Chapter 4:

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Saturday evening, at the Rose and Thorn Hotel…

"Wow… guys, you should see what's going on out there. There are a couple of news vans there now, with satellite dishes on top! I don't think Brian knew it was going to get this big."

After whale watching and lunch, the gang had re-grouped and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon together, while they shopped and explored the hidden secrets of P-Town. They enjoyed themselves a little too much and lost track of time. They had to rush back to the inn to shower, shave, and change for their dinner reservations, and the big night ahead.

At the restaurant, in the Rose and Thorn Hotel, they were given special seating out on the large, dining room balcony. The gorgeous sunset provided a wonderful backdrop to their dinner.

They dined on traditional dishes that had a Thai influence, enjoying seafood, steaks, and lamb chops… and they took their time… not so much to savor their meals… but, because they were tired… really tired… the majority of them joked about the correlation between their exhaustion and having an agenda planner who was a decade younger than them… but they readily admitted to Justin that they were having a wonderful weekend.

After dinner, Brian and Ted left the group to meet with the sponsors and other participants in the evening's event. Justin, Emmett, and Ben languished over their coffee and dessert and Michael decided to stretch his legs and sneak over to the dance club. He was dying to find out what was going on.

The Rose and Thorn Hotel was formerly a four-story, Georgian style summer home for a wealthy family, built on the beach of a small cove, at the far end of Provincetown. When the home was sold, it was transformed into a hotel and restaurant by the second owners, and the dance club was added on to the hotel, by the third set of owners. The dance club was a separate one-story building, but connected to the hotel, via a covered, pillared breezeway. The club was also designed in the Georgian style, to compliment the hotel.

Previously, when the gang had arrived for dinner, they had noticed that there were some trucks and service vans parked at the dance club. It was nothing alarming and Brian had expected a ceremony of sorts, but he didn't want anything big or elaborate.

Michael investigated the dance club with the stealth of a secret agent. He excitedly reported his findings to the remainder of the group, who were still sitting on the balcony, drinking coffee and enjoying the summer evening.

"We should have driven by the club's entrance so you guys could see – they've got a red carpet! It kind of reminds me of our benefit… that night at Babylon… with the bomb, and all. There's a lot of security, though. Ted said Brian was going to pay out of his own pocket, if he had to… and oh yeah! In the entrance hall part of the club, there's this huge display and Brian's picture is smack in the middle of it… and it's big… it's sooo big, you can't miss it… wow – it's really something. We should go over, now. The club is starting to fill up with people."

His friends and husband roused themselves and followed Michael over to the club.

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The Rose and Thorn Dance club, 1 hour later…

The dance club was a huge hall that could be partitioned off into smaller rooms, but was completely opened and packed to the brim with men and women. There were easily four hundred or more people in the giant room. Located at one side of the room, was a temporary stage, on which all the dignitaries and speakers stood.

Brian was part of the group on the stage. He politely listened to all of the speakers, and to all observers, he looked as cool as a cucumber. He naturally drew attention to himself, without trying. Many glanced or blatantly stared at him, and some secretly imagined spending time alone with the handsome and impeccably dressed entrepreneur. No one could guess that he was not in the best of moods.

Brian was dressed all in black, with linen trousers and a black raw, silk, short-sleeved shirt, and though he was well dressed, he was a little miffed with his attire. He would have dressed more formally if he had known that there would be news cameras and reporters. He was pissed at Royce and Ken, the owners of the dance club and hotel, for not mentioning that the press had been invited. He had expected the P-Town newspaper and LGBT tabloids, but not regional and possibly national news.

And all of this damn fanfare…

He had wanted to just send Lambda the damn check and be done with it.

But, oooh no… once you get queens involved, you can forget it - everything has got to be a 'production'… Royce really down played this little event… jackass… had I been told that news cameras would be here, I would have absolutely worn a suit… well, at least I'm wearing Armani… where's Justin… okay, there he is… good, he's standing in between the professor and Em…

There had already been a half an hour of speeches, starting with the Rose and Thorn's owners, and they were followed by a streaming, conveyor-belt full of other speakers. Another fifteen minutes went by, while representatives from the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund took the podium. Each one of the four reps had something to say about the success of various states legalizing gay marriage, and the legitimizing of gays in the military. Finally, the Mayor of Provincetown, the last speaker, took the helm and made his speech, and then finally introduced Brian.

"… and there you have it. A remarkable man… I give you, the imcomparable - Mr. Brian Kinney!"

Applause greeted Brian, as he walked to the podium and grabbed the wireless microphone off of its stand. He moved to the center of the stage. "Thank you, Mayor Gillespie. I wish I was half as wonderful as your speech implied." The audience politely laughed in response, but they were jittery, after being made to stand through over an hour of dull speeches.

"As you have heard, from all of these fine people… the King of Clubs Foundation is made up of concerned citizens… gay and lesbian bar and club owners… who have combined their forces and finances… with the goal of generating funds to support many causes that affect the LGBT community. The cumulative apex – the end result of the fund is to legitimatize LGBT rights in the United States."

Brian spoke directly to the crowd, while he slowly walked to the edge of the stage. All eyes and ears were glued to his every movement.

"I tell people that the foundation was started with a bang… literally… three years ago, my club, Babylon, in Pittsburg, on a night like this… for an occasion such as this… was blown up – bombed - by anti-gay… haters… and I almost lost my best friend, and the majority of my family." Brian gave the crowd a moment to process what he just said.

He watched the expressions on the many faces in the audience; he knew they were imagining what that night had been like… and what it would be like, if it happened at that very moment. Along with the gasps and angered mumblings, many faces filled with fear.

"Well, that's what I tell people, but actually the seed of the foundation began to develop three years before that, when my partner… he's that beautiful blond standing against the wall… who is trying to hide behind the man in the purple and pink striped shirt…" The gang was standing to the right of the stage, against the wall, and as Brian stated, Justin was trying to hide behind Emmett.

Brian smiled and stared at him for a few moments. Then, his voice lowered, as he recalled Justin's bashing. "Some… shiiii… very disturbed young man… bashed him in the head with a baseball bat… it was his prom night… I almost lost him that night… and he was at the club, too, the night the club blew up."

Shouts of shocked protest were joined with more gasps and grumblings, as necks craned to look at Justin.

"So… what I want to do, with your help… is take the LGBT community… off the endangered species list… and that includes all the people… including straight people… that love and support us, because they are being injured and killed as they stand beside us, in support… and to do this, we have to establish our rights as a community… Which means that the guy that almost killed my partner… he would've had to serve jail time – which he did not… And, the FBI and ATF would've become involved in investigation of the bomb attack on my club and other lethal assaults against our community – which they did not… and still… do not…

I want to see changes in the laws, so that atrocities committed against our community are called crimes – not a 'hate' crime, which apparently can be contested or diminished, with many of the perpetrators just getting a slap on the wrist – but a crime, a true crime, no limitations - tried to the fullest extent of the law!

And I don't want the religion of others dictating what happens in my bedroom. Because, this country was built with the stipulation that church and state would remain separate.

What we want is very simple… we are taxpaying, law abiding citizens, who are being denied our rights of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!'"

The intensity of the crowd had been building and then it exploded with Brian's final words. There was hooting, hollering, shout-outs, whistles, and thunderous applause – that went on for well over a minute.

Brian looked over at his family and he saw tears in a couple of eyes, but the look of pride on every face.

Brian signaled the audience to calm down, by slowly fanning his out-stretched arms up and down. Once the crowd settled, he continued.

"Now then… on a more serious note…" He waited for the laugh he knew would come, and as it died down, he continued. "Representatives from the Lambda Legal Defense and Educational Fund… I want you to know… that these fine men and women… here in this hall and others across America… danced their asses off and drank until they dropped… so that I could hand you… this big piece of cardboard."

He pointed to the large, cardboard, fake check that sat on an easel, on the left side of the stage. It was covered by a satin, red cloth.

The crowd riled up again; they laughed, whistled, and clapped, congratulating themselves and enjoying Brian's sense of humor. The speakers and dignitaries had no choice but to laugh along with them.

Brian signaled and two men came out on stage, picked up the easel and moved it center stage. Brian and the Lambda representatives flanked the check and with a flourish, Brian undraped the check. The representatives gasped or grabbed their own faces in disbelief. One of the representatives shouted out to the crowd, "… it's a million dollars… actually, one million and two hundred thousand dollars, to be exact!"

Cameras and cell phones flashed, reporters talked into recorders, and the news cameras churned – all documenting the moment on stage. Brian looked over to his family and mouthed Justin's name.

When J.T. joined him on stage, Rage gave him a long, deep, loving kiss, which was captured by the news cameras and played throughout the country… and re-played, over, and over, and over again…

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Sunday, a little past noon…

Sunday brunch was served on the inn's veranda, near the pool, and though it was a beautiful morning, and the food was delicious and bountiful, it was a quiet affair… only because Emmett told everyone to stop talking so loudly… even though they weren't… and he told them to stop chewing so loudly… and to stop moving around so much… and so on…

Emmett was hung over – extremely hung over. He sat with as much dignity as he could muster, draped in a fuchsia muumuu, and hidden behind huge sunglasses, while he sipped on ginger ale and coffee.

Ben had become Ted's physical fitness mentor, so they awoke early and went jogging together and then did yoga in one of the small gardens on the grounds. They sat in their running shorts and sweaty tank tops, re-hydrating with coconut water and packing in the protein from the buffet. Neither one of them had indulged in any alcohol at the event the night before, but neither had gotten very much sleep. Their dedication to their health routine had started to backfire on them. As the endorphins wore off, they felt the effects of sleep deprivation, and they seem to slightly melt in their seats.

Michael was hung over, too, but he wasn't hurting like Emmett. He was alert, and was speaking, but everything he did and said was in slow motion…it took him almost 5 minutes to eat a strip of bacon.

Justin was in the same damage range as Michael, but he wasn't speaking. He silently went back for second and third helpings from the buffet, and just as silently shoveled the food into his mouth… and ignored his beloved friend Emmett, who kept telling him to chew quietly.

Brian arrived fashionably late to brunch and he looked like he had just walked off of a multi-million dollar yacht. His tan was perfect, his hair was flawless, he wore the latest Gucci aviator sunglasses, and there wasn't a single wrinkle showing on his Dolce and Gabbana resort wear ensemble of cream colored linen, tie-waist trousers and sleeveless shirt. He did not appear hung over at all… not one bit… his friends didn't really feel admiration for him, as much as annoyance.

The night before, Brian had enjoyed his fair share of liquor, had danced some, and spent a good amount of time schmoozing the press and dignitaries. He even dragged Justin out into the parking lot for a quickie in the SUV. He and Justin finally left the club at 1:00 AM and then spent some crazy-hot time in the Jacuzzi tub, before they passed out on the king-sized bed. But, none of the wear and tear showed on the man, he looked immaculate and well-rested.

Brian did not do buffets, so he flagged down one of the staff and ordered coffee, tomato juice, dried toast, and an egg white omelet - all which was brought to him without a quibble. Mr. Kinney assessed the motley conditions of his family, while he swiped bacon and fried potatoes off of Justin's plate. Even though Brian saw misery and suffering all around him, he was not willing to make any concessions.

"So, when are we leaving for the winery?"

Emmett flung a packet of sugar at him.

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Truro Winery, a couple of hours later…

"… So, what did Blake say?" Justin kept his voice down, and he looked around to see if Ted was nearby, but luckily, he wasn't.

Emmett and he continued to sniff their way through a small display of candles in the winery's gift shop. Supposedly, the candles were somehow made from wine.

Emmett checked the price tag on the bottom of a candle shaped like a bunch of grapes. "Ted got a text from Blake this morning. Blake said he had finished moving all of his things out of Ted's apartment."

"Oh my god! It's a wonder that Ted isn't… well, he's taking it rather well." Justin's sniffed a pineapple and chardonnay scented candle and instantly regretted it. He quickly put it back on the glass shelf.

"He's being brave… I think that he believes that Blake will come back, that little Blakey just needs time… and, I think that's why he's trying to beef up like Ben… maybe it will help him recapture Blake's attention… my poor Teddy… I just pray that this doesn't rock his sobriety… of course, there's that new accountant that he just hired… a brunette twink, with blond highlights… maybe that's why he's not so upset… hmmmm."

Justin didn't know what to say, so he changed the subject. "Are you still seeing that Kevin guy?"

"Oh, no! Sweetie, he was just a name on my dance card. Nothing more… I have to concentrate on my business right now. I just rented that warehouse space and bought all of that food service equipment… this girl is going big time! And, yes, it is courtesy of a loan from the Bank of Brian Kinney… I mean – Kinney Enterprises. I don't understand how all of that works, he now owns a company that owns Kinnetic? Is that right?"

Justin smirked and said, "Something like that… but don't worry, we're all beholden to the Bank of Brian Kinney."

Emmett chuckled, "Yes, I guess we all are, aren't we? I noticed that you and Brian don't trick with others, when you're together. It's been like that for awhile, hasn't it? My oh my, last night's speech… and not tricking out of respect to you, when you're together… dare I say it… is Mr. Kinney finally growing up?"

"No, we don't trick when we're together. It just sort of… happened… we may do random threesomes or foursomes, but… and when we're apart, well, whatever… I don't think it's a matter of maturity per se… I think Brian is finally being 'Brian.' He's lowering some walls and trusting… he's no Dr. Phil, though… and never will be!" The two friends snickered together, enjoying their private moment of friendship.

A minute later, Brian walked up to them and addressed Emmett. "Honeycutt, did you just buy that case of wine by the front counter?"

"Stop calling me Honeycutt! How many times do I have to tell you… oh, dammit, now my head is hurting again! Thank you, Mr. Bull-In-A… winery shop… Yes! I bought the case, why do you ask?"

"How are you getting it home?"

"Well, I'm going to carry it… I'll pack it in… oh… oh, shit… what am I going to do? Why didn't I think of that before I bought all that wine?!" Emmett began to panic when he realized that there was absolutely no way that he could carry a whole case of wine onto the plane. He looked helplessly at Brian.

"I'll have them ship it to Babylon; you can pick it up there. And you," Brian walked up to his partner and gently pinned him against a display case of hand-blown wine glasses, "– I'm not helping you with those 2 carry boxes of wine you bought. Go pick out some more wine and we'll ship a case home." He gave Justin a quick peck on the nose and walked away.

Emmett joked, "Rage to the rescue… again…" He nervously chewed on his bottom lip and looked at Justin, "Oh lord… now how am I going to get all of that other stuff that I bought, home? I bought clothes, and those rainbow-colored, glass serving pieces… and those favor boxes for that wedding next month, and…"

Justin blankly looked back at his friend and wondered what time the post office opened in the morning.

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Sunday night…

The gang decided to go to dinner together, on their last night in P-Town. They made reservations at 'El Pescado,' the restaurant that Shampagne and her husband owned, and they weren't disappointed.

The gang was treated like sultans and the food was superb. Afterwards, the three couples split up and went their separate ways. Michael and Ben walked back to the inn, which was only an easy 5 minute stroll. Ted and Emmett decided to catch a comedy show that they saw advertised at one of the bars, and Brian and Justin dropped them off, on their way to a secret destination, whose location was only known to Brian.

Brian pulled the SUV into a secluded, tiny parking lot, by the beach. After they disembarked, he took Justin's hand and led him out to the beach. They both removed their shoes, and Justin patiently waited while Brian rolled up his pant legs. Justin wore Bermuda shorts, his signature look for the summer. Brian again took Justin's hand and walked down along the edge of the water.

"You do know that we are walking on the beach, in the moonlight… and holding hands, right? You're not going to combust or something, are you?"

Brian shook his head at his lover, and there was a sparkle of mischief in his eye. "Is that how you see it? Poor Sunshine… We are walking on sand, and I'm holding your hand in case you lose your balance… and it is night time… Perception, Sunshine… it's all about perception."

"Ahhh, I see, silly me."

"Yep… still trying, even after all this time… still pushing for the mushy stuff… huh, Sunshine?"

Justin pulled away from Brian and scampered into the surf. But, after only three steps into the water, he yelped and quickly retreated to dry land. "Damn, you weren't kidding – it's cooold!"

"Well, it's a burden, being right all the time… but you've always been the type to try things for yourself… haven't you, Sonny Boy?"

"Oh don't get all philosophical on me… I'm onto you, don't forget that." He scrambled back to Brian's side and jumped up so that he could kiss Brian on the lips. After he got his kiss, he took hold of Brian's hand, and with his free hand he held up and examined the necklace that he wore. Brian had given it to him before dinner. It was a solid gold Mariner's chain, with a charm hanging from it – a whale's tail.

"I love this… how did you know I looked at this in that shop, you weren't with me?"

"Rage has his ways…"

Justin had a few gifts, mere trinkets, for Brian back at the inn. He hadn't planned on giving them to him until they got back to Pittsburgh. The blond felt a tad anxious about his gifts for Brian, they didn't match the quality or price tag amount of the necklace.

Brian pulled Justin over to a large chunk of driftwood, formerly a large limb from a cypress tree. They sat silently for awhile, huddled together, with Brian sheltering Justin from the chilling breeze.

Brian tipped Justin's head back so that he could look into the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen, and talk to the man who was the owner of his heart.

"Hey… we've been together eight years… why don't we go another eight years… and at the end of those eight years, we will make a point of coming back here… and to this beach or somewhere in town… and we will state… if we want to continue for another eight years together… and so on… and so on… what do you think?"

Justin caressed the face of his lover and beamed one of his signature, sunshine smiles. "Well… I think… yes… that is a very good idea, but we have to seal the deal with a kiss… but with tongue – so that this moment is not ridiculously romantic, just sexual… and then we can ignore the fact that we're sitting on the beach, in the moonlight, and are kissing… Okay?"

Brian brushed his lips over Justin's. "Do not think of this as romantic, it's just… necessary…" He licked Justin's lips and then captured the blond's lips with his own. He luxuriated in the taste of his partner's mouth. Their tongues met, explored, and caressed each other. When they finally pulled apart, they looked deeply into each other's eyes.

"That… that definitely was 'necessary,' Mr. Kinney."

"You're completely correct, Mr. Taylor."

"Would you mind, 'necessary-ing' me, again?"

"It would be my pleasure, Mr. Taylor."

And they sat on the beach, kissing in the moonlight… because it was necessary… not just ridiculously romantic…

FIN

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