Chapter 3 - Hooch
Justin stood in the middle of the dusty, practically empty room and looked up at the dust motes circling around his head in the light pouring in from the large, multi-paned windows in the walls up above his head. Gazing at the windows, Justin noted that the natural light shining through would be great once they were cleaned of years of grime. Looking forward to that, Justin browsed through the remainder of the small but sufficient studio apartment.
Most of the meager furnishings could be salvaged. Up against one wall was an old and dirty sofa, holes torn and frayed around the edges of the ugly brown and orange upholstery left over from the early seventies. A colorful throw could be placed over it to hide these defects. In an alcove type of space was a scratched and lopsided table. One of the legs had been broken off and laid discarded on the floor nearby - nothing that a few screws and a good staining and some polishing couldn’t fix. A couple of mismatched chairs accompanied the table. Justin thought that if he painted all the chairs the same color, they’d go great together with the table even though they didn’t match. The only other furniture in the room was an old bookcase, missing two shelves, and a metal bed frame over in the corner that was rusted and had a couple of missing springs.
Justin took a mental inventory of everything he’d need to get this place into order and made himself a shopping list. He decided to check out the supply room downstairs in the club to see if he could appropriate some of the cleaning supplies he needed before he went out shopping. He would definitely need a mattress and boxsprings, though. And sheets, towels, some plates and cooking shit. Well, at least he didn’t have to get it all today.
Justin loved working with his hands. He’d always enjoyed building and creating things. It was the artist in him. Creating was his way of controlling his world. It was even more important now that he’d been discharged - now that so much of his life seemed out of his control. He looked over the walls with a desultory scowl. The atrocious beige paint would have to go. With that glorious sunlight coming in the windows of the high-ceilinged room, he thought maybe a bright yellow would be nice. And, on the far wall, he could already envisage a mural - maybe the night sky with city lights and . . . well, he’d decide on that later.
To create some privacy in the open space, the purchase of a cheap folding screen could be used to section off what would be the ‘bedroom’. He could paint that as well to coordinate with the walls and other furnishings. Maybe carry on the theme from the mural that he had in mind. He’d seen an old milk crate downstairs in the club’s storage area that would work as a night stand. There weren’t any lamps around, so he’d have to buy some or make them, but that wouldn’t break the bank. It would all take a lot of work, but then again, Justin had never balked at hard work.
Next, Justin took a look at what appeared to be a kitchenette. There were no appliances, only a sink and some ugly avocado green cabinets with a color coordinated formica top with a little boomerang type of pattern circa the 1950’s. Taking a look within the cupboards, there was one cracked mug missing its handle and some peeling contact paper. Justin shuddered at that. Even as bad as it was out on a mission, this kitchen was vile. Some changes needed to be made here as well. First off, bye bye avocado green! And he really needed to get some plates, cups and utensils in addition to a small counter top two burner electric stove, mini fridge and a microwave.
Justin decided that a trip to the local Big Q would be in order. He didn’t have much in his savings and his military pension was pathetically small, but he wasn’t so bad off that he couldn’t afford a few essentials to make this living space a home. Since Mr. Schmidt had told him he wouldn’t officially start work until Wednesday, that gave him plenty of time to get started on his cleaning and apartment repairs. Justin rolled up his sleeves and started moving things around to where he wanted them.
An hour later, everything was set up the way he wanted it and he had taken a peek at the cleaning supplies in the club’s storage area. He had a good idea what he’d need to get at the store. Justin hated going to big, crowded stores like the Big Q, but this needed to be done so he would just have to buckle down and go. It was already getting dark outside, and he’d have to take two busses to get to the store he’d looked up on the internet, which meant it would take forever. But that was okay - Justin really had nothing better to do right now besides getting his place set up and dreaming about how he was going to reconnect with Brian Kinney.
* * * * * * *
The bus ride to the Big Q was just as tedious as Justin envisioned it to be. There was standing room only, everyone crammed together like sardines in a can. The crowded conditions made him feel antsy, as if there could be a possible threat. Justin knew this was just one of those moments when the PTSD would rear its ugly head. He always tried to avoid situations which would trigger an event. Luckily he was able to keep it in perspective and not over react. He just needed to get off that bus. Fortunately, his would be the next stop. In the end, he managed to hold it together at least long enough to get to the store.
The Big Q was a large department store that carried a bit of everything and cheaply at that. Justin was able to find some sunshiney yellow paint for the walls of the main portion of the studio apartment and some cream color paint to cover over the horrible avocado green kitchen cabinet doors.
Justin then proceeded to look for some of the kitchen items he needed. He decided on simple white mugs, bowls and dinner plates which could be purchased separately along with some inexpensive flatware. Being that it was just himself, he decided that two of everything would meet his simple needs. He strolled down the next aisle and grabbed a pot, skillet and cooking utensils. All no-name brand, China made crap, but fitting his budget. He then proceeded to the appliance section.
Once there, he decided that getting the microwave would need to wait until another day. Carrying everything wasn’t really an issue, but with all the other stuff he was getting, the microwave would make it too cumbersome to take it all on the bus. He did find a small countertop electric stove with two burners. This would do for now. Luckily the bus was a lot less crowded on the ride home and Justin made the trip without incident.
It was already getting pretty late by the time he lugged all his new stuff into the small apartment. Justin could hear the club staff moving around downstairs and the dull thumpa thumpa of the sound system coming on - Ted had assured him that the apartment was pretty well insulated, but nothing could completely drown out that techno base line. He made a note to eventually buy himself a radio or something so he could play his own music when he wanted. In the meantime, it was time to get started on sorting this place out. Justin shrugged off his jacket and started unloading his purchases.
By a little after one am, everything he’d bought earlier that night was stowed away and he’d made a serious dent in the cleaning. He had started on the miniscule little bathroom. After two hours, it was as clean as it was going to get. He hung up the inexpensive clear plastic shower curtain he’d got at the Big Q, stripped off his sweaty and dusty clothing, and stepped under the cascading water, happy to have a warm shower to himself after all these days of travelling. And even though he hadn’t really been seeking a job, he was glad to have fallen into this place, this job, this tiny hole in the wall apartment that he could make his very own. He was happy to be alone for a change - that was one thing he hadn’t had much of during the past ten years.
Now that his mind wasn’t occupied with chores, though, he couldn’t keep from thinking about his angel. This day had been such a whirlwind. His mind was unsettled, with pictures, ideas and half-formed dreams swimming around so fast that he barely managed to focus on one before another came along and washed the first away. Not only had he found his angel, Brian, but as luck would have it the man was gay. He was also the owner of the club where Justin now found himself working, so that made Brian his employer. That shut down most of the fantasies he’d been having about what might happen when they met. Oh well. Justin was still determined to find a way to tell him about the picture and thank him for . . . For what? If Justin thanked Brian Kinney for saving his life, Brian would think he was a complete nut case and run for the hills. Nevertheless, Justin felt compelled to somehow show his gratitude to the man whose face had carried him through so much danger.
Fuck! That face . . . the picture had NOT done Brian Kinney justice. The picture hadn’t shown the way the man’s beautiful hazel eyes glinted an entire spectrum of different colors when the light hit them just right. Or the way the lighter red streaks in his hair gleamed in the rays of sunlight that had managed to sneak in through the skylights at the club. There was no way for a mere picture to convey the way electricity had sparked through his body at the second their hands had touched or the reluctance Justin had felt at having to let go of Brian’s touch. No picture could ever have forewarned Justin of the way the smell of Brian’s cologne would make his knees feel wobbly. The way he’d ached to feel the heat of those luscious raspberry red lips pressed against his own skin. The way he’d wanted to physically crawl into the man and never leave his presence ever again.
The dancing images of Brian invaded his mind and in less than ten seconds Justin was so hard that it felt like he could puncture the tile wall with his bare dick. He flipped the brand new bar of Ivory soap over and over in his hands until they were bubbly and slick with lather before he let his fingers reach down to his crotch and grab ahold of his meaty ten inch cock and full balls. Closing his eyes and leaning back against the tiles, Justin let his senses float away with the warm water dripping down his torso, caught up momentarily in the slippery friction of his hand sliding up and down his cock and the fantasy images of Brian Kinney’s delicious mouth on his balls. He let his thumb flick across the tip of his cock with each stroke and, in his mind, Justin imagined it was Brian’s tongue. Each squeeze was the result of Brian’s hands caressing along his length. Each little twist was an echo of Brian’s bright white teeth scraping against his sensitive skin. Then, when all the sensations had built up to their inevitable climax, Justin felt another jolt of electricity zap through him just like the one he’d experienced when he first touched Brian’s hand. Streams of hot cum sprayed out through his fingers and painted the shower walls. Inside, the sparks fired through his nerves, leaving everything in its wake burning until the welcome cool of the endorphins spread their hormonal balm through his brain and put out the flames, leaving him gasping for breath as he collapsed into a heap on the shower floor.
The water heater for the tiny apartment was obviously old and probably small, since the hot water ran out pretty quickly. That didn’t really bother Justin, since he’d had to make do with a lot worse living conditions in his day. But it did prompt him to get back up, turn off the water and get out of the shower. He towelled off and then hung the wet towel on the top of the bathroom door, making a mental note to come up with something to use as a towel bar soon. Then he pulled his ratty old sleeping bag out of his backpack, unfurled it on the ground next to where his bed would one day be and climbed inside.
With his kit as a makeshift pillow, Justin’s head was only about four inches off the ground. The bass from the music in the club below sounded much louder from down here. Despite how late it was and how physically tired his body felt, Justin was still having a tough time getting to sleep. The constant, low-level, *thud, thud, thud* was eerily reminiscent of the cadence of a helicopter’s rotors as it came in for a landing. Every so often a higher pitched squeal would penetrate his walls and startle him. The rest of the noises coming up through the floorboards just sounded like the dull roar of a yelling crowd. While Justin’s rational mind knew what each of these sounds were and what was really making them, his subconscious couldn’t just let them go. With every *thud, thud* his nerves jumped again and again. He felt like he was about to jump out of his skin.
As he’d done many a night before when sleep seemed hard to come by, Justin pulled out the picture of his angel. It was nice to have a name finally to put to the face. ‘Brian’. That was a good, strong name and it somehow matched the face. Justin wasn’t sure how he felt about finally meeting his angel. He hadn’t managed to really say anything of substance at all to the man today - everything seemed to be moving along too fast. But, now that Justin knew who he was and where to find him, he had time. Somehow, he would find a way to say thank you to his angel.
Feeling reassured by even that short contact with the picture that had been his good luck charm for so long, Justin finally calmed down enough that he thought he might be able to sleep. He carefully placed the all important picture between the leaves of the book that he’d been reading earlier - The Racketeer by John Grisham - and then settled himself. Like many a soldier, he’d trained himself to sleep pretty much anywhere and anytime, and this was no exception. With a concerted effort, Justin forced all thoughts of his new job, his new apartment and Brian Kinney out of his mind and dropped quickly off to sleep.
*Phoom, phoom, phoom. . . * The sound of the Blackhawk rotor blades slicing through the air made even the ground under his feet vibrate along with the beat. Justin was bent double, trying to make his way to the birds. Behind him there was an ongoing repetitive staccato sound as gunfire played out between his squadron and the unfriendlies holed up on a far hillside. The airstrikes that had been called in from the UAV’s were just now starting up and the shrill wailing of the RPGs coming down was ear-splittingly loud.
The recon for this mission had been for shit. They hadn’t expected to find the enemy here. The squadron had been taken by surprise - not something that happened often to these seasoned troops. Sgt. Taylor was trying to get his men back to the helos and out of here so they could regroup. The noise and the chaos was screwing things up. His communication gear wasn’t working at the moment and he had no way to call out to his group. Taylor turned around just as he reached the edge of the choppers’ landing area and shouted at the top of his lungs for the rest of his troops.
Then, as he stood there watching his men running towards him, Justin saw each one in turn torn to bloody shreds as bullets ripped through each man’s body. He couldn’t move his feet. He couldn’t reach them. He wasn’t able to do anything other than scream as he watched every single one of them dying in front of his eyes.
Gradually the screaming around him hushed into whimpers. Justin slowly came back to the present, finding himself perched on the arm of the ratty old couch, staring at the spot on the floor where he’d just watched as the last of his men bled out in front of his eyes. Only there wasn’t anyone there. There was no blood, no bodies, no desert, no war. All that was left was the sound of his own blood rushing through his ears adding a whooshing noise to the *thud, thud, thud* of the club music beating up at him through the floor, which matched the beating of the helicopter rotors in his imagination.
Justin almost fell as he tried to get down off the sofa. His whole body was trembling from the flashback/dream/nightmare. His legs were as steady as wet spaghetti and he was drenched with sweat. Well, so much for getting a good night’s sleep. Justin realized that it wasn’t going to happen tonight. With a deep breath, Justin resigned himself to another long night. He rolled up his sleeping bag and got back to his cleaning.
“You do know you’re not supposed to start work until tomorrow morning at eight am, right?” Brian announced as soon as he came through the door of Babylon and saw a shirtless, sweaty, Justin Taylor halfway up a ladder replacing some of the ceiling light bulbs.
“I thought I’d get a head start, Sir,” Justin said as he struggled to lift the awkwardly long fluorescent bulb and twist it into place.
When it looked like the entire ladder, along with Mr. Taylor and the new bulb, were about to topple over, Brian trotted over the intervening space and grabbed hold of the ladder to steady it. “Thank you,” Justin said gratefully, readjusting his grip on the long glass tubing.
Justin took another step up the ladder and then, accidentally catching the toe of his runner on a ragged edge of the metal ladder, Justin momentarily lost his balance. Although he tried to recover, Justin fell unceremoniously backward, landing square on top of Brian, who staggered backwards a few steps but managed to stay upright with the armful of blond boy. With Justin’s body in such close proximity, Brian inhaled the musky scent of Justin’s sweat soaked skin. He locked eyes with the young blond and felt himself getting lost in the intense sea of blue.
“Oh shit. I’m sorry, Mr. Kinney.”
“Don’t be. Men fall for me all the time, Taylor,” Brian replied with his snarkiest smile. “Of course, most of the time they don’t LITERALLY fall for me - it’s usually just a figure of speech. You feel free to take it however you like, though.”
Justin knew exactly how he wanted to take it, but he quickly dispelled the thought as he struggled to get back on his feet. Maybe it was all in his imagination, but somehow he felt that Brian was reluctant to let him go.
“As compelling as that sounds, Mr. Kinney, I feel that you should put me back on the ground now.”
Brian snapped himself out of his momentary daze and quickly released his hold on Justin so that the boy could once again stand on his own two feet and get back to what he was doing without another word. Leaving Justin staring after his retreating back. And a fine backside it was, too.