Justin had been home from the hospital for a couple of weeks now and for the past five days had been pestering Brian to make good on his bedside promise to spend the night together; but each evening Brian arrived at Deb's, had dinner there with him-- or they went out-- and each night he kissed the teen goodbye and returned home alone, leaving Justin by himself, each bound for his solitary bed. Justin would watch him pull away, making himself stand still on the stoop until he had driven from sight, before going inside the house.

On the last such night, Deb greeted him from the kitchen where she and Vic were playing Gin Rummy. "Hey, Sunshine, have a good time?" Then to Vic, "Like I have to ask."

"Yeah," he replied absent-mindedly, hand on the railing as if he were heading up to bed, but he didn't, just stood there lost in thought.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He went on up saying, "Goodnight."

Deb turned to Vic. "You buy that?"

"Not in the slightest," he replied. "Looks like there's trouble in Paradise."

"They haven't even gotten to Paradise yet." Shook her head. "Fuckin' Brian... If he's hurt that kid—"

But Vic disagreed. "I don't think he's done anything. I think that's the problem." He stood. "Maybe I should handle this one. Being a fellow invalid and all."

Justin hard a soft rap and, expecting Deb, said, "Come on." He was surprised to see Vic enter instead.

"Got a minute?"

"Sure. I've got twenty until the next big event in my life," he said bitterly, "my ten o'clock meds." Then, realizing who he was talking to, "Sorry."

"Frustrating, huh?"

"I feel fine," explained Justin, "but everyone treats me like I'm about to break. I'm not."

"I know. But they're scared. He's scared," said Vic, going to the heart of the matter. "I don't think he'd ever been scared in his life until that moment."

"But I'm fine."

Vic sat on the bed next to Justin. "But he's not." His words clearly disturbed the teen, he got up and wandered around the room. "So many things happened that night, Justin. The whole world changed for him and he's still trying to find his way through it."

"But we can do it together," Justin protested.

"You are. You are together." Vic waited until Justin had calmed down and taken a seat at his computer desk before continuing. "And there's more to being together than being intimate." He held up a hand to forestall any complaints. "I know, I know, that's the fun part. But there are other parts that are just as important. You have to be patient with him."

Justin flipped through some papers. "I've been patient."

"Then keep on being patient. And understanding. And loving. And all of those things that are important to him, that he needs you to be right now. He's not going anywhere. You won't lose him." He smiled. "It's just sex."

But Justin didn't return his smile. "It's more than that."

"You want to make love to your lover," Vic said, still smiling just a little wistfully.

"It's all I think about."

"Youth," snorted Vic. "I'd be exhausted if all I ever did was think about sex all day."

"And night," added Justin.

"And night." Vic stood. "Beating off a little while longer won't kill you." Justin looked properly scandalized, so much so that the man laughed. Gripped his shoulder, and left.

Once Vic was gone, Justin thought about what he had said. Maybe he was right, maybe Brian needed time to deal with their new relationship without the pressures of sex. He could wait. Of course, he didn't have any choice. He just hoped that Brian worked through whatever it was he needed to work through—and soon.

Drawing his robe about him, he sat cross-legged on the sofa and flicked on the television, turned to CNN and promptly tuned out news of the world. His cell phone lay on the cushion next to him. He had picked it up at least three times and each time laid it back down, the call aborted. The sound of the news anchor penetrated his thoughts and he stabbed the power button returning her voice and image to oblivion. He let his head rest on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. Opened them and glanced over at the telephone. What would it hurt if he called him? Just to say goodnight. There was precedent. It wouldn't alarm Justin too much. Reaching for the phone, he paused as someone tapped on the door. Mikey.

Michael was taken aback by his robe. "You sick?"

He gave a little shake of his head. "Early night."

"Were you in bed?" he asked coming in and closing the door.

Brian walked back around the end of the sofa and sat down. "Nope. Just sitting here."

Michael joined him. "Doing what?"

"Nothing." Glanced at the cell phone. "Thinking."

"About Justin?"

He didn't answer, didn't have to.

"You two okay?"

"Yeah." He got up and grabbed a beer from the fridge. "Want one?"

"I had way too many at Woody's," he said, but he took one any way when Brian handed it to him. "We missed you guys."

"He wasn't up to the noise tonight." Brian reclaimed his seat. "So what'd you want?"

Trying not to take offence at the tone of voice and the implications of the question, Michael replied, "I wanted to see my best friend. Is that allowed?"

Brian set his beer on the table in front of them, having only taken a sip. "You talk to the Doc lately?"

"Couple days ago. He's still pretty wrapped up in Hank and his new practice." Michael's dark eyes seemed even darker as he said, "I don't think he misses me at all."

"He misses you." Pause. "I'd miss you if you were all the way cross country."

"No, you wouldn't." He stood and went to the refrigerator, rummaged around for something to eat. "You've got Justin now."

Brian joined him, carrying their beer bottles. "Justin's not my best friend. You are." He opened the cabinet and removed a bag of microwave popcorn. "Here."

They sat on the floor eating from a bowl between them. Carrie-Anne Moss was kicking some cop's ass on the TV screen.

"So what's wrong?"

He popped a few kernels in his mouth and chewed. "I don't know. I wish I did." A muscle tightened in his jaw. "I feel..." He looked down at his hands. Glanced at the screen and saw Trinity barely escape being crushed by a truck inside a telephone booth. "Like that."

Michael didn't understand. "What?"

He pointed to the screen. "Like I just barely escaped with my life."

"That's natural after what happened..."

"Except that there's no other side." Michael stared at him, waiting for him to explain. "There's no other place. It's like I never left that parking garage." Pressed his lips tightly together, blinked rapidly. "I keep seeing Justin lying on the ground..."

Michael reached out and lightly stroked his neck like he had in the hospital. "He's okay. He's safe. Because of you," he whispered, knowing that at these times Brian was as skittish as a horse. "You saved him."

"Then why do I feel this way?" he asked, his hazel eyes troubled, cloudy.

"Maybe you need to go somewhere, just the two of you, get away from all the reminders."

Brian shook his head. "He's got school." Then laughed bitterly. "I'm in love with an eighteen-year-old twink."

"It could be worse." Brian looked at him incredulously. "He could be an eighteen-year-old girl."

Brian burst out laughing, then said sincerely, "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For being my best friend, even when I don't deserve it."

"I'll always be there for you. No matter what."

Brian remembered Michael saying that at the side of the Turnpike and he had kissed him, wanting him to stay his and not become the Doc's, doing anything he could to keep Mikey with him. Now, he felt guilty because, once again, he was the reason Michael was alone. "It's not too late. For you to go to David."

But Michael disagreed. "I think we need some time apart. I need some time to think about what I need. What's best for me."

"I'm sorry, Mikey."


"I shouldn't have called you. I should have waited."

"For what?" asked Michael. "For me to be stuck somewhere over Ohio? I would have never forgiven you."

"But you missed your chance."

"Maybe. Or maybe things'll still work out. You never know."

Brian picked up his beer, held it absent-mindedly as he spoke. "You remember when we were kids? All the shit we went through? I couldn't wait to get the fuck out of Pittsburgh, to get away from my mom and dad and fuckin' Claire. I thought if I could only get away from them, maybe I'd have a chance, maybe I'd become something better. But I didn't. I was, like, twenty times worse than any of them because I knew better. A total fucking asshole... because I could be... and I didn't give a shit. I didn't owe the world a goddamn thing because all the world ever gave me was a kick in the ass." He put the beer back down, untouched. "But now, with Justin... I've got a chance to become someone different. A person I can be proud of... and I don't want to fuck it up."

Michael embraced him. "You won't." When they parted, he grabbed his jacket. "I gotta go."

They kissed at the door like they always did and Michael said goodnight. Afterwards, Brian went to bed but he didn't sleep, he couldn't sleep. Despite Michael's reassurances, he wasn't certain at all that he wouldn't do something wrong.

"You're quieter than usual," Lindsay said, cutting her sandwich in two and giving half to Brian. They sat at her dining room table, Brian holding Gus in his lap. He balanced the baby against one arm while picking at the sandwich and neither confirmed nor denied her statement. "What's wrong?" He shook his head a little. Gus looked at him curiously. "See? Even Gus knows there's a problem. What is it? Justin?" When he didn't respond, she said, "Of course, it is." Took a bite of her food and chewed. Brian continued to pick at his. When she had swallowed, she said, "I thought we would always be able to talk." His eyes got shinier and he looked away. "Brian...?" She reached over and took hold of his hand. But he didn't say anything. "Tell me. Please."

He took a deep breath, then lifted Gus up and rearranged him in a more comfortable position. "I didn't sleep a wink last night. Thinking about Justin."

"He's good for you."

"But am I good for him?" he asked, picking up his soda.

"You saved his life."

He placed it back down, hard. "Everyone keeps saying that like it's an answer. I saved his life and now we can just walk off into the fuckin' sunset together?"

"I didn't mean that."

"Then what did you mean?" Frustration made him angry.

"That you obviously care about Justin."

He made himself calm down. "I love Justin." It was the first time he'd said that to her. "But it's not enough."

"Maybe it is."

I know better—" he began.

"You haven't even tried yet. You two have been together what? Three weeks? You're in love, why not enjoy it? Have fun." She smiled. Imagine giving advice to Brian about how to enjoy himself. "Live a little. You have a chance to start all over again."

"I don't know what I'm doing," he admitted, rubbing his temple.

"And you think any of us do? We're all scared to death. Figuring out how to live as part of something instead of alone."

"I don't want a repeat of Cam."

"Justin loves you."

"He's eighteen and he's going to college in the fall. Christ, Lindz, you remember what that was like." The succession of guys who had paraded through his room and in and out of his bed would have staggered the mind of another person.

"Are you scared he'll leave you?"

"Yes! That he'll find someone younger, easier than me."

"God knows there are easier..." she said smirking.

"You wanna hand me the razor or cut my wrists yourself?"

Lindsay fixed him with a steely gaze. "What do you want? A money back guarantee?"

"I want to know that if I do this, if I put myself out there for him, I won't get trampled." His brow creased, it pained him to admit his fears out loud. "And... and I wanna make sure that I'm good for him, that I don't hurt him, cause he deserves better than that. He deserves the best."

"I thought Brian Kinney was the best." He looked down at Gus and kissed his forehead, blinking rapidly to hold back the tears. "Look at you. You have a son. Did you ever think you'd have a kid? And you're a good father. You'll be a good lover, a good partner too. Just give it time."

"Why do I feel like I don't have any time?"

Deb looked up to see Brian enter the diner and take a seat at the counter. Signaling to the other waitress that she had it, she sauntered over. "I thought you and Sunshine had a date tonight?"

He didn't answer right away, then said, "He didn't feel like it."

"Oh." She took out her pad and pencil. "So what'll it be, kiddo?"

"How is he? Really?" he asked.

Putting her pad and pencil away, she leaned on the counter. "Vic says he's frustrated. Because you won't..." She motioned vaguely with her hand, "You know."

"Yeah." He rubbed his forehead.


At first he thought about telling her it wasn't any of her business but then he remembered that he was on her turf and that he had come here of his own free will. "Because I'm scared out of my fucking mind."

Coming around the counter, she took his arm and pulled him towards a booth. Yelled, "I'm taking five!" to no one in particular. Once they were seated, she said, "I saw the bruise. Where he had hit you. That day I came home and found you and Michael drunk as two old winos. You moved your head some way and your hair parted and I saw the bruise on your forehead and, I swear, I wanted to march over there and kick the shit out of him. But I knew your mom wouldn't do a goddamn thing about it and that after I left he'd just take it out on you." Brian looked down at his hands, the truth of her words stinging but not as badly as they would have once upon a time. "But I knew what he was like and that's why I never minded all the times you stayed over at our house, cause, hell, you didn't eat much, not as much as Michael anyway, and I could sleep the nights you were with him. The last thing I wanted was to wake up one morning and find out that he'd really hurt you. Or worse. And not just for Michael's sake. You had a lot of mouth, but you had a good heart too. And you looked out for Michael. I just wish someone could have looked out for you."

"I survived," he said, a bitter taste in his mouth.

She ruffled his hair and he moved his head, not really hating her touching him but unwilling to drop the pretense. "That bruise healed and so did all the others. At least on the outside. Only, honey, now's your chance to heal on the inside." She smiled softly. "I know you're scared. Cause it's hard. Hard to change. I know. I've watched you. You've worked hard. But you don't have to do it alone anymore." She shook his head. "God knows how he knew, but he did. He knew that you were worth fighting for. So you let him help you. You hold onto him and you let him help you heal. Same as you did for him when he was hurt." He looked up at her and she could still see the doubt in his eyes. "And for Christ's sake," she added, "take him home and fuck him before he drives Vic and me crazy."

He laughed then, abruptly, and stood. Leaned over and gave her a sweet kiss on the lips.

Watching him leave, she waved her hand in front of her face. What in the hell was it about him that affected even old, straight women? She laughed remembering the guys teasing him about his Jeep, calling it his Fuckmobile. That was him all right: Fuckman with the power of super sex appeal. "Fuckman," she said to herself cackling softly. "I like that." And she hoped she'd remember it the next time she saw Michael and the guys.

He flipped open his cellphone. Brian was on the other end of the line.

"What are you doing?"

"I told you nothing."

"Get ready. I'll be there in twenty minutes."

"I thought we said—"

"And I don't want to hear any shit about not feeling up to it, or not being in the mood to go out, or anything."

A little taken aback, Justin grumbled, "Fine. Can I ask where we're going?" And he could see Brian's face as he answered, smug and mischievous.

"No. You may not."


"God—" He closed his phone and tossed it on the bed. Better find something to wear. Who knew what Brian had in mind for them?

By the time Brian pulled up, exactly twenty minutes later, he was a little pissed-- and kind of intrigued—and glad he had changed even though he'd only put on his blue sweater and a pair of jeans. Brian, of course, looked fabulous: semi-sheer black shirt, black pinstriped slacks. "Where are we going?" Justin asked getting into the jeep.

"Someplace special."

They were still some six blocks away from Brian's street but Justin knew that's where they were headed. He said nothing, faintly worried by Brian's silence. Since answering Justin's question about their destination, he hadn't said a word. When they disembarked in front of his building, Brian took Justin's hand and they crossed the street together, smiling, both remembering the night Brian had said to Justin, "I don't hold your hand either when we cross the street, but I don't hear you complaining about that." They took the elevator, still holding hands and only parted when Brian unlocked the door.

He pulled it open and stood aside to let Justin go in first. He did and stopped in the doorway, rooted to the spot by surprise.

The soft glow of about four dozen candles and votives cast the loft in an amber light. They were arranged inside the bedroom, on the shelf that ran around the outside of it, on the table in the livingroom, along the kitchen counter, in the bathroom, and on the dining table where a cluster of slender tapers nested in white, gauzy material illuminated two place settings and a bouquet of Osiana roses. Music played softly on the stereo.

Everything looked too bright all of a sudden and then blurry. Justin wiped at his eyes.

"Allergies?" asked Brian.

"Yeah," he replied softly.

"Are you going all the way in or are we gonna stand in the doorway all night?"

Justin pulled on Brian's sweater, leading him into the loft. Once inside, with the door locked behind them, they drifted into one another's arms and kissed softly. Drew apart. "Did you cook?"

Brian snorted, a very unromantic sound out of place in such romantic surroundings. "Yeah, right. If I had cooked, we'd be having soy shakes and Raisin Bran."

"I wouldn't care," said Justin.

They made their way over to the dining table. Brian, ever the gentleman, pulled out Justin's chair for him.

Justin blushed. "Stop it."

Taking a bottle from the refrigerator, Brian showed Justin the label. Sparkling grape juice. He pulled out the cork with a pop and a flourish and poured the juice into two long-stemmed wine glasses. Sat next to Justin instead of at the opposite end. Raised his goblet. "To us."

Justin felt like he had suddenly been transported to another dimension: dizzy, and excited, and a little scared all at once. He raised his glass as well. "To us." They touched glasses and sipped their chilled grape juice. He could hardly look into Brian's eyes, he was so overwhelmed. And Brian never looked more beautiful to Justin than he did right then, a gentle smile playing about his lips.

"Hungry?" asked Brian and the teen shook his head. "You wanna dance?" he asked and Justin beamed, remembering how wonderful it had felt to dance with Brian at the prom. Even with all that had occurred afterwards, he never regretted their moment on the dance floor. Never.

Brian led Justin to a clear space. They moved into each other's arms with ease. Justin loved the feel of Brian's palm in the small of his back. Slowly they began to sway, not moving very much, just letting the music caress them. After a while they each let go of the other's hand, just wrapped their arms about one another, wanting to be closer. Justin lay his head against Brian's chest, could almost feel and hear his heart beating. He closed his eyes, comforted by the strength in Brian's arms. Nothing or no one could ever hurt him again. He was safe here, where he belonged, where he wanted to be more than anyplace else in the world: his home now, here in Brian's embrace.

His arms full of creamy skin, golden hair, solid flesh, Brian marveled at his young lover. So strong, so brave to chance a relationship with him, to entrust his life to him. When common sense and everyone around him had told him it would never happen, he had believed that it would. Despite evidence to the contrary, he had remained faithful to Brian and to the idea that one day the man would admit that he wanted him, that he needed and loved him. Tightening his hold on the teen, Brian whispered, "I love you," and Justin didn't say a word, just lifted his face to be kissed.

Back at the table, Brian served the appetizer: lightly grilled triangles of grilled polenta with baby asparagus spears and roasted red peppers in a simple olive oil, cracked pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce. Justin finished his portion in no time and ate half of Brian's. "That was delicious. Who cooked?"

"This guy I know." Justin raised an eyebrow. "I promised to do a free ad for his restaurant in exchange for dinner.

"Expensive dinner," commented Justin, imagining how much Brian's firm probably charged for their services.

"But worth it." He stood and cleared away their plates.

While he was busy in the kitchen, Justin took in the beautiful surroundings again. Ran his fingers over the silky petals of the peach-colored roses. "You did this by yourself?"

Instead of taking all the credit, Brian admitted that Cynthia helped a little. "She picked out the flowers and the music." He grimaced as he set down their dinner plates. "You realize she is never going to let me live this down?"

Justin smiled. "You'll live."

The main course was King Crab salad with citrus fruit, and delicate ravioli filled with herbs and cheese and served with a cream sauce. As they ate they laughed about the times they had had, both good and bad, and Justin confessed to Brian, "That time you came home and found me wearing your shirt, I thought you were gonna knock me out."

"I didn't realize I had yelled so loud until I saw your face. God, your mom totally pissed me off. And there wasn't a fuckin' thing I could say or do to her, so I came home and took it out on you."

"It's okay."

"No. It wasn't." He paused in the middle of spearing a chunk of crab meat. "A lot of the things I did..." Another pause. "I guess I did because I was scared."

"Is it really that scary? Being in love?"

"Weren't you? The first time you realized that you loved me, that maybe you wouldn't get what you wanted, or maybe you would, wasn't it a little scary?"

"Maybe a little." He watched as a tinge of sadness colored Brian's features and he decided that nothing would spoil their night. So he said, "The worse was when I forgot to set the alarm. I just knew you were gonna tear my head off. I've never been so glad to see anyone in my life as I was to see Michael walk through that door."

"Now that, you deserved."


"Do you know how much trouble and time it took to replace all that stuff?"

"But it was just stuff."

"Yeah, my stuff."

"You're too materialistic. Mel's right, you are a total label queen."

"Fuck you."

"I thought you said you loved me," teased Justin.

"I do." From playful to serious in a heartbeat, Brian took hold of Justin's hand and kissed his palm. "I love you."

Whatever Justin was about to say he forgot. "Promise me you'll tell me that every day for the rest of my life."

Brian hesitated but a moment. "I'll try."

The main course finished, they decided to save dessert for later. Tearing Brian away from the dishwasher, Justin tugged on his arm. "Dance with me again."

So they slow-danced for two or three songs, they didn't know, didn't pay any attention to the music, just let their bodies go. Finally, Brian laughed.


"We look like those kids at your prom."

Justin laughed too. "God, they couldn't dance for shit."

Allowing Justin to maneuver them onto the sofa, Brian closed his eyes as his lover drew his head down for a serious kiss.

When they parted, Justin ran his thumb over Brian's lower lip. "I love your mouth."

Brian kissed his thumb. "What else?"

"Your eyes."

Brian lowered his lids and, ever the marketer, asked, "Why?"

"Because they're beautiful." And when he saw that his answer wasn't good enough, he added, "Because you don't always say what you're feeling but I can look into your eyes and tell if you're sad, or angry, or worried." He smiled. "And when you're happy or you're laughing, they light up."

"Are they shining now?"

"Like the sun."

He found the teen's baritone voice pleasing. Soothing. "What else?"

Justin's lips parted in mock exasperation. "More?"

"All you love about me are my lips and my eyes?"

"And your hands." Justin laced his fingers with Brian's. "You have the strongest hands." They shifted positions so that Brian lay on his back and Justin stretched out half on top of him. "And arms. I love the way you can see every muscle in your shoulders. I love the way your muscles flex when you move. I love the way you move. The way you walk around barefoot all the time. And—"

But he didn't get to finished. As he had when Brian had listed all the things he loved about Justin, the man kissed his teenage lover, stopping the flow of words momentarily.

Justin's heart was racing. To be able to say all the things that he'd been dying to tell Brian for so long was like being released from prison. He was floating in mid-air, a little dizzy but so incredibly happy he thought he would never stop smiling.

Who would have ever thought he'd be satisfied just to lie on the sofa and kiss? And not even heavy-duty kissing but playful, teasing kissing that actually aroused him more than an all-out assault. Only, he wasn't quite ready to take things any further. He liked talking to Justin; even if they were only saying the silly kinds of things all lovers said to one another, it was helping to bind them as a couple.

"Do you think one day we'll go to Paris together?" Justin asked during a break in the kissing.

"I don't know. Do you want to go to Paris? With me?"

"And Rome, and Florence, and London, and Lisbon, and Barcelona..."

Brian laughed, then gave Justin a peck on the cheek. "Tell you what. We go to the Bahamas first and if we both survive with no major injuries, I'll see what we can do about a Grand European tour next year."

Justin sat up and stared at Brian in disbelief. "You mean it?"

"Why not? Get your parents to chip in on the airfare and we could do it. I get four weeks vacation. We could spend a month in Europe, traveling from hotel to hotel—"

"And going to the Louvre, and the Prado, and the Bilbao Guggenheim and the Guggenheim in Venice, the Vatican and the British Museum—and the food!"

"Maybe I'll pay for the airline ticket if your parents pay for the meals," Brian suggested, earning him a particularly hard nudge from the excited teen.

Then Justin calmed down and asked again, "You really mean it?"

"It'd be an adventure." Justin laid his head upon Brian's shoulder, so overwhelmed that he couldn't speak. Brian held him tight and ruffled his hair. "Promise me something," he said softly.

And Justin answered, "Anything."

"Promise me you won't change."

Looking in his eyes, Justin asked, "You don't want me to grow up just a little more?"

"I have enough trouble keeping up with you now," Brian admitted, a little perturbed at what he perceived as his failings.

"Okay," agreed Justin. "Because I love you, I swear I'll never change. I'll always be young and cute—"

"And modest," Brian interjected.

"And incredibly smart," he added. Then he smiled. "And in love with you."

Brian closed his eyes so that Justin wouldn't see the pain in them. God, he wished he could believe that. But now was not the time for doubts, so he opened his eyes and offered his brightest, his most confident smile. "Of course, you will. Cause you'll never find anyone better."

"Make love to me," whispered Justin.

"I have been," Brian told him. "You just haven't been paying attention." But he too was beginning to desire a more physical connected so he didn't discourage Justin from reaching up under his shirt and stroking his nipples as they kissed.

Justin breathed against his mouth, "I've missed you." He worked Brian's shirt free of his body and draped it over the back of the sofa. Spread his fingers over his lover's chest, but he didn't go any further; instead, he studied Brian's face. "You look different."


"I don't know." Then he thought for a moment. "It's like you see me. All of me," he said, seemingly unaware that his original statement and his explanation were completely different. How Brian looked hadn't changed, it was how he looked at the world that had.

Somehow they ended up kneeling on the sofa, Brian pressed against Justin's back, the teen's sweater up under his armpits, his jeans and underwear down around his hips, and Brian's hands stroking his chest and belly as he kissed Justin's neck and jaw. Turning in his arms, Justin latched onto Brian's lips and they kissed until the room started to spin.

"Oh God," Brian whispered, and he broke away, finished removing Justin's clothes, and stripped off the rest of his own.

Justin climbed upon his lap and eased Brian's head back, exposing his throat. Hungrily, he planted kiss after kiss along the smooth column of his neck until he reached his chin and their lips joined again.

Wrapping his arms around Justin's waist, Brian inched to the edge of the sofa and stood, the teen's legs encircling his waist. He carried him to the bedroom and laid him gently down upon the bed. Justin held out his hand, drew Brian to him.

"Do you love me?"

"I do."

"Say it."

"I love you."

Brian knelt upon the bed, his buttocks resting on his heels and supported himself on his outstretched hands as Justin climbed upon him, spearing himself on his lover's cock. Arms around Brian's neck, Justin held onto him while his body adjusted. Brian sat up, the muscles in his thighs bulging as he supported Justin's weight. One arm around his waist, the other around his ribcage, Brian maintained a firm hold on Justin as the teen slowly began to work against him. Feet planted on the mattress to either side of Brian, Justin began moving his hips back and forth just a little, to loosen up his hole. Then, slowly, he raised his buttocks, Brian's cock sliding out of him inch by inch, and, at the end of the trek, exhaled and thrust his hips forward, taking in all of Brian at once.

Bodies in sync, having established a smooth, easy rhythm, they sought their pleasure in the feel of tight, warm flesh around hard; in swollen lips that refused to stop kissing, to stop seeking new places to touch; in blue eyes gazing into hazel ones; in round, high, pumping buttocks; hard stomachs; sweat-slicked backs; abrupt cries; long, drawn-out sighs; and moans that sent shivers up their spines.

"Mmm," murmured Justin into Brian's neck, and Brian knew exactly what he meant, what he wanted. He eased him onto his back, raised the teen's legs, and got on his hands and knees above him, still joined, never having parted even for a second. "Ahh," Justin gasped as Brian began to thrust harder. He slid his hands over Brian's hips and pressed his fingers into his cheeks to encourage him. Brian's cock was so hard, felt so good going in and coming out and... He closed his eyes and began to 'sing' as Brian called it, a flow of mostly nonsensical syllables slipping from between his parted lips, that grew less and less intelligible the more excited he became.

"Sing for me, baby," Brian whispered and he did, clenching his muscles as the first spasm gripped him. Giving a shout, Justin came, creamy cum spilling onto his belly. "Jesus," Brian groaned into his neck. "You're so..." He gave a cry. "Tight." And he closed his eyes, light-headed from his own climax which grabbed him by the neck and shook him. Shivering, he lay in Justin's arms, feeling the teen's body trembling beneath him.

They woke a little after midnight and made love again, Justin sitting on Brian's cock and riding him until Brian's vision got hazy and he thought he would pass out from an excess of pleasure.

Although he couldn't see Justin's face, as the teen had his back to him, he could read his emotions in the set of his shoulders and the tilt of his head, in the arch of his back and the way he reached back for Brian's hand, squeezing it as he bounced on his lover's dick. His own need overpowering him, Justin drew Brian's hand around to his groin. With no more instruction than that, Brian took hold of the teen's cock and began jacking him off. Justin grunted and ground his hips against Brian's pelvis, his climax imminent. Suddenly he clenched his muscles, causing Brian to cry out, and filled Brian's palm with his spunk. Continuing to pull on his dick, Brian jerked out the rest of his load, using the teen's cum to lubricate his strokes. Shuddering, Justin slumped over, Brian's cock still stiff inside him. After a few deep breaths, he moved to his hands and knees.

Thrusting into him was like fucking a silk tunnel, Brian decided, lost in the motion of his hips. Christ, he loved the way Justin could come and still be excited by the notion of Brian being inside of him. Most guys hated to be fucked after coming. Not Justin. He continued to feel pleasure even after he came. Maybe it was because he had never learned otherwise, or maybe it was because he was eighteen. Whatever the reason, Brian was grateful. Not that it took him long to come after Justin had. Even now he felt himself slipping over the edge. Kissing Justin's shoulders, he descended into bright oblivion.

Around three a.m., careful not to wake Brian, Justin left the warmth of their bed and tiptoed into the kitchen. Brian had said something about dessert earlier. Easing open the refrigerator, he spotted it: tiramisu. One of his favorites. Although, if the truth be told, he was a dessert freak. It really didn't matter what it was. Tiramisu, chocolate cake, gingerbread cookies, apple pie, vanilla ice cream...

Cutting a huge slice of tiramisu, he sat at the dining table and ate by candlelight. Smiled to himself, his toes curling, happy beyond belief. He had gone from being merely glad to be alive after Chris' attack to being ecstatic. Whipped cream in the corner of his mouth, he licked it clean. Maybe he'd wake Brian up after all. He glanced around through the open doorway at the man sleeping so soundly. Changed his mind. Let him sleep. He deserved it.

After he finished, he rinsed the plate off and placed it in the dishwasher. Then went around and blew out all the candles before brushing his teeth and returning to bed. Brian stirred as he got back beneath the covers but didn't wake. Not completely. Just enough to reach over and draw Justin to him. Content in his lover's arms, the teen quickly fell asleep.

Justin woke to the smell of fresh coffee. Opened his eyes and saw Brian heading towards the bed with a tray. He removed the two cups and sat them safely on one of the bedside tables. Noticed that Brian had brought in the bouquet of roses from the dining table. Coffee cups gone, Brian set the tray on the bed between them. Justin sat cross-legged among the covers. Smiled. "Is this what it's gonna be like all the time?"

Brian smirked. "Me? Bringing you breakfast in bed? I think you should wake up because you must be dreaming." He motioned for Justin to hand him his coffee. Sipped it. "I'm surprised you didn't have nightmares from all the cake you ate last night—this morning." Shook his head. "You must have a fucking iron stomach."

Beaming, Justin replied, "Just one of the perks of being young."

Brian said, "And that's the thanks I get for slaving over a hot stove all morning?" Without saying a word, Justin lifted the bowl of cereal and the toasted bagel. "Screw. You." He took another draught of coffee. "Just for that, you're fixing lunch." Justin mouthed, 'I love you,' and Brian couldn't help but laugh and say affectionately, "Asshole."

After breakfast, Justin went to shower saying he smelled like cum. Brian growled against his throat, "My favorite fragrance," but let him go. Finished his second cup of coffee. In the quiet following Justin's departure he had time to think about their first night together as lovers. Why had he waited so long? Justin was right, there was no reason to be afraid. He grinned remembering Justin asking him, "Do you really mean it?" when he suggested going to Europe next year. Could imagine them boating on the canals of Venice in a gondola. Justin's smile brighter than sunshine on sparkling water.

And then his eyes alit on the bouquet of Osiana roses. Although they were still beautiful, some of them had begun to lose their petals, dotting the top of the night stand with peach foliage. He picked up one of them and held it between his fingers. So delicate. So beautiful. Already leaving. Softly, he whispered to himself, "No." Not now. Don't think about it now. Just— But he couldn't stop the thoughts from coming. Face it, that's how love is too. Beautiful now but for how long? How long before this ends? Before he leaves you? Because you know you don't deserve him. You know that. "I know," he said softly and the tears began to roll down his face. He sat and cried silently until he heard Justin stirring in the bathroom. Then, hastily, he wiped his face and tried to compose himself before the teen returned. But even though he had done a decent job of cleaning away the traces of tears, he couldn't erase the effects, and Justin noticed.

"What's wrong?"

He shook his head, knowing that if he spoke he'd only begin to cry again.

"Brian?" Justin knelt at his feet since he wouldn't look up. "It's okay. Because I love you. And that means you never have to be sad again. Or alone. Or afraid." He cupped Brian's face. "I'm here. And I'm never going anywhere, not even if you tell me to." Sobbing, Brian drew him up into his arms and held him so tight he thought his ribs would be bruised, but he didn't care. He didn't complain, just let the older man hold him for as long as he needed.

Justin wiped the last of the tears from Brian's face and kissed him. With his lips still pressed against his lover's, he asked, as if of a child to remind him of lessons learned, "Now... How long are we gonna be together?"

And Brian replied without hesitation, "Forever."

Closing his eyes, Justin smiled.

They were gone now, but their presence remained in the loft. In the bathrobe that draped over the edge of the bed. The coffee cup forgotten in the kitchen sink. A half-finished drawing on top of the table. In these, and a dozen other traces that revealed their existence. Traces that spoke of moments together. Moments that, when combined, told the story of their lives. Once two separate paths, now merged into one. Winding through the trees, the destination unseen... the ending as yet undiscovered.

Special "Thanks" to Colleen for the online conversations that helped me work out some of the psychology of the piece.

Heels Over Head | Stories