QAF FanFic by Morpheus
The Prisoner of Tremont Street
Part 6: HOMECOMING
Finally everyone’s gone home and I feel myself almost sinking into oblivion on my bed. I don't have to pretend for awhile that I'm feeling fine, I don't have to expend what little energy I have left keeping hold of my temper so I don't lash out at the hands that are, God forbid, feeding me. Only Justin is still here with me now, and while I don't want him to know how fucking amazingly exhausted I am, I realize that he's going to figure it out anyway, so maybe I can just relax the tenuous hold I have on my dignity and let go. Just sink into that oblivion and leave everything up to him.
Before I can give in to the exhaustion pulling at me, I really have to piss. I can't possibly get up - I could not get up if the loft were on fire - so I call out to him, my voice revoltingly weak and helpless sounding. "Justin - "
Immediately he stops whatever he was doing in the living room and hurries to the side of the bed. I look up at him and he seems so far away, impossibly tall like a redwood-tree version of Justin towering over the bed, and I almost get lost in the branches of the tree, the light from the kitchen fanning around loose tendrils of his hair like shining leaves, and I forget why I called out to him. “Grow where you’re planted,” I hear myself mumble.
"Brian, what do you need - a drink of water?" he asks solicitously, crouching down so he's almost at eye level with me. For a moment I can't remember why I called him, then the pressure on my bladder reminds me.
"Okay, do you want to go into the bathroom, or – “
“I'll get the jug thing, wait a sec - " and he's gone with the speed of light, just whoosh! One minute he's beside me, the next there's an empty space by the bed where his tree trunk was rooted. I blink my eyes once and whoosh! he's here again, gently pulling back the duvet, then pulling aside some robe-thing I am mysteriously wearing. I sleep naked, why am I wearing a robe? I'm distracted from the task at hand and I close my eyes, it's too hard to figure out where this robe-thing came from. It’s green. “Leaf green,” I announce to Justin. “Funny.”
Justin’s ignoring me. "Can you hold it?" his voice calls me back from the edge of the forest, and I open my eyes again. Hold what? Oh, I see the piss jug in his hands.
I don't think so. In fact I’m pretty sure I can't. "No," I say finally, I barely hear my voice but I can feel my head shaking no. “My branches are tired.”
"Brian, I'll hold it, okay?" He doesn't wait for an answer, but takes hold of my cock and pushes it into the opening in the piss-bottle. It's like peeing into a half-gallon milk jug and somehow it feels so very wrong; somehow it feels like my mom is going to come up behind me, catch me peeing into the milk jug and slap me on the side of the head.
“Sorry, Mom,” I whisper, though I know she’s not here.
I was going to help Justin hold my dick, but it's all just too much effort. I feel my bladder let go and I shudder slightly as I relax and piss into the jug. I lose track of what I'm doing so it's a surprise when I hear Justin's voice asking, "All done?" I feel him pull the jug away, and a moment later I feel him touch the end of my dick with a Kleenex. Blot-blot. Kleenex is made of paper and paper is made of trees. That strikes me as hilariously funny but I’m too tired to laugh. I keep my eyes closed as he rearranges my dick and pulls the covers back over me.
He's gone for a minute, maybe dumping my piss in the toilet, then he's back, I don't open my eyes but I can feel him standing there, towering over me again, tree-like. "Sleep?" I murmur, as if I'm asking permission, and when I slit my eyes open, I see that once again he has crouched down beside me.
"Brian - I’m worried about that champagne you drank. You're not supposed to drink when you're taking medication. Maybe I should call the doctor. You're scaring me."
Christ, I come almost-awake for a moment and stare hard at him as if he's gone crazy. "Always have," I mumble. "Only one glass, no big deal. Jus' need to sleep." When he's silent, I raise my eyes to his and I see worry reflected there. "S'okay," I promise him, "Jus' sleep." Then my eyes are too fucking heavy to stay open, they fall shut with a silent bang! and I'm gone.
"Michael? It's Justin. Can you call me? At Brian's." I leave a message on his cell, hang up and stand by the desk chewing my thumbnail. I know that Brian has always mixed drugs and alcohol, and he assured me it was no big deal to drink a glass of champagne during the really-bad-idea homecoming party. Nobody at the party seemed to think anything of it, but now Brian seems so out of it that I'm getting a little worried. I've never seen him this weirded out.
Within moments the phone rings under my hand, making me jump. "Hello?"
"It's Michael. What's wrong?"
I hesitate. “Probably nothing. But I thought I should check with somebody, because Brian's kind of - kind of out of it."
"What are you talking about? What do you mean, 'out of it?'"
"I don't know," I admit, realizing that I sound like an idiot. "Like maybe just passed out, but in a scary kind of way."
"Scary enough to call an ambulance?"
"N-no," I say.
"I'll be there in five minutes." Michael hangs up before I can say anything else. I tiptoe back up to the bedroom to look at Brian, and he seems okay, he's unmoving but breathing heavily.
In seven and a half minutes I hear the loft door being pushed back and I stop pacing between the kitchen and the living room and hurry to greet Michael.
"He's in bed?" Michael asks without preamble, glancing toward the bedroom. "What's wrong?"
"Probably nothing," I shove my hands in my pockets. "He just kind of passed out. He had a glass of champagne at the party, and you know he's taking pain meds. He said some really weird stuff, before he passed out. It just kind of worried me."
"Okay, let me see him." Michael leads the way.
Right on his heels, I whisper, "Brian told me he was okay, but I thought I should check with somebody else just in case."
Michael crouches down beside the bed and studies Brian's sleeping face. Slowly he lifts the duvet enough to reveal Brian's arm, and holds his finger on the wrist pulse-point for a minute, then he lets go and very slowly and gently lifts one of Brian's eyelids. I'm afraid Brian will wake up, but he doesn't. Then Michael stands up and leads the way back to the living room.
"He's okay," Michael says, "Just passed out. You're sure he had only one glass of champagne?" When I nod yes, he continues. "You lived with him for almost a year and you never saw Brian pass out before?"
"Well, sure, a couple times, but not like this. He got really drunk – fall-down drunk – two or three times, but I don’t think he was taking drugs those times. And it says right on the Vicodin bottle not to mix with alcohol. I asked him not to, at the party but, well, you know Brian - "
"Yeah, I know Brian." Michael pauses, then adds, "Well, he's okay, just keep an eye on him. And call me if anything changes."
"Thanks, Michael. I'm sorry I bothered you for nothing."
We stare at each other, and then Michael says, "I'm glad you called me - it's not a bother. It was - very responsible."
With an inward sigh I smile at him, I was so sure he would chew me out. I follow him to the door but he stops abruptly and turns around to look at me.
"Justin - I'm just curious. You said Brian never passed out from drugs while you were living with him? Just booze?"
"No. I mean, he drank a lot. Well, you know - a lot. In the beginning he was taking a bunch of different drugs too, stuff I never even heard of, he had a whole box full of little pills and things. But this one time when he first let me start trying stuff, I got pretty messed up. Like an OD, only not quite? It freaked him out."
I realize I shouldn't be telling secrets to Michael, but I can't just leave it hanging, I have to explain. "Well, after that - at least when we were together - we both stuck to pot and E, nothing else. Oh, a bump sometimes, you know. Maybe Brian took stuff when he was with other guys, but I never saw him messed up. Drunk yeah, but not, you know, messed up."
"Hmm." Michael's looking at me, I can’t tell what he’s thinking. "Well, okay,” he says, zipping up his jacket. “Give me a call if you need to. Any time."
"Thanks, Michael." He turns and heads off down the stairs, then I close the door and go back to clearing up the after-party mess in the living room.
Driving back to Ben’s place, I’m trying to remember the last time I saw Brian really messed up on drugs. It’s true that he used to take anything and everything, and always drinking like a fish along with it. Dozens of times I’d put Brian to bed and watched him pass out, and it used to scare me like it scared Justin tonight, till I got used to it. Brian himself told me what to watch out for – rapid pulse, cold sweat, dilated pupils. I checked him out tonight and he was okay, just sleeping heavily.
Once Justin started monopolizing Brian and I wasn’t the one always driving him home and putting him to bed, I just assumed that Brian continued abusing every drug under the sun, after all, his boytoy didn’t stop him from fucking other guys every night of the week, so why would Brian change anything else?
The last time I remember seeing Brian messed up was the night Justin got out of the hospital and came looking for Brian at Woody’s. That was the worst, the absolute worst I’ve ever seen Brian, it shocked and scared me and made me mad at him, all at the same time. When I’d accidentally seen that bloody scarf around Brian’s neck and I knew he was punishing himself for Justin’s bashing, what I remember most is that I was mad at Justin. If he’d just stayed away from Brian like I warned him long ago, none of that would have happened. I know the bashing wasn’t Justin’s fault, but everything before and after it was.
And now here was Justin AGAIN living in Brian’s loft. I don’t understand, I’ve tried but I just don’t get it. What is it about one damn skinny teenager that makes Brian keep coming back for more? The kid’s lied and cheated – he even stole Brian’s credit card when he ran away to New York. And there’s Brian – the smartest guy I’ve ever known, the guy who could have any man in Pittsburgh – letting that little blond brat jerk him around.
Taking slow deep breaths from the diaphragm like Ben taught me, I try to calm myself down before I get to his place. I’m not mad that Justin called me tonight, in fact I’m glad he did, and I told him it was very responsible. It’s just that every time he’s around, bad things happen to Brian.
I told Deb the homecoming party was a bad idea, I tried to get her to change Michael’s mind, but though she agreed with me she wouldn’t argue with him. They’re treading softly around each other while they work out this Ben relationship thing, being careful of each other’s feelings. It won’t last very long of course, but for a while at least they’re not arguing. Justin had been against the party idea too, but since he and Michael barely get along these days, Justin backed away from an outright battle and let Michael have his way.
Now I realize that I should have leaned on Michael myself, tried to talk him out of it. Nobody knows better than me what it feels like to be an invalid surrounded by well-meaning but pushy family and friends, determined to cheer you up whether you want to be cheered or not. And most people have no clue how much energy it takes just to sit back and not scream at them all to go away. I read that in Brian’s eyes this afternoon, and it made me flash back to my own experiences; I really felt bad for him and did my best to end the party as soon as possible.
Justin was also chomping at the bit, I could tell how anxious he was, and at one point I pulled him aside. We had a whispered confab and decided to just ask people one by one to leave without making a to-do about it, which would have really annoyed Brian – he was trying so hard to pretend that he felt fine, and all it takes with Brian is to tell him he can’t do something to make him determined to prove that he can. If we’d said, ‘Brian’s tired now, go home,’ Brian would have pitched a fit and exhausted himself even more trying to prove he was not exhausted.
Brian can sit in a wheelchair, but he can’t get in and out of a car, so he’d had to come home by ambulance. Most folks were already at the loft when Justin and Michael wheeled him out of the elevator and in through the door. One look at Brian’s horrified face when he beheld the massed crowd and the balloons decorating the apartment was enough to reveal his mental state – the poor man just wanted to be left alone to recover from the trip home from the hospital, and here he was forced to be the center of attention at a party. Give the man credit, Brian tried to mask his dismay and settle down (with gritted teeth) to endure the party in his honor, but of course Brian’s reputation for rudeness allowed him to grump a bit without surprising anybody.
I’d been recruited as bartender, Lindsay and Deb had organized decorations and refreshments, and Michael invited half the regulars at Woody’s, who mostly showed up just to get a look at Brian’s place and to gorge on free food and liquor. They were the hardest to get rid of, but after a couple hours the loft was nearly empty, Brian was almost falling out of the wheelchair and he finally allowed Justin and Michael to help him get in bed. Naturally we offered to help clean up the place, but Justin was adamant that everything just be left and the lights turned out so Brian could rest. In the car driving home, Deb agreed that the party had been a mistake, Brian looked absolutely done in when we said our goodbyes.
It’s a funny thing, Brian letting Justin stay at the loft to look after him. In some ways it’s an obvious choice – Justin has fewer commitments than most folks; but in reality, it’s also very strange. I don’t pretend to know Brian as well as Michael and Deb do, but I’ve been an observer and a sidelines participant in Brian’s life since he was a teenager. And knowing Brian the way that I do, I really could not believe he would ever forgive Justin for leaving him.
Deb had been convinced that Brian was madly in love with Justin, and while she was practical enough to see the inevitable problems in that relationship, she’d been sure that the boys would work things out. But that was before we found out Justin was cheating on Brian, and then actually walked out on him - running off with a musician, a boy his own age. Justin moved out of the loft and in with his mother and that was that. Deb found out a while back that Justin’s fling with the musician was over, but neither she, nor I, nor anybody in the world who knows Brian Kinney would have dreamed that Brian would ever speak to Justin again.
And yet – it’s come out that Brian and Justin have been seeing each other, for a while now apparently. I’d sure like to know how that happened. Justin was in the car crash with Brian, and in the aftermath he’s taken on the role of nurse and caretaker. And Brian is letting him. In a few days when Brian’s settled into a routine at home, I think I’ll pay him a visit alone and see if I can find out what’s going on. I’m not nosey, just interested.
Okay, so I’m nosey.
All night long I kept waking up, I’m almost sorry I wouldn’t let Justin rent a hospital bed for me, I could not get comfortable. The first time I woke up I forgot where I was, and moved my hand all over the bed trying to find the call button for the nurse, muttering “Fuck fuck fuck.”
Next thing I knew, Justin’s head magically appeared next to the bed. “I’m here, Brian.”
“Genie in the bottle,” I said, not realizing I was talking out loud.
It felt like I’d rubbed a bottle and Justin had popped out, but it was too hard to explain. I could only ask, “Why’re you at the hospital so late?”
“You’re home, Brian, we’re at the loft,” he explained, and when I glanced around, I realized that he was right. A few dim lights were on around the loft and I could see familiar shadows.
“Why’re you on the floor?” My brain was working very slowly.
He was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, an airbed actually, pulled up close to my side of the bed in case I needed him in the night. As it turned out I did.
“What do you need, Brian?”
It was crazy, but in a way I wished I was still in the hospital. They won’t let you eat and drink things that will make you sick, they won’t let you smoke and drink, and they only let two people at a time into your room, so you don’t get exhausted trying not to kill them.
Justin stood up then, and the motion of him rising from the ground to tower over me added to the nausea I was feeling. “I’ll get that bedpan thing,” he offered, but I stopped him by reaching out to grab his hand.
“Get up,” I insisted.
He hesitated, then said, “Okay, let me get some lights on, can you wait a minute?”
“Yes,” I nodded, “But move slowly. Making me dizzy.”
He moved away then, slowly, and flipped on the bedroom lights and leaned in to switch the bathroom light on also. Then he came back around the bed and carefully pulled back the covers all the way off my legs. I struggled to rise up but immediately Justin said, “Stop, Brian! Do it the way we practiced, remember? And wait for me to start.”
Oh yeah, I forgot.
Justin knelt beside me on the ledge of the bed, leaning over to slide an arm under my back. He took my right hand in his left hand and said, “Okay, now sit up very slowly, steady with my hand behind you.” I held on tight to his hand and slowly lifted myself up, his other arm behind me supporting my back. In a moment I was sitting upright and I sighed with relief.
“Now slowly swivel your hips toward me, keep both your legs locked together. Move them as a unit.” He sounded exactly like the drill sergeant nurse who made us practice in the hospital. Surprisingly it worked, with only a mild twinge of pain in my leg. Once I was on the bed ledge, Justin made me wait while he kicked his mattress out of the way and brought over the wheelchair.
“Now grab both my hands,” he said, and when I did, he instructed, “And taking all the weight on your right leg, stand up.” I held my breath while making this maneuver, and I realized Justin did too when we exhaled twin whooshes of air at the same time. Finally I was standing upright, though very shaky. Keeping one hand on my arm to steady me, Justin brought the wheelchair close behind me and set the lock so it couldn’t move, then he came around in front and, holding both my hands, guided me to sit down on the chair seat.
We both whooshed big sighs again, then Justin wheeled me into the bathroom, the chair just barely clearing the door frame. I became aware again of the hideous green robe thing I was wearing. “What the fuck is this?” I asked, twisting my head to look at Justin over my shoulder.
“It’s a hospital gown, they sent a couple home with us, they’re easier to manage than pajamas and stuff.”
“Pajamas? My last pajamas had Batman on them, you know I don’t wear pajamas.”
Justin parked the chair and locked the wheels again. “You need something to wear around the house, these are lightweight cotton and easy to wash.”
“Sounds like you’re selling them. I’m not buying. I can wear my silk robe, if I need to wear anything.”
“Okay, now put both hands in mine and stand up very slowly.” I obeyed, and again I was surprised that it worked. I hadn’t been sure that Justin was strong enough to help me move around, though he’d proved he could do it in our practice sessions at the hospital.
“Take this fucking thing off me,” I insisted, then rested my hands on his shoulders while he wrestled with the strings tied in the back. He got them loose and pulled off the robe and tossed it toward the corner. I glanced sideways at the mirror and gaped at myself.
”What?” Justin turned to look in the mirror.
“Fuck me, I’m so fucking thin.” I was shocked, I could practically see my ribs. “I must’ve lost ten pounds.”
“Well, you haven’t been eating enough, I’ve told you and told you,” he reminded me. “But don’t worry, everybody’s going to be cooking delicious meals for you, you’ll be back to normal in no time. Sit, Brian!”
”Oh.” I remembered why we were in the bathroom and with Justin’s help I slowly lowered myself onto the toilet. “Go away now.”
“Brian, I’ve been in the bathroom about ninety-seven times when you were taking a dump.”
“Not this time. Go away.”
“Oh, all right,” he sighed exasperatedly. “I’ll go fix you some warm milk, okay?”
Strangely enough, that sounded good. “Okay.”
When Justin heard me flush the toilet, he returned and we repeated the process of getting me into the chair and wheeling back toward the bed. I didn’t like the feel of my bare ass on the chair, maybe the hideous hospital robe was not such a bad idea. But I need to sleep nude.
Justin and I sipped mugs of warm milk, then he helped me get back into bed. The whole up-and-down process took half an hour at least, we were both exhausted. I was still uncomfortable, but I could tell that he was holding himself back until I got to sleep, so I forced myself to relax and let go of the frustrations and the worries and slip back into unconsciousness – for about an hour, till I woke up once again.
The next time, I remembered where I was. In the dim lights that Justin left on around the loft, I could see him sleeping on his makeshift bed on the floor. I wished he were sleeping beside me on the bed, but the nurse said I need to sleep alone for awhile yet, I don’t remember why – something about tossing and turning, but I don’t know if she meant Justin or me. I’d like to feel him lying next to me. Maybe we can bend the rules tomorrow night.
I lay awake thinking about the agony of the homecoming party – I wonder whose idea that was? – trying to act my normal self, which fortunately is in large part asshole so I didn’t have to pretend to enjoy anything. I thought about the neatly printed schedule stuck into the frame of the mirror behind my desk, who’s coming and when, to care for the fucking invalid. I thought about the calls I need to make – Cynthia has promised to fax me a comprehensive list of my clients, their phone numbers and some basic account info, so I can start making calls - try to repair whatever shit Gardner Vance has gotten up to. Once I started on that train of thought, all hope of sleep deserted me.
Something caused Justin to wake up – maybe I was mumbling or shifting around on the bed, something caused him to sit up and glance over at me.
“I’m okay, Justin, go back to sleep.”
He got up then and came over to sit on the edge of the bed. “Can’t sleep?” he yawned.
“Just thinking about things. Go back to bed.”
“I know a magic trick that will help you sleep.”
That made me smile. “You know lots of magic tricks.”
Justin laughed, then stood up and walked around the other side of the bed. He lifted up the duvet and slid underneath, the lump of his body moving slowly and stealthily like a snake, inch by inch across the bed, under the duvet, until I felt his hand caressing my thigh. I threw back the covers to reveal his head, his blond hair contrasting beautifully with the dark blue sheets.
“You don’t need to blow me, Justin, you’re exhausted, go back to bed.”
He smiled up at me then, that deceptively angelic boyish smile that conceals a man just born to fuck, and he whispered, “Yeah, it’s a great hardship, Brian, but I’m willing to sacrifice myself for your sake,” then he gently took hold of my cock and touched his pink tongue to the tip. My eyes closed and I let my body sink into the mattress as I gave myself up to Justin’s incredible hot wet mouth. I allowed myself to come quickly, my fingers twisted in his tangled hair.
When my breathing was back to normal, I ran my fingers from his head to the back of his neck and squeezed. “Your turn.”
“No,” he shook his head, “Not tonight. Tonight just go to sleep. Okay?”
Without opening my eyes I nodded. “’Kay,” I mumbled, already half asleep. I felt him move off the bed and pull the duvet up to my chin, and I was just slipping into sleep as he crawled into his makeshift bed on the floor beside me.