Author: Layla V
Written for: comingthengoing in May 2005
Season 5 Spoilers: Yes. Many. Be warned!
Author’s Notes: My first B/J and QaF attempt. I haven’t been to any of the places mentioned in this story. Google is my best friend. Oh, and darksylvia is an absolute savior. Thank you, Leah, for all your help.
Summary: Justin is away and Brian’s life has turned surreal.
Three days after he left for New York, you wake up from your sleep strangely refreshed.
It’s strange because you’ve spent the last three days so busy on the new account that you haven’t really had a chance to properly miss him, even. It’s strange because you have your arms around his pillow and you have gravitated towards his side of the bed in your sleep—so you know your body misses him, but your mind has been too occupied to catch up yet. It’s strange because you’ve slept less than two hours for the past three nights and yet, for the first time since he left, you don’t feel tired.
You’re fresh, just as you’d be after ten hours of uninterrupted sleep.
You sit up on the bed and blink into the lazily drifting light coming in through the half-closed shutters of the bedroom doors, and know it will be time to get up soon—even if the alarm hasn’t gone off yet.
You roll your neck, trying to get rid of the kinks from yesterday’s late night at Kinnetik. You try to think of how wrapping up work on Redmond Automotive’s new campaign has taken longer than expected, even if you were as brilliant as always. But all you can really remember is that you barely made the deadline.
The deadline. Home by three. No kissing on the lips except the lips that belong to him.
Ironic that you should follow the rules to this day, when you yourself wanted him to go out there with no strings attached. To make a career for himself and be completely fabulous. No worries. No regrets. No ties to the past to bog him down.
He is more than capable of making up his own mind. He’s bright and smart and talented and destined to go places no one has reached before. That’s why you two are together.
A laughably insipid concept for the location-challenged. The out-of-towner’s bidding to make a long-distance relationship work. Bleh, should be your normal response. But what you have with him has never been normal, is beyond ordinary. He made you promise that you will never give up on him, that you will hold onto him. And you agreed. You two are still together, distance be damned.
Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if you haven’t actually gotten the chance to speak to him since he grabbed the red-eye three nights back. You know he’s busy settling in at the new place and you wanted to give him time on his own without hogging him like some fucking dyke with your unnecessary phone calls. He’s a big boy, he’s fine, and you will call him when he’s settled down. Besides, he’s left you five messages on your cell-phone, and three at the loft in as many days, telling you how hectic things are at the new place and how awesome New York is and how much he misses you and loves you.
He can’t help it if you’ve been so tied up in meetings with Louis Redmond that you haven’t actually been available to receive those calls. And then spending nights finishing up the same work, holed away in your office with Theodore and Cynthia. Of course he hasn’t been able to get through to you.
You don’t want to think about how you kept the cell by your side in last night’s session, because you wanted to talk to him, really needed to hear his voice. You don’t want to be reminded that despite how tired you were when you finally got home and collapsed on your bed, you couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed that there wasn’t a message waiting for you this time. No I-love-yous and I-miss-your-cocks to tide you over for the night. You don’t want to think about it because it’s fucking lesbianic behavior and you hate such conduct in others, so why would you ever tolerate it in yourself? You won’t and you don’t.
Still, as you kick off the duvet and slide out of bed, before making your way towards the bathroom, you take a detour to the living room and check your phone messages. And sigh. None since last night. You roll your eyes at yourself—what were you expecting, Kinney, that he’d have left you a love note between three am and seven-thirty? He was probably out at a party last night, just as he ought to. Just as you want him to.
His assurances that he won’t let you fuck it up ease you. He is who he is: the one who makes you say and do things you never say to anyone else, the one who’s more than capable of keeping this thing you have with him—a relationship, your brain reminds you, it’s called a relationship—together, for both of you.
You just hope his faith in you is as strong as yours is in him.
You splash cool water from the tap onto your face and stare at your reflection. Your narcissistic side—which frankly makes up around ninety-percent of your entire psychological makeup—is more than pleased to note that your eyes are clear, with no new lines visible to mar your perfect good looks. There’s also no sign of fatigue on your face from the last three nights’ activities. It’s strange, considering how out you were last night when you came back.
Perhaps, it’s going to be a good day, you raise your brow at the mirror.
And why wouldn’t it be?
Everything’s fine. You’re fine. He’s fine. Life’s good.
It has to be.
Three days after he left for New York, you push all negative thoughts out of your head and get ready to go out and be brilliant once again.
You know stopping in at the Diner was a mistake when the fourth person sits down in front of you to ask how he is doing.
“You know, Brian,” Emmett swirls his mango shake with a spoon and looks at you. “It’s all right to miss him. Sometimes life’s hard and you face temporary separations, but you must remember that no matter how hard and tedious the road may be, true love will always prevail.” He ignores your eye-roll at the syrupy sentimentality of his words and sinks his straw into his drink.
“Emmett Honeycutt,” you drawl at him with your sing-song sarcasm, “how extraordinarily profound of you.” Your smirk widens when he sticks his tongue out at you. But then you blink as he locks his gaze with you and noisily slurps the rest of his drink—humming in delight.
You wrinkle your nose at the foul display. “Deb, I asked for my breakfast an hour ago. I have to get to work sometime today.”
“Hold your fucking horses, will you? It’s coming right up.” She hollers this from the kitchen and then carries the tray to your table, setting your plate down in front of you. “What’s the big deal anyways?” She frowns at you, her hands on her hips. “You were a goddamned no-show at Sunday’s lunch. You disappear off the face of the planet for three fucking days because you’re so busy making money. And the morning you finally show up at the Diner, you act as if you’re catching the fucking 8 o’clock train. You own the damned company, what’s the fucking hurry?”
“The fucking hurry is that I have a fucking meeting to get to before I go to the office.” You stab at your omelet, find it too greasy, and push it aside, taking a sip of your coffee instead. “You slack off with your clients, and they don’t take you seriously anymore. You slack off at your own office and your employees start to think they can slack off too.” You direct the last at Theodore, who accepts it with a snort and a complacent grin.
“That’s my cue to get out of here and head to my little corner in His Majesty’s Domain.” He slips out of his booth. “Please, no late-nighters for at least a week, Bri,” are his last words to you before, with a wave, he’s gone.
“See you at Babylon tonight?” Mikey, too, is sliding out from his seat. “I haven’t seen you at all in the last three nights.”
You sneer at him. “If I can tear myself away from making my next million.”
“Oh, come on, Brian,” Mikey is adamant. “Justin asked how the new DJs were at Babylon. He says the clubs in New York are amazing.”
“You spoke to him?” The question is out before you can stop it. But you are genuinely surprised. You don’t know why but for some strange lunatic reason you actually thought that if you hadn’t spoken to him, no one else could’ve either.
“Yeah. Twice.” Michael looks at you strangely. “Why? Didn’t he call you?”
“Sure, he did.” And you’re not lying, really. He did call you. Eight times in fact. So what if it was only to leave messages on your voicemail—because you realized during the drive to the Diner that none of his missed calls on your cell-phone were made at times when he knew you would be free to take his calls; it’s almost as if those messages were all designed to be messages, not calls. You wonder why you didn’t think of that before. Whatever the fuck, you mutter silently. The phone calls happened. He picked up the phone and dialed your number. That’s technically the same thing. “He told me he hopped a dozen clubs but he couldn’t find a single guy who had a cock as perfect as mine.” You keep your voice normal as you smirk at Mikey.
However, something comes through your tone, because, suddenly Emmett is looking at you interestedly, a devious glint in his eyes.
“Oooh, yeah!” He leers at you impishly. “Our baby is making some big splashy waves at the hot, hot, hot New York clubs. Can you imagine? The beautiful, hunky, young gay crowd from the biggest metropolitan center of America?” You snort at him. Emmett has apparently decided that it’s time to switch back to the normal, teasing repartee he usually reserves for you. You breathe a sigh of relief. This, you can deal with. Syrupy romanticism never really works for you. You take a long sip from you coffee, feigning nonchalance, and then nearly choke when he says: “He told me he went out the first two nights and got hit on by two dozen hotties, each night.”
He got to speak to him, too?
Almost of their own accord, you feel your eyes narrowing dangerously as you glare at Emmett.
“Someone’s getting acquainted with the green-eyed monster.” Mikey sniggers at you.
“Fuck off.” You stand up, throwing a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “He’s gone there with my blessings, and he’d better fuck all the hottest guys in New York before I come out and snag them from him.” You grab your jacket and turn to leave. “It’s part of the deal.”
“But Brian, why all the excessive foaming at the mouth then?” Emmett chortles.
“Fuck off,” you repeat as you stalk out of the Diner, ignoring the sound of their laughter, and slam the door hard behind you.
By the time you have reached the car, opened the door, and gotten behind the wheel, however, you can’t help but recognize the humor of the situation. You did act somewhat infantile. But then, that is to be expected from the company you keep.
You press the gas pedal and the Corvette flies. Keep you mind on the day, Kinney, you tell yourself. You’re here and your lover’s in New York and that’s the way it’s going to be for a while. Keep your mind off the needless meanderings—why he called them and not you—because it doesn’t matter.
Business. Keep your focus on your work and don’t think about him. Don’t think about him.
That’s it. You’re not going to think about him for the rest of the day. That’s the only way you can work.
“Oh my God, Brian, that place is such a dump, but it’s a dump in New York,” Daphne squeals over the phone and you swerve the ’vette into the left lane to avoid the SUV coming in front of you—one hand on the wheel, the other holding the cell-phone to your ear. “And it’s definitely a step up from the hovel he found here back in October. Justin’s like, totally giddy,” she gushes.
Ah, Daphne. You favorite heterosexual from amongst your lover’s dubiously non-existent group of friends. She’s so chipper all the time. Usually, her enthusiasm is contagious and welcome and you enjoy stirring her shit because she loves the attention and always means well. Right now, though, you haven’t the slightest idea what she’s blabbing about. You’re a little discomfited that you had only gone an hour without thinking about him before she caught you on the cell on your way back to Kinnetik, to plunge him right back in your thoughts all over again.
She had apparently been on a little family trip and only checked herself into the Pitts last night. But she seems to know something about her best friend’s latest living arrangements.
But so the fuck should you, right?
You decide to play along with her feisty mood. “I’m sure our little Sunshine is all galvanized with excitement over his acquisitions.”
“And the window in the living room,” she continues, “which, while it looked a little tiny in size from what I could tell, actually opens out to a view of Central Park. Can you believe that?” She sounds absolutely thrilled. “He totally surprised me, though. He never told me he was going to send them when he called yesterday morning.”
Ah, so she has spoken to him as well. How wonderful. “How nice of the famous artiste to be calling his beloved friends all the way from New York.”
“Please, he’s a total freak,” she says. “He woke me up at this ungodly hour, like, six in the morning or something, while I was on vacation. That’s totally not fair.”
Then it hits you. She saw the apartment?
“Remind me again where you just came back from?” you ask her, a furrow forming between your brows. “Were you in New York?”
“No, silly,” she giggles. “I just told you, I went to Nashville to visit family.”
“So where did you see his apartment?”
“Christ, Brian, I saw them in the pictures Justin sent in the email the day after he reached New York,” she explains slowly, as if speaking to a three year old. “There were only, like, a hundred of them. Didn’t you see them?”
Email? You feel your frown turning into a scowl. There was no email. And there certainly were no pictures to be had. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And you don’t. You have no idea what she’s talking about because you have no idea what’s going on.
“Gimme a break, Brian. You can’t tell me he didn’t send you the pictures?”
“How the hell should I know?” You hear yourself snap. “I haven’t checked my mail in the last three days because I’ve been busy on a new account at work.” The lie slips out as a defense tactic. You can’t tell her you haven’t received his email, let alone the fact that you haven’t even spoken to him on the phone. You feel your teeth grit. “I guess I missed the fucking mail call.”
“Jesus, Brian, calm down, I am sure he sent the pictures to you before he sent them to me.” No, he didn’t. “Go check your email. There’s no need to freak out.”
Who the fuck is freaking out? And who gives a shit whether he sent any stupid pictures of his little dump in New York City or not? There could be a thousand different reasons why you never got the email. Maybe he forgot. Maybe the email bounced. There was that virus thing taking rounds on the Kinnetik servers a couple weeks back. Or maybe… maybe he simply didn’t want to show you the pictures just yet. Maybe he was still deciding on the best ones to send to you because after all, you have such high aesthetic standards. Maybe he wants to settle in first, make it more presentable, make it more suitable to the Kinney mindset.
You want to believe this because you know it’s irrational to be disappointed about phone calls and an email and a bunch of photos. He’s only been gone three days, it’s not the end of the world.
But before you can help it, almost unwittingly, old ugly memories slink into your thoughts. Memories of things gone unsaid and promises broken. Of pain and hurt caused, both by design and without intention. You want to push them away, cart them out of your consciousness, throw them out with all the other garbage you got rid of with his help. But you can’t help it. They swarm around you and fill you up and you suddenly have this unpleasant, bitter taste in your mouth.
You ignore the tinny sound of Daphne’s voice coming over the line, asking you if you are all right, and disconnect the call. Then, for good measure, you turn the cell-phone off and shove it into your pocket. There, that’s better. You’re not going to deal with this bullshit right now. There’s no fucking need to get upset about issues that should not be bothering you. You’re fine. He’s fine. Everything’s fine.
Still bristling, and now absolutely determined to keep your mind on work with no distractions—personal or otherwise—disrupting your day, you com Cynthia to apprise you of your schedule as soon as you walk into your office.
“Leo Brown had a change of plans, he’s flown to Italy with his wife for two weeks,” she announces as she comes in.
You stare at her. “Two weeks? But I had this weekend cleared especially for those meetings he asked for.”
“Excuse me. I had this weekend especially cleared on your behalf, so that you could get out of the Aidan Miller Charity Event that you would’ve hated to attend in any case.” She smiles smugly, ignoring your glare. “Well, Brown requested we schedule them for when he’s back from his trip.”
“Tell him to take a plunge in the Seine and go fuck himself,” you grumble.
“If you insist. Don’t forget, you still have the lunch meeting with Joey Gregson.” She reminds you and then turns to leave.
“Hold on.” You stop her. “Where’s Lance?” Lance Spender is the new Assistant Art Director Kinnetik appointed last month. He’s shown some promise but you put him in charge of one of the newer accounts and he is supposed to show you his first samples today.
Cynthia turns around. “Ah, he called in to tell he’ll be coming in a bit late.”
“The fuck he did.” He isn’t that good if he doesn’t show up for work and Cynthia very well knows it. “Where the hell are the mock-ups for the Jester account I asked for?”
She sighs dramatically and points to the other side of the room “Already done. On that table. He finished them last night.”
You walk over to inspect. “And why the hell didn’t I see them last night?”
“Because you, along with the rest of us, were working on the Redmond account.” She follows you as you pick up the first illustration.
She takes notes as you go through all the mock-ups one after the other, pointing out the flaws and imperfections in each—because you’re a perfectionist, after all, and you need everything to be just right—until you can’t find anything more to complain about. And then you tell her to get out of your office and get back to work.
“Good, now you can sit back and relax,” Cynthia chuckles and turns around.
“I didn’t fucking come here to relax.”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“And hold all calls,” you call out. “I have a migraine, I don’t want to talk to anyone—even if it’s the fucking President.”
By the time your office door is closed and you’re taking your jacket off, it occurs to you how fucking childish your behavior was with Daphne. No matter what your feelings, there was absolutely no reason at all for you to start acting the part of the insecure, jealous boyfriend with said boyfriend’s best friend. You’re momentarily dazed at how fast your mood had gone to shit.
So, you take a deep breath, further cooling your nerves, and then take out your cell, switch it back on and call her back. You keep the call short, just assuring her that yes, you’re fine and no, you’re not mad at her, and no, you’re certainly not mad at him, so could she please stop freaking out, and yes, it was her that freaked out and not you---no, no, no, not you at all.
She calls you a drama queen and wonders how she puts up with the theatrics you and your boyfriend make her go through before she slams down her phone and you feel relieved.
You realize your mistake was giving Cynthia the huge raise last month. You give her a little money and she starts to think she owns the world. You specifically told her to hold all your calls and she does this.
“Fuck, Cynthia,” you hiss into the phone. “I told you, no fucking calls.”
“But, Brian, it’s Mrs. Taylor,” she replies soothingly. “She called yesterday when you were in meetings and I would’ve put her through but she insisted not to disturb you.”
“Well, that should give you a clue.”
“Be nice, Brian,” Cynthia chides you. “You always take calls from the in-laws. It’s in the Rule Book on Appropriate Behavior for the Newly-Weds,” she chuckles.
“Fuck the Rule Book.”
Damn. You recover quickly. “Mother Taylor!” You smirk into the phone. “How are you this fine summer morning?”
“I am fine, thank you.” For some bizarre reason, she sounds amused. Or perhaps, like her son, Jennifer Taylor too has somehow managed to attune herself to your many moods. “And how are you doing?”
“Still in the same fabulous shape since the last time we met.” Which was the night you picked him up from her place to take him to the airport, three days ago.
“Good to hear that,” she replies. There’s a beat and then: “Brian, I have some samples from Justin’s portfolio that he asked me to ship this week.” You like this about Jennifer. She doesn’t waste time in pointless rhetoric. “He said you will be sending some of his stuff from your storage and asked me to include the paintings in that shipment.”
You feel a sigh building in your throat and repress it. Yes, you are supposed to ship the rest of his stuff to New York, and you knew it was coming. But you can’t help but think that this is another reminder of him making a new life out of Pittsburgh, at a new place, away from you.
“Sure,” you reply, keeping your voice calm. “I’ll have someone pick it up from your place. Would this evening be okay?”
“It would be perfect,” she replies. There’s a pause and then: “I spoke to him yesterday.” Well, who in this fabulous Pittsburgh didn’t?—you feel like rolling your eyes. “He sounded so excited. Even cheerier than the day before, in fact,” she laughs.
Ah, calling Dear Mom everyday and even getting through to her. How nice. No leaving messages on her voicemail, hmm? Shut up, you scold yourself, as you clear your throat. “Is that right? Our boy’s all excited about making it big in the Big Apple, isn’t he?”
“No, that was not it.” There’s something in her voice that makes you sit up. She sounds perplexed. “The first two days I spoke to him, he was excited about New York, talking about the sights and the apartment and the work challenge. But… last night, I don’t think he was talking about New York. He seemed happy but preoccupied somehow—like he was in a hurry to get somewhere.”
“Yeah, probably in a hurry to hit the big clubs.” You raise a brow. “It’s a new job, a demanding job that he’s going to love,” you say to her. “He has a lot on his mind.”
Jennifer is quite for a moment and you wonder if she’s worried. She has been speaking to her son everyday, which is more than you could say for yourself. Besides, she said herself, he sounded excited. So what’s the concern?
“Brian,” she speaks suddenly. “Are you eating properly?” Oh no! “I called you yesterday but you were busy in meetings all day. And I know how you get when you have too much work pressure. And don’t overreact, all right? But Justin again sort of asked me to keep an eye on you.” Christ! “He gets worried about you. So you have to promise me to take care of yourself.”
“God, that’s all I need.” You sigh impatiently. “Another mother hen to worry about my eating habits.”
“I am serious,” her voice has changed. It’s no longer the businesslike tone of your boyfriend’s mom who wants you to ship her son’s portfolio to New York. It’s not even the patient tones that your realtor applies when advising you on your real-estate acquisitions. It’s the rare Mother’s voice you heard directed at yourself a few times in the last year. You hate to admit this but you don’t really mind this voice all that much. “You are so thin,” she says, “have you been going to the Diner lately? At least Debbie feeds you properly.”
“Oh please,” you snort. “More like clogs my arteries with all the grease. You want me to have a heart attack?” But there’s no heat in your words.
“Well, I know just what to do.” Her voice changes again, and you want to slap your forehead. You know what’s coming next.
“Jennifer…” You try to interrupt her.
“We could do a weekly cooking schedule for you.” Oh, Jesus. “I am sure Debbie will agree with this and it’ll be better than the Diner food.” Her voice is animated all of a sudden. It’s the same voice she used on Justin years ago when she would take him out shopping for clothes. She would be so excited about properly dressing up her eighteen year old son that the tenor of her voice would change to these wistful, exultant tones that made you laugh your ass off at Justin’s plight.
It was the same tenor that accompanied her on those weekly visits to the loft with home cooked casseroles and containers of chicken soup during the radiation months—and when Justin was away. A strange kind of warmth spreads through you.
But you have to stop her. You don’t need anyone to take care of you. You don’t.
But she isn’t listening anymore. She has a new purpose in life. Now that her son has left for New York, she can feed the son-in-law.
“Justin tells me you’re not much for cooking yourself but you do enjoy home-cooked meals.” Oh, Justin tells her everything, does he? “You’re into no-carbs after seven, right? I can manage that. Did I tell you Molly’s new fad is vegan food?”
“Hush now.” She stops you. “I promised my son I am going to keep an eye on you while he’s not here. And I will do it.”
“But, I don’t think there’s any…”
“Good Bye, Brian.”
You listen to the sound of the dial-tone in bemusement. Then you close your eyes, take a deep breath and shake your head.
Crazy. You were right. It does run in the family!
You return from your lunch meeting with Joey Gregson utterly bored out of your skull. You don’t know why you even went. All the old geezer wanted was to pick your brains about any new ideas you might want to throw his way, while ogling the big breasted waitresses at his favorite Steakhouse.
It’s a small company, and while, generally, Joey Gregson tends to be a penny-pinching miser, he’s grudgingly receptive to your promotional plans and ad campaigns. They’ve given him the kind of exposure he never dreamed about before. He came to you when Kinnetik was a small, upcoming firm, and you’ve always given him top notch service.
But the lunch today was not to renew the account or to discuss anything worthwhile. Ol’ Joey wants entertainment every now and then. And entertainment for a sixty-three-year-old Pipes Manufacturer from Pittsburgh has the potential to put a damper on anyone’s spirits.
You’re secretly glad for the fifteen text messages Cynthia sent you in the middle of the lunch—something about an urgent issue with Theodore. That was the only reason you’re back in the office only at three thirty pm and not still sitting comparing tit sizes with a breeder client.
“The Redmond issue resolved?” You walk into Theodore’s room, determined to wreak some havoc around the office. You should not be the only one allowed to suffer—you want to spread the misery.
He looks up from the large stack of accounting files and investment applications he’s surrounded with and nods. “Oh yeah. Here.” He plucks out an envelope from his pile, takes out a stack of sheets and plunks them down in front of you. “I was going to bring it by your office later on, but since you’re already here.” He smiles and gives you a pen.
You stare down at the agreement copies in confusion. “This is the final agreement from Redmond.”
You stare at him. “But he said this won’t be done until Friday afternoon.”
“Well, apparently, all of their internal issues are decided and they’re now ready to sign the official agreement for the full two years.” Ted looks way too self-satisfied for his own good.
“He’s not coming in tomorrow?” Christ, you can only hope. “Or Friday? Or the next week?”
“Oh.” Ted frowns and looks at his calendar. “I don’t know. Cynthia didn’t think so. He’s apparently flown back to Chicago, so we’ll be spared the privilege of his most gratifying presence in the near future.” Then he grins. “Unless of course, you want to hang out with him because you found him so witty and charming.”
“Well, if he ever decides to meet again, we always have your witty and charming presence to sic on him,” you grin at Ted, earning a self-deprecating smile from him. You sign the papers and then turn to go. “Is that the only reason Cynthia was constantly disturbing me during my meeting for?”
“I didn’t hear you complaining.” She appears by your side as you make your way back to your office, always the buoyant presence. “Here, your mail.” She hands you a stack of envelopes.
“I’ll see it tomorrow.” You throw it on your desk and reach for your jacket. “I’m leaving.”
“I thought you came here to work.”
“There’s nothing left for me to do.” You start putting your laptop back in its case. “There are no more meetings for today, or for the rest of the week and I am bored out of my skull.” You turn to leave and find Cynthia standing in front of the door, an immovable figure. She has her arms folded on her chest.
“Check your mail.” She points to the stack on the desk. “There’s a special delivery.”
“Don’t tell me Leo sent me the latest Prada Summer Collection already,” you say sarcastically.
“You’re a little bit off geographically.” She smiles. “Try L’Avalla”
You frown. “What?”
“It’s a mineral water brand. Top rated. You’ll like it.”
“A Bottled water company?” Is this a new potential? “They want us?”
Cynthia rolls her eyes. “Try again. They’ve already got an agency.” She picks up a brochure from your desk. “Here, let me read it for you: The finest brand sparkling mineral water on earth.”
“That copy’s fucked,” you tell her. “I can tell their campaign is going down the drain. You should do some research on their competitors.”
“I’ve tried their brand and it sells just fine.” She straightens her spine and looks into your eyes. “It’s rated very highly as the safer choice to drink, rather than tap water.” She pauses and you stare at her, a weird feeling beginning in the pit of your stomach. “Maybe you can do some research on them, while you’re traveling.”
“Traveling?” You raise a brow.
She smiles. “Oh, and fresh fruit is actually a better choice than canned, but don’t overdo consumption in your enthusiasm. And always remember to wash it with mineral water, not from the tap.”
The funny feeling is now expanding into the wacky. “Cynthia,” you speak slowly. “I told you not to smoke pot during work hours.”
She chuckles loudly. “Can’t help it, I broke into your little stash by your desk.”
“What the fuck are you on?” You raise your voice.
She steps forward and pulls out a small envelope from the stack on your desk and thrusts it in your hands. “Don’t leave without your special package.” And then she’s gone from your room, sliding the door closed behind her.
You repeat, “What the fuck are you….” You look down at the envelope and stop.
It’s from Liberty Air.
What the fuck?
You tear it open and take out the ticket that you knew was inside. What the fuck? You open the ticket and look at the name—Brian Kinney—and the flight date—April 13, 2005—and think, what the fuck?
You feel dazed. It’s a one-way ticket bought in your name for today, less than two fucking hours from now. Pittsburgh to New York Kennedy, 1700 hours. Then departure at 1940 hours from Kennedy to Barajas Airport Madrid. Then 1040 local time tomorrow morning, from Madrid to…
Your eyes widen. From Madrid to…
Suddenly, it all clicks into place. Tap water. Fresh fruit.
You stare at the ticket.
“That little shit!” You curse and reach for your cell-phone.
You press redial on your phone and put it to your ear again. Your eyes scan the crowd swarming around you, men and women hurrying from one place to another, a child squealing in delight, a woman weeping on the shoulder of a short, dark-haired man as he stands with a luggage cart next to him, ready to depart, and you hear the ring of the phone going on and on and on, unanswered—and feel the beginnings of yet another headache throb at your temples.
What the fuck am I doing?—you ask yourself, as your eyes go to the watch again. It’s six fifty one pm. Where the fuck is he?
Suddenly, you catch a glimpse of a man walking by, the shine of his blond hair grabbing your attention, and your head snaps up as you look at him. Shit. Not him. Not him. Where the fuck is he? He should be here. He has to be here. Why else did he put you on the New York connection? Why?
Jesus. What makes you think it was him at all? But who else could it be? You know it’s him. Where is he? He should be here, because you’re here. In New York fucking City. He called you and you came. You got this cryptic message from him and you grabbed the only thing you had in your hands at the time—your laptop case, how wonderful—and hurried to the airport. With no clothes, no luggage, nothing. Just your wallet and your credit cards and your car keys in your pocket.
And he isn’t here. He isn’t here. You have no idea what kind of a game he’s playing. There is still no answer on his cell-phone. The response you got from his agency when you called them from home was even more perplexing. You don’t know what to think of it. Why would he do something like that? After being so excited about immediately joining the new place, why would he all of a sudden…
Your thoughts are interrupted by the announcement that the Delta Air flight from New York City to Madrid, Spain is about to be boarded and that all passengers are requested to proceed to the boarding lounge in terminal three, and you look down at your watch—seven five pm—and the cell-phone—redundant now—and think, no fucking way. There’s no way in hell you’re doing this. This is crazy. He’s nuts. He’s out of his freaking mind.
But, then, apparently, so are you.
Because despite the fact that you’re still in the Armani you wore to the office this morning, and you feel gritty and tired and pissed off, and damn it, you were not prepared for this—you still find yourself walking towards the boarding lounge along with everyone else. He’s not here and you’re walking, entering, sitting, sighing—the cell-phone still glued to your ear, his number ringing, ringing, ringing without an answer.
With a snap, you cancel the call, switch the phone off and shove it in your pocket.
You’re tired and fucked and totally out of your mind to be doing this.
But he will be there. You know it. He has to be.
And if he isn’t, you’ll kill him.
Your seat is next to a large fifty-ish Spanish woman, who speaks English only haltingly, but still manages to flirt with you shamelessly—attempting to regale you with tales from her native Barcelona.
All this in the first fifteen minutes of your claiming your seat and the plane taking off.
You wonder what the fuck she’s doing in the Business Class section with her horde of loud kids surrounding you from all sides, and then you wonder how was he able to afford the Business Class seat for you. But then she’s flirting with you again and you’re telling her that Barcelona is not where you’re headed—at which she looks offended, and starts arguing the pros of Barcelona and the cons of Balearic Islands.
She finally shuts up when the plane hits some turbulence and you take out your laptop and start tinkering with the Jester presentation you’d prepared last week—if for nothing else but to give her the message that you are not in the mood to chat anymore.
The turbulence gets cleared and the Spanish woman diverts her attention to her family in the seat behind you and although you’re thankful for small favors, the constant yapping in a foreign language all around you drills in your ears and you call the flight steward—who turns out to be a tall, doe-eyed Hispanic in his mid-20s, who gives you the eye—for a pain pill and a shot of Beam. You check him out properly when he returns with your drink and see an answering smile at the corner of his lips. Hmm. Well. At least the in-flight entertainment system seems worth exploring.
Right now, though, you need to kill this headache before you end up killing your neighbor.
No one would hold you responsible, though, even if you do end up killing someone. You can easily claim temporary insanity. No sensible person could possibly deem you sane at this point in time anyways—because it’s eight fifteen pm Pittsburgh time on a Wednesday night and you’re on a flight bound to Madrid, Spain, with no luggage, no clothes and not a single fucking clue.
Except for a cell-phone number that won’t answer and the slowly building panic in your heart that if this doesn’t turn out the way you hope it will, you’ll have no choice but to get yourself checked into the nearest loony bin—because you’d have made a fucking fool of yourself for no good reason at all.
No good reason, you snort at yourself.
He’s the biggest reason for all the changes you have gone through in your life in the last four years—willingly and otherwise.
He’s all the reason you have.
And he fucking knows it.
Four days after he left for New York, you wake up from your sleep on a Delta Air flight that’s about to land at Madrid.
For a moment, you’re disoriented, confused by your surroundings—your head is buzzing, your ears are ringing—and then one of the brats on the seat behind you starts bawling and the Spanish woman starts talking a mile a minute and it all comes crashing back to you. You blink the sleep out of your eyes and the fog out of your brain and look at your watch—still on Pittsburgh time—it says two thirty five am, but you know Madrid is six hours ahead.
The doe-eyed Hispanic inquires about breakfast—you weren’t really in the mood to fuck him, after all—and you ask for just coffee. It’s too early to eat anything and you hate airplane food anyway.
The seatbelt signs come on at the same moment as the captain’s announcement that they’re approaching destination. As you pack your laptop in its case and get ready for the final leg of your journey, you hope to fucking hell he knows what he’s doing.
Continued in part 2