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27 May 2006 @ 08:28 pm

“I’m not sure having me here is a great idea,” Cynthia is trying to chicken out on me. Give it up, girl. We’re in my kitchen, preparing jambalaya, one of Justin’s favorite dishes. He says Brian likes it. I suspect Brian would eat it just to make him happy.

“If you think I’m taking all the blame for this, think again,” I tease her as I refill our glasses with this exceptionally good merlot I found on sale at my favorite wine shop. I think we’re a little east of tipsy, which is making this whole cooking thing more enjoyable.

“Here’s to a successful beginning, anyway,” Cynthia taps my glass with hers. We drink. I add a little more Tabasco to the brew in the big wrought iron pot.

“They’re in the same room,” I observe. “They had a couple days alone together after they found each other, as I knew they would. We can’t live their lives for them, and make the right decisions for them, they have to do that. But at least we got them in the same vicinity through a little careful planning.”

“And then nature took its course,” she says with a smile. “Maybe I should turn my shitty love life over to your manipulations.”

“Forget it,” I say with a sigh. “Look at my own.”

She begins slicing a baguette to add the butter and garlic seasoning. We’ll then wrap it in foil until it’s time to put it in the oven. “Do you think you’ll ever get married again, Jennifer?”

“I’m in no rush to marry, and I really don’t think I need to be married. But I would like someone to date. I miss having a man in my life. So long as he isn’t Craig.” We both giggle, a sure sign of too much good wine. Molly comes in with her usual adolescent scowl. What makes adolescents so nasty anyway? Little do they know how good they have it. Youth is truly wasted on the young.

“I’m not eating that,” she dismisses the jambalaya with a glance.

“Why not?” Cynthia asks, unclear on the concept of teenaged girls and their moods. It’s been awhile since she was a nasty teenaged girl, and way longer than that for me. Molly narrows her eyes at the pretty blonde.

“Because it’s rank. It smells funny and it’s too spicy.”

“Then you can eat salad and bread,” I inform her as she opens the freezer and glares at the myriad of “lite” pre-packaged meals.

“I’ll fix something for myself and eat in my room.”

“Molly, your brother and his partner are coming to dinner. You will join us and you will act human.”

She turns to look at me. “Brian is coming?”

I nod. She slams the refrigerator shut and storms out of the room, proclaiming, “You could have told me! I have to change!”

Cynthia and I share a look and I shrug. “His charm extends beyond the boys of Babylon.”

She laughs. “Don’t I know it? I went through my crushing on Brian stage.”

“You did?”

“Oh sure. When I was his assistant at the other firm. My first day on the job, I was telling my friends, ‘I’m going to marry my boss’. I used all my little tricks on him. Flinging the hair back, short skirts, glittery lip gloss, a black bra under a white blouse, but he was a brick wall. Then one day he said to me that we were having a very important client meeting the next day and suggested I wear my Ellen Tracy suit, that it looked good on me. And instead of the Ferragamo’s I usually wore it with, try the Jimmy Choo slingbacks since they sexed it up subtly. Ding, ding, ding, it finally got through that Mr. Metrosexual wasn’t so metro after all. He was gay.”

I laugh. “It is difficult to tell with Brian. He comes across as straight, unless you happen to see him with my son, and then there’s no doubt. I raised Justin, and I always suspected he could be gay. He’s just effeminate enough to broadcast that fact, but Brian is a tough read.”

“He has his queenie moments, believe me. He may not be effeminate, but he can queen out with the best of the drama monarchs.”

We both giggle. “I hated Brian, at first,” I admit. “I felt like he was taking advantage of Justin. He was too old, too sophisticated. I knew he would hurt him, and he did. But then I saw how he stood up to my husband and that started me thinking. Later, when Justin got bashed, I blamed Brian. I felt he shouldn’t have gone to that prom, that he set him up for the trouble that came. Looking back, I know it was a loving gesture, his showing up there at that prom, and very courageous. I’m firmly convinced of how much he loves my son. Brian’s very vulnerable, beneath all that egomania. I think I’ve transferred some of my protective mama feelings to him.”

“God knows he needs it, given that she-wolf who gave birth to him.”

“At least he has Debbie.”

“Don’t get me started on her.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean from watching Debbie interact with Brian, I’m reminded of a shit sandwich. It looks fine on top and bottom but in the middle, it’s still full of shit. She’s so inconsistent in her feelings for Brian. She goes from loving him or appearing to love him, to treating him like shit in five minutes flat.”

I realize I’ve seen that happen. But that’s Debbie. She’s so volatile. The front door opens and I hear Justin say, “We’re here.” We meet halfway between the kitchen and the living room. Brian isn’t with him, but he’s holding his partner’s coat, so I assume he’s here somewhere. I kiss his cheek as he sniffs the air. “Jambalaya?”

I nod. “Where’s Brian?”

“Sitting down. I’m getting him a Coke. He’s not drinking at the moment.”

I walk past him and see Brian sitting rather stiffly in the suede chair with the matching ottoman. He doesn’t attempt to get up. I can read his discomfort in his pallor and his pose. He offers me a half smile and a salute, but I lean over to kiss his clammy forehead. “How badly are you hurt?”

“I’m sidelined for the Super Bowl. There goes the Steelers last hope for a win.”

I laugh at that. “I made a nice raw veggie and ranch dip? Want some?” I pick up the tray, but he waves it away.

“No thanks. I’ll save myself for dinner.”

“Brian, do you want to lie down? You look miserable.”

“It’s that damned Corvette, Mom,” Justin re-enters and hands Brian a can of Coke. I try to tell him to please pour it in a glass but he never hears me so I’ve given up. I think drinking out of cans is tacky. “It’s so low, getting him in and out of the car was a torture, and the shocks on that thing are ridiculous.”

“Don’t dis my car,” Brian grumbles. “It’s not the car’s fault I’m banged up.”

Justin flops down on the couch and sips his beer from a bottle. He beams at Brian and replies, “Yeah, whose fault is that again?”

“If you give me a minute, I can find a way to make it your fault, Sunshine.”

I smile at one man and then the other. They’re interacting again. Cynthia joins us. “Hi, boss. Justin.”

“Didn’t I fire you?” Brian glares at her and she laughs.

“Billing system, remember?”

He continues to glare as my son says, “Both of you were wrong to do what you did. It was manipulative and interfering and could have blown up in your faces. You don’t have the right to pull games on us. This is our relationship, not yours.”

“You’re both so stubborn and prideful that you sat in your separate cities and were separately miserable. Friends, and moms, don’t let friends be miserable if they can help them.” I explain. Cynthia high fives me.

“You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?” Brian contributes.

“At least it’s a plan, Brian. You two didn’t seem to have one, now did you?”

Silence. Brian laughs. “Who knew women would be making an effort to restore order in my miserable love life?”
Justin leaned over to kiss the top of his head, bringing a grimace from him. “Maybe that’s what was missing. The feminine touch?”

“Really? You mean you aren’t feminine enough?”

I watch Justin elbow him and Brian groan as if in more pain than he is. The obvious affection between them makes me feel warmer than any wine. Any Tabasco sauce. Anything.

“Hi, Brian,” Molly’s voice comes from the stairs. We all look over at her. She’s gone from glum adolescent in sweats to Lolita in short skirt and tummy revealing top. She’s obviously unclear on the concept of gay, but then she still has time to learn. Justin leans back against Brian, staring at his sister as Brian says,

“Uh, hi, Molly. Nice belly button.”

She beams as her brother drops his head on Brian’s shoulder, muffling his laughter in his lover’s sweater.
Current Mood: bouncybouncy
vegamytevegamyte on May 28th, 2006 12:53 am (UTC)
You always have everyone's voice down, but especially so in this chapter....really vivid and fun.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:08 am (UTC)
Thanks I was tired and I see a ton of errors now. SIGH. Sorry about that
damietta on May 28th, 2006 01:21 am (UTC)
Cynthia coming on to Brian must have been a constant source of amusement to him. He also must have really liked her to not hurtfully tell her off. They are a good team. And, she certainly saw through Debbie didn't she? (Although Jennifer's Debbie being Debbie comment made me wince...someone needs to shake that redhead when it comes to Brian (cue Vic).)

I love how you circled back around to the jambalaya, nice touch there. And, the coke in the can moment, LOL (my Mom used to go ape over that as well.)


rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:09 am (UTC)
mine too. that and condiment bottles on the table. moms are weird.
(Anonymous) on May 28th, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
Great post. I loved Cyn describing her moment of realization, Molly's sudden need to change her clothes, and, especially, Cyn's description of Deb. It's odd, and sad, that the employee and the outraged mother have turned out to be better friends to Brian than those who claim the name.

Since Jen's lamenting her lack of anyone to date, I assume she broke up with the younger man she was seeing 5th season? Too bad, they made an interesting couple -- and it really annoyed Justin, which is a bonus for me. ;)

I wonder if that jambalaya is going to be edible with two drunk chefs adding a little of this and a little of that. Sounds like you've been watching Top Chef too much!

Ann Marie
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:10 am (UTC)
it is isnt it, but I think it tracks with their canon. I'm kind of ignoring the whole younger man side plot, I found it unnecessary, sorry. I did think of it, but decided not using it. I have watched too much top chef, true!!
Bow ties are cool.: Justin bitesmi_nion on May 28th, 2006 01:23 am (UTC)
Oh my! Molly seems to have developed a crush on Brian.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:11 am (UTC)
as do we all. BWAHAAAAAAAA
thumpathumpa on May 28th, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
Jennifer and Cynthia plotting together....hmmmmm!!!

Poor Molly......she totally doesn't get it!

I'm glad Justin and Brian do not seem to be too angry with Jennifer and Cynthia for their meddling ways.
Now I think they should leave well enough alone.
We'll see!!

rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:11 am (UTC)
she's young and can be forgiven. its brian after all.
queenydivaqueenydiva on May 28th, 2006 01:43 am (UTC)
I loved the way you described Cynthia's crush and moment of realization, lol! I'm glad the boys aren't TOO upset with Jennifer and Cynthia for their machinations. After all, the end result was good, right? RIGHT?!
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC)
I dont think they are.
brianslave68brianslave68 on May 28th, 2006 02:17 am (UTC)
I love the alliance these two ladies have formed!

It's amazing to see the transformation Jennifer has gone through. Back in season 1 she never would have thought she'd be scheming to get these two TOGETHER!

I sure hope Molly gets educated soon about homosexuality!

Can't wait for the next Rand!
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC)
she'll learn. I like jen and cyn as friends. I always loved cyn, and still do.
qafaddiction: ran romance paperworkqafaddiction on May 28th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
I wonder if Molly is really unclear on the concept of gay, or if dressing that way just makes her *feel* sexy even if intellectually she knows nothing would ever happen... she obviously has fun flirting with Brian, and he's sweet not to shut her down or embarrass her. Maybe she's just in early fag-hag training. heh.

As for the boys, I'm interested in whether they've decided to share the fact that they have a plan. I bet they're reluctant to do so -- it would mean admitting that Jen and Cyn's motives were worthwhile. ;)

Totally agree about Debbie's inconsistency.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:13 am (UTC)
I think she's just testing the goods and knows brian is safe. love the dilbert icon, love dilbert.
Wren: bj_naughtyboyswren_kt7oz on May 28th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
What a great chapter.

What a great illustration of love - in many forms. Having a crush on someone and then getting over it to genuinely become their friend and want them to be happy in their life (aka, "Mikey get a clue"), of loving difficult teenagers through all their moods and affectations (note to Mel for the future because I can already hear the "you're just like your father" rants that are going to rain down on Gus someday), and most of all, love that isn't dependent on the loved one doing or being just what you want them to do or be at that moment.

Favourite line - of course - is the "shit sandwich" reference to Debbie's love.

I know all the arguments about how she and Mikey "saved" Brian and he should be eternally grateful yadda yadda. But the truth is that in so many ways she was the worst thing that could have happened to Brian.

To fall from Joanie's uncompromising lovelessness into Deb's clutches - where the promise of love, of acceptance, was always there, but always dependent on him meeting all her conditions (mainly, put Michael's feelings first, always) - I suspect that that was even more damaging to Brian's psyche and his self esteem than Joanie and Jack had been. Because he never could meet Deb's conditions for more than a moment or two at a time, and so he had it reinforced over and over that the failure was in him. Deb was a loving Mom. She loved Michael unconditionally. And she tried to love him, but she couldn't so that must be his fault. And to please her, to try to win that love, he learned to do what she demanded, and take on responsibility for everything that happened in Mikey's life. To take the blame whenever Mikey didn't study, or failed a test, or anything else that went wrong.

What a nightmare!

Whatever corners of his being Joanie and Jack hadn't already fucked over, Deb did. And dear little Michael of course. Always ready to "defend" Brian with that pathetic "he's my best friend" whine - but letting him take all the blame for all that.

Ah, well ... rant over. But thank you for putting that "shit sandwich" reference out there. I am so tired of hearing how wonderful Deb was to Brian when he was growing up.

Oh, and on a much more pleasant note - loved the last line. It was such a warm image - that family moment of shared laughter.

Very nice. Builds the hope.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
I have to agree on Deb and I hate that they did that because i think sharon and gale had a great chemistry and had some truly exceptional scenes together. Why couldnt they have allowed brian to have a step mom not some chamelion who would turn on him like a monster? I think that was a writing failure. its like they never watched their own show. How interesting would it have been to have michael feel competitive with brian for deb's affection? But nooooo
carolyn_cd on May 28th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
Now this chapter was just flat out fun to read. I always enjoy "hearing" another characters take on these two. I like seeing them through the eyes of a third party. In this case, the setting was especially enjoyable.

Cyn and Jen in cahoots and getting the desired result. Thanks, Ran.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:17 am (UTC)
velcum. I enjoyed writing it, errors and all.
Totallyfrelledtotallyfrelled on May 28th, 2006 03:15 am (UTC)
This was so clear and the characters so perfect that I can honestly say that I forgot that I was reading it and not watching it!
You had everyone down so well that the scene played out, very enjoyably, before my eyes!

I'm so glad that Cyn tried to set Jen straight on Debbie's treatment of Brian - and I was really pleased to see Jen's explanation of her growing affection for him.

This was a great and truly well crafted post.
Totally Frelled.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:18 am (UTC)
thanks frelled, glad you likey
sandiD: perchance to dreamsandid on May 28th, 2006 03:36 am (UTC)
Loved the visual of Jennifer and Cynthia drinking, cooking and giving each other high fives. I could see them doing that.

Brian and Justin....they make me feel warm inside, too.

Molly, well....oh, what an age.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:19 am (UTC)
oh yeah, I was a monster at that age, no doubt about it
TKtclark1922 on May 28th, 2006 03:52 am (UTC)
This is a great comment: Friends, and moms, don’t let friends be miserable if they can help them.” I explain. Cynthia high fives me. Explains to the boys why the two more important women in their lives banded together to try to help them but also serves notice that they have clear support from at this particular corner. Another great part, among others, is Cynthia's observation of Debbie's actions towards Brian. I'm glad someone else, besides Justin, sees what she does to Brian and isn't fooled by that on again/off again mothering she gives him.

Great chapter. Thanks for a great Jennifer chapter...I liked her much more when she started to realize that Brian was a good man who was indeed in love w/ her son and stopped treating him like he was responsible for everything that had gone wrong in Justin's life.

rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC)
Me too, seeing the change in jennifer was one thing they got right
bksbracelet: your sancturybksbracelet on May 28th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
Brilliant chapter Randall I was so into it I sighed with sadness when it ended. So clearly nailed, the perception by Cyn that Deb was a poor replacement for Joanie, and probably did as much damage over the years. Jennifer voicing her 180 change of feelings for Brian and being partly instrumental in bringing the boys together masterful. Great voices, I have read this three times I have enjoyed it immensly thank you cheers Chris
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:20 am (UTC)
thanks chris!!
beth23beth23 on May 28th, 2006 05:41 am (UTC)
This was so perfectly written that I was drawn into the story. I felt I was attending this small dinner party instead of reading about it. I was ready to grab the Merlot and continue the subterfuge with the ladies.

So many priceless and candid moments. It is bittersweet reading your work. It has definitely filled the void left. But I know Gale's talent would finally flourish with your work. Makes me even more mad at CL for wasting his beautiful portrayal of BK and betraying their own character for their twisted agenda. Ok will stop the rant but I wish CL had half your talent.
rand_altrand_alt on May 28th, 2006 11:21 am (UTC)
naw, but I would give a nut to be able to write a scene and see Gale perform it!! SIGGGGHHHH