Virtue and Vice
by Brian O. and Heather

This is a 'he said/she said' approach to the battle for the soul, featuring Brian Kinney and Cynthia. Practicing the contrary virtues is said to protect us against temptation toward the seven deadly sins: humility against pride, kindness against envy, abstinence against gluttony, chastity against lust, patience against anger, liberality against greed, and diligence against sloth. How do these two measure up?


He's tall, with a strong, lean body honed on the machines at the gym. He dresses well -- the right designers, the right cut, the right colors -- but its his face that sets him apart. Classic features revered by artists for centuries; the pouty lips of a bad little boy; and eyes like a predatory puma. He knows of these strengths and he uses them to his advantage. But no amount of power, attention, conquest or head-turning will ever convince him that hes better than the plainest wallflower at the dance of life. He was humbled by his family, by the way he was raised, by his deep insecurities. This fundamental belief in his lack of worth undermines his superficial arrogance.


She's easy on the eyes, and she knows it. Tall, slender, pretty. Curves in all the right places, and hips that sway 'just so' when she crosses a room in the former bath house like she's strutting down the catwalk. Her smooth, sun-kissed skin gives way to a mane of soft, blonde waves. Sure, she spends a lot of time in front of the mirror, but image is a part of the Advertising business, and overt humility would only impede progress. Kinnetik has to sell itself to the clients before it can sell those clients' wares to the consumer. The men she comes across in the hallways will sometimes wink, or give her the 'once-over', but they aren't what she's after. She wants someone who can stop all conversation simply by walking into a room. She wants long legs, strong arms, bedroom eyes, and sexual chemistry so volcanic that the entire neighborhood would be begging for a cigarette. She wants someone who's beautiful, like her.


He tries to present a bluff that suggests hes gruff, uncaring and involved only in himself and his own pleasures. And yet, he bought a comic book that started Michael's business. He took himself out of the mix when Michael's relationship with Doctor Dave hit the rocks. He gave Lindsay the child she always wanted, despite his own reservations. And then he gave up his rights to that child to mend her relationship with Melanie. He gave Justin a place to stay when he had no home, paid for his school when no one else would -- even after Justin left him for another man. He intervened when Ted was in trouble, and gave him a job when he was disgraced. He shored Emmett up when Ted tried to drag him into his drug addiction and helped solve the murder of a man he never knew, even though it worked to his political disadvantage. For a man who has seen very little kindness from those he holds dear, he excels at showing it to them.


She knows he's gay. It has never really been a secret, and certainly not after the harrassment suit. Knows he doesn't like pussy, but when he flirts with the blonde who drops off his son, she feels a knot twist inside her stomach. Even if he did swing her way, he wouldn't do 'girlfriends' any sooner than he'd do boyfriends. Doesn't matter... she's a woman, and she likes men. She likes THIS man. She watches him from afar, and up close. She loves how he closes a deal, combining rapier wit with business acumen when going in for the kill. In that instant, a friend becomes a foe, if only for a moment. He's a sight to behold, boardroom or bedroom, and the images fuel her fantasies even further.


No carbs after seven. Enough said.


Working lunches, overtime hours, and weekend marathons add up to one thing: take-out. Her desk drawer is a smorgasbord of take-out menus from every cuisine available within a 10-mile radius. He loves pad-Thai, but good old Chinese will do. Italian, Vietnamese, even Greek... they eat it all. Abstinence brings only stubborn hunger pains. And while she's starting to notice a few extra pounds on her hips, the bastard looks skinnier than ever.


Most would laugh at the use of his name and the word "chastity" in the same sentence. But an alternative definition for chastity is personal integrity. He lives by his own moral code. He's never a seducer who lures men into his web with his beauty and the promise of more to come. He's blunt about what he expects and what he's willing to give. More than anything else, his integrity is sacrosanct to him. Whatever else he lacks, he has no shortage of integrity.


The raspberry stain sweeps his lips like watercolor on stretched canvas. His eyes, so much like a cat's, showcase green and gold fighting for dominance in an impossibly gorgeous orbital garden. He is beautiful in a way that most women can only dream of being. She stares at him wistfully as he gives the pitch. For a split second, their eyes meet, and she could swear he is force-feeding dirty thoughts straight into her mind like an intravenous injection. His mouth promises many strange and wonderful sensations as she imagines it traveling the length of her body... hot and cold, with the slightest hint of teeth nipping at her inner thigh. She knows instinctively that he would mark his prize, leaving reminders that would burn into her skin just as the wicked thoughts burn into her brain.


He could wait it out. He could wait for Justin to get past his anger at being bashed, even when he directed it at him. He could wait for Justin to get back from his job in California. He could wait forever. For he expects nothing, and when he gets nothing back, since that is what he always expects, he isn't surprised.


So, he's leaving. Again. Taking time off when they are barely keeping their heads above water. A new business needs attention and care, nuturance like a young plant. She has Ted, and the skeleton staff they had managed to lure away from Vanguard, but none of them were Brian Kinney. His name is on the door. But he's not in his office, and it tries her patience more than she lets on.


He mortgaged everything he had to defeat principles he could no longer defend. He didn't expect to be paid back; on the contrary, he expected nothing in return for risking everything. He supported his son when he wasn't entitled to any rights with him; he supported Justin when he lived with another man; he risked a steady income to take a flyer on his own business, choosing freedom and integrity over certainty. Greed is not on his agenda.


She knows he needs her. There are days when she feels like his personal slave, taking orders and abuse from every direction. But she wouldn't trade it for anything, because it means spending more time with him. She tells him to go -- home to Justin, to his friends, to unwind -- she will take care of things. She will do whatever he needs. But, it isn't in his nature to leave her in the lurch. He will stay, and they'll order in again. And she'll have him all to herself for another night, on the couch... even if it all they do is pour over paperwork.


It takes a lot of drugs, alcohol and sex to get Brian to calm down, even for a few moments of sloth. He always feels he has to outperform everyone, in business, in the sack, in the hunt. That requires constant diligence. How else would he be able to keep up and surpass the competition? Because he started out behind the pack to begin with, as a member of one of the most targeted and hated minorities in the world. He's a faggot. And that means he always has to work harder than others in order to succeed (unless he had gone into Couture, and unfortunately he was born without that skill).


Her weekends are spent pining. She tries to distract herself, with cleaning, and busywork, but it just isn't fulfilling anymore. Diligence is slowly being replaced by apathy. She's seen every movie in her collection a dozen times. Eating ice cream and assorted junk food, never changing from her sweats, falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV, ready to start all over again Monday morning.


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