Close to Home II
+ Seven +
Vic Grassi released Brian from the hug he had held him in for several minutes. Each man wiped at their eyes and looked slightly uncomfortable.
"I'm so glad to see you," Vic said after a bit. "You look good."
"So do you," Brian replied. He could feel his heart stop pounding out of his chest and start to pump at a more normal rate. This reunion business was a fucking lot harder than he thought it was going to be. "I heard you were pretty sick."
"Ach," Vic dismissed Brian's concern. "We're survivors, you and I. Are you coping better now?" Vic then asked.
"But you never get used to it, do you?"
Brian shook his head. "I hate every fucking minute of being in this fucking chair."
"I understand," Vic replied, and Vic did understand. He had his own "chair" to deal with. "Deb was so happy to see you yesterday. She was walking on clouds when she came home."
"I owe her and you a lot," Brian said.
Vic just nodded not saying anything more. "She told me about a certain blond boy that she met here," Vic said with a mischievous grin.
"Justin," Brian replied with a smile.
Vic watched Brian's face. He could tell that the man had found someone special in this Justin. He hoped to meet him soon. Vic wanted to see the man who had tamed the mighty Kinney, even in his weakened state.
They spent about an hour reminiscing and catching up. Vic could always make Brian laugh, and Brian's escapades had been a source of vicarious thrills for Vic since his HIV status had seriously limited what he could do. Brian didn't have any of his usual escapades with which to regale Vic, but he told him about Gus' birth and the coincidence of his internet contact living just downstairs.
When Vic got ready to leave he turned to Brian and said, "You know, Brian, we could have been having a chat like this two years ago. That's a lot of time to waste."
"I know that now, but back then it wasn't possible. You're wrong about us having this conversation. I wasn't capable of talking civilly to anybody. I was so full of anger and hate. Nobody would have wanted to be around me, and therefore, they weren't." Brian shrugged his shoulders at the fait accompli he had orchestrated.
"I'll take your word for that," Vic said slowly, "but let's not waste any more time."
"I have a reason to live now," Brian said softly. "I don't want to waste another minute."
"You're a lucky man. I hope you appreciate that."
"And I never fucking thought I would agree with you, with anybody, on that point, but I do."
"I'll be looking forward to that dinner in the loft," Vic said with a big grin. "I might even bake a cake."
"This was nice, Vic."
Vic nodded and left. They had said everything they needed to say.
Brian sat with the curtain pulled back staring out at the rooftops that he could see from his window in the loft. Theodore Schmidt had just left. It had been interesting.
He had always known that Ted envied him, wanted to be him, but then again way back when, everyone wanted to be him. Brian recalled the sadness in Ted's eyes when he had entered the loft earlier. Brian had felt pity radiate from the man and that made him angry. But then he had felt something else, compassion and loss. It had taken him a bit to realize what was going on, but then it hit him. It was almost like when Christopher Reeve died and Brian had lost hope of ever having a normal life. Seeing Brian still in the
wheelchair had somehow been the same sort of thing for Ted. Ted's idealistic vision of Brian had been lost, and it was sad for both of them.
Of course they didn't speak of any of this, but they both knew. They had, instead, made small talk and had caught up on what each other was doing careerwise. Like Ted had a career, stuck at Wertschafter's for the rest of his fucking life. The man was so pathetic, and he didn't even realize it. Although, maybe he did, and that was why he was always so sad and self-deprecating.
Brian had felt the emotion that swirled around them. But neither of them had given in to it. They had been stoic and civil and had even joked with each other. In some ways this had been the easiest of the reunion moments. And also the hardest, because it was all surface, just like the old days when Ted was the butt of Brian's jokes, and he always had some smart critical remark to make about Brian or his actions.
They shook hands when Ted was leaving. He had expected a hug, but they hadn't been able to get to that point. They were still playing the game, like everything was as it used to be. And they fucking knew that nothing was the same, and never would be again.
Brian turned from the window and propelled himself over to his computer. It was still early. Ted had come to see him before going to work. Brian decided he should leave an e-mail for Justin.
It's only eight-thirty in the morning and I've had an interesting day already.
Ted just left. You'll have to meet him. He's different. I don't quite know what to say about our meeting. We chatted. Said nothing. And he left. But it disturbed me. Ted doesn't seem to have changed, and I guess I have. I felt funny around him. I wonder if it will be like that with Emmett too. This reunion business is exhausting. I'm going to do my exercises and take a nap.
Come up when you can.
When Justin arrived at the loft for dinner, he wondered what state Brian would be in. Emmett was supposed to have visited in the afternoon, thus finishing the "family" reunions. Justin pulled open the loft door and not seeing Brian, he called the man's name.
"I'm up here," Brian said rolling out of the bathroom.
"All done with the meetings with old friends," Justin said cheerily.
"Emmett never arrived."
"He didn't come?" Justin asked. "That's strange."
"Emmett was never the most reliable person," Brian said with a shake of his head. "Actually, I take that back," he added with a frown. Justin looked questioningly at him. "At first look, Emmett would appear to be a flaming flake, but that's not really who he is."
"Who is he?" Justin asked getting the food out for dinner.
"That's a hard one to answer. Emmett can be fierce. He's a very proud man and he feels things intensely. I think that's why we were never closer. I couldn't take his intensity. I found it embarrassing."
Justin nodded knowingly. He could understand how the Brian he first met and the one he was before the accident might find intense emotion very disconcerting. He seemed to deny there was any such thing. "So what do you think happened to Emmett? Why didn't he show?"
Brian shrugged. "Maybe he doesn't want anything to do with a cripple."
"Brian," Justin said with a warning in his voice.
"I don't know," Brian admitted, "but I'm not going to worry about it."
"Good, then help me make the salad," Justin commanded.
Brian rolled over to the kitchen and commenced chopping. He would never admit it to Justin but he actually liked being in the kitchen, as long as Justin was there. They could make their dinner together and talk and joke around. Brian had begun to find this time the most enjoyable part of the day, well, almost.
"What the fuck put that goofy look on your face?" Justin asked with a smile as he surveyed Brian with knife poised and a happy grin on his face. "Contemplating murder and dismemberment?"
"I was thinking about something."
"Well, that sure as shit answers my question?" Justin snarked.
"I " Brian started to say something.
Just then the buzzer went off. Justin moved to the door to answer it.
"Yes?" he said into the intercom.
"Brian?" a strange voice inquired.
"No, it's not Brian. Who's this?"
"Um I think I have the wrong apartment," the voice said hesitantly.
Brian had moved over to where Justin stood. "Emmett, is that you?"
"Aren't you sure?" Brian demanded with a chuckle.
"I'm sure who I am. I'm just not sure who you are and whether or not I should come up," Emmett said in his breathy, somewhat agitated voice.
"You haven't been invited up yet," Brian responded. "You were supposed to be here two and a half fucking hours ago."
"Still a stickler about time," Emmett's voice responded teasingly.
"Stickler about time? I was always late."
A loud snort could be heard over the intercom. "Fashionably so, or so you always told us. Or else something had come up, and we all knew what part of the anatomy that was."
"Fuck, Emmett, if you're going to talk dirty, get up here." Brian pushed the button to release the door.
Justin had watched and listened to the exchange in fascination. Emmett didn't seem to hesitate to call Brian on his shit, but he had seemed very reluctant to come face to face with the man. Justin had to wonder what was going on.
"Do you want me to get out of the way?" Justin asked. "Dinner can wait."
"No, stay," Brian said. "Emmett missed his moment of privacy by being so late."
"I was thinking about your privacy," Justin said truthfully.
"I want you here. Besides you shouldn't miss an opportunity to meet Mr. Emmett Honeycutt."
"If you say so," Justin said going back to the kitchen to assemble dinner.
Brian pulled back the loft door as the elevator came into sight. Brian could see Emmett through the bars of the gate. He looked the same. Brian backed up his chair leaving lots of room for Emmett to come into the loft. He wasn't sure how this encounter was going to play out.
Emmett stepped through the door looking very uncomfortable to be there. "Brian," he said formally with a nod of his head.
"What bug got up your ass?" Brian asked bluntly not sure what to make of this Emmett.
Emmett looked reproachfully at Brian, but then seemed to change his mind. "Who was that on the intercom?" Emmett asked looking around.
Justin waved from behind the counter where he was getting the chicken and vegetables ready to go in the oven.
"That's Justin," Brian said proudly.
"Oh," Emmett reacted. "He's a cutie pie. Does he live here?"
"No, he doesn't. Not yet," Brian said with a grin towards Justin. Justin looked flustered. They had never even talked about actually living together. "Justin Taylor, come meet Emmett Honeycutt."
Justin dried his hands on a towel. He and Emmett walked towards each other meeting at the corner of the counter.
"What are you making?" Emmett asked as he shook Justin's hand. He looked at what Justin was about to pop in the oven.
"Chicken breasts and roast vegetables," Justin said.
"A little dab of butter on each breast and a splash of rosemary really ups the flavor."
"Thanks," Justin said not sure he wanted to be told how to cook his own dinner. "I already used basil on it."
"I hope you don't mind me suggesting that. I'm in the party planning business," he said proudly.
"I'll try anything once," Justin said sprinkling rosemary over his chicken and adding a dab of butter to each breast.
"I thought Michael said you were still working at Torso," Brian interjected. Emmett had hardly spoken to him since he arrived.
"I am, but I have two parties this week and things are looking up. I'm hoping to quit Torso soon."
"Emmett," Brian said, "is something wrong?"
"Wrong? What could possibly be wrong?"
"Obviously something is," Brian said staring at the man in his fuzzy jacket and skintight red jeans. "Why don't you take off your coat and tell me what the fuck is going on?"
"I don't think I'll be staying that long," Emmett retorted. When Brian said nothing, just stared at him, Emmett added, "I probably shouldn't have come."
"Why the fuck not?"
"Because because " Emmett hesitated.
"You've never been one to beat around the bush," Brian stated.
"Bush! Eww!" Emmett reacted.
"Emmett," Brian said in a tone that made it clear he had had about enough.
"I feel like I'm in a 'B' movie," Emmett said and then took a deep breath as Brian glared at him. "A bad 'B' movie, and I'm not going to cry." He sucked another breath as Brian and Justin waited. "I am so fucking mad at you for locking us out of your life. I swore I would never speak to you again. That's why I don't know what the fuck I'm doing here." Brian opened his mouth, but Emmett raised his hand to stop him. He wasn't finished and he was going to get it all out. The man had asked for it. "I think you treated your friends in a a disgustingly shabby manner and then and then we did the same thing to you." Emmett plowed ahead. "I can never forgive myself for abandoning you. I came here to the loft many times looking for you, but there never seemed to be anybody home, and we didn't know where you had gone. Finally I gave up on you, and I'm so sorry." Emmett was doing his best to keep the tears from escaping.
"Emmett, it's not your fault. That was the way I wanted it. The way things were, back then, I couldn't handle any more people, or TLC, or fucking pity. I had to get away. I didn't want to deal with anybody."
"Couldn't you have fucking told us that instead of just refusing to even talk to us, having us banned from the hospital, fucking disappearing on us?"
"I I guess I should be the one apologizing," Brian admitted.
"Well?" Emmett said standing with his arms crossed and waiting for the aforementioned apology to be uttered. The tears were firmly banished.
Brian looked for a moment like he was ready to kill his former friend. Then slowly he released a breath and said, "I'm sorry."
"Omigod! Omigod!" Emmett wailed. "Teddy was right. You have changed."
"Of course I've changed. Everything's fucking different."
"Teddy was so upset after he saw you," Emmett began spilling his guts. "He thinks his idol has vanished and maybe he has."
"Idol? I'm nobody's fucking idol."
"Humph," Emmett snorted knowing many people who had idolized Brian Kinney, the stud of Liberty Avenue. He decided it was maybe best to let that one go. "I should probably leave," he said heading towards the door.
"Is it that hard to be around me? You just got here," Brian said.
"No, no, that's not it. I thought you would want to get rid of me after what I said, and keeping you waiting so long."
"Take off that fucking coat and sit down," Brian ordered.
"My, my," Emmett cooed, "masterful as ever." He removed his coat and hung it by the door.
"Would you like a drink?" Brian asked.
"I'd love a cosmo."
"That fucking shit! I don't think we have the makings."
"Yes, we do," Justin volunteered. "I bought some cranberry juice yesterday."
"Ooh, a man after my own heart. Let me help you make them, sweetie," Emmett said moving behind the counter and checking out the ingredients. "I make a dynamite cosmo."
"Want one Brian?" Justin asked.
"Fuck no! I'll have a beer."
Both Justin and Emmett chuckled quietly. "Some things never change," Emmett said with a nod of his head. He began assembling the cosmos as Justin took Brian a beer. When Justin returned Emmett had just about finished the drinks.
"Those look good," Justin said. Emmett handed him one and Justin took a sip. "Yummy," Justin said.
They heard a loud snort from the living room.
"Shouldn't you be talking to him?" Justin asked.
"I don't know what to say to him," Emmett whispered. "He isn't the same Brian."
"He's not so different. Just be natural with him."
"I'm hardly 'natural' about anything," Emmett giggled. "I'm a little uncomfortable around him."
"Would you two princesses stop whispering," Brian demanded. "If you're going to talk about me, do it in front of my fucking face."
"I was saying that I don't quite know how to talk to you," Emmett stated deciding to take the bull by the horns, so to speak.
"You open your mouth, force air through and words come out, not necessarily sensible ones, however," Brian explained in that voice that proclaimed he was speaking to someone dumber than dishwater.
Emmett choked on his cosmo. "Some things haven't changed."
"Would you like to stay for dinner?" Brian asked out of the blue. "We have enough, don't we, Justin?"
"With what you eat, we've got plenty," Justin replied. "Say yes," he mouthed to Emmett.
"I don't believe I've ever been asked to dinner at the loft. I'd love to stay."
"You've never had dinner here?" Justin asked Emmett.
"Brian wasn't exactly the dinner party type."
Justin looked over at Brian who merely shrugged. "It seems there are still a lot of things I need to learn about Mr. Kinney."
"And a lot that you should leave untouched," Emmett admonished with a little giggle.
"Oh, like what?" Justin asked.
"Emmett, shut the fuck up," Brian interjected.
"If I'm not allowed to talk, then why am I staying?" Emmett declared.
A loud groan came from Brian knowing that he had lost this battle. Justin would never allow him to drive Emmett away until he had gained all the information he wanted from their guest.
They had an amiable dinner after all. Emmett complimented Justin on his cooking and they polished off a couple of bottles of wine. The earlier tensions seemed to be forgotten, as Justin probed Emmett about Brian's earlier life. Brian even contributed some sarcastic remarks about his past lifestyle, and they were all able to laugh at them.
When Emmett was ready to leave, he leaned down and hugged Brian affectionately. "I'm so glad I decided to come see you. I almost didn't," he said rather tearily.
"I I'm glad to get reacquainted," Brian admitted. "But I can't say you've changed very much."
Emmett raised an eyebrow. "Unlike some of us," he said looking into Brian's eyes.
"Hopefully for the better," Brian replied.
"Definitely for the better," Emmett cooed. "And methinks you have this fine, and I do mean fine, young man to thank for it."
"Back off, Honeycutt," Brian growled. "He's mine."
Justin smiled and leaned down to give Brian a kiss. "And I wouldn't have it any other way," Justin stated.
"Well, if you need help with your little soiree, just give me a call," Emmett said handing Justin one of his cards.
"I might take you up on that."
"Ta, ta," Emmett called as he headed down the stairs.
"That was interesting," Justin said with a chuckle as he closed the loft door.
"Emmett Honeycutt is an acquired taste."
"Well, I like him. He seems very genuine," Justin said thoughtfully.
"In a genuine flaming queen sort of way," Brian said affectionately, "and he is a good friend."
"Absolutely," Justin agreed as he leaned in for another kiss.
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