|for mojokitten - fic - The Book of Right-On [Brian/Vance]
||[Apr. 1st, 2005|12:58 pm]
The Book of Right-On|
Summary: And it was all over, it was done. Buh-bye, Brian Kinney.
Rating: PG-13 (language)
gotta get out to get compensation
The first time Vance sees him in person, he is not impressed.
Brian Kinney is a good-looking young hotshot. His face is clean-shaven, and there’s a slight furrow to his brow that Kinney’s trying to hide. And most importantly, an arrogance in the way he carries himself, the way he moves in, all subdued, nervous predator, and shakes Vance’s hand. Then Kinney sits in a chair like he belongs there. Or even more likely, like he’s eyeing Vance’s seat.
Vance smiles slightly, hiding the twitch of his lips with one hand. He’s done his homework. He knows Kinney is brilliant, and obstinate, and has gonads like the Titanic.
He also knows that there are dozens of other Kinneys that would come to work for him in a heartbeat. This Kinney thinks he’s entitled to something - that because he’s smart, and his balls have taken him this far, he’s got it made. But Vance is making him nervous, he can tell. Kinney wasn’t expecting a new boss. He wasn’t expecting to be called out on the front lines.
This however-so-brilliant asshole has to prove himself first, Vance thinks. And as he knows, the good men are hard to find – and the assholes crack all too easily.
Kinney thinks he’s dangerous. He’s not. Vance has him pegged.
shallow work is the work that I do
He didn’t have Kinney pegged as well as he’d thought he did..
Vance purses his lips, flips through the contract with Brown Athletics one more time.
He remembers the look on Kinney’s face when he’d come into the office, still riding the new-deal high. Partly smug, partly proud, partly exasperated. Hands only slightly sweaty, collected even in the face of imminent lay-off. And he’d nailed it. He’d nailed Brown fucking Athletics. When Vance thought about the hours he’d spent working on campaign proposals, trying to get Leo Brown on the phone, researching every possible thing he could use to win that account. Having Kinney succeed where he’d failed felt distinctly odd to him, but he didn’t think he was jealous. Not really.
Kinney was brilliant, but more than that – he was fucking good.
Vance slams the folder shut. Tastes the word ‘partner’, rolls it around in his mouth. Maybe he can get used to it.
it blows my mind that people wanna try to get inside my tired head
Kinney’s fingers twist hard around the filter of the cigarette. He squeezes it flat, nervous habit, stubs out the rest onto an unlabeled binder, because his office doesn’t have an ashtray.
There’s a reason his office doesn’t have an ashtray.
“You can’t smoke in the building,” says Vance. He closes the door behind him, steps closer to Kinney. Kinney looks like shit, eyes dark and slightly bruised at the corners. His jacket is hanging limp off the back of his chair, and his shirtsleeves are rolled up to his elbows. He glances up at Vance like he’s expecting someone else.
“Yeah?” says Kinney, voice dry and cracking. “Well, I’m not fucking smoking, am I.” He rolls the cigarette butt between his fingers for a second, and then pitches it into the trashcan before turning his attention to Vance.
Vance raises an eyebrow. Waves his hand theatrically through the smoke still hanging in the office air, and Kinney follows the motion with his eyes, lingering on the places left clear by Vance’s swipe. Vance stops, and Kinney blinks.
“My god, you’re on something,” says Vance.
“Do you even have a concept of the word ‘unprofessional’?”
“I’m not on anything.” Kinney growls, then leans forward in his chair and presses his palms to his eyes.
Vance sighs. “Listen,” he says. “It’s late. You shouldn’t even be here – you especially shouldn’t be here when you aren’t doing any work to show for it.”
“I’m a fucking partner, I can do what the hell I want.”
“You’re being a fucking idiot, is what you are.”
“I’m not in the mood for this,” says Kinney.
Vance looks at him for a second, then pulls out the chair in front of the desk and sits down, crossing one ankle over his thigh. “Okay. Fine. What’s going on with you?”
Kinney pushes the binder across the desk at him, gray-speckled ashes sifting off the top of it. “Bob. Or maybe Bill, I don’t fucking remember. This proposal he’s working on is for shit.”
Vance glances at the binder, then back at Kinney. “I meant what’s actually bothering you.”
Kinney blinks. “It’s really none of your business, Gardner.”
“Then go home,” says Vance. “Go home, and come back on Monday. If you stay here you’ll frighten the clients away, and then it will be my business.”
“Hmm,” says Kinney. He stares at Vance for a second, unblinking, then shifts away, picks up the pack of cigarettes laying on the desk and knocks it against his palm a few times.
“Brian,” says Vance, but Brian takes one from the pack, and has it lit and is halfway through his first inhale before Vance can go on.
Brian lets the smoke seep out of his mouth, not even bothering to blow it out with any finesse. Vance coughs, stands up and takes a couple irritated steps toward the door.
“Oh, sorry,” says Brian breezily.
Vance turns back around. “And you know, for some crazy reason I was actually prepared to listen.”
“That’s bullshit,” says Brian. “You want to know what my weaknesses are, but I’m not going to tell you.” His mouth quirks.
Vance regards him steadily, eyebrows rising. “And why would I want to know your weaknesses, Brian? We’re on the same team.”
Brian takes another drag, hmm-ing as he does so. “I don’t know. Maybe you want to control me. Maybe you want to get in my pants.”
Vance sputters. “Excuse me!”
“Oh come on, Gardner,” Brian smiles and Vance was wrong, this guy is dangerous, “Don’t think I haven’t seen you watching me.”
He trails off, leaving the statement hanging in the air like smoke. Vance thinks that’s almost worse than anything Brian could have said next.
“If you’re trying to imply something about my sexuality,” Vance finally manages, “I think I have two ex-wives that would disagree with you.”
Brian grins, sharp and clear. He’s no longer hunched in his chair, he’s coming to action. Vance is almost relieved. He didn’t know what to think of the depressed Brian of the moment before. He had seemed way too human. Way too broken-hearted.
“Your ex-wives,” Brian murmurs. “Apparently were less than happy with your performance. So why do you think that is.”
“They were perfectly happy with my performance,” says Vance. “It was my work that they couldn’t stand.”
“No kids,” Brian states.
“No,” says Vance, and shudders. “I hate the little buggers.”
Brian nods, inhales deeply, and suddenly he’s distant, thoughts elsewhere. “I have a son,” he says.
Vance blinks. “I knew that,” he says. And he did – he just never thought about it. You don’t look at a man like Brian Kinney and imagine him being a father.
But Brian’s eyes have softened, just for a second, at the thought of his son. Vance can’t look away. He does watch Brian – but not for the reasons Brian thinks. Vance is just fascinated.
Brian blinks, looks back at Vance, and there’s nothing left in his face to watch.
“Anyway,” says Vance, and gives a nod. “I don’t want to be your friend,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about that. But go home, now, and stop smoking in your fucking office.”
Brian doesn’t say anything. He slowly twists his cigarette out on the plastic binder.
Vance leaves Brian’s office, gets his coat and heads for the elevators. There’s a weird knot in his stomach, and he remembers why he’s always hated cigarettes. Hated the smell of them, rancid and ashy. Give him a good cigar any day.
now you say you’re sorry for being so untrue
He should have known. He should have known the very second that Brian showed up to work smiling that things were all going to go to hell. Vance doesn’t mind true love and political activism or whatever the hell was going on with Kinney – it’s just when it fucks with business that he has a problem with it. His business.
Vance has finally stopped getting angry phone calls from Stockwell supporters. He guesses that the indictment took some wind out of their sails. But it’s as good an opportunity as any to get back his best man.
“I give you my word,” he says to Brian. “And my handshake.”
Brian pauses, almost a grimace of a smile, but he takes Vance’s hand.
And he doesn’t let go, even as Vance pats him on the arm and turns to walk away. Brian’s grip tightens, and his palm is firm and warm around Vance’s fingers.
He holds on too long, and Vance’s thoughts slip back. Not long ago at all, he realizes, he’d gone with Stockwell to ask Brian about the accusations. Stockwell had been stony and furious beside him, and it didn’t make things better when Brian opened the door smelling like sweat and sex, his hair rumpled and damp against his forehead. He’d been wearing nothing but skin, all sleek like his muscles fit too well over his bones.
Vance hadn’t believed it was true. But then Stockwell saw the posters scattered across the hardwood floors, and it was all over, it was done. Buh-bye, Brian Kinney.
Until now. Brian gives him that weird, tense smile again, and lets go of his hand. Vance rounds the corner of his desk, and picks up the contract.
“Now, I just need you to sign this,” says Vance. He hands it to Brian and sits down. It’s nothing. It’s a reasonable request.
Brian looks at it and snorts. “Non-competition clause?”
“It’s just a formality,” says Vance.
Brian raises his eyebrows, amused. “So this is why you wanted me back? Afraid I was going to raid the pantry?” Some of the humor goes out of his face. “And here I thought it was me you didn’t want to lose.”
Vance blinks at him, digs quickly for words. “You’re not giving yourself enough credit,” he says. Brian is important, and Vanguard needs him. Vance doesn’t want to do without him again.
But Vance doesn’t say the right thing, doesn’t speak quickly enough – or maybe Brian has just stopped being reasonable, and started being something else entirely.
It’s so much what he didn’t want that Vance almost smiles as he watches Brian leave. A beat after the door clicks shut behind him, Vance starts laughing.
He shakes his head, and wonders what the hell he’s going to do now – and if he ever, truly, from the very beginning, expected a different outcome.
as life gets longer awful feels softer
The last time he sees Brian Kinney is either a freak coincidence, or fate.
It’s the last time because Vance is moving Vanguard’s base of operations back to Chicago. He needs the stability that his old contacts there can give him. And he’s always loved Chicago - the gray brick tone of the air, the wind that cuts him clean in half. Shitty weather, yes, but it’s his shitty weather, not like the kind in Pittsburgh. He’s never managed to come to terms with the weather here.
Vance doesn’t know why out of all the cafés he could have walked into, he had to walk into this one. He sees Brian immediately. A pleased-looking man in a suit is walking away from the table where Brian is lingering, still arranging notes in his briefcase.
Brian’s client brushes past Vance on his way out. Vance smiles to himself, thinks what the hell, and goes over to say hello. The click of the briefcase locking coincides perfectly with Vance saying –
Brian looks up. His eyes narrow, but his mouth curls like he’s trying not to smile. “Gardner Vance,” he says.
“Fancy meeting you here,” says Vance.
“Likewise,” says Brian. He considers Vance for second, lips pressed tight, and then he shrugs. “Sit down,” he says.
Vance shakes his head. “I don’t want to intrude,” Vance says, but he raises an eyebrow as he does.
“Don’t play coy,” says Brian. His mouth twitches into a smirk. “Sit down, Gardner. I’m buying you a drink.”
and even when you run through my mind
Maybe he should have told Brian right then, told him “I know we were never friends, never will be, but I’ll sure as hell miss you.”
Brian wouldn’t have known quite what to make of that, though - and neither does Vance. Not really. He just knows it’s true.