Rose Water

Chapter 16

Author's Note: I have to thank my beta Carly. I love you Carly, you fucking ROCK. I also have to thank Britt and Carrie for pressing me for this chapter because I was completely not moving with it at all. Thanks guys. Okay, seriously Britt pressed. Carrie pushed me off the fucking cliff and threatened to rain down boulders on my bruised body.


The taste of blood is hard to forget. It is pressed into the brain. It is engraved on the tongue. I can always remember it. I don't really think that I want to forget it. Blood is more than thick, it is… lasting.

I sit on the sofa and clasp my hands together tightly. I am watching him and he is watching me. We are waiting, hoping, praying that the other will… cave.

I know what he is going to say. He is going to want to know exactly what I feel my problem is. I have no idea what exactly my problem is. He is going to want to know if I had a bad childhood. My childhood was fine. I was so fucking happy it's sick. He is going to want to know if I was touched… molested… abused. No… well, I don't think so.

He is going to want to know all these things that I really don't want to tell him and the only thing that runs through my mind is, 'Oh my fucking God why am I here?'

I let out a heavy sigh, which is probably not the best thing to do in a doctor's office. I like his office. I can breathe in his office. I can think in his office. I can almost… feel, in his office.

I steady myself when I see him sit forward in his chair. I wait for the inevitable onslaught of questions. "Let's play some pool," he says as he stands up from his seat and walks across the office. Okay, I was not expecting that. He slides the door open and I have to give him credit for the design of the office. It's nice. "Do you play?"

"Yeah," I answer. I am damn near speechless. I get up and cautiously follow him into the adjoining room. He is already racking up the balls. Two cues are sitting on top of the pool table. I look around as I lazily brush my hand over the top of the table. The walls are white, but not quite. There are games, toys, books, anything and everything you could imagine filling the room and yet, it feels almost empty.

"This doesn't look like a regular doctor's office." It's the first real thing I have said and I expect him to jump at the opportunity to talk to me. I expect him to almost piss at the fact that I am finally giving him the time of day. He doesn't. He just looks around and nods his head before taking the rack off the balls and looking at me.

"You can be solids, I'll be stripes," he says. We move around the pool table, each taking our turns. I am kicking his ass and after the first game and the first forty minutes I forget that he is a doctor. I forget that I am fucked up and he is supposed to fix me. I forget, because right now, right here, I am completely… normal.

How can you be anything other than normal in a place where everyone is as equally fucked up? Maybe that's why I can breathe the air in his office. It's tainted air, and for me it's pure.

"I think it's fair to say that you kicked my ass," he says to me. He walks over to a refrigerator and pulls out two bottles of water. I sit down on top of the pool table and drink the water that he offers me.

"Fair, I think it's more than fair. I did kick your ass," I say. He laughs and nods his head. He adjusts the sleeve of his shirt and I finally take him all in. He is dressed like he is ready to go out and pick up a trick at any moment. He looks incredibly, relaxed. "You know, you don't dress like most doctors. Most doctors wear slacks and shirts and ties," I inform him as I take another drink. My eyes catch on my newest batch of scars and I mentally try to wipe the image away as I let my arm go back to resting on my leg. He sees me looking, he stays silent.

He looks down at his clothes and smiles. "I like to be comfortable. So, how did you get so good at pool?" He walks over to the sitting area in the room and sits down in one of the oversized chairs. I stay where I am. He takes a drink of his water and waits for my answer.

"Brian plays a lot," I say as I pull at the paper that is wrapped around the plastic water bottle in my hand, the label, proudly displaying for the consumer the contents of the bottle. I wonder briefly what my label would be. Would it read 'Gay,' 'Young,' 'Trapped,' 'Lonely,' 'Loved?' I wonder. Would it simply say 'Justin?'

"Brian is your boyfriend?" He asks, snapping me out of my silent thoughts. I smirk as I think about his question. I can say anything. I can say that Brian is not really the 'boyfriend' type. I can say that maybe he should ask Brian that question. I can say that we have not known each other for a long time but really, what the fuck does the duration of a relationship have to do with the defining name for the other person? He either is… or he isn't. It's cut and it's dry. Except I am hesitating, so I figure fuck it, I'll say exactly what I want to say.

"Yeah." He nods and I can almost see him filing my extended pause away in some fucking folder in his head. When the time is right I can imagine him double clicking right on my face. Actually, it's kind of funny. I would laugh if I was not as nervous as shit.

I get up off of the pool table and walk toward the sitting area, toward him, closing the gap between us. "When I first saw him I felt like I was falling," I tell him and I don't know why. I just had to say it.

"What happened that made you feel like you were falling?" He asks. I think he wants to hear that I looked up and saw hazel eyes and that was it, my heart was gone. I think he wants to hear that my heart sped up and my soul shifted. I think he wants to hear that the world stopped spinning. It did. All of that happened, and all of it felt good, but it's not what I mean. I look at him as I walk past him and over to the window.

"I knew he would catch me," I say. He doesn't understand what I mean. I don't have to turn around and look at him to know that he doesn't get it. I laugh a little as I think of the expression that is more than likely playing across his face. I laugh, but I don't bother to explain it to him. "Where did you learn to play pool?" I don't want to talk about Brian right now.

I hear the water bottle move before he answers. "My dad taught me. We used to play together all the time," he says. The glass of the window is clean, hopelessly clean and I wonder briefly if some deranged obsessive-compulsive patient is responsible. A picture of the sparkling glass slicing through my skin flashes through my brain and I feel my blood cool and then boil with need and want.

"Why don't you play together anymore? Did you like to paint or draw and he thought it was a little too… gay?" That slipped out and I would give anything to take it back, reel it all back in. He just double clicked on my file, another entry.

"He died. We played every Saturday until the week before he died." Fuck, now I feel bad. Not bad that his dad died, but bad that I am almost envious.

"Sorry, about your dad I mean," I say as I turn to face him. He is not crying or teary eyed and I am grateful for it. "When did he die?"

"Two years ago. He had a heart attack, it was very sudden," he says as he finishes off his water. I nod and turn back to the window. The sun is bright, warming my skin through the glass. I look out the window and across the street. We are very close to the museum that Lindsay works at. I can see the front doors from here. I love that museum. I place my palms on the glass, ruining the perfection of it with guiltless abandon.

I exhale as my hands take strength from the translucent partition that was once silica sand and that is now mixed with other materials to form a fragile strength. Glass is strong enough to be used as a support around and within a structure and fragile enough to be easily broken. I am glass. Brian told me once that he loved my hands and as I look at them I wonder why.

I am looking out at the parking lot. The sun is pressing down on the cars below, reflecting in their windows and shining back up at me. I wonder for the better part of two seconds what my body would look like if it was impacted on the roof of one of the cars. Would it diminish their value? Hmm, I wonder.

"Is your father still alive?" I almost jump out of my skin at the sound of his voice. I forgot he was here. I let go of the window and sit down in the chair that is sitting across from him. He is sitting back, relaxing. His hand with the water bottle is propped up next to his head and he is chewing a piece of gum. He did not have gum before, where did he get gum? I want some gum.

I glance out of the window and I see Brian outside, at the corner of the street. He crosses with the light and tosses his cigarette out as he reaches the stairs of the museum. I was wondering how long he could wait and I smile. "Justin," he calls to snap me back into the room.

"Sorry, you said something?" He repeats the question and looks at me. Hours have passed and I suddenly notice how hot it is in his here. It's not really hot in here but damn that's how it feels with all eyes on me. I sit back in the seat and fold my arms over my chest.

"Yeah, he is still alive." Drop it. I don't want to talk about him. He may be alive but he is dead to me.

"Do you talk to him?" he asks. I bite my lip and release it.

"No," I say, short and sweet.

"Do you ever want to?" He asks. I don't answer and the time ticks away. I want to answer, I do, but I really don't know what to say.

The pain of loving someone so much that you hate is… indescribable. I don't try to mask the tears that start to fall out of my eyes as I look at him. I don't know why the tears are there. I am not sad. I am not sorry. I am not angry. I just am... and maybe that's reason enough. Double click.


Living with someone is scary. I think it helps that I never asked him to move in with me. One day, he just never went home. Helping them want to live is hard. I wonder if I am strong enough. I wonder if too much time has passed and I am too far into my life to try and alter it for someone that, realistically, I just met. I wonder. Justin is worth it. Am I?

"You look very familiar," the woman at the desk says. I look over at her with a raised eyebrow. She is a pretty woman, and she looks just like the doctor. She can see the thought running through my mind and smiles brightly. "He's my little brother." I nod my head to show my understanding. She gets up from the desk to come and talk to me.

"You look just like him," I say. She sits next to me on the leather couch. I noticed the leather. It is rich. It is durable. It is real. It is damn expensive. I unconsciously move my hand over it.

"Yeah, it's a blessing and a curse," she says smiling. "I think I have seen you at one of those advertising conferences." She is so bubbly but subdued. I can stand her. I sit back on the couch. She pulls her legs in under her. "What do you do? That is, if you don't mind me asking," she says.

"I'm in advertising," I tell her. I expect her to ask agonizingly long and pointless questions that I really have no interest in answering. Questions about commercials and finding people to act in them, but instead she thinks for a minute and then looks back at me.

"Interesting," she says. People always say that, and usually it's because they really could care less what the fuck you do. They are just trying to be polite. Fuck polite. "Do you like to use size twenty font or smaller when you are setting up your panels? Are you really hands on or do you just let the various departments deal with their end and leave them to their work?" Fuck… ass, I was not expecting that and the look on my face says just that. She smiles at me and pushes some of her hair behind her ear. It's long and jet black.

"My girlfriend is in advertising, she owns a really small agency. She deals more with small companies or like mom and pop stores," she says. I can breathe again. I thought I was about to be dealing with direct competition. I trace the inside of my mouth with my tongue as she talks. God I want a cigarette. "Maybe you have heard of her company, Majestic Images." I have heard of her company. I have done advertising for some of her clients that have moved on to bigger markets. She is actually very good.

"Yeah, actually I have, she does very good work." She seems to almost burst with pride. She must really love her girlfriend. I wonder how she knew. How she first knew that she loved this other person. Did she just wake up one day and feel it, or did it creep up on her and choke her? I wonder, and then I wonder if it even matters. Love… is relative.

"Wow, you have seen some of her work? That's great. So, what exactly do you do in advertising?" She seems to really want to know. I sneak a glance at my watch and more than an hour has passed. I have been sitting here waiting for Justin to come storming out of the office and out the front door, pissed, frustrated and in tears. I have to give the doc credit. It's an accomplishment all by itself. He is still in there.

"I own my own advertising agency too, Kinnetik Inc." She is practically down my throat as she lunges forward and smacks me in the chest. She curls back quickly as she realizes that she just dropped her business persona.

"Sorry," she says. I give a smirk to let her know that it's fine. Fuck, that hurt. She hits almost as hard as Lindsay. "Holy shit, you are Brian Kinney." She is so excited.

"Yeah," I say. I know that I am good at what I do but I did not know that I had a fan club, one that was not going to suck my dick. Okay, maybe I did know I had a fan club in the advertising world, but nobody likes a smartass. I can be modest. I can. Holy shit, she is not wearing any underwear. I think I just went blind. Fuck, I looked again.

"Wait until I tell her I met you today." She is so amazed. "I have seen you a few times at Woody's and around Liberty Avenue," she says and now I put it together. She is at work right now, but at night she is wild. I like her. "Do you have a card or something? I would really like to have one, if that's okay." I reach into my jean pocket and pull out my card holder, handing her one. She looks at the card and reads it out loud before palming it and standing up. "I better get back to work. It was very nice finally getting to actually meet you." Her business façade is back in place.

"Same here, and judging from how long he has been back there I assume we may be seeing a lot of each other." Why am I talking to her? She is the only one here and I am bored. Maybe that's why. Or maybe it's because she doesn't know me. She has no reason to kiss my ass, and I like that. I like it a lot. I feel the same way with Justin. Maybe that is love. I open my mouth slightly and take a deep breath.

The desire for a cigarette comes back hard and fast. "Can you tell Justin that I went outside for a smoke?" I ask the woman.

"Yeah," she answers. I walk away from her desk and out of the door, realizing that I never asked her name. Oh well. The sun hits me and I feel warm. The air is so rich I almost choke. There are not too many people mulling around here today. It strikes me as weird.

I light my cigarette and take a deep pull, walking a little ways down the sidewalk. When I get to the end of the street I look up and lock eyes with Lindsay's museum. I stand there waiting for the lights to change so that I can cross the street.

As I get closer I remember when I met Justin here. When I set eyes on him the bottom dropped out of my world. It was almost like I was suspended and waiting. For what, I really don't know, and on some level… I don't care. I feel like I have known him for years.

I wonder if he is my biggest nightmare. He is challenging. His whole situation is challenging… tiring. I could pretend like love will pull us through anything, but I am not going to bullshit myself. I know we are playing with fire.

Every time he smiles at me I have to gauge if it is real. Every time he laughs I wonder if tears will follow. If he is quiet I wonder if he is too quiet. Every time he goes into the bathroom I wonder if he will come back out or if I will have to go in and peel him up off the floor. I have done it before.

We exist in our own private world, he falls apart and I pick him up and put him back together. Is he worth it? My heart tells me 'yes.' He has to be worth it. I know he is worth it, but am I strong enough?

Who is going to catch me if I start to fall, Justin?

I flick my cigarette off to the side as I climb the steps of the museum. The tiles are shined to perfection and for a moment I hesitate. I don't know why. I shake off the feeling that passed inside of me. I walk through the museum, expensive boots on expensive floors.

I knock on the door to Lindsay's office and walk in. "You could have waited until I said you could come in," she tells me. I sit down in one of her chairs and kick my leg up on her desk.

"What's up?" I ask her. She looks at me strangely before answering.

"Nothing, just going over some preliminaries for an exhibit that is opening up in two weeks, I think we are going to have a pretty big turn out." She keeps talking and I block her out. I notice that on her desk there is a picture of her, Melanie and Gus, all together and smiling.

As I continue to look I notice that she has pictures of all the family, everyone. But they are not on the desk. They are behind her, on a little table. But Melanie and Gus are on the desk, in front of her and smiling, and then… and then I see me.

I am holding Gus. I realize that I have never seen this picture before, never. I am not looking at the camera, I am looking at my son and I look completely and hopelessly… lost in him. Entangled. Trapped. Happy. I love my son more than I ever thought that I would.

I love him despite his faults. I love him regardless of the bad things he may do. I love him for all of his good and his bad. I love him with something more than my heart and deeper than my soul. I would put off dying for as long as I could to spend one more day with him… to talk to him… to smile with him.

How do I know that that is love? I don't, but I do know that I would do it effortlessly, without a moment of hesitation… and gladly. I would do all these things for him and I suddenly realize. I am thinking of Justin. I could say that he completes me, but that's too trite… too small.

He doesn't complete me. I don't need to be made complete. I was born that way. Justin does more than complete me… he enhances me. He makes every part of me better, and I like the feeling.

Does that mean that it's love? I don't know. Does that mean that we will last for years and years to come? I don't know. Does it mean that we are meant to be together? I don't know. But damn, it sure feels good.

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