COUP DE GRACE
Ted was morose as Cynthia plied him with yet another beer at Woodyís. Now he was both morose and a little drunk. The simple truth was, she was doing better than he was in a gay bar full of gay men. They loved her. She was playing pool, dirty dancing with one of them near the jukebox, getting free drinks, and doing the blonde hair-tossing thing as if she were in some straight bar surrounded by eligibles. Gay men like attractive, vivacious women just like straight men do, only for different reasons. Cynthia wasnít going to score any of these guys, but they sure as hell liked her.
Meanwhile, Ted was ignored at the end of the bar, listlessly watching some soccer match on the television. He didnít understand soccer, but he understood handsome men, and the game was rife with them. He drank Cynthiaís beer that she bought him and wondered, again, where Brian was now and what he was doing. He sighed. He could guess what he was doing. Or what he was about to do, or had just done, or all of the above. Brian and Justin never seemed to grow weary of fucking each other. But then, who could ever grow weary of fucking Brian?
Just once, Ted thought to himself. I just want to fuck him once. Why not? Everyone else has. Even Ben. Except Mikey. Well, and Emmett, but Emmett has no interest in that. And MikeyÖ Ted didnít think he shared Mikeyís old infatuation with being Brianís be-all and end-all, he just wanted to know what it was like to be fucked by Brian. If it led to more, that would be great, but he tried to keep his fantasies reasonable.
"Hi, I know weíve met, but I canít remember your name."
Ted looked up at that greeting. The guy addressing him was young, very young, small, dark, and sort of handsome in a slightly slimy, rather oily looking way. Who was he, Ted wondered, and then it hit him. His whole night changed for the better.
"My nameís Ted," he said with a bright smile. "Youíve been gone for awhile, havenít you?"
Ethan Gold sat down on the stool beside Ted and shrugged. He ordered a dirty martini and shifted his gaze to the other man. "Iíve been touring. Europe, Russia, Canada, the U.S."
"That must have been exciting."
"It was at first, then it just got tiring. Iím glad to be back for awhile."
"Glad to have you back."
"Youíre a friend of Brian Kinneyís, right?"
Ethan paused, sipped his drink, then said, "Let me guess. Heís with Justin again."
Ethan laughed and shook his head. "I knew it. What a mistake."
"I happen to agree."
Ethan met his eyes. "You do?"
Ted nodded. "I do. I think theyíre oil and water. Justinís too young for Brian, too stubborn and willful. Brianís too cynical for Justin, too much the lone wolf. Itís not a good match."
"And yet they keep drifting back together."
Ted sighed and nodded. "Why did you two break up?"
"He caught me cheating on him. He walked out. Ironic, isnít it? Kinney is a total whore and yet Justin forgives him time after time. I slip up once and I got the ax."
Ted suspected there was more to it than that. He remembered how Brian was when Justin left him for Ethan. He put up a brave front, but it was obvious he was miserable. Ted could kick himself for missing that opportunity to be a comfort and support to Brian, but at that time, he was too caught up in his own issues to notice. Thinking of Brian, alone, made Ted feel a little guilty for wishing Justin would just go away. And stay away. But he smoothed over that by reminding himself that this time he would be front and center to make sure Brian didnít get depressed.
Someone Brianís age. Someone who shared Brianís educational level and even his business. Someone who could appreciate Brian for what he was, not what a lover wished he could be. Someone who gave Brian the respect and admiration he deserved.
"That doesnít seem fair," Ted observed, recalling Ethanís statement. "But then, maybe Justin was still trying to sort out his feelings for Brian. I wonder if he would be more forgiving now."
"Iíll never know."
"Would you like to know? Are you still interested in him?"
Ethan stared at Tedís earnest face and tried to assimilate his agenda. "Why do you ask?"
"Frankly, Iíd love to give Brian a run myself but itís not happening as long as Justinís in the picture."
Ethan tried to frame Ted and Brian in the same shot, but couldnít quite get there. What was wrong with this nerd? Did he not see that Brian Kinney wasnít going to tumble for him whether Justin was in his life or not? Still, Ethan found an ally in Ted and he smiled broadly. "Are they living together?"
"Yeah, in Brianís loft, but right now, theyíre on a road trip."
"A road trip?"
"To California for the Rage premiere."
"I read about that. Good for Justin! Thatís very cool."
"Yes, heís spent a lot of the past six months in Hollywood working and doing god knows what."
"Is Brian fucking around while heís gone?"
Ted frowned. He wished he could say yes, but it would be a lie. "Not to my knowledge. Oddly enough. But then, heís been buried in work and heís had a lot of health issues to deal with."
"No. Cancer. But they think heís cured."
Ethanís eyes grew wide. "Cancer? Lung?"
The younger man winced. "Jesus! Is he impotent? Castrated?"
Ted laughed. "No such luck for you. They put in an implant. His other ball is fine, so his testosterone level didnít change. Heís sterile, but thatís the only difference in sexual performance, from what I understand. I saw him naked in the locker room and if you just look at him, you canít tell the difference. Heís still hung like a mule. Not sure what it feels like, but Iíd like to know."
"So maybe Justin is with him out of sympathy?"
"I think that plays a part. How do you just walk out on a man with cancer and then live with yourself later?"
"Poor Justin. Trapped by the pity factor."
Ethan smiled at Ted. "It seems we have a common goal for different reasons, doesnít it?"
Ted smiled back. "You may be right."
"So letís go to a table and talk, where itís quiet."
Cynthia watched Ted go to a back table with the darkly interesting younger man he had been chatting up at the bar. She was thrilled for him. Finally, someone other than the Impossible Dream had caught his eye. You go, Ted, she thought to herself. She got his attention long enough to wave goodbye and left the bar and her new fans, pleased that she had done Brian an enormous favor by making Ted get out among his people.
Brian was driving, determined to hit Texas before they stopped for the night. After the bungled "I love you" attempt, things had digressed to monosyllables or silence for most of the remaining drive. Brian felt bad about it, as well as angry at Vicís shade for making him say it. He knew the timing was off, he knew it fell flat, and yet he yielded to pressure. From a fucking ghost. And now Justin was mad and they wasted a half day together in a combined sulk.
When Justinís mobile rang, Brian jumped, the jangling little tune he had as a ringtone always making his nerves quiver. He hated it, Justin knew it, and Justin refused to change it. It was a continuing silly point of contention between them. Justin turned down the radio as he answered the call. Brian felt the silence stretch out as Justin said, "Who?"
The way he said it alerted Brianís instincts. He listened closely while pretending not to do so. Justin was silent. Too silent. And then he said, "What the hell do you want?"
Brian knew immediately who it was. He felt as if the steering wheel had just crashed through his chest and pinned his heart to his spine.
Ethan was back.
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July 25, 2004