Los Angeles, November 2016
“Come on in, boys!” said Diane, ushering Brian, Justin, and Gus into her house. “You fellas look good enough to eat, but I plan to serve the turkey anyway!”
“Very funny, Lady Di,” said Brian, bending to kiss her on the cheek. “Although if you asked Dorian and Peter I’m sure they wouldn’t turn down a piece of my ass – or Sunshine’s.”
“Eww,” said Gus, cringing. “Leave me out of this. Where’s the Princess?”
In the kitchen,” said Diane. “She’s helping Carmel with the turkey. Of course, ‘helping’ is stretching it a bit, but she’s got on the cutest little apron!”
“Carmel, huh?” Brian cocked his head. “You didn’t waste any time getting her to come to work for you.”
Diane batted her eyes. “I have my ways, Bridie. They may not work on an old crab like you, but on reasonable people…”
“I’m glad,” said Brian. “I want Carmel to be happy and apparently she hated retirement – all two days of it!”
Justin coughed. “I brought some three bean salad. It’s my mother’s recipe. Where should I take it?”
“Why aren’t you sweet!” Diane exclaimed. “Straight through there and on the left is the kitchen, hon.” She pointed Justin down the hallway. “And I’ll take Bridie back to where the boys are relaxing and watching the Big Game.”
Brian snorted. “Dorian and Peter watching a game? You must be joking!”
Diane shrugged. “It’s a ‘Golden Girls’ Marathon on the Hallmark Channel. That’s like the Gay Olympics, isn’t it?”
“Close enough for those two,” said Brian. “Come on. I need a drink.”
Diane frowned. “I thought you were on the wagon because of your nasty brain?”
“I am,” said Brian. “But I can have a beer, as long as I don’t drink it too fast.”
“I think we can manage that,” said Diane. “Follow me.”
Dorian and Peter were watching television and drinking mimosas on Diane’s deck.
“Hey Brian!” said Peter. “You’re just in time! This is the one where Rose says something stupid and Blanche chases after some guy and Dorothy makes a sarcastic remark!”
Dorian rolled his eyes. “And he still wonders why he could never sell a single screenplay.”
“I think I’ll pass on the ‘Golden Girls.’” Brian sat back on a lounge chair and closed his eyes. “Another bitch of a headache.”
Dorian leaned over. “Are you feeling all right, Brian? I mean, with that injury to your head… I tried to talk to you when you were in the hospital, but I could never get through. I was… worried about you. I don’t want you to think that I didn’t care about what had happened to you.”
“I wasn’t exactly taking a lot of calls, Dorian. I think Justin made a list of everyone who called or sent a card or whatever the fuck. And, for the record, I know that you care. I never realized how many people did care about me until the accident. It was an eye-opener for me.”
“I can see that,” said Dorian. “And Justin…?”
“Yeah,” said Brian. “He’s been there the whole time. That was the main thing. When I needed him, he was there.”
“I was worried about you after Ron died,” said Dorian. “Very worried. You were…”
“Nutty? Gutted? Not thinking clearly?” Brian winced. “All of those things. That’s why I went back to the Pitts. I was running away. It’s an old pattern for me, but in this case it was the right things to do. I needed to start at the beginning. See if I could make things right.”
Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Make things right with Justin?”
“That wasn’t the intention.” But Brian paused. “Maybe it was in the back of my mind. But… I don’t know. I was so fucked up. And Justin and I have always had this fucked up connection. A strong connection, but we could never make it work out.”
“But something is different now,” said Dorian. “What changed?”
Brian shook his head. “Time. Distance. Maybe we just grew up… finally. And… and I’m not terrified of being in a relationship anymore. I’ve been in one. I’ve been… married. Married! It seems fucking impossible, but it’s true. With Ron it was easy. I let him take the lead. I didn’t feel the pressure to be perfect. To be Brian Fucking Kinney. With Justin I felt like I had to live up to some ideal, some bullshit philosophy. But now…”
“You don’t have to live up to anything, Brian,” said Dorian. “You’re perfect the way you are.”
Brian laughed. “Hardly! And Justin knows I’m not perfect, but… he doesn’t seem to care. For once I think we’re on the same page. I think we want the same thing. Maybe it took me to get bashed in the head to understand that. And Justin was able to lead me through that experience.”
“How so?” asked Dorian. “I don’t understand.”
“‘Rage,’” said Brian. “What happens to J.T.? He was gay-bashed. So was Justin. He almost died, just like I almost died on that fucking motorcycle.”
Dorian held his breath. That explained so much. “I didn’t know. I thought the thing about J.T. was only a plot point. I didn’t know it was true. Did Ron know?”
“Of course,” said Brian. “I told him everything.”
Dorian’s voice softened. “Including that you were still in love with the boy? Even after he left you and never returned?”
“I didn’t need to say it. He knew. He always knew. But Justin was far away and not planning to come after me, so he wasn’t a threat.”
Dorian laughed. “God help the boy if he had tried it! Can you imagine the two of them clashing? Ron and Justin? That would have been a battle for the ages.”
“I know,” said Brian. “It would have been. Thank God I never had to make that choice.”
Diane appeared in the doorway. “Whatcha doing, boys? Got enough to drink?”
Peter looked up from the television. “I’ll have my refill along with my dinner.”
Diane nodded. “That’s coming up in about a half hour, so I hope you’re all hungry! Bridie – I forgot your beer!”
“No problemo, Lady Di,” said Brian. “I’m good.”
“So I’ve heard!” she replied. “If I have any questions, I’ll wring the answers out of Justin!”
They sat down to dinner at 3:00. Brian had always wondered why the fuck people ate Thanksgiving so early, but no one had ever given him a credible answer. Perhaps it took longer for everyone to digest all the fucking potatoes and stuffing and gravy and greasy turkey, not to mention the pies and all the other stomach-heavy items they had to force down before they collapsed into comatose heaps.
“Shit. I’m never going to eat again as long as I live!”
“You say that every year,” said Diane. "But you still always showed up for the Black Friday Brunch at Jimmy’s.”
“Don’t remind me,” Brian moaned.
“And speaking of Jimmy…” said Peter.
“You think he and the new squeeze are having their own little celebration? Or did they show up at Tess’s door with an apple pie?” said Diane. “By the way, Peter, that pie was delish! And your three bean salad, too, Justy.”
“Don’t give him too much credit. He opened a can of garbanzo beans, a can of green beans, and a can of some other kind of fucking beans…”
“Cannellini beans, Brian,” said Justin.
“Whatever the fuck. He then poured some salad dressing on top and shook the container a couple of times. That’s the extent of his cooking skills.”
“Don’t listen to him,” said Justin. “I can cook. I can make great jambalaya and lasagna. And I can grill a steak like… Who’s that guy on the Food Network who grills the steaks, Brian?”
“Fuck if I know,” said Brian. “My stomach! I think it was the three bean salad!”
Justin punched him lightly on the arm. “Shut up! You’ll live!”
“I thought everything was great,” said Gus. “I think I’ll have another piece of pie.”
“Ass-kisser,” Brian snarked.
“I’m a growing boy, Dad,” said Gus. “Come on, Mia. Let’s go into the kitchen before Carmel puts everything away!” He took her little hand and both headed for the kitchen.
“That kid! He eats like a fucking warthog on steroids!”
“Remember?” said Justin. “So did I when I was a teenager. And I’m sure you did, too.”
“There are no witnesses here to tell the tale,” Brian reminded him.
“I thought of inviting Jimmy,” said Diane, getting back to the main conversation. “I feel sorry for him. But…”
“Forget him,” said Brian. “He made his bed – literally – now he has to lie in it.”
Peter smirked. “With What's-his-name in it, it should be pretty comfortable!”
“He’ll find out,” said Brian. “Jimmy Hardy might think he’s still America’s Golden Boy, but it’s a different story if America finds out you take it up the ass!”
“How do you know Jimmy’s a bottom?” asked Diane.
“Lucky guess,” said Brian. They were all looking at him. “What? Like I’d know? Of course he’s a fucking bottom! What else?”
“You owe me ten bucks,” said Dorian to Diane. “Hand it over.”
“I’ll put it on your tab,” said Diane. “So, Brian, now that you’re full of good food and in a pleasant mood…”
Brian moaned. “You’re fucking kidding, right?”
“Let me finish, Bridie,” said Diane. “Now that Carmel is going to be working for me and Mia is getting bigger, I was thinking of looking for a bigger place. This house is okay, but…”
Brian sat up straight. “What are you driving at, Diane?”
She got right to the point. “I know that guy who wants to buy your house wants to tear it down. We all know that Ron would hate that. He loved that house, am I right?”
“Yeah,” Brian admitted. “But the land is more valuable than the house itself.”
“So he wants to level it and build some monstrosity on the lot,” said Diane. “I think that stinks. Because I love that house, too.”
Justin smiled broadly. “I get it! You and Mia and Carmel can move in! It would be perfect for you.”
Brian’s head was beginning to throb again. “You want me to call off the sale of the house so that you and the baby can move in?”
Diane shrugged. “In a nutshell – Yes! It’s the perfect solution. I can’t afford to buy the place outright, especially not compared to what that real estate guy was going to give you, but I can take out a loan. And pilot season is coming up. I’m hoping to get a great part on one. And I have some voice-over work for Disney. And…”
“That’s a fucking fabulous idea, Dad!” said Gus. “And I can stay there when I come out to visit!”
“Stop!” Brian cried. “You don’t have to buy the fucking house, Diane. I’ll have it put in trust for Gus and Mia and I’ll pay the taxes and the upkeep. I’d rather have you living there than let that smug developer come in with his fucking bulldozers. I’m only sorry I didn’t think of it myself. But my brain isn’t working at full capacity – at least not yet.”
Justin put his arms around Brian. “Your brain is working fine, but even better, your heart is working overtime, Mr. Grinch. That’s really what matters.”
“Does this mean I can’t retain my reputation as a heartless asshole?” Brian sighed.
“It’s not so bad being a nice guy,” said Justin.
“We’ll see about that,” said Brian. “It’ll take some getting used to.”
“A little time,” said Justin. “That’s all it will take. You’ll see.”