Title: A Christmas Gift for Justin
Genre: some angst, some humor (you know me)
Pairing: Brian/Justin; Justin/other (sort of)
Summary: Brian seems very interested in two travelers to Pittsburgh.
Timeline: Alternate Season 1
Disclaimers: I do not own Cowlip or the boys but I do own a house with power!!!
NOTE: I've taken some liberties with the timeline - Brian's father, in this arc, died right before Brian's 29th birthday, not his 30th.
"I must not be hearing you right," Brian scoffed. "It sounded like you said Justin."
"I did," Ted stated.
Brian bit his lip while rolling his eyes. "Look, I don't have time for this. Justin's alive. I rimmed, fucked and sucked him last night," Brian continued, delighting in the way Ted winced at the last comment. "Either you're trying to make me look stupid, which might I add, is virtually impossible, or you're fucked up. Either way, I'm not listening to this shit anymore." Brian started to walk away, wondering where in the hell he would begin his search for Justin. Ted seemed to think he would go to his old house. Maybe he could just look the Taylors' up in the phone book.
Yeah right, Brian thought, right under the section labeled 'Dead People.' Brian turned around and looked at Ted.
"You're on the up and up with me, aren't you? And please, no more cryptic shit."
"Yes, Brian - I am."
"Why don't you start explaining Ted, and I want you to start from the beginning."
"The beginning, huh?" Ted sighed. "Okay, it all started with this guy named Adam..."
"Ted," Brian said slightly annoyed, "when I said the beginning, I didn't mean fucking Genesis!"
Ted ignored Brian's comment and continued, "...this guy named Adam Dick."
"His last name was Dick?"
"Yes, it's actually a very common name. In fact, if you're a normal person, or somewhat likable, you can carry off the name just fine. The problem was Adam Dick was not a normal person nor was he very likable for that matter. So he lived his life with his name, being made fun of at every turn. When he was old enough to legally change his last name, he decided to see if he could do so..."
"What did he want to change it to?" Brian asked.
"Cox," Ted replied. Brian rolled his eyes. "Can I continue now or do you want to keep interrupting me?"
Brian indicated with a wave of his hand to continue.
"So after the name change fell through, he continued to live his life as Adam Dick. He met a woman named Rita, who he married when she informed him she was four months pregnant with his baby. Both Rita and Adam were both brown eyed and although Adam never questioned how they could have ended up with a blue eyed child, he still had his reservations about the baby girl they called Brittany but decided this was the best he could do and didn't say anything. As life went on, Adam managed to save enough on the odd jobs he kept getting hired at (and consequently fired from) to buy a small house in a dilapidated neighborhood.
He eventually got a job at Taylor Electronics, where he sold television sets, making minimum wage while earning a commission here and there. He was never a very ambitious man. He was finally promoted to Assistant Manager after having been there for two years - one of the few jobs he managed to keep. He would come home to his wife Rita, who had never cooked a warm meal for him, nor had she ever cleaned the house as he hoped she would. She did however, enjoy watching daytime television during the day and going out with her girlfriends to the local bar at night. He always wondered if Oprah would have approved of that.
When she came home, around two to three in the morning, smelling of after shave and smoke, Adam never questioned it. If he noticed she had strange marks on her neck, he never said a thing. He never even questioned the fact that Rita was still on the pill, even though he had had a vasectomy over five years ago.
His daughter would eventually come home, some time around four or five in the morning, having been doing God only knows what with her boyfriend, Rusty. He was an enterprising lad and Brittany never let you forget it. She would talk endlessly about how much money Rusty made by stealing people's car stereos and their MP3 players and then she would go into great detail about exactly how much work it actually took to be in Rusty's line of work and at how proud of him she was.
It was on a particular snowy day in December, two years ago, that Adam Dick went to work, where he was yet again passed over for promotion to manager at Taylor Electronics. He watched as another one of the newer hires, a boy ten years his junior, was given the coveted job. He then finished the day, got into his ten year old economy sedan, which had a flat starting on the front passenger-side tire, and drove home. Along the way, his timing belt snapped and came off. He called the Spiffy Biffy Towing Service and they promptly came to retrieve him and the car two hours later. As he walked into the house, his wife of fourteen years announced, while clutching her two suitcases in her manicured hands, that she was leaving Adam for another man who could give her everything he never could. Adam sat down and listened as Rita got into the second car and drove off.
Adam guessed the man couldn't give her her own car so she had to take his. It was at that moment that his fourteen year old daughter walked into the house and, along with her boyfriend who stood leering with a cat-who-just-ate-the-canary smile at Adam, informed her father that she was moving in with her more enterprising boyfriend since she was three months along with their child.
It was at this point in time that Adam's mind had snapped, just as surely as his timing belt had earlier.
As Brittany went upstairs to pack her 'things,' taking her betrothed with her, Adam went into the kitchen. He reached into the cupboard where, passed the dirty dishes in the sink and the rotting food on the countertop, there was a small unused Tylenol bottle. In the bottle was a key which opened a closet in his garage.
After he opened the closet and took in the sight of the hunting rifle that he never used, he grabbed said gun, concealed it under his coat, went to the table in the living room where Rusty had left the keys to his Honda and proceeded to walk out to the car. On the way to his destination, a more upscale and affluent neighborhood, he had managed to convince himself that he was doing the right thing. After all, one could not kill his own wife (no, ex-wife now) and child (someone else's child actually) without people noticing. No, he would do the next best thing. Kill the one who had everything Adam had always wanted. Craig Taylor, owner of Taylor Electronics, had everything - a beautiful wife, who he would stake everything he owned (even the stuff he was still paying on) had most definitely never come home smelling of other men, a nice clean home and a son who went to a fancy private academy, who was very polite and well-mannered. He would come to visit Craig often, with his little friend who's name escaped him at the moment, showing his dad progress reports and report cards and then Adam would watch enviously as Craig stood beaming at his son after seeing his son's grades."
"Oh God," Brian said, "he was jealous. This was all about jealousy because he was such a loser."
Ted sighed and continued. "He walked up to the Taylor's perfect house, knocked on their perfect door, watched as Craig's perfect wife, Jennifer, answered the door and shot her. Craig, having heard the shots, came running into his perfect foyer to see his perfect wife dead on the perfect wood floor. Craig then looked up into Adam's face and before he could get out the words, 'what the fuck?,' Adam shot Craig, where he dropped to the floor. Adam then walked up to the body and yelled at the top of his lungs, 'It's always so easy for people like you!'"
"Where was Justin in all this?" Brian asked while swallowing nervously.
"It was at that moment, while Adam was taking in the severity of the situation he had just created, that Justin walked into the house, looking for his parents. Adam, having been caught literally holding a smoking gun, held said gun up and pointed it at Justin's chest. You see, Adam had not been counting on Justin being home. He looked up at the boy, who had taken in the scene of his dead parents on the floor, and asked why the boy wasn't on a date or something, you know, 'a good looking kid like him.' Justin replied (still in a state of shock) by saying, 'I'm gay - you're the first person I've come out to.'
Adam chuckled and could almost appreciate the irony of the fact that he had just killed a man who he accused of having everything he wanted, a man who also happened to be a well-known homophobe. Adam looked at the boy, said, 'I'm sorry,' and shot Justin."
Ted took in the sight of Brian, who sat slumped against the wall taking in everything he had heard.
"If it's any consequence to you, Adam then realized what he had done, got into Rusty's car, listened to some Guns n Roses from the stolen CD changer, and then promptly plowed into a telephone pole. They had to identify Adam from his driver's license because they couldn't find anyone to identify the remains. The obituary in the newspaper misspelled his last name as 'Prick,' but no one seemed to notice."
Brian looked up and gave a half-hearted laugh. "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy." Brian turned his attention back onto Ted. "And Justin? He was shot. But he lived, right?" Ted could hardly hear Brian whisper the words.
"No, Brian. He died. He was shot - the wound was fatal and he died."
"But...I was with him. What is he...a...a ghost?"
"Let me repeat your words back to you. 'I rimmed, fucked and sucked him.' Do you think he was a ghost? Can you do things like that with a ghost?"
"Well, no, but then again, I've never been with one...I don't think..."
"No," Ted yelled. "You can't! So no, he is not a ghost! He died. That doesn't mean he's dead!"
"So, he's what...the undead?" Brian shivered.
"Did he run around your loft trying to eat your brains or drink your blood? No? Right, so I think we can safely eliminate vampire or zombie." Ted hunched down to Brian's level and looked him directly in the eyes. "So tell me, Brian, if he's not dead, then what is Justin?"
"Ding. Ding. Ding. There you go - he's alive. He died. And yes, he was most assuredly dead. But then he made a deal with death and then he wasn't dead anymore. He's very much alive. Just like you and all your little friends."
"He made a deal? With death?" Brian scoffed.
"Yes, Brian," Ted sighed and sat next to the man on the curb. "I guess it's time to tell you who I am and how I fit into all this."
"Wait," Brian said while holding his hand up to Ted, "don't tell me. You're death and he made a deal with you and now he's yours and this is where we're at," Brian laughed while getting up and brushing his pants off.
"Wow, I can see why Marty pays you the big bucks. Nothing escapes you," Ted said.
"I hope you don't expect me to believe any of this shit. Please, come on," Brian said while shaking his head.
"I can prove to you who I am."
"Okay, Death, prove it."
"People don't call me 'death' - they call me a reaper, and please, no Grim jokes. It's been a long fucking night," Ted sighed. "Okay, right before your father died, you came out to him and he told you it should be you dying."
Brian stood dumbfounded. "How did you...? No one knows that - I didn't even tell Mikey. I'm sure as hell my dad didn't say anything to anyone..." Brian looked at Ted.
"He told me this when I came to get him after he died. He said he was sorry that he said that. He said he was sorry for a lot of things but it was too late now."
Brian slumped against the wall. He took in all that had been said to him. Justin dying but still being alive, his dad, admitting once it was too late that he was 'sorry' to the man who was standing in front of him, and finally, coming to grips with what the man represented.
"He also told me about the time when you were seventeen and you thought your dick was too small so you took the vacuum hose and..."
"Okay! Okay! I believe you. Shit. I believe you!" Brian took out a cigarette and lit up. "Nasty habit, I know, but I need it right now."
"Those things will kill you, you know. Well, actually, that won't kill you, but, oh never mind. Smoke away."
Brian regarded his cigarette. "Before you explain to me exactly what kind of deal you made with Justin, there's something I've been wanting to know..."
"God, right? Is there a God? That's usually the first question out of people's mouths," Ted said.
"Yeah, is there a God?" Brian asked, wondering if Joan was actually right all along.
"Well, the good news is that, yes, there is a God," Ted sighed. "The bad news is he's fucking mad as a hatter." Ted then paced back and forth. "And his sense of humor is as twisted as him. I mean, have you actually read some of the crap in the Bible? I wonder how he kept a straight face when dictating that shit to people." Ted laughed while shaking his head back and forth. "He's one hell of a poker player though."
"Yeah, right," Brian said while throwing his cigarette away, "we could discuss theology all night but what I want to know is how Justin..."
"How Justin came to be with me?" Ted interrupted. Ted remembered the scene two years ago almost word for word, recalling how he had come into the possession of one Justin Taylor, only fifteen at the time.
Ted took in the scene of the family shooting. All three would be leaving with him tonight, only a few days away from Christmas. It was a shame really. The mother had completely decked the house out for the holidays. What was even more of a shame was the boy. Only fifteen, a very talented artist and an interesting soul. Beautiful too. Looking at the boy only reminded him of his own loneliness and solitude. Maybe if there was a way...
Ted came to attention when he saw the first of the souls who started to stir. The mother, Jennifer was her name, was the first to look around her.
"What? Oh my!" Jennifer exclaimed while looking down at her lifeless body. Ted laughed silently to himself - the woman's waspish manners and flair still ever present. She looked at Ted, approached him and held out her hand. "Where are my manners?! I'm Jennifer and you are...?"
"Ted. I'll be your guide to the next stop..."
"Oh, that's good. Craig is not one for asking directions. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No Jennifer, but thank you." Ted watched as Craig started to get up.
"When I get my hands on that lousy good-for-nothing employee, I swear to God..."
"Craig! Don't start blaspheming now! Especially in front of our guest!" Jennifer scolded.
"What? Is that Dick still here? Who the fuck are you?" Craig asked as he turned his attention on Ted.
"Craig, honey, this is Ted. He'll be taking us to heaven. Well, he'll probably be taking me there but as for you..."
"What? I'm dead?!" Craig looked down at his body. "But...but...the Super Bowl was going to be so good this year!" Craig turned towards Ted. "I'm not really dead, am I? Maybe I'm just almost dead, right?"
Ted looked down at the body. "No Craig. You're dead. And please, Jennifer, stop kicking your dead husband's body."
Jennifer got one last kick in. "Sorry, just trying to see if rigor mortis has set in yet."
"Well isn't that just like you," Craig said mockingly at Jennifer. "My body's not even cold yet and you had to get your digs in."
"You know, I wouldn't talk right now if I were you. This is all your fault," Jennifer replied putting her hands on her hips.
"My fault?!" Craig screeched. "How in the hell do you figure that?"
"He was your employee! God only knows," and at this Jennifer made a sign of the cross, "what you did to the poor man to make him want to shoot you! Hell, I've wanted to do the same thing!"
"What the?! You bitch! I've given you everything you've ever wanted and this...this is how you repay me in the end?"
"You know Craig, if we weren't dead right now, I would have divorced you! I've been thinking about it enough," Jennifer said while crossing her arms over her chest defiantly.
"Divorce?! You want a divorce? Well, why didn't you say something about it before. Of course, now that we're dead, I don't have to worry about being taken to the cleaners by your money-grubbing ass, so I guess all in all this is a pretty good day for me..."
"Craig James Taylor! When have I ever wanted you for your money? I'd rather go back to work and pay my own way, thank you very much."
Ted watched as the Taylor's volleyed insults back and forth and which would have continued for quite some time had it not been for the blond boy standing in the corner, taking everything in, including that of his lifeless body on the floor.
Justin kneeled next to his body and then looked up at Ted, who had hunched down on the floor next to the boy.
"Hi, I'm Ted. You're Justin, right?" Ted pushed a strand of Justin's hair away from his forehead and behind his ear.
"Yeah," Justin replied while biting his upper lip. "Where are you taking me?"
Before Ted could answer, a piercing scream came out of Jennifer. Craig followed closely with a choked sob and a, "no, not my son."
Ted and Justin took in the forms of Justin's grieving parents. It was one thing, Ted thought, that they were dead. It was quite another to see your son have to take the same path.
"Oh honey, no," Jennifer said before her tremors subsided to that of tears. Craig immediately came over to Ted and Justin.
"Wait, he's not dead yet, right? He's not dead. Please, he still has a chance," Craig continued to plead.
Ted looked over at the distraught parents. "If you can see him and he can see you, he's dead." Ted turned back to Justin, who sat against the wall. Ted then gave one last look to the boy's parents. Ted was about to do something he shouldn't be doing. "Hold on." Ted hunched down to be eye level with Justin yet again. "Justin, this is very important. You need to listen to me very closely."
Justin nodded his head in the affirmative.
The words came out of Ted's mouth before he had the chance to squelch them, but he decided this was what he would offer and consequences be damned. "If you agree to my terms, you can re-enter your body. The paramedics will come, they'll save you, and you'll live. But you must agree to my terms and you can't go back on them later."
Justin, Craig and Jennifer waited silently for Ted to explain the 'deal' further.
"I want," Ted started and then turned away, not being able to look Justin in the eyes, "I want companionship. I get lonely. If you agree to stay with me, in essence you would be mine and I would call the shots, you would go where I said to go, do what I said to do, if you would just be there, I can put you back in your body, right now and you could live your life, just not quite the way you envisioned it. I don't exactly know what dreams you had, but you would still be alive. Anyways, it beats being dead." Ted looked up at Justin again. "It's your call. Do we have a deal?"
Justin hesitated before answering. "What happens if I break the deal? If I leave you somewhere down the line? No offense, but you're right, it sounds like I would be owned by you. So what would happen...if I left?"
Ted sighed. "It would be bad."
"Could you elaborate on that?"
"It would not be good," Ted replied.
"Well that clarified things," Justin said while debating silently in his head what he should do.
"Honey," Jennifer said, "you should take the deal. We want you to live sweetie. Take the deal."
"Speak for yourself! I think he shouldn't. He'll never have his freedom. What kind of fucking deal is that anyway? What the fuck do you want with my son?" Craig stopped suddenly as realization dawned slowly on him. "Oh I get it, of all the fucking! Shit, great! Our reaper is fucking gay! Perfect!" Craig then advanced on Ted. "You filthy perverted..."
"Hey now, I don't want some kind of...of...," Ted threw his arms about wildly, "well, I don't want that! Unless he wanted it. I just want...someone." Ted sighed.
"Oh Craig, you are so blind sometimes! Justin should take the deal. Our son will live. Isn't that what every parent wants? Besides, Justin is gay anyways, what could it hurt."
"What?!" Craig and Justin shouted in unison. "How did you know mom?" Justin asked while Craig fumed.
"A mother knows these things dear. Intuition, being what it is. That, and the Abercrombie & Fitch male catalog with the cum stains all over it hidden under your bed."
"Justin. Is. Not. Gay!" an enraged Craig stated. Craig looked at his son and then sat down heavily on the foyer chair while putting his hands over his eyes. "It's true. Oh God, but it's true. I've always known...you might as well take the deal Justin - it's not like you'll be going to Heaven anyways."
"Craig! How dare you dare say that! And you know, we wouldn't have to be in this situation, if it weren't for your shitty hiring practices!" Jennifer yelled.
Craig immediately arose from the chair and stormed over to her. "My fault?! My Fault?! Not this again...how do you come to that conclusion, oh braintrust that I married?"
"Don't you start patronizing me Craig James Taylor. And don't you start playing this situation down because, hello...dead here!"
"I suppose I should have put a section on my employment applications that ask applicants if they're prone to go postal?" Craig started mocking his Human Resources manager. "'Oh excuse me, so when could you work? Do you have any allergies that we need to know about? Oh, and yeah, are you prone to break into your boss' home and shoot their fucking family?!'"
"See, you are so like this," Jennifer huffed.
And the arguing escalated into a frenzy with both Craig and Jennifer hurling insults towards each other. Justin kept a vigilant eye on both his parents. "Look Ted, their fighting even transcends death," Justin said while shaking his head. "Of course, you know," Justin continued, "they're keeping it down right now because they have a guest."
Ted turned his attention back to Justin. "Have you decided? I know it won't be easy. And I've been told I'm not the world's most wonderful conversationalist, but I'd...I'd like you around." And that was the truth of the matter. Ted just didn't have the heart to take the boy to wherever he was destined to go - he wanted to whisk him away from his parents and where they were headed and just have the kid around.
"I'm not some scared little faggot, you know," Justin sighed, "I just don't want to die." Justin looked pleadingly into Ted's eyes. "Okay."
Ted smiled and held out his hand, "Deal?"
"Deal," Justin said and shook Ted's hand.
"Now, this means you have to do what I say...I'll call the shots...you can't really demand anything from me, okay?"
"Okay Ted." Justin shook his head in understanding. "Can I have some time alone with my parents?"
This was where Ted needed to be strong around the boy and show him who was boss. "Yeah, sure kid."
Well, he would try later. The kid wanted to be with his parents before they passed on. How could he refuse Justin that?
Ted knew he had a lot to learn.
And so began their strange relationship.
Ted finished his tale of how he and Justin came to be. Brian stood up after having taken in everything he had heard.
"So, you made this deal, and now...you...own...," Brian smirked, "fuck! I can't even get the words out! You traded him his life for one of servitude to...to you!" Brian yelled.
"Hey, hey, hey. Servitude?!" Ted screeched. "There's no serving going on here. I haven't been serviced. The only one who's been serviced on this watch is you. I didn't pull him from death at the last minute so he could be my...my..." Ted waved his hands around, "my whatever you think he...is."
"You need to let him go. It's the only right thing to do," Brian stated.
"What?" Ted asked while putting his hand to his ear as if he hadn't heard right. "Come again? Oh that's right - you did - over and over again in what was mine!"
Brian got his hands up in a fighting stance. "Fine! We'll fight for him! Right here. Right now!" Brian figured he would kick himself later for the ridiculous fool he was making of himself.
Right after he got Justin and his freedom back.
"You want to," Ted broke out laughing, "to fight me?! You want to take on death? Oh this is good. I can't wait to get back and tell the guys about Brian Kinney." Ted doubled over laughing. Brian put his arms down.
"Stop that - it's not funny."
"Yes, yes it is." Ted said as he stood upright. "You, of all people on this fucking planet, want to save Justin. You, who couldn't usually give a shit about anyone but themselves. 'In and out with the maximum of pleasure and a minimum of trouble,' or some such bullshit. What are you? The fucking knight that'll come in charging on their mighty steed and save the boy from the nasty, evil ogre?" Ted laughed again while walking away. "Fuck you Kinney. I saved him. I saved him from death! I was the one! Not you!"
Brian ran up to Ted and grabbed his arm. "Yeah, but who'll save him from you."
Ted stopped and scoffed. "I'm not so bad. I give into practically everything the kid asks for! What? You...you could do better? So tell me Kinney," Ted asked while folding his arms across his chest, "what pray-tell, could you offer him?"
"This isn't about me! This is about you giving him what you know is right! Don't you fucking dare make this about me."
"No, please tell me, I want to know. Why do you want me to free Justin? Do you actually love the boy?" Ted asked incredulously.
"No...I...I care for him." Brian rolled his eyes. "There's a connection. I don't love him, but," Brian sighed and continued, "I want to find out if it is...lo-...if it is that...or whatever it is. I want the chance to find out if there's more," Brian winced, hating not being able to have his walls up around the man standing before him.
"This. Is. Rich!" Ted laughed. Ted got to within an inch of Brian's face. "I've seen your death Kinney. You die old and alone. Never bothering to let anyone in, never will get close enough to anyone. You hide behind Michael and Michael, as much as he's in love with you and claims to be your best friend, lets you. If you don't change the events in your life, your death will look just like I see it! Old and alone Kinney" Ted turned away.
Brian recoiled. "What are you? The Ghost of Christmas Present?! For the last time, this isn't about me?!"
But Ted had hit a nerve. Had they been in a boxing ring, Ted would have delivered the winning blow. Brian truly wondered for the first time that night who he was really saving. The kid was getting into places no one had ever been able to.
"So let's just say, hypothetically speaking," Ted continued while circling Brian, "I was to let him go. What would happen to him, with you, I wonder. Hmmm, let's see," Ted pondered while tapping his finger against his chin. "Everything would probably be great in the beginning until that is, your freedom started to feel threatened and you would start convincing yourself that you weren't good enough for Justin, at which point you would do everything in the world to push him away, including pushing him off some stupid cliff," Ted stopped Brian with a palm up as Brian started to retort, "figuratively speaking of course, so he could have his own life, all the while saying this was better for everyone involved, especially Justin." Ted continued to circle Brian. "Of course, you wouldn't see the devastation on his face, nor would you feel your own pain as you would probably immerse yourself in drugs, alcohol and random sex frequently. 'Pushing away and pulling away just enough?' Were those the words you used before? Never letting Justin hear the words that would mean so much to him?"
Brian stood in the middle of the sidewalk. Ted had delivered the final blow and was now jumping up and down on his body as the referee and spectators stood by and watched.
Brian found his voice again. "We deserve the right to try. Justin may get hurt, but he should have the chance to try and succeed...or fail," Brian said while looking down at himself. He looked up into Ted's face. "He doesn't deserve to have to follow the...the Spectre of Death around while collecting dead bodies-"
"Dead...dead bodies?" Ted screeched. "First off, do I have the words 'City Morgue' tattooed on my forehead. I collect souls, not bodies! And second off, he stays in the the hotel when I do. He's with me most of the time as we travel and do everything else. I don't take him with me when I collect. I'm not some kind of monster Kinney!"
"He shouldn't have to go anywhere with you as you go about your little job. He should be able to stay where he wants. He should finish school. He wants to go to art school, did you know that?" Brian accused.
"Of course I do. He's mentioned that, but we can't stay in one spot," Ted sighed.
"The kid's good too. He drew me in my sleep." Brian remembered when he first saw the drawing. Someone had actually taken the time to draw him in his sleep. The fact that the kid had done that made him feel, well, it had made him feel...kind of nice.
"Look, I can't give Justin everything he should have but I did give him the most important thing - a chance to live his life. Are you saying I shouldn't have done that?" Ted queried.
Brian's face took on a pained look as he turned away. "No, not at all. I'm glad you did that," Brian said while biting his lip. "But you say you gave him his life back. How can you say that when you refuse to let him live it."
Ted looked at Brian once more before he turned and started walking to the jeep. "Let's go get Justin. It's getting really cold out here and he's probably freezing right now."
And with that Brian and Ted walked to the Jeep. Neither said a word as Brian drove the deserted streets, people being mostly at home celebrating Christmas Eve. Taking the same streets Adam Dick had taken only two years ago, they finally reached the same affluent and well cared for neighborhood. Brian parked the Jeep out front and followed Ted into the backyard, staying close to the shadows so as not to be seen by the current occupants of the house.
Brian spotted Justin right away up in the one tree in the backyard, with its barbeque sequestered away for the winter months and massive swing set that didn't look well used. Ted and Brian approached the tree.
"The house looks smaller than I remembered. The tree too," Justin said while swinging his legs back and forth. "I used to sit in this tree and listen for when the arguing would stop. Then I would go in when I could hear at least five minutes of silence," Justin said while continuing to look wistfully at the house.
Brian chuckled. "I used to do the same thing when I was a kid too. My old man and my mom could go at it for hours."
"See," Justin said when he noticed Brian, "I guess kids have been doing the same thing no matter what generation they're from."
"Yeah," Brian mocked, "of course, it was usually after a day spent hunting and gathering and then throwing a football around made out of the mammoth hide we had acquired."
Justin looked at Brian and smiled, "sorry. You know what I mean." Justin jumped down out of the tree and turned to face Ted. "And I'm sorry about leaving Ted. We'll go back to the hotel now. I just wanted to see the place again."
"Brian said there's some kind of tree...thing," Ted said while pantomiming a tree, "and you were invited so why don't you go do that."
Brian and Justin both looked at Ted in shock. "You mean it Ted?"
"Yeah, go on," he waved at them. Brian took Justin's hand, headed for the Jeep and looked back at Ted once more, nodding his head again in thanks.
Brian buckled Justin into his Jeep, determined to make sure Justin had one of the best Christmas' Eves he could possibly have, since it looked like this might be the last one he could celebrate with anyone.
As he drove the Jeep in the direction of Debbie's house, Brian noticed the solitary figure standing in the shadows looking forlornly as they drove away into the night.
Debbie and Emmett's Christmas Eve tree trimming party had been going on for a few hours by the time Brian had decided to take Justin back to his loft to celebrate the rest of the night. He went to retrieve the boy but stopped short when he took in Justin's face.
For once in Brian Kinney's life, he decided that his libido would have to make do for the time being when he saw how much Justin was enjoying being with everyone else. The gang had taken to Justin very well, with Debbie at the helm, welcoming the wayward youth into her home with open arms and a plate of lasagna.
Emmett, Ben and Vic had engaged Justin several times in conversation whereas Mel and Lindsay had questioned him non stop. Lindsay, upon hearing about Justin's love of art, had self-appointed herself a college recruiter for the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art. Debbie couldn't stop feeding the kid while pinching his cheeks numerous times, telling him he was way too skinny and that he needed to eat more.
Michael, Brian noted, had kept his distance from Justin, watching as the two of them interacted. Brian thought that maybe, just maybe, Ted had been right about Michael but only time would tell. Maybe more time with Ben would make Michael stand back from Brian and allow him to do what it is he wanted to do, and not what he thought he should do.
Of course, Brian really didn't know what it was he wanted to do and what did it matter anyway - the kid was going back with Ted whether he liked it or not, unless...
Just then, Brian's thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. Everyone was so busy doing their tree thing that no one had heard so Brian answered the door.
And, Brian thought, speak of the devil - or well, reaper.
Ted stood on the doorstep, holding a bow encased fruit cake. "I didn't want to show up empty-handed." Ted handed the fruit cake over to Brian.
"Thanks," Brian looked at the confection which felt heavier than any cake had the right to, "do you want to come in?" Brian sighed. "Please tell me you haven't come to fetch Justin."
"No, and no. Actually, I wanted to talk to you...outside," Ted replied. Brian threw the fruit cake onto the hallway table where it made an audible thump.
Ted and Brian stood out on the sidewalk, taking in the Christmas lights adorned on the neighbors houses. Ted started the conversation, "I've come to..."
"No you look," Brian interrupted. "If you won't fight me," Brian sighed, "we'll play some kind of game - something for Justin's freedom. Name the game!"
"Oh God," Ted sighed. "A game?! You saw that movie, the one with Keanu Reeves, didn't you? Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, didn't you? Ever since that movie, it's been 'let's play a game,' usually it's followed by 'dude.' No, you can't play a game. You can't fight me. That's not how it works."
Brian stood firm with Ted. Pleading and begging was his last hope. He had never felt more naked in all his life.
"I won't let you take him. He...he deserves better...even if it's not me...he doesn't deserve this," Brian said with finality.
"I know, that's why I'm giving him..." Ted started but was interrupted.
"What? What could you possibly give him?" Brian yelled. "I swear..."
"I'm giving him back his freedom," Ted stated over Brian's tirade.
"I'm giving him his freedom. Think of it as a gift - a Christmas gift, for Justin."
"Just like that? No games, fighting, begging, pleading? He'll be free - nothing'll happen to him?"
"Just like that," Ted reiterated.
Brian, while ecstatic at what Ted had just informed him of, had to ask. "Why?"
"Because, you were right - how could I give him his life back when I won't let him live it. Because he'll never feel for me like he feels for you and it's not fair of me to ask him to stay with me. Because...because I love the kid and I want what's best for him," Ted stated and looked down at himself. "Can you please send Justin out so I can say good-bye to him properly," and with that Ted looked up into Brian's face, "please?"
Brian went into the house to retrieve Justin and although he felt slightly bad for Ted, Brian noticed a definite skip to his walk as he brought the kid outside to hear the news.
"Ted? Do I have to come with you now?" Justin asked tentatively.
"No Justin. You're to stay here," Ted stated, trying to hold back the wavering in his voice he could feel.
"You mean, tonight?"
"No Justin - I'm...I'm releasing you. You can go your own way."
Justin took a moment to fully take in what Ted had just said.
"Do you mean it? Do you really, really mean it Ted?"
"Yes of course I fucking mean it! Why do you always ask me that?!"
Everything he had ever wanted. This. This was now his again. He wanted to do cartwheels right there in the street but he stopped short when he took in the sight of Ted.
"Are you going to be okay Ted?" Justin asked.
"Of course I'll be okay. I was alone before you came along. We're meant to be solitary figures. I just wanted something...different. And I got it for a short time." Ted looked away from Justin, so the boy wouldn't see him break down. And he definitely did not want Kinney to see it either.
"Wait here, Ted!" and with that Justin ran into the house. Brian and Ted watched as he entered the house, wondering what Justin was doing. When Justin came back out, he was holding his backpack and for just the tiniest moments, Brian was filled with dread that Justin would continue to stay with Ted - Ted was filled with dread also, that Justin would stay with him out of a feeling of loyalty.
"I got you a Christmas gift," Justin said as he pulled a brightly colored wrapped package from his backpack. "Actually, I made it. I hope you like it." Justin handed the gift to Ted.
Ted opened the gift to reveal a rolled piece of canvas on which bright watercolors were splashed across. Brian noted how the kid had a great eye for color and that Justin had a bit of Monet in him.
"It's beautiful," Ted said, trying yet again not to get choked up.
"The world sees you in shades of black and white and grays. I...I see you in color," Justin said and launched himself at Ted, holding on tightly. Ted, holding on just as tightly, couldn't stop the tears now. "Thank you Ted! Thank you. I'll always love you." The last sentiment was whispered in Ted's ear.
Ted stepped back, disengaging himself from Justin. There were so many things he wanted to say. 'Stay with me.' 'I love you.' But all that would come out was, "You be good." Ted laughed at the ridiculous and corny platitude. "Do the things you wanted to do and really, don't worry about me." Ted and Justin hugged one more time with Ted telling Justin to go back to the party. Ted never wanted to let go but it was time. Justin pulled back, walked ahead and then looked back to Brian, "are you coming Brian?"
"You go ahead," Brian replied. Brian turned to Ted as soon as Justin was in the house. "Is this where you tell me 'I better take care of Justin or you'll make sure my appointment with death is sooner rather than later?'" Brian asked mockingly.
"Please, don't you think that would be a bit petty," Ted said just as mockingly, while wiping his eyes, "even for me?"
"Do you want to come in, enjoy the party?" Brian asked.
"No, what was it you called me? Oh yeah, I don't think a Christmas party is the sort of place for the 'Spectre of Death,' don't you think?" Ted laughed.
"Yeah, well," and with that Brian held out his hand. "It was an...experience meeting you. I mean, I can't fault what you do, right?"
"Hey it's just a job," Ted replied. "You know, there are only two sure things in life - death and taxes."
"Yeah," Brian smirked, "hey, if you were mortal, you could have been an accountant."
"Yeah," Ted replied and with that both men shivered. "And in another life, I could have worked for you."
"We'd probably be friends," Brian said, while both men nodded their heads in understanding. "I'm going back in and...Ted? Thanks," Brian said while regarding the man.
Ted shrugged, "anything for Justin," and with that Ted turned and walked away. Brian ran back into the house where Justin stood by the newly decorated tree.
Brian picked Justin up and twirled him around, kissing him firmly on the cheek.
"What do I do now Brian?" Justin asked breathlessly.
"Anything you want Sunshine. Anything you want!" Brian replied while nuzzling the boy's neck.
"You know," Justin started, "I feel like this is one of those cheesy, pat endings you find at the end of one of those Christmas movies that they air on the Family Channel."
Brian laughed. "Actually, I was thinking it was more like the ending in one of those fairy tales." Justin looked at Brian with a puzzled expression. "You know, where the knight comes in and saves the prince from the nasty ogre, who as it turned out wasn't such a bad guy after all and while they might not live happily ever after most of the time, the knight gets to fuck the prince solidly into the mattress every chance he gets."
"Brian! I've never read any Grimm Fairy Tale like that!"
"That's why they call 'em grim, Sunshine!" Brian said as he kissed Justin solidly, ignoring everything going on around them.
And as they were kissing, a dark figure standing at the window, taking in the scene, sighed and said, "treat him right Kinney, or I'll be calling on your appointment with death earlier than later." Ted laughed and stepped away from the window. As he turned towards the sidewalk, he stopped, looked back once more at a beaming Justin and smiled. The kid would be okay. He looked at an equally beaming Brian. Ted still wondered who was saving who exactly.
And with that Ted walked down the street, following the path that would lead him to his next destination.
It was as he was walking down through the industrial district that he could feel it. Someone was near death. Maybe not today and possibly not tomorrow but soon. He followed his senses into a dilapidated warehouse where he saw a lone figure huddled in a sleeping bag, shivering on the cold, winter floor.
Ted approached the body. As he did, the man looked up into Ted's face. "You're here to help me, aren't you?"
The man's face, had it not been for the progressed, drug-induced sickness, would have been pleasant. Quite cute actually.
But that was not what pulled Ted in. There was just something there. He would help the man. Of course, it would only be if he wanted it. He couldn't make him but something told Ted that the man was ready.
The man cleared his throat. "My name is...is Blake."
"Hi Blake, my name is Ted. I'm going to help you but first we have to make a deal..."
Thank you! I hope the ending was everything you hoped for (and had been worth waiting for).
Please, please, please - I would love feedback. No matter what it is. Whether it's 'I loved it,' long quoty fb or 'You made me wait for this!' It's all good.
This time, I will answer all fb in normal time - my cable is working again.
Thanks again for reading!!!