Come on, sonnyboy, you can do this.

Fuck, somebody bumped into him.  Heís tensing up, heís. . .no, heís all right.

Take a deep breath.  Not Justin.  Me.

His headís up, heís starting to smile.  I feel my face responding, smiling back at him.  I feel my arms open up and reach out to him.  He throws himself into my arms with a laugh only slightly tremulous, we hug each other, laugh out loud.  I tell him I knew he would make it.  A lie, but he needed to hear it.

Now heís walking away, alone, on his own.  Now I know he can make it, and so does he.   Yet I need to watch him for a while, so I follow along behind, keeping plenty of pedestrians between us in case he turns around.  After two blocks, three, I let him disappear; heíll be all right.

Will I be all right?

Who is this stranger, this alien Brian Kinney?  Canít be me.

We are NOT having a relationship.  Iíve made that clear, Iím pretty sure he understands.  No matter who this alien Brian Kinney might be, Iím still in control.  Ninety percent of the time anyway. 

I walk back to the jeep, get in, start the engine.  Then turn it off.  Iím not going to that fucking phony awards banquet, I never intended to.  I could have told Linds and Mel, but theyíre the ones who got me into that mess, let them squirm.  Hero!  Fucking hero!  I didnít save Justin.  He doesnít blame me, and the others are maybe starting to forgive me.  Not that I care, or need anybodyís forgiveness.  Maybe hers.  Jennifer.  But thatís not fucking likely.

She asked me to take Justin and truthfully, I wanted to.  I can admit that to myself.  And not only out of guilt and a need to help him, but for my own sake.  Justin wasnít the only one who needed help.  People who donít think Iím self-analytical would be shocked to know that sometimes I am.  Not often.  Sometimes.

Michael called me a fucking fall-down mess.  So maybe sometimes I got a little carried away with the drinking.  Not that I couldnít handle it, but there were a couple times I woke up in the jeep and couldnít remember where I was.  Yet somehow I always managed to make it to the hospital.  Going to that hospital every night, watching over Justin like some demented, clipped-wing guardian angel, kept me back from the edge.

What surprises me now is to remember how totally sure I was that Justin would blame me too.  Maybe if heíd remembered that night right away, he would have blamed me.  No, thatís not true.  Justin would never have blamed me, that was me projecting my own feelings of guilt onto him.  Justin loves me.  Which totally scares the shit out of me most of the time.

Scares me because I donít want it, I donít need it, I am not a man to love or be loved.  I made a conscious decision many years ago to turn away from that romantic bullshit and live honestly, with myself and everyone else.  Love is a crutch and a catch-all, an excuse that gives license to the most outrageous behavior.  I wonít be its object.  Not even for Justin.

Somehow I can accept Michaelís love.  Maybe because he loved me long before I built up my walls.  Heís the only one who has been inside me, inside my defenses.  Sometimes Justin slips under my guard too, though I was able to ward him off for a long, long time.  Although I never let on, Justin touched me quite a few times, before the bashing.  The courage of this kid is unbelievable.

He is a kid, and his childishness still pops out sometimes.  Heís matured so much this year though.  Maybe thatís normal for teenagers, or more likely, all the shit heís been through this year has forced him to grow up fast.  Iíll never forget his bravado when Iíd tracked him down to the hotel in New York.  Pretending to be brash and carefree, yet quaking beneath the faÁade.  Despite his fear of consequences, he opened himself up to me, opened his robe and opened his body and sucked me in with that seductive smile.  Jesus, that courage took my breath away.  Was that when I was hooked?

Justin is strong, I donít think most people realize that about him.  He appears so young, so sweet, so soft.  But heís a tiger.  No, not a tiger Ė thatís a crude and facile image, and diminishes him.  Heís just a man, but heís more of a man than most men Iíve known my entire life. 

Heís also a pain in the ass.  He thinks heís sly, trying to be my conscience.  He knows about the rift thatís been growing between me and Michael, of course he knows, heís fucking observant and fucking intuitive.  A professor said once that intuition is half of intelligence Ė an unconscious observance of life going on around you, incorporated into reasoning and thought.  Something like that.  And Justinís keenly aware of other people, their motivations, their relationships.  We talked about it once, and he told me that I am, too.  That surprised me, because, in spite of everything, I think itís true.

He joked today that I should hang with people my own age.  That remark was a double-edged sword to me because I know he was teasing and yet, like most jests, there was enough truth in it to hit home.  Thinking he was being subtle, he meant that I should spend some time with Michael.  While I laughed at his joke, I felt a distant chill.  Iím so much older than him.  He himself needs to be with people his own age. 

Another reminder to stay detached.  Except, Iím past detachment.  The attack in the garage pushed me way past detachment. 

No, no. If Iím going to be honest, I have to admit that I was way past detachment when I walked into the prom and led him onto the dance floor.

Justinís on to me, heís said it before.  But Iím on to him, too.  He thinks he needs to give me a nudge toward Michael.  Heís smart enough to plant his little seed and move quickly on, as if I wonít notice the nudge.  Heís done it before, and each time it takes my breath away.  How can he see inside my head?

Iíve managed to sufficiently intimidate most people to some degree over the years - friends and family - to the point that they donít third-degree me about my life.  I donít owe anybody any answers or explanations, or what Debbie likes to call my Ďintentionsí  toward Justin -  like Iím some suitor in one of her cheap romance novels.  So most people donít dare to question me about Justin, or about whatever the fuck thing (itís not a Ďrelationshipí) weíre having right now.  Linds crosses the line sometimes but she knows when to stop.  Michael doesnít ask me about Justin at all.  About our thing.  Fuck.  I donít want to call it a relationship.  There must be a word for this. . .thing that is going on between us.  Justin would call it love, though heís careful to avoid that word.  I donít know what to call it.

I canít believe Iím walking around the streets of Pittsburgh, holding hands with this beautiful boy, hugging him, kissing him, in front of every stranger passing by in the crowd.  I canít believe that I want to hug him, kiss him like that.  I feel my mouth smiling at him and I canít make it stop.  Sometimes I try to look away, but he pulls me back like a magnet.  My arms go around him of their own volition, and this Ė something feeling Ė rises up in my chest like an enormous helium balloon, practically lifting me off my feet.  Fuck.  I donít like it.

Control is everything in life.  If youíre out of control, youíre lost.  When I put my arms around him, when his incredible blue eyes smile at me, when our mouths crush together, I start spinning out of control.  I donít like it.  I donít want it.  I donít need it.  I donít!