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I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW






PART EIGHT


I’m still angry with Justin. I’m fucking livid. I never wanted any rules, never thought we needed them, but Justin insisted. And then he goes and breaks them? Yeah, my surprise over that turned to anger pretty quickly. So, I broke the rules once. There were extenuating circumstances. It’s not every day I bury my father and I was extremely out of it. Is this just him getting his own back? I can understand that, but more than once? That’s not like him. There must be more to it.

I don’t want to talk about it, I really don’t. I just want to fuck him all the time to make him forget solder-boy. But, of course, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that. So I go to the loft every night – but not before three. It wouldn’t do to appear too keen. Unfortunately, by that time I can’t tell what he’s been up to, can’t tell if he’s had a shower when he came in, and if he had one, was it because he’s been tricking – with him?

I’m not jealous. I don’t do jealousy. That’s for breeders and lesbians. We’re gay, we fuck who we want, when we want. But, still, he made those rules and I was sure he wouldn’t break them. He’s always so fucking superior, never sets a foot wrong, always looks at me as if he can’t understand what’s wrong with me when I fuck up. I should be relieved that this time he did. But somehow I’m not. Why don’t I feel smug about catching him out? Mostly I try not to think about it.

It's not as if my life isn't fucked up enough as it is, although for what it's worth, Lindsay started talking to me again. I just sat down next to her in class one day and talked as if nothing ever happened. She gave me the silent treatment all through the lecture, but couldn’t suppress a smile when I made sarcastic remarks about the lecturer in her direction. And when I pulled her towards the cafeteria afterwards, she didn’t resist.

So, now we’re talking. Once or twice she tried to talk about the contract Mel wants me to sign. Lindsay doesn’t like it. She said it would be ‘bad for the baby’ to grow up without a father. I had to tell her in no uncertain terms that it’s non-negotiable. Melanie will make a far better parent than I have any hope to ever be. I’m not fucking that up for my kid. So in the end, I told her that we can only hang out if we don’t do any baby-talk. So far, she’s stuck to it. I wish she'd get over her crush. It was never this bad before she got pregnant – must be the hormones. But it’s driving me crazy and we only see each other in class and at lunchtime now.

I haven’t heard from Michael since the dinner, which is a fucking long time. He’s never sulked this long before. Ben has told Justin that Debbie and Vic have emailed a few times and sounded very upbeat. That’s good to know. Naturally, Ben and Justin’s friendship hasn’t suffered the slightest dent from dragging my fuck with Ben out into the open. Why is it only my relationships that suffer when something goes wrong? I really don’t get it.

Justin has a couple of paintings in the new show at the gallery. I think he’s most excited about the art critic that Sidney invited from New York and I can see how that’s a big deal. Usually no one bothers with Pittsburgh. Sidney must have better connections than I’ve given him credit for. He’s such a boring geezer, but then again, art critics are the biggest bores on the planet as well.

I’m a little late, partly by design – it’s always good to make an entrance – and partly because I don’t have the car today and the bus was late. So everybody’s already there when I arrive, including Jon, in a cozy tete-a-tete with Justin, what else? I knew it was still going on. Justin says no, but how can I be sure? They look extremely comfortable with each other. Didn’t he tell me that fucking destroys friendships? It was certainly almost true for Lindsay and me.

Lindsay greets me with a kiss and I enjoy that only because of Melanie’s sour expression as she watches us, so I let it slide. I don’t have much luck with Michael though when I try to talk to him. He gives me the short shrift and turns his back on me. He reminds me of his mother and how she treated me over the last couple of years, with that air of disappointment and disapproval. I wonder how long it'll take him to get out of his snit.

I really don’t know what Michael's problem is. The fuck was before he ever met Ben. Let’s face it, with the number of guys I fucked by then, he would have to be extremely lucky to find someone I didn’t fucked. If he picked someone hot, that is. He’s welcome to the dogs. And did he really expect me to rub it in his face? Surely, that would have been worse. So I didn’t tell him. I should have thought he wouldn’t want me to. And I wouldn’t have done that night either, if he hadn’t asked me outright.

It’s not as if I ever told anyone, not even Justin. Ben and I never talked about it either, so we didn’t sit there making fun of Michael behind his back. Surely he must know that. Even if he can believe that of me, at least he can be certain that Ben never would. Ben is besotted with him. I see him sling his arm around Michael's shoulders when Michael returns to their little group of Stepford fags and give me a small, almost apologetic smile over his head. Why the fuck do I get all the blame and Ben gets off scot-free? By definition, it takes two people to fuck – at least.

I suppose, I have to go and see Justin. He’s the reason I’m here after all. But I don’t really want to, not when he’s with solder-boy. And now I’m wondering if they are laughing at me behind my back. Are they making fun of the brat when they’re alone in their studio – fucking? Justin asked me to come here tonight. He’s usually sincere in everything he does. If he asked me to come, it’s because he wants me to be here. Everything else is just paranoia. Only, that would be so much easier to believe if he didn’t bring his… whatever he is.

I take a look at Justin’s painting and it’s… beautiful. There’s something about his art that always has me in awe. Sometimes, when he whips out his sketchpad and draws something in the space of a few minutes just so that he won’t forget the image, I watch him and I watch his progress on the page and I get lost in it. He has such talent and he’s so dismissive of that talent, never quite content with the result. If I could, I'd buy him his own gallery. Because no one deserves it more.

When he asks me if I like his paintings, I want to tell him. I've told him before what I think about his art, but right now I can’t. Undoubtedly, Jon has already given him his expert opinion and he doesn’t really need to hear it from me. But when he looks dissatisfied with my answer, I pull him closer and tell him quietly how exquisite it is. His smile is beaming and it makes my stomach flutter. It always does. I have to be so fucking careful not to let it get to me all the time.

Ah well, I won’t stand here and compete with solder-boy for his attention. I don’t have to. There are enough guys who are competing for mine. If he wants to spend time with Jon, let him. There was that waiter who was cruising me when I came in. But I make sure to tell Justin that I’ll be at the loft later on. I don’t want to get there and have a nasty surprise. And for now, I’m still the one who sleeps there.




A few weeks after the showing, I slip into my seat next to Lindsay in class one morning. She has a magazine spread on her knees under the table and is leafing through it. A quick look confirms that it’s nothing that would interest me and I amuse myself with checking out the guys in the room. I can safely say that I’ve had all the desirable ones. To find fresh meat at college I have to go to parties nowadays, which I do frequently. Nobody throws parties like trust fund kids.

“Oh my God.”

I look at Lindsay and she thrusts the magazine into my lap. Art Forum? Really? Why would I be interested in that? But when I look at the page, I recognize Justin at first glance. I do a double-take and start reading, becoming so engrossed that I don’t hear old Levinson come in. It doesn’t matter anyway because he doesn’t care if anyone’s paying attention or not, as long as it’s quiet enough so he can hear himself drone on.

The guy who wrote the article seems to know Justin rather well or at least he’s pretending to. I wonder if Justin fucked him. He told me before that he had quite a few offers – from men and women – at the gallery to persuade him to display their work. Of course, Justin would never do such a thing, nor would he fuck for a good review. I still remember the discussion we had about ‘trading’ when we started out. But the subject hasn’t come up recently, so maybe he’s changed his mind in the meantime or maybe he made an exception for a once in a lifetime opportunity? I would.

The guy certainly writes as if he got well paid for it and nobody does anything for free. Painterliness? Is that even a word? It’s not that I don’t agree with him on the subject, but do people really read this shit? I see Lindsay lap it up every month. On the day it comes out, she waits until the mail is delivered so she can read it in class. Justin is less keen. He usually has it lying about for a while before he gets round to reading it. For him it’s more professional interest.

And then I get to the last line. New York is waiting to be conquered. Oh shit. I hadn’t thought of that. Much as I think the praise is deserved and long overdue, I didn’t think it through properly. So he may be moving to New York. I wouldn’t blame him if he did. But… but what, Kinney? I can hear Lindsay whispering to me about what a unique opportunity this is and how Justin must go to New York now. And I can hear Levinson talk, but it’s all just so much white noise to me.

Eventually the interminable lecture is over. I only realize it when I see everyone gathering their stuff and getting up, so I grab my bag and leave the room. Lindsay asks me if I’m coming to lunch with her, but I’m really not hungry. What I really want is go to the baths. Only, there’s that marketing tutorial at two, which I can’t miss, so there isn’t enough time. I’ll have just enough time for a quick run.

The tutorial is boring but compulsory. The tutor – “Dr. Bergman, call me Tom” – calls me over after class is finished. I drag my feet making my way over to his desk, where he waits until everyone has left the room before he smiles at me. It makes my skin crawl. I know he wants to fuck me, but luckily he hasn’t made a move on me so far. I was really hoping to get through my last year without having to tell him to fuck off. He’s way too old for me, but I’m worried that my grades will miraculously slip if I turn him down. Appeals are always so time-consuming.

“Brian, I’d like your permission to show your coursework to some outside parties.”

“What sort of outside parties?”

“Advertising agencies, recruiters, etc. I always have people asking me if I have some promising talent in my classes. You have a lot of talent. If you give me permission, I can show them some proof. Some of your projects have been extraordinary.”

“Sure, why not? Go right ahead.” I pause and smirk a little. “You’ve no idea how talented I really am.”

To my surprise, he blushes at my flirtation. I thought he would jump at it – not that I’m offering any more than just that, but it’s a good way to keep him motivated to further my chances. “I’m sure you are,” he says, looking at anything but me. “I’ll let you know, when someone shows an interest.”

“Thank you, Tom.” I flash him another smile and saunter out of the room.

The rest of the afternoon, I work on a project I have due next week, before I shower and get changed to go and meet Justin. We have a ritual – after three years you could almost call it a tradition – that whenever I do well at college, he takes me out to dinner. Usually it’s after the exam results come out. We go to this nice restaurant that we both like and afterwards we go to the loft and he performs whatever sexual favor I request. Not that I can’t usually get him to do what I want anyway, but this is different. This is more like role play, where he submits completely. It’s always really hot and usually I spend dinner full of anticipation.

So I take him to ‘our’ restaurant, but I can’t really concentrate on the food or the sexual tension. According to Lindsay, getting a write-up in Art Forum is like winning the lottery, complete with a subsequent windfall. It’s a great accomplishment and I’m proud of him, but at the same time I need to know what changes this might bring. I just like to be prepared.

Justin has a different take on it. He does seem pleased, but that’s all. It always surprises me how different he is from me. If someone offered me even the slightest chance to get out of Pittsburgh, I would grab it with both hands. His reaction? “I like my life.” I have a retort for that on my tongue, one that makes it very clear how much that sentiment differs from how I feel, but then I look at him smiling at me so softly and just tell him that he should be proud nonetheless.

I pay for the meal, even though the expense will leave me struggling until the end of the month, but it’s a celebration for him, so I can’t let him pay. And when we get home, it’s surprisingly hot to submit to him for a change. He makes me undress him and then watches me strip with that hot stare that he has when he’s turned on. It’s always fun to put on a show for him.

Then he tells me to lie on my back and puts my hands above my head, telling me to leave them there. We’ve tried putting me in restraints before, but it makes me uneasy and he likes me to touch him anyway, so at some point it always becomes inconvenient to have to untie me. I have better control than he has anyway, so I usually manage to keep my hands where he tells me to without being tied up.

“I want you to tell me what you want,” he says raspily, after kissing me for a long time. “I want you to ask for it. Beg.”

I smirk at him because he’s just put me in charge again. I can do this. So I tell him where I want his hands and his mouth and just add a please at the end. Easy. Only, when he gets closer to my cock, he starts teasing me in earnest by delaying until I’m really begging. The little shit. My hands are cramped around the edge of the mattress from the strain of keeping them there. I want to touch him desperately. I always want to touch him.

I groan when he lets my cock slip from his mouth after what feels like barely a few seconds. I’m seriously begging now because I’m damn close to breaking role and grabbing him. But he just grins at me.

“You want me to ride you?”

“Fuck, yes… please...”

He puts a condom on my straining cock and I have to grit my teeth when he takes his time applying the lube. I’m not going to embarrass myself by coming from just him touching me. Finally – fuck, yes! – he positions himself over my cock and starts sinking down. But I can play this game just as well. I know what he really wants. He wants what I usually make him do.

“Please.” There’s a surprising amount of pleading in my voice without trying very hard. Well, it’s not as if I don’t agree with the basic sentiment. “I want you to ride me. I want to be inside you. I want you. Just you. Always you. Please.”

His eyes widen and I can see him come undone right in front of me. I just love that I can do that to him. If we weren’t so far gone, the both of us, he would say something really soppy right now. As it is, he just moves faster on top of me without ever losing eye contact and finally gasps, “Touch me.” I grab one of his hips and put my other hand on his cock. I’m not going to tell him how close I was to doing that anyway. He doesn’t need to know how much effort it is to keep control when he looks at me like that.

When he collapses on top of me, after we’ve both come, he whispers, “Just you.” Maybe I should tell him that it was just part of the game, but I’m too satiated and too content right now. It’s his day after all, and he knows me too well anyway. I don’t need to tell him anything. And it was worth it, just for the way he looked at me. He hasn’t looked at me like that for a long while.




I have to hear from Justin that Debbie and Vic are coming home because Michael is still not talking to me. It’s been weeks now and it’s really weird without him. I’ve been seeing less of him over the last two or three years because he works at the Big Q now and I’m at college, but we still always managed to get together at least twice a week and talked every day on the phone. I miss it, but I tried to talk to him at the gallery and there’s no way in hell I’m doing it again.

On the day of the coming home party, Tom Bergman asks me to come to his office for three o’clock. I wonder if he’s finally going to try his luck after our last conversation – maybe I did lay it on a bit thick – but when I get there, he’s not alone. I look at the other guy, who’s younger than Bergman, around mid-thirties maybe, and quite hot in a designer clothes sort of way.

“Ah, Brian,” Bergman says. “There you are. I want you to meet Adam Lyons, from Kennedy & Lyons, New York.”

I thought he looked vaguely familiar, although a lot of people do. It’s inevitable with the amount of forgettable tricks I’ve had. But he’s not one of those. I remember him from the Clio Awards, where he bored us with endless talk and unfunny jokes. He comes over and shakes my hand, holding it a little longer than strictly necessary. Well, that gives me some idea what he’s after in general.

“Can I use your office for an hour?” he asks Bergman, who hesitates before agreeing and leaving the room.

I look Lyons up and down. He’s older but not out of my age range yet, good body, nice package, but unless he has a lot to say, I think an hour’s a little excessive. I smirk at him. “What can I do for you, Mr. Lyons?”

“Please, call me Adam.”

“Okay, what can I do for you, Adam?”

“I‘ve been keeping an eye on you for the last three years. You and Justin caused quite a stir at the awards. Even without pissing off all the homophobes. Are you still with Justin?”

“You want to talk about Justin?” I smirk again, because I know he doesn’t, but I’ll be damned if I talk about Justin with him as a conversation starter. Justin can’t stand him.

“No, I want to talk about you. Like I said, we’ve been keeping an eye on you. Luckily, Tom’s a good friend of mine. He’s been singing your praises from the start. I had a look at your coursework today and your projects and grades. You’re very talented.”

“I know.”

He laughs. “No false modesty. I like it. We'd like you to consider working for us when you graduate.”

I wait and try to keep my excitement under control.

“One of our executives is retiring next year. We’re going to have a re-shuffle and there will be a position for a junior executive. The pay’s three times what any of the Pittsburgh agencies offer. We’ll give you a relocation package and help you find accommodation. You’ll have your own office and secretary. The career structure’s good. You can be a senior in five years. And you’ll be working directly with me.”

He says that last bit as if that will be the major benefit of the job. I ignore it. New York. Working for one of the major agencies…in New York. I take a deep breath. One thing I’ve learned in life is that when things appear too good to be true, they usually are. “And the conditions?”

“Minor. It’s contingent on you keeping your grades up. You slip and the deal’s off. We only take the best. You’ll have to come for an interview with the senior partners in the new year. You sign a five year contract, which is dependent on your performance and can be terminated by us without notice at any time. And you help us snatch the Brown Athletics account from Vanguard.”

Ah yes, I thought it wasn’t all about my winning charm. “What if we don’t manage to do that?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. I know you can do it. Especially if Justin helps out.”

I stare at him, annoyed despite my excitement. “I can’t speak for Justin.” Although I could probably convince him to do this for me. I just don’t want it to be part of any deal. Especially not without asking him. “If you want his services, you’ll have to ask him.” And probably get turned down, because Justin has no interest in advertising any longer and he doesn’t like Lyons.

“Okay, we leave Justin out of it. We’ll approach him separately if we want him to work for us.”

I know what he’s thinking. If I work for them, he’s expecting it to be easy for me to persuade Justin. I have my doubts on that score, but I’m not going to tell him that. I want this. This is all I ever wanted. I’m not going to mess it up. And if push comes to shove, I’ll be able to devise a campaign for Brown that won’t need Justin anyway. I see him look at me and I nod. “Okay.”

He laughs again. “Okay? That’s all you have to say?”

I shrug. “What more is there?” I’m not going to let on how keen I am.

He grins and holds out his hand. I shake it and he doesn’t let go, licking his lips and looking down my body. “Do you wanna seal the deal?”

Why not? I’m sure Bergman is expecting one of us to end up bending over his desk. Well, it’s not going to be me.




It’s extraordinary. I get everything I ever wanted handed to me on a platter. I didn’t even have to make much of an effort. New York. Wow. And as an added bonus I‘ll end up there with Justin – because I don’t believe for one minute that he really doesn’t want to go. Why wouldn’t he? I can’t wait to tell him.

Some days are just perfect. I get the job offer of my dreams – and a fuck and a blowjob – in the afternoon and in the evening, when I get to Debbie's, I’m greeted by Vic, grinning broadly and looking fit and healthy. I knew he wouldn’t go down without a fight and I give him a hug. Even Michael giving me the cold shoulder can’t dampen my mood. When Justin turns up a little late, I pull him into my lap and kiss him. And then there’s really no reason to stop because it’s dark and the slides are boring as shit.

I wait until the excitement over Debbie and Vic being back has died down a bit before I make my announcement. I watch Justin, because his reaction is the only one I’m interested in. And it’s not what I expected. He smiles at me, but it’s subdued and then he just puts on his jacket and leaves.

The room is silent for a few moments with everyone staring at me as if I’ve committed a major crime. What the fuck just happened?

“That’s quite an achievement, Brian. Congratulations,” Ben says quietly and, as always, he sounds sincere.

The others join in half-heartedly and finally Vic puts his hand on my shoulder. “You should go and talk to Justin.”

“I don’t go after people.”

Michael gets up and goes out the back, closely followed by Ben, who obviously does go after people. Then Jennifer Taylor gets her coat and says goodbye to everyone, saying that she wants to see what Justin’s doing. Good luck with that, Mother Taylor. He’s probably gone straight to Jon to tell him the news.

“Boy, you really know how to clear a room,” Ted says and I can’t work out if he’s amused or annoyed. It’s really hard to tell with him sometimes.

“Well, I’m happy for you.” Melanie has a broad grin on her face.

Yeah, I bet she’s happy to see the back of me. She’s probably not the only one, although Lindsay looks close to tears. I get up and get my jacket before she can start on me. “Well, it’s been great fun, but I’ve gotta go. Things to see, people to do and all that.”

I take a deep breath and light a cigarette on the front porch. Great. That went well. Why was everybody so excited for Justin when he got an opportunity and no one’s happy for me? I thought at least Justin would be pleased. But maybe he just realized that getting rid of me is not as easy as he thought. Maybe he’s had enough of me and was looking forward to going to New York on his own. Or with Jon. If that’s what he wants, he can have it. All he has to do is tell me. That’s all he ever had to do.

If Justin doesn’t want to celebrate my good fortune with me, so be it. I decide to take a trip to the baths.




The next time I see Justin is the evening of the next day. By that time I already know that no good fortune ever goes unpunished. As if I didn’t know that already.

I ignore the knocking on my door for a little while, too submerged in my own thoughts. Then I finally get up to answer it, because it doesn’t sound like they’re planning on going away anytime soon. Seeing Justin is no small surprise. He doesn’t usually come to my dorm room. He probably doesn’t like slumming it.

“Hey.” He smiles at me a little sheepishly.

“Hey.” I open the door wide and go back to sit on my bed, leaving him to come inside on his own.

He shuts the door and looks around for a bit, before coming over to sit next to me. I can’t help wondering what he’s doing here. Whatever it is, it makes him look very uncomfortable. Maybe he’s finally decided to come clean and give me the push. And wouldn’t that just be the icing on the cake today?

“I’ve come to apologize.” He’s leaning his elbows on his knees and looking at the space between his feet. “When you told us about your job offer, I reacted badly. I’m sorry about that.”

“Sorry’s bullshit. You know that.”

“Actually, I don’t believe that. But I know that you do. So, bearing that in mind, will you let me apologize? Please?” He looks at me now and his eyes are always so fucking earnest, it’s impossible not to be affected.

I shrug.

“I was surprised, Brian. And all I could think of was that you’ll be going to New York next year. But that’s my problem. Getting a job at Kennedy & Lyons is amazing. I’m very proud of you. And so should you be. I had no right to spoil that for you by queening out.”

“You didn’t spoil it for me.” I won’t let him. I won’t let anyone spoil this for me, not Justin, not Michael or Lindsay, not my own feelings.

“Of course not,” he says quietly. “I just feel bad for not congratulating you properly. So, I was wondering if you’d let me take you out for a meal. To celebrate. Belatedly. And you can tell me all about it.”

I have to tell him. Might as well do it straight away. “Great idea. Do you know any restaurants where they serve penicillin tarts with seasonal berries?”

He’s still smiling, then he frowns. “What are you talking about?”

“I have syphilis.”

“Syphilis?”

“Yeah. Don’t worry about it. I already had my shot today. Now I just have to refrain from fucking your brains out for the next two days.”

He gets up and walks towards the window, before he turns around to look at me. “How can you be so calm about it? Syphilis can cause heart abnormalities, mental disorders, blindness and…. Did you fuck someone without a condom?”

Not that again. Didn’t we just have this discussion a little while ago? “Never. I swear. Must have been someone who sucked me off.”

He’s still staring at me. He looks completely stunned and… disgusted? It’s making me fucking nervous. He has no right to make me feel this way.

“Don’t get on your high horse, sunshine. For all we know, I might have even gotten it from you. You’d better check back with Jon.”

“What has he got to do with it? And how the hell are you gonna tell all of your partners?”

“Yeah, had we but world enough and time.” I hadn’t planned on telling anybody but Justin. People at Babylon and the baths usually get tested regularly anyway. Or not, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it. Then something else occurs to me. “Fuck, I have to tell Lyons.” There goes my chance to go to New York. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

“You fucked Adam Lyons?”

“Sure. Why not? He offered.”

“Yeah, he would.” He rubs his forehead and he looks completely devastated. I want to go and take him into my arms, but I don’t know if he’d let me. I want to fuck him, too, but I can’t even kiss him at the moment. How am I going to fix this if I can’t do any of that?

Up until this moment all I could think of was how Justin would react. I knew he would queen out and I've been wondering if this will be the final straw. But now I can see how this can fuck up the rest of my life. Lyons won’t be too pleased. I know I couldn’t have gotten it of him, because the incubation period is three weeks minimum. But all that fades into insignificance when I look at Justin.

“Can you even have antibiotics with all your allergies?”

“What? Uhm, yeah, that should be fine.”

I wait and I hate the way my heart is beating so fast and hard. I wish he'd say something, but he seems deep in thought.

“I have to go.” Of course, he does. He needs to get away from me and yet another fuck-up.

“That’s probably a good idea. I think it’s best if we don’t see each other for the next two days. Since you can never keep your hands off me.”

He smiles at that, just a little, but it’s there. Thank fuck. Maybe this will blow over. If he’s clean, he’ll get over it, although I don’t know what will happen if he’s got it. I watch him make his way to the door. In spite of what I said, I wish he'd stay. It’s pointless to go out anywhere and I don’t particularly want to be alone. But I know that he needs time to think this over. He always withdraws when he needs to work things out. By the door, he turns and gives me another brief smile. Then he’s gone.

Forty-eight hours without sex seems like a lifetime to me. I can’t remember the last time that happened. Must have been when I was in high school before I went to Liberty Avenue for the first time. I can’t go out. Michael isn’t around and I’m staying away from Lindsay just to be on the safe side. I don’t know how susceptible pregnant women are. But my thoughts are with Justin. Well, sex with Justin mainly, but I’m also thinking that just spending time with him would have been better than this.

Adam Lyons is none too pleased when I call him just to tell him to get himself checked out. I’ve been contemplating not to say anything, but I’m not that much of a coward. And if he caught it and finds out that it was me and I didn’t tell him, it would make matters so much worse. I don’t ask him how this will affect my chances, but I can’t imagine it increasing them. When I saw him, Lyons said they'd contact me by the end of January, so I’ll just have to bide my time until then.

But I can’t really think about that at the moment. When my forced celibacy is over, I make my way over to the loft. Luckily, Justin’s in. He’s standing by the window, looking out, when I arrive. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

He seems friendly enough. But there’s something about him that stops me from coming any closer. Maybe it’s the way he has his arms crossed as if to fend me off.

“I’m all clear,” I say with a smirk. “The last two days have been hell.”

“I can imagine.” There’s only a wan smile.

“So… do you wanna put me out of my misery?” I nod towards the bed.

He sighs. “Brian…” And then he stops, looking very upset.

Oh fuck, no! “Did you get tested?”

“What? How… oh... no, I don’t have syphilis.”

I can’t even describe how relieved I am. But when I move towards him, he moves back. It’s subtle, but it’s there and it makes me stop. “Justin?”

“Brian… I… I can’t do this anymore.”

“Can’t do what anymore? Fucking?” I wonder what this is about. I should have known he wouldn’t just get checked out and then move on. Justin isn’t like that. He looks like he’s just about to cry. Geez, it was just an STD and not even my first one. It’s easily cured. And now it’s done. What more does he want me to do? Grovel? Okay, maybe I’m willing to do that a little. Syphilis is kind of gross. I was disgusted with myself there for a bit.

“I can’t do this…” His hand moves between him and me a couple of times. “…anymore.”

Wait a minute. What? I’m starting to wonder what new rule he’s come up with this time. “What?”

“I’m asking you to leave, Brian. It’s over. I’m sorry.”

It doesn’t quite compute at first because it’s so unexpected. It’s over? What does he mean, it’s over? He can’t be serious. He can’t ask me to leave. I don’t want to leave. I’ve come here to be with him. He can’t ask me to leave. Why would he do that? Because I got syphilis? It’s gone. I’m clear. I’ll be more careful from now on. But is this really the reason he’s throwing me out?

“Why? So you can be with Sean?”

“It has nothing to do with Jon. I can’t do this anymore.”

“So this is punishment?” I take a step forward, but his next sentence stops me in my tracks.

He looks at me, not blinking and his voice is cold. “Punishment? That would imply that you care.” Then his voice cracks a little when he adds, “And that can’t be true, can it? Because I’m just the guy you fuck more than once, right, Brian?”

What? No! That’s not what I meant when I said that. He must know that. He always reminds me that he’s on to me. Surely he must know what I really meant. I remember that at the time he smiled at me as if he understood. He always hears more than I say. That’s the reason I don’t have to say a lot. He can’t throw that back in my face now.

“I have to go on a short business trip on Tuesday. I'd be grateful if you could remove your stuff from the loft while I’m away. I should be gone three or four days.”

Oh fuck, he’s serious. And yet he looks at me as if he'd rather throw himself into my arms than throw me out. But there’s that steely voice again and I know that I won’t be able to change his mind, no matter what I say. I stare at him and I can’t tear my eyes away. Move, Kinney! Either go over there and kiss the hell out of him or leave before you embarrass yourself even more than you already have.

But somehow, I can’t move. In the past Justin has put his foot down a few times, and each time I knew it was time for me to yield a little and accept a new rule. But this time he’s not even giving me a rule that I can follow to fix this. This time he just wants me to leave and I can’t. fucking. move. I’m looking at him and he’s so beautiful, despite being very pale today. I know it’s over, but something inside me refuses to accept it.

Then he closes his eyes for just a few moments and it breaks the spell. Finally I can turn around and walk to the door. In the doorway I stop for a moment. He’s looking at me again and I can’t let him see how affected I am. I won’t give anyone that satisfaction. “I hope you get what you want.” I smile a little because that’s all I can muster. Then I pull the door shut.




I haven’t been alone for four years, not really, not even when I was by myself. Ever since Justin came into my life, he was always there. I tell myself that it’s just habit. I got used to him. But I know it’s more than that. For one thing, it’s the sheer unexpectedness of it all. All this time, I've been waiting for this. Every time I fucked up, I wondered if he would finally have enough of me. But at the same time, I never expected it to come to this. He made promises – not explicitly because I wouldn’t let him but still – and while I tried hard to mistrust him, he somehow made me believe. I trusted him. I trusted him.

Okay, so I deserve this. I deserved what he said. Would it really have been so difficult to give him a little more? The bummer is that I wanted to. Half the time when I’m out, I’m wondering what I’m doing, wasting my time with other guys when I could be with him. But I couldn’t tell Justin that. I wasn’t ready to give in just yet and now I’m glad that I didn’t. At least this way I can walk away with my head held high. Nobody will ever know.

But I feel a little lost. I got used to having Justin around. I liked having him around and he can see things so much clearer than I can. Now, nothing makes sense anymore. I tried so hard not to get fooled, but in the end I did. Like some demented lesbian, I thought he was the one person who would never let me down and would always be there. Somehow I managed to expect him to give up on me at any moment and believe that he never would at the same time. Go figure.

During the past summer, it suddenly dawned on me that this would be my last year at college, my last year of freedom and that I would start work after that and everything would change. I decided to enjoy this last year the way it’s meant to be, with no regards to anything but having fun. After that I'd be ready to slow down and concentrate on my career, and Justin. I always assumed that we would just gradually add as many rules as it would take for him to be happy. I don’t want to end up like Michael and Ben, the living dead out in the suburbs, but I don’t think Justin wants that either. I’ve given him a lot already and I was willing to give him more, just not quite yet.

The thing is that he somehow convinced me that he would always be there. How pathetic is that? Of all the people in the world, I should know that love is just an illusion. But when he looks at me, I can see something there, always, even when things aren’t going well between us, there’s always that look that tells me that, no matter what happens, the feeling is there. Or so I believed. Now I know that I was just imagining it. Because when he told me it was over, he still had that look. So all this time, I've just been deluding myself. He’s just so fucking convincing.

But then again, I knew this would happen. From day one he was different. He doesn’t adore me like Michael and Lindsay, who'd take any shit from me and have done in the past. With him I always knew that there was a limit, that one day I'd fuck up so badly that he would say, ‘enough’. And now it’s happened. He finally saw me.

I’m angry with myself. For falling for his act, for gradually giving in after four years and starting to believe that this could be real. I knew better all along and still I fell for it. And I’m angry with him. I stuck to all his rules all this time because he made me believe that it would keep me – us – on track, that it was enough. I trusted him on that because I have no clue how this works. I only know how it doesn’t work. He forgave me for what happened with Lindsay and yet he can’t get over an STD? I didn’t even break any rules this time.

So I don’t believe it for a minute. If I'd given it to him, he'd have been upset and angry, but even then, I would have expected him to get over it after a while. Disease is so ripe in our community, it’s almost inevitable to catch something at some point. That wouldn’t be enough for this reaction. No, I know there must be another reason.

And I don’t have to look very far for that reason either, do I? It’s right there in his studio at PIFA. It’s a guy who most likely brings him flowers and has romantic dinners. It’s having terms of endearment whispered in his ear. He knows I'll never be that guy. But he'll learn. It’s only a matter of time until the façade cracks, until solder-boy will turn into a lying cheat. It’s inevitable. At least, I never lied to him. He always knew what he was getting – or not getting – from me.

But it’s hard. Even though for the last three years, I have officially only lived with him during the summer breaks, it feels like I lost my home. Justin was home, more than my parents ever were, and more than Michael and Debbie. Now I’m suddenly free. I can do what I like and I only have myself to please. And it feels… like crap. Why doesn’t it make me happier? Why am I not relieved? I felt so stifled sometimes, this should be paradise. But it isn’t. All this time I've been living with this low-grade fear that he would do this one day and I hated that feeling. Sometimes I even hated him for it. But that was nothing compared to how I feel at the moment. It’s fucking painful. I couldn’t even bring myself to get my stuff from the loft, like he asked me to. I’m sure he’ll do the right thing and send it to me.

I want Justin to be happy. I always did. I meant it when I said that I hoped he would find what he wants. I was just hoping that what he wants is me. He always said it was me. But if solder-boy makes him happy, I'll be happy for him. Yeah, I’m so full of shit.

It’s been over a week now. I spent every evening out at Woody’s, but fucking an endless string of guys feels kind of empty now. I suppose it always was, but it was different when it was just something I did for fun on the side and would be going home to Justin in the end. I long for a drawn-out session in his bed, making out, having leisurely sex instead of doing it standing up in a stall in the bathroom. No doubt I'll get used to this again. It just takes time. So I drink mainly. There’s always someone willing to buy.

Then one night Michael sits down next to me at the bar. I haven’t seen him around for ages. He doesn’t go out a lot anymore and even if he did, he’s not talking to me, right? Why is he sitting here? He looks sideways at me, while I’m trying my hardest to ignore him. He told me the Brian and Mikey show is over, so this is what he wanted, isn’t it?

“Are you just gonna get drunk every night?”

“Never underestimate the power of alcohol and drugs. What the fuck are you doing here anyway? Shouldn’t you be at home with your hubby?”

“Your boyfriend tracked me down.”

I stare at him. Justin and Michael have never been friends. Sometimes they get on well, but mostly they just tolerate each other. The only thing they have in common, apart from me, is that stupid comic book, they’ve created and have a finished edition sitting in a cupboard, collecting dust.

“I don’t have a boyfriend. I never had a boyfriend.”

“He said you miss me.”

“Yeah, well he’s a pathological liar and I will have to pun…” Fuck, I can’t punish him for anything anymore, can I? And suddenly I’m assailed by images of Justin that I've tried so hard to suppress. I order another drink.

“He loves you. He wanted to make sure you’re not alone.”

“I’m not alone. See all these guys around here? Anyone of them would be happy to keep me company.”

“I’m sure.” He smiles at me like he used to and I don’t want to be so insanely grateful to Justin for somehow fixing this for me. Knowing that he was – and apparently still is – always there for me somehow it only adds fuel to how raw I’m feeling. I don’t want to think about Justin at all. Or ask questions about him. Because I don’t care. It’s over. Finished. Done and dusted. But I’m also very drunk.

“So, he tracked you down when he came back from his business trip?” I know he didn’t go on a business trip. He hasn’t had one of those since he left Vangard. Gallery managers don’t go on business trips. So I know he went somewhere else, probably with someone else.

Michael looks at me for a long time and it’s making me uncharacteristically uneasy. “Justin didn’t go on a business trip.”

Hah! I knew it! And you can always rely on Mikey to spill the beans. “Where did he go? The white party?” We had plans to go together. Well, I wanted to go and he didn’t really want to. I thought it wasn’t his thing, but maybe he just didn’t want to go with me.

“Well, there were lots of people all in white.”

Come to think of it, it’s not the right time of year for the white party. “What the fuck are you talking about, Mikey?”

“Didn’t anyone tell you? Justin had surgery last Wednesday. He has cancer, Brian.”




PART NINE here:  http://kachelofen.livejournal.com/23889.html
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