Justin decided, not for the first time,
that Brian Kinney was the single most frustrating man on the whole fucking
planet; and knowing that he should have gotten used to that by now didn’t do
anything to lessen Justin’s sense of simmering annoyance. It had, after all,
been ten years since they’d met; ten years since an incredibly naïve boy had
stood under a streetlight and looked up into “the face of God”.
Remembering that boy’s total infatuation, Justin snorted. Yeah, right. The face of one of those irrational, demanding, narcissistic old Greek or Roman gods maybe.
How the fuck had they survived ten years?
You’d think even Brian would recognize their sheer resilience and persistence as grounds for celebration, but oh, no.
Admittedly, their ten year anniversary was still a few months away - the whole summer stretched before them dotted with other events, like week long visits from Gus during the school break, and his own new show coming up in August, plus Brian’s usual gaggle of new clients to be pursued and the like.
But just this morning Brian had found out that Cirque du Soleil was going to be in Pittsburgh the weekend after Gus’ birthday this year, so he’d just spent over two hours organizing a group booking for Gus and a dozen of his friends, plus a few seats for adult chaperones (best seats in the house, of course); then hiring a nearby function room to have a post-matinee snack/ party; then he’d been on the phone harassing Emmett, demanding that he set the date aside to be exclusively at Brian’s beck and call to organize both the children’s party and a further family get together at the house afterwards; and finally calling all the adults in their little family to advise them that they better make sure that they kept that date free, and to demand that they keep any hint of a party secret from Gus.
But when Justin had hinted, just hinted, that they might have something else to celebrate around then, Brian had shrugged that off with his usual, “Sunshine, you know I don’t do that sort of shit.”
So Justin simmered.
He knew that if he made some kind of arrangement himself, Brian was perfectly capable of blowing him off just on principle, and he didn’t want the whole thing to descend into drama and angst - it was supposed to be a celebration, after all.
Justin figured he deserved a fucking medal, let alone a tiny little celebration.
But still, he had months to work on it, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d manipulated the Great God Kinney into doing something he was reluctant to admit to wanting to do.
Justin’s determination to celebrate their anniversary became eroded over the next few weeks. He was having trouble with one of the pieces he wanted to hang in his next show, his agent wanted him to do some “personal appearance” shit at various functions beforehand, and there was something wrong with Brian. Justin couldn’t pin down exactly what that was, just that his partner seemed both irritable and slightly despondent.
A lingering fear that Brian’s cancer had returned was laid to rest when Brian found him “snooping” through the drawers in Brian’s study, and demanded to know what the fuck he was doing. Justin tried to bluff his way through it, but to his own disgust, his voice betrayed him, wobbling dangerously as he claimed to be looking for a missing tax receipt. He turned away, horrified to find his eyes filling with tears while he fought his fears - fear that Brian was sick again, and fear that once more his idiotic partner would try to throw him off some fucking cliff.
Brian gave him one sharp glance and then hooked his hand round Justin’s neck, pulling him close.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he demanded.
Justin shook his head, trying to get control of his emotions. Fuck! He hadn’t lost it like this for years. Brian must think he was totally coming unglued.
Brian’s hand under his chin forced his head up, and at the sight of the moisture in his eyes, Brian sighed.
“Come on, Sunshine, you’re not losing it over a fucking tax receipt. What’s wrong?”
Justin took a deep gasp of air, then said hoarsely, “If the cancer was back, you’d fucking tell me. Right?”
Brian frowned. “What the fuck …”
“You’d tell me,” Justin insisted.
“Yes, I’d fucking tell you!” Brian snapped. “Why the fuck would you …?”
“Then if it’s not the cancer, what the hell is wrong?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!”
“Brian, I know there’s something …”
“There’s nothing fucking wrong!”
“Bullshit! You’re like a bear with the worst hangover ever, and you …”
Justin paused. Accusing Brian of being a grumpy bastard was one thing … accusing him of being depressed was something else again. The one Brian would accept, wear like a badge of pride even, but the second … no, that wasn’t something he’d ever admit to. Fuck!
Even after all this time, getting Brian to talk about anything that was really bothering him was like prying open the most resolutely closed oyster ever.
The two considered each other for a moment. Then Brian moved away.
“I’m going to get a drink and finish watching that DVD. If you’re done looking for your damned tax receipt, do you want one?”
Justin sighed again, and followed him into the TV room where they kept the bar.
One of the first things they’d done after buying the house had been to open up the space between the kitchen and the front room to make a larger open area, placing a large dining table in the front area, and a free standing hostess unit with marble top and cold drawers in between that and the kitchen.
Then they’d turned the old dining room into a media room, with full home entertainment system, and no less than three soft couches - one long enough for Brian to stretch out on, the others a pair of smaller two-seater recliners, and had installed a slim mirror backed cabinet, next to a mini-fridge which together served as their day to day bar.
Brian poured them both a drink and, tossing off his jacket, stretched out on the couch.
That alone told Justin that he was right to think that something was off-kilter with his partner. Normally, Brian headed upstairs to change as soon as he got home, but the last few nights it was as if he just didn’t have the energy. Justin sipped his drink and then curled in one of the recliners to watch the end of the second “Twilight” movie. They were both so deep in their own thoughts that they didn’t even argue about whether Jacob or Edward was hotter.
It wasn’t until later that night, when they were lying almost asleep after a fairly, for them, lack-luster sex session, that Brian said quietly, “If you really want to know, I’m fucking bored.”
Justin felt something cold grip his heart.
But then Brian’s hand moved to draw him closer, and he felt his lover’s lips against his hair.
“Not with you, you twat, just … everything else … work … it’s just … one fucking campaign after another and all I seem to do is to sign off on shit and glad hand the clients who want to deal with the fucking boss. Everything is pretty much done by everyone else. I don’t even get a lot of input into any of the designs any more.”
Justin moved slightly, to press closer to Brian’s side, and thought about what his partner was telling him.
He supposed in a way it was inevitable. When Brian had started Kinnetik they would have had one, maybe two big campaigns on the go at the same time, now they probably had a dozen or more. Brian couldn’t get involved in the detail of all of them, so he wasn’t getting to do any of the really creative stuff that he loved - he was just trapped into his role as CEO.
“And all the fucking clients are boring as shit, and most of their marketing team are complete corporate assholes,” Brian went on, his frustration flowing freely out of him, now that Justin had managed to find the key to the floodgates.
After a moment he said, with even deeper frustration clear in his voice, “We had someone approach us to do a new clothing line - just a small company, just started up, but really great stuff - stuff you’d like, anyway.”
Justin snorted - they never had agreed on clothes much.
“It’s owned by two gay guys, and I’d like to … But their budget is about 10% of what we’d normally charge, and I can’t really justify …”
He sighed deeply.
“I have to fucking pay people … it’s not like I can just …”
Justin gave a soft murmur of sympathetic agreement.
Then he rubbed his head on Brian’s arm.
“Couldn’t you …”
He broke off. He deliberately didn’t get involved with Kinnetik. That was Brian’s baby, his career. Justin knew that he wouldn’t like it if Brian started interfering and offering suggestions about how Justin should run his own career, which, to be fair, Brian had never done. He’d respected Justin enough to keep his ideas to himself and let Justin take control of that part of his life. So it seemed to Justin that he should do the same. Only …
“Couldn’t I what”: Brian prompted.
Justin paused for a moment longer and then went on, “Well, you can’t afford to pay your normal team out of the amount that this company could pay you, is that right?”
“Mmm,” Brian grunted, somehow making even that sound dubious.
“Well, what if you got a couple of students to put something together. It’s nearly the summer break. I bet there are plenty who’d work for not a lot to get that kind of experience, and you could oversee it all, get involved in the whole strategy for the campaign …”
He paused again, and then said, “It’s probably kind of a dumb idea.”
“I’ll think about it,” Brian said. “Maybe I could work something out. At least for this campaign.”
That was how it started.
By the end of the week, Brian had had interviews with staff at both Pittsburgh University and Carnegie Mellon, and had met with one of Justin’s old professors at PIFA.
By the end of the next week, he had two student artists and two budding advertisers installed in the conference room at Kinnetik.
His new clients were thrilled to have the legendary Brian Kinney working on their account, the students were ecstatic, and Brian was back, bad as new. For the improvement in their sex life alone Justin was extremely grateful; not to mention relieved that the spring had returned to Brian’s step and the lazy twinkle to his amazing hazel eyes.
A month later, Brian had worked out an agreement with all three colleges to set up an internship program that would allow him to offer similar services to other small - and ideally predominantly gay - clients, and two weeks before the anniversary that Justin still hadn’t worked out a way to persuade him to celebrate, he came home and announced that he was founding an off-shoot company to undertake this new work.
When Justin raised an eyebrow at him, Brian pinched the top of his nose between his forefinger and thumb and said, “Theodore’s giving me grief over the finances and Cynthia’s worrying that we’re ‘diluting our brand image’, so I thought fuck it. I’ll just start another company to do this stuff.”
Justin scratched his head and then turned to the fridge to pull out a couple of beers.
“Oh, well, I suppose if it falls over, it doesn’t really matter.”
Brian glared at him and Justin laughed.
“Don’t be a twat,” he said, stepping close and brushing his lips across Brian’s jaw. “It’ll be a big fat success like always.”
Brian bent his head and captured his lips in a kiss.
When they parted to head into the great room at the back of the house to sip at their beers, Justin said, “So what are you going to call this one?”
Brian gave him a look through his eyelashes and said, “I thought maybe ‘Junnetik’”.
The word sounded like ‘genetic’ and it took a moment for Justin to think it through. He said, “Like with a ‘j’, ‘u’ at the beginning?”
Brian shrugged. “Well, it’s like Kinnetik Junior, so …”
Justin laughed. “I like it,” he said.
“Cynthia hates it,” Brian said smugly.
“Tell me you didn’t decide to go with it just to annoy her,” Justin pleaded.
Brian grinned. “I have to have some fun,” he said. “Anyway,” he went on. “As long as you like it … I mean … it would never have happened if it hadn’t been for you.”
Justin smiled, put down his beer and moved towards him.
“Well, if you wanted to thank me, you could take me out to dinner … maybe next Thursday week …”
Brian looked down at him for a moment before dropping his own empty bottle to the floor and sliding his arms round Justin’s waist.
“’Fraid I can’t do that”, he said. “That’s the night I’m launching the new company.”
Justin met his eyes and for a moment thought he saw … something … some shadow, something.
“You gonna come along?” Brian asked.
Justin sighed. “Of course I will,” he answered, thinking, oh well, at least it’s some kind of celebration.
The days passed quickly till the night of the launch - the night that marked ten years since they’d met.
There was a party, of course, in the small suite of offices that had been rented for the new company. It was a lot less formal than the Kinnetik launch. Brian again wore a dark suit and a red tie, but most people, Justin included, were dressed casually rather than in business attire, and it was all a lot more relaxed.
Justin, still slightly disappointed that they weren’t marking the night with a more personal celebration, was getting himself a drink when he was approached by a guy around his own age.
“Um … excuse me … but you’re Justin, right? Brian’s … um …”
“Partner, yes,” Justin said.
The guy nodded. “I’m Cal … I wonder if you’d mind coming over and meeting my partner. He can’t easily get over here, so ...”
Justin looked across in the direction Cal gestured and saw a slender dark haired man in a wheel chair. He immediately moved towards him, and Cal introduced him as Paul.
“We wanted so much to meet you. Brian has spoken of you so often,” Paul said in a soft, slightly hesitant voice.
Cal nodded. “Yeah, he’s done so much for us, but he keeps saying that it’s really you we should thank, so we wanted the opportunity to do that.”
Belatedly, Justin realized that he was talking to Junnetik’s original clients.
“Oh, all I did was suggest that he could maybe use students for some of the work on the campaign, all the rest was Brian.”
“Yes,” Cal said, “But I think he was more sympathetic, more willing to take a chance, because he knew that …”
He and Paul shared a look, and then Paul said, “He knew what it’s like to …”
He broke off and gestured at the wheel chair.
Cal’s voice was harsh when he said, “After a bunch of jocks finished bashing Paul, they drove a car over him. He’s fucking lucky to …”
Justin felt his insides clench.
He looked down into Paul’s eyes and saw there that Paul knew about his own history.
“It doesn’t feel fucking ‘lucky’ though, does it?” he said a little bitterly.
“No,” Paul said. “It sure as fuck doesn’t. But at least with me it’s just my legs, I can still draw my designs okay. Brian said you were still having problems with your hand. For an artist that has to really suck.”
Justin nodded, unable to find words, and then the two young men, united by the hatred that had damaged them both, touched glasses in a silent toast. To survival, maybe.
“Anyway,” Cal said, “Like I said, we wanted to thank you. Because we both think it was kind of because of you that Brian went out of his way to help us out. And what he’s done for us … it’s been amazing. We’ve had our designs included in two different shows, and a small chain of high end boutiques are buying as many as we can get produced. It’s just fucking fantastic.”
Justin smiled then. A real smile. At least some fucking good had come out of the whole mess.
“I’m glad,” he said simply. And then noticing that Cynthia was trying to attract his attention, he excused himself and went across to the low platform complete with microphone that had been set up in the corner where she stood with Brian.
He was trying to come to terms with what he’d just learned, re-evaluating the conversations that he’d had with Brian about why he’d wanted so badly to work on that particular campaign. He found himself deeply touched, because he knew that Cal and Paul were right. Brian had wanted to help them because of him, because what Paul had been through had been an echo for Brian of Justin’s experience. He wished that they were alone together, because he wanted to throw his arms around his partner and tell him how much he appreciated that; tell him how loved and cherished it made him feel that Brian would do something like that.
Something of what he was feeling must have showed on his face because Brian gave him a long penetrating look, and for a moment his hand reached out and squeezed Justin’s neck; then with a slight nod he stepped up onto platform and gestured for Justin to follow him.
After a few words welcoming everyone and warning them not to think that he was going to regularly spring for champagne so they should drink it while it was there, Brian went on, “People have been asking me where I got the idea to start this new company. Well, that’s when they’re not questioning whether I’ve lost my fucking mind. But the thing is that in essence it wasn’t my idea. It was my partner’s, so it’s really because of him that we’re standing here tonight.
“I remember what it was like when I was trying to get a foot on the first step of the career ladder, and how I was always conscious that because I’m gay I was going to have to work that much harder, be that much better. I want to say to all the people, all the students who are going to be working for Junnetik, that won’t change. I will hold you to the same standards that I fought to achieve myself, because although it it wasn’t fair, in fact it sucked big time, it did me a hell of a lot of good career-wise. And it will for you, too. Because, when you move on from here, you are still going to be facing the same fucking challenges I did, and the only way to beat the bastards, to force them to accept you, and to recognize your work is to be the fucking best at what you do.
“I also remember what it was like when I was trying to get Kinnetik off the ground and how difficult it was to find money for even a small marketing budget. I’m hoping that having access to the resources of Junnetik, backed by my own hard-fucking-won expertise will offer low budget assistance to other gay-owned, or gay-friendly companies to take those first steps to success.
“Because that’s what Junnetik is really about … it’s about sticking it to the homophobic bastards out there and showing them that our time is fucking coming. We’ve come out of our closets and now we’re starting to take our share of the profits and the money that the bastards have been making off us for years, even while they’ve been sneering at us, and keeping us firmly held down under their glass fucking ceilings.
“Now I want to get my share of the champagne before you greedy bastards drink the lot, so the last thing I want to say is that it’s no co-incidence that the first two letters of this new company are the same as the first two letters of my partner’s name.
“He named Kinnetik - and he named it after me. I named this new one, and it’s named, at least in part, after him.
“He’s the bravest person I know and living proof that even the most bigoted asshole can’t keep a good queer down. He’s a success in his own right, and I am so fucking lucky that for some reason he sees fit to share his life with me.
“So I want to propose a toast - to Justin, and to Junnetik … may they both live long and prosper.”
So … it wasn’t a quiet dinner for two.
Or a weekend away in the Hamptons.
There were no flowers or chocolates and the only jewelry involved was the pair of handcuffs that came into play later in the evening.
But Justin figured that Brian earned a whole shit-load of points for demonstrating in his own inimitable fashion that, without indulging in all that shit, he could still find a way to celebrate their anniversary.
And even though it didn’t have any of the usual elements, as far as Justin was concerned it was still ridiculously romantic.
June 13th, 2010
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