BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
Ok, here it is. The second part to BTS, After 13. There will be a third part, of course. Enjoy and hope you all had a happy and safe holiday! R. (P.S. because of the holiday, my editor, darren, didn't get to do her magic on it, so excuse the rough edges.)
Justin was devastated.
Not only did he have that horrible scene with Brian, but now Brian's friends were on his neck. He always thought of Ted and Emmett and Mikey as Brian's friends, more than his own. Now, more than ever, that fact was evident. They turned on him like cornered rats, baring their teeth and squealing insults. He had done nothing wrong! They were in Ben's apartment, dissecting the events now known as the "Sushi Incident".
"You're the one who lost him!" He finally blurted at Emmett. He was tired of fielding criticism for his lack of judgment over meeting his ex when Brian was around, and for compounding his stupidity by meeting him at one of Brian's favorite restaurants. He tried to make the point that meeting him at a restaurant Brian frequented was intentional. If he had met him in some out of the way place, then it would appear they had something to hide. On the contrary, Justin was hiding nothing. He felt no compulsion to do so.
Emmett glared at him. "He demanded the driver stop the cab. I thought he was going to be sick again. I watched him walk over to the curb. By the time I realized he was going to keep walking, I had to pay the driver and go after him. By then, Brian had disappeared. He could have gone into any building to escape me. What could I do?"
Michael glared at both of them. "I still don't understand why he would take you to lunch, Em, instead of me," he was still hung up on the beginning.
"I do," Ben volunteered. "A lot less baggage there, Michael. From what you've both reported, it sounds as if Brian had a particularly severe panic attack. They can make you sick, faint, heart palpitations, all kinds of physical symptoms. Given what he's going through now, with his shrink, it's logical. In the old days, he could hide his response to a disappointment. Today, with his emotions at the surface, he was flooded with input and his mind and body overloaded. But Brian is a very controlled man. He will regain his composure. The kindest thing we can do is give him time and space to do so. He's not suicidal."
"He walked into the path of those cars!" Emmett corrected him, and Ben shook his head.
"Heat of the moment. Trying to escape a confrontation with Justin. We've already done the usual things. We called the hotel and they told us that to their knowledge he was still a guest. Although, since he paid by credit card, he wouldn't necessarily have to check in with them when leaving. They have his credit card number on file. He doesn't answer at his loft in New York. The airlines won't release lists of passengers. His office hasn't heard from him since lunch. His mother hasn't seen him. Deb hasn't seen him. Jennifer, Linds and Mel haven't seen him. Where does that leave us? He could be anywhere."
"He's on his way to Jeffrey," Justin said quietly, then escaped to the bedroom and closed the door behind him. Michael glared at the door as if he could see through it to the offender.
"Stop it, Michael," Ben said quietly. "Justin is not the villain here. He may have used bad judgment, but he did nothing wrong. Look at what he's told us. He gets a call from a former lover with whom he had a bad breakup. The man says he just heard about Molly, and he was sorry. They talk without anger for the first time since Justin left. The man says let's meet for lunch. Make peace. Justin wants peace in his life right now, and he feels guilty about how he treated this man. So he agrees. The ex suggests a restaurant. Justin feels good about it, because he didn't want to appear to be meeting on the sly. When he arrives, he doesn't see Brian, who is in a back booth. His ex says something sweet about Molly, Justin tears up. His ex takes his hand to comfort him and up pops the devil. Brian's timing couldn't have been better."
Emmett nodded. "I tried to get him to leave, but you know how stubborn he can be. And we'd still have to walk past the ex. But then when Justin came in, I just melted. Look at it from Brian's point of view. He sees them together, holding hands, tears in Justin's eyes. He goes nuts. But he keeps it inside, turning his own stomach to bile."
"He's already so insecure about that bastard," Michael said with a sigh. "How can you not be worried, Ben?"
"I'm worried about Brian's state of mind, Michael. I worry that he may be hurting unnecessarily. I worry about whether his shaky trust can be repaired. I don't share your overwhelming need to root him out and surround him. Brian is by nature, a solitary man. And wearing his emotions on his sleeve for the edification of all of you is definitely not his style. Give him some space."
"I think I know him better than you, Ben," Michael complained, and Ben shrugged.
"I think you know the young and confused Brian better, sweetheart. I think I know the grown up Brian very well."
"That's just what Jeff said," Emmett responded quietly, and Ben shrugged.
"On that point, he may be right. Brian is not the same guy you grew up with, Michael."
"And one weekend of fucking him doesn't make you a Brian scholar, Ben," Michael snapped and Ben frowned.
An uncomfortable silence ensued, and then Ben got up. He walked into the kitchen to brew some tea. He lifted the phone to place a call, but when he heard Justin's voice, he hung up.
Justin was lying stomach down on Ben's unmade bed, talking to Leo Chang in New York. "Bill says he's talked to your anesthesiologist today," Leo was saying. "He says he's very well respected, you have nothing to fear."
"Tell him thanks," Justin said softly. "Leo, have you talked to Jeffrey?"
"We had brunch. Your name came up, sweetie."
"In what context?"
"I told him you told me you were a match, and I asked him what it all meant. He gave me the ten thousand foot look at the procedure. You're a brave boy."
Justin winced. "It's not a big deal. It's her best chance. Not like I'm donating a kidney, although I would."
"You're still brave and you know it."
"Did he say anything about Brian?"
"No, but I already knew he's there with you in Pittsburgh."
"We talked business. We're on a couple boards together. Arts stuff, you know. He told me about that intervention your friends pulled on him. He said Brian told him he that he was taking one of the interveners to lunch to tell him how the robin ate the worm."
"Nothing much. He promised to make some more calls to attract even more artists to perform at our Winterfest. It's a big fundraiser for the arts scene here."
"Leo, if you hear Brian is back in New York will you tell me?"
"What do you mean? Have you misplaced him?"
"Sort of. Will you?"
"Of course, darling. Not sure I will, but if I do..."
"Thanks. What do you mean that he was contacting more artists to perform?" Justin circled back. "How do artists 'perform'?"
Leo laughed. "Not visual artists, darling. Actors, musicians, singers. We have entertainment at our annual Winterfest dinner and ball. That's what brings in the bucks. That, plus the auction of visual arts donated by artists. I would have asked you to donate, but you have enough going on right now. The money we raise is spread among the various artistic communities. Jeff is very persuasive, and we are both on the board of the charitable organization that sponsors the event."
The others looked up as Justin burst from the bedroom, zipping his jacket and heading for the door. "Where are you going?" Michael demanded.
"Out!" Justin said without stopping, slamming the door shut behind him.
"Probably to see his ex," Michael scowled and Ben sighed.
"Don't borrow trouble."
"I hate to think of Brian being in the arms of that conniving Jeffrey," Emmett conceded.
"There are things you can't control, but I think you underestimate Brian," Ben insisted. He retrieved his coat as Michael glared at him.
"Now what the hell are YOU doing?"
"Playing a hunch," Ben said, kissing his cheek on his way out the door. The three remaining men exchanged a look of confusion, suddenly left alone to unravel the mystery of the missing Brian. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Justin felt strange to be approaching the door of the apartment where he once lived. He felt as if he had been gone for years. He could hear the music before he reached the threshold. Loud, frenetic, his ex at his showy best. He tried the bell, but he knew it would never be heard over the music. Impulsively, he tried his key. It still worked. He entered the foyer, walking quietly towards the source of the music. In the lush living room overlooking the river, his ex had carefully posed between the wide windows, framing himself in the final glow of twilight as he bowed the strings of his violin. Watching with rapt attention was a young man, blond, pretty, smitten with the talent of his host. Justin paused, experiencing a sense of deja vue as he saw a scene similar to one he had been part of unravel in front of him.
"The music plays me," his ex said with a smoldering gaze at the young man. "I become the instrument. I'm merely a pass through."
Justin thought to himself that his ex had improved that line with time.
"You're a genius," the young man insisted, and Justin answered aloud, along with his ex.
"People have been telling me that since I was a child."
Both men turned to stare at him with surprise and Justin smiled and held up his key, placing it on the surface of the table. "I meant to send it back."
"J, this is William. He's interviewing me for the Arts Section of the paper," his ex looked shell shocked, and Justin nodded.
"I see," as true as that may be, he knew where this interview was likely to be concluded. "Could you give me ten minutes?"
"Sure, babe. What do you need?"
"Not here," Justin took his arm, leading him into the bedroom. He shut the door as his former lover smiled seductively.
"I do my best work in the bedroom, as you may recall," he moved over to Justin, placing his arms around him, but Justin easily evaded him.
"Not quite good enough, that's what I recall. But tell me something. How long have you known Dr. Jeffrey Walker?"
His ex grew cautious. "Who?"
"Don't lie to me. I know he's been in touch with you about performing in Winterfest in New York," Justin threw it out, taking his shot.
His former lover stretched out on the bed, one knee raised, propped up on one elbow, trying to look fetching. "I get those kinds of requests all the time. I'm a star, babe. You forgot."
"I'm only interested in Jeff Walker."
"Oh yeah, the guy who is fucking your precious Brian behind your back?"
"I know all about it. Did you two put your pretty heads together and think this was a good way of pulling us apart? A concerted effort by the two of you, each to end up with one of us?"
"Don't flatter yourself."
"What does that mean?"
"It means one thing, Goldilocks," he sat up on the edge of the bed, lighting a cigarette, all pretense vanishing. At his thermal core, Justin's ex was a mean spirited egomaniac. "I don't fucking want you back. I'm famous now. I can do better than you."
Justin laughed. "Like that cub reporter out there? Trophy time!"
He narrowed his eyes at Justin. "He's hot."
"If you don't want me back, why did you arrange to have Brian see us together? I assume you got information from Jeff. Brian must have said he was having lunch with Em, and Jeff casually asked where. Ba da bing. You two had a plot. But what was in it for you, if you don't want me?"
"I don't want him to have you," he said coolly. "And I don't want you to have him. You are both a couple of self centered bastards. You deserve each other. But what the fuck? Why should you be happy?"
"You hate me that much?"
"I don't give a fuck about you. I just want to see you bleed. If Jeff wants Brian, he can have him. That's his problem."
"You feel that way about me because I left you for Brian?"
"You're so pathetic. You'll never be able to hold onto him. Give it up."
"I remember when I left Brian for you. He made it happen because he mistakenly thought it would be better for me. He facilitated it at great pain to himself in order for me to be happy. You want to hurt me, because I love someone else. I guess this is the clearest definition of what makes love true, isn't it?"
"Is it? Too bad you're losing out to a man whose boots you aren't good enough to lick. Frankly, I don't know what he sees in your big drama queen, but that's not my problem. As long as it breaks your little black heart, I'm happy."
"I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry you feel such anger and pain towards me. I'm sorry I ever believed a single word you said to me, and most of all, I'm sorry you caused me to turn away from Brian in the first place. He is ten times the man you can ever hope to be. Maybe you should take a longer look at Jeffrey. He's rich, he's connected, he's handsome. He could do a hell of a lot for you. You two are made for each other."
His former lover laughed and combed his fingers through his disarranged dark curls. "You'd like that, wouldn't you, J? Maybe after Brian loses everything and is totally dependent upon Jeff, emotionally, I'll do just that." He trilled his fingers up an imaginary fiddle. "A grand slam."
"You're a sick puppy," Justin said quietly, and left the room and the apartment, more frantic than ever to find Brian.
Ben opened the door to Molly's hospital room slowly and quietly. The room was dark, only the monitors on the machinery hooked to the tiny patient provided light, along with the wedge of glow from the open door. He saw that Jennifer was sleeping soundly on the sofa and Molly was dozing. Brian was seated beside her bed, his arms crossed on the side of her mattress, his face resting on his arms. He appeared to be asleep. Molly had one hand in Brian's hair, as if she had been stroking him when she drifted into sleep. As Ben approached Brian, Molly's eyes fluttered open and she looked at him, holding a finger of her free hand up to her lips to signal for stealth.
Ben smiled at her grave little face. "It's ok. I'm his friend."
"Brian is sad."
"Why is Brian sad, Molly?"
She sighed. "I don't know."
"May I try to help him?"
She nodded and Ben placed a hand between Brian's shoulders, massaging him gently. Brian slowly awoke, straightened up, squinting first at Molly, then up at Ben. "What are you doing here?"
"Can we talk?"
Brian sighed and stood up. He stretched his cramped muscles, and then leaned over to kiss Molly on the cheek. "Be back, Mollusk." She giggled and he smiled at her. "What's so funny?"
"What about it?"
"It's sticking up in front!"
"Well, then, fix it, lazybones," he leaned down and she attempted to smooth his bed hair with both hands, and then sighed.
"It's still a mess. You look funny."
"Yeah? At least I HAVE hair, baldielocks!"
She giggled again, having found some peace with her hair loss thanks in part to Brian's gentle, loving teasing. "Will you come back, B?"
"Of course I will. If only to tell you goodnight. Now try to nap," he smoothed her covers, arranged her toys beside her, and rubbed his palm across the satiny smooth skin of that was stretched tautly across the prominent bones of her face. Ben felt an emotional surge at their tender interplay, but choked it down as he and Brian stepped into the hall and closed the door.
"Let's get out of here," Brian said, and they walked to his car in silence. He drove a short distance to the lake and parked in a deserted scenic overview, where tourists congregated during the day and lovers hid at night. They were in the twilight period between the two groups, the only car in the area. Brian left the heat on as he lit a cigarette and stared straight ahead, not even seeing the skim of fog above the waterline. His mind was elsewhere.
"Why did they send YOU?" Brian finally said, and Ben sighed.
"No one sent me, Brian. I came on my on. Everyone thought you would head back to New York. I thought you would never do that without stopping to see Molly first."
Brian smiled slightly. "So I go in to say goodbye and she starts this stiff upper lip, big eyed bravery, thanking me for Pinky Bear and for Angel Bear and asking if I would call to make sure she was doing alright, and I just came undone."
"Where was Jennifer?"
"Sound asleep. She's exhausted and we spoke very softly. I put my head down on Molly's bed, and she reached out and stroked my hair. 'Poor Brian,' she said to me. 'Poor little Brian. He's so sad. Don't be sad, Brian. Molly loves you.' I couldn't move."
Ben reached over to gently rub his biceps, up and down in a soothing motion. "I'm sorry, Brian."
"I guess I fell asleep like that. I'm always so exhausted. The next thing I know, you're waking me up," he glanced at Ben's profile. "I'm glad it was you if it had to be anyone."
"Brian, everyone cares. That's not a bad thing."
"I made a fool out of myself." "No, you had a panic attack. It happens. Especially under high stress and during periods of exhaustion. It can happen to anyone. No one thinks less of you because of it."
"I do," he said softly. "I don't like to lose control."
"I know, Brian. I'm sorry. But Justin doesn't understand what he did. It had no hidden meaning. What he said happened..."
Brian glared at him as he interrupted. "Don't, ok? They were holding hands. Justin was in tears."
"Give him a chance to explain."
"I don't require an explanation. Justin obviously doesn't know what he wants. I think we should put some space between us until he does."
"You don't want that."
"How do you know what I want?"
"I know how much you love him."
Brian stared long and hard into the night. "And I hate loving him. I hate loving anyone."
Ben moved his massage to the back of Brian's neck, kneading his tense muscles. "You feel that way right now. You don't, really."
Brian grabbed his arm, forcing Ben's hand down Brian's belly in a rapid gesture, pressing it to his crotch. Ben felt Brian's penis move under his fingers as it filled with blood, engorging the delicate tissues, quickly making the organ stiff. He closed his eyes as his mind involuntarily filled with memories of a Miami hotel room. They had met at the airport, while waiting for their luggage. Because it was the weekend of the White Party, many gay men were filtering in to further swell Miami's already substantial gay population.
Ben saw Brian right away, and he was not alone in noticing the tall, slim stud talking on a cell phone with an unlit cigarette between his lips. They both reached for the same black leather bag. Their hands touched. Brian hung up on his call after taking in the full measure of Ben's hard body and handsome face. He smiled slightly. "This must be yours. Mine's a Tumi."
"Thanks," Ben swung it off the carousel, and Brian took his arm before he could go away. He leaned in close and whispered in his ear, "Your tongue, my cock, now."
Ben glanced down Brian's lean physique to the substantial basket displayed in his tight Levis and smiled. In the cab on the way to the hotel, they stared out separate windows while their hands kneaded the other's lap. They would manipulate to the point of orgasm, and retreat, maintaining an exquisite tension. They ended up at Brian's hotel, because it was nicer, but Ben called his own hotel to ensure they held his room. He never expected this encounter to last the whole weekend. In the crowded elevator, Brian slipped his hand down the back of Ben's jeans, smoothing his naked ass as the lift crawled slowly to the tenth floor.
Inside the threshold of the door to Brian's room, while the door was still swinging shut, Brian slammed Ben into the wall and thrust his tongue down his throat. Ben held to him, memorizing the firm planes of his body through his clothes. Brian waltzed him over to the bed and threw him back, sailing on top of him and flattening him with his weight. He ground his pelvis against Ben's, and then paused long enough to get naked. He stripped Ben, groaning with pleasure at the sight of his hard muscles, dragging his tongue down his throat, his pecs, his belly and up again. Brian raised himself to his knees and thrust his erect penis at Ben's mouth. Ben opened to receive him, sucking eagerly on his meat.
Brian reached back to jack Ben's hard on and within minutes, both were spent. Ben watched Brian get up, cross the room, rummage in his luggage. He raised himself to his elbows to see, and smiled as Brian returned with two handfuls of goodies. Lube, condoms, and a length of soft white cotton rope. "What do you plan to do with that rope?" Ben asked. "Demonstrate your boy scout knots?"
"Just one. It's called Bondage Boy. You'll love it."
He did love it. He loved everything Brian did, and Brian did everything. Remembering the heat of that encounter caused Ben to reflexively squeeze Brian's cock, but then he withdrew and leaned against the door. "What's wrong?" Brian asked impatiently.
"We can't do this."
"Why not?" Brian insisted. "You know you want to. So do I."
"Not as much as you want to be Michael's friend. Not as much as you love Justin. We can't blow all that for a few minutes of pleasure."
"Try forty-eight hours. Remember?"
"Even worse. Brian, you wouldn't do this to your best friend. Think about it. I know you're hurting, and I want you more than any man I've ever known, but we can't. We both know that."
"Fuck!" Brian said, giving his erection a comforting squeeze. "Shit."
"You can't pave over a dead buffalo and act like the road is smooth. You have to face this thing with Justin and get over it."
"You know I'm right, don't you?"
Brian leaned over and kissed him hard on the lips. Ben responded by opening his mouth, and they frenched for a few minutes, relenting to the excitement. Finally, Brian leaned back. "I also know you want me."
"Yes, I want you, Brian. But not enough to fuck up everyone's lives. No matter how great the sex is, it's not enough to do that."
"Don't be too sure."
"Will you talk to Justin?"
"Where is he?"
"Not sure. He left my apartment on a mission. Not sure where he was going, but we'll find him."
"No," Brian said softly as he turned over the engine and put the car in gear. "If he wants to talk then he can damned well find me."
"That's fair," Ben agreed, staring out the window, away from Brian's handsome face, willing his own excitement to dissolve.
After dropping Ben at his car, Brian went up to Molly's room to tell her goodnight, as he promised. When he opened the door, he saw Justin there beside her bed, reading to her, and his stomach flipped. He was paralyzed, unable to retreat. Justin closed the book. Brian steeled himself and walked over to Molly. He kissed her cheek. He told her goodnight. He left. Justin followed him into the hall, still holding the book he had been reading. "I thought you went to New York."
"I'm going to New York. But I'll wait until after the procedure to make sure all goes well."
While his words encouraged Justin, his cold distance did not. "Brian, it's not what you think. We were set up."
Brian held up a hand. "Don't."
"No, you have to hear this. Jeffrey planned the whole thing. He wanted you to see me with my ex. He knew how much it would bother you, so he arranged for it to happen. I got the whole story out of your least favorite fiddle player. It was bullshit."
Brian narrowed his eyes at him. "I have no idea what you mean. But even if Jeff did what you said, for his own nefarious reasons, the fact is, you accepted an invitation from your fiddler. You never told me you were meeting him. You held his hand. Don't try to lie this off on someone else. You don't know what the hell you want."
"I know exactly what I want, Brian. I want you."
Brian shook his head, pinching the narrow bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. "Then you have a funny way of showing it. Look, I'll be here to hold your hand through your donation, and until they put Molly in isolation. I owe you both that much. I want this to be very successful. But then I'm going back. I think we both have a lot to think about."
"Brian, please...I have no dilemma here. I only want you."
Brian shook his head and walked away, the pain in his expression so intense that Justin knew not to follow. He would have to let Brian move beyond some of these blocks, and he tried to be grateful for the fact that Brian was still in Pittsburgh, which gave Justin at least a couple days to try and make him understand.
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July 25, 2004