|Queer as Folk FanFiction by Morpheus
Summary of Part 10: Partners. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Surprise: It’s Brian, together with Justin, Lindsay and Gus, having a lovely family get-together in suburbia with Joanie and her sister Emily. Joan is surprised to discover that Emily and her husband Hank happily embrace their gay nephew. And Brian is surprised to discover himself acknowledging to everyone that Justin is indeed his partner.
PART 11: Say Uncle
Brian leans his head backward without taking his eyes off the computer screen and I give him a tiny kiss on his hair, then drop my bag by his desk and move into the kitchen, pulling open the fridge. "Brian,” I call out to him, “You didn't eat the chicken I left for you."
When he doesn’t answer, I move to the kitchen doorway and look over at him, waiting. He doesn't bother looking up, just shrugs and says, "Wasn't hungry."
"Are you hungry now?"
I don't wait for an answer, just move back to the fridge. I set the chicken on the counter and grab a plastic bag of lettuce, a wedge of parmesan and a bottle of low-fat dressing. He still hasn't answered but I go ahead and fix two plates, dicing up the chicken, grating the cheese, making a plate of Caesar salad for each of us. Carrying the plates to the small table, I say, "Come and eat with me."
Brian swivels around in his chair, eyebrows arching and head shaking. "You mean we're going to eat together? Like, at the same time and everything?"
"Don't be pissy, okay? Just come and eat." I don't let my exasperation show, just hurry to grab napkins and silverware and a couple bottles of beer.
Without another word, Brian gets up and follows me into the dining alcove, sits down and spreads the napkin on his lap. He spears a lettuce leaf and waves his fork at me. "Don't you have a class?"
"Yeah," I answer through a mouthful of chicken, "But not till seven-thirty. If you need the car tonight, can you drop me off?"
"Why would I need the car? I'm too fucking tired to go out fucking." He grimaces and threatens, "But if you tell anyone I said that, you're dead meat."
"I wish you didn’t have to push yourself so hard."
"Wishing’s bullshit. I wish I had a million dollars. I wish I had my fucking Corvette back. I wish this fucking presentation was finished. I wish people would stop fucking visiting - " He cuts off abruptly and shoves a forkful of lettuce into his mouth.
I keep my eyes on my plate and don't answer. I know he's dreading my mom's visit, but I can't tell her not to come.
After a moment Brian says calmly, "I didn't mean your mommy."
Yeah he did. "It's not like she's staying in the condo," I say quietly. "It was her idea to stay in a hotel. And it's only for the weekend. She misses me."
Brian pushes back his chair abruptly and snaps, "I said I didn't mean her, so don't start that guilt shit with me, okay?" When I raise my head and look at him, he continues. "I told you she could stay here. Lindsay stayed here, it was no big deal.”
Despite his words, I know that Brian doesn’t want Mom here at the condo, and to be honest, I don’t either. I miss her, I want to see her, but I can’t bear the thought of being the filling in a Brian-and-Mom sandwich, not even for two days.
“I don’t want her to see our bed,” I say, forcing a laugh, trying to lighten things the fuck up. He doesn’t even crack a smile. “How about we put one of those spa covers over it, pretend it’s an indoor hot tub?”
Brian shakes his head, he’s frowning. “The mirror part is removable. We can take it off and shove it in a closet or something.”
“Brian,” I set down my fork and reach across the table to jiggle his arm, smilingly trying to make him smile back at me, “Brian, I was just kidding. I don’t care that she’ll see our Hollywood bed.”
Brian drops his fork and pushes his plate away. He leans back in the chair and sighs, runs a hand over his face, then stares at me morosely. “You knew I‘d be a son of a bitch to live with.”
“Yes,” I agree, then add quickly, “Brian, it’s okay, I know you’re under a lot of pressure. I don’t expect you to be all happy-go-lucky all the time.”
“Then how come you are?” he grumps.
“It’s my sunny disposition.”
“Brian, it’s because I am happy.” When he just stares balefully at me, I repeat, “I am happy, Brian. I’m enjoying my watercolor class that you strong-armed me into taking, I like my new job, but most of all I’m happy that we’re finally partners. You and me.”
I see a tiny smile tug the corners of his mouth and I wait for him to try and wriggle out of the partners label. Finally he says lightly, “I didn’t sign any legally binding documents, you know?”
“But I have witnesses. Uncle Hank and Aunt Emily.”
“Their testimony would never stand up in court.”
“Oh, I almost forgot! I told Uncle Hank about my mom’s visit and he invited us all to dinner the Sunday she’s here.”
“More family shit,” Brian groans, leaning forward to pick up his fork and eat another bite of salad.
He doesn’t fool me, I know he’s happy that his aunt and uncle like him. They like us both, and I know he’s grateful to Hank for helping me get my new job.
More or less.
I resume eating too and we don’t talk for a few minutes. I need to ask him to pick up the dry cleaning tomorrow but this is not the right time. He's already pissed because I can't be here for the delivery of his new desk chair, but he won't admit he's pissed because that would be admitting he was counting on me to take care of it, and he's determined to prove that he doesn't need me to take care of things. Even though he does. Especially because he does. Normally that would be almost funny, but he's been really tense about all kinds of things since I started taking this night class, since I got my new job at Simpson Studios. And since my new boss, Andrew Whittaker, gave me a ride home from work a few days ago and came upstairs with me to meet my partner.
"You didn't tell me your boss is gay," Brian had said mildly after Andrew left. "You didn't tell me he was a looker."
"Does it matter?" I'd asked, knowing the answer.
"Of course it doesn't matter," Brian insisted, "I just wondered why you didn't tell me. That's all."
"I'm not fucking him."
"Fuck whomever you want," Brian had shrugged, turning back to the computer, staring at a pie chart on the monitor.
"What does it matter that my boss is gay and good-looking if I'm not fucking him? It's irrelevant."
"Yep," he'd agreed, nodding absently while he stared at the screen.
"Andrew's got a partner, too. They've been together five years." Brian said nothing more so I went into the bedroom to change clothes.
That was three days ago. Andrew lives in Santa Monica and dropping me off after work is right on his way home, it's not like he's going out of his way or anything. It's a break for me, otherwise I have to transfer twice on buses to get home from Burbank. Either that or have Brian pick me up, which isn’t always convenient. Brian said he was fine with it. But he's not.
Andrew’s a really nice guy. I feel comfortable with him, he's not interested in me sexually which I'm terrifically happy about. I'd hated that Simon was always hitting on me. That doesn't happen at the studio, but somehow Brian doesn't believe me. Oh, he says he does, but it's not true. Brian's the most fucking jealous non-jealous person I've ever met. And since he has to pretend not to be jealous, we can't talk about it. I want to tell him that De-nial is a river in Egypt.
And yeah, I know it's my own fault for cheating on him with Ethan, but it's fucking time for Brian to get over that already. I haven't done anything since then to give him any reason to suspect me. Except, I know it might take the rest of my life to convince Brian to trust me again.
Brian wants me to go to school, but he doesn’t like that it takes up so much of my free time. He’s happy for me that now I’ve got a job I like in my career field, a job that’s physically easier for me and a million times more rewarding, but he doesn’t like it that I work with attractive men. He doesn’t like it that I don’t have time to take care of so many little details in our life that I was doing without him even being aware of it. He’s realizing how much he was counting on me and it pisses him off to need anybody that way. And he’s missing our friends and family just as much as I am (though he’d never admit it), but he complains when anyone comes to visit.
Brian was right. He is a son of a bitch to live with.
Justin thinks I'm jealous about his new boss but that's far from true. I don't do jealous, and even if I did, I wouldn't be jealous of this guy, who's good looking but not Justin's type at all - he's got sandy hair and big ears and he obviously spends a lot of time at the gym.
No, I'm not jealous, it's only that I know Justin and I know that despite his vaunted great age, he's still naïve as a little kid at times. He trusts people, and that always leads to disillusion and disappointment. He's been disappointed plenty, you'd think he'd wise up, but he still goes along merrily on his way, expecting the best of people. He expects the best of me too, which is a fucking burden. I'm not going to live up to his fucking ideals. Which of course I've gone ahead and proved by giving him a hard time about his schedule.
I was the one pressuring him to take classes, yet somehow it didn't occur to me that once he started school, I wouldn't see very much of him. And his new job is demanding too - twice already he's had to go in on a Saturday to help with some story-board sketches. His job's as entry-level as they come, but the supervisors in his department at the studio are using him like a workhorse. They even gave him a project of his own - creating a backdrop for some animated bit being used in a film; he spent several nights working on it at home, to the exclusion of everything else.
I should be happy for him. Well fuck, I AM happy, that this job is such a great opportunity. It's opening a lot of doors for him. But when he walks through those doors, all I see is his back.
Christ, am I really pissing and moaning about my PARTNER'S lack of domesticity? Fuck me.
I've got other problems, real problems, to worry about. Matt Bradford's pressuring me to turn around the Chalmers Clinic account, after the morons in marketing messed up the commercial airing schedule and royally pissed off the client. Matt wants me to win them over. "Turn on that mesmerizing charm of yours," he says. Where Bradford got the idea I'm charming, God knows; he's obviously delusional.
Struggling to prepare an irresistible presentation for tomorrow's meeting with Chalmers, I almost ignore the ringing phone. I really wanted to turn it off so I could concentrate, but Justin might have car trouble, or Lindsay might have an emergency with Gus. Jesus, I'm practically a fucking family man now, I have to think about other people besides myself. Damn it.
"Yes?" I bark into the phone, making sure the caller knows I'm pissed at the interruption.
"Brian? It's Uncle Hank."
In a way I'm aggravated that he calls himself Uncle Hank, it seems cloyingly childish. In another way I'm moved by the accepting sweetness of the man. I'll be forever grateful to him for the look of incredulity on my mother's face when she realized my aunt and uncle weren't fazed to discover that I'm gay. I've memorized Mom's outrage so I can pull it out to savor whenever the wretched woman calls me from Pittsburgh to whine about her miserable life.
"Hey," I reply, lowering the level of annoyance in my voice to just-perceptible; I really don't have time for a social call but I don't need to smack him over the head with my impatience either. "How're you?"
"Is Justin there?"
"Nope. " I'm relieved the call's for Justin, I can just give him a message. "I'll have him call you tomorrow."
"I'm not calling for Justin, I was pretty sure he has a class tonight." Hank hesitates, then quickly resolves my confusion by hurrying on, "I just wanted to be sure he couldn't overhear you."
"Something wrong?" He's got my attention now, I click save on my computer and swivel my chair around, turn my back to the screen so I can concentrate on this call.
"No," Hank denies it, "Not wrong. In fact, Emily says I'm a fool to bother you with this, so don't tell her I called, okay? She's at one of her literacy meetings at the church tonight."
"What is it?" I demand, feeling the impatience creep back into my voice.
"Probably nothing." Hank hesitates again, then blurts out, "But - have you met Justin's boss - that Whittaker fella?"
"Yeah. A few days ago." I wait, but when Hank remains silent, I press him a bit. "Something wrong with this guy? Justin seems to like him a lot."
"Oh, I'm sure there's nothing wrong with him. Except, well, today I was talking to a guy, Greg, who used to work for Whittaker, about six months ago I think. He told me something, just gossip stuff you know, but I wanted to run it by you anyway."
"Now Brian," Hank cautions, "You know I've got no problem with gay stuff, I mean, you know that, right?"
I brace myself but just say, "Mmm," and Hank rushes on.
"But this guy, he told me that Andrew Whittaker is. . .well, I don't know the gay equivalent, but if he was straight, we'd call him a 'womanizer.' " Hank pauses, then asks, "What do you folks call it - a 'man-izer?'"
I can't help the little chuckle that escapes me. "We call him a slut." Which, I don't bother to explain to Hank, shoehorns me into that same category. I can't wait to spring the new term on Justin - to tell him that his partner is a man-izer.
Before Hank can go on, I explain, "Actually, it's fairly normal for gay men to have a lot of sex partners. There's not the same negative connotation."
Who knew that someday I'd be discussing gay etiquette with my mother's brother-in-law?
"Oh," Hank says now. "Well, of course I've heard that said, but I thought maybe it was just one of those stereotypes society's always hanging on you fellas. Besides, Greg says Whittaker has a partner, like you and Justin. Brings the guy to office parties and what-not. But Greg says that Whittaker messes around on him behind the partner's back. And you know that's wrong, gay or straight."
I have no desire to chuckle any more. I am not going to get into this with my uncle.
There's silence for a moment, then Hank says, "Yeah, well, I just wanted to run it by you. Not," he adds urgently, "Not that I think Justin would mess around - Brian, I know he would never do that! It's just that he's so young, I was afraid if maybe this Whittaker made a pass at him or something, Justin might not know how to handle it. Being that it's his boss and all."
"Remember that Justin's not as young as he looks."
"He's what, nineteen? That's still pretty young." When I say nothing, Hank goes on, "But you know best, of course. Sorry if I spoke out of line, Brian, I didn't mean to poke my nose in your business."
I relent then, I feel my shoulders relax and I force myself to smile so that my voice will soften as I say, "Thank you for calling." I close my eyes and shake my head, then add, "Uncle Hank." Taking a deep breath, I add, "It was good of you to worry about Justin. But believe me," I assure him, "He can handle it."
"Okey-doke," Hank answers cheerfully. "Now promise not to tell Emily I called you, she'd chew my butt if she knew."
Quickly I erase the mental image of Emily chewing Hank's butt. Justin's not the only one with a vivid imagination. "Sure, of course."
"And we'll see you folks next Sunday. Is Justin's mom going to be staying with you boys?"
"No, she wants to stay at a hotel. She'll just be here for the weekend. It was nice of you to invite us over for dinner."
"Is she a good mom, this Jennifer?"
It's Hank's turn to chuckle. "No 'of course' about a woman being a good mother," he says dryly. "Good-bye now, Brian."
He hangs up but I sit still for a moment, cradling the phone and trying not to think about Justin's boss, Andrew Whittaker. I didn't like him at first sight, and I don't like him even more, now that I know his reputation.
Except of course that he apparently has the same open arrangement with his partner as Justin and I do. Straights have always got to label everything, judge everything by their own narrow standards. I know perfectly well that a majority of heterosexual men would gladly dispense with that ridiculous monogamy rule if it were put to a vote.
All the lights are out when I get home except for a small lamp on Brian’s desk that serves as a night light when one or both of us is out late. Class ended at ten-thirty but I stayed to ask the teacher for clarification of our next assignment, it’s eleven when I pull into the garage and enter the condo. Brian usually waits up for me but he must have been tired, well I know he was tired, he’s been pushing himself to the limit for weeks now. He’s determined to single-handedly turn Bradford and Slate on its ear.
I kick off my shoes and move silently across the living room and slip into the bedroom.
“I’m awake,” Brian says, making me jump slightly. He turns on the lamp by his side of the bed and pulls himself upright, leaning against the mirrored headboard, and rubs a hand over his face, yawning hugely.
“I’ll just piss and wash my face and be right there.” I pull off my shirt and throw it on the floor, step out of my jeans and leave them in a puddle.
“Hang up your pants,” Brian orders crankily, “Do you know how fucking much laundry you create in a forty-eight hour period?”
Since I’ve been Brian’s designated laundry-person for much of the past couple years I could honestly say yes, but I’m smart enough not to answer his rhetorical question. He did laundry last Saturday when I had to work overtime and he bitched about it incessantly. So instead of giving Brian a smart-ass answer, I pick up my clothes, hanging the jeans and taking the shirt into the bathroom to put in the hamper. As promised I’m back in the bedroom in three minutes, sliding into the bed, naked and ready for action.
“What makes you think I’m in the mood?” Brian asks, reaching for me and pulling me into his arms.
Later when we’re almost asleep, when we’re lying tight together like spoons in a drawer, Brian nuzzles my hair, then murmurs into my ear.
“If someone at work, like maybe your boss or somebody else, hit on you. . .what would you do?”
I’m wide awake instantly and on the alert. What brought this on?
“He hasn’t, Brian. He wouldn’t do that.”
“Would you feel pressured to fuck him, to save your job?”
“You did before.”
He means the Sap. Christ, all my past mistakes keep rising up like ghosts in some Dickensian tale. “And I learned from that, which is what you wanted me to do, right?”
“I had nothing to do with it,” Brian insists. “It was your own decision to quit that job.”
“Of course it was, I know that. And I know it was a mistake to trust the Sap, but like I said, I learned from that experience. Maybe I’ll make a lot of mistakes, but never the same ones twice.”
I hope he gets my double meaning; sometime he’ll have to believe I won’t fuck up like I did with Ethan.
“Brian, if Andrew Whittaker put the moves on me, I’d tell him to back off. I can handle myself. So don‘t worry about me, okay?”
“Who said I was worried?” he scoffs. “Shut up and go to sleep or we’ll be late for work tomorrow.”
Refraining from pointing out that I’d already been asleep when he started his interrogation, I just snuggle back down into his arms and close my eyes.
It was a good thing that I got hired at Simpson Studios first, before I even applied for admission to City College, because just as I feared, the IFA had put a hold on my records when they suspended me. And if it weren’t for the combined efforts of Robert’s Uncle Jerry and Brian’s Uncle Hank, I would probably have been up shit creek – without a paddle, and without a job.
After dinner with Brian’s mom, Uncle Hank had pulled me along with him into his den, had me pull a chair next to his desk while he dialed his friend who works at Simpson Studios. Before he’d punched in all the numbers I reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping him. “Wait,” I’d said, “Umm, I probably better tell you something first.”
“What’s that?” he asked, hanging up the phone.
“I – got in trouble at school in Pittsburgh. Probably it’s on my records, maybe I can’t get a transcript.”
Hank was surprised. “What kind of trouble? Or do you not want to tell me?”
With a sigh I sat forward, leaning my elbows on my knees. “It’s complicated,” I said. “Basically it was for political activity but there were some other things too that the school officials didn’t like. They suspended me.”
“Hmm,” Hank said, “I see. So if you tell an employer about your college background, they might check it out and discover all this?”
“Yeah,” I agreed unhappily. “And City College might not admit me, if they know I’ve been suspended.”
“Hmm,” Hank repeated, then sat thinking for a moment. “Well, I always say, ‘honesty’s the best policy.’ You can do whatever you want, but I’d recommend that you tell the truth about what happened and suck up the consequences. Let me call Joe now, there might not be any job available anyway, which would make your situation moot. At least as far as work is concerned.”
“Okay.” I sat back in the chair and waited while Hank called his friend. They made small talk for a bit, then Hank got to the point and said that a young relative of his – he winked at me - was an excellent artist looking for work in the entertainment field. They spoke a few minutes longer, then Hank gave me a thumbs-up signal and scribbled something on a piece of paper before saying thanks and goodbye to his friend.
Hank handed me the paper and pointed to a name he’d written there, Joseph Lyons. “Joe's the Art Director at Simpson Studios. Give him a call tomorrow and remind him that I recommended you for the opening in his department. It’s entry-level so they won’t be expecting someone with a lot of experience, but Joe says it’s real competitive anyway.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling defeated, “They probably have a million applicants already.”
“That’s where you’ve got an edge,” Hank assured me, “Joe says they haven’t advertised the position yet, the guy you’d be replacing just gave in his notice yesterday.”
We turned around and saw Brian in the doorway. “Sorry to interrupt, but Lindsay needs to leave soon, she’s got an early flight home in the morning.”
“Brian,” I said excitedly, getting quickly to my feet and joining him in the doorway, “There is an opening after all – I’m to call the Art Director tomorrow!”
“The Art Director? Why the fuck would the head honcho get involved in hiring peons?”
“I’m not a peon, I’m a rank amateur, is all.”
“Now, now,” Hank joined us, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Every job is honorable.”
Brian just laughed. “Don’t worry, Justin’s not offended – he knows he’s rank.” But he reached out to squeeze the back of my neck when I smiled up at him.
“Actually," Hank informed us, "The real honcho at Simpson is Andrew Whittaker, the CEO. From what I hear, he has his finger in every pie. You'll probably have to pass muster with him before they consider hiring you. And every studio has tightened security nowadays, so they'll check you out pretty thoroughly.”
“Security?” Brian winkled his forehead and threw me a look I could easily read. “They do background checks, things like that?”
“Brian, I told Uncle Hank about the IFA – more or less. He says I should be honest about what happened.”
“Be honest, yes,” Brian agreed, “But you don’t have to volunteer anything.”
“I won’t implicate any others,” I assured him earnestly, which made him laugh again.
I thanked Uncle Hank and we three went into the kitchen to start saying our goodbyes.
When I called Joseph Lyons next day, the man was friendly and encouraging, and he made time on his calendar to interview me that very same day. I told Mr. Lyons - or Joe as he asked me to call him - that I'd studied at the IFA for two years with a 3.9 GPA before relocating to California.
Brian had given me hints on handling the interview. He'd advised me to dazzle them with my accomplishments and to wait until I was offered the job before mentioning any problems with references and transcripts. Brian had said, "Make them want you so much that the IFA problems will seem trivial."
I was skeptical - the IFA 'problems' were sure as fuck NOT trivial; but I did exactly as he said and at the conclusion of the interview, Joe was smiling and I knew he would offer me the job. First he emphasized, "If you're hired, Justin, you need to be aware that even though the title is Assistant Draftsperson, mostly what you will be is a glorified go-fer. You'll get all the shittiest jobs, you'll be chief Xerox person, you'll fetch coffee and donuts and maybe, just maybe, once in a while you'll actually have a chance to do something artistic. Still interested?"
"Oh yes!" I couldn't hide my enthusiasm; what he was describing was the same kind of work I did at Vangard, and I remembered what I'd told Brian at the time - I'd learned more in those few weeks as an intern than I did in most of my second-year classes. And more than anything right now, I wanted to be involved in creating art.
Just the possibility of getting this job had reawakened my urgent need to draw. In fact when we'd returned home from dinner with Brian's family, I'd pulled a sketchpad from a bottom drawer and sat on the floor of the guest room, making quick sketches of Lindsay getting Gus ready for bed and packing her suitcase. Once I looked up to find that Brian was framed in the doorway, looking at me so intently it made me jump. Then he had resumed his normal air of cool, he'd come into the room and thrown himself down on the bed, and nagged Lindsay to hurry up and finish packing, he was bored.
Joe did offer me the job, and I'd drawn a deep breath and said, "I'd love it, and I can promise you won't be sorry for hiring me. There's just a little history I need to tell you about, and I hope it won't make a difference."
Then I'd given him an expurgated version of events at the IFA, explaining that the Dean had suspended me for unauthorized political activities.
Joe had sat listening and watching me closely. "Well, that sounds pretty serious. Tell me something, Justin: Do you think you deserved to be suspended for your 'activities?'"
I was silent for a moment, struggling with the urge to say no. It had all been so unfair and overblown and downright outrageous at the end. Still, I had to be honest, Brian had confirmed what I already knew, honest is the only way to live your life. With a heavy sigh I looked at Joe and nodded. "Yes," I said unhappily, knowing I'd just lost the job I wanted so desperately.
"And do you think you'd do the same thing again, if you had it to do over?"
That was a killer question all right, as if I hadn't already lost the job. But I didn't hesitate. "Yes," I said, holding my head high. "I'd have no choice. But I'd make sure not to compromise anyone else. That was my only regret, that my actions affected other people."
"Well," Joe concluded, "You're honest, you have the courage of your convictions, and you're willing to accept the consequences of your actions. That's impressive. So is this portfolio of your work. Assuming your transcripts confirm your grades at the IFA, I'm be willing to offer you the job. But," he held a finger in the air, "I will need to see the transcripts first - it's up to you to do whatever's necessary to get them. Have the school fax them directly to my office - I'll give you the number. Then, if everything's copasetic, I'll arrange a meeting with Andrew Whittaker,
and he can consider your special circumstances. The final decision will be his. Nothing goes unnoticed by our CEO."
"Wow," I was almost breathless with surprise and elation. "Thanks! I'll call the IFA and see if I can get a transcript and I'll let you know right away. Wow. Thank you, Joe!" I remember that I just about floated out of the office as Joe escorted me to the first floor entrance.
Before contacting the IFA, I called Jerry, Robert’s uncle, and asked him about college discipline regulations. Jerry said that California and Pennsylvania might have different policies and procedures, but he was pretty sure the IFA could not refuse to release my transcripts. Surprisingly, I discovered that he was right, but I was not surprised to hear that my records would indeed reflect that I had been suspended for disciplinary reasons. I could only hope that the Simpson CEO would be as understanding as Joe had been.
He was. Andrew Whittaker impressed me right away as a very down-to-earth guy, nothing about him shrieked conceit or corruption of power. His assistant was way scarier, haughtily waving me to a chair in the lobby. Joe joined me there and led the way into the CEO's office, where Mr. Whittaker stood up to shake my hand and immediately told me to call him Andrew.
"There's no bullshit at Simpson," he said. "We're basically a family operation started by Henry Simpson in the 1980's, and though we've grown a lot since then - we have over 100 employees - we're still small potatoes in Hollywood. Joe will have told you that Simpson doesn't produce films like the major studios, we're stop-gappers, filling the needs of the big boys for technical expertise in lighting, sound, art direction and animation production. More and more we're also involved in support services for the major studios who produce television commercials."
"Oh," I'd said, or "Um;" I didn't have anything intelligent to offer. I was trying not to be in awe of the CEO, and I was glad when he got down to the business at hand: me.
"Justin," he began, flipping open a file on his desk; I could see my upside-down IFA transcript on top of a stack of papers.
Andrew continued, "Joe is highly recommending that we hire you for the assistant position in his department, based on your grades at the IFA and your portfolio. However, he's told me that you had some discipline problems at school, so why don't you tell me about that?"
I repeated the bare-bones story I'd told Joe and then sat back and waited.
"Mmm-hmm," Andrew nodded when I finished. "That's your abridged version, right? Maybe you could fill us in on the details of this 'political activity' that so outraged your dean."
"Okay," I agreed, scooting forward to the edge of my chair and resting my folded hands on top of his desk. "The agency where I was interning was representing a mayoral candidate. He was a homophobic chief of police who was cracking down on our neighborhood, and - "
"'Our neighborhood?'" Andrew interrupted.
"I'm gay," I told him proudly, "And my friends and family live and work around Liberty Avenue, the gay neighborhood of Pittsburgh."
"I see. Go on."
"Anyway, Chief Stockwell was running for mayor, and he was discriminating against us, stirring up homophobia. So I - well I couldn't stand still for that, you know? So I started a secret poster campaign, putting up agit-prop posters all around the city, to fight against him."
Andrew sat back in his chair, steepling his fingers together and nodding. "And what happened?"
"He lost. Oh, it wasn't due to me,” I hurried to add, “But the agency found out I was working against one of their clients and complained to my school. So I got fired from my job and suspended from school."
"That's a pretty serious offense, Justin, despite your noble motives - undermining a client."
"Yes," I agreed. "I'm not sorry I did it, but I should have quit the internship first. That was wrong of me, and that's the only thing I regret."
"Hmm," Andrew regarded me silently for a moment, then asked, "And was that the extent of your perfidy, Justin? Disloyalty to the agency?"
"Well," I hedged, "The other reason was none of their business."
"And what was that reason? Are you willing to share that information?"
"I guess," I sighed, feeling defeat staring me in the face. Might as well be shot for a goose as a lamb, as my grandma used to say.
Sitting back in my chair, I sighed again. "I was involved with one of the Vangard employees. That started a long time ago, long before I worked there, so it was more or less a coincidence. But the head of the agency found out and told the dean about that too." I glanced at Joe, then looked hard at Andrew. "It was none of their business," I repeated.
"'Involved' meaning, 'romantically involved?'" When I nodded, Andrew said, somewhat surprisingly, "You're probably right about that - about it being nobody's business. But if we hire you here at Simpson, you'll be asked to sign a loyalty oath. Everybody has to sign it, even me. I don't like it on principle, but our board of directors considers it a necessity and, I think in your case, it would help us gloss over your 'mistakes' at your previous job. Would you agree to do that?"
"Yes," I said firmly. I know I'll never again fuck up like I did at Vangard - I meant what I'd said, I should have quit the internship before working against Stockwell. But a new employer wouldn't have any reason to trust me until I could prove myself. "Yes sir, it seems only fair."
“Right,” Andrew nodded. “Now, would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes, while Joe and I have a brief confab?”
I sat in a chair in the lobby, trying not to look nervous and trying to avoid glancing at the snotty assistant. He kept giving me dirty looks and sweeping his long blond hair back off his forehead with one hand, he did it about twice a minute, like a tic. It was less than five minutes before Joe gestured to me from the doorway, ushering me back into the office, and then Andrew offered me the job.
Justin was over the moon with joy when he got the job at Simpson. We both expected his salary to be minimum wage (in his excitement, the silly twat forgot to ask what he’d be paid! – I gave him hell for that all right); but surprisingly they pay their employees pretty well, so Justin’s entry-level job nets him about the same as he earned at the d’Or including tips. Still a pittance, but I didn’t say that to Justin. At least he’s getting paid for doing something he loves, he’s learning on the job and making important contacts. Even if I don’t like all the contacts he’s making.
I can’t help wondering if Andrew Whittaker is this terrific human being that Justin makes him out to be, for hiring a kid with a bad record, or if maybe the guy might not have ulterior motives? He’s giving Justin a break, he’s paying a decent salary, he’s even giving Justin a ride home from work most nights. What’s in it for him?
Whittaker even helped Justin enroll in school. It turned out he had contacts in the art department of City College, so with his pushing from the outside and with Robert’s Uncle Jerry pushing from the inside, Justin was admitted on probationary status – he was allowed to enroll in one class per semester for a year, then if he doesn’t get in any trouble in that time (and he sure as fuck will NOT, if I have anything to say about it, and I do) then he can be matriculated as a regular student next year.
If we’re here next year.
If she has to come at all, then the timing of Jennifer Taylor’s visit couldn’t be better. She’s going to find Justin enrolled in school, established in a good job, and going through sketch books by the dozen. Once he picked up his pencil for the first time in months, he’s barely put it back down again. He’s happy. Christ, is he happy.
“Give me a bill to pay,” he’s saying now.
I do most of my banking on-line but once a month I sit down and balance my accounts and write a few checks. My papers are spread out on top of my desk – I thought Justin was working late but he surprised me by coming home early for a change. Bad timing, I like to be alone when I pay bills.
So he comes in the door and catches me off guard, and the first thing he says after hello is, “Give me a bill to pay.”
“Brian, I’m serious. I have a real job now and you absolutely have to let me share some expenses. We’re partners.”
Justin says ‘partners’ twenty-seven times a day.
“You can buy a month’s worth of Honey-Nut Cheerios. That’s half the national debt right there.”
“I’m serious, stop joking around.”
It was not a joke.
“You’re home at a decent hour for a change – go fix dinner.”
“Brian.” Justin comes up behind me, grabs the chair and pulls it, and me in it, away from the desk.
“Stronger than you look, aren’t you?”
Justin pushes at my arms and makes room for himself to sit on my lap. “After dinner I’ll show you how strong I am.”
“Dream on, bottom boy. And go away, let me finish up here and I’ll take you out to dinner. So you don’t have to slave over a hot stove.”
“Ooh, slaves, let’s play slaves tonight.” He kisses the side of my face and I have to struggle to keep from smiling.
“Then go get the whips and chains ready, leave me alone, will you?” But my hands have slipped around his waist of their own accord and they’re gripping him tight.
“I think we left them back in the Pitts,” Justin coos, sliding his arms around my neck and pushing his forehead against mine. A patented Kinney move stolen by this juicy blond morsel creating friction in my lap.
“Just as well – some slave you’d make, disobedient little twat.”
“Who says I’d be the slave? Maybe you’d be the one wearing chains.”
“When pigs fly.”
Justin tightens his grip on my neck and bends his head, sliding his tongue down the side of my face, under my chin, pausing to softly kiss my adam’s apple.
“You’re going to be sorry, starting something now, you won’t get any dinner.”
“I’m not hungry for food,” he murmurs, his warm breath tickling my ear. “I’m hungry for some hot man-on-man action.”
“Lucky for you it’s WWF night on tv.”
“No,” he contradicts me, his voice husky. “It’s WWF night in our bedroom.” Then he ruins it by giggling. “I sound like somebody on Ted’s porn site.”
“Oh,” I complain, “Don’t mention Ted, you’ll make me lose my hard-on.”
Justin giggles again and kisses my left eye. “Bri-an,” he wheedles, “Give me a bill to pay. A bill I can pay every month. You have to. For my self-esteem.”
“You’ve got way too much self-esteem as it is,” I complain. “I liked you better when you were insecure.”
“More self-esteem could greatly improve my blow jobs.”
“Nothing could improve your blow jobs.”
Justin slides off my lap and kneels between my legs, running a hand up each thigh and rubbing his face on the fly of my jeans, which is quickly bunching tight around my growing cock.
“Stop,” I say, but without much conviction, then I gasp as Justin raises his head, and grabs my fly with both hands, ripping my jeans open, making my cock jump out at him like an x-rated jack-in-the-box.
“Sproing!” Justin exclaims, a sound effect that makes me laugh, even as I reach for his head and twist my fingers in his hair.
“Suck me,” I order him, my eyes beginning to close, but I feel him shake his head.
“Not till you agree to give me a bill.”
Justin flicks his tongue up the length of my cock and takes a tiny nip between his teeth, but gently, making me groan.
“Suck me.” Christ, I need to feel his hot wet mouth taking me inside.
“Say yes, Brian. Say you’ll give me a bill to pay. Every month.”
“Suck me, damn you!” I’m twisting sideways in the chair, the need for Justin’s mouth growing more and more urgent.
“Say it, Brian – say it!”
“. . .no. . .”
“Jesus!” I moan again, grabbing his head with both hands and pulling it towards me. “Uncle, okay? Fucking uncle. I’ll give you a fucking bill! Now suck me off – suck me off – before I fucking kill you!”