QAF FanFiction by Morpheus

Intermission-10:  Six Months

Part 1:  Goodbyes and Hellos


It’s been four days since Justin moved back to his mom’s and the quiet in the loft still surprises me.  I wake up to a silence that used to be so welcome, so peaceful, a blessing really for someone with a perpetual morning-after hangover.  Though I haven’t yet gotten the knack of dosing myself properly.  After months of teetotaling it’s hard to get the hang of heavy drinking again and I don’t seem to enjoy it like I used to.  Maybe I’ll do like Justin suggested and give my liver a break.

I’ve seen him only once since he left, last night when I made my first venture to the diner since the accident.  Michael picked me up, driving’s uncomfortable though I manage to get myself to and from work okay.  My days are still limited – six hours maxes me out, and Justin enlisted Cynthia to be henchman in getting me out of the office before I collapse with fatigue.  Vance has been surprisingly -  ‘considerate’ is not the right word, it implies kindness or compassion and Vance has neither.  But he’s stayed off my back, doubtless because I’ve still managed to produce more business than any three or four of the other execs put together.

The crutches are gone – I wanted a symbolic bonfire but Justin spirited them away before I could set fire to them.  I’m walking with a slight limp but the hospital PT promises that’s temporary.  I’ve been religiously adhering to my tailored workout schedule with her twice weekly and Trevor still comes to the loft three times a week and we follow my prescribed regimen of stretching and strength training.  In a couple weeks I’ll probably be able to return to the gym and get back into that routine finally.

“Bet you’re glad to have the place back to yourself again,” Michael commented, after he’d let himself into the loft and perched on a barstool while I finished getting dressed.  I have to sit down to pull on my jeans.  If I believed in God, I’d think he broke my leg just to humble me, make me appreciate the health and strength I used to take for granted.  Luckily I don’t believe in God, or not very often, so I can be pissed at fate instead.

Ignoring Michael’s comment, I slipped on my boots and zipped them, then limped to the closet to get my jacket.  Justin and I agreed to keep our arrangement private – neither of us needs to have other people poking into our business.  If this thing is going to work – if Justin is going to have a chance to open himself up to new experiences - he doesn’t need to have anybody hassling him.  About anything.

Justin wasn’t supposed to be at the diner, or anyway it wasn’t a time he was scheduled to work, so when we entered and set off the little bell above the door, Michael stopped in his tracks and I bumped into his back then grabbed his shoulders to steady myself.  “Oh shit,” he mumbled, “What’s he doing here?”

I glanced around the diner and quickly located Justin, he was leaning on the counter talking to Deb.  They both looked up at the same time, Deb’s mouth widening into a grin of welcome, Justin’s doing the same but only briefly; a half-second later the smile slipped off his mouth and he looked away.  That twisted my gut.  After the merest pause I limped over to greet them, Michael trailing behind.

“Hey,” I said to either or both of them and Deb went off on an ear-piercing cackle of welcome and high spirits though I didn’t hear a word she said as, unable to stop myself, I reached out a hand and squeezed Justin’s shoulder.  That wasn’t really my fault, it’s almost impossible to keep my hands off him and he’d been in touching range for the past three months, I’m out of practice.  It didn’t mean anything much and I know Justin understands that, but at least it brought the smile back to his face.

Turning to look at Deb, I tried to focus on what she was saying, but it must not have been important because she wasn’t waiting for an answer, then I felt Michael tugging on my jacket.

“Let’s get the corner booth, it’s empty now.”

Nodding, I followed after Michael and we settled on the vinyl seats, I raised my leg and rested my foot on the opposite side, taking the pressure off.  I really don’t have much pain now unless I’m on my feet too long or unless I’m pushed by the sadistic PT, but it feels good to elevate it when I can.  By the time Deb moseyed over to take our order my peripheral vision had shown me that Justin went out the front door of the diner.  I purposely did not wonder where he was going.

“Sunshine dropped by to pick up his check,” Deb cheerfully informed us, though we hadn’t asked.  “What can I get you boys?”

“Just coffee for me,” I told her and set my teeth to endure the subsequent machinations of the North American champion mother-son nagging team.  If I was fucking hungry, I’d order some fucking dinner, wouldn’t I?  I was aided in my attempt to ignore them by the ringing of my cell phone.  Justin’s number blinked at me and I quickly answered.


“Brian?  I’m sorry – I didn’t know you’d be at the diner tonight.”

“Why should you be sorry about that?” 

Deb stood poised with her order pad, both she and Michael shamelessly eavesdropping.

Justin said anxiously, “Well, you said we can’t see each other for a while.”

“Don’t be so literal,” I told him, wanting to be exasperated but giving nothing away to the interested bystanders at the booth.  

“Well,” Justin hesitated, then hurried on, “Well then, we’re bound to run into each other.”  When I said nothing, he added, “Oh Brian – did you order dinner yet?”

“No – “

“You should try the special tonight, salmon brochette, it’s really good.”

“I’ll take that under advisement.”

“You’d like it.”  Justin’s always earnest about dinner.  “By the way,” he added, “You look good, you’re walking easier.  Is your leg feeling better?”

“It’s peachy.”

“Oh, is Michael listening?  Do you want me to hang up now?”

“Yes, that’s a good idea,” I said blandly.   

“Okay, well then, goodbye.” 

I closed the phone and glanced at Deb, who was still holding her pencil poised above the order pad.  She cracked her gum and demanded impatiently, “Are you gonna eat dinner or not?”

“Oh all right,” I sighed, “I’ll have the salmon brochette.”


I still don’t feel right about the car; Mom won’t stop giving me grief about it, she says it’s too much and what can I say when I agree with her?  I tried to tell Brian it made me feel like he was paying me off or something, just for helping him like all the billion times he’s helped me, but as usual Brian doesn’t hear what he doesn’t want to hear.

It was our last night in the loft before I moved back home and I was feeling almost sick like maybe I was getting the flu.  I wanted to cook a special dinner but Brian wouldn’t let me, he was just incredibly grouchy all day and when I said I was going to fix dinner he growled at me, “Don’t make it a fucking special occasion,” which almost pushed me over the edge.  I went into the bathroom for a while to calm down, I never expected Brian to come after me.

I washed my face and turned my back to the mirror so I wouldn’t have to look until I knew my face was normal, I’d only been there a few minutes when Brian pushed open the door.  He stood there a minute, we just looked at each other not saying anything, then he said quietly, “Justin, I couldn’t eat anything tonight.”


“Come here for a minute,” he said before turning away, limping over to his desk and sitting in the chair.  Standing too long is hard for him so I dragged a chair over and sat beside him.

“I’ve arranged something and I don’t want to hear any bullshit about it.”


Brian leaned forward and toyed with the computer mouse; he can’t ever be still, his hands are always touching something, picking things up, putting them down. 

“When you took me to pick up my new jeep today and I told you to follow me home in the Accord instead of dropping it off at the Honda dealer, the reason for that was, I’m loaning you the car.”

“Loaning me the car?  The Accord?” 

Brian nodded and I asked, “What for?”

“For a year.”

“I don’t understand,” I told him, though I was beginning to.

“When I got the Accord I paid for a year’s lease, it was almost cheaper really than paying month by month for a rental, and I wasn’t sure how long I’d need it.  So – it’s paid for, and I want you to keep it.” 

“Brian, I can’t keep your car.  I don’t even want to.”

“Don’t be stupid, Justin, of course you want a car.  You need a car, running from school to the diner and out to your mom’s condo.”

I was agitated and scooted forward to the edge of the chair.  “Brian, you can’t give me a car!”

He shook his head.  “I’m not giving you a car, I’m just loaning you a car.  For a year, then you have to give it back.”

I stared at him, suddenly feeling dizzy and sick.  “You’re – you’re like trying to REWARD me, for helping you out.  Do you know how awful that is?”

“I am not fucking rewarding you, Justin.”  The more agitated I got, the more relaxed Brian seemed to become.  He leaned back in the chair and raised his supercilious eyebrows at me.  “What if I was, anyway?  I’m not, but what if I was?  What’s so terrible about that?”

“Because!” I almost shouted at him, jumping up and starting to pace around the desk.  “Because it’s like putting a price tag on us helping each other.  When you took me in after my dad kicked me out, I didn’t buy you a fucking car, Brian!”

“Maybe you should have,” he said, the corners of his mouth twitching.  “After all, your dad wrecked my jeep.”  He nodded and said again, “You should have bought me a car.”

“Don’t make fun of me,” I threatened him from my stance by the door.

Brian stretched out his hand to me.  “Stop being a drama princess and come back here, would you?  I’m getting a crick in my neck watching you stomp all around the loft.”

Without moving an inch, I insisted, “I am not taking the car.”

“Okay,” he gave in, turning his back to me and logging on to the computer.  As his screensaver came on, he said, “I’ll just leave it parked in the garage till the lease is up.”

“That’s stupid.”

He nodded, still not looking at me.  “I don’t know what else to do with it.”  He was silent for a moment, then he said, “Oh – maybe Michael would like to have it?  His old car’s always breaking down.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, “Give it to Michael.”

“Okay.”  Brian picked up the phone and punched a code.  A moment later he said, “Hey, Mikey, what’s up?”

I sauntered over and sat back down in my chair.

“I just called to tell you I got my new jeep today, it’s fully loaded and fucking beautiful.”

“Brian – “ I interrupted, but he held up a hand to silence me.

“Mikey – I need to ask you a question.”

“Brian – “

“Mikey, do you – “

“Brian, wait.”  I grabbed his arm and shook it. 

“Hold on a second,” Brian said into the phone, then turned to look at me inquiringly.  “Hmm?”

“Maybe I will.  After all.” 

Nodding, Brian said, “Okay.  Oh – Michael?  I’ll have to get back to you tomorrow.  Oh no, it wasn’t important.  Bye.”  He hung up the phone and turned sideways in his chair.  “Good.  Then it’s settled.”

I just stared at him, knowing he’d tricked me into taking the car.  I do need a car and I can’t afford one of course, with only a part-time job at the diner and new college expenses popping up all the time.  Then it occurred to me that I’d have to pay insurance, how was I going to pay for insurance?

“If you’re thinking about insurance,” Brian interrupted my thoughts, almost like he was reading them, “The car’s insured already, it’s part of the lease package.”

“It is?”  That didn’t sound right somehow.  “But – “

“Maybe I can eat something after all,” Brian stood up and stretched, then limped into the kitchen.  “Would you fix scrambled eggs?  I’ll make the toast.”

“Sure,” I agreed enthusiastically, suddenly starving.  I opened the fridge, pulling out the egg carton.  One of our favorite easy dinners is just eggs and toast, and plenty of Brian’s killer-caffeine coffee.  He sat at the counter next to the toaster and I got out a skillet and the low-fat margarine.


The last night with Justin was difficult.  I tried like hell to keep him from making it seem momentous, I wanted it to be ordinary, just another Sunday night.  He hassled me about the car like I knew he would but in the end we settled the matter and moved into the kitchen to fix dinner together.  Somehow Justin talked me into watching Yellow Submarine with him, sitting side by side on the sofa.  After a while Justin laid down with his head in my lap, he loves to have his head massaged, and long before the Blue Meanies were subdued Justin had fallen asleep.

So I was trapped there on the sofa, with nothing to do until Justin woke up except think about things.  I hate thinking about things.  He woke up when the end credits were rolling, sat up, rubbed his eyes, and before either of us could get maudlin I said quickly, “Bed time.”  I got to my feet and felt him trailing silently behind me.

“Can I sleep with you?” he asked, and though I knew it was a bad idea of course I said yes.  What’s funny is, we didn’t even have sex.  We started out kissing but after a few minutes I felt Justin pull away, then he turned around and scooted backwards into my arms.  I held him tight and felt the battle going on inside him not to cry.  I never cry of course, but I knew how Justin was feeling - I didn’t feel all that great myself.  I knew it would pass eventually, bad things always do.  

Next morning we overslept.  I forgot to set the alarm so we were in a rush, which worked out well.  We grabbed a quick shower together and Justin laid my clothes out while I shaved, then we dressed quickly and headed out the door and rode down the elevator together.  There was no time for breakfast but I promised to let Cynthia get something for me later.  We said goodbye in the garage.  I pulled him into a hug and said crisply, “I wouldn’t have survived without your help, Justin – “

“Yeah, you would’ve,” his voice was muffled against my jacket, then he pulled back and forced a laugh, “But you’d have murdered a few dozen people along the way.”


We pulled apart and I turned away quickly, waving at him over my shoulder.  “Drive carefully.”

“You – you, too.”  There was a catch in his voice but I was proud of him for controlling his emotions.  I heard his footsteps going away from me, and somehow that was the hardest part of the whole thing.  Just hearing his footsteps going away.


My timing was good.  That’s what I should be thinking.  I’d just come in the front door of Woody’s – right in time to see Brian going out the back door.  With a trick of course.  So my timing was good, I didn’t have to watch all the guys hitting on him.  I wasn’t really expecting him to be tricking already, he’s only been on his own for a week, off the crutches a few days longer than that. 

I didn’t have to wonder if the trick would mind that Brian isn’t quite a hundred percent yet – ten percent of Brian would be more than enough for most guys.  I’m experienced enough now to really appreciate how great Brian is in bed – which of course I always appreciated but I didn’t have anything to compare him to.  Counting Ethan, counting the frat guy (and counting those rat bastards Kip Thomas and Gary Sapperstein as one-half each), I’ve had sex with more than a dozen men now.  Sixteen in fact.  Most of those times were sharing with Brian, but despite not really liking it very much, it was a good learning experience.  That’s one way to look at it.

Of course I didn’t come to Woody’s to run into Brian – actually, I never expected him to be going out at night already.  I saw Michael talking to Ted at a table in the corner but I pretended not to notice them.  All I need is Michael lording it over me that Brian’s pushed me away again.  We agreed not to tell anybody about this six month business, so I have to act like Brian and I are just going to be friends now.

What’s kind of funny is, that we are friends now.  He’s told me that a couple times, coming right out and saying that I’m his friend.  Brian doesn’t have a lot of friends so that’s really a big deal.  And it means he finally sees me as something other than a nice ass he likes to fuck.  I had a lot bigger hopes than that last year, till everything fell apart.  A lot of that was my fault.  I should never have gone along with Brian, I should never have agreed to keep our relationship so wide open.  I pretended to Brian – and worse, I pretended to myself – that I was okay with that.  I wasn’t.  It made me miserable and I should either have demanded some changes or walked.  I have no doubt that ‘walked’ is what I would have had to do.  But I’d have been no worse off than I am now.

Turning toward the bar, I decided to have a couple shots and go on home.  I’d thought about shooting some pool but I didn’t know any of the guys who were playing and I wasn’t about to ask Michael or Ted.  As I sat on a barstool I felt a tap on my shoulder and looking up I was surprised to see Mr. Cooper, the teacher I’d had for design class my first term at PIFA.

“Justin,” he smiled at me, “I thought I recognized you!”

“Mr. Cooper, hi,” I stuck out my hand and we shook. 

“Lawrence, please, we’re not at school now.  Can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure, I guess so.”  It felt strange to be having a drink in a gay bar with my teacher.  Former teacher.

Lawrence hoisted himself onto the barstool next to me and while he talked to the bartender I had a chance to really look at him.  When I was a kid I always thought of my teachers as old, but of course now that I’m in college I can relate to people of all ages.  Mr. Cooper – Lawrence – seemed to be somewhere between thirty and forty, but I’m not a good judge of ages.  I hate when people ask, ‘Well how old do you think I am?’ because no matter what you say they get pissed.  Anyway, Lawrence looked like he was in good shape; he was wearing jeans and a black v-neck sweater over a red shirt, he had dark hair curling over the collar of his shirt.

While the bartender poured our drinks, Lawrence turned back to me and said, “So how’re your classes this year?  Did you get Bethany for second-year design?”  I made a face and he laughed.  “That answers my question!  He’s been at PIFA forever, he’s got tenure, they’ll never get rid of him.”

“He’s so fucking conservative!” I exclaimed, “Everything by the book, no initiative allowed.  It’s like saying, ‘Don’t color outside the lines.’  I’m thinking of dropping his class.”

“Ah, stick it out, you’ve come this far.  Here we are.”  Lawrence took the drinks from the bartender and handed me my glass.  “Salut!”  We clinked glasses and I tossed back my shot, then took a sip of beer.

Lawrence tossed back his shot too, then he asked, “Are you exhibiting in the student show next month?  I saw your triptych paintings at the last show and I was very impressed.  Are you continuing with that technique?”

“Really?” I was flattered, Mr. Cooper – Lawrence – is an artist in his own right, he shared slides of some of his paintings with the class last year, they were really good.  “No, actually I didn’t like the triptych style very much, it was too limiting.  You really liked them?”

“Sure did.”  Lawrence leaned an elbow on the bar and said earnestly, “I was going to buy the red one – the one you called ‘Three Kisses’ I believe?  But when I went back later, it was gone.”

That was the painting Ethan bought.  Or actually I gave it to him.  For a song.

“What did I say?” Lawrence asked quickly, and I realized that my damned non-poker-face must have shown the – sadness, or something – that I was feeling, remembering Ethan.  And all that came after.

“Nothing, it’s okay,” I made myself smile at him. “Anyway, I’m not doing that style any more.  I’m in Jamerson’s watercolor class and I’m liking it a lot more than I thought I would.  So I’ll probably exhibit one or two of my watercolors.”

Lawrence nodded.  “Your hand must be better, if you’re painting more?”  When I hesitated, he added, “If you don’t mind talking about it?”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” I assured him; it’s the truth.  “And it is better, though it’s still a little weak and gets tired easily.”

“Then I don’t suppose you’d like a game of pool?” Lawrence asked tentatively.  “The tables were full at Jake’s – that’s my usual hangout - so I thought I’d check out Woody’s.”

“I’d love a game,” I agreed enthusiastically; I hadn’t played pool since the accident.  Brian taught me so I’m pretty good, and I thought I could probably hold my own with an older guy.  As soon as a table freed up we started playing and it turned out that Lawrence was a hell of a good player.  He beat me two games out of three, and the third was a real squeaker.

While we were playing Lawrence told me about his sabbatical two years before, he’d taken a  year off to paint in the south of France.  “Every artist’s dream,” he’d smiled and I sighed; it was my dream too.  I enjoyed his stories about the locals and how they were so sick of American painters descending on the countryside around Arles, imagining they could all become Vincent Van Gogh while they were on summer holiday.  Lawrence laughed a lot and it felt good chatting with him about art and about PIFA – he had some scandalous stories to tell about some of the other teachers, most of whom he identified merely as ‘Professor X’ or ‘Professor Y-Not.’

I had plenty of time to study Lawrence while we played.  I remembered staring at him in class sometimes – I knew he was gay, he talked about it openly which I thought was cool.  He’s beautiful in a sort of rough-edged way, tall with muscular shoulders and curly dark hair.  We each bought a round of drinks while we played but after the third game I waved away Lawrence’s offer of another shot.  “Better not,” I said, “I’m driving.”  I looked at my watch, it was after midnight.  “And I need to be driving now.  I promised a friend I’d help her move in the morning and she’s an early bird.”  Daphne was moving back home for a while, to save money and to bring up her grades; too much partying with friends was taking a toll.

“This was fun.”  Lawrence took my cue and racked it for me, “I’m glad we ran into each other.”

“Me too.”  I pulled my jacket from the back of a nearby chair and shrugged it on.  Lawrence reached over to straighten my collar and I said, “Maybe we can do it again some time, I don’t have anybody to play with right now.”

“Really?” he said, “How about next Friday?  And how about dinner first?  There’s a great Vietnamese restaurant on Washburn Avenue I’ve been wanting to try.”

“I’ve never had Vietnamese,” I hedged, suddenly realizing that Lawrence was talking about a date.  Or that’s what it sounded like.  “You mean – sort of like a date?” I asked as I zipped up my jacket. 

“Yes, sort of like a date.  Exactly like a date.”  He pulled on his own jacket, dark brown leather with fringe across the shoulders.  “That is, if you don’t mind dating your teacher?  Former teacher, I should say – so it’s not like immoral fraternizing.”

“Yeah, okay.  I guess that’s okay.”  I was surprised, I hadn’t been thinking of Lawrence in that way.

“Maybe you don’t like older men?”

“Yeah I do.”  We were headed toward the door and I stopped just outside on the top of the steps.  “How much older?”

Lawrence bowed his head and chuckled.  “I’m thirty-four.  Do I make the cut?”

“Yeah, sure.  Why not.”   We exchanged cell phone numbers, and Lawrence promised to call Thursday to confirm, and to give me directions to the restaurant.  I didn’t want him picking me up at home. 

Lawrence walked me to my car and we shook hands.  I wondered if he’d try to kiss me or something but he didn’t, just closed the door for me and waved as I drove away.  It felt really strange driving home, to realize that dinner with Lawrence next week would be the first real official date I’ve ever had.


I can’t wait to tell Brian about Justin picking up that guy at Woody’s last night.  I’m glad Brian’s eyes are open about that kid, he’s such a liar and a cheat.  Oh, I know Justin’s not living with Brian any more, and I know that that ‘relationship’ crap is over with.  But it still feels to me like Justin’s screwing around on him.  I wonder what Brian will say?