Justin left NYC for LA about six months after he left me to go find fame and fortune in the New York City Art World. Things hadn’t been going the way he planned, and the reality of life as a starving artist really wasn’t as much fun when all of your friends and family were still back home…even if back home was somewhere like Pittsburgh.
His intentions were good, and in his defense, he did ask my opinion before he chose to head off into the semi-familiar wilds of Hollywood. Of course, I told him to do what the fuck he wanted, live the life he wanted to live, not the life anyone else wanted him to live. Did I teach him nothing?
He was blond and blue-eyed, young and hot; basically he was everything the Hollywood machine worshipped and desired, and he remembered how much fun he’d had there before the plug was pulled on Rage: The Movie the first time around. So he chose the more welcoming climate of Southern California and the effusive praise of Brett Keller and Company to the cold anonymity of the streets of New York. Who could fucking blame him?
It went unspoken between us that the logistics of a bi-coastal non-relationship were totally different from a commuter flight one, and neither of us dwelled on the fact that the last time he was in La-la Land, I had cancelled and never rescheduled a much anticipated visit. He tried to get me to promise that I wouldn’t pull the same trick on him this time, especially since this was an open-ended deal, but I make no promises lightly.
The backing for the film seemed as solid as anything in Hollywood could be his time around, and Brett had assured Justin that based on his previous storyboard work he could guarantee him an entry level job in the art department at virtually any studio if things went south again.
As far as I was concerned, this move was long term and his last adventure in Tinsel Town had just been a warm-up. This time, things would be different for him, and the exposure and financial gains he received would let him leave the disappointments of NYC behind, allowing him to blossom in the warm California sun. The last thing he needed was to have one eye trained to the East and the pathetic lights of the Pitts.
Once the word was given, the wheels of the entertainment industry moved quickly, and within two weeks young Taylor was heading West. There was no time for a weekend rendezvous or even a quick and dirty fuck in an airport restroom as our flights passed in the night. No, a clean break was so much better, and maybe after six months, I’d fly into LA for a business trip and sever the cord properly, who knows by then we might even manage to remain friends in the end.
I stayed busy with Kinnetik, the recent re-opening of Babylon, and immersed myself in every artificial means possible to banish the persistent brat who’d taught me how to love into the shadows, where bullshit like commitment and happily ever after deserved to dwell.
I was careful to stay in touch, although I made myself inaccessible from time-to-time just to keep myself sane, and to keep him from becoming suspicious. One important lesson I had learned about Justin over the years; give him what he thinks he wants and it will keep him happy for a while. In my case, I was hoping that it would be long enough for him to get so involved with his new life that he would see my way when the time came to break the ties in a more permanent manner.
Things were moving along right on schedule when I suddenly started to feel like shit. There was no more scientific way to put it; it reminded me of the absolute worst days I had while I was getting my remaining nut cooked by radiation.
It started as a persistent tiredness, often so severe I would crash out on the sofa in my office at odd times. I altered my extracurricular activities thinking that age was finally giving me an unkind kick in the ass. It pissed me off, but I began to cut back on my nights out, crawling into bed by 10pm most work nights like some kind of pathetic old fag. After a few weeks even that didn’t help, and I was waking up tired and disoriented even after a good ten hours of sleep.
Cynthia and Ted had taken notice, but like the good soldiers they are, didn’t mention my increasing lack of focus and forgetfulness until the day I blew off a meeting with Brown Athletics. Even in my misspent youth when I would stay out all night tricking and drugging, I would always pull myself together and be dazzling, brilliant Brian Kinney, adman of their dreams for my clients.
This time, I woke up to find a worried Michael bending over me with a panicked Theodore in the background wringing his hands and moaning softly, “Jesus Christ, Michael, is he dead?”
Michael turned to shoot Ted an annoyed glare before he focused his attention back to me. “Brian? Are you okay? You scared the shit out of us!”
I stared at him blearily, wondering what in the hell he was doing in my loft with Theodore in the middle of the fucking night. “Mikey,” I cleared my throat and tried again, “What the fuck are you two doing here? You should be home in bed with your hubbies.”
My unexpected guests shared a nervous look that just pissed me off more, and Michael sat down slowly on the end of the bed. “Brian, it’s 1:00 in the afternoon. You missed a lunch meeting with Leo Brown and no one could get in touch with you. We pounded on the door but you didn’t answer, so I used my key to get in. We had a hard time waking you up.”
“We thought you were dead!” Ted added helpfully, and looked as though he were about to join the ranks of the deceased himself.
I stared blankly at them both, trying to wrap my still sleep-addled brain around what they were telling me. I was going to fucking kill both of them if this was some sort of “Let’s fuck with Brian,” practical joke. But just as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I realized that neither one of them would fuck with me about business, let alone one of my most lucrative accounts.
I rubbed my hand across my forehead in frustration and looked quickly at Ted. “What did you tell Leo?”
“W-well, I left Cynthia to handle it while I tried to track you down. We didn’t know what had happened to you.”
I relaxed slightly knowing that Cynthia could soothe Leo’s ruffled feathers and come up with a valid excuse delivered in such a way that he would be the one apologizing. As to what had caused me to sleep like the dead for fifteen fucking hours and still have to be woken up, feeling like I’d been up all night, I had to accept that a visit to my doctor was in order.
“Have her reschedule for tomorrow if she hasn’t done that already. Now, you lovely ladies can get back to your happy homo lives.” I needed to get them out of the loft pronto before I had time to really queen out about what new shit might be knocking on my fucking door.
Theodore headed for the exit with a nod; he knew better than to cross me at the best of times. Michael, of course, lingered behind, apparently ready to hold my hand and be strong for me.
“Beat it, Mikey! I need to get into the office before the entire day is fucked.” I slide out of bed and stumble toward the bathroom. Did I mention that my balance had been off and my joints were so sore I felt like I’d run a marathon every day when I woke up? Yeah, I probably should have made time to visit my doctor a few weeks ago, but things had gotten hectic, and I never did seem to get around to calling. Come to think of it, there were a shitload of things I was letting slip through the cracks, including keeping in touch with the bound to be pissed little Justin Sunshine. Fuck!
“Mikey?” I stuck my head out of the bathroom, knowing he wouldn’t have given up that easily. Sure enough, he was standing right where I’d left him, looking after me with a determined gleam in his eyes.
“What’s going on, Brian? I’ve seen you wasted on just about every substance out there, legal and illegal, but I’ve never once known you to miss an appointment, especially because you were sleeping like you were in a coma.” His eyes narrowed as he watched me shakily walk over to him, not quite managing to hide a wince as I padded across the floor. “What’s wrong?” His eyes widened again and I saw the fear flash across his face even as I reached out for his shoulder. “Oh my God, it’s the cancer, isn’t it? It’s back!”
“Oh God, does Justin know? You have to tel—“
“Michael!” I put my other hand on his shoulder and pulled him closer, looking him directly in the eyes. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and I don’t want you to panic or mention this to anyone until after I’ve gone to the doctor. Are you listening to me? Mention this to no one. Not the professor, not your mother, no one.”
“What about Justin? He deserves to know, especially after—“
I cut him off and stared him down. “No one….especially Justin.”
“He’s got enough to deal with in Gayopolis without worrying needlessly about me. After I go to the doctor and find out…exactly what’s wrong—“
“You’ll tell him.” Michael interrupted with a hopeful expression on his face.
“I’ll consider telling him,” I squeezed Michael’s shoulder in warning as I continued, “after I know what I’m dealing with…and not before.”
“That’s bullshit, Brian, he deserves to know, he’s your pa—“
“Partner? Yeah, I’ve heard that one before Mikey, and you know what? We are living separate lives now on the opposite sides of the country. Whatever Justin and I may have been to each other once, it’s history, Mikey, ancient history. He needs to move on and find some nice out-and-proud celebrity that can show him things I wasn’t able to show him, and take him places I’ll never be able to take him. He needs someone he has something in common with, someone like—“
“Someone like you! Brian, no matter what you try to make yourself believe, you and Justin belong together, even if you’re thousands of miles apart. You owe him the truth, now, before you even know what’s wrong. Give him the opportunity to decide where he wants to be, don’t take the choice away from him. He’ll hate you if you do that again, after all you’ve been through.”
I laid my palm against his cheek and gave him a light tap. “Go home, Mikey. Go back to your sunny suburban dream home, and I’ll be just fine.” I pressed a quick kiss to Michael’s lips and I stalked back to the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind me.
Two weeks later and I was a fucking mess. I had zero energy, my appetite was pretty much non-existent, and I felt like a blanket of lethargy had settled its suffocating weight on me. Doctors and specialists had run a fucking plethora of tests on just about every bodily fluid and body part that I had, and they were no closer to figuring out what was wrong with me than when I made my first appointment. I was quickly approaching the point of telling them all to fuck off and leave me to die.
I looked like shit, so I stayed away from the pitying public as much as possible, only letting Cynthia or Theodore into the loft when there were papers that absolutely needed my signature. Neither one of them mentioned my appearance, but the last time he was here, Theodore blanched when he saw me, and stammered his way through business before removing himself from my presence at turbo speed. Right…cross Theodore off the VIP list…Cynthia had the dubious distinction of last bitch standing.
Mikey was keeping his distance after I had a heartfelt talk with his husband about keeping a leash on the little woman. It was a shitty thing to do, and way too obvious a ploy to keep him away, but desperate times called for fucked-up measures and I figured Mikey would be pissed enough to leave me alone for a few days before he tried to storm the fortress.
Justin had to be handled a little more subtly, but that problem was solved when he emailed me to say he was going on an impromptu field trip to scope out some prime filming locations in the wilds of Canada, which someone had gotten the brilliant idea of incorporating into the movie. Spotty cell reception and even worse internet access in the area put Sunshine out of the picture for the moment.
Suddenly though, I wanted to hear his voice, as lesbianic as that sounds, but it had been a bad day. More tests results had come back as inconclusive, and although the medicine men were fairly confident this was not a recurrence of cancer that had me feeling like King of the Zombies, I was fairly sure they would be taking my picture soon to go with the article about a disease that would bear my name and be featured in the top medical journals. If I wasn’t so fucking sick that possibility might actually make me feel proud.
I realized that I had been staring blankly into space for an unknown amount of time, a common and pathetic occurrence recently, but I still wanted Justin…I mean I wanted to talk to Justin…or at least the recording of his voice. I punched his speed dial on my cell and dropped it when my hand started shaking.
“Motherfucker!” I bent down to retrieve it and lost my balance, landing face down next to it on the kitchen floor. “Son- of-a-bitch!” I moaned quietly as my head throbbed from the impact, and as the room spun around me, taking away the option of doing more than curling up into a miserable ball of pain, I heard his voice come across the speaker. Only it wasn’t a recording of his voice at all; the little shit had chosen this moment to finally be within range of a cell tower. “Brian,” he was repeating my name, sounding half-annoyed and half-worried.
“Jesus Christ!” I moaned again as quietly as I could, and reached over to flip the phone closed.
“Brian, what’s wrong? Where are you? Are you hurt? Talk to me you assho—“
Success! I managed to flip it shut and hurl it into the wall in one smooth move. Pretty fucking impressive for a man who recently had the reflexes of an 80-year-old stroke victim.
I unplugged the loft phone, dragged myself onto the bed, and wallowed in the solitude. I barely moved, and after a while I lost track of whether it was day or night. Eventually, I moved into the living room to smoke a joint, having quickly discovered that the medicinal benefits of weed were not grossly overrated. Everything began to take on a surreal feeling. I watched a smoke ring waft by, and felt like I was floating with it. Shit yeah, I was fucking Rage, of course I could fly.
I drifted along on that cloud of smoke for hours…or minutes…who the hell knows. Some lucid part of me was still there watching, shouting, “What the fuck is wrong with you? You need Justin, go find Justin.”
But Justin was gone. He was far away, living a brand new exciting life without me. The way it should be, the way that was best for him. My present situation was exactly why he was better off finding someone his own age, without my dysfunctional baggage and apparent knack for eschewing things like the common cold in favor of cancer and now, something so totally unique and different, the medical community had no name for it.
Yet, it was my fault he still felt the need to live some sort of half-life even when he was a continent away. I was too selfish to give him one last goodbye, letting him think that in some fractured fairy tale of a future, we would finally come to a mutual understanding and be committed and monogamous…and happy…together. I fostered that dream by keeping a pair of wedding rings long past their expiration date. I tied him to me with the bloody fringe on a tainted scarf. I kept him coming back for more, when what he really needed was someone to rescue him from me. I loved him and that would never change, but although I had come to accept that it was possible to love someone the way I loved Justin, that didn’t automatically mean you should spend your life with that someone.
My thoughts began to fragment and I couldn’t seem to concentrate on any one memory for more than a few seconds. I sat there lost and alone with my fears and regrets and I soon realized that I was staring at the door, listening for the familiar sound of the elevator groaning to life. Eventually, I let my head fall back against the sofa and I closed my eyes and let the darkness claim me.
I dreamed of blond hair spread out before me under the blue lights I used to have above my bed. Lights that used to make Justin’s skin glow like he was bathed in moonlight. I leaned over him and covered his body with mine, feeling his arms surrounding me, and his legs pulling me closer, his lips begging me to fuck him. I entered him slowly, bare cock engulfed in the tight, hot heat of his ass, and I cried out his name as I began to rock into him, deepening my thrusts as he tightened his legs around me and pulled my lips down to cover his mouth.
We fucked for hours, first on the bed in the loft, then in front of the back room crowd at Babylon. When we found ourselves before the fireplace in the country house, I felt my balls tighten, and Justin’s ass clenched around my cock, sending us flying into the comforting darkness together.
I stirred and moaned as I felt warm hands brushing the hair back from my face and gently shaking my shoulders as I struggled to find my way back into the light. I heard him whisper my name brokenly, and the pain I heard in his voice angered me, because I knew I was the one who put it there.
“Brian, please wake up. We need to get you to the hospital. You need help.” I opened my eyes enough to make sure he wasn’t a figment of my depraved imagination, and saw a ghost of a smile cross his face as he saw my lids flicker. “Open your eyes you stubborn son-of-a-bitch; I came all the way from Canada to rescue you.”
“Who are you…fucking Nanook of the North?” I forced my eyes to stay open this time, and I reached up to touch his cheek, needing to prove to myself that it really was Justin sitting next to me in the flesh.
“Come on, you need to go to the hospital. You’re dehydrated and you feel like you have a fever.” He pulled me up slowly into a sitting position, biting his lip as I swayed drunkenly just from the slight change in my elevation.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I snapped tiredly, pulling away as he stroked my arm.
“I’m here because this is where I want to be.” He answered simply with a determined look on his face.
“Bullshit! You’re here because you think I need someone to hold my hand and comfort me in my time of need. Well, you can scamper back to Hollywood, Justin, because I’ve got everything under control here.” I stared at him disdainfully, and arched my eyebrow in challenge, but underneath I heard a voice whisper in contempt, “He came to rescue you, and you love it, you pussy!”
He returned my glare arrogantly, and then snorted in my fucking face. “You are unbelievable, Brian. Have some balls and admit that you’re fucking glad to see me. Don’t worry, I’m not here to sacrifice my life’s ambitions for you in the name of love,” he paused and grabbed my chin, forcing me to pay close attention to his words. “I do fucking love you, and we are going to get through this,” he gestured vaguely with his free hand, “whatever this is…together. We’re going to get some real answers from your doctors, or we’re going to keep looking until we find some that can. You are not going to be alone this time, especially because you seem to do a shitty job of taking care of yourself when you do try to handle crap like this on your own.”
I felt a surge of pride at the fucking amazing man before my eyes, so confident and proud; but then he had been something special right from the start. If I lived to be a hundred, I would never fully understand why we always seemed to find our way back to each other, no matter how badly we eventually fucked things up every time.
I guess he must have realized that I didn’t have the strength or will to fight him on this right now because he kept his fucking mouth shut for a change and leaned in to kiss me.
I really was fucking glad that he heard me earlier and though I would never admit it, I suspect I called him hoping that he would answer, and in his unique Justin way of seeing things others missed, find his way back to me once again.
I would never use the words happily ever after to describe what we had between us, but of one thing I was fucking sure; we would always have a lifetime of hellos, but never a last goodbye.