Hi Sweeties! I am posting early because big Brian and I are going out and won't be home til late! So, thanks to Alan for the beta and Jen for the art and posting assistance and Pfyre and Roz for making it possible. Hope you enjoy it! Have a great Saturday night! Ran
Brian passed the bartender at Hot as the man came up from the storage room. Burdened with industrial-sized bags of pretzels, the barkeep greeted Brian with a warm hello, but Brian just nodded at him and continued downstairs to the legendary backroom. Even before he went in, there were men on the stairs, cruising, touching each other, watching the action come and go. Brian hesitated only briefly before he walked into a familiar scene. Low lights illuminated writhing male bodies. The close atmosphere was thick with the scent of sex and sweat. Clusters and pairs sucked and fucked while others wandered among them, jerking off, watching, or cruising for a sex partner.
He took a hit of E that he picked up along the way and waited for it to neutralize his tension as he leaned his back against a wall and closed his eyes. He fondled his cock gingerly over the denim of his jeans, feeling it lengthen under his caress. It wouldn't be long before...a hand on his shoulder, strong and comforting, another on his wrist, stopping his leisurely masturbation. The scent of soap and cigarettes wafted up and he relaxed, anticipating the stranger's touch, when he heard,
"Are you sure this is what you want to do?"
He opened his eyes. Mick. As big as most of the men, she went unnoticed in the dark among all these erections waiting for action. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, her usual drag. He stared at her in amazement. He wished he had balls as big as hers. The bartender had obviously ratted him out to her.
"Get the fuck away from me," he seethed, and she squeezed his shoulder gently.
"I will, Brian, if that's what you really want. Is it? You ready to slide down this slope? After all the work that you've put into your relationship with Justin?"
"It's none of your fucking business! I have a shrink, I don't need an amateur!"
A man standing nearby came hard and audibly in another man's mouth and Mick didn't seem the least bit bothered by it. She was also less than curious, not even turning to look. This was old hat to her. She was in the sub-business of providing playrooms for gay men. She couldn't recall the last time something shocked her.
"I know that. But I care about you and I care about Justin and I had to give it a shot. Sometimes we do things on impulse that we regret later. It's your life, your dick. Do what you gotta do."
She turned, and Brian called out to her. "Mick, wait."
His preliminary erection had faded, and so had some of his rage. She stopped and he walked up to her. "Buy you a drink?"
She smiled and looped an arm around his waist as they left this dark cavern of sensual delights. Upstairs at a back table, she had a boilermaker while he stuck with whisky. He explained what happened with Justin and she nodded. "I understand why you're mad, but you know he was only trying to be helpful, right?"
"By making me look like a beggar to all my friends?"
"He didn't see it that way, and I'm sure they didn't either. You've helped every one of them, according to Lindsay, and they viewed this as a chance to pay you back a little for your past kindnesses."
"I don't want their money, Mick. I don't want payback. How could he not know that?"
"He loves you and he sees you struggling and he wants to make things better. Maybe he took a misstep, maybe he went too far, but it wasn't meant to hurt you, Brian. It was meant to help. You have enough enemies right now, don't mentally convert people who love you into opponents."
"All I really had left was my pride, and now I've been robbed of that, too."
"No you haven't. You have way too much pride for this incident to leave you without any. You're reeling right now, man. You have to stop, get a grip and reassess. Know why I'm in the office at this hour?"
He shook his head.
"Because I'm working on your case. I'm drafting the complaint. And you know what? It's a powerful pleading. I intend to send a copy to the General Counsel's of Boston International as well as your agency, and to Jeffrey Walker, Senior, along with a letter telling them that this complaint will be filed in ten days if we can't reach a final settlement. When they get it, some fancy shorts are going to be brown. It's such a great set of facts, Brian. I haven't had a case this clean in years. My cut of the money I think we'll get from them will keep the Center funded for a year, maybe more. You'll be on easy street, able to set up your business, or even retire early if you wanted. I‘m absolutely convinced of that fact, Brian. You have to have faith. Come on up to the office and I'll give you a copy to take home and read. I'm still tweaking it, but it's good enough to give you the general idea."
He looked at her and smiled. "I'm glad to have you on my side, Mick."
"You have a lot of people on your side, Brian. Never forget that."
He nodded, finishing his drink before going upstairs with her to pick up the pleading.
Justin looked up as Brian entered the loft. He tried to get a reading of what had happened by looking at his lover's face, but Brian was an expert at concealing his emotions. Brian dropped a large envelope on the counter and went over to the refrigerator to withdraw a bottle of water, draining it in one long gulp. He was still feeling the dehydrating impact of the E. He then went into their bedroom, and began undressing. Justin followed.
"I called everyone and canceled," Justin said tentatively. "I told them it was all my idea and that you didn't need the help."
Brian didn't respond. Justin continued.
"They all wished you would take it. They each had a favor from you that they hoped to repay. You have a lot of people who love you, Brian."
"And now they can all feel sorry for me, too. Thanks so much."
"I don't know what to say."
"Say you'll never do anything that stupid ever again!" He shot at Justin as he stepped out of his jeans.
"I was just trying to help."
"Don't help me, okay? Just stay the fuck out of my life!"
Justin winced and left the room, returning to the living room where he sat down heavily on the couch, drawing his knees up and resting his chin on top of them. He stared at nothing, his eyes filled with unshed tears. He became aware of Brian standing there in his brief 2-Exist underwear, looking sexy as hell and just as angry. But when he looked at Justin, and took in his misery, something within him softened. Brian sighed and sat down next to Justin, resting a hand on the back of his lover's neck.
"I didn't mean that last thing, Justin. You know I don't want you out of my life."
Justin blinked, a tear streaking his cheek. Brian sighed and brushed it off. "Don't do that. Come here," he took him into his arms and Justin held tightly to him. "I know you didn't mean to hurt me, Justin, but you did."
"I'm sorry. I was just trying to help."
"Okay, okay, just so I have your promise that you'll never do anything like that again."
Justin nodded against his lover's bare chest, dampening his skin with his tears. "I just feel so helpless, Brian. I love you and I see you suffering and I can't do anything to help."
"That's not true. Do you know how important it is to me that you're still here, despite all the shit you've gone through and will be going through? Despite the threat that we'll probably lose all this?"
Justin looked up at him, his blue eyes swimming with emotion. "Where else would I be?"
"Gone. Greener fields. I'm no picnic to live with when everything is good, but I know what I'm like now. It takes a hell of a strong person to stick around. Or a hell of a strong love. Or both."
"I'm scared," Justin said softly.
"I'm scared too, Justin."
"No, I mean I'm scared for us. I'm scared your fears about your business and the money situation will make you retreat from me. I can endure anything, Brian, anything but that."
Brian sighed. Justin knew him way too well. Only Justin could read Brian's motives before Brian fully developed them. "I don't want to take you down with me."
"And how far down do you think I'll go if I lose you?"
"You're young. You'll get over it."
Justin thumped Brian's forehead with his thumb and forefinger. "That is so fucking insulting. I'm not that seventeen-year old virginal twink you first met. And you're not that impervious, promiscuous backroom stud I first met. So don't be a martyr. They burned so many martyrs, they ran out of stakes."
Brian stared at his lover in silent wonder. "How can they run out of stakes? Stakes are just wooden poles. Are all the trees gone?"
Justin repressed a smile. "Don't be logical when I'm being emotional."
"Someone has to be."
"Well, it isn't usually you."
"I'm not the drama empress in this house."
"The fuck you're not, your majesty!"
They stared at each other and then both began to laugh. "Did you fuck around on me?" Justin asked, and Brian shrugged.
"I planned to, but I was interrupted by an avenging dyke."
"You went to a dyke bar to get laid?"
"Yeah, Justin. Sleeping with Linds has flipped me into a dyke."
Justin giggled. "Lesbians are much too butch to interest you."
"Hey, with what they're used to licking, they must give great rim. They're masters with holes."
Justin grimaced. "Want to bet?"
Brian grinned at him. "No, because finding out is too disgusting to imagine."
"I'm glad you didn't go through with it. I would've gotten over it, I guess, but it would've hurt."
"I had the intent, I just didn't follow through."
"Now you're trying to make me mad," Justin teased.
"Am I?" Brian pushed him back on the sofa and kissed him, thrusting his tongue between his lips. He felt Justin's cock grow rigid against his pelvis and he rubbed against him in a fucking motion. The fight was officially over.
Brian's days were becoming more crowded. He spent some time every day or two with Shea, trying to bolster his flagging spirits. He was worried by Shea's rapid physical debilitation. Brian wondered if Shea had given up and his body was just following along. Or was it his body that was losing the fight and Shea knew it? Perhaps both. Whatever the cause, Shea wasn't responding well to treatment. Brian felt his frustration grow over his inability to help.
Added to his legal problems, financial woes and Gus's absence, his fledgling agency was suddenly taking flight. He had an ad campaign for the software company's latest game under design, working with his resident graphic artist, Justin, on creative concepts. He begged assistance from commercial printers he knew well to get a finished product. Now his friend, Edmond, the master chef, wanted a new layout for the New York media touting his newly created Spring menu. Brian needed an assistant. He needed an art department. He needed a fucking office! He didn't even have a construct by which he could bill his clients and process payments. He had to open a commercial bank account and establish tax identification numbers. The details were making him nuts.
When Cynthia showed up unexpectedly at the loft in the middle of the afternoon, Brian was up to his ass in alligators. He waved her into a chaotic scene with storyboards competing with pitch notes and discarded graphics, to take up all the available space.
"What the fuck?" She asked as he shook his head.
"I can't go to lunch, Cyn. I can't even take the time to talk. I must have been crazy when I thought I could run a business out of my fucking home. Justin's been a lifesaver, but he has a paying job. I can't usurp all of his time."
"You obviously need an assistant," she said, and he glared at her.
"Yeah. Know someone willing to work for...uh...let's see. Nothing?"
"Yeah, me. Well, maybe not nothing, but..."
"I can't afford you, Cyn."
"You can now."
"What do you mean?"
"They fired me this morning."
Brian paused in his critical review of one of Justin's drawings. He stared at her. "Why?"
"Apparently you scared them shitless with some pleading you sent them. They all went into hyper-craze. I was accused of feeding information to you."
"What a bunch of bullshit!"
She sat down on the chaise with a sigh, gathering some papers to make room for her butt. She stacked them on her lap. "Brian, it's true."
"They don't know that! Did you admit it?"
"I'm not that stupid."
"I'm so sorry, Cyn. I never meant..."
She held up a hand to stop him. "Don't worry about it. I hated working for that bastard, Evan, anyway. I wasn't going to last long under his abuse. Life's too short. I brought you this," she handed him a sheet of paper containing a list of expenses and a total sum.
"It's the bare minimum I need to earn in order to eat and keep a roof over my head. If you can pay me that much to start, I'm willing to risk the balance against a draw on the firm as your business grows."
"I can't let you do that, Cyn. You could make more than twice this at any agency in town, plus have full benefits and a future. You're very good at what you do. You have unlimited potential." Brian was genuinely touched by her offer, even if he couldn't accept her charity.
"I know what I can do at another firm, Brian. But there's a catch to this."
He smiled. "I taught you well. What's the catch?"
"As you know, I have a BBA from Penn State, your alma mater. We've talked about that."
"Yes, I know. Go on."
"I worked as an executive assistant just to get my foot in the door and I've been your creative assistant since you promoted me two years ago."
"I think I've done a good job."
"I've learned a lot watching you work. I have a pleasing manner with people and I'm a decent salesperson."
"You get along with me. That says a lot."
"My loyalty to you is unassailable."
"As you said, I could get a job in another firm, but just as homophobia is a problem for you, gender is a problem for me. I'm a young, fairly attractive blonde. Read this: Bimbo."
"Hardly a bimbo, Cyn," he said with a laugh.
"I know. But you know how people in this game think. It would take years for me to get the recognition I deserve. If, in fact, I ever got it."
"Sadly, you may be right."
"I want to take a chance with you, Brian. I want your commitment that when the firm is safely grounded, you'll make me a junior partner. I want my own accounts and I understand I'll be expected to be a rainmaker as well as a good worker."
Brian sat down on the floor, bending one knee, and resting his forearm over it. "A partnership in a small firm is like a marriage, Cyn. You're in each other's faces and pockets all day long. If you don't generate business, you don't draw. It can be very rewarding, but also very risky."
"Okay, marry me, then, and we can adopt Justin. I'll keep a boyfriend on the side for doing the husbandly duties," she teased and he laughed.
"Sorry, already as good as married now. Cyn, I don't even have office space."
"I know, and you need it if you want to ensure client confidence. But I have an idea. I've done a little homework."
He grinned at her. She was good. "Hit me with it."
"This is a great location, right? Great building, lots of space, no zoning issues."
"You get a contractor and you wall off your bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Then you take the rest of the space and you turn it into the offices. Plenty of room here for a reception area, a conference room and a small office. Your second bedroom would be your office, and the extra bath would be in the office space. You and Justin would live in the walled off portion. You may have to cut a new door to the hallway outside the loft."
"We're supposed to live in that tiny space?"
"You spend most of your time in bed with him, anyway," she teased. "Outside of office hours, you guys could utilize the office space, too. Brian, you were going to be forced to sell the loft eventually if you didn't get more income. This way you take out a second mortgage to cover the construction and since the place will be used for business, it's a total write off. You'd have to charge yourself some small rent for the walled-off portion, but the rest is a legit business expense."
"When you're successful, you and Justin can move into another loft in the building and we can tear down all of the walls and expand."
He stared at her, digesting her proposal. He finally broke into a wide smile. "You got yourself a deal, pard'ner. When can you start?"
"I already have," she said, taking off her blazer and going over to him to give him a big hug. He winced and wriggled out of her arms.
"It's not that kind of partnership," he teased, and she laughed and swatted him with a rolled up sheet of paper as she glanced around the room, trying to figure out where to start.
Justin brought Lindsay a cup of hot tea and joined her in her office in the gallery, sipping from his own mug. When he came in, she had been staring at a framed photo of Gus that she kept on her desk and was dabbing at her eyes. She forced a slight smile. "I miss him so much, Justin."
"I don't think I can survive this separation. I realize it's hard for a man to relate to this, but Gus was a part of my body, physically, for nine months. After he was born, I cared for him night and day, almost exclusively, for over two years. Even when I went back to work, I arranged my schedule around his. I feel as if someone has torn off one of my limbs and I'm bleeding and in pain and don't know what to do to stop it."
Whatever lingering resentment Justin felt over Lindsay's unfortunate sexual interlude with Brian, paled in his sympathy for her obvious pain. "I wish there was something I could do to help, Linds."
"I know, baby, I know. You're sweet. Even if I could've forgiven Melanie for her infidelity, she destroyed any hope of a reunion by taking my baby away from me. Because whatever the law may provide, Gus is my son. He shares my DNA with Brian's. And I'm the one who's cared for him all this time."
"I wonder if he's missing me and he doesn't understand why I'm not there. What if he feels abandoned by me? And by Brian?"
"He wouldn't think that, Linds."
"He's a baby, they don't understand legalities. All he knows is that suddenly his mommy is gone along with his daddy. I talked to his school. He's had some potty mishaps and some tantrums. That's not Gus. He's acting out."
"Did you talk to Mel about it?"
"We communicate through attorneys now. Justin, I love Mick. She's a wonderful person. She's gentle, loving, smart and kind. She makes me very happy. I also love my job and living in this city. But if I have to move back to Pittsburgh, and give everything up, to be with my son, I don't see the choice. I can't live without my baby." She began to cry and Justin walked over to her, patting her gently on the shoulder, searching for some comforting words to share with her while he replayed their options in his mind.
Debbie heard Gus wailing even before Melanie opened the door to find an unexpected visitor on her porch that evening. As soon as the barrier between them swung open, the baby's cries were ear-splitting. Melanie, looking frazzled, held the twisting toddler tightly as Debbie forced a smile.
"Whazamatter with my widdle Gus?" She cooed at him, holding out her arms. Gus willingly went into them, snuggling against Debbie's ample bosom. Melanie was relieved to give him over to Debbie's warm, maternal presence. As they went into the living room, Gus's cries subsided to a whimper, and soon he was sleeping on Debbie's lap. "I have a strangely soothing effect on the Kinney men," Debbie quipped as Melanie took up Gus's flag and began to sob. Debbie patted her shoulder as she walked past her and carried Gus upstairs, putting him down in his bed and making sure he was sleeping soundly before rejoining Melanie. She sat beside her on the couch, gently massaging a circle between her shoulders.
"I'm a terrible mother," Melanie gasped. "Gus hates me!"
"Honey, there was a time I felt exactly the same way about Michael. He was three and nothing I did made him happy. He was surly and disobedient and a complete terror. As it turned out, he was mad because I got rid of his crib and was teaching him to sleep in a regular bed. Apparently the crib made him feel enclosed and safe, and the open bed terrified him. Once he made the adjustment, he was fine. Gus has been through a lot more than a bed change. First, Linds takes him out of his school and his home and away from you. Now, you take him away from her. How do you expect him to act?"
"She had no right to take him away!" Melanie said, her sobs slacking into mere tears. "He's my son, too!"
"Of course he is, honey, but you've both acted badly. Remember that old bible story where King Solomon was asked which of two women should have a baby they both claimed to be the mother of? He said to cut it in half and give half to each mother. One woman was silent, the other said let the baby go to her rival. King Solomon gave the baby to the woman who was willing to give him up because she was the real mother, who put the good of the child over her own needs."
Melanie met her eyes. "What are you saying?"
"Mel, you and I share a special bond. We both lost a baby when you had your miscarriage. I know it was much harder on you, but that baby you lost was my son's child. That made the little critter very special to me, too. I never hoped to have a grandchild, but you gave me the chance to experience that wonderful anticipation. Through no fault of your own, you lost your baby. I felt your pain, Mel. I still do. But you can't let it destroy you. You're smart, beautiful, young and if God's willing, you may have that child yet. If not, you still have Gus. Don't fuck up your relationship with the one child you can be sure of in this uncertain world."
"How am I fucking it up?"
"Don't let him grow up hating you because you kept him from his birth mother and his father, no matter what your legal rights may be. Legal rights mean nothing to kids. Kids don't understand all that, but they do understand being separated from people they love."
"What about me? It's alright for him to be separated from me? He doesn't love me?"
"Of course he does, honey. No, it's not alright. You two girls need to work out these issues with Gus as the focus, not the football. Linds has to give, but so do you. You both have to compromise and make this transparent to him. She gave birth to him, Mel. You know what it's like to lose a baby who has been growing inside your body. Imagine what it's like to lose a baby you delivered and cared for since birth? The pain of that loss is indescribable."
Melanie sighed and leaned back, twisting a tissue in her hand. "Is this really about Gus and Lindsay and me, Deb, or is it about Brian? I know how you really feel about him, despite your bluster on that topic."
"Do you? I wish you'd tell me, because god damn it, I don't know how I feel about Brian Kinney! Never have. Part of me hates the smug, arrogant son of a bitch who uses his brains and his beauty like weapons. I resent the ruination he's brought to Michael's life, the bar he's fixed that no other man can top. That part of Brian, I hate." She sighed and smiled sadly. "But then I remember the skinny kid with the bloody nose who used to curl up to sleep on the swing on my front porch in the dead of winter because he didn't want to wake us, but he couldn't stay in the house with that drunken excuse for a father who would beat him senseless on a routine basis. He grew up in a home without warmth and without love, and he learned very early how to protect himself by building walls around his heart.
"And then I think of Brian as the man who was willing to give up his one centered relationship, his friendship with Michael, in order to give Michael a shot at happiness with David. Brian's the man who agreed to impregnate his old friend, Lindsay, and who gave up his parental rights to solidify her relationship with her partner. He lost his cold heart to a blond kid and whatever dumb things have happened between them, he's never wavered in his love for Justin. He's saved Ted's ass, he was responsible for Michael opening his own business, he made your wedding possible, he brought down a fascist, at great personal cost, and he supports and loves his child. And now he's going through the biggest crisis of his life, and he's facing it with courage and class. So you tell me how I feel about Brian Kinney, honey. I haven't got a fucking clue."
Brian awoke horny on Saturday morning, and rolled over, reaching for Justin. He was alone. Frowning, he noticed the time, almost eleven, and gave his rigid cock a comforting squeeze. He heard Justin's voice coming from the main room. Was he with someone or talking on the phone? Just in case, Brian pulled on a robe, and started to go out there, when he heard Justin say,
"No Deb, at least you tried. Who knows? Maybe it'll start her thinking. I really appreciate your help. Remember, don't mention it around Mikey, I don't want Brian to know. He's already pissed at me over the whole loan situation. Okay, thanks again. Bye."
He hung up the phone and stretched, pausing in mid-yawn when he saw Brian's glowering presence in the threshold of their bedroom. Justin smiled sheepishly.
Brian continued to glare, his arms crossed at his chest. "Spill."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't fuck with me, Justin. What have you done now? And on the heels of your other fiasco, let me just say I'm beginning to take this personally."
Justin sighed. "This wasn't about you, really. This was for Lindsay."
"What was for Lindsay? What are you? The puppetmaster, pulling everyone's strings? For chrissakes, Justin! Can't you mind your own fucking business?"
Justin glared at him. "Don't get all mad at me before you even know what I did!"
"Okay, then, tell me what you did."
"Deb and I were chatting and we both decided it might help Lindsay's cause if she went over and talked to Melanie about Gus. Melanie is pretty close to Deb, you know. So she did."
"And knowing Deb's gift for subtlety, it was an unqualified disaster."
"I'm not so sure. I think maybe she made Melanie start looking at her motives and thinking about what is best for Gus. Who knows? It may be helpful, in the long run."
"How old are you, now? Nineteen?"
Justin glared at him. Brian knew how old he was. His pretending not to know was annoying. "I'll be twenty-one next month."
"Whatever. The fact is you may be a brilliant little fucker, but you haven't been around long enough to know what's best for everyone. And Debbie, God love her, has the common sense of a goose. So let me make a little suggestion. Butt the fuck out of it. All of it. Get a hobby. Pick up a paintbrush. Do something. Stop manipulating areas of my life where you don't belong."
"You have areas of your life that I can't be part of?"
"Yes, Justin, yes, I do. Just as you have areas of your life that are private to you. We have to respect that. I need that space, you understand?"
"Do you love me?"
Brian rolled his eyes and went into the kitchen, putting together a pot of coffee. "This is not about that."
"It feels like it is."
"Get over it, it's not. Let me ask you something, blondie."
Justin frowned at him, hating it when Brian called him that name. "What, slim?"
Brian restrained a smirk. "When are you going to start painting again or have you just decided that being a gofer for Leo is your ultimate goal in life?"
Justin looked at his lover for a long time, only now realizing how long it had been since he created anything other than an ad campaign for Brian. "Uh..."
Brian nodded. "Here's what I'm going to do. When we renovate the loft for the office space, I'm taking the second bedroom and cutting it in half. I'll have a tiny office for myself, and you'll have a tiny studio, where you can paint, along with your computer for your work in that medium. The art work for the business will be conducted in the cubicles we erect in the main part of the loft, this is for your own private creations."
"That room isn't big enough for that, Brian. You'll have room for a desk and chairs and nothing else if you cut it in half."
"So? I'll put in a glass wall to open it up. I don't need a palace. You should see where Mick works. It's nothing fancy, and yet she does great things there. You can't let our relationship or my problems stop you from painting, Justin. You have a true talent and you need to develop it. Are we together on this?"
Justin smiled wryly. "This has nothing to do with your desire for me to butt out of your business, right?"
Brian shrugged. "Tangentially."
Justin walked over to him and slid his hand inside Brian's robe, fondling his cock that had gone soft, but quickly sprang back to life. "But not all of your business, right? Some of your private life is still open to me, isn't it?"
Brian smiled, leaning back against the counter, his eyes half-closing as he responded to Justin's delicate fondling. "Just the most private parts."
Justin smiled and unsashed Brian's robe, dropping to his knees on the slate floor as he wrapped a hand around Brian's cock and masturbated him gently while flicking his tongue over the head and down the shaft. Once he was fully erect, he slid the whole organ into his mouth and down his throat, smoothing it against his lips and wetting it with his saliva. Brian moaned and buried his hand in Justin's hair, giving in to the extreme sensation as he felt his need build into a firestorm of passion. At moments like this, Brian thought to himself, even his shitty life was good.
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July 25, 2004