The Real Meaning Of “New Year”
These form a single, if somewhat episodic, story in the form of 37 drabbles. To
be honest, I'm kind of double-dipping here. I was stuck for an idea for the
Tribe challenge of “The Real Meaning Of..." I hadn't been able to come up with
anything, except a vague feeling that I wanted this to be a new Justin!Rage
story. Then I found Xie’s 37 Days of Gusmas Drabble challenge which had 37
prompts - one for each day from Thanksgiving to New Years. I looked through the
prompts and suddenly it all flowed together. So, a classic case of two birds
with one stone. As Xie’s challenge was part of a fund-raiser for The Trevor
Project, I figured The Tribe wouldn’t mind.
The story picks up pretty much where Christmas Lights left off, but you probably need to read the other stories in that universe for it to make sense. They start with “Never Have, Never Will”, which is here: http://www.mags-nificent.com/MSW/WF/NHNW.htm
So here they are …
The Real Meaning of “New Year”
Brian had spent Thanksgiving in a pain-filled daze. Lindsay, after promising to bring Gus to Pittsburgh for the Holiday, had cancelled at the last minute, leaving Brian feeling both betrayed and bereft. He’d never felt such pain. Well, maybe when Mikey had died; when he’d killed himself after Brian had failed to succumb to his murder-suicide attempt. But this last Thanksgiving had come pretty damned close. It had nearly broken what was left of him, and if it hadn’t been for Justin … There weren’t words for what he owed the young man who right now was snoring softly beside him.
Picture Prompt: Emergency Aid sign
Brian had responded by resorting to his usual emergency pain-management methods - sex, drugs and alcohol - anything to induce a few moments of freedom from the ache in his chest.
But nothing had worked, nothing had even dulled the pain, until he’d come home to his empty house and found Justin’s note. Brian had expected a “fuck you” letter, but instead the words were calming and healing. ‘I know you need time,’ the message told him, ‘but I’m still here. I still love you. Call me when you’re ready.’
It was Brian’s first experience of the healing powers of unconditional love.
Make a wish
When he first woke up, Justin lay there wondering why he felt so happy; even if he was with Brian …
Now he remembered. Last night he’d confessed to Brian his secret, the secret that had always kept him isolated and afraid. He’d been terrified that if Brian ever found out he’d reject him, throw him out on his ass.
Not in his wildest dreams had he ever imagined Brian’s reaction.
If he’d been granted one soul-deep, fervent wish of his heart he wouldn’t have had the audacity to wish for the loving acceptance that Brian had given him freely.
A matter of trust
Justin wasn’t a fool. He knew that Brian was still going to have qualms about having someone with some weird-assed super-powers in his life; especially around Gus. But Justin could now believe that they could work through things together. He found, a little to his surprise, that he trusted Brian to be prepared to do that.
He knew that for Brian it might be harder. But Brian had already shown that he was willing to trust Justin with his heart, and that was huge. If he could do that then accepting Justin’s ... abilities … might be a small thing by comparison.
Far from home
When Gus first woke up he didn’t remember where he was. For one horrible moment he thought he was back in Toronto, so far away from his Daddy; where the people spoke funny, not always even in the right language; and for that one moment he was really, truly afraid.
Then he realized he was in his little treasure chest bed under the pirate wall painting that his Daddy’s nice Justin had painted and it was Christmas morning.
Then the only thing he was afraid of was that Santa mightn’t have found him now he wasn’t in Toronto anymore.
Last year Momma Mel hadn’t wanted them to have Christmas. She’d wanted something called “Hanukkah” instead. She and Mommy had argued about it - a lot. In the end, they’d kind of had both. Every night for a while Momma Mel had lit some candles and he’d gotten a little gift. But they’d had a tree too, and Santa had left presents on Christmas morning. But Gus thought maybe Daddy had arranged that, because Momma Mel got mad and said that his Daddy was spoiling him.
This year, Gus is kind of glad that it’s just Christmas because there’s no fighting.
A goodnight story
Yesterday had been magic. He’d helped Justin make Christmas cookies and then they’d lit the tree, and it had been just beautiful. Gus bet that it was the prettiest tree in the whole world.
After dinner they’d cuddled together on the couch while Justin read them a poem about Santa, and then they’d listened to a story about a little boy like him and a donkey. Gus didn’t really understand it all that well, but he’d like the man’s voice who was telling the story and it had made him feel all warm inside.
And now it was Christmas morning.
Picture Prompt: A tree - four shots covering all seasons
They’d had a snack (or in Brian’s case, coffee) while they were unwrapping the gifts. Now they were having a proper breakfast before the serious business of trying out all the new toys began. Gus was looking out the window at the trees, and suddenly he turned to his father.
“Daddy, how come the trees outside don’t have no leaves, but our Christmas tree has lots and lots?” he asked.
“Don’t have any leaves,” Brian corrected, playing for time trying to work out how to answer what he suspected was going to be the first of many “how come” questions.
Easy for you to say
“It’s good that he’s curious about things,” Justin assured him later while Gus was playing with his trains. “It shows that he’s intelligent and that he’s thinking about how the world works.”
“Easy for you to say,” Brian responded. “You haven’t been the one dealing with this ‘how come’ bullshit for the last two hours.”
Justin kissed him. “It’s really important for his learning,” he said, “and you’ve been doing a great job. I think you might get a reward later.”
Brian snorted, and Justin laughed.
Then came Gus’s voice, “Justin, how come …”
Now it was Brian’s turn to laugh.
An accident helped Brian understand something fundamental about himself. Among Gus’s gifts had been a small xylophone. He was playing with the sticks, waving them around when one slipped out of his grip. It knocked over an expensive crystal vase. The crystal shattered, and for a frozen moment Gus stared at his father in horror.
It was when Brian realized that his major concern was that his Sonnyboy hadn’t been hurt; that he didn’t give a shit about the broken vase, but he couldn’t bear the look on Gus’s face that he understood that he was nothing like his father.
Picture Prompt: A Xylophone
“It’s alright, Gus,” Brian said quickly. “It was an accident. You just stay there while I clean up the glass. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
But when he heard a hiccupped sob he abandoned clean-up and went to wrap his arms around his son. “It’s okay,” he said again. “It doesn’t matter. Now why don’t you play me something?”
Justin quietly went about cleaning up while ‘plink, plink, plonk’ mixed with the sound of Brian’s voice instructing quietly, “Now you hit that one,” and Gus’s happy giggles as the tune came together.
He was smiling while he worked.
Neither Brian nor Justin had good memories about red roses. For Justin they were a reminder of his first lover who’d promised fidelity and then fucked around. For Brian, they were a reminder of his parents fighting; screams and blows and next day the damned roses.
The vase had been a symbol of those memories and of his refusal to ever let himself be caught up in that bullshit. He’d bought it and deliberately kept it empty, barren.
Now it was gone, and he thought maybe that was a good thing.
Justin thought about a new vase, filled with tulips.
Note: The meaning of Tulips:
TULIP General - Perfect Lover;
TULIP Red - Believe Me; Declaration of Love
TULIP Variegated - Beautiful Eyes
TULIP Yellow - There's Sunshine in Your Smile
Picture Prompt: A well-loved Teddy Bear
They were tucking a tired-out Gus into bed that night when he started looking for something.
“What’s the matter, Sonnyboy?” Brian asked, but Gus was too ashamed to tell him.
Wordlessly, Justin reached past Brian to hand the small boy his teddy bear. Gus looked embarrassed, but clutched the bear tightly.
Brian wanted to reassure him, but was relieved when he heard Justin’s voice saying softly, “I used to have a teddy bear. In fact, don’t tell Daddy, but I’ve still got him. Guess what his name is?”
Gus shrugged shyly.
Justin leant in to whisper, “His name is Gus.”
The next morning they went shopping.
It was either that or brave Lindsay’s place to get more clothes for Gus. Brian didn’t want to risk that, so they headed for the stores.
Justin realized, not for the first time, how truly different they were. Brian, so often impatient about so many things, was prepared to spend all day finding just what he believed Gus needs. Justin believed what Gus mainly needed was to get some stuff and get out of there.
They compromised. Brian got to spend more time looking, Gus and Justin shared a milkshake. Everybody wound up happy.
They were leaving the store when Gus saw the sprig of mistletoe hanging in the doorway. He knew what it was. Henry Jones told him how if you got stuck under the mistletoe you always had to kiss a girl. Except his Daddy didn’t kiss girls. Gus knew that much.
So that meant …
“Daddy,” he demanded suddenly, pointing upwards. “Misseltow, Daddy.”
Brian looked bemused.
“You have to kiss under the misseltow,” Gus explained.
Brian leant down to kiss him, but Gus pushed him away. “No, Daddy. Justin. You have to kiss Justin.”
Brian looked amused then and Justin blushed.
They’d bought a new transformer for the lights so once they got home Brian plugged it in. He watched the lights reflecting off the wings of the angel at the top, and had a fleeting thought that maybe Justin was his angel, rescuing him from all sorts of demons.
Justin coming in to see if the lights were working paused, taking in the sight of his lover’s face, still, absorbed, lit by the tree lights; for one moment he saw him as an angel - not the wimpy kind like on greeting cards, but one of the warriors, like Michael.
They were all still kind of full from yesterday so they decided just to nibble finger-foods for lunch. Brian chopped up carrots and celery, while Justin fried chips and minced left-over turkey to make mini turkey burgers. They ate sitting around the train set, while Brian tried to get the damned thing to go fast enough to derail and Justin and Gus discussed what color the station should be painted.
Brian figured that anyone who force fed him fried food was in fact demon spawn, and Justin pondered that maybe Brian was more like one of those old Greek Gods.
Home for the holidays
By the time they’d finished lunch sleet was driving against the windows and no one objected when Justin got up and pulled the drapes closed. Gus played them ‘Jingle Bells’ on the xylophone (Brian planned to have words with Emmett), and they watched a dvd of Mickey’s Christmas and drank hot cocoa and Brian thought that he should be fucking ready to bolt off to Babylon or the Baths.
But he wasn’t. He maybe even understood a little why people got so damned sentimental over Christmas.
But then, this was the first time he’d had a home for the Holidays.
Batteries not included
Brian was grateful that by the next morning the weather
Gus, after two days of comparative inactivity, was hopping like that damned Energizer Bunny, and unfortunately there was no way to take his batteries out.
So they all bundled up and headed outside to find some space clear of ice where Gus could practice riding his bike. Gus had a great time, with his Daddy or Justin always close at hand to help out if he needed them.
His Daddy and Justin on the other hand were wondering if he’d be tired enough for a nap that afternoon.
Baby, It's Cold Outside
Fortunately, he was. After lunch, he took himself off to his bed and curled up snuggly under the duvet, much to the men’s relief. It gave them a little time to themselves and they spent it wisely (first locking the bedroom door to ensure they wouldn’t be interrupted).
Justin did have a momentary rush of blood in completely the wrong direction when he started talking about how they really needed to scrape the front path, but Brian managed to convince him that it was much too cold to even think of venturing outdoors.
Justin demonstrated proper gratitude for his thoughtfulness.
A Christmas Carol
Later, despite Brian’s protests, they watched more of Mickey’s Christmas, including his version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Justin, half-asleep, thought vaguely that he’d always felt sorry for Marley. After all, he was the one who managed to get Scrooge his chance for redemption, but he didn’t seem to get anything out of the deal himself. If I’d written that story, Justin thought, it would be more like Brian and me: I saved Brian from the whole Michael-ghost thing and he rescued me from thinking that I’d always be alone. We helped each other, and maybe that’s what redemption really is.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
Justin was tickling Gus and as the boy’s squeals of laughter echoed round the house, Brian found himself considering that in spite of having been cooped up with a five year old for a week he hadn’t cracked once.
He supposed it was pretty pathetic that he felt proud that he wasn’t an abusive drunk, but when he thought about it, he figured there were a lot who couldn’t claim that much. Certainly Jack couldn’t have.
But Brian didn’t want to think about that.
The truth was he’d enjoyed being with Gus.
He wondered if Jack ever felt like that.
Picture Prompt: University of Pittsburgh sign nearly covered in snow
He didn’t quite know why he’d taken that particular turn off. But since yesterday he’d been thinking about Jack, about how bitterly … disappointing their relationship had been, for both of them, he guessed. About how he’d always felt desperate to escape, not just from Jack, but from anything that might put him in Jack’s situation.
That’s what college had meant to him. To others it had been about building a career and all that stuff. It had meant that to Brian too. But all that those things had really represented for him had been an escape from his past.
Fathers and sons
Justin sat quietly beside him. Gus, exhausted after another morning spent riding his bike up and down their little street, had fallen asleep in the back seat. Brian checked to make sure he really was asleep, and then he started to talk.
He knew Craig Taylor had behaved like an asshole. Now he needed to let Justin know that he wasn’t alone in feeling cheated by the parent-fairies; somehow they’d both had their lives tainted by the evil fairy, instead of the good one - like in that Disney movie.
But it was going to be different for Gus, Brian promised.
A phone call
They’d just got home when the phone rang. Brian answered it and when he heard the voice, he nearly dropped the phone. He was about to slam it down, when she said, “Don’t hang up. I’m calling to … apologize ... to see if you’re okay.”
She was the last person he’d expected to hear from and he didn’t know how to respond. She went on, “I know I’ve behaved like an asshole, but I wanted to say … I hope you have a great New Year. That’s all.”
“You too, Deb,” he said, but he wasn’t sure if she heard him.
Gus inveigled him into playing with the trains again, while Justin made more damned cocoa. While he obediently coupled up the carriages and switched the signals, Brian pondered the last few years of his life. He remembered the time after Michael had died, how dark life had seemed, especially when the girls had taken Gus away as well. Then he’d met Justin and right from the first night it seemed like something had shifted. It'd been gradual at first, like when the year moves past the solstice and gradually the days get longer.
Now his days were filled with light.
A moment of truth
Justin brought in the cocoa and Brian stared at him for a moment. Justin hadn’t asked if Brian would prefer coffee, or even something stronger, just brought the damned sweet chocolate stuff. Brian felt a brief flicker of anger, of resentment, but it faded away almost immediately, and in its passing he recognized the moment as signifying a turning point in his life. Ridiculous maybe, but true.
The old Brian Kinney would have lashed out, defending his image. He’d have made his point and destroyed the moment for everyone.
Brian felt only relief that he’d finally outgrown that fucking idiot.
They were out scraping the path the next afternoon when a car pulled up. Justin yelped happily and moved towards it and the next moment he was enveloped in a cloud of pink-clad arms and dark hair and before they’d even pulled apart Brian knew who this must be. This was Daphne, Justin’s BFF, who was at Princeton studying medicine. He straightened, recognizing to his consternation that he wanted to make a good impression.
Her eyes widened. “Good one, Jus,” she grinned mischievously.
They’d just headed inside, this time for fucking tea, when the taxi cab drew up.
Brian supposed it was good that Daphne was there, it definitely helped ease the tension. Even after the phone call, he hadn’t been expecting Debbie to turn up on his doorstep. But somehow she had and at Justin’s urging she and Daphne had both stayed for dinner.
After dinner they all settled into the family room with another bottle of wine and a host of reminiscences. Debbie was recounting one of the Christmas Eves when he’d bailed on his family to join Mikey’s. They’d raided Deb’s liquor cabinet and then nearly toppled the tree over.
“Little assholes,” Deb said fondly.
After another glass of wine Debbie was off again, recalling the Christmas when for some reason she’d bought them both skates. They hadn’t wanted to wait for the rinks to open, so they’d snuck off to a small pond in the park nearby. The ice hadn’t been thick enough and they’d both wound up in the freezing water. He’d had to haul Mikey out, and they’d caught Hell from Debbie when they got back to the house. Brian especially.
“I know you saved him. He never could swim worth a damn,” she said now, reaching out to squeeze his hand.
Daphne sensed that there were deep currents of emotions swirling around the room. Like Justin, she was smart and intuitive, so she steered the conversation away from those waters by telling them about the first Christmas that her family celebrated Kwanzaa.
“We just never had, you know. Then my Mom joined this women’s group and they were really into it, so she made us wear these “ethnically authentic” clothes and stuff. Except those things are designed for places where it’s really hot, and it was winter … in Pittsburgh,” she started.
Everyone wound up laughing and Justin smiled at her gratefully.
Words are cheap
Words were cheap. Brian knew this. He sold words for a living. Well, actually, his clients paid through the nose, but …
He knew that it was easy to say “I’m sorry” and “Happy New Year”.
But Deb hadn’t just said those things. She was actually here, trying to make it happen; trying however clumsily to make up for some of the other, more vicious, things she’d said.
After all the vitriol and bitterness he could hardly believe it (although he suspected Emmett’s influence had been in there somewhere).
But the thing was … he wanted to believe it.
He’d missed her.
Picture Prompt: Pittsburgh - bridges across a winter river
Maybe, he thought, it was time for building bridges. Maybe he wasn’t the only one who’d struggled through the dark times to some kind of daylight.
He realized that he wanted her to come to know this new version of himself. He wanted to show her how his life was now. Wanted to show off his partner and his son and his home - which the other two had made happen.
He wanted her to see that he was happy.
Perhaps he even wanted to find a way to share some of that happiness with her.
Maybe she wanted that too.
They’d sent out for Chinese to feed everybody but dinner was over before Justin remembered that the bag of fortune cookies was still in the kitchen. He brought them in with the coffee.
They all read their fortunes out, generating much laughter. Some of them were just plain trite, some were completely off the wall, some were surreally un-apposite.
Then Brian opened his.
“The cure for grief is movement,” it read.
Can’t argue about that, he thought, knowing that the frozen waters of his heart, of his life, had finally started to flow again.
He hoped Debbie felt the same.
"It wouldn't be New Year's if I didn't have regrets." ~William Thomas
Brian didn’t do regrets. But if he had, he would have regretted two things. One was how he’d mishandled his relationship with Michael; he would never know if he could have made Michael understand that they were never going to be more than friends, but maybe...
The other thing he regretted (or would’ve if he’d allowed himself that indulgence) was that he’d allowed his fear of turning into Jack to deprive him of so much time with Gus. He knew himself better now, but he could never get that time back.
He could only make sure that from now on …
New Year's Eve
From now on, Brian thought next morning, he was going to spend as much time with his son, with his family, as he could.
He had no illusions about himself. He knew that he was a workaholic who was addicted both to the adrenalin rush he got from running his business, and to the status and success it brought him.
He also knew that he wasn’t going to turn into a poster boy for happy-ever-after overnight.
But he could fucking try.
And he was Brian fucking Kinney.
If he tried, then eventually he’d succeed.
Next year, he’d succeed at this.
New Year's Day
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