Queer as Folk FanFic by Morpheus
The Prisoner of Tremont Street
Part 12: Pie in the Sky
"I don't fucking want to be grateful to Justin!"
The moment the words are out of my mouth, I feel him come up behind me. Fuck.
"You don't need to be, Brian," he says calmly - his unemotional façade belied by the pink flush of his cheeks. He hands me the glass of apple juice he'd gone to fetch for me. His footsteps were silenced by the soggy grass of the munchers' lawn, his approach hidden not only from me but also from Lindsay by the white wicker arbor she and I are seated in. It’s really too cold to sit outside but I was longing for fresh air, so we are pretending it's spring when actually there are piles of gray smudgy snow still dotting the backyard and we can see our breath mist the air around us in the fading light of sunset.
"Brian didn't mean - " Lindsay quickly jumps in, but I hold up a hand to silence her.
"Don't speak for me," I say harshly. I'm angry, not at Lindsay, not at Justin. But damned if I'm going to explain myself. Instead I set down the juice glass - hard - on the small white table beside me - juice slops over the edge of the glass which unfortunately is made of plastic and does not break, then I stand up and just walk away.
Just walking away is not as easy as it sounds. I'm still required to use crutches, the hard cast is gone but there's a soft removable cast strapped to my leg for support. It's difficult to get away quickly from an emotional scene with any speed or grace when you're forced to use crutches on a grass lawn. I know they're watching me - in silence - and at one point the rubber tip of the crutch sticks in a hole and almost tilts me over. I stop to catch my breath, and to ask myself where the fuck I think I am going? I still can't drive.
Of course Justin's immediately at my elbow. I want to tell him to fuck off, to go away, to leave me alone, but I can't. And it makes me furious. I just stand there like a statue, my face hot, my anger has no place to go, while he gently takes the crutch away from me and pulls it out of the hole.
"Justin - " I have to say something to him.
"Do you want to go home? We haven't eaten yet."
"Justin - "
I don't do apologies. I don't do regrets. And I was only telling the truth. I don't want to feel grateful to Justin. But. . .
"Brian - I'm not helping so you'll feel grateful. I’m helping because of all the times you've helped me. It's called payback. That's all."
Forcing myself to look at him, I'm biting my lips to hold back all kinds of words I don't want to say. His face is struggling to remain impassive - something he's learned from me. Damn it. "Payback's a bitch," is all I can think to say.
"Yeah, sometimes. But not this time, not for me, anyway." Justin hands me the crutch and I turn away again, I look at the picket fence around the yard. I look at the gate. I want to walk through that gate, I want to get into the ugly new car and drive away. Far, far away.
"Please come back and eat, Brian. There's coconut cream pie."
I feel my shoulders slump in defeat. I'm trapped inside the picket fence. I'm trapped by my crutches. I'm trapped by Justin's need for coconut cream pie.
I got an expurgated version of what happened later, at the time all I knew was that thunderclouds were bursting over Brian’s head, soaking everyone around him. What else is new? And all his little acolytes run to get umbrellas – for him. I’ll never understand it.
Brian and I have been getting along okay – just okay – since the day he signed over his rights to Gus. Which of course he should have done before Gus was even born, but instead Brian parlayed it into a drama performance worthy of the Old Vic. I believed him when he said he did it not for us, but for his son. I acknowledge Brian’s love for Gus - but of course there’s lots of caveats. Brian loves his son when it’s convenient. And okay, he’s rushed to Lindsay’s side any time there’s been an emergency with Gus and he's quick with his checkbook, but he makes very little effort to be a real father. Which is fine by me. The less influence Brian Kinney has on our son, the better.
This is the first time in months that Brian’s been to our house for dinner. Linds nagged me to visit him while he was laid up in the hospital and then at home, but truthfully, I knew Brian would much prefer me to stay away. Linds took Gus a few times, but she said Brian was too impatient to bear the rambunctiousness of a two-year-old – I can only imagine the frustration of Brian Kinney confined to bed – bed without sex breaks. Justin must have had his hands – and his mouth – busy taking care of that dick. Dick in both senses of the word.
Justin. Christ, that boy is so wasting his time with Brian. He’s a great kid, he deserves to be with someone who appreciates him, someone who loves him and isn’t afraid to say so. I hoped he’d make a go of it with Ethan – now there was a nice young man. Polite, gentle, kind. The antithesis of Brian. Which is probably why Justin dumped him and ran back for more Kinney abuse.
Dinner started out pretty tense, Brian silent and glowering, Lindsay (as always) jumping into the breech with cheerful chatter, Justin struggling to help her keep the conversation moving along. The dishes went around the table once and Brian didn’t take anything, his plate remained empty. Then he glanced at Justin’s elaborately unconcerned face and sighed, one of his heavy, world-weary sighs, and reached for the platter of chicken. Justin’s and Lindsay’s relief was almost palpable, and I could have picked up the bowl of potatoes and thrown it at Brian’s head, the fucking drama queen.
I steered the conversation to Justin’s school schedule, spring semester had started in January and mid-terms were approaching. He was telling us about a term project he was working on, some kind of project of puzzle pieces created by individual students then fitted together as a group mural, and Justin mentioned that he needed more studio time. This set off Brian again, in an aggravated voice he intoned, “I’ve told you to spend more time at school, I don’t need a keeper any more, I can take care of myself now.”
Which of course is far from the truth, but was evidence to me anyway that Brian was trying to get rid of Justin, push him out of the loft more often. Probably Brian is wanting to have sex partners come over while Justin’s out. When I suggested this idea to Linds later, predictably she insisted that Brian was only thinking of Justin and his needs. Yeah, right.
“I know that, Brian,” Justin said carefully, then explained, “Getting more studio time is a school problem, not a schedule problem for me – there’s a shortage of studios, we’re all on waiting lists.”
Brian was still frowning but he shut up and ate a few more bites. He didn’t eat much dinner. Like most wild beasts who are forced to live in a cage, Brian’s getting thinner and more bad-tempered by the hour. I can‘t imagine how Justin endures it.
“Justin,” Lindsay jumped in eagerly, “Could you use my studio here? There’s plenty of room to spread out, and – “
“Oh, thanks!” Justin’s smile is the sweetest thing about that boy. “But we can’t take our projects off campus, it’s supposed to be some kind of togetherness thing, the class working together and blah-blah, some philosophical kind of unity shit.” He laughed then, and I happened to glance at Brian’s face and saw the most amazing change in him. It was probably my imagination, but it almost seemed like Justin’s laugh melted the frozen grimace on Brian’s face.
“More chicken, Bri?” Linds held out the platter toward him, and after first shaking his head, Brian reconsidered, reaching for it and forking a chicken leg onto his plate. Then he seemed to relax the rigor mortis of his body, leaning back in the chair. He picked up the chicken with his fingers and gnawed it off the bone, listening to Justin’s lively chatter about his class project.
When we finished eating and Justin jumped up to help clear the table, Linds and I had just gone into the kitchen when I turned around to see if the wine bottle was still on the table. I saw Brian reach out and grab Justin’s wrist, and when he stopped and looked down inquiringly, I watched Brian pull him close for a kiss. Their foreheads pressed together for a moment, and I could almost see what Linds insists is Brian’s love for the kid.
Almost. But it was a fleeting thought. I know Brian Kinney too well to believe he has very strong feelings for anyone but himself.
Poor Brian, he stuck his foot in his mouth tonight. He’s so worried somebody’s going to figure out how important Justin is to him. I wonder what would have happened without the car crash? It surprised most people to find out that Brian and Justin had started seeing each other again, but it didn’t surprise me. I know Brian better than almost anyone, and I see the love for Justin in everything he does. Even when, or especially when, he seems to be pushing Justin away. Like at the Rage party.
Oh, I didn’t see it right away. Few people can read Brian’s emotions – I can’t always do that myself – but you’d have to have been blind not to see how devastated Brian was when Justin walked out on the party, walked out with Ethan. So we all assumed that it was a surprise to Brian. Later I found out that he'd masterminded the whole thing. Or at least, he had a hand in what happened.
Everybody expected Brian to go off the deep end – like he’d done when Justin was in the coma. Drinking, drugs and sex have always been Brian’s retreat – he was pretty wild in college, though he was on scholarship and he made sure not to fuck that up, he kept his grades up, but he was definitely a party boy. We partied together sometimes, while we were lovers and even after that. I like to think we were lovers, though I know for Brian it was only a lark. It was more than a lark for me, but Brian’s never held me to ransom for that.
Instead of what Brian called his “pain management,” this time he threw himself into work. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of maturity, or if Brian just figured out his old routine didn’t cut it any more. He stopped seeing everybody, stopped going out, and he wouldn’t return my phone calls, unless I mentioned a problem with Gus. So one Saturday night I dropped in on him unexpectedly, without Gus. At first he wouldn’t let me in, but finally he buzzed me up and opened the door, and I was shocked at his appearance. He was unshaven, his hair looked like he’d been pulling on it, the loft was a mess.
He’d had a few drinks, not enough to make him drunk, just enough to make him maudlin, and I got him to sit on the sofa with me for a while. I’d learned a long time ago that the only way to get Brian to talk, is to remain silent and wait for it. If he wants to spill, he’ll do it on his own. If he doesn’t, there’s no force in hell that can get him to open up. And finally he did.
“If you think I miss him, you’re wrong,” he’d assured me, though I hadn’t even mentioned Justin’s name. “I prefer being alone, always have, always will.” I just looked at him, saying nothing, but he acted like I’d contradicted him.
“I do, though,” he insisted. “Prefer being alone, I mean. And the thing is, he was just in the way here - noisy, messy, always underfoot.” Brian glanced around the empty loft and the emptiness reflected in his eyes jerked my heart. He was so unhappy.
I couldn’t help myself, I laid a hand on Brian’s arm. He looked down at it for a moment, and I saw him swallowing hard, then he looked up into my eyes and he said bleakly, “I had to. It was the right thing. Sometimes I do the right thing.”
Then it dawned on me what he meant. Brian was telling me, without saying it, that he’d had something to do with Justin leaving.
“Brian – “
“Want a drink?” he asked quickly, pulling away from my hand and almost leaping off the sofa. He walked to the liquor cart by the window and kept his back to me. “One drink, and then you really have to go. I’ve got a report due Monday, so I don’t have time for visitors.”
“No thanks. Brian – “
“Then, would you mind going now?” He still faced the window. “I’ve got this hot idea for a new proposal, and I really need to get busy now, before I lose it.” He hesitated, then added, “The idea, I mean.” Then he turned around and headed for the door and pulled it open.
With a sigh of resignation, I got up from the sofa, grabbed my purse from the coffee table and moved toward the door. Brian’s defenses were back up, his face was closed, his eyes shielded.
“Come for dinner next weekend,” I urged him, “Your son misses you. And so do I.”
“Sure,” he nodded, but I knew he didn’t mean it. He kissed me softly, then gently nudged me out of the loft. When he pushed the door shut behind me, it sounded like the clang of a prison cell door. I wondered if Brian was locking people out, or locking himself in.
Of course I’m not happy about the car accident – both guys could have been killed, or at least had more serious injuries. But I’m not exactly sad about it either. Maybe this forced time together will work in their favor, in the end. Maybe Brian will be able to open up to Justin at last.
Melanie scoffs at me. She says the idea of Brian Kinney ever changing, ever becoming the kind of man worthy of being loved, is just pie in the sky. I hope she’s wrong. I want so badly for Brian to be happy.
Dinner at Lindsay and Melanie's was so delicious, I ate way too much and only had room for one piece of pie when we moved to the living room for coffee and dessert. That was disappointing, but luckily Lindsay insisted on sending the rest of the pie home with us, she said the two of them didn't need the extra calories. They're both slim so I don't see the problem, but of course I didn't argue. Pie is even better long after dinner time, when you're finally hungry again.
At first I hadn't been very hungry, I was afraid I couldn't eat dinner because Brian was so upset. He just sat there at the table, passing the dishes around without taking anything onto his plate. Of course I acted completely unconcerned, the worst thing to do would be to fuss at him, he would've gotten even crabbier. So Lindsay and I just pretended everything was okay and eventually Brian relaxed, and he ended up eating quite a bit, for him.
Especially lately, he really has no appetite, and he's lost about ten pounds since the accident. Now that he's in physical therapy and getting more exercise, maybe his appetite will pick up. That's what Lindsay thinks and I hope she's right. Brian grumbles about going over there for dinner, but he really enjoys their cooking. Maybe now that he can get around easier, we can go over there more often. He loves being with Gus too.
Earlier we got to see Gus before he was put to bed, he's so big now and I love getting down on the floor to play with him. He likes cars, especially trucks, his favorite is a big yellow dump truck. I helped him load it with blocks and drive it toward the sofa to dump on Brian's feet. Brian tried to hold Gus for a few minutes, but the little guy can't sit still, and I know his moving around hurt Brian's leg, though of course he denied it. But I'm clued in to every nuance of pain on Brian's face by now and I saw it. Linds is tuned into Brian too, and when I glanced at her, she immediately hurried over to pick up Gus and take him off to bed - protesting loudly all the way.
Then Melanie asked Brian about physical therapy, and the expression on his face told the story even before he opened his mouth.
I was excited to get started on physical therapy, to build up my strength again, and it never occurred to me what a painful and painfully slow process it was going to be. I have to be driven to the hospital, at least for a while longer, I have to shuffle on crutches from the parking lot to the entrance and down a long corridor to the physical medicine department - or wait for someone to fetch a wheelchair for me, and I'm fucking never riding in a wheelchair ever again.
“The fucking PT is always late,” I complain, then Justin says she’s worth waiting for, he likes her. “You like everybody – and anyway, it’s not your fucking leg that gets twisted into a pretzel by a strong-armed midget SS officer.”
“Brian, she’s not that bad,” Justin contradicts me. “She’s the best in the whole department, that’s what all the other patients and the staff say. And she’s not a midget.”
Shaking my head, I describe her: “Five-two at the most, and if she weighs a hundred pounds, I'd be amazed. And although she's reasonably attractive, for a woman – blonde and blue-eyed” (“Green-eyed,” Justin butts in, but I ignore him), “she’s got this big smile that falsely advertises 'sweetheart' when she’s really a Doberman pinscher.”
“Her name’s Rikka,” Justin continues to interrupt, “Isn't that pretty? She's named for her Norwegian grandmother.”
Puffing out my cheeks, I exclaim, “Naturally Justin has dragged her whole family history from her while he sits on the sidelines, watching her torture me. They completely ignore me, just keep chatting happily away, paying absolutely no attention to my screams of agony.”
I let Justin take over describing the therapy regimen, he researched PT on the internet to be sure I’m getting the proper treatment. Therapy started off slow the first time, with a light massage of the leg muscles, gentle stretching, and some ultrasound. I was pissed at how little we did that first day, until I woke up in the night with a charley horse. I loathe the slow pace of my treatment, patience is not one of my virtues. If I have any virtues. And if Justin weren't watching over me, I'm not sure how closely I'd follow the regimen of PT appointments. On top of that, I have a routine of stretching and strength-training exercises to follow at home, where Justin enjoys his role of supervisor. He enjoys that role way too much.
“So is it helping?” Lindsay asked me, when Justin stopped to take a breath.
“I guess,” I answer her. “The first week sucked, it didn't seem to be working, but now in the middle of the second week, I'm starting to feel the strength coming back - fucking slow, too damn fucking slow. But Rikka promised that in a couple weeks, I may be able to return to work - part time.”
“Brian, that’s wonderful!” Lindsay has always been my cheerleader. “You’ll be back to normal in no time now.”
“I hope so,” I say grimly. Christ, I have to get into that office soon, or everything I've gained this year will be lost. Working at home with Cynthia's assistance, I've kept my head above water, increased my client list, and Vance has backed off the full frontal assault he'd intended right after the accident. Cynthia's traveled for me, and we've even held a few client meetings at the loft, but I need to be on-site and a strong physical presence in the office soon. The closer I get to that goal, the more impatient I become.
Leaving Lindsay and Mel's about ten o'clock, we ride along in silence, comfortable silence; I'm being extra cautious driving the slick city streets. Brian leased this car, a silver Honda Accord, over the phone; partly for me to get back and forth to school while I'm staying at the loft, and partly for himself once he’s ready to get behind the wheel. He'll get another jeep eventually, with the insurance settlement, but he wants to pick it out himself. He made some noise for a while about renting a car with hand controls so he could drive himself, but the thing is, there's no point - there's nowhere he's ready to go. He's dying to get back to work, but he'll have to continue working at home a while longer.
Because I'm attuned to Brian's pain, I know he's feeling bad that I'd overheard his conversation with Lindsay, about not wanting to be grateful to me. When I first heard his angry words, I'll admit that it hurt my feelings. Yet right away I realized that Brian didn't mean it the way it sounded, but being him, he couldn't - or wouldn't - explain. I'm reading this book about the Spanish Inquisition, and I can easily imagine Brian stretched out on the rack, his bones cracking and pain squeezing the life out of him - and him refusing to utter any words whatsoever to save himself.
Probably I'm supposed to figure out that he didn’t mean it, by the way he kissed me after dinner. I know Brian, and I know that that was his way of apologizing. It's enough, and yet it's not enough. If there's going to be any relationship between Brian and me now, I'm going to insist that Brian talk to me. Just a little, just enough to share his feelings. Brian says it's only lesbians and pussies who share their feelings but he's wrong. Somehow I need to show him that he's wrong. Before, a long time ago before the accident, before Ethan, before everything went wrong between us, I was willing to settle for whatever Brian could give me. I won't do that any more. I love Brian. I can't deny it to myself, and I won't deny it to him, if the time comes to tell him so. But I won't settle for crumbs any more, I want the whole pie.
When we get back to the loft, Justin puts the pie in the refrigerator before helping me change my clothes. Mostly I can manage things by myself now, but he still insists on helping me dress and undress, and every morning he gets in the shower with me – and damn it, my legs are so weak, sometimes I’m afraid I might fall down if he didn’t. He pulls off my boots and helps me out of my jeans, then grabs my silk robe from the closet and hands it to me. I move down to the living room and settle on the sofa, my leg propped on the coffee table.
Justin brings me my laptop – on the way home, I’d said I needed to check my e-mail and work on a draft presentation for next week, but one glance at the computer makes me shake my head. "Too tired. Come and sit with me for a while."
"Okay." He sets the laptop back on the desk, then makes a detour to put on some music. "What do you feel like? Jazz?"
With an evil grin he tells me, "'Whatever' means you'll listen to the new White Stripes CD I bought yesterday."
"Hunh," I grunt back at him. "Jazz."
Justin picks out a CD and starts it, then comes to sit beside me on the sofa.
Brian puts his arm around me and pulls me in close, kisses me lightly on the lips but doesn’t take it any further. I relax against his chest and feel his breath tickling my hair. We rest like that in silence for a few minutes, then he says quietly, "Justin."
"Hmm?" I can feel his heart beating beneath the black silk robe, Brian loves the feel of silk against his skin.
"Tonight at the munchers' - what you heard. It wasn't what I meant."
I wait. I want to say, ‘I know, Brian, it's okay.’ But I don't let myself.
When I stay still, Brian stirs slightly, then sighs. He hates explaining himself and usually refuses to do it. At last he says, "It's not that I'm NOT grateful to you. It's that I don't want to be."
"Oh.” Full stop.
More silence. Then, "The way you've taken care of things for me. . . Nobody else could have done - would have done - what you did. What you're still doing - though I don't really need help any more."
He knows that's not true, but I don't argue with him. I stay quiet, wondering where Brian’s going with this.
After another long pause, Brian adds, "But the thing is. . .even though I don't NEED you here any more, not really. . ." He takes a deep breath and goes on, "The thing is, I wish you'd stay a little longer. Just for a while. If you don't mind."
I lift my head then and smile slightly. "I don't mind," I murmur. Then he kisses me, and I slide my arms around his neck. "I don't mind at all," I add, in between kisses.
"Sleep with me tonight," Brian whispers.
Yes-yes-yes-yes-yes! "Okay." Inside I'm jumping up and down, but outwardly I'm cool. "Do you want some pie before we go to bed?"
Brian squeezes my shoulders hard and shakes me, complaining, "You’re so greedy. Go get yourself a piece of pie. You can give me a bite."
"Better yet," I suggest, pulling away and laughing, "I can put it on your dick and lick it off."
"No, you can't. I don’t want bits of coconut sticking to my balls, I'm too tired for a shower tonight."
I stand up and head for the refrigerator, then stop and lean over the back of the sofa, slide my arms down his chest. His hair brushes my neck as he leans back his head and raises his chin for an upside-down kiss. "Are you too tired to fuck?" I ask, already knowing the answer.
"Never," he claims. "Hurry up and eat your damned pie."