This story was written for the Small Things Made Large Challenge at qaf_challenges. Check out all the stories from the challenge here!
"That's the last of them, sir. Sign here, please." The deliveryman shoved a clipboard at Brian and indicated a line near the bottom of the grimy receipt.
Brian stood in the driveway and watched the truck pull away until a final curve in the road took it out of sight. He thought about not going inside, instead getting into the Corvette and letting the road take him someplace that wasn't here.
Maybe that was why he was surprised, a few minutes later, to find himself in the cavernous living room, trying not to acknowledge the presence of the paper-wrapped canvases.
It started with two and it grew from there. Justin wanted to save a few of his best pieces, so he sent them home. He expected to see them at the loft or Kinnetik the next time he was in Pittsburgh, but they weren't there.
It started with two, but Justin found New York more inspiring than he had ever imagined and two turned into many before either of them knew it. Beautiful, gut wrenching, passionate, sexy, angry, happy, sad, funny, lonely... it was all there, in every canvas.
At first, Brian didn't know what to do with them. Two was manageable... but something kept him from hanging them at the loft. And then before he knew it, two had turned into five and then eight and then twelve and it wasn't so manageable anymore. So he had them delivered to Britin.
At first it hurt. To be there, to see everything Justin was thinking and feeling in such a tangible way.
But soon he found he wasn't avoiding them, in fact he often found himself at Britin when he had a few free hours to just enjoy them. They represented everything he had ever wanted for Justin. Success, fame, fulfillment, and they gave him a piece of Justin while he was so far away.
They didn't see each other often. Not because they didn't care, not because it was too hard and not because they didn't miss each other. But life has a way of getting in the way.
Justin was making his way to the career of his dreams. He could make the art he wanted without restriction and support himself. He carved out a spot for himself and the more it grew, the closer he got to having the life he had always wanted. Not just part of that life, but all of it. It didn't come fast or easy, but in the end feeling like he had earned it is what made it feel complete.
Brian was more successful than ever before. It didn't seem like there was anything that could stop Kinnetik from growing. And at some point he just sat back and watched the show.
Being apart was... different. In some ways it was harder than they could have imagined and in other ways it was easier than they thought.
At some point something shifted and then just fell right in place. It might have happened when the bomb went off, or when Brian said I love you, or the moment they decided they shouldn't get married. Or maybe it happened way earlier... before they ever knew. But regardless of when, it had happened.
There was no more doubt or question. They were together. And time didn't matter and neither did distance, because nothing could change it anymore.
But time and distance still hurt. Everything else in their lives moved forward and they were stuck in time and space. Until something had to give.
Until all the other happiness in the world wasn't enough and they had to rearrange everything to fix the one thing that mattered the most.
And then all of a sudden the biggest issues were the small things. Like where to live.
And when they walked into Britin together for the first time in a long time, Justin couldn't believe it. It was like walking into a museum of his life. Maybe not the very best of his work, but the pieces that meant the most to him. The pieces that told the story of his time away and all that came before and all that he hoped was still to come.
He doesn't know what he expected, but he guesses he imagined them in a storage room somewhere. Because honestly, somewhere along the way it had become too much for this, too much to display this way.
But Britin was big and empty and the paintings filled that void until something else could.