Summary: Cynthia learns a lot more than some might think being Brian Kinney's secretary. Brian/Justin-centric, obviously, and spoilers through season four, but none for season five (virgins, ye are safe!). Rated PG-13. Word list: apocalypse, cocoon, gear, cheesecake, authority.
Your first impression of Brian Kinney is that you should probably be a lot more terrified of him than you are. And in fact, when you hear his voice booming from the posh third-floor office that seems to be his according to the gold-engraved plate on the door, followed closely by two pale-faced, bespectacled young men exiting quickly, a small part of you wants to march right back out the door. It doesn't help when one of the (presumed) lackeys gives you a quick once-over and then jerks his head back, pointing behind himself.
"Good luck," he mutters sourly. "He's in a real mood today. You'd think the Apocalypse had come the way he was carrying on." You offer a sympathetic grin, again resisting the urge to turn around and go home, to cocoon yourself in your nice, warm, safe bed. When you finally inch open the door and gaze upon your new boss, you startle, not so much out of fear, but relief. Brian Kinney, all good looks and well-practiced apathy, hardly looks up at you as you enter.
Brian Kinney hardly looks like a tyrant, either. There's an authoritative, slightly smug air about him, sure, but taking in his professional, polished, and - dare you say it about the guy who's just become your boss - HOT appearance, you're willing to bet that it's well deserved. You also have no doubt that he just got through ripping those other two guys a collective asshole ... but for some reason, it doesn't freak you out as much as you'd anticipated.
Perhaps, you think, it's because you've worked for assholes; your last boss seemed to think "personal assistant" meant surreptitiously patting you on the ass and insinuating that your legs would look even longer in a mini-skirt with heels. You stayed there for two years because the pay was good and the benefits were nice, but jumped at the chance to take your well-deserved letter of recommendation and leave.
Brian glowers at you and you grin in what you're told is a friendly smile. "Mr. Kinney," you say. "I'm Cynthia, your new personal assistant."
"My new personal assistant," he echoes sardonically, drawing the syllables out in a boredly amused tone. "How quaint. "Well, Cynthia, my new personal assistant," he continues, "why aren't you personally assisting me, already?"
You're pretty sure you and your new boss are going to get along just fine.
You've worked at Ryder for two months or so when you start to hear things about Brian, whispered rumors about how he goes about "sealing the deal" with many of his male clients (never females). Lots of times, people scoff about it with derision in the breakroom, but you're careful to remain impassive - for one thing, because gossiping about your boss at work isn't a great way to make Employee of the Month, and for another, the insinuations aren't anyone's business besides Brian's, and whomever he's allegedly "sealing the deal" with.
It's not until your gay cousin Troy blows into Pittsburgh from New York for a visit that you put two-and-two together. Troy insists in seeking out every small bit of gay culture in the intrepid little 'Burgh you've grown to call home, and it's not all that surprising when you find yourself sitting in Woody's in the middle of Liberty Avenue, watching Troy scope out the guys. You nudge him playfully as a particularly delectable one with a tattoo on his left bicep looks Troy's way, and then gives you an appraising glance as well. It figures, you think wryly. The first time in forever that you find yourself at a bar, and it involves getting hit on by gay guys.
You start to glance around idly while Troy chats up Tall, Dark & Tattoo'd, and that's when you see Brian. You realize you've never seen him in anything other than a suit, and it's amazing how sensually he fills out even the simple black tank top and stonewashed black jeans he's wearing now. You continue watching him, feeling a bit guilty, but not enough to look away.
There's a short, stocky guy sitting next to him, nursing a beer and dressed in a faded Captain Astro t-shirt (your younger brother used to read the comics when he was a kid, so you recognize the character). You don't place him until Brian slings an arm around him and mouths what looks like "Mikey" - Brian gets calls from a "Mikey" all the time at Ryder. You watch as your boss presses an affectionately chaste kiss to his best friend's mouth, before he hops off his stool and glances around, obviously on the prowl.
You think he's taking stock of Troy for a long minute before you realize that he's gaping at you.
It's a mutual stare-off until he finally ambles over to you, Troy all but goggling from where Tattoo Guy is unsuccessfully trying to redivert his attention. "Why, Cynthia," Brian drawls. "I had no idea that your personal assistance extended beyond nine-to-five." There was a hesitance in his tone, however well-hidden, though, and you hurry to put him at ease.
"My cousin Troy is in town from New York for the weekend," you say, indicating said relative, who strikes what he probably hopes is a predatory pose. Tattoo Guy looks irritated that his fish has pretty much swam away. Brian eyes Troy but doesn't say anything. "He told me to bring him somewhere that felt like home. How's the beer, anyways?" you finish with a small, disarming smile. You're gratified when Brian returns it.
"Tastes like piss," he declares. "But that's not what keeps this place in business."
You never end up asking Brian whether he is or isn't. You don't have to - it'd be like his asking you if the earth was round.
The first time you hear the name "Justin" in conjunction with Brian, it's when a slight blonde woman politely demands to see him. You don't recognize her, and Brian doesn't seem to treat her with the same disdain that he reserves for members of his own family. Your curiosity is further stirred when you see Brian toting the large duffel bag she brings with her home in his Jeep at the end of the day.
You don't meet Justin until well after that, when he stops in to "visit with Mr. Kinney, please." You're the one who smiles politely at him, a towheaded teenager with a mischievous gleam that belies his cordiality, now desperately curious to learn more about how he and Brian became 'acquainted'.
Your wish is soon granted. Justin's presence becomes almost as frequent a fixture as Michael's phone calls. Sometimes, Brian makes him wait quite a while, and often, he snarks him, but Justin always seems able to hold his own. You'll never forget the day Brian suggested that Justin "get his ass into gear and do his homework" rather than hang around "bothering" him all day, and Justin calmly-yet-cheekily retorted, "you know there are better things you want to do with my ass." Your favorite part was the feral but almost proud look Brian tossed back at him before practically yanking the kid into his office and locking the door.
You don't think anyone else notices, but the Brian Kinney who, rumor has it, routinely makes waves on Liberty Avenue for showing up everywhere with his little blond protege in tow, seems somehow happier. It's a subtle difference, because Brian is still a brutally honest boss and has the most balls-to-the-wall business tactics you've ever seen, but you pick up on an extra gleam in his eye, a bit of a spring in his step. You can tell that Justin is totally enamoured with the older man, and after you accidentally walk in on Brian giving him a very passionate kiss (in your defense, the door was halfway open), you have a feeling it's reciprocated, even if Brian won't say as much.
You think probably it's because Brian doesn't hold words in terribly high regard. It's the mark of a sharp ad-man: making up fancy display boards and catchy taglines for a living, words seem pretty artificial otherwise. And anyway, you have a feeling that Justin gets what Brian would say, if he wasn't so jaded, and that's what really counts.
The day you glance at the paper spread across one of the tables in the agency's cafeteria and see Justin's picture on the front page, underneath the glaring headline, 'gay teen attacked at Prom', the coffee you're holding slips through your fingers and shatters on the slick tile.
Brian doesn't talk to anyone for the better part of three days, just holes himself up in his office and works on a small handful of upcoming campaigns. He tells you - pleads, really - to simply keep taking his calls, and you do, stopping in a few times a day otherwise to make sure he's ... not okay, certainly, but faring under the circumstances.
Brian's normally snappish disposition is upped tenfold, and you soon learn that this is Brian Kinney in the absence of both his best friend (Michael has apparently up and moved across the country with his partner) and his comatose lover. Several times, you watch employees scurry out of meetings looking as if they're the sole survivor of a plane crash. Once, a student intern from Carnegie-Mellon winds up sobbing on the couch in the break room after Brian tells her he thinks her latest mock-ups are "for shit". You take it upon yourself, figuring that few others realize the reason for Brian's absolutely vitriolic behavior, and that with great knowledge comes great responsibility, or something, and pat her hand, reassuring her that it's not the end of her career.
You bring coffee to Brian one morning, along with a carefully recorded page of messages on stationary with the Ryder logo printed at the top. It's been a little over a week since Justin's attack, and the hollowed look in Brian's eyes hasn't gone away; is, in fact, only accentuated by the accompanying dark circles and sunken cheekbones. By day, holed up in his spacious yet confining office, he throws himself into his work, dispassionately, like a suicidal man throwing himself off a cliff. And though you aren't sure how he spends his evenings, it's painfully obvious that the agenda doesn't include a whole lot of sleep.
"Morning, Brian," you say when you enter, setting the steaming mug down alongside the list of phone calls. Brian gives you a barely perceptable nod, and you know that you'll come back later to find the cup drained, even if Brian wouldn't make coffee for himself. You turn to leave, and then decide to break a now nine-day tradition of near-silence.
"I'm really, really sorry about Justin," you say quietly. Brian stops pretending to be busy and looks up, and you almost gasp at the expression of raw pain etched into every corner of his face.
"So am I," he half-whispers, and you leave respectfully, pretending you don't hear what sounds like the first sounds of muffled sobbing as the door shuts behind you.
Five days later, you bolt excitedly from your desk and burst into Brian's inner-sanctuary. He's entertaining one of his many stuffy clients, and looks simultaneously bored and irked. "Any calls I get can wait," he snaps, but you won't be deterred.
"You'll want to get this one," you say simply, then set the sticky note on scratched the message on down on his desk. 'Lindsay called - Justin woke up', it says in large, excited text.
Brian's face is unreadable, but brimming with emotion. "Thank you," he murmurs, probably not even to you, his voice several shades warmer than just a moment before.
Brian's never quite the same after that. His determination and success at work never faulter (and in fact, once Ryder sells the company to Vanguard and he ends up having to play a desperate game of cat-and-mouse to keep his job, you think Brian's grit and determination are even more notable), and he still does a passable imitation of a heartless bastard, but you've been taking his calls long enough by then to know it's only a facade.
You can also tell when he and Justin have had it out, because Brian is a little grumpier, has a little less of a spring in his step. And really, Brian's surlyness is at its peak of charming when he exudes it only begrudgingly. Literally having him pissed off or depressed takes all the fun out of it. And quite seriously, you're rather fond of Justin. He's cute and smart and always greets you on the phone by your first name and asks if you want something from Starbucks because it's right on his way to Brian's office. His absence, when it occurs, is striking - you grow as accustomed to his friendly demeanor as you do his full-faced, bright smile.
You quietly mourn when he doesn't stop by for almost eight months, and then grin broadly when he makes waves as the new student intern. You're proudly stunned when he and Brian get canned - the reason for which is actually just as scandalous as the accompanying rumors - and not entirely surprised when Brian starts up his own ad firm in the same year, because he's Brian fucking Kinney and he can do that. He asks you to join him and you don't hesitate. And as you watch Brian pop open a bottle of champagne in a toast to Kinnetik, and then pull Justin up on stage in the fledgling company's new conference room, you almost cry with joy. But instead, you just sniffle, and then proceed to drown your "sorrows" in a small but rich wedge of cheesecake.
You're there when Brian screams at you that Justin is an asshole and shouldn't be let past the front door, and feel really out of the loop when it's accompanied by some out-of-the-blue announcement that Brian's going on a trip to Ibiza. You don't find out that it's to get a testicle removed until well after he's gotten back, and right in the midst of Brian playing superhero with a local AIDS hospice (a role that Justin assures you he secretly loves to don). It'd make sense that he'd have something to prove to himself, by not only single-handedly (and single-balled) saving the hospice, but also finishing the race (single-handedly, even, he tells you wryly as he hobbles into the office the following Monday with a broken collarbone and his arm in a sling).
You hear that Justin's leaving for Hollywood for six months or so soon after that. Brian tells you this in passing one afternoon, and he's trying so hard to pretend it doesn't bother him but failing miserably. "So, Hollywood," you enthuse. "That's fun. Want me to schedule in any surprise visits?"
He glowers at you, but it's akin to a lion cub trying to impersonate its father. "If it's a surprise, I wouldn't be telling you about it," he says matter-of-factly.
"Oh," you say with a small smile.
He leans back and spreads his arms sanctimoniously across his desk. "Not to worry, Cynthia," he continues breezily. "If I decide to take another sudden vacation from work, I'll give you at least two minutes' advance notice."
"Your concern is touching," you laugh, genuinely amused, and also a little horrified because you can see him doing just that.
"I know," he says in response. You lapse into a thoughtful, shared silence. "Well," he finally says. "Don't you have some calls to be taking?"
You do, you really do, so you head back out to your desk, making a mental note to call Brian's travel agent and book a trip to California for a couple of months down the road. He can pretend to be angry and yell at you for it later.
(Cross-posted to my personal journal; feedback appreciated like Brian appreciates Cynthia for putting up with his shit [read: A LOT]).
P.S.: Am just curious if RPS 'fic is allowed here -- because I'm kinda-sorta working on one containing the words for the #6 challenge, and I thought it'd be neat to be able to post it here. :>