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I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW





PART SIX

Brian can melt my heart with one sentence or a single word or even just a look. Of course, you have to read between the lines with him. He would never say or do anything overtly romantic. For him it’s all about appearances. I get that he doesn’t like to show his feelings because he had them rejected too many times in his life. I know how it works. For Brian a rejection is worse than it would be for me. Every single one reinforces his fears.

That’s the reason I let him get away with so much. He seems so incredibly fragile under all that projected confidence. I don’t expect flowers or romantic dinners or words of endearment. I’ve had those in the past and none of that meant anything. And occasionally he throws me a line that just bowls me over.

Promising to use condoms when he fucks other people is really not romantic per se. But coupled with wanting me safe and around for a long time, it’s enough to reduce me to a quivering mess. I know that he has feelings for me, he wouldn’t have stuck around for four years if he didn’t. And I know that this is his way of saying it. For him this is the only acceptable way because caring for my well-being doesn’t necessarily imply love. He would want all his friends to be safe, too. And he didn’t say that he wanted me around for himself, just around. Plausible deniability.

But it’s the way he says it. He knows I will hear ‘I love you’ and he wants me to. Even if he would deny it to his dying breath, it's there. But it’s the fact that I can’t respond that makes this so hard. If I turned around and said that I loved him, he'd laugh at me and say, ‘Who said anything about love? I just don’t want you to get sick. It’s such a turn-off.’ Or words to that effect. I know this because that’s the way he’s reacted on the few occasions when I expressed my feelings for him.

Rejection might hurt him worse than me but it’s still no picnic for me either. Sometimes I think that just being allowed to express my own feelings without being ridiculed would be enough for me. But as it is, I turn my face into the pillow to stop myself from saying anything in return and to stop the tears that are burning behind my eyelids. I’m bursting with a love for him that I can’t find an outlet for and with a great longing that I always feel when his love for me is so apparent. We could be great together if he would only allow it. All I can do is sigh his name.

Afterwards I lie with my head resting on his chest. His hand is splayed against the side of my face and my neck and his thumb is rubbing gently against my cheekbone. I can’t make up my mind whether he doesn’t realize he’s doing it or if he’s well aware that he’s caressing me because Brian rarely does anything without intention. But, naturally, I can’t ask him if I don’t want him to stop immediately and never do it again.

I want more. Brian may be a bottomless pit where you can pour in any amount of love without any discernible effect, but I’m not so very different. Over time I've gone from appreciating and being exhilarated by any little token of affection from Brian to filing them away as yet another bit of proof that he's withholding his feelings from me, feelings that are rightfully mine. After four years, I’ve earned them, or rather, I’ve earned that he should trust me with them.

“Did you speak to Lindsay?”

“Yep.”

“And?”

“Don’t worry. I sorted it out.”

I lift up and prop my head on my hand so I can look at him. “How exactly do you sort out a baby? Did you persuade her to have an abortion?”

“Nope.”

“Brian.”

He sighs as if having to tell me is the biggest chore imaginable. “I told her I won’t be playing happy families with her and that she should get back with Melanie.”

Back with Melanie?” That sounds ominous, as does the idea that Brian telling Lindsay to do this, is all it takes.

“The bitch threw her out. So I went to see her and all I have to do is sign over my parental rights and, hey presto, we have one big, happy muncher family.”

“Your parental rights?” I watch him light a cigarette and move back a few inches so that I don’t inhale so much smoke. “Brian, if you do that, you’ll have no say in the baby’s upbringing. No rights at all. It’s like giving it up for adoption. They can stop you from ever seeing it.”

“I know.”

“What if you change your mind later? What if the child wants to see you and they won’t let it? What if they suddenly decide to up sticks and move to, I don’t know, Canada, for example?”

He frowns at me. “What if my aunt had balls? She would be my uncle.”

“Every child needs a father, Brian.”

“And some are better off without the one they’ve got.”

“That may be true, but you’re not one of those fathers.”

He stubs out his barely smoked cigarette in the ashtray on the bedside table and swings his legs out of the bed. “Yeah, I’m a great dad and I’m teaching the kid a valuable lesson: don’t rely on your old man. Now I’m going out. You can come with me or stay here. Your decision.”

I watch him disappear into the bathroom and hear the shower come on. I don’t know whom I’m more annoyed with, Lindsay and Melanie for pushing Brian into a situation he cannot possibly comprehend in all its ramifications or with Brian for not giving this more consideration. But maybe I’m just expecting too much from all of them. It’s only been a day since we all found out, although I dare say that Lindsay’s known for longer.

None of the decisions that have been made are final yet. There’s still time to make everyone see sense. Maybe I can make Melanie understand that cutting Brian out of the baby’s life permanently is not a good option. And Brian needs to realize that how he feels now can change over time and that he shouldn’t make any irrevocable decisions on the spur of the moment.

But is it really my place to worry about this? How much does this even involve me? I’m not sure if any of them would grant me the right to interfere. On the other hand, I have a more objective view. Lindsay is blinded by her feelings for Brian and so is Melanie, only hers are the complete opposite. And Brian is just freaking out because he’s never fucked up quite this badly before and it’s not something that will go away if he ignores it. Maybe I really am the only one thinking straight.

For now, I get up and join Brian in the shower.




The next day I’m in luck. I’ve gone to Debbie’s after work to cook the dinner and I’m joined by Melanie after three hours. Michael is out with Brian and Debbie and Vic have gone upstairs to pack because it’s only two more days until they're going on their European trip. I’m still amazed that they’re actually going, but I must admit that it seems to have given Vic a boost. He’s been up more and for longer over the last few days.

“Have you patched things up with Lindsay?”

We’re sitting at the table, drinking tea. Melanie looks tired, but I suppose we all do at the moment.

“Yeah. I felt really silly moving her stuff out one night and bringing it all back the next, I can tell you.”

“Still, if it’s what you want, it’s worth it, isn’t it?” I pause, wondering how receptive she’s to reason just now, but I don’t want to miss this opportunity to speak with her alone. “I hear Brian went to see you as well.”

She just snorts a laugh at the memory of it. I can well imagine how much fun that must have been for both of them.

“I know you probably think it’s none of my business, but you can’t cut Brian out of his own child’s life, Mel.”

“Hey, that wasn’t my idea. He came to me. And you should‘ve seen him when I told him that he won’t have to pay. He jumped at the chance.”

“He’s a bit freaked out at the moment. He might change his mind at some stage. It’s not fair that he won’t be able to see his kid if he wants to.”

She takes a deep breath, obviously trying to keep her temper and succeeding. “He can see the baby, just not at my house. How would you feel if Lindsay gave the child to you and Brian, and then came round to the loft every night to play mommy and daddy with Brian?”

“Brian won’t do that.”

“No, he won’t. Because he doesn’t care. It’s not as if I’m taking something from him that he wants. But I do. A child can only have two legal parents and I want it to be Lindsay and me. I’m a lawyer, Justin, I know how it works. If the child gets sick and has to go to hospital, I want to have the right to see it and make decisions, which I wouldn’t have if I don’t have that piece of paper.”

“But this way, Brian won’t have the right to see it.”

“And who do you think the child needs more? The parents he or she grows up with or the guy who turns up every once in a while, when the mood strikes him?”

There’s a pause while we both try not to let this escalate. I have to admit that I can see her point.

“One of my friends died a couple of years back,” she carries on quietly. “Her son’s father sued for custody. Her partner had to hand their son over to a man who’s only seen his child twice in three years and she hasn’t seen him since. I don’t ever want to get into that situation.”

“Brian would never do that!”

“Do you really expect me to rely on the good will of Brian Kinney, of all people?”

“He would never do anything that’s not in the interest of the child.”

She opens her mouth for what I’m expecting to be a sharp retort, then closes it again. After a while she says calmly, “For what it’s worth, I believe he was trying to do the right thing when he came to see me. The situation’s fucked up, but we have to make the best of it. I won’t stop him from seeing the child, but I don’t want him to come round whenever he feels like it or interfere in any way. It can only be him or me. Unsurprisingly, I'd like it to be me.”

“I can understand all that. It’s just that I think that Brian would make a good dad if he was given the chance.” Or if he gave himself the chance.

“Well, quite frankly I disagree and I’m sure I’m not the only one. He’s not exactly a role model I want for my child. That’s why I wanted it to be you.”

“You realize that I wouldn’t have given you my parental rights, don’t you?”

She looks a bit surprised. Then she nods. “I’m glad we don’t have that problem then. I don’t want us to fall out over this, Justin. And I would ask you not to persuade Brian to change his mind.”

“I don’t think I can persuade Brian to do anything. But I have to tell you, that if he does change his mind, I’ll be on his side.” I feel sad saying it, but I’m not going to lie to her and promise her support that I’m not willing to supply. I don’t want to lose Melanie, but my first loyalty is to Brian. And while I can understand her and know that she’s in this situation through no fault of her own, I still think Brian’s making a mistake. On the other hand, I’m beginning to feel a little angry with Brian for putting me in this situation.

“In that case we can only hope that Brian doesn’t change his mind. Then there won’t be a problem. It’s admirable that you’re supporting him. He really doesn’t deserve you, you know.”

“Who doesn’t deserve him?” Debbie says, coming down the stairs with an armful of dirty washing, which she takes into the utility room.

“Brian,” Melanie says, raising her voice a little, so that it carries all the way to Debbie.

“Well, that’s a given.” Debbie comes back out of the room, sits down at the table with us and pinches my cheek a little. “Nobody deserves our sunshine.”

I just give her a weak smile. I should be pleased that she likes me so much, but over the last two years, it’s quite often been disproportionate when compared with how she treated Brian and it grates on me. I don’t need another mother – I’m quite happy with the one I’ve got. But Brian does, and she withdrew her affections from him because she needed an outlet for her fears over Michael and chose the easiest target. She may have changed in the last few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that I can just forget it, like Brian appears to have done. Nor does it mean that she won’t change back in a heartbeat if Brian steps out of line again.

“We’re having a family dinner tomorrow,” she says. “At seven. I want everyone to be here.” She doesn’t need to add that it’s a farewell dinner for her and Vic. Only in Vic’s case, it most likely really means farewell. They’re planning to be away for two months. Quite frankly, I don’t expect to ever see Vic again after tomorrow night.

“Make sure his majesty attends as well.”

Melanie huffs a laugh and Debbie grins at me.

“I’ll ask him.” I get up and take my mug into the kitchen. I got so used to tidying this place up over the last few weeks, that it feels wrong to leave my dirty dishes on the table. I rinse it and put it into the dish washer. Then I put my jacket on and say goodbye to Mel.

Debbie insists on walking me to the door despite my protests. “Justin…” She pauses and smiles at me softly. “This whole situation’s hard on all of us. But when we’re away, you keep an eye on Brian, okay? He and Vic have always been close. I know he’ll never admit it, but he’s very upset.”

“I know, Debbie.” I give her a long hug. Her heart's in the right place. It’s just that most of the time Michael is obstructing her view. “I’ll be here tomorrow for dinner. Do you need any help?”

“Nah, Emmett’s doing most of the cooking. Just be here.”




I’m surprised to see my mother at the dinner table the next day, although I shouldn’t be. She's known Debbie for a lot longer than I have and therefore she knows Vic rather well, too. When she started going to PFLAG meetings, Vic was still living in Pittsburgh.

I think we’re all more or less aware how final this farewell dinner is most likely going to be where Vic's concerned. But you'd never guess it from the lively conversation. It helps that Vic looks better than he did just a week or so ago. We’re all talking about what we'd like to see in Italy if we were the ones going. I must admit I’ve dreamed of seeing the old masters for a long time.

Ted is talking about opera houses, Emmett about Italian men and Brian thinks the only thing worthwhile seeing are the fashion houses. He’d better get himself a very well paid job next year because he has very expensive tastes. The conversation meanders along in good spirits and it’s not half as morbid as I feared.

After we've finished dinner and dessert, Melanie taps her glass a little for attention.

“Lindsay and I have an announcement to make. We wanted you to know before you leave.” She smiles at Debbie and Vic. “We’re going to have a baby sooner rather than later. Lindsay’s pregnant.”

There's a short stunned silence, then Ted grins at her. “Lesbian power all the way, eh? You go, baby.”

Everybody laughs, except the four of us, who barely manage a smile. “Well, no. Not quite. We have Brian to thank for that.” Just like Brian, Melanie can look completely unaffected when she wants to.

Brian has assumed his usual posture, leaning back in his chair with one arm draped over the back of mine. He endures the stares of the others in stoic silence, his eyes focused on his beer bottle as if it holds some deep secret. Nobody seems to quite know what to say. Finally, he looks up and answers the question that everybody’s thinking but nobody’s voicing. “Lindsay and I fucked. So what?”

Jeez, is that really the best he can do? On the other hand, putting it politely or not clarifying it, wouldn’t change the facts. With the whole group being so obsessed with sex all the time, there’s no way the question wouldn’t be asked eventually. So at least it’s out of the way. There’s another silence, while everybody is trying to work out the exact circumstances, I assume, and Lindsay’s looking decidedly sick. Then the congratulations come and Debbie and Vic get up to give both Mel and Lindsay a hug. Vic squeezes Brian’s shoulder a little on the way back to his seat.

“Do you have any names yet?” Emmett asks, more than a little excited. “I like Judy for a girl and Keanu for a boy.”

“Well, Lindsay likes Louise and Gus. And I like Abraham and Renee.”

Abraham?” Hunter splutters. “The kid wouldn’t survive five minutes out on the streets.”

“Or a day in school,” I add because none of us wants to think about what Hunter means by 'out on the street'.

“Gus is a nice butch name,” Brian says emphatically, grinning at Mel.

“Gus was Justin’s teddy bear’s name,” Mom says, smiling fondly at me.

I forgot about that. I wonder what happened to him. He’s probably stacked away in Mom’s attic. I can feel Brian’s hand pull a strand of my hair mockingly.

“Great,” Melanie says in mock jubilation, rolling her eyes. I think we all know that, if Lindsay wants to call the kid Gus or Louise, she’ll get her own way. Especially with Brian’s endorsement because that will make her even more determined.

“So, you’re going to be a daddy, Brian,” Ted says in very amused voice. “Who would have thunk?”

Brian just shrugs and then his eyes – and mine – are drawn to Michael as he gets up rather abruptly and goes out the back door.

“What’s up his ass?” Debbie wonders aloud.

A moment later Brian gets up and follows him out of the house without a word. There’s a small pause before Mom asks Lindsay if she’s had any morning sickness yet. Everything's a little awkward tonight, as if the situation with Vic wasn’t bad enough. But I can understand that Mel and Lindsay wanted Debbie to know about the baby before she leaves. By the time she gets back, Lindsay will already be showing and Debbie would give them hell for not telling her.

Brian comes back in not ten minutes later and briefly puts his hand on Ben’s shoulder before he sits back down next to me. Ben gets up without a word to find Michael outside. Ben and Brian always astonish me. I wouldn’t say there are friends exactly, but they seem to have an unspoken arrangement about Michael, where they hand his care backwards and forwards between the two of them when he needs it. Because, God knows, Michael mustn’t be upset.

With Ben and Michael out of the way, Hunter switches his seat to the one next to Brian and suggests they should go to Babylon together. The kid is really annoying, but I’m glad he’s here tonight because ever since Vic got home, Hunter has refused to come over. But maybe it’s not so bad now that Vic has improved a bit.

“Isn’t it past your bedtime?” Brian asks in a bored tone. It amuses me that Brian treats Hunter like he’s a little kid when he’s maybe a whole six years older than said kid.

“I’m young and virile.” Hunter eyes me with disdain. “Maybe the geezer needs early nights. I can stay up all night.”

Brian looks at him with a frown. Great, this is just what I need, someone reminding Brian how much older I am. Then Brian looks at me without bothering to answer Hunter. “I’m going.”

Brian can’t do things the normal way. He can’t just say, “Are you ready to go?” because that would imply that he'd want me to go with him. I’m lucky that he’s even telling me because he's been known to simply put on his jacket and leave with a short goodbye.

I can see Mom smile a sour smile. And it’s for the sake of her and everyone else in our life that I wish Brian would get a clue about being a couple. I may be able to read between the lines, but no one else can. I’m tired of looking like a little puppy following Brian around at the slightest command.

Our goodbye takes a little longer than usual with Brian exchanging some words with Vic in private, while I make sure that Ted’s still taking Debbie and Vic to the airport the next day. Then we’re outside and Brian lights a cigarette on the front porch.

“Is Michael all right?”

Brian blows out smoke heavily and starts walking. “He thinks this is the last time he’s going to see Vic. What do you think?”

What I think is that Michael was all right for most of the evening and then freaked out for some reason. It could have been about Vic, but I doubt it. “Fine. Don’t tell me.”

For a while he just walks on and I’m beginning to think that I won’t get an answer, when he suddenly says, “I told him I fucked Ben.”

That stops me in my tracks. “You fucked Ben? When?”

He stops and turns to me. “Does it matter? Are you gonna queen out on me as well?”

“It matters to me, Brian.” I can’t believe that Brian fucked Ben. Actually, I can. I just can’t believe that Ben fucked him. I thought he and Michael were monogamous and I’m a little annoyed that I lost that argument. And I’m even more annoyed that there seems to be no end to Brian’s escapades. Is it too much to ask that he doesn’t fuck people I have to get on with in my daily life?

“It was before he met any of you. It was just a fuck in an alley. Christ. Has everyone turned into a lesbian?”

“We’re not lesbians, Brian. Just human.”

I know I have no right to be angry about something that happened before Brian even met me, and I’m not, but I’m tired of getting into awkward situations with our friends because of him. I brush past him, glad that we always walk to Debbie’s in case both of us want to drink. This way I can walk out my frustration before we get home. But I needn’t have worried because Brian doesn’t follow me anyway.



*******



My life’s really fucked up at the moment. The only aspect that isn’t causing me problems is college. I’m still top of all my classes and I intend to keep it that way. I'll get the best job next year. Well, I have to now. If Melanie and Lindsay change their minds, I will have to pay for the kid. And even if not, I want to at least be in a position to help out just in case, whether it’s needed or welcome or not. My kid shouldn’t want for anything.

Lindsay is still giving me the cold shoulder. No great surprise there, with Melanie having her back in her clutches. I kind of miss her. She was always making sure that I don’t oversleep, and that my room is tidy and that I eat enough. She laughs at all my jokes and is so deliciously scandalized by the things I do and say. It was fun hanging out with her, but when I saw her in class this morning, she barely acknowledged me.

So, of course, no one’s given me the heads up about the announcement the munchers are planning to make at Vic’s farewell dinner. I have to wonder if it’s wise to tell the family about the baby tonight, but it works out in my favor after all. Because Lindsay is as involved in this mess as I am, nobody wants to say anything nasty and ruin the evening. Lindsay isn’t known for taking kindly to criticism. So, other than glares from all the women, there are no repercussions.

Then Michael leaves the table and I know him well enough to know that he’s queening out over something. I think I’d better sort it out so that it doesn’t spoil Vic’s last evening at home. I know that everybody thinks he’s not going to come back from Italy, and that may well be true, but I have to believe that there’s a chance. Vic’s a fighter and he hasn’t given up quite yet.

Michael is standing away from the back door, almost hidden in the shadow of the shed. This is not a good sign. I light a cigarette and amble over to him. He has his arms folded and isn’t looking at me. I wonder what I did this time.

“Food not agreeing with you?”

“Fuck off, Brian.”

“Ah, company not agreeing with you then.”

He turns to me and glares. “Everything’s a joke to you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, my life’s one big barrel of laughs.” I frown, because I’m really not getting it. Is this about Vic? Then why is he pissed at me?

“Just fuck off and leave me alone.”

“Okay.” I walk slowly back towards the house, counting in my head. Three… two… one…

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

I stop and turn back to him. “I can always help myself, Mikey, I just choose not to bother. What’s this about?”

“You fuck anyone.”

“I think that was firmly established years ag…”

“Even women. What, you’re bi now? Run out of decent tricks to fuck?”

He’s pissed about Lindsay? What the fuck has that got to do with him? Maybe he’s angry that I didn’t tell him? I move closer and decide to play this straight. “What’s bothering you, Mikey? Because I fail to see how this has anything to do with you.”

“Of course, because I’m not important enough. You fuck all of Liberty Avenue and everyone at college and even women now, but you couldn’t do it for me?”

That’s what’s bothering him? I thought he got over that years ago.

“Well, that just makes you special, doesn’t it?”

“Special? I’m not special. Justin’s special. Who’s next, Brian? Ted? Emmett? I swear to you if you ever fuck Ben…”

“Mikey, there aren’t enough drugs in the world to make me go anywhere near Theodore.”

“But Emmett and Ben you would consider? Jesus, Brian, you really have no shame.” He looks at me as if he’s expecting me to make this all better somehow. He always does. But what’s done is done. He has no idea how much I wish I could change the past in this instance. Justin’s right. This is on a whole different level.

“Just stay away from Ben,” he says finally and turns to look away from me again.

I stare at roughly the same spot and carry on smoking. “Okay.” I can feel his eyes back on me and look at him, returning his stare without much of an expression.

“You already did,” he says in a whisper. Then his voice gets louder. “You fucked Ben. I don’t believe this. Is there nothing you won’t stoop to? Can’t I have something good in my life that belongs to just me?”

“It was before he met you, Mikey.” I would never have told him, but I won’t lie to him either. “It had nothing to do with you.”

“And in three years, neither one of you felt like telling me?”

“No, we didn’t. Because neither one of us ever thinks about it. It was unimportant. At least to us it was. And it should be to you, too.”

“You don’t get to tell me what’s important in my life. I value my relationships. The ones with my friends and especially the one with Ben. You ruin everything.”

“Mikey…” I step a little closer, but he withdraws, bumping into the shed a little in his effort to stop me from touching him.

“Don’t you ‘Mikey’ me. Fuck off! I don’t want to see you anymore. Go on. Go.”

He sounds like he actually means it this time. That’s never happened before. I raise my hands in a gesture of defeat. “Fine. Queen out. Break up with Ben. Fuck up your life over a fuck. A fuck that happened four years ago.” I walk backwards towards the house, while he stares into space again, clenching his jaw. “Just ask yourself this, Mikey: are you jealous of me? …Or are you jealous of him?”

He doesn’t look at me, then he shakes his head. “Arrogant prick.”

When I turn and walk back into the house, I realize that Michael might never speak to me again. We’ve had bad patches in the past but that was before he met Ben. Now he no longer needs me. On the other hand, Ben will have one hell of a time trying to patch this up. That wasn’t my intention, but we all reap what we sow. It was his decision to bend over for me in the alley. I didn’t force him. Even though I’m pretty sure that he'll get a terrible reception, I put my hand on Ben’s shoulder as I walk past to indicate that Michael needs him. Ben and I are a tag team where Michael is concerned and it’s his turn.

And then I have to put up with Hunter’s advances and that really does it for me. I just want to go home, but I know that Justin will most likely want to stay, so I just tell him I’m going. He can make his own decisions. Usually he comes with me and I'd like that, but I don’t put any pressure on him. I hate all those subtle expectations that couples have of each other and the sacrifices they're forcing themselves to make. That’s why I avoid relationships. I want Justin to come with me because he wants to, not because he thinks he should.

Vic pulls me to one side when I say goodbye to him. I knew I couldn’t escape that. He asks me what happened with Lindsay and if he was anybody else, I'd tell him to go fuck himself. But it’s Vic and he has given me some valuable advice over the years. However, when I’ve given him the bare facts, all he says is that I should think about my decision some more.

“You take care of yourself,” he says then, putting a hand on my forearm.

“I will. You too. And take care of Debbie.”

He laughs and it’s good to hear. Sometimes he sounds just like he used to before he got sick. “Brian… you have a good thing going on there with Justin. I’d hate for you to lose that. He’s good for you.”

“Oh yes, he’s very good.”

Vic laughs and shakes his head. “I’m sure he is. But… you know what I mean, don’t you?”

Yes, I know what he means. That Justin is a great guy and I should thank my lucky stars that he's stuck around for so long. Isn’t that what they all think?

“Have a nice trip.”

He pulls me into a hug, muttering, “You stubborn son-of-a-bitch.” He feels incredibly thin and boney, but his arms are strong around me.

Then we’re finally outside and I can breathe. Dinners at Debbie’s can be a little stifling. I light a cigarette on the porch, wondering how much damage control Ben has done with Michael by now. And I try not to think about Vic.

I know even before Justin asks me that I'll have to tell him about Ben. I can’t see what it has to do with him, but I realize that hearing it from someone else so soon after what happened with Lindsay would really piss him off. I wish we could just go home and fuck. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so, because he stomps off ahead of me and instead of following him, I turn right towards Babylon. The night’s still young.




Usually when people are upset with me, all I have to do is turn up and refuse to go away. It always works for Michael and Lindsay, and even for Debbie sometimes. But I can’t do that with Lindsay at the moment because I want her to get used to the idea that I won’t be around. Lindsay has this unfortunate habit of not letting go. It’s too risky if I don’t want to jeopardize her relationship with Melanie. How strange that splitting her and the bitch up would have been an added bonus not so long ago and now I want to avoid it at all costs.

As no one has called me yet to chew me a new one over Michael and Ben breaking up, I’m assuming that they somehow managed to patch it up. No great surprise there. Michael was just queening out over nothing after all. I’ll give him a few days, then I’ll test the waters. Of course, if Ben’s around, he might have a few choice words to say to me. But, hey, I didn’t deliberately break gay etiquette. I just didn’t lie to Michael. I’d never do that.

I never did go back to the loft last night. I couldn’t stomach yet another person giving me the cold shoulder and Justin really has no right to be pissed at me. I fucked Ben before I even met him. But I just know that he will work out that I had an ulterior motive for the fuck and then he'll be upset about that.

I think he just makes excuses half the time. He’s plain jealous and just doesn’t want to admit it. So he pretends that he’s upset over Lindsay’s feelings and over the baby. And now he'll pretend that he’s upset that Michael’s upset, or that I fucked Ben to make sure that Michael will never want him. It seemed like a good idea at the time. How was I to know that there would come a time when I'd want Michael to want him? And somehow Justin is going to know what I was thinking when I did that. He always does.

The thing with Justin is that we don’t have arguments. If he doesn’t like what I do, he should tell me and then I'd most likely tell him to fuck off. But he doesn’t. He just disapproves quietly. There’s no silent treatment, no withholding sex, but I always know when I’ve fallen short of his precious standards. I just know.

He’s quiet and withdrawn and I can’t reach him. Very occasionally I can get him to say my name when I’m fucking him, in that way that he has when he’s lost in the moment. But it’s rare nowadays. He did it the other day when I promised him that I'd never fuck anyone without a condom. It’s such a turn-on for me. He knows I like him to talk during sex, but he’s so quiet at the moment that I don’t feel like saying much either.

It’s been going on for a while now. Definitely since he found out that I fucked Lindsay, but I’m almost sure it started before that. It came on gradually, so I didn’t notice it for some time. And when I did, it was too late. I can’t change it. I fuck him all the time, but it doesn’t make any difference. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy it. It’s just not enough any longer.

It was inevitable, I suppose. I've been expecting it long before now. Maybe he just feels a little crowded. I've been staying at the loft for weeks now. He might just like a little more space. He always seems pleased that I’m there, but maybe he’s just being polite. He’s his mother’s son, after all. Jennifer would never admit that she'd rather see the back of me either. She doesn’t have to. It’s all there in her pronounced politeness when she speaks to me.

So I stay at the dorms for a week or so. The studying I have to do at the moment is insane anyway and with Lindsay no longer hanging out in my room all the time, I get a lot more done. In the evenings I go to Liberty Avenue for some drinks and a fuck or two. But something’s missing. I haven’t been this solitary since Justin was in the hospital after the accident.

On Monday I decide to pick Justin up from PIFA. I finish class before him, or rather before he’s finished painting in his little studio. I’m glad he decided not to paint in the loft anymore. The fumes were fucking annoying and the place feels more like a home now.

It’s rather late. I have been for a run after class, debating in my head whether I should go and see him or just go out to Woody’s and Babylon like I usually do. But there should be no reason why we can’t go out together, and I haven’t seen him for a few days. I’m sure he’s calmed down by now, has maybe even spoken to Ben and they undoubtedly have discussed how they both feel about the whole thing in minute detail, before deciding that their friendship is too precious to lose over something like that.

After I have a shower, I go to the loft to check if he’s there, but it’s obvious that he hasn’t been home yet. That usually means that he got stuck in his painting and it can be hours before he becomes unstuck again, especially since he has no reason to think I might be at the loft. But when I get to his studio, the door is locked. I’m so surprised that I rattle the handle a few times just to make sure.

Now I’m stumped. I have no idea where else he might be on a Monday night. Out with Daphne perhaps? But the woman has only gone and got herself a boyfriend and ever since then, she's been a lot less available. She’s probably fucking mostly nowadays. Come to think of it, I always got the impression she was doing that most of the time before she got a boyfriend as well.

Okay, if he’s not here, he could be at Woody’s. He does like to drink there. He tricks there as well, I’m sure, but he mainly goes there to drink and meet up with friends. He’s one of the few people who do. I should check it out. That would be even better. It won’t look like I’m looking for him then. It’s never a good idea to do the chasing. And if you do, always make sure that it doesn’t appear as if you do.

I’m just turning away to leave when I hear the lock turn and Justin’s sticking his head out the door. He looks a little flushed.

“Brian.” He sounds surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for the number nine bus. What do you think I’m doing here?”

He laughs a short, nervous laugh. “Come in.”

Looking back into the room for a moment, he pushes the door open for me to enter. I’m wondering if it’s late enough to chance a quick romp on his roomie’s work bench because his flushed appearance is already making me half-hard. But when I get into the room, I realize that I’m not the only one who has ideas like that. His roomie’s still here, leaning against his bench and cleaning one of his tools. I’m guessing that’s not the tool that needs cleaning in this instance.

I look from Justin to the guy – Jon, if I remember rightly – and back. “Don’t let me interrupt,” I smirk.

“I’m just finishing up,“ Justin says and blushes. I haven’t seen him blush in a long time. “You remember Jon?”

“Yeah, I remember Jon.”

“Hey. How’s it going?” Jon is surprisingly friendly.

I just nod at him and watch Justin race around the room, tidying his paints and brushes. It’s obvious that he cleaned those brushes a while ago. He’s finished in record time, swinging his messenger bag over his shoulder and pulling me towards the door.

“I see you later,” he says, stopping, and looking back at Jon.

The guy nods silently. The look that he gives Justin doesn’t bode well. He’s trying to hide it, but I’ve seen that look before. On tricks who are hoping for more than a fuck, on Michael, even on Lindsay. It always means trouble. Justin’s always lecturing me on choosing my tricks more carefully, but this doesn’t seem like a smart choice to me.

We walk down the corridor and when he doesn’t say anything, I break the silence. “I thought you asked me not to fuck him.”

“I did. This isn't what it looks like.”

I snort. “You weren’t fucking in there? Don’t insult my intelligence.”

“Yes. Yes, we were. But it’s not what it looks like.”

“Justin. What the fuck’s going on? It’s not as if I’m going to queen out that you’re tricking. I would have joined in if you hadn’t been in such a rush to get out of there. What’s up? You realized it was a mistake?”

“Kinda.” There’s a long pause, while he’s speed-walking down the corridor. “It’s not the only one.”

“I can imagine. If you didn’t want me to fuck him because it might complicate things for you, I’d say things just got very complicated indeed.”

“That’s not what I meant exactly.”

I think back over what he said and put that together with how flustered he's been over this and the way the guy looked at him, while I follow him out the doors and to the car park. “It wasn’t the first time, was it?” I ask when we get to the car.

“No.”

I’m a little stunned and so, apparently, is he because he doesn’t say anything when I light a cigarette in the car. He hates it when I smoke in the jeep. I check that he’s put his seat belt on and then I look out the window. So Justin’s got himself a fuck buddy. I always had the impression that anonymous tricking is not quite his thing. And it explains why he’s been so distant recently. He either feels guilty about fucking him or he feels more for this guy than he’s saying and feels guilty because he’s still fucking me. Or maybe he likes fucking two guys at the same time and has been worried that I find out and spoil his fun. Or maybe he’s been trying to find a way to tell me to fuck off. He’s a sentimental like that. He would find it hard to tell me after all this time.

“How long has it been going on?”

“A few days.”

I wonder. I wouldn’t have waited weeks to fuck the guy and while I can just about believe that of Justin, I can’t believe it of Jon, not with the way he looked at him.

When we get to his building, I lean against the wall in the elevator, staring at the floor. I always knew this would happen, that one day this wouldn’t be enough anymore, that I wouldn’t be enough. Sure, the sex is fantastic, but that’s not enough for Justin. He always made it quite clear that he needs more. The question is why hasn’t he told me to fuck off yet?

The answer comes to me as he unlocks the door and pulls it back. I can see his muscles ripple under his shirt with the effort – he really should get that door oiled – and it triggers a familiar response in me. I pull the door shut with one hand and grab his arm with the other. He looks a little surprised when I pull him close.

“I need a shower.”

“I like to smell you, not soap.”

“I want to shower, Brian. We have rules.”

“Oh, I see. Now the rules are in place again? So the no names, no repeats rule is suspended, but the shower after tricking rule is still on? Any other rule changes I should be aware of? How about home by three? Is that still on? Or the no tricking at the loft rule? Do I need to change the sheets while you’re in the shower?”

“Stop it!”

I take a breath, wishing that I hadn’t said anything. Some part of my mind is gleefully rubbing its hands, telling me that I’ve turned into a lesbian or, even worse, a jealous housewife. I want to stop but my anger is making me want to shout or smash a few things. And I hate that I feel this way, that he can make me feel this way. But as always, Justin can get me to do what he wants with very little effort.

“Please, stop,” he says so quietly that it probably wouldn’t have registered if I hadn’t been watching his face. His lips. I put my hands on either side of his face and rub my thumbs over his cheek bones. He’s no longer trying to get away from me, just looks at me with sadness and perhaps surprise. And then he licks his lips.

I move my hand to the back of his neck and pull him closer until our lips come together. He seems to have forgotten about the shower because his arms come up around my neck and he’s kissing me back with fervor. This is the reason he hasn’t kicked me out yet, this right here, this desperate need that we have for each other. If I can only make him realize what he would be missing, I can maybe make him change his mind. I know he doesn’t have sex this good with anyone else.

The kiss seems to go on forever. Our tongues are stroking slick and hot against each other. There’s nothing tender about it, it’s frantic and almost brutal. I want to devour him, mark him, make him mine and he seems to feel the same way. I pull his jacket and shirt off and maneuver us onto the floor and carry on kissing him while I open his jeans. He’s as hard as a rock.

When he tries to take my clothes off, I bat his hand away. I need him naked under me, right now, and I don’t want to take my clothes off because I always feel more powerful when he’s naked while I’m still dressed. He says it makes him feel vulnerable and I need him to surrender to me just now. I’m in charge still, no matter how much he has pulled away from me already. In this I’m in control.

He sighs and lies back on the hardwood floor, breathing heavily and just waiting for me to get ready. I pause. I have a good mind to just get up and walk away, to leave him lying there full of eager anticipation. I should just walk out the door and never come back. No one cheats on Brian Kinney. No one. But I can’t. This might be my last chance to make him feel regret. When he throws me out, I want him to remember this and miss it.

I unzip my jeans and stroke on a condom. I’m so hard I’m wondering if I'll even last long enough to make him appreciate this. But when I push inside him and he gives me a long moan, I know that this will be a fuck neither one of us will forget in a while.



PART SEVEN here:  http://kachelofen.livejournal.com/23493.html


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