BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
This is dedicated to Paul who was a BIG HELP in the Friedrich stuff, especially with the German phrases!! Thank you baby. Don't blame Darren for the errors, she is not available right now to edit, and don't blame me either because I finished this around four am. Enjoy. R.
Brian looked up from the plush, half-moon shaped banquette where he sipped a Jim Beam from rock crystal. He was looking at two tall, willowy young women who paused before his booth. They looked strangely alike, as if they were slightly different model numbers >from the same android assembly line. All legs and attitude, with collagen enhanced lips and saline breasts that were carefully understated. Their "fuck it" hairstyles took a lot of work to look so casual, and their slinky dresses were by a hot new Italian designer. The material was stretched tightly over prominent hipbones seen only on models, which they were, or twelve- year-old girls, which they were not.
"Ladies?" He asked casually, and the blonde spoke.
"My friend and I want to buy you a drink?"
"We want you to buy us drinks."
"And I would do that because...?"
"Because we will get drunk and take you home and fuck you until your nose bleeds."
Brian laughed. Their sense of entitlement, as beautiful women, would have been annoying if it weren't so ironic. "As tempting as that sounds, I have to decline."
They appeared stunned, as if it were not in the realm of possibilities for any man to deny their fantasy offer of a three-way with two models. "What do you mean?" The not so blonde one said. Brian shook his head. Amazing arrogance.
"I mean I'm not interested."
"Told you he was a faggot," one girl said to the other and Brian laughed.
"I just prefer women with a little more substance. You can take that any way you wish." He didn't care if they thought he was gay, but he didn't want to let them off the hook with such an easy out. He wanted them to question their invincibility. They left in a huff of Chanel scent and he leaned back, checking his watch. Why had Friedrich wanted to meet at such a face place and at a bar that catered to straights? He said it was close to the photographer's studio in Soho where he was shooting, and it was also only a few blocks from Brian's loft.
The bar was crowded, smoky, with soft eclectic jazz playing from a sound system while a bored looking, beautiful wait staff moved among the bored looking, beautiful patrons. Brian fit right in. He picked up cruising glances from both genders, but he was in no mood for games. The fact that he trusted Lydia and that Lydia made it clear that meeting Friedrich was a dumb idea concerned him. But he had to do it, had to know.
When Friedrich entered, Brian had no doubt he was the man he was waiting for, and even the coolest of the cool turned to look at the striking man who scanned the room, looking for his "date". He was tall and rapier slim, but hard bodied. His hair was platinum blond, a color seldom found beyond early childhood without the aide of a bottle. Friedrich's color was Nordic and natural, which made it even more striking. He wore it slightly long, since it was a major asset, and it framed his handsome face in perfectly razored planes. His features made him a poster child for the Aryan race, and his eyes were a shocking shade of ice blue, cold and crystalline, behind lightly tinted glasses. He wore Dolce and Gabbana casually, as if it was Levis and Hanes, and he held a cigarette between two fingers as he walked.
Brian stood and when Friedrich saw him, the model smiled. His gleaming white teeth were contrasted by a perpetual tan. He waved off the maitre de and went over to Brian, taking him in with one long, predatory gaze. He gave Brian the European embrace, a light kiss on both cheeks, and Brian whiffed his expensive cologne as Friedrich pressed in. He then dropped into the booth, picking a central spot so wherever Brian sat, they'd still be close together. He signaled the waiter and asked for a dirty martini with extra olives, then smiled at Brian. "Another?" his accent was pronounced, Germanic and vaguely erotic. Brian was reminded of the stories of Berlin before the Nazis changed the world. The decadent, homosexual club scene of that era would fit Friedrich, who would look dashing in an SS uniform as he trolled the clubs on the sly.
"The same," Brian said to the waiter, tapping his glass to ensure he didn't get a dirty martini by mistake. He knew martinis were sophisticated, but he couldn't get past the medicinal flavor of vermouth. "So, Friedrich...I'm Brian."
"It's pronounced FREED-rick. But call me Freedy, everyone does."
"Freedy, thank you for meeting me. I know it's been a long day for you."
Freedy leaned back in the booth with a dramatic sigh and lifted his glasses to his forehead. That gesture gave Brian the full impact of his ghostly eyes that seemed as unfathomable and chilled as a glacier. "People say, 'oh Freedy, what a glamorous life you lead, wearing pretty clothes and having your picture taken for big bucks' but I tell them, you don't know how lucky you are to be ugly. This is hard work! Standing on your feet all day, having people poking and combing and pinning and moving you. All under miserably hot lights."
"Yes," Brian said, restraining a wry smile. "Being ugly is definitely fortunate."
Freedy met his gaze and smiled flirtatiously. "What would you know about that, Brian? You're simply divine. I never met an ad man who looks a bit like you!"
"Well, no one has asked me to be on the cover of a fashion magazine."
"The way you wear that Hugo Boss suit? They would, darling, they would."
Brian nodded, only marginally flattered. His own good looks were only important for what they could get him. Sex, attention, intimidation. He was not wrapped in self-love over the fact that he was handsome. His arrogance was based on what he had accomplished professionally. When the drinks came, they talked about the ad campaign, Brian's excuse for meeting with him. Only after they were more comfortable with each other did Brian launch the topic of Jeffrey. "You know, Freedy, we have a friend in common."
"Do we?" Friedrich was hoping this shared friend would give him a clue as to Brian's sexual orientation. He thought he sensed a response to his striking beauty, but he wasn't sure. Brian looked straight, acted straight, but there was a subtle hint of something more interesting beneath that glossy surface.
"Yes, Jeff Walker."
Friedrich's smile froze, shards of ice coming into his expression. "Jeff? How do you know Jeff?"
"I met him when he was out with Hannah and I was with my son, Gus. They're the same age, our kids."
A double blow, Friedrich realized. Not only did Brian know Jeff, but also he was a breeder. "I see."
"We walked the Museum of Natural History together, the four of us."
"How domestic," Friedrich's pouty, sullen side was emerging.
"Where was your wife?"
"I don't have a wife."
Friedrich perked up slightly. "Oh? So you adopted?"
"No, he's my natural child. Sperm donation for an old friend. He lives with his Mom in Pittsburgh. He was just visiting me."
Now Friedrich's oozing charm returned. Not only was Brian gay, but also this barnacle of a child was not even in the same city. "How lovely for you. So you and Jeff bonded over dinosaur bones?"
"Something like that."
"Over some bone, eh?" A knowing smile. Brian smiled back.
"So how did my name come up?"
"I'm sure he was kind," Friedrich said with a bitter laugh. "As only Jeff can be. That cruel kindness he exudes." Friedrich chain-smoked; pulling thin European cigarettes from a flat, wide box.
"I'm sorry it didn't work out."
"Are you, Brian? Or are you the latest? Checking out the former to see if there is still something there? You're just his type."
"How do you figure that? You and I are nothing alike."
"Of course we are. We may be different physical types, but we're both beautiful. Tall, lean, he likes that. Successful in our own right. Jeff insists upon that. Smart but maybe a bit decadent. His preference. Who did he steal you from? I know how he works. There's always one who loses out to Jeffrey. He wants die beaute, die trophae; the prize, the trophy."
Brian gave away none of the discomfort that statement gave him. "Were you with someone else when you met him?"
"Oh yes. Long-term affair. Jeff entered the scene, and at first I think he only wants to be friends. Then I see he had this goal to...uh, diener ordentlich durchficken... what is that in English? Let me think."
"To fuck your brains out," Brian translated. "I took some German in school."
Friedrich laughed. "Yes! Very good! But in time, his goal is much more than that. He wanted all of it. He wanted all of me. And he didn't give up until he had me by die hoden, the balls."
"So are you telling me you were a victim?"
"A victim?" he laughed cynically. "My love name for Jeff was das raubtier. Translate that one, Brian?"
Brian nodded. The predator. "And you were das kindhichkind?"
Friedrich smiled. "Na´ve child? No. But na´ve compared to Jeffrey? Yes."
Brian frowned, lit a cigarette, and stared straight ahead. When he felt Friedrich's hand on his thigh, he looked back at him. "What are you doing?"
"Let's not be coy, Brian. I know you want me."
Brian covered his hand with his own and gently removed it. "Why did you break up?"
"He tired of me," Friedrich admitted, leaning back with a defeated sigh. "Once das raubtier devours the prey, he doesn't linger over the bones."
"Really? He suggested you were boning everything in sight and using him as a private pharmacist. Not to mention the fact you couldn't stand Hannah."
Friedrich laughed, shaking his head in wonder. "How funny is that?"
"You tell me. Is it funny?"
"Ya. A riot."
"In what way?" Brian said, not really wanting an answer.
"In every way, Brian. Every way."
"Such as?" Brian bore in, becoming bored by his diffidence.
"When I met Jeff, I was just climbing to the top of the heap, as they say, in the modeling world. I could have anyone I wanted, and I say that with no arrogance. It is fact. But I was in love with my boy friend, Dieter, who I had known since we were kinder, kids, in Frankford. Promiscuous, I was not. Dieter was the only man I slept with. There were some girls, now and then, experiments, but no men. Dieter was all I needed."
Brian nodded, his stomach beginning to knot up. "Go on."
"We met at a tango club. Jeff loves the tango, do you know that?"
Brian nodded, vaguely and unfairly annoyed that Jeffrey had shared that sensual dance with Friedrich. In some ways, he considered it more intimate than sex.
"I went with some girls who modeled for the same agency as me. Dieter was in Germany on business. He had a Mercedes dealership in New York, very successful. But he had to travel back to Germany fairly often."
"So you met Jeff."
"Yes, and let me say, before this time, other than some youthful experimentation with the usual chemicals, I was a health nut. I didn't drug. I drank very little. Dieter and I ran miles every day. When I met Jeff, I think this is a man who can be a very good friend. His profession amazed me, all that good work with little ones. He was so kind, so smart and knowing."
Brian nodded, agreeing with that assessment. Friedrich continued. "Not sure when we went from friends to lovers. I know we had sex early on, but he act as though he truly respects my relationship with Dieter, although Dieter never liked Jeff, told me >from the first he was up to no good."
"You left Dieter for him," Brian cut to the chase and a tragic look clouded Friedrich's features. He paused, drank a couple sips of his martini, and then nodded.
"Jeff introduced me to the beauty of prescription drugs. Something to take away the pain when you run. Something to relax you. Something to put you to sleep. Something else to wake you up. I realized so much later that it was all part of his plan as a control freak to ensure I was enslaved to him."
Brian frowned. "Freedy, you're very attractive. But why would Jeff go to such lengths to get you and keep you? He can have pretty much whomever he wants. He's rich and handsome and charming."
"He wanted me. And he wanted me at his price. You see this is what makes Jeffrey tick. The game."
Brian sighed, deciding it was best not to argue. Friedrich was obviously bitter, as Lydia predicted. He had wanted to hear the story, so he had to let him talk. "Go on."
"Ultimately, I make the decision to leave Dieter and move in with Jeff," he sighed, tearing up, and wiping those tears on a cocktail napkin. Only when he saw a smudge of beige on the white paper, did Brian realize Friedrich was wearing a skim of artfully applied makeup. He wondered if it was left over from his shoot, or if this was something he did to enhance his tan. "Biggest mistake of my life."
"I'm sure you didn't feel that way then."
"No, I had my doubts even then."
"So why did you stay?"
"Where would I go?"
"Back to Dieter?"
"Dieter?" He shook his head. "Dieter committed suicide a month after I left him. He blew his brains out in one of his fancy new cars. No note, but then, did he really need one?" He teared up again. Brian was stunned by that admission. He reached over and impulsively squeezed Friedrich's hand. Friedrich held onto him for a moment and then let him go. "Anyway, this is the guilt I carry. My fault, not Jeff's, not really. I was the one who betrayed my love."
"I'm sorry, Freedy. That's terrible, but you really can't be faulted. If someone makes the decision to end his or her life, it's not something you can control. I just wish he had sought help for his depression. I did, and it's really made a difference for me," Brian couldn't believe he was admitting his therapy to a stranger.
"Who is your love, Brian? I know there is one."
Brian shrugged. "It doesn't matter," he had no intention of discussing Justin with Friedrich. "Tell me about Hannah. You didn't want to live with a child?"
"That's a good one. When Jeff's sister got knocked up, as they say, I was the one who suggested we take her baby. I thought a child might help us grow closer. I felt he was aloof from me. He resisted, saying a child would limit us. But I persisted, and his sister, she needed the help. So he adopted his niece when she was born."
"And did Hannah harm your relationship?"
"Hannah? No. Hannah is heaven. But Jeff is a demanding lover. I became infatuated with caring for the baby. I was a perfect mother," he laughed, the sound bitter and ironic. "She even looks like me, fair and blonde, and everyone assume she's my natural child when we go out. It really bothered Jeff when that happened."
"But," Brian was having a problem reconciling information. "So you love Hannah?"
"Adore Hannah. Losing Hannah was the hardest part of the breakup."
"You still see her?"
"No. I assumed I would, when I left. But Jeff reminded me that I have no legal rights with her. She's his child; he is the sole parent on the adoption papers, because he told me his sister demanded that. I now doubt if that was true. She always liked me."
Brian thought of his own status with Gus. He had signed away his paternal rights so Melanie could have joint custody of Gus. To the law, he had no more claim on his own son than did a total stranger. If Lindsay cooled on him, or if some catastrophe occurred, would Mel ever let him visit Gus? The ease in which a person's fundamental need to be with their own flesh and blood could be snatched from them made him uncomfortable. "Are you saying that you left Jeff?"
"Of course. If I hadn't left, I would be dead today. I was so deeply dependent on the drugs he dispensed, and that dependency was affecting my work. He's right about one thing. I did start playing around on him. I had to slip the leash occasionally. He so controlled my life, it was the only freedom I had."
Brian was silent, taking it all in, resisting the urge to call him a fucking liar. Some dark inner recess of his mind told him Friedrich wasn't lying, and yet he didn't want to believe any of it. Why would he choose to believe this man, whom he didn't know, over Jeffrey? Why were all of his Irish instincts kicking in and telling him he had no logical choice but to believe him? Why didn't he listen to Lydia? What purpose was there in paying her if he didn't listen to what she said?
Friedrich got his attention by reaching over and resting a hand on his forearm. "Don't do it, Brian. Don't let him sucker you. He doesn't love you; he's not capable of love. He plays games. He fucks minds. Do yourself a favor, and let Dr. Mengles fuck someone else's mind."
Brian jumped, startled by the vibration of his cellular phone. He excused himself and opened the clamshell phone, surprised to hear Debbie's voice. "Brian, where are you?" She sounded frantic.
"New York, Deb, you know that. Why?"
"I hear music. Are you in some fucking club?"
"What do you want?" He didn't feel the need to explain himself to her.
"You have to talk to Justin."
"I talk to him several times a day. What's happened? Is he ill?"
"He had a nightmare and he's inconsolable. He won't talk about it to me or to Vic. Please talk to him; see if you can make him feel better. I wonder if it was about Molly."
"Hang up, Deb. I'm going home so I can call him in privacy. It will just take me a few minutes to get there."
"Ok, Kinney, but hurry! No grabbing ass or getting sucked on your way out!"
"Not that kind of club, Deb," he ended the call and motioned the waiter for the check. He paid with his black Centurion card and glanced at Friedrich. "Something's come up. I have to go."
"So I heard. Brian, do you date other men?"
"No," Brian heard himself say. "I'm in a relationship." He signed the ticket, told Friedrich he was looking forward to working with him, and left the bar. He sprinted the few blocks to his loft, anxious to find out what was troubling his lover. In a perverse way, he was grateful for the interruption, for it meant he didn't have to think about the Jeffrey conundrum for now. Trading one worry for another seemed like a painful avenue of relief, but dealing with Justin's fears was much easier for Brian than was the deconstruction of a friendship.
He ran up the stairs to his loft rather than taking the creaky elevator, and caught his breath before he picked up the portable phone. He carried it into his bedroom, loosening his tie and kicking off his shoes, then stretched out on his bed, and dialed. Debbie answered and immediately told him to hold while she fetched Justin. He waited for what seemed an eternity before he heard Justin's voice. He sounded calm, but strained.
"Hi babe," Brian was deliberately laid back.
"How are you feeling?"
"Fine, much less sore. The bruises on my ass are fading."
"Great. I want that sweet ass back to its former perfection. How's Mol?"
"Miserable. The worse she's been. They've irradiated her so thoroughly; they said she could die if she gets something as minor as a sty in her eye. Mom is a basket case. I think they'll let me suit up and see her tomorrow. They wanted me to have at least 72 hours in the clear, since my own immunities were compromised by the extraction."
Brian winced. "Give her my love, okay?"
"I will. Mom says she asks about you every day. She's explained to her that they are only allowing family members to visit her in isolation, but she keeps saying you are family. She really loves you."
"I know. I feel the same. And if they relax that rule, I'm there, babe. But tell me, how does her brother feel about me?"
"Her brother loves you too."
Brian smiled. "He'd better."
Justin paused. "How's Jeff?"
"I haven't seen him."
"He's stayed in close contact with Molly's medical team. He made some suggestions on nutrition and pain management that they incorporated. He really is a brilliant doctor, Bri."
"What's wrong? You seem quiet."
"Tired I guess. Are you sure you're fine?"
"Debbie told you I had a nightmare?"
"Figures. I told her not to."
"And she listens to any of us since when, exactly?"
Justin laughed. The sound of his laughter made Brian smile. "Good point. Since never."
"Exactly. What was it about? The nightmare?"
"I don't remember," Justin said softly.
Brian sighed. "Liar."
"I don't want to remember."
"Was it about Molly?"
"No, why do you ask that?"
"Logical, given the anxiety we all feel about her."
"It was about you."
"Me?" Brian laughed. "I'm fine, babe. What about me?"
"It didn't make a lot of sense."
"We were in a dark place. There was movement, like we were on a train or something and a lot of background noise. Wailing noises, like people in pain. But it was pitch black, and I could see nothing. Worse than that, I couldn't move."
"I knew you were there because I heard your voice. I felt your hand on mine. You sounded like you were scared."
"Of the dark?"
"I don't know. I wanted to reassure you, but I couldn't talk. You were saying, 'Justin, don't leave me. Don't go, I love you.' At first I thought it was my fantasy about what I wanted you to say when I went off with Ethan. But this was different and Ethan was not in the dream at all. You just kept saying, 'Please don't leave me, don't let go of me.' I was desperate to say that I loved you too, but I couldn't and it was so fucking frustrating. I woke up yelling, I LOVE YOU BRIAN, and that got Debbie's attention. I was a basket case."
Justin waited a beat, and then said, "Brian?"
"It wasn't a dream."
"Yes it was."
"No, it wasn't," Brian said quietly, choking back a sudden flood of emotion. "It happened. In the ambulance, after you got bashed. I was sitting with you in the back, holding your hand. The wailing you heard was the siren. I leaned over you and whispered those exact words. 'Justin, don't leave me. Don't go. I love you. Please don't leave me, don't let go of me.' And the attendant caring for you said, 'He can't hear you' and I said 'How the fuck do you know what he can hear?' It happened exactly the way you dreamed it. It's a recovered memory."
Justin finally said, "Jesus Christ, Brian. Why didn't you ever tell me that?"
"What would it change?"
"I don't know. Everything, maybe?"
"Maybe nothing," Brian said quietly.
"That shrink Lydia referred me to, before I had to come home, told me that trauma can often retrieve buried memories. Maybe the extraction triggered it, or being in the hospital again."
"Call him, Justin. Talk to him. Find out if there's anything you should do to protect yourself. I'll ask Lydia, too."
"Brian, can you come back to Pittsburgh? I need you."
Brian sighed. The Jeffrey conundrum bubbled up in his consciousness again. No resolution, and lack of resolution was one of his pet peeves. And yet, he knew what he had to do. "I'll catch a plane in the morning."
"Rest easy, Justin, and make that call."
"Tell his service. He'll call you back. Please."
"Ok, and Brian?"
"For coming to the Pitt?"
"For what you said in the ambulance. Maybe it planted enough of a seed for me to want to come out of that coma."
"Maybe," Brian said with a sigh, wanting to believe this recovered memory would be a positive step, but unable to convince himself it was true.
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July 25, 2004