This is Part 1 of Chapter 96 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "The Difficult Kind -- Part 2", the previous chapter.
POV: Emmett Honeycutt, featuring Justin Taylor, others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Emmett answers Justin's call. September 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
It's Sunday evening and I am just about to give myself a pedicure.
Now, if it were a year ago, I would have been getting ready for Babylon right about now. That's when all the boys were present and accounted for. Ted was still working as an accountant. Michael didn't know Ben yet. Brian and Justin were living in the loft and Justin was just beginning to re-emerge from his bashing traumas. But now Teddy is busy with his website -- Sunday can be a big night for Jerkers, even though I have the whole day off. And Michael and Ben don't go out on Sunday nights because Ben has classes to teach on Monday mornings. I think about calling to see if Justin and Brian are going to be heading for the club, but I remember that they just returned from a week in the woods with the lesbians -- so they are probably still in the shower!
The phone rings. "The Emmett Honeycutt Residence -- whom shall I say is calling for Mr. Honeycutt?"
"Hi, Emmett. It's me."
"Baby! I was thinking about you only a minute ago!"
"Yes. It's me," says this tiny voice.
"Speak up, Baby, I can hardly hear you. I think we have a bad line."
The voice is a little stronger, but not much. "Sorry. I... I think I have a cold."
"A cold?" That doesn't sound right. Unless he picked up a cold on those islands.
"Emmett -- remember you said that you'd be my confidante? About some things? Remember -- you said?"
"Sure, Baby. I am like 'Me and My Shadow' -- no one else to tell your troubles to!" But Justin doesn't laugh at all. There's only silence. "Honey? Are you there?"
"Emmett -- do you think you can come over here? To the loft? I mean -- tonight? Now?"
"Well, certainly, Baby. I can come over -- except I don't have a way to get over there. If you could come and get me? I mean, If Brian doesn't mind you going out now. Or would you rather I meet you two over at Woody's -- or Babylon?"
"I'll come and get you, Emmett. Twenty minutes? Is that okay?"
"I'll see you then, Baby."
I'm waiting outside when the Jeep pulls up. I fully expect to see Brian behind the wheel, but it's Justin. All by his lonesome.
"Hey, Baby!" I hop into the shotgun seat and lean over and give him a kiss. Since he and the big man rushed right off with the dyke contingent, I've hardly seen him since they got back from England. There was that afternoon at the Tea Dance, and then once or twice more at the diner, but that's all. And we still haven't have that Big Talk that Justin said we were due for. The one in which he would tell me all about some scheme he and Brian are supposedly pulling. I still don't understand what THAT'S about, either.
Justin puts the Jeep in gear and moves off. "Have you eaten yet?"
"Well, I had something earlier. Are you hungry, honey?"
"Actually, I was at my mom's place this afternoon and had lunch, but if you want we could pick up a pizza and take it back to the loft?"
"My treat!" I say. "Since you are providing the transportation."
For the first time he gives me a little smile. "Sure. That sounds fair."
Justin heads for a small restaurant near the loft. "This is the place where we usually order from. But they usually deliver." We walk in and the woman behind the counter greets Justin like a long lost son. After ordering the pizza -- large sausage with green pepper and extra cheese -- he has to detail the entire trip up to that island for her, which actually saves me having to ask for the lowdown myself. He tells her all about their boat and taking Gus to the amusement park and going fishing -- it sounds like a real All American vacation. Of course, knowing that Brian was involved I know that Justin is leaving out an awful lot of fucking and other fun activities which don't seem suitable for the pizza lady. But I make a note to ask about them later -- for my own peace of mind, of course!
We carry the pizza out to the Jeep. "What is Brian going to eat? I mean, extra cheese? Or isn't he on that silly diet anymore?"
"Brian isn't here." Justin opens the door and sets the pizza on the back seat.
"What do you mean, 'he's not here'? Baby? Where is he?"
Justin looks at me, and I can read about a hundred different emotions in his big blue eyes, all of them full of tragedy. "I took him to the airport this morning. He should be back in Los Angeles by now."
And that's when the tears that he's been holding back start to fall like little raindrops.
"Well, honey -- you knew he had to go back to California and do all this movie stuff. And your classes are starting next week. So, I think it was inevitable that he was going to have to go sometime."
We are sitting at the table at the loft. The pizza is very good -- but Justin has hardly touched his single little slice. He sits, nursing a beer, and staring down at his plate. I feel so bad for him. But I'm also glad that he's called me. The thought of him staying in this loft all alone brings back visions of last winter when we all feared for the poor boy's sanity, sitting here, night after night, staring into this barren space.
"I know, Em, but that doesn't make it any easier. I understand about the films and that he has to be there for the promotions and everything. But I don't have to be happy about it. And Brian had to leave earlier than he thought. A whole week earlier. I... wasn't ready for him to go."
"Baby, you will never be ready for that! Never. Maybe it's better that you didn't have an extra week to brood about it and work yourself into a state. That would have upset you even more -- and upset Brian. You know how he hates a big, emotional scene."
"Yeah -- unless he choreographs it."
"Well he is 'La Diva' -- the King of the Drama Queens! And that is coming from another certified drama queen -- me!"
"I'm worried about him, Em," Justin says, seriously. "He needs me out there. To take care of things."
I laugh. "Honey, Brian is a very big boy! He's well able to take care of himself!"
Justin shakes his head. "But he isn't, Emmett. He needs me. He pretends he doesn't need anyone and can do everything by himself, but he can't. It's just a facade. I'm a lot stronger than he is about some things. I can see the big picture when he can't a lot of the time."
"That's because you aren't 'Brian Kinney Goddamn It'! You don't have this big image to uphold, Baby."
"I know. And when he's trying to live up to that image is when he gets into the most trouble. And California only makes it worse. It's all about image out there. About what other people want him to be. Especially certain other people." Justin takes another swig of his beer. He makes a face as it goes down too fast and too hard.
"Are you talking about that guy -- Ron?"
Justin winces. "Yes. It's about him. And other people, too. But mainly about Ron."
"But Ron is meaningless, I'm sure, honey."
"No," answers Justin. "Ron is a lot of things -- but meaningless isn't one of them."
"What are you saying, Baby?"
"Brian is out there -- with Ron. He'll be back living in the house. Probably... doing other things, too. With Ron." His young face is so forlorn.
"But why? What the fuck is going on, anyway? You keep skirting around some Big Secret, but you never really go into detail. I think it's time to confide in your confidante."
Justin sighs. "It's a long story, Em -- but this is it in a nutshell."
And the boy weaves this totally wild tale. About hidden video cameras and secret tapes and melodramatic scenes. It's worthy of 'General Hospital' -- truly! It's about Justin learning a bad lesson about who you can trust and how far some people will go when they are consumed by jealousy and fear. Oh, and about a nasty little blowjob given to the most wrong person possible.
And about two men -- both of whom think they are in control of a situation. A situation in which there doesn't seem to be a way for either of them to win. But both are determined to beat out the other one anyway. Somehow. Even if it destroys both of them.
"Justin, this whole thing is just crazy!"
"I know. I've tried to tell Brian that. But he won't listen. He thinks it's about these videos, but it isn't. At least not all of it. It's more about him. And Ron. It's about their 'relationship.' And now it's about our relationship, too. Because Brian thinks he is doing it all for me. Protecting me." Justin swallows before he can continue. "And now I'm afraid for him. Really afraid. Because Brian thinks he can handle things. Thinks he can put one over on Ron. And I don't know if he can...."
"Maybe Brian really does have a plan?"
"He thinks he does. But I'm still scared. Ron isn't a rational person. He could lash out and he wouldn't care who he hurt." Justin picks at his pizza, taking a small bite and then putting it down again.
"But he wouldn't screw up his career -- or Brian's. That would be completely self-defeating."
"He might. Ron thinks he knows what's best for Brian and he'll do anything to convince Brian to stay there with him. Anything. Even threaten Brian. Or threaten me. That's how this all started. With me. And those fucking videos." Justin shudders, as if a cold wind just blew right through the room.
I come around the table and sit next to him, putting my arm around him. "No one can get you here, Baby."
"I know, Em. I know. That's what Brian thinks he is insuring. That no one can 'get' me. But I don't know. I don't think Ron believes that what he's doing will hurt Brian -- or himself. He only sees what he wants to see. Even with those videos. He sees them as just another tool to help him keep Brian where he wants him. I don't think he'd even really use them against us -- at least I hope he never does. But Brian doesn't want to take that chance."
"It seems a foolish step on Ron's part to even think of showing them to anyone, Baby."
"I know. But he showed them to me. That was foolish, too. But he wanted to freak me out. And he did. It worked." Justin looks around the loft sadly. "And Brian thinks HE holds all the cards because Ron is in love with HIM and wants to hang onto him so badly. But Brian can't let go of Ron, either. Even when he says he hates him, he can't shake him off. It's something so deep in there and from so far back. It doesn't reflect the reality of the situation. As rotten as Ron has been to him, as badly as he's treated him, a part of him keeps going back, again and again."
"Sounds like someone else I know," I say, gently.
Justin looks up. "That's different. Completely different. Ron is obsessive. Anything that he can't control makes him nuts. He'd rather destroy it than let anyone else have it. Just like in 'The Fountainhead.' Do you know that book?"
I shake my head. "Literature was never my forte, Baby."
"It's all about that. Obsession and destruction. I read it this summer in England." Justin sighs. "And Brian feels that he has this weird debt to Ron -- like he still owes him something. That connects them in a sick, sick way. But we aren't like that, Em. Brian and I are not like that." He stares right at me, as if defying me to disagree with him. Not me, Baby! "Brian isn't obsessive about me. He cares about me for me -- and not for how he can control me. Brian's been shitty to me in the past sometimes, but only because he was denying our relationship. Denying his feelings. That's why he tried to push me away. But I've been on to him from the beginning. I understand him better than he understands himself. And that's why I can never abandon him. Because I understand who he is -- as problematic as that might be sometimes."
"Are you sure about that, Baby? Because Brian Kinney is the definition of the enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a mystery."
"But not to me. I've seen him in ways other people would never believe. I've seen sides of him he never shows anyone -- not even Michael. I know he loves me -- he's said it and I believe him. No matter what happens. And I love him -- I have for two years and I can't see anything changing that."
I look at Justin and hope that he knows what he is talking about. Personally, I would not want to be involved in any of Brian Kinney's little games. No way. But then again, I don't have two years of my young life invested in the man. And I'm not in love with him -- thank the Lord! Unfortunately, Justin is -- and you can rationalize and put up with a lot of shit from the man you are in love with. And I DO know that from personal experience.
I finish up my third slice of pizza while Justin is still sighing over his half-eaten first slice. The thing in his favor in all this IS that he is so young. He's resilient. He's been through a heck of a lot in the past two years, even leaving Brian out of the equation, what with being harassed at school and bashed and having to deal with his father. But Justin has also learned a lot and grown a lot. He's come out, defied his parents, left home, held a job, and gotten into the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art -- even after his doctors told him that he would probably never draw again. He defied them, too. So I would never dare to underestimate Justin or presume to second guess him. I only pray that he's right.
"Justin," I say, deciding to reassure him. "I'm sure that whatever you are afraid is happening out in L.A. -- don't worry about it. Brian won't do anything to hurt you. I know how much really loves you. I've seen the way he looks at you, honey. I wish someone would look at me that way!"
"I know, Emmett. But -- some things with Brian...." He shakes his head. "Sometimes he can hurt you without even realizing it. Without thinking. It's not because he's bad... he's just...."
"But he's so changed, Baby! When you two came to Babylon for the Tea Dance he didn't even dance with anyone else, let alone trick or hit the backroom! Everyone is still talking about how he called you his boyfriend, announcing it loud enough so everyone in the place could hear it. He meant to do that. A year ago -- honey, that would have been unthinkable! I still have a hard time getting my mind around it. So you have nothing to worry about in that area."
Justin shoves the last bit of his pizza in his mouth and chews a long time, thinking. "I know," he finally says. "It's not something I worry about. Not really. Because I know what he's doing out in California. It has nothing to do with me. With us. When I'm not with him, he...." Justin shrugs unhappily. "He never promised to be celibate. I don't think he could be, anyway. That doesn't matter to me. Not really."
I reach over and take his hand. It feels so chilly, even on this warm night. "But it obviously does matter to you, Baby. So why assume the worst, then?"
"Because I know. I know what he'll be doing with Ron when he's out there. That's a given. And he'll be tricking. I know that, too. But knowing it and feeling good about it are two very different things."
Now he's just trying to make himself depressed. "Baby, I'm sure he won't be doing anything -- especially with the Wicked Witch of Beverly Hills."
"It's too late, Em. It's already been done. In London. To seal the deal with Ron."
"Shit," is all I can say. "I'm sorry, Baby."
"Nothing to be sorry about, Emmett. Just please don't talk about it to people. Don't... gossip about it. Please."
"Good grief, Baby! Of course not! My lips are sealed." Yes -- and I'd love to give a nice boot in the butt to La Diva Kinney! No wonder Justin needs someone to talk to.
We sit for a long time at the table. Justin and I have another beer and he tells me a few of his stories about England, including dishing on some of the actors he met there. He also tells me about the guy he was friendly with, Rowan, and how he turned out to be a total asshole. And he tells me some funny stories about being up on that island with Gus and the lesbian brigade. I would have loved to see Melanie Marcus take her top off and flash her tits at that ferry boat! Brian must have freaked out!
It starts to get quite late and I ask Justin to drive me back to my humble abode.
"Um, Emmett -- I wanted to ask you something? Would you mind... staying here tonight? I mean, unless you have something important to do first thing in the morning. I mean...."
I can see that the boy is uncomfortable admitting that he doesn't want to stay here alone. It would probably seem too much like the last time Brian took off. "Sure, honey -- I'll stay. Monday is my afternoon off from Jerk-at-Work. I have no exciting plans at all. When do you begin classes? This week?"
"Next Tuesday. The day after Labor Day."
"Oh, dear! That's right! It's Labor Day. Which means that Brian is going to miss Gus' birthday -- unless he's planning to come back for the big party?"
Justin shakes his head. "He'll be in London then. Doing post-production on 'Hammersmith.' That's one of the reasons why he had to go back so early. He was supposed to be leaving before the party anyway -- but Brian thought he could buy a little time and be there. He thought...." Justin pauses. "He mentioned the party again before he left this morning. He had it all planned -- Cynthia made the arrangements. And he won't be here... It's just one of those things. It's...." Justin gets up and walks up onto the bedroom platform and into the bathroom. He shuts the door.
I watch him go and think -- it isn't only Gus' birthday. It's also something else. Two years since he met Brian. Two years since his life was utterly transformed. Two years that he's been totally in love. Oh, that's a hard one.
I clean up the pizza plates and wrap up the extra slices and put them in fridge. Except for some bottles of beer and wine, a half a loaf of stale bread, and some poppers, it's empty. That's one thing we can do tomorrow -- go grocery shopping and stock up on some provisions. This boy can't live on the Brian Kinney Diet for very long. He has to have solid food in his body!
Finally, Justin comes out of the bathroom and stands on the platform. "Emmett, I think I'm going to go to bed now. It's been kind of a long day."
"Sure, Baby. If you give me a blanket, I'll hit the couch."
Justin smiles. "That's not necessary. There's plenty of room up here in the 'Playroom.' Don't be afraid -- I won't molest you!"
I have to laugh at that! "Are you sure, honey? What fun is THAT?" And even Justin laughs then.
Justin goes around the loft, turning off the lights, locking the door, and setting the alarm. I check out the situation at the bed. It definitely IS big enough for a crowd. Justin's 'side' is pretty obvious -- his kleenex, his allergy pills, his little alarm clock, and his cellphone are all on the left side. A square chest with a white candle is on the other. I'm dying to open the drawer and see what kind of goodies Brian keeps on HIS side of the bed. A budget package of a thousand condoms? A gallon jug of lube? A variety of arcane sex toys? Or maybe something REALLY bizarre -- like a copy of 'Ladies' Home Journal' or 'My Diary' with a picture of Barbie on the cover?
"Go ahead. Open it. You can look." Justin is standing by his side of the bed, looking at me as if he can read my mind. "I know you're curious. Everyone is."
I open the drawer. Yes, I see some packets of condoms and a tube of lube. But also a photo album. A pad of paper and some pens. A paperback copy of the lyrics of Lou Reed. I pull that out.
"Brian was reading those before we left for London. To get in the mood of the character," explains Justin.
I pick up the photo album and leaf through it. Almost all photos of Gus -- and Justin. "I'm surprised he didn't take this with him."
"He took another one. I made that one up for him last year. I wasn't going outside very much after I moved back in here -- I was a little agoraphobic -- so I went through a lot of Brian's photographs. Then I made an album with all new photos after we got back from England. He took that one with him. I took a bunch of pictures up at Put-in-Bay. I promised to send him some as soon as I get them developed."
"Brian Kinney as a sentimental slob, who would have believed it."
Justin's eyes are on the album in my hand. "I don't think there's anything wrong with Brian liking to look at photos of his son -- or of me. It's that kind of labeling by his own friends that puts Brian in a box he can never get out of. That 'image' of the 'Eternal Asshole.' You should see some of the things he saves. Little odds and ends. Movie ticket stubs. Little scraps of paper that Gus scribbles on when he's over here. A lock of his fuzzy baby hair. An old pullover that I was going to throw out. The scarf that...." He stops short and looks down.
"Sentimental slob, like I said, Baby."
"I guess it's sentimental." Justin sits down on the bed and pulls off his sneakers. "If you did it, or if I did it, nobody would think twice. But somehow it's 'out of character' for Brian. Well, it isn't out of character at all."
"Sorry, honey. I didn't mean to sound snarky. I guess it's hard to think of Brian as a 'regular,' boring old person instead of some kind of a living, breathing, supersonic Fuck Machine. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, Baby!" I take off my shirt and look around for a place to hang it. Justin comes over and takes it. He opens up the closet and hangs it in there.
"Do you need a tee shirt or anything? Brian doesn't do pajamas."
"No, I guess it won't be required. I have my shorts and tee shirt, if that's okay."
"Sure, that's fine."
I finish getting undressed while Justin takes off his top and sweatpants and folds them. "Emmett, can I ask you for a favor?"
"Of course, Baby. Your wish is my command."
Justin goes into the bathroom and comes out with a bottle of hand lotion. He stands there in his underpants. "I'd like you to help me with something, but you have to promise never to tell anyone. And I mean anyone! Can you do that?"
"Certainly, Baby." The boy has definitely piqued my curiosity. "What is it you want me to do?"
Justin hands me the bottle of lotion and starts taking off his underpants. Now I'm starting to get a little worried -- and a little excited. "Baby -- ah, what are you doing?"
Justin lays down on the bed, his bubble butt in the air. "I want you to put that on me."
"Now, honey, I know you are lonely, but...."
"Emmett -- come around over here." Justin snaps on a reading lamp on his side of the bed and then flips onto his right side, his left hip in the air. "I want you to rub the lotion on THIS. I can reach it, but I can't see what I'm doing very well. Unless I stand in front of the mirror. But if you would do it, it would be much easier."
I look at his left side, but the light on the platform is kind of dim, even with the reading lamp. "Is that a big bruise on your ass, Baby? What did you do to yourself? Did you fall off the boat on that island?"
Justin giggles. "Well, I DID fall off the boat. I was balancing against the railing while... anyway, that's not important right now. And it has nothing to do with my tattoo."
"Your WHAT?" Now I lean right down and take a good, long look at that boy's rear end. "Oh my God, Justin! It IS a tattoo!"
"That's what I said. If you could rub some lotion on it, that would be great. Not too much."
I squirt a little on my fingers and rub it across the tattoo. It's a gold star -- with the name Brian underneath, what else? Etched right into his naked skin! I have to hand it to this boy -- when he makes a commitment to someone he does not fool around. "How is that?"
"Seems okay. After you do it, blot it with a tissue."
"How often do you have to do this, Baby?" I'm rubbing my fingers gently against the tattoo and, I admit, I will be saving this moment for my next Jerk-at-Work session, because touching this boy's creamy ass is giving me a major hard-on.
"A couple of times a day until it heals. The man who made it said about two weeks."
"Does it hurt?" I ask. "I'm afraid to rub the lotion in too hard."
"No, that's fine." He hands me a Kleenex and I blot the tattoo. "Like I say, I can do it by myself, but it's better if someone else does." He pauses. "Brian has been doing it."
"I bet he has." And I bet that it doesn't end with just rubbing on the lotion, either! I set the bottle down on the nightstand. "I felt a little... intimate applying that stuff, Baby. I felt like Brian was staring over my shoulder, getting ready to kill me."
"I'm sure he won't kill you, Emmett. You're just helping me," he says. "Not that I'm going to tell him you stayed over and did it. I'm not crazy, you know."
"Please don't. Brian's been acting very possessive of you lately and I don't like to think what he'd do to my balls if he thought I was in his bed, rubbing your bare behind." I climb under the covers, while Justin pulls the sheets over himself, too. "So, is Brian the only one who knows about that tattoo? And whose idea was it?"
"Mine. All mine." He switches off the reading lamp. "Actually, Lindsay and Melanie know, too. But they promised not to say anything. I'm... I just don't want my mom to find out. For obvious reasons. And the other guys, especially Ted, would probably rag me about it."
"Baby, I won't say a word," I reassure him. "I think it's cute and utterly romantic. But don't expect Brian to reciprocate, honey. That is NOT his way. It's much too much of a sweet -- and permanent -- gesture for him to make."
Justin is very quiet and I know he is thinking the same thing. Brian is not the kind to make such a move -- and Baby knows it. But it IS sweet. I only hope Justin won't regret it too soon.
I fall asleep, but wake up about an hour later to Justin's cellphone purring. I roll over the other way as he picks it up. It's obviously the Man Himself on the other end.
"Are you really staying in the poolhouse? Good, I'm glad, Brian. Do you think it's still bugged?" I hear Justin say. "I think you should get someone in there to check it out. And let him know you are doing it!"
Justin sits up a bit in the bed. "Right. I think you're right. Are you really in the backyard? No, I wouldn't talk on his phone or even on the cell in there, either -- not until you know." Justin laughs softly. "Did he really freak? I knew he would! The hat was the best part. Buying it off that guy on the street was genius."
Justin listens and I can hear a faint echo of Brian's voice on the other end. "I'm glad he's hardly talking to you. I hope he locks himself in his office until December and never comes out! I know, Brian. I know. But... I'm... hoping. Yes... I'll talk to Cynthia and make sure all the party arrangements are okay. And I'll talk to Lindsay, too. Right. The backyard is big enough for sure. It will be fine, Brian. It will be great. And I'll take lots and lots of pictures. I know -- send all the photos and stuff to Diane. I wouldn't trust Ron, either. I'm sure he would open your mail!"
Another pause. "Yes! Sure. Definitely."
Then there's a long, long silence from Justin and I wonder what Brian is telling him. All he's answering is in little 'ums' and 'ahs' -- and that's when I realize that he's got his hand on his cock. And he's trying to be quiet because he doesn't want to wake me up! This is TOO much! I was hard before from rubbing on that damn lotion, but now I have my cock right in my own hand -- and I'm trying to be quieter than he is!
The little sounds he's making, the short breaths, the muffled pants, and small murmurs into the phone are hotter somehow than watching ten of the guys at Jerk-at-Work all pulling each other together. Because it's real. I'm also imagining Brian at the other end of the line and what HE is doing. I feel like I'm the world's biggest voyeur. And I don't know if I can hold out much longer.
So I'm actually relieved when I hear Justin finally make a little squeak and a gasp -- and I know he's finished. He reaches for some Kleenex on the bedside stand. I stop what I'm doing and hold completely still.
"I'll talk to you tomorrow, Brian. Don't forget to e-mail me. I love you -- don't forget that. Because I won't. Later."
Justin gets up and pads off to the bathroom -- and I use that opportunity to finish off what I started. I also make use of the Kleenex box. By the time Justin comes back out, I'm snuggled down and just about to drift off again.
"Goodnight, Em. I didn't think you were sleeping."
"Goodnight, Baby. I was just being polite."
"That's okay. You're a real gentleman, Emmett."
"My White Trash forbearers would be tickled to hear that, honey. 'Night, now." And that's when I really do fall sound asleep.
Continue on to "Debriding -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, October 2002
Updated October 23, 2002