Synchronicity: The coincidental occurrence of events … that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality. Or, as some people believe, it’s the universe giving you a gentle hint that you need to get your act together and/ or a sometimes not-so-gentle shove in the right direction.
Author’s Note: I know that along the way C/L
decided that Justin’s birthday was in February, but in S1 it seemed to be before
Christmas, rather than two months after. (There are what look like Christmas
decorations and door wreaths in the Kip Thomas arc, and that’s around Justin’s
birthday.) So that’s the time of year I’m going with.
In New York
Justin had spent the last couple of weeks constantly gritting his teeth; or at least that’s what it felt like; he was surprised he hadn’t caused himself dental problems. Being patronized out of his tiny mind by Debbie, Lindsay and Melanie wasn’t any more palatable when it was done long distance. In fact, it was probably worse. If they had all been back in Pittsburgh, he would at least have been able to give them what Brian called the “Sunshine Pout of Death” which might have made them rethink; or at least to cut back on their all too voluble comments on the present state of his relationship with the man they were all bitching out for not planning to descend on New York to help “poor little Sunshine” celebrate his birthday. Or else to spirit him “home” to Pittsburgh for them all to gush over and pat on the head.
As if he couldn’t possibly book himself on a plane and come back if that was what he wanted to do. As if he was still that seventeen year old who was so pathetically desperate for any crumb of attention from the man he’d declared himself in love with. Well, unlike their totally lame “friends”, Justin had learned a thing or two along the way, and one of the most important was that he didn’t need that kind of validation of his relationship with Brian; he knew where he stood, and how deeply Brian valued their … whatever. How deeply Brian valued him for that matter.
Anyway, he would only be in New York for a few more weeks. He’d be back in Pittsburgh again for Christmas, just like he was every year. He was only here now because his agent wanted him to take advantage of the pre-Christmas functions that proliferated during the Holiday period. Plus he was also giving a master class organized by the Frick Gallery that had coincided with his first installation there which had happened last month. He hadn’t been a permanent resident in New York for quite a while now. He spent most of the year living with Brian in the fucking mansion Brian had bought for them.
Besides, Brian, in his own inimitable style, had already let Justin know why he couldn’t come to New York – he had a client meeting in Burlington, Vermont of all places. It was business. Justin got that, even if their little family didn’t. Not, of course, that Brian had said anything about his birthday. Heaven forbid! He’d just casually let it drop that he’d signed a new client, and that they had some kind of event coming up that they wanted Brian on hand for, and when it was. But Justin got the message and he was fine with it, although it did make it kind of pointless for him to fly back to Pittsburgh, if Brian wasn’t even going to be there.
Plus it really was kind of insulting that everyone back in the Pitts seemed to think that he had no life outside of Pittsburgh; that if Brian wasn’t here, or he wasn’t back there, he’d be all alone on his birthday. He’d been here in New York, on and off, for long enough to have developed his own set of friends here that he’d be perfectly happy to spend time with on his birthday, fuck you very much.
No, Justin didn’t need Brian to abandon his client just to show up here on his birthday; and he sure as fuck didn’t need to go back to Pittsburgh and put up with all this bullshit, all of their whining and sniping at Brian up close and personal. He could imagine how bad it would be if he came there and Brian was away on business. He could only hope that their ‘friends’ weren’t giving Brian too much of a hard time over something so damned stupid, and which was simply none of their fucking business.
Brian had no intention of even acknowledging Justin’s thirtieth birthday. He didn’t see any reason to. For one thing, he still wasn’t convinced that getting older was anything to celebrate – although he had reluctantly come to admit, to himself at least (and therefore to Justin who knew him inside out), that it probably beat the alternative. Both he and Justin had come too close to that alternative for him to be able to deny that he preferred that they both kept dodging the bullets that fate occasionally threw at them. But thirty! Fuck! He still remembered his own death-day party to ‘celebrate’ that event in his own life, and that memory was tied up with a whole lot of other shit that he never thought about if he could help it.
Some of those things, like losing out on that job in New York, and Mikey’s short-lived relationship with Dr. Dave he could probably smile about now, since he’d recently had the pleasure of taking no less than three major accounts from Kennedy-Collins, and Mikey was happily living the life of a suburban spouse with a still-healthy Zen Ben. But, of course, the other major event that happened right after his birthday still dominated every image of that time, so he banished all of them, lest thinking of any of them for even a millisecond opened a crack that allowed dark memories of fear and blood and guilt to flood into his mind.
All of which meant that he was in no mood to even contemplate Justin’s up-coming birthday. “The Big Three-Oh” as Emmett kept fucking referring to it.
He supposed that while he was so rigidly banishing any memory of the dance he’d shared with Justin just after his own 30th birthday, it was pretty ironic that one of the clients he’d taken from his erstwhile prospective employers was the owner of a franchised chain of dance studios. They had studios all over the West Coast and were about to open their first on the East Coast – in fucking Burlington, Vermont, of all places.
The client, “please, call me Cathy” had spent some time explaining that choice – something to do with the romance of the ski slopes or some shit. Whatever the fuck, apparently a lot of couples took dancing lessons together as some kind of indoor sport. Brian had his own notions about that, but the chain had been very successful on the West Coast, including in Colorado, with one of their most successful franchises not far from Aspen, and the owner was looking to him to make sure that the success was repeated in the East. One of their big selling points was that all couples were welcome –as long as both parties were old enough to sign their contract. At first, Brian thought that they had special nights for gays, lesbians, whatever, but Cathy disabused him of that notion. All couples were welcome to all classes, and anyone who had a problem with that wasn’t welcome in the class.
Brian could only admire that stance, but he’d admitted to being surprised that so many franchisees had bought into it.
Cathy had smiled at him. “If they don’t accept that part of the deal, they don’t get, or keep, the franchise. And we check them out regularly. We employ market research people to send applicants along and if they get even a hint of “we think you might be more comfortable coming on Tuesday night, that’s our specialty night”, they have broken their contract with us and they lose the franchise – and all the money they put into it. They’re the terms of the contract. It’s only happened once, but it was a warning to everyone else. My husband is a kick-ass lawyer, partner in a big Chicago law firm; anyone who wants to fight me on this contract will have a very unpleasant battle on their hands.”
Brian had considered the woman a little doubtfully, then realized who she reminded him of – Jennifer Musgrave. No longer “Taylor”, Jenn had gone back to her maiden name, and had decided to keep it – for legal purposes at least, even after her marriage to her boy-toy, Tucker Whateverthefuck. Brian had enjoyed the change, “Mother Musgrave” was even better to tease her with than “Mother Taylor” had been.
But teasing and boy-toys aside, Jenn had just the same ‘take no prisoners’ attitude these days, especially regarding anything to do with “gay rights”. So instead of regarding Cathy’s attitude with ‘we’ll see’ skepticism, he’d cocked an eyebrow at her, and asked, “Son? Daughter? Sibling?”
She’d tucked her tongue into her cheek and looked at him with something approaching his own amused appraisal, and then said, “My father, actually. He was the one who taught me to dance. And he and his partner raised me after my mother decided that even the sight of me reminded her too much of him for her to want me around.”
As it turned out, after wooing her business with some persistence, Kennedy and Collins had “strongly advised” her to tailor her classes to the different demographics she was targeting; an idea that totally undermined a fundamental principle behind what she was trying to achieve. So she had contacted Kinnetik and had very much liked Brian’s approach. The campaign he’d outlined had been both in your face and funny. Individual dancers were shown in positions that clearly implied that dancing was, for them, a form of foreplay; the dancers had a glow, some were panting slightly, there was a slight sheen of sweat, a sense of exertion and of exhilaration. Then, after showing closeups of the individuals, the camera pulled back to let the viewer see the couples, which was where the fun began. Sometimes the hot guys were with hot gals; but sometimes they were with plain Janes, or with other hot guys, or with older women; sometimes the hot gals were dancing together, sometimes they were tantalizing an older lover, sometimes they were teasing a very young man; sometimes they were dancing with total geeks, and sometimes the geeks and the plain Janes were dancing together; or geeks dancing with the geeks, plain Janes with plain Janes, and oldies with oldies. Some danced very well, some were clearly, to put it kindly, beginners. There was humor in the unexpectedness of some of the pairings, but all of the couples, no matter how mis-matched or inept they might appear were clearly enjoying themselves.
Overall, the ads were sexy, even slightly daring, and yet somehow inclusive. They were specifically designed to make the viewer/ reader feel comfortable with the idea of visiting a Catherine Wheel studio; to dispel the idea that dancing was only for the beautiful people. They made it feel like a fun activity that anyone could enjoy. And, they implied, you’ll probably have such a great time that you’ll wind up the evening getting laid.
Cathy had loved the ideas Brian had shown her and the first campaign Kinnetik had designed.
Now she wanted Brian to come to the opening in Vermont, so that he could get the feel of her latest studio and develop the ads even further. The plan was to keep interest levels high as they rolled out the East Coast franchises, aiming to open several before opening their first New York studio in April, just in time for dance lessons for all the June brides.
The Vermont opening was for a Thursday night.
It was just a cosmic fuck up that it happened to be the night of Justin’s birthday.
Or was it?
Brian had done some psych classes in college – you needed them in his business. He’d always been a little leery of Jung. But the idea of synchronicity, that had appealed to him.
And he had only to look at his own life to see it at work – how big a “coincidence” was it that the two biggest factors for change in his whole fucking life had both come into it on the same night?
So when the first clip that Cathy had shown him when they were developing the ads had been a couple doing a very hot Latin-inspired routine to a song he knew all too fucking well, he’d started to wonder.
Coupled with the Vermont thing, it might have been enough to prompt him to suggest that Justin join him at the opening anyway, but given the timing …
Brian had a deeply buried, but still potent, superstitious streak. It seemed to him that the universe was arranging itself to make sure that he got the message about Justin’s fucking birthday. And he figured it might not be in his best interest to ignore it.
So, in his inimitable Brian style, he set the wheels in motion.
To start with, to get to Burlington with the shortest flight time, he had to take a stopover in New York anyway. So it made sense to take a little extra time with the bookings, and get Justin to meet him at the airport. The little twat had bitched and moaned about it, of course, but he’d shut the fuck up pretty quickly when Brian had asked if he could get free from his all his fucking arty shit for a couple of days and maybe fly up to Vermont with him.
That suggestion, made while they were skyping a few nights ago, had shut that beautiful mouth for at least thirty seconds. Brian thought it might be a record.
Then there had been the whole “are you sure? Won’t you be busy? Will the client mind?” bullshit to wade through. But the end result was that they were heading to Vermont together and everyone who thought Brian Kinney didn’t know how to do birthdays or fucking romance could go fuck themselves, because once the business shit was out of the way, Brian had booked them into a place up in the hills called the fucking “Stoweflake Inn” or some shit. It promised a ‘townhouse’ complete with Jacuzzi and open fireplace and king-sized bed with 1000 thread count sheets, and Brian was going to spend the night of Justin’s birthday fucking his brains out in that damned Jacuzzi and in front of the fire and in the bed with the view of the snow-covered fucking slopes, and little Sunshine was just going to have to deal.
Last time, business had prevented them from taking their holiday in Vermont, however much Brian might have wanted to; and he had, he remembered. He really had wanted that time away with Justin. This time, the universe had arranged for business to take him there, and there was no reason for Justin not to come with him, and every reason for them to find a way to spend some time together once the business was done.
So he took the plane to New York and collected his partner and together they headed out for Burlington, Vermont.
If Brian had needed any confirmation that the universe was definitely set on arranging things in a certain pattern, he received it during the dance studio opening. He’d been greeted warmly by Cathy and Justin even more so once Brian introduced him. They’d sipped a decent red wine, munched nibblies that even Brian found appetizing, and had chatted with staff and newly signed up customers, collecting ideas and images for the next round of ads.
There had been some dance demonstrations, including one by Cathy and her father, and then the dance floor was declared ‘open’ to all comers. Cathy urged them to take the floor, but she might have been disappointed if, when the waltz that had been playing ended, the next song hadn’t been the one used in the demo she’d shown him all those weeks ago.
Without allowing himself to think about it, Brian held out his hand, and Justin took it. They moved to the center of the dance floor and found themselves swaying together in a pattern of moves they’d first used in a very different time, a very different place.
They’d tried to recreate those moves once before and the clumsy, painful awkwardness had been a part of the nightmare they had been living then. This time, the recreation was neither clumsy nor awkward. This time they moved together easily, with grace and polish. There were no disapproving faces, no veiled threats or hidden violence. This time there was only a sense of fun, of support, of acceptance. Most of all, this time the sense of love and joy was undimmed by ensuing tragedy.
After taking leave of Cathy, they had driven a little over an hour up into the hills, and found their ‘townhouse’.
As promised, it had a Jacuzzi and a fireplace.
It also had privacy, quiet and while there was no room service the kitchen had been stocked, as requested, with a range of ready to heat meals and snacks, including vanilla ice-cream and a bottle of champagne chilling in the ice bucket. Plus there was a list of phone numbers for local restaurants that delivered.
Brian figured little Sunshine wouldn’t starve.
For himself, it felt like all he needed was right in front of him.
Once they closed the door, and shed their coats and gloves, he reached out to take advantage of his own generosity in arranging this little birthday treat.
Justin came into his arms more than willingly, and seemed equally eager to get rid of any pesky items of clothing that were preventing access to Brian’s favorite parts of their bodies.
Brian had intended their first round to be in the Jacuzzi, but once they were both naked, it seemed too far away. The rug in front of the fire was much closer, and he bitched loudly about Justin’s insistence on dragging the duvet from the bed. Justin had simply shrugged him off, and concentrated on spreading the cover out to give them both cushioning and protection from carpet burn. Brian had to admit it was probably better than having the little twat doing his own bitching about abrasions to his ass. The fact that his own knees also benefited from his lover’s foresight was just a side benefit.
Usually their first coupling after a separation was urgent, demanding, but tonight for some reason (and it couldn’t, Brian told himself, have been that fucking dance), the urgency was replaced by a sense of … freedom, a lack of constraint from all the pressures put on their relationship by their friends, and family, and by themselves. Here, tonight, there was only the essential truth of them; of who they truly were together.
While Justin’s hand caressed the soft skin on the inside of Brian’s forearms and elbow and he drank in the mix of scents that screamed “Brian” to his over-stimulated senses, Brian’s tongue explored the surprisingly strong bones across Justin’s shoulder and chest, reveling in the taste of his Sunshine – citrus shower gel, just a hint of sweat and musk, and some other subtle essence, unique to Justin.
Mouths met and teeth scraped carefully, and not so carefully, over lips and tongues, legs twined, and as the heat began to rise between them, their groins moved together in a familiar, yet eternally exciting dance of which the clothed version earlier had been just a foretaste. For a long moment, as Brian reached for the lube that he’d laid ready while Justin had been fussing with the duvet, their eyes met and held. A whole silent conversation took place – one about truth and trust and reassurance that small things didn’t matter as long as they had those two. Brian’s smile, when it came was disarmingly shy and he hid most of it in Justin’s shoulder as his fingers applied the lube; Justin’s was knowing and a trifle smug. He’d never brag of it – this, this was between them alone; no one else was privy to the hidden depths of their relationship; but he couldn’t help but feel at least a smidgeon of self-satisfaction in the fact that, separations not-withstanding, his partner valued these moments between them enough to forego the tricks who were still only too willing to throw themselves at the feet (and the cock) of the man who had once been the Lord of Liberty Avenue.
Once he was sure Justin was ready Brian, after one soft sweep of his tongue across his lover’s mouth, entered him. He found himself holding his breath for a moment as he steadied himself and allowed them both to adjust. It had been months now, nearly a year, but the thrill was the same. Partly, he’d sometimes thought (when Justin wasn’t around and he could think about such things with at least a little clarity) it was the frisson from doing something so forbidden; but mainly it was the … the intimacy, the complete letting down of walls and boundaries in an act of trust that still took his breath away. He could barely fathom trusting Justin this much, he had no idea how Justin managed to place such trust in him. But it was there, real and tangible and brought to life in this act.
He licked once more at Justin’s jaw, then surrendered all thought and gave himself to the passion between them as, free and unfettered, his cock sought out the places that would bring them both the most pleasure.
They took their time. There was no hurry. Both of them sensed that this time was a gift to them both, a time outside time for them to reaffirm their relationship.
For Justin, there had been times, like just lately really, when he had almost come to doubt not so much the love between them, but maybe Brian’s willingness to accept it. But somehow, whenever those doubts started to dominate his thoughts, Brian would pull a rabbit out of a previously hidden hat and provide him with the evidence he needed that Brian was as … not as committed, it wasn’t about commitment; as accepting, as welcoming of the reality of their relationship as he was. And that knowledge, the certainty that Brian found such surprising ways to give him, laid any half-formed doubts to rest. This trip was one of those times. He couldn’t begin to imagine how Brian had come to plan such a getaway. It was so … uncharacteristic. But then, Brian had so many moments of behaving in such uncharacteristic ways that perhaps they were, after all, a facet of his character.
But really, the whys and wherefores didn’t matter. They were here; Brian had brought them here. And Justin planned to make sure they both made the most of it.
Brian, lying relaxed and sated while Justin fetched the champagne and the inevitable snack, was vaguely pondering the string of coincidences that had brought them here.
If Kennedy and Collins had actually listened to their client, Cathy would never have come to Kinnetik …
If the studio opening hadn’t been in Vermont, with its echoes of lost opportunities …
If she hadn’t played that song for the demo …
If the opening hadn’t been on Justin’s birthday …
“Synchronicity!” he toasted, raising the glass of champagne Justin had poured.
Justin didn’t understand what he was talking about, but who gave a fuck?
There were more important things to do than talking anyway.
Perhaps they should see what champagne was like as a lubricant. After all, they didn’t have to worry, these days, about damaging the condoms.
Return to Wren's