Can A Leopard Really Change Its Spots?


"God, I'm beat! I'd ask you to run in and get Molly for me, but I haven't seen my mom in a long time. I'll make it fast. This jet lag is kicking my ass."

"Talk to your mom," Brian says. "She's worried we're gonna up and move to L.A. if that impatient gallery owner starts making demands on you. I'm just sorry I told Lindsay we'd pick Molly up on our way home from the airport." Glancing down at Justin's lap, he runs through the checklist of positions he'll be utilizing when they get home. "I've got plans for that jet-lagged ass of yours, you know."

Welcoming a jolt of much needed energy through his body, Justin leans toward Brian. "I missed you the last two nights. Going out of town without you to take care of business really sucks." Kissing him in a prelude of what's to come, he whispers, "I love you," before opening the car door.

Brian's face breaks into a wide smile, his crooked upper left incisor evoking in Justin the memory of the very first time he'd ever smiled at him.

Justin's wise enough to know this happens once in a lifetime.


"Hi, Honey! How was L.A.?" Hugging him tightly when she opens her door, Jennifer quickly scans the porch. "Where's Brian?"

"He's waiting for me in the car. Is Molly ready to babysit Gus?" Justin asks, giving his mom a peck on the cheek. "Maybe we can get together this weekend," he adds. "Do you and Molly want to come out to the house for dinner? I'll make..."

"Why don't you and Brian come in?" Jennifer interrupts, hoping to warn him before the shock kills him. "Justin, someone came over and..."

"Hi, Son. It's good to see you."

Justin hasn't heard the sound of his father's voice in years. Daring to peek inside over his mom's shoulder, he lays eyes on a figure who's much smaller in stature than he'd remembered, although decidedly happier.

"I stayed until you got here. Can you come in and talk?"

Mining Jennifer's eyes for answers, Justin wonders what the fuck is up. He shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other when she urges him in, Craig Taylor smiling at his son and crossing the living room to shake his hand.

"Dad, I thought . . ." Justin doesn't know which of his failures, in his father's eyes, to bring up first. ". . . that you never wanted to see me again," he forces up and out of some dark hiding place. "You said..."

"Justin, life is too short. I hope you can forgive my atrocious behavior. Come on in. Sit down."

"I can't stay. My husband's in the car." Atrocious behavior? Justin snorts to himself. Let's see how your behavior holds up with that little piece of information! He wants to feel rotten for goading his father into a scene right there at his mother's front door, but he doesn't. An eternity of hurt has taken its toll.

"I'm so sorry for all these years," Craig admits to his son. "I'd like to meet your husband before you go."

Examining his dad's face closely, Justin doesn't get how he can look so perfectly sincere. And contrite. "You'd like to meet my husband? He's gay, too. Is that going to bother you?"

Jennifer's house is suddenly filled to the rafters with Craig's booming laughter, she and Justin both peering at him rather warily before sprouting small grins of their own. They soon find themselves belly laughing right along with him.

"What did I miss?" Molly asks her family, walking up beside her dad.

Craig's eyes are misty. "Your brother's really funny! I've missed that all these years!"

"Molly, why don't you ask Justin's husband to come in for a minute?" Jen suggests. "Justin won't mind."

"Go ahead," Justin nods at Molly. "He's wondering what's taking me so long."

"When did you get married?" Craig asks when Molly slips outside.

"Two years ago this June. We had a big wedding."

"I'm sorry I missed it. Your mom says you're a gifted artist. I'd love to see your work sometime."

"Dad . . ."

"I know. It's my fault that I don't know my own son. I'd like for that to change. Maybe someday . . ."

"What's up? Molly said you wanted me to come in?" Stepping into the house, Brian places his hand on the back of Justin's neck, drawing him forward until their lips meet.

Justin's in no hurry to end the kiss, actually prolonging it for effect. "Brian, I'm sure you remember my father, Craig Taylor," he says when he thinks it's been long enough. "Dad, this is my husband, Brian Kinney." Taking a step to the side to better observe his father's reaction, he anticipates the showdown.

"It's good to see you again, Brian." Craig extends his hand. "After all this time," he adds awkwardly when it's stuck between them in limbo.

Eyes growing wide with suspicion, Brian feels a sharp twinge in his ribs. Speechless, he turns to Justin for direction.

"It's okay," Justin breaks the silence. "He's sorry. He wants to make up for lost time." Lifting Brian's right hand, he connects it with Craig's. "It doesn't bother him anymore that you're gay."

Craig laughs again, not quite as loudly this time.

Brian shakes hands with him cautiously. "You're sorry?" he starts. "For all the years of..."

"Brian." Justin lets his eyes finish, Brian abandoning his would-be diatribe.

"Jen was right," Craig says, facing Brian man-to-man. "She told me you're a special breed. That your love for Justin is fierce. I don't blame you for being skeptical. Hopefully, in time, your opinion of me will change."

Brian's face softens. "Jen said that? You know, I've always admired Mother Taylor. She gave me the benefit of the doubt very early on, and that took guts. We've been friends ever since."

"She didn't deserve the way I walked out on her." Craig eyes his ex-wife with sorrow. "And I can never get back all the years with Justin that I threw away. I've been so foolish."

"Okay, we've gotta get going," Justin announces, briskly changing the subject. "You ready, Mollusk? We'll drop you off at Lindsay's." Hugging his mom good-bye, he doesn't forget about his weekend invitation. "So, we'll see you and Molly for dinner on Saturday? How does five o'clock sound?"

Craig looks at Brian. "It was a pleasure to see you again," he says, offering his hand once more. He's happily relieved that Brian's less standoffish, shaking it with a hint of acceptance.

"Justin." Craig approaches his son and hugs him emotionally.

Less than fully engaged, Justin's eyes are on Brian's, a tacit idea passing between them. "Why don't you come to dinner Saturday with Mom and Molly?" he asks his dad, freeing himself from the embrace. "Maybe we can get to know each other again. Maybe we won't, you know, hate each other this time."

Forced chuckles on everyone's part replace the previous easy laughter, the reality of the last six years pervading his and her thoughts.

"I'd really like to get to know you again, Justin," Craig says. "Thanks for the invite. I guess Jen can tell me where you live."

Kissing Jennifer good-bye, Brian takes Justin's hand as they leave, Molly following closely behind.

"Fuck! Talk about a shock!" Justin gasps, shaking his head when they pile into the car.

Brian leans over, kissing the side of his face. "I'd say you handled that extremely well. All things considered."

The corners of Justin's mouth creep upward. "Yeah. All things considered. I love being in control! We're slugging the asshole in the jaw and kicking the shit out of him when he falls to the floor if he cops an attitude, or lets one wrong word out of his mouth."

"Yes, Dear," Brian laughs. "It is kind of gratifying to give him enough rope to hang himself."

"Or maybe you guys will be surprised," Molly pipes up from the back seat. "Lately, it seems like he's a totally changed person."

Brian and Justin come to a silent understanding. "We'll decide," they say with one voice.


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