|QAF FanFic by Morpheus
When It Sizzles
A Post-Season 5 Story in Three Parts
I love Paris in the springtime,
I love Paris in the fall,
I love Paris in the winter, when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer, when it sizzles.
I love Paris every moment, every moment of the year.
I love Paris - why, oh why, do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.
-- Words and music by Cole Porter
PART TWO – February 2008
I’ve been to San Francisco a few times on business and naturally I always make time to drop into one or two bars in the Castro to check out the local talent. This trip is brief however, just a midweek overnighter to make an initial proposal on spec, so there’s not much time for tricking.
A glance through the Damron guide sent me first to the Midnight Sun, a bar supposedly renowned for its cruisability. I’d done a quick glance around the place and discovered that the clientele – at least those out on a Thursday night – are cookie-cutter boys: attractive but disappointingly mundane, all twenty-somethings in snug tee-shirts and skin-tight jeans. Without even stopping long enough to order a drink, I’m back outside, checking out other establishments along the street for something a little different.
Stopping to light a cigarette, I catch the eye of a likely prospect walking back the way I came. Turning as he passes, I watch as he enters the same bar I’ve just exited. He pauses in the doorway to look back at me and though he makes no gesture, I know that he’s interested. He’s dressed a bit more imaginatively than the guys I saw inside, a long gray cashmere coat unbuttoned over a red v-neck sweater and gray slacks, nicely fitted but not so tight as to advertise the size of his cock.
In my quest for a nice tight ass or talented willing mouth, I’m not sure why I give a fuck what a man is wearing; but I refuse to waste time questioning why I’ve apparently grown tired of look-alike clones. Surely I’m not tired of tricking, that can never get old. It’s my life’s work, alongside creating a successful business and completing the purchase of my building. The sale of the house in West Virginia provided funds to buy the second and third floors. It’s only a matter of time till the ground-floor tenant gives in to my determination to purchase his apartment.
Flicking away thoughts of home along with my half-finished cigarette, I leisurely follow the red-sweatered man, heading back into the Midnight Sun. Unsurprisingly, he’s posted himself just inside the door, leaning against the end of the bar, watching the entrance. When I walk toward him, he nods his head and gives me a lopsided smile. He’s a looker, absolutely in my league. Tall, nearly as tall as me, with shaggy black hair falling over his forehead, red lips and a square jaw, smooth-shaven but darkly shadowed. It’s not easy to judge his age, he’s probably late-twenties or early thirties, looking fit but not over-muscled; not a gym-bunny, thank god, that’s another clone affectation that bores me.
”Hey,” I address him casually, not returning his smile but showing interest with my eyes.
“Buy you a drink?” he asks, straightening up at my approach, and though normally I’d shake my head no and drag him off to the backroom, I find myself nodding my head yes and moving closer to stand next to him at the bar.
“JB,” I say, and when he turns to get the bartender’s attention, I have a moment to study him more closely. Proximity does not detract from his good looks; his profile is masculine but with smooth eyebrows and long thick eyelashes that soften his features. He turns to catch me checking him out and he chuffs a brief laugh, seeming almost self-conscious. Which is ridiculous, of course he must know how attractive he is.
“I haven’t seen you here before,” is his opening gambit. “New in town?”
“Business trip,” I acknowledge, immediately regretting the acceptance of a drink. I’m just looking for a quick fuck, I’m not here to socialize with the locals.
“Let’s sit, shall we?” he raises eyebrows at me, gesturing toward a table that’s become empty. I pause for a moment, then shrug and give in. It’s early evening, I guess I can spare a few minutes for some pre-fuck niceties. The man grabs our glasses just delivered by the bartender and precedes me to the table; we sit down in adjacent captain’s chairs, raise our glasses and clink them together briefly before taking a drink.
“I’m Max D’Antoni,” he introduces himself, and almost begrudgingly I accept the hand he’s extended, shake it and reply, “Brian Kinney.”
“Where are you from, Brian?”
I hesitate, almost saying, “Fuck this, I’m just looking for a little action in the backroom; lead the way.” But I don’t say it. Instead I realize that I’m relaxing back in the chair, stretching out my legs and unbuttoning my top coat. “I’m from Pittsburgh,” I hear myself answer. I’m downright fucking chatting with my erstwhile trick. “You from Frisco?”
“Oh man,” Max rolls his eyes, “Don’t dare call it Frisco, you’ll be drawn and quartered by the natives, they consider that an insult. And no, I’m not from The City originally, hardly anybody in California was actually born here. I moved from Denver a year ago when I got a job offer I couldn’t refuse.”
For some reason I want to hear about his job, so I nod my head at him to go on, as if I’m actually interested.
“I’m an architect,” Max tells me, leaning forward in his chair. Elbows planted on the table, he says with a disarming grin, “Actually, I’m kind of an entry-level architect right now, I’ve just got my foot inside the door, but I’m working my way up. I’m at Massey & Massey,” he proclaims enthusiastically, “They’re the premiere architectural firm in San Francisco!”
What I want to do is curl my lip in derision at his eagerness. The only enthusiasm I’ve ever been able to tolerate used to come from a young blond artist formerly of Pittsburgh and now residing in the City of Light.
Yet I don’t deride Max; instead I feel my face soften and I realize that I’m smiling back at him. “That’s great,” I say, surprising myself with the sound of sincerity in my voice. Where did I misplace my usual cynicism?
“We’re moving into new offices soon, on the top floors of the Samson Towers downtown,” Max goes on, “Do you know the building? It’s a landmark in San Francisco. I helped with preliminary plans for expanding the office, and Massey Junior actually singled me out for praise today. He said - ” Max glances at me and his voice stutters to a stop. “I’m sorry,” he says quickly; his face is red, can he really be blushing? “This is boring – you can’t possibly be interested.”
“No, it’s not boring,” I contradict, wondering why I’m perjuring myself. I really was getting bored and apparently I was letting it show on my face. Justin always used to chastise me for what he called facial fascism, the way I can intimidate and silence long-winded assholes with a single withering glance.
But Max is not an asshole, he’s just a guy who’s excited about his job. And I’m being a dick.
“I’ve never heard of Samson Towers, why is it a landmark?” I ask, raising my glass for another sip of bourbon and looking over the rim at Max.
“We don’t have to talk about it,” he shakes his head; crossing his arms over his chest. His body language tells me that he got my message of ennui loud and clear; so maybe he thinks I’m just humoring him now. I open my mouth to speak but he hurries on, “I should have realized that you were just out cruising tonight. Well,” he admits then, shrugging his shoulders, “That’s what I was doing myself. I don’t know why I was acting like, like - ”
“Like we were friends?” I suggest.
Max just shrugs again and finishes his drink. “There’s a backroom here,” he tells me, “If you’re still interested.” He’s acting blasé but I can tell that he’s embarrassed.
The backroom is exactly what I had in mind, but instead of gesturing for Max to lead the way, I set down my own glass and shake my head. “How about we go back to my place? My hotel, I mean. I’m staying at the Crowne Plaza.”
Hesitating only a moment, Max then nods and stands up. “Union Square? The streetcar goes directly to Powell, it’s just a couple blocks walk from there.”
“Yes, but let’s take a taxi, if we can find one.”
Max nods again and leads the way out of the bar and we make our way in silence around the corner onto Castro Street, whre we wait for a cab to appear. In a few minutes one comes along and I gesture for Max to precede me into the taxi and give directions to the driver. We still don’t speak when we reach the hotel. After we enter the empty elevator and the doors close, I turn toward Max, reach out my hand and squeeze his shoulder. “I’m glad you came back with me,” I say, and I’m rewarded when I feel his shoulders relax and he gives me his lopsided smile.
“Me too,” he agrees.
I’m surprised when I wake up in the morning to discover that last night’s trick is still asleep in my bed. What’s even more surprising is that I remember his name. I lie there staring at his profile for a moment, thinking about last night’s really great fuck. Suddenly he opens his eyes and stares back at me; we both jump slightly.
“Brian,” he says, then he smiles slowly. He must also be remembering our fuck. “Good morning.”
I don’t want to face a morning goodbye scene; that’s the main reason I never let guys sleep over. So briskly I turn away and climb out of bed, heading for the bathroom. After pissing, I turn on the shower full blast and climb in. I’m hoping the guy (okay Max, so I remember his name, that means nothing), I’m hoping that Max will get dressed and leave before I come out of the bathroom.
Yet I’m not really surprised when I hear the bathroom door open and I’m aware that Max is standing outside the billowing white shower curtain. If I ignore him, maybe he’ll get the message and disappear.
“Knock-knock,” he says. Christ, I hate when people say “knock-knock.”
Jerking open the shower curtain, I prepare to give Max another one of my famously evil fuck-off glances. This time I’ll let him get the message.
But when I see him standing there, beautifully naked, one hand casually resting on his cock and the other trying to smooth down a case of crazy bed-head that rivals my own, I lose my desire to unceremoniously kick him out the door. “Come in,” I offer. Inwardly scolding myself for prolonging the inevitable kiss-off, outwardly I welcome Max into the tub, and a tiny eager gasp escapes my lips as he drops to his knees on the slippery porcelain and takes my already tumescent cock into his really very talented mouth.
After Max’s superlative shower blow-job, it seems churlish not to invite him to stay for breakfast, which we order from hotel room-service. With only minor encouragement, Max tells me more about his job. He says that it’s fantastic to work in a city where being gay is practically an advantage, and the specter of discrimination isn’t constantly hanging over your head. I find myself telling him some of my own experiences with Marty Ryder and Gardner Vance.
Before I know it we’re laughing together, and I even let him borrow my razor so he can shave before getting dressed and heading off to work. He says that today is “business casual” Friday, so he doesn’t need to rush home and change into a suit, he can wear the clothes he had on last night. I hold the cashmere coat as he slips his arms into the sleeves and I get a look at the label – Armani, no wonder I like it. Max must make a good salary to afford designer labels at his age.
He’s twenty-nine. “And holding,” he’d adds with a grin when he tells me his age.
“I held onto twenty-nine for a while myself,” I admit, and we laugh together. I never discuss my age with anyone, so I’m surprised when I admit to Max that I’m thirty-eight.
“Perfect age for a man,” he insists, grabbing hold of my hands and squeezing them as he leans forward to plant a small kiss on my lips before going out the door. “Young enough to still be gorgeous, but old enough to be past the age of heartbreak.”
I feel my smile falter but I nod agreeably. We say goodbye, and I watch as Max moves down the hall and gets into the elevator. He waves just before the doors close, and without thinking, I raise my hand and wave back at him.
Feeling foolish and already regretting whatever impulse caused me to indulge in what could only be called an uncharacteristically sentimental one-night stand with a beautiful and downright fucking nice man, I close the door of my room and grab my suitcase, throw it onto the bed and begin to pack.
In a way I’m surprised that Max didn’t ask me to call him next time I’m in town. I had mentally braced myself for the inevitable discomfort when I would, of course, have refused. He didn’t ask, but it soon becomes clear that he didn’t let me off the hook so easily. I discover that at some point, Max had scribbled his name and phone number on a hotel envelope and he’d folded it and shoved it into the pocket of my top coat hanging in the closet.
For a moment I stand with the paper in my hands, staring at it. Swallowing an unaccountable lump in my throat, I murmur, “No.” More loudly I insist to myself, “No!” Then I crumple the paper and throw it into the wastebasket, before hurriedly finishing packing, shrugging on my coat, and heading out the door to catch the morning flight to Pittsburgh.
A week later I’m back in San Francisco. The client I propositioned on spec, Marshall’s Culinary Supplies, is enthusiastic and insists on paying my airfare, first class, to return to the city and discuss my campaign ideas with VP Jim Cassidy. I arrive early Wednesday morning, and while I’m waiting in the reception area for my appointment, I stand staring at a map of San Francisco’s financial district mounted on the wall. Without any effort whatsoever, I locate Samson Towers, apparently just a stone’s throw from here. Immediately I flick my eyes away from the map and glance around the room for something to distract me. Luckily the receptionist calls my name and leads me down the hall to Cassidy’s office.
I’m finished by eleven, a tentative agreement drawn up and another meeting, lunch with Marshall’s top brass, scheduled for the next day at noon. So I’m left to cool my heels in San Francisco for the rest of the day. When I exit the building, I make a sharp left turn to ensure that I’m heading off in the opposite direction from Samson Towers. Briskly walking through the financial district, the streets mostly in shadow from soaring skyscrapers on every corner, eventually I find my way to the waterfront, and I follow the sidewalk that passes the piers until I reach Pier 39, a touristy conglomeration of shops and restaurants.
I’m hungry and I succumb to the enticing smell of seafood, climbing steep wooden stairs to a second floor and treating myself to a decent crab sandwich in one of the nicer restaurants, where I’m seated at an outdoor table under an umbrella with a view over San Francisco Bay. When I’m finished, I go back downstairs and walk out to the end of the pier, lean against the railing and watch sailboats ply the waters between the wharf and Alcatraz Prison on an island in the Bay. With a deep sigh I congratulate myself on the willpower that prevented me from seeking out Samson Towers to search for a particularly handsome architect.
So it’s with surprise akin to shock that I realize I have pulled out my cell phone and flipped it open. Staring at it for only a few seconds, I shake my head in disbelief as I punch in the phone number that was scribbled on an envelope at the Crowne Plaza hotel last Friday by that same architect. I threw the envelope away. I have no idea how I remembered his phone number. No idea at all.
Max comes directly from his office to my hotel room, he’s wearing a beautiful charcoal gray Prada suit which I barely acknowledge before I’ve stripped it off him. His cock is hard before I’ve even removed his shirt, his hands are shaking with eagerness as he fumbles with my belt, with the buttons on my shirt. It’s fucking exciting as hell to realize that he’s even more eager than I am myself for this second time together.
This second and final time.
I’d halfway expected that the memorable fuck we’d shared last week might have been created in my imagination during those odd moments the past week when I recalled the time we spent together. But the truth is, there has never been a man I’ve been so eager to fuck a second time since. . .
For a long time. For a very long time.
When Max asks me to extend my trip, to stay for the weekend, at first I refuse. There’s business to take care of in Pittsburgh, I’ve been invited to dinner with Debbie and Carl on Saturday, there’s a million things I should be doing at the loft. But finally I give in to Max’s entreaties. He wants me to see his apartment, he wants to show me some of the tourist sites of this beautiful city, and eventually I realize that I do want to stay, I do want to spend more time with him. Which naturally should send up all kinds of warning flares. And it does, of course it does, but I ignore them.
The long weekend in San Francisco is a revelation. It seems like I have forgotten what it’s like to just kick back and relax. To spend time talking with someone and actually caring what they have to say. To really enjoy going out dancing, just to have fun, not merely to get loaded and fuck my brains out.
The truth is, I didn’t realize until now how fucking lonely I’ve become. At heart I am a solitary man. Or I was, before Justin came along and messed up my well-ordered life. When he left for New York – with my blessing! and with my encouragement, of course – somehow all the joy went out of living. It didn’t help that Michael and I had finally grown apart, and that Lindsay moved away with my son, but I could have weathered all that, if only I’d still had Justin. He had become, completely and totally against my will, the center of the universe.
I’m still an over-achiever, I’ll always be one. I still haunt Babylon, still maintain my business and personal reputations as a killer, still walk around with my head held high. And I still feel satisfaction at my own success. But ultimately at the end of the day, my life seems empty, hollow. Meaningless.
I haven’t seen Justin for a couple months, and it’s possible that I will never see him again. As his achievements take him farther and farther from Pittsburgh, any hope I had that things would ever be the same again have gradually faded away. He’s settled in Paris now, and though I visited him once at Christmas, the trip was brief and it seemed to me that he was preoccupied, that maybe he was so caught up in his new life that I was becoming merely an unwelcome distraction. He didn’t say so, but then he wouldn’t, would he? In fact he has asked me to visit him again this spring, but I’ve pleaded work deadlines and other commitments.
I have made up my mind that it’s time to cut Justin loose, once and for all. For his own good. It’s time to set him free to pursue his own course without any backward glances. That isn’t so easy to do as it ought to be. I should know, I’ve tried it several times already, and always circumstances (and Justin’s single-minded determination) have brought us back together again.
But now I am convinced that this time around, Justin won’t make the effort; that he is ready to become a solitary man himself. Either that, or embark on a relationship with someone less complicated and difficult than myself. I don’t believe that Justin is truly happy. I’ve never been a man given to introspection, to self-analysis or, God forbid, self-pity. So it took awhile before I became aware of how deeply, deeply unhappy I have become. And then I realized that maybe Justin feels the same way, and he just can’t find the words to tell me.
It actually took meeting Max, getting to know him, before I realized how much has been missing in my life. Business trips bring me back again and again to California. It’s just business. That’s what I tell myself. But the truth is, by now I could delegate such work to Ted, to Cynthia, to others at Kinnetik. It’s Max who draws me back to San Francisco.
My longtime mantra, “I don’t believe in love,” was turned into a lie a long time ago. Even so, I’ve continued to mouth that sentiment and use it as a weapon to keep other guys away. And it’s always worked. Almost always. Max is only the second man in my life who has dared to call my bluff.
On the night Max says, “Brian, I love you,” we are stretched out on his bed sharing a cigarette. Sex is good with him. Nothing has ever come close to the amazing sex I’ve shared with Justin, but even so, it’s better with Max than anyone else before or after that damned blond kid who fucked up my life forever.
It would be a lie to pretend that I’m surprised by Max’s revelation.
“I love you,” Max says, stubbing out the cigarette and turning sideways in the bed to face me. Before I can speak, if indeed I can think of anything to say, Max continues, “Now look me in the eye,” he commands, “And swear that you don’t love me too.”
Immediately I answer, “I don’t love you,” but my eyes slide quickly away from his face and I stare over his shoulder at the first rays of morning sunshine peeking in the window beside his bed.
“The truth, Brian.”
I return my eyes to his face. “I don’t want to love you. And I won’t. That’s the truth.”
Max sighs. Already he’s getting used to my pigheadedness. ‘Brian,” he says, “Since we’ve been seeing each other so often now, I’ve just assumed that you are not in another relationship already.” It’s a question but I don’t answer it, just stare at him woodenly.
“Brian,” he tries again, “Are you in another relationship?”
“Not really. No. No, I’m not.”
“You don’t sound too sure.”
Max nods. “Okay. You always refuse to talk about ‘the past,’ but I’ve assumed that somewhere along the line, somebody broke your heart. And so maybe now you’re afraid to fall in love again?”
“I’m not afraid of anything,” I contradict impatiently, turning to slide off the bed and stand up. “And hearts don’t really break. I thought you were too old for that fairytale bullshit?”
My sneer doesn’t faze him. “Tell me.”
I’m angry, I’m pissed, I’m prepared to storm out of Max’s apartment. But I don’t. Instead I grab another cigarette and light up, take a few deep drags and exhale machine-gun bursts of smoke. Then I sit down on the edge of the bed again and face him.
“I did love somebody once,” I finally admit. “But even though it’s over, he has a hold on me that nothing can break.” With a sigh at the melodrama of it all, I add quietly, “I won’t ever love anyone again.”
“Don’t you want to love me, Brian?”
I look at Max’s face and I feel a wrenching deep in my chest. The simple answer is yes – but the reality is more complicated. It has suddenly occurred to me that you cannot love somebody just because maybe you want to. Just because maybe they deserve to be loved. I look into his eyes and I know exactly how dishonest I have been. I have been using Max to fill the void in my life, but I have nothing to give him in return.
My famous line, “I don’t believe in love,” has become a joke, has become a lie. I do believe in love. Yet I can never love anyone but Justin.
I don’t have the words to explain all this. Instead I repeat, “I won’t ever love anyone again.”
Max stares at me without speaking for a moment. He swallows twice, and then he whispers, “Won’t you give it some more time, Brian? Won’t you please just give us a chance?”