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"If you can't love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?" ~RuPaul Charles
Justin's journey to self-acceptance and personal transition is long and winding. Will he learn to love himself as others love him?
A/N:I started writing this series back in December 2015.
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Disclaimer:I own nothing but this story.
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~ The Next Day, Kinnetik, Mid-Morning ~
"Brian, are you listening?" Cynthia's voice sliced through my daydreaming. I blinked as I peered up at her from behind my desk.
Focus, Kinney, I told myself inwardly, but that didn't help.
"Sorry to be bothering you, but your one o’clock is here," she informed me, giving me a quizzical look. "And by the way, you look like shit," she noted dryly.
"Thanks. You always say the sweetest things,” I deadpanned as she smirked at me. I sighed, feathering my fingers through my hair. “I'll be right there."
She hesitated for a moment before shaking her head slightly and turning to leave, but I remained seated in my black leather chair. Fuck. The last thing I needed was yet another meeting with new clients that were looking to promote their new energy drinks, underwear line, scented lubes, or fucking ‘new and improved’ sex toys designed specifically for a herd of adoring gay fans involved in a committed relationship. I knew I needed to be there for this meeting, because it is my agency and my reputation, and I'm good at it, too, but at that point I simply didn’t give a damn. As I sank deeper into my chair – pinching the bridge of my nose – thoughts about last night started to creep into my mind again.
Think back to the most memorable sex you’ve ever had, I could hear a persistent voice at the back of my head directing me. What was his name? What do you remember most? Was it that thing he did with his tongue, or was it the chemistry and his sexual energy? What did he smell like? How did he touch you?
Usually the answer to all those questions would have been “I don’t give a shit,” or “I don’t remember.” Usually I never would have stopped to ask myself those questions to begin with, because I couldn't care less about a random trick to ever notice – or remember – anything.
Usually, but NOT when it came to last night. That was a whole different experience. Fuck it, last night was simply amazing.
Yes, last night had been great, but the morning after was rather anti-climactic. What had I expected, though? Why was I so surprised when Justin had rushed out of my loft and left? Come to think of it, I was always the one who made sure to mention in a not-so-subtle manner to my random tricks that it was time to get up and go after we'd fucked in a back room, the broom closet, or any other vacant space. So why had I been so frustrated when Justin had hurriedly slipped out of my bed before I’d had a chance to say anything? Was it because what I felt with HIM didn't resemble anything I've ever felt before? I huffed and pulled my lips inward. Get a grip, Kinney, I berated myself. There was NO way I would be chasing after any other guy after just one night, but then nothing had been the same again, not since that night we first met at that club.
Fuck, I could feel my hard-on building as my mind kept drifting back to last night in my bed at the loft with Justin. I've never fucked anyone like him. I've never experienced anything like it, but I wanted more. I wanted HIM.
A knock on the glass door that separated my office from the main boardroom startled me yet again.
"Brian!" Cynthia now urged me impatiently when she peered into my office and noticed I hadn’t moved. "The guys from Adam and Steve Publishing are here. They've been waiting for you for forty minutes! I don't think I can stall them any longer," she grouched. I observed her eyes narrowing as she growled, "Damn it, Brian! Were you fucking that hot young intern from the art department just now?" Her eyes landed on my obvious hard-on, and my disheveled appearance.
I snorted. "He should be so lucky, but no, as much as I hate to disappoint you, I was NOT," I tell her curtly.
"Would you care to explain to me what has been going on with you lately, then?" her voice softened as she approached my desk. Despite her urgency from before, she crossed her arms over her chest and stood next to me to study me before asking pointedly, "Was it that guy you told me about a few weeks ago? You can't still be thinking about him, can you? I mean…you're Brian Kinney; you've got a reputation to uphold," she said, clearly trying to encourage me by using my own mantra.
I averted my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose again, blowing out a deep breath between my lips as I remained silent. My long-time, trusty assistant astutely picked up on my lack of response.
"Oh, my God, Brian! You DO give a shit about him, don't you?” She chuckled in amazement as I scowled up at her. “Oh, wow, that must be a first for you," she exclaimed teasingly.
I sighed in resignation. "You don't know the half of it," I replied, my voice sounding distorted as I lifted my eyes to gaze up at her.
Her expression softened as she told me, "Well, listen, you know you can always talk to me, Brian. But right now, those guys are here waiting for their meeting, and I'd hate to send them away," she said.
"Okay," I replied, taking a deep breath. "Remind me again what the pitch is about?"
She smiled. “You really DO have it bad,” she told me with a smirk as I glared at her. "I already told you earlier this morning," she pointed out, hands on hips. She shook her head in amusement. “But okay. These guys are looking to market their new self-help book…"
I nod now, recalling it. "Oh, yeah. One of those 'Improve Your Sex Life' bullshit books?" I frowned, grabbing the book that had been lying on my desk for the past few days. "Okay, then; give me a few more minutes," I requested.
Cynthia nodded and left my office. I leafed briefly through the pages, grabbed my fountain pen, and started to scramble a few things in a yellow legal pad, trying fervently to concentrate.
_ _ _ _
~ A Little Later, Kinnetik ~
"Passionate sex requires you to build anticipation. Great sex has less to do with penetration, and more to do with passion. Being good in bed is about where you can take his mind to satisfy your partner…and the other way around," I concluded, putting down my writing pad and peering over at my potential clients to gauge their reaction.
They didn't say anything, though; just looked at each other and then back at me, and for once I wasn’t sure what they were thinking about my pitch. Normally, I could readily tell by a potential client’s expression whether they were happy or dissatisfied with what I had come up with for their product. But this pair was so vanilla that they just peered back up at me neutrally before they began to whisper between themselves. The more they conversed softly back and forth, the more I began to wonder if they were thinking, Is that all? That's his pitch? Gee, that Kinney guy is highly overrated.
After an awkward pause, one of them eventually broke out into a smile as he told me, "That was brilliant, Brian! We love it! It’s perfect for how we want to promote our book. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. When can you start working on the actual campaign with us?"
I allowed myself an inward sigh of relief, and a virtual pat on the back, considering I’d had about ten minutes’ time to work on it. I smiled as I replied, “Welcome aboard. My assistant, Cynthia, will provide you with all the necessary details on how to proceed, and we'll be in touch with you next week." I shook their hands and escorted them over to Cynthia's office. After she concluded the formalities and our new clients left, Cynthia gestured for me to stay.
"Well?" she prodded.
"Well, what?" I answered with a quirk of an eyebrow.
"Wanna talk?" she asked.
“Talk about what?” I countered, as I shuffled back and forth slightly on my feet.
"Well that's another first for you," Cynthia teased me, but then the tone of her voice changed as she grabbed her notes, cleared her throat, and started to read my own lines from the pitch as I felt my face warming. I was SO busted.
"Passionate sex requires you to build anticipation. Great sex has less to do with penetration, and more to do with passion. Being good in bed is about where you can take his mind to satisfy your partner…and the other way around.” She put her notes down. "Where did THAT come from, Brian? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love it, and it only goes to show you ARE the best ad man there is in the entire state…”
I huff. “Only in the state?” I couldn’t help saying as she rolled her eyes at me, causing me to smirk.
She continued nonplussed. “…But I don't think I remember you being so…emotional in a pitch before," she concluded, looking expectantly at me.
I shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “It’s no big deal,” I mumbled, which was not typical of me. "It's just something I picked up from skimming through their book; it's not that I actually believe in that shit.” But even to my OWN ears, my words lacked conviction.
She stared at me intently. “Well, normally that’s true. But I know you, Brian. There’s something going on with you that you’re not telling me. I still say it has something to do with that…”
I held up my hand to stop her before the continued. I just couldn’t tell her the REAL reason. I couldn’t believe it, so how could I ever make HER believe it? It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Cynthia; quite the opposite, she had proven her loyalty time and time again, as well as her discretion. I knew she wouldn’t reveal what I would tell her. But I also knew that Justin would be uncomfortable with me divulging such information if he found out, and I wasn’t willing to take that chance.
It was ironic in a way, because while Justin and I had been intimate already – which had felt amazing in every way – he had nonetheless left in a rush, obviously still nervous about what we had done. So there was nothing I could do but wait for him to reveal more about himself. I cared about him enough to allow him the space he needed for now, and let him go at his own pace.
Or so I thought.
_ _ _ _ _
~ A Couple of Days Later, Dr. Peterson's Clinic ~
"Thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice, Lindsay," I reply gratefully as I walked into her office, my nervousness minimized somewhat by the sunlight flooding through the windows.
"That's what I'm here for, Justin,” she answered, motioning with her hand to indicate I should take a seat. “So what’s going on? What have you been up to since I last saw you? You're having your top surgery soon, aren’t you?" she inquired with a smile.
I plopped down onto the office couch to sit beside her as I revealed, "Everything! Everything has been going on" I answered with a groan. “Oh, shit, what a mess!”
Lindsay frowned in concern. “Tell me,” she urged me gently. “What’s wrong?”
"Well, I met this guy, a CIS gender gay guy," I explained, cradling my head in my hands as I gazed downward. "I've been thinking about how my friends and I are so preoccupied with how others see us, and with how society wants to put us into boxes. About how we're so consumed by our own self-doubt, our own skewed body image, and our own anxieties that we fail to look around. You see, Brian – that’s the guy I met –he might be the last person who believes in all those labels," I noted quietly. “So maybe I should throw all those labels away, too…and just look at the man himself.”
"That’s a very profound insight, Justin," Lindsay commented in a calming voice. "I think it means you're starting to accept yourself," she added.
"There is one problem, though." I hesitated before taking a deep breath and continuing. "It's my parents. I still haven't had any contact with them since I left home.”
"It's been almost a year, hasn’t it?" Lindsay asked.
"Eighteen months," I answered glumly. "But I really don't want to talk about it now."
Lindsay quietly studied me. "You know you're going to have to talk about it at some point,"
"There's nothing much to talk about. They refused to accept the fact that I wasn't who they wanted me to be, and after that summer they made it clear to me they would not support me or any of my decisions, so the only way out for me was to leave.” I swallowed the lump in my throat, realizing I hadn’t really gotten over the pain from that experience.
"Don't you think it's worth a shot to try and reconnect with them? I mean, with your surgery coming up in the next couple of weeks... I know you're hurt and angry, but I think you should try to talk to them, at least to your mother," Lindsay suggested softly.
I bit my lip. "I don’t know; I'll have to think about it," I said. Lindsay must have noticed that I'd become distant, because she reached out to me and rested her hand on my shoulder. "Stay focused Justin, don't drift away. Talk to me," she urged. "You've come too far in your journey to let that discourage you." She smiled. "Think of all the things you've accomplished so far, and the things that make you feel good about yourself. Keep that energy while you try to contact your family. Is there someone besides your parents that you have stayed in touch with?" she asked me.
"Well, there's Molly; that’s my younger sister." I allowed myself a small smile. "I haven't been in touch with her much recently, but she was the only one who was there for me THAT summer. I guess I could call her to let her know about my surgery…" My voice trailed off again as I thought back to that summer at the lake. It was the worst time for me, but also the best time, because it was there that I met Cody, who helped me on the path to becoming the man I always felt that I should be. I took a deep breath and tried to hold onto that thought, thinking of the other night and the time that I had spent with Brian. But then the memory of the morning after shortly followed, and my mood changed again.
"Why the long face?" Lindsay asked.
"Well, I...I spent the night with Brian, and it was...it was amazing. But then I felt this need to get away from there as soon as possible the next morning, and I couldn't explain to him why I was doing it." I shook my head in disgust. “I’m not even sure why I did.”
"What do you think the reason was?" Lindsay asked.
My eyes filled with tears of frustration then, because I realized what the reason had been; I had merely been kidding myself. "YOU know why! It's because I'm not…” I struggled for the right word, “…complete! I can't allow myself to open up to him fully until...until everything is taken care of, and that costs a lot of money as you probably know, and I'm in deep shit trouble already. I maxed out my credit card to pay for my top surgery, so I can't even think of the next step, and it pisses me off," I angrily wiped some tears away from my cheeks, embarrassed to let Lindsay see how upset I was. But I couldn’t help it.
"I thought you're covered by your parents' medical insurance?" Lindsay asked.
"I am. And I admit there would have some sort of poetic justice to it, considering how they feel. But I decided not to. First of all, there were too many formalities and forms to sign, which would probably mean that I'd have to use my birth name and all that shit, and second of all, I don't want them to owe me anything, and I definitely don't want to feel obliged to them. I mean... they can't even respect the fact that I asked them not to refer to me by my birth name, and they totally disregarded my request to use my chosen pronoun, so why should I use their fucking money?" I said, breathing deeply as I tried to calm myself.
"So is that why you left Brian the morning after?" Lindsay stated.
"Yeah, I guess," I replied. "I know I acted like a big jerk. I know I shouldn't have done that, because it has nothing to do with him. But I couldn't help myself."
"It's not too late; there's still a chance." Lindsay smiled at me. "I think you should explain it to him.”
I snorted at the thought. “Yeah…right! I bet by now Brian has probably forgotten all about me. He doesn't need ME; I mean, why would he? He can have any man that he pleases. We're not even in a relationship; we just spent one night together," I said, feeling my face warming up as my anxiety started to build again.
"Hey, take some deep breaths, Justin," Lindsay urged me. "Your mind is apparently moving a million miles an hour. Who said anything about relationships?"
I looked back at her, my chest heaving as if I just crossed fucking Lake Erie by swimming or something.
"Don't stress yourself out, Justin; you don't want to go there," Lindsay said. We sat in silence for a few minutes, but then she continued.
"Okay, I think you've had enough for one session, Justin. You have a lot to process. Go home, clear your mind, get yourself something to eat, draw something, call one of your friends, even contact Brian if you feel like it. Just don't let yourself fall back down that slippery slope again. And remember, I'm here for you if you need me. I'll see you next week?" she said.
"Sure, I'd like that," I told her, feeling weary and emotionally exhausted. "Thank you so much, Lindsay."
_ _ _ _ _
~ The Next Day, Mid-Morning, Justin's Apartment ~
"Hi, yourself,” was the somewhat stiff response.
"I wasn't even sure you'd answer my call, Brian, especially after the way I left that day," I mumbled into the phone's receiver. "I just wanted to say that…I’m sorry.”
"Don't worry about it; it's not like we're a married couple or anything," he quipped, trying to sound indifferent, but truthfully, I could tell that he was far from it.
"Well, I have been thinking," I continued.
"And?” It was only one word, but it packed a punch, along with a lot of emotion. I could almost hear the pain – and hurt – in Brian’s voice as he spoke. He obviously wasn’t going to make this easy on me, and I couldn’t blame him.
I took a deep breath. “I think I owe you an explanation about why I left the way I did.”
“You don’t owe me shit, Justin. Guys leave guys all the time; it’s part of who we are.”
"Maybe. But, Brian, I need to do this. “Would you meet me later tonight?" I asked, holding my breath as I waited for his response.
He paused for a few moments before finally answering reluctantly, “Whatever. Why not? Where?”
“My place. Around seven? I just need to see you before..." I swallowed hard, knowing there was no turning back now. I would have to tell him all of it.
"Before what? Are you going somewhere?" he asked me gruffly.
"Yeah, I'm going away for a few days; I told you about it, remember?"
“Well, have a fucking good time, then.”
I sighed. "It's not a vacation Brian," I muttered in irritation. How I wish it were that simple…
"Well, what is it, then?" he pressed me.
"I think I'd better tell you about it in person. Please, Brian?” I pleaded. “I really need to talk to you. To explain.”
Silence once more prevailed for a few seconds before I heard him say, "Okay, I'll be there,” and then he disconnected the call.