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This chapter is very dialogue heavy. These first few chapters are just buildup, sorry. Stuff will really happen in the next chapter! If months go by really fast in this story, dont be confused. I'm cramming 3 years into kind of a small space.

Go back to Chapter 1

Summary/Teaser: Justin makes a goal. Brian thinks Justin doesn't need him. Michael and Brian get invited up North. Justin finds a job and Brian is scared.
 

Within the first week or so of living with Laura, it had become apparent that Justin would need to find a studio. The apartment consisted of two tiny rooms that passed for bedrooms if you squinted, a little kitchen/living room/dining room/whatever area that was cluttered with both of their stuff, and a bathroom. There was no room for his computer, much less his paints and other art supplies.

So he began to look for a studio, agent, everything at once. Laura had told him to just be on the lookout for anything at all. That's the way New York worked. If they saw you, liked you, wanted you, you had to be ready and willing, because they weren't going to wait for you.

Justin made a goal for himself: once he'd found a studio or an agent, he'd go home and visit Brian, because then he'd have one small accomplishment to gloat about and Brian would be satisfied. He just hoped it would happen soon, because it had been two weeks and he was already missing Brian like crazy, and he wasn't going to let his lover push him away this time. He began to pound the pavement, scour the papers and posts for notices, sometimes with Laura, sometimes on his own. He would make this happen. He had to.


Emmett watched Michael and Brian as they ate silently across from one another, tension and awkwardness in the air. Emmett knew this would happen. The two friends' reconciliation was entirely based upon the fact that Brian had been about to get married, about to become "equal" to Michael. Their other issues, the real one, had not been resolved.

Brian obviously had something on his mind, of course he wasn't going to say anything out loud, and being aware of his best friend's moods and problems had never been Michael's strong point.

"So how's Justin?" Michael asked now, in a lame and misguided attempt at conversation. Emmett winced. He knew Brian had not talked to Justin in almost two weeks. He'd been moping for about that long, though it didn't seem like it to the untrained eye. He talked and bitched and acted just like Brian Kinney usually did, but he wasn't concentrated on it. He wasn't as focused, as honed as usual. His mind was far away, thinking of other things. And Emmett, who had always been the quiet observer, noticed these things but said nothing. He'd always been the type to wait for the opportune moment.

"How should I know?" Brian answered, frowning, hackles raised.

"He's your boyfriend. You talk to him, don't you?"

"He's in New York, Mikey. He doesn't have time to talk."

Emmett scoffed inwardly. It was Brian that wasn't talking. But he also felt sorry for his friend because beneath the annoyance, Emmett could hear the continuation of that last sentence—"not with someone, some asshole like me, anyway." And he knew Brian's masochistic, self-deprecating side believed it to be true.

"Don't you call him or something? You were going to get married, you know. He already knows you love him. You don't have to ignore him."

Brian stood, dropping a twenty onto the counter and picking up his jacket. He glared down at Michael.

"No, I do not call him. He's living his dream up there in the big city. He doesn't need me or the Pitts dragging him down. Now, if you boys will excuse me, I have to get to work."

He patted Emmett's shoulder as he passed, a small Kinney gesture that meant Brian wasn't mad at him, just his stupid best friend. Michael watched him leave.

"He's not talking to Justin? What the hell? The idiot." Michael started to stand. "Ma'll put a stop to his asshole moves in a second."

Emmet reached up a hand and slowly pulled Michael back down.

"Leave it alone, Michael. Just leave it."


Brian was at Kinnetic when the girls finally called.

"Kinney."

"Hi, Brian."

Brian put his pen down and turned his chair around. "Hey, Lindz. How's Canada? Why didn't you call me sooner?"

"We've been unpacking."

"For almost two weeks?"

"Moving is hard work. We were in a hotel for a while, while the house was getting set up. Then we had to move all our stuff in and unpack. It takes a long time."

"How's my son?"

"He's doing well. You should come up to visit soon." Brian tapped his fingers against his leg.

"I want to."

"You will."

"I want him to know who I am."

"He will. Have you talked to Justin?"

Brian sighed. "Not really."

"You should."

"He doesn't need me. He shouldn't let the Pitts drag him down."

"He may not need you, Brian, but he loves you. He wants you with him."

"Yeah, well, he shouldn't. I'm not good for him."

"Brian Kinney! This again? Get over yourself. You are the best thing that ever happened to each other. Stop with the self-pitying bullshit already. Talk to your partner."

"I can always count on you to chew me a new one, Lindz."

"Yeah, well, let's just see if what I said stays in your thick, obnoxious skull this time."

"Thanks for looking out for me, Wendy."

"You're welcome, Peter."

"Later."

"Later, Brian."


"Have a good afternoon, Dillon." Michael called to one of his frequent customers as the boy left the shop. He glanced at the large cardboard cutout of Rage and sighed. He had no idea if Rage was going to continue. He and Justin hadn't discussed it, and he was pretty sure that Justin wouldn't want to talk about it now that Brian wasn't talking to him, now that he would be writing a comic book about someone in a completely different state. He knew Brian was a pig-headed asshole that would never change, but this seemed stubborn even for him. Maybe it was because he and Justin weren't really a couple; now that they weren't getting married, they would go right back to their on again-off again, always tricking thing that they had.

The phone rang shrilly. "Red Cape Comics, Michael Novotny, how may I help you?"

"That is the most polite way I've ever heard you answer a telephone, Michael."

"Oh, hi, Mel. I was wondering when you'd call again."

"Well, we called you when we got here, didn't we?"

"Yeah, but…"

"Oh, Novotny, come on."

Michael laughed. "All right, but you can't blame me, it's in my blood."

"I know that."

"So, we just wanted to invite you to come visit. Because I know you won't shut up about visiting until we ask you to come." She joked, softening the blow with a laugh.

"Oh believe me, I will be visiting. What about Brian? Did you ask him?"

"Yeah, he said he wanted to. Which I think means maybe."

"Oh."

"Mm hmm. Well, Jenny Rebecca has begun her daily awake-from-a-nap screaming ritual, so I have to go." Michael could hear wails through the speaker and smiled at the sounds of his daughter.

"Give her a kiss for me."

"Will do. Bye, Michael."

"See you." They clicked off and he looked again at the cutout of Rage.

Not for the first time, Michael wondered how involved in his son's life Brian would be. He knew that Brian had not been very involved before the girls had moved, and that he'd always been more of a drop-in dad with quick visits, throwing money at problems when they arose. But maybe now that the girls weren't with in a ten-minute car ride, he'd make a bigger effort to go see his son…

Who was Michael kidding? Brian was a busy ad man with two businesses to run. He'd probably never go up to see his son.


Every time Justin called the loft, Brian's machine would pick up. "I'm not here, leave a message" became Justin's only chance at hearing his stubborn lover's voice. Sometimes he'd leave a random, rambling message just to piss Brian off and force him to hear the sound of his voice, sometimes he would just hang up. Justin knew Brian was trying to push him away, and he was slowly forming a plan to counteract that, but all he could do right now was annoy the shit out of the ad man with voicemails full of excitement and love.

It was nearly a month after he'd gotten to New York that he finally found a job. Laura had been incredibly kind about his practically freeloading for all that time, saying that she understood what it was like to be a starving student from Pittsburgh in big bad New York City. He had searched up and down, checking restaurants and grocery stores, art galleries and framing stores, or just whatever storefront he happened upon. Finally, he came across a little Italian restaurant, brimming with people, loud and colourful and bright like the Diner back home. To his great delight, there was a HELP WANTED sign placed at a slightly hectic angle in the window. He stepped inside and went to the counter.

"Hello, carino, what can I get you?" A plump woman with dark brown hair wrapped into a messy bun grinned at him, her wide eyes twinkling. He noticed her bright yellow Tweety Bird earrings and matching bright yellow t-shirt with bespectacled Tweety proclaiming, 'Get yer nerd on.' A yellow daisy was beginning to fall out of the twist of hair in the back of her head.

"There's a help wanted sign outside and I was wondering if you had a job open."

"Sure, what's your experience?"

"When I lived in Pittsburgh I waited in a diner for about four years. On and off but mostly on."

"Benissimo! Do you know Italian?"

"Not a word."

"Well, you'll learn some. We don't speak it all the time, but you'll hear it often enough."

"Sounds good to me. I'm always up for something new."

"Fine boy! When can you start?"

"When do you want me?"

She laughed and flipped a strand of hair behind her ear. "Excellent! How about today? In about two hours? I'll introduce you to everybody when you get here and then we can get started."

"Thank you so much! Um, I hate to ask but, how much will you pay me?"

"How does nine dollars an hour sound?"

"Wow, really? Thank you!"

She waved away his thanks with a plastic ring-jeweled hand. "Hey, no problem. People are afraid of working in this place. It's too loud and busy for them."

"That's the way I like it. I'm Justin, by the way. Justin Taylor." He stuck out his hand and she shook it.

"Piacere, Justin Taylor. I'm Feliciana but you can just call me Fi, or Fifi. Or Mama, if you like."

"Thanks. What's piacere?"

"Oh, your first Italian word! It means 'pleasure,' it's like saying 'pleased to meet you.'"

"Well, then, piacere, Feliciana. Fi."

"So I'll see you in a couple of hours?"

"Of course. Again, thank you."

"You're very welcome. Ciao, carino."

"See you later."

He walked home with a new spring in his step and a smile on his face, glad to have found a surrogate diner and someone who seemed almost as loud and crazy as Debbie. He called Brian when he got back to Laura's. Brian, of course, did not pick up, but Justin was too excited to be brought down by the absence of his non-recorded voice.


Justin's newest voice message chased itself around in Brian's head for days. The young man had gotten a job—he was settling, and that scared Brian. Not that he'd ever admit it, to himself or anyone else. But even as he began to push Justin away, some secret, hidden part of him wanted so badly for Justin to call his bluff and come home. But he couldn't have that, he knew. Justin had to make it on his own in the Big City. It was his dream, his destiny.

Brian sighed and tried again to focus on his work, but he couldn't help thinking of the woman Justin had described, who seemed like a surrogate Debbie, grinning at his lover and taking him away to stay in NYC forever. It was a ridiculous notion, he knew. Justin still loved him and he still loved Justin. But things were different now. Justin had a dream to follow and a destiny to fulfill, a future filled with success. Brian's dream of success had come true long ago; he was stuck in Pittsburgh with his greatness. Now he just had a dim glimmer of hope that Justin would keep them in his mind and would one day return to the Pitts for good. That he would one day come home.

Go to Chapter 3
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