The other episodes in "The Angel Stream".
Boston, November 2005
"Oh my God! Brian!" Justin cried.
He grabbed at his lover, trying to hold him up, but Brian's dead weight was too much and he sprawled on the dance floor like a broken doll.
"Man down!" yelled Billy Duggan. And then he threw his head back and laughed. Guys too smashed to keep their feet were par for the course at a Duggan party. But his wife, Marge, frowned and jabbed him in the belly.
Suddenly Justin and Brian were surrounded by a mob of men, all trying to drag Brian to his feet.
"Stand back!" ordered Pat, pushing through the crowd. "Give the man some air!"
Pat and Derrick gently helped Brian into a sitting position.
"Fuck," Brian groaned, his eyes flickering open. "Fuckity fuck fuck."
"You said it," Pat commented.
"Did he take anything besides the booze?" Derrick asked Justin as Pat looked closely into Brian's eyes. "Any E or other shit?"
Justin shook his head. "I... I don't think so. He would have mentioned it -- or offered me some, too. I don't think he brought anything like that with him."
"Good," Pat nodded. He and Derrick each took an arm. "Ups-a-daisy, Beautiful. Let's get you into the men's room." They hoisted Brian up and guided him off the dance floor.
"It'll be okay," Denny said, putting his arm around Justin's shoulders as they followed the parade to the bathroom. "This is Southie. Stuff like this always happens. People have a little too much to drink and -- pow! It hits them all of a sudden. You should come to an Irish wake some time. Even the old ladies get drunk at those!"
"But Brian can usually hold his liquor," Justin insisted. "It's not like him to be so drunk that he actually falls down!"
"It happens," Denny shrugged. "I've seen you passed out more than once. Remember that mixer sophomore year? I found you asleep in the men's john with your head on the toilet seat!"
"I remember," Justin winced. "But this is Brian!"
"Don't worry. Uncle Pat and Derrick will take good care of him," Denny said as the paused in front of door of the men's room. Inside Justin could hear Pat and Derrick talking. But he didn't hear Brian's voice. And that scared the shit out of him.
"I have to be in there with Brian!" Justin asserted.
But Denny held him back. "Give the guys a few minutes. Then if Brian is still feeling bad, we can take him over to the house and let him lie down. He'll have a bitch of a hangover in the morning, but he'll be okay," Denny reassured him.
"Shit," Justin muttered. He knew Denny was right -- Uncle Pat and his partner had a lot more experience dealing with guys under the influence, but that didn't make it any easier. Justin had seen Brian drunk and stoned before, but rarely so out of it that he couldn't stand up.
"Is Brian all right?" Carole came up to them, her face full of concern. She looked other-worldly in her white, lacy gown, her black hair caught back in a circlet of white rosebuds, her dark blue eyes wide.
"He'll be fine," Denny pronounced. Then his voice softened. "How are you feeling?" He reached out and lightly touched her shoulder.
"I was a little queasy before, but I'm feeling better now," Carole replied.
Justin's eyes shifted to Carole's waistline. She looked the same to him. He didn't pay too much attention to women in general, but her stomach didn't look any bigger than it had last June. There was nothing about her that screamed out that she was pregnant. Maybe her face was a little flushed, but it was hot in the party center. And maybe there were dark smudges under her eyes, but it had been a long, tiring day.
Justin watched as Denny leaned against Carole and kissed her tenderly, his hand resting against her belly.
Something deep inside Justin reeled as he watched his friend and his new bride.
This is what it means to be married. This is what it means to have someone who will love you forever, no matter what. Someone who you'll always love. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and health. Until death -- and maybe even beyond that.
That's what I feel for Brian, Justin thought.
He'd felt that for a long time, maybe even since the first moment he saw Brian on Christmas Eve almost a year ago, but it had never been so clear in his mind before. He'd never really thought about the vows people said when they got married. Before they had been simply words. An empty ritual. But now they seemed concrete. A real promise that you made. With real consequences in your life.
"I think you should sit down," said Denny, taking Carole by the hand. "It's been a long day." And he led Carole back into the main room, leaving Justin leaning against the wall next to the men's room door.
Boston, November 2005
The voice was unmistakable to Justin. Brian. Slightly slurred and obviously in distress.
"I'm coming in there!" Justin declared -- and pushed open the men's room door.
The stall door was ajar and Brian was leaning over the toilet, upheld by Pat and Derrick, who were wedged into the small space on either side of him.
"Oh, God!" Brian moaned. "I knew I shouldn't have eaten that fucking piece of wedding cake!"
"Here's a clue -- it wasn't the cake that did this," Pat offered.
"Justin, could you hand me some wet paper towels?" asked Derrick.
"Sure." Justin pulled a large handful from the dispenser and ran them under the cold water faucet. Then he stood just outside the stall, listening to Brian heave up his guts into the commode.
"Justin, can I have those towels?" said Derrick, irritation creeping into his voice.
"Let me do it," Justin returned sharply. "Brian's my partner. I should be doing that, not you guys."
"Let us handle it, kid," said Pat, dismissively. "We have more experience with drunks than you do." Then he turned his attention back to Brian. "Do you think you're going to puke again? Or are you done?" But Brian only muttered another curse under his breath.
"Excuse me, but Brian is NOT a drunk!" Justin flared. "Maybe he had a little too much tonight, but he's not a fucking alcoholic! So don't suggest he is!" Justin pushed his way into the stall, elbowing Derrick aside. "Brian? Are you okay?"
"Sorry about this, Sunshine," Brian whispered. "Thank God I didn't wear my new Armani tux!"
"Jesus H. Christ on a fucking raft!" Pat laughed. "What a label queen!"
Justin shot him a dirty look. "Do you still feel sick?" Justin asked Brian, blotting his face with the cool, damp paper towels.
Brian shook his head. "I think I'm done."
"Okay then. Let's get you on your feet," said Justin, gripping Brian's right arm.
Pat and Justin helped Brian up slowly while Derrick brought in a folding chair from the main room.
"There you go, Beautiful," said Pat. "Sit your fine ass down on that."
Brian eased onto the chair and held his throbbing head. His beautiful dark gray suit was streaked with wet spots down the front and his silk tie was twisted and ruined. Derrick handed him a bottle of water and he sipped it slowly.
"Thanks, guys," Brian said. "You, too, brat. I'll have to apologize to Denny and his family. I must look like a complete fucking idiot."
"Don't worry about it, Brian," said Justin, kneeling next to the folding chair. "They're just concerned that you're all right."
"Yeah," Derrick smirked. "This is nothing. When I went out to get the chair they were carrying out Uncle Will. And Denny told me that cousin Ed and that crazy husband of Maggie's were duking it out in the parking lot! Just another typical Southie wedding reception!" He handed Brian a bottle of water. "Drink some of this. You don't want to get dehydrated."
"Thanks." Brian tipped the bottle against his lips, sucking down the tepid water. He sat with his eyes closed, but the room was still spinning. "I feel so fucking dizzy."
"What else did you take?" Pat asked pointedly.
"Nothing!" Brian insisted. "I live in Family Friendly Pittsburgh, remember? I'm out of the habit of carrying a pocketful of E everywhere I go."
"It was those goddamn Irish Car Bombs," Derrick asserted. "Guinness, Jameson's, and Bailey's Irish Cream -- that's a deadly combination!"
"I'm not that drunk!" Brian shot back. "It was that lousy cake!"
"Honey, everyone else ate the cake, including every kid and little old lady in the place, and they're all fine," Derrick retorted. "Just admit you can't hold your booze and have done with it!"
"Fuck you!" Brian hissed.
"That's enough!" Pat interrupted. He recognized that Derrick and Brian were two of a kind -- both highly sexed, highly competitive, and hard-headed Micks. Derrick had sniffed out Pat's attraction to Brian the minute he saw the two of them in the same room. And Derrick didn't like any other man, even one who was in a relationship and lived hundreds of miles away, encroaching on his territory.
"I want to take Brian back to the guesthouse," said Justin. "I think we've had enough partying for tonight."
Pat nodded. "We'll follow you guys back there. Where are you parked?"
"That's not necessary," said Justin. "I can handle things from here." He tugged at Brian's arm, prodding him to his feet.
"Look, kid," said Pat. "We'll tag along behind you. You might need some help getting your partner up to bed."
"I can walk," Brian announced. He stood as upright as he was able, but he was shaky and still looked more than slightly green. "All I need is Justin."
"Sure, Beautiful," Pat smiled. "Justin is great. But it never hurts to have someone to watch your back." He glanced at Justin, who looked unsure. "Denny would want you two to get home in one piece. And he can't leave his own reception, can he?"
"No," Justin admitted. "He can't."
"Then you lead the way, kid," said Pat, opening the men's room door. The sound of the band playing 'My Love' drifted from the main room, where the wedding reception was beginning to wind down.
"Okay," said Justin, holding tightly onto Brian's arm. "Come on, Brian. Just lean on me until we get to the Jeep. I won't let you fall."
Brian took a deep breath. He was afraid that when the chilly night air hit him he'd lose it again. But Justin's grasp was firm. And he was right -- he wouldn't let Brian fall. And Brian knew that.
"Thanks," he whispered. His stomach rumbled dangerously, but then settled. "I'm an asshole."
"Shut up," Justin ordered. "I already know what you are. And I love you anyway."
Brian blinked. "I know that, too. But I don't know why."
"Yes you do," Justin replied.
"Justin... I..." But he paused, unable to form the words.
"I know, Brian," said Justin. "We'll talk about it later."
They walked outside and stood for a moment in the cold. It had stopped raining and the wind from off Boston Harbor felt like it had snow in it.
Boston, November 2005
The road was slushy and slick as Justin drove cautiously through the dark, unfamiliar streets on the way back to the guesthouse.
"For fucksake -- pull over!" Brian shouted suddenly.
A startled Justin swerved the Jeep to the side of the road and slammed it to a stop, praying that Pat and Derrick's Lexus, trailing close behind, wouldn't rear-end them.
Brian bolted from the Jeep and puked noisily onto the freshly-fallen snow.
"Brian? Do you need any help?" Justin reached under the front seat for the towel that Brian always kept there.
Brian shook his head as he slowly climbed back into the passenger's seat, wiping his mouth with the white linen handkerchief that had once adorned the breast pocket of his dark gray suit. "Jesus," he breathed. "This is fucking ridiculous."
Pat pulled his Lexus up next to the Jeep and rolled down the window. "Everything okay?"
"I think so," said Justin, his hands clenched around the steering wheel. "Let's get going. We're almost there."
Justin drove the next five blocks praying that Brian wouldn't be sick again, while Brian prayed that he wouldn't be sick inside the Jeep and ruin the crimson leather upholstery he had special- ordered to contrast with the black mirror-finish exterior. Christ, Kinney, he thought -- get a fucking grip! You didn't have THAT much to drink!
Brian and Justin, followed closely by Pat and Derrick, stumbled though the front door of the guesthouse in a blast of briskly falling snow. One of the owners, Preston Wellington-Bradford, was sitting in the parlor, reading a P. D. James mystery. His partner, Nathaniel, had gone to bed ages ago, and the guesthouse was quiet. Or it had been until that moment.
"Oh my!" Preston exclaimed as he took in the dishevelled group. "What happened to you?"
"A wedding happened," Brian coughed. Justin held his breath, waiting for Brian to puke all over their host and his antique oriental carpet. "Cool your jets, Sunshine. I'm all emptied out." Then Brian coughed again. "I think."
"I want to get Brian into bed as soon as possible," said Justin. Derrick barked out a snarky laugh and Justin glared at him. "I mean, because he's not feeling well!"
"Go on up to your room. I'll make you boys some tea and bring it up," said Preston. He gazed at Justin's worried face and added, "Don't you worry, honey. Your boyfriend will be fine once his tummy settles down."
Pat reached out to take Brian's arm, but Justin shook his head. "I can take it from here."
"Justin, we only want to make certain everything is all right," said Pat as he and Derrick followed the pair up the stairs.
Justin opened the door of their room. One of their hosts -- probably Preston -- had already laid a fire.
"Hey, this is a pretty nice place," said Derrick, walking over to the hearth. "Great cuckoo clock."
"You can have the goddamn thing," Brian mumbled. He was trying to strip off his shirt and the buttons were popping. "That fucking bird sticks its head out every hour on the fucking hour! 'Cuckoo' my ass!"
"Brian, let me do that." Justin gently pushed Brian's hands away and helped him off with his shirt.
Pat watched quietly as Justin undressed his lover. Even though Pat knew that Justin was 22, the same age as his nephew, Denny, he looked much younger. Frankly, Justin looked like a boy. But he was acting like a man. Was taking on the responsibilities of a man. Pat imagined that Brian Kinney was not an easy person for any guy to deal with, let alone a kid who hadn't even been out a year and was having his first relationship. But Pat could see that Justin was in love -- and that love made him strong and determined.
But Brian -- he was a real question mark. Pat knew from their conversation in the Quiet Man Pub that Brian was a troubled person. That he came from a family of hard-drinkers who hadn't exactly treated him well when he was growing up. And Brian had hinted at other things in his past -- dark things that were buried deeply inside. Things that Justin probably couldn't even guess at.
Poor kid, Pat thought. He's got a long, hard road ahead with this man. He watched as Justin pulled back the covers and Brian slipped underneath. Pat caught a brief glimpse of Brian's slender, but muscular body. Watched him stretch his long neck against the pillow and sigh, his beautiful eyes closed. But maybe he's worth it, Pat considered. Maybe. I hope so, for the kid's sake.
"Come on, Derrick. Justin doesn't really need us here." Pat touched his partner's arm. Staying longer might prove interesting, but he already felt like a voyeur. "Let's get back to the reception before they run out of booze."
Justin woke up in the dark. He felt the bed move. Then the lights went on in the bathroom.
Brian was throwing up again.
"Sorry," Brian said, his voice weak. He was bending over the toilet, sweat pouring down his neck. "This is going to go down in history as the worst fucking hangover on record. I'm glad we sprang for the private bathroom. I'd hate to barf in the hallway of this fine establishment making a run for the john. The Wellington-Bradfords would never get over such a faux pas."
Brian stood up and leaned against the sink. He reached out to turn on the faucet, but his hands were shaking.
"Here. Let me." Justin took a washcloth and ran in under the cold water, then blotted Brian's flushed face. He stroked his neck gently, but then started. "Jesus, Brian! You're burning up!"
"Huh?" Brian looked dazed.
"Don't you feel hot?" Justin asked.
"I thought it was this room," Brian murmured. "That fucking fireplace is like a furnace in here!"
"The fire is almost out," said Justin. "It's not the room. It's you. You've got a fever."
"Thank God!" Brian replied in relief. "I was beginning to think I was losing the Kinney ability to hold my liquor."
"I don't have any aspirin," said Justin. "Should I see if the owners can give us some?"
"I'd probably just throw them back up," said Brian. He filled a cup of water from the tap and took a sip. "That feels like ice water going down."
"No wonder," said Justin. "I wish I had a thermometer. Let's get you back into bed."
"Yeah," Brian breathed. "Back into bed."
Brian's body temperature was naturally warm, but now his skin felt like it was on fire. Justin wrapped his arms around Brian and pressed his cool body against him, as if he could draw the fever out by sheer willpower.
"You'll make yourself sick," Brian muttered. But he didn't move away.
"No I won't," Justin insisted. "I never get sick."
Brian murmured something under his breath.
"What?" Justin whispered. "What did you say?"
"Don't leave me," Brian repeated.
"I won't," Justin replied, holding Brian's burning head against his chest. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here with you."
"No," Brian sighed. "Don't. LEAVE. Me. Just don't."
"Oh." Justin swallowed, wondering if Brian would even remember saying it in the morning. "I already said that I won't. And I mean it. Maybe one day you'll truly believe it."
But Brian was already asleep.
©Gaedhal, February 2007.
Posted November 5, 2007.