This is Part 2
The other sections in "The Angel Stream".
Pittsburgh, March 2005
"Excuse me," said Justin to the receptionist. "I'm here to meet Mr. Kinney for lunch. I know I'm a little early, but is there somewhere I can wait for him?"
Alice, the receptionist at the Vangard front desk, looked the young man up and down. Lunch with Brian Kinney? I bet! she thought. There had been a lot of gossip in the break-room about Mr. No-Relationships Kinney finally having a boyfriend, but Alice had been quite skeptical. She had worked at the Ryder Agency before moving over to Vangard three years before and she'd observed Brian longer than anyone except his assistant, Cynthia. Alice knew that Brian Kinney was a dedicated gay tomcat, always on the prowl, always looking for new conquests.
However, if this really was the boyfriend -- assuming such a thing existed! -- he wasn't bad. Not bad at all!
"And your name, please?" Alice asked in her best professional manner.
"Justin Taylor," said Justin, glancing around the waiting room. Brian had told Justin that Vangard took up two entire floors of the building, with the offices of Gardner Vance and the other executives in the main suite and the Art Department, Copy Writing, and Accounting upstairs. Justin noted a large abstract painting hanging behind the receptionist's desk. It wasn't bad. Derivative of Rothko, but it gave the area a very brisk, modern look.
I should paint something for Brian's office, Justin mused. Then he shook his head. I don't even have a place to paint and I'm already planning where I'm going to hang my work. How do I know that Brian would even like my paintings? Or think one of them was good enough to be seen by his clients? All he's seen are some of the drawings from my sketchbook and that silly ad I made that he put on his desk in the loft. But that was only for fun.
"One moment, Mr. Taylor," said Alice. "I'll let Cynthia know that you're here and she can inform Mr. Kinney."
"Thanks," said Justin with relief. He'd been afraid that Brian might forget about their lunch. Or be too busy and blow him off. Justin knew that with one of his major clients was in town to approve Vangard's new campaign and that everyone at the office -- including Brian -- was going nuts.
Alice pressed a button on her phone panel. "Cynthia? Mr. Kinney's luncheon appointment has arrived."
"Ooo!" Cynthia yelped. "He's here! Tell me, Alice -- what's he look like?"
"Well...." Alice eyed the young man.
"You can't say anything because he's standing there, right?" Cynthia guessed.
"Yes," said Alice.
"I know he has blond hair. Is he cute?" Cynthia questioned.
"Yes, very," Alice replied.
"I'll be out there in two minutes!"
Actually, Cynthia was in the reception area in one and a half minutes. That's how anxious she was to see her boss's... what? Boyfriend? Fuck buddy? Lover? She wasn't even certain how to refer to the guy.
"Justin?" said Cynthia, shaking his hand. "I'm Cynthia, Brian's assistant."
"Hi!" Justin grinned at the woman. She was young, blonde, and elegantly dressed -- exactly the way Justin had pictured Brian's assistant. While Brian wasn't interested in women in general, he liked beautiful things around him and Cynthia was definitely beautiful.
Cynthia took Justin's arm and led him back into the suite towards Brian's office. "I'm afraid that Brian is still in a meeting with Mr. Vance, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Boyd."
Justin's heart sank. "Does that mean he can't go to lunch with me?"
"Not at all," Cynthia reassured him. "He'll only be a little late. Why? Do you have another appointment to go to?" Cynthia already knew that Justin was on his Spring Break and probably didn't have much else to do but sit around the loft, waiting for Brian to get home.
"Oh, no!" said Justin. "No other appointments."
Cynthia opened the door of Brian's office and ushered Justin inside. "Make yourself comfortable."
Justin slipped into the chair across from Brian's desk. "This office reminds me of Brian. All white! The furniture in his loft is white, too. I have to be careful with my art supplies so I won't get stuff all over his Italian furniture!"
"Brian certainly goes for a very clean, spare look," Cynthia agreed. "I've been to his loft a number of times and it struck me as... um... minimalist."
"When were you at Brian's loft?" Justin asked. He knew that Brian liked to keep Work and Home in strictly separated compartments
"Last year," said Cynthia. "When... when Brian was ill."
Cynthia wasn't sure how much this young man really knew about Brian's life. She imagined that Brian had told him about having cancer, but then again with Brian you never knew. He could be frustratingly close-mouthed about anything personal. She had only found out about his illness and treatment when she stumbled over Brian slumped on the floor of his office, trembling and too weak from the radiation to get to his feet. That had been a horrible moment! She'd had no choice but to call Gardner Vance, who then sent Brian home for the duration of his treatment. But still Brian had not stopped working. Cynthia kept in touch with him through the computer and brought him the material that he needed to keep up with his accounts as best he could.
"Oh," said Justin, looking pensive. "I worry about that all the time. About... the cancer. And whether it might come back."
"I'm glad that Brian has someone to worry about him," said Cynthia, smiling. "Because Brian doesn't take enough care of himself. I do the best I can, but..." she rolled her eyes. "There's only so much I can do here in the office."
"Brian really likes you," Justin said suddenly. "I mean, he talks about you. He respects you and Brian doesn't seem to respect a lot of people. Not even most of his friends. He's a bit misanthropic. At least, that's the pose he likes to cultivate."
Cynthia nodded. "I think it's the way he protects himself. I know that he's an old softie underneath. But don't you ever tell him that I said that or he'll throw me out the window!"
Justin laughed. "I won't betray you, Cynthia, never fear!"
Cynthia had a very good feeling about this young man. There was something about Justin that was so open and winning. Brian could be very charming, but he was far from open. To be around someone -- maybe even love someone -- who had the openness that Brian lacked could only be good for Brian's psyche. It might make him trust people more. And it might actually make him happy.
She knew that Justin was about 22 years old, but he seemed younger. And he seemed very unspoiled, too. He wasn't the kind of jaded club boy who frequented places like Babylon, the gay club where Brian was such a fixture. Cynthia had been to Babylon. She'd been on the club scene. She was even a bit of a fag hag -- how could she work for Brian Kinney for over six years and not be a fag hag at heart? She knew the kind of life Brian had been living, the kinds of drugs he took, the amount of booze he consumed, and the number of tricks he collected. And Cynthia also knew how tired he was of it, especially after surviving cancer.
Justin looked at his watch. "I'm getting hungry. I hope Brian isn't too much longer."
"It's been insane in this office," Cynthia confided. "Nothing but work. I'm sorry about your holiday in the Virgin Islands being canceled, but a lot of vacations have been put on hold this week."
Justin opened his mouth. "You know about that? About our trip?"
"Of course I knew!" Cynthia smirked. "I made the reservations!" Then she hesitated. Cynthia wasn't sure whether Brian had told Justin about the new reservations she had made for the Fieldstone Inn, so she thought she better hold her tongue for the time being. If Brian meant the weekend excursion to be a surprise, she didn't want to ruin it or Brian really would toss her out the window!
"It's okay," Justin shrugged. "I'm glad to have a whole week with Brian. And the loft is great." Justin had a devilish expression on his face. "It may not be the Virgin Islands, but it's better than any breeder resort crawling with drunken students on Spring Break!"
"Nope," said Brian, walking into the office and tossing some papers on the desk. "No breeders on Spring Break! I have other plans for us."
Justin jumped up from his chair and Brian took him into his arms, kissing him eagerly.
"On that note, I think I have some work to do," said Cynthia, backing out of the office.
"You bet your ass you do, my dear," said Brian. "Get lost. And shut the door behind you!"
"Ah!" Brian cracked. "Alone at last!"
"Are you going to bend me over your desk and have your wicked way with me?" Justin asked hopefully.
"I could -- but Cynthia is undoubtedly lurking right outside with her ear pressed against the door." Brian shifted his eyes to where Cynthia had just exited.
"Do you care?" said Justin. "I mean, if she's listening?"
"Not really, but let's say that fucking you on the desktop probably isn't a good idea at this time," Brian replied. "Gardner has been riding my ass recently -- and not in a good way! Besides, Leo Brown, one of our most prestigious clients, is in the building. It wouldn't do my reputation any good to be caught with my pants down and my 9-inch cock up your sweet ass, although it would certainly be an improvement on my usual 'eat in' lunch experience."
"Well," Justin sighed. "It was only a thought."
"Hold on to that thought," said Brian. "We can use it when we get home."
Something about the way Brian said the word 'home' gave Justin a strange thrill. Like it really was their home. His and Brian's. Justin knew that wasn't really true, but maybe one day it would be. Maybe even soon. As soon as Justin graduated from Dartmouth in June. That is, if Brian was serious about Justin moving in with him.
Brian had mentioned it back in February after he'd been arrested. Justin had taken the bus from Boston to be with him that weekend, but they had never really discussed Brian's proposal seriously after that. However, Justin had thought about it. Thought about it a lot. Moving in with Brian would be a huge step in his life. It would mean coming out to everyone he knew -- his father, all of his family, his friends from St. James Academy, everyone. And for a guy who had been hesitant even to go to meetings of Gay Dartmouth until his senior year was halfway over, that was difficult.
And Brian was another real question mark. Justin knew that Brian's experience with sex was boundless, but his practice at relationships was almost nil. He had hinted at having connections with a few men in his past that had gone beyond being casual fuck buddies, but he would never elaborate about that part of his life. The only thing we would admit was that a long time ago he'd been very young and very stupid.
Justin was dying to question Brian about those things, but he held himself back. Brian was a man with a lot of secrets and he didn't like to be 'cross-examined,' as he called it. Then he got all defensive and angry. And also very, very vulnerable. Justin thought that the vulnerability was the thing that frightened Brian more than anything else. But it was also one of the things that Justin found the most compelling about him -- that underneath his smooth and cold exterior, there was an apprehensive and tender core that almost no one had ever seen. It made Justin feel that he had a knowledge about Brian that no one else had access to. That he was onto something unrevealed that belonged only to him and Brian -- Brian's soul. But Justin saw it. And Justin loved it.
"I was going to take you to lunch at that new sushi place, but there won't be time," said Brian. "I'm sorry about that."
"Oh," said Justin.
That's what he'd been afraid of. Lunch canceled. Their vacation canceled. It was frustrating. But it was also the reality of the working world. Justin thought about all the times his father had missed his events at school. Promised to come to Little League games and never showed. Or when Justin was in the chorus of 'Bye Bye Birdie.' His father had said he'd come to the performance, but there had been a big sale at the store that weekend and he never showed up. That was his father's business. And this was Brian's business. The difference was that Craig Taylor had never said that he was sorry to his son. Never acted sorry. And never tried to make it up to Justin. But Brian....
"So I ordered lunch to be delivered," said Brian. "Is that all right?"
Justin grinned. "That's great! It'll be fun to eat in your office."
While they waited for the delivery Brian showed Justin around Vangard. Took him upstairs to the Art Department and introduced him to Murphy, who headed the Brown Athletics graphics team. Then they looked in at the small photography studio and watched as Leo Brown posed for some publicity shots with Ironmen quarterback and spokesmodel Drew Boyd. Then Cynthia caught up with the pair and told them that their food had arrived.
"This is great!" said Justin as they sat on Brian's desk and ate. Justin picked up a piece of shrimp with his chopsticks and put it up to Brian's mouth. Justin loved looking at Brian's lips as they sucked in the shrimp. They were so red. And so talented. Thinking about them gave Justin a shiver.
"I'm glad you like the service here, Mr. Taylor," Brian laughed. "Is it as good as at 'The Loft'?"
"Well, this place isn't clothing-optional," Justin replied.
"You have such a one-track mind," Brian said, rolling his eyes. "I like that about you."
"I was never like this before I met you," Justin reminded him. "I was a clueless virgin."
"And now the late-bloomer is catching up." Brian set down his chopsticks. "Soon you'll surpass the Master."
Justin shook his head. "I don't think so. I think I'd just like to be on the same level as the Master. To be equal. For both if us to be at the same place. On the same page. At the same time."
Brian paused for a moment before he spoke. "Don't you want to be the best homosexual you can possibly be? Don't you want to out-do me, Justin, and all the other queers, too? To be a big fucking success? So you can shove it in your old man's face and tell anyone who doesn't like it to fuck off?"
Justin chewed thoughtfully. "Maybe. But I think I'd like to be happy first. I'd like that more than I'd like to shove anything in anyone's face -- even in my father's. Because if you aren't happy, then what's the point of everything else? If you have everything you want, but you're alone, then how is that being a success? It's empty. Hollow. Because what if you look around at all you've accomplished and there's no one there to share it with you? I think that matters."
"Sometimes it's hard to find the time to be... be happy," said Brian.
"It's not hard," Justin whispered. "You make time to go to the gym, don't you? Because it's important. So is this." And Justin leaned over and kissed Brian. More than kissed him. Sent him a message. This is how you make the time. The time to be happy.
"Leo Brown is going back to Chicago tomorrow morning. Unless there's a major fuck-up the campaign is all set," said Brian, taking a deep breath. "Which means I can take off after that. I've already told Gardner. And you don't have to be back at Dartmouth until the Spring Term begins on Tuesday, right?"
"Right, Brian," Justin said with growing excitement. "Not until Tuesday."
"So that gives us some time. The weekend and a little more. That kind of time you were talking about. Time to be... to be happy." Brian felt strange saying like that. But it felt good, too. Instead of that cold, sickly feeling he usually had inside, he felt warm. Alive. Hopeful. Maybe that's what being happy felt like.
"Do you mean that we're going on a trip?" Justin wanted to jump up and dance around the office.
"Not far," said Brian. "Only about an hour's drive away. But it'll be fun to fuck in a new place." Brian reached over and picked up a brochure from his desk. "'The Fieldstone Inn: Serenity in the midst of the mountains. You will find renewal and rejuvenation as well as the ultimate in luxury at the beautiful Fieldstone Inn.' Does that sound okay with you?"
"Okay?" exclaimed Justin. "It sounds fantastic! Have you been to this place before?"
"Are you kidding?" Brian snorted. "Cynthia found it. But they have king-sized beds, fireplaces in every room, and bathtubs for two. Perfect for a romantic fuck-fest."
Justin gaped at Brian. "Did you say 'romantic'?"
"Yeah," Brian grumped. "Romantic. Whatever the fuck that means!"
Justin closed his eyes. "It means whatever the fuck you want it to mean, Brian. Whatever WE want it to mean. So don't be afraid of a word. Because we'll define it in our own way. It'll be what we say it means, okay?"
"Okay," said Brian, grudgingly. "Whatever you say, kid. You're the boss."
The Fieldstone Inn, March 2005
"Are you sure this is the right road?" asked Brian.
It seemed that they were getting farther and farther away from civilization with no sign of any kind of hotel, resort, or any other human habitation.
"I have the map right here, Brian," said Justin. "And I'm following the directions Cynthia gave us." Justin peered at the map and then at the road. "This is definitely the right road." He paused. "I think."
"Fabulous!" Brian moaned. "If you spy a fucking Motel 6 let me know! We might be spending the night there."
"We'll find the inn eventually, Brian," said Justin. "It's supposed to be secluded. That's one of the things it advertises!"
"Secluded is one thing," Brian replied. "But this place is in fucking Siberia! Look!" He pointed to the hills rising steeply before them. "Aren't those the Ural Mountains from 'Dr. Zhivago'?"
"Shut up!" Justin laughed. "You're such a drama queen when you're out of your own territory. Hey, slow down!"
Brian slowed the Corvette to a crawl. "What?"
"I think there's a road up ahead." Justin looked at the directions. "Fieldstone Road. There's the sign! This is it!"
"Jesus," Brian said in relief. "It's about fucking time!"
He turned the Vette onto a narrow road and although they were already in the mountains the road kept winding higher and higher.
Brian mumbled something about getting a nosebleed, but Justin was delighted. The countryside was poised between winter and spring and the view of the surrounding mountains and valleys was stark, but beautiful. They passed a farm where a herd of cows, still a little shaggy with their winter coats, stood next to the fence and gazed at the passing car. Then they drove through a small village that seemed mainly made up of antique shops and quaint tearooms.
"Maybe we should stop and eat something now?" Justin suggested.
"Tell your stomach to hang on," Brian returned. "I want to get to this joint and check in before we go out and get lost again."
"We were never lost," Justin insisted. "Besides, isn't that the point of going to a place like this? Getting lost? Together?"
"Right now I only want to find the fucking place," Brian said. "And take a piss -- and NOT by the side of the road!"
A few minutes later the Fieldstone Inn came into view. It was large a Victorian building situated on top of a rise and framed by a ring of low, dark mountains.
"Wow!" cried Justin. "Look at that!"
"Jesus Christ!" said Brian. "It's the fucking Bates Motel! If Anthony Perkins is behind the front desk, we're leaving!"
Brian pulled the Vette up to the front of the Inn. A broad porch reached all the way around the front of the building, which was three stories high and topped by gothic towers and turrets. Up close, it was obvious that the building wasn't a genuine Victorian mansion, but rather someone's fanciful notion of what a Victorian mansion should be. A number of wings extended the building in the back and they looked much more modern. The entire place reminded Brian of a set on a Hollywood backlot -- all surface and no reality. Bates Motel, indeed!
Brian and Justin carried their bags up the steps and into the lobby.
If we were at that place in the Caribbean, thought Brian, there would be two hunky bellboys in Speedos to carry our luggage directly to our rooms while the concierge directed two equally hunky waiters to bring us large rum drinks full of exotic fruit. Instead, we're schlepping our own shit directly into Breeder Central.
Brian may have been dubious, but Justin didn't care. All he saw as they stepped inside was a huge fieldstone fireplace that crackled brightly and noisily, filling the lobby with warmth and the sweet smell of seasoned wood burning.
Not Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, but a grey-haired woman in a blue sweater smiled at them as Brian signed the register at the front desk. "Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 a.m. There's a small refrigerator in your room, a coffeemaker, and a complimentary fruit basket."
"What do you know, Justin?" said Brian. "Free fruit!"
But Justin nudged him sharply with his elbow. "Do you have any suggestions for restaurants and activities in the area?" Justin asked the woman politely.
"Of course, honey," she said, reaching under the desk and pulling out a pile of brochures. "There are some cute places to eat in Wiley, which is right down the road. And a lot of restaurants all over these parts. Here's a list. They're all marked on the map. And as for activities, this is antique country. In the winter everyone comes for skiing, but now it's all about the antique markets." She handed Justin another map. "These are some of the biggest places, but all you have to do is drive around and look for the signs. You'll find them."
"Thanks!" said Justin. "Sounds like fun."
"Follow me and I'll show you the room, gentlemen." The woman took the key and led the way up the carved staircase.
"Antiques, huh?" said Brian. "I thought this was a bastion of breeders, but if there are antiques, there have got to be some queers around."
"Maybe the queers are selling and the straights are buying?" Justin said as Brian rolled his eyes. "Come on! It'll be fun. I've been to some antique shops up in New Hampshire and I found some good things. Old prints and folk art. Stuff like that."
"Other people's junk, you mean?" Brian sniffed. "Dusty old throwaways?"
"Don't be a stick in the mud, Brian," Justin warned. "We're going to have a good time. After all, this was your idea, wasn't it?"
"Yeah," Brian admitted. "I guess."
The staircase was steep, but luckily their room was on the second floor and not up an even steeper flight to the third. The woman opened the door and escorted them inside. A large canopied bed dominated the room, but Justin's eyes immediately when to the fireplace -- another large fieldstone hearth that was already lit and burning away merrily.
"It might be chilly tonight, so I already laid the fire," said the woman. "And I put extra blankets on the end of the bed. There's a large whirlpool bath and a shower in there," she said, indicating the bathroom. "If you go out for dinner, don't forget to put the screen in front of the fireplace. And leave your key at the desk downstairs. If there's anything else you want, just ask."
"Thanks," said Brian, trying to tip her.
"Oh, no!" said the woman. "I'm Mrs. York, the owner. If you'd like to leave a gratuity, you can add something to your payment at the end of your stay. I hope you enjoy yourselves, boys."
"Yeah, I hope so, too," said Brian with uncertainty. He felt completely out of his element in a place like this.
"We will!" asserted Justin. "It's perfect!" He was already standing in front of the big fireplace, drinking in the warmth and the aroma of it.
Mrs. York smiled and closed the door behind her, leaving the pair alone.
"Brian! I love this place!" Justin exclaimed. "It reminds me of New Hampshire. All those romantic inns I always see up there but have never been to. Or had anyone to go to with."
Brian shook his head. "You really do like this place, don't you? Seriously?"
"Of course!" said Justin, grinning happily. He went to Brian and put his arms around him. "It's like something in a movie!"
Yeah, thought Brian. A horror movie. All we need is Tallulah Bankhead with a bloody axe bursting through the door to hack us to pieces. He so wanted to say something snarky. Something cynical. About the smokey fireplace. The bed dripping with icky Laura Ashley prints. The fake ambience. Even the complimentary fruit basket with a few sad-looking apples and bananas wrapped with a big red bow.
But he was looking at Justin's face. Trying to see it all through Justin's eyes. And Justin wasn't seeing the phoniness. He was seeing a romantic place to make love. A place where it was just the two of them.
So Brian smiled back. "I think we have time to check out that whirlpool tub before we have to go out and search for a place to have dinner. After all that driving I could use a good soak to take the kinks out of my back."
"I can help you with that," Justin declared, rubbing his hands up and down Brian's back. "I can help you with a lot of things."
"You can?" said Brian, shrugging off his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt. "Let's see about that. We might as well start right away. After all, we have the entire weekend to explore."
"Yes," Justin agreed. "There's a lot to be explored. And I'm anxious to get started."
Continue on to "Spring Break -- Part 3".
©Gaedhal, June 2005.
Posted October 29, 2005.