Ok, posting a little early for our skeleton crew of list sibs. Here it is. Thanks to Alan for the beta and to Jen for the illustrations and to Roz and Pfyre for making it possible! Hope you enjoy.
The jury answered to each count lodged against Jeffrey Walker, Junior. Jeffrey, standing and facing the foreman, wore a superior smile of vindication. Extortion? Not guilty. Possession of illegal substances and illegal prescription of drugs for non-medical reasons? Not guilty. Assault, using narcotics as a weapon? Not guilty. He was clear, he was free to go. If only Brian had been in the courtroom to witness this exculpation, Jeffrey believed his victory would've been complete. The jury obviously didn't buy the medical evidence presented by the state, or any of the witnesses after Brian's testimony. The victor hugged his mother, shook hands with his attorney, and left the courtroom, a free man.
In the corridor, he was stopped by reporters who asked him about his win, and as he commented with jubilant glee, he spotted a tall, lanky figure who emerged from the pack, watching Jeffrey with cool disinterest. Jeffrey disentangled himself from the press and walked over to Brian, grinning broadly at him.
"I guess you can see what the jury decided."
"I guess I can."
"Do you know why they found me 'not guilty', Brian?"
"Because they're a bunch of morons?"
"Because I'm innocent. All that happened in that courtroom was that you were forced to give up so much of your privacy and humiliate yourself publicly and then they didn't believe you anyway. How does it feel?"
Brian shrugged. "It feels like a miscarriage of justice, Jeff."
Jeffrey laughed. "You still believe in that shit? There is no justice, Brian. There's only the winner and the loser in the game of life and you fucking LOST!"
"Round one, maybe."
"What does that mean?"
Brian shrugged and motioned for Jeffrey to look over his shoulder. Jeffrey turned to find two uniformed policemen and one rumpled, overweight plainclothes detective facing him. "Jeffrey Walker, Junior?" the rumpled detective asked and Jeffrey looked perplexed.
"Yes. Who the hell are you? What do you want?"
"I'm Detective Horvath from the Pittsburgh Police Department. You're under arrest for crimes committed in Pittsburgh against one Brian Kinney. I have extradition papers here to take you back to Pittsburgh to stand trial."
Jeffrey laughed. "Very funny, Brian. Couldn't you have hired a more convincing looking cop? Or at least a hunky one? Although the two in uniform aren't all bad."
Brian was impassive, and Jeffrey narrowed his eyes at Horvath. "In case you haven't heard, I was just found 'not guilty' of all charges. Last time I looked this country had laws against double jeopardy. You can't retry me."
"You were acquitted of other charges filed by the state of New York, Dr. Walker. You're now being charged with rape and sexual assault that took place in Pennsylvania. Your lawyers can argue whatever they want in court. My job is to take you back. In irons. Face the wall."
Brian stood back as the press recorded Jeffrey Walker, Junior being frisked, cuffed and led away by the Pittsburgh P.D. while his blonde attorney perused the extradition papers. She argued helplessly with Horvath. Jeffrey's mother followed a few paces back, exchanging a brief smile with Brian as she went.
Once Jeffrey was gone, Brian went over to Justin, who had remained in the background, and kissed him gently.
"Are you sure you're up to another trial?" Justin asked.
"Mick thinks it's fifty-fifty whether his lawyers will be able to spring him on legal grounds before he goes to trial. But if we survive that, then yes. I'm prepared. Mrs. Walker was able to convince her highly placed friends to charge him, I'm prepared to uphold my end of the bargain."
"But if he wins on legal grounds, what did he lose?"
"Justin, for a man like Jeffrey, being led away in handcuffs in front of the press, after what he thought was his vindication, and then transported back to Pittsburgh like a felon and thrown into yet another jail cell, to face yet another trial, is punishment enough. People will think of all the hoopla surrounding his string of arrests when they think of Jeffrey Walker, they don't much care about the outcome. They'll follow the old 'where there's smoke' line of thinking, which will haunt him forever. OJ may be out on the streets, but how many people really believe he's innocent?"
Justin sighed and looped his arm through Brian's as they walked out of the building together. "You have balls of steel."
Brian laughed. "Just this morning you were telling me how they felt like suede against your face."
Justin laughed. "That's true. Run those over me again, okay?"
"You little slut. You have a job, remember? And I have a meeting with Mick. Remind me later."
"If I have to remind you, the party's over."
Brian grabbed him and kissed him hard on the mouth, spreading his hands on his ass and ignoring the disgusted comments of some pedestrians who had to walk around them. When he finally released him, Justin sighed. "Cock tease."
"You know it. Later, Sunshine," he hopped into a cab going in a different direction from where Justin was headed, and Justin watched him ride away, once again amazed by his lover's guts.
The cleaners were at work in the bar, Hot, which was not yet open for business. Brian and Mick sat at a back table sipping coffee and talking. Her office was being painted, part of a renovation led by Lindsay, and the chaos was disconcerting.
"Just tell me your office is not going to be revamped in Lesbian Warm Colors," Brian teased. "Comfy botanical prints on the walls and lamps with silk shades."
Mick chuckled. "Whatever it is, it beats Bus Station Chic, which is how she describes my current décor. How's your place coming?"
"I've found that I'm allergic to dust. I sneeze constantly when I'm there, from all the shit they kick up in the atmosphere. But it's coming along. My back office is almost finished, the second bedroom has now been usurped, and so is Justin's small studio next door to it. The guest bathroom has been reconfigured to make it more of a business accessible place, and the temporary walls around the kitchen and the master bedroom and bath are up, but not yet sheetrocked. Justin and I will be living in the smallest apartment in New York."
"Are you kidding? Just your master bathroom and closet are bigger than some of the places I lived in when I first came here. Are you feeling alright other than the sneezing?"
"Yeah, Mick. I feel pretty good. I've stepped up my workouts, have more energy, I think I've turned the corner."
"Good. What did you want to see me about? It sounded important."
"Go ahead." Mick wasn't one to waste time with small talk.
"I'm settling with Boston Industries and the Walker family."
She looked surprised. "You don't want to do that."
"The case cleaves perfectly with your suit against Vanguard. You should pursue parallel paths. It strengthens both cases."
He shrugged. "Never the less, I'm settling."
"Are you telling me you've already talked to someone at BI?"
"No, not exactly. You'll get a call tomorrow. From their lawyers. They'll offer you two-hundred fifty thousand, and you'll take it. Skim off your cut and give me a check for mine."
"You can get much more than that, Brian. If you didn't talk to someone, how do you know this call is coming?"
"Mick, just do it, okay? Accept the two-fifty. I know what I'm doing."
"You are so fired. I warned you before about talking to the other side in these lawsuits and now..."
"You can't fire me."
"Because you love me," he said with a charming smile and she winced.
"Don't flatter yourself, Kinney. I'm not Lindsay. You want out of this? Fine. I have real work. If you're not serious about this shit, then stop wasting my time."
"I am serious. I'm seriously settling with BI."
"Fine, less work for me, and then I can get your skanky ass out of my professional life. You can go browbeat Jeffrey Walker in Pittsburgh."
"How did you convince Pittsburgh to pursue that rape charge anyway?"
"You don't need to know everything."
"Did your mother read Machiavelli's 'The Prince' to you when you were a child?"
Brian chuckled. "I have my own way of exacting revenge, Mick. I'm Irish."
"No shit. So we're done with BI and the Walker family lawsuit?"
"You dumb ass."
"I love you, too."
"And Vanguard?" Mick persisted.
"They'll come back with an offer. We'll talk when they do."
"Brian, you're not Sun Tzu and this isn't the 'Art of War'. You're a smart cookie, but don't think you can't be outsmarted."
"I don't think that. I know I can be outsmarted. But I have an instinct for people. That's one reason I'm good at what I do. I understand what people want and what they need. And I'm taking a flyer based on my belief in a certain person. You'll have to trust me."
Mick shook her head slowly. "Why the sudden urgency to get this over with?"
"I have my reasons."
"Fine, cut off your own nose, you're an adult. By the way, a little birdie gave me some interesting information about Jeffrey Walker, Senior."
"What little birdie would that be?"
"You have your secrets, I have mine. It seems his autopsy turned up a very interesting fact."
"What? He has no heart?"
She smirked at him. "He was HIV-positive."
Brian's eyes grew wide. "What?"
Mick nodded. "Seems the old boy had a secret life. Doesn't mean he was in the closet, of course, he could've become infected the straight way, not from another man. But since there was no evidence of IV drug use, the chances are pretty damned good it was sexually transmitted. That puts a new light on his suicide, doesn't it?"
"What do you mean?" Brian asked, still trying to absorb that information, wondering if Walker's wife had been exposed.
"He had to have a key-man insurance evaluation, annually, because he's the big cheese of a huge company. This little wrinkle wasn't on his last evaluation, according to my sources, but would've been a big risk factor this year. Rather than deal with that, and with the humiliation of being exposed as suffering from what he considered a disease of the perverted, he chose the easy way out. He left everything to his wife, and his granddaughter, except for a moderate trust fund for his daughter. Nothing to Jeffrey. Although it didn't really matter, because Jeffrey was already independently wealthy through funds he inherited at twenty-one and at thirty. What an incredible ego that old man must have had. He'd rather die than be tarnished with the HIV-positive tag. At his age, he could have lived out a normal lifespan without ever progressing to AIDS."
Brian leaned back, still stunned by that news. For some reason he thought of Shea, but he couldn't quite link the two, other than their union by way of a similar infection. Shea didn't know Walker, and the possibility that Walker was picking up rent boys for sex didn't jive with Brian's image of the man. Besides which, Walker was in Boston, and Shea wasn't. Still, something nagged at him. "I hope he didn't make his wife sick."
"So do I. The poor woman. She must be a saint."
Brian just nodded, lost in thought.
Karen Walker was a small, delicate presence in the vast boardroom of Boston Industries. The CEO of the company, along with the Directors, all male, seemed uncomfortable in her presence. Dressed in a classic black Givenchy suit, and a rope of black Tahitian pearls, each the size of a marble, she stared out at them with unflinching dignity. Yes, her husband was dead by his own hand, yes, her son had been publicly humiliated and charged with sex crimes against another man, but she refused to be bowed by those facts. No one had expected her to attend the Board meeting. As the principal stockholder, she had every right to be there and to vote her stock, but no one thought she would. They assumed she would give her proxy to a representative. Instead, she showed up in person, accepted their condolences, and then said,
"Before you begin your agenda, I'd like to say a few words," she requested and no one opposed. "I realize, of course, that I can never fill my husband's empty chair. Jay was a brilliant businessman, with years and years of experience. I don't share those traits. But I do hold not only the personal shares that belonged to him, but I also control the Walker Family Trust. My understanding is that, combined, this voting block swings any vote this board may take on any issue. Am I correct in that assumption?"
A lot of subdued mumbling ensued and she smiled. "It's alright, gentleman. You can say it. I already know. Moving on, I would like to be elected a member of this board, and then I would like to be elected Chairman, to take Jay's place. I'll vote my stock in favor of that result. Do I have a motion?"
Sensing the direction of the prevailing wind, a board member said, "Motion to nominate Karen Walker as a Director of Boston Industries."
"Seconded," someone else piped up and there were no opposing votes. She was then nominated as Chairman, and voted in. With that completed, she smiled.
"Now that I'm official, please continue with your agenda."
And with that, Karen Walker assumed control of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. She had her own ideas of certain things the corporation should be doing that would've never occurred to her husband, and she was willing to be patient to introduce these ideas. Only one burning issue required her immediate attention, and she made a mental note to discuss it with the CEO as soon as this meeting ended.
Mark turned the check over and over in his hands, as if expecting it to bounce out of his grip, off the table and out the door of the restaurant where he met Brian for lunch. Brian watched him, smirking at his confusion. "It's real. I know it's not a huge amount of money, but my hope is it would provide you with enough cover to make the leap until your draw at Back In reaches your comfort zone."
"But where did you get this kind of money, Brian?"
"Does it matter? Let's just say a legal matter shook out in my favor."
"You can't afford to give me a signing bonus like this."
"I can't afford not to, Mark. I need you. I can't do it all. You're one of the best pitch men I've ever met. I want to be more involved on the creative side, it was always the creative that appealed to me, and with you in the lead on rainmaking, I can cut back a bit. Cyn's coming along, but she's still a newbie. I've learned this business really can be fun if you work with people you like and respect, people with ideas."
"Where are you officing?"
"My loft. I've had it converted to office space, all but a small part of it. So it's in Soho, very close to your home in Tribeca. And think of it, Mark, no old fart rules, we play the music we like at a volume we can tolerate, we wear everything from sweats to Armani, depending on the agenda, and we create edgy, out there campaigns for high ticket clients. It's fun, again. Half the time friends are coming and going, my kid is running around, your kids can run around with him, my lover is painting some masterpiece, its controlled chaos. Obviously as we get more billings, we'll have to ritualize our billing and collection practices and someone needs to check into benefits and shit like that, but that's the easy part. What do you say?"
"I say two things," Mark responded, leaning back in his chair and grinning at Brian's eager, handsome face. "First, I have to talk to my wife. I can't make this decision alone."
"Understood. I'd talk to my wife too, or he'd have my balls."
"He'd have your balls for calling him your 'wife'."
Brian laughed. "He'd know I was kidding."
"Second, I don't want this check. I don't need a signing bonus, I have some money put aside, and if I decide to take this job, I'll do so with the certain belief I'll make a fair living at it. You re-invest this in the business."
"Don't be a sucker, Mark. Take it."
"Nope, I mean it. I want to see it go back in the business. Use it to get us some group health care and some group life. Those are the kind of things my wife will be looking for. And tell me, what is Justin's role in this agency?"
Brian looked perplexed. "What do you mean?"
"I mean he does your art work, right?"
"A lot of the concept, yeah. He has a great eye for designing an effective layout."
"Does he do it because he loves you or because you hired him?"
Brian shrugged. "What does it matter?"
"It matters because he deserves to be paid, Brian, and I think we should lock him up with us before he gets a better offer."
"You know he's a kid, right? Still in school?"
"I think youth is an advantage in this game, not a disadvantage. Fresh eyes. He can work around his class schedule. Hire him."
"Art Director, I presume."
Brian sighed, surprised he hadn't thought of that himself. It was as if he just presumed Justin would continue to help him, gratis, as a lover, not as a business associate. How much of his pleasure in working in his new agency was built on his joy in working with Justin? If that stopped, how much would he miss him and his creative ideas? Why not hire him? The fact that he was his life partner didn't mean he wasn't a talented artist and a bright young force. "I'll talk to him. And to Cyn, she has a vote, too."
"Good. I'll let you know tomorrow."
"And Brian? Thanks, I'm flattered."
"I want you like I've never wanted a straight guy, and not in a sexual, fuck your ass kind of way, either."
Mark's eyes widened and then he laughed. "And that's a good thing."
They shook on it, the release of Brian's little joke ending the meeting on a lighter note.
The entire team of Back In had traveled to Boston to pitch to BI at the request of their CEO. The only person they left back in New York was Maria, their newly hired office manager/administrative assistant who was a wise-cracking Puerto Rican they met through Mick's work with abused women who were starting over. She had already earned her way by bidding out benefit packages and presenting them with the winning entries so they could make a decision, as well as automating a rudimentary billing system. They liked Maria. Maria could stay.
"It's like the fucking Rainbow Coalition around here," Brian grumbled good-naturedly as they packed up for their trip and Maria glared at him.
"Yeah, baby, two blondes, a white faggot in the big chair and a token Hispanic and African-American. We are the world."
Brian chuckled. "Token? I don't think so. And don't call me 'baby'."
"I can call you a faggot but not baby?"
"I am a faggot, I'm not a 'baby'."
"Whatever. Just go sell an account so we can afford that automated billing system and someone to run it."
Their pitch at the Boston Industries world headquarters, was effectively led by Mark and seconded by Cynthia, with Brian and Justin providing gossip material as well as substance, since everyone knew about Brian and Jeffrey Walker, Junior. The Chairman of BI, Karen Walker, was present, and following the meeting, the team from Back In was invited to her home on Louisburg Square for dinner. Brian felt very different about being there than he did the first time he visited these premises. The house was even more inviting, with fresh flowers brought in to break the elegant perfection, and candles providing a warming glow.
A maid showed them into the drawing room where Karen was waiting, joined by her daughter and Hannah. Brian beamed at seeing Hannah again, making an effort to charm her, noticing that Jeffrey's demonized sister seemed sweet and very pretty in a classic rather than extreme way. Karen put them at ease over drinks, and at dinner in the second floor dining room. The room was surrounded on all four walls by a series of large Monet water lily paintings, a fact that left Justin momentarily speechless. He couldn't imagine the wealth required to contain the art he had seen in this private home.
Conversation flowed easily, and never touched on Jeffrey or his current ordeal. The trial in Pittsburgh was scheduled to begin in ten days, but that subject was obviously taboo. As dessert was cleared, Karen made an announcement.
"I want to congratulate all of you on your presentation today. Brian and I had an agreement. He would be allowed to pitch his agency, and he would be given fair consideration. But the work had to sell itself. There were no prior agreements that we would shift any BI advertising business to your agency. Following your presentation, there was an internal meeting with Marketing and other executives and it was unanimous that we would award Back In the advertising work for three of our larger subsidiaries. After we see how those campaigns are received we'll decide whether we'll give more business to your agency. So, congratulations and let's raise our brandy glasses to toast a successful business relationship."
Glasses were raised, and Brian said, "On behalf of all of us at Back In, I want to thank you for giving us the opportunity to show what we can do, Mrs. Walker. We're all very serious about our little enterprise and I know you won't be disappointed. The Irish have a toast I'd like to propose, 'May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, quick to make friends, but rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward'."
Justin beamed at him as they all acknowledged the toast and drank the brandy.
Back in their room at the Ritz Hotel, overlooking the park where the swan boats glided across the pond during the day, Justin came up behind Brian as he stood at the window, staring out at the night. He wrapped his arms around Brian's waist, and pressed his face to his lover's shoulder blades. He felt Brian relax in his embrace and cover Justin's hands with his own.
"Big night," Justin said quietly.
"Yep, big night."
"What are you thinking?"
"About Karen Walker."
"Why? She's a great lady."
"I know. But what if she was exposed by her husband? What if she doesn't even know?"
"Brian, I feel sure the authorities would tell her he was infected so she could take care of herself. There's no way she doesn't know. If you said something to her, it would just be an invasion of her privacy."
Brian sighed and turned around in Justin's arms to face him. He pulled him closer and kissed him on the lips. "You're right. Of course they told her, and if she is infected, it's a private matter. But it just makes me hate him all the more."
"Yeah, I know," he smiled and ran his hands over Brian's ass, cupping his buttocks firmly. "I want you so much tonight."
"You want me every night."
"True, but tonight most of all. I just want to be close to you, to touch you all over, to make love to you."
"Is this a topping request again, because...."
Justin laughed. "No, I want to assume the usual positions, but I want to get started now."
"Slut," Brian teased, walking Justin backwards towards the king sized bed.
"Frigid bitch," Justin teased back, lying back on the mattress, watching Brian undress. He loved the revelation of Brian's body, never tiring of seeing him expose it bit by bit as articles of clothing fell away. He raised one knee, his arms crossed behind his head as Brian stretched out, naked, beside him.
"Too lazy to undress?" Brian asked, and Justin smiled.
"I want you to do it. I like the way you peel me."
"I like peeling you, like a banana."
"Everything's a phallic symbol with you," Justin said and Brian laughed.
"Fucking A it is!" Brian nimbly removed Justin's tie, and unbuttoned his shirt, pausing to lick a slow circle around his nipple, and then gently pulling at his nipple ring with his teeth. Justin groaned, his eyes closing as the heat rippled down his body to pool in his groin. Brian opened Justin's trousers and leaned down to pose just scant centimeters above his lover's erect cock.
"I've never blown an art director before," Brian announced. "And that's the fucking truth."
"You'd better get used to it. With what you're paying me, it's the one perk that keeps me coming back to work."
"Why you romantic devil!"
"Brian," Justin reached down and cupped Brian's face in both hands. "It's time for your quarterly affirmation. Tell me."
Brian forced a look of annoyance. "Are you sure the quarter is up?"
"Positive. It's time."
Brian mimicked irritation as he looked up to meet Justin's eyes and said, "I love you."
"Once more, with feeling."
"I love you, you miserable spoiled little bitch!"
"That's my man. I love you too, you egomanical monster."
With that, Brian dropped down to engulf Justin's dick in his mouth, sucking him in with consummate skill.
Brian's mobile phone rang from its dock on the hotel desk where it had been charging while they slept. Startled from a deep and sated sleep, Brian squinted at the luminous digital read-out of the clock beside the bed. Three-thirty a.m. Cursing, Justin pulled a pillow over his head and turned on his side. Brian stumbled over to the desk in the dark and was guided by the flashing face of the cellular phone, picking it up and pushing the talk button with a gruff, "This had better be good."
"Brian, this is Mary Hennessey, Shea's mom. I'm sorry to call so late."
Brian tensed, instantly awake. "What's happened?"
As if receiving radar from his lover, Justin sat up and turned on the light, squinting at the sudden illumination. Brian glanced at him over his shoulder, betraying his concern as he combed his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture.
"Shea is very sick. Very sick. I wonder if you could..."
"I'll be there as soon as I can, Mary. Give me a number to call," he wrote it on the scratchpad on the desk. "Tell him I'm on my way. I'm sorry. Be brave."
He pushed "end" and then sank into the chair fronting the desk, dropping his head into his hands in a gesture of despair. Justin rushed over and slipped his arms around Brian's shoulders, the two of them struggling to draw strength from each other.
|Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
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July 25, 2004