Michael was troubled by yet another nightmare. Tossing and turning since his return, he often relived what he had seen in the parking garage over twenty-five hundred miles away. He couldn't get over the sight of the blood gushing from Justin's head as his best friend tried to stem the flow with the white silk scarf; couldn't stop recalling the last time he and Justin had spoken when he'd asked the younger man to take care of his mom while he was beginning his new life with David. He couldn't cease seeing the cerulean blue eyes so full of life, which had not opened since that fateful night three weeks ago.
From the minute he'd touched down in Portland, it had been a nonstop whirlwind of activity within the Novotny-Cameron household. David had arrived with Hank in tow to greet Michael at the airport. They spoke about Justin's condition and the operations the young man had to endure. When Hank asked why someone would do that to the young and likable (in Hank's twelve year old opinion) blond he'd briefly met during lunch at the Liberty Diner, Michael didn't shield the truth from him even though David would have liked him to. When Michael had finished his explanation, David had promptly and firmly advised that they should all put the events of the weekend behind them and begin to live their lives without another thought.
Michael had agreed for the sake of peace, but he was still bothered by the entire situation and David's lack of empathy for his and the gang's feelings about Justin. But he said nothing. Instead, he listened as David outlined the dinner parties and their schedule for the next few weeks which surprisingly included Michael and Hank's field trip to the Comic Book Convention held one town over the following week. It was as if Justin Taylor and his problems no longer rated as important on David's cognitive and social scale; as if all was as it should be now that Michael was where he belonged.
Every time Michael had awakened in the middle of the night screaming and covered in sweat from the first night back in his new home, David would either throw his arm around the short brunet possessively and tell him to forget about it or he would do as he'd done just a few hours ago, or advise Michael that he had early appointments in the morning and that he needed to get some uninterrupted sleep. As a result, Michael jarred himself out of his current nightmare while finding himself alone in the guest room. Fortunately, his ringing cell phone didn't give him as much time as he usually had to think about his own discontentment.
"Hello," Michael answered, his voice still laden with sleep and a little nervous over the reason someone would be calling him at three o'clock in the morning. He smiled briefly as he recognized the caller's calm, but marginally excited voice.
"Mikey...Mikey, are you listening?"
"Yeah Brian, I'm listening."
"Good. I need you to get your ass to the airport. There will be a ticket waiting for you upon arrival so make sure you have your ID."
"Brian, what the fuck are you talking about? I can't get there now. David and I have plans tomorrow night."
"Justin is waking up." The smile in Brian's voice was evident and caused Michael's own eyes to widen in disbelief, seeking reassurance the only way available right now.
"What? Are you sure? I mean... I... I..."
"Jesus, Mikey, I haven't heard you stutter this much since the first time I took you to the Baths to get laid. Yes I'm fucking sure since I've seen him wake up a hundred times since the night he and I met. Now get your ass to the airport. I'll see you soon."
The dial tone sung in his ear as he sat stunned by what he'd just heard. After three weeks in limbo and all of them on the brink of emotional hell, Justin was finally finding his way out of the coma which was first medically induced and then had continued naturally since the night of the prom. Oh fuck! He couldn't help smiling down at the phone even as he heard the throat clearing from the doorway.
"Who was that?" David asked with his arms folded across his bare chest.
It was obvious to Michael from David's stance that he'd heard the whole conversation, but it didn't matter in the least. Michael was going home to be with his family. "That was Brian. Justin is waking up and I have to get to the airport. There's a ticket waiting for me for the first available flight out." Michael threw his legs over the side of the bed, heading toward the private bathroom in the corner.
"I don't see why you're needed there," David sneered. He didn't appreciate being woken up by Michael's screams, and then subsequently hearing Michael's excitement over returning to Pittsburgh. His home was HERE now, not there.
Michael froze in the doorway of the large restroom. "I'm needed there because, if it's true that Justin is FINALLY waking up, then the cops will need my statement. In case you've forgotten I was there."
"Oh... How could I forget Michael? Perhaps it's your constant distance and lack of focus during our nights out with our friends or maybe it's the fact that I can't get any fucking sleep around here because of all your whimpers and screams. No, no, it MUST have been the fact that I came down here to wake you up again only to find that you're on the phone with the man responsible for getting the kid bashed in the first place."
"You don't know what the fuck you are talking about and I can't believe that you have the NERVE to stand there and blame Brian for the actions of Chris fucking Hobbs."
"If he wasn't there in the first place that young man wouldn't have felt compelled to hit Justin." David's matter of fact tone set Michael off.
"What kind of fucking moron are you? The question isn't why Brian was there, it's why Chris Hobbs- who is a fucking football player by the way- had a fucking baseball bat in his car in the first place?" Michael huffed, never angrier in his life. "But you know what... I don't have time to deal with this or YOU right now. I have an hour to get to the airport and since I'm sure I can't count on you to give me a ride without you being an ASSHOLE, I'll call a cab just before I jump in the shower."
Michael turned into the room and slammed the door cutting off any further communication with David. An hour later, he was being led into the first class lounge, waiting for his plane to board and not bothering to answer the many missed calls from David.
Filling in the Blanks
Brian hung up from Michael, continuing his vigil beside Justin's bedside. He always loved watching Justin wake up (an entirely lesbianic activity he would have cut his tongue out before admitting) but it had never meant more to him than it did now.
The first calls he made were to Jennifer who was sleeping right down the hall in the vacant wing, to Deb and Vic who were barely sleeping at all and to Michael who even now was heading to the airport in Portland. He would have called Daphne and the rest of the gang but he figured between Jennifer and Debbie the rest would be notified. He went ahead and advised the nursing staff of Justin's impending advent from coma-land, explaining that he just knew and that they had about fifteen minutes to get ready and notify the doctor on call. Although they had looked at him skeptically at first, they went about doing what Brian said. His certainty in his own words was what sold them.
Brian also called Cynthia to tell her of the change in Justin and to advise Ryder, if she felt it was necessary. He trusted his assistant enough to use her own discretion where their boss was concerned since, she was better at manipulating him and oft times less abrasive. So he sat there, resisting the urge to shake Justin awake. Dr. Marrow had reminded him and Jennifer during his earlier rounds that if Justin were to wake up, it had to be on his own. However, now that Brian knew it was only a matter of time, he wanted to speed the process along.
The constant fluttering of Justin's eyelashes and subtle squeezes to Brian's fingertips only served to push his impatience in further increments instead of having the calming effect it should.
"Come on, Sunshine. You're not going to leave me here in suspense, are you?" Brian asked almost desperate for Justin to wake up if only to tell him to shut up and let him sleep. Brian smiled at the thought. Justin had often said those exact words even while trying to reach for the alarm clock to throw it.
Jennifer had entered at that moment, rushing over to the bed. She smiled down as she caressed Justin's hair, obviously noticing the same cues Brian did. The past three weeks had been hell for them both. Even as they sat there knowing Justin was about to wake up, they each felt relieved and anxious at the outcome.
How much would he remember?
Would he be able to speak?
Those were only some of the questions in their minds, since Justin had been hit in the his frontal lobe and just off to the side on his temporal lobe. The frontal cortex controlled memory, language and so much more while the temporal controlled speech and hearing. Either of those injuries could result in horrendous consequences for the young artist. But just how badly Justin had been affected couldn't even be assessed until he woke up. Which meant that Justin's waking up was only just the start of the road to recovery.
"Brian, as much as I am anxious for Justin to wake up, I'm also anxious about the fact that he could wake up a totally different person. I mean he might not even remember any of us. What will we do then?" Jennifer's voice was calm but the emotions were only just barely kept in check.
"That won't happen. It can't. I just . . . it can't," Brian replied, his gaze never leaving Justin's face, refusing to even contemplate any alternative to his Sunshine coming back to him the way he should be.
With Jennifer on one side of Justin's bed and Brian on the other, they just sat there and waited together quietly - there was no need for any conversation. They'd already said everything that could be said. There was no need to repeat themselves. And, besides, all their attention was too closely focused on Justin and the tiny indications that he was moving toward consciousness - there was no room in their awareness for anything else right then.
The minutes ticked away and the darkness outside the window of the hospital gradually turned from black to gray without much noticeable change until, just when Brian had started to doubt his own interpretation of the signs, Justin's long dark gold lashes fluttered once again and then actually fluttered open all the way. Then Brian knew he was right. It would be today.
About two hours later, Justin's eyes opened fully after blinking a few times in order to focus his blurred vision. He looked around disoriented and confused as to where he was until he caught Brian's gaze.
"Hey," the softly spoken word was said with a sense of familiarity accompanied by a tentative smile.
"It's about time you woke up," Brian said his voice full of emotions he refused to name.
Jennifer watched the exchange lovingly but couldn't contain herself any longer. "Sweetheart! I'm just... oh... I am just so happy you are awake."
"Mom? What are you doing here?" He looked around again, this time taking note of his surroundings. "And where exactly is ‘here' anyway? Why aren't we at the loft?" Justin's eyes shifted between Brian and his mother as they engaged in some sort of silent communication. "And my fucking head hurts. Why?"
Brian cleared his throat before answering. "Jennifer, why don't you go check on what's keeping the nurses. I'll talk to him." She nodded her assent. He could see that she was becoming overwhelmed with Justin's rapid fire questions and wasn't sure if she wanted to answer them. "Tell me, Sunshine, what's the last thing you remember?"
Justin wrinkled his forehead a bit, the action causing a sharp stab of pain. Brian noticed but waited patiently, watching as Justin cataloged whatever thoughts he was having. Dr. Marrow had warned of the confusion especially given the length of time Justin was in the coma.
"I remember asking you to my prom and you turned me down," Justin's said, his eyes downcast.
Brian closed his eyes at Justin's quiet revelation equal parts relieved and angry that Justin's memory stopped a week leading up to the prom. He didn't want to relive the hell they had all endured but most of all, he didn't want to put Justin through it. This talk was what Brian dreaded the most. Sighing, he began to fill in Justin on the events of the past almost four weeks watching carefully for any signs of distress. Now, if he could only control his own...
Jennifer had quickly taken the out that Brian had given her and sped out into the corridor. It was still so early in the morning that the hospital halls were almost empty except for the usual bustling staff. She turned towards the nurses' station at the end of the hall trying to maintain whatever composure she had left. It felt like one of the longest walks she'd ever taken in her life. Quiet...too quiet and filled so filled with trepidation her shoulders felt weighed down with it.
The double doors stood looming in front of her even while her thoughts remained in the room she'd just left only moments ago. Pushing through she stood still in shock at the vision before her. In direct opposition to the silent halls from which she emerged, the area where she stood now was the exception to the overall quiet of the rest of the facility. There appeared to be a fairly large contingent of early morning visitors standing around the high-countered desk that was currently manned by head charge nurse. The central figure in the melee was a well-dressed woman of average height with short, carefully styled hair and a smart-looking pantsuit.
The woman looked vaguely familiar to Jennifer, but she was still too focused on the drama she surmised was going on back in Justin's room to bother trying to remember the name that went with that particular face. Ignoring whatever the prevailing conversation was, Jennifer elbowed her way to the front of the group so she could command the nurse's attention. The charge nurse looked like she was glad for the distraction herself. She redirected all her attention to the mother of her patient and happily ignored the rest of the unwanted intruders who were still babbling at her. Keeping her voice low in an attempt to preserve some semblance of privacy, Jennifer informed the nurse that Justin was fully awake.
They'd been waiting on the doctor for hours now, and Jennifer expected him to get his ass in gear and make an appearance NOW. And if not, she wanted to know why. The nurse said she'd page the doctor yet again, but reminded the frantic mother that she didn't have any control over the schedule of the doctors. Jennifer hadn't quite escaped after issuing her warning when yet another disturbance descended upon the usually quiet floor. This disturbance Jennifer knew though.
It came with a loud voice, tacky costume jewelry and a huge curly bright red wig. And, it was named Debbie Novotny.
"Careful with that bag, Vic. I don't want you spilling Sunshine's breakfast. No doubt he's going to be starving and you know how bad hospital food is! If whatever sent you to the hospital doesn't kill you, the food will," Debbie was insisting vociferously as she and her brother bustled towards the rest of the crowd around the nurses' station. "Diane? Is that you, Honey? It is! Oh, Diane, it's just so nice of you to come by and visit our Justin!" Debbie greeted the woman who'd been waiting when Jennifer first came out, reminding her of where exactly she'd known the woman from. "I'm sure Sunshine will be thrilled to see you."
Diane embraced Debbie back. She had enjoyed her time with the matriarch of the make-shift family very much the last time she was in town. It had grieved her once word finally reached her about the charismatic young man who was standing up to the local bullies-- both insufferable teenagers and supposed educated, enlightened adults-- within the vaunted halls of St. James Academy. Somehow, Justin Taylor had impressed her with his intelligence and passion for equality. Coupled along with his rapid-fire and somewhat-innocent wit she couldn't resist using her connections and precious free time to address his issues publicly. He displayed more courage than anyone she had ever encountered despite his age but never in her wildest imagination did she ever think that the bullies would so far as to gravely injure him. Even now the thought left her shaken.
"I came as soon as I heard. How is he?"
"First, let me officially introduce you to his mother. The last time you were with us she wasn't able to be present. Jennifer, this is Senator Diane Baxter."
The gray-haired lady took a page out of Debbie's book and hugged the younger blond woman. It was times like this she was grateful for her connection to Debbie Novotny. The one thing she had learned was that in spite of her office, she was still human and sometimes words just wasn't enough. This was one of those times.
She disengaged from Jennifer but didn't let go of her hands. "Mrs. Taylor, I'm so sorry about Justin. He is such a special young man. How is he?"
"Please call me Jennifer. And thank you for coming to see Justin. He's finally opened his eyes just a little bit ago. Brian is in with him."
"Brian?" Diane asked. The only ‘Brian' she remembered with Justin was...
"Brian Kinney, my son's partner although he would probably faint if we used that word," Jennifer said with a small smile.
"HA! He'd shit a fucking brick," Debbie interjected causing Jennifer, Diane and Vic to laugh in response. "Well what are we waiting for? I wanna see my Sunshine."
The party made their way down the long corridor leading to Justin's room followed closely by Diane's entourage. Although they all couldn't go in just yet, they were content to watch Brian and Justin. Jennifer entered the room, moving silently to take her son's other hand as Brian continued to explain the details of the last couple of weeks to him.
Just outside of the room a much different conversation was going on...
"Tell me, Debbie, Vic has the police been by to take everyone's statements yet?"
Vic just snickered while Debbie rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth. "Not a fucking one, Di. Justin's been laid up for three weeks and no one other than family has been here nor called. Stockwell hasn't sent anyone."
"And honestly, I wouldn't expect them anytime soon, Diane. It's a widely-known secret that our illustrious police chief hates gays and people of color. If you have one of those strikes it's bad enough but BOTH, forget about it," Vic added to highlight the issues within the Pittsburgh Police Department. "There have been several murders in the last year which have gone unsolved and without a full investigation being launched. Justin, unfortunately, is about to become one of the number even though they have the culprit."
Diane couldn't stop the anger from curling within her at the statements of Deb and Vic. As Vic had pointed out, it was no secret that James Stockwell was a homophobe but this bordered on gross misconduct and dereliction of duty. If she had her way, he would have never risen to the office as he had but nepotism is a powerful thing especially when his father and uncle also served as Chief of Pittsburgh P.D. That legacy was going to be the undoing of many citizens under Stockwell's jurisdiction.
She looked once more at the young man in the bed. She could clearly see the distress the other occupants were causing him how ever unintentional but it was necessary. Making a quick decision, Diane motioned over to her assistant.
"Adele, get me James Stockwell on the phone immediately...not his secretary...HIM. Got it?"
The young woman nodded her agreement and began making the necessary call, while Diane motioned for her Adviser. "Thomas, I want Mayor Deekins on the phone. Marvin will take my call personally. He owes me a favor and I'm collecting."
The first call to be completed was the one with Marvin Deekins in which Diane laid out everything which had been told to her by Debbie. He agreed that this is a matter which should have been in process even if the victim was in a coma and assured her that it would be rectified the minute he reached his office. When she told him to consider his debt repaid to her, Marvin advised that this was NOT payment nor a favor since he himself was pissed at the lack of disregard shown the family in this delicate matter. Nevertheless she thanked him for his support in this.
The phone call with James Stockwell went less smoothly and required Diane to step outside onto the patio. Anyone listening would have heard a calm, self-assured woman... except for the amount of cuss words and references to various parts of his anatomy being cut off if he didn't do his fucking job. She knew how Stockwell felt about women in politics and the fact that she was a dyke with much more rank than he had was a sore point for the man. She demanded his promise to have someone there within the next hour. Just as he was about to hang up, she heard his secretary in the background advising that the Mayor was on the other line. Diane laughed to herself. Stockwell was having a helluva morning.
She walked back into the ICU waiting area where more of the family was starting to arrive. Debbie took it upon herself to reacquaint Diane with everyone, especially Melanie Marcus and the attorney accompanying her.
Debbie asked. "Mel, where are Lindsey and Gus?"
Mel smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "Lindz said that she and Gus would be along after their ‘Mommy and me' class. Apparently they had some seminar today, which would help Gus to sleep better at night and Lindsey didn't want to get the information secondhand."
"So she would rather get THIS information secondhand, Mel? Lindsey doesn't..."
"Not now, Debbie."
"Well fucking tell me WHEN then, Melanie. She's been shitty for weeks now! Whatever her hangup is, she needs to get the fuck over it and you can tell her I said so."
"Believe me, Deb, I'm trying but of course the blame could be put on Brian and his lack of focus lately. Personally after the confrontation with Vic the other week, I was pissed off but I know that he was right in what he said. And so does Lindsey but... well we know how she can be."
"Yeah we do, but Brian is where he was supposed to be and if I ever hear her say otherwise, I will explode," Debbie warned, not batting an eyelash. She and Vic had talked about this very thing since the first day after the bashing. Even though she wanted to deny everything Vic had brought up, like the misplaced anger and jealousy Mel and Lindsey exuded, it was more than apparent in their lack of communication with the family or their lack of attendance at the hospital. Debbie knew she couldn't solely blame Melanie for it. Changing the subject before she went off on another tirade, Debbie directed her attention to the young man beside Mel. "Who the fuck's he?"
Melanie smiled, this time genuinely. She knew that the matter about Lindsey was dropped for the moment, and redirected where it should be. "This is Charles Sands. He's going to be Justin's personal attorney."
"Why aren't you taking Justin's case?" Debbie asked. Melanie usually acted as the attorney for all of the family's legal issues.
"This is a bit different, Deb. First, there is the fact that I have a personal stake in this case because I love Justin, the same as you all. Secondly, if this doesn't go the way we hope, we will have to file a civil suit. As a Civil Rights Attorney, I can do more for Justin on that end where my hands would be tied right now. For this case, I'm simply acting as a consultant since I also know the history of what Justin has endured at the hands of Chris Hobbs. Charles here is also a Civil Rights Attorney but also used to work for the DA's office."
Diane interrupted then. She had stood off to the side as Debbie spoke with Melanie but now there was a need to intervene. "Out of curiosity, Mr. Sands, what has the DA been planning? I know that up until half hour ago, Stockwell hadn't even planned to send a cop to investigate."
The medium height brown-skinned man answered, "That's correct, Senator and that is one of the basis for the civil suit should the need arise, which I suspect it might. They are charging Christopher Marc Hobbs with Simple Assault instead of the hate crime this so obviously was."
"Simple Assault? What exactly will that do?" Debbie asked feeling that there was something she was definitely missing.
Melanie answered instead of Charles. "It means that Chris has made a plea deal with the DA's office. He pled guilty to the charge of Simple Assault and he'll either get minimum jail time which is no more than a year but he'll only serve eight months of it because he doesn't have any priors. Or he will pay a fine and have community service. It's up to the judge to decide punishment since he also waived his right to a jury ruling.
"Un-fucking-believable! So either way this asshole gets a slap on the wrist when in fact he could have killed Sunshine," Debbie's voice rose as she finished her statement.
"Which is another reason why Charles and I are here. Is Michael coming back anytime soon? We really would like his statement about what he saw. If we file the civil suit, we're going to need his testimony as well as the others so we can put together a case to be presented to the judge."
"I sent for him this morning," Brian said as he and Jennifer emerged from Justin's hospital room. He looked back briefly to make sure he was still asleep as he moved around to face Melanie. He reached out to shake Diane's hand. "I thought I was hallucinating when I looked up and saw you. Thanks for coming, Senator."
"Brian, you know better... I'm still Diane and you don't have to thank me. I would have been here sooner had I known. Justin is still very special to me, you know."
Brian nodded before uttering anything lesbianic. "Yeah well the little twat has always been a fighter. I'd expect no less from him." He smiled softly in remembrance of all the times he'd tried to push Justin away without any luck. Shifting his eyes a bit to the left, he acknowledged Melanie. "Smelly Melly, to what do I owe the displeasure."
"Can it, asshole," she said but she had a slight smile on her face. "We figured the police should be showing up soon now that Justin is awake."
*Hmmpf* "Don't count on it. They haven't been here since this shit started. I doubt they'll roll out and do justice by the fags now that Sunshine is awake."
"I wouldn't be so skeptical, Brian," Diane said. "They should be showing up very soon. Both me and Mayor Deekins put in the call to Stockwell personally."
Brian couldn't keep the momentary surprise from his hazel eyes but he regained control of himself quickly. "Well that's a plus then. Hopefully they'll fry the fucker who did this."
"Although I share the sentiment, Brian and you know I do, they're not going to," Mel said. Before he could go off on his tirade, she went on to explain everything that was discussed before he entered the conversation.
"It's bullshit, Mel. All bullshit," he protested.
"I know, Brian but right now, the civil suit is the best chance at retribution we have."
Turning his attention to Charles Sands, Brian moved closer invading the shorter man's space. For his part, Charles didn't step back or flinch. Mel had already warned him about Brian's innate intensity. "Make sure this shit goes according to plan, Sands. Am I fucking clear."
Charles smirked. "Crystal, Kinney."
Brian chuckled. "Well you must at least be somewhat good if you're hanging out with this pitbull bull dyke lawyer. For all our differences I will say that she's good at what she does."
"Be still my fucking heart. A compliment? Brian did you contract encephalitis while you were in there with Justin?"
"Because I think you may have momentarily forgotten that I hate your fucking guts and the feeling is mutual."
"No, Mel. I didn't forget that but I'm in a fairly decent mood right now. Don't spoil it."
Down the hall, a sudden commotion ruined the relaxed mood of the moment. A short recognizable brunet was arguing rather loudly with a tall, skinny man with fading brown hair.
"Look, pal, I don't give a fuck what you or that child molester says, I'm going to see my son."
"Oh, now you want to claim him," Michael said. "Look why don't you just get the fuck out of here. No one wants you here. Not Brian. Not Jennifer and certainly NOT Justin. You're a poor excuse for a man let alone a father!"
Craig grabbed the shorter man by the collar as the other man began to claw at his wrists. "Why you little faggot, I'll..." Craig began, but never got to finish as a fist connected with his jaw.
"Brian!" Jennifer screamed.
"Brian... no... don't..." Vic moved to get the irate tall man who was about to hit the man lying on the ground writhing.
"Let me go, Vic. I'm fucking tired of Craig and his shit."
"I know, Son, but this isn't the time or the place for it. What do you think will happen to Justin if you're banned from the hospital over this piece of shit?"
The mention of Justin's name had the desired effect on Brian, and he immediately calmed enough to stand straight up. However, his stance remained belligerent and alert in case Craig tried something else.
"Thank you, Vic," Jennifer said, before rounding on her ex-husband. "What the hell are you doing here, Craig? I thought I told you that you're not welcome here."
Craig rubbed his jaw as he spat angrily. "I don't give a shit, Jennifer. You have no right to keep me from my son, and neither does the son of a bitch who hit me!"
Brian smiled wide at the reference to Craig and his ‘rights.' "Actually I DO have that right. I'm Justin's power of attorney so yeah, Craig," Brian sneered his name, "I do have the right since Justin has been emancipated since three days before he turned eighteen." He watched with satisfaction as the color drained out of the older man's face.
"And you let this happen, Jennifer? What kind of mother are you? You just willingly hand over our son to this monster."
Jennifer narrowed her eyes and putting on the most haughty tone she could muster, she answered him. "I am a damn good mother, Craig. You see, although I had my problems with Justin's sexuality initially, I have continued to try to grow with him and understand him; to let him CHOOSE who HE wants to be not who I think he should be. Perhaps if you tried to know our son as the MAN he is instead of trying to impose your will on him, then maybe you would be allowed to see him now." She took a deep breath before continuing. "I warned you not to come back, didn't I? So now you have left me absolutely no choice in the matter. Melanie, would you mind representing me in divorce court? I was willing to settle with him out of court, although I had let the matter rest for obvious reasons during the past few weeks. But since Craig doesn't seem to understand boundaries, I have to teach him."
"What the fuck do you think you're going to do, Jennifer? You can't keep me from Molly, you know."
Jennifer laughed. "Craig, the one thing you've never learned about the women of the WASP nest, is that we're also excellent strategists. Don't worry about what I'm going to do; that isn't your business. Instead, worry about how what I will do will affect you and the mistress, whom you're currently holed up with." His eyes got wide at the mention of the other woman. Jennifer smiled seeing the small look of fear in his eyes. "Now I suggest you leave, Craig, before I allow Brian to finish what he started."
She turned her back making her way back down the hall to Justin's room, grabbing Brian's hand along the way. Once they were out of earshot of everyone else, Brian said, "I couldn't help myself. I'm not going to apologize for it either."
"I wouldn't dream of having you apologize, Brian. Craig has deserved that as far back as I can remember. In fact, thank you. And I don't blame you in the least. I only wish I could've done it. "
Brian threw back his head and laughed. The more time he spent with Jennifer Taylor, the more surprised he was by her. But then again, Sunshine had to get his gutsy ways from someone and it obviously wasn't Craig Taylor. "I owed him anyway from ramming my car twice at a light which caused me concussion."
"Wait, Brian. What did you just say?" Brian repeated the situation without hesitation. "So you're the asshole that backed his jeep into the car?"
Brian smirked before answering. "Trust me the last dick on earth I would willingly back into is Craig Taylor."
Jennifer blushed and snickered at Brian's response. She remembered Debbie telling her that the only thing she would have in common with Justin ever again was that they both liked dick. It appeared that the same commonality was going to be shared with Brian. But if it kept her laughing and him emotionally accessible for the moment, she'd take it.
"How did you find out about it? Craig said the road was dark with barely a streetlight."
"He's right that it wasn't well lit. But it was Justin who told me about it the next day. He had called to tell me he was on his way over. At first I told him that he should stay home but well... the little twat convinced me; said he didn't want to be home after the fight with Chris the day before. We were sitting around when Melanie asked what happened and that's when he told us."
"And you didn't press charges. Why?"
"It was dark and I thought it was just some random trick who was sore that there wasn't going to be a repeat performance. With the exception of my head hurting and a few body aches, I honestly didn't think in that direction. The attack outside Babylon, I left alone for a different reason." Brian stopped, peering into the glass at the sleeping young man in the bed. He smiled slightly thinking back to the rabid pitbull who defended him that night which seemed a lifetime ago now. "Justin had already suffered enough; paid a cost that I'm not sure any of us could have just to make his own decisions and choose where he wanted to be. I couldn't let the way he stood up for himself and for ME, go in vain."
"If I tell you something, do you promise not to run out of here screaming like your hair's on fire?" Brian's sardonic little smirk graced his lips and once again Jennifer could see how the man's natural beauty had hypnotized her son and from all she had witnessed, the feeling was mutual. So when Brian nodded his assent. she forged ahead. "I have heard you called a lot of things, some affectionate, most not but I think there is a ‘you' which only Justin sees. He's like that you know? I think Debbie and you calling him Sunshine is the most accurate moniker he could have because he is my child of love and light. And somehow he has managed to shine both on a person who won't admit that he needs it but DOES need it all the same." Jennifer took a deep breath before continuing. "What I'm trying to say is... well... my soon-to-be ex-husband's mother taught me this one valuable lesson and I want you to carry it with you even if we don't speak on it again: It's not about what you are CALLED but what you ANSWER to that defines who you are. You're not an asshole, Brian; that title is reserved for men like Craig. Your actions tell a whole different story."
Brian was silent as he absorbed her words. Deep down he didn't believe her but what she said made a lot of sense so he filed it away for later. He couldn't help the sudden need for a cigarette or to move as restlessly as a shark swims the ocean. It was funny that her words soaked into him the same way Justin's did. It must be a little blond Taylor thing and he didn't mind the small dose of warmth penetrating the usual coldness which encased his heart.
Finally trusting himself to speak levelly again, he said, "Anything you need to fight him in court, Jennifer, let me know. I meant what I said when I told Charles that Melanie Marcus is a damn good attorney. She'll make sure you get what you deserve and she's definitely not fond of straight men. I think she hates them even more than she hates me."
Jennifer laughed at that. "Well that's saying a whole lot, Brian. Why does she hate you so much anyway?"
"That's a long story for another time. I used to think it was just because she was a bitter butch bitch but I think there's more to it. Either way, I don't care. I just like to piss her off. It adds to the entertainment value of my life."
"I can see that," Jennifer responded chuckling as they entered Justin's room again to sit and wait for him to wake up.
Thankfully, it wouldn't be as long as it had been in the last three weeks.
The Bare Minimum
Chief James Henry Stockwell approached the huge bay windows at the back of his office located in heart of the City with trepidation for the first time since taking this position. The news he'd just received was not good by any means. It appeared that young Justin Taylor had finally come out of the coma. But that wasn't the problem. The issue at hand was that Senator Diane Baxter was asking why none of the Pittsburgh Police Department had been to see Justin nor his family members.
His initial response was that the officers were tied up, and couldn't afford the manpower to address a case where the victim was indisposed. The fucking woman called him on it, and then immediately called the Mayor. If there was one thing Stockwell couldn't stand, it was being told HOW to do his job, especially by a woman or a Democrat.
"Chief, you wanted to see me?" came the expected voice. He had sent for the man over an hour ago but was told that he wasn't due in the office until just after nine.
"Come in, Horvath and shut the door." Chief Stockwell turned away from the entrancing view of the Pittsburgh skyline.
He surveyed Detective Carl Horvath as he dutifully followed orders. Carl usually worked homicide but due to a shortage and some budget cuts beyond Stockwell's control, the man was required to also fill-in with the Special Victims Unit as required. Currently the officers of that unit were on special assignment regarding an underage porn ring so Detective Horvath was it.
"What can I do for you, Chief?" the gruff-voiced officer asked.
"I'll make this short and to the point, Horvath. I need you to get down to Allegheny General and interview Justin Taylor. The case is already marked as a simple assault but since there is a Senator involved, we are duty-bound to find out what the victim has to say. I'm not interested in what the ‘supposed' eyewitnesses have to say in this matter. Are we clear?"
"Crystal but if there was an eyewitness, wouldn't it help the State with their case?" Horvath was genuinely confused at the Chief's request. He knew a few details about the case as it was a hot topic within the office and the subject of some not-so-nice comments and innuendos. Carl didn't defend the young man figuring it wasn't his place or his business what other people thought about the young men involved but now his name was to be associated with it. In the twenty years Carl Horvath had been a cop, he was never one NOT to do his job efficiently.
"Whether it ‘helps the State's case' or not, is not this department's concern, Horvath. If it were up to me, I would have left this case alone since the DA's office has already decided what to charge Chris Hobbs with. But the mayor is now involved thanks to Senator Baxter who has a personal stake in this case. The only interest I have in this case is to fulfill their wishes right now. After that, we can get back to real police work."
Horvath nodded his assent but kept his own reservations to himself. He couldn't tell what about the entire situation disturbed him more at the moment- Chief Stockwell's apparent lack of empathy for the young victim, or the fact that if there wasn't a political figure involved, the case would be marked closed. "If there's nothing further, Chief, I better get going." The air within the spacious office had just become stifling.
"No nothing further, Horvath. I'll expect a full account on your conversation with Taylor when you return."
Again, Carl nodded before taking his leave. He would give the Chief what he asked for but he would also do his job properly.
Jim waited until he noticed Detective Horvath board the elevator before picking up his cell phone and placing the call he'd dreaded for the last three weeks. It wasn't that he didn't like talking to his friend of more than twenty-five years; it was the circumstances. Samuel Hobbs, father of Chris, was one of his biggest supporters in his future bid for Mayor of Pittsburgh. With that on the line, Jim really couldn't afford for Chris to be convicted based on the evidence against him. Jim had a long talk with District Attorney, Paul Atwater, who was also up for re-election.
As a result, they decided to book Chris Hobbs on the Simple Assault charge, and give him community service in exchange for the guilty plea. Judge Harold Roy Russo was all for it as long as Samuel threw his support behind him for re-election as well. And all of it was based on the Taylor boy not waking up or being a veritable vegetable unable to speak. Based on the amount of blood the boy lost, it was almost a sure thing... Almost.
Jim didn't wait to exchange the usual pleasantries with Samuel. There wasn't time for any of that so he got right to the point after the man answered. "Baxter and Deekins have been on my ass all morning. Justin Taylor is awake so I sent one of my officers to interview him. Based on what he says, the trial should be commencing by the middle of next week, Samuel."
"Fucking assholes," the man muttered. "One's a dyke and the other might as well be a faggot with the way he kisses ass."
Jim laughed but it lacked humor. "You're just mad because he wouldn't kiss YOURS, Sam. But don't worry, your agenda and mine are the same so when I'm elected, we'll right the wrongs committed by this current mayor. In any event, I figured I should call and warn you that this case is being scrutinized carefully."
"Does that really matter now since the plea deal is all but assured?"
"As long as my officer follows my dictates, there shouldn't be a problem," Stockwell assured him.
There was a small silence before the man asked, "Out of curiosity, who did you send?"
"I thought he worked Homicide. If Taylor's awake, he can't be dead." He laughed at his own attempt at levity.
"With the current budget cuts, Carl's duties have been added to. This technically falls under Special Victims so that's why I sent him."
"Any concerns with this cop? I mean if Reichart were still around..."
"Leave Kenneth and his stupid ass out of this. Besides, he's still around, just taking some much needed time off. I felt I owed it to him considering the last case he worked. Anyway, I don't worry about Carl Horvath. He's a good cop; follows direct orders to the letter."
"Oh so he's brainless is what you're saying?"
"No such thing but if I tell him to concentrate solely on the victim in the case and disregard any others present, he will do just that."
"Having a good puppet ain't half bad, Jim. I'll get Chris ready and tell him what he needs to know to look suitably contrite."
"You do that. In the meantime, I'll keep you informed if there are any changes in plans." Jim hung up the phone, feeling like he was well on his way to achieving everything he'd ever wanted.
He would clean up the streets of Pittsburgh beginning with that homo-infested gayborhood of Liberty Avenue... But first things first, it was time to issue a direct blow to a member of the gay community, one that would teach them all about the wheels of justice where they're sinful, butt-plugging, carpet-munching selves are concerned. Jim smiled as he sat at his desk, planning his the first set of new laws he'd put into action once HE became Mayor.