Tossing the latest bill from his tailor onto his desk, Brian turned over another envelope and swore when he saw the return address. Tore open the invitation-- because that's what it was-- and confirmed his worst suspicions.

Justin looked up from his sketchpad. "What?"

He groaned. "Ryder's Semi-Annual Department Cocktail Party at his house. I was foolish enough to hope that he'd skip it this spring after that fucking farce in the fall."

"How bad could it be?" Justin asked.

"Remember that fundraiser slash wake for Senator Baxter at Mikey's?"


"Worse. Corpse Central."

Shuddering, Justin returned to his sketch. "Then don't go," he said offhandedly.

Brian dropped the invitation on his desk and picked up his beer. Chugged it as he stomped past Justin. "I have to go. I'm senior management." He climbed the steps to his bedroom and plopped down on the comforter. Set his beer on the table and sighed melodramatically.

That was his cue to offer sympathy and comfort. Justin smiled and ignored him.

Brian inched closer to the foot of the bed and sighed even louder.

Justin laid down his pencil. "What?!" he said, pretending to be annoyed.

"You're not taking very good care of me," complained Brian.

"Are you hurt?"

"I'm bored," Brian pouted.

"Get a hobby," was the teen's suggestion.

"I did." Brian grinned and Justin jumped up from the table, rushed into the bedroom, and tackled him. Bowled him over and climbed on top of him.

"I am not a hobby."

Brian laughed and tried to fend off Justin's attempts to tickle him. "You're right. You're a full-time job."

"Fuck you."

" Workman's Compensation." He rolled them over and came up on top. Kissed the teenager playfully.

"Can I come?"

Just about to say, 'No,' out of force of habit, Brian paused. They were lovers now. Partners. Why not? "I need to go through your wardrobe first."

Confused, Justin asked, "Why?"

"To make sure you have something presentable to wear. That won't embarrass the both of us."

Justin pulled Brian's head down and kissed him. "And I promise to be on my best behavior."

"You'd better be, or I'll have to spank you," warned Brian.

"Maybe," Justin suggested, "you'd better spank me now. Just in case."

Brian lay on his side and unzipped the teenager's jeans. "I like this job. It's got excellent fringe benefits."

The buzzer on his phone sounded twice. Ryder Alert from Cynthia. Well, he had nothing to hide, just going over some reports from the Frederich account. As usual, his door was ajar and Ryder tapped lightly before entering, not waiting for his permission. He closed his reports. "What's up?"

Ryder looked decidedly uncomfortable. "I suppose you got the invitation to the party." Statement of fact. True. So Brian nodded. "And I suppose you'll be coming alone, as usual."

"Actually no," he said, correcting Ryder's assumption. "I'm bringing Justin."

At that Marty's face paled visibly. "You're not serious?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Agitated now, Ryder turned and studied one of the prints on the office wall. "If you were stupid, I might actually buy the innocent routine, but you're not, and you know damned well why you can't bring him."

"I can't bring him?" Brian asked, standing up.

Marty turned. "An eighteen-year-old high school student has no place at an office cocktail party."

Brian didn't back down. "The invitation said 'spouses and significant others.' He's mine," Brian explained carefully as if Ryder were the stupid one.

"Let it go, Brian," warned Ryder, starting to leave.

"Fuck no I won't."

Ryder faced him again. "Brian..."

"You're telling me that I can't bring my lover to a party for employees and their partners? Because he's young?"

"He's practically a child."

"He's a man." Brian thought for a moment. "So if he were my age, that would be all right?"

Hesitating, Ryder replied, "It would be more appropriate."

The word choice wasn't lost on Brian. "Stupid me. I thought this was about age, but it's not. It's about you not being comfortable with me being gay." Angrily, he lashed out at his boss, "That's totally fucked! I have never hidden who I am or what I am, and I'm not about to start."

"I'm not asking you to. I'm asking you to be discreet."

"You're asking me to lie about my life!" Brian bellowed. He shook his head. "I can't fuckin' believe this."

"It's one party that you hate coming to anyway," Ryder said, attempting to mollify his subordinate.

Brian glared at him. "Then maybe I won't come at all," he said and he stormed out of his office, leaving his stunned boss behind.

"So what did you think?" asked Michael. "That they'd welcome you and your twinkie boyfriend with open arms?" He shook his head in disbelief.

Emmett put down his drink. "Why not? I bet a lot of those old guys have young, trophy wives."

"I think the operative word is 'wives' and not 'boyfriends,' " said Ted, taking a sip from his beer. "Michael's right, you didn't really expect them to go for it, did you?"

Brian's nostrils flared. "I didn't expect anyone to give a fuck. They all know I'm gay."

"And if they didn't, I'm sure they do now after the infamous Kip Thomas episode," Michael reminded them.

"Could you fucking give that a rest?" growled Brian. He grabbed his drink then set it back down, jostling some of the contents.

"Besides," explained Emmett, "this is different. It's not about snacking in your office, it's about love."

"Oh God," moaned Ted, readying himself for one of Em's famous recitations on the nature of love.

"Brian and Justin love each other--"

"We've heard," interjected Michael and Brian looked around at him but said nothing.

"This isn't about love," said Ted, hoping to circumvent the rest of the lecture. "It's about a boring, office cocktail party that he hates going to anyway. I, for one, will be glad not to have to hear about how horrible it was and how everyone was dressed like me."

"You're not going?" asked Em.

Brian knocked back his drink. "We're going all right. And they can all just go to hell."

"This is about your job," Michael reminded him.

"No," Brian said, disagreeing, "this is about my life. And how I choose to live it. It's bad enough they made me take two weeks off when Justin got hurt-- and not because they gave a fuck about me or him-- they didn't want any bad publicity. I rolled over on that one because I wanted to be with him, but I'm not backing down on this. We're going to that party, and if anybody has a problem with seeing us there, they can just shut their fuckin' eyes."

Ted exchanged glances with Michael. "What about Justin? Have you asked him how he feels about being a martyr to the cause?" And Michael nodded vigorously in agreement.

"Justin," explained Brian in a quiet voice, "was nearly killed because he refused to hide. He's the bravest person I know." Before Michael could say anything, Brian continued, "And I don't think he'll have a problem with a hostile cocktail party."

"So you go to this party and you rub their faces in it and then they find some excuse to fire your ass. Then what? Is it really worth your career?" asked Michael. "Some things aren't worth fighting for."

Brian laughed bitterly. "Say I don't go to this party. So what? It's just a fuckin' party. Only, what's next? Hmm? I, ah, I can't put a picture on my desk of me and Justin because some people might object. Or, I can't talk about him, because it makes people uncomfortable. Ooops, can't use the executive washroom because you're gay and people are afraid they might catch something. And how about you wear this pink triangle on your lapel so everyone knows you're the faggot? So we can watch you, make sure you're not corrupting our youth or undermining our perfect society." A pall descended over their group. "When do you say, 'Enough?' When does it stop? When does it end? When they come to take you to the fucking trains? It's too late then. So I'll tell you when it stops: it stops now, as of this moment, and no further." He looked directly into Michael's eyes. "And if they come for me, at least I'll know that I didn't lie down and wait for 'em." He stood, shook his head, and left.

Emmett finished his drink and got up as well. "Later," he said softly.

With the other two gone, Michael and Ted found it hard to look at one another. Finally, Michael said, "I know what they think, that I'm a coward for living the way I do..."

"You're not a coward," Ted reassured him.

"He's gonna get fired. First that sexual harassment suit and now this. They're just waiting for an excuse to get rid of him." Michael's eyes were even darker than usual, black with worry.

Ted held out his hands. "There's nothing you can do. He's made up his mind."

"There's one person who can do something," Michael reminded him.

Ted agreed. "Then I suggest you pay his better half a visit."

Justin went through his suits trying to find one that was appropriate for a cocktail party, that Brian would approve. The ad exec had told him that the party wasn't black tie and tails but that people dressed well for it. Always marketing themselves. Never know who you might end up talking to, who you might have to impress. Make 'em want you, even if they don't want to. Looking through his stuff, Justin didn't think he had anything like that. Shit.

"Hey, Boy Wonder." Michael poked his head through the door. "Can I come in?"

"If you're looking for Brian, he'll be here in about an hour."

Michael came in and sat on the bed. "Actually, I came to talk to you."

Taking out one possible candidate, Justin asked Michael, "What do you think?"

"Is it for the cocktail party?"


Instead of answering Justin's question, Michael asked one of his own. "Did he tell you what Ryder said to him at work yesterday?"

Justin hung the suit on the back of the closet door. "No. Is the party cancelled?"

"Ryder doesn't want him to bring you." He waited for Justin's reaction. The teenager looked confused at first and then understanding flitted across his features. Even Michael was saddened to see how hurt he looked.

"Because I'm a kid," Justin said just above a whisper.

"No," replied Michael, "because you're a guy." At that Justin's features hardened and Michael could tell that Brian had been right, Justin wouldn't back down now. Before Justin could respond, Michael pushed forward. "Look, I know it's a shitty deal, but he works in corporate America. Which is not exactly known for its tolerant attitudes." His words were having no effect. "They could make it really difficult for him. They could even get rid of him, use anything as an excuse."

Justin shook his head. "He wouldn't let them. Melanie would fight for him."

"Is that what you want? For him to have to go to court to keep his job? And then how do you think they'd treat him? If he sued them and they were forced to keep him on?"

"He's the best account exec they have. They'd be crazy to get rid of him. Who he fucks has nothing to do with his job," said Justin.

"But," explained Michael, "it has everything to do with his image. They know he's gay. Fine. But he's never really pushed it at work. Sure, he's done a few questionable things, but he's never gone on a crusade to advance the cause. Until now." He paused to give his next words added weight. "Until you."

Justin pulled another suit from his closet and hung it over the first one. Spoke with his back to Michael so that the man couldn't see his expression, one of remorse and guilt. "What do you think I can do?"

Standing, Michael went to Justin and waited until the teenager faced him. "Tell him you've changed your mind, that you don't want to go. That you wouldn't feel comfortable being there. Tell him anything you have to, just don't go to that party, Justin. Not if you love him." He paused. "You have to look after him now. I can't do it anymore," he confessed. "So take care of him. Do the right thing." With that he left.

He sat at his computer desk and stared at the blank screen, praying that the answer to his problems would appear before him. But the monitor remained mute.

Brian came up behind him as he stood at the sink and embraced him. Kissed his neck. "Where are the suits? Let's get this over with and go shopping."

But Justin didn't turn. He looked down into the soapy water. "I've changed my mind. I don't really want to go to the party." Although he hadn't sounded very convincing to himself, he hoped that Brian had bought his performance.

He hadn't. "Mikey's been talking to you."


"Don't lie to me. Mikey's been here, hasn't he?"

Justin hesitated, then fessed up. "Yeah." He turned and glanced at Brian's face. "How did you know?"

"Because it didn't sound like you. It sounded like him." He paused. "But if you really don't want to go..."

"I want to go."

Brian placed his hands on Justin's shoulders. "You know, maybe there's a reason why I'm not with him and it has nothing to do with not doing friends. Maybe-- maybe it's because he's not what I need. What I want."

Shyly, Justin asked, "And I am?"

Brian kissed him softly. "Stop fishing."

The teen laughed. "Maybe I like hearing you say you love me."

"I'll record it on a CD and you can play it whenever you want."

Justin pushed him away. "Asshole."

Taking a seat at the table, Brian watched his lover finish his task. "You two must think I'm stupid. To ever buy that lame-ass excuse." Mocking Justin, " 'I've changed my mind. I don't really want to go to the party.' " He laughed. "What is it? Is it the pretty face? Fools you, right, into thinking that I'm a complete idiot?"

"No," replied Justin, looking over his shoulder, "I would say it's the idiotic behavior which leads me to believe you're an idiot." He watched as Brian tried to control his temper and failed. Yelped, and ran up the stairs with the man down behind him.

He lifted the back of the jacket to check the fit of the pants and pronounced it, "Perfect." Nodded to his tailor, who helped Justin take off the jacket and hung it on a hanger. Waited for the trousers as well. They had purchased an Armani ensemble from Pittsburgh's most exclusive menswear shop but they had to buy the jacket a bit larger because Justin thought the sleeves were too short in his size and nothing Brian or the salesman could say would convince him otherwise. So the jacket had to be refit for his slimmer build across the shoulders and through the chest. The pants, of course, had to be a little larger because of Justin's ample buttocks. Only, in the larger size, the waist had to be taken in a few inches. No matter the trouble it took, when he put on the outfit, a faintly patterned tan jacket with a pair of blue-grey slacks and a blue-grey and tan striped jersey, the teen looked fabulous.

Brian had opted for a black and grey outfit: a supple black sharkskin sports coat over a dark grey, almost black shirt that zipped up the front and a pair of dark grey, almost black trousers. As usual, eyes had turned when he emerged from the dressing room wearing the ensemble. He had his tailor take in the pants a little since even in his size they were still a bit large on him, he was so slender.

Suit bags slung over their arms, they departed the tailor's shop and headed for home. Seeing Justin in his clothes-- and out of them-- had turned Brian on tremendously. Good thing the party wasn't until later this evening, plenty of time to play.

Ryder's wife opened the door and smiled when she saw Brian, but the smile faded a bit when she saw who accompanied him. To her credit, the smile didn't completely leave her face even for a moment. After all, she was a successful business woman in her own right. Well respected. No need to be rude. "Brian, it's good to see you."

"Liz." He came inside, followed by Justin, and kissed her on the cheek.

She indicated Justin with a motion of her hand. "And this is?"

"Justin," the teenager said.

She held out her hand. "Liz Ryder-Kelly." After she and Justin had shaken hands, she led them into the living room where the rest of the guests were gathered. All heads turned at their entrance. Instinctively, Brian sought out Ryder, found him near the window talking with Bob-- or was it Brad?-- one of them anyway. Marty didn't look pleased at all to see Justin. Flashing one of his devil-may-care grins, Brian pretended not to notice the intense scrutiny.

"Well, Brian," said their hostess, "you know how this works. Bar. Buffet." Leaned in close. "Buffoons." Smiled. "Enjoy."

Justin chuckled and moved closer to Brian. "She's funny."

Glancing around to see if Cynthia was here yet, Brian added, "She's a shark. Bank VP. I hear she keeps Ryder's balls locked in a vault."

Cynthia came up behind them unnoticed. "A time-released vault."

Nonchalantly, Brian introduced his secretary to his lover. "Cynthia, Justin; Justin, Cynthia."

"Thanks for helping him with the flowers and music," Justin said to Brian's eternal embarrassment.

Grinning, Cynthia made a mental note to meet Justin for lunch one day and exchange stories. "I was glad to hear that you were okay. After the attack and all."

"I had a good doctor."

"I've heard he likes to play doctor," remarked Cynthia. She looked them over. "Nice outfits. Armani?"

Brian held out his hands. "What else?"

"You look nice too," Justin said when he realized that Brian wasn't going to return the compliment. And she did look nice. Not as pretty as Mel and Lindz when they got dressed up to go out, but pretty.

Cynthia raised an eyebrow. "I like him. He's observant. And polite. So how'd he end up with you?"

Before he could be insulted by either of them, he announced, "I'm getting a drink." He raised an eyebrow and waited for Justin to submit his order.

"Could you get me a Coke? I'm still taking pain medication," he explained to her.

Brian moved away as they began to discuss Justin's condition. Saw Bob and Brad and their wives standing near the bar. He made a beeline for them. Smiled.

"Hi, Brian," said Brad/Bob.


"You remember our wives."

"Barb and Brittany."

"Of course. Barb and Brittany." Which was which? What the fuck did it matter? They were all interchangeable.

One of them, the dirty blonde wife, motioned towards Justin and Cynthia. "And that's?"

"Justin." His first impulse was to leave it at that, but he couldn't. "He's my lover. He's eighteen and still in high school. He graduates in a few weeks and he's going to the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Arts in the fall. Yes, he's the one who was on the news, who got attacked at his prom. He likes "The Power Puff Girls" and "Tomb Raider" and he's fabulous in bed." He smiled. "Spread the word would you, so I don't have to say it more than once? Thanks." He moved past them to the bar and submitted his order. When he passed by them they were still standing in shock.

Two hours later he was ready to kill. Ryder had perfunctorily greeted them, making it very obvious that he was displeased with Brian. Following his example, most of the other senior level execs had done the same thing. Worse, his little joke on Bob and Brad backfired as they did go around and tell everyone exactly what he had said so that he had to endure sideways glances and whispered comments all evening. Luckily, Justin didn't notice. He and Cynthia and some of the other secretaries and office assistants and interns were getting along famously. Probably because they were closer to his age. The guy running the music finally put on something decent and Justin and Cynthia and a few other couples took to the floor. Brian watched with pride as Justin continued to charm his secretary and her friends from work. Saw one of the interns lean over and tell Justin something complimentary about his dancing. They should have seen him at Babylon the night of the King of Babylon contest. Watching Justin wrap his legs around that pole had given him a hard-on. He smiled remembering how they had spent the afternoon today. Maybe it was time to get the fuck out of here and go home and finish what they'd started. Pushing off from the wall, he heard two guys talking. They probably thought he couldn't hear them because of the music, but he was used to Babylon and had pretty sharp hearing.

"They're like fuckin' gay fashion bunnies. Flopsy and Mopsy Cottontail. Probably fucking like bunnies, too." The guys laughed.

Brian pretended not to have heard. He didn't want to make a scene. That was the last thing Ryder would tolerate, him fighting in his home, and it might come to that, if he called out the guy. So he kept walking as if he hadn't heard anything and tapped Justin on the shoulder.

"You wanna dance?" Justin asked and Brian shook his head.

"I wanna go home."

But Justin turned on the smile he used whenever he wanted to have his way. "Just one?"

Cynthia released Justin's hand and stepped aside. The music changed to something slow and romantic and they moved into one another's arms. The couples around them glanced in surprise and some alarm as the two men danced in place. Brian caught a glimpse of Ryder at some point and thought his boss' head was going to explode. Then Liz came up to her husband and suggested that they dance and they joined the small group of couples. Soon Ryder was smiling at something she said and Brian made a mental note to send her a token of his appreciation. When the song ended, the couples parted and the dancing seemed to be over, at least for now. Brian left Justin for a moment, made his way over to the host and hostess.

Kissed Liz on the cheek. "Thanks for having us."

"You're welcome. Good to see you again," she replied and gave Ryder the eye.

"I'll see you at work on Monday," said Marty.

So Ryder let him know that he wasn't off the hook, there would come a time of reckoning. "Monday." Brian left them and collected Justin. He was definitely not looking forward to Monday. Fortunately, he'd have all day Sunday to spend with Justin and Gus and to forget about his upcoming confrontation.

With images of Justin and Gus giggling on a merry-go-round filling his head, Brian smiled as he walked into his office. Cynthia was already in there, seated in front of his desk with his schedule book opened. As he put down his briefcase and dropped into his chair, he said, "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For talking to him."

Cynthia grinned. "I like him. He's sweet. I couldn't imagine what he must have been like, to have snagged the Super Stud. But I can see why you fell for him. He's beautiful."

"Yeah, well, let's not turn this into a meeting of the Justin Taylor Appreciation Society." He lit a cigarette, his first in about a week. "What do I have?" She went over his appointments. "Nothing from Ryder?"

"Not a peep."

"Well, that doesn't mean shit."

She closed his appointment book. "So when are you two going to the Bahamas?"

Brian blinked. "What? Did he tell you his entire fucking life story at that party?"

Cynthia rose and left the office, promising to buzz him if she saw Ryder coming.

The day passed without incident and no word from Ryder. By lunch he figured maybe Liz had been able to get Ryder to see reason. On his way to the restroom, he stopped by Cynthia's desk. "Send some flowers to Liz Ryder-Kelly. At work."

After he left the restroom, he got a taste for a cup of coffee. Instead of going back to his office and sending Cynthia for it, he went to the break room himself. Was just about to walk through the doorway when he heard a group of guys talking. About Justin.

"Did you see the ass on that kid? Kinney probably fucks him every night." Connors.

"If you wanna wear Armani at that age, you gotta put out." Sounded like Milton.

"Well, why else do you think Brian wants him?" Drake. "For his stellar conversational skills?" They laughed.

"I don't think it's required. He's too busy using his mouth for other things."

At that point Brian walked into the room. The men, who had had their backs to the door, turned and Drake and Milton had the decency to look ashamed. Brian went right up to them and stared the unrepentant one in the eyes. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to talk about people? Especially with your backs to an open door?"

Drake stuttered, "Sorry."

But Connors, the hard case, said, "For what? For saying what everybody else is thinking? Isn't that your thing, Kinney? Saying what no one else will?"

Brian leaned in and over, being a few inches taller than Connors. "How about you shut the fuck up about Justin?"

"Why? We were just saying how well-endowed he is. Fuck, if my wife had an ass like his, I'd be banging her every night instead of three times a week."

"Shut the fuck up." Brian felt the vein in his forehead throb. This guy was pushing it and that was dangerous.

"And those lips... I bet they feel real good sliding down your cock."

Brian grabbed the front of Connors' jacket and pushed him back against the counter. "What part of 'Shut the fuck up' don't you understand?"

Drake moved around to the side. "Brian, let him go. He was just being an asshole."

Taking a deep breath, Brian released him and was about to leave when Connors spoke again.

"I thought that was his boy toy's job," he said and he shoved Brian hard.

In an instant they were swinging. Milton and Drake managed to pull them apart after the first couple of blows but it was too late to avoid damage. Connors had gotten popped in the eye and he'd be sporting a shiner come this evening. Brian had gotten hit in the mouth with the class ring on Connors right hand and his lip bled a little. But worse than that, they had managed to attract considerable attention. When Brian looked up at the crowd that had gathered, he saw Ryder staring back at him. Shit.

Brian stood in the middle of Ryder's office trying hard not to feel like a kid who'd been called to the principal's office. Only, Ryder was sitting behind his desk and he was standing there with blood on his lip and his shirttail out.

"What the fuck was going on?"

"He was talking about Justin, I told him to shut the fuck up, and he wouldn't."

"This isn't high school. You should have walked away."

Brian couldn't believe it. "What if he'd been talking about Liz? Saying those things about your wife? Would you have walked away?"

"Justin's not your wife."

"He's my partner." Ryder looked away. "I respect Justin and I'm not going to stand by while someone else disrespects him."

"You're senior management for Christ's sake. You can't go around having fist fights in the break room."

"I didn't start it."

"If you flaunt yourself, what do you expect?"

"Flaunt myself?" Brian looked at his boss in disbelief. "We showed up to your party, and had a few drinks, and danced together once. It's not like I fucked him in the middle of your living room."

Visibly disturbed by Brian's words, Ryder muttered, "You shouldn't have brought him. I told you not to."

"And I told you I'm not hiding who I am." He waited for Ryder's response but there was none. "I want an apology."


"I want Connors to apologize for what he said."

Ryder began shuffling some papers on his desk. "I think you should count yourself lucky that he's not filing charges and leave it at that."

But Brian wasn't about to do any such thing. "Let him." He reiterated his request, "I want him to apologize. All of them. I'm not gonna put up with that shit everyday."

"Then leave your... boyfriend at home where he belongs."

Brian glanced at Ryder's desk, at the photograph of he and Liz on the front porch of their vacation house. He gestured at it. "That's a nice picture of you and your wife," he said quietly.

Ryder lifted his head but couldn't quite meet his eyes. "Brian..."

But Brian left without staying to hear what else he might say.

Brian lay on the sofa with his head in Justin's lap. The teen stroked his hair and occasionally leaned over and kissed him softly on the forehead. On the screen Holly Hunter and Nicholas Cage had just brought home Junior and were showing him around the domicile. Although Brian's eyes were open and he was looking in the general direction of the television, Justin could tell that he hadn't seen much of what had happened in the film so far. He was tense, his shoulders and neck stiff, and every so often he would take a deep breath and shift, wanting to get up and pace around but wanting to stay with Justin, wanting Justin's attentions to be enough. Finally he just got up and walked into the bedroom, leaving Justin to the movie.

Turning off Raising Arizona, Justin followed him. Found him sitting in the middle of the bed. "You want anything?"

Brian shook his head. Then he held out his hand and Justin went to him.

They made love slowly, just lying together naked for the longest time, hands and lips leisurely making their way over warm skin. Patiently, calmly, and tirelessly, they cleared Brian's mind of the day's unrest. Justin sank down upon Brian and watched as his lover's eyelids fluttered and a smile spread across Brian's face, taking joy in their lovemaking, all problems swept aside.

Later, they finished watching the movie, eating ice cream and laughing riotously at HI's shenanigans even though they had both seen the film a dozen times or more.

The next morning Brian drove Justin to school and returned home, having decided to take a sick day. He called and left a message for Cynthia, then turned off the ringer on his telephone and shut off his cell. Ran on the treadmill for thirty minutes to work off the ice cream from last night. Watched CNN for the fashion news and, afterwards, turned to Cartoon Network hoping to catch "The Power Puff Girls." Jesus, Justin had him hooked on that show. But it wasn't on so he cut off the television and flipped through a couple of magazines, earmarking half a dozen items to keep in mind the next time he went shopping.

Around twelve he fixed himself some lunch-- just a turkey sandwich-- picked at it, and ended up putting it in the fridge, half-eaten. Called Lindsay and left a message on her machine. She was probably out at the park with Gus. Finally, bored out of his mind, he opened his briefcase and took out the copy for the new Frederich Foundry ads. How the fuck did you make steelworks exciting? Well, one way not to do it was to use this copy. He red penciled the ad until it looked like it was bleeding to death. Fuckin' Bob/Brad. What a couple of useless...

Before he knew it, three o'clock had come and it was time to go pick Justin up from school and take him to Deb's to grab some clean clothes. They weren't to the point where he wanted the teen to move in with him but he found himself needing Justin nearby more and more. Probably was best not to analyze that too closely. Besides, he hadn't forgotten their first disastrous attempt to share living quarters. Granted, they hadn't been an official couple then, but he didn't think they'd fare any better this time around. Least not yet. And especially given the fact that Justin was about to enter college. He didn't think he could put up with the erratic hours, the all-nighters, the study groups, the last minute projects... Just imagining it made him groan.

Michael was at Deb's when they got there. "Hey, where were you? I called your office and Cynthia said you called in sick and then I called you at home and kept getting the machine. And your cell was turned off."

"Yeah, I know," he said straddling a chair. Justin went up to get his stuff.

"Hey, Sunshine," Deb called as he ran up the stairs.

"Hey!" he shouted down.

She turned to Brian. "Tell him to call his mom, she's worried."


"So why weren't you at work?" Michael asked.

"Because I didn't feel like going in."

Deb frowned, noticing his mouth. "What happened to your lip?"

Hesitating, knowing it was going to open a proverbial can of worms, he said as casually as possible, "I got into a fight."

"At Ryder's party?" Michael was about to go into "I told you so" mode.

"At work."

Michael's mouth fell open. So did Deb's. "You got into a fight at work?" she asked.

He shrugged.

"For what?" Michael waited for his response.

"Some guys were talking about Justin, and I told them to shut up, and one of them wouldn't, and we got into it."

"Are you fucking crazy!" yelled Michael. "You could lose your job."

"Yeah, well, maybe it's not worth having."

Deb glanced towards the stairs. "He know?"

"I told him."

Michael glared at him. "So I guess you feel like a real man now."

Brian shook his head sadly. "No, I feel like all this time I've been a fucking idiot. Thinking that it didn't matter who I fucked as long as I did my job. But that wasn't it at all. It didn't matter as long as I kept it out of the office, as long as that part of my life stayed in the clubs and in my bedroom."

"That's where it belongs," Michael insisted.

"All I wanted was to go to a party with Justin and show him off a little." He smiled, remembering how beautiful he had looked. "We shouldn't have to scurry around in the dark like fucking cockroaches."

Sliding her arm around his shoulders, Deb kissed him on the top of his head. "You did good, kiddo."


"Well, he did. And he's right. If they can't accept him the way he is, Justin included, then fuck 'em."

Michael stood. "That's great. And what if they fire you?"

"There are other companies."

"They can make it hard for you. Blacklist you so you can't find anything in Pittsburgh. Then what?"

"Then I'll go someplace else."

"What about Justin?" And Brian's look told Michael that he hadn't thought about it in those terms. "You leave, what's he gonna do? He's starting college in August. Is he supposed to just pick up and go with you?"

Justin came around the corner and they all looked elsewhere. "Ready?"

At the loft, over dinner, Brian tried to put Michael's words out of his head but he couldn't. Finally, just as he was about to go crazy fighting to keep it all in, Justin said softly, "I would go with you."

Brian raised his head and looked at Justin across the table. "You heard."

"Yeah." Justin laid a hand upon Brian's arm. "And I would go. Wherever you went."

"I wouldn't ask you to," Brian said lowering his eyes.

"You wouldn't have to." Justin paused, to let Brian know just how serious he was. "I'm never leaving you."

"It's your dream, to go to the Institute. You can't just throw that away. Not for me."

"Being with you, that's my dream. I can go to school someplace else. There are other schools," he said, echoing Brian's words to Michael. He caught and held his lover's eyes. "But there's only one you. One us. I can't throw that away."

Taking a deep breath, Brian said, "Maybe it won't come to that."

Justin tightened his grip on Brian. "If it does, promise me that you won't try to leave me behind."


"Promise me," he said again, not taking any excuses.

And Brian took hold of his hand. "I don't think I could, even if I wanted to." He released him. "You're like a fuckin' bear trap." Justin smiled and opened and closed his teeth causing Brian to laugh. He picked up his fork. "Eat your food so we can go to bed."

Justin arched his back and groaned as Brian continued to suck on his cock. He was so hard, so... "Oh," he moaned and cupped the back of Brian's neck. Began to pump his hips. Brian raised his head and released him. Used two fingers to keep his cock upright and, eyes locked with Justin's, licked the shaft from tip to base. Precum bubbled and dripped down the head and Brian used it to lubricate his fingers while he massaged Justin's dick. The teen writhed about as Brian kneaded the head and area just below the rim.

He kissed the base of Justin's dick. Licked his balls. "Mmm," he whispered into his sac, sending shivers all the way up Justin's spine by way of his asshole which had gone into spasms. "My little Cream Puff Boy," he said, nuzzling his testicles. "Is that what you are? My Cream Puff Boy?"

"Yes," gasped Justin.

Brian's lips closed around his sac, then slowly let his balls slide out of his mouth, wet and shiny. "All that delicious cream..." And he increased pressure on Justin's cock, quickened his strokes. The muscles in Justin's belly contracted and his buttocks were clenched. Mouth open, he whimpered as Brian tugged on the head and continued to run his lips over his scrotum. His tongue spoke to Justin's skin in hieroglyphics and the teen's dick responded by blossoming. The head expanded and the first fountain of cum spurted from his hole. "That's it," crooned Brian and he jerked on his cock again while the cum continued to erupt.

Crawling from bed sometime around one a.m., Justin found Brian sitting in the chaise lounge reading a trade magazine. He climbed on top of him and laid his head against Brian's chest. "You okay?"


"Come back to bed?"

"In a minute."

"You did the right thing."

"I know."

Justin got up and touched his shoulder. Brian held his hand briefly before letting go. True to his word, he did come to bed soon. So it had only been restlessness. In a little while he had fallen asleep and Justin was able to return to his rest as well.

Fully expecting Ryder to be waiting for him when he got into work, Brian was pleasantly surprised to see only Cynthia. "So what's the word?" he asked.

She raised an eyebrow. "Oh, he was pissed."


"You know you missed the meeting for the Welch account."

He hadn't remembered. "Fuck." Then, "I was sick."

"Oh, yeah, everybody believed that," she said rolling her eyes. "You could have at least tried to sound like you were ill."

"So? What did Ryder say?"

"He hinted that you might not be with the firm much longer and then he tried to bring Darren Johnson in on it and Darren--"

"Fell face first into that pile of shit known as his incredible lack of creativity and talent."


"And what did old man Welch say?"

"He told Ryder to let him know when you got back in the office. And then he said that he thought a lot of your clients would be interested in knowing that you were thinking about leaving the company... and he walked out. I thought Ryder was going to have a seizure."

Brian's grin spread from ear to ear. "Remind me to call old man Welch and apologize personally." He thought about it. "Better yet, call him and see if he's free for lunch this week. It's the least I can do for standing him up."

She stood. "Done." Paused in the doorway. "Here he comes."

Brian began to unpack his briefcase and pretended not to see his boss come through the door.


He looked up. "Yeah?"

"Where were you yesterday?"

"Didn't Cynthia tell you? I was sick."

Ryder stared at him. "You missed a very important meeting."

"I forgot. You do that when you're ill." He sat down. "I'll reschedule with Welch. Apologize personally." Emphasis on apologize. He watched as Ryder squirmed, not wanting to say whatever it was he had come in to say.

"You'll get your apology from Connors and the other two," he said and Brian almost laughed out loud because Ryder looked like he had passed a bowling ball. Still, he had to make sure his boss understood just where he stood.

"A formal, written apology."

"A formal, written apology," he agreed. Before he left Ryder added, "I'm sorry too. You were right. That kind of behavior is inexcusable."

Staring after his boss in amazement, Brian shook his head. As Cynthia returned with his appointment book, he said, "Maybe I should be sick more often." He inhaled. God, it was good being back at work. "Do I have time to stop by my tailor's today?"

"So, what happened?" Michael asked as they slid into the booth next to Em.

"Written apologies from all three of those assholes," Brian replied. "Plus, Ryder apologized and said that he was wrong."

Emmett beamed. "This calls for a celebration." Signaled the waitress who brought over two more glasses of water.

"Only..." Brian began.

Instantly alarmed, Justin asked, "Only what?" Brian hadn't said anything about there being something else in the jeep.

"HR has decided, in light of recent events, that our department needs to have a fucking sensitivity training session." He huffed. "Wasting my time with goddamn role playing games."

Justin laughed. "Poor Brian. It's hard being a crusader."

Ted quipped, "Especially without a cape."

Raising his glass, Emmett proposed a toast. "To the Dynamic Duo. Fighting corporate homophobia, one cocktail party at a time."

The guys all raised their glasses-- even Brian, and he hated that kind of shit.

They had just walked through the door when the phone rang. Justin sauntered to the bedroom, dragging his jersey over his head in preparation for their private victory celebration. The teen had made him stop at this leather shop on Liberty Avenue and wait in the car while he went inside. He had no idea what Justin had in store for him and was, consequently, incredibly turned on. Grumbling, Brian answered the telephone and hoped whoever it was kept it brief. "Yeah."


It was Mikey. "What's up?"

"I just wanted to say I'm glad things turned out all right." He paused. "And that I didn't mean to butt in, I was just worried about you."

Brian caught a glimpse of Justin's hips as he bent over to take off his pants. "I know," he said, much gentler than he would have except that having Justin made it easier to be kind.

"See you later."

"Yeah. Later." He hung up the telephone. Stood by the desk for a moment thinking about how things had changed, how in the past he had gone to Michael for help and now, now he had Justin; and it made him a little sad to think that he and Mikey were moving apart. He picked up the phone and started to dial Michael's number when Justin appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, naked, and holding a black box in the palm of his hand.

"I'd like to explain this new benefits package to you."

He smiled. Put the phone back down. Michael could wait until tomorrow.

Heels Over Head | Stories