Sorry it's late. I got tied up. Thanks as always to my team, Roz, Pfyre, Jen and Alan. Hope you enjoy, but let me know either way! Ran
Justin answered the knock at the door while Brian and Shea watched a German soccer game on television. Although Shea was pale and thin, he had enjoyed a pretty good week, with fewer side effects and a slight improvement in his blood levels. They all knew better than to suppose it meant a turn-around, having been through the ups and downs of this disease with him in grim detail over the last month or so. By tomorrow, he could be hospitalized again, knocked flat by a sudden infection.
On the other side of the threshold, Justin found a handsome, clean-cut young man wearing a business suit and carrying a heavy briefcase. "A-are you Mr. Kinney?" he asked uneasily and Justin laughed.
"No, I'm Mrs. Kinney," he teased. "I'm Justin Taylor, Brian's partner. Are you the D.A.?"
"Assistant D.A. Jim Jacobi."
They shook hands. "Come in, Jim. Bri, the heat is here."
Brian got up, checking out the stranger with a long glance. "Why don't you guys finish watching the game in the bedroom?"
Shea got up, understanding when he was being politely asked to leave.
Justin hesitated. "I want to stay."
Brian glared at him. "Go, please."
Justin frowned, resembling a young boy being told he couldn't do what he wanted by a stern parent. He grabbed a bag of chips and a can of dip and joined Shea in the bedroom, closing the door behind him.
Brian invited Jacobi to sit down and he motioned to the table, explaining they'd have papers to review.
"You're pretty young, aren't you?" Brian observed and the man shrugged.
"Next to you, the oldest one here. Your place always full of young men?"
"I should be so lucky," Brian said coolly, sensing that the judgment of a homophobe was behind that question. "Justin's my lover. He's older than he looks. Shea, the tall kid is just a friend."
Jacobi picked up a framed photograph of Brian holding a smiling Gus. He offered him a silent inquisition and Brian took it from him and replaced it on the ledge. "My son, Gus."
"Interesting family dynamic. You were married?"
"In-vitro fertilization. I was the donor. His mama's an old friend of mine."
"Brian, I'm going to make you hate me before this is over."
"You are? I thought you were on my side."
"I am. But you're what we call in the trade, a ‘wild card'. You're key to the case, you can really make it a winning hand, but you're unpredictable and come with a lot of baggage, so it's a mixed review. I want to put this dude behind bars. You need to be ready when you're up there testifying. He's hired top-notch defense lawyers. They'll be gunning for your ass."
"Swell. How pleasant. So why will I hate you?"
"Because I'm going to put you through the wringer. If you can hold up to me, the true cross-examination will be a cakewalk."
"Will I be the first one up?"
"I'll determine the order of witnesses after I get to know you a little better. That's why I asked to meet with you in your home. I want to understand your environment. Have you ever testified before?"
"I gave a statement to the prosecution when my partner got bashed a few years ago. As far as I know, they never used it in the trial."
"You witnessed the bashing?"
"Yes," Brian said with a wince.
"He saved my life," Justin interrupted, accompanied by a nervous looking Shea. "He disarmed the basher and if he hadn't, if the jerk had been free to keep hitting me, I'd be dead."
"It wasn't that big a deal," Brian insisted. "I mean my part in it. Your injury was a very big deal."
"You know you saved my life, Brian. We're bored with the game. We're going to a movie. "
"Okay. Good idea. You need some money?"
"No," he walked over and kissed Brian squarely on the lips, ignoring Jacobi's stern expression. Brian smiled and patted Justin's rump.
"Have fun, guys. Bye, Shea."
"See ya, Brian."
Brian watched them leave and then cast a penetrating gaze at the prosecutor, raising one eyebrow, daring him to say anything. The man smiled slightly, understanding what had just transpired. "My brother's gay, Brian. He's been with the same guy for almost ten years. They've adopted two kids. His marriage has lasted much longer than mine did. And he's a better father than I could ever be. So don't pin a label on me. I'm straight, but I'm gay friendly."
"I used to think that was an oxymoron and I still have my doubts. But my business partner is a straight female, and my shrink is a straight female, and they are two of my favorite people, so I guess I'm softening on that stance."
"Let's talk about you, Brian. Always been gay? Out?"
"Yes, always gay, but I went through the usual youthful angst and experimented some with girls. Not much. I wasn't out to my family or coworkers at first. I'm all the way out now."
"And Justin, how old is he?"
"Let's get to where you really want to go. He was a seventeen-year-old virgin when I picked him up and fucked him. Isn't that where you're headed?"
"Is it true?"
"I'm not sure who picked up whom, but the rest is true."
"How did you meet?"
"Can you tell me how this is relevant?"
"They are going to come gunning for your character, Brian. Every aspect of it will be examined in excruciating detail. Your relationship to Justin is a cornerstone of their defense. They want to show you as a man who can't be trusted, who was in a relationship with this innocent young boy while pursuing Jeffrey Walker."
"It's not like that."
"Tell me how it is."
"Justin and I had a...an affair... in Pittsburgh. He left me for another man. I moved to New York City. Much later, he came here and we decided to give it another shot. But I was still reeling from his earlier rejection and couldn't quite commit. I was seeing a shrink about my intimacy issues. I still am. I met Jeffrey during this time. We became friends."
"How did you meet him?"
"I took my son to the Natural History Museum. He helped me get Gus in his stroller and then into the building. He has a daughter, Gus's age, and she was with him. We ended up walking through the museum together and then we had lunch in the cafeteria. We had a lot in common. We just seemed to click."
"Attracted to him?"
"He's hot. That didn't escape my notice. But I wasn't after that shit and I thought he wasn't either."
"You told him about Justin?"
"From the beginning."
"When did you see him next?"
"Not sure, but I think it was when he called me and asked me to meet him for lunch. He was late, and I was pissed. Then he comes in wearing scrubs and he acted very remote. He went to the bathroom and was there for so long I finally checked on him. He was sitting on the floor, crying. He had lost a young patient and he was really upset by it."
"How did that hit you?"
"I was surprised, frankly. You wouldn't think a doctor who specializes in cancer in kids would be so crazed by a death. You'd think he sees it all the time."
"Were you touched?"
"Yes, but also kind of confused. Lydia, my shrink, later told me that people suffering from narcissism often believe they can beat the fates and that it wasn't empathy for the child that caused him to act that way. Rather it was a belief that fate or even the patient himself had let the doctor down by causing him to fail."
"When did your relationship with Walker turn sexual?"
"He chased me, called me, sent me emails, and I held him off. But Justin and I were going through a rough patch and Jeffrey went to his family's cabin in the woods of Massachusetts and I followed him there."
"So you pursued him all the way to Massachusetts?"
"I guess you could say that."
"What would you say?"
"He sent me an e-mail and said he loved me. I felt like we needed to talk, he needed to understand my complex feelings for Justin, at least to the extent that there wasn't room in my life for that kind of thing."
"So you went all the way to Massachusetts to tell him not to love you?"
"To explain it was going nowhere."
"One thing led to another and we fucked for the first time."
"So your altruistic reason for going there turned into a seduction."
"Shit happens. It wasn't my plan."
"So what did you do after you slept with him?"
"I realized it was the wrong thing to do. I needed to be with Justin. I felt guilty, which is unlike me, and I felt...it was just wrong."
"Did you tell him so?"
"Yes, and I left."
"Justin's young sister Molly was diagnosed with leukemia. He had to go home to Pittsburgh to be with her and with his mom. It was very serious."
"Were you close to this kid?"
"Not then, but we became very close."
"While he was away, did you sleep with Walker?"
"Never. I couldn't. It would have been wrong on so many levels. But as Molly declined, I begged Jeffrey to get involved. By now, I did care very much what happened to her, and she felt very close to me. Justin and I had put our relationship back on track, as much as we could, under these horrible circumstances. Jeffrey came to Pittsburgh with the idea that I would be his lover if he treated Molly."
"Not by choice."
"He raped you?"
"He drugged me and had sex with me. In my book, that's rape."
"Why didn't you report it?"
"Look, she was improving under his care. I realized I had a Hobson's choice. Either fuck Jeffrey and give Molly the help she needed to survive, or not fuck him and possibly cost her her life. So the answer was clear."
"You became his lover."
Brian shrugged, pinching the bridge of his nose, as if he found this whole conversation physically painful. "I tried. Oddly enough, I was no longer drawn to him at all, that way. I was exhausted, trying to work my job remotely, spend time with Molly and handle this crap with Jeffrey. The drugs he gave me were taking a real toll."
"What were they again?"
"I don't know, he injected me, they showed up in that medical report you have. One shot made me rage for sex, and the other left me flat, almost comatose. I don't see why he would want to have sex with someone he has to drug, but then I don't understand much about Jeffrey Walker. Molly had a bone marrow transplant, using marrow taken from Justin. That was the key time for her. Make or break. They took her all the way down, which killed off her immunities along with all the cancer cells, and then the marrow was supposed to regenerate the good stuff. But it was touch and go, and I wasn't dealing. I was on the edge of a complete breakdown."
"What was Jeffrey doing?"
"Separating me from Justin, making sure I believed that if he quit treating Molly, she was sure to die. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go back to New York with him, to be his boyfriend. He was getting this award for his humanitarian efforts and he wanted me to be there with him, to be his decoration in front of the world."
"Did you believe no other doctor could treat that child?"
"I wasn't alone in that belief. Her own mother thought so too. You ever had a child who was gravely ill?"
"Well, I hope you never do, but if you did, you'd find out any bargain is okay if it's to save their life. The fact is, Molly did improve under Jeffrey's care. Her mother believed she would've died if not for him, and I think she may be right. Who knows?"
"And he bargained with your sexual favors, is that it? You're a handsome man, Brian, but..."
"Look Jim, I'm not trying to tell you I'm God's gift to faggots. I do okay. But that's not what this is about. This is about control. He wanted to control me. For whatever reason, he wanted me to be his armhanger and he put his plan in motion to ensure I had no resistance. Not physical, not emotional."
"I guess I fit some ideal of his partner, or maybe I was just a challenge. I can't tell you what motivated Jeffrey Walker. He's a spoiled rich kid who's used to getting whatever he wants. Maybe I was his flavor of the month. I don't know."
"Do you believe he was in love with you?"
"I'm not a big believer in love. But even in my limited experience, what Jeffrey felt for me wasn't love. It was a fucking obsession."
"So, this rich, handsome, successful man is so smitten with you that he's willing to risk everything to drug you and force you into a relationship with him?"
Brian leaned back with a shrug. "It may sound ridiculous to you, but it is what it is."
"Who was on top?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean who was the active sex partner?"
Brian smiled slightly. "Why?"
"It's not prurient, Brian. This is a sexual abuse case, among other things. If you were fucking him it's not quite as easy to prove you were being forced into something you didn't want to do. Not impossible, coercion still exists, but it's not as understandable to a straight jury."
Brian shook his head. He found it excruciating to discuss this personal information with a stranger, especially a straight stranger. "I don't see why you have to focus on who put what where and when."
"A criminal trial is a trial by ambush. In a civil trial, the parties go through a lengthy discovery period where they get the documents and statements and understand all the points of the other party's case. Not so in a criminal trial. Other than access to the exculpatory evidence in my files, if any, there's no discovery. Their goal is to make the state look like bumbling, vengeful buttinsky and the state's witnesses look like lying, self-interested scumbags. They will make you out to be Satan. Unlikely the jury will be fond of either one of you guys by the time it's over. The gay issue is an automatic negative to most people, so it will all come down to which one of you is worse. Who is most likely to lie."
"You can call me a promiscuous, cheating, cold-blooded faggot, but one thing you can't call me is a fucking liar. I use honesty like a blunt instrument. Even my worst enemies will tell you that."
"Really? Were you honest with your parents about your sexual orientation?"
"They presumed I was straight, and I let them. Until I outed myself."
"You let them presume a lie. You lied to your partner about why you went to Massachusetts, didn't you?"
"I fessed up."
"You lied to those girls you experimented with when you were younger."
Brian sighed. "Ok, I get it. Everyone lies sometimes. I am not a liar by trade. And I'm not lying about Jeffrey Walker. He's a fucking psychopath and he almost killed me."
Jim Jacobi smiled and withdrew papers from his briefcase, prepared to take Brian all the way through the evidence now that he was certain that the victim understood the goal.
Brian was rattled by the time the D.A. left his loft. The mock cross had been grueling and he doubted whether he could withstand the real thing. The truth should be easy enough to tell, but Jim Jacobi made him realize there was nothing as simple as one truth, there were gradations to everything. Justin had ridden to the Center with Shea to make sure he made it there safely and he wasn't back yet. Restless, Brian lit a cigarette and walked out onto the street, feeling a need to get away from his home.
He walked between two narrow brownstones, a shortcut to his favorite newsstand.The alley was always dark, dank and slightly forbidding. He hadn't gone far when he felt the pressure of a hard barrel against the back of his neck and a gruff voice said, "Stop right there, sport."
Brian was more annoyed than scared, not in the mood for a mugging. "I didn't bring my wallet. I have twenty bucks in my front pocket. It's yours."
"I don't want your fucking money," the voice demanded.
"Well, what do you want? I'm not wearing any jewelry."
"I don't want your jewelry either. I just want your fine ass." Brian started to glimpse over his shoulder, but the gun barrel dug deeper. "Don't turn around."
"And what the hell do you plan to do with my fine ass?" Brian asked as the man moved a hand across the back of his jeans, taking in his firm buttocks in one long stroke.
"I plan to stick my cock up it and fuck you ragged."
"Unless you plan on using a condom, you may as well pull that trigger, Sly."
"I don't have a condom. I guess you'll just have to take your chances."
Brian smiled. "Okay, tough guy, if you're willing to take the chance, I guess I have no choice. How do you want it?"
"You gonna get yourself a box to stand on or something, half-pint?"
Justin giggled. "When did you know it was me?"
"When I smelled the soap. We use the same soap, brainiac, and not too many alley rapists import their soap from Paris." Brian turned and took the "gun" from Justin. It was a smooth rounded case enclosing a fine Cuban cigar. Brian looked delighted. "Where did you get this?"
"A British client of Leo's gave it to me yesterday. I forgot to take it out of my pocket and give it to you. He said they're legal in London."
"They're not legal to bring into the U. S. from London, however. Christ, it smells wonderful, I can even smell the tobacco over the stale piss and garbage in this alley. I'm saving it until later. Thanks, kid," he leaned down to kiss him and Justin spread his hand on the back of Brian's head.
"You want to do it right here? Against that damp brick wall with all those windows overlooking us?"
Brian considered it, then winced. "It stinks too bad. Let's go home."
"You're no fun," Justin moped and Brian swatted his rump.
"We may be forced to do it outside soon enough, when we have no home."
Justin giggled. "Don't be so dramatic."
As they reached the end of the alley, two men blocked their way. When one removed a chunky black Glock from under his jacket and pressed it to Brian's temple, for a split second Brian thought this was part of Justin's joke. But when the other slammed Justin up against the wall, restraining him with a hand on his throat, Brian knew this was for real.
"What the fuck?" Brian said, his heart hammering with apprehension the tone of his voice didn't reveal.
"Shut up," the man with the gun said. "You like your boyfriend's pretty face?"
The man holding onto Justin removed a glass vial from a pocket and uncorked it, dribbling a couple drops onto the pavement where it sizzled and smoked. It was obviously a form of acid. Justin gasped and struggled, growing still when the man held the vial up to his face.
"Stop it!" Brian pleaded and the man with the gun said,
"You don't drop this shit against Jeffrey Walker, you'll be coming home to the Phantom of the fucking Opera."
The man with the vial tossed it onto the pavement where it hissed and burned into the stone. As quickly as they appeared, the men were gone. Brian and Justin remained where they were for a frozen second, and then Brian took a step back and leaned against the wall as his knees felt rubbery and his stomach flipped. Justin rushed over to him, placing an arm around him, and they clutched each other for a long, silent moment, and then made their way back to the loft, arms tightly wound around each other's waist.
Justin sat close to Brian on the sofa, his hand resting against his lover's thigh as they sipped Scotch with shaky hands and waited for the terror to pass.
"I'm okay," Justin finally reminded him, and Brian nodded.
"We should call the police."
"We should tell Mick."
"It was just a scare tactic, Brian."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean they scared me. They were smart enough to threaten you instead of me. If they threatened me, I'd probably just get more stubborn, more determined. But they found my Achilles heel. They know I won't let anything happen to you."
Justin put his drink down and moved closer to Brian, resting his head against his shoulder. "You can't do this, Bri. You can't let them intimidate you by using me. It's bullshit. Some rich family is not going to hire thugs to stop your testimony. That's not the way they work."
"Life is cheap to people like the Walkers, babe. I put nothing past them. Maybe you should go to Pittsburgh for awhile."
Justin turned Brian's face to look at him. "Fuck that. This is my home. You're my partner. My life is here, with you. We face this together."
Brian's lips drew into a thin line as emotion threatened his composure. "You're a brave kid," he whispered softly. "Dumb as a box of rocks but brave."
Justin smiled. "Love makes you dumb sometimes."
Brian leaned over to kiss him, pulling him into his arms. He let his long fingers caress the velvety skin of Justin's perfect face, brushing the single pockmark left by a childhood bout of chicken pox, threading through his thick hair to find the thin, raised scar left by the bashing. He urged him back against the sofa with his weight, lying above him. He pressed a thigh between Justin's legs, feeling the bunch of his genitals against the long muscles of his own leg, pressing his cock to Justin's pelvis. Justin raised his arms over his head in a gesture of utter supplication, his body elongated under Brian's. Brian drug his kiss to Justin's exposed throat, pulling up his shirt to suck his tits and lick along the muscular wall of his armpit.
Justin flung a calf over Brian's hips, pressing even closer to his body. The fire between them was never quenched, never burned less bright, it just continued to flame and grow and consume. Soon they were both naked, the suede soft under Justin's back and hips, Brian's body hard above him. Brian ducked down to run the flat of his tongue up the length of Justin's erection, and down the other side, before popping the tip into his mouth and sucking eagerly on it. He'd retrieved the lube and he greased up two fingers, slipping them along the crease in Justin's ass until they hit home. He continued to suck Justin's cock as he slid the fingers inside, distributing the lubricant and stretching his tight opening. When he felt ready, Brian withdrew his fingers and spread the remaining lube on his own dick, penetrating his lover with easy finesse.
They fucked in a steady rhythm, Brian raised on his hands to stare down at Justin's blissful face, taking it slow, making it last. Justin's dick strained against his belly and he began masturbating as his passion overwhelmed him. Brian took that as a hint and increased the intensity of his pounding. Justin gasped, showering his belly and chest with a flood of cum, pushing Brian over the edge so that he broke his own dam.
Collapsed on top of Justin, both of them breathing hard and waiting for the thrill to pass, Brian laughed as Justin said, "We'll never get the lube and the cum off the suede."
"That's why we had it Scotchguarded," Brian teased, forcing himself to his feet and then helping Justin stand. They wiped away the traces with an errant piece of clothing, then retreated to the bathroom for a joint shower and round two.
Mick's apartment was located above the baths she owned and operated in Chelsea. There was a separate entrance from the street, an unassuming glass door up a set of steps. Her daughter responded to Brian's summons and buzzed him up. In the hallway on the landing there was a fine Oriental rug and a pair of blooming trees on either side of the double doors, that Gail answered before he could ring. Unlike many models who disappeared into nothingness without hair and makeup artists painting on a look, Gail had a natural, fresh prettiness even without help. She had Mick's coloring, but her features were more delicate, and her body was tall and slender in low-riding jeans and a tummy shirt. Brian knew if he was straight, Gail would be his type. But he wasn't, so he could admire her good looks without conflict.
"Hi," she said with a big smile that assured him he was her type, too, except for one little thing. "Come on in."
"I'm here to see your Mom."
"Right. She's taking a shower."
"She just ran to the corner drug store for something. She hasn't felt well today, for a couple days in fact."
"Really?" he felt bad for not knowing that fact about his son's mother. "What's wrong? She didn't finally get our flu, did she?"
"I don't think so."
Brian looked around the spacious main room. It was far more conventional than he expected with plain mission style furnishings, lots of plants and some good art displayed under spotlights. The hardwood floors were stripped and pickled and Brian suspected Mick did a lot of the work herself. Since the fireplace was retired for the season, she put a vase of fresh cut flowers on the grate, and there was a black and white portrait of Mick and Lindsay framed on the piano along with some family snaps. He wondered when they had that made, and thought he'd like one like that with Justin and him.
Mick finally entered the room, wrapped in a monogrammed terrycloth robe, her wet hair slicked straight back. She greeted Brian with a little hug and offered him a drink, which he declined. Gail left them alone without being asked and Brian sighed as he sat down heavily in a chair.
"Sorry to bother you at home."
"No problem. It sounded important."
"I need your advice."
"That's what you pay me for."
"How big a deal would it be for me to refuse to testify against Jeffrey?"
Mick narrowed her eyes at him. "You can't refuse, Brian. You have no grounds, you're not his wife, you have no fifth amendment claim. They can subpoena you and you have to testify."
"But would they really want me to? If I didn't want to? Jim Jacobi told me how crucial my testimony is to the case. If I made a bad witness, not a liar, not perjury, but just bad, couldn't I sink their case?"
She sighed. "What's going on? Surely Jacobi didn't scare you that much with his mock cross. You're made of sterner stuff than that."
"It has nothing to do with that."
"What does it have to do with, Brian?"
"I can't win this fight, Mick. I don't have the firepower. Walker isn't just fooling around or making idle rich man threats. I think he's even more dangerous than his son, and that's saying a lot. It's not just me, I'm worried about Justin. Not just Justin, but Gus. Look, if I was alone in the world, it would be one thing. Bring it on. But I'll be damned if I'm putting people I love at risk."
Mick sighed and shook her head. "Something happened, Brian. You aren't usually this dramatic. Want to tell me?"
"I think you should."
"And bring you into the mix?"
"I'm in the mix, big guy. I'm your friend and your lawyer."
He sighed, and reluctantly told her the whole story about the incident in the alley. She showed no reaction as she listened. When he finished, she said, "He's lost it."
"Has he? What can we do about it, Mick? So Justin and I file a complaint. Walker denies it. They'll never find these thugs. And then we're really in danger."
She nodded. "I understand your misgivings, Brian, but...we can't just let it go. You have to talk to Jacobi about it. He'll know what to do. Maybe they'll put a guard on you two."
"Oh joy. Just what I wanted, to be trailed by a fucking cop."
"Remember, if Jeffrey is released, he's still a threat to Justin. Maybe more of a threat."
The door opened and Lindsay came in, carrying an overloaded bag and puffing for breath. She was unusually pale and Brian got up to help her, unusually solicitous. She met his eyes, said hello, then pushed the bag at him as she ran for the bathroom. He turned to look at Mick, who was giving away nothing with her expression.
"Excuse me," she said, getting to her feet. "I'd better go check on her."
Brian sat the bag on the table and it fell on its side, dumping the contents out the opening. He absently began stuffing them back in, then hesitated as he picked up a box and stared at it. His stomach clenched and he looked up as Lindsay came back to the room, Mick's arm around her in a protective embrace. Lindsay was chalk pale and she saw what he was holding, further blanching her color. Mick helped her sit down, and Brian shook the box at her.
"What the fuck is this?"
"Just what you think it is, Brian," Mick said, taking it from him. "A home pregnancy test."
"It had better be for you or for Gail."
"If it was for me it would mean a star was rising in the East. As for Gail, she's too savvy to get knocked up. I leave that stupidity to the thirty-something bunch."
They both looked at Lindsay, who began to cry, covering her face with her hands.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God protect me," Brian suddenly reverted to altar boy days as he felt one more nail being hammered into the lid of his coffin.
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July 25, 2004