Second Chances Part V
With the new issue of rage in hand, Brian pours himself a drink and sits down to read it. As his eyes glide over the cover, he sees that Rage has a large heavy set man up against a brick wall. The man's features caused an involuntary shudder to travel down Brian's spine. Something about the way the face was drawn reminded him of his old man when he was in his 40's. He opened the book and glanced at inside cover page as his eyes travel downward reading the 'story by Michael Novotny and art by Justin Taylor'. It always gave him a feeling of pride at seeing the two names. Under the names he noticed a bit of writing had been added. It was a dedication 'To B.K. thanks for the inspiration.' The simple recognition made him feel appreciated. He smiled.
He never could stay mad at Mikey. Fuck, he couldn't really blame him for the caveats he pointed out in regard to his decision to take more hands on responsibility with his son. Michael was, in his way, trying to look out for Gus. Brian then made a mental note to say something to Justin and Michael to let them know the gesture was appreciated.
Brian took a long drink and began reading. As he read, the story began to make him increasingly uncomfortable; although, he couldn't put a finger on why exactly. The bad guy was a forty something year old homophobic high school science teacher. Brian remembered that Justin had a problem with such a teacher at the St. James Academy. The character's name was Mr. Dicker a.k.a. Homo-eradicator. By day Dicker harassed students in his classroom. At night he prowled around gay bars armed with his newest invention made from a remote control. When pointed at its victim, it electromagnetically sucked their essence from them leaving mindless vegetables.
'Rage' steps in when JT becomes a victim. In the end the hero captures the bad guy and forces him to make the invention work in reverse. The tension builds when Dicker isn't sure that his change will work, warning that it could make things worse. 'Rage' decides he must take the chance for JT's sake. Of course it works and JT doesn't remember what happened, but is thankful to 'Rage' for being there. Though it seemed the end of the story, there are two extra pages.
On the following pages Brian reads the four extra drawings. What he sees in front of him cause his limbs to go numb and his heart to pound. The first drawing depicts a teenager being confronted by his father as he enters his home while his the mother stands in the background with arms folded. The father demands to know why the yard hasn't been mowed. The teenager says he was studying with his best friend for a history test and promises to get right to the task after supper. In the next frame the father yells at the teen "You stay away from that slut and her fag son! You hear me?" The kid stands defiant. "I won't. Mikey's the only friend I have and his mom is not a slut. She's a good person and she treats me a hell of a lot better than either of you do!" The mother jumps in. "Brian A. Kinney your father is right. That Novotny woman and her son are just trash." In the third frame the father's fist hits the kid in the face. The fourth and final frame shows the kid crumbled against the door, his father is pointing his finger at him "Don't back talk me sonnyboy. You just keep your pussy little mouth shut and earn your goddamn keep around here! You worthless little fuck!" The mother simply stands in the background with her arms folded with a blank look on her face."
Brian's glass hits the wall and explodes into tiny shards.
Ben is cooking. Emmett is crying over an old movie. Michael enters, takes off his coat and drops it over the back of the couch. Then walks into Ben's waiting arms.
"You two decide what to do?"
Emmett's attention was pulled away from the movie right near the end where Barbara makes her poignant speech to Robert Redford. 'Real life is sometimes so much more dramatic, especially where Brian and Justin were concerned.' He thought as he turned around towards Michael and Ben planting his knees in the couch and resting his elbows on the back of it.
"Justin said it was his fault and he'd fix it. He's going to pay for the cost of reprinting the issue and try to find out who the people were that bought this issue and try to buy them back."
"Where's he going to get the money for that?"
Michael shrugged his shoulders in answer to Ben's question.
"Did you try to talk to Brian?"
"He told me to apologize to him if I felt that's what I needed to do. Ben, he said he's going to tell Brian that I had nothing to do with the drawings. He's going to take the entire blame himself."
Emmett raised his hand waving it like he was going to ask for a hall pass to go to the restroom.
"I'll tell you about it later Em. Right now I want to eat and go to bed so this horrible day will be over."
"Uh, uh, can't do that to someone like me. I could internally combust trying to figure out what sunshine could possibly have done to have to take the blame for anything connected to Brian. And besides, I paused Barbara just to hear."
"Ben would you..."
"Sure, go eat."
Michael plods to the kitchen. Ben sits down next to Emmett and tells him the story.
Time lapse forward.
Ben has finished telling Emmett about the entire fiasco.
"What time did Brian leave the store Michael?" Emmett asked.
"Just after I locked up around 5:30. Why?"
"Well, I think you're all overestimating Brian's reaction. I saw him at the library around 6:30 and he didn't seem even remotely upset."
"What were 'you' doing at the library?" Michael had to ask. Emmett surrounded by books about any other topics besides sex and Streisand just didn't add up.
"I was doing some research for a new career." Emmett answered smugly jutting out his chin acting every bit the offended queen. "Brian on the other hand was reading books about parenting. How's that for an unbelievable thank you very much!"
"I'm sorry Em. I didn't mean too offend you. Did you talk to him?"
"He ignored me at first. I'm sure he didn't want the general public to know we 'actually' knew each other."
"Em, that's not being fair to Brian. Maybe he was busy...I don't know reading? You really should give him the benefit of the doubt." Ben's words caused both Emmett and Michael to stare at him as if he'd just shit on the floor.
"Why are you pro Brian all of a sudden?" Michael was suspicious of his motives.
"Because besides Justin, no one else will give the guy a break. Michael did you not hear what Emmett just said?"
"Brian was at the library...so?"
"So he was reading books about parenting! Which obviously means that he is taking this thing with Gus very seriously."
"Oh! Teddy told me about that. I know I couldn't believe when I first heard it. I mean Brian Kinney actually trying to be a responsible father. Who would have thought?"
"Yeah who would have thought? But there it is and his 'friends' should show him a little support. It's not like he's never shown you any Michael."
"It's not like that Ben. Why are you getting so defensive? You've known him for what? Six months and two days of fucking him in Miami. And all of a sudden you're an authority on Brian Kinney."
Seeing a huge argument brewing, Emmett slithered out of the room to take refuge in his bedroom.
"It's time for me to go. Call me when you realize I'm right about this." Ben grabbed his coat and exited leaving Michael speechless and lost as to what the fuck had just transpired.
Justin is in a rush as he enters the diner. He was late for work again. Which made it three times in the last two weeks.
"You're late, again." Deb pointed a finger at him.
Ignoring her he pushed past her to the kitchen to put his coat and back pack in his locker. Deb followed him.
"Justin I know this is a rough time for you, but that's no reason to be rude."
"Sorry Deb. I spent the last six hours tracking down one of the issues of Rage and the guy was a real asshole. He was convinced it was going to be a collectors item and be worth millions."
"Didn't get it huh?"
"I got it. Cost me $100 and a hand job."
"It wasn't that bad. The guy was kinda cute, just weird and he smelled bad. Has Michael been in?"
"No. Max was looking for you earlier."
"Shit. Is he pissed? I can't afford to get fired."
"He wasn't mad. I think he wants to ask you something. Go on and talk to him; I'll cover for you."
"I owe you Deb."
"You damn sure do, Sunshine. You're cookin dinner tonight." She cracked her gum and winked then left the kitchen.
Justin went to Max's office near the back of the kitchen. It wasn't much of an office just an old pantry he'd cleaned out and put a small desk and computer in.
"Deb said you wanted to see me?"
"Late again huh?" Max tried to furrow his brow. He had the kind of face that just didn't lend itself to showing anger well.
Max Liberman was a short balding man of Jewish decent. He was a stout man, but far from overweight and always had a pleasant smile for everyone. Justin had only seen him truly angry once when one of the cooks, who was an excon he had given a break to, stole $500 from him. Max could put up with a lot he said, but not a thief.
"Yeah." Justin admitted and looked down at his shoes.
"How are you doing?" Max always knew what was going on with his employees. Max, coming from a family of 10 had learned that by being quiet and observing you could find out more about what was going on in people's lives around you than you could in a face to face conversation.
"Everything's okay or it will be when I can find out how to fix it."
"Can I help?"
"No, but thanks Max. I have to do this all on my own."
"That's commendable and speaking of on your own, I'd like to show you something."
Max retrieved a key from the key box and exited to the alley. Turning right he climbed the stair case connected to the upper floor of the building. Justin followed full of curiosity since it wasn't like Max to be openly talkative about anything that didn't regard paychecks, hours or the menu. At the top of the stairs he unlocked the door. A small hallway led to another door which he unlocked and stepped inside. Max fumbled for the light switch. When he found it he illuminated what looked to be a small apartment. Justin stepped past him looking around. It was old, the rooms separated by archways instead of square cornered doorways. It was set up a little like Michael's apartment. There was a livingroom, then to the right of that was a tiny kitchenette. Across the livingroom was a small bedroom with two large windows that overlooked Liberty Avenue and connected to that was the bathroom. The place was filled with boxes and extra decorations, chairs, lamps, etc. that had obviously once been used in the diner.
"What do you think?"
"I thought this was all storage up here?"
"It needs work and a new bathtub, but if you want it I'm sure we can work something out. I have some extra paint at home."
"Max I can't afford..."
"I said we can work something out. You're a man now and you need a place of your own. Plus it'll keep you from being late for work." Max laughed and winked at him.
"I have to be honest with you. My savings have been drained to practically nothing this week. I wouldn't even have enough for first months rent."
"That's why the first months free and you'll be doing all the work to fix it up. In the long run Justin, it gives me another source of income and it's also helping out one of my favorite employees."
"Max, be honest. Does Brian have something to do with this?"
"Do you accept the offer?"
"Please tell me."
"Not until you say yes to the apartment." Max gave him a smug smile.
"That answers my question and yes I'll take it on one condition. That if Brian has given you any money for this venture that you let me pay it back to you, to pay back to him."
"Deal. When do you want to move in?"
"This weekend too soon?"
"That'll be fine. You're welcome to keep any of the things here you want. The rest I'll get Carlos and Barry to take to the dump. I'll bring over what paint and brushes I have at home."
Justin looked around the little apartment, his head filling with ideas of how to fix it up. This would be fun. He'd talk to Emmett and Deb sure to get their help. Maybe Linds and Mel. Daphne for sure would help, his mom too. What would make it perfect would be if...no leave Brian out of it for once. This was going to be his place and if he could somehow make things right again, Brian would see him making it on his own, sort of.
Comic book store. Michael is on the phone with Justin.
"No one's seen him in over a week."
"Did you try calling Cynthia?" Justin asked.
"She said he seems fine. Except, that he's more subdued than usual. And he's not accepting 'any' personal calls unless they're from Linds or Mel about Gus."
"Yeah Linds told me he'd called her about the kid proofing service, but he wouldn't talk about anything other than Gus. I'm going to go to the loft again tonight. I doubt he'll answer the door though."
"Maybe I should just use my key. Go in and confront him."
"No Michael! I told you this is my mistake to fix."
"And he's my best friend that you drove away!"
"Score one for Mikey! And I'm sure your little speech doubting his abilities as a father made him feel all warm and fuzzy inside!"
"Okay, okay this isn't getting us anywhere. Ben said to give Brian the space and time to be able to accept our apologies, if he ever does."
"He will eventually Michael. You know Brian. Hey, are you going to help this weekend?"
"I wasn't going to, but ma threatened me with never ending guilt if I didn't."
Justin laughed. Deb could make anyone kowtow to her wishes, even Brian.
"Do you think your friend Tracy would let you use her discount at the Big Q? I need drop clothes, paint rollers and trays, and a couple utilities knives. My budget's pretty small and my mom's helping me a little, but I don't want her to spend too much."
"Yeah, you little shit. I'm sure Trace will do that if 'she' still likes me."
Justin heard the famous Michael Novotny whine come from the other end of the phone and rolled his eyes.
"Michael get over the pity party. I did. Hard work will help you forget for a while and an apology and hot, scratch that I mean 'your' best, make up sex will put you back in Ben's favor." Justin gave a snidely snort of laughter. He didn't have to see Michael in action to know he was probably just mediocre in bed.
"Oh, haha and maybe I won't ask Tracy about the discount."
"You're such a baby Michael. I was kidding. I'm sure Ben thinks your skills are adequate or he wouldn't still be with you." Justin couldn't help himself. Poking fun at Michael was...well...fun. With everything that had happened in the last two weeks he couldn't help but feel excited about finally having his own place.
"Smartass. I'll see you tomorrow. Michael hung up and went back to unpacking the revised issue. He looked up when he heard the bell on the door ring. It was Brian.
The look on Brian's face froze him in place as he watched him give a visual critique of the issue. Seconds later when Michael is finally able to blink and then move again, he finds himself staring at a small fire that is gaining momentum in his trash can.
Justin's room at Deb's
He is typing a letter to Brian on his computer.
I have no reasons to give you. I can only say that it was the artist in me that needed to draw what Michael had tried to get across in words. It was an accident that I saved the drawings to the 'Rage' disk. Michael and I have decided to hire an editor to make sure I don't fuck up again.
Please know that what I drew helped me to better understand the enigma that is you. That's really all I have to say in a way of an explanation. I would never purposely hurt you...not ever.
Michael was an innocent in all of this. He was only trying to help because he knows how much I still care for you. I owe you so much and I do appreciate all the things you have done over the past two years, and are still doing for me.
I love you Brian, always have always will.
Justin (Sunshine) Taylor
Brian is playing pool alone. Emmett, Ted and Michael enter.
"Looks like as good a time as any to talk to him Michael." Emmett suggested pushing his friend toward the pool table.
Brian was concentrating on his one man game and didn't see the gang enter.
"No. Let him come to me if he wants to talk. I've tried to apologize. We should have gone straight to Babylon."
"You deserve better than this Michael after all the shit you've put up with over the past 14 years." With that said Ted walked over to confront Brian, Emmett directly on his heels.
"Brian, talk to Michael." Ted ordered puffing out his chest ready to defend Michael.
Brian glanced up from his shot and then continued his game as if nothing had been said.
It was Emmett's turn, he stepped up to the edge of the pool table deciding to take a more diplomatic approach. "Michael's really upset. It was a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes Brian."
"Stay out of it." Brian answered without looking up from his next shot.
"Actually, Michael really has nothing to apologize for. It should be Justin here making amends."
Emmett's accusation caused a gut reaction in Brian. "Shut the 'fuck up!' And leave it alone! Go away and flutter your righteous fairy wings somewhere else!" His eyes blazed with anger. He slammed the pool stick down onto the edge of the table and it snapped in two. Then he grabbed his coat and threw a hundred dollar bill on the bar as he left.
Michael caught up with Brian before he could get into his Jeep.
"I am so fucking sorry Brian. Please...please talk to me." Michael pleaded, sniffing.
Brian squeezed his eyes shut. Dammit, he knew Michael was crying, but he just couldn't face him right now. He was still too raw.
"Please Brian...say something."
Brian spoke his back still towards Michael. "You had no right." The words burned his throat as he forced them out.
"I...I just thought if Justin could understand. He'd know why you push so hard at work. Why you push people away."
Brian spun around his eyes still on fire. "You don't know shit about why I do those things. And don't fucking analyze me! You only heard what you wanted, saw what you wanted. You never really looked did you Michael? You buried yourself in comic books and couldn't accept that all fathers weren't heros."
Brian climbed in the Jeep and sped away from the curb leaving Michael staring after him crying.
Vance Agency - Deb stormed into Brian's office with Cynthia dead on her heels.
"I'm sorry Brian. She just marched right past me like I didn't exist." Cynthia explained and grabbed Deb by the arm to pull her out of Brian's office.
"I told you that it was important that I talk to the asshole you call your boss!" Deb shook the petite blond off easily and sat down in the nearest chair thus anchoring herself until she'd had her say.
"Bri...uh Mr. Kinney should I call security?" Cynthia was confused and flustered by the large red headed whirlwind that had just blown into her territory.
Brian bit his lip and leaned back in his chair. "It's okay. She's not harmful, at least not physically."
"I'll be right out here if you need me." Cynthia glared at Deb as she retreated.
Brian bit back a laugh watching the exchange of two alpha females. One protecting what she felt was her's the other confronting the lead pack dog. He had to 'stop' watching Animal Planet.
"Deb I don't appreciate you barging in here."
"And if you'd show up at the diner or answered your messages I wouldn't have to!"
"Busy. Yeah don't try that one on me kiddo. I know the story."
"Let them apologize. Hell they deserve that much consideration after you literally pissed all over their idea in the first place. Did you even notice that the issue was dedicated to you?"
"I read it."
"Did you also notice that those pages were obviously a mistake?"
Deb got a raised eyebrow in response.
"Michael and Justin would never do anything to deliberately hurt you. Which you should consider yourself damn lucky because you know you deserve the fucking payback."
Did he say she wouldn't physically hurt him? The thought of calling security fleeted across his mind as he reeled from Deb's straight to the heart blow.
"Michael's as depressed as I've ever seen him. He loves you and since he's got Ben in his life now I don't know why he puts up with any of your shit. Then it struck me that his relationship with you has changed, grown up a little. It's less about him wanting you now and more about just loving you for who you are. Justin too. As much as he's wanted you in the past I think he's learned that you're not the kind of person to be had. But it hasn't stopped him from caring about you and I know you care about him."
Brian was no longer able to face her. He couldn't face the truth of what she was saying and turned toward the window giving her only his profile.
Deb got up from her chair and went around in front of him. Taking his chin she forced him to look at her. To listen closely to what she was about to say.
"Justin told me about you taking more responsibility with Gus. I think that's wonderful and a big step in the right direction. Sweetheart, I always knew your old man was a son-of-a-bitch, but you'd never tell anyone. You just took it like you deserved it. You didn't deserve it Brian. No kid deserves that shit. And you should be damn proud of yourself for not turning out like him. Think long and hard about that kiddo." Deb placed her hands on each side of Brian's face forcing him once again to look directly at her. "You're a good man Brian Kinney." Feeling she'd done what she could to remedy the rift between her boys, Deb left.
Brian didn't move from his position as he continued to stare out his window that over looked the Pittsburgh skyline.