Quite a Ride
It's almost surreal, this feeling. Maybe it's just that Brian and I have never seemed to have much time to simply hang out together and be happy. There's always something. And there probably will be today, too, but right at this minute somehow it feels as if we're both floating so high that nothing could shoot us down. It feels like ...
I feel myself go cold then, and I have to hang onto the bench to keep from falling off the stool. Brian says something, some smartassed comment about having me swooning over him, or from all the fucking, I'm not sure. But then suddenly he's there, his hands on me and I realise that I'm gasping for breath and my heart is thudding so damned hard it feels like it will burst out through my rib cage.
"Breathe!" he orders. "Just concentrate on your breathing. Breathe with me. In. Out. In. Out."
His voice is calm, almost hypnotic; he's using the techniques they taught us to get through the panic attacks I used to have in those months after the bashing. It's only when that dawns on me that I realise that I'm having another one now, and I swear and try to push away from Brian.
For the second time that morning, he just laughs at me and wraps his arms around me. "Not a chance, Sunshine. You aren't going anywhere."
I lean my forehead against his shoulder.
"It's okay now. I'm okay," I mumble. He strokes my hair without saying anything.
"I just ..." I pull away enough to be able to look into his face and he lets me. "I think I remember how I was feeling that night ... like everything was perfect and nothing could spoil that moment."
His mouth twists, and I kiss his neck. "Sorry, I'm okay now."
He lets me go and steps away. He stands at the end of the island, saying nothing. His stillness and silence are so deep they feel like they're going to swallow the world.
Then he turns to me.
"There'll always be some asshole trying to fuck things up for us, Justin." He gives a bitter grin. "Half the time it will be me."
I want to respond to that, but I can't. I have to wait and let him finish. He looks at me and his grin softens into something kinder.
I take in a deep breath and meet his eyes. Fuck! How can he have the courage to do this, to trust me again, after Ethan?
He smiles at me, that beautiful tender Brian smile.
"We can't fucking let them, that's all. We can't let anyone take this away from us, no matter what they do, how fucking hard they try, how much it ... how much it costs."
That's when I hear what he's really telling me. It's not about our fuck ups, it's not even about Hobbs, it's about today. And when he says it, I realise that it was the thought of today, more even than the memory of what happened back in that parking garage, that triggered the panic. It was the fear of losing what we've fought so hard for because the price of keeping it was too high to ask him to pay.
I slide off the stool and walk to him, wrapping my arms around him and wishing that I could hold him forever safe from all the hurts that are lying in wait for him no matter how this lunch thing goes. He puts his arms around me and presses his forehead to mine. He doesn't say anything else, but he doesn't have to.
"We could just blow them off," I suggest.
He grins, and I know he's tempted, but he just kisses me on the nose, and, taking my hand, leads me up the steps to start getting dressed.
It's all hitting him all at once - the memories, the fucking shit with Mikey, the stress over today. And of course to make it absolutely perfect, tomorrow will be the fucking anniversary of the Prom.
I know he's worrying about me. About how I'm going to deal with the whateveritwas fucked up thing I had with Mikey imploding. I used to think it was a friendship. I really did. But it was obviously never that to him. Or if it was, that wasn't what he wanted, and the friendship thing was just a way to hang around so he could cling on to the fucked up idea that one day ...
I told him once he was like my brother. Ain't that the fucking truth? One more fucked up family tie to add to the tangle that's my fucking life.
I don't ...
I feel bad that things are in this mess. I never wanted Mikey to get hurt. Never.
He ... he just couldn't leave it alone.
Even after I flat out told him how things stood. How I felt about him. How I feel about Justin. Even after I begged him to just give it up ... he can't seem to let it go; and I can't let him hang on anymore. I have to cut him loose. I keep hoping that I've done it, keep believing that. And then he comes back. It's like a fucking mosquito buzzing round you in the middle of the night, you flail around and you think you've got it, and you lay down and try to relax and then you hear that whine again.
Up till now, I've been trying to get it done without bloodshed, but not anymore. Justin and I have both been through too much to have to put up with any more shit from someone who fucking refuses to get a clue. I won't have him put through any more. If Mikey pulls anything today ...
It won't be pretty, boys and girls. It will not.
But meanwhile, we've got this lovely party to get ready for, and I want to get over there early enough that maybe we can take Gus out for a short ride in the new car.
I come out of my thoughts and see what this twat that I live with is planning to wear and I swear I am ready to queen out completely. But then I get a good look at his face and realise that he's playing me. He is so going to pay for that later. But right now I don't plan to start anything I don't have time to finish so I just give him a swat on the ass and try to find something to wear that will cover up the damned bite mark he left on my neck. Well, at least, hide it a bit.
Fuck! You'd think we were a couple of high school kids, giving each other hickeys yet. Oh, wait! He is. Well, almost.
He grins as he pushes the other shit back into the closet and I sneak a couple of looks at him as he pulls on a decent pair of jeans, a shirt and a dark grey sweater. The sweater's not cashmere, but it's not crap either, and the dark color makes his skin and hair and eyes glow. I grab the front of it and pull him against me. He comes into my arms like there's no where else he'd ever want to be, and it's all I can do, when the kiss finally ends to let him go.
No, this isn't any kid. This is the guy who has always been man enough to take me on and together we can take on the fucking world.
He nudges my jaw with his nose and then he grins at me. He reaches into the back of the closet and pulls out a gift box. Little shit!
My heart is beating a little faster for some reason as I sit on the bed to open it. It's dumb, but I can feel my eyes stinging. I try to steady myself, because I know that if I don't like whatever it is I am going to have to put on a fucking Academy Award performance. I'm not totally stupid. I know this means a lot to him, and that means it has to be important to me too.
There's no wrapping paper, the box itself, black with a faintly metallic sheen, is the wrapping. There's no elaborate bow; only a band of pewter ribbon across diagonally opposite corners to hold the lid in place. There's no fancy card, only a small square of black cardstock on which is written in pewter ink, B from J. I hold it in my hand a long while. Through a sort of haze I can see my hand shaking. It's hard to explain. I don't want to explain. Don't, thank God, have to. But I know. Deep inside me I know how much this simplicity means to me. As a kid, it wasn't that I didn't get gifts or presents. Are you kidding? and let the neighbours think that the Kinneys couldn't afford nice things for their kids?
Oh, no. I got them alright. Correctly wrapped, with cards that said just the right things. It just doesn't mean a lot when you know that there's nothing there behind the words, when you know that the first mark, the first scratch, on the nice thing you've just been given is going to be taken out of your hide seven times seven. And when you know that you'd give all of it, all the cards with their nice words, all the gifts, everything, for one day, one hour, of feeling loved and wanted.
So now I sit here like a fucking helpless faggot shaking and on the verge of tears for fuck's sake, because he knew ... he knew not to give me all that shit. Knew me well enough to know that's not what I want from him. He touches me on the hand, "Bri?"
Shit! he hardly ever calls me that. I must look fucking bad. I force myself to look up and smile at him. He smiles back and that's all I need. I put my hand behind his head and kiss him. Then I open the box.
It's quite heavy I realise as I lift it to remove the ribbon. I'm intrigued now, wondering what he has got me.
I open the box, and fold back the tissue paper, and pull out what's nestled in the folds. It's a shirt, silk, green ... no, emerald, but so dark as to be almost black. Only where the light falls on it just right does it release the color. It's beautiful. Truly beautiful. And must have cost a fucking bomb. I'm torn between real pleasure and a desire to smack him silly. He's been struggling to find money to pay for bus fares and he's bought this?
I look at him, my lips folded between my teeth and he laughs at me. "Brian, don't go there with me. I bought it with ... some money I got ... that's all."
Fuck! With his birthday money, he means. I know Jenn gave him some, because he told me. I think he was disappointed that she didn't buy him some useless junk. I gave her credit for having sense enough to know what he really needed. Yeah, right. Money to buy this for me. I don't think that's what mummy had in mind, Sunshine.
He sits on the bed next to me and rubs his face against my shoulder. "Brian," is all he says, but I hear the rest. It's right on a par with the whole 'let me pay for the hotel' thing. I hate it that he feels he has to prove himself somehow. But I understand it too.
I don't say anything for a moment, just let my fingers tangle with his where they sit on my thigh. Then I kiss his hair.
"If I wear it today and Gus gets cake and shit all over it, I'll probably queen out over it bigtime," I warn him.
"I'll be there to protect you," he promises.
I huff a laugh, appreciating that he's not just talking about the cake, and pull the shirt out of the box. That's when I realise that there's something else there. Something under the tissue paper. Some kind of book.
"Why don't you leave that till we get home," he suggests.
I look at him and raise an eyebrow. He shrugs, but he's also looking a bit embarrassed.
"It's kind of ... more personal," he offers. I figure he's not talking sex toys by the look on his face.
I'm about to say something about him just wanting to tease me, and make me wait, when I suddenly flash on the conversation that is bound to take place at least once today. The 'what did Justin give you?' one. The one that will have all these fucking smirks and knowing looks associated with it. As things stand I can just flash the shirt and brag about the sensational sex. Whatever else he wants to give me, the personal thing, that I don't really know anything about, so I can't talk about it and don't have to hide it. It's safe here; protected from all their fucking jibes and curiosity, from their jealousy and spite. It can lay here, hidden, a secret treasure for only the two of us to share.
Fuck! Talk about pathetic. But I put the lid back on the box. Then I give him a kiss on the head and get up.
"What should I wear with the shirt?" I ask.
I'm still not sure that I shouldn't have just sprung the other gift on him too, so that if he doesn't like it, if it's too personal, if it spooks him, we'll have all day to get over that and a lot to distract us along the way. But ... I think he'll like it. If he doesn't ... if he doesn't then we're really in trouble, because I put all I know and love about him into that thing and if he can't see it, or doesn't want it ...
I have to pull myself up. This is crazy. I made the right decision and so did he. It means that no matter what hell erupts today, when we get home there will be this. And we will have something quiet and intimate and just ours to share.
Meanwhile, he's pulled on an old pair of soft black jeans, and the shirt. His hair is still mussed from the shower, and he's got no shoes on of course, and he looks ...
I just sit and stare at him.
He must feel me looking, because he glances across at me and gives me that eyebrow raised look. The expression on my face must tell him what I'm seeing because that look gives place to the tongue in cheek smirk.
His hair has dried all anyhow, and has lights in it that you don't see once the styling products go in. His skin looks a little paler than normal. Maybe that's just the light, or that it's simply winter pale and I haven't really noticed till now. His lips are somewhere between cherry and cinnamon, and as always, as soon as I focus on them I want to taste them. And his eyes ... his eyes ...
His eyes are always beautiful, but today ... today they seem larger and more expressive even than usual and the lashes around them seem longer and smokier - almost as if he's wearing just a hint of kohl. The color ... God! the color! They usually swim between green and a sort of greenish peaty-brown. The peaty tone is slightly more noticeable in one eye, the green more noticeable in the other. But today, they seem to shine with a myriad of green tones - like looking at the shifting greens of a canopy of trees as the leaves are tossed by the wind. And the green is lit with specks of gold, glowing like little suns.
The shirt has a fairly deep collar that frames the beautiful column of his neck. The silk drapes his body beautifully, and falls softly to his hips where it's gathered into the dark denim. I find myself running my tongue over my lips as I study the way the denim hugs his ass and his crotch and before I even know it, my hands are stretching out to pull him within reach of my mouth.
He evades my hands and laughs.
"Save it!" he recommends. "If we start that we'll never get out of here."
I sigh, but realise he's right.
I stand up and find a pair of boots that won't reduce him to hissy fits, and he pulls on his damned Prada. Of course.
I'm on my way out the door when the catches up with me and drops the keys to the Element into my hand. I feel myself flushing. I'm not used to the idea of having a car yet. let alone the idea of me driving it. Leaving with Brian means he is going to be the driver. But the 'Vette is still at the hotel - Brian has arranged to pick it up tomorrow morning - and anyway, he wants to take Gus out to try out the new car seat.
I hope Mel doesn't make that a problem. There are going to be enough today without her and Brian getting into a turf war the way they usually do.
I expect him to be quiet and withdrawn on the way over, gearing himself up for the day, but instead he's in one of his goofy moods. As soon as we get into the car, he tilts his seat back till it's touching the child seat behind. Then he stretches out.
"To the Munchers', James", he orders and I can't help but giggle.
"Yes, sir, and may I say that I'm so glad you chose to ride me .. er ride with me today. Sir."
I sneak a look at him and he's laying back with his eyes closed, grinning.
"I hope that you have no complaints about the service. Sir."
He brushes a lazy hand along my thigh and chuckles.
"Save it till we get home, Sunshine," he recommends. "I'm sure I'll be requiring even more servicing by then."
"Yes, sir!" I breathe fervently.
He laughs again. "We should buy a uniform," he says. "Or at least a cap. You could suck me off with the cap on. That'd be hot."
I grin in agreement and wonder if there's anywhere that would be open today where I could get a cap. Maybe I could sneak out at some point and get one and surprise him with it later.
He's light hearted and goofy all the way to the Munchers', which is totally not what I expect. But it makes me feel goofy too, and just plain happy to see him like this.
It's early, still not eleven o'clock when we get there and as we wait for someone to answer the door bell we can hear Lindsay's voice saying soothingly, "Mel, of course it won't be Brian. Not at this ..."
Then she opens the door and there we are.
"Surprise!" Brian says chirpily as she stands there with her mouth open.
I give her my best, most disarming smile and say, "Hi! We thought that maybe ..."
But before I can get any further, there's a delighted squeal and suddenly Brian has an armful of toddler as Gus launches himself down the last of the stairs.
"Dadda!" Gus shrieks. "Dadda! Dadda!"
"Hey, Sonnyboy," Brian greets him. "Calm down."
Then he kisses him and blows a big raspberry against his cheek. He tosses him up into the air and then hands him to me. Gus resists for a moment, struggling to get back to him, but Brian says, "If you're nice, Justin is going to take us both for a ride."
"Wide!" Gus hollers, and now he's struggling to get to the door.
Lindz stands casting nervous glances up the stairs. "Brian! What on earth are you doing here so early? Justin, I thought we said ..."
"We've come to take Gus for a ride," Brian says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. "Haven't we, Sonnyboy?"
He takes Gus again and holds him over his head, to Gus' great delight.
"We thought we could get him out of your hair for a while," I say quickly. It's not exactly true that we'd thought of that before, but I have now, and it seems reasonable.
Gus gives another squeal of joy and impatience. "Wide! Wide!. Go with Jus and Dadda."
Lindz tries to take him from Brian. "Brian you know ..." she begins.
"You can't fucking take him anywhere in that fuck machine of yours!" Mel's voice cuts in. "Haven't you got any fucking sense at all!"
Brian smiles at her mock-sweetly. "I wasn't planning on sitting him on Sunshine's knee and hoping for the best, you know. We've made other arrangements."
"What? You're going to strap him to the bonnet?"
Mel's voice is still snarky, but she's curious too, and she comes down the stairs. Brian smirks at her and I can see why she gets so infuriated with him.
"Well, come and see," he says.
She's at the bottom of the stairs by now and she give a snort. "What? You've bought another damned jeep?"
He just smirks some more, and we all traipse out of the house to where the new car, my new car, sits. And it must be just me, but I think it looks self- conscious, as if it's aware that it's the object of everyone's scrutiny.
"Brian!" Lindsay gushes, "it's beautiful. When did you get it?"
This time Brian and Mel both snort, and then they share a look as if acknowledging their respective partners' complete lack of aesthetic sensibilities.
"It's Justin's," Brian announces. "He picked it out."
Thus making it quite clear that his label queen reputation was not to be tarnished by the possession of what he insists on calling 'that butt ugly heap'
Mel gives a little grunt that might be a laugh and Lindz turns to me.
"It's terrific, Justin. And you've already got a child seat."
"Brian picked that out," I tell them, making it clear that it was Brian's priority to have something that we could safely use to drive Gus around in. Then I can't help bragging a little, to drive the point home. "It's top of the range."
Mel gets a funny look on her face that I can't quite track, but Brian does, because he says very casually, "Guess we'll be getting another one eventually. Probably should have got it at the same time, they might have given us a better deal."
Mel shrugs, but she looks happier, too. I suddenly realise that for all that she bad mouths him and curses him, and despite the fact that one of her little bursts of spite against him made her go off and get Mikey to father her kid, it's somehow important to her to know that Brian will be there for her baby. I guess she's realised finally that relying on Mikey is pretty much a dumb ass idea. Plus, no matter what she says, she knows deep down that Brian will always come through for anyone he regards as family.
His way of coming through might be unexpected. He may never admit that that's what he's done. But when you really need him, Mr. "You Can't Count on Anyone But Yourself" can always be counted on. Mel knows that. Hell! Brian was the first one she ran to when their wedding looked like imploding.
Gus is about to explode with excitement and he's trying to climb out of my arms to get to the car, so the Munchers finally agree to let him come with us for a while. Justin, the twat, volunteers to stay behind and help get things ready, but they laugh and push him towards the car. Maybe they want some Mummy time, but I don't want to think about that.
We take a few minutes to get Gus securely fitted in the seat, and adjust the straps properly, then off we go. There's a moment there when I want to snatch the car keys out of Justin's hand and take the wheel, because I suddenly have this flash that the two most precious things in my life are in this fucking car that neither of us is familiar with yet. But I can't do that to him. I have to trust him. To trust life a little. So I get in the passenger seat and just concentrate on being out and about with my two boys.
It comes to me that this is the first time that we've done this. It's the first time since Gus was old enough to sit up and take notice that we've hung out together at all. And it makes me feel like ... there are things I haven't tried yet. For some reason that thought gives me an incredible high. These two, these two make me feel like I can do anything, be anything.
Justin gives me a sideways look and I know he's wondering what I'm thinking. I don't even want to imagine what the expression on my face is like. I try to plaster my poker face back in place, but I can already feel the silly smirk coming back even as he opens his mouth. But to give him credit, he just takes it in stride.
"Where to?" he asks. "The park?"
I shake my head at him. "Incline, " I manage to say.
He raises an eyebrow but takes a turn that will lead us back to the river, and we cross it and turn off to the parking lot.
Gus is still excited. Whether it's the novelty of being out with us, or that he's catching my excitement, or just that he's in desperate need of some 'boy time' away from all the women, I don't know.
"Park, Dadda!" he shrieks.
"Maybe later," I say.
He starts to pout, but Justin pulls up then, and I get out and open the other door to rescue him from the seat. "We're going on a ride first," I tell him.
"Wide!" he says happily.
"Right up there," I say, holding him in one arm and pointing up to where the slope of Mt Washington rears up behind us.
His eyes go wide and his starts bouncing in my grip.
"Up!" he says. "Up!"
Justin walks around to us, and we start towards the ticket booth.
"Walk!" Gus demands. So I put him down and with one of us holding each of his hands he toddles determinedly onwards.
I realise that we must look just like those pathetic hetero-wannabes I'm always sneering at. But I don't give a fuck. I'm not them. I'm me. Right now I'm having kiddy time with my son, and my partner. Later, there'll be the feeding time at the zoo scenario of my birthday lunch with my friends -well, most of them. Then my partner and I will go home and fuck each other into the mattress. Then maybe we'll go to Woody's and Babylon and drink and dance and suck and fuck. Or we might go out for a decent meal, just the two of us. Or even stay home and cuddle and watch a dvd. And tomorrow I'll go to work and be fucking brilliant.
And no matter what we do, what I do, I'll still be Brian Kinney. Because I can do anything. I can play with my kid, spend some time with my friends, party all night, dazzle my clients and then come home to the best fuck I've ever had in my life. And it's all, I realise, because of him over there. The one who's distracting my son so I can pay for the tickets. Him. He's the reason I'm free to be anything, do anything, have everything. All the things I thought I'd never have, he's given me.
All of which means that I don't care what happens this afternoon. Well, not much. Whatever happens, happens. We didn't create this situation, we can't fix it, and right now in the scheme of things, it just doesn't matter very much. For the first time since I was fourteen years old, Mikey doesn't matter very much. Which, for me, is a good thing. A healthy thing. I have other people in my life now. So does he. It's Ben and the little hustler he should be thinking about. Not me.
That doesn't mean that I don't wish it were different. But ... as long as I can feel the warmth of the arm that Justin slips around me now that I've picked Gus up and am carrying him into the little pod that we'll go up in, I'm okay. Better than okay.
I'm fucking fabulous.