This is Part 1
The other sections in "The Angel Stream".
Pittsburgh, February 2005
The bitter cold gripped the city tightly.
Brian pulled his dark green classic Corvette Stingray into a parking space as near to the Liberty Diner as he could find. Winter was a bitch. Snow was piled everywhere and people parked wherever they wanted to. That pissed Brian off. But a lot of things pissed Brian Kinney off. He was a pissed-off kind of guy.
Brian got out of the Corvette and stepped gingerly over a snowbank to reach the sidewalk, getting snow all over the pants of his new Armani suit. Shit. Now he'd have to be careful that he didn't get salt stains on the expensive wool. Sometimes he felt like saying "Fuck it!" Felt like quitting his job, selling his loft, and moving to South Beach. What the hell was he doing here in Fabulous Pittsburgh anyway? What was the point?
"Hiya, honey!" called Debbie when she saw Brian come through the door. "Put your ass in a seat and I'll get you some coffee."
"No coffee, Deb. I want some take-out," said Brian, sitting at the counter. "What's the special today?"
"Macaroni and cheese," said Debbie, brightly. "With green beans and biscuits."
Brian stomach turned slightly. Carbs and more carbs. "Give me a turkey on whole grain bread, hold the Mayo."
"That won't keep you going on a cold day, baby," Debbie advised. "What if I send you home with a nice pint of vegetable soup to go with that sandwich?"
Brian shrugged. Maybe some soup would taste good. Something warm to eat while he sat in the cold loft. "Why the fuck not? Okay, add the soup to that."
"And I'll put in a couple of lemon squares, too," said Deb. "If you don't eat 'em I'm sure that Justin will gobble them down in two minutes flat!"
"No," said Brian. "He won't."
"What's the matter? Doesn't that kid like my goddamn lemon squares?" Debbie demanded.
"He likes them fine," Brian replied. "But he's not here, so it's a moot point."
"Not here?" said Debbie, putting her hands on her hips. "What do you mean, he's not here?"
"Christmas is over, Deb. It's a new year. Justin went back to school. Back to Dartmouth." Brian picked up a copy of 'Pittsburgh Out' that had been abandoned on the counter and opened it, pretending to read about the latest Gay Marriage Initiative. "He's gone."
"Well, when'll he be back?" Debbie continued.
"How the fuck should I know?" said Brian, tossing the paper away. "Can I have my fucking food now? I'm in a hurry."
"Coming right up, Your Highness," Deb bowed. "Are you in such a fucking hurry to go out to the bars and get your dick sucked now that your pretty little boyfriend is out of the picture?"
"You seem to know more about my personal life than I do, Debbie, so why bother asking?" Brian returned. "You know so much about me getting my dick sucked -- maybe YOU would like to do the job yourself and see what all the shouting is about?"
"No thanks," Deb sniffed distastefully.
"Thank God," Brian said in relief.
Brian waited while Debbie wrapped up his sandwich. A tall, dark-eyed man walked in and cruised Brian on his way to a back booth. Not a bad body, he thought, although it really was hard to tell with every guy in town bundled up like a fucking eskimo. Sometimes by the time you got four layers of fleece off the bastard what was underneath wasn't worth having after all.
The young man smiled at him, but Brian turned away. This guy didn't really interest him. Brian glanced around the room. No one in here interested him. And if he went to Woody's or to Babylon or the baths tonight, no one there would interest him either. That was the problem.
"Here you go, honey," said Deb, handing him a paper bag with the containers inside. "Don't tip it over and spill the soup!"
"That's just what I was planning to do," Brian said.
Debbie still treated him like he was 14 years old. No wonder poor Mikey was such a terminal case of arrested development. It was funny but whenever Deb treated Michael's foster son Hunter the same way, the kid rolled his eyes and called her on it. He was 16 going on 35, that was for sure. Yeah, he wasn't a bad kid, except for being unable to decide whether he was a queer or a fucking breeder.
But lots of guys are confused at that age, Brian thought. Wait until he hooks up with some hot jock in his high school and then he'll forget all about pussy.
Except I wasn't confused, Brian remembered. I wasn't confused about what I wanted at all. Dick and lots of it. And plenty of ass, too. Life was pretty simple. Sort of. Except when it was a fucking disaster, like in New York. Brian pushed that out of his head, the way he always did. No, as much as he had loved being young, beautiful, and hot, there was no way in hell that Brian would care to revisit his teenage years.
But his twenties -- now that was a different story! Once he got out of college, had his own money, his own wheels, and his own place to live, then he was able to be himself. Brian Fucking Kinney -- The Wonder Years! Fucking 30 different guys a month wasn't out of the realm. And if he was on vacation or a business trip, then the sky was the limit. Brian thought about a White Party in Miami he'd attended a couple of years before. Not the one where he'd fucked Ben, but the one he'd won in the contest at Woody's. Shit! He hadn't even come up for air for three days!
And he'd missed Lindsay and Mel's wedding.
But who gave a shit? Weddings were bullshit. No one had missed him there. No one had cared, not even Lindsay. She'd encouraged him to go to the White Party, even after he had offered her and Mel the tickets to Miami for their honeymoon. No, Lindz hadn't really wanted him there. That was obvious.
Who would want Brain Kinney at their fucking wedding?
Yes, he'd been at Michael and Ben's wedding in Toronto, but that was a fluke. They had all been in town for the Liberty Ride and Brian couldn't very well refuse to go to ceremony, even as a protest. Mikey would have had his balls. Or, rather, his ball.
But queers getting married was a fucking mockery. Dykes -- maybe. But two men? No fucking way! Who would want to be stuck fucking the same guy every day of your life, for the rest of your life?
What guy was worth it? Coming home every night to the same guy. Looking at his face first thing every morning. Kissing him whenever you wanted to. Talking to him about what you did that day. Sitting down and eating dinner. Making love to him in the same bed every night.
"Brian?" said Deb. "Is there something else you want?"
"Huh?" Brian said, looking up. He clutched the paper bag with the sandwich and the soup, afraid that he'd drop it and look like a fucking idiot. "No. Thanks, Deb. There's nothing else that I want."
No. Nothing that he wanted.
Nothing at all.
It was getting dark as Brian Kinney walked out into the snow to the Corvette to drive back to the loft. Alone.
Dartmouth College, January 2005
Justin was sick of snow, but in New England that's what you got. Snow. Wind. Sleet. And occasionally the sun came peeking out for a few minutes before it darted back behind a warm cloud.
Justin pulled his fleeced jacket up around neck and rewrapped his scarf tighter across his face. If he went out after dark it was usually to the library to study or to get something to eat at the Student Center. But tonight he had decided to go to a meeting -- the monthly gathering of the Gay Dartmouth Club.
The first person Justin saw when he walked into the meeting room was Kyle, a guy he knew from his English class. Kyle was a History major from Connecticut. He was tall and a little geeky, but a nice guy. Justin walked over to him. At least he'd have someone to stand with.
"I'm surprised to see you here, Justin," said Kyle. He had a cup of punch that he'd picked up from the refreshment table and he sipped it noisily. Kyle kept looking across the room. A guy he had a crush on -- Tyler -- was standing there with his new boyfriend, a jock named Mick.
"I thought I'd hang out here for a while," said Justin, casually. He glanced at the refreshments. Canned punch wasn't his idea of a real drink. He thought of standing at the main bar at Babylon with Brian, downing shots of Absolut and kissing between each one until Justin thought he would fall down. Then Brian had carried him out to the Corvette, driven them both back to the loft, and fucked Justin's brains out all night long. That had undoubtedly been the best New Year's Eve of his life! "It's either this or sit in the dorm and watch my roommate play fucking video games all evening."
"A couple of us are going into Boston next weekend and hit the bars," said Kyle. "You want to come?"
Justin shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe." He'd never been in a gay bar without Brian. Or to a club. It might be interesting to compare the places in Boston with Woody's or Babylon. But it wouldn't be the same without Brian.
"So, did you tell your parents yet?" asked Kyle. They'd had the coming out discussion a few times the previous term. Even Kyle, who was pretty conservative in most things, had been out to his parents and friends since high school. He couldn't believe that Justin still hadn't told his own that he was gay.
"Sort of," Justin said, hesitantly. "I told my mom during Christmas Vacation. But my dad is a different story."
"Have your mother do the dirty work for you," Kyle suggested. "That's what I did. Once I told my mother she couldn't wait pick up the phone and blab to everyone else in the family. So I didn't have to do a damn thing!"
"Didn't your dad go ballistic when he found out?" Justin asked. He didn't know Kyle too well, but he knew that Kyle's wealthy parents were divorced and re-married, and that his father was an executive in some big corporation.
"Not really," said Kyle, draining his punch. "His stepdaughter was pregnant at the time and her boyfriend was the local drug-dealer in their high school, so having a faggot son who was a National Merit Scholar and who had been accepted to Dartmouth probably didn't seem so bad. Now they're all used to it. Even my uncle who said that he'd never speak to me again has come around. They figure what the hell? They're all Republicans, but if Dick Cheney's daughter is a dyke, then I guess they can stand me. That's how they think in my family."
"I'm afraid that my dad would take it personally," said Justin. "Like it was some big disgrace to his own manhood."
"Then that's his problem, Justin, not yours," said Kyle. He was still eyeing Tyler across the room. They had hooked up once after a mixer during Fall Term, but since then Tyler had totally ignored him. And now Tyler was falling all over Mick, who had a great body but was dumber than a box of rocks. Guys were so fucked up!
"My mom isn't exactly thrilled with the situation," Justin continued. "But I think she's suspected it for a long time, so it wasn't a complete shock. I mean, I wasn't exactly a player when I was high school. I went on one date in my whole life and that was with my best friend, Daphne. Let's face it, when you're going into your senior year of college and you've never had a girlfriend that's sort of a giveaway."
"That's not only a giveaway," Kyle snorted. "That's wearing a fucking sign! If your father doesn't know by now, Justin, then he's in denial. I bet he knows -- he just doesn't want to admit it."
"You're probably right," Justin replied. "But if I walked up to the front door holding hands with my boyfriend... I don't know. I still don't think I'm ready to do that!"
Kyle looked at Justin with new interest. "You have a boyfriend? Since when?"
Justin grinned. "Since Christmas! Christmas Eve, actually."
"Congratulations! Now you're making progress." Kyle had always thought that Justin was cute, but very immature. The fact that he was 22 years old and still wavering about telling his parents that he was gay seemed proof of that. But a boyfriend was certainly a step in the right direction. "What's his name? Does he go to school in Pittsburgh?"
"His name's Brian," said Justin.
"Guys named Brian tend to be cute," Kyle reasoned.
"Brian is better than cute. He's tall and gorgeous, with an amazing body!" Justin bragged. "And he's not a student. He works at an advertising agency and he drives a Corvette and has his own loft. He's 33."
"Jesus!" said Kyle. "A sugar daddy! I didn't think you had it in you, Justin. That's a pretty decent catch for your first time fishing."
"I wasn't fishing," said Justin. "We sort of ran into each other. On the street outside a club."
Justin realized that he was blushing a deep red. He hadn't talked to anyone about Brian yet. Except for Daphne, of course. He hadn't wanted to talk about Brian, as if talking were tantamount to sharing him with other people. But suddenly Justin had an intense desire to tell everyone he saw. He wanted to run outside and stop strangers on the walkway and tell them all about Brian.
"A classic pick-up," Kyle asserted. "This Brian must have a lot of experience in picking up guys if he's 33. Or is he afraid to tell his parents, too?"
"Brian has a lot of experience at everything!" Justin retorted defensively. "I bet he's had more guys than everyone in this room put together. You can't believe what he can do with his body. The first night we were together we fucked five or six times! And I'm not kidding!"
"Sounds like a fuck machine," Kyle laughed. "So what makes him your boyfriend and not just a guy who's added you to his long list of conquests?"
Now Justin wasn't smiling. "Fuck you, Kyle! You don't know anything about Brian. And I wasn't a fucking conquest! It wasn't like that at all. I... I'm in love with him."
Kyle shook his head. He'd been right about Justin. He might be 22 but he was still a fucking clueless kid. And now Justin thought some local tweaked out fuckmaster was the be-all and end-all of his life. Was he ever in for a rude awakening!
"Love is a pretty strong emotion," said Kyle, gently. "Maybe you should get to know this guy a little better before you start throwing the word 'love' around?"
"But I do love him," Justin insisted. "And I know that he loves me."
"Did he tell you that?" asked Kyle. "Some guys will say anything to get into your pants."
"Brian isn't like that! He's honest! And he didn't say he loved me in words," said Justin, slowly. "But I knew. From everything he did. And from the way he acted. He didn't have to say it."
"Sure, Justin," said Kyle. This kid is in for it, he thought. He's going to come down hard and it's going to hurt. Bad!
"Brian didn't have to say it," Justin repeated to himself with less certainty. "But I know that he loves me! I really, really know. I think."
Pittsburgh, February 2005
Woody's wasn't very crowded.
It was a weeknight and still early. But, Brian told himself, things weren't the way they had been only a few years ago. Too many bars had closed along Liberty Avenue since Jim Stockwell had become mayor. Meathook. BoyToy. Even Pistol had packed it in recently. The baths were shut tight and the backrooms, too, even in the most obscure dives well off the beaten path. Queer Pittsburgh was like a fucking ghost town.
A lot of men had been reduced to meeting in rest area toilets along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, or in parked trailers or warehouses in beaten-down areas of town. The word about them was spread by e-mail or in whispered conversations. But you had to be careful. You never knew who was listening. Stockwell's goons were everywhere. The Stormtroopers. The Anti-Sex Squad. And fags were Number One on their list of targets.
But Brian was restless. The weeks since the New Year had been dark and depressing -- not only the weather, but everything. Gardner had been on his ass at work. Lindsay and Mel were fighting again and Brian had to listen to Lindz' marital complaints. And Michael was always too busy to hang out. Mikey had better things to do -- his store, his husband, his foster son, and his baby daughter -- than to kill time in a bar with Brian. Than to keep Brian company during long evenings at Woody's or Babylon. Better ways to spend his time than to help fill up Brian's loneliness. Michael had his own life and he was living it.
Brian had even tried hanging out with Ted a few times. But Ted bored the shit out of him. Ted had been in fucking rehab and he was constantly spouting 12-Step Program bullshit -- all while he was sitting in Woody's, surrounded by drunks. Ted sure knew how to kill a fucking mood.
And Emmett? No, Brian wasn't that desperate. Not yet.
Some nights Brian sat in the Liberty Diner for as long as an hour before he finally picked up his take-out order and went home. He didn't mind listening to Debbie's chatter. It filled the void. Sometimes they talked about Vic. They both missed Vic.
And Debbie always asked about Justin.
Brian would shrug and tell her whatever was the latest from Dartmouth. Some tidbit about a class Justin was taking or something he'd read or a movie he'd seen on campus. Justin e-mailed Brian almost every day and they spoke on the phone a few times a week, but that was all. They had an easy friendship at a distance, but sustaining a serious relationship when they were separated was more difficult. Neither of them had any experience in any sort of relationship, let alone one in which they weren't together and had no idea of what the future held.
So things were on hold. That's the way Brian's life felt. On hold. Until....
Until what? Until Justin graduated? Until they both decided what they really wanted from each other? Until they both grew up -- whenever that was?
"Can I buy you a drink?"
The guy was short and muscular, with a black brushcut. Brian had tricked with him before when the backroom of Babylon had still been open.
"I usually buy my own drinks," said Brian. That meant he didn't have to commit to anything. He didn't owe any guy anything at all.
The guy sat down on the stool next to Brian. "Then I'll get one for myself." He grinned and ordered an Old Pitt.
Brian listened while the guy drank his beer and talked. About his boyfriend. His dog. His job. His truck. Brian glanced at his watch. It was after 10:00. Another evening gone.
"You live alone?" asked the guy.
Brian balked. He was horny, but then he was always horny. And the last thing he wanted to do was to bring this guy back to the loft.
"I get it," the guy said. "Your lover is at home. I've got the same problem." He put a couple of bills on the bar for the beer. "Wanna go outside? It's not too cold."
Brian bit his lip and considered it. "Where?"
"The alley." The guy stood up and slipped on his jacket. "Come on."
Brian had been sucked off in the alley next to Woody's more times than he could count, but still he hesitated. The temperature was barely above freezing. It was getting late. He was tired. But it had been a long time. He hadn't tricked in almost two weeks. His dick stirred in his pants.
Brian followed the guy outside.
The alley was even bleaker and dirtier than usual. Garbage overflowed from the dumpsters and the chilly air stank. Two couples were already huddled against the brick wall, one guy blowing another, while the second pair jerked each other off.
Brian leaned his back against the wall and closed his eyes. The bricks were frigid. The trick went to his knees and opened up Brian's jeans. His hands were cold, but Brian's cock was hot. The guy began sucking him vigorously.
Why the fuck am I here? Brian asked himself. What's the point? He wasn't even feeling anything. No pleasure. No thrill. He didn't care about this guy or his boyfriend or his dog or his truck. It was all fucking meaningless. Like his life. Brian's emotions were as numb as his ass against the frozen bricks.
"No one move!"
It was an order, shouted by a hoarse voice.
A blinding light illuminated the alley.
The guy on his knees wavered. "Fuck!" he swore, standing up.
"Everyone put your hands against the wall! Now!" Stockwell's Stormtroopers, their black leather coats glistening, advanced into the alley. "You're all going downtown!"
"Are we under arrest?" Brian demanded.
"Shut up, faggot!"
One of the cops grabbed Brian roughly and pushed him against the bricks. Then he slowly felt his way up and down Brian's long body, frisking him.
"Enjoying yourself, officer?" Brian asked brashly. But this was no joke. This was trouble.
"I said that you should shut the fuck up!" snapped the cop. "This one's mine," he told the other members of the squad.
Brian took a deep breath. This wasn't the first time he'd been arrested. But he felt so fucking stupid. Now he'd spend the night in the Queens Tank. He'd probably get the shit beaten out of him -- or worse. And for what? A lousy blowjob.
The cop laughed as he cuffed Brian. All the Stormtroopers were laughing as they put the faggots into the van to take them downtown.
Continue on to "In the Bleak Midwinter -- Part 2".
©Gaedhal, March 2005.
Posted June 9, 2005.