Tuesday afternoon at the diner and the guys were warming up to this week's edition of the Gay Grapevine, courtesy of Em, when the topic of juicy gossip turned to none other than the gang's own Satellite of Love, Brian. "So, boys and girls, rumor has it that a certain Casanova is finally settling down. It seems he's been seen in the company of a hot, young thing all over town. Are his tricking days over? The Gay Grapevine is conflicted. What do you think?"
Both Ted and Michael froze, waiting for the tongue-lashing they were sure Brian was going to give Emmett. But they were sadly disappointed. All Brian did was to calmly get up and walk out of the diner without saying a word. Michael slid from the bench and followed, leaving Em and Ted to wonder what the fuck was going on.
"Brian!" Michael called as he reached for the Jeep's handle. "Wait." Brian paused. "He didn't mean anything by it."
"Yeah. He did." He turned and faced Michael.
"So why do you give a fuck? It's not like it's true." He searched Brian's face for any sign of validation. "Is it?"
Brian glanced away. "We both know what happened the last time I went hunting for a mate."
Christ. Michael leaned against the car, lightly touched Brian's arm. "He's not Cam."
"No, he could be worse. Because I should know better. Because when he says that he loves me, I believe him. Because..." He inhaled deeply. "He's so fuckin young, Mikey." Cut away his eyes. "I know that everybody thinks I'm this selfish little shit, and maybe I am, but I never wanted to hurt him."
"Then don't." Brian looked back at him. "Either give him what he wants or let him go."
He shoved his hands into his pockets. "What if I can't do either one?"
"He's not gonna wait forever. No matter how much he wants you." The words came hard to Michael and he almost left Brian then and returned to the diner.
"I didn't ask for this."
"But you let it happen. You let him fall in love with you."
"I don't even know why he loves me."
"You let yourself," he paused, searching for the right words, "you
opened yourself up to him." He caught Brian's hand and held it. "And now
it's too late to go back and change things. And pretending that nothing's
happened won't make Justin or the situation go away. You have to make a
Lindsay opened the door to find Brian there, stubbing out the last of his cigarette in preparation for entering the house. "Well," she began, "this is a surprise."
"I came to see Sonny Boy." He closed the door behind him.
"You're in luck." She raised the baby from where he lay on the sofa and handed him over to his daddy. "He's actually home tonight."
Brian held Gus in his arms and kissed his soft cheek. "Don't worry, you'll be breaking hearts soon enough."
"Like father, like son, huh?" She went into the dining room and grabbed something from the table, brought it back. Brian had already seated himself in his chair. "Look at this." He took it, held it in one hand. It was a sketch of Gus. "Justin did it."
Although his voice was strained, he spoke playfully to the baby. "Is that you, Gus? I think it is. Dadda's beautiful boy. Not bad, huh?" He handed the sketch back to Lindsay. "It's good."
"Yeah." He sat back in the chair and cradled the baby in the crook of his arm. "Why do I feel a lecture coming on?"
Putting the sketch on the coffee table, she plopped down on the sofa. "At first I thought it was just infatuation, just a crush. But it's more than that. He really cares for you. And I think he's good for you. Although he's quite a bit younger."
"We're not getting married."
"No. But there's more to this than just fucking. Everyone can see it. Even you. What would it hurt to admit that you're in a-"
With a start Lindsay realized that he was serious, that she had inadvertently touched on something painful. "Bri?" He wouldn't meet her eyes, kept his focused on Gus. "Bri, it's all right."
"No. It isn't. It's totally fucked." He stood and handed her the baby, wandered around the room, touching the bracelet he wore every now and then although he seemed to be unaware of doing so. Lindsay noticed it however.
"You think about him a lot, don't you? About Cam?"
She thought he would try to deny it, but he didn't. "Sometimes I look at Justin and I don't see him. I see myself. With Cam. And I know that it's not the same, I know that, but I can't help it."
"You need to let him go."
"I have," he protested.
"Truth time." He returned to his chair and sat, staring down at his hands. "Do you love Justin?"
He was silent for so long she thought that he would never answer, that he would just get up and go, leave the question hanging between them. And then he spoke. Softly. "I don't know."
"You need to close the door on Cam," she advised.
"You're talking about closure." He chuckled. "Fuckin daytime TV."
She blushed. Both Brian and Mel had ragged her for watching way too many talk shows during her maternity leave. "I'm serious. You won't ever be able to move forward until you end it with him."
"In case you haven't noticed, he's not here."
Lindsay trapped and held his gaze. "Yes, he is."
And there was nothing he could say.
Deb and Vic had gone to the movies, leaving Justin alone in the house. He had tried to reach Brian at home and on his cellphone to no avail. Having resigned himself to a night of excruciating boredom, he was surprised to hear someone come in the front door. It had to be one of the guys. Looking up, expecting Michael, his jaw nearly dropped when he saw that it was Brian.
"Hey," he said, eyes shifting the way they did when he had something to say and couldn't.
Justin took his empty plate to the sink. "Hey." Waited for Brian to make the next move.
He glanced around the living room. "Deb and Vic gone?"
He nodded. Took a deep breath and let it out. Then asked, "How long would you wait?"
Justin was genuinely confused. "For what?"
Without looking at him, he answered, "For me."
For a moment he couldn't speak. The topic of conversation had thrown him. He and Brian had playfully skirted around the issue of a relationship-him pushing, Brian retreating-and each time they had left themselves a way out of making any kind of commitment to one another. And, now, here was Brian bringing it up. How long would he wait? "Forever," he replied. And it was the truth. No matter how long it took.
"There're easier guys."
Justin could see how much the words cost him and he wanted to go to him and hold him but he didn't because he knew that right now Brian was skittish and any overture on his part might drive him away for good. "I don't want easier. I want you." Brian started for the door. "Where are you going?"
"Home," he said without turning around.
"Can I come?"
He paused, wanting to say, 'Yes. Come with me and keep me company, keep me from thinking about anything.' But Justin was one of the reasons his thoughts were so screwed up in the first place. "Not tonight. I just-I need to be by myself," he finished quietly. Then he slipped out into the night.
Left alone again, Justin didn't know whether to be ecstatic or
despondent. That Brian had come over and said any of those things to him
meant that he was thinking about them, about their future as a couple; but
something else was bothering him, something he felt he couldn't share with
Justin and that made the teen all the sadder because it meant that they
still had so far to go.
He had placed the joint and the bottle of Jim Beam within arm's reach
but hadn't touched them since. Any other night he would have welcomed the
oblivion of a good high. But not tonight. He had decisions to make and he
needed a clear head. Only, the problem with having a clear head was that
there was nowhere to run from your thoughts. Around every corner was a
truth he didn't want to face. He wrapped his arms around his bare torso.
Glanced at the clock. God, the night was so long; yet still not long
enough to keep the day from coming, if he really meant to do what he knew
Cameron looked up to see Brian coming through the door. "Bri? Christ."
"Yeah, well, not quite," Brian replied. He took a seat across from Cameron on the other side of his desk.
"Let's not do banal, okay? We both know how long it's been." Brian made a visuual sweep of Cam's office. Not bad. Not as tasteful as his own.
"So why now?" asked Cam. That he had remained calmly seated behind his desk was a testament to his years in marketing. He could sell anything, even the idea that he wasn't affected by Brian's appearance.
Brian started to answer, "Could-" Stopped and started again. "I..." Hesitated. Then managed to ask, "Could you come by my place tonight?"
"To talk," he replied, rising from his seat. He couldn't have sat a moment longer, looking over at Cam. His ex-lover was still beautiful, still alluring. He had felt the strands of desire tightening around him once more. Moving about the office, his eyes alighting on random objects, he was free again.
For his part, Cam was glad he had decided to get up, as it released him as well. He would never have guessed that seeing Brian again would affect him so. It was all he could do not to touch him, to kiss him, make love to him. "You were never big on talking."
"Still not." He looked directly into Cam's eyes, to let him know how serious this was. "But it can't be helped. And we can't talk about it here."
Cam studied Brian for a long moment and then pushed a pad and a pen
towards the edge of his desk. "Give me your address."
So Cam was coming and he still wasn't sure if he could do it, wasn't quite sure what it was. All he knew was that this was his chance to be free, maybe his last chance, cause he didn't think he could go through this again. And once he was free of Cam, then what? The path didn't automatically lead from Cam to Justin, and if it did, it would be by a circuitous route and not the straight and narrow.
At the appointed time, Cam arrived. Made the usual appreciative remarks about the loft, which Brian heard and didn't hear, and then fell silent. Waiting for Brian to reveal his intentions.
Brian offered him a seat which Cam didn't take.
"I'm here. Now what?" he asked, coming to the point.
"I ran into your partner once. At a restaurant." A lame beginning but he didn't know how else to start.
"I know. He told me."
And that hurt. "Of course. You share everything."
Cam knew that he had been wounded, but he wouldn't lie to ease the pain. "We try to be honest with one another."
He reacted as he always did when he was hurt, by attacking. "Did you tell him who I was?"
There was nothing else to say. "No."
"So much for honesty," he quipped.
"It wasn't important," Cam clarified and Brian felt as if someone had struck him.
"Well, there's my answer. Thanks for dropping by." He turned, but Cam spoke.
"I never stopped loving you."
That enraged him. "Son of a bitch! Don't you fuckin say that to me." Then, suddenly, he found it difficult to breathe.
"We happened at the wrong time-" Cam began.
"You invited me here to talk. I'm just trying to be honest."
"You were always honest, weren't you? After the fuckin fact."
"Is this what you wanted to see me for? Bri, it's been over for almost seven years."
"You're right," he said, walking away from Cam towards the door.
"I hated hurting you."
"Not as much as I did!" he yelled, whipping around to face Cam.
Cam took a step backwards, paused. Regrouped. "It was for the best. Neither one of us was ready. We needed to grow up."
"Yeah. You grew up and found a partner for life and I-" He couldn't say it, couldn't admit that his life was a mess. "Just go," he said softly. Shook his head. "...a fuckin stupid idea."
"I used to hear rumors about you. Stories. About this hot guy going through the ranks like a knife through butter. I used to wonder if you were happy. If you were happier that way."
Brian's voice dropped about thirty degrees. "What do you think?" And then his chest tightened and he couldn't say anything else.
"Bri?" Cam moved closer to him, but Brian backed away. He stumbled over to the window and stared out of it. Cam watched as his shoulders began to shake and despite the private resolution he had made, he found himself going over to Brian and taking him in his arms. Brian pulled away, angry. "I'm sorry. I did love you. I loved you more than anything in this world. And leaving you was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But, Bri, you know it was the right thing to do. Can you imagine committing to someone right now? The way you live your life?"
"You don't know shit about me," Brian growled.
"The clubs, the drugs, the tricks. Have I left anything out?" Brian looked away. Suddenly Cam understood why he was here. "There is someone, isn't there?" When Brian didn't answer, he continued. "If there is, think about what you're doing, Bri. Don't lie to him and tell him what he wants to hear just because you don't want to hurt him. Because that's exactly what you'll be doing: hurting him. The way I hurt you. And it was killing me. Killing both of us. And I couldn't do it anymore." Cam felt the tears roll down his cheeks. "I know you don't believe me but, Bri, I want you to be happy. If this guy makes you happy, then go for it. Only, don't lie to yourself about what it is you want. What you need. If it's not the right time, nothing you do can change that."
Cam caught him by the wrist before Brian could move out of reach. His fingers closed around the cowry shell bracelet he had given him years ago. To Brian it felt as if he were being burned, but he said nothing, riding out the pain. And then Cam turned his wrist over and began to untie the laces. For a moment, Brian started to object and then he realized that it was what they both needed, to be free of the past. So he allowed Cam to remove the leather band. Kissing Brian's palm, Cam dropped the bracelet into his hand. Closed Brian's fingers over it. He leaned over and kissed Brian's lips gently, savoring the touch. "Bye."
He stood holding on to the bracelet for the longest time after Cam
departed. Then he crossed to his desk and laid the band upon it, reached
for the telephone, and made a call.
Justin closed the door to the loft and joined Brian at the dining table. "Hey."
"What's up?" Justin asked and Brian laughed. Then sniffled. "Brian?"
He looked away and then back again at the teen. "Just-listen, okay? And don't interrupt because I don't think I could-I just need to do this." He paused and Justin waited. "My last year of college, I met someone. His name was Cameron and he was a marketing major." Brian found that he couldn't go on, not yet. He was dizzy with memories. Remembering the first time they had made love, their first argument, first dinner together
Justin thought that he would explode. Brian had been in a relationship? With some guy named Cameron. Brian? In love? At first he was just dumbfounded and then he became angry. Angry because Brian had never told him, angry because he was always pooh-poohing love as if he had never been affected, and here he was seven years later still thinking about this guy.
Brian stood and walked from the table. Continued. "We fell in love and for a while, it was like the movies. Fuckin love in the afternoon. I loved him more than anything. I thought we would be together forever." He sat on the edge of the shelf that ran around the outside of his bedroom. "But forever... He..." He rubbed his brow. "He was cheating on me and I found out. We fought, he promised not to do it anymore, and then he did."
Unable to imagine what kind of person would cheat on Brian and with whom, Justin sat and waited for Brian to go on with his story, cause there had to be more. Only, Brian didn't seem to be able to continue. He sat on the ledge staring at nothing, pain etched on his face. Justin didn't think it would be a good idea to approach him, but he did turn towards Brian and move his chair just slightly, just enough to jolt the man from his thoughts. Brian's head jerked. "Are you all right?" Justin asked.
"Yeah." He licked his lips. "Anyway, in the end, he left. He said it was for the best." Brian raked back his hair. "And it was." He reached into his pocket and removed his bracelet. Justin hadn't even noticed that he wasn't wearing it. He tossed it onto the table. "He gave me that. The night he promised to love me forever." He rose, not sure where he was going or what he would do once he got there. "So much for promises."
Justin hesitated to touch the bracelet, and then he picked it up and studied it. He had seen it so many times around Brian's wrist and yet it seemed something anew, having taken on a greater significance. Seizing the bracelet, he crossed to where Brian stood. "I won't make any promises I can't keep," he said. "And I won't ask you for any. But I love you. And I'll wait for you, no matter how long it takes. That's all I know." He placed the band around Brian's wrist and tied it back on. "I like the way it looks on you." He raised Brian's hand and kissed his palm, unwittingly echoing Cam's gesture. "But it's just a bracelet, that's all. Okay?"
Brian cupped his face in his hands, his fingers spread over Justin's cheek. Laid his forehead against the teen's. A tear fell from Brian's eye and landed next to Justin's lips. He kissed Justin, kissed the tear away, and felt the teen smile. After a moment, he smiled in return. But there were still things that needed to be said. He held Justin's face and stared into his beautiful, blue eyes. "Don't let me hurt you. No matter what."
Justin nodded solemnly. "I won't."
Brian laughed although there was more sadness than joy about its tone. "Liar."
"Then don't hurt me," Justin countered.
Instead of answering, Brian gathered the teenager in his arms and held him, trembling, knowing that he held something so precious that if he were to lose him, it would be as if he had lost part of his soul.
Justin looked up at Brian. Whispered, "Make love to me."
Tenderly, Brian entered him, and paused, savoring the feel of Justin's body around him, beneath him. Then he felt Justin's hand on his flank, urging him to continue, so he resumed his journey, almost completely penetrating him. Justin's head lolled about on the pillow, his blond hair bright against the dark grey material. He exhaled and smiled, his lips quivering a little. Brian kissed him, their mouths barely touching. And then Justin arched his back, driving Brian in to the hilt. He tightened around him, keeping him in place. Again Brian kissed him, this time harder, longer, his tongue seeking out the inner recesses of his mouth. He rocked against the teen, then began a long, slow withdrawal, one which left them both breathless at its completion. He remained inside him, just the head, but that was enough to retain that feeling of togetherness.
"Uhh ahh," Justin moaned, as Brian worked his way back inside of him. Hands resting lightly on Brian's arms, he could feel the power in his lover's body, a power that was directed at pleasing him. His legs slipped from Brian's shoulders, and Brian shifted position, gathered them in his hands, holding him wide open, on his knees now, establishing a regular pattern of thrusts and withdrawals.
Brian looked down at where they were joined; watching his flesh enter Justin's caused a white hot spasm of pleasure to erupt from the depths of his belly. That Justin trusted him enough to invite him inside of his body He had never thought of it before. Not even during their discussions about Daphne had it occurred to him that Justin might have felt the same way, that each time he allowed Brian access to his body, it was an act of faith.
Attentive to Justin's every shift in mood, in expression, Brian adjusted his strokes, his timing, the depth of his thrusts. Although he was normally a conscientious partner, he redoubled his efforts this time. Before Justin asked him to do anything, he divined the need and met it. Knowing how much Justin loved to feel his hands on his ass as they fucked, he altered their positions again so that he was kneeling behind him. His hands roamed the teenager's ample buttocks, stroking, kneading his flesh until it was rosy. And Justin, Justin moaned in ecstasy, the twin sensations of Brian being deep inside him and simultaneously touching his skin cinching him tight in the throes of passion.
Lowering their bodies to the bed, Brian lay crossways over Justin and, supporting himself on his arms, pumped his hips in a frenzied motion. Justin reached back, feeling the sweat-slicked mound of Brian's ass as it rose and fell. He could feel Brian's sac slapping against his buttocks, full, firm.
Brian moved again, bringing his body parallel with Justin's. They
struggled against one another, to get closer, to hold tighter. Brian cried
out as Justin gripped him along the length of his shaft, the teen in the
midst of the first spasm of his orgasm.
Justin realized that Brian wasn't in bed the moment he opened his eyes. He hunted for the light blue robe Brian had bought him, saying, "You'll catch cold walking around naked all the time," and went in search of his absent lover. Found him sitting on the sofa with an untouched shot of whiskey on the coffee table. Justin pearched next to him without saying anything. Brian had turned when he first heard the teen approach, now he returned his gaze to the images inside his head. They remained like that for a few minutes, Brian deep in thought and Justin watching him with worry. Then Brian exhaled and lay his head upon Justin's lap, the rest of him curled up on the cushions. Justin stroked his hair, feeling him tremble. "Have you ever watched The Yellow Submarine?"
Brian laughed and, although it was strangled, Justin could hear the amusement in his voice too. "No."
"Well," he began, still stroking his hair, "it starts out like this..."
And Brian lay with his head in Justin's lap and listened while he
related the Beatles' adventures beneath the sea and, after a while, the
teenager's steady, soothing voice and the comforting feel of his fingers
combing through his hair lulled him to sleep.