COUP DE GRACE
“Whatever you do, don’t pull over for Vic Grassi,” Brian grumbled as they set out the next morning to continue their journey west. Justin, comfortable behind the wheel, looked at Brian as if he had just emitted a strange smell.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Hello? Vic is dead. Are you having a flashback?”
“Being dead doesn’t seem to slow him down, much.”
“Are you still dreaming about him?”
Brian said nothing, fumbling with the CD selection instead. “You know the way?”
Justin shrugged, slamming the Vette into gear. “Yeah, I-40 west, forever.”
“I may take a little nap, okay?”
“Brian, are you feeling okay? You’re so tired.”
“If you ask me that again, I’m putting you out on the side of the road.”
“Like I couldn’t get a trucker to pick me up.”
Brian chuckled at that. “Yeah, truckstop blow jobs could become your specialty.”
“You got me started on it in that bathroom the first night. I blame you.”
Brian smiled. “Wake me up in about an hour.”
“I have a little surprise for you.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Brian. It’s not that little.”
Brian glared at his lover, and responded, “If mine is little, than yours is infantile.”
“Touché. Go to sleep. You’re grumpy again.”
“I’m always grumpy,” he nestled down in the seat, wondering what was going on in his office, and how much business this crazy idea of playing Route 66 was going to cost him.
Back in Pittsburgh, Cynthia waved a plate of donuts under Ted’s nose, trying to chase away his gloom. “They’re you’re favorite. Jelly donuts with powdered sugar.”
“Swell,” Ted said with a sigh. “Now I can be miserable and fat.”
“Ted,” she sat down across from him, assuming a stern schoolmarm expression. Maybe she could bully him out of this mood. “You’re acting like a silly schoolboy with a crush. Brian and his lover are on the road, fucking, laughing, having a great time together. Get the hell over it. It’s not happening with Brian Kinney, okay? But he does trust us to get the work done. And sitting in his chair, mooning over his ‘things’ is not going to accomplish that feat.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Cynthia.”
“Yeah right. You so need to get laid, Ted. Let’s go to Woody’s after work today. I’ll get you drunk, you get yourself laid.”
“It’s always such a draw to be at Woody’s with a chick,” he responded with a glum scowl and she laughed.
“I promise not to cramp your style.”
“Why do you care?”
“Because I’ve been through my Brian Kinney is a God phase, Ted, and I came out the other side. You can do the same.”
“We don’t have the same relationship you do, Cynthia,” he huffed and she laughed.
“Yes you do! He’s no more attracted to your dick than he is to my vagina.”
“You don’t get it. You aren’t a gay man.”
“I do get it, Ted. You’re a nice guy. You’re cute, you’re earnest, you’re smart. But you aren’t in his league and you never will be. Go for the real, not the ideal. You understand? Now let’s get this pitch over with, and later, Woody’s.”
Ted sighed. His life had come to this: a mercy drink after hours with a straight female friend. How pathetic. “Maybe I should call Brian and ask him about the client. See if he has any tips for the pitch.”
He looked so thrilled to have a reason to call Brian that Cynthia almost felt sorry for him, but not quite. “We are so not bothering Brian with this. He’ll think we’re totally incompetent.”
“Come on, Teddy. Put on your happy face. We have to sell toothpaste.”
He nodded, running his hand over the fine suede of Brian’s blotter one last time before he stood.
“It doesn’t count, you know,” Vic said with a smile as he stirred his hurricane glass with a swizzle stick shaped like a dick.
“Good parties where you are?” Brian observed with a wry smile and Vic laughed.
“The best! You’ll love it. Someday, in the very distant future. Brian, if he didn’t hear you say it, it doesn’t count.”
“If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?”
“I always hated that stupid question,” Vic retorted. “It’s the height of arrogance to think no sound is made just because you aren’t there to hear it.”
“Arrogance is my thing.”
“Arrogance is your defense, Brian.”
“You’re not really going to surprise him with your little plan, are you?”
Brian laughed. “Then it must be good. Sleazy is good.”
“No, sleazy is sleazy. Is that where your relationship is right now?”
“Shut up, Vic. We aren’t breeders. We aren’t Ben and Mikey, pretending to be breeders. We’re gay men. We still have some mileage in us.”
“Are you sure this is what you want to do, Brian?”
Brian glared at the ghost. “Yes, god damn it, I am sure, Vic. Now fuck off.”
“You always have to learn every lesson the hard way.”
“You said to wake you up!” Justin defended, and Brian scowled, not wanting to explain the person he was addressing.
“Where are we?”
Justin pointed to a spot on the map. Brian asked, “Have you seen a big rest stop with a sign that says ‘Please clean up after your pets’?”
“We just passed it.”
“Shit! Circle back.”
“Brian, we’ll be coming to a service station where you can take a piss without having to circle back.”
“Just do it,” he insisted and Justin sighed and looked for the next exit. Sometimes it didn’t pay to argue with Brian, especially when he was so cranky. They approached the large rest stop where several trucks were parked, and the fumes of burning diesel fuel perfumed the air. Justin winced.
“I think I can wait until the next stop.”
“Come on. This will be fun.”
They walked into the men’s room and Justin’s eyes grew wide as he took in an orgy of men engaged in various sex acts; the Lysol scented, white-tiled version of the backroom at Babylon. Brian smiled, and pulled him to the last in a row of stalls, most of which were occupied and not for the intended reason.
“This is a legendary tea room,” Brian explained. “To borrow a phrase from Vic.”
“I wouldn’t drink any tea they served here,” Justin quipped, and Brian pushed him into one stall and then went into the next, dropping his jeans to his ankles and sliding his cock through a large hole drilled into the metal dividing the two stalls. Justin smiled and sat on the toilet, facing the side, taking his own dick in hand while he leaned forward to fellate his lover. Brian pressed against the cool metal, moaning as Justin took him deep. When he finished, he reversed the position for Justin and they eluded the attempts of others to engage them as they left the bathroom for the car.
“What happens if Joe Family-man comes in for a piss?” Justin asked, handing over the keys when Brian demanded to drive.
“Either he explores new territory or he goes running for the bushes.”
They both laughed. “Should I even ask how you know about that place?”
“It’s not as if I’ve never left Pittsburgh, Justin.” He cranked the engine and they took off like a rocket, heading back in the right direction.
“Do you know the location of every glory hole between here and LA?”
Brian laughed. “Just the really good ones. I did my homework, too.”
“You’re amazing,” Justin said with a shake of the head and Brian glanced at him.
“Do you mean that in a good way?”
“I don’t know. Did you think it was sleazy?”
“ ‘Sleazy’? I haven’t heard that word in years. Yeah, it was sleazy, but interesting. Like one of those Joe Gage films from before even you were born.”
Brian laughed. “Kansas City Wrecking Company or whatever. You’re right, it is like one of the Joe Gage movies.”
“Except for one thing. Have you noticed? We never participate with the others. We go in, we do our thing, together, we leave.”
Brian paused. “You want to participate with the others?”
“Not really, no.”
“Why do we do it at all?”
“Because it’s a kick?”
“To be all naughty and outrageous in semi-public? Okay, I buy that. Is that all? Are you bored with me?”
Brian glared at his lover’s profile. “How could I be bored with you? You’re always a fucking challenge.”
Justin shrugged. “What do you feel for me?”
“You know what I feel for you.”
“Not sure. Be explicit. And don’t even think about being sarcastic.”
Brian squirmed in his bucket seat, as if suddenly outgrowing the Vette. “You’re my partner. I feel the usual things people feel for their partners.”
“That is such a non-answer.”
“It is not.”
“Yes, it is, Brian. Different people feel different things for their partners. I want to know what you feel. Towards me. Are you in love with me?”
Brian shrugged. “I guess.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
“That sucks. Do you know how much that sucks?”
“Why is it so fucking important that I say it?”
“It isn’t, forget it,” Justin slumped into his seat, glaring straight ahead at the road. Brian glanced at his angry face and then said,
“Okay, I love you. Satisfied?”
“No. Not when you say it that way.”
“Fuck this.” Brian went silent, and Missouri passed by in tense détente.
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July 25, 2004