Chapter 6 - A.I.T.
It had taken Justin all morning to put together the wooden screen he’d planned that would give his bed area some much needed privacy in the tiny one-room apartment. It wasn’t that difficult - just some 1x2 cedar lathes, screwed together with small brass screws into three large panels, all of which he’d attached with elegant brushed brass hinges. Once the frame was together, he had stretched several yards of raw silk cloth over the entire structure, securing the edges with unobtrusive small brass brads. Once the silk screen was in place, he’d varnished the whole thing to create a better painting surface. Now, all that was left was to paint the scene he’d had in his mind ever since he’d arrived here in Pittsburgh.
Laying down an old drop cloth that he’d found in a storage closet downstairs in the club, Justin leaned the screen flat against the wall. He got out his palette - it was an old one that was layered with so many different splotches from past paintings that you could hardly see the underlying acrylic surface - and started adding dabs of paint. For the most part, Justin chose cool shades of blue, green, purple and aqua, but there were a couple of small spots of red and yellow as well - something to add a spark or two of heat to the otherwise serene base colors.
Then, without bothering to sketch out the drawing, Justin began to mix the paints into the colors he saw in his mind and transfer the beautiful shades to the silk screen with jerky, sharp dashes and lines. In places, the colors would blend together or he’d shade them with a touch of grey or black, melding the sharper lines into the contours of a barely recognizable face. The face of a man with full lips, a strong chin, an aquiline nose, a high forehead and the most piercing eyes. It was the face he’d seen in his dreams and his waking hours for almost a year now - the face of an angel of mercy. Finally, Justin added a flurry of the hot accent colors, reds and yellows, sometimes blurred together into shades of orange, all evidencing the crackling attraction Justin felt every time he laid eyes on this particular man. There was a fire in the eyes of the hidden face that seemed to penetrate to Justin’s very soul.
Justin was so much into the zone that he didn’t hear the knock at his door until it was a loud pounding and the person on the other side shouted his name. Shaking himself out of his painting daze, Justin went to answer the door and was surprised to see Mr. Kinney.
“Well, it took you long enough, Taylor” Brian snarked, “I was just about to call out the national guard.”
“Mr. Kinney, please come in. I was just finishing up some painting.” Justin said to his slightly annoyed boss. “Would you like something to drink?” Brian nodded his acceptance and moved further into the kitchen area of the tiny apartment.
“I told you to call me Brian and I’ll take bottled water if you have it,” replied Brian, unobtrusively scanning the apartment and thinking to himself that Justin had done a great job fixing it up so far. The room was far cleaner than when he’d last seen it and all the walls had received a new coat of paint. The old multi-paned windows had been cleaned as well and a swathe of bright sunlight was pouring in from above, making the space seem light and airy, whereas it had always before seemed so dark and dismal whenever Brian had looked in at it. There wasn’t yet much in the way of furniture, but what there was - eclectic as it might be - was assembled together tastefully and somehow seemed to fit the space and the nature of the man who was now occupying that space.
Brian smiled to himself as he followed Justin into the kitchen area of the tiny apartment. He noticed the beautiful new cream colored blinds adorning the side-view window and the hideous, but now sparkling-clean, 1950’s formica counter top. To Brian’s great surprise, they went together well with a kind of retro-hip look rather than looking old and dated. Brian started to move over towards the kitchen table, which looked suspiciously like the same old broken down table he’d seen in the room for ages, but which was now standing on all four legs and with a brand new coat of stain and varnish.
Brian was just about to make himself somewhat comfortable in one of the chairs placed at the table, when Justin turned around with a water bottle in each hand, yelling out bloody murder for him to stop before he ruined his well fitting Armani slacks. “Brian Stop! I just put a fresh coat of varnish on the chairs a couple of hours ago.”
“It’s a good thing you stopped me then, Sunshine, otherwise you’d be getting my cleaning bill along with your salary at the end of the week.” Brian stated matter-of-factly and looking around for some alternative place to sit.
“I’m afraid that I don’t really have much furniture,” Justin apologized, noticing where Brian’s attention had drifted. “You could sit on the bed. I just got the mattress and box springs delivered this morning, so you’ll be the first one to have the pleasure of enjoying it. . . “
Brian raised a well manicured eyebrow at the possible double meaning of Justin’s statement. He didn’t want to make the kid nervous, but it wouldn’t hurt to have just a little fun and make Justin squirm a bit.
“Well, it’s not exactly the kind of cherry I’m used to popping,” Brian said huskily “But if you insist, lead the way Sunshine.”
Justin sat almost primly on the edge of the mattress. Brian didn’t so much sit as he lounged, his long body stretched out over the coverlet, propped up on one elbow, and his frame tilted slightly towards Justin. Once Brian was seated with his bottle of water in hand, he again had an opportunity to continue his perusal of the apartment. He continued to be amazed at the improvements Justin had made to the once dreary, and if he was being honest, quite unliveable space. Finally, Brian’s eyes landed upon the wooden screen that was propped against the wall - presumably the ‘painting’ that Justin claimed to have been working on when he arrived.
At first glance, it seemed to Brian like a virtual explosion of color. Each line distinct and separate and yet they all meshed into an identifiable image at the center. The image of a man’s face. An image dominated by a pair of intense, hungry eyes that seemed to be calling out to Brian. The expression in those eyes was indescribable, conveying so many emotions that it was difficult to pin them down with mere words. And, while the face itself was so abstract that it could easily have portrayed any man, the eyes were a dead give away. Brian instantly recognized that mix of pain, hunger, yearning and vulnerability - it was his eyes - the eyes that stared back at him every morning in the mirror before he set his usual indifferent mask in place and started his day.
“Fuck,” was all that Brian managed to say as the import of the painting overwhelmed him.
“Brian?" Justin asked with concern, unsure why his companion had all the sudden tensed up.
Justin and Brian leaned towards one another, one in concern, the other in astonishment. They each glanced into the other’s eyes and a spark ignited. Justin knew that a kiss was inevitable from his lusty angel.
Brian’s raspberry colored lips lightly brushed against Justin’s plump lower lip, licking then sucking in the tasty treat. With a sigh, Justin moved closer, melting into Brian’s body, his kiss. Feeling no resistance from the blond, Brian captured Justin’s face in both hands, angling their heads to deepen the kiss. Their dueling tongues clashed, each sparing to take dominance. Justin looked up right at that instant and saw that the eyes of the man he was kissing were an exact replica of the eyes on his painting. It made his heart melt even more for this enigmatic man.
Panting with need, Justin reached up and entwined his hands in Brian’s hair, caressing the silken strands and massaging his scalp, pulling Brian down towards him. Brian went along with it. He pressed Justin onto his back against the mattress never breaking the kiss.
Brian began to run a free hand under Justin’s paint stained tee-shirt, feeling the warm skin that lay beneath and eliciting a quiet moan from the younger man. That almost inaudible moan was just the wake up call that Brian needed as his senses quickly returned to him. Brian reluctantly pulled himself away from the beautiful blond seduction and acknowledged to himself that he’d gone temporarily insane.
“I didn’t mean to do that, Justin. I . . . I would never . . . I’m your boss and I shouldn’t have put you into this position. Please, just forget this ever happened,” Brian stood up abruptly and moved away from the bed as if it was on fire.
Brian berated himself internally for succombing to the temptation of the younger man. He couldn’t believe that he’d let himself go like that. Normally, Brian kept on his guard around all his employees. There was just something about this man - something intangible but almost magnetic - that drew Brian towards him without thought. But, whatever the attraction, he wouldn’t let this happen. Not only was Justin his employee, but he was also an ex-marine, and Brian had a lot of issues with that particular fact. He still harbored more than just a little distrust towards the service over the circumstances of Ben’s death, and that distrust extended to almost anyone associated with the Corps. Brian wasn’t ready to let go of Ben’s memory yet, and that meant that he wasn’t ready to let go of his misgivings about Justin Taylor.
“Brian it’s okay. Really,” Justin was quick to reassure the other man, following as Brian backed away. “You didn’t PUT me in any position. It wasn’t like you forced me to do anything against my will, I was a very willing participant in what just happened. Maybe it was a mistake, but I certainly don’t want to forget about it.” Justin could never forget that first kiss - he wanted to relive it, even if only in his memory, over and over again.
“Right,” Brian visibly shook himself and seemed to pull his businessman personae back around himself. “Anyway, I . . . uh . . . I didn’t come here to . . . I came here to give you a list of a few new repairs I’d like you to see to around the club. If you’re any good with plumbing, the bathroom on the second floor has the one annoyingly drippy sink that I’d like to get taken care of. If you can’t handle it, let me know and I’ll call in my usual plumbers. There’s also some molding that’s coming off the edge of the main bar, that I’d like you to fix if you can.”
Justin stood there passively listening as Brian continued to enumerate all the other tasks that he’d written down on the list he was still holding in his hand. Why Brian didn’t just hand him the list, wasn’t really clear. If Justin didn’t know better, he’d say that Brian was stalling for some reason. But, that idea didn’t really jive with the impression the man gave out of a competent, no-nonsense business owner and entrepreneur. Whatever it was, though, Justin wouldn’t press. He simply assumed the attentive, active-listening, stance he’d been trained to assume while in the military and nodded his understanding every time Brian looked over at him.
“Well, I guess that’s it . . .” Brian said, finally handing the notes to Justin after he’d gone over everything on the list at least twice.
“I’ll get right on all of this as soon as I can, Brian,” Justin’s voice was soft but assured, his warm hand brushing against Brian’s as he took the list out of his employer’s hand.
“Right,” Brian said, as if the brief touch had jolted him somehow. “Well, I’ll let you get back to . . . whatever you were working on, Justin.”
Brian strode purposefully towards the door and was halfway out before he looked back over his shoulder and added, “the painting is . . . amazing.”
Before Justin could respond, Brian had already closed the door behind him. Justin let himself bask in the glow of pride that Brian’s parting words left him. With an impish little grin on his face, Justin went back to the screen and started applying the finishing touches to his angel’s beautiful eyes.
Justin quickly finished off the painting and then moved downstairs to get started on the list of chores Brian had given him. He didn’t finish with everything until almost seven in the evening. After a shower to cleanse him of the daily grime of physical labor and the remains of paint smears from his earlier efforts, Justin was feeling restless. His earlier encounter with Brian had left him wanting. Hearing the thumpa-thumpa of the club below, Justin decided to take a peek at what the place was like during operating hours as his only exposure to the club so far was during the hours it was closed while he was doing the maintenance.
Putting on his nicest pair of skin-tight black jeans, chest hugging white tank, and well worn cowboy boots, Justin went out the door, down the stairs, and entered the club through the employee’s entrance at the back.
As soon as he opened the door, the thumpa-thumpa was so intense and the music so loud that Justin couldn’t hear himself think. He wondered how anyone could talk above the noise. Justin was acknowledged by one of the security guards with a nod of the head as he passed through a second set of doors. Using both hands to push apart the thick chains hanging like a fringe in front of the door, Justin was finally inside the club.
The club was dark except for the colored spot lights that danced around the cavernous room. There were several disco balls spinning at different levels from the ceiling, catching the lights and flickering on the glitter falling from above. Men in various states of dress and undress were gyrating to the music. Some bumping and grinding against a convenient neighbor and others just shaking and doing their thing either solo or sometimes in large groups. There were go-go dancers in cages, wearing tight little silver g-strings, for those at the bar to watch. The whole feeling was that of a decadent lighted floor show of nothing but men. It was a gay man’s mecca.
The club was multi-leveled with a large bar on each floor. Glancing up at the second level skywalk, Justin saw Brian speaking with Ted along with a few others who were drinking and leaning against the rail watching the action below. Justin decided to head towards the nearest bar on the first level and ordered a beer for himself. Once his beer was in hand, he turned to watch the dancers and soak up the atmosphere of carefree freedom and joy; feelings that he hadn’t really felt in a long time.
Justin caught himself tapping his foot and swaying to the music as he drank his beer and started to enjoy the mood. The dance floor looked so inviting. The techno-beat was soaking into his bones and daring him to do something more than just watch. Taking a last swig, Justin put his bottle down and sashayed his way onto the dance floor.
Finding an uncrowded spot, he began to sway in time to the music, letting his shoulders loosen up and gyrating his hips. He rubbed his hands over his pecs, down his torso, one hand rubbing along the distended crotch and his jeans-clad cock. As Justin lost himself in the feel of the music, he tossed his blond head back, neck exposed and glistening with sweat. While keeping one hand below, he brought the other up to caress his neck, rubbing away a few beads of sweat, bringing those fingers to his lips.
Just as a tingling awareness broke through his dance induced daze, there was a recognizable scent, then he felt a pair of familiar arms encircle his waist from behind. Brian brought the seductive blond up close to his chest, rubbing his cock against Justin’s all-too-fuckable ass. In return, Justin allowed himself to sink back into the welcome embrace. He laid his head against Brian’s shoulder, bringing his hands up to encircle Brian’s neck and rubbing his ass in counterpoint to Brian’s dick.
Justin and Brian swayed and ground against one another to the pulsing beat of the club music. Brian’s hands moved to Justin’s hips, his lips placing soft kisses along the exposed side of the long pale neck; occasionally licking the beads of sweat from Justin’s skin.
With a quick move, Justin was spun around by Brian so that they were face to face and cock to cock, frotting against one another in wild abandon. Brian’s eyes smoldered with unrequited sexual need and Justin knew his reflected that same need as well. Brian’s lips slammed into Justin’s, taking the young blond’s mouth prisoner. The devouring kiss felt like it lasted forever, that’s how combustible the chemistry between the two men was.
Between the atmosphere of the club, the suggestive dancing, and the sexual attentions from Brian, it was very erotic. So erotic, that Justin couldn’t hold back any longer. The stimulation was too much and with a loud, heart-felt groan, he shuddered and came in his jeans, collapsing against Brian. Within moments, Justin felt Brian tremble and clutch his hips tightly as he came as well.
With the added heat of the lights and the bodies surrounding them, it took the two men even longer than usual for them to recover their composure after that. They panted into each other’s mouths, sharing their hot, heavy gasping and trying to focus their minds back on the present. They both just stood there for long minutes, standing perfectly still and just hoping to remain upright.
Justin felt like he’d never be able to slow his breathing and his spaghetti-like legs refused to bear his weight. He clung to Brian’s sturdy frame, hoping that the taller man wasn’t equally ready to collapse. Brian was clinging back almost as tightly. Somehow, though, Brian managed to come to his senses first and marginally pulled back from the still-shaking younger man.
“Fuck, that was hot,” Brian said, still not having complete reign over the words his thunderstruck brain was letting out of his mouth. “I haven’t done that since I was a damn teenager. What the fuck did you just do to me?”
“Whatever it was, you did it to me, too,” Justin managed to wheeze the words out, slowly letting go of his death grip on Brian and shifting his weight back onto his own two feet.
Brian quickly realized that he’d just made way too big of an admission. Brian Kinney did NOT admit that any man shook his world that much. Brian was ALWAYS the one in control, the top, the one that led, the one that used whoever he wanted for his own gratification. Nobody was ever allowed to take that control from him. The fact that he’d said those words out loud shocked him almost more than the fact that this slightly built young man - an employee of his on top of everything else - had just made him lose complete control of himself to the point that he’d creamed his pants.
“Ahem . . . Whatever,” Brian unpeeled Justin’s arms from around his neck and took a step or two backwards. “I think you probably need a drink and a few minutes to recover. You just started dancing and I wouldn’t want to wear you out before you even got started on your evening.”
Brian held out his hand, gesturing towards the bar, his face now impassive and emotionless, as he directed a confused Justin off the dance floor. The crowd parted as they passed but Brian didn’t acknowledge any of the appreciative looks from the men whose eyes followed the pair. At the bar, Brian waved the closest bartender over, signalled ‘2’ with the fingers of his right hand and then made room for Justin against the bar railing. As soon as the drinks were set down on the counter in front of them, Brian downed his. He carefully kept a space between their bodies the whole time. Justin wasn’t sure about this abrupt change in Brian’s demeanor, so he just sipped at his JB and said nothing.
“Thanks for the dance,” Brian said without any real feeling, and then moved back into the crowd as if he couldn’t get away from Justin fast enough.
Justin watched his baffling angel’s retreat, unsure what had just happened or if he’d ever see the man again.
After a few more hours of soaking up Babylon’s atmosphere and sating his curiosity, among other things, but without any further sighting of the elusive Brian Kinney, Justin padded back up to his small apartment. Once inside, Justin stripped himself of his club garb and dragged his exhausted body into the comfort of his newly acquired bed. With a slight smile on his face, and the club’s faint thumpa-thumpa in the distance, Justin closed his eyes, hoping that sleep would come quickly seeing as he would probably have a shitload of new tasks to complete for his frustratingly beautiful boss the next day. But soon after seeming to settle into a somewhat peaceful sleep, Justin was once again assailed with those too-familiar images of death, and the constant sounds of mortar rounds and landmines exploding in his head.
Justin tightly fisted his sheets and thrashed about in a cold sweat; subconsciously calling out to anyone and no one. Fighting off the enemy that was only ever present in his own damaged mind.
Brian had watched from the second story bar as Justin made his way back up to his humble abode, only to follow the same path a few minutes later. Brian knew that he was probably, yet again, making another big mistake by going up to his employee’s place, but he just couldn’t get his mind off of how sweet the blond’s lips had tasted against his own, the feel of the warm lithe body in his arms, and the deep seeded hunger to recapture those feelings as soon as humanly possible.
As Brian reached the apartment door, he thought he heard the distinct sound of someone calling out in distress. He stood listening for a moment, not sure how to handle the situation; after all, Brian didn’t want to just go barging in and inadvertently interrupt the young lad if he was just having a bit of rough fun. Brian quickly determined this not to be the case though, as the screams became louder and more anguished, but what could he do?
Remembering the master key he always kept on his keyring, Brian quietly let himself in and sought out his young charge. Cautiously making his way through the small room, Brian called out to Justin to announce his presence. “Justin . . . Justin . . . are you all right?” Finally, stepping into the young man’s bedroom area, the sight displayed before him shook Brian to his core.
The young man that he’d seen just a few minutes earlier, dancing, happy and smiling, was now huddled into the far corner of the room. The beautiful, radiant face was stained with tear tracks. His face was frozen in a silent scream as he held his hands up as if to fend off Brian’s advance. Only the whimpers and furtive sobs that leaked out of the soul of the distraught man gave evidence of the violent internal struggles going on inside.
Without even pausing to think about what he was doing, Brian rushed across the room, kneeling and protectively sweeping Justin up into his arms.