This is Chapter Three -- "The Sleepers."
Go back to "Wayfarers -- Chapter Two -- Clarke's Hotel" the previous chapter in the series.
The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.
Other recent stories in the "Queer Theories" series.
Features Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin consider each other. Pittsburgh, December 1858.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Pittsburgh, December 1858.
"The sleepers are very beautiful as they lie unclothed...."
Walt Whitman, 'The Sleepers.'
The candle on the table by the bed was beginning to sputter out. Brian thought about getting up and hunting down another stub of candle in the chest of drawers. He also thought about retrieving his pipe and tobacco and having a smoke. But he didn't move. He was too comfortable. Too warm. Too well-satisfied. And that bothered him. Bothered him to a degree that he could not truly understand. Bothered that he felt such contentment when he knew that he should not be content. No, never content.
He thought about his copy of Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass,' which was sitting, dog-eared, on the desk in the hotel room. "A book full of filth and unnatural vices," his editor had pronounced when the copy passed into the office for review a few years before. So of course Brian was immediately interested in it. The book sat untouched for three days on the editor's desk before Brian picked it up and slipped it into his pocket. No one was ever the wiser. Brian devoured the work in an evening and then read it again. And again. Read it until he had certain portions memorized. Read it with amazement that such thoughts and feelings could be expressed, let alone published and distributed in American Society.
Perhaps he was reading things into the pages that were not there, but he thought not. His editor -- as well as a number of prominent critics and clergymen -- had railed against this poem, this poet. They must have recognized what this book celebrated. Celebrated what other men feared even to acknowledge within themselves.
"I wander all night in my vision,
Stepping with light feet...
How solemn they look there, stretched and still...
The men sleep lovingly side by side...."
The boy mumbled in his sleep and buried himself deep against the taller man's lean body. Brian realized that he didn't wish to get up because he didn't wish to disturb the boy. Didn't wish to disturb the moment. Afraid that once it was over it would never come again.
He put his arm tighter around Justin. Yes, Justin. This boy, this emotion, had a name. Brian shifted uneasily. In the past when he had brought someone to his bed he never wanted to know his name. If it was a drummer or traveler passing through town, drunk and lonely, not minding to share a bed for a night, then those fellows hardly ever remembered what had occurred in the dark -- or else they claimed not to remember. And then they went on their way. Gone. And that was the way of it. And when on occasion the urge took Brian and he paid a boy to accompany him back to the room, or into an alley or behind a saloon down by the river, a name was not a necessity. The act itself barely had a name. It was just done -- and forgotten.
In former days when Brian still had a taste for a woman now and again, he knew every whore in town. And why not? At one time they had been the closest thing to family that he knew. Madame Heloise. Mae. Carlotta. Marie. He knew them all, like mothers, like sisters. And they were always happy to oblige him when he asked. Hell, Mae was still offering, even when she knew he'd refuse.
But Brian had given up women when he fancied himself 'in love' with Miss Lindsay. That was his bow to 'Romance' -- since she was his ideal, then he would 'sacrifice' himself on the altar of that ideal. He'd give up carnal union with hussies and common women in order to remain true to his ideal. But Brian realized later on that all his noble 'sacrifice' was nothing but sham. A good excuse to give up something that had never satisfied him in the first place. Because his assignations with men he did NOT give up, convincing himself that they didn't count. That the other was not the same at all. That acts which never saw the light of day did not exist.
"I roll myself upon you as upon a bed... I resign myself to the dusk...."
What would Reynolds have said about that? Such folderol about 'Romance'? About 'Love' as an ideal and not merely an act to be accomplished and enjoyed? Reynolds would have been greatly amused, probably. "Boy, when I gave you all those fine novels and books of poetry to read for your edification, I did not expect you to believe them. Especially their words about 'Love.' Because those books are fiction -- and that means lies. Remember that, boy. Love and Romance? It's all mythology."
Yes, William Reynolds had been a realist. A man who knew no law but his own needs and desires. He was a man seemingly without a past, a gambler by profession and by nature who lived by his wits and his luck. And Reynolds taught Brian to do the same. And yet -- Brian HAD believed in all those books that Reynolds had given him to bolster his meager formal education. He believed in the plays of The Bard of Avon and the poems of Byron and Keats. Tennyson. Southey. All those ideals had fired Brian's tender soul as he looked for that embodiment of 'Perfect Love.'
And Reynolds had laughed at his youthful heart as he fell for one whore after another in every sporting house, bordello, and gaming den they frequented in their journeys. Then there were other females, as well. A dancer in a traveling show who Brian met while working the Ohio Duchess riverboat with his partner. The pretty daughter of a bargeman outside of Cincinnati. Then the young wife of a minister in Philadelphia. Some of these passions he indulged, while others remained mere chaste fancies. But they all eventually faded, worn out by time, until the next passion lit on Brian's shoulder like a butterfly -- and lived little longer than one of those bright and ephemeral creatures.
Yes, even Lindsay, who he had wanted so badly to marry. Even loving her had become more a habit than a true emotion. The fire he had felt in his loins when they first met seven years before had dwindled now to a bare flicker. Perhaps if they'd married right off, then a true and comfortable companionship would have grown and sufficed. Perhaps if they had had a family and a home, perhaps that would have given Brian a purpose and a center for his hopes and longings. But that had not been the case. The disapproval of Lindsay's parents and the woman's own waverings had undone them. And Brian's hopes had been duly smothered.
When he was so much younger, during those long nights -- whether in boats on the Ohio or the Mississippi or in hotels or sporting houses up and down the Eastern Frontier -- while he lay in bed next to Reynolds after the man had indulged himself on the boy's tender flesh, and he watched his mentor light up his pipe in the darkness or listened to his snores, then Brian wondered why he could not find a woman who could fulfill all his dreams, why it seemed such an impossible fancy. "You're a mere child, Brian," Reynolds would say, brushing away his tears. "When you're a man then everything will be clear."
But now Brian was a man and still nothing was clear.
It was only after Reynolds was dead and buried and Brian lay alone night after sleepless night, blaming himself, that he began to realize just who he had really loved for all those years. And where his true inclinations were situated. How William Reynolds, gambler and sporting man, would have laughed at his young protégé for coming to that final ironic understanding.
"Darkness you are gentler than my lover... his flesh was sweaty and panting,
I feel hot moisture yet he has left me..."
Brian felt the boy's soft hand reach around the side of the taller man's waist and squeeze the two of them even closer together, face to face and chest to chest, as if looking for some further joining. Brian couldn't tell if Justin was still asleep and moving unconsciously, or if he was awake and demanding more. Brian pulled his long fingers through the fair hair and the boy's eyelids fluttered slightly, but did not open. It was scarce beginning to get light outside -- that dim December dawn.
The man shivered slightly and lay back upon the pillows. Today Brian would return Justin to his home, his family. He would get the boy's last name from him and his address and then escort him there forthwith. And that would be the end of it. Better for both of them that it would be the end. Because Brian had spent long years burying his feelings and didn't want them dug up again by some yellow-haired, blue-eyed emotional undertaker.
Yes, tonight he'd be back in this very bed, alone once again -- and he didn't want to feel anything that might remind him of what had been there only the night before.
"Double yourself and receive me darkness,
Receive me and my lover too... he will not let me go without him...."
Brian looked over and saw two open eyes shining at him, just catching the glint of dawn peering through the window. "What are you looking at?" he whispered.
"Nothing," the boy whispered back. "Everything."
"That should cover all possibilities," Brian smiled. In spite of himself he turned on his side once again and took the boy into his arms. He lost himself in the tangle of pale hair, brushing his lips along the cheek on which he could feel no trace of stubble, only softness. Justin turned his head and caught Brian's mouth. For one who had never kissed before, the boy had become quite proficient in a short space of time.
"The breath of the boy goes with the breath of the man... friend is inarmed by friend,
The scholar kisses the teacher and the teacher kisses the scholar.... the wronged is made right..."
"You are standing firm again!" Justin marveled. Brian had already spent himself twice at the mercy of the lad's busy hands. "Now I want to put my mouth on YOUR cock!"
"Aren't you tired?" Brian asked, even though he desired the boy more than anything he could imagine. "Don't you wish to sleep?"
"No! If I sleep then when I wake the night will be over."
Brian sighed. "Every night must come to an end, Justin. It's almost dawn now."
"Not this night! Please? Not now!"
"I see his white body... I see his undaunted eyes...."
Brian eased himself back in assent and closed his eyes. The boy began at Brian's mouth and migrated down the man's long form, his tongue like a snail, leaving a wet, warm trail behind on Brian's hot skin. Brian knew that his member was too large for Justin to take all at once, so instead he allowed the boy to play with it. Not the rough yanking and jerking he did with his schoolfellows, but caresses and kisses full of liquid. Brian sighed heavily as he felt Justin rub the head of his cock against his smooth cheek, marking it like a cat marks with his scent. Brian leaned down and fondled Justin's head, his hair, his neck, as the boy mouthed the glistening tip.
Brian found that his delicate senses were roused by his proximity to this beautiful boy. While his assignations with men had always engendered a welcome and pleasurable release, never were the sensations so intense. Not in many a year had he felt his desire rekindled again and again so that he believed that he could spend as many times as he wished to and that his body would simply respond forever to Justin's enthusiastic touch. The emotions that this boy was awakening within Brian seemed nothing less than miraculous.
"Wait! I...." Brian sat up suddenly, astonished that his cock was ready to shoot again so soon. But it was too late. To his surprise, Justin didn't back away. Instead he drank down the issue like nectar, the way Brian had done to him earlier. By God, the boy wasn't merely precocious, he was insatiable -- and more than the older man's match!
And Brian felt a pang in his breast, afraid for Justin's innocence and his youthful fervor.
"That was grand!" said Justin, licking his lips in glee.
Brian frowned at him. "I don't know what to make of you, truly. I've known practiced whores who couldn't swallow a load of goods like that -- if you will excuse the crudeness of my expression."
But Justin grinned. "Not at all. You meant it to compliment me, didn't you, Brian?" And the boy stretched and sighed next to the man like a contented cat.
"Frankly, I did. I should NOT, but I did." Brian put his hand to his temple, rubbing it. "I shouldn't be doing this, you know. WE shouldn't! I shouldn't be offering you encouragement in vice! It's... wrong. I know it is wrong."
"Do you do this often, Brian?" Justin asked out of curiosity. "Lay with men, I mean?"
"Not often," Brian answered. "But when I can. When the hunger for it overtakes me."
"And do you feel guilt every time? With those others?"
"No," Brian admitted. "Not at all." And he didn't feel any guilt. He never had, even in those former days when he was whoring.
"Then why is it wrong with me?" whispered the boy.
"Because...." Brian paused, considering. Was it because of the boy's innocence? His youth? His class? No, Brian had had boys before, and virgins, as well as men of Society and substance. So what made this one unlike those others? "I don't know, Justin."
"I stay awhile away O night, but I return to you again and love you;
Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?
I am not afraid.... I have been well brought forward by you..."
"I know," Justin replied squarely. "It's because you love me, that's why."
"What? Where did you get THAT notion?" Brian scoffed.
"Because you said it!" the boy insisted. "The first time we spent together. You whispered the words into my ear -- and then you kissed me on the mouth!"
Brian laughed. "Let that be another lesson for you. Never believe anything a man may tell you in bed. Or to get you into that bed, Justin! It is all lies."
The boy tossed his golden head. "But you didn't say anything to get me into your bed. I was the one who forced my way into it!"
"I believe that it was a mutual desire. Which is as it should be. Although if your father should break into this room, I doubt he would see it in such a light," Brian said, only half-joking. "He would undoubtedly kill me -- and ask questions AFTER the autopsy."
Justin's eyes were wide. "Oh, no! I wouldn't allow that! I would protect you with all my might!"
"That greatly eases my mind," said Brian, smiling. He bent down. The scent of the boy's neck where he had washed it with Brian's pink rose water soap was intoxicating.
"But that doesn't negate the fact that you love me," the boy stated.
"It's only fitting, after all. Because I love YOU!"
Brian exhaled. "You don't even know me, Justin!"
"I know what I need to know," he replied. "I was afraid that something terrible would happen to me tonight. Even though I dreamed of the moment when my desires would be fulfilled, I feared it, too. Because of that unknown element -- my partner. But the minute I saw YOU I had no fear. I knew that you were the partner destined for me. The one marked out by Fate. It was like being hit by a big bolt of lightning!"
"Then you are fortunate that your tender skin hasn't been roasted to a fine turn by that bolt from the blue!" Brian laughed.
"You may scoff, but I know the truth of it. So, instead of being fearsome, tonight was a wonder. It was perfection!" The boy was so delighted with himself that Brian laughed once again and Justin laughed along with him. "So, what shall we do today? What do you usually do on a Saturday?"
Brian raised his crescent brows. "You really ARE planning to move in here, aren't you, brat? I'm going to take you home. As soon as it is light."
"But -- I don't want to go home!" Justin cried, sitting up in dismay.
"But you MUST!" Brian said, gently. "Surely you know that, Justin? You have been gone too long already. Your parents will want you. And they WILL find you eventually. Pittsburgh isn't so big a town that they won't track you down. A beautiful boy like you is difficult to miss among the ugly rabble of these rude streets."
And the boy buried his face against Brian's chest. "Don't send me away! Please don't!"
"Justin, listen to me," Brian reasoned. "It isn't my decision to make. It is simply good sense."
"Let me just stay today -- and tonight! Tomorrow -- then I'll go without a protest."
Brian sighed. "You SAY that, but...."
"I promise! Only don't make me go now. Not today!" And the tears flowed like a Spring stream.
"All right!" said Brian. "Enough! Don't carry on so! Tomorrow I'll take you home. Not today. Tomorrow."
Justin wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "See? You DO love me! You cannot bear to be parted from me!"
Brian rolled his dark green and golden eyes. "Let's sleep on that question, shall we?" He leaned over and snuffed out the flickering candle. "Close your eyes now."
Justin encircled the man's neck with his arms, dragging him down on top of him for yet another kiss. "I wasn't joshing when I said that I love you. And I DO love you! You'll see. You'll know it's Fate and nothing less! That we shall be together!"
"Such foolishness you speak! Shut those eyes. Go to sleep now," Brian commanded.
And exhausted slumber overtook them both, wrapped in the comfort of an embrace that seemed unlike any they had shared before.
"Be careful, darkness... already, what was it touched me?
I thought my lover had gone... else darkness and he are one,
I hear the heart-beat... I follow... I fade away.
Continue on to "Wayfarers -- Chapter Four -- The Paradise" the next chapter in the series.
©Gaedhal, April 2003.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your comments on "Wayfarers." Without your feedback I don't know if you are enjoying this new series!
Posted April 22, 2003.