Ok, you asked for it early, here it is. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks as always to the wonderful team who make this possible. Let me know what you think. Randall
The Patrick Donovan Youth Center was not what Brian expected, although he wasn't sure why he expected anything, really, having never been inside a youth center. The organization occupied a small stand-alone structure in Chelsea. It had once been a tiny private school, built on two stories and a basement. It featured casement windows and a back lot that once served as a playground, but was now a fenced-in basketball court. While it was undistinguished in appearance, Brian knew it had cost a fortune, simply because he knew the price of real estate in this area.
Buzzed in at the front door, once inside Brian realized how much care went into making this building homey and welcoming. A small reception area was painted a plum color while the ubiquitous rainbow logo signifying gay culture formed a border between the wall and the white ceiling. A lot of activity was going on behind the desk where people answered phones and processed paperwork.
"Mick!" A large woman with multiple chins and a winning smile came over, hugging her as tightly as two big women could manage. "How ya doing, hon'?"
"Good. I've got one for you. I called Frankie."
"Let me get him. We're full up, not sure what he was thinking. Want to start the paper work?"
A clipboard and forms were produced for the kid, along with a pen. Brian sat beside him as the boy began to fill in the blanks. Mick spoke in low tones with a small, harried and obviously gay man who came from somewhere behind the double doors from the interior. He listened, while unable to take his eyes off of Brian. Brian didn't even notice him, having realized that the kid was having trouble writing with a shaking hand. He took the clipboard from him. "I'll write, you dictate. Name?"
The kid spelled it and then said, "Last name Hennessey."
"I can spell that. I'm touched by the shamrock, too. Address?"
"I don't have one."
"I'll just put none. Date of birth?"
"January 5, 19..." he hesitated and Brian glared at him.
"Don't bother lying."
"Okay, I'm seventeen."
Brian did the math and wrote down a number. "Emergency contact?"
"Come on. Parents?"
Brian figured he was lying about both his parents and his siblings, but there was no reason to push it. Shea narrowed his eyes at Brian as he continued with the forms. "What are you writing?"
"I'm putting down my name."
"Don't sweat it, they don't care. How tall are you?"
"I don't know. Six feet maybe?"
"I'd say six-one."
"Really?" he sounded proud of that and Brian smiled.
"I'm six-two, and you're almost eye-level with me. Weight?"
"I can't judge weight, I'll leave it blank. Your hair is black, your eyes are blue, when was your last medical checkup?"
"Probably when I was thirteen, before I left home."
"Where is home, Shea?"
"Keokuk, Iowa," he winced. "Don't write that down."
"How did an Iowa boy end up in New York City?"
"Hitchhiked," he said dully. Their conversation was interrupted by Mick and Frankie, the small man with an eye for Brian.
"Let's take a look around, Shea. Give you the feel of the place," Mick invited. "This is Frank Webb, he runs the joint."
Shea and Frank shook hands and when Frank was introduced to Brian, Brian ignored his worshipful gaze. As a group, they walked through the double doors . Frankie was cruising way outside his road tolerance as he continued to stare openly at Brian. Brian pretended not to notice. The rest of the ground floor was taken up with offices and medical facilities along with a small gym equipped with treadmills and weight benches. Motivational posters on the wall reminded that nutrition and maintaining strong muscle mass were critical to combating wasting. The basement had been converted into a rec room with a large screen television, DVD library, pool table and two arcade-sized video games. A few boys were watching an action film, the smell of fresh microwaved popcorn hanging in the air.
Snacks were liberally scattered in the small kitchen along with signs crediting those who'd made the donations. More posters on the walls reminded about safe sex, taking prescribed medications and the warning signs of various secondary infections. Brian winced, thinking how horrible it would be to be a kid dealing with this kind of vulnerability.
Upstairs were two large dorm-styled rooms, with rows of single beds and identical chests of drawers between the beds, and a brass trunk at the foot of each bunk. Brian counted room for six boys in each dorm, and all of the beds showed signs of having occupants. They were personalized in small ways, with abandoned books or favorite pillows or comforting, strangely child-like toys. A much smaller room had only two bunk beds and a door that locked.
"We don't see many girls who come here, needing a place to stay," Mick explained. "But we want to have space set aside in case they do. Since no one is using it now, we're going to put you in here, Shea."
"Great, the girl's room. What about that hotel?" he said to Brian who glared at him.
"This place is clean, pleasant...well run," he flopped down on the bed, as if testing the mattress, and then stood up again. "Bed is fine. I'd stay here. And so will you."
"There's a bathroom attached, Shea," Frankie said with a smile. "Why not take a nice shower? Have a nap? We'll serve dinner at seven. Come down to the rec room for that. We eat in front of the television, like all Americans."
Shea looked like a dog trying to decide if it should bolt out the door or stay put where it was warm. Brian nodded at Mick and Frankie to go, and they left them alone together. Brian sat on the edge of the bed, looking up at him.
"I know this sucks. But you don't have a good alternative right now. You can't stay on the street, you're sick. You aren't in jail here, you aren't committed. You shower, eat some warm food, sleep. What's the problem with that? It's not one of those places that harps about religion of any of that crap."
"I'm not used to being fenced in. I don't fit in with those other kids."
"So? This isn't about popularity. I'll see if Mick can't have dinner brought up to you. This once. It's just a bed, Shea. Take it. There've been plenty of times I was grateful just to have a safe place to sleep," Brian said, remembering his shelter at Mikey's when his own father was on a rampage.
"You?" Shea smirked as he sat beside him on the bed. "Mr. Armani? Mr. GQ?"
"Not when I was your age. Anyway, stay the night. Don't be a dumbass."
"Brian, that's your name, right?"
"Why didn't you want to fuck me? Because you thought I have AIDS?"
"Because I..." he hesitated. "I'm in a relationship."
Shea groaned. "God, you're one of those."
Brian smiled. "Haven't been for long, but yeah. I guess I am one of those. And I used to feel exactly the way you do about it, but not anymore. You stay here and I'll bring you some cigarettes tomorrow."
"Okay, okay, one night."
Brian left him there and joined Mick and Frankie in his office. "He's staying."
"What happens now?"
"Assuming he'll consent, we have a team of doctors who volunteer their time and tomorrow is their visitation day," Frankie said. "We can test him, give him a general work up, see what's going on. He's very thin, wasted. We'll feed him and keep him safe as long as he wants to stay and we have room for him. At least until the results come back. Will you sponsor him, Brian? We try to find sponsors for our kids who stay with us awhile to offset costs. We look for $75.00 a day, but anything is a help."
Mick winced. "This isn't a good time for Brian, Frankie."
"Shut up," Brian said, removing his checkbook from his back pocket. "If I can't afford $75.00 bucks...I'll make it for a week, okay? Let me know if you need more later."
"If he leaves, may we just apply it to our general fund?" Frankie pushed.
Frankie gave him a receipt for his taxes and Mick sighed, "Hope we're open until the end of the week."
"What do you mean?"
"It costs a fortune to run this place, Brian. With charitable donations down everywhere due to the economy, we get less in from our usual sources, and lower allocations from the big ones like United Way. I've put every penny I can into this place, and I've begged the utility companies to extend our unpaid bills, and the tax department to give me an extension on the property taxes, but it's bleak. The demand is huge, but the resources are small. We're almost at the end of our financial rope."
Brian sighed. "I could spare a thousand..."
Mick patted his arm. "Honey, I'm not asking you for money. You need yours yourself right now. I'm just venting. When the charitable funds run low, AIDS becomes an even lower priority to the mainstream."
"Why not do a fundraiser?"
"We have. We've been to the well one time too many. Our benefactors are strapped."
Brian nodded, understanding. "Well, I need to go. Were we going to talk about the case, Mick?"
"Sure, let's share a cab. We can talk on the way. Later Frankie."
Brian spontaneously pulled Frankie into an embrace, causing the man to struggle not to swoon in his arms as he pressed his lips to his ear and whispered, "Take dinner to his room tonight. Just this once. Okay?"
At that moment, Frankie would have done anything for him, up to and including opening a vein. He nodded vigorously as Brian touched the tip of his tongue to his ear, and then released him and walked out with Mick. "What the fuck was that?" she asked and he smiled and lit a cigarette, declining to answer.
"What are you doing?" Brian asked curiously when he came into the bedroom following dinner that evening to find Justin reading the entries in his checkbook. Justin blushed, busted.
"You what?" Brian took it from him and returned it to the top of the highboy. Justin sighed and waved a deposit slip at him. "What are you doing with that?"
"I'm putting my paycheck in your account. It isn't much, but Leo paid me a week in advance."
Brian looked confused. "You have your own account, and we have the joint account for the household, if you...I don't understand."
Justin sighed. "I just wanted to pay back a little of the money you've spent on me over the years. Who's Patrick Donovan?"
"I give up. Who is he?"
"You wrote him a rather sizeable check today."
"You may be my partner, and we may share this place, but you have no right to snoop my personal finances, Justin."
"I know, but I did. I'm sorry. I was writing in the amount of the deposit I'm making and I saw it."
"First of all," Brian took the deposit slip from him and tore it up. "You aren't making a deposit into my account. It's your money, you earned it, spend it on yourself. Second of all, some things are too personal to share, and my private checking account is one of them. Third, Patrick Donovan is a shelter for HIV positive kids. Mick's son was Patrick Donovan. She founded it in his honor."
Justin was embarrassed, but still asked, "Ouch. Sorry. But can we afford such a generous gift right now?"
"It's not that much. Butt out, Justin. I can't have you jonesing after every dime I spend."
"Am I doing that?"
"It feels like it."
"I don't mean to be."
Brian sighed and crossed the room, standing behind him as he held fast to Justin's slim form, resting his forehead against the back of his head. "I don't mean to be a cunt. It's just been a long day. Where are Linds and Gus?"
"She told you. Mick is having a little lesbo party for her, to introduce her to some people and Gus was invited too."
"Methinks Mick may be warm in the valley where no man dare to go for Miss Lindsay," Brian teased and Justin wrinkled his nose.
"Eww, I like Mick, but she's a big old dyke. I don't see Linds with someone like that."
"We aren't equipped to suss out how dykes think, Sunshine. Since we're alone for a change, let's get naked and screw in the other rooms of the loft."
"Which other rooms?"
"All of them," Brian said with a smirk and Justin laughed and agreed, immediately beginning to strip.
Justin picked up the phone on the third ring as he squinted at the clock. Three a.m. Brian was on his back, snoring softly, dead to the universe. "Yeah?"
"Brian, it's Shea."
"You know, the guy you met at that bar called Hot today. I can't stay here. I'm crawling out of my skin. You have to break me out of here. You promised me a hotel room. I want it. I won't go see that doctor tomorrow. Meet me in front of this place in an hour, or I'll be gone. You said not to be scared, you said I wasn't alone. Help me," he hung up and Justin stared at the phone with a stunned expression. He pushed the end button and then shoved Brian's side until he got a response.
"Wha's wrong?" he asked groggily and Justin sighed.
"Who is Shea and why did you meet him at a gay bar and why did you promise him a hotel room and why is he calling you at three o'clock in the fucking morning?"
Under the blue lights, Brian stared at the hard set of Justin's jaw and smiled. "You need your hair in rollers and a rolling pin in your hand, Jealous Wifey."
"It's not funny."
"Less funny than you know. What exactly did he say?" Justin related the conversation and Brian groaned. "Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished."
"What are you doing?" he asked as Brian left the bed.
"You're going to meet him?"
"What choice did he leave me?"
"Who the fuck IS he?"
Brian explained his brief history with Shea Hennessey as he dressed. Justin listened, understood, and began dressing too. "What are you doing?" Brian demanded and Justin shrugged.
"Going with you."
"Like hell you are. You have to work tomorrow."
"It's not brain surgery. I'm young. I can stay up late occasionally."
"Are you doing this out of some misguided need to keep an eye on me?"
"No," Justin said resolutely. "Out of some misguided need to keep an eye on HIM."
Brian smirked at him, and they left the loft together, dressed for the continuing rains.
The three of them sat at a small table at a Starbucks in Chelsea. The only other patrons were a cooing gay couple either on their way to a rendezvous or still basking from one, and a tired looking executive either bagging an all night meeting or up very early for a morning one. Shea looked utterly exhausted as he drank sweet chai and tried to explain his discomfort with the shelter.
"So let me recap," Brian said patiently. "No one's bothered you or given you a hard time. You had a nice hot shower, a hot meal, a warm, comfortable bed. What's the problem again?"
Shea glared at him. "I'm not going to that doctor."
"Okay, but that's tomorrow, well, later today. Want to tell me again why you're so terrified of a check up?"
Shea met his eyes. "They say if you hustle after you know you're HIV positive they can try you for murder."
Brian and Justin exchanged a glance. "So you think you may be but as long as you don't know, you intend to go on hustling?" Brian clarified and Shea frowned.
"I don't let them suck me without a condom or fuck them without a condom. I'll suck them raw or let them fuck me, but not the other way around. So I'm not exposing anyone."
"But..." Justin started to say, but Brian put his hand over his to quiet him.
"It's not about that, Shea. It's about you. If you're infected, the sooner you start treatment, the better. With the new protocols, you can live a long time in relative good health. If you don't take the meds, you won't last a year."
Shea shrugged. "Big loss. Anyway, I can't afford the meds if I'm sick."
"There are ways to get meds even if you have no money. Trust me. Shea, don't be a coward. I get tested regularly, we both do. It's always slightly scary while you wait it out, but you have to do it."
"I thought you two were partners. That you didn't fuck around on each other."
Justin smiled, pleased that he had heard that from Brian, who'd obviously passed on Shea's offer. "We are, but we haven't always been exclusive," he said. "Since our last tests were clear, and since we aren't with anyone else, we feel safe now. But we didn't always."
"I did," Brian said softly. "I always practiced safe sex. I never felt like I was going to get it. But look, Shea, if you have it, it's not the death sentence it used to be."
"You don't know," Shea declared. "It is if I say it is. Because if they tell me I have it, I'll off myself the same day I find out. I'm not going down that way. I've seen people die of it. It sucks." He got up and headed for the bathroom. Brian glanced at Justin, who rolled his eyes.
"I'm not so sure of that. I understand where he's coming from, you don't."
"What special insight do you have into his twisted little mind, Brian?"
"I was once a scared seventeen year old loner. I had no family to back me up, and I suffered a great sense of tragedy when I thought of the future. If not for the Novotny family, who knows where I might have ended up? I would have dropped out of high school, with no job, no shelter, running away from a bad home situation. I could have ended up on the game, too. More than once, I thought the time had come to pull the plug."
Chilled by the specter of Brian dying young, Justin reached over and took his hand. "Brian, did you ever..." They were interrupted by Shea's return. He glanced at the men's joined hands and smirked as Brian told him to sit down. Ultimately, Brian convinced him to go back to the center only by promising to be with him when he saw the doctor. It seemed an empty promise to Brian, since he knew it would be nothing. All they would do now is draw blood. The results would come later. After they dropped Shea off at the center, it was time for breakfast.
The rains had momentarily stopped and so they walked to a nearby diner populated mainly by young men, stragglers from the nearby clubs. They ordered food as unhealthy and greasy as anything Debbie Novotny served. Justin combed through his hair with his fingers, noting it still felt damp. He saw Brian smiling at him and asked, "What?"
"You look like a baby duck."
"I've often thought that about you, especially when you're wet. Little yellow feathers," he reached over and fluffed Justin's blond hair. "Blue eyes, and your full upper lip is wide, kind of like a stubby little beak."
Justin smiled wryly. "You're describing a rubber duckie."
"Exactly! That's it."
"Fuck you," Justin laughed.
"It's a compliment. Rubber duckies are cute. Everyone loves them."
"Maybe, but no one wants to look like one."
"I've been called worse things than that."
"Like I'm going to feed you insults to flip back at me?" Brian and Mikey had a deal. He would never tell anyone that when they were in high school Mikey was often referred to as "The Mole" since he was small and dark and the glasses he wore prior to his contact lenses made his eyes look tiny. Mikey would return the favor by taking to the grave the fact that Brian was known as "Ostrich" for his long neck, big eyes and his endless, powerful soccer legs. Justin reached across the table and gripped Brian's hand in his.
"Don't get too involved with this kid, Brian. You're vulnerable, he's in trouble, don't do it."
"You can't seriously be jealous of him?"
"Not the way you mean."
"You come across as a big, tough, cynical bastard, but when it comes to certain things, you turn to marshmallow. Sick kids head that list."
"I'm not Mother Teresa. Yes, I got very involved with Molly. But she's your sister, which makes her my family and we share a special bond, Molly and me, for reasons I don't fully understand. I have no connection to Shea, other than a vague sympathy for what he's going through."
"You're creating a tie by identifying him with your own youth."
Their food arrived and Brian leaned back, glowering at his eggs and bacon. Justin had made his point. Now, Justin drove that point home. "Because of what happened at work, you feel you can't control so much that is going on in your life, which is torture for a control freak like you. Don't create a situation where you think you can determine the outcome, because you can't. You'll just be loaded down with more guilt and disappointment."
"Thank you Sigmund Freud," Brian quipped. "Just keep me from going too far, okay? That'll be your job."
"I'm trying now. Brian, have you ever attempted suicide?"
Brian looked up at him and lied. "No."
Justin nodded sagely, disbelieving him.
At this hour in a back booth in the coffee shop at the Plaza Hotel, two power suits were concluding a business breakfast. One was Felix Kimbrough, Brian's former boss. The other was John Richardson, CEO of a huge conglomerate that wholly owned several of Kimbrough's most profitable clients. They were concluding their meeting when Kimbrough dropped a credit card into the calfskin folder. It would all be written off to client development.
"One more thing, Felix," Richardson said as if suddenly remembering some small detail. "About that Brian Kinney matter..."
"Taken care of," Kimbrough assured him.
"Good, good. No problems?"
"None at all. He took it very well."
"And you've put the word out among your colleagues, have you?"
"Small issue there, John."
"Legal informs me if we give Brian a bad reference, we could run into legal issues. They said defamation charges could be lodged against us. Frankly, if we were forced to defend why we fired Brian, it would be tricky. Certainly we couldn't claim it was performance based. He was one of our top performers, year over year. I realize we have the right to vote out a partner, with or without good cause, but when we start telling other firms not to hire him and we have no solid, business related reason to do so, he can claim, and win, defamation charges."
"What are you saying?"
"Legal is telling us to give a neutral reference, if asked, and not to affirmatively go out and seek a conversation about Kinney."
"I see," the other man turned glacial. "Neutral won't quite cut it with my Chairman, Felix. I thought I made myself clear."
"But what? It's a small enough request, Felix, given the amount of work we send your firm. Get rid of one faggot. Who the hell cares? Paint a picture in your industry that will be his ruination. Now you're telling me you can't make that happen because you have some nervous lawyers? That won't do, Felix."
Kimbrough nodded, not giving away the fact he had sweated out the armpits of his shirt under the jacket of his three-thousand dollar suit. It was distasteful enough to fire Brian Kinney, but that obviously was not going to be satisfy this client. "I understand."
"It's easy enough to assassinate a man's character to your peers without overtly calling him names or committing some vague tort. If you're clever enough to come up with innovative ad campaigns, you must be clever enough to find a way to accomplish that simple feat, Felix."
"I have every faith that you have no intention of making me look bad to my chairman. That would be a very big mistake. Of course, if your feelings about Kinney are more important than our advertising budget..."
"Of course not, John. I'll see to it. Don't give it another thought."
"I won't, Felix. I'll assume it's done."
"And it is," Kimbrough assured him. Felix had spent so many years doing the corporate bullshit dance that his destruction of a promising young man's career was barely a blip in his ethics. Someone with extreme power, perhaps the Chairman or a principal shareholder, had it in for Brian Kinney for whatever reason, and Felix had been caught in the middle of this struggle. The reasons didn't matter so long as the results were measured in the flayed flesh of Brian Kinney.
Later, as Brian headed for his gym, he paused to drop two resumes into the mailbox. They were addressed to two firms who had actively recruited him within the last six months, trying to lure him away from his agency. That fact made him feel he had a chance. At the time, he had no reason to make the leap. The money they promised wasn't that much better, so why start over? Establishing himself, his credibility, obtaining a new client list...why bother? What a dork, he thought now, with the benefit of hindsight.
Content that he had finally done something about his employment situation, Brian was looking forward to a workout. He wanted to feel good for tonight. He wanted to be pumped and strong because tonight Brian was going to trick.
That night, with the stealth of a jungle cat, Brian checked out the herd grazing the three floors of a hot club in Chelsea. He had dressed for trouble in tight black leather pants and a white silk shirt. His Lizard King tribute to Jim Morrison, an old hero. Downing his drink as he felt the adrenaline of outlaw sex begin to pump, he drew power from those who cruised him, but he offered nothing back. They weren't what he wanted. He allowed a willowy brunette to lead him out onto the dance floor, caging the kid in with his cobra dance, but all the while he still scanned the hard bodies for his prey. Nostrils flared, taking in the scent of sweat and amyl nitrate and blow, he still loved the nightlife and liked to boogie.
He saw the prey, just a glimpse, but enough to engage the chase. He abandoned his dancing partner and cut through the crowd, arms raised over his head, making a straight razor of his body. His gaze remained fixed on his victim, who was sashaying with a lean, handsome stranger. Brian walked up to him, standing between the stranger and the target.
"Fuck off," the stranger warned him.
"You fuck off," Brian warned back, and then hooked his fingers in the front of his prey's jeans and led him towards the backroom.
"I was with him," the prey said lamely, and Brian grinned.
"And now you're with me."
In the dark labyrinth illuminated by strategically placed blacklights, Brian threw the prey up against a carpeted wall and kissed him hard. He felt the prey resist at first and then concede to the inevitable. "Suck my cock," Brian whispered in his ear and the prey smiled and took his hand, leading him deeper into the canyon, past men fucking each other against walls or against other men, or sucking each other with enthusiastic slurps.
Suddenly, the prey disappeared. Brian looked around, finally noticing fingers wiggling at him from a hole in the partition. "Give it to me," the prey insisted and Brian smiled and lowered his fly as he pressed his body to the partition, letting the prey pull his cock through the opening. He moaned as the prey, almost invisible on the other side of the wall, began eagerly fellating him, feeding on him, swallowing his rod. Brian spread his hands flat on the partition, shoving his hips forward to push more of his dick into the waiting, unattached mouth. He turned his face to one side, the nubby fabric on the wall abrading his cheek as he moved his ass forward and back, fucking through the glory hole into the mouth.
He came hard, ejaculating in thick ropes of semen that would choke a lesser prey. This one swallowed, then withdrew and as Brian was repairing his clothes, he saw the hole that was slightly lower than his chin become threaded by a stiff, pulsating shaft. The prey had climbed the steps to insert his own throbbing erection through the partition. He was high enough that he could reach over and down, stroking Brian's hair and smoothing his hands over his neck and shoulders while Brian ducked down and returned the favor with great enthusiasm. The prey didn't last long and Brian sucked every drop of him down into his throat before he reached up and pulled the prey over the wall, standing him up against the partition as his loosened jeans pooled at his ankles. He kissed him hotly, tasting their combined flavors.
"Fuck him," someone commanded, and only then did Brian and the prey become aware that their combined heat had drawn a small crowd of voyeurs. "Fuck his twink ass," the man persisted, masturbating with great energy. The prey pulled up his jeans and Brian looked at him, and smiled. The prey smiled back.
"Let's go home," Justin said softly, and Brian agreed, looping an arm around him as they left the disappointed voyeurs to find another inspiration. It was fun to be bad, but part of the thrill for them both was knowing who you would be with when you went home.
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July 25, 2004