“Hey, isn’t that Gardner Vance’s car parked outside our building?”

“Our building, did I miss a memo?” Brian smirked. He saw fleeting disappointment wash across Justin’s face and he immediately felt bad for his smart ass remark. “It is our building. Whatever I have left is yours, you’ve earned it after putting up with all my shit for the last couple of years.” Brian had his arm around Justin’s shoulder and he pulled him in closer, kissing him deeply, ignoring the waiting man half a block away. He felt Justin stiffen “And because I, well, because I fucking love you in a non-traditional way.”

“You are such an asshole Brian. But I love you too.”

“Well if it isn’t Gardner Vance.” Brian drawled. “Come to see how I’ve been now that I have some time away from the office?”

“I’d like to talk to you in private if you don’t mind Brian.” Gardner Vance looked at both Brian and Justin.

“Well, you see Gardner, at the moment I’m with my lover, partner, my ‘whatever the fuck you straights want to label it’ boyfriend, Justin Taylor. I believe you two have met.” Brian kissed Justin on the cheek. “There really isn’t anything you could possibly say to me that can’t be discussed in front of Justin. That’s what having a relationship is all about. I know, Justin looked it up in the dictionary and gave it to me to read. I think he’s having it embroidered on a pillow in case I forget.”

“Very funny Brian” Justin said. “Brian’s sense of humor has warped a bit in the last day or so Mr. Vance. I can leave if you two want to be alone.”

“No, no that’s fine, Mr. Taylor, if Brian thinks that highly of you, of course you should stay.”

“Well now that we have that settled gentlemen. Shall we retire to our loft?” Brian opened the heavy glass door and led the way to the elevator. The three of them rode up in silence.

Brian pulled open the heavy metal door and exposed the empty room. “There is only the bed to sit on, or the stairs to the bedroom. Take your pick Gardner. Justin and I will sit on the bed, you are welcome to join us, but please keep your clothes on, you really aren’t our type. Or of course, you could try the futon.” He smirked at Justin who shook his head at Brian’s stirring.

Vance glanced at the said item then resolutely turned his back on it.

“Hmmm….Quite. I think I’ll stand. But what happened to your furniture?”

“It’s a long story, but let me tell you a little secret, being a super hero with a conscience has a high price tag.”

“Brian paid for the commercial spots that exposed Jim Stockwell.” Justin said in his no nonsense way, though you could hear the pride in his voice. He looked at Brian and grinned and Brian ducked his head in embarrassment, unused to accepting praise, his face was flushed. Gardner Vance was taken aback at this ‘softer’ Brian Kinney than the shark he was used to in the office.

“About that, I want to be honest here Brian. I was disappointed in you and your ‘partner’s’ actions. I felt betrayed, something that has rarely happened to me in business. I like to think I know the men and women who work with me.”

“We’ve been over that Gardner.” Brian began, he hadn’t felt right about what had happened either, but he knew he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself otherwise.

“Yes we have. It’s water under the bridge Brian. I have been approached by some of our major clients. It seems that already word has gotten back to them about the little spots you ran on television. Funds have been coming in to help defray the costs. It appears that they want to have their names on your Concerned Citizens group. Although I must be honest, I doubt if any of them realised that there was only the one member of the group. I think they expected to be contributing to the usual sort of fundraising fund. But anyhow…” He handed Brian a check. “As you can see the check is for $100,000.00 and change. That should cover the bulk of the costs, though I expect more will follow. Let me know what the balance is.”

Brian took the check, looked at it and handed it to Justin. “Put it in our household account dear.” He said wincing when Justin pinched his thigh. Brian looked at Gardner. “Is there anything else, I’d offer you a cup of tea, but Justin used the last of it this morning.”

“Yes there is. I’d like to apologize for being hasty in ending our relationship. Would you consider returning to the company as a full partner?”

“Pardon me?” Brian asked, not sure he heard correctly.

“Your clients insist on dealing with you and no one else and I agree with them. It should be you handling all of them.”

“And Justin?”

“Of course we will contact PIFA and let them know he’s welcome to return.” Gardner Vance looked at Justin. “You understand don’t you Justin, why we had to let you go?”

“Sure, I’d have fired my ass myself.” He looked at Brian and mouthed “if you hadn’t had your dick inside it!” He turned back to Vance, “I would have to talk it over with Brian before I made any kind of decision about returning to Vanguard. And I’d need my record cleared at PIFA. It’s hardly going to increase my career chances if I have a ‘suspension for conduct unbecoming’ notation on my transcript.”

Gardner inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement. He looked back at Brian expectantly. “And you Brian?”

“Same here Gardner, I have to discuss it with Justin.” Brian’s hand found the younger man’s and he held on for dear life.

“Talk it over. I understand” Gardner Vance stood up. “After everything that’s happened, why don’t you two take some time off? Get away from all of the hullabaloo that is sure to follow in the next few days.” He pulled out his wallet and searched through it until he found a card. “The wife and I have condo in Whistler, British Columbia. Here’s the address, I can call Liberty Air and have you comp’ed for two return tickets to Vancouver. Vanguard will pick up the rental car costs.” He looked at them. “You both ski don’t you?”

“I spent every available minute skiing at my parent’s chalet in the mountains each winter, well until the last couple of years.” Justin said. “Mom has a picture of me on skis when I was three.”

“I prefer the comfort of the indoors, a warm fire, a hot toddy and a hot companion to the cold wet snow.” Brian joked getting an elbow in his ribs for his efforts. He took the card Vance offered, but made no promises. It would all depend on what he and Justin decided about their future.




Justin perched on the kitchen counter, examining the $100,000 check, while Brian saw Vance to the door.

“What are you going to do with this?” he asked, handing it over Brian when he returned to the kitchen.

“Firstly Sunshine, don’t you mean what are WE going to do with it? And secondly……I don’t have a fuckin’ clue! What do you think?”

Justin shrugged.

“Well, it would pay off the debt…..” He stopped, not sure how to say what he wanted to. Brian was on to him in a flash.


“But……why are you – we – suddenly getting monetary support after the event? I mean, is it only because Stockwell lost, that people are trying to get in good with the new Mayor by appearing to have supported the Concerned Citizens for the Truth all along?”

“Sunshine, have you learned nothing from me? Of course they are – it’s business and politics. It doesn’t get more cut-throat than that.”

“So we let them buy us out? I don’t know.” He took the check back from Brian.

“I suppose it is a lot of money. And I KNOW that you’re in really deep financially. And it is you – you were the one who sold his belongings, maxed out the credit cards. The one who sacrificed it all to stop Stockwell.”

“And to show my true love for a certain piece of Blonde Boy Ass” Brian interjected with a smile. “Don’t forget that.”

Justin swiped his arm.

“Shut up! We’ve always had true love between us; it’s just that sometimes neither of us could see it for looking! HOWEVER, before we get distracted” he said, as Brian began nuzzling his neck, “We need to work out what we are going to do.”

Brian withdrew his tongue from Justin’s neck reluctantly and sat on the solitary bar stool in front of him. He considered for a few minutes, then said:

“Here’s my idea. We take the check, tell Vance he can talk to PIFA so they re-instate you and clear your record, then tell him I’m not coming back, and I start my own agency.”

Justin swung his legs back and forth, thinking over what Brian had said. It had possibilities, but…..

“Or,” he said, bringing his bare feet to rest on Brian’s lap, “we take the check, get Vance to persuade PIFA to release my Academic Transcript without notation then tell them to stick their school and its homophobic board up its ass, and apply next year to somewhere else. And WE start an agency. Together.”

“I thought you didn’t want to accept their money?”

“Bri, it’s not just about me is it? Have you got a better idea of how we can come up with $100,000?”

Brian sighed, absently rubbing his hand up and down Justin’s canvas-clad calves.

“Not really. Go to the bank, work out a repayment schedule I s’pose.”

“Then I guess in the bigger scheme of things it’s like you said to me about apologizing to the disciplinary committee. That it’s always about the money, about the freedom to create what we want without censure. If you, okay, WE, accept the check, then the debt is paid out, Stockwell is STILL defeated, and we can open our own agency. That’s our freedom.”

“And what about school?”

“I told you, I’ll get a copy of my transcript and apply somewhere else next year. Perhaps Carnegie Mellon – they have a good art programme. Maybe Ben can talk to the Dean of Fine Arts for me. I fucking got Honours in my first year, and my intern work for Murph was good. Not to mention Rage. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a placement somewhere. And in any case, I’ll only want part-time enrollment, so I can keep up with Rage and the artwork for you. Regardless, I won’t go back to PIFA, not after what’s happened. As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t piss on any of the faculty if they were on fire!”

Brian laughed.

“Well, that’s original! However Justin, don’t burn your bridges. The art world, especially in Pittsburgh is small.”

“Fuck my bridges. Better to flame out than fade away!” He said, quoting a favourite line from Highlander.

Brian looked at the younger man in front of him with a mixture of pride and exasperation. He burned with so much energy, so much honor, so much indignation. What was he going to do with him? Just love him, a voice in his head said suddenly. Justin would be Justin, without censure, and he couldn’t, fuck, he WOULDN’T change that. He rose from the stool and moved in between Justin’s legs, resting his arms around his shoulders.

“So we’re agreed? We take the check; get Vance to have your record cleared at PIFA, then start out on our own? You know it’s not going to be easy?”

“Brian, nothing with you and me over the past three years has been easy! Why would this be any different?!”

“You twat!” But Brian mussed the blonde hair playfully.

“Partners then?” he said, raising his eyebrows at his deliberate double meaning.
Justin smiled back. He knew what Brian was saying. What he was NOT saying. “Partners.”


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