Complications of the Mind
"Me too." And Brian would never have believed the sense of relief and calm that came to him with that simple pronouncement. "Hey, Justin, would I like that series?"
"Possibly. I'll pack the first one."
"Don't think I'll be doing much reading," Brian said deadpan.
"You never know," Justin said, moving to the dresser to change into something that his mom wouldn't criticize.
Brian smirked and saw Justin's movements and finally said, "Why are you changing? You worried your mommy won't approve of what you're wearing?"
"Fuck off, Brian."
Brian did so, figuring that if they were going to fight it wouldn't be over something as minor as clothing.
Later that day, a tired and amused Brian flopped into a chair at the food court while John and Justin went to hit the arcade, leaving him with the bags of their purchases. He had spent more money than he'd intended and a lot of it had gone to John, surprisingly enough. He was closing his eyes to take a brief nap when his cell phone rang. He glared at the display and then finally picked it up, snarling, "What?"
"We need to talk," Michael's whiny voice said.
"Fuck you and the jackass you rode in on. I have nothing more to say to you."
"You're going to take his side over mine? You won't even give me a chance to explain."
Brian sat up and contemplated just severing the conversation but he had some perverse desire to see just how Michael would attempt to spin his blatant betrayal. "Explain away, Mikey."
At the nickname, Michael breathed a sigh of relief. He can't be too pissed if he's calling me that, he thought. "He's going to California in a few weeks, Brian. What are you going to do when he's gone? You know that you'll be fucking your way through the backroom the night he leaves."
"Michael, how many times did I trick on the Liberty Ride?"
"Um," Michael said, having to think about it. "Three times," he suggested, not having a clue. He'd been too wrapped up in the idea of marrying Ben to worry about his best friend's scorecard.
"Nice try. I didn't fuck around on him, Michael. I could have but I didn't. So explain away your behavior."
"When he's gone who will you have to talk to? And hang out with?"
Brian wanted desperately to tell Michael that Justin wasn't going but knew it wasn't his place and he wanted to be there when Justin dropped that bomb on sad little Mikey. "I have a job and a kid. And my nephew is staying with me."
"Yeah, what the fuck is up with that?"
"I'm your family."
"Family doesn't mean fucking the other person over. And contrary to popular belief, my life is not a novel for you to read whenever you please. I have a right to privacy."
Michael knew he was rapidly losing ground and didn't know how to fix it. "You need me," he said, knowing he sounded desperate. "And you hate your nephews."
"No, Michael, you're the one person I don't need in my life right now. And the topic is not up for discussion."
"Go find your husband, Michael. I'm tired of playing this game. I'm not explaining my decision about either Justin or John to you. It's none of your fucking business."
"You wouldn't have even crossed the fucking finish line if it wasn't for me. You did that because I was there to push you forward and remind you of everyone who said you couldn't do it. What will you do without me? Justin was off in California."
At that, Brian began to laugh. Poor, naïve little Michael. Deluded little Michael. "I crossed that fucking finish line because I saw Justin was there. It had nothing to do with you, Michael. You're so fucking pathetic. I crossed the finish line because I saw him and knew that my future lay with him and I wanted to finish because everyone said I couldn't. My past lies with you. Grow the fuck up, Michael." He hung up before Michael could say anything more.
He reached for his soda and drained it, wondering if he could convince lover and nephew to hit the road. He had little opportunity to debate it because a laughing Justin and John flopped into the two seats opposite him. "Hey," he said.
Justin gave him a considering look and asked, "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, let's catch a movie."
Justin pulled a few bills from the pocket of his jeans and handed them to John saying only to get him a soda. John started to protest, saw the expression on both of their faces, and then beat a hasty retreat. "Want to tell me what's up?"
"Michael called," Brian said.
"He tried to take credit for me crossing the finish line at the Ride. And said that the minute you were in the air, I'd be fucking my brains out."
"So why did you push yourself across that finish line?" Justin asked the question that he'd been wondering for days.
Justin stared at him and said, "Me?"
Leaning back in the chair, he looked tired and like he'd just fought a final battle. Finally opening his eyes and meeting Justin's gaze he said, "I don't think you really understand the affect you have on me, Sunshine. My collarbone hurt like fire and then I saw you standing there and all I wanted to do was prove to you that I could still do it, that I was still the man you fell in love with. I had time to do a lot of thinking on that ride and it all came down to one simple factor: you. " Lest Justin become too comfortable in the knowledge of the power he had over his lover, Brian added, "And I wanted to finish that fucking race because of all the people who said I shouldn't and couldn't make it."
Not used to a needy Brian or an openly vulnerable Brian, Justin didn't know what to say. Going over the events of the past few days in his head, Justin figured that sooner or later Brian was going to crash from the emotional strain. For once, he'd be there to pick up the pieces when Brian gave into emotional exhaustion. He knew that both of them needed this sojourn to New York, as much as they needed to breathe. And while the thought of hitting all the museums made him pretty ecstatic, he was equally as happy about spending some time with Brian away from the prying eyes of their so-called 'family'.
Luckily or unluckily, depending on who you asked, John returned at that particular moment. He studied their faces and said, "You guys want me to hit the arcade again?"
"No. Any movies you want to see or do you want to head home?"
"Um, home. Can we stop by my mom's house and pick up some stuff?"
Trading glances with Justin, Brian nodded and said, "Sure. You want me to come in?"
"Not unless you want to. When do we have that appointment with Dr. Jameson?"
"At four-thirty," Brian answered. "She'll probably want to talk to you alone and then to both of us."
Later that afternoon, Justin found himself alone in the loft. Bored with both John and Brian gone, he pulled up his e-mail and noticed a message from Brett Keller, asking him to call him. He'd been putting off this conversation for days but knew he could no longer do so. On one hand, he hated disappointing Brett but what was going on at home was more important. On the other hand, Michael's reaction might just make everything worth it. He'd have a legitimate reason to bust the other man's balls for the appalling manner in which he'd been treating Brian.
He dialed Brett's direct number at the studio, relieved when he got the man himself and not his voice mail. "Brett, it's Justin Taylor."
"Hey, excited about working on the movie?"
"Um, that's actually why I called. I'm not going to be able to work on the movie, Brett."
He could hear Brett inhale and braced himself for a tirade; he was pleasantly surprised to hear the other man begin to laugh. "That's why I called you. The studio bigwigs want someone with a little more experience as art director. You're still more than welcome on the set and I'll fly you out whenever you want to come see how the shoot is progressing."
"Thanks, Brett. I was really worried that you'd be pissed."
"Everything okay in the Pitts?"
"Just some family stuff," Justin reluctantly answered, not wanting to get into the details of the situation.
"Well, I hope everything works out. Have you told Michael about this?"
"Good luck," Brett said. "Hey, Taylor, I'm sorry it didn't work out but maybe it's for the best."
"Yeah, maybe," he responded, noncommittally.
He hung up the phone with Brett and grabbed the keys to the 'vette. Scribbling a quick note to Brian, he let his lover know he'd had an errand to run and would be back in time for dinner. He armed the alarm and locked the loft door behind him.
It didn't take him long to reach the Red Cape, knowing that Michael often kept banker's hours. He was relieved to see the open sign still in the window. He pulled up in front and made sure to lock the car; Brian would kill him if anything happened to the Corvette before he sold it.
Michael looked up from a stack of receipts he was going over and met Justin's gaze with a steely glare of his own; it might have worked coming from Brian, but directed at him by Michael it was just pathetic. "Hello, Mikey."
"Boy Wonder," Michael said, sarcastically. "To what do I owe the dubious pleasure of your visit?"
"Let's cut the crap. You're fucking with Brian and you hurt him."
"No, Boy Wonder, that's your department. You get his heart and then you walk out on him. I've never done that to him."
"Dr. Dave," Justin reminded him. "That's not the issue. Brian's raw and is going through a lot of shit right now and he doesn't need you to fuck things up for him."
"I'm not explaining my relationship with Brian to you, you fucking little twink. He will never give you the words you want so desperately."
Justin smiled, a half-smile that caused Michael to back up a pace. He'd seen that look on Brian's mien before but he'd never seen it on Justin's. "You'll never know, now will you?" he taunted.
Michael turned away to put the receipts back in a drawer and then turned back to face him, unsure of his ground where the young blond was concerned. "Brian is incapable of loving anyone other than Brian." He paused and asked, "So when do you go to California?"
Justin waited a half-beat and then delivered the coup de grace. "I'm not," he said. "I'm staying in Pittsburgh."
"WHAT THE FUCK?!" Michael fairly screeched.
Justin only smiled and said, "I'm staying with Brian. I'm moving in with Brian. We've put a bid in on the loft downstairs."
"Don't get too comfortable," Michael hissed. "It's only a matter of time before he kicks you out on your bubble butt." Even he knew that the fact that Brian and Justin were buying real estate spoke of a step in the direction of permanency.
"Michael, you're so pathetic," Justin drawled lazily, tone reminiscent of Brian at his most sarcastic.
It was clear that Michael didn't miss the resemblance to his best friend's tone and hated the fact that Justin had used an insult that he and Brian had fairly patented as teenagers. He turned to go and Michael said quietly, "He's going to lose his son, Justin."
"You fuck with Brian, you fuck with both of us."
"You're not his fucking husband," spat Michael.
"No, Mikey, but I am his partner. And I'll do whatever is necessary to keep Brian safe, happy, and protected. And at the end of the night, I'm the one sleeping in his arms. I'm the one sharing his bed and his life. Don't fuck with him. I won't warn you again."
"I'm not scared of you."
Justin turned to glare at Michael and quietly said, "He and I have dealt with bigger problems than a cockroach like you, Mikey. I remembered the prom, Michael. I remembered everything about that night and you ought to remember that he chose me. I know what you said to him at the party about how you thought he should have left me to bleed on that garage floor. You're lucky all he did was give you a shiner. He could have fucking killed you. You couldn't have hurt him more. You were there that fucking night; you saw him on the edge of absolute, sheer despair. Can you deny that there was some little part of you that watched Brian in complete nuclear meltdown and didn't hope that I wouldn't pull through?"
"You little fuck-"
"Uh, uh, uh," Justin cautioned. "I protect what's mine, Mikey. You've always been on my brown list but now you're on my black list. I won't let you hurt him again."
"And what happens when you get tired of playing house with him and want someone younger and less fucked up than Brian? What happens then?"
"I left him once and it was the biggest mistake of my life. You told me once that I should have stayed gone. If that was what Brian wanted, he would never have let me back in. He was fucking miserable without me in his life and I was miserable without him. I love him, Michael. All his flaws and idiosyncrasies and everything about him. It's not about sex with me and Brian. It's about the fact that we have this connection that nobody understands, not even us. But it ties us together."
"You'll never have with him what Ben and I have."
"And you don't get it. I don't want what you and Ben have, Michael. I want Brian. Any way I can get him, in any shape or condition. It doesn't matter to me that he shuts me out or that he may fuck other people. At the end of the night, I'm the one he comes home to."
"So what, couples who trick together stay together?" Michael snapped at him.
"Yeah, Michael. Because he and I share something that you will never understand. Leave him the fuck alone until you understand that I'm not going anywhere. He's more important to me than a fucking movie. He's more important to me than a relationship with my dad. I've given up a lot to be with Brian and I don't regret a fucking decision I've made. The only decision I regret is leaving him when we needed each other most."
"So what's the deal with Claire's son?"
"I've been his family for twenty years, you fucking little twat. Where the fuck were you when he crawled through my window after having the shit kicked out of him by his drunk old man? Where the hell were you when he cried about the coach moving out of district at the end of freshman year?"
"Where the fuck were you when his mom found out about him being gay? Where the hell were you when Stockwell and Vance dropped in on us unannounced? Where the fuck were you when he lost his fucking job?" Justin turned the questions back on him. "I'll tell you. You were fucking gleeful when he was kicked off Stockwell's campaign for being gay. I was the one who sat there and watched our calm, cool, calculated Brian lose it when he realized that he was gonna lose everything because he has principles. I was there when he told his sister about having cancer. I was there for him the night Stockwell lost the election. It was me who he embraced when those results came in. I'm there for him, Michael."
"He needs me," Michael protested.
"No, Michael, I need him," a voice from behind them said. "I'm sorry that you can't accept that. I've made my choice and it's not you."
Michael and Justin both turned to see Brian in the doorway, flipping the open sign to closed. "You can't do that."
"Let's have a chat about things I can't do, Mikey, shall we? I heard every fucking word you said." Justin started to speak and Brian held up a hand for silence and Justin understood. "I never realized until tonight just how much you resent Justin. But I think back on that first night when I started to go down on him and the look in your eyes. I should have known then that my fate had already been sealed with his. Yeah, I was flying on E but I knew who I wanted and it burned your ass that it wasn't you."
"Well what the hell did you expect? You'd kiss me with a fucking tab of E on your tongue and then you'd fondle me in the stall at Babylon. You gave me every reason to hope that someday you'd come to your senses. And then the little blond twink came into our lives and suddenly I wasn't so important anymore. I've seen you through a lot of shit, Brian. Even on that trip to rescue the brat, you gave me reason to hope. And you nearly fucked me the night your dad died."
"And I fucked the shit out of him in that hotel room, Michael, until he was screaming and begging me for more, harder and faster. I would have killed for a fucking camcorder that day to tape us fucking. He was not a trick at that point only I was too selfish and deluded to realize it. I loved him back then, Michael, and I didn't realize it because I didn't have a clue what love was. And there was a part of you that nearly didn't hold back that night my dad died. Sad thing is I hoped, really hoped, that Justin would be there that night."
"I loved you."
"No, Michael, you love the idea of me. Lindsay loves the idea of me. Gus and Justin are probably the only two persons in the whole fucking world who actually love me for me. And I don't want what you and Ben have. It doesn't matter how many ceremonies you go through to prove your love to each other, Justin knows how I feel about him. He knows because I've told him in all the ways that matter. He keeps me grounded. And when I have a nuclear meltdown, he's the one who brings me back from the edge."
"I keep you grounded."
"And he allows me to fly when I need to. He understands that sometimes I just need to get the fuck away. And sometimes I want him to fly with me because even an eagle doesn't always want to be alone. I'm not going to start spouting lesbianic shit or schmaltz but he's right. He was the one who got my bracelet back from my nephew and came to give it to me, when we weren't together. He's the one who had the balls to recognize that he made a mistake and came to find me when he realized that Ian wasn't who he really wanted. I didn't let him back in my life because he begged or pleaded. If he'd done that, I probably wouldn't have let him come back. He came to me like a man, admitting his mistake and letting me know that he recognized me for me and wasn't pushing for any substitutions. When you printed the comic about JT melting Rage's cold heart and JT was going down on him, Justin came to me that night. He gave me a blow job and then stood there when the trick asked him who he was. I said it was hard to define and then Justin said that he was the guy I fuck more than once. He's my partner, Michael. I considered him my partner when I went to Chicago to land that account instead of going with him to Vermont. Do you know how many times I have regretted that? That one simple decision cost me valuable time with him."
"I didn't think you'd want me to interfere."
"Fuck that. You're a weak little faggot who didn't have the balls to stand up to a scared teenage kid."
"A scared teenage kid?" Michael screeched. "That kid accused you of fondling him, Brian."
"I'm aware of my history with my nephews, thank you. I don't need a refresher course in Kinney family history. It's not any of your concern why John is staying with me. And you've crossed the line one too many times when it comes to me and Justin. You intentionally misled him and then came to tell me that he knew about me being sick."
"I was trying to be a good friend."
"No," Brian said, shaking his head. "You were trying to insure that your place by my side was locked in stone, reminding Justin that his position was transient. What you forgot is that I often push those I love off cliffs because I think that's what is best for them. You pushed Justin off a cliff because you wanted me for yourself."
"Brian, he's snowed you into believing that he's the good guy in all of this and I'm Mephistopheles."
"Mikey, I'm impressed you know who Mephistopheles is but I figure that's because you like the musical Cats. No, you're the one who did such a brilliant job of snowing me. And it might have worked had I not realized that when the chips are down, the one person who won't intentionally fuck me over is Justin." Brian glanced at his lover who'd stayed silent throughout the confrontation.
"So you're willing to throw away our friendship because of a little blond piece of ass?" Michael bit out.
"No, I'm willing to throw away our friendship because you're pathetic. I offered once to fuck you and you turned me down. Thing is if you'd said yes, I would have lost Justin because I'd have cheated on him."
"Every time you fuck another guy, you're cheating on him."
Justin and Brian exchanged glances and Brian inclined his head slightly, letting Justin know he could field this one. "No, he isn't. The only way he'd cheat on me is with someone we both know is something more than just a casual trick. I forgot that, Michael. Thank God, I remembered that fact."
Brian wrapped an arm around Justin's waist and they faced Michael who had gone white. "Michael, leave us the fuck alone. I'm happy for the first time in my life and it's sure as hell not because of you. Go hang out with Smelly Mel and your daughter. Leave me and mine alone. I won't warn you again."
"You're going to lose Gus," Michael warned.
Justin felt Brian tense and then said, "We're the ones who are in a committed relationship, Michael."
"It's a sham, a façade because you hate the term lovers."
Brian started to answer and felt an answering pressure from Justin, knowing the gesture was a cautionary reminder that some things were better left unsaid until they needed to be revealed.
"Goodbye, Mikey," Brian said, opening the door and letting Justin go through it first. They walked around the corner in silence and Brian leaned against an unlit lamppost.
"Come here," he said quietly. Justin moved towards him and Brian clasped him in an embrace. "Thank you."
"Having my back and keeping me from killing the little son of a bitch."
"Debbie's gonna ream you out for hurting her poor wittle Mikey."
"Yeah, well, it's a long time coming, sonny boy. If I didn't have you in my life, I'd be devastated over this. I'd be crawling into a bottle of Beam right now or fucking my way through the entire starting line-up of the Steelers."
"You regret it?"
Brian hesitated for a moment, inhaling, then slowly exhaling before answering, "No. Well, I regret that he forced my hand. But I think this is a long time coming. He's going to go crying to Emmett and Theodore, saying how mean I was to him. How mean you were to him."
"So you cut him off at the pass. You go to Em and Ted first, telling them your side of the story."
"Ted'll back any move Michael makes," Brian reminded him. "Remember the shrine I told you about that Ted had?"
Justin shuddered and Brian grinned at him. "Exactly."
"I think Em will be behind you, Bri. He won't forget that it was you who reminded him that losing Ted wasn't the worst thing that could happen. He respects you. In a lot of ways, you are similar."
Brian raised an eyebrow and glared down at him. "I know you did not just compare me to a flamboyant queen."
"Oh calm down," Justin said, suppressing a giggle. "I just meant that you are open and proud of your sexuality and don't give a shit what people say about you. Look at how Em handled the thing with Drew Boyd."
"Don't remind me," Brian said, still smarting over that little incident. "I wanted to kill that fucker and it was a damn good thing that I didn't know he was fucking Emmett until after he bought his way out of the contract with Kinnetik."
"So you weren't the slightest bit attracted to him?"
"I might have said something about him selling an awful lot of Kleenex, Sunshine. But I don't like fucking someone with an ego as big as mine. And Drew Boyd had that in spades."
They continued to walk and then Justin stopped on the sidewalk. "I drove here in the Corvette." He stared at Brian and said, "How'd you know I was here?"
"You left your e-mail account up with the message from Keller. So what happened with him?"
"Studio bigwigs want someone with more experience so he was calling to let me know that the offer was rescinded."
Brian nearly grinned and then schooled his features. Justin noticed the action and the hasty cover and said, "It's okay if you're happy."
"Fucking ecstatic is more like it, Sunshine. So how'd she handle?"
"Great. I miss the jeep but I don't think I'll miss the Corvette."
Brian studied him as they reached the 'vette and posed a question, face not betraying the emotions that lay behind it. "You know why I sold the jeep, right?"
"Too many memories of us fucking in the jeep? Too many memories of me jacking off or blowing you while you were driving?"
"Got it in one. You get an 'A' plus, sonny boy. I knew there was a reason I keep you around."
Justin got in the passenger seat, knowing that Brian needed to drive, to maintain some semblance of control. "So did you leave John at the loft?"
"Yeah, he's happy with his I-Pod. I didn't realize how easy it was to keep him entertained. He's kind of stoked about eating dinner with your mom and Molly."
"I was serious earlier, Brian. I don't want John to put the moves on her."
"I don't think you need to worry about that. He's too bruised right now to even think about making a play for her. This shit with the priest has laid him bare. And I think if my mom suggested he do penance, John might actually welcome the experience of being scourged. He feels that fucking guilty over something that isn't even his fault."
"How did the session go with Miranda?"
Brian glanced at him and said, "If John wants to talk about it, he will. I'm not gonna turn around and betray his confidence. Not even to you, Sunshine."
Justin fell silent, lost in his own thoughts, and then felt the reassuring presence of Brian's palm on his, fingers interlaced. It was such a casual touch but one that could keep them connected even when other things weren't possible.
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