QAF FanFic by Morpheus

Prologue:  Just Like That 



I almost said it.  I almost said it right out loud.  Standing on the steps of Woody's, looking out over the crowd celebrating the mayoral election victory by dancing in the street, I turned to look at Justin and I KNEW.  Just like that. 

'Just like that' being relative.  'Just like that' meaning, three years in the making.

Has it been three years since I spotted him under the streetlamp?  A little blond morsel to carry home like a doggie bag, leftovers from a night's routine Babylon fuckfest, an hour's diversion to make up for one or two boring backroom blowjobs.  That's all he was supposed to be.  No names, no numbers was my policy long before Justin was in a position to dictate rules.

I remember that I tried to forget his name.  Next morning, waking up beside him, I turned instinctively to take him into my arms.  Was that a premonition of things to come?  

Now here we are, looking out over the crowd, our arms around each other, and I can't stop smiling.  Oh, soon enough I'll stop; soon enough reality will crack this facade of happiness and relief and - and fucking joy - and I'll  have to think again, think about the present and think about the future.  But for a few minutes outside reality, I am filled with unthinking, amazing and just plain astounding joy.  Because Justin's here beside me and I can almost believe that he'll always be here, I can almost believe that he won't ever go away again.  I can almost believe in forever.
Photo copyright Showtime.


Part 1:  More or Less  


"Oh!"  I come to a screeching halt just inside the loft door.  Brian has a guy in the bedroom, they’re standing close together by the bathroom door.  Both of them are dressed so they must be finished, or maybe they haven't started yet.  They turn around to look at me and immediately I apologize and begin to walk backward.  "Sorry.  I knocked, but - " 

"Wait."  Brian moves around the bed, comes down the steps, the other guy on his heels.  I spare a moment to glance at him - he's tall and good-looking with close-cropped brown hair.  For some reason my gaydar is not beeping; maybe it's his clothes, a rumpled-looking sports jacket over faded jeans.  I'm sure I've never seen him before, I wonder if Brian picked him up on the plane? 

Brian called on his way home from the airport, he left a message on my cell that he was back and asked if I wanted to come by this evening.  I came straight from my shift at the diner, I didn't think he'd mind me being early.  But then I didn't expect him to have a trick already, a couple hours after returning to Pittsburgh from wherever it was he went.  Which of course he hadn't told me; he'd only told me - another message on my cell phone a few days ago - that he was going out of town and would call me when he got back.

That was Monday, it's Thursday now, with no word from Brian since he left.  And now my feet are glued to the floor of his bare and echoing loft, my excitement at seeing Brian again after several days apart dwindling as I stare at his afternoon trick du jour.  Then Brian's reaching out to pull me against him, he plants a kiss on my hair.  I hope he's not going to ask me to join in a three-way.  He's okay with me saying no of course, but still I hope he's not going to ask.

"Justin, this is Bruce Applethorpe.  He's moving to Pittsburgh next month."

Since when does Brian introduce his tricks to me?  Bruce extends his hand so I shake it; he's looking me over.  "Pleasure to meet you," he says, letting his eyes sparkle at me and I realize that he's gay after all, and better looking than I thought at first.

"Hi," I say, and I can hear the wariness in my voice. 

Brian hears it too, and tightens the arm he has around me, squeezing hard before letting me go.  "Call me tomorrow with your decision," he says to Bruce, turning to lead the way to the door. 

Bruce follows and as the door is pulled open he replies, "I'd like more time to think about it, but it's practically a done deal, don’t you agree?”  When Brian nods he continues, “Things can be settled quickly, maybe by the first week in July.  I need to be on-premises by then."

"Details tomorrow," Brian agrees, giving Bruce his hand to shake and watching him walk down the stairs.  At the first landing Bruce turns to give us a wave and then Brian closes the door and turns around to face me.  He says quietly, "We need to talk." 

Something's up, something serious.  My heart leaps into my throat though I don't let this sudden jolt of - not fear, not fear, just, just something, anyway I don't let it show, instead I nod okay and carelessly shrug my shoulders.  He sees through me of course.

"Want a drink?"  Brian leads the way into the nearly empty living room.

"No thanks."

At the liquor cart he pours himself a half-inch of JB then carries his glass to the kitchen, perches on a stool and waves for me to do the same.  With all the furniture gone, it's the only place left to sit down in the loft, except for his desk chair and the ledge around the bed.

Brian takes a sip of bourbon and sets the glass on the counter but hangs onto it with both hands, rubbing his long fingers caressingly around the crystal tumbler and staring into the dark liquid for a moment, before looking up at me and clearing his throat.

"What?"  I can't stand it any longer.  "Tell me."

"I've got a new job."

I want to whoop with delight.  I want to, but I can't - because Brian's not smiling.  "That's - that's good news, isn't it?" I have to ask.

"Of course it's good news."  Brian tilts his head and looks disdainfully down his nose at me.  The old Brian is back, I think for a moment, till he lets go of his glass and slips a hand across the counter to touch my sleeve.  Just a touch but it's a subtle gesture of connection.

"Is this one of those good news/bad news things?" I guess, instinctively knowing the answer.

"Depends on what you mean by 'bad.'"  When I say nothing, just wait, Brian gives in a little; I see his shoulders relax slightly and he sighs before going on.  "The job's in Los Angeles, at an agency called Bradford and Slate."

"Brian."  My heart sinks, and I don't care what is showing on my face, I don't care.  "Brian."

"Don't queen out on me, okay?"  His voice is harsh, he's almost barking, while at the same time he reaches out again to touch my hand, wraps his fingers around my wrist in a tight grip.  Familiar Brian pushme-pullyou maneuvering.


"Justin."  His voice mocks me, but gently.  Still gently he murmurs, "I can't get hired as a dogcatcher in Pittsburgh now, not after. . .  You know that.  But I still have a good reputation outside the state, and Vance has offered to give me a recommendation, in spite of everything.  This job is an opportunity for me to start over."

I want to say okay, I want to say I understand, I even want to say congratulations.  Instead I say nothing, the tight rein I'm keeping over my emotions won't let me make a sound; I drop my eyes and stare at the countertop trying to remember how to breathe.

After a moment Brian shakes my arm.  "You'd like LA," he says, making my eyes fly to his face.


"Sunshine all the time.   You're always whining about cold weather in the Pitts."

"Brian!"  I exclaim, "Brian!  Are you - asking me to go with you?"

"No," he denies it, "I am not."  There's a brief pause, then he adds, "It's your call where you want to be."  We both hear the echo in his words, the bad times that that phrase recalls, but we ignore it and move on.  "It's your call," he repeats, bending his head, letting his eyes bore into my skull.

"But," I draw a deep breath and demand, "But - you're inviting me to go?  You want me to go with you?"

"Well that's a fucking stupid question."  Brian jumps up from the stool and paces around the counter into the kitchen, turns to lean his elbows on the counter and gives me a hooded stare across the space he's put between us. 

I stare back at him for a moment, blinking and thinking hard.  "Maybe I need that drink after all."

Without answering, Brian turns to the fridge, yanks it open and pulls out a can of diet Coke, sets it down on the counter in front of me.  "Don't decide now," he says quickly.  "It's a lot to think about.  Leaving your mom and everything.  And besides, the IFA might let you come back."

I can't afford the tuition even if they did let me back but I won't say that to Brian.  He can't pay for my school now, he's got himself to think about, I know he's in debt up to his eyeballs.  It should be me helping him, helping to pay off that incredible debt from the TV ad campaign.  In fact I've been thinking about that ever since the election, wondering how I can help.  "I'm going to take a year off school," I say now, deciding right at the moment I'm speaking.  "I want to get a real job for a while." 

"A real job that doesn't include dancing in your underwear, I hope."  He's being snide but I'm not offended.

"So I could get a job in LA and we could, you know, share expenses."  When he responds only with raised eyebrows, I elaborate.  "We could be roommates."  When still he says nothing, I add, "If that's okay?"

"I assumed if you came to LA we'd be together."  Then Brian pulls away from the counter and adds quickly, "More or less."

I know what 'more or less' means: Free rein for him to fuck around.  Well that's okay.  That's more or less okay.  Brian will always fuck around, like with the guy who was just here.  They were making plans to meet up again tomorrow.

That reminds me to ask, “Brian, why’d you introduce me to your trick?  Bruce what’s-his-name, Applecore?”

Brian snorts a laugh, leans forward again resting his arms on the counter.  “Applethorpe.  He’s not a trick.  The agency hooked me up with him in LA.”

“Hooked you up?”

“Bruce has been at Bradford and Slate a couple years, he’s an ad exec too, well actually he’s in the sales end, not marketing.  But now he's just been hired at Jantsen’s here in the Pitts.  He’s moving east and I’m moving west, so we discussed switching domiciles for a year.  He doesn’t want to commit to buying till he knows he’s going to stay here, and I feel the same about LA.”

“Brian – that’s brilliant!  Except – did you see his place already?  Is it as cool as your loft?”

“Yes I did and no, it’s not.  It’s smaller – real estate prices in California are unreal – but it’s in a good location.  It’s a condo in Hollywood, near the Sunset Strip.  He paid for location, not space, it’s about half the square footage of the loft.”

“Wow, that’s not very big!  Will you be too crowded with me there too?”

“Probably.  But there’s a storage cupboard under the stairs where you can sleep.”

“Fuck you!  Did you take pictures?”

“No.”  Brian’s tired of the subject now, that’s more sharing than I have any reason to expect from Mister Tightlips; he changes the subject.  “Are you hungry – did you have dinner before coming over?”

“Yes but yes, it was a couple hours ago, let’s go to the deli, I’ll buy you a pastrami sandwich!”

Straightening up, Brian agrees, “Okay, but I want to finish unpacking first,” then heads up the steps to the bedroom with me hurrying after him.

“I’ll help!” I offer eagerly; suddenly I’m getting excited.  Brian’s moving to California and I’m going with him!  “When are we leaving, Brian?  Can I bring my computer?  We’ll have to ship everything or get one of those moving companies, and – “

“Stop, you’re exhausting me already.  Right now I just want to eat and fuck, and sleep for about twelve hours.”

With a laugh I demand in sing-song staccato, “Who you gonna fuck?”

“Don’t.”  Brian lifts his suitcase onto the bed and unzips it.

“Who you gonna fuck?” I demand, raising my voice.


“Say it, Brian.  Say it.”  I grab his arm and pull him around sideways to face me.  “Say it.”

Brian closes his eyes and groans, then shakes his head, I can tell he’s ready to cave.

“Who you gonna fuck?” I whisper, then Brian reaches out to grab my shoulders and shake me, hard.

“Ball-busters!” he growls, shaking me again.

It’s a game I’ve made him play a dozen times, since I rented Ghostbusters and we watched it together.   I never get tired of it but I know Brian’s sick of the whole thing - but that’s half the fun, making him say it for me anyway.  We both laugh then, leaning against each other for a moment, but quickly Brian stops and pushes me away again.  “Now shut up and help me unpack or I’ll find somebody else to fuck tonight.”

“You’re too tired to go out looking,” I remind him.

“Put these in the hamper,” he says, handing me a stack of dirty underwear and shirts.  “And I don’t need to go out, there’s hustlers who’ll come right to my door.”

“Ha,” I laugh, as I grab the laundry and take it into the bathroom, throwing over my shoulder, “I’m not worried - you’d never find a hustler who looks like me.”


It's going to be all right.  I couldn't ask him - I could never ask him to make such an abrupt change in his life, just so we can be together.  And I have no choice but to go to LA - if I want to salvage my career, make a new start, somehow retrieve my reputation and my financial solvency. 

I've managed - barely - not to panic, thinking about the future.  Then Vance of all people gave me a lead on the LA job, and promised a good recommendation.  His call came out of the blue - I'd never have contacted him, never would have asked for his help.  I'm still amazed that he made the connection, made the effort; he even wished me luck.  I owe him a thank you, hard as that call will be, I owe him that much.

Justin's in the shower and I want to join him but I can't get out of bed.  There's so much to do today that somehow I'm temporarily paralyzed, thinking about it.  Then I fling back the duvet and swing my legs over the side.  Deciding to put everything on hold until I meet with Bruce at lunch, I walk into the bathroom and take a piss, watching Justin's creamy pink skin behind the steamed-up glass walls of the shower.  If Bruce and I can agree on the domicile exchange, I'll ask Melanie to draw up the legal paperwork to make it official.  I'd assumed I'd have to sell the loft, something I really don’t want to do, but I knew that renting a place in LA would be outrageously expensive.  So though it's not perfect and there's bound to be some problems along the way, this house-switch is a very practical solution.   

I'd told Justin that Bruce's condo is about half the size of the loft; it's really a bit bigger than that, but even if it were a room over a garage, I'd take it.  Now I'll only have to pay utilities and phone; Bruce even plans to leave some of his furniture.  He's got a king-size bed with a mirrored headboard, a bit much but then it's in Hollywood - all things considered, Bruce's taste is not too flashy or absurd.  I was tempted to give the bed a trial run with its owner, but in the end we both tacitly decided to keep things on a business level.

Pulling open the shower door, I climb in beside Justin, whose skin is so deliciously slippery when wet, we kiss and I ask, "What's taking you so long in here?"

Sliding his arms around my waist, Justin smiles up at me and sings, "California dreamin' on a winter's daaaaaaaaaaaaay!"

"It's summer, and time to stop dreaming.  You're sure you want to go?  No second thoughts?"

"Yes!  No!  I can't wait to tell everybody!"  He pulls up short then and asks, "Is it okay to tell everybody, or is it a secret?"

"Not a secret," I shake my head, "But wait till things are settled.  I'll see Bruce today and if he agrees to the switch, I'll call you, and you can shout it from the rooftops."

"Mom's going to be upset." 

He's solemn for a moment, and I almost shudder despite the warmth of the steamy water.  As if Jennifer doesn't hate me enough already, now I'll be dragging her baby across state lines for immoral purposes.  Let him tell her, let her get accustomed to the idea, before she comes anywhere near me, I don't want to see those killer-mom eyes staring death rays at me. 

Reading my thoughts, something he's too damned good at, Justin pulls me tight against him and says soothingly, "I won't let her hurt you, I promise."  We laugh then and I push all thoughts of Jennifer Taylor out of my head and bend down to taste those delicious juicy lips.  I missed him while I was in LA, a surprise somehow, I've never really missed anyone before.

Well, maybe I missed him a little when he was with that fucking fiddle player.  

Justin’s lips open beneath mine, my tongue slips inside and I taste mint-flavor Crest as I explore the landscape of his mouth, sliding my tongue across the roof of his mouth and touching each smooth round molar like it’s an erogenous zone.  Maybe it is because suddenly he sucks my tongue further inside and moans when I briefly flick across the back of his throat, preparing it to receive my cock.  He knows what I want and pulls slowly away, pausing to smile at me as our lips part, then he hangs onto my hips for balance as he lowers himself to his knees on the smooth marble floor at my feet.

“I missed you,” Justin whispers, but he’s not talking to me, he’s talking to my cock – looking it in the eye and darting out his tongue to give it a brief teasing flick.  Rubbing his cheek against the shaft as he lowers his face to pay slippery wet homage to my balls, I realize that I can feel the merest downy stubble, Justin’s growing a bit of a beard at last – or as much of a beard as a blond boy just leaving his teens can grow.  I remind myself to mention it to him – later – then give myself up to the pleasure of his practiced and talented tongue. 

No one’s ever blown me with as much skill as grace and fucking red-hot excitement as Justin Taylor.  He learned his craft from me of course, but I can’t take all the credit; I think in this instance the pupil has surpassed the teacher.  He denies it, but it makes for some interesting arguments, in fact sometimes we play dueling blow-jobs, one of the many silly but endearing and incredibly hot sex games invented by this boy kneeling at my feet.  He’s not a boy of course, he’s a man, but in a way I’m resisting letting Justin grow up, at the same time having no patience for childish things. 

Poor kid, he can’t win with me, I know it, and yet I, and yet I. . . 

Now he’s licking the vein throbbing on the side of my cock, slowly licking the full length, never fuller than when Justin’s lips are busy there.  I hear him take a quick gasp of air before sliding his lips around my cock and sucking it quickly and deeply into his throat, all the way to the base!  A moan escapes my lips and I move my hands from Justin’s shoulders to his head, clasping squeaky-wet handfuls of his beautiful long blond  hair.  Who knew that I would love it this length, I can’t keep my hands off. . .off of it, and I. . .and I. . .Christ, Christ, I can’t concentrate when he, while he’s. . .Jesus Christ almighty!


"Mom, I am going with him, no question; we're partners now, we need to be together."

"Is that what Brian says?  Or are you putting words in his mouth, making excuses for him dragging you so far away from your home and your family?"

If Brian said the word 'partner' he'd choke on his own tongue, but of course I won't tell Mom that. 

"Yes, he feels the same way, and please don't give him a bad time about it, okay?  Besides," I add hastily, mentally crossing my fingers, "Brian says you can come visit us any time you want."  He hasn't actually said that, but he'll be okay with it. 

Mom nods her head, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.  "When are you leaving?"

"Soon.  I don't know exactly, but I think Brian has to be at the new job in about a week.  I'm going to help with the practical stuff, packing and settling in at the condo."

"Like a housewife."

"NOT like a housewife," I contradict; "Like a partner."

Mom raises her eyebrows but turns away before I have to officially see and acknowledge her frown.  "Hmm," is all she says.

Later, in the middle of my shift at the diner, Brian comes in with Michael.  I knew he was back in town but I haven't seen him yet, I thought he was lying low.  "Hey," I greet him, coming up to the table just as they slide into a booth.  "How's the kid?"

"What kid?"

Brian rolls his eyes.  "Justin won't give away your secrets."

Michael's exasperated.  "The less people know about him, the better," he mutters.

"Justin's not 'people,' remember?"

I should be pleased that Brian's sticking up for me - well, I am pleased, but while watching them go through their fake-feud routine used to be amusing, now it's a boring rerun.  Yet I'm interested in this story in spite of myself.

When Michael stubbornly keeps his lips tightly shut, Brian shakes his head and relaxes in the booth, sprawling his long legs under the table.  "The kid's in hiding," he says quietly - there's no one nearby to overhear.  "Mikey and Ben are working with an attorney who specializes in abused-kid law, or whatever it's called.  If Hunter's mom can be proved an unfit parent, they might have a chance to become Hunter's foster parents - officially."

"Wow," I exhale a big sigh, "That's great.  But - I didn't know gays could be foster parents in Pennsylvania?"

"We don’t know yet either," Michael says, glancing around the half-empty diner before finally looking at me and letting down his guard.  "But it helps that Hunter is also gay, and HIV positive.  Kids like him are hard to place, the lawyer says, so the court might be more lenient under the circumstances."

"Good luck, Michael," I respond, matching his sincerity, and I even reach out and squeeze his shoulder briefly, though I know he doesn't like me to touch him. 

"Thanks."  It's grudging but that's okay, Michael and I will never be friends, the best we can do is tolerate each other. 

I never thought of myself as a grudge-holder, but I can't forget the time Michael told me to disappear, to divorce myself from the whole family just because I'd run away from Brian.  That hurt so much at the time, I've tried hard to let it go but it's still there, crouching in a tiny corner of my brain whenever I see Michael.  And I know he still resents me for coming between them.  If I hadn't - with my own eyes - seen Brian punch him out at the party, I'd never have believed it.  I think it was that moment frozen in time - seeing Brian spin around and throw that punch - that stuck in my mind, and gave me the courage later to try and get Brian back again.  Maybe I owe Michael for that; maybe I should throw away the lingering resentment I have toward Brian's best friend.

"So," I turn to Brian, "You've got your car back now?"

"Yes he does," Michael pipes up, but "Yes and no," Brian corrects him.

It's silent for a moment as they stare at each other, then Michael turns his eyes to me.  "Brian wants to sell the 'vette and give us the money for legal fees."

"Oh."  Careful to keep my face blank, I pause a moment then ask, "Um, do you guys want to order dinner now?"


Why do I still resent that kid so much?  He's not even a kid any more, Hunter's a kid, Hunter's the kid in my life, and Justin - who's always been a thorn in my side - is going away.  That should make me happy, but he's going away with Brian.  I don't want to go away with Brian, but it's all just so fucking unfair.

Ben insists that we can't take Brian's money but I think we should.  Brian's always helped me out, all my life practically, and he insists he's okay financially now, with the new job in LA, he says he can afford it.  Without his help I don't know how we'll pay the lawyer, the expenses keep mounting up every day.  The shop's doing okay but barely turning a profit, small businesses always take a few years to get off the ground.  We've been living off Ben's salary, he has a small savings account but we've been eating into that every month and with all these legal expenses, I just don't know how we'll manage.

The alternative is giving up on Hunter, and I'll never do that.  No sacrifice is too great, not even if it means we have to accept help from Brian.


Finally Ben's agreed to a compromise, we'll split the proceeds from sale of the 'vette, though he insists it's a loan and is having Mel draw up a promissory note.  He can't understand that I'll always have a responsibility for Mikey, I promised Deb years ago that I'd look out for him and to me that's a lifetime commitment.  Justin doesn't understand either, though he's careful to keep his distance from this whole situation and doesn't - as I'd really expect him to do - rag on me or try to influence me about the car.

It's worked out great in the end, I've sold the 'vette to a collector in Philadelphia, even making a couple thou' profit on the deal.  So I bought a new jeep - a much more practical vehicle, and there's enough left over to pay for shipping our worldly goods (such as they are ) to Los Angeles.  Bruce gave me a list of furniture he's leaving for our use - the rest he's either putting in storage or having sent here to Pittsburgh - and I've done the same.  Not that there’s much to leave for him – the bed, a few chests of drawers.  I’m taking my desk and Justin wants his too, and we’ve both got some boxes of junk that we’ll probably be sorry we paid to have shipped to California. 

We're leaving in two days - driving cross-country.  It's more practical than flying with only a suitcase of clothes.  This way we can take our computers and other things we'll need right away.  The moving company won't deliver the rest of our stuff to LA for almost a week.

Now all that's left is this fucking farewell party tomorrow night at Deb's.  Christ, you'd think this family would have learned by now not to have parties - something terrible is bound to happen.  Justin laughs at me, says I'm superstitious.  Maybe I am.  Maybe I just dread all the emotional bullshit, the speeches, the tears.  And Jennifer.  Jennifer will be there, glaring daggers at me for stealing her son.  Christ, I wish we could have just slipped away silently into the night, without passing Go, without collecting two hundred kisses.


The party is more emotional than I thought it would be - I'm excited that we're going to California and so is Brian, though naturally he preserves his cool facade of near-disinterest; but everyone else is downright maudlin.  Lindsay hugged Brian so long and cried so hard that she started Gus crying, while Melanie can hardly hide her glee that Brian's going away.  Michael cried and hung onto Brian, Debbie cried on both of us, Daphne cried and hung onto me, and Mom keeps smiling the whole time while surreptitiously wiping tears off her cheeks.  Emmett cried just because everyone else was crying.  It's really pretty dreadful and I'm glad that we’re leaving so early tomorrow morning, it's an excuse to make an early exit from the party tonight and get away from all this drama.

Everyone follows us to the door en masse for a final farewell, I spare a glance at Brian and can see that he's almost at the breaking point - I'm frankly amazed he didn't simply tell everyone to fuck off and stomp out of Deb's house an hour ago.  We gather up all our going-away presents (and how does Em imagine we'll transport a six-foot-tall rubber tree plant cross-country?) and we're enduring final hugs and kisses, when I notice Mom pulling Brian aside and whispering something to him.  The din's so loud he doesn't hear her, and I see him mouthing, "What?"

Right then everyone shuts up, so Mom's question is loud in the sudden hush.  "I said," she repeats patiently, "Justin told me that you and he are partners now, and I just want to hear it from you."

"Hear what?" Brian stalls, glancing around at all the intent and interested faces.

"Is it true," Mom repeats, "That you and Justin are partners?"

Brian's silent for a moment and I know I should rescue him.  I know I should jump in, interrupt the third-degree, change the subject.  But I don't.  I want to hear Brian's answer.  Maybe it's not fair for Mom to put Brian on the spot, but still I want to hear his answer.  So does everyone else.

Finally Brian clears his throat, and after one more near-panicky glance around the huddled crowd, he takes a deep breath, turns and looks at Mom.  "Yes," he says at last.  And then, being Brian, he can't help adding, "More or less."

"And Brian," Mom persists, "I really need to know.  Do you love my son?  Are you in love with Justin?"

Another long silence, not even Gus is making a peep, everyone's straining to hear Brian's answer.  Glaring at Mom he hesitates for a moment, then he turns to look at me.  "Possibly," he answers through gritted teeth, all the while staring into my eyes.  "Probably.  More or less." 

Turning abruptly away, Brian hurries down the front steps, with me - my face wreathed in smiles (and everyone else - almost everyone else - grinning almost as happily) hurrying close behind him.  At the sidewalk I turn for a final goodbye wave but Brian's urging me to get into the jeep.

"Hurry the fuck up," he's growling as I get in and struggle to fasten the seat belt, "Or I'll leave town without you."

That makes me start laughing and Brian growls at me again as he shoves the key in the ignition and brings the engine roaring to life, "What's so fucking funny?  Don't you believe me?"

"Sure I do, Brian, sure I believe you," I tell him earnestly, and then I turn away to hide my smile and murmur under my breath, "More or less."