The Phantom speaks: I've resumed digging. Bobby Gant was a nice diversion, but I still have the main goal in mind. This time I pop up in a chaotic mess of a trailer, with Moby blasting on the sound system and the smell of pizza lingering in the atmosphere. "Dude!" Randy Harrison greets me with a smile. THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD, I think to myself, recalling all those love scenes he's filmed with The Gale. He's small, beautiful, blond. I regard him with the suspicion of one blond twink towards another. He seems less threatened. "Why did you hang up on Gale?" "I dropped the call! It wasn't deliberate, damn cellular company!" "He thought you did." "NOOO, please tell him I was devastated." Randy laughs, "Whatever, dude. What's your deal with Gale anyway? He's not interested." "I just want to meet him and tell him I admire his work." "Yeah, right," Randy said with a knowing smirk. Uh-oh, this guy can see right through me. "Have a seat," Randy invited. "We need to talk." (To be continued....)
Last week on Transitions:
Justin has words with Michael. Trevor and Brian go clubbing and Brian brings home a trick. When Trevor reacts negatively, Brian leaves with the trick. The next morning, when he comes back to Trevor's house, alone, Trevor is cool to him. Brian tries to seduce Trevor to win him back. The episode ended with Brian asking Trevor "yes or no" as to whether or not he wants Brian to blow him.
Trevor could no longer resist the lure of Brian's hot sexuality. Brian smiled and reached out to touch the tip of his tongue to Trevor's erection, when Trevor added, "Make love to me, Brian."
Brian flashed back to the first time he had sex with Justin following the bashing. Brian's first attempt to bed Justin failed, because Justin was unable to go through with it. But it was Justin who initiated the next round, a few days later. In the dark quiet of the loft, Justin kissed him, recalled how Brian tried to warn him that he was about to get bashed by Hobbs, calling out his name in the garage, and then he asked Brian to make love to him.
"Are you sure?" Brian had responded, and Justin had said he was sure. They had make love. They had made love in a way Brian had never experienced before, full of gentle tenderness and the delicacy of two people who fully understood what the other person wanted and needed.
Brian sat back on his haunches, resting his forehead against Trevor's knee. "I can't," he whispered softly. "I can't do it. I like you too much, Trev. You can't be just a trick to me, and yet I'm still so conflicted about Justin. I don't understand exactly what we can mean to each other."
Trevor sighed, torn between frustration and relief. He covered himself up, zipped his fly, and rested his hand on the back of Brian's head, drifting his fingers through his silky hair. "Thank you, Brian."
Brian looked up at him, his expression tormented. "For what? Stiffing you?"
"For admitting that I have some value to you beyond a sexual experience."
Brian stood, paced over to the fireplace, leaning an elbow on the mantle as he stared into the flames. "I haven't let anyone new get in since I met Justin. And before Justin, Mikey. I don't do that easily or glibly, Trevor. You see where it got me with Justin. My instincts were right."
"Do you really believe that, Brian?"
"Yeah, I think I do. Pain for him, physical and emotional, pain for me, emotional, and where did it get us? I fail to see the improvement in my life."
"Not now, not while you're on the slippery slope of depression and healing. But when things were good, was anything better?"
He shrugged, flashing on how he felt during that dance at the prom, the most romantic moment of his life. "It just makes the fall that much harder to overcome."
Trevor walked over to Brian, slipping an arm around his waist. "You're not a coward, Brian. You're very brave. And it takes a brave man to give in to love. Because the dark side is always looming on the fringes. You want to know what I think? I think you will get over this. I think you're in transition right now, moving from being in love with Justin to loving Justin without being IN LOVE with him. And when that transition is complete, I'll be waiting."
Brian reached over and kissed him gently. "If you're correct, and I have to tell you, it sure doesn't feel that way from here, I won't jump right into it again, Trevor. If I was gun shy before, I'm a paranoid maniac about it now."
"Brian, I don't mean this as an insult to Justin, from everything you've said he's very bright and I know he's very beautiful, but he's a kid. Love with a man who shares so many of your life experiences is not the same. I think you'd find the differences to be a vast relief."
Brian shook his head slightly. "What you don't understand is that emotionally I'm younger than Justin. I was an absolute virgin, emotionally, before I met him. We lost our cherries together. I love Mikey and Linds and a couple others, but not like that. Not romantically. He was the first beyond some adolescent crushes when I was learning how the whole thing worked."
"You know what you need right now?"
"A bullet to the brain?"
"A steam. Let's go to my club, have a nice workout, a steam and a massage. Then we'll hit some of those shops you want to visit. May as well help the old economy of Britannia. Come on, let's change into workout clothes."
"Trev," Brian said as they went upstairs, grasping his hand gently to stop him. Trevor looked over his shoulder at him, his expression quizzical. "Thanks."
"Don't forget, Brian. I've been there."
Brian nodded, resuming his climb.
Scene 2: Ethan's apartment.
Justin was disappointed to come home from his classes and find he had no email from Brian. He was feeling antsy, uneasy and he knew part of it was from an inability to sleep the night before. He left his computer and went to stretch out on the bed. At least Ethan was in school, so he didn't have to worry about any sexual demands. When they were together the night before, Justin closed his eyes and remembered a particularly hot session with Brian, when he came to New York to bring Justin back after he ran away. That memory fueled his participation, because he found it so difficult to be intimate with Ethan after the beating.
The cat came over and Justin cuddled with this purring ball of fur, quickly drifting into an exhausted sleep. He hadn't been sleeping long when Ethan entered the apartment and smiled at the image of his beautiful blond lover and his cat cuddled together in repose. He started to undress and join them, when he noticed the screensaver on Justin's computer was floating. It was a montage of Justin's artwork scrolling and floating and fading, one into the next. Curious, he hit enter and the screen returned to the last viewed window, which just happened to be Justin's email. Ethan had never been able to read Justin's emails because he didn't know his password. Now, he needed no password. He was already in.
He scrolled the list, picking up the last received email, which was from someone called "Studley1". It was a response to an email from Justin, so Ethan could read both the outgoing and the incoming messages. He frowned as he read, "Hi, before going to bed, I just want to thank you for talking to me tonight. Sex was never the problem with us, was it? Communication was. This was really, really nice to communicate. I wish you weren't so far away. I feel...I don't know how I feel. It just doesn't seem right for you to be so far away. Have fun seeing London today! Don't forget my beefeater! Justin"
Studley1 responded: "I won't forget and yeah, it was nice. Brian."
Ethan leaned back, smiling coldly. After a brief pause, he began to scroll through the computer to see what else he might find.
Justin awoke to the pungent aroma of cooking food. He saw Ethan at a very unlikely place, standing before the double hot plate that was their stove, stirring a large pot of spicy smelling brew.
"Wake up, sleepyhead?" he asked brightly and Justin smiled, pleased that Ethan appeared to be in a good mood. He glanced at the clock, surprised to see that he had napped for over two hours.
"I must have been really tired. What are you cooking?" He leaned over his shoulder, but Ethan waved him back.
"It's a surprise."
"It smells like chili."
"It is chili. Your favorite."
"I thought you didn't like chili."
"I don't. Can't I do something nice just for you?"
Justin beamed at him and kissed his cheek. This was why he chose to be with Ethan. This was the real Ethan, not that moody, sometimes violent tempered evil twin of Ethan's. He was sweet and romantic, and showed him how he felt. "When will it be ready?"
"I think you could have a bowl now. Are you game? I don't claim to be a great cook, but I followed the recipe on the seasonings package and I tried. Give me points for that." His insecurity was endearing. Justin smiled and retrieved some crackers, sitting down as Ethan filled a bowl and handed it to him. He watched expectantly while Justin blew on the hot mixture and then put a spoonful in his mouth. He winced at the heat, both from the temperature and from the spices. Ethan handed him a cold beer, to wash it down, and Justin drank gratefully from the bottle as Ethan opened one for himself.
"Well?" Ethan asked and Justin smiled slightly. He found it hard to describe the flavor. The spices were familiar, if overdone, and the texture was right, but it had an aftertaste that was slightly bitter. The texture was tangy against his tongue. He would have stopped at one bite, but he didn't want to hurt Ethan's feelings. He managed to eat half the bowl before he complained that it was too much after a big lunch, and he would have more later. Ethan laughed.
"You're a good sport. It sucks, right?"
"No! Well..." Justin winced and to his surprise, Ethan took it well.
"Oh well, at least I tried." He emptied the bowl into a plastic trash sack along with the rest of the chili and asked Justin to clean up the mess while he took the trash out to keep it from stinking up the apartment. Justin ate several crackers to calm his stomach and finished his beer before tackling the pot and bowl, gladly obliterating the last remains of Ethan's experiment.
Scene 3: London, La Pont de la Tour
La Pont de la Tour, French for the tower bridge, was a chic restaurant with an unparalleled view of the Victorian Tower Bridge. The Bridge was lit at night, and the river traffic, complete with running lights and a few party barges, added to the festive appearance. Following a perfectly prepared Continental meal, Brian and Trevor indulged in a specialty of the restaurant, fine cigars. They ordered a fine brandy with their cigars and they smoked as they recounted their day.
"I realize one of those teddy bears dressed as a beefeater is for your son, but admit it, Brian. The other is for you. A little companion to dress up your flat," Trevor teased.
Brian laughed. "I'll never tell. Maybe I just have a thing for beefeaters."
"Doubt it, as they are traditionally retired military, a bit long in the tooth for your tastes. Did you enjoy dropping a bundle on the British economy today?"
"I did. I was a little disappointed in Harrods. The food halls were incredible, and the store itself is beautiful, but the crowds made it unbearable."
"I warned you."
"I had to get those fucking bath salts for Lindsay."
"You're a good friend."
Brian winced. "It's self protection against nagging."
"Sure it is. That's why you also got that special soap for her lover, the apron that says Harrods and a Harrods' tote bag for Debbie, the Burberry scarves for Ted and Emmett and that beautiful cashmere sweater for Vic. We won't even mention what you paid for that silly comic book for Michael."
"No, let's not."
"Like I said, you're a good friend. But the black lace nightie...explain that one."
Brian looked sheepish. "It's for Cynthia."
"I see. Your non-mistress. You always buy sexy lingerie for your staff?"
"You've seen her pajamas. I figured she could use the help with your boy Josh."
Trevor laughed. "If Cyn and Josh are still an item by the time we return, she won't need your help. I told you he's a dog. He never lingers long with any bitch. And I mean bitch in canine terms, not pejoratively."
"It's pejorative either way," Brian said with a laugh. "Anyway, don't forget, I got my mother that Burberry trench coat, which she does NOT deserve. But most of all, I got Brian some things, didn't I? Hand tailored suit, shirts, that cashmere pullover, the long cashmere scarf and cashmere lined leather gloves, the boots, the antique watch, the leather jacket, that belt and a pair of Doc Martens. I think I did pretty well for myself."
Trevor held up his brandy globe to toast him and they touched glasses as Brian's mobile rang. He apologized and flipped it open, still amazed by the technology that allowed his world phone to be reached almost anywhere. "Brian."
"Sorry to bother you, kid. Is it the middle of the night there?" Vic's voice cut into Brian like a knife as he anticipated the worst.
"It's fine, Vic. What's happened?"
"Don't panic, everything is under control, but I wanted you to know."
"Know what?" Brian said tensely.
"Justin's in the hospital."
"Again? Why? Is he hurt?"
"No, Brian, it's nothing like that. It's food poisoning."
Brian sighed, strangely relieved that it was a common malady. "Serious?"
"He was one sick puppy, still is, but it's under control. They want to keep him overnight to hydrate him and watch him."
"So, are they finally closing the diner?" Brian said half-jokingly and Vic laughed.
"It's not the diner. Apparently the boys cooked some chili using meat that was off. You'd think they'd know when hamburger has lost its bloom, but they're young and green. Well, Justin is REALLY green right now."
"So Ethan got it too?"
"No, apparently he's not a chili eater."
Brian paused. "Only Justin ate it?"
"Yes, but to his credit, Ethan has been here at the hospital with him, and was really sweet through some pretty nasty moments."
Brian sighed. So much for wanting to talk to Justin, to tell him he was sorry he was ill. "Good."
"Should I not have called, Brian?"
"You absolutely should have called! When you can get Justin alone, tell him I'm sorry he's sick and to smell the meat the next time."
"I'll pretend not to hear the sexual connotation to that remark."
Brian laughed. "True. Maybe you should clean it up a little. Vic, will you call me tomorrow and let me know how he is?"
"Sure I will. Don't you worry, now. He's well taken care of, his mom is here too."
Brian snapped the phone shut and explained the conversation to Trevor, who winced. "I had food poisoning in Egypt once. I prayed for death, but the good news is, twenty-four hours or so and it's over."
"Yeah, when I was ten, I got some bad potato salad at a picnic. I have never puked so much in my life. Since that day I'm picnic and potato salad adverse."
"I can top that. I won't go back to Egypt."
They both laughed and then Brian sighed. "Justin is usually such a picky cook. He buys stuff the same day he plans to cook it, because he likes it fresh. He doesn't even like to freeze meat. Oh well. Vic says he'll be fine."
"Why don't you phone him?" Trevor suggested, reaching across the table to cover Brian's hand with his. Brian noticed the man and woman one table over, an attractive couple close to his own age, glared at Trevor in disgust. Faggots, he was sure they were thinking. Brian's resentment flared and he leaned across the table to kiss Trevor on the lips. Trevor smiled, surprised.
"What was that for?"
"Because I wanted to kiss you." He glared at the couple, who looked away.
Trevor laughed. "I'm English. We don't kiss in public."
Brian smiled. "I can't call him. Ethan's with him, which is how it should be."
"Quite right. Shall we go?"
Brian nodded, slipping an arm around Trevor's waist as they walked past the disapproving couple.
Scene 4: Pittsburgh General Hospital
Justin shifted uncomfortably in the unforgiving hospital bed. A line fed saline solution or glucose or embalming fluid or something into his arm. Another fed an anti-nausea drug. At first, they wanted him to vomit, as if he had a choice. They explained that the vomiting and diarrhea would rid him of his toxins that much faster. He had no idea one fairly small body could contain so many vile fluids. When the pain and the cramping and the hurling were at their peak, he just wanted to die. Now that the pain was controlled, his fever contained and his body had emptied everything in his digestive system, he wanted to sleep, feeling completely exhausted. But for some reason, sleep wasn't forthcoming. Something was bothering him.
He turned his head to focus on his mother, who was napping in the recliner in the corner. Ethan perched on the ledge, with a pillow against his back, sound asleep. "Ethan," Justin said softly, not wanting to wake Jennifer. "Ethan!"
Ethan awoke and walked over to him, offering him a cup of crushed ice. Justin rejected it with a grimace. He wanted no incoming, not even something as innocuous as melted water off of ice. Ethan sat on the edge of his bed, gently massaging Justin's stomach over his hospital gown. "Still hurt?"
"A little sore. Can I ask you something?"
"That hamburger meat..."
Ethan winced. "Don't make me feel worse than I already do. I was an idiot. But with my allergies, you know I can hardly smell anything."
"I'm not trying to make you feel bad, Ethan, but remember, just the other day, we were laughing about how we needed to clean out the fridge?"
Ethan shrugged. "So?"
"I said the lettuce was liquefied and you said the ground beef looked like a block of gray cement."
"What are you getting at?"
"We never did clean it out. But remembering how gross everything looked, how could you not know that meat was bad?"
"Are you suggesting I deliberately made you sick?"
"Who would do a thing like that?" Ethan appeared genuinely hurt. "And why? Is there some reason I would want to hurt you? Something you've kept from me? Something you've lied about?"
Justin immediately thought of Brian. Was there anything that happened with Brian that could make Ethan mad? Hell, Brian wasn't even in the country! Just those computer messages and Ethan had no clue how to get into Justin's password protected files, including his email. And yet Ethan had that slightly manic look, the narrowing of his eyes and flattening of his lips that suggested extreme jealousy. "No, but..."
"You wouldn't lie to me after our last conversation, would you, Justin? You promised me you wouldn't. You promised me you wouldn't be in contact with Brian. You haven't been, have you?"
Justin felt rolling waves of nausea return as his fear mounted. "Tell me you didn't know the meat was spoiled, Ethan."
"Justin!" Jennifer scolded him as she was awakened by their voices. "What a terrible thing to say! Ethan is the one who forced you to go to the hospital, and he's been here through all the unpleasantness, helping you and worrying. Why would you even say such a thing? Anyone can make a mistake when cooking."
"It's okay, Mrs. Taylor," Ethan said with a studied sad expression. "I know he isn't thinking clearly and after all, it is my fault. I meant to do something nice, and instead I poisoned him."
"Honey," she slipped her arm over Ethan's shoulders. "We know you didn't mean to make Justin sick. He's just so out of it right now with all the drugs and the shock to his system. He'll be fine. Why don't you go home? I'll spend the night with him."
"You want me to stay, Justin?" Ethan asked, and Justin shook his head, no. He was so confused that he didn't know what he wanted or what he believed. Ethan kissed his forehead, said he would be back in the morning with clean clothes for Justin to wear home and waved goodbye to his mother.
"He's such a sweet boy," Jennifer said softly. "So caring, and so unlike...well..."
"Brian? You can say it, Mom. So unlike Brian!"
"Yes, alright, so unlike Brian."
Justin turned his head to the side, away from her, not wanting to hear any more about it.
Scene 5: Chelsea
Brian was feeling good about the day and the evening. He and Trevor had avoided a big mistake and they seemed to be even closer friends because of it. They had "faggoty fun" as Brian put it, shopping all day, and the dinner was perfect. The news about Justin was scary, but Vic's subsequent phone call reassured him the boy was better, and would go home in the morning. Brian kissed Trevor goodnight in a friendly way at the top of the stairs of the townhouse and went to his own room. He was planning to check emails and go to bed early. He logged on and was surprised when the "blondbrat" icon flashed.
Justin: Brian? Is that you?
Brian: Hey, boy. I thought you were spending the night at the hospital. What are you doing online?
Justin: Who told you?
Justin: Of course, the meddling old queen!
Brian: Hey! That's Uncle Vic you're talking about here!
Justin: What else did he tell you?
Brian: Just that you were puking up your toenails. Didn't I tell you how to separate good meat from bad? LOL!
Justin: You taught me all about YOUR meat.
Justin: What's wrong? Shy?
Brian: Shit, did they give you some good drugs or something?
Justin: I can't be hot with you?
Brian: After what you went through, I doubt if you could be hot at a bonfire.
Justin: Want to test me?
Brian: I want you to get some rest. You sound weird.
Justin: Sorry, I didn't realize how delicate you are.
Brian: Yeah, that's me. Delicate.
Justin: A delicate slut.
Brian: Huh? Now I'm a slut?
Justin: Do you deny it?
Brian: It's not the word I would choose to describe myself.
Justin: Oh yeah, you'd prefer STUD.
Brian: No, I'd prefer faggot. LOL!
Justin: Fucking everything that breathes doesn't make you a stud, Brian. It makes you PATHETIC.
Brian: Shit, what is WRONG with you? You barf up your brain?
Justin: YOU are what's wrong with me! You won't leave me alone! You won't give me a chance to be happy with Ethan!
Brian: You're obviously tired or stressed or something so I think we should say good night.
Justin: Why don't we just say GOODBYE and mean it this time!
Brian: Okay, then. Goodbye, Justin.
Justin: Go fuck yourself, Brian.
Trevor looked up as Brian leaned in the doorway of his bedroom. Trevor was reading in bed, and he closed his book when he saw Brian's expression. "What's wrong?"
"May I come in?"
Brian stretched out beside Trevor on his bed, snuggling tightly against his body, desperate for a friendly touch. Trevor soothed him by stroking his fingers through his hair. He waited for Brian to speak.
"Can food poisoning make you psycho?"
"I don't believe so. Why? Did you talk to Justin?"
"On the computer."
"I see. Perhaps it's the drugs...a reaction. What did he say?"
"For one thing, he told me to fuck myself."
"Why do that when you have so many volunteers?"
Brian almost smiled. "Seriously, it was so weird."
"You fought with him?"
"I wouldn't call it a fight. It was more bizarre than that."
"I'm sorry, Brian, but cut him some slack. He's just been through hell. His body is all messed up, his electrolytes are out of whack from the vomiting and he's probably on all kinds of drugs."
Brian raised himself on one elbow to stare at Trevor. "Saints aren't as good as you. Are you for real?"
"Pinch me and find out," he teased and Brian laughed. "Relax, Bri. Go put on your jammies and come back in and we'll watch dreadful British late night television together." Trevor switched on the television with a remote control.
"I have my jammies right here," Brian said, standing and methodically removing his clothes. When he was naked, he held his arms out and asked, "What do you think? Like them? It's what I sleep in."
"Very nice. Good fit, color looks great on you, perfect accessories," Brian laughed and slipped beneath the sheets with Trevor, letting go of the pain.
Scene 7: Ethan's apartment
Ethan smiled as he signed off Justin's computer. Brian Kinney, the smooth operator, wasn't so smooth tonight, was he? Not when his precious little boy suddenly showed his teeth. It was fun to pose as Justin and say exactly what he wished Justin would say to Brian. And the good thing was, Justin could never prove that he had done it. Some strange internet blip, Ethan would claim if it ever came up. After all, how would he know how to log on as "blondbrat" if he didn't have Justin's password?
He wrinkled his nose as he realized the small apartment still smelled of stale chili and fresh puke, even though he had scrubbed it all up. He opened a window, and sat on the window ledge, playing his violin to the delight of passersby below as he felt proud of his work for the day. He had taught Justin a subtle lesson. Like aversion therapy, every little punishment meted out when Justin drew close to Brian would eventually erode his feelings for the big lug. Soon, just the sound of Brian's name would make Justin ill. And he drove a stake into Kinney's cold heart.
All in all, a day well spent.
Next week on Transitions:
Justin goes home from the hospital. Brian and Trevor leave London.
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July 25, 2004