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THE WEDDING



PART TWO

Justin’s a little nervous. He’s not quite sure why he would be, because he’s been to the mayor’s garden party, for crying out loud, so how bad can Debbie's wedding get? He’s wearing the same suit he was wearing to said garden party and thinks that only Brian will outshine him in this outfit. And Rich, of course, because Rich always looks at least one notch better dressed than Justin.

They’re a tad late to the ceremony for the usual reasons and that unfortunately no longer means hot sex that couldn’t wait, but Rich being on the phone with his assistant or his secretary or some judge. So they slip quietly into the back of the church and are just in time to see Michael give his mother away.

If Justin cranes his neck a little, he can see Brian in the front row or rather, the back of his head. Debbie is wearing some understated lilac dress and has lost a little weight. She looks good and he’s kind of glad about that. Carl seems to think so as well because he’s beaming at her. Some relationships are really unfathomable, not so much why people are together but how they came together in the first place. It doesn’t get much stranger than meeting over a dead body – that even beats meeting under a street light.

An hour later, when one of the numerous ushers with a fuck-me smile guides them to their table, he’s pleased to see Melanie and Lindsay there. They can be relied upon to make polite, even friendly, conversation and at least Melanie is unlikely to bring up the subject of Brian. There are three empty seats still, but he’s no longer worried. Rich, who hasn’t had the best of impressions of his friends so far, can talk to Melanie over dinner.

A couple of years ago, when they were visiting his mother, Richard insisted on seeing the sights and that included Justin’s old hang-outs, so they ended up at the Liberty Diner. To say that Richard and Debbie didn’t hit it off is an understatement. Justin never lost the feeling that he slipped a few grades in Richard’s estimation because of where he comes from. He hasn’t tried introducing Richard to any of his old friends since. Especially as Daphne’s reaction to Richard was never favorable either. Why Richard would have a problem with Daphne though, or vice versa, is beyond him.

Both Melanie and Lindsay get up to greet Justin with a smile and a hug. But if he thought Mel and his husband could bond over legal matters, his hopes are soon shattered. Melanie remarks pointedly that she is well aware who Richard McKinnon is, how can she not, after the Douglas case? That particular case has haunted them ever since Richard managed to get Ian Douglas, the son of a very influential New York businessman, acquitted on a technicality when he was accused of beating a young hustler to death. They’ve lost a number of good friends over it. Justin has tried not to have an opinion, never mind voice one. It’s business. He understands that nowadays.

“Ian Douglas was innocent,” Richard says pointedly.

“Ian Douglas is a homophobic thug who got off because his father’s rich and could afford the best lawyer in town, who happens to have no conscience.”

“Mel,” Lindsay says quietly.

Mel shrugs. “Just telling it like it is, babe.”

“Let me guess, you do mainly legal aid work?” Richard asks with a sneer.

“I’m a lawyer to help people.”

“And you would refuse a large pay-out on principle, I’m sure.”

Melanie gives him a withering look. “Not on the principle that it’s a lot of money, but on the principle that if you get paid an obscene amount of money, it’s usually because you have to do something obscene to earn it.”

They’re saved from further discussions by Emmett turning up at the table. “I’m up for anything obscene,” he says in that way that only Emmett has, and then Justin finds himself engulfed in his arms and at the receiving end of a lot of tearful platitudes about how long it’s been and how fabulous he looks. He can see Richard trying not to roll his eyes too obviously at that.

When he introduces them, Emmett congratulates Justin on his good fortune and tells Richard how much he reminds him of his ‘dear Georgie’. Justin tries to steer the conversation in a different direction, but Emmett just has to enlighten Richard that he means George Schickel, no less. Richard nearly chokes on his water because, no matter how you turn it, there’s the implication that there’s a similar age gap between him and Justin. Which is a bit of an insult since Justin is only twenty years younger than his husband, whereas it must have been nearer forty for Emmett and George.

And just when he thinks the day can’t get any worse, Gus turns up with his father in tow and both of them take a seat. Richard and Brian eye each other across the table, then Brian stretches out his hand and introduces himself. Justin is rendered temporarily speechless by the fact that anybody thought this seating arrangement was a good idea. What, in God’s name, would have been wrong with sitting Richard and him with his mother and Tucker? Although Richard doesn’t get on all that well with Tucker either, a situation Justin can whole-heartedly understand. At least Richard doesn’t call him hypocritical when he’s embarrassed by his mother’s choice of partners, like Brian used to do.

“So what do you think it says about your popularity that we ended up at the kid’s table?” Richard asks him in an aside.

Justin thinks that’s a bit mean. Where else is Gus going to sit than with his parents? His sister is sitting with her own father and her grandmother. Unless Rich means to include Justin’s friends in that term. “This is Gus,” Justin says, smiling at the boy, who must be about twelve now. “Do you remember me, Gus? I’m Justin. I used to babysit you.”

“Really?” Gus sounds singularly unimpressed and doesn’t even look up from typing a message on his cellphone.

Justin shoots Brian a glance and must admit that his former lover hasn’t just upstaged him but also Richard. There is just something about the way Brian wears his clothes that effortlessly outclasses anybody even when they’re wearing the same quality. Daphne was right. He’s still stunning, gorgeous… Justin refuses to call him god-like even in his head. That’s just too juvenile.

“How‘ve you been?” Brian asks him in a neutral voice, but any attempt at a normal exchange between them is shot to pieces by the way the others at the table watch them closely.

“Good. You?”

“Fabulous. Never better.”

And that, apparently, is that. The food is very good, but the conversation is sluggish. Lindsay tries to engage him in a conversation about the New York art scene, but he really doesn’t know much more about it than she does. Although he does talk at length about the openings he and Richard have been invited to. He’s kind of proud of how sought after their attendance is. Lindsay is suitably impressed, but seems to be the only one. Brian looks bored to death.

“So you own your own advertising agency?” Richard asks during a lull in the conversation.

“Yes. I also own Babylon, the biggest gay night club in Pittsburgh.” And it’s all sounding horribly familiar to Justin. Next Brian will talk about ‘extra-marital ass’, although there’s hope that he might restrain himself with Gus around.

“You’re a nightclub owner?”

Justin has been careful not to mention that particular tidbit. He’s always known that Richard would never take enough of an interest in anybody coming from Pittsburgh to google them, so it was safe to omit some facts. What Richard does know about Brian has already given rise to enough scorn from him.

Brian grins. “You make it sound so disreputable. Alas, it’s nothing like that. Just hard work. And a lot of cash.”

“You have to admit it is rather disreputable, don’t you? I mean, come on, it’s a nightclub, probably with a backroom.”

Brian pauses a moment, looks at Gus, who’s silently frowning a question, and says, “Uhm, disreputable means that there’re things going on that some people don’t like, even though they’re legal.” Then he turns back to Richard. “Justin always liked it there. Especially the backroom.”

Justin can feel himself blush. He isn’t exactly ashamed of his past, it’s just so far removed from his present that he sometimes can’t believe it happened in the same lifetime. Of course, he wouldn’t like to be seen dead in a club nowadays, unless it’s a golf club, but his blush is more about the half-mocking and half-indulgent smiles which Richard gives him on these occasions. It’s worse than Brian’s sarcasm ever was.

“It’s still going strong then?” he manages to get out.

“It’s fabulous,” Emmett chirps. “You should come one night, if you two have time.”

“If I want to watch porn, I rent some,” Richard says coldly.

“Or read Rage,” Brian smiles.

Justin didn’t think he could blush any more, but he does. “Hardly on the same level,” he says. “I haven’t quite stooped low enough to produce – or take part in – porn yet. And anyway Rage is on hold for that exact reason. Too much porn and too little art.” He really doesn’t want to be associated with Rage any longer. It’s plain embarrassing, so much so that he refuses to sell his share to Michael just so that he can stop any further publications.

Emmett gets up abruptly, mutters something about the men’s room and walks away quickly. Brian shoots Justin an undecipherable look, before he gets up as well, saying he needs a smoke, and Justin groans quietly when he realizes what he just said.

“What was that about?” Richard asks.

“Emmett was Fetch Dixon.”

“Really? I thought he looked familiar.”

“Good to know you don’t approve of porn, then” Melanie says sarcastically.

Lindsay tries to start another conversation, this time about Justin’s work and when Brian and Emmett return to the table – both of them grinning at something Brian says on the way back – Justin is too embarrassed to even attempt an apology to Emmett. What could he possibly say? But Emmett doesn’t seem to be very interested in any more conversations with him anyway.

To everyone’s relief, the meal is coming to an end soon and they all turn towards the head table, where Carl’s best man gives them funny anecdotes from the groom’s life on the police force and finally tells everyone how glad he is that Carl has found someone who makes him so happy in his retirement. Justin feels a little nostalgic and for just a moment he wishes he was still a part of this. Another part of him is glad that the speech focused on Carl rather than Debbie, because Richard really doesn’t need to know any more details about her, especially those designed to embarrass her a little – if that’s even possible.

The big doors to the adjacent room are thrown open and Debbie and Carl open the dance with a solo round. People are standing around the dance floor, waiting to join in and calling out good-natured remarks to the couple. Emmett joins them immediately, but the others remain at the table until Brian excuses himself and makes his way outside. On the way there, he stops by one of the ushers to have a word and Justin can see how struck the guy is with him, despite being half his age.

Richard is watching them as well, then leans in a little. “He’s hasn’t changed, has he? Still thinks he’s a stud. How embarrassing at his age. Looks like he’s still into cradle snatching, too.”

Justin joins him in a chuckle, but he would agree more if he wasn’t so sure that the guy will let Brian drag him away to the nearest store cupboard any second now. It’s strange to watch Brian do this after all this time. Justin’s not jealous. Of course, he isn’t, it’s more like he’s embarrassed for Brian and the fact that he himself was just like that not so long ago. What must Richard think of him?

Melanie leans in and says laconically, “That’s Bob, by the way. He’s interning at Kinnetik. Brian got him this job to earn some extra money.”

And now that she’s said it, Justin notices the subtle differences. Brian’s just talking and even joking and not invading the guy’s personal space, before he turns away to make his way outside, probably for a smoke. It doesn’t alter the fact that the twink looks after him with longing. Justin remembers oh so well what that feels like and wishes he didn’t.

A little later, after Brian has come back in and is standing in conversation with Michael – who hasn’t even said hello to Justin yet – Justin wanders about the room and stops at the presents, which are set out on a multi-tiered table. Most of it is the usual kitchenware to suit Debbie's tacky taste. The coffeemaker must have cost a mere fraction of the one he and Richard have in their own kitchen.

“How are you, Justin?” someone says next to him and he has to look up because he doesn’t recognize the voice. “The suit looks good on you.”

It’s Ted and to Justin’s mortification he’s wearing an identical suit. He should have worn one of the others, but he thought this one would be good enough for Pittsburgh. Who would have thought that anybody, apart from Brian, would wear designer clothes at Debbie's wedding? But he has already noticed that Carl’s son-in-law is wearing Dolce & Gabbana and with a very comfortable air, too.

“I’m good,” he says lamely. “You?”

“I’m very well. You remember Blake?”

Barely. Why would he want to remember an ex-junkie? But he has learned to fake friendliness and sincerity at many a function, so he pretends that he does remember and they shake hands. Then Justin nods towards the presents. “I see Debbie's taste hasn’t changed.”

“Should it?” Ted’s still smiling, but his voice is cold. Justin can’t remember Ted ever being this hostile before.

“The vase is new,” Blake remarks. “Quite beautiful. I didn’t see that on Debbie's wedding list.”

“You wouldn’t,” Justin says with pride. “It’s handmade. One of a batch of only fifty.” He picked it himself and it was very expensive, too.

“Yeah, that’ll look nice with Debbie's plastic flowers,” Ted says sardonically.

Justin wonders for the first time if maybe the vase wasn’t such a good idea. It is true that it’s very different from Debbie's taste and he was perhaps more concerned with making an impression than with choosing something sensible and appreciated. Why he wanted to make an impression in the first place, he isn’t so sure now. So far, he and Richard have been met with either concealed hostility or plain indifference. It’s not at all what he expected or is used to. The only person genuinely happy to see him was his mother. Even Debbie seemed more distracted than elated. There was not much more than a quick hug for him and a nod for Richard.

“What did Brian give them?”

“Nothing.”

Why doesn’t that surprise him in the slightest? Brian really hasn’t changed much at all.

“Getting married not a big enough achievement?” he asks sarcastically.

Ted takes Blake’s hand and pulls him a little towards the dance floor. “Debbie forbade him to give them a present,” he says over his shoulder. “After all, he’s paying for all of this. And the honeymoon.”

Justin’s glad that he doesn’t have to reply to that because Ted and Blake are now joining the other dancers. He watches as the dance floor starts to fill up, but only has eyes for Brian and Debbie, who are dancing and talking and laughing together. She really looks like she’s his mother right now – or should be. Justin feels an undefined longing that he suppresses quickly.

Michael takes over from Brian and Justin can’t decide if it’s coincidence or design that makes Brian end up next to him on the edge of the dance floor. He takes a quick look around but can’t see Richard anywhere. He went outside to make an important phone call a while ago and Justin knows from experience how long those can take. Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about Richard fucking one of the waiters in a storeroom somewhere. “How did Debbie get you to dance with her?” he asks Brian in a slightly teasing tone, a little more relaxed for the moment. “Blackmail?”

“It’s her wedding. All she had to do was ask.”

Justin nods and feels a little envious of the dancing couples. Richard isn’t much of a dancer and so Justin doesn’t get around to it much. But surely, Richard wouldn’t mind it here? There’s nothing ‘disreputable’ about a family wedding. What he really wants is for Richard to turn up and give him an excuse to move away from Brian without making it look like he’s fleeing. Their proximity is making him very uncomfortable.

“You look like you’d like to take a turn yourself,” Brian says with his tongue in his cheek.

Justin looks around again and Brian laughs at him. “What’s the matter? Need your hubby’s permission?”

“Of course not.” Justin is indignant and that’s probably the reason he answers Brian’s challengingly raised eyebrows and smirk with striding out onto the dance floor. When he turns, Brian is right behind him.

Justin can’t remember the last time they did this because it was knocked out of him with a baseball bat, but he thinks that’s just as well. No memories to come back to him. But when Brian takes his hand and puts his other hand around his body, it’s as if no time has passed, the smell, the feel of having Brian so near, the thrumming of his nerves are as overpowering as they always were. He barely hears the music or sees any of the other people, there’s just Brian and the way he maneuvers him around the dance floor, his eyes never leaving Justin’s.



*******



Brian realizes his mistake about halfway through the song. He’s assailed by memories of the prom, when Justin was laughing and radiating happiness like never before, and didn’t look at him as solemnly as he does now. When he had wanted Brian and nothing but Brian, not want to be anywhere but here. He doesn’t ask himself if he deserves Justin’s newfound disdain for him – maybe he does – he just wishes it was different. He shouldn’t try and find what used to be there. Things change. People change. It’s a fact of life.

When the dance is over, Brian reluctantly releases Justin and steps back. He nods his thanks and walks away without haste. Now that it’s over, he has trouble keeping the other images at bay, the ones of the aftermath of the last time he danced with Justin like that. In the restroom, he splashes cold water on his face and hopes for a minute or two of peace. He just needs to find his fucking balance. He’ll be alright in a minute. But it’s not to be. The door’s yanked open and there is Justin, a little flushed and more than a little angry. He shuts the door and turns to face Brian.

“What was that, Brian?” he asks heatedly.

Brian smirks. “I believe it’s called dancing. Other than that, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t play dumb with me. You wanted to humiliate me in front of everyone, didn’t you? You flirted with me and then you were hoping I would throw myself at your feet at the end of it. Well, think again. I’m married now. To a man I love very much and who treats me right. I don’t need or want you anymore.”

Brian rubs his lips with the side of his index finger, trying to hide how affected he is by Justin’s words. It’s not as if this is news to him, he’s just a little stunned by the venom. Then he smiles. “And yet, strangely enough, here you are, following me into the men’s room. Doesn’t that strike you as odd, Sunshine?”

Justin looks a little flustered now, as if he’s only just realizing what he’s doing. “I’m only here to tell you that your little games won’t work any longer.”

“Is that so?” Brian steps closer and even though he tries, Justin really has nowhere to retreat as he’s already against the door. He makes the most of it by standing his ground admirably enough. He always was a brave little fucker. “So you’re just here to tell me that you’re no longer the guy who would follow me into the men’s room anywhere?”

“Yes.” Justin’s chin is jutting out determinedly.

“Really?” Brian is so close now, he can lean one hand against the door, next to Justin’s head. Justin looks up at him, no longer angry, more as if he’s too proud to back down and admit his mistake. Brian sees the familiar blue and imagines he can smell the familiar scent under the new aftershave and has trouble keeping up the pretense. But maybe he doesn’t have to. “So you didn’t come in here for a quick fuck? If I were to kiss you right now, you would scream blue murder?”

Justin bites his bottom lip. “Count on it. And kick you in the balls. Ball.”

“I see.” Brian nods sagely, then slowly closes the few inches that separate them and presses his lips to Justin’s. He worries for about five seconds that Justin will make good on his threat. It’s not that he fears bodily harm – Justin wouldn’t go that far, nor would he have to – but it would be embarrassing to get rejected now. He would lose all the advantage he feels he’s been building over the course of the afternoon.

But then Justin’s lips open and Brian’s tongue swoops in and he knows he’s won. Whatever happens now, they’ll both know that Justin’s yielded. Game, set and fucking match. He asks himself how far he can take this before Justin comes to his senses and can’t resist spinning it further, pushing his knee between Justin’s legs, which part willingly, and then putting his hand on his crotch, stroking his cock like he’s done so many times before.

After that, he pretty much loses the fight for control, not so much over Justin or the situation but over himself. His mind goes on autopilot, insisting that he needs to fuck Justin right now, right here and as hard as he can. Maybe he would stop and think if Justin objected, but there are insistent hands opening his pants and stroking his cock and the kissing never really stops. It’s kind of embarrassing how hungrily they’re sliding their tongues together and swapping spit, like a pair of teenagers.

With the ease of long practice, Brian has a condom and lube on his hard cock in the shortest possible time. He turns Justin around and pushes into his tight hole with a minimum of preparation, but all he gets is an urgent push back against his groin, encouraging him to get on with it. “More,” Justin hisses as if the message wasn’t clear enough already. Brian fucks him with long, hard strokes until he can feel his balls draw up and he comes in delicious shudders. He’s barely aware of Justin groaning out his own climax, just leans his forehead between shoulder blades which feel slightly sweaty through the pristine white shirt. And he realizes that he’s just made another grave mistake.

Still, he doesn’t move until Justin pushes his hips back violently. “Get off me!” His voice is cold and angry.

Brian pulls out and walks over to the sink to take care of the condom and clean himself up. In the mirror he can see Justin glare at him.

“Don’t think for a minute that this will change anything. I’ll never come back to you. Richard’s ten times the man you are. You can forget about getting me back.”

Brian zips up his pants and turns to look at him. Justin’s little speech would have so much more effect if his pants weren’t still halfway down his thighs. “Have I taught you nothing? This was just a fuck. You thought I wanted you back? Sorry to disappoint you. I’m really just as shallow as you and hubby think I am.” He has reached the door now and Justin moves a little out of the way because his natural manners will always shine through. Before he leaves, Brian leans in and says very quietly, “And if he really was ten times the man I am, you wouldn’t need me to fuck you in the men’s room as soon as his back’s turned, would you now? Bye, Sunshine.”

He saunters out of the room and then pauses for a moment, secure in the knowledge that Justin will have to clean himself up before he comes out. He can take a few deep breaths in the empty corridor. But then he sees McKinnon at the end of it and forces himself to walk towards him.

McKinnon stops when they’re a couple of feet apart. “I saw you dance with Justin, Kinney. I’m warning you. Keep your hands off what’s mine.”

Brian would normally just grin and walk past, but he’s a little concerned that Justin might not be in any fit state to be seen by his husband just yet. “Don’t worry, Dick,” he says, stopping a moment and smiling. “I don’t enjoy having to take the stick out of a guy’s ass before I fuck him. He’s all yours.”

McKinnon glares at him.

“And another thing, Dick.” Brian’s starting to walk away now, but turns and walks backwards a little to finish, “If you have to warn people away from what’s yours, then it was never yours in the first place.”

McKinnon looks like he’s going to have an apoplectic fit, but Brian just raises his hand in farewell and strolls along the corridor. He could really do with another smoke.

Later that night, he stands by the window in his loft, smoking. There’s a half-empty bottle of JB on the window sill and it’s three o’clock in the morning, the time for reflection and terrible decisions that make even slurred phone calls seem like a good idea. But he won’t do that. There’s no point.

The wedding went well. Debbie and Carl seemed happy and were finally ensconced in their hotel room, all ready to start out on their honeymoon in the morning. He has managed to behave in front of all his friends as if nothing special happened today. They were all proud of him, even if no one said anything. Blind little fools, the lot of them, but he’s warmed by their concern.

He was grateful that Lindsay sat at their table during the dinner from hell. She elicited information from the elusive Justin Taylor and made sure that things weren’t too obviously awkward. Who could have predicted that Melanie would have issues with McKinnon on principle? Or that Justin would spout such pathetic nonsense about where he goes and whom he knows? Or that he would manage to upset Emmett, of all people?

But at least Brian had the opportunity to look at the lad one more time. He looks good. Even pushing thirty, he still looks young and he will always be beautiful. Brian couldn’t get enough and hated that he had to hide it. He thinks of the fuck in the men’s room and there’s no smugness. He may have put Justin in his place somewhat, but what he learned about himself wasn’t welcome either, although not completely unexpected.

Sometimes when he wakes up in the middle of the night from dreaming about fucking Justin even after all these years, he wonders if he would take him back if Justin wanted to come back. He knows there’s no possibility of that, but the question is more about what he would do and not about how realistic the scenario is. And today he has his answer.

He will always want to fuck Justin. That part of them was always out of this world, which is probably the only reason they lasted so long. When Justin told him five years ago that he needed space to grow and find himself, it was that part that took the longest to die. Or maybe it didn’t die, just lay dormant and always will. Brian didn’t put up much of a fight, or any fight at all. He had enjoyed being Justin’s first in most things and agreed that Justin needed to experience life without him. That was kind of the idea about going to New York, wasn’t it? Ultimately, it was Brian who broke all contact because, much as he tried, he couldn’t be just friends with Justin. But he had also hoped somewhere deep inside that in the end, he would be Justin’s last as well, unlikely as that’s always been. Hope always dies last. He remembers that from his parents. Knowing that something’s impossible and not wishing it are two very different things.

What he wasn’t aware of was that he’d kept Justin’s old image in his head. He was always fond of the lad’s zest and determination, his kindness and compassion. Maybe it’s true that you don’t miss something until it’s gone. Finding Justin so very different from what he used to be is worse than losing him in the first place. Justin has turned into a vain, pompous and small-minded ass in the intervening years. And that has finally set Brian free.

When Justin said he would never come back to Brian, all he could think was, ‘Of course not, you’re already gone.’ The Justin he knew and… loves is no longer there. That Justin would always be able to come back to him. But the Justin who’s now in his place is not someone Brian would want in his life. He will grieve a little for the loss of so much potential, for the man he treasured and even admired. Then he will finally move on. Because even he won’t be pathetic enough to wish to get someone back who, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists. He leans his forehead against the cool glass and smiles. Finally he can breathe.

Tomorrow he will drive out to the house one last time and then he will put it on the market. It is time.



*******



Justin has regretted going to Debbie's wedding from the moment they all sat down to dinner. Or maybe even before that, when he returned to Pittsburgh. That isn’t his life anymore and yet he got sucked back into it easily enough. First, there was Daphne with her expectations of him that he can’t or won’t meet any longer. He’s not that guy anymore, if he ever was. He likes to think of his youth as wild and stupid and he has forgiven himself for that. That doesn’t mean that he would like to be reminded.

And meeting Brian again was strange. His overwhelming feeling was one of embarrassment at first. Maybe if Rich hadn’t been there, it would have been all right but he was just so damned self-conscious and so very aware that Brian didn’t live up to Richard’s standards. Brian is everything Rich despises about gay people. And yet Justin feels that Brian somehow managed to put both of them in their places without ever saying a word. Even before Justin’s men’s room moment of madness, he was so relaxed and downright amused that Justin felt mocked the whole time, in a gentle way that holds no malice, just a mild disdain.

The fuck he will forget as soon as possible. He’s just glad that he managed to clean himself and the door before Rich turned up. Unthinkable what would have happened if he had arrived just a few moments earlier. Justin’s never cheated on his husband before and he's fairly certain that Rich’s never cheated on him. But is it really cheating with Brian? It seemed so natural and… right and, to be honest, Justin hasn’t been fucked like that in way too long. Richard is far too soft and reserved for down and dirty sex.

The strange thing is that he never, not for one second, feared that Brian would tell or even just hint at it to Richard. Brian isn’t like that and somehow Justin still trusts him implicitly. That trust in Brian being an honorable man doesn’t quite tally with the feelings of embarrassment he had when he saw Brian again. But be that as it may, he’ll never see any of the gang again if he can help it. That shouldn't be too difficult. Their circles don’t exactly intersect. None of them, not even Brian, moves at the heights that he does nowadays. And it’s just as well. All he has to do is avoid wedding invitations from Pittsburgh.

His time with Brian was nothing but a youthful folly. Brian could make him do things that make him blush nowadays when he thinks about it. All his new friends would be horrified if they knew what he was like when he was younger. It’s that feeling that you have when you wake up in the morning with some guy and think, ‘what the fuck was I thinking?’ It’s not that he feels that he was in any way forced or coerced by Brian. He wanted to do it. He wanted to be like Brian or at least wanted Brian to think that he was because he felt that was the only way Brian could accept him. Why he ever wanted that is totally beyond him now.

But he’s not a youth any longer and the fuck at the wedding was a completely different matter. He likes to think it was closure of some sort. He wanted to show Brian that he could have him any time he wanted, that he was in control now, could fuck and walk away without a second thought. But if he’s honest with himself, it was the other way around. He didn’t have Brian. Brian had him. And Brian was the one who walked away with not much more than a shrug. Justin had wanted it with a sudden need that took him by surprise and overwhelmed him completely. He missed it. The sex. The fun. The feeling of total belonging.

He doesn’t have that with Richard. They don’t even have sex every night anymore. Most nights, yes, but not every night. And it’s never like it is with Brian. Richard is older. He turned fifty in August and it shows. Justin loves being cared for, loved, worshipped even, having the upper hand in the relationship even when Richard seems to be in charge all the time. But he misses the wild abandon sometimes. He wonders if Brian will ever get to the point where he doesn’t want to fuck every day anymore, but he doubts it.

If he can just forget about the incident, everything can go back to normal. He loves his new life. Richard doesn’t need to know what happened. In fact, he must never know because that would be the end of them. Justin doesn’t feel particularly guilty. He’s not quite thirty yet, fucking other guys is something that’s bound to happen from time to time, especially as Rich gets older. That’s one thing he and Brian agree on. He will settle down eventually when he reaches Richard’s age.

But he thought that he was finished with Brian and last night, on their return to New York, when he and Rich had sex, Brian’s image came into his head unbidden more than once. It’s been a while since that happened. In the end, he just didn’t fight it. It made the sex hotter somehow and what harm would it do? He’s just a bit bummed that he hasn’t managed to achieve the closure he’s been hoping for just yet. But give it time and Brian will fade again.

He can hear the noises of Richard preparing breakfast in the kitchen and smiles to himself. His life is good. He glances at the suitcases by the door. He didn’t know Richard’s going on a trip but that’s nothing unusual. He welcomes it because it will give him time to forget what happened, maybe paint a little. He hasn’t felt the need for that in a while, either.

“Good morning.” He slips into his seat at the breakfast table.

“Morning.” Richard sets his food in front of him and sits down.

“You not eating?”Justin asks, pouring himself some coffee. “How long have you been up?”

“Never went to sleep.”

Justin looks at his husband and can see the dark circles under his eyes. At Richard’s age, a sleepless night really takes its toll. “Is everything okay? Where are you off to? Did anything happen?”

“I’m going away for a few days.” There’s a pause while Richard watches him closely. “When I come back, I want you out of here.”

Justin’s first thought is that he misjudged Brian, that Brian somehow let Richard know what happened. But that’s stupid. Brian would never do that. Maybe someone else saw them? Michael would be vindictive enough to do it, although at the wedding he carefully stayed away from Justin, to the point of not even looking at him.

“You’re throwing me out? Why?” He’s aware that theoretically Richard can’t throw him out as their finances are too entangled for that. But they both know that if Richard wants to keep the apartment, he will find a way and, to be fair, it was his before it was both of theirs. In this new life that Justin’s been leading for the last few years, everything’s just a little more Richard’s than it is his. And that includes almost all of his new friends, who will drop him in a heartbeat if he and Richard split up. There’s no question who is more important. It won’t be like it was when he left Brian for Ethan and the whole gang, with the sole exception of Michael, made it clear that they still considered him their friend. “What did I do?”

“You really don’t remember?” Richard looks completely disgusted with him.

Oh God. He knows. Somehow he knows. Or maybe he just suspects. Justin can brazen this out. If he denies everything, they might still be all right. Richard is besotted with him. He can turn this around. He is too comfortable with this life to lose it now.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really? You know, Justin… when I met you, I realized that Brian had a huge influence on your life. He was in your head even more than your heart. I had to completely re-educate you to make you fit for decent company. And you did rather well, I must say. I was never embarrassed with you.”

“How generous of you,” Justin can’t help but say. He feels more than a little annoyed at the suggestion that he’s been Richard’s little project somehow. He’s his own person for fuck’s sake. Nobody molds him into something he doesn’t want to be. But he’s been aware from the beginning that Richard’s approach is very different from Brian’s. Brian always tried hard to let Justin make his own decisions to the point of seeming indifferent. Richard always made it very clear what was expected of Justin. Up to now it felt like caring.

“And now that you’ve met Brian, you somehow changed your mind about me? You’re giving him too much power.”

“I’m not giving him any power. In fact, I forgot all about him as soon as we left the reception. But you didn’t.”

“Yes, I did. I barely said a dozen words to him and I haven’t given him a second thought since then.” It’s strange that for years he tried to convince people, including the man himself, that he really loved Brian, that it wasn’t just some teenage crush, and since they split up, all he ever seems to do is try and convince everyone of the opposite.

“Really?” Richard’s voice is coldly sarcastic now. He can convey so much just by the tone of his voice. That’s what makes him such a good lawyer. “Then how is it possible that you called out his name when you came last night?”

Justin feels like the breath has been knocked out of him as he remembers. He thought that it‘d happened only in his head. And he suddenly realizes that his life may have changed beyond recognition, but Brian will always be there. Just like he said on that first night. And quickly following that realization is the thought that he doesn’t entirely hate the idea. On the contrary, it seems right in a way. When Rich gets up slowly and somehow older, Justin doesn’t try to stop him, not with a single word. It would be pointless. Richard is unyielding in his opinions, his beliefs and his decisions. And the way Justin feels at the moment, he doesn’t want to stop him. It is time.





A/N: As I’m sure you’ve noticed, this was written for the lovely scenario Randy Harrison provided us with in his interview just before the con last year. He had such a loving vision of Justin’s future that I couldn’t resist. :-) Feel free to imagine what happens next.

Thank you for reading.


Date: 2013-02-14 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snapegirlusa.livejournal.com
THIS is the best Valentine's Day present ever!! I can't tell you how you gave me the biggest smile when I saw in my inbox that you had posted a story today!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! I can't wait to read this!

Love
JoAnne :)

Date: 2013-02-14 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. Maybe you should read it before you get excited. :-)

Happy Valentine's to you, too.

Hugs,
Betty

Date: 2013-02-14 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheburashka-2.livejournal.com
Just finished part one and all I can say is it's brilliant, although sad. I am such a die hard BJ shipper that this rift between Brian and Justin is almost painful to read, but you described it all so well, so realistically, that I understand how something like this would happen.

On to part two!

Cheers,
Vin

P.S. Oh, don't ever, EVER curb your "verbosity." You don't have a verbosity problem. I love your writing precisely for how amazingly detailed it is. Every word you choose has a purpose and an importance. I only wish I could write as well as you. So, please, if only for my sake, be as "verbose" as you possibly can. :)

Date: 2013-02-14 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheburashka-2.livejournal.com
Oh, no! That's it? I so want there to be more. However, I do have a decent imagination and I'll follow your advice and imagine what happens next.

This was a wonderful story even though it didn't end with Brian & Justin's happily ever after. I loved it all and I absolutely hated Richard. I hope that Justin will remember who he is deep down inside - someone who is not a shallow, pompous ass - and gets back to his roots, which will lead him back to Brian.

Anyway, I just loved it. A wonderful Valentine's day gift this was!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cheers,
Vin

Date: 2013-02-14 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
It is rather open-ended, isn't it? But I'm sure you can think up an ending to your liking. :-)

Thank you for leaving such lovely comments. I'm glad you enjoyed it despite the lack of HEA. Then again, there could be (s. above). :-D

Happy Valentine's Day to you, Vin.

Betty

Date: 2013-02-14 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marny1.livejournal.com
You write so beautiful, thanks. Please I need a part three * is begging *.

* hugs *

Date: 2013-02-14 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Thank you but I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. There will be no more parts to this. This one you'll need to finish in your head. :-)

Hugs,
Betty

Date: 2013-02-14 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] junajo.livejournal.com
Thank you so much for this real good surprise!! But you have to write part 3/2 and 4/2 and.... We, non writers but enthousiast readers, let us visualize your stories but give us the material : pleeease !
Nath.

Date: 2013-02-14 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Part 3/2 and 4/2?? Lol!! Sorry, but it is complete. :-)

Thank you, Nath, for letting me know that you liked it.

Betty

Date: 2013-02-14 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hopperl.livejournal.com
That was just brilliant. I am sad that it is finished. I honestly want more Daphne/Justin interaction. That almost broke my heart how that ended more than Justin/Brian. *sigh*

Thank you for this wonderful Valentines Gift. Hot sex can really make a person think. LOL

Can't wait for your next masterpiece.

Date: 2013-02-14 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
I do like Daphne. She always turns up in my fics. Except when I kill her off in the first chapter, of course. Lol.

Thank you for commenting. I glad you enjoyed it. Happy Valentine's Day.

Date: 2013-02-14 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pet0511.livejournal.com
Thank you for this!!!
Pet

Date: 2013-02-14 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
You're welcome and thank you. ♥
Betty

Date: 2013-02-14 09:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seawithin.livejournal.com
Daphne and (especially!) Ted FTW!

But the Justin who’s now in his place is not someone Brian would want in his life. - Hurts sooo good.

Amazing, as always.

Date: 2013-02-14 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
A little painful, I admit. But, love Daphne and Ted, too. :-)

Thank you for letting me know that you liked it.

Date: 2013-02-14 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rulisteningbj.livejournal.com
This Justin kind of reminded me of Michael when he got to big for his britches when he was with Dr. Dave. I loved how Brian handled him. You are such an amazing writer. Thanks for sharing this lovely fic.

Dee Dee

Date: 2013-02-15 01:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
That is a good point. It is very similar indeed.

Thank you, Dee Dee

Date: 2013-02-15 02:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandy1520.livejournal.com
Excellent! I love your imagination and the resulting fics. Great job. Thx

Date: 2013-02-15 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. It wasn't really my imagination, more like Randy's.

Thank you. Glad you liked it.

Date: 2013-02-15 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petulant2u.livejournal.com
Are you seriously leaving it there? I can't imagine! LOL I like it better when you tell me your version of what happens next!

You are so cruel! Well, of course, I loved this. your writing is always so compelling, and it always evokes strong emotions from me. So much to think about. Brian finally being able to move on. Justin, being dumped by his perfect lover. seems all is right now. sad, but just and right.

Now a sequel would be even better! Love that you're writing Betty!

Thanks for this wonderful, frustrating, enthralling story!

Gina

Date: 2013-02-15 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
I do feel a little guilty for writing something that is ultimately just sad and a little unsatisfying. But not enough to write a sequel to fix it. Justin deserved what he got. :-)

Thank you, Gina

Date: 2013-02-15 04:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] camelhaircoat.livejournal.com
Happy v-day, Betty.

I was so happy because I thought this was going to be a reunion fic, which is my favorite type of fic, and even though it didn't turn out that way, I still thought it was brill. Hate to say it, but in this instance it felt like Justin deserved what he got.

I didn't know at first that it was based on Randy's disappointing comments, and I was actually thinking how much like the interview the story was. I laughed when I got to the end and saw your A/N.

It's always such a wonderful treat when you post something new.

*hug*
Amy



Edited Date: 2013-02-15 04:08 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-02-15 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
You spotted what it was straight away. That is impressive. I must say I do prefer HEA myself but that really wouldn't work with what Randy said in the interview. I agree that his vision was disappointing, to say the least. This was kind of my gut reaction to that, it just took me a while to write it. If I had written it sooner, I would probably have killed Justin off. So it's better this way. Lol.

Thank you, Amy.

Hugs,
Betty

Date: 2013-02-18 01:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] love4movies.livejournal.com
Best thing ever to discover a new Kachelofen after just returning from the Berlinale!

Loved the idea of taking Randy's stupid remark and transforming it into this story. It is perfect and, yes, this Justin doesn't deserve Brian. At all.

One of two times I didn't wish for a happy ending in a B/J story. Well done, dear Betty.

Date: 2013-02-18 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
He really doesn't deserve him. Although I don't think this is particularly IC for Justin. But I blame Randy for that. :-D

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it even though there's no HEA. I'll try and do better next time.

Date: 2013-02-18 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] love4movies.livejournal.com
Yeah, there will be a next time! :D

Date: 2013-05-11 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] urugwaj.livejournal.com
I just love what you did with Randy's vision :)
And your Ted and Em and Daph... I just love ALL of your's version of the gang!

Date: 2013-05-12 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
It's all a bit sad but that couldn't be avoided with the 'prompt' Randy gave us. Thank you for letting me know you liked it.

Date: 2013-05-12 03:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] urugwaj.livejournal.com
You're right - it's sad but... the end is open for us - readers and I like it and that you show Randy that he wasn't right (oh, I hope you can understand me)
(deleted comment)

Date: 2013-05-21 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. I can't imagine that Randy Harrison would be interested in fanfiction. It seems to me that he's pretty much done with qaf. I don't blame him for that, although he wouldn't be where he is today without it. And I just wish he wouldn't make it so painfully obvious.

Thank you for leaving such a nice comment.

Date: 2015-11-21 08:20 pm (UTC)
ext_7065: (Doctor Who)
From: [identity profile] anyone625.livejournal.com
God, that was more depressing than death fic. Good job. Fortunately imnsho, real Justin would fucking never.

I just stumbled across your fic and am making my way through. So far "The Sign" is my favorite. That was brilliant.
Edited Date: 2015-11-21 08:22 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-11-26 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kachelofen.livejournal.com
Lol. I agree. This is more Randy than Justin. And very depressing. :-)
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