que amarraron al cielo
it's the beginning of an era, one which has already been toasted, and will be toasted by all his co-stars many more times, with champagne at first, and later with beer, vodka, rum, and whiskey. he filmed his last trek movie three years ago; the end was then. but it feels like the end is now.
staring at his lined face in the mirror he is horribly conscious of being forty-seven years old--the age patrick was when they filmed the series pilot, an eternity ago when the whole life which is behind him now was lying unopened at his feet. he puts his hands down on the sunwarmed linoleum of the counter, right in a sunbeam. he turns away from the mirror, to look instead out the window. he is still looking at it over his shoulder when he walks out the door and into a slender masculine body.
it is patrick--it is not patrick. it is patrick, with years and years stripped off him until he stands raw and bleeding from the pores, almost shaking under brent's stare, in a black t-shirt with a hole under the left nipple. brent recognizes the t-shirt, with some distant portion of his mind which is still capable of processing anything beyond the wrinkles which have somehow been sloughed away from patrick's skin, the silvering fringe of hair which was gone before they first met, the lost look in patrick's frightened black eyes. (he knows that bleach stain on the hem, and the peeling white motocross logo on the back.)
'hello,' says brent idiotically.
'brent.' the voice is taut and clipped, but not panicky like the eyes. like brent is. now is a good time to panic, when pat is standing in front of him, all of twenty-eight years old, wearing jeans. and a t-shirt i haven't seen for years. chills chase themselves up and down brent's arms because he knows it's his t-shirt. 'i'm having a problem here.'
brent has stepped away only enough to circle, and ascertain that patrick is still bald, but not completely, but smooth-skinned, still graced with deep-set dark eyes, the same trim hips and compact torso and short, neat fingers. he is in front again now of his older--younger--best friend, wearing his old clothes, a foot away, close enough to grab his arms steadyingly as though one or both of them might be drunk.
patrick makes no move to resist. 'i can't find,' says pat, 'i mean i lost. i mean, dammit, something happened, because i haven't looked like this since twenty years before i met you.' he speaks almost evenly.
'i can see,' says brent. he's not sure which of them has lost something, actually. he's not let go of pat's arms and he feels that they might actually need that to stay upright. patrick is standing in front of him twenty-seven years old and he's in a cottage in vienna, and across the world a new movie is being built in the charred ruins where the next generation empire once stood. and he feels like an old man and wonders if his hands would shake if they weren't wrapped around patrick stewart's slender-strong forearms, two inches below the sleeve of the black t-shirt.
first things first--'what are you doing here?'
'what am i doing here?' he repeats, rather blankly. 'you trip over patrick stewart, your friend of two decades, coming out of the bathroom--' there it is, bahthroom, he sounds just the same 'and find him...' he looks down his body, the same height, the same weight, the same shape, but--all the differences are there to see, the set of the shoulders and the hips, the rich skin stretched like liquid over smooth compact muscles in the forearms. 'missing four decades,' patrick bites out, but his voice wavers toward the end.
'does it--are you okay?' brent tries. there's a couch a few feet from them. he sat on it when he first arrived, before he went in the bathroom. it's deep and deceptively soft-looking; the cushions are well-worn, imbued faintly with the scent of dust and cat hair. he thinks vaguely of sitting on it, plying pat with a glass of brandy--he needs it himself, oh god. once they've established that they're okay. he has a crazy flash of taking him to the emergency room, speaking in his rudimentary italian, throwing in spanish which he knows much better. pat has studied latin. how do you say it? he doesn't know how to say it in english.
'you know,' says patrick, 'i haven't given a thought to whether i'm okay--i've mostly been thinking about how old i am, what i was doing forty years ago today, how much i'd really like a drink. what berman would say. gene's funeral. the taxi up to this cottage of yours, the driver was smoking a cigar the whole way, and do you know i have no idea if i looked like this then? i was asleep on the plane and i haven't looked in a mirror.' he pauses, thinking, looking at his feet--bare, in leather thongs, inches from the toes of brent's worn sneakers.
he hasn't let go of patrick's arms; he is not sure he is going to let go.
pat doesn't seem to want him to. 'or i was in the bathroom in the airport in milan--the layover, i mean--and i know there was a mirror there, i remember it, but i didn't actually look at it, even if i looked. it's funny how you can get so used to looking at something that you don't really even see it anymore. because unless it happened on the last plane, then it was like that then and it was right in front of me, this, this face in the mirror, looking back at me, and i didn't even spare it another glance.'
he says 'glance' the same too--like picard, like patrick. 'well,' says brent. 'you said you had a problem. but i don't even understand--'
'of course it's a problem!' patrick snaps and breaks away. he only breaks a few feet. he sits on the couch much faster than brent did, falls onto it almost. the sun highlights a little cloud of dust which rises around him.
'of course,' says brent, and oddly enough they're sitting here having a conversation about it and he's looking into patrick's eyes. 'it's just usually your problems are more like missing your flight, or a show falling through at the last minute, forgetting your kid's birthday. not--'
there's something that's not the same. brent is frozen, fascinated and horrified, by this different laugh. he feels sick, sick and enraptured. he's been looking at patrick's lips so long he thinks he can see the moisture of breath on them. 'you sound different,' he blurts.
'i sound like i used to.' patrick is sitting like himself, though, head tilted thoughtfully, the smooth column of his throat in a familiar posture rising from the neck of brent's old favorite shirt. his hands rest palm-down on his knees.
brent sits on the couch near him. unbearably near. 'what do you feel like?' he says. 'do you feel like you used to--when you were--twenty? am i meeting...' he hesitates, 'am i meeting the patrick i never knew?'
patrick hesitates. he opens his mouth and closes it without looking at brent. then he looks at brent and says 'you're my best friend.' he says it with a weighty emphasis that is too strong for the words themselves, out of place the way brent's grubby clothes are on dignified patrick, even patrick at twenty-eight. 'i would have come here anyway,' he says, 'when this happened. if i hadn't already come. don't ask me what i'm doing here.'
'because you won't tell me?'
'because i don't know.' patrick looks and speaks seriously but he's still fidgeting. his eyes dart from brent's face to his hands to his feet, the bathroom door, the clock on the mantel, a half-empty bookcase topped with a row of seashells, a battered suitcase brent recognizes as patrick's, older than the body patrick now inhabits; he's had it as long as brent has known him.
brent thinks he's looking away, but when he's finished he's still staring. 'that's my shirt,' he says, and it makes perfect sense but he feels that he's babbling, that it's irrelevant. they're not talking about his shirt, about patrick's age, it's not about that, it's--he reaches out, picks up the hem off patrick's thigh. his thumb covers the spot where he splashed bleach in drama school cleaning the residue of dye out of the tub.
patrick looks down. 'i've never seen it before.' he makes a movement to pluck at the shirt. instead he plucks once at brent's knuckle. brent frowns. his skin feels as dull as thick paper when patrick covers his hand with his.
'i haven't seen it for--' brent wonders why he's still talking, shakes his head sharply. 'i need a drink.' there's brandy on the sideboard.
all the panic in the room falls, as if from the sky, rushes from the corners where cobwebs weren't brushed away. it covers patrick's mouth almost visibly, so he can't speak, but he clutches at brent's hand and makes a shaky, jerky movement toward him. their knees bump. brent doesn't stand after all. instead of staying still he moves towards patrick too and takes hold of his shoulders.
pat's still, so frighteningly still, when he should be shaking. he licks his lips deliberately. 'would you really have come here?' brent says. 'i don't care why you're here, but if you were and i weren't you'd have a helluva time getting back out like this. you can't finish a sentence.'
'you misunderstand,' says patrick, 'because you only know me with you. if i'd noticed in milan i'd have still come. if i'd noticed in la, even though you hadn't invited me. i'd manage.'
'you're not incompetent anywhere else,' brent laughs. he can't see patrick's face; they're looking over each other's shoulders, frozen, nearly embracing, but not quite.
pat laughs too, carefully, but it sounds a bit like he's choking, the same tense nervous laugh brent's heard from him many times before when he was too tired, or drunk, or angry, to censor himself. the smell of dust is tickling brent's nose. 'i do what i have to,' says patrick. 'they're filming the enterprise movie as we speak.'
'i know,' says brent. it doesn't seem nearly as important anymore.
'it doesn't,' says pat, 'seem nearly as important now. does it?'
'maybe one of us is crazy,' says brent, amazed that he has only now thought of this possibility. 'after all, how did you even know i was here? why are you wearing my shirt? what happened?'
'your travel agent told me,' says pat. 'you're not crazy. i asked, i came because i needed to see you even before i saw my reflection in the window of the taxi and got an idea this had happened.' he's tensed. it seems natural to move forward, though it isn't smooth and liquid as it might have been, but slow and uncertain. this could be because their knees are in the way, because patrick is in the wrong body, or because brent's never quite had his arms full of patrick before for all the times he's thought about it, at least not like this, and years' worth of inferiority and anger and envy and wistful self-deprecation have turned into layers of garments between the two of them, layers to be pushed aside.
but in the end all he pushes aside is the t-shirt, which was his anyway. 'i still don't know about the t-shirt,' says pat.
'i got rid of it,' brent explains, 'back in season two. because of that rip--you can see your nipple through.'
'when i got on the plane in la i was wearing a polo shirt,' says patrick. brent's fallen on his knees and pat's seem to open around him very slowly, because all the while they've been talking--a few words, on the one hand, but a whole conversation on the other--they've been moving close, and only now are they together, crushing the hair of their chests.
pat has pushed the buttons of his shirt aside with little effort, slid his hands down around brent's waist and moved forward on the couch. still each movement is old and creaky, still. his face doesn't fit in where pat's shoulder joins his neck, but oh, it smells so good there. he follows the scent up the curve of his ear and kisses the point of patrick's cheekbone and patrick sighs and says 'i would have come. i knew i had to find you.'
brent feels himself melting or breaking apart, or coming together, in some new way, some way that he can't make sense of upside down or rightside up. he's sitting on the floor, and the couch smells of dust, vienna, patrick, a plane from milan, a surprise visit, a call from his travel agent--patrick here in front of him with his knees apart not smiling, frowning with concentration with one hand under brent's jaw, thumb in the loose skin under the point of his chin, leaning closer and closer to seal their mouths together.
it simply--falls apart, cannot be. it takes three tries, only three, to line them up at that sideways angle, with pat looking down and brent looking up, and then their tongues meet clumsily but without hesitation. brent licks the inside of patrick's lip and thinks about the sunbeam they're sitting in; he can feel the warmth of it trapped between his hands and patrick's bare shoulderblades and he thinks there's something he should remember.
he doesn't care what it is.
'stop,' patrick whispers, right into his mouth. brent feels an unreasoning stir of possessive aggression, pushes himself forward between patrick's legs and pins him to the couch. he sinks his teeth carefully into the full lower lip. patrick makes a confused noise and says again, 'stop thinking,' and buries a hand in the still-thick silver hair at the back of brent's head. they sprawl down the couch with brent's t-shirt pinned underneath them and the question of whether they'd be here anyway has no place in their reality, whatever reality it is, beginning or end.
notes: from imdb detailed bio, stewart trivia:
Began to lose his hair at the age of 19.
Found his beloved cat (which he named 'Bella') on the set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)
Has a human rights scholarship named after him from Amnesty International.
Is best friends with his Star Trek cast mate, Brent Spiner, who was his best man at his wedding to star trek producer 'Wendy Nuess' [they're getting a divorce already--filed for it just oct 13 this year!].
also note: title is from 'juegas todos los días' by pablo neruda: