Part three of three-part story by Morpheus
--- JENNIFER ---
When the door was pushed open and Brian entered the hospital room, Jennifer's heart sank. As if Justin were not already on the verge of hysteria, his face red, his eyes glaring, waving his arms and swearing, she was sure that Brian's presence was bound to escalate the situation.
Jennifer had come to have a grudging respect for the man who'd spent days and nights sitting, standing, pacing in the hospital corridors, waiting for Justin to wake up - whether he felt a sense of responsibility or guilt, she had no real idea. They'd exchanged very few words, she'd brought him coffee and he'd done the same for her, and she'd seen his face when Justin emerged from the coma - he had, quite literally, almost passed out, as she'd later told Justin. Brian's relief had been palpable, though Jennifer was too preoccupied with her own relief then to pay much attention. She knew that he'd been visiting regularly in the week since Justin woke up; but what his intentions toward her son were now, she didn't know. The two could not have much in common - well, besides sex. Even now, when she closed her eyes, she could see Justin's drawing of a nude Brian Kinney, sprawled in sleep. It was a picture she wished she'd never seen. That Brian genuinely cared about Justin, she had no doubt; but what possible future was there for a teenager and a man of Brian's age and sophistication?
Justin had not seen Brian enter the room; he was sitting up in bed, but bent over almost double, his hands clenched in fists that he banged on the bed. "I won't, I won't, I won't!" His eyes were wild, glaring, unfocused; Justin reminded Jennifer of his four- or five-year-old self in the middle of a temper tantrum. Surrounding the bed next to Jennifer were Justin's physical therapist, Bill, standing like a statue with arms crossed, and Debbie, looking nonplussed, surely a rare occurrence for that outspoken woman. When Brian approached the bed, Justin turned to him and almost sobbed, "Oh, Brian, Brian! You've GOT TO HELP ME!"
Brian put a hand on Justin's shoulder, fixed him with a steady gaze, and said one quiet but harsh word: "Stop."
Justin drew a ragged breath, then another. He tore his eyes away from Brian's piercing gaze and looked down at the bed, heaved a shaky sigh, and was still.
"Now tell me," Brian demanded, his voice still harsh, "What are all these terrible people doing, that you need me to save you from?"
Jennifer, Debbie and Bill all began to speak at once, but stopped when Brian raised his hand. "Let Justin tell me." Rather surprisingly, all three obeyed, but Justin was silent.
"I - I'm sorry," Justin spoke haltingly at last, gazing up at Brian. "I know they mean well - I do! I do! But - " his voice wobbled and Jennifer saw that Brian squeezed his shoulder again. Justin swallowed and looked away. "But I don't want to go live with my mom. It's like my life is going fucking backwards! I'm grown up now! I can stay at Debbie's, she said so before. Or, or. . ." He glanced up uncertainly at Brian's stern face. "Maybe, at your place?" When Brian said nothing, Justin continued, "I won't be any trouble!"
Brian snapped, "You're nothing BUT trouble, and you know it."
Jennifer flinched, expecting another angry outburst from Justin, but amazingly, he laughed.
"I promise I won't be, I promise! I could cook dinner for you, and - and remember, you had a bunch of files you asked me to download, and I could do other stuff too, like, you wanted help making that website, remember? And, and I promise I SERIOUSLY would not be ANY trouble WHAT-so-EVER!" Justin reached out for Brian's hand and the older man let him take it. Brian's face relaxed and he smiled.
Oh, no, thought Jennifer, he's going to give in.
"Yes," Brian said, "You can work on my computer - when you come to visit. But for now, your place is with your mom, and you know it."
"No!" Justin gasped, "No, no, I couldn't bear it, Brian!"
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
Everyone jumped when Brian shouted, not least of them Justin.
Brian leaned down and stared straight into Justin's eyes. "How dare you insult your mother, you ungrateful little shit. She's hardly left your bedside all this time, and you say something like that to her?"
Justin's lips twisted, his eyes were full of unshed tears. "I - I didn't mean it like THAT." He unwillingly met Brian's gaze, then looked at Jennifer. "I'm sorry, Mom. I just - I just - "
At last Jennifer spoke up. "Justin, I know. It's okay. But you really have no other choice right now. You need someone to look after you 24 hours a day. Just for a while. You have to be reasonable."
"But I don't want to be reasonable! And I am practically fine right now!"
Bill chimed in. "Justin, you're still having severe headaches, you're on very strong pain medications, and you could have another seizure. You can't be left alone. You could fall down the stairs - "
"But I could stay at Debbie's! Vic is there most of the time, he could watch over me. Please, Debbie!"
"Sweetheart, Sunshine - " Debbie was near tears herself, wringing her hands on a Kleenex.
"Look at me!" Brian ordered. When Justin obeyed, Brian lowered his voice, and said quietly, "Justin, you know Uncle Vic is not well enough to look after you. Imagine if you fell down, or had a seizure, when he was alone with you. Do you really want to put that burden on him?"
"Oh. I never thought - but I won't! Jesus, why is everybody treating me like a baby?"
Brian was harsh again, "Because you're acting like one?"
Justin dropped his head in his hands. Jennifer could tell that he was struggling against tears. Brian sat down on the bed and looked at Jen. "Can I talk to Justin alone for a minute?"
"Okay," Jen acceded. She, Debbie and Bill went into the hallway, pulling the door closed.
"He's good with Sunshine, huh?" sniffed Debbie, loudly blowing her nose in the Kleenex. "But what a brat that kid can be, whew!"
Bill chimed in, "To be fair, the pain meds Justin is taking are part of the problem. They're like alcohol, they lower your inhibitions, you have less control of your emotions. All the more reason he can't be left alone, for a couple weeks anyway, till those headaches get under control."
Jennifer smiled at Bill. "Thanks. The doctor told me something like that, but I forgot. I don't suppose we helped the situation, he must have felt like we were all ganging up on him." She looked at Debbie. "I had no idea Brian had such an effect on Justin." She hesitated. "I'm not sure I'm entirely happy about that, though."
Debbie took Jen's hand. "He's a good man, Brian Kinney. God knows, he's got his faults." She rolled her eyes and laughed. "But his heart is good, and that's what's important. He was always looking out for Michael, when they were kids. He can be a real asshole sometimes, but remember, his heart is good."
The door opened and Brian waved them back inside.
Justin was leaning back against his pillows, drinking a glass of water. He put it down when Jennifer approached the bed. His face was still flushed, but he was calmer. "I'll stay with you, Mom," he said. "But Brian's going to come get me, and take me to visit people sometimes. Debbie and Vic, and Mel and Lindz and stuff. Okay?" When Jennifer smiled and nodded, Justin added quietly, "I'm sorry I was such a jerk."
"Honey, it's okay. Now, we need to make arrangements for tomorrow, when the doctor releases you."
"Brian's going to drive me to your condo."
"If that's all right?" Brian glanced at Jennifer.
"I'm off, then. See you tomorrow," Brian waved at Justin and was out the door and halfway down the hall before Jennifer caught up with him.
"Brian, wait!" she called, and he turned just before entering the elevator. The doors closed and it went down without him. "I just wanted to say, thank you," Jen told him, "I was at my wit's end when you walked in!"
He nodded. "Sure." He hesitated, then added, "He's a brat sometimes, but I've never seen him that out of control."
Jennifer explained what Bill had told her about Justin's medication. "Drugs can have a very strong effect on behavior," she concluded.
Brian smiled. "So I've heard." He pushed the elevator button and as the doors opened, he turned to Jennifer and added, "You have my cell number. If he gets obnoxious again, give me a call."
Jennifer nodded and gave Brian a wave as the elevator doors closed and he disappeared. Briefly she wondered if she was destined to be some kind of mother-in-law to this darkly handsome, enigmatic man who'd latched onto Justin. Except, it was beginning to dawn on Jennifer, that Justin was the one who'd done the latching-on. With a sigh, she turned and walked back down the hall to Justin's room.
----- BRIAN -----
Brian jumped out of bed, catching his foot in the sheet; he tripped and barely managed to keep from falling down the bedroom platform steps. He grabbed his jacket from the back of the sofa and rummaged in the pockets for his cell phone. "Yes?"
"Brian, this is Jennifer."
"What's wrong?" Brian asked, straining to see the clock on the DVD player. 3:24 a.m. "Is he okay?"
"He's. . .okay, but really upset. I know it's the middle of the night, but if you could possibly come over, I - "
"I'm on my way." He flipped off the cell and returned it to his jacket, then ran up the steps and picked up his jeans from the floor and pulled them on.
A sheet covered form rose up in his bed, saying, "What the fuck - "
"Time to go!" Brian said forcefully. "Hurry!" He grabbed a clean tee from a drawer and pulled it over his head. "NOW!" Brian cursed himself for falling asleep before kicking out last night's trick. He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots and said, "You've got thirty seconds."
"Fuck you, man," the trick replied, but he was moving, picking up his clothes from the floor and getting dressed. "You're a real charmer, you know that?" But he was talking to Brian's back - Brian had rushed to the sofa and was shrugging on his jacket. He pulled open the sliding door and waited two seconds, three, before growing impatient.
"I'm out, I'm out, Jesus Christ."
Brian couldn't remember what the trick looked like, but he didn't bother looking at him now, just waited till the guy cleared the door and pulled open the elevator, before he quickly punched the alarm buttons, locked his door, and ran pell-mell down the four flights of stairs, out into the street, and into the jeep. He peeled away, laying rubber, as the trick was just emerging from the building entrance. "Asshole," he heard the man yell, still buttoning his shirt, glancing around the street as if lost at sea.
"Easy," Brian warned himself, letting up on the gas and shifting gears. He'd be no help to anybody if he wrapped himself around a telephone pole. Still he crossed town in record time, left the jeep in visitor parking and ran up the stairs to Jennifer's condo. She pulled open the door before he could ring the bell.
"He's in the bedroom - he's a bit quieter now, but still crying and - "
"Okay, it's okay," he told Jennifer. "Was it the dream again?"
"Yes, but - different. I think he's finally remembering what really happened and - "
"He's freaking? Okay, let me go talk to him." Jennifer led the way to the back of the condo, and Brian paused in the open door of Justin's bedroom.
"Hey," he greeted Justin calmly, but he was shocked to see how upset Justin was. His eyes were wide, he sat bolt upright on the bed, hugging himself and shaking, his cheeks were wet with tears.
Justin looked at him. "You were there! Oh, my God - you were there, weren't you?
Brian did not pretend to misunderstand. He sat on the foot of the bed. "Yes, I was there. You were attacked, you were hurt, I stayed with you, and they got you to the hospital really fast, and fixed you up. You're okay now."
Justin was shivering. Instinctively, Brian took off his leather jacket and put it around Justin's shoulders. That was stupid, he told himself, but Justin grabbed hold and clutched it tight around him.
"It was my prom!" Justin shouted. "I was at my prom! He hit me! With a bat! You were there! And I fell down!"
"Yes. Yes, that's all true. But you're okay now, remember? You-are-okay."
Justin didn't seem to hear, he appeared to be reliving the attack, over and over, he kept flinching, and putting his hands up, as if to ward off the blow, sobbing and muttering almost incoherently, "He's going to hit me! Hit me! Help me, Brian, help me Brian, helpmehelpmehelpme!"
"Did you call the doctor?" Brian asked Jennifer, and she said of course, he was on his way, he'd be there soon.
"Hear that, Justin? The doctor is coming, he'll give you a shot and you'll feel a lot better, really soon."
Clearly making no headway with Justin, finally Brian just grabbed him, pulled him into his arms, and held on tight. "I'm here, Justin, you're okay, I'm here." Idiotic thing to say, Brian thought, but he kept repeating it, in Justin's ear, holding him tight, and Justin clung to him, and gradually, gradually he began to calm down. The doorbell rang and Jen ran out of the room to answer it.
Dr. Carver came in and Brian could not resist glaring at him. "So it's better for Justin to remember naturally, huh?" he asked sarcastically.
Carver nodded. "It is, actually, but we can discuss philosophy later, hmm? Let me examine Justin, please."
Brian tried to stand up, pull away from Justin, but the kid's grip was so strong, and so insistent, he wouldn't let go. "Let's try this," Brian said, twisting around and sitting on the bed behind Justin. He shoved the pillows aside and straddled Justin from behind, arms around his waist and lips against his ear. "I'm right here, Justin, I'm not letting go, so relax now, okay? Let Dr. Carver look at you." Brian felt Justin's body relax slightly, but he was still sobbing, though quieter now.
Carver examined Justin quickly, took his BP, listened to his heart, peered in his eyes. "I'm going to give him a sedative," he said, glancing up at Jen. "He should wake up a lot calmer in the morning, and he can begin to deal with these memories, in a realistic way. The dreams should stop, once he remembers everything, fills in the blanks." He prepared a hypodermic, swabbed Justin's arm, and injected him.
After a few minutes, Justin sagged backwards; Brian felt his muscles relaxing, letting go; his breathing became more normal, and very soon he was asleep. Carver was talking quietly with Jennifer; she escorted him to the door, and came back as Brian was easing Justin down in the bed. He put a pillow under Justin's head, pulled the blanket up to his chest. But he left his jacket where it was, bunched under Justin's right shoulder, Justin's hand was still clutching it, and he didn't want to pull it away.
"Whew," Jennifer whispered. "That was pretty scary. The doctor thinks he'll be okay in the morning. It was so nice of you to rush over here, to help. Can I offer you some coffee, or something, before you go?"
"Thanks." Brian looked down at Justin's flushed face, "But if you'll let me - I'd like to stay. I can sit here with him, in case he wakes up again."
"Oh, Dr. Carver said he'll sleep for hours, Brian, that's kind of you, but - "
"Carver says a lot of things." He made himself shut up; Carver was Jennifer's choice of doctor, none of his business. "But I'd rather stay. If you'll let me."
Jennifer seemed flustered, but she whispered, "Well. . .of course. Thanks. Actually," she smiled ruefully, "I'd feel a lot better if you did stay. He - he really responded to you. I couldn't get through to him at all. Thanks."
"Go to bed," Brian suggested, "I'll be here." Finally Jennifer agreed, and turned out the overhead light, leaving on a small nightlight that cast blue shadows on the ceiling. Brian quietly pulled over a small chair close to the bed and sat down. After a few minutes he kicked off his boots, and, leaving his hand on Justin's shoulder, where maybe the kid could feel it in his sleep, Brian sprawled down in the chair. After a few minutes silently cursing Dr. Carver ("With that name, he should be a surgeon," Brian thought), he dozed off in the chair.
The first thing Brian saw when he opened his eyes next morning was an elfin face surrounded by blonde curls, staring back at him, at close range. "Are you the Monster?" she asked, conversationally.
It was a little girl. Justin's sister, what was her name? She looked like a smaller version of her brother, a Justin-Mini-Me.
"Are you the Monster?" she repeated patiently.
"What monster, the Cookie Monster? No cookies on me," he whispered, glancing quickly at the bed where Justin still slept, slightly mouth-breathing, as he sometimes did after a very late night. Brian stood up and almost fell over, his right foot had been folded up beneath him and was stiff, lifeless. He limped toward the door, hoping to get the girl out of Justin's room before she woke him up.
She followed him but kept chatting. "Last weekend I heard Daddy say a Monster was sleeping with Justin, and here you are, in his room, so I wondered if you were the Monster. Besides, Cookie Monster is BLUE and has fur. And he's for little kids, not big ones anyway."
"Molly, shhh!" Jennifer was in the doorway. "Don't wake up your brother, come and get breakfast." Jennifer smiled at Brian. "Did you get any sleep?"
"Sure." He stretched.
"How about some coffee?"
"Sure," he repeated. "Point me toward a bathroom first." He opened the door Jen indicated and gratefully emptied his bladder in a very pretty green bathroom. Jennifer had good taste; he'd notice that before, the time he was in the Taylors' living room. He peeped into Justin's room, to be sure he was still asleep, before he found his way to the kitchen and accepted a mug of hot coffee. He sat down at the dining table where Molly was rather noisily devouring a bowl of Captain Crunch. Thank God Justin had better table manners.
Brian noticed Jennifer watching him watch Molly, and he said, "She looks a lot like Justin, except for the freckles."
"Yes." Jennifer joined them at the table, and set down her coffee cup. "You didn't agree with Dr. Carver, did you; I noticed it at the hospital."
Brian shook his head. "What do I know? It just felt wrong to me, not to tell Justin what happened. But I'm no expert. I'm sure he's a fine doctor," he lied. I wouldn't take a dog to him, if I had a dog, Brian thought to himself.
Brian and Jennifer both jumped up and hurried down the hall. Justin was sitting up in bed, looking very pale, but definitely awake.
"Brian!" Justin exclaimed, "You're here! I wondered how come your jacket was on my bed." He looked confused but clear-eyed.
Jennifer went over and smoothed back the hair from Justin's face. "Sweetheart, you had a very bad dream last night, and Brian came over to help."
"I - I remember. Sort of. The doctor came too?" When Jennifer nodded, he rubbed a hand over his face. "Let me get up, I need to pee." He swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, but swayed and Jennifer grabbed his arm. Justin looked alarmed.
"It's okay," Brian reassured him. "Just a drug hangover, you're okay." Brian was very familiar with drug hangovers. "I'll walk you to the bathroom, so you don't fall head-first into the toilet."
"I can go to the bathroom by myself!" Justin insisted, and took two steps from the bed before swaying again.
This time Brian grabbed him. "Okay, who's going to escort you to the john, me or mom?"
"You." Sheepishly. When they'd navigated the hallway, Brian closed the door and lifted the toilet seat.
"Hold it for me?" Justin asked, and Brian slapped his butt.
"Behave yourself!" They both laughed quietly. Justin washed his hands and Brian led him back to the bedroom.
Against his will, Justin was put back in bed, sitting up, with several fat pillows behind his back. Jennifer left to fix him some breakfast and Brian perched on the foot of the bed.
Justin was quiet for a minute or two, then he said, "I remember what happened."
"Why didn't you tell me? All this time - nobody told me! Nobody told me what happened! Why did you all lie to me?"
Brian sighed. "We didn't lie, we just didn't tell the whole story. We wanted to, Justin." Brian lowered his head and peered straight into Justin's eyes. "Okay? We wanted to. But the doctors said, it was important for you to remember it, on your own. So we did what they told us."
They were silent, then Justin whispered, "You came to my prom. You danced with me." Brian nodded.
Justin smiled shyly. "Thanks."
Brian shook his head. "Don't thank me. I was maybe the reason that guy hit you."
"No!" Justin said sharply, leaning forward to put his hand on Brian's knee. "Chris Hobbes has hated me all semester. He was always hitting me, knocking me down. Practically every day."
Brian raised an eyebrow. "All those bruises 'from P.E.?'"
"Yeah," Justin admitted. "But it got a lot worse, after he showed up on Liberty Avenue. You sort of warned me. But I didn't think. . .I never expected. . ."
"No," Brian agreed, "You don't expect that kind of thing to happen to YOU." He hesitated. "Justin," he said at length, "You're probably going to be involved in criminal prosecution of that asshole. Do you realize that?"
"He was arrested?" Justin was surprised.
"And some people are going to be saying some stupid things to you, about 'flaunting yourself,' and 'asking for it,' and a lot of other bullshit. Promise me you will NOT listen to them."
"Of course not," Justin agreed, sitting a bit taller on the bed. "I'm not ashamed of who I am."
Brian nodded in affirmation. "You're a hell of a kid, you know that?"
Justin leaned forward and grabbed Brian's shirt, pulling him close. "I'm not a kid, I'm a man." He pulled Brian's head down, and they kissed.
"Breakfast!" Jennifer called brightly from the doorway.
"Thank God, I'm staaaaaaaaaaaaaarving!"
"Back to normal, at last," grumbled Brian, but he was smiling.
----- JUSTIN -----
Three days later, Brian walked Justin down the stairs of Jennifer's condo; they were going visiting. Justin had tried to shrug off Brian's hand on his arm - of course he loved Brian touching him, but he hated being treated like an invalid. Brian barked, "If you fall down the stairs, I'll leave you in a puddle at the bottom."
Justin didn't argue, even though he KNEW he could walk perfectly fucking well on his own. He didn't have a headache today, he hadn't had a seizure since leaving the hospital, and he was getting used to the medication. He was fine. Then he stumbled on a step - the stairs had gone blurry for just a second and he'd put his foot down wrong.
"See?" Brian tightened his grip and Justin said "Fuck!" - but silently, to himself. Outwardly he remained meek; he worried that the slightest thing might make Brian change his mind and march him back upstairs, into prison.
And it was prison, too. Oh, a cushy prison, a cozy prison, but Jesus, Justin was sick of being treated like an invalid, like a helpless fucking baby. Jennifer fussed over him constantly, and Molly - oh, he loved his little sister intensely, but he'd forgotten what it was like to live with an eight-year-old. She was loud, she was spoiled, she was such a brat. Adorable, yeah, sweet, yeah, but!
At the foot of the stairs, Justin drew a deep breath of fresh air, like a man freed from months of incarceration, and allowed Brian to help him into the jeep, but insisted on fastening the seatbelt himself. They were going to visit Lindsay and Melanie, and Justin carried a new sketch he'd done of Gus, drawn from memory but still, Justin was happy with it, and was anxious to hear Lindsay's opinion. He had a lot of respect for her artistic criticism - she was a very talented painter, the walls of Muncher Villa (as Brian called it) were hung with several of her creations.
"Do you think they'll have something to eat?" Justin asked anxiously, and Brian laughed.
"It's been what, an hour since dinner? My God, no wonder you're hungry."
He shook his head but Justin quickly replied, "I'm not hungry! Or, not very - but I don't know how long we're staying."
"They'll have food, they'll have TONS of food. Have you ever seen Lindz' and Melanie's refrigerator empty, all the times you've babysat for them?"
"Oh, yeah." Justin was relieved. Lindsay was a good cook, she baked wonderful home-made cookies and pies. "Oh, maybe they'll have banana cream pie." His favorite. "Gus likes it, too. Well, the pudding part of it, and bananas. Gus loves bananas. Wow, I've really missed him."
Brian regaled Justin with a story about Gus trying to eat an unpeeled banana; he'd looked like a baby chimpanzee, Brian said, but Justin could tell he was proud of his son. He'd seen Brian's face totally change whenever he held little Gus in his arms; his cynical, sarcastic facade melted away when he smiled at the baby, kissed his chubby cheeks and bounced Gus on his lap. In those moments, Justin loved Brian all the more; he knew what a good man Brian was, even if Brian seemed determined to continually prove him wrong.
When they entered the house, suddenly a dozen voices cried out, "Surprise!"
It was a party! For him! All the friends were there, and Debbie, and Vic, even Daphne and some kids from school. He was gently hugged by everyone, then led to an overstuffed chair, with a stool pulled up for his feet, and held court like a king or something, with everybody being nice to him, so nice. He choked up at one point, on the verge of tears, till Brian's harsh voice cut through, groaning, "He's going to be fucking impossible, after all this attention," which made Justin laugh.
There was indeed a ton of food, AND banana cream pie; Justin had two pieces, while Gus sat on his lap long enough to eat a few bites of banana pie filling from his spoon. All too soon Brian bought the party to a crashing halt by announcing that Justin had to go home, he was getting tired. "I'm not! I'm not tired!" Justin insisted, he didn't want the fun to stop. He could hear his voice going all high-pitched, then he felt Brian's hand on his shoulder and he stopped immediately. "Okay," he sighed, defeated. And he was getting tired. Damn it.
Hugs and kisses, thanks, compliments on his sketch of Gus, more hugs, and then Justin and Brian were back in the jeep. Justin felt his eyes getting heavy, damn the medication. He'd been tempted to skip a dose, he hated how he got so groggy sometimes - but he'd tried that just yesterday, and the resulting headache made him realize he still needed the med. But for how long? In the hospital, the doctor had assured him he would make a full recovery, but to Justin it seemed like he was never going to be well, get back to normal, get his life back on track.
"You okay?" Brian's voice interrupted Justin's thoughts; they were stopped at a red light.
"Fine, yeah, fine." He sighed; he couldn't keep the sadness from his voice.
Brian reached over and squeezed the back of his neck. "You're healing really fast, you know, no matter if it seems like forever to you."
Justin nodded. He knew he shouldn't ask, he knew what Brian would say, but he couldn't help himself. "Brian. . ."
"Brian, could we stop at the loft, maybe, before I go home?"
"What - you're missing my house plants? You want to pay them a visit?"
Justin murmured, "You know what I want."
Brian snorted. "You're tired. You need to be in bed."
"Bed's where I want to be, all right. But not alone. I'm sick of being alone." Justin felt his voice about to crack, so he stopped. He knew the answer, it was no good him begging and making himself look like a bigger fool.
Brian was quiet for a moment, the light changed and the jeep pulled forward into traffic. At the next intersection, he turned right, then left, and Justin sat up straight in the seat. He knew where they were going.
"Don't tell your mom," Brian warned him, only half-joking.
Justin laughed. Suddenly he was waking up.
Inside the loft, they headed straight for the bed, but Brian surprised Justin by saying, "Lie down, and sleep for an hour. You know you're exhausted."
"I'm not - "
"You ARE, and don't argue, or you're going straight home. I'll wake you in an hour. Then we'll see."
Wanting to argue, instead Justin gave in. He guessed he was pretty tired, after all. He toed off his sneakers and laid down on the bed. Brian covered him with a throw, the soft bumpy red one that was Justin's favorite. He sighed, closed his eyes, and slipped immediately into sleep.
Fingers caressing his hair awoke Justin some time later. He opened his eyes to find Brian lying beside him, one arm stretched out, running fingers through his hair. "Hey," Brian whispered, lifting himself up on an elbow and bringing his face close to Justin's. They kissed, and Brian began to undress him. "Just lie still, let me take care of you. Relax, okay?"
Justin nodded, but he was already starting to quiver with anticipation.
Brian caressed Justin's naked body, slowly, slowly, being very gentle, making Justin slow down. Usually their fucking was so hot, so intense, boiling over with passion; but today Brian forcefully kept Justin on simmer. Whispering, "Easy, easy," he brought Justin to orgasm in just minutes, only by kissing Justin's lips and caressing his dick, then held him in his arms while Justin shivered with reaction. It had been so long since he'd laid in Brian's arms. Justin could have cried with relief.
"Round One," he whispered, but Brian shook his head.
"That's enough for today."
"But you didn't come! And I want you to fuck me, I need you to fuck me, Brian!"
Brian put his hand over Justin's mouth to shush him. Justin could smell himself on Brian's fingers, and he snaked out his tongue to lick a salty taste. Brian was saying, "Next time. That's enough for today. And if you're going to keep harassing me, there won't be a next time."
Justin took a deep breath and acquiesced. There would be a next time, and soon, if he had anything to do with it.
----- BRIAN -----
After taking Justin home, Brian went back to the munchers'. Everyone had pretended the party was over, so that Justin would agree to go home, would not get over-tired. At the first opportunity, Brian sought out his favorite dope-smoking arbor in the backyard and lit up. Michael soon joined him, and they shared the joint.
"Get lost taking home the Boy Wonder? Or maybe a detour?" Michael guessed.
"Mmm." Non-committal. "So, Mikey, how'd your visit with David go?"'
Michael shrugged. "Good. Bad. I don't know." When Brian raised his eyebrows, Michael continued. "I'm going back, in a couple weeks. We're thinking things over."
Brian inhaled deeply of the sweet pungent smoke and held his breath, then let it out in a cloud that ringed their heads for a moment before dissipating. "Good shit, huh?" Michael nodded and took the joint for a toke. Brian put his arm around Michael. "You don't need to rush yourself."
"I kinda do, though. I quit my job, you know? And I don't have much savings to fall back on, till I get another job, or - "
Brian squeezed his shoulders and planted a kiss on Michael's forehead. "I'll help, Mikey, you know that."
"Of course I know that, but I'm not going to live off you. Or David. He offered, too. Oh, I don't know. Let's not talk about it now, okay? Tell me about the agency, instead. Are you in trouble?"
Brian nodded. "In a way. Ryder's hardly speaking to me. But I made a real coup, a couple days ago, I stole an account from the Fletcher Agency, a big one, so that'll help."
"Michael. . ." Brian hesitated. He needed to talk about the latest Kip Thomas incident, but he wasn't sure he wanted to give away Justin's secret. He knew he could absolutely trust Michael, but he wasn't sure he wanted him to know about it. Yet there was nobody else he could talk to. Mikey was really his only true friend in the world. Well, there was Lindsay. And Justin, in a way. But nobody was as safe, as real to him, as Michael.
"Here you are! I might have known!" Lindsay appeared, carrying a plate of barbecued chicken wings. Brian took a last drag off the tiny end of the joint and buried it with the toe of his boot beneath a holly bush. He and Michael helped themselves to the chicken and ate in silence for a few minutes, watching Lindz walk around the yard offering her tray to Daphne and the school friends, then wander back into the house.
"Let's go to your place later," Michael suggested. "We can't talk here, I think it's something serious, right?"
"I don't know. Not serious. But yeah, okay."
Later, in the loft, lounging on the sofa with Mikey, drinking beer and watching the 11:00 news with the sound turned off, Brian was still considering whether or not to tell what he'd learned from Kip Thomas a week ago.
Michael interrrupted his thoughts. "You know you'll tell me. Whatever it is. You always do."
Chuckling, Brian had to agree. He'd never been able to keep anything important from Michael, and vice versa. He drained his bottle of beer, set it on the coffee table, and leaned back against the cushions.
"Kip Thomas came to see me last week." When Michael frowned, he elaborated, "The guy who was suing me for harassment."
"Yeah, I remember, I'm just confused, I mean, what did he want?"
Brian looked away for a moment, rubbed a hand over his face, then turned back. "He wanted to get at me. Make me - oh, pissed off, whatever. And he did. Yeah, he did, and he went away happy."
"How? What did he say?" Michael set his bottle on the table too.
"Remember how he dropped the harassment suit, and nobody knew why? Later Justin said to me, while we were dancing at Babylon, 'It's a mystery.' I remember laughing."
"Michael - you know I'd trust you with my life. So I don't need to ask you not to tell anybody."
"Of course." Michael was annoyed. "So why ask?"
Brian shook his head. "I do need to ask something though: that you not let on to Justin - ever! - that you know about this."
Feeling restless, Brian stood up, paced to the window, paced back, and sat down again. "Kip told me that Justin went after him, at Woody's. Went home with him. Let Kip fuck him."
"Then," Brian paused, and he half-laughed, but angrily. "Then, Justin blackmailed him. Threatened to have Kip arrested, for fucking a minor. Threatened to have his dad come after Kip, throw him in jail. Unless, guess what?"
"Oh my god."
"Unless Kip agreed to drop the harassment suit. Kip said he believed him. He dropped the suit."
Michael was stunned into silence, for a moment. Then he said, "No, Brian, wait - think a minute. Justin would have told you, if he'd done something like that. He'd want you to know about it, take credit for it - "
Brian stood up again. "You don't know Justin like I do, Michael. He would never tell me. Remember how he went looking for you, after your birthday party? Taking the Captain Astro comic to you, trying to patch things up between us? You told me that. Justin never did."
Michael was shaking his head. "Wow," he said. "That was pretty slick, him going after Kip."
"Slick!" Brian rubbed his eyes. "It was fucking DANGEROUS, Mikey. Kip could have hurt him, or - "
"Sounds like Kip was the one in danger. I guess 'The Boy Wonder' is a pretty apt name for that kid, after all."
Brian sat down, dropped his head in his hands. Michael scooted over, put an arm around Brian. "There's more to it, isn't there? You can tell me." After a few minutes of silence, Michael said, "You know you can tell me anything."
"Oh, there's nothing more to tell! Not really. Nothing that matters. It's just. . ."
Michael waited silently.
"It's just - that I can't stand it. I can't stand the thought of Justin, getting fucked by Kip." Brian laughed out loud, humorlessly, angrily.
"Or anybody else," Michael spoke softly.
"Why should I care? Why should I give a shit? He's just a kid, he's just some kid. He can fuck anybody he wants, why should I care!"
When Michael didn't answer, Brian burst out, "It's not like THAT. You know fucking well, it's NOT LIKE THAT. I don't believe in that shit, so shut up."
"I said nothing."
"And don't, either!" Brian jumped up, strode to the liquor cart, picked up the bottle of Jim Beam and took a swig. He held out the bottle to Michael. "Want some?"
"No. No, thanks. I have to get home, to Mom's I mean. She's got graveyard shift at the diner, I promised to look in on Uncle Vic. She was afraid he'd get tired, after the party."
Brian stared at Michael, took another swig, and nodded. "Okay. I'm sorry Mikey. I shouldn't have told you."
"No, I'm glad you did. And I promise not to say anything to Justin. But I think - maybe you should."
Michael stood up, hugged Brian goodbye. "Promise not to drink too much? And, well, think about it anyway, okay? Talking to Justin?" He hesitated, then plunged on. "Because it's eating your gut, Brian. Right?"
Brian didn't answer but walked Michael to the door, then kissed him and said, "Bye, Mikey." He watched him close the elevator gate and wave as he began to descend. Brian took another swig of Jim Beam, closed the door, set his burglar alarm, and carried the bottle with him to the sofa, where he watched the David Letterman show, without sound, and continued drinking. He fell asleep sometime before morning.
----- JUSTIN -----
"Your daddy is CWAZY!" Justin told Gus. Brian was holding the baby while Justin pushed the empty stroller; they'd stopped to get a sno-cone for Justin, which he held out for Gus to lick. The baby's pink tongue poked out and tasted the lime green syrup and made a disgusted face. Justin laughed.
Brian smiled but he repeated, "You are not riding on that thing."
Rolling his eyes, Justin said, "GRANDPA, it's a merry-go-round! Not the rocket ships. Not the tilt-a-whirl. I am not going to get dizzy on a merry-go-round."
"No. End of discussion."
"All right, all right." Justin wouldn't let anything spoil this special day, his first outing to a destination other than people's houses since he'd left the hospital nearly two weeks ago. They were at a small carnival erected in a strip mall parking lot near Debbie's house, and to be honest, the noise and bustle and flashing lights were giving Justin just the tiniest headache. Okay, a real headache; he'd take a pill after lunch. "Can we eat soon?"
"I thought you WERE eating."
"Sno-cones don't count, they're just frozen water."
"Mmm-hmm," Brian agreed. "But I am not eating carnival food, let's go to Krasner's deli, it's walking distance."
Brian tried to put Gus in the stroller but he hung on to his daddy's jacket lapels with tiny fists of steel. "Nnnnuh!" he insisted; he liked to be carried up high, where he could look around. It had become a battle of wills between Brian and the baby in recent weeks, and Justin was glad that, for once, Brian found himself on the losing side of an argument.
At Krasner's, Justin flipped parts of the stroller around to create a baby seat, so Gus could be on the table close to his Daddy. Justin spooned Gerber junior applesauce into Gus while he and Brian munched corned beef sandwiches.
Justin hadn't realized how wonderful it was to be out in the world, till he'd spent so many boring days tucked alone into bed with only tv and books to distract him. Brian loaned him his laptop computer, but he was only allowed to use it an hour a day at first, so he wouldn't strain his eyes. Justin felt like he was going to strain a gut, with all the restrictions on his life. He managed to surreptitiously swallow a pain pill at Krasner's, when Brian wasn't looking, but by the time they dropped off Gus at his mommies' house, the headache was coming on strong. He thought he was hiding it pretty well, but when Brian got into the jeep next to him, he said, "You're sick. Time to go home."
"I'm not sick!" Justin insisted. "Just a headache. If I can sleep for an hour at your place, I'll be fine." Brian was shaking his head. "Please, Brian, don't make me go home yet. I took a pill, I just need to sleep a while, then I'll be fine. Please." Surprisingly, Brian acquiesced, and drove to his building, parked, and kept an arm around Justin as they rode the elevator to the top - more for support than affection, as the pill was taking effect and Justin was getting drowsy. He was asleep almost before Brian had pushed him down on the bed and pulled off his shoes.
It was dark when Justin awoke. He sat up and remembered he was in Brian's bed. Only one light was on in the loft, near the computer, where Brian sat working on some project. Or surfing the Pittsburgh m4m chatrooms. He glanced from the computer and noticed Justin sitting up, so he came over to the bedroom, sat down on the bed.
"Yeah," Justin agreed. "What time is it?" He glanced at the clock. "Almost eleven! Mom's gonna kill me. Us!"
"I called her. I told her you took a pill and it knocked you out. We agreed you could stay here tonight."
"Mom agreed we could have a sleepover?"
Brian grinned. "She wasn't thrilled, but she knows those pills really do knock you out. And it is better for you to stay now, than get you up and drag you cross town in the middle of the night. Where are you going?" Justin had thrown back the covers.
Suffering Brian's hand on his arm, Justin padded into the bathroom. It was annoying to be helped everywhere, but he kept his mouth shut. Besides, it was true that the pills made him dopey. If he fell down in the bathroom, Brian WOULD take him home, no matter how late it was. Then Brian walked him to the kitchen, sat him down at the table, and poured tomato soup from a carton, nuked it, and made Justin drink a steaming cupful. While he was finishing the last drops, Brian quickly cleaned up the kitchen, shut down his computer, set his alarm. He rinsed Justin's empty cup and left it in the sink, then said one word, "Bed."
They undressed in the dark, each on their own side of the bed, like old married people, Justin thought. Not that Brian would admit Justin owned a side of the bed. He had emptied out a drawer for Justin, some time ago, to keep a few emergency clothes. And Justin noticed that there was always a carton of fresh milk in the fridge, though Brian never drank it; and packages of Justin's favorite cookies in the cupboard. He smiled to himself in the darkness; it was comforting to know that he'd had an impact on Brian's spartan lifestyle, no matter how small.
Crawling between the sheets, Justin was drawn to Brian's naked body like a magnet to true north. Their legs slid together and Brian pulled him into his arms. "Are you okay for this?" he whispered, and Justin answered by slipping his arms around Brian's neck, pulling down his head for a deep, burning kiss. Brian, Brian, Brian, ohmygod, Brian. . .
Several hours later, Justin jerked awake. He sat up quickly. It was the beginning of the dream, but he'd learned to wake himself up the moment it started. Justin remembered almost the whole night of the prom now, the night Chris Hobbes hurt him so terribly. Awake, he didn't remember the bat connecting with his head, only the dance, that wonderful, fantastic dance with Brian holding him in his arms, smiling down at him, kissing him, in front of the whole world. No matter how long he lived, Justin knew that moment would always be a highlight of his life.
Brian must have felt him jerk awake, he sat up beside him and asked, "Okay?"
"Mmm-hmm." Justin lay back down and pulled Brian down next to him. "Cuddle me."
"I don't cuddle. I am not a cuddler. Brian Kinney does not believe in cuddling." But he pulled Justin into his arms and held him there, occasionally kissing his hair, or tweaking Justin's nipple ring, but in a teasing way, not as a prelude to sex.
They were quiet a while, and Justin had almost fallen asleep again, when Brian murmured, "Justin? You awake?"
Brian sighed. "I want to ask you something. You don't have to answer, but whatever the answer is, it won't matter to me."
"Hunh?" Justin turned his head to stare at Brian in the almost-blackness.
Brian sat up, flipped a switch and the blue neon bars lit up the wall behind the bed. Justin sat up too.
"Justin. . . You remember the guy who was suing me, for sexual harassment?"
Cautiously Justin nodded. "I remember hearing you talk about it."
"And this guy just suddenly dropped the suit. Didn't give a reason. 'It's a mystery,' you told me."
Justin sat perfectly still, his face a mask of nothingness.
"He came to see me, the other day. He - Justin, he told me what happened. What you did."
"That son of a bitch!" Justin gasped.
Brian looked like a ghost, a disembodied blue-faced ghost. "So it's true then."
"Don't be mad!" Justin begged. "Don't be mad at me!"
"Mad?" Brian murmured. "I'm not mad. How could I be mad?" He took Justin's hand. "It was - it was an amazing sacrifice. I wish you hadn't done it, but Jesus, I can't be mad at you."
"Sacrifice?" asked Justin. "It was fun." He thought back about that night, and laughed. "I followed him into the alley, I got him to take me to his apartment. He was so easy!"
Brian was perplexed. "You weren't - nervous? Scared?"
"He was scared of me! I was soooooooo bad," Justin chuckled.
"So," Brian interrupted, "You let him fuck you, and then you threatened to tell your dad?"
"Fuck me?" Justin scoffed. "I started waving my dick in his face. He was practically drooling. Then I go, You better hurry, I've got a curfew - my dad wants me home by midnight. He freaked."
"He didn't fuck you?" Brian asked.
"Hell, no! Are you kidding? I wouldn't have let that little jerk fuck me. In fact, now I think about it, why did YOU fuck him? He's creepy."
Brian laughed. "Creepy. Yeah."
"Well I hope you learned your lesson," Justin said pompously.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Justin stopped laughing. "I thought you'd be pissed at me. For interfering."
"Don't be pissed." Justin slid over to straddle Brian's hips, slipped his arms around Brian's neck. "Don't be pissed at me."
Brian put his hands on Justin's arms and shook him. "Don't ever do it again. I'm serious now! Don't go home with guys you don't know."
Brian had the grace to laugh. "You know what I mean. You need to be careful who you let fuck you."
Justin licked Brian's chin, ran his tongue up Brian's cheek to his ear, and whispered, "Nobody's ever fucked me but you. Only you. Didn't you know that?"
Brian sighed. "Now I do." He held Justin tight, squeezing the breath out of him, then lowered his head and their lips met, they kissed, and their bodies slid together perfectly in the midnight blue glow.
----- BRIAN -----
"Come and eat," Brian called from the kitchen.
"Just a sec."
"Now. Or I'll eat it all." Brian put two plates on the counter and grabbed silverware from the drawer. He perched on one of the high stools and opened the waxy cardboard containers, divided sesame noodles into two portions on the plates and placed a large spoonful of vegetables with lemon grass on his own plate; Justin didn't like lemon grass.
"Mmm, smells great!" Justin stood up from the computer desk and stretched, clicked a button, and joined Brian at the counter, climbed onto a stool. "Where's the chopsticks?"
"We're westerners, we use forks, get used to it."
Conversation ceased for a few minutes as they ate the steaming noodles and shared a container of coconut-curry chicken. Brian cleaned his plate and sat back, concentrating on a glass of white wine, thinking how much stronger Justin was now, less than a month after what they all euphemistically called "the incident." He'd be ready for PIFA in the autumn, he'd be raring to go by then. Justin would have a great time in college; the freedom, the challenging classes, the atmosphere - so much more open than high school, lots of friends. Lots of new friends, his own age, who shared his passion for art.
Justin continued eating till the containers were nearly empty. He burped contentedly and said, "Oops, sorry!" He picked up the plates, carried them to the sink and rinsed them, put them in the dishwasher.
"I finished the second page of your website," he said, "Except I need to import some of those photos you wanted." Justin walked around the kitchen island and leaned his elbow on the counter next to Brian. "Want to come and see?"
"Later. There's something else I want to look at now."
"What?" Justin teased, "My ass?"
"After all that food you ate? You can't possibly think about fucking now."
Justin laughed. "Wanna bet? It's all I ever think about."
Brian ignored the tease, got up and carried his wine glass over to the desk, sat down at the computer. Justin stood behind him. "Is this saved? Can I exit?" When Justin said yes, Brian clicked on his web server page, typed in an url, and sat back while a document loaded, then filled the screen with a photo of a man from the waist down, naked and erect.
"Look at this cock," Brian said.
Justin leaned closer to stare at the screen. "Is that real? I never saw one so big before. Except in that Marky Mark movie."
"That was fake. This is real, all right. It's that porn star in the poster on Emmett's bedroom door."
"Oh." Justin hesitated. "Why are you showing me?"
Brian laughed. "The guy's in Pittsburgh now, doing some kind of low budget film. He instant-messaged me last night, wanting to hook up. I don't know where he got my cruising screen name."
"On the men's room wall at Babylon, probably."
Brian let that pass as they both stared at the computer photograph. Justin was quiet for a moment, then asked, "Well, did you hook up with him?"
"No. I was busy last night." He turned to glance up at Justin, whose face was unreadable. "What?" asked Brian. "Want me to put him in touch with you?"
Without answering, Justin turned away and went into the living room. "Let's watch Jeopardy."
"Too late, it's after eight." Brian followed Justin, who'd plopped down on the sofa, looking grim. "What?" Brian asked again. When Justin didn't answer, didn't look at him, Brian raised an eyebrow and spread his hands. "Justin, you know I don't play these games. If you have something to say, say it, don't go around with that pouty face, thinking I'm going to - "
Brian sighed. "Okay, time to go home. Get your stuff together." He turned toward the bedroom but before he'd gone three steps, Justin was right behind him, dragging on his arm, turning him around, shouting, "You are so fucking mean sometimes!"
"Mean?" Brian repeated, his voice dripping sarcasm, "Mean? You're supposed to be a grown up, remember? You're talking like a child."
"Mean is mean, no matter what age you are," Justin sputtered. "And you KNOW why I got mad, you made me mad, on purpose! Showing me some guy you're going to fuck. You WANTED me to get mad. I'm on to you, remember?"
Brian took a deep breath, then said quietly, "I don't do emotional scenes, so cut the crap. You know I fuck a lot of guys, it's no big deal."
Justin gulped, took a deep breath. "I know. But you only show them to me when you want to push me away. You did it with that Hotlanta guy, and you're doing it now with this big dick guy. Why are you pushing me away?"
"Don't be ridiculous. I am NOT having this argument. Get your stuff, I'm taking you home."
"No." They stood glaring at each other, then after a few moments, Justin closed his eyes. His shoulders slumped. He closed the space between them and slipped his arms around Brian's waist. "Okay. Okay."
Brian stood unmoving, his body tensed, unyielding. He wanted Justin to be mad. He needed Justin to be mad. "Okay, what," he asked, tonelessly.
Justin cleared his throat. "Okay, whatever you want. I - I can't live without you, so. . .whatever you want."
With a growl, Brian shoved Justin away from him. "What a load of romantic bullshit! You damn well CAN live without me, how many times have I told you that! You don't need anybody but yourself!"
Brian's fists were clenched; he wanted to hit something. Not Justin, never Justin. A wall. A door. A plate glass window.
They stood silently looking at each other, then Brian said, almost conversationally, "You're going to college soon. You have no idea what's waiting for you there, but I do. A new life. You can't imagine how your life will change. You'll be free. And you'll change."
Justin opened his mouth but Brian raised a hand to shush him. "I've been there. I know."
"I know something, too," Justin whispered. "I'll never change the way I feel about you."
Brian was shaking his head. "Love. You know I don't believe in that shit. I don't believe in it, and I never will."
"That's okay," Justin smiled, fighting back tears. "You feel it, even if you don't believe in it." He moved close to Brian, put his arms around him again. "That's enough for me."
Silently cursing, Brian felt himself letting go. He let go of reason, he let go of rationality. Oh, he knew Justin would change, he knew Justin would stop loving him. That was reality. That was real life. Nobody loves you forever. People were so stupid, thinking with their hearts instead of their heads. Not Brian Kinney.
But he didn't want to think with his head any more. Not tonight. He didn't want to push anymore. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight he wanted to make love with Justin. Not just fuck him, make love with him. He pulled Justin roughly close, closer, dropped his head and sought Justin's mouth, that sweet delicious mouth. Tomorrow he'd get back on track. For tonight, only for tonight, he'd give in to his heart.
Final Version Posted to ATP September 2001