Our Place
Photo Copyright SHOWTIME 2002
Queer as Folk - Episode 2-06



















The first thing I see when I slide open the loft door are green apples on the floor.  Daphne and I just finished sharing a joint and we're both giggling for no reason, pot does that to me sometimes, and when we see the apples we bust up laughing.  Suddenly I see movement from the living room, from the sofa, suddenly I see two naked bodies, two sweaty naked bodies.  I'm still laughing but now I don't know why.  It's the zucchini guy, and Brian's fucking him on the sofa.  He looks at me, Brian, he looks me in the eye, and he doesn't care that I'm seeing it.

I think that's what really hurt, and still hurts, is that he didn't even care.   I feel the laughter die in my throat, fading away to a rumble then a gurgle then a hiccup.  For a moment I can't stop looking at him, then I feel Daphne pulling me, she's grabbed my jacket and she's pulling me toward the door.  With one last hopeful glance over my shoulder - hopeful that somehow I've imagined the whole thing - I let Daphne drag me out the door and I stand there for a moment while she pulls the loft door shut with a bang.

"Let's go," she hisses at me, then she takes my hand and pulls me toward the stairs.  We don't speak again until we reach the street, where Daphne asks urgently, "You okay?"

"Sure," I manage to answer evenly, then I smile.  "Don't look at me like that, I'm not going to throw myself under a bus.  It's just Brian being Brian." 

And I know I'm speaking the truth, and I know it doesn't mean anything, Brian fucking another trick, it doesn't mean anything at all.  It was just the shock of seeing him in our place.  Well, it's not 'our place,' is it?  It's his place, he can do whatever - or whomever - he wants to, in his own home.

"It's really okay," I reassure Daphne, putting a hand on her shoulder.  She's wearing this look of doom and gloom. 

"But Justin, you said - "

And that's the part that's hard to take, that's part of the reason I'm hurting.  Not ten minutes ago I'm bragging to Daphne about what a changed man Brian is, and the truth is that he is not changed.  It was all wishful thinking, romantic heterosexual teenage crap..  That's why I'm hurt - I got caught being foolish.  Sometimes I'm such a silly fucking teenager.

I start to force myself to laugh, then I stop.  This is Daphne, I don't have to pretend with her.  "Well, I was wrong, wasn't I?" I ask, trying unsuccessfully to keep a bitter edge off my voice.  I sigh and feel my shoulders slump.  "The thing is, Daph, that it doesn't matter that Brian does other guys.  Really." 

She looks unconvinced, but I'm convincing myself, which is the important thing.  Brian will always be Brian, I've told myself that a million times and it's true.  He'll never change, for me or anybody else, and I have to take him or leave him that way. 

I tell her now.  "It's not like cheating, you know Ė thatís a hetero thing.  We get so brainwashed by society and sometimes I still forget that it's different for us.  For gay men.  We don't have to follow those rules."

Daph still looks skeptical, but she's my friend and she's trying to go along with me.  "So you're really okay with this?" she waves her hand toward the building.

"Yes.  No, but yes."  We laugh then, a real laugh.  "I'm okay with it.  I just don't want to see it.  You know?"

"Yeah.  Oh well," Daph wrinkles her nose, "That guy was not very hot, you're a lot cuter than him."  She slips her arm through mine.  "Let's go have coffee or something, till you think he's done."  We walk along a few steps, there's a Starbucks nearby, but then I have a better idea.

"Daph, could I crash in your dorm room for tonight?  I can sleep on the floor."

"Sure." 

"Your roommates won't mind?"

"Nah.  I've got a sleeping bag in my closet you can use."

"Great!"

We hook arms again and walk a few blocks to the street where Daph parked her car.  In the back of my mind is a tiny hope that Brian will worry when I don't come home tonight.  But he won't, of course - he knows I can take care of myself.

*********

Next day I'm late to the diner for my morning shift and when I tell Deb I overslept, she starts to make one of her inappropriate sex jokes - Debbie lives for inappropriate sex jokes - but she must see something in my face because she backs off.  I'm taking orders from table three when I'm aware that Brian has entered the diner; from the corner of my eye I watch him greet the other guys, grab Ted's coffee cup and plop himself down next to Michael.  He orders a couple eggs and a donut, so after I finish with three, I grab a plate and drop a donut on it, deliver it to him.  He tries to grab and kiss me, but I'm just really not in the mood for that.

"Morning, Sunshine," he says, all cheery, but even though I am honestly and completely and thoroughly okay about the zucchini man, somehow I don't feel like giving him a smile.  Maybe later, just not right now.  When he tries again, I pull away, shrug him off, I'll be late to school.  I grab my jacket and get the fuck out of there.

I'm tackled from behind and I think it's Brian running after me, which of course would never happen in a million years.  It's Michael.  He tries to find out what Brian did to piss me off, and it's none of his fucking business, but I hear myself spouting off about the zucchini guy, I didn't realize how angry I am till I hear my own voice.  Michael goes into this Brian-justification spiel, I've heard it before - fuck, I use it myself all the time, don't I?  I catch my breath and decide, okay, I'll be real with Michael, I can be real with Michael, so I tell him I thought things would be different now that I'm living with Brian.

Michael not only laughs at me, he feels the need to point out that Brian only took me in because he felt guilty that I got bashed.  Christ.  I tear myself away from Michael and hurry across the street - fuck the red light, just let any damn cars try to hit me today!  All the way to school Michael's words play over and over in my head. It's not like I haven't suspected it all along.  It's not like a surprise or anything.  But. . .it hurts.  It really hurts.

After school I go back to the loft, change clothes, fix myself a sandwich, and get to work on the computer.  I can lose myself inside the computer, I can create again, this fucking computer has saved my sanity I think.  Brian bought it for me.  It cost a mint, it's state of the art, but money means nothing to Brian when he wants something.  I'm grateful, yes I am way beyond grateful.  But did he do it for me, or did he do it for himself, out of guilt? Did he do it so I'd hurry up and recover from the attack, move on, get back to normal . . .so that he can move on with his own life and stop feeling responsible for me?

I hear him come home but I pretend to be focused on my work.  He doesn't call out to me like he usually does, though I'm sure I can feel him looking at me for a while.  Then I hear him in the bedroom, changing clothes probably; in the kitchen, scrounging something from the refrigerator.  Then I do lose myself in my work and I don't hear him any more, don't think about him or anything else except my drawing.  Until I feel him creep up behind me, and he slides his arms around my neck.

What happens next is really strange.  Because all the time Brian is caressing me and rubbing his hands all over me and trying to kiss me, I don't feel the least bit aroused.  My dick doesn't even respond to him.  This has never happened before.  My whole body feels like a block of wood, hard maple or ash or one of those other woods sculptors use.  Finally he gets the message and stops, stares at me a moment.

"You're not still upset about the zucchini man, are you?" he asks, pretending to be surprised.  When I don't immediately answer, he goes on, "I donít even remember it, or him.  It was nothing."

"I know," I answer, and add, "That was just you being you."  I feel very calm, I'm not  upset or emotional at all.  Is this what maturity feels like?  "I know who you are, I donít expect you to change.  In fact, I donít even want you to change."  I take a deep breath.  All that I have said is true.  But there is something I have to know.

"Then what?"

"Why am I here?"

He pretends to misunderstand, he starts in with a joke about my mommy and daddy wanting to make a baby; it's not funny, he knows it's not funny.  He's putting off the inevitable, isn't he?

Interrupting, I insist quietly, "Brian,  you know what I mean.  Why am I here?  Is it just because you feel guilty about what happened?"  He's holding his breath, returning my stare, I can't read his face.  "Answer me.  Answer me."

I have to know.

"If I hadnít gotten bashed in the head, would I even be here?"

Brian tries to keep his face blank, but I see the truth begin to show through his eyes.  He turns his head away, but it's too late.  I've seen the truth. 

Okay.  I stand up, gather my school papers, turn and walk away.  He doesn't look at me, doesn't follow me.  I asked him, I got my answer.  Brian doesn't lie, even if  he might want to sometimes.  He doesn't follow me to the bedroom as I change my clothes, grab my backpack and shove in my school papers, a change of underwear, my sweats.  As I cross from the bedroom to the door, I see him still sitting at the computer.  He's staring at the screen, his hand is touching the computer screen, and I take one last look at this damned infuriating-selfish-asshole-bastard that I love beyond belief, then I exit the loft, close the door without slamming it, and hurry down the stairs.

It's a long walk to Debbie's and it's pouring rain, but I want to walk, I need to walk, I need time alone.  The rain is drenching me, running off my hair, down my face.  If there were tears, they'd be invisible, washed away.  I don't think there are tears, but I don't know for sure.  I'm exhausted by the time I get to Deb's, and when she answers the door, I'm suddenly afraid that she'll bombard me with questions, I don't want to talk about it, I just can't.  She takes one look at my face and ushers me inside, and for once, for once she must have decided to leave it alone.  Well, it's not hard to figure out why I'm there, is it?

Debbie makes me take a hot shower.   She makes me drink warm milk and puts me to bed like a child.  I have no strength left to fight her off, no strength left tonight for adulthood.  I'm grateful for her silent ministrations, and I accept her kiss on my forehead, allow her to tuck a blanket over me, it's to comfort herself as much as me, I think.

*****************

It's hard to get up in the morning but Debbie shakes me awake, promising pancakes with boysenberry syrup if I get up and get ready for school.  I feel much better this morning, resigned, accepting.  Of course I already suspected that Brian had only been taking care of me out of guilt, I just didn't want to believe it.  Now that I know the truth, I can deal with it.  Still, I have no energy for school and my hand feels so much weaker this morning, but I pretend that it's fine when Debbie asks me.

Luckily I don't have a shift at the diner today, so when I leave campus, I go straight to the loft, checking for Brian's jeep; it's not there and neither is he, so I have time to gather up some more clothes and books and drag them over to Deb's house.  I don't touch the computer though.  I'm sure Brian will give it to me, and I'm not going to be stupid enough to refuse it, I desperately need it.  But I can't think about that right now, one day at a time.

Vic's home when I get there, and I'm afraid he's going to third-degree me, but maybe Deb told him not to, all he does is hug me and tell me I'm looking great, and we sit at the kitchen table sipping coffee while he tells me about his doctor visit today.  His viral loads are down, the new med cocktail seems to be working, and he says he feels a lot better.  I love Vic so much, and I know Brian does, too.  Brian has never told me anything about his childhood, but he did say that Vic was there for him as well as Michael many, many times.

Later I help Vic fix dinner, he says Deb's working overtime tonight, but he won't let me help with the cleanup, instead he sends me to my room to do schoolwork.  Mostly I just lie on the bed, not-thinking.  Finally it's late enough for Babylon.  I wasn't going to go tonight, I'm really pretty tired, but it's too fucking lame to lie on the bed any longer, feeling sorry for myself.  Vic's surprised that I'm going out, but he doesn't try to stop me, just says to have a great time and I smile and wave as I go out the door.

I donít see Brian at Babylon, not that I'm looking for him.  I see Ted and Emmett upstairs talking to some other guys; I don't want to join them, they're Brian and Michael's friends mostly; well, Emmett's my friend now too, but I don't want to answer any questions tonight so I avoid them.  This cute guy with a buzz cut asks me to dance so I smile at him, and he's a great dancer and I finally feel myself relaxing and having a good time.  We touch each other a little, move closer, then start kissing.  He tastes like peppermint and smells faintly, pleasantly of cigarettes and wine.  His lips are soft, it feels good being close to him.  Maybe we'll go in the backroom later, he's got a nice big lump in his pants and I feel my own dick stirring slightly in response.

"Hey."

It's Brian, he's come up to me on the dance floor.

"Hey," says my dance partner, and "Fuck off," Brian tells him.  I almost laugh out loud.  He is so rude.

"What do you want?" I ask him, but I don't feel angry or belligerent any more.

He's not dancing, we're standing motionless in the middle of the whirling mass of bodies gyrating around us.  "You were right," he says.  I give my head a shake, asking wordlessly, 'right about what?'

"The reason I took you in was because you got a bat to the head.  But that's not the reason I want  you to stay."

He wants me to stay.  That's just starting to sink in when he adds quickly, defensively, 'But don't get the idea weíre some married couple, because weíre not.  We're not fucking straight people, weíre not like your parents, we're not a pair of dykes marching down the aisle in matching Vera Wangs."

All I can do is raise my eyebrows at him and wait.

Brian goes on, "We're queers, and if we're together, it's because we want to be, not because there's locks on our doors."  He takes a breath and adds, "So if I'm out late at night, just assume I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing:  I'm fucking.  And when I come home, Iíll also be doing exactly what I want to do:  Coming home, to you."

Surprise keeps me silent for a moment, then I answer quickly, "Okay.  I want some things, too."

It's Brian's turn to be surprised. 

"You can fuck whoever you want," I tell him, standing toe to toe and staring him in the eye.  "As long as itís not twice.  Same for me.  And no names or numbers exchanged.Ē  I pause, then go on, ďAnd no matter where you are, no matter what you're doing, you always come home - by two."

He halfway smiles.  "Four."

I smile back at him.  "Three."  We stare at each other a moment, then I add the last rule, something very important.  "One more thing:  You donít kiss anyone else on the mouth but me." 

Brian stands perfectly still, staring at me.  Then he brings his face close to mine, and he kisses me.  We kiss, his arms go around me, I slip my arms around his neck, and we kiss.  And kiss and kiss, sealing our bargain, bringing our bodies close together, and I feel my heart pounding, and I can feel his heart pounding too.  He wants me, he wants me in his life just like I want him in my life. 

We don't talk on the ride home, but Brian keeps his hand on my thigh, just resting it there, it feels like he's holding on to me.  So I put my hand on his thigh too, and we drive like that through the rain-drenched streets, silent but relaxed, or as relaxed as two men with raging hard-ons can be.  After he parks the jeep, he comes around to meet me halfway and puts his arm around my shoulders, holds me close beside him, I slip my arm around his waist.  We start kissing in the elevator, and we're both oblivious when it reaches the top floor, we're kissing, we're sucking each other's tongues, sharing our mouth flavors, hardly breathing.  Suddenly the elevator jerks and we're hurtling downwards, we jump slightly, look at each other and laugh. 

When the elevator reaches the ground floor, Brian pulls open the door and we exit, still laughing, pretending to be heading out, and Desirae, the weird third-floor neighbor with flaming red hair enters the elevator, her arms full of brown paper bags; Brian closes the door for her and she thanks him.  "Wait," he whispers to me, and we stand silently in the foyer till we hear the elevator stop, the door open, and we hear Desirae get out, fumble with her keys.  Then Brian takes my hand and leads me silently up the staircase, holding a finger to his lips.  "Shh!" he says, and we both laugh, but quietly.

Inside the loft I lead the way up the steps and I tell him, ďThis is our bed now.  Not  yours - ours.Ē  He slips his arms around my waist and pulls me against him.  I lean sideways and point, adding, ďAnd this is officially my side of the bed.Ē  He smiles and opens his mouth but I interrupt him, ďAnd I need a whole chest for my stuff, not just two drawers.Ē 

Brian shakes me, but gently.  ďIíll buy you a label-maker tomorrow.  You can put stickers on all the furniture, ĎBrianís chair, Justinís chair, Brianís computer, Justinís computer, Brianís Ė ď

ďShut up.Ē  I pull his head down and shut his mouth with kisses.






2/12/02




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Gap-Filler for Episode 2-06