(Please note: Normally Spring Break wouldn't come so early but in order to fit everything in, I had to play with the schedule. Also note, the events in the story would realistically occur over a much longer period of time but have been compressed to fit into the timeline for the entire Fantasy Season Three series.)

Sunday mornings in bed were the best. Lying on top of Brian, Justin imagined that he was stretched out on a beach in Greece, Mediterranean sun caressing his naked body, toes trailing in the surf, the nibble of a wave causing him to shiver deliciously.

Brian's fingers tiptoed down his spine to the bubbling sound of laughter.

"Do you think we'll ever get tired of having sex?" Justin asked as Brian cupped his buttock, thumb rubbing the crevice of his ass.

Brian raised a brow, then together they answered, "No," and laughed so hard Justin almost spilled from his perch. But he held on, gripping the larger man with thighs and arms the way a shipwrecked sailor might clutch a lifeboat. Then, like a raft rising and falling upon the swells of a wave, Brian began to undulate beneath him.

The shower pelted their skin sluicing away the worst of the exhaustion. For the longest time they didn't wash at all, just stood, or rather slumped against the walls of the shower, and let the water massage their tired muscles. Finally Brian grabbed the soap and began running it all over his baby's skin, leaving a trail. "Mmmm. . ." Justin breathed as Brian gave him a thorough washing, even cleaning his hole, gently rotating the bar of soap against the tender ring of muscle until its folds were white again, this time with suds instead of cum. Easing a finger inside him, Brian said, "I think it's time for a deep cleansing," and Justin moaned.

They didn't do this often as the metal attachment and the water had the potential to irritate the lining of his bowels but sometimes, especially after he'd been stretched wide open, he liked to feel the sleek, cool head slide into him, and the water actually soothed him after a long, hard fuck like this morning.

Brian screwed the phallic-shaped attachment onto the hose and adjusted the temperature of the water. Hands braced against the wall, eyes closed, Justin waited. Spreading him open, Brian sprayed his rosy pucker with lukewarm water, testing his response. "Perfect," the boy said, voice already husky. Then the tip touched him and he jumped a little.


"Uh-uh." The water buffeted his hole without entering him, ran down his inner thighs.


He nodded, too excited to speak. This was going to be so- - "Oh!" The shower head parted the folds of his asshole and slipped inside with no trouble at all, filling him with warm water. Almost immediately Brian removed the head and let the water run out. Justin felt slick down there, flushed. Brian pushed the slender wand back inside him, twisting it slightly as he buried it almost to the base. Tongue peeking from between his lips, Justin fought back a cry, then surrendered. "Oh God!" he hissed and the attachment slid free but the water stayed inside him. Brian had pressed his finger over his hole, then into his hole, plugging him up. He kissed his shoulders while Justin shuddered and jerked. At last, before Justin's stomach began to cramp, he released the floodgates. Warm water flowed over Brian's fingers like piss, turning them both on immensely. They'd yet to experiment with water sports but neither one of them believed it was too far off. Some day one of them would suggest it and the other would agree and Justin only wondered who'd be straddling whom. First.

His thoughts were interrupted by the steel cylinder entering him again and this time before Brian withdrew he whispered, "Hold it."

Just two words but they sent chills down Justin's spine. As the tip slipped free of him, he squeezed his cheeks together, keeping the water inside him. Letting the hose swing free, Brian placed both hands on his ass and stroked his plump buttocks. Kissed his neck and jaw. "Baby. . ." He took hold of his cock, which was stiffening, and rubbed it over Justin's ass. Rubbed it along the divide, daring Justin to respond, to unclench his muscles and release the water before he was given permission. Justin endured it, catching his breath a couple times when he almost let go. Then Brian reached around for his cock.


"You don't want me to touch your cock?"


So instead he stroked the boy's nipples, his belly, his back and sides. And talked. "Slide my fingers up and down your hard dick, over that big vein that runs along the side."

Justin felt his dick twitch. It was rising up between his legs, had been every since Brian had first opened him up with that shower head.

"Every time I suck you off, I can feel it pulse inside my mouth. I wish I were blowing you right now. Like this morning when I had you on your back screaming- -"

Justin trembled, stomach muscles rippling. "Stop it."

"'Don't stop.'" Brushing his lips over Justin's back, Brian whispered, "Sucking you dry. . . "

A shiver went all through Justin. "I can't hold it."

Brian stood to the side of him and reached over, hands on his ass. "Let it go." A spurt escaped. "Push it, baby," he ordered, moving his hands on Justin's ass to control the direction of the flow. A stronger stream struck the glass wall of the shower as if Justin were pissing, only this time he was using his hole instead of his cock. Brian placed a hand in its path, water splashing his fingers. "Fuck," he uttered in awe, voice colored by lust. Justin pushed and pushed again, the stream ebbing and flowing until the last trickle wet his thighs and pooled at his feet.

Pulling on his cock, Brian jerked off, spraying Justin's ass with cum. Then, fingers sticky with his own spunk, he brought Justin off, the teen leaning back against him and moaning loudly as Brian wrung him dry, jizz sliding to the floor of the shower to run down the drain.

Later, over breakfast, Brian asked, "Where'd you get this recipe from?" They were eating a frittata made with sausage and Pecorino Romano cheese.

"Martha Stewart dot com."

The older man snickered. "You're too much, you know that?"

"Too much to handle? Maybe you should get some help," Justin suggested.

"Didn't need any help this morning," Brian reminded him and Justin blushed. They hadn't gotten any more notes from the building superintendant about his yelling, not because he'd stopped but because the man had probably given up. He tried to hold it back every time and every time he ended up hoarse from screaming. It didn't matter if Brian was fucking him, sucking him, or getting fucked, when Justin neared his climax, he began to yell. Sometimes Brian would clamp a hand over his mouth or kiss him to silence the sound and other times the man seemed to take pride in hearing him scream his name. And it was true. He loved hearing Justin say his name, starting with a whisper, "Brian," building in volume and strength, "Brian, Brian," until the sound filled the apartment, "Brian!" The ad exec grinned. "I think I might have actually worn you out."

But Justin shook his head. "No way." Smiled. "But you'll have plenty of opportunities during Spring Break. A whole week at home."

"You've got a whole week at home," Brian reminded him. "I've got to work."

"You could take one day off, couldn't you? Maybe Friday. We'd have a three day weekend, at least."

Not promising anything, Brian said, "I'll see." Paused. "You sure you don't want to go anywhere?"

"Without you?" Brian nodded. "How would that be fun?"

He shrugged. "Go to the beach, hang out, party. That's what teenagers do, I'm told."

"Not this one." Justin got up and came and sat on Brian's lap. "This one has an old man to take care of and if he leaves him for a week, someone else'll be taking care of him when he gets back and he doesn't want that." He kissed Brian on the lips, tasting coffee and fennel from the sausage.

The week had passed without incident, most people busy trying to turn in last minute work before the break. He hadn't been spending much time with Xavier and Rennie beyond class and the occasional lunch as they'd all had projects to complete. Finally, on Friday, he realized that Xavier wasn't around. He went after his last class to peek in his friend's studio but someone had put up a piece of black construction paper over the window. Lots of people did that, for the privacy but Xavier and his studio partner hadn't seemed to care. He knocked but there was no answer. He wondered if Rennie was around and knew what was up.

She wasn't going home she'd told them cause she was sick of the beach having grown up in Del Mar, two minutes walking distance from the shore. She was going to stay in Pitts and take a four-day trip to New York with some of the women from her Feminist Art Club group.

He found her in her studio cleaning some brushes. "You seen Xavier?"

"He's gone," she said tightly.

Confused, Justin asked, "Without saying good-bye? Did he say when he was coming back?" Her attitude he didn't understand, but that was Rennie for you. Hot one moment and cold the next.

Rennie glared at him. "Asshole, he's gone. Okay? Gone, as in not coming back? Have a good life, hope to never see you again?"

"Gone?" he repeated stupidly. And he started to ask why but he knew why. Hence her attitude. Hence Xavier's secrecy about leaving. Without saying anything else, he turned to go but she stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

"Justin, I'm sorry. I know it's not your fault." She sat on a stool and brushed back her hair. It was already streaked with paint from where she'd pushed it back without paying any attention to what was on her fingers. "He just told me Wednesday."

"Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you try to stop him?" He was fighting to remain calm, not to yell at her, not to kick something.

"I did try to stop him. But it's like standing in the path of a tornado, you know?"

Did he. God, that sounded like Brian. He still remembered the time he'd thought Brian was going to move to New York and he had told Michael they needed to stop him and Michael had said, "Stop Brian? Right. Next we'll take on Starbucks."

Seeing the pain in his eyes, she said, "I know how you feel."

"No, you don't."

She laughed. "Guys." Shook her head. "You think you're so complicated, so inscrutable. Well, guess what? I knew he loved you way before he admitted it and I knew you loved him way before you came clean so don't tell me I don't know."

"He told you about that?"

Rennie put away her brushes. "We're friends." Twisted a sterling silver ring on her finger. "Maybe he'll come back. I don't know. But he seemed pretty final about it."

"But he said everything was all right," Justin said and even to him it sounded naive.

"What else could he have said to keep you from feeling guilty?"

He acknowledged the truth in her words. "Nothing. I wanted it to be over, to be resolved, and for us to go back to the way things had been." Exclaimed, "Fuck! Rennie, this isn't fair. He's good. He's the best student here and. . ." Helplessly, his words trailed off. "And I don't want him to go."

She shrugged. "Well, he's gone and there's nothing you can do." Before he could say anything, she told him, "We sat up late on Wednesday while he packed and talked about you. He really loves you, Justin."

"I know."

"Every time he saw you wearing Brian's ring, you might as well have jabbed him in the eye with a hot poker."

"What was I supposed to do?" he asked exasperated.

"I'm just telling you what he told me." She waited. "If you weren't with Brian. . ."

"I'd be with him," he answered quietly. "But I am with Brian."

Sliding off the stool, Rennie picked up a finished painting, wrapped in a white cloth. "I gotta take this to Carmichael. Slave driver said the last one wasn't good enough." He held the door open for her. "I'll see you next week when I get back. Later, Boy Wonder."

"Later." Closing the door to her studio, he walked down the hall to his own and sat inside hoping that something would come to him before he had to go home. He should have been glad. Should have been relieved that the problem had been solved. Xavier was gone, he could go on with his life, they both could. Only Xavier was being short-changed because he'd left the Institute. But that wasn't his problem. He wasn't Xavier's keeper, just his friend. Just the reason he's fucking up his life, he told himself bitterly.

He sat inside the studio until the sun dropped down in the sky. Thought about all the times he'd be working to try and forget some spat he and Brian had had and Xavier and Rennie would show up and drag him off to eat and they'd laugh for an hour or so and when he returned to work, he'd actually be looking forward to finding Brian at home and making up. All the times he and Xavier would sit and talk about some artist they'd studied in class or seen at the museum, Xavier able to see something different than him, each of their views enhancing the other's and he'd go back to the loft and impress his lover with his learned views, never letting on that some of them weren't his own.

At last, unable to put it off any longer, he grabbed his stuff to meet Brian.

The ad exec was waiting for him at the diner along with the guys. Kissing hello, he slid into the booth next to his partner. Michael was alone, seated on the end. "Where's Jeff?" he asked.

"Working on some fucking story."

"Well, that's what reporters do," Ted explained earning him a cutting look from Michael.

"So," Emmett began, "you headed for Fort Lauderdale or Daytona Beach for Spring Break to scope out the hot, young, hunky frat boys?"

"Nope." He opened his menu.

"Staying home with hubby, huh?" Said dryly, "How excit-ting. Spring Break at the retirement home."

Brian growled, "Fuck you."

"Save your strength for the Boy Wonder."

Ted laughed. "So what about your little friends? Xavier staying?"

"I hope so," Emmett said, "he's a hottie. Maybe I could persuade him to accompany me to Babylon. If only I were into twinks."

"Way I hear it, usually they are into you. As in inside," Brian commented.

"Wait, did I hear something?" Emmett asked. "Um, and who was it yelling, 'Fuck me, baby, fuck me,' the other night when we stopped by to see if you guys wanted to go to Woody's? Hmm?"

Brian turned about ten different shades of red. Fuck, he'd completely lost control that night. With E coursing through his veins, warming lube and Justin's dick up his ass, and a vibrating latex hood slipped over his cock, he hadn't been able to keep from shouting. Maybe they did need to soundproof the loft.

"So that's why your ass is looking so plump these days," Deb added as she brought over a glass of water for Justin and the guys howled.

Wisely realizing that anything he said would only serve to acerbate the problem, he kept quiet.

"Not a peep?" asked Deb.

And Ted said, "He's worn out from all that yelling. 'Oh yeah, baby. Harder, fuck me harder.' "

Flipping Ted the bird, Brian decided to turn the tables on them. "With a cock like his," he began, "you better believe I ride it. Like a fuckin' Harley," and he kissed Justin so long and hard that the teen felt himself getting excited.

"Gonna demonstrate for us, right here?" asked Michael.

"You should be so lucky," Brian replied, cupping Justin's dick through his jeans. "Save that for later."

Silently, Justin hoped that he'd still be in the mood later. After his news.

All day he’d been thinking about this moment, coming home and being alone with Justin, being able to slough off the day and relax, holding his baby in his arms. As soon as they passed through the threshold he was already in bed mentally. Just a matter of locking the door and walking across the room.


”Hm?” He set the alarm and headed for the bedroom, certain Justin was following. Once up the stairs, he shucked his jacket and went to hang it up, reaching for Justin’s as well. That’s when he noticed the teen’s face. “What’s wrong?”

”I need to talk to you.”

Returning from the closet, Brian sat on the bed and waited.

”I want to go away for Spring Break.”

”I thought you said- -“

”I changed my mind.”


”Something came up.”

He could imagine. “Xavier?”

Missing the warning in his voice, Justin said, “He’s gone.”

”What? Home? So what?”

”I mean for good.”

And that explained it, the mood he’d been in all through dinner. Instead of responding right away, Brian began practicing his anger management exercises because he knew he was going to need them. After a couple deep breaths, he asked, “And what do you think you can do?”

”Change his mind.”

”Why’d he leave?” even though he knew why. That was fucking obvious.

”Brian- -“

”Why? Because you didn’t choose him?”


”Fuck maybe. We all know that’s the reason. So what are you gonna do? What are you gonna offer him to make him come back? Give him your Resident Evil video game?”

”He’s throwing away his life! He was meant to be an artist.” Justin knew he was stalling for time and he knew it wouldn’t work, knew Brian was about five seconds away from a major meltdown.

”I asked you what do you think it’d take for him to come back?”

”I don’t know.”

Standing, Brian said, “You need to come up with a better lie.” He strode from the room, Justin down behind him.

”Brian- -“

He turned, furious. ”So I’m just supposed to stand back and watch you go after him, after a man that loves you, a man that you- -“ A man that you love. He couldn’t say it. Stopped and scratched the back of his head.

Justin trembled. “Don’t,” he pleaded, Don't say it.

”You telling me it’s not true?”

”He’s my friend.”

But that wasn’t all. He knew Justin was lying to him, the same way he’d known Cam was lying to him each time he’d tell him, ’Never again. It won’t happen again. I promise. I promise, baby, it won’t happen again.’ Only this time he was wearing a ring instead of a bracelet and the stakes were higher because he really didn’t know how he’d be able to go on without Justin. “Don’t fucking lie to me,” he told him. “No matter how much you think it’ll hurt me, it’ll hurt worse- -“

”I’m not!”

”Listen to me.” Brian fixed his hazel eyes on Justin, the green so prominent now that they looked mossy. “This isn’t a game. We fuck this up, that’s it. So you tell me, one way or the other.”

Justin took hold of Brian’s hand. “I love you. Always. Nothing's gonna change that. I swear it.” His eyes were shiny with unshed tears. It wouldn’t be long before his cheeks would be streaked.

Brian didn’t bother to point out that Justin hadn’t said that he didn’t love Xavier. That distinction hadn’t escaped him but he was too tired to bring it up and in the end what did it matter anyway? He wouldn't forbid him to go, couldn't. Softly, he asked, “When do you want to leave?”


He nodded, already watching Justin walk away in his mind. “For how long?”

”Thursday or Friday.”

"Just to talk to Xavier?"

"I thought I'd go to the museums too," Justin explained, hoping that Brian would accept that reason more easily than the other.

”Call Leo,” their travel agent, “in the morning. See what he can do.” He started back to the bedroom and Justin came with him but he said, “I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

Justin stopped. “Brian. . .”

He paused, not wanting to deal with anything else tonight.


”Yeah.” He undressed and went to bed but he didn’t sleep, he just lay there stunned. What the fuck had happened? How’d he lose total fucking control of everything? He went over it in his head and he couldn’t figure it out, when it had happened, when things had changed. Time after time, despite what his gut had told him, he’d ignored the situation and gone on telling himself that everything would be all right. Well, everything wasn’t all right. Justin was about to go after Xavier and he was going to do what? Wait for him to come back and tell him they were through? Squeezing his eyes shut, he refused to give into the fear but he could feel it inching up his body to grip his heart anyway.

What was he doing? The man he’d sworn to spend the rest of his life with was lying in there wondering if they still had a life together and he was online looking at hotels in the DC area and trying to figure out where to stay and what to do while he was in the city. But what could he say to Brian to make him believe in him? Did he even deserve Brian’s trust? He didn’t know anymore. All he knew was that he’d rather cut his own throat than hurt Brian but what was he doing except hurting him? You know what the solution is, he told himself. Don’t go. Stay home and mend things with Brian. Let Xavier take care of himself. But Xavier needed him and Brian would be right here when he got back. You sure?

Shutting down the computer, Justin went to the bedroom and stripped. Got under the covers and slid across the sheet until he was right behind his lover. Wrapped his arm around him and pressed his face against his back. “I love you,” he said again not certain if Brian had heard him or not. And then he felt the older man move and soon Brian’s fingers were entwined with his own.

Having left Justin at home making arrangements for his trip, Brian schlepped down to the Institute for his appointment with Trevor. Intrigued by the man’s request to base a sculpture on him, Brian agreed to model for his project. What the hell, he’d had his clothes off more times in front of strangers than he could count. Besides, it might do his ego some good to actually have someone want him. Fuck. Don’t think about it, he ordered himself. Easier said than done.

Trevor watched him stride down the hall, long legs encased in black denim, leather clad arms swinging in time with his steps, eyes hidden by dark sunglasses, each movement as smooth as silk. He flowed across the floor. Trevor remembered seeing him in Babylon, every eye in the immediate area drawn to him, drawn to the shifting space between his slender thighs, to the gentle curve of hip and calf, the modest slope of his ass. He couldn’t wait to capture him on paper, and then in clay, and finally in stone but he wondered if anyone could ever truly be said to have captured Brian. He wondered if even Justin could lay claim to that. Despite the fact that they wore matching commitment rings, Brian seemed an untamable thing, a creature meant to stalk the wilds. A satyr or a. . . a faun. Yes! As Brian neared him, he ducked back into his office and opened a file cabinet filled with a tray of slides. Thumbed through them until he came to the section he wanted. Held one up to the light. Perfect.

”Prof?” Brian said, peeping in the door.

”Come on in,” he turned and said and, immediately, he was struck by the man’s beauty all over again.

Brian smiled at his obvious scrutiny and slipped off his sunglasses. It felt damn good to have someone want him. “We doing it in here?”

Praying that his face wasn’t flushed, Trevor laughed and pretended to ignore the more risqué implication of the double entendre. “Light’s bad.” Handed Brian the slide. “What do you think?”

A naked man sleeping. Strong thighs splayed open displaying his cock and balls. “I’d do him,” he replied.

” ‘Barberini’s Faun.’ Think you’d be up to something like that?”

”It’s already been done,” he pointed out.

”A reinterpretation,” said Trevor.

Brian shrugged, handed him back the slide. “You’re the artist, I’m just an ad exec.”

As Brian started to remove his clothes in the studio, Trevor held a flesh-colored posing pouch out to him. "You want to use this?"

"As what? A slingshot?"

"O-kay." Trevor tossed it over his shoulder, got out his pad.

"Where do you want me?"

On your hands and knees, thought Trevor. Get real, Janson. This is Justin's lover. Remember him? Justin? One of your students? So take a deep breath and move on.

"Prof?" Brian had stripped down to nothing and was waiting for instructions. He seemed so at ease with his nudity it was a wonder he ever wore clothes.

Trevor, on the other hand, was anything but at ease. He could feel his own cock stirring inside his jeans and he was glad he'd worn the tight ones, maybe they'd keep him in line. He indicated a chair. Brian sat, legs spread, cock and balls hanging between his thighs. Perching on a stool, his sketch pad on the easel before him, Trevor suggested, "If you could lean back a little."

"No problem." He assumed the position. "This good for you?"

Forcing himself to look directly at Brian, at what the man was pretending to offer him, Trevor replied, "Perfect."

It certainly wasn’t what he’d expected although just what he’d expected he’d be hard-pressed to explain. Maybe he hadn’t expected anything. He wasn’t sure. Having left Trevor’s studio feeling, at least, appreciated, he’d dreaded going home, seeing Justin’s bags packed for his trip; dreaded another confrontation or, worse, a continuation of the silence, of the not talking about what needed to be discussed. His fears and insecurities were palpable, there was no need to announce them but what to do about them, that was the issue. And nothing Justin could do short of not going to DC would do. In fact, Brian wasn’t certain if even that would take away the fear and anxiety because even if Justin didn’t go he’d still think about Xavier, still miss him, still. . . love him. That was the truth Brian and Justin were trying so damn hard not to reveal when it was right out in the open anyway.

So coming home to find a candlelit dinner waiting for him surprised him. Coming home to find Justin naked except for his blue, silk robe surprised and aroused him. Justin met and kissed him at the door. “Come on.”

He let Justin lead him to the bedroom and stood still while the teen stripped him and slipped his sheer, black robe over his shoulders. “I made lamb chops,” he said as they made their way to the dining table.

Brian poured the wine. “What’s the occasion?”

Stroking the man’s face in passing, on the way to the kitchen, Justin replied, “I’ll miss you.

"Help?” But Justin shook his head so Brian sat and sipped his wine.

"How’d it go?”

"Okay, I guess. Hard to tell. He didn’t say much beyond, 'Turn around,' or 'Move your cock to the right.' "

"You were naked?”

"Hanging free,” replied Brian, pleased that Justin seemed a little jealous. Thought he’d encourage it. “He wants to do a reinterpretation of some famous statue.” Pretended like he was trying to drudge up the name from the depths of his memory. “Barberini’s Faun, I think. Know it?”

Fuck yeah. Could see Brian sprawled out in front of him, legs spread wide open in invitation. It was amazing Trevor hadn’t fucked him right there on the floor of the studio. “I know it,” he said calmly, bringing in the salads and returning for the chops. No three- or four-course meal tonight, he wanted to eat and make love, preferably spending as little time on the former as possible and as much time on the latter as muscles would permit. Wine, salad, and chops, a pretty bare bones meal but it would do in a pinch. And they had the candlelight and Brian’s sheer robe, so it’d definitely do. It’d more than do. He'd bet almost anything that Trevor would give his right arm to be in his place right now.

"I'm gonna miss your cooking,” Brian admitted. With Justin out-of-town, he’d be back to take-out and the diner.

"That all?” Justin asked, big time fishing.

"And your off-key singing.”

Indignant, Justin said, “I do not sing off-key. That’s you and Michael.”

Brian thought about it. "Oh, yeah." Laughed. "Fuck. What were we thinking? A band?" Could see them playing and singing in Woody's that night they got rip-roaring drunk. "Shit, we were awful."

"Could have been a stripper," suggested Justin, remembering the slutty sweater Brian had worn to Into the Woods and the way it slipped down over his shoulder and the way everyone had stared at him like he was a dream come true.

"Can't dance," Brian admitted since enough people had told him he couldn't. Not well anyway.

"Better things to do with your hips," teased Justin and he lifted his foot and ran it up the inside of Brian's thigh, stroking the long muscle with his toe as he sipped from his wine glass. Brian reached down and tickled the sole and he giggled uncontrollably, nearly snorting Merlot out of his nose.

"Babies," declared Brian, shaking his head a little.

Twenty minutes later they were gently swaying to some singer whose CD came from Justin's part of the collection. Remake of a Depeche Mode song. Not bad. The words. . . well, they were a little disturbing. "vows are spoken/ to be broken/ feelings are intense/ words are trivial. . ."*

Fingers slipping between them, Justin untied the belt to Brian's robe. Untied his own, bodies fitting even closer together. Slid his hand inside the collar to caress Brian's neck. Drew the robe back over Brian's shoulder baring smooth skin, hard muscles.

"all i ever wanted/ all i ever needed/ is here in my arms. . ."

Soft lips kissed his throat, nuzzled among the knot of muscles in the center of his chest as he raked his fingers through Brian's hair, making it look even wilder than normal. He felt Brian's hand on his ass, his shoulder blade, holding him in place while the man lapped at his nipple. Christ. . .

And then they were on the sofa, him straddling Brian's hips, robes abandoned on the floor. The tip of his cock grazed Brian's belly as they kissed. He could feel Brian's dick against his inner thigh. Looking down into his lover's bright eyes, he lost himself in their hazel depths. Kissed Brian's raspberry-colored mouth. "I love you," he whispered. Kissed him again, sucking on the edge of Brian's top lip. Snaked his tongue inside his mouth for a quick taste which turned into a more thorough sampling as Brian cupped the back of his head. Moaned as his partner closed his lips around his tongue. Curled the tip and felt Brian's swipe the bottom of his. He got up from his knees, went into a crouch and continued to devour Brian's lips and tongue.

Feeling the first trickle of precum on his chest, Brian took hold of Justin's cock and rubbed it against his pecs, streaking his skin with silvery juice. Justin hissed and Brian smiled. Fingers around the swelling head, Brian brushed the tip right up against his nipple.

"God!" shouted Justin as the tight knob of flesh entered his hole. The sensation went right down his cock into his balls. Caused his other hole to clench tight.

Instead of penetrating him again, Brian rubbed the edge of Justin's cock head against his nipple, the tip of the nub abrasive against the teen's tender flesh. He knew Justin wouldn't be able to take much more, would want him to suck him soon. So he released him and sure enough Justin stood, his cock rampant and demanding attention. Hands around the teenager's thighs, Brian leaned his head forward and flicked his tongue over the dripping tip.

Justin sighed, eyelids fluttering. Another flick and a kiss. "Ah!" Brian's tongue caressed the underside of his cock head, slowly sliding back and forth over the rounded bottom. He couldn't hold back much longer, needed to thrust so badly.

Rotating his head leisurely, Brian took the entire cap into his mouth, hot flesh making its way over his lips to rest on his tongue. He sucked gently and felt the boy shiver in his arms. Pulled away. Took it in again, just as slowly, just the head, just a gentle suck and no more before pulling away once more. But this time Justin wasn't having it. Without even making sure that Brian's mouth was open, he pushed forward. Felt the satisfying touch of his lover's lips upon his skin as his cock blindly made its way inside. Head thrown back, eyes closed, panting, he fucked Brian's head with abandon. Thrusting and withdrawing with little finesse, just needing that movement, needing to feel his cock head drag against the roof of Brian's mouth, push against the soft tissue of his throat, dig into the insides of his cheeks.

Saliva ran down his throat, covered his lips, his nose and cheeks where Justin had pulled free and rubbed against his face in his fucking frenzy. The teen's cock was hard and hot and he moaned each time it sank into his mouth, into his throat. He'd given Justin complete control and the youth was aware that he could do anything to Brian and it aroused him even more, his tight balls slamming against Brian's chin with each thrust.

He pulled free and paused. Opened his eyes and looked down at Brian’s face, flushed with exertion and wet with saliva and sweat. Rubbed his cock over his swollen, red lips and received a lingering kiss that caused his hole to open again, precum surging over Brian’s tongue. Withdrew, a string of sticky juice stretching from the tip of his dick to Brian's lips. Justin smiled and stepped down from the couch. Left the room.

Brian rested his head against the back of the sofa. Tried to ignore his throbbing cock. Prayed that Justin had gone to get the lube. He closed his eyes. Kept them closed even as Justin returned and squatted between his thighs. Felt him slide a condom over his cock. Raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. Standing, Justin turned away from him, wet his fingers with KY and then reached around and pushed them up into his hole. Brian’s stomach tightened at the sight of Justin’s anus opening around his fingers. The teen withdrew his fingers and backed up. One hand on Justin’s waist, the other around his cock, Brian waited for the luscious hole to descend upon him.

He reached behind him to grip the sofa, then lowered his ass onto Brian’s dick, inhaling sharply as he stretched around the latex-covered tube of flesh. Released his breath in a long, shuddering exhalation while Brian filled him. Coming to rest at the base, he sat there impaled, body adjusting once more to his lover's invasion.

Lube from Justin’s hole wet the hairs of his groin. Barely moving, he kissed Justin’s back and felt the boy tighten around him. “Oh, baby. . .” He wrapped his arms around the teenager and eased him back against his chest, still buried deep inside him.

Justin’s legs fell open and he moaned, his cock twitching and drooling. Throwing one arm around Brian’s neck, the other clenched across the back of the sofa, Justin slowly raised his hips. Uttered a strangled cry as Brian’s dick backed out of him. Fuck, it felt so good. Brian sliding in and out of him as he raised and lowered his ass onto the stiff cock. Clenching his muscles at the base of Brian’s erection and rotating his hips slightly. He could imagine how he looked, mouth open, whimpering as he forced Brian's meat in and out of his greedy hole.

”That’s it, baby,” whispered Brian, tweaking Justin’s left nipple as the teen rode his cock. Turning his head, he managed to latch onto the right one, tugging on the nipple ring before closing his lips around the entire areola and sucking the boy’s teat until Justin shook, asshole going into spasms around his dick.

Swallowing a cry, Justin ground his ass into Brian’s lap. He didn’t know how much longer he could last. Without even touching his own dick, he found himself so close to the edge that to come would be a welcome release. Gingerly, he touched his cock and pressed against the base of it, taking great gulps of air until the urge to ejaculate passed. Letting go, he allowed himself a momentary rest, his head supported by Brian’s arm.

As Justin had, Brian took a brief rest, ceasing all movement although his cock was still buried deep inside the teen and showed no signs of softening at all. But a breather was all he needed, all he wanted. After a few moments, he was eager to resume pumping, eager for Justin’s muscles to start gripping him again. Taking the boy’s cock in hand, Brian began fucking him once more, thrusting up into his tight hole.

Justin moaned as Brian’s cock explored his insides, pushing down against the dick as it entered him. He felt himself grow even harder in Brian’s hand, the head of his cock turning a fiery red as the blood rushed to the end. Grunting, he rocked against his man, driving his cock through his fist with each movement. Then, in an instant, he’d pulled free. Turned and knelt on the floor at Brian’s feet. Removed the condom from his lover's cock and stuffed it in his mouth. Devouring Brian as the man groaned and buckled on the seat above him.

”Fuck. Yeah. Oh! Oh, baby. . . Ohhhh,” he moaned feeling Justin’s throat close around his tender head.

Dragging Brian’s cock free, Justin tugged on it and was rewarded with a spurt that struck his forehead, dripping down across his eyelid. Another tug and his cheek was wet. He continued to pull on Brian’s dick until his skin was covered with jizz. Then, before he could lose it completely, he stood and jacked off in Brian’s face, giving him a generous cum bath. Balls empty, he fell into Brian’s arms and kissed him, tasting his cum on his lover’s lips, knowing that Brian was tasting his own as well. They kissed and licked and lapped one another’s face clean, loving this as much as the fucking beforehand.

Leaning his forehead against Brian’s, Justin smiled softly.

Despite having made love most of the previous night, listening to Justin cry out that he loved him with every breath, Brian watched the teen hand the gate agent his ticket with a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Not caring who watched, they'd kissed by the window before Justin had to line up and he wished he'd kissed him a dozen times more. Just before releasing Justin, he'd given him a credit card saying, "Don't go crazy," and Justin had asked, What do you want me to bring you back?" but he hadn't been able to answer, he'd only been able to hold him that much longer. Forcing a smile, he returned Justin's wave just before he entered the boarding tunnel. That would take him to the airplane. That would carry him away. Brian turned and stared out of the window. Breathe, he told himself. He couldn't leave yet, he'd promised Justin that he would stay until the plane took off. So he crossed the waiting area and stood by the window nearest the plane. Twenty minutes later he watched the jet back away from the gate, take its place in line. That's all Justin could ask of him. Leaving his post, he walked to the opposite end of the terminal and exited to the parking garage.

He wondered if Brian had waited until the plane left the gate. He'd been on the other side of the airplane and couldn't see. But if Brian had promised he would, he had. Checking his seatbelt to give himself something to do, he blinked back a tear. Looked out of the window to gain a little privacy. There was one other person in his row, a woman about his mom's age, with an empty seat between them. They'd probably both been praying no one would board at the last minute and when no one did, they'd smiled at one another guiltily. Now, he avoided her eyes. Didn't want anyone to see him cry. I'll be back, he told his missing lover. I promise.

Deb saw him coming, looking like twenty miles of bad road, and she wondered what'd happened. "Where's Sunshine?" she asked. The boys were having brunch and Justin was off for Spring Break, having taken off the week from work too, even though he probably shouldn't have.

"On his way to DC," he answered, taking one of the two seats at the end of the table.

"What?" She was confused. "I thought he was staying here."

Shook his head. "He's gone to see Xavier. Try and get him to come back to school."

"Wait," Michael asked, "Xavier left school?"

"Yeah." Picked up his menu. He could feel them all looking at him. Wondering. And he didn't feel like explaining anything, just wanted to eat and to forget that last week he and Justin had started their Sunday by making love and having frittata.

Just as he was about to ask another question, Emmett caught Michael's eye and indicated that he should just leave it alone. "Fuck that," Michael said. "Justin's gone after Xavier and you're sitting here wondering what to have for breakfast? What the hell is going on?"

"Maybe something that I can't do a good goddamn thing about," replied Brian in a low voice. He put down his menu. "Just coffee."

"Brian, honey," Deb began and then she shrugged and went to fill his order.

Em drummed his fingers on the table. "Sooo, Jeff, how's Channel 11's hottest reporter?"

"I don't know," he said, "let me call Leslie and find out."

Ted and Em laughed as did Michael but Brian hadn't looked up from the table top.

Returning with two of their orders, Deb set the food down in front of the boys and went back to get the rest. When everyone but Brian had a plate before him, she poured his coffee and waited to see if he'd changed his mind.

"Thanks." Sat staring down at the black liquid. Then picked up the sugar and poured in a generous amount. Stirred and took a cautious sip. Reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple bucks. Stood and headed out of the diner.

"Shit," she cursed and went after him. "Brian?" He paused. "You wanna tell me what's wrong?"

"Maybe it was the coffee," he offered.

"Fuck that."

He got out his cigarettes, lit one. Took a deep drag. Started to speak, then found that he couldn't. Felt her come towards him and did nothing to escape from her when she took his arm.

"Brian. . . kiddo, whatever it is, you'll work it out."

Voice hoarse with emotion, he said, "It might be too late for that."

"It's never too late."

"He's gone and he says he'll be back but. . ."- - So did Cam- -"what if he doesn't? Then what?"

She made him look down at her. "If Sunshine says he'll be back, he'll be back. What the hell is going on?"

Not able to maintain eye contact, he glanced away, hid the motion behind another, taking a second draw on his cigarette. "He loves Xavier."

"They're friends."

He said nothing.

"No. Brian- -"

"He hasn't denied it. And I wouldn't believe him if he did." He puffed on the cigarette. Smiled. "I always figured I'd be just like my old man. Out carousing until I dropped dead." Shook his head. "Never thought I'd end up being just like my mom. Waiting to see if he's coming home or not."

The plane touched down at National and he got his bags in record time despite the extra security precautions. Made his way through the terminal to the metro station, bought a fare card and went up to the platform to wait for the next train into the city. He only had to go one stop to get to his hotel in Crystal City. He wondered why they called it that. Maybe Xavier would know.

There was the train.

Finding a seat, he thought about Xavier for the first time since his trip had begun. As impossible as it seemed, he hadn't thought about him at all during the flight, hadn't thought of his destination, had only thought of returning home when it was over, keeping his thoughts firmly focused on Brian. Now, they turned towards Xavier. He had his home number and address and, potentially, in a couple hours they could be standing face-to-face. What would he say to his friend?

The hotel was near the subway station, which was cool, no chance of getting lost then. He couldn't check-in yet but the concierge took his bags and he found a quiet place to call Brian on the cell.

The man picked up on the second ring. "You there?"


"Good flight?"



"Talked to Xavier?"

"Not yet."


"The guys asked about you."

Brian sounded so sad that Justin wanted to run back to the airport and board a plane and fly home right then and there. But he couldn't. There was still the matter of Xavier. "I miss you."

A pause.

"I miss you too, baby."

"Say it again."

"I miss you. I. . . I love you."

"I love you." He stood, holding onto the cell long after the connection had been severed. He'd call Brian again tonight after he'd seen Xavier. Thinking there was no point in putting it off any longer, he found Xavier's number and dialed it. Waited for someone to answer.


A woman. An older woman. Xavier's grandmother probably.

"Hello. Is Xavier home?"

"Who's calling, please?"


"Hold on." He heard her put the phone down and call out, "Xavier! Xavier, it's for you."

Please, don't tell him who it is, he thought, or he won't come.

"Who is it?" he heard Xavier ask.

"If you come and answer it, you'll find out."

Justin nearly laughed. She sounded just like Xavier had described her. In a moment, the phone was picked up again.


"Xavier. It's me." He waited.


"I'm here. In DC."


"In Crystal City. Can we meet somewhere?"

"You're in DC? Why?"

"I need to talk to you."

"No, you don't."

"Don't hang up!"




"Please. We need to talk."

A long pause. Then, "Where you staying?"

"Days Inn."

"I'll come there. Give me an hour."

"I'll meet you in the lobby. Later."

"Later, J."

Justin smiled. Things couldn't be that bad if Xavier could still call him J. He glanced at his watch. Only a half hour until check-in. Spotting the hotel restaurant, he went inside to have a cup of coffee. Maybe a pastry if they had it.

Having checked-in, put away his clothes, and flipped through the channels on the TV a couple times without seeing anything, he hit the bathroom one last time and headed downstairs to wait for Xavier. During the elevator ride, he tried to collect his thoughts. What would he say to Xavier? What could he say without betraying him and Brian? Maybe he shouldn't have come, maybe he should have stayed home and put his own house in order. This thing between him and Xavier had damaged his relationship with Brian, any fool could see that. How much longer could he expect Brian to put up with this? Maybe it wouldn't take much longer. Either he'd succeed or fail on this trip and no matter what, that'd be the end of it, he swore to himself. And Brian. After all that Brian had done for him the man deserved more, better of him. He deserved nothing less than Justin's complete and utter devotion. It's what he'd sworn to Brian when they'd exchanged rings. It's what he wished for himself. So what about Xavier? Xavier is my friend, he told himself. That's all he ever can be. All he could allow him to be. So why don't you tell your heart that?

Within a few minutes of his arrival in the lobby, Justin spotted Xavier. Expecting no great change in Xavier, Justin was surprised to see that he, in fact, seemed quite different. Only he now knew that the face Xavier had shown him those last few weeks before Spring Break had been a mask. Xavier hadn’t been able to put his feelings for Justin aside. Had you? Still, one thing hadn’t changed, Xavier’s lazy walk. As he sauntered over, Justin smiled.

”Hey, J.”


”We gone do this here?” Xavier asked, looking around at the clerks behind the reception desk and the hotel guests milling around.

”Too. . . public.”

”Your place?”

Justin took out his room key. “It’s on the eighth floor.”

In silence they rode the elevator, each struggling to formulate a game plan that would allow them to walk away from that room unscathed and yet they both knew it was not to be. No matter what happened, there were already scars.

Playing the perfect host, Justin offered Xavier a chair and something from the fridge. It was stocked with soda and bottled water. But Xavier refused.

”We hadn’t too long ate dinner. Just got back from church.”

”Your grandmother make you go?”

”I like going. The music mostly. It helps me forget.” Looked down at his hands. “For a little while.”

Justin sat on the edge of the bed. “Why’d you leave?”

”Come on, J,” Xavier said. “We’re too far along for that.”

”But you said- -“

”You believed me?” he asked.

But even Justin couldn’t own up to that lie. “I wanted to.”

”I wanted to mean it.” Shrugged. “Just couldn’t.”

”You can’t give up your dreams because of me.”

”I’ll go to the Art Institute of Washington. Over in Rosslyn.”

”You had a scholarship.”

”I’ll get another one. Besides, DC has better museums than Pittsburgh anyway. And it’s just as close to New York. Maybe a little closer. Plus I’d be near my grandmother.”

Angrily, Justin asked, “Then why’d you come to IFA in the first place? You could have saved yourself the trouble.”

”And you? Saved you from having to think about me, having to deal with me? Well, now I’m gone.” He stood. “You don’t have to mess with me anymore. It’s over. Brian won and you can go back and live happily ever after. I gave you that.”

”I don’t need your fuckin’ pity. Or your gifts. I came here because I felt bad, because I thought it was my fault that you left and I wanted to fix things.”

”Bullshit.” Xavier neared Justin. “You came here because you love me. Because you can’t get me out of your fuckin’ system. Because despite having the ring and the apartment and the great Brian fuckin’ Kinney, you want me. But I ain’t slinking around for you or anybody else. So take your punk ass home and mind your own goddamn business.”

”Fuck you!” shouted Justin.

Xavier whipped around. “Fuck yourself. You wanted Brian, you got him. So why ain’t you home with him, huh? I don’t need you running after me like some tired-assed bitch in heat.”

”Get out!”

Xavier shot over his shoulder, “Trying to.” Snatched open the door. “You go back home and play Lady of the Manor. DC ain’t no place for you, Sleeping Beauty.” He slammed the door as he left.

Justin nearly screamed. Then he got up and threw open the door and almost had a heart attack. Xavier was standing next to him. He hadn’t gone anywhere.

For a moment they stared at one another, then Xavier asked softly, “We gone fuck out here in the hallway or are you gonna ask me in again?”

Justin pulled him into the room and pushed him up against the door. They kissed hungrily, hands tearing at each other’s clothes which was difficult as they could barely force themselves to part, rubbing up against one another, cocks stiffening. Justin reached in and stroked Xavier’s dick, the head already moist. Ran his thumb over the tip and felt Xavier moan in his mouth. Somehow they made it to the bed and fell upon it. Xavier rolled Justin over onto his back and stripped his pants down to his ankles. Pulled Justin’s sneakers off and freed his legs from his jeans. Pushed his own pants down around his knees. “Open up,” he said but Justin shook his head.

”I’m not ready.”

”Shit, J,” groaned Xavier cause he was about to explode.

”It’s okay.” He eased Xavier back and curled over his groin. Licked the end of Xavier’s cock. Watched as the teen shivered. Kissed the head tasting precum. “Yes,” he breathed. Wrapping his hand around the shaft, Justin jacked Xavier as he sucked him off, filling his mouth with the other boy’s throbbing dick, feeling Xavier tremble as he fought to keep from coming but, in the end, he gave up and cried out as he blew his load, Justin's thick lips mid-shaft and still working him.

By the time Xavier had gotten his breath back, Justin had completely stripped. As he returned to Xavier’s side he noticed the strange look on his face. “What?”

”You’re so beautiful,” he said, shyly stroking Justin’s hip.

The blond leaned over and kissed Xavier’s cock. “You taste good.”

Embarrassed, Xavier laughed. “Justin!” Together they finished getting him undressed and lay together kissing.

”Now we can go real slow,” said Justin, kissing Xavier’s throat. His skin felt so smooth, even at four in the afternoon.

”I can’t stay all night.”

”I'll take what I can get. Still got all evening,” Justin said, sliding his hand down between Xavier’s thighs. Encircling his cock with thumb and finger. Gently, he stroked him, feeling the boy’s penis stir again. Leg thrown over Xavier’s hip, he pressed against the other teen as they kissed, his fingers still traipsing up and down his dick. His tongue discovered traces of spices in Xavier’s mouth, the remnants of an earlier meal. Fingers abandoning their work, he cupped his lover’s ass and pulled him closer, their hard-ons sliding against one another. Xavier hissed and tensed as Justin’s shaft stroked his, wet head bumping his belly. Blond hair brushed against black, one pair of plump balls pressed against another and the two teens moaned in each other’s mouth while rubbing their cocks together.

Breaking free, Justin twisted around and latched onto Xavier’s erection, drawing it almost all the way inside his mouth. So hard, head firm and dripping precum.

”Fuck,” whispered Xavier, buttocks tightening as Justin sucked his cock. His entire body tingled each time Justin’s tongue slid over the tip. He lifted his head and watched as the blond boy made a circuit of the cap of his cock, saliva and precum making his skin shine. Justin kissed his way down the shaft and nuzzled among his balls. He wanted to grab his cock and feed it to his lover, fill his throat with flesh and cum and, at the same time, he wanted to taste Justin, to satisfy his own hunger. Drawing Justin’s hips over his head, he raised up a little and licked a bead of precum from the tip of his dick, triggering a gush, and precum flowed over his lips. Opening his mouth, he let Justin slide inside.

Mouth stuffed with cock, Justin couldn’t speak but he groaned around the hard flesh as Xavier sucked him intensely, cheeks hollowed and tight around his shaft. His hole twitched, wanting to be touched, eaten, fucked. Letting Xavier slide free of his mouth, he lay with his face buried in the other boy’s crotch, enjoying the blow job he was receiving.

Xavier rolled them over, knelt over Justin and continued to suck him off, greedy for his cock. He licked down the shaft from the head to his balls and then stretched his lips around them as well. He could hear Justin moaning as he gnawed on him.

”Lick me,” Justin breathed.

Xavier encircled Justin’s nuts.

”No,” Justin told him and then opened his thighs wider, touching himself. “Down here.”

Releasing Justin, Xavier shifted positions, turned around so that he faced Justin. “You want me to lick your ass?”


Despite wanting to do whatever it took to please Justin, Xavier couldn’t do it. He’d never done it to another person and he couldn’t see it, now even for Justin. “I can’t.”

”Please,” begged Justin but Xavier shook his head. Justin groaned, wanting it so badly it hurt.

Reaching for the lube Justin had brought with him, Xavier wet his fingers, then eased his finger between Justin’s cheeks. He brushed the tip over his hole. Justin gasped and Xavier could feel him pucker up and then relax. Again he touched the tight knot of flesh and again Justin responded. Teasing Justin for a few more seconds, he placed the tip of his finger against the center of his asshole and pushed.

”Oh. . . Yes!”

His finger passed through the first ring of muscle, then the second. He could feel the slick walls of Justin’s ass. Applying more pressure, he worked his finger in deeper to the satisfaction of his partner. Every time Justin moaned it made his cock harder and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he’d want his cock to be where his finger was now. He watched as Justin trembled, shuddering each time he moved his finger, and the sense of power he felt was like an aphrodisiac. He was doing that to Justin, him. Just by fingering him. Imagine what it would be like when he fucked him. And the thought made his dick throb. He needed to be in him.

Even though Xavier hadn’t rimmed him, Justin found himself writhing on the bed, hole filled with the other teen’s finger. Fighting the urge to scream. His cock was so hard all it’d take was the slightest effort to bring him off. Taking hold of the shaft, he pressed down, suppressed the desire to come. Whispered, “Fuck me.”

Finger slipping free, Xavier knelt and unrolled a condom over his dick, lubed it up. Justin raised his legs, let them fall over the other teen’s broad shoulders. Reached down and took hold of Xavier’s cock, guided him to his hole. As the head made contact he gasped and felt Xavier push forward, parting the folds.

It was where he’d wanted to be for so long that he paused, overcome, head lowered and eyes closed. And then he felt Justin’s hand on his face. Opening his eyes, he saw Justin smile and heard him say softly, “Come closer.”

Obeying his lover’s command, he slid all the way inside and paused again. Laid his head on Justin’s shoulder. He couldn’t believe he was so close to Justin, joined to him like this. If he could, he would have buried his balls inside him as well. He never wanted them to part and yet, the urge to withdraw was building, the urge to pump, to thrust. He backed out part way and lunged forward again.

The bed shook as they fucked, muscles straining as they strove to be closer.

He uttered something unintelligible, feeling Xavier’s cock slide in and out of him, feeling Xavier’s belly rub against his dick with each thrust. It wouldn’t be long, he couldn’t hold out much longer, could hear Xavier moaning, knew he was close too. Gripping Xavier, he groaned and came, cum splattering his partner’s stomach, cock sliding through jizz as it continued to spit.

With each spasm of Justin’s asshole, Xavier felt his control slipping away. Grunting against Justin’s shoulder, he gave himself over to his orgasm, balls slapping against his lover’s ass as he pumped mindlessly.

"Where did these come from?" Justin asked Xavier, tracing his tattoos with his finger.

"Guy downtown did 'em," Xavier replied.

"No, I mean, the designs. Are they some kind of tribal symbols?"

Xavier shook his head. "I designed them."

"You?" Leaning over Xavier, Justin studied the other arm as well. "What do they mean?"

"They're symbols for Ogun."

Eyes widening momentarily, Justin said, "Like my statue," meaning the piece Xavier had made for his birthday.

Shyly, "Yeah."

"Why's he so important?"

And Xavier explained, "He's the god of creativity, and of artistry, and metal works."

Justin stroked Xavier's bicep. "You gave me a piece of you."

Pleased that Justin understood the importance of the gift, Xavier agreed. "I guess I did."

Standing in the shadows of the office building that towered over the Metro station, Justin and Xavier kissed.

"Sure you gotta go?”

"My nana’ll be worried sick if I don’t.”

"Tell her you’re with me.”

Xavier laughed. “That’ll go over real well.” Popped Justin’s butt. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

"Early. I want to go sightseeing.”


Justin kissed him. “Here. At nine.”

One final peck on the lips. “Later, J.”

Justin wiggled his fingers the way Gus did when he said goodbye. All the way back to the room he smiled like a fool. Stepping onto the elevator, he punched ‘8’ and stepped back. There was a couple in there with him. The woman smiled. He returned it.

Pointing to his hand, she said, “That’s a beautiful ring. White gold?”

"No,” he replied, suddenly sobered, “platinum.”


At last the phone rang. His hand trembled slightly as he answered but he forced himself to speak in an even voice, without emotion. “Yeah.”


"Hey yourself.” Waited.

"You eat yet?”

He had. “Diner with Mikey and Jeff. Fucking turkey meatloaf. I ate an entire roll of Tums afterwards and I can still taste the grease.”

Justin read the subtext: Come home. I need you. I miss you. “I had a chicken burrito at this cool restaurant not too far from the hotel.”

So he was gonna make him ask. “You see Xavier?”

"Yeah. He went with me.” After we made love for two hours. “He seems okay.”

Now that you’re there. “Did he say if he was coming back or not?” Are you?

"No. But I think he will.” Don’t ask me anymore.

I can’t ask, he thought. “Call tomorrow?”

"Late, okay?”

"Sure.” Waited.

"I love you.”

"I love you too.” Brian held the phone until he heard the click signaling that Justin was gone and he tried not to feel as if it was for forever. Putting down the receiver, he went to the counter and picked up the Beam, poured a shot into a glass and knocked it back. Debated having another and decided to quit while he was lucid and in control. I wonder if- - he began to ask himself and he clamped down on that thought. It would only drive him crazy. He had a joint left he remembered but decided against having it. Without Justin there to share it he’d have way too much, probably fall asleep with it in his mouth and burn the fuckin’ place down.

So he went to bed without the joint. Stripped completely and slid under the covers and tried to forget that he was sleeping alone but the bed was so fucking big and he was so fuckin’ lonely and horny, he missed his little boy, his baby. Curled on his side, facing away from Justin’s side of the bed, Brian closed his eyes and tried to pretend that he wasn’t alone, that Justin was behind him but he couldn’t hear him breathing and he couldn’t smell his scent and he didn’t feel Justin’s arm around him and that was what it took to start the tears to trickling and he lay there, angry and afraid, missing Justin so much that he thought he would go out of his mind.

In the morning he got up and went to work without eating breakfast, miserable and tired from having too little sleep. No sooner had he stepped into the office when Cynthia appeared with his schedule for the day. Noticed the bags under his eyes. “Want some coffee?”


She left and returned with an extra large cup. “Someone’s missing Justin.” He cut his eyes at her. “How does he like DC?”

"He just got there," he snapped.

"Grouchy too. So when’s he coming back?”

Ignoring the question, he asked, “What do I have?” Not that he listened to her. His thoughts were on Justin.

"How about I come back after the coffee’s had a chance to work.” Closing the book, she went back to her desk, leaving him to brood over his cup of joe.

He checked his watch. Thought about calling Justin’s room but decided against it. Knowing Justin he was probably out already sight-seeing. He thought about their trip to the Bahamas and laughed. Justin had planned almost every moment of every day. But he’d enjoyed it. More than he would have alone. The teen had a sense of wonder that was infectious and, as much as he’d groused about the museums and the historical sites, he’d actually had fun. Would have liked to have gone with him to Washington too. Remember Europe? he reminded himself. You’ll have a whole month to tour the sites and your ass is going to be museumed out. He hoped.

He’d gotten to the Metro station a little early and stood waiting for Justin to appear. That morning as he’d gotten up, taking a quick shower before his grandmother rolled out of bed, he thought of the day ahead, of the week ahead and he’d never been happier in his life, not even when he’d learned he’d been accepted into IFA and gotten a scholarship. Even though that dream had sustained him for a long time, for a long, horrible time after Tony had been killed, it was nothing compared to Justin. Justin was better than that. He started humming one of his favorite songs.

Oh, oh/ I never felt this way/ How do you give me/ So much pleasure/ And cause me so much pain?/ And just when I think/ I've taken more than would a fool/ I start fallin'/ Back in love with you. . . **

Justin could hear him humming Alicia Keyes as he neared Xavier. He loved that song, loved listening to Xavier hum it. His voice was a little deeper than his and the way the notes rumbled from his chest made him feel tingly. There was no other way to describe it. Xavier turned just as he got close to him and smiled. “You’re here,” for want of anything better to say.

”Said I would be,” replied Xavier. “Where we going first?”

”I want to go to the National Mall, see the memorials and then go to the museums.”

Bobbing his head, Xavier said, “Sounds like a plan. You eat yet?”


”Better get a move on then.”

Following Xavier down the escalator, Justin knew he had a silly grin on his face but he couldn’t help it. They hadn’t even touched yet this morning and still he felt connected to Xavier. He couldn’t wait until they had a private moment together.

For his part, Xavier didn’t even feel the escalator steps beneath his feet. Didn’t hear the voices of the other commuters. Was only aware of the presence behind him, of Justin standing on the step above him. He wanted so badly to reach back and touch him but it really wasn’t necessary. They were together. No matter how long it lasted, for right now, for this moment, they were together.

Once they got inside the station, Xavier said, “We can either take the blue line all the way around to the Smithsonian or we can take the yellow line to L’Enfant Plaza and switch to the blue line.”

”Which is better?”

”It’s shorter to go yellow to blue. Plus, the train goes over the water and you can see the Potomac.”

”Cool," he said, bypassing the fare machines as he had bought a weekly pass in the airport Metro station when he’d first arrived.

They didn’t have to wait long for a train and Xavier made sure Justin got a window seat even though the train was full of people going to work as well as other tourists.

When they got to the Pentagon stop, Justin said, “It still seems so weird, that something like that could happen.” They both knew what he was talking about. The attack on September 11th.

”Yeah, my grandma went over and saw the hole. She said it was crazy. Hard to believe what you were looking at even though your eyes were telling you it had happened.”

Surreptitiously, Justin slipped his hand into Xavier’s for just a moment and he was reminded of Brian and, guiltily, let go. They’d celebrated Gus’ birthday not long after September 11th; he’d been at Mel and Lindsay’s with Brian and the guys watching Gus stuff cake up his nose. And afterwards they’d gone to an inn outside of town and spent the night celebrating the anniversary of the moment they’d met. Blinking rapidly, Justin fought back the tears. He couldn’t do this, couldn’t be with Xavier and think about Brian too. But he was wearing his ring, and the words inside were hot against his skin.

Knowing what he was probably thinking about, Xavier leaned against him and whispered, “If you want to go back. . .”

He shook his head. “No.” Forced a smile. “This is our time.” He took a furtive glance at the water as the train entered the tunnel on the DC side having been so preoccupied with the past that he hadn’t paid any attention to the river when they exited the tunnel on the Virginia side.

They got out at L’Enfant Plaza and changed to the blue line, rode to the next stop, and went out into the air once more. Justin stood for a moment looking around him at the National Mall: the Capitol Building on one end, the Washington Monument on the other, and the buildings of the Smithsonian along both sides. It was amazing. His parents had brought him to DC once when he was a little boy but he didn’t remember anything except for the pandas at the zoo. Turning away from the Capitol, the two teenagers walked past the last of the museums, crossed the street, and made their way over the lawn towards the Washington Monument. Justin craned his neck to see to the top.

”Wanna go up?”

There was already a line forming but they figured maybe it wouldn’t take too long. They stopped and scored two free tickets from the kiosk and then got in line. The monument wouldn’t open until ten but it was a good idea to line up now and just wait it out.

Luckily there weren't too many people in front of them and they were able to go up relatively soon after the park ranger opened up the building. They took the elevator up with a French family and Justin wanted to practice on them but was too shy, figuring they were probably very sophisticated Parisiennes who'd laugh at his accent despite having gotten straight A's in French in high school.

Five hundred feet off the ground in the observation area, they looked out of the windows on all four sides of the monument. To the north they saw the White House; to the east the Capitol Building and the Smithsonian; to the south they could see the Jefferson Memorial and beyond it, Reagan National Airport; and looking westward, they spotted the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and across the Potomac, Arlington National Cemetery. Amazing.

Although they would have liked to have spent more time at the top, they had a full day ahead of them, so they took the elevator back down to the base and walked over to and along the Reflecting Pool that ran in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Veering right, they walked along the edge of the Constitution Gardens and over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. People were busy looking up a particular name among the thousands of names on the obsidian wall and in the directory that told them where each person was listed on the monument. Already there were a number of offerings placed along the base of the panels, left by friends of the dead and missing, soldiers who'd served with them, children who'd never known their fathers, women who'd lost husbands and sons. Justin's attention was arrested by a sketch someone had done of a child with the words, "Hi, Grandpa Joe," written underneath the portrait.

"I read that the artist said she wanted the monument to look like a cut in the ground, to symbolize a hurt that can never quite heal," Xavier said.

"I can't believe she was only twenty-one-years-old." Justin looked one last time at the monument before they moved on. "You think we'll ever be that good?"

"Positive," replied Xavier. "Well," he joked, "maybe I will. I don't know about you."

"Shut up," Justin grinned.

From there they visited the Lincoln Memorial, standing transfixed before his statue as so many others had done over time, walking inside and reading the words he'd spoken over a hundred years ago, words that still inspired: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal;" and "With malice toward none, with charity for all. . . "

"You see all the things they're saying about him now? How he believed black people were inferior to white people and that he didn't really think slavery was wrong?" Justin asked.

Xavier shrugged. "Good people make mistakes too, just like everybody else. You supposed to spit on the good a person does just because they're not perfect? What kind of sense does that make?" He studied the features of the slain president. "Besides, you can't ever know what's in a person's heart, not entirely."

When they got to the Jefferson Monument, both of them cracked up. "Now he was something else," Xavier said, shaking his head. "A fuckin' genius."

"And a fucking fuck machine," laughed Justin. "He was like the Brian Kinney of Colonial times."

"Hey," Xavier declared, "you write the Declaration of Independence, and design Monticello and the University of Virginia, and you can fuck whoever you want to too."

Justin grinned. "Already do."

"So wrong."

By the time they had done the monuments and walked along the tidal basin among the cherry trees that wouldn’t begin blossoming for another two weeks, the museums had opened. Justin was anxious to go to the Hirshhorn, as was Xavier, so they made their way back past all the other museums to get to it first. “This is my favorite place to go,” Xavier explained. “I could spend two hours in Twentieth Century Sculpture alone.”

Making their way up to the special exhibits first, they viewed artwork by Neto and Westermann, marveling at the differences between the two artists and yet appreciating both. Justin was taken with the organic forms suggested by Neto's soft sculpture, comprised of fabric filled with billions of tiny styrofoam beads; while Xavier lost himself in the intricate boxes constructed by Westermann.

”I hate I missed the Munoz,” Xavier complained. “But my grandma came and bought the exhibition catalog for me as a Christmas present.”

”She must be really cool.”

”She’s all right.”

”More than all right," prodded Justin.

”Yeah,” Xavier admitted, “but don’t tell her that. Man, she is something else.”

”Like you?”

”Look who’s talking.”

Then Justin realized what Xavier had said. "You mean I get to meet her?"

"If you want."

Eyes brightening, Justin replied, "I want to."

They didn’t spend two hours in the Twentieth Century Sculpture section, but it did take them over an hour to make a circuit of the floor. Justin could see why Xavier had a love of the form and he could easily imagine his friend's/lover's work occupying a place of honor among the Picasso and Smith and Giacometti pieces someday.

As it was lunchtime, Xavier suggested they eat in the National Gallery of Art cafeteria and then do the exhibits there. Which sounded like a plan to Justin as the breakfast he’d eaten that morning had long disappeared.

They found a table in a relatively empty section of the dining room and sat down to eat their exorbitantly priced hamburgers and fries. But they didn’t care because the museum didn’t charge admission and it was worth the eight dollars each for lunch. “I’m kinda glad they don’t have stuff like this in Pitts,” he said carelessly.


”Cause I’d never get to see- -“ He stopped himself. Ate a fry.

”Never get to see Brian?”

Justin shook his head. “I promised that this would be our day.”

”I don’t expect you to forget about him.”

But Justin cut off any discussion. “Not now. I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

”We’re gonna have to talk about it sometime.”

”I know.” He focused on the man-made waterfall across the room behind a glass wall, tropical plants and water flowing over stone steps. “Just not today.”

They strolled around the gift shop for a few moments to give their lunch time to digest before heading upstairs. Justin was so excited he could hardly wait. These were his heroes working in the medium he preferred: the drawing, whether it was a self-portrait by Picasso or a Georges Braque collage, Dubuffet's use of butterfly wings on paper or an abstract by Gorky. "Do you believe this?" he asked Xavier.


He read from the brochure for the exhibition, "That 'Drawings remain the life force of the artist?' "

"Yeah." Teased, "I know you do."

Justin smiled. "I'm not a bad painter," he said in his defense. Remembered finger painting Brian in the- -


He turned away, pretending to study a drawing by Wayne Thiebaud.

"I know you're thinking about him." Xavier waited for Justin to look back around. "It's okay."

"No, it's not."

"You're wearing his ring." Justin didn't answer just read some more from the exhibition brochure. "J?"

"There's still a couple more rooms."

Not pushing it, Xavier followed Justin into the next part of the exhibition.

Spending fifteen minutes in the remaining two rooms, they exited the museum after a stop in the gift shop so that Justin could pick up the exhibition catalogue. He swore he couldn't live without it and hoped that Brian wouldn't begrudge him the fifty-five dollars he spent on it.

From the National Gallery of Art, the two budding artists visited the two sculpture gardens on the mall and then headed for the Freer Gallery of Art where they discovered this awesome exhibit of work by a Chinese artist, Xu Bing, whose instillations explored the interplay between pictures and words. They were especially impressed by a piece called "The Living Word" in which the dictionary meaning for bird was written in Chinese characters in ink on a piece of paper on the floor and then shaped in acrylic. Gradually, by changing the character slightly from standardized Chinese text to the ancient pictographs based on the bird's actual appearance, the words eventually became a flock suspended in mid-air entrancing all who saw them. They went from one floor of the exhibition to the other, even stopping to type their names into a program on an iMac which transformed the words into pseudo-Chinese characters. Justin took out a piece of paper and carefully copied the character. Then, while Xavier pretended to be occupied with his own name, he typed in Brian's and copied it as well. They would have liked to have stayed for the calligraphy lessons but they wanted to hit the Corcoran Gallery before it closed at five.

"So why didn't you go to the Corcoran College of Art?" Justin asked as they trekked up to Constitution Avenue, then over to and north on 17th Street to the gallery.

"Wanted to get away from home, I guess." He shrugged. "Never been anywhere before."

Shyly glancing over at his friend, Justin said, "I'm glad you did."

"Even with everything that's happened?"

He nodded. Then, "Look. The White House. Brian calls him 'That Guy'." Paused, revised his statement. "Okay, he calls him 'That Fuckin' Bone-Headed Guy'."

The traveling exhibition at the Corcoran "Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Four Decades of Art from the Broad Collection" didn't disappoint. Xavier, for one, studied the piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat, not believing that anyone could couple that kind of anger with crystal clear vision at such a young age.

"You do."

Xavier looked surprised. "Not yet."

"You're wrong. One day we're gonna be saying we knew you when."

Laughing, Xavier said, "You're probably gonna be calling me saying, 'Where's the money you owe me?' "

"Whatever you want," promised Justin.

"Don't say that," Xavier told him.

"At least until Thursday."

The day passed without incident, he didn’t have any pressing meetings, just team get-togethers for progress reports. Satisfied that everyone was up to speed, he decided to take off early, go to the gym and sit in the sauna for a while.

The usual suspects were about eyeing him as if still not buying the ring and his declaration of fidelity to Justin. They hovered around seemingly in case he came to his senses despite his numerous refusals. Maybe I am being a fool. Justin was probably having the time of his life with Xavier, sightseeing during the day, making love- - "No." He startled himself with the word. Looked around to see if anyone had noticed. No one except the guy who had just walked past him.

The man turned. "Fuck you."

And Brian could have laughed. Wiping his hair away from his forehead, he closed his eyes again. Concentrated on clearing his mind.

"Lot of disappointed people around here."

He replied without opening his eyes, "Some of them ought to be used to it by now." Felt Trevor sit next to him.

"Thought you might be interested in coming by the studio."


"I'm working on the clay model for the statue. I could really use you right now. Sketches are good for working out some things but I'm doing some fine work on the face and having the real thing there would help tremendously."

Smoothing his towel, Brian opened his eyes and shrugged. "I'm not doing anything tonight." Or tomorrow night or the night after that.

"Justin won't mind?"

"Justin's not here. He's gone after Xavier."

Confused, Trevor asked, "Why?"

"Didn't you know? Xavier was thinking about leaving. Actually, I guess, he had decided to leave."

Xavier was one of Trevor's favorite students. Even though Xavier preferred metalwork to stone, the two of them shared a deep love of sculpture in all of its manifestations and Trevor knew that one day, if he continued his studies and worked hard, Xavier could have a very fruitful and successful career as a sculptor. "He didn't say anything to me."

"Well," said Brian, "I wouldn't worry about it." He stood. "Justin's pretty persuasive. It's hard to say no to him." Walked out.

Having showered and changed, Brian followed Trevor to the Institute and tried not to think about anything at all, especially about how miserable he was and how much he missed his baby. But it was pointless because as he walked through the hallways to Trevor's studio, he thought about the student ones further on, thought about the time he'd come to find Justin and had found Trevor instead, the temptation to give into the man's wishes so strong that he'd very nearly succumbed. Then he thought about him and Justin fucking in his studio, an episode that still gave him a hard-on. He parked the Jeep and stared into the darkness. Was startled by Trevor tapping on the side window.

Despite being unfinished, the clay sculpture was still impressive. It was life-sized for one thing, which explained the meticulous measurements Trevor had taken; and the pose was pure Brian Kinney, the famous antecedent nonewithstanding. It looked as if he'd just come from Babylon, exhausted, and managed to take off most of his clothes before collapsing onto the couch, one foot still entangled in his jeans. And even though the face was only roughly shaped, he could see the resemblance. He was genuinely in awe of Trevor's talent. "That's amazing."

"It'll get better."

So Brian sat for a half hour while Trevor made corrections to the head of the clay model; watching as the man's strong fingers applied clay, smoothing the planes of the face with his thumb.

When Trevor was done, he stood back and compared the statue to the original and seemed satisfied. As Janson wiped his hands clean, Brian came over and examined his work. "So what do you think?"

"It's me all right."

Trevor, risking a touch, took hold of Brian's face and moved it from side to side. "The lips were the hardest part. And the eyes." He gazed at Brian. "You have the most amazing eyes."

Swallowing, Brian made no attempt to move but he was acutely aware of the danger he was in. Knew that he was feeling vulnerable and alone, knew that they were attracted to one another. He lowered his eyes. "Right now, you could ask me," he confessed huskily, "and I probably wouldn't be able to say no."

It was difficult but Trevor released him. "Then I won't ask." Moved away. Without turning around, he said, "Unless you want me to."

Shaking a little, Brian studied Trevor's back, the promise of strength in the set of his shoulders, and he remembered the feel of his fingers on his face, gentle yet firm in their purpose. It would be so easy right now to say yes, to forget about Justin and all of that shit, to just fuck himself into forgetfulness, only he couldn't forget and he knew it. Fucking Trevor would only complicate things, cloud the issue, and that's the last thing this situation needed. But he needed to feel wanted and Trevor wanted him, Trevor wanted him and Trevor was here and Justin wasn't, Justin was in DC getting his dick sucked- - "Fuck!" he whispered harshly.

Trevor turned. "Brian?"

But he was gone.

He nearly ran from the building, jumped into the Jeep, and took off, the sound of screeching tires trailing in his wake. Wanting to go to Babylon or Woody's and drink himself into oblivion he, instead, went home and grabbed the Beam. Took the bottle with him into the bedroom and set it on the beside table while he undressed. Tying his robe about his waist, he settled down for a long night of serious drinking. He didn't expect Justin to call until late, if at all, and he didn't care. Which wasn't true, he just cared too damn much.

When Justin did finally call Brian was still awake and still sober. As much as he'd wanted to, he hadn't taken more than a couple sips of the bourbon. He picked up the phone on the third ring so as not to seem too desperate. "Yeah."



"What you doing?"


"Do anything exciting today?"

"Went to work. To the gym. The Institute."

"For what?"

"Trevor's statue."

"You have dinner?"

He lied, "Take-out."

"Brian. . . what's wrong?"

"Nothing." Except that. . . Shook his head. There was no point.

"You sure? You sound different."

"I said I'm okay."


"You want me to come home?"

"Yeah, I do." Then he added, "When your trip is done."

"Then what's wrong?"

"Stop treating me like a fuckin' two-year-old. Another couple of days of greasy food and jerking off won't kill me." Yet he was angry, angry because it was killing him, because more than anything he wanted to tell Justin to take the next flight home. He wanted that so badly. Why didn't Justin understand and just do it? Just come the hell home?


Brian closed his eyes. I want you to come home. "I gotta go. It's late. We're not all on vacation."

"Sorry." Then, "I love you."

After a moment, "I love you too." He hung up. Picked up the bottle of Beam and upended it, taking a long swig. Wiped his face where a trickle had escaped his lips.

Immediately he knew that something had happened between the time he’d left Justin’s room last night and this morning. Justin’s manner was subdued and the gleam in his eye had all but disappeared. He was willing to bet it had to do with Justin’s daily call home. More than likely Brian was getting tired of sleeping alone and he had to be, at least, fifty percent convinced that he and Justin were sleeping together. “We don’t have to do this today,” Xavier said. They were going to hang out in Dupont Circle this afternoon, go to the Phillips and the Textile Museum, and then have dinner in the area, maybe hit the clubs. “I got stuff I can do.”

”No.” Justin hugged himself tightly. “I wanna do this. Besides,” he added, “I’m starving.”

”Justin, I know this is hard- -“

”You don’t know,” he replied. “I feel- -“ Stopped and looked away.

Taking Justin’s arm, Xavier pulled him back towards the hotel. “Come on.” Justin offered no resistance and handed over his card key when they got to his room. Sat down by the window. “What happened?”

”I called him.”

”And. . . ?”

”And he knows.”

”How, J? You didn’t tell him.”

”He’s not stupid!”

”Justin, come on.”

”Come on what? He’s at home and I’m here. . . and I. . . and. . . “

”And you want to be with him?”

”And I don’t want to hurt him. And I am. I know that I am. I can hear it in his voice.”

”You wanna go home?”

”Yes!” He sniffled. “I should never have come.”

”No, you shouldn’t have.”

”You should have said no.”

”Turn down the one thing in this world that I wanted the most? Why? Why would I do that, J?” Justin covered his face. From where he stood, Xavier watched his shoulders shake as he sobbed. Finally, Xavier went to him and embraced him. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry this is so hard.”

”What am I gonna do?”

Xavier kissed him softly on the cheek. “We’re gonna go to Dupont Circle and hit the museums and the galleries, scope out the cute guys, and then we’re gonna go to my place and wait for Nana Rose to come home. She’ll know what to do.” They had planned to go clubbing but Xavier figured Justin needed Nana Rose and her home cooking more than he needed house music.

So they went to Dupont Circle and had lunch at Afterwords, the café in the back of Kramer’s Books. Strolled down the street, checking out the cute gay guys who looked hungrily after them as they passed on the sidewalk. Went to Lambda Rising, a gay and lesbian bookstore, browsed the postcards, Justin getting a few to give to the guys. Then they made their way to the Phillips Museum, wandering through the halls of the mansion looking at the permanent collection after having viewed the featured exhibition. Leaving there, they walked down Massachusetts along Embassy Row looking at the stately residences that lined the street as they made a leisurely approach to the Textile Museum.

Justin laughed at some point.


”Brian would have been museumed out by now.”

Xavier chuckled. That sounded like something Brian would say. And to see Justin laugh again, he would do almost anything. Except maybe give him up.

As it didn’t take long for them to view the works on display at the museum, they had time to continue their tour of the embassies in the neighborhood until they reached the Glover Bridge and the Rock Creek Park area.

By the time they got back to the Dupont Circle Metro station, it was five o’clock and they joined the throng of commuters heading home. Luckily, Xavier lived off of the red line so they wouldn’t have to change trains. They waited until two seats opened up and settled in for the ride from the west side to the east side of DC.

”It’s a different world over there,” Xavier warned.

As they got off the metro at Rhode Island and walked down the avenue, Justin, instinctively, drew closer to Xavier. It wasn’t that he felt afraid as much as he felt unwelcome and unwanted. It was a poor area yet, despite the poverty, some of the houses looked well cared for, the lawns neat and tidy as Deb would say.

The sight of Xavier’s building took him aback. “I thought you said it was an old building?”

”It is. They renovated.”

”It looks better than our building from the outside.”

Xavier grinned. “Come on in.” On the way up to his apartment, Xavier explained how some of the residents had banded together to try and change things about ten years ago. They’d fought to get the city involved, to make policy makers aware of the problems the housing project faced on a daily basis: poor management and high crime. With help from professors at a local university, clergymen in the area, and the city government, the housing project got a new lease on life. Grant money poured in to help clean up the area, to renovate the building, and to start a new computer training program in a newly built community center on the premises. “All the apartments are wired,” Xavier explained, “and everybody has a computer. My grandma even has email.” He unlocked the door. “This is it.”

The apartment wasn’t fancy like the loft but it looked lived in and comfortable like Deb’s house or Mel and Lindsay’s place. Justin had tried to introduce some softer elements into the loft but the overriding style of the place continued to defeat him. Not that he didn’t love the loft because he did, he just sometimes wished it was more homey. “I like it,” he said.

”Want something to drink?”


”We can hang in my crib,” he said grinning. “Nana Rose won’t be home for another half hour.”

Justin lifted an eyebrow. “A whole half hour?”


”Lead the way.” He didn’t see much of the room as the moment they stepped over the threshold, Xavier closed the door, cut on the television, and they fell onto the bed kissing, making up for lost time. Even though they had a little time, they didn’t do anything more than kiss, not wanting to get started only to have to stop when Nana Rose made her appearance. Although it was tempting to try to sneak in a blow job or two. Feeling his own cock harden, Justin pushed Xavier away and sat up on the bed. “Later.”

Xavier exhaled noisily and shook his head, then leaned over and said against Justin’s neck, “Maybe I can get Nana Rose to let you spend the night.” Kissed him behind the ear.

”I don’t have any clothes or anything,” Justin pointed out.

”Won’t need em,” Xavier explained.

Justin kissed him softly. “So smart.” Found himself lying back on the bed again while Xavier made his way down his neck. Then Xavier jerked away.

”Nana Rose.”

Concentrating on getting his breathing under control and trying to will his hard-on to disappear, Justin hoped Xavier’s grandma didn’t notice anything. He heard her calling.

”Xavier! You home?”

Xavier opened the door. “In here, Nana.”

She appeared, a slender, tall woman, just a little shorter than Xavier, with his complexion and eyes, and graying brownish black hair in twists and tied in a scarf. To Justin, she looked about Debbie’s age, not old enough at all to have a grandson in college. “Well,” she said smiling, “I bet this is Justin.”

He stood. “Yes, ma’am.”

”You and this no count grandson of mine been having fun?”

He hoped he wasn't blushing. ”Yes, ma’am.”

”Ya’ll eat yet?”

”Nope,” said Xavier.

She folded her arms. “Waiting for me to come home and cook something, I suppose.”


”Lazy. And after I been working all day long, hard as a dog.”

Xavier laughed. After a moment so did she. He kissed her. “You promised.”

”Get on way from here, boy.”

”I got all the stuff from the grocery store this morning.”

She sighed. “Let me get out of these clothes and I’ll see what I can do.” Turning, Rose paused. “It would help if certain lazy behind boys cut up the vegetables and chicken for me.”

Tugging on Justin’s arm, Xavier said, “Come on.”

”What’s she fixing?”

”West Indian curry chicken.”

While Rose changed clothes, Xavier and Justin peeled potatoes and cut them up along with the red pepper and onions and chicken. By the time she’d put on a pair of drawstring pants and a tee-shirt, they had everything chopped and ready for her expert hand. Xavier had even put on the rice.

Justin watched as she coated the chicken with salt and pepper and curry powder, then heated some oil and curry powder in a cast iron pot until the oil started to smoke. She tossed in the chicken and cooked it until it was brown on all sides, then added in the vegetables and browned them a little before pouring a cup of water over everything and covering the pot. “You like to cook, baby?” she asked.

”Yes, ma’am.”

She indicated Xavier with her head, “Maybe you ought to try and do something about your lazy friend over there.”

”Nana, why you always raggin’ on me?”

Smiling, she said, “Cause I can.” Laughed.

By the time dinner was over Justin was in love with Rose. She was nothing like his grandparents except for his drunken grandmother who was a lot of fun- - after a couple of martinis. Nana Rose reminded him of Deb, years of hard living having taught her the value of a good laugh, and she had a heart as big as Deb’s too. You only had to look at Xavier looking at her to see how much he loved her and Rose’s love for him was like a glaze over everything she said or did. Coming up behind the two of them washing dishes, she ran her hand over Xavier’s hair. “You need to redo that before it starts looking wild. Scare Justin away.”

”You’ll do it for me tomorrow?”

”Do it yourself,” she replied. “Who did it while you were away?”

Justin answered, “He did. I watched him once.”

”See there. Lazy boy.” Leaving them, she went and put on some music, propped her feet up, and sighed.

Taking the opportunity her absence afforded, Xavier kissed Justin. “She likes you.”

”I like her too. Does she know?”

”I don’t know. She can keep a secret better than anybody and she sees everything.”

”Then she probably knows. Deb says I can’t hide anything.” Smiling, Xavier kissed him and they put down the dishes for a moment to take care of more pressing needs.

”Ya’ll are slow as Methuselah,” Rose yelled and Xavier laughed.

”She knows.”

They came in looking rather sheepish after they’d finished the dishes. “Well?” she asked.

Still Xavier was going to make her work for it. “Well, what?”

”You gone tell me what’s going on?”


”Xavier Alexander Robinson, you gone stand there and lie to me like I can’t see what’s right in front of my face?” Justin, casually he hoped, placed his hands in front of his crotch. “Now, stop acting foolish and tell me what’s what.” But before he could begin, she added, “And explain to me why you’re messing around with someone with a ring on his finger.”

”Nana- -“

”Don’t Nana me.”

Justin interrupted. “It’s my fault.’

”I didn’t ask who was at fault, I asked what’s going on.”

”I love him,” said Xavier and it was the first time he’d actually admitted to her that he was gay. Even with Tony, he'd stopped short of saying that he'd loved the boy even though any fool could have seen that he had. In his own way. But this was different. These feelings he had for Justin demanded he tell the truth.

Inside Rose wanted to cry but on the outside she gave nothing away. Xavier needed her and she couldn't let him down even though she knew he was in for nothing but trouble. Not just because he was gay but because he was a black boy in love with a white boy and that wouldn't be easy. Especially being in love with this one. She motioned to the ring he wore. “And what’s that?”

”Brian gave it to me.” He paused. “He’s my partner.”

"Another boy at the school?"

"No. He's an advertising executive."

She paused. "How old is this man?"

Used to the reaction, Justin replied, "Thirty."

"Jee-sus." She sighed. ”Then what are you doing here with Xavier?”

”I love him.”

”And that ring doesn’t mean anything?”

”No, it does. I just- -“

”Baby, listen to me, do you love that man? The one that gave you that ring?”

With all of his heart. “Yes, ma’am.”

”But you’re here with my grandson.”

”It’s complicated.” Jesus, that was an understatement.

”Worse than the stories,” she commented. “Now, all I’m gone say about this is you better know what you’re doing.”

”But I don’t,” he confessed. “I don’t know anything except that. . . I love them both.”

”Lord have mercy.” She turned to Xavier. “You going back to school or are you gone stay here and bum around?”

”I’m going back.”

”Your doing,” she said to Justin.

And Justin added, "He's the best student in school. I couldn't let him quit because of me."

“Well. . . that's something, I suppose.“

Xavier sat next to her. “Nana, don’t be mad.”

”I’m not mad, Xavier. I’m just. . . I worry about you, child. And this. . . baby, someone’s gone get hurt. Most likely all of you. Is it worth it?”

His eyes on Justin, he told her, “I love him, Nana.”

Rose cupped his cheek, soft skin beneath her fingers. There was so much of his mama in him that, at times, she looked at him and saw Alexandria instead. Male, female, it didn’t matter cause here he was, just like his mama, in love with the wrong person and to hell with everything else. She just hoped he did better than Alexandria had but there was nothing she could tell him, nothing she could say to convince him not to go for what his heart told him he needed most in this world: Justin. Looking at Justin, she knew her grandbaby hadn’t had a choice, the boy was everything Xavier could have asked for; how could he have said no? ”What am I gone do with you, boy?”

And Xavier grinned. She always asked him that when she was most exasperated with and tickled by him. He stood and pulled on her hand. “Dance with me, Nana.”

She waved him away. “Go on.”

But he wouldn’t give up. “Come on, Nana. Don’t play me like that.”

Finally she relented and danced with him. After a moment Justin joined in. He never could resist good music. Rose watched him and laughed. “You go, baby.” Then nudged Xavier, “Look at him. You sure there ain’t some- -“


She checked out Justin’s behind and shook her head. “All I’m saying is the butt don’t lie.”

”So wrong.”

Eventually an eight and a half hour work day caught up with Rose and she begged off from further dancing. "You two gone wear me out." She flopped down on the couch. "How about you all dance and I'll watch."

At first Xavier felt awkward about dancing with Justin in front of his nana but, gradually, he loosened up and then he and Justin put on a show and a half. Careful to keep it PG, the two teens went through their best moves while Rose chanted, "Go, Xavier; go, Justin. . ." Just like they had at Justin's birthday party, the two turned the place out- - even if it was only the livingroom and their only audience Xavier's grandmother. For a while she forgot her worries and just enjoyed watching them, their love for each other evident. But every now and again Justin's ring would flash and she'd remember that there was another man involved whom she had never met, waiting in Pittsburgh for his partner to return home.

She knew all about partners, there was a gay man in her office who had a partner but she found it hard to believe that Justin, at nineteen, had not only a partner but a partner who was thirty-years-old. Once Justin had said that she remembered Xavier coming home at Christmas and mentioning his friend and the trial. A baseball bat to the head. Good Lord, some people. . . But Xavier hadn't said anything that would have lead her to believe that he had feelings for Justin. She'd assumed his experience with Tony had been enough but, truthfully, she'd hoped it had been enough because it was a hard row to hoe. Hard enough being a black male without being gay too. But she couldn't wish him to be any other way than how he was because he was special. She'd known that the first time he'd given her one of his drawings. Wasn't nothing but a little bitty thing, pencil almost bigger than he was, and he'd drawn his nana a picture of one of the neighborhood cats. Four-years-old and that picture had been better than what kids five years older than him could have drawn.

After his mama had died, she'd taken him in and raised him up, all the while hoping she could keep him safe long enough to send him away to art school, long enough to give him a chance at something better. That mess with Tony had almost killed him too, along with his friend, but he'd survived. Because of the art. Now along comes Justin with his pretty blue eyes and a smile that could light up a room and Xavier was lost again. Only, she had a feeling she could depend on Justin to do what was right for Xavier. After all, he'd come to DC to get his friend to go back to school, and not just because he loved him but because Xavier was good.

Rose smiled at the way they touched, drawn to one another despite having a spectator, and then moved apart when they remembered she was there. "That's all right," she assured them as she got up, "I'm going online for a while, watch a little TV, and then I'm taking my tired behind to bed. Ya'll can do whatever you want."

Xavier motioned for Justin to give him a moment alone with Rose so Justin pretended to have a sudden interest in the meager library occupying one bookcase in the corner. "Nana, is it okay if Justin stays the night?"

"You want me to let you two shack up in my house? And him married too? Or close enough to being married."

"Nana, please. I don't know what's gone happen once school starts again. This might be our only chance to be together."

She never could refuse him anything. "All I know is you better act like you got some sense. I hear any shouting tonight, I'm coming in there with the fire extinguisher."

Laughing, Xavier kissed her. "You a mess, Nana."

"Uh-huh. Just better remember that." Called to the other one, "I know you heard me too so I won't have to repeat myself."

Justin blushed. "Thanks, Nana Rose."

"Don't try and sweet talk me. One sweet talker in the house is already one too many." But she smiled and they all knew she was just kidding. Taking a chance, Justin came over and kissed her too. She shook her head, pleased despite herself. "Now ain't that a blip. Get on way from me. Both of you," and she sauntered off to her bedroom.

Beginning at the tip, Justin used the fine teeth of the comb to unravel the first braid. Although Xavier had told him he didn’t have to be gentle cause he wasn’t when he did it himself, Justin used a light hand with the comb until the end was undone. Then he abandoned the comb and worked the rest of the plait loose with his fingers. Xavier’s hair was so thick, so soft. After he’d undone all of the braids, he buried his face in his lover’s hair and inhaled the scent of the oil Xavier had used. It smelt of peppermint and refreshed him.

Xaiver had been sitting on the floor at Justin’s feet. Now he turned and rose up, eased Justin back on the bed and straddled him. They were both hard already. He ground his crotch against Justin’s, kissed him deeply.

Justin sighed. Only Brian could get him as hard as fast, the difference being that Brian would cork his desire and shake it until he was nearly out of his mind before freeing him while Xavier, being a teenager too, was in favor of a quick release.

Working out of their clothes, they came together once more and Justin already had the condom in hand and was unrolling it over Xavier’s cock while the other teen was reaching for the lube.

As Xavier pushed inside him, Justin clenched his teeth and turned his head away, twisting back when Xavier’s lips sought out his. They joined in a kiss and Justin moaned inside Xavier’s mouth feeling his cock pulsing deep within.

It was eleven fifty and Justin still hadn’t called. He’d waited all evening for the phone to ring telling himself that Justin was probably out having dinner with Xavier, refusing to imagine the worse. And yet the images came unbidden. Justin and Xavier

fucking in bed, dark and light bodies entwined.

He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t wanted anything, just wanted to hear Justin’s voice. Wrapping his arms about his waist, he forced himself to sit. Ring he told the phone but it didn’t.

Eleven fifty-two.

A cry bubbled up from his stomach and he gasped, closed his mouth to keep it inside, and clenched his muscles around Xavier.

Brian picked up the phone and started to dial Justin’s cell and paused, put the phone down again. Seeing

Justin crying out as Xavier plunged inside him.

Rubbing his eye with the heel of his hand, he clenched his jaw.

Eleven fifty-four.

Thighs tight around Xavier’s waist, Justin surrendered to his orgasm, cock erupting, cum flowing between them. Xavier lowered his head and cried out against Justin’s neck as he came. For a few moments afterwards both were motionless except for their chests heaving. Then Xavier pulled out and rolled over onto his back. Removed the condom. Justin was already moving into his arms. Suddenly he froze, sat up and checked the clock.


Eleven fifty-seven.

He got out his cell and dialed the loft. The phone rang and rang until the machine came on. He hung up without leaving a message. Tried Brian’s cell but there was no answer either. He covered his face. Oh God. . .

Pushing through the darkness, Trevor spotted someone he knew. Went over and stood close to the man. “What are you doing here?”

Eyes slightly unfixed, Brian replied, “Looking to get my dick sucked.”

”Little unsteady on your feet.”

Brian smirked. “I’ll lie down.”

”I’ll take you home,” offered Trevor.

”Is that a proposition, Prof?”

”Come on, you can sleep this off,” said Trevor, taking his arm. Whatever had caused him to come out prowling the night, Trevor figured he’d do a good deed and get Brian home and away from the backroom.

”I can drive myself,” Brian replied, pulling his arm out of Trevor’s grip. “And if I end up wrapped around a fuckin’ telephone pole, who cares?”

”Justin, for one.” Brian laughed. “Your son, for another.”

”Better off without me.” The edge of his high was starting to dull, forcing him to think about things he'd rather not.

Taking advantage of Brian’s apparent shift in attitude, Trevor made a counter-offer. “Least let me follow you home. Make sure you get there safe.”

He shrugged. “Whatever.”

Negotiating the club, they got inside their cars and Trevor followed Brian to the loft. Escorted him upstairs.

Brian opened the door on the second try and slid it open with a bang. “See?” Gestured at the apartment. “Safe and sound.”

”Then I’ll go,” said Trevor.

”Wait.” Brian removed his jacket, tossed it on the couch.

But Trevor was already feeling as if he were hanging on to a slippery rock face with nothing but his fingers and toes. “I should go.”

”Why not?” Brian asked. “Everyone else does.” He climbed the steps to the bedroom and stripped. Sat on the bed, shoulders slumped.

Following him, Trevor paused at the top of the steps. He knew this was a mistake. It would all too easy to fall for the stunning Mr. Kinney except that he was commited to Justin. No matter what, Trevor doubted Brian would end things with the teenager. So what did that leave him? Nothing. They'd fuck and in the morning he'd be on his way. Was that what he wanted? No. But was it enough? That he wasn't sure of. “So we do this and then what?”

”Go to sleep?”

”A one-night stand then.”

”Do we have to label everything?” Brian looked down at his hands, not wanting to see the rejection in Trevor’s face. Not tonight he prayed. I need this.

For a long time Trevor didn’t answer and then he said, “I’m gonna go.” There was no point in starting something that would end badly. Better to just walk away, pride and heart intact, than to come between Brian and Justin because, despite their present problems, they seemed right for one another. Not because of any obvious reason but because they'd managed it so far. That meant something.

”Do you want me to beg?” The words emerged from his mouth like figures from stone, rough and uncouth. “Beg you to fuck me?” He met Trevor’s gaze with difficulty. “Fine.” Laid back against the pillows. “Fuck me,” he said, voice trembling. Closed his eyes. “Please.”

Trevor wanted to run away. No matter the weakness, the need implied by Brian's pose and tone of voice, he was aware of the man's great strength as well. Not of body but of will. Lying supine on the bed, pleading to be fucked, Brian had never seemed more powerful to Trevor. He could feel the snare tightening around him, forcing him closer and yet he didn't care. He was lost in Brian's hazel eyes, in his red lips and wide nipples, his tousled hair and slender calves. If ever there had been a man created to entrap the wary and unwary alike, it was Brian Kinney. And like countless others before him, Trevor discovered that the last thing he wanted was to resist. Dropping his jacket to the floor, he made his way to the bed. Brian watched as the sculptor finished removing his clothes. He held out his hand. Trevor took it, closing his eyes, never looking back.

Squatting over Trevor, impaled, Brian flung back his head and gave a long, low groan. Christ, this was what he'd needed, wanted. . . fuck, it felt so good, so right. Dropping to his knees, he took all of Trevor inside him with a shout and rocked back and forth, loving the way the man bucked beneath him, thrusting upwards with increasing strength and speed. It was like a struggle, the two of them fighting for dominance. Despite the fact that Trevor's cock was hard up his ass, Brian didn't give an inch, challenging Trevor to take what he wanted, challenging him to pleasure them both, to make him shout, to fuck him senseless. There was nothing gentle about their coupling, it was a hard and hot fucking that stretched every muscle, strained every joint. Sweat soaked the bed and still Brian rode Trevor's dick.

Grabbing Brian around the waist, Trevor motioned for him to get down but Brian resisted. They wrestled, Trevor disloding Brian finally by virture of muscle mass gained from using a hammer and chisel to work stone. Still, Brian fought him, twisting in his grip and trying to keep Trevor from turning him over onto his belly. But, in the end, Trevor proved stronger and flipped Brian over. Using his knees, he opened Brian's thighs and kept them open while he prised his cheeks apart and pierced him right through the middle.

Brian cried out. Even though he'd been loosened from their prior contact and was still wet with lube, it hurt. Ignoring his partner's complaints, Trevor continued to stab his hole with a cock that had only grown harder as he'd gotten more and more turned on by their fucking. At some point the pain subsided and Brian begin raising his hips to meet Trevor's lunges, his cock hard beneath him, his balls aching for release. Trevor slammed against him and he shouted. Again. It felt like he was being split in two. Grabbing the comforter, he stuffed his mouth with the cloth, biting down on it and screaming.

The sound was a hammer blow. Trevor answered with a cry of his own, hit hard and fast.

Like plunging off a cliff, Brian came, falling rapidly, head exploding as he bottomed out.

Showing the tenderness he'd witheld before, Trevor laid next to Brian, arm around the other man's waist, and kissed his perfect, red lips.

"Now what?" asked Trevor.

"It's late. You don't have to go."

Trevor sat up and looked over at Brian, stretched out next to him, lean body like a mystery he had only just begun to unravel, and knew that it was time to depart. "Maybe I should. Before I get too comfortable."

Brian closed the door, shutting out the sight of Trevor descending the staircase. If he'd dared, he could have gotten him to stay. But then what? Trevor was right. Best to sever things before either one of them got too comfortable. Irregardless of how it all turned out, Justin was coming home in two days and shit was complicated enough as is. Turning to return to bed, he glimpsed a light flashing on the answering machine. Hit the message button.

"Brian, I'm sorry I missed you. I tried calling you on your cell but I guess you have it turned off. I'll try to reach you again in the morning before you leave for work. I love you. Later."

Brian lowered his head.


"Who else would it be?"

"You sound- -"

"We've been through this before."

"You're not coming down with something, are you?"

"And what would you do if I were? Come home a day early to take care of me?"


"Are you sick?"


"Then what's wrong?"


"Why didn't you call?"

"I did."


"Where were you?"

"I waited and waited and, finally, I decided not to wait anymore."

"I said I'd call late in the evening."

"It was almost midnight!"

"And you weren't home!" Pause. "Where were you?"

"Where were you? Out having fun with Xavier?"

"Should I be miserable?"

"I am." Pause. "And tired. . . and lonely. . ." Pause. "I miss you."

"I miss you."

"Why didn't you call?"

"I'm sorry."


"So you'll be home tomorrow?"


"Why wouldn't I be?"

A mouth full of pancakes Justin had fixed, Rose watched as he returned from Xavier's room with a hangdog look on his face. He'd gone in there alone to call Brian after missing him last night. She and Xavier had sat in the diningroom pretending they didn't know what was going on. She'd asked Xavier, "that don't bother you?"

"Nothing I can do about it," he'd replied. "Justin loves him."

Now, seeing the look on the blond boy's face, she understood just how hard it was for him, loving two people and unable to let go of either of them. "You all right, baby?" she asked and, if anything, it only made him sadder. "What?"

He didn't answer but Xavier did. "Brian calls him that."

"It's okay," Justin told her, then picked at his food, appetite having disappeared.

When she started to say something else, Xavier gave her the eye and that did it. "Listen here, boy, don't you try and dominate me in my own house. I know you done started thinking you grown just cause you laying up with Justin but fucking- - pardon my French- - ain't never made nobody grown that I know of."

Unexpectedly, Justin started laughing. He laughed until the tears began and then he just sat there and cried. Rose got up and stood next to him, brushed back his hair. "Lord have mercy, you're a mess, child."

He sniffled. "I know." Laughed again. "Brian says I'm two handfuls."

"The man must be a saint," she declared.

At that he almost fell out of his chair laughing, him and Xavier.


Justin cackled. "That's the one thing nobody's ever called Brian."

"Cause if Justin's two handfuls," Xavier said, "Brian's like ten."

"You got a picture of him?" she asked. Justin took out his wallet and passed it to her. Inside was copy of the photograph Brian had taken of them in the livingroom of the loft. Rose studied his face. "Well, that explains part of it."

"Part of what?" asked Justin.

"Why you're with him." She took a last look before giving back his wallet. "That is one fine-looking man."

Justin smiled and assured her, "He only gets finer in person."

"That's o-kay. Ya'll's situation is messed up enough without adding me to the picture." Grinning, she told him, "Cause gay, straight, or bi, can't no man resist the power in my hips," and she wiggled said irresistable hips to demonstrate while Justin and Xavier cracked up. "Well," she said after they'd stopped laughing, "I've got to get a move on before they give my low-paying job to somebody else." They cleared the dishes and then she asked Xavier, "Am I seeing you tonight?" He shook his head. "Hmm." Grabbing hold of Justin, she hugged him. "You have a good trip, baby, hear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

She held his face in her hands. "I don't know what to tell you."

"We'll figure something out," he promised her.

Rose pecked him on the cheek. "Cute as can be," she declared.

"You too, Nana Rose."

"Sweet talker." Getting a hug from Xavier too, she told her grandson, "You can call your nana tonight, if you find a spare minute."

"I'll see what I can do," Xavier replied and she popped him on the head before grabbing her purse and going. Xavier drew Justin to him and kissed him softly. "Told you she was something else." Another kiss. "What are we doing today?"

"Georgetown, the zoo, and Adams-Morgan." He paused. "And then I have to pack."

"But first," said Xavier, "we're going back to bed."

Justin laughed lazily. "Didn't know that was on the tour."

"Main attraction."

Georgetown was fabulous. They walked around campus gawking at the buildings and attracting all kinds of attention. Which made them feel like the two hottest guys on the planet. Which was kind of cool given all the other shit they had to deal with. It was especially gratifying for Justin since he was used to Brian getting most of the attention when they went out anywhere. Snagging a brochure from the information desk in the student union where they had a quick lunch, they found out that Healy Hall, a stunning example of Romanesque Revival architecture, was named for the Reverend Patrick F. Healy, the first African-American Jesuit priest and president of a major university.

"I didn't know that," Xavier said. "Damn. The things you learn."

"Amazing," teased Justin and received a bump from Xavier.

The zoo was a bust.

It started out well enough at the Cheetah Conservation Station where they got a place close to the fence and managed to spot one of the cheetahs hiding in the tall grass, probably wondering why all these evolved apes were pointing and yelling at him.

From there they went to see the Giant Pandas. They were too much. The male panda was up in a tree and he stuck his head down in the fork of a branch and couldn't get it back out for about thirty seconds. "He must have had a toke," Justin said laughing.

"High on bamboo," added Xavier.

"No wonder China let us have him. He's one of the slow pandas."

Xavier giggled. "They were like, 'Sure, take him, he's the best one.' "

And then they got to the Think Tank where the orangutans were housed and it all fell apart. Justin began to think of Brian and the time they'd taken Gus to the zoo and Brian had sung, "At the Zoo" for the baby. "The monkeys stand for honesty,/ Giraffes are insincere,/ And elephants are kindly but they're dumb./ Orangutans are skeptical/ Of changes in their cages,/ And the zookeeper is very fond of rum. . ." *** Desperately trying to hide his distress from Xavier, Justin went outside using the excuse that he wanted some ice cream. Xavier found him sitting on a bench, not having gotten anything.

"I wish Gus were here. He loves the zoo."

"Loves his Pooh too," added Xavier. He'd seen the way the toddler doted on Justin and knew the feeling was mutual. "You'll see him soon enough."

"What if- - What if we break up?" he asked, meaning him and Brian.

"You'd still get to see Gus. I don't think Brian would keep you from seeing him."

Justin stood. "Maybe he should. Maybe I'm not good enough to be around Gus."

Following him, Xavier asked, "Just because you fell in love with someone else?"

"We're committed," he told Xavier in a ragged whisper. "That should mean something."

"And it does. It means I can't have you, not really, not entirely." He turned from Justin as the other boy's face softened, realizing that Xavier was hurting as much as he was.

"Let's finish looking around and go get something to eat. I'm starving."

Hitting the Great Cats exhibits and swinging by to see the seals and sea lions, Justin and Xavier walked back down to the Woodley Park metro station and caught a bus that took them over the Duke Ellington Bridge into Adams-Morgon.

They got off at Columbia Road, their attention arrested by a couple of buildings with murals on them, one of three macaws and the other of a scene from the neighborhood: people doing their laundry in a laundromat, a woman looking out of a window, a man raking leaves, a taxi passing by, and a boy taking out the trash. Walking up the street a little, they saw another mural of some cows riding bicycles. All of the murals were vibrant and full of life just like the area. From Columbia Road, they headed down 18th Street, stopping to browse in the many bookstores and funky little shops lining the sidwalk. Xavier pointed out the mural of Toulouse-Lautrec on the front of a club and further on one of a redheaded woman with words painted on her bare breasts, the famous Madam Organ.

Hunger having been forgotten in lieu of other pleasures, it soon returned sharper than before. They decided to eat at the Red Sea, an Ethiopian restaurant that Xavier heard was da bomb. Ordering Doro Wat, or Ethiopian stew made with chicken, they ate it with pieces of injera, flatbread, right off the platter. Listening to Aster Aweke and surrounded by travel posters of Ethiopia, they could imagine that they were no longer in the D.C. but in Addis Ababa, thousands of miles away from their troubles.

Nothing had gone wrong today, it was just that nothing had gone terribly right either. He returned to the loft after work glad that he was taking the next day off. Maybe once Justin came home things would start looking up. He hoped. Their conversation that morning hadn't exactly instilled him with confidence but it hadn't depressed him further. Not much anyway.

Wearily he changed his clothes, slipping into a pair of grey sweats and a black tank top. Didn't feel like going out, seeing the guys, or doing much else. Except feeling sorry for yourself. "So what if I do?" he asked softly.

Fridge was empty but that didn't surprise him. He opened the drawer of take-out/delivery menus and closed it again; nothing appealed to him. Restless, he cast his mind about for something to do. If Justin were there they'd just fuck but- -

But Justin isn't here. He didn't think about where Justin was. Turned his mind, instead, to the night before, to him and Trevor fucking, and he knew that he could call him and the sculptor would come over and take the bitter taste of loneliness from his mouth at least for a few hours. If he let him. But he wouldn't. Justin was coming home tomorrow.

He wandered into the bathroom never more conscious of the fact that he lived in a confined space. Not really sure why he'd gone in there, Brian looked around. Spotted the clothes hamper. The maid was coming on Friday and she'd do the laundry along with cleaning the apartment, not that it needed much cleaning, especially with Justin away. Justin, who could never remember to rinse all of the toothpaste out of the sink; or to wipe all of his shaving cream from the counter; or to spray the shower stall with that crap you used to keep the mildew from building up; or to put his clothes in the hamper. He was used to Jen doing those things and no matter how many times Brian reminded him (i.e. yelled at him) he continued to forget.

Lifting the top on the hamper, Brian toyed with the idea of doing the laundry himself. Sometimes Justin did it, despite Brian paying the maid to do it, saying he liked sitting in the laundry room, listening to the hum of the machines as he worked on a sketch or paper for school. Shit, it'd been years since he'd done the laundry and he'd never found it relaxing, had hated it until the moment he'd decided no more and called the maid service.

Brian reached in and picked up the first thing he touched. A pair of Justin's briefs. Holding them he remembered snatching them from the floor where Justin had left them and tossing them into the hamper. He smiled, stroking the soft, grey, cotton material. Like stroking Justn's skin. Closing his eyes, he lifted the briefs to his face and inhaled. There was just enough of the teen's scent trapped in the cloth that he could imagine himself nosing between Justin's thighs, getting a whiff of his odor, a heady combination of sweat and semen. His cock swelled with excitement accompanied by a tingling in his balls. Sniffing the briefs once more, he carried them into the other room.

Shirt pulled up around his chest, sweats pushed down beneath his scrotum, Justin's briefs over his face, Brian tweaked his nipples and tugged on his cock as he inhaled his absent lover's scent. The cloth over his mouth and nose fluttered as he breathed in Justin's aroma and exhaled noisily. A couple more deep breaths and he removed the underpants from his face and wrapped them around his cock. Sighing, he drew the briefs up and down his shaft, the soft cotton caressing him as gently as Justin would have. He could almost feel the teen's hand on his dick. His hole opened and precum gushed forth wetting Justin's briefs. He repositioned them so that the crotch rubbed against the tip of his cock, clinging to him as the cloth became wet. He lifted the y-fronts to his mouth and sucked on the crotch, tasting his precum and Justin's. Knowing how aroused the boy got during any day, there were bound to be traces of his juices left behind.

He placed the briefs around his cock once more and continued to jack off. His nipples were hard and sensitive. He only wished Justin were there to lick them, to suck them into the warmth of his mouth- - God, bite them- -

"Oh!" he moaned and tightened his grip on his hard-on. Spread his thighs and cupped his sac with his free hand. Imagined Justin's head bobbing over his crotch, going down on him. The muscles in his calves tensed and he let his head turn to the side, eyes squeezed shut. He could feel Justin's plump lips on his shaft, flickering tongue snaking into his hole. "Yes. . . " he breathed and jerked on his dick. Hard. Again. Cum struck the cloth and clung to it, spreading as he continued to beat off, cum-soaked cotton stretched over his cock head. He continued to tug on his dick, muscles taunt, breath erupting in bursts, until he was spent. When his heart rate had returned to normal, he took the briefs from his cock and spread them on the pillow next to him, then licked his own cum from the cloth, as if he'd brought Justin off inside his Calvin Kleins and was now devouring his seed.

Just as he was cleaning the last of his jizz from the briefs, the buzzer sounded. "Fuck! Even when I'm beating off, they know it," he moaned. "Christ."

Pulling his sweats up over his now-flaccid dick, he answered the summons. "What?"

"Bri. It's your son," said Lindz.


"Come on," he replied and hit the door release. She didn't have to wait for him but one too many close encounters had taught her the benefit of doing so. Which gave him time to wash his face hastily in the sink, drying off with a dishtowel. Had to remember to put that in the hamper when he put Justin's briefs back.

He had the door open before she could knock. Gus rushed to him and grabbed his legs screeching. "Hey, Sonny Boy," he cooed, picking the toddler up.

"Dada, dadadada."

"What?" Gus grabbed- - what else?- - his hair and gave him a big raspberry kiss, wet and sloppy. Brian let him and laughed. They'd definitely have to work on his technique.

"Enjoying the bachelor life?" Lindsay asked.

"Oh, yeah. Let's see," he said as he carried Gus to the counter and set him on top, "I'm lonely, hungry, and horny."

Lindsay arched a brow. "Well, we can't help you with the horny part but we brought dinner." She held up a bag. "Homemade chicken pot pie."

He very nearly sighed. "Did I ever mention you're my favorite lesbian in the whole wide world?"

So he, Lindsay, and Gus sat at the dining table and had dinner, the two adults eating in between feeding him and making sure he didn't spit out his carrots or try to feed them to Beh.

"Carrots are good for you, Gus," Brian told him. "They'll make you big and strong and all the cute boys will want you."

"He might like girls," Lindz pointd out. "After all, he's living with lesbians."

"My point exactly. He'll be sick of pussy by the time he turns twelve."


Gus laughed. "Pu- -" he began but Brian covered his mouth.

"Was he going to say what I think he was going to say?"

"Say what?" Brian asked innocently but he didn't remove his hand from over the baby's mouth until Gus began to fidget.

"That's okay," she said. "I consider it conditioning." She smiled at Gus. "Pussy."


"Stop!" exclaimed Brian.



Brian yelled and grabbed Gus, scurrying away into the livingroom as Lindz gloated. "Pussy power wins again!"

"So," she asked as they settled down on the sofa, Gus playing at their feet, "how have you been?"

He shrugged, continually amazed at the way his mood seemed to see-saw, up one moment, down the next. "He's coming home tomorrow and. . . I don't know what to expect."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean. . . I think. . . " No, he knew. "He's in love with this kid." He looked down at Gus to escape her gaze.

"They're friends."

Everyone said that because no one wanted to admit the truth. "It's more than that, Lindsay." He met her eyes briefly but couldn't sustain the contact; it was just too hard to say. "I know that they've been together." Sexually. "I can hear it in his voice. He calls me after they're done fucking and I pretend like I don't know anything. Like I'm a fucking idiot."

"You don't know that. You have to trust him."

"I've tried, Lindz, but- -"

"But what?"

"But nothing." He stood and stepped around Gus. "I think about Cam every day."

"He's not- -"

"I know he's not." Glanced at the television. "I watched the tape." Felt Gus brush against him and he squatted down. "Looking at it, at us. . . fuck. We looked so happy."

She had to admit it. "You were."

"Until we weren't anymore." He sat on the floor and Gus crawled in between his legs and sat babbling to Beh. "I don't understand. How things could get so fucked up in only three months. I swear, Lindsay, I didn't. . . I was happy. I didn't think anything was wrong. But every fucking thing was wrong. It was all a lie- -"

"Listen to yourself!" She knew the only way to get through to him when he was like this was to be tough with him. "You don't know that anything's happen."

"I know!" Gus looked up at him in alarm. He spoke again, softer this time. "I know."

And she believed him; if anyone would know, he would. Hadn't he gone through it with Cam? Hadn't he pretended not to see the signs over and over again until he'd have to be blind not to see? "So what are you going to do?"

Gus stood and grabbed his shirt, wanting to be held, so he picked baby and bear up and cradled them in his arms. "The last time Cam and I had it out, you know what I did? I told him I didn't care what he did. He could go out and fuck as many guys as he wanted, do whatever he wanted, as long as he didn't leave me. All I wanted was to keep him."

She'd never heard him confess that before but she'd suspected it, suspected it'd been something impossibly hard.

"That's what I told him. And I hated myself for doing it. I hated myself for needing him so much that I could even think it, much less say it. Mean it. But it didn't matter. He left anyway." He tightened his grip on Gus. "So what'll I have to do to keep Justin? And will it do any good? Or is he gonna walk away too?"

Lindsay looked at him, the picture of strength, sinewy arms hard with muscle, holding his son and yet she knew how much of that was pretense, posturing, the body refusing to betray any weakness, and she wanted to protect him, even if it meant protecting him from Justin. "You do what's right for you. Fuck everybody else if you have to but do what's right for you. Remember that."

Fighting back a tear that eventually won and slid down his face, he said, "Being with Justin is what's right for me. Or as right as I'm ever gonna find."

Neither one of them had much appetite even though they'd made love throughout the night on nothing but their early dinner in Georgetown. Waking at dawn, they remained in bed, curled in one another's arms. Justn's flight was scheduled for the afternoon but he'd decided to see if he could get an earlier one. Brian was taking the day off to be with him and there was no point in putting off the discussion they needed to have, even if it meant having less time with Xavier before he left DC.

Having lain awake for a half hour, they stired, ordering breakfast for two. Washing quickly, Xavier returned to bed while Justin put on his bathrobe to wait for room service. They ignored the looks the guy gave them, then settled down on the bed to eat after he left.

"This bacon is good," said Justin, munching on a crispy strip, toes dancing back and forth.

Xavier laughed and leaned over to kiss him. "I love you."

"I love you too."

Even though he didn't want to, he had to ask, "What's going to happen to us when you get back?"

"I don't know."

"I don't think I could take not seeing you."

"We'll find a way."

"How, Justin? It sounds good when we're here alone but what about Brian? What about your life with him?" He finished his coffee. "If I asked you- -"


"I know that you love him too but, J- -"

"It's different." And fuck if he could explain it any better than that. But he would have to, if he wanted Brian to understand.

"I know that, but you have to love one of us more, or better."

Justin laid down his fork. "What if I told you I do?"

"I know it's not me."

"Xavier- -"

"I know that he comes first."

"What are you saying?"

Xavier took a deep breath. "That I'll take what I can get. As long as I don't have to lose you completely."

"What if that ends up meaning we can only be friends? Could you do that?"

"Could you?"

"I have Brian."

"You might not after this. You willing to risk that or should we just hang it up right now?"

"I can't make any promises. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know how he's going to react and I know it's not fair, to any of us, but I don't know what to do. I just know how I feel. And right now, I feel like I can't do without either of you." He was gripping the comforter in his hands. Slowly, he released it.

"Damn," swore Xavier. "This is some fucked up shit."

Justin eased into his arms. Kissed him. "If anybody can make it work, we can."

Xavier shook his head. "He is gone freak. And after that, he's gone kill us."

"Don't worry," promised Justin. "I'll protect you from His Big and Badness."

"Who's going to protect you?"

And Justin thought, He would never hurt me. Of that he was sure.

They'd agreed that Xavier wouldn't come to the airport with him, that they'd say their goodbyes at the hotel. Only, when the time came, they found it hard to stick to their plans. But Justin had been able to get an earlier flight and he intended to be on it. So they had to part now.

Arms around one another, they stood inside the room where they'd first made love and tried not to think about what the next few days would bring. Xavier was remaining behind, to fly out on Sunday and even then they didn't know if they'd see each other or under what circumstances. Kissing Justin for the last time, Xavier whispered, "I love you. No matter what."

Saying nothing as Xavier left, Justin turned away at the last moment and waited until he was gone to check the room for anything he might have forgotten to pack. But he couldn't pretend it hadn't affected him, Xavier's leaving, and he sat on the bed and let the tears come, wiping them away after a while. Grabbed his stuff and went downstairs to check out.

Xavier watched him pay the bill and go outside to take the hotel shuttle to the airport. Sniffling, he left his hiding place and exited by another entrance. It was going to be a long four days.

It only took a half hour to clear all the security checks, so he had about an hour to wait until his flight began boarding. He hadn't called Brian this morning and he knew that he should have but he hadn't wanted to get into it with him until they were face-to-face, and he didn't want to pretend anymore, to lie anymore.

Handing the gate agent his ticket, he looked back, expecting to see Brian there the way he'd been when Justin had left Pittsburgh and, instead, he saw the shadow of Xavier. For a second he almost turned back before realizing it was only his imagination.

The flight was just over an hour, just enough time for him to have worked himself into a good panic by the time the plane touched down. Not for the first time did he regret not having Brian at the airport to meet him. Hailing a cab, he gave the guy his address and tried to calm down. Only he was terrified. There was no telling what kind of reception he'd get, no telling what Brian would do once he told him about his feelings for Xavier. God, he prayed, let me think of something, some way not to lose him. But which one?

The building looked the same and he spotted the Jeep in its customary place which meant Brian was home waiting to go to the airport to pick him up. Except he was already here. Punching in the building code, he went inside and paused at the foot of the stairwell. His heart was pounding and he set down his bags and took a deep breath. It'll work out. I know it will. Hands trembling, he gathered his stuff and started up the stairs. No point in dawdling any longer.

Brian came out of the bedroom where he'd been straightening up and almost had a fucking seizure. "Shit!" Justin was standing in the middle of the floor with his bags piled next to the sofa. "What are you doing here?"

"I took an earlier flight."

"Why didn't you call?" Brian asked, bounding down the stairs.

Justin moved towards him. "Took a cab." Closing the distance between them, Brian kissed him and he almost said fuck it, leave it for later, cause Brian smelled so good all he wanted was to climb into bed and make love for hours. But he couldn't. "Brian. . ."

Parting from him, the man said, "You missed Gus last night. I started to call so that he could talk to you." He walked towards the kitchen, not sure what he was going to get or do once he was in there. All he knew was that he did not want to have this conversation. Not yet.

"Brian- -"

"He was about to drive me fuckin' crazy. Yelling for you to come out and play. Totally wouldn't buy that you weren't here. Lindsay. . . " Please, not now, just- - just give me one more day- - an hour, all I'm asking for is one hour- -

"Bri- -"

"You don't have to say it!" he shouted, stopping in his tracks. His head suddenly felt like it was about to split in two and, for a second, everything faded to black. He had to get out of there.

"I'm sorry." Brian grabbed his keys from the countertop, his coat from the sofa, and headed for the door. Justin moved to stop him. "Brian, wait! We need to talk!" He caught hold of Brian's sweater but the man pulled away and kept going. The door shut. Justin slumped against the sofa. "Brian. . ."

Never in a million years would he have imagined he'd be sitting by Cam's grave afraid to go home. It was the last day of February and he was so cold he trembled. Maybe it wasn't the weather, maybe it was the effort not to cry that caused him to shake. Maybe it was the feeling that his entire life had just gone down the fuckin' drain. Despite knowing all along that Justin had been unfaithful, he'd been able to hold it together, been able to put off reacting to it. "Fuck," he whispered, feeling the tears begin. Why did it always end up like this? Him alone wondering what had happened. That's why he'd avoided love, relationships, any hint of commitment, because what did it get you but a cold ass and a pain in your chest that wouldn't go away?

And he'd known, he'd known before Justin had gotten on that plane that he and Xavier would end up sleeping together, he'd practically shoved Justin into his arms but he'd trusted him, that was what it was all supposed to be about, fuckin' trust. And love. So why was it that on the day of his partner's return, he was sitting at his former lover's gravesite about to cry his eyes out?

Addressing the cold stone, he asked softly, "What's wrong with me?" and made no attempt to hold it in any longer. Not bothering to cover his face, he cried openly. Because there had to be something wrong with him. Two lovers and they'd both cheated on him, both abandoned him. Justin was still at the loft, but for how long? What was he going to do? He didn't even check the area out to see if anyone was watching him, didn't care if anyone saw the great Brian Kinney crying on a hard-assed granite bench in the middle of a fucking cemetery cause it felt like he was dying. Nothing, not even Justin getting bashed, had hurt like this. Cold tears trickled down his cheeks and he didn't wipe them away. "What did I do wrong?" he asked but he had no answers and, of the two people who did have answers, one was dead and the other was home waiting for him to return. Only he couldn't go home. Not right now, not like this. He felt completely drained of energy, of hope, and of strength. All he wanted to do was to lie down on Cam's grave and close his eyes.

Never having confessed this to another soul, he began to speak. "I waited for you. After you told me you weren't coming back, I waited. Came home every night after work for a week and waited. I just knew you were coming back because I. . . I couldn't imagine you living without me. Because I was barely living without you." Sobbed. "Night after fucking night, I waited for you to show up with any excuse, anything. It didn't matter, I would have taken it, Cam, cause all I wanted. . . was to be with you. I loved you. . . " Paused. "I loved you more than anything in this world." He wiped his eyes. "But I love him more. More than my life. I would do anything for him." Looked up. "Even give him up if I had to." Paused again. "I just don't know how. How do you give up your goddamn life?"

Hours later he returned home. He'd gone to the office and sat at his desk, staring at a blank computer screen. There was no where else he could have gone. Not to Lindsay's place or Deb's or over to Mikey's or his mom's, not without having to go into everything and he hadn't felt like further exposing himself today. Bad enough he'd sat in the graveyard bawling like a baby without going to his friends and admitting that, once again, he'd been had. He was angry when he got to the loft, angry and sad. Without looking at Justin, he started for the bedroom.


He could smell food. Justin had cooked. "Not really."

"Can we talk?"

"I suppose."

Justin took a cautious step towards him and he shook his head once. The boy paused. "I didn't go to DC thinking this would happen."

"The truth, Justin." He deserved that much.

"Maybe I thought it might happen. Mostly, I was afraid to think about it at all. I thought, if I don't think about it, it won't happen."

"But it did." It took two attempts to ask, "Do you love him?"

"Brian- -"

"You think it could hurt any more than it already does?" He turned and looked at the teen. "Do you love him?"

"I love him."

He turned away. "So what does that mean? You leaving?"

"I don't want to." Justin moved closer despite the earlier warning. "Do you want me to go?"

"No." He didn't. But he had to be clear on how things stood. "What about Xavier? You willing to give him up?" The younger man said nothing. "Justin?"

"I love him."

"What are you saying?"

"I want him to be a part of my life."

A pain went right through him, like a stake through his heart. "I guess I was wrong, it can hurt more."

"Brian. Listen." But Brian had started climbing the steps to the bedroom. "Listen to me! I don't want to hurt you- -"

He whipped around. "So you want us both? Is that it?"

"I don't know what I want."

Christ. "What am I supposed to do? Wait until you figure it out?" He laughed bitterly. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"I think we should talk to Dr. Drew."

Three months ago we were happy. What happened to us? Taking hold of the side of the doorframe for support, he bowed his head. "Fine."

"Brian- -"

"I said fine. Call him."

"I already did."


"He can see us tomorrow afternoon at four."

Only there was more to it than just them.

"Is he back yet?" Brian asked. No need to say who.


He nodded, then headed for bed, completely wasted.


He paused, wanting to sit where he was, just sit until the world made sense again.

"I love you."

Saying nothing in return, Brian continued up the steps. He didn't trust himself to speak because he was afraid if he did open his mouth he'd never stop screaming. Even though it was early, he undressed and crawled under the covers. Closed his eyes. And ached for his little boy's touch. He wanted Justin so badly he could hardly stand it and he was all too aware of the teen's desire for him, his disappointment, his fear. But he couldn't do anything about that, he couldn't solve their problems, couldn't even begin to deal with them. As difficult as it would probably be, he was actually looking forward to their session with Drew. If anyone could help them, Drew could. Still, it didn't do him any good right now when he was aching inside so badly he wanted to cry. But he'd cried enough at Cam's grave. And he'd cry enough tomorrow, of that he was certain.

Brian was in bed and he was alone. He'd traveled hundreds of miles for them to be together only to discover they were further apart than they'd ever been. He'd never seen Brian like that before, that particular combination of helplesness and fury and a deep, deep hurt that he could not hide. And he had done that to Brian, had caused that pain. More than anything he wanted to go to his partner and hold him, make love to him, but he knew that any attempt on his part would be met with rejection. Worse, he or Brian might say or do something they wouldn't be able to undo or unsay.

Not hungry either, he let the food cool and then put it away. Sat on the sofa, unsure of what to do. There was no way he could go into their bedroom and lie next to Brian so he'd have to bunk down on the couch. But he wasn't tired. Not really. Just weary. He'd watch television but the last thing he wanted was to disturb Brian. Getting up and pulling his Wraeththu book from the shelf, he turned to a bookmarked page- - Brian had put it there- - and began reading, hoping to lose himself in someone else's troubles. Only the tears obscured the lines of text and he couldn't see a damn thing.

They were so used to showering together that it felt strange doing it apart but a night's sleep (not rest, they hadn't rested much) hadn't eased the tension between them and neither one wanted to test the peace. Justin fixed breakfast but Brian only took a cup of coffee, carrying it into the livingroom where he stood gazing out of the window. They hadn't spoken five words to one another all morning.

Packing his briefcase, Brian said, "I'll pick you up around three thirty," and then he grabbed his coat without waiting to hear Justin's response.

Left alone, the teen finished his meal and cleared away the dishes. The maid was supposed to come today but he didn't feel like dealing with her and Brian hadn't left a check for her so he called and told her not to bother. He did the laundry himself, needing something to do to take his mind off Brian and Xavier and the mess he'd gotten them into. He found a pair of his briefs that were stiff with cum and didn't remember blowing his wad in them but so much had happened, what did it matter?

The laundry done, he got out the dust mop and ran it over all the floors- -moving the rugs to do the livingroom- - until they shone. He'd leave the waxing to the maid when she came next week. As he put the rug back in place by the sofa, he remembered them making love on it once and he panicked, heart racing, breath coming in short pants. Dizzy, he sat on the edge of the couch, bent in two, waiting until the attack passed. What have I done? Brian hates me. More than anything he wanted to call Xavier but that was the number one thing on the list of things he couldn't do. And he couldn't call Daphne and talk to her about it, couldn't admit to her that he'd fucked up everything. Couldn't go see his mom or Deb, not up to hearing those lectures, not yet, cause they were coming, as soon as they all found out what had happened. Why? he asked himself. Why had he done this?

With no answers forthcoming, he went back to cleaning, taking on the kitchen and bathroom, sponging down the inside of the refrigerator and giving the shower stall a thorough wash. He mopped the floor in the bathroom and went through all the bottles of shampoo and conditioner and lotion and the two dozen other things they used on a regular basis to see if they were low on anything. Marked the ones they'd need to replenish on the shopping list Brian kept on his desk, trying not to think about the fact that this might be the last time.

Chores finished by noon, he reheated the leftovers from last night and ate a light lunch. There were still almost three hours left to go before Brian would come for him, so he got out his sketch pad and worked on yet another portrait of Brian, only he had trouble getting past his eyes. Brian had the most intense eyes, even on paper, drawn in pencil, they entranced, trapped. Accused. He put the drawing away.

He could see it in Brian's eyes. The end. But how could that be? They'd only been together for how long? How few months? How could it be over so soon? Especially when they still each loved the other so much it was killing them to be apart. He'd wanted to crawl into bed last night and coax Brian into making love but he'd known better and kept to his place on the couch. Listening to Brian toss and turn in the night, the man getting up once to pour himself a drink before returning to bed, hopefully, to fall asleep. It had worked and Justin had lain awake himself, wondering if he should resort to the Beam when, eventually, sleep had overtaken him. But he'd awakened, exhausted, as if he hadn't slept a wink.

I did this.

He couldn't concentrate on anything. Probably should have called in but that would have meant being in the loft with Justin all day, waiting for three thirty to arrive and he hadn't been able to do it. So he'd come here, instead, and wasted an entire day at work. Luckily it was Friday, nothing much happening anyway, and he was able to sit in his office, undisturbed by crises or deadlines, and brood.

Around lunch time he debated ordering something from the deli and having it delivered, then decided that what he needed was to get out into the air for a little while. He took an hour and a half and carried his sandwich to the park, sat watching the kids play without seeing them. Seeing, instead, him and Justin at the park with Gus, pushing the baby on the swings, Justin and Gus riding the merry-go-round while he spun it slowly. Sandwich half-eaten next to him, he slipped on his sunglasses so that no one could see the pain in his eyes.

Cynthia had taken the day off so he didn't have to explain to her why he was leaving a little after three. Slipping out unseen, one of the virtues of having an office near the elevator, he got the Jeep from the parking garage and headed home. For once, traffic didn't bother him. He actually wished it were heavier, anything to keep him from pulling up in front of the building and seeing Justin waiting there for him. But he got there by half past three and Justin was waiting for him. Looking as beautiful as he'd ever seen him. It wasn't fair that he should want him so much when Justin had hurt him so badly. Angry, he kept his eyes on the road as the teen climbed in.

"Hey," said Justin softly as if he were privy to Brian's thoughts.

He said nothing, not trusting himself to say anything, shifted gears, and pulled away from the curb.

Nothing had changed about Drew's office. The same receptionist sat out front and noted their arrival, indicated that they should make themselves comfortable as he was still with his three o'clock appointment. They sat a seat apart from one another, glancing at but not reading the magazines on the table before them. And the anger continued to build inside Brian. How many times had he come here trying to figure out why he did the things he did? How hard had he worked to understand himself? To be a better partner for Justin? And for what? For Justin to turn around and- -

"Mr. Kinney?" the receptionist asked.

He looked up. "Yeah?"

"Are you all right?"

He chuckled. She must have been taking humor lessons from Drew. But it worked as he felt his hands unclench from the arms of his chair. He hadn't realized he'd been gripping them so tightly.

Justin could have kissed her. He'd been watching Brian out of the corner of his eye, watching him grow angrier and angrier, fingers white from clutching the Naugahyde-covered chair arms and he hadn't known what to do. Wanting to touch Brian and knowing better than to do so. His own hands trembled in his lap and he fought the panic growing inside him.

Finally four o'clock came and the door to Drew's office opened. The previous client departed with a nod to the receptionist and Drew appeared and waved them in.

Settling down in the chair that had become his through repeated use, Brian was careful not to meet the psychiatrist's eyes. As much as he liked Drew, he'd hoped never to be in his office again. Yet here he was, everything fucked the hell up. Only, for once, it wasn't his doing. Or was it? That was what he was most afraid of finding out, that somehow he had caused this. That he was at fault, that he had brought this on himself. Pressing his lips tightly together, he focused on the pattern in the rug.

He was aware of Brian's misery, could feel the waves of pain emanating from him. And there was nothing he could do or say to make things right. They were wasting their time here, he knew it, because the one thing Brian needed him to say, he couldn't. That his involvement with Xavier would end. Yesterday, when he'd called Dr. Becker, he'd been optomistic, but today, in his office, he knew the truth: that they were finished.

"I was surprised to hear from you," Drew said, crossing his legs and taking up his pad and pencil. He studied Brian's lowered head, Justin's eyes that wouldn't quite meet his gaze. "So what seems to be the problem?" Neither spoke. "Brian?"

"You'll have to ask him," he said barely speaking above a whisper.

Drew knew he had to take charge immediately or Brian would try to dictate the flow of the session. "I'm asking you."

"I don't know all of the details."

Before Drew could press him further, Justin said, "He's right."

"Then how about you tell me what's going on?" He watched as the teenager stalled for time, looking down at his hands as if he had a cheat sheet with all the information written on it. Although he'd told them that he'd been surprised to hear from them, he hadn't been. After all that they'd been through with the trial, he'd expected there to be some lingering effects from their ordeal. That they had managed to keep things together this long amazed him. Not only kept them together but had exchanged rings as well. He'd noticed them the moment they'd stepped into his office. So what had happened? Justin still hadn't spoken. He prompted him. "Justin?"

"I've. . . I've fallen in love with someone else."

It took a great deal of control to keep his features blank, his expression neutral. Justin had fallen in love with someone else? What the fuck? No wonder Brian looked like he'd been kicked in the nuts about a half a dozen times. "You want to elaborate on that?"

"It's Xavier."

Drew searched his memory for the name. Came up with it. Another student at the Institute. Justin's friend. "How did this happen?" And, fair enough, Justin shrugged. How did you explain how love happened? "When did you first realize that you were in love with Xavier?" Justin glanced at Brian and Drew tensed. This was going to be bad.

"Last year." Brian looked up. "Before Christmas vacation."

Drew saw Brian's lips part as if he were going to say something and then he closed his mouth and stood. "Brian." The man paused, not having really thought about moving, just operating on automatic pilot.

"You knew," he whispered. Faced Justin and spoke again, voice choked. "You knew when you took that ring. You knew," he repeated. "It was all a lie."

"No. Brian, I loved you," Justin explained. "I still love you- -"

"Don't. Don't you fucking say that to me!"

Before he lost complete control of the session, Drew asked Brian to sit. When he didn't, he repeated his request, this time more firmly. Brian complied, arms wrapped around him as if he were freezing.

He'd known, known this hadn't been something that had just appeared out of nowhere but he'd never guessed that Justin had known, consciously, that he was in love with Xavier when they'd exchanged rings. It was the one thing he'd held onto, clutched to his chest like some kind of fucking shield and it'd failed to protect him. He knew that he was crying and he didn't care, he'd earned the right by once again being the world's. . . biggest. . . .

Tears trailing his cheeks, Justin whispered, "I'm sorry. Brian, I'm sorry. I didn't. . ." He reached towards him but Drew intercepted his hand.

"Brian?" But the man wouldn't respond. Signaling to Justin to give them a moment, Drew watched as the teenager walked across the room, stood by the window. Justin out of immediate sight, Drew touched Brian's arm. "It's okay. Do you want to continue?" Taking a ragged breath, Brian tried to speak but the words wouldn't come. "I think maybe we should stop here today."

"And do what?" he asked weakly.

Justin turned from the window, waiting for a miracle, Drew was sure. Only he didn't have any miracle cures. "And start again tomorrow." There went his weekend.

Justin had driven them home. Home. He would have laughed except that there wasn't one goddamn funny thing about it. How long had he been fooling himself, thinking they had a life together when, in fact, he'd been deluding himself, living in a dreamworld while Justin hid his true feelings? Had none of it been real? He couldn't believe that it'd all been an illusion, that none of the feelings Justin had professed for him meant anything. And yet, here they were, together but farther apart than they'd ever been, even before they'd officially 'gotten together'.

The smell of steak greeted him as he exited the bathroom, having showered to try and wash away some of the day's tensions and failing. He sat upon the bed for the longest time not wanting to move, wishing somehow he could close his eyes and travel through time, backwards or forwards, he didn't care, just so long as he was no longer in the moment, because the pain was something else.

The source of that pain appeared in the doorway. "I fixed dinner."

"I'm not hungry."

"Did you eat anything today?"

Brian smirked, unsuccessfully, as his eyes couldn't quite affect the carelessness needed to complete the gesture. "This concern of yours would be touching if you hadn't just spent the past week out-of-town fucking your best friend."

The teen flinched.

"But then again, you're such a giving person. Take me, for example. You've managed to make me feel like a fucking fool for ever believing anyone could love me. Thank you for giving me that."

"I do love you," Justin said as Brian rose to walk past him. Brian said nothing. Justin grabbed his arm, aware of the danger but not caring. "Why won't you talk to me?"

Brian turned and fixed him with a look that made him let go. "Because I could fucking kill you," he replied and, at that moment, he meant it. A moment later, he regretted the words.

Stunned, Justin took a step backwards, not looking where he was going, and almost fell but Brian reached out and caught him.

Wanting to release Justin, Brian couldn't. It'd been so long since they'd last touched and he wanted. . . He freed the teen and started to turn away but Justin moved towards him, into his arms, and Brian found that he could not push him away. Still, he whispered, "Don't."

"Don't what?" Justin ran his hand up Brian's arm and stroked the side of his neck. "Don't love you?" He stood on his tiptoes and kissed his throat. "But I do. I love you."


"I love you and I want you." Brian tried to part from him but the teen retained his hold. "And I know that you want me."

Fuck yeah, he wanted him, needed him. . . wanted to fall on the bed and make love to him but how? How the fuck could he do those things knowing what had happened between Justin and Xavier?

Any why couldn't he? Just for one night, for one hour. . . just forget? He lowered his head, kissing Justin hard upon the lips. And it felt so good. All he had to do was to just stop thinking. Let it go: the anger, the hurt, the disappointment. Just put it aside.

But wasn't that what he'd done all along? Pretending not to see, not to suspect, not to know? Ignoring the problem didn't make it go away, just reduced his chances of finding a solution. In time.

Only. . . it'd been so long. And he wanted Justin so much. . . It isn't fair.

Lips in a thin line, testament to the effort it took, Brian removed Justin's arms from around his neck and shoulders and walked into the other room before the teenager had a chance to respond- - or he weakened.

Justin positioned a salad and one of the grilled ribeyes on the dining table. Poured a glass of wine. Then he returned to the kitchen, got his own plate, and perched on a barstool. After a moment, Brian got up from the computer and sat down before the meal his partner had prepared. Picking up his fork, he began to eat.

Saturday. A week ago he'd been in bed, worried but not overly so. Thinking about the afternoon when he'd go to Trevor's studio to pose for him. Since then he'd slept with Trevor. And that was the lesser of two evils. Hard to believe. This morning he'd gotten up and eaten a bagel, had two cups of coffee, hoping he'd remain steady during their session but it didn't much matter if he did or not because their upcoming meeting was guaranteed to shake everything up.

Receptionist at home, Drew let them in himself and settled each into their respective chairs. Brian avoided looking at either the therapist or his lover. Although he was here as a show of good faith, he didn't believe for a moment that Drew would be able to help them. He only had to pull back the curtain and peek at the seething mass of emotions festering inside himself to know it was pointless even to try. But he was here. Ready to gut himself once more. And for what? For a relationship Justin clearly didn't value. Looking for something to do with his hands, he placed them on his knees and saw the ring on his finger. Remembered. . . everything about that night and how he'd felt when Justin had slipped it on him, the comforting snugness of it. The way he used to constantly check to make sure it hadn't slipped off when he worked out, the way its unexpected gleam would brighten even the most tedious division meeting. And the ring was only a symbol, a stand-in for something intangible that manifested itself in the way Justin made his heart race a little whenever the teen asked him if he wanted to dance; the peace he felt, wrapped in Justin's arms at night; the sense of belonging that came from sharing a simple meal. All changed, not destroyed completely, just changed enough that everything felt wrong now and still, still his heart remembered and reached for those things.

"Tell me what happened," Drew instructed Justin, "and, Brian, I want you to listen to Justin without interrupting. Listen to what he has to say and think about it. You'll have a chance to speak as well, but, for right now, I want you to listen. You think you can do that?"

"Whatever," he replied although he didn't feel as cavalier as his tone implied.

"Okay, Justin."

The teenager hesitated, then said, "I started having feelings for Xavier right away, I guess. Not that I knew that's what they were. I just thought we'd connected. We were friends. That's all. That's all I wanted." His eyes pleaded with Brian to understand. "I didn't want to be with him."

Drew asked, "Is that really true, Justin?"

"I- - I wanted to be with Brian." He added, "But I guess part of me wanted to be with Xavier. I just didn't want to admit it. And then, after the trial was over, I went to talk to him, and he kissed me." That first kiss. Hearing Xavier say, 'I love you, J.' The feel of Xavier's body against his, straining against good sense and obligation.

"Is that when you knew you loved him?"

Afraid to even look in Brian's direction, Justin replied, "Yes."

He remembered. Justin coming to his office, crying, telling him some sob story about Xavier and some kid who'd been in love with him, not once mentioning that he and Xavier had been over there rubbing up against each other and, still, he'd suspected. And what had he done? Instead of questioning Justin about his suspicions, he'd accepted the lie. Even after Justin had spoken on Chris Hobbs' behalf, prompted by his feelings for Xavier, he'd found a way to live with it. Another concession, another compromise. Until, finally, fueled by Cam's death, afraid of losing Justin too, he'd gotten the rings. As if merely having them would fix everything. Remove all doubts and fears, arm them with resistance, with fortitude and a sense of responsibility.

Now look at them.

Drew continued questioning Justin. "What did you do once you realized you loved Xavier?"

"Nothing. I tried to ignore it."


"Because I wanted things to work with Brian. Because I loved him." Stole a glance at his partner. "I still do."

Noting that Brian would not look at Justin, Drew prompted Justin to begin speaking once more. "So, Xavier went away for the holidays and then what?"

"Brian and I exchanged rings."

"And you accepted the ring despite having feelings for Xavier."

"I couldn't refuse."

"Why not?"

"Because I loved Brian and I wanted to be with him. I thought- -" Justin exhaled noisily, "I thought I could handle it. That I could ignore my feelings for Xavier and have a life with Brian."

"Why didn't you tell Brian about these feelings you had for Xavier?"

Justin laughed. "Are you fucking kidding? He'd have freaked."

"Like now?" asked Drew.

The teen sobered. Fuck! He'd fucked everything up. "I never meant to hurt him."

At that, Brian chuckled. He'd managed to keep quiet until this point but he couldn't refrain any longer.

Turning towards him, Drew reminded Brian, "You'll have your turn to speak. Right now, I'd like you to listen to Justin without the editorial comments."

He crossed his legs and looked away. "Fine."

"Brian?" Drew waited until the man looked back at him. "I know this is difficult but I assumed that both of you wanted to find a way to deal with the situation. If that isn't true then. . . " held out his hand, "I can go play tennis."

"What the fuck do you want me to do?"

"Listen to him."

"All I've done is listen to him!" Brian shouted. "You think this is easy?"

"I know it isn't. But I need you to stay with it."

"You expect me to sit here and listen to this bull fucking shit when- -"

"Yeah, I do. You'll get your turn. But, right now, I want you to shut up and listen to Justin, listen to what he's trying to tell you. There might actually be something you don't know or don't understand."

"I understand all right," Brian replied. "I understand that he made a commitment to me and then he broke it. I understand- -"

"Brian- -"

"I understand that I don't mean shit to him- -"

Justin broke in. "That's not true."

"It is true. Because if I did, we wouldn't be here."

"It's not that simple!"

"Well, it should be!" Brian stood. "You made a promise to me to be faithful. Is this your idea of being faithful?"

Aware of the counter-productiveness of that discussion at this juncture, Drew attempted to redirect the converstaion. "I think we'd be better served if Justin talked about the progression of his relationship with Xavier." He waited for Brian to take his seat again. When he didn't, Drew said firmly, "Brian." Brian glared at him but sat. "Justin, what happened after the holidays?"

It took Justin a moment to compose himself. Brian's accusations. . . he couldn't deny them, especially when he was guilty of everything Brian had charged him with. "Xavier came back," he said, picking up the threads of his narrative, "and I told him that Brian and I were committed and that all he and I could ever be was friends."

"Did he believe you?"

"At the time I thought he did. But now I know that he didn't."

"Did you mean it?"

"I meant it." He hesitated. "I wanted to mean it."

"What happened?"

"Xavier quit school. Well, he was going to quit school. And I couldn't let him. He's the best student in the entire freshman class and I didn't want him to throw his life away because of me."

"He wasn't your responsibility."

"I couldn't help it."

"And that was all?"

Angrily Justin shouted, "Of course, that wasn't all! I was in love with him," he said exasperatedly. "I know that now."

"Justin- -"

"I'm sorry! All right? I'm sorry."

"Are you apologizing for falling in love?"

"Yes. No. I don't- -" He averted his eyes. "I don't know. I don't want to hurt Brian. But I am. I know that."

"Then what happened?"

"I went to DC to see Xavier. To try and talk him into coming back."

Again Brian snickered. Stopped at a sharp look from Drew.

"He should laugh," Justin said. "First thing we did when I got there was- -"

Brian cut him off. "I don't need to hear the fucking details."

For once, Drew concurred. "I think it's enough for us to say that you and Xavier now have a physical relationship as well as an emotional one." With an eye to Brian for possible outbursts, Drew asked, "So where do things stand now?"

That was the question he'd dreaded all session long because it was up to him, where they went from here. And to say he was confused or conflicted was an understatement. Risking a look at Brian, he trembled. Brian looked like he was coming undone from the inside.

"Justin?" Drew asked again. "Where do things stand now?"

He heard himself answer, "I love them both."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't want to lose either one."

He heard Drew inhale loudly. "You want to continue your relationship with Xavier."

"Yes." Heard Brian shift in his seat. Didn't dare look, didn't dare see his chest torn open, heart exposed.

"Why do you want Xavier in your life?"

An easy question. "Because we like the same things. We're both artists. We're the same age- - or will be when his birthday comes this summer. We both like going to museums and talking about art. . . and we like the same kinds of movies, the same kind of music. . . And I can talk to him about anything. I feel good when I'm with him."

"That sounds like friendship."

"We are friends."

"Why not leave it at that?"

The hard question. The hard answer, rather. "Because it's more than friendship."

"You're attracted to him sexually?"

"It feels right for us to be together like that."

Drew was aware of Brian's misery. It was a miracle that the man was still seated, still silent. Maybe it was just that he couldn't move, he didn't have the strength to. Justin's confession had drained him. Hating to hurt him any further, Drew felt he had to ask, "Why not leave Brian for Xavier?"

"I don't want that."

"Why not?"

"I love Brian. Xavier's. . ." And he didn't say what else was on his mind: that being with Xavier had been easy and being with Brian had been anything but easy. "I'm not trying to run out on Brian."

"Why not? Why stay with Brian?"

Another question for which he had ample answers. He allowed himself a small smile as he spoke. "Because he loves me. Because he's a good man. He makes me laugh. He's always there for me, even when he's mad as hell with me. I love it when we argue. When we make up. He supports me, gives me strength when I don't have any left, and there's no one I'd rather have with me when I'm in trouble. We have a life together, a family, a future, and I don't want to lose that."

"Then why do you need Xavier? Especially when he's threatening all of that."

"He makes my life richer," and he couldn't explain why except to say that he did.

"So I'm not enough?" Brian asked.

Drew intercepted, "Brian- -"

"You're saying I'm not enough."

"I'm saying you don't have to be everything I need. I don't expect you to be, and with Xavier, you don't have to be."

"You're saying I'm not enough," Brian repeated.

And he was. Except that he didn't mean it in a negative way. "It's the same way you share things with Michael that I can't share with you. I didn't understand, before. But I do now."

"Except I don't fuck Mikey," pointed out Brian.

"Justin," asked Drew, "if Brian says he can't deal with you and Xavier being together, then what? Will you give Xavier up?"

He thought of his life without Xavier now that he'd found him and knew it would be an emptier place. "I don't want to."

"But if you have to, will you?"

Of all the things he and Xavier had done together, the moment that loomed largest in his mind was the two of them dancing in Nana Rose's livingroom, with Rose laughing and urging them on, "Go, Xavier; go, Justin. . ." He'd forgotten that he'd ever had another life, it seemed to him as if he'd always been there, dancing with Xavier, with Nana Rose laughing.

"Justin? If you have to give Xavier up, will you?"

But he could do without those things. "Yes," he replied, Nana Rose's laughter fading.

Brian looked away. "I feel so much better now," he said wearily.

Even if they didn't need it, he wanted a break. "I think we should give ourselves some time to regroup." He put aside his notepad and pencil. "How about we take an hour or so to have some lunch, and meet back here at. . ." checked his watch, "two o'clock?" They both nodded. "Good."

Neither of them suggested going to the diner or to Liberty Avenue at all. Picking a place at random among the restaurants and cafes near Drew's office, they ordered food and sat down to wait for a meal they didn't want.

Brian's mind was reeling with the revelations of the morning. He didn't even taste the coffee he was drinking, listening again to Justin saying "He makes my life richer." Sighing, he put down his cup. I'm not enough for him.

"Brian- -" began Justin but he was interrupted by the waiter arriving with their plates.

When the guy had left again, Brian said, "I don't want to talk about it."

"You're thinking about it," Justin accused.

"Well, if you can figure out a way for me not to, let me know," Brian replied. Turned to his salad. Pushed it away.

The waiter appeared. "Sir, is there something wrong?"

Brian shook his head. Everything.

From their faces, Drew could tell that lunch had been a roaring success. Brian came in and took his chair without meeting his eyes. Neither did Justin. As for himself, he'd grabbed a sandwich from the deli on the corner and raced back to his office to think. It was amazing. Those two were like a conference panel waiting to happen. That they'd even hooked up in the first place was unbelievable; that they'd survived the things they had, miraculous. The odds had been against them. Sometimes Drew wondered if people really realized how easy it was for things not to have worked out. If Brian had walked out of the club a minute earlier, if Justin had lingered on the street a block away from Babylon thirty seconds longer, they'd never have met at all. And how many times along the way had disaster been imminent? Too many to recount. Brian's past hadn't helped. Neither had Justin's youth and inexperience. And yet they'd made it, more than made it, had worked to create something special, enviable even. How to keep them from throwing it all away? How to help them figure out what it was they really wanted? Those were the challenges facing him.

"I think we should recap what happened this morning." Drew consulted his notes although he didn't really have to.

Brian closed his eyes and floated while Drew spoke. It was better not to hear, not to understand, just to float, and forget. . . Except he couldn't. It was in every breath he took, every beat of his heart, every movement, every thought.

"So, now, I think, we should discuss Brian's feelings regarding the situation," said Drew. "I want you to tell us how you feel."

"I feel," he croaked and paused. Swallowed. I don't want to do this.


"I don't want to do this," he said aloud.


"Because what good is it gonna do? He wants Xavier and there's nothing I can say to change that. So why- - why keep. . ."

"Why keep doing what, Brian?"

"Why keep talking about it?"

"What do you want?"

"I want my life back!"

"You and Justin alone."

"Yes!" He grimaced. "But that's not gonna happen, is it?"

"Justin has said that he's willing to give Xavier up, if that's what you want."

And Brian laughed, a bitter sound that left a sharp, tangy taste in his mouth. "Yeah, I believe that. The same way I believed him when he said we were okay, when he said that he and Xavier were just friends." He shook his head and blinked back tears.

"How does that make you feel?"

"He lied to me- -"

"How does that make you feel?"

"I feel like. . ." A tear fell. "I gave him everything I had. I changed my fucking life. I changed me," he confessed. "All of it for him. And it's like it didn't mean anything. Like it was nothing. . . like I was nothing." He sniffled. "I believed him. Even after Cam, after everything I went through with him, I believed Justin when he told me that he loved me, that he would never hurt me like that and. . . look at me. Sitting here wondering what the fuck happened to my life."

"You feel betrayed."

"Yes! And angry and- -" He caught his breath. "And stupid. Because I knew better. I knew this would happen and I still believed him. Even at the end, when he left for DC, I knew and- -" He cradled his head. God, it ached.

"And what, Brian?"

"And I pretended not to. Because I. . . I love him so much," he confessed. "I don't understand."

"Understand what?"

"How he could want someone else."

"Do you remember back when you and Justin came to see me? Because he'd found out you were tricking?"

"That's different."


"Because those guys didn't mean shit to me."

"But you were still having sex with them."

"And I stopped. Because it was important to him, because we were committed to one another. I would never betray him. Not like this."

"What bothers you about Justin's relationship with Xavier?"

"The fact that he has a relationship with Xavier!" As hard as it was to say it, he did. "If it was just fucking, if they'd fucked and it was over, I could deal with it. But it's not. It's not over. And it should never have gone this far. We're committed. We're wearing fucking rings! That should mean something."

"Justin says it does."

"Fuck that."

"Brian- -"

"So I'm supposed to understand that my lover, my partner needs to be with someone else? I understand that I don't meet all of his needs. Fine. No one's perfect. Apparently, not even me. Maybe he doesn't meet all of my needs either. But we exchanged rings, we said that we'd be faithful to one another, so tough shit. That's what it means. All or nothing."

"Then you want to dissolve your relationship?"

And the thought rocked him. Was that what he was saying?

"If Justin can't or won't end his relationship with Xavier, do you want to end your relationship?"

"He said he'd give Xavier up."

"And you said you didn't believe him. So, here are your choices: you stay in your relationship or you end it. Irregardless of what happens with Xavier. What's it gonna be?" He knew he was being rough with Brian and that the man had been through hell but there was no point in sugarcoating it. He waited for a moment, then asked again, "Do you want to end your relationship with Justin?"

He couldn't even think about losing Justin, it hurt too much. "No," he whispered and knew that he'd given away everything now. There was nothing left.

"I think we need to talk about options." Flipping through his notebook, Drew consulted the notes he'd written during lunch. "Have either of you heard of polyamory?"

"Swinging?" Brian asked.

"Not quite. It means loving more than one person; being sexually and/or emotionally involved with more than one person. The main point is that everyone knows and everyone consents. It's basically the kind of relationship you had before, when you were both allowed to have sex outside of your relationship. This time, Xavier would be included in your relationship." Justin frowned. "You mean, a threesome? Me and Brian and Xavier?"


"And how would that work? Would we all be involved with one another?" the teen asked.

"That's a possibility. Some threesomes eventually form a triad or triangle where all three people are equally committed to one another. But, right now, I think a vee would be the best fit for the three of you. It's called that because of the shape of the pairings." He drew a v on a piece of paper. "A vee is where the pivot person, in this case Justin, is strongly involved with each of the other two people," pointing to the legs of the v, "but the other two people are less involved with one another." He looked at each of them, gauging their reactions. Brian, as he'd expected, didn't look pleased at all. "That's just one option. Another option is for the two of you to maintain your relationship as is and for Justin to continue to see Xavier without any involvement from Brian."

"What's the advantage of the vee?" Justin asked.

"The possibility that Brian and Xavier might become involved, that you could each contribute to and benefit from the relationship."

Justin said, "And they would have sex with one another?"

"If they wanted. Or maybe they'd only provide emotional support for one another. It'd be up to all of you to decide," he told them. "You would have to establish rules for your relationship," and he paused, waiting for Brian to comment on the fact that their rules hadn't prevented Justin from straying but Brian didn't say anything. Which worried Drew. "I want to stress the fact that this is something you'd all have to agree to. If it's not what you want, if you don't think it's something you can do, then say so."

"And what are our other options?" Brian asked.

"For you and Justin to end your relationship or for Justin and Xavier to end theirs."

Brian studied his hands. "Even if he told me he and Xavier were ending things, I wouldn't believe him. I can't believe him."

"Then maybe you should reconsider ending your relationship."


"If there's no trust- -"

"I trust him. About most things." He rubbed his temples.


He lowered his hand. "All right."

"All right what?"

"I'm willing to try."

"Which option?"

"Whatever he wants."

"No, it's what you want," countered Drew.

"I don't need Xavier."

Drew nodded. "Then, maybe, for right now, you and Justin and Justin and Xavier should maintain separate relationships."

"But," asked Justin, "we could still work towards all of us being involved with one another, couldn't we?"

"It's up to the three of you. Things might change. Brian might discover that he wants to explore a relationship with Xavier. That's possible."

Brian thought to himself, Not really. Xavier was good-looking and, under other circumstances, maybe he would want him but the circumstances they were under now made it damned near impossible for him to imagine ever wanting to have a sexual or emotional relationship with the teen.

"This is what's going to happen. I'll set up a meeting with Xavier, talk with him about what he wants and then all four of us will sit down and come up with some ground rules for your relationship. I want both of you to think about what you want, whether it's okay or not for Justin and Xavier to be together in your apartment, which relationship is the primary one and which is the secondary or if you're going to drop those designations all together, what's Xavier's involvement with your other friends, with Gus." Drew saw Brian tense up. "You need to think about these things and we'll come together and discuss them. I think it'd be better if Justin and Xavier didn't talk about these things before our meeting. In fact, I think, Justin, that you should avoid seeing Xavier outside of your normal, everyday activities. I don't want you to talk to him alone or talk about your relationship with him present."

"What about me and Brian?"

"I think it'd be a good idea if you spent some time apart as well. Give yourself some breathing room, some time to think."

"You want me to move out?"

"Just until we meet." He watched Justin look over at Brian, could see the need and desire in his eyes. "I want you to remember, nothing is set in stone. You change your mind about something, you call me, you bring it up at our meeting and we'll talk about it. Most of all, I want you to be sure of what you want, what you need. This is the time to be selfish, to be up front with each other. And me. If you find that you can't go through with this, then we'll work on figuring something else out."

"Us breaking up," Brian said.

"If necessary." He got up and retrieved his calender. "When's Xavier coming back?"

"Tomorrow," replied Justin.

"Okay, I'll try to meet with Xavier Monday or Tuesday. . . so, let's shoot for a meeting on Friday with all of us."

"That long?" Justin asked.

"I do have other clients, you know. And a life," he added. Handed Justin his notebook. "Write down Xavier's number and I'll give him a call tomorrow night."

Justin did so and gave Drew his notebook back. "He's getting in around six, I think he said."

Standing, Drew led them to the door. "You need anything, you call me," he reminded them. Watched them exit the outer office. Stood, leaning against the door. "Jesus." Had he done the right thing? Would it have been better to let them dissolve things and then work with them separately to rebuild their relationship? He didn't know. At least, this way they had a chance. He hoped.

Brian stood by the window looking at the traffic go by, acutely aware of Justin packing a bag to take with him to Deb's. And if he could have fallen forward and the glass not been there to stop him, he wouldn't have cared. He heard Justin walking down the steps and across the room. Knew that he was by the sofa. Brian turned. Justin had his suit bag slung over one shoulder, his knapsack over the other. "You want me to drive you?"

"I'll get a cab."

"You going to your mom's?"

"Deb's. It's quieter." He looked down, then up again. "I'll see you Friday."

"Yeah." Turned away so as not to see Justin leave even though he wouldn't have seen him anyway as the tears had already begun to flow.

The door shut.

The door shut and he felt the tears begin. Walked downstairs feeling his way cause he couldn't see shit. Paused at the bottom to cry. When the jag was over, he gathered his stuff again and went out into the afternoon light and hailed a cab.

On the way over to Deb's house, he tried to figure out what he'd tell her. Fuck, he was so in for a two-hour lecture. He could only hope she'd gone into the diner but he wasn't going to hold his breath. She usually took Saturday afternoon off and worked the late shift. First her and then, after she called his mom, then Jen would come over and give him a disappointed look. In a way, her disappointed look was worse than Deb yelling at him. But nothing was worse than Brian's quiet, "Yeah." That was the worst of all. Feeling another tear fighting its way out of the corner of his eye, he squeezed his lids shut and took a deep breath. Hoped that was enough.

He paid the driver and walked up to the porch slowly. Knocked and waited.

She peeked through the window and smiled, glad to see him. For the moment. Then she opened the door and saw his bags. "Sunshine?"

"I can pay room and board."

Saying nothing, she let him through. Waited until he'd put down his stuff in the livingroom. "What's going on?"

"It's my fault."

"Christ." And as Vic appeared, said, "It's his fault."

"Well," Vic said, "it can't always be Brian's."

"But, at least, I'm used to his fuck-ups." Went to get some fizzy soda from the fridge. Popped the top. "Spill."

"I slept with Xavier."

"Oh, fuck." Brian had said that he would. "So, apologize already."

Justin hesitated.

"Oh, Jesus Christ. You're throwing away- -"

"We're working it out."

"Then what the fuck are you doing here?"

"It's complicated."

She sat down at the kitchen table and pulled out two chairs. "Well, you're in luck, cause I'm off tonight and there's nothing on TV."

Knowing he couldn't avoid it, Justin took one of the proffered chairs. Started to speak and, instead, gave into the tears that had been building up in the cab.

Deb wanted to shake him. And she wanted to hug him too because she knew how much he loved Brian and if he'd risked all of that to be with Xavier then it was serious. So she stood and hugged him and let him cry against her and resolved to stop by the loft cause he wasn't the only one in need of comforting.

Leaving them, Vic went upstairs and called Mikey.

The pills were finally kicking in. Everything was becoming hazy and the pain in his chest was receding. Closing his eyes, he resigned himself to sleep. And then the banging began. But he decided to ignore it. Nothing important. . .

Someone was shaking him. And his eyelids felt like they weighed about a ton each. He managed to work his mouth although it seemed as if his lips were attached to a puppet and he was the inexpert puppeteer. “Go. . . away.”

”Wake up. Brian, what did you take?”

”Sleeping. . . “

”I know you’re sleeping. Now wake up.”

”Honey, you can’t sleep until you tell us what you took.”

He tried again. “Sleeping. . . pills.”

”How many?” That was Ted, always concerned with numbers.

He couldn’t say. But he held up two fingers. Heard Em sigh with relief. “If we can trust him,” Michael said. That was the last thing he remembered.

Mikey was lying next to him. Why was Michael in bed with him? Brian sat up. Tried to remember. Something about Michael and the guys showing up this afternoon. What time was it? He looked over Mikey at the clock. One in the morning. Fuck, he shouldn’t have taken the damn things, now he’d be up all night.

Michael stirred, opened his eyes. ”You’re awake.”

”Yeah. The guys still here?”

”I sent them home hours ago.”

Brian swung his legs over the edge of the bed and paused. It never ceased to amaze him that he could take all kinds of fucking drugs but sleeping pills made him feel like he’d been hit over the head with a sledgehammer about a dozen times once they wore off.

”You okay?” Michael got up and walked around to his side of the bed.

”No.” Tried to smile but it hurt too much. Physically and emotionally.

”Uncle Vic said Justin was at my mom’s and that I should come over here.” He sat next to his friend. “What’s wrong?”

”Everything,” Brian replied and he turned to Michael and laid his head upon his shoulder as Mikey embraced him.

Once he’d finished telling Michael what had happened, Mikey said, “You can’t do it.”

”Yeah, I can.”

”But why? It’s not what you want.”

He could feel the tears still crawling down his cheeks. “Because I’ve only ever loved two people in my entire life, besides you and Lindsay. One is gone, and I can’t lose the other.”

Justin stared up at the ceiling. He’d been lying there, awake, for the past two hours. Had gone to bed just to get away from Vic and Deb. They’d tried to be supportive, to be impartial, but he could hear them thinking, Asshole. Brian gave him everything and look what he did. Fucked it all up. Just like a fucking kid. Throwing back the covers, he sat up in bed. There was no point in pretending. He couldn’t sleep.

Then he saw it. His journal. Picked it up and began writing.

I feel so alone. Despite loving two people and having them love me, I’m alone. I have a partner who’s sleeping by himself tonight and a lover who’s wondering if we have a future together. I don’t know what else I could have done. I tried so hard to make things right and all I did was fuck things up even worse than they were. But I have to try. Deb doesn’t understand. Brian doesn’t understand. They think I’m being selfish. Maybe I am but I can’t stand the idea of not having Xavier in my life. I know I shouldn’t want him too but I do. I do want him. But that doesn’t mean that I love Brian any less. My mom is never going to understand. I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to her and I need her to understand, I need to have someone on my side.

The day crawled by, crippled by Justin’s absence. Limped to a close. Brian ordered take-out Thai and then picked at it. Put it in the fridge. The phone rang around eight o’clock. Thinking it was Michael checking up on him, he answered. “Yeah?” Silence. He could hear breathing. And then he knew who it was. Xavier. Justin hadn’t spoken to him then. And that, out of everything that had happened, made him feel better. It meant Justin had kept his word. Maybe there was hope for them yet. Softly, he said, “He’s not here.” The line clicked as the connection closed.

Class was like some kind of torture devised by the Spanish Inquisition. Which was made worse by the fact that Xavier sat two rows and four seats back from him and he could feel his eyes on him, watching him as he pretended to listen to their instructor's lecture. Watching him as he gathered his books and made for the studio where he sat on his stool in front of his drafting table and stared at the blank page. Xavier was back. He wondered if Dr. Drew had gotten in contact with him. Wondered if he should call the therapist and ask, then decided not to. He'd find out soon enough. Friday was only four days away. But it could have been next year as far as he was concerned. Would Friday never come?

Sauntering in slowly like he normally walked, Xavier took the seat the psychiatrist indicated. He'd known that Brian and Justin had seen a therapist, had even seen him in court once, but he hadn't ever imagined he'd be going to one, to this one. And this guy didn't look like his idea of a therapist. Didn't look anything like Bob Newhart or Frasier Crane or even Robin Williams in that lame-ass Matt Damon movie. This guy looked normal. Kinda cute. In a regular white guy kind of way. Least he didn't look like Brian. Or Justin. An older Justin. Xavier didn't think he could have stood it if the guy had been like either of them.

"Xavier, I'm Dr. Becker, but you can call me Drew if you like."

"Can I call you Dr. Drew?"

Drew smiled. "Justin does." Opened his notebook. "You mind?"

"No tape recorder?"

"I think better if I write it down. Besides, I hate listening to the sound of my own voice." He gestured to a pitcher of water and a glass. "Feel free."

"Thanks." But he made no move towards the water.

"I've asked you here today to discuss your relationship with Justin. Brian and Justin have been to see me and we think we've come up with a plan of action but I wanted to meet with you, get your feelings on it." With that said, Drew proceeded to recount his meetings with Brian and Justin and to outline the kind of relationship Brian and Justin had agreed to pursue.

"A threesome?" Xavier asked in disbelief. Jesus, his nana was going to freak out when she heard about that. Shit. A threesome?

"Not in the strict sense," Drew explained. "I know that you and Brian have a number of issues to work out so no one's expecting you two to engage in any kind of relationship, physical or otherwise, until you feel more comfortable around one another. That might not ever happen. We don't know at this point what the future will hold. But this is where we're starting. If you agree."

Xavier was quiet for a while. Then he said, "I want Justin. I wish he would leave Brian and be with me but I know that's not going to happen. So I'll take what I can get."

"You think that's the best thing for you?"

"It's all I have."

Looking him over, taking in his features, Drew said, "You're an attractive, smart young man. You could find someone else, someone who wasn't already involved."

"I don't want anyone else. I want Justin."

"And what about Brian? What about the fact that he took Justin for his partner, thinking they'd made a commitment to one another?"

"He's a grown man. He ought to be able to look out for himself. I can't care about him." He couldn't, and not feel guilty.

"You're going to have to," Drew explained, "if this relationship is going to work."

He'd never been more nervous about talking to his mom since he'd come out. She'd been through so much, trying to understand him and Brian and even defending them to his father before his dad had come around but he couldn't begin to anticipate how she'd react to his latest news. He figured it would help that she actually liked Xavier but that was when he'd only been a friend. Luckily Molly was over to a friend's house when he stopped by and Jen was one signature away from selling a very expensive house so she was in a good mood. That would help. A little.

After giving her a peck on the cheek, he slid onto a barstool. She was in the kitchen fixing dinner in anticipation of Molly returning in an hour. "You staying, honey?"

"I can."

"Brian coming?"

He shook his head. Shit, it was now or never.

"So, how do you like your room at Deb's?"

She knew. "You know?"

Putting down the chicken she'd been stuffing, Jen gave him 'the mother look' as Brian called it. "You didn't really think she wouldn't tell me, did you?"


"But," she added, picking up the chicken once more, "she wouldn't tell me why. That's your job."

Justin watched her hands as she worked, fascinated by the motions, and wondered if that was what intrigued Brian about him when he cooked since the man invariably came in to sit and watch him. Finally, no point in delaying any longer, he told her. "I went to see Xavier during Spring Break to get him to come back to school."

"He was leaving? Why?" She'd been to a couple of shows at the school and had been very impressed by the young man's work.

"Because he was in love with me," he answered.

Jen paused. No, Justin. . . "And did you get him to come back?"


She took note of the one word answer. Which meant there was more. And, of course, there was more. He was living back at Deb's place which meant there was a whole lot more.

Knowing she was waiting for him to explain, he did. "I love him too, Mom."

She placed the chicken in the pan and arranged the vegetables she'd chopped around it. "And Brian knows."

"We've been to see Dr. Drew."

Good. "And what did he say?"

He paused again. Everything else had been simple compared to explaining their planned course of action. "We're going to try. . . to try. . ."

"Try what, honey?"

"I'm going to keep seeing Xavier."

For a moment she pretended not to hear him, to be engrossed with the fucking vegetables and chicken but she couldn't pretend forever. "And what does that mean for you and Brian?"

"I'm. . . not leaving Brian."

She dropped the potato she'd been holding. "Meaning what?"

Justin looked down, then glanced up at her as he said, "We're all going to be in a relationship together. At least that's the goal. But right now- -"

"Justin! What does that mean?" she asked.

"It means that I'm involved with them both and, eventually, they might be involved with one another."

Jen left the kitchen and walked into the den, sat down in the first chair she reached. Her head was swimming. How was she ever going to explain this to Craig? He'd only just started coming around to accepting Brian and now this? "Your father is never going to understand."

Following her, Justin asked, "Do you?"

"No," she told him, "honey, I don't. I don't understand at all. I'm sorry." The smell of raw onion on her hands was making her slightly ill. She returned to the kitchen to wash them.

Justin paused where he stood. "Mom?"

"Honey," she began, then stopped. Washed her hands, covered the broiler with a top, and put it in the pre-heated oven. Simple actions. Things she could do with her eyes closed. Comforted by them, she began to clear off the countertop. Simple actions.

He'd accepted Lindsay's invitation to dinner knowing he'd have to explain what was going on with him and Justin. So far his friends had been very careful not to prod him too much regarding their living arrangements, temporary though they might be. And he hadn't volunteered any information, preferring to suffer in silence. Mikey was the only one he'd told and he'd sworn Michael not to talk about it with anyone else. And now, here he was, sitting in Lindsay's livingroom about to spill his guts. It was Thursday and tomorrow he'd go over to Drew's and sign away part of his life. That's how it felt to him but he'd do it because he didn't have any other choice. That scared him and, yet, he'd made peace with it a long time ago, that'd he do anything for Justin, no matter what.

"Carrot stick?"

Brian looked up at the tray Mel held. "No. Thanks."

She turned away and set the tray on the table top. "Suit yourself." Hostess duties done for the moment, she sat down and studied him.

"Something wrong?" he asked, growing uncomfortable with her scrutiny.

"Gus looks a lot like you."

"DNA will tell."

"I wonder if he'll be a lot like you."

Instead of saying something smart, he answered quietly, "I hope not."

Mel sat forward, worried. "Brian. . ."

At that moment Gus came out of the kitchen dragging Beh behind him. Made a beeline for his daddy and demanded Brian pick him up. Gripped Brian's neck with arms that had grown surprisingly strong in the past few months and bussed him on the cheek. Kiss delivered, he settled down, leaning against Brian's arm and chest. Mel took a cracker from the platter and handed it to him, which he nibbled, his eyes never leaving his daddy's face.

Not knowing how to approach the topic of Justin, Mel decided to leave it to Lindsay. She was a lot better when it came to handling Brian. In fact, outside of Debbie, she was probably the only person who could. And Justin. But Justin wasn't here. And Debbie had vowed to stay out of it since Justin was staying with her. Which left Lindsay to deal with Brian.

She came into the dining room with their entree in a casserole dish. "Dinner is served," she announced.

Although Gus had a high chair, he preferred to sit in Brian's lap, so he did, and his Dada fed him since he didn't seem to have much appetite of his own. Gus more than made up for his lack of enthusiasm.

"So what happens now?" Lindsay asked, no preamble needed because they all knew what she was talking about.

"We meet tomorrow and figure out what to do."

"You're partners. Justin knows that. He'll stop seeing Xavier and- -"

"No. He won't." He didn't know how much Justin had told anyone, suspected that he hadn't explained the terms of their reconcilliation thoroughly.

"He loves you."

"He loves us both."

Mel broke in. "So what does that mean? He can't have the both of you."

He paused. "Yeah, he can. And he will."

Lindsay slowly lowered her fork. "Bri? What does that mean?"

"It means that tomorrow we're meeting, all of us, including Xavier, and we're. . . we're coming up with rules about how we all. . ." He looked down, unable to continue.

"You mean. . ." began Mel, "Justin and Xavier are going to keep seeing each other?"


Gus looked up at Brian. "Dada!" But Brian didn't say anything, just handed Gus his sippy cup. The baby drank noisily.

"Christ," said Mel. "That's fucked up."

"Mel!" Lindsay scolded.

"Well, it is."

Brian agreed, "It is." Laughed.

"I can't believe Justin is doing this to you."

"Doing what?" Brian asked. "Doing exactly what I've always told him to do? Look after yourself. Never lie about what you want. Well, he wants us both. And he can have us both because neither one of us wants to be without him. So we do this thing and we live with it."

"But it's not what you want," said Lindsay.

"It's all I can do."

She persisted. "Bri, don't do this."

"I can't lose him."

"But you are," she countered. "Worse, you're giving him away."

Heading off any further discussion, he said, "It's done, Lindsay. And there's nothing you can say to change my mind. I know what I have to do."

"Do you remember telling me about you and Cam? About what you offered to do to keep him? And how it made you feel? Do you?"

"Don't- -"

"This is the same thing, Bri. Only, it's worse. Because Cam was smart enough to know that you couldn't do it and stay true to yourself. And he loved you enough to let you go. No matter how hard it was or how much it hurt."

Brian stood and handed her Gus. "I can't talk about this anymore."

Holding out his arms, Gus said, "Go, Dada."

Mel translated. "He wants to go with you."

"Not tonight, Gus," Brian told him.

"Dada, go."

"Gus. . ."

"Mel, can you take Gus?" said Lindsay, starting to lift the baby towards her partner.

But Gus clutched her shirt. "No!"

Mel stood and reached for him. "Gus- -"

"No. Dada, no."

Brian turned away. "I can't do this." Walked out into the foyer to grab his coat.

"Dada!" Gus began to cry, the sound of which followed Brian out to the car where he sat, gripping the steering wheel, head cradled on his arms. She was right. Lindsay was right. He hated this, hated what he was about to do, hated himself for doing it, but he would. He'd walk into that office and he'd give Justin away. But, at least, he'd be able to keep part of him, something, and maybe it'd be enough. Maybe.

Mel opened the door on his side. "Lindsay changed the sheets on the guest bed. And Gus misses his daddy." Message delivered, she walked back towards the house. After a moment, he got out and followed.

Sitting in the tub with Gus in his arms, Brian concentrated on bathing the baby and ignoring all lingering thoughts and doubts about tomorrow. Gus laughed and splashed the water and Brian found that he couldn't resist the toddler's joy. Laughing too, he resigned himself to dealing with tomorrow when tomorrow came. Right now he had a bath to enjoy. Finding Gus' rubber duck, he squeaked it until Gus collapsed against his chest giggling.

Out in the hall, Lindsay smiled and went to join Mel.

I love him. Even if he thinks I don't. Even if he thinks I'm wrong for hurting him. And I guess I am. I guess if I loved him more I'd be able to do what he wanted. No one understands. I don't even know if I do. It's just something I feel. I need Xavier. But I need Brian too. I've wanted to call him all week. It's been hard enough seeing Xavier in class and not being able to talk to him but I haven't seen Brian once. He hasn't been in the diner at all. I kept hoping he'd come in for a turkey sandwich, the way he used to, not really wanting a turkey sandwich but wanting to see me. Needing an excuse. But he hasn't. I thought about going by the loft, pretending I'd left something but I didn't because Brian would have known I was lying. He ought to be used to me lying by now.

I never meant to hurt him.

Just seeing the three of them together made Drew doubt the wisdom of his plan. There was enough attitude in the room to put a fashion show full of supermodels to shame. Maybe it would have been better if Brian and Justin had called it quits and started over. Except that he knew how much they loved one another and neither one was willing to quit, not yet. After this session, who knew? Maybe one of them would.

They'd taken their seats, Justin sitting between his two lovers but not looking at either one. They all kept their eyes on Drew. Under different circumstances he would have been flattered to have the attention of three hot guys focused on him.

Sensing that they were beginning to grow a little antsy, he began. "We're here today to talk about how the three of you are going to co-exist in this new relationship you're building, this vee. If it's to have any chance of being successful, I think you need to establish some guidelines and rules of behavior." He paused to give them a chance to object before he continued. When no objections came forth, he went on. "I've explained to Xavier the kinds of guidelines and rules that I'm talking about so he understands and has had time to think about them as well. So, I think we should start with the question of how Justin sees his relationship with each of you."

A line appeared between Justin's brows. "I don't understand."

"Well, do you consider your relationship with Brian to be the primary relationship and your relationship with Xavier to be the secondary relationship or is it the other way around?"

"Why do I have to say at all?"

"Because I need to know," Brian replied.

"Because we all need to know," Drew added. "Total honesty, that's the one way this is going to work. We all need to know where everyone else stands. So, what are your thoughts?"

"If I say that Brian and I are the primary relationship, what does that mean?"

"That your relationship with Brian is your primary bonding, the one you'd preserve if the vee dissolved."

"But isn't the point not to dissolve it?"

"It is, because you've all agreed to participate, but if something should happen and that changes, the primary relationship is the one you'd try to keep intact." He gave Justin a few minutes to think. "Do you still agree that your relationship with Brian constitutes a primary bonding?"

"Yes." Justin felt Xavier shift next to him but the teen said nothing.

"This doesn't mean that you're not invested in your relationship with Xavier."

"It just means that I'm not as important to him as Brian," complained Xavier.

"No, it means that his relationship with Brian is more binding than his relationship with you."

"Because they're wearing rings? I could give him a ring too."

Brian sat forward in his chair, "Do it and this whole fucking thing is over."

"Brian- -" began Drew and the man sat back, glaring at the world. "Xavier, the fact that they've exchanged rings represents a different level of committment than you and Justin have achieved as of this moment."

Seizing on the opening left him, Xavier said, "But it doesn't mean that it won't ever happen between us."

"Between all of you," Drew clarified. "Although we're working towards creating a stable vee, eventually, the goal is for the three of you to participate equally in your relationship. For there to be a bond between all of you."

Xavier assented. "I'm cool, then. Long as I know where I stand."

"Then let's go on to how to divide up Justin's time."

"What do you mean?" asked Brian. "Justin lives with me. That's not gonna change."

"But he and Xavier need time to work on their relationship."

"They see each other at the Institute every fuckin' day."

"That's not enough."

"The hell it isn't."

"Brian- -"

"So what? He spends part of his time with me and part with Xavier?"

Drew hurried to clarify things. "As you've pointed out, they'll see each other every day at the Institute but I think we need to set aside one night when they can be together. It'd be their night, no matter what. A date night."

Brian said firmly, "Not in the loft."

"I live there too," Justin said.

"And I pay the fuckin' mortgage. Not in the loft."

"You're not being fair."

"Fair? You want to talk to me about fair?" He looked away, then back again. "I'm here, agreeing to give up a night with you, so that you, my partner, my lover, can fuck someone else- -"

"One night," Xavier complained. "One fucking night."

Brian stood and pointed at Xavier, "You're lucky you're getting anything at all! I should fucking kick your ass is what I should do instead of- -"

Drew stood as well. "Brian- -"

"- - sitting here like some fucking idiot discussing this shit!"


"Fuck you!" He pushed past Drew and headed out the door, the therapist behind him, Justin staring after him shiny-eyed and worried.

Drew followed the sound of Brian's footsteps as he stormed into the restroom. Heard something rattle and fall. Went inside to find the trash can knocked over and Brian breathing hard.


"Brian. . . Brian, calm down."

"Get away from me."

"Brian- -"

"I mean it." He kicked the door of one of the stalls, it banged against the inside of the compartment. Turning away, he walked towards the window and paused, walked forward again and stopped. His entire body vibrated with anger.

Calmly, Drew leaned against a sink and watched him. Waiting for the moment to pass.

"I- -" Brian ran his hand through his hair, stymied for words.

"It's okay."

He made a choking sound and laid his head against the wall. His shoulders shook.

Drew remained where he was while Brian cried out his anger and frustration. When he was done and had faced him again, he spoke. "You don't have to do this."

"Yes, I do."

"No. There's always another choice."

"That's not an option."

Pushing off the sink, Drew started towards the door. "I can't let you do this."

"You can't stop me," Brian told him and it was true. "You don't have to help us do it, but you can't stop us."

"You're gonna tear yourself apart," Drew warned.

"Not if you're there."

Wishing he hadn't stopped smoking six years ago, Drew hungered for a cigarette. Knew that if he really wanted one, he could bum a smoke off of Brian. But he didn't really want it. He just thought he did. "Brian..."

"I can do this. I promise." He sounded like a little boy. "I won't fuck it up."

"I'm worried about you."

He sniffled. "Don't be." Tried to finger his hair back into place, which was ironic considering how wild it generally appeared.

"Brian? If it becomes too much, get out. Don't let it destroy you."

He looked at himself in the mirror, glanced away. "Losing Justin would destroy me."

They returned to the room to find Justin and Xavier just as they'd left them, separated, and giving no indication that either one had done much comforting while they were gone as both looked red-eyed and upset. Brian took his seat without speaking and Drew attempted to put them back on track.

"So, there are two issues to resolve. One, whether or not Justin and Xavier should spend time in the loft and two, how many date nights do they get?"

Justin spoke up. "Brian's right. Xavier and I shouldn't be together like that in the loft. Its Brian's home and even though its mine too, I can't ask him to leave his own apartment so that I can be with someone else."

"What about the number of nights?"

"I'll settle for one."

Drew turned to the other teenager. "You agree?"

"I don't have a choice."

As he'd told Brian, Drew corrected him. "Yes, you do."

And, as Brian had said, Xavier assured him that it wasn't a choice.

Then Drew asked Justin, "What about you and Brian? Do you think you need a date night too?"

He nodded. "Just for us."





He'd been rather subdued since returning from the restroom and Drew was waiting for the next outburst. It was only a matter of time. He hoped. It wasn't good for Brian to keep his feelings bottled up inside. He'd done that all of his life and was only just getting used to expressing his true feelings, not the ones he allowed other people to see because they didn't matter, but the ones he kept hidden inside, ashamed and afraid to share.

Moving onto the next issue, Drew asked, "Is it all right for Justin and Xavier to be at the loft under other circumstances? Let's say if it's not one of their date nights?"

Brian said softly, "I don't want them fucking in our bed."

"It wouldn't be a sexual situation," Drew explained.

Thinking for a moment, Brian gave his answer. "Not right now. I'm sorry. Maybe in time but I just. . . Not yet."




"I wouldn't feel comfortable over there anyway," he admitted.

That was relatively easy. He had a feeling the next issue would not be. "Justin and Brian's son, Gus, have developed a rather close relationship and- -"

"No," Brian said simply and the tone of his voice left no doubt that this was one issue on which he would not budge.

Xavier started to speak but Justin laid a hand on his arm and gave his head a little shake.

"Next issue. Sex. Have you and Justin been having sexual intercourse without condoms?" Drew asked Brian.


"Do you think it's wise to continue?"


"Then, can we make a safer sex rule? All sexual intercourse has to take place using condoms and you all agree to practice safer sex." When no one disagreed, Drew made a notation on his pad. "What about financial support?"

Xavier laughed. "I don't have a cent to give anybody."

"Then should Justin contribute to your welfare?"

"I don't expect him to. He can pay for a date every now and then."

There was no need to ask about Brian. No one was that foolish as to think he'd give Xavier a penny to keep him out of the poorhouse.

"What about social occasions? How do you feel about the three of you going out or being with your circle of friends at the same time?"

With a look to Brian, Justin said, "I'd like to be able to hang out with our friends and Brian and bring Xavier too. . . but I don't think that would be such a good idea right now."

"Your friends would probably spit on me anyway."

"Okay. Family occasions. Suppose Justin's mom invites him to dinner, can he bring the both of you?"

Brian said nothing.

"Xavier?" asked Drew because he saw the way the teen was shaking his head.

"I feel like his mistress, like I'm somebody he has to hide. I can't hang out with him and his friends, I can't go to his house, to his mom's house. . ."

"Then go," Brian told him. "I just won't."

"Brian- -" began Justin.

"She can have two dinners and invite each of us or she can have one and we can go or you and he can go, I don't really care. But this isn't some kind of rainbow coalition and we're not all going to get along, no matter how much we talk about it. The best I can do is to put up with it. That's all I'm offering, Justin. And these pipe dreams about the three of us being a triad are so far in the future that I can't see it. It might happen, I'm not saying that it won't, I'm just saying it's not going to happen today or tomorrow or next week or next month. So you can be with him and you can be with me, we're just not going to be together."

"Separate but equal," said Xavier. "If that's the way it's got to be, then I can deal. My people are used to that."

And for the first time since they'd sat down in Drew's office, Brian smiled. Granted, it was just the twitch of his upper lip but it was a start and Justin saw it happen. It gave him hope.

"Then the last rule I'd suggest you adopting is to be honest with one another. No matter how much it hurts or might potentially hurt. Without honesty, you have nothing," Drew told them.

Promising to send them a copy of the rules they'd drawn up, Drew scheduled a follow-up appointment for a week from next Thursday. "And if you need to talk to me before then, either together or individually, give me a call. Just try not to do it on Saturday or Sunday morning as I like to sleep in." He winked. "And Sam likes to sleep in with me."

So here he was, chauffer to his partner and his partner's lover. Was there no end to the degredation? Of course not. Because now he had to watch Justin get out with Xavier and walk towards the dorm. At the last moment he turned away, not wanting to see them kiss.

Softly, Justin kissed Xavier, ran his fingers over the other teen's tight braids. "Nana Rose did a good job," he whispered.

Xavier smiled. "How'd you know?"

"Cause she loves you."

"How about you?"

He nodded. Drew apart. Waved.

Eyes straight ahead, Brian said as Justin got in the Jeep, "You wanna get your stuff tonight or wait until tomorrow?"


He pulled out and made a U-turn.

Stopping in front of Deb's house, he waited while Justin went inside and got his bag. He was gone about five minutes, probably giving Debbie a progress report while he packed.

As he drove back to the loft, Brian tried to imagine what it'd be like, being together after being apart for so long. Just feeling Justin next to him in the Jeep was giving him all kinds of ideas and yet he was still so angry with Justin. How to reconcile his body's desires and his heart's disappointment? He didn't know.

Justin put away his stuff and stowed his suit bag in the closet. He was more than aware of Brian watching him. How long had it been since they'd been together? Two weeks and he wanted to make love to Brian so badly. And he could tell that Brian wanted him. He could feel the desire like a warm fire. The sound of Brian's bare feet on the floor warned him before the man touched him.

He didn't care, didn't care what Justin had done with Xavier, all that mattered was that he was with him now, that he was turning in his arms and raising his face and parting his lips. They kissed and Brian forgot about anything else except this. "Baby," he whispered and Justin tightened his arms around him.

It was like the first time, the way his heart was pounding, except that the first time was years in the past- - years, he couldn't believe it- - and he and Brian were wearing matching platinum bands, and so many things had happened since the night they met that they were hardly the same people anymore, except that one thing hadn't changed: Brian still excited him beyond his wildest dreams.

Pausing for a moment to slip on a condom, Brian sank into Justin with a sigh. The teenager's knees pressing into his sides, he closed his eyes.

At first it was as if nothing had changed; he and Justin shared a bed and a life, getting up and showering together, eating breakfast together before he drove Justin to the Institute or the diner depending on his schedule, meeting up in the evenings for dinner, lying awake for the teen to return from the studio, making love before falling asleep with Justin's arm around his waist. And then Friday night came.

He'd almost decided to stay in but, at the last minute, changed his mind and joined the guys at Woody's. Mikey was there with Jeff and Em and Ted, as usual, were dateless. He hoped none of them asked him about Justin but he wasn't about to bet his life on it. Sure enough, he had just sat down next to Mikey with his beer when his best friend asked, "Where's the Boy Wonder?"

As casually as he could, he replied, "With Xavier."

The guys exchanged looks. He pretended not to notice.

"Anybody for a game of pool?" Emmett asked and he and Ted racked them up.

Brian shook his head, he'd watch. While Michael watched him. Finally, he couldn't stand it anymore. "What?"

"You're gonna sit here and hang with us while Justin's out there- -"

"Don't," he warned.

"While Justin's out there fucking Xavier."

Brian left the bar. Got to the Jeep and paused, hearing Michael behind him. "What the hell do you want me to do?" he asked.

"Act like you've got some goddamn balls, for one," Michael told him.

Ignoring the dig, Brian replied, "It's just like when I went out tricking."

"Yeah, and you were wrong too."

"Why don't you go back inside and take care of your own motherfucking relationship and leave mine alone?"

"Because I'm not the one sharing my boyfriend with somebody else."

"Then stay the fuck out of it." Snatching open the door, he climbed inside and took off like he had a legion of demons behind him.

If they’d been counting on her approval, they were going to be sadly disappointed. Rennie had agreed to go out with them on their date night but she intended to set them straight as to how she felt about things.

”You are so wrong,” she told them as they sat waiting for their pizza to arrive. “I can’t believe you’re doing this.”

”I can’t believe you care,” Xavier told her. “Ms. Radical Feminist. I thought you didn’t believe in relationships and that kind of shit.”

”I don’t. But you do,” she told Justin. “How could you do this? How could you betray Brian like this? I thought you loved him.”

”I do.”

”Then what the fuck are you doing here with Xavier?” She turned to the other teen. “And you. I used to respect you. Because even though you loved Justin and wanted him, you stayed away from him, you did the right thing.”

”So, it was okay that I was miserable?”

”That’s life. We don’t always get everything we want.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not going to apologize for having Justin. Not to you or anybody else.”

”You tell your grandmother yet?”

Shamefaced, he replied, ”No.”

Rennie stood. “Come talk to me after you do. Tell me how proud she is of you.” With that, she left.

They were both quiet for a while after she left. She’d managed to hit both of them where they lived. She’d only said aloud what they’d both felt all along and yet it didn’t matter. They couldn’t, wouldn’t turn back. Not now. Worse, for Justin, she'd echoed Daphne's sentiments when he'd talked to her on the telephone. She'd decided not to come home for Spring Break, opting to go to Fort Lauderdale with some girls from her dorm and had called to break the news to him when he'd surprised her with news of his own.

"So, wait, you and Brian broke up?"

"No. We're still together."

"But you and Xavier are together too?"


"What does that mean?"

"It means I love them both."

"Justin, this isn't the same thing as liking chocolate and vanilla ice cream. You can't love them both."

"I can and I do."

"But you and Brian are a real couple. You've got a ring and everything."

"So a ring makes it real?"

"No, but I thought it was real to you."

"It is. I still love him, Daph. That hasn't changed."

"Except that you love Xavier too and you spend time with him, you have sex with him. How do you think that makes Brian feel?"

"How do you think it made me feel when he was with other men?"

"But it wasn't the same, Justin."


"You weren't a couple then."

"So if I didn't have the ring, it'd be okay?"

"I'm not saying that."

"Then what are you saying?"

"The ring is just a symbol. You made him a promise when you took that ring and now you're breaking it."

"You don't understand."

"You're right. I don't. What about all the sacrifices he made to be with you, all of the things he went through for you with Chris Hobbs and the bashing and the trial and your parents and everything? Doesn't that mean anything?"

He hadn't had an answer for her just as he'd had no real answer for Rennie tonight.

Brian heard the door open and close. Braced himself for Justin’s arrival. He didn’t trust himself not to lash out at the teen, hoped that Justin refrained from making any overtures towards him. He could smell the soap on his skin where he’d showered after he and Xavier had finished fucking. A tennis shoe dropped on the floor, then a second.

”You awake?” Justin asked as he undressed.

”Yeah,” he replied softly.

”Go out at all?”

”For a little while. To Woody’s.” Before Michael had called him out and he’d had to leave or face up to the truth and he was tired of doing that, all he wanted was to hide away, pretend that things hadn’t changed. But here was Justin, sitting on the other side of the bed, having been with someone else, and there was no way to deny it. The covers moved as Justin crawled under them. Brian’s muscles tensed. Please, don’t touch me.

Justin lay quietly for a moment, then said, “ ‘Night.”

"‘Night." He heard him turn over in the bed, away from him and he relaxed.

It's been two days since date night with Xavier and Brian still hasn't touched me. I mean, he touches me, when we're showering together or in bed, accidentally, or when he passes me something at dinner but we haven't made love since Friday. Whenever I try to start something, he makes an excuse, telling me he's tired or he's not in the mood and it's driving me crazy. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Maybe I was stupid or naive to ever believe that he'd be able to handle it but I did. After all, he used to trick all the time and I had to understand that I wasn't the only one he was fucking. I know he hasn't done it for a long time but it doesn't change the fact that he used to and I had to accept it. And I did. I had to watch Hotlanta go down on him. I had to watch him walk away with guy after guy after guy at Babylon. I had to understand when he wouldn't answer the door that he was with someone. And even after we started seeing each other seriously, I could never be sure whenever I came over that he hadn't been with someone else that day. How many times did he come out of the shower after having fucked some guy and I had to pretend not to notice?

I don't want to rub his face in my relationship with Xavier but I don't want to be punished for it either. Especially since I'm still with him. I still love him. I tell him that every day so that he doesn't feel neglected. I'm with him six days and nights out of the week and all Xavier gets is one lousy date night. One night out of six. And I didn't even stay over, I came home. To be with Brian. I don't know what else he wants from me.

Justin put down his pen. Of course he did. Brian wanted him to stop seeing Xavier. Brian wanted things to go back to the way they were when it was just Brian and Justin and that was the one thing he couldn't give him.

He’d just put away his sketch pad when Brian came through the door. Locked it. The look in Brian’s eyes was familiar even though it'd been a while since he'd seen it. “I’ve been thinking about this all day,” the man confessed and Justin unbuttoned his pants and dropped them. Stepped out of one leg, not bothering with the other, just so that he could spread his feet apart. He leaned over the drafting table, gripping the edges while Brian freed his cock, encased it in latex, and rubbed against his ass. Feeling Brian’s fingers between his cheeks, he sighed, then caught his breath as one lubed finger eased inside him. “Yes,” he moaned. “Mmm. . .” Another finger joined the first and he was getting hard. Brian withdrew his fingers and dropped to his knees. Turned Justin around and took him between his lips. The teen muttered as Brian sucked him then grumbled as the warm mouth released him but, by then, neither of them really wanted to wait. It'd been too long already.

The tip entered him, and then all of the head, all of the shaft. Before too long he was panting, on the verge of shouting. Christ, he hoped no one was still around. Especially Xavier. Giving a groan, he yelled something unintelligible and Brian picked up the pace, thrusting harder and harder. “I love you,” he uttered breathlessly. “I love you.”

Handing Justin the wet cloth, Xavier looked aside as his lover cleaned up. He felt vaguely dissatisfied and wished he didn’t feel that way. Wished he could keep it out of his face but he couldn’t. Justin laid the cloth on the floor next to the bed. Turned to him. “What is it?”

Not wanting to say it, he did. “I guess Brian is better.”

”At what?”

”Fucking,” Xavier replied. “You never. . .” He stopped, shook his head. “Never mind.”

”I never what?” Justin asked, shaking him a little.

”You never cry out like you do with him.”

”How do you know what I do with him?”

”I heard you,” Xavier confessed. “That day in your studio.”

Shit. Even if Brian hadn't been a fantastic lover, it'd been five days since they'd last made love and he'd wanted Brian more than anything.

”I heard you fucking. Heard you screaming.” Shrugged. “I guess at his age, you know a few tricks.”

Angry at the dig, Justin started to say, "He’s the- -" and then he stopped. That was too hurtful.

”The best?”

”I’m not the only one who thinks so,” he said softly.

”I wouldn’t know.”

”You could if you wanted.”

Xavier grunted. “He doesn’t want me. He only wants you.”

”I’m sorry. I’m sorry you can’t share that with us.”

”Are you really?”

Justin narrowed his eyes. “I won’t apologize for wanting to be with him, for wanting to make love to him. He’s my partner and I love him,” he explained carefully. “I’ll always love him. No matter what. And I’m never leaving him. Not unless he kicks me out. And even then, all I’d do is wait outside his door until he let me back in.”

”Why? Because he’s a great fuck?” sneered Xavier.

”Because he loves me. More than anything in this world, more than his own life. Even now, when he’s totally pissed off with me, he’d do anything for me. Do you know what it’s like? Having someone love you like that?”

”No,” said Xavier. “I don’t.”

”Xavier- -“ But the boy had gotten up and gone into the bathroom. Shut the door. Justin drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. He couldn't win.

That point was driven home on Sunday. Although Mel was Jewish and Lindsay wasn't particularly religious, they'd agreed to celebrate Easter, not wanting Gus to miss out on the fun. Lindz organized an Easter egg hunt in the back yard for some of the neighborhood children and Justin had agreed to help. They'd planned it back before Spring Break, before everything had changed and he could tell that they weren't exactly pleased with him. Not that he was surprised. No one was particularly pleased with him. But he'd volunteered to paint Easter eggs and that's what he'd done, staying up way past two in the morning to get cover a dozen eggs with rainbows. Gus was the only person who seemed genuinely glad to see him, coming over to him wearing a baby blue bunny costume that set Brian to groaning the moment the toddler came into view.

"Are you trying to give him a complex?" he asked Lindz.

"I think he looks cute," she told him. "Deb made it for him."


Mel passed by. "Is he here? I guess the resurrection wasn't a Christian fantasy after all."

Justin snickered and asked, "Where do you want me to put these?"

Barely looking at him, Lindsay said, "There's a basket over there." Then, as he walked by her, she added, "Those are beautiful."


After that Lindsay seemed to warm up to him a little bit, enlisting his help with the remaining decorations and getting his opinion on good hiding places. Brian stayed out of the way, playing with Gus and sharing a caramel Cadbury egg with the toddler whenever the Munchers weren't looking.

He'd thought Brian would want to scram as soon as the other rugrats appeared but he surprised him by saying he didn't care, so they stayed and watched Gus stumble around with the other kids trying to find the brightly colored eggs that were pretty much hidden in plain sight.

By the end of the afternoon, Gus had found three eggs which he proudly carried to his daddy wanting to share them. Two were eggs Justin had painted. The teenager watched the way Brian took them from the basket and held them in his hands as if they'd been crafted by Fabrege.

Later, while Brian was upstairs with Gus taking off "that fuckin' fashion felony," before the baby took a nap, Lindz wandered into the livingroom where he was hanging and took a breather. Except that he knew she wanted to talk to him. So, instead of waiting for her to make the opening move, he said, "I don't expect you believe me, but I don't love him any less."

"But you could love him better," she said, her words striking him hard. "I was there, Justin," she told him, "when he broke up with Cam. I saw him change because of it. And not for the better. He's come so far. I'd hate to think what he'd become if the same thing happened with you."

"It's not the same. I haven't left him. I'm not going to."

Leaning forward, she asked, "You could live in the same house and still be millions of miles apart."

Defensive, he replied, "I know what we're doing is different, but we've never given a shit about the status quo. We wouldn't be together if we cared what other people thought about us."

"What about what he thinks?"

"He agreed to try."

"To keep from losing you." Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed Brian coming down the stairs. He paused, just out of Justin's sight. "If he asked you to, would you give up Xavier?"

"We've worked it out," he insisted.

"So everything's fine then?"

"It's going to take time," he explained. "We just have to be patient." But in his heart he knew it was going to take more than time. Only, just what else it was going to take, he didn't know.

Lindsay watched as Brian turned and silently walked back upstairs.

Drew noticed how careful Brian and Xavier were not to come near one another, placing Justin between them but making sure that he was almost equidistant from the both of them. That wasn't good. Even without the strained look on Justin's face, their actions would have told him that things weren't working as smoothly as the teen would have hoped. Granted, it'd only been a couple of weeks but still, Justin looked exhausted. Worn out from the effort of placating two lovers. And failing.

"So," Drew asked him, "how are things working out?"

"Okay," he replied, lying. They both knew it.

"No problems finding time to be with Brian and Xavier?" Justin shook his head. "Xavier?" The teen looked up. "You're satisfied with your, what? One night a week?"


"And, Brian, you're adjusting to the fact that once a week Justin's out fucking Xavier?"

Brian glared at him. "Fuck you."

"Well, at least one of you is being honest about something. What the hell is going on and why the fuck did you think you could come in here and snow job me?" He pointed to his degrees hanging on the wall. "See those? They say 'I'm not a fool, so don't play me.' Now, let's try this again, from the top, and see if this time around you could tell the truth." He looked at Justin. "Why don't you start? How are things working out?"

"They're not. Not really."

"What's wrong?"

"Brian and Xavier. Neither one of them wants to do this. I understand that. I do. I don't expect either one of them to be ecstatic about it but it's the best I can do. And it'd be nice if they treated me like a human being and not like one of their possessions."

"What do you mean?"

"It's like I'm a toy or something and they're having to share me. Or like I'm a prize in some kind of contest." He sighed. "I'm tired. I'm tired of the suspicion and the guilt and. . . I go to school and Xavier spends half the day mad with me because I'm going home to Brian. I get home and Brian spends the first half hour we're together trying to figure out if I've even brushed up against Xavier during the day. Xavier and I go out on Friday, I come home and Brian won't even look at me much less touch me. I can't enjoy having sex with either one without the other one feeling like I've somehow betrayed him and I'm sick of it."

Drew noticed the way Brian and Xavier cut their eyes at one another but had nothing but concern in their faces for Justin. So that hadn't changed no matter what. "What do you think we can do about it?"

"I don't know. I just wish they'd realize that I'm trying. That this isn't easy for me either. I'm tired all the time from trying to please the both of them and I just. . ." Justin paused and looked down at his hands. "I just wish someone would cut me some slack."

"This isn't just about Brian and Xavier, is it?"

Justin shook his head. "My mom won't talk to me. I mean, she talks to me but she doesn't understand why I'm doing this and she's disappointed in me. The guys treat me like shit because I'm hurting Brian. Deb and Lindsay and Mel and Vic try to be fair but they think I'm wrong too, even though they won't say it. Rennie told Xavier and me that we were wrong and she won't talk to either one of us. I keep waiting for Gus to spit on me too."

"You knew it would be difficult. The lifestyle you've chosen isn't the norm. You knew that."

"I thought. . . these were my friends, my family. I thought they would give me a chance to explain, that they would try to understand. I could have kept lying, I could have lied to Brian, lied to them, snuck around behind their backs to see Xavier and, I guess, that would have been better than being honest."

"No," Drew assured him, "it wouldn't have. You were right to be honest about your feelings. But, Justin, they're being honest too. Even though it hurts, you'll have to accept the fact that you may lose some of them because of this arrangement."

Justin had turned slightly towards Brian and the man wiped away a tear from the teen's face. On the other side, Xavier tensed.

"How about you, Xavier? How are you holding up?"

Although he didn't want to admit it, he did. "I guess I'm jealous of Brian. Of the time he gets to spend with Justin. They live together, they have a life together. I feel like all Justin and I have is one day- - not even a whole day- - one night to try and cram a whole week into."

"But you see Justin at school."

"Sometimes. We're busy, you know? And he has work too. I might see him for twenty minutes in a day, sometimes less. It's hard."

"Would having another night with Justin make things better for you?" Drew asked hearing Brian's indrawn breath.

"Yeah. But Brian won't agree to it."



Xavier looked as if he wanted to kill the ad exec. "I told you."

"Justin, what do you think?"

"Don't ask me," Justin pleaded.

"I am asking you," said Drew, not caring how awkward a position it put Justin in, the teenager had to make a decision, had to understand that he couldn't sit on the sidelines and watch Brian and Xavier duke it out. Either he did something to change things or they would continue to deteriorate. "Do you think you and Xavier should have one more night?"

He swallowed before answering, "No." Ignored the hurt look on Xavier's face. "I think what would help is if Xavier spent more time with us." Brian shot him a look. Xavier's brow furrowed.

"As a true threesome?" asked Drew.


The teen never ceased to amaze the therapist. It was exactly what he'd been thinking as well. Maybe they would make it. "I happen to think Justin is right. But it's up to you three to work it out. Brian?"

"Have him over to our house?"

"He's been there before, hasn't he?" asked Drew.

"Yeah, as a guest. As one of Justin's friends. Not as his fuck buddy."

"He's not Justin's fuck buddy," Drew clarified. "He's- -"

"I know what he is," Brian said grimly.

"He's a member of this relationship with rights and privileges just like you and Justin. Now, it's your home, you can choose not to have him there. That's within your prerogative. But, eventually, if this relationship is to have a chance of working, you're going to have to learn to get along. You heard Justin, you're wearing him out and it has to stop."

"Fine." Brian crossed his legs. "He can give up Xavier and stop with this foolishness. I'm not standing in his way."

Xavier stepped in. "That's not an option."

"Then shut the fuck up about things not being fair. If it were up to me, you wouldn't get one night, understand?"

"And what if it were the other way around? What if you were the one getting one night and I was the one living with Justin all the time?" Drew leaned forward, anxious to hear what Brian had to say.

"Then we wouldn't be here. Because I wouldn't put up with that shit. I'm more of a man than that."

Before Xavier could lunge for Brian, Drew had stood and moved in his path. He placed a hand on Xavier's chest and pushed him back a little.

"Stop it," Justin said softly. So softly that only Brian heard him.

"Baby. . ."

"I want to go home."

By then Drew had settled Xavier down. "The session isn't over."

"I don't care," he said. "I just want to go home."

They'd gone straight to the apartment, Xavier taking a cab back to the Institute. Drew hadn't trusted the two of them to be civil to one another even on the short ride across town. Once Brian and Justin arrived at the loft, the teen went into the bedroom and stretched across the bed. Brian followed but Justin said, "I want to be alone."

"Justin- -"

"I mean it."

But Brian refused to be put aside. He stood in the doorway, holding on to the frame. "What do you want? You want me to lie to you? Tell you it's okay? Well, I can't. I'm trying to understand. I'm trying to support you, to give you what you say you need. But how much am I supposed to give, Justin? How much until there's nothing left for me? And then what? You're free to go to Xavier?" He released the frame. "If that's what you want, then go. Go to him and be with him and leave me the fuck alone."

"I don't want that."

"Well, I don't want to be with him. I can't do that, Justin. So don't ask me to," he added before turning away.

Things had been strained between them for more than a week. They'd made love a couple of times and regretted it since it was so obvious that things weren't right between them. As part of the gang's ongoing attempt to make peace with Justin and his decision, they all met at Babylon and danced the way they used to, only it wasn't the way it used to be. Brian spent most of the evening by the bar, dancing once with Mikey and once with Justin before retiring again to his spot to glare at the world. Justin was aware of the older men's disapproval. Finally, as he danced with Emmett, he said, "Everyone hates me."

"No, baby, we don't hate you."

"You don't like me very much."

And Emmett smiled. "Now, that, honey, just might be true." They moved off the dance floor and found a relatively quiet spot.

"You've always told me to do what my heart tells me is right," Justin said.

"I know, and I meant it. But, Justin, you're hurting Brian. I've never seen him like this. I never thought anything could hurt him but you have. Because he loves you too much to protect himself against you. And you're taking advantage of that. The same way he used to hurt you. Remember? Remember how much it hurt? How helpless you felt?"

"I'm not doing it just to be a prick."

"And I'm sure he had his reasons too. Good ones. To him."

Justin peered at the crowd. "I'm trying to do what's best for all of us."

"And maybe you can't." Emmett squeezed his shoulder. "Maybe you need to figure out who's most important to you and take care of him."

Em's advice stayed with him as he and Brian lay in bed, not touching, not talking once again. Finally Brian got up, put on his robe, and padded to the livingroom, grabbing the bottle of Beam first.

Justin slipped on his robe and went after him. Stood behind him watching Brian take a swig. "You think that's gonna help?"

"Couldn't hurt."

Going around to the other side, Justin asked, "Why won't you talk to me?"

"Because there's nothing to say, Justin. Nothing different anyway. You need me to say some things to you and I can't. And I need you to do the same for me and you can't. So what's the point in talking about unimportant shit? Wasting time?"

Justin squatted at his feet, holding onto his knees. Looked up at him, blue eyes shining. "I love you."

"I know that," Brian told him, trying to get up but Justin wouldn't let him.

"Then act like it," Justin demanded. He stood and took the bottle away from him, set it on the table behind him. Climbed on Brian's lap. Kissed him despite Brian's discomfort. "I love you," he whispered and kissed him again. Untied his robe and let it fall from his shoulders. He took Brian's hand in his and laid his palm against his chest. "Touch me."

Brian pulled his hand away. "Justin- -"

"I want you." He kissed Brian hard and pressed against him, rubbing his cock against the man's belly. "Make love to me." Another kiss. "Please." He slipped his tongue inside Brian's mouth and felt Brian's lips tighten around it. Yes. But then Brian pushed him away, pushed him onto the couch and stood. Trembling. Justin, Brian's eyes fixed on him, spread his legs and ran his hand down his torso until his fingers closed around his cock. He stroked himself, eyes open, tongue peeking from between his lips. "Please."

Brian dropped his robe off, knelt next to the sofa, and lowered his head between Justin's thighs.

He could never refuse Justin anything.

Lying on his side, Justin's arm around him, Brian wondered if he'd be able to save himself when Justin came asking for his breath, his heartbeat, his blood.

It'd been the shittiest of weeks. Even without the continuing situation with Justin and Xavier, it would have been a bad one. Except that, in the past, he could have counted on Justin being there to ease the kinks from his shoulders, to make him a steaming bowl of pasta, to make love to him until he forgot about it. But tonight was Friday, Justin and Xavier's date night, and the teen wouldn't be home until late, probably around two or three in the morning. Sliding open the door to the loft, Brian never felt more alone. But, if he remembered right, he had a couple bags of various pick-me-ups in his little wooden box.

He may have felt alone when he walked into the loft but by the time he shut the door and reached for the light, he realized that he wasn't. There was someone else in there with him. Reaching again for the light, a hand took hold of his and stopped the motion. Justin. Naked before him. Hungry for him, he leaned over and kissed the teen. Felt Justin fumble at his waist, undoing his belt and the button on his trousers. But then who was pulling his jacket off?

He started to turn around, break off the kiss, but Justin wouldn't allow him. And after a moment, as the hands behind him opened his shirt and began stroking his nipples, he found that he didn't care. Soon he was as naked as the two teens, because it had to be Xavier behind him, kissing his back and shoulders as Justin continued to kiss his lips.

He allowed them to escort him to the bedroom in the dark, the only light in the entire apartment the blue neon tubing over the bed. Allowed them to lie him down upon the comforter and stretch out next to him, one on either side. And then they began kissing him again, taking turns joining their mouths to his, breaking away sometimes to kiss one another, hands busy touching his chest, his belly, his cock. When, at last, they both moved down to his crotch, he was already stiffening. In the blue light, he could see them licking his shaft, kissing the tip of his dick, mouths joining around his cock, the head glistening between their lips, wet with their saliva. Two heads bobbed over his groin as the teenagers gobbled his meat, their moans joining his. Eyes closed, he felt his dick slide inside one of their mouths, his balls fill the cheeks of the other. Groaning, he pumped his hips, brushing the head of his cock against the back of someone's throat. In answer, the other one tugged on his sac. And then they switched positions, traded pleasures. His legs fell open even wider and his dick slipped free of the throat it'd been buried in.

Another pair of lips closed around his balls and they both sucked him, one one on each side, tongues lapping the soft skin covering his nuts. Fingers stroked his shaft, played over the swollen head as they continued to suck his balls. And then both released him and turned once more to the shaft, tracing the heavily veined flesh with their tongues, their lips. He didn't know how much more of it he could stand and they must have known it. One encircled his shaft with his hand and jacked him while the other brushed his fingers over his hole and stroked the center of his sac with his thumb. Brian squeezed his eyes shut as his balls drew up to his shaft and he shouted a warning a second before coming.

Like cats, the two boys licked him clean of cum, tongues flickering over the dripping head as he whimpered and shook.

Lying on his back, Justin opened his mouth and let Xavier's cock slide over his tongue, felt Xavier swallow his dick in return. Gently the teen pumped his hips, not wanting to gag Justin but loving the feel of his lover's lips moving up and down his shaft as he sucked Justin in turn.

Brian watched the two of them giving each other head and felt his cock stiffen in response. Getting down on his belly, he pushed Justin's legs up and open exposing his wrinkled hole. Xavier moved so that he was able to hold Justin in place, which freed Brian's hands to stretch open his hole and keep it open while his tongue probed him.

Justin moaned around Xavier's cock as Brian rimmed him. His cock throbbed each time the man's tongue dipped inside him. Of course, Xavier's tongue had a lot to do with his excited state as well, as it swirled around the head of his cock, the shaft, his balls.

For his part, Xavier watched in amazement as Brian lost himself in Justin's ass. The man seemed to be in a daze as he ate out the teen's hole, eyes closed, uttering little sounds as he worked his tongue in deeper. And Justin, Justin responded to it by tightening his throat around Xavier's cock which was sending Xavier closer and closer to the edge. But Xavier wanted to be inside Justin's ass. Letting go of the teen's cock, Xavier pulled free too. Brian, sensing movement, raised up. Drew Xavier to him and rubbed his cock against the teen's. "I want to fuck you," Brian told him before kissing him, hands cupping Xavier's plump ass. "I want to fuck you while you're fucking him," he whispered and Xavier's dick twitched. "Fuck your tight, little hole." He dipped down and kissed Xavier's throat. "Tight, little virgin hole."

Xavier shuddered and felt Justin's fingers slip between his cheeks. He'd never let another man fuck him before and he wondered how Brian knew. The tip of Justin's finger played around his hole and he moaned inside Brian's mouth before pulling away and turning to lie on top of Justin. They kissed, groins grinding against one another, and then Justin reached up and spread Xavier's cheeks.

Taking his cue from his partner, Brian dropped down and thrust his face between Xavier's opened thighs. The teen's asshole was quivering and moist with sweat, the way he liked. A little fear and helplessness turned him on. Xavier's ring was darker than Justin's but no less inviting. Starting slowly, he encircled the hole with his tongue, not attempting to gain entrance, just to let Xavier know he was there. He heard the boy sigh and smiled. Licked around the edges again.

Listening to the sounds Xavier was making, Justin knew how he felt. No one rimmed like Brian. He'd known Xavier wouldn't be able to resist once Brian's tongue went to work on him.

Having made a few circuits, Brian was ready to move in a little closer. Still not attempting to enter Xavier, he ran his tongue over the folds of flesh and heard the teenager cry out. Wouldn't be long before Xavier was begging him to fuck him the way Justin did. Although not all guys were into getting fucked, he had a feeling Xavier wasn't one of them. Especially after he finished eating him out.

Xavier felt dizzy. Justin's cock against his own, Justin's tongue in his mouth, and Brian's tongue sliding over his asshole. . . God, he could barely breathe. And then Brian's tongue pushed inside his ass and he shouted. Nothing had ever felt so good. Fuck! No wonder Justin begged him to lick his ass whenever they fucked if this was what he was used to. Arching his back, he felt Justin's hands on his ass holding him open as Brian tongued him. He could feel the tip reaching towards the top of his ass and he thought he would scream. And then it withdrew, only to return in a moment, more insistent, demanding that he whimper and moan. And he did. He was so fucking hard and ready to plow Justin's ass and ready to be fucked he whispered, "Fuck me."

Brian licked down between his legs, around his balls. "Say it again."

"Fuck me." Brian's tongue washed over his hole again. "Fuck me."

Justin reached for the condoms and lube, slipped one over Xavier's cock and handed another to Brian. He raised his legs to Xavier's shoulders and moaned as Xavier squeezed lube in his hole. "Do it," he whispered and cried out as Xavier's cock entered him.

Rising and falling, Xavier's tight, little ass beckoned to Brian. Lubing his fingers, he positioned himself behind Xavier and eased a fingertip inside him. He'd have to go slow or else Xavier wouldn't be ready for him. The teen was tight, as tight as he'd expect a virgin to be and he took his time, steadily pushing his finger forward until it was buried in Xavier's hole. Instead of actively fingering him, he allowed Xavier's motions as he fucked Justin to do the work. After a minute or so, Xavier's ass felt looser. But it was one thing to take a man's finger, another to take his cock. Pulling his finger free, Brian took hold of his cock and rubbed the head over Xavier's hole. The teen paused in his fucking and sighed. "I'm coming in," Brian told him and then he pushed.

He never imagined it would hurt like that, had always thought it would be easier to take than this but he found himself yelping as Brian first entered him and then holding his breath as Brian filled him. It was only as Brian's balls pressed against his ass that he allowed himself to take a tiny breath, not wanting to move, afraid that if he did the pain would flare up. And it did. Beneath him, Justin whispered to him and stroked his buttocks until the worst of the pain seemed over. And then Brian began to withdraw and tears sprang to the corners of his eyes. He wailed, shivering, unable to move, unable to dislodge him, only able to lie there and take it as Brian fucked him. And then something miraculous occured. The pain began to fade. And as the pain receded, pleasure spread from a spot inside his hole to encompass his entire body. His cock, which had begun to soften a little under the assault, grew hard again and he began to move between Justin's thighs once more. "That's it," Justin breathed and he agreed. That was it. Brian had found his spot and it was swelling up. . .

Hands on Xavier's shoulder and waist, Brian thrust hard against the boy's buttocks, his balls slapping against his ass, and listened as both Xavier and Justin moaned, the sounds stroking his balls, squeezing them, churning the cum up in them.

Cock buried in Justin's ass, his own ass stuffed with Brian's dick, Xavier shivered and began panting. "Oh! Oh! Oh, God. . . Oh God." He pumped against Justin while his cock expanded and he dropped his load.

Xavier's ass clamped down on his cock wrenching the cum from Brian's balls. Stiffening against the boy's buttocks, Brian gave over to his orgasm.

Legs beginning to ache from being bent, Justin reached for his cock. Gave it a few tugs. His balls twisted and he shouted, spitting cum over his belly. "Mmmm," he moaned and smiled. Ran his fingers through his spunk and offered them to Xavier. The teen opened his mouth and licked Justin's fingers clean. Then he scooped up another three fingers full and fed Brian the rest.

Licking his lips, Brian grinned. "Fuck, baby." That was his little boy.

They spent most of the weekend in bed, each of them sharing himself with the other two in whatever fashion was deemed most desirable at that moment. At some point, Xavier found himself squatting over Brian, his back to the man's chest, supporting himself on his hands and the balls of his feet, working his hole up and down the length of Brian's cock while Justin knelt between their legs and sucked him off.

The air in the apartment was heavy with the smell of sex, it settled over everything like a fine layer of pollen.

In a shower big enough to hold four, the three of them frolicked, Brian and Xavier on their knees trying to catch a slippery cock in their mouths, Justin giggling as two tongues lapped him, licked him.

Allowing the teenagers to tie him to the chaise lounge, Brian was helpless to resist them. Cockring tight around the base of his dick, he moaned while they took turns riding his erection, sweet holes clenching him in loving embraces. Blindfolded, he opened his mouth as they jerked off on his face and chest, cum falling across his lips.

Justin introduced Xavier to a couple of Brian's toys, taking great pleasure in the way the teen trembled and shook, his ass stuffed with a dildo that vibrated from tip to tip.

By nightfall on Sunday, they were completely drained, too exhausted to move.

His arm around Brian's waist and Xavier lying comfortably against his back, Justin smiled in his sleep and even Brian entertained a glimmer of hope that maybe they might be able to make this work after all.

So what the fuck happened? Why was he sitting at Mel and Lindsay's place, Gus on his lap, wondering where Justin was and why he wasn't there when he'd said that he would be, when it was a Saturday, one of their nights? Letting the baby distract him with an unintelligible story about Beh and something they'd done that day, Brian fought to keep calm and cool.

He made it through dinner and drove back to the loft, a dark cloud over the roof of the Jeep. If Justin was there with Xavier there was going to be trouble, that much he could guarantee.

Still, he hesitated before he threw open the door. There was no one there. Pulling a barstool from the counter, he sat and waited.

The moment he stepped through the door and saw Brian sitting at the counter, he remembered. Fuck. He was supposed to go to the Munchers' for dinner with Brian. They were going to talk about whether or not they should move Gus from his present pre-school to this exclusive one that they'd heard about from some of the other parents in Mel and Lindsay's neighborhood. He'd promised Brian that he'd be there. One look at the ad exec and he could tell that this was going to be a bad one and he wished he'd told Xavier to go home instead of letting him come up to spend the night.

Brian counted to ten and thought happy thoughts and did all of the shit Drew had told him to do whenever he felt a major hissy fit coming on and none of it did a goddamn bit of good. He was ready to fuckin' choke them both. Ignoring Xavier for the moment, he asked Justin, "Where the fuck were you?"

"Brian- -"

"I asked you where you were!" he shouted and Justin stumbled back.

"Hey," Xavier began, "step off."

"Shut the fuck up," Brian told him. Then asked Justin again, "Where were you?"

"I said, step off," Xavier repeated.

"And you've got two seconds to get the fuck out of my house before I kick your ass," warned Brian.

Justin got between the two of them and pushed Xavier away. "Go."

"Justin- -"

"Just go. I'll be all right."

Looking back at Justin, at how small he seemed compared to Brian, Xavier made himself walk to the door and open it up. He hesitated.

"Go," Justin told him again.

He left. Stood outside the door listening until someone came and locked the door. And that was it. He started down the stairs.

He'd never struck Justin in all of the time they'd been together outside of playing rough during sex but he was tempted to slap the shit out of him now. "What were you doing?"

"I was with Xavier."

"I know who the hell you were with, I want to know what was so goddamn important that you had to stand me up."

Knowing how lame it sounded, Justin replied, "I went to help Xavier pick out a birthday present for his Nana Rose."

Brian jerked away from the teenager to keep from hitting him. He stood with his back to Justin, breathing hard. And then his shoulders slumped.

Worried, Justin said, "Brian?"

He snickered. "I must be the world's biggest fuckin' fool." Laughed again. "Go." He turned around and waved towards the door. "You want to be with him? You go be with him." When Justin didn't move, he said in a louder, sterner voice, "Get the hell out!"

"Brian- -"

"If he's so goddamn important to you, more important than my fucking son, then you go be with him. Right now. Get out."

Justin's lip trembled. "Please- -"

Brian neared him and grabbed his arm. Tugged him towards the door. Flung it open and pushed him out. Slammed the door in his face and locked it. Slumped against it and closed his eyes. "No," he said as the first of the tears began. "No, goddamn it. No." Mind made up, he went to bed.

Justin sat down by the door and laid his head on his arms which were folded on top of his raised knees. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

As he'd expected, in the morning when he went to get the paper, Justin lay in the corner asleep. Picking up the newspaper, Brian slammed the door close again. Fuck him.

Jerking awake, Justin rubbed his eyes and checked his watch. Climbed to his feet and opened the door. Brian hadn't locked it again. Not that he couldn't have gotten in, having a key, it was just that he hadn't dared, not while Brian was so angry. At least the unlocked door meant he was willing to have Justin in the same space. He glanced at Brian sitting at the dining table and reading the paper. The man pretended not to hear him come in but he knew Brian was aware of his every move. Going into the bedroom, Justin began to strip when he heard Brian speak.

"The next time you can pack your shit and get the hell out."

Going to the doorway closest to Brian, Justin promised, "It won't happen again."

As if he hadn't heard him, Brian continued to page through the paper.

Justin’s cell vibrated in his pocket. Discreetly, he hoped, he checked to see who it was: Brian. Knowing that the man wouldn’t have called him on the day of one of his and Xavier’s date nights unless it was important, he fidgeted the fourteen minutes left until class was over, then dashed to his studio and called the ad exec back. “Hey, what’s up?”

”I need a favor.”


”Kenneth Harris is in town and wants to go out.”

”So?” Justin was confused. It wasn’t as if he and Brian had had plans.

”He wants to take us out.”

”Us who?”

”You and me.”



”But, Brian, it’s- -“

”I know. And I wouldn’t ask except that his account is the biggest one the firm handles and he just increased our budget. Baby,” said Brian, pausing, “I need you to do this for me.”

Justin pondered his decision, actually there was no other choice: he’d go with Brian. He only wondered how he was going to break the news to Xavier.

”I don’t care,” Xavier replied in response to the change in plans. “It’s not like I didn’t know anyway. That he comes first.”

”Xavier- -“

”That he’s more important to you than I am.” When Justin didn’t refute his claim, Xavier signed. “I don’t know why I even bother.” He left the studio.

Brian picked Justin up from the Institute and drove home where they quickly showered and dressed for dinner. They were to meet Harris at this rather exclusive restaurant hidden away in the midst of downtown Pittsburgh.

”Kind of like Sans Souci,” Justin commented. “I thought the driver had gotten the address wrong when he pulled up in front of it.”

”That was a good night.”

”The best,” Justin agreed.

And Brian added, “We don’t have a lot of those anymore.”

Justin said nothing in return. It was true. Things were still tense between them despite the limited progress they’d made. The three of them had shared a number of nights together since the first time but that was only part of it. They had so many other issues to work out. Tonight being the prime example. Xavier had been hurt and had ever right to be but why couldn’t he understand how important this was for Brian and not be? And why hadn’t Brian explained to Kenneth the reality of their situation? Neither one of them was willing to give an inch when you got right down to it.

Kenneth arrived alone a few minutes after they did and the maitre d’ showed them to a table. Over cocktails and appetizers Harris played the gracious host regaling them with tales about his childhood in rural Alabama.

”You ought to talk to Emmett,” Justin told him. “He grew up in Hazelhurst, Mississippi.”

”No way! I know where that is,” said Kenneth. “Good Lord, if there was anyplace worse to grow up in than Alabama, it was Mississippi.”

”It’s funny, cause Emmett talks about how horrible it was but, sometimes, it sounds like he had fun too,” said Justin.

”It wasn’t all bad,” explained Kenneth. “Some of the best times of my life happened when I was a kid. Despite everything.”

Not really wanting to go down memory lane in regards to his own fucked-up childhood, Brian excused himself to visit the restroom and to go outside for a smoke. His grand plans to quit had been sabotaged by recent events and he figured he’d never give them up so why fight it anymore? He was down to a couple a day and decided that was the best he could do.

Watching Brian leave with undisguised lust in his eyes, Kenneth told Justin, “You’re very lucky.”

”I know.”

”Do you? Did he tell you about his trip to Birmingham?”

”He said you had a great office.”

Kenneth laughed. “Yeah, well. . . Did he tell you how I tried to seduce him?” Justin shook his head. “Oh, yeah. Invited him back to my house for dinner, gave him the fifty cent tour of the mansion, fed him a fucking fantastic meal, and then proceeded to try and convince him to stay. And not just the night. Although that’s what he thought I was doing. But, between you and me, I’m rather smitten with him. Smart as the devil, sexy as hell, and I won’t lie to you, if he weren’t with you, I’d do everything I could to get him.” Harris smiled. “He’s a good man. Those are hard to come by these days.”

”He’s the best.”

”You ever get the urge to throw him away, I want you to remember that I’m waiting just around the corner and I’m not above offering him the sun and the moon if that’s what it takes.”

”It’s not,” said Justin.

Kenneth leaned forward. “Guess you’re not going to tell me, huh?”

”Trade secret,” smiled Justin.

”Smart boy. Never help the competition, I always say. Bad for business.”

When Brian returned they had dessert and coffee and over a second cup, Brian said to Kenneth, “I was thinking about your headquarters.”

Amused, Kenneth asked, “What about it?”

”The atrium. You know Justin attends to the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Arts.”

”And you want me to buy some of his work?”

”No,” Brian replied. “Wouldn’t fit in with your corporate image. But his friend, Xavier, I think his stuff would be perfect for you. Maybe Rennie’s too.”

”Another friend?”


Justin looked at Brian in disbelief.

Unaware of the context, Kenneth replied, “How about you send me their portfolios? I’ll take a look, see what I think?”

”Done,” Brian replied.

As they parted outside, Justin saw the way Kenneth’s eye lingered on Brian. Maybe Brian would be better off with someone like Harris, someone who’d love him, and cherish him, treat him the way he deserved. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t realize the limousine had pulled away until Brian kissed him on the forehead and said, “Come on. Let’s go home.”

Justin waited until they were undressing for bed to ask, “Why did you do that for Xavier?”

Taking a deep breath, Brian answered, “Because he’s good. Even I can see that.”

”Despite everything that’s happened?”

And Brian paused. “I’m not a saint. I’d be lying if I said I liked the way things are. I don’t. But I love you. And we’ll make it. We have to. Cause I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

”Harris would take you in a second.”

Brian smiled. “But I don’t want him. I have what I want.” He kissed Justin gently, then turned back the covers.

But the teen’s words stayed with him all the next day while Justin was off with Xavier to make up for their cancelled date night. Harris would take him in a New York minute, so would Trevor, and while there wasn’t any guarantees that things would work out any better with them than they had with Justin, at least it’d be a chance to start over. Only, the thought of leaving Justin made him ache inside. But was it any worse of an ache than how he felt when Justin left to go and meet Xavier? When Justin returned from being with Xavier? God, he wished he could get over it but he couldn’t. It was never going to be all right, he was never going to be able to deal with Justin and Xavier and all he was doing was lying to himself and to Justin and what the fuck good was that? Still, he didn’t know what else to do.

He found himself squatting in front of the television and putting in the tape of him and Cam in New York without having thought about doing so. Sitting in one of the armchairs, he watched himself walk down Christopher Street while Cam filmed him. “There’s Brian turning heads on Christopher Street,” Cam said off-screen. As Brian walked out of earshot, Cam asked of his invisible audience, “Isn’t he beautiful?” Brian turned and waved, bumping into some guy who, far from being upset, offered Brian something. Brian shook his head and pointed to Cam. The guy shrugged and walked away.

He’d offered to buy him a drink. At his place, Brian remembered. And he’d said, ”No, thanks. I’m with him.” It had seemed so simple, five little words, all monosyllabic, ”No, thanks. I’m with him.” But, to be fair, that guy had been a stranger, someone he’d seen once and would never see again except on tape, and Xavier was someone Justin had to see almost everyday. How easily would he have said no if that guy had worked in his office? If he’d been someone he’d actually felt anything for? Imagine, he told himself, if you had to see Trevor every day. Or Kenneth. How easy would it be for you to turn them down? You couldn’t even turn Trevor down. He hadn’t shared that with Justin. The time had never been right and, anyway, he never intended to do it again, wouldn’t have done it at all if Justin had been where he belonged instead of carrying on with Xavier.

Shutting off the tape, Brian closed his eyes and remained in the chair where he was, too tired to move.

He had nowhere to go, nothing to do. But he didn’t want to be home, not alone. Getting up, he put on his shoes and found his keys.

As he had with the videotape, he found himself at Deb’s house without having planned it. Hoped Mikey and Jeff weren’t there. Hoped Vic was out. As he pushed through the front door, he saw her seated at her sewing machine studying a pattern. She turned and took off her reading glasses. “Hey, kiddo. Where’s Sunshine?”

”With Xavier.”

”Well,” she began, “that would explain why you’re wasting your Saturday night with me.” Putting down her pattern, she got up. “You eat yet?”


”Hungry?” He shrugged, Brian-speak for ‘Maybe. What you got?’ “There’s lasagna in the oven.”

He’d become a pretty good helper, Deb noticed. Setting the table and pouring the wine while she served. Justin’s doing. So why weren’t they having dinner at their place? Why was Justin out with Xavier and Brian over here pretending he didn’t care? And doing a piss poor job of it too.

She hadn’t asked him anything else while they were eating and he was grateful because he needed all the time he could get to pull himself together. And she knew it. He could never put anything over on her. Although he’d tried. From day one he’d pitted his wiles against hers and not once had he ever gotten the best of her. There’d been a number of draws over the years but no outright victories on his part. She’d been onto him, same as Lindsay, same as Justin.

”So whatcha gonna do?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know.”

”Shitty answer.”

”Best I’ve got.”

”What do you want?”

”What I can’t have.”

”You? Brian fuckin’ Kinney? You mean there’s something even you can’t get? I don’t believe it.” She finished her wine. “And, more importantly, it’s not true.”

”Yeah, it is.”

”Justin loves you.”

”Just not enough.”

”That’s not true.”

”Then why is he doing this to me?”

”Because you’re letting him.”

”What am I supposed to do? Force him to give up Xavier? And then what? Wait for him to start sneaking around behind my back to see him? I can’t stop him from doing what he wants, Deb. And I wouldn’t even try. He shouldn’t stop seeing him. Not if that’s what he wants.”

”But you’re the one getting hurt, Brian.”

”Because I’m letting him. You’re right about that.”

Frustrated, she asked, “So we’re back to my first question: what are you going to do?”

Instead of answering her question, he got up and began clearing the table.

He hadn’t heard most of what Xavier had said all evening. Not because he wasn’t interested, he just had his mind on other things. Other people. One person. Brian. And Xavier had to know.

But he wasn’t saying anything since Justin had told him how Brian had gone to bat for him, suggesting that Kenneth Harris buy some of his artwork. Besides, he wasn’t a fool. Anything negative he said about Brian would translate into negative cool points for him. Better to let Justin drift every now and then than to complain about the neglect.

By the time they’d gotten back to Xavier’s room, Justin was about half a word away from bawling and not doing a good job of hiding it. Not sure what he should do, Xavier tried to distract him with making love but it soon became quite obvious that Justin wasn’t interested. Letting Xavier kiss him for a couple minutes while halfheartedly returning the gesture, Justin finally pushed his lover away and sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.



”Bullshit.” Justin flinched and Xavier was instantly ashamed. Sliding closer, he embraced him from behind, rested his chin on the teen’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

How could he say that he missed Brian? Instead, he smiled crookedly. “I guess I’m just not in the mood.”

Xavier kissed his neck, then drew him back onto the bed and held him. “It’s okay, J.” And that did it, the tears started to trickle down his cheeks.

Softly, Xavier whispered, “It’s okay.”

As Justin walked in, Brian looked up from the crossword and said, “Lindsay’s bringing Gus over around one to spend the afternoon.”

”Cool.” He paused on the way to the shower and kissed Brian.

Out of force of habit, Brian inhaled his scent, thinking he’d smell the familiar tell-tale odor of soap, and he didn’t. He wondered what that meant. Probably that they’d fucked themselves silly yesterday and hadn’t been able to summon the energy to do so this morning. No sense in reading more into it than was there.

Having showered and dressed, Justin came out and asked, “Want some waffles?” knowing Brian hadn’t had anything for breakfast.

”Whatever,” he replied which Justin correctly interpreted as Brianese for, ‘Yes, thank you.’

Giving him another kiss as he passed again, Justin grinned.

They ate waffles and bacon while trading parts of the paper, Justin going straight for the Arts and Entertainment section, Brian dividing his attention between the Business and the Style pages.

In an hour there came a knock on the door, just as Brian was loading up the dishwasher. “I’ll get it,” Justin said and he pulled open the heavy metal door to find Lindsay on the other side, with Gus holding her hand. “What’s that smell?” Justin asked.

”Gus,” she replied. “I gotta change him.”

”I’ll do it,” he volunteered and picked the baby up, holding him at arm’s length. “Come on, Gus.”

Brian came out of the kitchen waving his hand in front of his face. “What did you feed him for breakfast?”

”Nevermind.” Lindz put down Gus’ things by the counter. Waited until Justin and the baby were in the bathroom to ask, “So how are you?”



”Things.” And he had been, since his talk with Deb the night before. Thinking hard about his life and what he wanted out of it.

She could see it in his eyes. “Brian. . . ?”

He shook his head. “Not yet. But- -"


They looked to see Gus come running out of the bathroom with his arms extended. No pants. Brian stooped and picked him up.



Gus kissed him and he kissed him back. “Dada, Pooh.”

”What about Pooh?” Justin had come out and stood near them holding the toddler's trousers.

”Pooh, Dada,” Gus said again, frowning as if they were being deliberately obtuse.

”What?” Gus kissed him again and Brian finally understood. Laughing, he leaned over and kissed Justin. Gus giggled and Brian kissed Justin again which set the baby off once more. Brian told him, “You’ve got a future as a either a mediator or a pimp.”

With Lindsay gone, the three men settled down for an afternoon of cartoon violence. Gus was mesmerized, laughing as Wile E. Coyote chased the Roadrunner and Sylvester tried to catch Tweety Bird. Brian, of course, found himself rooting for the coyote and cat. He hated that damn Roadrunner and Tweety Bird was a waste of feathers in his opinion. Which he kept to himself. Let Gus make up his own mind. Although it seemed that Gus was far more taken with Bugs and Daffy than anyone else, dancing along with Bugs as the bunny did a soft-shoe routine.

”Hey,” said Justin, “maybe Gus is going to be a dancer. Like in Billy Elliot.” He and Brian had watched that on video one Saturday night, both of them drooling over the dancer that had played the grown-up Elliot. After seeing him in a brief snippet of the all-male Swan Lake in the film, they’d gone out and bought the Matthew Bourne ballet.

”I fucked a ballet dancer once,” Brian told him. “Had the worse toes ever. But an ass like you wouldn’t believe.” Raised an eyebrow, knowing how proud Justin was of his ass and rightly so. It was perfect.

”I bet it- -“ The phone rang interrupting his comment. Putting it on hold, Justin went to answer. “Hello.”

Brian waited.

”Yeah.” Justin turned slightly away from him.


”I know. I haven’t forgotten. No.” He lowered his voice, “Me too. Later.” Hung up the phone.

Luckily, at that moment, Gus chose to make a run for the television set, distracting Brian. By the time Justin had returned, he’d decided not to care.

”I need to go to the studio this evening. Work on a project.”


”You mind?”

”School comes first.”

”I can stay for dinner.”

”Fine.” Gus tugged on his arm and he lifted him up so that the baby could hug him.

At the last moment, he turned and looked back at Brian, sitting on the bed flipping through a magazine, Gus asleep next to him.

Sitting at the table balancing his checkbook, Justin went, "Fuck!"

Brian looked up over the back of the sofa. "What?"

"It's your birthday this weekend."

He laid back down and went back to his book. "So?"

Trying to ignore the tone, Justin asked, "You want a party?"

"No, I do not want a party."

"But I had a party."


"You should have one too."

"I'm not nineteen."

"No shit," Justin said carelessly. The quiet was such that he could hear Brian turning the page of the book. Shit. "I didn't mean anything."

"Yeah, you did. You meant that I'm not a kid anymore." Brian raised up. "Well, guess what? I can fucking count too and I know exactly how old I am."

"Brian- -"

"And I don't need you or anybody else to remind me of it."

"I'm sorry."

"You mean you give a shit about someone other than yourself?" Brian asked before ducking back behind the sofa.

"What does that mean?"

"You got a fifteen hundred on your SATs, you figure it out."

"I'm a little slow," Justin said, standing and walking over to the couch where Brian lay, "so why don't you explain it to me?"

Brian sat up. "It means I thought this was your world and we only got to live in it."

"Fuck you," he said, turning away.

"Not if it's Friday."

Justin stopped. "That's what this is about: Xavier. Why does everything have to be about him?"

"You tell me. I wasn't the one who let him into our lives." Brian got up from the couch and went into the bedroom, returned with his shoes on and his jacket.

"Where are you going?"


"You're just gonna run away? I want to talk about this."

Brian faced him. "Talk about what, Justin? I'm talked out. I'm fucking tired of talking. The more we talk, the less I end up with." He started out again, then stopped. "First it was a night, now he's sleeping in our bed, what's next? How about this? How about you throw him a birthday party? We're both the same in your eyes anyway, so what difference does it make whose birthday it really is? You can pretend it's me. Gus can call him Dada, Lindsay can hit him up for sperm and money; you can dress him in my clothes, cook for him, fuck him, do whatever you want. You do anyway."

Justin watched him throw open the door and leave, slamming it behind him.

The first thing that crossed his mind when he awoke was Fuck, I'm thirty-one and then I'm alone. Justin had disappeared Friday night as usual to meet with Xavier and he'd pretended that it was no different from any other Friday night, that he didn't care, that the idea of lying awake in bed until midnight was no big deal. In the end he'd gone to Babylon with the guys and danced until two in the morning, fending off a trio of persistent hotties who wanted to take him back to their place and do him. Totally wasted, Mikey had to drive him home with Jeff following in his car. Waving Mikey away as soon as he got upstairs, he went inside to find the loft empty and dropped off his clothes and crawled into bed. But he hadn't thought about it being his birthday and the guys hadn't mentioned it. He'd threatened to kill them if any of them planned anything so he was reasonably sure there wouldn't be any surprise party this year. And, of course, he'd blasted Justin too so he didn't even expect the teen to show up today, despite it being their day. Why the fuck should he? Only, he'd kinda hoped that maybe Justin. . . Too late.

He sat up and something fell from the covers onto the floor. Reaching over the side, he felt around for it and picked it up. A card with his name on the outside. Opening it, he saw on the top half: I know you are reading this poem/ in a room where too much has happened for you to bear/ where the bedlothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed/ and the open valise speaks of flight/ but you cannot leave yet.**** And on the bottom half of the card: Love lover beloved loved one/ lovely lovelier loveliest lovable love/ love loveless lovelorn lovelone lovelack lacklove/ unloved misloved disloved underloved subloved***** Brian frowned. Justin was here? "Justin?" No answer. He threw back the covers and padded to the bathroom, needing to piss anyway.

Getting straight to business, it was only as he was flushing the toilet that he saw another card. Opened it. Read: I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light/ in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,/ count themselves out, at too early an age. Then: lovingkindess lovingcare tenderlove dearlove/ sweetlove kindlove heartlove soullove/ lovelily lovingly lovedlily lovably/ lovelook lovetouch lovespeech lovetalk

With a mystery to solve, he went in search of the teen, stopping to pick up a card from the dining room table. I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn/ between bitterness and hope/ turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. And: closelove tightlove nightlove dawnlove/ morninglove freshlove lovecalls lovecries/ love love love love love love love/ relove overlove surlove superlove/ everyloving heavenlove soullove heartlove truelove

Taking the three cards with him, he looked on the kitchen counter and saw nothing, then over towards the livingroom and there it was. I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else/ left to read/ there where you have landed, stripped as you are. Glancing down: loveosity lovefeats lovefeast lovefest/ loveniks lovadors lovathon longlove lastinglove/ lovability lovingness reloved surloved superloved

Then from behind him came the sound of Justin's voice, growing louder the closer the boy came to him, "loveliness lover beloved loved one love done/ love you love you love you love you" As he spoke the last word, he closed his arms around Brian and the man shivered. He said again, "love you love you love you love you" Justin kissed his shoulder. "I love you."

Brian turned in his arms and kissed the teen.

"I love you."

Gathering him up, Brian carried him to their bedroom, the cards discarded like items of useless clothing.

He loved slow beginnings: lying beneath Brian, the man kissing him until their lips were pink and puffy, feeling his cock brush against his hole, teasing him, begging to be let in, to slide through, and up inside him.

He loved slow beginnings: the lazy pumping of Brian's hips, the easy rise and fall of their chests, the throbs of pleasure that pulsed through his body, everything slowed down so that everything was experienced, appreciated, savored.

Justin's fingers trailed over Brian's shoulders, back, and ass, accompanied by his feathery whisperings. "Brian. . . Brian. . . "

"Yeah, baby," he said and he kissed the teen knowing that his kisses and the continued movement of his hips were what his lover craved.

"Yes. . ." Justin sighed and he gripped Brian's ass and pressed him closer.

Brian nuzzled his neck. "Hold on," he told the boy and felt Justin's thighs tighten around him. He turned them over and laid still as Justin adjusted to the new position, getting up on hands and knees above him, still maintaining almost full body contact, his cock hard between their bellies. Slowly, leisurely, Justin began to rock back and forth, sliding up and down Brian's rigid shaft, his cock and balls getting harder each time he rubbed against Brian. Lifting his torso, arms straight beneath him, Justin ground his ass against Brian's groin, the man's dick hard inside him, squeezing him between the walls of his hole. He felt his balls throb and he hissed, head thrown back.

His belly was suddenly wet with Justin's cum. "Yeah, baby," he whispered. "More," and Justin convulsed again.

When he'd stopped jerking, Justin sat up and ran his hands over his abdomen and chest, then down around his cock, moistening his fingers with the last few drops of jizz. Brian was still inside him, still rock hard and throbbing. Justin relaxed his muscles and slowly rotated his hips. At the end of the circuit, he squeezed. Brian cried out and gripped the sheets. Again Justin swiveled his hips and again Brian cried out as he clamped down on him.

Changing motions, Justin began to rise and fall on his lover's dick, still in half time until Brian begged him, "Faster, baby. Faster," and he increased the pace, bouncing on him, milking him. Brian gave a shout and shuddered.

Smiling, Justin rode him through his orgasm. "Give it to me," he purred.

They slept for an hour before rising to eat brunch. Justin promised Brian southwestern omelets, chorizo, and papaya juice. "And Rolaids," Brian added, perching on the barstool to help chop peppers and onions but Justin shook his head.

"It's your birthday. You watch and I'll work."

"That my present?" Brian asked, guessing justin must have discovered hos much he liked to watch him cook.

"Uh-uh," he said. "Later. After we eat."

So they ate, Brian praising the meal saying it was the best one he'd had since they'd had dinner with Kenneth Harris.

"Wait until dinner."

Brian glimpsed the cards on the floor and thought about the fact that the refrigerator had been been empty last night, and asked, "When did you do all this?"

"Early this morning. You were sleeping pretty soundly."

Ruefully, Brian admitted, "I had a little help."

"Mikey drive you home?"


Justin laughed. "Remember that pop quiz you gave me in the Jeep the night Gus was born?"

Without pausing to think, he asked, "Do you want to come home with me?"

"A: Yes."

"B: Yes."

"Or C: Yes," Justin said and he lifted Brian's hand and kissed his knuckles, lips brushing over his ring.

"You had no fucking idea what you were getting into." Brian ran his fingers over Justin's, over his ring finger. "If you'd known then what you know now, would you still have come?"

"Yes." No hesitation.

Brian smiled softly, then asked, "Where's my present?" in his bratty Brian voice.

Grateful for the change in mood, Justin went into the bedroom and opened one of the drawers in his chest. Came back and handed the present to Brian who took a moment to admire the soft mauve paper and deep burgandy ribbon and bow before tearing into it. Smiled when he saw what it was. A CD-ROM of Paris for photographers.

"It tells you where all the best photo ops are," he said. "And what are the best times of day to shoot each one."

"Thanks, baby," said Brian, pulling Justin down onto his lap for a kiss.

"You'll be the next Doisneau."

"We could restage 'The Kiss.' "

"Hey!" exclaimed Justin, the idea having just come to him. "We could do like Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss and reenact all of his couples photographs."

"Sounds perfect." He lifted the box again. "This is perfect."

And as Brian put down the CD-ROM, Justin added, "Don't forget this," and handed him a piece of heavy cardstock with one word written on it: Wish. Brian looked puzzled so Justin explained. "It's for you. Like a get out of jail free card except this is a wish card." He locked eyes with Brian so that the man would understand exactly what he was saying. "Anything you want. It's yours."

And Brian did understand. This was their way out. For him to use the card and ask Justin to let Xavier go, to come back to him without any conditions or clauses. For things to go back to the way they were. Only, they never could be, not really. And he couldn't use this as a way to get Justin back. It had to be Justin's decision, with no coersion on his part. The time for games was over. He knew that but the card proved that Justin didn't or wasn't willing to admit it, not even to himself. Smiling to let him know he appreciated it, Brian said, "I'll hold onto it." He placed it on top of the CD-ROM box. "For something really important."

Justin kissed him gently on the lips. Use it soon, he pleaded silently. "I love you."

Brian tightened his arms around the teen. "I love you, baby."

After brunch came an afternoon of shopping, Justin saying he'd missed hitting the boutiques with Brian. "Besides," he told the man, "I need new underwear."

"What do you do to those things?" Brian asked.

"If you'd stop chewing on them," he began and Brian swatted him on the bottom as they left the loft. "Ow!"

They hit Brian's favorite place first, browsing through the summer suits, the ad exec saying that he needed a new lightweight linen suit but nothing grabbed him, except Justin as they moved behind the rack out of sight. "Behave," Brian warned him.

"Or what?"

"Or I'll have to spank you."

"Oh, please," Justin begged in a husky voice, "anything but that."

Brian lowered his lids and a smile curled around his lips like a sunning cat. "Let's go look at the underwear."

"I like the way you're always thinking about my ass," Justin quipped as he walked out in front.

Gaze following the boy's swaying hips, Brian growled, "Asshole," and laughed.

Having modeled their purchases in the privacy of their own bedroom, Brian lost no time in pulling Justin's briefs down around his knees and spanking the teen soundly, the little cries of discomfort making his cock strain against the front of his cotton thong. When Justin's cheeks were warm and pink, he stopped and kissed each buttock gratefully, slipping his tongue into the crevice of his little boy's ass.

Justin moaned and would have allowed Brian to continue but he wanted a taste of his man's cock, having been denied one all day. Easing from beneath Brian's grip, he pushed his lover back onto the bed and spread his thighs, crawled between his legs, and, eyes on Brian's face, closed his mouth around the cotton-covered bulge.

"Baby," hissed Brian and that was the last intelligible thing he said for the next ten minutes.

Neither one of them bothering to dress, Justin slipped on an apron to make dinner, and the outline of his cock tenting the front and the way the tie draped down between his buttocks in the back kept Brian half-hard all during the preparation. Finally, as the food went into the oven to broil, Brian moved behind him and slipped his hand beneath the skirt. Encountered Justin's hard-on. The teen sighed, then Brian turned him around and dropped to his knees. "Appetizers?" he drawled as Brian devoured his cock.


They danced after dinner, gently swaying to the music, remembering (as they could now) the prom and how they'd wowed everyone there. It was good to have closed that chapter of their lives. Even though he had spoken for leniency, Justin didn't know what he would have done if Chris Hobbs' hadn't been convicted and sentenced to any jail time. Fortunately, thanks to Keisha and Brian, he didn't have to deal with that. Stopping, he took Brian's hand and led him from the livingroom.

Brian watched him sleep from the doorway. He'd gotten up and disengaged the teen's arms from around him, waiting before moving again to see if Justin would awaken. When he didn't, he slipped from the bed and tiptoed down the steps. But, at the bottom, he turned and stood studying him while he slept. He was still so beautiful. If he'd found him one whit less attractive, less arousing, it would have been marginally easier to let go. As is, it felt like he was tearing out his own heart.

He picked up the wish card and the note cards from where they lay on the counter and carried them and the bottle of Jim Beam to the chaise lounge. Set it on the table next to him and sat down, rereading the poems, hearing Justin's voice say, "love you love you love you love you"

Grabbing the bourbon, he took a swig. Closed his eyes and took another. How? How was he going to do it when he could barely think about it?

The Beam wasn't going to help, sitting in the dark alone wasn't going to help, nothing was going to help. Nothing. It would just be another thing he had to do, another impossible thing following a number of impossible things.

I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn/ between bitterness and hope/ turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.

Turning in his sleep, he felt Brian's warmth next to him, and he settled down once more, everything in its place.

A door shutting. That's what the end of love sounded like. A door shutting as one person walked from the room. As another was left behind. Even though he was about to open the door to Xavier's studio, Brian could hear a door shutting in his mind, see Justin walking away from him, leaving him behind just as Cam had. No matter how many times he'd tried to forstall it, the day had finally come.

He opened the door without knocking. Xavier was inside sketching on a piece of paper, deep in concentration. Brian watched him for a moment, as he'd watched Justin more than once. As he'd probably never do again. Finally Xavier realized he wasn't alone. Looked up. Figured Brian was looking for Justin. Said casually, "He's not here."

"I know." He was working the evening shift at the diner.

So it was like that, then, thought Xavier. "What's up?"

"This isn't working," Brian told him.

Instantly, Xavier panicked. "You haven't- -"

"None of us are happy. Not really. And we all know it."

Xavier couldn't refute that. He definitely wasn't. "But he was there for you, for your birthday," Xavier said, thinking it had something to do with that incident.

"You think that's what I want? Special occasions? I get St. Patrick's Day and the Fourth of July and you get Christmas and Valentine's Day? I want a life with Justin. Monday through Sunday, paying the bills, buying groceries, babysitting Gus- - " He paused, unable to go on for a moment. "I want it all. I want a life. It's what I thought I had."

"So what does that mean?" Xavier asked, holding his breath. For me?

The words came hard. "Justin. . . Justin cheated on me to be with you." A long pause. "But he wouldn't give you up to be with me." Even though he gave me that card, he couldn't do it himself.

Although he thought he knew what Brian meant, he couldn't believe it. "You backing off?"

He had to get out before he broke down. "I'm tired," he said softly, "and I don't want to play anymore." The sound of the door shutting behind him as he left was like a clap of thunder. And the rain, he barely made it to the stairwell before the rain came.

Drew had suspected that something major had happened when Brian had called him wanting an appointment that day, but seeing him now, in his office, he was certain of it. Brian sat in his chair, face already streaked with dried tears. He looked as if he was barely holding it together. "Brian?"

"I can't do this anymore."

He didn't ask if he was sure, he was, you could see it in his eyes: the devestation, the loss. "Have you told Justin?"

"I talked to Xavier. So he'll know soon enough." The tears began again and he made no attempt to wipe them away. "I just- - I can't do it anymore."

Moving closer, Drew said, "It's okay."

Brian shook his head. "I don't know how I'm gonna live without him," and he covered his face and wept because the pain, the pain was almost more than he could stand and, yet, he had to do it because it was killing him, this thing with Justin and Xavier, and he had to save himself before there was nothing left. And, still, he hated himself for leaving, for giving up but he had to, there was no other way. He'd done everything he could and nothing had worked and he was so tired. . . And that card, that Justin hadn't been able to walk away from Xavier on his own, it was more than he could stand.

Drew held him as he cried. "We'll get through this," he promised him.

"I'm scared," he whispered, needing Justin to hold him but Justin wasn't there, wouldn't be there ever again.

"I'll be here when you need me. And your friends. Your family. We'll help you," said Drew. "You won't be alone."

"It hurts," Brian confessed. More than anything had ever hurt him, more than he had thought possible. At any moment he expected his body to split open, unable to contain it all but it didn't because the pain had become a part of him, inseparable from his flesh and bones.

"It won't always."

But it would. That much he knew. The same way it always hurt him to think about Cam. Now, there would be this other pain, greater than before, shadowing his heartbeat.

There were two things left to do. The card was in his jacket pocket. He removed it and tore it in half. There were no such things as free wishes. Everything had to be paid for out here in the really real world. He took hold of his ring as if to pull it off and paused. Forever Faithful, Justin, that's what it said on the inside. He remembered telling the jeweller the words to engrave, thinking it'd be more of a test for him than Justin, thinking to himself, I have to put him first now, remembering how proud he'd been of himself for taking this final step.

"It won't always be easy."

"Never has been," Justin said, laughing and sniffling at the same time.

"But that's us. And I want everyone to know. That we're together."

"You think someone might try to steal me away?"

"You're not going anywhere," Brian replied, full of confidence.

And Justin agreed. "No. I'm not."

But he had gone away.

Brian rubbed his finger over the design that ran along the middle of the ring. A Celtic knot. Symbolizing forever. Four months. Four fucking months. Closing his eyes, he pulled the ring from his finger and held it in his palm.

It was done.


He looked around, a tray full of dirty dishes in his hands.

"You forgot your tip."

"Oh." Absent-mindedly, he pocketed it.

Deb frowned. He'd been only half there all evening, mind occupied with some other problem. His shift was almost over and she was glad. Maybe then he could go deal with whatever it was.

Xavier wasn't suprised to see him at the door of his studio. He'd been expecting it. Hoping for it. Brian's news had just about driven him crazy. He hadn't been able to work at all after the man had left. Finally, he'd taken out his cell and called Nana Rose. He could still hear her saying, "Xavier, I can't tell you what to do no more. You're a grown man. You've got to make your own decisions. But I suspect you know what you're going to do. You just wanted to hear Nana's voice, ain't that right?" and he'd laughed and said, "Yes," and, "I love you, Nana."

Now he heard her voice in his head as Justin entered the room hesitantly. "Hey, J."


Justin had made no move to come closer or to kiss him. And that's when he knew, truly knew what he had to do. He waited a moment, then said, "Brian came by tonight."

"For what?" Justin asked, alarmed.

"He said he's backing off, giving you up." Before Justin could respond to that, Xavier added, "But you're not giving him up, are you?"

Justin shook his head. "Can't."

"I know," Xavier told him. "I've known all along, I guess. Just wanted to enjoy it while I could."

"I love you, Xavier."

Nodding, he said, "I know you do. And I love you. A lot. But he loves you more." He smiled. "When we were together, you know? I could tell. By the way he is around you."


"Satisfied. It's like you're the only thing he wants or needs."

"What about you?"

"I need you too. And I want you. But I want other things too. I want to be a good sculptor, I want to go places and meet different people. . . And I could do that with you, I know, but Brian, he doesn't need any of that. He'd be happy just being with you. And you'd be happy and satisfied being with him. Cause you've got a life together. You don't have to go out and find one, it's right there. And you've worked hard for it. I can't mess that up."

"What about you?"

Xavier smiled and cocked his head, a twinkle in his eye. "I'm gone get a hot, blond twinkie of my own."

"There's no one like me," boasted Justin.

Quietly, "I know."

"And I am not a twinkie."

"Let's see: golden on the outside, creamy on the inside," Xavier teased. "Sounds like a twinkie to me."

Laughing as Xavier had intended, Justin asked, "You sure about this?"

"Ain't you?"

"No more lies?"

"No more."

"No more running home to hide?"


Justin told him, "Emmett always says to let your little light shine."

"Not so little," Xavier bragged.

"Got that right," agreed Justin. "And we're still friends?"

After a pause, Xavier said, "The best."


"Honest to God."

"You let Nana Rose hear you using the Lord's name in vain, she'll whip your butt."

"You gone give me up?" asked Xavier. The other meaning made itself clear to the both of them. They moved together and hugged one another.

Do you remember looking out over the Potomac from the top of the Washington Monument? Do you remember holding hands beneath the table in that restaurant in Dupont Circle? Dancing with Nana Rose? Stealing a kiss behind a hedge in Georgetown? All the things they couldn't say would remain inside their hearts, packed away like keepsakes. They parted, then came together again and stood holding one another. I remember. . .

Justin pulled away, at last, and began walking towards the door. Xavier chuckled. "Maybe Rennie'll talk to us now. Daphne too."

"And it's been soo nice and quiet." Justin gave a little wave. "See you Monday."

"Later, Boy Wonder."

As he passed through the doorway, Justin felt a little twinge of sadness. He'd never be J again.

Brian heard the door slide open and made himself remain in the bedroom. He would do this and mourn and then go on with his life. Justin walked up the steps and paused and Brian nearly faltered but he forced out the question. "You see Xavier?"


He sniffled to keep back the tears. "Come to get your stuff?"

"I came to get what's mine."

So it was truly over. Not able to watch him pack, Brian started past Justin when the teen caught his arm. Pulled his head down and kissed him.

"You didn't think I'd let you go, did you? You're mine. Forever and ever. That's what I promised," the boy said, voice thick with emotion. "That's what I mean."

"But what about- -"

Justin silenced his question with a kiss. "Just you and me. That's all that matters." He took Brian's right hand in his and slid his ring back onto the third finger. "You left this on the counter. Better be careful or you might lose it next time."

"Never," promised Brian, throwing his arms around Justin and holding him. "Never, baby," he whispered again, heart beating so hard against his chest that he gasped.

all i ever wanted/ all i ever needed/ is here in my arms. . .******

"Never again," Justin averred and even if he'd never be J again, he would always be Brian's baby. He pulled apart from his lover and handed Brian a piece of heavy cardstock.

Taking it, Brian examined both sides and saw that it was blank. Puzzled, he started to ask why and then he realized why. They had no need for wishes or words.

words are very unnecessary/ they can only do harm. . .

The vows they'd taken that New Year's Day still held true. Drawing Justin into his arms, he closed his eyes, content once more.

In the hours after midnight, they slept entwined, undaunted by the impermanence of love and unaware of the immortality of the moon and stars.

Songs and Poetry

* from "Enjoy the Silence," by Martin L. Gore, EMI Blackwood Music Inc. (BMI), 1990.

** from "Fallen" by Alicia Keyes, Lellow Music Publishing/EMI Music Publishing (ASCAP), 2001.

*** from "At the Zoo" by Paul Simon, 1968.

**** from "XIII: Dedications" by Adrienne Rich in An Atlas of the Difficult World, W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

***** from "Love Poem" by Dudley Randall in Love You, Paul Breman, 1970.

****** from "Enjoy the Silence," by Martin L. Gore, EMI Blackwood Music Inc. (BMI), 1990.

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