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by Phantom of QAF and Cael

The Phantom speaks: My work is done. This is my last installment, the show debuts next Sunday. Everyone gets the real thing. I'm packing up my basement, ready to return to the warmth of the lower forty-eight. I guess it was good. I got to meet them all, and maybe I made a fool of myself with Gale, but I got said what I wanted to say. And this has been fun to write, so....I look up. He's standing there, wearing jeans and a black leather bomber jacket. His turtleneck is the same mossy color as his eyes. The left one, anyway. "Going somewhere?" he asks. "Home." "Ah. Have fun?" "Some of it was fun." "I was thinking..." "Yeah?" "What you said was really nice. Thanks." "I meant it." "I'm through for the day, at loose ends. Want to go have a beer?" "SURE!" "Who knows?" he said as we left the basement and walked into the light. "This may be the start of a beautiful friendship."

Last time on Transitions:

Justin is free on bail. He confronts Danny O'Malley. Later, he goes home to the loft and he and Brian combine sex and teasing banter as Justin extracts from Brian how he kept Ethan at bay. Justin realizes Brian is the man he intends to spend the rest of his life with, and suspects Brian knows that too. They have sex, believing the worst is over.

Three weeks later.

Scene 1: Brian's office.

Trevor sat across from Brian's desk, waiting so they could go to a pre-arranged lunch. "So it's over? For good?" Trevor asked and Brian nodded, signing some invoices so they could leave.

"It's over. For good. He's a free man. All charges were dismissed, there will be no stain on his record. Nada. Done."

"All because Ethan didn't show up?"

"That was a big part of it, but also because Winspear is worth the money I paid him."

Trevor smiled. "I'm happy for you two. Really."

"Thanks. Now comes the hard part. Life. We're seeing that shrink Shannon suggested, both as a couple and individually. I think it's bullshit so far, but he has to go and he won't do it unless I play along."

Trevor nodded, certain Brian would see the benefits of his decision in time. "Good for you, that's very smart. Happy?"

Brian shrugged, then grimaced. "Define happy."

"Brian...come on..."

"Okay, okay. Happy. Satisfied?"

They walked out together, and got in Trevor's car. Brian stared at Trevor's handsome profile, then said, "So? Tell. How's it going with you-know-who?"

"You can say his name now. He quit yesterday, so we no longer have a work conflict."

"Oh good! Where did he get a job?"

"A competitor," they met eyes and both laughed. "That's my boy, Josh."

"I knew that ladies' man shit was all an act. He cruised me way too seriously when he was with Cyn," Brian said with a smile. "Or maybe he was just checking out the competition for you."

"I hope Cyn doesn't hate me."

Brian laughed. "She's moved on, man. She's dating some Asian guy. He owns the restaurant from where she always ordered her take-out. Don't ask. Now he can just bring it home with him."

They both laughed. "I like her."

"Me too. You doing okay, Trevor? I'm glad we've been able to work this out."

"Yes, I suppose it's for the best, Brian. And even if it doesn't work out with Josh in the long run, we're having a great time now and who knows? He could be the one."

"True, you never know. I sure didn't."

"We could be the next Brian and Justin."

Brian grimaced. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone! The road to our romance has not exactly been smooth."

"I think Justin is finally beginning to believe I'm not after your skanky body. He's been much friendlier the last few times we've met."

"Let's let him think that, shall we?" Brian said with a fake continental accent that caused Trevor to laugh.

"We're still on for the hockey game, aren't we? The four of us? My company's box?"

"Yeah, tomorrow night, right? Because we have that fucking party tonight."

"What party is that?"

"Deb is cooking a big dinner to celebrate Justin's beating the rap. It's a very Italian thing to do, kind of a throwback to their mafia roots."

Trevor laughed. "Sounds very Don Corleone."

"Yes," Brian said, making a mental note to call off the private detective and the florist. Let Ethan show his skinny ass in Pittsburgh now, he didn't care. He could do no harm, but Brian suspected he would stay on the west coast, where he was now. Far away from Danny O'Malley's reach. Or so he believed.

"Why so thoughtful? Planning a murder?"

"No," Brian responded with a smile. "Just mentally calling one off."

Scene 2: The Novotny house.

The party had been a great success and more. People were laughing, eating, joking, eating, smiling, eating. Deb made certain of the 'eating' part – you didn't get out of her house without gorging yourself. Nothing really serious had been discussed, only fluff and generalities, for which all were grateful. Everyone had been falling over themselves, trying desperately to not say the wrong thing. Fucking up they had down to a science; not fucking up was virgin territory.

Linds and Mel were the first to leave, using Gus's fatigue as a valid excuse. Em and Ted were the next to go. Wrapped up in each other, it was obvious they had plans for the rest of the evening. Slipping his arm around his lover, leaning his head against Ted, Em announced, "Well, boys and girls, we're out of here. The evening's second most fabulous couple is leaving the building!" Soon Ben begged off, kissing Michael goodbye, explaining that he had an early class and needed to prep, or at least try to. That left Deb, Vic, Mikey, Justin, and Brian.

Scattered around the living room, they all were loathe to move, stuffed to the gills and then some. Finally, Deb sighed. "Fuck it, I guess I'd better get ready – my shift starts in a half hour, and I'm sure Charlene wants to get home to beat the storm." She headed to her bedroom to change.

After she was out of earshot, Justin reached over to Brian and asked, "Hey, couldn't we give Deb a ride to the diner? It's really not that far, and one of us can pick her up when she's done. After all that work on top of cooking this huge dinner, she'll be too tired to drive in the snow."

Brian snorted, "One of us? Dream on, Sunshine. The 'one' part's correct. Anybody driving the Jeep in a storm, it's going to be me. Deb!" he yelled upstairs to where she was changing for work. "Move it, the brat and I have things to do, so get the fuck down here!" Pleased, Justin leaned over and bussed Brian, the light kissing rapidly becoming a make-out session.

Vic smirked and remarked to Michael, "I'll bet we can all guess what those 'things' are that they have to do."

"Jesus," she yelled, clomping down the stairs, "what's this all about?'

"We're driving you to the diner, then ONE of us," Brian directed a glare at Justin, then smiled and lightly kissed his forehead, "will pick you up after work. So can we please move it?"

"Really?" she exclaimed, rushing over to hug them both, even though Brian tried to duck her embrace. "Well now, let's go then!" Turning to Mikey, she sent him a silent plea.

"Don't worry, Mom," he replied, "I'll hang around in case we lose power or whatever – the winds are supposed to be pretty bad."

"Thanks, baby," she replied, pinching his cheeks before turning for the door. "Night, boys!"

After the happy couple and Deb left, the house suddenly seemed very quiet. To add a little background noise, Vic turned on the tv to his favorite channel – Turner Classic Movies. As 'Tovarich' played softly in the background, he and Mikey moved into the kitchen to refill their wine glasses.

Hours later, the television still played softly in the background. The wind was howling outside but, inside, they were warm and toasty. And toasted. Two large bottles of cheap jug wine later, Mikey and Vic were very, very mellow. And giggly.

The storm had kept Deb late at the diner, so the two had made an impromptu dinner for themselves. Vic's culinary skills managed to whip up a decent frittata from his sister's massive leftovers, and that, along with some pretty half-assed white bread bruschetta, made their meal. Plus the wine. Lots of wine. Vic's friend Manny worked in a liquor distributor's warehouse and had gifted him with a couple of cases of Carlo Rossi which, he swore, "musta fell off a truck or somethin'." Hey, it was wet and it was vino and it was free, so they enjoyed.

Seven sheets to the wind, Mikey giggled. "Hey, Uncle Vic, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Mikey," Vic replied, taking another sip of his incredibly bad burgundy.

"What was it like? I mean, back then?"

With a slightly sotted smile, Vic asked, "What was 'what' like, Mikey? You have to narrow down the field for me. What do you want to know?"

"Um...." Mikey snickered again and blushed as he looked around the kitchen. "Well, what...what was it like - oh, fuck it, what was it like to fuck without condoms? What does it feel like? I've never done it, and I really want to know. I mean..." Michael sighed. "Shit. I don't even know if you're a top or a bottom. Oh! I so didn't mean to say that!" Then he collapsed in a fit of giggles.

Vic smiled, and looked across at his nephew. "Why Mikey, you admit that I had – past tense, mind you – a sex life? What a great step forward for you! But, just so you can sleep tonight, I'll tell you. I was a bottom. Would still be today, if I could get anyone to take me up on my offer." With that revelation, he smiled sadly and reached to refill his glass.

Owl eyed, and very much the worse for wine, Mikey leaned forward. "Really? I mean, you really love taking it up the ass? Like me?"

Vic snickered. "Mikey, there is no finer thing in this wide old world than a long, thick cock up your hole, him pumping you, you thrusting back hard, never, ever, ever getting enough of it...Shit, how I miss that. Dildos just aren't the same." A heavy sigh followed, and he sipped again from his glass.

Mikey slurped down half a glass and snickered, 'Yeah – it's pretty fuckin' great, isn't it? I mean... But hey." A sudden idea dawned. "Hey!"

"Hey, what?"

"I forgot," Mikey hiccupped, and began laughing. Vic joined in as well, only slightly less sloshed than his nephew. "So where were we," Vic prompted.

"Oh, yeah," Mikey struggled to remember. "We were talking about you getting ploughed. And I'm not gonna let this go, Uncle Vic, I wanna know. Who was the best fuck of your life? I mean, ever?"

"Michael, Michael, Michael," Vic sighed, shaking his head as he refilled their glasses for the umpteenth time. "Where to start," he wondered aloud. "So many cocks, so many friends, so many fuckin' fine times," he trailed off. For a moment he was silent, and then he sighed and spoke. "So many dead and unmourned for so long. But I'm still here!" And with that, he threw his head back and laughed, and tossed down the remainder of his drink. Reaching again for the wine jug, he saw that it was now empty. "Ah, fuck it," Vic said, but Michael staggered to his feet. "Hang on a minute," he slurred, "I'll just go grab us another bottle. Fuck, I'm kinda unsteady – wait, got it!"

Carefully, Michael made his way back to the small Formica table. Twisting the screw top off suddenly seemed more difficult than it looked, and he was relieved when Vic took over. Glasses having been refilled, the discussion took a sudden left turn. "So, Mikey," Vic slurred, "What was your best fuck? Humor an old fag."

Michael took a minute or so to understand what it was he thought he heard, and then the giggles returned. Once again emptying his glass, he tried to wrap his mind around the fact that he and Vic were comparing fuck notes, but, thanks to the wine, he just didn't have enough brainpower to go around right then. But he still knew what was true. Narrowly missing his wine glass as he slumped his head onto his folded arms, he answered, "Hasn't happened yet."

"What hasn't happened yet?" Vic asked, filling their glasses yet again

"The fuck of my life," Michael somewhat unsteadily replied. "He's here, right here! I just can't figure out if I'm supposed to just sit here waiting or if I actually need to DO something to make it happen!"

"'Life to Mikey,'" Vic snickered into his wine.

"Hey," Michael gestured with his thankfully empty glass. "Don't let's make this about me!"

"What?" Vic asked, amused by it all. "Isn't everything about you?" The wine had long ago kicked in and Mikey was unmistakably showing the beginning signs of a major league queen out. Vic was looking forward to the show. Actually, he was starting to think that it might be fun to help it along. He missed drinking and he vaguely remembered why. He had always liked to mix things up.

"Well, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Michael slurred, pushing his chair back from the small kitchen table.

Sobering slightly, Vic leaned across. "Mikey," he smiled, shaking his head. "Everything. Think about it."

Befuddled, Michael leaned back. In his chair and sighed. "I don't know, Uncle Vic – what am I supposed to be thinking about? I mean shouldn't you know, I mean really know, who the right one is?"

Looking thoughtfully into his glass, Vic said "Yeah, sometimes you do – and you let them get away anyway. Sometimes you even give them the push."

Mikey snorted. "You're talking about Brian and Justin, aren't you?" Reaching for the green jug, he refilled his glass then, as an afterthought, topped off Vic's as well, and giggled. "Ma would kill us both if she saw you drinking like this."

"Well, what she doesn't know..." Vic smiled, toasting Michael, "won't hurt us!"

Sobering somewhat, Vic smiled slightly to himself, enjoying a distant moment. The pictures on the television flickered as their reflections skittered across the goblets' curves. His eyes softened and his mouth upturned in the slightest hint of a smile. Suddenly, Mikey burped, and Vic returned to the reality of Deb's unintentionally retro kitchen, gently fingering his glass's stem. "What, Mikey, what?" Vic asked gently, perhaps not quite as drunk as he'd seemed.

"It's just that..." and Mikey sighed. The expression on his face was so desolate that Vic felt compelled to reach across and stroke his nephew's hair. "Did you ever want anything so bad," Mikey sighed, "so bad that it hurt, but you knew it was never gonna happen? And if it did, it would probably ruin everything – I mean, everything? So you just went ahead, waking up every morning, day after day, knowing it was just another day your heart would break?" He snorted. "No, of course not. No one else is that pathetic. Brian's right – I am pathetic!" With that, he slumped down onto the table.

Vic's heart was breaking as he gazed at Mikey's semi sprawl. Vic knew exactly what Mikey was talking about. From stem to stern, from top to bottom, from the first sweet light of morning to the last lingering glimpse of moonset, he knew. As Mikey lightly snored, he reached again for the wine.


The crick in his back and his face splayed across the cold formica finally roused Michael from his impromptu nap. Still fairly foggy and sore from his awkward position, he gingerly stretched himself, trying to ease out the kinks and charley horses. Glancing across the table, he noticed that Vic was no longer there. Expecting that he had gone to his room for the night, Michael was surprised to see Vic seated on the couch with a far away look on his face, lit by the flickering images on the still softly playing tv. Concerned, but still unsteady, he navigated his way to sit next to his uncle. "Vic?" he softly asked, gently touching the older man's ill fitting pullover. He'd lost so much weight; hardly anything fit him any more. Getting no response he tried again, more vigorously. "Uncle Vic?" he asked again a bit more forcefully, shaking Vic's arm. With a small smile, Vic turned toward him.

"I'm here, Mikey. I'm here."

Moving closer, Michael wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "Vic, what is it, are you okay? Is something wrong? Should I call a doctor? Or Ma?"

"No, it's alright, Michael, I'm fine. No need to worry anyone. Just thinking, that's all."

"But you seem so sad"

"Sad? No, not sad at all. Wistful, maybe".

"What's wrong, Uncle Vic?' Mikey asked, rubbing comforting circles across the older man's back. What was it that was so upsetting Vic? He was so far away, so remote. But...he didn't seem angry, or upset. He seemed to be remembering, reliving something important. Something he was letting go.

"Mikey," he sighed, turning his gaze on his nephew.

"What?" Michael responded: he was concerned. Suddenly, Vic turned away and reached for his wine. Grabbing yet another green tinted jug, he filled his glass once again. Proffering it to Mikey, he waited as his nephew retrieved his errant glass from the kitchen table, still foggy enough to miss that neither of them really needed another drop .Returning to the couch and his uncle, Mikey sighed. "What's going on? I mean, what's bothering you? Maybe I can help?" With his wine glass to his lips, Vic started to snicker; the snicker rolled into a laugh, which grew into a guffaw. His wine sloshed everywhere: on him, on the couch, on the carpet. He didn't care. He was somewhere else. Michael, as fuzzy as he was, was becoming alarmed.

Even later...

The snow was steadily falling, and the shabby neighborhood took on a Dickensian sheen – 'A Christmas Carol' meets the Pitts. Michael turned away from the window and back to Vic, who hadn't much moved since his laughter. On the screen, "Royal Wedding" was playing. Mikey moved to the couch, sitting again by Vic's side. Not sober, but not stinking drunk, he reached across for yet another jug, topping off his glass. As he moved to replace the bottle, Vic's hand raised, indicating that he wanted a refill as well.

"Vic, what is it?" Mikey softly asked. Well beyond 'under the weather,' he still knew enough to see that something was upsetting his uncle. Vic simply sat quietly, watching the screen. Soon enough, both he and Mikey had nodded off, their somnolence fueled by their heavy consumption of wine.

A new movie was starting when the front door swung open and a frosty flaked trio stomped their way in. Deb, Brian and Justin were decidedly cold and wet and pissy. Brian was, at least. And Deb. Justin, too. The drive back from the diner had been a nightmare. Justin was carping about Brian's driving, Brian was getting annoyed and Debbie had pretty much had her fill of both of them. Stamping the snow from her boots, she headed upstairs with a gruff, "And a fucking good night to all of you, too!"

All the noise had managed to wake Vic, who sat up from his slouch and rubbed, sleepily, at his eyes. With a smile, Brian headed over to squeeze his shoulder in that familiar way they had so long shared together. Vic yawned, and then placed his hand atop Brian's. At that moment, a piercing shriek was heard. "Oh, my fucking god," Deb screamed. "I forgot about all these fuckin' boxes on my bed. Jesus!"

With a smirk, Justin motioned to Brian and Vic to stay where they were. "It's okay Deb," he yelled, heading upstairs, "I'll help you."

Brian noticed Michael's deep sleep, punctuated with rattling snores, and jiggled his foot to see if he responded. Nothing. He was good and truly out. His lack of consciousness combined with Vic's sleepiness confirmed what Brian suspected to be true from taking in the empty wine bottles littering the area. Brian dutifully collected the wine glasses and the empty jugs, disposing of them as need be. Walking over to where Vic now sat in the easy chair, he perched on the arm and looked down at the older man, noting his downcast look.

With a final glance at Mikey to ensure he was still out, Brian reached out and gently stroked his long ago lover's hair. "Vic, what is it?" he asked quietly. "This isn't at all like you. What happened after we left?"

Raising his eyes to Brian's face, Vic sighed and smiled. "We were talking about 'best fucks' and 'love' and 'knowing who's the one.'"

On the screen, Scrooge watched as the love of his life stood brokenhearted, left behind for a phantom prize. "See," he gestured, "I did that. To us." Struggling to his feet, he moved toward the kitchen, toward his meds, his schedule having long been shot to hell. Brian caught him, steadying him on his walk.

"Vic," he whispered, "No, no, don't ever think that." Turning Vic in his arms, Brian pulled him tight and bodies, though changed, remembered each other and fit again.

Reluctantly, Vic drew away. "Brian, it's time for you to go home. Justin will be back down in a minute."

Brian reached around and slid his hand slowly down along Vic's ass. "I remember a time when you were my home - till you took it away from me. We were happy, Vic. You know it and I know it. We could have spared ourselves so much, if only you would have let us." As his hand traveled over the back pocket of the older man's jeans, Brian paused. Feeling something sticking up over its edge, he tugged it out and brought it around to see. His eyes widened, and he looked from the envelope to Vic.

"It's always with me," Vic smiled. "Reminds me of a better time. A nearly perfect time. " Brian studied him long and hard, then smiled himself, leaning his own forehead against the other's.

"That's what I was thinking when I wrote it." Brian lightly stroked the envelope. Taking the letter from Brian, Vic returned it to his pocket.

"Yeah, well, that's all I have left now. Memories. And remembered foolishness." Brian took Vic's chin in his hand and forced his eyes to meet Brian's.

"We were not wrong together," Brian whispered, "Never wrong together."

Vic sighed, "I know. Don't make the same mistake I did. Don't throw away something as precious as happiness because of what you think is best for someone else. We none of us are that wise." Gently, Brian drew Vic to him, taking his mouth with his own in a gentle caress. Vic leaned into it, for a moment remembering the young man he had been and his even younger lover kissing on the streets of the Village, no one and nothing else in their world.

From the stairs, Justin watched.

As the two men in the living room drew apart, he bounded noisily down the stairs. "Deb's all set and settled in," he announced." I moved the boxes across the hall into my – oh, sorry," he corrected himself with a glance at the apparently comatose Mikey on the couch, " 'Michael's' room. They'll be out of the way, I think."

Vic smiled at the young man. "Thanks Justin, Deb was beat and I'm not sure I'm up to the task tonight."

"No problem Vic," Justin smiled. "Happy to help. Deb's probably out like a light already, she was pretty wiped out." Brian held out his arm for Justin to come to him, and the two men moved toward the door. As Brian headed out to clean off the Jeep, Justin returned. With a quick movement, he reached up to Vic and kissed the older man's cheek. "Thank you," he whispered into Vic's ear. "Thank you for saving him for me." Drawing back, he smiled at Vic, whispering again, "thank you."

"Justin!" Brian could be heard roaring from the street. "Get the fuck out here and help!"

With a slight smile, Vic lightly pushed Justin away. "Some things never change," he sighed. "He still has no patience at all."

"Never did, never will," snickered Justin, and with that he ran to the door.

Vic walked over to the window and watched the two men, grinning as Justin pelted Brian with a snowball and Brian charged around the car to tackle his lover. Their laughter in his ears, even through the glass, Vic turned to climb the stairs to his bedroom, stopping only to glance at the sleeping Mikey, dead to the world on the couch.

Scene 3: San Francisco

Ethan, with his sad eyes, diminutive size and two injured arms had used these assets to worm his way into a sexual relationship with a much older, financially comfortable paternal type who gave him a warm place to stay, food and medical care so he could recuperate and rehabilitate. The man was overweight, bald and physically repulsive to the musician, but he was a gravy train and Ethan was taking full advantage of the situation. What choice did he have? When it came time to pay the piper and have sex with his benefactor, he closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and let it happen.

He had heard nothing from that fucking Mick gangster since the two roses were delivered to his new address. Maybe it was over at last, he wanted to believe. Maybe he was out of danger. He heard Justin was acquitted, so that chapter was closed. With Justin's freedom, did Ethan's follow? As he trudged up the stairs to the neat little apartment his roommate leased in a converted painted lady in Pacific Heights, he hoped that Justin and Brian ran into a train, or went down in a plane, or burned to death in that fucking loft. Something slow and painful and fatal. Full blown AIDS with no relief from the cocktail would be good. He hated them both.

He saw a package left at the door to the apartment. He was relieved that it wasn't flowers. Instead, it was a small square case containing a CD burned by the anonymous sender. Ethan slipped it into the sound system once he went inside and heard Sting sing,

"Every move you make
 Every step you take
 I'll be watching you."

He groaned and took it out of the tray, stomping it into silver slivers with his heel. He didn't understand why these reminders continued. Wasn't Justin free now? Wasn't that over? Why was he still a target of this campaign of fear?

His mistake was in underestimating the extent of Brian Kinney's rage. For Ethan, the evil was not over and never would be, at least not until Brian felt that he had extracted the last pound of flesh necessary to repay some of the pain Justin had suffered at Ethan's hands. Brian's capacity for revenge was as long as the River Liffey, and as broad as the Connemara, bred into his genetics and honed by his own suffering. For Ethan, the drama he started with that first blow was now a reality series featuring his own life, and it would run until his audience of one had decided it was done.

Evil had returned to the evildoer.


Six And A Half Weeks

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July 25, 2004