Thanks to the Creative Team: Pfyre, the Producer, Roz, the Director, Alan, the Editor, and Jen, the Art Director.
Note from Phantom: Damn! Must invest in shovel. These spoons are so bendable, it's taking me forever to complete this tunnel to PARADISE! Ruining my nails, too. SIGH. Another wrong detour. I am a failure as a mole. This time I popped up in Peter's trailer. We had a lovely talk about his fashion queen alter ego, Emmett, and how pink is the new pink this season. He didn't seem at all surprised to see me pop up through his floor. He explained how persistent QAF fans are, and very sweetly directed me towards Gale's trailer. He did warn me that Gale has installed additional security measures for obvious reasons. Hummm, wonder what THAT means? Off I go!
Last week on QAF: Transitions:
Brian had a graphic flashback to his initial meeting with Trevor at Meat Hook. Brian and Cynthia plot to get Trevor's account back for the agency. Justin had a revelatory meeting with Ben in which Ben said Brian steered Justin towards Ethan because he thought he was doing a good thing. Another late night call from Brian led to a fight between Ethan and Justin.
Scene 1: Brian's office, mid-morning.
Brian looked up just as his secretary was about to announce someone. Instead, that someone squeezed past her and Brian found himself facing Ethan Gold. Brian's secretary looked stricken, but Brian waved her out after signalling for her to close the door as she left. She did so. Ethan took a moment to look around the large, luxuriously appointed office. He glared at a framed photograph of Justin and Gus on Brian's credenza. Brian remained seated in his desk chair, leaning back with a casual air he didn't feel, one ankle resting against the other knee. He deliberately kept his expression cool and detached. Some small, insecure part of him was glad he wore the Dolce and Gabbana suit that looked so fine on his long, lean frame while Ethan looked a little seedy in faded black jeans and a scratchy turtleneck sweater. "Coffee? Water? Have a seat," Brian played the good host without any enthusiasm. Justin is fucking this prick, he thought to himself. He's fucking this prick.
Ethan gave Brian a supercilious glance, and then sat down heavily on the leather couch, before saying, "It's got to stop. Stop calling my apartment."
"Your apartment?" Brian managed to retain his veneer of cool, but inside, he felt a cramp of embarrassment to be so exposed to this bastard. "I thought Justin was living there too."
"You know what I mean. Leave him alone. You're making a fool of yourself. It's pathetic."
Brian nodded slightly. It was, in fact, pathetic. Ethan was right. Brian was humiliated and angry at himself for his uncharacteristic vulnerability. However, his pride demanded that Ethan know nothing about how close he had come to hitting a mark with Brian. He would be cool, dismissive, let Ethan think he was completely unruffled by the confrontation. His response would be deliberately ambiguous. "Anything else?"
"I mean it Kinney. If you don't stop calling, I'll involve the cops. It's harassment."
"Is that what Justin says?"
"That's what I say."
"Is this the part where you leave?" Brian interjected.
Ethan was caught off guard, not expecting Brian's smooth reaction. He had no idea if he had gotten through to him. "Uh..."
"Yes, I think it is. I think this is the place where you exit."
"Ok, I'm going, but take a look at yourself, Kinney. You're too old for him. You played your part by busting his cherry. Now he's ready for a real relationship. You don't have a clue what that means. Go find another little chicken to plunder, perv. He's outgrown you."
Ethan left, just as Cynthia was approaching the door. She looked from Ethan to Brian and wondered what had just transpired. Tension had curdled the atmosphere. Brian looked away from her, swiveling so that his back was to the office, his gaze fixed on the view through the glass wall. His heart was pounding. He felt embarrassed and exposed and, as Ethan put it, "pathetic". Past tense. Over. Discarded. He wanted...he wanted...he sucked his lower lip between his teeth, gnawing on it until he tasted blood.
"Who was that?" Cynthia asked brightly. "He'd be cute if he lost the chin rat."
Brian said nothing, didn't even turn around. Cynthia stared at his back. She noticed a slight slump in his shoulders, and wondered at his mood for the hundredth time in the last few days. "Brian?" Nothing. She frowned. "Hello?" Still nothing. Frustrated, she walked over to stand between the window and his chair. The look on his face spoke volumes. She went down on one knee, resting her hand on his. "What's wrong?"
He snapped out of it and pulled away from her, forcing a façade of icy composure. Cynthia was having none of it. She stood up, closed the door to his office and walked back, looming over him as she leaned her hands on the arms of his chair. "What's wrong, Brian? And don't try to blow smoke up my ass. I know you too well."
He looked up at her and she sighed and removed a kleenex from the box on his credenza, scanning the photo of Gus and Justin as she dabbed a corner of the tissue across the bead of blood on his lower lip. He seemed surprised to see crimson stain the white. She dabbed again and he took it from her and pressed it firmly against his lip, motioning for her to sit down. Her hovering closeness made him uncomfortable. The bleeding stopped, although he could feel a little ridge of tenderness with the tip of his tongue. He tossed the bloodied tissue in the trash and sighed. She was sitting across the desk from him, waiting. He couldn't say it. Something stopped him from forming the words.
"Is it Justin?" She guessed, without much difficulty. He sighed and nodded. "An argument?" she persisted. He shook his head. She frowned. She had seen them together. Justin adored Brian. Brian pretended not to adore Justin, but he failed in that pretense. It couldn't be serious. They were too much in love. They gave her hope for her own eventual romantic success. "Is his health ok? The injuries..."
Brian held up a hand to stop her. "He's fine," he said tightly. "He left me. He moved in with that guy who was just here. End of story. Let's move on."
Cynthia leaned back in the chair, her eyes wide with shock. "No way!"
"Way. Now, about the Trevor Rainer campaign, I've been thinking..."
"Whoa!" She stopped him short. "Not so fast. When did this happen? And why? And what does he see in that guy? Compared to you, he's armpit fuzz!"
Brian smiled slightly. "Stop. I've said everything I want to say about it, Cyn. It's private."
"Brian, I adore you, you know that. You can be a total asshole perfectionist, but I still adore you. You're hurting. Let me help."
"I'm fine!" he said stiffly, lighting a cigarette. "Don't paint me with your female brush, Cynthia. We don't all react the way you would. It's over, just drop it."
"Ok, fine. No, it's not fine, Brian. Everyone just drops everything when you tell them to. You are NOT fine! Talk to me."
He winced, inhaling deeply, then exhaling in rings, staring at them as the sheer loops dissipated in the air, as visible as the thick emotions in the room. He felt as if each one was an experience he shared with Justin, a feeling unexpressed, disappearing forever. "I just want him to be happy," he said quietly. "It's the only thing I can give him."
"And me, what?"
"What happiness is there for you?"
"I'm happy knowing he's happy."
"Doesn't the church have enough martyrs, Brian?"
He smiled at her. "I'm no martyr."
"You wanted to be free of him, is that it? Out from under the responsibility?"
He shrugged. Let her think that. It was easier. Cynthia shook her head slowly. "You big fat liar."
Brian smiled wryly. "Fat?"
"What have you done, Brian? Did someone push your self-destruct button this week? First the account debacle and now this? What's going on?"
"Sometimes you're the statue and sometimes you're the pigeon. I guess this is my week to be the statue. Or maybe my pigeons just came home to roost, as Trevor suggested."
"You earned this punishment?"
"Cyn, what time of month do you get your period?"
She stared at him in wonder at that unexpected question and abrupt change of direction. "What?"
"When does Aunt Flo drop by?"
"None of your business! That's personal, and probably actionable!"
He leaned across his desk and said, "This is personal, too. Change the subject."
She glared at him. "It's not the same. I'm worried about you, Brian."
"Worry about the account. I have an idea. It's a little radical, so hang in there with me..."
Cynthia sighed and leaned back to listen to his brainstorm. She knew when the gate was up and there was no entry into his psyche. But she also knew he was in pain, he was alone, he was locked up. If he wouldn't let her help, she tried to think of someone who could.
Scene 2: A life drawing classroom at the University. A nude model, female, is being sketched by students at easels. Lindsay is circulating among them, critiquing their work. Justin enters quietly.
Lindsay smiled and walked over to Justin, kissing his cheek in greeting. "This is a nice surprise! Pick up an easel and join us!"
He shook his head. "They told me your class breaks at 11:30. Can we talk then? I'll wait for you in your office."
"No, baby, you wait right here. They don't need me to finish this class. They aren't children. Let me get my coat and we'll take a little walk. I've been cooped up inside all day."
"Great," he felt a competitive surge as he looked around at the other artists and compared their output to his own. Was he better? He decided he was better than most, and at par with the others. That made him feel good. Wearing her usual lavender muffler and hat, Lindsay looped her arm through his and led him out a back door to walk in the crisp mid-morning temperatures of early fall.
"Having second thoughts?" she asked gently, and Justin sighed.
"Second, third, fourth...what if I made a huge mistake?"
"Do you think you did?"
"No. I don't know. I love Ethan, but..."
"But what, honey?"
"I still love Brian too."
"Of course you do. He's your first love. But the question is, Justin, can you live with Brian? Can you have the kind of relationship you want with Brian? Will you ever be able to?"
"You mean a faithful lover, right?"
"More than just faithful. Committed, expressive."
"Romantic and devoted? Someone who shares your goals and your life?"
"Do you see Brian in that role?"
He shook his head and Lindsay patted his arm gently. "Neither do I, sweetie."
Justin looked soulfully at her. "Why did you and Brian break up when he was your boyfriend?"
She laughed. "Because I have a vagina, for one thing. But that wasn't the only reason."
"Can you share it with me?" he asked, surprised by her blunt honesty.
"It was so long ago and Brian was a much different person than he is today. I can hardly remember the details," she looked off at the distant horizon, then sighed and sat down on a bench, pulling him beside her. "That's a damn lie, Justin. I remember exactly how I felt. I felt like I wanted to die."
Justin squeezed her hand gently. "If you'd rather not tell..."
"I'll tell you but keep it to yourself. I don't want it to get back to Mel. She's already so crazed about Brian."
"I won't tell anyone."
"We were both freshmen in college. He was in one of my classes. Brian was gorgeous, but more than that, he wasn't like the other boys I knew. He was funny and intelligent and not trying to jump my bones every chance he got."
"You must have been gorgeous then, too. I mean, you still are, but..."
She laughed. "Thanks honey. Brian and I started doing things together, movies, galleries, cheap dinners or lunches, always Dutch treat. I kind of thought we were dating, but I wasn't sure. He didn't act like any boyfriend I had ever had."
"How do you mean?"
"He was wonderful to talk to, had opinions about everything and respected my intelligence, but he was never gooey and affectionate, nor did he press a sexual agenda. Frankly, Justin, I made the first move on him, and while he responded to me, I had the feeling he would have been just as happy if I never touched him. I understand that now. Back then, it made him even more attractive to me. The more I wanted him, the more distant he became."
Justin flashed back to his initial meeting with Brian, how hot he was and how from that second on, the sexual attraction between them fueled their relationship. She smiled at his pensive profile.
"Yes, I suspect your experience with Brian was quite different. I was about the age you are now, and so was he. He had a girlfriend in high school and I suspect he had been with other women, but he was so aloof. What he wanted from me was intimacy and friendship, not sex. But I didn't know how to separate those things back then. If he didn't want me sexually, I figured he didn't want me at all, and I was in love with him."
"I told him I was in love with him."
"Exactly. He said he didn't believe in being in love. He said he loved me, but he wasn't IN love. And then he dropped the bomb. He admitted he was gay. At that age, it was a very brave move for him. He wasn't out. I asked why he ever wanted me at all, and he said he was just trying to figure things out. He said he thought I was gay too and that's one thing that allowed us to be comfortable together. I was shocked! I had secret girlfriends since junior high, kid stuff, spending the night over, the usual male fantasies about what girls do together and they really don't unless they happen to be gay, which I was. I knew I preferred sex with women. But I also knew it was perverted and wrong and I would have to marry some nice man and bear his children and that was all there was to it. Brian told me that was crap."
Justin smiled. He could hear him say that and he pictured the expression on Brian's face as he said it. "Of course."
"He was right. He said I had to live my own life and not squander it on what someone else thought was normal. It was wonderful advice. We were estranged for awhile, but eventually we became close friends, and have been ever since. That's the whole sordid story. Justin, I am gay and I love Melanie and my life with her, but I will always love Brian, too. It's possible to love him and still have a life with your partner. You just have to alter your feelings slightly."
"But Linds, our feelings weren't as calm as yours were. We were all over each other. We were so passionate, so..." he stopped. "It's just different."
"I know, and I really wanted Brian to find happiness with you, baby. I know he loves you. But he's so damaged and you can't be expected to wait forever for the typical indicators of a committed relationship. For instance, saying I love you, I need you, don't leave me. Being faithful or at least trying to be. Hating it when and if you are with someone else. Remembering and sharing important days. You aren't abnormal for wanting that, Justin. Brian is abnormal because as much as he wants to have you in his life, he just can't do what needs to be done in order to maintain a relationship."
Justin nodded, leaning back against the bench as he thought of all the things she had said and tried to restore some order to his turbulent emotions. He wished, well, it didn't matter what he wished. Reality was what mattered and reality just happened to suck.
Scene 3: The Novotny Home, afternoon.
"Deb's not here, is she?" Brian asked as Vic let him into the house. The scent of a freshly baked cake warmed the atmosphere. He followed Vic into the kitchen.
"No, she's at the diner. You're safe." Vic was smoothing chocolate fudge icing over a yellow cake. Brian sat down in a chair, and Vic glanced over at him.
"How does it look?"
"Perfect. I really appreciate this, Vic."
"It was nice to bake with a purpose in mind. However, what the hell is that purpose? They sell cakes in bakeries, you know."
"I wanted it to look homemade."
"Well, it is, so it does. I'll put it in Debbie's Tupperware carrier, but you have to bring the carrier back or my ass is fried."
"You're not going to tell me who it's for?"
"I'd rather not. It's a long, boring story," he rubbed his closed eyes with his fingers, feeling very tired. Vic put the completed cake into a carrier and poured two mugs of coffee. He gave one to Brian and sat across from him, sipping from the other.
"How you holding up, kid?" he asked and Brian looked at him then glanced away.
Vic nodded, reading the devastation behind the façade. He had known Brian too long to be fooled by his mask. "Remember when you were a kid and you came to visit me in New York City?"
Brian smiled slightly. "You mean when I ran away from home when I was seventeen?"
"Sure I remember. You were wonderful to me then, Vic. I've always appreciated your kindness. I was such a rube. God knows what would have happened to me if I were left on my own."
"You've always been savvy, Brian. You would've survived. And you made the right decision to go home, all on your own."
Brian shook his head. "I thought so then, but looking back, I know you manipulated that decision. Thanks. It was the right thing to do at that time. As bad as things were at home, I was almost out of high school and thus away from the parents. In college. A much better outcome than hustling in New York or whatever the fuck I'd be doing there as a seventeen year old high school dropout."
"You're the one who made the hard call. I know things were terrible for you at home. We talked about the fact you realized you were gay. Remember?"
"Yes, it was good to be able to talk out loud to an adult about it without fearing reprisal."
"You were so torn up, Brian. So terrified of yourself."
He nodded. "Why are we going down this road? I'm way over the gay panic mode."
"Yes, you are. I gave you some advice, unsolicited of course. Remember it?"
"Sure. I think about it every day. It's probably the most important advice I've ever had. You said ‘live your life'. You told me that when I got old, it was the things I didn't do that I would regret, not the things I did. And that no one could live my life for me. I had to do it myself, by my own rules."
Vic smiled, flattered that he remembered. "You were such a beautiful boy, Brian. I knew what was in front of you. All you had to do was reach out and grab it."
"So I did grab it," Brian said quietly. "And I did and I did...."
"Yes. And here you are now. A fully realized gay man with a successful career, living out and proud, the top trick in town."
Brian met his eyes. "Living my life, Vic."
"Yep. Only...you're miserable."
Brian looked down at his coffee and shook his head. "I'm good."
"Brian, living your life is not a static thing. It doesn't mean you live the same life at thirty that you did at eighteen. It means be true to yourself at whatever stage of life you find yourself living. You've done the scene and almost everyone in it. What fascination does it still hold for you? What trick is unfucked? What outlaw sex act untested? What continues to hold you enthrall? You know you're handsome, desireable, a good fuck. You know you can pull anyone you want. When does it become repetitive and even sad?"
"Where is this going, Vic?"
"Why did you do it? Why did you push him away when you were almost there?"
"Where you've always wanted to be. In the arms of a partner who loved you and whom you loved and who was committed to you and to your relationship. Secure, for the first time in your rocky, scary life."
Brian sighed and ran his fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture. "Don't."
"I'm not trying to hurt you, Brian. I care for you, I always have. I admire you for your intelligence and your ambition and your guts. I was so glad to see you finally forming a bond with Justin. It was exactly what was lacking in your life. You two were good for each other and were making such progress and then, BOOM. Why?"
"He fell for someone else," Brian said dully and Vic shook his head.
"No, Brian. That was a rebound, not the cause. You drove him away. Why? You love him, don't you?"
"Then why did you do it?"
Brian looked up, the pain crossing his features like clouds covering the sun. When he spoke, his voice was barely a whisper. "Because I don't know how to do it, Vic. I don't know how to love someone. He deserves better than that."
Vic got up and walked over to him. He forced him to stand and then took him into his arms, holding him for a long, silent moment. Brian hugged him so tightly, it hurt, but Vic endured his embrace without complaint. He rubbed his hands up and down Brian's back in a soothing gesture, his eyes closing as he remembered holding him a different way, so long ago in New York. When Vic was younger and still healthy and attractive, and Brian was a beautiful, and frightened boy of seventeen. Vic seldom let himself think of that detour in their relationship, and he wondered if Brian had blocked it entirely. Of all the men who had been in Vic's life, the lost two weeks with the young Brian Kinney still resonated in his memory.
"Baby," Vic whispered gently against Brian's ear. "You're a natural at loving someone. You just have to trust yourself enough to do it."
"It's too late now," Brian's voice was muffled as he pressed his face against Vic's shoulder.
"Never, Brian. You're a young man. I believe Justin loves you, always will. If he's the only one, then go after him. But even if you blew this chance with Justin, open yourself up to it with someone else and it'll happen. You've lived your life according to your own rules, just as I said, Brian. But rules change as we change. Take a hard look at what it is you want now, not what you wanted at seventeen."
"I want him, but I'm no good for him. It was that way with us, Vic, remember? I wanted to stay with you in New York, but you wouldn't let me. Remember that?" Brian released him and sat down at the table again, sipping some chilling coffee to steady himself. Vic stood behind him, massaging his shoulders.
"I didn't know if you remembered, but I've never forgotten a minute of it, Brian."
"Me either," he leaned the back of his head against Vic's belly as Vic continued massaging his shoulders. "You told me I had my whole life in front of me. I had to go out and seize the opportunities before I thought about settling with you or anyone else."
"Yes, and it was the most difficult thing I had ever done, Brian, because I so wanted you to stay for my own selfish reasons."
"Well, I understand it now, even though it hurt at the time. I was too young to settle down. I did need to experience life. And the same is true of Justin. It may be right for me, but it's not for him. This thing with Ethan won't last, but even that's an experience. He's too young to settle down. As hard as it is for me, it's right for him. And... and I love him enough to let him go." His eyes closed for a moment, then opened, reflecting a recovered steeliness. "But I can't go on feeling this way, Vic. Something's gotta give. It's even affecting my work."
"Take it from me, baby. It gets better with time. I think you may be wrong about Justin, but that's something you have to decide. If he's not meant to be, you'll meet someone, you'll click, and the rest is inevitable. You're at that phase of your life, now, Brian. You can't be a hawk forever. It gets ridiculous, eventually. Sad."
Brian patted Vic's hand and stood slowly. His composure had returned. "Please don't tell anyone we had this conversation, Vic. Not Mikey, not Deb."
"Of course not. We have our secrets, Brian, we always have," he spread his hand on the back of Brian's head and they kissed gently, but intimately. Brian sighed when they separated.
"Thanks again. For the cake. For the understanding."
"Brian, you say you don't know how to love, but I watch you with Mikey and I know that's not true. Your affection for him, untainted by sex, that's all you have to give a lover. That kind of open, caring love. Think about it and why you can be that way with your best friend but not with your lover. I think the answers are in that dynamic, somewhere."
Brian shrugged as he picked up the cake carrier. "Boring, Vic. Looking that far up my ass is boring."
Vic smiled. "I've looked up your ass, Brian. It's anything but boring."
Brian met his eyes and laughed. "That's bad, Vic. Very bad! Thanks again for...well, you know. Later," he kissed his cheek and left the house. Vic watched him go, feeling the echo of a long lost pain as he began to clean the kitchen.
Scene 4: Trevor Rainer's office.
Trevor stared up at Brian as he was shown into his office, not bothering to stand and greet him. Brian was wearing a visitor's badge, permitting him access through security in the building. They were serious about their corporate secrecy.
"This is a surprise," Trevor said coolly. "No appointment, no notice. You're lucky you caught me in."
Brian sat the Tupperware down on Trevor's huge desk.
"What's this?" Trevor asked curiously and Brian shrugged.
He did so, staring at the cake. He rubbed his finger across some icing and licked it off. "Delicious. But it's not my birthday."
"Make it yourself?" he teased and Brian smiled.
"Care to explain?"
"Let's start over," Brian extended his hand to Trevor, who automatically shook it. "Welcome to Pittsburgh, Trevor. Consider this a very American way of welcoming a new neighbor."
Trevor stared into Brian's eyes for a moment then smiled. "Thank you, Brian. What a lovely gesture."
"Where are you going?" he asked as Brian turned away.
"I just wanted to give you a welcome gift. I won't take up your time."
"Sit down, you prat! We'll cut the fucking thing!" he rang his secretary and instructed her to bring in the necessary utensils. Brian smiled as he sat across from his desk, watching Trevor shake his head in wonder.
"Are you always this crazy, Kinney?"
"Oh no. I can be much crazier than this."
"Then we're in for an interesting ride," Trevor responded as his secretary came in with plates and cutlery and the small celebration began.
Next week on Transitions:
Brian has a shock and seeks comfort from a friend. He later makes progress to win back Trevor's business. Ethan tells Justin he confronted Brian and they argue. Justin and Michael meet regarding Rage, the comic book.
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July 25, 2004