SURPRISE! I just wanted to go ahead and post. The team will put the rest up when they have time, so don't bitch at them. THanks as always to Roz and Pfyre and Jen and ALan, and to COwlip for a great and inspirational third season, and to Gale and Randy for being Gale and Randy. HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY and hold onto your hats, for this one.
Melanie looked up as her visitor was escorted into her office by her secretary. She smiled tensely when Justin leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. She motioned to a chair and he sat down, lacing his fingers over one knee.
"So they sent in the U.N. Peacekeepers?" Melanie quipped. "You're letting them use you. They know you're the one person out of that lot that I would agree to see."
"I have the least emotional involvement, I guess. Not that I don't care about Gus, because I do, but I think I can be sane about it."
"Honey, you wasted Brian's dwindling fortune by coming here. I was well within my legal rights to bring Gus home and I'm not letting him go."
"I don't think anyone doubts that you have rights with Gus, Melanie. What shocked Lindsay is that you would make Gus the football in this game."
"Oh, I'm the bad one, am I? She flees the state, and takes him with her, and then she moves in with some bull dyke she hardly knows, and I'm the baddie?"
"No, Mel. No one is bad. But look at it from Gus's point of view. You may both be his mommies, but Linds is the one who carried him and who has been his primary caretaker all of his life, while you worked. Only recently has Linds begun working again. Now he's taken away from her. It can't be easy for him."
Melanie frowned. "In that case, maybe Lindsay should have thought of Gus instead of herself, for a change. I'm not giving him back to her, Justin. You may as well tell her that. Let her try and prove who's the better parent. I do this for a living. Tell her to try and prove how worthy she is as a mother."
"I hate to see that happen, Mel."
"You don't care about Lindsay, let's get real. You're here in your capacity as official pawn for Brian Kinney. It's more convenient for Brian to have Gus there in New York. So Brian sends you out here to confront me, and you use Lindsay as your bait to try to get his kid back. I will never understand the way you let him use you, Justin. It's disgusting."
"He doesn't ‘use' me, Mel. He loves me. I'm his partner. And yes, he's worried about his son, too."
"That's the proverbial icing on the cake for me, Sunshine, and you can tell him I said so."
Justin was feeling badly about his failed mission when he walked into Liberty Diner and was accosted by Debbie who crushed him in a bearhug. When she finally loosened her grip, he inhaled sharply and slid into a booth. She slid in on the opposite side, gripping his hand between hers on the table, her eyes filled with happy tears.
"How's my little Sunshine? I've missed you so much! You look great, honey. How is life treating you? Is Lindsay staying with you guys? Is she coming back soon? Did Brian find a job? I can't believe what happened..."
"Deb!" Justin laughed. "Hold down the machine gun fire! I've missed you too, life is wonderful, overall. I'm very happy with Brian and I enjoy my new job. Lindsay isn't staying with us, and I doubt if she's coming back soon. Brian hasn't found a job yet, but he's doing some work on his own and he's suing his old agency. How are you and Vic?"
"We're fine. Have you been by to see your Mom and Molly?"
"Not yet, but I will. Are they okay? I talk to them on the phone a lot."
"Molly's hair has grown back quite a bit. She looks like a little pixie. She's allowed out in public now, but not in crowds or when a flu epidemic or something is going around."
"Yeah, Brian sent her a bunch of things to dress up her hair from some fabulous shop in Soho. She talks to him more than she does to me, of course. He's still her hero and he still adores her. You haven't told Mom that he's out of work, have you?"
"No honey, that's not my place."
"Good, she has enough to worry about now, and Brian will survive, he always does. He doesn't want them to know."
"So you two boys are doing good? Michael said you're disgustingly happy."
Justin laughed. "Good word for it. Yes, Deb, we're fine. But Melanie took Gus back to Pittsburgh with her, and Lindsay is freaking out completely. It's one more stress Brian doesn't need. I tried to talk sense to Melanie, but no luck."
"Well, Lindsay should come back here. Those girls need to be in the same city if they want to work out their problems."
"It's not that easy."
"Why isn't it?"
"Because Linds has a job she loves, and because she...well... she's seeing someone else."
Justin laughed. "Of course a woman, Deb. She's still gay. Another lawyer. She must have a thing for lawyers," he wrinkled his nose at that thought and Deb sighed.
"Well, since you say that, I may as well tell you I've seen Melanie out and about with a beautiful Asian woman. They seem very chummy. It's worried me."
"It worried Linds too. That's why she left."
Justin nodded. "Too bad everyone can't have a relationship as smooth and easy as what Brian and I share."
Their eyes met and then both of them laughed heartily at his little joke. They were interrupted by the noisy entrance of Emmett and Ted who were arguing about something. They paused in their disagreement when they saw Justin. Both rushed over to greet him warmly. As Debbie went back to her other customers, the three men made plans for a welcome home trip to Babylon that evening, since Justin wasn't leaving until morning.
"So dish about Brian getting fired," Ted insisted with an evil grin and Justin sighed.
"Explain something to me, Ted. How come you guys consider yourselves long time friends of Brian's, and yet you take particular glee from anything bad that happens to him? It's as if you want him to be hurt. Why is that? I can't think of anything he did to either one of you to warrant that kind of reaction. Just the opposite, in fact. He got you a job, when you were out of work, Ted. He even let you use his home and his persona, to act out your fantasy. Yes, he told me. And as for you, Emmett, I know he's your wet dream and if he ever looked at you sideways, you'd have been down on his dick like a scuba diver. So why so vicious? I'll be honest. It makes me angry. It doesn't fit my definition of friendship."
There was a moment of silence as the other men looked uncomfortable and then Justin stood up. "Anyway, I have to go see my Mom. I just stopped by to say hello to Deb. I'll see you tonight."
Brian was feeling low. He missed Justin. He supported Justin's staying over to visit his mother and sister, but he missed him. He was sorry Justin had failed to persuade Melanie, but he wasn't surprised. Melanie knew she was in the catbird seat and she wasn't about to give it up. The thought of Gus with that humorless, bitchy dyke made his blood run cold. To top it off, Shea was having trouble battling the meningitis, his beleaguered immune system unable to wage a strong fight. He was expected to survive, but the battle was one more set back for his general health.
Brian dined out with Lindsay and Mick, but all three were solemn, and Lindsay was prone to tears over everything from her order being wrong to the butter being too hard to spread. He knew she was battling a harsh reality. Either enter into a prolonged fight during which she would be separated from her son, or give up her new life and her new love and go back to Pittsburgh to be near her son, yet miserable with everything else. He understood her struggle and saw how much that dilemma was hurting Mick. Because of these undercurrents, dinner was subdued and sad.
Justin called Brian's mobile while Brian was walking back to the loft after dinner. Brian was glad to hear from his lover, and he understood why he was going to Babylon with the boys. He trusted that nothing would happen, but he was still jealous and lonely. On the way home, he stopped at a bar not far from his loft. It was a mixed gay/straight artsy crowd, and the ambiance was soothing, with lots of green plants, soft jazz and pretty people. Someone came up from behind him and bussed his cheek. He smelled divine and Brian smiled when Freddie, Jeffrey's former lover, sat down beside him.
"How's my hero?" Freddie asked in his thick German accent and Brian sighed. The beautiful blond model reminded him of his own missing blond, even though they really were nothing alike.
"Not feeling very heroic tonight," he said, accepting a Dunhill cigarette that Freddie offered him and then lit with a gold lighter.
"What's wrong, sweetie? Where's your young fella?"
"Visiting his mom in Pittsburgh. He'll be back tomorrow."
"One night on your own, is not so bad, Brian. It's good for a relationship to miss each other occasionally. What do you hear from our bad boy, Jeffrey?"
"Hopefully nothing. Ever. Can I ask you a question, Freedy?" He always had a hard time pronouncing his name the way the man wanted it pronounced.
"Of course, I'm the open book."
"Do you know Jeffrey's father?"
Freddie winced. "The Iron Man? Oh yes."
"What's he like?"
"Handsome, older man type. Very tall, very authoritarian, rules that family with an iron fist. It's no coincidence that his son turned out to be queer and his daughter is a slut. Now that Jeffrey is incarcerated, I hate the idea that Hannah is being raised by that man. His wife is sweet, but ineffective against him. It's all about the family with him. You'd think he was heir to some fictitious throne. Of course he's fabulously wealthy, always has been, and powerful. So that always corrupts absolutely. He hated me, because I'm an effeminate queer and he blamed me for Jeffrey being the way he is. Ridiculous, because Jeffrey was always queer. In fact, I think I kept Jeffrey rather sane for awhile. Only after we broke up did he go completely psychotic. I think he owes a lot of that psychosis to his father and his controlling ways."
"We all owe our psychotic side to a parent, don't we?" Brian said bitterly. "Does he love Jeffrey? Would he avenge him?"
"Love? This is a man who's not capable of love, I'm convinced. But yes, he would avenge, not out of love for Jeffrey, but because he would view harm to Jeffrey as a blight on his family. He would avenge his family honor over anything. And he has unlimited resources to do so. Why, Brian? Is he after you?"
"I don't know. Maybe."
Freddie flinched. "Run, darling. You can't win with a man that rich and that connected."
"I have nowhere to run to, Freedy. I have no choice but to fight."
"Christ, that's no good," he leaned over, slipping an arm around Brian's shoulders as he said in a low voice, "You want your dick sucked, Brian? Would that make you feel a little happier? I live nearby."
Brian smiled and shook his head. "It would probably make me feel a little happier, but not for long. I've got to say no, but thanks, Freedy. Your drink is on me. I need to go."
"Don't be silly, darling, this is all on my tab. Some other time, maybe."
Brian nodded, and left the bar, lost in confused thoughts concerning Jeffrey's father. He was surprised to open the door to the loft and find Lindsay there, seated on the sofa, not crying, but having recently stopped. She looked so vulnerable in her dark dress and bare feet, her strappy sandals abandoned on the floor and her long pale hair half up and half down, falling free of its clips.
"Thank god you didn't bring a trick home," she said with a sniff. "I don't think I could've handled that."
"I don't do that anymore, Linds," he said with a hint of annoyance. "What's up?"
He sat beside her and she cuddled up to him, resting her head on his shoulder. He slipped a protective arm around her. "I told Mick I needed to talk to you tonight. You're the Daddy. You have the biggest stake in this besides me. I need your input, Brian. Just the two of us. But first, I need your stash."
He glanced at her and laughed, retrieving his marijuana, rolling joints for both of them. As the green-scented smoke curled around them, they held each other and searched for a quiet calm in which to discuss the future fate of their son.
Justin had a hangover. His early morning flight out of Pittsburgh was no help, and the motion of the plane just made him queasy. By the time his cab arrived at the loft address, he wanted a hot shower and sleep. He was surprised to find Brian was still sleeping soundly, even though it was almost noon. His long, lithe body naked above the sheets, his smooth ass exposed to Justin's view, Justin was beginning to reorganize his plans as he felt the crotch of his jeans become suddenly snug. He stripped quietly to avoid waking Brian, noticing the roaches stubbed out in the ashtray beside the bed, which probably contributed to Brian's heavy slumber. Naked, Justin slid in beside him smoothing his hand down the slope of Brian's back. He spied something black against the gray sheets and pulled it out from under the cover, holding it up as if unsure of what he was seeing.
Brian stirred, squinted his eyes at the light, and then focused on his naked lover and smiled. Before he could reach for him, Justin dangled the retrieved object between them. Brian stared at it, then moaned and dropped back against the pillow.
"What the fuck is this?" Justin demanded and Brian sighed.
"It's a bra."
"I know it's a bra. Looks like it may be a little big for you. You have great pecs, but not a C-cup. Are you doing transvestites, now?"
Brian grabbed it from him and put it down on the table. "Don't queen out on me, Justin. It belongs to Lindsay. It's a long story."
"I have all day," Justin said, sitting cross-legged beside him, his jaw set in an angry scowl.
"C'mere, I missed you," Brian reached for him, but Justin eluded his grasp.
"Talk first. Fuck later, maybe. Maybe fuck never."
Brian sighed. "Look, we had a terrible day after you told us what Mel said. Especially Lindsay. She has two terrible choices before her. She's devastated. I went to dinner with Mick and Linds and we discussed it, and it was very sad and subdued. Later, Linds showed up here to talk about Gus. She was in tears, all shaky and scared and hopeless. Vulnerable, you know?"
Justin rolled his eyes. "Your favorite thing. Sir Lancelot to the rescue. "
"Whatever. I feel for her, Justin. So we got ripped, and..."
"And we talked and..."
"You fucked her."
"I didn't mean to fuck her."
"Right," Justin said angrily. "You just fell on her with your hard dick and then the fox found its hole."
Brian suppressed a smile. "Justin, the fox hasn't found that particular hole in about thirteen years. It's amazing it still knew how that hole worked. It was stupid, we both wish it didn't happen and frankly neither of us enjoyed it very much. She couldn't wait to get out of here, in fact she left so fast she didn't even keep looking for her bra. She just threw on the rest of her clothes and vanished." Brian tried to make light of it. "Not only did the earth fail to move, but I think we destroyed whatever fond memories lingered about the old days."
"I'm not amused by this, Brian."
"Justin, I admit it was wrong for a lot of reasons. But it has nothing to do with you and me. She's a woman, she's my first heterosexual slip in thirteen years, and she was my last heterosexual slip thirteen years ago. In thirteen more years, I just may bang her again, and I guess you'll have to live with that threat. It wasn't planned. I could've picked up a guy if I wanted some stray sex, which I didn't. I never meant for this to happen and neither did she. It's over. She's not your competition."
"Brian, in case I wasn't clear about this, I don't like the fact you would fuck a woman any more than I like your fucking a guy. Fucking around is fucking around."
"It's not happening again, so stop busting my balls. I'm queer, Justin, not bi. This was just a combination of circumstances that isn't happening again. So get over it. I love you. I love her too, but in a different way. I'm sorry if this hurts your feelings, but it makes no dent in our relationship. It was a fluke."
Justin laid back on the bed, closing his eyes as his headache flared. Brian reached for him, but he eluded his grasp and turned his back on him, pulling the sheet over his head. Brian stared at the formidable invisible blockade his lover erected between them and finally left the bed, acknowledging defeat.
That afternoon, Brian entered Mick's office to be greeted by a curt, "Drop your skinny ass in that chair, Bucko, and lets talk about how the cow chewed the cabbage."
Brian smirked at her, expecting Mick to be blunt. He lit a cigarette. "May I go first? Am I on the clock? Because I don't expect to be billed for getting an ass-chewing."
"We have a contingency deal, rocket scientist. I'm not being paid by the hour. I get a piece of whatever award or settlement we get. Did you even read the fee agreement?"
"I scanned it. I trust you, Mick. Look, you don't have to worry about Linds and me..."
She held up a hand to stop him. "Don't. I'm not Melanie. I know Lindsay has unresolved feelings for you. I also know her feelings for you are far more intense than are yours for her. I'm fine with that, Brian. Even I have former lovers who still engender regrets. What I'm not fine with is your taking advantage of her when she's so vulnerable. I'm not threatened by her emotions, I know you're a true faggot. No woman is ever going to win your heart or your dick. I'm not even that concerned if she takes an occasional detour into the realm of the pink submarine. I know where she lives when it comes to sex. But she's fragile right now, and I won't have you dicking with her head."
He sighed. "It wasn't like that. Look, I love Linds in my own way, and I've always tried to be mindful of the fact she has unresolved regrets about our past relationship. I think those feelings are illusory, she would never really want to take me on full-time, even if I were interested. I've been careful not to encourage that shit. I don't know what happened last night, Mick. We were miserable about Gus, and we got stoned. No excuses, but I do apologize and I do regret that it happened. I'm in trouble with Justin, if it makes you feel any better. I've made you mad and I'm sure Lindsay hates it. It sucks. It wasn't worth it."
Mick stared hard at him, and then shook her head. "Tact was never your strong suit, was it? I love that about you. You come onto her again, I'll pickle your little pecker in brine and slice it on a burger. We understand each other?"
"It's not so little," he said with a smirk.
They both chuckled. "What do you know about size?" Mick insisted. "Men are constitutionally unable to measure accurately. They've misled themselves so long about what equals six inches."
"Yeah, well, ask your girlfriend."
"Oddly enough the size of your dangle doesn't interest me, Brian. Are we together on this? Because I won't fight guerilla warfare for her affection the way you and Melanie have for so long. I believe in hand-to-hand combat if there's to be a battle."
"No battle. I surrender. I have what I want in Justin."
"Good, because I like you a lot, Brian, but I won't share Lindsay's box with you."
He held up both palms. "It's all yours."
Mick extended her hand to him and he shook it. She then lit a cigarette and opened a file folder. "This is your formal complaint with the state and city agencies that prosecute discrimination claims. You have to exhaust this administrative remedy before you can sue. Standard stuff. It may draw some press, however. Queer stuff is wicked gossip and this is a big agency. Plus, you have some shine because of the Jeffrey Walker scandal."
"It's nothing compared to the limelight you'll be standing in when you testify against Jeffrey."
"What about that Boston Industries connection?"
"Our ace in the hole, Brian. In a day or two, I'll call your former esteemed general counsel at the agency and drop a broad hint that I'm looking at an action against one of his top clients which will put the agency in a real dicey situation."
Brian cocked a single brow and smiled. "Oh, that's good."
"I know. I am good, it's what I do."
"So they'll pump up their offer?"
"If they have half a brain, yes."
Brian nodded. "Can't you be equally devious with Melanie?"
"Not my area. I know just enough to be dangerous."
"That's how I like my lawyers, big and dangerous."
"Remember that the next time you get a stiffy around Lindsay."
He winced. "Can we just forget about that? I have."
"Sure, come on. I'll buy you a drink downstairs."
He agreed, relieved to leave this disaster behind them.
Justin had been running from gallery to gallery for Leo, dropping off the freshly- minted brochures for the next exhibition in the Midtown location, and Tribeca was his last stop. He was dreading seeing Lindsay, and when he was finally alone with her in her office, they were both uncharacteristically quiet.
"I'm sorry, Justin," she said and he met her eyes with a frank expression.
"About fucking Brian while you were in Pittsburgh, trying to help us. It was a rotten thing to do, no matter how meaningless it was."
He sighed, rolling his lips inward, a nervous habit that he picked up from his lover. "Yeah, that."
"I don't know what he told you, but it was..."
Justin stopped her. "Don't. Don't tell me it didn't mean anything, it wasn't that great, it wasn't right, you both regret it, it will never happen again, okay? I've heard all that."
"It's all true, all of it."
"Is it, Linds? You didn't enjoy it with him?"
"I won't lie to you, Justin. I enjoyed it more than he did. Brian's a great lover, and I've always missed him that way, a little. He's the only man who really took me there, you know? But the momentary thrill aside, it was pretty awful. We both felt like shit, because we both love other people, and we knew it was stupid and wrong. Afterwards, I just wanted to get out of there. Away from him and from what we did. It wasn't even particularly comforting, which disappointed both of us. He loves you so much, Justin. I never thought Brian could feel that way about anyone. I was always a little jealous of you for the depth of emotion you aroused in him, but I see things more clearly now."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I saw first hand that the old Brian, ‘no regrets, no apologies', was a thing of the past. When I looked at his face after it was over, it wasn't pleasure or afterglow I saw on his features, it was regret. I knew it had nothing to do with me. It was all about you. He told me he was going to be honest with you, because he couldn't have that secret between you. I told Mick, too. It was horrible, and we don't have the history you two share. Please forgive him. It was just an odd combination of circumstances that won't happen again."
"I have forgiven him, Lindsay. I love him, what choice do I have? But it did hurt me. I want you to know that."
"It hurt all of us, honey. I'm sorry."
She looked up as Brian walked into the office, standing beside Justin and resting a hand on his shoulder. "Leo told me where to find you. I thought I should be here for this. Mick and I made peace. Have you?"
Justin looked up at him. "It hurts."
Brian saw his lover's blue eyes cloud over with tears and he sighed and squatted beside his chair, resting Justin's chin on his fingertips. "I love you, Justin. Only you, forever you, no one but you. Period. I was stupid. Forgive me."
Lindsay bit into her lower lip, unable to believe those words were coming from Brian Kinney. Not only was he saying them, but he was saying them in front of an audience. Justin hesitated, then rested a hand on the back of Brian's head and leaned over to kiss him. Brian wrapped his arms around him as they kissed, and when it ended, he stood and offered his hand to Justin, helping him stand. "Let's go home," he said quietly. Justin slipped an arm around him, and rested his head against his shoulder as they walked out together.
Lindsay caught Brian's eye as they left. The look between them had the impact of an open door quietly swinging shut.
The next day, Brian met a friend for lunch at a quiet bistro in midtown. Off the main shopping streets, it was not often frequented by tourists, making it a good place for nearby office workers to lunch. Only after he sat down at the table with the man did he remember he lunched here with Jeffrey, once. It was at the beginning of his relationship with Jeffrey, when he had no clue as to the magnitude of Jeffrey's psychosis. He remembered seeing the doctor crouch in the bathroom, crying over the death of a young patient. At that moment, Brian thought he was the most compassionate person he had ever met. Funny how wrong early impressions could be.
"Thanks for meeting me for lunch, Mark."
The young man was Brian's peer in a rival agency. They often crossed paths at ad events. When the man's firm tried to lure Brian away from Vanguard, Mark was the one who bore the message. They were occasional tennis or racquetball opponents, so their relationship was business tinged with personal. Mark was Brian's age, a handsome Princeton-educated African-American, straight, but unthreatened by Brian's homosexuality.
After pleasantries were exchanged and an order was placed, Mark said, "Sorry to hear about your trouble, Brian."
"I don't know. I wish I did. What are you hearing?"
"The last thing I heard was that you were suing the agency."
Brian smiled. "Hasn't come to that yet, but it may."
"Based on what?"
"Let's not get into all that. Mark, remember a few months ago when you tried to raid Vanguard and lure me to sign with you?"
He looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Uh, yeah, sure. Too bad it didn't work out."
"I recently sent a resume to your agency and I got back a polite and formal no interest letter."
Mark shrugged. "Economic times are tough. No one has the same financial flexibility we had a few months ago."
"You're running ads to hire people. You have a search firm engaged. Don't jerk me off, Mark. What's going on?"
Mark sighed. "Is this just between us? Not something for your lawsuit?"
"You have my word."
Mark knew Brian, and that was enough. "I really don't know what's going on, Brian. When I heard you were out, I immediately went to our managing partner and said here's our chance to get Kinney. He agreed, told me to move on it. I was working on a campaign, and a day or two passed before I could even think about it. On the same day I was going to call you, he comes into my office and closes the door. He looks very worried. He asks me if I've talked to you yet. I tell him no. He sighs and says good, don't. I asked what he meant. He said, ‘we don't want that guy. According to Felix, he's a loose cannon'."
Brian nodded. "I figured as much. He's trashing me. Would your boss agree to sign a statement to that effect?"
"Are you serious? Of course not. You said this was off the record."
"It is, Mark, at least your part in it is. I have independent evidence that suggests Felix called your managing partner and I may be forced to pursue it."
"I don't care about that so long as my fingerprints aren't on it."
"You're a great ad man, Brian. Why would Kimbrough let you go and then try to diss you to other agencies?"
"That's the final Jeopardy question, Mark, and I'm betting my whole wad on the answer."
Mark nodded, admiring his courage, but worried about the outcome. "Are you still with that blond kid I met when he came to the health club that day to meet you for lunch?"
Brian nodded. "Justin, yeah, he's my partner. Why?"
"My wife and I would like the two of you to come over for dinner sometime soon. Quietly of course. My managing partner would kill me. The twins are a terror, but she's a great cook. Italian is her specialty."
"We'd love to come over, thanks," Brian didn't do straight couples very well, but he always liked Mark and was impressed by his bravery and acceptance. "How old are your twins?"
"Just turned three."
"My son's age, almost."
"I didn't realize you had a kid." Mark seemed surprised by the possibility.
Brian smiled at his expression. "Yeah, Gus. Long story."
"You'll have to tell me sometime."
"I will. Have you ever thought about going out on your own?"
"The usual constraints. A new apartment in Tribeca, two kids to educate, a nanny, a wife who's addicted to Bloomies, maxed out credit cards...in other words, fear and money."
"You think you could steal some clients?"
"Sure, but maybe not the biggest ones."
"But some good paying solid citizens?"
"I think so, but...what evil are you cooking up in that brilliant mind of yours?"
Brian smiled slyly. "Who me? Why nothing. Nothing at all."
|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