QAF FanFic by Morpheus
      
TRADING SPACES
   
Summary of Part 5:  Out and About in LA: Brian and Justin attend two parties in Los Angeles.  First is an important Bradford & Slate Agency client dinner at posh Cicada restaurant, where Brian outs himself by bringing Justin as his date.  Later that evening they attend a going-away party for the Porte d'Or waiter Justin replaced, held at bartender Simon's home in WeHo.  After sharing BBQ sauce, a kiddie game, and a slow dance in the darkened living room, the men say goodbye to their new friends, and go home to play a grown-up game.



PART 6:   Not in the Mood


Brian

"Brian, how much do you hate Simon?"

"What?"  My brain is submerged in product development planning on the computer, I raise my head and blink twice to bring myself into the moment.  Justin's standing by my desk drying his hands on a kitchen towel.

"How much do you - "

"Why?"

"Well, because he's invited us to a partyĒ  Justin tosses the towel over his shoulder.  ďAnd I'd really like to go."

I push my chair away from the desk and stretch out my legs, they're feeling cramped.  I've been huddled over the computer for a couple hours, my shoulders are tense, my brain struggling with a mental fog of annoyance and lack of creativity.  I need to come up with a slogan for this fucking mundane marketing assignment I've been given and nothing's coming to me.

"What party?" I ask distractedly, I hate having my train of thought interrupted.  Even when, especially when, that train is stuck in a tunnel.  "What kind of party?"

"Simon has a friend with a beach house, he's inviting a bunch of us from the d'Or to a big party on Saturday."  When I frown and shake my head, Justin adds quickly, "Brian, we've been in California more than two weeks and we haven't even seen the ocean yet."

My frown deepens.  "You know I'm working my ass off, day and night.  You promised not to whine and complain, remember?"

"I'm not whining and complaining, I'm just saying, I want to go to this party and I want you to come too.  It's this weekend, surely you can spend a few hours on Saturday not working?"

"No, I fucking CANNOT."  My voice is too harsh, I see him almost flinch.    

"Okay."  He's struggling to keep his face impassive and he turns back toward the kitchen.

"Justin."

"Never mind," he says without turning, "I didn't mean to bother you."

"Justin, come here."

He turns then and he's got his face under control.  No trace of disappointment or anger, or anything else.  He walks back to the desk and I push my chair further back, grab his arm and pull him toward me, trapping him between my legs.  I almost want to say "Sorry," but sorry's bullshit, and besides, why should I be sorry?  I've told him a hundred times that work comes first.

"I've got a product to launch and it's going to take all my time and effort for the next week or so, getting it ready."  I never used to explain myself to Justin or to anyone else.  But it's one of those fucking relationship rules that sometimes you have to acknowledge.  "I'm low man on the totem pole," I remind him, "So they're giving me the shittiest jobs."

Justin nods.  "I understand, Brian.  It's okay."

"You can still go."  I hate for him to go anywhere with that sleaze-ball Simon, but I can't chain Justin to the apartment on his days off.

"Yeah," he agrees halfheartedly.  "I'll go.  But doing stuff just isn't as much fun without you."

Our hands meet and we lock our fingers together, Justin leans forward and we bump mouths in a small kiss.

"Is Robert going?"

"Hunh," Justin snorts, "I'll bet you're dying to see him in a Speedo."

No, I'll bet Robert's dying to see Justin in a Speedo.  "Not my type."

"Everybody's your type."  We kiss again, then Justin pulls away and says, "I'll leave you alone now.  I'm going to watch tv but I'll keep the volume low."

I nod and frown at the computer screen again.  I'm absolutely drawing a blank, something that doesn't happen very often.

"Oh, by the way," Justin says, "Lindsay called this afternoon.  Everybody's fine.  She says Gus misses you though."

I feel my frown deepen; I donít need a fucking wave of nostalgia for fucking Pittsburgh to wash over me.  I never even saw the baby that often, and anyway, two-three weeks away from the whole mess of extended family in Pittsburgh should feel like a welcome vacation.  I had no idea that ever in my entire life would I feel this. . .this, what some people might call homesickness, wash over me.

Without looking at Justin I nod and stare at the monitor, waiting for him to go away again.  And then it hits me:  Justin's probably homesick.  He hasn't said so, but then he wouldn't, would he?  Mister I'll-be-stoic-if-it-kills-me.

"Justin," I call him back.  He must feel like a yo-yo.  When he walks toward me I scoot my chair backwards again, take his hands in mine again.  "Sit," I tell him, pulling him down to perch on my right leg.  "Tell me something."

"What?"

"Are you homesick?  Missing your mom and everybody?" 

"Oh!" he says, obviously surprised.  "Oh, no.  Not exactly."  The skin of his neck flushes pink, belying his words.  Then he adds quickly, "I love it here - California, and our place.  And I like my job and my new friends."

I nod; I realize that I'm not surprised that he's settled in so well - Justin's amazingly adaptive, to people and to situations.  "Good."  Then I add, "What you need is your own car.  Then you won't feel so tied to me, you can go wherever you want in your free time."

"We can't afford another car.  We've talked about this already." 

We did talk about it and Justin was adamant.  And he's right, a car payment and insurance for him would be fucking expensive, especially in California.  It's a stretch already on my paycheck, for living expenses and my own car insurance.  I'm making triple payments on my credit cards, otherwise I'll be in debt for twenty years.  Justin's income is negligible, it pays for his clothes and spending money and that's about it.

He reads my mind.  "Maybe I can get a better job later, after I get a few months experience at the d'Or.  I'll bet waiters at restaurants like Cicada make a ton of money."

In a few months I'd like Justin to be back in school.  But that's another old argument I'm not going to reopen, I've got to get my brain back on track.  "Hmm," I say noncommittally, "Go watch tv now, let me get to work."

"What's your product?" Justin peers at the computer screen. 

"It's a fucking paper company," I sigh, almost embarrassed that my first major assignment is so plebian.  "They want to market a new super-strong paper towel called 'Absorba' and I have to come up with a brilliant ad campaign."

"Ab-zorba?" Justin mispronounces, "Sounds Greek.  A Greek paper towel."

He's made me laugh in spite of myself, and I lean forward to pinch his thigh though he jumps up and backs quickly away before I make contact.

"Ab-zorba," Justin repeats, then he puts on a falsetto voice and proclaims, "Oh, I love my big fat Greek paper towels!"

He laughs and I start to laugh too but then I stop suddenly and sit up straight in my chair.

"What?  Brian, what?"

"Is there some Greek god famous for his strength?"  I'm asking myself more than Justin but he quickly answers, "Hercules."

"Yeah, Hercules," I agree. 

My wheels are spinning now, I'm getting a mental image of a scantily-dressed, heavily muscled godlike figure on the package label.  The product name spelling could be changed to Ab-Zorba to emphasize the Greek connection.  And Justin's throw-away silly advertising slogan is repeating in my brain, 'I love my big fat paper towels!'

"Go away now," I order Justin briskly, but before he can say a word, I leap to my feet and grab him in a bone-cracking hug.  Smacking a big kiss on his juicy red lips and silently promising him a fabulous fuck later tonight, I let him go roughly, adding, "You're fucking amazing, you know that?  Now leave me alone so I can work."

Justin laughs and I'm only vaguely aware of him moving away toward the kitchen as I dive headfirst into the computer, my fingers flying over the keyboard, my brain whirring at a million rpms. 



Justin

Simon's picking me up at nine, I finish my solitary shower and grab a quick bite of breakfast.  Brian's already on the computer, he's wearing jeans and nothing else, I stare at him while munching a piece of toast, wishing there was time for a quick fuck this morning.  Not for the first time I wonder if he's tricking on weekdays sometimes, maybe at lunch.  Of course I won't ask him, he'd tell me the truth and I really don't want to know.  I rinse my juice glass and the butter knife and wander over to Brian's desk.

He glances up at me and then leans back in his chair.  "Ready?"  When I nod he asks, "Need money?"

"I've got some.  And I'm taking a six-pack and some chips and I made brownies."

"Phew," he shakes his head, "I was afraid you might starve to death today.  You've got sun block?"

"Yes, Mom."

"And your cell phone?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Fucker."

"You're the fucker," I contradict him, "I'm the fuckee, remember?"  At least most of the time.

"So," he asks, as if he doesn't care very much, "What time are you coming home?"

"I don't know.  I told Simon I didn't want to stay late and he said okay."

"Well."  Brian gives me his phoniest big smile and says, "Have a fab-u-lous time."  Then he adds quickly, "But no drugs."

"You're getting very conservative, you used to love drugs."

"I still love drugs.  And I'm not fucking conservative."  I've managed to annoy him.  "But you need to know who's providing and you don't know any of these clowns."

I know some of these clowns but I don't contradict him.  To be honest I don't care that much for drugs.  I like pot and once in a while it's fun to drop E - if I'm with Brian.  But I had some bad drug experiences at the Sap's party last year and since then I'm not so crazy about trying new stuff.

"Oops," I hear a horn beep twice, "That must be Simon."

"Your date can't come to the door?"

"Bye, Brian."  I grab his head and tilt it backward, kiss his mouth upside down, then hurry to grab my backpack and a small plastic cooler.  "Don't work too hard!"  And, I add silently, don't go out fucking around.  Of course he's free to fuck around.  I just hope he doesn't.

There's two guys already in the back seat of Simon's car, he's got a four-door dark blue BMW.  I wonder how he can afford a BMW on a bartender's salary?  The guys are introduced, we shake hands over the seat back.  Joe and Jerry, they're older, maybe forties, they look like twins.  Both have goatees and they're both wearing tan knee-length shorts.  Simon says they've been partners for eight years, which explains it - I've met old guys like this in Pittsburgh. 

There was a couple who came into the diner every Wednesday for dinner and they always wore matching clothes.  They even ordered the same thing, meatloaf.  It's kind of sweet, but mostly it's kind of icky.  I try to imagine Brian and I wearing matching baggy shorts and I have to turn around quickly so I don't start laughing.  Joe and Jerry are really nice guys, though boring.  They own an antique shop and they give me their card, promising a discount for family. 

We make one more stop, to pick up Robert.  Originally he was going to drive and I was going with him, but his car broke down a few days ago so Simon offered to take us.  Robert lives alone, he can't afford an apartment so he rents a room from an old guy who's a regular customer at the d'Or.  He said he was afraid the geezer would make a pass at him but he never has.  

Joe or Jerry says, "One of us can get in front, if you boys want to sit together?"

I shake my head no but Robert pipes up, "Oh, would you mind?  I need to talk to Justin about something."

"Talk, huh?" Simon laughs but we all ignore him and trade places.  Robert gets in the middle and I climb in next to him, then he puts his arm around my shoulders and whispers "Hi!" in my ear as Simon pulls the car away from the curb. 

"Hi," I whisper back, relaxing against the seat.  I like Robert, from the very beginning I've felt comfortable with him.  It's what I imagine having a brother must be like.  He's always hugging me and kissing my cheek but there's no sexual tension between us, though I know Brian doesn't believe that.  



Brian

I'm almost sorry I didn't go with Justin to his beach party.  I worked all morning on the presentation for Tuesday, and while it needs some polish and further prep at the office on Monday, I've done about all I can with it for now.  I logged off the computer about two o'clock and have been puttering around the apartment ever since.  Naturally I paid no attention when Justin told me where the party's at, so it's not like I can drive to whatever-beach and join the party.  I think about calling Justin on his cell but decide not to; it feels - I don't know - somehow needy.  He's with his friends and I'm not going to crash his party.

It's dinner time and though a glance at the contents of the refrigerator reveals ingredients for a dozen meals, contrarily I don't want any of them.  Food's always better when somebody else cooks it, so I decide to go out for a bite.  Naturally I end up on Santa Monica Boulevard, there's a small cafť where Justin and I ate once called the White Cliffs of Dover, a casual place where you can get a sandwich and a beer. 

Sitting at a small table on the sidewalk, munching corned beef and sipping Heineken, I'm watching the parade of gay men in full cruise mode thicken on the sidewalk as the sun begins to set, it's Saturday night in WeHo with a vengeance.  Naturally I'm being eyeballed by hordes of men, situation normal, and there's a few that spark my interest.  Justin and I agreed that our relationship is open.  And though I don't need his permission to fuck around, he gave it anyway, as long as I don't bring tricks home.  I'm not sure exactly why that's so important to him but I agreed. 

So anyway there's no reason not to sample a few California studs.  I'm thinking about it, I'm looking over the passing parade, but for some reason I'm sitting here wondering if Justin's fucking around at the beach.  No reason he shouldn't be.  No reason he can't, he's as entitled as me to experience the guys in California.  There's probably hundreds of them on the beach in their Speedos, laying on the sand, playing in the water.  Lots of tan naked flesh to ogle, to play with, probably there'll be an orgy at this Simon's friend's place.  That's okay.  I don't mind.

On the other hand, Justin doesn't really like orgies very much, so probably he won't join in.

On the other hand, his little kissy friend Robert will be there too.  Justin says Robert hugs and kisses everyone and it doesn't mean anything.  Maybe.  Maybe that's true.  But I've watched this guy and he especially kisses and hugs Justin.  Can't keep his hands off him.  They work together almost every day, I'm sure Robert's all over Justin at the bistro, and I'm sure he's all over Justin today at the beach.  In their little tight swimsuits, laying on the sand together.  I wonder if Justin will fuck him?  Of course I don't care.  It's sort of none of my business actually.  Justin's as free as I am to fuck around. 

On the other hand, Justin doesn't know how to play the game right.  He's promised no involvement with anyone like he had with that asshole fiddler, but can he keep that promise?  He told me he'd discovered that romance was a crock of shit (which of course it is) and he doesn't need it, doesn't want it any more.  Is that true, I wonder?  What could be more romantic than moonlight on the ocean, for someone like Justin.  Justin's emotional, Justin's heart is on his sleeve.  Like this Robert character.  Are they a match?  Kindred spirits? 

Fuck it.  I find that Iím getting angry at Justin, and when I realize that I'm staring at this tall dark handsome guy who has paused on the sidewalk to light a cigarette and give me the eye, instead of giving him a wink I'm glaring at him and murmuring under my breath, "Fuck off."

I'm not in the mood.

Draining my bottle, I shove a twenty under the ashtray on the table and stand up abruptly.  Ignoring the tall guy's smile, I brush past him and head off down the street to where I parked the jeep.  Driving down the boulevard I pass a Blockbuster so I park and go in, pick up a couple dvds.  We bought a small tv and a cheap dvd player a week ago - how it pains me to buy anything that's not top-of-the-line.  I decide to have my own film festival while Justin's off fucking around at the beach.  He said he'd be home early.  I wonder when 'early' is.



Justin

Simon offered to rub sunblock on my back but Robert grabbed the bottle from him and said, "I'll do it!"  We laughed later at the disappointed look on Simon's face.  I like Simon, but then I'm on to him.  He'll take whatever feelies he can get but it doesn't bother me, I can make him back off and he knows I mean it.  Besides, Brian sort of warned Simon off, which was really funny.  Brian doesn't have ownership issues, he's not usually the jealous type, he's told me to fuck around as much as I want. 

On the other hand, Brian knows I'm not likely to fuck around very much, so it's not generosity on his part.  In fact he probably takes it for granted that I don't fuck around.  Oh, I can do it.  I have done it - though not yet in California.  If I wanted to I could have at least a dozen guys at this party.  It's a big group, thirty-forty guys of all ages, most of them single, many of them hot.  I tell myself to go ahead, but for some reason I'm just not in the mood. 

Besides, I'd rather be with Robert.  Neither of us is into heavy tricking.  Robert had a boyfriend for almost three years, they just broke up about a month ago, he says he's going to play the field for a while.  But I notice that he's not seriously cruising any of these guys at the party.  He'd rather be with me too.  We're safe for each other and that makes it really comfortable to be together.



Brian

The sun went down a couple hours ago, my film festival was a bore.  I return to the computer but I don't feel like working any more.  I check e-mail and answer a couple routine notes, one from Michael, one from Lindsay.  I think about going out again, find a bar, pick up a trick and fuck his brains out.  Normally when Iím feeling at loose ends, a couple fucks, a backroom blowjob or two, put me in a better frame of mind.  So why donít I go out and get laid?  I donít know.  I really donít know.  Guess I'm just not in the mood.

Giving up at last, I throw myself down on the sofa and turn on the tv.  Channel surfing relaxes me slightly, then I come across a show about Greek mythology.  While I wait to see if theyíre going to profile Hercules, I get sucked into the program and wind up learning more than I ever wanted to know about Greek gods and goddesses.  If there were a test afterwards, Iíd get an ĎAí for sure.



Justin

I had a much better time today than I expected; of course it would have been a hundred times better if Brian were here but even so, Iíve had a lot of fun.  Some of us played volleyball on the beach, Robert and I played in the waves, not really swimming just jumping around like ten-year-olds.  I can be silly with Robert and not feel stupid.  He kept rubbing sunscreen on for me, I never really tan, just burn-and-peel; but luckily some guys had a big beach umbrella where we could sit in the shade.  We even fell asleep for awhile.  

Simonís friend Roger with the beach house cooked barbecue at lunch time and there were tons of leftovers to snack on all day and evening.  Once the sun went down, everyone congregated in the house which is really an enormous three-story condo.  There's a large terrace off the living room on the second floor, with a waist-high wooden fence type railing around the edge and a half dozen lounge chairs scattered around, a couple round tables and chairs, and enough potted plants to make it feel like a garden.  Robert and I sat at one of the tables having a snack, then he said, let's go get a joint. 

I'm feeling ready to go home but decide to wait half an hour,  till ten o'clock, and then I'll tell Simon.  I haven't seen much of him today, he's mostly been hanging with some cronies his own age.  One of the condo's bathrooms is devoted to party favors and the couple times I went past, Simon was in there and each time he'd beckon for me to come in and have some free samples.  But each time I just said no thanks.  I'm glad that Robert's not into doing a lot of drugs either.  He just wants some pot and I hang around the doorway as he accepts a joint from Simon and then we return to the terrace while he lights up. 

Robert offers me the joint but I shake my head.  I know a few hits would be okay but I'm not even tempted to break my promise to Brian.  The stuff must be pretty strong because after a couple tokes, Robert starts giggling and acting silly.  He brags that he can balance a beer bottle on his chin and we double over with laughter when he tries to demonstrate and immediately the bottle slides off his chin and falls over the terrace railing to the sand below.  Robert pulls over a chair and steps on the seat, hoisting himself up to sit on the top rail.  He beckons for me to join him so I put both hands on the rail and pull myself up next to him.  A voice calls and we turn to look at the doorway where's Simon's silhouetted against light from the living room.

"We're opening a magnum of champagne - you boys want some?" 

"Oh yum - champagne!" Robert squeals, and when I turn around to laugh at his enthusiasm, he's got both hands on the railing to push himself off.  But "Ooh!" he cries, his hands slip on the painted boards and suddenly Robert's body turns a backward somersault, catapulting him over the rail and down to the ground below in a bone-crunching sprawl.

"Robert!" I yell, turning sideways and leaning over the railing - when my own hands slip and I feel my body start to slide!  Strong arms grab onto me and I twist my head around to see Simon, eyes and mouth wide open, gasping loudly as he struggles to get a grip on my legs.   Somehow he manages to hang onto me, he keeps me from falling headfirst after Robert, and he pulls me back from the rail.  Together we dash into the house, down the stairs and out the patio doors, with Simon loudly shouting, ďCall 911, call 911!Ē



Brian

At midnight I decided that Justin might consider that 'early' and really, for a Saturday night, midnight is early.  At one o'clock I decided to go to bed.  One o'clock is early for bed on a weekend, but I was bored with tv, sick of the computer, and truth be told, sick of my own lonesome company.  I could have gone out again but I kept expecting Justin to come through the door any minute.  I didn't want him to think I'd been out screwing around all evening, which would be a logical conclusion if he came home to an empty apartment.  I mean, it would be okay for me to be out screwing around.  But I was not in the mood.

After an hour of tossing and turning in bed, I got up again and started getting angry.  Of course it's okay for Justin to stay out late and I know how parties can be, you're having fun and you forget the time.  Forget your obligations.  Forget that maybe somebody's waiting up for you, even though that somebody never waits for anybody.  So it's okay.  Except that I'm pissed.  Even if I have no good reason to be pissed.

By two-thirty I'm furious.  But by three o'clock, I'm starting to get - concerned.

What if Justin drowned in the ocean and nobody noticed he was missing?  I think there's sharks around here too.  The traffic in LA is terrible, what if there was a car crash?  Simon is a snake, I don't trust him.  Maybe he made a pass at Justin, maybe he refused to drive Justin home.  Or maybe Justin and Robert decided to stop off at Robert's place after the party and. . .fell asleep.  Or something.

I could call him, I could call Justin on his cell, but for some reason I'm resisting.  At first I resist because I don't want him to feel harassed, checked-up on, he wants me to trust him again so I'm trying to trust him.  Then I don't call because I'm waiting for him to call me.  Call and tell me why he's late, call and see if maybe I'm worried about him.  Then I don't call because I'm mad as hell.

By three-thirty I'm ready to phone the police.  I'm trying to talk myself out of it, trying to calm down.  I don't trust myself not to lose it talking to some straight homophobic asshole cop.  At three-forty-seven I hear a key in the lock and get up off the sofa to stand in front of the door as Justin pushes it open.  My face shows nothing, not anger, not relief, not anything whatsoever.  



Justin

"Brian!" I say earnestly, "I'm so sorry - you must be worried sick!"

"Worried?" he tosses his head, "Of course I'm not worried.  Why should I be worried?"

"And you're mad!" 

My God, he's practically shaking with fury.  Which is almost frightening.  Brian hardly ever loses his temper but when he does, it's scary as hell.  His arms are crossed on his chest, his jaw is tight, his eyes are blazing, his teeth are grinding, a muscle is jumping in his cheek, and all the time he's pretending to be - I don't know, pretending like everything is hunky-dory.  Doesn't he realize that I know all his moods by now?

"I'm not - "

"Yes you are," I contradict.  "And I don't blame you, Brian, but really, it's your own fault."

Then he loses it. 

"MY FAULT?" he yells, bending forward to glare at me, almost spitting in my face.  "IT'S FUCKING MY FAULT?"

"Yeah," I say calmly.  Almost calmly - Brian's anger is shaking the building like a California earthquake.  "I tried to call you a million times - "

"That's a FUCKING LIE!"

"Brian - "

"The fucking phone has not rung ONCE.  Not ONE TIME.  So don't tell me you - "

"Brian," I insist, reaching out to touch his arm but he pulls away.  "Brian, I've been calling you for HOURS.  You must have turned off the phone."

Brian leans even further forward to shout in my face, "I did NOT turn off the fucking - "  He stops suddenly and pulls back.  Then he stands up straight and I see him close his eyes.  Shake his head.

"Fuck."

"Brian- "

"Fuck."  Brian opens his eyes.  "I unplugged the phone, I turned off my cell.  I was working, I didn't want interruptions."

"Well, that's what I just said.  I've been trying to call you for hours."

Brian's recovering himself now, he exhales a huge whoosh of air but then crosses his arms on his chest again.  "So you called," he says, tight-lipped.  "To say what?  You were having a sleep-over?"

"No, to tell you that Robert got hurt, I went with him to the hospital, and - "

"What?"  Brian shakes his head again like he's changing gears.  "What happened?"

"He fell off the terrace and he - "

"Fell off the terrace!  How did that happen?  Is he dead?"

"Brian, will you let me explain?"  When he just stands there glaring at me, I start to lose my own temper.  "Stop shouting at me, okay?"

Shrugging his shoulders, recovering his nonchalance, Brian nods for me to continue.

"He's going to be okay, but he broke his shoulder and sprained his ankle, and cracked a couple of ribs.  He's in the hospital - I stayed with him till they finished all their tests and stuff and got him settled in a room."

"Where was Simon during all this?  Isn't he the grown-up responsible for you boys?"

That does it.  "Fuck you, Brian, I am a grown-up.  So's Robert.  Fuck you," I repeat, pushing past him and marching off down the hall. 

"Where are you going?" he's right behind me.

"I'm taking a shower - what do you care?" 

Then I give voice to my real feelings, what's been eating me up on the inside for the past three hours or more.  I stop in the hall and turn around to confront him. 

"Brian, if you really gave a shit, YOU would have called ME.   You would have called me, Brian!  And then you would've seen that your fucking phone was turned off." 

When he says nothing, just stands staring blank-faced, I go on.  "What really happened is that you were out fucking around all night, and when you dragged your ass home and found me not here, then you started getting mad.  Am I right?"

"How'd you guess?"

"So don't try to pretend you were all worried about me, and don't start making fun of me, treating me like a child."  I stop for breath and ask tersely, "Got it?"

He shrugs.  "I never said I was worried."

"That's pretty fucking obvious."  I turn away and head for the bathroom, but Brian's again on my heels and he puts a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

"Justin, wait."

When I look at him over my shoulder, raising my eyebrows in Kinney fashion, Brian says, "Okay, I might have been slightly worried.  And I didn't call you because. . ."

"Because?"

Brian shrugs again.  "You would've thought I was checking up on you."

"It's almost four in the morning, Brian.  You have a right to check up on me.  A responsibility, even.  If your partner's not home by four in the morning, you're SUPPOSED to be worried.  You're SUPPOSED to check up on him."

"Hunh," he curls his lip. 

"So remember that next time, okay?"

Brian shakes his head.  "There won't be a next time.  I knew you were going to be trouble, I should never have brought you along, there's nobody here to look out for you."

"What?" I don't believe what I'm hearing, and a sudden chill makes me shiver involuntarily.  "You're fucking over-reacting, Brian."

"No," he denies it, "I'm not.  And I've decided, it's time for you to go home, and - "

Before the shiver has time to pass through me, I've moved forward three steps and slipped my arms around Brian's waist.  Shaking him roughly, I growl, "I am home, damn you."

"Justin - "

"Shut up," I insist.  "Wherever you are - that's my home." 

When he says nothing, I add, "After three years, you're still trying to send me away from you anytime something goes wrong."  I hesitate, then say more strongly, "Get used to it, Brian:  I'm not going anywhere."

He says nothing but returns my steely look with his own steely look. 

"You did once."

Of course he's not going to play fair, but I don't let him trip me up that easily.  He wants me to get mad, but I'm not going to get mad.  "That was a mistake.  You have to stop beating me up for that mistake."

I brace myself for more argument but surprisingly there is none.  Brian's silent for a moment, then I feel some of the tightness leave his body.  He relaxes slightly and bends his head, we touch foreheads.

"Okay?" I ask and Brian nods.

"Okay."  He kisses my lips, just a small kiss, then slips his arms around my shoulders and pulls me tight against his chest.

After a moment he says, "So tell me.  How did Robert get hurt?"

Pulling back slightly but keeping my arms tight around Brian, I explain.  "I told you - he fell off the terrace wall.  He was sitting on the top rail, and - "

"Were you with him?"

"Yes, but - "

"Was he wasted?  Was he doing drugs?"

"Brian, if you mean, was I doing drugs, the answer is no.  And Robert wasn't really either, he just smoked some pot, I don't think that had anything to do with him falling.  It was an accident."

He nods then and we just hold onto each other for a moment, then I repeat, "I'm going to take a shower, then I need to sleep.  Come with me?"

"Mmm-hmm."

We've finally got the hang of the hand-held shower thing, it's a two-man operation, one to soap up, one to hold the shower head and rinse the other off.  Last Sunday was a lazy day so we filled the tub (it took forever, it's so huge) and played around.  You can splash a lot and it's okay because the whole bathroom's tile and marble and porcelain, easy to clean up afterwards.  But tonight, I mean this morning, we're both too tired to fool around in the tub.

As we're drying off I ask Brian how he spent his Saturday night.  "Did you go cruising?  Find a bar you like?"

"I was not in the mood."

We drag back the covers and slip over the smooth cool sheets of our Hollywood bed, meeting in the middle and sliding into each others arms.  "Since when aren't you in the mood?" 

I really want to know.  Brian doesn't answer so I pursue it.  "There must be a million guys to choose from in WeHo"

"Two million."

"And you can fuck anyone you want."

"Of course I can," he smirks.

"Yeah," I agree.  "So why  -"

"Who says I'm not going to?" Brian interrupts, pushing his face against mine, snaking out his tongue to tickle my lips. 

Breathlessly I ask, "Am I the one you want, Brian?"

"Shut up," he says and kisses me again, but I put my arms on his chest and push him a few inches away.

"Am I the one you want?"

Looking into my eyes, Brian gripes, "Always trying to pin me down."

"Answer me," I insist.  "If you can't say it, then write it on my back."

"Fuck you,Ē he snarls.

"Not until you answer.  Do you still heart me?"

"Yeah, okay?  Yeah."  Brian frowns menacingly, "I heart you.  Now shut up and roll over."









9/17/03