Title: Don't Dream It's Over
Summary: Sequel to When You Call My Name. When Andy comes home from college for winter break, Brian finds that a lot can change in three months. He has doubts about where they really stand, even as his own feelings grow beyond his control.
Overall Rating: R (future chapters may go up to NC-17 on livejournal)
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Chapter Warnings: language
Previous chapters: 1 | 2 | 3
Chapter Four: The Difference
Brian’s parents didn’t spend a lot of money eating out, but Fridays were the exception, because Friday night was pizza night at the Johnson house. The four of them had a ritual, and each one had a role to play. Right before he left work, Brian’s father would call the house to let them know that he was coming home, and then Brian would call the pizza place. Morgan would set the table, and their mother would pay the delivery boy when he dropped off the pizza. By the time Mr. Johnson got home, everything was ready to go.
On the Friday four days before Christmas, the family sat down in front of a large pizza, half cheese and half pepperoni with olives and tomatoes.
“Joe Williamson got fired today,” Mr. Johnson announced as he reached for a slice of pepperoni.
“Who is Joe William?” asked Morgan, mouth full of cheese pizza.
“Joe Williamson,” he corrected her. “He’s one of the accountants in my office.”
Morgan swallowed her pizza. “The cheese tastes funny tonight.”
“No, it doesn’t,” said Brian, who was also eating from the cheese half of the pizza. “It tastes the same as it always does.”
“It tastes rubbery,” said Morgan.
Mr. Johnson cleared his throat. “Anyway, I just thought everyone would like to know how my day went,” he said sullenly.
Morgan reached over to pat her father’s hand. “I do, Daddy.”
Mr. Johnson sighed. “Thank you, sweetheart. I appreciate that.”
Morgan nodded and went back to picking the cheese off of her pizza.
Mrs. Johnson, who had been strangely quiet since they had sat down, cleared her throat. “I talked to Christine this afternoon,” she announced.
Everyone stopped eating and looked up.
“What did she say?” asked Mr. Johnson.
Mrs. Johnson picked up her slice of pizza. “We didn’t talk for very long,” she said cryptically.
“Did you talk to her about Christmas?” Brian asked quietly.
His mother’s eyes flickered up to meet his, then back down at her pizza. “Yes, I did.” She paused. “We’re going to go over to her house on Christmas Eve for dinner…if we want to.”
Mr. Johnson looked concerned. “Catherine, I--”
“Does that mean we get more presents?” Morgan interrupted.
“Morgan, be quiet,” Brian told her.
Mrs. Johnson looked over at her daughter. “Yes, that means you get more presents.”
“Then I want to go,” said Morgan.
Brian rolled his eyes.
Mrs. Johnson looked over at her husband. “It was my decision,” she said firmly. “I don’t want my father to have to choose sides. Not at Christmas.”
Mr. Johnson hesitated, then nodded. He reached over to cover his wife’s hand with his own.
“Wait,” Morgan said suddenly. “Are we spending the night over there?”
Mrs. Johnson shook her head. “No, we’ll come home that night. On Christmas morning, you’ll be able to see what Santa brought you.”
Morgan paused, glancing back and forth between her parents. There was a long moment of silence before she blurted, “No, he won’t!”
Mrs. Johnson frowned. “What do you mean? Of course he will. He always does.”
Morgan huffed angrily, and a little burst of air escaped through her flared nostrils. “Matthew told me the truth.”
“Who is Matthew?” her father asked.
“A boy at school. He told me it isn’t real.”
Mrs. Johnson paused. “Told you that what isn’t real, Morgan?”
Morgan suddenly looked over at Brian, glaring at him accusingly. “Santa isn’t real!”
“So, what did you tell her?” asked Andy, eyes wide.
Brian shrugged. “The truth. I mean, she already knew anyway. What were we supposed to do, lie about it?”
Andy paused. “I don’t know. I guess not.” He glanced back at the road in front of him, pulling up to a stop sign. “Is she upset?”
Brian nodded. “Kind of. She’s mad at us for lying to her. I think she thought that boy was lying to her, and when we told her the truth, it just kind of hit her, you know?”
Andy snuck a glance over at Brian. “How old were you when you found out he wasn’t real?”
Brian felt himself blushing. “Um, nine.”
Andy’s eyes widened. “Nine?” he echoed. “That’s a long time!”
Brian released an embarrassed sigh. “Yeah, I know. I guess I just wasn’t very smart when I was younger.” He paused, glancing over at Andy. “How old were you?”
It was Brian’s turn to be surprised. “Four?” he exclaimed. “How did you find out?”
Andy scoffed. “Brett told me,” he answered, referring to his older brother, who Brian knew was four years older than Andy.
Brian frowned. “That’s mean. What did you do? Did you cry?”
Andy shook his head. “No, I didn’t cry. He would have beaten me up.” He looked over at Brian. “Why, did you cry?”
Brian could feel his cheeks growing warm. “No,” he lied.
Andy grinned and looked back at the road.
Brian huffed loudly. “So, where is Brett? Is he already over at your house?”
Andy shook his head. “He lives in Evanston, so he’ll probably just come in on Christmas Eve.”
“Who’s there right now?” Brian asked.
Andy sighed. “Suzie and her husband arrived this morning, and Todd’s family drove in from Boston last night.”
“Are your parents going to mind that I’m coming over? Because I don’t want to intrude or anything…”
Andy shook his head. “They won’t care.”
Brian nodded. “Okay.”
Andy pulled up to a stoplight right in front of the entrance to his neighborhood, and Brian looked out of the passenger side window, where he saw two teenage girls standing on the corner waiting for the bus. Both of them had long, dark hair, and both of them were very pretty. One was wearing a denim mini skirt with thick purple tights, a matching purple sweater and a pair of dangly earrings. The other girl was wearing a long leather skirt with a red sweater and a black scarf. They looked like they were probably in high school, maybe college.
Brian looked over at Andy, who was staring at the light, waiting for it to change. “Hey, Andy?”
Andy glanced over. “Yeah?”
Brian nodded over at the girls. “Do you, uh, do you see those girls?”
Andy looked over Brian’s shoulder, then back at Brian. “Yeah, why?”
Brian hesitated. “Do you think they’re pretty?” he asked, feeling his cheeks burning before Andy had even had time to answer.
But Andy didn’t seem disturbed by the question. “Yeah, I guess. Why?”
Brian swallowed. “I don’t know. I was just wondering.” He paused uncertainly, then: “Do they look like the girls you dated back in Ohio?”
Andy narrowed his eyes in confusion. “What?”
Brian took a deep breath. “Nothing, I was just wondering,” he said again, blushing even deeper.
Andy frowned, but Brian couldn’t tell if he was confused by why Brian was asking such strange questions or if he was uncomfortable answering them. “I don’t know,” he said finally, turning back to check on the traffic light. “They’re not really my type.”
Just then, the light turned green, and Andy released his foot from the brake, edging the Bronco out into the intersection. Brian glanced back at the girls one final time, then faced forward again. The girls were definitely pretty, so pretty that they probably wouldn’t give Brian a second glance, even though they’d be all over Andy in an instant. But Andy said they weren’t his type. What did that mean, exactly? What type was Andy referring to? Tall? Brunette? High maintenance? Female?
Brian didn’t have too long to think about it, because within about a minute, they were pulling up in front of Andy’s house, where there were already three other cars parked in the driveway and along the curb. Andy picked an empty spot next to the mailbox and cut the engine.
Brian was expecting a huge crowd of people, but when they got inside, he found that the house was empty. “Where is everyone?” he asked Andy.
Andy frowned. “I don’t know. They were here when I left.” He walked into the living room, where someone had spilled an entire container of Legos onto the floor. “I guess they--”
“Hello?” someone called out from the kitchen.
Andy sighed, and Brian followed him into the kitchen. There was a woman standing at the stove stirring a pot of spaghetti sauce. She looked a lot like Andy, with light brown hair and similar facial features, but she was a couple of inches taller. She was also very, very pregnant.
“Where did everybody go?” Andy asked her.
“Mom wanted to go look at Christmas lights, so they took Todd’s minivan.” She glanced over at Brian and held out her hand. “Hi, I’m Susanna.”
Brian reached out to shake her hand. “Hi, I’m Brian.”
Susanna smiled. “It’s nice to meet you, Brian.” She looked over at Andy, eyebrow lifted expectantly. “Aren’t you supposed to be the one that does that?”
Andy rolled his eyes. “Suzie, this is Brian. Brian, this is my sister, Suzie.”
Susanna smirked. “You want to taste the sauce?”
Andy shrugged. “I don’t know. Is it any good?”
Susanna reached forward, but instead of hitting him like Brian thought she was going to, she gently patted his cheek. “Get a spoon,” she told him.
Andy grabbed a spoon from the drawer next to his hip, and Susanna poured some sauce into it. “Do you want to try it?” she asked Brian.
Brian nodded. “Sure.”
Susanna nudged Andy with her elbow. “Let him try it.”
Andy handed Brian his spoon, and Susanna let out a frustrated breath. “Get him a new spoon,” she told her brother. “I’m sure he doesn’t want your spit in his mouth.”
Brian felt his cheeks flame with embarrassment. Andy reached into the drawer to get him another spoon, but when he handed it to him, he couldn’t meet Brian’s eyes.
“Does it need more salt?” Susanna asked, glancing between the two boys.
Brian shook his head. “It’s really good.”
Andy nodded. “Yeah, it is.”
Susanna beamed. “Thank you.” She collected the spoons from both of them. “The others should be back soon. We’ll probably eat then.”
Andy nodded. “We’re going to play basketball.”
Susanna picked up her spoon and started stirring the sauce again. “Have fun.”
Andy and Brian went through the side door next to the kitchen, which led to the driveway. Andy grabbed a basketball from the garage and dribbled it a couple of times to check the air pressure. “I think this one’s good,” he said.
Brian nodded, and Andy tossed him the ball to check. Brian passed it back, and they started playing.
Brian hadn’t played basketball in months, not since the summer before Andy left for college, but he found that he didn’t have any trouble getting into the game. It probably had something to do with the fact that he’d been exercising, even though it wasn’t much. It must have made some kind of difference, though, because even Andy noticed.
“You’re doing good,” he told him after they’d been playing for about ten minutes.
Brian felt his stomach flutter pleasantly. “Thanks.”
“You been practicing?” asked Andy, reaching up to block a shot. He missed, and the ball went in. Andy picked it up and bounced it a couple of times.
Brian shook his head. “No. I haven’t played since you left.”
Andy cocked an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything to that. “Well, I guess I won’t have to go easy on you anymore,” he said.
Brian scoffed. “Yeah, right.”
Andy grinned and faked to his left, charging the basket for an easy lay-up.
The game was a casual one, like it always was. Andy didn’t dominate the court the way Brian knew he probably could, instead giving Brian a chance to take shots. They didn’t keep score, or at least not out loud. Brian kept the score straight in his head, just because he couldn’t help himself.
“Hey!” Andy exclaimed when Brian made a difficult jump shot from behind the 3-point line.
Brian grinned. “Getting scared?”
Andy rolled his eyes, but Brian could tell that he was trying not to smile. “Not exactly,” he retorted.
Just then, a pair of headlights flashed at the end of the driveway. Brian looked up to see a maroon minivan pull in. The side door rolled open, and a little boy jumped out. “Uncle Andy!” he shouted. “I saw a giant snowman!”
Andy laughed. “That’s great!” he shouted back. To Brian, he said, “That’s Nicolas, Todd’s son.”
Brian nodded. The driver’s side door opened, and more people started spilling out of the van. Brian recognized a couple of them from pictures in Andy’s room. The driver was Todd, Andy’s oldest brother. Andy’s mother climbed out of the front passenger seat, and her husband appeared from the back, holding a little girl in his arms. Todd’s wife Stephanie came out next, taking the little girl from her father-in-law. Finally, a younger man stepped out of the back seat and slid the door closed.
“Who is that?” Brian whispered.
“That’s John, Suzie’s husband,” Andy told him. “And Todd’s daughter, Emma.”
Mrs. Clark looked down the driveway, squinting in the darkness. “We missed you, honey!” she called out from the end of the driveway.
Andy rolled his eyes and waved at his mother. “Hi, mom.”
“Hello, Brian!” she shouted, waving in Brian’s direction. “How are you, honey?”
Brian laughed. “I’m fine, Mrs. Clark!”
The older woman waved again and disappeared down the walkway in front of the house. John and Todd followed her, with Emma and Nicolas clinging to both of Todd’s legs. He reached down to pick up his daughter, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder.
Andy’s father watched his family go inside, then started walking down the driveway to where Brian and Andy were standing. Immediately, Andy turned back towards the basket and started dribbling the ball between his legs.
“Hello, Brian. It’s nice to see you again.”
Brian nodded politely. “Hello, Mr. Clark.”
Mr. Clark looked over at his son. “You two having fun?” he asked.
When Andy didn’t answer, Brian jumped in. “Yeah, we’re just playing, uh, some one-on-one.”
Mr. Clark nodded and looked back at Brian. “Well, stay warm. The temperature’s going to drop this evening. It’s going to get chilly.”
Brian nodded. “We will, sir.”
Mr. Clark started towards the side door, then stopped and turned around. “Oh, and Andrew?”
Andy stopped dribbling and glanced over at his father. “Yeah?”
“Before you come in, pull the trashcans down to the end of the driveway so the garbage man can get them tomorrow morning.”
Andy didn’t even skip a beat. “Why can’t you get someone else to do it?” He looked up, arching his eyebrow in challenge. “Like Todd.”
Mr. Clark paused. “Todd doesn’t live here anymore, Andrew. Todd has his own garbage to worry about back home.”
Andy shrugged dismissively. “I don’t live here anymore either,” he pointed out.
Mr. Clark looked a bit stunned, but not so stunned that it suggested that it was the first time Andy had mouthed off to him like that. Brian looked over at Andy, but he’d already turned away and was dribbling towards the basket. On his end, the conversation was obviously over. Brian looked over at Mr. Clark again, wondering what he was going to do. The older man looked like he really wanted to say something, but when he saw that Brian was watching him, he turned to go back into the house, slamming the door behind him.
Brian looked back at Andy just in time to see him put up a jump shot, which missed and bounced off of the rim. Andy caught it and started dribbling again, stepping back a few feet to give himself space. He was concentrating so hard on the ball that Brian wondered if he even remembered that he was there.
“We, uh…we don’t have to play anymore,” Brian told him.
Andy didn’t even look up. “What?”
Brian watched him make another jump shot, which went in. “I just said that we don’t have to play anymore if you don’t want to. We can do something else.”
“Like what?” Andy asked pointedly, looking up at Brian for the first time. The expression on his face was almost accusatory, like he was just waiting for Brian to suggest it so he could shoot him down.
Brian felt his face heat up. He hadn’t even meant…that. “I don’t know. I just thought you might want to get out of here. Go do something else.”
Andy didn’t respond to that, just looked away and started dribbling again. He made a wide arch across the driveway, dribbling around Brian, then went for a lay-up. It didn’t go in, but Andy didn’t seem to care.
“So, are we playing again?” Brian asked.
Andy shrugged and threw the ball at Brian’s chest. Hard. Brian caught it, but barely. “Thanks,” he said sarcastically, hand still stinging. When Andy didn’t respond, he started dribbling the ball towards the basket, slowly at first, keeping his eyes focused on Andy’s. Brian was about to go for a jump shot when suddenly Andy stepped forward, right into his path. Brian expected him to lunge for the ball, but instead Andy knocked him hard in the shoulder, causing Brian to drop the ball. Andy snatched it up and made a beeline for the basket.
“Hey!” Brian exclaimed, reaching up to rub his shoulder. “What was that for?”
Andy jumped to make a lay-up, then caught the ball on its descent. “What?” he asked distractedly.
Brian let out a frustrated breath. “Nothing,” he muttered.
Andy looked up, eyebrows lifted in challenge. “You getting scared?” he asked sarcastically.
Brian clenched his jaw. “Not exactly.”
Andy threw the ball at Brian, who caught it more easily this time since he was expecting it. “First to ten,” Andy told him. “You start.”
Brian looked down at the ball, then back up at Andy, who was watching him expectantly, waiting for him to say something. There was something in his eyes that Brian recognized, something angry and unyielding. Something Brian wasn’t sure he liked. He’d seen it a lot since Andy had returned, in his eyes and in his words. Brian didn’t know exactly where it was coming from, but he was starting to get a pretty good idea.
Brian sighed. “To ten.”