The Prisoner of Tremont Street
Part 1: Complications
Mired down with work projects during the week following the little slip-up in bed with Rick, I had no time to call him, which was good because I hadn't decided if I wanted to call him - or anybody else, for that matter. Being alone has a lot of benefits; best of all, it makes life uncomplicated. When a client presentation took me to Cleveland in the middle of the week, it was a chance to blow off steam in a new city. Cleveland is not exactly a gay metropolis but I knew I'd have no trouble getting some action.
As it happened, a waiter at the restaurant where I took my client to lunch Wednesday afternoon gave me the eye, and when the client excused himself to use the men's room, I took advantage of his absence to ask the waiter about the local nightlife. He recommended a dance club called The Grid on St. Clair Avenue, which turned out to be very much like Babylon, only a bit smaller. Surprisingly there is no shortage of hot guys in Cleveland and I auditioned a couple tricks in the back room, then brought one of them back to the hotel with me. Not the young blond, instead I chose the tall dark haired guy close to my own age. Away from the dim lights of the club he wasn’t as hot as he’d seemed, and I got rid of him after a mediocre fuck.
Now it's not quite eleven and I sit at the desk in my room sipping a beer from the mini-bar and watching images on the tv screen with the volume turned down. I have a client meeting tomorrow but not till ten-thirty. I'm bored and contemplate returning to The Grid but feel too lazy to get dressed again. Out of sheer fucking boredom and for no other reason at all, I pick up the hotel phone and call Pittsburgh.
I think about calling Rick but I'm not sure of my reception; in person would be a better way to gauge that situation. I think about calling Michael but he is liable to be in bed playing Batman-and-Robin with Ben. Holding the receiver to my ear, my fingers hesitate over the telephone buttons, and sort of by their own volition, they tap out the numbers for Justin’s cell phone. I don’t expect him to answer - though I don’t know why, he’s kind of a night owl; but when he does and when I hear his voice, I almost hang up on him.
I could still hang up, he wouldn’t recognize the hotel phone number.
How did he guess it was me? “Hey, did I wake you?”
“No,” he denies it, “I’m in bed, but I’m reading.”
“Ah,” I exclaim, “In bed with a good book! How commendable.” When he says nothing, I ask, “What book?”
“It’s a biography of Van Gogh. Did you know it’s really pronounced ‘Van Gawk?’”
“Rhymes with ‘cock.’”
Predictably, Justin giggles. I can picture him tucked up in his little single bed, pillows propped behind his head while he holds the book open on his naked chest. “Are you naked?” I ask, and he giggles again.
“Brian, is this an obscene phone call?”
I consider for a moment, take a sip of beer. “Yeah. Are you naked?”
“Yes,” he answers quickly. “But I can get dressed really fast, if you want to come get me.”
“I can’t. I’m a million miles away. In Cleveland.”
“Business trip?” I can hear rustling, as if he’s sitting up in bed. When I agree, he says, “There must be a gay bar even in Cleveland, why are you alone in the hotel? Are you alone in the hotel?”
“Now I am. I wasn’t alone before, but I’m alone now.”
“A duddy?” Justin asks, making me smile. Duddy was his name for guys we’d brought home for a three-way that turned out to be losers. Sometimes we even forgot they were there.
“Yeah,” I admit, “I was choosing between two and I picked the wrong one.”
“Poor Brian. Hold on.”
I wait, and I can hear snuffling noises, Justin is blowing his nose. When he comes back on the line, I sigh, “Are you crying for me? All alone in Cleveland with a raging hard-on.”
“Actually it’s my allergies. I sat next to some freaky old lady on the bus today who was wearing about three bottles of perfume.”
We’re quiet for a moment, then I hear myself asking, without my permission, “So, did you make up with your new boyfriend, what’s-his-name, Jamie?”
“He’s not my boyfriend. Did you make up with Rick?” When I don’t answer, Justin sighs. “Don’t ask nosy questions if you don’t want to be asked nosy questions right back.”
“So who is this guy anyway?” I shake my head, wanting to smack myself for doing this, why am I doing this? But I’m waiting for his answer.
“Brian, he’s just a guy. He’s in my graphics class.”
“PIFA must be loaded with queers. All you artsy types.”
“There’s a lot,” he admits. “Were there lots of queers at Penn State too?”
“I don’t know. A few.”
“Did you have a lot of boyfriends in school?”
We are NOT going there. “I asked about Jamie. Is he hot? If you’re done with him, can I have him?”
Justin laughed. “You’re not his type.”
“Fuck you, I’m everybody’s type.” I go over to the mini-bar and take out another beer, twist off the cap.
“I heard that,” Justin informs me pompously, “Another bottle of beer! Drinking alone is a really bad sign, Brian.”
“I’m not alone, you’re with me,” I reply, taking a long swallow of beer, the bitterness tingling the edges of my tongue.
“Wish I was,” Justin answers quietly.
Me, too. But I won’t tell him. Then I tell him. “Me, too.”
There’s silence for a few moments, then Justin asks, “When are you coming home?”
“Maybe. . .” Justin hesitates, then says in a rush, “Maybe we could get together. Maybe I could cook dinner for you, at your place.”
“You haven’t done that for a long time,” I hedge.
“I just learned how to make quiche.” When I say nothing, he hurries on, “Mom and I made it last week, it was really good. With spinach and cheese. You like spinach.”
“Yeah,” I admit.
“Well,” he says, a bit impatiently, “Do you want me to, or not?”
No, I don’t. I’m just getting back to my comfortable, uncomplicated life. “Okay.”
“I could go over to your place after school, and have it ready when you get home.” When I say nothing, he adds quickly, “If it’s okay to use my key? I mean, the key I still have.”
“I don’t know what time I’ll be home.”
“Quiche can wait, it doesn’t go bad.”
For a moment I’m quiet. I don’t know how I got into this. I don’t want Justin to come over, to cook me dinner, to maybe spend the night. That’s too much like it used to be. We can’t go backwards, things have changed too much. The best thing is just to tell him no. I can say no, it’s easy.
“Brian. . .never mind.” His voice is cool. “I need to work on a project tomorrow night anyway.” When I say nothing, he adds, “And I’d better go now, it’s late.”
“I’ll try to be there by six.” When he’s silent, I go on, “Open a bottle of the French Chardonnay. There’s a new case in the store room.”
“Okay. If you’re sure you want me to come over?”
“Okay,” Justin says again. “It’s a date.”
“It’s not a date!”
Justin laughs. “You’re so hung up on WORDS. See you tomorrow. I need to sleep now.”
I hang up the phone and shake my head. How did that happen?
Why do I try so hard with Brian? Sometimes he is such an asshole, why do I want to be with him? Well, I don't exactly want to be with him. I just kind of need to. I just kind of need to be near him. It's not sex. Well, some of it is sex. Brian practically ruined me for having sex with other men.
Not that I don't like sleeping with other guys, I do. Sex with Ethan was beautiful, it was real love-making. Brian and I have made love lots of times (though he'd never admit it); but a lot of the time it's just fucking. With Ethan it was always love-making: gentle, sweet, emotional, loving. It can be like that with Brian sometimes. But with Brian, it can also be hard and violent and almost unbearably urgent. He can push me way past what's comfortable and safe and pleasurable, way beyond that, to screaming fucking ecstasy. It's never been like that with any other man.
But if it was just sex, I could walk away. I really could. In fact I did walk away from Brian, when it seemed like that was all it would ever be, when I finally just gave up on him. I don't know for sure that anything's changed, but it feels different now. Maybe I'm just imagining it though. Maybe I just want it to be true. Michael was always telling me that Brian will never change, yet Brian's changed a lot this past year. Michael can't see it, but I can. And not just because I want to.
The thought of seeing Brian tomorrow chases all sleepiness away from me. I put aside my book, turn off the light, and snuggle down in my blankets, trying to fall asleep. Instead, inside my brain, I’m shopping and cooking and filling Brian's loft with the scent of delicious home-made quiche, just for him. For us, dinner for two. I make a mental note to stop for flowers, to put on the table. Or maybe that would be too romantic? Then I shake my head, too bad. Too fucking bad. I'm not going to walk on eggshells for Brian any more. I'm not going to be careful of everything I say, everything I do. I won't dissolve my personality, not for Brian, not for anybody.
My flight gets into Pittsburgh at two and when I pick up the jeep at the airport, I drive straight to the office, Vance wants a report on the Cleveland client before five. I give Cynthia the disk from my laptop and let her go to work fixing it up; I know it will be perfect. If she ever leaves the agency I’ll be up shit creek, it sucks how much I depend on her. And it sucks that she knows exactly how much I depend on her.
After I sort through a few dozen e-mails, I call my home phone to check for messages. There’s one from Clare, whining about the boys’ school fees; there’s one from Linds inviting me for dinner Sunday; there’s a couple sales calls; and the last message is from Rick.
“Hey, it’s Rick.” His voice is subdued. “I’ve been thinking about what you said, that you know, sometimes people say weird stuff during sex, and. . .and I want to apologize for telling you to fuck off. I was mad and. . .and I’m sorry. So, if you want to get together again, give me a call.” He hesitates, then adds, “Well, umm, goodbye.”
I check the time and date of the message, he’d called Tuesday night and today is Thursday. He must have decided by now that I wasn’t going to call him. It’s the perfect time to cut him loose. Do I want to, or not? I don’t know.
Apparently I don’t, because I’m dialing his number. Luckily he doesn’t answer so I can just leave a voicemail. “Hey, it’s Brian. I’ve been out of town on business and I just got your message. Maybe we can hook up this weekend, I’ll give you a call tomorrow.” I hang up the phone and sit there staring at it for a long time. I have no idea what I’m doing with Rick. I’ve got enough complications in my life. Glancing at the clock on my desk, I see that it’s quarter to four. One of those complications is probably unlocking the door to my loft right this minute.
I have to set down the shopping bags so I can use my key to open the loft door, then quickly turn off the alarm. The first thing I do is find the heavy crystal vase I like, arrange the bouquet of flowers I bought and set it on the table. Then I unpack my groceries and gather all the quiche ingredients on the counter. Glancing around the loft, it’s hard to believe that I lived here for almost a year, there’s nothing of me anywhere.
I like cooking. Mom says that’s because it’s creative, and in a way it is sort of like drawing a sketch or painting a picture. You put yourself into it, even if you’re following a recipe, you’re making something with your hands, and good cooks put their heart into it too. It makes a difference for me somehow when I know I’m cooking for Brian. It’s this enormous pleasure to make something with my hands that I know he’s going to enjoy eating. He’s such a fanatic about his weight, but he bends his rules slightly for the dinners I make for him. When I lived here he only let me cook dinner once a week or even less, otherwise he said he’d soon have a pot belly and jowls. I can't imagine Brian with jowls.
The quiche goes together quickly, it’s really very easy to make, and I put it in the oven so it will be done exactly at six o’clock. It needs to set a few minutes at least, and it really can keep a long time and be reheated, in case Brian’s late. I make a small salad, then go to get wine from the storage room next to the elevator.
It’s small and very crowded with all the stuff that would mess up Brian’s minimalist loft – the washer and dryer, vacuum, floor polisher, the case of wine, extra paper towels and toilet paper, and a stack of boxes of Brian’s things. I don’t know what’s in them. He’s not a sentimental man so I don’t think he’d keep anything he doesn’t need, and he throws away anything that’s even slightly worn out. He never told me to stay out of his stuff but I’ve always known better than to go snooping. Well, once I lifted the lid on the top box but all I could see inside were textbooks, high school or college, I couldn’t tell. Why would Brian keep old schoolbooks? That was the only time I snooped when I lived here, though Brian let me play around on his computer. Or anyway, he knew I did, and he never told me not to.
Besides the case of Chardonnay, there’s a plain wooden wine rack attached to the wall, filled with mixed bottles, red and white. Brian knows a little bit about wine, but he’s not a snob – he says, if it tastes good, drink it. Brian knows about a lot of things but he doesn’t show off – I never even knew he spoke French till he took me to dinner in Harrisburg. I wish he’d talk to me about the time he was in college, I’d like to know about his classes and the guys he dated and I sure would like to know who it was that broke his heart. Who it was that made Brian climb that building and think about jumping off. Once again I’m wondering why Brian took me with him to Harrisburg. I wonder if he’ll ever tell me?
I open the wine, set the table, and then go and sit down cross-legged in front of the CD player, sorting through a stack of jewel boxes to find nice background music. He’s got a little of everything, and I pick out a few classical CDs. I never knew much about classical music till I met Ethan, I’ve always been more into rock and hiphop and trance. Now I can tell Beethoven from Mozart at least. I load several CD’s into the turntable and set the volume low. Then I hear the loft door pushed open, and glancing over my shoulder I smile at Brian and say, “Hey, you’re early.”
He drops his keys and laptop on the desk and walks into the living room, leaving his leather suit bag on the sofa. “Hey,” he says, reaching down a hand to pull me to my feet. I just sort of melt against him and he circles me with both arms. “Hey,” he says again, and we kiss. Then the timer dings and I pull away, hurry to the kitchen to take the quiche out of the oven. He’s right behind me and says, “Mmm, smells good, I’m starving.”
“Go change your clothes,” I tell him, “Dinner’s almost ready.” Brian grabs his suit bag from the sofa and goes up to the bedroom to put away his clothes and change from his suit into jeans and a white tee. He’s barefoot as always – summer and winter - when he comes back to the kitchen. “You can pour the wine,” I tell him, “Then we’re ready to eat.”
“Oui, monsieur,” Brian says agreeably, grabbing a dish towel from the counter and folding it over his arm before he lifts the bottle and pours an inch of wine into a glass. With a raised eyebrow, Brian hands me the glass to taste.
“Mmm,” I say appreciatively, trying to look blasé. “It’s an unpretentious little wine,” then I hold the glass up to the light and close one eye to look closely at the Chardonnay I’m swishing around in the glass, “With good color and clarity, and just a hint of sophistication.” Then I sniff the wine and say, “Ahh, it’s got a great nose.”
Brian chokes on a laugh and grabs the glass from me, sets it on the table and pulls me into his arms. “You’ve got a great nose,” he growls, “And – “ he runs his hands down my back and squeezes my butt, “And, what’s more important, a great ass.” Then he pushes me away and demands, “Let’s eat, I’m starving.” He finishes pouring the wine and I bring the quiche to the table and cut it into wedges.
Brian eats two pieces and then sits nibbling on his salad while he watches me eat most of the rest of the quiche. “The French eat salad last,” he tells me, “To cleanse the palate.”
“Why do you need to cleanse it?”
Brian puts down his fork and leans back in the chair. “To prepare for the dessert course. What’s for dessert?”
“Ice cream,” I answer, through a mouthful of quiche. “Your favorite, chocolate chocolate-chip, from Danelli’s Creamery.” I push back my chair and stand up. “I’ll get it right now.”
“No,” Brian stops me, “Save it for later. Sit down and eat.”
I sit back down but say, “I think I’m full.” I’ve eaten most of the quiche and two bowls of salad. Only one glass of wine, so I don’t get sleepy. Because I hope Brian’s going to give me a reason to stay awake after dinner. “Did you like it?”
“Yeah,” he admits, “It wasn’t bad.”
“Wow,” I exclaim, “The highest compliment!”
"C'mon," he ignores my jibe and gets up from the table. "I'll help clean up," and together we carry dishes to the kitchen, put things away and load the dishwasher.
I put the last of the leftovers in the fridge and close the door. "Ready for dessert now?" I ask, with one hand on the freezer door.
"Yeah," Brian murmurs, "But what I want isn't in the freezer." He slips his arms around my waist and pulls me close, and my arms automatically slide around his neck. "Hey, little boy," he murmurs, "Wanna fuck?"
"Yes, please," I manage to answer, before his mouth covers mine and I'm caught up in the fiery maelstrom that is Brian Kinney in major fuck-mode. When I come up for air, I realize that we're in the bedroom and he's pulling off my clothes, almost ripping them in his hurry. I get my hands under his tee shirt and try to pull it off, the touch of his skin under my eager fingers is almost unbearably exciting. Then he shoves me over the ledge into the middle of the bed, and he jumps right on top of me, straddling my hips and pulling off my shirt. My hands are lost in his twisted tee and he rips my hands loose, grabs his shirt and pulls it off over his head, tossing it over the side of the bed as he lunges his body downward onto my bare chest, and his lips attack my mouth again, I can hardly catch my breath. He grabs my hands and holds them prisoner on the pillow on either side of my head. "I want to be rough," his voice is harsh, almost a growl. "Say yes or no."
I can hardly breathe, but I manage to draw a shaky breath and gasp, “Yes.” His eyes get that hard glittery gleam of excitement I remember, we’ve done this a few times before, and I feel my body shiver in anticipation. He feels it too, and he laughs, deep in his throat, a thrilling sound that makes the hairs on my neck stand up. My cock’s standing up, too, and I shiver with almost unbearable excitement.
When we come, our bodies almost explode apart, and we fall onto the bed sweating and gasping for air, nearly dead from the most amazing pleasure in the whole fucking world. I have to wait a few minutes until I can speak, then I roll over and lean above Justin, propping my head on my hand as I look into his eyes.
“You okay?” I ask seriously, and he nods, he’s still breathing heavily but he’s with me. Christ, is he with me, my God. I’ve had rough sex with lots of men and some of them enjoyed it as much as me, but never have I been with anybody who arouses this absolutely crazy animal lust in me, as this boy, this man, did tonight. As he’s done several times before.
“You’re. . .amazing,” I tell him, reluctantly. Reluctantly, but he deserves to hear it.
He smiles and reaches for me, I bend down and kiss him gently on the mouth.
“Remember the first time?” he asks, and I do.
“New York.” I throw myself down on my back, slip off the condom which – amazingly – hasn’t broken and toss it in the wastebasket beside the bed, then Justin moves over close beside me, throws an arm over my chest and rests his head on my shoulder.
“Don’t let me fall asleep,” he murmurs, his breath tickling my chin.
“Go to sleep,” I tell him, “Stay tonight.” I want him to stay, I want him to sleep beside me.
“Can’t,” he answers softly. “I have to finish a project that’s due tomorrow. Will you take me home?”
“Okay.” I’m disappointed. “But not yet.”
“Not yet,” he agrees drowsily, and I feel him slip away into sleep, his muscles let go and he’s completely relaxed lying beside me. I can tell I’m not far behind him in falling asleep, but I order myself to wake up in an hour, and I do.
“Justin,” I shake his shoulder; he hasn’t moved an inch in his sleep. “Wake up.”
“Hmm?” his eyes struggle to open and he smiles at me. “I’m really here,” he says, still half-asleep, and something in the way he says it twists my gut. Realizing that he wants very much to be here with me.
And I want him to be here. But I don’t want him to be here. Both at the same time.
“I’m cold,” Justin shivers, so I reach for the comforter and pull it over us. “Have to go home,” he says.
We’re quiet for a moment, then Justin says, “Brian, I need to ask you something. Probably you won’t answer, but I need to ask, anyway.”
Immediately I’m wary, and I pull away slightly so I can see his face. “What?”
“Who’d you have dinner with at that French restaurant?”
“In Harrisburg?” He says yeah and I consider answering. I never think about the past, and I absolutely never talk about it, to anybody. Not – the important stuff anyway. So I have no intention of answering Justin. And yet I do.
“A Frenchman. Henri. He was in Harrisburg on business.”
Justin nodded. “I know you didn’t love each other, you told me already. But somehow that was a happy memory, and I just wondered, why?”
I think for a moment, remembering Henri, remembering his kindness to me, his generosity, his gentleness. I was Justin’s age, nineteen, when I had my little affaire with Henri.
“He was – a good man,” I say at last.
“You liked him, a lot.” When I nod, Justin goes on, “So when he left, you must have been very unhappy?”
That pulls me up short. So that’s it. Justin wants to find out why I’d been suicidal, why I’d climbed to the rooftop and planned to jump off. Of course it is none of his fucking business.
Except that I had dragged him back there with me, for reasons that still are not clear. I took him up on the roof and I let him into that secret part of me that I’d never told anyone about, not even Michael.
“It wasn’t him.”
“Who was it, then?”
I lie still, unmoving, wondering why I’m not cursing out Justin for being so damned nosy. Then I throw back the covers and slip out of bed, grab my black silk robe and tie it around me. I head into the living room, aiming for the liquor cart, but instead I make a ninety-degree turn, go to my desk and grab my keys, then slide back the loft door and go out across the hall into the storeroom.
When I come back a few minutes later, Justin is sitting up in bed and he watches my face as I approach and sit down on the ledge beside him. I shove a piece of paper into his hands, and he looks down at it.
It’s an old photo. A photo of me and James, our arms around each other’s shoulders, laughing for the camera. I can’t believe I kept that picture. I can’t believe that I remembered that I kept that picture. And I really can't believe that I'm showing it to Justin.
He glances at the photo and back at me. “You’re even more beautiful now,” he whispers, and I almost laugh but I realize that he means it sincerely. I say nothing.
“What's his name?”
“James. And no more questions about him. Ever.”
“Okay,” Justin nods solemnly. Then he drops the photo on the bed, rises up on his knees, puts his arms around my neck and hugs me. Wordlessly, thank God.
“I’m taking you home now,” I tell him, and I hear the gruffness in my voice.
“Okay,” Justin agrees. He pulls away from the hug, and then he whispers, “Thanks, Brian.”
“For trusting me,” he says, and we look into each other's eyes for a long moment; then he turns away and slides off the bed, wandering around picking up his clothes off the floor and putting them on.
I get dressed too, and we’re quiet as we leave the loft and head downstairs to the jeep. The streets are crowded with traffic, there was a big game tonight, so I make a left onto Jackson and head for the freeway.
|Queer as Folk FanFic by Morpheus|