Complications of the Mind
After Brian's backhanded invitation to move in, such as it was, Justin sat at the counter until he heard the shower click on. He hadn't really thought it was a proposal but he thought Hemingway had once written, "Wasn't it pretty to think so?" He tried not to think of all the ways that simple phrase could apply to his life with Brian. He feared how Brian would react to his news but he doubted it'd be good. Then, he considered, of course it won't be good.
He had to admit he'd been waiting years for Brian's invitation and had thought it might have come after Brian's bout with cancer but still he'd hoped that it wouldn't cause a life crisis for the man to make the move. This time he felt sure the words were genuine and heartfelt. It seemed Brian was finally growing up and somehow that thought made him sad. It also reminded him of Miranda's words. He had no idea how he was going to break the news to Brian about Brett's offer and his immediate acceptance. Hell, he thought, I didn't even think about it. I just went ahead and said yes. He had just impulsively said yes without giving a consideration to Brian. Since he nearly always thought of Brian first, his action was even more surprising and out of character.
"Hey?" Brian said, from behind him. "I expected you to join me. He wore only a white towel, the towel riding low on his hips, the shadow of his pubes just faintly visible.
Justin took a deep breath; he always loved seeing Brian wet but now it was distracting. He looked like a Greek god coming out of the sea, an always erotic image. His very own Greek God come to life. "We need to talk."
The change in Brian's attitude was immediate. Justin could see him stiffen his carriage, standing taller. He could practically see the walls going up. "Let me get dressed," he said in a terse voice. Something told Brian he wouldn't want to do this naked. He felt a tiny frisson of fear as he disappeared out of view, emerging in a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt. His collar bone still ached from where he'd broken it and the hot water had felt good. It would have been even better if Justin had joined him.
"What?" he asked, aware his voice was sharp.
"You know I want to move in with you. It's what I've always wanted."
Reduced to repeating ourselves, Brian thought, knowing that when Justin was less than fully coherent it was never good. He resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't going to like what his partner was going to say. "But?" He knew there was a "but". The blond's statement practically begged for its inclusion. "Spit it out, Justin."
No Sunshine, no Sonny boy, just my name, Justin thought. He's just erected a wall. Fuck. That he had that effect on Brian made him hurt and nearly brought tears to his eyes. "Brett offered me a job as assistant art director on the movie."
Brian carefully kept his face devoid of any expression. Well, he thought, I suppose that's my answer. Well, we had a good run. Time to buck up, kiddo. You knew this wouldn't last. Brian could practically hear his father's voice in his head saying that he wasn't worth jackshit. Don't let 'em ever see how much they hurt you, he reminded himself. "And "
"I took it," Justin said, looking down at the floor.
He can't even meet my eyes, Brian noted. "I see." You're leaving me again! The thought that it wasn't another guy was of little comfort to him at the moment. He'd known that wasn't it even though there was a tiny hint of something when Justin had told him about fucking Connor James. Miranda's reminder about telling Justin how he felt sooner than later suddenly flashed in his mind. Nope, not going to do it. Not going to say, I love you. Don't go. Not going to be weak over him. Knew this was always going to happen, that one day he'd move beyond me. Instead of voicing his fears and undeniable regrets, Brian asked, pleased that his voice didn't break, "When do you leave?"
"A month," Justin said. "Maybe a little less. I'm not renewing my lease at Daph's." As he looked at Brian, he saw him retreating further away, into the shell that had once guarded his heart. He wished fervently that the man would just talk to him. But that wasn't Brian's way and even when they were talking because they couldn't have sex it was a last resort.
Not much time, Brian thought. He couldn't believe how much this was hurting him. He was giving Justin everything he could and once again he was being left behind. He couldn't believe the words that came out of his mouth. "You should go. It's a great opportunity for you. Just think of all those stars you'll fuck." Like Connor James. The name gaining some mythic importance every time he rolled it around in his head. And the timing just couldn't be worse.
Justin stared at him. Fuck. This is killing him and he won't tell me because of his pride. "Are you withdrawing your offer?" His voice was soft and small. Please don't ask me what's with the tiny voice. I can't bear it. As much as this is hurting you, it's not any less painful for me.
Brian had to take a moment to think and a deep breath. He was so tempted to say "yes" out of spite, but simply shook his head. Open another vein, he thought. "No. I would still like us to try the living together thing even if you're Hollywood-bound. You'll have a home to come back to if-when you come back.?
"Brian, I don't have to go," Justin said, knowing that his lover would carve out his own heart before telling him to stay and sacrifice this opportunity for him. And he hadn't missed the slight correction from if to when.
"You should," he insisted. "We'll be okay," he said, wondering if he was giving voice to a lie. This would be their first prolonged separation since the fiddler. His mini-breakdown was excluded because everyone knew he was just losing his mind during that period. "Have you told your mom yet?"
Justin shook his own head. "No, I haven't decided what to say."
"Just say it's a fabulous opportunity," Brian forced his voice to be cheerful, knowing he'd never been less genuine. "She should be happy for you. Her baby boy is going to be a success."
Justin couldn't bring himself to smile. He was too sad.
Was this how you felt when I told you I was going to New York? Brian wondered. Then he'd been in denial about what Justin meant to him. Now he wasn't. He thought of the song, "The Show Must Go On," and the line about going on even when your heart was breaking. He understood it now.
"Let's go to Woody's. Play a game of pool."
"Don't want to." Don't want to chance seeing any of the guys. Don't think I can maintain this brave front for too much longer. It is hard being the strong one, the one with the facade of not caring especially when I care as much as the next guy and can bleed. Especially when it comes to a certain blond twink.
"Want to fuck?" Justin asked, knowing too well what Brian's answer would be.
"Too tired," Brian said, his words having a grain of truth in them. This so wasn't what he'd been anticipating as the outcome of his proposal, er suggestion.
"I should go tell my mom," Justin said, sensing Brian's withdrawal and need to be alone.
"Tell Jennifer and Molly I said hi. Take the car."
Justin hesitated and then walked over to Brian, kissing him on the cheek. He started to say "I love you" and then thought better of it. No idea how Brian would react to the words.
"Keys are on the night table."
Justin nodded, aware of just how hurt Brian was and slightly irritated that Brian wouldn't just admit how he felt. He didn't know how he could possibly fix this. So he walked up the stairs and retrieved the keys, returning to find Brian in the same position as if he were permanently affixed to the hardwood floor. "I'll be back."
"Bring it back in one piece."
Brian heard the loft door open and then slide closed. Sex was the last thing he wanted at the moment. He looked over at the liquor cart and noted that he was running low on alcohol. That meant one of them was drinking more and since the radiation he'd been drinking and drugging less. He was not unaware of the fact that Justin had not said I love you before he left. He was trying hard not to put too much emphasis on the oversight or the fact that it bothered him more than he cared to admit. He's already moving away from me, he thought, reminded of his thought that Justin was moving into shadows whenever he looked at him. Seems my subconscious picked up on it before it actually came to pass.
For the first time, Brian truly felt his age. He'd lived hard, drunk and drugged hard, fucked hard, and he'd let few people get close to him. He moved over to one of the light boxes and sat down on a cushion, then rested his head on his hands. He was emotionally hurt but he was also fucking pissed as hell at Justin for doing this without, at least, talking to him about it before accepting. For the first time, Brian was beginning to understand what a partnership actually meant. And it wasn't making executive decisions without consulting the other person involved in the relationship. Especially about something as important as a job across the whole fucking country. Even after Stockwell when he was shopping his resume around, Brian would have discussed a job offer from anywhere farther away than New York or Chicago. And he wouldn't have just accepted it arbitrarily.
When the phone rang, he knew it was not Justin. He'd call him on his way home from Jenn's. And Brian rather doubted it was Michael. His best friend was too wrapped up in his new little girl and his new marriage. Strange thinking of Mikey as someone's husband. "Hello."
He could hear noise in the background and then Lindsay's voice came on the line. "Hey, Bri. I need a favor."
Of course you do. "What? Need me to write a check for diapers?" Okay so it was borderline insensitive. Not borderline, he thought, really insensitive. He tensed waiting for the killing blow the blonde knew how to deliver so well. She'd learned some things over the years from her wife.
Sensing something in his voice, Lindsay walked outside, not wanting curious passersby to speculate about her conversation. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Big lie. "What do you need, Lindz?"
"I'm staying here with Mel, and Gus is going a little stir-crazy."
"Why don't you call Dusty? I'm sure she'd be glad to watch him."
"He's asking for you. He wants his daddy. He's bored stiff, Bri. I wouldn't ask if I didn't need you."
At least someone does. "Justin's got the car. I don't know when he'll be back."
She heard a note of something in his voice that concerned her. "Everything all right?"
"Just peachy," he said sarcastically. "Can you hold out for a couple of hours?"
"I'll bring him by. I really appreciate this."
"He's my son," he reminded her.
"Our son," she reminded him.
"Hey, Lindz, how are things going between you and Mel? You think you two are going to patch things up?" Never thought I'd want the two merry munchers to get back together. But then again I never thought Lindz would get a yen for a hard dick either. Shows how well I know her, he thought resigned.
"Don't know. She's pissed at me for the thing with Sam and I don't blame her."
"Not your fault you got a yen for dick."
"Not helping, Brian. I'm moving out of the house with Gus."
Things were that bad, he thought. Strange I never thought Lindz and I would end up the single ones. At least not her. She was like an earth mother and her brief, lamented affair with Sam Auerbach was nothing more than a midlife crisis. He wondered if one could call it that when you were barely in your thirties. He hesitated and then he heard her voice again. "I can drop him by. Do you think you might be able to watch him for a couple of days, maybe four at the most?"
"Planning on leaving the country?" he snarked before he could think better of it.
"Asshole. No, but I need time to pack up stuff and it's hard to do that with a feisty three-year-old running around. Please, Brian."
"When have I ever turned you down?" He couldn't help thinking that maybe spending time with his son would prevent him from dwelling on his lover's impending departure.
He hung up the phone. There went his plans for getting shit-faced. He stood and walked over to his computer, bringing up his internet browser. He pulled up Los Angeles and then began doing some research on what exactly Justin would need. God knew LA would be a completely different world than what he was used to. Maybe they needed to take a trip together before he left. That thought made him feel a little bit better. Justin would like that. They'd never done that. Never had the time to do it. Now they had the time and the money. If only Justin would agree to it. Tempted to make the airline reservations Brian decided against it. Not going to play the tit for tat game.
Jennifer Taylor was stunned to see the Corvette drive up and see her son emerge alone. Brian lets him drive his car, she thought. Wow, how things have changed. She knew he never let him drive the Jeep unless it was because he was drunk and from what she understood that was more often than she might have liked. She was pleased to see him.
She went to the door to let him in. "Hi, honey."
"Hi, Mom. Mollusk around?"
"No, your sister's at your dad's. Sweetie, don't you think she's a little too old for you to be calling her by that nickname?"
Justin smiled and shook his head. "It pisses her off and its fun to do that."
"Well, that's mature." She just barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes. "To what do I owe the honor of your visit?"
Justin got the sense that his mother was hurt by the infrequent nature of his visits. Frankly, he didn't think it had bothered her. Guess I was wrong, he thought. "Do I need an excuse to see my mom?"
"No, honey, it's just that you went to LA for the promotion and then Brian got home from the Liberty Ride with a broken collar bone and I just thought I'd only merit a one or two-line email. Maybe a phone call if I was very good. What's up?"
"He asked me to move in. And I accepted a job offer out in LA to work on the Rage movie."
She was rendered speechless for a moment. "I think I need to sit," she said. Justin in California? Without Brian?
They moved into the living room area and took seats on the sofa. Jennifer went to the wet bar and poured herself a glass of wine and then turned back to her son. "You want anything?"
"No, I can't. I'm driving Brian's car. He'll kill me if something happens."
She smiled at that. She could see that happening. "So tell me about California." She wanted to tackle that first before addressing the whole moving in thing.
"Well, it was amazing. I'm learning a lot. Brett's pretty amazing though I have some worries that my artistic integrity might be compromised. I know there's some pressure to ratchet down the sexuality."
"Uh huh. So did you meet anyone while you were out there?"
Justin paused and studied his mother for a moment. Jennifer Taylor had changed a lot in the four years since her divorce. She was no longer Craig Taylor's wife but a person with her own values and business and identity. "I had a thing with Connor James."
Thing being a euphemism for "I fucked him," Jennifer realized. It still took her aback to realize that monogamy was still not a part of her son's relationship with Brian. But it seemed both were okay with it and as long as Justin was happy, she wasn't going to push it. "I see."
"I accepted the job offer to be Assistant Creative Director."
"How does Brian feel about it?" She imagined that her erstwhile son-in-law was not too happy about the idea of Justin moving so far away. Brian didn't seem the type to handle a long-distance relationship well.
"I think he's upset about it but he won't tell me anything. He just put up this wall. He says I shouldn't pass up this opportunity because of him."
"So he asked you to move in? That's a big step." It was a big step for anyone but for Brian and Justin it was huge. Megalithic in proportion.
"Yeah, I agreed."
"Honey, that's wonderful," Jennifer enthused.
Justin narrowed his eyes as he looked at his mother. "You're happy?" he asked, incredulous.
Jennifer smiled. It had taken her a long time to accept her son and Brian together. She still remembered the afternoon in her kitchen when her bright, beautiful son had told her that he loved the man more than he loved anyone else in the world. And the day he'd stood up to Craig and told him that he knew all about discipline. She wouldn't let herself wonder just what that meant. But she returned her focus to the present and said, "I don't hate Brian, honey. In fact, I've grown to love him. He's kind of like a rose, beautiful but thorny. And, he's the closest thing to a son-in-law I've got for a while. And it's not likely I'm going to be a grandmother any time soon."
Justin just barely suppressed a shudder. "Um, Mom, you know you kind of are a grandmother."
"You have a child I don't know about?" she asked.
Justin smiled at his mother's expression. She looked rather perplexed by the idea. "I meant Gus. Gus considers you his grandmother, Mom. He asks about Gamma Jen."
The tears sprang unbidden to her eyes as she let that sink in. "Oh, honey," she said, reaching for a Kleenex. Then she realized something. "Does that mean Brian considers me his mother-in-law?"
"I think he'd prefer the term second mom but yeah he's not completely averse to the concept. Even though he and I won't be walking down the aisle." Ever. The thought that Brian was okay with Jennifer filling that role still gave him pause.
"Honey, what's right for other people, like Ben and Michael, doesn't mean it's right for you and Brian. Marriage isn't for everyone. Monogamy isn't for everyone."
There was a note of discord in her voice that Justin picked up on. "Mom, do you regret marrying Dad?"
"No, honey. I couldn't regret that because he gave me you and Molly. But I do regret staying as long as I did."
This was news to him. He'd thought his parents had a picture perfect marriage. Justin stood and walked to the glass door and looked outside at the lawn, and then he turned back to his mom. "Want to tell me about it?"
Jennifer quickly hid her surprise. She'd expected Brian to tell her son about their conversation after the Craig debacle but it seemed he'd kept her confidence. "I don't want to give you a negative impression of your father."
Justin laughed; a short bark that reminded her of his lover. "He does a brilliant job at that himself, Mom. Somehow I don't think anything you tell me is going to make me think any less of Craig."
He no longer calls him dad and Jennifer felt a twinge of pain and sadness. Those feelings were quickly replaced by anger at Craig for being such a homophobic prick who'd thrown away his relationship with his son because of bigotry. "You might want to sit down."
"I'm not going to like this, am I?"
Jennifer shook her head. "No, honey, I don't think you will. But I think it needs to be told. And your father would never have told you this."
Justin sat down on the sofa again and folded his legs underneath him. Jennifer was reminded of how often her son had done this as a child. But being a man fit him. He had lost the last vestiges of childhood that had begun to slip away the night he met Brian. "You know your father and I met in college, right?"
"Yeah, he was a senior and you were a freshman. Typical story. BMOC finds beautiful freshman and takes her back to his frat house to fuck her senseless."
Jennifer smiled a little at his summation. Her relationship with Craig hadn't begun quite that way but it was close. "He was finishing up his bachelor's degree in marketing. I was undecided but I loved art and interior design. I didn't really have the talent to be a really good artist but I loved interior design. So I chose that as my field of study. One afternoon, I was walking across the quad when I ran into this older boy. I looked up and I felt my heart skip. You know that feeling?"
"Yeah," Justin said softly. "It's the way I felt the first time I saw Brian. Like this man was going to change my life forever."
For the first time, Jennifer realized she and Justin were connecting on a different level than just mother-and-son. They were actually sharing experiences. "He asked me out and I said yes. We dated for two years and finally he took me out to a really nice restaurant and sat me down. He said that he wanted to marry me but he knew that I still had a couple more years of school to go." She paused and Justin nodded slightly so she continued. "I told him that I wanted to be with him. Honey, I was desperately in love with him and I was young and naive. The first blush of love hadn't yet worn off."
Justin nodded. He knew how that felt. But that first blush of love had worn off pretty fucking quickly thanks to Brian's constant refusal to admit his importance.
"Six months later, we got married. I was three months pregnant with you, honey. The gown had to fit a little looser than usual because I was beginning to show. Grandma didn't really care so long as I was getting married and my child wouldn't be illegitimate. Besides, she was happy that we were having an open bar."
Justin smiled at that. He loved his grandmother deeply. She, too, was an artist. And an alcoholic which was why he'd known to make Brian his hangover cure. "Go on, Mom."
"When I was eight months pregnant, I decided to take Craig dinner at his office. I hadn't called ahead because I wanted to surprise him." Boy did I surprise him, she thought. "The security guard let me go up. His office light was off but I could hear voices from the conference room. I pushed the door open and saw my husband fucking the young intern. She couldn't have been more than nineteen. I ran out and I was really lucky my water didn't break from the shock. I could have gone into premature labor but I just wanted to get out of there."
Justin kept his face carefully composed. His father was such a fucking hypocrite. "Why did you stay?"
It was the same question Brian had asked her, Jennifer recalled. Great minds really do think alike. "I had a bachelor's degree in interior design which was barely worth the ink. I was pregnant and really had no marketable job skills. So I bought into it when he told me it would never happen again because I still foolishly loved him."
"Mom, Grandma would have helped. She always hated Dad."
Jennifer smiled. "Yeah, Mom didn't much like Craig. From day one she thought he was too slick, too polished. She didn't believe a word out of his mouth. Thought it was all spin and no substance."
"Is that what you thought about Brian?" Justin realized for the first time the similarities.
"No, honey, my concerns about Brian lay in the fact that he was twelve years older than you. That he was more experienced and troubled. Yes, I acknowledge that I found a certain beauty about him but I never thought he didn't have substance."
"Did Da-Craig continue cheating on you?"
Jennifer nodded. "The last time was a few months before you came out to us. I was taking his shirts to the laundry and I found a white shirt with a lipstick imprint on the collar. I knew then that he wasn't able to keep his dick in his pants."
"So your splitting up really wasn't about me and Brian? Or me being gay?"
"Oh, Justin, sweetheart. No, it wasn't about you. I was tired of being the cuckolded wife and having a homophobic asshole for a husband. And there were financial issues, too. But I would never have used you as a reason to file for divorce." She wasn't so sure about his father.
"Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Jennifer sighed and finished the rest of her wine. "He's hurt you enough, honey. I didn't want you to lose any more respect for him than you already had. Craig's done you enough harm as it is."
"Brian really told him off, though." Justin couldn't keep the pride from entering his voice. And he knew his mother would be able to pick up on it as well.
"Yeah, he did," Jennifer said, smiling. "I don't believe the self-effacing shit he pulls anymore, Justin."
"What did you say to him about that?"
Jennifer grinned at her son, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "I told him I was onto him."
Justin returned the grin. That's my mom, he thought, reminding him once again just how lucky he was to have Jennifer as a mother.
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