This is Part 1
The other sections in "The Angel Stream".
Pittsburgh, August 2005
"I've been wanting to come here," said Lloyd Sutton, the CEO of Sutton Diet and Fitness Centers, as he and his companion approached the entrance to the Watermark, a restaurant on the Riverside Boardwalk. "They say the food is pretty good. And I heard the waitresses are the cutest in town."
"Yes," Brian Kinney nodded. "The waitresses. Well, this isn't exactly Hooters, but it's a decent place to have an expense account lunch."
The hostess recognized Brian and smiled at him. He'd been bringing a lot of Vangard clients to the Watermark this summer. "I have your usual table on the Patio ready for you, Mr. Kinney."
"Thank you, Rita," said Brian.
"Are you sure you want to sit outside?" griped Sutton. "It's pretty hot out."
"All our Patio tables have umbrellas, sir," said Rita, raising a carefully tweezed eyebrow. "And there's a cool breeze blowing off the river."
"Hear that, Sutton?" said Brian. "A cool breeze from the river. What could be better?"
"I guess so," Sutton grumbled.
Lloyd Sutton was an overweight and sweaty little man and not a very good advertisement for his own fitness centers. He took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow. He didn't know how Kinney managed to look so cool and put together in this damn heat. But the man's expensive suit was still crisp and his hair perfectly groomed, while Sutton's own clothes were drenched in sweat and his sparse hair hung down in limp strands.
The hostess seated the men at a round table that overlooked the water. Boats cruised lazily up and down the river, in no hurry to get anywhere on a hot and sunny day. Surrounding tables were full of young professionals in casual clothes, mainly couples and small groups of stylish men. Brian and Mr. Sutton were the only ones sitting on the Patio who were wearing suits.
Sutton glanced around as a buxom redhaired waitress scurried by. The uniform for servers on the Patio was a pair of red shorts and a white polo shirt with the Watermark logo of a sailing ship, also in red, on the breast pocket. Sutton licked his lips as he leered at the redhead's passing form.
"Maybe this is okay after all," said Sutton, opening his menu. "You got an eye for the scenery? I see a couple of good-looking babes working here."
"Perhaps," said Brian, coolly. He didn't look at the menu. He didn't need to. He already knew what he was going to order.
"I hope that redhead has our table," Sutton commented. "Did you see the tits on her?"
"I didn't really notice," said Brian. He craned his neck, looking for someone. Then he smiled as he saw a familiar figure approach their table.
"Hello," the server said cheerily. "My name is Justin and I'll be your waiter today. Can I bring you a drink before you order lunch?"
"Ah, Waiter Justin," smirked Brian. "I think you can. What will you have, Sutton?"
Lloyd Sutton turned up his nose. The redhead was nowhere to be seen. Instead they had this little fag waiting on them. "I'll have a martini. On the rocks. With two olives. Don't forget -- TWO olives!"
"Very good, sir," said Justin, writing the order on his pad. "I'll make sure there are two olives. And you, Mr. Kinney?"
"I'll have my usual," said Brian. Then he glanced at his piggish dining companion. "And make it a double."
Justin grinned at Brian. He knew how much Brian dreaded long business lunches with Vangard clients. But bringing them to the Watermark, where Justin had been working for over a month, made the ordeal much more bearable for his lover.
"A double Absolut, neat," he said. "I'll be right back with your drinks, gentlemen."
Brian watched Justin amble away, his delectable butt stretching the limits of his tight red shorts. If only he could get away from the table and this idiot client for ten minutes. There was a storage room behind the kitchen that was perfect for a quickie with Waiter Justin. Brian sighed. But it looked like they'd have to wait until this evening, when they were both home from work.
"This place seems awful popular with the fags."
Brian blinked, startled out of his reverie. "What did you say?"
"I said," Sutton repeated. "This place seems popular with the fags." He gestured to the next table, where four young men were drinking Cosmos and eating quesadillas. "And all the waiters look like fags, too. Like the little flamer we got waiting on our table." Sutton sniffed dismissively. "They're everywhere these days. Fags."
"Is that so?" said Brian, his voice dangerously soft.
"Yeah, I thought Jim Stockwell was going to drive that kind of person out of this town," Sutton continued. "That's what we elected him for. But I guess you can't get rid of them all!"
"I guess not," said Brian, his tone like ice. He wanted to knock Sutton's block off, but he couldn't. The moron owned a chain of fitness and diet centers that were spread out all over Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. The chain was going down the tubes fast and Gardner Vance had promised Lloyd Sutton that his partner, Brian Kinney, could turn the slump around with the right ad campaign.
"Make certain you get this account, Brian," Gardner had ordered. "It'll be quite a feather in our cap if we can do what Avon and Singleton Associates were unable to." Avon and Singleton were an up-and-coming agency that had been challenging Vangard and competing for many of the same clients. They had won the Sutton account, but been unable to turn the business around, so Gardner was determined to succeed where his rivals had failed.
"I'm hungry," Sutton grumped. "Where the hell is that little faggot? I want to order my lunch."
"The waiter is coming now," said Brian as Justin headed to their table with his tray.
"Here are your drinks, gentleman," Justin grinned. "A martini with TWO olives for you, sir. And a double Absolut, neat." Justin winked at Brian as he set the drink down in front of him. "Do you want to order your food now?
"It's about time," Sutton sniffed. "I want a Porterhouse steak, well-done."
"Well-done?" Justin questioned. The meat would be like a piece of leather by the time he brought it out. "Are you sure, sir?"
"You heard me," huffed Sutton. "Well-done. And a baked potato. With plenty of sour cream."
"What dressing for your salad?" Justin asked, sneaking a look at Brian, whose face was an impassive mask.
"No salad," said Sutton. "I hate salad. And make sure that potato is a big one, okay?"
"Of course, sir." Justin felt sorry for Brian. Lunch was obviously a torture for him. "And you, Mr. Kinney?"
"I'll have the Thai salad, with the dressing on the side," said Brian, looking pointedly at Sutton. "Thank you, Waiter Justin."
Justin collected the menus from the men. "Thank YOU, sir. I'll tell them to put a rush on the order. You look like you're in a hurry."
Amen, thought Brian. I can't get away from this asshole fast enough.
Justin left the table, stopping by the table with the four gay men to ask if they wanted another round of drinks.
"I hope that little pansy gets the order right. Last time I ordered a steak in a place like this it was still red inside," Sutton confided to Brian. "I had to send it back twice!"
"Is that so?" Brian replied, his patience at an end. "Oh, Justin?" he called, gesturing him back to the table.
Justin hurried back, frowning. Had he forgotten something? "Is there anything more you want, Mr. Kinney?"
"Yes," said Brian. "This!" He grabbed Justin's arm and pulled him down to him, kissing him hard on the mouth. "Don't eat anything else today. I'm going to take you to dinner tonight at Giovanni's, so I want you to be good and hungry. And wear those black jeans that I like. The ones that show off your fabulous ass."
"Brian!" Justin pulled out of his arms, blushing. "Stop! I'll get into trouble!"
"Fuck it!" he said. Then Brian glanced over at Lloyd Sutton's shocked face. "Justin is my lover. Just in case you didn't realize that faggots really are everywhere. Even running your crummy business' advertising campaign. And saving your fat ass while I'm at it! So don't forget that when you're mouthing off, Sutton!"
Lloyd Sutton stood up, sputtering. "Wait until I talk to Gardner Vance about this!" And then he stalked off.
The four men at the nearby table, who had been watching the drama with great interest, hooted and clapped. "You go, girl!" one of them cried in delight.
"Brian, what did you just do?" Justin sighed.
"Nothing," Brian stated. "And everything. Now cancel the rubber steak for that creep and bring me my Thai salad. But not too much. We're going out to dinner tonight, remember?"
Justin shook his head. "You're really something! You know that, Brian?"
Brian smirked. "I know."
"Justin, do you think you can work the dinner shift tonight?" asked Clarence Ramsey, the manager of the Watermark. "Chad just called and said he's not going to be able to make it, so I'm one waiter short."
Justin bit his lip and frowned. "I'm supposed to go out to dinner with Brian tonight. He's taking me to Giovanni's."
Clarence narrowed his eyes at Justin. "You keep telling me that you'd like to work dinners and get the bigger tips that come with that shift, but when I offer it to you, you blow me off. Make up your mind, Justin. What's more important? Going out with your boyfriend or making more money? Let me know soon or I'll ask someone else. I don't want to get caught short-handed this evening."
Justin was torn. He wanted to go to Giovanni's with Brian, but he also wanted that money. Lunch was okay, but the dinner shift was the most coveted. That's when prices were higher, the diners spent more -- and they left much bigger tips. Justin had only been working at the Watermark since July, so they'd started him on lunches, leaving dinner to the more experienced servers.
Working a few weeks at the Liberty Diner hadn't exactly prepared him for the demands of the trendy Watermark, but Justin was learning fast. He was a hard worker, he was personable, and he was extremely cute. That made him popular with diners, as well as with his fellow servers.
And the manager, Clarence, had his eye on Justin, too. That was sometimes a problem. Clarence liked to brush against Justin in the close quarters of the bus station or the narrow hallway leading to the kitchen. Clarence often told Justin how nice he looked in the Watermark uniform of shorts and polo shirt, and the way he said it made Justin more than a little uncomfortable. He hadn't made a pass at him -- at least not a blatant one. And maybe he wouldn't. Clarence had seen Brian and understood that Justin's tall boyfriend could easily beat the shit out of him -- if Brian were inclined to jealousy.
Of course, Justin knew that Brian didn't do jealous, but Clarence didn't know it, so he satisfied himself with a quick grope now and then. Justin figured that he could put up with that. After all, some of the Watermark customers were even more aggressively lecherous. And it wasn't only the older guys. Some of the younger men seemed to think that because Justin was there to 'serve' them, he was available in other ways, too. He'd been offered money to do everything from going on a date to showing an entire table his dick right there on the Patio. Justin always declined, but politely. He was always polite. It would never do to insult a customer and get his ass fired. Then he'd never make enough money to contribute his share of his and Brian's household expenses.
Every week Justin put most of his wages and tips into the ceramic pink flamingo cookie jar that Brian had bought for him at the Antique Market during their Spring Break vacation. It wasn't much money, not when compared to what their actual expenses were, but at least Justin felt he was giving something back. One day, he vowed, he'd pull his own weight. He'd be a full partner in their relationship. He'd show Brian that he could be a success, too.
Justin kept thinking about the look on his mother's face when he told her that Brian had bought him the Jeep. He knew what she was thinking. That Justin was a kept boy that Brian was only interested in for sex. And she wasn't the only one who thought so. He knew that Michael secretly felt that way. And Emmett openly made jokes about it, saying there was nothing better for a pretty gay boy than having a rich sugar daddy!
But Justin didn't want a sugar daddy. He wanted a partner. He wanted to be Brian's true equal. But he was also aware that it might be years before that was possible -- at least financially.
"Yes," said Justin. "I'll take that dinner shift. And if I do a good job, would you consider putting me on dinner permanently?"
Clarence squinted at the kid. He really was cute. And Clarence liked blonds. "I'll think about it. Let's see how you do tonight. You'll need a pair of black dress pants to work inside. Ask Dwight. He's about your size. He might have a pair in his locker. Otherwise you'll need to go home and get a pair. You do have a pair of decent black pants, don't you, kid? No jeans."
"Oh, yes," Justin nodded. "I have some."
"Good," said Clarence. "You start at 5:30. Don't be late. And don't fuck up tonight."
"I won't," Justin assured his boss. "I'll do a good job, Mr. Ramsey. You'll see."
It was the end of the lunch shift, so Justin went into the tiny breakroom and changed his clothes. Then he walked out along the Boardwalk and took out his cellphone.
"Brian?" said Justin as he heard his lover answer.
"I'm on my way into a meeting with Vance," Brian said. "So I can't chitchat."
"This isn't chitchat," Justin replied. "I have to work this evening, so I can't go to Giovanni's with you. But we can go another night, okay?"
Justin heard a long pause on the other end. "Yeah. Maybe. Whatever." Brian's voice sounded strained. Weary. Resigned. "It's work. I understand."
"Did your client call Mr. Vance and tell him about what happened at lunch?" Justin asked tentatively. "Is he mad?"
"Let's just say that Gardner isn't exactly thrilled with me," Brian sniffed. "I've got to move my ass right now. I'll see you tonight when you get home. Whenever that is."
"Late, probably," Justin sighed. "I'll have to help clean up. Sorry, Brian. I love you."
"Right," Brian said shortly. "Later."
Justin closed his cellphone slowly. He hoped that Brian wasn't in too much trouble. But how bad could it be? Brian was a partner in Vangard. What could Vance do to him? He couldn't fire a partner. Or could he?
Justin headed for the lot where the Jeep was parked. He had less than two hours to get home, shower, find a pair of black dress pants, and be back at the restaurant in time for the dinner shift. And he was already tired. By midnight he'd be a wreck.
But, hopefully, when he got home tonight he'd have a pocketful of tips. He practiced his 'Sunshine' smile. That never failed. He'd pull his weight. He'd show everyone that he was no fucking boytoy. No way! He was the best queer he could possibly be.
And he'd make Brian proud. In every way.
"Brian, I need to speak to you seriously," said Gardner Vance from behind his sprawling desk. "Please have a seat."
Brian strolled into Vance's office and sat in the chair on the other side of that intimidating desk. It was like a fucking visit to the principal's office. Just what he needed to end a lousy fucking day.
Brian was annoyed with himself. Not because of what he'd said to Lloyd Sutton. No, he wasn't the least bit sorry about that.
He was annoyed because he felt so disappointed that Justin had canceled their dinner at Giovanni's in order to work an extra shift at the Watermark.
That was no reason to be upset, Brian told himself. It was only dinner. It wasn't anything important. A spur of the moment invitation.
So why did he feel such a letdown that it wasn't going to happen? It didn't make any fucking sense!
"Brian!" Gardner Vance said sharply. "Are you even listening to me?"
"Oh," Brian replied. "Sure. The Sutton account. I have it all laid out. Murph has already made some preliminary sketches for the campaign. If Sutton wasn't such a damned hot-head he could be here at office, looking at them right now."
Vance took out a handkerchief and mopped the sweat from his bald head. What was he going to do with Brian? He was the best advertising man Vance had ever met -- outside of himself, of course. But Brian was nothing but trouble. A loose cannon. Liable to fly off the handle, especially if someone challenged him or made some anti-gay remark. He had provoked more than one client that way. So far they hadn't lost any business because of it, but Gardner had spent more time than he cared to think about smoothing the ruffled feathers of clients who were used to being coddled and catered to -- and not lectured about their beliefs by an angry homosexual with a large chip on his shoulder.
"Do you realize how irate Mr. Sutton is?" said Vance, trying to keep his own temper in check. "Do you realize that you embarrassed him in a public place?"
"If you mean that little incident at the Watermark this afternoon, then I guess you could say it was embarrassing," Brian shrugged. "But the man is a horse's ass, Gardner! He's a pig. He was ogling the waitresses like a horny frat boy. And making homophobic comments, too! Then he made a remark about Justin. Am I supposed to sit there and listen to that without saying anything? Fuck that! I don't care if he is a client!"
"It's not your place to drag your personal life into this office, as well you know!" Vance shouted. "The personal views of our clients have nothing to do with their accounts! It's not your job to make them see things your way. Your job is to woo them, gain their business, and then create a campaign that will sell their products. You know that more than anyone else, Brian."
"But Lloyd Sutton is a homophobic...." Brian began.
But Vance cut him off. "I don't give a damn what the man is! That is not your concern. And what do you think you're doing taking clients to the Watermark so often? Just so you can make goo-goo eyes at your boyfriend when you're supposed to be winning over the client? Is that a good business practice?"
Brian felt his face turning red. "I've never made goo-goo eyes at any guy in my entire fucking life! I go to the Watermark because they know me there, it's fast, and it's a good value for the price. I'm only thinking of Vangard."
Vance glared at Brian. That Brian's young boyfriend was a waiter at the Watermark had been common knowledge in the office for the past month -- at about the same time Brian began taking clients there and charging their meals on his expense account. "If you were really thinking of Vangard you wouldn't insult potential clients like Lloyd Sutton. And you wouldn't be so reckless with your personal life that you get picked up by the police and have to have Mayor Stockwell himself come to bail you out!"
"That was last winter!" Brian retorted. "I can't believe you're bringing that up now! I'm not planning on get arrested again, Gardner. I don't need to go out looking for prime dick in the alleys of Liberty Avenue because I'm...." Brian paused. Because why? Because he was in a relationship? Brian winced at the word, even if it was the truth. "I don't need to do that shit anymore."
"I'm very glad to hear that," said Vance. "But that doesn't erase your past conduct. And it doesn't explain why you feel the need to jeopardize this business because of your personal vendetta against Mayor Stockwell and his 'Family Friendly Pittsburgh' policy. Many people agree with him -- including many of our clients."
"Then they're homophobic creeps just like Jim Stockwell!" Brian exclaimed. "And I don't have to pretend I agree with them. Or listen to them spout off about people I... I love." Brian rubbed his forehead. He had a bitch of a headache and it was getting worse by the minute.
"I want you to apologize to Lloyd Sutton," said Vance, standing and staring directly at Brian. "That is not a suggestion, it's an order."
Brian stood up slow and put his hands on the big desk, staring back at Vance in defiance. "I won't apologize to that jerk! I'll map out Sutton's campaign and it'll be brilliant -- as usual. But I won't apologize to him. No apologies! And no fucking excuses! He can take it -- or leave it."
Gardner Vance shook his head. "Then I'm afraid that I must place you on suspension, Brian. I want you to collect your personal effects and go home. In a month you may come back in and we'll review your accounts -- and see whether or not you have a future here at Vangard."
Brian's mouth was hanging open in shock. "You can't suspend me! I'm a partner in this firm, Gardner! I'm not some flunky you can kick out on a whim!"
"This is no whim, Brian," Vance stated. "And although you are a partner at Vangard, this is still MY agency. I have the controlling interest here and the final decisions are mine to make -- and I'm making this one. Wilson and Millard will take over your accounts in your absence."
"Ken Wilson and Phil Millard? Take over MY accounts?" Brian choked. "They can't handle their own accounts, let alone mine!"
"Then you will have all the more reason to want to return when your suspension is over and make certain that Wilson and Millard haven't done too much damage to your clients," Vance informed Brian. "Go home and think about what you really want. Do you wish to make political statements? Or do you wish to continue working in the advertising business? Make up your mind, Brian, and then let me know in a month."
Vance sat back down and swiveled his chair away from Brian, dismissing him.
"You can't do this, Gardner!" Brian breathed. "I'm your fucking partner!"
"I'll see you in a month," said Vance, not looking at him. "A security guard is waiting outside to escort you to your desk and then to your car. Goodbye, Brian."
Brian turned and walked to the door. The stony-faced security man was standing right outside, just as Gardner had promised.
I'm fucked, thought Brian, his heart sinking. Without lube.
©Gaedhal, January 2006.
Posted June 14, 2006.