|Queer as Folk FanFic by Morpheus|
Summary of Part 6: Not in the Mood: Brian's too busy with a work deadline to go with Justin to a beach party, so Justin goes with Simon and Robert and has a great time. Brian finishes work early and goes cruising in WeHo, but he discovers that he's just not in the mood for tricking. Instead he stays up late waiting for Justin, getting angrier and angrier, unaware that Justin was involved in a misadventure at the beach party. When Justin comes home they argue but eventually make up - and Brian's finally in the mood to demonstrate that, after all, he does still heart Justin.
PART 7: A Hard Time
We’re in the tub having a leisurely shower after sleeping late, and I blink water out of my eyes to focus more clearly on some blue smudges on Justin’s thighs. He glances down at where I’m pointing and says, “Umm…bruises. I think.”
How did I miss noticing them last night? The late hour, the argument, relief, anger, must all have combined to dull my senses.
“Mmm-hmm, hand me the soap.”
“Bruises. You were playing football on the beach yesterday?”
“Volleyball. Can I have the soap please?”
He reaches for it and I let go, he starts soaping himself but I haven’t moved. Then I lean back against the high wall of the tub and rest my elbows on the edge. “I didn’t realize that volleyball was a full-body-contact sport.”
“Well,” he hedges, “I don’t think the bruises are from volleyball.”
Justin’s head is bent as he lathers his feet and his calves and he decides the time is right to glance up at me, no doubt he’s trying to read my expression. Which is virtually impossible, I’m famous for my poker-face. The upward glance through wet lashes framing those big blue eyes would be almost angelic, if I didn’t know Justin the way that I do.
“Brian - don’t have a coronary, okay?”
Which of course makes my heart miss a beat. “I’ll be the one to decide about having a coronary. How about you tell me how you got those bruises?”
Justin straightens up and holds the bar of soap between his hands, rolling it over and over as he lathers his way into a veritable Lady Macbeth impression. He’s stalling.
I say oh-so-casually, “You have bruises on your legs in the shape of hand prints. Thumb and four fingers on each leg. I can’t wait to hear the explanation.”
“It wasn’t sex.”
“Okay,” I nod. If it wasn’t sex, why is he afraid to tell me?
“Brian, it was Simon, okay, but – “
“That fucker!” I push away from the side of the tub, my nonchalance slipping. “Son of a bitch!”
“Wait! Let me explain! Brian, it’s not a big deal.”
“Then why aren’t you telling me? And stop washing your hands.” I grab the soap away from him and slam it into the soap dish. “Did he try to fuck you or not?”
“No! No, honest, he was doing a good thing really.”
I just shake my head and wait, how can inflicting bruises be a good thing?
And never mind that I bruise the inside of Justin’s thighs on purpose, those are – I was almost going to say ‘love pinches.’ They are ‘lust pinches.’ And anyway, this is different.
“See. . .it’s like this.” Justin takes a deep breath and lets it out in a whoosh. “Robert and I were sitting on the veranda ledge, like I told you – “
“What?” I shake my head again. “You did NOT tell me that.”
“I sort of did though,” he contradicts, “I told you I was with him. Anyway, the thing is, Robert slipped and fell and I sort of, almost, fell after him. Or I would have, only Simon ran over and grabbed onto me. Onto my legs.”
Justin’s staring at me earnestly but I’m not giving him a response. I’m still working on it.
“So,” he finishes eagerly, “So you see, it was a good thing, like I said. So don’t be mad at Simon.” When I say nothing, just stand there staring at him, no doubt looking like a statue in Central Park, Justin reaches for the shower hose. I take it away from him and hold it in my hand - resisting the urge to smack him over the head with it.
“You left out a few details last night, didn’t you? Like, you were sitting on a fucking ledge with Robert and you almost fell to your death? Just minor details, nothing important.”
“Brian, there was no point in telling you, because nothing happened, I didn’t fall, and it was only one story, and Robert fell onto sand. The doctor said that was what saved him from. . .umm. . .”
“Death?” I offer.
“Not death! It wasn’t that bad. Just, it could have been worse, if he fell onto pavement.”
“Uh-huh,” I nod, turning away and climbing out of the tub. “I feel so much better now,” I say, grabbing a towel and striding into the bedroom.
Justin’s not far behind. “Brian, wait.” When I stop and turn around, Justin takes a step backward. I wonder what my face looks like. “Brian, why are you so mad?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answer viciously. “Maybe because you lied to me. Maybe because – “
“I didn’t lie!” he yells, “Damn it Brian, I didn’t lie.” There’s silence for a moment, then he adds calmly, “I just withheld some information that would only upset you.”
“Some information that might get you a hundred more bruises?”
Justin shakes his head no and moves to stand close to me. “I know you’d never hurt me.”
“Don’t bet on it, sonnyboy.”
I want to stay mad - but Justin’s proximity, his coaxing smile, the fact that he’s naked and beautiful, all combine to defuse my justifiable anger. Almost against my will I reach out to grab his shoulders, pull him roughly against me. “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve come close to beating the shit out of you?”
“Yeah,” he answers with a cheeky grin, “None.”
He could be right. I’m not a violent man, though naturally in the past thirty years I’ve had my moments. Still, I’m surprised that Justin brings out a gentleness in me, a gentleness and a patience that I didn’t know I possessed until the night Gus was born.
“You’re soapy, go rinse yourself off, and hurry the fuck up if you want to go for brunch.”
“Okay,” Justin pulls away and heads for the bathroom. “We could eat here and save some money. But you promised we’d go for a ride and finally see some famous places, after we leave the hospital.”
“A short ride. And I’m not stopping the car for any stupid tourist shit.” I follow Justin into the bathroom and perch on the side of the tub, holding the shower hose for him. “Let’s eat at the d’Or. Then I can thank Simon for saving your life.”
Justin glances at me quickly to see if I’m joking. I’m not. But it’s not thanks I want to give Simon.
“Brian – please let it go, okay? It wasn’t Simon’s fault.”
“No, it was your fault,” I agree, my anger starting to build again. “What the fuck were you thinking, sitting on a fucking ledge?” That’s rhetorical and Justin’s smart enough to keep his mouth shut. I take his hand and pull him out of the tub, hand him a towel. “Do you have any idea what your mommy would do to me if you fell off a ledge and broke your stupid neck?”
“She wouldn’t blame YOU,” he insists.
“The fuck. They all would. They always blame me when something happens to you – they always have, they always will. So remember that the next time you pull some stupid trick, will you?”
That’s giving away more information than I’d like, so I clamp my mouth shut and walk into the bedroom, pull on jeans and pick out a navy cotton knit pullover, slide my feet into boots. I just need to mess up my hair and then I’ll be ready. My stomach’s growling – living with Justin gets me used to eating regular meals, I’ve probably gained a half-pound or even more these past few weeks. I need to join a gym but that’s an expense I can’t afford right now.
Justin’s getting dressed too – wordlessly, an unusual occurrence – he must be thinking. After pulling on a pair of his omnipresent cargo pants and tying his shoes, Justin follows me back into the bathroom and we stand in front of the mirror finger-combing our hair. I haven’t shaved this weekend and my chin is darkly bristled. It’s a look Justin likes, though he pays a price for it in whisker-burned skin on his face, his neck, between his legs. I smile when I remember that he never complains.
“I’m glad you’re not mad any more,” Justin slides an arm around my waist and smiles up at me.
“Who says I’m not?” But I kiss him. Christ, why does he have to be so fucking kissable?
I talked Brian out of eating brunch at the d’Or – I’m there five days a week which is plenty for me, and Simon has Sunday off too so Brian had no reason for going to the restaurant today. If I can stall him long enough from confronting Simon (and what does he plan to say to him anyway?), maybe he’ll forget about it. So instead we drove a few blocks to the Sunset Strip and ate at Wolfgang Puck’s. It’s in a sort of mini-mall, a place with a few shops and an upstairs movie theatre.
It’s a famous restaurant and I was sure we would see somebody famous, a million actors live in Hollywood and some of them must eat at Wolfgang Puck’s. I divided my attention between a really gargantuan omelet stuffed with ham and avocado and craning my neck around every couple minutes checking out the other customers, till Brian threatened to get up and walk out if I didn’t stop acting stupid. So I gave up my movie star quest and devoted myself to eating, the food was really good there.
Then we drove to the beach near Santa Monica where the party was at, and Brian insisted that I show him Simon’s friend’s house, he wanted to see the place where Robert fell. We had to park a few blocks away, then we followed a sort of alleyway-type path that weaves its away around the backs of the condos clustered near the beach. Technically it’s probably trespassing but Brian didn’t care. It took a while to figure out which house was Roger’s, I’d only seen it from this angle in the darkness. Finally I found it and pointed up at the veranda where we were sitting when Robert fell.
He said it mildly but I could feel the tension in Brian as we craned our necks and looked upward. I thought it might help if I pointed out that it looked higher from the ground than it did from upstairs but Brian didn’t say a word, in fact he didn’t even look at me, just turned and retraced our path back to the street with me following along meekly behind. We got in the car and Brian brusquely asked for directions.
“It’s Santa Monica Hospital, that’s all I know.” Naturally I didn’t know how to get there – I was riding in the ambulance with Robert, I wasn’t watching the scenery while we sped to the hospital - but I decided not to elaborate. Brian pulled into a gas station and went in to get directions. Thank God he’s not like my dad who would drive around for hours instead of asking for help.
Leaving the jeep in the parking lot, we walk up to the main entrance of the hospital and move through the hall to a bank of elevators at one end of the lobby. I glance up at Brian and see his frown and it’s worrying me. “You’re not going to yell at Robert, are you?” I ask, risking more wrath but needing to know the answer.
He raises one of those eyebrows. “Am I the kind of man who kicks somebody when they’re down?”
“Well, yeah. All the time.”
Brian barks a short non-amused laugh, puts his hand on the back of my neck and squeezes, just slightly harder than affection. “Fuck you.”
“Robert was in a lot of pain last night and I’m sure he’s not feeling too hot today. So you won’t, you know, make him feel worse, will you?”
“Probably. Possibly. Do you want me to wait in the car?”
“No, I want you with me. Just don’t give him a hard time.”
Leaving the elevator we walk down the hall of the orthopedics floor and stop just outside Robert’s room. There’s a guy standing by his bed and as we approach, he turns to stare at us.
It’s quiet for a moment, then Robert calls, “Justin!” so we come into the room and I move around the other side of the bed and, hesitating only briefly, I bend down and awkwardly give Robert a hug – awkward because he’s got a big plaster cast on his left shoulder.
“Justin!” Robert says again, and I see that he’s got tears in his eyes, though he quickly rubs them away with one hand and smiles up at me – a wobbly kind of smile that makes my heart hurt for him.
“You okay?” I ask, glancing uncertainly at the other man, he’s frowning and I’m wondering if he’s harassing Robert.
“Yeah, I’m fine – this is my uncle Jerry, Jerry this is my friend Justin. And his,” Robert glances past me; “And this is his – umm, Brian.”
“Hello,” Jerry nods coolly at me and at Brian, who says quickly, “We came at a bad time, let’s go, Justin – you can come back later.”
“Don’t go,” Jerry speaks up, turning away from the bed. “I’ve finished lecturing Bobby for the time being, I’m sure he can use a friendly shoulder to cry on.”
“I’m not crying,” Robert interjects and Jerry says quickly, “Don’t be so literal, I just meant you need a sympathetic ear. I’ll go have some coffee while you visit with your friends – I can berate you some more later.” He moves toward the door and motions Brian forward, but Brian shakes his head.
“I only came along to berate young Robert myself, but he probably doesn’t need a tag-team jumping all over him. Justin, I’ll wait outside, stay as long as you want.”
“Okay.” I watch Brian turn and go out the door, closely followed by Jerry. When they’re gone I give Robert another awkward hug and this time he really does start crying.
“S-sorry,” he sniffles, then pulls a tissue from the box I hand him and blows his nose.
“Are you hurting a lot?”
“Yes. No. Not too bad. I just feel so stupid - and now I’m going to lose my job, and what’s worse is, now I can’t go to that audition next week!”
“I’m sure sorry.” I feel so bad for him.
“And even more worse is, my uncle’s making me come live with him till I get better! The doctor says it could be months!”
“He can't make you, can he? You're over twenty-one."
"Well. . ." Robert blows his nose again and leans back against the pillows. His face flushes red as he guiltily admits, “I'm not really over twenty-one."
"Huh?" Robert's twenty-two, at least that's what he told me, that's what he's told everybody at the d'Or.
"Justin, don't be mad, okay?" he bends forward and grabs hold of my hand, adding earnestly, "I just wanted people to not treat me like a kid, so I'm pretending to be older."
"How old - "
"I'm almost nineteen. Don't tell anybody, okay?" When I just stand there, stunned, continuing to stare at him, Robert adds quickly, "I was just trying to impress you. Don't be mad."
He looks contrite but I'm getting pissed. "What about your boyfriend? You said you were in a relationship for three years! Was that a lie too?"
"Not exactly," Robert insists. Then he admits, "Well, sort of. I was in love with Donny - my best friend in high school - for three years! But he wasn't gay."
"Jesus, Robert! Why did you tell all these lies?"
"Like I said, I wanted to impress you. And everybody. I want to be taken seriously, nobody takes you seriously if you're still a fucking teenager. Right?"
I just shake my head, torn between empathy and anger.
"Justin," he pleads, "Didn't you ever pretend to be older, just to impress somebody?"
"Yeah," reluctantly I admit, "Once." Once upon a time, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Robert’s uncle gets in the elevator with me and we ride downstairs in silence, till we reach the lobby and he says, “Want to get some coffee? The hospital cafeteria’s down this way, the coffee’s not bad.”
I was going to wait in the car, I’m not interested in sharing a kaffee klatch conversation with an unknown straight guy, but it seems churlish to refuse. Not that I care about being rude of course, but I could use some coffee, and I guess a few minutes alone with this guy won’t kill me. So I nod and follow along down the hall, mentally undressing him despite his obvious heterosexual orientation, pure habit. I can tell that he’s about forty, he’s got a nice hard body, a thick head of dark brown hair rather long and curling over the collar of his shirt, and regular features. Not handsome, but nicely ordinary. If it was near closing time in the backroom, I wouldn’t push him out of the way.
We get coffee in paper cups, Jerry insists on paying, then he leads the way down another hallway that ends at an outside door, we step out and sit down on a redwood bench. I pull out my cigarettes and offer them, he shakes his head no, then I light up.
Jerry takes a sip of coffee, then he says, “I’ve heard so much about Justin, I guess he and Bobby have become best friends the past few weeks.”
“You work at the restaurant too?”
“No.” Full stop. Then somewhat reluctantly, I say, “I’m in advertising.”
“I’m a teacher, at City College. My sister sent Bobby out here from Cincinnati to stay with me and go to school, but he’s got his own ideas. Wants to be an actor. Does Justin too?”
“No.” I’m sorry I followed Jerry out here, I’m trapped in Polite Conversation Land.
He takes another sip, then asks offhandedly, “He’s your, uh, significant other? Justin?”
Christ I hate that term. Jerry must read the disgust on my face because he says quickly, “Sorry, didn’t mean to pry. He seems like a nice kid – Bobby thinks the world of him, always talking about Justin-this and Justin-that.”
“He lives with you?” I know he doesn’t but I’m stuck here doing the nice routine, at least for as long as it takes to smoke this cigarette.
“No, he rents a room near the restaurant. Or he did – he’s going to have to come back to my place while he recuperates. Thank God he’s still covered under his dad’s insurance!”
There’s a brief silence, then I stand up and drop the cigarette butt, grind it out under my shoe. Jerry stands up too and says, “Nice to meet you, Byron – I hope you’ll bring Justin over to visit Bobby when he gets out of here.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “They can have a play-date.” Then I give Jerry a smile, I guess there’s no need to be an asshole, and I turn to go but he stops me.
“Oh wait – can I ask you something?” When I raise my eyebrows, Jerry says, “Upstairs you said you’d come to ‘berate’ Bobby. What exactly did you mean by that?”
“Justin was with him on the balcony ledge – he could have been hurt too. It was incredibly stupid, of both of them.”
“Oh! I didn’t know that. Well, you can be sure I’ll add that to my litany of harassment. But you know, boys will be boys.”
“They’re old enough to know better.”
Jerry nods and I turn to go, I walk a few steps and then something he said earlier pops into my brain. I come back to the bench where he’s resumed his seat and say, “By the way. . .”
“What do you teach, at City College?”
“English. American Lit.”
“Is there an arts program?”
“Yes. Are you – “
“Justin’s an artist. He’s – on sabbatical right now, but maybe he could take one or two classes, just to keep his hand in.” After the IFA, a junior college would be quite a comedown for Justin, but at least it would keep him working toward his goal. And he’s no snob. “How much is tuition?”
“Not bad, California community colleges are inexpensive, thirteen dollars a unit I think. It’s more for nonresidents, but there might be a way to circumvent that.” When I nod, Jerry reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet. “Here’s my card – have Justin give me a call, he can visit campus and we can see about getting him registered for fall.”
“Thanks,” I say, and without realizing it, I’m smiling. Jerry smiles back and stretches out his hand to shake. “Thanks a lot,” I repeat, then turn away toward the parking lot. My step’s a lot lighter, and I realize just how much I’ve been – not worried. Nothing like that. It’s only that I want him back in school, before he loses the impetus to succeed. He’s too fucking talented as an artist to forever waste his time waiting tables.
And besides, he has too God-damned much free time to get into trouble.
"Please, Brian - please park for just a few minutes, if I don't see some Hollywood stuff soon, I'll -
"What? You'll what? Scream? Cry? Hold your breath till you turn blue?" Brian keeps his eyes on the road but slides his hand over to rest casually between my thighs. Part affection and part threat-of-pinching.
Laughing I answer, "All of the above."
With a long-suffering sigh, Brian turns a corner and doubles back to Sunset Boulevard, goes down a side street and enters a huge parking garage located beneath Graumann's Chinese Theatre.
We take an escalator up to the ground floor and I burst out the door and into the sunshine near the courtyard of the famous old theatre - which is filled with tourists gaping at the sidewalk, at squares of cement preserving the imprints of famous hands and feet, scribbled messages from hundreds of actors and actresses. I'm so excited I can hardly see straight, but I try to appear nonchalant and blasé as I move through the crowd reading messages from famous people - most of them really old and dead like the Marx Brothers and Clark Gable, but also old-but-still-living ones like Nicholas Cage and Harrison Ford.
After a few minutes I look around for Brian and finally see him standing near the entryway, leaning against a pillar smoking a cigarette. I walk over and ask tentatively, "Don't you want to see the footprints and handprints? It's pretty cool."
"I can see them from here."
"Come on, don't be so pretentious." I take his hand and start pulling, and reluctantly he tosses away his cigarette and follows along behind me as I make my way toward the middle of the courtyard. I point out the elaborate oriental décor of the grand doorway guarded by stone Chinese temple dogs. "They still show movies here - let's come and see one sometime, okay?"
He follows along for a few minutes while I point out some of the more famous movie stars' footprints, and he even comes into the souvenir shop with me, though he rolls his eyes and curls his lip derisively at the garish photos and other touristy junk for sale. I don't let that deter me from buying some postcards for everybody back home, and a couple refrigerator magnets to send to my mom and to Debbie.
"Enough?" he asks as we exit the store.
"Almost. I checked the map and right down the street is the new Kodak Theatre - that's where the Oscars are held! Just a few more minutes, okay?"
Brian ostentatiously glances at his watch and frowns but he walks along beside me, we stop at the entrance to the Kodak Theatre and he smiles almost in spite of himself at my enthusiasm. People don't realize that Brian's not really the cynical asshole he pretends to be - he's just so good at pretending that it's hard to see behind his mask sometimes. I know he's glad I'm having fun so his snarky routine doesn't bother me..
"Oh my God, look at the elephants!" I exclaim, grabbing Brian's hand and dragging him along with me through the enormous entrance and up steps leading to several floors above, each of them with a wide walkway looking down to the central courtyard below. And above all the floors on pillars are perched these huge carved white elephants, saved from tackiness by their sheer size and simple beauty silhouetted against the blue summer sky of late afternoon.
"Brian - aren't the elephants gorgeous?"
"Oh yeah," he faux-rhapsodizes, "And subtle too - like a Donatello sculpture."
Sighing and shaking my head, I admit, "Okay, so they're kind of gaudy. But I like them anyway."
I nod agreement and we head for the stairs but when we reach the second floor landing, Brian notices a men's store with a Versace-wearing manikin in the window, so we stop for a look.
"That suit would look good on you."
Brian smiles. "Everything looks good on me." Then his smile disappears and he adds sadly, "But no new labels in my closet for a while."
Eagerly I assure him, "You'll be back on top in no time!"
Brian turns to slide an arm around my shoulders and leers at me, "I can be back on top in fifteen minutes - let's go home."
That look makes my dick twitch in anticipation, anytime, anywhere; but "What about lunch?" I ask. "Or dinner I guess, it's after four o'clock. We had brunch hours ago."
"Christ," Brian removes his arm and turns away. "All you think about is eating."
"I'm a growing boy," I say cheerfully, moving to walk beside him as we head back to the parking garage. "Don't give me a hard time."
"Oh, I am definitely going to give you a hard time," he insists, "As soon as we get home."
He stops then and glances down at me, an almost-smile tugging the corner of his mouth. "And I'm going to start by creating my own Hollywood landmark: my handprint on your ass."
"Okay," I agree happily, "Let's hurry!" And I grab his famous hand and pull him toward the escalator.
Justin thinks I've forgotten about Simon but I haven't. So on Wednesday when my afternoon calendar is clear and there's no imminent deadline tying me to the office, I decide to take a couple hours off and visit the Porte d'Or, a surprise for Justin. Not necessarily a good one.
I park on the other side of the street and as I wait for traffic to clear so I can walk across, I see Justin waiting on customers at a table on the sidewalk. He doesn't see me approaching, he shares a laugh with his customers and then turns to go into the restaurant. I notice the three men leaning forward in their chairs to gaze appreciatively at his retreating ass. For some reason that pisses me off.
"Geezers," I mumble under my breath - knowing that once I'm past they'll ask each other what I said. They're older guys in their late forties or early fifties, probably half-deaf anyway. The snide remark slightly cheers me as I make my way inside, angling over to the left where I remember the bar is located. The interior is dim as all bars are. Only a few patrons perch on high stools sipping drinks, it's not yet happy hour so mostly it's retirees or unemployed losers sucking down vodka martinis on a late summer afternoon.
There's a few small tables and I choose one in a dark corner, sliding into the captain's-chair seat and leaning forward, resting my elbows on the table as I check out the bartender. His back's turned, he's mixing something in a large blender, and when he turns around to fill a glass with his concoction, I have leisure to study him for a few moments before he notices me watching. He's tall, nearly as tall as me, mid-thirties, a bodybuilder like Ben though not as defined; he's got long light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, a diamond stud earring sparkling in one ear. Simon's attractive - though not nearly as attractive as his posturing would suggest.
He glances in my direction, then does a double-take. A grin splits his face open, until he realizes that I'm - what am I doing? Probably glowering. I relax the muscles of my face and assume my normal disinterested façade.
After serving the drink he's just mixed, Simon moves around the end of the bar and approaches my table. "Hey," he tries a winning smile as he stands before me, "It's little Justin's better half." When I continue to stare at him wordlessly, Simon laughs. "Oh, I forgot - we're not supposed to call you his husband. Right?"
"Not unless you have a death wish."
"Oh, I'm always in favor of playing dangerously. Playing with," he looks me up and down appraisingly, "Fire."
I refuse to rise to his bait, to tell him that fire burns. When I don't respond, Simon asks, "So, can I get you a drink? You look like a whiskey man to me."
"Stoli, on the rocks. And I'll buy you a drink too."
"You got it." Simon returns to his bar and pours a couple drinks.
When he comes back he sets down my glass and I ask, "Can you take a break? Why not sit down for a minute." I gesture at the other captain's chair.
Simon hesitates, then shrugs and smiles again. Already his toothy grin is aggravating me. He pulls out the chair and sits down, splaying his legs wide and slouching on the seat.
"I'm beginning to think this is not a social visit," he suggests, "Or maybe I'm wrong?"
"It's a very social visit," I contradict. "If I weren't feeling damned sociable, I wouldn't be buying you a drink." I pick up my glass and tip it in his direction, he raises his own and tips it in return.
After taking a sip, I say, "And I understand that I owe you a debt of gratitude."
"Huh?" Simon sips his own drink, something clear, it could be seltzer water - smart bartenders don't drink at work. He looks at me quizzically over the rim of the glass. "Why's that?"
"Justin tells me that you saved his life."
Simon laughs then, but uneasily; he shifts his ass around in the chair. "Oh that - that wasn't a big deal," he waves a hand in the air, takes another sip, but he's watching me closely over the rim of the glass.
"On the contrary," I feel my mouth smiling - or is it a grimace? - "Justin's life is a very big deal to - a lot of people."
"Oh, I didn't mean - "
"And when someone takes him to a party, and then lets him almost kill himself, those people get a bit – annoyed.”
"I didn't - he didn't - "
Quickly I lean forward over the table and growl, "You left bruises on him, you fucker."
"You let him perch on some fucking high ledge, him and his little friend Robert. Bobby. Bobby, who's lying in the hospital with fucking broken bones, thanks to your negligence. And it's no thanks to you that Justin's not lying there too."
"Now wait a minute, I'm not responsible for - "
"The fuck you're not. And if I were Bobby's uncle, I'd sue your fucking ass. Did you know he was smoking dope at your party?"
"Hey," Simon pushes back his chair and gets angrily to his feet, "It wasn't MY party, it wasn't my dope," he hisses, "And I told you, I'm not responsible for these boys. I gave them a ride, that's all. They're not kids needing babysitters, they're - "
"What do you know about kids? Obviously nothing. Kids their age DO need fucking babysitters, they're fucking reckless! Can't you remember way back a hundred years, when you were a fucking teenager? It's amazing any kids live long enough to become adults."
And it's amazing that I'm roaring on and on like some God-damned pedantic grandfather. Christ! I stop then, just stop. I lean back in my chair and lift my glass of vodka with a hand that's noticeably shaking. Fuck.
"Look," Simon's responding to my changed demeanor, he senses that I'm calming down. "Look," he sits back down on the edge of the chair and leans forward. Earnestly he tells me, "I'm sorry about Bobby, and about Justin too. I care about them, believe it or not. But get real, man, legally they're adults and they're not my responsibility."
Justin's not legally an adult but maybe he's passing himself off as twenty-one so I keep my mouth shut. And Bobby's a couple years older. But, "There's such a thing as moral responsibility, regardless of someone's age," I hear myself say, marveling at the words coming out of my mouth. Where the fuck did that come from?
"I'm sorry," Simon says again, "And I promise you, I'm keeping an eye on Justin here at the d'Or. Probably you worry about all the guys hitting on him constantly, but - "
"What?" I sit up straight again.
But really, I'm not surprised, guys are always hitting on him. They did it at the diner in the Pitts too but at least Debbie and the others watched out for him there, I didn't worry so much that. . . well, not that I'm worried here either. I'm not worried. But fuck, I don't have to like it, do I?
"Get real," Simon chides me, but gently, "You have to know a juicy little blond twinkie like Justin is a magnet, especially for the older clientele that frequents a place like the d'Or." Simon raises his glass and takes another drink. Gently he mocks, "And maybe it's YOUR responsibility to keep him from working here, huh?"
"That's different," I say. But is it? Fuck.
I want to say that Justin's a free agent. I want to say that he's a man and can do what he pleases. I want to say that I don't have responsibility for him.
Am I now a fucking hypocrite?
The truth is. . .if I’d gone to the party with Justin, none of this would have happened. Oh, maybe Robert would have perched on his ledge and fallen off, but Justin wouldn’t have been with him. He’d have been with me instead. He wanted me to go and I was too damned fucking busy. Or so I convinced myself. He wanted a couple hours of my time and I wouldn’t give it to him. And I was left alone to mooch around the condo all night, waiting for him to come home. Wanting him to come home.
And here he comes now.
Justin pauses in the bar doorway, then he smiles and hurries over to my table. I can tell he’s going to fling himself into my arms, but suddenly he stops short with a squeak of sneakers, no doubt remembering my aversion to PDAs. “Hey,” he says then, coolly, off-handedly, contenting himself with a careless shrug and reaching out to touch the tips of his fingers to my jacket sleeve.
That’s not enough. In one swift move I scoot back my chair, grab his arm and pull him none too gently onto my lap. “Hey,” I answer, reaching for him, circling his neck with my arm and pulling him in close, holding him tight against my chest, devouring his lips with my mouth, my fingers twisting in his silky golden hair.
It’s a good kiss, and when we come up for air Justin’s gasping, his eyes are crossed. Jesus, I’ll bet my own eyes are crossed.
“Holy shit.” That’s Simon, still sitting across the table. “I think I need a shower.”
“Go away,” I suggest mildly.
He grins and stands up but Justin stops him. “Simon, wait. I was coming to tell you that table seven wants a bottle of Chardonnay.”
“Got it,” Simon gives Justin the Boy Scout two-fingered salute. “Thanks for the drink,” he says to me before turning away and heading back to his bar.
“Hey,” I murmur to Justin and we kiss again, a small one.
Justin makes no move to get off my lap, he makes himself more comfortable and leans against my shoulder. “Brian, what are you doing here?” he asks. “I mean, I’m glad you’re here, but – you didn’t come to give Simon a hard time, did you?”
“I came to take you to dinner,” I tell him, avoiding the question. “You get off in an hour, right?”
“Yeah,” he agrees, “but we can eat here – I get free food, you know.”
“Fuck that,” I say decisively, “Let have dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s. Then you can watch out for movie stars.”
“Great!” Justin smiles, climbing off my lap. “Now I’d better go make my customers happy – want me to bring you a snack while you’re waiting?”
Shaking my head no I hang onto his hand. “Justin – do a lot of your customers hit on you?”
“Yeah,” he agrees happily, “It’s cool – they leave big tips!” And with a laugh he hurries away out of the bar and into the restaurant.
Okay, so he can take care of himself, Justin really is a man. An independent man. He doesn’t need a babysitter, he doesn’t need a guardian angel watching over him. But. . .but maybe I could spend more time with him, anyway.
Just for the hell of it.