BETWEEN THE SESSIONS
Gang, here it is. A little early. Thanks to Darren, who once again did not let her surgery stand in the way of important things like EDITING! LOL! This should create a little controversy! Enjoy, R.
"Brian, let go of me! I can't breathe!" Justin tried to squirm out of Brian's arms, but it was impossible. Brian held him in an anaconda- like grip, crushed against his body. When Brian reluctantly let him go, Justin giggled as he rubbed his ribs. "Were you trying to kill me or did you just miss me?"
Brian looked a little sheepish. "That was just my way of saying hello."
Justin winced. "Next time, I'll settle for 'hi'."
They were in Debbie's living room, with Vic in the kitchen, pretending not to hear. "Don't make me spank your ass," Brian threatened, holding his hand a few inches from Justin's rump.
"Don't even think about touching my ass," Justin warned, his bruises still vivid across the surface of his lower back and midway down his buttocks.
"Exactly what do you mean by that threat?" Brian insisted, slipping his hand under the waistband of Justin's jeans, flattening it on his rounded butt with gentle delicacy.
"What I mean," Justin said, sliding his arms around Brian's neck, "is that it's your ass that's gonna get a workout, not mine."
Brian laughed. "You think you're man enough to top me?"
"I've proven I'm man enough to top you, Brian Kinney."
Brian nodded, leaning down to kiss him. "Yeah, I guess you have." They kissed, separating when Vic came into the room.
"Sorry to interrupt this touching reunion, boys," he said, engaging in a handshake with Brian, their ritual form of greeting. "But I need to talk to you a second, Brian, before you two move into the rocket launching stage."
"I'll go get my bag from upstairs," Justin said, and Vic watched Brian watch Justin climb the stairs, wondering what emotion caused the serious expression to cross his face.
"What's up, Vic?" Brian turned his attention back to Vic as Justin disappeared from view.
"It's about Mikey."
"What about Mikey?"
"You two have been best friends for too long for this to go on, Brian. He's miserable about it. And you can't afford to lose his friendship, either."
Brian looked cautious. "What are you talking about?"
"Ever since he went with Emmett to visit your friend Jeffrey, you haven't spoken to him. You've spoken to Em, but not to Mikey. What's going on?"
Brian sighed. "I've been busy."
"Ok, I'll call him while I'm in town. Will that make you happy?"
"It's not about making me happy, Brian. It's about an old friendship that is pretty fucking important to both of you."
Brian nodded, looking up as Justin re-entered the room, carrying his duffel bag. "I get it, Vic."
"You know, it might have been a dumb thing to do, but he did it out of love."
"Did what? Who?" Justin asked, and Brian covered Justin's face with his palm.
"No one and nothing, Sunshine. Let's go."
"Tell Deb thanks again and I'll call her," Justin said, giving Vic a little hug. Vic nodded, staring gravely at Brian who looked away from his gaze. In Brian's leased Navigator, Justin glanced at his lover's profile.
"Don't freak. I met Ethan for a cup of coffee at the diner. I just want you to hear it from me. I called him and insisted upon it. I made him meet me in a place where there can be no doubt we were not trying to be secretive."
"Why did you meet?" Brian asked tensely, cutting a glare in his direction.
"Because I wanted him to understand how I feel. When I last saw him, and he told me all that shit about how he didn't care, and how he set me up, and the rest of it, I was furious. But when I thought about it, I realized a lot of that attitude came from the fact I damaged his ego when I left him. Ethan's ego is huge."
"I've noticed," Brian's lips were drawn thin, flattened into a scowl.
"I know he never really loved me, not the way I thought, but he did want me and he was rocked when I left him to move to New York to be with you. We never had a chance to talk about what happened and why."
"And that would be necessary because...?"
"Closure. I explained to him my theory about love."
"This should be interesting. Love, as explained by a blond twink," Brian said cynically.
"If you're going to be insulting, forget it," Justin was hurt by his taunt.
"No, no, I'm fascinated to have this glimpse into what you boys talk about together," Brian remained visibly cool, despite his inner turmoil.
"We don't do anything 'together', Brian. Not anymore. This was a one time meeting, at my request. I told Ethan that I believe, if you're really lucky, you meet only one person in your life who is truly your soulmate. If you're even luckier, that person feels the same way, and is free to be with you. I met my soulmate early in my life. I was so young that no one could believed it that I knew my heart well enough to recognize him. Not even my soulmate believed it could happen. You're my soulmate, and I've known that since I met you. Unfortunately, that meeting doesn't guarantee success. We went through hell. But I never stopped loving you, Brian, not even when I was with Ethan."
"You told him that?"
"And he said?"
"He wasn't surprised. He called it my 'death wish'."
"Anyway, I told him I was wrong to run to him when I was still so in love with you, and I was sorry for it. I was also sorry for hurting him when I left. But as bad as I feel about it, I can't turn away from you. You'll have to do something really, really bad to drive me away again."
Brian sighed. "What was the upshot of this meeting?"
"Ethan warned me that you would break my heart, again. That I was a fool."
"What did you say to that?"
"I said that was always a possibility, but I've seen the good in you, and I have to believe we have a future together, as much as you resist it."
"Resist it, hell! How am I resisting it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean Jeffrey is a roadblock you put between your commitment to me and your precious freedom."
"Is that how you see it?"
Brian swerved off the road, parking the car on the shoulder with such suddenness that Justin's stomach flipped. "Let me tell you something about that, Sunshine. My fear of commitment to you has fuck all to do with Jeff and everything to do with you. You hurt me in a way I didn't think I was capable of being hurt. I tried to maintain both my individuality, and my sense of self, as well as my relationship with you and I failed miserably. I ended up losing both. I couldn't read your signals. When you first got out of the hospital, I tried to be romantic. I treated you gently. I didn't press the sexual issue. I backed off when Jennifer asked me to, and came back when she requested that change. I tried to spur your memory, even though it was intensely painful for me. You laughed at me when I tried to recreate that fucking dance. You mocked the whole thing. You looked at me like I was a perv for telling you we kissed in front of your classmates. Right then, I thought, 'Whoa, Brian. Whoa. The little dream is over.'"
"Shut up. Listen."
Justin sighed, nodded, staring at his lover with a pained expression as Brian continued. "I thought, 'He's young, he needs other experiences. Don't stand in his way. It's too soon for him to feel what you feel.' You made up these little rules, and I lived by them, as silly as they seemed to me. You didn't. That was another blow. But we had some fun, some good sex, with and without tricks. And then you had this epiphany that you failed to share with me. The rules you established were false, not what you wanted. The man you were living with was harsh and unromantic. He didn't tell you what you wanted to hear. He didn't treat you the way you wanted to be treated. You began seeing someone else and lying to him about it. What little trust I had left vanished. Do you know what that did to me, Justin? Do you know how foolish I felt? I broke every rule I lived my life by, just for you, and it wasn't nearly enough. I could never be enough for you. I had no idea how to play it. I thought I was romantic, in the beginning, and you mocked me. Then I was cool again, and it wasn't enough. You played me every which way but loose."
Justin shook his head. "How long do I have to apologize for this? I never meant to mock you. Shit, I never had a clue where I stood with you. I felt you wanted me, but you also wanted everything to be the same for you. All the tricks, all the freedom. I could live with you, but you weren't changing anything. In the beginning, I was still pretty shattered, Brian. I was anxious, and Dr. Brenner says even now I'm suffering the aftereffects of post traumatic stress disorder."
"Who is Dr. Brenner?"
"The shrink I'm seeing here."
"Since I couldn't continue with the guy in New York."
"And you never told me?"
Justin shrugged. "No. Don't you want me to see someone? Get into regression therapy?"
"It's not about what I want," Brian parroted Lydia. "Is it helping?"
"Is Lydia helping you?"
"I don't know. Sometimes I wonder."
"I feel the same way."
Silence, then Brian smiled. "We are so fucked up. Both seeing shrinks. Christ, how cliché."
"Brian, all that matters is that you know that I love you. Watching you with Molly, feeling your support, seeing how much more in tune you are with your feelings, I can say, yes, Lydia is helping you, and by extension, she's helping us. You aren't even tricking."
Brian winced. "I tried, but it was no fun. Doesn't mean I won't ever trick again."
"I know, I know, you never close any doors. But this Jeffrey thing..."
"I don't want to talk about Jeff. Are you planning on seeing Ethan again?"
"Not by design. I may bump into him somewhere, but we have no plans to meet. We've said it all, found peace. I hope. You can worry about this or that, Brian, but don't worry about Ethan. It's over."
"How many times did you tell Ethan it's over with me?" Brian asked pointedly.
Justin sighed, looked away. Just then, a rap on the glass diverted Brian's attention. Another of Pittsburgh's finest was calling. Brian lowered the electronic window and glared at the cop.
"Is there a problem, sir?" The policeman inquired.
"Nothing we can't handle, officer."
"Mechanical problem with the car?"
"No. I just pulled over to have a conversation."
"Is this your car?"
"For the week," Brian's patience was wearing thin. He was asked to produce his license and the rental agreement, which he did. The policeman returned them and focused on Justin.
"How old are you?"
"Oh for chrissakes," Brian exploded. "He's twenty! He's my lover! It's by consent! What is your problem?"
"Brian," Justin placed a hand on his arm and flashed a megawatt smile at the cop. "Everything is fine, officer. We were having an emotional conversation about a sick friend. He pulled over for a moment. Isn't that the responsible thing to do?"
"The responsible thing to do is to pull off the road completely. The shoulder is for emergencies. Move along, Mr. Kinney."
"Jawohl," Brian responded bitterly and merged into traffic. "It will be nice when you finally look older than 13, so I'm not viewed as a perv every time we're out together."
Justin laughed. "And I don't get carded everywhere I go! Where are we going? I thought we were going to your hotel. You missed the turn."
"We're going to the hospital. I want to see Molly."
"They won't let you, Brian. Tomorrow will be my first trip into her room in isolation. They have started the marrow induction. She's at high risk."
"I didn't say I was going into her room. I said I want to see her. I can watch her through the glass in her door."
Justin said nothing, tabling their discussion for another time. He was looking forward to having sex with Brian, and as much as he loved Molly, he wished this trip was being postponed.
At the hospital, Jennifer, looking worn, was sitting with Brian's mother. Greetings were exchanged and Jennifer smiled. "Go up to the glass and let her see you're here, Brian. She asks about you everyday. I wish you could go in, but..."
"Not a problem. I'd never compromise her health."
"Warning, she's quite frail. The conditioning was brutal, and now the anti-rejection drugs are adding to the onslaught."
He nodded and walked with Jennifer to the nurses' station. Even though the patient rooms were sealed, he had to don a mask and gown to enter even the common area. He walked up to the door and peered in through the glass panel in the door to Molly's room, trying not to flash back to the many nights when he watched Justin through a panel in the door, observing his restless sleep.
Despite the warnings he had been given, Brian was shocked by how frail she appeared. Her arms were like sticks against stark white sheets and her skin seemed as thin as parchment. Heavy looking machines monitored her vital signs, and pumped her full of medications. He felt sick, but forced aside that feeling and tapped lightly on the glass. Her eyes fluttered open and she turned her head slightly towards the door with what seemed a great effort. He scrubbed his fingers through his hair as if to identify himself and stuck his tongue into the mask and flattened it to the glass. Slowly, a smile lit her wan features and she raised one hand slightly to wiggle her fingers at him. He waved back. She motioned him in, and he shook his head and shrugged, meaning "I want to, but I can't."
She traced the outline of her heart and pointed at him. She followed that gesture with a kiss that she blew in his direction. He mimicked her gestures. She smiled again and closed her eyes, exhausted by even that much effort. Brian stood there, watching, then finally turned and left the protective clothing in a bin at the desk. He took a deep breath to steel himself. He didn't want to alarm either Justin or Jennifer with a display of emotion. He needn't have worried. Only his mother waited there.
"Where are they?" He asked and Joan Kinney smiled.
"I told them to go outside and get some air. Jennifer needs a break. Are you alright, Brian? You look pale."
He nodded and sat beside her on the love seat, staring at his clasped hands. His vision seemed to blur suddenly and only when a crystal drop hit his hand did he realize why. His mother stretched one arm across his shoulders and sighed.
"I know, son. It's so difficult to watch a child suffer."
"She doesn't deserve this," he said in a whisper, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand, forcing control.
"Of course she doesn't."
"Where is your God now, Mom? Why is He letting this happen?"
"It's not God, Brian. It's all part of life."
He leaned back, closing his eyes, feeling her hand cover his. He was strangely comforted by her presence. He reached into his pocket and removed his mobile, speed dialing a number and waiting for his party to come onto the line. Finally, he heard Jeffrey's voice.
"Brian! Miss me already?"
Brian was quiet, then he said, "She's dying."
"Of course Molly! Who else?"
"Why do you say that, Brian? I get reports on her progress. This is a critical time, yes, but I think you're overreacting."
"You haven't seen her!" He said angrily, lowering his voice when his mother touched his arm. "You don't know how bad she looks."
"I do know. I see this every day. I told all of you this was a crisis time. She is at grave risk of life threatening infection from rejection of the graft. She has no immunities to fall back on. So yes, her life hangs in the balance every day for the immediate future. But the longer she goes without showing signs of infection, the more hopeful we can be."
"Your ass should be here in Pittsburgh supervising her treatment, Jeff!"
"Why would I do that, Brian?" He asked coolly, and Brian frowned.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I have patients here who need me too. Molly has a treatment team."
"Jeff, you know when you were here, you did some things they hadn't thought of, and she improved. I know Jennifer would feel better if you were supervising. She has confidence in you. Can't you just come and see if everything is being done correctly and if she needs something else to be done?"
"Brian, I have a huge practice. It's an incredible inconvenience for me to be there. I would do it, anyway, but only for you. That is, if I had any idea of where we stand."
Brian paused, stared past his mother and out the window. Joan Kinney watched his fury roll across his face like a summer storm, familiar with that dark emotion in her late husband's face. "What are you saying?" Brian asked, in a voice that didn't betray his anger.
"I'm asking a simple question, Brian. Where do we stand?"
"And does my answer to that question affect whether you come here to care for Molly or not?"
"I can't say it wouldn't influence me."
"Why would you want anyone on those terms, Jeff?" He watched as Justin and Jennifer returned and went into the isolation area to don protective gear.
"I wouldn't. Not if I didn't believe you need a shove in the right direction. Once you land in the right place, you'll see that's where you belong."
Brian closed his eyes, running his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture. Just then, Justin came out of isolation, in tears.
"She's throwing up blood!" he said miserably, and Brian pulled him into his arms, holding him gently as he said to Jeffrey, "Get on a plane."
"I consider you a man of your word, Brian. Am I wrong to do so?"
"Then I'll see you this evening."
Brian hung up, stroking his hands up and down Justin's back. "Jeff is on his way."
"Good," Justin said miserably, his desperation over his sister's condition trumping his distrust of the doctor's intentions towards Brian. "I'm so scared," Justin whispered against Brian's shoulder, and Brian soothed him wordlessly, meeting his mother's worried gaze and then looking away, unable to give her comfort that he was doing the right thing.
Molly's condition stabilized slightly and Jennifer insisted Justin and Brian get something to eat and take a break. They checked in at Brian's hotel. Once in the room, Justin began to remove his clothes as Brian watched.
"What are you doing?" Brian asked and he shrugged.
"So we can... you know."
Brian sighed and laid back on the bed, still fully clothed. "I'm not really in the mood."
"I'll get you in the mood. I want to feel alive right now, Brian. It's not disrespectful to Molly to celebrate being alive."
"Justin, nothing is more important to you right now than Molly's recovery, right?"
"Of course. Why?"
"I cut a deal with Jeff. If he comes here and sees her through this crisis, I'll go with him."
Justin paused, still wearing his underwear as he sat beside Brian on the bed. "What does 'go with him' mean?"
"Exactly what you think it means. It doesn't mean I don't love you. I do. More than ever. More than anything. But I couldn't live with myself if..."
"Stop," Justin interrupted. "Do you want to go with Jeffrey and this is just your way of wrapping it up in a pretty package for me?"
Brian met his eyes. His lips drew into a thin line as he shook his head. "The thought of it makes me ill."
"Then don't be such a martyred dick, Brian. You can't cut a deal for love. Either you love someone or you don't. And if Jeffrey thinks he can use my kid sister's health as the wedge to drive between us, he's nuts."
"Justin, think about it. It's her life. He may not be a miracle worker, but he's brilliant and we can't just blow off the chance he could make a difference for her."
"What is it he wants? A night? A month? A lifetime?"
"I don't know, but whatever it is, I'll give it to him."
"Hello? You can't barter for her life, Brian. He's not the devil. He can't take your soul in exchange for her cure."
Brian sighed. "I'm not so sure about that, baby." Justin began dressing again. "What are you doing?"
"I'm not letting this happen."
"Justin, don't. Let me handle this my own way."
"Are you wack? You've fucked it up so far! No, Brian, let me handle it MY way!"
Brian came over to him and held him in his arms. "We can't risk it. Not now."
"I'm not giving him one fucking night with you, Brian. Not one!"
"You don't have a choice."
"The fuck I don't!"
"It won't take him long to realize he doesn't want me on these terms, Justin. I'll see to that, subtly. You'll have to be patient."
"Patient? While you...what? Fuck him? Live with him? What?"
"I don't know. But I do know one thing. Molly has to live. She has to be given every chance and the rest of this is bullshit."
"You and me? We're bullshit, Brian? Because that's what you're giving up."
He sighed. "Only temporarily."
"Well, that's too long."
"In the end, we'll be together."
"When we're seventy? No. We'll be together NOW, Brian. God, you are so fucked up! He has so totally mind fucked you! Snap out of it."
"Justin, I'm not as fucked up as you think," Brian pulled him up against him. "I have a plan. Can you trust me on this? Can you be patient? Can you PLEASE let me handle it my way? You're a tough kid, but with people like Jeffrey, you can't presume the usual techniques work. I know that now. But I have a plan, and it requires you to wait. Can you do that?"
"Why did you let him into our lives, Brian?"
"Because this is the price we pay to fate in order for him to save your sister's life. It's a favorable trade. Sit down, calm down. We can get through this."
Justin pulled free of him and walked over to the door. "Brian, this is insane. Don't you see that? Insane. People don't act this way. He would have to be some kind of monster to bargain my sister's life for a man who loves another."
"I know," Brian said quietly. "What's your point?"
"My point is, I'm not playing this game. I don't believe he would refuse to treat Molly if he didn't get his way. No one is that cold. I think this is some kind of sick excuse and you want to go with him. Maybe you can't even admit it to yourself, but it's what you want, deep down."
"No way. Absolutely not."
"Then don't do it, Brian. Don't ruin it."
Brian said nothing as Justin left the room, and closed the door behind him. He laid back, staring at the ceiling, battling doubts about whether his plan for revenge had just hit an immutable road bump.
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July 25, 2004