This is Chapter 45 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Gus Peterson-Marcus, Debbie Novotny, Michael Novotny, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin both have some unfinished business. 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.
"Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon,
You're leaving there too soon.
It's so noisy at the fair
But all your friends are there
And the candy floss you had
And your mother and your dad...
Now you're underneath the stairs
And you're givin' back some glares
To the people who you met
And it's your first cigarette...."
"When am I gonna see that new baby?" Debbie demands.
It's after the main breakfast rush and the Liberty Diner is fairly quiet. Except for the stir that went through the place when Brian Kinney walked in with his son in his arms. And with me. His partner. Me. Justin Taylor.
"Jesus, Deb," says Brian, trying to eat his whole grain toast in peace. "I've barely seen her! At least give Lindz a chance to get out of the hospital before you barrel over there and start telling her how to raise her own kid!"
"Me?" Debbie squawks. "Tell other people what to do? When have I ever done that?"
Brian rolls his eyes. "Remember that, Gus. You'll want to remind her of what she said just now someday in the future when she's in your face about what you're doing wrong with your entire fucking life!"
I snicker and Debbie glares at me. "I don't see what's so damn funny, Sunshine!" she snaps. "And you," she says to Gus. "You eat your oatmeal!"
Gus gives us all a look that says, "Oh, shit! Now she's after ME, too! Thanks a bunch!" And we all have to laugh.
"Hey, Deb," says Brian. "Has Michael been in this morning?"
"Earlier, hon," she replies. "Much earlier. Why?"
"Because I've left him a couple of messages and he hasn't gotten back to me." Brian shakes his head. "What is it that people won't return my fucking calls anymore?"
"Oh, it probably slipped his mind, sweetie," Deb says dismissively. "Michael's real busy at the store. And this thing with David has him all turned around. I wish David and his son had never come back to Pittsburgh! I mean, I like David, but Michael and Ben were just starting to get back together when David shows up out of the fucking blue and starts in on Michael again. Sweet talking him and all that other crap. We've been through that mess already and Michael doesn't need it right now!"
"Yeah," Brian agrees. "Bad timing to say the least. Michael told me that he and Ben had some kind of fight. I imagine that was about David, too."
"Michael went to... to my opening at the Warhol Museum with Dr. Cameron," I offer hesitantly. "And Ben was there. That's probably what they argued about." Of course, I don't say anything about what happened in Michael's store. About how Michael reamed me out and Ben tried to be nice to me. Because I know that's part of it. Ben was angry at the way Michael treated me. Ben was trying to be nice to me. But... but Michael had good reason to say what he said. A very good reason.
But Michael hasn't said anything to Brian. At least nothing that I can tell. Maybe Michael doesn't know how to tell Brian. Or maybe he thinks it isn't his place to tell him. Because I can't tell Brian. I... I know that I should. That I need to. We're partners! But I can't. How can I tell him about... about what happened. Between me and Dylan. What Dylan did. And what I did, too.
I feel like an anvil is hanging over my head by a single thread. One wrong word and it'll drop on me, crushing me flat. The more I think about it, the more nervous I get and then my right hand begins to shake. I try to pick up my coffee cup, but my hand isn't working.
"Careful there, Sunshine," says Brian as I spill some of the coffee on the table. Brian takes a napkin and mops it up. "You're making a bigger mess than Gus."
"Sorry," I say, pushing the cup away. "Isn't it time to go to the hospital, Brian? It might be our last chance to see the baby before we leave for L.A."
"Right," Brian says, putting some money down on the table and then gathering up Gus's things. "But first I want to make a little detour."
"Detour? A detour where?"
"To the store," says Brian, standing up and helping Gus on with his coat. "I need to talk to Michael before we leave and it looks like the only way I'm going to do it is to corner him in his fucking Fortress of Solitude!"
The store. Michael's store. Where we had our confrontation.
The last place in the world I want to go.
"Brian -- wait!" I say. "Shouldn't we go right to the hospital? I mean, Lindsay is expecting us to bring Gus to see his new little sister this morning."
Brian shrugs. "An hour isn't going to make any difference, Justin. And I need to speak with Michael. I need to find out why the fuck he's been dodging me the last couple of days."
And then Brian looks directly at me. Like he wants to pin me down, too. Ask me a million questions about why I was dodging him for all that time. Why I wasn't taking his calls. About why I didn't go up to Springhurst. About... about everything.
"Let's go," Brian says finally. "Now."
I have to follow him. This is the choice I made a long, long time ago. To follow Brian wherever he goes.
Red Cape Comics is quiet. Only a couple of college students are going through the bins, while Michael sits behind his purple iMac, scowling at the screen. But when he sees Brian walk in the door his face lights up as much as Gus's does when he sees Brian. As much as mine must light up for the same reason.
"Brian!" he cries. "And Gus!" Then Michael sees me and his face freezes into a rigid mask.
Brian goes over and kisses Michael lightly. "Is your fucking phone broken, Mikey? Why haven't you been returning my calls?"
Michael's lips are pressed together tightly. "I've been busy with David and Hank. You know how that is, Brian." Michael is talking to Brian, but he's staring past him. Staring right at me.
He really fucking hates me.
"No, thank God!" Brian snorts. "I don't know what it's like spending quality time with Dr. Dave and his Evil Spawn and I don't want to know. But that's no excuse for blowing me off. You know we have to leave for L.A. tomorrow, Michael."
"I know." Michael hangs his head. "I... I thought that you and... Justin would want some quality time of your own." The way Michael says my name -- it's so cold. Like it's a dirty word. And for Michael it IS a dirty word.
"Don't worry, Mikey, we're getting plenty of that in!" Brian grins. "But I always have time for you." Brian pauses. "Aren't you going to say anything to Justin?"
Michael's brown eyes rip right through me. "Hello, Justin," he says, like he's meeting a stranger.
Brian rolls his eyes. "Jesus! All this angst over a fucking comic book. And people say I'm a drama queen! Now, boys, kiss and make up."
But neither of us moves. Or says anything. We only glare at each other, both hanging on to what we know. And what neither of us can tell Brian.
Brian watches us closely. He knows that the problem between us is more than 'creative differences' over the comic book. But it's like Brian is weighing whether he really wants to know the truth or whether he will go on pretending that everything is all right. About whether he wants to force the issue. About whether all the shit will come out right here. Right now.
I can't stand this another minute. I glance around the store and it feels like the walls are closing in on me. And the way Michael is looking at me. Like he wants me dead. Lying on the cold cement. I know Michael is right. That's where I belong. What I deserve. I feel the throbbing begin inside my head. My scar feels like it's burning. Like it's still raw and bleeding.
"Brian," I say, trying not to let my voice break. "Why don't I take Gus for a little walk? Get us both some fresh air?"
Brian looks at me like he's trying to see deeply inside of me. Then he looks at Michael. Trying to understand. Trying to work it all out. But he sees that I need to get out of there. "Sure," he says. "Gus is a little restless. Hey, Gus? You want to go for a walk with Justin?"
"Yeah!" Gus crows. "Wit Dustin!"
"Okay, Sunshine," Brian says. "He's all yours."
We walk out of Michael's store, Gus holding tightly to my hand. Maybe we'll just go around the block. Maybe by that time Brian will have finished talking to Michael.
Maybe Michael will have told Brian what he saw. What he knows. Or what Michael thinks he knows.
But that would be enough. Enough to totally destroy....
"Hey there, Just."
I look up. Suddenly I can't breathe.
"Go away, Dylan," I hiss when I can finally find my voice again. "Leave me alone! I told you that I don't want to talk to you. I don't want to see you. I want you to stay away from me. And I fucking mean it!"
But Dylan only smirks at me. "I see Kinney has you babysitting again, Just. You know, he has money. He can afford to hire a real babysitter. Or is dragging his kid everywhere part of your job description?"
"Fuck you, Dylan," I breathe. I pull Gus along the sidewalk with me, away from Michael's store. All I need is for Michael to look out the window and see me standing on the sidewalk with Dylan Burke.
"Ow!" Gus cries out. "Dustin stop!"
"Sorry, Gus." I stop and kneel next to him. "Did I hurt your arm? I'm so sorry!"
Gus' bottom lip trembles. He's milking it, but I don't care. I hug Gus close to me, comforting him. Then I pick him up and carry him, soothing as we go.
But Dylan keeps following us. Right on my heels. He's laughing at me. Fucking asshole!
"Is Kinney in that store getting the lowdown from his comic book pal? The one who seems to think we're fucking?"
I stop and whirl around. "Shut the hell up, Dylan! And I've already told you -- get away from us!"
"Go way!" repeats Gus, loudly. He scowls at Dylan. He looks so much like Brian when Brian is looking stern that my heart tips sideways. "Go way, Din!"
"You don't like me, do you, kid?" says Dylan, making a face back at Gus. "Come on! We're buddies, right? We had fun in the loft that time, didn't we?"
"That was a mistake!" I tell Dylan. "I never should have let you come into the loft while I had Gus. That was fucked up. My own fault."
But Dylan shrugs. "Who gives a shit? It's only a place. It's not some sacred temple of Brian fucking Kinney!" Dylan leans over and whispers. "I don't know why we can't fuck in that big bed of his. It was custom made to fuck in. Under those blue lights. Plenty of guys have fucked in that bed. It's not some 'altar' to your precious love for Kinney! Or his love for you!" Dylan snickers. "That's a laugh! How many tricks has he fucked in that bed? Guys whose names he didn't even bother to find out? Hundreds? Thousands? So don't pretend that YOU are anything special to him. Because you know better than that, Just."
There's a coldness somewhere deep inside of me. A part of me that believes what Dylan says about Brian. Because most of what he says is true. All of those guys over all of those years. So many guys. So many tricks. So many fucks. What makes me think that I'm any different?
But not now. Not anymore. There's been no one but me and Brian in that bed for over a year. Not since before he left for Los Angeles. Because Dylan is wrong. It's OUR bed now. Not only Brian's, but mine, too. Because we're partners. No matter what Dylan says. No matter what anyone says. Or what anyone thinks.
"Listen," Dylan says in an almost threatening tone. "Just because that fucker has his name inked on your ass doesn't mean that he owns you, Justin. That's bullshit! Because I was there first. And don't you forget it!"
I stare at Dylan in disbelief. "You were WHERE first? We never did anything when we were kids, Dylan! We kissed a little and we touched each other's dicks a few times -- and that's all! So don't make it more. Because that's BULLSHIT! Total fucking bullshit!"
Dylan snorts. "You have your memories, Just -- and I have mine. Believe whatever you want."
"Believe? BELIEVE?" My face flushes bright red. This is so typical of Dylan's fucking mind games. "Brian was my first lover, Dylan! Period! I don't know what you think you 'remember' -- but it's not true!"
Dylan doesn't answer that. Because he can't answer it. He wants to stake a claim on me -- but it's nothing. Meaningless.
I feel Gus' hand squeezing mine. He's watching me and Dylan. Listening to us argue. He's only a little kid, but I still don't want him to hear this. It's like Brian is standing here in miniature, taking it all in.
"We have to get back to the store," I say, turning around. "Brian and I have to finish packing. We're leaving for L.A. tomorrow."
"Bought with a trip to the Oscars, huh?" Dylan spits. "Well, I can't compete with that. I don't have the money or the fame that you seem to crave, Just. I only love you -- that's all!"
"You? Love me?" I almost choke at that. "That's the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life, Dylan! The only way you could get me into bed was to... to get me drunk and high. That's what you did. Otherwise, forget it!"
"You wanted me, Just," Dylan whispers hoarsely. "You wanted me BAD! And you still want me. You want me right this minute!"
"The only thing I want to do is get away from you, Dylan." Gus and I start heading back to Michael's store. "I never want to see you again. So don't call me or come around again. Ever!"
"You'll be back!" Dylan calls after us. "Kinney will fuck up! You'll see. He always fucks up! And then you'll come running back. Because he'll never change! He can't change! And he'll never love anyone but himself! Mark my words, Just. It's the truth, even if you don't want to hear it!"
"Fuck you," I yell back at him. And then I whisper, "Fuck you, Dylan. Fuck you."
I don't breathe easily until Brian and I have changed planes in Chicago and are on our Trans-Con Airways flight to Los Angeles.
Brian sits back in his seat and closes his eyes. All of the flight attendants -- male and female -- have been fawning over him, but now they back off and leave him -- us -- alone. Brian dozes for about an hour while I watch him, silently. Silently as we fly over the country. Far away from Pittsburgh. Away from everything I want to forget.
Brian is thinner and his hair is a little long and wild, but he still looks amazing. So fucking beautiful. I know that I always think Brian looks amazing, but it's especially true today. He has a slight smile on his face. He's happy. Really happy. And why shouldn't he be? The baby, Charity, is beautiful. Gus was thrilled to spend time with his Dada. Lindsay came through the C-section great. And even Melanie managed not to be a complete bitch while he was there.
But then there's Michael. I still don't know what they said to each other in the store. Maybe it was about me. Or maybe it was about Michael and his tangled love life with Dr. Dave and Ben, I don't know. But Brian didn't seem angry at me afterwards. He seemed... fine. More than fine. Because we went back to the loft and made love all night. Not fucked. Made love.
I know the difference.
That difference is everything.
Because I love Brian. I have since the moment I saw him and I always will. Nothing will ever change that.
Brian stirs and yawns. He blinks at me a couple of times. "Hey there, Sunshine," he says. "Are we over the Rockies yet?"
"I don't know," I admit. "I haven't been looking out the window. I've been looking at something else. Something better than the Rocky Mountains."
"In-flight movies are always cut," he informs me with a smirk. "So don't bother."
I nod and take a few deep breaths. I had been pretending to listen to some music, but now I take off my headphones. Brian watches me. He's listening. He wants to know. But I can't say what I've been rehearsing over and over in my head.
"So," he says finally. "Do you want to talk about it?"
I look away. He must notice that. How I always look away from his searching eyes. "Talk about what?"
"Whatever it is that you have to say, Justin." I look down at Brian's hands. He's holding them steady in his lap. "About what happened between you and Michael, for starters. Or... about why you weren't returning my calls for all of that time? About why you didn't call to let me know that you weren't coming up to Springhurst?"
"I said I was sorry about that, Brian," I whisper. Please don't ask me about this! God, Brian! Don't ask NOW!
"I know you did." His hands clench and unclench. They're beautiful. Strong, but vulnerable, too. "Look, Justin, I'm not going to push you about it. I... I know you've been under a lot of stress about your exhibit at the Warhol Museum. And your classes. All the shit involving my treatment. It's a lot of responsibility."
"But I promised, Brian," I reply. "I told Dr. Gorowitz that I was your partner. I told him that I'd be there for you when... when you needed me. But... but I... I...."
"It's okay," he says. "I said everything was okay when I walked into the hospital and saw you there. And I meant that. I knew at that moment that I lo...." And Brian pauses. "That I cared about you. That I wanted you there. That was all that mattered."
He didn't say 'I love you.' He was going to say it to me -- and he stopped himself. I did that. It's my fault. Brian is already pulling back. Stepping away to protect himself. From me. And I don't blame him. But I want to hear those words right now. I need to hear those words so fucking badly!
"I love you, Brian," I say quietly, but firmly. "Please believe that. Because it's true. And you're right -- nothing else matters."
Brian nods. "I know you do. And I... I'm trying, Justin. Trying to make this all work. We're together and I'm not going back to Springhurst. I'm only going forward from now on. WE are only going forward. No more bullshit, right? The decks are cleared. Nothing that happened in the past matters. Only what happens in the future. Right?"
"Right," I answer. And I really hope that it can be true. I reach over and take his hand.
One of the male flight attendants comes over and asks us if we'd like a drink. I ask for a Coke. Usually Brian would have an Absolut on the rocks while he's flying. He says that clear liquor causes less of a headache at a high altitude and if anyone would know about that it would be Brian.
"Can you please bring me some hot water?" he asks. The attendant looks puzzled, but he brings Brian a pot of boiling water and a cup. And Brian, to my astonishment, takes a foil square out of his briefcase. For a moment I think it's a condom -- but it's his herbal tea. Brian rips it open with his teeth and dunks the teabag into the pot. Then he pours about five packets of sugar into the cup and pours the tea over it.
"Brian Kinney, Tea Lady!" I laugh in delight.
"TEABAG Lady," he corrects. "Am I officially dickless?"
"No," I whisper. "Never. That's something you will never be."
He shrugs. "You never know, Justin. Maybe one day I'll even be an old man." Brian grimaces, as if trying to picture it. "With a fucking dick-pump!"
"I thought your mantra was 'Hope I die before I get old'?" And I don't smile as I say that because I know what Brian thinks about getting old. About no longer being young and beautiful and perfect.
"But... Gus might need me when he grows up," Brian says softly. "And... and the baby. Charity. She might need me... someday. She might need her father, even if he is an broken-down old fucker. And... maybe getting older isn't the end of the world. As long as you aren't alone."
Brian looks at me. This isn't a statement. It's a question. A question for me.
"You won't be, Brian." I can hardly breathe. "You won't be alone."
"How do you know?" he asks me seriously.
"Because I know." That's all I need to say.
Brian sips his herbal tea and I lean my head on his shoulder. Now I close my own eyes. Feel myself moving through space high above the ground. Moving forward. I won't go backward. Only forward. Both of us.
"We'll be landing in Los Angeles in about an hour," Brian says. "Sugar Mountain. It's going to be a real circus there. The Oscars are going to be tough. My first real test." Brian takes my hand and twines his fingers with mine. "I don't want to fuck up. Help me not fuck up, Justin."
"You won't, Brian," I promise. "Everything is going to be perfect." I open my eyes and smile at him. He puts his face next to mine and I smell the mint tea on his warm breath. "Absolutely perfect."
"Now you say you're leavin' home
'Cause you want to be alone.
Ain't it funny how you feel
When you're findin' out it's real?
Oh, to live on sugar mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on sugar mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon,
You're leaving there too soon."
Continue on to "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes".
©Gaedhal, May 2005.
Posted May 4, 2005.