In this scene from Gathering Storm, Brian and Hunter meet for the first time:
Maybe fifteen minutes later, our cab pulled to the curb on a quiet street in Noe Valley. It was the first time I’d seen the compact Victorian that Kieran and his brother inherited a few months ago, after their dad died. Two people were on the little front porch, one in a wheelchair, the other flat on his back. After we paid the cab driver, Christopher ran up to the prone figure and I trailed after him, eyeing Brian suspiciously as I turned up my collar against the heavy rain.
Like his brother, Brian was a big guy with broad shoulders. He was dressed in a grubby t-shirt with a bandana tied around his head, arms crossed over his chest. A thick beard and long, brown hair kind of made him look like a Hell’s Angels wanna-be. He was a double amputee, both legs ending somewhere below the knee, but this was obscured by his baggy sweatpants. From everything I’d heard about this guy, he was a homophobic asshole, and most definitely on my shit list.
“Kier, are you okay?” Christopher asked as he dropped to his knees and rested a hand on his fiancé’s forehead.
“I will be, baby,” Kieran said with a little smile.
“Well, turns out I’m not much of a plumber.”
“Ya think?” Brian muttered.
I glared at him as I came up the stairs, and said, “Wow, way to instantly live up to your douchey reputation.”
“Who the hell are you?” Brian asked, raising an eyebrow at me. “Because I don’t remember calling anyone to fix my computer.”
“Bite me, Duck Dynasty,” I said with a sneer. Then I shot Christopher a look and tapped my thick black glasses with a fingertip. “Told you.”
“What happened?” Christopher asked Kieran.
“I dropped the toilet I was trying to replace, and wrenched my back trying to catch it,” he said.
Brian added, “Don’t forget the part about it falling all the way through to the basement, and rupturing the main sewer line in the process.”
“Turns out, the toilet had a slow leak, which rotted out the wood beneath the tiles,” Kieran said. “It’s surprising the floor didn’t collapse sooner.”
“Fucking awesome,” Brian muttered.
“God, you’re ungrateful,” I told him, hands on my hips. “Your brother was trying to fix things for you.”
“My brother just caused a crater in our only downstairs bathroom!” Brian exclaimed.
“He was still trying to help, and he doesn’t deserve your shitty attitude.”
“Screw you,” Brian said.
“Wow, clever comeback.”
“Who the hell are you?” he repeated.
“I’m your very favorite thing, yet another gay guy. You’re totally outnumbered.”
“Yeah, because I really needed you to tell me you’re gay,” he said.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “And I didn’t need to be told you’re a rude, homophobic dickhead.”
Christopher interrupted us, asking his fiancé, “Why are you out on the porch?”
“Well,” Kieran said, “turns out when you rupture a main sewer line, your entire house reeks of raw sewage. It’s uninhabitable in there, and the plumber I called can’t get replacement parts until tomorrow.”
“Come on,” Christopher said, sliding his arm behind Kieran’s shoulders. “Let me help you up. I’ll drive you to the emergency room.”
Kieran sat up slowly, wincing with pain. “That might be an idea. I don’t know what I did to my back, but it’s definitely not good.”
“What’re you going to do with Grizzly Adams over there?” I asked, tilting my head toward Brian.
“They don’t need to do anything with me,” he snapped.
“Oh really?” I asked. “Because last I checked, it’s pissing down rain and you’re stuck on the tiny porch of a poop-scented house.” That earned me a hard glare.
“Brian will need someplace to stay for the next few days, until I can get that bathroom floor rebuilt,” Kieran said, standing very, very slowly.
My friend chewed his lip as he helped his fiancé to his feet, Kieran’s face contorting with pain. “Well,” Christopher said, “I’d suggest dropping him off at our apartment, but there’s no elevator. The gallery downstairs is accessible, but other than four walls, it doesn’t have much to offer.” Kieran tried to straighten up a bit, but doubled over with a grunt, and Christopher tightened his grip on him and spoke to him soothingly.
“I’ll make sure Cro-magnon Man gets situated somewhere,” I said. “You just worry about Kieran, he’s not looking so good.” All the color had drained from his face and he’d broken out in a light sweat, breathing quickly and shallowly to try to manage the pain that standing up had caused.
“That seems like a really bad idea,” my friend said, glancing from Brian to me.
“It’ll be fine,” I told him. “I’m not going to roll him off the Bay Bridge or anything, no matter how tempting that is. Now go on, get Kieran to the hospital and hooked up with some pain killers, stat.”
Christopher weighed his options for a few moments, and came up empty. “Well, okay. I’ll check in with you as soon as I can,” he said, and focused on his injured partner. They started down the wheelchair ramp, moving at a snail’s pace, and I tugged off my overcoat and draped it over Kieran’s slumped form to keep the rain off him.
“Thanks,” he murmured.
“You’re welcome. Feel better, Kier,” I called as I ducked back under the roof of the porch. When they reached Kieran’s rusty old Ford Mustang, Christopher helped him into the passenger seat before jogging around to the driver’s side. After he started it up, the car kind of lurched away from the curb. I’d never seen my friend drive before, and wondered if he actually had a license.
“What are you still doing here?” Brian wanted to know. “Aren’t they expecting you back at Geek Squad headquarters?”
I pointed a finger at him. “Don’t think I won’t bitch slap you, Chewbacca. Now who do you want me to call to come get your sweatpants-wearing ass?”
“Just go away.”
“Gladly. As soon as you tell me who to call.” I pulled my phone from my pocket and waved it in the air.
“I can dial a damn phone, nerdboy. Leave.”
“Is your phone on you?”
“No, it’s inside.” He rolled over to the door and tried the handle, then ran a hand over his face.
“Lock yourself out?” I asked, and he sighed and glared at me. “Here, use mine.” I held the phone out to him, and he looked at it and then looked away.
“Don’t tell me, let me guess. You’ve alienated all of your friends and family with this angry-at-the-world pity party you’ve had going on for God knows how long, and now there’s no one to call. Am I right?”
“I’m exactly right, aren’t I?”
That pissed him off, and he yelled, “Just go to hell, you fucking f—”
I cut him off, getting right in his face and yelling back, “I swear to God, if you say faggot I will force feed you your nasty-ass ZZ Top beard!”
Surprisingly, he grinned, just a little. Then he said, “I was going to say fucker.”
“You were going to call me a fucking fucker?”
“Yeah, I was.” When I shot him a look, he added, “What? It’s not like I rehearsed it.” That tiny grin still lingered.
“Do I amuse you?” I asked, straightening up and putting my hands on my hips again.
“You just threatened to force feed me my beard. Was that not supposed to be amusing?”
“I’m colorful. So sue me.” I waved the phone again and said, “Really? There’s not a single person you want to call?”
“I was going to call a cab and have it take me to a motel, except that my wallet’s locked inside, too.”
“Okay. So, I’ll take you to a hotel and check you in, and you can pay me back later.”
He glanced up at me suspiciously, one eyebrow raised. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I promised Christopher I’d look after you, and he and Kieran have enough to worry about right now. I want to be able to report that you’re safe and sound.”
“I’m not a child. I don’t need you looking after me.”
“Like hell you don’t.”
“Wow, another damn fine comeback. And you know you need my help, Brian. That probably hurts your big, stupid, hetero ego, but I really don’t give a shit.”
“Stop acting like you know a damn thing about me.”
And somehow, even after that rough start, they fell in love. :)
Stay tuned for more from Hunter and Brian in All I Ever Wanted.