This is Chapter 41 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Michael Novotny, Ben Bruckner, Dylan Burke.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin holds his breath. Pittsburgh, March 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Nowhere to run to, baby,
Nowhere to hide.
Got nowhere to run to, baby,
Nowhere to hide.
It's not love
I'm running from,
It's the heartaches
That I know will come.
'Cause I know
You're no good for me,
But you've become
A part of me.
Everywhere I go
Your face I see.
Every step I take,
You take with me, yeah...
I know you're
No good for me,
But free of you
I'll never be, no.
Each night as I sleep,
Into my heart you creep.
I wake up feeling sorry I met you,
Hoping soon that I'll forget you...."
I take a deep breath before I open the door. The little bell rings, announcing me.
Michael is sitting behind the counter, leafing through a copy of 'The Green Lantern.' He looks up and I can see his face change the second he sees me.
Michael and I have had a lot of issues over the years. When I first met Brian, Michael wanted me gone. I was getting between him and Brian and fucking up their friendship. That's how Michael saw it.
Later Michael softened towards me. He knew that I wasn't going anywhere and so he tolerated me. He was pissed off when I moved in with Brian, and then annoyed when I started living at Deb's house in his old room, but he dealt with it. And he was even nice to me after I was bashed.
Then when Brian took off for Los Angeles with Ron, Michael and I became unlikely allies. We were both hurt by Brian's defection and by his silence. He'd fucked over both of us. And then Michael sided with me against Ted when Ted and I had it out in the diner. That's when we really became friends. He even lived with me in the loft for a while. We hung out and bonded together over our Brian angst.
And Michael was the one who told me to go out to L.A. with Lindsay. He told me that I needed to show Brian that I was willing to take any step to prove to him that I wanted to be with him. Michael told me that I shouldn't make the same mistake he had by never really telling Brian how he felt. About how much he loved him.
But Brian knew. He always knew how Michael felt. Brian just didn't feel the same way. That was the sad truth. Brian always knows. In his heart he knows.
But what does Brian know?
"Get the fuck out," Michael says without raising his voice, which is sharp and as cold and clear as crystal. "Get out of my store. And don't ever come back."
"Michael, we have to talk," I say, coming up to the counter.
"Talk? About what?" Michael's eyes are usually very soft, even dog-like. But now they're hard. Hot and angry.
I understand why he's angry. But it's not my fault! It's... not. Not my fault.
"I think you must have misunderstood something, Michael," I begin calmly. I've practiced this little speech over and over. I press my hands on the counter and hang on. I feel a little unsteady. "About something at the opening last Saturday. I don't know what you think you saw, but it was nothing! You have to believe me!"
"Nothing? Something I THINK I saw?" Michael pushes the comic book away and reaches across the counter. He grabs the front of my jacket tightly so I can't pull away.
"Michael! Let me go!" I try to pull myself out of his grasp, but I can't. He's shaking me! I can't get away and that makes me feel panicky! "Please... don't touch me! Let go of me!"
"No, I won't let you go," he says, his face twisted. "Because I want to hear what you have to say, Justin. Because I want to be fair to you before I kick your cheating ass out of my store and out of my life! And it won't be a moment too soon, either! Because I've been waiting for you to show your true colors since the first night you latched onto Brian. I knew it would happen one day. I told Brian, but he wouldn't listen."
"Y...you told Brian?" My heart stops.
"No, I didn't tell him, you little shit!" Michael says in disgust. "Not about the opening. I haven't said anything to Brian about that. I mean I told him before." Michael releases his grip on my jacket and I can finally breathe again. "When you first started coming around here I warned Brian that you were a spoiled brat who was only looking to see what you could weasel out of him. When you moved in with him that first time, after your father tossed your ass out of the house, I asked Brian what you were doing there. That you didn't belong there! And I was right -- obviously! But Brian wouldn't listen to me. He thought he could handle it. He thought he could handle you. But... but he couldn't. Because he was in love with you even then."
"That's so not the way it happened, Michael!" I retort. "Brian didn't love me then. He wanted me gone! He tried to drive me away by bringing tricks home and letting me know that he didn't give a shit about me!"
"No, he didn't give a shit at all," Michael scoffs. "That's why he kept bringing you back to the loft. That's why he drove all night to New York to get you and bring you back to Pittsburgh. And that's why Brian took you in after you got out of the hospital. Your own fucking father wouldn't come to visit you and your mother didn't know how to deal with you. So Brian took up the slack. Your mother asked Brian to take you, to help you, to fuck you. And to love you, too. Maybe she didn't say it exactly that way, but that's what she meant. And he did it. No, Brian didn't give a shit. Not much! He's always been in love with you -- unfortunately for him!"
My head begins to pound. "That's not true, Michael. My mother never said that. She told Brian to stay away from me."
"She did until she knew that Brian was the only person who could get through to you. Your mother came to the loft and told Brian that she couldn't deal with you. So she asked him to help. Brian told me so himself. And Brian went to get you like a shot! He was so fucking miserable when you were in the hospital. I've never seen him so fucked up. A falling-down fucking mess! Brian took you in because he wanted to. Don't ever make the mistake of thinking otherwise. He let you live with him because he wanted you to be there. And... and he left with Ron because he couldn't handle those emotions anymore. Brian couldn't deal with feeling so strongly about someone. Because he must have known in his heart that you would betray him -- sooner or later!"
"That's not true, Michael! You know I... I love Brian! Almost too much." My fucking head! "Too much."
"Yes, so much that you're cheating on him with that Dylan," Michael says bluntly. "That guy who came to the opening. Your new lover."
I gasp. "How do you know Dylan's name? Who told you?"
"No one told me, Justin," says Michael, his voice low. "I heard the two of you. I knew something was up, so I followed you. And I heard you two talking. And you sucked him off. Right there in the museum. In the dark. Just like the two of you were in the backroom of Babylon!"
"You... you didn't," I say, faltering. "You... you had no right to follow me. No right to... to...."
"No right to know the truth?" Michael snorts. "I think I do. Because I'm Brian's best friend! Someone has to look out for him. Because apparently his so-called partner doesn't give a damn! It's so convenient, isn't it, Justin? You've got the loft, the Jeep, Brian's credit cards, your fucking tuition. That's a sweet deal, isn't it?"
Sweet. That's Dylan's word. "Don't say that, Michael! I love Brian! I don't care about the loft or the Jeep!"
He glares. "Sure. Keep telling yourself that."
The door opens and two kids come in. "Hey, Mr. Novotny! Is the new 'X-Men' in yet?"
"Sure, guys," says Michael, his voice changing completely. "In the last bin on the right."
The two kids go over and begin pawing through the comics.
"Michael, you don't understand," I try to explain. "You know that Brian doesn't believe in monogamy. He never has and he never will. And... and I'm only doing what Brian has always done. It's no big deal. Believe me! Brian is up in Springhurst fucking Walker Talmadge III. So what? That's Brian. No apologies. No excuses."
Michael gapes at me. "You think that Brian is fucking Walker Talmadge? That queeny singer? The one he makes fun of over the phone? The one who's always hitting on him until he has to tell him to fuck off? If you believe that, Justin, then you're delusional!"
I swallow. I was so sure that Brian was fucking Walker. Or did I only want to think that? But that song... that fucking song! "If he's not fucking Walker, then he's fucking someone else. What does it matter, Michael? A trick is only a trick. Dylan is only... he's only... a fuck to me. Another trick. Like a million tricks."
"That guy you were with at the opening was no trick," Michael sneers. "I've seen you trick. I've seen you in the backroom, both with Brian and without him. I saw you fuck and suck your brains out with tricks after Brian ran away to Los Angeles. And that guy who came into the museum -- he was no trick, Justin! You know that as well as I do."
I feel my face getting red. And my head is throbbing harder. "What a fucking double standard! Brian can play house with Ron and still keep me hanging around for a handy fuck-toy? That's okay, right? Because he's Brian Kinney he can do anything!"
"No," Michael answers. "I never said that. That was shitty for Brian to do -- and Brian knew it was shitty. He was fucked up and he knew it. Isn't that why he's in rehab now? So he can change? Because he wants to change for you?"
No! Michael's wrong. It's not for me. It's... it's....
"Brian's in rehab so he won't be in trouble with the studio and the cops out in L.A.! It... it has nothing to do with me!" But even as I say it I know it's a lie. I'm lying to Michael. Lying to myself. Why the fuck am I doing it?
"Bullshit!" Michael spits out. "Brian doesn't give a shit about the studio or the cops or his image or any of that! It's YOU! He's doing it for you! Don't you ever think about anyone but yourself?"
"No!" I insist. "I do! I think about Brian all the time! I care about Brian! Brian is... he's... You don't understand, Michael! You can never understand our relationship."
"Your relationship?" Michael shakes his head. "You made the choice to be with Brian. You knew what he was from the start. I TOLD you what Brian was! I warned you, Justin! Brian didn't believe in love and all that other bullshit because he was so afraid of being hurt, like he'd been hurt by so many people in the past. But you kept at him. You kept pushing him. Asking him for more and more. Wanting him to change. Until he actually started changing. But maybe you didn't like him changing after all, Justin. Maybe you don't want what you think you want. And now you're screwing Brian over with some big, slack-jawed dope. I hope this Dylan guy has a big cock. Because that's all you care about, right, Justin? A big cock to fill up your big ass!"
"Shut up, Michael!" I cry. I can't listen to this! "Shut the fuck up!"
But he won't let up. "Once you used to need Brian's help. A place to live, rent free. Money for your tuition. Clothes. Trips to England. You wanted a free ride and you got it. But now you have money of your own. Brian told me all about your big inheritance. So what exactly did you do for good old Ron to get him to leave you that big trust fund, Justin? What was the price of all that money?"
"Nothing!" I back away. "Ron left it to me because... because...." But I have no idea why Ron left it to me. No fucking clue. Brian said it was because Ron felt guilty and wanted to make things up to me. But why would he do that? Why would that matter to him?
"Did you let him fuck you?" Michael asks, narrowing his eyes. "Or did you suck his cock in exchange for a place in his will? Is that it, Justin? After all, isn't that where your true talent lies? Between your big, wet lips?"
"W...what?" My mouth falls open. And there it all is. In my head. Playing like one of Ron's movies. Me, sucking off Ron in the office. Watching the old film of him and Brian. Sucking Ron's cock. "I... I... No! How did you...? You couldn't know!"
Michael blinks. Then he inhales deeply. "You DID, didn't you? That was just a lucky guess, but it's true, isn't it? You blew Ron! How many times, Justin? How many times did you two do it behind Brian's back, you fucking little whore?"
"No, Michael! It wasn't like that!" I shout. I try to explain. I try to make him understand! The two boys turn and gawk at us. "Ron forced me! He... he made me do it!"
"Sure he did," says Michael, lowering his voice so the kids can't hear. "Tell yourself that, Justin. And I bet bad old Dylan forces you to suck him off, too. Like he forced you at the opening. I bet he ties you down and fucks your ass until you scream. I bet he slaps you around -- and you like it. Maybe that's what Brian needs to do. Maybe that's what you really want. Not to be treated like some fucking sacred object, the way Brian always treats you, but like a piece of crap! Which is what you are. Now get the fuck out of here! And don't ever come back!"
I can't see because my eyes are so red. My allergies must be flaring up. And my head hurts so much. "But... but Michael! Please! Try to listen to me! Try to... to understand!"
The door of the store opens again, the little bell ringing, and Ben walks in. But he stops when he sees me. He doesn't smile at me. He and Michael exchange looks.
Oh my God. Michael's told him. Ben knows. Now everyone will know! Everyone! Deb and Vic, if Vic doesn't already know. If Tim Reilly hasn't already told Vic. And Emmett will know. And Ted. And Lindsay and Mel. Gus -- they'll never let me see Gus again!
I've fucked up my life. I've fucked up everything! I... I... I can't breathe! Can't. Breathe. I feel myself sliding down. I grab at the counter, but I can't hold on.
"Justin, are you okay?" I'm on the floor and I feel Ben kneeling next to me, holding me up. "Michael, get some water!"
"No! Let the cocksucker get his own fucking water!" I hear Michael say.
I open my eyes. I'm gasping for air. Hyperventilating.
"Michael, please bring some water! Now!" Ben demands.
But Michael crosses his arms over his chest. "Leave him there. That's what Brian should have done in that parking garage. Left him on the fucking cement and walked away! We'd all be better off!"
"Michael!" Ben shouts. "That's enough of that! Just get the water."
"No!" And Michael storms into the back of the store.
I see the two kids run out the door, fleeing this insane scene. I wish I could flee this insanity, too. But I can't find my feet. Ben tries to help me up. He's being nice. I hate that he's being so fake nice when he knows what I did. At least Michael is honest. He hates me to my face.
And I hate me.
My fucking head!
I stand up. I have to get the fuck out of here.
"Justin? Are you all right?" Ben asks.
"No! I'm not all right." I sob. "Do I look all right? Would you be all right?"
Ben adjusts his glasses and looks at me. "I'm sorry, Justin. Would you like me to... to call someone? To come and get you?"
"No," I whisper. "I... I have the Jeep."
"Maybe you shouldn't drive," says Ben, holding my arm.
"Maybe I'll crash the Jeep!" I jerk away. "Maybe I'll drive off a fucking cliff! Maybe someone will bash me in the head and leave me to die on the cement floor! Who gives a fuck?"
"Justin, listen to me." Ben tries to take my arm again. "You need some help. I don't know what's really going on between you and Brian and I won't even try to guess, but something is obviously very wrong. You have to talk to someone about this. I'm serious. Something is ripping you apart."
"Something?" I start to laugh hysterically. "It's nothing! Nothing's wrong! Why would anything be wrong? Why should you care who I fuck? Why should Michael? And why should Brian? Who the fuck cares!"
I turn away and stumble out the door. That little bell rings and rings.
My head. I put my hand up to stop the pain. To stop the ringing.
But it's all through me.
I can't run away from it.
I see Dylan coming out of his Economics class. He's with two girls and they're laughing and joking around.
"Dylan," I say, shakily. "I need to talk to you. Right now!"
Dylan stares at me coolly. "We were just on our way to get something to eat." One of the girls smirks.
"It's important!" I beg him. "Can't we go somewhere and talk?"
Dylan nods. "Sure, Justin." He turns to the two girls. "I'll catch you guys later."
The girls giggle. "Bye, Dylan," one of them says, flirtatiously. And they walk out of the building in front of us.
"So now you're chasing pussy?" I fume. "Good one, Dylan."
"They're friends from my class, Just," Dylan retorts. "That's all. I have a lot of female friends. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing!" I mumble. "Nothing at all. But I need to speak to you about something. In private."
"Okay," says Dylan. "Let's go to my dorm room. My roommate should be in class, so we won't have a fucking audience."
We walk across campus. It's beginning to look like spring, with the sun shining and people walking around with their coats open. But I don't feel very spring-like. I feel cold and dismal, like it's still the middle of winter. And my head is still pounding like a fucking hammer.
I follow Dylan into his dorm and we go up in the elevator to his floor. Someone is blasting Radiohead from his room. Two guys are sitting in the lounge, watching CNN on a battered television. Dylan unlocks his door and escorts me inside. Then he locks the door behind us. Drops his backpack on the floor and takes off his jacket. "My idiot roommate will be back at 4:00. He has a Biology Lab until then. So we'll have to hurry."
Dylan pulls off his sweater and starts to undo his pants.
I stand there, gaping at him.
"What the fuck are you waiting for, Justin?" Dylan reaches over and pulls at my shirt.
I push him away. "No, Dylan! Please listen to what I'm saying. I need to talk to you. About something important!"
Dylan grins. "Talk is cheap, Just. And I can think of much better things you can do with your mouth."
I feel my entire body go cold. That's exactly what Michael just said at the store. That's where my true talent lies. "I... I have to sit down." I sink down onto the bed and hold my head, rubbing at my scar through my hair. "My head... aches. Everything is fucked up, Dylan! Don't you understand?"
"Not really," he says, sitting down next to me. "But you can tell me about it, Just." And he begins stroking my hair, gently. Comfortingly. His hands feel soft against my head. "So tell me, baby."
"Michael... Brian's best friend. He was at the opening Saturday. He... he knows! He heard us. I think he even saw us."
"So?" Dylan shrugs. "Who cares?"
"Who cares?" I breathe. "I care! I told you -- he's Brian's best friend! I went over to Michael's comic book store today to talk to him and he... he threw me out. He practically attacked me! He... he grabbed me and... shook me! Michael hates me now, Dylan! You should have heard what he said to me!"
"And we should care about this for what reason?" Dylan starts to ease off my shirt.
"I told you! Michael is Brian's best friend. He's going to tell Brian! I know he is."
"Let him tell," Dylan whispers. "What do we care, baby?"
"I care. Brian is my partner. I... I love him."
"Partner?" Dylan snorts. "Sure! Your 'partner'! But I'm the one fucking you -- not him!" He slides his body against mine. "I'm the one who loves you, Just."
"No," I say. I try to put my shirt back on, but Dylan won't let me. "Stop doing that! We need to talk about this!"
"And I need to fuck," says Dylan, bluntly. "Relax, Just. No wonder you have a headache. You're too stressed out about this stupid shit. You told me that Kinney fucks anything that moves. And you also told me that he doesn't care what you do as long as you get your needs met. Isn't that what you said?"
"Yes, but... but I still don't feel right. In fact, I feel totally shitty about it, Dylan! Michael said that I was cheating on Brian. And I am! I lied to Brian when I promised that I'd be there for him. Because I'm not there for him. I said that I was his partner. And in my heart that doesn't include fucking other guys!"
"Why not?" asks Dylan. "Isn't he doing other guys when he's out of town? You told me that you thought he was fucking that guy he's in rehab with."
I inhale. "Don't talk about that, Dylan! Don't tell anyone that Brian is in rehab!" I plead. "Only a few people are supposed to know!"
But Dylan only smiles at me. "What's the difference, Just? Rehab is practically a requirement for a celebrity these days. No one gives a shit if Brian Kinney is in rehab for booze and dope. It's not like people don't already know that he's fucked up. Because everybody does know! Especially every fag in Pittsburgh, because they've all been fucked by him or done dope with him at one time or another."
"I said not to talk about Brian being in rehab! I'm serious, Dylan. If the gossip columns get hold of it, it could be embarrassing for Brian."
"Why do you care if he's embarrassed, Just?" Dylan asks. He's naked now and lying back on his bed stroking himself. Now my tee shirt is off, too. And somehow I'm also missing my pants. "Didn't Kinney embarrass the hell out of you in 'The Advocate'? Didn't he basically say that he'd fuck any guy, any time he wanted? He didn't seem to worry about whether you'd be embarrassed by having everyone read that. He didn't seem to care if you'd be hurt by that. But you were hurt." Dylan reaches for me. "Weren't you? I was at the diner when that article came out. I saw your reaction. And I saw how hurt you were. I'd never hurt you like that, Just. You know I wouldn't."
Dylan is kissing me. Pulling me down next to him on the bed. Touching me. I shut my eyes and let him.
This is the way it always starts. When I'm not thinking about sex. When I don't want to think about anything. But I have to think. Think about how Dylan is nothing like Brian. Brian, who is always very straightforward about sex. Brian may challenge you, but he always lets you know exactly what you're in for. But Dylan is more insidious. He sort of slides you into sex almost before you know what you're doing. Coaxes you, even when you're not sure. And I'm not sure. This isn't why I came here! This isn't what I wanted!
Except that I do want it. I want him. I want Dylan to make me forget Michael's furious face. And Ben's look of pity.
Dylan, I want to whisper, make me forget.
That's what I really want. Why I really came here. To forget Brian. Please. I don't want to care about him anymore. I don't want to love him anymore!
It's too fucking hard. And this is my only chance. My last chance.
I hear the condom foil rip open. Dylan likes to do it quick. And he likes to do it rough. Dominating. In total control. Dylan has told me more than once that he's never bottomed in his life -- and that he never will. He shoves some kind of cheap lube up me -- it smells slightly metallic -- and then begins to press inside. He groans with pleasure as he pumps into me.
I squeeze my eyes closed tighter.
That's who I'm thinking of. That's always who I'm thinking of. Of all the other guys I've ever fucked, I've only ever seen one face, no matter who it was. Brian's face. That's how he wanted it. That's how it is.
And that's who I see now inside my aching head.
I open my eyes. My face is pushed forward into the pillow and my eyes are watering. Dylan is banging me hard from behind. I can't see him. I can't see anyone. Not even myself.
"Dylan!" I gasp. "That's enough!"
"Come on, Justin!" he says. "You fucking love it! You know you do! You want it! And I'm the only one who can give it to you."
So he doesn't stop. He never stops. And I always tell him to stop. But he never does. He knows I don't mean it. I'm only saying it because otherwise I'll know what I am.
A fucking liar. A cheating bitch. Just like Michael said.
This is what I deserve.
And when Brian finds out what's going on -- I'll deserve that, too.
For him to hate me. Almost as much as I fucking hate myself.
"See, Just?" says Dylan, lying back and grinning in satisfaction. "I made you relax, baby. I made you forget your troubles." He caresses my hot skin. "And I made you forget Kinney."
But he didn't.
I can't forget Brian. Even when I want to.
My head feels like it's about to explode.
Like I'm about to explode.
But there's nowhere left for me to run.
Except in circles. Ever smaller circles.
"Nowhere to run,
Nowhere to hide
From you, baby.
Just can't get away,
No matter how I try...."
(Holland, Dozier, Holland)
Continue on to "Femme Fatale".
©Gaedhal, April 2005.
Posted April 9, 2005.