Twenty-Ten


It's the year 2010:  Justin comes home to Pittsburgh for a special occasion.




I’ve only been in Michael and Ben’s house once before, three years ago when I came home for Vic’s funeral.  Just like last time, when crowds of old friends gathered around me to catch up on family news, tonight the same thing has happened.  Though it’s wonderful to see them, especially under happier circumstances than a funeral, somehow it’s much harder this time to relax.  Partly because I’m deflecting questions about Jacques – I’m just not ready to talk about Jacques – and partly because at any moment, Brian Kinney will be coming through the front door.

Of course I saw him at Vic’s funeral, but he was so busy with arrangements and dealing with Debbie’s hysterical collapse and Michael’s grief, we barely did more than exchange a hello.  I had a meeting next day and had to catch a flight home to Paris the evening of the funeral.  As usual Brian had promised to call me, promised to come for a visit, but of course he never did.  We’ve kept up a sketchy e-mail correspondence over the years, but he’s never shared any details of his life and the little I knew always came from Lindsay.  I knew he was wildly successful and had bought the agency a few years ago, and Lindsay’s told me he often works sixteen hour days, so it’s hardly surprising he doesn’t have time to keep up correspondence with a mere ex-boyfriend.

Debbie, who still wears a curly red wig despite being what she calls a Sporty Senior, was seated on my left, trying to force-feed me canapés she’d decorated with strips of pimento.  She kept reaching up to ruffle my hair and pinch my ear, as if I was still eighteen instead of twenty-eight.  From anyone else it would have been terribly annoying, but I’ll always love Debbie like a second mom, so I just smiled and nodded and ate a few of her crackers.  Emmett was on my right, whispering stories about himself and the mayor of Pittsburgh that were as scandalous as they were unlikely; but then, Emmett had entered what passed for exalted gay social circles in Pittsburgh when he’d been George Schickle’s lover, so possibly his stories were true. 

I excused myself and went into the kitchen, partly for a respite away from the crowd in the living room but also to see Lindsay, who was organizing party operations.  Lindsay turned to give me a hug and asked if I’d visit with Gus for a while.  She pointed to a retro breakfast-nook table with built-in benches in a corner of the kitchen where I caught sight of Gus sitting hunched over a stack of pictures.  When I got closer I realized that they were baseball cards, and I could see that Gus was moving his lips slightly as he flipped through the stack.  Memorizing stats.

“Hey, Gus,” I greeted him, and he looked up quickly, his face breaking into a smile.  Christ, the boy’s beauty takes my breath away.  He is the image of Brian except that his hair is light brown, but he has Brian’s eyes, nose and lips and is going to be a breathtakingly gorgeous man.  He is now a somewhat gawky kid, all knees and elbows.  Lindsay said he hates being told he’s beautiful, so I determined to say nothing annoying.

“Uncle Justin!” he greeted me eagerly, jumping up and throwing his arms around me in a hug.  I didn’t even have to bend down to reach him, at eleven he is already nearly as tall as me, he will probably be as tall as Brian in a few years.  Lindsay and Mel have kept in close contact and they’ve visited me several times in Paris, always bringing Gus along.  He frequently sends me wonderful letters written in calligraphy, one of his hobbies.  Since his other greatest hobby is baseball, there’s no real indication yet whether Gus is going to be gay or straight.  Last year we’d spent a week together, when the women dropped him off with me and Jacques while they went to a retreat in Switzerland, and Gus had engaged me in a serious talk about sexuality.  He said that his mothers explained ‘all about sex,’ and he knew they didn’t care if he was going to be gay or straight, but he wanted me to tell him how it felt to be a gay man.  I remember being momentarily stunned, and I told him he should ask his father.  Gus said his dad was hard to talk to about important stuff.  I couldn’t argue with that.

When all was said and done, ‘not talking’ was probably the biggest reason for the breakup with Brian.  There was plenty of cheating on both sides, but that had never been a very serious problem with us.  We’d agreed early on that monogamy was unnecessary and unrealistic, but we’d made rules to keep things in check, yet both of us had broken the rules from time to time.  Even now I think that if we’d been able to talk about it, we might have worked things out.  Yet Brian refused to talk.  As hard as I worked to get past this hurdle, he was immovable. 

Eventually I gave up.  Nothing dramatic, no hysterical scenes.  I just gave up, packed up, and moved out.  I’d spent five tumultuous years with Brian, and this was not the first time I’d left him.  Always before, all he’d had to do was come after me and I’d be right back in his arms.  But the last time I left, I went to New York.  I didn’t contact anyone in my adopted family for a  few weeks, till I could get my head on straight and decide what I wanted to do, outside the charmed circle of our little family, outside the orbit of irresistible Brian-gravity.

After graduating from PIFA, I’d had job offers from an animation company in San Francisco and an illustration firm in New York.  Brian had refused to try to influence me, or even to discuss the job offers with me.  In the end I’d accepted a job at an ad agency in Pittsburgh.  Of course it wasn’t what I wanted, but more than anything in the world, I wanted to be with Brian.  In less than a year I was regretting my decision, and when I left Brian and fled to New York, I was very fortunate to be hired by the illustration firm.  Once I felt secure in the job and settled into an apartment in SoHo, I called Deb to let her know where I was.  Of course I’d let my mother know long before, as I had no doubt she would keep the information from Brian.  They’d made a kind of peace during the years I lived with him, but there was no love lost on either side, and I knew she wouldn’t give me away.

However, I knew Deb would tell Brian where I was and I waited with mixed feelings for him to come looking for me.  He didn’t.  It was a relief in a way, because I didn’t have to test my resolve.  Then he turned up one night three months later, in a club on Christopher Street.  I hadn’t really gotten into the club scene in New York, but sometimes I got hungry and went prowling for a trick.  I’d been leaning on the bar at the Dahlia Club, trading smoldering looks with a tall Italian with dark hair curling over his forehead, when I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned to stare in open-mouthed surprise at Brian Kinney in the flesh.

“Fuck off,” Brian had told the Italian, making me laugh as always at his rude conceit.  The guy took a long look at Brian, decided he wasn’t that interested in me and walked away.    “What are you drinking - JB?” Brian asked and I nodded; it was a habit I’d picked up early on from him.  He signaled the bartender and ordered our drinks, handed me mine and we clinked glasses.

“This your regular hangout?”

“No,” I shook my head, “I’ve only been here once before.”

"Looking for love?"

I laughed.  "More or less."

When I glanced at him he was not smiling, instead the look in his eyes was so bleak, it gave me a sudden lump in my throat.  He quickly turned his head away and finished his drink in one gulp.

"Deb says you have a good job."  He was looking at me now and the bleak look was gone.  Maybe I'd imagined it.

“Well, it’s entry-level, but the salary’s not bad.  It’s at Whistle & Crew, commercial illustration.”

Brian nodded.  “They have a good reputation.  Which is saying a lot for anything in the advertising field.”  He signaled the bartender for another round.  I studied him closely while he spoke to the bartender.  He looked tired, maybe even thinner.  But I knew I was probably wanting to see signs that he missed me, so I didn’t trust my eyes.

“What’s your living arrangement?” Brian asked, startling me. 

I felt myself getting defensive and answered crisply, “I have my own apartment.” 

That made him laugh and reach out to squeeze my shoulder.  His hand didn’t linger, he pulled it back abruptly.  “I’m not planning to storm the citadel,” his voice was wry.  “I just want to know if you’re doing all right.”

“I’m fine.”

He didn’t let it drop but went on.  “You okay for money?”  I felt myself bristling and he laughed again.  “Get off it, Justin, I need to know that you’re doing okay on your own.  It’s tough when you’re just starting out, I went through that myself, I know.”

“I’m fine,” I repeated.  Then I softened a bit.  “But thanks.  It’s a little tight, but I’m fine.”

Brian nodded.  We were silent for a moment, then he asked, “Why didn’t you take your car?”

For my twenty-first birthday, Brian had bought me a car.  A Honda Cirrus, in a shade of blue that he said matched my eyes – one of the few romantic things Brian Kinney ever said to me.  “I don’t need a car in New York,” I said, truthfully.  “And besides,“ I added, also truthfully, “I can’t afford the insurance.”

“I figured.  So I sold it.”

That was a shock.  I guess I wasn’t ready to hear that Brian had accepted my absence so totally.  I pulled over an empty barstool and hoisted myself up on it; suddenly my knees felt weak, and a cloud of dismal sadness descended on me.  “Oh.”  I was really at a loss for words.

Brian reached inside his jacket and pulled out a long white envelope, handed it to me.  I just sat there staring at it, trying to make myself breathe normally.  I didn’t want him to see how much he’d upset me by selling my car.  “What’s this?”  I turned the envelope over and ran a  finger under the seal.  I pulled out the sheet of paper inside and unfolded it.

“It’s a letter of credit.  Take it to your bank and deposit it.”

I just sat staring down at the paper.  “What?”

“It’s the money I got when I sold your Cirrus.  I figured you could use that more than a car in New York.”

“But the car was really yours.”  Brian had kept the pink slip, insurance was cheaper if he was the registered owner.

“Don’t be an ass, Justin.”

I glanced up at him and saw that he was annoyed.  “It was your fucking car, so don’t be an idiot about it.” 

With a sigh I gave in.  “Okay.  And thanks.  I can really use this.”

Brian tossed down the rest of his drink.  “I figured,” he repeated.  He gave me a harsh look and added, “And you fucking well call me if you get in a tight spot.  Got it?”

“Yes,” I nodded.  “Okay.  Thanks.”

“Want another drink?”  When I shook my head no, Brian leaned an elbow on the bar in front of me and brought his face close to mine.  “How about coming to the hotel with me?”

“Brian. . .”

He laughed, a bitter laugh, and he said, “Hunh.  Afraid of getting raped?”

"Brian, if we fuck, you know I'll end up going back home with you.  And I don't want to."

He considered for a moment, then snapped, "Maybe I wouldn't ask you."

I nodded.  "Then I'd feel even worse."

“Okay.”  He straightened up, glanced around the bar and brought his gaze back to my face.  “You take care.  Don’t talk to strangers.  Wear your rubbers.  And fucking CALL ME if you need help.  Got it?”

I nodded again, I didn’t trust myself to speak.  I was hoping he wouldn’t hug me, I was grasping the edge of the bar with both hands, white-knuckled.  Luckily he did not pull me into his arms.  Instead he rested his hand on the back of my neck, squeezed slightly, then turned abruptly and walked away, walked out of the bar, without another word. 

I don’t know how long I sat there gripping the polished wood, but eventually the bartender came over and handed me a shot of JB.  “On the house,” he said sympathetically.  I tossed back the shot and slid off the chair, praying my legs would hold up.  Somehow I got home, somehow I found the way back to my tiny apartment.  Once I’d locked the door behind me, I was able to let go, I was able to fall apart.  I hadn’t cried since leaving Brian – well, actually I had cried many times – but not like this.  Not fucking like this time.

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

Jacques LeClair was everything Brian Kinney wasn’t – a man who openly expressed his feelings and who cherished me like I was a fairytale prince. I was positive that Brian would have curled his lip in disdain at this romantic and emotional man.  But in fact they never laid eyes on each other, so I’m not sure what Brian’s reaction really would have been.

We met when I was assigned to work with Jacques’ company, Aubergine, a large chain of children’s clothing shops headquartered in Paris and New York.  Jacques later said that for him it  was ‘l'amour at first sight,’ but I’d learned world-weary cynicism at the knee of Brian Kinney, so it was a long time before I came to appreciate the real Jacques underneath his emotive façade.

Jacques was forty when I met him, and I was twenty-four.  I’d been knocking around New York on my own for over a year, and I’d had a few short-lived relationships.  I couldn’t seem to stop comparing every guy to Brian Kinney, and no man on earth could live up to that example.  Everyone – my real mom and my adopted mom and all the Pittsburgh friends who came to visit assured me that I needed a boyfriend my own age.  No one ever understood that only a man older than myself was interesting to me – young guys bored me in two minutes, always had.

It was fun being pursued by Jacques, especially since I felt impervious to his charms.  He showered me with presents, which I refused; he sent me flowers so often at work that it became embarrassing, and I started sending them back to the florist.  Jacques even tried to get my boss at Whistle & Crew to send me as their representative to a conference in Paris.  At first I’d been excited, since I’d always dreamed of visiting Paris; but when I found out the trip had been engineered by Jacques LeClair, I determined to put a stop to the man’s outrageous pursuit.  I went storming over to his hotel – the Chasson d'Or, a five-star establishment fronting on Central Park, and I accosted the man in his own penthouse suite.

We laughed about it later, but at the time I was so angry I was visibly shaking.  I'd stopped at the concierge desk to get Jacques' room number, and the concierge telephoned for permission to let me come up.  Jacques opened the door of his suite to a spitting fireball.  All the way over from the office I'd been whipping myself into fury at the high-handed tactics of this man who was so rich and powerful he thought he could buy Justin Taylor.  I exploded through the doorway and charged headlong into a sitting room - only to come to a screeching halt when I discovered two little girls, perhaps six or seven years old, wearing fluffy blue dresses, seated on the floor around a marble-topped coffee table, having a tea party with their dollies.

Nonplussed, speechless, I stood staring at them, till one of the girls broke the silence by asking, "Voulez-vous boire de the, monsieur?"  My French was virtually nonexistent at that point in time, but the child made her invitation clear by holding out a teacup toward me.

"Monsieur Taylor, may I present my nieces, Mademoiselle Patrice and Mademoiselle Diane?"  The girls stood up and curtsied very prettily, accompanied by a great deal of giggling.  They held out their hands and I shook them, one by one, mumbling some inanity about being pleased to meet them.  Jacques spoke to them in rapid French, and they sat down again and resumed their tea party.  Jacques smiled at me and inclined his head toward a pair of glass louvred doors, and I followed him through the doors and out onto a veranda overlooking an expanse of emerald green grass in Central Park.

As soon as Jacques closed the doors behind us, I piped up, "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to barge in on you like this - "

"Of course you did.  But you are perfectly welcome to barge on me any time you like, mon petit chou."  Jacques pointed to one end of the veranda where a table and chairs were set up under a vine-covered trellis and I followed him there, sat down in the dappled shade of the vines, and allowed him to pour me a glass of wine - there was a fully-stocked bar cart parked in a corner.

I took a sip of wine - a really delicious pinot noir - and asked the first thing that came to mind: "Your nieces live with you?" 

"No, no, my sister is visiting me this week, from Paris, and she has gone shopping today.  Their nanny is indisposed, so I said I'd watch over them for a few hours.  Pretty little things, n'est-ce pas?  Very much like their mother."

I nodded.  Somehow the steam had been taken out of my sails and I didn't know where to begin the harangue I'd practiced all the way over in the taxi from the Whistle & Crew offices. 

Jacques prodded me by saying, "You are angry, mon petit chou?  Your face, it is very red."

I stared back at him, wanting to begin my diatribe, but first I had to know something.  "What the fuck is a 'putty shoe?'

Jacques threw back his head and let loose an enormous roar of laughter.  At first I bristled with annoyance, nobody likes being laughed at, and it had been a real question.  Yet after a moment I found myself joining in - Jacques' laughter was contagious, and I found myself relaxing in the wrought-iron chair.

"I'm sorry," Jacques said quickly, wiping at his eyes, "You are such a darling boy."

That killed the laughter in my throat.  "I'm not a boy."  My damned baby-face-looks have always annoyed me.  It's hard to be taken seriously when you look like a fucking teenager, something I'd been battling since I really was a fucking teenager.

Jacques hastened to appease me.  "Men can be boys, and boys can be men, it is charming when someone can be both.  Be assured, mon cher, I know you are a man, a mature and responsible man - I know your work very, very well."  I blinked at him, decided to be mollified, and took another sip of wine.

"And a 'putty shoe' - un petit chou," he continued, "It means, en francais, 'little cabbage.'  It is an endearment, like 'mon cher.'  Or in English, you say 'honey,' n'est-ce pas?" 

I looked hard at Jacques and found his smile sincere. Still I felt compelled to say, “You have no business calling me ‘honey.’  Or ‘putty shoe.’”

“But I would like to make it my business,” Jacques murmured.  “I have fallen terribly in love with you.”

I felt the annoyance coming back, so I set down my wine glass and stood up abruptly.  “You don’t even know me, you know nothing about me.  We’ve never even been out on a date.”

“But only because you refuse me, constantly.  It is very bad for my old heart, you are a very cruel young man.” 

“You’re not THAT old.”  I looked at him closely, I’d never really paid much attention to his looks before.  He wasn’t beautiful, and I was really only attracted to beautiful men.  He was average height, perhaps five-ten, and average weight, neither fat nor thin.  At first glance he was quite ordinary, till you looked into his eyes, which were like shiny black cherries and were brimming with humor.  And he had good hair, which I thought at the time was unusual for someone his age, thick and shiny near-black hair, with the merest sprinkling of gray at the temple.  And he knew how to dress; he was French after all, and had the money to dress himself well.  That was about the only way Jacques is similar to Brian; he loves clothing and spends a fortune at his tailor every month.

“I’m forty,” Jacques informed me proudly.   I could not imagine Brian making such a statement to a young guy he wanted to fuck, he’d never offer that information and, if pressed, he would remove several years from his real age.  It suddenly occurred to me that Brian was nearly forty – well, he was thirty-six, though I knew he passed himself off as thirty to those who didn’t know him.  It was a revelation to meet a man who was not afraid of being old.  And at twenty-four, forty seemed quite old to me.  Almost twice my age, as my mother was quick to point out after hearing that I’d moved in with Jacques.  Poor mom, she’s never approved of my lovers.

I sat down again and picked up my glass.   Jacques asked, “Why don’t  you want to go to Paris?  It’s the most beautiful city in the world.”

“I do want to go,” I contradicted, “But I won’t be coerced, or have somebody arrange things behind my back, with ulterior motives.” 

Jacques smiled, and I blushed when I realized what I’d said; I sounded like a prim virgin governess in an eighteenth century novel.  I jutted out my chin and stared hard at him, determined to stand my ground.

“But what are these ‘ulterior motives’ you accuse me of, cher monsieur?”

“You’ve been asking me out for weeks and I keep saying no.  Sending me presents, sending me flowers, no matter how many times I send them back.  And now you want to take me to Paris and – and – I don’t know what – “

“Take advantage of you?  Hmm.  Yes, I can see why you would think so, p’tit.  I have been, how do you say, pursuing you very hard, n’est-ce pas?  And for that I apologize, sincerely.”  He did look sincere but I kept my lips tightly shut.

Jacques drained his wine glass and set it down on the filigree table, leaned back and fixed his gaze on me.  “However, perhaps you do not realize that I am not going to Paris for the conference.”

”You’re not?”  He shook his head no.  “But it’s Aubergine’s annual meeting, don’t you have to be there?”

“Tsssk.”  This is a very French response, as I’ve learned after living in Paris for years.  A slight shake of the head, the lips pursed just so, emitting a sound like a confused bumblebee.  It can mean ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or anything in between.  “It is my company, I make the rules,  tu comprends?”  When I nodded he continued, “And next week I have business on the west coast, so: my partner Bernard LeChien will attend the Paris meeting.”

“Oh.”

“You have met Bernard?”  I nodded; Bernard LeChien was about thirty and a notorious womanizer; all the females at Whistle & Crew complained about his frequent sexual innuendoes and flirtations.  John Whistle himself had spoken to LeChien to put a stop to his actions, which skirted the line of sexual harassment.

Jacques smiled.  “So you can rest assured, no Aubergine representative will be making the passes at you.”

Still skeptical, I blurted out, “Then why did you insist to Whistle that you wanted only me to attend the conference?”

With a Gallic shrug Jacques answered, “Because you are the best, bien-sur; your work perfectly represents the Aubergine look.” 

I blinked a couple times and felt myself blushing.  “Really?” 

“Absolutement.  Also I told monsieur Whistle that you must have a raise, immediately.  Did he tell you that?”  When I shook my head no, Jacques continued, “Then he is a fool.  With your talent, you can work for any illustration firm in New York.  Or,” he added with a wink, “In Paris.”

I was surprised but not amazed by Jacques’ words.  My ego is pretty healthy, and I know I’m very good at my job.  Better than most other illustrator/designers at Whistle & Crew, even though I’ve been there only a year.  I’d been considering job-hopping for several months now, because I can barely survive on my current salary, and I’ve had reason to make use of some of the money Brian gave me when he sold my car.  It was music to my ears to hear that someone like Jacques thought so highly of my work.

I glanced back at Jacques and caught him smiling.  “What?”

“You have been thinking of leaving Whistle & Crew, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I admitted, though I didn’t elaborate on my financial situation.  “Maybe you’ll give me a reference?” 

“I can do better than that.  Go to the conference in Paris next week.  Take time to see the city, walk around the beautiful streets, enjoy the cuisine.  Then if you decide you would like to live there, you can be assured of a position at a French illustration firm – especially Chambord, or Celestine, I have contacts there.  Believe me, monsieur Taylor, with your skill and my recommendation, you can be hired, how do you say, ‘on the spot.’”

When I looked at him suspiciously, he added, “And ‘no strings.’  I am living in New York now, do you think I would send such a delicious young man away from here, if I thought I had a chance with him?”

“Okay.”  I took a deep breath.  “Okay, I’ll go to the conference.  And I’ve always wanted to visit Paris.  But I don’t know if I want to live so far away.”  I didn’t see my Pittsburgh family very often, but at least I was close enough to jump on a train and be home in a few hours if I had to.  And I might not like Paris, lots of people don’t like Paris, or so I’ve heard.

“Monsieur Taylor, I have the contacts here in New York, and in Los Angeles too.  I will be glad to recommend  you.  And,” he repeated, “No strings.  Okay?”

“Okay.”  I couldn’t keep a big grin off my face.  Next week I would be in Paris!  I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her, she’d be so excited for me.  She and dad had gone to Paris on their honeymoon and she’d loved it there.  Maybe I would too.

Jacques saw me to the door, shook my hand and twinkled his eyes at me.  He did have beautiful eyes, I realized, as I descended the elegant elevator and thought about packing my suitcase for Paris.  Jacques said he would take care of the travel details, and John Whistle had already told me the firm could rush through a passport for me.  I returned to the office with my head in the clouds, excited about something happening in my life for the first time in more than a year.

Paris was even more beautiful, more compelling, than I’d ever imagined.  After three days I knew I  wanted to live there.  Walking through cobblestone streets with trees arching their limbs overhead, leaning over the side of a bridge gazing at the rippling waters of the Seine, sipping coffee in a sidewalk café watching the crowds stream by, was like a dream, a wonderful dream.  Jacques showed up on the last day of the conference, explaining that urgent family business had brought him to Paris after all, and though he didn’t make a pass at me, and though he didn’t pressure me to go out with him, I ended up having dinner at with him at Maxim’s, and from there, somehow I ended up in his bed.  Something in the air of Paris makes fucking absolutely as necessary as breathing.

Jacques was very good in bed, something I would never have guessed, since he didn’t have the swagger, the insouciance, of a lover like Brian Kinney.  And Jacques was generous, in bed and out, generous with his feelings, generous with his body, allowing me complete freedom to do anything I wanted.  It was altogether a fantastic experience, and after that I did not mind Jacques helping me. 

As promised, he got me in the door at Celestine’s, but my work got me the job, I had no doubt of that.  He made arrangements for my move to Paris, and helped me find a flat in a seven-story building on the Left Bank, a building that looked like a crumbling ruin on the outside but was refurbished in modern style on the inside.  That is the rule in Paris, all buildings in the inner city have to retain their old-world facades.  I settled quickly into the life of a Parisien, working hard and intensely in the daylight hours, spending evenings partaking of hours-long dinner parties with friends, or sitting in a café reading a paperback book, sipping tiny cups of coffee and smoking Gauloises, prowling the hundreds of small art museums dotted all over the Parisian landscape.

Within a year I had moved in with Jacques.  He owned an enormous apartment, taking up three floors of an old building on the Ile St. Louis; we could see the towers of Notre Dame from the terrace.  He entertained frequently and lavishly, he took me on wonderful trips to Tokyo, to St. Petersburg, to Venice.  I continued working for another two years, but then I agreed to let Jacques support me for a time, while I pursued my first love, painting.  With Jacques’ contacts, I got attention from a few galleries, but when I sold paintings, I knew they were not purchased just because I was fucking my rich patron.  I had a certain measure of success, more than I’d ever expected.  My mother came to Paris for my first gallery show, and I knew she was very proud of me, even if she didn’t approve of Jacques.  He managed to charm her to a certain extent; but my mother is almost impervious to charm, otherwise Brian would have won her over years before.

Brian was never very far from my thoughts, though in the first couple years after I left him, I worked hard to push him out of my heart and my head.  Later I gave up; I realized I could never stop loving him.  As long as nobody knew that but me, I was safe.  And I was not unhappy, I enjoyed my life in Paris, my work, my painting.  I enjoyed being with Jacques and I greatly enjoyed sex with him.  If I could never experience the joy I’d had with Brian, well, c’est la vie.  I was really a very lucky man, and I did appreciate my luck.

Almost everyone visited me in Paris at least once or twice.  Mel and Lindsay came over every year and brought Gus with them, so I was able to keep up a relationship with Brian’s son.  Emmett, Ted, Michael and Ben visited a few times, and I had lunch with some of the group from time to time when I had business trips to New York.  I never returned to Pittsburgh however; for some reason I could not bring myself to go home.  That ‘reason’ of course was Brian.  He alone never visited me in Paris, though he always promised to.  The only time I’d seen him was at Vic’s funeral in twenty-oh-seven, and only then for a few minutes.

Last year things started going wrong with Jacques and me.  It’s hard in retrospect to figure out when it happened, but we just started drifting apart.  He spent more time working, devoting a large chunk of his life to opening new Aubergine shops in England; and I spent long hours in my studio.  Some evenings I roamed the streets picking up tricks; our arrangement was open, a pretty normal occurrence in France for gay and straight couples alike.  Jacques and I continued to have sex, but less and less often.  Then two months ago, Jacques told me that he had fallen in love with a young man in London, and he was planning to move to England where he’d bought a country house in Kent.

I was surprised, and yet not surprised.  I knew Jacques had a passion for younger men, and I was pushing thirty – I’d turned twenty-eight a few months before.  Though I loved Jacques, I’d never fallen in love with him, so despite the surprise, my heart was not broken.  We had a very civilized break-up, and Jacques said I could stay on in the Paris apartment indefinitely.  I had time to think about what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to do was go home.  I love Paris, but I think in my  heart I’d been wanting to go home for a long time.  When I got Lindsay’s invitation to come to a surprise fortieth birthday party for Brian, I had the impetus to pull myself out of the inertia I’d felt since Jacques’ announcement.  It was time to get my ass home to America.

Packing up all my worldly goods, crating my paintings, I arranged for shipment to a holding company in New York.  I spent my last day in Paris wandering the beautiful streets I’d come to cherish, sniffing the air of Paris that always smelled of chestnut trees and diesel fumes and Gauloise cigarettes.  I flew to New York with a connecting flight to Pittsburgh, and took a taxi to my mother’s condo.   I had not told her yet about the breakup with Jacques, I had told no one, and I didn’t tell her that I was moving home.  Whether ‘home’ meant Pittsburgh or New York, I could not decide.

Riding through the streets of Pittsburgh after so many years’ absence was amazing.  So many  changes, so many things the same.  I asked the driver to go down Liberty Avenue, and I got such a feeling of ennui, of longing, driving down that street where I’d spent some of the happiest moments of my life.  We passed Woody’s bar – still called Woody’s – and I remembered the night of my first Pride Parade, when Brian had asked me to dance, had kissed me and held me tight as we danced in the street.  Memories crowed into my brain and made my heart ache in my chest.

The next night was Brian’s surprise party, so I laid low that day, sticking close to Mom’s condo.  Lindsay had asked me to stay out of sight – I’d called her when I got in the night before – because she was afraid that if Brian saw me, it would tip him off that something was afoot.  And Brian – so predictably – had forbidden everyone on pain of death-by-torture to not even MENTION his birthday.  The date itself was actually two weeks away.  Any closer and he would have suspiciously refused all invitations, might even plan to be out of town that weekend.  But Michael and Ben had invited him to dinner at their house, to celebrate the anniversary of their commitment ceremony.  I’m not sure how Michael got Brian to agree to come – he hates rituals and anything smacking of romance – but then Michael has always had a special hold over Brian, so apparently he could still sometimes get his way.

I’d taken a taxi to Michael and Ben’s house, most everyone was asked to take taxis so that a street full of parked cars would not alert Brian to anything happening.  It was annoying, but also funny, that everyone had to take such pains with Brian, for fear he would bolt.  It was amazing that such a difficult man had any friends whatsoever.  That’s what Melanie said, and despite her prejudice, it was hard to argue with that statement.

Someone on lookout warned of Brian’s approach to the house and everyone stopped talking.  I was sitting next to Gus in the breakfast nook, and glanced down to see that he was beaming a huge smile.  I know he loves his dad so much, and I hope Brian is being good to him.  I’ve never been able to bring myself to ask Lindsay.  I know  that Brian has always loved Gus, from the moment he was born; but while Brian can love deeply, he has a hard time showing it.  Or anyway he used to, and I didn’t expect that would have changed much in the years since I left him.

Everyone in the kitchen, including Gus and I, moved quickly into the large living room to join the crowd gathered there.  On cue we all went totally silent, and over the soft background music we could hear Michael and Ben greet Brian at the door in the entryway.  Ben had told us that as soon as Brian entered, he was going to throw his body against the door, to prevent Brian’s escape.  Michael pushed open the door into the living room, and everyone shouted “Surprise!”

Brian, who was dressed in tight jeans and a black silk pullover (some things never change) stood stock-still for a moment, then blurted out, “Jesus fucking Christ – I’m going to kill you, Michael Novotny.”

Michael laughed, then everyone began talking at once, surging forward to greet Brian, to wish him happy birthday, to give him hugs and kisses.  Gus pushed his way through the crowd and I was happy to see Brian’s eyes light up, to see him pull Gus into a stranglehold hug and kiss his cheek.  “We fooled you, Dad!” Gus cried, and Brian smiled back at him.  “You sure did.” 

Then Brian’s head went up and he scanned the crowd.  I was standing in the back of the room near the kitchen door, but his eyes found me like a radar beam.  I smiled but I was swallowing hard.  I should have moved forward to greet Brian like everyone else, but I felt paralyzed to the spot.  It didn’t matter; he moved toward me, parting the crowd like Moses at the Red Sea, and when he got close enough he reached out to grab me and pull me against his chest.  “Justin,” he murmured into my ear, and I nearly wept with happiness, just being in his arms once more, no matter how briefly.  He released me quickly and turned away, and I watched him make the rounds, greeting everyone, giving them hugs and kisses, cracking jokes about the retribution he was going to inflict on everyone for fooling him this way, and for daring to remind him of his horrifying fortieth birthday.

The crowd settled back into party chit-chat mode, and I took the opportunity to move into the kitchen, found the back door and slipped outside.  I stood under a grape arbor in one corner of the yard, fishing out a cigarette and lighting up, trying hard to force my heartbeat back to normal.  I’d been afraid that seeing Brian might have this effect on me, and now I had to get control of my feelings, not give myself away.  If I’d hoped that the love I still felt for Brian was mere dregs in the bottom of a cup, a youthful memory that would dissipate once I saw him again, well, I was wrong.  But there was no need to share that information with the world.

“Can I bum a cigarette?”

I tried not to jump when I heard Brian’s voice; I turned around and gave him what I feared was a wobbly smile.  Holding out the pack of Gauloises, I asked, “Forget yours?” and was pleased to notice that my voice sounded perfectly normal.

“Trying to quit,” Brian answered, taking a cigarette, then bending his head toward my lighter, taking a deep drag and exhaling a cloud of blue smoke.  In the semi-darkness of the yard, I noticed tiny lines around Brian’s eyes and mouth, which only seemed to emphasize his beauty, and his body looked as slim as ever.

“No way!  Brian Kinney quit smoking?”

“Weird, huh?” Brian agreed.  “Gus asked me to quit, and I told him I’d try.”

I could think of nothing to say, and Brian went on.  “Hasn’t he given you the lecture yet?  He will.  Christ, he’s a worse nag than his mothers.”

“I haven’t seen him since he stayed with me in Paris last year.”

“Yeah, he told me about his visit.  Said you live in a mansion next door to a big church.  Notre Dame?”  When I nodded, he stuck a hand in his pocket and looked around the back yard.  There was nothing to see, only a few lights on the patio illuminating pools of grass and planter boxes.

Behind Brian’s shoulder, I noticed Lindsay peering out the back door at us.  She turned around and pushed whoever was behind her away and closed the door.  She couldn’t know that I was dying to be rescued from this uncomfortable scene. 

“So,” he said after a brief silence, bringing his eyes back to my face, “You like living in Paris?”

“Paris is fabulous.”

“You’re happy?”

“More or less,” I hedged.  “And you?”

“More or less,” he echoed me, then laughed.  “What if I said that I was miserable as shit and was only waiting for you to come home to me?”

“Brian. . .”  I couldn’t tell if he was joking; it was not something Brian would say if it were true.  He might joke about it, but he’d never mean it.

“It’s okay,” he interrupted me, laughing again.  “I know you’re in love with your Frenchman.  I just promised myself, if I ever saw you again, that I would tell you the truth.”  He dropped the half-smoked cigarette on the grass and crushed it under his shoe.  “Thanks for the smoke.”  He turned away and walked back into the house, while I stared after him, speechless.  I wanted to run after him, grab him, spin him around and demand to know if he really WAS speaking the truth.  I was afraid to believe him, because I wanted to believe him.  So I let him go, and fished out another cigarette, stalling for time.  I was so shaken that I could not have walked back into the middle of the party, could not have acted as cheerful and nonchalant as Brian.  I’ve never been able to hide my feelings.

A few minutes later Lindsay joined me outside.  She put a hand on my arm and peered at my face.  “Justin?”

“I’m just having a cigarette.”

“Are you okay?”  when I nodded yes, Lindsay squeezed my arm.  “We’re going to light the cake in a minute – you don’t want to miss that.  You can be in charge of the fire extinguisher.”

I gave her the smile she wanted and allowed her to pull me back into the house.  As I passed Debbie, she grabbed my arm and invited me to sit next to her.  “Okay, but no more crackers!” I joked.  Michael came over to talk with us and I asked about his comic shops – he has three now in Pittsburgh and I told him he should open a shop in New York.

Michael shook his head.  “I could never leave Pittsburgh, my heart is here.  Always has been.  Besides,” he lowered his voice and breathed in my ear.  “Ben’s been having some problems.”  When I opened my mouth to ask, he hurried on, “Oh, he’s fine, he’s really fine.  But. . .it’s better if we stay close to home.  Just in case.” 

Debbie had tears in the corners of her eyes, though she was smiling bravely.  She must be terribly worried, I knew she had come to love Ben almost as much as Michael.  Everyone had kept me up to date on Ben’s HIV, and he’d done amazingly well in the years since I left; but last year he’d been hospitalized twice for pneumonia.  Each time he’d made a complete recovery, but naturally he was vulnerable.  Lindsay had told me how strong Michael had become, and I could see it now in his calm face and steady demeanor. 

From the kitchen Lindsay called, “Kill the lights!” and everyone switched off lamps, and a hush fell over the room as Lindsay and Mel wheeled in a cart on which rested an enormous round cake, covered with chocolate icing and ablaze with what looked like a hundred, but was probably only forty, candles.  In the silence you could hear Brian cursing. 

“Fucking birthdays, fucking cake, I am NOT going to blow out those fucking candles!”

Gus ran to grab his father’s hand and lead him toward the cake.  “I’ll help you, Dad!” he offered eagerly, and Brian relented.  He put his arm around Gus’ shoulders and together they leaned over the cake and blew and blew till every candle was out.  This brought a cheer from the crowd, and at a signal from Lindsay, I went into the kitchen to help with plates and napkins and cups of coffee. 

I managed to stay in the kitchen for quite a while, till Gus came to find me.  “Uncle Justin, Dad’s going to open his presents now, don’t you want to watch?”

“Sure, of course,” I agreed, and allowed Gus to lead me into the living room.  Brian was sprawled in an enormous Morris chair, staring balefully at a mountain of presents stacked in front of him.

“I hate presents,” Brian announced ungraciously, making everyone laugh.  “Where’s Gus?  Oh, there you are.  Come and help me open these damned gifts.”  Gus hurried over and planted himself at Brian’s feet, and one by one he opened the gifts as Melanie handed them to him.  He passed them over his head to Brian, who made mostly rude remarks about each one.  He was given a lot of music CDs, some books – including one about Life Stages that he threw into the corner, to the delight of Emmett, who had given it – a couple nice shirts from the mommies, which he would probably never wear.  A few people, including Ted, retrieved their gifts before Gus could open them and said Brian should take them home still wrapped – meaning they were probably sex toys or porn videos. 

One gift Brian was forced to open, Gus insisted, because it was from him.  He stood up to hand  the package to Brian and leaned against the chair, closely watching for Brian’s reaction.   Carefully Brian unwrapped the oddly shaped package, which turned out to be a rather lumpy sculpture of a dolphin, painted bright blue.  “I made it for you in art class – do you like it?” Gus asked eagerly.

“It’s beautiful,” Brian smiled, pulling Gus into his arms for a hug.  “I’m going to keep it on my desk at work, so I can see it every day.”

Gus beamed and threw his arms around Brian’s neck, loudly kissed his cheek.  “You liked the dolphins when we went to Sea World in Florida this spring, remember?”

“I did,” Brian agreed, giving Gus a most beautiful smile that brought a lump to my throat.  Not only mine, I heard a few people discreetly clear their throats as well.  I was happy to see that Brian loved his son so much, and gave him the praise that he deserved.

There were several more gifts to be opened, which made Brian complain bitterly, but Gus slid back down on the floor and continued opening them.  A few more CDs, a large glass container of home-made marinara sauce from Debbie.  I hadn’t noticed my gift in the stack, but after the last package was opened, Lindsay stepped forward and handed my package directly to Brian.  She knew what it was of course, and she’d saved it till last. 

Brian read the tag, which was just a tiny photo of the Eiffel Tower on which I’d scribbled, ‘to Brian from Justin.’  He glanced around the room to find me as he tore off the paper and our eyes met before he glanced down at the picture frame in his hands.  It was not large, ten by thirteen; a portrait of Gus that I’d painted when he stayed with me last year.  I’m always pretty critical of my own work, but I’d been happy with this one, and the look on Brian’s face said that he liked it, too.

It was unusual for Brian to let his feelings show on his face, so I couldn’t have been happier with his reaction to the painting.  “It’s fantastic,” he murmured, standing up and turning around so everyone could see the painting.  Above the oohs and aahs, Brian’s eyes sought mine again, and he smiled.  “Thank you.”  He carried the painting around the room to give everyone a closer look, and when he reached my corner, he said, “Your talent still amazes me.  I wish I’d come to your gallery shows in Paris.”

“Me, too.”  That was all I could say, then Brian moved on around the room showing the picture.

Gus came over and smiled at me.  “He loves it, Uncle Justin!  I told you he would.”

“Thanks for keeping the secret all this time.”

“Well. . .” Gus hesitated, then grinned.  “Actually, I forgot.  So it was easy to keep it secret.  Do you want more cake?”  When I shook my head no, Gus said, “I’m going to go get another piece now!” and he raced off to the kitchen.

The party began breaking up, it was Sunday night and most people had to work the next day.  Many had come in taxis, so there was general conversation about who needed transportation.  Emmett was pulling on a windbreaker when he came up and asked me if I needed a ride.  I said yes, thanks when I felt a hand on the back of my neck. 

“I’ll drive you home,” Brian offered, “Wait while I say good-bye to Gus and the mommies.”

Emmett threw a questioning look at me so I nodded.  “Thanks anyway, Em.”

I said good-bye and hugged Ted and Emmett and other friends; Debbie insisted on staying to help clean up and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Mel and Linds were busy in the kitchen.  I said my good-byes to Ben and Michael, then I waited at the door till Brian joined me.  “Help me carry this stuff, will you?” he asked, pushing a cardboard box loaded with gifts into my arms, then picking up a second box.  Gus walked us out to the car – Brian was now driving a four-door BMW, not a jeep.  Brian opened the trunk and we stashed the boxes, hugged Gus good-bye and climbed in.

“Staying at your mom’s?”

“Yes.”  I struggled with the seatbelt, there were still, after all these years, a few things that were hard to manage with my damaged hand.  Brian reached across me, pulled down the strap and pushed it into the lock.  His face was so close I could smell his aftershave, and beneath that, the warm Briansmell I remembered so well.  He started the engine and pulled away from the curb.  We’d gone several blocks in silence before I got up the nerve to ask him my burning question.

“Brian. . .”

“Hmm?”  He kept his eyes on the road.

“Brian, what you said in the yard.  Did you mean it?”

He hesitated, then asked, “You mean, have I really quit smoking?”

I sighed.  Maybe Brian hadn’t changed much after all.  “You know what I mean.”

“Justin, what difference does it make?  You’re in a relationship and you live thousands of miles away.”

“No, I’m not,” I blurted out.  “And no, I don’t.”

Brian spun the steering wheel sharply to the right, pulling up against the curb and killing the engine.  He released his seatbelt and  turned toward me.  “You’ve left your Frenchman?”

“He left me.  Dumped me.  For a younger man.”  I turned toward Brian and laughed.  It suddenly struck me as funny.

“Justin – is that true?  I – I’m sorry.   Everyone said you were so happy.”

I nodded.  I could barely see his face, but Brian’s eyes looked black in the darkness.  “I was mostly happy, yes.  But I’ve been missing America for quite a while now – I didn’t even realize it till Jacques left me – and I’m ready to come home.”

“Home?” Brian murmured.  “New York home or Pittsburgh home?”

“I don’t know.”  It was an honest answer.  It depended on Brian, but I couldn’t say that.  We sat in silence for a few moments, then Brian stretched out his arm, brushed his fingers on my hair, the back of my neck. 

“When you left, I. . .” 

“Brian – “

“I should have come after you, to New York.  Begged you to come home.  But I was too stubborn.  I was so sure you’d come back, on your own.  Then you kept not coming back.  Day after day, you didn’t come back.  I got used to it, finally.”  He paused, then cleared his throat and went on.  “People say, ‘If you leave me, I’ll die,’ but they don’t.  They go on breathing, even if they don’t want to.”

My hand slid across the seat and slipped into Brian’s hand.  He squeezed so tight I almost cried out.  “Then Linds had some serious trouble with Mel, and she needed me.  And Gus needed me.  Even Deb and Michael needed me, when Vic started getting sick again.  So I kept  on breathing.  And the years went by, and then it was too late.”

“Brian – “

“I’m on a roll, don’t stop me,” Brian said, and chuffed a brief laugh.  “I didn’t dare come see you in Paris, I would have kidnapped you and dragged you back home with me.  Tied you up in my tower and never let you out.”

“Brian – “

He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it.  “Even if you get out of this car and walk away right now, still I have to tell you.  Because I never did tell you, did I?”  Brian drew a deep breath and exhaled sharply.  “I love you, Justin.  I never told you, for lots of reasons.  Mostly I didn’t want you to have power over me.  Ha!”  He turned his head and stared out the windshield at the darkness, then turned back toward me.  “You’ve had power over me since the first moment I saw you, standing on the corner in the lamplight.  It wasn’t love, of course, not in the beginning.  Lust, and longing, and other things, but not love.  I didn’t really know I loved you until you almost died, until you were in that coma.  I wanted to trade places with you.  I’ve read that in books, you know?”

My eyes had grown accustomed to the dark and I could see Brian’s raised eyebrows as he looked at me and went on, “I’ve read about people feeling love so strong, they’d gladly die for the person they love.  And I would have.  Sitting in that hallway in the hospital, afraid you were dying in the operating room – I would gladly have changed places with you.  That’s when I knew I loved you.”

I struggled with the seat belt, trying to release it, and finally it popped open.  I slid across the smooth leather seat and moved into Brian’s arms.  “I knew you loved me.”

“But I never told you.  And that’s why you left me finally, isn’t it?  Because I never told you.”

“No,” I denied it, but he was right, in a way.  

“Yeah, it was,” he insisted.  “I wouldn’t give you what you wanted.  I wouldn’t share my feelings with you.”

I sighed and stopped contradicting him.

“I didn’t know how, Justin.  And I didn’t want to.  I always had things my own way, once I was grown up.  My way or the highway, that was my motto.  And it worked.  For a really long time, it worked.  Only in the end, it didn’t work on you, did it?  And I lost you – forever.”

“Not forever,” I murmured against Brian’s chest.  “I want to come home now.”

His arms went around me in a tight hug, and I raised my face for his kiss.  But he didn’t kiss me.  “Justin. . .Justin, I don’t know if I can change.  I don’t know if I can be the way you want me.”  I opened my mouth to answer but he went on quickly, “I’m forty fucking years old, I don’t know if I can change.”

“Brian, you’ve already changed.”  It was true, I realized as I said it.  “You’re telling me now, what I always needed to hear.”

“I still can’t be monogamous,” he said warningly.

“Me either.”

“And I won’t move to New York.”

“I don’t want to live in New York.”

“I’m keeping my loft.”

“Maybe I’ll buy my own loft.”  That pulled him up short.  “I have my own money, now, Brian, a lot of it.”

“From Jacques?”

“No, asshole,” I pulled away a few inches and frowned at him.  “I’ve sold a lot of paintings, I have a healthy bank account.”

He shook his head.  “I didn’t realize you were so successful.”

“Underestimating me again!”  I pretended to be outraged, but ruined it by laughing.  “You’d better insure that painting of Gus, it would sell for twenty grand,” I couldn’t resist bragging.

Brian pulled me back into his arms.  “I wouldn’t sell if for a million.”  He kissed me, but briefly, just a touch of his warm lips on mine.  “So,” he asked, “Will you come home to me now, will you give it another chance?”

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” I considered, “Are you still good in bed?”

Brian laughed, his breath warm on my face.  “Come on, I’ll show you.” 

He pushed me away, slid me across the seat and pulled down the belt again, fastened me in.  “Hold on tight!” he admonished, fastening his own belt, starting the car, pulling away from the curb with a squeal of tires.  I was reminded of many, many nights when he’d driven us speeding home to his bed through the dark streets, but at least this time, Brian was sober.  I wondered if Gus had asked him to stop taking drugs, or if he’d done that on his own. 

There was a lot to learn about the apparently New, Improved Brian Kinney.  I could hardly wait to start.



Epilogue


Almost like the first time, I wait for Brian to unlock the door and push it back, and I follow him into the loft.  I glance around, taking in the new look of the place, the black-red-and-yellow color scheme, different but still ultra-modern, Brian could never live with the elegant, old-world furnishings I'd grown used to in Paris.  I turn to see him pull open the refrigerator and take out a bottle of water, and I flash back ten years, almost expecting him to pour the water slowly over his head, teasing me with his naked body.  Instead he takes a drink and holds out the bottle toward me in offering.  I shake my head, and he takes another drink, then sets down the bottle on the counter and walks back to join me in the center of the loft.

"I like it," I smile at him, gesturing at the furnishings.

"You're the only one," he snorts.  "Everyone tells me it's hideous."

"It's you," I say, and that makes him laugh.  "I mean, it's clean, strong, masculine.  And somehow - hot."

Brian pulls off his silk shirt, exposing a broad chest and a torso as lean as it ever was, a smooth, gym-toned body without an ounce of fat.  "Nobody's hot at forty," he complains, but half-heartedly, and I see him glance quickly at a mirror in the corner by his desk, as if for reassurance that what he's saying is wrong.

"Wrong," I contradict, moving closer to run my hands up his chest.  "I've never met anyone as hot as you."  It's the truth, and I see him read my eyes and know that for me it really is the truth.

"I showed you mine, now you show me yours."  He pulls off my jacket, then lifts the edge of my shirt and pulls it off over my head.  With both hands he tweaks my nipples.  "You're holding up pretty well for a guy pushing thirty." 

I laugh but the breath catches in my throat.  Proximity to Brian has always taken my breath away; he knows it, and I see the corners of his mouth turn up when he realizes he can still affect me in the same old way.  He slides his arms around my waist and pulls me toward him, lowers his head for a kiss.  Gently, gently, as if I am that frightened teenage virgin once again, Brian pushes his mouth against mine, so slowly, so intimately, his breath warm in my open mouth before his lips brush mine, immediately I feel my balls tighten and my cock growing hard inside my briefs.  He feels it too, and his hands work on the zipper of my pants while he continues kissing my mouth, his kisses growing hotter and harder, my arms have slipped around his neck to pull down his head, holding his mouth prisoner against my own.

In one swift movement Brian has pulled down my pants, my briefs going with them, and my cock springs free and bounces against my belly.  I'm trying to kick off my shoes, but Brian is growing impatient, and suddenly he swoops an arm under my knees and picks me up bodily, charging up the steps to set me down on my feet on the ledge of the bed.  Now I'm taller than him, and I caress his hair, run my hands from his neck down his back, slipping under the waistband of his jeans.

Wrestling with my shoes, Brian pulls them off, one by one, and tosses them over his shoulder.  I have to hang onto him for balance as he lifts one leg at a time and pulls off my pants.  I'm naked standing before him, and he dips his head to plant a tongue-kiss on the end of my cock, running his hands around my hips to squeeze my buttocks and pull me toward his face, his mouth exhaling short hot breaths.  I push his head away - gently, and jump down off the ledge, laughing and grappling with his jeans.  He kicks off his boots and cooperatively lifts his legs to step out of the jeans I've pulled down to his ankles.  When I look up, I see his cock waving before my eyes, a dearly missed old friend, and I reach for it, as if to shake hands after a long absence, but Brian leans away, whispering "Wait, wait," and pulls me up to stand facing him.

"I want to look at you," Brian tells me, holding my shoulders away from him at arm's length.  His eyes rove over my body from head to toe, my own eyes close and I shiver with the almost-palpable touch of his gaze, like a caress.  Then he pulls me toward him and hugs me tight to his chest, and he whispers in my ear, his voice barely audible, "Justin - Christ, I've missed you so much."

"Me, too," I murmur, barely getting the words out before Brian bends his head and our lips meet, but gently, so gently, our tongues barely touching at the tips, then slipping inside the smooth wetness of our mouths, and I moan with pleasure at the remembered Brian-taste.  We kiss forever, our tongues getting reacquainted, our bodies rubbing tight together skin on skin, our cocks straining, balls aching with sweet agony.

Brian maneuvers me onto the bed, and we scramble toward the center, our bodies struggling to get closer and closer, as if we’re trying to get inside each other’s skin.  We stretch out full length on the crimson bedcover, toes struggling to rub toes, calves and thighs straining together, rolling around on the bed as our kisses get hotter, our breaths get shorter and our hands slip and slide and rub and pinch and caress and touch every inch of naked skin.  I can feel Brian’s heart pounding in rhythm with my own, and I’m aware of my cock throbbing, tumescent, ready to blow, only from Brian’s kisses and the weight of his body pressing on mine.

I roll onto my back and pull Brian on top of me, his knee by long practice slipping between my legs, opening them up to make room for his long legs; I feel his hands under my hips, raising them up to rest on his thighs.  I’m trembling all over, barely able to catch a full breath, and Brian’s excitement is equal to my own, I can feel his body shaking as he’s poised above me.  He pauses, takes a deep breath, and reaches for a condom from the bowl by the bed.  How many hundreds of condoms has he used since I’ve been gone?  Never mind, never mind, I’m here now, that’s all that matters, and here I’m going to stay. . .

The condom snaps on and automatically I reach into the bowl for the lube but Brian takes it from my hand, flips open the bottle and gently slips a wet finger inside me.  “It’s cold,” I laugh, our private joke, and Brian smiles down at me.  “It’ll heat up,” he promises, before he plunges inside, taking my breath away, sending my body into paroxysms of pleasure, like no one’s done in years, years and years - no one has ever pleasured me like Brian.  Then he leans down and captures my mouth in a kiss, then another, and another, kissing my lips anew with each urgent thrust. 

Soon, too soon, we’re coming; I’m trying to hold on, to wait for him, and then he whispers urgently, “Now, Justin, now baby!”  and we both shudder with the force of our simultaneous orgasms.  Still holding tight in each other’s arms, riding out the incredible spasming aftershocks, Brian whispers, “Justin, I love you, I love you, I love you.”   I cannot speak but I don’t need to; Brian kisses away the tears of joy leaking from my tight-closed eyes.






3/28/02




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