"Are you fucking crazy?" The words explode past me and blow my hesitations to shreds.
We hadn't realized anyone else was there and we both fucking jump a mile high. The voice is loud and shrill and one that I know all too well, and I brace myself for the usual abuse. I'm not up for it today, but Mel won't care about that.
But then I realize that it's not me she's after this time. She's stalking towards the man behind the counter.
"You do realize that you could go to jail for what you're doing, don't you, you stupid little faggot?"
Mikey is staring at her. He's never really been on the end of one of Mel's ball-breakers before and he looks as if he wants to duck down under the desk and hide.
Except that she is right up to him now and in his face.
"And as for all that crap about lawyer's fees! What a crock of shit that is. You know as well as I do that Laurie is doing that work pro bono - for Hunter, not for you. Hunter's her client and there is no way that she'd let any kid go back into the shitty system without fighting it to the death. She sure as fuck isn't looking to be paid for it - by him or by you or by anyone else."
She gives me one glance and I'm ready to run and hide, but she just puts out her hand and touches mine.
"And what? You were planning on taking money off your best friend were you? To pay for what, Michael?"
"Mel, there's a lot of things I need money for. ... The baby ..."
"Bull Shit! Don't you fucking use my baby as your excuse, you little prick."
"Mel, Justin's got Brian, he doesn't need ..."
"Michael. Forget Brian. Brian isn't part of this. Can't you fucking get it? IT'S NOT YOUR FUCKING MONEY!!!"
She's screaming now. Mel's bad enough, god knows at any fucking time, but throw in the hormones and she's just ...
But she's rubbing my hand now, like I'm the one that's been hurt here. And like she fucking cares.
"It's not your money," she repeats more calmly. "It's Justin's. And that poor fucking kid who just can't seem to cop a break is working all the hours god sends at the fucking diner while you sit on his money."
"Michael. You will provide all the accounts to me this afternoon. All of them. And I will get one of my firm's accountants to go over them, and when I've worked out what Justin has coming you will write him a check. And if that money isn't in his bank account by Monday, I will be advising him to sue. For the money, for interest, and for damages - for all the hours he's had to put in working while he's trying to get his schoolwork up to date."
Michael just stares at her now and nods. "Okay. Okay."
"And you will - you will, Michael, sign over your parental rights to Lindz."
Now he starts to get angry, and I just want to get out of there, but Mel is still holding onto my hand. Which adds the final touch of weirdness to the whole thing and makes me wish, really wish that Justin was here to help me fucking deal with this, because it's all too much for me.
"You said I didn't have to. You said that you understood that I wanted to be part of my baby's life. You said ..."
"You said you were fucking going to be around!" she hisses at him.
He stops and stares at her.
"That's why I came down here. To find out what the fuck's going on. And what I find out is that not only is my baby's father a fucking criminal but he's about to skip town. Just when did you plan on telling me, Michael? When did you plan to mention that you were moving to another fucking state? Or was I just going to get a post card?"
"Mel ..." and now he looks at me, turns those big puppy dog eyes on me, "that's not settled yet."
And now I am out of here. That's it.
I pull my hand away from Mel and she looks at me like she knows just what is going on here. Then she does the last fucking thing I'm expecting. She hugs me and pulls me down so that she can kiss my cheek. "Give my love to Justin," she says. "Tell him not to worry about the money. Michael and I will sort that out."
I mumble some sort of thanks and get myself out the door, without even a goodbye to Michael. As I open it, I hear his, "Briiiann!" but I'm gone.
I'd finished my shower and was just getting dressed when the phone rang.
There's something about his voice that worries me a bit, but I can't help smiling at the phone.
"I've ordered you a taxi. It'll be outside the door at 3.30."
Somehow, I know better than to argue about this one. "Okay, Brian. Thanks."
"All right then."
He sounds a bit surprised, like he hadn't been expecting such an easy victory.
"Is everything okay?" I ask a bit cautiously.
"Sure. Why not?"
"Um ... no reason."
I don't know where to go with this. I'm sure something has happened, but if he wants to tell me, he will. Except that sometimes it's like he's waiting to be asked exactly the right question. As if you have to find the key before you can get in.
Then he sighs, and says, "I had a scary run in with Mel today, but I'll tell you about it later."
I sigh too. Lindz and I both keep hoping, but those two... they are way too much alike for their own good and for our peace of mind. The really really frustrating thing is that when the chips are down they both come through for each other. And they both know that. But sometimes that just seems to make them worse all the rest of the time. And Lindz says Mel is really moody lately because of the baby, so the thought of any run in they might have had is scary.
"Brian, you know that at the moment Mel is ... you shouldn't take too much notice of what she says, right now," I offer pathetically. Like I know what I'm talking about with all this women's stuff. Right.
He knows it's complete bullshit too, because he laughs. "Yeah, I know. You just get yourself down here safely looking pretty. Okay?"
"I do not look pretty," I say firmly. "Handsome, yes. Devastatingly attractive even. Pretty, I don't think so."
He laughs even harder. Then says softly, "Sure you do. My pretty little boy. And you know what I do to pretty boys."
His voice is pure seduction now, damn him, and I feel my cock hardening.
"Brian! Not now!" I try to regain control, but I'm disappointed when I'm successful.
He laughs again, and says, "You're right. Later."
And this `later' is full of promise. Like ... like ...
Like something I've heard before, and I try to catch it but the memory remains elusive.
"Later," I say.
And we hang up.
I get off the phone wondering how such an inane conversation can make me feel so much better. It can not be just the sound of his voice. It fucking can't.
But I don't have much time to think about that, because there's all sorts of stuff that I have to get off my desk if I'm taking tomorrow off, and now there's this fucking "announcement" bullshit that's cut a huge chunk out of the afternoon.
But thanks to Cyn, and the fact that I seem to have scared the shit out of the art department so that they're actually producing what I ask for the second or third time around instead of the fourth or fifth, somehow by the time he waltzes into my office, I'm ready. It's all done. And I can have from now till Monday all to myself - well, myself and Justin.
So I stretch back in my chair and smile at him. Then I get up and come round and sit on the corner of the desk.
He gets that look in his eyes, that look that completely belies the sweet innocence that most people see in his face. It's a look made of mischief and laughter and pure lust and I might be the only one who's ever seen it. Somehow I can't imagine the fiddler bringing it out in him - hell! it would have sent a dickless moron like Ian running for cover. Because it's not innocent at all. It's the look of a dangerously sexy man, not an innocent boy. It's the look he saves for me.
It's there now because he knows exactly what I'm doing, exactly what replay I'm setting up here. He closes the door and comes to me. We kiss.And of course, the fucking buzzer goes off, and Cyn's voice cuts through the haze of sex and lust: "Brian, they're all waiting in the boardroom."
So we go into the boardroom, and the lawyers are there, including Mel. Of course I'm expecting some sort of sparks between her and Brian, but she just pats his arm as he sits next to her with me on his other side. Vance is on the other side of the table, with his wife and his lawyer, and the rest of the staff, it seems like just about all of them, are crammed in anywhere they can get. The most senior ones get seats, but everyone else is standing. Brian looks around and makes sure that Cynthia has a seat. That's the sort of thing that he does without anyone noticing usually. Except me.
Mel is whispering something to Brian and he nods at her, but they don't look like they're about to take pieces out of each other, so I relax a bit.
In fact, I think, as I see Brian smile at her, they look unusually pally. What the fuck is going on here?
Shit! Maybe Mel was actually nice to him, and that's what scared him. He probably thought it was a sign of the apocalypse.
Vance waves his hand a bit, and everyone goes quiet, and then he says, "As most of you will already know, this is something of an historic occasion."
There's a bit of murmuring, then everyone goes quiet again.
"Brian Kinney is without doubt the best advertising executive this company has ever had. His work is exemplary and it needs no words from me to tell you how good he is."
Brian is stuck between trying to look as if all this is pretty much what he expects to hear, and wanting to be just about anywhere but here.
I find myself reaching to touch him under the table, and he must have been reaching for me too, because our hands meet, and his fingers tangle round mine and hold on tightly.
What most people just don't get about Brian is that one of the reasons he behaves the way he does is that it is really hard for him to accept praise. Hardly anyone would believe that, but it's true. I guess because he had so little growing up, that he just doesn't know how to act, how to react. So this is actually hard for him to hear.
But it's good too. After all the shit he's been through in the past few months, he really does need to hear this.
I smile gratefully at Vance and he smiles back and goes on, "He's not only the best exec in this company, he's certainly the best in Pittsburgh, probably in the whole state. And he's right up there with anyone from any of the biggest agencies in the country."
There's a round of applause here, that seems to surprise Vance a bit, and makes Brian shift in his chair a little. He is so embarrassed. Not that most people would ever realize that. But I know.
"So I am absolutely delighted to formally announce, although I know that it's been water cooler gossip ever since Brian returned to us, that this afternoon Brian and I are signing an agreement which makes him full partner and half owner of the Vanguard Kinney Agency."
This time he expects the applause, and smiles at everyone like a sort of benevolent gnome. I know he's a tough bastard. but I like him anyway. And I know that Brian has way more respect for him than he ever had for Marty Ryder.
There's some paper shuffling then, while they both sign all the papers. Mel runs her eyes over them one last time before she lets Brian sign, just to be sure they haven't snuck in any changes, I guess.
After it's all done, everyone sort of breathes a sigh of relief and starts to shuffle about ready to leave. It's crowded, and getting hot with so many people, and the ones standing must be pretty uncomfortable.
Then Vance says, "There's just one more thing."
And everyone stops, and looks at him, and Brian looks a bit worried.
"You all know the circumstances under which Brian left here."
Everyone is a bit tense now, especially Brian and I, wondering what is coming next. I get a glimpse of Mel past Brian and she looks like she might take a piece out of Vance if he tries to pull anything here. I'd be worried if I were him.
"Brian found that he couldn't, in all conscience, support the policies of someone that the agency had as a client. As a private citizen, he exercised his right of protest against those policies. The client protested, and I succumbed to the pressure he put on, and asked Brian to leave."
Which is a very lame way of saying he fired his ass and had him escorted from the building by security guards, but I'm interested to hear where Vance is going with this.
"That is a decision that I came to regret deeply."
Brian gives a little snort, then, and I can tell he's thinking that Vance sure as shit regretted it, because it nearly cost him all his best clients, I squeeze his fingers and he goes quiet again.
"Brian was prepared to stand up for what he believed in. That is something that I admire deeply."
He looks across the table at Brian, and for some reason I suddenly believe that he's sincere about this.
"He put everything at risk to finance an ad to challenge ... " he pauses then, and I wonder if he'll actually name names.
"Jim Stockwell's bid for the Mayoral office."
I glance at Brian and catch him looking at me. One point to Vance, neither of us thought he'd have the guts to actually say who the "client" was. Not that everyone didn't know, but that's different to discussing it openly.
"That ad was the deciding factor in the election campaign."
There is another round of applause here that surprises Brian and I as much as Vance.
"I need hardly say that Brian designed and produced the ad himself."
Everyone laughs a little, and there's a bit more applause.
"What may not be as obvious is that he put everything in hock to do it. Other interests have since picked up some of those costs, but Brian did not know that at the time. He risked everything he had, in the cause of what he believed in."
I hear Brian whisper, so softly that I was the only one who could have heard it, "Not everything."
I grin at him, and squeeze his hand again.
"That is the sort of passion and integrity that Brian Kinney brings to the table as partner in this agency."
There is more applause and I can tell Brian really wants to crawl under the table now.
"It's up to the rest of us to match it. Not to let him down."
There's a bit more applause, but it dies away when Vance stands up. He walks around the table to Brian, who stands also. Vance holds out his hand and Brian shakes it.
When they let go, Brian is left with something in his palm. It's a set of car keys, and they look sort of familiar.
Vance grins at him, then turns so that he's facing most of the people.
"One of the things that Brian gave up was that very flash car that we'd all got used to lusting over in the car park."
He takes a breath and smiles at Brian who's staring at him.
"Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Brian is entitled to a company car, which, should the partnership dissolve at any time, becomes his property. It presents a very good image for our new partner to have a fabulous vehicle to drive to client meetings and the like. More importantly, I wanted to be able to show Brian how much I value the opportunity to work with him again. Last weekend, a friend of mine purchased the car on my behalf. It's been freshly serviced and detailed, and is waiting again in the car park for us all to envy."
He stops and smiles at Brian.
"Brian - enjoy your car. Thank you for coming back to us. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to work together to become *the* best agency not only in Pennsylvania, but in the whole of the north east. Welcome back, partner."
There is more applause then, and a few whistles.
Brian is still holding on to my hand, and I can feel his shaking.
He mumbles something, and for a moment I think he's going to lose it. I seriously think that he might just bolt. Then takes a breath and stands up straight.
"Thank you, Gardner." He looks around. "Thank you all."
Then he grins.
"It's good to be back," he says. "And it'll be even better when I get a drink."
Everyone laughs and they all start moving out the door. I stand up.
Brian stands still for a moment, looking down at the keys in his hand. Then he looks up.
"Seriously, Gardner. Thank you."
Gardner just shakes his head and smiles. Then he looks at me.
I nod at him. "Hello, Mr. Vance."
He grins. "I think, between ourselves at least, you'd better make it Gardner."
He gestures his wife over and introduces her. He doesn't refer to me as Brian's partner or anything, but he somehow makes it clear that we're together all the same. I realise that for all his apparent rough edges, he's a smooth worker.
"Let's go and get that drink," he says.
Brian and I are about to follow him out, but Brian stops to thank Mel for coming and to see if she wants a drink or something to eat.
She shakes her head at him, and says, "I'm fine. I just want a quick word with Justin before I go."
There is definitely something going on here, because Brian gives her a long look and a nod, and then says, "Don't leave me alone out there for too long, Sunshine, or I will not be responsible for any deaths that may occur."
Then he kisses Mel on the cheek, as if that's the most natural thing in the world, and goes out to the party which is spilling out of the foyer and into the various offices.
I look at Mel, and I'm about to ask her what the fuck is going on when she smiles at me and stands up.
"I just wanted to tell you that I spoke to Michael today. He happened to mention that you wanted someone to check the accounts for the comic. We both thought it was a good idea, so I took them and dropped them off for someone in my office to go over. Don't worry, she owes me a favor, so there won't be any charge. She'll let me know in the next day or so how it all stands, and whether you should have any money coming."
I stare at her. She packs up her papers and puts them into her bag while I try to work out what to say.
One of the things I want to ask her is if Brian was at the comic shop when she went there, and if he asked her to get involved. I hope not. I so don't want him to have had to do that. But I can't ask either. That's a Brian-Michael thing and I can't butt in there. If Brian wants me to know, he'll tell me. Otherwise ...
She must realise by the fact that I haven't said anything that I'm trying to work out what is going on here. She stands up straight and looks at me. "Don't worry about it, Justin. Michael was just a little bit confused. I think I managed to straighten him out - about a few things, I hope."
"Mel, I really didn't want to get you involved. I mean, I know that things are ... I mean, with the baby and everything, I don't want to cause ..."
"Justin," she cuts in, "You didn't cause anything. There's only one person at fault here, and it certainly isn't you. Don't worry about it."
I sigh and she gives me a hug. "I mean it, sweetie. Now you go out and keep Mr. Kinney out of mischief while I get home to my wife."
I really do want to get to Brian so I just say thank you and give her a hug, and messages for Lindsay and Gus, and then I go to find him.
On my way, though, I'm buttonholed by Vance. I can see Brian talking to some of the newer staff who either don't know his reputation or think it's exaggerated. I want to get to him before they find out it isn't, but Vance seems determined to talk to me. I sigh, and remember that I'm a well brought up little WASP and must not be rude to my par ... well, to Brian's boss. "Justin. I was hoping that we'd get a chance to talk this afternoon."
"Mr. Vance ..."
"Gardner. If it's about the internship ..."
"No. No. It's something quite different."
He manages to find a fairly quiet spot in a corner, and people sort of steer away from us a bit. I can still see Brian and I just figure that I'll hear Vance out, but if Brian looks like losing it, I'll excuse myself and dash to the rescue of whoever's been unlucky enough to piss him off.
"Justin, now that the company has a new name, we desperately need a new logo. Well, a new look, really. Business cards, stationery, presentation folders, everything."
I nod, still not paying full attention because I'm watching Brian.
"I wondered if you'd like to take on the initial designs."
I finally hear what he's talking about and stare at him.
He holds up a hand. "I know that right now you're swamped with school work and the like. But we'd set it up as a freelance contract. I'm sure it would pay better at an hourly rate than what you're currently earning, and will be more useful to you professionally as well."
My head is spinning now, but it's also starting to buzz with ideas.
"I've heard only the most positive things about your work in the art department, and I believe that a fresh young eye is just what we need to give this company a fresh image. After all, who better to capture the sort of energy and passion that Brian brings to his work?"
I look straight into his eyes to see if he's being snide, but he just smiles, and I realize that's his idea of a joke.
I can only nod. "Well, it's certainly something I could be interested in."
"You'd need to discuss it with Brian, of course. But I don't think he'll have any problems with the concept. The art department advise me that they'd expect the initial look - draft logo, colors, the general style of the thing to represent around 60 hours work. At say forty dollars an hour."
I nearly drop the glass someone has just handed me.
Shit! That's over two thousand dollars.
"I see," I say carefully, trying not to look as excited as I feel.
"We'd need to discuss deadlines with you, of course, but I think we'd be looking at about a month. So ...around 15 hours a week. Does that sound as if it would fit in with your schedule?"
I shrug. "Sure. But ..."
"I know. You need to talk to Brian. And you'll want to think about it yourself, of course. Why don't you think about it over the weekend, and call me on Monday. If you're interested, we can set up a meeting with Brian and myselfand the head of the art department to toss around some ideas and set the guidelines. Then we can get your friend Ms Marcus to help us with the contract."
I nod, and when he holds out his hand, I shake it. "Thanks, M.. Gardner."
"Thank you, Justin for taking the time out to listen to my proposition. Now get going. I know that you want to share this little celebration with Brian."
Feeling like I've wandered into some weird dream where everyone you expect to act like a shit suddenly turns out to be totally nice, I walk over to Brian.
Thank God, for Mikey, I think. At least he does what you expect.
I wasn't sure what Vance was talking to Justin about, but the little shit was looking pretty damned happy about it. I can only hope that it means that he's going to fucking come back here to work where at least he's doing something that is vaguely like what he's meant to be doing and will help his studies a bit as well; instead of that fucking job at the diner that's just nowhere and wears him out into the bargain.
I just wished they'd get whatever the fuck it was settled so I could grab him and go home.
He comes over to me finally with this big smile on his face, and he's so fucking hot that I think "Stuff them" and pull him close and kiss him right there in front of whoever is still hanging around. He blushes, which gets me hotter, and wraps his arms round my waist. "Is it too early for you to leave yet?"
He's fucking asking me? He's the one who knows all that shit. Who cares, anyway?
I shrug at him, and he grins. "Let's go then."
I take his hand, and we go to say goodbye to Vance and his wife. I could say that Justin made me, but the truth is it's the least I can do after the stunt with the fucking car. I still can't believe he did that. I mean, I was already coming back. The partnership deal was all worked out, he didn't have to ...
If he fucking thinks it means I owe him anything, he can think again. But maybe he really did just want ...
See, this is why it's easier to keep people at a distance. Because then you don't have to worry about this stuff. You don't have to try to figure them out. You just assume the worst, and let them think you're a total asshole and you're fine.
Anyway, when we've played nice, and said goodbye and thank you and all that shit, and we're just about to walk away, Vance says out of nowhere, "Oh, and happy birthday for Sunday, Brian."
I start to turn around to glare at him, but Justin nudges me and I wind up just mumbling some sort of bullshit thanks.
We're walking down the hallway to the elevator and I'm trying to work out how the fuck Vance would know about that when Cyn appears.
She's actually got a fucking present for me. Fucking shiny silver box, with a black satin ribbon. I stare at her and she pushes it firmly into my hands. I want to drop it on the carpet, but I know that Justin would have my balls, so I mumble some sort of thanks at her, and then he nudges me again and I have to fucking kiss her and she says, "Bye Justin." All chirpy. And then "Happy birthday, Brian."
So then of course some other shits hear that and while we're going down in the fucking lift it's all "Happy birthday!" and one cow even has the nerve to ask what I'm doing for my birthday. Shit! And of course the little shit beside me pipes up with, "Oh, we're spending it with the family. There's going to be an Easter Egg hunt for Gus in the morning, and we'll have lunch there and then maybe go out to dinner."
I am so totally fucked.
I thought Brian was going to have conniptions. If I hadn't said anything, he'd have absolutely annihilated that poor woman from accounts and she didn't mean any harm.
But I know that now he's seriously pissed, and he is so not going to want to do any of those things now on Sunday. He'll probably head off to Babylon on Saturday night and I won't see him till Monday.
Oh, well, Sunday's still three days away. I've got time to work on him.
We walk out the door and get to the car. He gives it a look over before he opens the door. Whoever has done the detailing has done a really good job. It looks great.
We get in, and there's a new CD player and new air-conditioning. It's awesome. Brian just sits with his hands on the steering wheel for what seems like a long while. It's as if he still can't take it in that someone has done something so nice for him. Because it was nice of Gardner. It was something that he didn't have to do, and something that shows that he understands how much Brian loves this car. It was personal. A personal gift. Well, not a gift exactly. But him doing it, that was the gift. Going to all the trouble of getting his friend to buy it, and then having it refitted, that's something really thoughtful.
Then there was Cynthia with her gift; the people in the lift, the way people clapped through Gardner's speech, like they really are glad he's back, even though he'll give them hell; like they're really proud of him. Hell! even Mel was civil to him.
Brian isn't used to people treating him that way. He almost looks as if he's in shock. Not to mention having me invited there, sitting with him, like I'm ... with him. That's pretty shocking by itself, I guess.
It's like he really needs to sit and be quiet for a while so that he can take it in and work out how to react. So I just sit there too, and don't say anything. I can only hope that when he does figure it out, he's not just going to head for Woody's or the Baths.
Suddenly he starts the engine, and says, "So we're going to the Munchers' on Sunday, are we?"
He doesn't sound pissed off anymore, and when I look at him he's got this funny sort of smile on his face.
Before he puts the car in gear, he looks at me and says, "You're a little shit, you know that, right?"
But he's grinning at me when he says it, and I put my hand on his thigh and bat my eyelashes at him.
"Don't think you can flirt your way out of this one, Sunshine," he growls, but there's laughter under the growling.
"Oh, please, Brian, don't be angry," I beg in a wimpy little voice. "I'll be good. I promise."
He chuckles then. "You'd better be. Anymore trouble from you tonight, and ... well, you know what happens to naughty little boys."
I'm torn between pointing out that I'm not so little, and going along with the fantasy. Lust wins out and I say, "Oh, no, please. I'll be good. I promise."
While all the time I'm wondering just what trouble I can find to get into so that we can play this little game right out. Especially now that there are locks on the door and no one is going to burst in on us in the middle.
I mean, we have to go home anyway so Brian can change. It's been a seriously weird day; we could both use a little play time. And it's still early. There should be plenty of time before we have to be at the restaurant.
Today has been just one fucked up weird assed thing after another.
Michael fucking screwing over Justin for the Rage money. I'm not a total fucking moron. I know that he's doing it to punish Justin for being back with me. I guess he wouldn't exactly like it no matter who I was with, but for some reason the fact that it's Justin ... he just can't accept it. He's never stopped resenting Justin, not since the first night.
Most of the time I've just shut that out. But lately he's just gone too far. I talked to him after the thing at Debbie's. I tried to make it as clear as I fucking could that Justin is in my life, and I want him to stay there. I told Mikey that if he couldn't deal with that then he should seriously consider getting a new best friend. I practically fucking begged him to understand and not make me fucking choose. And he promised. He fucking promised!
And all the time ...
Just when I'm about to do and say the things that would have ended our whole friendship, who should fucking ride to the rescue but Mel. Of all the fucking unlikely cavalries! More like the marines, I guess. Jesus! she was pissed. I don't know what she said after I bailed, but fuck! I'm just glad that I wasn't the one she said it to.
Apparently she's got all the paperwork and she's given it to some other dyke to check over, so at least Justin should be getting some money. It's just as well some fucking good came out of this, because I sure as fuck am not looking forward to the next little chat that Mikey and I have.
Then there's Gardner with his fucking celebration. Even inviting Justin for fuck's sake, like he's my "other half".Shit!
So why did I want him to be there? I knew how everyone would read it. I knew how he would read it, although he's trying not to. Fuck!
Well, you made sure that he was there, Kinney. And why did you do that? Because you wanted him there, you twat! You wanted him to be there to hold your hand (fucking clinging onto his fingers like a little kid, or some scared nelly queen!). You wanted him to be there to share it with (fucking "sharing" this and "sharing" that, pair of fucking dykes!). You wanted him to be there because ...
Well, just because.
Because I wanted him there. That's all.
Because he'd earned the right to be there. That's why.
Because when he's with me I'm better, and stronger and I can fucking do anything. But I am never ever going to tell him that.
Or at least, not till later. Not till we've showered, and gone out to dinner and talked about all the fucking shit that I need to talk to him about. Then when we get home, and we're in bed, and it's just us, then maybe...
Maybe then I'll tell him.
After I finish reaming him out about the birthday shit.
The stuff with Gardner and Cynthia was bad enough, he didn't have to encourage those fucking heteros in the lift. But mainly, especially, I'm pissed off with him for going behind my back with my so-called friends to set Sunday up. Fuck!
How many times do I have to tell all of them that I do not see any cause for fucking celebration in adding another fucking year to my age?
And now he's just sitting there waiting. He knows I'm pissed. He knows that I'll probably go out and do exactly the opposite of anything they've got planned for me. But he's not talking about it. Not arguing.
He's probably biding his time.
Or maybe he's just hoping.
Hoping that for once I'll prove him wrong, prove all of them wrong, when they expect the worst from me.
I want to bounce my head off the steering wheel. But I might damage it. The steering wheel, I mean. My head's made of concrete. It must be or I wouldn't be such a fucking stupid prick. My ... friends. My friends, including Justin, want me to have lunch with them on Easter Sunday. My kid's going to be hyper as hell after all the fucking Easter eggs and they want me there to share that special moment with them (and probably help wipe up the vomit after he throws up everywhere). And I'm behaving like the biggest drama queen since Barbra.
I get this sudden image of myself singing fucking "People" and that's enough to get me out of my bad mood. Even I can laugh at myself if the picture is funny enough.
I start the car.
The car. Now there's another weird assed thing. Whatever made Gardner ...?
Shit! It doesn't matter. Tonight, none of that shit matters. Tonight, we're going to go out to dinner. And talk. About stuff that he needs to hear. He needs to hear it from me; and I need to tell him.
Just like I need to let him know that it's okay about Sunday. That for once, I won't let him down. I won't make it so he has to apologies for me and have everyone feel sorry for him because he's with such a prick.
"So we're going to the Munchers' on Sunday, are we?" I say.