Champagne












Brian

I couldnít look at him again as I closed the loft door and hurried down the stairs to the garage.  That pouty face was just too much, too much even for Justin.  I had no room in my head for thoughts of spoiled brats and snowboarding, all my energy was channeled in one direction as I steered the jeep to the airport through night-dark streets, my brain clicking over and over, jumbled words gradually coalescing into a presentation speech for Leo Brown, Brown Athletics.

ďThe one thing to wear. . .one thing to wear. . .one thing to wear.Ē  I have no idea where that tag line came from, sometimes Iím fucking brilliant under pressure and this was one of those times.  The photo boards were perfect, muted tones of sienna, posh enough for GQ and Vanity Fair, rich, subtle, classy.  He wouldnít be able to resist, Leo Brown; he couldnít resist me and my thrown-together beautiful, sexy ad campaign.  Please.  Donít let him resist.

Itís been a long time since Iíve been scared.  Not scared, Iím not scared.  Just Ė a little tense.  Pressureís nothing new to me, Iím a hotshot under pressure; deadlines bring out the best in me, the hungry-animal inside me that makes me succeed, makes me better than anybody else.  Thereís no room in my head for thoughts of pouty-faced boys with disappointment stabbing out at me from those incredible blue eyes, those almost-but-not-quite irresistible eyes.

I should have explained.  There was no time to explain, and anyway, why should I have to explain?  Iím a fucking businessman, hasnít he figured that out yet?  Itís business.  Itís my business, itís my life, itís how I hold everything together and push back the walls and, and. . .  Shut up, Justin, just shut the fuck up and stay out of my brain for a while.  Iíll make it up to you.  When I get home, Iíll make it  up to you. 

Almost I call him from the airport, but I disconnect just before the phone rings.  There is no room in my head for dealing with Justin now.  Later I will.  Iíll make him understand.  Canceling a trip is no big deal, he needs to be an adult and fucking understand.  Christ, I forget sometimes what a kid he still is.  He surprises me all the time, pretending to be an adult, making me forget the child still inside him, the silly giggling child so excited about a fucking trip to Vermont.  I donít even know why I agreed to it, somehow I canít imagine what weíd do for a whole week in some horrible farmhouse in the countryside.  Where would we pick up tricks?

ĎBrian Kinney doesnít do romance,Ē he whined at me, and I wanted to shout back, Fuck no, Brian Kinney doesnít do romance.  Why didnít I?  Instead of caving in to his ridiculous demand, a fucking trip to the snow.

And then Marty pulls this shit on me, Marty fucking stabs me in the back.  He promised heíd make me a quarter partner this year if we topped five mil, and I worked my ass off to make sure that we did.  The bastard admits that over a third of his business is because of me, then he sells me down the river before I get any benefit from it.  I didnít even push for a raise this year, to be sure we hit the five million mark.

Donít think about it.   ďWhat?Ē  The stewardess is directing me to my seat, bless Cynthia, an aisle seat so I can stretch out my long legs.  Often I fly first class, but I decided not to gamble this time, in case I have to pay for the ticket myself.  In case I fail.

I will not fail.

I should have known better than to believe Martyís promises, I should know better than to believe anybodyís promises, promises are nothing but lies tied up in pretty packages. 

Gratefully I accept two tiny bottles of Jim Beam from the stewardess and resist the urge to drink them straight down, one after the other, without waiting for a glass.  The plane has taken off, weíve been airborne for a while, Iím not sure how long, I barely remember ordering the liquor.  I realize that the stewardess is flirting with me, so I give her a smile, and Iím rewarded with an extra little bottle.  Some schmoozing might get me another, but Iíll stop at three, I need to have a clear head in the morning.

The liquor relaxes me and I let my head fall back on the white cover of the seatís headrest.  In a moment the stewardess is there, tucking a small pillow beneath my neck, her fingers lingering just a moment too long.  I give her another smile, it costs me nothing, itís not her fault she doesnít have a dick and canít relieve the pressure I feel building in my balls.  I glance at my watch and realize Iím two fucks behind, which makes me smile to myself and shake my head.  No time for cock in Chicago, when I reach the hotel Iíll have a hot shower and a quick jerk-off, then sleep a few hours before morning.

ďThe one thing to wear. . .Ē



Justin

I canít believe what just happened.  I canít believe he walked out on me that way.  All I wanted was a weekend alone with him, I didnít ask for a whole week, he fucking offered it.  He promised, he promised weíd go away together, and now heís broken his promise and walked out on me, without even a kiss or an apology.

Brian Kinney doesnít do apologies.  Brian Kinney doesnít do promises either.  Heís always telling me not to believe promises, and now I see he was right. 

Business!  It's always business.  When there's an ad campaign deadline at the agency, there's always a lot of late meetings at the office.  How many times has he said he'll pick me up at school or meet me for lunch and "business" comes up to cancel me?  Or promised to join me for dinner at Deb's or at Mel and Lindsay's, and we're halfway through eating before he shows up, if he doesn't call to cancel first.   Sometimes I feel like I have a rubber-stamp imprint on my forehead, "Cancelled."  I'm always supposed to understand, and I've tried.  I've really tried

This is different.  Why couldn't he see that?  He told me to make all the arrangements, I checked everything with him and he just kept saying, "Yeah, okay, yeah, okay."  I spent a lot of time figuring out airline schedules and choosing a perfect B&B near Sugarbush and even buying a warmer jacket and boots for the snow, I used my diner savings for that, I didn't tell him or he'd have handed me his plastic.  I don't want him paying for everything all the time.  I can't do my share right now, but he always says I can make up for it later, when I'm out of school.  He really doesn't care about the money.  Or anyway, I thought he didn't care.

So I just like TOTALLY lost the power of speech when he spit out at me, "My business pays for this loft, it pays for snowboarding in Vermont, and it pays for the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art."  I was literally struck dumb, just like you read about in books.  Brian's always, ALWAYS, telling me the money doesn't matter.  Now I find out it does matter.  I never felt like he was keeping track before, but now I do.  And it makes me feel so. . .small.  Like I'm this ridiculous little homeless waif he's adopted.  All I could do was stare at him, speechless.

Then he says, if he doesn't go to Chicago, he'll be collecting unemployment, and slams out the door without another word or look.  What the fuck does that mean?  Only last night we talked about his boss selling the agency, I thought he'd be upset but he just laughed and said it was no big deal.  Said he'd be number one with the new owner and they'd be begging him to stay.  I wanted to talk about it some more but he started tickling me, I was wearing my gray sweats and he just grabbed the waistband and pulled it down to my knees and started tickling me.  My legs were trapped in the pants and I was laughing so hard I almost fell over, but he caught me.  Caught me and picked me up and carried me to the bed, pulled the sweats off and started kissing me in all the places he'd been tickling. 

Naturally we fucked, then later we met the guys at Woody's and Brian and I played pool.  When Ted made some remark that Brian shouldn't be taking vacation because of the agency changing owners, Brian smiled and said that THEY needed him more than HE needed them.  Last night he wasn't worried, and today he says he might be on unemployment.  What happened?  Why didn't he talk to me?

I pick up the phone and dial his cell number, he's probably still on his way to the airport.  Then I hang up before it rings.  He should be the one calling me, calling me to explain.  Not to apologize.  Never to apologize.  I know that, okay?  But I'm all packed, my duffel bag is ready and waiting by the fucking door, then I come home from Emmett's all excited about Em's presents, and Brian couldn't care less, he's busy packing.  He asks about some fucking tie and I'm almost laughing, thinking, Brian's bringing a tie to Sugarbush?  I didn't have a clue he wasn't packing for Vermont.  How could I?  He didn't say a word till that very minute.

I'm pacing around the loft, wondering what to do.  Wanting to call him, wanting him to call me.  I should unpack my bag I guess.  Fuck that.  Fuck that.  I'd promised Em I'd call and tell him Brian's reaction to his Armani gift certificate, but I can't talk to Em now.  I can't talk to anybody.  I'm getting madder and madder, and I have to calm down.  Maybe I'll work on my abstract assignment.  My hand's really been aching today, I'll use the computer.  I can work more and more by hand all the time, but all the extra hours I've put in on the Rage comic have taken a toll.  I've been careful to say nothing to Brian about it.  Not even to Michael, Michael is the world's biggest tattletale, he'd be on the phone to Brian in about half a second, he's a worse mother hen than Debbie.  Well, maybe not.  Nobody could be.  Sometimes I try to talk to Michael about things, but I'm always sorry afterwards.  He doesn't really understand about Brian and me.  Better just to keep my mouth shut.

Next morning I immediately forget my own advice and bitch to Michael over breakfast about Brian taking off on me, canceling our trip.  Of course Michael sticks up for Brian.  Says how Brian always has to be the best, always wants more.  I know all that.  But when is Brian going to stop wanting Ďmoreí and just enjoy what he's got?  Enjoy being with me.

Michaelís being all practical and reasonable about Brianís job, and I want to scream at him to shut up.  Itís never bothered him being second choice for Brian.  Michael would wait forever.  Michael has already waited forever.  Iím tired of waiting, I donít want to wait any more.  So when I get home I make a decision:  Iíll go to Vermont without Brian.   His business trip should only last a few days, right?  Right.  Heís never gone more than a day or two on one of his client trips.  Iíll leave his airline ticket on the kitchen counter, and if he wants to come join me, he can.

At the last minute as Iím heading out the door, the taxi horn honking, I have second thoughts.  Will Brian be mad that I left without him?  Should I leave him a note?  Fuck that.  Brian hasnít called me once since he left, obviously he doesnít care what Iím doing while heís gone.  With a huge huff of breath I make up my mind, hitch up my dufflebag and leave the loft, making absolutely sure to set the security alarm.  Sprawling in the backseat of the taxi to the airport, I decide to call Michael, I guess I should tell someone Iím going.  Iím relieved that Michaelís not home, and I just leave him a terse message, telling him Iím going to Vermont on my own.


Brian

All day Iíve managed to put Justin on hold, Iíve refused to think about him for even a second.  The only thought I spare for him is when Iím fucking Leo Brownís homely administrative assistant on the Xerox machine Ė I want to remember to tell Justin about it.  Itís hard to keep from laughing, imagining the dozens of photocopies of my cock plunging into this guyís ass shooting out the side of the machine.  Hope he uses the shredder when Iím gone.  Or maybe heíll take a copy home to frame, to remember the lucky day he got fucked by Brian Kinney.

The meeting with Leo Brown went well.  I thought for a moment, while climbing the stairs, that the expensive hush of the private club was intimidating me, but of course it wasnít.  That  lump rising in my throat was only excitement, anticipation, not fear.  I never feel fear.  Never.  Just a secondís hesitation while I scoped out the room searching for Brown.  Cynthiaíd found recent photos for me to memorize, and I picked him out of the crowd quickly.  I sat down at his table just as if I belonged there.  As soon as I started my spiel and Brown didnít immediately kick me out, I relaxed and smiled inwardly.  Once I get them listening to me, theyíre mine.

We went back to Brownís office and hammered out the details.  He asked me to come by for a meeting with his senior staff the next morning and naturally I agreed, though Iíd hoped to catch an earlier  flight back to Pittsburgh.  Brown thanked his assistant for sending me to find him, but Iíll bet the little fucker gets a stern talking-to later.  I hope the Xerox-fuck was worth it to him; if Cynthia did that to me, Iíd be all over her ass.  By the time I left Brownís suite of offices, all I wanted was a hot shower, a room service sandwich, and a good nightís sleep.  Another night alone, jerking off in my king-size bed.  I thought about calling Justin for phone sex Ė he likes me to do that when Iím out of town Ė but I was still annoyed at him for being so obtuse about this business trip.  Maybe we could change our reservations and still have the better part of the week in Vermont, after all.

Finally back in the Pitt, I marched straight into Vance's office and tossed him the receipt for lunch at the Harvard Club.  Twelve hundred bucks.  Gardner was candy.  The cold-eyed fucker couldnít hide his amazement at my coup.  I made light of it of course, as if it were no big deal.  He offered me a cigar, and I tossed down the Brown advertising contract instead.   I didnít need to wait to see his reaction, it was put-up or shut-up time for Gardner Vance.  Passing Cynthiaís desk, I gave her a raised-eyebrow glance and she leaped up and quickly followed me inside my office, closing the door and whisper-screaming, ďTell me, tell me!Ē

There was a damned organizational meeting at four, and I didnít get out of the office till almost eight o'clock.  I stopped only to pick up a bottle of champagne at the liquor store on the corner, and took the stairs three at a time, threw open the door and announced myself, and my partnership, to an empty, echoing loft.

Maybe he was working late at school, or maybe he was over at Daphneís; maybe he was having dinner with Deb and Vic.  There was no note on the bed or my chest of drawers, but then we never really leave each other notes.  I checked the message machine, but none of the messages was from Justin.  Well, he didnít owe me any explanation of his whereabouts, and naturally he didnít know when Iíd be home, I didnít tell him.  I put the champagne in the refrigerator.  I noticed from the corner of my eye that Justin had left the airline tickets lying prominently on the kitchen counter; a hint, no doubt, of his resentment.

Two nights without a phone call between us.  Maybe he was still mad at me.  Well, heíd change his tune when we caught up with each other, when he found out I finally made partner.  Then heíd realize all my stressing-out had been for a good reason, and heíd be thrilled for me.  I could hardly wait to see him, to tell him my big news Ė I knew heíd throw himself into my arms and give me a million kisses.  I love it when he forgets to be cool and lets his excitement show.


Justin

Itís been three days and he hasnít showed up yet.  I guess heís not going to.  No phone calls either, which means heís still pissed.  Heís the one who cancelled me, and heís still pissed.  I canít call him, I canít beg him to choose me, Iím tired of begging.  Sometimes dealing with Brianís complications is almost too much to bear.

Maybe he thinks Iím up here fucking my brains out  with other guys.  Thatís what Brian would be doing.  Thereís some hot guys here in Sugarbush, Iíve talked to a few, cruised and been cruised.  But I havenít fucked anybody.  The first couple nights, I thought I was waiting for Brian.  I thought I didnít want him to find me with another guy.  Then I realized, I didnít want to be with another guy.  All I want is Brian.  I want Brian, all to myself.

I only asked for a few days alone with him.  Who cares about Vermont or snowboarding, I just wanted to be alone with him.  For a change.  For Brian just to be with me, not distracted by work deadlines and phones ringing, not together with his friends and his tricks every damn night of the week.  I thought if we were alone together for a couple days, maybe Brian would realize how great we are together.  I donít think he knows that back home, heís so distracted by other people.  Maybe he would realize that we donít need all the tricking and the going out almost every night; maybe he would realize that all he needs is me.  Maybe he would even say so.  For once.  Just one time.

God, I miss him so terribly.  Miss sleeping next to him, waking up with him, sharing the shower and shaving together.  Times when both of us work separately at our computers, companionable silences.  I miss the warm weight of his body collapsed against me in the bed, the comforting safety of his arms around me while weíre sleeping, the smell of him on my pillow, the taste of him in my mouth.  He must miss me too.  Surely he misses me too?


Brian

I canít wait to see him, tell him my big news.  He didnít come home to change his clothes so he must have gone straight to Babylon from wherever he was.  I see the guys coming toward me at the opposite end of the alley, they turn the corner and get in line on the stairs, so I rush up to them, full almost to bursting with gladness to be there, but I canít see Justin, maybe heís already gone in.

ďWhereís Justin?Ē I ask.  Thereís this brief silence, then Ted makes an annoying tsk-ing sound and Michael smiles and says, ďHeís not here.Ē

ďWhere is he?  Iíve got big news!Ē

Michaelís still smiling, they all are.  Then Michael says, ďHe went to Vermont.Ē

That makes me laugh.  But heís not joking.  In spite of my leather jacket, Iíve gone stone cold all  over.

ďSnowboarding,Ē Emmett adds helpfully.

Donít ask, donít ask, donít-fucking-ask.  But I ask.  ďAlone?Ē

ďAlone,Ē Michael nods, still smiling.  And I laugh, because, well itís funny, isnít it?  Funny.  Pull out a cigarette and light it up with my frozen cold hands.

ďWhatís your big news?Ē  Ted prods, and Michael joins in.  I donít look at them, I canít look at them.

ďNothing.Ē

Quickly I turn and walk away, down the steps and out into the alley.  I go a dozen steps before I canít resist turning around to look behind me, Iím afraid Iíll see them all huddled in a group at the foot of the stairs, pointing after me and laughing.  ĎJustin went to Vermont and Brian didnít know,í I can imagine them joking and laughing at me. 

The cold that came over me on the stairs is getting worse, my legs are stiff with cold, I can hardly move them, can hardly keep walking down the alley.  Some enormous weight has descended on me at the same time, a thousand-ton iceberg pushing down on my head and shoulders, some incredible weight of. . .knowledge and anger and fear and loss and pain, fucking incredible pain, clouding my eyes and almost stopping my heart beating in my chest.

No.

Not pain, not loss, not even anger.  Itís okay.  Justin went off on his own, good for him.  If it were me, I wouldnít have waited for him either.  Justin doesnít need me any more, and I donít need him either.  Which is good.  Which is great, actually.  Now Iím free of the burden of Justin needing me.  I never wanted to be needed by anybody anyway.

With a shrug I push off the iceberg that was bearing me into the ground, the ice in my veins has melted, and I pick up my pace, freedom making my step lighter.  Itís a great feeling, a wonderful feeling.  Iíll have a few days all to myself, alone in my loft, just like old times.  I can do what I want, fuck who I want, all in beautiful silence and freedom.  And alone, all alone, like Iíve always wanted to be.

I turn the corner onto Liberty Avenue and slow down my pace.  I wander into a bar almost at random.  Boy Toy.  And right away I see him, the one I want tonight.  I give him a look and he blinks back at me, and after a few moments, he comes to join me at the bar.  ďHey,Ē he says, not very originally.

ďBuy you a drink?Ē I ask, half-smiling down at him.  Heís small, his head barely reaches my chin, and slim, slim and lithe and tight, Iíll bet his ass is tight as a drum.

The kid smiles up at me, his lips very pink against his pale skin.  ďYou like blonds?Ē he asks coyly, brushing against my hip as he moves closer to the bar.

ďSure.  You like champagne?Ē

ďOh, man, I love it!Ē 

ďGood,Ē I nod, putting a hand on his shoulder, bending over so my forehead touches his briefly.  ďIíve got a bottle chilling at home, if you want to come with me.Ē  Then without another look I turn and walk away.  For a moment I think heís changed his mind; but when I reach the door I feel him close behind me.

ďChampagne is majorly cool!Ē he exclaims, and slips his hand into mine.



Justin

He could still come, thereís a few days left.  Maybe heíll finally miss me, maybe heíll call.  He could call and ask me to come home, and Iíd be there like a flash.  If Brian doesnít show up here, if he doesnít call me, I donít know what Iíll do.

Iím almost afraid to go home. 

It's not that I'm afraid of what Brian might do.  Iím afraid of what I might do.





6/25/02



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Gap-filler for Episode 2-17