The Phantom speaks: Okay, this is getting old! I am so tired of ending up in the wrong place! And now I'm with....OH! Bobby Gant! UMMMMMM!!!! Bobby is pumping iron in his trailer. He is wearing shorts and nothing else. He didn't get that glorious torso without working on it! And glorious it is! "Hey!" he greets me with a big smile. His face reminds me of a friendly muppet, but a HOT one! His eyes are incredibly blue. "Hey yourself," I respond, taking in those six-pack abs. "You're kind of cute for a phantom," he says and I pick up on the cruise. "Uh, how long is your break?" "Long enough," he responds. The rest of this visit will be discontinued for reasons you are all too young to understand. Gale is going to have to wait for a little while...oh sweet mystery of life! Byeeeeee!
Last week on Transitions:
Brian and Trevor travel to London. Vic has dinner with Ethan and Justin and is forced to defend Brian against Justin's verbal attack. Brian and Justin later engage in a trans-Atlantic cyber chat.
Scene 1: Chelsea, Trevor's house.
Trevor waited until the last possible moment to wake Brian and still make their nine o'clock meeting. Trevor shook Brian's bare shoulders gently and when he sat up, Trevor offered him a steaming mug. Brian squinted at him and smirked.
"This had better not be tea," Brian grumbled and Trevor smiled.
"Have no fear. I've converted to the hard stuff."
Brian sipped some of the coffee, then stretched and asked, "How much time do I have?"
"I can do that. Meet you downstairs."
Trevor nodded and left. As Brian showered with a small hand held device in the too narrow shower stall, his annoyance at the lack of convenience was overwhelmed by his memory of the previous night's conversation with Justin.
While their disagreement at Torso still stung, maybe Brian had exaggerated its importance. He wondered if the lift he got from his infrequent contacts with Justin merely prolonged the agony of his own inability to let go.
Wrapped in a towel, after shaving, he turned on his laptop and dialed into the internet. Ostensibly, he was checking emails, but his true reason was to see if Justin had sent him anything. There was a message from "blondbrat" and he immediately hit it. Justin wrote:
"Hi. Before I go to bed, I just want to thank you for talking to me tonight. Sex was never the problem, was it? Communication was, so this was really, really nice. I wish you weren't so far away. I feel...I don't know. It doesn't feel right. Have fun seeing London today. Don't forget to bring me a beefeater! Justin."
Brian frowned, started to reply, then paused and went on to the next message, from Lindsay. Continuing with the ‘Gus speaks for Lindsay' theme, there was another picture of Gus. This time his voice balloon read, "Daddy, Mommy says hold onto your nasty old books until I'm 21 and go buy her those bath salts! Love, Gus". Brian smirked and responded: "Dear Gus, tell Mommy the Kinney men come into their own before 21 so the books will be needed earlier. She can get the same bath salts for half the price at Walmart. Love, Dad."
Michael sent a follow up: "Did you get my message about the episode of Captain Astro where he fights the Nazis? You didn't respond. I attached it again, just in case." Brian sighed. As usual, Michael presumed the fight they had where he accused Brian of abusing Justin was behind them now and they would just go on as before with no ill effect. He was probably right. Brian had too few people in his life who mattered to him to be able to shuck Mikey just because he showed his usual bad judgment. When it came to overlooking Mikey's tirades, Brian was an old pro.
Brian wrote: "Mikey, I got it. If I have time, I'll go over and look for it. Yes, you can owe me for the five hundred, but my interest rates are usurious. (Look it up. LOL!) Brian".
Impulsively, before signing off, Brian pulled up Justin's email and hit reply. He wrote, simply: "I won't forget and yeah, it was nice. Brian". He signed off and quickly dressed for the day.
Scene 2: Liberty Diner
Justin's mood had swung dramatically and it showed on his face as he slid into the booth with Emmett after brushing his cheek with his lips in greeting.
"Well, Sunshine, someone lit your happy buttons today!" Emmett said with a smile. "I take it Mr. Ethan Gold was a very good boy last night!"
Justin glanced down at the menu. He couldn't tell Emmett a single one of his three reasons for improvement. First, his physical pain was subsiding. Second, he had a pleasant chat session with Brian on the computer last night. Third, he was able to apologize for lashing out at Brian the way he did when they were at Torso. Why he did that to Brian was beyond his understanding. The attack seemed to come from nowhere, and he knew it was uncalled for even when he was saying it. "No, I just slept well," he said with a shrug. While true, it was far from the cause of his happiness. And he slept well only because the pain decreased and because he made peace with Brian.
"Justin, about what happened at Torso..."
Justin grimaced. "Can we forget it? I was just having a really bad day and I didn't expect to see Brian there. We've worked it out, I think. So just don't worry about it."
"Honey, I'm worried about YOU. I can't help but wonder if everything is..."
"FINE, Emmett. Everything is fine. Drop it."
"Dropped. So, have you heard from our boy since he hit jolly ol' England?" Emmett saw Justin's fair skin grow pink, and he wondered at his embarrassment.
"That's sweet. Mikey says he hasn't responded to his email. Is he having a gay old time?"
Justin continued to look uneasy. "Yeah, well, he just got there. Business mostly."
"I'm sure Brian will find time to play. It's a whole new hunting ground for him. You don't mind my saying that, do you, baby? Now that you and Brian are...kaput?"
Justin shrugged, not wanting to talk about Brian at all. Michael walked up to their booth and slid in beside Emmett. He was beaming. "I heard from Brian," he reported. "He sent me an email, said he would look for my comic. I guess he's over being mad at me."
"Why was he mad at you?" Justin asked and Michael sighed.
"Because of you."
"What about me?"
"I accused him of battering you and he blew up."
Emmett and Justin both looked shocked by that admission. "Why would you EVER think that?" Justin demanded.
"Just adding things up."
"Well your calculator is way off, Mikey! Brian would never hurt me, not physically, anyway. And given what he went through with his dad, which you know all about, I can see why he would be doubly offended by that accusation!"
Emmett nodded. "Brian's a lot of things, but violent? I've never seen it. Why would you say that to him?"
"Okay, I saw that bruise on your back, Justin. You've been acting really weird. It all makes perverse sense. I know now that I was wrong about Brian, and thank god for that. But something is going on, isn't it, Justin? With who? Ethan?"
Justin stood up, his face red with rage. "Shut up! Who the hell do you think you are, Michael? You were always interfering in every aspect of my relationship with Brian, trying to undermine what we felt for each other, and now you're even meddling in what I have with Ethan! What's your problem with me? It's not my fault Brian doesn't love you the way you want him to, or that he won't fuck you. Don't take it out on me! If you were really his friend, as you constantly remind me you are, then maybe you should have been working to help us make it together! For Brian to finally find some peace with someone, instead of working against us! What kind of friend would do that? Fuck you, Michael! Just stay the hell out of my life!" He ran from the diner, ignoring Debbie's call after him. She walked over to the booth and swatted Michael with a dishtowel.
"What did you say to Sunshine?"
Michael held up a hand to stop her. "Leave me alone, Mom."
"Justin is so high strung lately, Deb," Emmett said by way of explanation. "We never know what will set him off. I wonder what could be wrong?"
"Brian Kinney, that's what's wrong," Debbie said with a frown. "Brian Kinney is always what's wrong around here."
Scene 3, London : Tearoom at Fortnum and Mason's
Brian's idea of a "tearoom" was old fag slang for a backroom or bathroom or any out of the way place where cocks got sucked with surreptitious glee and the added element of fear of discovery. Gay rights had removed some of that old time horror and he often wondered if that fact was all good. The tearoom he entered that afternoon had no glory holes, bathroom stalls or dark staircases, but there seemed to be a fair contingency of faggots on the wait staff.
The elegant store, provisioner to the Royal Families for centuries, was a jumped up grocery store with all conceivable high end foodstuffs. Gift baskets and other treats cost as much as his airline ticket to travel here. The tearoom was on the mezzanine, and Brian greeted Shannon Rainer with a bus on the cheek before settling into the chair across from hers.
"How did your meeting go?" she inquired, and he smiled, noticing again that she had her brother's fair coloring and killer smile.
"Great. They loved me."
"An ego is a terrible thing to waste," she teased and he laughed.
"I know what I'm good at, Shannon and I'm good at what I do for a living."
"And everything else?"
He met her gaze. Definitely a shrink. "I'm a good pool player. I bowl like a pro. I play a mean game of tennis and have a five handicap at golf. Oh, I was an All American soccer player, too," he paused. "I've been told I'm not a bad fuck."
"Congratulations. I understand you have a son. Picture?"
Brian shook his head. "I'm not the picture in the wallet type."
She stared coolly at him. "If there's no picture of your son in your wallet, I'll buy your lunch. Otherwise, you buy mine."
Brian hesitated, and then shrugged. "I planned to buy yours anyway. I can put it on my expense account."
She laughed. "Share it. I'll show you mine," she produced a photograph of two young children. Both were platinum blondes, a boy and a girl.
He nodded. "Pretty. They look like you."
"You think so? Christopher looks just like Trev when he was small. Amanda is like me, I suppose. So...show me."
He sighed and reluctantly withdrew his wallet. He dug behind credit cards and looked to either side as if performing an illicit act as he handed her a small photo of Justin and Gus at Gus's birthday party. "He's a beautiful baby," she said softly. "And your son is handsome, too."
"He's older than he looks. Justin, that is."
She handed it back to him and he returned it to hiding. "I was surprised when you called me, Shannon. Not only that you asked me to lunch, but that you wanted to keep it secret from Trevor. Which wasn't easy to do. What's on your mind?"
The waiter interrupted, and they ordered their lunch, and then returned to their conversation. "Trev and I had the usual upper class English upbringing, Brian. Absentee but loving parents, raised by nannies, sent off to boarding schools at an early age. We've always relied on each other for emotional support. I got him through his coming out, he got me through my divorces. I love him very much and I think he's an all around swell guy."
"I think so too."
"Sure. What's this all about?"
"Justin, that beautiful blond boy? Is he your lover?"
"Yes, of course. Trev's shared some history with me. You're not together, and yet you're still in love with him."
"I never said that."
"I think it was inferred, Brian."
He became very interested in his pot of Prince of Wales tea, trying not to look at her. She had the psychiatrist's way of waiting him out. Finally he broke. "Why are we talking about my former boyfriend anyway? What business is it of yours?" Brian was blunt but polite.
"Trev is my business and he's positively smitten with you, Brian."
Brian stared at her in shock. He exhaled slowly. "Bullshit."
"Oh Brian, of course he is."
"We haven't even...I mean that once a long time ago, but...no. He's not."
"It's not always about sex, Brian. As a shrink, it's dangerous for me to make snap decisions about the mental state of someone I'm not even seeing professionally, but may I share my concerns with you? Based on what Trev has told me?"
"You had an emotionally and physically abusive childhood, is that accurate?"
"I never told Trevor that."
"You did, rather. You told him about your father and it's clear your mother neglected to rescue you. That is abuse."
He shrugged. "Ancient history."
"Perhaps, but it's the clay you were molded from, Brian. They put you on a sure route to addiction, because that is so often what happens to children who survive such a past. Your addiction of choice is sex. Armed with your beauty and brains and charm, you're well-equipped to fall into that trap."
Brian frowned. "I don't think my appreciation of sex makes me an addict."
"No, but your actions do. Numbers, multiple sexual experiences in a single day with multiple partners, a lack of emotional engagement, concentration on your own pleasure at any cost, the quick departure, no repeat business, an ever increasing need for validation through the easy conquest. Desperation to conceal the emptiness after the thrill drives you even more rapidly to the next thrill."
Brian frowned. Bingo. "Shrink speak."
"Sex addiction is a very real conflict, Brian. Again, I'm not treating you, so this is just my impression. And those tendencies are exacerbated by your suffering from acute post traumatic stress disorder."
"I don't have that. Why would I? Justin may have it, but I wasn't the one who got bashed."
"My guess is you both are sufferers, Brian. The victim and the bystander are often afflicted with the same reaction to the incident. This is particularly true if the victim and the bystander are emotionally involved. As the bystander, you feel guilt for being unable to prevent it and for not being the one who was damaged. And then, in the aftermath of the bashing, you're unable to help him recover. More frustration. Guilt over whether your actions somehow set up the situation in which he suffered. And all of that is heaped on your childhood insecurities and angst, as well as the homosexual guilt imposed by our society. It's a wonder you're functional, Brian."
He looked down, pushing around a finger sandwich on his plate, but making no move to eat it. She hit too close to the bone. He wasn't sure how to defend against her intuition. "I manage," he said softly.
"Is it getting progressively more difficult?" she asked gently. "Drinking more? Raging? Sex losing some of its narcotic effect?"
He nodded. She went on.
"Does it worry you?"
He nodded again.
She reached across the table and covered his hand with hers. "You need to get help, darling. You can't do this all on your own and there's no reason why you should. Help is available, and it doesn't make you less of a man or any weaker."
"Justin is the one who needs help," he said softly, not trusting his voice. "He's the one who suffered. He's the one."
"Of course he does, Brian. I have no doubt of that. But you've also suffered, and without the sympathy and understanding of those who comforted the victim."
"Sometimes I think he hates me."
"No, Brian. The victim often unreasonably blames the bystander for failing to prevent the act, even though there was nothing the bystander could do. And the victim resents that the bystander wasn't hurt in any way, even though their rational mind would be horrified to admit it. They are disgusted with themselves for being unable to defend themselves, even if it was impossible, and they feel vulnerable and exposed. It creates a terrible strain on a relationship. But this is treatable, Brian. He needs to get help immediately."
"So the two participants in a bashing can't ever put it together?"
"Of course they can, with help."
"A victim...wouldn't they run away from the chance that anyone else could abuse them physically?"
"Not necessarily. Often they feel worthless and powerless. As if they deserve the pain of abuse. They believe they're defenseless, after all. So they don't make waves. A PTSD patient is a perfect target for an abusive partner. And of course, the longer that continues, the more disassociated the victim becomes. It can ultimately lead to a complete shut down of the victim, emotionally, or at the opposite extreme, it can lead to an act of harsh, retaliatory violence. The proverbial ‘something just snapped' situation."
"Christ," he said with a grimace.
"Do you think Justin's being abused?"
"I don't know."
"Does he know you're still in love with him?"
"He doesn't know I was ever in love with him. I could never tell him that."
"Perhaps you should now. No pressure, just let him know he has a safe harbor if he needs one."
"Then help him find a neutral home, Brian. Somewhere he's safe while he works out his issues."
"He won't listen to me if I tell him to leave Ethan. We have too much baggage. Besides, I have no proof that Ethan did anything wrong."
"Then simply get Justin to go to a doctor. Can you encourage that?"
"Not directly, but maybe I can find someone who will."
"And Brian, get yourself to a doctor, as well. You don't have to suffer this way."
"Of course you are."
"Is this the part where you tell me to stay away from your brother?"
"No, this is the part where I ask you to be mindful of his strong feelings for you and ask that you not make him a third victim in this tragedy."
"I care about Trevor," Brian heard himself say words he seldom said about anyone. He knew he meant them in this case, as he had on the rare occasion he used them before.
"But not in the way he would like, Brian. He deserves so much more than being a number. If you can't have a relationship with him, don't start down that path."
"I don't make promises, Shannon."
"Then just acknowledge my concerns."
"I can give you names of eminent psychiatrists in your area, if you'd like."
"Maybe," he said, his appetite suddenly gone.
Scene 4: Chelsea, late that night.
Trevor was awakened by the sound of male laughter on the staircase of his house. He tied on his robe and walked out to the landing, glaring at Brian, who pressed a slim, handsome young man against the wall and kissed him hotly. The other man was fashionably attired and had the chiseled features and gold tipped hair of a model. Brian and Trevor went to some clubs earlier in the night, but Trevor was ready to go home just when Brian was hitting his stride. They separated amicably and Trevor promised to leave a key under the mat. He thought no more about it, never believing Brian would bring home a trick.
"What's this, then?" Trevor demanded and Brian smiled at him, his eyes glittering in that way that suggested disco drugs had been used.
"This is Pip, uh Parker, uh...what's your name again?"
"Piper," the young man replied. He glanced at Trevor. "So what are you? The trouble and strife?" Piper's use of Cockney rhyming slang for the word "wife" suggested his patrician good looks did not connote good breeding.
"Brian, may I have a word with you?" Trevor forced control. Brian left Piper seated on a stair as he walked up to Trevor and placed his hand on the back of his neck. Trevor stiffened and escorted him into his bedroom, closing the door. Once alone, he freed himself of Brian's embrace and said, "What were you thinking, bringing a trick here? To my home?"
"Piper's a big time fashion model here, Trev. Not some street hustler. We can share him if you want. I'm sure he'd be game."
"No, Brian. You're tweaked. I've told you how I feel about that."
"Christ, Trev, you're worse than my holier-than-the-pope mother! So I took a hit of E, so what? And I hooked up with a gorgeous model. Why not? You won't fuck me."
"I can't watch you self-destruct, Brian. I just can't."
"Fine," Brian opened the door and backed into the hallway. "Don't watch. Come on Piper, let's go to your place."
"Brian please..." Trevor said as Brian led Piper down the stairs by the hand.
"Please what?" Brian asked and Trevor sighed.
"Please grow up," he half-whispered as the other two men left the house, giggling together like schoolboys. "Wanker," Trevor said with a sigh as he locked the front door and engaged the alarm.
Scene 5: The next morning, Camden Loch, London.
Brian awoke in a drafty loft that bore little resemblance to his luxurious digs in Pittsburgh. This loft was still undergoing renovation from a place of business to a residence. The floors were cement, the walls, cinderblock. The high, exposed ceiling sucked all the heat out of the room. Narrow windows provided the only natural light and the bed he shared with two other men was just a mattress thrown on the floor. Even the bathroom was crude, with an oversized zinc basin, a urinal and toilet, and an open shower stall. The smell of the paint that was until recently manufactured here still hung in the atmosphere. Drips and dabs of bright colors had permanently pockmarked the floors.
Walking across the cold cement with his bare feet reminded Brian of ice skating without the skates, it felt so cold to his toes. He relieved himself at the urinal, moving from foot to foot to avoid the chill. He then went back to where the bed was and began separating his clothes from the jumble of discarded apparel strewn across the space. Both of the sleeping men were beautiful, the other as dark as Piper was fair. He seemed to recall the darker man was Piper's lover, also a model. Brian couldn't remember his name. Or the size of his dick. Or what the three of them did together. A gay man's wet dream, two beautiful male models, and he couldn't fucking remember it! Used condoms, tossed carelessly on the floor suggested there had been plenty of action. Some of the torn envelopes were the brand Brian used.
He dressed and pulled on his alpaca overcoat, leaving the loft and groaning as he realized he had to walk down three flights of steep stairs. No elevator was in sight. The glare of daylight penetrated his eyes to burn like lasers into his brain. Where the fuck was he? Oh yeah, London. But where? Not Chelsea, that was for damn sure. The buildings surrounding him were all low slung and industrial. Open spaces were taken up by vendors hawking wares from folding tables.
Most of the milling people were young, tattooed or pierced or both. A series of small lochs controlled the water flow into a narrow canal. This feature gave the area its name. Weird. Brian waved over a taxi and instructed the driver to take him to the Chelsea address.
When Brian arrived there, Trevor was in the drawing room, seated before the fire. He was neatly dressed and sipped coffee as he read the London Financial Times. He didn't even look up when Brian paused in the doorway.
"The silent treatment is a woman's weapon, Trev," Brian announced and Trevor responded without looking up.
"I don't know what you mean. There's hot coffee on the sideboard and help yourself to whatever you find in the kitchen."
Brian walked over and lifted the paper from his hands, then removed Trevor's glasses, carefully folding them and slipping them into Trevor's pocket. "I don't need another Michael in my life, Trevor. A judgmental and yet forgiving friend who is a mass of conflicts and resentment because I've fucked everyone but him. He resents the men I trick with and yet he wants more from me than I can give him. I don't know exactly what it is I want from you, but I know it isn't that."
"Don't you worry about it, Brian," Trevor said in an even tone of voice. "I told you if you can't straighten out your life, I won't stand by to watch you fail. Thus, don't be concerned about what underlies our relationship because I won't be around. "
Brian smiled and rested his hands on Trevor's shoulders. He let them glide down his arms, his torso, hooking them at his waistband as he dropped to his knees in front of him.
"What are you doing?" Trevor asked. "Stop it."
Brian moved his hands down Trevor's thighs, over his knees, pausing there to use his strength to pry his knees open in a wide stance. He quickly filled that gap between Trevor's legs with his body. Holding Trevor's gaze with his own, Brian delicately opened Trevor's fly.
"Stop," Trevor pleaded, his natural excitement competing with his common sense. He looked down at Brian's disheveled hair and stubbly face that was flushed from his own stimulation. Brian ran his tongue across his full, coral colored lips as he fished Trevor's penis out from under the cover of his trousers. He expertly rolled back his foreskin, using only his thumb and forefinger.
"Please, Brian, don't," Trevor moaned. Brian smiled slightly. His hazel eyes broadcasted a wicked gleam as he parted his lips just over the moist tip of Trevor's erection. Brian whispered a question only Trevor could answer, knowing how that answer could change everything between them.
"Yes or no?" Brian whispered, then waited for Trevor to respond.
Next week on Transitions:
Brian gets his answer from Trevor. Justin and Ethan hit a calm patch...or is it? Brian has a bizarre IM conversation with "blondbrat".
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July 25, 2004