Justin shook himself out of his stare, then got a tight grip on himself. “What can I get you, sir?” His throat managed to swallow his heart back where it belonged, out of his mouth and back under his ribs, somewhere. It might be beating fast, but that was only because of its efforts to escape. He was pretty fucking proud of keeping it locked down. If he did say so himself.
Brian watched the fluster shoot across Justin’s features, and raised one eyebrow at the formal words despite it. Huh. “Answers.”
“I’m not familiar with that drink.”
“Apparently not. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what.”
“Don’t play with me, Justin, why didn’t you tell me your father kicked you out? That all your money was gone?” His voice was low, but heated.
Justin stared at him, his mouth dropping open, taking in Brian’s hard stare. Wait a minute… Brian was mad at HIM? “It wasn’t like I earned it. Easy come, easy go. What, can’t I use your philosophy?”
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means,” Justin said, leaning forward on the bar, “that you left ME.”
“You didn’t give me a choice.”
“I didn’t… you’re unbelievable!”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Get me a glass of whiskey.” Justin stared at him. “It is your job, isn’t it?” He ignored the huge sigh that gusted his way as Justin turned his back, and took the Jim Beam, without asking, from the lower shelf. He watched Justin pour a generous amount into a glass and slam it onto the counter in front of him.
“On the house,” Justin stopped him when he reached for his money.
Brian shrugged, put his wallet back in his coat pocket. “I mean,” he said, after taking a long pull on the drink, “that I might not have taken off if I’d known.”
“Yeah, that’s comforting,” Justin said, glancing over at the tables. “Excuse me a minute.” He left the bar, and walked over to the only occupied table. Brian watched him move, watched the grace of his back as he smiled down at the customers, and took the two empty glasses. He moved back to the bar, and proceeded to open a new bottle of wine, taking down clean glasses and filling them. Brian just watched, watched him carry the glasses back to the table, watched him come back reluctantly, pick up the bar rag. Brian put out his own hand and covered Justin’s to stop its nervous energy. Justin looked up, met his eyes.
“You should have told me,” Brian said softly.
Justin shrugged, shaking off his hand. “Why? I didn’t need rescuing. So Ethan wasn’t a treat, but he did give me a ride back to New York. Course, all I had to do was help promote his album. Just a little more tail shaking on my part. Are you just upset I didn’t play whore for YOU? I’ve got to be somebody’s whore, it’s what you figured, right?”
“You’re not a whore, Justin.”
“I know that.” Justin stared at him.
“Hey, Justin.” A young man interrupted them, then stood back as he stared between the two.
“Hey, Barry. Barry, this is Brian.”
“Um, hi.” Barry stared. Wow. So that was the asshole. Wow. Hm. I’d forgive him, Barry thought, stealing a quick look at Justin. Well, Justin obviously had other ideas. “Well, relief is here, you’re free.”
“Good, we can get out of here.”
“Yeah,” Justin agreed. “I have homework.” He ducked out from behind the bar.
“Come to my place. We can talk.”
“Oh, yeah, right,” Justin laughed bitterly. Talk. Right.
“Cut the crap, puppy…”
“Fuck you, Brian!” Justin exploded, slinging on his coat as he slammed out the side door of the bar, onto the street. “I’m not your puppy, you might as well call me a whore, you mean the same thing!”
“I do not!” Brian yelled back, grabbing him by the arm, stopping him. People moved around them, as Justin stared up at Brian’s face. “Look… look. Come back to my place. Really. We should talk.”
The blue eyes went from granite to maybe softer granite. Maybe. Brian found he had to force himself not to lean down and catch that plump bottom lip between his own, that lip that was pouting out at him, making him feel not the coldness of its resistance, but only how hot was his own desire. Damn. But something told him he should wait until he had Justin back in his loft, first. Otherwise, he might be abandoned, here on the street. Abandoned and bleeding from the mouth.
Justin eyed him suspiciously. “No funny stuff?”
“No funny stuff,” he said. Course, Justin hadn’t made him say what “funny stuff” meant. As far as he was concerned, funny stuff meant the crazed monkeys in Jumanji. Everything else was up for grabs.
Justin accepted a beer as he slung his coat over the chair. “Nice place.”
“Not as nice as my place in Pittsburgh, but not bad for New York.”
Not bad at all. Nice, open loft, the bed on a platform at the far end of the space, looking out on the street. Third floor, not too bad. Looked out over a café, and a rug store. Brian crossed the room and flipped on the overhead track lighting, on low. Justin moved over to the couch, sat on the edge. “Why am I here?” he asked, as Brian came over, and sat on the rug. “What are you doing?” Justin asked, as Brian reached for his feet.
“Don’t like shoes in my house,” he said. He undid the laces, pulled one shoe off. Fingers tracing the arch of Justin’s right foot. Justin almost groaned. Fuck. He was doomed. “You said no funny stuff, Brian.”
Brian looked up, all innocence. “What? Fine, take off your own shoes.” He stood, and walked to the bedroom area, opening his closet, and undressing.
“What are you doing?”
Brian sighed, taking off his work clothes, reaching for a pair of jeans. “Jesus Christ, Justin, it’s not like you haven’t seen it. I could just narrate all of my movements, that way you don’t have to keep asking. I am now putting on a t-shirt, because my button downs are too starchy.” He pulled a white t-shirt over his head. Justin realized he was wearing the exact outfit they had been stranded on the island with. Memories came flooding back, as Brian walked, barefoot, across the space. “I am now walking toward the couch to sit next to you. If you think that’s okay.” He sat on the other end of the couch.
“Believe me, if I could…” He stared over at the other man. “So,” he said after a long look. “You’re actually really poor.”
“Yup,” Justin said, somewhat proudly.
Brian shook his head and chuffed his breath out.
“What?” Justin asked, kicking at him with his now sockless foot. Brian grabbed it, held on.
“I never knew anyone proud of having no money. I sure as shit wasn’t.”
“I had nothing to do with your getting that job, Brian.”
“Yeah, I know.” Those beautiful hands began to move, massaging his heel, into the arch, across the pad, down to the toes.
“How do you know?” Justin asked, trying to distract himself. His head started lolling back, his neck muscles suddenly jelly. Good thing he was sitting down. Fuck, this was not good. They had to talk. Talk.
“I hired a private investigator.”
“What!?” Justin yanked his foot back. “You had me investigated!?”
Brian rolled his eyes. “Well, what the hell was I supposed to do? You weren’t telling me anything.”
“You’re fucking unbelievable! I wasn’t telling you anything because you weren’t asking!” Justin struggled to his feet, weak muscles and all. He realized he was trembling, and hoped it was anger. He suspected not, but decided to believe it was. “You just can’t stand to have to humble yourself to actually ask me, in fact, you wouldn’t have asked me because you’d think I was lying, so you go out and VERIFY the real story by buying it instead of giving me the simple respect of allowing me to speak for myself like a human being instead of a commodity for your consumption! How does that make you any better than I was when I was fucking with you on the yacht?” He grabbed his sneakers, sat on the floor, and yanked one on, tying the laces furiously, when Brian’s hand came over the tongue of the shoe, blocking his movements.
Justin wouldn’t look up. This was stupid. The man was hopeless. Justin wanted something this asshole would never give him. The only thing he wanted these days. Respect. More important than anything. More important than love. Way more important than sex.
Justin looked up, biting the soft tissue just beneath his lower lip. He would not cry, damn it. He hadn’t cried since his mother died… well, okay, since his last fight with his dad… okay, well, since being on the street for 36 hours. Okay, so maybe he did cry sometimes. So fucking what. It was never in front of anyone. And he wouldn’t cry now, in front of Brian. He looked up.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Brian said, softly. “You’re absolutely right.” He hesitated, then asked, “You’re going to school?”
A question. Finally, a question, not a demand. Justin stared at him, then relaxed. It was a start. “I’m taking classes.”
“And a 1500 on the SATs.”
Justin twisted his lips. “Did he tell you every blow job I’ve gotten in the last year, too?”
“Only if the information’s stored on a computer.”
“Not unless someone’s been following me with a video cam.” He saw the look on Brian’s face, quickly shuttered. But Justin just shook his head. “Great, pictures too, huh? You didn’t need to do that, Brian, you only needed to ask me.”
“Yeah, you could have told me your circumstances. Why didn’t you?”
Justin leaned back against the couch, his cheek pressed into Brian’s thigh. “You seemed so convinced you knew exactly what I was, and I couldn’t tell you any differently. Plus…” Justin closed his eyes. What the hell. “Plus, I wanted to prove to you, to myself, that I wasn’t what you thought. And that whole episode, you only had my saying I’d changed, after being stranded. And you were insisting that it wasn’t real…”
“But I didn’t know it wasn’t just getting stranded with me that had you saying that.”
Justin opened his eyes, looked up into Brian’s face. “What difference did it make? I mean, look at my reaction to losing all my access to my dad’s money. I ran off with Ethan.”
“Why?” Another question. This was getting better.
“I didn’t know what else to do.” Justin was silent, thinking. “I wanted… when I went to that Seton’s thing last month, I really thought… I don’t know, I thought you could see that I was actually trying to do something. I've done all this for myself, maybe you made me mad enough to want to prove to you I could, but... I'm proud of what I've done. But it would be so much better... well, if you...”
Brian understood, didn't make him finish. “I’m sorry I spoiled your ability to tell me yourself. It’s amazing. I didn’t expect it.” Brian laughed softly. “I really didn’t expect this. I was shocked as shit when the PI gave me the report.”
“In a good way, though, right?”
“Yeah,” Brian answered. He placed his hand on Justin’s head, playing with the hair. “In a really good way. You deserve better than what I had assumed.”
So he understood. Justin toed off his sneaker. Brian raised his eyebrows as Justin got up, then straddled his lap, setting his butt down on Brian’s legs, which stretched out to accommodate him. “I know how you can make it up,” Justin teased, leaning in and kissing Brian lightly on the forehead.
“Oh?” Brian asked.
“You can, um… YOU can play puppy for ME,” Justin breathed, pressing a kiss against his temple, trailing his tongue lightly down the sensitive skin just behind his ear, nipping at his throat.
“You think sex solves everything?” Brian arched his neck.
“Me…” He laughed, then, getting the joke. “I think you showing how sorry you really are might solve this, anyway. For now.” He pulled back, his hands running down Brian’s arms, drawing up gooseflesh.
“I guess you’re not the puppy anymore…” He groaned as Justin’s hands worked their way under his shirt, and he moved his hips in a circular pattern around Brian’s lap.
“And…” Justin breathed, pushing his pelvis forward, rocking rhythmically.
“I guess you’ve earned whatever place you want. For now.”
Justin smiled, and then swooped forward to kiss him hard. He decided Brian needed him to get very used to this, whether Brian had planned for him or not. The man needed him. They needed each other. Yeah, Justin thought, as Brian’s tongue touched his lightly, then with growing urgency, we’re going to be just fine.