Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now!
The lane was quiet by the time Brian and Justin got back from the city and dropped off Carl’s classic. Fortunately for the boys it was Carl who answered their knock on the door and quietly accepted his keys.
“Come for breakfast in the morning,” Brian suggested. Carl nodded then shooed the boys out before Hurricane Debbie could rear her head. The boys could at least get a good night sleep before trying to explain their unorthodox behavior.
“How do we explain this?” Justin asked as they entered their cottage.
Brian ignored the question for the moment, walking down the hall toward their room. He stopped at Bree’s door, gently tapped then peeked in. Bree waved, blew a kiss as she was filling in Ashley all about the barbecue, oblivious to the recent drama. Brian closed her door then went to the master bedroom with Justin behind him.
“We don’t,” Brian finally replied once they were both safe in their inner sanctum.
“We don’t?” Justin questioned with a look of uncertainty.
“No, we don’t. Look, I know what you were trying to do and I appreciate it. And I’m very happy that it went no further than your academy award winning performance with Max, but I really don’t want to explain to the family the origins of your performance. The shit that I did back then was fucking stupid. It almost cost me my career and your teenage ass. I for one do not want to relive any of it.”
Brian began to strip off his sweaty clothes.
“I really need a shower; I smell like grilled chicken,” Brian complained.
“Considering how much chicken you grilled today, that’s not surprising,” said Justin. “Mind if I join you?” Brian shook his head as he reached out his hand. Justin took it and soon the boys were letting the warm spray of their shower wash away the tension. They took their time gently scrubbing each other’s back and anything else that required attention.
“So, what do we say?” Justin asked when they finally got out of the shower and were toweling off.
“First we cook a breakfast feast then if anyone pushes the subject, we answer with something glib like JT came to the rescue with his Sunshine powers of persuasion.”
“Like that’s going to really work with Debbie,” Justin snarked.
“I’ll come up with something and hope that Carl knows when to rein her in,” Brian said as he tossed his towel toward their bathroom then donned a pair of sleep shorts.
“You think it’ll work,” Justin asked as he did the same then the partners in crime got into bed.
“We stick close to the truth. Max doesn’t know you, so you took a chance that you could distract him enough to get him to leave. It worked and that’s all they need to know.”
“We stick to the facts. We present our plans for the area including John’s mock-ups for the affordable housing, the office building, the market, and the parking garage.”
“And the testimonials?”
“I have references if we need them but…”
“You’d rather not use them, I get it,” Justin murmured as he snuggled in close, leaning his head on Brian’s shoulder. Justin felt Brian shrug. “It’s okay, you don’t have to explain it to me. You’d think by now City Hall would catch a clue. Besides, all the work you and John have done so far and with little cost to the city should speak for itself.”
“Yeah, well, City Hall works in mysterious ways,” Brian snarked.
“But we don’t. We stick to the facts.”
“And hope that’s enough to save Babylon.”
“And make that street a little better.”
“And add more jobs for some of Hunter’s grads,” Brian stated as he abruptly sat up, dislodging Justin.
“Hey,” Justin grumbled as his head hit the pillow then giggled when Brian rolled on top of him, gently smoothing back Justin’s damp hair. Brian rained sweet kisses on Justin’s forehead.
“The apartments will need maintenance people, so will the garage.”
“I see where you’re going with this. The market will need staff and there’s always one or two of Hunter’s kids who’ll need their first break at a real job. Jacobs would never consider any of this.”
“No, he wouldn’t. There’s no need for him to give back to a city that he doesn’t give fuck all about.”
“But you do,” Justin gently said. “Even after all this time, you care,” Justin whispered as he kissed Brian then held him close.
The lovers cuddled close as they fell asleep.
Around eight the next morning a very familiar and distinctive “Hellooo” woke Brian from a deep sleep. He groaned as he dragged his pillow over his head.
“I thought he was staying in the Pitts,” Brian mumbled to himself, not expecting an answer.
“Apparently, not,” Justin replied as he buried himself under the duvet.
“We can ignore him,” Brian suggested as he squirmed his way under the blankets to get to his spouse.
“And when has that ever worked,” Justin stated logically. He began giggling when Brian’s burrowing brought them nose to nose, making Justin cross his eyes.
“Stop it, your eyes will get stuck that way and then all of your paintings will look like Dali’s,” Brian warned him. Justin burst out laughing.
“You better get out there and start breakfast before he wakes the whole house,” Justin suggested.
“If I must,” Brian stated with his best put upon pout. Justin kissed the pouty lips he loved so much then did his own squirming in the bedding to get comfortable.
“Typical man, let me do all the dirty work while you get more sleep. I’ll expect restitution later,” Brian said as he got up to wash up, dress, and to face Emmett and the day.
“With pleasure,” Justin mumbled as he drifted off. Brian smiled as he got his ass moving.
“Why are you here, Honeycutt?” Brian asked as he began taking out all the fixings and cooking paraphernalia needed for one of his huge breakfast feasts. Emmett was sitting at the counter waiting for the coffeemaker to do its stuff.
“Wondering when you were going to explain last night’s little show.”
“There’s nothing to explain,” Brian replied as he began cracking eggs into a large bowl. “Here, make yourself useful and start whipping these into shape,” Brian commanded after all the eggs and his secret ingredients were in the bowl. He slid the bowl and a large whisk toward Emmett. Emmett did what he was told.
“All is well between you and Justin?” Emmett asked after a while.
“We’re fine, Emm.” Brian looked Emmett in the eyes. “I swear. I figured out what he was doing almost immediately. Sometimes he leaps without looking but it’s all good.” Brian said with sincerity making for one very relieved fairy godmother.
The cooking of the breakfast feast commenced with little fanfare after that.
“Good morning, you’re up early,” John stated as he entered the Kinney-Taylor side of the cottage.
“I could say the same to you,” Brian said as he was flipping pancakes.
“I followed my nose,” John said as he waved his favorite coffee mug in the air. John acknowledged Emmett’s presence but really needed the coffee.
John could tell by all the tempting aromas that there was a platter of bacon in the warming oven and most likely eggs as well.
“Can I help?”
“Start setting the table,” Brian replied. John nodded as he began to collect the dishes and cutlery the family would eventually need. Emmett followed.
“When did you get here?” John asked Emmett as they moved the large table into place.
“This morning. Drew and I stayed late last night to help the girls clean up and pack the leftovers. The girls were a bit clueless,” Emmett commented.
“This was their first party,” John pointed out the obvious.
“True but that’s no excuse to leave delicious food lying around to go to waste. I merely showed them how to pack up and store leftovers efficiently,” Emmett explained as he started folding napkins.
“Of that I have no doubt,” John remarked.
“Do we know how many of us there’ll be?” Emmett asked holding up his napkins.
“Not sure; I think it’s just us lane people. Although, you never know,” John said with a shrug.
“I guess we can’t be too well prepared,” Emmett agreed as he stacked extra plates, cutlery, and a bunch of napkins on one of the small wicker tables just in case.
“Where’s Drew?” John asked as he held up a plate.
“Home, in the city. He and the Ironmen are flying out later today for some exhibition game tomorrow,” Emmett said with a sad smile. John nodded. “Do we know any more about this Max person?” Emmett asked with distain.
“No, we don’t,” Brian said as he marched in with a large platter of bacon and turkey sausage to place on the table. “And I have no intention of repeating myself. So, let’s wait until everyone gets here,” Brian stated as he marched out, back to the kitchen.
“I guess that’s that,” Emmett muttered as he went back to the kitchen for glasses and juice.
Moments later Bobby and Patrick emerged from their end of the cottage, then Justin and Bree from their end of the conjoined cottages. With most of the lane family accounted for, breakfast was about to begin.
“Hey Pop!” Gus shouted from the front door. “Is there enough for us? We’re starving,” Gus called out as he and Ray made their way to the porch. They were planning to stay the week for a little vacation.
“Of course, you are,” Brian snarked as he got up to greet his son and Ray. Bree was happy that her brother came to the lane and made room next to her at the table. Emmett grabbed plates and cutlery while Justin got more glasses.
Just as the family sat back down to begin breakfast. “What the fuck was that last night, Sunshine?” Debbie shouted pointing an accusatory finger at Justin as she barged in with Carl and Peter in tow.
“And so it begins,” Brian muttered to himself then stood for hopefully the last time before eating his now cooling breakfast. “Allow me,” he growled, throwing a glare towards Debbie.
“Last night my little Mary Sunshine came to my rescue by distracting the big bad wolf with his feminine wiles. It worked. Max got himself all hot under the collar and in other places then promptly forgot all about little ole me. Not sure how to take that one,” Brian said as he frowned at his spouse. Justin smirked. “Anyway, Max took a powder then amscrayed. End of story,” said Brian who sat back down at the table to take a sip of his coffee. He scowled at the now tepid liquid.
The porch was quiet for a few moments as the family let Brian’s explanation simmer.
“Took a powder?” Carl chuckled. “You’ve been watching those old movies again.” Brian gave Carl a lopsided grin. Carl broke out into an infectious laugh, breaking the tension. Breakfast was back on in full swing.
“Justin, honey, wasn’t that a teensy bit dangerous flirting with that man,” Emmett asked as he topped off Brian’s coffee. “I mean you’re a famous artist, didn’t he recognize you?”
“Fortunately for us, that asshole wouldn’t know a real artist if one bit him on the ass,” Brian murmured as he stole a piece of bacon off Justin’s plate. “Tell them,” Brian said to Justin.
“He did ask me my name,” said Justin.
“And?” Emmett questioned.
“I told him I was Ethan Gold,” Justin replied innocently, batting his long lashes.
As the family broke out into loud laughter, Brian stole another slice of bacon.
“This running to the fucking city for their permission every time we want to take on a project is getting real old real quick,” Brian groused as they arrived at City Hall for their appointment with the powers that be.
“So why don’t you just buy the whole city, declare yourself emperor and be done with it,” Bobby snarked as they strolled up the steps to the imposing main entrance.
“That’s not a bad idea. Do you think they’d go for it?” Brian remarked without skipping a beat.
“Let’s just stick to the business at hand,” John wisely stated, cutting off any further frivolous conversation as they arrived at the door. He grabbed the handle opening the door then allowing everyone to enter the building. After passing through security, they stood at the main desk to announce themselves.
“Kinney Bros. for Gregory Roth; we have an appointment,” John said to the concierge.
“Of course, you’re expected; please go up,” came the efficient and courteous reply.
“So far so good,” Brian murmured as they took the elevator up to their floor.
“Brian, John,” Roth greeted the brothers as they entered the outer office. “Come right in,” he cheerfully continued.
“He’s way too happy,” Brian whispered to John.
“Yeah, I’m getting that ‘uh oh’ feeling,” John whispered back.
“Can I offer you some coffee?” Roth asked as he showed the guys to their chairs then sat behind his desk.
“No, thank you,” John politely replied. “We’d like to discuss our proposal.”
“To the point, that’s what I like about you,” Roth stated. Brian’s eyebrow arched.
“As you may be aware, we’ve had some other interested parties looking to invest in our fair city,” Roth continued. Justin placed his hand on Brian’s arm.
“At first we were very flattered; we welcome healthy competition. It’s good for the city, good for business. However, we also received some alarming reports regarding your competitor. A Mr. Max Jacobs, perhaps you know of him.”
“I’ve had some indirect dealings with him,” Brian cautiously stated. Justin patted Brian’s hand then sat back in his chair.
“This Jacobs fellow has no ties to our city, as far as we can tell, and is making some grandiose proposals of super high rises, modern glass buildings, and malls. When we asked about affordable housing and green spaces, he just waved his hands in the air then began spouting nonsense in French. Fortunately, my assistant has a thing for languages. We politely informed Mr. Jacobs that we’d give his proposal as well as the others we’ve received all due consideration and let him know by the end of June.” Gregory Roth let that news settle for a moment before continuing.
“Now what do you have for me?” Gregory asked with a smile.
Two hours later, Roth was walking the boys out of his office; they had come to a preliminary agreement. When John heard Roth mention green spaces, he immediately took over Roth’s conference table to roll out his blueprints. With Justin’s help, they designed roof top gardens on the apartment buildings and a small municipal garden between the garage and the market. All three could be easily maintained by the locals and hired landscapers.
“One more thing,” Roth began before the boys left. “Employees. Can I assume that some of the Kemp Center’s graduates will be able to apply for the appropriate job openings when they become available?”
“That’s the plan,” Brian jumped in.
“However, some positions will require a level of skill that his grads may not have at this stage in their rehabilitation. They still have a lot to learn about living within society and not on the fringe,” Bobby added. “If and when Kinney Bros. takes on this project, each available position will have an appropriate job description and hiring will be based on it. Of course, there will be entry level positions that will require mentoring. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”
“Yes, we are, but it’s good to know that you have all bases covered. There are others in the neighborhood who are just as needy when it comes to looking for a job. And perhaps we can work something out regarding the green spaces. Set it up that the city will pay the salaries,” Roth suggested.
They were just about out the door when Brian turned around to address Roth. “Mr. Roth, you said you received reports about Max Jacobs. Are you at liberty to discuss the contents of those reports and who sent them?”
“Not really, but what I can tell you is that City Hall was made aware some of his business practices. Frankly, we’d rather deal with the devil we know,” Roth said with a grin.
“Come on Beelzebub, let’s not outstay our welcome,” Justin said as he grabbed Brian’s hand to lead him out of the office.
“What can I get you?” Lacy asked the boys. After their meeting, the boys decided on a leisurely breakfast at the Liberty Diner before heading home. They gave in their orders then sat back in their booth to relax.
“Beelzebub?” Brian glared at his innocent looking spouse. The boys cracked up.
“You have to admit, Roth has a wicked sense of humor,” said John.
“I’ve never met a city official quite like him,” Bobby added.
“I wonder where that report came from,” Justin asked.
As the brothers pondered the question, Ted came into the diner for his late breakfast takeout order. He stopped short when he saw Brian.
“Schmidt!” Brian bellowed. “Who’s minding the store?” Brian asked as his eyes narrowed on Ted.
“Uh, hi guys. That was a nice party the other day,” Ted sputtered trying to change the subject.
“Yes, it was,” John agreed.
“Um, how did your meeting go this morning?”
“Very well, thank you,” Bobby replied.
“Good, good. Well, I should get back to the office,” said Ted as he paid for his take-out and was about to leave.
“Theodore,” Brian snarled. Ted turned then shuffled over to their table. “Sit!” Ted sat. “Explain.” Ted took a minute to gather his thoughts; one glare from Brian and it all came tumbling out.
“I was contacted by an overseas concern regarding rumors that a certain businessman with a questionable work ethic was heading for Pittsburgh. The main purpose of this so-called businessman was to make our city his next target and possibly make trouble for either Kinnetik or Kinney Bros. Of course, I can’t be directly involved, that would be unethical. Why, it could be seen as a conflict of interest,” Ted explained his dilemma.
“Of course,” John said.
“We can’t have any of that, now can we,” Bobby interjected.
“What did you do?” Justin asked.
“I did the only thing I could do under those circumstances. I directed the party to City Hall. After all, it’s up to the city to make these decisions. I figured they should have all available facts so they could make an informed decision,” Ted further explained.
“Very wise of you,” John stated.
“A logical decision,” said Bobby.
“Nicely done, Ted,” Justin added.
“Ted, go back to the office before your breakfast gets cold,” Brian said with a roll of his eyes.
“Sure Brian. Thank you, Boss. Talk to you later,” Ted said as he grabbed his bag then scurried out of the diner.
“That answers that question,” said John as he dug into his breakfast.
“I wonder who it was,” Bobby pondered before he took up his knife and fork to cut into his pancakes.
“Well, whoever it was, they saved our asses today,” Justin stated as he dove into his breakfast special.
“Beelzebub, Sunshine?” Brian asked again as he stole a slice of bacon from Justin’s plate.
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