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02 February 2010 @ 06:53 pm
Valediction - Part 1  


Title: Valediction  (Part 1 of 6) 
Author:
q_dicted
Rating:
R Language, violence
Warnings:
Angst. Oh, and then? More angst.  Major Character Death
Complete: Yes

Disclaimer: I own nothing except my thoughts, and even then sometimes, I rent.
General Summary:
Canon thru 509(ish), right down to some of the scenes/dialogue directly from the show. Some just happen in a slightly different time line. Because what if Brian realized what he was missing before the bombing? What if he changed just one thing, and that changed everything - the butterfly effect gone mad.

Author's note:
  So... I thought about what sort of disclaimer to write here - something to the effect of how much I love these boys and how I think the B/J love is the greatest story ever told (which I do). I thought about apologizing for what's going to happen, but let's face it. I love them and I looooooove angsty, sad stories and I figure if I'm going to write it, and if I'm going to post it, then I'm going to own it. So be warned - very bad things happen.  I can't stress this enough. In fact, let me repeat that: Very. Bad. Things. Happen. (see: Warnings) I am posting in several parts simply because LJ won't let me post the whole thing at once.  I am not a writer - I've written exactly two other things in my entire life (in another fandom). I've tried to get it right - and all mistakes are mine. The medical stuff? Google is my friend - and I did my best to be accurate. Beyond that, I claim dramatic license, k? Now that that's out of the way... I promise not to be so long winded in the future.

Feedback is appreciated!  ~ q_dicted


Valediction ~ Part 1

Brian

Brian took a long hit off the joint burning low in his fingers and held it in, letting the buzz you only got from truly prime weed crawl over him. What a for shit day. First Mikey and his attitude at the diner, then Feldman busting his balls over the latest Home Station ad. Asshole. The idea of having to hold his hand through a pointless lunch was enough to make anyone lose their hard-on. But then he thought of all those zeroes on the check he’d handed over to Kinnetik and suddenly a few martinis didn’t seem like such a bad trade-off. Then there was Theodore.

“How about coming with me to Beth-Emmanuel’s mixer?”

He half-laughed, half-choked as the sound of Ted’s voice echoed in his head. Brian Kinney at a Jewish mixer for Homos without Hubbies. “Just fucking shoot me now.”

“There are many uncertainties in this life, Theodore. Many mysteries beyond our comprehension, but one thing I know for a fact? I will never be Mrs. Seymour Goldfarb.”

He wandered over to the stereo and loaded in some of his favorites, pretending not to notice the haphazard pile of CD’s strewn beside his neatly filed collection. Fucking Moby. Fucking blonds.

He pressed play and poured himself two fingers of Beam before he sat down again. He drew in another lung full of the pungent smoke and let the smooth jazz sounds push out thoughts of asshole clients and fractious blonds and Stepford fags. Mikey. He pulled his lips into his mouth and bit softly at them, then let the smoke out on a long sigh. How the fuck had things gone so far wrong? He took another long toke and washed it down with a swallow of Beam. He picked up one of the art magazines from his coffee table and wondered how his name ended up in the subscription window as he flipped idly through it. But the question still lingered - how did he get here?

“Jesus Christ.” He tossed the magazine aside and laid back, closing his eyes and letting the music flow over him while he finished the last of the amber liquid. Ignoring his best efforts at oblivion, another conversation with Ted began to replay in his mind.

“Come on Brian. You can’t fool me. You’ve got to free yourself of this burden, release it, let it all hang out.”


There was a time when the gaze Brian leveled at Ted would have sent him scurrying for cover, but instead he nodded, urging Brian to confide in him. To both men’s amazement, and despite the fact that he would generally rather have his balls cut off (so to speak) than share ‘feelings’, Brian found himself answering Ted.

“My mother is a frigid bitch. My father was an abusive drunk. They had a hateful marriage, which is probably why I am... unwilling, or unable to form a long term, committed relationship of my own. The fact that I drink like a fish, abuse drugs and have more or less redefined promiscuity doesn’t help. Much.”

Ted stared at him, trying to recall if he’d ever been more surprised by Brian and barring his admission of having cancer, the answer was a resounding ‘no’. He wondered briefly if his boss was yanking his chain, but then Brian paused and pulled his lips into his teeth, and the flash of pain that glinted in the hazel eyes was nothing if not naked truth. Ted was reconsidering his decision not to run away when Brian continued in a tone of voice he wouldn’t have recognized were he not standing right in front of the man.

“As a result I’ve lost the two people in my life that mean the most to me.”

Ted blinked, wet his lips, and made a mental note to never again ask a question he really didn’t want to know the answer to. He swallowed hard. “There... don’t you feel better now?” The insipidness of the question was magnified by the honesty of Brian’s response.

“No. But I’m sure you do.”

And then Number Nine on his 'to do' list had shown up and saved Ted from having to consider that particular truth too carefully. Ted made his escape and Brian resolved to think of some new and amusing way to torture him for his insubordination, and then promptly forgot about it as he pounded into the trick up against the glass-block wall of his office.

Brian had him, and then later he and Number Ten gave a whole new meaning to ‘fly the friendly skies’. He claimed victory over his would-be usurper – the pretender to his throne as the stud of Liberty Avenue. And with that, another dubious chapter was added to the Kinney legend. Brian sat up abruptly and shook his head.

“Fuck this.”  Numbers nine and ten notwithstanding, he’d had enough lesbian moments in the past few days to last him a lifetime. They wouldn’t be happy until he grew a pussy and hell would freeze over before that happened. Sure, he might have declined to claim his prize from Brandon, but that had nothing to do with Ted's admonitions or Lindsay’s lectures. Tossing Brandon’s pants at him and sending him on his way was his way of showing the upstart just how little a threat he considered him. It certainly had nothing to do with the fact that it was the wrong blond that lay across his twelve-hundred thread count sheets with his ass in the air.

The joint was little more than a roach in his fingers when he heard the sharp knock at his door. He stubbed it out in the ashtray and blew out the last remnants of smoke before sliding the door open. For a brief moment he hoped the blur of red and smell of tuna was a hallucination brought on by the eighty-bucks-an-eighth weed. No such luck.

“That Thelonious?” Debbie chirped, cocking her ear to the softly playing music. She breezed by him snapping her gum, her smile wide.

“That tuna-macaroni casserole?”

“You got it.”

“Don’t want it,” Brian said, typically blunt. Debbie just stared back at him, still smiling and uncharacteristically silent. “Tuna casserole means that we’re going to get stoned and have a Very Meaningful Conversation.” Brian shrugged, “Unfortunately, I just finished my last joint.” He stood in front of the open door, already just stoned enough to entertain the possibility that she might take the subtle hint, yet singularly unsurprised when Debbie just giggled and drew a single, somewhat battered joint out of her bra.

“Fortunately, I brought one with me!” She pushed Brian aside and slid the door shut behind them, waiting pointedly for him to offer a light. Accepting his fate, Brian touched his lighter to the joint and couldn’t disguise his amusement as she sparked it up like a pro.

“Does Detective Horvath know his blushing bride is a pothead?” Debbie snorted, holding the pungent smoke deep in her lungs.

“Nothing kills a good relationship faster than full disclosure.” Brian laughed along with her then, snatching the joint out of her fingers.

“Give me some of that.” They passed it back and forth, alternating tokes and forkfuls of macaroni and Brian waited for the shoe to drop. As usual with Debbie, it was more of a Doc Martin than a Gucci loafer and she dropped it with love and without preamble.

“I don’t like the way you’ve been treating Michael.” Brian took a quick hit before he uttered the useless request.

“Butt the fuck out.”

The inevitable arguments went back and forth. He loves you. He’s changed. He’s living his life now. He’s living a lie. He’s grown up. He’s a pseudo hetero. It was a script they could’ve recited in their sleep and even to Brian’s own ears it sounded... tired. Then Debbie moved in for the kill.

“Your problem is, he left you. He left you and he moved on.” Her soft tone belied the harsh words, but still Brian’s eyes cast down, the mask of stony indifference slipping just a little as he took them in. She looked hard at him, seeing the curious blend of the fearless fourteen year old who’d become the center of Michael’s world from the first day they met, and the thirty-something man who’d endured a lifetime of hurt and betrayal at the hands of those who claimed to love him. He was the epitome of success in so many ways, so completely fucked up in others. The last year had taken a toll on him, yet somehow he wore it well. She huffed out another puff of smoke – only Brian could go through cancer and radiation and be more heartbreakingly beautiful at the other end of it. He was stubborn and willful and a Class-A prick at times, but also smart and generous and brave and she loved him like a second son. She knew she was one of the very few people on the planet who could hurt him, and for once she treaded carefully. She offered the joint back to him and waited for him to meet her eyes again before she continued. “Only he didn’t. You and he just made different choices, that’s all. It doesn’t mean that you don’t still love each other.”

Brian shrugged, all the conviction gone from his voice.

“He won’t talk to me.”

“Then you talk to him.

*~*~*

Justin

Justin stood in front of his painting trying to decide if losing his mind in the middle of the gallery would increase or decrease the value of his work. Regardless, if just one more person made one more inane comment like ‘I don’t know art, but I know what I like’, or ‘how surprising to see such intense work from someone so young’, there were going to be little bits of Justin Taylor’s brains all over the floor because his head was going to fucking explode. It was bad enough coming from the truly unaware – hearing it from a supposedly-sophisticated and influential art critic made his teeth itch. And the pretentious fuck was still talking!

“So what made you want to be an artist?”

Justin smiled sweetly at him. “It was that or be a mass murderer.” It was worth the tremendous effort it took to laugh, if only to see the barely concealed look of surprise on the cunty art critic’s face. There was an awkward pause while he considered Justin and then grudgingly laughed along. Justin felt Lindsay suck a breath in beside him before joining in uneasily. Still, she was beside herself with excitement as he walked away.

“Did you hear what he said? Remember this moment!”

“What for? He’s a cunt.”

“A very influential cunt.”

“A cunt’s a cunt.”

Jesus Christ. Not his finest moment, really. Justin despised living up to his drama-princess reputation, and Lindsay was genuinely excited for him. Not to mention, she was right - Simon Caswell was influential and it took a lot of finesse on Lindsay’s part to get him to the Pitts. It wasn’t that he was ungrateful - it was just that he was having trouble seeing the bright side of things through the large, Brian-shaped hole in his life. Besides, as fucked up as his situation was at the moment, hers was infinitely worse, a point driven home as Mel and her new friend from the Stop Prop 14 task force joined them. Their words were for Justin, but their show was for Lindsay’s benefit, holding hands and laughing – dismissing Lindsay with a casual nod and a tip of the wineglass as they wandered away. Jesus Christ.

Justin knew Brian had arrived before he saw him. Brian might be ‘Rage’, but when it came right down to it, it was JT who had the super powers. He could hear the lazy shuffle of $300 shoes on the marble floors. He smelled the unmistakable blend of spice and smoke and sex that was Brian Kinney, as familiar to him as his own name; knew without a doubt that when he glanced sideways, he would be there. If there was any comfort to be found in the knowledge, it was that at least Brian couldn’t catch him unaware. Not that it mattered – seeing him again after any length of time apart always brought Justin’s heart rate up, always made the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand up, always quickened his breath just a little. Always. Every fucking time.

“Art openings are always such gay occasions.”

Justin let out the breath he’d sucked in the moment he’d sensed Brian and wasn’t aware he’d been holding, grateful for Lindsay’s attempt to buffer those first few, awkward seconds while he regained his equilibrium. Brian was the last person he’d expected to see tonight. Their last few encounters had been... strange - both of them walking away feeling uneasy - unfinished. Lindsay had asked him before inviting Brian and he’d said yes, but Brian had turned her down anyway with a rather resounding ‘are you out of your fucking mind?’ when she’d told him that Michael and Ben would also be there. It occurred to him that the last time Brian had shown up somewhere he said he wouldn’t, the party ended with him punching Michael in the face. And that was when they had still been friends. Fuck. Justin swallowed that memory along with the last of his wine and looked sideways at him.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

“Neither was I.”

Huh. No innuendo-filled comeback. Funny. He didn’t look drunk. They both turned to the large canvas on the wall.

“That it?”

“You like it?”

“If I did, would that make it good?”

Ah. There he was. Shit. “No.”

“Would it make you like it more or less?”

Double shit – he could see the edge of the cliff from here. “No.”

“Would it make you rich?”

Asshole. Don’t do it. “No.”

“Then why would you give a shit what I think?”

Too close to the edge now. He could practically feel Brian’s hand on the small of his back.

“I think it’s exquisite. You should be very proud.”

Fuck but it always hurt, no matter how softly he landed. He followed Brian’s gaze as he sized up a tall, dark-haired dose of pain management before turning blasé hazel eyes back on him. The words he used to push him off were classic Kinney, skillfully chosen for maximum thrust.

“It’s been a long time since I fucked an artsy type.”

Brian turned and followed his prey without realizing that this time, Justin was still there. Still standing. Maybe after all this time he’d finally learned how to navigate Mt. Kinney.

Still, what the fuck? Justin wasn’t blind. Every time he’d seen him lately, Brian had been, well, odd was the only word he could think of. Aloof, but not in his usual ‘I’m Brian Kinney. Deal with it.’ way. He was unfailingly polite. Friendly, even - and Jesus, wasn’t that a sign of the apocalypse? Brian Kinney and Justin Taylor had been many things in the five years they’d known each other, but friends was not one of them. Frankly, a friendly Brian scared the shit out of him.

And pissed him off. They were more than that. No matter what they’d gone through there was connection between them that had never waned. Not when three months in L.A. turned into six, not when he’d thrown him out in a fear-induced moment of madness last year, not even during the Ethan fiasco. There had always been the sense that Brian was indulging him – giving him his lead and allowing him to run unfettered, but somehow knowing that in the end, Brian and Justin were inevitable. A force of nature. This felt different. Each time they met he felt that connection, that invisible thread that bound them together unravel a little more.

This scared the shit out of him, because this? Felt an awful lot like Brian letting go.

And yet tonight he’d felt the need to shove him off a cliff again. Why? Justin snatched a glass of wine from a passing waiter and downed half of it, determined to banish the knot of frustration (pain) that was closing his throat. Instead he only succeeded in washing it down, into his belly where it sat like (fear) a cold stone. The second half of the glass didn’t do anything to ease it, so he grabbed another, looking around the room for something, anything, to focus on (why?) that wasn’t Brian Fucking Kinney. Fuck him (I love him).

His mother’s boy-toy was looking at one of his paintings. What kind of name was ‘Tucker’ anyway? Justin’s eyes narrowed and his lips curved into a smile that was quite the opposite of sunshine. He walked over to stand beside him.

“Let me guess. You don’t know art, but you know what you like.”

*~*~*

Brian

Fuck. That was so not what he came here for. Tonight was only supposed to be about Michael - he wasn’t even going to let Justin know he was here. Soon. But not tonight. The plan was to get in, talk some sense into Michael, and get out, all with a minimum of bullshit.

Yet when he’d seen him there with Lindsay he could tell even from all the way across the room that something was off. There was probably some sort of scientific explanation involving pheromones and hind-brains that could account for the fact that he always knew when something was wrong with Justin Taylor. Whatever the fuck it was, it never failed. Granted, he might not always act on the knowledge, but that didn’t change the fact that he knew. There really was no reasonable explanation for why he found himself compelled to go over there and fix it though.

“Fuck me." And now Justin was watching him so he had to make small talk with this guy until he was sure he’d changed that look from unhappy to pissed. Pissed off Justin was so much easier on the conscience.

And... there it was. He watched Justin stew for a moment, then stalk over to... Trevor? Tipper? Whateverthefuck, he made a mental note to congratulate Jennifer for snagging such a fine young piece of ass. It was nice to know at least one of the Taylor’s had learned something from him. Brian almost felt sorry for him, having been on the receiving end of a self-righteous Justin Taylor hissy fit himself a time or two. A burst of raucous laughter and cheers of ‘Mazel Tov’ drew his attention away from the duo. Timmy would just have to deal on his own – he had bigger princesses to contend with.

Debbie was the only one of the group to fully understand the import of the moment when Brian interrupted Teddy’s Tales of the Yeshiva.

“Can I borrow you?” Brian pulled Michael out of the small circle of friends and off to a quieter corner.

*~*~*

He wondered if it had always been like this. The thumpa-thumpa pulsed, forever young. But if you really listened, you could hear the lament behind it – the sound of time marching on. The dazzling glitter that fell like multi-colored rain on the writhing mass of bodies below was really just bits of cellophane and foil to be swept up in the morning along with the used condoms and the phone numbers of those who didn’t quite measure up.

“I’m a cocksucker. I’m queer. And to anyone who takes pity or offense I say, judge yourself. This is where I live. This is who I am.”

The mirrored balls that spun over his head were where he first glimpsed the life he was destined to live – one with a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of bullshit. No apologies. No regrets. But now when the light hit them at just the right angle, he saw a different reflection.

“I know you can’t give me those things.”

“Not ‘can’t’. Can’t implies that I’m incapable. It’s that I won’t.”

“Why are we still doing this if we both know it’s never going to work?”

“Damned if I know.”


Little fucker had already had his bags packed.

The strobes and spotlights and lasers cast a surreal light over everyone and everything in their path, hiding the blemishes and wrinkles, the scars that lingered just below the surface. There were no imperfections in their glow – those only showed up in the light of day.

"Just because we’ve been friends our whole lives doesn’t mean we have to stay friends. Especially since we no longer have anything in common. So why don’t we just admit that the Brian and Mikey show is over and get on with our lives."


When the glitter really was diamonds and the spotlights were telling the truth, Mikey would have walked in right about now. He’d have spotted Brian up on the catwalk and his heart would’ve done that little flip-flop thing it had done since he was fourteen years old and he would have come to him.

“Surprised to see you here.”

“I wanted to ask you a question. Why did you apologize?”

“I guess I miss you.”

“You still love me?”

“Always have. Always will.”


Maybe it really was all smoke and mirrors. Maybe he just needed to open his eyes. Fuck.

Babylon. Like its namesake, it would last forever, if only in legend. Of course if the Prop 14 zealots got their way the place would be a Starbucks and a Baby Gap by the end of the year. He snorted at that. “Over my cold, dead body.” He still couldn’t believe Michael had had the balls to come and ask him for the club to hold their Queer Fest. Maybe he’d raised him right after all.

He tossed back the last of the JB in his glass and had barely set it down when the bartender was there, ready to refill it. Brian waved him off and took the bottle from him instead. Jason had worked for him long enough to interpret the raised eyebrow as the ‘I don’t pay you to talk’ it was, and since he valued his job, kept his comments to himself. “I’m not here,” was all Brian said, and headed for his office. He shut the door behind him, leaned back against it for a moment and let out a long breath. When he realized he was actually enjoying the reprieve his soundproof walls offered from the thumpa thumpa, he straightened up quickly, with a slightly scornful laugh and a muttered 'Fuck. Me.' Brian Kinney didn’t need peace and quiet at Babylon. Of course he didn’t open the door again, either.

He poured himself two fingers of Beam and sipped at it while he looked around his office. How different it was from the Sap’s time. Gone was the mismatched collection of cheap, discount store furniture, sleazy, hard-core photos and ancient, come-stained carpet. When Brian took over the club the first thing he’d done was gut the office and now it was a classy, sparely decorated space. All chrome and glass and leather, cool, sleek, sexy – a reflection of its occupant. He stood in front of the artwork Justin had given him on his return from L.A. It was an original story board he’d drawn for the last scene of Rage! The Movie.  Rage held a recovered JT in his arms, still bloodied, but alive thanks to Rage and his magical powers. He’d drawn and painted it all by hand and the details were almost too much for Brian. He reached out and touched the spot where the scar should be.

Justin.

“I wish I could remember.”

“I wish I could forget.”


Brian turned away from the image. It belonged in a past he couldn’t change. No apologies, no regrets. He still believed that. He did. Because you only had to regret something if you wanted to change it, if you could change it, and didn’t. He moved to another, less beautiful piece of art on the wall and swung it open. He spun the small dial on the safe, drew out a file folder of papers and sat down at his desk. Each item in it was carefully considered and there was only one more thing to add.

Brian took a long swallow from his drink and powered up his laptop. He opened up his email account and navigated to the Drafts file. He’d had the email written for days now, waiting. Fuck, waiting for what? For another phone call in the middle of the night? Another doctor to tell him that this time the odds weren’t so good? For another swing of a baseball bat? He typed the name into the address bar, jennifer.taylor@jacksonrealty.com and hit send. When that was done, Brian brought up another email, this one from his lawyer, and double clicked on the attachment. He hesitated only a moment and then sent it to the printer.

While he waited, and before he could be the chicken-shit he knew he was, he pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed-dial number two. As he listened to it ring he realized that the music had stopped and looked at his watch. Shit. Nearly 3 a.m. Of course it went to voicemail, so he gritted his teeth through the pathetic greeting and dutifully waited for the beep.

“Hey. It’s me...”

*~*~*

Ben

“I can’t believe he’s giving us the club.”

Ben unwound the scarf from Michael’s neck and pulled him forward with it until they were nose to nose. “Really? You can’t?” He loved his husband with all his heart, but sometimes he really was a self-centered little shit. Brian Kinney could be the most arrogant, selfish asshole on the planet when the mood struck him, but in the few years he’d been a part of this fucked up little family he’d never known him not to do the right thing when push came to shove. Mel and Lindsay’s wedding; the whole Stockwell affair. Hell, he’d pretty much single-handedly saved Teddy, first from Stockwell’s crusaders and later, from himself. When they’d first met, all Mikey could talk about was Brian – how he’d turned a miserable existence in high school into the best years of his life. How he’d helped them keep the house when Vic got really sick and his mother couldn’t take more than a few shifts a week at the diner. Of course all Deb knew was that Mikey was doing really well at the Big Q. And the Liberty Ride. Vic Grassi House. Christ, there wouldn’t even be a hospice if not for Brian. He was a generous, loving father to Gus, even if it was from a distance, and though Michael would likely never forgive him for it, he’d stood up for Lindsay during the fight over J.R. when nobody else would. So it wasn’t difficult at all to believe that he donated his club to the cause. Not because he believed in it, but because they did.

Ben kissed him on the forehead and then on the ear, wrapping his arms around the slight shoulders. “He’s a good man, Michael. You need to forgive him.”

Michael leaned back and looked him in the face again. “He doesn’t want my forgiveness. He only wants to mock me and...” Ben silenced him with another kiss.

Logic said Ben should at the least be jealous of Brian, if not hate his guts outright. Somewhere deep in his heart he knew that even now, if Brian really, truly wanted him, nobody else in the world would have a shot at Michael’s heart. He doubted even Michael believed that any more, but it was the truth. And the fact was, Brian knew it too. What allowed Ben not to hate him, in fact to even respect him, was his absolute faith that Brian would never betray that. Michael’s secret identity was safe.

“He apologized, didn’t he? What more do you want?”

Michael’s forehead crinkled in disgust. “I can’t believe you’re defending him to me. You heard what he said. He called me a defector, a traitor. He didn’t apologize for that, he was giving me permission to be a ‘Stepford fag’. Well fuck him.”

“Michael.”

“Ben.”

“He gave us the club.”

“And I said thank you. That’s enough.”

*~*~*

Brian


He checked his voice mail for the third time. Goddamn. Hit the intercom on his desk. “Cynthia!” She came around the corner with a murderous look on her face.

“You barked?”

“Have I had any messages?”

She looked pointedly from him to the empty giant chrome paperclip on his desk where she’d been putting his messages for what seemed like the last hundred years, then back at him again.

“Fine. Whatever.” He ran his fingers through his hair and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Where the fuck is Theodore?”

Cynthia bit her tongue - quite literally – and it wasn’t lost on her boss.

He blew out a short sound of disgust, but changed his tone nevertheless. “Would you kindly locate my erstwhile accountant for me?” She arched an eyebrow and he very nearly laughed. “Please?”

“Erstwhile?” Ted materialized in the doorway behind Cynthia. “What did I get fired for this time?” His mornings were really never complete until Brian had fired him at least once. Occasionally, he liked to know the reasons.

Brian stuck his tongue in his cheek and scrutinized him thoroughly before he answered. “Give me a few minutes. I’ll think of something.”

He sat down in his chair and tented his fingers, considering his two most trusted employees carefully. “I’m going to be out of the office for a few days.” They had long since learned to bide their time with Brian. There was almost always more. “Possibly longer.” Both were also practiced at keeping their expressions neutral. Ted knew about his trip to Sydney. Cynthia knew it too and also knew what the ‘possibly longer’ meant, but she had also learned a long time ago that when it came to her boss, discretion was not only the better part of valor, it was paramount to keeping her job. “Cynthia, make sure I don’t have anything scheduled for the next couple weeks that can’t be changed if necessary.” He picked up a stack of boards from the corner of his desk and thrust them at her. “These are for shit. Tell those fuckwits in Creative that if they don’t have something I can sell Remson on my desk by the time I get back, they can just leave their balls there instead.” He turned to Ted.

“Yes, oh Mighty One?” Ted bent slightly at the hips and folded his hands together. “What would you have me do?”

Brian sighed. “Just try not to get arrested.”

When they were both gone he scrawled a few more notes on files and made a couple of phone calls. By lunchtime, all his Kinnetik business was taken care of. He cleared his desk of clutter and sat back in his chair – only one more thing left to do. He reached into his brief case and took out the thick envelope with Justin’s name on it. He turned it over in his fingers a few times – cautiously, as though it were dangerous goods. Then again, he supposed, it was. He set it down and reached for his Mac, then reconsidered and took a sheet of paper out of the box of ridiculously expensive stationery he reserved for special clients. It didn’t take him long to write the note – there was really only so much he could say. He read it over once, then folded it up and put it in the envelope.

He went around shutting off the lights and couldn’t help but smirk when he reached the floor lamp beside the sofa. It had been there when he returned from ‘Ibiza’ and to this day he’d never heard a word about it. And as far as he could recall he never signed a check for it, either. He pulled his lips into his teeth and switched it off as he headed out the door – maybe he wouldn’t fire her today after all.

*~*~*

“Catch, Daddy!” Gus flung the miniature football at him with a force that took Brian by surprise.

“Whoa, Sonnyboy!” He tossed it back and smiled at Gus’s delighted squeal when he caught it. He ran off to play with his little friends and Brian felt as though he was watching him grow bigger with every step he took away from them.

“When did he learn to throw like that?”

Lindsay answered without taking her eyes off Gus. “About six months ago.”

Damn. “I must have been working.” That finally drew a glance from Lindsay, and a slightly wicked smile.

“Or something.”

Brian flinched, but only a little and not so she could see it. They walked a little further before he stepped in front of her and stopped so abruptly she would have knocked him over if he hadn’t taken her by the arms.

“Brian! What the fu...” It wasn’t her inclination not to swear in front of the kids that silenced her so much as the intensity with which Brian was staring at her. “Brian?”

“I want another chance, Lindsay. I want him to know who I am.”

“He will. He does.” But Brian was shaking his head.

“I don’t want him to forget me,” Brian said in a voice suddenly raw, so quiet, that at first Lindsay wasn’t sure she heard him right. And then she was suddenly very, very afraid that she had.

She reached up and brushed back the hair from his forehead, searching his eyes for a clue to what was going on. In his Prada suit and custom-made cashmere overcoat he was stunningly handsome – beautiful, really – so much it hurt to look at him sometimes. And yet there was something... “Brian,” she found she had to swallow hard to make her own voice work. “What’s wrong? Are you...is the cancer...is it...” She couldn’t complete the thought.

“No,” Brian huffed out the word, and let her go at the same time. He seemed to shake off whatever demon it was that had possessed him moments before and looked at her with his crooked smile. “Don’t worry, I’m not dying.” He put his tongue in his cheek and narrowed his eyes at her. “You’ll just have to wait a little longer to cash in on my insurance.”

Lindsay nearly sagged with relief, but recovered quickly and swatted him on the arm. “You shit! Don’t scare me like that ever again!” They both took a breath and sat down on the bench beside the path. “So what then?”

Brian shrugged. “I want to spend more time with him. You and Mel, you’re already splitting him two ways.” He looked down at her. “And Daddy makes three?” He snorted. “Fuck that, Lindsay. You two should do what munchers do and make nice. Shit’s gone on long enough.”

Lindsay laughed bitterly. “Not my call, Brian – Melanie has... moved on.” She blushed red even as she said it as the memory of their late night wrestling match flooded her thoughts. Brian’s eyebrow raised in question and Lindsay deflected it the most effective way she knew how. “What about you? What about Justin?” The best defense was still a good offense. It was fortunate that they were sitting, because Lindsay surely would have fallen over otherwise when Brian answered.

“I’m working on it.”

~*~*~

It wasn't quite dark enough to bring the streetlights on when he finally found him. It took him that long to get Lindsay to stop squealing long enough to get a location out of her.

“He’ll be at the call center, I’m sure – they’re trying to contact all the people who bought tickets for the benefit to make sure they know about the location change.”

A tall, attractive brunette was locking the doors just as Brian pulled up in front of the storefront the PA Anti-Prop 14 Initiative was using as headquarters and from what Brian could see, the place looked empty. Fuck! As the woman turned he recognized her as Mel’s date from the art gallery – and thank Christ! – she remembered him as well.

“Justin left a little while ago with a bunch of location change notices for the posters. I’m sure he can’t have gotten too far.”

It wasn’t the exact streetlamp he’d found him under all those years ago, but Christ, it was close enough. Justin stood beneath it, pasting a ‘NOW AT BABYLON’ sticker over the poster that was stapled to the pole and Brian’s dick twitched in a primal response to an unbidden memory. It was frozen breath that swirled around him now, instead of warm mist; a confident, grown man where a cocky seventeen year old had stood and practically dared him to take him home and fuck him. Five years and nearly both their lifetimes ago, and Brian could still recall the taste of Justin on his tongue that very first time. Jesus Christ. How the fuck had that happened? Brian Kinney did not remember tricks the next day – never mind five years later. And then Justin turned in the light and saw him, and smiled. Oh yeah. Right. That’s how.

Brian rolled down the window as Justin approached the car.

“So, you’re back working the streets.”

“Thanks to you. You coming?”

“Why, in your wildest homosexual fantasies, would you imagine I would attend such an event?”

“You gave Michael the club.”

“How could I say no to my oldest and dearest friend?”

“And it is to protect the rights of every gay person in the state. Including yours.”

“Well they’ll have to fight the good fight without me. I’ll be tanning myself down under.” He smirked. “And perhaps a little on top.”

“You’re going to Australia?”

“They say Mardi Gras in Sydney’s the Gayest Place on Earth. Except of course for Disney Land.”

Silence stretched out between them. Brian shifted in his seat and felt the weight of the envelope in his breast pocket press against his chest.

“Well. Take care of yourself.” He heard himself say the words from somewhere outside his head.

“You too.” Justin turned to go.

Wait! The fuck? “Justin, wait!!”

He turned back toward the car and Brian slid the envelope out of his coat and handed it out the window to him. Justin took it by reflex, not even really looking at it except to note his name written on the front.

“What’s this?” He watched while Brian appeared to be having some kind of silent argument with himself. It was far too interesting to walk away from, so he waited.

Right up until this moment Brian still hadn’t decided how to do this. He was a brilliant ad man – a genius some would say. Making people want things they didn’t need had made him a rich man. So gifted in the art of persuasion, yet when it was really important, when it would mean everything, he had no fucking idea how to make it work.

“Brian? What is this?”

He looked up into the familiar blue eyes and for one brief, lesbianic moment that he would deny to the grave, he wished he was Rage – that he could just use his powers of mind control to make Justin understand, to make him feel everything he had to tell him. To just know. Shit. It was all there in his hands – everything that he could offer him. It was up to Justin now to decide if it was enough. The one thing Brian couldn’t do is hear him say no.

“It’s... everything.” He started the car and put it in gear, looking up at Justin one more time as he pulled away from the curb. “Later.”

*~*~*

Michael

To save this message, press 1. To repeat this message, press 2.

Michael pressed ‘2’ for the third time in a row but this time he handed the phone over to Ben.

“He is fucking unbelievable!”

Ben held the phone to his ear, and he had to admit that it was pretty fucking unbelievable. Michael had forgotten his phone at the store (again) so he was just now listening to his messages. The one from Brian had come in close to 3:00 a.m. so he could have written it off as Brian being drunk or high or both, except that he sounded stone cold sober.

“Hey, it’s me. When the fuck did you get ‘Rage’ to record your greeting?” He could hear Brian’s sneer right through the phone. “You are soooo pathetic, Mikey.” But then he laughed. And then he stopped. “No, actually you’re not pathetic at all.” There was a long pause and then, “Fuck me, Michael. You behaved like an asshole. I behaved like a bigger one.” The sound of a lighter clicked and then another pause and a long exhale. “What happened between us – well, sorry’s bullshit and I’m not going to say it so you can just fucking forget that. You’re my best friend, and I need you. So stop being a princess and fucking call me.”

As he listened, Ben watched Michael and though his husband was trying for righteous indignation, his eyes glinted with a light that hadn’t been there in quite some time. He listened for the option to save the message, then did so. Without a word he pressed the number two speed dial and handed the phone back to Michael.

“Ben!” Michael protested but it was without conviction. He was almost relieved when the machine picked up – he needed a little time to regroup. Brian’s greeting was typical Kinney-speak.

“Leave me a message.”

“Hey, it’s me. I, uh, got your message.” He snorted, picturing Brian’s eye roll at that. “I guess you probably figured that out already, you being a college graduate and all. Anyway. It’s 5:00 and we’re heading over to Babylon to make sure everything is set up for tonight. Are you going to be there? We could... talk.” Ben smiled at him, nodding his head approvingly. Michael smiled, too. “Anyway, so yeah. Call me.”

*~*~*

Justin

He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, but it was long after the Corvette’s taillights faded from view. Fucking Christ! What the hell? He searched through his memory banks but try as he might he couldn’t recall anything in the Kinney Operating Manual that covered this. He was pretty sure it would have fallen under the heading of ‘What to do when Brian loses his shit’. He looked down at the envelope Brian had given him. It was thick, heavy in his hands. ‘Justin Taylor’ was printed neatly in the center of it. He was tempted to tear it open right there on the sidewalk, but something told him that he was going to want to be sitting down when he did that. The venue banners forgotten, he started walking, instinctively heading for the diner without even being aware of it. ‘It’s everything.’  What the hell? ‘Everything.’  Suddenly his need to know was overwhelming and his footsteps fell faster until he was practically running. He flung the diner door open and prayed that the back booth would be empty and that Debbie would not be working. One out of two wasn’t bad.

“Sunshine!”

“Hey, Deb.” Justin blew by her and threw himself, out of breath and sweating, into the booth. His hands were shaking and he was deeply regretting not going somewhere he could have a drink. He laid the envelope on the table and shrugged out of his coat and scarf. Elbows on the table, he put his head in his hands and just stared at it. Jesus Christ! Now that he had a minute to think about it, the possibilities of what could be in there terrified him. Brian had been so strange lately, the encounter at the gallery notwithstanding. What if... Jesus, no. Please not that. He might have moaned that last bit out loud, because suddenly Debbie was across the table from him, her face full of concern. She set the coffee pot in her hand down and leaned in.

“Sunshine, what’s wrong?”

Justin looked up at her and the words came out before he could stop himself. “It’s Brian.” Shit.

“What did the asshole do now?”

Justin winced – he loved Debbie and he knew Debbie loved Brian, but it pissed him off that her first inclination was always to blame him whenever it seemed blame could be laid. He tried to keep his voice neutral. “He didn’t do anything, Deb. At least... I don’t think he did.” Please, God, I hope he didn’t. He picked up the envelope again, but gingerly, as though it was hot and might burn him. “I think... maybe there’s something wrong.”

Debbie was instantly contrite. “Why, baby? What’s happened?” Justin looked from her to the envelope then back at her again.

“He gave me this.” Justin actually stammered, something he hadn’t done in years. “I..I have no idea what it is.” Debbie covered one of his hands with hers and cupped his face with the other.

“Sunshine, I’m sure he’s alright.” She smiled, “He’s Brian Kinney for fuck’s sake. Why don’t you open it and find out?” Justin nodded and blinked a couple times. Fucking allergies.

“Thanks, Deb. Could I... would you mind?”

“Sure, baby. Take all the time you need. I’ll be here.” She patted his face and ruffled his hair and poured him a cup of coffee before she left him sitting there, just him and the envelope.

Justin turned it over in his fingers again, examining it from all sides. He wanted to open it. Badly. But then he also didn’t want to, because then whatever was in there would get out. And if it got out, then it would be true. And if Brian was sick again... if Brian was... No. There just wasn’t an acceptable scenario in which it would be okay that Brian Kinney wasn’t in his world. He didn’t have to be in his life – he could handle that. But he had to know that Brian was there. Somewhere.

He’d done the right thing leaving, he knew that. He needed more. Not wedding rings or little pink houses with white picket fences. Hell, he didn’t even need a dog and 2.3 children. He just needed... more. But at this moment all he really needed was Brian to walk in and tell him not to be such a pathetic little twat and open the fucking envelope already. Justin sniffled loudly and scrubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. Fine! He slid his finger under the flap and pulled out the contents all at once.

Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

There was almost too much to process. An airline ticket. His passport (shit, he’d forgotten that was in Brian’s safe). A printout of a real estate listing. In fucking West Virginia? And Justin was no lawyer, but he was pretty fucking sure that this one was a copy of a deed. With both their names on it. Christ. Another legal document he couldn’t begin to wrap his mind around. On top of it all was a neatly folded sheet of expensive-looking note paper. He recognized Brian’s handwriting instantly though he could barely read it, because his hands were shaking so much it was blurring the paper. But read it he did.

Justin,

I may never do the matching Vera Wang’s, but I can do the country manor. Maybe I’ll even let you put a lock on the door.

Oh, and I’m selling the club. Maybe Mother Taylor can buy you a trousseau with her commission.

You asked me once why we were still together. I finally thought of one good reason.  I’d like the chance to tell you what it is.

Our (???) flight is at 10:00. The car service will pick you up at eight and I will be in the Sky Club.

Brian

By the way... If you are worried about clothes, don’t. Sydney is the nude beach capital of Australia. Did you know that?


“Is everything alright, Sunshine?” Justin looked up at the sound of Debbie’s voice but only blinked. “Baby? Is Brian okay?” He opened and closed his mouth several times before he could actually make any sounds come out.

“Okay? Uhh. Uhhuh.” Justin nodded. He slid the documents back into the envelope and neatly folded the letter again, then slipped that in as well. He picked up the coffee that Deb had left him and sipped it carefully, set it back down, all with the same vaguely shell-shocked expression on his face. Debbie was seriously starting to freak out.

“Justin!” She all but grabbed him by the shirtfront. “What’s going on? What the fuck is all that?” As she watched, his face broke into the 10,000-watt smile that had earned him his nickname.

“It’s my future, Deb.”

*~*~*

Brian

Brian ran his hands through his hair and rinsed away the last traces of shampoo. He rolled his head side to side and let the water rain down on him in an attempt to release some of the tension out of his shoulders. The steamy air was still infused with the exotic scent of his imported body wash and he breathed deeply of it. Jesus, it felt like years since he'd been able to really relax. But maybe soon. Maybe tonight. Either way, he’d done all he could do. Christ! From the first time he had finally said ‘enough’ to Jack, his entire life had been about maintaining control. Who he let into his life, who he shut out. What tricks he fucked, what clients he took, what parts of his life he shared with other people. It was rather fucked up that his fate now rested with a capricious, blond twink twelve years his junior. It was completely fucked up that somehow, he was okay with that. It was almost a relief to let it go. Oh yeah. Completely fucked. He stood under the pounding jets until the water started to cool then reluctantly shut it down and stepped out.

He caught sight of himself in the mirror as he toweled off and stepped up for a closer inspection. At 34 his body was still smooth, hard – perfect. His eyes dropped to the thin, red scar on his groin that ran parallel to the crease of his thigh. Almost perfect. His hair was still thick and dark, his lips firm and supple, and if there were a few fine lines around his eyes now, well fuck, he’d earned them. Some people, okay most people, considered him vain and arrogant, but the truth was, nobody was more critical of Brian than Brian. People had been telling him he was beautiful for as long as he could remember. That wasn’t vanity – it was a fact. He had gorgeous bone structure, full lips, and wide, warm hazel eyes fringed with dark lashes. Genes, luck, what-the-fuck-ever, it was how he was born. But he worked hard to make the most of it, and if he was proud of that – well that was just too goddamn bad. Fuck anybody who couldn’t deal with it. He grinned at his reflection. Fabuloso, senor.

He hung up the towel and padded naked out to the living room to grab a smoke and a drink, and noticed the light blinking on his answering machine. One new message. He made a concerted effort not to care which one of them it was. He lit the cigarette and took a long drag before he pressed play.

“Hey, it’s me...”

Michael. Brian glanced over at the clock. Shit. By the time he got ready and out the door, there was no way he’d make it to Babylon and back in time for the car service to pick him up. Christ, he hated leaving the Corvette at the airport. He looked at the two suitcases and garment bag already standing at the door and tried to envision fitting them into the sports car. ‘Fucking Christ, Mikey. It’s a good thing I love you.’

*~*~*

Jennifer

“You knew about this? This...this... palace???" Justin sputtered. He slapped the printout down on the table in front of her. It wasn’t really a question. Of course she knew about it - her name was on the listing. Jennifer stared back at her son and shrugged.

“Justin, I...”

“Jesus, Mother. How could you not tell me?”

“Honey, it wasn’t my place to tell you.” Justin’s mouth twisted into the petulant frown that generally preceded a major ‘moment’. He opened it to start and Jennifer held a hand up. “Stop. You know I couldn’t tell you something like this. It’s my job, Justin, and Brian has a right to expect discretion from me.”

Justin picked up the fact sheet again – he still couldn’t quite wrap his mind around it. He chewed on his lips for a minute, looking from the paper to his mother and back. He knew she was right, but still...

“God, Mom. It’s... fucking unbelievable.”

“Language, Justin.” The words came automatically to Jennifer – five years of life on Liberty Avenue hadn’t completely quashed her inner WASP. But she couldn’t really blame him. It was fucking unbelievable. When Brian had approached her about finding him a house, she very nearly declined. Leaving Brian had been devastating for Justin and she didn’t want to see him hurt any more than he already was. She certainly didn’t want to be part of it. Then Brian told her the rest of his plans and she realized two things. He loved Justin, and he was going to do this with or without her help.

It had taken her a long time to come around where Brian was concerned, and he hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to win her over. Where some men would’ve hidden their darker side, Brian was brutally honest. He was a man without pretense, and at first, she’d admit, he had scared her just a little bit. Over time though, she’d seen him bring Justin back after the bashing, not by nursing him or coddling him, but by simply refusing to let him be anything less than the best he could be. She watched as he helped him become strong and confident again. Confident enough to leave him. Strong enough to win him back. They’d been through so much together in a few short years, and Brian had proven himself to be a much more complex, caring, decent man than she ever thought possible the day she’d barged into his office five years ago and demanded he take care of her son. She was genuinely sorry they hadn’t been able to work things out. For two people who claimed not to ‘need’ vows, it seemed to her they’d already covered the important ones. In sickness and in health. For richer and poorer. It was those last couple that were their undoing. The ones that one couldn’t live with and the other couldn’t live without.

So when Brian had appeared in her office and announced he wanted her to find him a ‘palace for his prince’, her first inclination had been to call him a cab, because a man in his condition surely shouldn’t be driving. Once he convinced her that there were no illicit drugs involved in his decisions, she had taken his list of requirements and proceeded to find him a beautiful home just outside of the city that met every one of them. It wasn’t quite a palace, but it was as close to a dream home as anybody could have asked for. Of the criteria he’d given her – pool, tennis court, stables – the most important one was availability, and this place was unoccupied. The owner was unwell and the West Virginia winter proved too much, so they’d left the property for sale and moved to Arizona. He could move in as soon as escrow closed. There was just one, small detail remaining.

She took another look at her son, still staring at the fact sheet in his hand. She knew about the rest of it as well, the things he hadn’t shown her, but nothing short of thumbscrews would persuade her to admit to that. The email had been waiting for her when she arrived at the office this morning – he’d decided to move forward with the sale of the club. Though Justin hadn’t shown her, she also knew about the papers he’d had drawn up. Those, more than any mansion he could offer, would be what brought Justin home to him if anything could. The trip was news to her though. She had to give the man credit, he had style. And balls. So to speak. She hoped for both their sakes that his gamble paid off. Justin had been known to bridle when he felt that Brian was taking him for granted. She said a little prayer that he could see it for what it was.

She reached out and gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, as much for herself as for him.

“Honey, what are you going to do?”

The words popped into Justin’s mind like a ghost from the past. He could practically feel the wind in his hair, see the lights of Liberty Avenue blinking by them, feel Brian’s warm breath on his neck as he pressed into him in the back seat of the Jeep. Words that changed the course of his life. The only possible words he could say. Then, now. Ever.

“I’m going with him.”

*~*~*

Part 2

 
 
 
sjmpets: pic#85608158sjmpets on February 3rd, 2010 12:40 am (UTC)
i liked it.

q_dictedq_dicted on February 3rd, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
Thank you! I hope you enjoy the rest, too.
dottinghamdottingham on February 3rd, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
I'm going with him.

Holy mojo. I am quite possibly in love with this.
q_dictedq_dicted on February 3rd, 2010 08:40 am (UTC)
Heheh, I hope the feeling lasts.

Sometimes when I'm writing I just 'hear' them say things, and I heard Justin say that plain as day. (((Justin)))
kmboatrightkmboatright on May 8th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
This is really well done. I like how you capture Brian's thoughts.
q_dictedq_dicted on May 9th, 2010 07:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! I hope you'll continue on with the rest of the story. I appreciate the comment!
cori1950cori1950 on December 11th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
Great first chapter! And I really like that you know (or researched) enough about testicular cancer to write that the scar is on the lower abdomen, and not on the ball sack. My son is a testicular cancer survivor, and the stories with huge medical errors irritate me.
q_dictedq_dicted on December 11th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
I am so thrilled to see a new reader! I appreciate you noticing such a small detail as Brian's scar - and I totally agree with you, glaring medical errors are frustrating and can really take you out of a story. I am glad to know I got it 'right' from someone with personal experience. Bless your son for being a survivor! Thank you for taking the time to comment and I hope the rest of the story lives up to your nice compliment!
nemesia_poonemesia_poo on January 11th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh! I just ended the first part and it's really good. I knew I should have asked you for the link sooner. But, fuck! Who are you going to kill? I'm feeling all anxious now!

Kpuchina
q_dictedq_dicted on January 11th, 2011 05:18 pm (UTC)
Eeep!! I guess you will have to keep reading to find out! Glad you found it, Kpuchina. Looking forward to hearing what you think.
Set your mind at rest and let your dreams run freemoonbrightnites on June 30th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
Seriously -- how can you *not* be a writer?
Are you telling me that there's something you do *better* than writing? That's sort of scary.

:)
urugwajurugwaj on June 12th, 2013 03:05 am (UTC)
I can't read it at night! Not after this summary... But with trembling finger I press "part 2". Great fic!
q_dictedq_dicted on June 12th, 2013 07:54 am (UTC)
I'm glad you are giving it a chance. Part 2 is where things start to get rough. (((hugs))) Thank you for being brave!