Justin sat on the bottom step of the school sketching, trying to figure out what to do, where to go. He and Brian had argued the night before—although it wasn’t really an argument if one person walked out of the apartment in the middle of the other person’s sentence as if they hadn’t spoken at all, as if they suddenly ceased to exist. Any other night Justin would have followed him, to Babylon most likely, and forced Brian to acknowledge him, but last night he had come to the end of his reserves. Over a week away from his family, constantly battling the desire to go back, to try and fix things, knowing that the two things he couldn’t fix were the very things that kept him estranged from them: his feelings and his dad’s.
Then night before last Brian hadn’t come home, had just walked out of the apartment leaving him to study alone, didn’t say where he was going or anything. He had waited, fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV where Ringo, Paul, John, and George were traveling around in a yellow submarine. Not surprisingly he had dreamt in Technicolor that night, waking around one o’clock from a dream where he was being chased by a giant fist with metal spikes all over its surface. Immediately he had stumbled from the couch to an empty bed. Six hours later he had awakened, sprawled over the middle of the bed. So Brian hadn’t come home.
He hadn’t wanted to nag him, had just wanted to know where he was. “I was worried,” he had told him and Brian had sneered and said in his coldest voice, “I don’t need babysitting,” implying that Justin did. Maybe it was the tone of voice, maybe it was that he really was trying to stay out of Brian’s way and it seemed that nothing he did was right, but that had really hurt, those four simple words. Even then, he’d tried to put a different spin on it, had said, “What if something had happened and I needed to reach you? What if something had happened to Gus?”
“Lindsay has my cellphone number,” Brian had replied, turning away from him and removing his work clothes. Carefully, Justin had watched him for clues as to what he had planned. When he slipped on a matte black sweater and a pair of black jeans Justin had known that he wasn’t staying in that night. And it had been a school night and he had really needed to study. The last thing he needed was for his grades to slip. Brian or no Brian, his parents would take him home or send him away to school and there would be nothing anyone could do. “Why can’t you stay home just one night? With me?” he had added although he hadn’t meant to, hadn’t wanted to do anything that would irritate Brian. Need irritated him. His own and others’.
Brian had turned and fixed him with a hard look. “I’m not a cruise director and this isn’t the Love Boat. Entertain yourself. I’m going out.” With that he had grabbed his leather coat and headed for the door.
“I just—” Justin had begun and then the door slid close and Brian had gone.
For an hour he had sat at the dining table staring at a closed book. Tears had dropped and pooled on the cover. Twice he had started for the door before stopping a few feet away from the table, exhausted. Finally, he had given up the pretense of studying altogether and gone to bed. Only he hadn’t slept. Just lay awake, staring up at the ceiling, the blue glow from the neon lights above the bed the only illumination in the entire apartment. And the bed had felt so empty without Brian, who was probably in the backroom at Babylon getting a blow job from some guy he had danced with for three minutes. At that moment he had wanted more than anything for the feelings he had for Brian to just disappear. It didn’t make any sense; this wasn’t a fairy tale where everyone lived happily ever after. It wasn’t even a bad teenager movie where in an hour and a half all problems were resolved, and everyone was with who they were supposed to be with, and they kissed at the end before the credits rolled and the rest of the soundtrack played. It was real life, and real life hurt and kept on hurting, and there was no one there to write the happy ending.
He had lain in the bed for two hours before hearing Brian’s key in the lock. At that, he had turned on his side and pretended to be asleep. Had heard Brian close the door and toss his keys on the counter. His steps had sounded steady when he climbed the stairs to the bedroom and undressed. Justin hadn’t smelled an undue amount of alcohol. Of course, he could have sniffed something. But if he had, he probably wouldn’t have been so sure on his feet. Brian had dropped off everything except his underwear and crawled under the sheets and gone to sleep without a word, without checking to see if Justin had been awake, without touching him at all. It was as if they had slept in twin beds, the gulf between them had been that wide.
This morning Brian had gotten him up early, announced that they were going to the Liberty Diner with Mikey for breakfast and then he would drop him off at school. He had showered and put on his uniform without remark. Brian hadn’t noticed, or if he did, he had probably been relieved that for once Justin hadn’t babbled on about something completely uninteresting and juvenile. Even when Michael had commented on his silence Brian hadn’t done anything but shrugged. As he got out of the jeep in front of the school Brian had asked him, “You want me to pick you up?” and he had answered that he would get Daphne to drop him off . He hadn’t gotten the words out of his mouth good before Brian had taken off like a lynch mob was after him.
Now he sat on the front steps of the school, alone, no Daphne, having sent her on without him a half an hour ago. “I need to think,” he had told her. And he had. Continued to think. Something had to give, either Brian relented and admitted that he cared for Justin and treated him like a human being, or he would have to find somewhere else to live. Being on the receiving end of Brian’s remarks once in a while was one thing, but living with the constant, abrasive effects of his harshness was proving to be too much. He was only a kid, no matter how grown-up he tried to act, and he had no defenses against Brian. A tear slipped from beneath his lid and he wiped it away angrily. Fuck him, he thought, and the thought itself went up the center of his chest and caught in his throat. He closed his sketch pad and stuffed it in his bag.
Tires squealed to a halt. He looked up. Brian sat in the jeep, jaw tense, eyes forward. A moment passed. Then, “You coming?”
That did it. “No,” replied Justin. “Fuck you.” Grabbing his bag, he slung it over one shoulder and started away from school.
“Where are you going?” Brian asked from the jeep.
“Home,” he answered.
“There’s—” began Brian.
“My home. My parents’ home,” explained Justin.
At that Brian got out of the jeep and came around to the front. Leaned against the hood, arms crossed over his chest, watching Justin walk down the sidewalk. “Just like that.”
Justin paused. “Yeah. Just like that.”
Brian uncrossed his arms and pushed off from the hood. “I’ll take you to get your stuff.”
Determined that Brian wouldn’t see him weaken, Justin returned to the jeep and got in without saying anything. They drove in silence to the building. Took the elevator without exchanging a word. Brian slid open the door and walked in ahead of Justin, threw down his keys, and dropped onto the couch.
Justin found his duffel bag and suitcase in the closet and placed them on the bed. Pulled his clothes from the drawers Brian had cleared for him and stuffed them inside haphazardly. He remembered his mom bringing the suitcase over while Brian was still at work. She had come inside tentatively, wanting very much to know what kind of home Brian kept, but at the same time, afraid of seeing something she didn’t want to see, of finding out more than she would be able to absorb. She hadn’t, of course. Brian was fanatically neat, kept everything in its place, especially his collection of sex toys. Always scrubbed and ready for action.
Lifting his head over the back of the sofa, Brian said, “Those are mine.” Justin was just about to put a pair of white, mid-thigh briefs into his duffel bag.
“Sorry.” Justin tossed them onto the pillow.
“What are you going to tell your dad?” asked Brian, retreating once more behind the back of the couch. Justin could see the top of his head on the arm of the chair.
“That I’ll never see you again. That’s what he wants. What you want, isn’t it?” He jammed a pair of jeans down into his suitcase and sat on the bed with his back to the living room and Brian.
Rising from the sofa, Brian entered the bedroom, stood in the doorway. “Look, I told you when you moved in here that I don’t do lovers or companions or boyfriends or whatever the hell else you want to call it. I was honest with you and I won’t apologize for my life.”
“I’m not asking you to. But you’re not honest. You say that all we do is fuck, but it’s more than that. What we do together isn’t the same as what you do in the backroom of Babylon or with some stranger.”
“It’s the same thing,” Brian said slowly, emphasizing every word.
“No, it isn’t! I know it isn’t. Because…” Justin faltered. “Because I feel something when we’re together. It’s not just fucking.”
He hung his head for a moment, then looked up. “I just—I just wish you’d—” He stopped, unable to go on.
“I’d what?” asked Brian in a much gentler voice.
“Why can’t you admit that you feel something for me? That you’re glad to see me when I get home, that I make you smile sometimes…” He glanced away, unable to face the blank expression on Brian’s face. “It wouldn’t kill you.”
Brian gripped the frame of the doorway as if he could remold the wood. “And that would be enough? For me to say that I’d miss you if you were gone?” He paused. “And then what? If I said that, then what would you want? What else? How long would it be before you’d expect me to bring you flowers, or take you out to celebrate a week’s anniversary or some other meaningless bullshit? I won’t do it. I won’t start something that I can’t, won’t see through to the end. If what we have right now isn’t enough…” He half-turned.
“But what do we have?”
Brian’s jaw tightened. “You live in my house, sleep in my bed—”
“You put up with me!” exclaimed Justin. “You don’t want me here. You said so yourself.”
“But you’re still here,” countered Brian.
Justin threw down a shirt. “What does that mean?” he asked angrily.
“It’s a statement of fact,” Brian replied.
“I know you have feelings.”
Confused, Brian asked, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“You act as if nothing touches you. You have a kid, no big deal. Michael’s—”
“Leave him out of this.”
But Justin continued, “Michael’s been in love with you for fifteen years and you won’t even finish jerking him off! You act like you don’t even know he’s in love with you.”
Cold, as cold as the wind off the Allegheny, Brian said, “You don’t know shit about Mikey and me.”
“Because everything’s a fucking state secret with you. You don’t share anything.”
“This isn’t a slumber party and we aren’t playing Truth or Dare! If that’s what you want, go live with your little friend.” He started to back down the stairs, halted, and angrily slapped the doorframe, frustrated, out of words.
Softly, Justin asked, “Who was it?”
Brian lifted his head wearily. “Who was it what?”
“Who was it that broke your heart? And made you afraid to love anyone?”
Hazel eyes clouded, Brian asked in a husky voice, “What makes you think I’ve ever loved anyone? You know I don’t believe in love.”
“I know I can’t make you love me if you don’t. I know that,” Justin said, more to himself than to Brian. Tears streaked his face but he got up and resumed packing.
“Justin.” He didn’t answer or stop. Brian moved closer, laid a hand atop his. “You don’t have to go.”
Without looking at him, Justin replied, “Maybe I do.” He took a deep breath. “I…”
Brian cupped his face and kissed him softly. Kissed the tears that had run down his cheeks. Justin tried to pull away but Brian wouldn’t let go. Again he kissed the teenager, harder this time. Despite his private resolve, Justin began to relent. Opening his mouth, he returned the kiss with equal fervor. Then he pulled away. Brian, with a smile playing about his lips, watched him stumble backwards. He took off his jacket, brushed by Justin, and hung it in the closet. Then, the boy still in view, he removed his shirt and laid it atop the dresser, took off his shoes and socks. But instead of forcing the issue, he left the bedroom, crossed to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water. Drained it and sat the empty container on the counter. Justin took the opportunity to finish packing his clothes and, closing the suitcase, picked it and his duffel bag up and headed for the door. “Run home, little boy,” taunted Brian. “Come back when you’re all grown up, and we can play.”
Brian’s words went through him like a winter chill. He froze in place. Heard Brian move, pad across the floor on bare feet, climb the steps to the bedroom. Then came the sound of something dropping to the floor, and then the bed creaking. At that point Justin couldn’t have stopped himself from looking. Glancing around he saw Brian lying naked upon the duvet, eyes closed. For a moment he looked as if he were asleep. God, when he was asleep, he looked like an angel. Not the kind they talked about on TV who were like children with wings or pretty ladies, but one of those real Old Testament angels who had gazed upon the naked face of Jehovah and out of love/devotion/lust done all his dirty work. Their angelic faces innocent of all wrongdoing. Their arms covered in blood. That’s how Brian looked when he slept. Innocent. But you only had to look at his body to tell that he wasn’t.
Slowly, Justin put down his bags. And even then he didn’t rush over to the bed. He stood where he was and thought about his options. About what Brian offered and didn’t. What he himself was willing to accept and in exchange for what. He took a step towards the bedroom. Brian opened his eyes; met and held his. He tried to look only at his face, to ignore the body and its promises of pleasure. God, the body distracted even as it warned. Throat tightened, Justin felt his eyes slide down Brian’s face to rest in the hollow of his throat. And from there it was only a matter of making the most minute of shifts to find himself studying his chest with its wide nipples. But that wasn’t enough. Not only did want the nipples, he wanted the lean torso, the flat belly. Hungrily he devoured Brian with his eyes. Savoring the cinnamon brown thatch of hair at his groin, the sleeping cock nestled there; the slender thighs and calves; the perfectly arched feet.
Trembling, Justin climbed the steps to the bed. Brian sat up, his head cradled by two grey pillows. Unshed tears making his eyes shiny, Justin undressed. Stood naked by the foot of the bed, goosebumps rising on his bare skin. Eyes fixed on Justin’s, Brian got to his knees, crawled to the end of the bed and sat with his feet firm on the floor. He took Justin’s hand and tugged until the teen responded, climbing onto Brian, his knees pressed into the mattress on either side of Brian’s hips. Brian kissed him over his heart. Whispered, “I love… the way your skin feels when I touch you. I love touching you.” He brushed his lips over Justin’s left shoulder. “I love your smile,” he said looking up into Justin’s face. And slowly a smile appeared, tinged with tears but a smile nonetheless. Sure that he had Justin’s attention, Brian continued. “I love hearing you call my name when you come. I love the way you moan. I love feeling you tight around me. I love being inside you. I love waking up with your arm against my hip.” A tear fell from Justin’s face onto Brian’s. “And I love it when you cry and pretend it’s your allergies." When Justin started to protest, Brian laughed and then Justin did too. "I love dancing with you even though I have to scooch down to look into your eyes. I love your ey—” Justin leaned over and smothered Brian’s mouth with his own. When Justin let him up for air, Brian grinned and asked, “Enough?”
“Shut up and fuck me,” Justin growled, pressing his lips to Brian’s
Fifteen minutes later he was holding onto Brian’s shoulders and moaning, squirming as Brian held a vibrating plug in place, deep inside his ass. Mouth opened, he panted, the muscles in his stomach churning, as he fought to keep from screaming, uttering little cries instead. But Brian licked his throat and whispered fiercely, “Go on. Say it. Say it!”
And he cried, “Brian! Brian,” in a high, breathless voice.
Brian ground the plug against his hole, mouth wet against Justin’s neck. “That’s it, baby. That’s it that’s it.” He sucked on the carotid vein, felt it pulsate against his tongue, let his teeth graze the skin. “Shout for me.”
Hips jerking, cock sliding up Brian’s torso, rubbing against the muscles of his belly, Justin moaned deep in his throat, “Uhaahh,” the sound rising from the depths of his belly, as cum rose up his shaft and rained down upon Brian’s skin in thick, creamy droplets. Brian removed his fingers from the base of the plug and it began to slide from inside him, ejected by the force of his orgasm. He shuddered as the downpour continued, until his cock was sliding through puddles of cum.
Later, he snuggled up to Brian under the covers, head on his chest, and whispered, “Tell me again. All the things you love about me.”
So Brian told him again how much he loved his smile and his skin.
Stroking Justin’s back with the pad of his thumb, Brian fell deep into
thought. I do love his smile and his skin and the way he moans and a
dozen other things that I didn’t—couldn’t tell him… but I can do without
those things, he told himself. Only instead of making him feel better
as it had in the past when he recounted the things he could do without,
for the first time he felt sadder, emptier, and the feeling persisted even
as he drifted off to sleep.