This is Part 1 of a "Beatitudes" Alternate Stream story.
The other sections in "Beatitudes".
Features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Hayden.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin gets some news in a letter. Paris, May 1959.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Je voudrais du café," said Justin to the waiter as he sat down in his favorite café to read his mail. "Oh, and a croissant, s'il vous plait."
Justin liked getting up and going out first thing in the morning before he went home and started to paint. It gave his day some discipline, which he felt he needed because otherwise his life was distinctly lacking in any kind of structure. Justin was afraid of becoming lax and aimless. He took some classes on occasion at painter Lev Tschenko's atelier, but Justin had nothing like the strict schedule he'd had at the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art, so he made one for himself. He often wondered if that was his WASP upbringing at work. Justin could hear his mother's voice saying, 'Plan your day! Do your homework! Budget your time!'
He spread his mail out on the table and decided what he was going to open first. The letter from Daphne, definitely. She would have all the gossip about his friends at the coffeehouse and the diner. And Emmett always added a little postscript of his own to Daph's letter. Justin opened Daphne's envelope in happy anticipation.
While Justin read, the waiter brought his coffee and croissant. Justin chewed on the warm croissant as he read about Daphne's date with a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon who was writing his thesis on anarchist movements in 19th century Russia. And about Emmett's new job at a clothing store on Liberty Avenue. Justin was glad. Emmett loved fashion and a clothing store would be perfect for him. Too bad he wasn't here in Paris. He might be able to get a job in one of the couture houses. Justin and Brian had a few ins with a couple of the younger designers.
"Justin!" A cheery voice interrupted his reading. "Where's your friend Brian?"
"Hello, Hayden," Justin answered. Hayden fancied himself a poet and was always trying to get Brian to read his extremely bad poetry. The only reason they tolerated Hayden at all was because he was living in Paris on a very large trust fund and was always good at springing for dinners and good bottles of wine, but privately Brian referred to him as 'Hard-on.' "Hayden, you know Brian never gets up this early. So, do you want to sit down or something?"
"Sure!" Hayden pulled out a chair and called over the waiter. "I want one of those crescent roll things and some coffee. And bring lots of cream and sugar!" he ordered the waiter in a loud voice. Hayden said everything at top volume. "So, how's tricks, Justy?"
Justin looked up from his letter. "Tricks? You mean literally?" Justin grinned, but Hayden was completely oblivious. He had known Justin and Brian for about six months and still hadn't figured out what their relationship was, even though he'd seen them holding hands and kissing on the street. Hayden thought that in France all men held hands and kissed each other. "I'm reading the word from home. A letter from my friend Daphne."
"Oh," said Hayden. "Your girlfriend back in Philadelphia."
"Pittsburgh, Hayden. And Daphne isn't my girlfriend." Justin rolled his eyes and tried to finish reading his letter.
"Did Brian get a chance to read my new poem?" Hayden continued. "I gave it to him about a week ago and I haven't heard from him since."
Justin sighed. "He's been really busy, Hayden." Justin thought of Brian glancing at Hayden's poem, then ripping it into shreds and flushing it, piece by piece, down the nearest pissotière. "That wasn't your only copy of that poem, was it?"
"Oh, no, I have plenty. Do you need more?" Hayden answered eagerly.
"No! The one you gave Brian is fine, I'm sure," Justin said. Brian would hit the ceiling if he brought home any more of Hayden's poetry.
Justin finished Daph's letter, then opened the one from his grandmother. It was just a short note -- and a check for a hundred bucks. Justin smiled and slipped the check into his pocket. That was next month's rent right there.
"So, are you fellows going to Betsy Anson's party on Friday?" Hayden inquired, mentioning another trust-fund baby. Like Hayden, she had a large apartment and unlimited cash.
"Of course. Betsy always has throws good parties." With lots of catered food and free booze, thought Justin. He opened up his final letter. It was from his mother, Jennifer Taylor. Justin read the first few lines and almost knocked over his coffee. "Holy shit!"
"Justin, what's wrong?" said Hayden in alarm. "Did somebody die?"
"No. Nothing's wrong... I think. It's just that... my mother is getting married. This week! My God!"
"Your mother? Back in Philadelphia?"
Justin rolled his eyes again. Hayden was an idiot. "In Pittsburgh. She's been dating this guy for a while. He's a professor at Carnegie Mellon and she's a real estate agent. She sold him a house last year when he moved into town to take his position at the university. They've been seeing each other ever since, but I didn't think they were going to get married."
"Are you going to the wedding?"
Justin kept reading. "I don't think so. They are getting married in a small ceremony at his house. He got a grant to travel to Europe and they decided to get married right away and use the grant to take a honeymoon... They are coming here!" Justin blinked in disbelief. "They're coming here -- to Paris!"
"Don't you want them to come, Justy?"
Justin shook his head. "Sure, I want them to come, but I never thought...." Justin was always writing and encouraging his mother to visit Paris, but he never in a million years thought she would ever really come.
"You'll have to take them out to some really great places, Justy. It'll be fun to show them around the city," said Hayden. "When my mother came to visit me she spent most of her time at Chanel, getting fittings. Maybe you could take her there?"
"I don't think so, Hayden," Justin replied. "People don't wear a lot of Chanel couture in Pittsburgh. This professor she's marrying will probably want to go to all the museums and places like that."
"What's he a professor of?"
Justin frowned, thinking. "History. Or English. I forget. Mom doesn't mention that kind of stuff much. I wonder how long they'll be here?"
"Will they stay at your flat?" Hayden asked.
Justin laughed. "I don't think so!" Jesus, thought Justin. They better not be expecting to stay at our place. Then Justin remembered his mother's horror at their pad in Pittsburgh and he doubted that Jennifer Taylor would trust anywhere Justin and Brian chose to live to be fit for human habitation. "Wait until Brian hears about this."
"Has he met your mother?"
"Oh, yeah," said Justin. "We've been together since before we came to Paris. We lived together in Pittsburgh, too, before Brian got into some trouble over his poems. We split for New York and stayed there a while, then we came over here. Brian and Mom get along great. Well, maybe not great, but okay. But I don't know this new boyfriend at all. Or new husband, rather."
"Stepfather," said Hayden.
"Huh?" Justin looked up.
"He's your new stepfather. That's always lots of fun -- meeting the new stepfather. And I ought to know. My mother's been married five times!" Hayden giggled like a girl at his own humor.
"You're right. This man is going to be my stepfather. And Molly's, too!"
"My little sister. And I don't even know what this guy is like!" Yes, thought Justin. What has Mom told him about me? Or about Brian? What if he's some kind of bourgeois bigot? Like my own father. Who hates me. Justin slumped down in his chair a little. He'd tried writing Craig Taylor, first from the Village and then from Paris, but his father had never answered. And Jennifer rarely mentioned him in her letters, except to say that Molly was staying with him or to complain that he'd been late with his alimony payments again. Brian always told Justin to forget it, that Craig wasn't worth's Justin's tears, but Justin couldn't help it. He had loved his father and the man's rejection hurt badly. And now he'd have a new stepfather. That was a weird feeling.
Justin stood up and put a few francs on the table to pay for his breakfast. "I've got to go and tell Brian about this. I'll see you around, Hayden."
"Don't forget to ask him about my poem!" Hayden called. But Justin didn't look back.
Justin hiked up the four flights of stairs to their flat. Brian liked living on top floors. Their loft in Pittsburgh had been on the top floor, too, but at least it had been serviced by a freight elevator. Justin's legs were in great shape from climbing all these stairs.
Brian was, of course, still snoring away in bed. Justin opened up a window to let the May breeze inside and then began getting his paints ready for the day. He thought about waking up Brian and telling him about his mother's visit, but there was plenty of time for that later after Brian had a chance to come back to consciousness naturally.
Justin walked around the bed, picking up the clothes that Brian had dropped on the floor the night before. Justin shook them out before he hung them up. They smelled strongly of smoke. The cafés and clubs were always swirling with the heavy smoke of strong, dark French cigarettes. That was one of the reasons why Justin didn't spend a lot of time in those places -- they set off his allergies. Once, after an all-night session sitting and listening to Brian argue with a French Dadaist over the meaning of some obscure poem that had been published in 'Crash!' a small avant garde magazine, Justin had a full-blown asthma attack from breathing in the smog of all those small, powerful Gauloises and Gitanes everyone smoked. That was why Brian rarely lit up in the flat, to spare his lover any more attacks. And to spare himself, too. Brian's own lungs weren't all that strong, either. It had been a very cold winter in 1959 and Brian had suffered through a bout of pleurisy that kept him bed for almost a month. Whenever Justin heard that hacking smoker's cough when Brian was getting up, he wanted to throw Brian's box of Gauloises out the window.
Brian heard Justin bustling around the flat and he groaned and moved around in the bed. He lifted his head and looked blearily in Justin's general direction. "What the fuck time is it?"
"Almost 11:00," Justin answered. He was checking his brushes and laying them out on his little work table.
"Fuck," said Brian. And then he coughed. And then again.
Justin sighed and walked over to the bedside, where Brian was groping for his cigarettes. Justin picked up the pack of Gauloises, walked to the open window, and tossed them out.
"You little bastard!" Brian sputtered. "That was my last fucking pack!"
"I know. Now get up and drink your juice." Justin pulled the duvet off Brian. His long body looked golden and inviting in the morning light. "I want you to pose for me."
"Shit," he said, sitting up. "Don't you have enough drawings of my dick?"
"This is a painting. A commission. From that decorator who has the shop on the rue de Rivoli." Justin looked over the canvases that he had already stretched and selected the largest one.
"That dirty old man? Jesus, Justin!" Brian grimaced as he strolled over to the small ice box and opened it, looking for some juice. "What does he want a painting of me for?"
"He doesn't, specifically. He wants a 'tasteful nude' to place in his sitting room. He gave me the colors he wants as accents. Gold and blue."
"The French royal colors. Gee, how original. And since when is my dick 'tasteful'?" Brian griped. He hated posing. It was boring. And he hated being still for too long. Unless he was passed out, then it wasn't bad.
"I can work miracles and make even your cock suitable for an elite salon. That's why I'm making enough money to keep us afloat," Justin pointed out.
"Big fucking deal." Brian knew it shouldn't bug him that Justin was pretty much supporting both of them, but that was the reality. When they first got to Paris, they were crashing with some friends of Clark, the writer Brian knew from Penn State who now lived in Greenwich Village. Clark had written to his expatriate buddies in Paris before Brian and Justin got on the freighter for France, and they had welcomed the pair into their group. But it was crowded in the flat and all of the guys were straight, which made fucking in peace a chore. Not that the other guys minded, but it was... awkward.
So Brian went to work. He found out quickly that the same elements that made his services in demand in Pittsburgh -- his 9-inch cock, his looks, his James Dean attitude -- also made him popular with Frenchmen, who were enamored of a certain kind of seedy American popular culture. The Frogs liked the rough stuff. They liked him to play the tough guy, the surly American punk. And homesick tourists looking for someone they could talk to before and after a fuck also found Brian's talents to their liking.
But the money wasn't great. Things were cheaper in Paris than in the States, but so were the pay-offs. Hustling every day to make the rent on their newly acquired flat, not to mention Justin's paints and canvases, and other necessities, like booze and cigarettes and even food, was starting to seem like real work to Brian. And he didn't like real work. Not at all.
All this time Brian was writing and publishing quite a lot. Poems, essays, reviews, commentaries -- everything he wrote found some sort of venue. But these avant garde magazines and left-wing newspapers for the most part paid little or nothing. They were run on a shoestring or on someone's student grant or trust fund and they depended on their snob cache to fill their pages. Sometimes the editors paid Brian off in a bottle of wine and once in an old typewriter that had been lying around an office unused, but rarely in cash. Brian had also begun placing things in some American journals, but it was much the same there -- the payment was mostly an honorarium and certainly not the kind of money anyone could live on, let alone two energetic and hungry men.
So Justin went to work. He drew and painted furiously that first summer. Every morning Brian helped Justin drag his canvases to the areas around the Left Bank where the artists set up their paintings for the tourists to peruse. While Justin smiled ingratiatingly at the wives and talked to them about art, Brian trolled the bored husbands who were looking for a little unusual diversion during their stay in the City of Amour.
Justin made some important contacts among the other artists, who were amused more than threatened by the pretty American blond boy with the tall, inscrutable boyfriend. He was more like a sweet little brother than a rival. They gave Justin hints about where to buy his supplies, where to eat cheaply, which cafés were au courant and which passé, and also who to cultivate to get one's work noticed. Justin's scenes of Paris sold well enough to American tourists, but it was his drawings and paintings of Brian that got the attention of the local gentlemen who had money. Designers and decorators and gourmands who belonged to a certain coterie of successful homosexuals discovered Justin -- and Brian, too -- fairly swiftly. They bought a few of Justin's smaller works and then came back, often with a specific request for a special kind of work or a commission for a portrait of a lover. These pictures were of a type that Justin could never openly display to his lady tourists, but they proved extremely popular privately. One series of explicit drawings of Brian and him together in various interesting poses was so successful that Justin had prints made, which he offered as a set for $100.
Eventually, the boys had enough money laid away that Brian quit hustling and focused on his writing. He still picked up some cash posing for other artists, especially at the atelier presided over by a Russian painter and teacher named Lev Tschenko, where Justin went for weekly studio instruction. Both Brian and Justin sat for Tschenko's students in lieu of payment for the classes. And, more recently, Brian had done some modeling for one of the couture houses, who were always in need of tall, slender male models with a certain American attitude. Brian made some serious money doing this kind of work, but he hated it with a passion. The whole snotty world of haute couture rubbed against his anarchistic grain. But he did like the cash.
Brian went into the tiny bathroom and pissed. He peered at himself in the mirror and noted that his eyes were red. He brushed his teeth with a little peroxide and then rinsed with Listerine. He was trying not to get sick -- hence the juice that Justin insisted he drink every morning -- but it was difficult. Being sick over the winter had thrown him for a loop. Ever since he'd been wounded in Korea and then gotten pneumonia, his lungs were a big weakness. He was trying to quit the cigarettes, but it was hard. He was nervous and smoking soothed him. It also helped him think while he was writing. But smoking wasn't good for him and it set off Justin's allergies, too. And there wasn't any extra bread to waste on doctors, so if one of them got sick, they just had to tough it out. Luckily, the kid seemed to have the constitution of a bull, but Brian hadn't been as fortunate.
Brian stalked out into the room, scratching himself. Justin was moving the old settee into place in front of the large window where it would catch the afternoon light. He threw a length of blue material over the settee and arranged it. It was some kind of serge, but he had to paint it to look like silk. It really shouldn't matter, Justin sighed. If anyone was paying attention to the material on the settee instead of the figure he was planning to paint, then the painting would be a total failure. Then Brian plopped down on top of it all, making Justin's the arrangement useless.
"What do you want? How about jerking off?" Brian suggested. "You could catch me in mid-wank."
"I told you this is supposed to be a tasteful painting!" Justin replied. "For a sitting room, not someone's private playroom. I was thinking of something more classical."
"What about a satyr? You could paint some horns on my head, with me chasing around some blond Greek boys."
"Brian, just lie down and shut up. I need to think about this." Justin walked back and forth, looking at Brian different angles. "And try not to fall asleep."
Brian yawned and scratched himself some more, trying to stay awake. He started thinking about a review of a new poetry collection he was supposed to write for 'The Left Bank Review' but the poems were so mediocre that he couldn't work up enough enthusiasm to keep his attention focused. Watching Justin move purposefully around the room made him hard, so he stroked his cock lazily. Maybe Justin should take up photography. It was a lot quicker. You didn't have to hold a pose for so long. Justin could simply snap the photo and then they could fuck for the rest of the afternoon. But Justin couldn't afford a good camera and the tourists didn't pay cash for photographs. It was Paris, the center of "Art" with a capital A and all the tourists wanted a painting. But dirty French postcards were always in demand. Maybe they could save up for a decent camera and Justin could get into that line of work. I would be a natural at that kind of modeling, he thought. We both would be.
"Will you stop playing with yourself, Brian? I'm trying to figure out a good pose and you're distracting me." Justin was all business when it came to a commission.
"Why do you think I'm doing it?" Brian answered.
"Don't be evil. I'm working."
"So am I," Brian replied languidly.
"Oh, by the way, I saw Hayden at the café and he wanted to know how you liked his poem." Justin raised his eyebrows. "How did it stack up, Brian?"
"Oh, about up to par with Hayden's usual masterpieces. I flushed it right where it belonged, with all the other merde." Brian sniffed. "Hayden will never give up, but as long as he has money I'll continue to 'critique' his work."
"But Brian, you never tell him anything at all!" Justin tried positioning Brian on his stomach with his ass front and center. Since the decorator wanted something for his sitting room, Justin thought maybe Brian's dick might be a little too obvious for that part of the house. However, Brian's ass was fairly aesthetic, if a tad flat. Justin could always round it out a bit in the painting.
"I know, but I say it in a way that sounds like I'm telling him something. He'll never admit that he doesn't understand that the hell I'm talking about." Brian leaned his face against the cushion. In this position he was certain to fall asleep in about five minutes. "Do you think you could get me some juice?"
Justin sighed. "I thought you already drank it!"
"Then get me a cigarette instead."
"I'll get you more juice." Justin went to the kitchen and found the container of juice. He'd bought a bag of Spanish oranges and squeezed and strained them all the other day. He was determined to get some vitamins into Brian -- and without vodka, the way he usually preferred it. "Here. Drink it all."
"Thanks, Mom." Brian sipped the juice. It was bitter, but he'd had worse stuff in his mouth. He finished it quickly and set the glass on the floor next to the settee.
"Speaking of which, Brian. I got a letter from my mother this morning." Justin didn't mention his grandmother's check for $100 or Brian would have it spent before nightfall. Justin was saving that money for the rent.
"What's up in the Pitts?"
"Not much... except that she's getting married. This week."
Brian looked up. "Married? Without her baby boy there?"
"It's just a small ceremony at the guy's house. But here's the interesting part...."
"Believe me, Justin, there's nothing interesting about a couple of straight suburban WASPs getting married, even if one of them is your mother!"
Justin took a deep breath. "It's interesting when she writes me to say that they'll be here in Paris sometime next week. On their honeymoon. And that they can't wait to see us. Both of us."
Brian sat up on the settee. "Shit."
"That's what I said." Justin put his hand on Brian's shoulder.
Brian glanced around the flat. "They aren't... staying here, are they?"
Justin raised one eyebrow. "I doubt it, Brian. I don't think my mom wants to spend her honeymoon sharing a bed with her new husband, her son, and his male lover."
"Thank God!" said Brian. "And who said that being a queer wasn't good for something?" Brian grabbed Justin's wrist and pulled him down onto the settee. "I can think of some other things it's good for, too." Brian began wrestling off Justin's loose fitting workpants.
"Brian, you're supposed to be posing. On your stomach."
"I'm not very familiar with that position. You'll have to show me how it's done."
Before he knew it, Justin was face down on the settee, his ample rump in the air, with Brian working his long cock up and down Justin's crack. Well, thought Justin, this was one way to get Brian settled down. After a good orgasm he'd go along with just about anything and pose quietly for the rest of the afternoon. And Justin would use the energy from the fuck to get a nice start on the new painting. Yes, it might be a really good one. The painting, that is. The quality of the fucking -- that was a foregone conclusion!
©Gaedhal, April 2004.
Posted April 13, 2004.