Complications of the Mind
Meanwhile, back up in the loft
Brian scooped up his son and then the phone. He dialed the pizza delivery place and cancelled their order not wishing to incur an empty charge on his overly used card. "Want to go to the diner, Gus?"
"Where's Justin?" Gus asked, his tiny mouth forming a pout. "What you do, Daddy?"
Even my son thinks it's my fault, Brian thought. This is not my fault. It's better this way. Truly it is. But even he had to wonder who he was trying to convince. "He had to go, little man. Want to see Debbie?"
Gus smiled slightly and nestled his head on Brian's chest. After the loft door had slammed shut, Brian's erection had run away and hid. Too bad he couldn't do the same thing. "Yeah, Daddy. See Debbie."
Brian grabbed his keys and Gus. He armed the alarm and then closed the loft door behind them as they waited on the elevator to make its way up to the top floor. "Daddy, where Justin go?"
"To his friend Daphne's. You remember Daphne, right?"
"Like on Scooby Doo," Gus said. Yes, it was much simpler to be four. Brian envied his son that.
When they arrived at the diner, they took a booth and the brassy redhead came over to take their order. "Hey, Gus," she said. And then she took one look at Brian and knew something was very wrong.
"Where's Justin?" she asked.
"Kinney," she began in a warning tone of voice. And then Brian looked up and met her eyes, the pain so clear that she couldn't bring herself to chastise him. When he wanted to talk he would. Of course, knowing Brian, that might be never. "What can I get for the two Kinney men?"
"Cheeseburger and fries," Gus said.
Arsenic, Brian thought. "Turkey sandwich-"
"Yeah, kiddo, I know. It'll be right out. Brian, you look like shit."
"Thanks, Deb. I really needed to hear that." Brian said, avoiding her eyes.
"Hey, Gus, I think Jaime is in the back. Do you want to go watch him cook?"
Gus nodded, then looked at his father for permission, and Brian said, "Yeah, it's okay. Just be careful of the grease, sonny boy."
Gus hopped out of the booth and headed for the back. When Gus was safely out of earshot, Debbie stared hard at Brian and asked, "What did you do?"
"Why is it always my fault? Justin's not perfect, Deb. And I'm not always the prick."
Though this was true, she had reason to think that Brian was most often the party at fault. "So what happened?"
"None of your fuckin' business. Let it alone, Deb."
"Hey," she protested, totally not appreciating his attitude.
"No, Deb. Let it alone. It really is none of your fuckin' business. It's over. He's going to Hollywood to be a stah," Brian said, exaggerating the last word.
"Don't give me that shit. He'll be back."
"Nine months, Deb. Nine fucking months. I'm not going to wait around for him like some dickless fag."
No, honey, you wouldn't. But he would. "Brian, baby, he'll come back. He loves you."
"Sometimes love isn't enough."
"You told him?"
Brian snarled a, "No!"
She gave him a knowing glance and then bussed him on the cheek. "Kiddo, he'll come back to you."
Somehow Brian doubted that. He'd made it pretty clear that the door wasn't open. He didn't run a revolving door loft. Life would be so much simpler if he'd just stuck to the one time only rule. "Don't want him to."
There was something in Brian's voice, a note of such utter dejection and hopelessness, that it concerned Debbie. More than she wanted to bust his balls for being a prick or a fool, Debbie wanted to help him. Help him and Sunshine. "Brian, I'll watch Gus tonight. Why don't you go find Justin and talk to him?"
Brian looked at her and, though he was tempted, slowly shook his head. "I'm not shunting him off on you, Deb. He's my kid and I made a promise to Lindsay."
Okay, that didn't sound like Brian. It sounded like one of the pod people. Granted, he'd changed since his cancer was diagnosed but his core had still remained intact. "I'm offering. One night, Brian."
"You sure? I thought you'd want to go see Jenny."
"My granddaughter will still be there in the morning," Debbie said, grinning as she said the word granddaughter. She fairly beamed at him. "Go, Brian."
Brian looked at her and realized that she'd done more for him than any other woman in his life. She truly was his mother in all the ways that counted. Then, he felt the tears begin. Brian fucking Kinney, Stud of Liberty Avenue, was crying in the Liberty Diner. Of all the fucking places to lose it. Debbie stared at him in horror. She'd never seen him like this. She'd seen him cold and distant but she'd never seen him so desolate since the night of the
She moved her bulk out of the other side of the booth and scooted in next to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and then pulled his head forward until he was crying against her ample bosom. The sobs were great, heaving things that shook his whole body. Oh, poor baby, she thought. This is killing you, isn't it? "It's okay, Brian," she said, her words soft and soothing as she patted him on the back. "Cry it out, honey."
The other patrons slowly filed out, stunned by the emotional turmoil of the living legend, and Kiki, watching from behind the counter, silently went to put the closed sign on the front door. She slipped into the back and quietly told Jaime to keep an eye on Gus. Sometimes it was better to stay uninvolved.
Debbie felt his tears cease and then he pulled back from her, tear tracks staining his handsome face. It had been a long time since he'd needed her like that. It was only around her and Michael that Brian allowed himself to be free. In other ways, he was freer around Justin but not when it came to emotions, for the most part.
"Christ," he said. "I got your shirt all wet."
"Fuck the shirt," she said. "Are you okay?" So it was a stupid question and she didn't really expect an answer. In fact, she expected a famous Kinney retort. But when none was forthcoming, Debbie became worried again.
Brian shook his head and said, "I need some time alone."
"What you need is to talk to Sunshine," Debbie said.
"No," Brian said. "It's better this way."
"Better for whom?" For such a smart man, Brian could be an idiot. "You're fucking miserable," she said.
Brian cracked a slight smile. "And that's new because?"
Sometimes Brian could be an insufferable asshole and sometimes all she wanted to do was cuddle him. Now she was torn between wanting to smack him upside the head and cuddle him. So she settled for the next best thing, "Let me call Michael."
Brian vehemently shook his head. "No," he said. "He and Ben are practically on their honeymoon and they've got the kid there. I don't need him."
"Was once a time when you would have called Michael away from anyone. Doesn't matter who they were," Debbie reminded him.
So I'm a shit, he thought. Is that news to anyone? "No, Deb. He's Ben's husband now. He's got his own life. Don't worry him with this."
"Brian," she began. "He'll be pissed if he didn't know."
Brian nodded and said, "So we won't tell him. Deb, I've got to handle this on my own. Besides he'll just blame Justin and I don't need to hear that shit right now."
Since she knew her son would always have some feelings for Brian, she agreed with his assessment of the situation. There was once a time when Brian would have had her call him anyway. Looking at him now, she saw how the events of the past year and a half had changed him. She also recognized a man in emotional pain. She knew what Brian's method of pain management was and she feared that this deal with Justin would land him in the backroom or the hospital. She never thought she'd be hoping for him to end up in a backroom, with his dick down someone's throat, but she did. "Want me to call Miranda Jameson?"
Brian stared at her and Debbie smiled hesitantly. How the hell did she know? "What makes you think I want to talk to Miranda?"
"Because when you tree yourself, she's sometimes the only one who can coax you down off the limb. And you won't let me call Michael so my options are limited."
Brian ran through the list of people who actively gave a shit about him and was surprised to realize just how small it really was. He didn't really want anyone to see this moment of private pain but then he met her eyes again and said, "Call Daphne. See if she knows where he is."
Huh? Why on earth would he want me to call Sunshine's best friend? "Okay, kiddo," she said. She stood and watched Brian reach for a napkin to dry his eyes and wipe the tears from his cheeks. Even when he was fucking miserable he was more gorgeous than he had a right to be. But sometimes it was to Brian's disadvantage to be so hot. She wanted to kick Justin's ass right now for putting him through this. "I'll call her." How the hell am I going to explain this? She wondered.
As Debbie was determining to call Daphne to help pull Brian out of his funk, Justin stood at the refrigerator door and pulled out a beer. Then he opened the cabinet and removed the bottle of Jim Beam.
"You really think that's gonna help?"
No, he didn't but he had to do something. He turned around to face Daphne and said, "I've never seen him like that, Daph. It was like he just gave up. End of story."
"And nothing happened to precipitate Brian's reaction?"
"No," Justin said, and then he remembered what he'd said. "I told him I was gonna go. I ordered the pizza and I heard him tell Gus he loved him."
Suddenly Daphne understood why Justin had turned tail and run. But she could also understand just how hurt Brian must be. "Oops, you've done it again," she said. Then she gestured to the bottles and said, "Pulling a Brian is not going to fix this. All that's going to do is make you miserable and bitchy in the morning when you have a hangover."
"If I was pulling a Brian, I'd be fucking half of the backroom right now," Justin said. "Maybe I should." He set the bottles down on the counter with a bang and said, "I'm going to LA in a few weeks. Why shouldn't I spread the wealth that Brian's been enjoying all these years?"
"Um, because you're not a slut," Daphne said. She didn't really think either Justin or Brian was a slut but come on. "And that's Brian talking not you." She was not pleased with the way things were turning out. This really sucked and she was tempted to call Brian and tell him exactly what she thought.
"And we know this because of what, Daph? Who knows where Brian ends and I take over? Fuck this. I'm going to Babylon."
"Justin," she said, and then saw that he was dead serious. Recognizing there was no dealing with him in this mood, she gave up. "Don't call me at four in the morning to come pick your ass up when you're tweaked and fucked out. I won't do it. This is stupid and irresponsible."
"Exactly like Brian. I guess I have learned from the master," Justin shot back as he disappeared into his bedroom. He emerged nearly forty-five minutes later in tight black leather pants that Brian had bought him and a sheer gauzy black shirt over a black wife-beater. He looked like a blonde Brian. It was a disturbing image to Daphne but if she were honest she'd admit that he looked like a walking wet dream. Just the effect he'd been working towards.
"Well?" he asked, turning around for her to inspect him.
"Hot. Slutty, Perfectly fuckable," Daphne said. Brian, I could kick your fucking ass for this. She sighed and said, "Be quiet if you come in late."
When Justin arrived at Babylon, he knew he was attracting stares. It wasn't the first time he'd come without Brian but still he knew he was drawing attention just by being alone. He left his jacket at the coat check counter and walked further into the club. Meanwhile, Daphne sat on the couch, cursing both Brian and Justin equally. So when the phone rang, her mood was curt to say the least.
"Hello," she said.
"Daphne," Debbie began, peeking out at Brian, who sat slumped in a corner of the booth. He looked morose and as miserable as she'd ever seen him. "It's Debbie. Debbie Novotny."
Daphne stifled a sigh and said, "Hey, Deb. What's up?"
"Sunshine and Brian had a fight," Debbie began. "Brian's here and he's absolutely miserable."
Misery loves company, Daphne thought. Instead of responding snidely, she said, "Justin's miserable too. He was headed out to Babylon. I think the guys need to talk."
Since Debbie wholeheartedly agreed, she couldn't help but smile. "Brian's being stubborn. But yeah, I think the boys need to talk."
Daphne sat up straighter and said, "What do you have in mind?"
"Well, I've got little Kinney here with me. I told Brian I'd watch his son if he wanted to go talk to Justin. I don't mind watching him for the night. I'll try to talk the asshole into going to Babylon."
"Good luck," Daphne said, knowing just how stubborn Brian could be. She thought a minute and then said, "Those two have been through too much to just throw it away now. That would be stupid."
"Yep," Debbie concurred, sparing another glance at Brian. He was now shredding a napkin, carefully arranging the strips in rows. Anal retentive, yup, that was Brian. Christ on a fucking pogo stick, she thought. He's absolutely miserable and too fucking stubborn to do anything about it. "I'll try to get Brian over to Babylon. This is a disaster."
Daphne smiled a bit. "Of their own making, Debbie. You know what they fought about?"
"Sunshine got offered a job in Los Angeles and Brian's freaking about it. So he's pushing him away in his inimitable way and doing a bang-up job of it, as usual. You know, I miss the days when I could just hit Brian upside the head and tell him to fly right."
"Now, he'd probably just tell you to fuck off."
"Kiddo, you ain't lying. You know Brian pretty well, don't you?"
"Yeah, I kind of do. I know that he loves Justin even though he's too proud or too scared to admit it to anyone, least of all Justin."
Debbie looked at the few people in the kitchen and saw Gus stirring a pot. He looked so much like his father that it took her breath away for a moment. God, Brian really was lucky, she thought. "I'll get him over to Babylon. I don't know how but I'll talk him into it. How long ago did Sunshine leave?"
Hearing the response, Debbie uttered a curse under her breath. "I better hurry," she said, "or Brian will arrive to find him fucking someone else."
She hung up the phone with a clatter and turned to find Brian standing before her. A hand went to her heart as she looked at him. When Brian spoke, it was in a voice that was entirely too calm for comfort. "Brian will find who fucking someone else?"
"Um," she began, taking a step backward. The expression on Brian's face was not entirely pleasant. Deciding to answer honestly, she said, "Daphne said that Justin went to Babylon."
Great, he thought. Just fucking great. I so don't want to talk to him about this shit while he's getting his dick sucked. His right hand went to the back of his neck and began to rub in a nervous fashion while he said, teeth gritted, "Your offer for watching my kid still on?"
Debbie nodded. "Yeah, kiddo, I can watch Gus for you. Just call me later and let me know when you want me to drop him off. It's a little early for Babylon to be hopping, isn't it?"
That was the only thing that gave Brian any comfort. Maybe the audience wouldn't be as big as he feared. He nodded and said, with feeling, "Thanks."
"Don't mention it, Brian. I'm happy to do it."
He sent her a skeptical look and then said, "You're happy to do it because you'll give me grief if I fuck things up between me and Justin."
She shrugged and winked at him. Her boys knew her so well and Brian was no exception. "Go," she said, quietly for her.
Brian looked at her and smiled slightly. Then he turned and walked back into the main portion of the diner. When Debbie heard the door clang shut behind him, she felt a strong sense of relief. God, I hope they're able to fix things, she thought. They've come through so much together to fuck it up now.
Brian arrived at Babylon and found the familiar blond head in a sea of guys. He knew that Justin was the center of attention, not an unusual place for his lover to be. Still, he felt a twinge as he watched Justin lose himself in the music. Pulling himself together, he pushed through the mass of dancing men and came to a halt near Justin. Not wishing to draw attention but needing to get Justin's attention, he pushed himself between Justin and his partner, ignoring the other man's muttered asshole.
Justin avoided looking at Brian as he said, "What?"
"We need to talk," Brian said, keeping his voice low even under the rhythmic pulsation of the techno music.
"Done talking." Justin said. "I'm dancing," he said as he began to move away before he completely lost his vibe or his nerve.
Brian grasped his arm and Justin met his eyes, a simmering heat in the blue depths turning them almost cobalt in the light. "What?" he hissed.
"Talk. You. Me. Now." Brian said, feeling his temper flare even as he tried to keep his voice level.
"Don't want to. Leave me alone."
"We're partners. Remember?"
Justin turned to him and said, "I'm still wearing the fucking pendant, Brian. I have the balls to tell you that I love you. Why can't you do the same?"
"You know why. And this really isn't the place for it, Justin." He felt his temples begin to throb, a precursor to a headache. A bad one if memory served him.
Justin looked around; their conversation wasn't really gathering any attention. Yet. He wondered briefly if he could change that. "Why not, Brian? Everyone knows we're together even if we fuck around."
Brian couldn't really dispute that but he really didn't want to have this particular conversation in public. "C'mon, Justin. Let's go."
"Not back to the loft," Justin said.
"Fine. Neutral territory. The park?" Brian suggested. There was a small park located a few minutes away from the loft. Both of them had wound up there on occasion.
Sighing, Justin nodded. He was resigned to talking to his partner even if he was an unmitigated asshole. It crossed his mind that Brian was actually being mature for once. Amazing. Still, he followed the other man out of the club and he took a deep breath of fresh air. Brian turned to him and said, "If you're pissed at me, that's fine. I went from 0 to 80 really quickly. But you need to understand why."
"The park," he gently reminded Brian. The older man nodded and Justin walked beside him. Once he would have followed behind Brian; not now. Just another small way their relationship had changed. It was only when they were halfway there that Justin remembered Gus. "Where's Gus, Brian?"
Brian bit his lip and then said, "With Debbie. I kind of had a meltdown in the diner."
Eyes wide, Justin asked, "What kind of meltdown?"
Not wanting to discuss the fallibility of his character, Brian nevertheless realized he'd opened this door. He paused underneath a street light and faced Justin. "I lost it. Okay? I fucking lost it. Cleared out the whole fucking diner."
Shit, Justin thought. He didn't know what to say. Anytime Brian gave into his emotions was a rare occasion. He could count the number of times it had happened on one hand. It was never a pretty sight. Brian hesitated and then began walking again, modifying his stride so he didn't outpace Justin. He was relieved to see the park was relatively deserted. At this time of night, most people had gone home. He found a bench and they sat, side by side, but not touching. Both were acutely aware of the distance between them and unsure of how to bridge the gulf. But both knew they had to try, just the same.
Half expecting to be required to start the conversation himself, Justin was surprised when Brian began to speak. "I didn't trick on the ride, Justin. I had opportunities but I didn't do anything." It was an odd way to start the conversation but Brian felt the need to let Justin know that he hadn't fucked around, by choice, not because of lack of opportunity.
"Are you pissed at me about Connor James?"
Brian slowly shook his head. "A little jealous, maybe. But I'm not pissed. I just have this image on repeat of you on the cover of the Los Angeles Tribune in some pretty boy's arms."
"You are an idiot."
"Brian, he was just a trick. A one-night thing. Kind of a novelty act."
"You know his name," Brian pointed out. "And I'm betting his address and phone number."
"I thought the rules didn't matter. Especially when it's you I come home to." It was ironic, he realized. Trotting out the old rules in the face of Brian's jealousy but he didn't know how else to reassure him. It wasn't really fair considering both of them had pretty much held to only one of the many they'd laid down so long ago.
"You won't be coming home to me for six or nine months. That's a long time, Justin." A really, really long time. A lot of one-night stands.
Startled, Justin had to confirm that he was hearing what he thought he was hearing. "Are you asking me about monogamy?"
Brian took a deep breath. Jesus Christ, he thought. I never thought I'd be the one in this situation. Actually suggesting monogamy. Me, Brian fucking Kinney. But he was and so he slowly nodded. "Yeah, I guess I am."
"That's not fair when you'll be fucking everything that moves within 10 hours of my departure."
Don't get pissed. Don't get pissed. Nope, he realized, that's not going to work. "How many times have I tricked in the past four months, Justin?"
Justin shrugged his shoulders and Brian gave a grim little smile. He hadn't even noticed. "How many times have we gone out to Babylon and then gone home together?"
"Almost all," he conceded. Then realization dawned. "You've been cutting down on tricks?"
It was almost painful for Brian to nod but he forced himself to do it. "Yeah, I've been tricking less."
Twat. "Because I thought that's what you wanted!" he burst out. "You've been harping about it just being us from the very beginning. You're finally getting what you want from me and now it's you who is doing the experimental thing. What the fuck do you want from me?" He was clearly exasperated.
Then Justin stood and walked a short distance away. He stood looking at the copse of trees and pictured them weighted down with the white silkiness of snow. He was going to miss the winters in Pittsburgh though he wouldn't miss trudging to the diner through sleet and snow. He sensed Brian come up behind him and then slowly turned to face him. "I don't know what to do, Brian. This is a fabulous opportunity for me. I can't just turn it down."
"I'm not asking you to. I'm not proposing marriage either. I think part of what draws us together is that neither one of us really sees that as an option for us. Yeah, Michael and Ben may be able to make it work, but you and I don't need that binding us. There's more holding us together than a piece of paper or a pair of rings." Brian pulled Justin close and Justin went into the embrace, tucking his head under Brian's chin. "It's been nearly four years. Maybe it's time for us to grow up."
"What about forever young, forever beautiful? Living your life with no regrets."
"I still believe the forever young, forever beautiful part of that credo. But I have regrets, Justin. And I need to be stable right now for Gus."
"If Lindsay and Melanie weren't splitting up, would we even be having this conversation?"
Brian started to give a snarky response, but then he was reminded of a younger Justin asking him if he'd be there if he hadn't been bashed. No, he thought, I'm not going to give him a snide, smart ass response. "Yeah, we would. The Liberty Ride gave me time to think, in between Michael's haranguing me." For just a moment, he considered telling Justin that he was the reason Brian had made it across the finish line, proving to himself and everyone else that had been a naysayer that he could do it. But he pushed it aside. "I realized some things. You once said that we were better together than apart. I think you're right."
Thinking of the monogamy issue, Justin shifted and tilted his head back so he could see Brian's eyes. "I thought you were happy fucking every hot guy in Pittsburgh."
"I was. But then an irritating, blond little twink came into my world." He cracked a smile and Justin mirrored the action, though his didn't quite meet his eyes. "And he offered me an irresistible challenge and the opportunity to plow the finest ass in Pittsburgh. How could any self-respecting fag turn that down?"
Justin smiled, so pleased at the compliment he nearly smirked. "But monogamy?"
"When is the last time I brought a trick back to the loft?"
Justin thought about it and was startled to realize that he couldn't remember. How could I have missed this? He wondered. "I don't know. It's been a while."
"I'm not saying that I want us to turn into some old married couple, Justin. I just think that maybe we should try this. I don't want to reinstate the rules because they didn't really work for us. Just maybe you and I should try this."
"You realize that you're making a solid effort at commitment, Brian?"
Brian smiled hesitantly and said, "I thought you realized that when you found out that I didn't mind so much that your mother considers me her son-in-law. Besides, we have the DPA on file with the state."
"But that's just legal formalities," Justin began and then noted the look in Brian's eyes.
Slowly Brian shook his head. "I didn't do it just for legal reasons. I did it because I care about us and I don't want things to get fucked up again. I don't think either one of us can handle that."
"Is Rage admitting to vulnerability?" Justin teased.
"No," Brian said. "Brian Aidan Kinney is admitting to being vulnerable when it comes to you."
Stunned, Justin simply nodded. "Okay," he said, quietly. "Shall we go get your son?"
"Our son," Brian gently corrected. "Gus is our son."
Touched beyond reason, Justin felt his eyes well up. He leaned against Brian and felt the other man's arms tighten about him. No, Brian might never say he loved him, but at times like this, Justin wondered how he could ever doubt that the man felt the sentiment in the marrow of his bones.
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