Chapter 19 - The Reverse Bashing.
I arrive at the field behind Justin’s school and dash frantically out of the Jeep. Everything looks suspiciously calm. There’s no sign of Cody Bell’s posse and no one appears to be rioting, yet. The scoreboard shows that there’s only about two minutes left in the game. The home team is ahead by seven points. The fans seem happy - they’re cheering away under the direction of the cheerleading squad and the band. There are a lot of people here and no one seems to notice me but that also means that it’s going to be almost impossible for me to locate either Justin or Cody. All I know is that the uneasy feeling I’ve had all day is stronger than ever and all I want to do is get Justin and get out of here before Bell and his buddies do anything.
I start to wend my way through the cheering, excited throngs of people, heading towards the bleachers. There are lots of adults - both family and alumni - here tonight, so at least I don’t feel completely out of place in coming to a high school football game. I’m still not really comfortable in this environment though. Yeah, I was good at sports when I was a kid, but that didn’t mean I was the type that got into all this booster shit. Plus, I did soccer and track, NOT football. Football jocks have to be the stupidest and most bigoted of all. Just being in this breeder-filled scene is making my skin crawl.
That’s probably why I jump about a foot when I feel a hand sliding up under my leather jacket from behind as I stand next to the wall near the end of the first set of bleachers. I think I might have actually squeaked a little even. The warm hand and the arm it's attached to quickly snake around my middle and wrap itself around me, adding to my discomfort until I hear the low tenor whisper that accompanied the embrace.
“Couldn’t bear even one night without me?” Justin says, laughter in his quiet tone. “Or maybe you just needed help in beating off?”
“Shit! You brat. You scared the shit out of me. I thought some breeder was feeling me up,” I say as I turn back to face him, wanting nothing more than to pull him into my arms right there and then.
Justin giggles and the sound goes straight to my already hard dick. “So, you came HERE to get some action? I think you’re losing your touch, Stud.”
“It just so happens that I’m a HUGE fan of high school football. If you want a personal demonstration of just how really, really huge, that could be arranged if you just follow me to the closest men’s room,” I explain and I palm my cock through my pants and watch as his eyes get darker with lust and his pert little pink tongue darts out to wet his luscious full lips.
"Fuck, you don't know how good that sounds. I can't bear the thought of going back over to join Daphne and her new love interest," Justin says, inching closer to me so he can surreptitiously hook his right index finger into the waistband of my jeans. "They are all too stupid for words."
"Is that why you're lurking around under the bleachers, Sunshine?"
"Guilty as charged. I just couldn't sit there and listen to that bunch of morons any more. Daphne's all goo-goo eyed over Jacob Winters but I swear I can't figure out what she sees in him. Before the game started, he was telling this tedious hetero sex joke and when I commented that it was completely inane - get this - he got all proud-like and thanked me."
"So, then you won't mind if I drag you away to my lair and fuck away all memory of this horrible night," I say as I start to walk backwards, towing him after me.
"Daphne will kill me if I abandon her," he says, but he's not putting up any struggle as I keep pulling him farther from the noisy stands.
"She'll forgive you, eventually," I counsel, taking another two steps backwards.
Just then the final game buzzer sounds and the crowd around us erupts with shouts, hoots and cheering of all descriptions. Hordes of people rush past us, conveniently knocking Justin into my arms. I take advantage of the circumstances to steal a quick kiss. Before I know it, though, we're surrounded by a mass of bouncing, scantily clad cheerleaders and football groupies, followed immediately thereafter by most of the team as they head towards the locker room. All I can do is press myself and Justin back against the wall as the whole moiling bunch surges past.
At the tail end of the crowd I see Daphne hanging on the arm of some beefy looking jock with long blond hair and a scraggly beard, a goofy look on her normally attractive face. As the football team filters into the locker room, their groupies fall away to mingle in small cliques. Daphne finally notices Justin and skips over to where we're standing.
"Hey, Jus. Hey, Mr. Gorgeous," Daphne says as she gives me a good once over, showing obvious interest in what she sees.
"Pop your eyes back in your skull, Daph," Justin takes instant exception to his best friend's actions. Then he adds, with equally obvious pride and excitement, "this is Brian."
"You're THE Brian? Oh my god. What's he doing here, Jus?" Daphne gushes as we're introduced for about the tenth time and I note with satisfaction that she's still just as gaga about me at every introduction.
"I came to rescue him from the drudgery of babysitting you and your new beau all night," I pipe up instantly. "Now, be a good friend and tell him you won't hate him forever if he leaves with me rather than sticking around as the third wheel with you and your jock. Trust me, he'll have a lot more fun getting fucked into the mattress all night by me than he would hanging out here with you and Clay Matthews, Jr."
I love the way Justin's cheeks turn that lovely rosy hue when he's embarrassed. That's why it's so tempting to tease him the way I do. Shit, I wish we weren't smack dab in the middle of breederville so I could kiss away that blush. It's so distracting that I don't actually hear most of the ensuing conversation until Justin says my name for at least the third time.
"What was that, Sunshine?" I ask when I finally realize he's trying to get my attention.
"I said, is it ok if we stick around until Jacob gets back?" Justin repeats. "He drove us all tonight and I need to get into his truck to get my backpack before we leave. I've got a ton of calculus homework and I want to get started on it first thing in the morning. I don't want to have to spend all day tomorrow tracking him down to get my stuff back."
I'm ready to suggest that Daphne get it for him and we'll pick it up from her in the morning, since I really want to get out of here as soon as possible. But, before I can say anything, the locker room door opens and the first couple of team members, now showered and changed, start to trickle out. I figure if they're already done, then we can probably wait a couple of minutes. There's still a ton of people around and I don't think Cody will start something quite yet.
But, almost fifteen minutes later, this Jacob still hasn't emerged from the locker room. What the fuck is taking this kid so long, I wonder? By now the crowds have thinned considerably and I'm definitely starting to get nervous. Not only am I worried about Bell and his crew showing up and causing trouble, but now I'm also starting to feel self conscious and out of place since I'm the only adult over twenty-five still hanging around here. My goal is NOT to either out Justin by my presence or to get labeled as some kind of pervert who haunts the high school boys' locker room. It's definitely time to get out of here, regardless of whether or not Jacob is done primping.
That's when I hear a commotion starting up inside the locker rooms. First there's just a lot of yelling. Then I hear the sound of something metal crashing to the floor. And, finally, the door beside us flies open and several panicky teens come barreling out, shouting for help.
"What the fuck?" Justin shouts as he pulls away from where he was lounging against the wall next to me and starts to head into the room to see what's going on.
"Justin, no," I exclaim, deftly grabbing his wrist and holding him back.
Justin looks over at me and I can see in his eyes that he plans to argue. He wants to go in there and help. It's his fucking nature. I know that, but I'm not going to let him get anywhere near what I'm reasonably sure I already know is happening inside the locker room.
We never get around to the discussion though, because unfortunately the fight comes to us. The door opens a second time and I see four football players, still only half dressed, backing out of the doorway, followed by a larger group of noisy teens, some carrying baseball bats, and all yelling like banshees. One of the retreating kids is the beefy looking guy Daphne had been talking to earlier and another is the star quarterback - Chris Hobbs. All four back right up to the area of the wall where Daphne, Justin and I just happen to be standing.
At the forefront of the group of aggressors, his Louisville Slugger held high, is Cody Bell. The rest of the rowdy vigilantes follow closely behind Bell, feeding off the palpable feelings of anger, animosity and rage that pulse around the group and which seem to originate with Bell. The frightened screams of the bystanders and the tangible fear radiating off the now cornered jocks seem to add to Bell's unthinking rage.
"Which one of you pussy boys is Hobbs?" Cody drawls out, exaggerating his southern accent. "We heard that you guys got you a closet fag up here by the name of Chris Hobbs who's too chicken shit to admit he's gay and instead spends his time bullying kids he'd really rather be fucking. So, we just came by to help you out of the closet, buddy. Now tell me, which one of you losers is Hobbs?"
Bell and his crew have now circled around the group of jocks. Justin, Daphne and I have been shoved as a group backwards into the corner where the locker room wall meets the gym. While we're not exactly the center of the drama going on in front of us, we're much too close for my comfort, but we can’t get away either. All I can do is try to push the two teens back behind me further to shield them with my body, but they don't seem to want to stay there.
"I ain't no fag," Hobbs foolishly steps forward and asserts his innocence, which, exactly as planned, provides Bell with his primary target.
"Oh no? A pretty boy like you would be quite the hit down on Liberty Avenue," Bell teases as he reaches with his free hand to trail his fingertips down the side of Hobbs' face, ending up with his hand cupping under Hobbs' chin. "Come on, lover boy. Give me a kiss and prove to me and my buddies that you're a lover not a fighter."
"Fuck you, faggot," Chris spits into Bell's face as he pushes the slightly smaller boy away.
"And here I was hoping we could be boyfriends," Cody sneers as he wipes the spittle off his face. "Guess you'd rather get your ass kicked? Well, I'll be happy to oblige."
"Cody, man, we gotta book. The coach and a couple of security fucks are headed this way," a butch looking young woman yells as she comes running up to the group.
"Well, lover, looks like the foreplay is over," Cody says as he hefts his bat higher and cocks his arm back ready for a swing.
Everything that happens next is pretty much unadulterated chaos. Before Bell can actually swing, Hobbs lowers his head like a bull and charges towards his attacker. Bell's cronies try to hold Hobbs still but immediately find themselves fighting off the rest of the football team guys who have suddenly come back to life. More and more gawking bystanders are running up, curious about all the commotion, half of whom end up part of the fight, too. And meanwhile, the whole roiling mass, fists and weapons flying, keeps edging closer and closer to where I'm standing trying to protect Justin and Daphne.
Next thing I know, Daph's Beefy Boy starts to go down with one of Bell's guys maintaining a chokehold from behind and another slugging him in the gut. Daphne lets out a screech and darts around me to run to her man's assistance. Justin, of course, follows after her, moving quicker than I can grab him. All I can do is run after them, wading through the piles of wrestling bodies on the ground and avoiding the randomly thrown punches going every which way.
At the center of the melee are Bell and Hobbs, still standing and trading punches. Somehow Bell has managed to hold on to his bat in his left hand, but he's too near to Hobbs now to make much use of it. Hobbs, for all his macho bravado, seems to be a pretty piss poor fighter, all things considered - he keeps throwing these wild and totally ineffective punches and seems incapable of blocking Cody's much better targeted jabs.
By this time, Beefy Boy and his assailants have struggled their way closer to where Bell and Hobbs are and I glimpse Daphne's curly brown head bobbing through that part of the crowd too. I've lost track of Justin for the moment, but it's a good bet he's not far behind his friend so I head in that direction as well. I can hear authoritarian voices yelling somewhere near the edge of the brawl, probably the security guards and coaches trying to break up the fight, but I know it'll take them a while to get to where we are.
I'm only three strides away from the group when I finally see Justin's blond mop pop up through the mess. He rushes to help Daphne, who's trying to pull down the guy choking Beefy Boy. As they struggle with the human limpet clinging to Beefy Boy's back, Justin ends up back-to-back with Chris Hobbs, who is still trading blows with Bell.
That's when it all crumbles to shit. Bell all the sudden notes he's once again got maneuvering room at his back and he takes a step backward so that he's now got room to swing that bat he's been holding. I watch with a horrifying sense of déjà vu as Bell cocks the bat high over his right shoulder and starts to swing just as Hobbs ducks. Justin, who's standing right behind Hobbs, has no idea what's coming. He must sense Hobbs' movement, though, and I see him slightly turn his head to the right just as the bat reaches the apogee of its arc., in effect placing his head directly into the path of the rapidly descending weapon.
"Justin!" I scream as I dive towards Bell in desperation.
Once again I hear the sickening sound of a bat cracking against bone. I'm too late. AGAIN. I feel a sour ball of bile rising up from my gullet. I don't dare open my eyes. I can't bear seeing Justin once again lying in a pool of blood with his life pulsing out of him. I can't do this again. I just can't.
"Brian! God no! No, no, no, no. Brian!" I hear Justin's voice crying and pleading and the pain in his tone is so great that I have to open my eyes to comfort him even though I know it will kill me to see him.
When I do open my eyes, though, I think that something isn't right. Instead of looking down at my battered lover, I seem to be looking up at Justin who's hovering above me. He's covered in blood and he's crying, saying my name over and over.
"Brian," Justin croons when our eyes meet. "It's gonna be okay. Just hold on. I'm here and you're going to be just fine. Just stay with me, please."
I'm a little confused about what's happening but I'm glad to see Justin isn't as badly hurt as he was before. If he's sitting up and talking it must mean that he's alright. But then where is all the blood coming from? I want to get up and see what's going on but for some reason I can't seem to move.
"The ambulance is on the way, Justin," Daphne says as her face appears in my line of vision. "Hold on Brian. You're going to be okay. We'll get you to the hospital and they'll fix you right up, okay."
Something definitely isn't right here. I try again to get up but I can't feel my legs or my arms. My vision seems to be getting awfully blurry too. All I can see now is Justin, who's leaning over me. He's holding my hand and kissing it but I can't feel it. I hate seeing the tears dripping down his face leaving tracks through the blood on his cheeks. I want to touch him and reassure him that its going to be okay, but my body just doesn't seems to be working right.
"Justin," I eventually manage to croak out, although my voice doesn't sound right either. "Sunshine, I love you."
I want to say more. I wish I could tell him everything about how I feel and how much I need him in my life and why I'm doing all these crazy assed things. But I don't seem to have the energy. I feel very tired. I can't seem to keep my eyes open anymore even though I don't want to stop looking at my beautiful Sunshine. If only I wasn't so tired.
"Brian! Brian, no! Don't leave me, Brian. . . " Justin's sweet sad voice fades away.
"Shit! That goddamned little fucker bashed ME. Shit, shit, shit!" I start yelling as soon as I wake, screeching over the noise of the alarm clock that's blaring from the corner.
*Beep, beep, beep, beep*
"Fuck, Brian. What the fuck’s the matter," Justin says, bolting up in alarm from his spot next to me in the bed, and looking around him as if to try and locate whatever threat I'm yelling about.
"Sorry, Sunshine," I reply, settling back into the pillows as soon as I switch off the alarm. "Guess it was just a nightmare."
I quickly pull my snugly, comforting blond back into my arms and curl my body around him. Just having him near me, his touch, his scent, his warmth, is enough to bring my pulse rate back to normal. I sigh as I finally feel the last of the tension seep away and I pull Justin even closer to me. However, as the adrenaline dissipates, all I have left is a sense of utter hopelessness.
"I'm so tired of all this, Sunshine," I confess into the soft warm skin at the crook of his neck where I've buried my face. "I just want to stop playing all these games and get back to where we were. I want you here, in my bed, forever, without all the struggle. Why is that too much to ask? How come every time I try to fix things I just seem to mess them up even worse?"
I know that Justin has no clue what I'm talking about right now, but he tries his best to comfort me nonetheless. His arm reaches across me and he squeezes me tightly. He's kissing me lightly along the back of my neck and my shoulder. He wiggles his body closer to mine so that I can feel his skin along the entire length of my longer frame. It's almost enough to calm me.
I just can't shake my frustration and depression this morning, though. I let Justin go to school rather than keeping him with me today. I'm not likely to be very good company and I don't want to have to struggle to avoid scaring him off with my moods.
I blow off work and Mikey, too. I'm not really sure what to do or where to go. I wish I had someone, anyone, I could talk to about this shit. Yeah, yeah, I know it's ironic that Brian Kinney is upset because he wants to talk about his problems and has no one who'll listen. Fuck irony, though - its true. I decide to go for a walk. I hope that the fresh air will clear my head and maybe I'll get some inspiration about how to fix my shithole of a sorta life.
Somehow I find myself wandering around near the University District even though I don't remember heading that direction. It seems I've ended up right outside the Carnegie Mellon building where Ben has/will have his office. I wonder if he'll be here today or if that's something that doesn't happen until some time in the future. I'm curious, though, and I've got nothing better to do, so I climb the stairs and enter the liberal arts building, trying to remember how to get to the faculty offices.
After wandering around lost for fifteen minutes, a cute young Latino guy takes pity on me and asks if he can help me find something. I ask if he knows Professor Bruckner, and he smiles, saying he'd be happy to show me the way to Ben's office. He leads me to the right place and then, before I can knock on the office door, he leans in and whispers that his name is 'Angel' and says I can call him anytime - the slip of paper he tucks into the waistband of my pants evidence that he's serious. The way he batts his eyelashes at me as he backs away makes me chuckle, and I'm glad the boy's Twinkie antics have at least raised my spirits a little.
I'm still chuckling a little when I knock at the office door which is opened almost immediately by a smiling Benjamin Bruckner. We both just stand there staring at each other for a good two minutes. I'm pretty sure he recognizes me but neither of us seems to know what to say. I've forgotten why I thought it would be a good idea to come here.
"Brian, right?" Ben finally breaks the ice, politely ignoring exactly how he knows my name. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Um. Yeah, there is," I finally speak up. "You teach philosophy, right? Well, I'm looking for something of a philosophical consultant. Do you have a minute?"
Four hours later, Ben and I are ensconced at the back table of one of the bars near campus, each with a cold beer in hand, the impressive line of dead soldiers we'd already drunk decorating the far edge of the table. Ben had listened to my weird story about my time traveling life with a surprising amount of calm. He didn't once insinuate that I was making it all up or crazy. I don't think he actually believed that what I was saying was really truly happening, but the idea seemed to fascinate him and he was eager to discuss my dilemma from a theoretical standpoint. Which is what we'd been doing, our minds well lubricated with beer as we philosophized together.
"It's like your mother always said, watch out what you wish for 'cause it just might come true," Ben says with a rather girly little giggle, making me think it was probably high time to cut him off.
"Yeah, but did your mother have any other pity sh-sayings about how to fix the shit once you g-get your stupid wish?" I complain, noticing that I'm slurring my words pretty badly and should probably be cut off as well.
"Nope. But, that's your problem right there, Brian," Ben says, sitting up straighter and pushing his glasses back up his nose as if to prepare himself to give an insightful proclamation. "Maybe you're trying too hard to fix everything. See, you can't fix everything. Sometimes you just have to accept the way things are and then adapt."
"There's an ancient Japanese proverb that says, 'the bamboo that bends in the wind is stronger than the oak which breaks'. I think what that means is that you shouldn't try to fight life head on all the time. Sometimes you only need to stand your ground and let life flow around you. You can't make everything in life go the way you want all the time. But, if you're strong enough to bear it, you can wait out the trying times, survive, and then move on afterwards."
"But I can't just move on without Him, Ben," I explain. "There's no point without him."
"I'm not saying you should," Ben argues adamantly. "What I AM saying is that maybe you shouldn't be trying to go back and fix everything that happened from day one of your relationship. Maybe you could accept things the way they are and just move on. I guess what I mean is that, all the shit that happened to get you to the point where you were when you first started wishing to go back - the good stuff and the bad stuff - that was what made your relationship what it was. If you change it, you change the relationship itself and maybe not for the better."
"But I fucked up all the time. I made everything so much harder for everyone and I hurt him so much. He almost died because of me, Ben. Now I have this chance to go back and do it right and you're telling me I shouldn't bother?" I'm not sure if I'm angry or sad as I say this, but I'm sure not accepting of this suggestion. "What, should I just sit back and watch him get his skull bashed in again and do nothing? Fuck that!"
“Let me ask you this, Brian. What was the effect of the bashing on your relationship with Justin?” Ben interrupts before I can really start raving and bangs off on this seemingly random tangent.
“Huh? Justin getting bashed sucked. That was the effect.”
“Yes, but what happened afterwards? I think you said that Justin came to live with you after that?”
“Yeah. At first his mother tried to keep us apart since she blamed it all on me. But, after a few weeks, she came to me and said that Justin wasn’t doing well and she asked me to see if I could help him since I was the one he wanted to be with and trusted, not her. That’s when Justin moved into my place the second time.” I explain, still unsure where Ben is going with all this.
“And did you help him?”
“Yeah. I mean, Justin did most of the work, but I was there for him and I helped him as best as I could. At first he didn’t even want me to touch him but we worked through all that. And it took him a long time to get used to being in public places, so I used to walk with him places and stay with him until he felt comfortable. Then there were the nightmares that I helped him through,” I say, thinking back to all the things we did during that time to get Justin back so he could function again normally. “He almost dropped out of school because it was so hard for him to draw with his hand the way it was back then, but I got him this cool computer that he could use to augment his drawing and he talked the dean into letting him use it in school. So, yeah, I guess I did help him a lot to get through all that.”
“So, what I hear you saying is that you and Justin worked together after the bashing to help him recover. And how did that affect your relationship. Didn’t it make it stronger?”
“I don’t know. I guess so, at least up until he left me for the fucking fiddler,” I admit, grudgingly.
“That’s another issue. But, what I’m getting at here is that because of the bashing, you, Brian, learned you could take care of another person. You’d never done that before, had you? But you did it this time and from what you’ve told me it sounds like you succeeded pretty well. Plus, you two both grew closer and came to understand each other better during that time, right?” Ben persists. “So, all these things are are good effects that came about as a direct result of the bashing. Without having gone through the bashing, you might not have ever learned these things about yourself and your relationship might not have been as strong in the end.”
“Don’t you see? Even the bad things that happened to you, helped to make your relationship with Justin what it ended up being. It’s why you care so much now that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get back to where you were. But,if you hadn’t had those experiences - learning to take care of him, learning to work things out together or how to be patient while he worked things out on his own - you two never would have gotten to the place in your relationship where you are today.”
“I’m not saying that if I saw my boyfriend about to get his head slammed by a bat that I wouldn’t do anything to stop it. But, on the other hand, after it had happened, if I had the chance to go back and fix things so that the bashing never occurred, I don’t know if I’d do that either. Yeah, you could save Justin from the physical pain he suffered but you’d also be depriving yourself and him of all the benefits you got from what came afterwards when you were working together to take care of each other after the fact. And, if you took away any of those parts of your relationship, like how you learned to cherish and take care of each other even in the worst of times, maybe there wouldn’t even BE a relationship afterwards.”
“I must be drunk,” I interject as soon as Ben stops his Zen diatribe long enough to take a breath, “I think you’re starting to make sense. But, what does that mean to me now? What do I do now? I guess I agree with what you’re saying, but that would only help me if I were back in the future before I made the stupid wish that sent me back in time. How do I get back there?”
Ben slumps back in his chair, picks up his beer and chugs the remainder. Then he looks thoughtfully at the label on the bottle for several seconds as if he’s contemplating how to answer my question. But, instead of a deep, meaningful and serious expression, he looks back up at me eventually with a big sloppy grin on his face.
“I have no fucking idea!” he says and breaks into a riotous loud laugh, slamming his empty beer bottle back on the table and almost falling off his chair.
“Fuck you, Zen Ben!” I say, but I still can’t help joining in with his infectious laughter.
We may not have answered all my questions or solved any of the great philosophical dilemmas of the ages, but Ben and I did manage to finish off more than half a case of beer, killed a whole afternoon and enjoyed hanging out together. And, I have to admit that I did feel better after talking to him. But, I still didn’t know how I was going to get back to my real life or find my happily ever after with my Sunshine.
Which is probably why, an hour later - after we’d finished off the other half of the case of beer - Ben and I were singing “Que Sera, Sera” at the tops of our lungs as the bouncer deposited us forcibly into a cab and sent us on our way.
So much for taking the philosophical approach to things, huh?