Brian Kinney and the...
Author's Note: Not for the Irish folklore purist. And apologies for any mistakes in the brogue or in the Gaelic. It's unbeta'd, so all mistakes are my very own.
It was all Joan Kinney's fault. Of course. When she'd heard that he was going to be in New York for a few weeks (visiting Justin, but of course she didn't want to acknowledge that), she insisted that he go looking for great great something daddy Kinney in one of the old Irish cemeteries. Apparently one of Claire's horrors wanted a photo of the grave to go with some damned class project he was doing on family history.
Brian had told her to fuck off. Several times. Like he usually did. And, like he usually did, he then caved. Anything for peace and quiet he told himself. So now he was stumbling round this old fucking graveyard, trying to find some moldering headstone and hoping that he didn't scrape his favorite boots.
"Fuck!" he exclaimed, as he tripped over something half-buried in the grass.
A moment later, he was sprawled headlong on the ground. He sat up carefully, rubbing his head, which he'd managed to knock slightly against a headstone. Leaning against the headstone, he surveyed himself for damage, even carefully checking his boots. The he leant forward to look at what had tripped him.
It looked like some kind of vase. Brian found himself tugging at the thing to pull it free of the grass and dirt that had almost covered it, leaving only a small piece jutting up for him to catch his foot on.
Once he'd managed to excavate it, he realized that it wasn't a vase, it was some kind of bottle, or rather stoppered jar. It was made of dark pottery, hand made he thought. It had a short squat body, with a thin neck that was sealed with a crumbling cork, held in place by copious amounts of wax - also old, and also crumbling. In fact, a small piece fell off even as he looked at it. And then he recognized the item in his hands. It was an old, possibly a very old, jar for holding whisky, most likely the illicitly distilled poteen. Or, if he remembered his scanty Gaelic correctly, poitín.
He considered it in silence for a moment. It wasn't likely that there was a lot of value in the item. It was crudely made and was unlikely to be of more than passing interest to anyone. Justin might like it, he liked all sorts of useless shit; even me, Brian thought with one of his flashes of dark humor. And if he didn't, Brian figured he could always send it to Claire to help her little angel with his project.
Fuck! the project. The sooner he found this damned headstone, and took the photo and got the hell out of here, the happier he'd be. He stood carefully, and looked down at the headstone, squinting at the barely readable inscription.
Patrick Aidann Kinney.
That fucking figured. If anyone's gravestone was going to knock him on the head, of course it would be one of the family's.
Sighing, Brian stooped to rub away the moss from the wording. It was still not very clear, and, inspecting his first photo, he realized that it wasn't going to be good enough to use in the project. He ran his hands once more over the lettering, and wondered if some water would make the lettering come up a little clearer, at least for long enough to take the photo. Of course, he didn't have any with him, but there might be some in one of the flower vases that were on some of the graves.
Then, as he was considering whether it was worth the risk that someone would see him and give him a hard time about stealing fucking water from a moldy vase, he thought of the poitín jar. He picked it up and shook it. Definitely sounded as if there was still something in there.
Well, he thought, it would be fitting enough. Old Patrick would probably appreciate the gesture more than a bunch of fucking flowers anyway. So he scraped off the last of the crumbling wax, and tried to dig out the stopper. It didn't take much. The cork fell apart, and Brian, getting his camera ready, tipped the jar up carefully over the inscription on the headstone.
But before even a drop of any liquid left in the jar could fall out, there was a flash of brilliant green, and Brian once more found himself sitting on the ground, still clutching the jar, although he'd dropped his camera.
As he scrabbled to pick that up and make sure it wasn't damaged, he thought (though later he would tell himself firmly he must have imagined it) that he saw a small green man leaping on top of the headstone. He picked up the camera, propped the jar carefully upright against the edging on a nearby grave, and once more got to his feet. Definitely not in the best of humor.
By the time he did, there was no sign of any little green man. What there was, was a stunningly beautiful (if you go for that sort of thing) voluptuous, and scantily clad, woman. She had black hair, long and shining, and bright, bright green eyes. For a moment, she and Brian stared at each other. Or rather, Brian stared, and she regarded him lustfully.
Then he heard a heartfelt, "Oh, bugger!"
There was another flash, and though he took a step back, Brian managed not to fall this time. His eyes must have blinked, or something, though, because when he looked again, the woman was gone, to be replaced by an equally beautiful young man, with the same black hair and bright green eyes, G4
clad only in tight, very tight, pants of what looked like black leather; although Brian noticed later that when the man moved, or the light changed, the leather took on a slight green tinge.
The young man also was staring at him lustfully, there was absolutely no mistaking the blatant invitation in his sea green eyes, or in the full red lips.
"Well, now, I'm thinkin' my luck has improved on itself a little," the man said in a soft Irish lilt.
Brian, reverting as he always did when unsure what was going on, said snappily, "Will you get the fuck out of my way, so I can get this done and get out of here."
"Now, don't be like that," the man said, coming closer to Brian, who instinctively took a step back, tripping this time on the grave edging he'd leant the poitín jar against. Before he could fall, however, the man had snapped out a hand and grabbed his wrist, holding him upright. Then he pulled Brian towards him.
"It's owing you more than a favor, I am," the man said. "And I'd be most willing to pay it back," he added, running his free hand up Brian's thigh.
Before he could reach his obvious goal, Brian once more stepped back, for some reason definitely not wanting this man's touch, no matter how hot he looked.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" he demanded. "I don't you don't owe me fucking anything and all I want is for "
His voice trickled to a halt, as, for some reason anxious to avoid the man's eyes, Brian found himself staring at the ground. Or, actually, at the long scratch in the leather of his boot.
"Fucking Hell!" he snarled. He was particularly fond of those boots and now he suspected they were totally ruined.
"Now, darlin'," the man said. "Don't be playin' games here. It's you `twas that freed me from that fuckin' jar. So I be owin' you. I'll give you the usual wishes of course, but I was thinkin' of a more personal thank you."
Now Brian began to be just a little afraid. This was New York, after all, and the graveyard seemed to be deserted, except for him and a madman.
He stood, and began to move away. Fuck the photo. The kid would just have to make do with the one he'd already taken.
The man followed him. "It's no good trying to run off from me, joy of my heart," he said. "We're stuck together until I give you your wishes."
Brian fumed. "The only thing I wish for is that my fucking boot wasn't fucking ruined!" he snapped.
"Well, now that's an easy one," the man said. "After all, we're the shoemakers to the Shining Ones themselves."
He made a vague gesture. "There you go, my darlin'," he said.
Despite himself, Brian couldn't help but glance down at his boot. It not only looked like the scratch was gone, but somehow the boot looked new. It looked bran new.
Unfortunately, the other one did not, so they now presented a slightly odd appearance. It wasn't highly noticeable, but to someone like Brian it wasn't just noticeable, it was intolerable.
"What the fuck?" he exclaimed.
"Oh, well," his new found friend said somewhat grudgingly, "since you're clearly new to all this, and since I want to show you how grateful I am, and how much more grateful I'd like to be "
He made another gesture, and now both boots gleamed.
Brian stared at them, trying to make his mind work.
I hit my head, he reminded himself. I need to get home. I'm hallucinating or something. Concussion. That's it. Concussion.
Even as he thought the word, he felt the world turn around him, and once more found himself sitting suddenly on the ground.
The black haired man sat next to him. "Now, that's better," he said approvingly. "Here, take a drink of this."
Brian tried to shy away from the jar the man was pressing to his lips, but a few drops trickled into his mouth. He tasted them mainly as a warmth on his tongue, and then he found himself sitting once more leaning against the headstone, while the black haired man sprawled seductively beside him.
"Now let's be starting again, and trying to do it right this time," the stranger said. "What's your name, beautiful?"
"What's yours?" Brian demanded, some part of his brain still urging caution, despite the warmth moving slowly through his veins.
The stranger laughed delightedly.
Then he leaned closer to Brian and said softly, "I can't be giving you my true name, darlin'. Not even to one as beautiful as you. But you can be calling me " he paused, and seemed to be giving it some thought, "Sean."
Brian, getting foggier by the minute, reached out a hand. "Hi, Sean. I'm Brian," he managed to say.
"Brian," Sean said softly. "Well, now, there's a fine Irish name. So, Brian, you don't seem to know what you've done for me in setting me free from that fuckin' poitín jar where I've been trapped for more years than either of us would care to think about."
Brian stared at him. "Jeannie!" he finally managed to say. "You're a fucking genie."
"Ah, no, no, no," Sean said laughing. "I'm a leprechaun."
Brian shook his head unsteadily. He might be a bit tweaked, or stoned, or something, but he knew that wasn't right. "No," he said, "Leppy Lepwe little green men."
"Well, mo ghrá," Sean said, "I can be a little green man if that's what you'd be fancying. But I thought you might be likin' this better."
He gestured sexily at his long, lithe body.
Brian ran a tongue over dry lips. There was something here he needed to get to the bottom of. "What did you do to my boots?" he demanded.
Sean laughed again. "Well, seein' as how you're as beautiful a man as I've seen in all me long long years, I thought I'd be doin' the right thing by you. So when you wished for the scratch to be fixed I took it a little further, you might say."
Brian frowned. "You made them not match," he said.
"Aye, I did," Sean said, reaching a hand out to put on Brian's thigh. "But as I truly was wantin' to show my gratitude, I fixed that as well. For nothin', you might say. Nothin' but love."
He began to move his hand up Brian's thigh.
Brian slapped it away.
"Now, darlin'," Sean said winningly, "don't be like that. Don't tell me a fine man such as yourself doesn't like to have a little innocent fun "
Brian's head wasn't very clear, but he knew damned well there would be nothing innocent about the fun Sean was looking to have. And while he wasn't into any fucking monogamous bullshit, he knew that Justin at least had a right to expect him to keep it in his pants while he was on this special visit to New York. Justin had enough to worry about with his first show opening next week without having any dramas from Brian. The whole point of Brian being there was to offer help and support - not to get his dick sucked by some weirdo in a cemetery the first time he'd been out the door without Justin since he got here a week ago.
He gave Sean one of his best Kinney look straight through you's and said brusquely, "Not interested."
Sean raised an eyebrow.
"Not even when I can be granting any wish your heart has?" he asked.
"What a load of fucking bullshit!" Brian snapped, the fuzzy feeling at last beginning to leave his head.
Sean sighed. "Look, darlin', it's like the genie. You let me out. I'm in your debt, and it's not good for either of us to live that way. So you get three wishes. That's all. No more. And you can't try to pull any bullshit, like makin' one of them that you get as many wishes as you want. Three. Ask for any more, and you lose them all. Those boots of yours are like to fall apart on you, for instance."
Brian shrugged. "So why were you in the bottle?" he asked. "If you could just wish your way out."
"You get the wishes, beautiful one. I get nothin' Well," he said, "unless someone likes to show their gratitude for what I do for them "
He reached to touch Brian again, and once more Brian batted his hand away. "Is that why you were in the bottle? Some fucker was so grateful he locked you up?"
Sean sighed in exasperation and rolling onto his back, lay staring at the sky.
"Sometimes the wishes have a way of not workin' out so well," he said. "People have to be careful what they wish for. And sometimes they don't like the results."
"The Monkey's Paw," Brian nodded.
Sean stared at him bewildered for a moment, then shrugged it off. "When the old man found me well, how was I to know he was a fucking priest? He hadn't been acting like a priest when he was fooling around with that young girl."
He gave a deep sigh, and then shrugged resignedly. "I just wanted to watch. It's not like the old days when we could get a good fuck any day of the week. It wasn't that easy just then. All those self-righteous prating priests telling the young ones they'd go to Hell, and keeping the older ones so busy and worn out that they weren't up to much. So I was watching, and he caught me. And he made me give him his wishes and I didn't like him, so I might have played him up a little, made them twist in his mind to somethin' not at all as he'd intended."
He gave a wicked flash of a grin, then shrugged again. "And then he fetched the iron, and said some words over me and there I was, trapped in that fuckin' jar."
"And what, he just dropped you one day when he was on his way to a funeral?" Brian asked. He didn't believe a word of this, of course, but the sadness in Sean's voice still tore at him. All his life he'd hated the idea of being trapped.
Sean laughed, and propped himself once more up on his elbow. "No," he said. "One of the Kinney boys had the balls to steal the jar out of the old man's desk. He and his brothers brought it down here to toast their old man, but their Mam came along and caught them just before they got the jar opened. She gave them the rough side of her tongue and chased them off home, and they left me behind. Maybe by the time they'd gotten over the beating she promised them they'd forgotten all about the bottle. Or maybe they just couldn't find it when the grass grew. I don't know. All I know is,'' he said, his voice changing once more to seduction, "that when that jar was finally opened, I saw a creature so beautiful me heart stopped beatin' "
He was leaning in to touch Brian once more when
"Brian! There you are. I thought I'd never track you down. They don't make it easy to find anyone's grave, do they?"
Justin dropped to his knees at Brian's other side and pulled the man to him for a kiss. Then a longer one. "You taste delicious," he said. "Is it kinky to want to fuck you right here?"
Brian grinned at him, then turned to his loony leprechaun. "Sean, this is Justin. Justin meet Sean. He's a leprechaun."
Justin looked around for a minute and then stared at Brian.
"What are you talking about?" he asked. "Who's a leprechaun?"
"Sean here," Brian said.
Justin looked at Brian a little crossly. "Brian if you're trying to freak me out because we're in a cemetery then I have to tell you, you're going to have to do better than that. Leprechaun! That is so lame!"
Sean laughed loudly.
Brian turned to stare at him.
"What the fuck's so funny?" he demanded.
"Well, now, darlin', what do you think? The pretty boy can't see me," Sean told him, putting his hand on Brian's thigh to prove it. "You could fuck me right here, and all the little one would see is your ass going up and down in the air."
"Well, I'm not fucking you right here!" Brian snapped.
"Well, okay. Fuck! I just asked if it would be kinky," Justin pouted.
Brian rubbed a hand over his forehead. "Ow!"
"What?" Justin demanded, still pouting a little. He hated it when Brian played these silly mind games.
"I fell," Brian said slowly. "I bumped my head."
Justin glanced at him to see if he was still trying to game him, and saw the bruise near Brian's hairline. He immediately felt remorseful.
"Are you okay?" he asked, gently brushing Brian's hair aside so he could inspect the bruise.
"I don't know," Brian said. "I you really can't see anything, can you?"
"Well, duh!" Justin responded. "There's a bruise, and a whopping big lump forming. Sorry to tell you this, but you're going to be deformed for a few days anyway."
Brian glanced at the corner of his eye at Sean who was clearly enjoying this. "Let's get out of here," he said.
Justin stood quickly and helped him up. Brian had to admit that he did feel a little unsteady on his feet, but Justin wrapped an arm firmly round his waist and helped him back to the gate. Then he insisted that Brian sit while he got a cab. Brian sat and had a whispered conversation with Sean, who'd followed them closely, still grinning and obviously most amused.
Despite Brian's insistence that Sean should go fuck himself, and that he was not welcome to follow them, he found himself sitting in the back of the cab next to Justin who was sitting close to him, stroking his hand and telling him that they'd be home soon. Which would have been just great if Sean hadn't been sitting the other side of Justin, peering about with great interest.
Brian didn't know if he'd really managed to find himself a leprechaun, or if he was suffering from some perverse hallucinations after banging his head, but he did know that he wanted shot of Sean as soon as possible. Every instinct told him that Sean was trouble. And the last thing Brian wanted with his Sunshine about to take the New York art world by storm, was any sort of fucking distraction.
The cab pulled up and Brian climbed out. Justin stayed behind for a minute to pay the driver, and Sean took the opportunity to walk up to Brian and try to wrap his arms around him.
"Now, darlin', what would you like to wish for next?" he whispered into Brian's ear. "If you'd like your little friend to be able to see me, well so much the better."
He gave Brian a salacious grin, and licked his lips in Justin's direction.
Brian found this to be the final straw. "You want to know what I wish for?" he spat. "Then I wish you'd take your ass out of here. I don't want you around. You understand me?"
Sean looked at him sadly.
"Now, darlin' "
"I mean it!" Brian snapped, still trying to keep his voice down so Justin wouldn't hear him. "Fuck off!"
Sean stepped back from him, and seemed to grow both taller and shorter at the same time. A green aura glowed around him.
"There will come a time, Brian Kinney, when you will be calling till your voice is hoarse, begging me for that last wish."
He said nothing more, and abruptly vanished.
Brian stood and stared at the place he'd been.
Somewhere, some very old part of his soul was shaking in fear, but all he could think was, "I didn't tell him my last name was Kinney."
Months passed. Justin's show was a success, as far as it went. He sold paintings, he got good reviews, Brian went back to Pittsburgh and life went on. They phoned, they emailed, they weekend visited, and they tried still to plan a future together. Someday.
Brian had all but forgotten his encounter with a leprechaun, although Justin teased him about it sometimes.
The only thing that really reminded him were the boots he'd been wearing. The boots that never seemed to show any signs of wear. The boots that looked always as if he'd just pulled them straight from the box in the saleroom. For some reason, Brian found himself finding excuses not to wear them.
Then Justin received an intriguing invitation. A gallery in Dublin of all places wanted to do a show of his work. Apparently the curator had seen his work in New York, and had actually purchased a piece for the gallery. The board had liked the piece, and had sought out and purchased two more. Now they wanted to show them off, and make them the centerpiece of an exhibition, with the aim, of course, of making a considerable profit on the pieces they owned, and a commission on anything else that sold from the exhibition.
Justin, Brian-less and sad, had been pouring his heart into his paintings, and had several that he was thoght were at least okay. Put together with some of his earlier work, including some of the Rage drawings, they made a varied and interesting portfolio that he felt comfortable putting on show. The only thing was that he did not want to travel to Dublin alone. He wanted Brian to come with him.
Brian was actually keen to go. But Kinnetik were on the verge of signing a major multi-national client who wanted them to design their whole advertising concept. Various markets would tailor ads to suit their own needs, but the overall vision was to be a consistent one, shaped by Kinnetik. Or rather, shaped by the genius of Brian Kinney. It was Brian's vision and expertise that the client was demanding, and they were prepared to pay an obscene amount of money to get it. More importantly, the campaign, if successful would position Kinnetik as a serious player in the advertising world, and it would bring Brian personally considerable recognition for his own talent. So, much as he would have enjoyed a trip to Ireland, as far as Brian was concerned, a trip to Dublin just to hold Justin's hand while they hung his paintings, was not an option.
Justin was saddened by this, and was trying not to feel let down by his partner as he boarded the plane. He knew that Brian had worked all his life for this sort of opportunity, and he tried not to begrudge it to him. It was bad timing, that was all.
The showing in Dublin went well. The work that was for sale, sold. The work that Justin had reserved was now crated up and ready to be shipped back to the States. He was packed. He was looking forward to going home. He'd enjoyed his stay in Dublin, but he missed Brian. He was tired of them living their lives apart this way. He decided that when he got back, if Brian still didn't want to open a New York office, that he was going to move back to Pittsburgh. Fuck doing the whole New York artist thing. What good was it if it was costing him the thing he wanted most in the world?
He was on his way to get some breakfast, deep in thought about this; his mind on how it would be to live with Brian again, to wake up every morning in Brian's bed, their bed, and to fall asleep every night beside his lover. He wasn't thinking about where he was, or what he was doing. And he stepped off the curb.
Brian got the phone call at four twenty seven in the morning. He knew that, because he'd automatically looked at the clock as he fumbled for the phone. He thought he'd remember the time as long as he lived.
Justin's alive. That's what he kept telling himself while he dressed and rang Cynthia, and a cab. Before the cab had arrived she'd rung him back with flight details. There was a flight to Boston leaving in less than an hour, and from there he could pick up a flight direct to Dublin.
Justin's alive, he told himself as he went through security and onto the plane in Boston. They would have called me if anything happened.
But once on the flight he had to turn off his phone. And he spent the long long hours of the flight across the Atlantic holding on with his fingertips to any shred of hope he could find.
Justin was tough, much tougher than he looked. He wouldn't just give up. He couldn't. He had to
He got off the plane with his cell still in his hand and was already dialing the hospital before he'd made it into the airport building. No change. That was good, right? No change had to be better than His mind shied away from that thought as he made his way to interminable lines for immigration. At least he had no baggage to wait for, all that he'd brought with him was in one small carry on. If Justin was okay, he could buy anything they'd need. If
Again, his mind sheered away from any other possibility. Getting through immigration and then customs took the last shred of his patience, but he finally made it and stumbled into a cab, cell phone still clutched in his hand.
Finally he made it to the hospital, and after explaining himself past what seemed like a hundred different barriers, he was allowed to step inside the room where Justin waited for him.
Brian thought he'd been prepared. He thought that he'd spent the whole flight making himself ready for what he'd find. But nothing could make you ready for the sight of the person who'd made your whole life make sense to you for the first time, the person who'd made your world brighter and more wonderful than you could ever have imagined just by sharing it with you, the person you so rightly called Sunshine, lying cold and corpse-pale and still in a bed, kept alive at the moment only by the grace of the machines that surrounded him.
Brian took a deep breath and fought back the tears that threatened to flood from his eyes. Now wasn't the time. Justin had hung in there for him, waited till he'd got there. Now he had to be strong for Justin. He forced himself to keep calm as the doctor, a slim dark haired woman, explained that Justin had stepped right into the path of a car. It had hit him full on, and he'd bounced from the bonnet of the car to the pavement. He'd suffered breaks to his left elbow, and to several ribs. One of his ribs had punctured a lung, and that's why he was on the ventilator, till they were sure that he could breathe on his own. He'd ruptured his spleen which had been removed.
All of these things should heal, given time. But he had also suffered another, and more serious head injury. They believed that there was severe brain damage. He was in a coma now, and they didn't believe that he would come out of it. They believed that once the machines were turned off, Justin would die.
"No!" Brian shook his head. "No."
That was all. Then he pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down, taking his partner's hand.
For the next three days, he barely moved. He ate if they brought him food, and used the toilet when he needed to. He signed the hospital forms they placed in front of him, and talked with the doctors whenever they examined Justin. But aside from that, he just sat, held Justin's hand and talked to him. He told him how hot the Irish guys were, and how good Irish beer was. He told him about the ad campaign, and about his plans to open a New York office on the strength of it. He told him he thought it was time they stopped fucking about and just got on with living together. He told him all Lindsay's stories of what Gus had done and said, and he told him all Michael's stories of Jenny Rebecca. He told him about the book he'd been reading and the movie he'd seen last week. He told him that he'd always wanted to visit Ireland, and how sweet the air had smelled when he'd got off the plane. He talked till he had no voice left, and then somehow he kept on talking.
But all the time, Justin seemed to slip further and further away from him.
Finally, worn out, and desperate, he'd obeyed the hospital staff's urgings to leave for the night, and took a taxi to the nearest hotel. It wasn't big, it wasn't flash, but it was close by. He checked in, and made his way to his room. His body ached for sleep, but his tired mind was still trying to think of ways to reach Justin, to find him, to save him.
He wandered over and stared blankly out the window. Only when he'd been standing there for several minutes did he realize what he was seeing. A cemetery. A fucking cemetery.
And then it hit him. Sean!
He still had one wish.
He stumbled down the stairs, and ran across the road. It was dark, and beginning to rain, and it took a while to find the gate. It was locked, but he managed to push through the hedge off to the side and ran into the middle of the cemetery.
"Sean!" he cried. "Sean! It's Brian Kinney. Get your fucking ass here, now! I want my wish!"
There was nothing. No answer. No movement. Nothing.
He went on calling, one minute demanding Sean's presence, the next actually pleading, begging even, for his help.
Finally, when there was still no response, he let himself fall to the ground. "Sean," he pleaded, "Please. Help me."
There was still no movement, no sound, but somehow Brian knew that Sean was there. He looked up to find those strange green eyes watching him with pity.
Brian shook his head. "No. Don't look like that. I still have one wish. I wi "
"Brian. Darlin' boy. It won't work," Sean said sadly, cutting him off.
"But I wi "
"Brian. Don't say anything. Be hearing me for a minute now."
Brian took a deep breath and fell silent.
Sean looked at him with deep pity. "Brian, the Coach has set out for him."
"What the fuck are you "
"You can't wish him well, mo ghrá. The Coach has already set out."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
Sean sighed. "The Coach of the Dead, Brian. It's set out to take him to the halls of the King of the Dead."
"Well, it can "
Sean shook his head. "No, my darlin'. You're not hearing me. Once the Coach has set out, it can't go back empty. It has never gone back empty."
"Well, you "
Sean knelt and gently took Brian in his arms. "My darlin' for you, I would try even this, but Brian I'm just a wee leprechaun. I've not anything like the power in me to overturn the nature of how it must be. Just like I can't give more than three wishes, not even to you, joy of my heart. If I tried to give you more, the minute you made the fourth, you'd lose all. That's the way it is; I can't change that. And I can't change this."
"No!" Brian pulled away from him and stood. "There's a way. There must be a way."
Sean sighed and shook his head as he too stood. "Brian, the best you can do now is go back to him. Don't let him be alone when his time comes."
"No! There " Brian stared at him a moment and then said slowly, "It can take me."
Sean looked startled. "No, Brian, you can't "
"I wish," Brian said clearly, "that the Coach of the Dead would take me instead of Justin."
For a moment, all was still.
Then, immediately overhead there was a crack of lightning, followed by a deep roll of thunder. And in the ghastly white light, Brian saw the Coach that none see and live.
Black it was, although it glowed with its own pallid aura. The horses also were black, but yet at the same time they were white skeletons. Brian didn't know how this could be, he only knew it was. There were six of them, straining under the Coachman's lash, drawing the Coach onwards in horrible silence. Swiftly it rushed towards him, and pulled to a halt only inches from him, the horses rearing over his head.
"GET IN!" the Coachman's voice was hushed yet harsh, and Brian's skin crawled at the sound of it. He didn't dare look up at the Coachman. He was terrified as it was. But he held to his purpose. He fumbled with the door till it swung open under his hands, and, with one last thought of his Sunshine, safe now, he hoped, Brian climbed in and the door settled shut behind him.
There was no sound as the Coach turned and started up once more. No sound as it rushed through the night. All Brian could hear was his own blood pumping in his ears. He fought to stop himself trembling, fought the urge to pull open the door and dive somehow headlong from the Coach. Anything would be better than this swift, silent, lonely journey.
Then the silence was broken.
"Brian, me darlin' boy, what have you done?"
And Sean was there beside him.
Brian fought down the rush of relief and pleasure that fact brought to him, and reacted in typical Brian Kinney fashion.
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Well, I thought that I could ride at least a little of the way with you," Sean responded softly. "I don't how far I'll be able to come. But I'll stay with you all the way I can. And I brought this "
He held up a bottle of poitín. Brian gave a shrug, but accepted the bottle willingly enough. "That's it, mo ghrá," Sean urged. "You drink up."
So Brian drank. And so did Sean. And then they drank again. They drank to Justin's health and to Ireland, and to all good fucks everywhere.
"He must be quite a boy, this one of yours," Sean said.
Brian nodded, but glared at him warningly. He didn't want to think about Justin, waking alone in a hospital bed to find out his partner had what? died? Would they find his body somewhere in the cemetery and tell Justin what?
"I don't know how you can think about leavin' him," Sean said. "Or perhaps you think he'll not miss you. What do you think, Brian."
Brian shrugged again, and took another slug of the poitín. He thought the Coach was slowing down. They must be nearly there.
"Perhaps he won't," Sean prattled on regardless. "I mean, you didn't think enough of him to take this trip with him. Perhaps he won't think you're all that great a loss. Maybe he thinks he's already lost you anyway. Maybe he's ready to move on. What do you think, Brian? Should I try my luck with your fair haired boy? Is he a good fuck? He must be, or you wouldn't be with him at all, would you, darlin'? So maybe when all the fuss has died down I could "
"I wish you'd shut the fuck up!" Brian snapped.
As lightning cracked once more overhead, he heard Sean's delighted laugh, and, as he sank into unconsciousness in a cold wet cemetery, he heard the leprechaun's voice float above him. "Make a fourth wish, my darlin' and you lose them all."
By the time he awoke it was almost dawn. There was a fine pink tinge to the eastern horizon, and the birds were singing.
For some reason, although he was wet and stiff, and he'd spent the night in the fucking cemetery, Brian felt light. Happy. As he walked into the hotel, his cell phone rang. It was the hospital. They said he might want to come back soon. They thought Justin was coming out of his coma.
Brian raced upstairs and changed, realizing as he pulled his boots on, that they were the ones that Sean had
He ran downstairs where a cab was already waiting to take him back to the hospital. Back to Justin.
Hours later, with Justin now in a natural sleep, all the doctors were shaking their heads over his condition saying that they just didn't have the answers as to why, when they'd been ready to write him off as a vegetable, he'd simply opened his eyes, his bright beautiful blue eyes and smiled at Brian.
"At least I found a way to get you here," he'd said.
Brian had smiled back and kissed him, and Justin had squeezed his hand and then complained that he was hungry. He'd had a little soup, and a few more kisses, and had told Brian that it was time that they canned all this fucking drama and just lived a life together like normal people did. Once Brian had promised him that they'd live in New York or Pittsburgh or fucking Woolamaloo if that's what he wanted, as long as they fucking did it together, Justin had fallen asleep again, his skin now glowing with his natural golden pallor, the grim corpse-look entirely vanished.
When he was sure Justin was settled, Brian went out to have a much needed cigarette. He was leaning up against the ivy covered wall of the small hospital when he became aware of Sean's presence beside him.
"Well?" Sean asked, but his dancing eyes told Brian that he already knew about Justin's recovery.
"He's very well," Brian acknowledged. He was silent a moment, and then he said, "I owe you, Sean."
But Sean just laughed. "Well, I'm finding life in these times a lot more fun than life in that damned bottle, so let's just say we're even," he said. "You got me out of that and "
He fell silent.
"You got me " Brian began.
"A bottle of whiskey," Sean said with a wink.
Brian sucked his lips in for a moment, and looked at him steadily. He sensed that the leprechaun or whatever the fuck he was didn't want it said aloud what they both knew to be the truth that Sean had pushed Brian into making that fourth wish and therefore freed him from the Coach.
"So what happened?" Brian asked.
Sean shrugged. "It was too late," he said. "It was pulling in at the Gateway."
"So it went back empty?"
Sean grinned at him. "For the first time ever, lad of my heart. And many's the offer I've had already this morning on the strength of it."
Brian grinned back, and nodded slowly.
Then he reached out, wrapped one arm around Sean's neck and drew him in for a deep deep kiss.
They were both flushed when Brian finally let him go.
Sean smiled at him. "Now, that," he said appreciatively, "is what I call a decent way to say your thanks."
Brian nodded. They both knew there would be no more.
Sean reached into Brian's pocket and pulled out his cigarettes and a lighter. They both lit up, and then stood side by side, leaning back and relaxing together, like old friends, or battle comrades, safe now after a hard fight.
"I tell you, darlin', no matter how good the offer, I'll not be gettin' into that same vehicle again," Sean said eventually.
Brian huffed a soft laugh. "Don't blame you there," he said. "I'm not all that keen to ride that way again myself."
"Well, now," Sean said. "It's funny you should be sayin' that "
Brian stiffened beside him. There couldn't be any dire news now. He couldn't He took a breath and raised his head proudly determined to fight anything that threatened the future he was determined to build for himself and Justin.
Sean smiled at him in fond admiration. "Now, don't be gettin' all alarmed. I just thought that I should warn you "
"What?" Brian croaked out.
"Well," Sean said. "Seems that you and I have thrown things into a somethin' of a muddle."
Brian stared at him. "Sean!" he snapped. "Fucking get it out!"
Sean laughed. "Well, you see, me darlin', everyone only has one turn in the Coach. And you and that boy of yours have, so to speak, both had yours. He, because the Coach set out for him, and you, because you rode back in it. So "
"So what? We're some sort of immortals? What the fuck are you talking about?"
Sean laughed once more and leaned in to kiss Brian briefly.
"Let's just say the Shining Ones have decided that when the time comes for you both, they will make room for you in their halls under the hill."
Brian stared at him.
"Goodbye, mo ghrá" Sean said. "May your heart's happiness shine brightly through the many years till the time comes for you both to join us. Till then, a ghrá geal."
And quietly, without even a ripple, he disappeared.
Brian took a last drag on his cigarette and went in to Justin.
He'd like to blame Ireland for getting into his head this way, and making the real seem unreal, and the unreal so fucking convincing.
But it had all started back in that cemetery in New York.
It was all fucking Joanie's fault.
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