THE QUIET MEN
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, EVERYONE! A little giftie from Randall.
Chapter 13: Brian's POV
I lean over, elbows on my knees, trying to breathe. My heart is pounding so fast I can hardly bear it, and I feel like I might hurl. Justin is stroking soothing circles on my back, and finally the oxygen seems to get through and the panic passes. I lean back, my head cushioned by his arm and he reaches over to pat my thigh with his other hand. His handsome face broadcasts his anxiety and I try to smile and reassure him, but the expression won't follow my inclination.
"I'm scared," I admit and he nods.
"Me too. It's my fault. We never should have come here. I'll call the travel agency and get us on the next flight out."
I put a hand on his knee. "Hold on, Della Street." I lean back and light a cigarette, knowing he didn't miss the fact my hands are shaking. "Let me think."
"Who the fuck is Della Street?"
"Perry Mason's ever efficient secretary. Who is secretly in love with Perry, not knowing how Perry has a yen for Paul Drake, his handsome investigator."
He laughs and nudges me in the ribs. "TV Land strikes again."
He knows how much I love the old series from the fifties that are being shown on nostalgia channels. I look at him and smile. "This is an incredible adventure, Justin. We can't just bail. But Ariel gives me serious squick."
"He hates me, it's obvious."
"No, he's just so fucking weird. Who can tell what he's thinking?"
"He's thinking if he turned me into a toad, he could have you."
"I think you'd be kind of cute as a toad. I could keep you in my pocket."
"I'd give you warts."
We both chuckle. I lean over and kiss him, then whisper our mantra in his ear. He smiles and whispers it back to me. Sealed. It always seems to seal our relationship whenever we say it.
"So you don't want to go back?" I ask.
"Not sure. I sort of want to see how this plays out. It's such an incredible fantasy. How do we walk away from it?"
"I don't know, but it scares me, Brian. I think they're after your soul."
"I don't have a soul, Sunshine."
He closes his hand over mine. "You have an ancient soul."
I kiss him again. "Let's play it out for now. When either one of us says it's time to go, we go, no questions asked, okay?"
"Okay. Don't forget we're supposed to meet Ronan at Trinity in a few."
"Yeah," my mobile interrupts and I answer. From across the ocean, Gus's voice cheers me up.
"Hi, big guy! What are you doing up so early?"
"I had a bad dream and Mommy said I could call you and see that you're okay."
"I'm fine. So is Justin. What did you dream?"
"That bad guys were holding you prisoner."
"They were? Like in a jail?"
"No, in a funny place that was dark, with monsters."
"Hum, I don't think I'd like that place very much. But I'm sitting in the park in the sunshine with Justin, feeling fine. I miss you, Gus."
"I miss you too, Daddy. When are you coming home?"
"Soon. I have some presents for you, too."
"I don't want presents. I just want you and Jus to come home."
"Soon, Gus. Now go back to sleep and have happy dreams. Your daddy is fine. Can I talk to Mommy?"
"Hold on. Bye Daddy."
"Bye, kiddo." Lindsay comes on the line. "What's up with Gus? He sounds very needy."
"I told you. He's not his feisty self. I took him to the doctor, just to be sure. He said everything looks perfect. He's not anemic, he's not fighting an infection, he is getting some molars, but that shouldn't matter. I think he just misses you and Justin."
"We miss him too. But we really need a vacation, Linds, we've been hitting it hard for three years with no real break."
"I'm not trying to guilt you, Brian. I know you deserve a vacation. He'll be fine."
"Give him a kiss for me."
"I will. So, have you met your family?"
"Some of them," I suddenly remember the painting of the fairy who looks so much like me. "But not all."
"Oh, funny story. Have a second?"
"Sure." God knows what this call is costing me. Thank Ma Bell for quad-band phones you can use anywhere.
"A garden gnome has suddenly turned up on our lawn."
"You know, those stone figures like leprechauns or something? He wears a white beard and a pointed red hat, elf shoes. You know those awful things?"
"What do you mean it suddenly appeared?"
"I mean we woke up one morning and it was there, among the zinnias. Gus has nicknamed it Paddy, not sure where he got that, and he insists that Paddy is real, and at night he comes alive and comes into his room and visits with him." She giggles but my stomach begins to hurt.
"Is he afraid of it?"
"No, on the contrary, he thinks Paddy is great fun."
"Get rid of it, Linds."
"I know it's tasteless, but I can't get rid of it. Gus loves it. I just hope whomever put it there doesn't come back for it."
"Lindsay, I..." I stop myself. Garden gnomes don't come to life and visit little boys at night. No matter how weird this place is, that doesn't happen. "Keep an eye on Gus. If you think he's feeling worse, let me know."
"I will, but don't worry. He's fine. You guys have fun."
I hang up and fill Justin in as we catch a cab and ride to Trinity University to meet my cousin. He sighs. "I don't like it."
"Nor do I, but it's ludicrous, Justin. We can't let this fairy shit make us total morons."
He shrugs. "I know but...."
He lets that thought dangle, and we're quiet the rest of the drive to the university, each of us lost in our own misgivings. "Brianna," he suddenly says, and I shoot him a glance.
"Are you calling me a drag name, now?"
He giggles. "If I ever had a daughter, I'd name her Brianna. I love that name."
I tap my watch. "Time isn't up, bud."
"I'm just making a generalized statement about names, I'm not saying anything specific."
"No it isn't."
"Yes it is!"
Now the silence between us is tinged with anger, as it always is when we dance to this music. Funny thing is, I've thought about the name Brianna. I like it. I thought of Justine, but I can't get there. It's too close to his name, pronounced too much the same way, but Brianna... we could call her Bree. Maybe Justine could be her middle name. Stop it, I remind myself. There is no "her". The whole idea is...the whole idea is on hold.
"You're such an asshole," he says without much conviction and I don't even bother to defend.
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July 25, 2004