This is Part 2 of Chapter 109 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Something So Strong -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, with Brian Kinney, Harry Collins, Dorian Folco, Jennifer Taylor, Cynthia Llewellyn, Maureen, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin return to Pittsburgh. England/Pittsburgh, October 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Love can make you weep,
Can make you run for cover.
Roots that spread so deep,
Bring life to frozen ground.
Something so strong
Could carry us away.
Something so strong
Could carry us today."
from "Something So Strong" by Neil Finn and Mitchell Froom.
All Sunday night the wind blows and blows, rattling Firelands. The windows shake and the fire in the bedroom hearth flares up as the wind whistles down the chimney.
And Brian has nightmares all night. I spend most of the long hours wide awake, holding on to him while he tosses and turns. Reassuring him that he'll be okay. That WE'LL be okay! This must be the way it felt to him when I first moved back into the loft and woke up screaming every single night. It's a wonder that he didn't go out of his mind! People would never, ever say that Brian is a patient man -- but I know better. I know so much more than they can ever even imagine.
In the morning I go down for breakfast while Brian finishes packing. Harry is looking at the morning paper.
"Justin, I hope you weren't knocked out of your bed last night!" Harry laughs.
"With all that rattling and that wind shaking the house, I really thought Brian and I would wake up in Oz!" I answer, filling up my plate. It's going to be a long day of traveling, so I want to fortify myself.
Harry points to the newspaper. "This wind caused a great deal of damage all over England! I hope it doesn't mean any transportation delays for today. Perhaps you two ought to remain here for a few more days, just to make certain?" Harry seems really concerned.
"Thanks, Harry, but we have to get going. And I have to get back to class if I don't want to get too far behind in my assignments." Besides, I need to get Brian home. To OUR home. To the loft. As soon as possible.
"Of course, my boy," says Harry. "But please feel free to return. Any time. Perhaps in the spring. It's beautiful here then -- and the riding will be very fine."
I smile. "I'll have to keep practicing back in Pittsburgh. I don't want to forget how to ride, after all!"
"No fear of that. Like falling off a log!"
I wince. "Don't say 'fall,' Harry! Ouch! When I was taking lessons up in London I landed on my butt more times than I want to admit!"
"That's a given, Justin," Harry chuckles. "Why, Mercutio throws Gerry off at least once every time he goes riding!"
"Mercutio has never thrown Brian! Not once. Brian NEVER falls...." But then I stop. Brian falling. I think I see something for a moment, but then it's gone. I feel another chill, but it must be the wind. "Brian is a good rider," I say. And then I quietly finish my breakfast.
There are lots of delays traveling because of the big windstorm. Kenroy arrives from London and drives us to the airport, where Dorian immediately begins ordering the airline people around to get everything to his own satisfaction. You can see why he's a successful film director because the people automatically do it. He demands a private waiting room -- and gets it.
"Aren't we trying to be inconspicuous?" asks Brian, who is obviously uncomfortable with all the fussing. He's also extremely ill at ease with all the people around. That surprises me -- at first. He seemed fine at Firelands -- until I realize that, except for dinner on Friday and the session with Fiona on Saturday evening, Brian hadn't been out of our room once. I thought it was because he was exhausted, but now I understand that he was hiding in there. He just didn't want to talk to anyone, even if it was only Harry and Dorian. Didn't want to look at anyone -- or have anyone look at him.
Because now at the airport Brian is just on the edge of hysteria -- and we still have a long trip ahead of us. Which is one reason why Dorian demands a private waiting room. But when we get settled in it, just the three of us and an attendant, to wait for the plane to Dublin, Brian still won't take off his sunglasses or his coat. It's as if they are shielding him somehow from prying eyes. I sit next to him, talking softly about nothing, just filling in the silences. I slip my hand in his and squeeze it and Brian seems reassured.
When we finally board, it's a commuter-type plane, which means no First Class. Three across and not the most comfortable seats in the world. I think I'm getting spoiled. Dorian puts Brian next to the window, where he can have the most privacy, with me in the middle, and himself on the end, where he can demand things. Thank God it's a fairly short flight -- only an hour before we arrive in Ireland. Even so, Brian is about ready to claw his way out of the little window. I stroke his arm while we come in for a very bumpy landing and Brian can feel me holding my breath. And then he takes my hand as if to bolster MY courage! I'm not sure who is comforting who.
Once we de-plane at Dublin Airport, Dorian goes into his dictator mode again. He gets another private waiting room and keeps the Irish attendants hopping with orders for tea and snacks and anything to fill up the two hour wait until we get on the Aer Lingus flight for Boston. I want to walk around the airport and get a look at Ireland -- even if it's just a quick peek. But I also don't want to leave Brian in the waiting room with Dorian, who is pacing and smoking and even making ME nervous. Dorian keeps peering out the door of the waiting room, as if expecting to see a hoard of reporters -- or a single Ron -- descending on us. But it's only the attendants, going in and out. Finally, I take a short trip out to get some magazines and a breath of fresh air. I buy some postcards and a little shamrock on a pin for Brian, just to prove we were actually in Ireland.
The Irish airline attendants -- they all seem to be women -- all recognize Brian. A pack of them take turns coming into the waiting room to gape at him and they go on and on about how much they love the song 'Baby Blue.' Brian is anxious at first and Dorian starts to get miffed, but then Brian tells Dorian that he doesn't mind signing his name on their Aer Lingus napkins and menus. The women are very unthreatening and their accents sound like music. Brian even manages to joke around with a couple of them, saying that 'Aer Lingus' sounds like a porno film! They all laugh when I pin the shamrock on Brian's sweater and even Dorian smiles slightly. I start to feel better about the rest of the trip.
Finally, it's time to leave. One of the flight attendants, Maureen, has taken charge of us and keeps reassuring Dorian that everything will be fine. That she'll make certain we get to Boston in one piece. That she isn't about to lose a Kinney on HER run!
Dorian still wants to control the whole situation, but he has no choice but to let us go on to America on our own. I know that if he could, Dorian would follow us all the way to the door of the loft. But luckily he has to return to London. Dorian says goodbye to Brian, shaking his uninjured left hand and then kissing him on both cheeks like the Europeans do. I can tell that he's still worried sick about Brian. He pulls me aside and tells me that he knows I'll do everything I can to help Brian. To make certain he gets better. And Dorian reminds me that he has vast resources at his disposal -- literally. Dorian isn't only a film director, he's a wealthy man in his own right. And that anything I need, or anything that Brian wants -- all I have to do is call and he'll drop everything else and see to it. I thank him and Dorian makes sure I have his personal phone number to call him directly, not through Clive, his assistant, or through the studio. Then Dorian kisses me.
We get on the plane to Boston. I dole out Brian's painkillers from my little manila envelope filled with his drugs and he sleeps almost the entire way to Boston. The flight attendants bring me everything I need and go out of their way to keep me amused while Brian is out like a light. The plane ride is bumpy -- we are bucking headwinds the whole way across the Atlantic -- and seems to take forever, but it could be a lot worse.
Towards the end of the flight, Maureen comes and sits across from me -- First Class is only half filled -- and goes on about her fiancé, and her family, and her brother, who's a priest. She seems so Irish to me. Before we took off I watched her buckle herself into the jumpseat and then cross herself and start praying. Brian leaned over to me and commented that she was holding up the entire airplane with her prayers -- and I believe it!
"You're taking good care of your brother, aren't you now?" she says to me, smiling kindly.
I'm not certain what to say to that. "He's not my brother," I say. "But I AM taking care of him. And I hope I'm doing a good job."
"You're a dear, sweet boy," she says, reaching over and patting my hand. I can see that she's a lot older than she looks from far away, with tiny lines all around her blue eyes.
"I guess so," I reply. "Brian is a big job." Talk about an understatement!
"We are so happy to have him on our flight!" Maureen exclaims. "We all love 'Hammersmith'! I just saw it on Friday evening. He makes such a fine rock star! And such a shame that he was injured. A robbery, didn't I read?"
"Yes," I say. "In London."
"There's crime everywhere now. Even in Dublin! It's shocking." She gazes across me at Brian. "But even knocked about, he's a grand-looking man!"
"I think so," I say, hoping that she'll get the message. I keep thinking of Brian's mother and how sanctimonious and disapproving she is. Maureen is apparently very religious, too, but she doesn't seem so rigid and judgmental. Of course, that doesn't mean that she'd be very thrilled if she thought she was wasting her time fussing over a couple of queers. Or maybe I'm being sanctimonious and judging her by my own prejudices against Mrs. Kinney. Not all Irish people are the same or think the same. I glance over at Brian. Obviously.
A little while later Maureen comes around and tells me to prepare for landing at Logan Airport in Boston. I wake up Brian and he seems relieved that we are almost there and that he was unconscious most of the way. After we land, Maureen helps the two of us off the plane and looks around for the liaison who is supposed to meet us and take us over to wait for our Liberty Air flight to Pittsburgh. But this person is nowhere in sight. Brian is still a little groggy from the long flight and his medication, but he has to wake up very quickly before we have to go through Customs. That's all we need is for him to seem drunk or out of it and be detained by the U.S. Government! Maureen leads us to a private bathroom for airline personnel and we splash water on Brian until he's cursing at both of us. But at least he's alert.
"You two are just trying to drown me!" he bitches, shaking off the water and glowering at us.
"He's a big man with the talk, isn't he, Justin?" Maureen says. Then she wags her finger at Brian. "But you had better buck up before they take you in for a strip search. Which they WILL if you mouth off to the American Customs agents!"
"If they strip search ME it'll only be because they want a good look at my dick!" says Brian, wiping his face with a paper towel.
"Perhaps they can take a photograph and you can autograph it for them!" Maureen tosses back. And I laugh.
"Whose side are you on, Sunshine?"
But before I get a chance to speak, Maureen interjects, "On the side of the angels -- and you had better be thankful for that, Mr. Brian Aloysius Kinney!"
Brian winces. "Don't say that so loudly! How do you know my fucking middle name, anyway?" He glares at me. "Did YOU show her my passport?"
"I didn't, Brian! I swear to God!"
But Maureen sniffs. "If the passenger manifest says 'B. A. Kinney' then I'm willing to bet that your middle name is Aloysius. You're too arrogant for an Anthony and too American for an Aidan. So it has to be Aloysius."
"Well, thank my old man for THAT one! Another thing I owe Jack. I hope he's enjoying burning in Hell right this minute!"
"Don't curse the dead, Mr. Kinney. You're a very bad son! Now, follow me! I'll get you through Customs and to that Liberty Air flight if I have to carry the both of you!"
"How did the Nuns miss recruiting THIS one?" Brian whispers to me. "Jesus! I thought she was going to bring out her fucking RULER and hit me over the knuckles with it!"
"She's helping you, Brian -- whether you know it or not. And I'm glad."
We accompany Maureen right along as she does exactly that. She ushers us through Customs, has our bags sent directly to our gate, and then leads us through the terminal before handing us over to the attendants at Liberty Air. But the scramble of Logan Airport is definitely unnerving Brian. Maureen has hold of one arm and I have hold of the other and we both propel Brian through the crowds. He's digging in his heels, like a mule who only wants to back up and bolt in the opposite direction. But Maureen is as equally determined to deliver him to the final leg of our journey.
At the Liberty Air gate she speaks to the agent at the counter and makes them promise to board us first. It's another one of those flights with no First Class, but it's a little jet and there are only two seats in a row, which makes things easier than being crammed in with three people together.
"You boys take care of yourself," says Maureen, before she heads back to Aer Lingus. "Or should I say, YOU take care of HIM," she says to me. "If that's possible. And don't you be getting into any trouble again," she lectures Brian.
"Yes, Ma'am," he replies facetiously.
"Don't be cheeky. No one will want to buy any tickets to see you if you muck up that pretty face again," she says. And she's right.
After she leaves, Brian and I sit down to wait for the flight to Pittsburgh. Brian shakes his head. "Fucking Irish! The women have bigger balls than any of the men!"
"Is that such a bad thing, Brian?" I say.
"Who the fuck knows?" he answers, closing his eyes. And I wonder if he's thinking of his mother, who seems like such a strong, determined woman -- except, it seems, when it came to protecting Brian from his father.
Pittsburgh International Airport is dark as we land. Dark and wet, even though it isn't actually raining. We are over two hours behind schedule, but I know that Cynthia will be waiting no matter how late we are. What I don't expect is to see my mom waiting with her on the other side of the security clearance.
"Justin! Over here!" Mom waves frantically.
"Oh, shit," says Brian, seeing them. "I can't catch a fucking break at all."
"It's only my mom, Brian," I reply. "YOU were the one who told me to call her from England."
"But I didn't tell you to have her meet us at the airport."
"I didn't," I insist.
Before I know it, Mom has me in an embrace so tight you'd think I'd been gone for a month instead of only a few days. But my mom is generally the overreacting type. But the real surprise is Brian. He hesitates for a moment -- and then he hugs Cynthia. Really hugs her. She seems startled, but then she hugs him back.
"Let me take that," says Cynthia, untangling herself from Brian and reaching for his carry-on bag. Cynthia has one of those trolleys to pile your luggage on. She's always prepared. I've been trying to get Brian to let me carry his bag, but he wouldn't hand it over. I know it hurts him to haul it around, but he'll never admit it, so we're both glad to have Cynthia put it on the trolley.
I can see both Mom and Cynthia sort of looking Brian over, checking out his obvious injuries. The scrape on his face doesn't look too bad, but then I'm used to it. And the wrapping on his wrist -- which I keep reattaching -- is mostly covered by his jacket. And they can't see any of the bruises. But they exchange glances with each other, so I know that they are seeing SOMETHING that looks wrong about him. Maybe something in the way he's carrying himself. Or just... something else that isn't very Brian-like. A hesitation. A furtiveness. The way he flinches slightly when a big metal door crashes down as a newsstand closes for the night.
My mom glances at me with concern and squeezes my arm. And I realize that she's thinking of how I was when she first brought me home from the hospital. How I fucking jumped three feet every time someone in the neighborhood beeped their horn.
"Why don't we get the bags, Justin, and then I can bring the car around?" suggests Cynthia.
"Yes, we drove in Cynthia's car," my mom relates. "She was nice enough to pick me up."
"I hope you haven't been waiting too long," I say. The airport is clearing out as the last flights of the night come in.
"No problem. I called to find out that you were running a bit late, so we didn't wait too long," says Cynthia.
"And Molly is staying at her friend's for the night. She wanted to come and meet you at the airport, Justin, but I knew it would be too late for her."
"Mom, why don't you and Brian sit down over there," I say, pointing to a small waiting area. "And Cynthia and I will be right back."
Brian frowns and my mom looks a little perturbed to be left babysitting him, but it's the best way. Plus, I can talk to Cynthia. And the minute we are out of sight and on our way to the Baggage Claim, I ask her how she and my mother hooked up.
"She called ME, Justin. And I couldn't say no to her picking you up. She was extremely concerned."
"I don't know why," I say, shaking my head. "I'm not a baby. I'm fine. And I'm perfectly capable of flying across the ocean on my own if I need to!"
"Oh, no," replies Cynthia. "It wasn't YOU she was worried about. It was Brian."
"Worried about Brian?" I tilt my head. "Really?"
"Really," Cynthia confirms. "She told me that you wouldn't have gone there so quickly if it wasn't something very serious. I tried to reassure her, but she knows that the mugging was a lot worse than the newspapers made it sound."
I feel a prickle of anxiety down my neck. "Was there a lot in the papers here about the... attack?"
"Just a brief mention. Brian isn't exactly a household name -- yet. But Marty Ryder asked me about it. And a lot of other people who know that I'm close to Brian. I just repeated what you told me -- that two men stole his watch and his wallet and hit him. Nothing serious." Cynthia stops as we reach the baggage carousel. I grab one of Brian's suitcases and my one small bag off the conveyer. Then Cynthia takes another of Brian's and then another -- she's familiar with all his Louis Vuitton luggage! We pile them on the trolley.
"Brian doesn't know the meaning of traveling light!" I say. I'm busy making certain the bags don't fall off the trolley.
"Yes, Brian sort of defines the term 'high maintenance'! He always has -- even before he was famous!" Cynthia laughs. But then her face turns somber. "So, how bad was it, Justin? Tell me."
I avoid her gaze. "Not good, Cynthia."
"That's obvious, Justin!" Cynthia says. "I don't think Brian has EVER hugged me before! Ever! He must have been pretty shaken up by what happened."
"That's an understatement. Look, Cynthia," I say, trying to swallow the lump in my throat. "I trust you like almost no one else. And I know you're absolutely loyal to Brian. But... I don't think I can tell you what you want to know. It's...." I can't continue.
"Oh my God, Justin," she says, taking my hand. "Was it... so very awful?"
"Yes," I reply. "The guys didn't really rob him, Cynthia. They beat him up. On purpose. Really beat the shit out of him. And they cut him. With a switchblade." She gasps, but doesn't speak. "And that isn't all. But I can't talk about it. And please don't discuss it with anyone. Please!"
"I won't," she says, her face pale. "You can count on that, Justin. I'll bring the car around to the pick up point. You have to be right there, because they won't let me park and leave the car. Ten minutes, okay?"
I nod and push the trolley out of the Baggage Claim and back to the place where Brian and my mom are waiting. They are sitting there in silence in the empty waiting area. And my mom is holding Brian's hand!
"Everything all right?" I ask.
They both look up, startled. "Just fine, Justin. Fine and dandy," Mom says, with this weird cheery ring in her voice. Then they both stand up, as if I caught them doing something they shouldn't be doing. Brian tries a kind of wan smile, but he doesn't seem to want to let go of my mother's hand. He looks like something has freaked him out -- but I can't imagine what.
"I have the bags -- Cynthia is getting the car," I say to break the strange tension in the air. Then Brian steps toward me and tries to push me aside and take hold of the trolley. Finally, we both grab the thing together and head for the pick up area.
Cynthia takes us directly to the loft. It's after midnight and she has to work tomorrow. So does my mom. And I have class at PIFA. I should probably at least try to make it to some of my classes while Brian is here. My mom kisses me goodbye -- and then she hugs Brian. And Brian hugs her back! It's an amazing, but awkward moment, but it also gives me some hope that they can get along. And that's all I ask -- that they try to get along with each other -- if only for my sake.
After my mom and Cynthia leave, Brian and I drag the suitcases up to the bedroom platform. It's too late to start unpacking now. Besides, Brian will just have to pack up again on Sunday to go to New York for the publicity tour there. I don't even want to think about how much THAT concerns me. Because Jimmy will be there. And probably Ron, too. And Brian isn't ready to face either of them, let alone the press. Or those women on 'The View'! Or Regis and Kelly! Or any of it!
I know that I should be there during the press tour, every minute, taking care of Brian -- because he won't be in any shape to take care of himself in just a week! But if I do, I might as well just drop out of the Institute, because I'll be so far behind it will be impossible to make up the work. I've already missed a lot of school because of Brian -- although I'd NEVER tell him that! And I'm not complaining. Not at all. But it's beginning to feel like I have to make a choice between Brian and my education. And that's something I don't want to have to do -- and I know Brian doesn't want me to have to do. Because he'd see it as another failure on his part.
I get undressed and fall into bed, while Brian wanders around the loft a little, taking note of the changes I've made. Nothing too radical. I moved a few things around. Changed the way I have my computer. I bought a new microwave oven -- the old one just died one day. And I put a television in the bedroom. Just a portable that my mom gave me when she got a new one. But I spend a lot of time up in the bedroom and I like to watch TV while I'm studying or trying to fall asleep, so I like having it in there.
I know Brian likes to think of the bed as 'sacred space' -- for sleeping and fucking only! But it's more than that, even for him. He likes to read in bed and just hang out there, talking on the phone or fooling around. So I wait for him to make some snarky comment about the television. But he doesn't say a thing. He just starts to get undressed, tossing his shirt and trousers in the hamper.
"Maybe we can go shopping later in the week. For a new leather jacket?" I suggest, sitting up against the pillows. I watch him pull his tee shirt over his head and drop it in with the other clothes. Then his black briefs. Even damaged, even wounded, he almost seems to glow in the dim light of the loft.
"Maybe," he shrugs. Even though he slept all the way across the Atlantic, he seems exhausted. He sits down on the edge of the bed and then swings his feet up under the duvet, leaning back.
"And I can call Lindsay and get Gus for the day. Or even overnight -- if you want to. Thursday is Halloween and they are taking him to a Halloween Party at his daycare center, but we could get him Friday. What do you think, Brian?"
"Sure. That would be great," he says. But there's something very distant about him.
"Are you okay? Brian? Did... my mom say something weird to you -- or anything?"
"No," he says. "Not at all." And I believe him. But something is definitely the matter. "It just feels... strange to be here. In the loft."
"Why, Brian? It's your home. Is there something I can fix? Something that's missing?" But I can't think of what.
"No, Justin. Everything's fine. It's... just me." And then he's quiet. "I guess there are too many memories here, sticking in my head. So many happy times in here. With you. The guys. Just... too many thoughts in my fucking head."
My heart sinks. I've brought Brian all this way, to his home, to OUR home -- and now it seems like he's uncomfortable here. "Would you rather... go to a hotel? Or somewhere else?"
"No. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. I want to be here with you, Justin. It's just ...I... I can't explain it. I'm sure it'll pass." And he moves restlessly in bed.
"Here let me help you relax." That's one thing I can do. One thing I'm always glad to do! I lift the duvet and reach down and stroke his cock, gently. He starts to sigh. Once he comes then he should relax enough to fall asleep. We are both too tired now to fuck, but not to do this. Never to do this.
Brian is hard in no time. So am I, but I'm just concentrating on him right now. I can always finish myself off later. Brian fucked me a couple of times at Firelands, but I never blew him. And I think, as I move my hand up and down slowly and steadily on this perfect piece of flesh, that's exactly what I want to do. I HAVE to have my mouth on it. That's something I can never get enough of.
Brian's eyes are closed, but I know he isn't sleeping. He's smiling. I know he's been given a million blow jobs, but not like I do it! He's told me so! I know the right places to touch. Just the right amount of pressure. The exact movements to make. When to lick and when to stroke. This is something that I could write a book about -- except I'm not about to give away any of my secrets.
I lower my mouth on his cock and go to work. Brian makes a sound deep inside his throat, like a cross between a groan and a sigh. He's relaxed, yes, but not so relaxed that he isn't ready to shoot very soon. I can feel all the tension that's been building up all day gathering in his legs and his groin. Under normal circumstances we would already have fucked at least twice today and I probably would have blown him on the plane ride over the Atlantic or in the men's room at the airport. The fact that we haven't done any of that just proves how not-himself Brian still is.
He starts to breathe faster and I make my movements match his breath. Using my hand on his long shaft to urge him along. He's just about ready... and I'm ready to catch it all. Waiting to taste him....
"Justin! Stop!" Brian sits up suddenly and pulls his dick out of my mouth. He grabs it in his hand just before he shoots all over his stomach, his chest.
"Brian! What did you do that for! I was all ready for you!" I look up at him.
"No!" he says, reaching for a tissue. "Jesus," he mumbles. "I must be fucking crazy!" He wipes off his cock, then the rest of him. He avoids looking at me.
"Brian," I say. "What's the matter with you?" I move up to his face. He has to look at me. I take his chin and cradle it in my hand. But he still avoids my eyes. "Brian?"
"Don't do that again, Justin," he whispers, pulling away. "Don't." He throws the kleenex into the wastebasket. And then he turns over. Facing away from me.
"Why the fuck not? You love for me to suck you off!" I put my hand on his shoulder, shaking him. "Brian! Answer me."
"Because... it isn't safe. It's NOT safe! So don't do it again. Not... without a condom."
I sit back, puzzled. "Brian, I've never blown you with a condom! Don't be ridiculous!"
He turns back over to face me. "That was before, Justin. This is NOW. Don't do it again. It isn't safe." And he turns away again. "I'm not safe," he says. And nothing more.
And I realize that Brian is only trying to protect me. Protect me from his possible infection. Protect me from the damage he's feeling deeply in his very soul. Tears break from the edge of my eyes as I feel Brian breaking into a million pieces in my arms. And I fall asleep with my fucking heart feeling like it's about to break. Knowing that Brian's already has.
Continue on to "Something So Strong -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, February 2003.
Updated February 22, 2003.