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Part I

It's quarter to three in the morning, long past the witching hour. The streets are quiet with pre-dawn solitude. A cat knocks over a trash bin outside the window and digs for treasure in the spoils. The clubs are emptying of their weeknight patrons. The unlucky go home alone. The desperate go home with men they wouldn't even cruise, earlier in the evening. The all night diner is nearly deserted. The deep night shift prepares to switch the set-ups from burgers to bacon, preparing for the breakfast rush.

In a spacious apartment with a view of the park and the river, the phone rings. Justin fumbles in the dark, picks it up. He speaks into the wrong end of the receiver. He turns it around and says, "Yeah?"


It's Brian. Justin sighs and sits up on the edge of the bed, smoothing his fingers through his pale hair. He should have guessed. He lights a cigarette, prepares for the worst. "Hi, Brian."

"Hang up on the son of a bitch," his lover says gruffly from the other side of the bed. Justin waves him off. He can't do that. "Hand me the phone. I'll tell the bastard to stop calling you!"

Justin gets up, walks naked out of the bedroom and into the living room. He sits down on the suede couch as he pulls a cashmere afghan over his legs. "Who was that?" Brian asks casually, and Justin sighs.

"You know who it is."

"Oh yeah, the little woman. Or are you the little woman? I guess I never broke that code when it comes to you two."

"Stop it, Brian."

"Stop what?"

"Stop being a prick."

"If I could stop being a prick, I'd still be in Pittsburgh with the old gang instead of exiled to New York."

"You're the one who decided to move to New York. No one asked you to leave."

"No? Well, why would I fucking stay? Can you tell me that?"

"You're drunk."

"A little," he admitted.

"I wish, just once, you'd call me when you were sober."


"Why not?"

Brian sighs. It's a heavy, melancholy sound that wrenches Justin's heart. "I lose my nerve."

Justin closes his eyes tightly as the pain rolls through him like the formation of a tsunami. This isn't what he wanted. Bringing Brian to his knees was never his plan. He didn't leave him to make a point or to game him. He didn't do it to see if he would miss him enough to crawl back. He left him because he couldn't handle it any longer. The tricks, the lack of commitment, the gamesmanship, he grew weary of it. He came to believe that the relationship was going nowhere. Leaving was the hardest thing he had ever done. What he didn't foresee was how hard it would be for Brian. Of course, Brian didn't see it either, until it was too late.

"Brian, are you alone?"

"Just Jim Beam and me. I never let them hang around after they serve their purpose, Justin. I learned that lesson from what happened with you. Get in, get out. No complications."

"What did you do tonight?" He tries to distract him, ignoring his cut. Brian laughs.

"I worked until almost midnight. Owning your own agency sucks, as it turns out. I work harder than anyone on my payroll. Then I went to a club in Chelsea and picked up a blond and fucked him. Then I came home. Oh yeah, I got drunk along the way. And now I'm calling you to say hello."

"You're drinking way too much."

"I'm drinking juuuust right!"

"You're going to end up like your dad. A bitter old drunk."

"A DEAD bitter old drunk, you mean, right?"

"Stop it."

A pause, and then, "How are you doing, Sunshine?" His voice is almost a whisper. The strain in his inflection brings tears to Justin's eyes.

"I'm getting by."

"In love?"

"Sort of. Not the way it was with you."

"Right. This is the real thing, not an infatuation. Is that what you mean?"

"No Brian, I mean it's not that magic, not that pain, not that incredible high it was with you. But it's nice and it's safe and it's real."

Finally, Brian speaks. "I'm real, god damn it! I'm real. What I'm feeling right now is real. What we gave up is real. Don't fucking tell me it wasn't real, you little shit."

"I never said that," Justin responds, wiping a tear from his cheek. Brian inhales a ragged breath, then replies,

"No, you never did. I'm sorry. I'm drunk and stupid. Ignore me. Hang up on me."

"Brian, tell me what you want from me? This is so hard."

"What do I want? Let me think." He pauses. He lights up a cigarette. He inhales, exhales. He knows what he wants. He wants to do it over again, but this time get it right. He wants to go back to Justin's senior prom. Relive that dance. Stop all activity as he twirls his lover like a ballerina. He wants to dip him, slip his white silk scarf over his tux, kiss him in front of everyone. He wants to recapture that watershed moment on his thirtieth birthday when he made the decision to lose his inhibitions and go for it. No bloodshed afterwards, no bashing. Just Justin smiling at him over his shoulder as he walked away after telling him it was the best night of his life.

It was supposed to start from there, not end. His defenses were gone. He opened up his arms and his heart to the boy he loved. Justin walked right in and grabbed him. Brian knew they would start their relationship in earnest that night, building on the emotions begun by that dance. He was ready for it, ready to make some changes. And then the impossible happened. Justin was bashed, badly hurt, sent into a coma, near death. A crushing guilt replaced hopefulness, and the future he saw for the two of them just slipped away. Even after Justin improved, he remembered nothing of that dance, of the emotions they shared, of Brian's shift from emotionally aloof to available.

They became lovers again, eventually, but Brian's guilt and fear prevented the openness unlocked during that one dance. Justin's selective amnesia prevented him from experiencing the joy and wonder of what happened between them before the bat made contact with his skull. Brian was the same old Brian he had been before that dance to Justin's impaired memory, and that was how he treated him. Brian responded without resistance to the status quo, finding a strange relief in the lack of necessity to reveal himself to his lover. Their moment came and went. The ultimate disintegration of their relationship was inevitable. Justin wanted things he felt Brian would never be able to offer. Brian retreated to comfortable ground, concealing his vulnerability behind his newly reinforced defenses of promiscuity and emotional isolation.

"What do I want," Brian repeats. He can't tell him he wants to recreate that dance. He tried that after Justin left the hospital, desperate to rekindle those lost emotions. Not only did he fail, but he was made to feel silly and sentimental for trying. Justin even made fun of the song they had danced to, dismissing it as ancient and lame. At that moment, Brian began to shut the open doors into his heart and his feelings. Now, Brian falls back on one of his weapons, brittle humor. "I want world peace and a Viagra free future."

Justin sighs and shakes his head. Brian's attempt at humor fell flat. His sharp sarcasm is such a shield, and Justin knows that trick only too well. "Brian, I'll always love you."

A long silence, and then, "Please don't say that."

"Why not? It's true."

"Because it's meaningless. You've moved on. I'm in your scrapbook. The cover is closed. I'm that pressed flower someone gave you. No longer pretty in your eyes, no longer sweet to smell, just a vague and distorted image of what was. That sounded very Hallmark Cards, didn't it? I've been working on a greeting card ad campaign. It must have rubbed off."

"Brian, all you had to do was agree to try to change and I would have stayed. You can't and that's fine. That's what makes you who you are. But I can't be there with you. I can't live that way. That's what makes me who I am."

"So here we are, eight months later."

"Has it been that long?"

"Eight months, four days, to be exact."

"Oh.it doesn't seem that long ago. I feel like it was just yesterday when you last kissed me."

"More recent than that, kid," Brian says with a snicker. "A couple hours ago, in fact. They're all you. Every fucking one of them."

Justin closes his eyes, imagines that scene. Brian's lean, muscular body on top of some blond substitute. His hands on someone else's pecs, his dick pressed to someone else's belly as he kisses him and remembers how it once was. Justin knows that routine. He lives it every time he makes love to his current partner. Brian always insinuates himself into their sex, but not enough to rekindle the explosive passion they once shared. "Brian, you weren't cut out to be monogamous. I'm not cut out to be promiscuous. We're a disaster. How can it be so painful when it never really had a chance of success?"

"I don't know, Justin. To me, monogamy is mental. To you, it's both mental and physical. I can fuck ten guys and feel absolutely nothing for them. So, in my mind, I'm being faithful to you. You believe in the traditional definition of keeping it zipped up, and no, I'm not good at that. I wish I was."

"So do I."

"I never thought I'd care about anyone but myself. Maybe Gus. Mikey, in a different way. You changed that perception. Fact is, most people don't alter who they are in one big bang. It's a gradual thing."

Justin sighs and shakes his head, feeling the absence of Brian like a missing limb. "The pain of seeing you with other men became too much, Brian. Added to that was the fear of your picking up some dangerous trick or falling in love with one of your conquests. It was exciting for awhile, to experiment with you by adding others to our bed. I could see that continuing on an occasional basis, to keep things interesting. But the game became the relationship, and that was too much."

"Isn't every relationship a game? On some level?"

"Brian, what do you want from me?" Justin insisted, tired of the anguish caused by their separation. Brian was silent for a long moment, then he said,"I want you out of my brain. I want the pain to stop. I want to be free of these ghosts. Exorcise me. I want to be my old self again."

"If I could do that, I'd be a lot happier too. You aren't the only one with regrets."

"Bobby McGee said it best. `Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.' That's where I'm at right now. I'm free to do whatever I want. And what I want to do is hear your voice on the phone at three o'clock in the morning so I can find enough peace of mind to possibly grab a couple hours of sleep. I can't sleep anymore, Justin. I just lie here in the dark and think."

"Maybe I should record a relaxation tape for you," Justin teases gently. He hears Brian chuckle, and he smiles.

"Only if you talk dirty to me."

Justin glances in the direction of the bedroom, then leans back on the sofa as he says, "Brian, would it help you sleep if I got you off?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean phone sex."

Silence. Finally, "You're kidding, right?"

"No, not really."

"A mercy fuck? No thanks. I'm not that pathetic."

"Not a mercy fuck. I wouldn't mind it myself. I miss you too, after all. Especially in the sack."

"What about your hubby?"

"What about him? He's asleep."

Brian sighs. "Am I so pathetic now that this idea actually appeals to me? I guess I am, because it does."

Justin lets his hand wander under the cover of the afghan, gently fondling his penis. His response is immediate. His eyes close as he says, "We're in your bed in your old loft on Tremont. The blue lights are on. You're sitting with your back against the wall, your legs spread. We're both naked. I sit in the V of your legs, leaning against your torso. One of your hands plays with my nipples, the other is stroking me off."

"Wait, wait."

Justin hears the rustle of clothing on the other end of the conversation. He doesn't let up on his masturbation while waiting, his cock hard now and demanding. Finally, Brian returns.

"Okay," he says, his voice thick with the beginning embers of passion. Justin knows that tone of voice very well. "Go on."

"Is it in your hand?" Justin asks, picturing Brian's long, magnificent prick, almost tasting the texture of his flesh.

"Yes, go on."

"You stroke me slowly, and I feel your cock grow hard against my ass. I move my hips slightly to excite that process. You kiss my neck, my shoulder."

"I pinch your nipple gently, pull it between thumb and forefinger. Your cock is lubricating my hand with pre-cum."

Justin arches his back slightly at that description, increases the pace of his pumping. "I turn around and kiss you, stretching my body out above yours."

"My hands move down your back, over the firm rise of your perfect ass."

"I dip down to tongue your nipples, nibble at your hard pecs."

"My finger slips between the tight crease of your ass," Brian's voice drops to a throaty whisper. "I find your hole and I circle the pucker with my fingertip. Slowly, I let it slip inside."

Justin moans, imagining the penetration he describes. "I move my kisses down your belly, until your hard cock hits my chin. Then I take it in my hand and lick up one side of the shaft and down the other. Circle the head with my tongue. Put the whole thing in my mouth and glide down on it, towards your pubes. Up again. And then DOWN."

Brian gasps into the phone as he feels that familiar caress bubble up from his memory. "I can feel the ridges on the roof of your mouth with my cock. I feel how warm and wet your tongue is. I start to fuck your face with an in and out motion."

"I move so that my head is on the pillow and you straddle my body and feed me your cock. I keep my eyes open so I can watch it go into my mouth."

"God!" He grinds his hips against the sheets, speeding up his stroking. "I reach back and find your prick, jacking it while you suck me."

"I can taste your cum, like a salty margarita. You ooze so much before you shoot."

Brian sighs, using that described pre-cum to lubricate his pumping. "Your dick is slick with natural lube and I want to feel your jism hit my back and shoulders."

"My hand fondles your balls as I suck you. They are hard, full, ready to dump your load."

"Yes, baby, don't stop. Don't fucking stop."

"Never," Justin responds, pulling hard on his own erection. He feels it building. The pressure is exquisite. "I take you deep into my throat. I want to feel your hot sperm shoot down my gullet, Brian. I want you to empty it into my mouth. I want to swallow your seed."

"Christ," Brian's voice is punctuated by his rapid, audible breathing. Justin can picture him masturbating, and that adds to his own pleasure. "I'm jacking you, Justin, while you suck me. It's gonna blow."

"Let it go, feed it to me."

Brian makes a strangled sound, as if in pain, then another as he writhes under the rigors of an orgasm. Hearing that happen, Justin finds his own sweet oblivion. He feels the hot spurts of his own semen slam into his chest and shoulder. They are silent for a moment, letting their bodies normalize. Finally, Brian emits a low chuckle.

"That was hot."

Justin exhales a deep sigh before he says, "Yes, it really was." Even phone sex with Brian was better than the real thing with almost anyone else. The fire between them was never the problem. "Can you sleep now, Brian?"

"Maybe. I'll try."

"I'm lying beside you in the bed, under the blue lights. Your back is to me, and I have one arm thrown over your shoulders. We are both sleeping soundly, safely, together. Do you still have the blue lights, Brian?"

He hesitates before he answers. "Why don't you come see for yourself?"

"You don't mean that."

"Maybe not, but then, maybe I do."

"Brian, I..."

"Kiss me goodnight, Sunshine."

"Kissing you," he says softly and Brian responds,

"Kissing you back. Goodnight, Justin. Sorry to call, to wake you. I'll try to be good. I'll try not to bother you again. "

"Brian." but the phone goes dead. Brian has disconnected.

Justin listens to dial tone for a moment, then pushes the end button. He throws a forearm over his eyes, trying to figure out the tortured course of his love for Brian Kinney. He has a new lover now. Why, then, does he dream about Brian? Daydream about Brian? Feel a thrill every time he calls? Fantasize about Brian, and substitute Brian for his lover when they are intimate? The answer to those questions is obvious and painful. What he can do about it is his dilemma. He finally has a man who gives him what he wanted from Brian. A monogamous lover who is thoughtful and caring. Who expresses his feelings openly. Who remembers occasions of importance with gifts and romance.

He feels like crying, but he stops himself. He's cried enough over Brian. Tears won't solve this painful problem. He simply wants to be free of the past so he can live in the present and look forward to the future. So long as he feels this way about Brian, how likely is that outcome? He dials a toll free number. A voice answers, "American Airlines."

Justin hesitates for a moment, then asks about fares from Pittsburgh to New York City. He books a flight and tells him he will pick up the ticket at the desk. He is to leave the next day. He has no idea what he is doing or why. He only knows Brian invited him to see for himself if he still uses the blue lights, and he realizes a visit is the only way to resolve this thing between them. Cut the cord. Release his hand. Kick off the training wheels and ride on his own.

"Who the hell are you kidding?" He whispers aloud, then pulls the afghan up to his shoulders and closes his eyes, unable to return to a bed where a man other than Brian is sleeping. Resolution, he thinks to himself, just before drifting into sleep. One way or another, resolution. Otherwise, they will be driven crazy by whatever this is that keeps them bound to each other like conjoined twins, sharing a single heart, forever unsure if they can both survive the separation.

To Be Continued...

Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
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July 25, 2004