On The Move
It was well after six in the evening when most of the family, friends and well-wishers left the loft. Everyone pitched in to help clean up and pack away the leftovers that weren’t sent home with various guests. The building’s security and maintenance crews had plenty for dinner and then some. The lane family was decompressing before getting back on the road.
“Well done, Sonny Boy,” Brian commented. He was enjoying his last cup of coffee for the day as he watched Justin enjoy another slice of pizza.
“Me? I didn’t do anything. You’re the one who spent next year’s profit margin on a party,” Gus teased.
Brian shrugged, a coy grin on his face. “You boys are worth it. Did John show you the plans?” Brian asked as he quickly changed the subject.
“Yes, and we love them. The changes are subtle, they won’t impact the overall design of the place, but they will add value,” Gus said.
“You sound like Ray,” Brian commented.
“Live with a realtor…” said Gus with a smirk. “Listen, I have an idea, I’d like Bree’s input on the Liberty Air ad,” Gus ventured. He wasn’t too sure how Brian would take his suggestion.
“Where did this come from?” Brian asked.
“Not sure, but sometimes she has a different perspective on things and Liberty Air is a very important client. I’d welcome her comments.”
“Go for it, but remember the rules; she’s still underage and school’s back in session,” Brian warned.
“I’ll remember. Besides if I don’t, Cynthia and Ted will,” said Gus. “They’ll be watching me like a hawk.”
“They’re not that bad,” Brian came to their defense. Gus gave him a look. “Okay, I take that back. The both of them are sticklers for the rules.” The Kinney boys agreed on that. “Totally off topic but I have a question for you, it involves Ray, but I want your opinion before I mention it to him.”
Gus raised an eyebrow. “Go ahead,” he urged.
“Ted takes care of a lot of my shit. It was recently brought to my attention that maybe it’s too much. All of Kinnetik’s finances go through him including the various charities we support. And I’m talking all of our branches. Plus, he still has his own accounting firm and there’s Babylon…”
“And he manages this building,” Gus stated as he followed Brian’s train of thought. “You’re thinking of offering that job to Ray.” Brian nodded. “I have no doubt he can do it,” Gus said. “But isn’t it a little soon? We’ve only lived here for ten minutes.”
“I would have done it sooner but there’s no one I trust more than Teddy to manage this building, other than someone like Ray. There hasn’t been someone like Ray here in the Pitts until now. I haven’t said anything to Ted and I won’t say anything to Ray until I know where Teddy’s head is at. He may get insulted and sulk. I’ve seen Theodore sulk. It’s not pretty. I’ll feel him out, so to speak and if he approves of the idea then I’ll have a talk with Ray.”
“Okay? No argument?”
“When have I argued with you and won? Besides, I think it’s a great idea. Uncle Teddy has his hands in many pies. In this instance, less diversification may mean more time to concentrate on the more financially important businesses. Not that this building isn’t important. But Ray comes by his knowledge naturally. He grew up in real estate and studied it in school while Uncle Ted was forced to acquire his knowledge along the way.”
“Very aptly put. I’ll talk to Theodore on Monday.”
“You coming to the office on Monday?” Gus asked with a knowing grin.
“Of course, I am. I’m the top dog. I should be there to welcome our latest additions to the Kinnetik family,” Brian said while nonchalantly preening his fingernails on his chest then holding them out to observe the shine.
“Ray and I have been a part of Kinnetik for some time now,” Gus stated the obvious.
“Yes, but that’s at N’rgy, now you’ll be where it all began. I’d be remiss if I don’t formally welcome you both into the Pittsburgh family,” Brian babbled.
“You are so full of shit,” Gus called out his father. Brian tried to look offended but that lasted all of ten seconds before they both cracked up until tears began to form in their eyes. When they calmed, Gus became serious. “You know, a few years ago I would have been intimidated by you.” That startled Brian. “Not the you that’s my dad, but by Brian Kinney. I’ve seen you strut your stuff for years and pull fabulously outrageous ideas seemingly out of the air. Everything you touch turns to gold and rightly so because you work hard at it. You research everything to death and you’re not afraid to pull in others when they have more knowledge or a different take on something. You’re going to be a hard act to live up to, but I swear, Dad, I may fuck up sometimes but I will never let you down,” Gus declared.
“I know you won’t, Sonny Boy,” Brian stated as he pulled Gus into his arms. “I am so proud of you; you can never let me down,” he whispered into his son’s ear. “Talk to Bree before we go,” Brian said as he pulled back. “Send her a copy of the file; she can make up her mind on her involvement. What she doesn’t understand she can discuss with you or Cynthia. Then you go from there,” Brian suggested.
“Thanks, Pop! Hey, Bree, gotta minute?” Gus called out as Brian went to talk to Justin.
“What’s that about?” Justin asked as he shared the last of his pizza with Brian. That garnered a few stares from John and Bobby.
“What!” Brian growled. “It’s not seven,” he grumbled before confirming the time with Justin’s watch then answering Justin’s question. “Gus wants Bree’s input on the Liberty Air campaign.”
“That’s risky,” Justin commented.
“Not really. Bree will only be consulting and she does have a unique approach,” Brian explained.
“That’s true. Are we leaving soon? John says the weather may turn a little nasty tonight. I’d rather be on the lane before that happens,” Justin stated logically.
“Yes, it’s time. I’ll go get our coats,” Brian said as he walked into the bedroom. “Sonny Boy, start wrapping it up. You can call her tomorrow.”
Within a few minutes the lane folk were back on the road heading for home. Gus and Ray locked up for the night.
“Is your dad coming to the office on Monday?” Ray knowingly asked. They had just stepped out of the shower and were toweling off, preparing for bed.
“So he says,” Gus replied.
“And this bothers you?”
“Not really. I just don’t want a fuss. It’s not like I haven’t worked there before. And we’ve visited lots of times. We know everyone already,” Gus sounded agitated.
“This is different and you know it,” Ray said reasonably as he put on a fresh pair of sleep pants. “My father was bursting the first time he took me to show an upscale apartment in the city. I was really young but I pointed out a few things to the clients that even Simon didn’t notice. The clients bought that apartment and I earned a large chunk of change towards my college fund. Let him do this, Gus. He’s a proud dad, give him this.”
“Okay, if you say so,” Gus huffed as he toweled his hair dry then slipped into his own sleep pants. “But I’m warning Cynthia that she better keep him in line.” The boys got into bed and snuggled close.
“Oh, like that’s going to help,” Ray teased.
“Cynthia can handle him.”
“I’m sure she can.”
“You all right with Bree giving us her two cents on Liberty Air?”
“I have no problem with it. She did great in Paris.”
“Yeah, she’s like a secret weapon we never knew we had,” Gus joked. “She does see things that I don’t always pick up on.”
“So send her the file and see what she thinks. Now, what’s got your thong in a knot?” Ray asked sensing Gus was preoccupied about something.
“Bree’s not the only one who sees things,” Gus mumbled to himself. He grappled with himself for a minute. He had promised his father not to say anything to Ray but Gus couldn’t lie.
“Spill it, Bubba,” Ray demanded.
“Pop’s got this bug up his nose about Uncle Teddy working too hard. I don’t know where it came from cause I never heard any complaints from Ted, but Dad’s thinking of asking you to manage this building. Uncle Teddy does handle a lot of stuff,” Gus admitted with a sigh.
“Uh oh,” Ray winced.
“This might be my fault,” Ray said. He was glad it was dark in the room so Gus couldn’t see how red his face was becoming.
“How is this your fault?” Gus asked as he sat up and turned on a light.
“I may have mentioned to my dads that I’d really like a chance to manage this building. Not right away but in the near future. And maybe even Babylon. That’s got to be a fulltime job in itself. I know what Ted does and I have no idea when he sleeps. Didn’t Carl manage Babylon at one time?”
“Yeah, he did when he retired from the force. Pop wanted someone he could trust. That’s before Debbie officially hung up her apron. Carl did a great job. He recommended his replacement that pop hired. He does a good job too, but that doesn’t stop Ted and my dad from stopping in regularly to review the accounts.”
“Think about it, in the past couple of years we’ve opened Kinnetik North in Canada and Rose in Paris. More Kinnetik financial work for Ted. There’s no reason why I can’t assume more responsibility and it’s not like I don’t know who to turn to when I have questions. I have Ted, your dad, my parents, even your Mom and Bobby.”
“Thought about this much,” Gus snarked. Ray glared back. “Okay, I see your point. Pop plans on speaking to Ted about this on Monday. He didn’t want to promise you something that may not happen. And I honestly didn’t consider that you’d like to take on more stuff.”
“Would you object to me broadening my scope?”
“Not at all. Just not today,” Gus said as he reached over to turn off the light. “Can we at least wait until morning before we storm the castle and take over the empire?”
“I can live with that,” Ray replied with a yawn.
As a harsh wind blew outside the boys snuggled under the warm duvet and fell asleep.
“I’m really glad we left when we did,” Justin commented. He handed Brian a snifter of his favorite brandy while Justin enjoyed a hot cocoa. They had a small fire going and were enjoying the quiet before going to bed.
“Do you think the boys enjoyed themselves?” Brian asked.
“Yes, I do,” Justin replied. “I think they loved it. The fact that it was so informal, the family could come and go as they pleased. And the food was delicious,” Justin added with a smile.
“I noticed,” Brian teased as he gently patted Justin’s belly. “I ordered from the same place we always used to when we were living there. They’re meticulous, no weird unidentifiable spices anywhere. Just clean simple good food.”
“Thank you,” Justin said as he kissed Brian. “I appreciate it. And the family did too. Did you thank Emmett for his contribution?”
“Profusely,” Brian remarked as he swirled the brandy in his glass. The fire made the brandy glow. “And we split the cost, just in case you were wondering or have to report back to the Squirt,” said Brian with an arch of his brow.
Justin giggled. “How did you know?”
“I know everything.”
“Ah, yes, the all knowing Brian Kinney.”
“I also know that it’s time for good little homos to go to bed,” Brian said as he finished off his brandy then stood up from the sofa.
“Not so little,” Justin murmured. Brian took Justin’s empty mug then headed for the kitchen. “Are you going into the city with John on Monday?” Justin asked as Brian washed the mug and snifter.
“I plan to if we’re not snowbound. Why, do you want to go with me?”
“With everyone out of the house, I’ll paint.”
“You mean you can raise the volume on that noise you call music.”
“Exactly,” Justin said with a bright smile.
“Sir, yes, sir,” Justin replied.
The boys made love as the wind blew around a few snowflakes.
“What are you looking at?” Jacqueline asked.
JR was staring out their loft window. She didn’t respond immediately. Jacqueline waited. They had been very quiet since they came back from the housewarming party. Neither seemed to know how to broach the subject that hung like an elephant in the room.
“It’s starting to snow,” JR finally said.
“Great,” Jacqueline replied with derision in her voice. “Nothing better than dealing with snow in the city.”
“I didn’t know you hated snow so much,” JR said turning to face her partner.
“I don’t totally hate snow, but nice weather is so much easier to deal with.”
“Is that part of what’s going on?”
“Going on, what do mean?”
JR heaved a sigh. “I guess I mean that you, um, you like things to be easy, like staying out of the snow, and … staying here when we have a chance maybe for something better.” There, she had said it out loud. JR watched her partner, waiting to see what the fallout would be.
Jacqueline started to say something but no words came out. She swallowed a couple of times and reminded herself that she had decided to be honest with JR. If there ever was a time to do that, it was now.
“JR…” she said trying to muster up her courage.
“You don’t have to say it,” JR said quickly. She fought the tears that she could feel welling up. “I can move out tomorrow.”
“Yes, that’s what you’ve been wanting ever since we started talking about getting a house. It turned you right off, didn’t it!”
“No, no, not at all.” Jacqueline didn’t know what else to say other than “no”. This turn of events had taken her completely by surprise.
“Then why else are you so reluctant to move? It has to be because you don’t want to make that commitment with me. And if that’s the case, then it’s time for me to go.”
“No, no, no.”
“Will you stop saying that! I don’t know what other alternative there is. I can’t stay here if you truly can’t live with me anyplace but here in your precious loft. What kind of a life is that?”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” Jacqueline pleaded.
“Do I? It doesn’t feel like I do. And I sure as fuck haven’t heard any other explanation coming from you.”
“I knew I’d fuck this all up,” Jacqueline muttered.
“Fuck what up?” JR asked with a deep frown creasing her brow. She just wanted to get this separation over with. The sooner she got out of there the better. When she heard no answer from Jacqueline she said, “Time for me to go.” She headed for the door of the loft.
“Wait!” Jacqueline ordered.
“Why should I?”
“I really need to talk to you.”
“You’ve had several opportunities to state your piece. I’m still waiting, and I don’t choose to wait any longer.” JR grabbed her coat and reached for the door handle.
Suddenly Jacqueline’s hand closed over hers before she could open the door.
“I’m begging you, sit down and let me explain,” Jacqueline pleaded.
“Is there any point?” JR asked sadly.
“There is. There definitely is.”
“Okay,” JR said giving in. “But this better be good.”
They sat down on the sofa and Jacqueline tried to collect herself.
“I’m waiting and I don’t intend to wait much longer,” JR stated.
“Um, would you like a glass of wine?” Jacqueline asked hopefully.
“Plying me with liquor won’t work,” JR stated brusquely.
“That isn’t what I was trying to do.”
“Would you just get on with this?”
“Okay, but try to relax. It may take a while.”
“I don’t have all night,” JR snapped.
“You do if you decide to stay.”
JR raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think that’s very likely at this point.”
“I hope I can change your mind,” Jacqueline said softly.
JR could feel a shift in what was going on. “Then you better get started,” she said.
Jacqueline drew in a long deep breath. “You know I love this loft. It’s very important to me.”
“I know it is,” JR admitted. “Is that why you don’t want to get a house with me? You want to stay here?”
“No, that’s not it. Not at all.”
“I did want to get a house with you. I do want to get a house with you.”
“You could have fooled me,” JR said.
“I know I seemed to be reluctant”
“There’s more to it.”
“Okay, explain,” JR stated.
“Before I met you, I had a bit of a reputation. I hung out at Babylon. I had heard the stories of your Uncle Brian, the Stud of Liberty Avenue. And I set out to rival his escapades. I knew of his business prowess as well as his sexual prowess. I had heard of that legendary loft that we were in today. I wanted a loft just like that. I wanted to be as successful as he was in business, and I worked my ass off to achieve both those things.” Jacqueline paused for a moment and licked her lips.
“I think maybe I’d like that glass of wine now,” JR said.
“I could use some too,” Jacqueline agreed. She went to the fridge and took out a bottle of white. She brought two glasses of wine back to the sofa and handed one to JR.
JR took a sip and looked at her partner. “So you achieved your goals. You’ve got a great business and this lovely loft. And you don’t want to leave it. Is that right?”
“Kind of. But there’s more to the story.” Jacqueline took a stiff slug of her wine. “My life was going along on the preferred trajectory … and then I met you.”
JR turned to face Jacqueline. “So I’m the problem?”
“In a way you are.” JR went to stand up but Jacqueline grabbed her wrist. “Just listen, please,” she begged. JR sat back on the sofa and took her own long drink from the wineglass. Jacqueline continued, “You turned my whole world upside down. All the things I had known I wanted for so long didn’t seem so important anymore. This loft that had been so important to me is just a thing, an important thing, but just a thing. All I wanted to do was be with you. And then you moved in here and everything was great. We were making a life together. And … I was happy, really happy for the first time in my life.”
“For the first time?” JR asked puzzled.
“I’ve told you I had a shitty childhood, but that’s a story for another time. I just wanted to be happy and make you happy. And then this issue of a house came up. And it seemed like a good idea, at the time.”
“But not so good now?” JR asked.
“I’ve been in a bit of turmoil since we started talking about a house. But today at Brian’s loft, it all came together for me.”
“How many times today did we hear people ask Brian if he was okay turning the loft over to his son and having renovations done on it?”
“Everybody there knew how important that loft was in the life of Brian Kinney at one time. But he’s traded all that in for his life on the lane with the man he loves. Today, that was the first time it really hit me. Brian loves Justin; they make each other happy. Just like I hope we make each other happy.”
“Do I really make you happy?” JR asked.
“You do,” Jacqueline replied sincerely. “And I hope I do the same for you.”
“You do, or you did until this whole house thing came up.”
“And now I don’t?” JR asked feeling tears well up again.
“No, it isn’t that. Buying a house with you made me re-evaluate all the choices I had made. I had to figure out just how important the loft was to me, and also just how important you are to me. That’s why I was waffling about the house. I had to figure it all out.”
“Have you figured it all out?”
“Yes, I believe I have. And it all sort of came home to me when I talked with Brian at the loft today.”
“I saw you talking to him. Have you two ever had a conversation before?” Jacqueline shook her head and sipped some wine. “So what did you talk about?”
“He told me that I needed to talk to you and make compromises. I asked him if that was how he and Justin had lasted so long. He told me it was that, and other things that we wouldn’t be discussing.” JR smiled. They both knew what he was talking about.
“That’s my uncle,” JR said.
“Then he walked away and found Justin. He kissed him on the temple in front of the whole party. And they seemed so happy with their lives. And I realized that was exactly what I wanted … with you.”
“Of course I do. That’s what I’m telling you.”
“I love you so much. I hate all this fighting. If the house makes us unhappy then let’s just forget it.”
“I don’t want to forget it,” Jacqueline declared. “I’ve finally figured it all out.”
“I have, and I think we should get a house and have a happy wonderful life together in that home after we get married.”
JR almost spit out the wine that she had just sipped. Then she simply stared at her partner.
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