The Mask
Chapter 16

Yep, he was a cowardly-assed fag with no balls, but damned if he could raise his head and meet those impossibly frank blue eyes. Brian also couldn’t get his mouth to open to break the silence that had fallen inside the jeep. No, all he could do was reach over and buckle Justin’s seatbelt. With his bowed head so close, Brian could feel Justin’s breath stir his hair.


Then, a hand lifted and cupped his face, raising his chin so Justin could peer into Brian’s eyes.


“Gus?” Justin asked softly, his face and eyes concerned.


Brian closed his eyes briefly, just long enough to clear the suspicious moisture that had gathered in them. He was so damn thankful - thankful that Justin had balls big enough for the both of them, that the blond would only be concerned with what was most important to Brian.


Brian pulled away reluctantly. Starting the jeep, he left behind his ‘friends’ and began filling Justin in on Gus’ condition. Justin’s ‘thank god’ effectively ended the conversation.


Brian couldn’t and didn’t know how to ask what had went happened in the diner, so he just silently drove to the left.


Justin saw the glances Brian snuck his way, but he also let the silence build; his mind still trying to wrap itself around what he had heard. Justin couldn’t believe that such two different men could be the same person. He tried to organize his thoughts, but what the hell kind of questions should he begin to ask? At least Brian’s son was going to be okay, but that was a whole other can of worms. Justin didn’t where to start.


Brian pulled up in front of the loft. “We’re here,” he said simply. Unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out, he went around to the passenger side. He didn’t touch the blond, only gestured for Justin to follow him inside.


Justin’s first impression when he ventured further inside was ‘no one lives here.’ He saw the similarities, the openness, the simplicity of design, but there were worlds of difference between this place and their home in Chicago. This wasn’t a home; it was a showplace. An image. What image Justin wasn’t sure of yet, but one he didn’t like.  ‘Untouchable,’ the white furniture and simply lines screamed out to him.


Then, Justin saw the bedroom.


It was an altar, a stage that dominated the entire space as if were the central purpose of the loft.


He couldn’t make himself step further into the room. All too easily, he could picture the man Michael described in this place, and it was this place more than anything else that had happened since he stepped off the plane in Pittsburgh that threw him.


He didn’t know the man who lived here.


“This is your home?” he asked Brian. Justin knew his face wore his shock and his eyes held pain.


“No,” Brian answered honestly, not hiding anything anymore. “It’s where I used to live. My home is in Chicago, with you.”


Justin nodded, and the pain on his face eased somewhat. He looked around at the cold, sterile loft. “I don’t know this man,” he said, his eyes finally coming to rest once more on Brian.


Brian felt the exhaustion catch up with him. He had been riding a nervous high since he first spotted Justin in the diner, but now, the long day and night worrying about Gus was catching up with him. He knew they needed to talk, and that he was going to have to offer explanations, explanations that he hoped wouldn’t send Justin running for the door, but all he wanted right now was to crawl into bed, with Justin.


“I don’t know him anymore either.” Brian ran a hand through his hair. “I know we need to talk, but for now, can we just rest?” he asked, and it was as close as Brian would ever come to pleading.


Justin searched Brian’s face, thinking how tried he looked. He nodded and wordlessly held out his hand to Brian. Saying no more, Brian crossed the room, and, taking Justin’s hand, led him up the three steps to the bed. They both stripped down, needing to sleep skin to skin, and they were silent. But it wasn’t the expectant silence that had filled the jeep; this one was comforting and familiar.


Brian didn’t have to ask; Justin found his usual spot, head on Brian’s chest, one arm and leg across Brian’s body. Brian’s breath released with a heavy sigh, and it took only moments for him to drift off, Justin’s hand rubbing soothingly up and down his chest.


Justin listened to the wheeze of Brian’s breathing, finding comfort in the steady heartbeat under his ear. Nothing he had seen or heard tonight made any sense, but he couldn’t figure any of this out until he heard what Brian had to say. Justin just hoped he could live with what he learned.




At first, Justin wasn’t sure what had awoken him, but he then became aware of the tension in the body under him. Shifting his head from Brian’s chest to his shoulder, he ran one hand soothingly up Brian’s body. It was his silent signal to Brian that he was awake and would listen.


There was quiet for a while, no movement from their bodies except for Justin’s hand caressing Brian. Then gradually, with one hitched breath to start, Brian began to speak of his life in Pittsburgh, and Justin kept his promise; he listened. When finished, they lay there, once again wrapped in silence, with Justin’s comforting touch luring Brian to sleep.



It was his name spoken softly and a hand on his face that pulled Brian from sleep. He blinked owlishly up into Justin’s smiling face. Despite the painful burden he had shared in the middle of the night, or perhaps because he had finally shared it, Brian had slept peacefully.


Brian looked towards the loft windows; the light was dim so it must be early still. He looked back, questioning at Justin.


“I know you wanted to get to the hospital early this morning. The shower’s ready,” Justin rose and held out a hand for Brian, and, with a thankful smile, Brian took it, allowing Justin to pull him from the bed.


They didn’t allow themselves much time to fool around, just a few kisses and a long embrace under the steam. Brian was anxious to see how Gus was, and Justin more than ready to meet the two women he had heard about last night in Brian’s story. A cup of coffee and a promise of drive-through for Justin, and they left the loft. They didn’t speak much; Justin had already decided to silently observe these people who made up Brian’s friends and family. With his touch constantly on Brian, he let the older man know he was there with him, and that they were fine.


Brian pulled into the family parking area of the hospital. He turned off the engine and unhooked his seatbelt, but he made no move to get out of the jeep.


Justin unhooked his seatbelt and started to open the door, but he stopped and looked back at Brian. It didn’t take the words being said for Justin to recognize the look of worry in Brian’s eyes, or a genius to know the cause. Justin had tried all night and this morning to let Brian know with his touch that nothing he heard here would change how he felt for the other man, but maybe this once, Brian needed the words.


He leaned over and kissed Brian gently, pulling back he smiled up at Brian. “It’s okay. I love you and nothing anyone here says will change that. They don’t have the power.”


Brian tried to smile back as he followed Justin out of the jeep, but the closer he got to the front entrance of the hospital, the more anxious he became. He didn’t want to have to do this -- defend himself and his choices, Brian though as he took a hold of Justin’s hand. He would have to do that over and over again the longer he stayed in Pittsburgh. If it wasn’t for his son, Brian knew he would have dragged Justin to the first plane out of there.  Just the thought of the peace he always felt when he stepped inside their home in Chicago had Brian biting back the urge to turn around and run away from here as fast as he could.


Like it or not, it seemed that despite his best efforts, Brian’s two worlds had collided, and it was time for him to drop his mask and let his friends and family see the man he really was. The sad part was Brian knew they wouldn’t understand. He hoped yes, but, just like their expectations of him were so low, his own of their acceptance and understanding were nonexistent. Being told, often, not to fuck up, or ‘you’ll ever change’, can do that to a person.


Justin could see that Brian was a million miles away, and, not wanting to face people he had only just heard of alone, Justin squeezed Brian’s hand. He knew there wasn’t anything else he could say to reassure Brian, but then actions always mattered more to the older man. The best thing Justin could do was what he was doing, standing beside Brian.


Brian’s eyes stayed trained straight ahead, but he griped the hand he held just a bit tighter. They bypassed the help desk and took the elevator to the third floor. Walking the down the bustling children’s ward, they passed a small waiting room.


“Brian?” a woman’s voice called.


Brian and Justin turned towards the voice. Justin saw a tall blonde woman dressed in a rumpled blouse and slacks. He knew immediately by the worried, pinched look on her face that this was Gus’ mother. The door to the room behind them opened and a smaller, dark haired woman joined the blonde. She scowled at the sight of Brian, and Justin figured this must be Melanie.


Brian didn’t give the women a chance to speak. “What’s wrong? Is Gus awake?” His tone was worried, and he half turned towards the room that held Gus. However, Lindsay’s voice stopped him.


“He’s fine; the doctor is in with him now. I stepped out to get some coffee; Mel was with him.” Lindsay might have been speaking to Brian, but her gaze was firmly on Justin.


Justin recognized that he was being sized up, and, by the slight turn up of her nose that Lindsay did, he wasn’t measuring up. Well accustomed to the WASP way of a polite put down, Justin returned the scrutiny. Lindsay had nothing on some of Justin’s mother’s friends; he’d been trained by the best. He slid an arm around Brian’s waist, and felt a perverse flash of pleasure at the displeasure in Lindsay’s eyes. Justin had already recognized the look of possession that had filled the blonde’s gaze when it landed on Brian. But she was wrong; Brian wasn’t hers and would never be hers. But it was Melanie who said what Lindsay was thinking, without hiding behind polite manners.


“What? You’re bringing tricks to the hospital to visit your son now?” Her voice was sharp and her stance as she came to stand next to her wife was aggressive, almost as if Melanie was staking her territory.


Justin had to hold back a bark of laughter; little did Melanie know that she had nothing to worry about! He could feel Brian stiffen next to him. Justin moved his arm from around Brian’s waist, letting it slip down until their hands met and clasp together tightly, a move that didn’t go unnoticed by the two women.


Brian’s eyes were glaring at the two women. He tightened his hold on Justin. “This is my partner, Justin Taylor. Justin, these are Gus’ mothers, Lindsay and Melanie.” Brian’s tone was firm and gave the women no encouragement to argue with him.


But again, Justin fought the urge to laugh. Both women’s eyes had widened, Melanie’s with disbelief, Lindsay’s with shock. Melanie gave a sharp laugh, “Get real!” she sarcastically replied.


Lindsay’s eyes darted from Justin to Brian and back again. “S-since when?” she stammered.


Brian’s tone was curt. “We live together in Chicago, have for almost a year. Now, if that’s all about my personal life, I’d like to see my son.”


Justin could see Lindsay’s eyes widen at the knowledge that they had been together that long. Justin could tell from her expression that she wanted to demand more information. However, Brian’s tone did not invite further enquiry, and she wasn’t brave enough just yet to push him.


Not so for Melanie, she had to snarl her remarks. “Our son, asshole.”


Justin glared at her, “Excuse me?” he demanded, and as his smaller body tightening up and he clenched his free hand into a fist. “Unless you both lied to Brian and used someone else’s sperm, I’d say Gus is his son.” Both women’s mouths fell open, and Melanie started to take a step in Justin’s direction. At Brian’s deadly look, she hesitated.


Brian wrapped his arms around Justin. “It’s okay,” he whispered in the outraged blond’s ear. Then looking back at the two women, “We’re going in to see Gus,” he announced, daring them to object.


Lindsay just nodded, and pulled a furious Melanie with her towards the waiting room. Justin could hear their whispered argument as he and Brian went into Gus’ room, and he knew this was just the beginning for his trip to Pittsburgh.