I'm sorry I'm late. It was unavoidable. Thanks as always to my wonderful team. I hope you enjoy it, Randall
Doctor Lydia Johnson's Notes:
BK has been out of work approximately one week. I was pleased to see that his tendency towards self-hatred and depression has not overtaken him thus far. He confirmed that he is still taking his meds for depression. He is dressed casually in jeans and a shirt, and looks relaxed.
Excerpt from transcript:
Doctor: How goes it, Brian?
Doctor: Can you expand on that?
BK: Well, in the last week, I've lost my job, my son and his mother have temporarily moved in with me, I sent a demand letter to my agency, and I've become involved with a street hustler who probably has AIDS. Envy me?
Doctor: You're never dull, Brian. Last thing first. Sexually involved?
BK: No, not suicidal… yet. It's your brother's fault, really.
BK: He put me onto Mick Donovan, the lawyer, who put me onto this center she operates for HIV positive kids which is where this hustler, who came onto me in a bar, is now staying.
Doctor: ( laughs) How dare my brother!
BK: (laughs) I know. This kid touched something in me, reminded me of my own pathetic youth. There but for the grace of Debbie Novotny and Vic Grassi go I.
Doctor: Do you see yourself playing a continuing role in his life?
BK: Hope not. Have enough drama. But today is the day he gets the results of his tests and I promised I would be there for him.
Doctor: And if he's positive?
BK (shrugs): He's threatened suicide.
Doctor: You think you're skilled enough to deal with that?
BK: Funny you should say that, Lydia. You know, those doctors at the center, they donate their time to a good cause. Do shrinks ever do that?
Doctor: What did you have in mind?
BK: That I bring him to see you, to talk out the issues. But my insurance won't cover him, and I can't afford your rates out of pocket.
Doctor: Clever boy. We'll think of something. If you think he needs to see me on an emergency basis, call. I'll do what I can. And by the way, I do lots of volunteer work. I run a group session for recovering alcoholics and other addictive behaviors at my church every Monday night, and I take consulting work for doctors who are my friends and who have patients requiring an emotional health assessment but are unable to pay.
BK: Tax write off.
Doctor: Don't be cynical. Be careful, Brian. You have a full plate right now and you're just back from your own precipice.
BK: Now you sound like Justin.
Doctor: How is Justin?
BK: Justin is great. He's a machine. He just keeps on going, no matter how rough the road.
Doctor: Is that admiration I hear in your voice?
BK: More like amazement.
Doctor: So he knows about your job situation.
BK: I was honest with him.
Doctor: And he didn't go screaming into the night?
BK: Not so far. I guess things really aren't that different, yet. The change in lifestyle hasn't started.
Doctor: You really think that will matter to him?
BK: (Winces.) No, Lydia, I really don't. So if it does, if he runs, I'll be so unprepared for it, I'm not sure I'll ever pick myself up from the fall.
Doctor: Does that scare you?
BK: Big time.
Doctor: That, Brian, is normal anxiety. Congratulations.
BK: (Grins.) You mean I've progressed from abnormally fucked up to normally fucked up?
Doctor: Yes, I feel so proud. (Laughs.)
BK: Can we talk about Gus?
Doctor: Your son? Of course we can.
BK: He's changed so much since the last time I saw him. He's more like a person now, not just this kind of cute…thing.
Doctor: In what way?
BK: He pees in his little potty instead of his pants, well, most of the time, anyway. He talks. He seems to understand things.
Doctor: That would be called ‘growing up'.
BK: Yes, but…I wonder if…I feel uncomfortable, I mean, what kind of image am I supposed to project as his father?
Doctor: I hope a loving, caring, nurturing image, Brian. A true image of yourself and how you feel and how you are.
BK: But Justin…we aren't disgusting about it, we don't have sex in front of him, but we have a tendency to touch each other, kiss, you know what people do. He grows up seeing Daddy kissing Justin and Mommy kissing Melanie…what the fuck are we doing to his head?
Doctor: What are you afraid of, Brian? That you'll make him gay?
BK: (Frowns.) No. If he's gay, he's gay. I don't view that as a negative. But I don't want him to think he's supposed to be gay because his parents are. I want him to be himself, no matter what.
Doctor: Did you think you were supposed to be straight because your parents are?
BK: Well, YEAH. Of course I did. When I first realized I was queer, I knew it wasn't the usual thing to be. I knew it was outside the lines. I couldn't figure out why I was so different, why I didn't feel the way I was supposed to feel.
Doctor: When did you first become aware of these feelings?
BK: I don't know. When I was five, I was always trying to kiss Richie Green in my kindergarten class. He would run away in tears. I didn't understand why he reacted that way. I thought he was cute, with all that blond hair, and I just wanted to show him how I felt. The teacher talked to my mom, and they put me in another group. Didn't help. I just started trying to kiss Bobby Patterson, another blond bombshell, aged five.
Doctor: You were quite the Casanova.
BK: Oh yeah. I soon learned that you get your ass kicked kissing boys in school. So I hid it. For years. Puberty made that impossible, I guess. But back to your question, I knew that liking boys was weird. I just couldn't help it.
Doctor: Were you ashamed?
BK: Confused is more like it.
Doctor: About what?
BK: About why I didn't think girls were interesting. Why I found boys all hot and sexy. And why people seemed to think that was all wrong. It felt right to me. Why should it be wrong? Why couldn't I kiss who I wanted to kiss? Why should they dictate what was expected of me?
Doctor: Did you ever go through the "I like girls" stage?
BK: Not really. I dated a few girls, slept with a few, but I was kidding myself. It never worked for me, and I was stone cold to them emotionally. Now I like women very much, some women, anyway. But that's because I feel no sexual pressure, internally, so if they try to put sexual pressure on me from their side, I can shrug it off. But look, I was trying to get to the core of it with Gus. I don't want to fuck with his head.
Doctor: Would you rather him be straight or gay, Brian, if you could pick?
BK: I want him to be comfortable enough in his own skin that he can follow his heart in whichever direction it takes him without feeling any pressure from me, one way or the other.
Doctor: Then he will be.
END OF EXCERPT
Doctor's Notes: BK's troubles are compounded by the arrival of his child and his child's mother. This creates an additional financial as well as emotional strain, given his employment status. He is also soon to be embroiled in the legal system, both as a key witness against Jeffrey Walker, and by suing his former agency. For now he seems to be coping with the stress, but it's a situation that bears close watch. He's still emotionally and physically fragile from his experience with Walker. I shall continue to closely monitor his behavior to ensure he's staying ahead of his anxieties and not falling back on more destructive methods of pain management.
Gus was running in concentric circles in the vast open space of the gallery in Tribeca, each loop becoming smaller and smaller until he was twirling more than running. The paintings to be hung were still crated, so there was very little damage he could do either to himself or to the gallery. His mother was touring the facility with Leo and Justin, while always keeping her hyper son within her immediate view.
"It's a dream gallery, Leo," she informed him with a smile. "The location, the lighting, the design, absolutely perfect."
"It is, isn't it?" Leo responded. "Of all my galleries, I like the layout and location of this one the best. I just wish I could give it the attention it's due in order to ensure its success."
"Why can't you?"
"I have five other galleries, Lindsay, all very busy. My main office is in midtown. I oversee everything, manage the major acquisitions and artist relationships, so I can't pander to any one locale at the expense of the others. I have to rely on my gallery managers to do that."
"Who will manage this gallery?"
"I haven't made a final decision. I have several candidates."
She smiled her most charming, most blonde smile and looped her arm through his. "Will you consider adding one more name to that list?"
Justin fetched Gus, who was trying to unravel a stray roll of masking tape. Justin brought him back over to the adults. "That would be so cool, Linds! I didn't even think of that. She's perfect, Leo. She's smart and beautiful, and she's an art expert, a professor, and an artist in her own right. Everyone loves Lindsay, so she'd be great with the artists. What do you think?"
Lindsay laughed. "I think I should pay you to promote me, Justin. Seriously, Leo, may I send you a resume?"
"I have a better idea, let's go to lunch, just the two of us, and talk it over. Get to know each other a bit. Justin would be only too happy to babysit, right, Justin?"
He laughed. "Sure, I'll take Gus to the park at the end of the block and then we'll get a hot dog or something."
"Watch him very closely, he has a tendency to suddenly run wild and catching him isn't easy," she warned. Justin laughed.
"Like father like son. I'm used to chasing the Kinney men. Don't worry, Linds. I won't let him get away from me."
"I know you won't, sweetie. Meet you back here?"
Justin nodded, watching her leave with Leo. "Mommy go bye-bye?" Gus asked wisely and Justin nodded. The baby stared at him for a long moment, then his lower lip trembled and he began to cry. Justin sighed and picked him up, distracting him from his separation anxiety by carrying him out of the gallery. He locked the door and bribed Gus with the lure of the park and a hot dog.
Brian felt the anxiety wash over Shea in regular waves, the scattershot of fear hitting him as they waited in a small cubicle at the Center for the doctor. Brian wanted to say something to say to placate Shea, but everything he thought of sounded like an empty platitude. So they sat in silence, awaiting the verdict.
Finally, the doctor entered and sat down across from them, scowling at the pages of results on his clipboard. "Shea?" he glanced at the kid. Shea nodded, slipping his hand into Brian's, who squeezed it gently. "Are you his lover?" The doctor asked Brian.
Brian shook his head. "I'm his friend."
The doctor met Shea's eyes as he said, "Your HIV antibodies test came back positive. We re-ran it twice to be sure it wasn't a false reading. It wasn't. I'm sorry to have to tell you this. But don't despair, it's not as bad as you fear. There are treatments that will hopefully enable you to live a long time without becoming ill."
"What test did you use?" Brian asked, wincing as Shea's grip on his hand became vise-like.
"ELISA confirmed by a Western Blot test. These tests are accurate 99.5% of the time."
"That's it, then." Shea stood up, as if to leave but Brian took his arm and yanked him back.
"Sit down. The doctor's still talking to you."
"He has nothing to say that I want to hear."
"Well, I do. Sit down."
Shea reluctantly did so, and the doctor looked pensive. "A positive result doesn't mean you have AIDS, Shea. But we need to see where you are, health-wise, so we can figure out a course of treatment. First thing we do is a CBC, or complete blood count. We'll look for your T-cell count and your viral load. That will tell us a lot about your current condition."
"I'm not doing that."
"You have to do it, otherwise we can't gauge what treatment you need, if any. If you need treatment and don't get it, your immune system will continue to erode until an opportunistic infection kills you. We don't want that."
Shea had checked out of this conversation. His eyes were on the doctor, but his brain was far, far away. Brian sighed and touched his shoulder. He didn't even flinch. The doctor was droning on about new treatments, the need for a complete physical, nutrition issues, testing, safe sex, emotional support. Shea was somewhere else, mentally, sitting on a bluff in his hometown of Keokuk, watching the Mississippi River run past the dam at the power plant. He was nine, healthy, without fear. Anything was possible. Getting a death sentence eight years later was not in his boyhood plans.
Brian was asked to step out of the room. Shea didn't even seem to notice. They would draw blood, examine Shea for signs of other infections, run whatever tests they felt were necessary. He would let them manipulate him like a big doll, having no will of his own and completely remote from the process. Brian sought out Frankie, who stared up at him from his desk in his small but neat office as if Brian rode in on a white horse with a glass Bruno Magli in his hand.
"You have a minute?" Brian asked.
Frankie urged him to sit in one of two guest chairs, and then he sat in the other, their knees almost touching. Frankie's career as a queer included years of being rejected or completely ignored by studs like Brian. Instead of resenting that fact, he was thrilled to have Brian interacting with him, even if it wasn't sexual. "You alright? You look pale," Frankie said.
"It's not me, it's Shea. He's positive." Frankie nodded as if expecting more. Brian frowned. "Do you hear me? He's positive, the kid is HIV positive."
"Well, we knew that, didn't we?"
"Not until a few minutes ago when the doc gave him his test results."
"Sorry to sound so blasé, Brian, but you have to realize all of our kids are HIV positive here. That's the whole purpose of this place."
Brian leaned back with a sigh, as if just now realizing the enormity of what that meant. Not just one lost, hopeless kid facing a long-term health crisis and possible death, but a whole house full of them. Brian had come of age in the era of AIDS. It was always that dark shadow behind the joy of sex. He knew about men dying wasting deaths, but then the cocktail changed that, and HIV positive men were numerous and apparently healthy. He had always been scrupulous about safe sex, well almost always, so he had no major fear, but now…"I don't understand something, Frankie. These kids know about AIDS and safe sex. How come they're so stupid? It's not like the older generation who didn't know what was happening or how to stop it. Why are they so careless?" He thought of his own son, what his future would be. Would AIDS be cured by the time Gus was sexually active? Or would Gus be called upon to make life-altering decisions every time his dick got hard?
"It's difficult to understand, Brian. Some kids do it for the outlaw aspect of it, live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse. Of course AIDS victims seldom leave a beautiful corpse. Some kids are raped or just careless. Some kids believe the cocktail is a cure. There are too many causes to list."
"It's so fucking stupid! I knew how dangerous it was when I grew up, why don't they?"
"Because kids are immortal. Didn't you once feel that way?"
He shrugged and massaged his eyes as Mr. Headache flickered in and out of his brain, not quite taking hold. "What do we do with Shea? He's in shock. He's depressed, possibly suicidal. He has no family, no support. What happens now?"
"Immediate problem, we'll get him in with a shrink from social services, to talk about his reactions, and we'll put him on suicide watch here. But he's free to come and go, Brian. If he wants to go and do something to himself, we can't control that."
"That sounds a little cynical, Frankie."
"Sorry, but I've been here for three years. I've seen it all. We aren't a permanent placement. I'll start looking for a home for him, but I'll be honest with you. Most of the available placements are not where you would want to stay, even if you were desperate. He'd be better off if he bit the bullet and went home."
"You don't know that," Brian snapped at him. "You don't know why he left home. It could be a terrible situation."
"True, but so is this. What are his options? He has no high school diploma, and he's only seventeen, so what kind of job will he land? Where will he live in New York on what he can earn? And if he gets sicker, who will care for him?"
Brian's brows knitted together in consternation. "You need to have more beds."
"We can't afford to support the beds we already have."
"Then you need to raise funds."
"We HAVE done that, Brian! That's why the doors are still open, at least for now. But we survive day to day, just like a terminal patient, never sure when the whip will come down."
"You obviously haven't done it very well. I'll talk to Mick about it. For now, he needs to stay here. I'll pay, do whatever it takes, but he needs to stay right where he is. Any further disruption in his life, who knows what he'll do? After that first night, he's settled into a routine here. Maybe these other kids can give him some hope."
"We can't keep him indefinitely. That's not how we're set up. Our beds are for emergency, temporary situations. If he gets very sick, this isn't a hospice."
"And that's what this is, an emergency situation," Brian reached over and covered Frankie's hand with his, causing him to shudder. "Do this for me."
Frankie nodded numbly, once again willing to do anything for Brian Kinney.
Felix Kimbrough faced his chief legal counsel across the wide expanse of his black granite desk. The paper he held in his hand trembled slightly as Felix's rage grew. "What the fuck is this?"
"It's a demand letter from Brian Kinney, Felix."
"I see that, Walt. What the fuck is he claiming? It's a bunch of gibberish to me!"
"He's claiming he was terminated because he's gay, and that the termination is in violation of city and state statutes."
"You can sue for that? The law protects queers?"
Walt stared at his boss, wondering if the man ever read anything he sent him. "Of course it does, Felix. If you ever attended the training on sexual harassment and discrimination my staff provides, you might know that. Kinney says he was singled out for termination on the pretext of a business reason, but the true reason is that he's gay and you knew it and you discriminated in the terms of his employment, as opposed to how non-gays have been treated."
"I hate these fucking queers! See? This proves my point. They're a bunch of drama queens!"
"Felix, I'm not real clear on why we did terminate Kinney. He made a lot of money for this firm, was a key rainmaker, from all reports, a top performer. What did he do that warranted his termination?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you," Felix grumbled.
"Maybe not, but you will to a judge, so you may as well start with me. I'm the one who has to defend you. First of all, did you know he was gay?"
"Of course! For chrissakes, Walt, no straight man looks as perfect as Brian Kinney. Always groomed, always fit. He made no secret of it, although, thankfully, he wasn't effeminate and never pushed it in anyone's face."
Walt forced himself not to smile at that mental image. "Did you ever discuss it with him?"
"Once. I told him his private life was his business, but we have some conservative clients and he needs to keep it to himself."
"How did he respond to that?"
"His usual sarcasm. He said he'd be sure not to fuck any of them."
Again, Walt gnawed on his inner jaw to restrain a smile. "So what was the event?"
"That led to your decision to terminate him?"
"He missed a lot of work, left town, got himself mixed up in a big mess."
"According to what I uncovered from his records, he missed two days, as sick days, while in Pittsburgh. The rest of the time, he worked out of the office in Pittsburgh and managed to bring in a three million dollar account and lead the launch on that cosmetics company. And the fact that he went to Pittsburgh because his lover had a critically ill younger sister is rather sympathetic to a fact finder. What else?"
"He then took that long vacation in Italy."
"With permission, and as he's entitled to do under the terms of his partnership agreement. Anything else?"
"Unfavorable publicity about that doctor who drugged him and has been arrested for it and for other things he did. Makes him sound unstable and unreliable."
"Have clients complained?"
"They've called. Several of them."
"Well, while he was away, to see if he was alright, if they could do…something…don't look at me like that."
"Felix, what happened? Who did Kinney screw? What's the real story? I don't believe it's because he's a fag, but I also don't believe that anything you've told me would make you fire him. What is it?"
Kimbrough sighed and lit a cigar without offering one to his counsel. "Alright, alright. This is under privilege, right?"
"Jon Richardson is one of our most influential clients. Best Deal chain stores, Home Oven Foods, EZ Electronics retail stores, and several other top billed accounts are all under his control."
"I know Jon, Felix. So? Did Brian screw up one of his accounts?"
"No, Jon came to me and asked me to fire Kinney, and to see that he not be employed elsewhere in the industry. What can I do? I like Brian, he did good work, but I'm asked to balance eight- figure billings against the career of one man, no matter how good he is, and there's no contest."
"I repeat. Did Brian screw up one of his accounts?"
"As far as I know, Brian never even worked on one of his accounts."
"I don't know, Walt. I didn't get an answer from him and he wasn't willing to expound upon it. He just said it was a directive from his Chairman and he was delivering a non-negotiable edict."
"This feels strange," Walt said. "Okay, let me do some thinking, Felix. I'll have to respond to this letter within ten days. It's our window to settle."
"You know this Mick fellow? The lawyer?"
"Mick Donovan is a woman. Sort of. Dyke. Bleeding heart liberal activist in gay rights. Very well connected within the power structure of partisan politics. Can deliver votes in that community which empowers her. And she's a brilliant employment lawyer, Felix. We can't underestimate her. She's not just a bull dyke, she's a bull dog."
"That's why I pay you the big bucks, Walt," Kimbrough dismissed his lawyer by picking up the phone to arrange a weekend golf game. Walt returned to his own office on the same floor as Kimbrough's palace. He plugged into the internet on his computer and pulled up Boston Industrial, the holding company that wholly owned the various companies Felix referenced, plus many more. A multi-billion dollar enterprise, he skimmed their web site and reviewed the officers and directors page of their annual report. As a publicly held company, they had to file information on their top team and the web site reflected that information that was on file with the SEC. What he found just compounded his confusion.
Brian returned to his home later in the evening, after spending an emotional time with Shea and Lydia. Shea insisted he sit in with him as he finally gave in to his fears and pain, under Lydia's careful guidance. Afterwards, Brian took him back to the Center and sat with him until he fell into an exhausted sleep. Brian insisted that Frankie have someone stay with Shea that night, and Frankie assured him that was their usual procedure on a suicide watch. Feeling emotionally drained and exhausted, Brian opened the door to a celebration of some sort underway in his loft. Leo Chang was cooking in his kitchen, reminding Brian of that first dinner at Jeffrey's house. His lover, Bill, was playing with Gus, while Lindsay and Mick were arranging placesettings at the table. Justin was loading CD's into the soundsystem, blasting Crystal Method's "Roll It Up".
"What is this?" Brian asked loudly. "Babylon revisited?" He grabbed the remote from Justin's hand and lowered the volume. Justin looked quizzically at him as Brian turned his attention to Lindsay. "Entertaining? Make yourselves at home! Mi casa su casa!" He didn't even acknowledge Gus before he went into the bedroom and slammed the door. Lindsay cut Justin a glance and he nodded, following Brian into their room and closing the door behind him. Brian was stretched out on the bed, fully clothed, his arm over his eyes. Justin carefully removed Brian's shoes, dropping them to the floor. He then sat beside him on the edge of the bed, massaging his tummy gently.
"Are you okay?" Justin asked. Brian said nothing. Justin went on, "Brian, what's wrong?"
"I just didn't expect to come home to a party," Brian replied, without removing his arm from over his eyes.
"It's not really a party. Leo offered Lindsay a job, so I guess you could say it's celebrating that fact. He wanted to cook and Linds invited Mick, and of course Bill is Leo's lover and…"
Brian sat up on his elbows, squinting at Justin. "Lindsay already has a job, doesn't she? In Pittsburgh? What about that?"
Justin brightened up with a smile. "She's resigning. She says she wants to learn this end of the art game and Leo made her a great offer. Isn't that majorly cool? He offered her the job managing his new Tribeca gallery. She's thrilled and so is Leo. I guess the pay is pretty good and we'll kind of be working together, although, I guess I'll still really work more for Leo."
"Does he have a job for me too?" Brian asked flatly. "He seems to be hiring the whole family."
Justin sighed, realizing why this news could cut both ways for Brian. He may feel some relief over Lindsay having a source of income, but it also underscored the fact he had no job. "Brian…"
"Forget it. I'm taking a shower. Go entertain your guests."
"They're not MY guests. I'd rather take a shower with you."
Brian met his eyes. "I don't want a mercy fuck."
"Take it anyway you can get it. It's all good."
Brian stared at him, and then broke into a smile, pulling him into his arms and kissing him, feeling his tension subside.
"Let me drive," Justin said softly, reaching down to remove Brian's clothes and then his own. When they were both naked, he stretched out on top of Brian and kissed him again, caressing his body with his whole form, smoothing skin against skin. He sucked his tongue deeply into his mouth and let his hands wander freely. "Turn over," he instructed Brian, who smiled at him before he did so. Justin separated Brian's long thighs and traced the bend in the back of his knees with his tongue, then followed the curve of the muscles on the back of his thighs to the smooth rise of his buttocks. Brian crossed his arms under his head, anticipating what was happening next by pressing his erection against the mattress. Justin's wet tongue dampened the crease of his ass and then probed. First he found the back of Brian's balls, which he stroked in long, smooth laps, and finally the source.
Brian moaned as that expert little tongue ran circles around his tight sphincter, setting off waves of pleasure that rolled through his groin and inflamed his cock. He felt his body relax, his prostate itching for contact. He glanced over his shoulder at his lover. "Are you going to fuck me?"
"I thought I might," Justin said with an evil smile and Brian nodded.
Justin reached for the lube, excited by the invitation, and greased up a couple fingers to use as a tool for lubrication and to open up his lover before the main event. Brian gasped as a finger hit home, aching for Justin's cock to take over. Justin reached under Brian and used his lubed fingers to masturbate his swollen erection while he penetrated him with urgent expertise. Brian felt the pressure on his prostate beneath the flicker of discomfort and gave in to the experience, realizing this capitulation of control was exactly what he needed.
After they showered and re-dressed, the couple seemed relaxed, happy and very loving as they re-joined the others. Brian's pissy mood had been vanquished by Justin's persuasive pleasure.
"Someone got a little ass," Lindsay whispered to him and Brian smiled at her as he responded,
"Someone did." But not the one she figured. Some things were meant to be known only by his lover and him.
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July 25, 2004