BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
Here is part one, gang. Happy 4th! Let me know what you think! R.
Emmett smiled uneasily at Brian from a back booth of the sushi restaurant where Brian asked to meet for lunch. "Where's Mikey?" Emmett asked tensely, taking in the stern set of Brian's jaw and the steely glare in his eyes. Sometimes Emmett forgot just how big and how strongly built Brian was. Today, the reminder of that fact was not for the usual erotic fantasy purposes.
"No Mikey," Brian responded, sliding into the other side of the booth. Emmett looked stricken.
"W-what do you mean? Mikey's not joining us?"
"That's right," Brian said, fixing his gaze on the menu. He rolled the stubby pencil, provided for choosing sushi, over and between his fingers with hypnotic dexterity.
"Should we call Ted? I know Ted would love to see you," Emmett popped open his cellular, but Brian reached across the table, took it from him with an easy grab and snapped it shut. He placed it on the table surface and Emmett knew better than to reach for it.
"It's just you and me, Em. Deal with it," Brian ordered hot tea and then glanced at Emmett who had not yet begun to check the menu. "Want me to do the ordering?"
Emmett nodded and Brian added some check marks, handing the sheet to the waiter. He then leaned back in the booth, combing his fingers through his hair as he focused on Emmett's nervous countenance. "Nice suit," Emmett said with a tense smile. "Prada?"
"Of course, you can wear anything. It's amazing how good clothes look on you, Brian. In another life, you could have been a male model."
Brian raised a brow. "Don't blow smoke up my ass, Em. That's not why we're here."
Emmett sighed. "Is it divide and conquer? You meet with us separately to break us down?"
"Yeah, I'm so diabolical."
"Our intentions were honorable, Brian."
"How do you figure that?"
"Ted and I saw you and Jeff do the tango at Babylon and it was obvious you two had a connection. After all the crap you've been through with Justin, we just thought...Brian; you have a way of being your own worst enemy. We didn't want to see you blow it...again."
"So you swept Mikey up in your game and confronted Jeff in the wee hours in his hotel room. That's mature. And why didn't Ted go with you?"
"After we went to find Mikey, Ben talked to us about leaving you alone. I guess he got through to Teddy, who went home."
Brian smiled. Of course. Ben. "But you and Mikey persevered."
"We just wanted Jeff to know that you had a lover and that he was interfering."
Their first round of sushi arrived and Brian ate while Emmett just stared at the pretty food, unsure if he could swallow. "What was Jeff's reaction?"
"He didn't tell you?"
"I want your side of it."
"He was very cool, very calm. He told us our image of you as some Mick, jock, bitch stud was no more, that you were all grown up and needed a grown up partner. He said we were never there for you when Justin left you, and that you had outgrown both of us, as well as Justin. That you needed a partner who was your equal. He said if it's important enough to him, he always gets what he wants, and you are that important to him."
Brian leaned back, noting Emmett's suddenly serious demeanor. He believed him. He wasn't sure how he felt about what he was saying, but he was sure it was true. "Well..."
Emmett dared to eat a California roll. When he could get it down, he moved on to the tuna. "Brian, he's a very attractive, charming, lethal man. He's obviously out to get you, and he's very predatory about that fact. You do love Justin, right? You understand how dangerous this is?"
Brian sighed. "Jeff may seem lethal to you, Em, but to me he's a safe harbor. He makes me feel secure."
"Why? Because you can talk about Beaujolais crops and ancient Chinese dynasties?"
Brian looked confused. "Huh?"
"Jeff said the grown-up Brian can discuss those things."
"Why would I, even though I can?"
Emmett smiled. "Honey, I don't know. I don't get it. Why he can't leave you alone is beyond me. He would have no trouble finding a replacement, one with whom he could have a real relationship, without hurting anyone else. He's a prize package after all."
"You can't always dictate your heart, Emmett. Sometimes it leads you where it wants you to go."
"And where does your heart want you to go, Brian?"
Brian met his gaze, and then looked back down at his chopsticks. "I'm in love with Justin."
"There's your answer."
"It's not that easy."
"Why isn't it?" Emmett sighed. "Because you still feel something for Jeff? I saw that dance, Brian. You don't have to tell me. I know."
"You don't have a clue what I felt when Justin left."
"I think I do. You wouldn't let any of us near you, Brian. We wanted to help, but we were unsure how to go about it. You were like ice on the surface. We sensed you were bleeding under the skin, but you put up such a good front. You've always been so enigmatic about emotions. We didn't realize how bad it was."
Brian frowned, looked down at the tray of food, picked up a morsel, and put it down again. "Can I tell you a story?"
"About a month after Justin left me, I was taking a short cut through the park. I thought the air might revive my flagging creativity. I paused to watch some guys playing a pick-up basketball game, just killing time, and then I saw them. Justin and his new lover. They were seated on the grass, beneath a tall pine, with Justin's head on his shoulder. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't. They looked so young, so good together. And then his lover saw me. He met my eyes and his face broke out in this big, triumphant smile. I felt stripped naked. I walked away. I knew I had to get out of Pittsburgh. I had to try and find a life."
Emmett's eyes teared up and he reached across the table to pat Brian's arm. "Sweetie, I wish I knew how much pain you were in. But look at you now. You won. He's back where he belongs."
Brian nodded. "Maybe, but the pain never goes away completely, Em. You always feel threatened by its return. I can't seem to let go of that fear. And with Jeff, there's no painful history."
Emmett squeezed his arm. "This may seem unfair to Jeff, but I have to say it. I feel that there's no painful history only because you haven't known him very long. I feel that he's a master manipulator, playing you and your entire circle to his advantage. Justin's youthful mistake will be like a daydream compared to the damage someone with Jeff's intellect and experience can cause you."
"But why would he, Em? He thinks I'm his ideal mate."
"In my opinion, he's a hunter. His joy is in the bagging. Once his game is bagged, let someone else flay it and feed it to the multitudes. And you're big game, Brian. You're handsome and sexy and successful. The fact that you have a beautiful younger man in love with you is just the icing."
"You make Jeff sound like me," Brian said with a wry smile. "A predator."
"You were a sexual predator, Brian. You liked to trick, and you were very open with them about how meaningless it was. Jeff is far more dangerous. He likes to trick with your head. Your heart. Twist you up."
"You don't know that."
"I think I do. I pretended to be all caught up in his wardrobe while he and Mikey argued. But I was watching him, taking him in. I kept picturing a wolf, lean, beautiful, but assessing the vulnerability of his prey at every moment."
Brian frowned, considering what Emmett shared. Suddenly, he noticed Emmett's face had grown pale, his expression vacant. He was staring over Brian's shoulder at someone or something. "What?" Brian started to turn, but Emmett grabbed his hand and squeezed tightly.
"Do you want to go? I know a great new coffee shop where we can get frappucino or latte for dessert. I know you don't want sweets."
"What's your problem?" Brian pulled free of him, and turned to follow his gaze. He saw him immediately. His slight, dark, brooding countenance dominated an otherwise empty booth. He had enjoyed a small measure of commercial success when one of his recordings was picked up and used in the score of a film. That coup improved his financial picture dramatically, which wasn't saying much. He had dropped out of school to become a featured soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and quickly fell in with the middle class he once eschewed. He leased a large apartment with a good view, and spent a fortune on clothes. He was the type who kept his own press clippings and even read them at his leisure, over and over again.
Brian turned back to Emmett. "I don't give a shit about him. Let's finish the sushi."
Emmett's feminine intuition told him to leave, and take Brian with him. Before he could do so, trouble walked in the door. And joined the other man in the booth, looking all blond and innocent and windblown. Brian read the entrance in Emmett's expression. He didn't turn around. He placed some money on the table, and reached for his coat that he folded neatly over his arm. "Brian, it's nothing," Emmett insisted. "A lunch with an ex in a public place. Nothing could be more natural. Don't let it bother you."
"Later, Em," Brian said quietly. He stood, turned, letting his gaze fall on the two young men who were clasping hands on the tabletop. Justin looked near tears. The other looked empathetic. When Justin saw Brian, his expression froze. He released his former lover's hand and started to stand up, but Brian waved him down, pausing for just a moment, refusing to even look at the other man. He stared only at Justin, who was saying,
"We were just about to order. Want to..."
Brian smiled slightly, shook his head, walked towards the door.
"Brian!" Justin called, but he failed to stop or turn around.
"Let him go," the other man insisted, and Emmett appeared in the spot formerly occupied by Brian.
"Are you fucking crazy?" He said to Justin, who winced.
"He's not allowed to have lunch with an old friend? Brian does it." The other man spoke up and Emmett glared at him.
"You can shut the fuck up, thank you very much. And you get your fine ass out of that seat, Justin, and go to him. It doesn't matter how innocent this is. It doesn't matter if it's unreasonable for him to not want you two to have lunch together. All that matters is he can't handle it right now, and you can't afford to let him drift."
"Don't let some Nellie Queen order you around, J. You are perfectly entitled to have friends, and to be civilized about things."
Emmett turned on the other man. "I'll show you what a Nellie Queen can do when properly motivated, you pussy mouthed little faggot!"
"Stop it!" Justin insisted. "I'm sorry," he said to the other man and grabbed his jacket, running out of the restaurant.
Brian realized he was standing in front of a display window showing off women's lacy lingerie. He wasn't sure how long he had been there, he only knew his face, fingers and feet were cold. He was surprised he hadn't been identified as a pervert and forced to move along. He walked a couple steps forward, and then lurched into an alley, vomiting all of the sushi he had just ingested, flattening his hands on the cold brick wall to support his limp body. He wondered at his touchy stomach, standing there until he felt the dizziness pass and he trusted that no more was coming up. He pulled his coat around his body and walked back into the pedestrian traffic, head high, face pale.
He paused at a corner, trying to get his bearings. He had no idea how he got where he was or why. He just started walking and this is where he ended up. He wondered if he was getting the flu. He ached all over. His stomach was killing him. Waves of nausea rolled through him. Food poisoning? Even in this cold, he felt a little damp, a clammy, cloying sweat, not one born of heat. He felt dizzy, confused. His heart was racing at a sickening rate. He dropped down to sit on the cold cement of the curb, ignoring the people who walked around him, staring. He felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Brian, get up."
He glanced up at Justin's concerned face. A cold, unmitigated rage rose up to tighten Brian's features into a mask of anger. "Get the fuck away from me!"
"Please, get up," Justin pulled at his arm, and Brian yanked free, standing up and stepping back, almost being sideswiped by a passing car that honked at him. Justin winced, waving him onto the curb, but Brian backed up even farther, deeper into the traffic. More cars swerved, honking to avoid the tall, outraged lunatic in the expensive clothes. He pointed a finger at Justin, unable to say anything, letting the pointed digit and the expression in his eyes accuse. "It was NOTHING!" Justin pleaded, holding up a hand to redirect traffic as he approached. He could barely be heard above the cacophony of horns.
"Get your ass out of the middle of the road, you fucking moron!" A portly driver opened the door of his Lexus and leaned out to yell at Brian. Brian turned, his expression sufficiently terrifying to cause the man to slam and lock his car door. Brian brought down both fists on the hood of the man's Lexus with a resounding BOOM.
"Shut the fuck UP!" He yelled at the portly driver. He raised his hands to his ears, muffling the sound of the horns, drowning out Justin's plea. He closed his eyes and turned in a slow circle, as he repeated. "Shut up, SHUT UP!" He felt hands on his arms and yanked free, opening his eyes to see Emmett, who grabbed him again and led him to the opposite curb, to safety.
"Fucking DRUNK!" The portly driver yelled through his now open window as he sped past in his chrome and steel cage of protection. Brian held onto Emmett's arm and leaned over, throwing up again, less bulk this time, splattering the curb and the street. Emmett winced, but held onto him since he felt so slack. Brian looked up at him, miserable, as he whispered, "Bad fish."
"Sure, baby," Emmett said softly, his own stomach showing no ill effects even though they ate the same food. He knew Brian's illness had more of a basis in his emotions than in his lunch. "Come on; let's get you out of the cold."
"I feel sick, Em," Brian said with a grimace, allowing himself to be led.
"I know you do, honey," Emmett flagged down a taxi. He looked over his shoulder at Justin's helpless countenance. He mouthed the words, "Not now, call you later," and poured Brian into the cab, following his body with his own. Justin stood there, watching them merge into traffic, unsure what was happening or why. It was just an innocent lunch. Why was Brian overreacting this way? What had he done to deserve his wrath? After all, Justin had tolerated so much more >from that fucking Jeffrey. It seemed grossly unfair to him.
"What a drama queen," his former lover caught up to him and placed an arm over his shoulders. "Let's get out of here." Justin nodded, numbly allowing himself to be led away.
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July 25, 2004