Queer as Folk FanFic by Morpheus

Intermission-09


The Prisoner of Tremont Street

Part 10:  Backward Glance




Brian

Lying on the sofa, watching Little Joe Cartwright stride around the corral on the Ponderosa in his skin-tight leather pants, I’m almost asleep when I hear the elevator coming, so I rouse myself quickly and search for the remote, turn off the tv, pick up the Magruder report and try to focus on the small print. 

Justin pulls back the door quietly and I feel him glance at me to see if I’m sleeping, then he calls “Hey” and goes into the kitchen. 

“Hey,” I answer, suppressing a yawn and twisting my head around to see what he’s doing: Putting away groceries.  I’d almost forgotten how much Justin eats.  Crates of food should be dropped on the roof by helicopter.  “You just went to the store yesterday,” I remind him.

“Mmm-hmm.” 

He’s busy stuffing the refrigerator and the cupboards, then he pulls off his jacket as he walks over and perches his round and very delicious ass on the back of the sofa.  I wonder how he’d look in skin-tight leather pants.

“Did you have a nap?”

“I’m reading a statistical analysis of the demographics for Magruder’s lawn furniture.”

“Cool,” Justin slips his hand down the back of the sofa and under the blanket, easily locating my cock.  “But it doesn’t seem to be turning you on.”

“Just as well, Cynthia’s coming by to meet with me about three.”  I glance at the clock, it’s half-past two.  “You’re – early.”  I almost said, ‘You’re home early.’  This is not Justin’s home.

“Yeah, I’m cooking something special tonight – can I invite Cynthia too?”

I see something on Justin’s face that gives me a sudden sinking feeling in my chest.  “What do you mean, ‘too?’” 

“Well, I sort of invited somebody for dinner.  Somebodies.”

I pull myself up against the pillows and stare hard at him.  “You invited somebody – somebodies – for dinner at MY place, and you never even asked me?”

“Yeah, I guess so.  Yeah.”

“Who?”  My eyes burn into his skull, smoke ought to be coming out his ears.  “Who?”

Justin should stand up and back away, but he’s oblivious to danger.  “I ran into Vic today on my way home, you like having him come over.  So I asked him for dinner.” 

When I continue my wordless death-stare, Justin hurries on, “We can ask Cynthia too, I’ve been wanting to cook dinner for her.”

I ignore the non-sequitur.  “Just Vic?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.  Just Vic.  And a friend of his.”

I knew it.  The feeling in my gut told me.  “What friend?”

“I forget his name.  Remember when Vic was here a few days ago, the guy he said he’d bring over to visit you?  An old friend, Vic says, somebody you used to know too.”

Taking a deep breath, relaxing my hands that are gripping the edge of the blanket, I shake my head.  “No.”

“Huh?”  Justin doesn’t get it.

“No, you cannot invite people to my place without asking me.”  I keep my voice level, but I can tell it’s affecting him.  He’s always been geared in to my moods, he can tell that I’m upset. 

“Brian – why are you upset?  It’s only for dinner.”

“I’m not upset, I just don’t want company tonight.  I need to work with Cynthia, I’m tired, I don’t want a bunch of people filling up the loft with noise and mess.”

Justin earnestly assures me, “There won’t be any mess, I’ll clean everything,” he pauses, then adds, “And I’ll tell Vic you’re tired, he won’t mind leaving right after dinner.”

“Do NOT tell Vic I’m tired!”  My shout takes Justin by surprise, he flinches from my voice.

“Brian, I’m sorry,” he’s instantly contrite, “I should have asked you first.  But I forgot my cell, and I really didn’t think you’d mind – you liked having Vic here last week, you said so.”

Still wanting to shout, instead I clamp my lips shut and swing my head away, I can’t look at him any more.

“Brian, I – I can call him and cancel.  Do you want me to?”

Realizing that I’m being ridiculous – what’s the big deal about seeing some old fart I used to fuck a million years ago?  He’s probably got Alzheimer’s, he’s probably bald and walks with a cane - canceling Justin's dinner invitation now would be rude.  Not that I care about being rude of course, but. . . 

Heaving a deep sigh of resignation, I shake my head no.  “What time are they coming?”

“I said six-thirty.  I know you don’t like to eat carbs after seven.”

Staring hard at Justin, I warn him, “As soon as they leave, I’m going to murder you.”

“Okay,” he leaps up, his equilibrium restored, he even dares to smile at me.  “But first I’m going to cook the most fabulous dinner, maybe you’ll change your mind.  About killing me.”

“Unlikely.”  I throw back the blanket and struggle to rise.  Justin hands me the crutches, then turns toward the kitchen.  “Oh no, you don’t,” I call after him, “Get your ass over here and help me take a shower.  I smell like gorgonzola.”

“Who’s Gorgonzola?” Justin laughs, making a wide detour around me so I can’t hit him with my crutch, and he hurries ahead of me to the bathroom, in moments he’s got the shower-proof plastic garbage bags ready.  Stopping in the bedroom I pull off my robe, and when it slips off the bed and onto the floor, I remind myself that my little slave will pick it up later.  In the bathroom I lower myself down on the toilet and let him put on what he likes to call my cast-condom. 

Rubbing a hand over my chin as I glance at the mirror, I realize that I look like some grizzled homeless man, I’ve really let myself go this past week.  “Why didn’t you tell me I look like a bum?” I demand of Justin, who’s down on his knees putting rubber bands around the plastic bags.  He glances up at me with a look that makes me want to throw him on the floor and fuck the shit out of him.

“You always look great,” he says simply, then ruins it by adding, “Even with bedhead.”

“Christ,” I glance at the mirror again, “No wonder you don’t want to sleep with me, I don’t want to sleep with me either.” 

Justin stops fastening the bag and leans back on his heels, frowning.  Now I’ve done it, I’ve ruined his happy mood.  “That’s not why,” he says sadly.  And God damn it, of course I know  that’s not why. 

“Am I waterproof now?” 

Justin leans forward to slip another rubber band below my knee.  “Now you are.  Let me help you stand up.”  I don’t argue, I let him help me into the shower enclosure where I take up my stand, bracing myself in the corner while Justin washes my body, washes my hair, rinses me off.  Why he puts up with me, with my crippled helplessness, with my fucking mean streak, with my tight-lipped stubbornness that won’t say things he wants to hear, I have no idea.

Well, okay, I have a pretty good idea.



Justin

Toweling off Brian and then myself, I hurry into the bedroom to bring the wheelchair so he can sit down to shave, brush his teeth, comb his hair.  "What are you going to wear?"  We look at each other in the mirror while he thinks about it. 

"The black silk pajamas," he decides.  "They're clean, aren't they?"

"Yeah, I picked them up from the cleaners yesterday.  You look so decadent in them, really sexy."

Brian snorts.  "Yeah, nothing sexier than a man with a broken leg in a wheelchair."  I want to laugh but he's not joking.  He's been getting edgier and edgier ever since he found out Vic's coming over.  Or Vic's friend.  I wonder why Brian doesn't want to see him? 

"No," he contradicts himself.  "Jeans.  The ones Jacques tailored for me.  And a black tee.  Is my red shirt clean?"

"The orange-red or the red-red?"  He answers with a raised eyebrow.  "The orange-red one is clean, is that okay?"   When Brian nods, I hand him the toothpaste and wait for him to spread it on his brush.

"You make a halfway decent gentleman's gentleman," he tells me grudgingly, "But a really good one would brush my teeth for me, and clip my nose hairs."

At least he's joking, he can't be too mad.  "You don't have nose hairs," I point out, "but I'll brush your teeth if you want me to.  You'll have to do your own spitting though."

"Never mind then."  He hands me the toothpaste to put away, sighs deeply and adds, "It's so hard to get good help these days."  He starts to brush his teeth and waves a hand at me, go away, so I do.  I lay out his clothes on the bed, then straighten up the living room a bit before heading to the kitchen to start fixing dinner.  I'm going to make chicken curry, from scratch.  Just as I pull the chicken from the fridge, the buzzer goes off.

"That's Cynthia," Brian calls from the bedroom.  "Don’t let her in yet."

He's right, it's Cynthia, I buzz her in but ask her to wait a minute before coming up, then I hurry to the bedroom.  Brian needs help pulling on the jeans, they're way tight of course, and even though the tailor made room for the cast, it's still an effort to pull them on.  Since Brian can’t put weight on his injured leg, he has to lie down on the bed to pull on the jeans, and it takes both of us struggling to pull them up all the way.  He leaves the top button undone - I used to think that was for comfort, but now I know he does it because it looks hot.  It does look hot, I have to admit.  As soon as he's sitting on the edge of the bed, he waves me toward the door, to let Cynthia in.  He can manage the shirt by himself.

Cynthia greets me with a hug, she's holding a bouquet of yellow, orange and red fall flowers, and when Brian comes down the steps with his crutches and moves over to the door, he groans, "Oh my God, flowers for the invalid, how - touching."

Shaking her head, Cynthia curls her lip at him.  "They're not for YOU - they're for Justin.  I can guess who deserves the sympathy here - after a month of being locked up with Prince Charming."

"A month, a week and three and a half days.  But who's counting?"  Brian moves over to the desk and lowers himself into his chair, letting me take the crutches to lean against the back wall.  He waves at the other chair.  "Did you bring the Magruder profile?"

Cynthia hands me her coat before sitting down and opening her briefcase.  "Yes, I'm fine, thanks for asking, and how are you?"

Interrupting before Brian can make a sarcastic remark, I thank Cynthia for the flowers and invite her to stay for dinner.  When she hesitates, I hurry on, "Please stay this time.  Some old friends are coming too, it'll be like a dinner party, the first time I've had a dinner party.  Do you like curry?"

Before answering, Cynthia glances at Brian.  He shrugs his shoulders.  "Yeah- yeah, please stay, blah-blah.  Can we get to work now?"

With a laugh Cynthia nods at me.  "I'd love to stay for dinner, and I adore curry.  Can I help you in the kitchen?  I'm a pretty good cook myself."

"Fuck that," Brian growls, "Let Chef Boy-ar-dee mess up the kitchen, you're here to work on the new account."  

They settle in to advertising talk and after putting the flowers in a vase and carrying them into the living room to adorn the table by the window, I return to the kitchen and begin preparing the chicken.  It needs to cook slowly for a very long time so it melts in your mouth.  Once the chicken's cut up and I wash my hands, I interrupt Brian and Cynthia to offer them drinks.  Brian wants bourbon.

"JB or Vicodin, Brian?   You can't have both."

He opens his mouth to argue but thinks better of it.  He knows the combination makes him puke his guts out, he’s tried it a few times.  "Apple fucking juice," he growls finally, "Plenty of ice."  Cynthia wants a Coke, and after I take them their drinks, I get back down to business in the kitchen. 

By five-thirty, everything is ready except for last-minute touches, the curry's simmering, the salad's made, the rice is steaming, the counter is stacked with dishes and silverware.   We'll have to eat in the living room on the tv trays Mom loaned us, my computer and schools books and stuff are spread out on the dining room table. 

As I approach the desk where Brian and Cynthia sit in silence, Brian is staring at the computer monitor, his fingers flying a mile a minute over the keys, she's leaning over a yellow tablet, scribbling and frowning.  When he looks up, I say, "Sorry to interrupt, Brian - what kind of wine goes with curry?"

"It's chicken?"  When I nod, he glances at the clock on his desk before saying, "White, but it should be chilled, you didn't allow enough time."

"I put a bottle in the fridge earlier, I thought white was right, but I wanted to double check."

He nods, then rolls back his chair and stretches.  He's been sitting at the desk way too long, he needs to lie down for a while but I'm afraid to remind him in front of Cynthia.  Still, he's going to be sitting up when company comes, so I really have to say something.

"Brian - "

"I know."  He glances up at me.  "Fuck."

"How about a pill?  They take about an hour to work, so - "

"Yeah."  Brian turns to Cynthia.  "My keeper's making me go lie down, we can talk about this more by phone tomorrow."

"Sure," Cynthia stands up too, "I'll have the faxes on my desk and we can double check the figures then, okay?"

Brian just nods, I can tell by the lines around his mouth that he's really hurting.  I want to offer to get the wheelchair but I know he'll yell at me, so I try not to watch him as he grabs the crutches and hobbles up to the bedroom. 

"Cynthia, have a seat in the living room," I suggest, "I'll be there in a minute."  She nods and I hurry into the kitchen to spread a piece of bread with butter, fill a glass with milk, grab the Vicodin bottle and follow Brian.  He almost falls onto the bed ledge, and wordlessly he takes the bread and eats it, drinks the milk and swallows a pill. 

Stretching out on the bed, Brian's eyes close; he allows me to pull up the duvet, I'm glad to see him relaxing.  Before I turn away, Brian's eyes fly open and he whispers, "Get me up by six-fifteen.  No later.  Got it?"

"Sure, Brian."

"Wait."  He reaches over and grabs my wrist.  "Justin. . ."

"What?"

"Justin, if the curry's really good, I might not kill you after all."

"Oh, thank God!" I exclaim, but he's already released my hand, and his eyelids flutter closed.



Brian

Christ, he looks good.  It's hard for me to keep my face from reflecting the shock I feel, seeing Charlie after all these years, I can't believe he's not some doddering old pot-bellied loser.  He's shorter than I remember, still slim but with a fullness around the waist that he must work hard to keep under control, and he's got a full head of hair - I always loved his thick dark hair.  The moment he comes in through the door on Vic's heels, he's grabbing hold of me and pulling me into a bear hug, I almost lose my footing and I feel Justin right behind me, his hands on my hips keeping me steady on my feet.  I didn't want to greet them standing on crutches, instead I was hanging onto the beam near my desk,  but I wasn't expecting to be manhandled, and I feel the pain that was dozing raise it's head and look around.

Charlie steps back and stares at me, he looks as nonplussed as I feel.  "My God, you turned into a beautiful man, and so tall - look at you!"  He laughs, that infectious laugh of his that I remember after all this time, and his eyes crinkle up, those eyes he could twinkle at you, make you feel like you were the center of the fucking universe.

“You look good yourself, Charlie,” I tell him, and Vic chimes in, “Yeah, not bad for an old fart of fifty.”

“Forty-seven,” Charlie corrects him with a laugh, “And since we’re telling ages, Vic – “

Vic interrupts Charlie to say, "And this is Justin, a friend of Brian's who's helping out while he's laid up."  Charlie's gaze turns to Justin, who comes around from behind me, keeping his left hand gripping tight to the waistband of my jeans so I don't tip over, extending his right hand for Charlie to shake.  I see the result of Justin's megawatt smile reflected on Charlie's always-transparent face: he's dazzled.

"Jesus Christ, what a gorgeous boy!  What beautiful blue eyes!  Are you spoken for, young man?  Do you need a sugar daddy?"

Justin just laughs but I feel myself bristle.  Vic must notice my reaction, because he quickly interjects, "Quit joking around, Charlie, let's go sit down, Brian isn't supposed to be standing around like this." 

"Oh, I forgot!  You have a broken leg?"  He glances slowly down at my body, then up at my face and he smiles, and despite everything I feel myself responding to him.  I'll bet we're both remembering the night he taught me about elevator-eyes. 

Justin slides an arm around my waist, turns me around and guides me slowly toward the sofa.  "Let's go to the living room," he says over his shoulder, and the other men follow.  As Justin is lowering me onto the sofa, Cynthia comes out of the bathroom and joins the group.  I'm concentrating on breathing, trying to let go of the pain jabbing into my hip, so Justin makes the introductions.  I don't hear what anybody says, and until the pain begins to subside, I can't rejoin the conversation.  When I open my eyes, everyone's seated and Justin is offering drinks.

"You okay, Brian?" Vic's on the other end of the sofa, leaning toward me.

"Sure, just had a little twinge, I'm fine now."  The pain's letting up a bit - thank God Justin made me take a Vicodin an hour or so ago.  Justin stops what he's doing and comes over to help me raise up my leg and rest it on the coffee table.  We all sit and stare at my bare foot, there's a lull in the conversation, till Charlie jumps into the breech. 

"So, Cindy, you work with Brian, huh?  Are you his boss?"

Everything Charlie says makes me bristle.  I open my mouth to correct him when Cynthia beats me to it.  "No, unfortunately it's the other way around.  Brian's the big wheel and I’m just a spoke."

"But Brian couldn't manage without you, Cynthia," Justin butts in, handing her a glass of wine and smiling.  "He always says so."

"That's a fucking lie," I mutter, "I never give compliments."

Vic's chuckling.  "Aint that the truth?“  Then he turns to Cynthia.  “But you must be one hell of a devoted employee, to come here and work with him while he's laid up."

Cynthia's nodding.  "It’s lonesome at the office, without Brian there I don’t get enough verbal abuse."

Everybody's laughing and nothing's the least bit funny.  Christ, I want a drink.  "Justin," I twist my head around, he's in the kitchen; I catch his eye and he comes quickly to kneel down behind the sofa so I can whisper in his ear.  He shakes his head and mouths "No," so I whisper to him, "It's that or JB, you want to clean up after me later?"  He says nothing for a minute, then nods and goes back to his bartending duties.

"So, Charlie," I try for nonchalance, "What're you up to now, still in San Francisco?"

“Yeah, I’ve been property-managing for the past seven or eight years, I’ve got a condo in the outskirts of the Castro that’s worth a million bucks now, with the cost of housing in the city skyrocketing every year.”  He always did like to brag.  “And the men – whoo!”  Charlie laughs, “There’s no place like San Fran for fuckable men!”

“Charlie,” Vic chides him gently, glancing at Cynthia.

“Oh, don’t mind me,” she says, “I like fuckable men, too.”

Everybody’s got a drink thanks to my live-in bartender, and after he delivers a tray of cheese and crackers,  which he arranges not very appetizingly near my bare foot on the coffee table, he takes a seat between me and Vic on the sofa.

“Well?” I swivel my head around to stare at him, and with a sigh he reaches into his pocket and hands me my lighter and a joint from the stash box. 

There’s a sudden hush, everyone stares at me while I light up.  “It’s medicinal,” Justin explains, glancing around the room.  “For pain management.”

“Sure,” Vic winks at him and Cynthia laughs.

“But I’ll share,” I offer generously, taking a deep drag and holding it in my lungs.  I stick out my hand and wave the joint at everyone.  Charlie’s the only one who wants a drag, he leans forward in his chair and reaches for the joint.  As I hand it to him, he twinkles his eyes at me.

“Remember the first joint we shared?” he grins.

“Not really.”  I look away from him, annoyed; how dare he bring up old memories in front of my friends.  And I hate the way I’m feeling inside, remembering the eager, almost-innocent boy I was, smoking dope with Charlie on his sofa, before he started kissing me, undressing me, touching me, and –

“You were fifteen, the most amazingly beautiful kid, and – “

“Shut up.”  I don’t raise my voice but the look I give him stops him mid-sentence.  He laughs but nods understanding.

“I was just going to say that you really loved it.”  He pauses, then adds, “Dope, I mean.  Pot.”

“Justin, what’s for dinner?” Vic pipes up quickly.  “Justin’s a great cook,” he continues, “practically a gourmet chef.”

“Chicken curry, I’d better go check on it,” Justin moves slowly off the sofa, careful not to jar my hip.  He hands me the ashtray before going into the kitchen.

“I’ll help you,” Cynthia offers, standing up and moving away; she’s sensitive to group dynamics.

“Charlie!” Vic yells at him in a whisper, “What the fuck?”

“What?” Charlie feigns misunderstanding, glancing from Vic’s face to mine.  “I was just reminding Brian of some happy memories.”

Taking another deep drag of the joint, I raise my eyebrows at Charlie.  “Happy for whom?”  When he opens his mouth to answer, I quickly add, “The past is dead to me, Charlie.  You’re dead to me, and I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Whew,” Charlie exhales a sharp breath, “I never thought of you as a grudge-holder, Brian.”

“You never thought of me at all,” I reply; we’re speaking sotto voce, they can't hear us in the kitchen.  Grinding out the butt of the joint in the ashtray, I continue, “You didn’t know me as a person, I was just some kid you liked to fuck.  So don’t pretend we had some great relationship, because we didn’t.”

“You’re wrong,” Charlie says solemnly, “You’re wrong about that.”

There’s a long pause, then Justin calls from the kitchen, “Dinner’s ready!  Come and fix your plates.  Vic, would you help me set up the tv trays?”

“Sure,” Vic pushes off the sofa, and Charlie and I are left alone to stare at each other.

“I’m sorry,” Charlie murmurs.  “About tonight, I mean.  I was just joking around, but it was thoughtless, I didn’t mean to upset you, Brian.”  When I don’t answer, just continue to stare at him, he sighs and stands up.  I’m left sitting alone on the sofa, with no appetite for dinner; just sitting there thinking about the repercussions of an older man fucking a kid and then leaving him alone without a backward glance.



Justin

There’s some history between Brian and Charlie, something’s going on that I don’t understand, but I realize now why Brian didn’t want him to come over, or anyway, I realize that he’s upset, and it’s my fault.  God, why was I so stupid, not to ask him first?  I wish this dinner was over with and everybody was gone so I could take care of Brian, try to make things better - if he’s not too mad at me after this.

I hurry to fix a plate for Brian, and Vic unfolds a tv tray and follows me into the living room, sets it up in front of Brian, who takes one look at the plate in front of him and then glances up at me with the strangest look.  I’m expecting him to look angry but he doesn’t;  his eyes seem incredibly sad.  That scares me.  What’s going on inside that complicated, sometimes unfathomable head of his?  Then Brian unfolds his napkin onto his lap and takes a sip from the glass of iced tea I’ve set down on the tray.

“Go fix your plate, Justin,” he tells me.  He notices my hesitation and adds, “It smells great,” and he gives me a slight smile.  Somehow, Brian being nice scares me more than Brian being angry.  I do as he says and join the others in the kitchen, filling plates from the mounded platters on the counter.

Dinner goes off okay, a lot talk about the weather, everybody praising my cooking.  I can’t tell if it tastes good or not, I can’t stop worrying about Brian.  Finally dinner’s over and Cynthia, after offering to help clear up and hearing me say I don’t need any help, declares that she has to get home.  She makes her goodbyes to everyone, and I insist on walking her to her car.  Vic offers to join us – says he needs a walk after dinner to stretch his legs.  We three put on our jackets and go out the door.  I throw a backward glance over my shoulder at Brian and Charlie sitting silently in the living room.  I hope it’s okay to leave them alone.  I hesitate a moment in the doorway, then Vic puts a hand on my shoulder and gives me a tug.  I close the door and follow Cynthia and Vic into the elevator.



Brian

“Sixteen years is a long time to hold a grudge, Brian.”

“Don’t  condescend to me,” I warn him.  We haven't moved from our places in the living room.  “I’ve told you, you’re dead to me, you died many years ago, and everything that happened has been erased.  It was a fling for you and just one of a million experiences for me, nothing more.  Don’t imagine you mean anything to me now.”

“Christ, you’re bitter.  What did I do that was so terrible?”

I shake my head.  “I just told you – nothing.  Nothing that matters.  Forget it.  I have.”

“No,” he contradicts me, “Obviously you haven’t.  You’re still mad at me – for leaving you behind when I moved to San Francisco – right?”

“Fuck off, I’m not going there.  I live in the present, not the past.  Nothing that happened before means shit to me now.”

Charlie runs a hand through his hair, still a familiar gesture, remembered whether I want to or not.  “What did you imagine I’d do with you in San Francisco?”  When I say nothing, he goes on.  “Brian, for what it’s worth, I did love you.”  He ignores my snort, continuing,  “And I convinced myself that by leaving, I was doing what was best for you, as well as for myself.  You were fifteen, for Christ’s sake!  I was twice your age.”
 
“Charlie, I’m not discussing this any more.  Just go away.”  I’m fucking trapped in my own home, I can’t get away from him.  If my crutches were within reach, I’d probably pick one up and hit him with it.  Instead I lean over and pick up an Architectural Digest from the coffee table and begin to leaf through it.

He’s quiet for a moment and I wish like holy hell I could hear the elevator returning with Justin or Vic.  “Okay,” he says at last, “okay.“  After a pause, his voice changes timbre and he asks, in an ordinary voice, “So tell me about Justin.  Is he your boy?”

Lifting my head, I give Charlie a look that should shrivel him up like a raisin.  “No, he is not my boy, and mind your own fucking business.  Got it?”

Unshriveled, Charlie only grins.  “Yeah, I thought he was, the minute I saw him  hanging onto your ass when I came in the door.”  Looking back at my  magazine, I ignore him but in a moment he goes on.  “Are you in love with him?”

Wanting to throw the magazine at his head, instead I answer coolly without looking up, “One, it’s none of your business; two, no, I don’t; and three, I don’t believe in love.  Never
have, never will.”          

“You used to,” he contradicts, “Believe in love, I mean.”

“Most kids do, the smart ones get over it.”  I turn a few more pages.

“Mmm-hmm,” Charlie says finally.  Then he asks, “Does this kid – Justin – does he believe in love?”

I have to look at him then.  I want to say fuck off, but something makes me answer honestly.  “He used to.”

We look at each other and he asks quietly, “History repeats itself?”

“I don’t know.”  It’s the truth.  “Maybe.”

“How old is he?”

Tossing the magazine toward the coffee table, we both watch it slide in slow-motion off the other side and fall to the floor.  “Nineteen.”

Charlie leans forward and looks at me intently.  “Old enough to know what he wants?”

“No,” I deny it.  Then, “I don’t know.”

We hear the elevator ascending and I sigh with relief.  Charlie gets up to pick the magazine off the floor and place it squarely on the coffee table.  He gives me a solemn look then and says, “Don’t close the door on love, Brian – if not with this one, then maybe someone else.”  He stays standing as the loft door is pushed open.  “That’s an old man’s advice, and it carries the weight of experience,” he says seriously, before turning toward the door to greet Justin and Vic.

“Let’s get a move on, Vic,” he suggests.  “That was a fantastic dinner,” he tells Justin, “You’re a triple threat – gorgeous, sexy AND a good cook.”   

“Thanks,” Justin answers politely, pulling off his jacket as he hurries to the bedroom to retrieve Charlie’s coat. 

Charlie shrugs it on, shakes hands with Justin, then walks back to the living room and I look up at him from the sofa.  He sticks out his hand and I shake it.  “Come visit me in San Francisco sometime.” 

“Sure,” I lie, then he turns away, Vic waves at me from the doorway, Justin ushers them out and closes the door.  Thank God that ordeal is over.

Justin comes to sit down next to me on the sofa and asks, “Tired?”

“Yeah,” I admit, “And I want to get these clothes off.”  The jeans were a mistake, they’re too tight around my cast.  I let Justin help me stand up and I can barely manage the crutches across the floor and up the bedroom steps.  I pull off my shirt and tee and throw them on the floor, then lie back on the bed.  I barely have enough strength left to help Justin peel off my jeans.  I’m hardly even aware of him pulling the duvet over me before I go away for a while.

When I wake up some time later, the loft is almost totally dark.  Gradually I become aware that Justin’s lying in bed beside me.  I’m slightly startled when I realize that his eyes are open.  “Hey,” I murmur, “you’re here.”

“Is it okay if I sleep with you tonight?”

One of his beautifully pale round shoulders is uncovered, and I reach out to touch his silky skin.  “It’s very okay,” I answer.

We’re silent for a few moments while I continue to caress his shoulder and arm.

“Brian?”

“Hmm?”

“Brian, I’m sorry about tonight.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say quickly, “It was no big deal.”

He hesitates, then says, “Can I ask something?  Or not?”

I want to say no.  If my present is none of Charlie’s business, then my past is none of Justin’s.  “It depends,” I answer finally, “What do you want to know?”

“Only one thing.  No details.  Just. . .”   I wait, then Justin takes a deep breath and blurts out, “Did you love him?  Charlie?”

Of course I’ll tell him 'no.'  I don’t believe in love, Justin should know that better than anyone.  And what I felt as a kid for Charlie could only have been lust and desire mixed up with some ridiculously romantic teenage nonsense.  Of course I’ll tell Justin ‘no,’ because I sure as hell did not love Charlie McDougall.

Surprising myself, I answer instead, “I thought I did.”

Justin smiles suddenly and I demand, “Why is that funny?”

“Oh, it’s not funny,” he quickly reassures me, “It just makes me happy.”

“Happy?  Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know.”  He’s still smiling as he slides over close to me and slips his arms around my neck.  He whispers, his breath warm and tickling in my ear, “Are you too tired for a blow job?”






9/29/02 



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