As inconvenient as two-day trips are, I reflect while I pour out two fingers of whiskey from the single bottle on the liquor cart, they come with some handy fringe benefits. In this case, since I have the excuse of a flight tomorrow, nobody would suspect that I’m too drained from work to pick up a trick, so I don’t need to go out to Babylon just to prove them wrong.
I set the glass on the bedside table next to the stubbed-out joint, and I’ve just settled in for a long, luxurious jerk-off powered by visions of creamy pale thighs, long fingers, a thick, flushed cock that fits perfectly in my hand, plush lips and a hot little tongue tracing filthy patterns down my chest, when my phone rings. Justin’s name is on the screen, so I don’t even bother trying to keep the breathiness from my voice when I answer.
“Perfect timing, as usual.”
He laughs. “Stoned and whacking off? Someone’s feeling indulgent.”
“Shut up, I deserve it.”
“You have no idea.”
He doesn’t say anything for a moment, so I just listen to his breathing while I speed up my strokes, just a little. Then he hums.
“Next time you have one of these business trips, when I’m not a week away from an opening, I’ll come with you,” he says, in the soft, husky baritone that he knows I can’t resist. “I’ll give you all the sex you want in the morning so you can go to the office in a good mood, and at night we can reenact our first time.”
I grin. “Not sure Anita’s still in Pittsburgh. Might make some of the details a little tricky.”
He laughs again. “I don’t care about all of the details. Just a special few.”
I run the hand that’s not on my dick up my chest, rub over my nipples, delicate liquid sparks of pleasure flowing through me. “Yeah?”
“I want you to rim me the way you did then, until I’m begging to have you inside me,” Justin says, breathing a little harder than he was before. “Then you can fuck me until dawn, and I’ll come more times than I would have ever believed possible, but when we wake up I’ll still want more.”
I bite my lip to hold in a moan, thinking about that night. “You were- insatiable. So fucking hot.”
He makes a pleased noise. “Yeah?”
“You got closer to wearing me out than - oh, yeah - than the most seasoned trick ever could. So tight, and the sounds you were making-”
Justin groans. If he wasn’t already touching himself, he definitely is now. “I didn’t know anything could feel that amazing. And you were so beautiful, totally fried on whatever the fuck you’d taken but still making sure to make it good for me.”
This time I don’t catch the moan before it makes it out of my mouth. “Well, we couldn’t have you - uhmm - thinking you weren’t gay after all just because the sex wasn’t everything you’d dreamed of.”
I can hear him smiling at me over the line. “I fell in love with you that night, so I guess you did your job.”
I don’t really know what to say to that, but it doesn’t matter anyway because I’m coming blissfully hard, shooting all over my hand and the covers. I murmur dirty nonsense into the phone until I hear Justin pant out his own orgasm, then lie back and let the endorphins flood through me.
“Good to know we’ve still got it,” I say, finally, when I’ve recovered a little.
“Like we’d ever lose it, whatever it is.” I have to agree there.
“By the way,” Justin adds, voice lazy and rough, how he always gets after sex, “Em had an idea. About how we could tell people about the wedding.”
I frown. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I think you’re going to love it.”
For some godforsaken reason, Justin has decided that he wants to help Emmett cook for what we’ve told everyone is the pre-show-opening party, which means that the responsibility of corralling our very loud and disorganized family falls entirely to me. They’re all at the hotel, which is a start, I guess, but Jennifer has to go back for her purse and Lindsay and Melanie are still getting the kids ready (Gus has had a crisis over his outfit, apparently, which probably shouldn’t make me proud but it does) and Michael is so happy to SEE me that he’s absolutely no help at all, so I give up after about five minutes and just go sit in one of the cushy lobby chairs with a glass of cucumber water, watching the chaos unfold and wondering how the hell I’m going to get everyone to the condo before next week.
The things I do for love. Honestly.
“Well, this seems like your idea of a total fucking nightmare.”
I look behind me to see Frances, dressed in typically incomprehensible fashion (she’s wearing what I’d describe, gun to my head, as a sweater dress with an extra arm, over jeans and skateboard sneakers) and looking highly amused at the whole scene.
“I went to the condo to help set up, but Justin said I might be more useful here,” she says, in response to my curious look.
I snort and gesture at the group in front of us. “I’m not sure anyone would be useful here.”
“Are you kidding?” Frances says. “I have five sisters who each have at least three kids. This should be a piece of cake.”
I get a moment to contemplate the completely horrifying concept of five Claires before the elevator doors open and Gus hurtles out, nearly knocking me over with a hug. He’s older than I remember, like always, but his happy laughter stops me from falling too far into what Justin calls my personal pit of melancholia.
“Daaad!” he yells, when he’s let go enough for me to breathe a little. I pick him up and swing him around, but put him down again before Lindsay can give me too stern of a look.
“Finally chose an ensemble for the evening, kid?”
He frowns. “What’s ‘ensemble?’”
I roll my eyes as overdramatically as I can (i.e. very) because it makes him laugh. “Clothes, sonnyboy. Haven’t your moms taught you anything?”
This, apparently, is a reasonable segue for Gus to tell me all about his upcoming school presentation on the province of Ontario. I do my best to at least look like I’m listening, nodding and expressing surprise and elation in all the right places, before Jennifer arrives on the elevator. Then Frances manifests her dormant Catholic-mother powers by coordinating everyone into a reasonably organized blob outside the lobby.
“Everybody ready?” I ask, trying to make sure nobody’s missing. Not that I really care, but Justin swore he’d withhold sex for the next two days if I forgot anyone.
“Lead the way,” Frances says, nudging Michael back into the group when he tries to wander off to look at a Batman billboard on a nearby building. Christ.
The condo is transformed by the time we manage to get everyone up to the right floor (Hunter and his girlfriend keep trying to sneak off, which I approve of, but I don’t particularly want Mikey on my ass tonight, so I track them down each time). There are vases of fresh flowers everywhere, and Justin has taken some of his more pornographic sketches off the fridge. Emmett is wearing the KISS THE CHEF apron I bought Justin as a joke for his last birthday (it went over poorly until I showed him his real present, a state-of-the-art drawing tablet light enough for him to take on his endless city walks that netted me a week’s worth of very hot thank-you blowjobs), and he beams and jumps around and otherwise is himself when everyone comes in. Duncan, Emmett’s new boyfriend who I have been strictly instructed not to fuck (he’s hot, and Justin is highly attuned to my weaknesses) is cheerfully laying out place settings and whistling, which decreases his attractiveness by about thirty percent.
Justin looks positively edible in his suit, so I pull him aside for a long, dirty kiss after he’s done hugging everyone. He grins at me when I pull back. “Ready to do the inevitable?”
I laugh and bump my nose against his temple. “Gotta get it over with eventually, I guess.”
Justin and I stand at the center of the dining room, arms around each other. I pick up a fork from the table and ding it against a nearby glass a few times, and everyone looks up. I smile at Justin, and he smiles back, nodding.
“We’d like to thank all of you for coming all this way,” Justin says. “I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on tonight, and I’m so happy that I get to share it with the people I care the most about.”
I tighten my grip on him and he leans imperceptibly closer. Then I raise my glass. “We’d also like to thank you” - Justin flashes me a grin, our last moment of secrecy - “for coming to our wedding reception.”
There’s a pause. Justin and I look at each other in what I’m sure is a disgustingly sappy way.
Then Debbie screeches, “WHAT?”
Michael echoes her, his voice even higher-pitched.
Ted looks at Emmett, who shrugs apologetically.
I try not to laugh at Jennifer and Lindsay’s identical shocked expressions.
“Nice,” Hunter says, nodding to us.
Daphne, who’d known since the day after we got engaged, when she and Justin had tearfully Skyped for what felt like several hours, just grins and returns my toast.
Part of Emmett’s plan involved scheduling the party just a few hours before the show opening, so after going through endless rounds of descriptions of the ceremony, explaining why no one but people already living nearby were there, and showing off all five of our wedding photos (there are plenty from the honeymoon, but I don’t especially want Jennifer to have a heart attack before her son’s big break), I neaten Justin’s tie, kiss him one more time, and let him escape to the gallery early to make sure everything’s perfect.
When the rest of us get there, the doors are just about to open to the public. The work that Justin’s been doing over the past two months has been incredible, and I know as soon as I walk in that this is exactly what he wanted, colors leaping off the walls, huge canvases splattered with vibrating energy, joy and rage and passion, all the things that make him him, liquified and thrown into explosive rectangles of paint.
I look around the room until I spot him, talking rapidly with Gordon, the owner. He turns and sees me and practically bounces over, glowing, kissing me deeper than is probably appropriate, not that I care, when he reaches me.
“This is amazing,” I tell him, because it is, and he beams.
“I can’t believe it’s really happening.”
I smile at him and take his hand. “Well, it is, so you’d better get ready to believe in the next” - I look at my watch - “seven minutes. Buyers probably don’t want to talk with an artist who doesn’t think it’s his own work he’s selling.”
He laughs, then gives me one of those deep, intense looks that make me feel stripped raw, my soul exposed to him. “Feel like being my arm candy for the evening?”
I kiss him, a little chastely, because the doors are open now and people are flooding in. “Thought you’d never ask.”
The show is a hit, of course, and so is Justin, charming everyone we meet with a smile and a funny story. After an hour or so, when there’s a lull in the rush of visitors desperate for a moment face-to-face with the artist, he tugs me over to a quiet corner of the gallery and hands me an envelope from inside his jacket.
I open it. It’s a check, and not a small one.
I look at him. “What’s this?”
He smiles, soft but proud. “My first payment back on the loan you gave me for my tuition.”
I sigh. “You know that-”
“-that I don’t have to do this right now, not when my career’s just taking off?”
I frown, and he smirks. He knows how much I hate it when he finishes my sentences.
“Brian, I sold every painting in this show. Seventeen of them were gone before the doors even opened.”
I gape at him. “What?”
He grins. “I kept the first one back, the one with the big black drippy thing that you helped me with. That one’s going on the bedroom wall.”
I have to smile back at that, thinking about the night Justin painted that piece, secretly glad he wants it for us as much as I do.
His expression goes back to serious. “Things are going to be different now. I have offers coming in from half the galleries in New York. I’m going to be making my own money, real money, for the first time in my life. So yes, I do want to do this. Right now. I know it doesn’t matter, really, but I want to give you the money. You can do whatever you want with it, but I want to give it to you.”
I slide an arm around his waist, pull him close. “You know, I have been looking at some summer houses in P-Town…”
He nuzzles closer, making little satisfied noises against my jaw. “Oh?”
I run a finger over the corner of the check. “How’d you feel about taking a beach vacation with a side of real estate listings once things cool down a little? I think I might have just had a windfall in just the right amount for a down payment.”
He kisses me, confident and firm, beautiful. When I pull back, he’s smiling again. “Sounds like a plan to me.”