QAF FanFic by Morpheus


Intermission-10:  Six Months - Conclusion

Part 9:  Cancel Forever    


Brian

Dinner’s over, we ate sitting at the counter, I got Justin to talk about his current design project – a magazine advertising layout, it distracted him for a while.  Distracted me too, I got caught up in the conversation and actually enjoyed myself.  It’s amazing how smart Justin is, how creative in his thinking, he reminds me of me when I was his age.  But only intellectually; by twenty I was already well on my way into cynicism and pharmaceuticals as a way of life.

Justin takes our dishes to the sink and rinses them while I finish my glass of wine.  He puts them into the dishwasher, then turns around and looks me in the eye, saying decisively, “Now we’re going to talk.”

“We’ve been talking.”

“I mean – “

Interrupting him, I demand, “What do you want to talk about?  The economy?  Inflation?”

Justin comes back and resumes his seat on the barstool.  “Brian – “

“Never mind, I‘ll start.  I’ve decided that we need to renegotiate this six months thing.”

“Huh?”

“Make some changes.  Revise the terms.”

“I know what renegotiate means, okay?  I just don’t know what you have in mind.”

”Well, shut up and I’ll tell you.”

First I have to get out of touching range, so I stand up and move to the refrigerator, pull it open and look inside for something.  What?  Water will do.  So I pull out a bottle and unscrew the lid, take a big gulp, then turn back toward Justin.  But I’m staying on this side of the kitchen counter.  He’s looking wary and his hands are folded on the countertop.

“Okay,” I say, “The six months timeframe stands.  But there’s a new rule.”  He just tilts his head to one side and stares at me, saying nothing.  Finally the silence goes on too long and I have to speak.  Trying to keep my voice offhand I say, “You can’t date anybody over twenty-one.”

“What?” 

I knew he’d be pissed so I’m prepared for his outburst.  Before he can say anything else, I continue quickly.  “The whole idea was that you’d be dating guys your own age, going out, having fun.  Doing kid stuff, teenager stuff, not hanging out with – “

“Brian, I’m almost twenty years old, why would I want to do teenager stuff?  And you’re only saying this because you have some prejudice against Lawrence, just because he used to be my teacher.”

‘It has nothing to do with him.”  Which is almost true.  “If it weren’t him, you’d be fucking around with some other guy his age.”

“Yeah,” Justin interrupts, “You.”

Ignoring the desire to correct him – I am not that fucking teacher’s age – I continue the speech I’d sort of practiced in the car earlier.  “You’ve never had a chance to be around gay guys your own age, you have no idea what you’re missing out on – just having fun and fooling around, no heavy drama or responsibility or any of that shit.  Just parties and fucking and – “

“Brian, I don’t want to fuck around.  That’s not me, okay?  Why do you get to decide that I need to have fun with guys my age?  It’s not what I want, it’s not what I’ve ever wanted.”

I just stare at him, he’s not following the script I prepared for him in the car driving home tonight.  He’s supposed to be more reasonable.  He’s supposed to agree with me. 

Not that he ever has agreed with me during all the times we’ve been together.  Except for a few months last year, when I convinced myself that Justin wanted what I wanted.  Plenty of freedom, plenty of tricking, and just staying out of each other’s way.  Even then I knew that something was wrong, but I didn’t want to think about it.  It’s easy not to think about important things if you try hard enough.  Later I realized that at some point he just stopped arguing with me.

All he had to do was tell me he didn’t want to fuck around.  Why didn’t he tell me?

“Why didn’t you ever say that you didn’t like tricking with me?”  Christ, I never meant to re-open that can of worms.  But I need to know.  He needs to tell me.

Taking a deep breath and exhaling sharply, Justin’s quiet for a moment, then he says, “It’s like I told you a couple weeks ago.  I thought it was the only way I could be with you.”

He told me that before, but I –

Then he adds, “Brian, you said you wanted me to be the best homosexual I could.  I was trying to be.”

I’m startled and I literally take a step backwards and bump into the refrigerator.  I distinctly remember saying that to Justin, only half-joking at the time.  I’d thought he was going to be like me.  And who decided that I’m ‘the best homosexual?’  Me, of course.

“You don’t have to be like me.  I never said you had to be like me.”

“But you wanted me to, didn’t you?”  When I say nothing, just stare at him, he adds, “I thought it was the only way you’d keep me around.”

I  want to deny that but I don’t really know the true answer.  I’ve had plenty of time to think about those last months Justin and I were together, as much as I’ve tried to ignore it and move on.  I loathe introspection and hindsight and anything remotely self-analytical.  You go through that existential shit when you’re in college, when you’re trying to understand yourself.  I’d done some of that years ago but it only gave me grief.  It’s much easier to be an asshole with no regrets.

And there’s very few regrets I have, but getting involved with Justin is one of them.  Because of me he got bashed – maybe not directly, Jesse helped me see that it was not all my fault – but partly because of me.  And Justin’s had a hard time ever since.  All because he fell in love with me.  When somebody loves you, they make you responsible for their happiness.   That’s a role I can’t ever fill.  Not ever.

“Brian, talk to me.  What’s going on inside your head?”

Nobody gets inside my head.  “I need a cigarette,” I announce, skirting around the kitchen counter and walking into the living room, lighting up and – after hesitating a moment, knowing I’m going to be trapped – I sit down on the sofa and inhale a lungful of acrid smoke.  I’m stalling for time.  In the past I’d just walk out the door.  Or throw Justin out the door.  I don’t want to do either, and the penalty for that is, I’m going to have to talk.  Christ.

Naturally Justin joins me in the living room, sitting on the opposite end of the sofa, just staring at me and waiting.  Fuck.

“Brian,” he says finally, “You wanted me to be like you, didn’t you?”

Taking a deep drag of cigarette smoke and watching it explode out of my mouth like a thundercloud, I answer.  “Maybe.  Maybe I did.  It would have been – easier.”

“Easier how?”

I turn sideways on the sofa and look at him then.  He thinks he wants honesty?  He’s going to get it.  “If you were like me,” I tell him brusquely, “You’d have no expectations.  No need for any of that love and romance crap the rest of the world’s so crazy about.  Just two guys living together because they like to fuck.  No strings attached.”

I’m expecting Justin to be shocked.  Or something.  But he’s not.  Instead he’s just nodding his head.

“Yes, Brian – I know you say you don’t believe in love.  But you do love me.  Or you did, before things went wrong last year.”

“No,” I deny it harshly.  “I care about you.  It’s not the same as love.”

Justin just stares at me for a moment, then he asks quietly, “What’s the difference between caring and love, Brian?”

It’s important that I get this right.  Because he needs to understand.  I need to be clear with him.  Honest.  “Justin, love means, you can’t live without somebody.”

“And you can live without me?”

There’s a long silence while we stare at each other.  Finally I say, “Yes.”

I’m expecting – I don’t know what I’m expecting.  Tears, arguments, I don’t know.  But I’m prepared for anything.  At least I think I am.  What I’m not expecting is that Justin will just nod his head at me and say, “Okay.  I understand now.”  He swings his head around and stares at the window for a moment, then he stands up.  His face looks strange.  Hard.  And without another word, Justin walks around behind the sofa, picks up his jacket from the back of the barstool and heads for the door.

Justin pulls open the door, and he’s almost outside when I realize that I’ve stood up, that I’ve crossed the distance to the doorway and moved my body into the opening ahead of him so he can’t get out.  I don’t remember standing up, I don’t remember moving from the living room, and I have to glance quickly over at the sofa to be sure I’m not still sitting there, to be sure I’m not imagining myself standing face to face with Justin.

We just look at each other and then I hear my voice saying, “No.  Yes, but no.”

“What?” Justin asks, shaking his head; he’s confused.

He thinks HE’S confused.  What about me?  Then I hear my voice, at least it sounds like my voice.  “Yes, I can live without you.  But no, I don’t want to.”

Justin stares at me a minute, his face loses that hard look, his eyes soften.  “Brian, I don’t want to live without you either.”

“Well,” I say. 

Now what?



Justin

He hasn’t moved from the door, I couldn’t believe it when he whipped past me and blockaded the doorway.  He’s still standing with arms outstretched as if to physically restrain me from leaving.  I have no desire to leave.

“Brian, I don’t think your definition works.  Hardly anybody dies without the person they love.”

When he doesn’t respond I continue speaking.  “Brian, you said you ‘care about’ me.  Do you care enough to want to get back together?”

Now he folds his arms over his chest.  “I don’t know.”  He’s looking me in the eye, but I can’t see inside.  He barely nods his head.  “Maybe.”

I think that ‘maybe’ is as close as Brian can come to saying ‘yes.’  “Then can we just forget this six months thing?”

“No.”  He’s adamant.  “It’s important.” 

“Why?”

Brian swings his head sideways and stares into space.  “Damned if I know.”  His shoulders slump and he moves away from the door, back into the living room where he drops down onto the sofa again. 

Following him, I perch on the edge of the coffee table and lean forward, put my hands on his knees.  “Brian,” I say earnestly, “I don’t want to date other guys.  I only want to be with you.”

He sits up straight then, he seems to pull himself together.  He takes my hands in his and holds them tight.  “Justin,” he says quietly, emphasizing each word as he looks me in the eye, “That’s not ever going to happen.  I’d be lying if I said I could be monogamous.  I can’t and I won’t.”

“Well, who asked you?”

“You.”

“No,” I deny it, “I never did.  I don’t care about monogamy.  I don’t care how many guys you fuck – “

“Bullshit!”  Brian pulls his hands away and leans back on the sofa.  “You said that before.”

“Let me finish, okay?”  I wait for him to nod, then I go on.  “I admit it bothered me, seeing you with other guys.  I hated it.”  He nods again and opens his mouth, so I repeat, “Let me finish.”

I stand up then and pace around the living room for a moment, then stop by the coffee table again.  “I’ve thought about this a lot and I finally realized that what I hated was the seeing part.  Especially in your bed.  Our bed.  Your home which I thought was my home too.  That’s what I hated, Brian.”

When he says nothing, I go on.  “If we ever get back together, that’s what I’d ask.  Don’t let me see you.  Don’t do it in front of me.  And if I ever live here again, don’t do it here.”

“Justin,” Brian leans forward and looks up at me, “We made rules once before.  I didn’t break them.”

I swallow hard.  “I know.  It was all my fault.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he insists, getting up and coming around the table to stand in front of me.  “What I meant was, if I make promises, I keep them.  If I ever made a promise like that – I’d keep it.”

Brian’s close to me.  I reach out and touch the hem of his white tee shirt.  It feels soft in my fingers.  “Would you?” I ask, staring hard at the fabric in my hand.  “Would you make a promise like that?”

Brian’s arms go around me then, pull me tight against his chest.  His breath is tickling my hair.  “If I say yes, can we stop talking for a while?  At least till after dessert?”

That makes me raise my head and look up at him.  “Nothing’s settled.”

“You said we had to talk, we talked.  You didn’t say we had to settle anything.”

“Brian – “

“You promised dessert.  You have to keep your promises this time.”

Brian said ‘this time.’  So maybe something’s settled after all.  He takes my hand and leads me to the bedroom.



Brian

We fell asleep last night after having sex, it was early but we slept through the night.  Probably both of us were exhausted from the emotional scene after dinner.  I loathe emotional scenes and I’ve managed to avoid them most of my life, until Justin came along.  If you want to be with somebody there’s a price tag, lots of price tags.  One of them is having emotional scenes.  

Apparently I want to be with Justin, because I couldn’t let him leave last night.  I couldn’t let him walk out the door.  I don’t know how this happened to me.  Letting someone become important in my life.  Almost necessary.  It’s like I told Justin last night:  I can live without him; I’ve been living without him.  But I don't want to any more.

I like waking up with him.  Feeling his warmth next to me, knowing that if I turn over he’ll move into my arms even if he’s asleep.  Maybe I just got used to it, having somebody in my bed.  Maybe that’s all it is.  I used to enjoy having the bed to myself.  So I’m not sure why it feels so empty now without Justin. 

Fuck introspection.  A yawn splits my head open and I think about getting up.  Light’s filtering in through the curtains, it’s half-past seven.  I feel Justin stirring now, my back’s turned to him and I wait, almost holding my breath.  Sure enough he turns toward me, his arm snakes around me from behind and he pushes his body against mine.  He does that even when he’s asleep.  Last time I pulled away, slipped out of bed.  This morning instead I turn over, turn toward Justin, and pull him into my arms.  It feels good, holding onto him.

“Hey,” he says, still half-asleep, his eyes aren’t open yet.  “Time is it?”

“Early.  Go back to sleep.”

“’kay.”  And he does.  He can do that, just step off the edge and fall right into sleep.  Like a child. 

Justin's sure as hell not a child, but there’s an air of innocence about him despite all the trauma and pain he’s gone through the past couple years; maybe it’s not innocence, maybe it’s a kind of trust.  He’s always trusted me, followed me blindly, assuming I meant the best for him.  You should never have that kind of faith in people, they’ll always let you down.  The way I’ve let Justin down so many times.  And when I started to have faith in him, he let me down too.

I wish I could go back to sleep, get my mind off things.  I want to get out of bed but I can’t pull away from Justin.  He’s sound asleep, his body's relaxed into mine, my arms are around him.  I can’t make myself pull away.  Instead of thinking about Justin, I start thinking about the Robertson Insurance campaign, that would put anybody to sleep.  And finally it does, I feel myself letting go and melting into the bed, but my arms around Justin don’t let go.



Justin

I wake up in Brian's bed and he's kissing me awake.  Sunlight streams from the window behind his shoulder as he leans over me and wakes me up with little kisses all over my face.  I open my eyes - my body responding to him even before I wake up, I'm pressed tight against his chest - and I see that Brian's hair, his beautifully messed-up bedhead hair, is backlit by sunlight.  The golden light makes it look like Brian is wearing a halo.  That thought makes me laugh and brings me fully awake.  Saint Brian.

"What?" he demands, throwing a leg over my thighs and pinning me down on the bed.  So I tell him about his halo and he smiles slightly but he doesn't pull away, he's got something else on his mind, he starts kissing me again, the kisses getting more and more urgent.  Of course I'm returning his kisses.  I need to talk to him, nothing was settled last night, but later, later, I can't resist Brian's kisses.

When we finally get out of bed and share the shower, Brian says I can fix breakfast, just eggs and toast, he needs to eat light before he hits the gym.  I want to spend a few hours at school matting some watercolors I'm submitting for the student art show next week and then I have to work from six to midnight.  We move around the kitchen in comfortable silence, Brian making coffee while I fix scrambled eggs, then we sit at the counter eating and sipping coffee from big white mugs.

Finally I ask, "Now what, Brian?"

"Now I'm going to the gym," he says, taking another sip of coffee and looking at me over the rim of the cup.

"You know what I mean."

Brian sets down his cup and shakes his head.  "Justin - I don't know 'now what.'  Did you think I'd worked everything out while we were sleeping?"

"You couldn't anyway," I point out, hooking my heels in the top rung of the stool and hugging my knees.  "Anything about us has to be decided by us, not just by you on your own."

"What a convoluted sentence," he says lightly, picking up his fork and playing with some drying egg yolk on his plate.  "And anyway, what's to decide?"

"What?"

"Oh relax, don't go into hysteria mode, okay?" he says calmly.  "I just mean, what has to be decided today?"

He's such a shit sometimes.  All right, I can tell him what needs to be decided. 

"What needs to be decided is, am I still dating other guys.  Or not?"  When he just looks at me, his face not giving anything away, I add, "Because I have a date tomorrow, and I need to know if I should cancel it.  Or not."

Brian lays down his fork and sighs.

"A date.  With whom?"

"Well duh.  With Lawrence."

Brian stands up and takes his plate into the kitchen and sets it in the sink.  Without turning around he says, "You've been seeing him a lot."  Then he turns on the water full blast before I can answer.  I join him at the sink and hand him my plate to rinse. 

I wait till he turns off the water, then I ask,  "Should I cancel?"

Brian grabs the dishtowel and dries his hands before looking at me.  His face is still blank, I can't tell what he's thinking.  "He must like you.  Lawrence."

"Of course he does.  We're friends."

"Friends," Brian repeats, twisting the towel in his hands.  "I'll bet he thinks you're more than friends."

"No he doesn't," I assure him, taking the towel away and hanging it back on its hook.  "That's a good reason for dating older guys, they don't get all mooshy."

"Uh-huh."  Brian turns away and goes back to the counter, picks up his cup. 

"Well?" I ask.  "Do I cancel my date or not?"

Brian drains his coffee cup and sets it down on the counter.  Then he says, "Cancel" and moves quickly up the steps to the bedroom, returning a moment later with his gym bag.

I'm waiting for him at the door, pulling on my jacket and watching as he punches buttons to set the alarm.  Before we start down the stairs I put my hand on Brian's arm to stop him.

"Brian, about Lawrence."

He cocks his head at me, raises those eyebrows.  " What about him?"

"Do I cancel tomorrow or do I cancel forever?"

Suddenly Brian shoots out his hand and grabs me by the back of the neck, pulling me sharply forward and leaning his face close to mine.  "Cancel forever," he growls, before kissing me roughly on the mouth. 

"Now go away, I'm late," he adds, pushing me toward the stairs.  "And come over after work tonight.  If you want to."

"Brian," I have to ask, "Do you want me to?"

"Yes, damn it," he's still growling.  "Now fuck off."



Debbie

I love these big family dinners on Sunday night, we used to have them at least once a month but they don't happen very often any more.  It's hard to get everybody together at the same time. 

We've decided that we're celebrating summer - even though it's a bit early, there's still a chill in the air.  Emmett always needs a theme whenever there's a party, even when it's just a family dinner at the Novotny-Grassi house.  Vic was feeling so good today that he baked a special cake and decorated it, writing 'Welcome Summer' in icing on the top.  Lindsay and Melanie brought cookies, Michael and Ben brought an appetizer, some kind of Thai vegetable thing.  Ted and Emmett brought bottles of wine and we've already killed almost two bottles while we were eating Ben's spicy dip.  Everybody brought bouquets of flowers, the table is loaded down with vases of beautiful flowers, their perfume mingling with the smell of tomatoes and garlic. 

I made putanesca, partly because it's a special occasion but partly because last week Brian agreed to come to the dinner party, something he seldom does any more.  Putanesca's always been his favorite.  But he didn't show up and finally we all gather around the table and Vic helps serve heaping bowls of the pasta while I pull garlic bread from the oven.  Everybody's chattering, I love the noise of a house full of happy people, then suddenly the talking stops all at once, and when I straighten up and set down a foil-wrapped bread loaf on top of the stove, I look at the table.  Everyone's staring at the door, so I walk around the corner of the kitchen to see what they're all looking at.

It's Brian.  "Hey Deb," he says casually, walking forward and pulling off his jacket.  "I brought somebody with me.  Got room for one more?"

Then he moves sideways and behind him I see little Sunshine. 

"Hi Deb," he says kind of shyly, then he glances at the crowd around the table.  "Hi everybody," he adds, before everyone surges forward to hug him and kiss him and pull him toward the table.  Well, almost everyone. 

Justin's cheeks are flushed pink and he's smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary.  "Something smells delicious," he exclaims happily, pulling off his jacket and throwing it toward the sofa.  "What's for dinner?  I'm majorly starving!" 





11/25/02



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