BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
Ok the plot sickens...uh thickens. BAD PUN. Give with one hand and take away with the other in this episode. I know this is cruel just before a QAF episode we are set to hate, but here it is. There is some hot sex in it, so it's not all bad! AND NOT WITH JEFFREY!
Justin couldn't sleep. He was comfortable enough, in the guest room in Leo's duplex, lulled by the traffic noises that perpetually droned in this Tribeca neighborhood, but sleep was proving impossible.
Wearing his gray sweatpants and a t-shirt advertising Babylon, he went into the kitchen, thinking a snack might help. He was surprised to find Bill seated there, at the counter, on one of the tall stools. He was eating a sandwich, still dressed in street clothes. He smiled at Justin, looking up from the Wall Street Journal.
"Did I wake you? Sorry, kid."
"No, I just can't sleep. What are you doing up?"
"Called out on an emergency surgery. Just got home."
"Is it hard, what you do?" Justin was making conversation, not really interested, as he slapped together a sandwich for himself.
"It's an art. What you're doing is poisoning the patient. Paralyzing them. You have to give them enough to send them under, but not so much that you kill or maim them. A delicate balance. If you ever have surgery, take a close look at your gas passer. He or she is more likely to kill you than your surgeon."
Justin laughed and sat beside him on a companion stool. "I hope I never know."
"I hope so too."
"Thanks for letting me stay here, Bill."
"No problem," he glanced at Justin's profile. "I'm sorry I mentioned you were staying here to Jeffrey. I didn't mean to set events in motion."
"It's okay, Bill. He would have found out soon enough."
"Leo read me the riot act. But Leo is so...touchy...about Jeff." Justin glanced at him and decided not to mention that Leo had told him the story of how Jeffrey was the focus of Bill's crush for awhile. Bill was such a sweet guy, Jeffrey's shabby treatment of him made Justin even angrier. "I guess I don't understand why they're friends."
"Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. Plus the fact, Leo does a lot of business with Jeff's folks and in those WASP elite circles."
"Yeah, that makes sense, I suppose. The business end of art is mysterious to me."
"Don't make the mistake of underestimating Jeff, kiddo."
"I never underestimate Jeff. I've seen the face beneath the mask."
"Scary, isn't it?"
"Scary? I thought..."
"What? That I think Jeff is perfect? No, my little infatuation with Jeff taught me better than that. When I mentioned to him that you were staying with us, it seemed innocuous at the time. I forgot that nothing is really innocuous with Jeff. He has a mind like a steel trap."
Justin frowned. Jeffrey WAS a steel trap, and Brian was caught in his razor sharp teeth. "Why did you tell him?"
"We had lunch in the hospital cafeteria, as we do occasionally. I asked him about his vacation, he said he had a pleasant surprise when Brian showed up, and I said unfortunately it was not so pleasant for Brian's partner, Justin."
Justin winced. "True. Thanks, Bill."
"He asked me how I knew and I said you were staying with us for awhile, to give yourself a chance to sort things out."
"So I hear. Can an old Jewish mother give you some advice that you should feel free to ignore?"
"Sure." Justin found that he missed Debbie's unsolicited advice. Beyond their gender differences, Bill couldn't have been less like the flamboyant Debbie.
Justin glanced at Bill, his expression quizzical. "To Pittsburgh?"
"No, to Brian."
"I don't think I can."
"Either call it quits, or go home, immediately."
"Am I wearing out my welcome?"
"Has nothing to do with that. I could have a pretty blond twink stay in my place forever, great eye candy. But you're making a strategic error. Leo knows it too, but he has that Asian sensibility, doesn't think he should interfere. I'm a New York Jew. Direct. You're leaving Brian open and vulnerable to Jeff. Unless you are over him, that's just plain dumb, kiddo."
Justin frowned, considering Bill's wisdom. "Jeffrey's probably over there."
"So ask him to leave."
"Just like that?"
"Sure. Say you need to talk to Brian. Trust me, Brian will back you up on this."
"Not sure if I'm ready to confront him, Bill."
"Justin, you wait until you're sure, and Jeffrey will have Brian so confused, you may not be able to straighten him out."
Justin grimaced, considering that possibility. "I don't know what to say."
"Baby boy, don't plan it out. Let your heart lead you. You don't have to resolve anything tonight. Just do what feels right. Sometimes no words are needed at all. Actions can be far more powerful."
"You mean fuck him? I'm too mad to fuck him."
"I mean do what feels natural at the moment. If sex feels natural, do it. If snuggling feels natural, do that. If just sleeping in the same bed is natural, do it. Justin, don't let your anger and pride keep you apart from the man you love. If you don't love him anymore, then tell him that and let you both start over."
"His shrink says if I leave, he'll end up with Jeffrey."
"Honey boy, if you leave, it's no longer your issue who he ends up with."
Justin met his eyes, strangely jarred by the idea that he could ever be in a place where what happened to Brian was none of his business.
The loft was pre-dawn quiet, pre-dawn dark. Justin felt like a burglar as he let himself in and crossed the main area to the bedroom. The blue lights were on. Only one body was in the bed, thank God. Brian's body. He was sleeping stomach down as he usually did, and Justin sat on the edge of the bed, staring down at his handsome profile. What was he doing here? What did he intend to say to this man? He wasn't sure what he wanted for himself, so why confront him now? Damn Bill, anyway! Why did he listen to him? He started to stand, when he felt Brian's hand close over his arm, holding him there.
Justin sighed. "How long have you been awake?"
"I haven't been asleep. I heard you come in. I just didn't say anything."
"Why not?" Brian turned over on his back, one hand folded behind his head. In the blue light, he looked ghostly pale, almost delicate. He was apparently naked, as he usually was in bed, but only a single taut brown nipple was exposed by the sheet.
"I didn't know what to say," Brian admitted.
"I don't either."
"So here we are. With nothing to say."
"How is Jeffrey's foot?"
"He had a couple stitches. No big deal."
"I didn't do it on purpose."
"I know that, Justin. But you were mad, that was clear." "Yeah, I was mad. Are you in love with him?"
"I'm in love with you."
"Then what do you feel for him?"
Brian sat up, scrubbing his fingers through his hair, trying to shake off his blues. "I don't know."
"He's out to get you. Do you understand that?"
"Yeah, Justin, I've been around enough to know that."
"Really? Other than me, what relationship have you had?"
"As a matter of fact, I had a relationship in college." Justin looked surprised. "You mean with Lindz?"
"God no, I mean a real relationship. Not some desperate last grasp at heterosexuality."
"Does it really matter?"
"It's just a shock to me. You've never mentioned anyone. Who is he? Do you still see him?"
"I don't want to talk about it, and he's dead. I was a kid. Younger than you. I had no clue. Just as you have no clue."
Justin bristled at that remark. "Bullshit, Brian. I know my own mind. I'm not a typical person my age. I've been through a hell of a lot. You grow up fast."
Brian rested his hand on the back of Justin's neck, stroking it gently. "I know you have, Sunshine. But I also know that you haven't." Justin relaxed under his tender caress, his eyes closing.
"What are you saying? I'm too young to know my own mind? To know what I want?"
Justin turned, faced Brian, stretching out one leg beside him, the other tucked under him. "Brian, you're the one who doesn't know what he wants. Not I."
"I know what I want," Brian said softly, his hand moving up Justin's thigh. "I want everything."
"Sometimes you can't have everything," Justin said, his eyes closing as he felt the heat begin, even against his conscious will. He missed Brian's touch almost as much as he missed Brian.
"Why not?" Brian responded, grabbing Justin's shirtfront in his fist and pulling him on top of him. "I want what I want." He kissed him deeply. Justin sucked his tongue into his mouth, relenting to the passion, trying not to think about the pain of the other man who so recently excited this same response in his lover.
Brian stripped off Justin's shirt and rolled him beneath him, kissing him again, with greater force, stretching Justin's arms out on either side of his head, flat against the bed, and restraining his wrists with his fists. He arched over him, pulling back to stare down at his face, that was flushed with anticipation. "Tell me," Brian said in a harsh whisper, moving his erection against Justin's groin, the motion inching his sweatpants lower on his hips.
"Tell you what?" Justin responded.
"You know what."
"How much I'm hating you right now?"
Brian smiled. "Yeah, tell me that."
"I hate you."
"Do you hate this?" Brian ducked down, circling Justin's nipple with the tip of his tongue.
"Yessss," Justin said with a sibilant "s", like steam escaping from a valve. He buried his hands in Brian's hair pushing gently downward as Brian kissed his stomach and licked the overhang of his lowest rib.
"How about this?"
"Hate it," Justin said, squirming under his touch. Brian plunged his tongue into his navel and drew it out again, causing Justin to writhe with pleasure. Brian yanked his sweatpants down his hips, exposing his cock. He glanced at the stiff erection, then up at Justin's face.
"I can see how much you hate it."
"I know. Make me hate it some more."
Brian smiled and ducked down, sliding Justin's erection into his mouth and gliding his lips down the shaft, stroking the underside with his tongue as he went. Justin moaned and bucked his pelvis upward to meet the caress, striving to plunge it even deeper into Brian's mouth. Brian pulled up, sucking hard on the tip, swirling his tongue around the head counterclockwise, lapping up the pre-cum as it bubbled to the surface. "Hate me now?"
"Despise you," Justin moaned, moving his leg against Brian's erection, teasing him with his thigh. "Don't stop."
Brian pulled Justin's sweatpants all the way off, prying off his shoes but leaving on his white socks. For some reason, he found the glistening white crews against the soft blond fuzz on Justin's legs to be a turn on. He reached for his lube and a condom, asking, "How much would you hate it if I fucked you?"
Justin smiled slightly. "It would be horrible, I would never forgive you."
Brian nodded, stretching the thin latex over his throbbing erection. Even that much contact threatened his control. He was sizzling hot for Justin, feeling as if they had been apart for months. He looped his arms under Justin's thighs and hauled him up, admiring the curve of his ass as it was fully revealed to him, the bulge of his ball sac, the weight of his legs against his shoulders.
"I'm gonna make you hate the hell out of me, boy," he growled, lubing Justin generously with his forefinger and thumb before he positioned himself for penetration.
"Fuck you," Justin said softly, anticipating the pressure of his hard cock with tremulous desire. "I do hate you right now."
"Hate THIS," Brian entered his body with a smooth thrust, bracing himself on his arms on either side of Justin's torso as he went deeper. "And THIS, and THIS..." he began to fuck him with an intensity that informed him of how much he missed this sensation.
"Yes, I hate it, I hate it...!" Justin reached down and grabbed Brian's face in both hands, forcing his lips on his, sucking Brian's tongue deep into his mouth. Brian continued to drive into him, feeling the sensation build and overtake him. Just before he had to let go, he felt Justin's release jet against his belly, greasing their bodies with a slick layer as Brian placed one hand on Justin's pectorals, the other on his shoulder and arched his back as he ejaculated. He then collapsed above him, spent, and Justin held tightly to him, basking in the pleasure generated by their little game of "hate".
Justin opened the door to the loft and leaned in the threshold, wearing Brian's navy silk robe, a smile, and nothing else when Jeffrey walked up. He heard Jeffrey's voice on the street intercom and released the lock, without saying a word. Jeffrey was carrying a bag from the deli and his smile froze as he focused on Justin.
"Was he expecting you?" Justin said coolly and Jeffrey glared at him. "I thought I'd surprise him with his favorite bagels."
"Well, he had an early meeting at work today, so he had to make do with a high protein breakfast." Justin's smirk was not lost on Jeffrey.
"I see," Jeffrey walked past him through the main room, slamming the bag down on the kitchen counter. "When did you come back?"
"In the nick of time. How's the foot?"
"Healing, no thanks to you. Another part of my foot and I might have had tendon damage. It's still quite sore."
"That's why your mama tells you to wear shoes," Justin teased, making a show of tightening the sash of the robe Jeffrey had worn. His own feet were bare.
Jeffrey glared at him. "This changes nothing. I wouldn't be so smug if I were you."
"I'm not smug. I'm content. He was an animal last night and an angel this morning in the shower. Brian can never get his fill of me."
"Don't be too sure. You're incapable of giving him what he really needs."
"What's that, Jeff? Confusion, interference and a load of trouble?"
"Understanding, maturity and acceptance. You're a rash, Justin. Prevalent, demanding of attention, and a little itchy, but transient. Rashes go away and no one even remembers having one."
"If I'm a rash, you're the bubonic plague. Hideous, painful and terminal."
"Frankly, we've cured that now."
"Yeah, I think I found that out last night. Or was it this morning?"
The phone interrupted and Justin picked it up, feeling proud so far, capable of holding his own with the good doctor. His brief reunion with Brian had given him that confidence. He was surprised to hear his mother's voice on the other end of the receiver.
"Justin, I have some serious news. Can you talk a minute?" Jennifer Taylor's voice had that tightly controlled tone that suggested trouble. His smile faded.
"What is it, Mom?"
"Is Brian there with you?"
"No, he's at work. Why? Is it about him?"
"No, I was just hoping he was there with you."
"Why?" he repeated.
"Honey, it's about Molly."
His sister. Justin frowned. What trouble was the little mutant in now? "What's she done?"
"Nothing. She's...she's going into the hospital today. For some tests."
"Tests? What kind of tests? Why does she have to go to a hospital for tests?"
"Don't get upset, we're not sure, but the doctor is afraid she may have leukemia."
Justin sat down heavily on the overstuffed chair, his face growing suddenly pale. "Leukemia? But...she's a kid...how could she...why do they think that?"
Jeffrey was suddenly interested in his conversation, and Justin met his eyes, then looked away. He heard his mother begin to cry and blinked back tears of his own. He felt suddenly sick, scared, and angry, all at once.
"I'm sorry, honey," Jennifer said. "I was determined I wouldn't lose it with you."
"Mom, what are they telling you? What kind of tests are they going to run? Why do they think it's leukemia?"
"I don't know! I don't understand half of what they tell me! It's all Greek to me. I thought she may be anemic. She's been listless, tires easily. But now, I...just don't know."
Justin winced, struggling for control. "How serious is it? It's some kind of cancer, isn't it?"
"Put her on speaker," Jeffrey suddenly intervened and Justin glared at him.
"Hold on Mom," he covered the receiver. "Fuck off! Do you have no sense of decency?"
"Justin, think what you will of me, but this is what I do. And I do it very well. Put her on speaker." Their eyes met and Jeffrey glared at him. "Don't be childish. This isn't about Brian. This is about a sick child."
Justin weighed his choices for a moment, then sighed. "Mom, I'm going to put you on speaker phone. A friend of...ours...is here. He's a doctor. He wants to talk to you."
"That would be wonderful, Justin. I'm so confused!"
He punched on the speaker on the phone and Jeffrey pulled a chair up to be closer to the mike. "Mrs. Taylor, my name is Jeffrey Walker. I'm a pediatric oncologist."
"Jennifer, please, Dr. Walker."
"Jeff. Now, I know you're scared and confused and unsure of what to ask or think. I've never met your daughter, so I can't help you with her diagnosis, but I thought you may want to ask me about the process, about what is happening and why. Would that be helpful to you?"
"Oh my God, yes, Jeff! I can't say anything with Molly around, and the doctors are busy and..."
"Calm down, Jennifer. First of all, if it is leukemia, there are many forms of that disease, most of which respond remarkably well to modern treatment. So don't convince yourself that, if it is in fact leukemia, you are without hope, because that's simply not true." Justin watched in wonder as Jeffrey, the evil Mr.Hyde, morphed back into the angelic Dr. Jekyll, soothing voice, reassuring manner, skilled physician. Despite his dislike of Jeffrey, he was finding himself hanging on his every word.
Justin heard his mother's panic ramp down a notch as she said, "They keep talking about blasts. I don't understand."
"Blasts are white blood cells found in the bone marrow but not in circulating blood. Tests are taken to measure blasts. Everyone has some blast in their bone marrow. Abnormal blasts suggest leukemia may be present."
"They'll take her bone marrow?"
"She'll be given drugs to ensure she is not in pain, or perhaps even put to sleep during the procedure. A sample is taken from the back of the pelvic bone with a long needle. A tiny cylinder of bone, about 1/16th of an inch in diameter and a half inch long is removed along with the marrow. This test material is biopsied. They may also want to do a lumbar puncture in the spinal cavity of the lower back to withdraw some cerebrospinal fluid to check for cells. It sounds horrendous, but it's a very low invasive procedure. They will do all they can to protect her from pain. But early treatment is so critical, it's essential that these tests be completed as soon as practical."
"And they'll know?"
"Most likely, yes."
"Jennifer, the treatment is so varied, depending upon the type of leukemia, your daughter's general health and the virulence of the disease. You will be presented with a host of treatment options by your team."
Justin looked confused. "Team?"
"Yes, if it is leukemia, a team of doctors will be involved. A pediatric oncologist, of course, a hematology-oncologist, and many others. I have some advice for you on that, Jennifer. Require the team to give you a point person, whose job it is to gather all the confusing medical data you'll receive and deliver it to you in one setting. In human terms. It's no good for you to have to float from doctor to doctor, trying to make sense of what you hear. They can consolidate for you and then you only have to go to the specialists directly when you have a question beyond the knowledge and expertise of your point person. Make sure your specialists are board certified. I will be only too happy to give you the names of some people in your area whom I know to be qualified and competent, if that might help."
"Jeff, I would be forever in your debt!"
"Don't even worry about that. I know how much you have to worry about now, let me help you with that. I'll get your number and call you this afternoon with some names. And I'm going to give you my numbers, Jennifer. While I won't second guess her treatment, I'll be glad to explain things to you if you become confused, and offer whatever reassurance I can from a distance."
"I'm coming home, Mom," Justin suddenly announced, feeling useless compared to Jeffrey.
"No honey, not yet. Let's see what we learn from the preliminary tests. I'll keep you informed."
"I think I should be there."
"I know, Justin. But right now there's nothing you can do."
"I can hold her hand and yours."
"I...I don't know."
Jeffrey smiled slightly. "Sometimes its more difficult to be away when things are happening to someone you love."
Justin met his eyes and sighed. Was he being opportunistic? Getting him out of the picture? Or was he still being the good Jeffrey, because he had to admit, Jeffrey had been phenomenal with his mother.
Justin knew this was too serious to let his insecurity over Brian swing the decision. His belief was that Molly and Jennifer needed him in Pittsburgh, so that was where he needed to be. He had to have faith that Brian would understand, and that their relationship would still be here when he came back.
"I'll come in this afternoon. I'll phone you with the arrangements."
"Ok, honey, if you're sure."
"Don't worry about a thing here, Justin," Jeffrey said with a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "I'll hold down the fort."
"Justin, I'm so glad you have such a wonderful new friend," Jennifer gushed and her son just sighed, his loyalties stretched between two distant points with such tension, he knew the release of that torque could launch a rocket.
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July 25, 2004