The sunlight streamed through the windows of the seedy Barstow hotel.  Rays of light pierced through Brian Kinney’s eyes.  His head was pounding and he knew better than to try and move.  Fuck, his head hurt.  Slowly opening his eyes, Brian tried to look around the room and figure out what the hell had happened.  The previous night’s trick was still sleeping.  Lines of cocaine were still littering a small mirror and empty liquor bottles flooded the floor.

            The body beside him on the bed began to shift and Brian looked over at his companion.  The young blonde trick smiled and leaned in for a kiss.  Recoiling in disgust, Brian pushed the man away.

            “You need to go.”


            “Look, fun’s over, time to leave.”

            Blue eyes blinked in confusion, “I don’t understand.”

            “We fucked, had some fun, now it’s time to go.”  When the younger man ceased to move, Brian got angry.  “Get the fuck out!”

            The trick, recognizing the anger and instability of the man beside him, quickly leaped out of bed and got dressed.

            Once the trick was gone, Brian sat on the side of the bed and held his pounding head in his hands.  He looked over at the newspaper on the floor.  October 19, 2005.  Two years.  It had been two years since Brian had left Pittsburgh.  Ran away from Pittsburgh would be a better description.  He ran away from everything he knew, from everyone he loved because he was a coward.




Two years earlier


            Life had settled down on Liberty Avenue after the defeat of Jim Stockwell.  Marvin Deekins had taken office. Jim Stockwell had been indicted in the Jason Kemp murder cover-up and life pretty much went on.  Life for Brian Kinney, however; was spinning out of control.  For the first time in his life he was terrified.  He had no job, no money, and a full time boyfriend.  How had his life come to this?

            Justin had bounced back from their setback very quickly.  Even though he was not readmitted to PIFA, Ben had pulled some strings and gotten the young man enrolled in the art program at Carnegie Mellon.  Justin kept working at the diner and moved on.  As Justin’s life surged forward, Brian’s resentment towards his lover grew to epic proportions.

            Logically, Brian knew his situation was a result of his own decisions, but logic was not what was driving his thoughts during that period.  Depression washed over him like the tide washing in and Brian knew he was drowning.  Feeling he had no other choice, Brian decided to leave Pittsburgh.

            He began plotting his escape one night after Justin had gone home.  Arranging to sell the loft and the ‘vette, Brian liquidated all of his assets.  The only concession he made was to leave enough money for Gus and Justin’s tuition.  An account was set up for Justin with the understanding that withdrawls were to be made and sent to Carnegie Mellon only and Gus’s account was set up in trust with Justin as the trustee.  Brian knew his young lover would use the money properly for Gus. He didn’t trust Melanie and Lindsey to not use the money for their own expenses.  Arranging to have a letter explaining the accounts delivered to Justin a couple of weeks after his departure, Brian was ready to leave.  Having no destination in mind, he simply hitchhiked out of town.




Present Day


            Justin looked over the newspaper.  It was two years from the day Brian had disappeared.  Whenever Brian’s name crossed his mind tears sprung into his eyes.  The young artist still had no idea what had happened to his older lover.  For all he knew the man was dead.  When Brian first disappeared he had hired private investigators but to no avail.  Brian Kinney had for all intensive purposes fallen off the face of the earth.

            The ringing telephone jolted him out of his thoughts.  “Hello?”

            “Hey, Justin!”

            “Hey, Michael, what’s up?”

            “Nothing.  Ben and I just wanted to see if you and Gus wanted to come over for dinner tonight.”

            “You are so transparent Mikey. Are you two afraid I will do something drastic on this tragic anniversary?”

            “Fuck you, Boy Wonder!”  Michael still called Justin by his nickname, but now it was an endearment.  “Do you want to come over or not?”

            “Yeah, we’ll come over.  Besides, we can start brainstorming the next issue of ‘Rage.’” 

            The two had continued with the comic and it had become very lucrative.  Both men could use the money.  Justin was very diligent with the money Brian had left behind and had invested it wisely to secure Gus’s future.  Once Ted emerged from rehab, he went back to work as a financial advisor.

            Justin was the first member of the family to trust Ted with money again.  Everyone else was still very wary of trusting Ted and against his better judgment, Ted was the first person he went to when he learned about the two bank accounts.  Two years later, Ted had yet to let him down.

            The slamming of the front door signaled that Gus was home from school.  “Pops?”

            “In the kitchen, Gus.”

            The five year old image of Brian Kinney came barreling in the room and into Justin’s arms.  “Hi Pops!”

            Justin smiled at the little boy he loved so much, “Hey kiddo, how was school?”

            “It was ok.  We had art today.  Did you know that some kids eat paste?  It was so gross.”

            “Well, Gus, I seem to remember just last year someone enjoying paste as a snack.”

            “Well, I was only four then.”  Gus rolled his eyes as only a world experienced five year old could.

            Justin nodded with intense understanding, “Well, I guess you’re just smarter than those kids.”  He immediately began to tickle the little boy.

            Gus squirmed out of his arms.  “Pops, stop it!”

            “Ok, Gussy!” Justin used the nickname Gus hated.  “Do you want to go to dinner at Uncle Michael and Uncle Ben’s?”

            Gus clapped his hands, “Yes, yes, yes!”




Two years earlier


            Justin hadn’t heard from Brian for two days and he was beginning to worry.  Brian’s cell phone was turned off and phone calls to the loft remained unanswered.  Deciding to figure out what was going on, Justin went to the loft only to find the locks and the alarm code changed.  A visit to the super’s office told Justin that Mr. Kinney had sold the loft.  For the first time in over a year, Justin felt the onslaught of a panic attack.

            The rest of the family was too preoccupied with their own problems to worry about Brian’s disappearance.  Michael and Ben were fighting the legal system to get custody of Hunter, Ted and Emmett were dealing with the aftermath of Ted’s drug addiction and trip to rehab, and Melanie and Lindsey were busy preparing for the new baby.

            Two weeks later, Justin received the certified letter informing him about the bank accounts Brian had set up for him and Gus.  Holding the letter in his hands, the young artist realized Brian was truly gone and not coming back.  Collapsing to the floor in sobs, Justin mourned the loss of the only man he had ever loved.




Present Day


            Brian looked around the hotel room he had been holed up in for two weeks.  Since leaving Pittsburgh two years earlier, his life had been an unending string of booze, drugs, and tricks.  He would hitchhike from town to town and pick up cash doing odd jobs to pay for his addictions.  When he couldn’t find legitimate jobs, Brian would sell his ass on the streets.  One thing he didn’t lose was his sex appeal and it was easy finding men willing to pay for the privilege fucking and being fucked by him.

            Brian had mentally shut down. The demons that plagued him were too strong.  Chemically induced escape was the only thing he could do to outrun the memories.  Sometimes, not even drugs or booze could block out the visions of his past.  When he slept, thoughts of Justin haunted him.  There were times when Brian couldn’t remember why he had left, but once the booze and the drugs faded his resentment towards Justin and perceived role in the downfall of Brian Kinney came crashing back.  Those resentments would push him into another binge of self destruction.

            Staring at the newspaper, Brian felt memories wash over him again.  Seeing the beautiful blonde sucking his cock, kissing him, smiling at him brought tears to Brian’s eyes.  For the first time in two years, Brian had lucid thoughts about Justin and they weren’t filled with anger, they were filled with love.

            Standing up and staggering to the bathroom, Brian looked into the mirror and studied his reflection for the first time in two years.  The reflection staring back at him was a stranger.  Staring back at him was a shadow of the former Brian Kinney.  His eyes had none of their former depth, his skin was sallow, and his chestnut hair had strands of gray.  For the first time since he had left Pittsburgh, Brian Kinney wondered what had happened to him.




            Justin and Michael were sitting in the dining room discussing ideas for “Rage.”  After finishing dinner, Ben and Hunter took the kids out for ice cream.  Ben knew that Michael and Justin needed some time alone.  Since Brian had disappeared, the two men had gravitated towards each other and surprisingly became friends.

            Justin had been the one who sat with Michael when Leah had been born.  Michael was the one who stayed on Justin’s couch for two weeks when Ben and Michael realized how fragile the younger man’s emotional state was after Brian’s departure.  Three years of resentment towards each other had evaporated when Brian left and the two men had become each other’s primary support system.

            Michael noticed Justin rubbing one of the leather bracelets that had adorned his wrists for the last eighteen months.  “How are you doing?”

            Looking up at Michael, Justin thought before answering.  “I’m ok.  I mean it’s still hard, but everyday it gets a little easier.  Having Gus around makes it better.  The more I think about it though the angrier I get.  If he wanted out he could have just told me.  Pulling this fucking disappearing act was just damn cowardly.”

            Michael recognized Justin’s anxiety level rising and placed a reassuring hand on the younger man’s wrist.  “I know it was.  He was a selfish prick for leaving you and Gus the way he did.  We’ll probably never know why.  You want to know the truth?”

            Justin was slowly calming down, he sniffled before answering Michael.  “What?”

            “There are times that I hope he is dead.  That’s the only way I can make sense about having no word from him for two years.  The only way I can justify him not being here after Melanie and Lindsey …”  Michael’s voice trailed off.

            “I know, Michael, I’ve thought the same thing too.  You and I both need to believe that because if he’s alive somewhere than he really is a selfish, self centered son of a bitch who abandoned all of us, and our illusions about him would be shattered forever.”

            The two men shared a look of understanding.  They were sitting at the table in silence when Ben, Hunter, Gus, and Leah got home.




            Brian sat in the waiting room of the Cedar House Rehabilitation Center in Bloomington California.  Filling out the forms that would gain his admittance into their program, he briefly wondered why he was doing this.  Suddenly, he remembered this was his first step towards reclaiming his life.  Needing to put his life back together before he returned to Justin, the first step was getting off the booze and the drugs.

            Sitting in the little hotel in Barstow, Brian found ten thousand dollars sewn into the lining of his leather jacket.  Realizing he must have hidden the money in one of his lucid moments to prevent him from squandering it.  Perhaps, even in one of his darkest moments, he was preparing the road for his redemption.




Eighteen months earlier


            Michael was worried about Justin.  The young artist had slowly been pulling away since Brian’s disappearance six months ago.  Everyone had been so wrapped up in their own lives. Brian’s departure wasn’t at the forefront of anyone’s concern.  Everyone was certainly concerned that Brian had gone missing, but when the money came for Justin’s tuition and for Gus, the family just figured Brian couldn’t handle the responsibility and had beat a hasty retreat.

            Michael knew that Justin was devastated by the family’s lack of concern for his lover.  So much had been happening around them, no one noticed as Justin started to slip away.  Michael knew he needed to pull the blonde artist back into the family fold, by force if necessary.

            Justin had given Michael a key to his apartment for emergencies and the brunette figured this was one.  The young artist had cancelled on another “Rage” brainstorming session and Michael began to worry that something was seriously wrong.

            The scene that greeted him chilled his bones.  The young blonde was sitting on the bathroom floor slashing his wrists.  “Justin, what the fuck are you doing?”

            Justin looked up with a dead look in his blue eyes, “Go away Michael.”

            The older man raced to his friend and grabbed the razor blade, he immediately grabbed some towels and began to wrap the younger man’s wrists.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”      

            “It’s better this way. Michael, I can’t do this anymore.”

            “If you kill yourself than you are no better than that selfish prick.  Don’t you dare let that coward win?”

            Justin passed out from the blood loss.  Michael carried him to the living room and dialed 911.  While waiting for the paramedics, Michael felt a fury towards Brian Kinney that scared him.  If Brian had been in the room, Michael would have killed him for doing this to Justin.  The young artist was the only person that ever truly loved Brian enough to put up with all his bullshit.  The only thing he wanted was Brian’s love in return and the selfish prick could do nothing else but run away.

            Justin remained in the hospital for three days.  Michael and Ben knew how much the younger man hated hospitals and wanted to get him released as soon as possible.  The doctors agreed provided that someone stays with Justin for awhile.  It was agreed that Michael would stay at Justin’s while the young artist recovered.

            Those two weeks were hell.  Justin had nightmares every night.  Briefly Michael wondered if this was what it had been like for Brian when Justin lived with him after the bashing.  For the first time in six months, Michael had a sympathetic thought for his friend.

            Justin’s recovery was complete the night Leah was born.  Lindsey knew that Michael had been staying with Justin, so she called Justin’s apartment when Melanie went into labor.  Ben was out of town on a lecture and Hunter was staying at Debbie’s so the two friends rushed off to the hospital.

            Michael was a nervous wreck and Justin did everything he could to calm him.  Insisting that Justin be with him when he met his daughter, the two men’s journey towards friendship was complete.  Michael’s heart surged with love as he held his daughter and for the first time in almost four years he was glad that the friend beside him was Justin Taylor and not Brian Kinney.




October 2006


            Brian Kinney looked at the LA skyline from his office on Wilshire Boulevard.  After six weeks in rehab, Brian had emerged sober and determined to put his life back together.  Briefly entertaining the thought of contacting Justin then, he quickly decided against it.  Knowing he could not return to Justin until he truly had put things in order, Brian decided to rebuild his shattered career.

            Researching Los Angeles based advertising agencies, Brian picked out the top three firms and offered his services at a fraction of their worth.  Since the scandal surrounding his departure from Vanguard had happened so long ago, it barely raised an eyebrow during Brian’s interviews.  All three firms offered him a position and Brian went with the Wentworth agency.  They gave him the best offer and had the best growth potential.  Brian believed he could be back on top in no time.

            Eleven months later he was a senior executive with a partnership looming on the horizon.  After his release from rehab, Brian had found a therapist in LA.  Knowing that his six weeks at Cedar House had just been the beginning, the ad exec was determined to continue his redemption.  Working with his therapist allowed Brian to fully examine the truths of his past.

            The hardest part had been sorting out his feelings for Justin.  Acknowledging that he loved the younger man was not the problem.  Years of fear and insecurities had fled to the surface when his life was falling apart and Justin moved on.  For the first time Brian Kinney had no idea who he was.  No longer did the titles “King of Liberty Avenue” or “Advertising god” apply to him and Brian found himself with no identity.  He had been knocked off his pedestal and his life was in shattered pieces.  Instead of dealing with it then and moving forward to a life with Justin, Brian did what he always did and ran away.

            Being away from his past allowed him to discover who he really was.  Discovering that the things he liked differed greatly from the hobbies of the former Brian Kinney surprised him.  Brian found himself referring to his former persona in the third person. He truly believed that person didn’t exist anymore.  The question remained would the one man he loved even like the person he had become?




October 2004


            Justin was at Lindsey and Melanie’s babysitting Gus and Leah.  The two women had their monthly board meeting at the GLC but were due home at any moment.  A thunderstorm had come into the city and the young artist briefly wondered how the roads were.

            Working on some drawing for class, the ringing of the telephone interrupted him.

            Assuming it would be Lindsey or Melanie, Justin picked up on the first ring.  “Hello?”

            “Justin?  This is Carl Horvath.”

            “Hi Carl, are you looking for Linds or Mel?  They’re not home right now.”

            “I know Justin.  There’s been an accident.”




            Ben and Michael hurried over to Lindsey and Melanie’s house.  Ben stayed with the kids while Michael and Justin hurried to the hospital.  Carl met them in the emergency room.  The look on his face froze the two men in their tracks.  They knew their friends were gone.




            Ben, Michael, and Justin sat in an office that belonged to one of the partners in Melanie’s law firm.  They were going over the details of Melanie and Lindsey’s wills.  Guardianship of Leah went to Michael and guardianship of Gus went to Justin.  The lawyer explained that the arrangements for Gus had been changed after Brian disappeared.  They briefly considered having Michael and Ben raise both children, but knew that would be a mistake.  Their oldest child’s relationship with Justin was rock solid.  For all purposes Justin was Gus’s father and the two women would not deny that.  Stipulations were also put into the will that should Brian ever return it would be impossible for him to challenge Justin for custody unless the younger man agreed.  Melanie had taken out life insurance policies a couple of years before and one would go to Leah and the other to Gus.  Their wills also specified that all of their possessions were to be sold and divided equally between Michael and Justin.

            Although they were technically two families, they naturally merged into one.  All of their friends rallied around to help them with the difficult transition and soon everyone was relatively settled.  Justin and Gus lived in Justin’s apartment.  The young artist briefly considered using some of the money to buy a house but decided against it.  Gus had gone through so much upheaval losing his mothers that Justin didn’t want to uproot the child again.

            Over the next three years the close knit family continued to grow and flourish.  Hunter completed high school and went to Penn State for college.  Once Justin graduated from Carnegie Mellon he accepted a teaching position in their art department.  The freedom of his teaching position allowed the artist to pursue his art in his spare time.

            The winds of change were about to descend on the small family as the time came for the prodigal son to return.



October 2007


            Brian sat in his office after a partners meeting.  On the agenda was expansion.  Simon Wentworth was looking to increase the agencies exposure and that meant expanding to the east.  Old Man Wentworth had been wanting to expand into the east coast market for awhile.  During the meeting Simon made it clear that he wanted to compete against Vanguard. That meant going to Pittsburgh.

            Brian was hand picked to open the Pittsburgh office.  For the first time, Brian felt the beginnings of a panic attack.  Although returning to his former home town had always been a plan of his, the reality of it was sobering.  Calming himself down in the executive washroom, the first thing Brian did was start the preparations for his professional return to Pittsburgh.

            Finding Cynthia still at Vanguard, his former assistant was the first person Brian contacted.  To say Cynthia was shocked would be an understatement.  The blonde woman read him the riot act for twenty minutes about his disappearing act.  The words stupid, selfish, and prick were repeated over and over again.

            “Cynthia, are you finished?”

            “No, Brian, I haven’t even started.”

            “Well, save your strength for when I get back to Pittsburgh.”

            “You’re coming back?”

            “Wentworth wants me to open an office there.  That’s why I’m calling you. I want you to help me.”

            Cynthia had kept in periodic touch with Brian’s friends over the years and she wondered if Brian knew anything about the changes that had taken place.  “Are you sure you really want to do this?”

            This statement confused Brian, “Of course, I’m sure.  Besides, I think I have some fences to mend.”

            Cynthia snorted into the phone.  “That would be putting it mildly.  Seriously Brian, it might be better if you don’t come back.”

            Unsure of what Cynthia meant, Brian just ignored her.  “I’ll be there in two weeks to start setting up the office.  See if you can scout some office space and we’ll go there.”

            Settling back into their old routine, Cynthia just laughed.  “Whatever, boss.”




            Justin was sitting at home in his apartment.  He was due to pick Gus up from school in a half hour when someone knocked on his door.  Assuming it was his boyfriend, Jason, Justin rose to answer the door.  Opening the door, Justin found an Armani clad Brian Kinney standing on the other side.  At that moment everything went black.




            Ben was waiting at home when Michael arrived with Gus.  The school had called Michael when Justin failed to pick Gus up.  Justin had put Michael in Gus’s file as an emergency contact.  A feeling of terror immediately engulfing him, Michael raced to fetch Gus.

            “Hi Gus!”

            “Uncle Ben!!  Is Leah awake?”

            “No kiddo, she’s sleeping.”

            “Can I go see her?”

            “Sure, just be quiet.”  Nodding quickly, Gus raced from the living room.  Ben noticed the wild look in Michael’s eyes.  He knew his lover was very worried about Justin.  Forgetting to pick Gus up at school was something the blonde artist would not do. 

            Laying a comforting hand on Michael’s arms, Ben whispered softly, “Why don’t you call first?”

            Nodding Michael grabbed for the phone.  It rang four times before the answering machine picked up.  “Justin are you there, it’s Michael.  Pick up if you’re there, the school called …”


            The phone almost dropped from his hand as Michael could only gasp, “Brian!?”




            Brian was shocked as he watched the young blonde collapse to the floor in front of him.  Feeling his protective nature kick in, he gently picked Justin up and laid him upon the couch.  Remembering the few times Justin passed out after the bashing, Brian knew better than to wake him.  The phone began ringing after he got Justin settled on the couch.  Knowing that a major emotional confrontation would be waiting for him once Justin woke up, Brian hoped he would sleep for a while.  Just seeing Justin after four years opened up Brian’s heart for the first time in years.  Planning to ignore the phone, Michael’s voice floated over the answering machine.

            “Justin are you there, it’s Michael.  Pick up if you’re there, the school called …”


            The gasp from the other end of the line filled the small apartment, “Brian!?”

            “No Mikey, it’s Santa.”

            “He’s sleeping on the couch.  He passed out, is he ok?”

            “Stay there until I get there.”  Brian heard the phone hang up before he could answer.




            Michael was shaking as he hung up the phone.  Feeling Ben’s arms encircle his waist, he leaned into his lover’s touch.  “Did I hear correctly?  Is Brian over at Justin’s?”

            “Yeah, I need to get over there.”

            “Any idea what happened?”

            “He just said Justin passed out and was asleep.”


            “I know, I need to get over there before Justin wakes up.”

            “I know baby.”

            “Why Ben?  If he’s stayed away for four years, why come back now?”

            “Only one person knows that answer.”

            “Let’s just hope I don’t kill him before I get my answer.”

            “Just go and take care of Justin.  We’ll deal with Brian later.”

            Michael only nodded before heading out the door.




            Michael let himself into Justin’s apartment and found Brian Kinney standing over the couch watching Justin sleep.  Brian turned and greeted Michael with one of his dazzling smiles.

            Crossing the room, Brian tried to embrace the shorter man, “Mikey!”

            Recoiling from his touch, Michael glared at Brian with a stare the ad-exec had never seen.  “You can go now Brian.”

            “Excuse me?”

            “I said you can go now.  It will be better if you are not here when he wakes up.”

            “Look Michael …”

            “No, you look.  I don’t know where the fuck you have been for four years or why you came back now, but it would be for the best if you just go back to wherever you came from.”

            Brian’s face reflected the shock he felt from Michael’s words.  “Mikey …”

            “Get out Brian!”

            Only able to nod, Brian quickly made his way to the door.  “Michael, I’m staying at the Hilton.  Will you call me?”

            “Probably not.”

            “Will you ask Justin to?”

            “I’ll give him the message.  It will be up to him if he calls you.”

            Nodding his understanding, Brian left the small apartment.  For the first time since deciding to return to Pittsburgh, Brian began to be faced by the consequences of his cowardice.




            About an hour later Justin began to stir.  Opening his eyes, he saw Michael sitting beside him.  Relief flooded through his body as he grabbed Michael into a fierce hug.  “Oh god, Michael, I’m so glad it’s you.  I thought I was hallucinating.  I thought I saw Brian.”

            “You weren’t hallucinating, Brian was here.”

            Justin felt his body jolt like it had been struck by lightening.  “What??  How?? Why??”

            “I don’t know Justin.  I kicked him out as soon as I got here.”

            “He looked the same … didn’t he?”

            “Yeah … he did.”

            “He’s not dead?”

            “Apparently not.”

            “Why is he here?”

            “I don’t know, but I am going to find out.”




            Ben brought Gus back to Justin’s apartment.  The three men decided not to tell Gus about Brian’s apparent return.  The young boy had been asking about Brian for years, and they had always reassured him that his dad loved him, but couldn’t be with him.  Brian’s sudden reappearance could cause the boy great distress.

            Ben decided to head home.  Hunter was babysitting Leah and the young college student had only so much patience with his baby sister.  Michael decided he would go see Brian.  The three men had discussed it and came to a consensus that Michael would be the best to handle Brian right now. Justin was still too shaken up.




            Brian was smoking in his suite at the Hilton.  Cigarettes were the one addiction he had been unable to give up.  His therapist figured with all the addictions he had conquered, cigarettes could wait.  Lying on his bed, Brian allowed the memories to flow over him.  He knew that his return to Pittsburgh would be hard, but the reactions he had gotten from Justin and Michael were not what he was expecting.  His arrogant nature allowed him to believe he would be welcomed by his lover and best friend. Obviously, he was gravely mistaken.

            The phone rang and startled him.  “Hello?”

            “I’m downstairs in the bar.  Meet me down here.”

            “Ok, Mikey.”




            Brian found Michael sitting at the bar drinking a beer.  Pulling up a stool beside his old friend, Brian sat down and just looked at Michael.  Signaling for the bartender, Michael started to order a double Beam for Brian.  Brian interrupted him and ordered a club soda.  Cocking an eyebrow at his former friend, Michael decided not to say anything.

            “Is Justin ok?”

            “Apart from thinking he is having hallucinations, he’s fine.”


            “Yeah … you.”


            “Brian why are you here?

            “This is my home.”

            “No, it’s not.  You left this place behind.  You gave no word to any of us.  Nothing!  Not even a postcard to let us know you are alright.”

            “Mikey …” Brian hoped to reason with the other man.

            “No, Brian, you need to leave.  Just go back to wherever you have been and leave us alone.”

            “I’m moving back here.  The firm I work for is opening an office here and I am the senior partner.”

            “No, Brian, you can’t come back.”

            “It’s already done Michael.”

            Hanging his head, Michael tried to wrestle with the thoughts that were plaguing him.  Brian was just going to waltz back into their lives like nothing happened.  If he couldn’t get Brian to leave, the least Michael could do was protect his family.  Justin was just starting to move on.  He was dating a nice guy named Jason and Brian was slowly becoming a part of the distant past.  There was Gus to consider as well.  Brian’s sudden re-entry into the seven year old’s life could only cause the boy distress.  Brian’s next question pierced his thoughts and chilled him to the bone.

            “Can you give me Melanie and Lindsey’s new number?  Their old one appears to have been disconnected.  Did they move?  I want to see Gus.”

            Daggers flew from Michael’s eyes, and Brian suddenly felt very cold.  “My God, Brian.  Just when I think you can’t get any more heartless, you continue to amaze me.  You never once looked into us, never once wanted to see how we were doing?”

            “Michael quit the dramatics.  Just you give me the munchers new number.”

            “I can’t Brian, Melanie and Lindsey are dead.”  For a brief second Michael wished he could take back his words, Brian looked like someone had stabbed his heart.

            “What?  When?”

            “Three years ago, car accident.”

            “What about Gus … Melanie’s baby?”

            “Leah lives with Ben and me.”

            “And Gus?”

            “He’s with Justin.  Lindsey and Melanie changed their wills shortly after you disappeared and named Justin Gus’s guardian.”

            “I want to see him.”

            “That’s Justin’s decision.”  Michael wanted to embrace his old friend, but decided against it.  He couldn’t forgive Brian, not yet.  “I’ll ask him to call you.”

            Brian could only nod.




            For the first time in two years, Brian wished he still drank.  The information Michael gave him had rocked him to the core.  Foolishly assuming he could walk back into his old life, Brian had ignored all the warnings of his therapist and friends in LA.  Julia, his therapist, had warned him about going back to Pittsburgh.  She feared Brian would not receive the easy homecoming that he was expecting.  Brian refused to listen to her when she tried to explain that his friends and family might not welcome his return.  Her patient was living in a dream world about returning to his past.  No amount of counseling on her part would convince Brian not to take the job in Pittsburgh.

            Staring at the phone, he knew he needed to call Julia.  She was right. He had been living in a dream world.  He had seen only a brief glimpse of the life his family and friend’s lived now and he was almost ready to begin undoing all the progress he had made.


            “Julia, it’s Brian.”

            “I was hoping I would hear from you.”

            “You were right.”

            “Was I?”

            Brian hated it when she would do this.  Julia had an amazing knack for making him examine things … his life … his mistakes.  “I was living in a dream world.  Thinking I could come back like nothing had changed.”

            “And it has?”

            “Yes, it fucking has!  Michael hates me.  Justin fainted at the sight of me.  Lindsey and Melanie are dead …”

            “Gus’s mothers are dead?  Where is your son?”

            “With Justin.  Fuck!  I don’t even know all the details.  Do you know how badly I wanted to drink tonight?  Just forget everything and escape.”

            “But you called me.”

            Heaving a heavy sigh, “I called you.”

            “That’s a good sign.”




            Brian and Julia talked for another hour.  Apparently, Julia’s sister, Tamara, was a therapist in Pittsburgh.  She would forward Brian’s files to Tamara and Brian would continue therapy in Pittsburgh.

            “Tamara’s good, Brian.  Some even say she’s better than me.”

            “That’s impossible.”

            “Asshole!  Seriously, you’ll be in good hands.  You can still call me anytime you want.  I am not giving up on you.”

            “Thanks Julia.”

            Brian hung up the phone and was about to get ready for bed when the phone rang again.



            “Yeah, um … Michael told me where you were staying.  He also told me you didn’t know anything about Mel and Linds.  I’m sorry you had to find out like that.”

            “Well, I guess I had it coming.  I would like to see Gus.”

            “Brian … I don’t know.”

            “Justin, he’s my son.”

            “Your son that you walked out on.  Your son who has been struggling for four years wondering what happened to Dada.  He’s my son now and I will protect him … even from you.”

            “I don’t want to hurt him.  Don’t make me have to seek legal counsel Justin.”  Where the fuck did that come from?  Brian is suddenly afraid as he feels his old walls and defense mechanisms come back.  The iciness of Justin’s response terrifies him.

            “You have no legal recourse, Brian.  Don’t forget Melanie was a top notch lawyer.  She covered every possible loophole you could try in order to get Gus.  It is my decision to let you see him and it’s my decision to refuse.”

            “Justin …”

            “Michael told me you’ve moved back here.”

            “Yes, I have.”

            Brian heard his Sunshine sigh, “I won’t keep Gus away from you Brian, but we have to tread very carefully.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “He’s seven years old Brian and he still doesn’t understand why his Dada left him.  Hell, none of us understand, but we’re adults and he’s a little boy.  Let me explain to him that you are back and then he can decide.”

            “I thought you said he missed me.”

            “Of course, he has, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be distressed that you’ve come back.  Let me talk to him.  I’ll call you in a few days.”

            Conceding this point to Justin, Brian found himself agreeing.  The former lovers said goodbye, not ‘later’ but goodbye.  Brian wondered if he would ever have a life with Justin again.




            “Justin, you can’t be serious?  How can you even think about letting Brian see Gus?”  Justin had invited Ben and Michael over to discuss the ‘Brian situation.’  Over the years, the three men had always discussed matters of the children together.

            “Michael, Brian is still Gus’s father.  I can’t deny him seeing his son.”

            “Why not, he’s the asshole who walked away!”

            “I know and now he’s back.  What the fuck should we do?  It wouldn’t be right to keep Gus from him.  What happens when Gus finds out he’s back and learns we kept them apart?  I’m going to talk to Gus, let him know what’s happened, and let him decide.  It’s the right thing to do.”

            Michael started to protest, but Ben stopped him.  “Michael, Justin’s right.  Whatever the three of us may feel about Brian and his leaving, he’s still Gus’s dad.  You know as well as any of us how much Gus has missed him.”

            Against his better judgment, Michael agreed.




            Justin and Gus were finishing dinner when Justin decided to broach the ‘Brian’ subject.  “Gus, there’s something I need to tell you.”

            “Sure Pops, what’s up?”

            “Sit down, kiddo.”  Once Gus was settled with him on the couch, Justin decided to continue.  “Gus, your dad is back.”


            “Your dad has moved back to Pittsburgh.  He wants to see you.”

            “He’s back?  Why?  Where has he been?”  Justin was always amazed at how Gus seemed wise beyond his years.

            “I don’t know Gus.  I just know that he’s here and wants to see you.  It’s your decision to see him or not.  If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”

            “Pops, I want to see him.”

            “Ok, Gus.”




            Justin called Brian and invited him to the apartment he shared with Gus.  Despite Gus’s insistence that he wanted to see his dad, the young boy was nervous.  Justin decided the father/son reunion should happen in a familiar environment.  Gus was a nervous wreck waiting for his father to arrive.  Justin would have been amused at his son’s antics if he wasn’t so nervous himself.

            A knock at the door jolted father and son from their thoughts.  “Gus, do you want to get the door?”

            The young boy nodded and opened the door.  Father and son stood before each other for the first time in four years.


            Brian fell to his knees before his son.  “Yeah, Sonny Boy, it’s me.”

            Gus launched himself into Brian’s arms and held on tight.  Justin felt tears well up in his eyes as he watched the reunion.  Brian picked Gus up and walked inside.

            “Hey, Sunshine!”

            Justin grimaced at the old endearment.  “Hi, Brian.  Come in, sit down.  Can I get you something to drink?  I’ve got beer. I’m sure I have some Beam somewhere.”

            “Just some water, please.”

            Raising his eyes at Brian’s request, Justin decided to let it go.  Gus was talking a mile a minute to his dad.  He insisted on showing Brian his room and the older man happily followed his son.

            While Brian and Gus played in the young boy’s room, Justin prepared lunch.  Brian’s reappearance was causing such a turmoil in his life.  He had suppressed his feelings for Brian so long ago.  The next night was his anniversary with Jason and he was having feelings for Brian all over again.  When would life ever be simple?




            Justin and Jason were having dinner at Papagano’s to celebrate their one year anniversary.  They had eaten at the elegant restaurant on their first date, so it was the perfect choice for their anniversary.



            “Where are you?  You’re like a million miles away.”

            “I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”

            “What’s going on?”

            Justin took a deep breath.  He was unsure how to tell his boyfriend about Brian’s return.  Jason had been told about Brian Kinney.  He knew the profound impact the man had on Justin’s life.  Jason also knew that Gus was Brian’s son.  “Brian Kinney has moved back to Pittsburgh.”

            “Brian Kinney?”


            “So I guess, that’s it.”

            “What are you talking about?”

            “Brian Kinney, the great love of your life has returned.  I assume that means we are over.”

            “What? Jason, no!”

            “I worried this day would come.  I guess I never really believed it would.  I’m going to go.”

            Justin saw a strange look pass over his boyfriend’s face.  “What the fuck is going on Jason?”

            “Look Justin, we’ve had a good year, but it’s not going to work out between us.  Especially now that he is back.”

            “Look, Brian being back in Pittsburgh has nothing to do with us.  I have no interest in him.  I love you.”

            Jason looked deep into Justin’s eyes.  “Don’t lie, Justin.  I’ve always known that he comes first in your heart.  I just believed he would never come back and I wouldn’t have to compete.  He’s back and no matter what you say, he still comes first.  I’m not going to hang around and wait for you to realize it.”

            Justin watched his boyfriend leave the table.  He wanted to call out to Jason and tell him he was wrong, but he couldn’t.  As much as he couldn’t admit it, Brian Kinney owned his heart.  He always had and he always would.




            Michael held Justin as he cried.  The younger man had arrived to pick up Gus, but Michael recognized the look in his friend’s eyes.

            “Will I ever be free of him, Michael?”

            “I don’t know Justin, I don’t know.”

            “Why did he have to come back?  All of us were doing fine with him gone.  He has to come back and turn our lives upside down.  We still don’t even know where he was or what he was doing, but he comes back here and just expects to pick up where he left off.”

            “I know.  The time is going to come when he is going to have to answer for what he did.  That is if he wants to truly be a part of our lives again.  Mom was livid when I told her he was back.  Ted and Emmett were angry too.  Unless Brian Kinney starts explaining some things, he will remain on the outskirts of our lives.”




            Brian remained on the outskirts of his family’s life.  He saw Deb at the diner, but she was always cool to him.  Ted and Emmett were the same.  The only person who seemed to welcome him back was Vic.  Brian visited with Vic whenever Debbie was working.  Never sharing the truth about his disappearance, the two men fell into a comfortable routine.

            Justin was having dinner with Vic one night when he decided to bring up Brian.

            “Vic, what has he told you?”

            “About what?”

            “Oh, I don’t know, the last four years.”

            “We don’t talk about it.”

            “Not at all?”

            “You know Brian.  He’ll come clean when he’s ready.  I’ve loved him for a long time and I know that he will tell us when he’s ready.”

            “So we’re just supposed to welcome him back with open arms?”

            “Justin, you’re forgetting how well you knew Brian.  You of all people should know whatever caused him to leave had to have been huge.  You should also know that in his fucked up reasoning, leaving you was what he thought was the best thing.  He had to have been wrestling some major demons to leave like he did.”

            “Why did he have to leave?  We could have helped him through whatever was going on.”

            “This is Brian we’re talking about.  In his mind subjecting you to his demons was not an option, so he did the only thing he thought he could do.  He left.  Was it the right decision?  No, but that’s how Brian’s mind works.”

            Justin contemplated Vic’s words and wondered what it was that drove Brian away.




            Several weeks later, Brian asked Justin if he could take Gus for the weekend.  He had seen Gus a lot, but only for a few hours at a time.  Other than Vic, his relationship with Gus was the only one he seemed to be rebuilding.  He never hung out with the guys.  Woody’s and Babylon were no longer his scene.  Invitations were never extended to Debbie’s family dinners.

            Justin agreed to let Brian take Gus for the weekend.  Brian said something about giving him a weekend off for romance.  Knowing that Justin had a boyfriend hurt Brian, but he realized he couldn’t expect the blonde to wait around forever.

            Father and son had a great time.  Gus eagerly welcomed Brian back into his life.  This was something Brian would always be grateful to Justin for.  His son loved him and never forgot him.  On Saturday night, Gus got a little upset and wanted to go home.  Brian was worried.  His son was quite adamant about going home, but Brian didn’t want to interrupt any plans Justin may have.

            “Hey, Sunshine!”

            “Brian, is everything ok?  Is Gus alright?”

            “Well, he’s a little homesick and wants to come home.”

            “Oh.  That’s fine, bring him home.”

            “We’re not ruining any plans, are we?”

            “No, just house cleaning.”




            Brian and Gus arrived at Justin’s place and found Justin cooking dinner.  Having been given a key to Justin’s apartment, Brian let them in.

            “Hey guys!  I’m cooking spaghetti.”

            “Yeah!!!  That’s my favorite.”

            “Go wash up Gus.  Have you eaten?”  Justin’s question was directed at Brian.

            “No, we didn’t have a chance.  Is Jason coming?”

            Unsure how to answer, Justin opted for the truth, “No, we’re not seeing each other anymore.”

            “Oh.  I’m sorry, Justin.”

            “No worries, I’m just destined to be single, I guess.”

            The three men ate dinner in a peaceful silence.  Gus kept up a steady stream of conversation so Brian and Justin didn’t have to speak to each other.




            Once Gus was tucked into bed, Brian decided to leave.  He turned at the door and saw Justin staring at him.  “Later?”


            Justin watched Brian leave and then turned into the living room.  He noticed a notebook on the coffee table.  It wasn’t one of his, so he picked it up and started to look through it.  It was a journal.  Brian’s journal.  The first entry was dated two years ago, when he was in rehab.

            Several hours later Justin finished reading Brian’s words.  Beginning the journal in rehab, Brian had continued it when he moved to LA and began working with a therapist named Julia.  Justin cried as he read Brian’s inner most thoughts.  The pages exposed Brian’s inner most thoughts.  All his fears, all his demons.  Justin knew that Brian didn’t leave the journal by accident.



            Justin stood outside Brian’s hotel room.  He needed to speak to the older man.  He woke up Mikey and begged him to come over and watch Gus.  Even though Michael was annoyed at being awakened in the middle of the night, he had come over.

            The door opened and Justin looked at Brian for the first time.  He really looked at him.  Crows feet had begun to appear around Brian’s eyes.  Silver strands blended through Brian’s hazel locks.  For a moment Justin wondered why Brian hadn’t covered the gray with hair color.  The man before him was beautiful.

            “You left this.”  Justin held up the journal.

            “I know.”

            “Did you leave it for me to read?”


            Justin pushed past Brian and walked into the suite and turned on his former lover with blue eyes blazing, “You are a selfish prick!”

            The older man only hung his head, “I know.”

            “You didn’t have to leave us.  Everything you wrote in this damn book, we could have faced it together.  That’s what lovers do, that’s what partners do.”

            “I know.”

            “Then why?”

            “I was scared.”

            “Scared of what?”

            “Scared of subjecting you to this.  When I left I hated you.”

            Justin felt the air leave his body.  “What?”

            “You moved on so easily.  You were knocked down and just got up and kept going.  I lost everything!  I looked in the mirror and saw nothing.  Brian Kinney was gone!  I was just going through the motions, no feelings … nothing!”

            “How can you say that?  We were so close …”

            “I was pretending.  I didn’t feel anything.  The best thing I could do was go.”

            “So you left us all behind.  Well, fuck you Brian!  Your leaving wasn’t the best thing for me!”  Unfastening the leather cuffs that had adorned his wrists for over three years, Justin held his scars for Brian to see.

            Seeing the scars on Justin’s wrists knocked Brian to his core.  He fell to his knees and traced the scars with his fingers.  “When?”

            “About six months after you left.  I didn’t understand.  I thought we were ok.  Better than ok, we were great and suddenly you were gone.  I agonized over what I had done to make you leave.  Once again, I wasn’t enough for you.”

            Brian embraced Justin around the waist and laid his cheek on the young artist’s stomach.  “It wasn’t you.”

            Absently threading his fingers through Brian’s hair, Justin contemplated his answer, “I didn’t know that.”

            “How did you survive?”



            “He and I became friends after you left.  He saw that I was slipping away.  He found me, slitting my wrists.  After I was released from the hospital, he slept on my couch for two weeks.  I finally snapped out of my depression the night Leah was born and I never looked back.”

            “I’m glad you were there for each other.”

            The two men continued to hold each other.  No other words were necessary.




            Although they did not reunite as lovers, Brian and Justin became friends.  Spending a lot of time together, Justin truly learned about the man Brian had become.  He kept Brian’s secrets to himself, but the rest of the family slowly welcomed him back.  The consensus was that if Justin had let Brian back in and let him near Gus, they would too.  There was no discussion about a romantic reconciliation between the two. So much had happened.  The bond developing between them was stronger than anything that had been between them before.




April 2008


            Brian’s birthday was approaching and Justin was agonizing over what to do for him.  The two men were closer than they had ever been before.  Although they had not shared any physical intimacies, their emotional connection was rock solid.

            Justin took Brian out to dinner for his birthday.  Agonizing for weeks about what to do for the older man, Justin had finally arrived at the perfect present.  They had dinner at Le Pommier.  As they were having coffee, Justin slid an envelope across the table to Brian.

            “Happy birthday, Bri.”

            Looking confused at the plain envelope that had been given to him.  “Don’t tell me you’re giving me a gift certificate Sunshine.”

            Justin had the decency to blush.  “Just open it, Brian.”

            Opening the envelope, Brian began the read the document inside.  Justin had given him a legal document reinstating his parental rights to Gus.  “Justin, I don’t understand.”

            “You’re Gus’s dad.  In every way, but legally.  You should have that too.”

            Tears sprang up in the older man’s hazel eyes, “I don’t know what to say.”

            “There’s nothing to say.  You’re Gus’s dad, you always have been.”

            “So, are we going to handle this like hetero divorced parents?  You get this weekend, I get that one?”

            “We could.  Or we could handle it like married hetero parents and raise our son together.”

            Brian couldn’t have been anymore shocked.  He was sure any chance of a relationship with Justin was gone.  “Do you mean it?”




            The two men barely made it back to Justin’s apartment before they started tearing at each other’s clothes.  They were clumsy and awkward in their desire to taste each other after so long.  Clothes were strewn everywhere and they collapsed onto Justin’s bed. 

            Justin lay on the top of the comforter fully exposed.  His legs were spread and his cock was fully erect.  Brian began to crawl towards him from the foot of the bed.  Engulfing the artist’s cock in his mouth, Brian began to suck greedily.  Four years without Justin’s dick was way too long.  No other man compared to Justin.  During his lost years, all men were a pale substitute for his sunshine.  Justin shot his load down Brian’s throat quickly, it had been too long.  Once Justin had cum, Brian slid his hands underneath Justin’s buttocks and guided his legs over his shoulders.  Justin quickly produced a condom and lube, Brian prepared his cock.


            “Thinking you were going to get lucky tonight?”

            “Let’s just say I was hoping.”

            “Go easy, it’s been awhile.”

            “What about Jason?”

            “We never …”

            Kissing his lover softly, “It’s been awhile for me too.”


            “How long?”

            “Since I went to rehab.”

            Justin grabbed Brian’s lips into a fierce kiss as the older man’s dick penetrated his ass.  They made love like the first time and fell asleep in each other’s arms.




            Michael let himself into Justin’s apartment the next morning.  Since he hadn’t heard from the younger man, Michael decided to stop in.  Seeing the clothes strewn around the apartment, he assumed the birthday dinner had gone well.  The mystery surrounding Brian’s departure still hadn’t been revealed to Michael, but he trusted Justin.  If Justin was willing to allow Brian back into the family fold, that was okay by Michael.  Peering into Justin’s bedroom, Michael found the lovers sleeping peacefully in each other’s arms.  Seeing a look of contentment in Justin’s face that he hadn’t seen in years, Michael decided to let them sleep.  Quickly scribbling a note for Justin, Michael took his leave.




            Justin awoke to the familiar feeling of Brian draped over him.  He snuggled back into his lover’s embrace.  He felt Brian’s arms tighten around him.  Seeing the note pinned to the back of his bedroom door, Justin knew he would have to get up.

            Bri, wake up.”

            “Hmmm?”  Tightens his arms around Justin.

            Bri, we have to get up.”

            “Why?”  Justin jabs his lover in the ribs and points towards the back of the door.  Tacked to the door is a page from ‘Rage’ covered in black marker saying “DINER!”

            “I think we are expected somewhere.”

            Brian saw the note on the door, “Fuck!”

            “Not right now we’re not.”




            The two men entered the diner hand in hand.  The entire family was already there.  Gus leaped into Brian’s arms and hugged him.  “Hi, Dad!”

            “Hey, Sonny Boy!”

            A wet towel was slapped across the back of his head.  Ow, Deb!”

            “That’s for making Sunshine late.”  At that moment Brian Kinney knew he had finally come home.


The End

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