The Phantom speaks: Randy offered me some cold pizza, which I politely declined. He is seriously cute, perfect skin, bluest eyes in the universe, great hair. SIGH. No wonder those love scenes with The Gale are so convincing! "Here's the drill," he says after cranking down the soundsystem. Bjork comes on in place of Moby, and she's singing Human Behavior. EEK! The Rage Party scene! I pretend not to notice. Must be cool. "You can't keep stalking Gale." "Stalking him? I can't even FIND him!" "That's the point. He doesn't like being stalked. Who does? Would you?" "Well..." he has a point. "Look, Randy, I mean him no harm. I just want to...tell him..." His expression is beyond sarcastic. "Look, Phantom, I KNOW why you want to meet him. Don't even shit me." Ugh. He knows too much. ( To be continued...)
Last week on Transitions:
Trevor says yes, but when he adds, "Make love to me, Brian" Brian flashes back to when he first made love to Justin following the bashing. This memory prevents Brian from going through with it. They are both relieved, after the initial disappointment. Ethan comes home and finds Justin napping. Justin left his computer on, and Ethan reads his email exchanges with Brian. When Justin awakes, he finds Ethan has made him some chili. It tastes funny. He later comes down with food poisoning. Apparently the chili meat was spoiled. Ethan admits nothing and Justin is unsure if it was deliberate. Ethan later IM's Brian, disguised as Justin, and says hateful things to him. Shocked and hurt, Brian seeks solace from Trevor.
Scene 1: Chelsea
Trevor winced when Brian stretched his long, smooth body next to his in the bed. He felt the impact of Brian's bare flesh like a physical force. Brian nuzzled Trevor's neck with his nose and Trevor turned to look at him.
"Didn't we just have this discussion a few hours ago?"
"Things have changed."
"Why? Because you had one bad conversation with Justin? Selfishly, I wish that were the case. If you want sex as pain management then I suggest you get dressed and look up your old friend, Piper."
Brian raised himself on one elbow. "Why do you have to make it so complicated?"
"For all the same reasons you stopped this morning. Nothing's changed, Brian. It bloody well IS complicated!"
"I'm sick of being treated like an emotional ping pong ball by Justin, Trev. I just need to let go, once and for all. He's not my problem and I can't fix him now, if I ever could. I'm not the type to hang around to be abused. I'm sick of it."
Brian turned over on his back, staring up at the ceiling and Trevor sighed and rested a hand on Brian's chest. "I know you are. I have an idea."
"Let's get out of London. Let's take the Jag and drive into the countryside, to experience a more pastoral side of England. Maybe the fresh air and lack of internet accessibility will do you some good."
"Where would we go?"
"Leave it to me."
"There are still things here that I want to see."
"We'll see them on the way back. I think you need a change of scenery."
"Okay, but Trev?"
"Can I sleep in here with you tonight? I don't want to be alone. I promise to behave."
"Of course you can. You do realize I'm applying for martyrdom, don't you?"
Brian laughed. "Yeah, right, I'm so fucking irresistible."
Trevor just smiled, not telling him that he was.
Scene 2: Pittsburgh General Hospital
Justin was a lot weaker than he expected to be once all the tubes were removed and he was told he could leave the hospital. He dressed, slowly, in clothes Ethan brought from home. His mother put the soiled clothes he was wearing when he arrived at the hospital inside of a plastic bag and dropped that bag in a paper tote. "Justin, why don't you boys come stay at my place for awhile? Just until you're better. You'll be on that special diet for a few days and I can cook and help Ethan look after you."
Justin sighed. He hoped he would be safe at his mother's house, because being safe was an elusive goal. "Okay, Mom," he said dully, surprising her with his immediate agreement. "You don't have to stay with me, Ethan," he added. "I know you have the cat to take care of, and you'll want to practice and..."
"No, it's fine. It's a good idea," Ethan agreed. "I'll stop by every day and look after the cat and I can play while I'm there. Let's do it, Justin. It's so sweet of your mom to offer."
Jennifer beamed at him. "Good. I'll bring the car around. Ethan, can you escort him out?"
Justin sighed, grateful for the hospital-required wheelchair. Ethan pushed it, leaning over to whisper, "It'll be fun fucking in your old bedroom."
"It's not really my old bedroom. I hardly even stayed in that condo. And I'm not up to fucking."
"You will be," Ethan responded with a smile.
Justin sighed as he thought of being separated from his computer, his one method of communicating with Brian. His mother had one, but the lack of privacy and the fear factor would make it almost impossible to use. Did Brian even know he was ill? Had anyone told him? Did he care? Justin eased his aching body into his mother's car, his thoughts across the ocean as she drove him to her house.
Scene 3: Jennifer's condo, three days later.
Debbie and Vic came over to Jennifer's for dinner, bringing dessert and a bottle of mid-priced wine. Justin was able to eat his mother's chicken and dumplings, his appetite returning more quickly than he imagined possible. Ethan was teasing Molly, something he did in an endearing way that always made Molly giggle. Jennifer beamed at him, telling the others that Molly had a hopeless crush on Ethan. Ethan insisted it was mutual.
After chocolate cake prepared by Vic, the diners crowded into Jennifer's small kitchen, helping her tidy up. Except for Justin, who sat down heavily on the couch, still tiring easily. Vic came and sat beside him, patting his knee. "Hi, babe. How you holding up?"
Justin smiled. "You escaped?"
"Too many bodies. I like Ethan more and more as I spend time around him. He's very charming."
Justin sighed and nodded. "Yeah, he's charming." He glanced past Vic towards the kitchen to ensure they were alone. "Have you heard from Brian?"
"He called yesterday. Asked how you were doing." That answered Justin's concern about whether Brian had been informed. "I told him you were staying with your Mom and doing well. He's not in London anymore."
Vic had called Brian the day after Justin became ill, as he promised to do. After Brian got the update that Justin was continuing to improve, he seemed anxious to hang up. He was still smarting from the stinging internet conversation of the previous night. Before disconnecting, Brian asked,
"I thought Justin was going to spend the night at the hospital that first night? Yet he contacted me on the internet. Doubt if he had a computer at the hospital."
Vic seemed surprised. "I thought they were keeping him all night, too. Maybe he was so much better, they didn't find it necessary to do so. Jennifer was there with him, she may have a more complete answer."
"He seemed okay on the computer."
"He didn't have one at the hospital so he must have contacted you from home."
"I guess so."
Brian didn't pursue it, simply telling Vic he would follow up on Justin's progress later. That follow-up was the call Vic received yesterday.
"He's not in London? Is he on his way home?" Justin asked hopefully.
Vic sighed. "No, he and Trevor have driven into the hinterlands. Cornwall is their destination, on the west coast of England."
"Why?" Justin asked, picturing the two of them tooling around England together. "I thought he was there on business."
"This is the vacation part of his trip."
Justin frowned. Brian never mentioned a vacation component. "If you talk to him again, will you tell him I have no access to a computer for now?"
"Sure, but he told me he left his laptop in London. He said he's really trying to get away from it all for awhile."
Justin winced. He supposed he was now one of the things Brian was getting away from. Brian made the decision to leave the computer, their one link, in London. By doing so, he also made the decision that he didn't want to hear from Justin. Tears welled up in Justin's eyes and he quickly blinked them back as Vic closed his hand over the younger man's arm.
"Justin? What's wrong?"
"Yeah, honey. What's wrong?" Ethan entered the room, sitting on Justin's other side and hugging him tightly. Justin sighed and rested the back of his head against Ethan's shoulder.
"Nothing," he said quietly. Vic thought ‘poor Brian' as he realized what a fitting couple they made. He had no way of knowing his sympathy was misplaced.
Scene 4: Tintagel, Cornwall, a week later.
Brian paused for the second time on the steep wood edged turf stairs that snaked up the cliffside towards the summit. There were several hundred stairs in all. The journey was up a steep incline with a sheer drop on the other side of the rope handrail onto the rocks and boiling foam where the sea crashed against the tall headlands. There was a raw wind and the hint of rain just to make it perfectly miserable..
"Come on, slacker," Trevor taunted him from several steps ahead. "Bet you wished you didn't smoke now, huh?"
Brian made sure he didn't sound out of breath as he responded, "I'm just enjoying the view."
Trevor laughed. "You'll enjoy it more from the top. Come on."
This was supposed to be the home seat of the mythical King Arthur. Tintagel Castle stood in ruins at the top of this peak, nothing left of it but some gray stones outlining where certain rooms once stood, along with portions of the wall. While the timing was off for Tintagel Castle to belong to Arthur, some said Arthur's castle was built on this same site, in a time before written history. The tiny coastal town of Tintagel capitalized on those legends. The cave on the shoreline was known as Merlin's Cave. Manmade tourist stops, such as a banquet hall that boasted a round table supposedly like the one Arthur used. competed with true historical sites like a stone post office, still in use, with original construction dating back to the 1200's.
Brian didn't believe in Arthur or Merlin or any of that crap, but he did enjoy history, and this was an historic village. The Black Prince owned the castle that was in ruins, and the true legend of that knight was interesting enough to draw him. At the top, he walked through an arched stone gate added in the 1800's and looked around, struck silent by the view. The sun broke out of the clouds to turn the sea that stretched out to infinity a striking teal color. In the valley was the village on one side, Merlin's cave on the other and a neighboring cliff where an old monastery once stood.
This was not the season for tourists, and given the iffy weather, he and Trevor were alone here. They admired the majestic panorama with silent appreciation. "Jesus, it's beautiful. If I were a prince, I'd build a castle here. But one with an elevator," Brian quipped.
"Come on," Trevor held out his hand and Brian took it, letting him lead him to a grassy rise facing the sea. The wind whipped against their bodies, and Trevor stood behind him, snaking his arms around Brian's waist and resting his face against his shoulder blades as Brian took it all in. Since leaving London, Brian became progressively more relaxed. With all of his opportunities for mischief taken away by circumstance, he was more himself, less driven to seek out tricks, drugs or even the internet. They had simple fun together, exploring the various villages and sites of Cornwall, staying in tiny B & B's or inns with few amenities. They discussed things about themselves they shared with few people, if anyone, and their friendship gelled.
In that exact moment, at the peak of this cliff, amid the ruins of Tintagel Castle, Trevor looked at Brian's windswept auburn hair, ruddy, flushed cheeks and boyish wonderment and he knew. "I love you, Brian," he said softly, against Brian's back, almost to himself. But Brian heard him and turned, lifting Trevor's chin on his fingertips to meet his eyes.
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do. I'm not asking anything of you. I don't want you to panic, but I am in love with you. I can deal with it. But I can't keep it from you any longer. You're a magnificent person, Brian. You're exactly what I want in a partner when you're the way you've been since we left the city. I recognize your faults, I'm not naïve, but I love you in spite of them. Don't say anything, don't tell me you don't love me IN THAT WAY, don't spoil it. Just let me tell you how I feel and let's go on as if nothing was said."
"I don't ever want to hurt you, Trevor," Brian said softly. "You mean too much to me for me to hurt you."
"Then don't. Don't hurt me," Trevor snaked a hand to spread on the back of Brian's head, reaching up to kiss him. Brian brushed his nose against Trevor's as their lips touched. His eyes closed and mouth opened, admitting Trevor's tongue as the wind caressed them and cooled them with invisible fingers. The kiss lasted an eternity, ending only when the voices of other tourists infiltrated their private world.
Scene 5: Tintagel Hotel
Their room at the hotel was atypical of hotel rooms outside city centers in England, because it was spacious. But the large area was not well utilized. High ceilings and faulty heating insured a drafty feel, and small mullioned windows wasted a magnificent view of the sea. There was the ubiquitous electric kettle and fixings for hot tea along with a small television that broadcasted only BBC one and two, ITV and CNN International. The bed was a double, slighty sagging in the middle and the bathroom was tiny with just the needed conveniences and shower stall but no tub. Brian came from that bathroom, feeling suddenly awkward. He was like a nervous groom on his wedding night. He knew what was expected of him, but because it was expected, he suddenly didn't want to do it.
Trevor seemed equally uneasy, perched on the edge of the bed, fully clothed, his hands clasped between his knees. He looked up at Brian and smiled sheepishly. "Well, here we are."
Brian sat beside him. "Yeah."
"Do you feel as awkward as I?"
"It's stupid, isn't it? To feel so awkward."
"We're both adults, after all."
"Right," Brian agreed and then they both jumped as Brian's mobile rang. They laughed at their response and he fished it out of his pocket, amazed by the reach of the cellular network. "Brian."
"Are you ever coming home?" Justin asked, with lots of background noise.
"Uh," Brian left the bed, walking over to the windows, his back to Trevor. He could feel Trevor's gaze follow him. "Whazzup?"
"I won't be here when you get back."
"Yeah? Where are you going to be?"
"I don't know yet,"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means I'm not sure where I'll be, Brian. But you won't find me, so don't bother looking. As if you would."
"Whoa, drama princess! Back up a few thousand feet. What's wrong with you?"
"Are you in love with that British guy?"
"No...why are you asking me that? It's none of your business. Especially not after the way you talked to me on the internet that night. You told me to fuck off, so I fucked off."
"When was that?"
"Come on, Justin, you know when it was. That same night you were in the hospital for food poisoning. Late."
"That's not possible, Brian. I was in the hospital all night, no computer, and I was so sick that I couldn't have typed a coherent sentence."
"But...I know that's when it was."
"It wasn't me, Brian."
"Then who the fuck was it?"
"I don't know how he got my password, but it had to be Ethan."
Brian winced. His stomach rolled at the thought of having an intimate conversation with that poseur, and for letting him cause him so much pain. "But...how?"
"I don't know. He's extremely devious."
"I take it things aren't going well on the home front, which is why you're suddenly running away from home, like a big kid."
"Don't patronize me."
"Don't act like a child! If things are tough with Ethan right now, go stay with Deb or Jennifer or even at the loft. I'm not there to bother you."
"I can't. I have to leave, and I'm using the tuition money for next semester that you keep in that joint account. It's all the money I have."
"No way, Justin! That's for your school, not for some dramatic exit. I can't afford to replace it because you had a fight with your boyfriend and now you want to take a vacation from him."
"Not a vacation." Brian heard the sound of a flight being called. Justin was at the airport. He was serious. "Look, I have to go. I just want to say something to you, Brian. I've always meant to say it, but I never really have. Strange, I've told other people how I feel about you, but never you. I love you, Brian. I know that now. I always have and I always will. And I'm sorry."
But the call was over and when Brian tried to dial Justin' s number, he got voice mail. "I don't know what's happening with him but..." Brian was saying to Trevor, but when he turned around, he realized he was alone in the room. Trevor had gone out. Brian sighed and sat down heavily on the bed, unsure of what to do next. Before he could decide, the phone rang again. He pushed a button to answer it and said, "Justin?"
Michael's voice greeted his question. "No. Why? Have you spoken to him?"
"Yeah, just a second ago."
"Christ, Brian, where is he?"
"I think he boarded a plane. Why?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"He didn't say?"
"No, he didn't fucking say! What the fuck is going on, Mikey?"
His best friend hesitated, then said, "Justin's in trouble, Brian. Big trouble. The police are looking for him."
"Police?" Brian smiled at the unreality of that statement. "Bullshit. Why?"
"Because he put Ethan in the hospital, Brian. It's serious."
Brian scrubbed his fingers through his hair, unable to take it all in, refusing to believe what he was hearing.
Scene 6: On board the plane.
Justin, the fugitive from justice, was alone in a row intended for three people. He lifted up the arms separating the seats after the plane took off and covered himself up with a thin blanket, resting his face against a pillow purloined from First Class as he walked through to coach. He winced, his cheek still sore from where Ethan had hit him with his fist. He wondered if his cheekbone could be broken? It usually didn't hurt this long. His lip still oozed blood along the split that made his lower lip so puffy. He knew he would have a black eye and his stomach was sore from where he took a hard punch. He had taken three Tylenol, but the pain still throbbed.
Only the numbness of fear and unreality curbed his ultimate discomfort. He tried to avoid it all through sleep. Images kept popping into his head that made sleep impossible. It was early and the sun streamed into the plane, even though his shades were closed. How could so much change in so few hours? He turned on his side, squeezing his eyes shut, remembering.
Late last night, Ethan had returned from a gig and he awakened Justin by roaming his hands across his body. Justin protested, but Ethan pressed the issue. Still half asleep, Justin had moaned when Ethan began giving him head. As he felt his cock stiffen, he had whispered, groggily, "Suck it, Brian,"
The chill fell as Ethan withdrew from him and Justin winced. An argument ensued and escalated. Ethan refused to accept the fact lovers often called out the names of former lovers or even former spouses at the wrong moment. It meant nothing. When Justin defended his inadvertent action, Ethan smacked him in the face.
Justin was dizzy from the blow and defenseless as Ethan landed two other hard punches, debilitating him completely, then rolled him over and fucked him without the assistance of lube or the protection of a condom. It was nothing short of rape, an assault without consent, painful and humiliating. As Justin endured it, something inside of him went cold. What followed was inevitable.
Scene 7: Tintagel
Brian paced as he talked to Michael. "Hospital? How...?"
"Ethan says he came home and had sex with Justin."
Brian frowned, unwilling to picture that image. "Go on."
"He said Justin was in a bad mood, and they argued. But finally, Ethan went to sleep. He was awakened by an excruciating pain in his hand. He sat up just as Justin, standing beside the bed, brought down the hammer on Ethan's other hand."
Brian shook his head. "No way."
"He said Justin used a flathead hammer and pounded one hand and then the other. There's no question that the small bones of his hands are fractured and more than one finger is broken. He said Justin was saying, ‘Let's see you play that fucking fiddle now!' Apparently, it was a deliberate effort to end his musical career. The doctors are unable to say if it will have a long-term effect on his playing."
Brian felt sick, but held it together, imagining what terror Justin had to be in if he was driven to this act. "What did Justin do next?"
"Ethan says he dropped the hammer and left. His bag was already packed. Ethan sat up, but passed out from the pain. When he came to, Justin was gone. He went to a neighbor for help. He couldn't even dial the phone."
"Jesus Christ," Brian said softly. "Poor Justin. He must be feeling so desperate, so alone."
"Justin? Poor Ethan!"
"Christ, Mikey, do you honestly believe that bullshit story? Justin would never attack Ethan, unprovoked. Put it together. Those bruises we've seen, obviously he was being abused by Ethan and something snapped. For all we know, they were in the middle of a brawl and Justin was defending himself. We have to find him and bring him back. He has to explain this to the police. Running only makes him look guilty."
"At least we can tell the police he called you from the airport and that he was about to board and what time it was. They can check out the flights, try to pinpoint a destination."
Brian rolled his eyes at his friend's naivete. "You tell the police NOTHING, Mikey. Not that I talked to him, not what time, not that he was at the airport, NOTHING or I swear to God Ethan will have a new roommate in the hospital."
"In fact, you say nothing to anyone. Not Deb, not Em or Ted or the lesbos. No one. Not even Ben. For once, keep your fucking mouth shut."
"Do you read me?"
"Yeah, but what are you gonna do? You can't help him! That would be aiding a fugitive, which is a crime."
"This is the story of two queers whaling on each other which means the police won't give a shit. It's not like Justin killed him. They aren't going to waste their resources and look all over the country for him. That will give me time to do so, and try to talk sense to the boy."
"He's not your problem!"
"He is my problem, Mikey. I care about him. Get over it."
"Well, it may not be as low profile as you think because Ethan is pushing his image as this genius musician, tragically cut down in his prime by this unwarranted attack. The press loves that kind of thing. They'll turn Justin into Bluebeard. And the gay press is interested because they want to make sure the police DO investigate a gay on gay crime. It's ugly."
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm not sure, but I can't do it from here."
"Brian, I'm sorry to ruin your vacation."
"My vacation is meaningless in light of this. I'll talk to you later, Mikey. In the mean time, shut your hole."
Brian hit end, then dialed the first of several other numbers. He later located Trevor in the bar of the hotel. Trevor pretended not to notice Brian's suitcase. Brian ordered a scotch, and then explained what he knew to Trevor, who nodded silently. When he finished the story, Brian added, "I need to get to Exeter. I can catch a commuter plane into London from there and I've booked a ticket home from London. I have to go, Trev. Someone has to talk sense to this kid. He could ruin his life."
"And of course that someone is you," Trevor said softly. Brian shrugged.
"He's more likely to listen to me."
"Naturally, because he's still in love with you."
Brian said nothing, but Trevor knew as soon as he saw his expression. His realization was like an arrow to his heart. His own non-love affair with Brian had to be the shortest and most unfulfilling romance on record. "And you still love him," Trevor added. Brian reached over and squeezed Trevor's arm gently.
"I don't know what I feel, but I do know he needs me now, and I can't turn my back on him."
"Of course you can't, which is why I care so much for you."
"Trev, I care for you too. The timing is just..."
"I know. Abysmal."
"Your friendship is very important to me."
"Let's not have that conversation right now, Brian. It's too painful."
"If you could see your face when he calls you, the delight in hearing his voice, no matter how fucked up the situation, you'd know why I had to come down here and drink. It's so obvious to everyone but you."
Trevor interrupted him by standing up. "Enough. I'll drive you to Exeter. Give me a minute to pack."
"I can hire a car, if you want to stay."
"Why would I want to stay here without you? No, wait for me. I won't be long."
Brian sighed and nodded, grabbing Trevor's wrist to stop him as he tried to walk by. "If only..."
"I know, Brian. If only, indeed," he pulled free and continued on his way out of the bar.
Next week on Transitions:
Brian returns to Pittsburgh and rallies the troops to help Justin. Justin tries to cope with what happened, on his own in a strange town. Brian has a conversation with Ethan.
|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.
Contact Site Admin with questions or technical problems.
July 25, 2004