Gift #30

Jan. 2nd, 2017 08:20 pm
[identity profile] mander3-swish.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] qaf_giftxchnge
TO: [livejournal.com profile] emynn. tumblr: xoxoemynn
FROM: [livejournal.com profile] sapphire_3
TITLE: Convalescence
GIFT REQUEST: Fic. fluff/schmoop, angst, canon-compliant, hurt/comfort, humor, sexy fun times. Brian and Justin take a vacation together.
NOTES: Beta by [livejournal.com profile] bigj52 (*hugs*) Set during Season 3, after Brian and Justin’s reunion but before Brian is fired from Vangard. Brian takes Justin on a trip to make amends. Canon-Verse, Season 3, Gapfiller, Romance. 5000 words.


**

Convalescence

**

Convalescence: A period of recovery. A time to heal.

**

Friday noon. Pittsburgh.

~~

“Are you… going somewhere?”

Justin glanced sideways at Brian, trying to quell a rising feeling of unease. Something strange was definitely afoot. The fact that Brian had pulled him out of Vangard at noon – instead of anytime between 6pm and midnight, depending on what deadline they were working on – was odd enough. Brian was technically his boss, and no one at the advertizing agency had really asked any questions about why they were leaving work hours early.

Brian had come into the art room and gestured for Justin to collect his belongings and follow him. Justin had tried to ask where they were going. Brian had his jacket on and car keys in hand, clearly about to leave for somewhere, but he had merely shrugged and continued walking. Unsure of what else to do, Justin had followed out into the parking lot where they had gotten into the jeep.

Justin wondered if they were running some kind of errand, but he thought it peculiar wouldn’t tell him what that errand was. Maybe they were going to meet a new client, and Brian didn’t want him to form an opinion before meeting the person?

They hadn’t spoken to each other the whole time they’d been driving. This had made Justin feel nervous. Brian had sometimes used his, Justin’s, predilection towards nervousness to his advantage, like when he wanted to try out something sexual adventurous. He was masterful at building up anticipation, and he knew how it turned Justin on.

May be it was some kind of surprise for him, Justin thought. But what kind of surprise, and for what purpose he was being surprised, he couldn’t guess.

“Brian?” he prompted.

Justin could tell Brian was listening, despite of the dark reflective glasses that hid his eyes. He could also tell from the set of Brian’s jaw that he was concentrating on the road. The noontime traffic was unusually heavy.

“What makes you think I’m going somewhere?” Brian asked, in answer to Justin’s earlier question.

Justin watched him shoulder-check as he moved into the fast lane to overtake a Honda Civic. As they pulled onto the I-376 and began to move more freely, Justin saw the leather-glove clad fingers loosen on the steering wheel.

“The suit.”

Brian took his eyes from the road momentarily to glance in Justin’s direction.

“What?”

“The suit you’re wearing,” Justin clarified. To demonstrate the point, he made a deliberate visual appraisal of Brian’s ensemble.

“What’s wrong with the suit?”

Brian sounded unsure if he should be worried or affronted, and that made Justin grin.

“Nothing’s wrong with it,” he assured Brian, still smiling. “I just know it’s one you usually wear when you fly. It looks amazing. Haven’t I told you, you always look amazing?”

Brian had bought the dark, well-cut Merino Wool suit in London on a business trip a number of years before. He liked to travel in it because it was comfortable, didn’t wrinkle, and ‘didn’t have too many fucking pockets he would inevitably forget to empty while going through security’.

Brian’s mouth quirked up slightly at the corner, betraying his amusement.

“You’re very observant.”

Not for the first time, Justin wanted to tell Brian that he could write a book – a fucking Encyclopedia – on all of the little ‘Brian-isms’ that he saw and noticed and loved. The way that Brian hung his clothes in the dresser, organizing the garments by function, label, color and season. His peculiar habit of eating apples with a penknife. The way he liked to brew his coffee, dark and as strong as battery acid. The order in which he turned the Loft’s lights off at night. The way he held his fork. The way he pulled on his socks and took off his shirts.

In the months that Justin had been apart from him, infatuated with Ethan and blinded by his false promises, he had never forgotten those little things.

When he had started working as an intern at Vanguard, he’d watched Brian for his ‘Brian-isms’. They had made his heart – and other parts of his anatomy – ache with longing. Now that they were, as Ben had put it, ‘back in a unified state’, Justin cherished Brian’s subtle mannerisms.

Instead of admitting all this however, Justin just smiled knowingly.

“So, where are you going?” he persisted. “Don’t think it’s escaped my notice that we’re heading in the direction of the airport.”

“We might not be going to the airport,” Brian retorted. “How do you know we’re not going to Beaver Falls?”

Justin had to stop and consider for a moment. Was there any legitimate reason why they would be going to Beaver Falls, PA? They were sort of heading in the right direction on the I-376. With a population of just nine thousand however, Beaver Falls seemed like an unlikely destination for a White Party, or some such titillating event.

“What’s at Beaver Falls?” he asked tentatively.

Brian shrugged.

“Damned if I know. Beavers? People falling because they trip over beavers?”

Justin giggled and mentally struck ‘Beaver Falls, PA’ off the list of possible destinations.

In his mind, he quickly laid out four possible scenarios:
A) Brian was going somewhere by air and wanted him to…what? Drive the Jeep back after dropping him off? Unlikely. Pigs would fly before he was allowed to get behind the wheel of his beloved vehicle.
B) They were meeting someone at the airport. A possibility, but Justin couldn’t think of anyone who had been away. Could it be a visiting celebrity, like Zach O’Toole?
C) Brian was taking him to the airport to put him on a plane. A solo trip to France to visit the Louvre, perhaps? Improbable.
D) There were going to get on a plane and go somewhere together.

The last option was the most appealing to Justin, but he didn’t know if it was too much to hope for. Was it too soon in their renewed relationship to assume that Brian would do such a thing for him? On a more practical note, he had no luggage with him. How was that going to work?

“You’re really not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?” he asked with a sigh. They passed a sign for Pittsburgh International Airport. “I doubt this is just a very, very long scenic route home.”

“It’s not.”

“Then where are we going?”

“Well, I guess…”

For a half-second, Brian paused, as if to make sure he wasn’t going to say something he’d regret.

“I guess you’ll have to trust me.”

Justin could hear the unspoken words in Brian’s tone. You do trust me, don’t you?

Justin watched him for a long moment and then settled back into his seat. Despite the unease he felt, a warm liquid exhilaration was flooding through him.

They drove on in silence through the traffic, leaving Pittsburgh behind them.

~~

Pittsburgh International Airport, Long-term Car Park

**

The answer, it transpired, was ‘d’. They were flying somewhere together.

Due to the logistics of having to fly anywhere in the twenty-first century, Justin knew that Brian must have been planning this trip for some time. He had to bite his tongue to stop asking too many questions, not wanting to spoil Brian’s surprise.

Brian parked and climbed out of the Jeep. As Justin did likewise, he thought suddenly about luggage. How was going to go away for an indefinite amount of time without any extra clothes, toiletries or other travel necessities?

Brian opened the back of the Jeep and pulled out two sleek black suitcases on wheels. He extended the handle of one of them and wordlessly held it out. Justin took it hesitantly.

“What’s this?”

“Your shit. You’ll need it.”

Justin looked down at the suitcase uncertainly. He had never seen the case before. It looked new.

“You know they say you should never travel with luggage you haven’t packed yourself, right?” he asked.

Brian flashed his crooked ‘Brian smile’, took the handle of the second suitcase and began to walk in the direction of the shuttle bus that would take them to the airport building. As Justin hurried to catch up to him, Brian put an arm around his shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze.

“Trust me.”

~~

Pittsburgh International Airport

**

“How did you get a hold of my passport?” Justin asked, staring down at the document Brian had just handed him.

“Daphne.”

They were standing in the security line at the airport, after checking their bags through to their final destination, which was still an unknown to Justin. From the terminal building they had entered, he knew only that their destination was not in the United States.

“Daphne?” Justin repeated incredulously. “My passport was in the safe box where I keep my other documents! How would Daphne even know the code to unlock it?”

Brian gave a soft, amused laugh, rooting around in his shoulder bag for their boarding passes.

“I think you’ll find that Daphne knows far more about where you keep your shit than you think. She was remarkably proficient when we were packing for you.”

Despite the incredulousness in his words, Justin felt a wave of affection for his best friend. She alone had known the agony Justin had gone through after Ethan had cheated on him, and then his sheer desperation to get Brian back. Of course she would want to help Brian do this for him.

“Here,” Brian said, nudging a piece of paper into his hand.

It was a boarding pass. Justin quickly scanned it for the destination of their flight.

“Toronto Pearson Airport?” he asked, looking up at Brian inquisitively. “What’s in Toronto?”

Brian shrugged, non-committedly.

“Snow?” he suggested. “Maple-flavoured poutine? Mounties? Public healthcare?”

“I mean,” Justin clarified pointedly, though he couldn’t keep a grin from sliding onto his face, “What’s in Toronto for us?”

Brian again put his arm around Justin’s shoulders as they neared the front of the line for the security gate.

“Toronto isn’t the final destination,” he told Justin, as if grudgingly providing a hint in a guessing game. “But we are going somewhere in Canada. And that’s all the clues you’re getting for now.”

He gave Justin’s shoulders another squeeze and lowered his voice to a husky whisper.

“Trust me.”

~~

Friday Night. Calgary International Airport, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

**

“Y’know,” Justin commented, as the airport’s automatic sliding doors let in another icy blast of wintery night air. “If I knew we were coming to the Canadian prairies, I’d have worn something a little warmer. It looks like the fucking Franklin expedition out there.”

Brian’s attention was on the luggage carousel. It was decked out, somewhat intriguingly, with several life-sized dinosaur models, enticing tourists to visit the famous Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology north of the city.

“The fucking what?” Brian asked vaguely. “What does this have to do with electricity?”

Justin rolled his eyes, mostly to himself. Clearly cultural references had a greater chance of being lost on Brian after being in transit for seven hours. He was glad they had cleared Canadian customs in Toronto before catching their connection to Calgary, or this could have been a very long night.

“Not Benjamin Franklin,” he explained patiently. “I meant John Franklin. You know, the British explorer who set off to find the Northwest Passage, only to have both his ships crushed in the ice, half his crew die of lead poisoning, and the others start eating each other?”

Brian stared at him, looking vaguely horrified.

“Never mind,” Justin said hastily, by way of assurance. He patted Brian’s arm. “If we get lost in subzero temperatures in the wilds of downtown Calgary, I promise I won’t eat you. Can’t make any promises about the grizzly bears, though…”

When Brian looked even more alarmed, Justin laughed and caught his arm.

“Brian, I’m joking!” he reassured the other man. “There haven’t been grizzly bears on the plains for at least a hundred and fifty years. They were hunted to extinction, along with the bison.”

There was a loud beeping sound and the luggage carousel leapt into motion, spewing out suitcases from a chute underneath the closest dinosaur model.

“What about in the Mountains?” Brian asked unexpectedly, as he watched for their bags. “There are grizzly bears there, right?”

Justin shot him an inquisitive look. It would be hard to deny that there were bears in the Canadian Rockies, as the next luggage carousel over was designed to look like a mountainscape clearly featured a grizzly bear. Brian still hadn’t revealed to him what their final destination was, and he felt this last question had been a leading clue.

“Why?” he asked curiously. “Are we going somewhere in the Mountains?”

“Maybe.”

Brian had spotted their suitcases as they emerged from the depths of the loading bay onto the carousel. Thanks to his ‘Priority’ status on just about every airline that flew within North America, their bags had been unloaded first.

Justin helped Brian haul their luggage off the carousel and then followed him in the direction of the exit, which were emitting periodic blasts of icy cold. He assumed Brian was heading to the taxi stand but he abruptly changed direction and veered off towards a seating area.

“Where are we going?” Justin asked.

“To rectify the Franklin Expedition scenario,” Brian said sardonically, stopping by an empty set of chairs. “In the interests of not dying of hypothermia in the middle of the fucking wilderness, I did pack us a little extra something for the cold. Yours is in your bag.”

He lifted his own suitcase onto the seat of one of the chairs and unzipped it. Curiously, Justin did the same with his, not sure whether he should be expecting booze, miniature heating pads, or some kind of temperature-orientated sex toy.

“Brian… wow…”

He pulled out an amazing midnight blue winter parka, a masterpiece of down-filled engineering with a tunnel hood, rib knit cuffs and fleece-lined pockets. The design was slightly fitted, promising it would not turn him into a shapeless Yeti, as his existing snowboarding jacket did.

The jacket was clearly brand new, and Justin gasped when he saw the brand name’s characteristic red and white circle. “Is this a Canada Goose jacket?” he asked breathlessly. “Brian, these cost, like, a thousand dollars.”

“At full price, they’re nine hundred and fifty,” Brian told him, unconcerned. “I got them at a reduced rate through a business deal. You can thank Leo Brown for that.”

He had pulled out his own brand new parka. It was black with a slightly different design from Justin’s, sporting a faux fur-lined hood that managed to look not the least bit pretentious. He shrugged out of the fitted wool sports jacket he’d worn on the flights and pulled on the parka. It hugged his lean frame in all the right places.

“Hot?” he asked, turning to Justin for approval.

Justin shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“Brian, you could make a Paper Bag Princess get up look hot, and you know it,” he told him with a grin. “But yes, definitely hot. And…”

He reached over and gave Brian a playful poke in the ribs, where he knew the other man was ticklish. Brian jerked out of his way, giving an undignified squawk.

“Unlike the majority of your ‘hot’ outfits,” Justin continued, “this one will actually keep you warm. You won’t have to rely on your one solitary fat cell having to make the rounds to keep your vital organs warm.”

Brian regained his composure and straightened the jacket.

“Why the fuck do you think I brought you along?” he asked. “You’re a warm body. I’m not just going to let anyone climb into a sleeping bag with me to provide body heat when I get pulled off the ski hill with hypothermia.”

“The ski hill?” Justin repeated in surprise. “Is that why we’re here? We’re going skiing?”

Brian shut his mouth with a snap, his expression suddenly pissed. He’d clearly let something out of the bag before he’d meant to. Without answering Justin’s question, he turned and re-zipped his suitcase, pulling it off the seat and righting it on its wheels.

“Hey,” Justin said in a consoling voice. He put out a hand and caught the crook of Brian’s elbow. “I’ll pretend you didn’t say that, okay? I’ll just assume that you’ve brought me here to go to some cowboy-themed White Party.”

Brian didn’t move for a moment, and then his lips quirked up into a smile. He turned and put his arm around Justin’s shoulders, pulling him into his side. Justin found he was acutely aware of the feel of Brian’s fingers, even through the thick layers of down jacket and wool sweater.

“I was going to wait until tomorrow to tell you,” Brian confessed. “But trying to keep a secret from you is about as much good as trying to stop plate tectonics.”

“Plate tectonics,” Justin repeated softly, leaning his head against Brian’s shoulder. “You’re starting to sound like me.”

“I must be absorbing your immense geekiness through osmosis.”

Without warning, Justin felt an unexpected prickling of tears at the back of his eyes. He had missed this kind of closeness with Brian so deeply that he longed for it more than the sexual intimacy they shared. It was a kind of closeness so much more poignant and fragile than physical contact.

It was about 9:30pm local time (there was a two hour time difference with Pittsburgh), and the airport was quiet. A few late-night passengers hurried past them on their way to the multistory car park, dragging along carry-on bags and talking into cellsphones. In the silence that Brian let drift, the sound of their footsteps on the linoleum floor sounded very loud.

“I owe you a snowboarding trip,” Brian said eventually.

His voice was low and low, his words measured. Justin thought could just about detect a slight undercurrent of regret in his tone.

Justin felt a physical shock of emotion pulse through his body, making him give an involuntary shiver. Unbidden, the words ’this was where it all came undone’ rose to the surface of his mind.

In the few months they’d been back together, they’d never talked about the trip to Vermont, the week that Brian had made partner at Vangard. Now, it appeared before Justin as the huge, bloating carcass of a dead elephant in the room.

“But…” he protested weakly, “Brian, I took that trip. I went.”

Justin found he didn’t want to look up into Brian’s eyes, so he looked down at the cuffs of his new jacket instead.

He didn’t want to talk about this. He never wanted to open up that Black Box of unwanted memories, and certainly didn’t want to do it so soon after winning Brian back.

He’d always pinpointed that snowboarding trip to Vermont as where their relationship had started to go off the rails. The trip itself had been wretched. Justin had gone to spite Brian, and the resentment and bad karma he’d carried around with him had utterly ruined the trip.

Brian seemed to sense his thoughts in that uncanny way of his.

You went on that trip,” he corrected him in the same soft, measured tone. “I didn’t.”

“I shouldn’t have gone!”

Justin had never before had an opportunity to apologize to Brian for going to Vermont without him, and now it came pouring out of him.

“It was stupid and juvenile of me. I knew how important your job was, and I shouldn’t have been so pissy about - ”

In a gesture that was uncharacteristic for him, Brian reached out and laid the pad of his thumb gently against Justin’s lips to silence him. An insistent index finger on the side of his jaw forced Justin to turn his head and meet Brian’s eyes.

“We were both wrong,” Brian told him. His eyes were solemn and serious. “You know I don’t often admit fault, but this time I am. True, I couldn’t have gone to Vermont with my promotion hanging in the balance. But I was wrong to ditch you. I handled it badly.”

Justin swallowed hard and looked back into Brian’s intense hazel eyes. He saw a question there that shocked him.

He had always viewed the break-up with Brian as being his fault. He was the one who had cheated, in the only way one of them could cheat in their open relationship. For all of his promiscuousness, Brian had never once broken Their Rules. Justin knew he had, and had done so epically. And yet, Brian had been willing to take him back.

For all of these reasons, the unspoken question in Brian’s eyes shook Justin.

”Will you forgive me?”

For the first time, Brian was admitting that the disintegration of their relationship had been his fault as well. He and Justin hadn’t broken up because they didn’t love each other. They had broken up because of their stubborn inability to compromise on the most important issues, and that was a two-way street.

Justin turned abruptly and put his arms around Brian’s neck, pulling the older man down to him. Brian staggered slightly with the sudden movement, then he dropped the handle of the bag he was holding and put both arms around Justin’s back. He hugged Justin close, pulling him up onto his tiptoes. Justin closed his eyes and pressed his face into Brian’s soft, cashmere scarf, inhaling his scent.

“Healing,” Justin thought to himself. “We’re finally healing.”

After what felt like a long time, Brian gently released his hold, lowering Justin back onto his feet. Justin looked up at him.

“I love you,” he told him simply.

Brian just nodded and held his gaze. It was as close to ‘I love you, too’ as Justin thought he’d ever get. And that was just fine with him.

Everything was fine, he thought. Everything was perfect.

Wordlessly, Brian took up the handle of his suitcase again and nodded in the direction of the exit doors.

“Ready for the next great adventure?” he asked. “And by ‘adventure’, I should tell you now that I haven’t been on a ski hill since I was twelve. So, in addition to having your brains fucked out, fending off wild animals and reviving me from hypothermic comas, you’re also going to have to teach me how to snowboard.”

Justin grinned at him and took up the handle of his own suitcase. He slid his arms through Brian’s and squeezed his elbow.

“I got you covered,” he assured him, “on all accounts. Assuming you trust me?”

Brian let out a soft laugh. Briefly, he touched Justin’s fingers where they rested in the crook of his elbow.

The message was clear: Of course I do. Twat.

~~

One thing Justin had learned about Brian early on was that the man never did anything in half measures. ‘Whole Hog, and Then Some’ seemed to be his modus operandi.

Justin hadn’t really known what to expect from a snowboarding trip that Brian had planned single-handedly. He’d thought perhaps Brian might rent a cozy little cabin in the backcountry, close to one of the smaller ski resorts. Brian had admitted that he hadn’t been on a ski hill in several decades, so it would stand to reason that he might choose a venue that at least had a bunny hill.

He had, of course, vastly underestimated Brian’s preponderancy for glamour and grandeur.


Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta.


Justin had heard of Lake Louise in Banff National Park before. The iconic emerald-green glacial lake had been synonymous with Canadian tourism since the Victorian era, hailed as one of the most beautiful places in North America. What he had had not known was that it was also associated with one of the largest ski resorts on the continent.

The Lake Louise Ski Resort covered three mountain faces, which received 180 inches of snow a year. It offered nine ski lifts, a snowboarding terrain park, and 139 ski runs of varying levels of difficulty. (Justin suspected that one of the reasons Brian had chosen Lake Louise was because there was at least one green circle run – the easiest category of difficulty – down from every lift, meaning that he would never get stuck with no option other than to face the vertical face of a black diamond run). Lake Louise was also considered to be one of the most scenic ski resorts in North America, with the highest chairlifts taking skiers and snowboarders to an elevation of 8650 feet.

As for ‘the little cabin in the woods’ Justin had been expecting, Brian had booked them into the Executive King Suite at the Chateau Lake Louise, one of the finest and most well-known luxury hotels in Canada. (And yes, there were little chocolate mints on the pillows.)

Their suite was so luxurious it boarded on ridiculous, but Justin was certainly not one to complain. Each morning, he stood by their enormous bay windows and opened the curtains to watch the dawn light caressing the edges of the Lefroy Glacier, turning the frozen lake and the majestic mountains rose gold and deep purple.

‘Bliss,’ he’d thought. He’d taken a mental picture of the scene, deciding he would try and paint it when he got back to Pittsburgh.

Each morning, he and Brian ate a room service breakfast together, sitting at a table by their bay window that overlooked Lake Louise. Then they would head off to the ski resort for a day on the slopes, donning their new Canada Goose parkas and top-of-the-line snowboarding gear, rented from the resort.

Despite not having been on a ski hill since he was a teenager, Brian turned out to be a fast learner, and they were off the bunny hill after only one snowboarding lesson. However, following an epic wipeout on day three, in which Brian had narrowly missed colliding with a tree, a skier, and the pole of a chairlift, he announced that he was going to try skiing instead of snowboarding.

“I feel like my chances of dying are less if I can move my feet independently,” he explained.

At lunchtime, they ate at one of the restaurants on the ski hill, enjoying the local fare and subtly despairing of other people’s poor choices in the ski gear fashion department. (“I didn’t even know they made ski jackets out of Snuffleupagus pelt…” “Now, do you think his goggles were designed that way, or did he accidentally mistake a World War I gasmask for downhill sport apparel?”)

In the evening, they would wander through the mountain resort town of Banff, window-shopping for authentic art and sculptures in Justin’s case, and real-shopping for expensive clothes in Brian’s.

On one of the evenings, Brian drove their rented SUV up to the famous Banff Springs; geothermal hot springs nestled into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. For Justin, it was a wonderful sensation to sit outside in the dark, star-filled, late-winter night, feeling the hot, vaguely sulfur-scented water soothe his muscles. Brian’s arm was warm around his waist, his nose cold against the back of Justin’s neck.

Some nights, they dined out in some of Banff’s most celebrated restaurants. Other times, they went back to their room and ordered room service. To Justin’s immense relief, Brian seemed to ‘forget’ his No Carbs After Seven rule as they gorged themselves on lobster and foie gras.

At night, they made love. And it was ‘making love’, Justin decided. At least, it was making something. Making peace. Making hope. Making a promise.

Building trust.

~~

Saturday night, one week later. Chateau Lake Louise. Banff, Alberta

**

Justin opened his eyes slowly, relishing the feeling of purest bliss that enveloped him like a soft, warm blanket.

He was lying facedown, naked on luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets and down-filled pillows. The huge, elaborately draped bed in their hotel suite could have easily slept eight, but he and Brian had done their best to use every square inch of it.

He was sore all over.

The muscles of his legs and hips ached from the week of snowboarding they’d done. The sport required muscle groups in his calves and thighs Justin didn’t even know he possessed, and they had been overexerting themselves. Brian had suggested that their last indulgence before they departed Banff the following day should be a deep tissue massage at the hotel’s luxury spa. Justin could have cried with gratitude.

His muscles weren’t the only things that ached however. His ass was also on fire in the most wonderfully delicious way. He had lost count of how many times, and how many different ways, Brian had fucked him over the last week.

Part of him was sad that this dream was now coming to a close. The next day, they would be driving back to Calgary, returning their rental car, and then getting on a plane and heading back east. On Monday, they would be back at work at Vangard. Brian would be back to coming home at nine o’clock after a long day at the office, only to turn on his heel and head straight back out to Babylon to fuck tricks into the wee hours.

But part of Justin was also glad that they would be heading back with the memories of this trip to forever treasure.

It had been more than just a trip filled with memory-making moments, though. It had been a time of re-connection. A time of healing. A convalescence.

These thoughts wafted lazily through Justin’s brain as he slowly woke to full consciousness. When he reached out a languorous arm to touch Brian in whatever spot his hand made contact with, he felt only the cool sheets beneath his hand.

Blinking, he rubbed his eyes open and slowly rolled over.

It was dark outside, but only the thin privacy curtains were drawn across the window. Justin could still see the glow of the silvery moon through the diaphanous material. The overhead lights in the room were off and there was a strange, flickering light emitting from somewhere. Justin raised himself to his elbows and peered around the room.

Candles, he saw. It was candlelight.

“Brian?” he called uncertainly.

He squinted into the oddly animated shadows that seemed to dance across the walls, searching for a human shape.

“Down here.”

Brian’s voice came, unexpectedly, from the floor near the foot of the bed. As Justin watched, Brian’s dark figure stood up, shaking a match out in his right hand. The movement was done with the elegance of someone who had lit cigarettes with matches for most of their lives.

He was dressed in a black silk dressing gown that Justin wasn’t sure he’d seen before this trip. The material was quite sheer, and Justin could see the contours of Brian’s body through it.

Justin sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees, trying to peer over the bed to see what Brian had been doing on the floor. He noticed for the first time that many of the pillows that had been on the bed when he’d fallen asleep (post-fuck) were no longer there. They were on the floor at Brian’s feet.

“There’s a gourmet shop in Banff,” Brian said softly, his voice low and husky. “While you were in that art gallery, I picked some stuff up. Brie. Pate. French wine.”

He looked up and met Justin’s gaze.

The light was such that Justin couldn’t see his eyes, but he could read the expression on his face. Justin felt that same shiver of confused emotion – anxiety, excitement, sadness and love – run down his spine.

“A picnic?” Justin asked uncertainly.

When Brian gave a tiny nod, he repeated the words, as if they needed the note of finality.

“A picnic.”

Brian nodded again. He came around the bed and held out his hand.

“Just the two of us.”

**

THE END

**
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