November 25: Thankful

Yeah, let's be fucking thankful, Brian thinks bitterly. 'I'm stuck in this fucking mansion and little Sunshine "just can't make it, sorry, Brian".

He pours another glass of Beam.

How the fuck did I ever think I could keep this long distance thing going when I fucked up constantly when he was actually living with me?

Talk about doomed fucking venture.

He downs the Beam and, getting up abruptly, switches off the house phone and his cell. Then he pours another glass.

He'd never really believed in all the Happy Holidays shit. He tries to be thankful he was right.


* * * * *

November 26: Rapid Deceleration

It's funny, Justin thinks. It's fucking hilarious. He leaves what he know is his "opportunity of a lifetime" to chase after this bullshit dream of instant fame and fortune, because 'opportunities like this don't come every day, Justin'.

That damned article was supposed to kick start his career; move to New York and it would take off, which couldn't happen if he stayed in Pittsburgh. So he came here, and all that happened was that, instead of taking off, his career went into rapid deceleration.

And not just his career, he reluctantly admits to himself . No, not just his career.


* * * * *

November 27: Picture Prompt

His "fast track" turned out to be a dirt road leading to nowhere.

Talk about 'road less traveled'.

The thing about that is: the so called road to fame and fortune is the road most people choose, or try to. It's the path most traveled.

It's the road to love that most people give up on. Because it's tough. That would, should, have been his road less traveled; the one he chose against conventional wisdom that would've led him to his heart's desire.

Instead of which he turned himself into a damned cliché. A starving artist, yet.

What a moron.


* * * * *

November 28: Restless

Brian was feeling restless. Nothing new about that. He'd avoided all the usual holiday bullshit at Deb's, and since he was at the mansion and not the loft the whole fucking tribe of do-gooders hadn't come crashing through his door.

But the quiet was totally devoid of peace and all he felt was this restless sense of...

Of need, if he'd been ready to admit it.

He needed.

He needed someone who'd challenge him and complete him and ...

He needed Justin.

But that wasn't happening and he was just going to have to get along without.

Nothing new there, then.


* * * * *

November 29:The last time

The last time they'd been together had been so intense that Justin had thought he would never forget how it had felt. Not just the emotion, but the very touch of Brian's hands, the way his voice had sounded, the smell of his hair and the heat of his cock.

But already the memory is starting to fade, starting to become patched with memories of other times and he can no longer even remember exactly what they'd said to each other.

That makes him hurt all over when he thinks of it.

So he tries not to think of it.


* * * * *

November 30: The truth hurts

The truth is, he could go back any time he wanted.

He knows that Brian has kept that drawer empty for him; metaphorically at least.

He knows that the "no locks on the door" thing absolutely works both ways where he's concerned, that Brian will always allow him the key.

But to go back now, with so little achieved, would mean that he had to admit how stupid the whole thing had been.

And it would seem like, once again, he was only returning to Brian because other plans had fallen through.

He can't hurt him like that.

Not again.


* * * * *

December 1: You are like a hurricane

They don't talk on the phone much, but they email. He tends to write late at night, Brian in the early morning. He suspects that Brian's are written at Kinnetik, long before anyone else arrives.

He does his best to make his chatty and upbeat, though he knows Brian has become adept at reading between the lines.

Brian's are typically sardonic.

Sometimes they contain unexpected little gems of advice or admonition or encouragement.

One reads, "You're like a fucking hurricane, Sunshine; nothing stands in your way. Just give it time; the walls will crumble."

The "mine did" goes loudly unsaid.


* * * * *

December 2: Ice

Brian can feel the ice walls building up again around what, in another, better, man might be considered his heart.

Strangely enough, he finds he doesn't like the sensation.

Which is weird when you come to think of it, because for so many years he'd worked extremely fucking hard on cranking up the icemaker to maximum output.

Ice has a powerful, and previously welcome, numbing effect.

Now he wants to defrost, but he just doesn't know how.

He toys with the idea of surprising Justin in New York, but he's not sure if either of them are ready for that.


* * * * *

December 3: Picture Prompt

Instead, and somewhat to his surprise, he finds himself on a plane heading for Toronto.

Failing Justin, he figures the one best qualified to de-ice him is his Sonnyboy.

He's right, too.

Of course, as he's always known, there's a lot to be said for numbness. Like lack of pain, for example.

But there's also the lack of joy.

And nothing would be worth giving up the way he feels when Gus's arms wind around his neck, and his precious Sonnyboy nearly punctures his eardrums with his ecstatic squeal of, "Daddy!"

He knows then what he has to do next.


* * * * *

December 4: I dare you

"Look, I know you're not ready to make a fucking visit back to Pittsburgh," his email reads. "And I don't think either of us are ready for me to pay a visit to your hellhole in New York. But Gus wants to see you. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing you myself."

"So get yourself on a fucking plane."

The answering email comes faster than he'd expected, but the contents are exactly what he expects, all vague excuses.

"Truth or dare," he responds. "Either tell me the real reason you don't want to come or get your ass on a plane."


* * * * *

December 5: Outside

The truth is that the reasons Justin is reluctant to visit Toronto are more complex than he's easily able to explain.

But mostly they have to do with Lindsay and the way she works to make sure that he's excluded from the little family unit she has going with Brian and Gus and Melanie.

It's really subtle, but she always finds ways to keep him on the outside. Like arranging outings with Brian and Gus when he's not available, or adopting a sort of 'not in front of the children' approach to any discussions concerning Brian's status as a parent.


* * * * *

December 6: Picture Prompt

One of the things Justin loves about the sort of hotels Brian chooses are the huge fluffy towels they provide for their guests.

He especially likes it when, after a mind-boggling shower sex session Brian wraps him up in one and, so gently, so tenderly, pats him dry. It makes him feel loved and cherished and safe and all those words that he knows that Brian would hate him even thinking.

Or maybe not.

Once he would've, that's fucking certain.

But now? Justin's not so sure. Maybe now Brian's ready for a little cherishing himself.

Justin picks up a towel.


* * * * *

December 7: Wine

Brian sips his wine, enjoying the view.

Lindsay's in the kitchen, Mel's upstairs bathing JR. Here in front of the fake fire, his two boys are building a castle out of some damned kit. Justin's on hand and knees trying to get the drawbridge in place, which is giving Brian a very nice view indeed.

He knows this is a moment stolen from the future; that in a day or so he'll be back in Pittsburgh and Justin will be in New York.

But right here and now, they're together; and that's enough for now.

The rest is only time.


* * * * *

December 8: Picture prompt

So, his little fantasy interlude's over and he's back in Pittsburgh.

In some ways Brian wants to regret it ever happened, but the ice-melting warmth it gave him sits easy round his heart and he knows he isn't sorry.

Of course, that's not going to make returning to real life alone any easier, either for him or for Justin. But they'll survive.

He feels sure now that Justin needs them to as much as he does.

He just needs to make sure Justin knows that at the loft, at Britin, wherever Brian is there'll always be an empty drawer, waiting.


* * * * *

December 9: Books

Justin feels like he's a character in a book; or maybe a whole series of books. Sometimes he thinks the book is a romance. Sometimes it's pure drama. Sometimes it's like some black comedy.

But whatever the genre most of the time the book just doesn't seem to make sense; like it's been really badly written with an almost incomprehensible plot.

Otherwise, how the fuck did he wind up here, so far, in every sense, from where he wants to be?

What did Shakespeare say?

"A tale, told by an idiot ... signifying nothing."

These days that's how Justin's life feels.


* * * * *

December 10: Lost in the city

He walks the streets of New York. He used to pretend he was looking for somewhere better to live, or for a job, or trying to find a gallery who'd at least look at his work. But now he admits he's walking just because he's lost and he's trying to find his way.

The problem is that he doesn't know where he's trying to get to.

Or he didn't.

But after Toronto he at least has a destination, now.

He knows that all he really wants is to get home to Brian.

He just has to find the right road.


* * * * *

December 11: Out from under

Just having a defined goal seems to clear the mists from his mind. He feels as if he's come out from under a great dark cloud into something that's almost daylight.

He walks through the streets of the city now with energy and purpose. When he enters a room, it's with something of his old swagger. Predictably, the universe responds to his change of demeanor and doors that had seemed fast shut against him start to open.

He doesn't waste time on a job or a better place to live, he won't need those. He has just one target now.


* * * * *

December 12: Bite me

He charms his way into a gallery and they show enough interest in hanging two of his smaller paintings to offer him a contract. He says he'll take it away and look it over. The flunkey he's dealing with seems astonished that he doesn't leap at the opportunity; but he hasn't lived all these years with Brian and learned nothing.

Like he suspects, the contract is a total rip off.

He calls and leaves his response for the gallery manager. It's polite, but the message is clear: "Bite me."

Two days later the manager calls back with a better offer.


* * * * *

December 13: Don't sell me short

He emails Brian with the headlines and gets a typically Brian response. Brian can't, of course, being Brian, simply advise him to tread carefully before signing anything, but his snarky reminder to Justin not to let himself be seduced by any promises involving some sleazy gallery owner's etchings kind of reveals his concern.

In his reply, Justin simply reminds Brian not to sell him short.

Brian answers that if he hadn't engaged in selling him when he was fucking broke and it looked like he'd lose the loft, he wasn't going to start now.

Justin finds this response surprisingly touching.


* * * * *

December 14: Like father, like son

By the time Justin finishes his negotiations with the gallery, they've agreed to hang three of his paintings for at least two months over the prime Holiday period and have accepted a much smaller commission on any sales than they'd anticipated.

Seems like he might have a knack for the business side of the art world.

It's true Justin has learned a lot from Brian.

But he's beginning to think that in some ways at least he's very much his father's son, because he got a real kick out of the wheeling and dealing, and he totally fucking loved winning.


* * * * *

December 15: Picture prompt

Justin decides that his Christmas present to himself is going to be a trip home.

Well, not so much a trip as a permanent move.

He imagines surprising Brian by turning up at the loft, or maybe even at Kinnetik, all gift-wrapped, with a big red bow around his cock. Or tied to a butt plug wedged up his ass.

He's not stupid. He knows that getting three paintings hung in a minor gallery isn't the success he'd come here to find.

But it's a start, and that's all he really needed to achieve here.

The rest is only time.


* * * * *

December 16: Table

However much he might want to simply head home, Justin knows better than to rush things. For a start, he knows Brian is going to take some convincing. But Justin thinks he can put an offer on the table that just might swing the deal.

He's come to an epiphany. If he can't support himself totally with his own art, at least for now, then he's pretty confident he can supplement his income through managing a gallery; maybe even open his own.

He just needs an investor. Someone who's interested in the arts. Or at least, in one particular artist.


* * * * *

December 17: Forgotten

Brian wonders how he could've forgotten how devious Justin can be.

After ambushing him at Kinnetik in a guise that means it's hours before Brian's brain regains control of his body, Sunshine further baits his honey-trap with an ego-flattering reminder that Brian's always told him that a man knows when to ask for help.

Then he spills his plan about opening a fucking gallery along with an irresistible appeal for Brian to help fund it, or at least make an initial investment.

And before Brian really understands what's going on, Justin's home to stay and they're going into business together.


* * * * *

December 18: Picture prompt

For the first few days that Justin's home, Brian feels as if they're castaways on some desert island; or else holed up in some isolated cottage in the woods, snowed in and cozy. Just the two of them.

He chastises himself for such lesbianic fucking nonsense, but can't help reveling in it just the same.

Contrary to expectations, their own and other people's, they don't fuck all the time.

They lie curled together in the bed or on the futon, lazily caressing. They eat occasionally (take out, the fridge is empty). Sometimes they even talk.

Mostly, they're just together.


* * * * *

December 19: Unexpected surprise

Reality, when it comes calling, does so in unexpected form.

They've been ignoring the phone, of course; and have been refusing to answer the door. Brian had left a terse message on all their answering services: "He's home. We're busy. You'll see him at Christmas." (Justin made him change the 'busy fucking'.)

It's when they hear Gus's excited cries of "Daddy! Daddy! Jussin!" that they finally open the door.

Seems like the munchers are home for Christmas and hoping to spend it with them at Britin.

Brian's blind-sided by joy; Justin's, Gus's, his own. Despite himself, Christmas suddenly takes on meaning.


* * * * *

December 20: Hannukah

In his wildest dreams Brian has never seen himself explaining to his son why there isn't a Menorah at the house.

Apparently the munchers celebrate both Jewish and Christian holidays when they consider them suitable (or Brian thinks cynically, convenient): Hannukah not Yom Kippur, Christmas, but not Good Friday.

Feasting, in other words, not fasting.

Brian's not surprised, but he's at a loss how to answer Gus.

He's saved from either shocking his son, or indulging in hypocrisy by Justin's entrance.

"We don't have a Christmas tree yet, either," Justin tells Gus. "We're going to go shopping for them tomorrow."


* * * * *

December 21: Solstice

Winter Solstice: the point when the year tips and winter's darkness begins to give way to Light. For aeons before stars, shepherds, kings and angels gathered around a food trough it had been celebrated across the world.

Pagan that he is, Brian's spirit always lifts a little at this time. It's usually obliterated by every idiot's unrelenting Christmas cheer, and even more by dread that his good mood might be interpreted as fucking "Holiday spirit", but it always makes an appearance.

This year the lift chimes with his own inner celebrations and he just lets himself go with the flow.


* * * * *

December 22: Sunshine

Brian tries to ignore the significance of the fact that the day he and Gus and Justin go tree chopping is brilliantly sunny. The light is so bright he needs shades while driving to prevent running off the road, confused by the dazzle.

They have fun. Brian gets to do his manly man thing to Gus's admiration and Justin's apparent amusement. (Brian's not fooled, he sees the lust behind the laughter in Justin's eyes.)

But both his boys are smiling, so Brian's happy.

Gus sums everything up when, emerging from the tree-shaded lot, he announces: "The world's full of sunshine."


* * * * *

December 23: Whatever You Want

Justin bursts into his office, all wide-eyed and astonished because Ted called to discuss arrangements to get the gallery up and running.

Why he's surprised, Brian doesn't understand; Theodore handles all of Brian's business affairs.

But Justin's suddenly antsy about the money and whether they should do this.

Brian wants to say "what good was the fucking money when I thought I was dying of cancer? Or when I thought you'd died in that explosion?"

Being Brian, he doesn't. He just pulls Justin into a kiss, then whispers into his hair, "Whatever you want, Sunshine."

But Justin hears, and understands.


* * * * *

December 24: Christmas Eve

They have a tree and a menorah. Brian keeps his thoughts about both to himself. They have a fridge full of food and a mile-high mound of presents. And they have a houseful of guests.

It started with the munchers; then Mikey and Ben turned up, drawn by the magnet of their little munchkin or whatever. After that, Deb's arrival was inevitable. Hunter and Carl came as part of the package; Theodore and Emmett have invited themselves.

As Brian pounds into Justin's ass he really appreciates the benefits of having a house big enough for them to get lost in.


* * * * *

December 25: Christmas Day

It starts all too fucking early and goes on forever. Brian thinks they'll need an industrial cleaning crew to clear all the fucking mess.

It's marked by excited squeals from Debbie and Emmett as well as the kids and a seemingly endless parade of food.

Through it all, Brian grits his teeth and stifles the snarky comments bubbling on his tongue.

Because Gus loves it, Mikey's happy, Deb's ecstatic and Justin, Justin is here.

He's fucking here and that's the only present Brian needs.

Well, that and the blow-job Justin gives him under the tree after everyone is in bed.


* * * * *

December 26: Kwanzaa

Justin knows he should have let Daphne know he was home. She's here to celebrate Kwanzaa with her folks. (Well, that's the politically correct version. The truth is trees, lights, holly and turkey have always looked just like Christmas to Justin.)

Daphne's pissed he didn't let her know, so they have a BFF afternoon at the mall and he shares all his news.

She's thrilled that he's home and happy; and she understands how huge it is that Brian's okay with his return. Her support means more to Justin than he can say.

They have enough people second guessing them.


* * * * *

December 27: Talk to me

"Talk to me, Justin," she says, all gentle concern. "I thought things were going well for you in New York. Should you be just giving up on that?"

He'd love to believe that the concern is genuine, but suspects its basis lies more in removing him from Brian's orbit than a real belief that his artistic future lies in New York.

He's had similar conversations with four different people. But this is the first time he hasn't just been able to shrug it off. Because this time he knows that the same thoughts, doubts, have been whispered into Brian's ear.


* * * * *

December 28: Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Lindsay who lived in a big house and dreamed of the prince who would one day marry her and take her to live in a big house of her own.

Because life isn't as simple as a fairy tale, it didn't work out like that. It turns out a prince wouldn't really have made her happy ever after. And the nearest man she's ever met to the dream prince didn't want a princess, he wanted a prince of his own.

But sometimes she still dreams.

It makes life very confusing.


* * * * *

December 29: Let's get soaking wet

He wonders if Lindsay knows how much her games hurt him. But he must be getting fucking smarter, because this time round he's not listening to her; this time round he's going to pay Justin the respect of believing that he's man enough to make up his own mind what he wants.

So while she spins tales of the glittering future that he'll be denying Justin if he lets him stay in Pittsburgh, he listens with his trademark tongue-in-cheek smirk.

Then he lures Justin into a nice long hot shower, letting the water and Justin's ass wash away Lindsay's words.


* * * * *


December 30: It shouldn't matter

It shouldn't matter that Lindsay can't always separate her childhood fantasies about how she thought her life was going to be from the reality of how her life actually is. It shouldn't matter that even now Mikey seems to get confused between friendship and passion. And it really shouldn't matter that the man he fucking loves is small and cute and blond and his looks seem to make every other damned person on the planet underestimate him.

It shouldn't matter.

But it does.

Because sometimes it makes Brian as mad as Hell and one day he's going to fucking explode.


* * * * *

December 31: Picture prompt

All in all he supposes that the fucking Holidays could've been worse.

He's had to endure Mel's presence, lectures from Lindsay, Deb and Mikey on the care and feeding of little Sunshine as well as all the usual holiday shit and having his home invaded by a screaming munchkin and her doting entourage. (He's ready to swear JR could out-screech Debbie and Mel combined.)

On the plus side, he's had his Sonnyboy here for over a week.

And, of course, Justin's home.

They're probably reasons enough for Brian to feel like welcoming the New Year with a sense of celebration.

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