Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Brian closed the door to the loft, carelessly dropped the mail and keys he was carrying onto the floor and sat heavily on the sofa. His body was hunched over, as though he had been kicked in the gut, and he was shaking. He stared at his hands for long minutes, watching the tremor as it ebbed and then built back up again with the single thought that kept reverberating through his brain. Justin is gone. Justin is gone. Justin is gone. Justin is gone.
Brian had taken the little shit to the airport himself just that morning. It wasn't a surprise. In fact, it was something he had encouraged Justin to do. Go to New York, he'd told his lover. Become a famous artist. Leave me. He'd pushed Justin into going the same way he had pushed the blond twink away a hundred times before. But Justin had always come back before. Even when Brian had thought he'd lost Justin to the bright lights of Hollywood, Justin had returned to him.
But this was different. Somehow, Brian knew as soon as he'd kissed Justin goodbye that this was the end. Once Justin got on that plane, he would not be coming back again. He'd stood by the security gate for nearly an hour after Justin had disappeared down the hall, waiting, hoping that he would reappear. It hadn't happened. And when the flight board announced that his flight for New York had departed on time, Brian sighed, looked one last time down the hall, and walked back to his car. He'd sat there in the airport parking lot for a long time, waiting for the shaking to subside, but it hadn't.
He needed a drink.
Brian stood on shaky legs and went to the kitchen. It was only lunchtime, but he figured it wasn't too early to drink. He pulled out a tumbler and the bottle of 30-year-old Laphroaig single malt scotch that Justin had given him for Christmas last year. It had cost the twink about five hundred bucks and they had been saving it for a special occasion. Fuck. Even the alcohol reminded him of Justin. Brian cracked the seal and worked out the cork before pouring the amber liquid to the rim. Hmmm, not a double; maybe a quadruple? He took a long drink, feeling the smooth burn all the way from the tip of his tongue to the pit of his stomach. The smoky flavor lingered on his pallet and he savored the numbing sensation the strong liquor was having already. He finished the rest of the scotch and refilled his glass to the rim before going back to the sofa.
Brian laid down on the sofa and stared at the ceiling, trying desperately not to think of Justin. He was pretty sure he had pot stashed someplace in the loft, unless Justin found it and threw it out. A joint sounded good right about now. And more alcohol. He'd move after he finished this drink.
The potency of the scotch was displayed in the way Brian stumbled around the loft fifteen minutes later, looking for his stash. He found it tucked inside a pair of shoes that Brian couldn't wear but refused to get rid of because they were fucking expensive and made in Italy. He also found one of Justin's sweaters, dropped carelessly to the floor of the closet and missed when Justin was packing. Brian sniffed the weed and then took a sniff of the sweater. He pulled the sweater over his head, mindless of the fact that it was at least a size too small for him, and staggered back to the sofa to roll a joint.
He lit up and sucked in a deep breath of the acrid smoke, held it in his lungs until it felt like they were burning, and slowly exhaled. The rush from the weed hitting his brain, combined with the scotch, had Brian sighing a happy little moan. He pulled the ashtray close enough to reach without getting up from the sofa and studied the ceiling again.
Justin was in New York by now. Maybe even in his new apartment. Overprice shithole that it was. His paints and canvases were being shipped, at Brian's expense, and would arrive later that week. Justin had kept his portfolio with him, though. He'd start the rounds of galleries right away.
They'd discussed it all. They had even discussed how they would keep in touch. Email, texting, phone calls…it was all bullshit. Of course, that's when his phone chose to ring.
"Justin?" Brian said, his breath coming in pants, winded from his stumbling rush to the phone.
"Brian?" It was Michael.
"Oh, it's you," Brian sighed. He grabbed the bottle of scotch from the counter and brought it back to his nest on the sofa. "What do you want?"
"I just wanted to know if you wanted to come to dinner tonight," Michael said tentatively.
Brian chuffed a derisive laugh as he rolled another joint and lit up. "No, I wouldn't want to intrude upon your domestic bliss." He poured more scotch and noticed that the bottle was almost empty. How long had he been drinking? "Hey, you got any E? Or poppers?"
"Brian?" Michael said, his voice now sounding worried. "Are you okay? You haven't done that shit since the cancer. And I have never been the one buying that shit."
"No, you just let me buy it and then used it anyways," Brian said with a frown. "Used me, too."
"I've never used you Brian," Michael said defensively. "Brian, what are you on?"
"Just high on life," Brian laughed. "And weed. And that really expensive scotch Justin bought for me. He loves me, you know."
"I do know," Michael said.
"Then why'd you make him leave?" Brian asked. "You and Lindsey and…fuck… all of you couldn't wait to see us split up. Why Mikey?"
"That's not true," Michael denied.
"Is too," Brian said with a childish pout as he drank down the last of the scotch from his glass and poured the last dregs of the bottle into his glass. "I need more booze. You can bring me some booze, can't you, even if you can't bring drugs?"
"I'll come over, but I'm not bringing alcohol," Michael said primly.
"Well, then don't bother," Brian said. "I don't want you here."
"Brian, what is wrong with you?" Michael whined. "I didn't do anything to Justin. I haven't done anything to you."
"You made Justin go away," Brian said again. "You, all of you, made it very clear you didn't like the idea of us getting married. And when that fucking review came out, you were all quick to tell both of us how important it was for Justin to go away. You get to have your nice little family, but Justin and I can't be together. What the fuck is that, Mikey? Aren't we allowed to be happy?"
"Brian, you're drunk," Michael said. "I'm not having this discussion with you when you are drunk and high."
Brian snorted derisively. "You won't have this discussion with me when I'm sober either. It would fuck with the natural order. You're the good little boy and I'm the fuck up. I can't fall in love and settle down. I have to be the bad boy so that everyone knows just how good you are. Well, guess what, I'm doing just what you wanted. I'm drinking and getting high, and I'm fucking alone once again. Throw in some nameless faceless trick and it's like Justin never existed."
"No." Brian cut in. "No, you don't get to play the wounded bird this time. You aren't the injured party this time. I am. Justin is. I give and give to you and you suck it all up, but when I want one fucking thing for myself, you ruin it. You and Lindsey both. What is it? Do you think there won't be enough to go around? Or do you think Justin will make me stop bailing you both out time after time?"
"Fuck you, Brian," Michael said, finally getting truly angry. "I've never used you for your money."
"That's a lie and we both know it," Brian retorted. "And you've used me for a lot of other things too. I was your excuse for not making a commitment for years. I was your excuse for behaving badly. I'm still the person you use to make you feel better about yourself and the compromises you make. What would you do if you couldn't point to me and say at least I know how to have a relationship, to be grown up. Well, guess what. I'm done being your bad example."
Brian didn't wait for Michael to answer. He simply hung up the phone. It began ringing again almost immediately, but he ignored it in favor of finding his keys and his wallet. He needed more alcohol. And maybe some more pot. And E. Good thing he could get all of those things from the convenience store two blocks away. Brian was pretty sure he was too fucked up to drive. As he closed and locked the loft door behind him, Brian noticed that he was still shaking.
The trip to the convenience store was profitable. Brian came back with three bottles of liquor, more pot, some E, and a bag of Justin's favorite greasy chips. Brian opened the bag as he fell onto the sofa again and began to eat the salty snack. Justin's absence was even more pronounced now that he had had some time to sober up a little. There were little reminders all over the loft: the espresso maker Justin insisted was vital to their lives, the picture of the two of them taken after their surprise wedding announcement, the toothpicks in the little holder that Justin had bought at that little consignment shop on the south side. Everywhere he looked, Justin's touch lingered.
Justin. It was all about Justin, wasn't it? Since the moment he'd found the kid standing under that streetlight, Brian's entire life had revolved around the little twat. He'd been there for Gus' birth, he'd helped Brian get out of trouble with Kip, he'd been there through the cancer. Justin had even fixed things between him and Michael once upon a time.
Justin had also left him once or twice. More accurately, Brian had pushed him away. To Debbie's house, to Ethan's arms, to California…but each time, Justin had returned to him, the way it was meant to be, and Brian had been waiting. He may not have shown it, or told Justin he was waiting, but he had been. And he'd almost lost Justin twice: first to the bashing and then to the bomb. Despite all his bluster and fighting the inevitable, Brian knew deep down that he and Justin were made for each other.
So why was Justin in New York and Brian in the Pitts?
Because he'd pushed Justin away one too many times, that was why. Brian rolled a joint and let the drug relax his body, but it didn't stop his mind. He needed alcohol for that. The bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label replaced the empty bottle of Laphroaig on the coffee table and he was soon drifting back in the numbness of intoxication.
Justin always came back to him, Brian thought. Always. But not this time. He wasn't sure how he knew it, but he was sure of that one fact. Justin wasn't going to come running back to him this time. Succeed or fail, Justin was striking out on his own and wouldn't come back to him. And Brian was pretty sure Justin would succeed. Hell, the fucking crazy part was that he had already been succeeding right here in Pittsburgh. The real question was whether Brian could succeed, now…without Justin. Not Kinnetik—Brian knew without a doubt that Kinnetik would be one of the nation's top agencies within five years—but Brian. Would this day start a pattern for him? One of booze and drugs and emotional detachment? Would he become his father after all: alone and drunk and unloved?
Hell no. Brian realized once again that if he didn't like how things were going he would have to be the one to fix it.
Brian looked at the glass in his hand and cringed. He was going to have one hell of a headache come morning. He drank down the last of the liquor, smoked the last of his joint and ate the rest of the chips. Well, if he was going to have to straighten out his life tomorrow, he might as well enjoy tonight. He poured another glass of scotch and popped one of the little pills. It was going to be a long night.
The next morning, Brian awoke with a headache and very little memory of the previous evening, though the mess he'd made of his closet suggested that he'd tried to pack a suitcase. The one thing that did stand clearly in his mind was the need to get Justin back. If Justin wouldn't come to him, he'd go to Justin.
Two hours, four ibuprophen, and one phone call later, Brian was showered, dressed and on his way to the airport. Cynthia had him booked on a noon flight to New York and had made reservations for him at the Four Seasons. She had also arranged for transport to the airport. All Brian had to do was figure out how exactly he was going to convince Justin that this was all a huge mistake.
The flight was short and the taxi ride to Justin's apartment shorter. Brian still had no idea what he was going to say when he reached Justin's door. He didn't really need to think about it too, much, though, because the door was open and Justin was coming out carrying his luggage and portfolio.
"Where you going, Sunshine?" Brian asked, startling Justin into dropping his keys.
"Brian!" Justin shouted and dropped everything. He launched himself into Brian's arms and clung to him like a lifeline. "Fuck Brian. What are you doing here? I was just about to get a taxi to the airport."
"Coming home?" Brian smirked.
Justin nodded. "I can't do this. I can't just leave you. Even for my art."
"Good," Brian said. "Saves me the trouble of trying to convince you to come home."
Justin beamed at him. "You came after me. You've never done that before."
Brian scowled. "That's not true. I came after you the last time you ran away to New York."
"Oh yeah." Justin frowned. "I hated it here then. I stayed in the hotel the entire time. Why didn't I remember that when they were trying to convince me to move? I got to this apartment yesterday and couldn't bring myself to leave it. I hate this place. I hate the neighborhood. I hate the overcrowded streets and the rude people. And I hate that it's 369 miles away from you."
"I hate it too," Brian said as he looked around the tiny one room apartment. "This place is a shithole. How much are they charging you a month again?"
"Too much," Justin sighed. "I don't want to be here. Brian, you told Ethan that he didn't have to starve for his art. I really think I should take that lesson to heart, don't you?"
"I think we should have both remembered that lesson before I sent you away," Brian agreed. "So you are coming home with me?"
"It's the only place I want to be," Justin said. "What would you have done if I'd refused?"
"Convinced you," Brian grinned roguishly. Then he turned serious. "And if that didn't work, I would have sold everything and tried to start over here, with you."
"Let's get the fuck out of this dump," Brian said, ready to leave this place, and the raw emotions, behind. "I have a room at the Four Seasons. We'll make a holiday of it. Shop, see the museums together, and then go home together."
"To Britin?" Justin asked.
"Wherever you want," Brian said. "My home will always be with you."