COUP DE GRACE
Cynthia shared a conspiratorial smile with Michael as Ted left them alone to retrieve his car keys. He was taking Michael to lunch and she couldnít wait to share her gossip.
"I think Ted hooked up last night at Woodyís."
Michael looked surprised. "Really? Did he tell you that?"
"No, I saw it. I took him there after work to try and gig him out of this hopeless crush he has on Brian by throwing beef in his direction. I believe my plan worked. He hooked up with this really cute young guy. They were still talking when I left. And Ted is so much happier today. I think he got lucky."
"Who got lucky?" Ted insisted as he rejoined them, and Cynthia blushed.
"We were just reminiscing about Brian," she covered and Ted sighed.
"Poor Brian. We all need to stop living vicariously through him. Right, Mikey?"
Michael shrugged. "I donít do that. I have my own life, my own partner, hell, I have a movie coming out!"
They turned to go, when the door opened and Ethan walked in. Michael looked shocked, his shock deepening when Cynthia gave him the nod, suggesting this was the one. Ethan took in the silent messaging and said,
"Can I see you for a minute, Ted?"
"Uh, Michael and I were just going to lunch."
"It wonít take a minute."
Ted sighed and motioned for him to follow to Brianís office. When they were alone, Michael looked at Cynthia and said, "What the FUCK?"
She beamed at him. "Heís the guy in Woodyís. Iím so glad he followed up on Ted. Tedís the type who would just let it go without a little encouragement from the other man."
"Cynthia, do you know who that is?"
"No, why? Is he famous?"
"Infamous is more like it. Heís Ethan Gold."
"Whoís Ethan Gold?"
"Justinís ex. The one he left Brian to be with."
She frowned, thinking back to that dark time when Brian was so lost, so miserable and so incapable of admitting it. He was impossible to get along with and was absolutely crushed, even though he acted like all was well. "No, Michael, his boyfriendís name was Ian. I heard Brian make a couple snide remarks about him."
"Brian called him ĎIaní as his way of making him appear less substantial. Typical Brian Kinney defense tactic. But trust me, thatís Justinís ex. I know him."
"Does Ted know?"
"Yes, he does."
"Then what the hell is he up to?"
They shared a knowing gaze, neither of them liking the possible answers.
In Brianís office, Ethan glared at Ted. "He wasnít even polite on the phone. He told me to fuck off, basically. I donít see how this is going to work."
Ted frowned. "You need to confront him in the flesh. We get out the map and see where they are on this journey. When they get to a real town, you can miraculously appear."
"Iím not real interested in being shot down, Ted," Ethanís ego shined through.
"You want him or not?"
"Sure I want him, but I canít pretend it will be easy. Not sure if itís worth it. Kinney has this Svengali hold on him."
"They call it love."
"I call it control."
"Lunch, Ted?" Michael leaned in the doorway, glaring hard at Ethan. "I need to get back. Ben and I have a meeting with Hunterís teacher this afternoon. Weíre getting him some tutoring in geometry."
Ethan sneered at Michael. "Thanks for asking me to join, but I have other plans."
"I canít think of a reason to share a meal with you," Michael said bluntly. His idea of being loyal to Brian and Tedís idea were diametrically opposed. Once, Michael wouldíve given anything to be Brianís lover. Now he was married to Ben and his relationship with Brian was finally the reciprocal friendship Brian had always wanted. Michael could never be sure that Justin was the appropriate mate for his high strung best friend, but he was certain Brian thought so, and that was all that really mattered. He remembered the shattered man Brian was after Justin left him. He couldnít imagine Brian having to go through all that again, especially while recovering from cancer.
"Iíll call you," Ethan said to Ted as he left the office. Michael turned on his friend.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
Ted forced an innocent expression. "I canít be friends with Ethan?"
"Frankly, no. How do you think Brian would feel about it?"
Ted frowned, refusing to be swayed to negative thinking as he suggested they leave for lunch.
At that moment, Brian and Justin were standing beside Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas, staring at a series of vintage Cadillacs planted nose down in the dirt at a slight angle and buried halfway, with their rear wheels and fins exposed to the elements.
"Itís like Stonehenge for idiots," Brian observed. "Centuries from now, mankind will see these remnants and speculate whether this was some form of sundial, or perhaps a sacred site for Druids."
Justin giggled. "For rednecks is more like it. What the hell?" He took another photo, this one of Brian standing before a buried car, and then re-read the plaque about one eccentric Texan named Stanley Marsh the third, who planted those cars in his wheat field. "It says the Caddies are facing west at the exact same angle as the Cheops pyramids."
Brian laughed and took out a pen to add his own graffiti to one of the ten graffiti riddled autos. He drew a felt tip heart with the initials B and J inside of it and Justin laughed. "Not exactly carved in a tree trunk, but thanks," they kissed and some other visitor grumbled,
Brian smiled at this interloper. Get over it, his expression suggested. He slung an arm over Justin and walked with him to the car. "Can we leave this happy village now?"
"We still have to see the Canyon."
"Which is what, again?"
"Like the Grand Canyon, only less."
"Isnít the real Grand Canyon on our itinerary?"
"Yes, but this will give us a comparison point."
Brian knew better than to argue. Justin had his mind made up, and Brian didnít care enough to fight about it. "You drive, Louise," he said, tossing him the keys. He had taken to calling them "Thelma and Louise", choosing to be Thelma in his running joke. Behind the wheel of the Vette, Justin said,
"Are you feeling better?"
"God damn it, Justin, Iím not fucking sick. Quit asking me that."
"I wasnít asking about your ball, Grumpy. I was asking about Ethan."
Brian slipped on his shades and stared out at the highway before them. "Fuck Ethan. I donít want to talk about Ethan."
"I donít either. Ever."
"No, you just want to talk TO Ethan."
"Stop it, Brian, Iím warning youÖ"
"Or what? Youíre going to punch me in the nose?"
"Maybe. Which reminds me. Are you ever going to tell me why you hit Mikey at Mel and Lindsayís anniversary party that day?"
"Itís history. Iím not proud of it. Forget it."
"It was about me, wasnít it?"
"You are a complete egomaniac."
"Maybe, but it was about me, right?"
Brian shrugged, confirming what Justin had always suspected. "What did he say about me?"
"He said you were a lousy fuck, and I just couldnít let that lie go unpunished."
"Yeah, like he would ever know. Iím serious, Brian."
"I seriously donít want to talk about it," Brian said, not wanting to relive dark memories, already feeling like he was standing on the very edge of that pit of depression and misery, and fearing the one push that could cause him to lose his footing. Justinís mobile rang and Brian froze, feeling those thrusting hands against his back.
Episode 509 coming soon...
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July 25, 2004