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SIX AND A HALF WEEKS
by Randall Morgan

Here's a little surprise for everyone, including my team who had no idea I was going to post, so it will be uploaded when they happen to see it! I had no idea I was going to post. But something came over me. Here it is, unbetaed, no beautiful Jen work to introduce it, just a raw backstory about Brian and Vic. Enjoy, Randall

This is a gapfiller for season 3. What, you may well ask? There is no season 3 yet! Ah, but there is, there is Transitions, my virtual season 3 and I was feeling sorry for it because no one wrote gapfillers as they do on the real show! LOL! So, responding to a few requests, but mostly because I want to, this is to fill in the gap where Brian ran away to NYC at age seventeen and met up with Vic Grassi. Not for the squeamish.

JenR had to make a little something for this story anyway, even if it was after the fact.

I. FIRST WEEK AND A HALF.

Vic was turning thirty-two in two and a half weeks. August 1st, to be exact. Thirty-two fucking years old! Whenever he had a break as pastry chef for one of New York's most elite restaurants, he pulled out a small spiral notebook and refined his plans for his own birthday cake. If he had to turn thirty-two, he wouldn't let some amateur add salt to his wounds by preparing an inferior cake for his party. Thirty-two was past it, he knew that, but with so many friends dying or dead, he should celebrate the fact he was still alive rather than whine about impending senility.

He still looked good. Rugged, Northern Italian features, fair hair, tall, slim body. His twink days were behind him, but he could still pull a decent trick. Hell, he was living in the greatest city in the world, made a damn good living, and was reasonably healthy. He had no grounds for complaint. He walked from the subway to the block of red brick townhomes west of Washington Square, in Greenwich Village. Most of these buildings were owned by NYU or Columbia, or one of the colleges, but his building was privately owned and had been sectioned into four large apartments, with rents controlled by the state.

Vic had lived here since he came to New York a decade ago, and he wasn't leaving so long as his rent remained stabilized. He could never get a deal like this again. Lovers came and went, some more permanent than others, but Vic would never put them on the lease and thus jeopardize his status as a protected tenant. Right now, he was alone, and he was fine with that. His last lover was a promiscuous asshole who brought men home and fucked them in the bed they shared. Kicking him out was one of the smartest things Vic had ever done. He just hoped it wasn't too late, that he didn't leave a surprise in Vic's bloodstream that may one day undo him. No, he wouldn't worry about that now. He was tired. It had been a long day.

He fished in his pocket for his keys and pulled out the ring, dropping them with a clatter on the cement. It was at that moment that he saw him.

Brian had been crouching on the cement, mostly concealed by the stoop. A window unit air conditioner had formed a puddle of condensation at his feet and he watched his blood drip into that pool, a circle at a time, appearing black in the darkness and slowly tinting the color of the water to resemble spilled ink. He had been waiting so long in this unnatural squat that his long legs were numb and he was dizzy and miserable. His hands and forearms were stained with blood, as was the front of his shirt. No matter what he did, he couldn't get his nose to stop bleeding. At least it had slowed from a gusher to a dripper.

He was so involved in his own misery that he almost missed Vic's arrival, alerted by the sound of the keys hitting the cement. He stood slowly and Vic gasped as he saw six-feet two inches of bloody young manhood rise up in his path. Vic was no fighter, but he was a good bluffer. "Get the fuck out of here!" He said gruffly, taking the stoop two steps at a time, but the young man followed and said,

"Mr. Grassi? It's Brian Kinney. I'm a friend of your nephew Mikey," Vic turned and saw Brian rub the back of his forearm across his face, leaving a smear of blood on both his arm and his cheek. He knew who Brian was, Michael talked about him incessantly and Debbie fretted about her son's obsession with the kid. Vic had met him once, a couple years ago, but Brian was much shorter and less...well...full grown at the time.

"My god, Brian! What are you doing here? What happened to you?"

"Can we go inside? I really need to pee," he gave his crotch a comforting squeeze as if to emphasize that need and Vic escorted him up two flights of stairs to his flat and let him in. He pointed out the bathroom and asked him not to use the towels, promising to bring him some older ones to clean himself up. When he heard the toilet flush, Vic knocked on the door.

"Let me in, Brian."

Brian did so. He had peeled off his shirt and Vic made an effort not to notice his lean, well defined torso that narrowed into "snake" hips fetchingly displayed by his jeans. Vic led him out to the sofa, pressing a towel to his nose. "Lie down and put your head back and your feet up. I'm going to put this ice cube between your upper lip and your gum. Let it melt slowly and keep your nostrils pinched with this towel." Brian grimaced at the coppery taste of blood that rolled down his throat. But as the ice melted, the bleeding stopped and Vic stopped him from getting up.

"Stay just as you are. Keep your nose pinched for a couple more minutes," he brought over warm, wet towels and used them to bathe the blood from Brian's arms, neck and face. As he did so, he slowly revealed the beauty of that face; the fine bone structure, satin skin, full lips and huge, expressive eyes, one slightly more gold than the other. No wonder Mikey had a crush, Vic thought with a sigh. This was potent boy-flesh.

"How old are you now, Brian? Seventeen?" He nodded. "Same as Mikey, then." Nodded again. "You grew up to be very tall, didn't you?" A slight shrug. "What brings you to New York and what happened once you got here?"

"Can I sit up now?"

"You can't talk while lying down?"

"I'm moving to New York City," Brian said firmly, pushing hair in need of washing off his forehead. "I've been here a week."

"What do you mean, ‘moving'? Your family is moving to New York?"

"No, just me."

"You mean you ran away from home?"

"Kids run away from home, Mr. Grassi. I LEFT home. There's a difference."

Vic tried not to smile. "Just Vic is fine. I see your point. You LEFT home. And your parents know where to find you, do they?"

"Well, I'm, uh, kind of between places to stay right now."

"After a week?"

"I haven't found a job and I ran out of money and they told me at the Y that I had to move out and to go to some shelter. Have you seen those shelters?"

"Thankfully no," Vic said and Brian shuddered.

"Horrible! So I took my bags and I was asking people where I could go, and these two guys said to come with them. They said they knew a place. They were young and seemed cool, so I followed them. But they pulled me into this alley and started hitting me. I fought back, but it was two to one, and they got my bags and my last five bucks."

"Christ, Brian, you could have been killed! Are you hurt anywhere else?"

"No, just this fucking...sorry... nosebleed and my pride."

"You were lucky. You'll spend the night here, then you can get a cab to the station tomorrow and I'll send you home. Your dad can pay me back for the ticket whenever. It's not that much to take the train to the Pitts."

"I'm not going home," Brian sat up, then fell back again, as waves of nausea and dizziness rolled through him.

Vic frowned. "When did you last eat?"

"I dunno," Brian said through clenched teeth. "Yesterday, maybe?"

"Twinks," Vic thought to himself, and went to the kitchen, preparing a sandwich and chips for Brian, along with a tall glass of milk. He helped him sit up and after a brief hesitation, Brian began devouring the food like a wolf snacking on a lamb. He looked satisfied for a moment, then he looked surprised and then he ran for the bathroom, throwing up the contents of his stomach into the john. He had swallowed a bucket of dead blood from the nosebleed, which made it impossible for his stomach to process the food. Now that it was gone, he was almost instantly hungry. Vic repeated the process, and this time, Brian kept it down.

Vic brought him an old t-shirt promoting a Broadway musical, long closed. Brian pulled it on, leaning back against the couch, satiated by his meal. "Is it a girl?" Vic asked gently, and Brian looked confused.

"Is what a girl?"

"The reason why you left Pittsburgh. Trouble with a girl?"

"Why would you think that?"

"Love problems are a great motivator for boys your age."

"I'm not a boy and there's no girl."

"Why not? What's the matter with those girls in Pittsburgh? You're hot stuff!"

Brian forced a smile. "I don't have time for girls."

"You're seventeen. What could take priority?"

"I dunno," he said coyly. "Soccer?"

"Brian, you'll be a senior in the fall, right?"

"I would be if I stayed."

"You can't drop out of high school. You're a bright kid, that's obvious. What kind of life do you think you'll have without a high school diploma?"

"I can get my GED."

"The Army wouldn't even take you with a GED. What kind of job do you think you'll find?"

"I don't want to go in the Army."

"I know. But what do you want to do?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just want to make a lot of money doing it."

"That means high school, college...think of it this way, kid. You stuck it out for seventeen years. In one more year, you can go away to college. Leave home for good, really. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. You can't afford to live in New York. Hell, I can barely afford it and I have a great job and a rent controlled apartment!"

"You don't understand. I can't stay home."

"Are you in some kind of trouble?"

Brian sighed. "I will be if I stay. It's my Dad. If I stay in that house any longer, one of us is gonna die."

Vic exhaled slowly, remembering his sister telling him more than once that she thought Michael's little friend, Brian, was being beaten by his father. They discussed what they should do and concluded there was nothing to be done about it. No one looked kindly on having their family business thrown in their face, and it would probably make things even rougher at home for Brian. "Is he hurting you?"

Brian shrugged. "I've gotten big enough now, where it's more of a brawl than a beating. I don't want to live that way, Vic. I'm tired of it. So what do I do? I come to New York to find a new life and I get my ass kicked here too. Maybe it's just me."

"Maybe you just need a break from each other, Brian. It's summer. You're welcome to stay with me for awhile, so long as we can agree to some conditions."

"Such as?" Brian asked, obviously brightening at that possibility.

"First, you have to tell your parents where you are."

"What if they make me come home?"

"Then they make you come home. But I'll be glad to talk to them and explain that you're welcome here, for a summer break."

"What else?"

"You can't bring home any girls."

"That's not going to happen," Brian said with a smirk.

"No drugs and no getting drunk."

"Fine, I don't do drugs, and I don't drink much."

"Finally, you have to work. I don't think you'd get much out of sitting around on your ass all day. You need to get a job and contribute to the groceries while you're my guest, okay?"

"Where can I get a job?"

"I work for a big restaurant, and they always need busboys. It's not glamorous, but it's a job."

"I'll do it."

"Fine. Tomorrow, I'll take you in to meet Henri, our manager. I only have one bedroom, so you'll have to bunk on the sofa, but it converts into a bed."

"Vic, I slept in the park last night. This is like the Waldorf. I can't tell you how grateful I am..."

"There is one more thing, Brian. I think you need to know this. I don't see why it should matter, but in case it does, here goes. I'm gay."

Brian shrugged. "I know. Mikey told me that."

"I have no intention of putting the moves on you, you can sleep safely, but I live an out and proud life, I have many gay friends, and I'm not about to create a pretense just in case you're uncomfortable with it. I know it's an alien concept and even a joke to boys your age, but..."

"Vic," Brian interrupted him. "It's okay. I'm fine with it. Believe me."

Vic nodded, then stood. "I'll get you a blanket and pillow and other linens. Do you want a pair of pajamas?"

"I can sleep in my underwear."

"Okay."

"Do you think I could have another sandwich?"

Vic smiled. "Kitchen is through there. Help yourself, but clean up after afterwards. If we're going to be roommates, I don't have to treat you as a guest. Tomorrow, we call your folks. I'm going to change clothes, and then I'm going out for awhile."

"At this hour?"

Vic laughed. "Brian, the gay clubs are just starting up. You can watch television, or I have a whole library of videos. Excuse the gay porn, I wasn't expecting a young visitor."

"Where's all that?" Brian asked with interest, and Vic opened an armoire, revealing the television, and rows of VHS tapes.

"Don't wait up. I'll see you in the morning."

"Vic...thanks."

"No problem, Brian," Vic said as he went into his room to change. But it was a problem. Brian was beautiful, extremely beautiful, and at the peak of his youthful power. Vic had to get past the impact of that power pretty quickly if they were going to co-habit this space for awhile. He had no intention of compromising Brian, but he didn't want to waste his energy lusting after something he could never have.

THE NEXT DAY.

Brian awoke to the provocative aroma of frying bacon and stepped into his jeans before following his nose to the kitchen where Vic was manning the stovetop. Vic was wrapped in a robe, his hair still damp from a shower. Not for the first time, Brian looked at him and realized Mikey's uncle was a hunk. He may be old, but he was tall and lean and blond. Brian liked blonds. But then, maybe he was still experiencing some residual titillation from the gay porn tapes he had watched while Vic was out, indulging in serial masturbation until it hurt too much to get it up.

"Do you drink coffee?" Vic asked, eyeing the lanky boy who occupied one of the two chairs at his small Paris bistro styled table and chair set. Brian smiled. He had a beautiful smile, enhanced rather than diminished by a slight overlap of his left incisor. Without that small flaw, he was almost too fucking perfect. What happened to acne, Vic wondered? Did they finally cure that scourge of his own adolescence? Certainly Brian's satin smooth skin showed no signs of eruption.

"I'm not a kid, Vic. Of course I drink coffee. Black, please."

"How do you like your eggs?"

"Scrambled firm."

"Don't expect this kind of service everyday. Most days you can scrounge your own damn breakfast, but I woke up hungry this morning."

Brian smiled wryly. "Get lucky at the bars?"

Vic glanced over his shoulder at him. "What would you know about that?"

Brian shrugged. He didn't feel comfortable discussing his knowledge. He devoured the plate of food Vic put before him, and then asked if he could scramble a couple more eggs for himself as Vic was still finishing his own breakfast. Vic nodded, forgetting how bottomless a teenager's stomach was. Even little Michael ate enough for three people, his sister often informed him. Vic watched him cook, admiring the smooth slope of his back to a small waist with absolutely no softness denoting the love handles Vic was beginning to battle at the gym to prevent them from marring his own body.

"You're in great shape, Brian. What do you do?"

"Do?" He returned to the table with another brimming plate. Vic noticed there was a faint bruise under one eye from his recent beating.

"To stay in shape?" Vic prompted.

Brian shrugged as if that were the farthest thing from his mind. "I don't know. I'm on the soccer team. They say soccer players run the equivalent of nine miles in a single game."

Youth, Vic thought with a scowl. Unfair.

"Does my nephew play any sports?"

"Mikey?" Brian laughed. "Like what? Peewee football?"

"He's not that small," Vic said with a smile and Brian laughed.

"Yes, he is. No, Mikey lives in a world of Captain Astro comics and Dirty Dancing."

"He dances?"

"No, the movie. He knows it by heart."

"Ah. So what do you two have in common?"

Brian sighed. "I don't know. Mikey's a sweet guy. He accepts me for what I am."

"And what is that, Brian?"

"A piece of shit."

Vic was surprised by that evaluation. "Don't say that."

"Why not? It's true."

"Do you live in a house with no mirrors?"

Brian shrugged, his fair skin flushing slightly. He knew he was handsome, he had to, but it was obviously not viewed as a positive by him. "That doesn't mean anything."

"Don't kid yourself. The hell it doesn't. You must have girls clinging to you like Saran Wrap."

Brian met Vic's gaze. "I don't care about that."

"About being attractive to the opposite sex?"

Brian nodded.

"Kid, that's not natural at your age."

Brian frowned and got up to refill his coffee mug, bringing over the pot to top off Vic's cup. "Who the fuck are you to tell me what's ‘natural'?"

"Baby, I may be gay, but when I was your age, sex preoccupied ninety per cent of my waking thoughts and more than a few dreams!"

"And now?" Brian teased.

Vic smiled. "Maybe eighty-six per cent."

Brian laughed. "I didn't say I never thought about...that stuff. I'm not an alien."

"You're shy?"

Brian was reflective for a moment, and then responded, "No. If I see something I want, I go for it."

"And what is it you ‘go for', Brian?"

Brian walked over to him, slipping between Vic and the table, planting one long leg on either side of Vic's knees and slowly unbuttoning his fly. "Whoa!" Vic insisted, covering Brian's hand with his own. "What the fuck are you doing?"

"I'm going for it."

Vic looked up to meet Brian's eyes, which were half closed. His impossibly thick lashes shadowed his cheeks. Brian's free hand roamed over his own smooth torso and tweaked his nipples until they became hard buds. He was a faggot's wet dream, there was no denying that. The lips, the body, the bulge in his Levis...but he was so young. Vic struggled with his ethics as Brian pulled his hand free and opened the remaining buttons. He fished out his cock that was erect and as long, thick and hard as anything Vic had ever seen. A gorgeous erection, at least nine pulsating inches of straining passion. Brian gave it a luxurious stroke, then placed his hand on the back of Vic's head, filtering his long fingers through his blond hair as he said, "Suck my dick. Show me what you can do."

At that moment, Vic knew he wasn't the first, and he sure as hell wouldn't be the last. He felt like an investor getting in on the initial offering of a company that was destined to be huge. In the gay milieu, Brian had an unparalleled destiny. Vic's scruples fell away as he leaned forward and took that glorious example of male perfection as far into his throat as he could tolerate. Brian moaned softly and threw his head back. His eyes closed, and he rested one palm flat on the table as he kept the other hand on the back of Vic's head, ensuring he didn't stop.

Brian's excessive masturbatory exercises the night before gave him more control than he might ordinarily have, and he managed to hold onto his ejaculation long enough to get the full benefit of Vic's extensive expertise. When he did come, Vic took it and swallowed it, leaning back with a satisfied sigh as Brian's flushed face glowed with pleasure.

"I think I'm beginning to understand," Vic said wryly as Brian reached inside his robe to fondle him. Vic stopped him. "In a bowl on the table beside my bed are a bunch of condoms. Bring one in."

"Why? I just want to suck you."

"Because this is New York, Brian. We're in the middle of a plague, here. I haven't lived a sheltered life. You're a sweet young thing, and I'm not going to be the bearer of bad tidings in your life. If you learn one lesson from me, let it be this. Be safe. With everyone."

"But you just blew me bare."

"Because you would be the least of my exposures. I don't want to be the most of yours."

"Do you have it?"

"Not that I know of, but we're not taking any risks. Go get it. I can wait."

Brian disappeared and Vic leaned back, questioning his own sanity. Was he nuts? Not only was this boy too young, if legal, but he was a friend of his nephew's and a bird with at least one broken wing. What the fuck was he doing? Even as he tried to answer that question, he was aware of the heft between his thighs as the blood-flooded tissues and nerve endings began to tingle with anticipation.

Vic awoke from a sweet dream and a light doze to discover the dream was asleep in the crook of his shoulder with one well-muscled arm flung across Vic's chest and one long, strong leg thrown over Vic's knees, above the duvet. In the soft glow of mid-afternoon, Brian Kinney was impossibly beautiful. His lips were parted slightly as he slept, his eyes moving behind closed lids, chasing a dream. Vic let his hand move over the sleek texture of the boy's skin, his side, the curve of his hip. Brian was a natural top, despite his youth, which suited Vic fine, since he was a natural bottom.

Brian had very little if any technique, just get it in and hump until you shoot, but the raw goods were there, and he seemed eager to learn. They were so caught up in the sex, they hadn't had a chance to have "the conversation" about when Brian discovered his sexual orientation and how he was dealing with it and who knew. The one thing Vic nailed down was that he was not in a sexual relationship with Michael. He couldn't have handled that much deception if Brian and Michael were lovers. Debbie announced that Michael was gay, insisting she had known since he was five years old. Vic and Michael had cleared that air long ago.

Vic found it sweet that these two gay boys drifted together to support and care for each other, for it was very lonely to be gay in high school, even now, and more so when Vic was their age. He was unreasonably thrilled that "his side" had snagged a god like the young Brian Kinney, since most of these golden boys went straight. At least in the beginning. He wondered if Brian's problems at home stemmed from his sexuality. He lit a cigarette, and took only one puff before Brian took it from him and inhaled deeply.

"Another bad habit of yours," Vic quipped and Brian raised himself on one elbow to stare at him.

"Yeah? I didn't hear you complaining before about my other ‘bad' habits."

"Brian, do you have any idea how powerful you'll be in the gay world?"

Brian looked confused as Vic lit a cigarette of his own. "How do you mean?"

"I mean you're a wet dream, honey. A big, beautiful, butch twink with a dick like a lead pipe and balls to match. Have you tested your appeal at all?"

Brian fell back on the pillow with a grimace, blowing raggedy smoke circles. "Shit, I don't know what you mean. I've only been with a few guys, usually just because the circumstances were right. What's that supposed to tell me?"

"Probably nothing, because you really haven't stretched your wings yet. I just don't want to see you waste your youth, like so many of us did out of fear or confusion. I'm not telling you to be promiscuous, although I don't care if you are so long as you're safe and make smart decisions. I think it's important that you learn about your power and that you learn how to use it."

Brian laughed and turned over on his side, running his tongue up the side of Vic's neck, causing him to shudder. "You talk funny. I don't have any power. But I do have a dick that's getting hard again."

Vic laughed. "Insatiable beast. First we call your parents. Remember our deal?"

Brian groaned and fell back on his pillow. "There goes that erection!"

"Do they know about you, sweetie?"

Brian looked shocked. "That I'm queer? Fuck no! And you can't tell them!"

"Brian, I'd never tell them that. That's your news, not mine. I'm just trying to understand the conflicts."

"If my old man thought I was a faggot, he would've killed me by now and my mother would've prayed for my soul that was burning in hell! They can't know, Vic!"

"Okay, relax, your secret is safe with me, although you're probably underestimating them. And they probably know more than you think."

"They don't know jack."

"Well, let's call, shall we?"

"I won't go back," Brian rested his cheek against Vic's pecs, squeezing his eyes shut as a childlike fear replaced his bravado.

When Brian walked out in the Village with Vic later that afternoon, their arms looped as they walked and talked in the glorious sunlight, he felt as if he had entered a separate world. He wore a black wifebeater loaned to him by Vic along with his own jeans, that were freshly laundered, and tennis shoes. The stares they drew from other men were admiring or envious gazes, not a glance laced with censure and disapproval. They made a nice couple, both tall and slim, opposites in coloring and their ages well staggered.

What Brian liked most was how accepting the world seemed to be, and by how many similar couples they passed, acknowledging with a nod that they were members of the same club. This acceptance gave him a peculiar sense of freedom, and he soared with that sensation as they shopped for music, books and small treasures in the shops lining the neighborhood streets. Brian had no money, of course, but he didn't mind that he could only window shop. His parents didn't demand that he come home, lulled by Vic's reassurances, and that was all that mattered.

They stopped for pizza on Bleeker Street and the crowd in the café was mostly gay. Brian smiled when Vic took his hand on the table top as they awaited their order, and no one reacted. This was the world Brian dreamed of, but had never seen. Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh was known as a gay area, but it was just being developed, and it was tiny and limited in scope.

"Vic," a man stopped at their table. He was tall, muscular, with that mustachioed butch look that went with his leather accoutrements. He spoke to Vic, but his eyes were all over Brian.

"Hi, Walt," Vic said dully.

"Who's your beautiful friend?"

Vic made a perfunctory introduction and the man clasped Brian's extended hand between his for what Vic felt was way too long. He finally left them alone and Brian smiled. "He seemed nice."

Vic shook his head slowly. "Child, Walt is a freak, a leather fetishist with hardcore leanings, preferring the pain side of S and M. Trust me when I tell you, you aren't ready for that scene."

Brian shrugged, noticing whenever he scanned the room, he found some man staring at him, smiling, nodding, available to the beautiful boy. "I love it here."

Vic smiled wryly. "It can be heady in that first blush of power. Give me your history, Brian, and don't feel you have to enhance it. Who was your first and when? Who came after?"

Brian sighed, remembering. "When I was fourteen, there was this coach..."

Vic laughed. "Always a coach with you jocks."

"Really? Well, he didn't last long. He moved to another city."

"Did he fuck you?"

Brian looked uncomfortable, a slight blush rising in his fair cheeks. "Sort of. He tried, but it hurt too much so we stopped. It scared him I think. I didn't like it."

"Have you ever been fucked?"

He shook his head. "I've been the one who does it. The other way hurts."

"It can, but it can also be wonderful, if you have the right lover. Go on, Brian. Anyone else?"

"Our choirmaster at the church. And once this man offered me a ride when I was walking home from Mikey's house. He gave me ten bucks to let him suck my dick," he smiled proudly and Vic laughed.

"Hustler boy! You should've held out for more! Go on."

"I went over to Liberty Avenue one night, but they carded me and wouldn't let me into a club. But this man came up to me and took me into an alley and we sucked each other right there. He did me twice."

"Is that it?"

"No. We went on vacation in the Poconos last summer and one of the guys who worked there started something up with me. For the ten days we were there, me and him spent a lot of time fucking and sucking. He goes to Harvard."

"A little closer to your own age."

"One of the strikers on my soccer team and I jerk each other off when we can find a place to be alone. That's it. It's not that easy, where I live and going to school and all."

"Not bad for a kid. Do you use condoms?"

He shook his head. "Just that time with you."

Vic frowned. Except for the time the coach attempted penetration, Brian's activities were lower risk, but not without danger. "If you learn nothing else from staying here with me, learn this, Brian. I have watched my young, healthy friends waste away, covered in sores and gasping for breath and finally dying when most people are just beginning to live. Not just one or two. Scores of them. Society has lost great artists and the gay community has been decimated. You're not above the risk of that virus, Brian. You don't have to have your ass fucked to be in danger. From this day forward, promise me you'll use condoms whenever you have sex, even if it's just oral. I don't want the world to lose someone as wonderful as you to carelessness. Will you promise me that?"

Brian nodded tensely, and Vic sighed. He would see that they visited an AIDS hospice before Brian left. Nothing he said could have the impact of walking into a building filled with young, dying gay men. Their pizza arrived and Brian shifted the subject.

"What's your history, Vic?"

He laughed. "I'm twice your age, so my history is way too long to discuss in detail. Let's just say it all began with a best friend in high school, and progressed to a series of one-night stands and failed relationships to land me where I am today."

"Did you ever do it with a girl?"

Vic laughed. "No, thankfully, ambiguity was never my burden. How about you?"

Brian shrugged. "I've gone out with girls and we've done stuff, but no one's ever let me fuck them. I want to someday, just to know."

Vic smiled. "You are such a top. Eat up. We need to get you some clothes, then I want to take you to meet Henri and see about that job."

"I don't have any money for clothes."

"You can pay me back. I'm not talking Armani, just some jeans, maybe a pair of shorts and some shirts and underwear."

"Okay," Brian leaned across the table and impulsively kissed Vic on the cheek. "Thank you. For being so nice to me. For...well, thanks."

"Brian, I assure you, the pleasure is all mine."

Later, in a store where Brian found the fundamental clothing items he needed, Vic sat on a chair in a small dressing room with a triple mirror watching as Brian tried on different cuts of jeans. This multiple perspective of Brian's lean, smooth body was overwhelming and Vic stopped him when he was stripped to his underwear. Vic got up to stand behind him. They looked at each other in the mirrored reflections. Vic lifted Brian's arms to his sides, posing him, arms wide open, his chest expanded and legs planted firmly in a stance. "Look at yourself," Vic whispered against Brian's ear. "I mean really look at yourself, Brian. You're incredible."

At first Brian winced, but then he became caught up in Vic's seductive drone. Vic's hands fluttered over his body like butterflies. "Look at these pecs, and your hard little nipples. Deep sternum, flat, hard belly. Look at these thighs, strong and muscular and long. Look at your arms, smooth and defined, and this long, swan-like neck," he kissed Brian's neck gently, causing him to shudder. "Even your hands and your feet are elegant. Your face is perfect. Your ass is rounded, small, but firm. And this," he lowered the waistband of Brian's underwear to reveal his pubes and then his dick, which was already stiffening. When Vic began to stroke it, it became hard instantly and Brian moaned. "Your cock was made for gay sex, Brian. Every man's fantasy of a cock; long, thick and beautifully shaped. Get past all the angst every teenager feels about their body and their face to see yourself the way you really are. You're an unbelievably beautiful young man."

"You're gonna make me come," Brian said with a moan, leaning against him, feeling Vic's erection press his ass as he watched himself be masturbated by focusing on the mirror. Then Vic knelt before him, giving him head, and for the first time, Brian watched himself as he was fellated, mesmerized by this image.

After he came, Brian stood Vic up and began loosening his clothes. When he was naked, Brian stroked his cock and whispered, "Do you have a condom?"

"We're not going to do what you think we're going to do," Vic said tensely and Brian smiled and nodded. How could Vic resist that? He fished a condom from his wallet and handed it to the boy, pleased that he remembered Vic's admonition. Brian slipped it on, already erect again, and pressed Vic against the cold glass of the mirror, spreading his legs wide and postioning himself behind him so he could penetrate. As he was being fucked with more enthusiasm than technique, Vic lost himself in the outlaw appeal of doing it in a place where there could be security cameras or others listening or watching as well as the thrill of having the mirrors to give him a view he wouldn't ordinarily enjoy.

When they finally left the dressing room, Vic felt like everyone in the store knew, and he was more proud to be the recipient of this beautiful boy's passion than he was embarrassed by his spontaneity. While Vic's credit card was being charged for the small stack of clothes, Brian leaned into him touching his cheek to Vic's shoulder, seeking a sign of affection. Vic smiled and reached over to kiss him on the forehead. The clerk, obviously gay in this gay part of town, sighed. "You two make a beautiful couple."

"Thanks," Brian said, slipping his hand into Vic's, never being a part of a couple before, never really being a part of anything.

II: SECOND WEEK.

Brian was unusually quiet as they walked from Vic's apartment towards a club, a few blocks south. Vic reached over and took his hand, noticing Brian let him hold it but failed to squeeze it, the way he usually did. The boy looked dangerously hot in his faded jeans, the now ubiquitous black wifebeater that Vic knew he could never wear again after seeing how good it looked on Brian, and a white linen shirt open over it. And yet his handsome face was sullen and tense.

"What's wrong, baby?" Vic asked gently.

"Tired," Brian responded, and Vic smiled. Brian was a hardworker, impressing everyone at the restaurant with his can-do attitude and pleasant manners. All of the waiters wanted him to work their station because he was a self-starter and he worked hard and he worked fast. They all recognized someone as sharp as Brian wasn't destined to be a busboy for life, but they enjoyed his work ethic as long as they could have him.

"Yes, we were busy at the restaurant tonight. I'm tired too."

"Then why are we going out?" Brian suddenly insisted. "Why couldn't we just stay home?"

"Because we're getting too close," Vic wanted to say. "Because I'm falling in love with you. Because you have a crush on me." But what he really said was, "Because I want you to get a taste of the nightlife the gay community offers. You're here, in New York. Make the most of it."

"Bored with me?" There was an edge of pain in that question, and Vic sighed and stopped him, resting his hands on Brian's shoulders.

"Baby, I could never be bored with you. But your train has just started its journey. I'm one of your first stops, not the last. I know that. I wish you were thirty and had lived a lot and were ready for a real relationship. I would lock you up and never let you out. But you're seventeen, Brian. You're just beginning to understand who you are. You have to have experiences and test those wings. I can't stop that, nor would I. But I want to help you as much as I can, guide you. Do you understand?"

Brian drew himself up, his chin raised and head tilted to one side as he stared at Vic with those cat's eyes, as if trying to unravel an inscrutable puzzle. "I'm not a baby."

"Oh sweetie," Vic leaned over and rested his forehead against Brian's. "Of course you are. Come on. We're going to have fun whether you like it or not."

Brian sighed and trudged along with him, still wishing they were home alone. At the club, the pulsating music, beautiful men crowding the area and the air of sexual enticement enraptured Brian. Some friends came over to Vic, eyeing Brian eagerly as introductions were exchanged. Within minutes, Brian was swept onto the dance floor by someone, and Vic watched him go, sighing, knowing he wouldn't see him again for awhile.

An hour later, stripped to his waist, his torso covered in a sheen of sweat, Brian careened into Vic at the bar, throwing an arm over him as he ordered a beer and sucked it down. He was dying of thirst. "What's downstairs?" he asked and Vic sighed.

"Why?"

"Everyone keeps telling me to come downstairs with them. What's down there?"

"It's a backroom, Brian. You go down there to have sex."

Brian's eyes widened. "Cool! Let's go!"

"No honey," Vic said softly. "It's not exactly a couple's thing. I've been to this backroom. Why don't you go on your own?"

"Are you sure?"

Vic reached in his pocket and withdrew some condoms and shoved them in Brian's pocket. "Only if you use these every time."

"But..." Brian felt like it was cheating, somehow, although his curiosity was high.

"I want you to," Vic reassured him. And he did, sort of. He wanted him to experience the lure of anonymous sex. But he also knew he couldn't watch him do it. "I'll be here when you're done."

Brian kissed him, searching his eyes for a sign of rejection. When he saw nothing but acceptance and affection, he smiled and headed for the stairs. Vic watched his tall image until he was enveloped by the crowd, feeling suddenly old, unattractive and abandoned.

Brian took a moment at the top of the stairs to let his eyes adjust to the dim lighting. Men were making out and groping each other along the staircase wall, and he could hear and smell the sex below before he saw it. He didn't get two steps into the basement before men started reaching for him, touching him, kissing him. He was pressed against a cold, cinder block wall, his eyes closing as he was covered in male flesh. Someone nibbled his nipples, someone else sucked two or three of his fingers, another man pressed his free hand to his crotch where Brian squeezed his erection, and another went down on his knees in front of Brian, opening his fly. Brian gave himself over to the heat of the moment, but, as Vic requested, he did it safely and no one seemed to mind.

They took a cab back to the apartment. It was late, and they were both exhausted. Brian was gnawing his fingernail, sitting apart from Vic in the backseat as he stared out at the city without seeing it. Vic finally reached over and spread his hand on Brian's thigh to get his attention. Brian flinched and pushed it off.

"What's wrong, Brian?" Vic asked. When they passed under some bright neons, he saw that silent tears were streaking Brian's cheeks. "Honey, what is it? Did someone hurt you?"

Brian shook his head.

"Are you feeling guilty?"

He nodded.

"Christ, baby, let go of that fucking pilgrim guilt! Their rules do not apply in our society! We aren't straight. We're not your mommy and daddy. It's not about ivy covered cottages and never straying in our world, Brian. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and I feel exactly the same way about you now that I did when we woke up this morning."

Brian leaned over to grasp Vic in a desperate hug, resting his face against his chest and not releasing him until they were home. They climbed the stairs slowly, arms around each other, pausing often to kiss. In the apartment, they went straight to bed. Vic lit scented candles around the room to provide a soft glow and turned on some low noise jazz as he stretched out naked beside Brian and kissed him gently. The boy had his outlaw sex. Now Vic wanted to contrast it with the gentle bliss of being with someone who cared.

They made out for much longer than usual, just kissing, exploring mouths with tongues, hands gently caressing smooth flesh. The sexual tension built slowly but with more smoldering heat, fed by anticipation. They progressed to stroking, some tentative fellatio, and then Vic turned Brian over on his stomach and ran his tongue down his spine, stopping at his sphincter where he circled it and stretched it with the tip of his tongue. Brian moaned into his arms that were crossed under his face as Vic let his tongue probe deeper. He told Brian this was called "rimming" and Brian wanted him to continue forever.

"Don't stop," he pleaded when Vic finally withdrew.

"Be patient, relax," Vic lubricated his index finger and inserted it slowly, feeling Brian squirm beneath him as he searched for the boy's prostate. He inserted a second finger, gently opening the lubricated passage a little more and giving Brian a shudder of pleasure as he found the gland and massaged it gently. Brian felt jolts of excitement tingle in his dick each time Vic hit that "place" and he had to concentrate on not coming, because he wanted this sensation to last.

"Brian, I'm going to fuck you," Vic said softly. "No, don't be afraid and don't tense up. If it becomes too uncomfortable, I'll stop. But give it a chance. The pain you feel will soon evolve into absolute pleasure."

Vic put on a condom, inserting his fingers again to ensure Brian's tight little virgin ass was as open as he could get it. He put an arm under Brian, lifting him up slightly so that his ass was raised, his weight on his knees, while his body remained flat on the bed. At first Brian thought he couldn't bear it. The pressure was excruciating, he felt as though he were being impaled. But Vic was slow and gentle, kissing his shoulder and his neck, reassuring him. Sure enough, what Vic told him proved true. The pain began to give way to a tickling sensation, enhanced each time Vic's cock stroked his prostate. Brian instinctively reached down to masturbate his own erection as Vic's lunging increased in intensity and so did Brian's pleasure. Finally there was no pain at all, only an increasing need for release that came with a blast of semen so intense Brian cried out in the night, wracked by rolling waves of shudders that pushed Vic into his own orgasm.

Afterwards, they were in a quiet embrace, as Vic said, "Want to soak in the tub? Feel sore?"

"A little, I can still feel the pressure."

"Don't worry about liking it, Brian. It doesn't make you less of a man to be the one who gets fucked. It's strictly a matter of preference. And even the most dedicated top usually wants to take it up the ass occasionally. When you do, go for it. Don't get hung up on role playing."

"I love you, Vic," he said softly and Vic smiled. If only that were true.

"You love the life, honey. And I'm your spiritual guide into that life. Don't confuse the two."

"But..." Brian raised himself on one elbow, staring down at Vic as he said, "How do you know if it's love or not? I've never felt like this before."

"You've never had a constant lover before, Brian. Let's not obsess about it tonight. Come here, baby. Let me hold you while you sleep."

Brian went into his arms, confused by his feelings, but too tired and too sexually satiated to argue. Within minutes, both men were asleep.

III. THIRD WEEK.

Everyday, Vic took Brian to see some cultural aspect of the City. Art museums, Broadway matinees, art films, foreign cuisine, they never ran out of explorations. He wanted to expand Brian's quick mind and artistic appreciation as well as his sexual nature. At night, they worked together, and sometimes went to clubs, and sometimes stayed home. Vic's friends were beginning to recognize them as a couple, even though he assured them it was temporary. Brian learned what a glory hole was for, how leather was more than something you wore, which fetishes were interesting to him, and which fetishes he found repellant. With each lesson, he also learned a little more about the power of his appeal and the depth of his sexual curiosity.

In a dark theater showing gay porn films, he sat with his jeans down, hanging off one ankle, his feet apart and propped up on the seats in front of him while eager men crawled on the sticky floor to suck him. At the same time, he masturbated Vic who sat beside him. On the docks, he wandered the honeycomb of piers to experience flash cuts of sex from a variety of men while saving the big one for a virtual orgy of naked bodies writhing on the floor of an abandoned customs office. In between these erotic escapades he danced, danced, danced, and fell even more deeply into his first love, a love reserved for Vic.

Brian felt awkward at Vic's birthday party, unsure of what role he filled in his life. The party was held at Vic's apartment, and his friends all regarded Brian with a blend of healthy appreciation and reserve. He was so young, so gorgeous, so quietly remote, they worried about what Vic had gotten himself into. Vic had never seemed happier, but they feared he was headed for a big fall, even when he assured them Brian was going home in a few weeks, as prearranged. When Deb and Michael called to wish Vic a happy birthday, he handed the phone to Brian to talk to Michael after he finished his conversation. Brian closed the bedroom door to shield the noise.

"Hi, Mikey," he fell back on the bed.

"Hi yourself. Do you know how boring it is here without you? How bored are you staying with my Uncle Vic?"

Brian sighed. "Not. We're having some fun."

"Yeah, right. When are you coming home?"

"Never, I wish."

"Very funny. When?"

"I don't know, Mikey." He couldn't bear to think of leaving New York, or more precisely, of leaving Vic.

"Have you done anything naughty?" Michael's teasing tone rubbed Brian the wrong way.

"What are we in first grade?"

"Oh come on, Brian! Have you gotten any?"

"Mikey, kiss my ass."

"Love to," he said with a giggle. "COME HOME!"

"I'll see you later." Brian hung up, leaving Michael hanging. He turned on his side on the bed, staring into the darkness outside the window.

"What's up, big guy?" Vic came in and sat beside him, rubbing his biceps. "People are asking about you. Feeling homesick?"

"No."

"Brian, look at me. What's the matter? Did Mikey say something?"

Brian sat up and hugged Vic tightly. "Happy birthday."

Vic held onto him as long as he could, then pried him away so he could breathe. Brian got up and retrieved a little turquoise box with a white satin ribbon. Tiffany's. Vic stared at him in wonder. "Tiffany's? Are you crazy? Did you rob a bank?"

Brian smiled and sat beside him. "I don't spend much money, and I make a lot from the tip pool. Open it."

Vic untied the ribbon and removed the lid, extracting a turquoise suede pouch. He opened it, revealing a sterling silver money clip engraved with the initial V. On the underside of the clip was the initial B. "To Vic from Brian," the boy said, as if he had to explain. "I noticed your money clip was all shabby. This one's classy, right?"

"Very," Vic said in a voice thick with emotion. He was touched that Brian would spend what had to be all of his disposable income on him. "I will treasure this for the rest of my life, Brian."

They embraced, kissed, and Vic forced composure. "Well, the jackals want to decimate my beautiful cake. Shall we?"

"Just don't burn down the place with all the candles," Brian quipped and Vic slapped his firm ass as he followed him out of the bedroom.

IV. WEEK FOUR

Brian was enjoying his first street fair in the Village. Along with tens of thousands of others. Music from a steel drum band competed with music from an acapella fifties style vocal group who competed with a phalanx of Texas two-steppers. The food booths ranged from ethnic to hot dogs, barbeque and ice cream. Hawkers sold their wares from blankets and table tops and stalls. The inevitable mime troupe annoyed everyone.

Vic watched Brian admire and even try on some African handmade jewelry, finally sending Brian off to fetch them egg creams so he could buy the boy a trinket. After devouring the chilled treat, they wandered in two directions. Vic was admiring some vintage cookbooks at a vintage bookseller's stall when he looked around for Brian. He spotted him talking to a small, handsome blond man. It took Vic a few seconds to recognize the blond as one of the waiters from the restaurant. Brian and his blond fetish. No wonder Vic's poor little raven- haired nephew never stood a chance.

"Vic!" Brian rushed over to him, thrusting what looked like a fur penis warmer at him. But then it moved. "Look what Sean is buying!"

Vic recoiled as Brian held it up with both hands. It was tan-colored with a black wedge shaped face and paws. A dick on four feet with fur and beady black eyes, Vic decided. "What the hell is that thing?"

"It's a ferret," Sean explained as he took if from Brian. "Isn't he cool? They make great city pets. They can be litter box trained and they eat vermin."

"It IS vermin!" Vic corrected him, and Brian laughed.

"It's CUTE! Vic, can we..."

"Definitely NOT. I can smell it from here."

"It produces a musk," Sean said, his eyes raking Brian's long, muscular legs as he talked. Vic tried not to notice, but he couldn't blame him, really. Brian in cut-offs and a tank top, rolled up to expose some midriff, was lethal.

"Alert Estee Lauder," Vic said coolly. "Come on Brian, let's get something to eat. Nice to see you, Sean."

"Later, Sean," Brian said, giving the vile little weasel a fond farewell gaze and also glancing one last time at the ferret. Vic slipped an arm around his waist and Brian bumped shoulders with him in that casual way boys showed clumsy affection for someone.

"Vic old boy," Vic thought to himself. "You are so fucked. This is getting away from you. You're jealous of a waiter. A kid not much older than Brian. Get a grip." They bought a variety of food and found two seats together at the picnic tables set up on the perimeter of the activity for this purpose. A group of rainbow-colored balloons grazed Brian's back and the man holding them grinned at him as he walked by.

"Sorry, hot stuff. Want to go set these free with me?"

"I'm with him," Brian said simply and Vic glared at the man who cruised his boy.

"So trade up," the young hunk invited and Brian frowned.

"That's just RUDE."

"I love it when you pout, you sexy thang!"

"Go away," Brian was bored with him and the man glared at him.

"Ok, Lolita Boy, but you're missing something a hell of a lot hotter than your mama, there."

Vic grabbed Brian's arm as he started to stand, forcing him back down with great effort. "Not worth it!" Vic insisted, and Brian finally relaxed. The balloon man moved on.

"Baby, you can't let them bait you," Vic said with a patient smile. "They do it to get a reaction. Don't give it to them. Nothing is more annoying to a bully than cool disinterest. Fags won't be the only ones who bait you. So will straights, trying to get you to admit you're queer or to shame you. Don't ever crack under that kind of intimidation or you play right into their hands."

Brian smiled at him as he finished another hot dog. "You should teach ‘How to be a Fag 101'," he teased.

"I want you to be the best faggot you can be, Brian. We need good faggots in your generation to replenish the ground left open by those we lost from my generation."

"I promise to be an exemplary queer."

Vic laughed. "Give me your right wrist."

Brian extended his hand and Vic whipped a bracelet out of his pocket and fastened it on Brian's wrist. It was made from dark twine and tan cowry shells with a simple knot and loop fastener. He saw Brian admiring it earlier when he was looking at African jewelry. Brian threw his arms around Vic's neck as if the man had just given him a diamond cuff from Cartier's.

"Thank you , Vic! I love it! How did you know?"

"I saw your face when you tried it on. You glowed. You had to have it."

Brian kissed him firmly on the lips, oblivious to the crowds and then whispered, "I love you, Vic."

Vic winced, thrilled and frightened by that declaration. "Honey, that's not true."

"Yes it is," Brian said solemnly. "I've never said it to anyone else and I never will."

"Baby," Vic touched his face sweetly. "You don't know what you're saying. Come on, it's getting dark. Let's start back."

"But it is true," Brian said to himself, disappointed by Vic's continuing dismissal of his declaration.

V. WEEK FIVE.

The three men were slightly uncomfortable as they undressed in Vic's bedroom, but the excitement was palpable. Brian's first official three-way was about to begin. He had been with more than one man at once in the backrooms of various clubs, but that wasn't the same as a ménage a trios with his lover, in the comfort of the bed they shared. They agreed on Sean as their third, and Sean was only too eager to accommodate. Vic saw no reason to deny Brian's obvious attraction to the kid.

The two younger men stretched out on either side of Vic, their hands roaming his body while they leaned across his torso and kissed. Vic had both the visual pleasure of these two young beauties, one light, one dark, to entice him, but also the proximity of their naked bodies and the touch of their hands. It didn't take long until the game progressed and they were ready for a drive to the goal line. Vic saw how this one was working out. He would pork the blond, and Brian would fuck Vic, making Vic the meat in this boy-sandwich. He handed out condoms and Sean laughed.

"Lets go bareback."

"No," Brian said firmly. "It's this way or not at all."

"My BABY!" Vic said with a smile, thrilled to see that lesson had been learned. The hospice visit had made an impression. The action began and when it was over, they found interesting ways to fellate each other along with other games for three. They eventually fell asleep with Brian spooning Vic and Sean sleeping on his back, a fallen angel. By morning, Sean was gone and Vic was the last up, finding Brian sitting alone in the main room, watching Bugs Bunny and eating cereal. Vic kissed him on top of the head and Brian looked up at him and smiled.

"Lazybones."

"Hey, I'm old. You two wore me out. You want a real breakfast?"

"Pancakes?" Brian asked hopefully and Vic smiled.

"Why not?"

Brian wandered into the kitchen, sitting on the counter as he watched Vic work. He had pulled on his cutoffs but nothing else. Vic wondered how he would be able to get along without this lanky kid in his face all day and night, enchanting him, exciting him, filling him with emotion. Brian was as smart as he was beautiful, and as sexy as any ten men twice as experienced. He should have to register with some governmental agency as a warning to those who cross his path.

"I figured it out," Brian said brightly.

"Figured what out?" Vic responded, adding eggs to his shopping list. He had never seen food disappear so fast from his fridge. And looking at Brian, he wondered where it went. Not to fat, that was for sure.

"I'll just enroll in a high school here. I can still work part time and I can live with you. No reason for me to finish school in the Pitts."

"Honey, I'm not your guardian. If you got sick or hurt or anything, what would I do? And what about your soccer?"

Brian shrugged. "I'd miss it, but they have these unofficial teams that play in the park here, so I could probably play with them, just because I love the game. And I'm not gonna get sick. I never get sick. And if I do, I can still be on my Dad's insurance, can't I?"

"And how do we explain this arrangement to your parents? You think they'd let you stay here if they thought we were fucking? No. They would probably try to arrest me, if not for the fact seventeen is legal here and in Pennsylvania."

"We don't tell them that. We just explain I want to stay here. Why wouldn't it work?"

"The public schools here are dangerous, Brian. And we couldn't afford a private school."

"I'm not afraid of that. The public schools in the Pitts aren't that great either."

Vic paused and placed the wire whisk in the batter as he walked over to Brian and rested his hands on his thighs. "I can't be your boyfriend, Brian."

"You already are."

"Just for one brief little vacation from reality. But long term, no. You're too young. I wish you were older, had already lived your life, seen things, been hurt, outgrown it, because then I would grab you and never let you go. But you're not. You would resent me someday because I took all of your youth when you never had the chance to fully explore the world and your place in it."

"But we DO that, Vic. Like you said, we aren't straight, we don't play by the monogamy rule. I AM learning about myself. We can still be together while I learn."

"It doesn't work that way, Brian. Once you partner up, it becomes more difficult to do these things. You and I both become more possessive and jealous. I don't want you to feel from age 17 on, you had to come home every night, you couldn't go to Miami with a new love interest, your future was set in concrete. All the doors have to be open for you now, and if after you're all grown up and experienced, you still want a partner, come knock on my door."

Brian sucked in his lower lip, something he did when feeling stressed. "When we're both ancient?"

"I'm ancient to you right now, Brian. To the real world, I'm still a young man."

"Vic, I don't want all those experiences. I just want you. I want to stay here. I want our life."

"Baby, you don't know what you want yet. Fucking is what's real and honest and clean. Emotions are murky and confusing and intense. Explore fucking, get solid with all that, and let the emotional burdens come much later. When you're better equipped to sort them out."

"You just don't love me, that's what you really mean," Brian pouted, and Vic sighed.

"I wish it were that easy. I adore you, Brian. I love you so much, I won't let you bind yourself to me. Not now. Because I can see the future of such a commitment, even if you can't. It's too soon."

Brian rolled his tongue along his inner jaw, struggling not to let the tears that glistened in his eyes break free. His handsome, vulnerable face assumed a hard caste. "Fine," he said with a cool finality he didn't feel. "Whatever. I'm going to watch cartoons. Let me know when the pancakes are ready."

"Brian..." Vic reached for him, but Brian eluded his touch and escaped to the main room. Vic sighed, wondering how he was going to handle this with a minimum of damage to them both.

VI. WEEK SIX

Brian had to work on a day Vic was off, a fact that annoyed him greatly. They didn't have much time, and more precisely, Brian didn't have many days left to convince Vic to let him stay and to be his partner. He resented wasting a whole day apart from each other. He ran up the stairs, despite his fatigue, and entered the flat. He heard Dave Brubeck on the stereo. He smiled, knowing what that meant. Vic liked to fuck to jazz. He would be waiting for him, with candles and open arms. Brian began to peel off his clothes as he crossed the main room and was wearing only his jeans as he opened the door to the bedroom. The candles were there, Vic was naked, horny, but he was not alone. Brian froze in the doorway. He looked from Vic to the other man, someone Brian didn't know, a butch top, close to Vic's age.

"What...?" he asked, even though he knew the answer. Vic's smile was cool.

"Hi, honey. Join us?"

Brian felt like he had just been kicked. They didn't do this, fuck other men without the knowledge and assent of the other. In the bed they shared, their place to be intimate and loving. Another man, and he showed absolutely no remorse at being caught. He even asked Brian to join in. Brian backed out of the doorway, gathered his discarded clothes and ran from the apartment. When he heard the door slam, Vic winced.

"A little young, isn't he? Hot though," the other man said and Vic glared at him.

"Get dressed and get out."

"Whatever, man. Couples are so boring."

Vic said nothing, closing his eyes as he waited for the man to leave him alone. The look on Brian's face would haunt Vic forever. The raw pain, the betrayal, the confusion. But he had to do it. He had to push him out of the nest, or Brian would be miserable when he went home, and probably run away again. And he may as well learn early that love had a dark side and the fall could be greater than the bliss. He winced as tears welled up, realizing how much he would miss this beautiful boy who had so enhanced his life. Wishing there were another way. Unable to figure out what it was.

Brian left New York City a little earlier than planned. Vic accompanied him to Penn Station where he was to board the train home, and they sat silently on a bench as they waited, like two complete strangers. Brian had gone cold, a defense mechanism he would use over and over in life. He stared straight ahead, waiting. When Vic tried to talk to him, he was monosyllabic, and tense. They finally called his train, and the two men stood, gathering up Brian's new luggage, two soft-sided duffels.

"Thanks for your hospitality," Brian thrust out his hand, and Vic knocked it aside, pulling him into his arms as the bags dropped to the floor.

"I know you hate me now, Brian, but someday you'll look back and thank me. I did this out of love. I adore you, baby. I always will."

Brian balled Vic's shirt in his fists as he held tightly to him, pressing his face to his neck. "Don't make me go," he whispered in a desperately controlled voice and Vic sighed.

"You have to go, honey. You have to live your life. I just hope I've given you some guideposts to help you do so."

Brian freed himself of the embrace, his tears flowing freely, if silently, as he forced a wry smile. "Oh yeah, Vic. I've learned one lesson really well. Love sucks and it's all about sex."

"Brian, please..."

"I told you I loved you and you threw it back at me like yesterday's trash. The fact is I did love you, Vic. You wasted something that could have been wonderful because of your image of what I should want and what I should be. Maybe you're right, I don't know. I do know I won't make this mistake again."

"Brian, the timing made it impossible."

"Not if you cared enough to work at it. But you didn't. You didn't love me enough to try. Bye, Vic. Thanks again. For everything."

Vic watched him go, fighting the urge to run after him and pull him into his arms and take him home. He sat down heavily on the bench, waiting until the train left the station, waiting long after it was gone, waiting for someone who was never coming back.

EPILOGUE

Fourteen years later.

Vic was feeling pretty good for a change. He even got dressed, leaving behind the old flannel robe and pajamas as he fixed breakfast in his sister's kitchen and forced down his usual cocktail of toxic drugs. He went out to retrieve the mail, and found a letter from England addressed to him. Brian. He smiled and went inside to avoid the cold, pleased that Debbie was at work so he could read it in peace. The first couple of paragraphs made him laugh, telling of Brian's shopping adventures in London. And then he read:

"Vic, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a green seventeen year old kid showed up bleeding on your doorstep. You took him in and you taught him a bunch of lessons about life. It ended badly, with hurt feelings and misunderstandings. You know, I carried that failure with me for a long time. I lived up to my word, and never fell into that love trap again while I did all the things you predicted I would do.

And then, years later, a seventeen year old kid showed up in my life. And suddenly I understood. I knew why you couldn't tie me down. I understood the desire to see the kid grow and experience life and become fully realized. I even understood why you let me come home to find that other man with you, after I was too thick to respond to your gentler hints to get the fuck on with my life.

I understood all that, because suddenly I was in your shoes. And I did the same thing, I pushed him out the same way. For his own good. Because I love him. And shazam....I realized that was what you did for me. And why. And I felt your pain just as I feel my own pain, now, from the other side of the sheets. I just wanted to tell you this, because I think it's always hung between us, even though we made peace long ago. I forgive you, Vic. I see now how much you must have loved me, and I want to thank you for that. For all of your kindness. You were right. I hope I'm right too. But it really hurts, doesn't it? I'm sorry if I caused you this much pain.

Finally, when I told you I loved you, I meant it. At least as much as any kid that age can mean it. It felt real to me. And except for platonic love for Mikey and Lindsay or paternal love for Gus, I've never said that to any other man, not even Justin. I do love him, of course, but I can't put it out there. The timing is all wrong.

Those six and a half weeks in the summer will always be among the most wonderful weeks of my life. Thank you for being my friend, my lover, my mentor. If there is ever anything I can do for you, well, you know where I live.

I guess this pretty much says it all. See you soon.

Love, B."

Vic removed his glasses to wipe the tears from his eyes. He carefully folded the letter over, slipping it in his pocket. This was one piece of mail his snoopy sister could never see. His fingers brushed his money clip and he took it out, smiling as he ran his thumb over the engraved B on the back. Michael asked him once why there was a B on the clip, and Vic replied that a friend whose name began with a B gave it to him for his birthday, once.

"Nice friend," Michael concluded.

Vic smiled now as he remembered that remark. Nice friend indeed.

THE END

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