Second Chances Part VI
Justinís new apartment on Saturday morning.
Emmett is buzzing around the apartment taking decorating notes. Deb and Vic are going through boxes and shouting out comments on how perfect several old and tacky objects would look here or there and how much young people love 70's retro. Jennifer was busying herself cleaning out the old Frigidare and Michael was hole up in a corner reading the latest Spiderman comic. Justin stood in the center of the activity and sighed heavily. He wanted their help, not for them to completely take over. This was supposed to be Ďhisí place. Justin openly grimaced at the gaudy colors Emmett was shoving in his face ranting about how his kitchen would look Ďfabulousí painted tangerine or sunshiny yellow to make him feel bright and happy while he made his toast or coffee. If Deb had her way the place would look more like the diner than an apartment. When Emmett brought up a box filled with huge oriental fans, fringe, reams of taffeta and strings of feathers Justin knew he had to quickly gain control.
"Everybody please just stop what youíre doing and listen!" Justin shouted as loud as he dared since he knew there was a bustling diner directly beneath him. Once he had everyoneís attention he continued. "Look, I really appreciate that you are all so willing to help. It really means a lot...honest, but please remember this is the place I will be calling home. Your suggestions are all welcome, but the decisions about paint, curtains and decor will be made by me."
"So, I suppose that means none of my special touches?" Emmett was so close to pouting, Justin almost burst out laughing.
"Em, I love you for who you are, but itís not me. I actually like things pretty simple and basic. With that said Michael and I are going to go get the paint. While weíre gone please, no decorating. Just sit back and relax and enjoy all the wonderful food provided by...well by everyone except me." Justin blushed, grabbed an unsuspecting Michael by the arm and pulled him out the door.
Justinís apartment on Thursday evening.
He is sitting cross legged in the middle of his tiny living room working with a large sketch pad and charcoals. Thereís a knock at the door. Justin quickly wipes his hands on the rag next to him and jumps up to answer the door. Itís Brian. Justin could only stare for a moment.
"Are you alone?" Brian asks tentatively.
Justin nodded then stepped aside to let Brian pass over the threshold. He stopped in the living room and looked around the apartment. His demeanor reminded Justin of how Brian acted the first night heíd seen him after he got out of the hospital. Only more dramatic his face was drawn and tired; his gait slow and unsure. His arms were limp at his side.
"Not bad. No fringe or feathers. Looks like you kept Emmett in line." Brian giggled strangely.
"It wasnít easy. He wanted to paint my kitchen Tangerine." Justin laughed hoping to ease some of the tension he felt. "You want something to drink?"
Brian didnít answer.
"He wasnít always like that."
"He?" The words came out of the blue and Justin was confused then quickly remembered. Brian was referring to his dad.
"Brian you donít have to explain anything to me."
Brian walked into the bedroom and looked out of one of the large windows. His gaze was transfixed on the neon lights that dotted Liberty Avenue. Justin followed him, but kept a distance between them giving Brian plenty of space.
Still staring out the window Brian began. "He tried sometimes. I remember one day when I was seven he took me to a Pirates game. I actually enjoyed it. On the way home we stopped at the Big Q and he bought me a ball and glove. After we got home he took me out to the backyard and taught me how to catch." Brian laughed to himself at the memory and continued. "Iíd get pissed at myself because I couldnít catch that damn ball in my glove. It felt so awkward. ĎPatience young man; thatís what it takes.í heíd say. He was right too. After I stopped trying so hard and relaxed, I started catching a few."
Justin couldnít believe what had just happened. Brian opened up, only a crack, but it was something. He wasnít at all sure how to handle this. He only knew that if he didnít touch Brian in the next two seconds he was going to explode. Slowly, he closed the gap between them and reached out lightly touching Brianís back.
"He loved you."
"I guess... in his own fucked up way." Brian turned around to face Justin. Then reached into the inside pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out Justinís letter.
"Apology accepted." His voice was barely above a whisper.
"Thanks." Justin took a step closer which brought him within inches of Brianís face.
Brian leaned down and rested his forehead against Justinís. They stayed in that position for a few moments staring into each otherís eyes.
"Can I kiss you?"
Justin nodded and brought his lips up to meet Brianís. The kiss was long and deep, but they both kept their emotions reigned in. Both of them wanted nothing more than to let the kiss take its natural course towards passion, yet both needing it not to be more than a beginning. Brian pulled away gently staying close his arms around Justinís shoulders.
"I better go."
"Okay. Iím really glad you stopped by." Justinís eyes flickered and a smile slid across his features.
"Me too." Brian bit his lip trying to keep his smile from turning into the huge goofy grin it was heading for.
Justin walked Brian too the door. "Will I see you?"
"Yeah, youíll see me." Brian opened the door and whispered "Later."
Justin whispered the sentiment back and the man was gone. He turned and leaned against the door after closing it. The sketch he had been working on caught his eye and he returned to it. His smile impossibly bright, as he looked at his creation. It was Brian looking at him smiling. It was one of a handful of memories he had regained in the past year from Ďthatí night. That look, that smile and it was all for him.
The next morning three packages arrive at the comic book store for Michael. A new trash can, a fire extinguisher and a Spider-Man - Limited Edition Collector's Gift Set Signed by Stan Lee.
Gardner Vance walks in without knocking an office memo in his hand. Brian is on the phone.
"I want it delivered and set up. Yes, I know there is an extra charge for that. Monday is good. Yes, someone will be there."
Vance tapped his foot and folded his arms to let Brian know he was getting frustrated at having to wait.
Brian smiled and help up a his index finger. "Of course itís of no real use with out it. Twenty pounds should be a good start. Yes, I know extra charge. Fine as long as both packages arrive together." Brian hung up the phone. Vance was just this side of fuming at having to wait for Brian to finish and obviously personal phone call.
"What the hell is this?" Vance held out the sheet of paper to Brian.
"Why Gardner, you act as if youíve never seen one of our office memoís before. You should know all too well what they look like since youíve killed a forest in the last two months littering the agency with memos outlining all your cutbacks and changes."
"You knew about every one of those Kinney. We discussed those changes remember?"
"I remember you telling me how things were going to be around here."
"Bullshit! You did this behind my back."
"No. You were away for a week on business in...uh Bermuda, was it?" Brian cocked an eyebrow.
"It Ďwasí business and we agreed to handle all the major accounts between the two of us and leave the smaller clients to the junior execs."
"Again Vance you decided. I told you that the big accounts werenít going to receive the quality time and effort they deserve if I spend ninety percent of my time cleaning up the messes made by those two kids. Paul and Brody had been with Ryder for 15 years they deserved more than a fucking pink slip and a kick in the ass."
"You brought them back at full salary?"
"Yes. They have families and theyíre damn good execs. Hell the two of them brought in most of our smaller clients. You do know that having a strong smaller based clientele could one day save our asses. With the market the way it is we might just need that constant income to fall back on."
"Fine, but if we hit a slump, theyíre the first ones to go." Vance knew Brian was right; he just hated to have to accept it from his younger partner. He turned on his heel to leave then stopped short. "I need you to take the Desmet meeting tomorrow."
"Canít. I have plans." Brian stood knowing he was in for a real fight after going behind Gardnerís back when he brought back two of the older ad execs Vance had discharged only a week ago.
"Change them. I canít be there."
"Then I guess you should warn your assistant since sheíll be taking the meeting solo." Brian stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. He wasnít budging.
"Give me a good reason." Gardner narrowed his gaze.
"I donít owe you one. Theyíre your clients and I have responsibilities beyond this agency as you obviously do as well."
"You need to put your priorities in order Kinney. I still expect 110% from you even if you are a partner."
Brian placed his hands on his desk and leaned over it.
"My priorities are perfectly in order Gardner and you always get 110%, but from now on that is all you will get."
"Fine." Vance once again turned toward the door.
"And I as your Ďpartneríexpect the same from you." Brian bit the inside of his cheek to stifle a laugh when he noticed the red flush pushing its way to the top of Vanceís bald head.
To his credit Vance didnít turn around to make anymore arguments. He did, however, let his feelings be known by violently slamming Brianís door behind him.
Brian gathered his jacket and briefcase and exited to Cynthiaís office. His assistant casually looked up at him with a smirk. "Youíre going to give him a stroke before he turns 45."
"You figured it out. Good girl. For that you can have the rest of the day off." His expression noncommittal, Cynthia couldnít tell if he was being his usual smartass self or actually giving her the afternoon off. "Sure and my fairy godmother will be taking me on a shopping spree for the ball."
"I mean it."
His genuine sincerity made her blink twice to be sure her boss was indeed standing in front of her. "Okay. And you?"
"Iím leaving for the weekend. You can reach me on my cell, but only if itís important. Enjoy." Brian turned towards the door.
"Oh wait. Lindsay called while you were sparring with Vance. She had me write down a list of things." Cynthia tore the paper off her notepad and handed it to Brian. He looked over the list and shook his head.
"Are you taking care of Gus this weekend?"
"Yes and every other weekend from now on. Which reminds me. Would you mark those weekends on my calendar for the next few months and send a copy to Vance before you leave?"
"Sure...ummm should I just mark them as unavailable?" She gave him her brightest smile.
"No mark them down as Ďparental responsibilitiesí." Brian smiled back realizing he had just given Cynthia a tiny peek behind his facade. Before he turned to leave he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and dropped an envelope onto her desk. "Your bonus for helping me land the Dutch Country account. Enjoy shopping for the ball Cyn."
Cynthia stared after her boss as he left her office. She could swear there was even a slight fucking bounce to his step...holy shit!
Michael walks out of the comic book store and heads down the street.
"Hey Mikey!" Brian throws his arm around his friend startling him. Michael reacts instinctively pushing him away.
"Shit Brian you scared me."
"Sorry." Brian gives his friend a huge smile and puts his arm over his shoulders again.
"Shouldnít you be at work?"
"Took the afternoon off."
"Itís about time. Youíve been working way too much."
"Gee, Mikey I didnít know you cared." Brian smirks and pinches Michaelís ass.
"Ouch! Oh I got that stuff. How did you get Stan Leeís autograph?" Michael batted his eyes and looked up at his best friend. He knew when Brian sent that stuff to the store, heíd been forgiven.
"Letíem blow me."
"Uh huh? Well thank him for me."
"Sure, anything for you Mikey. Hungry?"
"Nah, how about Antonioís? M my treat."
"Sure." Michael stopped and put on a serious face. "Brian you know I didnít mean what I said about you and Gus. I mean I did mean it sort of. It just came out wrong. You love Gus and I know you want to be a good father."
"Itís okay Michael. Actually, I realized later that you were just looking out for my kid. So if you see me start to fuck up, speak up, okay?"
Michael opened his mouth, but the shock was too much so he just nodded. The two friends walked in silence for a while then Michael stopped and turned to Brian again.
"Brian you know what I think? All kids really want from their parents is to know theyíre loved and that they try."
"Thanks Michael. Now letís eat. Iíve got to pick my son up by five."
Lindsay and Melanieís.
Brian is there picking up Gus for his first weekend with dada.
"You have a crib and blankets?" Lindsay was going over a checklist.
"Yes, Linds I told you I went to the Biq Q yesterday and got all the things on that impossibly long list you gave me. Gus will have everything he needs."
"What about the childproofing? Debra came over right? I trust her implicitly."
"I already told you that twice. Sheís a really nosy bitch by the way and yes I let her make all of the changes."
"What about the steps to your bedroom? Heís awfully fast Brian, he could..."
"Linds, I promise to take good care of him. Heís my son too. When Iím not directly supervising him, he will be in his play pen. Okay?"
"What about food?" Melanie added in her own concerns.
"Jesus! Heís not going to starve or be poisoned by my cooking. I bought things that were easy to make, fairly bland and even vegetables that Ďheí likes." Brian looked up from preparing Gus, when he heard total silence from the mommies. "What?"
"Youíre going to cook? Oh Linds, we should be worried." Melanie couldnít help herself and broke into a fit of laughter.
Brian just rolled his eyes and continued dressing his son.
"Maybe you should take some stuff from here. Iíve got plenty of leftovers."
"I can do this. Iím a gay man for Christs sake." Brian clenched his jaw willing himself to stay calm and passive.
"Just because you fuck men doesnít mean you can cook and take care of a child." Melanie snorted.
"Okay, right got me there. Look, Iíve done my homework, the loft has been child proofed, I spent a small fortune to get all the baby paraphernalia you listed and now youíre going to keep me from taking my son because you think Iím going to let him starve? How many more excuses are you going to throw at me?" Brian looked like he was eleven years old again. All he wanted was the chance to prove himself.
"Weíre just being overprotective. Itís what mothers do."
"I understand. How about this? You two can drop over any time night or day to see how Gus is getting along. Okay?"
"Anytime?" Melanie asked thrown by Brianís sudden change in temperament.
"Yes. Do you want a key so you can do a surprise inspection?"
"No...no that wonít be necessary, but we will be dropping by." Lindsay remarked. ĎThat should keep him on his toes.í
"Great. So Ďnowí can I take my son?" Brian asked and held his breath for almost a full minute until they finally answered "yes" in unison.
"Hear that Sonny boy. You and dada are spending the whole weekend together." Brian lightly poked a finger into his sonís tummy which caused him to squeal in delight.
Brian stood up and gathered Gusí diaper bag as the little boy got wet kisses and big hugs from his mommies.
"Iím not stealing him for christ...for crying out loud. Weíll be back on Sunday."
"By 4:00." Lindsay added looking woefully at her son.
"Of course. And Iím sure Iíll be seeing one or both of you before then." Brian knelt down and scoop up his son before the girls could change their minds.
"Go wit dada." Gus babbled and waved to his mommies as Brian walked out the door. The kid waved and blew kisses all the way to the Jeep as his mommies waved and blew kisses from the porch.