Here it is, way early, gang. I'll be out this evening. Seriously thinking of changing my posting date from the weekend! The team will put it up when they can, they weren't expecting this. THanks to each of them, as always, Alan, Pfyre, Jen and Roz. This week I received two offline emails complimenting me on the site, which I quickly told the senders I had no part in it! I only do the writing. Also, a special thanks to QAFF for her legal expertise in helping keep things realistic. Enjoy! (In the picture for next week, you will see Brian is quoted out of THIS chapter, my fault, just roll with it. I changed the order of some things.)
Brian squinted at the screen, finding the image as strange and disturbing as photos of an alien life force sent back to earth via satellite. Mick and Lindsay were far more enthusiastic as the sonogram revealed the tiny fetus.
"Is no one alarmed that it resembles a prawn?" Brian asked causing Lindsay to reach over and pinch his thigh while she giggled.
"Stop! That's what you looked like once, Mr. Wonderful."
The technician glanced over at the male component of this odd group and said, "Not exactly. This baby is a female."
"How the hell can you tell that?" Brian challenged her. "I can't even make out its limbs, let alone its genitals."
"At this stage, it's really more of a lack thereof," the technician explained. "The fetus is turned to give us a perfect view. While there always exists the chance of a misdiagnosis of gender at this stage, there is no sign of a penis, so the default is female."
"Well, if you would see a penis from this direction, and you can't, it must be a girl, because any son of mine would be showing off proudly."
Mick laughed. "You are such a caveman. A girl, Linds! How exciting! A sister for Gus. Are you thrilled?"
Lindsay beamed at her and squeezed her hand as the technician printed the screen to give them the image of the baby. Later, at an open air café in the Village, Justin joined them for lunch. Lindsay was still floating on the buoyancy of their good news.
"It's not that I'd have been disappointed if it were a boy. I couldn't adore Gus more than I do. But it's wonderful to have one of each, isn't it Brian?"
He winced as he took a sip of his latte and tried to picture himself with a daughter. "I don't know. I don't like the idea of watching any daughter of mine go out on dates, knowing she's going to be pawed and poked by a bunch of horny, pimply boys."
Justin laughed. "Not for a few years, I hope. I recommend against dating at birth."
Brian cut him a smirk. "You weren't much older than that when I met you, Sunshine."
"Gus will have the same issues," Lindsay reminded Brian, who shrugged.
"No, he'll be the one with the pimples and the poker."
"Christ," Mick said, shaking her head in disgust. "That is the most flawed, retro thinking. Completely sexist."
"Every man feels that way," Brian defended. "They're lying if they say otherwise."
"The important thing is that she appears healthy and perfect," Lindsay reminded them. "And I've never felt better."
"Or looked better," Mick beamed, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
"Oh I don't know about that," Brian teased. "When she was nineteen, and as slim as a whippet, she was pretty damned devastating."
Lindsay laughed. "As were you. Oh, damn, you're still slim as a whippet. I hate you."
"That's because I have the easy part of reproduction. How can anyone say God is a woman? If so, why would She put you guys through this? If men had to give birth, there would be no overpopulation problem." His mobile rang and he answered it. Cynthia sounded flustered.
"Felix just called," she informed him.
"He wants to meet you for a drink this evening."
"That's even stranger."
"What should I tell his assistant?"
"Hold on," he lowered the phone to address Mick. "Felix wants to meet me for a drink. What do I do?"
"Go, listen, agree to absolutely nothing."
"Cyn, tell him yes, but make him come down here. In fact, make him meet me at Hot, Mick's bar."
Cynthia laughed. "A gay bar?"
"Hey, he wants to see me, we play on my turf."
He hung up and noticed Justin's piercing stare. "What?" Brian challenged and Justin sighed.
"Why would he call?"
"Shit, I left my crystal ball at the loft. How the hell do I know?"
"Don't snark at me, Brian. I'm just suspicious about the call."
Brian leaned over to kiss Justin's cheek by way of apology for snapping at him. "I am too. Why is he calling me, Mick?"
"He's a hard driving executive and schmoozing is his weapon. My guess is he wants to try and find a way to wiggle out of this lawsuit now that Walker is toast. Maybe even offer to re-hire you. After all, you've taken a bunch of his lucrative clients away from the firm. I guess he didn't anticipate that result."
"I'd give blow jobs in a bus station before I'd work for him again."
"Like you haven't given blow jobs in bus stations," Justin teased, ducking Brian's glare.
"What if he offered you a lot of money?" Lindsay asked and Brian shrugged.
"Money's cheap. If I learned anything from this debacle, I've learned what's important. What really matters are the people around this table and a handful who aren't here with us. I can always make money," he wrapped an arm around Justin's shoulders as his lover leaned against him affectionately. "This shit is irreplaceable."
"You should get shot more often," Justin teased. "It's improved your world view."
"Yeah, set that up, will you? Walker's hit man should be free now that the old man is dead," Brian responded, and then leaned over to kiss Justin as the two women smiled at each other, observing their shared affection.
Even though none of the patrons at Hot were the least bit interested in the overweight, balding ad executive, Felix felt certain they were all checking him out while he awaited Brian Kinney's late arrival. Felix was as nervous as a rabbit at a greyhound convention, prepared to spring for the door if one of these faggots made a grab for him. He noticed the crowd didn't fit his preconceived notion of men who would inhabit a gay bar. There were some who were obviously effeminate, but most looked as if they would blend in just as well among the fern bar crowds in mid-town.
When Brian Kinney walked in, accompanied by a smaller, younger blond, the crowd took notice. He was dressed casually in jeans and a denim shirt, but he had an élan that set these men on alert, or maybe it was the handsome blond they were noticing. Probably both. Brian called a greeting to the bartender and crossed the room to sit across from Felix at his table.
"I'll get us some drinks," Justin said.
"Wait," Brian reached for him and Justin draped himself over the back of Brian's chair, his arm casually slung across Brian's chest, his cheek pressed to Brian's hair as his lover said to Felix, "Have you met Justin? My better half?"
"Uh, no," Felix hadn't expected this wrinkle.
"Justin, Felix, Felix, Justin," Brian continued. Justin reached past Brian and across the table to shake hands. Felix shook his extended hand with perfunctory politesse.
"May I get you a drink, Felix?" Justin offered and Felix declined, motioning to his full shot of scotch. Justin left for the bar and Brian watched him retreat, and then turned his gaze to Felix. He lit a cigarette and Felix sighed.
"I didn't think you'd bring your...your...friend."
"My friend?" Brian laughed. "Surprise. How ya been, Felix? How's bid'ness?"
"Good, Brian. And you? Are you recovering from that....that incident in the park?"
"You make it sound like a purse-snatching. You mean from that attempted murder?"
"Much better, thanks. Looks like I'll make it."
Justin returned with their drinks, handed one to Brian and sat down beside him. "Bartender wouldn't let me pay for them. He said it was worth the price of a couple drinks to finally get a look at the little stud who took you off the meat market."
"Little stud?" Brian responded with a laugh. "Whatever. This is your party, Felix. What's the agenda?"
"Brian, with Walker dead, Boston Industries is undergoing an internal shake up. Not sure how it will play out, because the stock that controls the corporation is still held within the Walker trust, and by his estate. The gossip is that his wife will step in. She has no prior business experience. I think it's a disaster."
Brian blinked as he took a sip of his drink. "I care about this because...?"
"I'll be honest with you. No reason not to be. Walker did pressure me to get rid of you. I have to look at the well-being of the whole firm, and if we lost BI, we'd lose jobs, lots of them, because we wouldn't have the budget to support them. I realize that made you something of a sacrificial lamb, but that's the way it goes, sometimes. You have to be able to make a hard decision in business. I hated it. You were always a top performer and..."
Brian held up a hand to stop him as Justin squeezed Brian's thigh under the table, restraining his own anger. "Stop it, Felix. Don't blow smoke up my ass. Too much water under the bridge for that. I knew Walker was manipulating things, this is no surprise to me. That's why I sued Walker, too. So?"
"So, I want you back, Brian. Let's just drop all this stupid, pointless and expensive litigation and go back to where we were."
Justin laughed and Brian glanced at him and then at Felix. "You're kidding me, right?"
"Of course you'd be compensated for the time you were, uh, away, and we'd also re-hire that blonde girl who worked with you."
"That 'blonde girl' has a name. Cynthia. Now why would I want to do this, Felix? Why wouldn't I believe that once I dropped the litigation, you'd come up with some other bullshit excuse and fire me again?"
"Won't happen. I'll give you a locked-down employment contract, Brian. More annual salary, increase your bonus level, increase your partnership shares. Money has to be tight for you now. I hear you're working out of your home."
"Oh yeah, money is definitely tight, Felix, but I've landed some sizeable accounts, including Sports H2O who signed on with me today."
Felix frowned as he heard yet another of his big clients had been lost to Brian Kinney. "Don't let your pride stand in your way, Brian. This could be a big move for you. You have to be tired of this lawyer bullshit."
"You have no idea how tired of it I am. My lawyer told me you'd make me an offer and that I was supposed to commit to nothing. But I have to say this," he shook his head as Justin reached over and covered Brian's hand with his, warning him to be silent. "I wouldn't work for you or that fucking firm if you were the last ad agency in the universe. I have a job. I work with people I like, Cynthia is with me now, and Justin is our de facto art director. I have expansion plans. I'm actually making money now. I don't need your job. I just need your clients, and I intend to get them all, one at a time, until the only thing you're pimping at Vanguard are pawn shops and parking lots."
"Don't be a drama queen, Brian. Think with your head, not emotionally."
Brian leaned back, rolling his lips in against his teeth in an expression Justin knew only too well. Justin waited for the inevitable. It finally came in a calm voice that Brian directed at Felix. "Like some silly faggot, you mean? Know what I think, Felix? I think you fired me because you were a slave to Walker, but I also believe you meant every single word you said to me when you let me go. Every homophobic word you said. So let me tell you in butch English what you can do if you want this litigation to go away. Make me an offer that has at least six zeroes in the number and we'll talk. Otherwise, you can kiss my tight, jiffy-lubed, homosexual ass! Come on, Justin, let's go fuck each other senseless."
"Nice to meet you," Justin said to Felix with a sarcastic smile as he wrapped an arm around Brian's waist and they left the bar together.
Brian sat on the floor in the living room of Mick's apartment playing with Gus and a fleet of small plastic cars while Justin watched with a bemused smile. He loved to see Brian with his son. There was a softness in him that came out around Gus that he never showed at any other time, even with Justin. Mick and Lindsay came in with a tray of sandwiches and some cold beers.
"Say goodnight," Lindsay said, scooping Gus up from the floor. "Give Daddy a kiss. It's past your bedtime."
"Night night, Daddy," Gus said, planting a wet kiss in the vicinity of Brian's mouth.
"Night cowboy," Brian responded, ruffling his son's hair as Lindsay carried the baby over to say goodnight to Justin and Mick. Brian got up and sat beside Justin on the sofa, reaching for a sandwich and a beer. He had already related the conversation with Felix to Mick and then Gus demanded his full attention, so they really didn't discuss it. Now she stared thoughtfully at her client.
"Brian, it's not too late. You can still go back. He'll up that offer."
"What is it you don't understand about 'I won't work for that agency'. Not ever. I like what I'm doing, Mick. I like the freedom of having both creative and marketing input. I like working with Justin and Cynthia. I like having the ability to try a few new things without clearing a committee of old farts. I want to get Mark into the firm. I think we honestly have a chance of hitting, and I also think Mark can raid his firm the same way I'm raiding Vanguard."
"But you'd be free of all the legal hassles."
"Fuck it. They're going to pay. Walker, or at least his family and his company, are going to pay. I'll get through the rest of it."
She smiled. She always admired Brian's ballsiness. She was glad to see the recent string of near-tragedies hadn't dulled his fighting spirit. "Felix's admission regarding Walker will certainly assist us in prosecuting that claim. Jacobi tells me the criminal trial is scheduled for next week. Are you up for it?"
He glanced at Justin and shrugged. "I just want it over with."
Justin patted Brian's thigh gently. "You'll do fine. Leo is giving me the time off so I can watch your testimony."
"I don't know about that. I'm not sure I want you to witness my testifying to what a dumb ass I was."
Justin smiled. "Don't worry about that. I already know what a dumb ass you were."
Brian chuckled. "Bitch."
"You made me what I am today." They kissed and Mick shook her head slowly, amused by their snarky, romantic style.
On the morning of the first day of the trial of Jeffrey Walker, Junior, Justin dropped a plate of freshly scrambled eggs on the hardwood floor of the kitchen, shattering the dish and scattering yellow shrapnel across a wide area. Brian's appearance was the cause of this extreme startle reflex.
"What the fuck?" Justin insisted and Brian looked perplexed.
"Who are you?"
Brian's Italian-designed suit, handmade shirt and classic silk tie were familiar enough, but his hair was still damp and combed close to his head, and he wore a pair of rimless glasses that caused him to resemble a drop-dead gorgeous college professor.
"Where did you get those glasses?" Justin demanded and Brian frowned as he poured himself a cup of coffee, gingerly avoiding the egg splatter.
"I've always had them. Since I was about twelve, I've had corrected vision. I just wear contacts all the time."
"You do not!"
Brian glared at him. "Why would I lie about this?"
"I've never seen you put a lens in your eye!"
"I wear the disposable kind. You put them in and wear them all the time, then throw them out in a month or so and put in a new pair. Why do you care?"
"Because I can't believe I've lived with a man, loved a man, thought I knew everything about this man, and just now discover that he wears contacts?"
"You'll never know everything about me, Sunshine. Never."
Justin finished cleaning up his mess and leaned against the counter, observing his lover. "Why the glasses?"
Brian shrugged. "I've had them, I just don't wear them. Don't need to with the contacts. I decided to wear them today. You have a problem with that?"
"Actually, I think you look hot in them."
Brian chuckled. "You think I'd look hot in pork rinds."
"Shut up. Wasn't this morning enough for you, you sex pig?"
Justin laughed. "Some wise man once told me, 'there's no such thing as enough'."
"You need to improve the crowd you hang with."
"Apparently. Want some breakfast?"
"Are you serious? Want to see me hurl on the witness stand? No, I'll pass."
"Brian," Justin came over to him and encircled him in his arms. "You don't have to wear a disguise. You can do this. You tell the truth. That's all you have to do, and no one tells the truth more often or better than you."
Brian smiled and leaned down to kiss him. "It could get ugly. They'll try to paint me as a reprobate and that means your name will be drawn in with mine."
"There goes my Supreme Court appointment," Justin teased. "I'm proud of what we share. I don't care who knows it or how much they know. And I know about all your warts, it's not as if there will be any surprises to me. Send that motherfucker to jail, Brian. That's all you need to do."
"Don't come to court. I don't want you to see me up there."
"Try and stop me."
"You go. I know you have an appointment with Jacobi. I'm going to try this again with the eggs. Then I'll shower and dress and come down."
"They'll be doing preliminary stuff this morning anyway. Boring. They just picked a jury and I guess they have to do opening arguments or something. I probably won't be on until closer to lunch."
"Okay, I won't rush. Relax. Here, I have something for you," Justin reached into the pocket of his sweats and pulled out a blue rubber ball. Brian took it with a curious look and Justin smiled.
"It's my therapy ball. The one I used when I first got out of the hospital and I was trying to build the strength and flexibility in my gimpy hand. I've carried it around, squeezing it if I get nervous or worried. It helps."
Brian smiled. "Your 'therapy ball'? Lydia needs to hear about this," he tossed it from hand to hand and then grinned at his lover. "You're a whack job, you know that?"
"It's the head injury."
Brian leaned down to kiss him, then picked up his briefcase and slowly left the loft.
Brian noticed Jeffrey speaking to an elegant looking, silver-haired woman before the trial began, and he correctly assumed she was Jeffrey's mother. The look she gave Brian was not one of hatred, however, rather it was curious compassion. He was always amazed by the feminine capacity to forgive. When he went up to the stand, while he was being sworn in, Brian looked towards Justin. His lover reassured him with a slight smile. Mick sat beside Justin, and at Brian's request, Lindsay stayed away. It was now time for Brian to tell his story.
After the preliminary identification questions, Jacobi led Brian into the heart of his story.
"Mr. Kinney, do you know the defendant, Jeffrey Walker, Junior?"
"Yes, I do."
"How do you know him?"
"I had a sexual relationship with him and he was also a treating physician on the case of my partner's little sister, who is suffering from leukemia."
"How old was this patient?"
"Twelve, at the time."
"Does she reside in Manhattan?"
"Do you know whether the defendant resides in Manhattan?"
"Yes, he does. But I asked him to get involved."
"Why is that?"
"I knew he was well-respected in the field of pediatric oncology, treating kids with cancer."
"Were you involved with him sexually at that time?"
"No, we had a very brief fling, before that, but I was in a relationship with someone, and it wasn't happening. I liked Jeff, and hoped we could be friends, but we weren't lovers."
"When did that change?"
"When I induced him to come to Pittsburgh to treat Molly."
"Molly is your partner's sister?"
"What was his response when you asked him to come to Pittsburgh to treat Molly?"
"He said he had a huge practice in New York, and if I expected him to disadvantage himself, then I would have to bargain something for his time."
"What was that?"
"He wanted to have a relationship with me. He wanted me to leave my partner for him, and if I would, he said he would cure Molly. If I wouldn't, he said he would let her die."
"Did you believe he could cure her?"
"I had already witnessed how she improved through some changes he made to her protocol. I was desperate to believe she had a chance, so yes, I believed him."
"Mr. Kinney, you testified that the defendant used his services as a doctor to bind you into a sexual relationship with him, is that correct?"
"Before he made that offer, how much time had passed since you were last intimate with him?"
"A month, six weeks, maybe. I'd told him it was over, and I meant it."
"Were you still in Manhattan when you had this conversation with the defendant about treating Molly?"
"No, I had gone to Pittsburgh to be closer to Justin, my partner, and his family."
"Did you take leave from your job?"
"The agency I worked for at the time had an office in Pittsburgh. I worked out of that office and stayed in a hotel."
"Did the defendant come to Pittsburgh to treat this child?"
"Yes, because I said I would honor his request."
"At that time, were you back in a monogamous relationship with your partner?"
"Prior to your temporary relocation to Pittsburgh, did your partner leave New York?"
"Yes, he went home to be there for his sister and his mom."
"While he was gone, did the defendant try to become intimate with you?"
"And were you intimate?"
"No, I wouldn't do it."
"I didn't feel that way about him anymore, and I was being respectful to Justin. Especially with what he was going through."
"Why were you willing to acquiesce to the defendant's demands?"
"Because Molly was hovering between life and death and there was indisputable evidence that she did better when Jeff was guiding her protocol.. I would sacrifice everything to get her well, including my own happiness. I bonded with Molly. I couldn't let her die."
"At the expense of your own lover, her brother?"
Brian met Justin's eyes and sighed. "We had a vague hope that after she was well, there would be nothing to hold me to Walker. But I had a real fear of tricking fate, so who knows?"
"You became Walker's sexual partner, willingly, subject to this coercion?"
"Objection, there has been no evidence of coercion..."
"Let me rephrase."
"Were you able to perform sexually with the defendant?"
"I was physically and emotionally wasted. I wasn't sleeping at all, spending every free moment at the hospital with Molly. I also had to keep going on my job and try to maintain some relationship with Justin on the sly because he was all that was keeping me sane. When Molly went into isolation, before the transplant, she almost died more than once, she was so frail. I was distraught and having an affair with Jeffrey Walker was not high on my list."
"At this time, were you under the care of a psychiatrist?"
"Yes. I had been for months."
"Why were you seeking psychiatric treatment?"
"I went in because I was having trouble sleeping, but I soon realized I was suffering from extreme depression."
"Do you know the cause?"
"Superficially because my partner, at that time, had left me for another man. But it was more than that. I wanted to change my life. I wanted to understand why I was so terrified of intimacy and so unable to commit to anyone."
"Were you prescribed medication by your psychiatrist?"
"Yes, Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant."
"Are you still seeing that psychiatrist?"
"I'm still unraveling my own emotions, and I want my relationship with my partner to work more than anything. It would never happen without help. I was dealing with too many issues to rely on self-help."
"Did the defendant know you were being treated by a psychiatrist?"
"Yes, he knew all about it. We discussed it. He found it amusing that I would rely on a woman, and an African-American woman, at that."
"What was your response to that?"
"Lydia, Dr. Johnson, saved my life. Not only when I was so depressed when I first saw her, but also when Jeff took me all the way down."
Brian tuned out the lawyer's arguments, glancing at Justin, trying to read his reaction. His lover gave him a sweet smile and Brian relaxed slightly.
"So, despite your fragile mental and physical condition, did the defendant expect you to have sexual relations with him?" Jacobi continued.
"Yes. I did have sexual relations with him. In my opinion, he didn't care about my condition. He wanted to dominate me. He would order me to perform oral sex on him, which requires no sexual reaction from my body, and ultimately, he started giving me drugs to get me interested."
"Do you know what drugs he would give you?"
"No, something he injected. It was like super-speed, it hyped me up until I was climbing the walls. And then he brought me down with a second shot of something else."
"Did you willingly submit to these drugs?"
"Not the first time, but after that, it seemed to be the only way I could give him what he wanted. I was on the verge of a complete breakdown by then. I was the living dead."
"How often were you given these drugs by Dr. Walker?"
"Five or six times, maybe."
"Did Molly improve?"
"Yes, she didn't reject her brother's bone marrow and she was on the rise."
"Why didn't you leave the defendant at that time?"
"I was afraid of tricking fate. I was out of it, and I believed if I went back on our agreement, she would slip away."
"Were you still in Pittsburgh?"
"We came back to Manhattan for a social function honoring Jeff's work with sick kids, and he wanted me there."
"Were you given anything to get you through the evening?"
"I was afraid of it, but he was determined I not be sullen and as he put it, in a 'Black Irish' funk. He wanted to impress his friends with his new boyfriend, I guess."
"So you went to this function?"
"Yes. And all my friends from Pittsburgh, and my lover, and his mother, they all trooped in and sat at our table. One of the men seated at our table had arranged for it. He was an old acquaintance of Jeffrey's but a new friend of my partner."
"It was an intervention of sorts. My partner's mother stood up and thanked me for helping Molly and fired Walker in front of a room full of his associates. After that, the ruse just went away. I left with my partner, and I just bottomed out. It took me awhile to recover from the drugs Walker had been giving me, but my partner and I left the country on vacation after I filed charges, just to recuperate. Which I did."
"Mr. Kinney, let me ask you once more. Did you consent to the initial injection of drugs by the defendant?"
"No, I did not."
"And after you were injected, were you even capable of consenting freely to sexual relations with the defendant?"
"No, I was not. I was completely wasted."
"One more thing. Are you still with your partner?"
"Yes," Brian smiled slightly. "I am."
"Your witness," Jacobi said to the defense counsel.
The judge glanced at his watch and announced it was time for a lunch break. They would resume in an hour. The judge left and then the jury, and Brian watched them lead Jeffrey out of the courtroom before he stepped down from the witness stand where he was met by Justin who held him tightly in his arms, no words necessary between them.
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July 25, 2004