The Phantom speaks: "You like my work very much?" He repeated. "You dug into how many trailers just to tell me you like my work very much?" I can feel my face turn red. Randy places a hand on Gale's arm as if to walk him back a step, and I am reminded of how Justin guides Brian occasionally. That was sweet. Gale ignores it, just as Brian usually does. "How else could I tell you? You don't read fan mail or respond to it, you don't have a web site. When you make an impact on people, they want to be able to tell you so. That they appreciate what you've done. We're not all a bunch of maniacs out here in the fandom. We may all think we'd like you as a partner, whether we're male or female, but that is fantasy. We know it's not happening in reality. And so what we want to do occasionally, is just say ‘thanks'. Is that so bad? So crazy?" Randy smiled at me, a sweet smile that seemed to say he understood. I looked at Gale. His handsome face gave away nothing...he was thinking it over.
Last week on Transitions:
Trevor tells his sister he loves Brian and isn't sure if he can be JUST his friend. But when Brian calls, he is thrilled to hear his voice despite everything. Brian goes to New Orleans to find Justin. He finally locates where he is staying, but through a series of problems, he just misses him. Trevor helps him figure out the most likely flights that Justin may be taking, Brian follows Justin to the airport.
Scene 1: Louis Armstrong Airport, New Orleans.
Brian was pissed to discover the ticket kiosks were all closed for the night. He stood there with his leather duffel slung over his shoulder, absorbing that fact, and then he felt his adrenaline flee in a crash that was so intense his knees weakened. He left the terminal and hailed a cab, having traveled more than enough to know what it was like to spend time in a closed airport. No food, nowhere to stretch out, he couldn't even go to the gate and wait without a ticket to get through security.
"Take me to the closest all night bar," he told the driver, deciding he could drink for awhile and relax until the ticket counters reopened at four. He was driven to a sleazy, red-neck establishment on the periphery of the airport. The looks he drew from the regulars were not particularly friendly. If they knew he was gay, he could only imagine their level of hostility. He slouched in a back booth, ordering a beer and some hot wings from the limited bar food menu. By the time his order was delivered, Brian had fallen into an exhausted sleep, his head resting against the wall, his duffel supporting the small of his back, keeping his belongings safe. His long legs were stretched out on the vinyl bench before him.
At the airport, Justin rested his head on his backpack, stretching out on the floor with his back to the wall, a position familiar to those who had been stranded in an airport for long stretches of time. He was in the departure lounge of the gate area for his flight to Atlanta. It would be a few hours before they boarded, and he knew better than to try and call Brian. He bought his ticket just before they closed the desk, once he confirmed there were no flights leaving before this one.
Sleep did not come easily. Justin kept thinking of the image of Brian, walking through the Quarter, looking for him. He was torn about what to do. So much of him wanted to seek Brian out and run into his arms, but he couldn't endanger Brian's freedom by asking for his help, since that help could be considered criminal. He had paced his rooms in Tony LaFont's guesthouse for hours, trying to decide what to do. Justin had to mediate the battle between what his heart dictated and what made sense from a practical standpoint. Finally, he decided the only thing he could do to protect Brian was to run. And this time, he wouldn't call him. He had to release Brian. Justin created this situation all on his own, he had no right to endanger the one man who stood by him. And so he turned off his phone, purchased his ticket and catnapped, trying not to think of the cold, alienated life he would be facing.
"Hey buddy," a gruff voice interrupted Brian's sleep and he forced his eyes open to focus on the grizzly barkeep. "We close for an hour to clean up the bar. This ain't no hotel. You're gonna have to be moving on."
"What time is it?" Brian asked numbly, too grainy-eyed to focus on his watch.
"Four fifteen," the man announced.
"Shit!" Brian slapped down some money to pay for his dried up chicken wings and warm beer. He used his mobile to call a cab from the number on his last receipt and waited on the sidewalk in front of the bar, anxious for the taxi to arrive. After a short hop to the airport, he ran to the ticket counter, where a small line had formed. He cut to the First Class line, making himself next up. As soon as the last person was helped, he hurried to the desk and slapped his black Centurion card on the desk, along with his driver's license.
"I need a ticket to Atlanta on this next flight," he said, glancing at the clock above her head. 4:35. Plane took off in 25 minutes.
"Sorry sir, it's oversold."
"I'll pay full boat first class."
She checked again. "First class is sold out too. There's not a seat on the plane. I can put you on standby."
Brian groaned. "Can you tell me if there's a Justin Taylor on this flight?"
She looked wary. "No sir, I can't give out passenger information."
He showed her the picture. "Did you see this kid?"
"I couldn't tell you if I had, sir. Now, would you like help on another flight?"
Brian went on standby and purchased a ticket for the next open flight to Atlanta, using that ticket to get through security. After he cleared inspection, he approached a man who was carrying only a briefcase. This man had been in line ahead of him, and had his boarding pass issued for the early flight. "I need to get to Atlanta for a meeting," Brian informed him as they walked briskly towards the gate. "I'll give you my first class ticket on the next flight out and five hundred bucks, cash, if you'll trade."
The man eyed him suspiciously. "Will they let us do that?"
"Sure, I'm on stand by, they'll just swap out our boarding passes. Did you check a bag?"
"No, I'm on a turnaround."
"I didn't either so there's no security issue. Please, sir, I'm desperate."
By the time they reached the gate, the most of the people in the lounge had boarded. Brian saw no sign of Justin, but he could easily be on the plane already. The man relented, but he and Brian had to explain their plan to the befuddled gate agent. At the final moment, the switch was completed. Brian shook the man's hand, peeled off five one hundred dollar bills, and ran down the jetway to the aircraft just as they were ready to shut the door. He fell into his seat on the aisle of the first row, after stuffing his bag into the overhead.
The well-dressed woman seated next to him gave the handsome, disheveled young man a quick gaze, making a value judgment that he had spent too much time partying in the French Quarter and was paying for it now. He closed his eyes, trying to relax a little as the plane taxied and became airborne. As soon as the seatbelt sign went off, Brian stood and walked to the curtain separating the cabins. He glanced down the aisle of the crowded coach compartment, anxiously searching for Justin. Nothing, nothing, nothing...there! Blond hair, unmistakable, eyes closed, head resting against the window, fat man beside him, taking up all of his own seat and a quarter of the slim blond's.
"May I help you, sir?" the flight attendant asked sweetly and Brian gave her his most charming smile as he told her exactly what she could do.
Justin was still trying to sleep as one of the flight attendants began talking to the monolith squeezing him out of his own seat. The jet engine noise prevented him from hearing all of it, but he was beginning to understand there was something going on with the seats and first class. Maybe they found an upgrade for his fat ass. Justin was thrilled when jumbo squeezed out of the seat and into the aisle, following her up there, taking his briefcase with him. Justin felt liberated, occupying his entire seat and lifting the arm separating the seats so he could stretch out. A voice said, "Do you mind? That's my seat."
He looked up at Brian, standing there in the aisle, looking tired and in need of a shave, his clothes rumpled and eyes ringed with mauve half-moons of fatigue. Justin didn't know what to do. Should he leap up and grab him or just sit there and cry? There was nowhere to run, now, so he had no options. Brian sat down in the aisle seat, wincing as he tried to position his long legs under the seat in front of him. His knees were flush with the seat back. He was carrying a white tote bag decorated with red toy soldiers wearing tall bearskin hats which he tossed at Justin, who caught it by reflex, too numb to believe this was real.
"What is it?" Justin asked as Brian continued to squirm and twist, determined to fit his lanky body into a space designed for someone much shorter than he was.
"Only you could make me sit in fucking coach," he grumbled. "Open it and see."
Justin did so, removing a tan teddy bear dressed in the red, white and blue Union Jack uniform of the British Beefeater. He stared at it until his eyes swam with tears, and then he leaned over, throwing his arms around Brian's neck and clinging to him in a tight embrace. Brian's eyes closed at the familiar feel of him. He slipped his own arms around his torso, as Justin's warm tears dampened his sweater. "It's over," Brian whispered, combing his fingers through Justin's pale hair in a soothing gesture. "It's okay, baby. It's over. You're safe now."
Their hands were clasped on Brian's thigh. Justin's other arm tightly embraced the teddy bear, while his head rested on Brian's shoulder. Brian's head rested against Justin's, and they slept the remainder of the short flight to Atlanta. There was no way they were going to discuss anything of import on this crowded flight, and the relief of reunion paved the way for both of them to seek the release of sleep. Only the shuffling of the other passengers after landing awoke them, and Brian impulsively leaned down to kiss Justin on the lips, so delighted to find he was truly there and that this wasn't a dream.
"Faggots," a young man in the aisle quipped to his friend while making a limp-wristed gesture. Brian stood, a good three inches taller, and far more fit than his detractor.
"You talking about me?" he asked firmly and the man retreated behind a shrug. Justin reached up to pull on Brian's hand. Brian looked down at him as Justin shook his head. The last thing they needed was a scene. Brian sighed and nodded, stepping into the aisle and blocking it so Justin could get out. Justin was still gripping the bear.
They were silent as they walked the terminal to get to the train that would take them to baggage claim where they would retrieve Justin's luggage. Brian made a phone call on his mobile as Justin pulled his suitcase off the conveyor when it finally came up. After hailing a cab, Brian gave the driver the address of the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown. "You have a room?" Justin asked and Brian patted his pocket containing his mobile.
"Just got one."
They held hands throughout the drive, but didn't talk, exchanging an occasional glance. Brian was sickened by the bruises, but said nothing. They were in and out of the luxe marble lobby of the hotel as quickly as possible, shown to a small suite. Brian tipped the bell boy, switched on the "Do Not Disturb" light and double bolted the door. He turned towards Justin and they faced each other in awkward silence for a moment. The distance between them seemed unbreechable.
Justin sighed and Brian walked over to him, lifted his chin on his fingertips and kissed him deeply. Justin melted into his embrace, his arms around Brian's waist, inhaling the closeness as if it were the oxygen he had been craving while going under for the third time. Brian broke the kiss, held him for a minute, and then gently urged him back on the bed. He joined him there, still fully dressed, stretching out beside him as they kissed again. Justin's running shoes clunked as he slid them off his feet on fall to the floor. He rested a sock-clad foot on Brian's calf, the heat between them beginning to rise.
Brian pushed Justin over on his back, removing his jacket. He started to pull up his shirt when Justin stopped him. "What's wrong?" Brian whispered, touching his neck with his lips. Justin sighed and slowly rolled up his own shirt, watching Brian's face as the pattern of bruises was exposed. Brian stared down at the purple blotches mapping Justin's fair skin, blinking back his tears. He then leaned down and gently kissed each square inch of discolored flesh, as if to make the pain and horror disappear.
The rest of their clothes came off without hesitation. Naked at last, they let their hands roam territory too long abandoned. They reconnected with the mysterious sexual bond that linked them so closely. As much as Brian wanted to fuck him, he took it slowly and delicately, wanting to savor the experience himself as well as be mindful of Justin's precarious emotional and physical state. Brian fellated Justin, wanting to taste the flesh he missed so much, and then let him do the same, but not for too long. He didn't want to hasten his orgasm.
"Fuck me, Brian," Justin finally whispered in his ear. "I want to feel you inside of me."
Brian turned him on his side, his back to Brian, who was now lubed and protected. He reached down and separated Justin's thighs with his arm, lifting one leg, thus opening his ass to penetration. Justin reached back and hooked an arm behind Brian's neck, pulling his face closer so Brian could nibble his neck. Brian released Justin's leg and began stroking his lover's erection in perfect harmony with his lunges into his body. The union was so intense, so necessary that they held off their mutual pleasure as long as they could. Ultimately nature demanded fulfillment. Brian's thrusts became more rapid, and Justin shot on the upswing of Brian's pumping fist. His hand wet and warm, Brian did the same, wracked with waves of shudders as the power of his release overwhelmed him.
Neither of them moved, wanting to remain joined forever. Brian pressed his lips to Justin's ear and whispered, "A ghra mo chroi."
Justin glanced over his shoulder at him, inquiring with a silent stare and Brian smiled as he translated, "The love of my heart."
Scene 2: Liberty Diner, Pittsburgh
Horvath glared at Debbie as she plied him with fresh coffee and warm lemon bars. "Deb, I'm a cop. It's my badge if I talk about police matters. Especially not when the perp is a friend of yours."
"The ‘PERP'?" She threw back at him. "This PERP is a victim! Don't you ever refer to my Sunshine as a perp!" She snatched away his uneaten lemon bars and the coffee mug containing his brew.
Horvath sighed. "Okay, okay. Can I have my food back?"
"Are you gonna tell me?"
"Look, I'm a homicide cop. This isn't even my case. Anything I know is just breakroom gossip."
"Honey, I've not too fine a lady to listen to gossip. Dish."
Horvath leaned forward on the counter. He spoke in a low voice, although no one appeared to be listening. "Word is, the victim of this crime, and the only witness, as a matter of fact, has fled the jurisdiction."
"You mean Ethan, that dirty little chin rat bastard?"
"The same. He's not supposed to go anywhere without informing the guys on his case, but he cleared out without a word."
"You don't think something...happened...to him, do you?"
Horvath chuckled. "If so, they took his belongings with him, and made him drop out of his classes. All he left behind was a mangy old cat. One interesting tidbit is that he also left behind two wilted roses and a book about Danny O'Malley."
Debbie looked confused. "The Irish Mafia boss? Two Roses O'Malley?"
"The same. Two roses is his calling card. Maybe the kid got the roses and bought the book to figure out what's up."
"Did anyone talk to O'Malley? He's a dangerous bastard!"
"Not yet. Why bother? What's he gonna do? Admit he has a hit out on this kid? They have no case. Here's my point, Deb. O'Malley don't work for free. And he'd be unlikely to have a beef with a kid that young, and a musician."
"What are you saying?"
"Meaning if those roses did come from Danny, someone hired him."
"To do what?"
"What O'Malley does best. Silence a witness."
She tensed. "You don't know that."
"Yes, I do know that. I just don't know who did it. But let's think. Someone Irish and connected is a plus. That bunch is loyal to each other. This person must also have enough money to pay the fee. Finally, he has to have the cojones to do it and a reason for doing it. He would have to care a hell of a lot about Justin in order to risk a felony solicitation of murder charge, and if Gold gets wasted, a capital crime, which means the death penalty. Who would that be, in your opinion?" He asked rhetorically.
Debbie put a hand up to her lips, muttering only, "Oh, my god."
Scene 3, Four Seasons Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Justin and Brian slept after rounds of making love. When Brian's mobile rang, it took him a few seconds to become oriented enough to work the contraption. "Yeah?" he finally mumbled.
"Hi, honey. It's Deb. Where are you?"
"Who is it?" Justin asked groggily, flopping his arm over Brian's belly. Brian held a finger up to his lips to silence him.
"Who's with you? Is that my Sunshine?"
"I was asleep, Deb. You heard the television. Whazzup?"
"Brian, tell me you had nothing to do with Ethan's disappearance."
Justin sat up, staring down at him. "He has?"
"I heard Justin, Brian. Tell me that's not Justin! I heard him!"
"That's not Justin. How do they know he's gone, Deb?"
"Horvath said he cleaned out his apartment and dropped out of school. He's vanished. Left behind nothing but an old cat, some dead flowers and a book about Danny O'Malley."
Brian smiled and covered the mike with his hand as he said to Justin, "He's gone. Left behind a cat and some junk."
"He left Wolfram behind? How could he do that? Give me the phone."
"No, she can't know."
"She obviously does know, Brian. Give."
Brian sighed and handed it over. Justin said, "Deb, what did they do with the cat?"
"Sunshine!" She began to cry and after a long period of calming her, he put Brian on to remind her not to tell anyone about Justin, not even Jennifer. Justin took the phone back.
"So where is Wolfram? The cat?"
"I don't know honey. The pound, I guess."
"Deb, please go get him out of the pound. I don't want him to be destroyed. He never did anything wrong. Please?"
"I'm allergic to cats, Sunshine. I can't keep him."
"Then see if you can find him a temporary home until I come back. Please?"
"Okay, Sweetie, anything for you. Let me talk to Brian a minute." Brian came back on. "Brian, do you know anything about Danny O'Malley?"
"Every Irish kid where I grew up knows Danny O'Malley. Why?"
"Deb, it's been nice chatting with you, but this is where we say goodbye."
"I'll be in touch. And Deb, we never had this conversation."
Debbie sighed. "Take care of him, and Brian...take care of yourself, too."
"I always do," Brian ended the call and felt Justin's blue eyes boring into him. "What?"
"What does it mean for me if Ethan isn't around?"
"According to Charles Winspear..."
"A criminal lawyer I hired to defend you. He said without a victim who is the only witness, the case against you would most likely be dropped. It would be too easy for you to give them a story that can't be rebutted about self defense or some other plausible explanation. Your bruises back you up."
"Who is this Danny O' Malley?"
"No one, forget that name."
"Please tell me."
Brian sat up and held Justin's arms in both hands, gripping tightly. "This isn't a movie or a made for television script or a game. Danny O'Malley is very real and very dangerous. Two Roses has killed more men than the Spanish flu. You didn't hear that name, you don't know anything about him."
"Brian, what have you done?"
"What do you mean, ‘what have I done'? I've done everything I can think of to keep you safe and to help you. That's what I've done. And now you're going to have to help me by forgetting that name."
Justin nodded, then threw his arms around Brian's neck. "I never wanted to involve you in this mess. I'm so sorry."
"I'm also sorry, Justin."
"Why are you sorry?"
"For not seeing what was going on and helping you."
"I didn't want you to see. I didn't want anyone to know. I was mortified, Brian. I couldn't even defend myself, like some little girl! I was so stupid to believe that Ethan cared for me."
"Not true. He said all the right things, did all the right things, at least at first. And you were still reeling with trauma from the bashing. Don't beat yourself up." Their eyes met and Brian winced. Justin began to laugh.
"That's a good one."
Justin still giggled. "No really! That's funny!"
Brian shook his head and then he laughed too. They fell back on the bed, laughing together. Eventually their merriment led to another session of hot sex, the fire between them undiminished. Later, they had dinner, their first real meal of the day, ordering room service. Afterwards, they soaked together in the oversized tub that was filled with a skim of bubbles from bath oil provided by the hotel. Justin sat between Brian's long legs, resting his back against his chest. Brian leaned his chin on top of Justin's pale hair.
"I want to tell you what happened," Justin said softly.
"You don't have to do that."
"Yes, I really do."
"Okay, then tell me."
"The first time was because he was angry that I talked to you on the phone. He slammed my forehead with the telephone receiver. It didn't hurt that bad, just stunned me. I think I got the migraine because it so stressed me out. The second time, he hurt me pretty badly. He hit me hard in the back, when I turned away, then kicked me when I fell to the floor. That's what caused those bruises you saw when we were in Torso that day."
Brian winced, sucking in his lower lip to keep from speaking. He knew Justin needed to talk and he forced himself to listen.
"He would also...you know...force sex on me. I know you think I'm always ready for it, and I am. With you. But I wasn't with Ethan, especially not after he hurt me. But he never cared. When he wanted it, he got it, no matter what I wanted. It turned him on to hurt me."
Brian squeezed his eyes shut, stroking Justin's chest gently.
"Then there was the chili episode. No way he didn't know that meat was bad. We had even joked about it. I thought I would die from that, I wanted to die. I've never felt so sick. And finally there was this last time. I thought he broke my cheekbone when he punched me," Justin touched his bruised cheek. "It hurt so much! I was worried about my old head injury. Remember how they said if it was an inch either way I could have died? I kept thinking he could kill me. The next time, I might die." Justin felt Brian tense, but he was compelled to continue. "I fell and he kicked me and kicked me and kicked me. While I was still bleeding and out of it, he forced me to the bed and fucked me hard without lube or condom."
"Stop!" Brian insisted, then "Move!"
Justin sat up as Brian climbed out of the tub and lurched over to the toilet, throwing up his recent dinner. Justin walked over to him and placed a robe over his damp shoulders. He knelt beside him, stroking his back until Brian's nausea passed. Brian stretched the robe over Justin and took him in his arms, rocking him there on the floor as he whispered over and over again, "I'm sorry."
Justin finally got Brian into bed, and held him until he slept soundly. He was surprised by the intensity of Brian's reaction to his recounting his history with Ethan. He expected sympathy, but not this intense pain. Assuring himself Brian slept, Justin left the bed quietly and carried Brian's mobile over to the sofa, punching in a familiar number and speaking softly to the person who answered.
Scene 4, Pittsburgh International Airport
Throughout the flight from Atlanta, Brian seemed to be suffering from shellshock. Justin's story had flipped a switch in Brian, unleashing not only his sympathy and guilt towards Justin, but also his ancient fears of abuse. He could identify with the emotions Justin expressed, because he had experienced many of them himself, as a child. The pain, the shame, the helplessness. The incredible betrayal of being injured by someone who was supposed to love you. Brian was numb, finding it hard to summon his greatest emotional balm: denial.
Brian did manage to arrange a meeting with the attorney he hired as soon as they were situated in Pittsburgh, in order to determine their next steps. He held Justin's hand tightly throughout the flight. Justin seemed to grow in stature as an eerie calm and sense of peace replaced his fears. But he worried about Brian's ability to hold up to the battle.
When the plane was on the ground in Pittsburgh, heading for the gate, Justin said, "Brian, whatever happens, I'll never leave you again."
"Nothing's going to happen," Brian said dully. "It's going to be fine." His expression was apprehensive, despite his words.
"Yes, as long as we have each other, it will be fine. I believe that. I love you, Brian."
Brian glanced at him, his Irish intuition sensing there was something he wasn't saying. He tried to form the words and Justin smiled. "Tell me in Irish. I love how it sounds."
"A ghra mo chroi," Brian whispered, and Justin brought Brian's hand up to his lips to brush it with a kiss. Since they were in First Class, they deplaned early. Brian had an arm around Justin's shoulders, carrying his bag with the other hand as they left the jetway to enter the terminal. He stopped when he saw a group of plainclothes and uniformed cops waiting at the gate. Brian felt the world tilt, but when he looked at Justin , he appeared perfectly calm, as if he were not even surprised.
"Justin Taylor," the plainclothes cop said. "You are under arrest for the battery of Ethan Gold, with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and for fleeing the jurisdiction following this felony. You have the right to remain silent..." Brian watched helplessly as a uniformed cop cuffed Justin's wrists.
"No," Brian said, lunging towards them, grabbed and held by two uniformed cops. "NO! You can't do this!"
"Sir, you get control of yourself, or I will restrain you and I will take you in."
"Please, Brian, don't," Justin said quietly as the Miranda warning continued. Brian spotted Debbie and Horvath standing off to one side and he pulled free to approach them. He ignored Horvath and directed his remarks at Debbie. "You BITCH! How could you deliver him to the cops you fucking bitch?"
"Hey, watch your mouth," Horvath cautioned and Debbie sighed. Before she could speak, Justin called out to him.
"Stop it, Brian. Debbie didn't call the cops."
"I did," Justin said quietly. "I agreed to turn myself in. I explained to them that you found me and convinced me to do it. You didn't want me to run, and didn't help me run. I told them, Brian. You were the one who made me come back."
They were leading him away, and when Brian tried to follow, Horvath took his arm. "You can't go with him. We'll follow."
"But..." he glanced at Debbie. "I'm sorry, I..."
She had never seen Brian look more lost. Not even when he was a kid, seeking shelter at her home after being beaten by his father. She took him into her arms, and to her surprise he let her hold him. "It's going to be okay, honey. He's going to be fine." She could figure it out without a score card. Justin turned himself in to protect Brian from criminal charges of aiding and abetting. Brian had done God knows what to cause Ethan to disappear in terror, and thus protect Justin from the consequences of his actions. She had never seen a greater love, nor one more tragic, than the bonds that held Brian to Justin and Justin to Brian, no matter what obstacles were placed between them.
Next week on Transitions:
Justin is out on bail and has an interesting encounter. He also confronts Brian about 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.
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July 25, 2004