Brian stared at his banker with a combination of disbelief and confusion. Finally he spoke. "What am I missing?"
The man looked uncomfortable as he shifted his weight, and gazed at his handsome client who was dressed in an expensive Italian suit. "It's not personal, Mr. Kinney. It's business."
"My credit's perfect, isn't it? I've never paid a bill late in my life."
The banker looked down at a credit report bearing Brian's name and nodded. "Flawless."
"No one could really argue that I don't have the experience to launch a business, could they? I have a strong record in the ad game, plenty of awards, and I've already lined up some lucrative clients. True?"
"Yes, you've done a very thorough job with your proposal, Mr. Kinney."
"I'm sorry, but the committee turned down your loan request. You have to realize the economy is iffy right now. Investing in a new business in a highly competitive field is not necessarily prudent."
"‘Prudent'. If I was a bad risk, I would agree. But I've never defaulted on a loan. I have the obvious expertise to do this, and it's ludicrous to presume I'd fail. I maintain healthy bank accounts here. You can look and see how careful I am with money." This denial was a possibility Brian had scarcely considered. There was no valid reason why he couldn't get start-up money to open an agency. He was beginning to feel panic claw at his gut. No job interviews, and now a possibly insurmountable obstacle to opening his business. What the fuck was he supposed to do?
"There's nothing I can do, Mr. Kinney."
"Well, there's something I can do," Brian said as he stood up. "I can move my money to another bank."
The man didn't respond and Brian paused at the door. "Tell me something. Does Boston International keep accounts here?"
The stricken look on the banker's face gave Brian his answer even when the man said, "I couldn't discuss that with you if they did, Mr. Kinney."
"Interesting," Brian left the building. He stopped on the sidewalk, considering his next move. He thought about calling Mick, but instead he called another number.
Justin had been visiting with Shea, the younger man too weak to do much more than talk quietly with him, but he seemed happy for the company. He had been sent home from the hospital once his condition stabilized. His meningitis was being controlled by aggressive drug therapy that left him weakened and exhausted. He was back at the Center, doing little more than sleep and conserve his energy. Seeing Justin gave him some much needed distraction, and when he asked about Brian, he noticed Justin's tense reaction.
Justin had called the loft so he knew Brian wasn't home, but he wasn't sure where he was. He was beginning to worry. Brian never even called him to tell him what the banker said, and he couldn't remember the last time they had gone this long without talking at least once. When his mobile rang, he realized how anxious he was by how fast he fumbled it up to his ear.
"Where are you? I called the loft," Brian sounded annoyed.
"Where are YOU?" Justin returned his annoyance, walking out of Shea's room as the boy drifted into a light snooze.
"At the airport."
Justin froze. What the hell was Brian up to now and why was he suddenly so worried? "Going where?"
"Going nowhere. Coming home."
"You flew somewhere today?"
"Yes. I'm in a cab now. Head home, we need to talk."
"Please tell me you didn't go to Pittsburgh to kidnap Gus."
"What am I? A nut case? I know not to do that!" Brian responded irritably.
"Then what the fuck? You flew somewhere without even telling me?"
"I knew you'd tell me not to do it."
"Meet you at home," Brian said and hung up before Justin could question him further.
Justin arrived at the loft before Brian, and spent a nervous twenty minutes cooking something for them to eat, mainly to kill time. When Brian walked in, dressed in a suit and loosening his tie, Justin felt much of his anger slip away. Brian looked so exhausted, so worn, as he kissed Justin and then went into the bedroom to change his clothes. Justin turned down the heat under the food and followed Brian, watching as Brian slipped into the comfort of faded jeans and a soft cotton t-shirt. He hung up his suit for him, just to be helpful. Brian lit a cigarette as he went back to the kitchen to pour himself a drink. He also poured one for Justin, without even asking.
"You're scaring me," Justin said, and Brian shrugged.
"I haven't even said anything."
"You don't have to. I know you."
Brian sat on the couch and patted the cushion beside him. Justin joined him and Brian took his hand holding tightly to it for a silent moment. Finally, he spoke. "I did an up and back to Boston."
Justin wrinkled his nose. "Why Boston?"
"I met with Jeffrey's old man."
Justin paused, feeling his stomach contract. "Why would you do that?"
"He's the one who's behind ruining my life."
"How do you know?"
"I've known for awhile, Justin."
"You never said anything to me."
"I didn't want to worry you."
Justin punched him lightly on the arm. "Bitch! You can't treat me like a kid or some weepy girl, Brian. I'm your partner. You have no right to keep that kind of thing from me!"
"No hitting. You're right, I should've told you, but I was still trying to get it straight in my own head. And now it is."
Brian took a drink and leaned back to recount his meeting with Jeffrey's father, focusing on the key points.
Brian used some of Lydia's tools to stay calm and centered as he took a taxi from Logan Airport to Louisburg Square, the most prestigious address in the city. Brian knew Boston fairly well. He had a lot of business there, and it was close enough to New York to be an occasional retreat for new faces, new dicks, when he was still playing those games. He didn't spend much time in the Back Bay, however. He heard the assholes there were far too tight to penetrate.
He was curious about how people as wealthy as the Walkers lived, but he wasn't expecting what he found. On a quiet block of two-hundred year old rowhouses overlooking a tree-lined cobblestone street, the Walker residence at seemed superficially modest in scale, at first. Of course, any real estate on this square was worth millions. Brian upped his estimate of the value of the home when he realized the residence was two units wide and six stories tall. The back offered views of the Charles River, while the views from the front and sides, were of the private park with a keyed entrance for residents, and typical Back Bay accoutrements like gas lights and perfectly tended landscaping. The house was quietly intimidating, the elegant understatement of very old and very bottomless money. What Brian didn't calculate was that the property was carried on the tax roles with a value of twelve-million. Even his fantasies of extravagance didn't reach that far.
Growing up as a lower middle class boy who made good, Brian was forced to realize "making good" was all a matter of degree. "Good" was a nice loft in Soho. "Really, really good" was a six-story double-wide on Louisburg Square. A maid opened the door when he rang the bell, escorting him through an oval-shaped foyer with rose quartz flooring, a marble fireplace and polished, original moldings. He was led past the brass doors of a private elevator and into a drawing room on the same floor. Museum quality artwork was displayed on every wall, and the hearth was so tall, he could walk into it. Bay windows offered one view, while a row of French doors opened onto an enormous deck overlooking the river.
Brian stood tensely by these doors, taking in the fog that skimmed the surface of the water, when a man entered the room. The man closed the mahogany pocket panel doors behind him. Brian could easily see the resemblance to Jeffrey in this tall, silver-haired gentleman who maintained his slim physique and looked casually elegant in a cashmere sweater and dark trousers. Spring in Boston was slow to warm. Brian suspected the core of Jeffrey Walker Sr. never completely thawed, no matter what the season. He took in Brian with a dismissive glance and then offered his hand as he said, "I'm Jeff Walker."
"Brian Kinney," Brian said, shaking his hand with wary caution.
"Have a seat, Brian. Would you like something to drink?" He acted within the rules of his highly-structured society, even though Brian sensed his instant hatred. It was the dismissal of a straight man, multiplied exponentially.
"No thank you," Brian sat on a wing chair, forcing a calm he didn't feel. He knew the older man was studying him, as if trying to determine how Irish scum like Brian could lead his precious son astray. Brian spoke, anxiety closing in on him.
Stupid understatement, and he wasn't even sure why he said it. He found the place overwhelming and while it was beautiful, it completely lacked any semblance of a family's home. The family photographs scattered about in silver frames was all that suggested people lived in this palace. He glimpsed the photo of Jeffrey and Hannah and grimaced as he wondered what it was like for that sunny little girl to be raised by this ice man. What was her choice? A psycho father or a manipulative, icy grandfather? He could only hope the women in Jeffrey's family picked up the slack left by the men.
Walker looked surprised to hear his granddaughter's name. "Fine. She's with my wife and daughter at the house on Marblehead Neck at the moment."
Brian had no idea what Marblehead Neck was, but he could imagine it was some wealthy, white-bread enclave with a million dollar view of something. "I have a son Hannah's age."
"Yes, I'm aware of that fact."
Brian frowned, figuring Walker had a nice fat portfolio on him. That fact made him feel invaded. Walker rapped long, slim fingers on a polished table beside him, and then asked, "What can I do for you, Brian?"
"You can tell me what you hope to accomplish by ruining my life," Brian was sick of the social dance.
Walker gave him an icy smile. "I have no idea what you mean."
"Don't blow smoke up my ass. I'm not stupid. You put out the word for Felix to fire me. You made sure he ruined it for me with other agencies. You even made sure my bank wouldn't loan me money to start my own business. I found out you're a board member of that bank. What do you think all of this will buy you?"
"You're a clever boy, Brian. If you figured out all of that, you must have a theory for my motives."
"You think you can scare me off from testifying against your son?"
"Let's be blunt. Without your testimony, there's no real case against Jeffrey, is there?"
"So this is to protect your son?"
"This is to protect my family from further scandal. I think we've seen enough, thanks to you."
"To me? It's my fault, is it? My fault he stalked me and used drugs to subdue me and control me, and that he blackmailed me with the survival of a child in order to keep me with him? How is that my fault?"
"You seduced him."
Brian laughed. "I seduced your innocent son? Trust me. Jeffrey was well into dick before I met him. He was the pursuer, not me."
"I don't need any gruesome details. Now that you have a taste, and I mean only a taste, of what you're up against, what will it take to make you go away?"
Brian crossed his legs and shook his head slowly. "A bribe? To keep me from testifying?"
"Let's just call it an investment in your future."
"I've already filed the criminal complaint against Jeffrey. They'll compel me to testify. What do you expect me to do? Go into hiding?"
"You can damn the case with how you deliver your testimony, and you know it. And if they know it, too, they won't prosecute."
"You're asking me to commit perjury. It's a crime."
"Oh come now, Brian. Your whole life is a crime. A crime against nature, as well as a crime in the eyes of the law. You're disgusting and vile. Am I supposed to believe you're above perjury for pay?"
Brian felt a flash of anger, an emotion that he was determined to contain. His great-grandfather came to Boston from Ireland. He heard his grandfather repeat stories of the prejudice his father suffered at the hand of Brahmins like Jeffrey Walker. He packed his family off to Pennsylvania in hopes of escaping the caste system that held Boston by the throat. Brian realized things may be different now, at least superficially. The Kennedy's and other prominent Irish clans had penetrated the power structures of Boston, but would the old social order ever really change? He suspected it would not.
"I didn't think it was possible, but you managed to make me realize two things. First, there are fathers in this world who are worse than my own. Second, I can still feel some pity for Jeffrey, even after all he's put me through. Never thought that was possible."
Walker smirked at him. "Now that you have that off your chest, let's talk money."
Justin leaned over to kiss Brian after he recounted the story up to this point. Brian kissed him back, and then sighed, squeezing the bridge of his nose as Mr. Headache throbbed.
"What did you say to that asshole?" Justin asked gently.
"What do you think I said?" Brian challenged him and Justin shrugged.
"I think you told him to stick it up his ass. As desperate as things may be, you aren't the type to arbitrage your integrity."
Brian smiled at him, giving him a little hug. "You're the only person who knows me who would believe that."
"That's not true. You're scrupulously honest, Brian. Even brutally honest."
"I told him I'd like his money very much, thank you."
Justin looked shocked. "You did?"
Brian saw the confusion enter Justin's expression and he smiled and patted his lover's knee. "And then I said, I intend to get quite a lot of it, because I intend to sue his company and him personally for defamation and to pursue criminal charges against him."
Justin's frown merged into a grin. "I get it. What did he say?"
"He was furious. He told me not to fuck with him. He said he'd bury me."
"Like that Russian guy said about America?"
"The police will want to hear about this, Brian."
He shook his head. "It's my word against his. He'll just deny it. Even if they break down that he's trying to keep me from being employed, it doesn't prove anything. My remedies are civil, not criminal. I wasn't wearing a wire, damn it."
"Maybe they'll set you up for a sting."
"Been watching ‘Law and Order' again? Walker's not stupid. He'd never fall for that. I'll talk to Mick about how we go after him, that's what I plan to do. And I'll try to ensure that his crazy son goes to jail for a long time. Although, after meeting the father, I almost feel sorry for the son."
"Don't. He's a maniac. It's going to get tough, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Justin. It's gonna get tough. If you don't want to..."
"Let me say it."
"No. Don't make me smack you."
"I would understand if you left me. I really would. You're young, your whole life is in front of you. You don't need to be ruined because of my problems."
"Brian, my whole life is with you. So shut up."
Brian glanced at him and smiled wickedly. "Make me."
Justin pushed him back on the sofa and crawled on top of him, holding Brian's wrists in his hands as he leaned down to kiss him on the mouth. Their tongues battled and Justin ground his pelvis against Brian's, feeling both of their cocks come to life. Brian easily pulled his hands free and spread them on Justin's ass, pushing him against his body with even more force. By the time they finished what they started, dinner was ruined and they went out to eat, suddenly ravenous.
Mick stared in horror at Brian the next day as he related his encounter with Jeffrey Walker Sr. He began to feel nervous when she got up, closed the door to her office and sat on the edge of her desk, peering down at him in mute fury. Finally, she spoke.
"Listen to me, cowboy. I know you're used to running your own shit, looking out for number one, but you aren't in control anymore, you understand? You don't call the shots in this game and you can't outmaneuver a fat cat like Walker. What you've done is to remove the element of surprise and you've given them a chance to prepare. So how is that smart, wise guy?"
Brian winced, then bristled, becoming defensive. "This is my life, Mick! Not a fucking chess game! I may have reacted emotionally to some disturbing news I got from my banker, but I think I had the right to confront the son of a bitch!"
"Your life IS a chess game right now, Brian. Get used to it. That's what litigation is. And these people will be fully armed with the best defense lawyers in the game. I'll have my hands full. I can't be distracted trying to rein in a rogue client. Do we understand each other? Because if you want to be a gunslinger, then you need a new lawyer."
He sighed and then smiled sheepishly at her. "I don't want a new lawyer. I like the one I have."
"Don't give me those cow eyes and expect me to melt, Kinney. Your pretty little face has no cash with me. What I want from you is a commitment."
He winced. Commitment was not one of his favorite words. "Okay, okay, Mick. I promise not to be a gunslinger."
"No contact with any of them without going through me?"
"Cross my black and shriveled heart."
"Christ, I want to kick your ass so bad..."
"Well, it's a given that you could, so why don't we leave it there?"
She laughed and returned to her chair behind her desk. "You do have the blarney stone in your corner, Kinney. I need to reorganize our game plan, thanks to you. There's no strategic advantage in using this as a settlement tool now. We have no choice but to go after BI, because of the actions of its CEO, and after Walker personally. This is going to be newsworthy, man. Get ready."
"Can we file against Walker for offering to bribe me?"
"We could, but it's a swearing match, and I think it distracts from the thrust of our case. I'm going to go ahead and draw up the papers. We'll sue as soon as the state agency gives us a right-to-sue determination rather than taking it up themselves. Trust me, they will. This is an individual case, not a cause celebre. I should get that notification any day now."
Brian was silent as he contemplated the irrevocability of this option. "I need the money, Mick. I don't want to stretch this out into a long lawsuit."
"Filing only enhances your ability to settle. Brian, do you want to back off of testifying against Jeffrey? If so, we need to use that as a weapon while it's still ripe. Obviously, once he's tried, it's off the table."
"I will never back off testifying against Jeffrey."
"Good, that's what I needed to hear."
"This is really stressing me, Mick. I keep running headlong into walls. I'm scared."
She looked into his eyes, realizing that was a big admission for Brian Kinney to make. "I know, kid. But you got right on your side, and despite being a cynic, you may just find that sometimes that's enough."
He nodded, feeling fully confident in Mick Donovan. He wished he felt that confident in Brian Kinney. He suddenly felt the weight of it all crushing in on him. His money situation, his lack of options, his concern for Shea's precarious health, his fears for Gus, his guilt over Lindsay, his worry over ruining Justin's life and his dread over Jeffrey. He felt the fear and helplessness travel through him like a fast acting virus, tingling in his extremities and accelerating his pulse. He inhaled sharply, his equilibrium tilting. He rested his face in his hands, Mr. Headache raging. Mick came over to him, placing a strong hand on his shoulder.
"I know, Brian," she said softly. "I know what you're feeling right now. I always had to be the strong one too. Where do the strong ones go for comfort and to express their fears? It's so hard sometimes."
He stood up, kissed her cheek, not trusting his voice, and left her office.
Doctor's Notes: BK asked to see me on an emergency basis, and I accommodated him. He was extremely agitated when he entered the office and as soon as he took a seat, he began to cry. They were silent tears, his head back and eyes closed, but the emotional release continued for several minutes. BK is not prone to weeping, and this was obviously a much needed escape valve for his pent-up emotions and fears. I encouraged him to cry until there were no tears left, but he was fighting himself, as is to be expected, and cut it off as soon as he was able. The ability to cry in front of me is a positive sign that he is comfortable and trusting enough to bare his most guarded reactions, which is a strong indicator of successful therapy. When he regained control, I gave him a bottle of water and left the box of tissues with him. He seemed understandably embarrassed by his outburst.
EXCERPT FROM TRANSCRIPT:
Doctor: You ready?
Doctor: What happened? What precipitated this?
BK: (bitterly) Like you have to ask?
Doctor: I know your stress points, Brian. I'm asking if something specific set off this emotional response.
BK: I have control over no aspect of my life. Not a single part of it.
Doctor: A control freak's nightmare. How did you reach that conclusion?
BK: It's a fact.
Doctor: Okay, what brought it home?
BK: I don't know. It just crashed in on me.
Doctor: Let's examine that remark, Brian. Let's look at the different aspects of your life.
BK: Yes, let's do.
Doctor: Start with the obvious. Your lover. No control there?
Doctor: Why not?
BK: He could leave me any minute, and why not? What do I have to offer him? To bind him to me? Who knows how much longer I can afford to keep a roof over his head? Put food in his mouth? And now we're facing ugly publicity and he's just starting his life. Why should he get dragged down with my fucking problems? They aren't his fault. He should have a clean start.
Doctor: Ah, the selfless Brian sacrifices true love for the sake of his young lover.
BK: I don't appreciate your sarcastic tone. It hurts, Lydia. The thought of losing Justin for any reason hurts. A lot.
Doctor: I know it does. So stop thinking about it. The pre-emptive strike is your weapon of choice when it comes to Justin, Brian, and it always has been. Let's examine that motive, shall we? To hear you say it, your reasons sound noble and self-sacrificing. But are they?
BK: What do you mean?
Doctor: What's at play here is your dreaded fear of having Justin think you are no longer a good bet, not worth his investment, and walking out. You fear you could never recover from that blow. You would, but let's not go there. Let's stick with your fear. To avoid being dumped, you think you might be better off being the moving party. Get him out of your life and tell him and yourself, that it's for his own good. What crap.
BK:(glares angrily) I don't pay you to be mocked.
Doctor: I know why you pay me, Brian. And I'm not a friend who is here to comfort and reassure you. I'm a professional who is here to help you realize what makes you tick and to help you negotiate your own emotional roadblocks. Let me ask you something. If Justin were in dire need, physically ill, or unable to work or name your disaster, would you feel the right thing for you to do is to walk out because you're entitled to a fresh start without his baggage weighing you down?
BK: Of course not. He's my partner.
Doctor: Then why don't you provide him with the same respect for your partnership that you would impose on yourself?
BK: (sighs) I walked right into that one, didn't I?
Doctor: I think it's time to meet with both you guys again. Can you arrange that?
Doctor: Good. Next problem, your work. Or lack thereof. Are you sitting on your keister letting everything unfold around you, Brian?
BK: I don't know. I guess not. I've sent out resumes, I've called people, I've tried to get funding to open an agency of my own.
Doctor: So you're doing the things that are within your control. While you can't control others' reactions to what you've done, you're taking control of changing your status.
BK: For what it's worth.
Doctor: Gus. What's new there?
BK: He's still in Pittsburgh.
Doctor: What are you doing about that?
BK: Lydia, I'm trying to stay out of it. I want to be strong for Linds, I know she's miserable, but I view it as essentially a dispute between Mel and Linds. My becoming centrally involved in it will only make Mel dig in all the deeper, because she hates me so much. As much as I wish Gus were here, I know Mel isn't going to mistreat him, that she loves him too, and will take good care of him. He's not in danger. I feel like I need to stand by and let them work through the issues and resolve it together.
Doctor: And that sounds like a very thoughtful, well-reasoned response, Brian. Not a man out of control. The Jeffrey situation, let's look at that.
BK: I'm fucked.
Doctor: In what way?
BK: His old man is richer than God and is using everything in his toolbox to unhinge me.
Doctor: And once you testify, what can he do to you then?
BK: (looks surprised) I haven't really thought about that. Nothing, I guess. The damage is done. Both to Jeffrey and to me.
Doctor: What steps are you taking to protect yourself?
BK: My lawyer is going to sue the old son of a bitch.
Doctor: Your lawsuit will survive your testimony. You'll win, and you'll have the satisfaction of both keeping that twisted man in prison as well as scalping his father.
BK: And I hope they can find a way to get me that nice fat damage award when I'm living under a bridge in the park.
Doctor: Don't project, Brian. You're living well now, and even when things become tighter, you'll survive, because that's what you do. You survived a physically and emotionally abusive father and an emotionally withdrawn mother. You survived being gay in a straight world. You survived losing the one man you've ever loved, and campaigned successfully to get him back. You survived competition with straight guys to succeed in your chosen profession and you'll be on top again. You're a survivor, Brian. You're a fighter. Look what you came through with Jeffrey! Look what you did for Molly. You'll get through this, too. It's what you do.
BK: (smiles slightly) Thanks, Lydia.
Doctor: Don't thank me. You see, Brian, this is what I do. We all have a purpose.
END OF EXCERPT
Doctor's notes: By manifesting his overwhelming emotions, BK has shown the extent of his pressure, but also his progress in analysis. Instead of concealing and running from his pain, using sex, drugs and alcohol to medicate his emotions, he confronted the issues and allowed himself to honestly respond to what he was feeling. I find this to be a turning point for him. I want to meet with his partner and BK in session because I suspect his partner is also enduring emotional trauma, and I want to facilitate a strong communication between them as they face this crisis together.
By the time he returned home, Brian was feeling pretty good. Lydia had a way of calming him that even Justin lacked, because she came at his pain from an entirely different angle and he could be raw with her in ways he couldn't with anyone else. He supposed he should be embarrassed for crying in front of her, but his overwhelming response was one of great relief. When he walked into the loft, Justin greeted him with a big smile and a kiss.
"Why are you so happy?" Brian asked, sitting down heavily on the sofa while Justin retrieved beers for both of them. He tapped Brian's bottle with his and went over to the printer, returning with a sheet of paper. Brian looked at a long row of intials with numbers beside each intial, totaling just over a hundred grand.
"What's this? Our monthly budget?" Brian quipped and Justin laughed.
"It's the amount of money I've been able to raise and I'm not finished yet."
"For what? The Center? How did you do that?"
"Not for the Center. For a business investment."
Brian was totally confused. "In what?"
"Are you on crack? What are you talking about?"
"If the bank won't loan you money, I figured I know a lot of people who will. People who know how driven you are, and how you're absolutely guaranteed to succeed and give them a return on their investment. People who owe you big time for past kindnesses. People who love you. I've been amazed by the response."
Brian felt a chill wash through him. "You aren't telling me you called my friends and other people I know and asked them to loan me money, are you?"
"Not loan you money, exactly," Justin said, beginning to read his lover's response and he felt a little nervous at what he was reading. "Invest in your agency."
"Same thing, Justin. You had no right."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you had no right to humiliate me that way! Begging people I know for money? How do you think that makes me look? Not only pathetic for begging, but even more pathetic for not having the balls to beg myself, making my lover do it for me! How could you do that to me? How do you expect me to ever look at these people again?"
"But Brian...they wanted to invest! They all said it was a lock they would make more return off of you than some stock they could buy in a company they don't know anything about."
"Bullshit! You call them all back, you tell them I don't need their money. I'm fine, I will make it on my own, I always have and I always will! I don't need any fucking charity from anyone!"
"It's not charity, Brian, it's respect for your ability and it's affection for you, personally."
"Fuck that. And how unrealistic are you? You think this amount of money is going to seed an agency for me? Christ, I couldn't even rent the space for this!"
"But it's a start..." Justin said miserably and Brian walked over to the door, pausing to say one more thing before he left.
"Call them. Now. Fix it."
Justin flinched when the door slammed. He sighed, wondering how he could have gone so wrong when he was only trying to help. He also wondered where Brian was going to work out his anger and frustration, and what this meant for their relationship.
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July 25, 2004