage and load up the refrigerator with all the food and goodies prepared for them by Debbie and Rachel, the guys were officially on the road.
“We made it,” Ray declared as they walked through the door of their tiny apartment later that morning. They had dropped Brian off at N’rgy before heading uptown to Hell’s Kitchen.
After living on the lane for just over a month, their small apartment felt even more confining. “I can’t believe we’ve been living here for so long,” Gus remarked as he dumped a load of moving boxes onto their tiny couch. The boys had been renting their apartment for about four years; a lifetime, by New York City standards.
“Yeah,” Ray mumbled. “It helps that the landlord is a good man and that we’ve always paid our rent on time.”
“Plus, we never complained when he raised the rent,” Gus added with a roll of his eyes.
“Speaking about the rent, do you have any idea what your dad is going to ask?” Ray asked from the bathroom.
“No clue, but considering the commissions we just made, I don’t think we have to worry about it for a while,” Gus said nonchalantly.
“True, but we did work our butts off for that commission,” Ray commented.
“Also true,” Gus agreed as he began assembling boxes.
“Do you think we have enough boxes?” Ray asked as he dumped a whole load of toiletries into the first box.
“Label it,” Gus demanded as he handed Ray a marker.
“Geez, since when did you turn into your father?” Ray grumbled good naturedly.
“Best thing that ever happened to your sorry ass,” Gus grumbled back. And the fight was on, the marker flew onto the couch as boys wrestled on the floor. Ray proved his dominance this go around and landed on top of Gus.
“Love you,” Ray whispered against Gus’ lips.
“Love you too,” Gus replied as he held Ray close.
They continued to hug until reason took over. Sighing, they released each other in order to return to the business at hand.
“So how do we do this?” Ray asked his insanely well organized partner.
“We box the shit we can’t live without and leave the rest. Let’s start in this room then work our way back. It’s not like we have that much stuff,” Gus explained as he picked up a tchotchke, examined it then put it back down. It wasn’t that important to him.
“What about the TV?”
“Leave it,” Gus said.
“You sure,” Ray pressed. “You waited months until you found the right one on sale.”
“I’m sure,” Gus assured him. Gus was picky when it came to electronics, another thing he got from his father. But Gus also knew that the all the electronics and gadgets in the loft happened to be the latest models. They weren’t going to need anything new for a very long time.
“Besides, when we visit we’ll be happy we left it here,” he added.
“Makes sense,” Ray agreed.
Within a few hours they had boxes carefully packed, one labeled living room and another labeled bathroom. They also decided to clean along the way as they packed.
“What do we do about the sheets, oh wise one?” Ray teased.
Gus snorted. “I know the loft has a decent supply but we can take our favorites and leave the rest. We’ll need something to sleep on when we visit; same for the blankets. Remember, we may not be the only ones staying here,” Gus reminded Ray.
“Question,” Ray stated.
“Answer,” retorted Gus.
“Do we get to use your dad’s office when we’re at Kinnetik?” Ray asked with a grin.
“Not if you expect to live,” Brian replied as he silently entered the apartment.
“Holy shit! Wear a bell, will ya,” Ray said with a jump. Brian had startled him.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” Brian snarked. “You’ve made good progress,” he said with approval and pride. “Very nicely done,” Brian remarked as he peeked in a box, noting the label. “It looks like you have it all under control.”
Knowing they were all up and on the road at the crack of dawn, Brian thought his best contribution to the effort at the moment was dinner. The boys had cleaned out all the perishables before their prolonged trip. All they had in their fridge was water and a six-pack of beer.
“You guys have got to be hungry. Where are your takeout menus?” Brian asked. Ray pointed to a neat selection in a magnetic holder stuck to the refrigerator. Brian gave a crooked smile then searched through the pile. When they finally agreed on cuisine and their choices, Brian let his fingers do the walking.
“You guys want coffee?” he asked. There was a Starbucks nearby calling his name. Receiving enthusiastic nods, Brian was off on his mission. “I should be back before dinner arrives.”
“I could’ve gone for coffee,” Ray grumbled as he rummaged through their junk drawer just after Brian left. “We could’ve paid for dinner!”
“I know, but it makes him feel useful,” Gus said. He stopped Ray’s rummaging for a moment so that he could look into Ray’s eyes. “It’s just my Pop being my dad. You know?” Dark brown eyes searched the soulful hazel eyes. Gus’ expressions were so like his father’s.
“I know. My dads are the same. And they don’t have half the baggage your dad thinks he has, but when we’re in Pittsburgh…”
“It’ll be just like we’re living here only we’ll save a lot of money and time driving to the lane from the Pitts instead of flying in from the city,” Gus assured his partner.
Ray went back to rummaging, throwing out the old, broken and totally unrecognizable crap that everyone stores in their junk drawer.
Right on cue, Brian rang the doorbell. Ray opened the door.
“Better?” Brian asked, giving Ray a poignant look. Ray blushed as he took the coffee cup carrier out of Brian’s hands.
“Better,” Ray said. It was time for a well-deserved coffee break as they waited for dinner to arrive.
“Michael, are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” Ben asked his stubborn husband.
“No, why should I? He kicked you out,” Michael replied like a petulant child. Ben shook his head, took a deep breath then patiently tried explaining why Michael’s logic was flawed.
“Think about this, will you? For me,” Ben requested. Michael nodded. “Number one, we knew in our hearts that our separation was temporary. We both made a concerted effort to work through our issues so that we could live together again. Number two, over the Thanksgiving weekend we also agreed that when we got back to Pittsburgh, I was going to come home. Number three, you and I decided that we would spend Christmas together in our home. Number four, Brian did call to say that I could take all the time that I needed because the earliest the boys would need the loft would be after January 1st.
“So what happened? We got back to the city. You went directly to the house, I went to the loft. You quickly ran around the house cleaning whatever you could. I threw all my stuff that I could get my hands on into my duffle bag, locked up the loft then came home. And we’ve been making like muskrats ever since. Now, I’ve realized I left a few things at the loft. Today is a good day to go get them and to make sure everything in the loft is how I found it. Okay?”
“Okay,” Michael conceded.
“So do you want to come with me,” Ben asked again. Michael nodded, receiving a one hundred watt Ben Bruckner smile in return. “Then get your coat.”
“What’s this stuff?” Michael asked as they walked into the loft.
“It looks like the boys’ luggage. Hello!” Ben called out just in case the boys were “busy.”
“Gus?” Michael called out. He walked toward the bedroom; the slats were open and the room was empty.
“I bet they dropped their stuff off before going to New York,” Ben surmised.
“You think so?”
“Yes, it makes sense. They would only have to bring it right back and if they were going to try to pack all their stuff into the jeep, these suitcases would take up valuable space. The Wrangler is just so big,” Ben pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Michael agreed. “Where should we start?”
“Bathroom. There shouldn’t be much and I want to make sure I don’t leave any trash,” Ben said. Michael found a trash bag under the kitchen sink. “Thanks,” said Ben with a loving smile.
Within an hour they were done. Ben had previously stripped the bed when he moved out. He had taken everything to be laundered and brought the clean bedding along with them. With Michael’s help, they made short work of making the bed.
“Not bad,” Ben remarked as he looked around the loft. “Let me check the refrigerator one last time,” said Ben as he went to the kitchen. “Wow, this is new. Look at all this food,” Ben exclaimed. The refrigerator was crammed with containers and foil covered pans.
“That looks familiar,” said Michael as he pointed to a lasagna pan. “The boys won’t have to cook for a week.”
“Rachel’s pies.” Ben pointed to another pie shaped pan as he looked for any food or beverages that he may have missed.
Looking around the loft, Ben stated, “I’m going to move their stuff to the bedroom. I’m also going to call Brian’s cleaning service.”
“Do you think that’s necessary?” Michael asked. The apartment looked pristine to him.
“I’d feel better if I did. Brian did me a big favor and it’s not the first time. I owe it to him,” Ben said hoping Michael would understand and not get jealous.
Michael just nodded as he walked around the loft. Everything looked the same but sort of different. He noted that the large TV in the alcove was new and the kitchen appliances were updated. However, the furniture was still perfect after all these years of loving care.
“Done. Cleaning service notified, they’ll be here first thing in the morning. I let them know not to touch the stuff on the bed or inside the refrigerator. I also texted Brian. We’re good to go,” Ben declared. “Hey, I worked up an appetite. Do you want to go to the diner?”
“You pick,” said Ben.
“I think I could go for lemon bars for dessert,” Michael said with a silly grin.
“Liberty Diner it is,” said Ben as they grabbed the trash and his duffle bag. Before locking up, Ben texted a “thank you again” to Brian.
“Well, boys, I have a room waiting for me at the Marriott and I know how to use it,” Brian declared as he helped to clean up their dinner trash.
“Dad, you can stay here,” Gus quickly interjected. “It’s for only one night.”
“Thank you, Sonny Boy,” Brian said as he placed his hands on Gus’ shoulders. “But this is officially your last night in the first apartment you and Ray have shared. I think it would be better if you two spent it together without your old man in the other room. Besides, that couch would kill my back. And we don’t want to risk me being unable to perform my husbandly duties when I return home, now do we,” Brian stated.
Gus and Ray both laughed. “No, Pop, we wouldn’t want to risk that. Justin would never forgive us.”
“Very astute of you. See you in the morning, boys. By the way, Ray, your dads are expecting us for breakfast before we drive back,” said Brian before leaving for his hotel.
“Why am I so tired?” Ray asked, stretching out his back.
“Maybe because we were up and out since five this morning, drove nearly four hundred miles and have been packing and cleaning from the minute we stepped through the door,” Gus recounted their activities with his usual panache.
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” Ray said as he dropped a rag he was holding. “No more cleaning. I need a shower and sleep.”
“I second the motion,” Gus agreed as he shut off the living room lights and headed for the bedroom.
The boys enjoyed a nice hot shower that soothed their aching muscles before going to bed.
“This was a really long day,” Gus mumbled as he and Ray snuggled close.
“Yeah,” was all that Ray could manage to say as he yawned. “The mind is willing but the…”
“The body isn’t. I know, me too,” Gus murmured sleepily. “Love you.”
“Love you too.”
And they were out like a light.
Very early the next morning, Brian made his way uptown to the boys. With coffee for three in a carrier, Brian rang the bell. A very bleary eyed but well fucked Ray answered the door.
“That’s my boy,” Brian crowed proudly as he stepped inside. “You boys almost ready to go?” Brian asked as he held out coffee to Ray.
“Yeah, he’s almost done in the shower then it’ll be my turn. We only have to pack the rest of the bathroom stuff and change the bedding. Then we’re good to go,” Ray explained. He opened the coffee cup and inhaled the strong aroma before putting the cover back on to take his first sip.
“A man after my own heart,” said Brian with an approving grin. “You guys did a great job,” he commented as he looked around. All their boxes were neatly stacked. And the apartment sparkled.
“Do you have an alarm system?” Brian asked.
“Not as elaborate as the Tremont building, but yes, we have something simple.” Ray waved his cell phone in the air. Brian got the picture. “My dads have the code and the keys, so does Jeffrey. I invited him to stay when he needs a quiet space,” Ray commented. Jeffrey, Ray’s younger brother, a struggling actor and theater lighting guru, was experiencing some challenges with a recent break up from his girlfriend of several years. Brian nodded with understanding.
“Coffee, coffee, coffee,” a freshly showered and fully clothed Gus came from the bedroom, following the scent of good strong coffee. He grabbed a cup, sniffed at it, then gingerly took a sip. “Ahhh,” he said with a smile. “Good morning!” Ray gave Gus a peck before he excused himself to wash up.
“Good morning to you too, Sonny Boy,” Brian replied with a smirk. “You’re looking exceptionally pleased with yourself this morning.”
“Comes with clean living and very hard work,” Gus replied with his own smirk. Father and son raised coffee cups for a mutual toast. “I think we can get all of this down it two trips,” Gus said as he glanced at the boxes.
“Agreed. Want me to go get the Jeep,” Brian offered. The Jeep was parked in a lot a few blocks away.
“Would ya? That would save us some time,” Gus said as he tossed his keys to his dad then looked in his wallet for the parking ticket stub.
“I’ll let you know when I’m out front,” Brian said as he left.
“Where’d your dad go?” Ray asked when he emerged from the bathroom.
“To get the Jeep.”
“Great. That’ll save us some time. I’m done in the bathroom if you want to give it the once over. I’ll get dressed then we change the sheets,” Ray said as he disappeared again.
The boys quickly packed the last of their belongings before taking their last look around.
“I’m going to miss this place. This was my first apartment,” Ray said with nostalgia.
“I think I understand how my dad felt leaving the loft when he moved to the lane. This place will still be here for as long as we hold the lease. And when we no longer need it then we’ll give it up to some other college kids,” said Gus.
The boys hugged; they were about to start a new phase of their life together.
“Come on, your dad’s probably down there pacing the sidewalk,” Ray commented.
The boys did one last search through cupboards and drawers. They grabbed all the trash as they started shoving boxes through the door.
“What’s with you Kinneys; you finally lured my son out of the city,” Kenneth Mann, Ray’s bio dad, growled like a bear. He was trying to look menacing as he opened the door to let the boys into their brownstone apartment. The guys had driven downtown to breakfast with Ray’s dads before hitting the road back to Pittsburgh.
“Nice try,” Brian snarked as he pushed past him.
“Really? I thought so too,” Ken grinned, his demeanor completely changed. Ken was more like Emmett than a bear. Simon Greene, Ken’s partner and bio dad to Jeffrey, laughed. He was the big bear in their family.
“Something smells good!” Ray sniffed the air, his nose leading him to the kitchen. “Mmm.” His eyes grew large at the sight of breakfast laid out on the table.
“Sit, sit and help yourselves,” Ken called out as he started filling coffee cups.
“All packed?” Simon asked.
“Yup!” the boys replied in between bites.
“Brian, you will be eating more than dry toast, won’t you?” Ken asked giving Brian a look. Brian stole a piece of bacon off of Gus’ plate. “Not sure that counts,” Ken remarked as he rolled his eyes.
“Leave the man alone,” Simon began. “If he wants to die a skinny toothpick, that’s his prerogative,” Simon snarked before he beckoned the skinny toothpick into his home office.
Brian arched a brow.
“Yesss,” Brian hissed when they were alone.
“How much rent will they be paying?”
“Not a clue. I know how much I paid before I bought the building. You think I’m going to rip them off?”
“No, I think you’ll undercharge them just because you can. That’s a great building, well maintained and safe. If it were in New York, you could get enough to pay the mortgage of at least two houses in Queens and I’m not even talking about the loft apartment.
“You pay those kids a good salary, not to mention the commissions they earn for every account they bring in. You forget that I’m in real estate and Kenny keeps me well informed about Kinnetik’s profit margin.”
Brian heaved a heavy sigh. Brian had purchased the building years ago; the rent he charged covered maintenance fees and the salaries of the building security force. With the building mostly unoccupied during the workday and three women living there, Brian wanted the building to be as safe as possible.
“Do you have a suggestion?” Brian asked. Simon handed Brian a slip of paper. “You’re kidding?” Brian asked as his eyebrows rose into his hairline.
“No, it’s reasonable. And they can afford it,” Simon assured him.
“Yeah, if they only eat cat food. “I never paid that much.”
“Times have changed and those boys live in the real world not in your little village,” Simon stated firmly. Brian bristled. “I’m not saying you have to raise the rent for the other tenants, but you can’t cut corners just because they’re our children. This is a fair rent and Ray will know it. He may be Kenny’s bio son but Ray grew up in my office. Gus never challenged him when it came to questions regarding the rent or tenant and landlord responsibilities.”
“Okay, I get it,” Brian said as he raised his hands in surrender. Brian looked shattered. Simon placed his huge paws on Brian’s shoulders.
“They’ll be just fine. They can afford this and still pay the rent on their apartment here. Jeffrey’s seriously considering taking over their lease. I know the owner. He’d be happy to rent to Jeffrey. And there’s no rush to make any decisions. The boys are very responsible young men. We did a good job, Brian. I can’t think of a better partner for Ray. Ray has never been happier and that’s all that counts.”
“Gus is so in love with Ray and happy with his career. I’m so proud of him,” Brian murmured.
“As well you should be. We’ve raised great kids. And I guarantee when you show that little paper to Ray, he won’t bat an eyelash. He’s probably already thinking of ways of asking you if you’d mind him taking over the management of the building,” Simon said with a big smile.
“Theodore would be devastated,” Brian said with a tinge of sarcasm.
“I think you work Teddy too hard,” said Simon giving Brian a poignant look. Brian had to admit, Ted did have his hands in many pies.
“I get it; I’m a slave driver.” Brian shrugged off Simon’s hands. Their moment was over. “Why is it that every time I come to New York, you all give me more work to do?”
“Just lucky I guess. Besides you love it. Now, let’s see if we can get you to eat more than one slice of dry toast and one little piece of bacon.” Simon turned the toothpick around and directed him out of the office.
“All good?” Ken asked when Brian and Simon walked back to the kitchen.
“All good,” Simon replied as Ken plopped a plate of eggs, bacon, and buttered toast in front of Brian.
All eyes were on Brian.
Admitting defeat, Brian picked up his fork to eat.
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