The Perfect Gift



Part One: Skating On Thick Ice






(Pittsburgh; Late November; POV/Danny O’Keefe)


“You’re looking good, O’Keefe. Where’re you heading? Uptown?” Hunter called down Liberty Avenue to me, catching me unawares.


I’d been concentrating on flagging down a cab. I turned and grinned. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to any of the gang but Hunter was probably the least annoying when one was in that kind of mood. Of course, I wasn’t taking into account my changed appearance. A little defensive teasing was in order.


“Hey! Where did you come from?” I raised one eyebrow in mock severity. “Are you stalking me, Novotny-Bruckner?”


“Wasn’t, at least, not before I saw you. Almost didn’t recognize you with the short hair and scruff. But the look is hot on you, now that I’m getting a closer look.” Hunter made a show of giving me the elevator look. He grinned. “Damn fucking hot, totally stalk-worthy. So, where are you heading and d‘ya want company?”


I hesitated for a moment but then shrugged and gestured for Hunter to hurry up.  


Once we were both sitting in the cab and I gave the driver instructions to head “uptown” which Hunter and cabbies understood to refer to the fancier business district, I turned toward him, shifting sideways on the seat.


“You like the look then?”


Now, with most men, even most gay men, that comment would pass for casual, a mere pleasantry to pass the time. There was nothing in my tone or expression to tip off an observer to the insecurity behind the question. The normal observer, that is. Trouble was, Hunter was far from normal when it came to his powers of observation. As soon as I asked the question, I knew that my pose was exposed for the fraud that it was. I might look like a million dollars, but unless Brian thought so….


How fast could hair grow back?


Hunter was cocking his head first to one side, then the other.


“Hmm, I’m not totally sure. Maybe you should take your shirt off and….yeow!”


I’d punched him…hard. He held up his hands in surrender.


“You look awesome, oh God-like creature. No need to get violent…or worried about your status as most fuckable man in Pittsburgh. It’s safe,” Hunter assured me, smirking. “Where are you headed?”


“Brian is at Illyina’s, a business lunch apparently.  I thought I would surprise him.”


Hunter raised his own eyebrow. After many years of intense effort, he was finally able to get one brow to go up without the other. He’d been beginning to despair and it got so I was ready to offer to pay for plastic surgery to sever a muscle or something to keep the one brow permanently down in order to help him achieve his goal, he wanted it so bad. But now, I was sorry he’d achieved it. I swore I was the main recipient of his new skill, which he saved for moments like this, when one eyebrow lifted skeptically spoke volumes.


I didn’t need a mirror to know I looked guilty. That eyebrow told me.


“Danny—has Brian seen your haircut yet? No wait, take that back a measure. Did Brian know you were cutting your hair?”


My smile was rueful as I answered, “You might need to go back to the coda, my musical friend. Brian didn’t exactly know I was arriving back in the States yet. I got into New York yesterday, handled some urgent voice-over work for Eti, went to the homestead and checked in on Briana last night when I got into town. I stopped in at Kinnetik late this morning to surprise him but he wasn’t there.”


Hunter stared in amazement. “You are so dead.”


“Nah. He loves me, not my hair.” My tone was confident but I was pretty sure that Hunter could see the anxiety in my eyes. Something certainly made him reach out and take my hand comfortingly.


“He won’t really kill you,” he assured me. “He’ll just yell and curse and be really angry and hurt. He’ll probably be more upset by you not going to see him right away when you’ve been gone so long than by the haircut without notice. Although knowing Brian, the hair is what he’ll pretend to be mad about.”


I sighed. “It’s that last part that has me worried. I don’t want him feeling hurt. I wanted to surprise him last night but I got back later than I thought and was really beat. I didn’t want our reunion to take place when I was too tired to enjoy it, so I figured I’d shower, change, look my best…well, my short-haired, scruffy best and I laid down just for a second and …”


Hunter interrupted me, which was probably a good thing since I was rambling. “What’s with the haircut? The almost beard look is cool, you’ve done that before, and it’s easily gone when you tire of it, at least for you it is. Me, it’d take a month to grow that much facial hair, but you probably have it looking like that in a day. The hair, though, that’s a major change. I can’t believe you didn’t even discuss it with Brian. Did you clear it with Vincent, your agent? Or what’s his name, your dresser? Freddy?”


“Franco,” I said absently, thinking about what he was saying. And of course, once I did think about it, I got pissed off. I glared at him.  “I don’t have to discuss my hair with anyone. It’s my fucking hair, Hunter. You sound like I’m some adolescent girl who needs her boyfriend’s permission to get a haircut.”


“So you have autonomy in the hair department. Good for you,” Hunter said, unfazed. “So why in your autonomous decision making process did you decide to cut off a foot of your trademark Dark Angel hair?”


I folded my arms over my chest and pressed my lips tightly together—I swear, Hunter could press my buttons like nobody else. Why didn’t I remember that before I let him ride uptown with me? 


“It’s a secret?” Hunter guessed, the disbelief dripping from his voice.


I rolled my eyes.  “No, it isn’t a secret. Not exactly. But I would like to discuss it with Brian first.  If you don’t mind, that is?” My sarcasm was thick enough to stick to the roof of my mouth, I thought, unable to keep my lips from twitching in amusement.  Hunter must have read my mind well enough to see my mood had swung again because he was back to smirking cheerfully.


“Not a problem, I’ll just wait to hear it from Radio Free Liberty.”


I grimaced. “It would be nice to have a few things between Brian and me not become fodder for the local gossip mill.”


“Well, you might get your wish,” Hunter suggested. I looked at him questioningly. He nodded.  “Seeing as how your reunion with him will be happening uptown, your pitched battle will be fodder for their gossip mills, not our local one.”


I couldn’t help laughing. “You’re probably right. I should have asked Cynthia what type of client he was meeting with—he may not want to enact one of our little ‘scenes’ in front of an important new one. She was in a meeting so I only dealt with the new guy handling the reception desk. A bit of a ditz. He just took my word for it that I was the musical director and gave me all the details about where to find Bri. He probably would have told me his personal cell phone and home address if I’d asked for them. I really should talk to Ted about security.”


I shook my head, disgusted. It was Hunter’s turn to laugh. I looked over at him, affronted.


Now what’s so funny?”


“You! I don’t think there’s such a high security risk at Kinnetik. How often are you going to have Greek Gods coming in demanding to know where they can find the boss?”


I didn’t deign to answer. I didn’t have to. In all honesty, I had checked out my new look—after the fact-- with Franco when Red dropped me off in New York yesterday. He’d loved it and we’d done a couple quick photo ops, including a new head shot of me with the short hair. Franco and Vincent—who happened by during the photo sessions—insisted that the short hair and dark chin not only made me look younger, but also more masculine.  My looks now had a bit of an edge to them which suited the current mode.


The question was whether it would suit my lover’s mode. Or mood. What I’d held back from telling Hunter was that I’d cut my hair as part of a Native American grief ceremony Red had led me through for the loss of my twin. The twin I’d never known I had. Luke and Peter had participated in it with me and it helped me feel like I had done something to acknowledge my pain over a loss I’d just now learned about. Red promised that when I went back in the spring, he would lead me on a vision quest.  Hopefully that would enable me to make contact with my twin, David. If nothing else, I hoped to find the peace that eluded me now. 


The hair cutting had been a spur of the moment action. Red spurred me on and I acted. I’d done something similar when Mama died but I’d been discouraged from cutting it too short. This time, there was no one to hold me back, to say that the old Gaelic customs were foolish superstitions that had no place in a modern world. The result was that I’d hacked it off relatively short. Franco almost died—until Gino styled it and I ended up looking fine. Now, objectively, I looked better than fine, which kind of defeated the point of my appearance mirroring my grief. But I didn’t want to get into the reasons behind my haircut with anyone except Brian—and I hoped he would understand. I really was looking forward to lying in his arms and laying the whole thing out for him to help me dissect—and understand. I needed Brian to help me with this.


I looked at the restaurant where Brian was meeting with his client and then looked at Hunter. Ties were required—at a minimum. Hunter was dressed in his typical attire of a hoodie and low-riding jeans, exposed boxers, the complete rebel kid look.


“We’ll need to stop in at the boutique next door to make you presentable,” I told him after I paid the driver. “Come on. I want to get in to see Brian before he’s moved on to the next meeting.”


“You don’t need to buy me anything,” he protested.


“I do if you’re going to be my lunch companion,” I pointed out. “Illyina’s won’t seat you looking like that. It’ll be hard enough getting a table without a reservation. If you had decent pants, as in ones that covered your underwear, they might loan you a tie and jacket, but you look like you grabbed that outfit out of the Good Will box.”


He winked at me. I had to roll my eyes. He probably did shop at Good Will. I bet it drove Michael crazy, which was undoubtedly why he did it.  I pushed him into the boutique.


“No more argument—it’s time to shop. I’ll have you know, Em practically has an orgasm when I say those words to him.”


Hunter laughed. “Those aren’t the words to get me off, handsome, but if you want to know what…”


I cut him off. “Shop. Now.”


We made short work of getting Hunter outfitted with the help of an extremely obsequious salesman. The man even loaned us some styling gel and a brush so I could do something with Hunter’s hair. By the time we headed into Illyina’s, we were looking like a pretty hot couple.


“So this is what it’s like when I dress fine enough to look worthy of you!” Hunter crowed as the maitre‘d led us to a table immediately. “Maybe I should start letting Em give me your hand me downs.”


“You know, you could consider wearing something other than hoodies now that you’re in your twenties, brat. That CD of yours did well enough to keep you in Dolce & Gabbana—at least it would if we used my discount.”  I spoke in a low voice; I was busy looking around for Brian and his client. It only took me a moment. Brian is easy to spot in any crowd.


In this case, he was the man being kissed by the somewhat attractive man—if you liked blonds—dressed in Armani. The man was practically in his lap. Classy.


“Danny, you’re growling,” Hunter warned me in an undertone. He placed a hand on my arm. Not sure what he thought he was going to do. If I were going to go berserk and attack the man, it wasn’t like Hunter would be able to stop me. I aimed a glare at his hand and I heard him chuckle.


“Is something funny?” I asked tensely. We were at our table and the maître d was waiting for us to sit so that he could hand us the over-sized menus.  


I was not hungry. Something about watching another man swallowing my lover’s tongue when I had been abstaining for three weeks made me want to rip someone apart. No, not just someone. That man. The one who was all over my man.


“Sit down, Danny,” Hunter ordered, in a deep and commanding voice. I sat.


“I know you’re not happy about the show going on over there but you don’t know that Brian is any happier about it than….”
Hunter had to stop talking right there because Brian had his hand on the back of the guy’s head and it was pretty clear he was a willing participant. The question was, what was I going to do about it?




(POV/Brian Kinney)

Evan Anthony was the head of marketing for one of the newest and hottest male designers to hit the scene in years, Aldo Romagnolo. The “Aldo Romo” label was fast becoming the new name in men’s high fashion and Evan Anthony was his go to man when it came to marketing and advertising.

Anthony wanted to make me, Brian Kinney, his go to man for the same. I had no problem with that. The account would be worth millions. We ran into a brief problem when he wanted to use the Dark Angel as their signature model, steal him away from D&G. That was not going to happen even if Danny hadn’t been away on his male bonding trip to Scotland. The problem was solved when I found a model he liked even better. The new young model had long wild looking hair and that whole dark angel vibe working for him without it quite being a trademark infringement. I was keeping my fingers crossed that John O’Keefe didn’t slap an injunction on the ad.

While the model didn’t consciously try to look like the Dark Angel, my guilty conscience pricked me when I looked at the proofs and the guy sure as hell looked like he was mimicking Danny. He had more bulk and lighter brown hair, I told myself. Besides, it was Danny’s fault for being in Scotland, and unable to turn down the job himself. Sure, that’s what I would argue to John….

The extracurricular activities with Anthony were a different matter. The first time, it just kind of happened. We’d signed a big contract; I took him out to celebrate, and next thing I knew, we were banging away in the men’s room of a very expensive restaurant in New York City. Success always makes me horny. I fully expected Evan to stay in New York. Once wouldn’t be a problem.

The following week found him smiling at me from my office chair when I arrived at work. Cynthia just threw up her hands and told me in her most disapproving voice that the client assured her that I wouldn’t mind if he waited for me in my office. Apparently he forced his way past her. I did mind, but when he fell to his knees and proceeded to blow me—it was a little difficult to stay angry.

That had been last week. This week, Evan had found three more opportunities to get together and while I was increasingly uncomfortable with his persistence, I was also getting more and more pissed off at Danny for staying away so long. I knew something had happened that really upset him, that much had been clear during our one short phone call. But when he asked me if I could join him there, I had to say no. Aldo Romo was too big a client to entrust to another ad executive at this crucial stage, especially with the huge Christmas advertising season in full production. We had deadlines to meet for the December issues of the major magazines, which we did make with our brawny, brown-haired angel wannabe, and today’s meeting was our celebratory lunch as we looked at the proofs of the layouts.

Evan’s enthusiasm as he practically gave me a lap dance was a pretty good indication that he was happy with our work, I thought, holding his head in place and taking control of the kiss so that I could end it before he took the action any further. Pittsburgh wasn’t New York; two men rutting in the dining room would cause a stir.

In fact, I could feel the disapproving stares as I gently pushed Evan away. I smiled at him. “I think you’d better take your seat before they turn a fire hose on us.”

A deep voice drawled, “Surely they would only use a spritzer from the bar? This is a five star establishment after all.”

I knew that voice—though that tone was not one I’d heard in a couple of years and I didn’t like to remember the last time I’d heard that level of coldness in it. I glanced up, and if it weren’t for the familiar green eyes, I would have done a double-take. As it was, I blinked a couple of times. Before I could speak, Danny was offering his hand to Evan.

“Hello, we haven’t met. I’m David Luke, musical director for Kinnetik. This is Hunter James, an up and coming young musician. I hate to disturb your lunch but it seemed rude to be sitting so close to the boss and not say hello. I just got back into town, you see.”

That sophisticated looking man was Hunter? I was having a hard enough time taking in Danny’s appearance; the idea that Hunter, former boy hooker, was dressed in designer clothes and suavely shaking hands with Evan Anthony was too much. There was that tell-tale twitch of Danny’s lips which told me he wasn’t totally missing the humor of the moment due to being pissed off—which was good because I was pretty sure I was going to be pissed off once I got over being relieved that he was back. And looking hot as hell.

“Evan Anthony, a pleasure to meet you both.” Evan shook hands with both of them; little knowing that he was at risk of having his arm ripped off by the handsome green-eyed man. I knew Danny in this kind of mood; he was dangerous because he knew no limits. Still, it would get rid of Evan for me, I mused. I sat back in my seat and prepared to watch. Hunter grinned knowingly at me. That kid misses nothing.

“Brian, we want your musical director and his protégé to join us, don’t we?” Evan smiled admiringly at Danny even as he placed his arm on mine possessively. He’d moved over so that he was sitting in the seat directly next to me and motioned for the waiter to bring new place settings.

“Oh, we wouldn’t want to interrupt what appears to be such an intimate lunch,” Danny purred. “It is a pleasure to see a man enjoy his meal so much, Evan.”

Evan laughed. “I may have gotten carried away. We were celebrating the success of the new campaign Brian designed for my company. Aldo Romo—perhaps you’ve heard of it? Please! Join us! It will give me the opportunity to rave about this man’s genius.”

“When you put it like that,” Danny murmured, looking at me from beneath his lashes as he finally pulled a chair out and sat. Hunter did the same, I assume. I couldn’t be sure as I couldn’t take my eyes off Danny’s new look. His hair was short—not really short as some gay men wore it but shorter than I’d ever seen his hair. He must have had it styled to take a good bit of the curl out of it. He also had about a two days’ growth of beard on his chin. Not quite a full beard but enough to be more than a shadow. He looked completely different. Sexy, gorgeous, fuckable—but different from my Danny.

Then his eyes met mine and I saw the shadow behind the ice, and it made me want to end this scene. Get rid of Evan and Hunter and take Danny into my arms and find out what had been so upsetting in Scotland that he’d needed me to join him.

I didn’t go then, when he needed me, but I could end this lunch so I could be there for him now.

“Evan, I’m sorry but something has come up. David is too polite to tell you but he’s here to drag me back to the office. I’m sure Hunter will be happy to finish the champagne with you.”

“Always happy to celebrate, though the tonsil hockey is off limits—my boyfriend is the jealous type,” Hunter said blithely.

“Aren’t I lucky then, mine isn’t,” I said, getting up and pulling Danny to his feet. He looked like he was going to protest—for all of a second—but then he pressed his lips together.

“Evan, congrats on the success of the spread. I’ll call you in a week or so with the numbers. Have a good flight back to New York,” I told him. Evan was still looking stunned as I dragged Danny out of the dining room. But Hunter could be trusted to keep him amused. That boy was nothing if not quick-witted.

“Hey, you’re messing up my jacket,” Danny complained softly as we reached the lobby. I paused briefly to arrange for the bill to be sent to my office. I still had my hand firmly clenched around his arm. It was wrinkling his suit jacket terribly.

Too bad.

“Not another word out of you until we’re alone,” I ordered. He narrowed his eyes but he didn’t argue. I flagged down a cab. Once we were inside, I told the driver to take us to the lakeside park.

Danny raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Sometimes he did listen, I thought, slightly surprised. I lifted my hand up and touched his hair. I was surprised to find that it was still soft. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t that I would find it to have the same rich softness as before.


I threaded my fingers through it and he leaned into the caress.

“I’m going to be really pissed about your hair, but first, I want to say I’m sorry as hell that you came back to find me kissing another man. And I’m sorry as hell that I wasn’t able to go be with you when you needed me. But…I’m here now. Tell me how your visit went. And what happened that hurt you so badly that you look haunted. What happened that made you cut your hair?”

He looked relieved. “You understand about that?”

I brushed his hair back from his forehead. His beautiful eyes looked even larger and more beautiful with the short hair. I might end up liking it after all. For a change, but not as a permanent thing—and not that I was going to tell him that. Not yet.

“I remember the last time you cut your hair,” I answered softly. He rested his head on my shoulder. Damn, but he was wired tight. I could feel the tension thrumming through his body.

“Do you want to go home instead?”

“No, a walk around the lake while we talk is exactly right. Thank you for thinking of it. I felt like I was skating on thin ice for a good part of the last three weeks, but now that I’m with you—it’s like being back on the thick ice of Pittsburgh again.” His laugh was muffled by my jacket.

“We’re going to be cold.”

“I’ve got my love to keep me warm,” he answered, causing me to smile. It was a rare occasion that Danny couldn’t find a lyric to fit the moment.



We went back to the loft to make love. It was still one place where we could be sure of not being interrupted. I was glad I’d never had Evan back to it; hotel rooms and restrooms were for tricks like him. Danny and I made love in our homes.

We undressed each other slowly, taking the time to explore our bodies. He had some bruises, no doubt from sparring with the men in Scotland, but I was glad to see that he’d gained back some of the weight he’d lost. His body was beautiful, the muscles as defined as I’d ever seen them, but without his bones showing so prominently. He began to kiss his way down my body and the feel of his beard was erotic. I couldn’t wait for him to reach my cock and balls, which he took a tantalizingly long time doing.

But it was so worth it, feeling the soft brush of his beard against my thighs as he nuzzled first my sac, then my cock, his lips warm and firm, his tongue familiar even with the unfamiliar textures surrounding it. I threw my head back and moaned in pleasure. I’d missed this man’s touch so much. Just when I felt I couldn’t take any more, he rolled a condom onto my cock and whispered in his deep rich voice, “Fuck me, Brian. Fill me now.”

I didn’t need to be told twice. I moved over him, his legs lifting easily to my shoulders. I took the time to reach for the lube and he moved against my fingers as I applied it slowly, lifting his hips wantonly. “Hurry,” he urged, “I’ve wanted you so much, felt so empty without you.”

No other man could satisfy me like he could. Knowing he’d abstained for the three weeks we’d been apart made me wish I had too—not because he begrudged me the sex but because his hunger for me made our joining so sweet. He was almost frantic in his need, clenching his muscles so deliciously I had difficulty not coming within a half dozen thrusts into that tight, perfect ass of his. His hands roamed over my skin, caressing, stroking, pinching, and he was driving me crazy with pleasure, the sweat pouring from both of us, making our bodies slide together as we moved closer to climax. He bent almost in two in order to capture my mouth in a searing kiss, his cock pressed tightly between our bodies as I thrust over and over, his hips meeting me each time to take me even deeper. Just as I felt I would explode with the ecstasy, my orgasm flooding over me, I felt the hot stickiness of his come adding to the sweat.

“Thank God,” I gasped. “If you hadn’t come soon I was going to die.”

He laughed weakly as he lowered his legs. “Not bad…for round one,” he grinned, dipping his finger into the stickiness that dotted my chest and sucking it into his mouth. I swear, I started to harden again just looking at his mouth.

“You’ll be the death of me,” I told him, before I dipped my head to lap at his stomach, his laugh sending vibrations down to my cock.

Later, much later, as we lay in each other’s arms, Danny’s head resting on my chest where it belonged, he murmured to me sleepily, “I’m still mad at you over that guy kissing you like that.”

I kissed his head. “That’s the least of what you have to be mad about over that guy. The things he did to my cock with his tongue….”


“He’s nothing. But, since we’re talking about being mad, I’m mad at you for….” No, I couldn’t even tease him about his hair. I did ruffle it. But I didn’t say a word. Not now when I knew why he did it. To think that Patrick O’Keefe had hidden the fact that Danny had a twin brother. How could the man do something like that to his own wife? To his own child? Danny was still hurting pretty badly, much as he was putting a good face on it. Down at the lake, I’d promised to visit the grave with him when he was ready to do it. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do about telling the rest of the family. Or what he was going to say to John. Luke never really had the chance to tell him the truth after their parents died, but John sure did. Danny wanted to have it out with his brother, but was worried about losing the closer relationship they’d worked so hard to gain. The rest of the family was a tough call too. They all saw Patrick as a saint. This would knock him off his pedestal. Was the truth worth telling?

But…what about that baby lying in an essentially unknown grave? Didn’t he deserve something from them? That was Danny’s other worry. And Danny’s worry was mine, much more than preserving the legend of Patrick O’Keefe.

I rolled over so that I was leaning above Danny. I framed his face with my hands. “I love you. I promise, I will never fail you again. When you need me, I’ll be there.”

He turned his head and kissed my hand. “You didn’t fail me. I think this was something I had to do on my own. And in a really important way, we proved something today. The type of thing that would have been a problem in the past—it isn’t for us. I realized today that I didn’t give a damn about that man kissing you except that he delayed me being able to talk to you. And you got rid of that delay.”

“I could tell that you needed me. Your eyes told me, you weren’t angry, you were hurting. Which was more important than any account.”

“Like I said, just like skating on thick ice.”

Yes, seeing Danny’s smile, seeing that the shadows were gone from his eyes, was worth more than a ten million dollar account. But the love we made the night he came back to me from his Scotland trip—that was priceless.

Finally learning how to handle this relationship thing—I couldn’t think of a better present for either of us for Christmas, than an end to all the uncertainties. It looked like this year was finally going to be a good Christmas, without any angst or worries, once this issue over the secret twin was resolved.

You’d think I’d give up on making predictions, they go so wrong on me.

Continued in “A Crack in the Ice”

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