Thanks for reading and an extra thank you and hug to anyone that is kind enough to comment. It's a terrible reality to not get comments. It's like throwing a party and no one comes to it.
This is the final chapter of the story.
Eleven days later, after Brian's private party, night time.
"How's your study session going for your 'Influences of Circumcision on Modern Pornography' test?"
"… I don't know… but my 'Influences of Cubism on Modern Perceptions' studying is coming along just fine."
"Well, don't neglect your studies. When you finished playing around with that cube stuff, get right back on your pornography lessons. Priorities, Sonny Boy, priorities." Brian lit a cigarette, walked over to his hotel room's huge window, and looked out over Philadelphia's skyline. The twinkling city lights bolstered his good mood; it had been a great business day.
Just as he had predicted, right after New York, he had to travel back to both Baltimore and Philadelphia.
However, he made sure that he made stops in between each trip to his lover.
Justin smiled into the phone and Brian could hear it in his voice. "Yes, sensei." The young artist then lapsed back into silence.
The 'quiet Justin' was now the constant persona of the blond. It had started right after his private party at the Liberty diner, and with each passing day, Justin became more withdrawn and non-expressive. Brian found it very unsettling.
But tonight, he's practically aloof… what the fuck is going on?
Brian jump-started the conversation with his newest plan to put money into his Sunshine's pockets. The thought of Justin not having money for his medicines or other needs still wore heavy on the executive's mind.
"Hey, remember that painting you did in blues and silver and black? I want it. I'm going to buy it from you. And the firm needs some art in the meeting rooms that we're re-doing. How would you like to have your first, official, commission request?"
"What, really? Um… are you sure?"
What - no yelling, squealing or praising me as your hero? What the fuck is wrong, Sunshine?
"Hell yeah! Why should we spend top dollar on shit that is mass produced in a warehouse somewhere. We'll be getting them for a great price from you – it will be a real steal – sorry, but it's the truth, Sunshine. And, they will all be originals that will only increase in value with time. I'm thinking eight hundred for the three paintings."
"Eight hundred?" Justin sounded rightfully shocked by Brian's generous price, but there wasn't any enthusiasm. This was his first, official commission, but he seemed worried instead of joyous.
"Okay, you push a hard bargain – one thousand. But I want the blue and silver one immediately, when I get back. Okay?"
Justin briefly smiled and he did feel overjoyed, but he could only manage to say, "Sure. No problem."
Okay, that's it, Sunshine… It's time to lance the wound.
"Justin… what's going on… talk to me." A myriad of guesses flashed through Brian's brain, including the uncomfortable thought that the blond had grown bored with him.
For his part, Brian was most definitely not bored with Justin. He'd had a secret epiphany in regards to his feelings for his lover, right before the youth had been gay-bashed. In his mind, he referred to it as a "connection," one that he didn't want to sever. He wasn't ready to sever anything with Justin now, or in the near future, and he didn't have a long range expiration date in mind. His feelings were building for young man, but he wasn't ready to articulate them yet, though he did acknowledge them – but only to himself.
Brian heard Justin cough and clear his throat, but he didn't speak. Then, the boy sighed heavily.
The executive gave the teenager a moment of reprieve, while he grabbed a beer from the wet bar. He settled on the couch and blankly watched images flicker on the television, which he had on mute.
"Justin, you're making my nads shrivel. What's going on? Is it about school? Are you upset by school?"
"No… school's fine. It's just… um..." Brian heard Justin rustling around and then heard a can of soda being opened.
"Come on Sunshine, you're probably drinking a can of Coke. It's got to be dead serious if you're hitting the Coke." Brian was expecting at least a giggle from Justin, but he got nothing. A warning alarm went off in his head. Whatever was wrong with Justin was now officially serious.
Brian decided to wait out Justin's silence. He figured he needed to stop being an enabler of Justin's issue avoidance. He patiently waited, and listened to Justin drink, clear his throat several times, and then after a rather dramatic sigh, Justin spoke.
"Um, I was going to tell you tonight, anyway… I just… Some… Something happened today – I mean tonight... I'm so sorry, Brian… I don't want to hurt you… I shouldn't have done it. It just happened."
Brian's mouth had become cotton-dry. Every nerve in his body was electrified. His insecurities got the better of him and for a very briefest of moments, he wondered if Justin was about to break their "connection."
"What happened, Justin?"
"… You know that guy… the one that came up to us, at the diner… during your party?"
A second warning alarm went off in Brian's head. He held onto his patience and calmly asked, "What guy?"
"Um… he was older, and had grayish hair… shorter than you but taller than me… I can't remember his name. It started with an 'S' or an 'A.' I don't-"
"Aaron… was it Aaron? He made a pass at you, remember? Is that the guy?"
"Um… yeah, yeah, that's his name… that's him." Justin lapsed back into silence which irritated Brian.
"Okay Justin, get to the point. What about him?"
"It's just… well, I don't want to cause a problem… but, I think it's too late… I did something… is he a major client of yours?"
"No, he's no one. What did you do?"
"I mean it could be a coincidence-"
"Justin, fuck-… tell me what happened!"
"I just keep seeing him… everywhere. I saw him the day after the party, on Liberty Avenue… I've never seen him there before, ever. And now, I see him… when I'm going to or from the diner… or during my shift. The first time, he was outside the diner's window, on his cell phone… but then…"
"What? Justin? What 'then?' What happened?" Brian spit out his words like bullets. Alarm bells were now clanging in his head. He was back at his hotel window, now tense and angry, and when he looked out on the city's twinkling lights, he found them annoying.
"I thought I saw him on campus, right after my graphic arts classes… both Tuesday and Thursday, last week."
"… What? Are you sure?" Brian braced a hand against the window, and dropped his head in concentration. He was glued to every word uttered by his Sunshine.
"Well yeah… Yeah, I'm sure! I mean I know I saw him… I know it was him… and I've seen him… like… every day… now. I thought that it was weird because I've never seen him before. Then I meet him at your party and I start seeing him almost every day - everywhere… and then tonight…" Justin's voice sounded strained; Justin was choking on emotions that were bubbling up and trying to come out. The last thing he wanted to do was cry on the phone with Brian, so he paused, allowing himself a moment to get control of his emotions.
"Tonight?" Sweat sprung up on Brian's brow and upper lip. He waited for Justin to continue. When he didn't, Brian pushed. "You saw him tonight? Where - you were working tonight, right? You saw him out on the street or looking in the diner window?"
When Justin didn't say anything, Brian exploded. "WHAT ABOUT TONIGHT, JUSTIN? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED!"
When Justin spoke, his voice was thick with tears. He stumbled through what he had to tell Brian, while clearing his throat from time to time. It took quite a concerted effect to not succumb to his emotions.
"He came into the diner… and he stayed for awhile… like an hour… I tried to be nice, but I kept my distance, as far away as possible… he really gives me the creeps." Justin swallowed so hard that Brian could hear it.
Brian knew that Justin was trying to not cry, but he would have preferred if the teen would just let loose. He knew how to handle a crying Justin, but not an unemotional, detached Justin – it was unnatural.
Aaron, what the fuck did you do to my boy?
"I'm sorry, Brian… I really am… But, he was complimenting me and watching me and it was so creepy, so I had to get away, but then he followed me and grabbed me and I told him to knock it off, and..."
"He touched you?"
Justin's voice was choked with tears as he responded. "I fucked up, Brian… I went out for a smoke break… and he followed me out… we were in the back… I turn around and there he was… he just - aaahhhhhhh, he is just so repugnant!
So, I decided to cut my break short and just get away from him, and when I started to leave… he grabbed me and pushed me against the wall and he grabbed my dick… I stomped on his foot, Brian! I just had to get him off of me! I stomped hard on his left foot and then ran… I told Kiki that I wasn't feeling well and just ran to Deb's. He probably called the cops, Brian! I'm going to be arrested for assault! I think I might have really hurt him… Brian? Brian, are you still there… I'm really sorry… don't be mad… I can-"
"… Are you okay, Sunshine?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. But, but, but… did you hear me… I think I really hurt him… I broke his foot or toes or-"
"I don't care a fuck about him. He's no one. He's just an employee of a former client. But that doesn't matter, because even if he was a client, it wouldn't fucking matter… He won't call the cops, don't worry about that… everything is going to be just fine, Sunshine. Don't worry about that piece of shit… All I care about is you."
The table had turned and now Justin was concerned with Brian's disposition. The executive's voice was too calm and rational. It was the all very familiar - the calm before the Kinney storm.
Justin wanted to profusely apologize to Brian for bringing more grief into his life. But, all he could manage was a weak, "I'm so sorry."
The Kinney storm blew in. "Why the fuck are you apologizing? You have fucking nothing to apologize about! And apologies are for shit – especially in this case, because this motherfucker piece of shit stalked you and then attacked you! I'm so fucking proud of you for standing up for yourself. I want you to always defend yourself, no fucking matter what! Did you hear me, Sunshine?"
Brian sounded oddly cheerful when he replied, "Good! That's my Sonny Boy. You're not letting this fucking roach bring you down. Did he say anything to you, threaten you, or try to follow you into the diner?"
"No, I didn't see him again. I think he left right after I went back in… He was just so lame… He said crap like, 'I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I would drop in,' which was just so asinine and obvious. And, he kept calling me 'pretty boy.' It was just so vile… sickening, gross… nauseating… I'm running out of adjectives to describe how disgusting he was!" Justin chuckled at his own lame attempt at levity. But, his efforts didn't go unappreciated.
Brian responded with a dry, theatrical laugh. "Oooooh! I think I can come up with a few to help you out... I want you to listen to me carefully. Are you listening, Justin?"
"If you see him coming, you go in the opposite direction… stay away from him. If he gets near you, you pick up something heavy and use it against him. Use your backpack, a rock from the ground, anything! Stay out of alleys… fuck, I should have gotten you a set of keys for the jeep… You're goal is to be alert and protect yourself. That is your only goal! Do you understand?"
"Yes, no problem. I don't-"
"Ok, good! Now, I've got to make some phone calls, get back to your studies." The gears in Brian's brain were now working in double time, creating ideas that only Kinney could conceive. The executive was anxious to get moving on them.
"You will have someone with you when you go to work or school. I'm going to work on that now. You liked, Hank, didn't you? The bouncer? You felt okay with him, right?"
"Brian, come on, I-"
"Don't fuck with me on this." The statement was uttered with such a glacial coolness that Justin's ear felt cold.
Justin knew that Brian was going to have his way, no matter what. He knew that to fight Brian was futile.
"Um… okay, Brian. He's okay, I mean - fine. I liked him. But, just tell me… you're not mad at me, are you? Because you seem-"
"Nooooo! I'm just… I am absolutely, unequivocally, A-okay with you and your bubble butt. I could happily fuck you until my dick falls off… I want you safe, Justin… that's all… Hey, everything is going to be okay. This is going to go away. Now, I gotta go. Get back to your studies. And, Justin?"
"I know I said it before, but I really want you to listen to me - I'm proud of you for defending yourself, Sunshine. Very… fucking… proud… Okay, back to your porn studies, Sonny Boy!" Brian laughed and seemed unusually jovial, considering the subject matter of the conversation. Brian then abruptly hung up the phone.
Justin didn't move for awhile; he just sat in confounded silence and stared at the horrible wallpaper in Michael's old room. There was a strong sense of impending doom in the air, but he wasn't worried for himself. Oddly enough, he was worried about the welfare of 'creepy' Aaron. Justin felt tingles of apprehension at the memory of Brian's laugh.
Oh shit, what did I just unleash?
Two days later, late afternoon.
The cheers from the crowd lining the soccer field were politely moderate. A rowdy, shrill, shrieking mob would have been completely inappropriate. The two teams playing were from private, elite grade schools, where the concept of socially acceptable behavior was part of the schools' moral code.
Aaron Caulfield stood on the sidelines, cheering with all the other parents, faculty members, and friends of the teams. Though he wore a soft cast boot on his left foot, he felt no pain because his son's team was winning the game. Of course, the pain medication helped.
Two nights before, he had accidently fallen at the gym, while running on the treadmill. He ended up breaking the two smallest toes on his left foot. His wife and three children were so sympathetic, loving and supportive and had listened breathlessly to his long and elaborate tale of woe. He told them about the horrendous obstacles that challenged his every step on the way to taking himself to the emergency room. They thought he had been so brave and fearless. He actually believed himself to be the hero that his family thought he was… instead of the dangerous stalker that a few young men had come to know.
Aaron checked his watch, anticipating the time when his wife would arrive with the twins. It wasn't easy to be the father of athletes – he used that exact phrase many times when bragging about his children. He would follow that statement with a joke of how he and his wife were getting their exercise, running to all the various practices and games. Of course, he would play the martyr and mention how his work kept him away from his family, more than he cared to admit. But, at least his children's soccer games brought them all together, even if it was just catching the very end of the games together.
Caulfield loved his life, his job, his children, and he was fond of his wife. She had come from a very well-to-do family, with many social connections. He was living the life that he had always dreamed of… but, every now and then… he would have a special itch that could only be scratched by a beautiful, young, twink… And all the better for his experience, when the twink played hard-to-get.
He sensed the presence of someone to his left. Thinking that it was another parent coming to discuss yet another new committee, he turned to greet them. However, his gut imploded when he saw who it was… Brian Kinney was standing there… and staring ahead, watching his son's soccer game.
Aaron whispered, "Brian… Brian Kinney… what are you doing here?"
Without turning and looking at Aaron, Brian repeated the lame excuse that Aaron had given Justin, two nights before. "I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I would drop by."
Brian took off his glasses and slowly turned his head to look down at Aaron. "You crossed the line, Aaron… You're lucky you only have broken toes… for now…"
Aaron kept his voice down but the menace in it was quite evident. "You listen here, Brian! I could call the police on your little whore-"
Brian abruptly turned to look behind them. "Is that your wife and twins?" He began to wave at someone. Aaron felt faint but turned to look. He didn't see his family anywhere. He heard Brian laugh.
"Just a little joke, Aaron. You look so flustered. But, they are coming soon, aren't they? Any minute, right?"
The significance of Brian's juvenile antic wasn't lost on Aaron. He quickly made the connection of what Brian meant. Kinney knew his schedule, his family's schedule, and probably everything about his family. Aaron felt a cold tendril of fear wrap around his backbone when he realized the depth and breadth of Kinney's threat.
Brian confirmed it when he said, "I would think that a closeted fag like yourself - with a wife, three kids, a homophobic father-in-law, and an image-conscious boss - wouldn't be as careless as you are… but you are… someone told me about a couple of twinks that you know, intimately… they don't have nice things to say about you. "
Aaron hissed back at Brian. "Fucking lies! They are liars and you are a bullshitter! Justin –"
Brian placed his foot on Aaron's injured toes and slightly pressed down. Aaron involuntarily sucked in breath and his body jerked in pain. He grabbed Brian's arm and tried to discreetly push him off his foot. He dared not draw any attention to his "talk" with Brian, or there would be questions, and then gossip. However, Brian was much stronger than Aaron and he didn't budge.
"Don't say his name, Aaron. Don't think it. Forget that you even heard it. I think I told you that once before, but now I'm here to enforce it. I'll remind you one last time..." Brian pressed his foot down harder on Aaron's toes. The pain increased almost unbearably and the shorter man whimpered while attempting another futile try at shoving Brian away.
"Stay away from him. Stay away from where he works, goes to school, lives… or takes a piss… I don't want to see you on Liberty Avenue ever again. Okay, now listen to me." Brian thumped on Aaron's upper arm.
As small group of adults passed by, Brian pointedly laughed and then smiled at them, giving all the impression that Aaron and he were doing a "bro-friend" hug, thump, and greet routine.
He bent so he was close to Aaron's ear. "Are you listening Aaron?"
Aaron barely nodded his head, he was afraid that too much motion would jar his foot.
"I know who you are and what you are capable of… but you have no idea of what I've done… or what I am capable of… I will take away your wife, her father's money, and your job… and I would just be warming up… Now look at me."
Aaron forced himself to look at Brian's seemingly smiling face. To all on-lookers, the smile seemed buoyant and friendly. But, to Aaron, it was a grotesque mask, which barely concealed the advertising executive's hostile intent.
"I want to be sure…" Brian pressed ever so slightly down on Aaron's toes. Tears came to Aaron's eyes and a whimper escaped from his lips.
"… that there aren't any misunderstandings… so, do you have any questions?" Aaron quickly shook his head, and the motion somehow reverberated down to his toes, causing them to ache even more.
"Good… good talk!" Brian removed his foot from Aaron's and playfully thumped the man a couple of more times on the upper arms.
Aaron bent slightly over when pain surged in his toes, after Brian removed his foot. He had tears threatening to roll out of his eyes and his face was beet red. But, no matter what, he could not and would not make a scene. He wouldn't jeopardize his reputation, even if it meant another trip back to the emergency room. So, he remained silent, he had no other choice.
"Well… must be going… oh, tell your boy that he's looking good out there, but he needs to sharpen up his footwork. He's tripping over himself." Without another word, Brian turned and walked away.
Aaron watched him go, silently cursing the man, and thanking his lucky stars that he was leaving before Aaron's wife arrived. However, like the unexpected, second tidal wave that always follows the decimation of the first tidal wave – Aaron's day turned into a nightmare, again.
He watched in horror as his wife's car pulled up into the parking lot… and Brian walked over to it. Kinney greeted his wife and twin girls as them disembarked. Without delay, Kinney engaged his wife in a conversation.
With as much bravado that Aaron could muster, he made his way to his wife, which was not an easy feat. Sweat poured down all over his body and his face. The salty, stinging fluid slightly blinded him. His foot was throbbing with pain, which slowed his progress down to a near-snail's pace. He felt sick and lighted-headed. He silently prayed and promised all kinds of things to his higher power, if it would stop Kinney from saying anything to his wife about his… secret itch.
His wife and Brian seemed to be having a pleasant conversation, and at one point, they both laughed out loud together. His twin daughters ran up and greeted him, stalling his progress to his wife.
He watched Kinney sneer at him for a few moments, before he turned back to Aaron's wife and seemed to say his good-byes.
Aaron's daughters were talking a mile a minute about their soccer game but he heard nothing. He just watched as Kinney strolled over to his jeep, apparently without a care in the world.
His wife joined him and his daughters. "What a delightful man! He said he worked with you on a project, he's an advertizing executive! I know Daddy would love to meet him! Maybe we should invite him to dinner and he can meet my father. I have to say – now don't get jealous – but he's just such a looker! And so charming… is he married?"
Aaron numbly listened to his wife praise Kinney, while he watched the man drive away in his jeep. He acknowledged the obvious to himself – he had fucked with the wrong man.
He's crazy… I had heard that he was… and other things… Jesus, they might actually be true… What was I thinking? The blond is beautiful, but not worth this! There will be others… Oh, shut up, Agnes!
"Agnes, let's get back to watching Joseph, shall we?" Aaron bundled his family into his arms and slowly pushed them back to the sidelines of the game.
Fifteen minutes later…
Brian drove to Deb's house; he was going to surprise Justin. He had returned a day early, unbeknownst to Justin and the family. Now that he had two successful, kickass meetings under his belt – one with the Philadelphia client and one with Aaron Caulfield - he was ready to celebrate. He knew his Sonny Boy was in between exams and Brian wanted to make sure that they had some extra special, quality time together - Kinney-style.
I'll take him back to the loft, feed him Thai, and fuck him into the mattress… and then tomorrow, maybe we'll go to that movie that he wanted to see… then we'll go by the munchers to see Gus… Justin loves spending time with Gus…
Aaron won't be a problem, but I won't let me guard down, not yet. I learned my lesson from what happened with Hobbs… If he steps over the line – hell, if he even gets close to it - I'm ready for him.
Brian thoughts drifted back to Justin and Gus, and he smiled to himself. He had come up with a few other ideas of things to do over the weekend. Some activities that he thought his two Sonny Boys might enjoy together.
Brian Fucking Kinney always had the most brilliant ideas.