Intermission – 08



I leave work about seven and stop at Luigi’s for soup and salad to go.  While waiting I sit on a hard wooden chair near the entrance and skim the Halliday stat sheets thinking about the campaign Reg Davis is proposing for the motel chain.

“Hey, Brian.”

I look up to see Rick standing in front of me, he's with an older woman.

“Rick, hey.”

“This is my mom, Lucy,” he introduces her and she smiles at me.  A very attractive and smartly dressed woman, reminding me in a way of Justin’s mother – her dark blond hair is styled similarly to Jennifer’s.

I stand up and shake the hand offered.  “Hello, Lucy - you’ll love the food, it’s great here.”

“Oh, we’ve finished eating,” Rick says, “We’re going to a play, so we had dinner early.”

“The food was delicious,” Lucy smiles.  “Rick’s treating me for my birthday.”

“Happy birthday.”

She thanks me and they turn to go, I sit down and stare at the reports in my hand, not seeing the figures – instead seeing Rick naked, moving beneath me as I fucked him on the love seat in his apartment.


Sex was good with him, I’d enjoyed it.  The first sex I’d really enjoyed since –


I look up and Rick's standing there alone, a glance toward the windowed exit doors shows his mother standing outside, waiting.

“I’d like to see you again,” Rick says.  He shoves his hands in the pockets of his coat – a camel’s hair wool coat with a turned up collar, very attractive with his blond hair.  He is a beautiful man, and suddenly I want to see him again, too.

“Me, too,” I admit, “But – “

“I know,” Rick grimaces. “No ultimatums.  Damn you.”

“Call me.  Or – maybe you want to come over tonight, after you take your mom home.”

“Maybe,” he agrees solemnly, before turning away and joining his mother outside the restaurant.  She takes his arm and they walk off. 

I turn back to my report and try to refocus on the statistics, but in my mind I'm seeing Rick writhing naked in my arms.  Christ, I am hungry for real sex.  Jerking off in the shower and quick forays into the backroom at The Sure Thing for blowjobs have been tiding me over, but it isn't enough.  For one thing, I'm used to going out almost every night, having a couple different tricks, some three-ways, the baths. . .I hadn't realized how much free time my old job gave me.  After my promotion, in a way it had been convenient to have somebody sleeping in my bed all the time. 

Convenient.  Justin was convenient.  Fuck me.   

"Kinney - order to go." 

I jump up quickly, grab the paper bag with my dinner and hurry out to the jeep.  Once home, I nuke the soup for a few seconds - soup has to be boiling hot, practically burning my mouth, before I can eat it.  The waitress put two hunks of garlic bread in the bag, even though I'd said not to - carbs at night are a killer - and I find myself wrapping them in plastic to put away for Justin to eat later, he loves garlic bread.  As soon as I realize what I'm doing, I take the wrapped bread and throw it into the garbage.  

I sit at the counter to eat the soup - it's impossible not to spill hot soup on a computer keyboard, but I carry my salad over to the desk to eat while checking the Halliday stats again before starting to rework Reg Davis' presentation.  I know he'll be pissed - Vance says I'm too abrasive with the staff, but fuck that, you've got to be tough to work on my team.  Vance is not exactly Prince Charming in dealing with staff, either.  Advertising's like that though, it does not require finessing - except for the clients.  Not like relationships.  I'm good at advertising; relationships are a hell of a lot harder.

In the car heading toward Harrisburg, I'd told Justin we never had a relationship.  I knew that was not exactly true.  He'd been with me, one way or another, for most of the past two years.  And even though that's over, completely over, it was a something.  A something that mattered to me, in the end, more than I would ever have imagined.  But it had ended, it was over, and really I should be glad about that.  I am glad about it.  I'm just missing sex, that's all.  Sex with Justin last weekend had been amazing, it's always amazing with Justin.  I never would have believed you could have sex with the same person over and over and not get tired of it.

I wonder if Rick will stop by later.   Then I put aside my salad bowl, and my libido, and concentrate on the Halliday account.


When the buzzer rings, a glance at the clock shows ten-thirty, I’m glad he’s made it early, and I jab the entry button and pull open my door.  The elevator doesn’t start whirring, but I hear rapid footsteps on the stairs.  I glance quickly at myself in the long mirror behind my desk:  Jeans, sleeveless black tee, barefoot, with messed-up hair.  It’s one of my best looks.  When I turn back to the stairs, it’s not Rick I see emerging, but Michael.

“Mikey,” I greet him with a smile, “Long time no see.”

“No shit, asshole, you’ve deserted your friends, nobody ever sees you.”

Fuck you, Michael, I want to say, I’m finally feeling a little upbeat, don’t bring me down.  “I was at the diner last Thursday,” I say in my defense as he walks by me into the loft, “And I’ve told you a hundred times, the next few months are critical at work, I’m trying to be fucking Superman.  Look at my desk!”

He looks, and it’s a mess all right, stacks of files on and off the desk, piled up on the floor; then he comes over and puts a hand on my arm.  “You could come to Woody’s for a drink sometimes, couldn’t you?  Or drop by Babylon for a few minutes?  And mom had a big family dinner last Saturday, you could have come by for dinner, couldn’t you?”

“I was out of town Saturday.  And anyway, you and Ben aren’t hanging around Woody’s and Babylon much, are you?  And you’re putting in long hours at the store.  It’s business.”  I lean my forehead against his and look into his eyes.  “For both of us.  Right?” 

Michael nods but adds in a whisper, “I’ve been missing you a lot.”

“I’m sorry, Mikey, I just don’t have time right now for anything but work.”

And of course that’s when the buzzer goes off again.  “Who’s that?” Michael demands, as I lean on the door release, “Pizza delivery?”

“Michael,” I put my arm around his shoulders and lead him to the door, “I’ll come by the shop after work tomorrow, okay?  We can have dinner, spend a couple hours together, okay?”

Before he can answer, Rick appears at the head of the stairs, but he stops abruptly when he sees Mikey in my doorway.

“Hey, Rick,” I greet him, “Come meet my old friend Michael, he’s just leaving.”

“Hi,” says Rick.

Michael just stares at him for a moment, then mutters, “Hi.”  He looks back at me.

“Mom said you were dating some guy, she and Horvath saw you at a restaurant two weeks ago.  Is this him?”

“Bye, Mikey, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Michael circles past Rick and starts down the steps, grumbling almost under his breath, “What is it with you and blonds?”  I’m tempted to give him a push down the stairs, rude little fucker, but I resist the urge and as soon as he’s out of sight around the turn, I grab Rick’s arm and pull him into the loft and shut the door.

“Nice coat,” I tell Rick, helping him remove the camel’s hair coat I’d admired earlier.  “D&G?”

“Yeah, my stepmother got it for my birthday last month.”

“Parents divorced?”  I’m unbuttoning Rick’s shirt and he impedes my progress by slipping his arms around my waist.

“Yeah,” he answers a bit breathlessly, “When I was a kid.”

“God, I wish mine had,” I murmur, as I bend my head to kiss him, and I feel him tremble in my arms, it’s such a heady feeling, to know a man wants you so badly.  I want him too, and I pull off his shirt and drop it on the floor.  His shoulders and chest are tanned a soft golden brown, but I find myself thinking it’s a shame that he’s let the sun ruin his beautiful pale blond skin.  There’s only a strip of it still visible, beneath his bikini underwear.

Sex is good with Rick, he gives great head, he’s got a fantastic tight ass and he makes wonderful moaning noises while I’m fucking him.  I’m on my knees with his legs over my shoulders, I’ve got him practically standing on his head, he’s moaning and panting for release, and I time my own orgasm to match his, to the exact second.  “Brian!” he shouts at the last moment, and “Just-“ I shout right back at him.

Catching myself smoothly, I shout, “Just a minute – just a minute, I’ve got a cramp,” and I pull away from him and sit up quickly, grabbing my leg and pounding on my calf muscle.  “Fuck - it hurts,” I exclaim dramatically, as Rick sits up in the bed and stares at my face.

“Nice save,” he comments dryly, and before I can say anything, as if there is anything to say, he rolls out the other side of the bed, goes into the bathroom and slides the door shut with a bang.


“Jamie, it doesn’t MEAN anything!”

“Fuck you, Justin, I’m not fucking stupid!”  Jamie pulls away from my hand on his arm and sits up in bed,  shaking his head and staring at me.

“I’m sorry,” I tell him sincerely, I mean it sincerely, I don’t know what else to say.  “It’s just, you know, I had sex with practically only one person for two years, it’s like a habit type of thing.  It doesn’t mean anything!”

“You’ve got your dick in my ass and you’re coming and you’re screaming ‘Brian!’ and it doesn’t fucking mean anything?”

It sounds bad, I know it does.  But I didn’t mean to, and I don’t know how to explain it, or make Jamie feel any better.  He won’t listen to me anyway, he gets out of the bed and grabs his pack of cigarettes and lights up, sitting down on the foot of the bed with his back to me.

Getting up from the bed, I stand in front of Jamie feeling awful.  “Can I have a cigarette?” I ask humbly.

“No, you fucking cannot!” he glares at me.  “You’re always fucking borrowing cigarettes, always.”

“You said you didn’t mind.”

“Now I do.  There’s a liquor store across the street, buy your own fucking cigarettes for a change.”

“You want me to leave?” I ask him.

“Well, duh.”  He’s puffing away like crazy on his cigarette, so with a sigh I begin gathering my scattered clothes from the floor and I get dressed as quickly as I can.  I’m starting to get angry too, though I don’t have a right to be mad, but that doesn’t stop me.  Anger stiffens my back and allows me to walk out of Jamie’s apartment without another word.  It’s freezing outside, and very late, I think the buses have stopped running and I guess I’ll have to walk all the way home.

I’m still trudging homeward but getting very cold; I’d put in a four hour shift at the diner after school, so I’m exhausted and feeling sorry for myself.  A two-block detour takes me right by Brian’s building, I’m not sure why I walked that way, but I glance up and see that lights are on in his place.  I wonder if he’s alone.  I wonder if he’d give me a ride home.  I could ask.  I could ring his buzzer and ask.  I don’t have my cell phone, I left it in my locker at the diner.

Finally I decide to ring the buzzer, otherwise my frozen corpse will be found in the gutter tomorrow morning.  I can’t walk all the way to Mom’s place, it’s at least three miles, I’m not even wearing gloves and I don’t have cash for a taxi, if I could even find a taxi this time of night.

Gathering my courage – all he can do is yell at me to go away – I push the buzzer.  I don’t have long to wait before I hear his voice, “Who is it?”

“Brian, it’s me.  Are you – alone?”

He doesn’t answer, but immediately the door buzzes and I push it open and hurry upstairs.  He’s waiting in the open doorway, leaning against the wall, wearing only a pair of jeans.  God, he’s beautiful.  

“What’s up?” he asks, “You okay?”

“Yeah, just frozen like a popsicle.”  He straightens up and grabs my arm, pulls me inside the loft.  I can’t stop my eyes from making a sweep of the place, just in case.

“I’m alone,” he says tersely, “Working my ass off.  What are you doing wandering around town in the middle of the night?”

Naturally I don’t want to explain what happened, but I don’t want to lie either, Brian hates lying.  “I need a ride home, I hoped maybe you would drive me?  It’s too cold to walk.”

Brian’s pulling off my jacket, and he takes my hands in his and chafes them roughly.  “You really are a popsicle, why don’t you go jump in the shower and get warmed up?  I’ll make some coffee.”

“Okay,” I agree, I really can’t stop shaking, I’m chilled all the way through. 

When I come out of the bathroom wearing a towel, Brian's waiting for me, holding his white terrycloth robe open so I can slip my arms through.  “Put your socks back on,” he tells me as I tie the sash; he knows my feet are always cold, “Then come to the kitchen.”

I can smell fresh-brewed coffee and I eagerly take the cup Brian holds out to me and hoist myself onto a stool at the counter. 

“Better now?”

“Mmm-hmm,” I murmur, gratefully sipping the coffee that Brian’s laced with milk and a drop of whiskey.  “Mmm, this is good.  I shouldn’t have coffee really, I’ll never wake up in time tomorrow.”

“What time’s your first class?”  Brian’s sipping coffee too, but he stays on the other side of the counter.

“Not till noon, but I have breakfast shift at the diner, six-thirty.”

“Christ, Justin,” Brian glances at the clock over the sink, “It’s after three.  What were you doing out so late?”

“Well, what do you think?” I answer, without looking at him.

After a moment, Brian comes around the counter and sits on the other stool.  “Doesn’t your boyfriend have a car, why didn’t he drive you home?”

I take another sip of coffee and look at Brian over the rim of the cup.  “First off, he’s not my boyfriend, and second, we had an argument and I walked out.”

Brian shakes his head.  “Important lesson:  Don’t argue with a guy till after he drives you home.”


“So, what did you argue about?”

I don’t want to answer.  “Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing as in ‘nothing,’ or nothing as in ‘mind your own business?’”

“I don’t want to tell you.”  Which is a stupid thing to say, because now he won’t stop till I tell him. 

“Why?”  Brian sets down his cup and leans his chin on his hand, regarding me with the beginnings of a smile.


“Okay, I’ll play:  Because why?”

I slide my eyes away from him.  “It’s too – embarrassing.” 

“Justin.”  I glance back at Brian, he’s shaking his head.  “Justin, I’ve cleaned up your vomit, I’ve scraped your come off the wall, I’ve licked your little pink asshole – so wouldn’t you agree that you don’t need to keep any secrets from me?”

“I could say the same thing to you,” I reply gently, without rubbing in the ‘gotcha.’

He raises his eyebrows at me, acknowledging the hit but ignoring it and going on, “So tell me, whatever it is you don’t want to tell me.”

“Okay,” I give in with a sigh.  “I was fucking this guy, and when I came, I yelled ‘Brian.’”  I pause and order grimly, “Stop laughing, it’s not funny!”

Brian’s laughing hard, his head is thrown back and he’s laughing and laughing.  “It’s not funny!” I repeat, but it’s hard not to join in his laughter.  I’ve only seen Brian laugh like that two or three times.

“Brian, it’s not funny!”

He leans forward and puts both arms around my neck, he’s still laughing but trying to stop, hiccupping slightly and short of breath.  “Justin, you have no idea how funny that is.”

“Too bad Jamie didn’t think so, he wouldn’t have kicked me out of bed.”

“Well, I think that was very mean of him.”  Brian straightens up and rubs a hand over his face, I can tell he’s still suppressing a giggle or two.  I pretend to be insulted by his laughter, but I’m not really.

“So,” I say, draining my coffee cup and crossing my arms over my chest.  “So, will you give me a ride home now?  Since it’s sort of your fault anyway that I’m stranded?”

Brian stands up, takes our cups to the sink and rinses them.  Over his shoulder he answers, “Sure, I can drive you home.  Or you could stay here, sleep on the couch.  You’re only going to get a few hours sleep, why waste time driving home.”

I stare at his back, wondering what I should say.  Finally I answer, “Brian, I did not stop by here to get laid.”

“You’re not going to get laid,” he turns around and looks down his nose at me.  “I’m offering you my couch, not my cock.”

“Really?”  I’m skeptical.  “How can you resist me?”

“Easy,” Brian flips off the light over the sink and turns to look at me again.  “I’m afraid if I fuck you, you’ll scream ‘Jamie’ and totally ruin the moment.”

I shake my head and mutter, “Bastard!” 

Brian just smirks and leads the way to the living room, points at the sofa.  “I’ll bring you a pillow and blanket.  And the alarm clock.  Reset it for seven-thirty when you leave in the morning.”

“Okay,” I say, then yawn hugely.  I’m exhausted, and in spite of the coffee, in spite of knowing that Brian will be lying naked in bed only a few feet away from me, I think maybe I can sleep after all.


I don’t think I’ll get to sleep knowing that Justin's lying on the couch just a few feet away, but I am exhausted and go right out.  The closing of the door wakes me up a few hours later, I didn’t hear the alarm clock and Justin must have passed on taking a shower.  I slide out of bed and stretch, then head to the door to see if Justin reset the security alarm; he did.  I can see that he's folded the blanket I gave him and left it stacked neatly with the pillow on the end of the couch.

The guys are already in the back booth at the diner drinking coffee when I join them, they greet me with the usual insults and it feels good to slide into the booth beside them, be a part of that group again, I haven’t come to breakfast at the diner for a long time.

"He's alive!" Emmett shouts, waving his arms in the air and pointing at me, "He's alive!"

"I don't feel alive this morning," I grumble, "I need coffee."

Michael, damn him, pipes right in, "Your little blond boy keep you up fucking all night?"

"What?" Ted and Emmett demand in unison, "You and Justin back together again?"

"No!" Michael exclaims, before I can answer.  Not that I was going to answer.  "Brian's got a new boyfriend, another blond teenager."

Naturally that's the moment Justin appears at the table with a coffee pot, and all conversation ceases.  "Coffee, please," I hold up my cup and steal a glance at Justin's face; he's looking immensely blasé and unconcerned. 

"He's not a teenager," Justin calmly informs Michael, "He's twenty-three."  He turns to the others, brandishing the coffee pot.  "Anybody else want some?"  Ted raises his cup and Justin fills it, then he turns and walks back toward the kitchen.

When he's out of earshot, conversation resumes.  Emmett immediately demands, "Dish!"  He and Michael have made me sorry I set foot in the diner this morning.  Especially Michael.  I don't understand why he's blurting out my business to the others, he's never done that before.  When I look at him, I can tell that he's angry, and I don't know why.

"Come on, tell us about your new guy," Emmett insists, "Do we know him?  Is he hot - of course he's hot, if you're dating him!  Imagine Brian Kinney actually dating!  Who'd have - "

That's enough for me, I stand up and throw a couple dollars on the table.  "I'm late," I say, to no one in particular and stride out of the diner, almost forgetting to grab my coat from the rack near the front door.  Fuck Michael, and fuck Emmett, and fuck breakfast at the diner.  I was right to stay away.

I'm halfway down the block before I feel a hand grab my arm, stopping me and spinning me around.  It's Michael, he's red-faced and out of breath.  "Jesus, Brian, didn't you hear me calling you?"

I didn't, but even if I had, I wouldn't have stopped.  "What?"

"I'm sorry, I'm really sorry."

"About what?" I raise my eyebrows at him inquiringly.

"You know what!" he exclaims, wringing his hands together as urgently as Lady MacBeth.  "I'm sorry I told them about your new boyfriend.  It just sort of came out of my mouth, I don't know why."

I look away from Michael, look up at the sky, gray and full of leaden clouds, it's going to start raining soon.  Then I bring my eyes back to Michael's face.  "I don't have a boyfriend," I'm enunciating clearly, "And it's going to rain, and I'm late for work, and fuck you, Michael."  I turn then and walk away from him as fast as I can. 

"Brian!  Brian!" he calls after me, but his voice fades with distance, and when the sky opens and heavy raindrops come pelting down, I turn up my collar and walk even faster; I forgot my fucking umbrella.


When I come back to take Brian's breakfast order, he's gone, and he didn't even touch the coffee I'd poured for him.  I wonder if he’s mad at Michael, he should be mad at Michael, right now I'd love nothing so much as to pour an entire pot of boiling hot coffee on Michael's head.  And I'm also mad at Brian, mad at him for having a boyfriend, mad because everybody knows Brian has a boyfriend, mad because I have to pretend like I don't give a damn.

And I'm even madder now that I know Brian fucked the guy before I got to his loft last night.  No wonder he was up so late, no wonder he made me sleep on the couch, no wonder he didn't want to have sex with me.  He was probably exhausted from fucking that new guy.  Rick is the guy's name, and I hate him.  He's older than me, and a little bit taller, and he's got a hot body.  Not a gym queen exactly, but not skinny like me.    

Brian Kinney is dating somebody, for the first time in his life apparently, from the way everybody's acting.  He wouldn't date me.  He pushed me away over and over again.  Now I feel like I was just practice for him.  For a moment I find myself wanting to drive back to Harrisburg, to Brian's rooftop, and throw myself off.  Which is just amazingly ridiculous.  For the billionth time, I'm wondering why Brian took me there with him.  Why he wanted me beside him on the roof.  I wish I understood.

The guys' breakfast orders are up, but first I have to go into the bathroom and splash cold water on my face, cool myself off so I don't let it show.  Don't let it show how much I'm hurting inside.


What started off as a shitty day gets progressively worse.  Cynthia calls in sick, half the department gears up for a new client presentation and the client cancels at the last minute, and Vance announces he’s taking a week’s vacation next month and expects me to fill in for him, as if I’m not overwhelmed with projects as it is.  When Michael calls, the temp secretary puts him through without asking me first, so I’m forced to talk to him. 

Michael asks if I’m still planning to drop by the store after work.  I’d completely forgotten my promise and I’m not ready to deal with Michael, I haven’t forgiven him yet, so I decide to tell him I’m going to be stuck in meetings until late.  Before I can begin however, Michael jumps in to say, “I just wanted to warn you, that Justin might come by about six to drop off some sketches, so don’t get here before seven, okay?”

“Whatever,” I reply, “I’m with a client, I have to hang up now.”  It happens to be the truth, so I don’t have to lie.  I skip lunch as I usually do when there’s not a client to wine-and-dine; if Cynthia were here, she’d have brought me a sandwich and hounded me till I ate a few bites, but when my five o’clock appointment cancels, I’m feeling really hungry, so I decide to leave the office early for a change. 

It’s quarter to six when I enter the comic shop and set off the little bell over the door.  Michael looks up from the counter top where he’s poring over stacks of papers.  “Jesus, Brian, what’re  you doing here so early?” he demands, frowning at me.

“You said come at six o’clock,” I answer off-handedly, picking up the latest edition of Spiderman from a display near the counter and leafing through it.

“I said seven!” Michael hisses at me, “I said don’t come till after seven.”

“Oh?” I’m still reading Spiderman, he’s in Paris, jumping off the Eiffel Tower.  It looks like he’s in trouble, some French thugs in berets are shooting at him with big guns.  Michael has to wait on a customer, a boy of about twelve who’s buying half a dozen comics, kids today have so much money to spend.

When the bell tinkles over the door I don’t look up, but I know who just walked in.  I feel him  hesitate in the doorway, then stride purposely forward to the counter.  “Hey, Michael,” Justin says, and when I look up from the comic he’s staring at me.  “Hi,” he says.  No smile.

“Hey,” I say casually, then return to the adventures of Spiderman.  “Too bad Rage isn’t in full color like Marvel Comics,” I note, to no one in particular.

“It’s a lot more expensive to print,” Justin answers me, since Michael’s making change for the kid, who’s handed him a fifty.  Where does a twelve-year-old get off having a fifty dollar bill? 

“What are you reading?” Justin can’t resist asking me, moving forward to pull the comic from my hands.  “Spiderman!  Did you see the movie?”

“It’s not very high on my list of must-sees,” I admit.

“Oh, it’s great!” Justin becomes animated, pulling off his gloves and waving his hands around.  “Tobey Maguire is so hot, and he’s perfect for the role.  You should see it, really!”

“Maybe I will then.”

“Justin, did you bring the sketches?” Michael interrupts us, as the kid leaves the store with his bag full of comics.  Something makes me want to rush out the door and mug the rich little bastard.  Or at least knock him down.

“Sure.”  Justin turns back to the counter and picks up the portfolio he’d just set down, opens it and spreads out a sheaf of sketches, turning them around so Michael can see.  Naturally I come closer and look over Justin’s shoulder at the pictures.  I can smell his hair, he still uses the same shampoo.  He’s had a  haircut recently, probably this afternoon, the hair is neatly trimmed off square and his neck has that vulnerable smooth just-after-clippers look.  I feel an urge to lean down and touch my tongue to that beautiful pink skin, but I take a deep breath instead and tune back in to the guys’ conversation.

“These are good,” Michael’s saying, and it’s probably my imagination that makes him sound grudging.  “I like this one of Rage blasting the corrupt police commissioner.  But could you make the cops’ uniforms more kind of modern looking?  Just slightly more futuristic.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“The rest of them are fine,” Michael finishes, gathering up the sketches and stacking them into a neat pile.  “Can you have those cop ones redone and ready by Friday?”  When Justin says yes and takes the sketches and shoves them back in his portfolio, Michael continues, “Great!  Thanks for bringing them by –  I’ll see you on Friday.”

Justin looks up, surprised; he’s been dismissed.  I see a blush start at his neck and move upward, but he says nothing, just nods and turns away.  I move toward the door and hold it open for Justin, then stop him with a hand on his arm.  “Can you wait a second?  I need to tell you something.”

“Umm, okay,” Justin glances up at me, then back at Michael.  “I’ll wait outside,” he murmurs, going out the door.

“Be right back,” I call to Michael, who’s giving me one hell of a dirty look.  Before I turn away, he shrugs his shoulders and picks up the Spiderman comic I dropped on the counter, opens it up and starts reading.

Outside, Justin has walked a few feet away, just past the end of Michael’s shop window.  “It’s cold,” he shivers, then I take his hand and lead him further along the sidewalk, where we can shelter in the entryway of a furniture store with a CLOSED sign in the window.

“Your sketches look great, Justin.”


When I hesitate, not knowing where to begin, Justin says, “Is that what you wanted to tell me?”

“No.”  This was harder then I thought it would be.  “Justin,” I squeeze his fingers; he squeezes back.  “Last night, you told me a secret.  Something you didn’t want to tell.  So, I just thought. . .I thought I should tell you a secret, too.”

When I hesitate again, he smiles slightly.  “Well, what is it?”

“You know that I had a guy at my place last night, before you got there.”

Justin loses his smile but doesn’t look away.  He nods.  “Rick.  Your non-boyfriend.”

“Well,” I try to swallow a lump that’s suddenly appeared in the back of my throat.  I wonder why I ever started this conversation.  “Well,” I stumble on, “Remember how you told me you called out ‘Brian’ when you were fucking your guy last night?”

Justin blushes slightly, I love how the colors come and go on his face, they’re such a barometer of his feelings.  He nods again.

“Well, I just wanted to tell you. . .that. . .I did the same thing.”

“You called out ‘Brian?’” he asks, straight-faced.

“Asshole!” I laugh, and the laugh jumps out of my throat, dislodging the lump that was choking me.  “No, I called out. . .somebody else's name.’”

“Really?”  He’s smiling broadly now, and reaches out to punch my chest.  “Whose name?”

“I don't remember.”  I bend down and kiss his lips briefly.  “But now you know a secret, too.”

Justin throws his arms around my neck and hugs me as tight as he can.

“Brian,” he murmurs, and when I pull away to look at his face, I see tears in his eyes.  Somehow that moves me immensely, chokes me up again, I have to clear my throat and he clears his, too.  Then he whispers, “I will always keep your secrets.”  And he grabs my neck and drags my head down for a quick kiss. 

Then Justin’s pulling out of my arms and walking backwards, walking away from me.  “Bye,” he calls out to me softly, and I repeat “Bye.”  Then he turns and runs off down the street, and when he’s half a block away, I hear him shout, orgasmically, “Briannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!” 

Laughing, shaking my head, I turn around and head back to Michael’s comic shop.