QAF FanFiction by Morpheus
Intermission-10: Six Months
Part 7: Triscuits and Lobster
"You should have picked me up at home, that's the proper way to start a real date." Justin's already ragging on me; I've just let him into the loft and I turn away, heading for the liquor cart.
"Yeah," I agree, "And I should have come in and chatted with your mom for a while, that would have been fun. If you're going to be a smart-ass all night, the deal's off."
Justin follows me, he's earnest now. "You know I was joking, but Brian, my mom doesn't hate you as much as you think she does."
"I'm sure someday we'll be bosom buddies." Picking up the bottle of JB, I change the subject, point at his khakis. "I'm taking you to a nice restaurant, you couldn't have dressed up a little? Even your hideous sports jacket would be better than that."
"You didn't say dress up," Justin's staring at me pouring a shot of bourbon, he's making a great effort not to frown disapprovingly. Too bad, I need a drink. A couple of drinks. Not because of Justin being here of course, only because I had a hard day at work.
"Want a drink?" I hold out the bottle toward him but he shakes his head.
"No, and could you maybe not get bombed till after we eat?"
"Where are you getting all these dating tips? Dear Abby?"
Ignoring me, Justin takes off his jacket and throws it on the sofa. "Do you still have my suit here, that you bought when we went to Harrisburg? I could change into that."
I'd forgotten about that suit. Justin hadn't wanted to take it home, he didn't want to explain it to Jennifer. And he claims she doesn't hate me. I'd shoved it into the back of my closet and it's probably still there, so I set down the bottle but take my glass with me as I mount the stairs to the bedroom. Justin's on my heels.
Sure enough the suit's there, a bit wrinkled from being crammed together with a bunch of my lesser-worn clothes, then Justin expounds on another tidbit from his vast pool of knowledge: "If you hang it in the bathroom with the shower pouring out steam, some of the wrinkles will come out."
"Do you ever get tired of knowing everything?" But I take the suit on its hanger and carry it into the bathroom, turn on the shower, come out and shut the door. We stand there looking at each other for a moment without speaking. Fuck dating.
"Brian," Justin says after a moment, "Why don't we have sex now, then maybe we can relax."
"I am fucking relaxed!" I growl at him before retrieving my glass of JB and heading off for the kitchen. He's still following me. Maybe I'll distract him with food. "If you're starving, there's some Triscuits and cheese."
"You bought me Triscuits?" He's surprised and pleased, "Wow, thanks." He knows I hate them, it was a huge sacrifice to bring them into my home. And cheddar cheese too. I loathe cheddar but it's Justin's favorite. He considers for a moment, then decides, "Maybe I could eat a couple crackers. Just to tide me over."
"Good." I pull open the fridge and take out a slab of fluorescent orange cheese and put it on the counter and add the cracker box from the cupboard. Justin’s already pulling out a knife from the utensil drawer so I wander over to my desk and turn on the computer.
“Whoay ah yooz og duh cumpuda?”
He’s still following me, and talking around a huge mouthful of crackers.
“It’s rude to talk with your mouth full.”
Justin swallows and counters with, “It’s rude to get on the computer when you have a guest.”
“It’s not rude unless you’re sitting down. I’m standing up and I’m just checking e-mail. You’re busy stuffing your face, what’s the difference?”
“Dating makes you so hostile,” Justin says, before shoving another chunk of cheese-n-crackers into his mouth.
“We’re not dating yet, we haven’t left the loft.”
Justin nods and swallows again. “Okay. I’ll go change my clothes so we can get out of here. Do you know where the shoes are? I probably shouldn’t wear my sneakers.”
The image of Justin wearing sneakers with the beautiful charcoal gray suit makes me close my eyes in pain, then I follow him back up to the bedroom to search the closet for the loafers I’d bought him. Who knows what happened to the socks, Justin has to borrow a pair of mine, and he makes a great fuss about folding half the length over underneath his toes.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Justin laughs up at me. “Your feet are false advertising,” he tells me, not for the first time. “Size thirteen shoes should mean a thirteen inch cock.”
“If that old wives’ tale were true, you’d be borrowing shoes from Emmett Kelley.”
“Ha, there’s something you don’t know? He was only the world’s most famous clown.” I lean against the wall and cross my arms. Usually I pretend to be annoyed that Justin’s cock is half an inch bigger than mine, though secretly I get a kick out of it. “Aren’t you ready yet?”
“Almost.” Justin stands up and walks close to me. “Tie my tie for me, will you?”
I grab the tie and start to fix it. “You wore a tie to school every day for years and you still can’t do it?”
“Of course I can. But I like when you do it.”
“Who tied your bow-tie for the prom?” I’m not looking at him, so when Justin gasps and takes a quick step backward, I look up in surprise. “What?”
“Emmett. Emmett tied it for me.”
“What’s the matter?” He’s got a strange look on his face and his eyes are wide. “Justin?”
“N-nothing.” He shakes his head, then laughs shakily. “It’s just that I didn’t remember that before. Emmett fixing my tie.”
“A new memory?” When Justin nods his head I ask, “That’s good, isn’t it? Remembering something new?”
“I guess so.” He stands still and lets me finish fixing the tie. “It’s funny how sometimes a little piece of that night will come back to me, out of nowhere.”
When I say nothing, Justin hurries to add, “Sorry, I won’t talk about it.”
“Justin.” I lean back so I can look at his face. “It’s okay to talk about it.”
“But you always said not to,” he reminds me, “You said to forget about it.”
I nod. “Yeah. But maybe I've changed my mind. You can talk to me about that night whenever you want to.”
Justin gets his wisdom from Dear Abby, I got mine from Jesse.
“Really?” Justin just stares at me for a moment, then he leans forward and slides his arms around my waist, underneath my suit jacket. “Sometimes I need to,” he whispers, laying his head on my chest. I feel my arms go around him and I’m jolted by a feeling of – of – protectiveness, or something equally stupid. Justin doesn’t need protection. And even if he did, I’ve sure as hell already proved that I can’t protect him from anything.
“Let’s go,” I say gruffly, almost sorry to feel Justin’s arms pulling away. I walk around the loft turning off most of the lights, then head for the door. Justin’s still in the bedroom.
“What are you doing? Let’s go.”
“Just this,” he says, then flips the switch to turn on the blue neon lights above the bed.
When he joins me at the door, I raise an eyebrow at him. “Assuming a lot, aren’t you?” I ask. “Maybe I don’t fuck on the first date.” Justin merely laughs, then waits outside the door while I set the alarm and we’re off down the stairs.
If I didn’t know better I’d think Brian's nervous. He’s not, of course, he’s always in control in every situation. But he doesn't believe in dating; anything remotely hetero annoys the crap out of him, so maybe it's just hard for him to think of us that way. Still, this date was his idea, though I’m not sure what made him suggest it. I'm trying not to feel optimistic about things. And I don't let myself wonder what I mean by 'things.'
We climb into the jeep and Brian turns automatically to fasten my seat belt. I really don't need help with that any more, or not very much, but I'll never tell him. Then we drive off, and I check out tapes in the glove compartment till I find something we both like, a tape of Miles Davis who was an old jazz guy from way before Brian's time. I'm humming along but after a few minutes, Brian turns down the volume and says, "Tell me about school."
"About my teachers and stuff?" I turn to look at him but he keeps his eyes on the road and snorts.
"I'm not interested in your teachers. Tell me what you're doing. If you like your classes. If you're flunking out. Just hit the major highlights. Didn't Abby tell you that we're supposed to make conversation on our date?"
"Brian, you always say that you've never dated. But you went out with guys in college didn't you?"
He's silent at first and I think he's not going to answer. Then he sighs and says, "Not really, not the way you mean. Not dates in the conventional sense. But yeah, I did things with guys. Movies, dinner, things like that."
"Tell me about one of your dates."
"Why?" he throws me a quick glance, then looks back at the road. "Just vulgar curiosity?"
"No," I say slowly, thinking about my answer. "I just want to imagine what you were like back then."
"Back then?" Brian glares at me. "We're talking the early nineties, not the fucking Mesozoic era."
"Why are you so touchy about your age, Brian?" He's still glowering, so I go on, "I know I used to tease you, but now that I’m almost twenty I have a more mature outlook. I don't think of you as all that much older than me."
"What a relief," he says.
"So," I decide to keep heading down this dangerous road, "Tell me what it was like going out with guys when you were in school."
Brian sighs, one of his exaggeratedly long and pseudo-patient sighs. "We'd go to a movie. Eat popcorn. Afterwards we'd go someplace dark and fuck. End of story."
"Someplace dark? You didn't go back to your place?"
"Justin, I lived in campus housing. I shared a space about the size of my storage room with two other guys. Straight guys."
"Oh." Somehow I'd pictured Brian always living alone. "Did you like them?"
"No. We're here." He pulls into a driveway and parks the jeep, releases his seatbelt and opens the door.
"Wait," I say, so he closes the door and turns to look at me. "Brian - were you happy in school? Did you like it?"
He considers my question and at first I think he's going to blow me off, but then he says seriously, "I wasn't unhappy. I liked college for the most part, I'd always liked studying, and it was mentally challenging in ways that high school had never been." He pauses, then adds, "Justin, there were highs and lows, just like for everybody else. But I really don't want to relive it, moment by moment. Okay?"
For some reason this hurts my feelings and I struggle not to let it show on my face. Maybe he's trying his best and I'm expecting too much. Probably lots of people don't like to talk about their past. So I take a deep breath and say, "Okay," then release my own seatbelt and open the door. Brian reaches across me and pulls the door shut, and when I look at him he's smiling slightly.
"Come here," he says, reaching out for me, and I lean over the gear shift and let him pull me into his arms. When I lift up my face, Brian kisses me. Not his let's-fuck kiss, just his gentle I-like-you-but-damned-if-I'll-say-so kiss. When we break apart, he asks, "Hungry?" and I nod eagerly. So we get out of the jeep and walk into the restaurant. It's the Poseidon, a really expensive seafood restaurant; I was here once a long time ago at an anniversary dinner for my grandparents.
I'm feeling relaxed and almost happy - Brian chose a restaurant he knew I'd like. We both like seafood but I like mine cooked - he prefers sushi. He made a reservation but we have to wait a few minutes so he leads the way into the bar. It's crowded and Brian almost walks into some guy who backs up and steps on his foot. The guy turns around to apologize - and suddenly we're face to face with Gardner Vance.
Fuck. Vance is here and he's just stepped on my foot.
"Sorry," he starts to say, then, "Brian! My God, what a surprise." He reaches out to shake my hand, then I see him catch sight of Justin over my shoulder and he hesitates, just half a moment too long. His face is a mask of cool reserve, then I see him give Justin a slight - very slight - nod, before dragging me - he's still holding onto my hand - around in a half-circle, and beginning to introduce me to the rest of his party.
“Brian, meet Michel Girard and his wife Yolande, they’ve just arrived – yesterday? – ah yes, from Paris, and Monsieur Chambord,” I begin to shake the proffered hands as Vance continues, “Brian Kinney, my partner at Vanguard.” Everyone murmurs polite words of greetings. I knew Vance was trying to woo the Girard-Chambord conglomerate who’ve begun expanding into North American markets but he’s been playing his cards close, wanting to keep these plums for himself. I’m surprised to discover that Girard and Chambord are relatively young – late thirties at a guess; from their reputation I’d expected older men. After a moment I realize that Vance is going to ignore Justin, so I turn around and gesture him over – he’s hanging back from the group.
“This is my friend Justin Taylor,” I announce to everyone at large; “Gardner, you remember Justin?”
“Ah, yes,” Vance agrees smoothly, “Mr. Taylor, how nice to see you again. Lovely suit.”
“Thanks,” Justin says, his face flushing as he is probably remembering his last encounter with Gardner Vance, when he told Vance to fuck off. He politely shakes the hands of the others and I’m proud of his aplomb.
“Perhaps you gentlemen would like to join us?” Monsieur Chambord suggests, and the Girards quickly murmur, “Yes, yes, please do.” Vance says nothing, and for that reason alone I’d love to crash his party.
“Mille merci,” I smile at them, “But tonight we’re celebrating a special occasion, so we’d planned a quiet dinner for two.” There is the merest intake of breath from Vance who’s standing near my shoulder, so I decide to dispel any doubts about my meaning by casually resting my hand on the back of Justin’s neck and squeezing gently. His blush is the final coup de grace. There’s a moment of silence and then the maitre-d calls, “Mr. Kinney, your table’s ready.”
“Excuse us,” I keep on smiling, “Nice to meet you.”
Justin manages to speak up too. “Enjoy your stay in America,” he says, and then everyone speaks at once, murmuring polite nothings.
I drop my hand from Justin’s neck and instead take his hand, leading him through the crowd in the bar, then we follow the maitre-d into the restaurant. We’re seated at a table in the corner, and I have Justin sit so that his back’s to the room, so he won’t be bothered by any repercussions of my one-in-the-eye to Gardner Vance, in case his party is seated near us.
We’re handed menus and the moment the maitre-d leaves, Justin leans across the table and breathes, “Brian, you were so amazing!”
“No I wasn’t,” I shake my head. I’m bound to pay for that bit of effrontery sooner or later. “But just forget about it now and think about ordering dinner. The lobster here is fantastic, so’s the scampi.”
“Lobster!” Justin exclaims, “I’ve never had a whole lobster.”
“Better order two, in case one’s not enough,” I advise him seriously and that makes him laugh, and I see him visibly relaxing in his chair.
“Can we have champagne?”
“Of course.” Then we settle down to the serious business of reading the menu. I keep an eye open to see where Vance and his party are seated but after a while I begin to suspect that they’ve left to dine somewhere else. If Vance loses these clients there’s no doubt he’ll blame me, but I’ll deal with him next week, I don’t want to ruin the evening with thoughts of that bald beady-eyed asshole.
Brian tells me to order an appetizer and I choose hot artichoke dip which comes with tiny slices of French bread, it's delicious and he makes me eat most of it. Dinner's just so amazingly great, the lobster is out of this world though Brian won't let me wear the bib they bring with it, he just threatens my life if I spill anything on the suit. And then he remembers that he wanted me to go to his tailor to get it fitted properly and makes me promise to remind him.
I thought Brian might be upset after the run-in with Gardner Vance but he isn't. He asks me about school again and so I start telling him about our new assignment in design class, which is to create a magazine layout for some imaginary product. I knew he'd be interested since it's an advertising type of thing. He even explains how different magazines have a format for advertising that represents their target audience, something I hadn't realized. I discover that I've gotten all excited and I'm probably talking a mile a minute, though he doesn't say anything sarcastic like he usually does when I talk too much.
I'm really too full for dessert which is a shame because the restaurant has a triple chocolate cake that looks delicious, the waiter brings around a cart with all these desserts on it, it's really hard to say no. Then Brian tells me, "Next time you can save room for it," and I glance at him quickly to see if he really means there will be a 'next time' but he's looking at the bill and pulling out his credit card.
Then we're on our way out of the restaurant and I catch sight of Gardner Vance at a table near the front windows. I look away quickly so there won't be any eye contact and then we're out the door. As usual when I've been drinking, the cold night air makes me feel dizzy for just a moment, and I feel Brian put a hand on my arm to steady me. At the foot of the steps there's a tall man standing with his back to the door, puffing on a cigarette; when he turns around it's one of the French guys and I wonder if he'll say hello or pretend not to see us.
"Hello again," Monsieur Chambord greets us from the sidewalk. We've just left the restaurant; I spied Vance at a table near the front but I didn't notice that one of his party was missing.
"Hello," I reply, holding Justin's arm to guide him around the tall and gorgeous French obstacle on the sidewalk, when the obstacle says,
"Un moment, one moment, Monsieur - Kenny?"
"Kinney, Brian Kinney." Justin and I stop next to him, wondering what's coming next.
"It's so cold out here," Chambord observes, "They would not permit the smoking inside, this is true in all American establishments?" When I tell him yes, many of them, he shakes his head and pulls a silver case from his pocket. "Would you like a cigarette?"
"Gauloises," I note, hesitating only a moment before helping myself. "I haven't smoked one of these in years."
"Ah, you have been en France?" he asks, holding the case toward Justin, who also takes a cigarette; I thought he might take two as he often does, the greedy brat, but he doesn’t.
"Yes, but not for a long time," I answer, pulling out my Zippo and lighting up Justin's and my cigarettes.
Chambord's looking at Justin and he asks, "Did you enjoy your intime dinner, Monsieur - ?"
"Justin. Yes, very much, the food was great. Did you like yours too?"
Nodding, Chambord agrees. "Yes. Well. Yes." I almost laugh, the French are so critical of any cuisine other than their own.
There's silence now and I take Justin's arm again, to lead him away. "Thanks for the cigarette."
"Wait, please," he stops me; there's a pause and then he plunges ahead. "I wanted to ask of you - since we are staying in Pittsburgh during a few days. . ." Then he laughs. "There is no way un peu subtile to ask this, so I will just go ahead, ca va?"
I hazard a guess. "You're gay?" He's not giving off vibes but that doesn't mean anything.
Chambord's shaking his head. "No. Or only a little, sometimes. We call this bisexuel, I don't know the American word?"
"Bisexual," Justin pipes up. "Wow, I've never met one of you before."
Both Chambord and I laugh and Justin stammers, "I'm s-sorry - "
"Ce n'est rien, that's okay," Chambord assures him. "So. I want to ask if there is a special place in this city that perhaps I might like to visit?"
Justin glances at me and I nod my head. "Liberty Avenue," he tells the man, "There's some gay bars and a couple dance clubs, stuff like that. Is that what you mean?"
"Yes, merci, exactemente. And there is one place more special than others - ?
I'm still saying nothing so Justin continues. "Depends on what you like," he tells the man, donning the mantle of an old and jaded habitue. "There's Boy Toy if you like twinks, there's the Meat Hook - "
Then I interrupt. "Monsieur Chambord, you can find anything you want on Liberty Avenue. Now if you'll excuse us - "
"Ah, but what if I what I want is right here?" Chambord murmurs, smiling at me and throwing a glance at Justin. "Perhaps you and your friend. . ."
Chambord leaves it hanging there and I see Justin glancing at me uncertainly.
"Sorry, we’re not into that,” I tell Chambord, pretending not to be interested. Then I’m surprised to realize - there’s no need to pretend. "We’ll say good-night now."
"Certainmente," Chambord quickly acquiesces, holding out his hand to shake, first to Justin, then to me. He hangs on to my hand a moment and gives me a knowing smile. "Be assured, Monsieur Kinney, if I had your charming little morsel I would not share him either."
"Good night," I say, turning away without a sliver of regret. Justin’s moving close beside me.
Then Justin turns around to wave, "Good night, Mon-sewer." He slips his hand into mine as we cross the parking lot. "Thanks Brian," he says, squeezing my fingers.
"It didn’t mean anything," I say quickly, glancing down at Justin. "He just doesn't interest me."
"Okay," he agrees, but he squeezes my hand even tighter.
We're in the jeep, I put the key in the ignition, then I feel a need to repeat, "It didn't mean anything. What I said to Chambord."
"Okay," Justin says again, but he's smiling. And I don't want him to stop smiling so I lean over and give him a kiss.
Then I start the car and say brusquely, "Your French accent is terrible."
"But my French tongue is excellent," Justin brags. "And I'll prove it to you, as soon as we get ho- "
He stops himself, then continues smoothly, "I mean, as soon as we get back to your place."