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
“I know you’re in there, Justin,” Craig called through the closed loft door. “You can save us both a lot of trouble by just opening the door.”
Justin bit his lip, frantically trying to think of what to do.
“I know Kinney left and you’re in there alone,” Craig continued. “Open the door, Justin.”
Glancing furtively around the room, his eyes settled on the phone beside the bed. Moving carefully, so as not to make a sound, he made his way to it and picked it up. When he pressed the talk button, however, he received no dial tone.
“Unless, of course, you’d rather I just wait out here until Kinney comes back,” Craig called.
Those words jolted Justin into action. His cell phone was in his jacket pocket on the sofa. Moving quickly, no longer concerned about being heard, he retrieved it and powered it on, dismayed to hear the low battery warning. Hoping he’d have enough time, he quickly dialed 911.
“911,” came a female voice on the other end of the line. “What is your…”
“Fuck!” Justin hissed, tossing the phone aside.
“I can promise you it won’t be pretty if we’re still out here when he gets back,” Craig went on.
“What do you want?” Justin demanded, moving toward the door. “Haven’t you done enough damage already?”
“Now, Justin,” Craig replied, adopting a soothing tone. “I only want to help you with this difficult situation you’ve gotten yourself into. We’ll go back to the house and discuss it. I’m sure, between the two of us, we can come up with a solution.”
Justin heard another voice and pressed his ear against the door in an effort to make out what was being said.
“Time’s running out, Justin. Kinney’s on his way here as we speak. What’s it going to be?”
Justin closed his eyes in resignation. “If I go with you, will you leave him alone?” he asked, his voice barely carrying through the metal.
“Of course,” Craig promised. “I have no desire to see anyone hurt needlessly. Not you, or Mr. Kinney … and especially not that darling little boy of his.”
Justin was horrified. His father wouldn’t really threaten an innocent child, would he? Reminding himself what Craig was capable of toward his own son gave him his answer. Slowly, he unlocked the door and slid it open.
“There now,” Craig grinned maliciously. “I knew you were smart enough to see reason.”
Justin made a move to join his father on the landing, only to be pushed back into the loft by the large man who’d attacked him in the alley.
“I thought we were going home,” Justin snapped as his father joined them inside and slid the door closed.
“Oh, we are,” Craig assured him. “Just as soon as we settle things with your host.”
“You said you’d leave him alone!” Justin accused, taking an angry step toward his father. “You promised!”
Craig backhanded him and Justin fell to the floor. Slowly, he picked himself up and lifted his chin in defiance, ignoring the trickle of blood escaping from the corner of his mouth.
“Now, you listen to me,” Craig seethed. “We’re not going anywhere until you clean up this mess you’ve made.”
Justin looked at him with incredulity. “Me?”
Taking a deep breath, Craig reined in his temper. “You’re the one who dragged Kinney into this,” he reminded him. “The others were associates of mine. I could have bought their silence if I had to, but Kinney’s like a goddamned dog with a bone. He’s not going to give up as long as you keep playing the role of the damsel in distress.”
“Distress?!” Justin barked. He jabbed his finger in the large man’s direction. “You sent *him* after me with a fucking knife!”
“What happens within our family is nobody’s business but ours,” Craig insisted angrily. “Now, when Kinney gets back here, you’re going to tell him that it was all a big misunderstanding, that we’ve worked out our differences and you’ve decided to go out of state to school while I take care of this mess with the police.”
“How?” Justin shouted. “Thanks to you, they have eyewitnesses who say I stabbed that guy!”
Craig shook his head sadly. “You’re not a stupid boy, Justin. Surely you know that eyewitness testimony is among the most unreliable. You’re not the only blond faggot peddling his ass on the street.”
Justin’s mind reeled with the implications of those words. His father was willing to set up another innocent kid to take the fall for the stabbing. All Justin had to do was agree to his terms to go out of state, probably to Dartmouth like his father had wanted all along.
“You’re a Taylor,” Craig said as though reading his mind. “We’re businessmen. No Taylor has ever gone to a sissy faggot art school and you won’t be the first, do I make myself clear?”
Justin heard the elevator approaching and looked toward the door anxiously.
“You’d better be convincing,” Craig warned him. “For his sake as well as yours.”
Justin didn’t have time to reply before the loft door slid open and Brian stepped inside. Upon seeing the two men standing with Justin, he stopped in his tracks. “What the fuck’s going on here?” he asked, setting down the bag of Chinese food he carried.
“Mr. Kinney,” Craig smiled, walking toward Brian with his hand outstretched. “How nice to finally meet you.”
Brian ignored the hand and looked at the blond still rooted to the spot in the middle of the room. “Justin?”
Justin took a few tentative steps toward the man speaking to him. “Brian,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady. “Uh, this is my father, Craig Taylor. We’ve been, um, talking and I think we have things all worked out.”
“Worked out?” Brian repeated, taking note of the red mark on Justin’s cheek and the blood at the corner of his mouth.
“Yeah,” Justin replied, forcing a small smile. “It was all a misunderstanding; I know that now. Thanks for everything you’ve done; I really appreciate it.”
“Misunderstanding?” Brian asked angrily. “He sent men to assault you! How is that a misunderstanding?”
Craig chuckled self-consciously. “I assure you, Mr. Kinney, no harm would have come to him. Teenagers can be difficult at times. It’s not unusual for a parent to sometimes have to resort to scare tactics. He was never in any real danger.”
“They just about broke his fucking jaw and his ribs,” Brian spat back. “What exactly do you consider harm if not that?”
“That was my own fault,” Justin interjected quickly. “I should have just gone with them and not tried to get away.”
Brian’s eyes narrowed as he studied the younger man. “And what about the stabbing? You going to tell me you did that?”
“Of course not,” Craig replied for his son. “Justin could never hurt anyone, we all know that. I knew there had to be a logical explanation why those men would identify him and I assure you I worked tirelessly until I found it.”
“And?” Brian quipped sarcastically. “What did you come up with?”
“The young man who stabbed Mr. Wyatt looked remarkably like Justin, here. Having seen Justin on more than one occasion at my home, they obviously mistook the assailant for him. Memory transference is apparently quite common in these situations, especially where a violent crime is concerned.”
Brian didn’t believe a word of it and his eyes never left Justin. “So that’s it?” he asked quietly. “All the shit you’ve gone through the past few days, Hell, the past few months and suddenly it’s all forgiven?”
“He’s my father, Brian,” Justin pointed out firmly. “You had to realize we would have worked it out eventually.” He paused, swallowing hard before continuing. “You’re not stupid.”
Brian’s blood boiled at the comment. Pasting a wry smile on his face, he turned to Craig. “Well, since everything seems to have worked out for the best, here, you won’t mind if I have a final word with Justin.” His gaze settled once again on the blond. “In private.”
“By all means,” Craig said, smiling confidently. “Come, Tony, we’ll wait by the elevator.”
Brian and Justin watched as the two men moved toward the door. Grabbing Justin by the wrist, Brian practically dragged him up to the bedroom.
“All right, what’s going on?” Brian hissed. “Did he threaten you?”
Justin yanked his arm out of Brian’s grip. “No,” he lied, trying to sound convincing. “I told you, we worked it out.”
“Just like that,” Brian said cynically.
“Yes,” Justin fired back. “Just like that.”
Brian’s cell phone rang and he proceeded to extract it from his pocket. “Yeah,” he barked into it, his eyes still fixed on Justin.
“Mr. Kinney? Detective Horvath.”
“Dad,” Brian replied into the phone. “I can’t talk now. I have company.”
The detective was silent for a moment. “Is there someone there with you?”
“Yes, I can call you back in a couple of minutes.”
“Dad? Justin’s dad?”
Brian had to refrain from sighing with relief that the man had made the connection. “Yes, that’s right.”
“We’ll be right there.”
“I’ll talk to you later.”
Brian snapped the phone shut and stuffed it back into his pocket. “So, now what?” he asked Justin.
Justin steeled himself. “Now, I’m going home where I belong.”
“No more working for the agency?”
Justin’s gaze lowered as he shook his head. “No.”
“And your father is suddenly willing to pay for art school?”
“I’m…” Justin stammered, not sure he could say it in a convincing tone. “I’m going to Dartmouth.”
“What?” Brian barked. “What about PIFA?”
Justin’s gaze snapped up, angry that Brian thought he was caving to his father’s wishes. Angrier still at himself because it was true. “It’s my life, Brian,” he pointed out flatly. “It’s none of your fucking business where I go to school.”
Brian wanted to end the conversation out of sheer frustration, but he knew he had to try to stall until Horvath arrived. “Justin,” he said, softening his tone. “I don’t understand. Earlier you said you were through with waiting for him to be a real father and now you’re just going along with him?”
Justin couldn’t stop the tear that tracked its way down his cheek. “Just stay out of it, Brian.”
Brian was quite aware that Craig and his minion could hear every word through the open loft door. “So that’s it,” he said, raising his voice slightly. “You fucking used me and now you’re just going back to your country club life.”
Justin swallowed hard, surprised at the harsh words. “I didn’t mean to …”
“Didn’t mean to what?” Brian demanded. “Didn’t mean to drag me into your little family drama? Didn’t mean to turn my life upside down? Didn’t mean to have the cops searching my home and hassling my friends? What exactly didn’t you mean, Justin?”
“I’m sorry,” Justin whispered, his heart breaking as he listened to Brian detail how he’d fucked up his life in the last few days.
“The cops are on their way,” Brian whispered, barely audible.
Justin’s eyes widened.
“You’re sorry?” Brian continued his angry rant, hating the pain he saw in the blue eyes but knowing he had to make it believable if they were to get out of the situation unscathed. “That’s all you have to say for yourself after everything you’ve put me through? You’re sorry?”
Tears streamed freely down Justin’s face as he tried to come up with an appropriate response.
“Justin?” Craig called from the doorway. “You ready to go?”
He turned to look at his father. Nodding once, his gaze returned to the angry one Brian still wore. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew to stall any longer would only make his father suspicious – or worse. “Good bye, Brian. Thanks for everything.”
Brian had to clench his hands at his sides to keep from grabbing onto the younger man as he slowly followed his father toward the door. They were nearly there when the large man hurried inside. “Fucking cops,” he growled. “They’re all over the place.”
Craig whirled to face Brian. “You!”
Brian steeled himself against the murderous anger in the other man’s eyes. “Yeah, me,” he admitted.
“Dad...” Justin tried to placate his father.
Craig whirled around and landed a solid blow to Justin’s jaw, sending the younger man flying. “Don’t call me that!” he bellowed.
“Justin!” Brian called, racing toward the fallen man. Carefully, he helped him to a sitting position and touched his abused cheek. “Are you all right?”
Justin nodded as though in a daze. “Dad?” he said, looking up at his father in bewilderment.
“I told you I won’t have a fucking faggot for a son!” Craig was screaming.
“Police!” A strong male voice was calling from the stairway as a uniformed officer slowly entered the loft, gun drawn. Horvath was right behind him with his own weapon at the ready.
“Put your hands behind your head,” Carl instructed the large man standing to the left of where Brian and Justin were on the floor. Turning to Craig, he added, “You, too.”
Craig glared at the detective, but complied. “Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?” he asked arrogantly. “I’ll have your badge in the morning.”
Horvath ignored him, directing his next words to Brian. “Is he OK?”
Brian helped Justin to his feet slowly. “I’m fine,” Justin muttered, glaring at his father.
“Now we’re all going down to the station to straighten this out once and for all,” Horvath dictated. Gesturing toward Craig and the large, menacing man in the room, he instructed two of the uniformed officers, “Cuff ‘em.”
Before anyone had a chance to realize what was happening, the large man had Justin in a hold with a knife to his throat.
“Now, take it easy,” Horvath tried to placate the agitated man. “You’re only going to make things worse for yourself.”
“I’m not going to jail for this stinking faggot,” he sneered, yanking Justin back roughly. Turning to Craig, he said, “You promised me!”
“Shut up!” Craig hissed angrily. “Don’t say another word until I contact my attorney.”
“What are you afraid of?” Justin managed around the fear coursing through him. “That they’ll find out you stabbed Wyatt?”
The large man seemed confused by those words. “No!” he bellowed, tightening his hold on the blond and pressing the point of the knife to his throat.
Brian swallowed as a trickle of blood ran down the creamy skin. “Justin,” he whispered desperately in an effort to keep the younger man quiet.
But Justin had already said enough. The man holding him turned on his employer in desperation. “It was all your idea. Tell them!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Craig spat.
“Tell them, or so help me, I’ll kill him!” he shouted.
Instead of responding to the threat, Craig focused on Horvath. “The man is obviously deranged,” he said angrily. Turning back to the large man, he lowered his voice in feigned regret. “I’ve covered for you in the past, Tony, but not anymore. I suggest you get yourself a good lawyer.”
The man was quite obviously stunned by that response and his grip lessened on his captive.
Brian watched the next events unfold as though in slow motion. He could barely hear his own voice calling Justin’s name as the blond lunged to the side, away from the blade and out of his captor’s grip. When Tony moved to regain his hold, one of the officers opened fire, felling him with a well placed bullet to the shoulder.
As soon as Brian’s feet would obey his command to move, he was at Justin’s side. “Justin!” He pulled the smaller man into a tight embrace, relief flooding through him as he felt Justin’s thudding heartbeat against his own chest.
“I’m sorry, Brian,” Justin was murmuring over and over. “I’m so sorry.”
Brian pulled back, framing the blond’s face with his hands. “Hey,” he scolded softly. “Enough. You have nothing to apologize for.”
Justin hands clutched at Brian’s shirt repeatedly as though afraid to let go. “I didn’t mean it,” he said, tears streaming from his eyes. “I didn’t want to go. He said he’d hurt you, maybe even your son. I didn’t know what else to do, Brian.”
“That’s a lie!” Craig shouted from the spot where an officer was handcuffing him. He was glaring at Horvath. “Are you going to believe this fucking faggot over me?!”
“You’ll have a chance to tell your side,” Horvath assured him quietly. Nodding toward where an EMT was treating Tony, he smiled wryly. “Sounds like your friend here is more than ready to tell his.”
Tony was frantically explaining the whole thing to the police officer standing over him. “It was all Taylor. He sent us after the kid. When he escaped, he said it was up to us to make sure nobody could find out so that’s when I set up the stabbing. Ask Wyatt. He’ll tell you. It was all Taylor.”
“He’s crazy,” Craig hissed.
“No, he’s not,” Justin said, getting to his feet and looking sadly at his father. “Why, Dad? How could you send them after me like that? You’d already made it clear you didn’t want me in your life; why couldn’t you just stay out of mine?”
“They were laughing at me!” the man exploded, unaware in his rage that he was implicating himself. “Every rich fucking fairy that had your ass was laughing at me behind my back!”
Justin’s face reddened and Brian’s blood boiled. “Your fucking reputation is more important to you than your son’s life?” he demanded harshly
Craig turned a hateful look in his direction. “What do you care, Kinney? You got what you wanted. What they all wanted. Something to hold over Craig Taylor because you knew that none of you would ever be *anything* compared to me!” He shifted his gaze to sneer at Justin. “You didn’t really think it was you they wanted did you?” He laughed, shaking his head slowly. “Your mother was the only one who ever really wanted you,” he said coldly. “She wanted a baby more than anything in this world and in the end, it killed her. Can you live with that? Can you, Justin? Because I’ve had to for five fucking years.”
Brian took a step toward him, glaring angry daggers at the despicable man. “You sonofabitch!”
“Kinney!” Horvath barked, placing a restraining hand on Brian’s arm. “Let the law deal with him.”
Brian looked at Carl who nodded his head compassionately in Justin’s direction.
As the officer led a still angry Craig from the loft, Brian returned to Justin’s side. “Justin?” he prodded gently, unnerved by the vacant stare on the blond’s face. Haunted blue eyes eventually rose to meet hazel. Without a word, Brian took the trembling young man in his arms.
Horvath hovered near the open doorway once Tony and Craig had been escorted to patrol cars. “We’ll need to take your statements,” he said into the silence after a moment.
Brian felt the blond tense in his arms. “That’s all, right? Just a statement?” he asked, directing his words over Justin’s head at the detective.
“In light of what we’ve learned here, you won’t be facing any charges, Justin,” Carl replied, answering the question Brian was really asking.
“We can go in the Jeep if you want,” Brian assured Justin quietly.
Justin nodded once and without a word pulled out of Brian’s embrace and followed the detective slowly out of the loft.
Continue to Chapter Ten