Be Careful What You Wish For
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Justin stopped the car by the front door of Kinnetik. "You can go in and I'll park the car," Justin told Brian.
Brian looked up at the door. "Okay," he replied slowly.
"Or you can wait for me."
"I think I'll wait for you."
Justin smiled as he watched Brian get out of the car. Brian had felt better this morning. He had eaten a decent breakfast and hadn't been too tired afterwards. He had gotten a good night's sleep too. Their walk around the grounds had tired him out.
Brian slowly climbed the three steps to the front door of Kinnetik. He wondered why he didn't just walk in and straighten out the mess that Kinnetik seemed to have become. He should do that, but he knew he would feel better, stronger, with Justin by his side.
"Ready?" Justin asked as he ran up the steps.
"I hope so."
Justin watched Brian carefully as the man pushed open the front door of Kinnetik. There was something going on with Brian, something more than the cancer and radiation. Brian had never answered a simple question with "I hope so" in all the time that Justin had known him. It was so unlike Brian to sound unsure. What had illness done to him?
Amanda rushed up as soon as she realized that Brian had arrived. "How are you? I'm so glad to see you," she gushed.
"Thanks," Brian replied looking a little embarrassed by her concern. "I'm doing better. No one knows what happened, do they?"
Amanda shook her head. "Just you and me."
"He's doing a presentation to Chef's Natural Seasonings. I don't know how it's going. He's been in there for over an hour."
Brian frowned. "I'm not sure that's a good thing."
"Neither am I," Amanda said. "But the door's shut and I don't want to barge in."
"No, you shouldn't barge in, but I think I will," Brian stated.
"Brian, don't get all riled up," Justin warned.
"I'll be careful, but we can't afford to lose any more accounts."
Brian marched down the hall and opened the door to the conference room. Matt was making his pitch. He had boards standing on easels around the room. Brian noted their positioning and that he would have arranged them differently. He looked at Matt's face and saw the remnants of the adrenalin high that came from speaking in front of people and selling for all you were worth. He then looked at the faces of the clients, two older men and one slightly younger woman. None of them was smiling and they didn't give off an aura of pleasure. Their body language told Brian they were not happy. They looked about ready to bolt.
"Brian," Matt said, his smile wavering just a bit. "Gentlemen, Ms Barnett, this is Brian Kinney, the owner of Kinnetik. Brian, would you like to sit in on the rest of my presentation. I'm almost done."
Brian nodded, said good morning and introduced Justin before they both sat at two chairs at one end of the long table. Matt picked up his presentation and Brian groaned inwardly. The idea for the ads was good, but Matt seemed to have gone to an extreme about how pollutants and chemicals were in so much of our food these days, and that Natural Seasonings contained none of that. The problem was that all the ads seemed to focus on the pollutants and very little on what the seasonings actually did.
"So, that's my ideas for your product. I think we can have a very successful relationship if you choose to go with Kinnetik," Matt was saying as he wrapped up his presentation.
Brian had been re-formulating the presentation as Matt was talking.
"Thank you, but I'm not sure this is the right direction for our company," one of the men was saying.
"But it will increase your sales enormously," Matt protested. "I can almost guarantee it. The health conscious citizens will flock to your product." He looked a little desperate as he glanced at Brian, knowing that his boss would not be pleased with this turn of events.
"I don't think so," the other man said and started to stand up.
"But Mr. Trebor," Matt tried to talk his way out of this debacle.
"Excuse me," Brian said forcefully. "I have a slightly different idea for your ads. Would you hear me out?" He used his most ingratiating smile.
"I don't think we need to see or hear anything more," Mr. Trebor said, standing fully.
"Five minutes," Brian persisted.
Justin watched Brian carefully. He could see the strain this was putting on Brian's frail health. He almost wished the clients would just leave.
"I guess we could give you five minutes," Ms Barnett said, obviously impressed with the looks of Brian even in his weakened state. "But this better be good." She looked at the two men who frowned but sat down and waited to hear what Brian had to say.
"I think Matt has some good ideas in his campaign, but I do see one potential problem which I think we can fix rather easily." The executives looked at each other, again seeming to get ready to leave. "We mention the natural products you produce and briefly state that they are healthy, pollutant free and delicious. The main crux of the ads will be a classic recipe made even better with your seasonings. We print the recipe as part of the ad. 'The best lasagna ever', 'the best meatloaf you ever tasted', 'the tastiest tuna casserole in the world'. How does that sound?" Brian asked. He could see slight smiles curving the lips of the executives.
"I like it," Ms Barnett said, looking at the two men who nodded in agreement.
"How about we work up another presentation following that idea and we meet say at the end of the week," Brian suggested.
"I think we could do that," Mr. Trebor replied. He stood up and shook Brian's hand. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Kinney."
The trio made their way out of the conference room. Matt sat slumped in his chair, glaring at Brian. Brian leaned heavily on the edge of the conference table.
"Sit down, Brian," Justin said gently.
Brian slowly lowered himself into a chair, but he did not relax. He looked at Matt waiting for the man to say something, maybe a thank you for rescuing the account, maybe an apology for screwing it up in the first place. When Matt said nothing, Brian knew he had to set the man straight.
"Matt, I'm really disappointed in that campaign."
"Well, I liked it. The world is becoming more and more health conscious. It's important to use natural products. That's what I was going after with the ads, but they just didn't get it." Matt looked deflated but also defiant.
"Oh, they got it all right," Brian said gritting his teeth. "You were selling your agenda not their product."
"What?" Matt looked truly surprised.
"You heard me."
"I can't believe you marched in here and undermined me in front of the clients."
"Undermined you? I saved your ass. They were about to walk."
"I could have got them to sign. I know I could."
"You're deluding yourself, Matt. I can't put up with this any longer. Consider this your two week notice."
"Fuck!" Matt said standing and glaring at Brian. "You wait, and before long I'll be taking over this rinky-dink outfit when my own ad agency takes off."
"You go for it," Brian said wearily as Matt huffed out of the conference room.
"Brian, are you all right?" Justin asked. He could see the strain all over Brian's face. "Let's go home."
"Amanda," Brian called. "Get in here."
"Brian, you really need to take it easy."
"Fuck you! I'm going to lose this business unless I do something about it, right now!"
Amanda warily stepped into the conference room. "What happened? Matt just stormed out of the building."
"Matt doesn't work here anymore," Brian stated flatly.
"Oh dear," Amanda sighed.
"Grab a piece of paper. This is what I need you to do," Brian ordered. He proceeded to describe what he wanted the new boards to look like. He asked Amanda to go on line and find the best traditional recipes from wherever she could. He told her to look for lots of testimonials, not just a site that called the recipe the best. He told her to put out some feelers for a new person to take Matt's place.
Justin sat back down and watched Brian in action. He had felt like walking out when Brian had yelled at him, but he knew that Brian was working on his last ounce of energy. Grumpy or not, Brian was going to need him as soon as he was finished. He couldn't just leave him there on his own.
Brian told Amanda to get started immediately on all the projects he had just assigned her. He then said he would be back tomorrow. She quickly left the room.
"Justin," Brian managed to croak out. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Justin grabbed a wastebasket and stuck it under Brian's face. Brian threw up his breakfast and everything else that was in his stomach.
"You asshole!" Justin exclaimed. "See what happens when you overtax yourself. You're coming home with me right now."
"Get rid of that shit," Brian grumbled, pointing to the fouled wastebasket. He grabbed a glass and poured himself a drink of water. He had tasted his own puke too many times in the last few days.
Justin carried the offensive wastebasket out of the conference room, and Amanda said she would dispose of it. When he returned, Brian had his arms on the table and his head resting on them. He looked totally exhausted.
"You're going home now!" Justin said again.
"I would if I could, but I don't think I can move," Brian whispered.
"Stay there and I'll bring the car up front. Don't move," Justin ordered as he hurried out of the office.
"Like I could, even if I wanted to."
Brian wanted to cry. His whole life was going to shit. He was as weak as a baby, and he was going to lose his business in Denver if he couldn't turn things around. And he had no strength to do anything. And he had yelled at Justin, the only one who really seemed to care that he was fucking dying. Everything was such a mess.
"You have to try to stand, Brian," Justin said at his elbow. "I can't carry you."
"Why not? I don't weigh much."
"Ever the comedian," Justin snarked. "Come on, get up."
"I don't think I can."
"Seriously, Brian, you have to help, or…or I'll go get the art department to carry you out to the car," Justin threatened.
Brian groaned and pushed himself up from the table. Justin slid under his arm and felt Brian's weight, such as it was, lean into him. He wasn't entirely sure he could get Brian out to the car but he was going to try.
Once they got out of the conference room, Amanda saw them. She rushed over and took Brian's other arm. Between the two of them they got Brian into the car where he threw his head back against the headrest and closed his eyes. His breathing was fast and not very even. Sweat stood out on his forehead.
"Maybe you should take him to the hospital," Amanda suggested.
"I thought about that, but I think it's just exhaustion," Justin explained.
"I can't believe he's so weak."
"Neither can he," Justin said as he walked around the car. "Thanks for your help."
"Call me when you get him home. I want to know he's all right."
Justin climbed into the car and they roared away. Brian seemed to be asleep or at least resting. They didn't speak all the way back to the mansion. When they got there, Justin ran inside and got Arthur. Arthur wanted to bring John's wheelchair out, but Justin knew Brian would have a fit if they did that. He didn't want to upset Brian any more than he already was. Between Arthur and Justin, and using the elevator, they were able to get Brian to his room and into bed. He was half asleep while they did all of that.
Some time later Justin sat in the chair beside Brian's bed. He watched the man he still loved as he slept a deep and seemingly peaceful sleep. Justin had called Amanda and told her they were safely home. He also told her that it would be very unlikely that Brian would be in the following day, so she should reschedule whatever she could. She promised to hold the fort for Brian until he was back on his feet.
Justin stared at Brian. He had witnessed Brian's stubbornness in holding himself together until he had taken care of business at Kinnetik. He had witnessed Brian's brilliance at coming up with a new ad campaign right out of the blue and on the spur of the moment. He had also seen how frail and worn out Brian really was. He shook his head wondering how he was going to keep Brian home the following day. There was no way Brian could go to Kinnetik.
With a little smile, Justin wondered if he could use sex to keep Brian at the mansion. They hadn't been together that way since Brian had come back to Denver. Brian had just been too weak, and he probably still was. Justin realized that wasn't going to work. He might have to lock the bedroom door and refuse to let Brian out.
Justin got up and walked over to the bed. He felt Brian's forehead which wasn't really cool, but wasn't hot either. He decided that he would go get a sketchbook so that he could do some work while he watched Brian. He quickly went down the hall and grabbed what he needed. By the time he returned, Brian had rolled over and his eyes were open.
"How do you feel?" Justin asked, setting down his art supplies and moving to the side of the bed.
"Like a bus just hit me."
Justin chuckled. "Here. Drink some water. We don't want you getting dehydrated."
"We don't, don't we?" Brian snarked, but he took the glass and drank about half of it.
"That's enough for now. Don't make yourself sick."
"I was sick to my stomach, wasn't I?" Brian asked with a frown.
"Yes, you were. You overdid it at the office."
"Christ, I can't seem to do anything anymore. I'm so fucking weak."
"You just tried to do too much on your first time out. You'll have to take it more gradually, build your strength up."
"I'm more of a bother than John ever was," Brian declared with a scowl.
"For your information, Mr. Kinney, John was never a bother to me. I loved him. And you were never a bother either." Justin stopped there, leaving the implied 'I love you too' unsaid.
Brian wondered if Justin was saying he loved him, but he was in no condition to even broach such a subject. "I'm so tired," he said instead.
"I know. Go back to sleep," Justin said sitting on the side of the bed. He started to card his fingers through Brian's hair and it didn't take long until Brian's even breathing told him that Brian had fallen back to sleep.
The next time Brian awoke, Justin was sitting in the armchair sketching.
"Hey," Brian said.
"Hey yourself," Justin said getting up and handing Brian some more water. "How're you doing?"
"Not too bad. I feel a little better."
"Would you eat something if I brought it up for you?"
"Is there any more of Margaret's soup?"
Justin smiled. "I think that can be arranged."
"I … I should get up and go down to the kitchen," Brian said trying to sit up.
Justin gently pushed Brian back down. "You will do no such thing. Lie down. I'll be right back."
Brian sunk back into the pillows. He was once again a full fledged invalid, and what was more, he didn't even have the strength to fight that designation. He felt like such an idiot, a helpless, useless idiot.
Justin pushed open the bedroom door and came in bearing a tray with a bowl of Margaret's soup and some bread. He set the tray down on the dresser and walked over to Brian. "Sit up," he ordered.
"I can get up and sit in the chair," Brian protested.
"Sit up," Justin repeated and Brian did as he was told.
Justin set the tray on Brian's lap once he was settled in a sitting position with the pillows propped behind him. Brian started to sip at Margaret's excellent chicken soup. It was full of vegetables and noodles. It was also delicious, and this time he could actually taste how good it was.
"Do you think I could take Margaret back to Pittsburgh to cook for me?" Brian asked with a smile.
Justin winced. He had almost been able to put Brian's departure out of his mind. The man was way too weak to fly any time soon. "I think Margaret may have something to say about that," Justin said slowly. "Besides you still have plenty of time to let her pamper you before you'll be ready to go back."
"What am I going to do about Kinnetik?" Brian asked with a sigh as he finished his soup. He pushed the tray down his legs.
"Eat some bread," Justin ordered. "You'll find a replacement for Matt and everything will be just fine."
"I hope so," Brian said for the second time that day. He pulled off a piece of bread and chewed dejectedly.
"Brian, is there something else about your condition that you're not telling me?"
"Why do you keep asking me that?"
"Because I hear this uncertainty in your voice and it worries me. It's not like you."
"I'm certain I'm okay," Brian professed.
"Okay, I'll have to take your word for it."
Brian knew he should be honest with Justin, but he simply couldn't bring himself to tell Justin that he was impotent. He knew deep inside that he could tell Justin almost anything, but not that, never that. And he would have to leave Denver before Justin could find out.Return to Be Careful What You Wish For