WAYFARERS

"A Romance of the Old West"

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternative Universe FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter Nine -- "The Sparring Academy."

Go back to "Chapter Eight -- The Bet" the previous chapter in the series.

The other stories in the "Wayfarers" series.

Features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Reynolds, Black Jack Kinney, Adams, Thayer, Minnie, Others.
Summary: Two evenings at Johansen's Sparring Academy. Pittsburgh, December 1858/September 1848.

"Thank you for going down and getting this hot water for me. It makes shaving so much less the Devil's Chore!" said Brian as he closed his straight razor and then rinsed off his face in the basin. "I think Sara likes you. Otherwise she would have thrown the water on your head instead of heating it up for you."

"For YOU, you mean!" Justin replied. "She did grumble a bit, but then she put the kettle on and filled a bucket for me." He reached up and felt the line of Brian's jaw where it was freshly smoothed. "Of course, first I told her about how good those apple muffins tasted. How they practically melted in my mouth."

"Did you tell her about the muffin crumbs you got all over the bed? Perhaps she will come up here and clean them off my rear end," Brian snorted and pretended to brush something off his pale rump. But he found his hand reaching around and instead pulling Justin against him. The man could not get enough of the feel of the slight body pressing his own.

"I felt no need to give her details about what I was doing with the apple muffins as I was eating them. SOME things are private, you know!" Justin smiled. He was standing naked in the room, with not even a towel around himself. Brian was naked as well. And it did not seem at all strange. In fact, it seemed as right as rain.

"They are?" replied Brian in surprise. "And here I was imagining that you were gathering information for a story about MY private doings that would drive my article about corruption in Pittsburgh right off of the main page of 'The Clarion'!"

"I would never do THAT, Brian!" Justin said. He reached into the basin of soapy water and dabbled his fingers in it. The Franklin stove was warming the room nicely and he was also feeling a heated glow from spending most of the afternoon in the soft, bouncy bed with Brian. That last apple muffin had been put to a use that Justin had never imagined before even in his strangest fantasies. "Are you really writing about corruption in the city?"

"Yes," the man admitted. "And it may cause me some trouble."

"Corruption... like our minister speaks of? Down on the riverfront?" Justin asked, hesitantly.

"No, corruption as in the political establishment. As in bribery and graft and cronyism." Brian looked at the boy's puzzled face. "You don't know what I mean, do you?"

"Not exactly. As in criminals and robbers and the like?"

"Yes, but robbers masking themselves as fine citizens," said Brian softly. "And those are the worst kind. Because down on the docks or in the back alleys and the saloons a man expects to be cheated and robbed and played the fool. But not in the Courthouse or the Commerce Building -- or the Voting Booth." But Brian knew that the boy did not really understand. He had always lived a life of privilege and could little imagine what viciousness men were capable of, even upstanding, God-fearing men who lived in fine houses. Men like his own father, Jeremiah Taylor, who ran one of the companies that supplied the mines of Western Pennsylvania.

Yes, now Brian knew who Justin's father was -- a member of a powerful family who was a great contributor to those politicians who were lining their purses on the backs of poor citizens. Brian was looking forward to turning in the first installment of his story on Monday morning, but he was not looking forward to the backlash from his editor, Samuel Mitchell -- or from his influential friends. And Brian thought once again of the newspaper editor in California who had shown an interest in his work. The man had written that he was looking for reporters who were not afraid to write the truth. Unlike his current lily-livered employer who preferred that Brian cover boxing matches and horse races. Perhaps discussing ladies' fashions would be his next assignment. Brian was certain that Samuel Mitchell thought that would be more to Brian's taste than politics. Unlike his father, Joshua Mitchell, the man who had hired him almost 10 years before, Samuel Mitchell always turned up his nose at his star reporter, as if the stink of the whorehouse were still clinging to him. Not that Sam Mitchell was a stranger to whorehouses, because he was not. But he seemed to find those who bought such services much more acceptable than those who sold them.

"What do men usually wear to a boxing contest, Brian?" Justin was pawing through the press, looking at the man's interesting array of clothing. Justin's plain britches and shirt seemed so dull compared to Brian's fine linen shirts and beautiful waistcoats.

"You will see men of all stripes there, Justin, from high-flying dandies to sober clerks to rough laboring men. A sporting event is a great leveler. There are fanatics from all walks of life."

"My own clothes make me look like a schoolboy," Justin sighed.

"That is because you ARE a schoolboy." Brian pulled out an ivory cambric shirt with finely carved buttons down the front of it. "This should fit you well if we tuck it in and turn the cuffs a bit."

"Really? I can wear this shirt?" Justin's eye were shining. He so admired Brian's clothing and longed to wear stylish and well-fashioned things.

"And this old blue jacket of mine," Brian continued, reaching for another item in the press. It's a bit tight about the shoulders on me now, but it should make you look not at all like a schoolboy." Brian laughed as he draped the jacket on Justin's bare shoulders and thought that if they did not get dressed very soon then there would be no time for them to eat dinner before the first bout of the evening was scheduled to proceed. But then he looked at the beautiful boy and decided that perhaps those apple muffins would have to hold them for a while longer.

***

William Reynolds had been watching his young partner prepare himself for the evening for some time and he could no longer keep silent.

"Brian, you realize that we are attending a boxing match and not a soiree at Monsieur Henri's place, don't you?" said Reynolds, mentioning a man of their acquaintance in New Orleans who held intimate gatherings for select gentlemen of very specialized tastes.

"Yes, I'm well aware of where we're going," the young man answered. He selected a fine white linen shirt from his trunk. It had an extravagance of lace on the cuffs and collar and was rather extreme for a backwater like Pittsburgh. Brian had not worn this particular shirt in a while, Reynolds noted. He also noted that the young man had brushed off his dark crimson jacket with the velvet points and his tightest pair of black trousers. In all, an ensemble more suited to attending the opera than a pugilistic contest at Johansen's Sparring Academy. But Reynolds knew better than to pick an argument with his partner over his choice of clothing. At 18 years of age Brian had a mind of his own and would only dig in his heels. But something was in the air, of that much Reynolds was certain. Brian was dressing with deliberation, purposefully selecting some of his more 'extreme' garments. In these smaller towns Brian was usually at pains not to make himself stand out too much. Yes, it could be dangerous to stand out in that way in some places. But it was almost as if Brian were dressing for a part. The gambler was curious to see what played out.

"You don't have to attend tonight, you know," said Reynolds, watching the young man gaze at himself in the mirror, touching at his long hair. The mirror and Brian were not strangers. He spent much of his spare time looking at himself in it, taking in his own beautiful face. "If it is distasteful for you to witness...." Reynolds hesitated. The past was always a touchy subject with Brian.

"I've seen the old man fight before. It doesn't bother me," the young man answered, his voice emotionless.

"But he was younger then, Brian. And he was winning his bouts. I'm told that now...." Again the other man paused. "He's not what he used to be."

"Yes, he's an old wreck now. You don't have to mince words with me, Bill. I'm well aware that he shouldn't be fighting. That Black Jack Kinney is nothing but a joke. His handlers are using him as an easy opponent to bring up their new boy and make a name for him. It's an old, old story." Brian was buttoning his linen shirt, trying to decide how many to leave undone at the top, how much of his bare chest he dared to expose at this rough venue. He then picked a number of bright silk neckcloths from the trunk and began trying them on.

"I would think that you'd rather forego watching your own father get beaten to a pulp by a younger, stronger man. Which is why I say that I understand if you'd rather not accompany me tonight," Reynolds said as he counted out his stake for the evening, trying to decide just how much to venture and on which bouts. He tried not to let Brian see just how low their total stake had sunk. Reynolds felt a pang of doubt as he folded the bills.

"You have wagers to place tonight. I also know that Madame and some of the girls have given you money to lay down for them," said Brian. Regardless of the older man's denials, Brian was well aware that their store of ready cash was dwindling rapidly. Ever since the pair had returned from South America, ever since Brian's long illness in fact, the cards had been going against Reynolds more and more. Some of the other sporting men said that the gambler was losing his touch, that he had lost his nerve -- a fatal flaw in a man who lived by luck and the main chance. And Brian knew that it was true -- his partner was hesitating when he should have been risking. Brian felt that at the heart of it he was to blame. The gambler's worry over Brian's health had brought him, for almost the first time in his life, to consider the future. A gambler needed to live day to day, always seeking that magic opportunity, if he were to retain his edge. And Reynolds seemed to have lost the bold and arrogant edge that had made him successful for so long.

"You don't need to be there tonight. I don't need for you to blow on my cards anymore, Boy," Reynolds joked.

"Where else would I be?" Brian replied, still gazing at his face in the mirror. "Where am I ever but trailing along behind you, Billy? That's my place and that's where I'll be tonight, tomorrow, and next week." Brian selected a violet neckcloth and tied it carefully in a way that looked careless. Reynolds also noticed that the young man was wearing much more scent than usual. Yes, Brian was up to something and that made the gambler uneasy.

***

Johansen's Sparring Academy was ripe with the smell of sweat, cheap cheroots, horse liniment, and bottom water rising from the river nearby. Justin unconsciously wrinkled up his nose as they entered.

"Not exactly a flower garden in here, is it?" Brian commented, noting Justin's reaction.

"It doesn't trouble me," the boy replied, tossing his head. He straightened the dark blue jacket that Brian had given him to wear, aware that he had stepped into a different world than the one he was used to. But it was part of Brian's world and therefore full of wonders to Justin.

Justin noted Brian's own tall, thin form as they made their way into the arena. He was wearing a black frock coat that flared elegantly at the hip, a white lawn shirt open at the neck, and one of his many fancy waistcoats. Justin also admired his boots, which were made of some kind of gleaming black leather. He looked down at his own scuffed boots in dismay.

"Kinney! You covering this shootin' match for 'The Clarion'?" A short, red-faced man barreled up to Brian and confronted him. "What's the word on Perkins? I think he'll take it in 15 rounds. You hear anything to upset that prediction?"

Brian stared at the short man coolly. "I don't know anything that you don't, Adams. I'm only here as an observer. You know I never wager on prizefights."

The small man sniffed. "You always know something, Kinney. But you're too ornery to share it! That ain't being a kindly friend, I'd say."

"Why Adams, whoever said that I was kindly? Or anyone's friend?" Brian took out his pipe and began to pack it with a sweet-smelling Kentucky blend.

"Pshaw!" spat the short fellow, and he then went on his way.

"Why didn't you tell him about the glass jaw and the big feet, Brian, like you told your editor?" Justin whispered.

"Because I don't want to do THAT nosy son of a bitch Adams any favors, that's why!" Brian paused and lit the pipe. The smoke swirled up and Justin breathed in the sweet aroma that seemed so connected in his head with his tall companion.

"Why don't you bet on boxing contests, Brian?"

"Because I'm here as a professional observer and reporter, so to wager on the match would conflict with my intended purpose," Brian replied. "But even if I were not here to report I still would not bet. I don't wager on human suffering, Justin. Not anymore." He took the lad by the elbow and moved him along toward the ring. "Let us find a place to sit. I have an acquaintance who usually saves me a piece of the bench. There should be enough room for both of our rear ends in that space." And Brian reached down and inconspicuously brushed his hand over Justin's beautiful rear end. A shudder of pleasure raced through the boy.

The pair pushed through the throng and Justin's senses were assailed by the smells and the noises and the sights of the Sparring Academy. He saw some vile looking fellows wearing rough clothing and sporting nasty expressions, but also many finely dressed gentlemen. And Justin even noted a few ladies present -- although perhaps 'ladies' was a term more honorary than accurate. But the crowd was not simply sitting patiently waiting for the matches to begin. A vendor was moving through, peddling apples and honeycakes. One squint-eyed fellow in a corner was challenging all comers to bring their dogs to the rat pit the next day to see which terrier could dispatch the most rodents during a timed interval. Another extravagantly dressed man was touting a young fighter who he said was due for a match. And a young lady with very red hair was flirting and waving at various gentlemen who were passing by.

"Brian! Yoohoo! Come and speak to me, darlin'!"

"Good God," swore the Irishman under his breath. "This is all I need." But there was no avoiding the redheaded woman.

"How come you never come and see me no more, darlin'?" the woman pouted. Justin could see that she was older than she looked from a distance, with hard lines around her eyes.

"I have work to do, Minnie, and little extra money to spend on you -- or any other female," Brian said politely, but firmly.

"Ha! I think you are up to your old tricks, darlin'!" The woman's eyes raked Justin up and down. "Yes, those old tricks of yours, my dear! I reckon that if this fine young pup wanted some pretty trinket then you'd find the cash for it easy enough!" The woman leaned over to Justin. "Don't you trust this big bad man, dolly, no matter what he says! He's full of empty sweet talk. And I learned THAT the hard way!"

"That's quite enough, Minnie," said Brian. And he pulled Justin away sharply.

"Brian, is that woman a harlot?" Justin asked, his eyes wide as he kept turning around to look at her.

"A harlot! How Biblical that sounds!" Brian snorted. "Minnie is what they call a 'public conveyance' -- anyone with the price of a ticket may ride her to the end of the line."

"What did the woman mean by sweet talk, Brian?" Justin asked. "Have you consorted with her?"

Now Brian laughed out loud. "Most men have 'consorted' with harlots, Justin. It is the way of the world. But enough of THAT! Come along. The first match is about to begin."

Brian found his place on a bench in the third row. A tough-looking man with bushy eyebrows, wearing plain brown britches and an old tweed jacket, nodded to Brian and moved over. "I knew you'd show, Bri. The first match is just up." The man noted Justin and frowned slightly, but Brian made no move to introduce them.

"Much obliged, Thayer," said Brian, taking out a small notebook and a sharp pencil from the pocket of his fancy waistcoat. Justin had greatly admired that waistcoat, which was dark green edged in black silk ribbon embroidered with red roses. Then Brian removed a gold watch from another pocket and snapped it open, making note of the time.

The first contest was between two fighters trying to make their names with the sporting crowd. They had little technique and mainly stood squarely in the center of the ring and punched the blazes out of one another.

The violence of the encounter shocked Justin. He had read about prizefights but he had heard there was some skill to it. But these two fellows were merely trying to murder each other, with no flourish or rationale. Their bare knuckles were bloody even before the first round had ended, which happened when one of the boxers threw himself down upon the canvas, giving himself and the other man a 30 second respite. The second round began when the umpire, watch in hand, called the end of the time out and the first boxer got to his feet and proceeded to whale away at his opponent. It was the other fellow who ended the second round by slipping on a patch of blood and falling to his knees, winning another 30 second rest period. Justin winced when the man went down and the blood spattered on the canvas.

As the two fighters wore each other out the rounds became shorter and shorter, as first one man and then the other slipped or else simply dropped from fatigue before the next round could commence. Justin heard a chorus of boos and hisses as two rounds went by without a single blow being struck.

Brian shook his head. "A pitiful performance."

"That taller fella is the brother of George King. But he don't have the gumption of his sibling," commented the bushy-browed man sitting next to them.

"Neither of them can fight a lick, Thayer. This is nothing but taproom brawling," Brian answered with disgust. He made a few notes in his little book.

"Not like when the old man was in the ring, huh, Boy?" Thayer laughed. Justin noticed that most of the man's front teeth were missing. Maybe he himself was a former boxer?

"Even on his worst day Black Jack Kinney would have made a meal out of both of these miscreants," Brian replied. "Yes, even on his worst day," the man repeated, his eyes far away.

***

"What do YOU want?" asked the bushy-browed man guarding the door of the dressing room in the back of Johansen's Sparring Academy. He was a rough-hewn man, an ex-prizefighter himself, which was evident from his lack of front teeth. The guard looked the young fellow who had knocked on the door up and down, taking in his long, flowing golden brown hair, his tight britches, his dark red coat with the velvet trim, and the long purple neckscarf that was thrown back over his left shoulder. The guard could also smell his cologne, which was like vanilla and cinnamon simmering together. The man licked his lips unconsciously. This wasn't the usual kind of visitor that came to see Black Jack.

"I'm here to speak to Mr. Kinney," the young fellow drawled.

"And what makes you think he'd want to speak to the likes of you?" The guard spat a spray of tobacco juice at the young man's feet. His boots were of fine Spanish leather, highly polished.

"My name is Brian Kinney," the young man said. "Just allow me to speak with him, my good man -- if you please?"

The man considered for a moment. If this nance really WAS kin to the tough boxer, that would make a nice little picture. Yes, indeed it would.

"What is it, Thayer?" asked the trainer, impatiently. He was a stout man and sweating profusely in anticipation of the coming bout.

"Fellow to see Black Jack. Says he's kin."

The trainer frowned and considered for a moment. "Let him in -- but only for a few minutes. I'm still preparing my fighter."

The guard nodded and stepped aside, allowing the pretty fellow to enter.

Sean 'Black Jack' Kinney was sitting on a stool, his head in his hands. The stout trainer was rubbing his shoulders and whispering into his ear, readying his man for the match. Some idlers, chewing tobacco and watching the pre-bout proceedings, looked up at the newcomer. Black Jack raised his head and his eyes widened. He shook off the stout man and stood, slowly. His dark hair was clipped close to his head like a convict's and bruises dotted his massive chest and arms. His dark green eyes were red-rimmed and watery, and he stared at the young man like he was looking at a ghost. Then he rasped, "Seamus?"

"No, Da," replied the young fellow. "I'm not your brother Seamus." Brian's uncle was only a vague name from his dark childhood, a young man dead before they came to the New World, hanged by the British over 13 years before. In fact, Seamus' execution was the event that had precipitated their swift departure from their homeland. "I'm Brian. Your SON -- Brian. Remember me?"

"Brian?" said the man, obviously confused. "You're... so tall."

"Yes, and I'm not 10 years old anymore, either!" said Brian, his voice breaking slightly. "You haven't seen me in 8 years and that's all you have to say to me? That I'm so tall? What about 'How do you happen to be ALIVE, son? Especially after I left you alone to starve and never even looked back?' How about THAT, Da?"

The big man just continued staring. "Brian? Are you really my son Brian? Not Seamus?"

"Yes, Da. I'm really Brian," he sighed. It was apparent to Brian that the man's head was no longer right. Sean Kinney looked dazed and his eyes could barely focus. His son felt pity for the man, but he also clenched his jaw to steel himself to the task at hand. Because Brian was determined to accomplish what he'd set out to do and pity for his father had no part in it. He needed to do it for the solvency of himself and his partner. And for Madame and the girls, who needed money badly. Madame's creditors were knocking on her door and she had entrusted what cash she had remaining to Reynolds to 'invest.' Yes, this would be difficult for Brian, but it was also necessary.

"Where... where have you been, sonny boy? All these years?" the man mumbled. "I often wondered."

Now Brian felt the anger rising in him. "You wondered, Da? You wondered what had happened to me? But you never once came to look for me. To satisfy your curiosity as to whether I was living or dead," the young man countered. "But I survived, Da. THAT'S what happened to me. I survived -- as you can see!" And Brian pulled himself up to his full height and gestured to himself with a flourish, tossing his long hair and the end of his violet scarf. One of the boxer's handlers, leaning against the far wall, snickered with contempt.

But Sean Kinney merely gaped at his son. "Brian, why are you dressed like that? Why, sonny boy?"

"Like what, Da?" Brian voice was steady and cold.

"Like... like some painted fancy boy!" the big man roared.

Brian let out a humorless laugh. "Because I AM a painted fancy boy! THAT is how I survived all these years, Da. All these years since you abandoned me to my Fate and never gave me a second thought." He paused and flicked a non-existent speck of dust off the wide cuff of his finely tailored crimson jacket, calling attention to the lace spilling out. "I'm being kept by a very successful gambler. It's an easy vocation. All you need is a soft ass and a talented mouth and I have both. And it's much better than the place where the gambler found me. I'm certain that you and your compatriots are familiar with that establishment -- Madame Heloise's whorehouse? It isn't far from here. Yes, I spent a couple of years there, learning my trade, until I came to my present position."

"What are you saying, Brian?" the boxer murmured. Then he lifted his head, as if a fog was clearing in it. "WHAT are you SAYING!"

One of the idlers spat out an oath, while the stout man stepped forward, between Brian and his father. "Are you a damned fool?" he said. "Get your no-good hide out of here!"

But Brian would not be moved until he had finished his business. "You heard me, old man. Or would you like me to suck your prick to demonstrate my skill?"

And Brian jumped back just in time as the boxer took a hard but blind swing at him. Just then the door opened and William Reynolds stood in it. "What in hell...?"

"Get OUT! Both of you!" the stout trainer hollered, as he and the other handlers held the big man back from lunging again at his son. And Reynolds seized Brian by the arm, dragging him out of the dressing room. The bushy-browed guard gave both men a hard shove as they passed him.

"I'll be sitting in the front row, Da! Don't forget!" Brian called out before the guard slammed the door in his face.

"What in thunder happened in there? Brian?" Reynolds gave his partner a firm shake.

Brian seemed dazed himself for a few moments, but then he blinked and collected his wits. "Bet everything you have on Black Jack," he told Reynolds. "Everything."

Reynolds shook his head. "But Brian, the man is a wreck! You said so yourself! And now that you've seen him up close how can you say otherwise?"

"I don't say otherwise, Bill," Brian answered, his voice quivering. "My father is a wreck. And I still say -- bet everything. Now."

"Brian, listen to reason! The man won't stand 5 rounds!" Reynolds was losing patience.

"Yes, he will," Brian replied softly. "And he's going to beat that other fellow -- that young Carson -- senseless. So lay your wager. Bet everything we have and all of Madame's money and the girls', too. Because he's going to prevail, even if he dies doing it."

"But Brian, how do you know? How can you be certain?" Reynolds had been a gambler long enough to know that there was no such animal as a 'sure thing.'

"Because he can't murder ME, that's why. And so his opponent is the next best thing."

Reynolds stared at Brian in amazement. "Brian! What did you do? What did you SAY?"

"Nothing," Brian replied flatly. "I just told him the truth. So let's go -- I want a good seat right up front."

***

Brian took out his key and opened the door to his room at Clarke's Hotel. Justin walked in ahead of him, very slowly. He'd been sick twice on the walk back from Johansen's Sparring Academy. The smell and the excitement and the blood had gotten to Justin in the end, although he put up a brave front even when, in the 26th and final round of the main bout, Williamson shattered Perkins' fragile jaw with an ear-splitting punch that knocked out his opponent -- and almost did in Justin as well.

Brian sat Justin down gently on the edge of the bed, removing the blue jacket and unbuttoning his borrowed shirt and slipping it off his slim shoulders. Then Brian wet a cloth in the basin and wiped his forehead and neck gently. "Are you still feeling ill?"

"No," the boy lied. "I feel quite fit."

"Get into the bed and put your head down." And Justin slid off his britches, letting them lie where they fell and he crawled under the warm quilt, ashamed to have been shown to be such a milksop in front of his tall, beautiful idol.

Brian joined him in the bed a few minutes later, having undressed and carefully stored his and Justin's clothing in the press. He stood for a moment and looked at their garments hanging side by side and felt a pang of loneliness for when the boy's clothes would no longer be there. And that would be very soon indeed.

Brian carried a flask and a small glass over to the bed. "Drink this down," he told Justin, pouring a finger of golden liquid into the glass.

"What is it?"

"The water of life. Good for what ails any man," said Brian. "In other words -- whiskey."

Justin swallowed. The whiskey trailed down his throat like pure fire. But it also made his chest and his cold limbs feel warm. "I guess I looked like a fool to you tonight, Brian. But when I saw all that blood -- and those men beating each other... It was a wicked sight." Justin shook his head. Brian poured him another swallow of the whiskey and then took a larger swallow for himself.

"I've done worse, Justin," Brian admitted. "And I was older and more experienced in such things than you at the time. One time I fainted dead away and had to be carried out of the building. That was the most violent fight I have ever witnessed and my senses couldn't take it in the end. That one took me years to live down -- if I actually HAVE lived it down yet."

Justin looked at the man, who are gazing into the encroaching darkness. "Was your old man really a famous prizefighter, Brian?"

Brian nodded. "He was. And I saw his last bout. That was the one I was telling you of. It was the bloodiest thing a man can imagine. The injury two large men can inflict with their bare hands is powerful. It made what you witnessed tonight appear to be a genteel tea party. Both men came out damaged beyond belief."

"And your father?"

Brian took a deep breath. "He won the match in 33 vicious, horrible rounds. And he was dead within a month in a back alley not far from here. No one knew if it was the drink that killed him, or all those years of punishing himself in the ring -- or if it was that final fight that broke something within him." Brian poured himself another finger of whiskey and bolted it down. "No one knows. But a lot of people made a heap of money that night. A lot of people. But they didn't enjoy that money for long. No, Justin, they did not."

Brian snuffed out the candle at the bedside and buried himself down under the thick quilt. Tomorrow was Sunday and the end of this little adventure with this beautiful boy, but he did not want to consider that now. Justin was here tonight and the past, with all its regrets, was dead and gone. And only one thing could make him forgot. And Brian reached out for that one thing and took it in his arms.

©Gaedhal, June 2003.

Posted June 20, 2003.