|testdog65 (testdog65) wrote in qaf_challenges,|
@ 2006-12-31 18:46:00
Original poster: _alicesprings
Title: The Journey
Written By: gaeln
Timeline: 2002 - 2004
Rating: mostly PG13ish; little NC17
Warnings: AU; Brian / briefly implied other; Justin / briefly implied other
Summary: A story that deals with the idea that in any and all Universes Brian and Justin will find each other
Author's Notes: thanks shadownyc your corrections and feedback helped very much
The wind blows cold through lower Manhattan but he’s ready. Leaving the warmth of the cab, he quickly pulls the black fedora down low over his forehead, his black trench coat is already both buttoned and belted, with its collar turned-up to protect his neck, his leather-gloved hands are warm deep inside the coat’s wool-lined pockets. Once on the sidewalk, watching as the cab pulls away, disappearing quickly into traffic, he hesitates, taking in the building-crowded, people-clogged view down Broadway, before continuing through the rotating glass doors of his final destination, the Harker Building, home to one of New York’s youngest and most highly respected advertising agencies, Alden, Harker, and Tennyson, Inc. (AH&T). He’s here for his third and, hopefully, final interview, the one that could change his life forever, the one that could get him the hell out of Pittsburgh and to New York, at last.
The building’s lobby subtly welcomes the season with the display of a large pine tree decorating its center, the tree itself decorated in ornaments of differing metallic colors, golds, silvers, coppers, bronzes and pewters, in two or three different shapes and sizes, all of which sparkle as they reflect the tiny twinkling white lights strung though the tree’s green limbs, and because of the instrumental versions of classic Christmas music playing softly from overhead. There is nothing more.
It was the tree that first helped him realize that this was where he wanted to work, for AH&T. The three other agencies he’d interview with over the past two weeks had done the holiday thing way over the top, at least way over the top as far as he was concerned, decorations everywhere, red Santa hats on everyone, little trees on every surface. But not here. When he first walked in this lobby he knew, these were people who think the way he thinks, who work the way he works, simple, clean and classic. All four agencies had fine reputations but this was the one where he felt he belonged.
As he walks toward the reception area he stops briefly to admire the tree once again. While there, while removing his gloves, straightening his collar and taking off his hat, while running a quick hand through his hair, he smiles his satisfaction, at its design, at its implementation, at its effect in the room. He realizes that this is a tree he wouldn’t mind having in his loft back in Pittsburgh, a place that has never seen any holiday decorations, Christmas or otherwise, in the little-less-then-a decade he’s been there.
When he reaches the receptionist desk, Mary greets him with, “Good morning, Mr. Kinney, pretty isn’t it?” She indicates the tree with a tilt of her stylish blond head and he nods his agreement. “I don’t suppose you know this,” wanting to show-off, just a little, some of her insider information, “but every year the NYU Art Department, where Mr. Harker and Mr. Alden met,” she gives him a little wink, emphasizing the word ‘met‘, underscoring what he’s already figured out for himself, and, once satisfied he gets her meaning, she continues with, “well anyway, they have this design competition to determine how our tree will be decorated. They’ve been doing it that way for as long as I’ve been here anyway, seven, eight years now at least, and every year the results are wonderful. This concept…” glancing toward the tree once again, “came from a second year student, can you imagine? And I think he did an amazing job, don‘t you?”
“He didn’t actually…“ Brian moves his hand in an up and down motion following the line of the tree.
“Oh no…no…liability issues, of course…”
“We hire a company to do the actually decorating but the ornaments and lighting are all done to his specifications. He, and the other kids on his team were here only to oversee the process. That usually takes…oh, I don‘t know…maybe a week? They just finished for this year actually…on Friday.”
“Well, I would have to agree, it is beautiful. Very sophisticated for…? How old would he…?”
“Nineteen, just nineteen. Wait, I’ve got his name right here…somewhere…now where is that file? Justin something I think, at least from what I remember… there was a form…”
Her voice drifts away as she searches for the file gone missing which contains some form he’s not interested in. This is information he doesn’t need so he starts to fidget showing his impatience. The guard smiles his understanding and raises his eyebrow silently saying - women, what’re ya gonna do? Brian smirks his understanding but then, Mary finds not only the file but the form.
“I was right…Justin…Justin Taylor.” And he smiles to show he’s pleased…pleased for her…pleased for Justin…pleased for himself because now he can get on with his life. But still he waits, he waits as she searches for and finds his Visitor‘s Pass, handing it to him. Now, even though he has the badge, he still waits, he waits for her to tell him, “Please, go right on up, they’re expecting you…as you know.” And when she smiles to him this time, she flirts a little, almost without knowing it and he flirts back a little but definitely with knowing it. What the hell, he reasons, can’t hurt. The guard nods his approval for him to go on up and five minutes later Brian finds himself in an intimate conference room, very unlike the one where his two previous interviews had been conducted, seated with two of the three executive partners in AH&T.
Once served their mocha lattes or espressos or…whatever, Mr. Harker begins. “First, I’d like to apologize for Mr. Tennyson. He wanted to be here but he’s been detained I’m afraid, but since he’s very much aware of what we want to say to you and since we already have his input, his absence shouldn‘t be a problem. This shouldn‘t take too long anyway.” Noticing a sudden tensing in their soon-to-be-but-doesn‘t-know-it-yet account executive, a tightening of his jawline, a flickering back and forth of his eyes, barely discernable but there nonetheless, he decides to come to the point. “You’re in Mr. Kinney, the position’s yours, assuming you still want it.”
Mr. Harker and Mr. Alden smile to see his relief.
Mr. Alden continues, “You’re the best interview we’ve had in a while, Mr. Kinney. We look forward to a long and profitable association. Are there any questions? I think we pretty much outlined everything during the interview process.”
“No…no I don’t have any questions. As we agreed, I can start in two weeks and I will need some help finding somewhere to live but other then that just show me where to sign.”
“That we can do and let me be the first to say, welcome to New York, Mr. Kinney, we hope it lives up to your expectations.”
He’s just thirty-one years old and, in his heart of hearts, Brian knows he’s made it, he has finally arrived. That night, from his hotel room, he emails his two-week resignation to his current employer, The Ryder Agency and feels no regret.
He moves before selling his loft, the one he could never have imagined leaving when first buying it, when first renovating it, when making it his first real home, much more of a home to him then the house where he grew-up with his abusive father, his religiously fanatic mother and his indifferent sister. Brian sells his modern-designed, Italian-styled fuck-pad, taking with him only some of the furnishings, only some of his things. New city equals new beginnings and there will be plenty of beautiful things in New York to replace what he’s leaving behind.
For the first few months, for the first year, he returns frequently but eventually the visits home come less often and then hardly at all, more special occasions then catching up with old friends. Eventually the visits will stop all together but that’s a time still in the future, a time when he’ll realize there really isn’t any reason any more. His friends will all move on, finding their own way without him, finding people to replace him.
Eventually, they will all settle down.
But not him.
The one thing he does take with him is his life-style, the one he has so meticulously crafted for himself in Pittsburgh’s gay haven of Liberty Avenue. The only concession to his new responsibilities…his new position…is how he now plays his game of predator and prey…of hunter and hunted. Now he chooses his prey with more caution, with more attention to possible consequences but the game continues. He no longer frequents the kind of clubs that would have backrooms; he doesn’t even know if they exist in New York. There won’t be any more haunts like Liberty Avenue‘s premiere dance club, Babylon with its dark-lit, warren-like den of earthly delights, his home away from home from the time he was eighteen and was able to fake his first ID.
It was within its walls, on Babylon’s dance floor and in its backroom, that he learned the rules of how to be hunted and how to hunt and how to make those rules work for him. But now he’s older and now it’s a new hunting ground with new rules and expectations and he adapts.
Concessions need to be made because, despite the fact that he believed he would never live past thirty, he has.
The three partners of AH&T, Mr. Alden, Mr. Harker and Mr. Tennyson, now known to him as Peter, Jason and Paul, take him to where they prowl, a far more private kind of hunting-ground, and he fits right in. In fact, he thrives. With his innate beauty and elegance, his impeccable style, obvious intelligence, Irish-charm, and, maybe most importantly, his aura of having led a kind of outlaw life, or at least a life unlike that lived by any of them, he quickly makes a name for himself. He has a reputation as a quality lover with never any strings attached, there are never any apologies…there are never any regrets.
For Brian there won’t be any more cum-stained backrooms, any more quick fucks behind the locked doors of bathrooms, any more filthy mattresses in alley-hidden bathhouses. Now he moves with the movers-and-shakers, with the beautiful men in positions of power, in positions of control and he takes his place among them.
His first year in New York and he’s a success, his first year in New York and it’s almost like he’s never lived anywhere else, after only one year in New York and he knows, he knows for certain, he’s home.
Entering the Harker Building, one year later almost to the day, dusting the snow from his coat, shaking it from his hat, he’s pleased to find the large tree already being installed in the center of the lobby. He stops close by, watching for a moment, tuning into the Christmas music coming from overhead, as the four-man crew stabilizes the tall blue-silver fir. He notices a group of young men and women clustered around an older man on the other side of the tree, obviously a teacher and his students.
One young woman stands apart, closer to him then the rest. She turns toward him, offering him a soft smile, then, returning her gaze to the tree, she sighs. He moves nearer to her, asking her, “I’ll bet you know how this whole competition thing works, don‘t you?” She looks at him questioningly and then nods her agreement. “It was mentioned to me when I first started here last year, mind telling me about it?” He wants to know.
“Sure.” She ducks her eyes briefly because, he realizes, she’s a little nervous at his attention toward her but her enthusiasm for the topic helps her overcome any hesitation. “Well, see? Professor Carlson,” she directs his attention toward the older man, “he divides us into three teams, all of us in his graphics class, usually like seven or eight on a team, you know, just depending. And then each student does a design and then one is chosen to represent each group…”
“By Carlson or by you guys?” he interjects.
“By us, each group chooses their own, the one they like the best, and then the three designs are submitted to Mr. Tennyson, Mr. Harker and Mr. Alden for their final decision.” She hesitates and then asks, “Can I tell you something kinda cool?” She asks him this shyly and he senses she’s a little embarrassed.
“Of course,” his smile reassuring her.
“This year they chose mine, can you believe it? This year…it’s me, they chose my design.” She sounds almost in awe.
“Knowing AH&T the way I do, I’m sure yours was the best.”
“I don’t know, man, I really don’t. I was sure they’d go with Justin…again.”
“Justin…don’t I remember that name?...from last year, right?”
“Yeah, was that one beautiful tree or what?”
“It really was,” he confirms. “He was involved again this year?”
“Yeah, Carlson kind of likes to maintain the same teams for three or four years, sort of like a long-term learning process. This is my fourth year, my last chance and fuck if I didn’t pull it off.” She glances at him, gauging his reaction to her cursing and realizing he couldn’t care less, she decides he’s cool, a little old maybe but cool and so handsome. “In fact, he’s right over there, see?…He’s the blond…with his boyfriend.”
“His boyfriend huh?” he questions while following the direction of her eyes and for the first time he notices the two boys standing apart, a blond and a brunette.
“Yeah…that bother you?”
He chuckles, feels her starting to go into protective mode so…“Nah, not at all, doesn’t bother me one little bit.”
“Huh…well good, that’s good. So...anyway, I tell you no lie, you could hear little girl-hearts breaking all over the NYU Art Department when word got around…so sad…so, so sad.”
“I’ll bet,” and Brian notices him. He notices as the blond glances up toward them, toward him, he looks straight at him through a fringe of still sun-bleached hair, smiles a soft half-smile to him and Brian finds himself thrown…just a little and just for a moment, locked into the blue of this kid’s eyes, a blue made obvious even from a distance. But the moment is brief. The boyfriend glances across to him, and, turning back to his blond, turning back to Justin, he touches him softly on the arm and they move off together, back to the group. They stand hand in hand and Brian finds he’s vaguely annoyed and he can’t even begin to imagine why.
“Pretty isn’t he,” she asks him.
“Yeah, I guess, if you like the type.”
“Yeah, well, apparently a lot do, Justin has all the boys puppy-dogging around after him. Stephen gets so jealous; it’d almost be funny…”
“Miss Jenkins,” she startles to hear her name called…loudly called, by Mr. Carlson. “If you wouldn’t mind rejoining the class, it’s time we head back.”
She turns to him, offering her hand which he accepts. “Elizabeth Jenkins and you are?”
“I’m glad to have met you, Mr. Kinney…”
“As am I of you, Miss Jenkins,” and her grin makes him smile.
“You work here?” and at his nod, she continues, “well, we’re back all week, until the tree’s done so maybe…?”
“I’ll look for you,” he assures her.
“Gotta go, see ya.” And she’s gone, back to her group where she’s met by two girls, both giggling, asking her questions. He doesn’t even want to know what.
Throughout the day, when he thinks back on their brief encounter, it makes him smile and he finds himself surprised at that. More often then not though, it’s the boy’s face that comes to him. It’s Justin’s face that preoccupies him. But as the day goes by, as the week does as well, he begins to forget.
They always arrive after he does, he’s always well into his first meeting by the time the mini-bus pulls up in front of the building dumping the artists-in-the-making off at the curb, so it isn’t until Thursday that he sees them again. It isn’t until Thursday, at the sound of her voice calling his name that he even remembers he promised to look for her. She looks concerned, coming toward him, as if afraid he might just disappear if she isn’t quick enough, maybe a little like she’s been waiting for him to show up all week, maybe just a little too anxious. Yet he moves to greet her, remembering her name, telling her how beautiful he thinks her tree is turning out. And they pick-up right where they left off.
“Good week so far?” she inquires.
And he nods his yes…distractedly; he’s busy taking in her tree while also glancing around the room…discreetly. “Yeah…yeah, it’s been okay, busy though…christ, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. How ‘bout you?” Brian finally looks directly at her, raising an eyebrow which makes her giggle. He smirks and then goes back to her tree and to his looking.
“Ah, well…y’know? It’s been okay, pretty good really, although…” and she pauses for dramatic effect and can see that he notices, “…there has been a little controversy in…vol…ving…yooou,” she sing-songs, rather pleased with herself.
“No,” he pretends a kind of disinterested disbelief.
“Oh yes, yes indeed,” and she waits…
“Okay, so let me guess, all the little girls wanting to know when we’re expecting our first child…”
“Shit no,” she exclaims just a little too loudly. “Jerk,” and she laughs pushing him away. But then coming back close to him, whispering, “And y’know, that ‘little girl’ comment is vaguely condescending…just saying?”
“Elizabeth, one: you used the exact same condescending comment yourself only three days ago…just saying and two: I really don’t have the time for this, either tell me or I’m going, I have actual work to do.”
“Fine…sooo…anyway, it seems Justin…you do remember Justin, don’t you? I’ll take that smirk as your way of saying ‘I sure as shit do, Elizabeth, I really do, blond kid, kind a cute if you like the type,’ well anyway, apparently he asked about you. I don’t know who he asked; I just know that he did ask, alright? But anyway, thing is, Stephen finds out and he gets all seriously pissey and they have this amazing fight, not, y’know, with hitting or anything…”
“Oh, too bad, I can not tell you what it does for my aging ego when teenagers…”
“They’re not teenagers, they’re twenty…”
“My mistake, when twenty year olds beat each other up over little ole me…”
“You really are kind of smart-ass, aren’t you? I mean, I barely know you and I do already know that much about you…nonetheless, all the blows were verbal and now they aren’t speaking but it wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway so…no great loss really. But hey, gave us something to talk about Monday and maybe even a little into Tuesday.”
“Yeah, that long and by this weekend they’ll either be all kissy-kissy…”
“Elizabeth,” and following his directed gaze, she quiets herself as she notices Justin coming toward them, with, Brian notices, that same slight smile on his lips as the first time he saw him.
“Carlson told me to tell you to stop flirting and get back to work. He says to tell you ‘this ain’t no social club’…his words, and that it would be nice if we could get this thing done sometime this week.” And having delivered his message, he takes her place at Brian’s side. While leaving she just can’t help but give Justin a scrunchy-nose glare which he answers with a little snarky-kind of you’re-dismissed wave but then he hesitates, he obviously has something he wants to say and he’s a little nervous. Brian gives him his time. Finally, “So, Mr. Kinney, I guess I should introduce…”
“I know who you are. And you, obviously, know who I am so if there’s nothing else…”
And Justin looks up into his eyes and Brian suddenly realizes this boy really is beautiful, just as beautiful as Elizabeth told him and he finds he’s mildly anxious to find out what he has to say, he kind of actually wants to know…possibly.
“I can make a guess at what Beth was telling you and I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry, I really had no right to go around asking about you…“
“You really didn’t.”
“I know and now all I’ve done is mess everything up and why? y’know? I don’t even really understand why, it‘s just that…ah christ…I don‘t know, sometimes I just don‘t think things through.” He ends with a little sigh-groan, apparently resigned to never being able to actually think things through and also, quite possible, to never really knowing why.
But he knows Justin does know why, knows that he’s just unwilling to admit it…yet anyway, because he’s afraid? Maybe, maybe because he’s afraid, afraid of being rejected and he has every right to be afraid. Brian decides to wait him out; he has a little time before his morning meeting. He decides to just wait his time, ask the probing question or two and find out where this could lead. “Maybe you could tell me…”
But Justin cuts him off, interrupting him and standing before him, looking directly at him, he asks him, “Will you meet me, maybe at Starbucks around the corner, when you get off work, I’ll be done with classes by then. Meet me, okay?”
And he agrees. The directness of this kid so catches him off-guard that, with only a little hesitation, he agrees.
“I know you have to go so…what time?”
“Sure, that’ll be fine,” and turning, walking away only a little, Justin turns back toward him, telling him, “I’ll understand if you don’t show-up, I will but I really hope you do,” and, continuing with his turning, doing a full 360 degrees with a little wave at the end, Justin returns to his group, to his teacher, once again becoming someone Brian could easily mistake for a high school kid.
He’s distracted all day, moving back and forth between going and not going, between wanting this and not wanting it but even during all his supposed internal discussion, even during all of his back and forth, Brian knows he’ll be there, the idea of not going never really being taken that seriously or, at least, not as seriously as he’d like to believe.
At 6:05pm, he finds him, hunched over a text book, his frappuccino half gone, sitting at a table in the corner by the window. “Hope I haven‘t kept you waiting?” he questions. And when the almost-a-man-but-not-quite turns his face to look up at him, greeting him with relieved eyes and a hopeful smile, the smile moves right through him, moves right to his core and that concerns him, puts him on his guard. The kid’s eyes are bad enough but now, Brian finds, he has to worry about his smile as well. This is a kid that could be trouble and he’s aware that he needs to be well on his guard. “Been here long?”
“Nah, not too long, maybe a couple of hours is all, not so long really,” and he looks back to his book like maybe afraid of what he might tell through his expression, like maybe not trusting himself to play it cool.
Brian knows how to hide behind his eyes, knows how to keep the truth from coming through and he already knows that that’s a game Justin doesn’t know how to play, not yet anyway, and maybe not ever. After ordering, he takes the waiting chair at the table by the window and, for him anyway, the hunt begins. Shouldn’t even be too hard, the kid…Justin, obviously wants him, how hard could it be?
Harder then he expects because Justin doesn’t understand the rules of the game Brian plays, he doesn’t really even understand that he’s prey, that he’s being hunted at all, that the expectations are for one fanfuckingtastic night with no strings attached. He’s never before been asked to play with no apologies and no regrets.
Once he figures it out, once he figures out Brian’s game, he balks; something Brian never expected even though he probably should have. Justin doesn’t want it that way, won’t have it that way and Brian is pissed. He feels like he’s been led on even when he knows he really hasn’t.
What Justin wants from him, he doesn’t have in himself to give and Brian tells him so.
“Then I’m just gonna go,” and the beautiful blond man-child gets up to leave.
Brian grabs his hand, pulling him back into his seat, holding him there. “Explain it to me. Make me understand why I can’t have this night with you.”
“That’s all you want…”
“And that isn’t enough?”
“No,” it’s almost a whisper, there’s almost a catch in his voice as he repeats, “No, that isn’t enough,” glancing up at him with hurt in his eyes.
“Why the fuck not?” his exasperation showing, growing, becoming tangible.
Justin stuffs his book back in his book bag, crosses it over his shoulder, drinks the last of his third, at-least, frappuccino, still, just as obviously, getting ready to run. “I’m sorry, this was a bad idea.”
“I’m getting a little tired of you telling me you’re sorry…”
“I really don’t think twice in one day…”
“…and this wasn’t a bad idea…”
“…and yeah, it was. I shouldn’t have suggested it. We’re two very different people and what you want and what I want, see? there’s no middle ground. As much as it hurts to tell you no, I won’t go with you, as…much…as…that…hurts, it would hurt tens times more to have you and then watch you walk away and know I’ll never have you again and that’s the way it is with you, you’ve made that perfectly clear. You’ve been honest with me and I’m trying to be honest with you. I don’t know why Brian, I don’t, but I don’t want you like that. I don’t know how it can be but you matter more to me then that so since neither of us can get what we want, I’m just gonna go and stop wasting our time.”
Then he’s gone. And Brian doesn’t make a move to try and stop him, to make him stay even if he does stay. It’ll be another hour, and three more espressos, before he finally decides it’s time to put this day behind him, having come no closer to understanding what he feels or what he should do. Tomorrow, he decides, there’s always tomorrow, when they‘ll finish Elizabeth’s tree.
But there isn’t a tomorrow because when he arrives at the Harker Building, hoping, expecting to find the little NYUers, all he finds is a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and the realization that they’re done for this year, they’re gone. He could go look for him but he won’t, he could probably even find him but he’ll never know. Hunting is one thing, chasing is another and Brian Kinney does not chase. He especially doesn’t chase some kid no matter how pretty or full of possibilities or…whatever.
So the following year sees his AH&T client list improve, he’s given more responsibility, more chances to prove himself…his worth, and he leaves everyone amazed. His campaigns are always on time and on budget and to the complete satisfaction of everyone involved. He gathers around himself a team of very competent people and, together, they exceed expectations. He demands their best and that’s what they give to him.
During the beginning of his second year in New York, he will have an affair, his first since college, only the second of his life and he will be the one to end it, after three perfect months and to the complete surprise of Thomas, the beautiful man he’d met at an awards banquet at the Radisson Martinique, in the Grand Ballroom, seated next to each other at a table for ten. Brian will end their relationship for no other reason then because he starts to feel trapped. He isn’t, of course, Thomas would never do him that way but that will be the excuse Brian uses…the reason he uses to convince himself, the one he uses to convince Thomas, to no one’s satisfaction, that they have no future.
This second year takes him home to Pittsburgh less often then the first year, only a couple of times and it’s during this second time, when going home for Thanksgiving week, that at Gate 14 at JFK, he finds him again, that Brian finds Justin one more time.
While not a religious man, Brian can’t help but wonder sometimes, at the games the fates play.
Like the last time he saw him, he’s hunched over a book but with his carry-on tucked into the seat next to him, his slightly darker, even longer blond hair blocking out the world around him. He is engrossed, oblivious, and Brian realizes that this time it’s on him. It really wouldn’t be that hard to keep Justin from seeing him, even if they are on the same flight, the place is crowded with travelers, it really wouldn’t be that complicated trying to avoid him but he decides on a different way.
He walks over to him, saying to him, “Hey, this seat taken?” and grins to see the annoyed look Justin shoots him before realizing who he is.
“Oh my god, Brian, whatthehell?” He straightens up in his seat, closing his book, placing his carry-on between his legs making room for him and finally, tucking his hair behind his ears, grinning, he can only ask, “Pittsburgh, you going to Pittsburgh?”
“Yeah, goin’ home,” Brian informs him while taking off his trench coat, taking the now-vacated seat, tucking his bag on the floor in the space between them. “You?” he inquires.
“Same…jeez, you’re from Pittsburgh?”
And so the hour wait at JFK, the hour and a half flight, the forty-five minutes at Pittsburgh International getting the luggage, and finally the half-hour shared cab ride, is time spent in learning about each other, in finding out that they left the same world behind searching for something new, in realizing that they actually have some things in common.
But not everything.
Like when Brian learns that Justin went to St. James Academy - oh so you were one of those preppy little assholes in those sexy uniforms …bet you still got it, don‘t ya? - do not - I bet you do - I DO NOT - but when he turns away, glancing out the plane’s window and smirks, Brian knows he does. He comes in close, touches his lips to Justin‘s cheek and whispers, “Maybe you can wear it for me sometime…humm? I’d like that.”
“You would, perv,” he snarks. But his bright eyes and flushed skin tell Brian that maybe, just maybe he would too.
Or like when Justin learns a little, just a little about how Brian was raised, he learns only a little about abuse and denial and indifference but it’s enough, more then enough for now. He goes quiet then, staring out the cab’s window at the snow-softened landscape as they pass by airport parking lots, traffic-laden freeways, the quiet streets of his childhood neighborhood, processing, trying to understand but when Brian puts his arm around him, pulls him into his side and tells him not to worry about it, that’s all in the past and mostly forgotten, Justin knows he’s telling him bullshit, that there’s even more, so much more yet he knows Brian’s right about one thing, what he’s given him is more then enough for now.
Eventually they arrive at Justin’s parents’ house, a beautiful two-story in the better part of the Pittsburgh suburbs. As they’re leaving the cab, Brian just sighs, shaking his head, scanning the place Justin comes from.
“What?” Justin questions. “Nothing,” Brian replies.
And as they stand together at the back of the cab, the driver removing Justin’s bags, Brian tells him, “Don’t worry about the fare, I’ll get it.” Then he asks him, “Listen, you know Liberty Avenue?”
“Yeah, I’ve been a couple of times, couldn’t really get in anywhere…”
“Ah…no fake ID, huh?” and he laughs when Justin shakes his head no. “Meet me at Woody‘s, y’know? maybe Tuesday night, you won’t regret it, I promise.”
“Yeah, okay maybe. I can tell ‘em,” directing Brian’s attention to the house, “that I’m staying with Daphne, remember? I mentioned her on the plane…”
“Oh yeah, the best friend. If that’ll work, then meet me at say…9:00...at Woody’s…on Liberty, ‘kay?”
“Yeah, yeah…okay sure, I’ll be there at 9:00...see ya,” and he moves away, brushing his hand quick down Brian’s arm before running toward the house where his mom’s now waiting for him on the front porch.
Brian watches her put her arm around Justin, directing him through the front door and, glancing back toward him, she tries to smile but he can feel her concern all the way to the curb. Don’t worry mama, I’ll take care of your little boy, he silently sends her way. He lowers himself into the back of the cab and he’s gone.
Tuesday finds him at Woody’s, a few minutes before 9:00, sipping slowly on his first glass of beer, he’s content. At 9:15, gulping down his second glass of beer, he’s anxious. At 9:30, slamming back his third glass of beer, he’s pissed. At 9:45, emerging from Babylon’s backroom, he’s content once again. So what if the kid didn’t show, he’d just gotten one hell of a fine blow-job and life is good. He’ll make this night one to remember without the little fucker…not a problem.
Heading for the bar, ordering a shot of Beam, he surveys the terrain, taking in all the possibilities, as if by instinct, summing up the situation. Finally deciding the view would be better from the catwalk, he heads up the stairs and takes up his usual position, above all the rest. He shakes off all the soft touches and whispered invitations to dance or fuck, for now he’s just fine where he is.
Except he’s not, not really. He still can’t believe Justin blew him off, he just can’t believe that that fact upsets him so much…it shouldn’t…damnit…why the hell should he care if some little twat can’t be bothered?…if some little school boy just doesn’t give a shit?…why the fuck should that matter to him?…but it does…it does and he knows it and that it does matter…fuck…that just really pisses him off.
He feels the warm body behind him, feels the soft fingers stroking up into his hair, the soft whispers on his neck, the hard cock pushing against him, grinding into him and he closes his eyes, tilting back his head and he just feels him. Half opening his eyes, taking one last look at the dance floor below, taking one last scan of all the possibilities available to him before taking this one, before leading this one to the backroom, he sees him.
He sees Justin looking panicked.
He’s in the middle of the dance floor, in the middle of the pulsating mass of horny men, him turning, turning around, hands touching him but he doesn’t even notice, he just keeps turning, turning around over and over looking for him, Brian realizes Justin is desperately looking for him. He turns to the pretty boy behind him and tells him, “Not now,” kissing him quick and hard, before leaving him, and feels only some slight guilt when he moans his disappointment. When the boy calls out after him, “Later…maybe later?” hopeful, ever hopeful, Brian only shakes his head no before going down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
He approaches Justin from behind and he waits, he waits for him to turn just one last time and then, when he does, Brian suddenly finds his arms full of an incredibly relieved man, Justin murmuring over and over, “Oh god Brian, I didn’t think I’d ever find you, I didn’t think I’d find you, I’m so sorry I’m late, I’m so sorry, there was traffic and…” but Brian stops him, cupping his cheek, whispering, “Shsssh, it’s okay, we’re okay, alright? We’re okay.” And when Justin kisses him, the kiss deep and warm and full of need, he knows they really are.
“So how‘d you get in?”
“Guy at the door didn‘t even ask, just sort of looks me over, smiles and that’s it, I‘m in. Now…take me to the backroom,” Justin demands and Brian laughs at him. “No, don’t laugh, I want you…”
“Hold on, brat, christ…if your mother only knew. Now listen to me, let’s take it easy…okay? You listenin’ to me? are you? ‘cause we have all night, so ease up a little. If you want me to take you to the backroom, I will…in fact I’ll be happy to but first we dance a little, first we drink a little and anyway, I have a place for us, a hotel where we can stay the night, so there’s no rush, okay? There‘s…no…rush.” He puts his lips right next to Justin’s ear, his breath warm and smelling of Beam and he lets him know, “Cause, trust me when I tell you I am gonna fuck you all night long…you hear what I’m telling you…I am gonna fuck you…all…night…long. So now, for a while, just dance with me…humm? Just dance with me.” He drapes his arms over Justin‘s shoulders, his hands lightly held together behind Justin‘s head, he lowers his own until he‘s touching Justin‘s, their foreheads brought together, their eyes closed, alone in a room full of others, needing no one else.
He feels Justin whisper, “Yes yes yes,” against his lips.
Justin rests his arms on Brian’s hips, running his hands possessively along his lower back, over the slope of his ass, along the inside of the waistband of his jeans and he sighs. His body sways to the music, moves smooth and perfect with Brian’s. It’s as if they’ve been dancing together forever and just maybe they have.
After a couple of drinks, after a few more dances, after forty-five minutes of Justin moving and runting and pawing all over him, Brian’s had about as much as he can take. “Justin?” he asks him, Justin’s head resting on his shoulder, his arm wrapped around Justin’s waist as they move sexy-slow to a ballad sung mournful and sweet. “Listen, why don’t we head over to the hotel…”
“Backroom,” he replies dreamily.
“Are you sure…?”
“Back…room,” he replies quite a bit less dreamily, in fact maybe even totally alert and in his need for emphasis he begins to chant, “Backroom…now, backroom…now, Brian, come on, backroom…now,” and who is Brian to deny him, who is Brian really, to say no. He takes Justin’s belt, tucking a finger behind the buckle, leading him off the dance floor. They move through the doorway to the backroom and down it’s hallway, he maneuvers them through the dim-lit corridor lined with men in various stages of moaning and sucking, fucking and coming and when at last he arrives at his planned destination, Justin breathless beside him, he pushes him hard up against the wall, the back of his head bumping a little, he takes Justin’s breath away. Grabbing a wrist, one in each hand, both held tight over Justin’s head, leaning in close, Brian asks him one last time, “This what you want?”
“Yes,” he breathes into Brian’s warm, sweet mouth still smelling, still tasting of beer and Beam, “Yes, god please, yes.” He growls, “Fuck me.” his eyes almost hard and narrowed, every muscle tense, his legs shaking. “Now,” he commands.
And Brian smiles.
Even though Justin doesn’t know it, Brian doesn’t fuck him the way he normally does, at least not the way he normally does in this place, in this way. Normally he likes it hard and fast. He wants to take care of his tricks but his needs are primary. They are never left wanting more but he, nonetheless, likes to leave them quick, he likes to leave them trembling and just a little dazed, hard and fast and quick with everyone happy.
With Justin he gives more.
And while he can’t bring himself to suck him, not right here with everyone watching, that will have to come later when they’re alone, he does give the regulars something they’ve never seen before, Brian Kinney as lover, even if he only kind of realizes that’s what he’s doing himself. He takes Justin slow, easing into him with a kind of possessiveness anyone watching can only envy. And when Justin arches back into him, when he moans his acceptance, soft and deep, his eyes closed and his head thrown back onto Brian’s shoulder, Brian almost feels himself complete, for the first time in his life he almost gets it.
While it builds…his lust, his need, his passion, he murmurs words only Justin hears, he fills him with promises he knows Justin wants to believe and yet somehow even he knows he shouldn’t, even he knows that these are promises Brian can’t keep. But maybe that okay, that it really doesn’t matter because maybe Justin does understand, by instinct, that he’s already getting more then almost anyone before him and maybe for now that’s enough
When they come together, covered in sweat and trembling, the room breathes a collective sigh. They wonder if maybe they shouldn’t all meet in the alley behind Babylon and have a cigarette together. They decide instead to go back to each other.
While everyone will ultimately leave satisfied, Brian and Justin will leave first, heading to the cab that will take them to Brian’s hotel. The night goes long and will only be dimly remembered the next day, scattered images, some intense, some filmy and just barely there, one moment slipping easily into the next and the next until the only thing left to do is sleep, both equally worn-out and content in each other‘s arms.
When Brian first starts to wake, the brush of sunlight gentle across his still-closed eyes, he notices him gone from their bed but he isn’t concerned, assuming he’s just somewhere getting something, doing something, and he chooses not to worry but when the silence goes on for too long, he becomes alert, he listens, finally understanding that he’s alone.
Getting-up and finding, reading the note left for him on the table by the curtained window, Brian feels maybe just a little lost.
Don’t worry, I understand, I really do. I know who you are, how you need to live your life and I won’t get in your way.
I don’t want you to be afraid I’m going to turn into a stalker, following you around, trying to make this into something it’s not.
I won’t, I promise.
Thank you for the best night of my life. Thank you for caring enough to make me promises we both know you can’t keep. Now I understand no apologies, no regrets.
I’ll never forget you, Brian, I won’t.
Brian sits at the table, the note in his hand and, for the first time in a long time, he reconsiders how he’s living his life, as morning turns to afternoon and afternoon turns to night, he sits at the table by the curtained window, watching as light turns to dark over the Pittsburgh skyline and he imagines.
The following Tuesday morning, bright and early, another team, a completely different team of NYUers, arrives to begin decorating Harker Inc.’s Christmas tree, a beautiful design that won’t involve Justin’s team on any level.
So that’s why the next day, on a clear, crispy new Wednesday morning during the first week in December, Brian is standing outside of the NYU Building determined to find his future just on the other side of its doors. Justin’s in there somewhere and he intends to find him. His direction is clear. He pulls the leather gloves from his hands putting them in his wool-lined pockets, he turns down the collar of his trench cost and undoes the belt, he removes the fedora and, after running a quick hand through his hair, he walks up the stairs that lead to the rest of his life, decisions and choices having been made that will take him from the journey he’s been on to another, completely different journey, the one that will, at long last, really take him home.