QAF FanFic by Morpheus

Intermission-09


The Prisoner of Tremont Street

Part 11:  Lean on Me




Brian

Trevor's late, it's quarter past eleven, if Justin were here he'd probably chew the guy’s ass.  I told him last night, he's getting pushy with the hired help.  I tried to make a joke of it, but the truth is, the past few days I can feel myself losing my sense of humor.  Getting more and more morose.  Justin's noticed it and has tried in what he imagines are subtle ways to cheer me up.  Extra jam on my toast.  Logging me onto my computer so it's ready to go when I sit down.  Waking me up with a gentle massage.  Somehow all these small kindnesses only make me feel worse.

Two more weeks in this fucking cast!  But yesterday the doctor said the x-rays show perfect healing, so when the cast comes off, I'll go right into physical therapy.  I'm anxious to begin and yet worried about it, I know I've lost muscle mass, and my legs - not that muscular to begin with - are like skinny twigs.  I've been able to maintain some upper body strength with the help of Trevor, the personal trainer approved both by the doctor and by Nazi Nurse Taylor. 

The doctor recommended the man  - Trevor, such a gay name - based on his credentials, Justin approved him based on his utter unfuckability.  He's tall and built, but he's got a face like a pug dog and he appears to have absolutely no personality.  Trevor's scheduled to come by almost every morning for a one-hour session, and after observing him a few times, Justin decided it was safe to leave me alone with the guy.  Trevor may be unfuckable, but he's great at giving head.  Justin doesn't need to know everything. 

Tonight we're going to Linds and Mel’s for dinner.  I've been out of this loft so few times that I'm actually getting excited about it.  Easy to please Kinney, I'm becoming.  Docile, polite, practically pleasant, that's the new me.  After living my whole life in an effort to avoid responsibility for others, to avoid obligation and fucking gratitude, now fate has turned my life around with two acts of violence - a bat to the head and a freeway collision.  Three acts of violence, if you consider childbirth violent - an event I was both disappointed and happy as hell to have missed.  Now, in two years time, I've morphed into this person unrecognizable to myself.  I'm almost nice.  Fuck.

Somehow I've got to break out of this trap.  A trap baited by a beautiful blond morsel who's suckered me in, over and over again.  Earlier this year I tried to break free - and I succeeded, for a while.  I pushed him away, pushed him right into the arms of the perfect lover he thought he wanted.  I was glad to be rid of him.  Or anyway, eventually I would have been glad, what's a little pain, it's like pulling off a band-aid.  You do it quickly and roughly, and sure it hurts, but then it's over.

The trouble with Justin is that it gets harder and harder to push him away.  If I'd got the New York job, I would have left him then.  I was prepared, he was prepared, it was going to work out fine.  Then the prom happened. 

Justin still doesn't remember the prom.  He doesn't try to talk about it any more - I know it was probably wrong of me to keep him from talking about it, but I really couldn't handle mentally revisiting that parking garage over and over again.  The last time he brought it up, he said he sees brief flashes of pictures - he can remember Emmett helping him get dressed, he remembers dancing with  Daphne.  And he remembers the scarf - that fucking scarf - around my neck.  He remembers being whirled around and around.  That was at the end of our dance, right before I kissed him.  He doesn't remember that kiss.  He doesn't remember the kiss in the garage either.  Right after he told me it was the best night of his life.  He remembers me calling his name, he remembers turning around and seeing the bat coming toward -

Christ.  Stop, just stop.  Justin's not the only one with nightmares.  Or in my case, daymares.  

Justin's not having nightmares often any more, or if he is, he's hiding that information from me.  I've been sleeping pretty light the last week or so - the doctor told Justin to start tapering off on the Vicodin.  That's good news and bad.  Bad, because I've come to depend on the heavy, dreamless sleep they provided, the hours of boredom they caused to blur.  But good because soon I can start drinking again.  I miss alcohol.  But not as much as I'd have thought.  In a tiny almost-inaccessible corner of my mind, I remember wondering occasionally if I was becoming an alcoholic.  Like Pop.  In a way it's a relief to discover that I was not as addicted to JB as I thought I was.

Damn it, where's Trevor?  Sitting here waiting, staring into space, has made me maudlin again, I can't afford maudlin with weeks and weeks to go before I'm back to normal.  The doctor promised me I'll be normal again - no limp, no outward signs of weakness.  But after my extended absence from the Liberty Avenue scene, I'll probably have to prove my desirability all over again.  In a way I feel desperate to do so.  In another way, it seems like an easy out of that rut.  Not rut.  It was not a rut, just a predictability.  Life was pretty predictable the last five or six years.  Comfortable.  Not boring, but almost.  Or anyway, until he came along.

Finally the buzzer sounds and I roll over to the door, it's faster than crutches.  "About time you showed up," I grumble through the intercom before zapping the downstairs entry door.  Instead of Trevor's quick, heavy tread up the stairs, I hear the elevator whining its way upward.  So it's not Trevor.  Maybe it's Deb, bringing my lunch early.  Maybe it's Michael, he said he'd drop by today.  Maybe it's the delivery of Justin's new desk chair I ordered online from Mancuso's.

Pulling myself up and dragging back the door before I sit down in my wheelchair again, I watch the elevator door pushed upward, and see - my mother.  What the fuck is she doing here?

"Hello, Brian," she greets me, coming out of the elevator and walking slowly towards me.  I have this sudden image of myself slamming the door closed and cowering inside while she pounds on the metal door with her purse.

Instead I say, as coolly as possible, "Hello, Mom."

"Can I come in?"

'No,' I want to say.  'Fuck off,' I want to say.  Instead I mumble, "Sure."  She's holding a cake, another one of her fucking chocolate cakes.  The all-purpose-excuse-to-intrude-on-my-son's-life cakes.  I'd feel better if she'd brought me a bottle of bourbon, I could use a drink.  I'll bet she could, too.

Mom crosses the threshold and I see her eyes traveling quickly around the loft, no doubt looking for naked boys.  "He's not here," I tell her, and she swings her head around to look at me.

"Who?"

"Is that cake for me, or are you just carrying it around with you today?"

"Of course it's for you."  Her voice is deceptively gentle, and she walks forward to set the cake down on the kitchen counter. 

How many times has chocolate cake been my mother's peace offering?  I lost count of the times she'd told my dad about my sins, real or imagined, and he'd whipped me; sure enough next day there'd be a chocolate cake.  And that time in junior high when she'd punished me for something, I can't even remember what, by burning all the pictures I’d drawn for her in art class.  When I came home they were piled in a neat stack in the fireplace, and Mom gave me a lecture on my bad attitude, then set fire to them.  I remember standing there stoically - already at eleven years old I was stoic - watching them burn, and I swore to myself I'd never draw another picture.  Next day there was cake, but I kept my promise to myself.  I flunked art class that year, the only class in which I did not receive an A.  Pop beat me for that, for that F, but it didn't hurt as much as when Mom burned my drawings.  And when I got in trouble the next year for constant fighting at school, Pop pulled me out of Westley Junior High where all my friends were, and moved me into St. Joseph's clear across town where I didn’t know a soul.  Mom baked me a cake that time, too. 

Sometimes just the smell of chocolate cake makes me sick to my stomach.

Turning from the counter, Mom asks, "Aren't you going to invite me to sit down?"

"Sure," I say tonelessly, gesturing toward the living room.  I follow behind her in the wheel chair, watching her glance around again, this time she's taking in the décor.  Or what she decides is a lack of décor.

"Such a lovely large space, this apartment, but it's so plain.  You should hire a decorator.  From what I hear, you can afford it."

"Good idea," I smile, wondering what Lorenzo, who'd helped select most of my Italian furniture, would think of my mother's ideas.  She'd probably hang chintz curtains on the windows and put plastic covers over the sofa and chairs. 

"At least it's clean," she says generously, leaning forward to rub her fingers on the coffee table in an attempt to locate dust.  "Most bachelors don't care about keeping their houses clean."

"Well, that's one thing you should admire about gay men," I tell her, rolling my chair to a stop near the window, about as far away as I can get, and looking her in the eye.  "We're all so neat and tidy, you know."

She ignores my sarcasm and returns my look.  "I suppose your - boy - does the cleaning?"

Crossing my arms over my chest I say dryly, "I don't have a boy, but I do have a cleaning service, they come twice a week."

"What about that boy that lives with you?" 

I am tempted to say, 'He comes twice a day.'  But I don't.  She's still talking.  "Doesn't he do something to earn his keep?"

"Justin doesn't live with me," I tell her, which is not strictly true at the moment, but will be true once I can take care of myself.  "He's helping out while I'm laid up with this broken leg."  

"He was in the car with you, I read it in the paper.  Was he injured too?"

"So you read about my accident in the paper.  That was six weeks, almost seven weeks ago.  You'll never be voted Mother of the Year at this rate."  I'm sitting right next to the liquor cart, if she stays much longer I'm not sure I can resist the lure of the bottle of JB near my elbow.

Mom's used to ignoring my jibes, she probably doesn't even hear them any more.  I expect her to ignore this one too, but I notice that her mouth has formed a thin line, and she gives me a hard look.  "It's been difficult coming to terms with your - your announcement.  The secret you've kept from me all these years.  Any mother would have the same problem, that can hardly be a surprise to you, or you'd have told me long ago."

"It was none of your business."  I hear the resentment in my voice, and I manage to remove it so that my next words are free of emotion.  "It's still none of your business."

She narrows her eyes.  "Yet you told your father.  You said you told him, before he died."  When I merely nod my head, she goes on, "What did he say?  He must have been angry."

"He said," I pause, remembering, then I force myself to laugh.  "He said that I should be the one dying instead of him."  I keep the smile plastered on my face so that no matter what she says, I won't be surprised.

Yet I am surprised, because she gasps, then shakes her head.  "That was - that was cruel, Brian.  That was a terrible thing to say."

Quickly I turn my chair around and roll closer to the liquor cart.  "Want a drink, Mom?  I'm having one."  Without waiting for her answer, I grab the bottle of JB and pour a couple inches into a glass, then take a big gulp before looking over my shoulder with raised eyebrows.  "You want something?"

Before she can answer, the doorbell buzzes.  I take another gulp of bourbon before setting down my glass and rolling my chair to the door.  "Who is it?" I growl through the intercom.

"Brian, it's Trevor, sorry I'm late."  He sounds out of breath.

"Trevor, I don't need you today," I tell him. 

Dense Trevor doesn't give up that easily.  "But Brian, you shouldn't miss a session.  Let me come up.”

“Who is it?” Mom gets up and comes over to the door.  “Do you want me to leave?”

“It’s my personal trainer,” I answer, wishing I’d brought my glass with me.  I push the buzzer to admit Trevor, it’ll be easier to speak to him in person than shouting through the intercom.

“Trainer?” Mom asks, “What are you training for?”

“The Triathalon.”  I stand up and pull open the door, then sit back down quickly.  Two gulps of JB and I’m feeling dizzy.  Pitiful.

Trevor bounds to the top of the stairs, his energy makes me feel like a 98-pound weakling.  “Hey Brian, you okay?” he asks, “You don’t feel like working out today?”

“Trevor, this is my mother.”  They say cautious hellos to each other just as the buzzer goes off again.  It’s Michael.  “Come up and join the party,” I tell him, then turn off the intercom before he can ask any questions.

“You shouldn’t miss a session, Brian,” Trevor tells me seriously.

“I think I should go,” Mom offers, clutching her hideous imitation leather purse to her chest.  I glance longingly over at the table where I left my JB.

There’s an awkward pause, then the elevator arrives at my floor and the door is pushed upward to reveal not just Michael but Debbie, their arms full of bags and plastic containers of food, the smell of tomato sauce wafts ripely around them as they come in the door, all smiles, then stop abruptly when they see my mother.

“Hello, Mrs. Kinney,” Michael says politely, a comical look of horror on his face that almost makes me laugh; Mikey was always scared of my mom.

“Joanie!” Deb exclaims, “Well, I’m glad to see you finally visiting your injured son at long last.”

Mom pulls herself up tall and replies coldly, “Debbie, how nice to see you.” 

“Yeah, it’s been a while.  Sorry to hear about your husband.”

“Thank you.”  Ice cubes are dropping off my mother as she stares unblinking at Debbie.  I see my escape route and I take it, rolling silently backwards away from the group at the door, then moving quickly across the polished floorboards toward the liquor cart, where I pick up my glass and empty it in one swallow.  I’ve got another poured before Michael appears at my side.

“You’re not supposed to be drinking,” he reminds me in his carrying voice, drawing the attention of everyone by the door.  They descend upon me en masse and I’m really, absolutely positive that I’m having a nightmare.  A daymare.  Wish I could wake up.  I swallow the second shot of JB quickly, just as Michael snakes out his hand to grab the glass.  Too late, it’s empty, but he manages to knock it out of my hand and onto the floor, where it shatters.  I love the sound of broken glass, and now it calms me enough to turn my chair around to face everyone.

“Who wants a drink?” I ask cheerfully.

Nobody speaks, then they all speak at once.  Trevor asks if he should go, Mom asks if she should go, but neither of them budges.  Deb says she brought my lunch and wants me to eat it NOW, Michael reminds me again that I’m not supposed to drink.

Into the middle of the chaos marches Justin, he’s home early.  I feel a sudden and unreasonable sense of relief surge through me; I slump in my chair.  I don’t have to deal with them now, Justin will take care of it.  All I have to do is roll around the edge of the group and get to my desk, so I can grab my crutches and hitch myself into the bathroom in time to throw up.  I need to hurry.

“Hey,” Justin says, stopping just inside the door, a quick glance around the loft taking in the situation.  “Brian, are you okay?”

I feel the sweat popping out on my forehead as I reach for my crutches and lift myself out of the chair.  ‘Yeah,” I manage to answer, “Bathroom.  Make them all go away, okay?”  I hitch myself past him and over to the steps as fast as I can, I feel five pair of eyes staring at my back and I will myself to manage the steps without falling down.

“Hello, Mrs. Kinney, Trevor, Debbie, Michael,” I hear Justin say as I hop into the bathroom and slide the door closed with a bang.  I lift up the toilet seat in the nick of time, and after heaving my guts up, I slide down the wall and sit on the floor near the toilet, to be ready for the next onslaught.  I hear muffled voices but I pay no attention.  Justin will take care of everything.  The cool tile wall feels soothing on my face.



Justin

Finally I get them all out of here, Michael and Deb are the hardest, it’s all I can do to keep Michael from going into the bathroom.  “Brian needs to be alone when he throws up,” I insist to Michael, grabbing hold of his arm to physically stop him. 

He jerks away from me and hisses, “I’ve seen him throw up a lot more times than you have, so who’s the expert here?”

“Please,” I force myself to speak softly, “He asked me to make everybody leave, he doesn’t feel good.”

Michael’s shaking his head.  “He meant everybody else, he didn’t mean me.”

Deb’s been putting food away in the fridge; I’ve promised her I’ll get Brian to eat the lunch she fixed him, but later, when his stomach settles down.  She folds up her brown paper bags and joins the face-off near the bedroom steps.  “Michael, don’t be a dope,” she tells him bluntly, “Come on, drive me home now.”

“Ma - “

“Let the poor man vomit in peace.  You can see him tomorrow.”

With a last angry glare at me, Michael lurches across the loft and out the door.  “Meet you downstairs,” he calls to Deb over his shoulder, then he’s off, taking out his anger by pounding down the stairs as loudly and as quickly as he can.  Surely it’s not too evil of me to wish he’d trip and break his own leg on the way down?

“Bye, sweetie,” Deb grabs my chin and squeezes my face hard as she smacks a loud kiss on my cheek.  “You’ve got your hands full, don’-cha?”  She laughs softly and cracks her gum as I give her the smile she wants, then I walk her to the door and wait till the elevator takes her away.  As her curly red hair disappears, I see her hand waving good-bye.

Turning off most of the lights in the loft to make it as dark as possible on a sunny day, I crack open the window to blow in some fresh air, to clear the stink of anger and frustration still cobwebbing around the rooms; then I put on some soft jazz, turned low.  Finally I’m ready to join Brian in the bathroom.  Softly pulling back the door, I see him huddled on the floor by the toilet.  He looks up at me, his face haggard and pale.

“It’s awfully quiet,” he says conversationally, “Did you kill them?”

“I didn’t need to.”  I sit down cross-legged on the floor by the sink.  “We could hear you throwing up, it was disgusting - you cleared the place.  If you’d done it in the living room, they’d have left sooner.”

He nods.  “I’ll remember that next time.”  We’re silent for a moment, then he says, “Well - aren’t you going to blast me for drinking?”

I shrug my shoulders.  “You must have needed to.”

He shakes his head.  “I shouldn’t have dumped that - that scene on you.  What did you say to my mom?”

I’m untying my shoes and pulling them off.  “I thanked her for the cake and said to come back again soon.”

“Fuck!”  He stares hard at me.  “You did not.”

“Sure I did, Brian.  What did you expect me to do - forbid her ever to darken your doorway again?  She’s your mom.  It doesn’t matter what I say to her.  It matters what you say to her.”

“Don’t nudge me.”  I can feel him getting tense again.

“No nudging,” I promise.  Then I slide across the floor until I’m close to him.  “Ready to get up now?”  He nods and pulls his legs up, lets me take one hand while he uses the other for leverage on the wall, soon he’s on his feet and he sits down on the toilet.  “You want the chair?”  He nods and I hurry to get it, he shifts to the wheelchair and then washes his face, brushes his teeth.

“Why don’t you lie down for a while?” I suggest when he’s finished. 

“Come with me,” Brian says, so I do.  We lie down on the bed and he turns over, leans his back against me and relaxes, lets his body go slack.  “I’m leaning on you,” he murmurs.

“It feels good.”  It does, too.

“Don’t get used to it.”  He waits, and when I say nothing, he whispers, “You know what I mean?”

“Yes, Brian,” I whisper in his ear, “I know what you mean.”

Then I feel him completely let go, all his muscles relax and he’s leaning against me, my body taking his weight.  It feels good.       

 








10/4/02