Pairing: Brian and Justin
Summary: The rising star ad exec needs to get the blond he met out of his head...or into his bed.
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Once Michael had left, Brian set the alarm and headed to the bedroom to check on his guest. Whatever Doctor Malcolm had given him for pain had put him out and he looked even younger asleep than he did awake. The blond hair fairly glowed against the dark bedding and the relaxed features hinted at an innocence that belied the dark bruise on his cheek.
An unfamiliar ringing pulled Brian from his thoughts and he dragged his gaze from the sleeping young man to look around the room. Picking up Justin’s jacket, he reached in the pocket for the ringing cell phone.
“Yeah,” he said simply.
Brian glanced at the bed and made his way down to the living room so as not to disturb the blond. “He can’t come to the phone right now.”
“And who might this be?”
Brian’s jaw clenched slightly as he recognized the voice. “Pendleton. It’s Brian Kinney.”
“Brian.” Prescott sounded surprised. “Where’s Justin?”
“Asleep in my bed,” Brian replied simply.
“No, I don’t think you do. He should be in a hospital, but he refused to go.”
“Hospital? Is he alright?” Pendleton sounded genuinely concerned.
“About as alright as he can be considering his father sent two guys to pay him a little visit,” Brian ground out. “He got away before they managed to do any lasting damage.” At least of the physical variety, he added silently.
“I can’t believe he would stoop to that level,” Prescott murmured in disbelief.
“Apparently, good ol’ Craig isn’t too happy with your idea of a good job for his son.”
“Brian, I …”
“Justin told me what happened the night his dad kicked him out,” Brian cut him off. “He also told me you were the one who got him started in the business.”
“I introduced him to a friend of mine,” the other man defended himself. “The choice to work for the agency was all Justin’s.”
“Yeah,” Brian scoffed. “I’m sure he had a shitload of prospects to choose from at the time. Don’t tell me with everything at your disposal you couldn’t have come up with something better. They could have killed him tonight and it would have been on your head.”
Brian turned to see Justin standing on the bedroom step wearing only his briefs. He hesitated a moment, then walked over and handed him the phone. “Pendleton,” he said grimly.
“Prescott?” Justin said quietly into the phone. After a moment, he sighed. “I’m fine, really.”
Brian glanced sharply in his direction at that, but didn’t say anything.
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Justin was saying into the phone. “Yeah, ok. Bye.”
Justin snapped the phone shut and stood looking at Brian for a moment. “You had no right to talk to him that way,” he finally said. “What happened had nothing to do with him.”
Brian barked a harsh laugh. “He’s the one who got you that fucking job, Justin,” he pointed out. “Don’t tell me your hustling had nothing to do with what happened. I’m not fucking stupid, you know.”
“What I do is nobody’s business but mine,” Justin countered defensively.
“Wrong, Justin,” Brian snapped. “You’re standing in my loft because you’re too fucking afraid of your old man to go to a hospital. That makes it my business whether I like it or not.”
Justin’s expression hardened. “Not anymore,” he said flatly. Moving as quickly as his injured muscles would allow, he started gathering up his clothes.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Brian demanded.
“I’m going home,” Justin replied. “I’ll be out of your loft in a couple of minutes.”
Brian stalked toward the bedroom. “I don’t think so. I’m not going to be responsible if you keel over in the fucking street, so get your ass back into that bed.”
“You can’t keep me here,” Justin stated, glaring daggers at the other man.
“Wanna try me?” Brian asked, his gaze just as angry. After long moments spent trying to stare down the defiant blond, he heaved a heavy sigh. “Look, Justin,” he said, his voice devoid of the earlier anger. “The doctor said you need someone with you tonight. I won’t stop you if you want to leave, but I really would feel better if you stayed.”
Justin eyed him warily. “Why?”
“Because I don’t want that bear of a doctor coming after me if something happens to you, for starters,” Brian replied.
The corner of Justin’s mouth turned up in a ghost of a smile at that. “So it’s your own ass you’re trying to save.”
Brian smirked. “Of course.”
Justin studied the other man’s face for a moment then nodded once. “Fine. I wouldn’t want to see you in trouble with the doctor on my account.”
Smiling in amusement, Brian replied, “I appreciate that. Now would you get that ass of yours back into the bed?”
Hesitating only briefly, Justin gingerly moved toward the bed and climbed in. Brian waited until he was covered before sitting on the edge beside him. “How are you feeling?”
Justin grimaced a little. “Like I went ten rounds with Dr. Malcolm,” he muttered.
Brian chuckled. “Somehow I doubt you’d still be talking after ten rounds with him.”
They were silent for a moment before Justin looked into the hazel eyes. “Thanks,” he said softly. “You didn’t have to do all this.”
Uncomfortable with the gratitude, Brian looked away for a moment before turning back to Justin. “Want to tell me about it?”
While he didn’t, he realized that he owed the man some sort of explanation after he’d put himself at risk. “My father doesn’t like what I do for a living,” he said coldly, lowering his eyes and pulling the duvet up closer to his chin.
Brian thought of his own infant son. “I don’t suppose most fathers would.”
Justin glanced at him sharply. “What would you know about it?”
“I have a son of my own,” Brian replied without hesitation. “He’s only a few months old, but I don’t want to think of him doing what you’re doing 18 years from now.”
“It’s not exactly the career path I envisioned either,” Justin retorted flippantly. Wincing, he pushed himself to a sitting position and leaned back against the pillows. “But I need the money.”
“There are other jobs out there. Safer ones.”
Justin laughed at that. “What? Bussing tables in some greasy spoon?”
“It’s a living,” Brian countered.
“I need more than that,” Justin informed him intently. “I need more than just food on the table and a roof over my head.”
Brian’s eyes flashed. “Why? Because you’re used to having so much more than the bare necessities? A life without luxury isn’t worth living?”
“You don’t know anything about me,” Justin spat angrily.
“Then tell me,” Brian demanded. “Tell me what it is that’s worth risking your life for.”
Justin glared at him for a moment before turning away.
“Drugs?” Brian sneered. “Is that what you’re working to support? A habit?”
Justin’s head snapped back so they were facing one another again. “I want to go to art school, OK?” he barked. “What’s so fucking wrong with that?”
Brian was slightly taken aback. “Nothing,” he finally said. “Nothing at all.”
“Not according to my father,” Justin spat. “Two days after he threw me out, Prescott convinced me to call him. My old man graciously offered to let me back into my home if I agreed to give up my ‘disgusting’ lifestyle and attend Dartmouth.” Justin took a breath, the strain on his stomach causing him to wince at the pain. “When I told him I wanted to go to art school, he told me I’d better get a damned good paying job because he wasn’t forking over one red cent to send me to some sissy fag school.”
Brian’s anger toward the elder Taylor grew. “I see,” he said dismally.
“No minimum wage job is going to pay for PIFA,” Justin continued flatly. “So I took dear old dad’s advice and got me a damned good paying one.” He emitted a wry laugh. “You’d think he’d be happy that I listened. So what if I derived my client list from some of his most affluent business associates? He was the one who taught me to reach for the top.”
The words and the derisive way in which they were delivered explained a lot. “So your choice of career is basically an elaborate ‘fuck you’ to your old man,” Brian surmised.
Justin opened his mouth to protest then snapped it shut in frustration as he realized it was true. “So what if it is?” he finally snapped. “He deserves it for what he did to me.”
“He deserves worse,” Brian concurred. “But you don’t, Justin. You deserve more than this.” He gestured toward the dark bruise on Justin’s stomach and the blond pulled the cover up higher.
“I make $1000 a night,” Justin replied angrily. “And I’m going to need every cent if I get into PIFA. Tell me one other job where someone barely out of high school could make that kind of money.”
Brian knew he couldn’t and turned away in frustration.
“That’s what I thought,” Justin said coldly. He was silent for a moment and when he spoke, his voice was quieter, almost sad. “Another job might have paid for rent and food, but I never would have been able to save enough for school. It’s my dream and I’m not letting anyone take that away from me, not even my father.”
Brian turned back to face him. “What about a loan?” he asked in a subdued voice.
Justin laughed. “With the money my father makes, I’d never get a student loan and it’s not like a bank would take an eighteen year old kid with no collateral seriously.”
“But I would,” Brian stated without hesitation. “I’ll loan you the money. You can pay me back with interest after you graduate.”
Justin stared at him in shock for a moment. “You don’t even know me,” he finally said.
“I know as much as I need to.”
Justin shook his head. “I wouldn’t take Prescott’s money and I won’t take yours. I need to do this on my own, to prove to my father once and for all that I don’t need him.”
“Bullshit,” Brian said. “You’re not doing this to prove a damned thing. You’re just trying to hurt him like he hurt you.”
Justin obstinately remained silent and Brian continued. “And you did that. He wouldn’t have bothered sending those guys tonight if he wasn’t affected by what you’re doing.”
“Those guys were sent to make me less attractive to the clientele,” Justin shot back angrily. “He had a knife, Brian. A fucking knife! And my father was paying him to use it on ME!”
Justin’s voice broke on the last word and Brian instinctively put a hand on the blond’s shoulder to calm the distraught man.
Turning his head away, the younger man struggled to rein in his emotions. “What kind of father does that?” he whispered harshly.
Taking the other man’s chin gently in his hand, Brian turned the blond head to face him. “The kind who doesn’t deserve to be a father,” he said quietly.
Justin’s pain filled eyes met the hazel ones regarding him intently and he swallowed hard. “I’m tired.”
Brian knew that meant the discussion was over. “Ok,” he said, getting to his feet. “Get some sleep. You can decide what you want to do in the morning.”
Justin nodded and slid carefully down in the bed until he was in a more comfortable position for sleeping. Without another word to Brian, he closed his eyes.
Brian stood looking at him for a moment before turning off the light and leaving the room. He went over to his desk and lowered himself wearily into the leather chair with a heavy sigh. What the fuck had possessed him to let the kid recover at the loft? The last thing he needed was to be involved in Craig Taylor’s mess. A slight moan from the bedroom caught his attention and he looked in that direction, sighing again.
Like it or not, that’s exactly what he was – involved.
Justin awoke to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Moving carefully, he got out of the bed and made his way slowly to the bathroom. After relieving himself, he stood at the sink, washing his hands and staring at his own reflection in the mirror. The bruise on the side of his face had turned an ugly blackish purple and made the rest of his skin look even paler than normal by comparison. His eyes seemed dull and lifeless and there was a tightness around his mouth he wasn’t used to seeing. Shaking his head slightly, he lowered his eyes, no longer able to look at the pathetic image that looked back. When he exited the bathroom, he began gathering up his clothes.
“Here,” Brian said, handing him a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. “No sense putting dirty clothes back on.”
“Thanks,” Justin murmured, taking the proffered clothing.
Brian simply nodded and returned to the kitchen. Once Justin was dressed, he joined him, tentatively climbing onto one of the stools with only a small wince as the injured muscles protested.
“Feeling any better?” Brian asked, putting a mug of coffee on the counter in front of his guest.
“That depends,” Justin muttered. “Better than what?”
Brian smirked. “I guess that answers my first question.”
Justin took a deep breath, gleaning from Brian’s comment that it was the first of many. “What else do you want to know?” he asked miserably.
“What do you plan to do now?” Brian asked without preamble.
Justin looked up at him with a sheepish expression. “Finish my coffee in peace?”
A raised eyebrow was his only response. Sighing, he lowered his eyes back to his mug. “I don’t know. He’s obviously been in contact with the agency, so he probably knows where I live. Probably has his faithful employee staking the place out so he can finish what he started.” He stared thoughtfully into the dark liquid for a moment. “I guess I’ll just try to lay low for a while. If he thinks he scared me into leaving his colleagues alone, he might lose interest.”
“And has he?” Brian asked. “Scared you into leaving his colleagues alone?”
Flashing blue eyes snapped up to meet hazel. “Despite what my father thinks, I’m not some scared little faggot.”
“No,” Brian said with a small smile. “You’re not.” His expression sobered as he continued. “But knowing the lengths he’s willing to go to, giving it up may not be such a bad idea.”
“Just because he wants me to? I don’t fucking think so,” Justin retorted. “He lost any right to tell me what to do when he kicked me out of his life.”
“But if you stay in it out of spite, you’re still doing it because of him, not because it’s what you want. How’s that any different?”
Justin couldn’t argue with that logic and turned his head sharply away so as not to have to see the intense eyes staring into his. After a long moment, he closed his eyes. “It may have started out that way, but…”
He turned to face the ad exec once again. “You’re right,” he admitted. “At first it was to hurt my father. But then, once I started, it was like, I don’t know, so different from anything I’d ever felt before. I’ve lived my whole life in the shadows, always Craig Taylor’s son, the heir to the Taylor money, the faceless kid who’d someday take over his father’s vast holdings.” His eyes took on an even sadder look as he spoke. “For the first time in my life, people are seeing me, Justin. The guys I go out with see that I’m smart and funny and talented. They like being seen in public with me; it makes them feel good about themselves and… and it makes me feel good too. They ask for me because they want me. Me, Justin. Not Craig Taylor’s kid. They don’t care about the money; they only care about being with me, even if it’s just for one night. Do you have any idea how incredible that can feel when you’ve never had it before?”
Brian watched a single tear roll down the pale cheek and had to swallow the lump in his own throat. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I think I do.”
Justin was embarrassed when he realized how much he’d revealed. Doing his best to mask his emotions, he turned away, clearing his throat.
Seeing the kid’s unease, Brian offered a little of his own honesty. “My own father never wanted me and he didn’t miss one opportunity to remind me of that, usually with his fists.”
Justin turned back slowly, regarding the other man with obvious interest.
It was Brian’s turn to focus on his coffee mug as he continued. “I spent most of my childhood knowing that nobody really wanted me,” he said quietly. A wry smile touched his lips as he thought back. “Until I had my first sexual encounter when I was 14.”
“That’s really young,” Justin said softly.
Brian nodded. “My high school gym teacher. It was the most famous shower scene since Psycho.” He paused a moment, then cleared his throat. “Anyway, even if it was only for a few minutes, I felt like someone really wanted me, like maybe I was more than just Jack Kinney’s mistake.”
Silence reigned for a moment before Justin spoke. “So you know what it’s like to live in the shadows,” he said quietly.
Brian’s gaze flickered up to meet his briefly. “Yeah,” he said. “I worked hard, went to college, got my degree. I went from being the kid nobody wanted to the man everybody wanted. It’s a powerful feeling.”
Justin nodded in agreement, but didn’t say anything.
“I never told my parents I was gay,” Brian continued, looking up in time to catch the surprised look on Justin’s face. “I could have. It would have been the perfect way to get back at Jack, to let him know he had a fag for a son.”
“So, why didn’t you?”
“Because it was none of their fucking business,” Brian replied evenly. “It’s my life. I never mattered enough to them to show interest, and now they don’t matter enough to me to know how I live or what I do.”
Justin considered that for a moment. The parallels between Brian’s story and his own life weren’t lost on him, but there were also one glaring difference. Justin’s father was a very powerful and dangerous man who was used to getting what he wanted in life. And at the moment, he wanted nothing more than to remove the blight from his family name.
Even if that blight was his only son.
He was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of someone banging on the loft door.
Brian opened it to find a breathless Michael on the other side. “Mikey,” he said. “Shouldn’t you be at the gym?”
“There’s trouble,” Michael replied, making his way into the loft. He stopped briefly when he saw Justin. “Hey,” he said, looking decidedly uncomfortable.
“Hi,” Justin replied with a small smile. He hadn’t missed the look on Michael’s face when he’d seen him. “I should leave the two of you alone,” he suggested, slipping awkwardly from the bar stool. “I’ll just go take a shower if that’s all right.”
“You should probably stay,” Michael said, meeting the younger man’s eyes only briefly. “This concerns you.”
“What does?” Brian asked.
Michael took a deep breath. “There have been cops all over Liberty Ave. this morning. They came into the diner while we were having breakfast.” He looked at Justin once again. “They’re looking for you.”
“Me?” Justin frowned. “What for?”
“They wouldn’t say,” Michael replied grimly. “But I think this pretty much explains it.” He held out the morning paper and Justin took it. His eyes got wide as he read the lead story and Brian moved to look over his shoulder.
The headline read ‘Suspect Sought in Overnight Stabbing’ with a picture of Justin Taylor prominently displayed.
“Fuck,” Brian breathed.
Justin looked confused. “They think I stabbed someone?” He turned to look at Brian while the older man took the paper from his hand and continued reading. “Why would they think that?”
Brian read a little further. “The victim was a guy by the name of Steven Wyatt. You know him?”
Justin shook his head. “No. No, I don’t think so.”
“Says here he was an employee of your father’s.” He flipped the paper over to continue reading. “There’s a picture,” he said, holding it out for Justin to see.
“That was the guy who was driving last night when they picked me up,” Justin explained. “I didn’t know his name.”
“Well, now he’s in critical condition at Allegheny General and a witness supposedly saw you do it.”
“What witness?” Justin asked, still in shock. “How could someone see me do it when I didn’t?”
“The best defense is a good offense,” Brian muttered, finishing the article and throwing the paper aside in frustration.
“You think his father is behind this?” Michael asked, surprised.
Brian pinched the bridge of his nose. “If he thought Justin was going to report the assault, he’d want to destroy his credibility. I’d say he’s done a pretty good job.”
Michael digested that information. “But there were witnesses last night,” he pointed out. “They saw that guy chasing Justin.”
“A bunch of fags, Mikey,” Brian reminded him. “You think the cops are going to take their word over Craig Taylor’s?”
Justin spoke for the first time since Brian had tossed the paper aside. “I need to go.”
Brian watched with a frown as the young man headed toward the bedroom. “What? Go where?”
Justin was gathering his clothes hurriedly as he called out an answer. “Lots of people know you brought me here. It’s only a matter of time before the cops show up looking for me.”
“He’s right,” Michael agreed.
Brian shot his best friend a look before turning his attention to Justin. “And your face is in every fucking house in the city by now. How far do you think you’ll get before someone spots you and turns you in?”
Justin returned carrying his clothes. “I don’t want you to get into trouble because of me.”
The phone rang before Brian had a chance to respond. “Yeah,” he said answering it after the first ring. Grimacing, he held the phone slightly away from his ear. “Calm down, Deb. I can explain.”
“Then start explaining, asshole,” Deb demanded. “I’ve had two people in here telling me you took that kid in the paper home last night.”
“I did,” Brian admitted.
“What!?” Deb exclaimed. “Brian, do you know who this kid is? Do you know what he’s done?”
“He hasn’t done anything,” Brian replied somewhat defensively. “And yes, I know who he is. His father sent two guys to rough him up last night and he got away. Now one of those guys is in the hospital and I’ll bet a month’s salary the other one is the ‘oh so reliable’ witness.”
“I don’t understand, Brian,” Deb complained. “Why would his father do that?”
“Because Justin’s gay and Craig Taylor’s too good to have a gay son,” Brian grated.
“Shit,” Debbie breathed.
“Yeah,” Brian agreed quietly. “I’ve got to go, Deb. Too many people know he’s here. I’ve got to figure out what to do before the cops start banging down the door.”
“Take him to my place,” Deb said without hesitation. “I’ll call Vic. They won’t think of looking for him there.”
Brian smiled in obvious relief. “Thanks, Deb,” he said softly.
“Never mind thanking me, just get that kid out of there.” Though the words sounded harsh, Brian easily recognized the compassion beneath them.
“I will,” he promised. “Michael’s here. We’ll leave right away.”
“Just be careful,” she warned with concern.
“Always am,” he said with a smirk. “Bye, Deb.”
“What was that all about?” Michael asked once he’d hung up the phone.
“Your mom says he can stay at her place.”
“No way,” Justin exclaimed, shaking his head. “She could get into a lot of trouble.”
“Trust me,” Michael intoned, “It’ll be Brian and me in trouble if we don’t do as she says. You don’t know my mom.”
“Mikey’s right,” Brian cut him off. “Deb would have our balls on a plate if we let anything happen to you now that she knows your story. And if we don’t leave now, we may not get the chance.”
Looking from one man to the other, Justin sighed. “Fine,” he finally relented. “But this is only temporary until I figure something else out.”
“Don’t worry, Boy Wonder,” Michael grinned. “I wasn’t looking to adopt a baby brother.”
Brian and Justin arrived at Deb’s shortly after Michael did and Vic greeted them at the door.
“You must be Justin,” the older man smiled. “Funny, you don’t look like public enemy #1.”
“Thanks,” Justin smiled wanly. “I think.”
Vic laughed and put his arm around the blond’s shoulders. “Don’t worry about a thing, Justin. You can stay here as long as you need to.”
Justin’s smile was more genuine. “Thanks,” he said again. “I really do appreciate this.”
“It’s our pleasure,” Vic assured him. “We haven’t had a young stud around the house since Michael moved out.”
Michael rolled his eyes at his uncle’s obvious teasing. “Come on, Justin, you can stay in my old room.”
Justin glanced uncertainly at Brian, but when the auburn haired man nodded, he followed Michael up the stairs.
Once they were out of earshot, Vic led the way to the kitchen. “So, tell me, how did the stud of Liberty Avenue end up housing a fugitive from justice?”
Brian took a seat at the table while Vic poured coffee. “He wasn’t a fugitive at the time, Vic. He was a victim. His dad sent a couple of goons to rough him up and he was afraid to go to the hospital, so he asked for me.”
“Why you?” Vic asked, returning to the table with two cups of coffee.
Brian shrugged. “We’ve seen each other around at different events. Talked once or twice. He was attacked near Babylon and probably figured I’d be there. It’s not like he could have called his family.”
“So I hear,” Vic said, shaking his head sadly. “Who knew Craig Taylor could be such an asshole?”
“Justin did,” Brian replied grimly. “Unfortunately, no one is going to take the word of an 18 year old gay man over a wealthy businessman.”
At that moment, Michael returned looking somewhat uncomfortable.
“Where’s Justin?” Brian asked.
“Still upstairs,” Michael replied, helping himself to coffee. “Everything seemed to hit him all at once so I thought I should give him some privacy while he pulled himself together.”
Brian thought for a moment, then got up without a word and headed for the staircase. Once he was gone, Michael lowered himself into a chair across from his uncle. “Poor kid,” he commiserated. “He’s pretty upset.”
“Being attacked and then waking up to learn you’re the subject of a city-wide dragnet will do that to you,” Vic said solemnly.
Michael glanced up toward the second floor and sighed. “Yeah,” he agreed glumly.
Brian knocked on the familiar door then entered without waiting for an invitation. Justin stood with his back to him, his arms wrapped tightly around himself as he stared out the window.
“You OK?” Brian asked.
It was a moment before Justin acknowledged the question. When he did, it was with a slow shake of his head.
For a brief moment, Brian was torn between leaving him to his privacy and taking him in his arms. He hated what was happening to the blond, especially knowing it had all started because his father leaned he was gay. When he saw the young man hastily wipe at his eyes, his decision was made. Without a word, he made his way toward the window and placed his hands gently on the other man’s shoulders, turning the blond to face him. He closed his eyes when Justin wrapped his arms around his waist and buried his face in his shirt. “We’ll work it out,” he promised in a quiet voice as he rubbed slow, soothing circles on the smaller man’s back.
Justin didn’t answer, but Brian felt his head move slightly as he nodded. After a moment, the blond pulled back slightly and raised worried eyes to meet Brian’s. “What if they don’t believe me, Brian?” he asked quietly. “I don’t want to go to jail.”
“You won’t,” Brian assured him, stroking a tear stained cheek. “You’ve got the truth on your side.”
Justin snorted in dismay. “My father can buy an awful lot of truth.”
“He’s just a man, Justin,” Brian reminded him gently. “Despite what he thinks, his money doesn’t make him invincible.” He saw a glimmer of hope in the blue eyes and offered a small smile of encouragement. “Have I ever lied to you?”
Justin adopted a sad smile of his own. “Considering the fact that we barely know each other, I can’t say as you have.”
“Then trust me; everything will work out.”
Justin pressed his cheek against the other man’s chest, listening to the strong heartbeat beneath his ear. “I hope so,” he whispered.
Tightening his hold slightly, Brian kissed the top of the blond head. Me too, he silently thought.
Continue to Chapter Seven