O, never say that I was false of heart,
"Well, I told them," he was saying as he and Ryder entered his office, "that if they wanted the campaign to work they'd- -"
Roses. A dozen deep red roses nestled among baby's breath in a clear vase. Even if he'd wanted to he couldn't have kept a smile from appearing on his face. He plucked the card from amidst the blossoms and opened it.
"One dozen, three dozen, a thousand roses wouldn't be enough to show you how much I love you." Only Justin didn't have to tell him, he knew; it was the one truth he relied on. It took Marty clearing his throat to bring him out of his reverie. "Yeah?"
"Got any special plans for this evening?" his boss asked.
Shrugged. "Same old same old." He could tell Marty was a little surprised by his answer. After all, he and Justin were newlyweds. So to speak.
After Ryder left, Brian sat at his desk and caressed the silky rose petals. They really were quite beautiful. But not as beautiful as Justin. Removing one closed bud from the bouquet, Brian snipped off the stem and drew it through the buttonhole on his lapel. Pinned it in place, a lazy smile playing about his lips. As if he could have forgotten their first Valentine's Day.
One hour down and another fifteen minutes to go. Justin hated Tuesday/Thursday classes because they were so long but he liked that they only met twice a week instead of three. He supposed he was impatient because it was Valentine's Day. His and Brian's first one as a couple, a real couple. Although he'd progressed from having to touch his ring every fifteen minutes, he still enjoyed looking at it. Still enjoyed its weight on his finger. Committed. Him and Brian. It continued to amaze him, to astound him sometimes. Especially during one of their 'disagreements,' i.e. knock down, drag out fights. Despite wearing matching rings, they were still Brian and Justin, which meant plenty of fireworks.
Only last week Brian had threatened to kick his "ass from here to the ends of the earth" if he didn't keep it down just because he'd been playing Spiderman in the livingroom on the rig he'd paid for with money he'd earned at the diner. And, of course, he'd gotten mad because he hadn't been that loud, it was just that Brian had been pissed off about something that had happened at work and was trying to take it out on him and he wasn't having it. So, of course, he'd said something very smart back, like, "Where exactly is the ends of the earth?" and when Brian had shown up at his side he'd been sure he was going to get it and good. Or, at the very least, that Brian would have taken his stuff and tossed it out the window. But instead Brian had very quietly explained to him that as his salary paid for the loft, food, gas for the Jeep, drinks at Woody's, and just about every other fuckin' thing they used or consumed, he'd damn well better keep it down. And, of course, he'd shut off the game and stormed out of the room, closing himself in the bathroom where he'd pouted for twenty minutes. During which time he could practically feel Brian's anger creeping foglike through the apartment.
They had made up. Eventually. Lying in bed, both of them ready to put aside their quarrel but neither one of them willing to be the first one to apologize, they'd both turned away from the other and prayed for sleep. But it wouldn't come. Finally, Brian had sighed and Justin had taken it for a sign and crawled over to him and eased up against his back. As Brian had turned and their lips came together in a kiss, they each said that they were sorry. Like a sudden thunderstorm, the tempest had risen and passed away in a moment.
Now, sitting in class, Justin wondered if Brian had gotten the roses he'd sent him. He had saved for a couple weeks to buy them and hoped Brian liked them, that they didn't remind him too much of Cam. He could still see a hint of sadness in Brian's eyes whenever Cam was mentioned. But not as much as he would have seen if they hadn't made peace before Cam had been killed.
Justin could feel Xavier watching him. Without looking that way, he knew his friend was staring at him again, at the ring he wore, thinking of all that signified. For Brian and Justin. For him. Justin remembered the first time Xavier and Rennie had seen the ring, the questions he'd had to endure from Rennie while Xavier looked on heartbroken. Things hadn't resolved themselves between them and yet they refused to let anyone know how far relations had deteriorated. Which meant both of them had to act as if nothing had changed, as if that kiss hadn't occurred.
I can't think about that, Justin told himself. Not today. Today is for us. Me and Brian. And he smiled, trying to imagine what Brian had in store for them. The man had been quite circumspect about the whole thing, claiming that Valentine's Day was a holiday manufactured by the greeting card industry in cahoots with the florists and chocolatiers to boost sales during a slow time of the year. But Justin hadn't bought it at all. He was up to something.
The door opening made him remember where he was. He looked up, saw a delivery man with a single rose and a card. Knew immediately that it was for him. Sure enough Hawkins caught his eye and waved him up front, looking less than pleased to have his lecture interrupted although class was nearly over anyway.
The delivery guy gave him the rose and the card. "You should read it now."
He did. It said, "Go to the courtyard. B." Puzzled but curious as hell, Justin told his instructor, "He wants me to go outside."
"Then go." Hawkins gestured to the class. "By all means, let's all go. Class, follow Mr. Taylor. Maybe we could learn something out there since it's obvious no one is learning anything in here."
So everyone grabbed their bags, Rennie grinning, Xavier frowning, and followed Justin, the delivery guy, and Hawkins out to the courtyard. There was nothing there. Looking at Justin expectantly, the class waited. Justin looked at the delivery guy and the man pointed to the sky. Twenty-two heads swiveled upwards.
And they saw it. A message in the sky.
"Fuck," said Rennie, the awe in her voice apparent. She'd dropped her 'Been there, seen that' attitude entirely, completely overwhelmed by Brian's gesture. She turned to Xavier. "Can you believe it?" Without waiting for an answer, she asked Justin, "Can you?"
But Justin was lost in the sky. There it was. For the entire world to see. Brian loved him.
He took a second set of instructions. "Meet me at Sans Souci, 6:30 sharp. B." Justin beamed, unable to help himself. Sans Souci, the skywriting... this was the best ever. Just when he thought it couldn't get any better, it did. Brian always found a way.
Hawkins gazed around him at the still-upturned faces of his students. "Class dismissed," he announced and a few began to trickle away. The delivery guy, his duty discharged, took off too.
Nudging Justin, Rennie asked, "Hot date?"
"The hottest," he confessed. "Brian wants me to meet him at Sans Souci, this really expensive French restaurant."
"He doesn't believe in doing anything halfway, does he?"
"Smart man," said Xavier, and he started to walk away.
"Xavier- -" Justin began but his friend kept going.
"Let him go," counseled Rennie. Then added, "You can't do anything for him, you know?"
He knew. "I just wish. . . he could be happy."
"What are you going to do?" she asked, the voice of reason. "Give Brian back his ring?"
And just the thought alone was enough to hurt him, and cause him to grimace in pain.
"Then let it go."
"But he's my friend."
She bumped him the way Daphne used to, with her hip. "Mine too. I'll keep an eye on him. You go play hubbies with Brian."
And God, he wanted to and yet. . . "Don't leave him alone. Not tonight."
"I won't. We'll watch Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"On Valentine's Day?"
She sang, "I've been making a man/ With blond hair and a tan. . ."
Laughing he waved as he ambled off. "Later."
It was only as he was walking out to the bus stop to go to work that her words really sank in and he sighed. He'd have to deal with it. Eventually.
Having dressed in the tuxedo Brian had bought him last year, Justin checked his appearance in the mirror. Perfect. Or as perfect as he was going to get with only a half hour to get ready between class and an afternoon shift at the diner. He was lucky to get off when he did cause Deb was short-handed and needed every warm body she could get but it was Valentine's Day and she knew he and Brian probably had made plans and let him go. Although he did feel bad about deserting her, he could hardly wait to get to the restaurant. Checking his watch, he grabbed his keys and coat and ran out the door, setting the alarm first. Never ever forget to set the alarm. It was his daily mantra.
The cab was waiting downstairs and he hopped in breathlessly. Confirmed the address and settled back to enjoy the ride.
Pulling up in front of the restaurant, a brick building that looked like a warehouse, Justin handed over enough cash for the fare plus a generous tip. As the driver thanked him, he sprang out and made himself slowly climb up the stairs towards the unassuming entrance. If it hadn't been for the words "Sans Souci" on a brass plaque next to the door, he wouldn't have known there was a restaurant there. He'd heard about this place for forever and never thought he'd ever get the chance to actually eat there.
The Jeep was nowhere in sight but Brian would have probably had it valet parked someplace. Justin wondered where he'd been between work and here. There hadn't been a sign in the apartment that he'd been there except that Justin's tux had been laid out on the bed, a not-so-subtle hint that he was to wear it tonight. Other than that, nothing. The shower hadn't even been used. Not that he could tell. Anyway, he'd find out soon enough.
Before he could push open the door, someone opened it from the inside and a voice said, "Leave your worries at the door." Hence the name of the restaurant, Sans Souci, 'without worry.' A man in a pair of black slacks and a white shirt gestured towards the interior. "I hope you enjoy your stay with us."
"Thanks," Justin said making his way towards a reservations station where the maitre d' stood.
"I'm supposed to meet someone here." Swallowed. "Brian Kinney?"
The man nodded. Marked off something in his book, presumably their reservation. "This way, sir. Mr. Kinney is expecting you."
They walked across the dimly lit lobby and down a broad wooden staircase through a tall archway down into the lower dining room. A second set lead upstairs to the bar area. The walls were rag-painted a burnt sienna that brought to mind the slutty sweater Brian had worn to Into the Woods. About thirty round tables for parties of four or less were arranged around a central space in which there bubbled a fountain that wouldn't have looked out of place at Versailles. Five chandeliers provided muted light, as did the votives on every table. But the maitre d' did not stop there. Instead he led Justin to one side of the stairwell through a second arched doorway to a another room half the previous one's size but just as dimly lit. Music played softly and couples danced. There were no tables that Justin could see. Why had they come in here and where was Brian?
Still the man led on, deeper into the building, down four steps and into a hallway off of which were six doorways covered with gauzy curtains. He drew back the curtains from one of the doorways and inclined his head.
Justin stepped through into a room filled with light. Candles sat upon every flat surface excluding the floor. When his eyes adjusted he saw Brian, standing by the table, red rose bud in his lapel, wearing his Armani tux. The chandelier overhead brought out the auburn highlights in his hair. Taking a couple of steps closer towards them, Brian extended his arm, offering his hand, which Justin took. Drew his lover into a warm embrace. Kissed him softly upon the lips. "Happy Valentine's Day," Brian breathed against his cheek.
The curtain fell with a hush as the maitre d' left them. Justin stretched up for another kiss. "This is incredible," he confessed. "And the skywriting. . ."
"Liked it?" Brian asked, assured of his response.
"Rennie couldn't believe it. Neither could I. And you should have seen their faces, my whole class came out to see." Another kiss. "Thank you."
Brian tugged on his arm. "Let's dance."
Arm in arm they exited their private room and sauntered out to the dance floor.
Bussing his ear, Brian asked, "You want to lead?" And Justin laughed and took him up on his challenge. Noticed that not a few eyes turned towards them as they began their circuit of the room. "I think they're starstruck," Brian explained.
"It's cause we're the best-dressed and best-looking couple here," said Justin, garnering him a wicked, bright smile from his partner as he'd said that same thing on Justin's birthday date.
Although the music was definitely more wine bar than White Party, they danced to a couple of songs before returning to their room. By then they'd switched leads and Brian had dipped Justin shamelessly and to the amusement of some of the couples around them. When they returned to the room, there were two glasses of Champagne Framboise: champagne with Chambord raspberry liqueur and garnished with raspberries. Between the drinks was a tray of canapes and other assorted hors d'oeuvre including hot brie tartlets. Moving his chair around next to Brian's, Justin placed a few choice tidbits on a plate and offered one to his lover. "Open wide." Brian stretched his mouth open to a prodigious width. "Impressive," Justin said.
"Practice makes perfect," replied Brian and then Justin popped in the appetizer and he was too busy to talk.
Later as they were finishing the last of the finger foods, Justin asked, "When did you plan all this?"
"Let's see," Brian began, "you need to make reservations for the private dining rooms at least a month in advance or you can forget it. The skywriter you can book as late as three weeks in advance but they prefer more notice if they can get it."
Justin finished his glass of champagne. "You didn't wait until the last minute," he concluded, very pleased.
"I didn't wait until the last minute," agreed Brian.
"I love you."
"And so modest too."
"My best trait."
Dinner was a lengthy, leisurely affair punctuated by occasional forays
onto the dance floor between courses. With an eye to later activities,
they decided to forgo any heavy dishes, avoiding rich sauces, opting
instead for lighter fare: the consomme of forest mushrooms instead of
vichyssoise; filet mignon replaced by pan seared sea bass in a clam broth;
chocolate torte put aside for a simple apple tart. In addition to eating
lighter, their digestion was aided by their turns on the dance floor so
that when they finally paid the bill after nearly two hours of dining and
dancing, they felt satisfied but not stuffed. Which was fortunate because
the night had only just begun.
It was nice to sit and talk, just the two of them, and not have to discuss anything difficult, to just converse, catch up with one another. Despite living in the same house, there were days when they barely spoke to one another beyond the bare necessities: Morning. Pass the cream. We going out? Turn over.
"Guess what?" Justin said.
"There's going to be a Matisse and Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern this summer in London while we're there AND. . ."
Biting, Brian asked, "And what?"
"And a Lucian Freud exhibit." Justin glowed. Brian had bought him a copy of this out-of-print book about Lucian Freud for his birthday. He hadn't believed it: first, that Brian had paid any attention to what artists he liked and second, that Brian had taken the time to track down a copy of probably the most important book out there on Freud's paintings. But it was the kind of thing he'd do, like today, something completely unexpected and perfect.
Feigning weary resignation, Brian said, "I guess we're going to the Tate then."
Playing along, Justin added, "And the Louvre. . . the Prado. . . the Guggenheim. . ."
"Are we going to spend any time anywhere other than museums?" asked Brian.
Justin grinned. "Our hotel room in London. . . Venice. . . Paris. . . Athens. . ."
Reaching for his hand, Brian rubbed his finger over Justin's ring. "Ah, culture. . ."
Thinking they were going home, it was only as they turned onto Meridian that Justin realized they were not headed for the loft. Joy brightened his features as they pulled into the parking garage of the Chesapeake Hotel. "That's where you were."
Brian raised a brow and said nothing. Turned off the ignition. "Come on."
Hand in hand they strode through the lobby and into the first available elevator. Brian pushed the button for the top floor. Silenced the upcoming question with a kiss. When they reached their destination, he led Justin past the closest doors to one at the very end of the hallway. "Close your eyes," he ordered.
Blind, Justin waited for Brian to open the door and maneuver him inside. His heart was pounding. He couldn't wait to see.
The first thing he saw was the fireplace, a roaring fire flickering
behind the screen; the second was the bed, covers thrown back to reveal
silk sheets strewn with rose petals; the third the bouquet of flowers he'd
sent Brian, minus one. But instead of the card he'd sent Brian, there was
an envelope lying next to the vase. With his name on it. He went over and
picked it up. Opened the card. Handwritten inside was a sonnet from
Never believe, though in my nature reign'd
Never believe, though in my nature reign'd
And beneath that, I love you.
Chest tight, he spoke with difficulty. "Brian. . ." Half-turned, smiled, then walked towards the fire, drawn by the flames. He could already feel the tears creeping into the corners of his eyes and knew that Brian would tease him about his allergies again but he didn't care. And he couldn't help it. Everything had been perfect. They hadn't argued once, hadn't even disagreed about what to get for dinner, hadn't made one false step all evening. And this, this was amazing.
"Hey. . ." said Brian, coming up behind him and embracing him. "What's this?"
Justin wiped at his eyes. "Nothing."
Turning the teen around, Brian wiped away his tears with the pad of his finger. Grinned. "Want some champagne?"
"Want to dance?" Justin shook his head. "Want to fool around?"
Brian laughed and pushed him towards the bed.
Being two halves of one whole, that's what people said it felt like, being in love, being with the person you were meant to be with; but it didn't feel like that to Justin. Instead, he never felt more himself than when he and Brian were together. It was hard to explain except that being with Brian made him feel complete, feel like the person he was supposed to be. He wondered if it was the same for Brian. Maybe so. Maybe that's why they fought so fiercely, because they were never more themselves, faults and all, than when they were together. And yet, it didn't feel wrong that they should argue and rage at one another, that was just part of them.
"Looks like the gerbil's working overtime," Brian commented as he removed his clothes, having seen the look of concentration on Justin's face.
"Yours retired," retorted Justin, helping Brian with his shirt, any excuse to be close to him, to touch his neck in passing, inhale his scent.
Catching Justin's hand, Brian kissed his fingers, then followed the fingers to the wrist, the arm, the shoulder, the neck, the chin, the lips. He pushed Justin onto the bed and unbuttoned his trousers, removed them, slipping them over his slender hips and thighs. Stripped him of the briefs as well. Lifted Justin's foot and kissed the sole, the ankle, calf, behind the knee, along the thigh. By the time Brian's breath tickled his groin, Justin had already begun moaning in anticipation.
But Brian drew away, stood and finished stripping. Justin lay waiting for him, gazing up at him. He loved looking at Brian. Especially when Brian knew he was watching him, knew that he was hungry for him. Every movement slowed to half its normal speed so that each play of muscle of visible; each syllable spoken was drawn out just a tad, to focus attention on the rosy lips. Brian took perverse pleasure in teasing Justin, making him wait. Heating things up and then pulling back, leaving Justin on the verge of exploding.
Sometimes he'd go down on Justin for what seemed like forever, slowly stoking the fire until Justin felt as if he were being consumed by flames and then Brian would let him slip from his lips, hard, wet, aching, and wait until the fire had died down a little. Before starting again.
Justin slid his hand around Brian's thigh and pulled him back onto the bed, down upon him, determined to get what he wanted. Wrapped his legs around Brian's waist and rose up a little so that their mouths met in mid-air. Fingers entwined in Brian's hair, the teen held him in place while he devoured Brian's lips. Neck aching after a while, he laid back, Brian following, lowering his head to re-establish contact, not wanting to be parted from his little boy.
He could feel Brian's nipples brushing against his chest as they kissed, the hard nubs scribbling secret words of desire upon his skin. So easy to reach up and pinch one, listen to Brian gasp, pinch it again, once more the gasp, then rub it to take away the sting.
Moving from Justin's neck to his chest, Brian kissed a trail across his collar bone, then down between his pecs. And once he was there it was simple enough to nibble on his nipple, lick flesh and metal alike, saliva making both shiny and wet. Simple enough to catch the ring between his teeth and pull. Not gently, one sharp tug that yanked a cry from Justin. Back arched abruptly, he slumped back to the bed, aware of the throbbing in his groin. Two-timing cock, didn't care what was happening up above as long as it was pleasured. And Brian was careful to give it just what it wanted. Slender fingers sneaking over Justin's belly, combing through his pubes, sliding around his dick, down his dick from the base to the tip. Brushing over the head. Softly. Tenderly. Seducing his cock. While the treacherous teeth continued to torture his nipple.
Floating on a haze of pleasure shot through with threads of sharp pain, Justin clenched his teeth to keep from begging Brian to either stop or continue. But his body betrayed him, blurting out the words, "Don't stop," in a harsh whisper.
Brian looked up, flicked his tongue over his lips. "Don't worry."
Thirteen sweaty minutes later Justin thought he was going mad. It didn't seem possible that Brian could get his tongue that far up his hole, that his dick could drip that much precum and still show no signs of stopping, that he could swallow that many screams.
Hole slick with lube, Justin felt Brian's fingers slip on his skin, spreading him open. He held onto his legs and concentrated on not yelling when he was entered. As always there was a little pinch; and then the incredible feeling of being stretched open wider than he'd have thought possible; and then the dizzying moment the head bumped over his prostate and everything blanked out; and then a moment to rest, savoring the fullness of Brian's cock in his ass, before his lover withdrew, leaving his hole yawning, yearning.
Later, much later, he was gripping the headboard in one hand, the other hand around his dick, and praying no one was in the room next to them or that the walls were soundproof because he was shouting at the top of his voice in time to Brian's thrusts, firm cock head colliding with his swollen sweet spot. Feeling like he was going to explode, Justin squeezed his cock, squeezed his eyelids shut, and grunted, forgetting where he was, who he was, flying apart with the force of his orgasm. Pearly cum arced over his belly, splashed his neck. Groaning, he continued to stroke his dick until the last thick drop ran over his thumb.
Brian withdrew entirely and Justin sighed and rolled over, spread his
thighs, reached back and parted his cheeks offering his well-fucked hole.
One hand supporting his weight, the other on his cock, Brian penetrated
him once more, shuddering the moment he entered Justin's ass. Balls tight
against the shaft, he pumped his lover's slick tunnel until he thought
they would both burst into flames, the friction was so great between them.
Sweat pouring off his body, he closed his eyes and rested his forehead on
Justin's shoulder as the first spasm gripped him, spewing cum like lava.
He dissolved in the flow, whispering, "Oh God," breath hot against his
Aching muscles welcomed a long soak in the tub. Bottle of champagne opened and half-empty, the two men lazed about with no plans beyond turning into prunes. It was only when most of the bubbles had dissolved and the water started turning cool that they gave any thought to getting up. Finally, with great regret, they dragged themselves out. Before Brian could dry off thoroughly, Justin grabbed his hand and pulled him into the livingroom, snatching the comforter from the bed as they passed by it.
They curled in front of the fire, half-wrapped in the comforter, too tired to do much more than kiss although both were aroused. Throwing a leg over Brian's hip, Justin nuzzled his lover's chest and closed his eyes, asleep before the last hint of blue pupil disappeared.
Brian stared at the fire over Justin's head, almost asleep, drowsy
thoughts stumbling about his mind looking for a place to rest. He rubbed
his thumb over the nape of the teen's neck; the hair there was very fine,
like a child's, a little boy's. My little boy. . . he thought.
My rose. . . my all. . .