... And Brian Kinney did Christmas by saroco61



Summary: When Brian was offered the job in New York in 121,he said he would leave and he wouldn't look back. Well, in this story, Brian did just that. And now, 11 years later, is on top of the world, having achieved everything he wanted... or not.

Categories: FEATURED STORY, QAF-U.S. FICTION, Alternate Universe, Brian/Justin, Humor, Romance, Christmas Characters: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 20858 Read: 35670 Published: December 01, 2014 Updated: December 30, 2014
Story Notes:

This story is inspired (very loosely) in the film "Family Man", but only in the general idea. So you don't need to have seen the movie because it hasn't a lot to do. At the end Brian can be somewhat OOC, but this is a Christmas story right?


Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything here. So, I hope you enjoy.

1. Chapter 1 by saroco61

2. Chapter 2 by saroco61

3. Chapter 3 by saroco61

4. Chapter 4 by saroco61

5. Chapter 5 by saroco61

Chapter 1 by saroco61


Brian left his huge bed, completely naked, as was his custom to sleep, and languidly stretched like a big lazy cat. It was still dark, and he could appreciate through the window that occupied an entire wall of his spacious bedroom, the misty of New York city lights 30 floors below.


He went to the bathroom, worthy of an Arab sheik, like everything in his mega-luxurious Manhattan penthouse, and proceeded to his morning routine. Today was Christmas Eve, but that meant nothing to him. He was about to spend the day as usual, directing his advertising agency, already the largest in the East Coast. Although Brian wasn’t satisfied with that, and had good reason to expect that soon it would be the largest in the country, if nothing prevented the signing of the contract that was about to occur. And everything was going to go well. He would see for that. Nothing stood between Brian Kinney and success. Coming the new year, his company would be more important, and he, even richer.


Definitely, coming to New York had been the best decision he had made in his life. He felt cold sweat just thinking about what would become of him if he had stayed in Pittsburg, rotting in a mediocre position in a mediocre company with no future. Of course, to get away from Pittsburg he had also left behind everyone who had ever meant anything in his life. But it wasn’t too high a price considering what he had obtained in exchange, and he had always been a loner anyway. Brian Kinney didn’t need anyone and, even better, no one needed him. This is as it should be, each being fully free and responsible for their own life.


So, for him these days were no different from the rest of the year, except that thanks to the hypocrisy and stupidity of people, he could earn good money with holiday campaigns. Celebrations weren’t for him, and he was glad to no longer have to put up with any "family" trying to convince him otherwise.


After showering and shaving, he left the bathroom and couldn’t help but feel satisfied looking in the full length mirror in his dressing room. At 41, he was still a splendid specimen of a man, and hadn’t lost a bit of his beauty, nor his vanity. Carefully, he chose the clothes that he would wear today. His huge closet brimming with the finest and most elegant garments, from underwear to shoes, Brian didn’t wear anything other than designed, regardless of price. When he was satisfied with the dark gray Armani suit from the latest collection, put on an elegant black coat and left his place in an excellent mood.


He was so happy with how good was his life, and the excellent prospects presented to him, that he wasn’t even annoyed by the cheesy Christmas tune playing in the elevator. He even gave a smile to the few neighbors who joined him on different floors and wished him Merry Christmas. Until he reached the garage, where he got in his new Ferrari, his latest whim, and left burning tires toward Kinney Advertising Ltd.


As was expected, everything was ready to sign the contract with the largest advertising agency in Russia that would grant exclusive campaigns in all the major American products that were marketed in that vast country, and many of the old Soviet block. At noon, Irina Petrovna, representing the company in the United States, arrived on time and was taken to his office, where Brian had ordered to bring them a delicious lunch. He received her as the gallant gentleman that he wasn’t, and proceeded to finalize the small details of their agreement that remained still. She was a woman of similar age to Brian himself: blond hair, elegant, and very beautiful, Brian thought wryly. Of course, she wouldn’t have escaped if he had had any interest in women.


"Well, Brian, although the signing will take place tomorrow, I think our magnificent arrangement deserves a toast.” Irina said in perfect English with little accent.


"Of course. I allowed myself to order champagne just for that.” Brian said, tongue in cheek, rising the bottle and proceeding to uncork it. After filling both glasses, Irina also stood for the toast.


"I drink so this agreement will be only the beginning of our business together." She said solemnly.


"I second that, and may I add that I had never be so happy that the Cold War ended." Brian said slyly, which made the woman smile.


"Of course, Brian. You're a special case in many ways. Too bad you don’t play in my league, as you say here in America. If the rumors I've heard are true, of course.” Brian looked at her raising an eyebrow amused.


"Oh, they are, and certainly fall short." They both laughed. Soon after, the lunch meeting ended, and Brian said goodbye to his illustrious guest. He then called a meeting of his top executives. In the conference room. He proceeded to announce that everything was ready and that the next day there would be a video conference in which the representatives of both companies would sign the agreement there and in Moscow. The contract would got sealed  when Brian himself traveled to Moscow the following week.


"Tomorrow?" Newman, his second in command, asked puzzled. He was a little older than Brian with a formal look. Balding, big belly… that gave away what he was: an honest family man. But whose common sense and loyalty Brian appreciated, although the man lacked of drive and brilliance. "But it's Christmas..."


"I know exactly what day it is, Newman, December 25, Tuesday. In Russia, it’s a working day and, as you know, if we aren’t ready and signed right away, others will, depriving Kinney Advertising its best opportunity for growth in years. And you don’t want that, right? Not to mention the considerable rise your salary will also experience.” Brian said sarcastically.


"Oh no, Mr. Kinney. I don’t deny the importance of this agreement for all of us. But tomorrow is a day to be with family and..."


"You all know the philosophy of the company. It’s up to you if you prefer to lose a good job by outdated and sappy traditions. But if you prefer, everybody is free to resign. Sure you could find a better job...  Oh no, wait, there is a crisis and jobs are scarce. However, as I said, I don’t hold anyone by force. You can come tomorrow and stay involved in the success of this company, or spend the day with family and join unemployment.” Brian said in an arrogant tone. Why has he to be surrounded by losers? There was dead silence in the room as everyone watched him. And finally, Newman spoke again.


"I’ll be here." He said with barely a whisper.


"Excellent. So this meeting is over. You may return to your places to check out.” Nobody said anything and Brian returned to his office without giving more thought to the matter. He had work to do and money to gain. Everything was back under control as he liked.


As usual, he was the last to leave the office, past 9pm. He couldn’t remember the protests of his employees anymore, and later only thought about the great business opportunities that would be presented to him from the following day on. Again, in an excellent mood, he thought that after all, he could have a celebration in his own way. No fucking Christmas, but the success of his work. However, he wasn’t going to stay up all night, because the next day was very important and he wanted to be wide awake and early. But he could very well order a bit of fun from his favorite escort agency. He did so, as he left for the garage. Then he remembered that he was out of whiskey and had forgotten to tell Mrs. Morales, his efficient housekeeper, to buy more. It was a shame, but probably he still could find an open liquor store, and he would only have to deviate a bit of his way.


When he parked his car a few minutes later in front of an establishment selling drinks, and entered ready to buy a bottle of his favorite brew, Brian had no idea he was about to live the strangest, most amazing and surreal experience of his entire life. He entered the room, without paying much attention to the unusual fact that the store was completely empty of customers. It also struck him too, for he was too focused on his business, that behind the counter was a little old man with hair as white as the snow that had begun to fall a few hours before, and apparently so fragile that it seemed a breath could knock him down. At best, Brian thought how serious the economic crisis was, forcing a man that old to keep working.


However, he barely had time to think about it. He had just received directions from the old man where to find his brand of whiskey on the shelves when suddenly burst into the store a young menacing guy, whose evil intentions were revealed when he pulled a gun from under his jacket and pointed it at the head of the elderly dependent.


"¡Come on, Grandpa, open the register, and give me everything you have!" Demanded the robber, who didn’t seem to have noticed the presence of Brian.


"Uh... I... I'm sorry, young man, but the register is empty." The old man answered in a trembling voice, cowering before the gun.


"What? You expect me to believe you haven’t made any sales on a day like today?" The young man shouted angrily, brandishing his pistol menacingly. "Don’t try to take me for an idiot, old man, or I'll blow your head off!" Just then, Brian, who was behind an isle, came out and stood by the thief. He had no idea why, but he felt the urgent need to protect the little old man. What the hell? He was Brian Kinney, who didn’t care about anyone but himself. Yet the scene before him filled him with a deep rage whose origin he couldn’t identify. Maybe it was his innate hatred of bullies, whom he had faced many times in his life, starting with his own father.


"Haven’t you heard? The man has just told you that there is no money in the register.” He shouted before even being conscious of opening his mouth. The kid then turned to him.


"Wow, a hero! How sweet!" He said mockingly. "So you don’t want granddaddy to suffer, huh? Okay, let's say I believe the register is empty. But I bet your wallet is full. Isn’t it, pretty face?” He continued in the same tone, pointing now to Brian, who took out his wallet, opened it, and handed the kid without blinking, a good bunch of notes.


"Here, 500 dollars. I usually don’t carry much cash. But I bet it's more than a piece of shit like you has ever seen together.” Brian said distilling arrogance, but inside he was cursing this absurd knight attack, that he apparently, couldn’t stop.


"But look, he is brave too! Well, now, you are also giving me that gold watch you wear: Rolex isn’t it? Sure you won’t even notice the loss. You are filthy rich. Right, pretty face? You think you are better than the rest of us because you wear expensive clothes and gold jewelry. Well I don’t like being insulted. I don’t like guys like you. Maybe, I’ll kill you both, and take everything you're wearing, including this very fancy long coat. How about that, whitey?” Said and done. He turned the gun and shot blowing up a few bottles behind the terrified clerk.


"No, stop! All right. Sorry I insulted you.” Brian said astonished himself that his voice didn’t shake. "Look, we'll make a deal. You forget the store. You already saw there is no money. And I give you 500 dollars, the watch and this tie pin... Look, it’s also gold, and has a diamond. Deal?”


"Ummm, I don’t know. How do I know that while you and I leave the old man doesn’t call the cops?" The thief asked doubtfully. Brian, without hesitation, pulled the phone cord that was on the counter. In doing so, he turned his head, so he couldn’t see the knowing look and smiles that the elderly and the thief exchanged.


"He won’t. Come on, let’s get out of here! It wouldn’t be worthy for you killing this poor old man for nothing. Not a good business, and, believe me, I know about business.” Brian began to move towards the door without more, the young man followed. When they were a few feet out into the street, Brian handed the watch and tie pin, the other pocketed them with the money.


"You know, man. What you just did is fine. It was totally awesome. One can say you're a good man, Brian.” The offender said smiling.


"How the hell do you know my name is Brian?"


"...Weeell, you look like a Brian.” The kid tried to conceal.


"Whatever you say. But I have no idea why I've done what I've done. I assure you I'm no good Samaritan, and if you don’t plan to shoot me, I'll be grateful for you to get lost, and leave me alone.” The kid smiled as he put the gun under his jacket again.


"Oh, yes you are... Good, I mean. You deserve a reward for your generosity. You have a big heart full of love under all that money, Brian. And you're about to find out.” The kid said with a genuine smile, and walked away.


"Yeah, whatever." Brian muttered opening the door of his car. He entered adding "Fucking weirdo." When he sit behind the wheel, he realized he still had the bottle of Chivas in the pocket of his coat. But, what the hell! He said to himself. At the end of the day, he had won it.  He would drink to the health of the strange old man whose life he had just saved.


When he got home, instead of going up to his apartment directly from the garage, he stopped in the lobby, wanting to make sure that Tobias, the black giant who was doing the night shift at the counter, wouldn’t give any trouble to his “special guest”, who must be about to arrive. Normally, he would have given instructions over the phone, but since he was there... He approached the counter where the man seemed concentrated in a magazine. By this time, Brian had forgotten the events of the liquor store again concentrating on his own affairs.


He told the concierge to let the man who was coming in, and promised him a generous tip for his discretion. As he was already going to the elevator, he noticed, who knows why, what the man was reading. A fucking art magazine: “Art Forum”, to be exact. Since when is a concierge interested in the New York art world? This night was turning out to be more and more revealing. It wasn’t hard for him to read the headline of the page that Tobias had open at the time, Brian had perfected the art of reading upside down, watching the notes his teacher wrote in his school days.


JUSTIN TAYLOR; FROM PITTSBURG TO OLYMPUS the headline said. And although there wasn’t any photo of the protagonist, Brian knew exactly which Justin Taylor they meant. So the kid had become a recognized artist. Good for him! Brian remembered how badly the boy had wanted to be an artist. He himself had encouraged him to do so. Like he encouraged Mikey to finally leave the nest, and have a life with Dr. David, which probably they would be enjoying. Like his son would be enjoying the home Brian had made possible for him. Even if he had to give up his parental rights. So, that’s the way things   should be. This only confirmed the wisdom of his decision to come to New York, and live without ties or commitments. He wasn’t meant to be a parent or have a partner. And it was clear he was right.


While he was in the elevator, he was pondering how curious it was to think about Justin, Michael and Gus, that he hadn’t done since he left Pittsburgh. But then his mind returned to the present, erasing all memory when just entering his apartment, the intercom rang, and Tobias announced that his guest had arrived.


As always, the young man the agency sent him meet all his requirements. It cost him a small fortune to be a member of that agency, but it certainly was the most exclusive and highest quality of New York. And after a while when that gorgeous brown eyed came, Brian had forgotten the liquor store, the strange thief and distant experiences of Pittsburg. So after dismissing the young man, he was ready to sleep, not forgetting to connect the alarm, because tomorrow was going to be a great day. It would be, indeed, but not the way Brian expected.

Chapter 2 by saroco61

Brian woke up with a start. He had the acute sensation that he overslept. When he opened his eyes, his suspicions were confirmed, as a dim light flooded the room. God! How was it possible? He didn’t heard the alarm, just today. He couldn’t afford to be late. The videoconference was at 9 o'clock, 6 o'clock in Moscow. It had been agreed that way to make it within working hours in both countries. What time was?


Turning his head frantically in panic of failing in the most momentous day of his professional life, he made a sudden movement of the body, and heard something like a faint moan. He then noticed that he was not alone in bed. There was someone else, hugging him and curled up on his chest! He looked down, thus, his body twitched again. Indeed, he saw a blond head on his chest. What the hell...? He remembered well sending the guy from last night on his way, and he wasn’t even blond. Besides, he was sure of not being drunk or drugged. In that moment, from the blond head came a gentle, sexy even, voice.


"A little longer, Brian..." The voice said, in a cuddly and sleepy tone. "Let’s take advantage that the children aren’t up yet." The voice continued in the same tone, and its owner snuggled further against him. CHILDREN! Which chi-? Brian thought alarmed, but didn’t have time for more, because in that moment, the door of the bedroom (OH GOD! IT WAS NOT HIS BEDROOM!) Flung open, and a little girl with messy brown-gold hair and pink pajamas, burst in, carrying on her hip a blond baby. Brian watched in horror as the brat deposited the baby on the bed and climbed on top of it herself, starting to jump and shout without any compassion, while the baby was crawling with amazing speed and cheerful chirps toward the paralyzed Brian. However, on top of it all, then a furry beast also came into the room, jumped on the bed, and accompanied by barking the cries of the little girl.


"Come on, come on! Get up! It's Christmas!” The brat shouted her lungs off, while jumping on the bed. The blond baby had already reached Brian's bare chest, and sat on it without stopping to issue unintelligible gurgling, displaying a wide smile of three teeth, and proceeded to rub his pacifier full of drool all over Brian's face, who still was unable to react. Where the fuck was he? He was certain of having seen the hustler walk away last night. But, could he have come back? Had he somehow injected Brian any drugs to kidnap him? Well, stranger things have happened, and after all, he was very rich.


While he continued being unable to move or speak, amidst all the mayhem, the guy who had been crouched over him, sat on the bed, and then Brian saw his face. JUSTIN! How could it be? Although he hadn’t seen him in 11 years, it wasn’t hard to recognize him. And his reaction to him was almost the same as that night under the lamppost. Only now Justin looked even more handsome, if anything. Even rubbing his eyes to clear them from sleep. His hair was longer, giving him a bohemian air very suitable for an artist, Brian thought.


"Enough, Heather." The blond said in a firm but sweet tone, addressing the girl. "Get off the bed... You too, Rocky. Come on. Down.” He gestured with his hand and the dog jumped down, but kept barking and wagging his tail furiously. The girl, however, continued on the bed, but at least she stopped jumping.


"Come on, Daddy-Justin, let's open the presents. You said we could when it was day. And it’s day already.” The girl said full of reason. Justin smiled and rubbed his hand over his face.


"Yes, I said that. You're right. Fine. We’ll open a gift each, but only one, before breakfast, okay?” He began to get out of bed. Brian saw that he was wearing a boxer, and a shirt, both garments too loose. He took some sweatpants at the foot of the bed, and put them on. Then he turned to the bed, the girl jumped down and ran out of the bedroom, followed by the dog. "Come on, Brian. You heard it. Time to open presents.” He sing-sang, taking the baby off of Brian, who finally was able to speak.


"I... I think I’ll pass." Brian stammered overwhelmed by everything that was happening to him. And quite affected by the proximity of Justin. Much more now, that he had his blue eyes on him. The blond grimaced in disbelief.


"Come on! Don’t play hard. I don’t buy it. After you stayed up last night until 2 wrapping Heather’s bicycle. Do you think I'm going to believe that you don’t want to see her face when she see it? If you are more excited than her.” Justin said mockingly, and took Brian's hand, pulling him. "Come on, big guy. I'll let you open your gift right after Heather.” Brian let Justin pull him until he was standing next to the bed. He realized then that he was also wearing shorts, although he remembered having gone to bed naked like always. But he had already stopped caring about all this because he had decided it had to be a dream.


He saw another pair of sweatpants at the foot of the bed and put them on without thinking, deducting it would be "his". He also opened a drawer in the nightstand beside the bed, where as he expected, there were shirts. He put one on, and followed Justin, who had already left the bedroom, like a zombie. Of course, a dream, damn weird, but aren’t all dreams weird? Sure the contract so important that he would sign, the shock by the liquor store robbery, and seeing again Justin’s name in the magazine, must be the cause of those peculiar images in his brain.


He followed the blond, carrying the baby in his arms, down a staircase and into a cozy living room. The house was simple, but looked comfortable. It reminded him of the girls’ house in Pittsburg in some respects. In the living room, behind a beige sofa with colorful cushions, was a Christmas tree of considerable size, fully decorated. Under the tree, were numerous packages of different sizes.


The little girl was standing in front of the tree, shifting nervous and impatient. When everyone was in front of the tree, Justin spoke and pointing at the bulky package, whose paper wrapper could barely conceal what it contained, he said:


"Look, Heather. What a big package, and has your name! What could it be?” The blond put great theatricality in his words, which seemed to charm the girl, who began to excitedly jump up and down.


"The bike, the bike!" She repeated delighted.


"Umm do you think? Well, you have to open it.” And the little girl rushed happy to unwrap her gift. Justin, who had laid the baby on the carpet, took Brian's arm and squeezed it, looking at him with an expression that the brunet couldn’t decipher, but he seemed happy judging by his smile. When the bike was exposed, Heather begun to ride it around the couch, ringing cheerful the bell, and screaming:


"Thank you, daddies! It's just what I wanted.” Brian looked at Justin then tongue in cheek, and casually said:


"Shouldn’t she thank Santa?" Justin gave him a conspiratorial nudge and said, smiling.


"I'm afraid she already knows, Brian. She's very smart, and doesn’t like mince words. The way things are, no bullshit. You can tell she's your daughter.” Brian then look at the girl again. How old would she be: 6, 7 tops? Brian had noticed that she had a couple of gaps between her teeth, and felt something akin to pride. How absurd! This is all a dream. Nothing is real, remember? He said to himself. "Your turn." Justin sing-sang. "Come on, open one of your gifts." What the hell! Follow this absurd game wouldn’t kill him. He approached the tree, and then saw a package with his name. He looked at Justin, who had another package in his hands, and sat on the floor, just behind the baby, who was between his legs. The blond waved Brian to also sit down, and he did. "Heather, honey. The bicycle is for playing outside. Here you'll only break something.” Justin admonished the girl in the same firm but sweet tone he had used in the bedroom.


"Fiiine. Okay.” She answered reluctantly. But left the bike resting on the back of the sofa, and sat on the floor beside them. "Come on, Daddy-Brian! Open your present!” She cheered up again seeing the package that Brian had in his hand. The brunet stayed some more time impassive with vacant eyes. With 2 pairs of eyes on him, proceeded to open the package. It was a dark blue scarf and very soft. He froze momentarily again, but Justin took the scarf from his hands, and wrapped it around his neck.


"Ummm, you look great." The blond said smiling. Without notice, he planted a loud kiss on Brian’s lips. God, if this was just a dream, why Justin's lips had felt so real? A flood of memories washed over him. There weren’t few the kisses from those lips during those early months in Pittsburg. "Well, now it's your turn, Jimmy. What do you say? Should we open your gift?” Justin told the baby who wouldn’t stop chattering, and began to tear the glossy paper. That elicited a wave of enthusiastic laughter from the baby with big blue eyes. Justin then extracted a toy locomotive with bright colors, and put it on the floor in front of Jimmy, who seemed completely happy squeezing the bright green paper. But whose attention flew to the toy when it began to move producing the sound of a train while multiple lights came on.


Brian continued to attend these events like if he was seeing a movie. While Jimmy laughed happy, Heather got up and picked up another package, which she gave to Justin.


"Now you!" She said cheerful. Justin opened the package, which contained a pair of sunglasses, and put them on, saying:


"How do I look? Aren’t they really elegant?” He joked making poses. "I love them. It’s a great gift.” He added in a tone that seemed totally sincere. Brian couldn’t believe it. How could he be so enthusiastic? The glasses weren’t even of a famous label. This was probably by far the most absurd and nonsense dream he ever had. However, the surreal events hadn’t finished yet.


"Now we have to open Rocky’s gift." Heather said excitedly, and the dog barked as if he understood her words.


"How Come? The dog has gifts too?” He couldn’t help asking sarcastically.


"Well. He is part of the family, right?” Justin replied amused. Heather unwrapped the gift that was a bright red collar. "Wow, Rocky. You'll be the cutest dog in the neighborhood.” Justin continued joking. Then he looked at Brian still smiling, and said. "Which reminds me, that he hasn’t been out yet today. Come on, while I make breakfast.” Brian looked at him incredulously.


"You're not suggesting that I..." He said pointing to the animal, who approached him and started barking and jumping around.


"What’s with you today, Brian? Haven’t you sleep well? You're grumpier than usual. Hurry up or we’ll have an 'accident'.” Justin said nodding at the dog, as he took the baby, and began to leave the living room. "Oh, and bundle up! It's snowing!” Brian stared in disbelief at the dog, who responded by barking and wagging his tail happily. If this was his dream, how is that instead of catching Justin and fucking him until he lost consciousness, he had to walk out with a fleabag? He followed the animal, running toward the front door. Beside it was a closet, where, as supposed, he found the leash of the dog and his shoes and coat. Well, it was a great compliment to call that vulgar garment a coat. Nothing to do with his Armani, of course.


"Hey. Let's set a few things straight.” Brian grumbled, looking at the dog, who was circling around him, still barking. "I'm not your owner, OK? Don’t expect anything from me. I don’t even like dogs.” So saying, he bent to put the leash. The animal stayed surprisingly still. But when Brian opened the door, he had no time even to think, as the furry beast pulled him almost making him fall. After a frantic race, trying not to slip on the snowy ground, the dog finally stopped next to a tree. "Damn fleabag! You almost killed me!” Brian shouted. Then, he looked around, and said in a whisper: "Great. Now I’m arguing with a fucking dog.” He shrugged his shoulders resignedly. This couldn’t last much longer. Soon, he would hear the alarm. And everything would be over. He looked back at the dog. Actually, it wasn’t fair to call him a fleabag, because he was a fine specimen of golden retriever. And his coat looked very clean.


When he returned home, after the humiliation of having to pick up dog poop, the family was gathered in the kitchen.


"Just in time. The coffee is hot, and toast are ready.” Justin said in his usual lively tone. He sat at the table, introducing tablespoons of something soft in Jimmy’s mouth, who was sitting in his highchair. Heather sat in front of him, eating cereals. As he removed the leash, Rocky ran to a corner of the kitchen where Brian supposed, would be his breakfast.


"I'm not hungry." He growled.


"Okay. I didn’t expect you to eat more than your usual toast. But have at least some coffee. I have the impression that you need caffeine. So maybe, your mood will improve. And you’ll remember that it's Christmas.” Justin said sarcastically. Many memories had surfaced inside Brian seeing him again. Now he also recalled how insolent and irritating the little twat could be. However, in the street he had decided to let everything go, waiting for the alarm clock. He washed his hands in the sink. And without another word, he sat down at the table.


"You're right, a coffee will do me good." And he proceeded to serve himself a cup. He took a sip and felt calmer. The coffee was very good. But he just stayed there, without a word, while Justin and Heather were immersed in a nonsense conversation to him, and Jimmy beat with a spoon everything in his reach, attacking Brian’s nerves. At one point, Justin left the table to get something from a cabinet, and Jimmy hit squarely on the plate in front of him, blowing porridge in all directions, especially Brian’s face and chest. "Damn! Fuck!” Brian shouted angrily, rising from his chair. Suddenly, silence fell. And three pairs of eyes stared appalled at him. Brian glanced at their faces: Jimmy seemed about to break crying, Justin had an unreadable expression, and Heather seemed to look at him like a scientist would look at a rare specimen under the microscope.


With that, he left the kitchen. He didn’t know where to go. Well, yes, first to take a shower. He went to the master bedroom. Like he expected, the bathroom had nothing to do with his luxurious one in his penthouse. It was spacious and clean, but simplicity reigned. Hygiene products were of good quality, although not the expensive cosmetics that he was used to. It was clear that he was dreaming of an apparent life together with Justin (concept that made him shudder from head to toe at the mere thought), but why the hell were they so poor?


He left the bathroom with a towel around his waist. He looked at the bed. Everything had started there. What if he went back to sleep? Maybe when he wake up, everything would be back to normal. He wasn’t aware of falling asleep, but someone shook him gently. He opened his eyes. Oh no, nothing had changed. He was still in the strange nightmare, and Justin was looking at him with condescension.


"Just like I said, sleeplessness. If you weren’t such a workaholic, you wouldn’t be so grumpy. However, I’m afraid that your nap is over. We have to get going or we'll be late for dinner at Debbie’s.” The blond said smiling.


"D ... Debbie's. We are in Pittsburgh!"


"Unless there has been a sudden earthquake of gigantic proportions overnight, that's where we live, yes." Justin teased. "Come on, get dressed and go take care of getting Jimmy dressed while I shower. That way, you can show your kids that you don’t hate them despite your little scene before in the kitchen, and that you even didn’t stay to finish open presents. I had to make out all kinds of excuses. You owe me, big guy.” Justin continued joking, and went into the bathroom. Again something was wrong here. He should follow the adult blond, not deal with the baby. And yet...


He opened the closet and although expecting it, he felt however surprised. There was not the slightest possibility that those clothes were his. If there were only 3 suits! And of course, they weren’t Armani How could anyone survive with only 3 suits? This proved it. Everything was a fucking nightmare. But, when was he finally going to wake up? He got a brown sweater and black jeans that looked new, and headed for the bedroom where he supposed were the children. Heather was already dressed and groomed, and Jimmy was sitting in his crib cheerful, chattering and clapping his tiny hands. There was no denying he was a happy child,


On a chest of drawers, he saw a series of neatly folded clothes that would be the child's clothing. Carefully, he lifted him. God, he hadn’t had a baby in his arms since Gus. It felt strange, but strove to divert his thoughts. The smiling blond baby looked at him with very attentive blue eyes. Then, Brian felt he needed a diaper change. Great. Could this nightmare get worse? He held the child gently on the table attached to the crib, and looked around. The things necessary to change the baby shouldn’t be far. Then he noticed that Heather hadn’t taken her eyes off him for a moment. She was sitting on her bed, and still had the same expression as in the kitchen.


"What?" Brian barked, unable to bear her gaze between accusing and fearful.


"You're not my daddy-Brian, right?" More than a question, it was a statement full of innocent distress. Some little girl. Justin had said she was smart... well, and that she was his biological daughter. Brian looked at her closely. Her hair, now perfectly combed and tied with a golden diadem was a beautiful brown shade, slightly lighter than Brian’s, but the eyes... Brian had no doubt. They were large, expressive and hazel. It was like looking into a mirror. And if as the blond said, Heather had also inherited his love of truth, he had to keep up.


"You're very clever. You've caught me. I'm not your dad.”


"Are there others like you coming over to impersonate my family, and kill us all?"


"What the hell...? I haven’t killed anyone. You have too much imagination.” Like someone who I know, Brian thought. Perhaps little Heather spent too much time with Mikey.


"Well. Then, where's my daddy-Brian?" She asked gravely.


"I don’t know, OK? I have no idea what's going on. As for me, none of this is real."


"When will he be back?"


"I just told you. I didn’t... Anyway. This makes no sense.” As he spoke, Brian had been attending to the baby, automatically. It's funny how what he learned with Gus returned to his mind without effort. Now Jimmy was clean, and Brian was about to put him a fresh diaper. But again he started to look around.


"If I help you, and don’t tell anyone who you are, you promise that you won’t hurt my daddy?" Again, Brian felt a sort of pride... It was obvious that Heather was frightened by something she didn’t understand, but instinctively she wanted to protect her father.


"Listen, Heather. That’s your name, right?" She nodded. "Like I said, I don’t understand what is going on. But I promise that if it is in my hand, no one will hurt your dad."


"Diapers are in that closet there. And... hurry up!” Heather said pointing to a cabinet. Just when Brian turned his head, Jimmy began to urinate, and again, he reached right Brian’s face. The blond little boy started laughing and cheering his achievement. Brian also heard Heather’s laughter. "I warned you. Jimmy always does that, if you don’t put the diaper right away.” The little girl said writhing in laughter.


Brian managed to finish dressing the naughty blondie. And after changing his sweater, the family finally managed to be in the car. In the small garage, there were two vehicles. They went to a small van that Brian concluded, would be Justin’s. Not only because the blond took the wheel, but because it wasn’t possible for him to drive such a contraption. However, the other car didn’t look very promising either. Oh, how he missed his Ferrari. Was he never going to wake up from this nightmare? The two children were in the back seat in their seats, and immediately began to chatter. Brian was amazed, but it seemed that Heather could understand little Jimmy’s unintelligible jargon.


As they passed a few streets, Brian began to be familiar with the area. He knew this neighborhood or a very similar one. In fact, he thought, it was the same area of the city where the Taylors used to live. That made him look at Justin, who was wearing a red sweater that suited him very much. After a few minutes, the blond turned his face smiling.


"What? Have I shaving cream in my face, or something? Why are you looking at me like that?"


"You're beautiful." Brian didn’t put any emotion into those words. He uttered the phrase as if speaking about the weather. However Justin gave him a radiant smile. And incredibly, he fucking blushed! But Brian didn’t have much time to ponder this fact, as the children’s innocent conversation suddenly caught his attention.


"You'll see Jimmy. At grandma Debbie’s, is the whole family. Gus too. Do you remember Gus? He is our big brother, but lives in Canada.” Heather was saying.


"He wouldn’t remember, sweetheart, Gus came in summer. And five months is a very long time for a 1 year old baby.” Justin said. "But surely he’s going to be as happy to see Gus as we all, right, Brian?"


"Huh?" Was all Brian managed to articulate. This nightmare wasn’t only strange, but also cruel.


"Come on, Brian. You don’t need to pretend in front of me. I promise I won’t ruin your reputation as a tough and unemotional guy, telling your preteen son how much you miss him.” They were there already. The neighborhood where the Novotny’s residence was hadn’t changed at all. As Justin parked, Heather got rid of her attachments, and ran toward the house. Again, Brian felt paralyzed, as if his legs were made of cardboard. Without being fully aware of what he was doing, he followed Justin, who handed him a canvas bag, and picked up Jimmy of his baby seat.


When they crossed the street and climbed the porch steps, Heather was already in front of the red squeaky door, ringing the doorbell. The door opened, and Brian felt as if a huge force crushed him against the ground. He heard distant voices, but they must be right there. He couldn’t move. The thought of going into that house, and seeing those people...  Seeing Gus! It gave him such distress, that he was completely unable to breathe. He was choking.


"Brian?" Justin's alarmed voice sounded miles away.


"No, no, no..." Brian repeated, struggling to breathe. "It's not real. Nothing is real."


"Brian. What’s happening to you? Is your heart?” Justin was by his side. The blond wasn’t holding Jimmy anymore. His eyes, round with astonishment and concern. "Damn it. Hold on! I’m taking you to the hospital!” Justin took his arm to guide him towards the car.


"I don’t need a fucking hospital! I just want my life back.” Brian shouted angrily. No sign of choking.


"Calm down guys. It’s not a heart attack. Debbie would you mind watching the children? I'll come to pick them up later."


"Sure, Sunshine. But are you sure that everything’s fine?" Brian didn’t want to look, but Debbie's voice sounded so real.


"Yes, Debbie. Don’t worry. Brian works too much. You know him.” By that time, Brian was back in the car, and sat in the passenger seat, cowering like a child who refuses to go into the doctor's office. When Justin got in the car, he again struggled to breathe. "Calm down, Brian. Everything will be alright. Look at me. Breathe with me... That's it. I'll take you home. Keep breathing... Good, like this... slowly. Think of nothing..."


Justin continued talking to him and encouraging him to breathe deeply the rest of the way. His words had such a calming effect. Brian would have continued listening to him, and following his instructions all day. He hardly noticed when Justin helped him into the house, took off his coat and shoes, and made him sit on the couch. Brian closed his eyes for a moment, but suddenly opened them when he heard a voice.


"God, Brian, Justin is right. You're a real drama-queen!" He couldn’t believe his eyes. But in front of him was the thief of the liquor store, looking at him quizzically.


"You!" He exclaimed in a voice too sharp. "How did you get in…?" He stopped and looked apprehensive at Justin who was going to the kitchen.


"Don’t worry. He can’t hear us."


"What the hell...? This is not a dream, right?” The other man shook his head. "If it's a joke, is not fucking funny."


"It’s no joke either. And I’m surprised that someone as intelligent as you hasn’t found out already. If you’d ever pay attention to what's around you, other than what has to do with your business or the guys you want to fuck, you would have realized something was wrong in the liquor store."


"Well, what the hell is all this?"


"See how you’re not paying attention? I already told you. You're a good man. But you don’t see it because you look in the wrong direction."


"Fuck me. Don’t tell you're the ghost of Christmas past, future or whatever the fuck. Well, you're wasting your time. I don’t believe in that shit. So, please, give me back my life because I have a major contract that should be signed already.”


"I will overlook the serious insult to my professional category, confusing me with some vulgar ghost, because I understand that you are mean like that. But I’m afraid that I can’t please you."


"Who the fuck are you then?"


"You can call me Angel."


"You're kidding, right? If I don’t believe in fairy tales, even less on religious nonsense. My mom took care of it."


"I know perfectly, Brian. I know you very well. But you've done it again. You care who or what I am instead of going to what really matters. The reason for this."


"That is..."


"Well, like I said, you deserve a reward for your behavior. The reward is the ability to correct mistakes. This gift that is given to you is not common, Brian. I hope you don’t disappoint me. I bet for you."


"What?" Brian was completely floored.


"Eric was sure you wouldn’t do anything, that you would look the other way..."




"You know, in the liquor store... Grandpa. Like I said, he was sure you wouldn’t do anything, calling the police, maybe. But I bet for you. I knew that you would protect the old man, and I was right. But I hope you don’t fail me now. You still aren’t asking the right questions.” Brian looked at him for a while, very seriously.


"Why am I here?" Angel smiled.


"You're here because there is something very important you need to understand. You were always a brilliant student, but there is a lesson you must still learn. Remember that very few are granted this opportunity. Oh, Justin is coming back. I must go.” And with that, he vanished.

Chapter 3 by saroco61

Brian then, looked at the door of the living room. Indeed, he could make out Justin’s silhouette approaching. At first, he didn’t understand, but then realized that he only saw Justin silhouetted against the light coming from outside because the room was dark. No light came through the curtains. And the only light in the room was a lamp beside the couch. But he would swear it was only mid-afternoon. He felt hot and realized he was under a cream colored blanket. When had he been covered if only a few minutes had passed since he was talking to Angel, whoever he was? Again, nothing seemed to make sense. He felt movement at his feet. He looked and saw Rocky lying beside him, his head on them. Justin reached him carrying a tray, and placed it on the coffee table.


"Ah, I see you're awake. Better this way, so I won’t have to wake you up to eat something."


"I wasn’t asleep." Brian protested. "I only closed my eyes for a moment."


"Sure, a 5 hours moment. What happened this afternoon should make you think, Brian. You are literally exhausted. The world won’t end if you take a few days off. You're not Rage, dear, as much as you guys look alike.” The latter, he said mockingly. "I brought you some salad and a turkey sandwich. And don’t dare to complain. You didn’t eat anything all day.” Brian wanted to protest. He was no invalid or any elder to be covered with blankets or have dinner brought to him. But he couldn’t. First, because he realized that he was hungry, and second, because right then, the phone rang, and Justin went to answer.


Resigned, he was ready to eat. The truth is that the food was delicious, and he felt much better. Had he really been sleeping for so many hours? He didn’t understand what kind of little game that ghost, angel or elf was playing, but he liked it less by the moment. Justin moved across the room talking on the phone. Brian immediately knew with whom.


"Really, Debbie, I assure you it was nothing. Brian is fine. He just works himself to death. If I can convince him to rest, he will be good as new.”




"No, you don’t need to come, nor bring chicken soup either..."


"... .."


"Of course I appreciate your concern, and the rest of the family, but I can take care of my husband by myself..."




"Thank you so much, but the kids should be here. Right now I’m going to pik them up."




"I know, thank you very much, Debbie. Later.” Justin hung up. Brian looked at him, raising an eyebrow. Apparently Debbie remained being Debbie in this or any other reality. But the blond seemed to handle her well.


"Come here." He said, extending his arm. Justin came smiling. He saw that Brian had left the empty plate on the table.


"See how you needed something to eat?" Said petulantly. Brian took his hand and pulling, sat him on his lap. Justin chuckled.


"Yes, I feel much better. In fact, I feel so good I can think of another need to satisfy. Since we have the house for us...” He said suggestively, and caught the lips of the younger man with his. Justin responded to the kiss with enthusiasm. Yes, many memories came to him suddenly, having Justin in his arms again. Of course, there had to be some compelling reason for keeping the blond close during all those months, and he was beginning to remember. With Justin, sex was always so good... Deftly, he unbuttoned the blond’s jeans, and slid his hand inside in search of his treasure, like that first night. Justin let out sweet moans that got lost in Brian’s mouth.


Brian began stroking the younger man’s hard, hot and throbbing cock, that reacted to his touch as he remembered. Then, he noticed that Justin's hand began to return the favor. Suddenly, Brian completely lost track of where he was. He didn’t care whether or not this was real, while both were given mutual masturbation, like two teenagers on their first date. He soon feel the warm essence of the blond in his hand, and almost immediately, came too. Justin hugged him. For a moment he snuggled into his shoulder, then looked at him dreamily and with red cheeks.


"It was great, Brian. I see that you are really better.” Saying this, he started to rise.


"Wait. What's your hurry? We haven’t even got started."


"I know. And I would love nothing more than to go on, but I have to go pick up the kids. It's not okay to abuse Debbie’s generosity. I promise, later, as the children fall asleep, we will continue where we left off.” Justin said cuddly, kissing the tip of Brian’s nose. A groan of very different nature were then heard, and both saw Rocky, sitting by the door, who barked and started wagging his tail when he saw that they looked. “Furthermore, you should take Rocky out. The poor thing hasn’t been out since this morning.”


"Again?" Brian muttered.


"Well, if you prefer, I'll take care of Rocky, and you'll get the kids. So the family will see that you're really OK.” That made Brian go back to his terrible anguish of the afternoon.


"No! I’ll take care of Rocky.” Brian said hastily. No matter what Angel said about unfinished matters or anything like bullshit. Well, he had to play husband (God, he felt chills just thinking the word) and father, but by no means was he going to face the family he excluded completely from his life so many years ago. He stood up, and walked into the hall, where he knew he would find his coat and shoes. "Well Rocky, buddy, I think we both can use a walk."


That walk lasted for a while. Brian wasn’t sure how long, but he needed to think, ponder everything that was happening to him. So it was not a dream or a joke, but the damn Angel hadn’t given him many clues. Would he be able to get back his life? The neighborhood was very quiet. It was already dark and the cold had increased considerably. He looked at the cloudless sky. The moonless night allowed to see millions of stars, and he stood there in awe for a moment. He had never been one to look at the sky, even when he was a child. His life had always been filled with more urgent things and less pleasant events that require his attention.


Finally he decided it was time to go back. Rocky had seemed much calmer than in the morning, but when Brian took direction back home, he began to pull again. When he entered the house, thanked the heat. He had to admit that although that would never have been the life he choose, the house was comfortable and pleasantly warm. A smiling Justin greeted him with a kiss.


"Ugh, your face is ice cold.  You took a hell of a long walk!"


"I needed to think." Brian said tongue in cheek. Attracted Justin by the waist and started raining kisses on his neck.


"Later, Brian." Justin said, giggling, pushing him gently. "Now Heather is waiting to say good night to you. And apparently, she also has something important to discuss with you. What are you two up to, eh?” The last was said with feigned irritation at being left out. Brian turned to kiss the juicy lips, and headed for the stairs.


In the children's room, there was only one lamp lit on the nightstand. Heather was in bed, sitting against the headboard, and Jimmy slept in his crib. Brian leaned over him. He couldn’t deny who the biological father of the baby was. Justin said he was one, the same age Gus was the last time he saw him. As always, he forced himself not to think about it, not remember how his dearest friend, for whom he had agreed to break one of his most sacred rules, broke his heart. He would have expected that it would be Melanie the one who maneuvered against him. However, the brunette didn’t object to Lindsay visiting him in New York with Gus, so father and son could keep in touch. It was Lindsay who soon showed her true and not very pleasant character.


Apparently, she still harbored some kind of hope for a relationship with Brian. And his move to New York, going away from the family, and especially, from Justin, had made her believe that it would be easier to achieve her goals using Gus as a weapon. Brian noticed. He was disappointed by her behavior, and as a result: bitter arguments, coldness from Lindsay, and finally her argument that after all, it was Mel not Brian who had parental rights to Gus. Brian could have fight, but he didn’t have the strength or the conviction. At the end of the day, he had never wanted the responsibility of being a father, right? Who cares if his feelings for Gus had been so strong since he held him in his arms for the first time, and having to give him up tore his soul? That just showed him that he should never allow anyone to reach his heart.


However, he didn’t want to think about that, or that this pathetic loser Brian, whose place he seemed to be occupying, was not at the top of the world, but still had Gus... and Justin. He carefully stroked the baby's soft cheek with a finger. Overcoming those emotions, he looked at Heather, who was watching him, but her eyes this time weren’t as inquisitive and penetrating.


"Why were you so scared before at Grandma’s?" She asked as their eyes met.


"Wow. You don’t miss anything, eh?” Brian replied sarcastically.


"I have to watch you well to know if you're dangerous." She said seriously.


"Ah. And what do you think?" She seemed to study him a few minutes, frowning in concentration, which Brian found adorable, though he tried to conceal.


"Nah. I don’t think you’re going to hurt us, but I'll keep watching you because I don’t know what plans you have.”


"Okay. Let's say for now, I have to do what your father would.” Brian said.


"Well. Then you've messed up already, because my dad would have been in Grandma's dinner, joking Uncle Michael and Uncle Ted, and fighting with Aunt Mel." Heather said with crushing child’s logic.


"Well... Whatever. I couldn’t go in, OK?" Brian surprised himself justifying his attitude in the afternoon.


"For being a space invader you're not very brave... not very smart either." Brian struggled to contain his laughter. Was he so irreverent with others? He concluded that yes, he was. Heather certainly didn’t mince words. Hell, he liked this little girl.


"Right. And you're an authority on the subject, I guess.” He said sarcastic tongue in cheek. "But we agreed that you were going to help me. I wouldn’t mess up, if I know what I have to do."


"Tomorrow, you have to go to work. You have to get up very early. My dad always is gone before I get up to go to school, and he also comes home late. Daddy-Justin says he is a wo... woholic"


"Workaholic, you mean." She nodded. "I won’t have problems with that part, but what do I do?"


"You make ads. Some go on TV. How cool is that?” Brian smiled faintly. At least in regard to work, he expected not fuck up.


"Thank you. Good night.” He said, and left the room, listening to the girl saying goodnight too. He went down again into the living room. Justin was speaking in the phone again, but now he seemed agitated.


"But I was supposed to deliver them on Friday."




"I don’t care that the publisher has suddenly changed his mind, Don. We had arranged for delivery on Friday. I was planning to dedicate tomorrow and Thursday, and have no stress. Now I'll have to stay up tonight. It’s not right, Don."




"Of course they’ll be ready tomorrow! Have I ever missed a delivery date? But you better pray that my hand behave in such a hurry. See you tomorrow.” He hung up the phone. "Shit!" exclaimed barely in a whisper, and hit a sofa cushion, which flew out. Brian could see in his face the same expression of frustration and anger that the blond had that night in front of Babylon, when the brave Justin faced his father. However, his expression changed instantly when he saw Brian. He approached him with a smile.


"What's up? Any problem?” Brian asked. Justin was just in front of him and circled his waist with his arms.


"Sorry, Brian. We'll have to postpone our plans. That was Don. I have to hand the drawings by noon tomorrow. So I'm going to have to work. But I'll tell you what. If you wait a couple of hours... I will get up early tomorrow to finish. Deal?” The last was said with a seductive voice while nibbling Brian's ear.


"Sure." The brunet replied somewhat puzzled. He would have liked to ask so many questions, but he felt it wasn’t appropriate. If the fucking Angel had given any explanation rather than disappear. “Where are you going?" He asked in the same tone seeing that Justin began to leave him.


"Well, to work. The sooner I start, the sooner I’ll finish. I hope that my hand doesn’t give me much trouble.” Justin said, absently rubbing his right wrist, as he began to leave the living room. Brian stood there, unsure. What was he supposed to do now? Angel said he had something to learn, but what, how… He didn’t have a clue. He sat on the couch and turned on the TV without really paying attention. He found a movie channel, and saw one of his favorite classic movies, news and also some reports. Suddenly he looked at the time. It was almost 2 am, and Justin had said a couple of hours by 9. Without stopping to think, he turned it off, and stood up.


He went to where he had seen Justin heading. Right across from the stairs. Passing the kitchen, he saw a door. Light appreciated below. He knocked softly. Then, he felt stupid. Would the other Brian knock on that door? So he went in. He noticed right away that it was some kind of artist studio. Justin was literally collapsed on a drawing board, he even still had a marker in his hand. He looked at him, asleep, and noted that his profile was very similar to Jimmy’s. Even knowing that Justin was 29, the same age as Brian himself when they met, he thought the blond looked too young and too fragile to be a father.


He took a moment to look at Justin’s work. There were some sheets stacked on a table, all covered with colorful drawings of animals, landscapes and interesting characters. They had all the appearance of being illustrations for children. He wasn’t surprised by their high quality. He knew Justin was good, but then he also realized that they were very similar to those drawings that decorated the walls of the children's room. He approached the sleeping blond, and shook him careful not to startle him.


"Mmmm, Brian What...? Oh, sorry. I've fallen asleep. What time is it?” Justin said sleepily. He could barely open his eyes. It seems that Brian wasn’t the only one working too much.


"Time for you to go to bed. You’ll have a sore as hell neck tomorrow, if you sleep there.” Brian said, trying to sound casual. Justin stood rubbing his eyes. Brian circled his waist, he didn’t seem very stable. He turned off the light and closed the studio door behind them. Practically had to carry the tottering Justin upstairs. Once in the bedroom, Justin flopped on the bed, but pulled Brian knocking him too.


"Don’t think I forgot what I promised you."  Justin purred.


"Are you sure you’re awake enough?"


"Sure. Help me undress.” Justin said between giggles trying to take off his jersey without getting out of bed. Brian began to undress him, but soon he heard the soft breathing indicating that Justin was back asleep. Brian sighed resignedly.


"Good night, Justin." He whispered sarcastic. He looked at the clock that was in his nightstand and saw that his alarm was set at 7. Activated it, and went to sleep. Although Angel had told him otherwise, he still had a small hope that he would wake up in his own bed.


However, no such luck. When the alarm sounded Brian found himself still there, trapped. And although, he was starting to get used to it, that didn’t make him be less pissed. Despite the early hour, Justin was no longer in bed. What time would he have risen? He went to the bathroom. And after finishing his daily grooming, walked to his closet as if walking to the gallows. He breathed deeply. Needed courage to put on any of those suits. Deep down, he knew he was exaggerating. The suits were not trendy, but they were of good quality, and fitted him fine. But since he had no choice but to stay here, at least he could complain about the costumes.


It occurred to him that he knew he worked as a publicist, but not where. A terrible feeling put a lump in his throat. Would he still be trapped in Ryder’s, expecting for his petty boss to finally make him partner, and that’s why they were so poor? He forced himself to calm down. He grabbed his wallet, and with a trembling hand, drew a card: "Brian Kinney; President and CEO of Kinnetik" said the card, and under were the company address and phone numbers. So, he'd made it here too. He had his own company. However, it wasn’t working very well judging by what he had seen. Thinking again, maybe he was going to do this Brian a favor, giving a new and improved boost to his business.


He went down quietly not to wake the children, and went, this time without knocking, into Justin’s studio. The blond was engaged in his work, and Brian was allowed a moment watching him. Justin was quick to realize his presence, and turning to look at him, he said.


"And I had the hope that you wouldn’t go to work today. Look how naïve I am."


"I don’t see that you're exactly loafing. What time did you get up?"


"At half past five."


"You just had three hours of sleep. And I’m the one who work nonstop?"


"Don’t start, Brian. You know that your workaholism borders on the obsessive. But I don’t want to fight." Justin said kissing him gently on the lips. "Have a good day."


"You too." Brian said feeling totally lost one more time. He went out to the garage and got in his pathetic car. However, he noted with some surprise that it had a GPS system. That made him feel lucky because he hadn’t recognized the street on the card. And it's not like he could ask Justin.


Looking at the map, however, he was surprised again. Immediately, he recognized the area. His company was very close to Liberty Avenue. Great. He wasn’t even in the business area of the city. He saw that in the map didn’t appear the numerous narrow streets and alleys that he remembered well abounded there. It seemed that they had knocked down whole blocks to allow wider streets. That explained why he hadn’t recognized the street name. Maybe they had changed it. While driving, it came to his mind that he was the head of Kinnetik. What a good name, he thought. Much better than Kinney Advertising. It had edge. Gave the idea of something dynamic, moving. How is it that he hadn’t thought of that great name in real life?


"It didn’t occur to you, but Justin." Angel said suddenly appearing in the passenger seat.


"Damn! Why do you appear like that? I could have killed myself.” Brian shouted angrily.


"You are stopped at a traffic light, Brian." The other guy said just like that.


"Well. You could have given me a heart attack." The brunet groaned.


"Whatever you say. But I came because apparently you have some questions. My mission is to help you."


"Oh, really? Well. Then, you could stop wasting your time and making me waste mine, bringing me back my life. This sucks, shit.  Justin and I don’t even fuck!"


"That's not true, Brian. Your sex life is as good as ever, even better, because since you are married, no longer do you use condoms."


"Really?" Brian couldn’t help it slip, looking at Angel in disbelief. A car horn sounded.


"The traffic light is green, Brian." The brunet took a moment to react. The third horn seemed to have regained. He regained his composure and put the car in gear. "Well, now that you're calmer, ask me whatever you want."

Chapter 4 by saroco61

Brian hesitated. He had so many questions. But now that Angel was here, he didn’t know where to start. However, the last thing angel had said about being married... Of course Brian had seen both of them wore rings, but he had always been very good at ignoring what suited him.


"Do you see how it’s impossible that this life were my life? I would never have gotten married. I don’t even believe in couples, let alone tie the knot. Justin must have been really insistent, and the other Brian, a dickless fag."


"I see you still don’t understand anything. It was you, well, the other Brian as you like to say, who really had to insist. He had to ask him to marry twice, because Justin said no the first time. However, he didn’t surrender. He even bought a mansion to show how serious he was. But the other Brian had the courage to overcome his fears, and to go for what he wanted. It wasn’t easy, I assure you. But he learned his lesson and in return, got his reward."


"With “mansion”, you're not referring to that little house on the suburbs of aspiring hetero life, right?" Angel sighed in mild irritation.


"That little house, as you call it, is a good home. But no, I mean a real mansion. Justin was referring to it as a palace."


"And what the hell happened?"


"The crisis, Brian. Before, you wondered if Kinnetik is doing so badly that, in your opinion, you are so poor. Nope. In this life, you have so much talent in your job as in any other. In fact, Kinnetik had a brilliant start. But when the brunt of the crisis started, many small businesses, agency clients, went bankrupt, leaving you a lot of money in debt. You managed to retain your large clients.  But still, the situation was very precarious. So you sold the house, and cut costs to the maximum. But you got your agency to continue operating without firing anyone. Justin has never been more proud of you.” Brian thought about that for a moment, but still couldn’t get why did matter so much to maintain the agency. The smart thing to do would have been to sell, recover as much money as possible, and wait for the situation to improve, maybe even change cities. However, he didn’t comment, and instead turned the conversation to another subject that intrigued him.


"And what about Justin? You won’t try to convince me that he loves playing housewife instead of conquering the art world, as he deserves, right?"


"Justin is not a housewife, or in any case, both of you would be. Both of you share housework and childcare.” Angel couldn’t avoid sarcasm and the mocking laugh that accompanied these words seeing Brian’s face of disbelief. It wasn’t right. He was to help the man, not mock him. But the brunet was so dull. "But as for your question, Justin is very happy. He has achieved what he always wanted...”


"Illustrating children's stories? And what is that about his hand?” Brian interrupted sarcastic.


"You, knucklehead. Surely it’s not a surprise. He left you this very clear from the beginning. What he always wanted was a life with you. And he has it. The illustrations for children's books, maybe don’t seem important to you, but Justin loves his job. His art is like oxygen for him. Moreover, in his spare time, he paints what he wants. I assure you that for him, now, becoming the new Andy Warhol is not the highest priority. Although he hasn’t given up on it. As for the hand, I’m afraid that I’m not authorized to give you that information."


"What the hell? You said you're here to help me, and you hide things from me?"


"It’s not a whim, Brian. I can provide any information that helps you to reach the right conclusion. But this is beyond that category.” Brian looked completely baffled. Just when it seemed that something was starting to make sense... "Okay, I'll just tell you that Justin suffers some mobility issues in his right hand and arm because of an old trauma. But don’t ask me anything.” Brian was thoughtful again. It was clear that this trauma had something to do with him. His instincts told him so. But then again, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know more. After a while, Angel spoke again.


"Brian, we have almost arrived. And I know you have more questions... Questions that you’re afraid to ask. But you have nothing to fear. Remember that I'm on your side.” Brian nervous, bite his lip. He could barely pronounce the word. But Angel understood him perfectly.




"Yes, Brian. Here, too, you did give your parental rights to Mel. But you kept being present in the life of your child. Don’t get me wrong. It is not a reproach because you gave him up in your life. After all, you didn’t have Justin to support you, and push you to claim your place in the boy's life. And to remind you that you're a good father, when you doubt it. But don’t worry, Brian. Nothing is completely immovable. Everything can change if you really want it. Believe it or not, your destiny has always been in your hands."


"So here, my relationship with Gus is perfect." Brian said tongue in cheek.


"Well, not quite. Absolute perfection doesn’t exist, you know it. Your relationship has had its bumps. Especially when the girls decided to move to Canada. You didn’t like it. But you couldn’t prevent it. However, things were pretty tense for a while. You went through a really hard time then. That's why Justin decided to make the proposition of having your own child.  You virtually had just gotten married, and that issue had never arisen. Justin considered sufficient miracle that you had wanted to marry. But, you know him. He has a big heart, and it broke seeing how much you suffered for being away from Gus. To his surprise, and everyone else, you agreed without protest."


"So, that’s when Heather came along..." Brian muttered.


"Exactly. Justin took care of everything. He found the surrogate mother, a college student who volunteered at the Gay and Lesbian Center, like Justin does every evening. But he was adamant demanding that you were the donor. He wanted the baby was yours, like Gus."


"But the baby, Jimmy, Justin is his father, right? He is virtually a miniature photocopy of him."


"Yup. A couple of years ago, when the whole Gus thing was resolved, you decided to return the favor. You even convince Jessica so that the kids would have the same mother. And now, you are a big family. Gus comes to visit often, even the last two years, has spent the summer holidays with you.” Brian stared back at him thoughtfully. So many things. And everything seemed to revolve somehow around Justin. "Well, I think I must go before any of your employees see you talking to the empty passenger seat." Angel said mockingly. They were in front of Kinnetik, and Brian recognized the old building where the Liberty Baths that he used to go had been. Damn, had to grant it to the guy. Perhaps the other Brian wasn’t such a big looser after all. You need to have balls to convert the baths in an office. He didn’t look at the passenger seat. He knew that Angel would have disappeared.


His head was spinning with the quantity of information received as he entered the office. Many revelations, and some of them really surprising were waiting for him. The place definitely had style. But he had hardly taken two steps inside, when he suffered a new shock.


"Good morning, boss." Cynthia greeted him animated. God, Cynthia. He hadn’t seen her since leaving Pittsburgh. He had to admit that he had always liked her. She was smart, efficient and wasn’t impressed by his poses. Surely, she was the only colleague he actually respected. And it seems that here she was still working with him. However, the impression of seeing Cynthia was nothing compared to what he received then.


"Come on, Bri. You shouldn’t have come to work today. You are very pale. Clearly you haven’t recovered from yesterday. You gave us quite a scare.” Ted? Shit, Ted no less; Theodore Smidt, undisputed king of losers WORKED WITH HIM. Just when all this shit started to make some sense, everything was back to complete madness. He was again convinced that someone was playing a very, very bad joke on him. Moving like an automaton, he let to be lead to what he deduced must be his office, and serve a glass of water by Ted.


"I want to be alone." He said in a dangerously soft tone.


"Okay, I guess. If Justin hasn’t been able to convince you to stay home, I have no chance.” Ted said conciliator. And went out, closing the door behind him.


"This is not fucking funny, Angel. You could have warned me, dammit. Why you don’t show up when I really need you?"


"Did you say something, Brian?" Cynthia had just entered, carrying a tray with coffee and toast. It must be business as usual. Brian was silent with the expressionless face that he was able to show, and the blonde said nothing more. Yes, there was some reason why he had always liked her. Since Angel seemed to have no intention of appearing, he decided to take it easy. He sat, drank his coffee, and ate his toast without butter.


Then he started down the office with his eyes. In front of him was a shelf with several awards. With a lump in his throat, recognized the Advertiser of the Year in 2001. Cynthia had accompanied him, and there was where he met his passport to New York. Would have happened in this life too? Then there were pictures, posters of campaigns, apparently rewarded too. One caught his eye, and it was not just because there were five muscled guys, whose only clothing was a worker helmet, holding a plank strategically to their waist. No, what struck him was that it was an ad for Brown Athletics. Of course, he knew the brand of sportswear, but his seat was in Chicago How had the other Brian been able to win that account?


He kept poking. He turned on the computer. But he realized between shocked and amused, he didn’t know the password to access his files. So he devoted himself to surf the internet. At the end of the day, he couldn’t ask his employees what he was supposed to be doing. And, well, it was not his fault if Angel didn’t want to help. Lunch time came, and again the efficient Cynthia brought lunch without comment. Damn, he began to understand what Justin meant calling him a workaholic. Not even he reached such extremes.


And as if he had invoked him think of him, about two o'clock, the door opened and Justin got in all smiles. Behind him, Brian saw all the women... and Ted, cuddling around Jimmy, who was in his stroller, and listening fascinated to Heather. Brian thanked the blond closed the door because he was about to vomit.


"Hello, dear!" Justin sang in mocking falsetto, and planted a kiss on his lips.


"What are you doing here?" Brian couldn’t help asking.


"Well, the drawings are already delivered. And I told Don, that since delivery is ahead, I also wanted an advance on my payment. So, as I have fresh cash...” He said smiling doing fan with a bunch of bills. "I thought we could spend the afternoon together. I have the perfect plan. We'll go to the mall, and take the opportunity to buy a new coat for Heather... and maybe a pair of boots, too. The ones she’s wearing now begin to tighten. It’s amazing how fast children grow, huh? Then we can have a drink, watch a movie... What do you think?"


"In case you have not noticed, this is an office, and I am working." Maybe he was too sharp, but what did you expect? Mall, children, family movie... Each of these things alone, gave him cold sweats, let alone all together. Why didn’t Angel appeared? This wasn’t going anywhere. For his mortification, Justin only sighed, bringing his face close to Brian’s, said:


"You barely spend time with the kids, Brian. They are not my children, are our children, our common project. We're a team, remember? Within days, Heather will have to go back to school, and this is a good opportunity for us to spend time together. I know you work very hard and have great responsibilities. But Ted told me that all Christmas campaigns are underway, and there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow.” Justin's voice was so soft, his mouth was so close... Brian couldn’t contain himself, and caught that mouth in a passionate kiss. It grew in intensity. Justin finally broke a little, and between gasps and giggles he said. "Careful, Mr. Kinney. If you want sex at the office, better lock the door.” He didn’t finish to say it when the door burst open.


"Well. Are we going to the mall, or what?" Heather asked sulking.


"Too late." Justin sang in Brian's ear. "Yes, sweetie, we will." And he left the office just in time to rescue the always smiling Jimmy from Ted’s arms, who was preparing to lift him over his head. "Ted, no.  He just ate. Don’t shake him, if you value your suit.” Brian heard from Justin. Heather was still staring at the door. Their eyes met, and Brian was sure that the brat had interrupted them on purpose. She confirmed it.


"You can’t kiss Daddy-Justin. You're not my real dad.” Brian glared, one of those looks that made his employees shit in their pants. But little Heather didn’t flinch.


"Come on, Brian!" Justin yelled, having put Jimmy back in his stroller. "Heather. Weren’t you in such a hurry?" Resigned to his horrible fate, Brian followed them, and they all rode Justin’s van. The blond assured him that would Ted take his car home at the end of the day. Great. He even allowed pathetic Theodore to drive his car.


At the mall, Brian tried hard, or at least that's what he swear if anyone asked. But after the children's clothing store, having to change Jimmy’s sweater, that, indeed, had vomited, and what seemed like endless hours in the shoe store, trying to make Heather accept  brown boots, because they had run out of the red ones that she wanted in her size, the brunet couldn’t stand it anymore. The "family paradise" as the mall was proclaimed, was certainly his hell.


"Brian Where are you going?"


"If I have to endure this torture much longer, I'm going to explode."


"Wow. I see you're still in a foul mood. Really, I thought you'd be able to relax and enjoy your family. But I see you aren’t."


"Have you finished your speech? I have to go out to smoke a cigarette, or I'll go crazy."


"You’re smoking again! What's wrong? It’s been over a year...” Justin couldn’t continue because the clerk came smiling to say they had found a pair of red boots in Heather’s size. Brian took that moment to exit. Maybe if he kept this attitude, Angel would get it, and put an end to this nonsense. He searched his pockets, and indeed found no cigarettes. Interestingly, he hadn’t felt like smoking so far. He started walking in search of a place to buy them, but doubted he could in a place like this. However, around a corner, he saw something that caught his attention. Much better than a cigarette.


Just in front of him there was a menswear shop, and a wonderful beige Armani in the window. He entered without hesitation and instantly felt better. No raucous tune or hysterical screaming mothers or children, just stillness, soft jazz music and exquisite atmosphere. He went straight to the suit in the shop window.


"Isn’t it wonderful? A work of art. And I'm sure it would be perfect for you, sir." He turned with a half smile and his usual gesture of indifference. The obsequious clerk smiled. "Why don’t you try it?" Why not? Brian thought, and his smile widened. When he left the dressing room, he addressed the store full length mirror. "Perfect, perfect. As if they had made it just for you.” The little man cackled, standing on tiptoe behind Brian. The brunet looked himself in the mirror pleased. This was something else. Now, he recognized himself again. This was who he was. He kept looking, checking from all angles that the suit fit him like a glove.


"Gorgeous." Justin's voice sounded caressing. Their eyes met in the mirror. The blond was smiling. Brian turned to look at him and, stretching his full height, he asked vain:


"So, you like it?"


"Sure. You've always been stunning in Armani.” Justin said, his smile widening. And Brian saw in his eyes the same rapt look of that 17 teenager, who kept stalking him so long ago.


"Well, then, It’s decided. I'll take it."


"Okay, Brian. Stop joking already.” Justin replied, still smiling.


"Who’s joking?" Brian said irritably. Justin looked at the label of the suit.


"God, Brian. With the cost of this suit, we can pay for the house necessities at least two months.” He said softly, and you could tell he was struggling because it didn’t look like a reproach.


"I want this suit. Heather has her boots, doesn’t her?"


"Brian, are you listening to yourself?"


"I'm sick of this. I’m not a selfless martyr like you. If I want a suit, then I buy it."


"I won’t fight in the middle of a store. Keep the fucking suit."


"Haha, Daddy-Justin. You said a bad word. You'll have to pay the penalty.” Heather sang very amused.


"I know, honey. Let's go, or I’ll say many more.” He said giving Brian a dirty look, while pushing Jimmy’s stroller out of the store. "In case you're interested, we'll be in the car." Heather looked at him with laughter, and even stuck her tongue.


"Wow. I'm glad someone is having fun.” Brian said irritably.


"You’re such a baby. I want my suit, I want my suit.” The brat mocked, imitating him. "But I don’t like you. I want my Daddy-Brian back.” She said this, then turn around and ran after Justin and Jimmy.


"I want him back too, Heather, trust me." He muttered as he walked back to the dressing room to change. He was surprised that they were still waiting in the car. Jimmy had fallen asleep, and Justin and Heather remained silent. The blond looked at the package that Brian had, but made no comment. Finally, the uncomfortable trip back was over. Brian entered the house, and stood in the living room, stroking  Rocky’s head absently. Heather went to the bathroom and then to the kitchen. And Justin went to the stairs with Jimmy in his arms.


Brian didn’t know what to do. In his opinion, he was the offended one. But then toured the room with his eyes, and his eyes fell on one of the many photos that were on the shelves. Most of them were of the children, but there was one of the two of them: both with a smart suit and twin smiles. The wedding photo, he thought. And he felt a knot in his stomach. What if he was ruining the life of this family? Not only wasn’t he able to understand what he was supposed to learn, but was ruining everything in the process. Without a specific idea in mind, he went upstairs. Justin was diapering Jimmy, who was now awake and in his usual good mood.


"Justin..." He couldn’t think what to say. But he should say something right? However, Justin interrupted.


"Not now, Brian. I'm too angry, and we would end up arguing without reaching any solution. We'll talk later, when I’m not so pissed at how unbelievably inconsiderate you're being.”


"I'm being inconsiderate? Are you so pissed because I buy a suit?"


"It’s not because of the suit, or maybe yes, I don’t know. Maybe I'm pissed because this morning you went out without walking Rocky. At least you could have told me that you wouldn’t, and I have better organized. You knew I had to finish the drawings. I had to leave the kids having breakfast alone for the poor animal wouldn’t burst."


"You could have Heather take care of that."


"Oh really? That’s funny. So you don’t let her go alone to the neighbor's house because, according to you, the street is very dangerous for a six year old girl, and now you reproach me not to send her to walk the dog.” Justin sounded indignant, and his blue eyes blazed. He finished dressing the baby, and put him on his coat again. "Heather, honey, get your coat and boots. We’re leaving.” He shouted.


"Where the fuck are you going?" Justin sighed, as if all this tired him very much.


"To the Center for Gays and Lesbians, like every evening, Brian. You didn’t want us to stay to watch a movie..."


"And you’re taking the kids?" Justin looked at him as if seeing him for the first time.


"I always take the kids. If you ever come home at a reasonable hour, you'd know. But then again, if you were here, you could stay with them, right?” Brian was about to tell him that he would, that he was home. But he was unable to speak. Justin looked really pissed. He was doing everything wrong. And Angel was still missing. When he heard Justin's car, he went down to the living room again. This was a real family until he had entered the scene. As much as Angel insisted otherwise, he increasingly felt further and further from that other Brian. Hell, if even a 6 year old girl had noticed the difference. However, he was supposed to remove any teaching of this. He had always been a good pupil. Maybe if I thought all over again...


He spent some time looking at the pictures in the living room. All of them spoke of a life together. Those four people were really together. He had always sworn time and time again that he didn’t need or want any those things. But, was he really sincere? The other Brian had overcome his fears. Brian knew it was there the root of all. His biggest fear was not being in control of his surroundings. And when you let feelings and emotions rule you, inevitably you lose that control. He walked through the house, remembering everything that happened in these two days and what Angel had said. Justin. As more turns he gave it in his mind, the key was Justin.


He entered the studio, feeling like an intruder. But he needed to find something, but didn’t know why. There were some blank canvases, also one on an easel covered with a sheet. Brian felt unable to lift it. But he looked at others finished canvases leaning against a wall. He felt surprised. After seeing the pictures that Justin was doing in the morning, and those he well remembered from that other Justin, he didn’t expect abstract paintings. They were full of vibrant colors, and although he was not an expert, it was clear their quality.


He kept pondering how different his life was from that of this other Brian. And he realized that the most important difference wasn’t that he was a successful businessman with a super luxurious life in New York, but Justin, Justin again. The blond had been there all these years in the life of this other Brian, while he had left that blond boy behind with everything else there in Pittsburg, and had forgotten him, or not?


Surprised, he saw on the kitchen clock that it was almost ten. The day before, the children were already asleep long before this time. Why hadn’t Justin returned? Would he be so angry to leave home with the kids? Damn, he really had fucked up. He saw Rocky that looked at him pitifully.


"Okay, Rocky buddy, at least I’ll do something right. Let's take a walk.” As he approached the hall closet, the dog started jumping around, barking happily. Again, it was snowing and cold was intense. However, Rocky seemed to enjoy immensely from the snow falling and congealing on his back. Brian, however, sought to protect from the blizzard, lifting the collar of his coat. He thought he could be wearing the pretty scarf given to him. And this idea, gave him a strange sadness. When he returned home, there was still no sign of Justin and the kids. But he saw the message light was blinking, and set out to hear the message hopeful.


"Brian?" Justin's voice sounded somewhat hesitant. "Well, I want to believe that if you don’t answer the phone, is because you're outside with Rocky. Look... With all the fuss about before, I had forgotten that today was when we were having dinner with my mother. I imagine that you had no desire to come, seeing your behavior these days... Don’t worry. I’ll make an excuse for you... See you later."


More than angry, Justin had sounded sad. Great, definitely it was enough one like him to spoil everything good around. Thank you very much dear parents, he muttered sarcastically. He didn’t want anything for dinner. And after making sure that Rocky had clean water in his bowl, he decided to go to bed. God. Why wasn’t this nightmare over already?


He didn’t know how much time had passed when he heard Justin's car entering the garage. And almost in the blink of an eye, also heard the voice of the blond at the foot of the bed.


"Come on, Brian, I know you're not asleep." Now the voice was again sweet and caressing. He opened his eyes slowly and, indeed, Justin smiled. How could it be?


"The kids?" Brian asked fearfully.


"With my mother." Justin responded climbing into bed with natural gesture, and began to unbutton Brian’s shirt. "I think you and I need to be alone. Also, my mother always complains that she can’t enjoy her grandchildren as much as she would like. And since she has a few days off and Heather is still on holiday, why not let mom enjoy playing granny? They will spend the weekend."


"You don’t look angry."


"Sorry about before, Brian. I overreacted. But you know me, sometimes I focus on the small details and lose perspective.” Brian couldn’t believe it. Justin was the one apologizing. "I didn’t understand your behavior. But then you scared me, Brian. These days, you don’t look the same... It’s as if time had gone back and you were the Brian from before, hiding in your castle. I thought we were past all that, honey. But finally, I understood. And my mother helped me. It's funny, but sometimes she understands you better than me.” Justin said cuddly and started kissing Brian’s neck and chest. As delicious as that was, Brian was puzzled.


"What are you talking about?"


"Well, how I have not been able to understand what was happening to you. Hope you forgive me for being so picky. But now I understand. You have endured much stress these months. And I guess I've been too into my stuff, and I didn’t realize how lonely you felt. And this afternoon... I know very well how important it’s for you to feel beautiful. Your image has always given you security. So if you need a nice new suit to feel good..."


"But you're right. It is very expensive..."


"But it makes you happy. And you deserve it. We'll manage. We always do."


"That's very important to you, right? Make others happy: me, the kids, your mother..."


"Yes, and since I've been such a good boy. Now I want my prize.” Justin said smiling, and set out to take Brian’s shorts. The brunet was completely floored. After having behaved like a real asshole, Justin was like this... Fuck! Wait! That was it! Justin actually loved him. Suddenly, he felt as if something inside him, like a muscle that had been painfully stiff, relax. He took Justin's face in his hands, and made him look at him. He saw only love in those blue eyes.


"Justin..." He said barely breathing. However, at that moment, he felt as if everything around him was blurred, then darkness, as if falling suddenly. He opened his eyes very alarmed. Darkness all around. But a soft glow came through the large window. The city of New York shone down there. He was back in his own bed. "Nooo! Not now!" He shouted.

Chapter 5 by saroco61

Although he knew what he would see, Brian looked at his side in bed. Empty. Of course, no one was there, let alone Justin. Confused, he scanned the room with his eyes. Yes, he was at home, like he had longed for the last few days. But if that was what he wanted, why was he feeling this horrible sadness inside? Was it loneliness? Perhaps, after all, he had been right all along, and everything had only been a dream. He didn’t however have the opportunity to reflect on it, because at the foot of his bed, suddenly, Angel had appeared.


"Fuck! I know I insisted for you to bring my life back. But had to be right now? I was about to fuck Justin, dammit!”


"Precisely." The other said very pleased with himself.


"What the hell do you mean?"


"Frankly, Brian, I must say you surprised me. Especially after what it cost you to understand all this. But wow, you've been this close to declare your love for Justin!”


"So it was not a dream..."


"No. It wasn’t”


"Anyway, you could have let me finish. Was very inconsiderate of you.” Brian muttered.


"No, Brian. I could not. Technically, you were usurping another's life. You have passed the test, and with honors, I add. Although I was sure you could do it, didn’t expect you going so far. However, I couldn’t let you declare your love because that is not your place... not your Justin either.”


"You mean that while I took his place, that other Brian was taking mine?"


"No. Things are not exactly like that. But don’t ask me any more questions about it, because...”


"You are not authorized to give me that information. Right.”


"I see you start to get it.” Angel said mockingly.


"Can you at least tell me if I've been in another dimension, parallel world... or whatever the fuck?"


"Let's say it was not a dream, nor real life. You can consider it as one of many possible realities. But you shouldn’t worry, because now you're back in your real life... The one that really counts.”


"Shit... I think... I think I liked that other life." Brian said barely above a whisper full of sadness.


"I've already noticed. But like I said, nothing is completely immovable, Brian, and your fate is actually in your own hands.”


"Is that what you wanted me to learn? That my life is for shit?” Now, he was irritated.


"No, Brian. Don’t spoil it now. I know you understand. Your life is not for shit. But it’s not the life you need, let alone deserve. I know you very well. You're a fighter, a survivor. You've always worked so hard, putting so much effort... But you focus all your efforts on the wrong goals. However, someone who has fought so long and hard, overcoming your horrible childhood and all the difficulties that life put in your way, deserves to be happy. Therefore, we decided to grant you this second chance. Please don’t waste it.”


"Bullshit. You make me live that life that’s not for me, and now I’m back to my empty world. Well, you had no right. I was perfectly happy...”


"Were you? Be completely honest, Brian. You can’t lie to me. Listen to your heart like you had the courage to do a few minutes ago with Justin, and tell me if you are happy.” Angel said very seriously, all trace of humor or mockery, disappeared from his expression. This was the turning point. Brian opened his mouth, closed it again incapable of lying. Then he lowered his head completely defeated. That was breaking Angel’s heart, metaphorically speaking, of course. But he had to resist, Brian was about to take the big step.


"I'm fucked." The brunet lamented. Angel said nothing. He didn’t want to push him. Just waited... and got his reward. "I wish that was my life, Angel..." Brian began distressed. "But I fucked everything up, and I accept my defeat."


"No! You have started well, but you are letting your ego to guide you again. Forget it, Brian. Don’t listen to it. Say aloud what you really want, what you need.” Brian looked up and Angel gestured with his arms pushing forward, as he watched him expectantly.


"I want..." Brian began hesitantly. Angel nodded, encouraging him. "I want that life." He said now more firmly. Angel's smile gave him wings, and finally proclaimed loud and clear. "Fuck! I want Justin in my life!" He couldn’t believe it. It was as if his body was full of new energy, like a rush without taking anything.


"Well, at last. Congratulations. You've gotten rid of that tyrant of your ego. I hope you don’t ever let it dominate you again. You have just taken a giant step saying what you said. However, it’s not enough telling me. If you want Justin Go get him!"


"That easy? You have no idea. I broke his heart. I despised his feelings and let him behind with everything else. And now you want me to believe that he is right there, just around the corner, waiting. No, Angel, any chance we could have had, I ruined it smashing his tender teenager heart. I sincerely hope that he took my advice and forgot about me completely. At this point, he would have a life with someone who deserves him."


"I can’t speak on Justin’s behalf..."


"You don’t need to tell me, you are not allowed to give me that information, right?"


"Well. No. This time you are wrong. What I was going to say is that I can’t speak for Justin because I take care of you, not him."


"Whatever. Anyway, that doesn’t change anything. If you know me as well as you say, you should know that I always avoided getting emotionally attached to anyone because, well, you already know. Love and all that shit only serve to cause suffering, and I don’t want to suffer, but even less to hurt another person. And look what happened when I let Justin get too close. I never wanted anyone crying because of me, and he, I made him cry... more than once. Chances are that he hates me."


"You can’t know unless you check Are you going to stand idly after everything you've learned?"


"Angel..." Brian covered his face with his hands. Interestingly, the feeling of unreality of the previous two days had returned. "I don’t know what I'm supposed to do. OK?"


"Just listen to your heart. But I'm going to help a little more. Think about it and be completely honest again. You think your life would have been better with Justin in it?” Brian said nothing. The emotions invading him were too intense and deep. However, it wasn’t necessary. Angel already had his answer. "That's what I thought. So, you know what you must do if you want Justin. And this time, you’re alone, because my work is over. And I advise you to hurry.” Before Brian could even blink, Angel had vanished. But suddenly his arm and face, with half body, resurfaced from thin air. However Brian wasn’t surprised. "Oh, I forgot! This is yours.” He smiled, and put at the foot of the bed the tie pin, gold watch, and the 500 dollars, finally disappearing.


Just then, Brian jumped in bed when his alarm went off suddenly. After he stop it, mechanically looked at the screen of his cell phone, that he always had close, and had a new shock seeing the date: December 25. Then nothing had happened. It was Christmas morning again, when he should attend his transcendental videoconference with the Russians. In his mind, echoed Angel’s words. 'Nothing is completely immovable'. And he understood their meaning. He could still change his fate. But Angel also told him better to hurry. Did that mean maybe, Justin was about to be definitely out of reach? Maybe he was getting married... Yes, Brian thought, Justin was the marrying kind, no doubt. He didn’t want to think about that possibility. However, before he could go for Justin, wherever he might be, had something important to do. Today was going to be a busy day.


He jumped out of bed and proceeded to his daily routine. However, nothing was the same anymore. His luxurious bathroom seemed impersonal and empty, his overflowing wardrobe of stylish and very expensive clothes, incomplete without the presence of the garments of another person... but refused to be folded. He needed all his energy to this crucial day. Once dressed, in a last sudden impulse, he put his watch and took those 500 dollars, stuffing them in a pocket without thinking about why he was doing it.


No longer surprised that neither driving his new Ferrari will lift his spirits. Without quite knowing how it happened, he found himself thinking that car wouldn’t be at all suitable for a family. He reached his office trying his usual attitude, but he felt different, very different. Just as expected, the videoconference was a success, and everyone was very pleased and pending only on Brian trip to Moscow to round the operation. At 11, it was over and Brian once again, summoned his people in the conference room.


"Well, this meeting is just to give congratulations for the success of the operation, and thank you for your effort." As imagined, these words took everyone by surprise. "Therefore, as at present, there is nothing urgent, I think we can terminate the workday." Murmurs of surprise and disbelief, but Brian had yet another surprise. "Newman, I think you're right, this is a day to spend with family. I hope you still may be able to enjoy it. See you tomorrow.” And collecting the documents before him, he headed for his office.


"Thank you, Mr. Kinney. Merry Christmas.” Newman said sincerely and others echoed, while Brian slipped into his office. Once there, he finally allowed himself to think. His business and livelihood of many people, was more secure than ever. Now it was the turn of his own life How to proceed? First thing, of course, was to find Justin. He remembered the night before. Or was it three nights ago? No matter. Now he knew that everything made sense, and he should pay attention to the signs, such as a doorman leafing through an art magazine.


When he left his office, there was no one in the building, that didn’t surprise him. All had families, loved ones with whom to meet. Why couldn’t he too? He entered the art department. And as expected, found a copy of the latest issue of Art Forum. With some trembling fingers, looked the article that interested him. However, he only found rave reviews to the pieces presented by Justin Taylor, and any suggestion that perhaps the young artist had already given everything, wondering if he would be able to maintain the level. Strangely, the latter bothered him very much. But he found no useful information, such as where to find Justin. At the end of the article, it was mentioned only one agent, some Amanda Carter as "discoverer" of the young artist among many others.


It wasn’t difficult to find Miss Carter’s agency, of course, it was in the database of the art department, and calling there. But of course no one answered the phone. Fucking Christmas, he thought. Was again as before. Of course he could wait until tomorrow. But Angel had said he better hurry up, and an increasingly strong feeling told him to do it or he would lose Justin forever. He was so engrossed in his thoughts, that jumped hearing someone enter. It was a young woman, also startled to see him. In those moments, Brian cursed himself for his inability to keep the names that didn’t affect him. Although he remembered that she was one of his brightest employees, was not able to remember her name.


"Oh, Mr. Kinney, you scared me! I thought everybody would already  be gone.” The girl said touching her chest and blushing slightly. Then, apologetically, she added shyly. "I forgot my umbrella, and it’s snowing again." Brian followed her gaze and indeed saw the umbrella hung on the back of a chair. When the girl was going to back out, she saw what he was reading. "Were you at the show?" She asked with an innocent smile.


"I'm afraid not..."




"Sure, Marsha. You made the sketches for the Pink perfumes campaign. Very good job."


"Thank you, Mr. Kinney... It's exciting to work in this company..." Brian couldn’t help but smile seeing how she blushed to the roots of her curly black hair.


"I take it you were in the exhibition. Mr. Taylor’s I mean."


"Ah, yes. It was great, and a great success. I think almost all the paintings were sold. I'm happy for Justin. He worked so hard..."


"You know him?" Angel, little troublemaker, Brian thought. You were supposed to help me no more. Marsha glanced at him doubtfully.


"Well ... not that we're close or anything. Justin shared an apartment with my cousin Pat, when he came to New York, and we've met sometimes... He’s a very nice guy."


"You know where I can find him?" Brian asked point blank. She jumped a little.


"Ummm, I don’t know, Mr. Kinney. If you want to talk about some work, you can contact his agent...” Oh, oh. He had to change strategy, Marsha looked back down, as if she was invading Justin’s privacy talking too much about him. A loyal friend, Brian thought, must have that quality in mind in the future.


"Look, Marsha..." Brian rolled his best seductive smile that never failed him. "It's not about work. It's personal. I... I also know Justin. It was long ago, in Pittsburgh. But we lost touch, and now I... I need to talk to him about something important. It’s a matter of life or death, Marsha. And I assure you that you'll be doing a great service to both if you tell me where I can find him.” Before he finished speaking, Brian knew he had her.


"O... Okay. I’ll write down his address for you.” Marsha said. And proceeded to write down the address on a sheet of paper. Brian took it, and grinning he said.


"Thank you, Marsha. I won’t forget this favor.” And he went out, leaving the girl completely confused. No time to lose. He looked at the address. It was not far, but being Christmas, and with the snow, he didn’t know how long will take.


When he finally reached the apartment building, didn’t hesitate to park in prohibited area and enter storming in the lobby. The elevator was busy, going up, and the note said Justin lived on the fourth floor. But Brian couldn’t wait. He felt an acute sense of urgency. He climbed the stairs as fast as he could, cursing not quitting cigarettes, and arrived almost breathless. The elevator was on that floor. There were boxes holding the door. A moving, Brian thought. And his mood suddenly collapsed to the floor seeing the apartment the note said was the one emptying. The door was open. Brian saw a woman, incredibly thin, makeup and jeweled.


"Justin Taylor?" He was still breathing hard because of the climbing.


"I'm afraid not, handsome. I'm Amanda.” She said playfully, with a perfect smile. And extended a delicate hand with porcelain nails. Seeing his expression, she added, more serious. "Just kidding, man. Justin, honey. You have a visitor.” She shouted into the apartment. Then suddenly approached a couple of operators. "More careful with that, God. They are works of art that you are transporting, brutes.” In fact, they were carrying what looked like a packed box of good size, out of what had all the appearance of a small studio. But he turned hearing motion to his left. A door in front of him, Justin had just stopped at the edge of a couple of steps. Brian saw hundreds of emotions cross his face in a second, and then displayed a slight smile. It wasn’t the dazzling smile that had earned him the nickname Sunshine, but still his heart skip a beat.


"Brian!" Justin said with little more than a whisper. Oh, God, that soft voice, so sensual. Now for real, no dreams or visions. He looked gorgeous. He had long hair as in the dream? Vision? And was wearing a navy blue turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans with the same color, that highlighted all his qualities, and made his eyes impossibly blue. "I never would have thought that you of all people came to say goodbye to me."


"Saying goodbye?" Brian asked alarmed. And he didn’t care to be heard


"In a few hours I’m flying to Paris..."


"On vacation?" He asked, knowing that no. He had seen the move.


"Work. A French millionaire and art lover, aristocrat want to commission me to direct his collection. It’s an incredible opportunity, Brian. Not only for the job, but the opportunity to meet European art and artists. It also let me time to develop myself as an artist.” His eyes shone with excitement as he spoke.


"And is it for a long time?"


"Who knows?" Justin said, shrugging. "Maybe, I definitely settle in Paris, or at least for a good time."


"With your boyfriend."




"That aristocrat rich man."


"Brian" Justin gave a real laugh that sounded like music to Brian’s ears. He had forgotten how happy that laugh was. "He's not even gay. Not to mention is more than 80, in a wheelchair, and quite unfriendly.” There was the Sunshine smile. Brian bit his lip to keep his composure. He had been ready for anything. But he was not sure he could handle rejection. However, it cost him a  hell of an effort not to jump to devour those lips.


"So, your boyfriend will accompany you."


"Drop it. Don’t go there, Brian." He said in that tone of 'you can’t fool me, I’m onto you', that Brian had almost forgotten. "I have no boyfriend. Actually, this trip will also be good for me to collect my emotions. I haven’t had much luck in the sentimental level. I guess you left the bar very high.” God, Brian couldn’t help but wonder that Justin remained so honest and brave. He had to keep up. He couldn’t give up now.


"I thought that by now, you would have forgotten me."


"You know what they say about first love, Brian. How could I forget you? You taught me to be a man... You made me a man.” Brian stood for a moment mesmerized by those eyes so full of sincerity.


"Don’t go to Paris." He hardly was aware of what he said. "I can be your patron. I am very rich."


"I know. I've seen that tower where your company is. Very impressive. I'm happy for you. But it’s determined, Brian. If you want us to retake the contact, it’s okay with me. When I get settled down, I'll call you if you want. We could chat like old good friends…”


"I don’t want to be your friend, dammit!" Brian broke. He immediately regretted it seeing Justin’s gesture of alarm. But it was done "Why the hell are you going to fucking Paris, to work for a stuffy aristocrat who you don’t even like? I just said that I will sponsor you. We will go to Europe, if you want..."


"Brian Are you all right?" Justin now looked at him with genuine concern, and oh, God, put his hand on his arm. He wasn’t prepared for the contact.


"I'm fine. What I mean is... Fuck. Can’t you see it? I remember you scored great grades in high school. You have acknowledged that you haven’t been happy with anyone. You and I, we belong together."


"You and I, really?" Damn, now he seemed angry. "I don’t know what happens to you. If it's a midlife crisis or what. But the Brian I used to know didn’t believe in 'you and I'. It's something that you made very clear, thanks. But I understand. I was a kid. I had no idea of life. And, I heard that Brian I met, who I fell in love with like the child that I was, remains still the same. I liked seeing you again, but I have to get ready. My plane leaves this evening.” Despite the harsh words, he didn’t sound angry rather tired, as if it was not the first time they had this conversation. Perhaps it wasn’t. He began to separate from Brian, heading back toward the steps. Everything was quiet. And Brian realized that neither Amanda nor the workers were there.


"But that's how it is, Justin. I've seen it. You and I... married, living in a small house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. We have two children: a daughter, who is my biological daughter. She’s only 6, but is smart and brave, and above all, want to protect her parents.” Justin had begun to turn around, in his face, an expression of supreme sadness. Well, if he had to use the trick of pity, he would be the most pathetic guy in the world. If the other Brian had the courage to open his heart to get Justin, he wouldn’t be less. "We also have a baby, it's your spitting image, and laughs all the time. You make beautiful illustrations for children's books. And I work hard to buoy my agency. But hard work doesn’t matter because we are a team. We even have a dog... "Justin was back in front of him.


"Brian, please. Don’t do this to me. Understand that I can’t wreck my life, which cost me a lot to get, because you've had some kind of vision or whatever. You are confused, but it’ll pass as soon as you step into a club and have all the guys drooling at your feet, as always.” Again, Justin started to walk away. He even climbed one of the steps.


"I know what it sounds like. But I haven’t lost my mind... I love you Justin. And I don’t just found out. I already knew back then. But had not the courage to accept it, and I fled.” Brian shouted. But he didn’t care who could hear him. Fortunately, Justin turned back to face him. His eyes were bright with unshed tears.


"What did you just say?" He asked with a trembling voice.


"I said I love you, Justin. What do you want me to do to prove it? Tell me whatever. And I will. We'll get married, if you need that to believe me You want me on my knees…?” Brian began to kneel.


"No, please. Stop it. Get Up. Don’t humiliate.  I would never want you to humiliate.” Justin said, taking his hands, and making him stand up again.


"Will you marry me, then?"


"God, you're serious."


"I haven’t been more serious in my life, Justin. And I give you my word that everything I said is true. I'll do anything to prove I love you, and to make you happy."


"Fuck, Brian... You're... incredible. I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless."


"I don’t remember you had that problem before." Brian said tongue in cheek.


"Don’t mock me, you asshole. Do you know how many times I dreamed to hear you say those words? And you still wonder that I don’t know what to say?"


"It's simple, Sunshine. Just say yes.” They stared intently for a few seconds. Brian was very aware that Justin was peering into the depths of his soul. He allowed the blond to study him. Finally, the most radiant smile lit up the face of the younger man, and throwing his arms around Brian’s neck, said.


"Yes, yes, yes. I'll marry you. But I have one condition."


"Whatever you want. I told you."


"I want us to have what you saw in your vision." Brian lifted him into his arms like that time in Babylon. And as he turned his precious cargo, he said, full of happiness.


"Of course, children, the house, whatever."


"Don’t forget the dog. I always wanted to have one."


"And the fucking dog. Whatever it takes.” Justin then literally threw at him for a kiss. And both were carried away, diving into the passion that had lain dormant for so many years, and now resurfaced with renewed vigor. In it they were, when someone cleared his throat. Reluctantly, Brian deposited his blond on the ground. But kept one arm around his waist, just in case. He didn’t want to take any chances.


"Mr. Justin Taylor?" A young man in chauffeur's uniform, asked very polite.


"It's me." Justin replied, smiling and blushing, still breathing hard.


"The car commissioned by Monsieur Dupont to take you to the airport is down, sir."


"Tell your boss that Mr. Taylor has received a much better offer." Brian said in his best dismissive tone. The young man looked at him, but he turned his eyes to Justin, confused. The blond smiled and shrugged.


"It seems that, after all, I'm not going to Paris. Now I will call Monsieur Dupont to explain it."


"Ah, well, sir." The young man said, and started toward the elevator. Brian suddenly called him.


"Wait buddy. Take this, for the inconvenience.” Mocking he said, handing the bills in his pocket. The young man gaped.


"Wow, 500 dollars! Thank you very much, sir. and Merry Christmas.” Justin looked at Brian with an amused expression.


"Did you just give 500 dollars to tip the limo driver, Brian? Will have to see if after all, you lost your mind.” The blonde joked.


"Doesn’t matter. Moreover, I considered this money already lost. And speaking of more important things...” He said, wrapping an arm around Justin’s shoulders, as they entered the apartment. "Have they emptied the whole apartment? Have they taken the bed?"


"I'm afraid so, Brian. We'll have to go elsewhere. I'll get my coat."


"We'll go to my attic. Wait till you see the shower."


"Is it better than the one in your loft in Pittsburg?"


"Infinitely." As they entered the apartment, next to the elevator, invisible to everyone except perhaps to Brian, a young man who looked like a criminal and a venerable old man with very white hair, were giving a high five in a gesture of triumph.



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