Gap-Filler for Episode 17: Brian struggles to make a decision about Gus.
"Hurry, it's coming on now!"
Brian slid the loft door closed and set the restaurant carryout bags on the counter before joining Justin on the sofa. "Did you put a tape in?"
"Yes, shhh, here it is!" Justin pointed the remote at the VCR and clicked RECORD as the local news anchor introduced a story about the demonstration at St. James Academy. The cameras panned the school grounds and zoomed in on several people carrying signs, before focusing on Senator Baxter. "There's Debbie! There's - oh my God, there's me and Daph!"
The close-up of Senator Baxter revealed Justin and Daphne standing behind her, nodding solemnly as she spoke. The news showed part of her comments about free speech and assembly, they even showed a close-up of the principal, looking, as Justin put it, "like he'd swallowed a cowpie."
"What do you know about cowpies, city boy?" Brian demanded, standing up and removing his suit jacket as the news anchor went on to a story about a new mideast crisis.
Justin jumped up and moved close to Brian, smiled and bragged, "I'm famous now! I've been on tv! How'd you like to fuck somebody famous?"
"I've fucked lots of famous people."
Brian looked down his nose at Justin. "I can't tell you, I had to sign non-disclosure agreements." He strolled into the kitchen with Justin on his heels. "Let's eat, get the plates and silverware."
As he set dishes on the counter, Justin said, “Debbie talked to Lindsay today. She’s really going to marry that French guy, isn’t she?”
Brian shrugged, opened a carton and helped himself to a spoonful of lo mein. He felt Justin staring at him, and growled, “Sit down and eat, before it’s cold.”
Justin sat, and heaped his plate with broccoli beef and kung pao chicken. Around a mouthful of broccoli, he asked, “What are you going to do, Brian?”
“About Lindsay! You can’t let her go through with – “
“Stop.” Brian lowered his head and glared at Justin. “Now.” When Justin just stared back at him in silence, Brian turned back to his plate, took another bite of lo mein. It nearly choked him.
In a moment, Justin piped up again, “Brian, you have to – “
“SHUT THE FUCK UP.”
Justin’s mouth was open; he shut it, but continued to stare at Brian.
“I said SHUT UP,” Brian repeated, though Justin hadn’t said another word. Looking down at his plate, Brian took a deep breath. Then he threw down his fork and stomped away, up the bedroom steps and into the bathroom, sliding the door closed with a loud bang. He turned on the shower full blast, to cover the sound of his vomiting; he did not need a nursemaid hovering over him. He’d get control over his stomach, then send Justin home.
A shower would help, he decided, and threw off his clothes in a pile on the floor, something he never did, never allowed Justin to do. Opening the enclosure, he stepped under the stinging hot spray, let it pound on his head, his neck and shoulders, his muscles relaxing slightly. Ten minutes, fifteen, he lost track of time as he sought oblivion in the hot steam.
Finally turning off the shower, Brian stepped out of the enclosure and was surprised to find that his pile of clothes was gone. He wrapped a towel around his hips and quickly brushed his teeth, then slid back the door and entered the bedroom. He saw his trousers hanging in the closet; Justin must have put his shirt and underwear in the laundry.
The kitchen was dark. As he pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator, he noticed that the Chinese food had been carefully put away, the dishes apparently washed and stowed. Brian hoped that Justin had gone home, but knew that he hadn’t; he could feel him nearby. Never mind how he could feel him; he didn’t need to think about that right now.
Sure enough, Justin was seated on the floor in front of the sofa, his sketchpad on the coffee table as he drew, his head bobbing slightly in time to some unheard music on his earphones. Brian was going to send him home; he didn’t want Justin staying here tonight. For a moment he stood behind the sofa, watching Justin draw. It was fascinating to see him move his pencil so confidently, so skillfully, creating something beautiful on a plain white page.
Oh, Jesus, Brian almost gasped aloud; Justin was drawing Gus. He was sketching Gus, the baby’s likeness breathtakingly, achingly real. The beauty of the child caught in his throat. The innocence, the vulnerability of that tiny child, that baby created from his body and Lindsay’s, stabbed Brian through the heart like an iron dagger. He was never prepared for the feelings Gus stirred in him; he had not even known he was capable of such feelings.
When his breathing returned to normal, Brian walked around the end of the sofa and sat in one of his beautiful, ultra modern, ridiculously expensive, inexplicably uncomfortable Italian chairs. Justin glanced up at him and Brian steeled himself for another onslaught; he’d nip it in the bud.
“Time to go home,” he said. “Go to Deb’s and do your homework.”
Justin closed the sketchbook and set his pencil down on top of it, took off his earphones. “My homework’s all done,” he answered. “And tomorrow’s a teacher’s conference day, no school.”
“Then go to Daphne’s. Or go to Babylon. I want to be alone.”
Well, he’d said it, sounding like fucking Greta Garbo. Now there was a drama queen. He remembered Lindsay dragging him to several classic film festivals, junior year in college, the audience always comprised of senior citizens and queers.
Justin sat still, hands folded in his lap like he was in church. “I want to sleep with you tonight,” he said simply.
Brian was not in the mood. Imagine that, he jibed himself silently: Brian Kinney, turning down sex with a delicious blond bottom boy. “No,” he answered, then said crudely, “Go find somebody else to fuck you.”
“We don’t have to fuck,” Justin said quietly, unoffended. He should have been offended, damn it. “I just want to sleep with you.”
Brian stood up, determined to throw Justin bodily out the door, if he had to. But halfway to the sofa, he changed his mind.
Changing direction, Brian crossed the loft and climbed the bedroom steps. Shedding the towel, he crawled into bed, slipped between the cool sheets, was almost immediately asleep. He was barely conscious of Justin crawling in beside him, and when Justin’s arm slipped around him from behind, Brian relaxed, almost against his will, and leaned back against the small but solid support of Justin’s body.
Waking sometime in the middle of the night, unable to sleep any more, Brian slipped from the bed and pulled on his black silk robe. He walked around the bed to Justin's side ('It's NOT Justin's side,' he reminded himself silently) and picked up a framed photograph from atop the tall chest, and carried it with him to the kitchen. Pouring an inch of scotch into a clear crystal glass, he took a swig and peered closely at the photo of himself holding Gus. He loved that picture.
"I love that picture," Justin said, coming up behind him, wrapping the navy blue bedsheet around himself toga-style.
Damn that kid, Brian thought, somehow always sensing when Brian was disturbed and couldn't sleep. "Yeah," he agreed, gruffly sarcastic. "Dada and Sonny-boy." He set down the photo, grabbed the bottle of Jim Beam, and moved away from Justin.
"Okay," he sighed, "So I'm a shitty father. Are we surprised? I'm carrying on a fine family tradition." He stepped over the top of the sofa, knocking down the back cushion and then sitting on it, nearly bouncing himself onto the floor. He felt Justin following him. He didn't want Justin to follow him.
"You're not a shitty father," the brat contradicted, "You love Gus."
I don't want to talk to you, Brian silently told Justin, not turning around. Nevertheless, he heard himself answering, "Didn't think I would. Strange." He took another swig, poured another inch of scotch. When Justin reached a hand for the glass, Brian roughly pushed his arm away. "It's bad enough you smoke at your age," he growled.
"At my age? Brian, I'm the most mature person you know."
"Hunh!" Go away, go away, go away.
But Justin ignored Brian's silent command; he walked around the end of the sofa. "Do you think Gus will speak French before he speaks English?"
Throwing Justin a glance that should have knocked him on his ass, Brian kept tight control of his voice as he harshly suggested, "I think you should go to bed." No way. No way was he baring his soul to some nearly-naked teenage trick.
"Lindsay can't raise him alone," Justin continued, as if unaware that he was treading dangerous ground. He seemed unconcerned. Unafraid. Damn him. Brian tuned back in to hear Justin say, "And much as you love him, you'll never be a full-time father."
Bristling, Brian replied, "If I wanted the news, I'd watch CNN."
Still the brat wouldn't back off. "You can't control everyone's life, even though you'd like to."
Covering his fury with long-perfected cutting sarcasm, Brian sniped, "Obviously. YOU'RE still here." He should have been gratified to see his barb hit home; Justin visibly flinched, his face fell. Good. Good. Now Justin would cry, now Justin would run out the door, and leave Brian the fuck alone.
But Justin didn't cry, he didn't run away. Instead, infuriatingly, he smiled. Justin smiled, then he sat down, close beside Brian on the sofa, put his arms around Brian and kissed his cheek. Brian didn't have the energy to push the boy away. He turned his head, unable, unwilling to look at him.
"Being mean to me has never really worked," Justin said quietly. "You should try a different tactic."
Defeated, Brian continued to look away, into the distance. He didn't have the strength to fight. He slumped against the sofa cushions, while Justin continued nuzzling his cheek. When Justin gently sucked Brian's earlobe, Brian's eyes closed.
Almost. Almost he gave in, before rallying a spark of resistance. "What are you doing?" he demanded. His voice sounded weak, even to himself.
Justin smiled widely. "I'm killing you with kindness," he replied, then continued his caressing kisses on Brian's neck. "It's proven to be a highly effective technique for achieving one's goals."
Brian turned his head away. He couldn't remember ever feeling so weak, so vulnerable in his life. He knew what Justin was suggesting. He'd thought of it himself, that's why he couldn't sleep, that's why he'd needed whiskey, badly. Hearing the unspoken suggestion in Justin's voice confirmed to Brian what he already knew. What he already knew he had to do.
Consumed by a despair as unexpected as it was unwelcome, Brian was hardly aware that Justin had stood up, and with a final kiss and caress, returned to the bedroom. Brian sat staring into space, letting the pain wash over him for a while, giving himself up to it. Some time later, a few minutes or a few hours, Brian blinked and looked around him.
Still slumped on the sofa, still holding the empty whisky glass, Brian became aware of rosy pink light glimmering through the tall windows facing east. Chilled, shivering slightly, Brian took a deep breath, then another, and stood up; shrugged his shoulders to unkink the knots in his neck, and sighed deeply. Somehow, through that foggy daze of despair and unhappiness, Brian had come to a decision: He would give Gus to Melanie. Sign over his parental rights, give up his son, if it meant Lindsay and Melanie would get back together.
Brian didn't give a fuck about Melanie. Well, not really. Oh, he'd gained a grudging respect for her in recent months. And he would always care deeply about Lindsay. But this was not about them. It was about his son. It was the best thing to do for his son. Gus deserved a home with parents who loved him.
Setting down the glass and padding slowly round the sofa and up the stairs to the bedroom, Brian stopped beside the bed, looked down at Justin. He was asleep on his side of the bed ('NOT his side,' Brian again reminded himself), but with his arm flung out toward the empty space where Brian should be sleeping. Justin was so beautiful in sleep, his pale skin contrasting sharply against the dark blue sheets, his blond hair rumpled, his lips slightly parted.
In the rosy dawn, Brian was aware of a yearning deep inside himself for this boy. It was not love - love was a cop-out, an excuse people used to rationalize the most outrageous behavior. Yet sometimes Brian's complex feelings for Justin left him feeling backed into a corner. He'd given up trying to convince himself that Justin was just a fuck. But he'd spent years creating an uncomplicated life for himself, and he didn't need, he didn't want, the kind of complications created by his confusion over this damn teenager.
Brian glanced at the clock; it would be time to get up in little over an hour. He might as well grab a quick shower and shave now, he wanted to catch Melanie before she left for her office. He started toward the bathroom, stopped for a moment, then gave in to temptation.
Changing direction, Brian turned back to the bed. Dropping his robe, he slipped into his place, stretched out, relaxed against the rumpled sheets. Justin did not wake up, but turned, as Brian knew he would, and unconsciously moved over, till he was lying snug against Brian's side. Justin sighed and slipped his arm around Brian's waist. Somehow the warmth of Justin's body soothed away Brian's last, lingering doubts; and he knew, for sure now, that he was going to do the right thing for his son.