It's late morning when Justin gets the phone call to tell him that his father
has had a stoke and is in Allegheny General Hospital. It's his Mom who calls him
and explains that they're not sure at this stage what Craig's prognosis is and
whether he'll fully recover or be gone by tomorrow morning.
"They're doing tests," she says in the voice of one who has heard that phrase way too many times to find any meaning in it now. Justin suspects it was a stock phrase the doctors handed her when he'd been lying in a coma, or maybe when he'd woken up hardly able to control the movement of his artist's right hand.
He asks her how she is, and she says, "I'm fine, Justin. Don't worry about me. And don't feel that you have to come home. I just thought that you should know."
He wonders if Pittsburgh is still home.
They say home is where the heart is and his is well, not really here in New York, that's for sure.
He wants to ask her if Brian knows, but he can't. It would be stupid. Pathetic, even.
He and Brian haven't seen each other, have barely even spoken since he flew out to New York nearly four months ago. He's not sure how that happened. Phone calls were so hard, such a shattering reminder of what he'd left behind. He guesses Brian felt the same way so they'd both stopped calling. But that's an open wound that he's no way ready to deal with right now.
So he tells his Mom that he'll think about coming home and to keep him informed if anything changes and then he finishes getting ready for work. He can't afford to just bail on this job. It took him long enough to find work that pays enough to live on (barely) without having to work sixteen hours a day. This job, working 2pm till 8 pm at a theater booking outlet near Times Square, at least means that he has mornings free to paint and sometimes he gets discounted or even free theater tickets - a real blessing since he's come to enjoy live theater but certainly can't afford to pay full price.
So he'll do his shift and then work out if he should get a late night flight to Pittsburgh.
He doesn't stop to analyze his feelings. He doesn't want to think about his father and how this news might impact any chance they ever had of reaching some kind of understanding, finding some healing. He lets himself go numb and just gets on with his daily routine as if the phone call had never happened.
It's during a lull in business later that afternoon that he checks his emails and finds one from Brian and one from Kinnetik with an attachment. He opens the Kinnetik one first. The only text says "as per BK's email" but the attachment is a first class open return ticket to Pittsburgh with Liberty Air.
He's tempted to just delete it or forward it back or whatever without even reading Brian's email but he just can't bring himself to do that. Almost against his will he finds himself tapping the screen to open the first email he's had in four months from the man who once wanted to marry him.
It's brief and to the point and it somehow breaks through the numbness Justin has been clinging to all day like Hermione Granger's wand performing an "Expelliamus!" spell. The numbness dissipates, evaporates as if it had never existed and all Justin's emotions are left exposed.
"Don't be a twat. If you don't want to come back, don't. Fuck knows you don't owe that asshole anything. But if you decide to come because it's what YOU want or fucking need, this way you can come when you like and stay as long or as short a time as you like. Call Liberty Air on the number on the tickets and they'll make sure you get a seat on any flight you want no matter how fully booked it is."
That's it. Justin's eyes sting.
"You want you need you like you want "
Nothing about what Brian might want or need or whether he'd like to see him.
Just "you, you, you".
"I hope you get what you want."
The memory drifts through his mind, adding an almost unbearable nostalgia to the soup mix of his emotions.
No. Not nostalgia.
And suddenly all the other emotions fade to that single one.
He serves the woman who wants tickets for Light in the Piazza. Books a single ticket for Sweeney Todd for a student from Julliard. And manages to find a group booking for 10 people for Spamalot.
In the next lull he calls the number on the Liberty Air ticket.
They promise to get him on the last plane out that night for Pittsburgh. He'll have not much more than an hour to get to the airport, but with no luggage he should be able to make it. They tell him they'll flag his ticket as "priority" so he can go right to the front of any queues even at security. He thanks the girl profusely and clicks the 'end' button.
He spends the rest of his shift in a dazed state somewhere between wonder and apprehension. His asshole of a father might be dying, or even dead by now. He may never get a chance to reconcile with him, which had been a nugget of hope at the kernel of his being ever since he'd walked out the door of his childhood home with Brian. But, while the pain from all of that lurks at the edges of his consciousness, right now that hardly seems to matter.
He's going home.
He is going to see Brian.
It's eleven-thirty when his plane lands in Pittsburgh. Justin looks at the rain beating through the dark against the plane's windows and doesn't have to be out in it to know how fucking cold it's going to be. He wonders if he should have called Brian to let him know he was coming. He wonders if he'll get to the loft and find that Brian's either out, or fucking some trick. Well, he'll just have to take his chances. Worst case scenario, Brian throws him out and he has to go to his Mom's. Or Daphne's place. At least he's here.
He makes his way off the plane and is trying to work out if he can afford to take a cab when, just outside the gate lounge, he sees a Liberty Air staff member with a sign that reads "Taylor". He goes up to him and introduces himself.
"Oh, Mr. Taylor. Good. We need to escort you to your transport. If you'll just come this way."
Justin doesn't know whether to be relieved or exasperated at Brian's micro-management of his flight home, but when they exit the building through the secured staff-only exit and he sees, not a cab or even a limo, but the low sleek outline of a green Corvette, he feels his spirits lift and with no more than a quick word of thanks to his escort, he pulls open the door of the car and throws himself inside.
Brian gives him one tongue in cheek glance before he starts the car.
"At least Liberty had the sense to let me know you'd checked in for a flight," is his only comment.
Justin feels caught in a web of conflicting emotions. He's tired. He's still got no idea how he should feel about his father's stroke, let alone how he actually feels. He's been longing for months to see the asshole sitting next to him, and the asshole couldnt even take time to kiss him hello. He can't tell if Brian is glad to see him and just being Brian, or if he's here purely out of some kind of sense of duty or
He feels tears sting his eyes at the same time as he hears himself snap out, "Well, since you've hardly even spoken to me for months I didn't expect you to roll out the fucking welcome wagon."
"It's not a wagon," Brian points out pedantically, "It's a vintage sports car."
"I don't give a fuck what it is!" Justin snaps. "Pull over and fucking kiss me, you asshole!"
Brian grins which makes Justin want to punch him, but then the lights on the exit lanes turn red and Brian leans over and allows their lips to touch. Justin grabs the back of his lover's head and holds him in place while he ravishes his mouth.
When he lets Brian go, the asshole is grinning even more.
It's after midnight by the time they get to the loft. Justin dumps his messenger bag on the floor and heads for the refrigerator. He's starving and he can always hope. To his amazement there are several take out containers full of Thai food. He drags them out and puts the first in the microwave. Then he turns to Brian who shrugs.
"Thought you probably wouldn't have had time for dinner and even in first class on the NY flight they don't provide enough food to satisfy your appetite."
Looking at him, seeing him clearly for the first time in months, Justin is suddenly very aware that it's not his appetite for food that needs satisfying right now.
He ignores the beeping from the microwave, and without waiting even to put the other containers back in the fridge, he moves towards Brian.
To his relief, Brian doesn't hesitate. Just grabs him and hauls him up the steps to the bed. Then for a while Justin can forget anything except heat and desire and the urgent need for Brian to fuck him harder, like that, yes, oh God!
It's much later, when Brian has blown him in the shower and the microwave finally has finally been allowed to do its job and they've eaten at least some of the food that Brian says, "You didn't need to come back you know. Not for him. Not for me."
Justin takes a moment and then responds. "I did need to. For me."
Brian nods, as if that's adequate information, but Justin goes on, "I needed to see you."
Brian gives him one of the lips pulled in looks that means that he's thinking a million things, most of them probably fucking ridiculous, some of them even maybe normal and supportive and boyfriendly, and isn't saying any of them.
Justin smiles at him wanly and gets up to put their dishes into the washer. "It was the first thing I wanted to ask my Mom, you know. If you knew. She'd just told me that m Craig is probably going to die and all I could think about was you. Was getting to you."
Back still turned to his lover he sighs and braces himself. "I needed you, Brian."
He's encouraged by the silence to turn to face the man he'd dropped everything to see and goes on, "Not to hold my hand, or even to book me a fucking plane ticket."
They each give a little grin, eyes locked together.
"I needed you because I knew you'd know how fucked up I feel. How part of me wants to cry for my fucking "Dad" and part of me wants to say that I hope he'll burn in Hell and part of me just wants to forget that the asshole ever existed, that I ever knew him. To pretend that he was some anonymous fucking sperm donor that I've never set eyes on."
The tears do come then, and he lets them roll down his face for a moment before brushing them away angrily.
"I know you can't fucking do anything. No one can do anything. I just needed you to tell me I'm not a fucking monster or "
And then he's in Brian's arms and all the pain and grief and anger that he's feeling don't matter so much because Brian is there, and Brian does understand.
"Listen to me, Sunshine. Are you listening?"
Justin huffs an affirmative.
"He's an asshole. Falling down half dead from a stroke doesn't change that. Maybe he'll recover and maybe he'll even have some fucking epiphany and pull his head out of his ass. Or maybe not. It doesn't matter. Right now, as of this minute, he's the asshole who threw out his seventeen year old kid because he didn't like him sucking cock. Who rammed my fucking car and tried to kick my ribs in because I liked you sucking my cock. And who tried to have you arrested because you let the rest of the world know that you like cock. And having a stroke doesn't change any of that."
Justin gears himself up for an indignant 'I know all that, Brian' but his response is cut short.
"But he's still your fucking father and you're allowed to feel gutted that he's turned out to be fucking mortal, after all."
Justin's hands clench in Brian's robe then and he lets Brian hold him tightly while the tears fall.
He'd been right.
Brian does understand.
Of course he does.
He's been through all this shit as well.
It's a little after eight in the morning when they wake up.
While Brian puts on the coffee maker Justin calls his Mom and lets her know he's in town. He fends off questions about how long.
He's not too sure of the answer right now.
He knows everyone will expect him to go back to New York, but for himself it seems to him that if his first reaction to a crisis, his first desire, his first need, had been to get to Brian, then it's pretty fucking stupid to put hundreds of miles between them.
It's not like galleries and agents have been beating down his door while he's been in New York. He'd had to battle to get anyone to even talk to him on the phone, let alone schedule an appointment to see his work.
And turning up without an appointment had just meant that he'd been shown the door in every establishment he'd tried it at.
Phone calls he can make from Pittsburgh. Paying the phone charges will be a lot less than paying rent in New York, that's for fucking sure.
If anyone actually decides to graciously offer him a meeting, he can scrape together the bus fare, if not plane fare, to get to there. Still cheaper than rent in New York.
Brian can rationalize that he'd sent the ticket so that Justin could come home if he needed to. That's fine. And probably at least partly true.
But it's also true that Brian's immediate reaction to a crisis had been to get Justin back. Back into his arms, and his bed; back under his wing so he could look after him.
He'd refrained from leaping on a plane to make sure Justin was okay. He'd tried to 'give him space' and let him make his own choices. But turning up at the airport at that hour of night indicated that Brian had been as anxious to get to Justin as Justin had been to get to him.
So again 370 miles between them don't make much sense.
Justin wonders how long it's going to take him to convince his pig-headed Irish lover of this simple fact.
But then Brian says, "Not sure how long you'll want to stay, but if you need to get back to New York, I can take a few days off and drive you."
And Justin thinks that if he plays his cards right, it might not be all that long.
Clearly Brian also realizes that those 370 miles are not a good thing at the moment. It shouldn't take all that much to convince him that they're never going to be a good thing and it will be a lot better if they're within minutes, rather than hours, of each other if any further crises come along. Justin's sure he can convince him that living in the same city is purely good crisis management.
The fact that being so geographically close will have a million other benefits is just good fortune.
Before he starts work on convincing him, however, Justin figures a demonstration of what those other benefits entail might be a good idea.
"I think I need a shower," he says.
It's six days and seven hours after his Mom's call that Justin arrives back in Pittsburgh again with all his stuff.
Well, not Pittsburgh, exactly.
There's a big mansion out towards West Virginia that has been waiting for its Prince to come claim it for months.
His Mom calls again just as his own Prince is pulling him up the stairs. Seems like Craig is going to recover most of his faculties; so maybe they'll have other chances to reconcile. He hopes so.
But for now all he has time to think as his clothes are being ruthlessly removed is, "Crisis averted."
Return to Wren's Fanfiction