This is Part 4
The other sections in "The Angel Stream".
Pittsburgh, August 2005
"Now, remember to behave," Justin instructed as they got out of the Corvette.
Brian rolled his eyes, "I'll try not to take out my dick and beat off in the living room!"
"Brian...!" Justin cautioned.
"Jesus! I know how to behave at a fucking housewarming!" Brian huffed. "Do you think I was born in a cave?"
"Sometimes I wonder," Justin grinned.
"I went to Michael and Ben's housewarming party when they moved to Stepford Terrace," Brian said, smugly. "And I brought a very nice present, too."
Justin glanced at the wrapped gift in his hands. "Was it as nice as the present I bought for Emmett and Ted?"
"Nicer," Brian replied. "It was the finest leather sling money can buy. I'm sure Mikey and the Professor have had hours of enjoyment with it."
"A sling?" said Justin. "You mean... that thing they strap a guy in to fuck him?"
"I see you've been watching my old Jeff Stryker videos," said Brian. "I'm glad you're expanding your horizons, Sunshine."
"I have not!" Justin insisted, blushing.
"Ha!" Brian laughed. "Busted!"
They walked up the sidewalk and stopped in front of the house. "This is it," said Justin, checking the address on the invitation.
"A white picket fence," Brian sniffed. "Leave it to Emmett Honeycutt to want every hetero cliche in the fucking book!"
"I think it's cute," Justin said. "It's a pretty house."
"It's a fucking nightmare," Brian offered. "Well, I guess it's too late to run away, so let's go inside."
Emmett and Ted's housewarming party was exactly as Brian had feared -- a faux-breeder nightmare that made queer domesticity seem as desirable as the plague.
Emmett was running around in an apron -- a fucking apron! And Ted looked about as comfortable as a condemned man facing the firing squad. The house was done up in a style that Brian could only describe as 'Early Queen Mother' -- with an accent on the 'queen.' Everything was 'British.' Or at least Emmett Honeycutt's idea of British. Icky Laura Ashley fabrics for the curtains and furniture, a set of Princess Diana dishes displayed in the dining room, prints of Windsor Castle, Big Ben, and the Tower Bridge in the living room -- it was like a lunatic from the BBC, circa 1985, had decorated the house. That -- or Emmett had done it himself.
"I did it ALL myself!" Emmett bragged to Debbie.
"It's just beautiful, hon!" she gushed. "And so classy!"
"That rave review from a woman wearing an orange dustmop on her head," Brian whispered to Justin.
"Don't say that!" Justin stifled a laugh. "Someone will hear you!"
"So what if they do?" Brian shrugged. "They'll just consider the source. What fucking idiot decided that all gay men have good taste? It's a fucking public relations gimmick sold by fags who have television shows on Bravo and the Style Network!"
"Have some food," Justin suggested, moving them to the buffet table. "Emmett may not know how to decorate a house, but he knows how to cater his own party."
"That's only because Darren is doing the cooking." Brian tried a puff pastry. "Not bad. He's a better cook than he is a drag queen. He should turn in the high heels for a frying pan permanently."
"Darren told me it's hard to get any performing gigs these days." Justin piled his paper plate with goodies. "With half the gay bars in town closed down, there isn't much call for Shanda Leer's act. He told me he's thinking of moving to Buffalo or Columbus. Then what will Em do?"
"He'll have to find another chef, like he did after Vic died." Poor Vic, thought Brian. I wish he were here. We could use him right now. Use his spirit. His perspective. He lived through a lot in his time. I could use his advice, too.
"Enjoying the party, boys?" asked Emmett, putting his arm around Justin's shoulders.
"These are really good!" said Justin, shoving another tiny peach tart into his mouth.
"Yeah, Em," Brian dead-panned. "You're the hostess with the mostest."
"Why thank you, Brian," said Emmett, ignoring the sarcasm. "And thanks for the Dustbuster, baby," he said, kissing Justin on the cheek. "It's just what I needed!"
"My mom suggested it," Justin replied. "She has one just like it."
"I had a different gift idea," Brian piped up. "But I was over-ruled."
Justin shot Brian a glance, but Brian only stuck out his tongue. Justin was such a good little WASP. Such good manners. It made Brian want to take the boy into Emmett's perfect pretty pink guest bathroom, bend him over the sink, and fuck his pretty pink ass until he screamed.
"Sounds like a plan," Brian mused.
"What?" asked Justin.
"Nothing." Brian picked up Emmett's arm and removed it from Justin's shoulder, pulling his lover away. "I was only thinking out loud."
"Be good, you two," Emmett commanded as he walked away.
"We're always good," Brian called after him. "You'll never know how good!"
"You're impossible!" Justin murmured, leaning his head against Brian's shoulder.
"Is this really your idea of Fag Paradise, Sunshine?" Brian asked seriously. "This house, and the white picket fence, and the fucking ruffles around the windows, and the Franklin Mint Plates on the wall? Is this what you want, too?"
"No," said Justin. "I have another idea of paradise. And it doesn't involve a house, or curtains, or any kind of plates. It doesn't involve any 'stuff' at all, Brian."
"What then?" Brian whispered.
"You already know," Justin answered with a smile.
"What are you doing out here, honey?" said Debbie, opening the door and coming onto the back deck where Brian was standing. It was a beautiful evening -- warm, clear, and brightly moonlit.
"Keeping Emmett and Ted's House of Horrors smoke-free," Brian replied. He blew a perfect smoke ring into the air and then watched it fade. "What thrills am I missing inside?"
"Em is showing off his new trash compactor," Debbie explained. "I gotta get Carl to buy me one of those things. It's the nuts! You should see it crunch up a big plastic juice bottle!"
"And the hits just keep on coming," Brian sighed. "I know how a trash compactor works, Deb. I don't need a fucking demonstration."
"Feeling a little down, baby?" Debbie asked.
"I'm feeling fine, thank you," Brian sniffed. "Why would I be feeling down?"
"Because you lost your job!" Debbie answered. "I know you must be worried sick about it. But don't fret. If you need anything, just ask!"
Brian shook his head. "Thanks for the offer, but I don't need anything, Deb. And I didn't lose my job. I'm only on suspension."
"But what about money?" asked Debbie. She knew how much Brian usually spent in a month. The man had expensive tastes. He was used to a certain lifestyle. And there were others to think of besides himself. "You have responsibilities now, Brian. You have your son. And Sunshine to support, too."
"Jesus!" Brian huffed. "It's only for a month! Money isn't a problem. I have money put away for Gus. He'll always be well taken care of. Trust me." Brian blew another perfect smoke ring and watched it rise into the night air. "And for your information, Justin is not my wife and he's not a dependant child. He's a grown man. I don't support him. We take care of each other."
"But he's supposed to start classes at Carnegie Mellon in a couple of weeks," Debbie pointed out. "If you aren't working and Sunshine has to take extra shifts at the restaurant, when is he going to have time to study?"
Brian tossed his cigarette onto the deck and crushed it. "Listen, Deb, no offense, but how Justin and I handle our affairs is nobody's fucking business but our own. I contribute something and Justin contributes something. The amount of money each of us has isn't the fucking point. It doesn't matter. It's... that we're doing it together. So butt the hell out."
Debbie watched Brian's face as he was making this little speech. There was an expression on it that she had rarely seen in the twenty odd years she'd known him. She almost wasn't certain what to call it. Amazement? Tenderness? Confusion? Or all of those things?
"You really are in love with this kid, aren't you?" Debbie marvelled.
"Go away, Deb," Brian urged. He fumbled in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He needed something stringer than another cigarette, truth be told. But he didn't dare leave the loft with a joint in his pocket anymore, not with Stockwell's goons patrolling every street.
"You know his mom, Jennifer, came to see me at the diner," Debbie informed him.
"Are you and Mother Taylor going to bond over P-FLAG?" Brian laughed. "Why don't you call Joanie and invite her to your next tea party? I'm sure she'd love finding out I was a fag from an expert on fags like yourself."
"You know how I feel about telling your mother, Brian," Debbie reminded him sharply. "You should have told her years ago. But that's not the issue right now. Justin is." Debbie paused, unsure whether to continue. But what the hell? She didn't get the chance to corner Brian very often these days. "Jennifer thinks you're going to hurt Justin. She thinks you're going to break his heart."
Brian winced. "I bet she does. The Big Bad Wolf who has his evil claws in her son." Brian took a deep breath and then left it out noisily. "You never know. I might break his heart. But I think it's a lot more likely that he's going to break mine."
They stood in silence for a moment before Debbie turned and walked back into the house, the screen door slamming behind her. But then Brian heard the door creak open again.
"I thought Deb would never go back inside," said Justin, slipping his arm around Brian's waist. "What were you two gabbing about?"
"My unfortunate unemployment," Brian replied. "My sterling personality. Your ass."
Justin grinned. "You were not!"
"Why not?" said Brian. "Even a straight woman like Debbie Horvath can appreciate a killer ass. And with Horvath around the house, she needs a little fantasy to brighten her dreary days."
"Carl isn't so bad, Brian," Justin insisted. "In fact, he's a great guy. And he's okay-looking. I mean, okay for an old straight guy."
"Yeah, Carl's great," Brian returned. "But he's still a cop. And we're still queers. That's a bad combination in Jim Stockwell's 'Family Friendly' Pittsburgh."
"But what about the gay cops, Brian?" Justin asked. "You know there are some. There have to be."
Brian shuddered, thinking of the trick -- the cop! -- who tried to blow him in the car not long before. "They're all in hiding. Or in denial. Or living in fear. Like everyone these days who isn't walking the 'straight and narrow' -- or pretending to."
In the distance was the sound of another siren. They heard sirens all through the night. Not just downtown, but all over the city. Sirens chasing someone. Sirens coming to someone's rescue. Sirens warning everyone who heard them -- watch out. Watch the fuck out!
Brian pulled Justin closer to him. He could smell something sweet on his breath. One of Darren's rich desserts, most likely. "Be careful, Justin. I'm not kidding. This evening shift you're working now, I don't know about it...."
"I'm fine," Justin cut Brian off, gently but firmly.
He was proud of his job and his independence. He loved Brian's concern, but he didn't want Brian's obsession with Mayor Stockwell and his anti-gay campaign to put the brakes on when everything was going so well. He was making good money on the dinner shift. He was contributing his share to their expenses. And he didn't want that to change. He didn't ever want to feel like Brian's kept boy. "I park in the Watermark lot and I come right home after my shift's over. What could happen to me?"
"Nothing." Brian stared up at the sky. The moon was almost full. "Nothing could happen."
And Justin was fearless. Fucking fearless.
Brian wished that he could say the same for himself.
©Gaedhal, January 2006.
Posted June 14, 2006.