THANKFUL

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

Parts 7-9

The other episodes in "The Angel Stream".

Part 7

Boston, November 2005

The stately old redbrick house in the South End had been meticulously restored and decorated with Victorian Era antiques. Slightly faded oriental rugs covered the hardwood floors, and massive, overstuffed chairs and sofas were crammed into every room like homey elephants. Ticking clocks that gently chimed the hour sat on the mantels of the original fireplaces that were a feature of the establishment. Nathaniel and Preston Wellington-Bradford were especially proud of the care they had taken to make their guesthouse the finest in their trendy, gay-friendly neighborhood.

But to Brian, it like checking into Motel Hell itself.

"Why the fuck do I do these things to myself?" he moaned as he surveyed the antique-encrusted nightmare that was their room for the next three days.

"I think it's pretty nice," said Justin, unpacking his suitcase. "And it's a lot better than a Motel 6!"

"At least a Motel 6 is meant to be horrific," Brian griped. "It's created to be bland and barren, as empty of meaning as a place can be -- all plastic and cardboard and identical prints of nameless beaches on the wall. A room to sleep in, fuck in, or kill yourself in -- and nothing else! But this..." Brian shuddered. "This truly is a fucking atrocity." He fingered the antimacassar that adorned the back of a lumbering piece of furniture that purported to be a chair. "Even the fucking chairs have their own doilies!"

"We could have stayed at the Duggans' house in Southie," Justin pointed out. The Duggans lived in a predominantly Irish neighborhood not far from the South End in distance, but a world apart in attitude and tradition. "Denny said that his mother set up some extra cots in the boys' room and that we were welcome to use them."

Brian winced. "Tell me again why we drove for 10 hours to be subjected to the pleasures of Queer and Not-So-Queer Boston, not to mention the endless parade of the extended Clan Duggan?"

"So that I can be Denny's Best Man," Justin replied serenely as he continued unpacking. "And so you can wear your midnight blue Armani tux."

"I guess so," Brian muttered. "I knew there was one good reason."

Justin was used to Brian's method of venting by now. At first the acerbic way Brian bitched about things that didn't meet his immediate approval had unnerved Justin. His WASP sensibilities had been trained to downplay his true feelings about things. Strong opinions, strong displays of emotion, and strong language had always been frowned upon in the Taylor home, as well as the environs of the Arcadian Country Club and St. James' Academy. Smiling and being polite and gracious on the surface was the norm, even when it went against every honest impulse you possessed. That's what Justin had been taught. And until he'd come out to his parents, he'd rarely seen either one of them raise their voices or make a critical comment -- at least in front of him.

But Brian was a completely different story. He seemed to have no difficulty in loudly declaring exactly what he was on his mind at that moment, even if it was something outrageous, obscene, or hurtful. It was as if the little editing device other people had in their heads that kept inappropriate comments from reaching their mouths had been turned off in Brian's. Justin had heard him say things to his best friend, Michael, that would get any other man punched in the mouth. And the remarks that he made to Ted and Emmett made Justin marvel that he was still friends with them.

And then there were the comments that he sometimes made to Justin. Off-hand, but still wounding. Speculating on why they were together. Wondering why he was tying himself down to some blond piece of ass. Some twink. Some little twat. Some boytoy who would only abandon him one day when he found someone better. Or something better.

Those words had made Justin go cold inside. Was that what Brian really believed? That Justin was only using him? That he didn't actually love him and would leave him the second some better prospect came along?

But then Brian would hold onto Justin in the dark. Cling to him like he was afraid he would disappear right out from under him. Like he really believed that one day he'd be left sitting alone, the walls of the loft echoing with an oppressive silence all around him.

Justin began to understand that down deep inside Brian was terrified. The cutting remarks and the disdainful declarations were not about Justin, or Michael, or even Ted and Emmett -- they were about Brian himself. About his own fear of abandonment. About things that had happened to him long ago. About his dead father and his shadowy mother. And about Brian's fervent, private belief that no one would ever truly love him.

Brian's bitching and snarking and complaining were part of the wall he had constructed to protect himself from that fear. It was a wall that was slowly crumbling, but Brian still struggled to put bricks into place, even as Justin was quietly and steadily knocking them down.

"The wedding," Justin reminded him again. "That's why we're here."

"Fucking weddings," Brian sniffed. "Followed swiftly by a hoard of snot-nosed kids. 'First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes poor old Denny pushing the baby carriage!'" he recited.

"I don't think he minds," said Justin. "Denny told me that he and Carole want a lot of kids. They're just starting on them a little sooner than they expected to."

"And then the nasty divorce!" Brian ran his hand through his hair nervously. "The accusations! The recriminations! The lawyers!"

"Not everyone gets a divorce, Brian," said Justin, thinking of his own parents. His mother had told him that she and his father were going to couples' counseling. As much as he was pissed off at his father, Justin didn't want his parents to break up, especially for his sister Molly's sake. "Look at Mr. and Mrs. Duggan -- they've been married for almost 25 years."

"A life sentence," Brian murmured. "And eight kids! Irish fucking Catholics!"

"Takes one to know one, Brian," Justin smirked. "Your parents never got a divorce."

"Well, they should have," he sighed as he stared at the elaborate cuckoo clock on the mantel, wondering where he could get a mechanical cat to eat the fucking cuckoobird when it next poked its head out. "They fucking hated each other and, because of that, they hated us. Me and my goddamn sister. The two of us are miserable excuses for human beings, but I suppose it's a wonder that we survived at all."

Justin walked across the room and put his hand on Brian's arm. "You're not a miserable excuse for a human being and I don't want to hear you saying things like that."

Brian smiled slightly. "Truth hurts, huh, twat?"

"It's not the truth," Justin asserted. "I wouldn't be with someone like that. Lindsay wouldn't have had Gus with someone like that. And Michael wouldn't be friends with a miserable excuse for a human being!"

"Mikey didn't have much choice!" Brian laughed. "He was pretty pathetic himself. A short, goofy, faggy little nerd who walked around with a comic book in his hand. Of course, I had to rescue him. That's the only reason he's put up with me all these years."

"So you are an admirable character after all," said Justin. He began unbuttoning Brian's shirt. The four-poster bed reminded him a little of the one they'd fucked in at the bed and breakfast they'd stayed in for Justin's graduation from Dartmouth. "A superhero, like in Michael's comics. Come to Earth to save poor, nerdy fags from high school hell!"

"And who saved you, Sunshine?" Brian whispered. They were moving towards the bed. It was another Victorian monstrosity, but Brian didn't mind that much. He could fuck anywhere, any time. No problem.

"You did," Justin replied, stepping out of his jeans. "It just took a little longer."

"And who is going to save me?" Brian pushed Justin backwards onto the chenille bedspread. The boy's cock was hard and insistent. Brian licked his lips. Who could resist such a temptation?

"I am." Justin shut his eyes as Brian went down on him. "But you already know that."

***

Part 8

Boston, November 2005

The wedding rehearsal was held at the Duggans' parish church -- a ponderous stone building that was blackened on the outside by decades of exhaust fumes and seawater and blackened on the inside by as many decades of candle smoke and mildew.

"Jesus," whispered Brian as he and Justin walked in. "I'd almost forgotten that smell."

"What smell?" Justin frowned. "What do you mean?"

"The incense," Brian replied. "And dampness. And desperation. Because that's when people come to a fucking place like this -- when they're desperate."

"That's not why Denny and Carole are coming here," Justin corrected him. "They're coming to get married!"

"It's the same thing in the long run," said Brian. "Only they don't know it yet."

"Some married people are happy, Brian." Justin put his hand on Brian's arm. "Maybe not all of them, but a lot of them. They love each other and have families. It happens, whether you believe it or not."

Brian looked down at Justin's serious face. "You still have a lot of dreams, don't you, brat?"

"More than I can manage!" Justin smiled. "But I can't believe that you don't have a few hidden away -- even if you don't want to admit it."

"All of my dreams involve my dick and your ass," Brian said, lowering his voice. "But we better shut the fuck up or we'll get booted out of here before this shindig even begins! This is still a church, after all."

"Maybe the priest will be a hot young stud," Justin speculated. Brian had told him about an encounter he'd had with his own mother's pastor a few years before in a now-closed bathhouse off Liberty Avenue. He had also hinted that 'Father Buttfuck' hadn't been the only man of the cloth on Brian's long list of conquests.

"I'm not holding my breath," Brian sniffed.

But the priest turned out to be exactly the opposite of young, hot, and studly. Father Mike was elderly, bald, and near-sighted.

"I'm glad to meet you, my son," said Father Mike, shaking hands with Brian after Denny introduced them. "Kinney? Are you any relation to Porky Kinney, who was the son of Butch Kinney and his wife, Martha? His brother was Stretch Kinney, who married the daughter of Spike Flynn. They belonged to St. Monica's."

"No," said Brian, stifling a laugh. Denny had warned them that among the older generation of Southie Irish everyone had a ridiculous nickname. "I'm from Pittsburgh. My father was plain old Jack Kinney. And his father was Peter Kinney."

"Ah," the old priest nodded, as if searching his foggy memory. "Were your people from Kerry? Or maybe they were of the Monaghan Kinneys? Then they might be related to Pinky Kinney. Or the family of Old Ratty Kinney and his brother, Bugger."

Brian raised his eyebrows. "Bugger Kinney? That might very well be my branch of the clan -- whether we're related or not!"

"Brian, behave!" Justin warned. Then he quickly changed the subject before the priest had a chance to inquire further. "This is a very nice old church, Father."

"It's nice, but it is an old one, surely," Father Mike agreed. "Many weddings we're had here. And many baptisms, First Communions, confirmations, and funerals as well. But we don't know how much longer we can stay open. So many of the old parishes are closing. The young people are moving to the suburbs in droves. It's not like the old days when the families stayed in the neighborhood. I baptized both Denny and Carole, but Red tells me that they have already put a down payment on a house out in Quincy." He said the name as if it were a foreign place, like Tahiti or Tibet.

"I hope it won't close," Justin replied. He liked the feel of the old church, even if it was drafty and obsolete. His artist's eye was drawn to the high arches, the shadowy corners, and faded colors of the stone walls and stained glass windows. He knew there was no time to take out his sketchpad right then, but maybe tomorrow...

"Hey, Justin!" Denny called from in front of the altar. The rest of the wedding party was gathered there with the wedding planner, a stern woman in a prim blue suit. "We need you and Father Mike over here!"

"We had better heed the call, young man," Father Mike remarked. "Or that planner woman will get her knickers in a gigantic twist."

"I'll wait here until you finish," said Brian.

"Oh, no you won't," said a deep voice.

Brian turned to see Denny's Uncle Pat standing behind them. They had met Pat at the Duggan house earlier in the day when they all assembled for their session with the planner, who ruled the wedding with an iron fist.

This is more like it, thought Brian, looking Denny's uncle up and down. He's not a hot young priest, but he's not half bad for a guy who's got to be in his 40's.

Pat Donaghue, the youngest brother of Denny's mother, Marge, was a tall, muscular man with sandy hair just beginning to gray at the temples. Pat, a lawyer, and his partner, Derrick, a high school Math teacher, lived in Weymouth, but they had both been born and raised in Southie.

"Justin, all this wedding stuff is enough to give any decent fag the willies," Pat declared. "So I'm taking your man over to get a drink." He paused and smiled. "If that's all right with you?"

Justin hesitated for a moment. Pat might be older, but he was still a hot guy. But what could happen? It wasn't as if Denny's uncle was going to spirit Brian away to a sex club. Or was he?

"I guess so..." Justin bit his lip.

"I think I'll be okay, Sunshine," Brian reassured him. "I'm sure Mr. Donaghue will take very good care of me."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Justin grunted.

Pat roared with laughter. "I'm flattered, kid. I didn't realize an old man like me was still so dangerous! Wait until I tell Derrick. He'll have to keep a closer eye on me from now on!"

"Go and do your Best Man duties, twat." Brian gave Justin's ample butt a push towards the altar where the others were waiting for him to begin the rehearsal. "I'll see you afterwards, at the dinner."

"Be good, Brian," said Justin. "I mean it!"

"I'm always good," Brian replied. He gave Uncle Pat a wink. "Ask anyone."

"That's what I'm afraid of!" Justin sighed.

***

Part 9

Boston, November 2005

The Quiet Man Pub was an old-fashioned working man's tavern in the center of Southie that made no attempt to mimic the gentrification that was beginning to transform the neighborhood around it. It was dark, like the old church, but the odor was of beer, sweat, and corned beef rather than candles and incense. A mural from the film of the same name was the only hint of color inside.

"Hey, Pat," called the bartender in a thick Boston accent. "How's the wedding goin'?"

"They're rehearsing with Father Mike," said Pat, motioning Brian to sit at one of the tables under the mural.

"Where's ya better half?" the bartender asked.

"At work. He'll be over for the dinner after school lets out." Pat pulled out a chair and sat down. "Can we get a couple of longnecks over here?"

"Sure thing," the bartender nodded. "Ya know, Patrick -- you're next!"

"In your dreams!" Pat laughed.

Brian cocked his head questioningly. "You and your partner really thinking about that shit? I mean -- fags getting married! What's the point?"

Pat frowned slightly. "Maybe because we can here in Massachusetts. Maybe to show the bastards in other places where they're stripping us of our rights that not everyone thinks we're less than citizens -- or less than humans. Maybe so Derrick can have the full benefits of being my husband. Maybe because we love each other." He smiled crookedly at Brian. "Is that enough reasons?"

"So that fags can act like fucking straight people?" Brian snorted.

"So that fags don't have to hide anymore," Pat snapped back. "So that fags don't have to believe they'll always be second class because that's what the law tells them they are. Not acting like straight people -- but like people. Period."

"Spoken like a true lawyer. So why haven't you and your partner done it?" Brian questioned. "I mean, if it's so fucking wonderful?"

"We will," said Pat serenely. "Next summer. In Provincetown, where we first got together. But don't tell anyone or they'll sic that goddamn wedding planner woman on us! We want some time to do it our way." Pat sat back and grinned. "Unless Derrick or I get knocked up -- then we'll have to hurry it up!"

Brian shook his head thinking about Denny and Carole's impeding parenthood. "Those two poor fucking kids! They have no idea what they're in for!"

"Sure they do," said Pat. "They've gone out together since they were at St. Mary's Middle School. They grew up together. They were going to get married next June anyway. And they both want a lot of kids. As my sister Marge says, they're just jumping the gun a little. It happens all the time."

"I know," Brian brooded. "It happened to my parents. Except the result wasn't so great."

Pat licked his lips. "Oh, I don't know. You look pretty good to me, Brian."

The bartender brought over two bottles of Bud and two shots. "Thought ya guys'd need an extra little kick."

"Thanks, Tim," said Pat. "This is Brian. His partner is Denny's best man."

"Hey, Brian," said Tim, squinting at him. "You're not a Southie boy or I'd know ya."

"I'm from Pittsburgh," Brian replied. "Just here for the wedding."

Tim nodded. "I hear they're having the rehearsal dinner at that foreign place."

"It's a sushi bar," said Pat. "Denny and Carole picked it out."

"Sushi, huh?" Tim made a face. "Well, after you finish up over there with the fish food, come back here and get a real meal. The beef tips are our specialty."

"Sushi bar?" said Brian, as the bartender walked away.

"Things are changing around here," said Pat. "And changing fast. Condos going up all over. Trendy restaurants and bars. The old joints are shutting down, one by one. The Quiet Man will probably go one day, too. That really will be the end of the old-time Southie. Soon The Town will look just like the South End. Just like any other neighborhood in Boston."

"Times change," Brian shrugged. "Everything changes. Sometimes for the better."

"Maybe," Pat agreed. "This wasn't always the most tolerant place in the world. You should have lived through the busing thing. That was a fucking nightmare. And the Irish mob used to rule this area with an iron fist. Those days are over, thank God. But the tightness of the families, the community -- that's going, too."

"You said that you and your partner met in P-Town," said Brian. "I thought Denny said you two grew up in the same neighborhood."

"We did," Pat smiled. "Derrick was a pal of my older brothers, Charlie and Stu. I was the little tag-a-long kid. I idolized my brothers and Derrick. They were tall and good-looking. Big athletes. I was skinny and kind of a nerd." Pat flexed his left arm. "I filled out later."

"So I see." Pat was in good shape for a guy in his early 40's, Brian thought.

"I went to college and then law school here in town," Pat continued. "I was living at home and it was hard to go to bars. I wasn't out to anyone in the family. You didn't come out in those days, let me tell you. So one summer I borrowed the car and drove up to Provincetown for a couple of days. It was the first time I'd ever really been surrounded by so many out men. I walked around staring at all the guys. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!" Pat laughed. "The first night in P-Town I went to a tea dance -- and there was Derrick, dancing with his shirt off! I couldn't believe it!"

"What did you do?" asked Brian. He loved hearing good hooking-up stories.

"I didn't have to do a thing!" said Pat. "He saw me and walked right over. 'Well,' he said to me. 'It's about time you found your way to the Other Side, Stinky'!"

Brian almost choked on his beer. "Stinky?"

"Yeah, that was my nickname," Pat confided. "My brothers gave it to me when I was about two. But don't you dare use it or I'll have to kill you!"

"Your secret is safe with me," Brian guffawed.

"Some secret!" Pat shook his head. "Only you and a thousand of my relatives know it! But that's okay -- everyone around here has a nickname."

"So I've found out," said Brian.

"But you never had one?" asked Pat. "Even when you were a kid?"

"Me? Never!" Brian asserted. But in his head he kept hearing Jack Kinney's voice saying, 'Come over here, Sonny Boy.'

Pat drained his bottle and set it down. "We better get back to the church. They should be finished with the rehearsal by now. Derrick is meeting us later at the sushi place."

"I'm looking forward to meeting your partner." Brian stood up and put a ten on the table.

"Oh, no!" insisted Pat, pushing the bill away. "This is my treat. You're in our territory now, Kinney." Both men put on their coats and headed for the door. "And Derrick is looking forward to meeting you and Justin, too. We fags have to stick together, right?"

"Fags sticking together." Brian smiled slowly. "That's always been my credo."

Pat smirked. "I bet it has! So, let's move our asses!"

©Gaedhal, December 2006.

Posted November 5, 2007.