Chapter 1: Chapter 1
I realize I have some ongoing stories... I've been working on them but yeah, I've been out of the loop for various reasons... but I started and (gasp) finished a story.
Many thanks to beta Big J and to Butterflytiger_1982!!
This is VERY anti-Mikey. I'm not, but this story is...
I walk into the church and am immediately wrapped in the warm music flowing from the organ; it soon ends and the cavernous space is silent except for a few coughs and a sneeze or two. I stand at the very back of the church and wait breathlessly; then he stands proudly, although I can tell he's a little nervous. He searches the congregation with anxious eyes till he spots me and he smiles shyly at me. I sign, "I love you" while mouthing the words simultaneously (it's our little thing – so shut up before you snort), and I nearly melt when I see him beam at me, way too excitedly and lovingly for the solemnity of the moment and setting. That's my son, my beautiful son and he's decidedly a Kinney, even if he's in a church choir: Screw what protocol dictates, he'll smile if he damned well pleases.
Then he signs and mouths "I love you" back to me and I almost laugh out loud with pride.
So, I guess you know that normally, Brian Kinney setting foot in a church voluntarily would be a sign of the Apocalypse (without the expectation of fucking the priest, that is) - but Gus is seven years old, a beautiful singer and today is his first solo. And most of all: He's my son and I love him more than my life. Maybe that's another sign of the Apocalypse but fuck it: Bring it on. The four horsemen might be hot.
I see Lindsay's blond hair and Mel's clipped brunette 'do from the back. I can tell they both realize I'm here because Linds's shoulders are shaking as she tries to keep her laughter under control and Mel is sitting suddenly straighter, her back rigid as if in a rage. They know I'm here, not from turning to see me but because Gus is so blatantly obvious in his response to my arrival.
I lean against the wall smiling, and then notice a few people whispering because Gus isn't looking at the conductor who is poised, ready for Gus to sing - no, my son is looking at me! I point towards the conductor so Gus will turn his attention to him. He does, steels himself, takes a deep breath and begins to sing. Fuck me, but he sings so confidently, so beautifully, so purely and without effort, I'm blown away as I always am the times he's sung for me. A sap; I'm officially a sap for my boy. I can't help it.
As his melodic voice envelopes me, I relax completely. I stare in wonder and after a while my eyes wander around the entire all-boys choir. They're all fine boys but mine is the stand-out: He sings like an angel, he has a strong and happy personality, he has a healthy confidence that most of the boys his age lack and he's the most sensitive, kind child - hell, human being I've ever met. (He must've gotten those last two qualities from Lindsay.) Yes, he's definitely the stand out.
Ha. I suppose I can admit I'm a bit biased...
My wandering eyes then land on the 'conductor'; a youth himself, really - but older, of course than the children he directs; he's twenty, twenty-one, maybe. He's hot, actually - from the back, anyway. That's all I can see at the moment. He has a sizzling bubble butt and blond, longish hair - and from his movements, he's VERY into the music and is especially into how my son sings; therefore, I immediately like the man.
After the service is over and the congregation is filing out, shaking hands and exchanging platitudes with the Father at the door, I hang in the shadows, dodge Gus's Moms and hurry into the altar area where the choir has gathered to get ready to leave. The boys are changing into their 'Sunday street clothes'. I search the room for Gus and when my eyes land on him, I find him a ways to the side; he's beaming at the conductor who is apparently heaping praises on him. I make my way over to the two and when I'm within earshot, I hear the man telling Gus how phenomenal and brave he is, how proud he should be of himself, how strong and lovely his voice is and now it's not only Gus eating up his praises - it's me. That's MY son! Gawd! I may as well give up and become an official 'soccer mom'.
I reach them and stand behind the conductor; Gus looks up, noticing me and his smile gets even bigger. It looks like the top of his head might come off, his smile's so wide. "DADDY!! I'M SO HAPPY YOU CAME!! I SAW YOU! DID YOU SEE ME SIGN 'I LOVE YOU' LIKE YOU DID TO ME?" he yells, startling the conductor who turns to see me. "LIKE WE ALWAYS DO?" he adds. I'm tempted to put my finger to my lips to hush him but his excitement is so fucking endearing I decide to let him be the seven-year-old he is; Joanie would've boxed me on the ears and hissed, "Be respectful in the house of the Lord!" I refuse to channel that holy-roller freak.
The man and I are silent for a moment, looking at each other; I discover he's beautiful not just from the back. He has deep blue eyes and porcelain-like skin which looks so incredibly soft, I want to reach out and touch him right here and now.
I muster my wits and smile broadly at my son. "Yes, Sonny Boy, of course I saw you - you know I'd never miss this. And you know how I don't like to--"
"--even set foot in a church!" he finishes for me, laughing. He runs the short distance between us and I'm nearly bowled over in a fervent hug (which, I admit, I readily return). When we release each other, a small friend of his - Jason, I think - comes over and drags my boy a little ways away. I'm left here with a big, goofy smile, staring after him.
"I'm Justin." I hear from beside me. Startled, I look over and find the blond conductor guy gazing at me, his hand out to be shaken. I'd forgotten he was there for a second.
I shake his hand. "I'm Brian Kinney. I'm Gus's Daddy." Pfft. 'Duh, Kinney,' I think to myself.
"I gathered; he's thrilled you came. Honestly, I am too - I've only met his Moms. But I can easily understand why I haven't met you yet if you're not a religious person."
"I'm not a church fan. Organized religion gives me the willies, for the most part. I'm Agnostic, I guess - I dunno. The whole God/church thing just doesn't fit into my life except when it comes to Gus. Even then, I just love to see and hear him sing."
He smiles. "He's absolutely wonderful, Mr. Kinney. I'm glad you're proud of him - you ought to be," he offers almost coquettishly which must be my imagination. Church is like my kryptonite: My sexual pseudo-superpowers and sense of perception are completely dulled. "I am too, actually. Agnostic, I mean. For the most part," he adds.
I look at him a moment a little puzzled. "Hmm. And you conduct a boy's church choir - why, exactly?"
He laughs slightly and looks down shyly, kicking out a pointed toe at nothing on the floor and clasping his hands behind him. Dulled sexual powers and sense of perception aside, I would swear he's acting like an infatuated schoolgirl! "The music. The boys' voices are so moving; boys' voices aren't like women's, as many people say. There's a clarity, confidence and purity to the boys' voices that I've never heard anywhere else. Gus in particular really sings beautifully, you know..." he says with a small smile.
I smile slightly myself. "Yeah," I agree. I pause another moment. "So, you aren't some child molester, are you?" (Hey, Kinneys are Kinneys, no matter what age - at least my son and I are. Neither of us care much what others think or expect of us and neither of us beat around the bush.)
Justin's smile disappears and he looks stricken, shocked and sickened. "Wha....?" he mutters in a whisper.
"You heard me. Are you?" Merciless, aren't I? Yes. When it comes to Gus.
He shakes his head to pull himself together. He eyes me critically a second or two. "Mr. Kinney--"
"Call me Brian - unless you're some sicko..."
Justin snickers slightly. "Um... Okay, then Brian: NO, I'm not a child molester. The idea makes me sick.
"Are you?" he then asks.
Okay, now I know for sure that I like Justin. He was only thrown momentarily by my question and for someone who apparently spends a lot of time with a bunch of 'churchy' do-gooders and biddies, I'm impressed. "No," I answer, grinning wryly. "I'm perverted in much different ways: Consenting, willing adults only."
Justin chuckles. "Whips and chains, eh?"
Huh? Even my kinky brain didn't immediately jump there. "Sometimes..." I say finally. "Certainly, when requested."
"Hmm," he muses, and I notice that he's blushing like one of his Choirboys. I dare to think he looks 'adorable' but only because I'm thinking it, not saying it.
Suddenly, Justin's tackled by a wee towhead. "James!"
"Mama said I could come back here!!" the child says happily. He can't be older than four.
"I'm glad you did, son! How'd we sound to you and Mama there in the front row?"
"Lovely!" a dark-haired, lightly chocolate-skinned young woman interjects, walking up to Justin for a hug. "That child sang a lovely solo!"
Justin smiles. "Daph, meet Brian Kinney - 'that child's' father!"
The woman turns and beams at me. "Mr. Kinney - you must be so proud! Your son has a voice like an angel! And his presence and confidence are astounding!"
I shake her proffered hand and then give it a polite kiss. She blushes deeply. Gawd. "Yeah, he's a bit of a ham, I'm afraid. But thank you - Daphne, is it? And please, call me Brian."
"Yes, I'm Daphne or Daph if you like. Well, Brian, James here wants to be just like...?" She pauses and raises her brows slightly in question.
"Gus. My son's name is Gus."
"Of course! James wants to be just like Gus-- I had to shush him during the service at least three fuckin—er," [she catches herself and looks at me, stricken… but she blushes only until she see I'm grinning. Relieved, she flashes a little grin herself;] "-three times after your boy's solo… he couldn't stop raving about him! Our son is joining the choir next year we hope... he's so excited. He wants to be a choir director like his Daddy some day..." she smiles down at her child who is busy looking at all the activity around the room.
I thank her for her kind words about Gus and assure her that I'm certain with his passion, her boy will get into the choir. In the back of my mind though, I'm confused; my gaydar is never off and even in the power-sapping holy sanctuary of St. Mary's, I could have sworn Justin is gay... but he has a son and apparently, a wife. I glance over at Gus who is no longer with Jason but is now grudgingly enduring the gushing attention of his mothers. I roll my eyes. "Well, I better go get Gus; he was just with his moms for an overnight and he comes home today, so we have to get all his stuff in the car. Surprising how much he just had to pack for just one night." I glance over at Gus who at that moment looks at me with a pleading expression. I know that look very well - it practically screams, "save me". "Besides, he looks like he needs to be rescued from his doting mothers."
Daphne and Justin chuckle.
"Nice to meet you both and you practice your singing, James. You'll be doing solos in no time," I wink at the child.
Justin and Daphne say goodbye. Justin seems hesitant, like he really doesn't want me to go; like he wants to talk to me more. Judging from his squirming, he'd rather Daphne and his son weren't here at the moment either.
I shrug it off.
James pulls my hand to stop me as I start towards Gus; a little surprised, I look down into his clear blue eyes - eyes just like his father's. He gazes up at me with a look of absolute innocence and glee. "I hope I sing as goodly as your son!" the lad exclaims. Then he gives me an intent, appraising look. "You're pretty. You're really pretty - I like looking at you."
Even me, Brian Kinney can be knocked off balance sometimes- and this is one of those times. What child would say such a thing? Justin looks like he wants to crawl under a rock. "Umm... Thank you, James. You, too." I pause a beat. "Well, see you all," I say awkwardly and I head over to Gus and his Moms.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
I find myself pulling the curtain back a little for a peek outside then I kick myself: I'm acting like a girl on prom night waiting for her date to show! Fuck. Brian's just coming by to get some of Gus's music books while his boy's at his friend's overnight. I'm a mere errand for the man; besides, he's so fucking gorgeous there's no chance he'd be attracted to me: A homely, plain choir teacher. I sigh, thinking. I've never really had a crush before and Daph would grin and tell me "I have it baaaaad". She'd be right. As I said, Brian's gorgeous. In fact he's "to die for," as Daph would say. 'Course, she says the same about me so I take her opinion with a grain of salt.
Also, Brian's honest - brutally at times, I've noticed over the now-about-ten times we've met. I like that: Total honesty. I like knowing what someone's thinking or feeling instead of having to guess. I'm often wrong when I guess.
He's brutally honest, yes (so's his son) - but he's funny, nice in an off-hand way, kind, generous and he's completely devoted to Gus. I've rarely if ever seen a father so openly affectionate, proud and smitten with his son. Besides myself, of course. I smile as I think of little James sleeping soundly upstairs with his 'Tigger' nightlight casting a soft glow on his silky platinum hair and rosy, chubby cheeks. Just then I see Brian's Jeep pull up to the curb. I watch as he gracefully gets out of the car and walks up to the door, apparently quite unaware of how lithe and smooth his movements are. I quickly shut the curtains and check my reflection in the hall mirror. Hopeless: I look like a little, ugly mouse, despite Daph's protestations to the otherwise.
I go open the door after he knocks lightly and my breath is nearly crushed out of me yet again when I see him up close. Every time, it's like he gets more and more beautiful. I shake my head, trying to rid myself of my gaga reaction.
"Hey," he greets me, looking at my gawping expression a little oddly.
"Hey," I say, my damned voice cracking a little. "Um. You want a cup of coffee or anything? Oh, and I have Gus's books in here," I wave towards the living room.
"Sure, coffee's good." He follows me and sits on the sofa; I go to the kitchen to prepare the coffee. As it brews, I walk back into the living room to find him sitting comfortably on the sofa looking through Gus's music books. "Not very 'churchy' music choices, Mr. Choir Director..." he quips. "'Sumer Is A Comin In'? Shouldn't this be called 'The Cuckoo Song'? And why are you having them sing some thirteenth century, Middle English musical round about a loud, obnoxious bird?"
I snicker. "It's about Spring blossoming and life being reborn, Brian. It's beautiful. All the boys' songs don't have to be 'churchy'."
He cocks an eyebrow. "It has rather lewd overtones, too, Choirboy," he whispers and I have to blink hard to control myself so I don't show some sort of inappropriate response, although he seems to be trying to elicit that response from me. "And 'Scarborough Faire'?" he continues. "The Simon and Garfunkel version and not the original Renaissance one?"
"Again, we don't have to be 'churchy'..." I mutter, a little embarrassed now.
He smiles, puts down the book he's looking at and gets up. He comes over to me, still smiling. "Why are you blushing? You know me by now. I'm not a fan of 'churchy' so I don't mind. I even approve. Overall, I'm a thoroughly secular man."
He stands close - his clean, masculine smell practically makes me swoon. I look into his eyes and feel my cock twitch. It sucks - it's already hard just from being in the same space as Brian, but his nearness makes me positively giddy. Shit...
Then I'm shocked: He leans forward and I feel his soft lips lightly brush mine. It's just a brief, small kiss, but my knees are as weak as straw when he pulls away. His eyes are warm, a sparkling dark brown-green. It's almost strange: They glow as if heated from within. I'm mesmerized. I don't know what comes over me to be so bold but I reach out and caress his strong, lean arm and before I can stop myself, I sigh - rather loudly, I might add.
I feel his hand cup the back of my head; it's then that I realize my eyes have closed in a true near-swoon.
"Justin?" he whispers, his fingers gently playing with the hair at the base of my neck. I open my eyes and he looks at me with such feral lust yet also a gentle tenderness my breath catches. I know him enough now to realize that if I mention either how I'm feeling or how magnetic he is, this moment will be over in a split second and he'll be spouting sarcastic comments right and left. He's annoying that way. I bite my lip. I move my hand all the way up his arm marveling at the strength and firmness. I feel so, I don't know, brazen or something! I've never touched another man like this and while I know my touches are pretty fucking tame, I feel my cheeks flush. My hand stops at the back of his neck and I pull him closer; we kiss again. This time it lasts a while and I feel his tongue on my lips.
I open my mouth a little and taste him... shit, he's like dark, rich chocolate... sweet, mysterious, a slight, thrilling zing that I can't identify as anything but pure Brian... I'm in heaven.
He pulls away suddenly and almost violently. "Um…" he says, seemingly to himself. "Um, Justin, I gotta go. Thanks for the books and I'll drop off Gus tomorrow for tutoring. Thanks again..." If I didn't know better, I'd almost swear that Brian Kinney is acting a bit flustered as he gathers up the books and heads for the door. "I'm afraid I'll have to pass on the coffee tonight. I forgot I have somewhere to be..."
Completely confused, I stand gawking at him unable to move. "B-b-but…!" I exclaim, longing to touch him again, longing to kiss him again, longing for more (much more) - I'm thoroughly stumped as to why he's pulling away so abruptly. Did I do something wrong? Did he change his mind? I mean again, I definitely believe he's way out of my league; maybe he just came to that decision himself? I impulsively bite my lip and worry it, stung by his sudden rejection.
"I don't mean to be rude but I really gotta go. Say hello to your wife for me, okay? And of course, give James a Kinney bear hug from 'the Pretty Man'..." (James calls Brian that. Smart kid.) With that, he's out the front door and I catch a glimpse of him from the front window as he walks briskly to his Jeep.
THEN I get most of my senses back, along with the power of full speech: "My what? My WIFE?" But within a second of me stuttering this out, I hear the Jeep roar into life and he screeches away. Of course he didn't hear me.
My WIFE? I've had long talks with him the ten-plus times we've gotten together and never did Daphne being my wife come up! 'Course, we never kissed before either. Not that I didn't want to. I've had a lot of conflicting feelings about him and my own sexuality come to the surface since that Sunday morning a while ago.
Still: My fucking wife? Daph and I have been best friends since kindergarten and when we were seventeen, we went to a party, got snockered as hell and nine months later along came my cherished son. It was a mistake but he's our treasure and I'm glad that drunken night happened. But I'm not attracted to Daph at all, or to any woman for that matter. Daph knows that. She knows how badly I have it for Brian, she knows I'm gay and conflicted about it and she supports me. In fact, she encourages me to the point of nearly pimping me out.
And yet I have never had a significant relationship with a male; being a preacher's son has been something of a deterrent in that area, both to other men who meet me and within myself. As I mentioned, I'm still grappling deep inside with the fact that I'm gay - that I'm inherently a sinner and going to hell according to doctrine and my own family, anyway.
As I told Brian, I'm basically Agnostic like he is but deep, deep inside, I haven't fully reconciled myself with my upbringing; my identity is still amorphous, caught between my being raised within the narrow confines of my parents' strict beliefs and my sense of who I really am and want to be. I'm also naturally very shy and antisocial. That's just how I'm wired. I hate it. All of it combines into a lethal state of intense loneliness.
Like I said, Daph has helped a lot with everything. Moments after Brian left to get his son after the boy's solo that Sunday morning weeks ago, she started (and hasn't stopped) yakking about how beautiful, sexy and smart Brian is AND how I better snag him before she has a sex change and snags him herself. I swear, she's in love with him and has known him for a whopping three minutes. The Monday after meeting him, she had to leave town on business.
I sigh, frustrated for many reasons but at the moment, mostly because Brian believes Daphne and I are MARRIED; and the next thing I know the phone's in my hand and my finger's poised to dial Brian's cell. No. This is all just an infatuation - fuck, besides the fact that Brian would never have ME, I'm still struggling with my sexuality and complete identity - I can't become involved with him! It's not fair to him OR myself.
I slam the phone down and look up in exasperation like I'll get relief from God above. This never works. I snicker humorlessly that I know it doesn't work for a fact.
Then I notice James looking at me from the landing with twinkling but weary eyes. "Daddy, was the Pretty Man here?" he asks sleepily. "I thought I heard his voice. I like him, Daddy - why'd he leave?"
"James first of all, you know his name - it's Mr. Kinney and yes, he was here. Sweetheart, please stop calling him 'the pretty man'. Secondly, he was just here to get Gus's music books for next Sunday. He wasn't here for a visit. And thirdly, you should be in bed having sweet dreams. It's way past your bedtime as it was when Mr. Kinney was here. Go back to your room, honey..."
Instead of going back to his room to bed he shuffles down the stairs, his slippers sloughing against the hardwood and both hands grasping the banister as he makes his way down to come right up to me, rubbing his eyes with his fists. "You like him too, Daddy," he yawns. James is not only extremely wise, he's also very perceptive. And stubbornly bull-headed. AND quite frankly, he's pushier and nosier than anyone I've ever met. He's 'told' me how much he likes and I like Brian since he first met the man. He definitely takes after his mother.
I swallow. "Of course I like him, son. We've been over this a million times. He's a very nice person."
"Mama says you two should go out..."
I push him gently back towards the stairs. "Well James, Mama has a big mouth sometimes and I'll be reminding her of that when she gets home."
"When's she comin' back from LA, Daddy?"
"In two weeks, babe; she has a lot of business to take care of. Now you go back to bed." I urge him up the stairs. He sighs, yawns once more and finally goes up.
"Can I have Gus over to play tomorrow?" he mumbles.
"You're going to Billy's house, remember? They're taking you to church and then you're going to his house for the day. Maybe you and Gus can get together after his school and your pre-school on Monday. Go back to bed."
"'kay..." he mutters before closing his bedroom door at the top of the stairs. "G'night," he adds from behind his door.
"Good night, sleep tight..." I call to him thinking, 'hmm. Maybe my answer has come from above for once... in the sleepy, wise little voice of my son.'
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Brian's POV. Justin tries to set things "straight". Justin's maybe green and shy, but he turns out to be stronger than Brian realized.
Of course, thanks to Big J and Butterflytiger1982!
Shit. Kinney, what is WRONG with you!? Kissing JUSTIN!? KISSING Justin? And out of the blue like that? Yes, my vibes were right about him - he's definitely attracted to me. But FUCK! He's married and I respect him! Normally I have absolutely no qualms fucking a married guy; in fact, it kind of proves to me I'm right (as always): That most if not all guys are bi if not gay; the more ''hetero" and "anti-gay" and macho they are, the more they really crave it up the ass.
But Justin's not super hetero, not at all anti-gay nor is he macho at all. He's a decent guy with an ass that rivals if not surpasses Donatello's David, I might add - but probably shouldn't.
He loves Daphne completely and same with his son; he's happily married and as bizarre as it is for me to have these feelings, I feel like a little home-wrecker for kissing him. Pfft. Asinine. It's his fault for being so hot. And while I can tell that he's struggling with his feelings towards me (the carnal ones, that is) and probably about being gay in general, he's been sending such strong vibes that he quite frankly really wants me, it's hard to ignore.
Oh well. I'll put it out of my mind. I'll just keep my seeing Justin to a minimum, only when dropping Gus off for tutoring or to visit with James. I wish Linds wouldn't have me take Gus so much right now. It's not that I don't love him and am thrilled to be with him pretty much full-time now... it's just that I have to see Justin so much when I have him. And when I have Gus I can't go trick to relieve my frustrations.
But Linds and Mel are having some serious problems so it's best that he's with me and not stuck in the middle of their shouting matches. Actually knowing Mel, they're more like screaming matches.
I pull up to the loft; I lied to Justin. I have nowhere to be tonight. Just away from him. I'd go with Mikey and the boys to Woody's since Gus is sleeping over at Greg's, but I'm too tired. I dare to admit to myself that thirty-three is getting up there - I mean, shit, it's Saturday night! But I'm not the studly party man I used to be; drinking, drugging and tricking every single night just doesn't hold the same allure that it used to. The horde of tricks that cruise me relentlessly hasn't diminished and Mikey still says I'm the Stud of Liberty and that I'm just 'taking it easy' for a spell; but honestly, as I said, I'm just not as into it any more. Hmm. I choose to believe that I'm simply maturing gracefully - not getting old.
I get to my floor and am dumbfounded when I pull up the elevator grate to find Justin there.
"How the fuck did you get here? And so fast? I just left your place!" Well, I did drive around thinking a little while, I admit to myself. "And where's James? Who's watching him?"
Justin smiles nervously. "I have a car and you weren't 'just' at my place. I've been here over two hours. I figured you had to be somewhere like you said so I'd wait till you got home, that's all. And right after you left I called my neighbor -- he's staying with my son right now. They're good pals. And with James in bed for the night, Ted just has to hang out and watch TV or read."
Ted? There's no way it's the same Ted... "But... but why are you fucking here?"
Justin looks immediately uncomfortable and turns his eyes to the ground by my feet.
He remains quiet and I start to get frustrated. I don't have time for this shit. "Whatever," I mutter and push past him. I unlock the door, disarm the alarm and go inside.
Since I'm pretty positive nothing good can come from any further interaction with Justin tonight, I move to slide the door shut behind me with the intent on leaving him in the hall but he stops me, blocking the door. "Listen, um, Brian?" he says hesitantly.
I raise my eyebrow at him. Fuck, I do not want to deal with this. Not right now. Not after what happened tonight. Not when I'm in the mood I am.
"Listen, Brian..." he says again. "Shit." He sticks his hands in his pockets, irritated with himself. I wait for him to say more.
"Brian, may I come in? Just for a bit?" he finally asks.
I open the door all the way and gesture for him to come in. He hurries past me and I take a deep breath. I REALLY do not want to deal with him right now. But I slowly follow him, sliding the door closed behind us. I join him in the living area but I sit well away from him on the easy chair opposite the sofa where he sits. "Water?" I ask.
He shakes his head, not looking up. His hands are out of his pockets and he's staring at his fingers intently. "Brian..." then he's silent again. He gets up and starts pacing, never once looking at me. "Brian," he repeats. "I'm not married. Daph and I are best friends... James is the result of a confused, drunken night almost four and a half years ago. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me but he wasn't planned. I'm... I'm gay," he whispers.
Uh huh. "I know," I say simply. "I knew when I met you."
He looks at me in shock. "You did?"
I nod. "Justin, I knew you were attracted to me. I was admittedly confused by your apparent marriage to Daphne, since you don't strike me as the kind of guy who would wear a beard if you were solid in your identity. But I knew you were at least bi."
"Am I so obvious? And, um... I'm not bi. I'm gay."
"You were pretty obvious to me but as you know, I'm gay. I don't think anyone without excellent gaydar like myself would assume you're gay, if that's what's bothering you."
He smirks and then shakes his head. "Well, it does and it doesn't - bother me, I mean. I'm gay but you're the only one I've said those words to besides Daphne..."
Uh huh. So? I don't respond. It would seem he's still in a committed relationship with the mother to his son, whether he's gay or not. I don't want to bust that up in some way.
"See, I was brought up to believe that having the feelings I have - you know, that being gay is a sin... that I'm going to hell... it's been hard to reconcile myself with that. I've never been in a relationship with a guy; I've never been brave enough or attracted enough to another man to... until... until you... Guh! This is coming out all wrong!"
"Justin, if being gay means you go to hell, at least a lot of other gays will be down there," I say flippantly. "I guess I will, although I'm sure I have a special niche that's reserved for just me."
He smiles slightly. "Anyway, I suppose I'm really here just to apologize for earlier..."
"Justin, relax. I'm the one who went too far - I came onto you. And sorry's bullshit. So forget it. You're uncomfortable - hell, I'm uncomfortable and it's rare that I'm uncomfortable. Pretend tonight never happened. We hardly have to see each other, you know. We only have to talk and see each other when it comes to choir and the boys."
"NO! I mean, no," he says more quietly. "I... I want to see you. Before Daph gets an operation and becomes a man just to have a chance with you..." he adds hurriedly.
I cock an eyebrow, surprised that he seems serious. I can't help but chuckle. "No shit? That'd have to a pretty damned good operation."
Then he snickers, apparently realizing what he's said and how it sounds. "Can I see you again? Just the two of us?"
Here we go. "No. I don't think it's a good idea and I decidedly don't do dates." And I don't.
"Oh. Okay, well..." his shoulders visibly slump and he looks at his feet. "I'll um... I'll go." He starts towards the door.
"Justin, stop," I say, surprising myself now.
He turns back towards me; the blue depths of his eyes are shiny with unshed tears. What a drama queen!
"Justin, listen, that doesn't mean we can't get together. But you have to work on this schmaltzy, teary-chick behavior. I mean it.
"We can hang out but the last thing you or I need is to be burned. I fuck. I don't do relationships or love or boyfriends or lovers or any shit remotely related. I can do friends. But I don't 'do' my friends." I hope I'm right... I have to admit, I'm shocking myself a little with my behavior right now. My brain's screaming how he just has to GO… but something suspiciously close to my heart is silently asking him not to.
After a few moments, he smiles at me. He closes the gap between us and hugs me. I sigh and hug him back. "You okay?" I ask.
I feel him nod and now he's shaking, both laughing and apparently crying in my arms. "I'm okay..." he says finally. "Thanks."
I pull away from him slightly annoyed. It occurs to me how I'm breaking many of my own rules with hardly a thought. It's just that, well, Justin's unique. "I didn't do anything," I protest. "And stop with the high drama. You're a grown man and this isn't a soap opera!" Despite how harsh my words are, I hear my voice and I'm being uncharacteristically gentle. Guh.
"Yes. You did everything," he sniffs, grinning.
"What'd I just tell you?"
"Yeah, yeah. Cut the "schmaltzy, teary-chick shit". I'll try, asshole," he laughs.
"But in the ten times we've gotten together, I've--"
Wait. "Hold on - you've counted the times we've gotten together?"
He covers his mouth. "Um."
Brilliant. "How schmaltzy-chicky," I mumble. Honestly, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised or too freaked out. If he's as inexperienced as he says and he quite apparently leans towards the mushy, emotional side, his knowing the number of times we've spent time together is almost to be expected. Deep down, I know I recall each moment we've spent together. I just didn't count them... "Never mind." I wave it off. "What were you 'butting' about?"
He's biting his lower lip. "Um," he mutters again. "Just that I'm more of a heroine type and that you're more of a hero."
I chuckle. "How 'bout we modify that to you being more of a hero type who's overly in touch with his emotional side... I don't go for heroines, even as friends."
"Not overly - just in touch!" he snorts, sticking out his tongue.
I'm startled by my phone and pull my gaze away from his smiling face to go answer it. "What?" I answer, a bit gruffly.
"Brian? Could you come get Gus? He says he's feeling pretty sick and he's looking a bit green..."
"What? What's wrong? Jana, what's going on?"
She snickers. "Jeez, Brian, for the practically full-time father you are now, you still overreact to shit! I think he might simply have a touch of the flu-- you yourself said he was acting a little ill when you dropped him off three hours ago! It's nothing, I'm sure of it. Greg had it last week. It's messy but Gus''ll be fine with rest and TLC which I'm certain he'd much rather get from you than me right now."
"I'll be right over..." Shit. I hang up and look at Justin; he looks concerned. "I have to go get Gus. He's not feeling well..."
"Flu or something," I answer, pulling on my coat. "You should head home. You don't want to get it or give it to James..."
He smiles again. "We had it. We were both out with it two days last week."
For some reason, I wonder why I didn't know that. Which is stupid: Why would I? "Oh. I'm sorry. You... well, since you and James have had it, you can come with me to pick Gus up if you want." Huh? Kinney, why the fuck are you asking him to come along?
"I'd love to!" he exclaims enthusiastically. I look at him curiously; why the fuck is he so excited about me asking him to go pick up my sick kid with me?
Whatever. Gus is sick and needs me and that's what's critical here.
I rush out with Justin on my heels. I speed us to Jana's within five minutes and I hurry inside, Justin following quickly; Gus is perched on the stairs, already bundled up in his heavy coat, hat and mittens and he looks up as I enter giving me a miserable, pitiful expression. "Daddy...!" he coughs, his voice hoarse but his relief palpable. He gets up and hobbles over to me as fast as he can, holding his arms out to be picked up. Yeah, yeah, he's seven years old, I know. But he's a little boy who feels like shit, so he needs a cuddle - er… to be picked up.
I lift him and give him a squeeze. "Sonny Boy! You feel sick, huh? Got the ickies?"
As my son nods at me with an unhappy pout, I see Justin staring at me like I've just sprouted horns. Well, Linds calls being sick 'having the ickies', so I'm just using a phrase the boy will relate to...
"He's sick!" Greg announces happily from further up the stairs. Jana's close by and looks at me sympathetically.
"He'll be fine. He just needs to sleep in his own bed near his Daddy," she says, coming up to us and pulling Gus's hat down on his head more securely. "Right, Gussy?"
Gawd. I hate it when she calls him that but Gus likes it. He smiles shyly and nods, then hides his face in my coat. I suspect little "Gussy" is starting to take a shine to the ladies. He takes after his Mom in that regard, obviously.
"Sorry, Jana... thanks for calling."
"No problem, hun." (I hate it she calls me that. She's sort of like Lindsay in that she's pretty flirty with me. Makes me wonder about Linds - she's gay. Jana isn't.)
We three drive home in silence. Gus must be really ill because he hardly acknowledges Justin at all. Usually when he sees Justin, he goes a little insane. Justin's definitely one of Gus's favorite grown-ups.
He conks out as soon as I get him into his Spider Man PJ's and put him down in the little bed I've set up near the bathroom. I have to get another place. With Gus here all the time, the loft just doesn't cut it.
When I get out to the living room I find Justin sitting on the sofa. "How's he doing?" he asks quietly.
"Out like a light." I go sit by him, casually throwing my arm on the sofa back behind him. He avoids my eyes. "What's with the timid act all of a sudden?"
He blushes and finally looks at me. He shifts ever so slightly towards me. "I'm not acting timid..."
"Okay. Then you are timid. You aren't acting."
He lets out an exasperated sigh. I wait and he says nothing but he sidles even closer; he tentatively puts a hand on my leg and looks at me. "Kiss me again," he whispers.
I smile slightly and brush my fingers along his cheek. "Hmmm. I dunno…" I tease. My dubious conviction that I'd be just fine as Justin's 'friend' has evaporated. I tell myself I tried, but really, I didn't. And it didn't sink into Justin's consciousness at ALL, it seems.
He's dead serious.
Huh. "Justin, listen. You're horny. You're attracted to me. You're gay. And as fucking unbelievable as this is: Even though I find you incredibly hot and I'm a total slut and proud of it, I can't treat you like a trick. Normally fucking you would be like shaking your hand but you're my son's teacher in a way - he likes you. I like and respect you. I have to see you because of Gus—you aren't a fuck, you're a friend. I don't fuck friends. I told you this earlier…
"Besides, you're so damned confused and terrified, you'll regret it. I don't believe in regrets - no excuses, no apologies, no regrets. I'm not going to give a sap like you some flimsy reason to construct a regret. Go home to your near-wife and son. If you choose to live your life as an 'out' gay male, find a guy who will fulfill your girlish dreams of a knight in shining armor. 'Cause fuck-all if that's me—I'm the antithesis to all Prince Charmings. Trust me."
"Fuck you, Brian," he hisses. "You think I see you as a knight in shining armor? As a Prince Charming? Ha!" He snorts humorlessly. "I know you're a slut." Ouch, sort of. "I know the living legend that is Brian Kinney. The Stud of Liberty Avenue! The Hunk Who Only Fucks You Once and that's it! The Asshole! I've heard about your mystique, your crudeness, your selfishness, your arrogance, your "No Repeats" policy. I may seem and even be sheltered, inexperienced and shy but I have ears! And Daph has found out and told me a thing or two about your reputation!" Justin's vehemence and conviction are so strong and reveal a side to him I've never seen that I'm speechless. His eyes suddenly change from hurt and angry to caring and looking suspiciously lovelorn. "But," he continues more softly, "I also have seen and gotten to know a different Brian Kinney than the one of legend. Brian, you're a wonderful father, a great and quietly devoted friend, generous, sensitive and quite simply: Pretty fucking cool. You hide your softer qualities very well but not so well that I haven't seen them.
"I truly… I really like that Brian Kinney. I may be confused, conflicted, uncertain and a million other things but I'm definitely not stupid or fooling myself. I'm more than just 'attracted' to you physically, Brian. This isn't infatuation on my part. I've thought hard about whether it is; and as much as I've tried to tell myself that it is, it's not."
He looks down and self-consciously removes his hand from my thigh. "But… hm," he says thoughtfully. "I. Hmm… I won't push. I'm not pushy -" here comes the Justin I've come to know. "I just kinda liked it when we kissed. That's all," he adds shyly.
I look at him, trying to keep any evidence of my amusement to myself - this isn't something I'm used to. I'm used to guys taking off their pants, bending over and spreading their cheeks, begging; for my cock; my tongue; my bite; my fingers; my ability. "Kinda" liking my kiss is rather novel. After a few moments I make a decision. Probably a very bad one but there it is. I take his hand and guide him to my hard cock. He looks up wide-eyed and his cheeks flush into a furious crimson. His expression is a mix of lust, surprise, anticipation and a little fear. "Justin," I whisper. "You know my rules. No repeats. This is a one-time thing. We can't be buddies and hang out after this, you know. We'll of course see each other 'cause of Gus and James and choir. But that's it. Just seeing each other in passing. I can't be your friend any more…"
He swallows and blinks, his hand now grasping my dick through the silk of my suit pants. His eyes are somewhat glazed over and he shivers a little before it seems he even registers my words. He swallows again, blinks again and finally nods. "Okay," he rasps. I ignore my obviously mistaken impression of what his eyes are slowly revealing - his eyes are saying, "Yeah, right, Brian. We’ll see about that…"
Or maybe I'm projecting because as I was spouting off my rules to him yet again, the strength of my conviction was definitely lacking.
I hold his hand on my cock as I descend on his lips, leaning over and pushing him down beneath me on the sofa, crushing him with my body and devouring his mouth with mine. He's a nice guy. I would have liked to be his friend. But he wants me, I want him - he wants this, so…
Soon he's writhing beneath me, fumbling with the buttons on my shirt; "Ohhhh…" he gasps as I run my fingers over his dick to reach the zipper on his khakis. This kid is HARD and he kisses like a lust-crazed beast. It's becoming more than obvious to me that there's a shy Justin… and an aggressive, strong one who very definitely knows what he wants.
He finally gets to the last button on my shirt and impatiently rips it off my body, his hands immediately running over my bare skin, nearly desperate. "More…" he moans.
Okay, enough play. Within five seconds I have us both naked and we're tangled like we're one biological creature, grabbing and touching and groping like teenagers at a drive-in. I haven't been so awkward since I was fourteen—but then, I cared. Now, I don't. I'm not striving to be the world's best lover or fuck or whatever to Justin. Despite his agreeing to my rules, he's still no trick. I'm never at all uncomfortable with anonymous tricks – obviously - but in this case, 'anonymous' doesn't even enter into it. This is Justin.
Even so, I'm not uncomfortable. In fact, it's the damnedest thing: I'm more at ease and excited than I've ever been.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Author's notes: A little NC 17 action...
"Brian," I moan - every nerve, every muscle, every molecule in my body thrills like a live wire. Even my most secret, lewd, lascivious moments masturbating haven't come remotely close to experiencing this and suddenly, I'm terrified. Brian's breath is moist and hot. He smells like sex and earth and power and sheer masculinity. His touch is sensuous, firm, self-assured, knowing… I'm fucking completely overwhelmed. "Briii…" I gasp before again hungrily devouring his mouth, wantonly pushing my tongue deep into the wet heat. I've lost control yet have never felt safer in my life. His hand grasps my cock and he's pumping it in better tune with my body than I myself have ever done.
His sweat is salty, exciting, delicious on my lips and tongue as I greedily lick and suck and taste as much of his skin as possible. I kiss-suck on his neck hard, realizing I'll be leaving a mark and I smile. It's adolescent, yes, but I want to mark him like he's mine. I want to make him mine.
He gets up with a growl and pulls me into the bedroom, pushes me onto the bed and climbs on top of me. He moans softly as he kisses down my body; I feel his tongue delve into my belly button, then he places a small, wet single kiss onto the tip of my cock and he breathes air on it gently.
"God…. Oh, God…"
"Shhhh," Brian says calmly. "Gus may be sick-asleep and pretty much passed out but he's still in the loft yards away, Jus…" I groan as I feel him fondle my balls as he engulfs my dick in his mouth. I nearly lose it right then and it takes all my willpower to keep that from happening. "Brian... Brian, please..." He sits up and reaches into the bowl by the bed, snatching up a tube of lube and a condom.
I'm breathless as I watch him. "Is this going to hurt?" I whisper a little anxiously. I can't quite believe this is happening…
"Yeah. But it'll get better. Hmmmm… Choir Boy… have you ever played with your hole?"
I nod mutely.
"Did it hurt?" he asks very quietly, although the lust and need is evident in his tone.
I shake my head. I only put like a finger up there and wiggled it as I jerked myself off - it pinched but not bad. I did that for the first time only some weeks ago, after meeting Brian while I fantasized about him.
"Justin..." I look into his eyes and the lust that had been there is replaced with concern. "You haven't told me so but it's blatantly obvious you've never done this before… are you sure about this?"
I nod emphatically - too emphatically I think because Brian smirks.
He cocks an eyebrow.
"Sorry. It's just... it's embarrassing; all of this. Your questions. Just…" I gesture to my wanton sprawl underneath his beautiful body. "Just: This."
"As a diehard and true pagan hedonist, let me tell you that pleasure should NEVER be embarrassing, Choir Boy. Roll over."
I comply and I feel his lips on my shoulder blade. He trails his tongue down my back and I suddenly wonder what the hell he's going to do.
"I'm thinking it's also obvious that you've never been rimmed before...?"
I'm reeling. "Ri-rimmed?" I've heard of that but I'm not totally sure what it is to be honest. I have an idea, though. Have I mentioned that the shy me is as embarrassed as hell?
He gently bites my ass and then I feel him separate my cheeks. "Pfft - that's a very definite no," he says; I can hear the evil grin in his low voice. I'm shocked when I feel his tongue trace down my crack and he kisses my hole, inhaling deeply. "Fuck - you've got a juicy ass, Justin," he breathes, kissing me again. All self-consciousness, all embarrassment - everything inhibiting me - disappears when his tongue enters me. I nearly come from the sensation and the seeming wickedness of it all.
"Bri... Brian!" I stammer as his tongue fucks my hole. "Brian...! Guh…! I...!" I can't form a sentence; he finally removes his tongue and chuckles. I moan in disappointment. "Nooo..."
"Now you know what rimming is..."
"Roll to face me, Justin," he whispers huskily.
I do. He hands me the condom. "Put it on me. Slip it on my dick."
I fumble desperately with the wrapper and he chuckles again, taking it from me and ripping it open. I stare at his cock - it's huge! How the fuck is it going to fit inside me? He hands me back the unwrapped condom and I unfurl it onto his shaft; he grabs the lube from near the pillow. My dick is nearly purple and it's leaking profusely. He bends down and sucks the tip. "Mmm... you taste creamy and salty. Taste," he growls quietly, swiping a finger over the tip of my dick, making me gasp. He raises his finger to my lips and I suck it eagerly into my mouth. "Have you ever tasted yourself?"
I shake my head, still suckling his finger. My embarrassment resurfaces.
"You should. Often. You're delicious." He leans down and kisses me.
He slathers his cock with lube and then slowly works a lubed finger up inside me. I suck in a sharp breath. "It's cold!"
"It'll heat up," he whispers. He inserts another finger and scissors them, preparing me. The rimming certainly helped. "Ready?" he asks softly, leaning down to give me another tender kiss, this one on my cheek.
I don't know! But: "Hmmm-mmm. Yes, Brian. I'm ready." I'm genuinely touched by how sweet, how gentle Brian's being. He hoists my legs over his shoulders and I feel him position his dick at my hole.
"Brian, yes! Please! Fuck me...!" I immediately bite my lip, hoping my plea wasn't too loud.
I squeal softly but involuntarily - fuck!!! Why couldn't I grunt or do something more manly? Squeal??? But it just hurts so bad!!
He rubs my stomach soothingly. "Justin, do you want me to stop? I'm not even a quarter of the way in. It's gonna hurt at first but I don't want to do this if it makes you suffer."
I know but NO: "No," I rasp. "No, don't stop! Don't."
He continues stroking my stomach, his eyes worried. "It'll get better. I promise."
"Fuck, it just hurts so bad!" I feel my erection flagging.
"I know, Justin. Hurting is part of it. But it'll get better, believe me. Really. You okay, Justin? You sure you want me to go on?"
I squeeze my eyes shut and I nod, trusting him. The pain I feel is making my dick get even softer but I want this to happen.
"Justin, open your eyes. Look at me." I obey him and open my eyes. He's still caressing me soothingly. I look up at his gentle face and my chest constricts slightly at the sight. I vaguely hear him: "Breathe." I do; I exhale a breath I didn't realize I was holding.
Brian pushes further. I gasp. Brian pushes again and hisses. "Christ, you are so tight..." he groans.
"Are you in all the way...?" I'm coated in a thin sheen of sweat.
"God, it's like I have a wine bottle up there, fat-end first!"
Brian briefly raises a brow at my reference. "Interesting analogy! Justin, relax..." Brian's voice is hypnotic and I relax slowly... he remains still, allowing me to adjust to him being inside me. He watches my face and traces his warm fingers up and down my torso in a calming motion. When I feel ready I smile tentatively, studying his eyes. "Really okay, Justin?" he whispers and I nod.
"Stop asking me that!" I admonish gently, still smiling.
The corner of his mouth quirks up and his eyes get a look that seems to reflect the fact that he just now realizes how bizarre it is for him to be so concerned for me and my comfort… and my smile widens a little.
Slowly he begins fucking me and it kills at first. But he angles his thrusts to hit a part of me inside that fuck-ALL if I don't soon start feeling like I'm going to come. My dick's again hard as steel and I'm gasping.
"Easy, Sunshine…!" Brian breathes.
But I realize suddenly that he's trying to keep me from clawing at him, scratching his back with my blunt nails. "Ohh…. Shit… I'm sor - inhale - sorry!" I force my hands back and begin fisting the sheets; his rhythm doesn't falter and fuckfuckfuck, I have never known pleasure like this and before I realize it, I'm writhing and moaning like a wild animal as Brian quickens the pace. Soon his sweat is raining down on my face, chest and arms and I can't help it as I grasp his ass, pulling him as deep into me as I can; his thrusts become shorter, hitting that sweet spot inside me on every pass. He's panting, grunting and he reaches between us to grasp my cock; the weeping precum mixes with the sweat on his palm and it's slick as he begins to pump my dick. And I am suddenly experiencing complete and total sensory OVERLOAD.
OH. MY. GOD.
Abruptly, uncontrollably, I explode.
That's Brian. Brian.
My eyes blink open and everything is hazy; what…? "What…?"
Brian is lying next to me… I look into his eyes and he looks… scared? "Justin, talk to me!"
Huh? "What happened?"
"Justin, you came HARD—you fucking BLACKED out!"
My brain settles a little, like a stone in a pool of glitter; slowly, the glistening, shimmering stars around me settle as well. I feel hot, spent but jazzed, loose but taut like a piano wire. "Brian?"
"Justin, drink," he says nervously, pushing a bottle of cool water into my sweaty palm. I gratefully gulp the cool liquid, accidentally spilling more than half over my face onto the sheets under my head in my haste. I splutter and cough, handing the bottle back to him as I try to regain some semblance of self-awareness and control. "Are you alright?" he whispers.
I nod as I choke on the last of the water that made it into my mouth. "I'm okay…" I manage. Wait a minute here: I blacked out?
He chuckles then. "Christ, Choir Boy! You had me worried there! Don't tell me you've never had an orgasm before!"
I THOUGHT I had - but NOTHING ever like this! Nothing. NOTHING. "Holy shit…" I mumble to myself
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Short chapter... sorry 'bout that! But I hope you enjoy it and I'll post chapter 6 soon!
'Holy shit' is right! Jesus! I admit, guys have blacked out on me with orgasms more intense than they'd experienced before; normally, I find it actually flattering - the first time it happened, after I finally found out what had happened to the trick, I'd gone from totally freaked out to outrageously smug. After that, it was almost (but not quite) a regular occurrence. But with Justin just now, I was back to totally freaked out. "Are you sure you're alright?" I ask him again, trying to squelch any trace of concern from my voice.
"Hmmm. Yeah. Yeah, Jesus… my God…" he mutters, shaking his head a little. His hair is drenched from sweat, his skin glowing, flushed and shiny, absolutely gorgeous; he's still breathing kind of hard. It looks like he just collapsed after a marathon.
"You've seen the Light, it would seem," I tease lamely, still a little scared.
He turns his gaze to me and I suck in a breath; there's such intensity - a fiery and icy and virtually electric intensity to his blue-violet eyes that I swear he's able to see through my skull into my brain. He's silent a minute or so and I start to feel a little uncomfortable with his unabashed scrutiny. "I think so," he whispers finally in all seriousness and my level of 'freaked-ness' jumps to 'RUN AWAY!!'
I look away, feeling all my muscles tense like a cornered cat; he has to get out of here NOW.
"Daddy?" I hear from the little bed near the bathroom. "Daddy?"
Gus! I'm up with sweats on within a millisecond and I'm next to him in an instant, my "go-fast" mode already in overdrive. "Sonny Boy, what is it? What's wrong? How do you feel?" I stroke his forehead as soothingly as a Kinney can; I notice he's sweaty too, like Sunshine and I but it's because his fever's breaking. I sit by him and brush the dark, sweaty locks of hair from his forehead.
He swallows hard; his lips are dry and I get the water from the table next to his bed. "Hot. Cold. Achy. Sweaty. Yucky," he whimpers, pouting a little for effect.
I snicker a little. He's okay. Definitely just the flu so in the back of my over-reactive, father-paranoid mind, I feel I can safely cross off 'meningitis', 'polio' and 'malaria'. "Sounds like you're all over the map, Gus Love. But you'll be fine. Here, have some water."
He takes the glass in both small hands and clumsily drinks; much of it spills back onto the pillow behind his head just like it did a moment ago with Justin. Sigh. "'S Justin still here?" he asks hoarsely.
"Is he spending the night?"
"I dunno. I don't think so. He has to go home 'cause James is there."
Huh. "No. Of course not."
"Then why does Justin have to go—?" he's interrupted by a shuffling behind us and we both turn to see Justin standing a little ways away, fully dressed, hair still damp with sweat but combed and a rosy blush to his cheeks which is from embarrassed unease this time, not blissed-out, post-faint inertia. "Justin!" Gus squeals with a crack in his voice. He's definitely on the mend, 'hot, cold, achy, sweaty, yucky' aside.
"Hiya, sickie! You sound better!" Yeah, I definitely would have liked to have Justin as a friend. Oh, well.
"I am! Much! But I'm hot…"
"Sounds like maybe your fever is breaking," Sunshine offers. I smile a little, looking away.
"Yeah. It just means it's going away but when it does that, it makes you kinda sweaty and hot. It's a good thing, though."
"Oh. 'Kay," my son says with a slight shrug, blindly accepting Justin's explanation without question.
"Okay boys, I'm going back to bed. I'm exhausted," I yawn. Justin looks at me hopefully. I sigh. "You can stay till morning if you think Ted's going to stay with James all night." He practically jumps in place and claps his hands like Emmett would. Thankfully, as I said, he only practically has a flaming moment; he restrains himself and he just jumps a little in excitement, whispering "yes", then he beams at me beautifully. "Who is this Ted guy, anyway?" I ask, curious and trying to ignore his bizarre glee. As I said before, it can't be the same Ted I know. And employ.
He calms a little. "He's my neighbor. I told you that. Why?"
Many thanks (as before) to BigJ/Judy and butterflytiger_1982/Jessica
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
"I know a "Ted". He's a friend and he works for me. Ted Schmidt."
Justin looks mildly shocked for a moment. "Oh. Hmm. Well, looks like we have more than our sons' friendship and the church choir in common. That's the guy. My Ted's your Ted."
I frown. "He's not 'my Ted'," I grumble. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the now-not-so-shy Sunshine giving me a smirk and dismissing me with a wave; and then giving my son a sweet smile with a little cutesy goodnight wave, all just before disappearing into my bedroom. Inwardly, I chuckle; the little shit. He's acting much more confidently than he was just hours ago. Indeed, he's borderline cocky. I guess a good fuck will do that—a good, first fuck in particular. Outwardly however, I grimace and sigh a bit overdramatically …Fuckin' Choir Twat…
I force myself to ignore any little growing glimmer of brand-new respect I feel for him; and squelch anything in me that remotely wants to see him again outside of Gus's choir duties. Why do I have anything to 'ignore' or 'squelch' anyway? Where is all this coming from? Hell! After he leaves tomorrow, that's it. Those are my rules: One time only. Well, one night only in this case, I guess. I'll see him in connection with Gus's choir practice and if the boys get together perhaps but that will be all. And Sunshine better not get all weepy about it—he was well forewarned, dammit.
I look down at Gus and smile, noting his droopy eyelids. I lean down and kiss his forehead. "Good night, Sonny Boy," I whisper. "Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite…" (Humor me…)
He smiles. "G'night, Daddy; I love you."
"Me too, Gus Love." I straighten and stand up, feeling pretty weary myself. I yawn and stretch and turn to head back to bed where Justin's no doubt on his way to fucking dreamland, himself.
"Daddy?" Big sigh - so close yet so far away. I turn back towards the weak, pitiful, totally manipulative voice of my son; that's his "I wanna sleep in your bed with you" voice… It's sad. Soft. Heartbreaking. And yeah, totally manipulative. Ah, my Sonny Boy already knows how to work it.
"Can I sleep with you in the big bed?" Sure 'nuff… "I feel so icky… I like sleeping wit' you. It makes me feel better."
He's good. He's very good. But of course, I'm secretly and probably inappropriately proud of him; in hopefully many, many, many-- like at least twenty years, he'll never have a problem getting into someone's bed or vice-versa. Guh. I will my brain to shut up.
I can't help my smile despite myself and of course, I give in immediately. Because while it's obvious that he's wheedling, he's also being genuine and he really doesn't feel well. I swear, of all the males in the entire nation, there's only one who's got me wrapped around his little finger; and that's my seven-year-old and the little bugger knows it. "C'mon, Sonny Boy. But it won't just be you and me in the big bed, you know… Justin is sleeping over after all. Is that okay?" This is a first. Gus knows I like men and not women but never has he seen me with a man and CERTAINLY he's never slept in my bed with me when someone else was there - no one's ever over when Gus is and besides that, no one spends the night anyway. Tricks are out the door as soon as they have served their purpose.
…Well, there's once when Gus slept with me and someone else in the big bed - the time I woke up with a kick to the groin to find that little Greg, who was sleeping over, had unbeknownst to me crawled out of his sleeping bag in the living room and into my bed, scared after a nightmare; and Gus had joined him. Greg wanted his "Daddy Brian". Pfft. Talk about a nightmare: Not only was I awoken in the rudest way possible but my eyes flew open in pain and shock to find two overheated children practically stuck to me, fast asleep. My pajamas were damp with sweat from being buried underneath the two little clingy toaster ovens (I sleep in PJ's now that Gus is here so much… sigh…) Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night on my sofa, pissed and uncomfortable, while my son and his friend slept blissfully in the comfort of my bed.
The next morning when the boys sheepishly explained why they'd ended up in my bed, I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from yelling at them. I just told them that if something like that happened again, to wake me up instead of just crawling into my bed without me knowing.
"That's okay if Justin's here," Gus tells me hoarsely with a weak grin, bringing my thoughts back to the present. I take a deep breath, smile and motion with my head the direction I'm going as I continue towards the bedroom. Now that I think of it, I'm sure this will feel like a big boy sleep-over to my son. Gus knows Sunshine, likes him and feels safe with him. He's like a protective, big brother without the noogies. And I implicitly trust the man. Well, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn't consider this situation in a million years.
I get into the bedroom and find Justin already in bed waiting for me with a slightly mischievous smile. Nuh-uh. No more messin' around, Choir Boy… I'm about to whisper something to that effect when I'm nearly knocked over from behind by my apparently sick-but-still-quite-powerful seven-year-old barreling at top speed to the bed. "Hey!" I protest uselessly; my boy doesn't even seem to hear me and he jumps in next to Justin with a giggle. Justin snickers and tousles his hair.
"You gonna sleep in the big bed tonight, huh?"
"Yep. Daddy says it's okay 'cause I don't feel good. I like sleeping with Daddy in the big bed - it makes me feel better."
"Hmm. I know whatcha mean, Gussy Gus. I remember when I was younger and I felt bad, it was so much better and I felt so safe when Mom and Daddy let me sleep in the big bed with them."
Gus smiles and nods sagely, laying his head on the pillow (my pillow), closing his eyes and getting comfortable under the covers, facing Justin. There is now officially no room for me, as my Sonny Boy's little heinie is stuck out so far he takes up the whole side of the bed. He may be only seven and I may call him "little" from time to time—but he's a tall, gangly seven-year-old just like I was. He takes up more space than you'd think.
I walk to the bed and pull down the covers. "Hey!" I nudge my son in the back gently, but insistently. "Move over, sickie! Make some room for your father!" Gus frowns a little but doesn't open his eyes. He scoots forward a little (like two crummy inches), snuggling against Justin. Sigh. I get in, pulling the duvet fully over all of us. I glance at Justin who's looking at me with a small, barely suppressed smile on his face that looks like he thinks this is just sooooo cute. Sure. Cute. Being practically knocked over by my son, losing my place in MY bed to a seven-year-old and being left with barely a sliver of space to stretch out in to sleep. If I move at all, I'll fall off the edge of the damned bed.
Justin takes pity on me, scoots back and pulls Gus more into the middle, giving me some more space. "Gus, we have to give your Daddy more room," he explains quietly when my son, who's fucking already drifted off as only seven-year-olds can, moans an annoyed complaint at the disturbance. "It's his bed, after all," Sunshine goes on, chuckling a little at my boy's muttering and furrowed brow. But the kid hasn't opened his eyes this whole time and it's unclear whether he's awoken at all since his moving forward a couple of inches a few moments ago. As one who doesn't sleep well I'm grudgingly envious of the boy.
I'm allowed a little more space to move now though, so I feel okay. I push myself up on my elbow, spooning my son. I gently stroke his arm and look down at him as he sleeps, laughing a little to myself because he still looks a little cross at being pulled forward by Sunshine seconds ago. When awake, Sonny Boy's never held a grudge but disturb his sleep and he'll stay miffed even while unconscious.
God. I can't believe this is my son. I can't believe I'm nearly a full-time father now. As I've mentioned before, I've been looking online for a bigger place—quietly and a bit surreptitiously (Mel's still a fucking bitch and would cut my dick off if she knew), but I'm more serious about it now. I didn't even consider it for a while, thinking Mel and Linds would patch things up and everything would go back to the way it was before, with me as a part-time Daddy only. But while the munchers are still very involved in Gus's life and have him for short spells at a time, Linds thinks Gus is better off with me until the two of them can get back on solid ground as a couple and for a shocking first time, she's stood up to Mel and absolutely insisted I take Gus much more than before until that happens (thankfully, she discussed this with me first… she doesn't always do that). And for another shocking first time, Mel actually conceded despite her (loud) protests about my inability as a father.
What's absolutely Twilight-Zone-esque though is that Mel's actually backing off these protests about my fathering ability; she hates it though. Linds has told me confidentially that Mel admits - through clenched teeth - that I've handled this responsibility pretty well over the past few months. Granted, Mel's still a total bitch towards me and hasn't said a thing about her new-found esteem; but I inwardly admit that what Linds tells me and what she now tells me that Mel's said to her about me gives—well, it gives me a little more confidence. Because deep inside, I had and have more doubts about my ability as a father than Mel did. I mean, look at my role model… it can't get more scary than that, boys and girls.
"You're so good with him. You're an excellent father, Brian," Justin whispers, startling me from my reverie. I look up and see his small smile.
"I wonder sometimes," I say quietly, smiling back just a little and surprising myself at the admission.
Despite my best efforts, I'm drawn into his beautiful, sapphire eyes that reflect the blue lights above us in a sparkling but shadowy glimmer. "Why on earth would you wonder?" he mumbles. He seems genuinely perplexed.
I shake my head. "Never mind."
"Brian, can I tell you something?" he asks hesitantly.
Uh oh. I must look at him warily because he smiles disarmingly. "It's not bad."
Yeah, right. "Bad" is in the eye of the beholder. "Okay…"
"It's just… I mentioned this before… but besides your outer beauty and all the beauty you have inside that you try to hide from everyone - you know, with your Super Slut façade and brusque, arrogant rudeness… " I smirk. "Your devotion to your son stuns me. I've been around many, many boys over the years I've conducted the church choir and it always kind of shocked me how few fathers really were around. How few fathers would bother to come 'backstage' after the boys sang so they could praise their sons, could show how proud they were of them - even though they'd attended the service itself. But you don't even go to church and you were there for Gus's first solo. You were there in the back after the service to tell Gus how proud you are of him and how beautifully he sang. And it was blatant how truly you felt that way - it wasn't just lip service to look like a good Daddy.
"And you look after him, discipline him fairly and firmly but with obvious unconditional love, you care for him, take time with him, joke with him - listen to him… do you know how amazing that is for Gus? How incredibly hot that is? To me, anyway," he adds. "I mean - not only are you kind of unbelievably beautiful on the outside and not only are you a good soul in so many other ways but you are a fantastic father. I mean it. I've never seen a more devoted father than you… you're kind of like me with James…
"So whatever reason it is that makes you wonder whether you're a good father to Gus or not, it's moot. You're more than good, Brian. I mean it."
Well, shit. I blink a few times, trying to maintain my Brian Fucking Kinney panache and blasé attitude but when it comes to Gus, that's always fucking near-impossible for me. I clear my throat and look down at Gus; I reach down and smooth away a few sweaty locks from his forehead as I seem so wont to do lately and am pleased when his knitted brows even out and he gets a small, contented smile on his face… and I swear he sighs in his sleep before he shifts a little, snuggling more deeply into my pillow. I look back up at Sunshine and give him an admittedly watery smile. "Thanks, Justin," I whisper. "That means a lot to me that you think that." The king of pithy remarks I am not. Not right now, anyway. I lean forward gently, careful of my son and brush my lips against his. Neither of us closes our eyes during our brief kiss and I'm momentarily lost in the depths gazing back at me; the sincerity that shines in those baby blues just about knocks the wind out of me.
When we pull away, he reaches up and smoothes the hair from my forehead, much like I just did to Gus and I find my brow must have been a little worried as my face relaxes with the gesture. "You're a pretty cool guy, Mr. Kinney," he smiles. "Sweet dreams."
Aw, fuck. I sniff - thankfully, no tears have fallen but my voice cracks a little, "So're you Choir Boy. Sweet dreams."
We settle down to sleep and I would swear I probably sleep as peacefully that night as my son does.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
This is an angsty chapter in large part...
I hope you like it!
(Big thanks to beta, Judy/BigJ!)
FUCK!!!! What the hell?
My eyes fly open in an instant; my head jerks down to identify what just caused this sudden excruciating pain and I dimly see that a sleeping not-so-small seven-year-old has just kneed me in the crotch. Owowowowow!! ARGH! I inhale sharply and bite my lip so I don't moan out loud, not wanting to wake either father or son. Then I hear a low chuckle. I look over; I guess Brian isn't sleeping after all or else I woke him up when I grabbed my balls -- 'cause he's laughing softly at me, eyes closed as if asleep, arm resting over Gus. Gus is between us and Brian's on his side facing me, spooning his son. Again, were Brian not so obviously laughing, he'd look like he was sleeping.
"I gather that my sleeping Sonny Boy has an unfortunate sense of aim?" he murmurs, his eyes still closed and his shoulder shaking a little as he continues snickering.
While I don't appreciate his finding humor in my pain, all I can do is clear my throat and whimper a little. "Uhhh…!"
Articulate I decidedly am not when my balls have just been kicked into my molars - waking me from a deep sleep, no less.
"I'll take that as a yes…" he whispers, still snickering. "It's Sunday, by the way."
"Uhhh…!" Good lord. I'm so fucking brilliant at the moment. But shit, I'm in pain and not even fully awake yet!
"Workday for you, Sunshine…" Brian finally opens his eyes, focusing on me sleepily and giving me a wink. Fuck. Why and how the hell can he look so… gorgeous and even cute at this hour? I want to be pissed at him but I'm not. My balls are complaining too much to bother.
Then he looks down fondly at his sleeping son; "Gus gets the day off this week," he adds quietly with a lazy grin.
"…Uhhh." I have GOT to stop 'uhhh-ing'! After a few moments of me gasping a little, finally the pain in my nads dissipates somewhat and my ability to form words seems to return. "… The choir isn't performing so I have this week off too. Er, this Sunday. Er, today." Okay, so 'er' is a step up from 'uhhh'. Right? Damn.
A few minutes later, the distracting pain in my balls is completely gone. I look at Brian's face in the faint pre-dawn light as he continues to gaze at his child with a look of love so pure he'd slap himself silly if he saw his own expression.
Now I hear myself humming quietly at the wonderful ache and slight burn I feel in my ass. Shit. Last night was so fantas-- OMIGOD. It was REAL! It actually HAPPENED!
All that went down last night hits me like a ton of bricks - why it hasn't until just now, I haven't a clue. But it does and shit!… look what I just fucking…DID last night!!! What I practically INSTIGATED!!!!
Daph would laugh and clap me on the back, congratulating me. Just last night, I would have laughed with her and taken her out to celebrate (well, I'd wait 'til Brian was busy with other things one night and I couldn't be with him…) But now as daylight slowly lightens Brian's loft, I realize how impulsive, careless, bad – dirty – wrong I am! I'm a… a sinner!
I want to cry… my parents will surely cry and turn away from me in shame! Permanently! So will every parent of my boys in the choir! Fuck! I'll be fired! What was I thinking???
I wasn't. I wasn't thinking - not in my right mind anyway. Since meeting Brian, I've been almost obsessed with him. Without knowing it, he completely swept me off my feet just by being himself and my only goal quickly became to lose my virginity to him and even hopefully to develop an ongoing sexual and personal relationship with him. It's kind of unbelievable that we were just friends for so long before something like last night happened—but then again, I felt and still feel a sense of disbelief that someone so beautiful would even look twice at me. I was never bold enough to make any move towards Brian that was anything but platonic until last night. And it was really Brian who made that first move.
But anyway, my appearance was really my only nagging doubt after I met Brian. The doubts and fears that had plagued me my entire life about, hmm, let's see: HELL and my family DISOWNING me were they to find out I was gay—those little niggling worries were suddenly fairly easy to ignore. Ha! …Oh God…
And now that It's happened with Brian - after my relentless pursuit, not his! Those "doubts and fears", those "little niggling worries" are more enormous and menacing than they have ever been!
I find myself sweating, overwhelmed with a sense of doom, with shame and doubt; I'm going to hell! All I can do is just lay here frozen, staring at Brian with widening eyes as panic takes root. I barely see him.
"Justin?" Brian looks at me oddly, sensing the change in my demeanor. "Justin? What the fuck?
"Justin, are you freaking out?" He's no longer looking at me oddly. Now he looks concerned as I start to breathe harder.
I open my mouth but nothing comes out except a small squeak as my chest constricts in my rising panic. I know I'm about to have an all-out attack and nothing can stop it…
"Justin?" he says gravely. "Shit, Justin, stop it; relax." He reaches out and places his warm hand on my shoulder to ground me. "Sunshine, it's okay. Stop wigging. Really! Whatever it is, it's okay… what the hell IS it?" He's clearly baffled at the sudden change in his reasonable, composed bedmate of just the night before.
He looks at me critically, his worry deepening as my rapid breathing starts to escalate into total hyperventilation.
'I'm going to hell!' Is all I can think. 'My parents will disown me!' I feel my chest heave and my lungs start to hurt. 'I'll become a public disgrace and I'll bring shame to Father Charles and the church! I'll…'
"Sunshine. Please!" His voice is starting to sound a little panicked too. All semblance of sleepiness has left him as he studies me intensely, trying to figure out what's going on. His eyes shift for a split second to the cell on the nightstand as I'm sure he's wondering if he should call 911.
Then abruptly, a look of complete understanding washes over his features and he relaxes a little. "Oh, Sunshine," he whispers softly, knowingly, his thumb making smoothing motions on my shoulder. "Listen, nothing that happened last night should make you feel ashamed. Or embarrassed. Or sinful! You aren't going to hell because of what we did! There's no reason to feel dirty for what happened! Fuck," he adds to himself under his breath, his quiet tone tinged with disbelief at my reaction.
"Sunshine. Listen to me. Are you listening?" I try to nod, try to truly listen. "You are not suddenly on some bizarre pair of pink, "gay" roller skates careening directly to hell!" If I could, I'd giggle right now. I can't. "There's no all-seeing Power out there condemning you for being who you are or doing what we did. If God is love and loving, why would He have you deny who you are? Now, if we'd gone on a killing spree, He might have more to say about things." I want to laugh but I can't feel much except the panic tightening my bowels. "But no-one got hurt, nothing happened except us giving each other pleasure. You aren't a sinner, Justin. If there is a God, I refuse to believe that He'd have the inclination (or in this day and age, the time) to condemn a creature He created Himself for simply being true to himself—especially in your case. You're a good man," he whispers over his sleeping son. There's a small lucid molecule waaaay in the back of my terrified mind that is rather stunned by the fact that Brian Kinney is voicing all of this to me. I guess he must be a little desperate given the trembling, wide-eyed person he's facing at this hour of the morning.
"And among us lowly earth people," I'd giggle again - again, if I could. "Nobody who would find fault in you for who you are could possibly know you, and anyone who would condemn you for what we did ever has to know. It's nobody's business but yours and mine. You spent the night. Big deal. Who gives a shit?" He looks at me and it must be obvious that I don't see it that way as my panic isn't subsiding.
He takes a deep breath before continuing. "Think about it: Even if someone in your family or the church or whatever does find out you were here last night, no one would consider it suspicious that you spent the night at Gus's Daddy's; not after you had gone out of your way to help the choir by dropping off its little leading soloist's music books at the loft," he says with a wink, since that's not what happened at all. No, I came to the loft after that kiss to clarify that Daph isn't my wife, that I'm gay and that I'm unbelievably attracted to Brian. Hff. "...Then just happened to get to chatting with said soloist's Daddy, losing track of time," he goes on. "And at an ungodly hour had then gone with this Daddy to pick up his sick, little soloist from a sleep-over - offering support since this Daddy isn't used to that sort of emergency.
"You spending the night here after all that wouldn't be considered anything but normal and I'd be pretty fucking surprised if anyone would think otherwise.
"...Shit, if anything, you'll come off as the next official Good Samaritan! They'll hold a special service in your honor, reminding everyone what it means to be a good man!" he smiles softly at me. "Sunshine, breathe… just slow down, relax… it's fuckin' okay!
"And if you're worried about Father Charles finding out, I know him and he should be the last of your worries - honestly."
I'm still breathing hard, staring at him; but slowly—oh-so-slowly-- I feel myself actually giggling, albeit in a peculiar, panting way. The giggles taper off as the panicky thoughts that had been galloping through my head and heart seconds ago slow a little as all of Brian's words sink in; as his confidence and his capable, pragmatic nature and his gentle humor instills me with a sense of tentative but growing calm.
He continues to soothe me by caressing my shoulder gently, eyeing me carefully but not saying more. After a few minutes focusing on his kind face and tender touch, I feel my nerves settle totally and I give him a small, apologetic smile. He chuckles softly at that, shaking his head now that he deems the crisis to be over. "Christ, Choir Boy—you are the quintessential drama queen, you know that? You… you go from shy choir director to child mentor to aggressive virginal vixen to confident snot to compassionate freak -- and then wake up this morning as a drama queen extraordinaire!!" Now I blush and laugh outright, despite myself. "Will the real Justin Taylor please stand up? You have fuckin' multiple personalities, twat! To the extreme! You'd give Sybil a run for her money!!" he goes on with that small disarming smile still on his face; he's obviously relieved that I'm now laughing instead of hyperventilating.
How he knew what I was freaking out over without me saying a word; how he knew just what and how to answer all my debilitating fears to make them now seem silly even to me—I can't fathom. But, he's like that I've noticed over the past many weeks. I've seen it a lot in his relationship with Gus and the other children in the choir. It's now quite obvious to me that he has the same calming effect on adults as well. Namely, me. He just exudes this mysterious, magical Kinney confidence and surety that almost makes you trust him and see the molehill that had seemed a mountain in front of you; be it getting the wrong color balloon at your best friend's birthday party - or the certainty you're going straight to hell, that life is hopeless and that you're a sinful, dirty, shameful man.
As I think more and more about what just happened, I've soon completely dissolved into a fit of near-hysterical giggles, feeling sooooo stupid but also relieved; un-judged; understood… loved? I banish that thought-- just for now. As I laugh, I accidentally nudge Gus who's still sleeping between us, oblivious to the rather intense but hushed drama that just took place in the dawn hour.
"Daddy?" he complains sleepily, frowning and raising a clumsy arm to rub his eyes with the back of his hand.
Brian's small, tender smile widens. "Right here, Sonny Boy. Always."
"Quit bumpin' me…! I' sleepin'…!" he mumbles without opening his eyes, sounding bleary but decidedly annoyed.
"Sonny Boy, I would never dare bump you when you're sleeping. I think the culprit was our guest who simply doesn't yet know the consequences of such a dire indiscretion…"
Gus's already-pissed-off expression deepens as he tries to make sense of the gobbledygook his father just said. "What, Daddy?"
My giggling gets worse; I'm utterly smitten as I watch Brian with Gus. Gus is so fucking cute when his sleep is disturbed but I'm quickly learning that he doesn't like it one little bit. I finally calm down. "Gus, I'm sorry. That was me who bumped you. It was an accident. I'll be more careful next time," I tell him sincerely, despite how adorable I find his little sleepy snit.
Gus's eyes then open, a little surprised at the sound of an unfamiliar and unexpected voice. "Justin?" he rasps after a moment, groggily focusing on me.
"Good morning, little man."
He stares at me for about a minute, confused. "What're you doing here?" He's obviously forgotten about last night—he was pretty sick after all, despite his fever breaking.
"I slept over, remember?"
He studies me for another long moment as he fully wakes up. "Oh… yeah," he says finally as the events of the previous evening dawn on him. He yawns and elongates into a stretch that is very telling: He's going to be at least as tall as his father. As his arm comes back down, relaxing, he bonks Brian's nose; Brian's been watching the two of us with a broad grin, resting on his elbow behind Gus.
"Hey!" he protests when Gus's elbow whacks him. He brings his hand up to hold his nose tenderly.
Gus turns at the sound of his Daddy's voice and a huge, still somewhat sleepy smile breaks across his face, reminded his Daddy is right here in bed too. "Sorry, Daddy!" he says happily.
"I dink id's bwoken!" Brian mock-gripes, making himself sound nasal by pinching his nose behind his hand. "You bwoke m'dose, Sondy Boy!"
Gus starts giggling and twists around so he's lying facing his father. "No I didn't, Daddy! Stop being silly!"
"Ndo, Ah'm serious! You bwoke m'dose!" Fuck me, but I'm back to giggling pretty hard - almost as hard as Gus-- who is now laughing so hard his lanky body is doubling over a little as he lays here.
"Daaaaaddeeee!" Gus reaches out to grab Brian's hand from his face but Brian dodges him, pulling back.
"Hey! Are you trying to gib meh ah black eye too, Sondy Boy?"
By now the dawn has broken and weak early morning sunlight is shafting through the windows; the pale yellow beams make long lines on the blue duvet. They kiss the golden skin on Brian's muscular shoulder and highlight Gus's messy auburn hair. My fingers flex automatically with my all-consuming desire to capture this unbelievable sight with charcoal and paper. Instead, I mentally map out and memorize each shadow, each nuance of light, each expression shared by father and son, all of which are filled with love… gawd. If this weren't Brian Kinney and his child, I'd wonder if it were staged as a ploy to bewitch me or maybe was being filmed for the Hallmark Channel… but as I said, this is Brian Kinney and his Sonny Boy; just Brian with his kid. It'd be the same silly, beautiful, touching scene whether I were here to witness it or not.
So I grin and watch them goof around together in the early morning light, and I consider myself blessed that I am here to witness it.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
HERE'S WHERE THE "ANTI-MICHAEL-NESS" BEGINS... He's an absolute ass. This chapter is also anti-Debbie due to her over-protectiveness in connection with Michael - frankly, she's a raving bitch. But the overall story is not anti-Deb at all.
Well, shit. That's not how I expected the first few minutes of wakefulness to go down this Sunday morning, but it's obvious that Justin has a lot of internal turmoil over his being gay and being raised to believe that it's a mortal sin. I knew that he struggles with that, but I now see how deeply rooted his conflict is. He's no longer a virgin - he's acted on his desires - and it completely wigged him out. Thank God I was able to talk him off the ledge of an all-out panic attack; it was pretty scary for a few moments there. I'd never admit that aloud but I can't deny it to myself.
It's noon and he, Gus and I have loafed around the loft all morning, neither Gus nor Justin being required at church this morning. Me, I'd only be "required" at church if Gus were singing another solo. But I guess the choir isn't singing at all today.
Justin called Ted as soon as we were out of bed and confirmed that James is going over to his buddy's house today as planned, having slept peacefully through the rest of last night after Justin had left (to show up at my door - guh!). Then he prepared a surprisingly delicious breakfast for us; very impressive given that all I had in the fridge was a carton of eggs and some cheese that must have surely been about to turn green. (I'm not counting the poppers, the wilted head of lettuce and the bottles of water). We've finally gotten dressed and Gus is bugging me to take him and Justin to the diner. I've noticed Justin's sly smile. He's staying silent and knowingly allowing the Master to work his charms on me. Bastard.
"C'mon, Daddy! Let's gooo--ooo-oooo!!!" Gus begs, tugging at my arm and somehow making the word "go" multi-syllabic. "Daddy, Justin's never been to the diner!" he argues, knowing by my expression that I'm leaning towards a "no".
"Gus, don't whine! And how the fu—how do you know that?"
"I can tell!"
Pfft. "How? Just because Justin breathes more easily than the rest of us because he hasn't been the recipient of one of Grandma Debbie's rib-cracking hugs?"
He thinks a moment. Then: "Yes! Yes, that's why! He hasn't been a… a recipient…"
By the slight confusion in his eyes, it's obvious he doesn't know what I'm really saying—he's so smart, sometimes I forget he's only seven after all. "That means Justin's never been hugged by Grandma Deb, which can make your ribs hurt just a little because she loves her adopted kids so much, she squeezes harder than she realizes," I clarify.
He nods vigorously, like he knew that all along. "That's why!" he insists, desperate to go to the diner.
I chuckle and glance at Justin who is over on the sofa, flipping rapidly through the two hundred channels of shit on TV. "I breathe pretty well most of the time," he tells me, looking at us with a grin. "And while I'd like to keep it that way, you've talked about Debbie and your friends, Brian. I think I'd kinda like to finally meet them."
Sigh. Sunshine's been a little shy about meeting the gang and I truly can't fault him for that. Fuck, I'm not sure I want my Sunday to be completely replete with drama—it hasn't gotten off to a good start in that regard and a trip to the diner is not a way to avoid the drama from continuing. But it's two against one, and if I have both Gus AND Justin with me, maybe - just maybe-- my ribs will be spared for once.
"Fine, okay. Just let me get some shoes on and we can go…" I say, resigned.
A half hour later, we're walking into the busy diner—not busy with the post-church crowd, but with a bunch of post-Babylon, only-recently-awake queens.
"GUSSY!" a familiar voice shrieks. Unfortunately, it's not terribly unusual to hear it before I have even spotted the massive red wig. "BRIAN!" Oh, shit.
My son is soon engulfed by his "Grandma"; he happily and readily returns the hug. I think he's the only one Debbie is slightly more gentle with. Just one of the perks of being seven, I guess. I dread when he gets old enough for the full treatment. He may find he's not so eager (or able) to return the hug anymore. "How are you, Gussy? I haven't seen you since the family dinner last Thursday!"
"Deb, that was just four days ago…" I remind her.
She releases my boy (who is already almost as tall as she is - sheesh); she faces me. "Don't get smart!" she admonishes and promptly swats me on the back of the head. I don't know how she always manages to do that—I could be across the room and she'd still hit her target. Then her mock frown becomes a big grin and she pulls me into a bear hug. "Hi, honey," she says affectionately as I feel the oxygen being squeezed out of me. Thank God I'm tall and at least my face isn't being smothered.
Still, I smile inside. "Hi, Ma," I say, exaggerating the word "Ma" just a little. "Deb. If you let me go so I don't suffocate, I'd like you to meet a friend… er, I'd like you to meet Justin." Guh. I guess I have to simply acknowledge that despite all my assertions and rules, I really do consider Justin a friend even though we fucked. Pfft. I gasp when she abruptly lets me go and looks behind me where Sunshine is shyly hanging back, smiling a little at the scene and studying the beauty-school nightmare that is Debbie Novotny.
When he notices she's smiling at him, he tentatively holds out his hand. "Hi, I'm Justin," he offers, barely audible over the lunch hour racket.
Her smile widens and she glances at me. "Such a polite young man!" She takes his hand and immediately pulls him into a hug which has me suppressing a grin. "Any friend of Brian's is certainly welcome!" she exclaims finally releasing him. I can't suppress it anymore and I have to outright snicker when I see poor Sunshine hold a hand to his chest trying to catch his breath. At least I didn't hear any ribs cracking - he lucked out. "I'm Debbie Novotny!"
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Novotny," Justin gasps. "I've heard a lot about you…"
I roll my eyes.
Debbie looks at me suspiciously. "Call me Debbie and don't believe everything you hear…!" she says.
"It was all good," he protests, confused.
"Oh, well then. Believe every word! So Brian, where'd you meet this cute blond bubblebutt?" she asks. "You don't bring tri—er, new people to the diner. This is a first! He must be special!"
Predictably, Justin blushes.
"Justin is Gus's choir director at St. Mary's, Deb. We officially met after Gus performed his first solo weeks ago."
"You know Brian, I was so sorry I had to work that day and missed his singing. I wish I could have seen you, Gussy!" she tells my son. Then she looks immediately concerned as she realizes what I just told her about Sunshine. "Justin, I'm terribly sorry if I've said anything to offend you." She's suddenly piously subdued and looks unusually contrite. I snort. I half expect her to make the sign of the cross.
"Deb, he's just the choir director; not the deacon. He's as secular as the best of us." I know that's not quite true but I also know Justin wouldn't want her to feel like she's walking on eggshells every time he's around. And she would—she's funny when it comes to the Catholic Church. Besides, he really wouldn't be offended by anything Deb, I or any of my friends would say or joke about. He just has some inner demons to grapple with, planted there by the Church and his family. If anyone knows what that's like, it's me.
"You haven't offended me at all, Debbie," Justin assures her.
She grins. "Good! Brian, Michael's over there with Emmett and Ted. Ben's away doing a series of guest lectures out of state so I'm afraid your cutie here won't meet him today but all the others are present and accounted for. Why don't you three boys go join them and someone will be over to take your order shortly?"
I groan inwardly but nod, taking Justin's and Gus's hand and leading them to the back of the busy diner where everyone is seated in our regular booth. When Emmett spots me in the crowd he raises his hand and motions us over with a big grin. Now I groan outwardly and feel Justin squeeze my hand in reassurance. He must see that I'm not really looking forward to this.
"Brian!!!" Mikey shouts unnecessarily as we get closer. Gawd. Here we go. "Hey!! Where were you last night? I thought I'd see you at Woody's! Hi, Gus," he adds when he sees my boy.
"Hi, Uncle Mikey," Gus says unenthusiastically. Gus has never taken to Michael; I've asked him about that and he told me that Michael only really pays attention to me. "I dunno, Daddy. It's like you're the only one in the room. He ignores me," he said. That made my innards hurt. Everyone has told me that in one way or another and I've talked to Mikey about it—basically telling him to fucking quit it, that he has Ben, that his crush on me is useless and again: HE HAS BEN… but it hasn't worked and the fact he's like that around my own child makes me feel slightly ill. I'll have to talk to Gus about the whole Mikey thing again soon; while with the munchers, Gus wasn't around his Uncle Mikey very often. Now that he's with me pretty much full-time, he'll eventually be seeing Michael more regularly. Maybe.
"Gus!" Emmett nearly squeals. "How can you look even taller than just four days ago?" he gushes and Gus blushes then gives him a big hug. Now, Emmett—he's pretty fucking cool around my kid. He's like the feminine influence that neither I nor the munchers provide. I smile slightly.
"I dunno, Auntie Emm," he says almost bashfully when he pulls away. (Emmett insists on being an "Auntie" and not an "Uncle".)
"Must be the genes," Ted remarks. "Hi, Gus!" he adds.
"Hi, Uncle Ted!" Gus gives him an awkward hug, having to reach across Emm's lap. Ted's been a pretty good guy with Gus, too. He's risen significantly in my esteem in the years since I hired him at Kinnetik eight years ago and even more so since Gus was born, but I won't tell the man that. In words. Somehow, I think he knows I feel that way though.
"Brian! Who is this tasty morsel?" Emm interrupts my thoughts, noticing Justin who has again taken to shyly standing behind me. This whole scene is obviously pretty overwhelming for the lad. I knew it would be. But he and Gus wanted to come...
I roll my eyes and pull Justin forward. "Guys, this is Justin. He's—"
"What the fuck? You never bring tricks here! And with your SON?" Michael demands rudely, interrupting when he notices Justin's presence.
I sigh. "Shut up Michael. I was just about to tell you all that Justin is Gus's choir director at church. He's a friend—" Michael snorts. I ignore him. "And he and Gus are friends, too. He is not. a. trick.," I continue pointedly, glaring at Michael. "Justin, this is Emmett, Ted and Michael."
"Ted and I already know each other pretty well – small world, huh Ted?" Oh, yeah. I'd forgotten that Ted was Justin's neighbor friend.
"Only when it comes to Brian," Ted chuckles good-naturedly. "Good to see you. James is at Billy's like we talked about this morning, by the way."
"Great! Thanks so much for spending the night with him at the last minute, Ted." Justin looks at the other two. "Nice to meet you Emmett, Michael." Justin smiles politely but is looking warily at Michael. I'd warned him that Mikey might be a bit of a shit towards him and why—but he still looks taken aback. Can't say as I blame him; poor guy knows only polite, churchy folks - well, and Daphne and Theodore. Michael must seem pretty spooky to him. Even though all my friends are brazen, very "out" fags and all are freaks, Michael can be a bit too much to take for me.
"Hey, sweetie! Welcome!" Emmett exclaims and makes to get up to hug him but thinks better of it when he sees my warning look.
"C'mon Daddy! Let's sit down!"
Everyone makes room and since I'm the only one who isn't nervous around Michael, I take it upon myself to scoot in next to him to act as a buffer. Mikey beams, presumably thinking my rationale for sitting next to him is completely different. Whatever. Gus sits next to Emmett and Justin squeezes in next to me. I put my hand on his thigh in reassurance and he gives me a grateful smile.
Kiki finally comes over and takes Justin's, my and Gus's order and soon we have our food. Not too long after, Ted has to leave to go to an NA meeting and it's just the five of us.
"So, Brian hasn’t brought you around any of our haunts yet… well, till now," Emmett observes cheerily to Justin. "He hasn't brought you to the family dinners at Debbie's either; he didn't even talk about you. But that's not so unusual; Brian's not a big talker. Besides, even I have a hard time getting a word in edgewise at those free-for-alls at Deb's. And I am a big talker - about everything!"
Justin grins at Emmett's babbling and glances at me. I wink at him.
"How long have you two been friends?" Emm then asks. "I assume for a while anyway if Brian's bringing you here now; that's unprecedented, by the way," he adds parenthetically, with a knowing grin in my direction.
"Oh, puh-leeeeze! The twink's just Gus's choir director - he's not really a friend of Brian's. I mean, get real! Brian's never even mentioned the chicken to me and I'm his best friend! Besides, look at him! He's not even Brian's type! They probably just came here after Gus sang at church."
Fuck. Despite my outwardly calm appearance, Mikey's starting to make my temper simmer dangerously.
But Justin simply ignores him, as does Emmett. So instead of making a scene I simply clench my jaw and try to ignore him too. I'm proud of both Sunshine and Emmett - 'course, Emm knows the drill when it comes to Michael's occasional pissiness. Justin was simply forewarned over the past weeks and he must be a natural to boot. "We've known each other for a couple of months now. I just don't get out much; Brian and I typically meet near where I live close to St. Mary's. I… I haven't been to Liberty Avenue before. I guess it kind of scared me a little, to be honest—" Michael huffs. FUCK! "—I'm pretty shy. So, Brian didn't push me to go out with him on Liberty Avenue and instead, we'd do stuff at other places or just at the loft."
Emmett gives me a wicked smile and I cringe. "Ahhh! So that's why the "Stud of Liberty Avenue" hasn't been making as many appearances as usual! I don't usually go in there myself, but I've been hearing that the backroom is pretty fucking dull lately!" he winks. Then he realizes how he might sound to Justin. "Oh Justin, I'm sorry… Brian's a good guy and great friend; he just has a bit of a reputation that's silly, really— it's just that… it's just that he's usually around more often than he has been recently," he rambles. "His reputation…" he looks at me helplessly and apologetically, like he let the cat out of the bag or something. Like I was keeping my rep a secret from Justin.
I chuckle. "Emm, not to worry. Justin knows all about me and my reputation," I reassure him and he starts to breathe again.
Justin's also laughing a little. "Yeah, even me, the little church mouse, has heard of Brian Fucking Kinney!"
Emmett starts laughing full-on himself—half at what Justin's said and half out of sheer relief that I'm not going to rip his head off. Mikey, however, is frowning pretty severely. "'Little church mouse' is fucking right," he grumbles under his breath but still purposely loud enough for us all to hear—Justin in particular.
That's it. I finally open my mouth to demand what the fuck has crawled up Michael's ass when Gus pipes up. "Uncle Mikey, why don't you like Justin?" he asks genuinely with innocent curiosity. "Daddy does. I do. Auntie Emm seems to. Uncle Ted, too. What's the matter?"
Michael grimaces at Gus. I want to slug him and I want to hug Gus for being so open, honest and straightforward—for being like his Daddy (without the cynicism). I've learned over the years how true that cliché is, "from the mouths of babes". With a sneer, Michael finally answers my boy. "This 'Justin'" (he looks like he wants to puke saying Sunshine's name. I want to puke looking at the person I thought was my best friend being such a snide, mean, spiteful SOB.) "-- he's just using your Daddy, Gus. If I know anything about people, I can tell Justin here is nothing but a gold-digger and a manipulative player. Choir directors don't exactly rake in the big bucks and Brian here is not only a gorgeous, fantastic fu—not only a very handsome and affectionate man," he amends, "he's filthy rich. Men like Justin are very bad and use people like your Daddy to get their money."
Gus's mouth has dropped as has Justin's and Emmett's; Gus looks like he might cry.
Enough!!! "FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!" I hear myself shout way too loudly as I bang my fist on the table, making all the plates and silverware bounce. Everyone at the table startle and stare at me. Hell, everyone at the nearby tables jump and become quiet, staring at me too. Well, so what? I'm fucking pissed! "Michael, you are acting like a total, goddamned SHITHEAD! You are so far out of line it actually shocks me—and that's quite a feat!!
"Justin has no clue what I make and quite frankly, he couldn't care less! Hell, I don't think he even fully knows what I do!! He has never asked me to pay for a coffee or fucking let me when I offered! He doesn't expect anything from me, of me, and most importantly, he doesn't expect me to be somebody or something I haven't been since… hell, years ago!" I glare at Michael. "He's probably one of the most honest people I've ever fucking met! He's not only honest but he's kind, good with Gus, smart and interesting! And furthermore, do you think I'm so damned weak-minded and such a pushover that I'd let myself be manipulated or played? By him or by anybody? Me, Mikey? ME? Really? Do you seriously think that, were Justin after my money that I wouldn't recognize it immediately? …One thing I don't believe you think I am is weak-minded, easily manipulated or naive!"
Everyone is gawping at me I'm sure but my eyes are fixed on Michael… who is also gawping at me and looking a bit green about the gills as he shakes his head slightly, acknowledging that no, he doesn't see me as any of those things...
"You have a serious problem, Michael and I have to say something that's been a long time coming… It's nothing you haven't heard before unfortunately, but I have to be blunter than blunt, it would seem…" I sigh, still angry but increasingly exhausted and… sad. "Mikey, I don't see how I can continue to consider you my best friend. In fact, at this moment, I don't know if I can even believe you're a friend at all. You've been insulting and rude to Justin, a man you don't even know; you've hurt my son with your vicious words; and you don't care about me as a flesh-and-blood person - you don't seem to want me to have a life or personality apart from this… this "Brian-Fucking-Kinney" paper doll you've created in your own mind! You still see me as your own personal superhero: Untouchable, unattainable and unchanging. Michael, that's not me! We aren't fourteen! I'm not here to protect you from the playground bullies anymore; I'm not in the backroom every night seeking conquests for you to describe to all of Liberty Avenue in X-rated detail the next day! I'm thirty-three; I have a beautiful seven-year-old son; I have a successful business; and I have many interests that don't revolve around my cock! There's quite a bit more to me than being your hero or the Stud of Liberty Avenue - or the rich ad exec. Michael, I'm not some two-dimensional comic book caricature of Brian Kinney! I'm a three-dimensional, adult human being – I'm the real thing."
Now it kind of surprises me (and also kind of doesn't) to notice that the entire diner is staring at me and you can practically hear a pin drop. Until: "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU YELLING AT MY SON LIKE THAT FOR!!!!?" Debbie screeches from the counter, racing over so fast she almost loses her wig. It's somewhat astounding that the kindly, eccentric woman who greeted us moments ago is suddenly this ghastly, outraged beast. Her nostrils are flaring in rage and her eyes don't just shoot daggers at me—they shoot flaming arrows, pour boiling oil and if I had a village, she'd single-handedly raze it. For once, I can't help it as I visibly wince awaiting her wrath. I've never winced around Deb before - not visibly anyway. I notice Gus and Emmett wincing too. But Mikey looks predictably and smugly triumphant as "Ma" comes to the rescue, as always; and as always, Brian's the asshole who's responsible for whatever bad thing is going on with her son. Well, this time I kind of am - sigh.
I look at Sunshine and unlike the rest of the table (hell, the whole fuckin' diner, minus Michael)… he doesn't look nervous. Justin looks downright furious and indignant, like an outraged lion—it's a side to Justin I've never witnessed; not even when he's been royally ticked off at me. Thank God for that. "BRIAN AIDEN KINNEY, YOU SHIT! MICHAEL IS YOUR BEST FRIEND! HE'S HAD YOUR BACK FOR NEARLY YOUR ENTIRE LIFE!" (Oh. My. God! Did she just say that with a straight face?) "HOW DARE YOU DIMINISH YOUR BEST FRIEND LIKE THAT!" Deb fumes, still shrieking even though she's only about ten inches from my face. She's flushed and I've never seen her so incensed. It's fucking frightening. "I'VE ALWAYS TREATED YOU LIKE MY OWN!! BUT NO LONGER!!" In the back of my mind, I'm shocked she's behaving like this and saying these things in front of Gus; shocked and pissed. And… I'm also saddened by what she just said and the finality in her tone.
"Debbie," I hear from beside me. Justin's calm but firm and decidedly angry voice cuts through the tense air. Debbie is looming over him simply because he's on the outside of the booth and she's snarling in my face. "You are so dead wrong, it's ludicrous. Brian's not in the wrong here. Michael has been rude to me since before I was even introduced to him; he's never even met me or heard of me before." Deb's fierce eyes are now trained on Justin and I feel like I should do something but he's holding his own just fine, glaring right back at her. "Gus simply asked Michael why it seemed he didn't like me; Michael then told the boy that I'm a gold-digger and a bad man and that I'm manipulating Brian for my own ends. He was telling Gus that his father is basically a rich, beautiful "catch" who was being taken for a ride by the poor church director looking for a "sugar daddy".
"Brian may have finally lost his temper but if he hadn't, I would have. He was just defending me and defending his young child. Gus and I are close and to tell him that I'm bad, that I'm only friends with his Daddy for cruel, selfish reasons and that I'm maliciously using his father… well, that's not only rude, it's… well, frankly, it's despicable. And worse than that, to basically tell a boy that his Daddy is essentially a shallow, rich fool with a pretty face is utterly reprehensible."
"I did not call Brian shallow or a fool, you sniveling little twink!" Michael interjects, protesting loudly. "My God! I'd never say that about Brian!"
Emmett sighs and glances in my direction in a silent plea not to lay into Michael for this latest attack on Justin. "Michael, you didn't call him shallow or a fool but as usual, you tend to pigeon-hole Brian into a role he really hasn't filled since before Gus was born. The role every other man on Liberty envied and you idolized. Still do.
"But sweetie, you know that even when he was the full-time Stud of Liberty Avenue, Brian would have known if someone were after his money! Besides, it's quite obvious to me and I think it was to Teddy - and I can tell it is to Gus - that Brian and Justin are genuinely friends if not more and no-one's "using" anyone." He sighs. "Dear Michael, my obtuse, freaky liebchen, you've pined after Brian for so long and we've all told you to wake up and smell the coffee but you won't. Please! You have GOT to finally open your eyes!
"Brian's still got his reputation but fuck, he's grown well past that now. He's a devoted Dad, he has a partner," he glances at me and I know he'd wink slyly in any other context. Pfft. "...he owns a successful ad agency, doesn't bar-hop or trick like he used to and he has interests that go way beyond most people's – certainly yours and mine. Hell, I dropped in at the loft the other day and he was reading "Atlas Shrugged". I remember trying to read that book a while ago and I put it back on the shelf after one page. I just didn't get it." I chuckle despite my anger. I love Ayn Rand.
I have to admit that Emmett's really shocking me right now. He's usually the guy to smooth things over – the one to keep tempers from flaring when there's a conflict by exerting that silly, flaming queen persona he's perfected so well. He's certainly not typically my ally. He then turns his attention to Debbie and seems a bit cowed at first by her rage but he quickly braces himself to continue. "But Deb, Justin is right– what he said is pretty much the long and short of what happened. To be blunt, your son was being a total ASS towards Justin and Gus; and Brian finally lost it. None too soon, I might add," Emmett concludes steadily, looking her dead in the eye. "This blow-up wasn't Brian's or Justin's fault…"
Debbie's now shooting daggers at both Justin and Emmett (she's strangely able to lock both in one glare) and she's shaking, she's so furious; I guess it's not surprising that Justin's and Emmett's words don't seem to sink in at all. I'm surprised she actually stayed quiet at all, letting them say their piece.
The sheer, unwavering ferocity of her stare triggers my instinct to put myself between her and Justin but logistically, that's impossible as Debbie has effectively pinned us into the booth. Instead I wrap my arm around him and pull him against me protectively. She notices and blinks, apparently realizing how her behavior is scaring not just our table (again, minus Michael), but everyone in the entire diner seems to be holding their collective breath. She huffs and steps back a little. She looks around the diner and then at Gus, whose hand I've grasped over the table. My boy's eyes are welled with tears as he stares in shock at all of this shitty drama, particularly at his "Grandma Debbie" who has transformed from his loving grandmother into a monster attacking his father and Justin. Just as I look at him, one small tear slips down his cheek.
Seeing this, my fury finally boils over completely. "Debbie, move out of my way. We're going. I don't think I'll be back," I seethe through clenched teeth. I'm no longer taken aback by her vehement diatribe… I'm absolutely livid at what this bitch and her son has made my boy feel, let alone how Justin must be feeling underneath that bravado. "MOVE," I repeat. My voice sounds menacing even to me and she looks a little surprised and suddenly sorry, having also seen my son start to cry. Fuck her. She steps away to leave enough room for Justin and I to get out of the booth; I'm still holding Gus's hand and I lead him out of the booth as well. As soon as we're out, I pick my son up and the three of us leave the diner… and at this point, my intention is never to return. I'm absolutely furious and Justin has to skip a little just to keep up with my long strides.
"Wait, Brian!" I hear Debbie call after me as the door to the diner closes; I hear the regret in her voice but I fucking ignore her and her pseudo-apologetic tone. If I never hear the name "Novotny" again, it'll be too soon. Michael hurts both Justin and Gus and then Debbie screams at me, further scaring and hurting Gus? Fuck that!! I grimly stare straight ahead as I stride to the Jeep, not looking at Justin struggling to keep up beside me or at Sonny Boy in my arms.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9 - Parts 1 & 2
Author's notes: At the risk of sounding like I'm giving a lame speech at some award ceremony, many, many thanks to all you wonderful readers/reviewers. I'll take my gold statue and leave the podium now... (pfft.)
(Hope you enjoy… Oh, and to you Americans, I hope you had a happy 4th of July!)
((A/N - I love all these pictures but I just adore that last one; it's so candid. I know it doesn't much fit this story but none of them do that much... I just thought you might enjoy anyway.))
If I never hear the name "Novotny" again, it'll be too soon. Michael hurts both Justin and Gus and then Debbie screams at me, further scaring and hurting Gus? Fuck that!! I grimly stare straight ahead as I stride to the Jeep, not looking at Justin struggling to keep up beside me or at Sonny Boy in my arms.
I put Gus down when we're there and soon we're all in the car ready to go. Then Emmett comes running up to the driver's side, breathless and looking very upset. He knocks on the window and I reluctantly roll it down.
"What!?" I bark, even though of all the people in the world besides the two with me in the car, I like him the best right now.
"You guys, I'm so sorry for what happened in there," he says, looking a little like Gus with his teary eyes.
I take a deep breath. "Emm, not only is sorry bullshit but you have nothing to be sorry about. You really stepped up to the plate defending Sunshine and my boy in there; thank you. I really appreciate it." I've always been one to give credit where it's due and Emmett deserves it in spades right now. I give him as much of a smile as I can manage but my lips are tight.
He waves off my gratitude dismissively. "Brian, when you left, Debbie burst into tears and I know she regrets what she said. She knows how Michael is when it comes to you—she just doesn't like it and lashes out at you when her son's stupidity rears its ugly head. I think—well, I'm pretty sure that you're the kind of man she wishes Michael was. She's not really disowning you, for lack of a better term… please don't let this blow up into something even bigger than it already is…"
"Emmett, I know you mean well but right now I don't have a lot of patience for Debbie or Michael. I don't want to see them, hear about them or hear their apologies. Although from what I observed, Michael's feeling pretty pleased with how things went so no apology would be forthcoming from him anyway.
"And pfft, I'm not trying to 'blow this up into something bigger than it already is'. It's as big as it's gonna get. I'm fed up. That's it. Michael's snide treatment of Justin, his creepy possessiveness of me in general, his rudeness to my only son—it's too much. I just don't want to bother trying to deal with him anymore. And then there's Debbie's conditional love for me which is understandable - but when she makes my son upset to the point of crying when she berates me in front of him, it's unacceptable. Period. So, if you'll excuse us, we're leaving. You can call later if you want but please don't try to patch shit up between me and the Novotnys. I don't believe that's possible at the moment." With that, I turn the ignition and we pull away, leaving Emm in the street looking all torn up. "God, I've never met someone who is so fuckin' empathetic. Why is he crying over what's going on between me and Deb and Michael?" I mutter to myself.
Guh! Startled, my head swings around to see Justin next to me in the passenger seat looking sorry, worried and weirdly: In love. Lord.
I'd almost forgotten he was there.
"He really cares about you; and Gus. That's why.
"And I believe you're that empathetic in your own way, if not more so," he adds in a whisper, trying to smile. I ignore that crap-comment and we're all silent as I speed our way back to the loft, until: "Your friend Emmett is really cool but I wanna say how sorry I am that I caused all that animosity in there. You warned me Michael wasn't likely to be nice to me and you told me why. I must admit, I didn't expect that though… that was borderline frightening. I'm so sorry I caused it all," he repeats quietly.
Christ. "As I told Emmett, sorry's bullshit and besides, you did absolutely nothing to 'cause' anything or to be 'sorry' about. And yeah, Emmett kinda surprised me in there." I pause. "He was, as you say, 'cool'." Out of the corner of my eye, I see Justin nod slightly but I can sense he's still upset and feeling responsible. "I didn't expect any of that shit either, Sunshine, or I'd have never relented and agreed to go to the damned diner in the first place. What I said to Michael was a long time coming, as I told him. He's not my best friend or even my friend. Friends want the people they care about to be happy, or so I've heard. Michael doesn't care if I'm happy - he wants me to be his fourteen-year-old obsession. Maybe my delivery left something to be desired but it had to be said.
"Well," I finally say with a sigh. "The up side is that at least now I don't have to listen to Emm's gossip mongering for a while. Hopefully he won't bother since I'll be the center of it and already know it all first-hand."
"Daddy?" Gus says meekly from the backseat, making me nearly jump. I thought he'd fallen asleep. I glance in the rearview mirror and see that he's full-on crying, albeit almost noiselessly. My son is utterly overwhelmed by the drama that just unfolded and it makes me want to scream and cry myself.
"Wait… Honey," I interject before he can answer, using a term of endearment I rarely use with my son (but use only with my son. And usually only when he's very unhappy or he doesn't feel well. Right now, he's so confused and frightened, I'd use any term of endearment possible to make him feel better…) "I'm so sorry for what just happened." (And I'll readily apologize, as well… another habit I'm hardly notorious for…) "I shouldn't have lost my temper like that; I was wrong. I'm so sorry I upset you."
"Daddy," he sobs; Justin turns around and takes his hand to give him the physical reassurance that I'm unable to right now since I'm driving. "Daddy," he repeats, trying to keep his hiccupping under control. "It wasn't you… it -" (he hiccups) "-it was Uncle Mikey… what he said about what Justin's doing, that he's bad and using you!" (He hiccups again.)
"Gus, you know Justin much better than that. He would never and is not using me. You know for a fact he's not 'bad', either," I tell him.
"I know, Daddy. But then," he sniffles, thoughtful. "Then Grandma said all those mean things to you! I don't understand it. Why did she blame you for what Uncle Michael said? She… she even said that you're no longer like a -" (he hiccups) "-like a son to her!! She was so angry Daddy! At you and not Uncle Michael! I don't understand!" he says again. He starts bawling and I simply have to hold him. I swear. This is going to the top of my list of SHIT days.
I pull over and get out of the car, going to the backseat. Gus throws himself into my arms, undoing his seatbelt so I can fully embrace him. I just hold him, kissing his soft hair and whispering comforting words, waiting for him to cry it out. I feel so fucking angry at Michael and Deb and myself and feel so damned helpless right now, I want to explode. I look to Justin still up front and his eyes are red-rimmed and he looks incredibly sad. Fuck. Talk about empathetic.
I'm pretty sure my face looks the same if not worse. Keeping Gus close in one arm, I reach out the other and rest my hand on the back of his seat. He puts both his hands on mine and rests his cheek against his knuckles.
"I'm sorry," he whispers quietly and I know Gus doesn't hear him over his sobs.
"Don't be. For fuck's sake, don't be," I mouth back at him. "But I sure as hell could use about a thousand drinks right now," I add, still mouthing my words. I don't think he can read my lips that time but it's more to myself, anyway.
Ten minutes or so later, Gus's crying winds down and I can tell he's totally wrung out. I feel him beginning to rest more and more heavily on my now-very-tear-soaked shoulder as he starts falling into an exhausted sleep. I gently pull away, buckle him in and get back in the driver's seat.
"I fucking knew going to the diner was just going to make for more drama on this fine Sunday," I whisper to Sunshine as I start the Jeep and pull back into traffic to continue home. "I just didn't realize the drama was going to rival one of Ted's tragic, horrible operas."
Despite the gloomy mood we're all in, Justin chuckles weakly. "It'll be okay, Brian. I can feel it. Gus will come out of this opera as one of the victorious survivors… you will, too."
"So long as neither of us are victorious sopranos, I hope you're right."
His chuckling bubbles up with a bit more energy this time. "Well, Gus already is a boy soprano, Brian…"
"As I understand it, he's considered a 'Treble', not a 'boy soprano'," I grumble.
"Wow! I'm impressed, Brian! I didn't think that'd be something you'd know!"
"If it involves my son, I know about it. Or at least, I should and hope that I do… Especially if people mistakenly call him a 'soprano'."
Justin smirks and we're finally home and go up in the elevator to the loft, me carrying a spent, sleeping child. I immediately put him in his bed, only changing him into his pajama bottoms and leaving his tee-shirt on.
When I get to the kitchen, Justin's at the counter resting on his elbows and smiling softly at me. I sigh, exhausted myself and smile back. I go to the opposite side of the island and lean over to give him a gentle kiss which he readily returns. "Glad you're here, Sunshine," I whisper when we pull apart, deciding not to think too hard about how out of character I sound. Whatever; since waking up on this unbelievably bizarre day my typical Kinney character seems to have left the building.
"Me, too. But I still say that me being here is what started all this mess," he says quietly, looking down.
I stand back and glare at him. "Will you shut up about that?" I demand, keeping my voice down because of Gus. "You and your Catholic indoctrination have you overly guilt-ridden about fucking everything! Nothing that happened was your fault and Michael has been on my last nerve for a long time now! Ted and Emmett's too, particularly when I'm with them all! Michael just gets weird around me and it's been getting worse. I would have eventually told him what I did whether you were there acting as an unwitting catalyst or not. Okay?" I wait, still fixing him in my angry stare. He finally nods. "Okay. So quit with the mea culpas and let's go to bed."
Justin glances at the clock on the range. "But it's only four o'clock…" he protests.
"I didn't say go to sleep… I said, go to bed…" I leer, waggling my eyebrows. "But even though Gus is basically down for the count after this afternoon's craziness and an earthquake wouldn't wake him right now, we have to be careful… and very quiet." I pause and think a second or two. "Better yet, let's take a shower - a shower," I repeat, articulating suggestively, "And then take a nap - a real one. I'm pretty tired."
"For a virile thirty-three-year-old, you're starting to sound a bit over-the-hill," he teases with a grin, following me into the bathroom where I start the shower.
I push the door closed and lock it, then turn and grab him suddenly, surprising him. "I'll show you over-the-hill, smartass," I husk and kiss him deeply, feeling his body melt against mine. Ah yes: So many rules; so many rules to be broken…
But I'm having fun breaking them. Most of them.
CHAPTER 9, PART 2
The hot water sprays like strange, soft, thudding needles on my shoulders and back as Brian spins me around with a ferocity that feels almost desperate. I have to be careful that the side of my face doesn't smash completely against the tile shower wall when he pushes me almost violently against it; I feel his probing fingers in my ass, opening me up roughly. Christ. I feel safer than I ever have before when I'm with Brian and I know he remembers that until last night, I was a virgin… but the animal-like way he's treating me takes me aback. I understand it completely: This is release, the anguish and high emotion of practically this entire day is WAY more than Brian Kinney is accustomed to. Certainly never when it has to do with his only son and the shy choir director who (I'm hoping) he's developing feelings for.
I hear him growl (that's the only word I can think to describe it) while simultaneously, his fingers leave my body and then re-enter me abruptly, shockingly cold in contrast with the hot spray; my ass constricts involuntarily in reaction. I'm confused for a split second and then think: Lube. I hear foil ripping and see the corner of a condom wrapper fly past me, stick for a moment to the wall, then slide down in a big drop of water to the shower stall floor. I stare at it a second as it circles around the drain. Oh my God; this is for real. I mean, for real real!
Despite my surprise at his near-but-not-quite brutality, I'm turned on to the point that soon I'm wantonly pushing back on his fingers and moaning. I find I hardly feel the water pounding down, hardly feel the cool-but-warming tile against my cheek, hardly feel fucking gravity; all I feel are his fingers brushing and jabbing my prostate, his hard cock pressing against my right ass cheek and the genuinely painful grip he has on my left hip, holding me up and turning me on further.
"Guuuuhhh! Brian… Bri…!" I stutter stupidly, the want and need coursing through my body and overwhelming all other sensibility.
"Shhhh…" he whispers hoarsely. "Not so loud!"
I bite my lip. I take one hand that had been bracing myself against the wall and slap it wetly over Brian's grip on my hip, not to move it or loosen it – just to hold his hand. But Brian misinterprets my frantic move and pauses, his fingers releasing their bruising grasp on my side; NO! I keep his hand in mine and put it back on my hip. Right now, words are failing me and it's my incoherent way of telling him not to stop; that he misunderstood what I was doing when I grabbed him.
He doesn't try to remove his hand from my hip again but now it's only resting there lightly and he withdraws his fingers from my hole. I can't help but whimper loudly and pathetically in disappointment. "Did I hurt you?" he asks quietly.
I violently shake my head "no", nearly smashing my nose against the tile that had been at my cheek. "N-no! Don't stop Brian!" I finally manage. "I love it!" And I do. I'm definitely not used to this side of Brian but it turns me on and I know he'd never hurt me in a million years; he wouldn't hurt anybody.
But he still doesn't move. I hear him take a huge, hitching breath and I think he shakes his head to clear his thoughts because I feel a spray of water splash on my shoulder from his hair. I force myself to open my eyes and I twist my neck to look at him behind me, the back of my head now sliding against the tile wall. A quiet thought enters my brain how I wish – pray – that I feel myself against this wall many, many more times in the future in whatever way Brian wants. I notice that I'm panting and I see Brian staring at my back, looking almost lost – distracted - his breath heavy too. His brow is furrowed and suddenly his eyes snap to mine; his beautiful, milk-chocolate, green-tinged eyes pin me in a troubled, somehow scared stare. For SOME bizarre reason, that scares me more than anything else I've ever seen. I immediately turn around, still holding his hand on my hip and I search his eyes, trying to understand what the fuck is going on. "Brian?" My voice sounds small and frightened. I feel "small and frightened", of course, but I'm more perplexed.
He clears his throat and blinks against the spray. His eyes clear; "Did I hurt you?" he asks again. "I mean… I mean…"
I smile. Shit. I'm not falling hard for this complicated, strange, enthralling man; I've fallen. "No, Brian. God! This day has all of us acting like pod people and you're no exception, you ninny!" He smirks automatically at my pre-schoolish language. I ignore him and continue. "You didn't hurt me, scare me or anything! I was a little surprised at first, that's all. After all, as I said in the diner, I'm still an inexperienced "little church mouse" in many ways. Although, one night with Brian Kinney is like a thousand nights with any other man…" I leer.
He grins and leans a hand against the wall, his shoulders slumping as his tension abates somewhat. The other hand is still holding my hip. "A thousand?"
"I'd say so. That's a little conservative maybe…" I wink. "But mind you, I'm not complaining."
He visibly relaxes. "For a moment there, I kinda forgot how inexperienced you are, Choir Boy. You have a wild side to you that belies your 'mousiness'." I laugh and feel oddly thrilled that he thinks that of me. "Justin, if you haven't guessed already, I tend to use sex in many ways, one of which is to forget about unbelievably shitty days. And by telling you that, I prove your theory about today making us all act like pod people. I'd never normally discuss—"
"—how sex can be pain management for you?" He frowns but my smile widens. "Brian, I know that about you; I'm many things but not dumb. Your 'one fuck only' rule alone is sorta telling…" Now he scowls. "But I kinda dig you anyway. We've talked about all the other sides of you I've seen and grown to… to like a lot." Ahem. "And using sex to deal with today - a day to top all 'unbelievably shitty days' – I'm okay with that. In fact, that whole 'gotta-have-you', animal thing really turned me on," I admit and he looks mildly surprised. But I'm not one to lie and I'm definitely not lying. "Frankly, I'm flattered you were taking me that way. I don't want to be treated like a fragile piece of china or whatever…"
He snorts. "China? I'm more careful with my prized twelve-inch long, four-inch wide–" he looks at me and I'd swear, beneath the flush from the hot water, I can see him blush faintly as he catches himself. Gee. I wonder how to complete that sentence. Brian doesn't typically watch his words just 'cause I'm a church choir director, but right now he seems oddly self-conscious. He clears his throat a little, again. "Well, that's… that's something. That you like it rough."
"Sometimes. I mean, from how things were going, I'd say definitely."
He sighs and starts chuckling, looking away at his hand on the hard, wet wall. He looks back after a few moments and regards me with an amused, incredulous eye. "So, you're a little, slutty Choir Boy?"
"Who is hopefully NOT, as you said this morning, 'on some bizarre pair of pink, "gay" roller skates careening directly to hell'. I mean, from your lips to God's ears, as they say."
He shakes his head. "There's no way you are going to hell, Justin Taylor," he whispers, closing the space between us. "I'll sure miss you when I'm down there." I blink at his comment; it makes me… makes me want to cry – good grief! It was an offhand joke! But, he'll 'miss me?' Awwww, shit! Thankfully, I stave off the weird moisture I feel suddenly building behind my eyes - stave it off by thinking how wrong he is to believe he's going to hell and by thinking that hopefully, we'll be together wherever we end up (I'm such a total sap). It seems Brian hasn't noticed my potential tears but that's maybe because he's looking down at his hand on my hip like he'd forgotten he even had a left arm. He removes his hand and sees the bruises that are already forming under my skin. Crap. What a time to be fair-skinned and easily bruised.
"Christ!" he says, alarmed.
I start to wonder how much damage control I'm going to have to do when it comes to Brian's own psyche beating him up; it's so fucking undeserved and I know it's somehow his family's fault. (That he loves the mostly horrible "surrogate" family I've already met and hates his birth family, I think it's safe to assume the latter is even worse than the former…) As ridden with guilt and shame and loneliness as I am, I can see now that Brian is too. In different ways, of course; but I feel on much more equal footing with him now, "fucked-uppedness-wise". Er. So to speak. "Brian… it's okay. I bruise like a ripe peach – I do. And I like what you were do—"
Before I can finish my sentence or have much time to think further about all this, Brian flips me around again and is apparently no longer worried about being rough; I suck in a sharp breath as I suddenly feel his long, thick cock enter me and it occurs to me that he prepared me, yes, but to be truly ready for Brian's dick entering me so swiftly, I half wonder if I'd have had to be fisted first or something. The thought makes me exhale in a whooshing giggle that soon disappears in the swirling sensations filling my body.
"Stop laughing, Choir Boy," Brian grunts between thrusts and my giggling starts again. I feel so… fuck, I just feel! I feel so alive and happy… and in love…
Before I realize it and can stop myself: "I love you, Brian!"
Oh my God… at this moment, I wish Brian'd used a ball-gag on me.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Thanks again to beta Judy! All mistakes that remain in this chapter are mine.
Well, hmm. I'm admittedly feeling a lot better than I have since those few hours with Gus and Brian this morning—those wonderful few hours that were sandwiched between my dawn-hour freak-out and the unreal drama at the diner. Even after that desperate fuck in the shower when I yelled out my love for Brian and practically threw up, I was so mortified: Things are actually okay. Well, okay-ish. Brian had paused mid-thrust when I made my not-so-little announcement but then snorted and kept going. Maybe he really doesn't believe in love like he says but I truly think he just doesn't feel lovable; which is stupid and untrue and did I say "stupid"? But in this situation, it was my "get out of jail free" card. I'll work on convincing him how totally wrong he is about being lovable later, once a little time has passed after my "declaration".
Brian seems good, too, considering the shit still hanging in the air after my queen-out first thing and what happened with Deb and Michael. As I knew earlier, the fuck frenzy was about release. For both of us. When we finally got through Brian's "am I hurting you?" crap, we clawed, bit, scratched and came HARD (albeit quietly because Gus was asleep in bed twenty yards away behind the locked bathroom door). Again, I can't believe I arrived here last night a shy virgin and am now going at it like a rutting animal. I bet once Brian really thinks about it, he'll be quietly proud of me. Chuckle.
We're slowly and lazily rousing from our brief nap. Earlier, I called James's friend's house where my boy has spent the day and I agreed to pick him up at about seven o'clock. Knowing what poor Gus has suffered after experiencing what he did at the diner, I'm truly grateful James wasn't there to see it. I feel so terrible for Brian's little boy.
"Hey, I've got to get going," I finally whisper reluctantly, tracing small circles on Brian's chest as we lay in bed (both wearing our boxers in case Gus wakes and comes in - sigh).
"Why don't you, Gus, James and I go to dinner somewhere tonight? I have practically no food and my poor child does have to eat."
Slightly surprised, I lift my head to see his expression. His eyes are closed and his face is calm. "Like a date?"
He gets a sour look and opens his eyes to glare at me, frowning. "God no! I don't date! You know that! This is just going to a restaurant out of necessity!" he insists.
"Sounds a little like a date," I say, biting my lower lip so I don't giggle.
"Did you hear me? Not a date! If you have to think of this as some kind of perverse date, think of it as a play date for the boys! Jesus!"
"Brian Kinney asked me out on a date!" I tease in a sing-song voice.
"Oh, shut up, twat. It's not a date," he grumbles, swinging his legs off the bed and standing up for a stretch. "Get dressed. I'll go wake Gus up to get ready." He throws a grimace over his shoulder just so I know he doesn't appreciate my teasing. "For Chrissakes," he mutters to himself before stalking off.
Within forty-five minutes, I've picked up James and am driving home to drop off my car; we find Brian's already there with Gus when we arrive, ready to drive us out to eat. James is tired after his long day at Billy's but is ridiculously excited to see 'The Pretty Man' and his son Gus. Brian's tried to get James to at least call him 'handsome' but James stubbornly continues to call him 'The Pretty Man'. While it was mildly exasperating for us both at first, we laugh about it now. "After all, I can safely say that I've been called a lot worse than 'pretty'," Brian has commented.
"So. Where to?" Brian asks with a grin, lifting my boy over his head after James has run up to him to hug his quadriceps, the highest part of Brian's body the boy can reach in a comfortable hug.
"McDonalds Playland!" James squeals and Gus starts loudly agreeing, giggling like a banshee. I guess the events of this afternoon at the diner have dimmed in his memory for the time being—thank God.
Brian groans a little. "McDonald's huh? You just want the toy that comes with the Happy Meal, dontcha?"
"I want the toy; a cheeseburger; lots of French Fries; and to play in the room with all the balls; and to slide down the slide; and to play on the swings; and—"
"James, calm down. Breathe!" I finally interrupt with a laugh as Brian lowers him to the ground.
"Well, then McDonald's it is," Brian says agreeably. "Do you have a car seat for him?" he asks me. "I honestly can't remember when Gus stopped needing one—he shot up pretty fast and got tall enough not to need one some time ago. I can't remember the height kids have to be when it's not required anymore but it seems James isn't there yet…"
"Well, James is definitely pretty short."
"Am not!" James protests, crossing his arms across his chest. Pfft.
"You're growing fast but you have a ways to go before you won't need your car seat anymore, Mister," I tell him, bending down and tweaking his nose playfully. That he'll probably always be a little short because of his genes is something he can figure out and resent me for in about ten years. Sigh.
"It's funny. My folks never made me sit in a car seat when I was a short four-year-old but times have changed, haven't they?" I say to Brian, smiling. "I'll go get it."
"Hell, I never sat in one. Jack even thought that seatbelts were for sissies," Brian mumbles and while I only barely hear him as I'm walking over to my car to get the seat, my smile vanishes. I've had small glimpses into Brian's childhood over the many weeks I've known him, all inadvertent on his part, kind of like the comment he just made that he obviously didn't intend anyone to hear. From what little I know, it's obvious to me that Brian had a pretty miserable childhood which makes his comment last night about doubting his abilities as a father much more understandable. That's one reason I tried to assuage those fears because he's the best father I've ever met, hands-down. Well, he shares the title with me, of course.
His crappy childhood has a lot to do with how unlovable he feels as well, I'm certain of it. It all adds up to quite the unhappy challenge for me to convince him at least in part that he's a fantastic father and is not only lovable, but very loved. Luckily, as stubborn as he is, I can be even more so.
CHAPTER 10, PART 2
Frankly, I'm exhausted within an hour after playing with the boys in the waist-high "room of balls"; playing on the monkey bars; chasing all three of them around the gagglingly-colorful Playland room; and somehow being cornered into being "it" in a game of Tag. At least we'll all get some sleep tonight - I hope. It's all been a good distraction after the Day O'Drama Justin, Gus and I have endured; I'm not even including Justin's little "I love you" quip in the shower, but I find that fairly easy to brush off as I've been known to say stupid shit when I'm close to cumming, myself.
I actually eat a burger even though it's after seven and it goes against my "no carbs after seven" rule; I figure I'm breaking my rules right and left and just one more makes no difference. Not today. "Okay, you little fiends—you've played your asses off, worn Justin and I out, eaten enough crap to potentially start you on the road to early heart disease and we've all had a looooong day despite having naps this afternoon—"
"Mrs. Harris said I didn't have to so I didn't!" James interrupts with a self-satisfied grin, sounding oddly proud.
"Well, you should have," Justin grumbles.
I bite back a chuckle. "Anyway, it's 8:15, which is close to or after your bedtimes—well, for two of you. Let's blow this pop stand."
James looks confused. "Daddy talks silly sometimes," Gus explains from behind his hand, his voice in a semi-secretive whisper. "He means we should go home." Oh, good grief; I roll my eyes and Justin lets out a short, huffed laugh.
We're finally all piled in my car and I make our way to Justin's to drop him and his son off. "Daddy?" James says from his car seat in the back.
"Hmm?" Justin answers absently; he's as exhausted as I am.
"Can we go see Father Charles?"
We're stopped at a light and both Justin and I turn sharply to look at him, not expecting that request.
"James. What on earth? Why? It's past your bedtime and it's dark out. Father Charles is probably home getting ready for bed himself! What brought on such a weird question?"
Amen, I think—perhaps appropriately, given the request.
"I dunno. I was talkin' to Gus on the swings at Playland when you guys were at the table talkin', and he said he was kinda… kinda sad. Father Charles always makes Gus feel better when he's been at his mommies and they argue in front of him; that makes him feel sad… I just thought…"
Floored, I find myself pulling the Jeep to the curb for the second time in twelve hours to be able to deal with my son more directly. I look back at Gus and strangely, he won't make eye contact, like he's embarrassed. "Gus?" I prompt, concerned, because I've known he's been affected by his mothers arguing but I didn't think that happened at all anymore, not recently. He's really not with them enough. As I've thought many times before, I'm so pleased that Lindsay insisted Gus live mainly with me so he wouldn't be around that shit. However, I'm ninety-nine point nine percent sure his mothers' loud fighting isn't the problem right now… it's pretty obvious he's still grappling with the day's lovely diner experience. But I want my boy to talk to me voluntarily. "Gus honey, what's going on?"
"He hasn't been sad since he's been living with you, Mr. Kinney… not till today! Don’t be mad!" James defends, not wanting to get my son in trouble and remarkably, using my real name for once (ie, not 'Pretty Man'). Well, I'm somewhat relieved that James confirms Gus hasn't been unhappy since he's been with me. Sigh. This day has me so out of sorts, I'm now looking for silver linings; that is NOT my MO. I'm a fucking pessimist by nature. But… while I'm also glad that he turned to me during the time he was trapped in the middle of the battling lezzies-- that he turned to the Father too sort of surprises me. I don't mind it but the fact that I didn't know gives me pause.
"James, hush," I hear Justin admonish in a low whisper, obviously figuring this is between Sonny Boy and me.
Well. He's right, it is… but... "Gus, do you want to talk to me about this in private?" I ask gently, pretty positive that he'll say "no" but I want it to be his decision. Gus loves Justin like a safe, fun big brother and he trusts him. Sure enough, he shyly shakes his head "no". I turn to Justin. "It's okay Jus," I reassure him - inanely, I might add; I mean, the guy's right next to me in the passenger seat and isn't exactly blind. I sigh and return my gaze to my son who still looks slightly apprehensive. "Gus, you understand that I'm not mad or anything. I don't get why you seem so quiet all of a sudden. You can look at me too, you know, Goofy." He always smiles when I call him that-- it's apt just about all of the time; at least when he's with me. But it's not very apt right now, I note sadly.
Still, he does smile - a very small smile and he looks at me for a brief moment. "Sorry Daddy."
I'm baffled by that. "For what? I said I'm not mad, Goofy. You have no reason to be sorry." His smile gets a little wider before it fades again. Still, I'm beginning to truly abhor the word 'sorry'. "Is that what you want - to see Father Charles?"
He looks down once more and nods, barely. "Daddy," he goes on, seeming to suddenly need to get something off his chest. I quirk an eyebrow, waiting. "You know, Momma Mel always got mad when I wanted to call and talk to you." Guh. I know she has always despised me, but... "And I really wanted to after she and Mommy would fight but that made her even madder'n usual. Then once, Father Charles asked me why I was crying after choir practice; I talked to him about everything that day. Momma Mel hadn't been very happy with me that morning 'cause I had talked to you on the phone without asking her first. That's why I was cryin'." Honestly, I'm wondering where the fuck Lindsay was during this disgusting ongoing "mother/son" dynamic before stepping in and insisting I take Gus but I'll worry about that later.
I think back and remember one of the many times Gus had called me; this particular time was months ago and it struck me because it seemed he was keeping his voice down. Now I understand that in fact, he was and I see exactly why - and it ticks me off royally. We had talked about one of the munchers' spats and I think that was about the time Linds and I started considering that Gus stop living with her and Mel for a while and that he move in with me. Gus's voice snaps me back to the present; "Momma Mel doesn't know about me talking to Father about her getting so mad at me when I talk to you—or about my mommies yelling at each other all the time. I'm sorry Daddy… I wanted to talk to you so much more but I wasn't allowed…! I did anyway but Momma Mel always seemed to know when I had. It was kinda scary when she'd get all mad at me."
"Gus, she never hit you, did she?" I have to ask.
Thank God that he looks at me wide-eyed, appalled at the question. That would be a "no"—one more little bit of silver lining to cling to. "Uh-uh…"
"Well, I'm glad for that. I'm proud of you for talking to me even though Momma Mel would get mad. But please promise me that if anyone ever gets mad at you for talking to me that you'll tell me." He looks down again and nods. "And I'm also proud of you for finding someone you felt comfortable with to talk to when you didn't believe you should talk to me. I'm just sorry you believed that—"
"It's 'cause of Momma Mel!" Gus interrupts, as though he's pleading for me to understand. This is fucked up. What has Mel told my boy?
"I know. Jeez, it's okay, Gus! Chill out! You don't have to explain things to me, Goof, or have an excuse for talking to Father Charles! You don't have to talk just to me or talk to me at all if you don't want to, although I love it when you do. You know I'll always be here for you. I'll even just plain old listen if that's what you want." God, I feel like I'm dictating some sort of twisted 'Childcare - How To' book—"twisted" primarily because I'm flying blind and have no clue if I'm saying not just what he wants me to but also what is appropriate and healthy for him. I'm just operating on instinct here. Shit. "You know what, Gus? I really like the Father and in fact, he was just starting out as a "Father" when I was a boy about your age. I turned to him a lot myself. You're a fantastic judge of character, Sonny Boy—you picked a fine man to confide in. I mean, you turned to the same guy your dear old Daddy did and I have fabulous taste." He grins broadly at my mock-arrogance. Now okay, fine: I may not have impeccable taste in choosing the right people to like and trust (far from it), but Father Charles was one of the handful of good choices I've made in my life. Another couple of them are sitting in my car right now.
As Fathers go, he's tolerant, understanding and sort of like how I'd imagine a grandfather to be. Well, a good, kindly grandfather. He'd listen to me crying for hours about my home life... the only time I remember crying was with him, in fact. And he was quietly comforting and only offered advice if I seemed to want it. Later in my young life I'd also found Deb but she was never like that. Granted, she was great in her way but besides Vic sometimes, I only felt comfortable really confiding in Father Charles. I know now that he had tried hard to get me out of the Kinney house, unlike Deb who periodically provided a wonderful but temporary haven. Father somehow hit roadblocks at every turn though. He never told me about his efforts; I learned about them from Vic after I had come home from college. I think the Father didn't want me to get my hopes up at the time he was trying to get me safe just to have them dashed. So he'd simply listen and kept his determined but failed attempts at removing me from the abuse quiet and under wraps. Having someone to trust and confide in was so novel for me as a kid, it made home life more bearable anyway and I relished it. Guh.
He was even the first person I came "out" to; I was confused and to this day, I'm grateful he didn't go all "Catholic" on me and tell me I was going to hell for my feelings like Justin has obviously intuited from church doctrine and his family will happen to him. I should have told him this morning to talk to the Father about his fears. I get the strong feeling Justin believes the Father is one of the people he loves who will turn away from him if he learns he's gay. I'll have to mention my experience with the Father—his reaction wasn't to scare me about going to hell. He was concerned for my safety, supportive and quite sage for a new priest in an era (let alone a faith) not known for its tolerance of homosexuality - at ALL. A heart-to-heart with Father Charles may really help Justin see that his fears aren't shared by all the Catholic folks out there; indeed, not even all the ordained ones.
My thoughts come back to the current drama of this stellar day as I focus on my confused and hurting seven-year-old. "But you haven't seen your mommies for months outside of dinners over at their house and a couple of overnights. So it doesn't sound like it's their fighting that's bugging you now, is it?" As I said before, that would be a definite no, I'm sure of it. Mikey and Deb's behavior today is what brought on this little bout and probably my behavior too, unfortunately, despite his earlier assurances that it was just Michael and Debbie. Sonny Boy shakes his head. "Is it what happened at the diner?" He nods. "And you want to talk to Father Charles about it?" He nods again.
"He said to. When Uncle Mikey is weird around me, he said he'd listen…"
"I told you... Uncle Michael doesn't really like it when I'm around… he only pays attention to you and he can be kinda mean sometimes. He doesn't seem to like it when you pay attention to me and not him and he was creepy at the diner today. Same with Grandma Debbie."
That had better fucking be the extent of what "weird" means. To be honest, while Michael is now on my permanent shit-list, I don't believe "weird" means what it could mean in the context of a child and an adult man. This is still enough to rekindle my anger which hasn't disappeared since this afternoon of course, but I've been able to put it on the back burner after getting a little sleep at the loft. "Well, that's true. He can be a pretty nasty sort. He was definitely mean today. You know you can talk to me about Michael too Gus, right?" Shitshitfuckshit… this is SO not my thing!!!
"Yeah. I do Daddy… An' I've talked to you 'bout him. But he's sorta like Momma Mel, Daddy. He told me once to "keep my mouth shut" and not tell you he made me cry when he babysat me… He kept saying you were his best friend and you'd get "pissed" at me. It was… I didn't want you mad at me.
"Unkie Ben's nice, though," he adds.
Well, huh, there's that at least. But Michael made Gus cry?? And practically threatened him not to tell me?? For whatever reason, on one hand, Gus trusts me more than anyone else; on the other, Gus is apparently terrified that I'll get mad at him. What's very disturbing and strange about that is I seem to be the only adult in his life who's never been angry with him! I've been stern if he's done something wrong but I've never been angry in my heart or even raised my voice to him. And from what I can gather, just about every other adult he's supposed to be able to trust has gotten angry at my son and yelled at him! Except the Father. It makes me wonder what these supposedly trustworthy, adult figures in Gus's life (my "friends") are telling him I'd do if I did get mad - like I'd disown him or something similarly ludicrous. I shudder at the thought and make a mental note to have a long talk with Gus about this after we've gotten past this current crisis. Ugh. I'd swear it's like they're fucking jealous of my relationship with my son but that can't be. There's no way, right? That would be just too bizarre. I shake my head to clear my thoughts a little.
Jesus, overall this whole situation just keeps getting better and better! I want to rip Michael limb from limb and throw his various body parts on Mel's and even Deb's carcasses. I take a deep breath. "Well, hun. No matter what other grown-ups tell you about me or my reaction, don't ever think twice about talking to me about ANYthing. Even if it's about my supposed "best friend" and he told you I'd get mad. Jeez, Goofy, you know that you are waaaay more important to me than anyone else. If I get mad, my love for you doesn't go away or lessen. And I will most definitely not get mad if anyone's been mean or yelled or scared you; not at all. I'll help you with your problems, okay?" My heart aches as I realize how much I have to repeat myself before anything seems to sink in. With Justin too, come to think of it. What with his thinking that one, he's going to hell for being an active gay man and two, believing he caused today's diner fiasco. Christ! I can't seem to fix anyone's "wrong" feelings about themselves. Truthfully, it's kinda laughable that I find myself in that position.
"And by the way, don't worry about me either, if you are." He hasn't said as much but I know he worries about me sometimes. I hate that. "Folks can be mean to me or yell and try to be all scary but I can take it. I get it all the time!" I smile. "I'm a tough nut." Gus and James both laugh. "I'm glad you have Father Charles. Just remember you always have me too." I look at Justin with a small grin and then at James. "You too, Goofy number two," I tell him.
"T'anks, Pretty Man!" Oh lord, we're back to that now.
Gus is still giggling quietly. "Okay, Daddy. I love you."
Pfft. Sigh. "Me too, honey. Now, you realize that I've called you "love", "honey", "hun" and God knows what else ad nauseam today. One of these days you'll be my little man, my Sonny Boy again. I don't wantcha to start getting used to your old man being a softie, y'know…" I grin broadly at him, conveying the fact that I'm teasing and that he can count on being called all those schmaltzy terms for as long as he needs to hear them.
"Daaaaaddy! I like Sonny Boy the best anyway! I like being your Sonny Boy!"
Allllllrighty then… blinking a lot, I lean over the seat back and give him a sloppy kiss—in part so he (and more so, James and Justin) can't see how his words affect me.
James and Justin have been as silent as you could expect a four-year-old and a drama queen to be during these not-so-little revelations but Gus seems not to mind them hearing his angst. Indeed, it would appear that little James knows more about all this shit on Gus's plate than any of us adults. He certainly better knows the deeper extent of it while I've been largely ignorant till now. What does that say about me as a fucking father? Well regardless, I can beat myself up over that later; Gus needs help now. "Let's go to St. Mary's and see if the Father is there. We can drop Justin and James off on the way…" Fuck Gus's bedtime. This eclipses that mundane rule and I'm all for breaking my rules lately anyway, right?
"I wanna go too!" James pipes up and I look to Justin who appears as stunned as I feel by all he's heard in the past ten minutes.
"Maybe a visit with Father Charles will do us all some good," he says in a hushed, shocked voice.
I exhale, tilt my head down to start the car and pull the Jeep away from the curb, heading across town to St. Mary's. This mood has become waaaay too fucking heavy for my tastes. "I swear, I think Gus and I may move to Maine after today. Hardly any people, no munchers we know and no Novotnys," I grumble. And I'm more than half serious.
"I wanna go too!" James says again, just in a new context. His Daddy and I laugh a little.
"Sweetie. It's full of barnacles, crabs and rocks… and the water's really cold," Justin chuckles.
"But there are lumberjacks…" I remind him. "They're a plus. After all, they aren't all flannel-wearing bears, I hear…"
Justin continues chuckling. "Maybe not… but Gus doesn't care about that sort of thing…"
"Brian, he may never, y'know!"
"I know. I think he actually does take after Linds in his love of the ladies. Oh well."
"Shut up! That's not bad! And you realize that in Maine, there are real bears too… no flannel either - except what's stuck in their teeth."
"Hmm. You have a point… Maybe we can all go to Paris. The shopping's good, the men and women are hot and as far as I know, there aren't any barnacles, crabs, rocks, flannel or big furry bears of any species." I check in the rearview mirror to see how Gus is doing and am pleased to see his face has relaxed into a small smile as he watches the scenery go by. Good.
We pull into St. Mary's parking lot which is deserted except for two or three cars. I guess the evening Prayer Services are long over, but what do I know? Maybe this is their typical turn-out and the services are still ongoing in the church. I doubt it though. It's 9 pm and there's no Midnight Mass listed on the little placard out front so I assume this Sunday is a fairly quiet one for Father Charles.
"So, do you think he's in the church?" I ask Justin.
He shakes his head. "Nah. He lives in that little cottage," he points to a humble little house behind some trees close to the church. "The lights are on. I bet he's home."
"Do you think he'll be pissed?" I haven't really talked in earnest with the Father in years so I'm not sure. Plus, even as a boy I never went to see him in his home; only in the church. The last thing we need now is a pissed-off priest to add to the mix of freaks we've encountered today. Gus couldn't take it. Hell, I couldn't take it. I'd snap. After all, I already have once, just hours ago.
Justin snickers. "This sort of shit is part of his job description, Brian. He won't be pissed."
"Okay then. C'mon boys. We're going in." Justin gets James out his car seat and we go up to the cottage. I tentatively knock on the door. As much as I love the Father for all he's done for me when I was younger, and now for my son - this feels very weird. Seriously… Paris… We're going. Soon the door opens and Father Charles stands there, wiping his hands on a dish towel. He looks so… normal wearing jeans and a sweater. I've only ever seen him in his frock or whatever those damned things are called. Huh.
"Why, Justin! Gus! James! Brian, is that you? Brian Kinney? On my doorstep?" he exclaims with a wide incredulous smile. Maybe this seems like a sign of the Apocalypse to the poor guy.
Uncomfortable, I nod and hold out my hand. "Sorry to bother you so late, Father," I mumble hesitantly, causing both Justin and the Father to laugh.
"We aren't in church, lad, and you're no longer the little boy who'd come to the little church kitchen after choir practice to talk and pig out on my homemade oatmeal cookies." Shit. I find that my immediate impulse is to shuffle my feet like an embarrassed schoolboy. Thankfully, I'm able to resist the urge. I also work to ignore the look of shock Justin is giving me upon hearing this little tidbit of information. "Brian, stop all this pretense." He lowers his voice a little. "You would never call me by my name when you were a boy no matter how many times I tried to get you to, but you're a grown man now, son. Please call me Charles or Charlie if you like," he continues, shaking my hand.
I smile. I don't know whether my brain will be able to wrap around that but it's like I'm a kid again and no time has passed at all since my boyhood days when the only person in my life who I trusted was the Father. Er, Charles. Charlie?
I must admit that I thank God he doesn't comment on the fact he only sees me at church these days if my son is singing. He looks at the small crowd. "Come in, come in! To what do I owe this quadruple pleasure?" he asks genuinely, beckoning us into the quaint living room. Just as the Father reminds me of a kindly grandfather, inside his house is just like I imagine a grandfather's to look—not mine or Gus's, but a… good grandfather. I look around at the small, sparse room and note that amazingly, not one cross is hanging on the walls. Joanie would be appalled given that he was our priest for years until she turned to Father Tom at St. Paul's (a church closer to her house) and also given the numerous crucifixes that clutter the walls of her house. It's almost comical if it weren't so bizarre.
He invites us to sit down, throws the dish towel on the rickety dining-room table and sits down as well. It's honestly uncanny because his focus immediately turns to Gus and he gives my boy a kind smile, like he knows the child is the reason we're all here so late on a Sunday night. "Gus, how are you?" A glance at Justin shows me that he's surprised by this, as well.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
I glance at Brian who looks decidedly uncomfortable even though I can see how much respect, adoration and love he has for Father Charles. Frankly, Father Charles would be a very difficult man to dislike. I don't know any details but I know Brian turned to him as a child and young adult because of his horrible home life and his need for someone to confide in… I honestly don't know how Brian survived, now that I know what his family was like, how they treated him; but I think the Father really helped him during those dismal years. I just wish Brian had the faith in himself as a man, person, father and soul that I do and quite apparently, the Father and his own child do as well.
Father Charles – or Charlie, as he called himself (that's hard to think, much less say) - immediately focuses on little Gus who is in a much better mood than just an hour ago. Brian and I are both slightly surprised at the Father's intuition that Gus is the reason for our visit but James looks completely unfazed and Gus is totally at ease, spilling his little seven-year-old guts about Michael, Debbie and what happened at the diner and even his two mothers. I pay close attention and see no judgment in the Father's eyes as the child talks about all these quite gay adults in his life – some of them more immature than he is.
As he and Gus talk, James sits on the sofa to be what he'd consider "helpful" and I'd consider "nosey" and Brian tugs my sleeve, motioning me aside. I look at him questioningly. "Something wrong?" I whisper. "I mean, besides the obvious?" I add.
He smiles slightly. "No. Not more than the obvious. But Justin, it occurred to me earlier that Father Charles –"
"Charlie?" I chuckle.
He rolls his eyes. "Charlie then… Um." He swallows. "I should have mentioned before that he's a pretty fantastic guy… I mean, I know you already realize that. But I just thought that if you need to talk to someone other than me about the last couple days and your," he hesitates, searching for the right wording although I know what he's trying to say. "And your homo angst –" I smirk (but I don't believe any person on earth could possibly love another person more than I do right now). "Well, the Father's very tolerant and a good listener. I turned to him for about a gazillion reasons when I was younger; one of which was when I was grappling with the realization that I was gay. He's one of those rare, loving, true Catholics who actually takes not only his vows seriously but genuinely has a heart of gold. I can count on one hand how many people I'd say that about; I'm pretty sure you know that.
"Believe me, the Father will not tell you you're going to hell. He's much more a follower of the Golden Rule than the Pope's narrow views. He'll probably give you a handful of condoms, some lube and a fucking safe sex lecture." I laugh outright and Brian smiles. "Sunshine, he's a remarkably good judge of character and would be more likely to cast a suspicious eye on my devout mother than you. With very good reason, might I add.
"And, while I don't know your parents from Adam, I doubt they'd be as harsh as you imagine. No parents would raise a man like you and then turn their back on him just because of his sexual identity." He subtly clears his throat but I sure as hell notice. And want somehow to comfort him knowing his own parents aren't like mine – they just can't love. To be blunt about it, it sucks… because Brian deserves the best. They're the worst. "I'm just going on gut instinct here but I think you believe you're alone in this." My mind swings back to what he's saying. Saying and meaning. God, I love him. "I mean, except for me but you've only really known me a few months. I'm not all you have." Brian says all of this rather shockingly un-Brian-like advice in a very hushed voice and as seems typical for me since I met this beautiful man, my eyes are welling up. I glance at the Father; he looks over and smiles. It's as though he knows it's not just Gus he's dealing with but me, as well. And he knows how sage Brian is.
Fuck. I don't need to talk to the Father; I've got all the understanding and love I need right in front of me. I shake my head and swipe my eyes; if Brian heard the monologue going on in my head, there'd be a Brian-shaped hole in the wall and a slowly disappearing scream in the distance.
"Thanks, Brian. I'm okay…" I whisper, my tone wavering a little despite my best efforts to control it. "I mean that."
He nods a little tersely, not much liking how kind and sweet he sounds or how sappy I'm reacting. He puts his hand on the small of my back, leading us back to the children and the Father.
Gus beams at his Daddy and Father Charles' eyes land solidly on him. "Brian, your little man is not only a fabulous singer but he's a pretty deep thinker and a darned smart tyke!" he grins. Believe it or not, I would swear that Brian blushes. The Father turns to me. "Hmm. Well. Justin – how are you? You seem to have a few things on your mind tonight too."
Now I blush. "Um. No, Sir. I'm better than I've ever been."
"Ah." He nods in understanding, looking at Brian with a big, toothy smile. "These Kinneys are charmers, that's for sure. Well, these two are. I'm not so much in touch with the senior Kinneys anymore, or Brian's sister."
Brian overhears and grimaces. "You can thank God that Joanie dragged my father and sister to another church all those years ago, Father." Then he realizes what he said and how it came out. "Um. Sorry Father. But you kinda know what I mean."
The Father looks down briefly, his expression a little sad. "Well, if there's anyone around here who's likely to thank God, I guess that would be me." Brian and I guffaw. "And I absolutely know what you mean, Brian. I am so amazed at how wonderful you turned out after living through all… that…
"--And how incredible you are as a father. I know Lindsay and Melanie are having troubles lately and how you've really stepped up as a full-time Dad."
"Daddy's the bestest in the world!" Gus interjects.
Brian shuffles his feet a little and acts uncharacteristically shy. "Thank you, Gus. I have to admit that any shred of good fathering I have comes solely from Father Charles." He glances at the door like he's wishing he were anywhere else but here.
The Father winks at me, knowing exactly how uncomfortable Brian is and why. Still, he rises and goes to Brian and surprises me, Brian and even Gus when he gives Brian a big hug - a hug that lasts for like a whole minute. I want to kick Brian in the shins since he doesn't return it for about thirty seconds. Not 'til a little bit after Gus finally stands and goes over to the two men and hugs them both, which makes Brian melt. I can see how emotional this is for him and I can see how hard it is for him not to break down. He finally hugs the two loves in his life back.
Finally the little group-hug breaks up and the Father comes over to me as Brian recovers himself. "Justin." He looks at me earnestly and I focus on him. "I kinda have an inkling what's happening with you – I mean, you're here with the Stud of Liberty Avenue after all." I snicker and nod. "I want you to know that you are always welcome at St. Mary's, my home and all spots in between. I suspect you've been a little concerned about your feelings, your sexual identity and how I'll react. You have no reason to worry."
Okay, I'm admittedly pleased that I get away with only shedding one tear this time. "Thank you, Sir."
"Charlie," he corrects. "Now," he continues in a serious tone. "It sounds like you had a pretty dramatic if not also traumatic day at the diner today. I guess you've gotten a crash course in the ways of Brian's makeshift family. They can either be absolutely wonderful or…" he pauses, thinking about how to be diplomatic.
"Or unbelievable asses?" I finish for him helpfully. I figure he's pretty accustomed to colorful language given how close he and Brian are despite the passage of several years, so I sorta decide to forego my normal polite pretenses.
And I'm right – he laughs. "I suppose you could put it that way. They really helped Brian as a young man. They offered him a haven –"
"The Novotnys you mean? Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, his other friends were the ones who acted more caring towards him today. Emmett and Ted, especially Emmett. Michael and Debbie were awful. Michael basically attacked me. Brian blew up; if he hadn't, I was about to myself. Then Debbie really lit into Brian. It was totally unfair! Emmett was wonderful and defended Brian, Gus and even me.
"Why are the Novotnys like that? I mean, I take it that you know them all…"
He nods and sighs. "Yes. I do. Well, each member of Brian's 'family' has his or her own story, Justin. I think you should know that Michael… well, ever since he met Brian, he's had a pretty sizeable crush on him." I frown knowingly but I don't think the Father notices. "Unrequited love can make you act differently than you normally would. Hmm. Then there's Deb. Michael's mother loves Brian like her own boy but her blood child is her blood child, if you follow me. Furthmore, Brian has always been willing to take all the blame for everyone's and especially Michael's faults. That's something Debbie knows deep down but as Michael's mother, it's always been easier to let Brian take responsibility for whatever goes wrong rather than admit her son is to blame. I think Brian's upbringing made him believe he deserves less than others, Michael in particular. It always pained me to see. Especially since he's always the one who fixes everything - quietly and behind the scenes." Shit. Okay, one more tear shed isn't bad, is it?
He puts his hand on my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. "Justin, I am so pleased you found each other. I can see how much you love Brian and he needs that unconditional love and acceptance that I know you can give him. It's sort of like you were made for each other and I don't think I've ever said that about anyone except for when it came to me and God."
"Don't let today's drama make him shut his 'family' out though. He needs them but he's going to be stubborn and shun any efforts his friends do to try to make amends. And they will – Emmett will unnecessarily just because he hates to see anyone attacked – he's an empathetic soul; Ted probably will because from what Gus told me, he didn't stick around the diner long enough to help or add his two cents. Debbie will definitely try to apologize one of these days; she's a spitfire but she's not a mean woman and again, Brian IS like a son to her. Unfortunately, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Michael to make any friendly overtures towards you but I guarantee that he'll try to get back into Brian's good graces and maybe even Gus's.
"They all adore both Brian and Gus and I'm pretty sure they'll want to make it up to the both of them. And I'm certain all except Michael will want to get to know you better; after all, you've done what no-one has ever done before. As I said, you've slipped under the wire and into Brian's heart; you've made the ultimate Non-Romantic actually fall in love."
"You think so? Really? Because he's so vehement about there being no such thing as love and feelings and –"
"Justin," Father Charles interrupts softly, glancing over to the sofa where Brian and the boys are goofing around. "Brian may talk like he's a heartless bastard but take it from me as a man who has known and loved Brian since he was a wee lad: The man loves harder and is more honest and loyal than most saints. Even Mother Theresa would be hard-pressed to measure up." I laugh, a bit surprised at his analogy. The man's an ordained priest after all. Isn't that blasphemy? Father Charles grins but then his smile fades. "The thing is, he's very reluctant to expose his heart to anyone and for good reason; I mean, look at his birth family. I don't know how much you know about the Kinneys, probably not much as Brian doesn't like to talk about them. They were – and probably still are – not very good-hearted people. Jack Kinney is a vicious drunk who used to beat Brian regularly. Joan turned a blind eye to what was happening and I'm sorry to say this: She hid behind her strange idea of piety. I'd see her at church with Brian every Sunday and it was as though she didn't even see the myriad bruises and cuts all over her son. He'd sing in the choir some Sundays and other parents noticed his injuries. I'm sure they asked Joan about them but who knows what she answered. They surely asked me about them but what could I say?
"God's witness, I tried to get Brian out of that house," he whispers almost to himself. That news surprises me. "But I kept hitting brick walls. Brian was such a lovely child and it just tore at my heart how terribly unhappy he was. I felt so helpless. He'd often come and talk to me after services were over. That was all I could do, really, to help him through those times. Just be there for him and listen." The Father sighs and shakes his head. I blink back more damned tears. It looks like he's even getting a little misty.
"I've known Brian since he was about six but his makeshift family came into his life when he was a teenager and after. And there hasn't been anyone new since. Except you.
"Michael, Debbie and Vic, God rest his soul, have been in Brian's life since he was fourteen. Emmett and Ted I think he met a few years later. He's loved Gus for the child's lifetime and probably the nine months before that though he insisted he never wanted a child; Brian was scared of being like his own father. Thank God that Brian is about as opposite Jack Kinney as possible. He casts a loving look over to Gus on the couch, playing with his Daddy. "Of course, as soon as he held his newborn child, if there was any question in his mind, it evaporated. He fell in love with Gus."
I just gaze at Brian and finally turn my eyes back to the Father. "He definitely loves his boy."
The Father takes no vocal notice of what I say but he nods.
"Hmmm. And there's Lindsay of course – he's loved her since college. And then…" The Father smiles. "And then as I said, Justin, there's you: Whom he's loved for the last few months but with you, it's a different kind of love. He "love loves" you so to speak, though he might never tell you so - in words. But as I suspect you already realize, you'll see his love demonstrated every second of every day. And Justin, for him to have let you in and put his trust in you now after such a bitter life, after years of developing his hardened life philosophies is a little shocking. I am so grateful he found you. You have just the right amount of patience to deal with him; just the right amount of wisdom to see through his brash exterior; just the right amount of fortitude to not put up with any of his shit; and just the right amount of soul to realize what a truly remarkable man Brian is - the stubborn ass."
I'm stunned by these revelations and again look at Brian on the sofa. He glances at me warily and gets up, walking over to the Father and I, letting the boys continue playing. His expression gets even more cautious as Father Charles grins at him. "Are your ears burning, Kinney?"
"They're on fire, Charles. What the hell has Father Charlie been telling you, Sunshine?"
The Father cocks an eyebrow. "'Sunshine', eh? Very nice, Brian. Fitting, too."
"Shut up, Father," Brian interjects but without any malice. "Justin is crying. What'd you do to him?"
I sniffle. "He's just been talking about you. How you used to put buttons in the collection plate, how you'd steal the hymnals so you could write in dirty words and how you regularly shocked the old ladies by mooning the congregation when you were singing in the choir."
Brian eyes the Father who is unable to hide his mirth. "Actually, Justin… you aren't too far off. Brian's always been a prankster."
My eyes go wide for a moment but I don't know why I'm surprised. Maybe it's just picturing Brian, this poised, eloquent, gorgeous creature alongside young Brian, mischievous, silly, rebellious. The image lasts like a second because it's not hard to reconcile the two. "Well, be that as it may Brian, the good Father was just telling me how wonderful you are."
Brian's eyes narrow. "Liar…"
The Father shakes his head. "Believe it or not Brian, the lad speaks the God's honest truth. I have a few nice things to say about you…" he winks.
"He also said that you shouldn't shut out Michael and Deb 'cause of what happened at the diner earlier," I add quietly.
"Pfft!" he scoffs. "After what they did to you and Gus, I don't see me making nice with the Novotnys any time soon!"
The Father nods sadly. "Yeah. From what Gus told me, they were definitely over the top, I agree. But Brian, they love you and Gus. They just don't know Justin yet and you have to admit that you having a boyfriend for a single night, let alone for months now with no break-up in sight is pretty novel and takes some getting used to. Sheesh, it's pretty staggering to see even for me. It thrills me but if I said I'd ever expected you to have a boyfriend, I'd be lying."
"I don't do boyfriends," Brian mutters automatically – it's like he isn't even aware he's saying it. I roll my eyes.
"Walks like a duck, Brian," Father Charles answers knowingly and winks at me. He turns to the boys who are chatting on the floor by the couch. "Now, I'm pretty sure that it's way past the kids' bedtimes; it's sure past mine. So, gather your respective offspring and get out. You've worn out your welcome."
Brian smiles and I'm snickering, wiping my eyes and glad that I’m finally no longer crying in earnest. "You have to be one of the most ornery church guys I've ever met," Brian sighs dramatically. "Gus, James, come on! Time to go! We're being booted out!"
"Pfft. I suspect I'm the only church guy you've ever met. Besides Justin, I suppose." I giggle. Father Charles leans down when the boys scamper over. "Gus my boy, are you feeling less sad?"
Gus nods with a grin.
"And I want you to know that you can always come to me if you're having problems. You can always go to your Daddy too, just like I've always told you. He loves you very, very much."
Gus nods again. "I know, Sir."
"You've been a visitor in my home now; call me Charles, son."
Gus glances at Brian who bows his head in assent. "Thank you, Charles."
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Newish Warning: The next chaps are particularly anti-Michael just so ya know.
Thanks again to my beta Judy, of course; any errors that are still here I'm sure are all mine.
[Here are more photos that I have and simply like - they don't necessarily tie into the story, sorry.
Also, I just saw Randy in Waiting for Godot in Stockbridge- I posted those photos on my LJ if anyone's interested. http://grover301.livejournal.com/ ]
It's nearly midnight when we get back to the loft; I don't even bother to take Justin and James to their home. It's just sort of assumed that we go back to my loft.
When we walk in, I tell the boys to brush their teeth and then I lay out some PJs for each of them.
"You have messages," Justin says quietly, looking down at my machine.
Justin ignores me (go figure) and pushes the button. "You have eleven new messages," the tinny machine voice informs us. I groan.
"Brian, please, please call me!" Debbie. "What happened today at the diner was such a stupid misunderstanding and I wish I could take back everything I said! I love you, kiddo! Emmett and I talked for a long time this afternoon after Michael went to the Comic store and that queen really opened my eyes - to about a million and one things that I really already knew deep down but just refused to admit 'cause some of those things don't show Michael's best side." Guh. What the hell?
"I'm so sorry… I don't know how Emmett got through to this stubborn old lady but he really got me thinking.
"I guess getting yelled at by an irate queen for hours on end can wear you down no matter who y'are." She chuckles. "Just please call me so I can apologize to you proper-like, okay?"
Then there are about three more messages from her, each sounding more desperate than the last. I admit that I'm surprised she wasn't camped outside my door when we got home. (It's hardly worth mentioning that I'm also shocked Debbie Novotny is apologizing at all - and to me.)
Then Emmett. "Brian, hi sweetie! It's Emm! Look, I know what happened today at the diner was outrageous and frankly, I'm still p-o'ed at Michael for how he made your friend feel, not to mention your little boy… but I talked to (well, harangued) Debbie for a while this afternoon and I think she kind of understands what happened a little better now. Not only that, but I think she understands YOU a little better. Who'd have thought I'd be the great espouser of Brian Kinney and his merits?" I snort as I hear that. Certainly not me, but it's been a day of surprises. "Call when you can, okay? And take special care of that juicy morsel you roped in! I can't believe you're still seeing him after months! That's a record, sweetie. Hell, you fucking someone more than once is a record; all of gay Pittsburgh knows that!
"Plus it was pretty obvious how mutually smitten you guys are. Be careful, Brian - this man could be The One. Wink wink!"
I roll my eyes and predictably, Justin is grinning at me from ear to ear. I ignore him.
Then there's a brief message from Theodore simply saying how happy he is for Justin and I, his favorite neighbor and his favorite boss (which he says with a tinge of sarcasm, I note). It sounds like he doesn't even know yet about the shit that went down after he left for his NA meeting. He did say on Friday that he was going into Kinnetik to take care of some paperwork at some point over the weekend. I imagine that he went in after his meeting and hasn't been around anyone who knows what happened yet. I'm vaguely surprised Emmett didn't call him, though. I guess he was busy reaming Debbie out all afternoon.
As predictable as Justin's big grin is after Emmett's message is the fact that the last six messages are from Mikey. At first he sounds upset and contrite but by the final message, his true colors show and I again want to kick his teeth in. "Listen, Brian. I know you don't really care for that little church mouse and while of course I don't believe you're weak-minded or easily manipulated, I really do think he's up to something. Besides, you having a "significant other" goes against all that "is" my best friend – the guy I've known for years and years and the guy who's the Stud of Liberty Avenue and beyond! You're my hero!" Michael clears his throat, apparently embarrassed for having said too much. "Well. Call me. We can go out and things can go back to normal. I know I was a little out of line today. I mean, I guess I was. But someone has to be the voice of reason here, Brian! I don't know what that little shit has done to brainwash you, but it must be something big for you to say all those things to me! I'm sorry shit went the way it did but God, something's gotten into you and I don't like it!!"
I'm gritting my teeth and Justin looks crestfallen. "Shit," he mumbles.
"Now THAT is the reason I no longer consider Michael my best friend," I hiss. "Or even friend," I add under my breath.
"Brian, he's just—"
At that moment there's a pounding on my door and Justin jumps but I know exactly who it is. No-one else would have the nerve to come over here at midnight. "Go away, Michael!" I call through the door.
"Brian, where the fuck have you been? I've been calling you all day and even stopped by earlier but your Jeep wasn't here!"
"Daddy?" Obviously Gus was awakened by the pounding on the door and again, I grit my teeth and hold back a sigh; I know Michael won't leave until I talk to him.
"It's okay, Gus. Try to go back to sleep," I tell him, knowing it's hopeless. I wish he slept as soundly as James. I march over to the door and it takes a lot of self control not to rip it off its tracks. "What do you want, Michael? It's the middle of the fucking night and I have two children trying to sleep here! Not to mention a guest and myself who are about to go to bed!" I'm surprised when Michael glares at me briefly and then pushes past, shooting daggers at Justin who is looking a little like a deer caught in headlights.
"You're still here??" he spits, ignoring what I said completely. "Is that your dinged-up beater parked behind Brian's Jeep? It doesn't belong anywhere near a place as upscale as Brian's! Why don't you just get your for-crap car and your ugly ass out of here! For good!"
There's a long pause; I'm gawping at Michael in disbelief and Justin looks incredulous. Finally, Sunshine speaks.
"Not that it's really any of your business but yes, that's my car. And yes, I'm still here. I think I'll be here for a long time to come, too," Sunshine sneers, recovering his wits quickly. I'm silently (silently) pleased to see how confident and strong he is. But I'm not surprised.
"Think again, blondie," Michael sneers back, his voice dripping with contempt. I can't help but continue to stare at him; who IS this guy?
Justin is fuming now. "Look Michael, I'm not quite sure what you have against me except for the fact that Brian's been with me for months now and I have what you so desperately yearn for: Brian's friendship, love and the fact that I can enjoy being fucked by him everyday. It's incredible." I can't help but chuckle at Justin's vehemence and quite honestly, at Michael's shocked expression. He deserves to be cut down a notch. "Plus I have a much better ass than you," he adds in all seriousness and this time I laugh out loud. "Shut up, Brian," he tosses at me and I cover my mouth but am still laughing. "I'm cuter, younger and very much in love with Brian. Brian's not your best friend; he's not your lover; he's your sick obsession, Michael! You sure as hell don't have to like me and it's pretty obvious that will never happen, but you better expect to see me especially if you still plan on seeing Brian because I'm not going ANYwhere! The only one who can tell me to leave is Brian and so far, that hasn't happened and it doesn't appear that it will either! So get over yourself!
"You've built Brian up in your mind as this static, god-like hero that, as Brian told you in the diner, is not who he is! He's a man who has feelings, a child, a lover, a full life on all fronts and your stubborn refusal to see beyond this weird, phony "Brian-Fucking-Kinney" image you've created in your brain is almost obscene!"
I decide now is not the time to quibble over all this "love-talk" crap.
Then I truly freak out when I see Michael, having turned an alarming and peculiar shade of enraged red, jumping across the gap between himself and Sunshine and actually taking him by the neck.
"MICHAEL!" I scream, leaping on the man to tear him away from Justin who looks about as shocked as I feel. I pull him off forcibly off and shove him up against the door, literally seething and using every ounce of control I can muster to keep from tearing his throat out. "WHAT THE FUCKING HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?"
"Get off me, Brian!! Did you hear what he fucking said to me! ME? Your best friend?!"
I glance at Justin who is massaging his throat and coughing. "Are you okay, Sunshine?" I ask gently, still keeping a firm hold on Michael who is struggling to free himself.
Still choking a little, he nods. "Fine," he rasps. "Just surprised as hell," he adds.
"You and me both," I agree grimly and turn my attention back to Michael. "Get out of here, Michael. I never want to see you again." My voice is strangely calm. I sure as fuck don't feel calm. I maneuver a little, slide open the door and push him out into the hall. Shit, I have to change the locks now; Michael has a key. For the time being I'll just have to settle on changing the alarm code.
I quickly do so and turn to see Justin still trying to catch his breath and my son standing there looking so scared it makes me want to rip my hair out. Fuck! In about two days I've somehow unwittingly managed to completely traumatize my own child. I go over to Justin and rub his back and motion for Gus to come over. "Daddy? What just happened?"
"I'm honestly not sure, Sonny Boy, but Michael appears to have come a little unhinged…" I glance at the clock over the range. 2 am. Terrific. Gus is now clinging to my leg and starting to shake. "But you're safe now, Gus. I'll take care of you and nothing bad will happen to you, Justin or James."
He's crying quietly and I feel helpless not for the first or even tenth time today. "Or you?"
I smile despite myself. "Or me, Little Man."
"Why did he try to hurt Justin?"
"I don't know, sweetheart. But he's gone now." I find that Gus AND Justin are both clinging to me. "Hey, how 'bout you sleep in the big bed with me and Justin again tonight?" I feel him nod. "Okay, let's go lay down then. It has been one kicker of a long day." I lead him and Justin to the bed and frankly, I collapse without even stripping down to my boxers and only barely take the time to flip off my shoes. I look to the small bed where James is still snoozing like he's in fucking hibernation. Lucky kid. I look into Justin's eyes and before I can stop myself, I caress his cheek with the back of my hand. Shit, his skin is so soft. "Do you even shave? I've never seen you shave," I ask with a smile, trying to lift just a little of the somber mood that's fallen over the loft.
He grins. "Nope. It's some kind of weird, genetic trait in my family that us blondies don't have to shave – rarely, anyway. I sorta wish I did have to. It's not like I'm not plenty old enough; it's a bit embarrassing that my face is as smooth as a baby's butt."
I decide to ignore the hoarseness still evident in his voice. "Pfft. I like it. And as someone who would probably have to shave at least once every two minutes to get even remotely as smooth as you are, I think you should count your blessings." I look down and not surprisingly, Gus is already sleeping.
He strokes my cheek. "I love your face, stubble and all." Sap. "You are seriously the most beautiful man I've ever fucking seen."
"Yeah, well, you've led a pretty sheltered existence, Sunshine."
"Boy, has that ever changed in the last few months!" he exclaims, rolling his eyes. I don't comment. "And no matter how sheltered my life was before I met you, that doesn't mean I don't recognize beauty when I see it."
Hmm. I think I smile.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Warnings: NC-17, AU, Anti-Michael (I'm not but this story definitely is); this and the next chap are particularly anti-Michael just so ya know. Well, up to the end, it's anti-Michael; and the end is near! "Semi-OOC" (Justin in particular has a different background than in the actual show; but he's still golden). I'm sure there are more but none that come to mind and I think anything that would potentially offend has been mentioned.
Snicker - I feel obligated to say that this is not a death fic. Gawd - I hate them myself. So no worries.
Thanks to bigj52, although I'm posting this before she's gotten back to me on this chap, beta-wise. All mistakes are mine. I'm sure she appreciates me saying so! ;)
CHAPTER 13, part 1
We both finally – FINALLY – drift off with Gus between us and James sleeping soundly in the small bed by the bathroom. I can tell that neither Brian nor I sleep very well; after all, what a fucking day we had. Indeed, it felt like it went on for about ten years. "Ten years" but the residual stress had each of us waking up various times, which I know because our eyes connected in the darkness more than five or six times during the course of the night and while we're definitely in "sync"… I awoke to closed lids more times than I saw those beautiful eyes staring back at me and I'm positive the same goes for him. At least I felt some comfort if not rest; our arms were draped carefully over Gus to caress each other all night.
I finally really do fall asleep for a few uninterrupted hours and when I wake up in the morning, Gus is in the kitchen with his father who is pouring the boy some juice. I see that it's about 10 am but a glance out the window would make me think otherwise; it's grey and raining, ominous storm clouds hanging low over the city promising even worse. I get up and stretch and it's then that Brian sees I'm awake. "Hey, doofus!"
Pfft. "G'morning…" Coffeecoffeecoffee. God, I'm still in the clothes I was wearing yesterday. I vaguely note that Brian is too. I pad over to the kitchen. "Kinda gloomy weather today, huh?"
"Hmm. I've always loved gloomy weather. It suits me."
I smirk at him but don't say anything; all my essence, spirit, body, soul, brain, LIFE needs is: coffee. Well, yeah. Okay: Brian. But in the immediate moment, it's COFFEE. And the fucking lug is standing in my way of the coffeemaker.
It's then that James comes wandering out in Gus's PJs. They're too big for him and the sleeves are too long, flopping over his hands and he trips a little over the flannel leggings catching under his feet. I smile and reflect on the fact that my son slept through pretty much all the drama last night and was at his friend's during all the shit that went down at the diner yesterday. I guess I should count my blessings that he's been blissfully untouched by all these weird events. He yawns and grins sleepily at us.
Suddenly we all jump at the sound of a loud crash from outside. What the fuck was that?
Brian goes over to the window and looks down to the street. "Holy shit. Holy fucking shit!" He races to the door, flings it open and runs out, going down the stairs three at a time. Confused and alarmed, I go to the window to look outside and I'm completely shocked…
Michael is down there in his car and is repeatedly smashing into my car! The fuck!? Tossing over my shoulder to the boys that we'll be right back and to get some fruit from the fridge (I hope there is some), I immediately rush out after Brian and when I get out of the building I see Brian standing there in the rain looking incredulously at Michael's car bashing into mine. What can he do? Man vs. car, even when that man is Brian Kinney: the car will prevail. I stand next to him and we simply watch, helpless.
Finally Michael stops. Needless to say, if my car was a beater before, it's now completely trashed. I'm speechless and momentarily frozen in place, mouth open and eyes wide. Michael has lost it completely and yeah, he made me edgy before, but he truly scares me now; after attacking me last night and now THIS, it's obvious that he's capable of anything. And I'm his target.
Brian stalks up to the driver's side door and tears open the door, hauling the deranged lunatic out and getting right in his face. "Michael, come on," he says in an oddly calm but fierce voice. I'm surprised when he forcibly drags the man upstairs. Michael must be surprised too because at first he's silent and doesn't resist. Maybe he thinks he's going to get what he's always wanted.
Luckily, Michael doesn't see me as they pass; still, I follow them cautiously. What the hell is Brian doing bringing him into the loft? Our children are in there! I trust him though. Before he gets to the door, he opens the utility closet and shoves Michael in, slamming the door and leaning against it hard. Ah. I see. It's then that Michael starts to protest loudly and pound on the door but I know he's no match for Brian and won't escape. "Justin, go inside the loft and stay with James and Gus. I want you to call 911 but try not to alarm the boys. I'm going to stay out here and make sure this psycho freak doesn't go anywhere or get near the kids. Just in case, lock the loft door behind you. I'll wait out here until the cops come."
I nod mutely and go in the loft, closing and locking the door and trying to appear calm. I call the police and wait with the boys at the kitchen island, praying the cops come quickly. I pour them cereal and try to keep things as light as I can although they're both looking worriedly at the door, hearing Michael's yells and pounding, muted behind the loft and closet doors. Gus looks at me in confusion. "Why did you lock Daddy out? Is that Uncle Michael?"
James adds, "What's goin' on out there?"
Soon I'm relieved to hear sirens and I tell the boys that as Brian had said previously, Michael has become "unhinged" (he's well beyond that, I think to myself) and needs help. I explain that Brian is outside keeping Michael from getting in the loft and that the police are coming to take Michael away. I reassure Gus as convincingly as I can that his Daddy is big and strong and will be just fine. I'm glad that my voice doesn't waver much, as my own concern for Brian is making my heart palpitate like a trip-hammer.
I thank God when I hear the cops on the stairs and Brian's muffled voice briefly relating what's been happening over the last couple of days. Then I hear a strange commotion when Michael is freed from the closet, yelling and then the sudden heart-stopping sound of a gunshot. Everything is silent for a split second. Omigod! "Boys, stay here and DO NOT COME OUT!" I exclaim. I fly to the door, unlock and fling it open, slamming it behind me with a crash and rush into the hall; and nearly faint dead away at what I find. One of the cops is cuffing Michael and calling for a "bus" and there on the floor... and there on the floor…
Chapter 14: Chapter 14 (or, chap. 13, part 2 - whatever)
Chapter 13, part 2
I thank God when I hear the cops on the stairs and Brian's muffled voice briefly relating what's been happening over the last couple of days. Then I hear a strange commotion when Michael is freed from the closet, yelling and then the sudden heart-stopping sound of a gunshot. Everything is silent for a split second. Omigod! "Boys, stay here and DO NOT COME OUT!" I exclaim. I fly to the door, unlock and fling it open, slamming it behind me with a crash and rush into the hall; and nearly faint dead away at what I find. One of the cops is cuffing Michael and calling for a "bus" and there on the floor... and there on the floor…
Brian!! The other cop is crouching down holding his jacket to Brian's shoulder. I drop to my knees beside Brian and hold his head as I start to wail, unable to control myself. Brian's been shot. Shot. "WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?" I scream between the sobs wracking my body.
"Sir, calm down. Please. This man wrestled the gun from my holster," he nods towards the man he's cuffing. Michael. "…And he shot your friend.
"Please stay calm – hysterics won't help the situation."
I'm afraid hysterics is all I can manage at the moment. "HOW COULD HE GET IT OUT OF YOUR FUCKING HOLSTER? The gun is fucking FASTENED in there!!! You incompetent ASS!!!!"
The cop says something but I'm no longer listening as I look at Brian; he's conscious but looks pretty dazed. "Brian? Brian! Oh please don't leave me… please!" So what if I don't make sense.
He reaches out his hand and I grasp it in mine, holding it to my lips. "Choir Boy, I'm okay. But I'll never underestimate the power of lunacy again… or fucking guns. I never would have thought Michael could..." his voice trails away. "It was an accident I think. I believe he wanted to get to… you."
Pfft. I bodily push the cop next to me out of the way and rip the jacket from his hands, applying pressure to the wound myself. "Hey!" the officer protests. I vaguely notice the other cop who's holding Michael shushes him and he stays silent, allowing me to take over. Thank God there aren't any vital organs in the shoulder, at least.
Brian's breathing rapidly but is still aware. The cop who was just shushed speaks again, "Sir, keep the pressure on the bleeding. An ambulance is already on the way."
"Shut up! I know what to do!" I lash out at him angrily. I've seen ER. "You're both fucking incompetent asses!" I repeat. Yeah, yeah. They're idiots and I realize that I'm taking out my overwhelming anxiety on them. They're used to that though, right?
My hands are shaking so hard I can barely control them but I keep the pressure on the wound and continue babbling at Brian all the loving words he doesn't want to hear but I can't help saying. Even in his delirious state, I could swear he rolls his eyes a little as I beg him to be okay, to stay with me, to know how much I love him, etc etc.
Soon I hear sirens again and then the sounds of the paramedics clamoring up the stairs. "HURRY! HURRY UP!" I urge them unnecessarily. I finally move out of the way to make room for them to work on Brian. They strap an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth and quickly lift him onto the gurney. One of them grabs the cop's jacket from me and takes over applying pressure on his shoulder. "I'm coming with you!" I announce and the medics look at each other. The older one nods after a beat.
"Come on," he says and we race down to the ambulance with Brian carefully in tow, leaving the stupid cops with Michael on the landing. I barely notice but I think Michael looks a little shell-shocked standing there, like he can't believe what just happened. I don't give a shit and I practically dive into the back of the ambulance next to Brian.
"Justin, the boys…"
Oh shit. Gus and James! How could I forget the boys? They're probably scared to death! Thank God I closed the door to the loft behind me before they could see Brian bleeding on the ground -- but they can't stay there alone! We're already tearing towards the hospital; shit. I try to get one of the medics' attention but he's already noticed what's going on.
"We'll radio the policemen at the apartment so one can stay with your boys until someone they know can get there to drive them to the hospital," he offers. "I suspect the cops are still there. They don't move as quickly as we do once they've apprehended the suspect," he says with a roll of his eyes.
Whatever. "Please do that! Radio them!" I plead, grateful to the man. He picks up his handset and calls the cops and after a moment listening, nods and then assures me that one of them will stay with the boys. Thank God. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," I say to the medic and he smiles slightly while simultaneously working on Brian doing God knows what.
I hastily reach into Brian's pocket and take out his cell phone. Who do I call? James has never met Debbie and Gus is still a little scared of her after yesterday at the diner. He'd gone to bed already last night and didn't hear Deb's messages begging forgiveness. James and Gus both know Ted but Ted is usually impossible to get in touch with this time of day and I don't want to mess around right now. "Do you have Emmett on speed dial?" I ask Brian hurriedly. While I know James hasn't met him, I know he's great with Gus so hopefully he'll quickly put James at ease.
Brian nods weakly. "He's in there under 'Flaming Queen'," he smiles. "Number three," he says weakly.
I have absolutely no sense of humor at the moment so I don't smile back but I quickly call Emmett who readily agrees to go to the loft. "What happened, Sweetie? Are those sirens I hear?" he asks, concerned about the terrified tone of my voice and the ambulance blaring in the background.
"Michael shot Brian, that's what! We're in the ambulance right now!" I adore Emmett for all he's done but I have no time for chatty explanations. "Please. Just get to the loft, get the boys and meet us at Allegheny General; LIKE NOW. There's a police officer staying with Gus and my son James but they don't know him or what the hell's going on; they're probably scared shitless!" I yell and hang up.
I turn my attention back to Brian and realize there are tears of panic on my cheeks. Tears. Not surprising, I think to myself.
"My, my," Brian grins. "A no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy, aren't you? I like that in a man." His soul is so big but his voice sounds so fucking small.
"Shhh. Don't talk. Let the paramedics do their thing."
"He should be fine, sir," the older one assures me. "The bullet didn't hit a critical region. His arm will be immobilized in a sling for a while, is all."
Brian winces when the ambulance hits a slight bump in the street. I can see how much excruciating pain he's in and it makes my chest hurt. He tries to cover. "Rats. A sling? And not the X-rated kind?" Brian jokes, sounding slightly muffled from the oxygen mask and sounding so fucking weak in general I want to scream. The medics laugh and I growl at them for daring to be even slightly light-hearted at this moment. Brian squeezes my hand. "I'll be fine, Choir Boy. Chill out."
I nod. Brian will be fine. That's good but it doesn't make my panic go away. It feels like hours but the ride only takes a few minutes before we arrive at the hospital. I race into the ER behind the gurney and the doctor there stops me from going into the back where they wheel Brian. A nurse looks at me sympathetically and points to the waiting room. I go there but instead of sitting, I pace like a madman. Fifteen minutes later, Emmett rushes in with James on his hip and holding Gus's hand. The poor child is bawling his eyes out. Shit, that kid has been through hell. He splits off from Emmett and comes running up, practically throwing himself at me. "Where's my Daddy?" he cries.
"The docs are taking care of him, Gus. The paramedics say he'll be okay. Just a little sore. I'm sure you're scared but your Daddy wouldn't want you to worry, especially because he's going to be fine."
"Can I see him?"
"As soon as the doctors say it's okay."
Then I'm shocked to see that Debbie is standing there just behind Emmett listening to all this. "Did Emmett really say…" she starts in a hoarse voice. She clears her throat. "Did Michael shoot him? Brian?" she finally whispers. "My Michael? My Brian? That's impossible!"
I grimace. Why'd Emmett call Deb? I guess since he talked to her and "straightened her out" about Brian, he thought Brian might want his surrogate mother here. But I don't. "I called her on the way here, Honey. I think she'd want to be here for Brian," Emmett tells me quietly.
Grr. Whatever. "Michael is insane, Debbie. Last night, he attacked me physically and Brian threw him out but he came back this morning and started to smash my fucking car. Finally Brian shut him in the utility closet to keep him out of the loft and away from the children and had me call the cops. I was with the boys when they arrived so I didn't see what happened but apparently Michael got a gun off one of the officers and in the struggle, he shot Brian in the shoulder." I take a shuddering breath. "I have never been more terrified in my life!"
"Jesus Christ!" she and Emmett both exclaim at once, looking absolutely stunned hearing the details, spare as they are.
"I can't believe this!" Debbie adds. "Michael's been pretty upset after realizing you and his best friend were an item; after all, Brian's always been his hero and you don't fit into the picture. But I can't believe he'd go this far!"
"Yeah, well, from the look on his face after he shot Brian, I'm not sure he believed it either. Particularly because I don't think Brian was the one he wanted to shoot. I suspect it was me and so does Brian; he told me so as he lay there bleeding. But obviously things got out of control. I know he's your son but I hate him, Debbie. I hate him more than I hate anyone or anything!"
She nods and then shakes her head, still trying to wrap her mind around the situation. "And Michael's in jail now?"
"Yeah. They should lock him in some psych ward on a remote island if you ask me. And throw away the fucking key.
"Pfft. Or simply prop him up in front of a firing line. That sounds even better." I'm not joking in the slightest.
She doesn't look at me directly, her expression bothered and distracted. "That might be the best thing for him, you're right… The psych ward, I mean. He needs help."
Emmett is still holding James who appears confused if anything and Emm backs away quietly to keep my boy from the drama, whispering kind words to keep him calm. I think I love Emmett. I have to deal with Gus who has quieted some but he's still sobbing, tightly grasping my hand with both of his and there's nothing I can do but reassure him that Brian will be okay. About a half hour later the doctor comes up to us. "You're Brian Kinney's family, right?"
"Yes! How is he?" I exclaim.
The doc smiles. "He's resting but he's asking for you. If possible, he'd like to see his son and someone named 'Justin'." The doctor looks at us questioningly, like we may not fulfill his favorite patient's wishes. Pfft. "He's a strong man and he'll recover completely. Indeed, after some of the meds wear off and the test results come back, you can take him home in a couple of hours."
"Please take us to him!"
"I'll stay here with James," Emmett says. "He really doesn't know what's happening and I'll try to explain it to him before we join you. Give Brian our love."
I want to kiss him. "Thanks, Emm."
The doctor leads the three of us to a small private room and the sight of Brian laid out in a hospital bed is daunting at best - bone-chilling at worst. He sees us enter and smiles wanly. I know he's aware of how frightened we all are and is trying to be strong, despite the fact his former best friend shot him; that the bullet was just dug out of his shoulder; and he's in terrible pain, meds or not. Gus runs immediately to his side bawling his eyes out and Brian grins a little, touched by his concern.
"Gus Love, I'm okay," he reassures the child. "Come up here with me." He pats the bed with his good hand and Gus immediately and gingerly climbs up to lie next to his beloved father.
"Jesus, Brian, what you won't do to get drugs!" If I don't say something flip, I'll cry. And I know Brian wouldn't want that. He's already got that in spades as Gus clings to him gently, sobbing.
He rolls his eyes at my comment and then spots Debbie. He looks a little surprised and the mood in the room shifts. "I'm sorry, Deb," he offers a bit sadly. Sorry for WHAT?
She gets a surprised expression, herself. "What on earth are you fucking sorry for? You're the one who got hurt and at the hands of my own blood son! You were trying to help him! Shit, Brian! I don't know why but hours of Emmett chewing me a new one yesterday opened my eyes. Not to mention what happened this morning, of course." She drags a for-crap chair over, sits heavily and takes a deep breath.
"Okay, Brian Kinney. Listen up and listen up good 'cause I'll prob'ly only say sumpin' like this to you once in my lifetime: I'm real sorry. I am. Emm pointed out all sorts of shit I should have seen plain as day but didn't; I do now. He basically screeched at me all fuckin' afternoon after my shift was over, telling me how you take on responsibility for Michael and how pig-headed I can be about you sometimes, not seeing what you do for him and all of us.
"That queen is terrifying when he's on a mission, I'll tell you that much," she chortles. "Even to this old battleaxe! Shit, he didn't shut up. He also kept at me about how you haven't actually been leading Michael on for years now; that you had long outgrown that "phase of immaturity" as he put it… whatever. But y'know, I dunno how Emmett knows you so well but he reminded me about this "phase": When you were real young and still insecure 'cause of that damned family of yours; when you were scared to lose Michael so you led him on. Those fuckin' Kinneys did a number on you. They convinced you that you couldn't be loved from day one I think. Hell, that damned "I don't believe in love, I believe in fucking" philosophy of yours had already started developin' in your brain by the time I metcha at fourteen. It was pretty much your motto by the time you left for college. And unfortunately, you were too beautiful for your own good and that didn't help one bit. You could have any guy you wanted; they didn't care that you didn't do "repeats" or "relationships" so you could keep all your beliefs firmly in place in your head and scoff at all the tricks who wanted more." Deb looks over at me. "I'm so happy that part of your lifelong set of rules has finally changed. It's 'bout time," she adds and I feel my cheeks get warm. Thank God that Gus is totally not paying attention to anyone but Brian and being safe in his arms again and that Emmett and James aren't in the room. This is embarrassing enough to hear just in front of Brian. I feel put on the spot and this isn't really even about me. Brian simply snorts, though it's half-hearted.
"Emmett believes you thought that you'd only have Mikey as a best friend if he had hope you'd be a couple someday, so again: y'led him on; you didn't believe anyone would love you for just being you. You had to be the hero, the stud, the asshole everyone loves and hates - and loves to hate and hates to love. Emm thinks Mikey loved you for you but built you into this sort of God in his mind and that it never changed."
She pauses a moment, her brows furrowed and a deep frown creasing her face. She looks so unhappy as she talks about this. I know I'd be pretty fucking devastated were I Deb right now, after getting lectured by Emmett for so long yesterday about the reality of Brian versus Michael (and herself) and then especially being in the hospital after her son shot his best friend: A man who is essentially, her other son. "Yeah, back in those early years, you got by solely on your looks and smarts but never believed you had anything else to offer." She pauses again.
I'm admittedly fascinated by all this stuff about Brian and I look at him. I knew Emm was insightful but wow! I think Brian told me he didn't even meet Emmett until he got back from college so he wasn't around to see all this shit. Brian must have been totally wasted if Emmett learned these insights from the horse's mouth but I don't think Brian would reveal it no matter how much Beam he'd drunk or how many pills he'd popped.
I think Emmett's just really observant, perceptive and likes to figure out what makes people tick; and Brian's a particularly intriguing person to try to understand. I sure as hell know that much. Emmett probably just caught the little tidbits Deb, Michael or even Brian would toss out in random situations and watched the group dynamics and pieced this all together. Who knows?
Anyway, Brian's staring incredulously at Deb but then peripherally he notices me gawping at him, so he rolls his eyes dismissively at what she's saying just for my benefit. Pfft. I'm so onto him. She doesn't notice and continues. "But as Emmett said, at some point you started growing up and Michael was too stubborn to listen when you finally told him you were just friends. And would always only be just friends." She cracks her gum thoughtfully. "Ha!" she barks ironically, making me startle. "I knew you'd told him that countless times by the time he'd found David and again more recently when he found Ben; I, myself, actually talked to Michael about quitting his hopeless crush on you but he didn't even listen to me. He'd whine how he knows you're just friends but I knew I hadn't really gotten through to him. Not really. So I told myself it was still all your fault; that you really were still leading him on. You know all about that, of course, when I told you to push Michael off a cliff so he wouldn't keep pining after you and would feel free to love David completely. What I didn't know is that you simply didn't like David 'cause he was a possessive snob who tried to control Michael.
"But you did it. You pushed him off a cliff." She sighs. Gawd, she's more thinking and remembering aloud now, it would seem. But I'm learning a lot so I don't say anything to interrupt – not that I'd dare to anyway. I'll have to ask Brian more about some of these things later, though I know I'll have to pick my moment and my approach wisely. Brian is not liking that I'm hearing all this. However, he doesn't dare interrupt her either. "Hmf. Emm says I was 'in denial' or sumpin'." She shakes her head and smacks her gum again. "But I admit I saw you grow out of that "phase of immaturity" once and for all when beautiful Gus was born. But I still turned a blind eye. I was always on Mikey's side."
Deb shakes her head so unhappily and lost in thought that that her wig threatens to fly away. It's a bit scary. "Brian. You were like a son within a week of my meeting you. 'Member that, hun?" She smiles sadly. "You came over to our house to see Mikey, standing at the door with a black eye and a busted lip that you passed off as the handy-work of school bullies. I soon learned that you were the one protectin' Michael from the bullies at school but you lived under the same roof with a huge, drunken bully who used you as his punchin' bag." She isn't really asking Brian for a response.
"But Michael was my flesh an' blood son. I s'pose that sometimes I couldn't admit that he had some… more selfish and less noble qualities than I'd like. He wasn't very driven. An' while you were brash and headstrong and rude as hell sometimes (still are), you were selfless and noble deep inside (still are) - when it counted. And you were one of the most ambitious and driven people I'd ever met, even at the age of fourteen. And to this day you still don't like people seeing that you have a heart of gold buried in there so you hide it behind your arrogance, blunt and brooding aloofness and…" she's at a loss for words. Amazing. "…Assholeness." Hmm. "It's always been so easy to let you take the blame for whatever went wrong 'cause you never protested even if you had nothing to do with it. It's like you think you deserve to take the blame for any and everything, so you do. And then you try to fix it. So Mikey got away with a lot of shit 'cause you took the blame but I knew deep down he had caused it one way or another.
"I'm ramblin' which you can blame on that deceptively kind but fierce queen who read me the riot act for hours on end yesterday but you see, long and short, you have no reason to be sorry. I'm sure you're shocked as hell to hear me say all this after these many years but well… I'm saying it. It sure shocks me to say it. But it's long overdue, I guess. I'm so proud of you. Mind you, sometimes you seriously deserve being swatted upside the head and called an asshole, so this isn't a blanket apology. Not by a long-shot, Mister. But I admit that I've chosen not to see all the times you've done good for your friends and yourself, too. And unfortunately or fortunately, especially for Michael.
"There. I'm done 'cause it ain't natural for me to be saying sorry to Brian Kinney."
Brian's mouth has dropped open as has mine. "Umm. No problem?" he finally ventures lamely. I mean, what can he say? "Christ. Are you trying to give me cardiac arrest here, Debbie? I had a bullet dug out of my shoulder a half hour ago! I can only take so much!" He's sounds like he's kidding but I suspect he's totally serious. He looks like he's in mild shock and it's not the bullet or the meds. While I've only personally known Debbie two days, I've known Brian for months so I can tell that was quite the declaration on her part by his expression alone.
"Hey, why don't you call the gang?" he says, a moment after he regains his game face and wits, effectively changing the subject. A classic Kinney move when things have wandered into the realm of overly-bizarre and/or emotional. This definitely qualifies.
I clear my throat and follow his lead because I sense he's much more uncomfortable than I am right now, and that's considerable. "Emmett's already here with James; they're still out in the waiting area," I tell him.
He blinks. "I was wondering. I thought you called him and not Debbie from the ambulance. Well Deb, maybe call the others and while you're at it, I think I'd like Father Charles to know what's going on and visit if he can."
"Father Charles? The Father? The one man you used to talk to all the time but haven't seen in years? You haven't been to church in ages, except where Gus's singing is involved! Does this have to do with Justin here?"
"Umm. Not at first. But I took Gus and Justin over to see Father C. after that drama at the diner; Gus was pretty upset. He likes the Father a lot. The Father also obviously knows his favorite choir director so, as I said, I dragged Justin to see him too." Guh. That's not how it happened (I wanted to go) but whatever.
She grins. "Good for you, Brian! I know how close you used to be with that lovely man. I'm so pleased you've reconnected with him!" She clears her throat. "I'll just go outside to make the calls."
Once she's gone I sit at the edge of the bed gently.
"I'm not gonna break, Sunshine. You don't have to treat me like a glass dildo."
I laugh. "Sorry." Gus has fallen asleep under his father's uninjured arm.
The door opens and Emmett pokes his head in. "Someone wants his Daddy and 'The Pretty Man'…" he says quietly. "Can James come in? I'm going to go help Deb with making all the calls."
I nod and James runs in. He hops onto my lap once I've settled more comfortably on the edge of the bed. "Hi, Daddy! Hi, Pretty Man! Are you okay now?"
Brian smiles. "I'm on the mend, Goof Number Two!"
"Goody." Then James, obviously exhausted, leans against me and starts to suck his thumb which I normally try to discourage but right now don't mind one little bit. Within a few seconds, he's dozing.
I notice Brian's still smiling at him before he looks to me. "Well, what Debbie just said was sure a kick in the head. I never thought I'd hear her apologize. Certainly not to ME. Let alone go on and on like that."
"You're talking about Deb right now and not the fact that your former best friend just shot you?"
"Well, that's old news now. I mean, it was what – forty-five minutes ago already?"
I smirk. "Well, about Debbie apologizing and all the things she's been thinking about since yesterday: all I can say is that from what I know, it's about time."
"I wonder how in the hell Emmett got through to her so… so thoroughly or whatever. I mean, it's been fucking eighteen years of her being wonderful but never truly cutting me any slack. Not that I deserved any slack. I was a handful."
"No, you weren't, Brian. I think you were simply a normal kid. Well, actually, more like an extraordinary kid." I lean down and peck him on the lips.
"I'm so glad you're going to be okay, Brian," I blurt, unable to hold back my relief anymore. "I have never been more petrified in my life. Never. I can't lose you, Brian. I can't. Gus was scared, too. He's sure calmed down now, though."
Brian gets a broad smile and pulls his son a little closer, kissing the top of his head. Hearing his name, Gus's eyes blink open and he smiles, his eyes focusing on his father's and looking so much alike. "Sorry. Sonny Boy, I didn't mean to scare you."
"It's okay, Daddy. You're okay. I'm happy you're okay."
"Well, same here. When will they spring me outta here?"
"Once the meds wear off a little and the latest test results come back normal, the doc said you could leave today no worse for wear, save for a sling to keep your arm and shoulder immobile for a while," I tell him.
"Good. I wanna get out of here sooner rather than later. I hate hospitals with a passion. These meds are pretty powerful though, even for me. Remind me later that Deb's little monologue wasn't just a drug-induced hallucination on my part. Or if I ask and it WAS, tell me that too."
I snicker. "Promise. I'll tell you now that it wasn't but I'll remind you later, too."
"Um. What happened with Michael? Do you know?"
"God, Brian. Just after you got shot everything was a blur. I even forgot the kids were in the loft in my hurry to ride with you to the hospital! It took you to remind me in the back of the ambulance and thank God one of those cops, no matter how incompetent they were, stayed with the kids after the medic radioed him. Then I called Emmett to go get the boys as soon as he could. But all in all, I couldn't even remember my own name; it's pathetic that I couldn't remember my own child and Gus but I was operating on panic.
"Do you remember any of that?"
"It's a little fuzzy but yeah. I hope you don't feel bad about the kids, though. Even in my state, I could see that you were scared shitless but you still took charge like the big, brutal he-man you are." I smirk at him. "It all turned out okay. You sure yammered a lot of ooey-gooey non-he-man crap, though. I've never heard so much drivel about loving me, not being able to live without me and other shit I don't feel like repeating."
I frown, starting to get pissed. "It wasn't drivel, Brian! I was terrified yes, but I meant everything I said! Fuck you!"
He smiles disarmingly, picks up my hand and kisses my knuckles, mimicking me. "I'm just saying, no-one's ever said that kind of stuff to me. I call it "drivel" because…well, never mind. But thanks all the same. I'm glad you were there," he whispers.
I'm getting even more pissed off. I yank my hand away from his lips. "Brian. First of all, you already knew and know I feel all "ooey-gooey" about you. Don't deny that. Ass.
"I don't remember what I was babbling at you when I was scared you could die on me but I know it was honest and it could hardly be news to you. Second of all, if you keep up this freakish combination of self-deprecation and condescension, I'll leave right now and James and I will catch a cab home. You're lovable and I love you. Period. So either deal with that or I'll go tell someone else to cope with you and your shot-up shoulder from now on."
He's still smiling and I want to smack the grin right off his face whether he's wounded or not. "Thanks, Sunshine," he repeats simply, reaching for my hand again; at first I resist but then I let him take it and kiss it. That's about as much acknowledgment to what I just told him that I'll get right now: A smile and a kiss as a response to "I love you". It actually says a lot when it's Brian Kinney. I now know that a derisive sneer and a "get lost" would have been typical not so long ago.
Suddenly Debbie's back. "Everyone is coming." Predictably, Brian groans but the fuckwad asked for it so I'm hardly sympathetic. "Emmett's getting cleaned up – someone waiting to use the payphone he was using accidentally spilled coffee all over him. Thank God the stuff in hospital vending machines is always lukewarm shit." She eyes Brian's less-than-thrilled reaction to the fact that everyone's on their way. "And as a member of your makeshift family, Brian, I'm frankly very pleased that Teddy, Father Charles, Lindsay, Mel and even Cynthia dropped everything they were doing so they could come visit right now. So quit bellyaching, don't be a shit and be grateful. Asshole," she adds and I grin.
Brian rolls his eyes but wisely says nothing.
Chapter 15: Final Chap/Epilogue
Well, here it is: The last chapter. I hope you all like it and enjoyed the story overall! I'll miss writing the boys in this context but it's been a fun journey.
Many thanks to everyone who read the story and of course to those who have reviewed - you're wonderful and appreciated more than you know!
BRIAN'S POV – NOT MUCH LATER
After a visit from the doctor saying I could go home at any time after completing the necessary paperwork, I'm busy getting my things together. I obviously don't have much. Mostly I just have to gather whatever had been in my pockets, maneuver back into my street clothes and GO. Deb moves to help me but a glare from Justin thankfully keeps her in her chair. He asks her not to look (at which we both snort; me, because I don't give a shit what she sees and Deb, because she thinks she's seen it all) but he ignores us both and Deb dutifully averts her eyes. He gets my clothes and assists me in the painful task of dressing myself. (Admittedly, it gives me pause when I see the bloody hole in my shirt. Justin almost freaks when he sees it but hastily tosses it out and goes to get me a hospital "scrubs" shirt instead. I don't know why on earth the staff put the bloody shirt in my personal effects bag in the first place. Maybe they thought I'd want a "souvenir". Yeah, right.) After dressing, I take a moment to rest back on the bed, exhausted. Gus, who's been unusually quiet, immediately climbs up to lie next to me again. I pull him against me and kiss the top of his head to reassure him that I'm okay and so is he.
Suddenly, the whole gang descends on us at once. Gus livens, thrilled with the small crowd and he's especially excited to see his mothers. He doesn't leave my side on the bed though, which is a little disconcerting.
Everyone is chattering away after grilling me about what happened - how I feel, what the prognosis is, yadda yadda and when I finally get a small respite from the attention, I take the opportunity to pull Emmett aside. "Emm… Thanks. Whatever magical spell you cast on Debbie has done the impossible. After nearly twenty years, it's admittedly confusing to experience such a one-eighty in her attitude towards me." I clear my throat, uncomfortable with expressing gratitude in any context but with Emmett, it's downright unnatural. "I'm not complaining, mind you; it's just a little surreal. So, thanks. And thank you again for being such a brave little toaster with Sunshine and Sonny Boy at the diner yesterday." Emmett chuckles. "Seriously, Deb's fury even made me waver a bit. Justin's strong but Debbie can be a lot to take even when she's not pissed off."
He laughs slightly. "Well, no worries about yesterday. After you, Gus and Justin left and I went back into the diner, I decided to sit Deb down and really try to get through to her. I don't think anyone's ever done that in a concerted way; her wrath is just too nerve-wracking. But I figured I'd try. After all, she couldn't get MORE furious at me than she already was.
"Brian, I was pissed off. Michael treated Gus and Justin so horribly; he and Deb both treated you like shit too. Gus is a beautiful child and doesn't deserve that. From what I can tell of your young, yummy, blond 'friend'," he winks and I frown, "…he doesn't deserve that either." I look down so he won't see me smile in silent agreement. When I glance back up at him I can tell he sees through me by the grin on his face. I'm thankful that he doesn't comment.
"…It has always bugged me, Sweetie. You get the brunt of so much crap and while some of that is well-deserved, not every single thing that goes wrong is your fault. You can be a real asshole but deep down we all know you have a heart of gold. Debbie has always known that on some level that but given that she has 'poor, little Mikey' for a son, she turned a blind eye. He's responsible for so much of the shit that has gone down in the past but the blame inevitably fell on your shoulders instead. It was easier for Deb that way plus you just accepted it and you always try to fix it. You've always been an idiot that way, Baby." I grimace at SO many things in that last sentence. He ignores me and continues. "So, I just opened her eyes and made her face facts, although it took a few exhausting hours – but Auntie Emm can be a determined little pit bull," he states proudly.
"So don't cross me, fuckwad," he adds sternly, narrowing his eyes and pointing a finger in my face. I snort and swat his hand away. It's then that I notice Justin has been paying close attention to our quiet exchange and he giggles at Emmett's warning; I glare at him. He shrugs and turns his attention back to the gabbing freaks crowding my hospital room.
"Brian," Emm whispers. "The one thing that truly shocks even me is that Michael shot you. As Aunt Beulah would say, 'that ain't natural'. I would've thought he'd shoot himself before shooting you. He loves you so much."
I guffaw. "Pfft. Shocked? You and me both. I think a lot of it was the heat of the moment and accidental. Still, he's been over the top since last night. Well arguably, since earlier than that in the diner. Michael isn't himself; he's fallen over the edge."
Emmett nods and shifts slightly. I notice that Gus is affectionately stroking my chest, carefully not touching the bandaged side; I guess he needs further reassurance that I'm okay because he's not usually quite so demonstrative; I think the hospital is upsetting him. Emm notices too. "Well, Brian, let's get you out of here. I know you hate hospitals." I give Gus a quick squeeze and nod. I was in the hospital for much of my childhood and it was enough for me. Everyone sees us preparing to leave and they take the cue and mobilize. Justin leaves the room immediately but soon comes back with a wheelchair. Aww, man...
"I hurt my shoulder not my legs, Sunshine!"
"Hospital rules," he answers simply. "Let's go!"
EPILOGUE; BRIAN'S POV
An update of sorts, I guess…
So, it's a little over five weeks now since I was shot; my arm's still in a sling but my shoulder doesn't bug me so much, with the exception of it being a pain in the ass to get dressed and undressed. Justin helps a lot (in many, many ways) but I get pissed off and impatient sometimes. Sunshine holds his own though and doesn't tolerate much of my bitchiness without bitching back. I knew there was a reason I liked him that first time I met him at Gus's solo.
I've started back at work part-time which is good; at least I'm not a total stay-at-home invalid anymore.
It makes me sigh to think about it but Choir Boy is officially moving in soon. Not long after I got home from the hospital, Daphne was in town for a few days (she's nearly always away on business, especially after a recent promotion) and the three of us got together to talk. She and I have only met a handful of times but we've gotten sorta close (we're both blunt, don't suffer fools and have certain common "interests", after all); and it was actually Daphne who pushed for us to "really" move in together and have James live with us. She had asked me in confidence beforehand if I'd be agreeable to it. I thought about it a long while and then figured it wouldn't be that different than how things already were, as Justin and James were at the loft all the time anyway; so I said sure. Besides, practically speaking, he and Daph's house was a stupid expense for them both since it was vacant most of the time.
"I'm almost never home, Jus, and it'd be so much easier if I found a smaller place to be my home-base for those few days at a time that I'm back in the Pitts," Daph argued when he expressed concern that he was abandoning her and taking James with him. "I can't take James on my business travels. We can barely afford the house we have as it is and it's silly for you to keep paying half the mortgage if you and James are here at the loft ninety-five percent of the time. I certainly don't want to be paying half the mortgage when I'm hardly ever there either and can find a smaller place for much less."
Justin's brow had furrowed in thought. I remember thinking he was being ridiculous.
"Sunshine, you aren't abandoning Daphne; you can't abandon someone who's hardly ever in town. And you aren't splitting Daph and James apart; when she IS in town, James can stay with her for however long he wants and you already know that all three of you will get together as much as possible." I winked at Daphne. "I'll even tag along, if invited. I've come to like this chick who threatened to undergo a gender change in order to chase after me if you didn't get off your ass and come after me yourself."
Daphne blushed furiously at that; she obviously had no idea I knew she'd said that. Justin had blurted out that little tidbit at the loft long ago; it still makes me chuckle. I watched her blush disappear as she set her jaw angrily. I glanced over at Justin; he was even redder than she had been and was sheepishly avoiding the glare she was directing at him.
I immensely enjoyed that moment of our talk despite the pain in my shoulder (I don't think they enjoyed it so much). Still, within about fifteen minutes, with a little help from me, Daphne had finally convinced Justin that they'd still be best friends; she wasn't upset about his moving into the loft with James; she felt relieved not abandoned; and pretty soon Sunshine was more gung-ho than anybody about the idea.
So just today, weeks later, Daphne finally closed on a place and on getting her call, Justin has just run out of the loft to go see his realtor to put their place on the market. He didn't want to until she had a place to move. I'm sitting here on the sofa chuckling at his eagerness. There was practically a vapor trail behind him as he raced out of here.
Justin doesn't have an appointment with the realtor but he doesn't really need one: The realtor is actually his mother whom I've met a few times now. Justin hasn't "officially" come out to his Mom but I can tell from the knowing looks she sometimes shoots my way that she "gets it". Justin refuses to believe me when I tell him that she already knows he's gay and "with me" though, so it's up to him to choose when to talk to her about it openly. That talk will probably have to happen pretty soon now if he's putting his house on the market and physically moving into the loft with me. Again, I'm pretty positive that Mother Taylor will be fine with it when he tells her; I think she even likes and "approves" of me, too. Plus, she absolutely adores Gus (I dare anybody not to). He likes her, as well; after all, she's like another Grandma – one who's not so… Deb. (Incidentally, Gus has finally forgiven his Grandma Debbie after she apologized profusely to him for her behavior that day at the diner.)
Oddly, I haven't met Justin's father. He's never at home or around. I don't ask questions about that since Justin hasn't brought it up.
So yeah, Justin's moving in but it won't be so different than how things have been for quite a while now. We've had Father Charles over a few times. (Justin cooks, of course. If it were up to me, we'd have take-out.) I think Sunshine's innate strength and wisdom, Father Charles' love and acceptance and having openly gay friends has helped Justin reconcile himself with... well, himself. His sexuality. And the church. He's become much less self-conscious overall. Thank God.
Strange choice of words for me. I use them a lot lately for whatever reason.
'Course, Justin gives me the credit for his new-found confidence and self-esteem. He's an idiot sometimes. Ultimately, it's all him. He simply doesn't see it that way.
As I said: He's an idiot sometimes.
Deb, Emmett and Theodore stop by periodically. More often than before Justin showed up in my life, that's for sure. I don't much like it because all too often, it's unannounced but Sunshine still welcomes them like family. I guess they are in an off-beat way. Deb is still acting a little like a pod person towards me after Emmett reamed her out at the diner that day but I have no real complaints. While I don't like so much attention, it's admittedly kind of nice to be appreciated for a change. We still banter sarcastically like before but now she often smiles and winks at me to take the sting out of her words. It's a little sickening, to be honest. Besides, I've never really felt any "sting" from her insults. It was her knee-jerk assumption that I was inherently heartless and The Root Of All That Was Wrong With The World that bothered me a little. Because while I can be both heartless and evil (and am, more often than not - and proudly so), I'm not when it matters. At least, I don't think so; on a couple of rare occasions, Emmett has said I'm essentially an asshole with a good heart; and Justin says all the time (unasked) that I have the biggest heart of everybody. Whatever.
Have I said he's an idiot sometimes?
Unfortunately, Linds and Mel are officially splitting up; but the upshot is that I've pretty much turned into an official full-time father because Linds is having a hard time with the whole thing and Mel has literally dropped out of the picture (which, in my opinion, is welcome but is still somewhat peculiar). I've been trying to help Linds cope with her life as best I can but she needs space and time-off from being a full-time mother; she's so fragile right now that I worry about her having some kind of nervous breakdown if she gets much more on her plate and she's already pretty overwhelmed. I think my having Gus is an indefinite arrangement, if not permanent with her being the "visiting parent" instead of the other way around. She's truly grateful for my help with Sonny Boy but it's hardly a chore. I don't hate being a full-time Daddy. In fact, I love it. It's a scary world, eh?
Everything's all so disgustingly domestic that it makes me wanna puke sometimes.
Justin's still working as a choir director at the church but is getting really involved with his art, which is fantastic but makes the loft a bit messy at times. He's pretty fastidious though so I guess I can live with it. Still, he needs more space to create and besides that, Gus, James, Justin and I step on each other's toes (and nerves) too often in the loft. It's just not big enough for the four of us. Regardless, Gus and James are best of friends despite the difference in their ages and the close living quarters. Needless to say, the main reason the loft is too small is that Justin and I have to schedule times to fuck when the boys aren't home which thankfully, is fairly often given school, pre-school, after school activities, playing at their respective friends' houses and Theodore, Emm, Deb and even Linds babysitting. But Sunshine and I are not pleased with having to curb any spontaneous urges at all. It's obvious to me that Justin doesn't want to say anything about it because he knows that of the two of us, I'd be the one paying for a bigger place. He just can't afford very much right now but I doubt he'd protest if I tell him all the reasons I need a bigger place and that it's tough shit he can't contribute much at the moment; it's what we and the boys need. Besides, with the quality of his artwork, I wouldn't be surprised if he'll be as wealthy as me once he gets his pieces and name out there.
There's a huge place not too far away in West Virginia I really like; I want to run it past Justin first. Gawd. I'm definitely not used to running anything past anybody unless it's a client. Sigh. Talk about domestic. But I think he'll like it because it's got a beautiful space for a studio with lots of light plus there's plenty of room outdoors for the boys. It has a pool as well and I love to swim.
And there's LOTS of privacy for he and I to go at it whenever we want, especially if we hire a part time maid/nanny/cook/whatever.
...Hmm. I'm rambling. I don't 'do' rambling so what else deserves mention in this odd little update?
Sunshine and I venture over to Liberty Avenue when we can now that my shoulder isn't so painful and Justin's gotten bolder and more comfortable with his sexuality. He lets his "brazen side" out a lot nowadays (that's what he's named his more self-assured demeanor). It's fantastic. He's hot and sensuous on the dance floor at Babylon which is almost comical given how shy he used to be. I don't even mind having to wear the sling (the guys there don't seem to care either, judging by the fact that the number of times I'm cruised hasn't changed since forever). I can watch him dancing with Emmett or whomever from the bar. Justin's also pretty insatiable and once he got over his residual wariness, we make use of the backroom pretty frequently when we're there. Sure, it's hardly private but the audience is appreciative and they aren't our children.
I guess I'm fucking proud to be "his" and vice-versa; now I'm sure everyone knows that's VERY weird for the Stud of Liberty Avenue to admit but it's true and I'm an honest man so I'll admit it, at least in my head. Or maybe out loud if someone dares to confront me on it. Folks are wise though, so no-one's dared to do that. I just have to suffer the smirks, the knowing glances and the knowledge that I'm the fodder for a lot of Liberty Avenue gossip. Pfft. People are pathetic if it's my life they're focusing on and not their own.
I know Justin doesn't care about the gossip either. He's secure in the knowledge that he and I are together. In fact, I think he's secretly thrilled that people are talking about him being the one to "rope me in", which quite frankly, does bother me. I'm not "roped in". I choose to be with him of my own free will. I'll probably still trick on occasion and Justin knows that but waves it off, knowing he's the one I'm coming home to. However, for the first time in my life, it's been months since I've had the urge to trick at all… and Sunshine knows that too. Guh.
…Okay, then: There's Michael. Of course.
Well, last I heard from Deb, Michael is in a mental hospital in Albany undergoing treatment for Manic Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. In my humble opinion, there's nothing "borderline" about it but nobody asked me (the one he fucking shot). I genuinely hope he can get help but I'm relieved that he's been committed (so he can't voluntarily leave) and since he perpetrated violent crimes, he's in lock-down. Thank God.
There I go using those words again. Whatever. "Thank fuck"; that's much better.
I know that the fact Michael's locked up makes all of us breathe a little easier, not just me. Gus in particular was pretty horribly traumatized by the whole thing. He's slowly feeling better and is getting a little less clingy. For a while, I could hardly move from the bed to the sofa without him following me. Once I lose this fucking sling, I'm sure he'll get back to being his old self pretty quickly. While he's getting better as I said, this sling serves as a constant visual reminder of what happened. It should be gone within a week or so. Can't wait.
Overall, I guess I can admit that I'm pretty happy. Who'd have thought I'd ever be happy or even allow myself to be happy? I've never thought I deserved that luxury but Justin's pretty relentless (and as usual, annoying) in telling me how wonderful I am and that I do deserve it. Gawd. He's got it backwards but like with the situation with Deb: It's kind of nice to be appreciated.
And Sunshine's happy – that's all that matters even though it means he goes around with that stupid grin all the time. That stupid, beautiful, Sunshine grin.
So yeah: Who'd have thought that Brian Fucking Kinney would be happy OR have a partner who's happy and who loves him? Let alone a partner who's a sensitive artist and church choir director? Guh: Not me. I never thought I'd ever have a partner, period. I'd have said all this was a sure sign of the Apocalypse about half a year ago. Now, I'm not so sure that it isn't just one of life's little quirks.
Either way, it suits me just fine.