Worth Celebrating

Results and Conclusions


Brian switched off the phone and came back to me, and suddenly all thoughts of jobs and money and PIFA just went out of my head and there wasn’t anything else in the world but the need to hold and kiss and touch him. And from the way he grabbed me and started kissing me like it had been days since we’d fucked instead of a few hours, it seemed like was in the same space.

I thought it was going to be hard and fast, but instead we wound up on the rugs and cushions on the floor and it slowed right down.

For a long time we just lay there gently stroking and kissing as we looked into each other’s eyes. When we finally were ready to go further, he rolled me onto my side and slid into me so slowly that it nearly drove me frantic. When he was all the way in he stopped moving and took time to kiss my neck and my shoulders till I’d calmed down a little. Then he reached around and began stoking my cock.

I could hear myself moaning, and as I pressed back against him, I felt his laugh rumble all the way through me. Then he began slowly pulling out and rocking back into me, brushing my prostate with each stroke, and all the time his hand worked my cock in the same slow rhythm.

Whenever we got close he’d just stop and give us both time to get a little control back, then he’d start again. It was amazing and frustrating as hell all at the same time.

Finally, he began to speed up, and at first I was filled with relief, but this was just a wonderful new form of torture. Now he’d alternate the speed and rhythm, thrusting fast and hard and taking us both right to the very brink and then slowing it right down again.

I don’t know how many times he took us there, but by the end I was permanently in that zone, riding the edge of orgasm, and the pleasure was so intense it really was painful. He must have known that for me, at least, it was time, because he suddenly thrust deep and hard and his thumb tapped twice against my piss slit and that was it - I came so hard I nearly fainted. Three jets of cum soaked into the cushions before I was finished, then from somewhere off in the ether I heard Brian moan my name and I felt him jerk against me and then we both lay quiet and spent with his arms wrapped around me and mine wound around his.

He had to pull out of course before I was ready to be separated, to dispose of the condom. That’s one of the real downsides to safe sex. But then he pressed back up against me, and I turned into his arms. He grinned at me and kissed my forehead, and we just lay there for a while. Being together.

It’s times like that I wonder what the fuck I was thinking back when I went off with Ethan. But, you know, I’m glad I did. Because somehow things are better now than they’ve ever been.

Daph says it’s because Brian is trying harder because he knows now that he doesn’t want to lose me. And I guess that’s partly it.

But a lot of it is me.

What Michael said that day about Brian only letting me stay with him because he felt guilty, that only hurt me because it was already what I was feeling, my deepest fear.

And I felt like that because I knew how weak and pathetic I was, and couldn’t believe, not really believe, that there was any real reason that Brian would want me to be part of his life; couldn’t see that I had anything to offer him except sex and he could get that anywhere.

That’s why I was so threatened by the tricks back then. And why I’m not now. I mean, I don’t love it that he still tricks. But it’s Brian. And I do love Brian.

The tricks don’t matter now, because I know that this time he’s chosen to be with me, because I’m what he wants. For sex, yes. The sex is great.

But for other things as well.

Like this morning. Sharing the news about Stockwell, and then working together to come up with a plan for the future. That was the sort of thing I’d never even have dreamed of back in those post-bashing, pre-Ethan days. It was what I’d always needed in this thing that Brian and I have, but back then I felt like it meant that Brian would have to pay me a respect that a little twat like me just wasn’t worthy of. So I tried to substitute romance, flowers and floor picnics, for fuck's sake, for the respect and equality I really needed. Fuck, no wonder things turned into such a mess. Or that Brian didn’t understand what I wanted, what I needed from him - I didn’t know myself.

The really ironic thing is that I think he was ready to give me all that I needed back then, I just wasn’t ready to take it.

But I am now. I know now what I want and what I need. And Brian is giving me both. 

We’d just got up and I was making us some lunch when Vance’s call came. Brian let it go through to voice mail, although he did turn up the speaker. Vance sounded a little miffed, said he’d been trying to call all morning, and could Brian return his call as soon as possible, that he’d like to meet this afternoon.

Brian raised an eyebrow at that. It sounded as if Cynthia was right, and Vance was about to make some sort of move to either get Brian back, or at least make sure that he wasn’t going to be any sort of competition.

When we checked the machine, there was actually an earlier message from Vance’s secretary, asking Brian to call. It must have come through while we were so occupied we didn’t even hear it. I know that the way Brian had been making me feel, I might not have heard the last trump.

“Sounds eager, doesn’t he?” Brian commented drily.

He sucked his lips in for a moment, then said, “I wonder which it is - get me back on board, or push me under completely.”

We’d discussed both those options, and how to handle them. But then I thought of something. “Brian … was there anything in your contract with Vance to say you couldn’t leave and start up in direct competition to him?”

He looked at me, frowning, trying to remember. Then he walked over to the box where he’d put all his papers out of his desk, and started going through it. He found the contract and scanned it thoughtfully.

“Justin, can you give Mel a call? Ask her if she’ll be at home this afternoon, and up for giving a bit of legal advice.”


We got a warmer welcome than I expected at Muncherville. Apparently Lindz and Michael between them have been hovering over Mel like a pair of fucking mother hens to the point where they are really starting to piss her off. All ‘let me do that, dear’ and ‘you shouldn’t be doing that, it’s bad for the baby’ till she was actually glad to see someone who wouldn’t give her any of that shit - even if I was included in the package.

Gus was having his afternoon nap when we got there, and Lindz was at work, so that meant Justin and I could sit down with Mel and go through with her some of the stuff that the investment guy had said about possibly suing Vance over my dismissal and what there was in the contract in the way of non-competition clauses. She’d helped to write it, so she was the best person to give me that sort of advice.

Mel looked dubious about the first bit, but said she’d go through her copy of the contract more closely over the weekend and let me know what she thought. She grinned like a feral dog when I mentioned the non-competition clause, though. One of those moments when I almost like her.

“Oh, no. If he tries that, he’s fucked. I was very careful about what went into it in that area.” She sounded very fucking pleased with herself.

I stuck my tongue in my cheek, and looked at her, waiting for her to get over her little moment of personal triumph and share.

“I knew he’d insist on having some sort of non-competition clause, he would have been crazy not to.”

She gave me a look then that said that was as near as I was going to get to hearing her say that I’m damned good at what I do, and Vance would be right to be scared of me as competition.

“But I wasn’t going to let him set you up so that when he was ready he could manufacture some reason to get rid of you, without having to worry about you starting up your own agency and taking your clients with you.

“So the contract specifically states that the non-competition clause only comes into effect if the partnership is dissolved by mutual consent, or if you decide to void the partnership agreement. In any other circumstances, such as Vance firing your ass, you can open an agency on his doorstep and there’s fuck all he can do about it.”

Justin gave a little ‘woof’ of satisfaction and I took a moment to grin at him. He was sitting next to me, and I found myself taking his hand and squeezing it tightly.

Then I turned back to Mel. “Thanks.”

I meant it too. She had really covered my ass.

She was looking at me like I’d grown another head, and I realised that I was still holding Justin’s hand. I know she was expecting me to drop it, like I would have a year ago. But that was a fucking long time ago, and now I just went on holding it, rubbing my thumb over his fingers as I met Mel’s eyes.

She might have said something, but just then there was a thump over our heads and then a wail and she started to get up. “That’s Gus.”

I stood, maybe more quickly than I wanted her to notice. “I’ll get him.”

It meant letting go of Justin’s hand but I headed up the stairs two at a time to collect Sonnyboy.

He was standing next to his bed blinking and looking confused, with tear tracks on his face. When I went in he held up his arms to be picked up and when I did he pushed his face into my neck and held on like I was his only comfort. Poor fucking kid.

“Dweem, Dadda,” he said.

“You had a bad dream?”

He nodded against my neck and gave a wet sniff. I looked around the room and found some tissues. I managed to mop him up a bit, and wiped my neck as well. Then I sat down on the edge of his bed with him on my knee, rubbing his back like I used to do with Justin when he had nightmares.

Fuck! how do you handle this shit?

At least he’d stopped trying to fucking strangle me. He still had his head on my shoulder though, and I found myself kissing his hair.

“You okay now?” I asked hoping that he was because I sure as shit didn’t know what to do about it if he wasn’t.

He nodded and smiled up at me.

“All better, Dadda,” he said.

“You want to go downstairs now?”

“Jus here?”

For a moment I felt stabbed. There had been too many times he’d asked me that when I’d had to say ‘no’ and watch his face drop. Somehow knowing he was hoping to see Justin and I together and was disappointed every time we weren’t, had made it even shittier. Then it hit me that this time I didn’t have to disappoint either of us.

“Yep. Jus is downstairs.”

He gave a squeal of excitement and wriggled off my knee, heading for the stairs.

I swooped him up into my arms and he gave another squeal and then started to giggle as I tossed him up into the air.

“Should we go down and play with Jus?”

“Yes, Dadda. Jus. Now.”

So I carried him downstairs to where Justin was waiting for us both.

He was in the kitchen with Mel making coffee and as soon as he saw him Gus launched himself from my arms to Justin’s. Fortunately Justin is used to dealing with him and was expecting it. He caught him and hugged him.

“How’s my Gus, today?”

“I good. How’s my Jus today?” the little brat asked. ‘His Jus’ indeed. Then he laughed and launched himself back at me. I wasn’t expecting it, but I managed to catch him which was just as well with Mel standing there ready to fry my ass if I’d dropped him.

But she seemed surprisingly mellow. Maybe being pregnant agrees with her. She got milk for Gus, and a biscuit, and then we all sat down at the table and had our drinks and Gus got his crayons and drew pictures while we went through a few more thoughts about the contract.

With those things sorted out, I figured it was time to phone Vance. It’s Friday today, and I have no intention of meeting with him till Monday. I want him to stew over the weekend. But I don’t want Justin to have to worry all weekend about which tack Vance is going to take, so I need to get that out of him today.

I ask Mel and she waves me to the phone, then they take Gus into the other room, to give me some quiet. Justin gives me a quick kiss for luck on the way out and I feel it on my face as I dial the number.

His secretary asks me to wait, but I’m not putting up with any of that shit, and tell her that unless Vance can speak to me now, he can call back on Monday.

He comes on the line.

“Brian, how are you?”

“I’m just fine, Gardner. And yourself?”

Stay calm, Kinney. Calm, charm and, if necessary, smarm. Then, when the time’s right, go for the jugular.

“I’m glad to hear that, Brian, really.”

There’s a pause, but I stay silent. He’s the one who wanted to talk. Finally he continues, “I suppose you’ve heard about Stockwell.”

“I have, yes.” Then I decide to give him something to think about. Something to make sure he knows I’m still a player. “Actually, I’d already had a hint that something was in the wind.”

Which was true enough. He doesn’t have to know how vague the hint was.

“Oh?” He sounds a little surprised and maybe just a little rattled.

“Yes, a well-placed source, as they say.”

That’s all. No need to let him know who the hint was from. Not yet. Time to name drop later. Time later to let him know I’ve had other very tempting offers. For now, just wait for him to give something away regarding what he wants.

“Well, Brian, I’m sure that you understand that the situation with Stockwell, with the rumors about his involvement in some very suspect dealings, they place a completely different complexion on your involvement in his election defeat.”

“They don’t change what happened, what I did,” I push. “He’s still a client, isn’t he?”

“No, Brian. No longer. We can’t afford to have the company name associated with … well, with anything shady. That hardly helps our reputation.”

Fuck! Suddenly it’s very clear to me what’s going on. He does want me back. He not only wants me back, he wants to parade me to our other clients as a model of integrity, the one who was willing to give up his career rather than support Stockwell. Shit! Justin is so not going to believe this. Well, for that matter, no one is going to fucking believe this.

“So what’s the deal, Gardner?”

“Well, Brian, I understand that you haven’t yet found another job, and  in light of what’s happened …”

“I haven’t actually been looking, Gardner. I decided to take some time out to spend with Justin. You remember Justin?”

I let the anger I feel that this fucker is as much to blame as anyone for Justin’s suspension come into my voice.

Gardner is silent for a moment, then he says, “Ah. Yes. I remember Justin. That was all most unfortunate.”

So now he knows that whatever deal is struck, Justin is going to be part of it. And if that means that Vance has to use the sort of pressure he put on PIFA to get them to suspend Justin in the first place and this time use it to put the squeeze on them to make them take him back, well, so be it.

“Well, I’m sure that now the dust is settled, there’ll be no impediment to his returning to his studies. In fact, if he wanted to resume his internship …”

“That’s up to Justin. You should talk to him about it.”

“Yes, yes, well, I will. However, we were talking about you, about what your plans are.”

“Were we?”

“Well, I rather hoped … you know our clients, here, Brian and they know you. Starting out cold in a different agency with a different approach than you’re accustomed to …”

“Well, you know me, Gardner. Always up for a challenge.”

There was dead silence then for a few seconds and I knew I’d rattled him.

“Well, of course your contract had a non-competition clause, which means that should you wish to stay in advertising you’d have to leave Pittsburgh, Which seems a pity just as young Justin is getting back into college.”

Gardner, I’m sure you know as well as I do that the non-competition clause doesn’t apply in these circumstances. I’m quite sure your lawyers have explained all that to you.”

He actually laughed then, and I found myself, as I so often have done, almost liking him.

“Yes, you’re right of course, they did,” he said cheerfully. “Look, Brian, I’ll cut the bullshit. This situation doesn’t benefit either of us. What would it take for you to come back?”

Got him! Got him by the fucking balls, thanks to Justin, and to Mel, for fuck’s sake.

“Well, Gardner, I’d need some time to consider that.”

And now we’re both on familiar ground and we know that there’s room to talk, and to negotiate, and that if we want we should be able to strike a deal. Provided it’s in our best interest to do it. And I know that he needs me. But he doesn’t know about my other options. Which very definitely gives me the edge.

“I was rather hoping we could meet today and discuss it. Or perhaps over dinner tonight.”

“Sorry, Gardner, I have family commitments this evening.” Which again is true enough. Deb had called just before we left the loft demanding that we both attend a family dinner tonight to celebrate Stockwell’s downfall.

“Well, Monday then.”

“Monday it is.”

“Good. And if you have any thoughts in the meantime, perhaps you could send me an email so that I can have a response prepared.”

“I can probably do that, yes.”

“Good. I’ll see you on Monday, then. Shall we say ten?”

“Fine. And perhaps in the meantime you should make a call to the Dean at PIFA and explain how your views have changed.”

Again he laughed. “I’ll do that, Brian. See you Monday.”

I let go of the phone and suddenly I need to sit down. I slump onto one of the bar stools and then Justin is there with his arms around me and I let my forehead rest against his shoulder. He doesn’t say anything, just rubs my fucking back, like I was doing for Gus not so long ago. And I must be just like a fucking two year old, because it does make all the bogies go away.

The negotiations with Vance should go well from here. But even if they don’t I have this.

I wrap my arms around his waist and hug him tightly.

I have Justin.


It was good to see Gus again. And even Mel. I could tell that she wanted to ask me about how things are with Brian, but to her credit she didn’t. For once she even managed not to criticize him. She must be more bored at being stuck at home than I’d realised. Anyway, we seemed to reach this silent agreement that I wouldn’t ask her about how she was feeling if she didn’t ask about Brian. We played with Gus and talked about other things - about Stockwell, and PIFA and just things generally. But all the time I was watching the phone, waiting for the light to go out that would tell me he’d hung up the other extension.

Once it did, I went straight out to the kitchen. To Brian.

I saw him slump down onto the stool and for a moment I thought things had gone really badly. I went to him and held him and rubbed his back. I felt so awful, so inadequate, but then he hugged me and suddenly I knew everything was alright.

He sat up and looked into my eyes and gave me that tongue in cheek smirk that sometimes makes me want to hit him and sometimes makes me want to kiss him and always makes me want to fuck him.

He still didn’t say anything. He gave me one quick kiss, then stood up, and taking my hand, went back into the other room.

To my surprise - and I’m damned sure to hers - he bent down and gave Mel a kiss on the cheek. “I owe you,” he said.

She looked shocked and sort of pleased all at once. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d say she almost blushed.

However, she’s resilient is Mel, and she just brushed it off.

“So I take it you think you’re going to get what you want out of Vance?”

He smiled, then turned to me, and nodded.

“I think so, yeah.”

He sat down and Gus crawled onto his knee demanding that Dadda help play with his toy robot.

Brian didn’t say anything else about the call, and neither Mel nor I pushed him. We both just sat and watched as he marched the robot along the back of the couch to attack the “bad” cushions, urged on by Gus’ squawks of encouragement. Then they got down on the floor together and built a fortress of bricks for the robot to demolish. I was wishing that I had my sketch pad, when Mel handed me one of Lindsay’s and some pencils.

I guess living with an artist you get to know that look.

Eventually we had to get ready to leave which provoked a bit of a storm from Gus who hadn’t had us both there together for a long while and didn’t want us to go.

After a few sad cries of “Dadda! Jus!”, Mel of all people suggested that we should wait and drive over to Deb’s with them.

“I would have asked sooner,” she said, “I just forgot that you don’t have the fucking car.”

So we waited till Lindz came home and we kept Gus amused while the girls changed (and tried very hard not to think about what else they might be doing up there) and then we all packed into their car and went to Deb’s.

I don’t know if Brian thought at all about the row he’d had with Michael, I know I didn’t. We were crammed into the back seat next to the child seat. I was more or less sitting on Brian’s knee and he was holding me very tight, and I just felt happy, really really happy. I felt like things were coming together for us. Like it was really going to be alright. I should have known better, I guess.

Anyway, we got to Deb’s and everyone else was there, and you could tell that they were surprised that we came with the girls. They didn’t say anything, but they all sort of gave each other these looks.

Brian went over to Michael and gave him a kiss as usual. Michael looked like he wanted to say something but then Emmett interrupted.

“So what’s all this goss I’ve been hearing about you two?”

We were all milling around chatting and getting drinks like you do at Deb’s and suddenly everyone fell silent.

Shit! What can he have heard? There isn’t anything.

I feel suddenly cold. Please don’t let there be anything.

“Something about steaming up the backroom at Babylon with the hottest kiss the old place has ever seen?”

Oh, Em, no! Shut up!

Don’t push Brian on this, please.

Everyone is staring at Brian, except Michael who is glaring at me like I’ve done something fucking terrible. I guess to him I have. I might actually have put a dint in the Brian Fucking Kinney legend.

To my dismay, Emmett keeps going, and it gets worse.

“My sources tell me it was a moment of sheer ro-mance,” he drawls in his best Southern Belle manner.

Fuck! That does it. That’s all Brian needs.

He’s pretending not to listen, of course. Pretending that it has nothing to do with him. Helping Gus off with his coat, and getting him a drink.

Emmett saunters over to me. He’s got that look he gets when he’s shit-stirring.

“They also tell me that a certain Mr. K has been spectacularly absent from all his usual haunts for the past week or so.”

He looks at Michael, and I know that he’s saying this for Michael’s benefit, to try to make a point. But I wish he’d stop. Brian is going to … well, I’m not sure, but it probably won’t be good. But it’s too late now, and I can only try to take Brian’s lead, and pretend that it’s all nothing to do with me as Emmett puts his arm around me and goes on.

“Seems Mr. K is losing his taste for the backrooms and the Baths.”

Brian stands up then, and meets Emmett’s eyes. For a moment I honestly believe he’s going to walk out. And no prizes for guessing where he’d go.

Instead he walks over to us. He sticks his tongue in his cheek and, takes Emmett’s arm from around my shoulders.

“I haven’t lost my taste for the backroom. Not at all. As long as I’m with the hottest guy in the place, as always. Just like the other night.”

And he looks straight into my eyes to make sure I’m hearing him.

I manage to give him a little smile, and he takes my hand.

“Shall we show them what they missed?”

Before I can answer, I’m in his arms and he’s kissing me. At first it’s like a demonstration. Sort of technically good, but not real. Just a show for all of them as they gape at us.

But then they fade away, and it’s just Brian and I, and the feel and the smell and the taste of him, of us. And now it’s real. Now it’s the most real thing there is.

When we finally break apart, he rests his forehead against mine for a moment and smiles at me. 

They’re all still gaping at us and I can feel myself starting to blush. Brian laughs. Michael is still scowling, but everyone else is smiling, and Deb says, “Well that’s the fucking floorshow over, so now you’d better all sit down and eat.”

They were all sitting themselves down at the table, and I was helping Deb to serve and wasn’t really all that aware of what was going on, when I heard Michael say something like, “Brian, what is this? You won’t talk to me and now you don’t even want to sit next to me. What’s going on? What has he been saying?”

Because of course, if thing’s are bad between him and Brian, it has to be my fault. Not like it could be something he’s done or anything.

I looked up and Brian was standing at the table. He  was ignoring Michael, while Mel and Lindz got up and moved, and moved Gus. Then Brian sat down again on the other side of the table. That was when I realised what had happened. Gus, of course, had demanded to sit next to his father, and Michael had pounced into the vacant seat on Brian’s other side.

No regard to my feelings, of course, that’s a given. But none for Brian’s either. Or Ben’s. Because Vic was already sitting in the seat next to that, so that meant Ben wouldn’t be sitting with Michael. Now that everyone had moved, there was an empty space where Brian had been sitting, and then there was Lindz, then Mel, Gus, Brian, a space for me and another space, then Emmett, Hunter, and Vic. Ben pointedly sat in the space next to Emmett rather than the one next to Michael.

Deb looked as if she were going to say something about that, but amazingly she didn’t, just plonked down the last plate and sat next to Michael herself.

Emmett, bless him, tried to cover up the silence that was coming off Brian in waves. He picked up his glass and said “Let’s have a toast. I think we should …”

Not sure what he was going to drink to, because Michael butted in with, “No. I want to know. I want to know what that little slut has been saying about me.”

I froze. I don’t know what I’d expected, and god knows I should know always to expect the worst from Michael, but I couldn’t believe he’d said that, said it in front of my friends, my family.

But worse, I couldn’t believe he was doing this to Brian.

Things were so good. Couldn’t he just let go long enough for Brian to have one night of being happy?

Under the table, I reached out and touched Brian’s thigh. Then his fingers covered mine, and we held hands tightly. He was pale and obviously furious. If I’d been Michael, I would have been running for cover.

There was a chorus of shocked “Michael!”s. And Deb smacked him on the back of the head.

“What’s the matter with you? What crawled up your ass and died?”

“Look, this has nothing to do with anyone else, Brian’s my best friend and …”

“Not any more.” Brian’s voice sounded dreadful.


“Mikey, enough. Don’t do this. Don’t make me …”

He broke off then, but we all heard what he didn’t say: ‘Don’t make me choose.’ It was a plea from the heart, but Michael ignored it.

“What’s the matter with you. He’s just a fuck. He might be a good fuck, but that’s all he is. A trick you picked up on a corner of Liberty Avenue. He was just looking to get laid. He would have gone with anyone. And you were stupid enough to let him hang around and sponge off you and then he …”

But that was as far as he got. Brian gave a sort of growl and started to get up, but it was Ben who made it to his feet first.

“That’s it. That’s it, Michael. This time you really have crossed the line.”

He took a deep breath while we all stared at him. Even Michael was shocked into silence.

Ben sighed really deeply, like something in him was breaking. I felt dreadful for him, and I know everyone else did too.

“I’ve watched and waited for you to get over this … this obsession you have with Brian.”

And, absolutely fucking amazingly, Michael actually started his mantra again.

“He’s my best …”

“Friend,” Ben finished for him. He nodded sadly. “I know. We all know. But you know something, Michael? You’re not his. If you were, right now you’d be happy for him. You’d see how …”

He broke off then and looked at Brian and I for a moment.

“You’d know he’s happy, and you’d be glad for him. But you just can’t do that. Because it’s not with you.”

He moved away from the table.

“And I can’t hang around anymore hoping one day you’ll get over this … this thing you have, that won’t let you see Brian happy with someone else without trying to ruin it for him. Hoping that one day it’s me that you’ll want. Me you’ll dream about.

He shook his head, took another breath and started towards the door.

“I’m sorry everyone. Deb … the food looks great. I …”

Then he just turned and left.

Deb smacked Michael on the head again. “What the fuck’s wrong with you? Go after him.”

“What’s wrong with me? I haven’t done anything. All I’m doing is looking out for Brian. He’s …”

“Fuck!” erupted from Brian explosively. He did get up then, and looked at me. “Are you coming?”

To add to the drama, Gus started to cry.

Deb stood up and waved at Brian. “You sit down. You’re not going anywhere.”

He looked as if he were going to argue and Deb gave him one of the looks that can stop even Brian in his tracks.

“You attend to your son.”

Mel had picked Gus up, but he was reaching out to his father, and after a moment Brian took him and sat down again with Gus on his knee.

“It’s okay, Sonnyboy,” I heard him whisper. “Dadda’s here.”

Gus stopped crying then and just buried himself in Brian’s arms, as if they were a haven of peace and comfort. I knew just how he felt. I wanted to do exactly the same thing.

“And I’ll attend to mine.”

It was Deb’s voice again, coming from a long way away, as Brian looked at me and smiled. It was a little sad, but still a smile. Then, reaching out one arm, he pulled me close and kissed me.

“Jus hurt?” came a little voice.

“Yeah, Gus. Jus is hurt. He needs us to kiss him better.”

Gus sat up and held out his arms to me. I leaned in towards them both and they both kissed me. It worked, because I immediately felt better. I kissed them both back and they smiled at me. That identical special smile, warm and sweet and open, that hardly anyone gets to see on the older Kinney man. And he was smiling it just for me. So was Gus, and I felt so full of love for both of them that I’m sure if the room had been dark you could really have seen the glow.

I was vaguely aware of Deb dragging Michael away from the table and bundling him into his coat. He was arguing with her, but she pushed him out the door and shut it hard behind him. Then she walked back in to us.

She came round the table to Brian and I, and dropped a set of car keys in front of Brian.

“So don’t drink too much,” she said gruffly.

Then she gave me one of those Debbie hugs that had me smothered up against her so hard that I couldn’t breathe. Then she kissed me and walked back to her place and sat down.

There was a moment of stunned silence and then Vic said calmly, “Lindsay, could you pass the pepper shaker please?”

That seemed to break the dam, because everyone started chattering then, trying to pretend that nothing had happened.

But it had, and I could feel it in the silence of the man beside me.

Not that Brian ever talks a lot at these dinners, but tonight it was a rigid sort of silence. It ached. I knew that somehow he was finding a way to blame himself for this, and my heart hurt for him.

“Dadda hurt?” Gus said suddenly.

It seemed to break whatever spell had been holding Brian captive and he looked down into the hazel eyes so like his and found them gazing up at him with love and concern. He smiled again then, and nodded a little. “I think I need a kiss.”

With great tenderness, Gus reached up and kissed him. Then he looked at me.

“Jus kiss better too,” he demanded.

What could I do? I leant over and kissed the man at the corner of his mouth. He turned his head and returned the kiss, gently, on my lips.

Then Gus demanded another turn.

We spent a little while fooling like this, while everyone kindly ignored us.

Even Hunter. Poor kid. After all he’s been through, now he gets to watch his “parents” on the verge of divorce. Emmett and Vic were both trying to look after him, though, I noticed, without making a big deal of it and setting his back up. Just talking to him and joking, and making sure that he got whatever he wanted to eat.

Eventually, Brian and I concentrated on trying to get Gus to eat some of his food, which gave me a chance to eat mine and even encouraged Brian to eat a little of his.

We started talking about Stockwell, and what the Senator had said (which of course set Debbie off). But we agreed that at least he was gone, which was a pretty big achievement, and it finally started to feel like a celebration.

Then I told them about how the Senator was going to help me get back in to PIFA, and Brian even told us about what he and Vance had agreed about that. So that was more to celebrate.

Then, of course, Brian had to explain why he’d been talking to Vance, and although he didn’t say much, even what he did say was enough to let everyone know that Vance wanted him back, so that there was at least that job there for him if he wanted it.

By this time, we’d drunk a bit of wine (although Brian really didn’t drink much, to my surprise; he went and got himself a bottle of water instead) and were starting to relax and enjoy ourselves.

Gus had fallen asleep in Brian’s arms, and we laid him down on the couch, with a blanket over him and a chair next to him so that he wouldn’t roll over and fall off.

Then Deb made some coffee and we all sat around and started talking about the future - about Gus starting playschool, and the new baby. We sort of steered around Michael’s involvement in that, although you can tell that Deb is just busting to be a grandmother. And she’ll be great at it.

We talked about the Em’s party planning business, and how the catering side was really taking off, and he and Vic were thinking about hiring a commercial kitchen so that they could look at taking on some bigger affairs, even hiring extra cooking staff, so Vic would be head chef.

We talked about Lindsay’s job at the gallery, and how they were encouraging her to find young artists, so that if PIFA let me back in, she might contact them and see if they’d be interested in having a student show.

And slowly, quite hesitantly, they talked about Brian - well, about the election and the ad. About how proud they were of him for what he’d done. And each of them offered to help him with the money thing. Not openly, in front of the others, but one by one, as the night went on, they came up to him and talked to him, and I think he suddenly realised something that I’d always known, but I don’t think he did.

They love him.

He’s difficult and can be a total asshole at times. But they love him. And he’s always been there for them, always. And now they want to be there for him.

Maybe it was seeing how Michael hurt him, or maybe it was seeing him with Gus and I, seeing the real Brian, like hardly anyone ever does, I’m not sure. But it was like they’d been afraid to offer before, and now somehow they could.

It felt so good, watching him realise that he might have a total prick for a “best friend”, and his “real” family might be a pack of assholes (who so don’t deserve him), but that he does have a family who love him, and who want to be there for him.

It was after midnight before we knew it, and the girls started yawning and saying that they had to get Gus home, and Em wanted to go home and get a reasonably early night because Saturday is a busy day in the party world, and Deb had work so she needed to get some sleep.

As we all got up and started to get ready to leave they sort of looked at us, and finally Emmett said, “What about you boys, are you off to Babylon to celebrate in style?”

I wished he hadn’t asked, hadn’t put that thought out there, because with all that had gone on today, I figured Brian would be only too keen to hit Babylon and get drunk and wasted and … laid. Find a trick, probably a string of tricks, and get his dick sucked, and sat on and otherwise put to uses that would be better kept for me. I know he’d said that the experiment was still on, but hell! that seemed like forever ago. And after what he’d been through today, I could hardly begrudge him anything that would let him forget it all for a while.

He looked at me and raised an eyebrow. I shrugged, like it didn’t bother me.

He put a finger under my chin and looked into my eyes. His were still a bit sad, but they held a spark of mischief too, that I was very glad to see. He ran the tip of his tongue over his lips and said softly, “Where’re you headed?”

I felt my heart give one huge thump as I answered with a happy grin, “No place special.”

He laughed out loud. “I can change that,” he promised.

Then he hooked an arm around my neck. “We’re going home,” he announced.

Deb demanded a kiss goodbye from both of us. Then to everyone’s amazement, Brian, after kissing Lindz and the sleeping Gus, bent down and kissed Mel’s cheek.

After that he seemed to figure what the hell, and kissed Em and Vic as well. So of course Hunter fronted up for one. To his total disgust, Brian kissed his forehead, and dodged skilfully when the little shit angled for more.

We walked down the path with our arms around each other, and actually had a car to get into, for now at least, and I figured that, despite Michael, it had been a really good night.


When it happened I felt like they say you do when you’ve been shot. Like you’re so shocked that you don’t even feel the pain.

Then I just felt ball bustingly angry.

He was attacking Justin. Again. But this time in front of everybody. Shit! what is his fucking problem? He can’t still be thinking that he and I are ever going to be anything other than what we are, but he just can’t bear to see me with Justin.

Of course Emmett hadn’t helped. And I guess I made if fucking worse. I hadn’t meant to rub Mikey’s nose in it, I was just happy. And I should be about to kiss my fucking boyfriend for fuck's sake without my best friend getting pissed off about it.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he took it out on me, but to attack Justin, that’s just fucked.

I tried to ignore the first round, but when he called Justin a slut - Justin! Jesus fucking Christ. He’s sitting at the table with me and calling Justin a slut! How fucked is that?


I was going to ream him out in a way that neither of us would ever have been able to get past, when Ben stepped in.

I don’t know whether to be glad or sorry about that.

Poor bastard. I really hoped it would work for Mikey with Ben. He’s a great guy (well, when he’s not steroid Mary, anyway), and I trusted him with Mikey. Despite the HIV thing, despite the Dr Dave fiasco, despite our little fling at the White Party. I trusted him.

It didn’t fucking occur to me that Ben was the one who was going to get screwed.

The weird thing is that after all the drama had died down, the night sort of turned out okay.

I mean, I can think of things I’d rather do than sit around and fucking talk all night. But it was okay.

And of course, he loved it.

He was sitting there with the light shining on that fucking mop of hair and his hand on my thigh, or my arm, or somehow tucked into mine, and chattering away like there was fuck all else that he’d rather be doing.

If I don’t watch out, between him and Deb they’re going to turn this into some sort of regular thing, and I don’t know how much family fun I can take.

Still, it was good that it made him forget about what Mikey said. And I have to admit that it does make it easier for me, when he does the talking for both of us. It means I don’t have to say anything, and can just zone out for a while without anyone really noticing.

I guess I should be pissed off that it seems like everyone accepts that he is doing exactly that, speaking for both of us, but shit! if it makes them happy and gets them to leave me in peace … Who am I kidding? We’re moving into coupledom. He is speaking for both of us. Most of the time, anyway. I’m turning into a fucking dyke and the fucking scariest thing about that is that … it feels so damned good.

This is what Lindz has been trying to tell me for years. Well, ever since Justin came along, anyway. I wonder if we could ever have made it before … if I hadn’t been so stubborn and so determined to fight it, I wonder if we could have got to this place, without having to go through all the shit we went through.

I guess not. He needed to grow up, and I needed … to grow the balls to be able to not run screaming from the feeling of letting someone so close to me.

Closer than Michael.

That’s what has set Mikey off, of course.. He knows that Justin is the one I’ve been turning to, the one I share my life with. That it’s never going to be him that I run to first anymore - hell, until Justin, he was the only one I’d ever run to when things went wrong, the only one I ever let see behind the fucking Brian Kinney mask.

And now it’s not him, it’s Justin.

Except that Justin is closer than Mikey ever was. Because we fuck. Because Justin’s smarter than Michael and understands some things that Mikey would never get.

But mainly because part of Mikey wanted me to be his hero. Even when he’d seen me beaten like a fucking dog, and crying my heart out over what my asshole father had done to me, part of him still needed me to be his hero.

“You’re Brian Kinney for fuck’s sake!”

I think maybe that’s when I understood that my friendship with Mikey was in trouble. That part of it was based on a lie. It was based on Mikey wanting to believe, needing to believe, in the fucking myth.

Justin never bought the myth for a minute.

“I’m on to you.”

That was Justin. Still is.

And I am so fucking grateful for that. Because I don’t have to be anything for Justin except me. Just myself.

Sometimes when I’m with him, I feel like a hamster that’s finally been allowed to get off the fucking wheel. For a while everything keeps spinning, but then it slows right down and I can stop. I can rest. I can just be with him and rest.

I never knew how good that would feel.

Just like I never knew how good it would feel to have people like Mel and Emmett and even Vic come up and offer to help me out with the money.

Shit! if you’d asked me, I would have said that it would make my stomach heave to have them offering me help, like I was some sort of fucking charity case.

But that wasn’t how it felt at all. It felt like … like maybe that’s how family feels. I wouldn’t know. But maybe that’s what it’s like. Like there are people who will watch out for you and try to be there if you need them.

See, once I never would have admitted to needing anyone or anything. And I don’t really need them now. Not while I have Justin. So somehow, that makes it all right to need them. That’s fucked, but it seems like that’s the way it is.

Of course, I couldn’t take their money. The girls need it for Gus, and for the new baby. And Vic and Emmett are just starting this business, they’ll need every fucking cent they can scrape together to make it work. Especially if they want to take on staff and have to pay fucking insurance and all that shit.

But they offered.

I’ve never had anyone do that for me before. Maybe it seemed like I never needed any help. Or just that it seemed like I’d fucking kill them if they offered it. Which I might have done.

But tonight they offered.

Shit! maybe it is a case of pathetic dickless fag strikes again and everyone sees what a sorry fucking mess he is and they all take the chance to rub it in by offering him help.

But that isn’t how it felt.

Fuck! I would love to have a photo of Mel’s face when I kissed her. Maybe Justin can draw it for me. Or the looks on the others’ faces. I’m guessing they thought the fucking apocalypse must be on its way.

At least we’ve got the fucking car to get us home tonight. Whatever happens with the job, I somehow have to scrape together enough to get some kind of car, even if I can’t keep this one. I’m not sure that I want to anyway. It’s not like I can use it to drive Gus around in, and anyway, you can’t fuck in it. Well, you can, but not without risking impalement on the gears and the handbrake and various other things that manage to get into unbelievable places. The jeep was a lot more practical.

And now we’re nearly back at the loft, and I have to break the news to Justin that I need to go and look for Mikey.

If he’s at home, fine. I’ll call first and see and if he’s there that will be the end of it. But if he’s not, then he’s in trouble and I can’t just leave him out there somewhere.

He’d go looking for me.


I can feel him gearing himself up for something, and I’m bracing myself not to react, because I think he’s going to say he wants to go out, to the Baths or Babylon, or wherever he can pick up a trick.

Of course I should have guessed what it would be. I am so dumb.

So what if Mikey called me a slut and accused me of lying about him to Brian. Poor little Mikey might be out there all alone, so of course big brave Brian has to go and rescue him.

But I bite my tongue. Again. And tell him that I understand. Which is true. And that I don’t mind. Which isn’t. Exactly.

But I mind less about him going than I would about him not going and fretting, and blaming himself, especially if anything did happen to the little prick. And I wouldn’t put it past Mikey to make sure that he had some sort of accident just to pull Brian’s strings.

So when we get inside I kiss him, and tell him I’m going to have a shower, so that he has the privacy to call Ben and Michael’s place.

When I come out of the shower, he’s sitting on the bed.

I’m surprised that he’s still there, and that must have been obvious, because his face twists up a bit as he says, “He’s at home. They’re talking.”

“Oh,” I say. Then I have to ask, “why didn’t you join me in the shower then?”

He looks at me and his face is tired and sad and sort of scared.

“I wasn’t sure you’d want me to.”

He says it very quietly, and it nearly breaks my heart. I go to him and pull him into my arms and hug him tightly against my chest.

“Brian, I might not like Michael very much, but I know how much he means to you. I would never try to come between you. And even if I minded you wanting to go out and look for him, and look after him, I love you for wanting to do it.”

It’s not the sort of thing that I would ever normally say to Brian, but hey! it’s been anything but a normal day. And I mean every word of it.

He wraps his arms around me really tightly, and we just hold each other for a while. Then he says, “Do you mind if I don’t have a shower tonight?”

I realise then just how tired he is, and I push him down on the bed and start taking off his clothes. He sighs and just moves enough to help me get his jacket and shirt off, and then his pants. When he’s naked, I tug the covers out from under him, and sort of push him further onto the bed. Then I climb in beside him and pull the covers up over us both.

A bit tentatively I nestle up against him, and his arm comes round me and we both snuggle a bit closer and then he’s asleep. Just like that. I lie there for a while just enjoying how it feels to be there with him that way. But it’s been kind of tough day for me too, and it’s not long before I follow him to sleep.

When I wake up in the morning, it’s to find myself face down, ass up, with Brian rimming me. Fuck! what a way to wake up!

He seems determined to make up for falling asleep last night because we fuck twice before we even get to the shower, and then he insists on getting out some beads that he wants to put in me while we we’re in there. I tell him that it’s his turn, and to my surprise he lets me win the argument.

So he lies on the bed with a pillow under his hips while I slowly feed them into him. He’s on his back, so I can see his face, and he gets very flushed and starts stoking his cock. I knock his hand away. “Not yet,” I tell him.

The last two are kind of big, so it takes a little time to work them in, and once they are in he starts sucking his breath in hard. I rub his belly, and then take the opportunity to lick and suck at his thighs. He lets them fall further apart to give me better access and I take full advantage of it, finally giving him a hickey right up at the top of his thigh. He smacks my head, but he doesn’t say anything, so I know he doesn’t mind. I’m tempted to start a blow job, but if I do, we’ll never get into the shower, so I stand and help him up.

He walks into the bathroom very cautiously. There are rules when we play with these sorts of toys, and he knows that if he lets any of the beads slip out of his ass before I start pulling them out, that he’ll have to pay a forfeit - of my choice.

When I was first with him, and just learning about all this stuff, I had a hard time keeping them all in and he thought up some really diabolical forfeits. Now he knows that I haven’t forgotten and that I’ll be only too glad to pay him back in kind if he gives me the opportunity.

I make him keep them in while we wash and shampoo our hair. He’s breathing fast and his cock is rock hard, jutting up as if it’s trying to stretch up to his chin. I finally take pity on him and kneel in front of him. He gives a sort of purr of satisfaction and leans back against the tiles, bending his knees a little and spreading his legs wide.

I stroke his sac and play with his balls for a moment, then run my fingers across the soft skin behind. He grunts, and I slip a finger through the plastic ring on the end of the string.

He braces himself, but I’m not quite ready yet. I wrap my other hand around his cock and lick the tip like a lollipop.

His breath hisses out through his teeth, and that’s when I pull the first ball out.

He gasps, and I feel his cock throb in my hand. My own is really hard by now as well, but I force myself to focus on him.

Again I lick the tip, this time pushing my tongue into his slit. I tongue fuck it two or three times then give a little jerk of my wrist and pull out the next ball.

He gives a sort of growl, and before my eyes a tremor runs across his belly. I feel his cock pulse again, and I wonder how much control he has. The fact that he’s come twice already this morning should make this fairly easy for him, but judging by his reactions, that’s not necessarily the case. There are seven altogether on this string and I wonder if he will last.

Of course, he’ll have to pay a forfeit if he doesn’t.

With my cock leaking pre cum, it’s not hard to figure what that might be.

I begin to fist his cock firmly and just as I pull the next ball out, I tug my hand right up over the head and then push it down again.

He makes a sound like he’s cutting off a scream, and I know he’s really close.

I try something different now, giving tiny teasing tugs to the string, while I suck gently at the tip of his cock, then as I deep throat him, I pull hard on the string, tugging not one but two balls out.

That does it. He comes hard. It jets down my throat, and despite my best efforts, some spills from my mouth.

He pulls me up and licks himself from my lips, then turns off the shower. Carefully, he tugs out the last two balls and then he bends forwards over the sink.


His voice is still husky with arousal and I realise that even though he’s come he’s still wanting more.

I pull on a condom as fast as I can and reach for the lube. “Justin, just … fuck me.”

Yes, sir! I push into him. The beads have opened him up nicely, but he’s still tight. Oh God! When he’s fucking me that’s all I ever want. But once I get inside him I remember how good that feels, and for that moment, that’s all I want.

I fuck him hard and fast because I am really close, and sure enough I come quickly.

Normally, I’d be embarrassed about that, but I guess this time it’s a good thing.

It’s as I’m pulling out that I remember the other thing, the thing that makes the difference. I love fucking him, don’t get me wrong. But somehow, afterwards, it’s never as good as when he’s fucked me. It never feels as warm and safe and wonderful as I feel after he’s had me and I’m lying there in his arms.

But it still feels pretty good.

He stands up while I get rid of the condom, and props himself on the edge of the sink which makes us about the same height. So when I come to him and take him in my arms, he’s just at the right height to nuzzle into my neck and I can hold him and stroke his hair and generally feel … I don’t know. Like I’m taking care of him, for once, and maybe making him feel warm and safe and wonderful in my arms. I hope so.

We pull on some sweats and go into the kitchen. We make coffee, and he agrees to pancakes for breakfast because it means that we don’t have to go out to get something.

I’m sort of wondering how long it will be before he calls Mikey, when there’s a knock at the door. Before we can answer it, it slides open.

It’s Michael, of course.


The problem of course, is that I’ve taught him too fucking well. Little shit!

Still, it was a good fuck and afterwards, when he held me, that was more than good. I hope he knows how it feels when he does that. How good he makes me feel. Like I’m safe; for the first time in my life, I’m somewhere safe.

Of course, I wasn’t left to bask too long in the afterglow, because Mikey turned up.

Once I knew he was safe last night, I could just go back to being fucking mad at him. Even madder, in fact, because I had to risk screwing things up with Justin to go out and find him. Well, okay, I didn’t actually have to go out, but that’s not the fucking point.

He could have phoned. Once he’d got home he could at least have called to let his mother know he was home and with Ben and they were trying to work things out.

He could have fucking called me.

But no. He turns up here this morning, and comes in without even waiting for me to open the door. When he must have known Justin would be here. Shit! If he’d come fifteen minutes earlier he would have walked in on Justin fucking me. I bet he would have loved that. Stupid fuck! Why can’t he stop and think for once instead of just barging ahead?

He must have seen that I was still angry, because he straight away turned on those puppy dog eyes that nearly always work on me.

“Brian, I’m sorry. I am so sorry.”

“It’s not me you should fucking apologise to!”

“No, I know. Justin … I really am sorry. I don’t know what made me say anything like that.”

Justin simply stood looking at him. At first, I didn’t think he was going to say anything. Then he said really quietly, “Yes, you do. We all know.”

Then he moved past the breakfast bar and towards Mikey and said even more quietly, “And for myself, I don’t give a flying fuck what you say about me. You just don’t matter enough.”

Then he stepped right up to him and finished, “But if you ever put Brian through anything like that again, I’ll make you wish you’d never been born.”

Then he stepped back and smiled at me. “Brian, I’m going to get dressed and go over to Daph’s. I need some clean clothes, and I need to tell her what’s going on with PIFA and stuff.”

I’m reminded yet again how fucking strong he is.

I nod at him, and then say, “Don’t bother about getting dressed. Take the car.”

Mikey was staring - at him, at me, at us, as I handed Justin the car keys and kissed him goodbye.

“Later,” he mouthed at me.

“Later,” I said, pulling him back for another quick kiss, so fucking proud of him and glad to have him on my side, at my side, that I wanted to fucking take out an ad.

Then he left, and I poured myself another coffee, and one for Mikey, and set to work to find out if there was any way that I could salvage a fourteen year friendship.

Because I had to try. But I also had to let Mikey know that if he ever put me in that position again then it would just be over. I had to make it clear to him that it wasn’t a matter of me choosing between him and Justin. There wasn’t a choice in that. Justin was a given.

So it was a matter of him choosing to accept that - or not.

And if he couldn’t, then there wasn’t any way that we could stay friends. I don’t think I could go on feeling friendship towards someone who felt free to treat Justin the way he did last night. It would be like trying to be friends with that fucking Hobbs.


Brian called my cell about an hour later.

I had been filling Daph in on all the goss. She was furious with Michael, and really pissed off that she hadn’t been there to take him on herself.

I had a picture of her going at him and had to laugh. It’s good to know that Daph is there for me. I’m lucky. She’s a much better friend to me than Michael is to Brian.

Apart from that momentary weirdness after our misguided fuck, she’s never begrudged me being with Brian. Although she hated Ethan from day one.

I should have listened to her.

Anyway, apparently Michael has left and gone home to Ben. It seems they’re going to try to work things out. I hope they can, but I don’t know.

Brian asked me what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. I feel kind of guilty, because I have his car, but I said that I’d like to check in with my mom.

He said that was okay with him, that he wanted to work on the email to send Vance. We’d talked very briefly about that this morning before Michael arrived. He asked if I could get home around mid afternoon so that we could go over it together. Like I was going to say no to that!

Mom was pleased to see me, but a bit shocked and nervous about me driving that car. I guess that’s a mom thing.

We talked for a while. She’s really pleased that it looks like I’m going to be able to get back in to PIFA. She even said that she was putting money aside to make sure that I would have next semester’s fees. I tried to tell her not to worry about that, but she insisted that it was the least she could do.

“I feel that I’ve let you down so badly, Justin, by not making sure all that was taken care of in the divorce settlement. It just never occurred to me that your father would really refuse to pay.”

“I know, Mom, I understand. I can’t really believe it myself.”

We looked at each other and shared a wry sort of smile.

“I wish I had the money on hand right now. I’m sure Brian could do with it. I do have a few thousand, if that would help. If he’d accept it from me.”

I hugged her and thanked her, but told her I thought we were going to be alright.

“Well, if you need it, Justin, it’s there. Don’t let Brian’s pride make things more difficult for you both than they have to be. It might not be much, but every little will help with the interest payments.”

I hugged her again and told her that I needed to get home, because Brian and I had to work out exactly what was going to go into his letter of demands (because that’s really what it is) to Vance.

She looked at me a bit funny when I said that, as if she didn’t quite believe what I was telling her about how things are now between Brian and I. But she must have seen in my face that it was the truth because suddenly she stopped looking worried and really smiled.

“Justin … I’m glad. Glad that you’re back with Brian. Glad that you’re finding the way to be happy together.”

I almost felt my allergies kick in then, because I don’t think I’d ever expected to hear her say that.

Then I left and went home to Brian.


We got through the weekend somehow.

We fucked a lot.

We ate too fucking much. Made a few phone calls.

We slept a bit.

Oh, and we collected Friday’s mail from the box.

Then Monday came and it was like old times - the times just a few weeks ago that fucking seem like they happened to someone else.

The alarm went off. We had a quick fuck in the shower.

I got dressed in my dazzling best, and he made me breakfast.

Then he pulled on some halfway decent clothes and drove me downtown.

Pathetic, I know, but however this was going to go down, I wanted him close by afterwards. So we arranged that he’d wait in the coffee shop across the street.

But when the time came, I couldn’t wait even the five minutes it would have taken to get down there. I was calling him from my cell almost before I left Vance’s office.

As I walked out of the elevator, he ran into my arms and without any regard to where we were I picked him up and spun him around. Then I dipped him and kissed him, right there in the lobby. Let all the fucking breeders take notes on what a kiss should be like.

When we finally came up for air, he was laughing at me, the little shit. “I take it it went well then?’ he giggled.

I took his hand and pulled him out the door.

“I got it all,” I announced proudly.

He stopped dead, then, so I had to stop with him. He was staring at me. He looked … he looked so proud of me, that it almost brought me fucking undone.

“Oh, Brian.”

I thought for a moment that he was going to start crying.

“Now don’t go all lesbionic on me. You’re a fag, for god’s sake. Get a grip,” I scolded.

But all the time my hands were clutching his, and I was smiling down into those blue eyes, and if he was proud of me, I was even more proud of him. Because he was the one who really got us here. He was the one who stood by me and helped me see who I was, and then, when the chance came, made me see who I could be, what I could achieve, if I had the guts to reach for it. And I had them alright … I borrowed them from him.

We decide, well, he decides, that the news is too good to keep to ourselves so we head for the diner. While he drives, I call Mel and she promises to come and bring Gus and to see if Lindz can join us. Then I call Vic, and Emmett’s there so they promise to meet us. Of course they fucking try to pry out of me what all the news is first, but this is big, and I don’t want to spoil it. Besides wanting to see their faces when I tell them, I need to share the moment with Justin.

Then I call Mikey. His cell’s turned off and the kid at the store says he and Ben have gone away for a few days.

I’m actually relieved because I wasn’t sure if I wanted him there. I don’t, if it’s going to upset Justin. After the talk we had on Saturday morning, I’m hoping that Mikey can find a way to be around Justin without all the snide remarks, and little spiteful fucking things that he does, but it’s probably just as well not to have to put it to the test so soon.

Eventually the rest of the crew arrive. It takes a while, and although Deb is a bit pissed off that we won’t tell her what’s going on till the others get there, she also has news of her own.

It seems Ben has told Mikey that he thinks the only way they can have any hope of making things work is to go away together. Not for a few days, but to live.

Seems Ben has been offered a position at Boston University and he’s been trying to work out whether he should take it. Now he thinks it’s a good opportunity for them both.

The worst thing is, I think he’s right. I think it probably is their only chance.

But I also think Michael and I need to be apart for a while. We need to have the chance to grow up and that’s hard when all our common experience pulls us back to when we were fourteen years old, and we were best friends.

That’s a lot of old history to overcome, and a lot of old habits to break.

It might be that our friendship never is the same. That might even be a good thing. It might develop into something better, a real friendship, not just a push-pull relationship of mutual need. What do they call it? Fucking co-dependence. That’s it.

Anyway, they flew out this morning to Boston, to check it out. So I hope that it works out for them. I know Deb’s upset, but she’ll Hunter’s going to be staying with her, and soon she’ll have another baby to mother. Justin and I will keep an eye on her and Vic. They’ll be okay.

All of that goes out the window when the others arrive. Even Lindz manages to make it.

Mel is grinning like a cat, and asks as soon as she walks in, “So how did it go? Did the famous Brian Kinney sales skills come out on top?”

She had some idea what I was going to go for from our talk on Friday and yesterday’s phone call. She sees the look on my face and says, “Fuck! He bought it.”

I just grin at her and wait till everyone is quiet. Then I put my arm around Justin and say, “You are looking at the full partner and co-owner of Vanguard Kinney Enterprises.”



“You’re shitting me!”

They’re all stunned and I don’t blame them. I’d never admit it, except to Justin, but I’m still a little stunned myself.

It’s a while before they all shut up enough to hear the rest, and even longer before they take it in.

The partnership thing was a given. From the time that Justin and I sat down and drew up the list, that was always going to be my key demand.

The co-owner thing came about for two reasons.

The first was that when Mel looked closely at the contract, it seemed like my investment advisor was right on the fucking ball. Vance didn’t, under the terms of the agreement, have cause to sack me. Or at least, it was a highly debatable legal point. Which meant that I was in a good position to sue for a fucking truckload of money.

Given the debatable nature of the case, his lawyers would almost certainly advise him to settle, which might not bring in as much as I’d get in court, but it would still make a sizeable dent in his profit margin. That gave me a lot of leverage.

Then there was the letter which we found yesterday morning, when we finally stirred down to get something to eat and remembered that we hadn’t checked the box on Friday.

It seems that in the wake of Stockwell’s resignation, some of Deekins’ advisers were a bit worried that word would get out that the Concerned Citizens for the Truth had approached that gutless bastard Deekins with the little tape about Stockwell, and he’d refused to do anything with it. This being the case, these fucking bozos figured that the best way out of that bind was to offer, a bit fucking belatedly, to help pay for the ad.

The letter contained a cheque for $95,000, backdated of course to the day before the election.

Payable to B. Kinney, as representative of The Concerned Citizens for the Fucking Truth.

Part of me would have liked nothing better than to tear it up and send it straight back to them with a note saying “Eat shit!”

But fuck that! What does it matter now? I don’t care who gets fucking credit for the ad. I never did. The only person whose opinion matters to me knows the whole story, better than anyone. And he was sitting right beside me when I opened the envelope, just like he’s sitting beside me now.

He was the one who saw straight away the possibilities this opened up, of course.

It meant a few phone calls - to Mel, to the investment guy, to a banker he knows. But we managed to pull the whole lot together.

The letter containing the advice of my lawyer that I had a good case to sue for unfair dismissal. The offer of a business loan from the bank. The offer from the Senator, which would make her my first client. The letter from Deekins’ advisers. All of it. Everything that would make it clear as fucking crystal to Vance that I had serious other options.

Of course I’d sent the email to Vance off on Saturday, so first thing I had to do this morning was apologise for misleading him.

Then I spelled out the situation he was in. He was at risk of losing at least two of his major accounts. He was about to find a serious rival with a history with all his clients, and major political pull into the bargain (Jesus how did that happen?) on his doorstep. And he faced a possibly ruinous law suit.

Then I just had to sell him on the solution.

We finally agreed that my back pay for the time since I was dismissed plus $50,000 of Deekins’ money would pay for half the agency (unofficially factoring in the amount I would be likely to get in a law suit).

The rest of Deekins’ money, with the sale proceeds, including the car, will be enough to pay off my debts. I’ll be starting out with a clean slate (well, with a bit of money still in the investments, as a sort of fucking cushion if the bubble bursts and we crash again). And Justin. Oh, and a company car as part of my partnership agreement. There won’t be any need to take up the business loan offer.

What Vance gets out of the deal is that with me on board he, or rather we, can keep clients like Brown Athletics. We also get the Senator (and all those contacts with her pals in high places, maybe even Deekins’ pals, which Vance will love). And most importantly, he hasn’t got me starting up in competition with him right next door, which I’m now in a financial position to do, if I wanted.

What I get, apart from the partnership and half the firm, is a stable client base, an established art department, etc., who know me and know how I work, and vindication. I get my fucking reputation back.

Oh, and a certain intern gets his job back, if he wants it. Vance wanted me to tell him, but I insisted that he call Justin himself, and discuss it with him. In some ways it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s up to Justin to decide. I know the art department will be fucking glad to get him back. He’s the most talented person they have.

To Vance’s credit, he’d called Justin on his cell before we’d even reached the diner. He made the offer, and Justin told him he’d need to think about it. I almost laughed out loud when I heard him say that. Vance has got no idea. He thinks I’m a tough sonofabitch to deal with. I’m a pussycat compared to this delicate vanilla-looking little shit that’s sitting beside me.

Apparently Vance even offered him a full time job if he decides not to go back to PIFA. I did laugh when Justin told me that. Not that Vance had offered the job, but the way he put it. Maybe he is getting the message about Justin, after all.

The funny thing is after all that’s happened, I think that Gardner and I are going to be able to work together.

In a fucking weird way, I think I came out of this respecting him more than I did before.

I won’t forget that he tried hard to find a reason not to fire me.

Or that he came straight to me as soon as the Stockwell thing blew up. He could have got on the phone to everyone he knows in the business and badmouthed me. That might not have helped him keep Brown and the like, but it would have made it hard for me to get into a position where I could go after them either.

He didn’t do that. He had the balls to come to me. So maybe this will work.

The contract still needs to be finalised, but with Mel riding shotgun on it, I’m not worried about that. There will be all sorts of things in the agreement about the circumstances under which the partnership can be dissolved, and how, should that occur, we each keep the clients that we’ve signed, etc. But I’m hoping that is stuff I don’t have to worry about. Not for a long time, anyway. I’ve had about as much as I want of this high powered fucking wheeling and dealing for a while.

Right now, all I want to do is lay claim to the prize that really matters and take him home and fuck him senseless. And then ask him to come home to me.

And if he’s not ready to do that yet, I’ll ask again tomorrow.

And the next day.

He’ll say yes eventually, even if it’s just to stop me asking.


We were sitting around discussing all the news when suddenly Brian asked, “What time are you supposed to be seeing the Dean this afternoon?”

There’d been a phone call first thing this morning, while we were getting ready to leave, asking me to come in for an appointment to discuss my “status”. I’d been so caught up in the whole thing with Vance that I’d almost forgotten.

I realised that I was going to be late if I didn’t motor. Brian insisted on driving me. He even parked the car and said he’d wait for me, which was great. Somehow knowing he was there made me a lot less nervous.

The interview with the Dean was almost funny. It was like he’d been placed in the position where, despite his own wishes, he’d been forced for the good of the school to suspend me, and now he was just delighted to be able to offer me my place back.

Nothing to do with the fact that Vance had called him, of course. Or that I dropped the Senator’s name and told him that I’d gone to her, as a friend, for advice.

(That’s what she told me to say, and I could see it rattled him. He went pasty white and started to sweat. I guess the idea of her asking awkward questions about political influence affecting student issues before the upcoming funds allocation meeting really does make him nervous.)

I was tempted to tell him to take his placement and put it somewhere painful, but that would have been beyond dumb. So I smiled, and played nice, like the good little middle class twink I was brought up to be. He talked about the arrangements he’s made with my tutors to help me make up my classes.

We even shook hands when I left.

So that’s it. As simple as that, after all the angst and shit they put me through.

I have to admit though that it does feel good to have my life back. I’m almost running as I get back to the car.

Brian doesn’t say anything, of course, just waits till I get in and takes off with a squeal of rubber, but he’s got that grin all over his face that means that he’s feeling pretty good.

We get back to the loft, and I’m keen to get in and show him that I’m feeling pretty good myself.

But he stops me outside the door.

“Justin, wait.”

He looks serious, and I get scared for a moment. Not now. It can’t be anything bad now.

He rubs his tongue over his lips, and pulls them in and sucks on them in that way he does when he’s debating what to say. Then he takes my hands and pulls them against his chest.

“I want you to come home.”

Whatever I was expecting, that was not it.

“Brian …”

I honestly don’t know what to say. I want to be with him. He knows that. But I’m sort of enjoying having some independence too. I’m not sure that I want to give that up yet. I’m not sure that I’m ready to.

And of course, the real thing is that I don’t know if I can deal with what living with him would mean.

I know that the “experiment” seems to be working right now, but I don’t expect Brian to be monogamous for ever. And dealing with the tricks when I can just walk away from it is one thing, having them in my face, hell! in my bed, that’s something else.

I just stand there and he sighs and gives a funny little nod, almost like I’ve said all that out loud.

“I know that it will mean some changes. I mean, the experiment is going okay, but we both know that sooner or later I’m going to fall off the wagon.”

I nod and meet his eyes so that he can see that I do know that, and I’m okay with it. It’s not the real issue.

He sort of grimaces and goes on, “I don’t want any more fucking rules.”

It’s my turn to grimace, because he wasn’t the one who broke the rules. I was the one who fucking shattered them, and our lives for a while into the bargain.

He shakes his head, and then touches his forehead against mine for a moment.

“We don’t need them. If we can’t fucking trust each other by now, then there’s no point.”

I nod again, but I’m a bit doubtful, and he knows it. And he knows why.

“I’m telling you that if you come home to me, that’s it. That’s what it is. Our home. Which means you and I. No fucking visitors waltzing in as if they own the place.”

He means Mikey.

“And no tricks.” He takes a deep breath, and I realise that I need to as well. Somehow, we’ve both forgotten to breathe for the last few minutes, this is so important to us.

“I can’t promise I won’t ever fuck anyone else. But not here. Not ever here. Not in our home, and not ever in front of you. When you’re with me, you’re the one I’m with.”

I stare into his eyes and I hardly know how to express what I’m feeling.

I pull my hands away so that I can cup them round his face. He smiles, and leans towards me, and then my arms are around his neck and we’re kissing.

And just like that I’m home.

I have to laugh, though, when he pulls the door open and insists on carrying me across the threshold.

He trips over a stray cushion and nearly fucking drops me.

But we make it to the bed okay.


13th Sept 03

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