C'est la Vie
Candy and Richie entered the diner to the tinkle of the little bell over the door. Richie was dressed as Richie today and Candy wore her usual black on black outfit. The two were talking and laughing.
"You two are in a good mood today," Lacy said as they sat down at the counter.
The diner was almost empty and they had timed it so Lacy wouldn't be too busy and they could talk.
"I finished the preliminary draft of Rage," Candy said laying a stack of papers on the counter.
"You didn't have to print these off and bring them here. You could have just emailed them," Lacy said.
"I know, but I like to see them on the page," Candy said. "I hope you like what I did with the story."
"I'm sure I will. You have great instincts about Rage," Lacy said with a frown. A thought was beginning to form. "There's something I want to discuss with you, Candy," she added. "Would you two like a milkshake?"
"Ooh, one to share," Richie said with a grin.
"Coming up," Lacy said as she turned to make the creamy concoction. She knew they both loved vanilla. "Here you go," she said placing the frosty glasses in front of them. "I divided it up for you."
"Thanks, Lacy," Richie said.
"So what's the idea you wanted to run by me?" Candy asked as she sipped her milkshake. "This is yummy."
Lacy smiled, then her face turned serious. "I had a visit from Michael," she began.
"He had an idea for a future edition of Rage."
"Yes, and he was very keen," Lacy said.
Candy frowned. "I thought he was staying out of Rage."
"I know, and he was. Apparently he thinks there should be an edition of Rage featuring Zephyr and Professor Ken."
"That was my reaction," Lacy chuckled.
"What would this issue be about?" Candy asked.
"The professor and Zephyr are separated by ... something," Lacy explained. "He didn't say what. And they have to find their way back to each other."
"Just like reality," Richie offered. Everyone knew about Ben and Michael's problems, except maybe Michael.
"You don't really want to do an issue about that, do you?" Candy asked in amazement.
"Of course not," Lacy responded. "I reminded him that the comic was about Rage not Zephyr."
"Which it is," Richie said.
"That's when he stormed out of here in a huff, and I haven't seen him since," Lacy said. "I don't like being on the outs with him."
"This is a tough one," Candy said.
"Tell me about it," Lacy said.
"Should we even consider it?" Candy asked.
Lacy shook her head. "Maybe ... just to keep peace."
"You could have Rage help them get back together," Richie suggested.
Candy's and Lacy's mouths both dropped open.
"What?" Richie asked.
"That's brilliant," Lacy said. "And it would serve Michael right. I know he intended that the issue be totally about Zephyr and Ken, but this would make it more palatable to the readers."
"I agree," Candy said.
"Let's get together on the weekend and brainstorm what might have separated Zephyr and Ken."
"Okay," Candy agreed. "And, Richie, you should come too, since you came up with this brilliant idea."
Richie just smiled and sipped his milkshake.
“Where to first, Sunshine?” Brian asked as he, Justin, Lindsay, and Molly climbed into the car hired by Brian to ferry them around for the day to visit as many art galleries as Justin wanted to see. As far as Brian was concerned nothing or no one was going to ruin Justin’s day. And there would be hell to pay if a Sam, a Gui, and or a Chaarles got in their way.
“Um, this one I think,” said Justin as he held up a brochure. The gallery was small in a quaint village just outside of the city. It appeared to cater to those who enjoyed the more traditional rather than the avant-garde. Justin hoped they wouldn’t mind featuring some of his “Old Masters.” Since the gallery was about an hour away, they all sat back, taking in the sights and enjoying the ride.
When they arrived, they took a minute to stretch their legs before casually strolling inside. Justin immediately made a beeline to the classic paintings on display. It only took a few moments for them to be approached.
“May I help you?” an attractive woman asked Brian in French. Only one step behind him, Molly stepped up and enquired if the lady spoke English; fortunately for Brian, she did. Brian handed the woman his card then asked if the gallery manager or proprietor was available to speak with them. A distinguished looking gentleman approached and introductions were made.
“Antoine Babin, I am the owner of The Renaissance Gallery. Welcome!” Antoine stated. “Please feel free to look around as long as you wish.” Lindsay and Molly smiled prettily as they slowly explored the gallery. Lindsay was in heaven amongst the classically painted portraits and landscapes. The artist in her took over as she oohed, aahed, and explained the details to Molly.
“I recognize you,” the gentleman stated as he leaned toward Brian. Brian arched a brow. “You are the subject of many Justin Taylor portraits, are you not?” the man asked with a knowing smile. Brian sighed as he nodded. He knew that one day his naked assets were going to get him into trouble. “You are an exquisite model. If I had any talent myself, I would want you exclusively for my model too.” Brian felt a death glare slowly building until Justin called to him.
“Brian, you have to see this!” Justin called out with innocent enthusiasm.
“Excuse me,” Brian politely said.
“Of course,” said Antoine with a short bow. Brian followed the excited gasps to his Sunshine.
“Saved by the bell,” Brian murmured as he stepped up next to Justin who was admiring several Raphael inspired paintings. There was a copy of Raphael’s self-portrait and a rendition of his Three Graces.
“Raphael was a handsome man,” Justin commented as he admired the painting.
“He also appeared to like women with meat on their bones,” Brian mumbled, his eyes were bugging out as he desperately tried not to look at the naked women in The Three Graces. Justin couldn’t help but giggle at Brian’s discomfort. Brian glared down his nose at his mischievous spouse. “You mock me, oh short in stature?”
“Not at all, my Grecian goddess. However, there is beauty in all human form if one knows where to look for it,” Justin replied knowingly. Brian beamed a serene smile at his artist. Justin’s genuine love for inner beauty always impressed Brian. He knew that without it, Justin would have never seen what other’s always missed in Brian. He leaned in and drew Justin close for a tender kiss.
“What was that for? Not that I’m complaining,” Justin asked as he looked up, licking his lips, and searching Brian’s eyes.
“For being you,” Brian said with a kiss to Justin’s nose. Then before he truly felt himself turning into a lesbian the cool aloof Brian was back. “Now explain what’s so special about three naked women prancing around in the dirt.”
Justin laughed as he rolled his eyes then gave Brian a mini art history lesson.
“Raphael took quite a chance using real women for his models,” Justin said.
“As opposed to?”
“Using boys; just as in plays and operas, young men played the women’s parts, boys were used as models instead of women,” Justin explained. “But I do understand your objection to the painting; you prefer green apples,” Justin said as he gave Brian a poignant smirk. Brian responded with a wink.
“This is very well done,” Justin said with admiration. Brian, on the other hand, had all sorts of non-helpful and possibly crude thoughts running through his head regarding the subject matter of the painting but wisely had the good sense not to voice them.
“I must be getting old,” Brian chided to himself.
“Hmm?” Justin mumbled as he continued to admire the “Raphael collection.” Brian said nothing as he gently bussed Justin’s temple. Brian’s seventeen year old stalker had grown up to be the very best part of him and Brian was forever grateful.
“Take your time, Sunshine. We’ve met the owner, Antoine Babin; Lindsay and I will see if he’s interested in our scheme,” Brian gently said. Brian smiled as he left his artist. Justin was miles away, absorbed in art.
“A local artist who fell in love with all things Raphael,” Antoine stated as he nodded his head toward the collection Justin was studying when Brian joined Antoine, Lindsay, and Molly.
“He must be very good, Justin is fascinated,” Brian commented.
“He is no Justin Taylor but does well enough for himself. Now, Miss Lindsay tells me you are looking for a gallery to display several of the “Old Masters” collection. We would be honored to be included. Mr. Bellerose called me to ask if I would be interested; I didn’t think it was possible. This gallery is small,” Antoine said.
“Not much smaller than the Simone Gallery,” Lindsay added. “Mr. Simone has been very accommodating.”
Antoine nodded. “I was fortunate to be there on opening night. Each piece, the way it was all arranged, so unique, so ingenious.” Antoine’s comment made Lindsay and Brian beam with pride. Antoine gave them a curious look.
“Our son, Gus, is the mastermind behind the displays,” Lindsay explained. Antoine was made even more confused but decided that American relationships were far too complicated to think about. “Are we ready to look through Justin’s portfolio?” Lindsay sweetly asked.
Antoine readily agreed. He understood art above all else.
Several hours later including a lovely lunch with Antoine and Jeanette, Brian and company piled back into their car, heading back to the hotel to rest before the games continued at The Simone Gallery that evening.
“So what has Charles’ knickers in a bunch?” Brian asked, breaking the silent ride back to the hotel. Lindsay called Charles regarding the Old Masters and had a slight disagreement regarding Justin’s portfolio.
“Oh, he’s just being a pill,” Lindsay grumbled. “He’s being selfish with Justin’s paintings. He wants to keep them all for himself,” she huffed.
“Do we have a problem?” Justin asked with concern.
“No, of course, not,” Lindsay replied reassuringly.
“He runs a gallery not a museum,” Brian pointed out.
“True, but several of Justin’s paintings have been sold and are on permanent display. So in a sense, the gallery is a museum. At least for a few artists.”
“How does that happen?” Molly asked.
“Oh some owners want the painting but have no ideal place to display it. Or it’s a good investment, or for security reasons. The National Gallery has a state of the art security system. But Charles also has a cache of Justin’s paintings and sculptures in all genres.”
“So he rotates his stock,” Brian commented.
“To put it bluntly, yes,” Lindsay agreed.
“And he’s being stingy,” Brian growled.
“Easy, Big Guy, Lindsay knows what she’s doing,” Justin said as he placed a soothing hand on Brian’s arm. “We’ll do this slowly so Charles has time to get used to sharing. He’ll be all right.”
“You know you can always use your secret weapon,” Molly said with a snicker.
“What secret weapon?” Justin asked.
“The next time you decide to draw a nude of Brian, you can invite Charles. I’m sure Charles would turn over the keys to the gallery storeroom to you to get a first-hand look at your artistic process,” Molly said trying to keep a straight face. She failed. She and Lindsay burst out laughing, shortly followed by Justin.
Brian resigned himself to the snickering, giggling, and laughter all the way back to the hotel.
Later that night, after another successful but tiring evening at The Simone Gallery, Bree and Brian were sharing a moment.
“Dada, do I hafta go home?”
“You already know the answer to that question, Squirt,” said Brian as he helped Bree pack her suitcases. She sighed. She sat on the bed looking crushed. Brian smirked; Bree was her father’s child. He sat next to her then wrapped his arm around her.
“The exhibit is doing much better than we hoped so it will be sticking around a lot longer than we anticipated. We found the perfect gallery for your Daddy’s Old Masters today. And for the next few days we’re going to scope out the other galleries just as you and Gus planned. This is going to take time to do it right. You and Patrick are due back in school. John and Bobby must return to work.”
Brian paused to look Bree in the eyes. He gently lifted her chin with a finger.
“I know I said we’d plan a real vacation in Paris when you graduated high school but plans can change. How about we come back this summer so we can tour the galleries together? You can see your ideas at work.”
“Can we, Dada?” Bree’s face lit up like the sun.
“Yes, we can,” Brian assured her.
“Oh, thank you, Dada!” Bree gushed as she threw her arms around Brian’s neck.
“And before you ask and if all parties agree, perhaps Ashley, Patrick, and Peter would like to come too,” Brian added. Bree peppered her father’s face with kisses. Brian laughed under Bree’s attentions. “Enough, Squirt, get ready for bed then come say goodnight.”
“Okay, Dada!” Bree agreed as she slid off the bed to complete her packing and get ready for bed. Brian slipped out to give her privacy and to make sure his other “princess” was doing the same.
“Hey,” Justin called out as Brian entered their room. He was freshly showered with a towel wrapped around his waist and using another towel for his blond mane.
“Hey. Did you leave any hot water for me?” Brian teased, stripping as he walked towards the ensuite bathroom.
“I believe there’s a few drops left,” Justin replied without skipping a beat. He turned down the bed then put on a pair of sleep pants. Leaving the towels on a chair, Justin climbed into the huge bed, yawned then laid against the pillows. Sometime later Brian emerged from the bathroom.
“Hey, Sunshine, I want to discuss…” Brian began as he walked close to the bed. “It’ll have to keep,” Brian said with a smirk. His partner was fast asleep.
Brian donned his own sleep pants, tidied up the room. He answered Bree’s gentle knock at their door.
“Hey, Squirt, you come to say goodnight?”
“Yes, Dada,” Bree whispered. “Did Daddy fall asleep again?”
“Out like a light. We had a busy day.”
“Give him a kiss for me,” Bree said as she bestowed a kiss upon her elder father. “Love you, Dada.”
“Love you, Squirt,” said Brian as he watched Bree go back to her room then shut her door.
Brian switched off the lights then climbed into bed next to his sleeping spouse.
“Bree okay,” Justin mumbled.
“She’s fine,” Brian replied as he kissed Justin’s cheek. “That’s from her.” Brian then kissed Justin’s temple. “That’s from me. Goodnight, Sunshine.”
“Nigh…,” came a murmured reply.
Brian drew Justin in close, wrapping his arms and legs around the younger man as he inhaled Justin’s clean scent. Feeling himself relax, Brian followed his spouse into sleep.
“Morning,” greeted a sleepy voice, accompanied by gentle kisses to a raspy jawline.
“Mmm,” appreciatively murmured the recipient of the kisses. “I could get used to this.”
“I should certainly hope so. I don’t intend leaving any time soon,” came a declaration.
“That’s good.” More kisses followed. “What time is it?”
Before there was a response to the question, stomachs loudly growled.
“I guess that answers my question; it’s time for food,” Gus pronounced.
“Agreed,” Ray concurred. “Do we want to eat up here, the restaurant, or go out?”
They got out of bed to go to the nearest window. It was sunny but they’d need a jacket.
“Out!” they both said then laughed as they made a beeline for the bathroom.
While the younger Kinney and his man were just starting their day, the elder Kinney and company were just finishing up their breakfast and preparing for most of the gang to go home. Only Lindsay, Molly, and Melanie planned to stay.
“Pop!” Gus called out when he saw his father in the lobby.
“Hey, Sonny Boy,” Brian replied. Bree ran over to throw herself in her brother’s arms.
“We hafta go home,” she said with a sad face.
“Yeah, I know, but you don’t want to miss school. Besides, Pop will bring you back for a longer trip,” Gus assured her.
“Dada said we’ll come back for a summer vacation!”
“See.” Gus hugged Bree then put her down. “I’ll miss you, short stuff.”
“I’ll miss you too but you have a good vacation,” Bree commanded, then turned her eyes toward Ray. “You too,” Bree stated as she narrowed her eyes at Ray.
“Yes, ma’am!” Ray saluted the General Squirt.
The cars Brian hired to take their family to the airport were pulling up, and within moments and after a lot of hugging, kissing, and congratulatory wishes for Justin, the family was away.
“Wow, our family must number in the thousands,” Gus observed.
“It does appear to be growing,” Justin commented. “So what are you boys off to today?”
“First, food,” replied Gus with a big smile.
“After that, not so sure,” Ray added.
“We found a perfect gallery for the Old Masters. Today we’re going to check out this gallery for the Fractal collection,” said Justin with a hopeful smile. He held up a brochure for a gallery called The Avant-Garde.
“Not a very original name,” Gus scoffed as he took the brochure to peruse. “However…” Gus murmured as he studied a photo of a weird painting. Justin laughed as Gus held the brochure upside down and crossed his eyes. “Okay, this is the perfect place for the Fractals. Do you want us to come with you?” Gus asked.
“No. Going on a business trip does not a vacation make,” Justin said sternly. The rumbling of stomachs emphasized Justin’s point. “Go, maybe we’ll see you both later for dinner and we can let you know how it went.”
Justin clearly meant business.
Holding their hands up in surrender, the boys passed out hugs and kisses then left to begin their day.
“Remind me not to piss you off, Sunshine,” Brian teased as their car pulled up. Justin pretended to scowl then laughed as they all got into the car to go to the gallery.
The drive to the gallery wasn’t a long one but it was pleasant and the scenery was breathtaking as they drove past the Eiffel Tower.
When they reached their destination, Justin was once again nervous.
“Do you think they’ll be interested in hosting the Fractals?”
“I don’t think Pierre would have suggested this gallery if he didn’t think they’d be interested,” Lindsay stated logically.
“And is Chaarles ready to give them up,” Brian growled.
Lindsay rolled her eyes. “Yes, he’s being very cooperative,” she assured them. Brian snorted.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” Melanie said as their car pulled up in front of The Avant-Garde.
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