IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 4

The other sections in "The Angel Stream".

Pittsburgh, February 2005

"Brian!" Michael called. "Open up! The door is bolted! Come on!"

Brian slid the metal door open. "Mikey, what are you doing here?"

Michael strolled into the loft carrying two flat boxes. "I brought pizza, asshole! One extra large sausage and one large vegetarian. I knew that you'd be moping around here on a Saturday night feeling sorry for yourself, so I figured that I'd bring some food." He shoved the boxes into Brian's hands. "And I brought DVDs, too! 'X-Men' and 'Batman Forever' -- that one's a hoot! Val Kilmer and Chris O'Donnell! And all those leather codpieces!"

"Thanks, Mikey," said Brian, looking towards the kitchen area. "I guess that means we don't have to order out after all."

Michael turned around to see who Brian was talking to.

Justin was standing there, wearing a pair of Brian's old sweats that were much too large for him. The kid's hair was still damp from the shower and he had that smug, well-fucked look that Michael recognized from the last time he'd walked in on the two of them at Christmas.

"Great! Hey, Michael," said Justin. "Want a beer? Or a Diet Coke?" He opened the refrigerator.

"Get some plates," said Brian, setting the pizza boxes down on the breakfast bar.

Michael took off his coat. "I didn't know you were here, Justin."

"I got in late Thursday night -- or was it early Friday morning?" he grinned. "I got a ride down to Boston with my roommate, took a train from Boston to New York City, and then a bus to the Pitts. It took me about 12 hours of traveling, but it was worth it when I got here!" He leered at Brian, who burst into laughter.

"Twat!" said Brian. He went up behind Justin and put his arms around him. "Give me one of those Rolling Rocks."

Michael watched the two of them hugging and tussling and had a strange feeling in his gut. When the kid had left Brian and gone back to school Michael had assumed that was the end of it. Brian had never shown an interest in any guy for more than one day, let alone for an entire week, so Michael was certain that once Justin was out of sight, Brian would forget this one, too.

But here he was again. Wearing Brian's clothes. Acting like he was at home in the loft. Spending hours to get to back here to be with Brian.

Brian must have called him after he was released from jail. Both Carl and Ma had been really upset by Brian's arrest. But that was typical Brian. He'd always been a guy who took chances. Who didn't worry about the consequences of his actions. A guy who didn't give a fuck what anybody thought.

Justin opened the cupboard and got out some plates while Brian examined the pizzas.

"These look pretty good, Mikey," Brian said, putting two slices on a plate that Justin handed him.

"You know that I think Giovanni's has the best pizza in town," Michael shrugged. He took three slices on his own plate and then followed Brian and Justin over to the futons Brian had spread out in front of his big plasma screen television. The pair flopped down on the largest futon, while Michael sat in a nearby chair. "What do you want to watch first? 'X-Men'?"

"Actually, we were planning to watch something else," said Brian. He picked up three DVD boxes and showed them to Michael. 'Rebel Without a Cause,' 'The Wild One,' and 'On The Waterfront.'

Michael groaned. "James Dean and Marlon Brando? Brian! Why can't we ever watch something recent?"

"The Classics, Mikey!" Brian insisted. "Besides, the twat here has never seen them, have you, twat?"

"I think I saw 'Rebel Without a Cause' on TV, but that was a long time ago." Justin chewed on a piece of vegetarian pizza and rubbed his socked foot against Brian's leg.

"See? It'll be educational," Brian reasoned.

"'X-Men' is educational!" Michael insisted. But both Brian and Justin laughed at him. Michael rolled his eyes. "I'm surprised that you're not showing him 'Dirty Dancing'!"

Justin snorted. "We watched that last night! And 'Point Break.' And then 'Ghost'!"

"Jesus!" sighed Michael. "The Patrick Swayze Film Festival."

"Come on, Mikey," said Brian. "You know we sat through all of those movies about ten times when they first came out. Patrick Swayze still gets me hard!"

"And don't forget Keanu!" said Justin, his mouth full of pizza. "He's hot!"

"Yeah, Keanu's all right," admitted Brian. "But I like the guy who plays the villain in 'Ghost' much better. I like his creepy blue eyes and hairy chest. I always did like guys who are more than a little dangerous. But I'd fuck all of them."

Michael almost spit out his pizza laughing. "Brian, you'd fuck just about any guy if you got the chance! Especially a movie star."

Brian shrugged. "Maybe. But not Adam Sandler." Brian made a face. "Never him. Everyone has to draw the line somewhere!"

"I'm dangerous!" Justin said suddenly. "I don't have a hairy chest, but I have blue eyes!"

Brian leaned over and licked a remnant of pizza off of Justin's pouty lips. "You're very, very dangerous, twat. More dangerous than you'll ever know."

Michael watched with growing discomfort as Brian and Justin kissed on the futon. He felt like an intruder. No, thought Michael, I AM an intruder. Something has changed here. It was true over Christmas and it's still true now.

Finally Brian untangled himself from Justin and got up to put in the DVD. 'Rebel Without a Cause' began to play and Brian was lost in it immediately.

The three of them watched the movies while they finished the pizza and drank up the beer. Eventually Michael looked at his watch. It was almost midnight. He should be getting home. He didn't want Ben to worry about him driving around late at night in the snow.

Michael smiled to himself. There had been a time when they would only be getting started at midnight on a Saturday. They'd only just have gotten going at Babylon, with the whole night ahead of them to drink and dance and hook up with the most beautiful man in the world.

Except that Michael already knew the most beautiful man in the world. And he knew that he would never hook up with him. Ever. Michael could only watch him with unfulfilled desire. Watch him pick up other guys and then discard them. Watch him keep up his front, even when he was in despair. Even when he was sick. Even when he was at the end of his rope -- literally.

And now... Michael was jealous. Yes, he could admit it. As long as Brian had no one else, then Michael still owned him, at least in his imagination. Michael could have Ben in reality, but somewhere in a special little room in his head, he lived with Brian. Could love Brian. Have Brian all to himself.

He watched Brian watching the film from the futon. Marlon Brando in a white tee shirt, his face battered, was raging across the screen. Brian's lips were moving, repeating the dialogue softly to himself. And Justin was lying in his arms, sound asleep, his mouth slightly open. Brian was stroking the kid's hair. Holding him like a lover.

Michael recognized the emotion. He could feel it even across the room. And he knew. This wasn't going to go away. Brian and Justin. Michael understood it, just as he had understood one day long ago that Brian would never be his. And the way he had also understood something else the day he knew that he was in love with Ben. That this was real life, not fantasy. Real life for himself.

And now real life for Brian, too. Maybe even happiness for Brian. Finally.

Michael stood up and reached for his coat. "I have to get going."

Brian gently moved Justin without waking him up. He followed Michael to the door. "Will you turn into a pumpkin at midnight, Mikey?"

Michael smiled. "Nope. But I don't want Ben to worry. And we're getting up early tomorrow to take Hunter to brunch."

"Brunch," Brian laughed. "The faggot's favorite meal!"

"Shut up, asshole!" Michael returned. "When does the college boy have to go back?"

"Tomorrow," said Brian. "I'm putting him on a plane to Boston and he can take a bus from there. I'd drive him back to Dartmouth myself, but Gardner will have my remaining ball on a plate if I'm not in the office bright and early on Monday morning."

"Have a good night, Brian," said Michael, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "See you."

"I will. See you, Mikey."

Brian rolled the door shut as Michael went down the stairs.

Then Brian went back to the futon and laid down next to the dozing Justin. He put his arms around him and closed his eyes. The movie had finished and the loft was very still.

Brian was smiling as he fell into a dreamless sleep more peacefully than he ever had before.

***

"So," said Brian. He was lying on the big bed, tangled in the dark blue linen sheets, smoking a long, brown cigarette. "We better get up and get dressed. You don't want to miss your plane."

"I don't?" Justin replied. He watched the smoke curl up from Brian's cigarette. He turned over and flung his pale arm over Brian's chest. "Maybe the airport will be closed because of the heavy snow?"

"Have you looked outside, Justin?" Brian asked. "The sky is clear and the sun is shining. It's a beautiful Sunday. Perfect for flying to Boston."

"It figures," Justin sighed. "I can't catch a fucking break."

"You have to go back." Brian took a long drag on his cigarette.

"I know." Justin pulled the cigarette out of Brian's mouth and took a puff. It had a sharp, acrid taste. "It's just that it feels so good to be here. When I'm up there I really feel alone."

Brian felt a tug inside. "But you told me that you have friends," said Brian. "Your roommate seems like a nice guy. He drove you down to Boston. And those guys at that fag club you attend."

Justin smiled. "You mean Gay Dartmouth? They're all right, but I don't really hang out there much. It's mainly a place they use to hook up. New Hampshire isn't exactly a Queer Mecca!"

"No," Brian laughed. "That's Vermont! All those dykes in Birkenstocks and old ex-hairdressers running quaint antique shops."

"Don't knock it, Brian," Justin chided him. "It's beautiful in New England in the winter. Lots of picturesque little inns and resorts. And people ski and snowboard."

"It's beautiful here, too, when the snow covers all the steel mills. And when was the last time you stayed at a picturesque little inn or went snowboarding?" Brian asked, retrieving his cigarette from between Justin's pink lips.

"Never," Justin admitted. "But I never had anyone to stay at an inn or snowboard with. It's no fun doing those things alone. Not when you're surrounded by happy couples. You know what I mean?"

"Yes, I know what you mean." Brian stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray next to the bed. "But like I said, if I want snow there's plenty here in the Pitts. And there are mountains all around us where you can ski or snowboard. There must be something else that you think about doing, Justin. What is it? What is it that you wish for?"

Justin buried his face in Brian's chest. "Being here. That's all I think about. That's why I came this weekend. And I'll pay you back for the flight. I promise I will."

"Fuck it," said Brian, dismissively. "I have more Frequent Flyer Miles than I know what to do with. They ought to give me my own airplane!"

"Then you could fly anywhere, Brian," Justin whispered. "Like a superhero."

"Some superhero I am," Brian breathed. He felt like anything other than a powerful hero. He couldn't even keep Justin there another night. He couldn't stop time or move through space faster than the speed of light. He couldn't do anything, except wish.

They lay there in bed, neither wanting to make the first move to get up. Neither wanting to be the one to end the moment.

"So," said Brian, finally. "I guess it's time."

"Yeah," said Justin. "Time."

"So -- how much room do you think you'll need?" Brian asked.

"How much room?" Justin frowned. "In the Vette? Or on the plane?"

"No," Brian turned and faced Justin. "Here in the loft."

"Room in the loft? What do you mean?" Justin's heart was beating like a hammer in his chest.

"For after graduation," said Brian, steadily. "For when you move in here. I mean, assuming that you want to move in. If you think you can stand me. Because I'm not an easy person to live with. Sometimes I can barely stand to live with myself. But maybe if I had someone to help me, I might learn to like myself better. That is, if someone liked me enough. Or... or loved me enough."

"I do," said Justin, softly. "I love you enough, Brian. I love you more than anything."

"Do you really?" said Brian, wonderingly.

"Yes," said Justin, sincerely. "So why do you find that so hard to believe?"

Brian knew the answer, but it was difficult to admit. Difficult to shatter his own facade so thoroughly in front of Justin.

"Maybe because I don't believe that I can be loved. Because my parents didn't even love me. Didn't want me. How can a person love himself when he knows that he's truly alone in the universe? That no one gives a shit whether he's alive or dead -- not even his own mother? And that there's no one in the whole world who will give up even a tiny piece of themselves just for you. Only you."

Justin choked slightly, trying to imagine the people who wouldn't love Brian. The parents who didn't love their own child. And then he thought of his father and his heart was gripped with apprehension.

"Mikey loves you, Brian," Justin said. "And Deb. And Lindsay. And Gus. That's not no one."

"But where were they when I really needed them?" whispered Brian. He huddled under the sheets and shivered like a child. "No one is ever there when you really need them. In the dark. When there's no light anywhere. But especially no light in your heart. And you don't even know where to look for it. That's how lost you are."

"I would have been there, Brian," Justin asserted.

"You weren't even born," Brian replied, wiping his eyes with the back of his beautiful hand.

"But I'm born now," Justin said. "I'm right here. And I'll give you all of myself. Everything."

Justin pushed the covers away from his naked body and spread his arms out like a pair of thin, white wings. Welcoming. Blessing.

Brian buried himself there. And they both forgot the time. Forgot the plane.

But they were flying.

* FIN *

©Gaedhal, March 2005.

Posted June 9, 2005.