It's not running at all from my end. I just want to thank you and Roz and Jen and Alan, and apologize for not being able to post a personal note. Thanks, Kath. It's so annoying, I know Walter is trying but he seems to be bested by the beast. Randall
Brian was sleeping so hard that he never even heard Justin leave for work. When he finally awoke, he showered and dressed in sweats. He planned to work out with his trainer, a luxury he had paid for through the end of the month. Being a man of leisure had some advantages. He could move his training session to a time when most were at work rather than cram into the hours before and after work that most people required. He walked into the kitchen and stumbled upon the startling image of Melanie, dressed in a short red kimono, her hair askew from a restless night. She was pouring freshly brewed coffee into a mug. The previous night came back to him, causing him to wince.
"This is awkward," she acknowledged as he helped himself to the coffee.
"It does smack of the incredible. The two of us knocking around the kitchen like a couple who just rolled out of the sack together."
She shuddered. "Don't make me nauseous this early in the morning."
"It's almost noon, and believe me, I share your revulsion."
"Not that you could perform, anyway. Not with a woman."
He cut her a glare. "Sure I could. Just not with you."
The buzzer interrupted and Brian answered it, hearing Cynthia's voice on the other end. When she came into the loft, he grabbed her in his arms and kissed her solidly on the mouth. She stiffened in his embrace, at first, and then relaxed to meet his caress. When he released her she felt a little weak-kneed as he turned to glare at Melanie. "See? Cynthia, I could fuck."
Cynthia looked from Brian to Melanie, and back to Brian. "Did I miss the main act?"
"Don't worry about it. You know Melanie, right?"
"Yeah, hi, Melanie."
"Cynthia. I'll leave you two lovebirds alone," Melanie said with a sarcastic sneer. "I'm taking a shower."
"Want some coffee?" Brian invited as Melanie left the room. "Sorry about that kiss, just proving a point."
"It was nice, surprising, but nice. Melanie's staying with you?"
"Yes, I expect Saddam Hussein can't be far behind."
She giggled. "Are she and Lindsay still....?"
He shrugged and handed her a mug of coffee. "I really don't know the answer to that question. Have a seat."
She liked Brian scruffy, with a day's growth of beard and his hair unkempt. She liked it better than when he looked elegant, because he seemed straight and available, even though he wasn't. They sat down together and she sighed. "Mo got you what you wanted, but she said it wasn't easy and please don't ask her to do it again."
"Tell her I owe her big time," Brian responded, taking the envelope from her. "Did you look at it?"
"Well?" he persisted and she sighed.
"John Richardson, CEO of Boston International. It keeps circling back to them."
Brian opened the envelope and stared at the form that the agency used to reimburse the partners for expenses. Whenever the partners took a client out they would put the meal on a credit card, and then file the receipt and an explanation with Finance in order to be paid back for that meal. Being the managing partner, Kimbrough's vouchers were approved by the Chief Financial Officer. He read the explanatory note: "Lunch with John Richardson, CEO of BI, client number B-205, discuss personnel issue." Brian then noticed that a second voucher, from a date following his termination, had been included in the envelope. The charge was for breakfast at the Plaza Hotel. The note read: "Breakfast with John Richardson, CEO of BI, client number B-205, discuss BK."
He looked up at Cynthia. "I don't get it. Why would John Richardson have a hard on for me? I think I only met him once and it was a cordial encounter. I don't work on his accounts. Why would he care?"
She sighed. "I wondered that too. So I looked up BI on the internet." She handed him a print out of Boston International's annual report. "Skip to the back, where they print the bios of the principal officers and the board."
He read Richardson's bio, which revealed no answers to him, and skimmed the other principal officers, also drawing a blank. And then he saw the Chairman of the Board, an attractive, silver-haired patrician in his early sixties. He read the bio aloud. "Jeffrey A. Walker, Sr. , Chairman of the Board and principal shareholder. Walker has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors since 1986 when his father, the previous chairman, retired. Walker is principal shareholder of BI, holding approximately 26% of the company's voting stock, both as Trustee of the Walker Family Trust and individually. The next nearest shareholder owns less than one per cent. Walker is a graduate of Yale University with an MBA from the Harvard School of Business. He founded the Walker Chair in Industrial Trends at Harvard, and serves on the Board of Trustees for Harvard University. He resides in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife. Walker has two children and one grandchild."
Brian felt as if he had been hit in the stomach as he looked up at her. "Bingo."
"Exactly. You still have that calendar?"
Brian retrieved it, handing it to her, still trying to absorb what this meant for him. How much trouble was he in, having a man with the money and power of Jeffrey's father coming after him? Jeffrey's veiled threat about Brian being out of work had just dropped its veil. Brian was hurt and angry and scared, all at once. He watched Cynthia peruse the calendar. "What are you looking for?"
"Well, here's the lunch meeting at Edmunds. Then the meeting with you, then the meeting with him at the Plaza. But look, Brian. After the Plaza meeting, he has a series of calls, drinks, lunches, with his peers at other agencies. There's a definite cluster of these meetings and calls. Why would he do that? There are none before that time. What's he up to?"
"What are you implying? That he's putting the word out on me?"
"You could make a case."
Brian sighed, scrubbing his long fingers through his hair. "How am I supposed to battle this kind of money and power?"
"That's why you have Mick."
"Swell, a fag and a dyke against the world."
"You have straight woman in your corner, too."
He smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek. "I sure do. How is that asshole, Evan, treating you?"
"Like shit. He criticizes everything I do...isn't that a Righteous Brothers lyric? Anyway, he so sucks at this, takes credit for the work of his team without even acknowledging any of us, and he yells a lot. He's making me crazy."
"He's a cunt. Sorry, Cyn. Did his wife have her baby?"
"Yes, a little girl. I feel sorry for them both."
"Yeah, me too. She seemed nice enough. Someday we'll be working together again, Cyn. Be patient."
"That gives me a reason to hang in."
The door buzzer rang and Brian answered it, surprised to hear Mick's voice. He let her in, and opened the door to the loft. She stepped off the elevator while juggling a sack from Starbucks and a briefcase. She wore faded jeans and a sweatshirt from Smith. She looked tired. He took the sack as she explained, "Brought you some chai, and a bear claw. We need to talk, but that's not why I'm here. I would've called first but I'm a rude, pushy dyke. What are you gonna do?"
He laughed. "And that's why I love you. Come in, Mick. You know Cyn."
"Sure, hi Cynthia."
"Hi Mick. I need to get back to work anyway. Later, Brian."
Brian saw his time with his trainer slipping away if he didn't leave soon. He had to pay whether he was there or not. He took the goodies out of the bag and began to munch on the pastry, suddenly hungry. "So what's up?"
"I'm here to talk to Melanie. Is she here?"
Brian smiled wickedly. This was worth missing a training session. "Oh yeah, she's here."
"Could you get her for me?"
"Is there going to be bloodshed? Because if so, stay away from the suede upholstery. I'll never get it out."
"What a dick thing to say."
They both looked up as Melanie entered the room, dressed casually and carrying her leather duffel. She looked curiously at Mick, as Brian smiled and licked the sugar off his fingertips. "Mel, this is Mick Donovan, my lawyer. Mick, this is Melanie Marcus, my former lawyer."
Melanie flushed at the name, putting it together, her little face becoming as hard as granite. "I only did one legal matter for you and that was enough. So you're the one."
"The one?" Mick said with a smile. "Not sure what that means. Brian, are you going to hang around?"
"Can I? Please?"
"No," the women said in unison, and he sighed and stood up.
"Fine, kicked out of my own home. I'll go work out. But the last one standing needs to lock the door on their way out. I'll call you later, Mick, about the other stuff. I have new information."
"Okay, thanks, Brian."
He picked up his chai and left as Melanie glared after him. "What an asshole. Good luck with representing him. If anyone ever deserved to be fired, it's Brian Kinney."
"That's a ridiculous thing to say. You obviously have no idea about his value to that firm nor do you know their motivation. Given that fact, maybe you shouldn't comment on his culpability."
The gauntlet thrown, Melanie turned her ire to Mick. "I've known Brian longer than you have, so I think I'm imminently qualified to comment on what a miserable excuse for a human being he is."
"You may have known him longer, but you can't know him better, or you wouldn't say that about a man who has shown me nothing but courage and compassion, and who, by the way, happens to be the biological father of your son."
"I don't need you to remind me of that sad fact."
"By berating Brian, you are by implication suggesting Gus is disadvantaged genetically, which is hardly the case. He adores his father. Just as Brian adores him. Do you think it's healthy to denigrate someone Gus adores?"
"I think it's none of your fucking business."
"You're wrong about that."
"How do you figure?"
"Because Gus is living with me now. I share in the responsibility of his upbringing."
Melanie crossed her arms at her chest glaring daggers at the bigger woman. "The fuck you do! Just because Lindsay and Gus stayed at your place while Brian was sick doesn't make you his wicked lesbo stepmother!"
Mick picked up Brian's abandoned coffee mug and passed it under Melanie's nose before carrying it to the kitchen and putting it in the sink. "Wake up and take a whiff, Melanie. Lindsay and I are a couple now."
"You're nothing more than a rebound, revenge fuck. She believed I was screwing around on her, so she wanted to pay me back. Look at you. You're a big, fat bull dyke, not her type at all. And you're old."
Mick laughed, opening a bottle of water she took from the refrigerator. Melanie wondered at how comfortable she seemed to be in Brian's home and with Brian personally. "You can't hurt me with childish taunts about my appearance, Melanie. I realize you're younger than I am and much prettier. But younger and prettier was just not working for Lindsay. At least not when it was wrapped up with the rest of your package. I fully acknowledge I may be a rebound romance for her, although I pray that's not the case. I care more for Lindsay than I have for anyone else, in years. I'm not rolling over for you. If you think you can get her back, it'll be after a fight, I promise you that. And in the meantime, I won't allow you to disrupt her peace of mind by your threats and recriminations. It's not healthy for Gus, and it's not healthy for Lindsay."
"If you think you can keep me from my son, you're nuts. Brian Kinney has no rights to that child."
"Okay, Melanie, let's get one thing straight. I may look like a Kansas farm girl, but I have a mind like a steel trap. I have devoured silk stockings law firms. You aren't even an appetizer for me. I play within the rules, but I know how to manipulate the law to the advantage of my clients with a skill few in our profession can match. Defendants fear me. Juries love me. Judges love me. If you want to challenge me on legal grounds, or add to Brian's woes by trying to come between his son and him, or make Lindsay miserable by using Gus as a weapon, bring it on. I will grind you into bone meal and spread you on the roses."
Melanie looked at the big, strongly built woman and felt a chill. Her tone was even, but the threat was unmistakable. "I'm not afraid of you," she lied and Mick shrugged.
"That's bad judgment on your part. I won't stay, I just wanted to clear the air between us and make sure you understood this isn't some little fling for me. I'm crazy about Lindsay and almost as crazy about Gus. And Brian is not only my client, he's also become a friend. So why don't you take your scrawny ass back to Pittsburgh and let the rest of us live in peace?"
"How eloquent. You must wow them in court. With that remark, I'll leave you." Mick picked up her briefcase and left the loft as Melanie headed for the telephone.
Brian, Lindsay, Mick and Justin met for a late lunch near the gallery. Mick cautioned Brian not to discuss his case since the presence of the others destroyed the privilege she shared with him as his attorney. Brian, relaxed from a ferocious workout followed by a luxurious steam, rested his arm across Justin's shoulders as they awaited their sandwiches and salads. He had gone home to change and was delighted to find Melanie gone.
"Did she really go back to Pittsburgh or will we find her putrefying body in the basement of my building?" Brian quipped and Mick laughed.
"Yeah, but which of us did it?"
"Stop," Lindsay said with a wince. "I know for a fact she was alive after she met with Mick, because I saw her. She's leaving later this afternoon. She was very sweet. She apologized for creating a scene and for the way things were going and said she wanted to spend some time with Gus before she went back."
Mick cut her a glance as Brian leaned over to kiss Justin on the lips for no reason other than the fact he just wanted to kiss him. "So you were at my place with Gus and Melanie?" Mick asked.
"No, honey, I brought him with me to the gallery and she met us there."
"So where is Gus now?"
Brian sensed concern in Mick's voice. He looked at her as Lindsay answered. "He's still with Melanie. She was going to bring him by on her way to the airport."
"How long ago was that?"
Lindsay bristled. "I don't know, Mick! Hours! What difference does it make? She's his mother, too. No matter what happens between us, it's not as if she'd ever hurt Gus. She loves him."
Brian felt his stomach tighten. "What's wrong, Mick?"
She sighed. "Maybe I've just been practicing law for too long. It's given me a suspicious mind."
"In what way?" Justin asked innocently and Mick shrugged.
"I wouldn't have left Melanie alone with Gus."
"Because?" Brian persisted.
"Things happen when people are enraged with a mate, or a former mate."
"Just stop," Lindsay insisted. "I know you can't stand Mel, Brian, and you're wary of her, Mick, but she loves Gus and she would NEVER hurt that boy! I'm sad that you would even suspect such a thing."
"I don't suspect it, Lindsay," Mick corrected her. "I never thought she would hurt Gus. I fear she will TAKE Gus. She has legal rights to him. She is as much his mother as you are, under the law. And you're the one who took him out of state."
Lindsay turned pale. "W-what are you suggesting? That Melanie could take Gus with her?"
"Don't panic. It's equally likely she wouldn't, but it's not impossible to imagine. I suggest Gus not be left alone..."
"This is bullshit!" Brian interrupted, tossing his cell phone to Lindsay who fumbled but caught it. "Call that cunt!"
Lindsay punched in Melanie's mobile number, but she never answered. Handing the phone back to Brian, she forced a tense smile. "This is silly. We're all worrying about nothing. Mel would never make Gus a pawn in all this conflict."
"Melanie would make Gus a human shield if it would progress her own selfish agenda," Brian said bitterly and Lindsay glared at him.
"Unfair, my ass! I want to know where my kid is. I want to know NOW."
"Enough." Mick said firmly. "I started this, and I'm sorry. But we get nowhere if we start sniping at each other. What time is Melanie supposed to bring Gus back, Lindsay?"
Lindsay glanced at her watch. "About an hour from now."
"It's not as if we can call the police, nothing's happened. I suggest we finish lunch, then wait and see if Melanie returns as promised. It's too soon to panic. Brian, who are you calling?"
"The airlines. I want to know what the flight times are back to the Pitts. I saw her ticket in an outside pocket of her bag, so I know what airline she flew."
He listened to an agent reel off departure times, checking his watch as she did so. When he hung up, he looked over at Lindsay. "What time did she pick up Gus?"
"About an hour before I left to come here."
"Then I'm sure if she did this, she went straight to the airport, because there was a flight an hour and a half after that time."
Lindsay stood up. Her face was pale, but her voice was firm. "Melanie wouldn't do that. She just wouldn't make Gus a pawn. You hate her, Brian, and you just had a fight with her, Mick, so you two are prejudiced! I have a job, I have to get back to work, and so do you, Justin."
Justin glanced at Brian, who nodded, and then kissed him lightly on the lips as he left with Lindsay. When they were alone, Mick sighed. "I shouldn't have said anything. I'm suspicious by nature. You know Melanie. Would she do it?"
"First of all, I don't hate her. My feelings for her are not that strong. Second of all, she's capable of anything, and since she lost her baby, she's been fucking weird about Gus. She resents him as much as she loves him. Lindsay and I have even talked about it. If she did take him, what can we do?"
"Fight it. Despite the legalities of adoption, the fact that Linds is the birth mother and primary caretaker will go a long way. Unfortunately, Linds took him out of the state without permission before Melanie did. We can't call the police or the FBI, it's not really a kidnapping, since Melanie is also his legal parent. It could be a very ugly situation, Brian. I couldn't handle it for her, because we're lovers. I'm too close. So there's also a money issue."
"Lindsay can't live without Gus, and frankly, I don't want my son with that bitch. So whatever it costs, I'll find the money to support her effort. This seems to be my year for legal fees."
She covered his hand with hers. "You're a good man, Charlie Brown."
"Yeah, just ask Mel. So, want to talk about my case since we can't do anything about Gus until we know for sure what happened?"
"Yes, you said something about new information."
Brian showed her the calendar entries and the annual report, explaining the significance of both. "How did you get this?" Mick asked and he shrugged.
"I have my sources."
"You know, if we use this to confront them, whoever your source may be will be in serious trouble."
"How would they know who it is?"
"They'd start by firing Cynthia, because they know she's close to you. Even if she didn't get the information, they would think she gave it to you. No, don't confirm or deny, I don't want to know. But think about that fact."
"I don't want to get Cyn in trouble."
"But this information is huge, Brian. If your supposition is correct, if Kimbrough is dissing you to other ad agencies because they want to squeeze you out of the business as revenge for Jeffrey Walker's fate, then we have a locked down defamation case that could be worth big bucks. We need to think if there's a way to develop it without implicating anyone inside the firm. And by the way, that's serious money working to get you slapped down."
"I know. Are you scared?"
"Scared?" She laughed. "This is what I do. This is the kind of thing I like. Fat Cat bastards who think they own the world and can crush any little ant they want make me puke. It's deep pockets, babe. If we can make a case, we'll pull in Boston International and Jeffrey Walker, Senior and up the ante big time. You may not have to work again, ever."
Brian laughed. "Good, because I may not be able to work again. We're talking years, right?"
"Yeah, to do all the discovery and get a trial and survive the appeals. "
"I can't last that long, Mick. I need money now. We have to do enough to scare them into a fair settlement. Okay, even a big settlement. But I can't last for years."
"I understand. But they have to believe you'll try the case, Brian, otherwise there's no threat. There's one weapon in our arsenal we need to launch at the right moment and soon."
"The power of the press. I have lots of contacts in the gay media. And if we're lucky, a mainstream publication will get interested in it. Big companies and fat cats don't like to be linked to press accounts about gay boys and prejudices. It would out you big time, however, invade your privacy."
"I'm not in. So I can't be outed. I have no qualms about embarrassing my mother or my sister. Justin won't care, he's strong, and Gus is too little to know. Fuck it. Let's do it."
"Has to be the right time. Speaking of time, I have to go. I have a meeting with the Board of the Center."
"May I share a cab? I want to see Shea, it's been a few days."
"Sure and put your money away. This is on me. It's a business lunch, a write-off. How is Shea doing? Frankie says he's having a tough time with the meds."
Brian frowned. "Yeah, very tough."
"Poor kid." They walked to the corner and hailed a cab. Once they were settled inside, Mick asked, "Why does Melanie hate you so much?"
Brian contemplated that for a moment, and then shrugged. "I guess because my dick is so much bigger than hers." Their eyes met and then they both dissolved into laughter.
Brian was surprised by Shea's appearance, but he struggled not to show it as they walked across the street to sit in the small park and absorb some late afternoon sunlight. Even walking that far seemed to tire Shea. He was thinner, if that was possible, and looked so fragile that Brian worried he could break just from the pressure of standing or sitting or walking.
"I have thrush," Shea said numbly. "It's no big deal, but it makes it hard to eat and they're giving me something that seems to be making it go away, but it's always something. They can't seem to get my cocktail right. I react to so many drugs and drug combos that they can't find the magic bullet. I'm tired all the time and I eat, but I get terrible diarrhea that takes my weight down. So now I'm on this special diet, and that may help. They never really tell me what my viral load is or my t-cell count, because they know I'm already depressed. Lydia changed my antidepressants, but they don't help much. I just wish it was over."
"Don't say that."
"Why not? Who would care, Brian? What do I bring to the world? Nothing. The only thing I could ever do right was suck dick, and now I don't even do that."
"Shea, you're going through a rough patch, while they try to balance your meds. Once they do, you'll feel better, have more energy, start to rebuild your weight as all your counts go up."
"Since when are you as big a liar as the rest of them?"
Brian sighed. "I'm not lying. I believe it. I've seen it. I'm sorry you couldn't meet my friend, Ben. But next time they come to town, you will. I should look as good and be as healthy as Ben."
"Your super AIDS faggot? I'm not like that, never will be."
"Okay, kid, I'm not gonna sit here and blow smoke up your ass. But I won't listen to doomsday, either. The truth is somewhere in the middle." He lit up and Shea wiggled his fingers to request one. Brian frowned, but the boy laughed.
"Lung cancer won't be what kills me. Come on."
Brian passed off the freshly lit cigarette and lit one for himself. "Have you thought any more about calling your mom?"
"I have no mom."
"Your mom is worried about you, Shea."
"Well, I'm sure your mom is worried about you too, Brian. Do you give a shit?"
Brian smiled. He had a point. "I had a shitty childhood too. I can relate."
"Doubt it. Let's not talk about families. Don't you have a job? Are you independently wealthy? I see you around at odd times."
"I got fired. I'm between gigs."
"Fired for what?"
"Being queer, maybe. Maybe more dire reasons, not sure yet. It doesn't matter. The results are the same. I'm suing them."
"Cool. Are you scared?"
"Being out of work."
"Oh. Yeah, I'm scared. I'm scared of the money running out. I'm scared of the future. I'm scared of not being able to support my kid or my partner."
"It's good that you can admit it. You're not the type."
Brian smiled. "I don't know what type I am anymore. I'm trying to be better than the type I was."
"You're okay," Shea said with a shrug. It was as much of a compliment as he could muster. He reached back to rub his neck, wincing as he did so.
"Slept funny, I guess. My neck hurts, feels stiff. And I've had this bitch of a headache all day."
"Did you tell anyone at the Center?"
"Why would I?"
"I don't know. But you should."
"It's probably just those damn drugs."
"Come on. Let's go back. Let's make sure about what it is."
When Brian walked into the loft that evening, Lindsay, Mick and Justin were gathered, and they each offered him a look of annoyance. Lindsay had clearly been crying and Mick had been unsuccessfully trying to calm her. Justin was tensely awaiting his lover. Brian looked at them and concluded, "So Gus is in Pittsburgh."
Lindsay began to cry again, and Mick put an arm around her and sighed. "Mr. Sensitivity. Melanie called to let her know Gus was fine and that she intended to keep him."
"Over my rotting corpse," Brian said, pouring himself a scotch. Justin came into the kitchen and confronted him with a glare.
"Where have you been? We've been worried."
"I've been at the hospital, Justin, with Shea. He had a spinal tap, always a fun way to spend an evening. It would appear he has something called cryptococcal meningitis. It's apparently common in AIDS victims who have t-cells below one hundred. It's a nasty little inflammation of the brain. He's in the hospital again, because they have to give him this very nasty little drug called amphotericin B intravenously. They combine that with some anti-fungal called flucytosine. I sound like a doctor, don't I? The fun thing for Shea, is that this is some fungus we all carry around but our immune systems block it from becoming a problem. Since his immune system is shot, he can keep getting this over and over again unless he takes that anti-fungal indefinitely. And now I come home to hear my son has been kidnapped by a psycho bitch. So don't fuck with me. I'm not in the mood."
"Shit," Mick said softly as Justin slipped his arms around Brian who tensed at first, and then allowed himself to relax into his embrace. "Shea's body is turning on him. This isn't good."
"No, Mick, it isn't good. And he's facing it alone. At seventeen."
"He's not alone," Justin said softly. "He has us."
Brian kissed him, and then held his hand as he led him back into the main room and pulled him down on the chaise with him. "Did we call the cops on Melanie?"
"There's no crime," Mick responded. "Melanie has just as much right to that child as Lindsay until a court says otherwise. She's backed you into a legal corner. If she had a history of abusing the child or was on drugs or something, we could claim endangerment. But from what I've heard, she's a model citizen."
"Being a psycho bitch doesn't count?" Brian insisted. "Taking Gus as a way of striking at Linds is meaningless?"
"She'll say Lindsay is the one who overreacted and took Melanie's child away from his home."
"And who will care for him while the bitch is at work?" Brian demanded.
"I'm sure she'll put him back in the same day care program where he was when Lindsay left."
"Brian, I just want my baby back!" Lindsay said with a sob and he went over to her, taking her in his arms as he rested his cheek against the top of her head. She clung to him desperately as he sighed and said,
"I know Linds, I know. And we'll get him back, don't worry. We'll get him back." He fixed his gaze on Mick who met his silent inquiry with a nod.
|Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
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July 25, 2004