THANKFUL

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

Parts 1-3

The other episodes in "The Angel Stream".

Part 1

Pittsburgh, October 2005

"Hey, Justin."

Clarence, the manager of the Watermark, the restaurant where Justin worked, called him over to the bus station right next to the kitchen.

"I was just going to take the orders at Table 9," said Justin. It was only a Wednesday night, but they were still very busy. Justin had just taken the dinner orders for two other tables and the hostess was seating another party in his section.

"That can wait for two minutes," said Clarence. "Your boyfriend is here again. This is the third night in a row he's had his ass taking up a stool at the bar, nursing one drink for the entire evening. What's up with that?"

Justin glanced over to the bar, where Brian was hunched over an Absolut. "He's waiting to take me home," Justin explained. "He doesn't like me driving by myself late at night. He doesn't think it's safe."

"I don't give a damn if he drops you off and then picks you up," huffed Clarence. "But what I don't like is him sitting here all fucking evening until you finish your shift! This is a restaurant, not a waiting room! Doesn't he have anything better to do with his time?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Ramsey," Justin said, contritely. "Really. It won't happen again."

Clarence knew who Justin's boyfriend was. The infamous Brian Kinney. The Stud of Liberty Avenue -- at least formerly. Many times over the years Clarence had seen Kinney arrogantly and confidently presiding over his chosen domain, Babylon, whether the bar, the dance floor, or the backroom. He'd never been picked up by the guy -- Clarence wasn't Kinney's type by any stretch of the imagination -- but he knew guys who had been. And they all said the same thing -- Kinney was an amazing fuck, but once that fuck was over, he was the world's biggest asshole. He never looked at you, never offered you a drink, never even asked your name. Kinney barely allowed a trick to put his pants on before he bounced him straight out the door.

And yet here he was, the Great Brian Kinney, waiting around all evening for the skinny blond waiter he now lived with. How the mighty had fallen!

"Listen, kid, your boyfriend is great-looking," Clarence said. "But this isn't a gay bar. In the evening our clientele are mainly couples on dates or celebrating special occasions. And singles hanging out in the bar, looking to make a connection. Your boyfriend just doesn't fit in, get it?"

Justin took a deep breath. "Yes, I get it, Mr. Ramsey." You jealous old queen, Justin added to himself.

"All right, then." Clarence smiled smugly. He didn't have much going on in his life, especially since he and his boyfriend, Bryce, had broken up the month before, but he had this. The dining room of the Watermark was his domain and he was going to make certain that all his servers knew that. Yes, even Brian Kinney's twink!

Let Kinney cool his heels somewhere else -- preferably over on Liberty Avenue. So what if most of the waiters who worked at the Watermark, not to mention Clarence himself, were gay? With the political climate in Pittsburgh the way it was, it wasn't good for business to be perceived as a gay hangout. If Brian Kinney was at the bar every night, then maybe his friends might start coming there, too. It was one thing to have a gay clientele at lunch or out on the patio during the summer, but quite another to have one in the prime evening hours. The Watermark had a reputation as a 'special occasion' destination for upscale young couples -- and that didn't include queers.

Justin took the orders for Table 9 and then for the new party that had been seated at Table 11. He had about five minutes before the appetizers for the couple at Table 8 were ready, so he sidled into the bar and touched Brian gently on the shoulder.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey, yourself," said Brian, turning and smiling.

Justin glanced around to make certain the manager was nowhere in sight. "I hate to tell you this, but fucking Ramsey is giving me a hard time tonight."

Brian frowned. "About what?"

"You," Justin whispered. "He noticed that you've been here a couple of nights in a row and he doesn't like it."

"What the fuck is his damage?" Brian demanded. "I'm having a drink here! Or doesn't he think I'm good for it?"

"No," Justin insisted. "It's not that." Justin knew how sensitive Brian was about his current financial setback. His temporary setback. Yes, very temporary. "He doesn't like the servers to have their... their significant others spending too much time in the restaurant. He thinks it's a distraction."

"Asswipe," Brian muttered.

"I have to get back to my tables." Justin leaned over to kiss Brian, but then he stopped. Clarence would have a shit-fit if he saw that. Not to mention that it was a kiss at the Watermark that had started all the trouble and gotten Brian suspended from Vangard. It wouldn't do to have another innocent kiss cause Justin to lose his job, too. "I'll see you after work."

"I'll be waiting outside."

Brian watched Justin hustle back into the dining room. His head was held high and he had a winning smile on his face for the customers. Damn that kid, thought Brian. Nothing gets him down.

He only wished he could say the same for himself.

Brian paid for his drink and left a tip equal to the bill.

"Thank you, sir," said the bartender, scooping up the tip and putting it in his pocket. He grinned at Brian and licked his lips tentatively.

That's me, Brian thought, always the big shot. Even when I'm barely holding my head above water.

The bartender was hot. At another time and in another place Brian would have taken the guy into the men's room and fucked the shit out of him. But not anymore. And not because Justin was in the next room. It was something else. Something that had changed within Brian.

Something that had changed on a cold night almost a year before. On Christmas Eve, to be precise.

Brian walked out and got into his Corvette.

He still had about three hours to kill before the end of Justin's shift.

Time. That's one thing he had plenty of.

Brian drove off, looking for a place to kill it.

***

Part 2

Pittsburgh, October 2005

"What's up, honey?" asked Debbie as Brian sat down at the counter and shrugged off his leather jacket.

"Not much," Brian admitted.

Debbie leaned her elbows on the counter and regarded Brian. "Sunshine working?"

It was a slow night at the diner. Stockwell's goons had upped their patrols of Liberty Avenue recently -- they'd had a tip about some troublemakers who were targeting the area, Carl said -- and that was keeping men away from the bars and Babylon in droves. No one wanted to be picked up in one of the Anti-Sex Squad's sweeps and spend the night in the Queens Tank downtown.

"He's on the dinner shift at the Watermark." Brian glanced at the menu board. The Pink Plate Special was macaroni and cheese. Fucking carbs on top of fat on top of carbs. Oh, well, he wasn't really very hungry, even though he hadn't eaten anything since lunch. "He won't be finished until midnight."

"I hope they're doing better over there than we are," Debbie sighed. "Business has been rotten, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah," Brian replied. "I know exactly what you mean."

"How about a nice cup of coffee?" Debbie suggested. "We're not Starbucks, but we can still make a decent cup of coffee!"

"Why not?" said Brian. I need to keep myself awake. Yeah, if I don't fall asleep from fucking boredom. Or was it depression? "Sure. Coffee, with...."

"I know," Debbie guffawed. "Plenty of sugar!"

As Deb poured Brian a cup, she watched him move restlessly on his stool, as if he couldn't get comfortable. Brian had always been the restless sort. As a boy he'd been in perpetual motion. And as a man, he never seemed satisfied with anything. He was always looking for something bigger. Better. Newer. Something different. Or just something. Something he hadn't found.

Until he met Justin. Then it appeared he'd found that something he'd been looking for. He relaxed, at least as much as he was capable of relaxing, and his face took on a quieter, more contented expression. Debbie was almost afraid to say that Brian was happy -- she was afraid that she'd jinx things -- but that's the way it seemed. The way he'd look at Justin was like he'd never seen anything like him before. And maybe he hadn't. Because he'd never admitted to himself that he really loved someone before. Oh, yeah, he loved Mikey and Lindsay. And he loved Gus, truly and deeply. But that was different than loving someone the way he obviously loved Justin. That was something completely new for Brian A. Kinney.

"So...." Debbie began. But then she stopped. Oh, what the hell. She'd known Brian since he was 14 years old. She could ask him anything. But whether he wanted to answer was a different story altogether! "How are things going with the job?"

"At a stalemate," Brian confessed. "Vance says he won't lift my suspension unless I consent to a new partnership agreement -- and I'll be fucked if I will!"

The contract Gardner presented to Brian had been a joke, full of all sorts of concessions that he knew Brian would never swallow, including one that made clear that Brian could be let go whenever and for whatever reasons Gardner, as the controlling partner, deemed fit. And the kicker was a non-compete clause that virtually guaranteed Brian could never start up his own business anywhere Vangard had a presence, which meant Pittsburgh, of course, but also New York, Chicago, and London -- all the centers of the ad game outside of L.A. Not that Brian had the start-up money to open his own agency any time soon, but it was the fucking principle of the thing! He hated to think that the pompous Gardner Vance had him so firmly by the balls!

"Can he do that?" Debbie asked. She didn't know much about business, but it all sounded pretty unfair to her. Gardner Vance called all the shots and Brian had to go along with him or hit the road. That didn't seem right, since Brian was a partner in Vangard, as well as their most talented executive. After all, Brian had singlehandedly run the campaign that got Stockwell elected mayor. Oops, thought Debbie, maybe that's not such a great example!

"I have a lawyer working on that very question," said Brian. He twisted the cup of hot coffee between his hands. "An extremely expensive lawyer. But Gardner is the founder, CEO, and chief partner of the Vangard Agency. And I'm a lowly, troublemaking faggot who insulted a client and... well, let's just say that my personal life hasn't exactly been exemplary. The reality is that if Gardner wants me gone, then I'll be gone, one way or another. The only thing left to haggle over is the cash settlement he'll have to fork over to get rid of me. And I don't want to leave unless I get what I'm worth."

"Jesus," said Debbie. "That sounds like a nasty divorce!"

"That's precisely what it is," Brian conceded. "A very messy business divorce, with Gardner Vance as the evil, wealthy husband and me as the beautiful, wronged wife." As much as he disliked the idea of being anyone's wife, let alone Gardner Vance's, Brian smiled to himself at the analogy. "And if I don't get a little alimony soon, I'm going to be majorly fucked!"

Debbie frowned. No wonder Justin was working so much! Brian was broke and too proud to admit it!

"Are things that bad, baby?" she asked with real concern. "Do you need money? Maybe me and Carl can loan you a little something to tide you and Sunshine over?"

"Christ, no!" Brian barked. "I was only kidding! Things are fine. Just fine." He paused, gripping his cup of coffee tightly. "Justin and I are budgeting our money. And I have plenty of savings and investments to tide us over until Gardner finally gives in. Then I can settle down and find another job. Or maybe I can go into business for myself. Open my own agency. Be my own boss. That way I'll never have to deal with pricks like Gardner Vance again! I'll write my own fucking ticket! So don't worry about me, Deb. I'm great. Really, really great."

"You do that, honey," Debbie nodded, not believing a single word. The idea of Brian Kinney even saying the word 'budget' out loud was something she'd never thought she'd hear. But then she never thought she'd live to see the day when Brian Kinney was living with someone, either! When pigs could fly, as Grandma Grassi used to say!

Brian glanced at the clock on the wall over the grill. Still an hour and a half before Justin's shift ended. Maybe he should just go home and get online. He'd already done research on the cities he'd most like to relocate to. New York. San Francisco. Los Angeles. South Beach. Honolulu. Chicago. But he knew those were longshots at best. Vance would make certain that his fucking name was mud at all the best agencies. He also had a list of secondary places he hadn't checked out yet. Atlanta. Washington. Charleston. Boston. Seattle. And after that it was down the list all the way. Denver. Charlotte. Dallas. Phoenix. Salt Lake City. Cleveland. Houston. Anchorage. Buffalo. Scranton. Brian shuddered. He'd rather take a job as a fucking waiter himself than go to that agency in Scranton at a fraction of his target salary!

But he might have to. Unless Gardner came around. Brian knew from his spy, the incomparable Cynthia, that things were not so peachy at Vangard. Ken Wilson and Phil Millard had botched up the Sutton account badly. Lloyd Sutton had taken his homophobic ass, along with his chain of diet and fitness centers, back to Avon and Singleton Associates to give them another chance at turning his ad campaign around. Cynthia told Brian that Gardner was livid about losing Sutton. But she also said that he blamed Brian more than the talentless Wilson and Millard. In fact, Vance had taken to blaming Brian for everything that went wrong at the agency. Yes, Brian, who wasn't there to defend himself, was a convenient scapegoat for all the perceived ills at Vangard.

"How about a sandwich, honey?" Debbie suggested. "Or I can whip you up a nice omelet. When was the last time you ate a full meal, huh?"

"I'm not hungry," Brian insisted. "Really. Just give me a refill on this coffee and I'll be okay." He tapped the cup and gave her a half-hearted smile. "I already told you, Deb -- I'm great. I'm always great! I'm Brian Kinney, remember?"

"Yeah," said Debbie. He was Brian Kinney. Now she was really worried. "I remember. How could I ever forget?"

***

Part 3

Pittsburgh, October 2005

The moment they stepped into the elevator, Brian began stripping off Justin's clothes.

"Brian, hang on a sec," said Justin. "I'd like to get a shower first. I'm all grungy and smelly."

"Good," Brian replied, tugging at Justin's fly. "I like a cock with a little flavor."

The elevator lurched to a stop and Brian pushed the door open while Justin got out his key.

"I'm planning to fuck you all night," Brian breathed on Justin's neck as he pressed his growing erection against him.

"Don't forget that I have my class tomorrow morning," Justin reminded him as he opened the loft door. "I can't miss it."

Justin had planned to take two classes at Carnegie Mellon that fall, Art History and Figure Drawing, but Brian's continued suspension from Vangard had caused him to rethink his plan. Instead, he took on more hours at the Watermark and only audited a single class, the drawing studio.

"Don't worry. I think we'll be finished by then," Brian said as he licked the back of Justin's neck. "Hm, this is better than the entire menu at the Watermark and the Liberty Diner combined."

"You're such a fuck hound, Brian!" Justin laughed and gave him a gentle push.

"Woof," Brian smirked.

"Hey, there's a message on the machine," said Justin, noticing the flashing light. He put down his gym bag and headed for the desk.

"Leave it," said Brian, kicking off his boots and then dropping his jeans to the hardwood floor.

"But it might be important!" Justin asserted.

Brian snorted as he pulled off his sweater. "Nothing is more important right now than my dick in your ass!"

Justin gave Brian his 'behave yourself' look. "I just want to check the message. It might have something to do with my class." He pressed the button for the playback.

"Justin -- it's Denny Duggan. Call me back as soon as you can, even if it's late. I'm at my parents' house." Then he left a number.

"Denny? Isn't that your roommate from Dartmouth?" Brian asked. He was already naked and standing with his hands on his hips, waiting.

"Yeah." Justin frowned. "I wonder what's going on in Boston?"

"Call him in the morning," said Brian, tugging at Justin's arm. "What's going on right HERE is the only thing I'm interested in."

"I better get back to him, Brian," Justin insisted. "Five minutes, okay?"

Brian rolled his eyes. "Three minutes -- tops! Or else I'll come and get you!" He turned and strode towards the bedroom.

Justin looked at Brian's firm, pale ass with admiration. "I'll be there shortly. I promise."

"And I'll be up here -- longly!" Brian snarked and disappeared up the steps and into the bedroom.

But five minutes came and went and Justin was still talking to his former roommate. Then ten minutes. And fifteen.

Brian stared at his flagging erection and finally got out of bed.

"Hey, Taylor! Get the fuck in here and take care of my cock before I get out my cell and call 'Asses R Us' for a replacement!"

"I've got to go, Denny," Justin said into the phone. "Brian is getting impatient. Yeah, I know!" he laughed. "I'll call you this weekend and let you know for sure. Bye."

Justin peeled off the rest of his clothes as he bounced up the steps to the bedroom.

"It's about time!" Brian huffed.

Justin fell on top of his lover. "Sorry about that. But I couldn't very well blow Denny off."

"You better not be blowing him in any way, twat." Brian pulled Justin closer. "Remember how I warned you about straight boys? They might be good one-time fucks, but you can never trust them. They always head back to pussy the first chance they get. Take that from the voice of experience."

"Eew! I'd never have sex with Denny!" Justin made a disgusted face thinking of his skinny, red-haired friend. "He's SO not my type!

"What the fuck was so important that it couldn't wait until tomorrow? Or next week? Or even next year?" Brian was already guiding Justin's head towards his expectant cock.

Justin looked at Brian seriously. "He wanted to know if we could come to Boston in three weeks. November 16th."

Brian stopped. "Why the fuck does he want us to go to Boston then? It's too late for Halloween and too early for a Dartmouth reunion."

"Not a reunion," Justin announced. "A wedding."

"Wedding?" Brian coughed. Simply hearing the word 'wedding' gave him a dull pain.

"Denny wants me to be his best man," Justin said. "Carole's pregnant and they're Catholics, so they can't wait until next June. So can we go? What do you say, Brian?"

"What do I say?" Brian grimaced. He suddenly had a flashback of his own parents, a pair of idiots who had made a similar mistake 38 years before, with disastrous consequences. "The only thing there is to say -- holy shit and good fucking luck!"

"I guess that means yes," Justin grinned.

"Yes," said Brian. "Now get to it."

He watched the blond head bob up and down on his dick, but Brian's mind kept straying. Wandering to places he didn't want it to go.

So he flipped Justin over and buried any rambling thoughts deep inside his round, pink, and pliant ass.

That was Brian's cure for everything.

©Gaedhal, December 2006.

Posted November 5, 2007.