Chering and Fansee
"DARE? What kind of lame ass way is that to start the game?" Justin asked, furrowing his brow and looking up at his partner with a little smirk.
"Hey, it's all that I've got, so shut the fuck up and give me my 15 points."
Justin viewed the array of letters before him. Brian hadn't given him much to work with but he certainly could do better than DARE. If he could get a look at the tray in front of Brian, he was sure someone else could have done better also.
As he started to place his tiles, he could feel his smirk broadening into a triumphant grin. "B-R-A-V-U-R-A. 20 points, thank you."
Glancing across the board, Justin wrinkled his nose, batted his eyes and gloated over his unusual word. Where the fuck did I dig that up from? he thought, smiling to himself.
Brian pretended not to notice as he studied the L, L, W, M, V, I and X on his tray. It was going to be a long, grueling afternoon. Taking advantage of Justin's final A, he wordlessly placed an L and W on either side.
"Oh, come on! Six points? I think Gus's version of the game is on the shelf in his bedroom closet. Would you like me to get it?"
"Say what you will, de-ear, I'm just setting you up for the kill." Brian drawled the “dear” out sarcastically.
Justin thought about spending an hour or two dealing with Brian's apparent linguistic limitations and gave a little shudder. Scrabble was supposed to alleviate the boredom that the cold, snowy day had brought on. Initially he had planned on taking in the outdoor Rodin exhibit, but it had been cancelled by a freak spring snowstorm that started Saturday morning. Too bad I couldn’t spell C-A-B-I-N-F-E-V-E-R, Justin thought.
They had made love Friday night…or, more accurately, early Saturday morning…and by the time they woke up, the streets were covered with a wet, heavy snow. There had been a breakfast argument over the fact that Justin had failed to pick up the proper juice at the grocery store and that dire error led to bickering throughout the day. This had resulted in less than amicable sleeping arrangements last night. By this morning the argument had been forgotten, but more snow had accumulated. Fortunately they had settled back into their normal playfulness, a playfulness that Justin was hoping would land them back in bed for more enjoyable activities by the end of the game. That required some creativity on his part.
"If you are going to insist upon making this a juvenile activity, I'm making up a new rule. From now on, whatever word I put down, you have to use it in a story about yourself. And it has to be something I never knew before. I'll do the same with your words, but we’re probably going to have to stick with nouns, verbs and some adjectives. No conjunctions...," He was silent for a moment as he considered the implications of his rules, "and we probably need to stay away from pronouns and adverbs too.
Brian was dumbstruck. Where had this person come from and how in the hell had he weaseled himself into his life? Had there been a specific moment or incident when he decided he had experienced enough sanity for one life time and was now ready to turn his daily activity over to this controlling, overzealous, smart ass cruise director? He briefly pictured the exchange. To his right was a long line of handsome, virile men in various shapes, colors and sizes, each more than willing to drop trou at the slightest provocation. Men who would keep their mouths shut and their thoughts to themselves.
Then, to his left, there was Justin, prattling away about the importance of getting enough Vitamin D in his diet. What had possessed him to forsake the others, turn to the left and say, "Thanks anyway, but I'll take the blond." And really, what quality was inherent in this particular blond that gave him the patience to listen to this sort of nonsense, then look up and simply ask, "What do you mean by 'some' adjectives?"
"Well, descriptive ones are okay, but none of this yours, mine and his shit."
Brian knew he was screwed. His choice was to either endure the torture of Justin's little communication game or refuse to play along and be subjected to his bitchiness for the rest of the day. He had experienced enough of that yesterday after simply asking what it was that made Justin think, after nearly eight years of seeing guava juice in his refrigerator, that he would be interested in drinking pineapple-guava for the next week.
"Well, if I'm going to do this, I’ll need some new letters. Otherwise you are going to have to tell me all about the time you fucked some guy by the name of LYIMVIX."
Justin nodded, and Brian dumped his letters, shuffled the pile vigorously, and picked out seven new ones. “Not good,” he said, then added hastily, in response to Justin’s narrowed eyes, “but better. Much better.” He stood up. “Wanna a drink?”
Justin said, “Yeah. Get me a beer,” without taking his eyes off his letters.
“Would you like some pineapple-guava juice with that?” Brian asked from the kitchen, his voice ripe with snark. “We’ve got plenty.”
By the time Brian returned to the table with the drinks, Justin was already laying down his tiles: ASS. Eleven points, and then only because the second S turned DARE into DARES…not much, but he wanted to see what sort of new story Brian could come up with that used ASS. He was pretty sure he was already familiar with everything the man knew on that subject.
Brian set down the beers, looked at the board and raised one eyebrow. “And you were giving me a hard time?”
“I’m waiting for your story.”
Brian sat, leaned over and slid his hand under Justin’s right butt cheek. Looking him squarely in the eye and squeezing the firm flesh in his hand, he responded, “When I was in sixth grade, I fed the ass in our Christmas pageant a bunch of EX-LAX, and it shit all over the stage.”
“That’s not….“ Justin began to protest but was quickly interrupted.
“What? Not what you expected? Too bad, you made the rules, now live with them.”
Justin shook his head dismissively as he swatted the groping hand out from under his seat. Brian was right but he wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of admitting it. Instead he simply looked up and asked, “Do you have a word?”
It was Brian’s turn to smirk. Tile after tile clicked on the board as he spelled out SQUIFFED, using the U from BRAVURA.
Justin was keeping score. He wrinkled his forehead and muttered under his breath as he totaled up the numbers. He pushed a couple of the letters to one side; yep, there was a Double Word Score under there. More muttering, and he said, “Very nice. 44 points.”
“1500 on your SATs? Add it up again, Mr. Mathematical Genius.”
Still more muttering, followed by, “Uh…O.K., 48 points.”
“That’s better. Now hand me the pencil and paper. I’m keeping score, starting now. So…tell me something I don’t know about you that includes the word SQUIFFED.”
Justin grinned, “Oddly enough, I do have a good story when it comes to that word. It happened while I was living in the Village….”
“Without proper supervision….”
“On my own and perfectly capable, thank you. I had one of my week days off, I had gotten up early, and I’d worked all day on what was going to be a very large canvas.”
“You mean the one that’s in the….”
“Yeah, that one. It turned out to be about the most impressive piece of work I’ve done so far, if I do say so myself, but at that point, I was in the very early stages and most of what I did that day was just scut work. Suddenly, about 7:30-8:00 o’clock, I realized I was very hungry, and then I realized I had nothing to eat in the house.”
“Like I said, no proper supervision.”
“Yeah, like you’re so good about stocking the refrigerator. Anyway, I also wanted to be around people for a little while – I hadn’t seen anyone all day – so I went out to Dirty Dan’s for a beer and some pizza.”
“And a dick.”
“I was so not cruising, but while I was on my first beer, this guy sat down at my table. He said, ‘Do you mind?’ with this great English accent, so I said, ‘No, not at all.’ Also, he was cute in that sort of English way…a couple of inches taller than me, lanky, light brown hair, blue eyes, kinda crooked teeth.”
“And you were surprised that this happened when you went by yourself to a gay bar for pizza and a beer?”
“Well, no, but I wasn’t looking. Anyway, Geoff had a whiskey in front of him, and when he finished it, he ordered a second one…in fact, he ordered four more single malts…two for him, two for me. You know I like single malts, so I finished my first one before the pizza came. We shared my pizza, and we drank his whiskeys, then we had a few more…I don’t know…four or five shots apiece altogether. 9:30, 10:00 rolled around, and he invited me back to his hotel. My apartment was just around the corner, so I said, ‘No, you come home with me.’”
“I am shocked.”
“Shut up. We managed to make it back to the apartment, we stripped, and we fell into bed. We messed around a little, but nothing seemed to be happening on his part. Finally he said, ‘Bloody hell, I’m squiffed.’
“Remember, I hadn’t eaten all day, and I’d had a beer and whiskey before I started my pizza, so I was pretty drunk. I sat up in bed and yelled, ‘What the fuck! You’re squiffed?’ I thought it was some kind of disease I’d never heard of.
“Geoff started giggling and he said, ‘You’re squiffed, too.’
“I said, ‘Well, if I am, I caught it from you, fuck you. I wasn’t squiffed before I met you.’
“Geoff blinked at me. ‘What the hell are you talking about?’
“I said, ‘I’m talking about getting the squiffs. You gave ‘em to me.’
“He started laughing, then he rolled over on his stomach and passed out without explaining what was so funny. I tried to worry, but I fell asleep, too. The next morning I had to get up and go to work, but when I booted him out the front door, he was still laughing, so I found my dictionary and looked up the word. So there’s my story. I got drunk but I didn’t get laid.”
Brian nodded, smiling at this guy who had such an easy way with words. Guess it’s true, he thought, opposites really do attract.
“Now I get to make a word. This one should be easy for you.” Justin put a G and an R in front of ASS. “GRASS.”
Brian leaned back on the couch, barefoot and bare-chested, his jeans-clad legs spread at an inviting angle in front of him. He huffed a bit at the simplicity of his task.
“I was twelve and with Jimmy Bevins the first time I smoked grass.”
“Doesn’t count,” Justin replied nonchalantly.
“What do you mean it doesn’t count?”
“It’s not a story. It says right here,” Justin had his Webster’s open on his lap. “A story is defined as, ‘A series of statements regarding the facts pertinent to a situation.’ What you gave me is a sentence, not a story.”
“Fine. Once upon a time I was twelve and I knew a boy named Jimmy Bevins. His older brother was a pothead. He gave Jimmy some grass. We smoked it in his basement when his parents were out of town. We lived happily ever after that afternoon. There’s your story.”
“You’re such a shit head,” Justin replied with a giggle.
“Nope, I am a WIZARD,” Brian replied as he set his next word down, aligning his R just above the D in DARE. “Your turn.”
Justin stared at the word, looking a little baffled, then said, “I want another beer. You?”
As Justin took two beers out of the refrigerator, he looked back over his shoulder and remarked, “Okay, I thought of something.” He pulled out a drawer and rummaged around for the opener.
“So are you going to tell me or is guessing the story some new rule of yours?”
“When I was a kid, “The Wizard of Oz” was on every fall, and our whole family sat down together and watched it. It was like a family ritual, you know.”
“Not really.” Brian reached for his beer as Justin sat down. “But go on anyway.”
“The thing was, I was afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West. I mean, not just a little scared, but fucking terrified. I’d be O.K. until the first time those damn monkeys showed up, and then I’d hide my eyes and cry and even shake. My father would pick me up and sit me on his lap. I’d turn my head into his chest, and ask him to tell me when it was okay to look, and he would. His arms would go around me, and I’d know I was safe.”
“Very touching,” Brian said.
“Yeah, but that’s not the whole story. I just couldn’t seem to get over being afraid of the witch and her fucking monkeys. I can remember still being afraid when Molly was old enough to watch with us, so I must have been 10 or 11 years old, maybe even 12. I didn’t shake or cry anymore, but I can remember feeling so scared that I couldn’t even breathe right.”
“My dad understood. He was great about it, never teased me or called me a sissy or anything. He’d just pat the couch next to him and say, ‘Why don’t you sit next to me, Jus?’ Then when the fucking monkeys came, he’d put his arm around me, and I’d hide my face.
“So, you know what confuses me, Brian? I wonder how that nice, fatherly guy turned into a homophobic bigot. I was never an All-American boy, playing sports and refusing to hug or kiss my parents, and he was fine with it. More than fine…he was proud of me. I’d hear him bragging about me to his friends…how smart I was, how good looking, what a good swimmer…and then suddenly, bam, I’m the devil’s spawn. I still don’t get it.
“You know what I don’t get?”
“Why the fuck did your perfect parents make you watch “The Wizard of Oz” if they knew you were going to freak out?”
Justin blinked. “I don’t know. I never thought about that. It was just something we did. Like I said, it was a tradition.”
“Fucking stupid tradition, if you ask me.” Brian shifted in his seat. “Your turn.”
Justin sighed. “This isn’t a very inspired word, I’m afraid. I have shitty letters…only two consonants and a helluva lot of vowels…so this is what you get.” He attached V-E-R to the E of Brian’s SQUIFFED. “Good luck.”
“EVER? I get ASS, GRASS and EVER! You suck at this.”
“Well, you can’t tell a decent story anyway so what does it matter?”
“Oh, I can’t, can’t I?”
Justin looked at Brian stone faced and gave a slow shake of his head. Underneath his calm exterior he was actually gleeful, wondering if this reverse psychology would work. Could the secretive bastard actually be tricked into giving up one small morsel of his history?
Brian began, “Remember the night we met?”
“Do you really have to ask?”
“I told you about the time I was with my gym teacher, right? My first time, EVER?”
“Yeeeesss,” Justin drew out the word in a long slow hiss.
“Well, there was more to it than that.”
“A couple days after the blow job in the shower, I was sitting in study hall and I was called to the office. There I was told that Mr. O’Neil, THE teacher, wanted to see me. Walking down to the locker room, I was nervous, but kind of excited too, you know?’’
“Ah ha,” Justin nodded eagerly, his mouth opening slightly, egging Brian on.
“So I get down there and the place is empty, but he’s sitting behind the desk in his office and he motions me in. He apologizes for calling me out of study hall and makes some small talk. Asks me how my classes are going, how things are at home, shit like that.”
Justin was mesmerized, and he noticed his dick was perking up a bit too. Finally his efforts seemed to be paying off as Brian continued.
“I tell him everything’s fine, and then he asks if I might be interested in doing a little ‘extra credit’ work for him after school that day. He says it’s easy duty, and it probably won’t take long. If I can be down there at 4:30, he’ll drive me home in time for dinner. It was a Friday so I knew there wouldn’t be any team practice, and there also wouldn’t be any guys hanging around the locker room. I had a pretty good idea of what his version of ‘easy duty’ was going to be so I said, ‘Sure.’ He had me call Joanie from there, and she was more than happy to see me taking an interest in an after school activity. I was set.”
Justin shifted in his seat and pulled at the crotch of his now too tight jeans. Why, he thought, hadn’t I just thrown on sweats this morning?
Brian glanced at Justin and slowly licked his lower lip before continuing. “Funny thing, my last class that day was PE. I made sure I did a very thorough job in the shower afterward and then hung around outside the building watching the parking lot empty before I went back in. I got to the locker room fashionably late and found him filing papers in his office. He smiled…invited me in…told me to close the door. I did and he locked it.”
Dammit, Justin thought, get to the fucking sex already. He so wanted to jump on Brian and replay this little episode his partner was describing.
“I was standing against the wall, and he leaned back on his desk and crossed his arms when he started to talk. I remember his words like it were yesterday, ‘I’m not going to pull any punches with you, Brian. I assume from the blowjob you gave me in the shower the other day, you’re gay, right?’ I nodded and he went on. ‘I also assume, at your age, you’re probably not getting any action except from your hand.’ I nodded again. At this point I was scared shitless. I couldn’t figure out if this guy was going to proposition me or if he had Jack and Joanie waiting outside somewhere ready to swoop in with a priest.”
“Fuck!” was the only word Justin could muster. His hands were in his lap now, attempting to hide the obvious bulge.
“He told me, ‘I’m not gay, Brian. I’m happily married and I have two kids, but I know what you want and I can give it to you as long as you keep this just between us. You’re a smart kid and I trust you.’ Then he asked if I trusted him and I told him, ‘Yes.’ That’s when he stood up and came over to me. He was undoing my belt and had his face about two inches from mine. He told me I smelled so good, and he asked if I had ever kissed a ‘real man.’ Before I could answer, that straight son-of-a-bitch had his tongue in my mouth and my pants down around my ankles. He was stroking me, and I was this close to coming.” Brian held up his thumb and forefinger, and Justin remembered the time Brian had told a similar story, years ago at Woody’s, about Debbie catching him and Michael in the act. “Then we heard a door slam just outside the office.”
“Shit, what did you do?”
Brian chuckled, “We jumped apart and I grabbed for my pants. Mr. O’Neil started talking, louder than usual, about my attendance and discreetly unlocked the door once I had it all together. When he opened it, we saw the fucking janitor gathering up the towels. I didn’t wait for him to say anything else. I got the hell out of there and walked home.”
“Jesus, Brian. I can’t believe that guy was so stupid as to try that with a 14 year old!” Justin stared in amazement.
“As well you shouldn’t.”
“What?” Justin exclaimed.
“Never happened, it was a story. Stories can be fictional, you know.”
“You fucking asshole! That’s not what we agreed upon! You are supposed to tell me a story that I never knew before about you, using the word I gave you, not some fictional account you make up as you go along.”
“Hey, calm down there, son. You are supposed to use nouns, verbs or ‘some adjectives’, remember? If you can cheat, so can I. At least you got the bonus of a hard on with my story,” Brian quipped, motioning to Justin’s crotch. “Want me to take care of that for you…Mr. O’Neil?” Brian said in his best fourteen-year-old voice.
“Fuck you, the guy should have hauled your wet ass to the principal’s office the minute you knelt down in the shower.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s what you would have done, right?” Brian responded as he placed a J and an A in front of the R in WIZARD. “I’m reverting back to my three letter words. Tell me something fascinating about you and a jar.”
Justin stared at him thoughtfully for a long minute, then he said, slowly, “I do have a story about a jar, but fascinating…not really. Do you remember that huge pickle jar I brought home from the diner when I first started working there?”
“YES, I remember that damn jar. I also remember driving 500 miles to New York City instead of flying in comfort because you wouldn’t cash in the change you’d accumulated.”
“Yeah, right. You drove solely to bring me my pickle jar…and an easel…and some other supplies…and some towels and sheets…and a set of dishes and some pots and pans.”
“All of which makes me an even more considerate person.”
“True. It was a very nice thing to do, but my point is that you weren’t bringing just the pickle jar.”
“So that’s your whole story…that you put your change in an industrial-strength pickle jar?”
“No, of course not, idiot. After I got to New York, I kept putting my change in the jar, so that when I’d been there about a year…closer to18 months, actually…it was nearly full. I had some unusual expenses coming up, so I cradled it in my arms and staggered to the nearest branch of my bank. The fucker was heavy as hell. There was a short line at the bank, so I get in it, put the jar on the floor and push it ahead of me with my foot until it’s my turn to see a teller. I bend down and pick it up, and the bottom falls out of the damn thing. The bottom just stayed on the floor when I picked the fucker up. The money went everywhere…over $700 skittering in every direction. I was embarrassed; I was annoyed, I was worried that I wouldn’t get it all back. I think I did, though. People are very nice.”
“Was he cute?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The guy who helped you pick it up.”
“What makes you think there was a guy?”
“Justin, your bank was in the East Village, right? And you’re a hot guy. I’m sure there was someone around who was more than happy to help.”
“He was an older guy, a little on the stocky side, Italian, but very helpful.”
“Helped you right into bed, I’ll bet.”
“May have. A definite possibility.”
Brian leaned forward, cupped his hand around the back of Justin’s head, and drew him across the table for a gentle kiss. “Thank you,” he said.
“I’ve always wondered where you got the money to take us to Florida for my birthday. I thought maybe you peddled your ass on the streets of New York. Now I know you cashed in your pickle jar instead.”
Justin blushed, ducked his head, and concentrated on laying down five letters, descending from the J in Brian’s JAR: JOYFUL. “This time you’d better tell a REAL story.”
Brian studied the board and made a disgruntled face, “That may not be possible.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a very joyful person.”
“What kind of a person are you, Brian?”
“I don’t know.” Brian shifted on the couch, “I’m content. You could even go so far as to say I’m finally happy, but joyful? No offense to you, I’m just not sure I’ve got it in me.”
“So…joy and happiness is pretty much the same thing. Tell me about a time you were really happy.”
Brian was silent as he pondered this. The man sitting across from him had been the cause of his happiness and heartbreak for years now. Events prior to him paled in comparison. There was no childhood Christmas gift or adolescent escapade with Mikey that he put on the same level as the feelings Justin had awakened in him.
“I was happy when you came back, but you already know that.”
Justin chuckled, “My ass aches at the memory.” He had been sitting crosswise on the chair and now leaned his head over its arm, letting it hang there for a minute. Reviewing those first few days after his return to Pittsburgh, a sentimental grin spread across his face. His two years in New York had been a growing and maturing experience. He had learned a lot about art and business and people. He had also learned about their priority in his life and realized the first two didn’t matter nearly as much to him as the last one did.
When his lease was up, he took a chance and surprised Brian. He returned while Brian was at work, and the first thing he did was hang the large canvas, his favorite piece, where the naked guy had been so that Brian was sure to see it when he walked through the doorway. Then he showered, crawled into their bed and prayed Brian would be returning alone. He did, and the two of them barely emerged from that bed for the next 72 hours. Yes, there was no doubt: Brian had been very, very joyful. He straightened himself out and turned back around in his chair. “I appreciate you saying it, but surely there have been other happy times in your life.”
Brian was biting his thumbnail and looking off into the distance. The little fucker, this was much more difficult than ASS, GRASS or EVER. He couldn’t even think up a good lie for JOYFUL. It was then that his eyes focused on a photograph sitting just above his computer. It was too far from where he was sitting to make out clearly, but that didn’t matter. He knew each pixel by heart. He should; he had taken it and looked at it every day for the past five or six years. It was of two sleeping figures, a handsome blond man and an adorable dark haired toddler curled in the crook of the man’s arm.
“It would be the day I took that picture,” Brian said as he pointed across the room, “the one above my computer.” Justin turned to look and then swung back around with a puzzled expression. He remembered that time, and it had been far from joyful.
“I don’t get it. Gus was sicker than a dog that day.”
“Yeah, he was. I remember he started running a fever about two hours after Mel and Lindz left town for the weekend, and you had just started your shift at the diner. It was the same day Deb was home with the flu, so the place was short staffed and you had to go in. I gave him that liquid Tylenol shit, but he started puking it up about a half an hour later. He was fucking miserable and I was no better. He cried and fussed and whined the whole God damn day, and I wanted to tear my hair out. He couldn’t keep anything in him. I was getting so desperate that I nearly called your mother. But then you came home. You gave him a bath in the kitchen sink and mixed up that Jell-O water. It was the first thing he was able to drink and keep down. You were both exhausted and fell asleep on the couch, and that’s when I took the picture. Honestly, that’s when I felt as close to joyful as I can imagine feeling. I knew he was going to be okay.” Brian paused remembering the sight of his sleeping son wrapped in the protective arm of that other kid who so puzzled him at the time. “There you have it, does that count?”
“Yup,” Justin looked up at Brian gratefully as he nodded, “it sure does.” This time it was his turn to lean over the table and give Brian a peck. “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?”
“No, but this could be,” Brian replied, suggestively looking down at his crotch.
“Are you ready to concede defeat?”
“Defeat? Why would I do that when I’m winning, 95 to 72?”
Justin peered at the score sheet. “Oh.”
“Oh indeed. Still want to quit?”
“No. I have a really good word in mind for next time, provided you don’t screw it up.”
“O.K. How’s this? Does this screw you up? ” Using the L in Justin’s Joyful, Brian placed five letters next to it to spell out THRILL. “Have at it.”
Justin stared at the board for a good minute and then, to Brian’s amazement, started to blush. As Brian watched, Justin’s face got even redder, and he covered it with his hands. “Justin…?” Brian asked, amusement in his voice.
His hands muffled Justin’s voice. “This is SO embarrassing….”
“What the hell is there left that can still embarrass you around me?”
“I’m embarrassed because I can hardly think of a single thrilling moment since I turned 17 that you don’t know about”
“Or caused.” Brian smirked.
Justin dropped his hands and looked across the table. “Or caused. That’s so pathetic.”
“Pathetic in a sweet sort of way.”
“Brian, did you just use ‘sweet’ in reference to me? Now, that’s pathetic.”
“Okay, just use the fucking word in a story.”
“All right, it’s not much of a story, but at least I don’t think you know about it…. It happened maybe a month ago, at Babylon.” Justin paused.
“Go on. I love Babylon stories…if they involve me.”
“Emmett and I had been out on the dance floor, and we’d worked up a thirst. We headed back to the bar, and when we got close, Emmett elbowed me in the ribs. I looked where he pointed, and there you were. You were bellied up to the bar, with some guy plastered up to you. You had your back to us, and you were looking away from us, at the guy. He was maybe thirty; very butch…his muscles had muscles. Sound familiar?”
“Sounds like a hundred guys I know.” Brian yawned.
“And he looked like a hundred guys you know…not great looking, not bad looking…average. Anyway, it was obvious that he was coming on to you strong. He was leaning on the bar with one elbow, and his other hand was on your shoulder. As we watched, he ran his hand down your back and over your ass. Then there was a pause in the music, and we heard him say, ‘to fuck you.’”
“Must have been new in town.”
“My guess. He didn’t look familiar. Then you said, ‘There’s only one guy in the world who fucks me, and you aren’t him.’
“Emmett and I took a couple of steps closer as the music got louder. The guy raised his voice and said, ‘What’s he got that I haven’t got?’
“You said, ‘I only let guys I love fuck me, and I don’t love you.’ I grabbed Emmett’s shirt and pulled him away from there. I didn’t want you to know I’d over-heard you. Emmett hugged me and said, ‘Aww, honey. That gave you a thrill, didn’t it? Guess Brian doesn’t indulge in much sweet talk.’ I dried my eyes on Emmett’s shirt, and then we went back and ran the trick off.”
“Can’t say I remember the incident.”
“Good. You were pretty drunk, but I’ll take your declarations of love any way I can get them.”
And by the way, you didn’t screw me up last time.” Tiles clicked as Justin laid his down, using the D in SQUIFFED: B-A-S-H-E.”
Brian watched and his amused expression turned serious. “No,” was the only word he uttered.
“What do you mean, No?”
“Game over. I’m tired of playing.”
“Brian,” Justin remarked as if he was reprimanding a child.
“Justin,” Brian looked across the table at him, wide eyed and glaring.
“It’s just a word.”
“Yes, it is. A word with memories I don’t care to dredge up and also none that you don’t already know, so drop it.”
Brian stood up and grabbed his cigarettes, lighting one as he walked to the window. Justin turned his head and looked at Brian over his shoulder, “Liar,” he remarked, ‘My version of the story still has lots of holes in it. And you have never, in all these years, told me yours.”
“Jesus, Justin. It was so long ago. I thought you were over it by now.”
“I am!” Justin insisted, picking the tiles off the board and tossing them into the game box. “Seems to me you’re the one who isn’t.”
Brian was silent as he exhaled the warm smoke and gazed out the window. Pittsburgh, with its recent snow looked clean and rejuvenated; like the whole city had received a fresh coat of paint. Too bad it couldn’t stay that way. Everyday, year round, just cover up the grime with a layer of white in the same way he continued to whitewash his memories of that horrible spring.
This game sure hadn’t turned out the way he planned. He had played along with Justin’s story hour in an attempt to keep the peace, and it backfired on him. Now, he not only had endured the walk down memory lane, but he had a pissed-off Justin to boot. Brian could hear him packing up the game, loudly, and muttering to himself. Now and then he would get a snippet of Justin’s little rant.
“Fucking stupid…how many years is it going to take…I tell him everything…it didn’t even happen to him.”
That did it.
Brian turned around quickly, and Justin caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. “You’re right,” Brian shouted, “it didn’t happen to me but I wish it had. You know why?”
Justin stood silently, unsure of whether this was going to be a breakthrough or a brawl.
Brian continued, “Because that way I could have done something about it.”
“So you’re accusing me of not doing anything about it?” Justin could feel his heartbeat speed up and his face flush.
“No, you’re missing the point.”
“Then tell me what the point is.”
“God, Justin, why can’t you just let it be? The point is, this shitty thing happened to you and you dealt with it admirably. I dealt with it in my own way, and that’s fine. We’re fine. Let’s forget it, okay?”
“Yeah, sure, just like always. We’re fine because you know how I feel and how I deal with things. Once again, I’m in the dark when it comes to you.”
“Justin, come on.” Brian had walked back to where Justin was standing. He was in front of him now and attempting to pull him in for a hug. Justin resisted. He wanted to be in Brian’s arms but needed to make his point before this conversation evaporated into mouths and teeth and tongues communicating in an entirely different way.
“I know it was a long time ago, Brian, and I didn’t want to start a fight over it. I was just hoping you might tell me something about how YOU felt during that time. Because when it was happening, it was all about me…you know? And every time we have talked about it since then, it’s still always all about me. How did you feel?”
Brian drew in a long breath and let it out with a sigh as he let his body collapse into the chair Justin had occupied most of the afternoon. This was not going to go away quietly. Justin would win sooner or later and how long he wanted to prolong the agony was simply up to him.
“You really want to know how I felt?
Brian was staring straight ahead as he spoke the words. “Terrified, then devastated, and finally, completely and utterly helpless.”
Justin looked down at Brian as he contemplated those words. Then he lowered his hand and stroked Brian’s cheek. “And if it had happened to you, what would you have done?”
Brian tilted his head back and looked into Justin’s eyes, “I probably would have suffered through months of physical therapy in order to get my brain to work again and then freaked out and joined some vigilante group when I THOUGHT I had my shit together. Maybe after that didn’t work, I would have gotten some professional counseling.”
“That’s what I did,” Justin smiled.
“I know. I said you handled it admirably.”
“So then, why is this so difficult for you to talk about?”
“Because,” Brian paused to collect his thoughts, “I didn’t…and I’m sorry.”
He probably could have left it at that and pulled Justin down to meet his lips. Brian had shared enough for one afternoon, and Justin would have let him off the hook, allowing him to save some secrets for another day. But there was something in the way Justin’s expression had changed that compelled him to go on.
“I’m sorry for walking into your prom, making a scene and waltzing out with you. I’m sorry I was only at the hospital when you didn’t need me and that when you got out and did need me, the best advice I could give you was not to think about it. I’m also sorry I let you walk out of here with a gun. You could have died any number of times.”
Why had he gone there? The thought of losing Justin back then still put a lump in his throat, and his voice wavered when he continued, “I have NEVER fucked up anything so badly in my life, and it kills me that it was you who had to suffer because of it.”
There, Brian thought as he lowered his head, I’ve said it, finally, but there was no weight lifted off his shoulders. He still felt the terrible guilt that had crushed him over this incident for so long. He drew in a shaky breath, closed his eyes and felt a tear trickle down his cheek. He raised his hand to wipe his face and Justin caught it.
He was kneeling in front of Brian now, grasping that hand tightly and kissing the side of his face; licking at the moisture there and murmuring softly, “You’re crazy…fucking crazy…love you.”
When Brian opened his eyes, Justin pulled back and sat on his heels. “You’ve heard me talk a lot this afternoon but you are going to have to listen to a little more. You think you know everything about me, but you don’t. Do you honestly think it was just because of you that Chris Hobbs bashed me that night? Brian, Chris had been gunning for me that entire year. Ever since the day I jacked him off in the storeroom, and he realized he liked it. The little scene I made outside Babylon that night he showed up probably sealed the deal. I never told you about all the things he did to me at school that year. How many times I was shoved into lockers or down the stairs. The name calling, the fist fights in the locker room and the verbal exchanges in class. He damn well may have bashed me that night anyway even if I had been walking with Daphne. She might have gotten hurt also. Did you ever consider that? If he didn’t do it then, he probably would have gotten to me one way or another by graduation.”
“That son-of-a-bitch,” Brian whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I didn’t want you to swoop in and protect me. That would have just made matters worse. I needed to handle things myself, the same way you would have. The same way you probably did when you were in high school. So get the fucked up notion that it was your fault out of your mind once and for all. You made me the happiest kid on earth by showing up at my prom and while it was tough at the time, not seeing you at the hospital forced me to work all the harder to get out. I know you came every night, by the way.”
Brian looked up. “How?”
“My mom could only keep your secret until I was a mess after the Ethan thing. I cried on her shoulder when you didn’t immediately take me back. I told her you never loved me in the first place. She reminded me then of everything you had done in the past for me, including that.”
“And all the rest? Maybe you didn’t encourage me to talk about it, but in a fucked up sort of way that was good. It forced me to talk to someone who was trained to listen; someone who could really help me get through the ordeal. But you gave me what only you could. What I needed the most; human touch and love. You were the only person I wanted, Brian…and you still are.”
Justin leaned up, bracketed Brian’s face with his hands, and kissed his glistening eyes shut, first the right and then the left. “I want you to do something very, very difficult for me,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “I want you to forgive the one person who hasn’t forgiven you. Let it go, Brian, and I promise I’ll never mention it again.”
Brian wrapped his arms around Justin and hugged him to his bare chest. And with that simple, comforting motion, the weight lifted. They clung tightly to each other for a long moment and then Justin gave a push and dropped back on his knees. He unsnapped Brian’s jeans and tucked his hand inside, stroking down Brian’s penis and gently grasping his balls. “Now,” he said, “I think after all this trauma, you need a little physical therapy.”
Justin removed his hand and used both of his to pull Brian’s jeans open as far as they would go. Brian’s cock lay there, framed in the opening, and as he watched, it gave a little twitch. Justin smiled, leaned forward and sniffed. He moved from its head down to Brian’s balls, never touching him, just sniffing, then after a few seconds of exquisite torture, he buried his face in Brian’s crotch. Brian gave Justin’s hair a gentle tug, trying to guide Justin’s head back to his cock.
Justin looked up with a smile and said, “Don’t worry. I’m going to suck your dick until your eyes roll up in your head, and then I’m going to fuck you silly, so relax and enjoy it.”
Brian grunted and pulled more firmly on Justin’s hair. Justin smiled and took Brian’s cock deep into his mouth, then pulled back a little. He pressed his tongue against the vein on the underside, just above Brian’s balls. Justin felt the penis firm up and straighten out as he slowly worked his way up to the tip, pressing on the vein as he went. He played with Brian’s slit, stabbing his tongue into it, sure he could taste a little pre-cum, then running his tongue around the ridge of the cap. Brian squirmed and laced the fingers of one hand through Justin’s hair while he gripped the chair seat with the other.
Justin smiled and rolled his lips over his teeth, then slowly, slowly worked his way down Brian’s dick, glorying in Brian’s response. Brian’s dick was hard, hard now, under his lips, steel clothed in the softest of velvet. But Brian was not the only one responding, he realized. He was getting hard too. He released Brian’s cock, stood up, and unsnapped and unzipped his own jeans. As Brian reached for him, he grabbed Brian’s hand and covered his own hot cock with it. “That’s what you do to me, Brian. After how many years? you still get me hard without even touching me. Having your cock in my mouth makes me so horny it hurts.”
Brian uncoiled from his chair and stood. He grabbed Justin’s biceps, his hands digging into the muscle. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice grating, “if you’re serious about fucking me, because I need you, Justin.” He stopped and swallowed. “I need to be inside you now…right now.”
Justin shivered, his body resonating to Brian’s intensity. “Yes,” he said and pulled his shirt over his head. Brian kicked his own jeans off, then helped Justin out of his. A tug and a jerk, a moccasin flying across the room, and they were both naked.
Brian framed Justin’s face with his hands and stared for a moment, then covered Justin’s mouth with his own. Justin shut his eyes and hung on to Brian’s arms as Brian’s tongue took possession of his mouth, filling it, in up to its root. Justin leaned into Brian and wrapped his arms around him, rubbing his cock up against Brian’s leg, letting the white heat drive all thought from his mind. He knew only Brian and cock and want and NOW. Somebody moaned urgently. It might have been him.
Brian’s arms tightened around him, and Justin was on his back on the table. He arched his back and wrapped his legs around Brian’s waist. Fingers were in his rectum, stretching, stretching. This time the moan was definitely his. The lube was cold on his asshole, and he clenched around the fingers and gripped harder with his legs. Then there was pressure, insistent, unrelenting, and he wanted it, pushed down against it, and heard a groan that he thought wasn’t his. He threw his arms back and reached for the edge of the table, grabbed and held, and pushed back.
Brian was in. He paused, panting. “What I want…,” he ground out. “What I need….” Then his hands were holding Justin in place and what followed happened in something close to silence, with only the sound of bodies moving against the table’s wooden surface and the sound of hot, sweaty skin meeting and sliding. Justin moaned when Brian closed his hand around his penis, enveloping it in clever warmth. He was hardly aware of rocking into Brian’s hand as Brian hammered into him, his own motion an involuntary extension of Brian’s need, Brian’s want. Then he was coming, coming, coming, his semen splattering on his chest, his chin, on Brian, on the table, and Brian was collapsing on him, shuddering with his own orgasm.
“Jesus,” Brian said. “Are you all right?”
Justin’s legs splayed out on either side of Brian. “Mmmm,” he said.
Brian laughed shakily and pulled him up into a sitting position. “C’mon,” he said.
Justin saw Brian looked as dazed as he felt. “Bed?” he asked.
“Couch,” Brian said and hauled him down onto it. They spooned themselves into position, Brian’s back against the couch, his arm holding Justin safely in place.
Justin yawned, and his eyes shut. “Who knew Scrabble was this exhausting?” he asked.
“Oh, it is,” Brian responded, as they both drifted off, “especially when I win.”