Chapter 1 - Lithium.
Brian was rudely awakened by a heavy slab of meat slamming down over his chest while a Mack Truck that seemed to have driven into his bedroom roared into his ear. It took him at least five minutes to pry open one eyelid, encrusted as it seemed to be by an unknown substance which had the adhesive power of superglue and the consistency of dried up cream cheese. When he did get his eye opened, he discovered, to his dismay, that it was actually some meat head gym bunny lying in the bed next to him, snoring so loudly it was probably going to cause permanent hearing loss, and not a Mack Truck. Brian would have preferred the Mack Truck.
“Who the fuck are you?” Brian bellowed as he threw the unwanted meat slab - which now appeared to be the humongous oaf’s gargantuan arm - off his chest.
“I’m the guy you fucked last night, asshole,” the Trick replied incredulously, as if wondering how the handsome, newly-titled asshole next to him could ever forget him, or his stellar lip service.
“Oh, right . . . Were you any good?” Brian asked grumpily, rolling out of bed and plodding off towards the bathroom to empty his bladder, find some eye drops and brush his fucking furry teeth.
“From the way you were begging for more, I must have been the best fuck you’ve ever had,” the trick boasted to Brian’s retreating back.
“Yeah, right! The best fuck I’ve had while I was so fucking high that I could barely get off and which I couldn’t remember the morning after, at least,” Brian hollered back over the noise of the running water in the bathroom sink. “Now would you kindly do me and yourself a big favor and get the fuck out of my loft before I have to wake up enough to kick you out myself.”
“God damned fucking asshole . . .” the big lug was muttering as he searched the floor around the bed for his missing clothing.
“Yes, I WAS the one fucking your asshole,” Brian snarked, albeit weakly, as he shuffled out of the bathroom and directly past the trick on his way to find the only substance that was likely to make him feel even vaguely human again - Coffee.
“I left you my number but don’t bother using it princess, because you won’t get another go at this ass EVER again,” the oafish trick snapped when he finally stomped out of the bedroom a few minutes later.
Brian’s only reply was to snort into the depths of his steaming coffee cup. This guy really must have been clueless if he didn’t know that Brian Kinney did NOT do repeats. Especially not repeats who were overly talkative, way too needy and hadn’t had the good manners to get the fuck out the night before. All Brian wanted at that precise moment was a little peace and quiet - not a prissy, prima donna drama queen whose feelings were hurt and who thought whining about it would make Brian reconsider kicking his ass out as soon as possible. Brian silently followed last night’s fuck de jour to the door, beyond ready to rid himself of this loser.
With one hand still cradling his precious coffee, Brian slid the loft’s heavy metal door open, figuring that opening the door for the guy was as polite as he needed to be under the circumstances. Since he was more focused on his coffee than the trick, though, it took him a couple seconds before he realized that last night’s fuck hadn’t yet left.
“What do you need, a fucking platinum plated invitation? Get the fuck out already, I’m not a fucking valet bucking for tips here.” Brian demanded, shoving at the monstrous shoulder a bit in order to try and get the trick moving.
“Back off, man. I’m going already. But I’m not going to plow over the lady standing in your doorway to do it,” the Meat Head griped and shrugged Brian’s hand off his shoulder.
Finally, sidling through the door around the surly blond leaning obstructively against the door frame, the trick made it out the door and headed straight down the stairs.
“Good Morning, Brian!” Cynthia managed to bite out testily as she gave his naked body a quick, appreciative, once over before sauntering inside.
The new pair of Jimmy Choo’s she was wearing made annoyingly loud tapping noises on the hardwood flooring and caused Brian’s head to throb even more than it had been before the woman’s arrival. His condition wasn’t made any better when his assistant began unloading a virtual mountain of paperwork from her leather satchel and piling it on his desk. Brian really, really did NOT want to deal with paperwork this morning. What he wanted to do was go take a long - make that a very long - hot shower, then go back to bed for a couple of hours and then, maybe, eat something that would help sop up the leftover alcohol still gurgling around in his stomach. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear that Cynthia was on board with that plan.
“You’ve got to deal with this shit, Brian,” Cynthia demanded, grabbing Brian by the shoulders as he tried to slip past her and into the bathroom undetected. “We’ve got four collection agencies coming after us, the electric bill is almost two weeks overdue and you’ve maxed out all but one of your credit cards. I can’t put them off forever, Brian. And this,” Cynthia handed Brian one last letter, this one printed out on creamy, expensive letterhead, “is the most recent letter from the bank about the balloon payment on your start up loan, which comes due in less than a month!”
“What do you want me to do Cynthia? It’s not like I can magically make money fall from my ass!” Brian growled, tearing himself out of her grip and tromping up to the bedroom where he reluctantly forwent his shower and instead pulled on a pair of jeans.
“What you need to do is get us some clients, Brian! Isn’t that the whole reason behind starting your own advertising agency, hmm?” Cynthia could even out-snark her boss when she got this angry.
“I’m working on it, Cyn, but it’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” Brian tried to hold back his temper while he explained it all again. “You know that both Liberty Air and Remson backed out on their promises to follow me when I left VanGuard. I’d been counting on that income to get us by until we landed some new clients. And I’m close to landing both the Brown and the Telson Tire accounts, but it’s a slow process and it might be another six weeks or so before that’s all finalized.”
“Well, what the fuck are we going to do in the meantime? Isn’t there someone you know that you can borrow some money from until we can get those new contracts signed? Seriously, Brian, if we don’t do SOMETHING right now, there won’t be a company in six weeks time,” Cynthia looked more worried than Brian had ever seen her and that, in itself, scared Brian more than the stack of collection letters.
“Fuck . . . I don’t know,” Brian racked his brain trying to come up with some kind of solution. Most of his friends and family were even more broke than he was. The only person he could think of who would be even remotely tight enough to have any kind of savings was Ted. The problem with that, though, was that Ted was in rehab at the moment, battling his unfortunate crystal addiction. Brian had been so busy starting up his own agency that he hadn’t seen either Ted or Emmett in weeks, and only knew Ted was in rehab because he’d overheard Michael and Debbie moaning about it the other day at the diner. But, maybe, if he could track down exactly which program Ted was in, he might be able to . . .
“I might have an idea, Cynthia!” Brian stated with renewed hope. “I know a guy who might be able to help us out with a little short term loan. Just . . . just give me until this afternoon to see if I can pin him down, okay.”
“Fine. I guess I can do my juggling act and hold these guys off for a little while longer, but seriously, Brian . . .” Brian put a hand up, silencing whatever protest Cynthia had planned on making.
“Just give me a couple hours. And, in the meantime, keep working on that list of prospects I gave you last week. There are some good possibilities on there, and I just know one of them will pan out eventually,” Brian tried to reassure both himself and his assistant as he gently guided her back towards the door.
“I’m here to see Ted Schmidt,” Brian announced himself through the little round metal screen set into the plexiglass window of the reception desk at Brighton Psychiatric Hospital.
It had taken him most of the day to track down which rehab program Ted was in. Now it was after eight in the evening and visiting hours were up at nine. But Brian hadn’t gone to all this trouble just to give up now. He simply had to see Ted. It was his last hope.
Ten minutes later Brian was admitted through the locked doors and seated in the dingy, not-too-clean lounge area across from the main reception desk while someone from the staff went to find Ted. It seemed like a pretty quiet night. There were no other visitors waiting in the lounge and once the guy manning the reception desk went off to find Ted, there wasn’t anyone else in the room with him. It was creepy and way too quiet and the atmosphere made Brian’s skin crawl.
It seemed to be taking an inordinate amount of time to track down Schmidt, too. Brian tried to sit patiently, but there was nothing to do and only pale grey walls to look at. There weren’t even any magazines in the lounge to distract himself with. So, by the time there was some actual activity in the corridor near the waiting area, Brian had been up and pacing for several minutes.
Of course, when there finally was some kind of action, it was like a total circus. The main door opened and a whole crowd of folks came traipsing in, including a police officer, two nurses, and someone wearing a long white lab coat who was probably one of the doctors or therapists here. In the middle of the crowd was a small statured blond boy who looked dazed, confused, and cowered at every touch. His pale, soft-looking cheeks were tear-streaked. His blue eyes were looking around him in a panicky shifting fashion, as if he was seeking a way out. The cop’s grip on his arm was very obviously preventing that. The poor kid looked like he should be in bed since it was a school night rather than here in this sterile ward for the mentally challenged.
“Welcome to Brighton, Justin,” the lab-coated one said in that fake soothing voice that all headshrinkers used, which in Brian’s opinion would only make a panicked person even more frightened. “We’re going to take good care of you here. Now, just come this way and Nurse Cybil will show you to your room.”
The boy looked wildly around him one more time. For a brief moment the kid’s eyes met Brian’s and seemed to be begging him for help. Brian was too stunned by the beauty of the boy and the whole fucked up situation to say anything. He just stood there, watching mutely as they hustled the scared youth away, his head turning so that he could keep looking at Brian over his shoulder all the way down the long corridor until they went around a corner and the boy was lost from sight.
Brian had the strangest urge to follow them. He felt like he should be saving the boy or pulling him out of here. Which was just crazy considering where he currently was. Brian didn’t know anything about that kid. And the fact that he was brought in by the police did not bode well. But, then again . . . nothing about that little blond struck Brian as dangerous or violent. He just seemed scared and lost and in need of a friend. And Brian found that even if he didn’t know the guy, he’d be more than happy to be that friend.
“Have a seat, Justin,” the man who’d introduced himself as Dr. Gillcrest said, gesturing to the chair in front of the big desk in the small office. “Now, tell me what’s bothering you.”
“I-I want to go home. PLEASE! I want to go home. I don’t want to be here . . . I don’t want to be here . . . I don’t want to be here!” Justin kept repeating over and over while tears streamed down his face.
Justin wasn’t exactly sure why he was at Brighton in the first place. He figured that maybe it had something to do with the police coming to his house to take his mother’s body away. At first he thought he would be arrested for killing her and that they were taking him to jail... not to a what? Hospital? Mental institution? Well whatever it was, Justin felt it was the wrong place for him to be.
“Justin, please calm down,” Dr. Gillcrest ordered in his calming voice. “No one is going to hurt you here. But I do need to ask you some questions. Okay?”
Justin tried his best to be calm and not panic. He nodded to the doctor. He would try to answer the questions, but right now he was just so confused. He didn’t know what was going on so he didn’t know how much he could tell this man.
“Justin, do you know where you are right now or why you’re here?” Justin chewed at his lip pensively and then shook his head. “As I said before, you're at Brighton Psychiatric Hospital. You left a note for the mailman telling him your mother was dead and asking what you should do. Do you remember that?” Justin nodded his head again but didn’t say more. “That’s good. So, can you tell me what happened to your mother, Justin? Do you know why you’re here?”
Justin looked around him at the various people in the small room who were all staring at him. He hated all the people. He wasn’t used to being around so many people. But he knew that what he’d done was bad - really, really, bad - and he knew that he would have to pay for it sooner or later. The voices had always said he was a bad boy. So that must be why they were all looking at him now.
“B-b-because of the voices,” Justin confessed, his own voice was so low that the contingent in the room had to strain to hear him.
“I see,” Dr Gillcrest mumbled to himself, steepling his hands together and looking over them at the seemingly innocent boy who just might be a murderer . . .
“Brian I would love to help you with the start up capital you need for your agency, but I don’t have any money left to lend. When I went on my little crystal binge, I pretty much fucked away every cent I had . . .” Ted grimaced as he made his confession, one of many that he’d have to make over the long months of his recovery. “I’m sorry Brian.”
Brian paced the small space nervously, knowing that he was well and truly fucked, and not in a positive, life-affirming way either. Ted was his last hope and now he didn’t know how the hell he was going to pull this off. Brian had people depending on him to come through and get his business off the ground, and he’d be damned if he let them down. He would just have to think of something else.
“Sorry’s bullshit, Ted. Besides you don’t have anything to be sorry for. I got myself into this mess and I’ll damn sure get myself out of it . . . somehow.”
After a couple more minutes of idle chatting, Ted shuffled off back down the hallway towards what Brian assumed were the patient rooms. Brian ran an agitated hand through his hair, trying to think. Trying to pull a miracle out of thin air. While he was pacing around the lounge area, wandering back and forth in the cramped space between the seating area and a large bulletin board displaying announcements for the patients and staff which blocked most of his view of the entranceway, Brian was distracted from his own worries by the sound of a new commotion. He leaned over, peeked around the board into the hallway and noticed the blond kid he’d seen earlier being led back down the opposite hallway from where Ted had disappeared. It looked like the entourage he’d had before, including the cop, was now gone. This time the boy only had one clinical aide still with him - a burly, sour looking male orderly who had one hand gripping the boy’s arm tightly and his other hand plastered on the young blond’s ass.
“You just come with me, Sweetcheeks,” Brian heard the orderly crooning as he manhandled the boy through the corridor. “I’ll take care of you real good. We’ll just stop in the bathrooms here for a minute or two. That way we can get you nice and clean . . .”
“But, I-I-I don’t want to go to the bathroom. Dr. Gillcrest said I should go to my room. I s-s-should do what the doctors say, right?” The little blond was trying to pull out of the big guy’s hold and back away, instinctively knowing that this oaf meant no good.
“It’s okay, Sweetcheeks. I’m a kind of doctor, too. And I just want to do some tests first before we get you settled for the night. Don’t worry, you’ll like these tests.” The big ape said, now gripping the kid tightly with both hands while he tried to drag him into a nearby bathroom.
‘Yeah, right! Tests my ass’, Brian thought. He decided to follow the pair into the bathroom. As luck would have it, there was a privacy entrance so that, when the door was opened, no one in the corridor could see inside. Brian walked to the end of the wall and peeked around the edge. The blond youth was pushed up against the bathroom’s tiled wall and struggling against the orderly who was holding him in place with one meaty hand and was using the other to pull the kid’s pants down to bare his pubes. The orderly had slipped one hand down into the kid’s open pants and was roughly fondling his dick, and at the same time was bent over and slobbering all over the kid’s neck and jaw trying to steal a kiss even as the boy thrashed his head wildly back and forth and pushed at the orderly with his hands - to no effect.
“No. No. Please. I want to go to my room. I don’t like these tests . . .” the kid was saying in a panicky little voice that was barely audible.
“Get your fucking hands off that kid!” Brian screamed as he flew around the wall into the bathroom proper and tore the abusive pervert off the boy, following up with a powerful right cross to the man’s jaw while the guy was still too surprised to respond in kind.
Brian turned to the boy and gently took hold of his hand. The kid hesitated a moment, but then, looking up into Brian’s dazzling hazel eyes, he relented and squeezed Brian’s large and comforting hand with his own smaller one. Brian smiled down at the little blond beauty and then led Justin out of the bathroom and down the hall in the direction of the patient rooms.
The medical Bluto was still reeling from the blow to his jaw and decided that getting into the beautiful blond patient’s ass wasn’t worth him landing on HIS ass again. Where the fuck had that cockblocker come from anyway? It really didn’t matter though, because he wouldn’t be making that mistake again. At least not until he found some other way to get the pretty new blond boy off by himself.
“You . . . you hit that doctor. You hit him in the face. With your fist. Why did you hit him?” The blond kid was stumbling along beside Brian as they walked, looking back over his shoulder at the bathroom entrance more than he was looking forward or at his feet.
“First off, I don’t think that was a doctor. No real doctor would be doing that kind of ‘test’. And nobody should be touching you there unless you want them to. Secondly, You . . . you gotta watch out for yourself kid. People lie and pretend they’re something they’re not all the time, and usually they are up to no good . . . case in point.” Brian warned distractedly as he continued to tow the boy down the hallway looking at the plaques on the wall next to each room. “Now, what’s your name, Kid? We need to find your room and get you settled before that big oaf decides to come looking for you.”
“Well….how can I tell who’s good or bad? I mean, do they wear a certain type of clothes? Or wear their hair a certain way?” Justin asked totally ignoring Brian’s question, curious to find the answer to his own.
“What?” Brian was no longer paying attention to the boy since he’d reached what appeared to be the patient rooms and was busy reading the names by each door as they walked past.
“Good and bad people. I asked how you can tell who they are?” Then Brian’s momentary charge finally remembered that the stranger had asked his name. “And it’s ‘Justin’.”
“Justin . . .” Brian was so focused on the name issue it took a while for him to grasp the sense of the boy’s other questions. “Ummm . . . good and bad people? You just know, don’t you?” When Brian noticed that Justin still seemed confused, he stopped and took a really good look at the younger man. The kid just stood there and looked up at him with those big innocent blue eyes that seemed so trusting and naive. Maybe this kid really didn’t know . . . “Well, I guess there isn’t any outward way to tell if a person is good or bad. They don’t wear badges or hold up signs or anything.” Brian uncomfortably started explaining. “You can just tell by the way someone treats you. If they hit you and scream at you all the time, or constantly put you down, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’d be better off staying away from them. And if they touch you against your will, like our Meathead friend back there, they’re definitely bad. You just have to listen to your gut most of the time though. Trust your instincts. You’ll know if someone’s a good person.”
“Listen to my gut,” Justin repeated, laying one hand on his stomach as if he was taking Brian’s advice literally. Brian chuckled lightly at Justin’s innocent and almost child-like actions. This kid was certainly a refreshing change all right. A bit odd, maybe, but kinda sweet nonetheless. Adorable even. Brian quickly shook his head to free himself of such a lesbionic thought.
“Yeah . . . Hey, is this you? Justin Taylor?” Brian pointed to a plaque next to one door that had Justin’s name hastily scribbled on it. When the boy nodded and smiled, Brian pushed the door open and gently shoved the kid inside. “Good. Now, go get yourself settled and make sure you watch out for that guy who was pawing at you. Don’t let him get you alone or cornered again and you should be all right. And if he does try something, you scream like hell until someone comes to help you. Okay?”
“Got it Mr . . .” Brian regarded Justin quizzically for a moment then realized he hadn’t given the kid his name.
“No ‘Mr.’ . . . It’s just Brian.” Brian held his hand out and the boy tentatively stretched his own out to grip and shake it. “Nice to meet you, Justin Taylor. Now, you take care of yourself.”
“Okay ‘Just Brian’. See you later,” Justin responded sullenly still holding onto his belly with one hand as Brian made a quick exit.
Brian wasn’t even three steps out the door of the kid’s room before his cell phone started to ring - the special Cake ringtone; ‘Short Skirt, Long Jacket’ - that told him it was his assistant calling. “What’s up Cynthia,” Brian barked as soon as he tapped the icon to accept the call.
“Listen to my gut,” Justin said again, looking away from a departing Brian and down at his stomach as if it would spout some profound truth. “Listen to my gut!”
Justin’s gut was telling him that this ‘Just Brian’ was the very first good person he’d ever known in his whole life. And he wasn’t about to let him go so fast. He didn’t like this place at all. The room was cramped and there were already two other people in there who he didn’t know. He didn’t like the way the hospital smelled. And so far nobody had been very nice to him here. So, his gut was telling him to get the hell out of there and go with ‘Just Brian’. Picking up the messenger bag that was sitting on his pre-made bed he quickly exited the room on a mission to catch up with his new friend.
Brian was still on his phone as he waved to the staff member manning the front desk. He waited patiently until the guy hit the release mechanism that would allow the door to open. As soon as he saw Brian heading through the entrance, the guy at the reception desk went right back to the stack of charts he was supposed to be updating and was completely oblivious to anything else that was going on out in the corridor. Brian meanwhile was so involved in the news Cynthia was giving him that he didn’t see the small blond shadow that scurried after him and caught the door right before it latched closed again. The same shadow that followed the harried Ad Exec out into the darkness of the night.