Standing on the outside with his face pressed to the glass looking in was harder than Justin ever imagined. Especially, when he had once been one of the privileged few allowed on the inside. As he watched the expensively dressed men and women mingle in the former Liberty Bath’s, Justin allowed himself a grim smile. Brian had done it. Kinnetic was a success. He watched as Brian smoothly moved through the crowd of influential business leaders of Pittsburg. Dressed in classic Armani, he fit.
With Debbie’s unknowing help, Justin had cut himself from Brian’s life with surgical precision. He had gotten a job on campus and gradually over the last few months, he weaned himself from the family and the diner. Oh, he still kept in touch with Debbie, Vic, the girls and Gus, but always choosing times when he knew he wouldn’t run into Brian and the guys.
Emmett hadn’t been placated so easily, he had demanded an explanation. Justin had said only that it had been a mutual decision for him and Brian to split. The girls were given the same story. Justin had been very surprised that Brian had said nothing to Michael, but there had been no repercussions, dirty looks, or accusations. Brian had kept to himself what Justin had done.
Now here he was, watching Brian celebrate his return to the top. Justin smiled softly. Brian looked so beautiful. Looking at him now like this, a success, made all Justin’s pain worth it. Those first few months Justin hadn’t been so sure he would survive. The guilt and pain had eaten away at him, added to that, the almost physical ache that had gripped him at the loss of Brian.
Justin had returned to his stalking ways, but this time he had hidden in the shadows; watching from afar as Brian had rebuilt his life. Justin cast one more wistful glance through the window before he hunkered down and shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket and walked away.
Justin headed to the diner. With all the family at Kinnetic’s opening, it was free of them and thus safe for Justin. He had avoided Liberty Avenue the last month or so, and as he walked along, the comfort of familiarity and belonging made him miss it more than he had realized. The diner wasn’t very busy. It was an odd time of night, after dinner but before the club closing crunch that packed the diner. Justin took a back booth, facing the windows so he could watch the passing people.
“Hey Kikki,” he greeted the diner’s colorful waitress.
“Hi babe, haven’t seen you around lately,” Kikki sat a coke in front of Justin without being asked. “Doing okay?” she asked.
“Fine,” Justin answered, smiling absently.
“You want something to eat, sweetie?” At Justin’s nod no, Kikki picked up the menu. “Be right back,” she said, heading for a couple of guys who had just come in, leaving behind the heavy scent of her perfume.
Justin looked down, shredding the paper from his straw until the table was covered with tiny white pieces of paper.
“You did good Sunshine.” Debbie said as she sat across from the stunned boy.
“Deb!” was all Justin could say, stunned and gaping at the red-haired woman. “W-what are you doing here?” he stammered.
“I saw you. Looking through the window,” she said.
“What?” she demanded, shaking a finger at him.
“You think I wouldn’t notice that bright head of yours?” she asked, a gentle reprimand in her tone.
Justin blanched. “Did anyone else see me?” he asked, dread in his voice.
Debbie studied Justin a moment before answering. “By anyone, don’t you mean Brian?” she stated it more than asked.
Justin looked down, unable to meet her eyes. He should have known he couldn’t fool her for long, if he ever did. “Debbie,” he started, but she waved a hand at him, cutting his words off.
Debbie reached out and grasped one of his hands in hers, squeezing it, she brought his gaze back to hers. “Save it Sunshine. I know you did something. I’m not asking for the details, not even sure I want to know,” she shook her head ruefully. “But don’t insult my intelligence. Brian Kinney didn’t suddenly wake-up one day out of that funk he was in and decide to start his own fucking company. No, all I want to know is was it worth it, whatever you did?”
Justin blinked back tears. Besides Daphne, he had told no one of that night and what he had said to Brian, how he had pushed Brian off a cliff to get the man back on his feet. He had always thought Debbie took his leaving the diner and distancing himself from the family too easily. He should have known he couldn’t fool his “mom” she knew her boys a little too well. He smiled through the pain.
“You saw him, Deb. He’s a big fucking success,” Justin sighed, and gently removed his hand from hers. He stood and placed a kiss on her cheek. “That is worth any price,” he said, smiling his sunshine smile softly before he left.
He didn’t see the hazel eyes that watched him leave, or see Brian enter the diner and take his empty seat across from Debbie.
“Tell me,” Brian ordered, and Debbie began to speak...
To be continued...