THE HUSTLE

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 58 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", the previous chapter.

Narrated by Jennifer Taylor and Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Melanie Marcus, Lindsay Peterson, Gus, Molly Taylor, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin talks to his mother about going to London. Los Angeles/Pittsburgh, June 2002.
Author's Note: Thanks to Susan S. for the edits and critiques. Who else would do this thankless task?
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 seems like ages since I've seen my son, let alone sat down and talked to him for more than five minutes. I know he has a life, a job, his school-work, all those important things. But I wish he would take at least a few moments to remember me. To acknowledge that I'm his mother and I care about him. That I love him and always will. No matter what.

But, of course, there's always Brian.

There was Brian's big trip back to Pittsburgh. After being gone all that time and breaking my son's heart over and over as Justin moped around that damned loft, all it took was for him to show up and -- Bingo! -- Justin was welded to him like they'd never been apart.

That makes me so angry that I have to take a deep breath and step away.

Because it's so much my own fault. I've acted stupidly in the past. Maybe not as stupidly as Brian. And certainly not as stupidly as my oblivious ex-husband. But stupidly, yes.

First, by not understanding how powerful Justin's feelings were from the beginning. Not acknowledging them. Telling myself -- and him -- that he was too young to have such feelings. Too young to know what he wanted from life. And, being my stubborn son, he set about to prove me wrong.

Then, I acted stupidly after his attack. Not telling him about Brian's visits was unfair. Then forbidding Brian from seeing him was another mistake. They only threw Justin into an emotional tailspin that took a long time for him to get over. I blame myself for that.

Then, it was wrong just to hand my son over to this other man because I couldn't handle him. Instead of trying to deal with him, or getting him the psychological help he needed, I took the easy way out and let Brian take over. I evaded my responsibilities as a mother. That's one I am still paying for in sleepless nights.

I should have known that Justin would never retreat from Brian. That once he was living in the loft, he would never leave voluntarily. He'd have to be carried out, kicking and screaming. And I'm not strong enough to pick him up and carry him away. Not anymore.

So, just as I find myself breathing a sigh of relief that Brian has once again safely left town, Justin appears at my door to say that Lindsay has invited him to go to Los Angeles with her. This is to take care of Gus, he says. But it's about Brian. Another way to see him. To get close to him. No matter that Brian is living out there with someone else. That doesn't deter my son one little bit. I try to reason with him. Try to show him the futility of this non-relationship. But he only smiles at me, condescendingly. How can I, only his mother after all, possibly understand this great romance? This great love affair that looks -- to me at least -- to be nothing more than my poor son's wishful fantasy mated to Brian Kinney's desire for an easy lay whenever he's in town! It's beyond frustrating!

Has Dear Abby ever dealt with anything like this? If we were a family from a trailer park instead of the Arcadian Country Club, then I'd just drag us ALL on 'The Jerry Springer Show' and have us settle it there with a massive free-for-all. Justin. Brian. Craig. What's his name? Ron. Maybe throw Debbie in there as well. And Chris Hobbs, too. Why not add in the pathetic creep who tried to murder my son and got away with it scot-free? Yes, it would be a ratings winner, for certain.

I know Justin is due to return to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but I don't know when. I call Melanie, the woman Lindsay lives with, and get the information.

"Do you want to go out with me to the airport to meet him, Mrs. Taylor?" she asks.

"Yes," I say. "I want to meet my son and take him back to my condo. Have him spend a little time with me and Molly." So we can start fresh for the summer, I want to add. A summer when Justin has planned to work at the comic book store to save some money to put toward his tuition. And also make extra progress on his art projects. A productive summer that I want to include me and his sister. A chance for us all to reconnect and re-strengthen our little family unit. After the divorce and the aftermath of Justin's attack, it's something we all need very badly.

***

When Brian pulls the Mustang into the driveway of Ron's house, we both look at each and take a deep breath. Brian is ready for another confrontation, but I pray silently that there won't be one. That everything is just let go for the time being. I'm already overly emotional, between the thing with Ron, confessing it (well, most of it) to Brian and Diane, and then anticipating leaving Brian and going back to Pittsburgh, it is almost too much for my nerves. I'm either on the verge of a panic attack or a crying jag. The only thing that keeps me from losing it totally is Brian's hand grasping mine so tightly all the way back in the car.

He opens the garage door -- and the Jaguar is gone.

'No shit," breaths Brian. "He's gotten his ass out of here."

We walk into the house and face a belligerent Lindsay.

"What in hell is going on here, Brian? You are supposed to take us to the airport today and I wake up and find you gone, Justin gone, and Ron practically bites my head off when I ask what is happening!"

Lindsay has piled her suitcases and Gus's bag next to the kitchen door. I go, very quietly and cautiously, to the poolhouse and retrieve my own bag. I still have that feeling that eyes are all over me like insects. When I come back to the kitchen, Brian is standing there, being reamed out by Lindsay -- and silently taking it.

I want to come to his defense, but Brian catches my eye. Don't, is what he's signaling. If you need to tell her anything, then wait until you are on the plane. Wait until you are safe. I understand it, but it isn't easy to hear Lindsay's tirade. She seems to think that Brian and I went out and spent our last night on some sex-and-drugs binge. That's what Ron told her. It figures he would say that.

Carmel and Maria are looking at the two of us, shaking their heads and sneering. I know they don't like Brian. Now they think I'm a bad person, too. Not fit to take care of Gus, I'm sure. Well, I don't give a shit what they think! It's all lies! They should only know what their illustrious employer is really up to. They probably wouldn't believe it even if they saw the videos themselves.

But it's easy to believe the worst of Brian. And easy for him to lower his head and just let them censure him. He's taking it in order to take the heat off of me. I know that. It makes me want to jump in there and save him, the way he has always saved me, over and over again. I look at the ladies and lift my head up, meeting their gaze. Screw you, I want to say! Think what you want to, but I know better. I know the truth about Brian -- and that's all that matters!

After Lindsay calms down, Brian goes upstairs to change his clothes. I pull a clean top, pants, and underwear out of my bag to replace the clothes I slept in. Then I follow him up. I hear him go into the shower and, as soon as I hear the water turn on, I lock the bedroom door and take my clothes off. We couldn't do anything in the car, and when we got to Diane's we were both too drained, physically and emotionally, to even try it.

But I'm not drained now. In fact, doing it in Ron's own bathroom -- for the second time, actually -- will feel really good. I've got a condom in my hand, too, just in case Ron has been 'housecleaning,' as Brian calls it.

I open up the door of the shower stall and he turns around. "You have got to be kidding!" he says.

"I've never been more serious," I say, moving against him.

"You know that we have to get to the airport to make that flight, don't you?"

"Then what are you doing wasting my time talking? If we miss it because you were arguing with me instead of fucking me, then it will be totally YOUR fault. So get busy," I open up my hand and show him the condom. "See? I'm always prepared and always safe, just like you said I should."

"Damn it! You really have turned out to be the finest homosexual you could be."

"Only because I had an excellent teacher," I smile.

But then he looks serious. "Justin -- this isn't going to end here. You realize that, don't you? I don't want you to worry about it or brood about it. I'll handle everything -- in my own way. I'll make certain that you won't be harmed or embarrassed by anything that I let happen while you were under this roof. Okay?"

I put my arms around him as the water cascades down on both of us. "Just save the oaths of revenge for after you've fucked my brains out. And I mean that."

***

"Look! Here they are already!" says Melanie.

We are standing behind the security barrier at the end of the concourse. They won't let us non-ticketed persons go to the gate.

"Hey, guys! That was quick. You just landed!" Melanie takes Lindsay in her arms and hugs her tightly. I know that Melanie has the same fear that I do. The fear of losing her loved one to Brian.

What IS it about Brian? He's like an infection of some sort that people catch and can't get rid of. But even that analogy scares me. Especially when I think of the things Brian's supposedly done. All of the men... and then my son! I think of the... diseases out there. What Justin could be exposed to -- all through Brian. THAT terrifies me. But Justin won't listen to reason. He's beyond reason where Brian is concerned.

He comes through the barrier, Gus squirming in his arms. I hug both of them. "We were the first off the plane! Brian upgraded us to First Class. It was awesome!" Justin is beaming at me and my heart bursts.

We walk to the luggage claim and Lindsay and Justin can't stop talking about their fabulous trip. The restaurants. The stores. The houses. Having dinner with Jimmy Hardy and his wife.

"Mom -- I met Patrick Swayze! At the racetrack! Brian was freaking out!" Justin is talking so fast he's practically babbling. "I won some money, too -- $130! Brian was the only one to pick a winner all day. It was fun."

"That sounds exciting, honey." Always Brian. Always.

"And I might be in a magazine! Me and Gus. The guy took our pictures for 'Vanity Fair'! He asked me if I wanted to be a model, but he was only trying to get into my pants."

"Justin!" Melanie looks shocked, but Lindsay just giggles. I don't know how to react.

"It's true. He wanted to do some test shots of me. Nude."

"Oh, dear." Yes -- oh, dear!

"But then Brian came out and the guy forgot all about me."

Lindsay nods. "They are rather up front out in L.A., that's for certain."

"There's nothing wrong with posing nude, Mom," says Justin. "They do it for my life class. There's nothing dirty about the human form."

"I never said there was, Justin."

"Brian took HIS clothes off without hesitating for some photos. If you are comfortable with yourself, it shouldn't bother you." There's a defensive edge to his voice suddenly.

"I... I agree. That's what makes it art, honey," I say, but my mind is whirling. Why was Brian posing for nude pictures? In front of my son? And Lindsay? What the heck was going on out there in Los Angeles?

We collect Justin's small suitcase and walk out to my car. Melanie, Lindsay, and Gus go the other way. Justin and Lindsay share a big hug before they part. Justin kisses Gus. My heart does a little turn inside me when I watch Justin with that baby. My heart breaks when I think that Justin will probably never have any children of his own.

"Justin, I thought we'd go to the condo," I say as we drive away from the airport. "Maybe you could stay in your old room for a few days? Do a few things with me and Molly? We could go out to dinner at that pizza place you used to like?"

"Mom, I want to go back to the loft."

"But Justin, I don't think it's a good idea for you to be hanging around the loft all summer."

Justin frowns at me. "I'm not 'hanging around' the loft, Mom. I live there! It's my home! It has been for a long time." He crosses his arms over his chest. That's a blocking move if ever I saw one.

"But Justin, it's only a place. You are staying there, but...."

"Mom! Accept it! I live there! I live with Brian there." He sits with a dreamy expression on his face. "I told Daphne the very first week I knew Brian that someday we'd BE together. That we'd live together." He turns to me. "See how things work out?"

I am beside myself. How can I make my son understand that he is NOT with Brian. He's NOT living with him! Brian isn't even in this city! He's across the country, living with some other man! Can't Justin SEE that. For heaven's sake, he just came from being out there -- didn't THAT open his eyes at all?

But Justin is still sitting next to me, smiling. He turns to me. "It really IS amazing how things have worked out!"

***

The flight across the continent depresses me, even though First Class is wonderful. When Brian checks us in at the Trans-Con counter he talks to the woman, who taps at her terminal and nods a few times.

"I forgot to tell you," he says. "But earlier in the week I called and upgraded you to First Class. I don't want you to have to fly with the baby all cramped up the whole way to Pittsburgh."

"Brian! You didn't have to do that!" says Lindsay, kissing him. Her earlier exasperation at Brian vanished the minute she realized that we wouldn't be late for the flight -- even after our little detour in the shower. And now -- he's a total hero again.

Just before we board the plane, I get a flashback to Brian getting on the plane at JFK and leaving me behind. Now he's being left behind. With Ron. And Ron's anger. Brian doesn't seem afraid, but I'm afraid for him. Because he's all alone here. Well, Diane is in town -- but that's not like someone right there with him. The way I should be there with him.

Michael would say that I should just stay, no matter what Ron has done to me. What 'Boy Wonder' would cut out the minute he got a little scared? The minute things got rough? But it's Brian who is insisting. Putting me on the plane. Making certain that I'm safe.

The last thing he says before I walk through the security gate is "Later."

I have to turn my head away so he won't see the look on my face.

***

"Isn't this nice, Justin?"

We are in this pizza place Mom used to take us to when I was younger. Like three years ago. It's okay and everything, but nothing like the places Brian took us in L.A. He knows all the good restaurants.

I mean, Mom is trying and everything, She's trying to make it seem like this is just great and aren't we a great family and all that. How the stuff she does is better than what Brian does. She doesn't seem to grasp that it isn't a contest. She isn't in competition with Brian. She's my mother, not my lover, and that isn't an equivalent thing! She just doesn't want to understand that. This is MY life and she won't -- or can't -- accept the fact.

As we sit there and eat the pizza and Molly chatters on about her day camp, I try to think of a way to broach the subject that can no longer wait. London. Because I'm leaving in less than two weeks and I haven't told her I'm going yet. Plus, I'm anxious to get back to the loft because I'm waiting for my passport to come. I need to know if it's here. Every minute I have to sit and make small talk is another minute I don't know if I should start panicking.

I know that when Mom finds out that I'm planning to spend half the summer in another country with Brian she's going to flip out. I tried to tell her before I left for California, but she was so upset by my going out there that telling her my other plans just wasn't possible. But I can't put it off much longer.

"I thought we could go and visit Grandma for a few days. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Justin?"

"Um, Mom...." She isn't listening to me. As usual.

"And my cousin Georgia told me that we could go up and use their summer cottage for a weekend. You and me and Molly. There's a lake up there and you can swim and have lots of fun."

"Mom...." Mom! Stop for two seconds!

"And maybe you can meet some... people your own age this summer. Last summer was so difficult when you were recovering. I know it was impossible for you to do all the normal and fun things you like to do during your summer break. I want to make certain that you have the opportunity to do those things this year."

"Mom, I've been trying to tell you...."

She finally stops, that puzzled expression on her face. She has every moment of my summer all planned out and can't understand why I'm not jumping up and down with joy.

"Mom, if you'll only listen." Finally, I have her attention. "Mom, I can't go to the cottage with you. Or to Grandma's."

"Why ever not, Justin?" She stares at me. Molly is now staring, too.

"Because...." Here goes! "I'm going to England. That's why I needed to apply for my passport. Not because I'm going on a program abroad next year. I need it NOW. Because I'm leaving in two weeks."

"Leaving? In two weeks? But how?" She's flustered now. She fumbles with her napkin.

"Yes. I should have told you -- but I didn't know how you'd take it." Boy, is that ever the truth!

"But, Justin -- how can you afford to go to London this summer? I thought you were going to work to save some money to pay back Bri...." She pauses and something hits her. "Oh. I see. You're going with HIM. Brian is taking you -- and paying your way. Am I correct, Justin? Is that it?" She snatches up her slice of pizza and points it at me like a weapon.

"Mom, you make it sound so... wrong somehow." Now I feel guilty somehow. How does she manage to take something so great and make me feel guilty about it?

"And what about it is right, honey?" She puts down her piece of pizza and leans at me. "Justin, I don't like the idea of Brian paying for so many things. Of you owing him so much -- your tuition, the loft, the Jeep, California with First Class airfare! And now this trip to England. It just seems... it looks like...."

"Like what, Mom?" I say. I feel myself flushing bright red.

She backs off, unsettled, and doesn't answer.

But I understand what she means. Yes, I understand. "You don't like it because you think that the only reason Brian could possibly be interested in me is for sex, right?"

"Justin, keep your voice down!" She glances at Molly, who is looking on with great interest.

"Why, Mom? Don't you want everyone here to know that you think your son is whoring himself out for a trip to London? Or hustling the price of my tuition? Which, by the way, my own FATHER refused to pay? But Brian IS paying it so I don't have to drop out and give up my dream of being an artist. And that's wrong to you, Mom -- is that it?"

"Justin, you are twisting everything around! I love you, honey, and I don't want to see you hurt or indebted to someone who... who is only using you!"

There. She said it. That's what she thinks. THAT is the reality to her. Brian is using me.

"Am I twisting things? Brian MUST be using me? That's what you think of me, I know. Why not? You don't have any confidence in me or my talent, Mom. There's no way I could ever repay Brian! Especially not after I got bashed, right? So, why not use the ONLY thing I have of value? My ass. That's what you really believe, isn't it?"

I feel my face getting so hot that I have to take a drink of lemonade to cool myself. I actually want to throw the cold liquid and the ice right on my face, but that wouldn't go over very well in the Napoli Pizza Parlor.

"Justin, please don't get hysterical." She's glancing at Molly, looking at her reaction. Fuck! Molly's seen me freak out before, and a lot worse.

"Why not? Isn't that what little faggots do? Throw hysterical fits? I'll try not to embarrass you anymore, Mom."

I do my deep breathing exercises, holding off the anxiety. I also clench and unclench my bad hand. Diane taught me to do that. She said I should try to release tension through it. Use that weakness in my hand to channel strength into the rest of my body. And it works! Diane is fucking awesome! She'd know just what to say to my Mom. How to make her understand. She knows people so well....

Of course, my mother would hate her, too, if she knew that Diane used to be a whore. And Brian, of course. So, I guess I'm in good company.

***

As usual, I lose my cool completely when Justin tells me about this London thing.

It's just that he already is so indebted to Brian, at this rate there's no way he'll EVER be free of that man!

I keep saying 'No, no!' when Justin accuses me of believing that he's bartering himself -- his body and his soul -- to get things from Brian. I say 'No' -- but that's exactly what I think! My son has sold himself and he doesn't even seem to care! He's proud of it, in fact!

This is what his precious Brian has taught him. I know that circumstances were not kind to Brian when he was at a vulnerable age. That he had to do certain things in order to survive. That he was a hustler. Yes -- trading sex for money and drugs and God knows what else. That's what the big scandal about that movie was all about. I haven't seen it, but I heard all the talk in the diner and even on the street around Liberty Avenue. I heard Debbie and Vic whispering about it. It absolutely shocked me when I found out the truth -- and I had thought I was beyond being shocked by anything Brian did.

But now I feel he's taught my son to be a hustler, too. Only it isn't as overt. Instead of cash, it's a computer, or his tuition, or that studio Brian had built below the loft. What are those things FOR if not some kind of payment in kind? Payment for the use of Justin, whenever he wants him. What does Debbie say? 'Taking it out in trade." Well, I don't want my son to be taken out in trade like some boy off the streets. Who knows where it will end?

It would be one thing if Brian were here, in town, living with Justin in the loft. I was uneasy about their relationship when it began again, but at least I understood it AS a relationship. I know that Brian cares about Justin, maybe even loves him -- if he's at all capable of love. But it certainly isn't that now. Especially with this other man in the picture. It looks from my vantage point that Brian is hustling this older man out in Hollywood. Taking gifts from him, cars and clothes, a role in his movie. A person that he barely knew for one day before he left town with him! I don't know what you'd call THAT if not a hustle? Selling yourself out for some kind of gain?

And this is the life that my son is learning to live with Brian.

***

I make my mom drop me off at the loft. I take my case and my carry-on, too. I'm not going to be staying at her condo even for one night. It's the principle of the thing.

She can hardly look me in the eye as she says goodnight and take care of yourself. I know she wants me to come back with her. Be a part of her family fantasy. Because that's what it is now -- a fantasy. And she's disappointed in me. She thinks I should have come to some sort of realization out in L.A. And I did -- but not the one she thinks.

My mother thinks my eyes should have been opened out in California. That I should have seen Brian 'for what he is' -- and I have. I HAVE seen him for what he is. And I know I love him more than ever before. THAT isn't a fantasy. That's the ONLY truth in my life! But my mom will never understand that. And trying to make her understand is hopeless.

I collect the pile of mail that has backed up in the box. Bills, mainly, magazines. A copy of the new 'Vanity Fair'! I laugh to think I might be IN that magazine someday!

And there it is. THE envelope. My passport. I rip it open and run my hands all over it. I open it up and look at my photo. All my information. My name. Birthdate. Place of birth. My whole life -- so far. The leaves in it are all empty, but I dream of filling those pages up with stamps from all the countries that I've been to. All the places that I've visited -- with Brian.

I race up the stairs to the loft and unlock the door.

I can hardly wait to call Brian's cellphone and tell him that it's here. My passport is HERE and I'm really going!

Because after everything that has happened to us, I'm not about to let my mom or my dad or Ron or anyone under the sun keep us from being together! And that's the simple truth.

Continue on to "Fireworks -- Part 1", the next chapter.

©Gaedhal, July 2002

Updated July 26, 2002