BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
Ok, guys, having BIG internet problems, but here it is, I HOPE. At least I'm going home tomorrow. This was a tough one to write. It may be tough to read. Good luck with it! R.
Brian, who never slept well without Justin, finally dozed off on the leather chaise in the main room of the loft. A hockey game had been playing on the television when he drifted off, but an old black and white movie was on when he was awakened by the insistent buzzing of the street level intercom. Confused at first, he finally identified the sound and stumbled over to the box by the door. He was still dressed in sweats and socks, his hair a mess and eyes cloudy with sleep.
"What the FUCK?" He demanded, and Jeffrey's voice responded.
"Let me in, Brian."
Brian paused for just a second, and then hit the release button. He slid open the front door, leaning in the threshold, waiting. Jeffrey came up the stairs, not the elevator, and he looked tired, wearing a coat over hospital greens. "Working late?" Brian asked coolly, noting by the clock that it was almost three. In four hours, he would be leaving for the airport to go to Pittsburgh.
"I had an emergency call. But it turned out well, for now. May I have a drink?"
Brian motioned to the bar. "Help yourself. If you want ice, its in the freezer."
"Not necessary," Jeffrey poured himself two fingers of Glenfiddich and sat down heavily on the couch, still wearing his coat. The thin cotton scrubs were not enough protection in the chill of the loft. Brian lit a cigarette and sat across from him, waiting. Jeffrey noticed his leather duffel by the door and asked, "Going somewhere?"
"Pittsburgh. Early flight."
"I see. They still won't let you see Molly, you know."
"Yes, I do know. I'm not going there for Molly, this time, although I will at least wave at her through the glass panel in her door. I'm going there for Justin."
"Oh. Well, then..."
"Yes. Well. Then. What are you doing here at this hour, Jeff?"
"Why did you contact Friedrich?"
Brian smiled. "I asked you first."
"Fine. I came by to ask you why the hell you contacted Friedrich?"
"We're working together on a campaign."
"Yes, and that's a bullshit excuse and you know it. What's up, Brian? What did Freedy tell you that I didn't?"
Brian sighed, not yet ready for this, but seeing now that it was inevitable. "Do you know Ethan?"
Jeffrey looked surprised. "What are you talking about? Ethan who?"
Brian flung a CD at him, from the table by the sound system. "Violin boy."
"Ethan Gold? Yes, I've talked to him on the phone. We haven't met. I solicited him for Winterfest. We're always soliciting new talent and he had a little shine after his song got picked up in that score. In fact, I thought of him when I saw this CD over here. I meant to ask you about it. I bought one myself and was quite impressed."
"Don't jerk me off, Jeff. You know he's Justin's ex."
Jeffrey glanced to his left, as if to look out the windows of the loft at the night. Brian read somewhere that people cut their eyes to the left and downward then they lied. "Okay, I know." So much for that theory.
"How did you know?"
"Does it matter?"
"It does to me, yes."
"I asked some gay friends I have in Pittsburgh. It was something of a cause celebre when the mighty stud, Brian Kinney, was shot down by some pasty little geek. That's the way it looked to the gay boys, I guess. That you lost Justin to this Ethan guy."
"Why would anyone give a shit?"
"Because you broke a lot of hearts along the way, Brian. You were a selfish bastard, out for your own fun. Justin was your first-quote- relationship-close quote. People were fascinated by that. And by the fact he dumped you. For such a non-studly guy, at that."
"Why did you ask about him?" Brian was determined not to allow Jeffrey's taunting words to dive beneath his surface.
"I had to understand."
"Understand what, Jeff?"
"What went wrong with you two."
"To make sure we don't make the same mistakes."
Brian was quiet for a moment, and then he said, "I'd buy that if you and Ethan didn't plot against Justin and me."
"Please explain that, Brian."
"Did you or did you not plot with Ethan to ensure Justin and I were at the same restaurant at the same time?"
"You've lost me."
"Christ, Jeff! Why did you ever call Ethan in the first place?"
"Brian, I never bought the crap I heard that you got dumped for this clown. I know you. I see how you compare to him. I also know how you operate. Some mechanism in you, either because you were afraid of love, or because you felt unworthy of it, drove Justin to Ethan, probably out of a sense of doing the right thing for a person you loved. Because no way that you could ever be right for him, or for matter, for anyone. There was no plot. I asked him to perform at Winterfest because he is precisely the kind of artist we seek to balance the better known talents. Good for us, great for him. Was I wrong? You view that as some kind of a plot to get him back with Justin? It's certainly a slow moving one, wouldn't you say?"
"Did you discuss me when you invited him to perform?"
"Discuss you? No. Did I mention your name? Yes. He asked how I heard of him. I told him about the CD. So yes, he knows that I know you. He told me he thinks you're a raving asshole. I suggested he might be bitter. It was a short conversation."
"Long enough to discuss my dining choices."
"Didn't you tell him that I was dining with Emmett and where?"
"Did I know you were dining with Emmett and where? And if I did, why would I mention it to Ethan?"
"Remember, I told you I was having sushi with Emmett to discuss his little 'intervention' with you? And who should show up at the same restaurant at the same time? Ethan and Justin."
"Yes, I think you did tell me that, Brian. But you never said WHERE you were having sushi."
"There's only one sushi place I ever go to in Pittsburgh."
"How would I know that?"
Brian paused. "Well... I guess you wouldn't, really. Are you sure I didn't tell you the name?"
"Baby, how often do you say to someone I'm having lunch with so and so at such and such unless the whole purpose is to brag about the restaurant? You never do. No one does. You just say, 'I'm having lunch with Emmett' or maybe, 'I'm having sushi with Emmett'. Why would you blame me for that set up?"
Brian sighed, confused, and yet strangely relieved by that confusion. "Ethan said you told him. He said you wanted me to see him with Justin. He told Justin that."
"Did he? Or did Justin tell you that?"
"Justin doesn't lie to me."
"No? About Ethan? Did he not lie to you about Ethan when he was seeing him? Before he left you?"
"Ethan himself told me he doesn't want Justin anymore."
"Of course he did. Why wouldn't he? If he's seeing Justin, it's cover. If not, it's to protect his huge ego."
"Then how did we end up in the same restaurant?"
"How big is gay town in Pittsburgh, Brian? Is it really so strange? And how much time passed before Justin told you that plot? Plenty of time to concoct it? To tell Ethan how to play it if you confronted him? I'm not saying he did, but it's certainly more logical than my plotting with some man I don't even know. Why are you staring at me like that?"
Brian shook his head. "Either you're telling the truth or you're one of the most diabolical liars I've ever known."
Jeffrey smiled slightly. "Dr. Demento? I don't think so, do you? You've seen the hours I work. When do I have time to come up with these elaborate plots and for what? If I have to go through all those machinations for your love, it's not worth it. I'm not that desperate."
"Then you're suggesting Justin is gaming me?"
"Let's not be cruel. Isn't it possible he got scared that you caught him and his ex together, and so he tried to deflect the blame? To make you feel secure that he had no ulterior motive? And he probably didn't, Brian. He probably was one hundred per cent innocent, but your negative reaction scared him. I'm sure it's just that. I'm sure he loves you, not Ethan. Probably some residual guilt with Ethan, some unfinished business."
Brian stood, paced to the windows, staring down at the blackness of pre-dawn. He felt chilled, confused. Jeffrey had tapped his greatest fears about Justin: his insecurity about the constancy of his love. He didn't remember telling Jeffrey the name of the restaurant, that was true. Jeffrey had asked can one get decent sushi in Pittsburgh, and Brian answered yes, there was one place, but he never said the name. Did Ethan plot with Justin? If so, what did it mean that they put their heads together to game Brian? Why would Justin do that if not because he still had feelings for Ethan? Brian shook his head.
This wasn't right.
He turned towards Jeffrey. "Freedy said he had to talk you into taking Hannah."
Jeffrey smiled. "Back to Friedrich, finally. Did he say that? Did he tell you why?"
"Uh..." Brian searched his memory. Did Freedy ever say why Jeffrey didn't want Hannah? "I think he implied you feared it would limit your lives to have a kid."
"You don't know my sister, Brian. She's a ditzy, overly emotional, slutty little brat. Spoiled rotten by my parents. I had a horrible fear of taking in her child because she needed a solution, becoming attached to the baby and then having my sister demand her return."
"But...he said your sister insisted only you adopt the baby, not you and Freedy."
"She did. She never liked Friedrich."
"He said you won't allow him to see Hannah now."
"I won't allow him to see her ALONE. I don't trust him. I fear I'll look up and he'll have spirited her away to Germany where his family is very prominent." "But you told me before that Freedy left because he didn't want a child in the house. He grew weary of her. He seems to adore her."
"Didn't we skip one big step in this inquiry, Brian? Why did you contact Friedrich in the first place?"
Brian sat down again, lighting another cigarette. "I had to meet him. I was hearing conflicting things about you, Jeff. I wanted his take on your relationship. I was beginning to fear I was being played. I don't like to be played."
"I see. Couldn't you just talk to me, instead of to a drug addled, mentally fragile former lover of mine?"
Brian shrugged. "I could have. But I wanted a frame of reference. And he seems very fit to me, very healthy."
"Naturally. He's a model. He has to look good. Inside, he's a mess. But you must have seen that."
"I saw a man who is very unhappy, yes."
"We make our own shit, for the most part."
"Was he lying to me about his love for Hannah, or were you?"
"Neither," Jeffrey said coolly. "He was telling you how he feels now, I was telling you how he felt then. People change, establish regrets, and rewrite history."
"He said he was the one who was close with Hannah, not you."
"Sure, that's why I adopted her. You've seen me with Hannah. Do you believe your own eyes? Do you think I have my two year old playing a part? She's precocious, but not THAT precocious."
Brian's stomach was hurting. He was feeling a little foolish, as well as a little relieved. He didn't want Jeffrey to be some diabolical monster. He didn't want to have been manipulated by him. And yet he was still chewed with doubt. "He said you like to take people out of relationships, its part of your game."
"What people would that be? He's my one longer-term serious relationship. And yes, he was in a relationship when we met. He made the decision to leave that relationship. I didn't make it for him. His friend committed suicide, so Friedrich was guilt ridden over it. It's no surprise to me he's blamed me rather than himself. How could he live with it if he took responsibility? If that makes it easier for him, fine. He has enough to bear."
"He said you addicted him to scrip drugs to control him."
"I told you he used me as his pharmacist. I finally had to stop it, which didn't sit well with him. I gave him prescriptions occasionally, but only to keep him from buying some dangerous, stepped on crap off the street. It had to end. Ending it was for his own good, as well as for my professional ethics. If nothing else, I hope this experience with Molly has shown you I am indeed a very ethical medicine man."
Brian nodded, having to give him that. He saw the respect the other doctors showed him. He was brilliant at what he did. But would that brilliance not extend to other areas of his life? Who could conceal better than a brilliant man? Brian still felt uneasy. "Jeff, are you gaming me? Do you want me at any cost?"
"Never," Jeffrey said softly, reaching over to squeeze his hand. "I want you joyfully. I want you without any doubt or regrets. I want you forever."
Brian sighed and leaned back, releasing his hand. "You met him at a tango place."
"True. Did you think I never danced the tango until I danced with you? Where did I learn it if so?"
"I wondered if it's a seduction tool with you."
"Brian, Brian, how can anyone so beautiful, accomplished and intelligent be so insecure about himself? You just amaze me with your insecurity. It would be almost charming if it weren't so crippling to you."
Brian stood, stretched, and shook his head. "I'm processing, Jeff. Give me a little time. I want to believe you're as good a friend as I think you are. But I'm shaky right now."
"Baby, the last thing I want to do is add to your problems and tension," he walked over to him, slipping his arms around his waist and holding him tightly. Despite his uncertainties, Brian felt safe in his embrace, relaxing against his body. "Take some time, you don't have to worry about me, even think about me. I'll be here. I'm going nowhere. I care about you, Brian. I want to be a positive force in your life. If I'm not that, even for reasons beyond my control or unfairly attributed to me, I would rather lose you than make you unhappy."
Brian turned and hugged him gently, resting his forehead against Jeffrey's. "I'm sorry if I've been unfair. I'm just so confused."
"Of course you are, Brian. You have much bigger things to worry about right now than you and me. I'll be here. No pressure. You go back to Pittsburgh and calm Justin down and reassure yourself about his feelings. He's the one you feel uneasy about, he's the one who created all these doubts in the first place, so that's what you need to work through, right?"
"Jeff, I think he may be remembering what happened at the prom."
"When he got hit in the head?"
"Before then. How it was with us."
"And why is that so important Brian? What does it change?"
"You had to be there. It was a watershed birthday for me. I felt over the hill, dead. I seriously toyed with suicide. But in the end, I went to his dance because he so wanted me to, and it was an epiphany for me. It was every high school and college event I missed because I was gay. It was what it felt like to be the one couple in a gathering of straight people who were truly in love. It was the first time in my life I risked making a fool of myself publicly because I loved the other person more than I cared about my own pride. And when he looked at me, just before he got hit, he said it was the best night of his life. And it was. Of mine too. And in one minute, it turned into the worst."
"Baby, I love the romance of that. It's one of the things I love best about you. Your sense of romance that you hide beneath that predatory exterior. If I thought Justin could make you as happy as you wish, I'd never interfere. But does he? You're so uneasy about him. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts, no matter how hard that may be."
Brian sighed, and left his arms. "My instincts are so fucked up lately, I can't trust anything I'm feeling."
"Really? Wasn't it your instinct to believe the best about me even when I was being savaged by others?"
"I've seen how you are with Molly. I've watched you with Hannah. I know how you've acted with me. It's hard for me to throw all that aside because of what some people have said."
"I know, Brian, and I love you for that."
"Jeff, I do feel insecure about Justin, but I also love him. Instincts again. I don't believe he's with Ethan, or wants to be. Yeah, he lied to me about him. But if he were lying now, given what he's said, he'd be pathological, and Justin isn't like that. He lied before in a casual, omission kind of way. This would be blatant commission and he wouldn't do that. And when Ethan told me what he did, he was terrified. It didn't sound convenient. It sounded very bitter and very real. So I'm wondering if you're all you seem to be. I have to be honest with you. I want to believe it. I don't want to think I've been so na´ve. You're the first man I've ever felt this way about, other than Justin. How stupid am I? And how shallow am I to be swayed by the superficial? I want to believe I'm wrong. I want to believe you're being straight with me. But I've known Justin longer, and I think I know him better than anyone, just as he knows me best. It's not in him."
"And is it in me, Brian?"
Brian looked into his dark eyes and sighed. He was so handsome, so intelligent, and so hot. He was such a great doctor, so empathetic with the children. How could he be false? How could his feelings for Jeffrey be so far off base? "I hope not."
Jeffrey walked over and kissed him gently on the lips. "You'll have to work this out for yourself. I adore you, Brian. I'm exactly what I appear to be. I've never betrayed you the way others have. I love and accept you exactly the way you are, making no demands that you become someone else's idea of a romantic ideal in order to be worthy of me. I want your body and I want your mind. I want to be your partner. I want us to raise our children together and to be the hot couple on the gay scene in the greatest city in the world. I want to open doors for you. I want to be your equal, not your twink. I make no demands on you, financially or emotionally. I just want to share your life. If I have an agenda, that's it. So sue me. I can wait for you to sift this out. I make no ultimatum. You're worth waiting for. Just do one thing for me."
"When people attack me behind my back, ask yourself, what would Jeff say to that? I'm not there to defend myself, so think through my defense in my absence, would you? Can you do that for me?"
Brian nodded, his eyes closing as Jeff kissed him and walked to the door, where he paused. "I think you're the most beautiful man in the world, Brian Kinney. Inside and out. I love everything about you. Including your faults. I wouldn't change a thing."
Brian smiled slightly. "Nothing?"
"Okay, one thing. I'd have that blond blemish removed from your back."
"Don't do that, Jeff."
"Brutal honesty. He'll bring you down, again. He did it once; he'll do it again. He neither appreciates you for who you really are, nor understands why you're the way you are. He only wants you to fit some fantasy of his about true love. Bullshit. I hope he grows out of that crap for his own sake. But I don't want to see him take you down in the mean time, because baby... you can't take it again. He'll destroy you this time. And that's very scary. Be afraid, be very afraid."
He left and Brian sat down heavily, resting his head in his hands as he digested what Jeff had to say. He wished he could call Lydia, but knew it was too late, or too early, depending upon how one viewed the clock. He felt so apprehensive and confused. His conversation with Jeffrey hadn't gone at all as he anticipated. It seemed to resolve nothing; rather it made him even uneasier. He sighed and decided to take a shower and dress. There was no reason to try to sleep. He knew he would be unable to do so, and it was too close to the time his limo would arrive.
"Be afraid, be very afraid," Jeffrey had said. Nothing terrified Brian more than emotional vulnerability and he was replaying that in his mind as the warm water against his naked skin failed to rinse away his anxiety.
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July 25, 2004