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TRANSITIONS
Episode 302
by Phantom of QAF

(Writer's Note: It's getting cold in here. Lots of noise upstairs. They're getting underway again. Working on a tunnel to Gale's trailer. Still have a long way to go. Worth it! - Phantom)

SUNDAY, 10 P.M. SHARP!

Last week on Queer as Folk: Brian got so drunk at the Rage party after Justin left with Ethan that Michael and Ben had to take him home and stay the night at the loft. Justin collected his stuff from the loft before they got home and left his keys. Later, Justin reflected sadly on his failed relationship with Brian. Brian awoke with a terrible hangover and when he remembered that Justin was gone, he told Michael it was for Justin's own good. At the diner, Michael and the others were aloof when Justin came in with Ethan.

Scene 1: Brian's office at the ad agency. Mid-afternoon. Monday following the Rage party.

"Earth to Brian," Cynthia said, leaning her palms on his desk as he stared out one of two glass walls at a dismal, overcast view. The view seemed to match his mood. He swiveled in his chair to look at her. He appeared mildly annoyed.

"What?"

"You have a client pitch in fifteen minutes and you haven't even seen the final storyboards. What's wrong with you? Big weekend?"

He glared at her and left his desk to fly through the storyboards she has placed on an easel in the corner. He tossed one whiteboard after the other onto his leather sofa. Cynthia watched him with a wary eye. She'd known Brian long enough to be able to read most of his moods. This one was new. His wicked sense of humor, present even when he came in hungover and exhausted, was lacking. There was a more complex emotion at the bottom of this mood. If Cynthia didn't know better, she would presume it was sadness. Brian didn't do sad, however. So that left her wondering what it was.

"There. I've gone through the storyboards. Happy?"

"It's a huge account, Brian," she reminded him. "Not only do they have a large North American presence, but they are enormous in Europe and Asia. Apparently this new product of theirs will revolutionize cell phones. Their marketing officer is newly promoted to head that segment of their North American division. He's eager, he's hungry and he has to have a success. Plus he has a fifty-million dollar marketing spend."

Brian glared at her. "What are you doing?"

Cynthia looked confused. "What do you mean?"

"I mean why are you telling me all this?"

"To emphasize the importance of your pitch to the firm."

"The last time I looked, I was the partner and you were the creative assistant. I don't need you to tell me how important a pitch is to this firm. And I don't need you to tell me about the client. I've done my homework. His name is Trevor Rainer. He's 32 years old, a recent émigré from London. He attended Cambridge and the London School of Economics. He's been with this company since he entered the work force, holding progressively higher posts in both Europe and Asia before earning his current promotion. He's deathly allergic to shellfish, drinks neat whisky, and has a condo overlooking the river, where he lives with a golden retriever named Sam. He drives a Porsche and he enjoys skiing, sailing and wine collection. He's a member of the Metropolitan Men's Health Club, where he works out three times a week. Am I leaving anything out?"

"Brian, I."

"Oh yeah. He was elected to be one of the ten most eligible bachelors in Pittsburgh this year."

Cynthia sighed. "I was just trying to help. You seem so out of it and ."

"Never, NEVER presume I'm out of it, when it comes to my job, Cynthia. I'm not out of anything. I'm more than capable of making this pitch. Now put those storyboards in order and make sure the conference room is ready. He drinks Perrier with lime, so stock it along with ice. I'm having a slash, as they say in jolly ol' England."

Brian went into the private bathroom attached to the super-sized office that he'd earned when he made partner. He closed the door and leaned his hands on the sink as he stared at his reflection in the mirror. What was he giving away to earn Cynthia's discomfort? What showed? He looked a little ashen, still recovering from the king of all hangovers. He hadn't been able to eat much, so his cheeks were a bit gaunt. He hadn't been sleeping well, so his eyes were a little haunted. Was that it? Or could she see the two-ton anvil he was carrying around on his chest, weighing him down and sapping his energy?

Brian wasn't sure what the anvil represented or why it was there. But he did know it was as real as rain and he couldn't seem to put down that burden. It slowed his reflexes, dulled his thought processes, robbed him of his humor and even cooled his sexuality. He threaded his fingers through his expensively shorn hair. Studied disarray was what his haircutter called this style. It was meant to look a bit messy, a little disinterested. His Prada suit had a high button jacket and slim cut trousers, cutting edge but made more conservative with a classic handmade French cuffed shirt and a tie by Hermes.

He straightened the knot. Suddenly, he pictured Justin standing beside him, reflected in the mirror, giving him one of his megawatt smiles as he teased, " I don't like suits and ties, they don't seem to harmonize." A line from an old Delta blues song. He often threw it at Brian when he thought his lover was preening too much over some new fashion acquisition. Brian smiled, but then the image of Justin faded away and his smile faded with it. He watched his own face change in the mirror. Muscles seemed to draw in on themselves. His brows knitted together. His lips flattened out into a straight line; bloodless and tight. His eyes narrowed and burned.

"Get a grip, Bri old boy," he whispered to himself. "Get a fucking grip."

A knock on the door. Cynthia's voice. "They're here, Brian."

He flushed the toilet, even though he didn't use it, just for the noise, and left the bathroom. "How do I look?" he asked. She recognized it as a rhetorical question. For any other man, he would look fantastic, gorgeous. By Brian's standards, he looked tired and a little gaunt.

" Beautiful," she lied and he nodded, finding his businessman mask and settling it in place, mentally.

"It's showtime. Let's do it."

Scene 2: Michael's Comic Book Store

Justin came into the shop, shaking the rain off of his jacket like a damp dog. Michael glared at him from behind the counter. "Do you mind not getting water all over the comics?"

"Sorry," Justin placed his backpack on the counter and opened it. "I thought I'd show you some sketches I've done for the next issue. They're still a little rough, but you can get the idea."

"Do we have to do this NOW?" Michael complained, and Justin looked around, counting two customers in the store, both engrossed in free reading,

"Why?" Justin asked. "You busy?"

"Maybe I'm just not in the mood. Ever think of that?"

"What's your problem, Mikey? You're in a foul mood, that's for sure."

"Michael, not Mikey. You're not Brian. You can't call me Mikey. And my mood is just fine, thank you very much."

Justin tensed. "I get it. This is about Brian."

"This has nothing to do with Brian! But since you brought him up, I do want to tell you that I think you were a real shit to do what you did at the party, rather than telling him privately that it's over. You publicly humiliated him. After all he's done for you, you ungrateful little shit! And then you show up at the diner, where he's been hanging out for years, with your new boyfriend, the very next morning. What if Brian had been with us? How do you think he would've felt?"

"You think it wasn't humiliating for me to find him fucking his alter ego, Rage, at that party? What about that? My MOTHER was there, for chrissakes."

"Your mother wasn't in the backroom, now was she? And since when did you and Brian have an agreement that he wasn't supposed to fuck other people? That's just a convenient excuse you can give yourself to explain your own cheating on him with that fiddler, and then leaving him the way you did!"

"This is really none of your fucking business, Michael!"

"It IS my business, Justin. BRIAN is my business. You were a colossal little dirtbag to do what you did at a party he hosted for US at a huge cost. He didn't get anything out of it."

"He got to fuck Rage!"

"Like he needs to host a party to fuck the top guy there! You owed him more respect than you showed him. Personally, I don't give a fuck that you left him, he's better off. I never thought you were right for him. But you did it in a cruel way and you can go fuck yourself for all I care."

Justin glared at him, unsure of how to respond. He knew Michael had always been jealous, but the depth of his anger and resentment was surprising. "So our comic book venture is over?"

"I don't know. But I do know I'm too mad to talk about it today."

"Fine," Justin gathered his drawings and returned them to his backpack. He paused at the door and said, "One thing, Michael. I love Brian. The fact that we can't make it together, doesn't mean I don't care about him. I always will. And part of him will always love me, too, and that's what's really bugging you. You're jealous. You always have been and always will be. And don't think I don't know that. As for the diner, I worked there until recently. It has a special meaning for me too. I have every right to go there if I want to, with or without Ethan."

Michael watched him go, then noticed one of his customers was staring at him. He recognized him as a patron at Babylon and frowned. This would be all over the club scene by tonight. Gossip about the elusive Brian Kinney was ripe fodder for the scandal queens. "What are you looking at?" Michael snapped at him and the guy turned away with a shrug and a wry smile.

Scene 3: The conference room in Brian's office suite.

The pitch was going badly. Brian was sweating bullets. Was his concept wrong? Was he losing his stride? Was this client capable of being pleased? Trevor Rainer's high energy drained Brian of his own strength. Trevor was handsome enough, small-boned, blond, frenetic, with a toned, athletic body. His most arresting feature was the fact his eyes were as green as spring grass, without the enhancement of cosmetically tinted lenses.

He shed his suit jacket early in the meeting. He loosened his tie and paced, making it difficult for Brian to discern if he was getting through to him. Trevor rolled up his sleeves, revealing strong forearms. He was like a coiled spring, questioning every aspect of Brian's presentation. In the middle of this inquisition, Brian was wondering what it would be like to fuck Trevor.

Near the end of the presentation, Brian was wondering whether fucking Trevor might save the account. Something nagged him about the Brit. Some trace of a memory that wouldn't quite float to the surface. Had they tricked together? Had he seen him at a club, in the baths? Were they in a professional association or at some work related function together? Brian was haunted by this ghost of a past reminder.

"Am I boring you, Brian?" Trevor called his attention away from the window. Brian gazed at him with forced calm.

"We seem to have missed with this campaign, Trevor. Maybe we misunderstood your goals from our first meeting. Maybe we pushed the envelope a bit too far. Why don't we discuss your ideas over dinner this evening and then we'll go back to the drawing board?"

Trevor shrugged and picked up his jacket, slinging it over one shoulder. "Maybe you should have listened harder in our initial meeting. I believe I was rather specific about what we hoped to accomplish. I don't have time to spend feeding you more ideas. I was of the belief that you were supposed to feed ideas to me. If you can't do it, and this campaign sadly suggests you cannot, I'll find a firm who can."

With that, he left, trailed by his entourage. Brian stared after him, aware that his own team was watching him for a cue on how they should react. "Well," Brian said with a forced smile. "I think that went well, don't you?"

Nervous laughter greeted his joke. "We'll get him back," Brian said with a confidence he didn't feel.

Scene 4: Babylon.

Brian's eyes closed. His left hand was buried in the thick hair of the man who knelt before him. Brian's right hand massaged the hard cock of another man standing beside him, playing with Brian's tits. Brian's black t-shirt was rolled up his belly to expose his torso, and the man on his knees before him was bringing him to a rapid orgasm. Brian needed this, he realized, his eyes closing in ecstasy. He needed something to make him feel good, if only for a moment. The man he was jerking suddenly moaned and shot a load of semen that hit Brian's side and hip.

"Fuck!" Brian exclaimed, grabbing the guys shirt and wiping it over his skin and his jeans. "You got that shit all over me!"

"What did you think would happen?" the man sneered, pulling his shirt away and zipping up as he walked off. Brian pulled his own shirt down, absorbing the remaining residue into the cotton. He had suddenly lost interest in coming, but he was too close to stop himself, so he willed his body to let go, shooting down the throat of the cocksucker with a slight wince that registered the sum total of his pleasure. He disengaged quickly and went into the bathroom, bypassing the sex acts going on around him to make his way to the sink and rinse off his side and his jeans with a damp paper towel.

"Son of a bitch," he murmured, hating guys who didn't observe even the smallest courtesies associated with shooting their wad. Like not coming all over someone's clothes.

"Spill a drink?" Justin smiled knowingly as his image appeared beside Brian's in the mirror. Only this time, unlike earlier in the day, he was really there. Brian felt his stomach flip, but he showed no emotion as he tossed the towel in the trash and forced a smile.

"Crossed the path of a geyser."

Justin laughed. "Hate it when that happens."

"Yeah."

Justin looked as fresh and youthful as Brian felt old and tired. Often, when a relationship ends, one person is buoyed by the start of something new, while the other feels rejected and alone. That was how Brian felt at that moment. He resented Justin's happiness. How could he be happy when Brian felt so strange? What did that tell him about the comparative depth of their emotions towards each other?

"Brian, we haven't really had a chance to talk since."

"What's there to talk about?" Brian interrupted him. "I get it."

Justin winced at his crisp tone of voice. "I never meant to."

Brian was aware of a gaggle of queens watching and giggling. He supposed they liked nothing better than seeing Pittsburgh's resident gay stud being soothed by the blond twink who dumped him. The ones who never had a shot at Brian Kinney and who lusted after him in vain, were as delighted as those who were the lucky recipient of one of his legendary fucks, only to drop off his radar screen forever as soon as he ejaculated. Seeing him disappointed by the one man he seemed to care about was a delightful experience for them. Witnessing an emotional exchange between the two of them was like Christmas morning. Feeling their attention, Brian's face grew warm and his anger rose.

"Fuck it. It's done," he said to Justin, who sighed.

"If I accidentally took some of your CD's."

"Who gives a flying fuck about that?" Brian exploded. "Keep the fucking CD's! Keep my zip up gray jacket that you commandeered so long ago you already think it's yours! Keep my Bose headphones I never got to use! Keep whatever you want, because I don't give a shit!"

Justin was startled by Brian's emotional outburst. "Why are you so mad?"

"I'm not fucking mad!" Brian sighed, forcing calm, aware that almost everyone in the crowded bathroom was watching them now. "I'm not anything except out of here."

He left the bathroom, ignoring Justin when he called out to him. Michael saw Brian from across the dance floor and knew there was a problem. When he saw Justin trail him, his jaw clenched in anger. He began cutting through the dancers to get to his best friend.

"Brian! Wait up!" He couldn't make himself heard over the throbbing music. Michael finally caught up to Brian outside Babylon as he walked towards the parking lot. He grabbed his arm, surprised when Brian pulled free with such force, Michael was knocked back a couple steps. "Hey!" Michael insisted. "Me friend. Me not enemy."

Brian found a smile and rested his hand on the back of Michael's neck, leaning his forehead against Michael's. "I'm sorry, Mikey. I'm just in a foul mood."

"It's ok. You're entitled. Where ya going?"

"Home."

"Alone?"

"Unless you have a date for me."

"You want me to come along? Keep you company? Ben's working on a paper tonight. Something he's writing for the college magazine."

"No, you're with Em and Ted. I just need to be alone. And I have some work to do, too. I had a bad pitch today. I need to tweak the campaign."

"Brian, I'm worried about you."

"Don't be. I'm fine," he kissed Michael gently and waved as he retreated to his Jeep and drove away.

Scene 5: Ethan's Apartment, late night.

Justin was closer to the phone, so he picked it up, fumbling the receiver in the dark. Ethan groaned and rolled over on his side, his back to Justin. "Yeah?" Justin finally responded in a sleepy voice.

"Did I wake you up?"

Brian. Justin sat on the edge of the mattress, summoning some energy. "S'ok."

"I just wanted to say I acted like a cunt tonight. You had the bad luck to hit me at the worst possible moment."

This was as close as Brian ever came to apologizing and Justin sighed. "Don't worry about it. I understand."

"You do? Then explain it to me, will you?"

"Uh."

"Look, that's all I have to say. Go back to sleep."

"Wait!" Justin wasn't ready for him to hang up.

"What?"

"Brian, are you alright?"

"Peachy keen."

Justin laughed. "Been watching TV Land again, Dobie Gillis?"

Brian chuckled. "You found me out, Maynard."

"I love that old show."

"I know. You are so pathetic."

"You're the one who's pathetic," Justin teased, but Brian sighed.

"You're probably right. See you."

He hung up. Justin held the dead receiver for a long moment, before returning it to the cradle. He was waiting for his heart to stop hammering. Was it the sudden intrusion of a late night call or was it hearing Brian's voice so unexpectedly?

"Tell your boyfriend not to call so late," Ethan grumbled as Justin lay back on the bed.

"He's not my boyfriend. You are."

"Really? When did you remember that?"

Justin looped an arm over him and snuggled closer. "I never forgot. He was calling to apologize, well, as much as Brian is capable of apologizing."

"What did he do? Other than put you through that whole lousy relationship."

"He thinks he was an asshole when I ran into him at Babylon."

"Was he?"

"A little, yeah."

"Next time, he can call at a normal hour."

Justin kissed Ethan's neck, but Ethan tensed, failing to reciprocate. Justin sighed and gave up, turned over on his side, and eventually he fell asleep.

Scene 6: Metropolitan Men's Athletic Club. The next morning.

Brian was not comfortable. He had been a member of this elitist club for awhile, but he never came here to work out. The members were either straight or in the closet, and the atmosphere was thick with the ricochet of deals being pitched and caught. It was not so much a place to get fit as it was a place to be seen among the power brokers or to find an investor. He preferred the atmosphere of the club where he worked out with his friends. While there was a mix of gay and straight men at that gym, too, it was more gay than straight, and no one felt as if they had to conceal their sexual orientation.

Nor did they feel as if they had to dress in expensive work out clothes or risk eviction.

Brian wore his sweat pants cut off at the knee and a tangerine wifebeater to that gym without fear of censure. Here, he wore a suit and changed into Nike workout clothes in the locker room. Color coordinated, not too body revealing so as to be titillating, and suitable for the task. Working out was merely a distraction at this club, even though the gym was well equipped. There was also a rooftop track for laps and an indoor pool. They kept women out of the club when the equal rights protestors targeted private clubs. The governing board decreed all members had to be naked to swim in the pool. Since the gym overlooked the pool, the belief was that women would never join in order to avoid being confronted by a pool full of penises.

Glancing at the swimmers that morning, Brian smirked as he thought no one would find that group of guppies either titillating or intimidating. Pathetic, was much more likely. The weight machines and resistance training equipment were virtually abandoned, but there was a sizeable crowd standing around the juice bar that was renowned for the coffee being served in large white mugs with the logo of the club emblazoned in blue. Brian scanned the men gathered there, looking for one, but didn't see him. Was his information faulty? Did he get the day wrong? Was it just his luck that Trevor Rainer broke his routine?

Brian decided to work out anyway, since he was there, and found the lack of competition for the machines a pleasant change. Afterwards, he stripped down and put a towel around his waist, retreating to the empty sauna. He sat on a teak bench, watching water drip from a faux waterfall onto heated rocks, creating steam and sizzle. He closed his eyes, beginning to relax, thinking this was just what he needed to clean out the residual toxins from his weekend binge.

"You think this is subtle, Kinney?"

He opened his eyes to see Trevor standing before him, wearing a towel and nothing else, still flushed from his run. Brian frowned, realizing he forgot to check out the track. He cocked a brow, feigning surprise at Trevor's presence. Brian didn't miss how Trevor scraped his torso with his gaze. "Hello, Trevor. Come here often?"

They were alone in the sauna and Trevor sat on another bench, glaring at Brian. "Thrice a week since moving here. Strange, I've never before seen you here."

"I've been a member for over a year. I usually go to a club closer to my home."

"But, ironically, today seemed a good day to come here?"

"You have a problem with my coming here, Trevor?"

"I have a problem with being stalked in favor of an account."

"I'm not stalking you. You spoke to me first," Brian felt like he had thrown a boomerang and was about to get it back. In the nuts.

"You don't even remember me, do you?"

"Trevor, you were just in my conference room yesterday. I'm not brain dead."

"Before that, you twit!"

"You mean the first meeting?"

"When we first met, yes."

Brian frowned. The first meeting he knew about was the preliminary meeting in Trevor's office when he gave them his view of what he wanted to say with his advertising campaign. He sensed Trevor had a different memory. Trevor laughed and shook his head.

"I thought as much. You picked me up at Meat Hook when I first arrived in Pittsburgh and was just learning the scene."

Brian looked surprised. Meat Hook? He didn't go there often, but sometimes hard core was what he needed and Meat Hook was the hardest core in Pittsburgh. He narrowed his eyes, trying to picture Trevor in heavy leather or other fetishistic clothing. Trevor nodded.

"You're right, what you're thinking. I was totally out of place there, but I was new. I had no clue where to go to get laid. You walked up to me at the bar and said."

"Aren't you in the wrong duck pond, chicken little?" Brian interrupted and repeated his opening line as the memory came flooding back.

Trevor met his eyes with a cold smile. "Yes, Brian. It's your nightmare. One of your tricks has come home to roost."

Next week on Transitions:

Brian recalls his first meeting with Trevor in graphic flashback. He tries to find a way to salvage Trevor's business despite Trevor's anger over how badly he believed Brian treated him before. Ben and Justin meet to discuss Michael's resentment of Justin and the future of Rage. Brian calls Justin again, late. Ethan reacts.

Transitions

Episode 303

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Beginning
July 25, 2004