Close to Home II

+ Six +

Plans for the dinner were progressing. Brian had called Michael and asked him to clear it with Deb for having the dinner at the loft instead of her place. Michael had said that Debbie was chomping at the bit to see him, but Brian had asked him to tell her and everybody else to wait until the dinner. He thought it would be better if he saw them all at once. That way he could get all the reunions over at the same time.

Justin tried to convince Brian that it was a bad idea to wait to see everyone. He wanted Brian to let at least Debbie come over first. Brian was adamant about getting it all over at the same time. One major spurt of emotion would be plenty as far as Brian was concerned. Justin was worried that it would overwhelm Brian, but he couldn't seem to convince the man of that without sounding way too negative. It was a bone of contention between them, but finally Justin backed off, in spite of whatever misgivings he had, and agreed to let Brian do things his own way.

Meanwhile they had talked about what to serve their guests. Since they didn't have a big table they decided it would be best to do it buffet style and then have everybody sit around in groups to chat while they ate.

Justin still had grave concerns about how the whole thing would go down, but he didn't want to push Brian too much. They got along really well most of the time and he wanted to keep it that way.

One morning a few days after Michael's visit with Brian, Justin was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of a buzzer. He was in his own loft having left Brian's bed some time before midnight. He groaned as his foggy brain finally registered what the annoying noise was. He sat up and cursed as he left his nice warm bed to go to the intercom.

"What?" he demanded.

"Thank God," a female voice replied.

"Who is this?" Justin demanded frowning. It definitely wasn't any female voice that he recognized.

"Um … is this Justin Taylor?" the voice asked hesitantly.

"Yes, what do you want? Who are you?"

"My … my name is Debbie Novotny. I came here to see Brian Kinney, but he won't answer the buzzer … or I should say that as soon as he heard my voice he refused to let me in."

Justin grimaced. He had been afraid of something like this. "What do you want me to do about it?" Justin asked. He didn't like being caught in the middle.

"I was wondering … if you would let me in, so that I can go up to Brian's loft," she said sweetly.

"Obviously he doesn't want to talk to you."

"But that's the problem. What's going to happen at this fucking dinner if he can't even face me now?" she demanded. Justin could hear the frustration and near panic in her voice.

"Maybe you better come up," Justin said reluctantly. "I'm in 3A. Don't go to Brian's. We need to talk."

"Thanks," she said as he buzzed her in. He quickly went to put on some clothes.

A few minutes later there was a knock on his door. Justin was not prepared for what stood there. He knew that Debbie Novotny was Michael's mother and Brian's surrogate mother, but this woman didn't look like any mother he had ever seen before.

"Debbie?" he said tentatively. He wanted to be sure who he was talking to.

"That's me," she stated. "Aren't you just the cutest thing?" She cracked her gum and looked him up and down.

"Have a seat," Justin said. "Would you like some coffee?"

"I'd like to see Brian, is what I'd fucking like."

"I'm putting on some coffee," Justin said. "I need it even if you don't."

Justin went into the kitchen. He threw several furtive looks at Debbie as he made the coffee. He couldn't believe this was the woman that Brian thought so much of. He knew you weren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this was some cover. Then the thought hit him that if this was Brian's chosen mother, what the fuck must his actual mother be like? He shook his head not able to comprehend that thought.

While the coffee ran through Justin went back to the living room to talk to Debbie. "What are you doing here?" he asked bluntly. "Brian didn't want to see anybody until the dinner."

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Why not?" Justin asked. Even though he didn't think it was a good idea either, he wanted to get Debbie's take on it.

"How well do you know Brian?" she asked.

"I'm getting to know him."

"You don't know what he was like before," she said looking at the floor.

"No, I suppose I don't, but what does that have to do with now?"

"Brian … Brian had a hard time growing up. His parents are…"

When Debbie hesitated, Justin said, "Assholes."

"More like fucking assholes. Has Brian told you about them?" Debbie asked. She was surprised that Brian would have confided much about his family. This kid must be something special. She looked at him through new eyes.

"Assholes is about the extent of the information I have," Justin admitted.

Debbie shrugged. "When Brian was having it hard at home, he would come to us. He was good at hiding what was really going on. We all suspected but could never prove … abuse."

"I thought as much," Justin frowned.

"Anyway, Brian became very good at facades. In fact he's a fucking expert at them. He built this asshole persona all his own. Fuck 'em once and throw them away, never show that you care about anyone. He was tall, handsome and everybody wanted him. He could do anything he wanted."

"And he did."

"Exactly. Until the accident. That … had to be the fucking worst thing that could have happened to Brian."

"He's said as much," Justin said softly.

"You probably wonder why we let him get away with shutting us out of his life," Debbie said looking into Justin's eyes.

"Yeah, it's pretty hard to imagine, since you all tell me how much Brian means to you."

"And that's why we let him do it. Every time we had to lift him or help him to the bathroom or clean up his mess or fucking straighten his bed, I could see another little piece of him die. He couldn't stand not being able to look after himself. But worse than that, he couldn't stand us seeing that he couldn't look after himself. All of his facades were gone. He tried to build new ones but they didn't work anymore. He was stripped bare and he couldn't stand it. So, when he told the hospital to keep us out, I let that happen. I told Michael to stay away. I told all of them to stay away. I … I was fucking terrified that if he kept having to face us, it would be the end of him. He would see that it ended. You understand what I'm saying?"

Justin nodded. He got up and went to the kitchen to get the coffee. He did understand what Debbie meant. One of his first encounters with Brian had been the day Brian tried to kill himself. Debbie obviously understood Brian pretty well. This concept of facades was something he hadn't thought about but it made perfect sense.

"So what are you doing here today?" Justin asked as he handed Debbie a mug.

"I was told to stay away," she said as she stirred her coffee.

"I know. I tried to convince Brian not to do that, but he wouldn't budge."

"Then you understand the danger of what might happen?"

Justin grimaced. Debbie was expressing his worst fears that everything would go horribly wrong at this dinner. He feared that Brian might be upset having so many people around all at once. He hadn't had anybody around for years. But the other fear was that Brian might break down, become openly emotional, let that façade of aloofness crack and break. That would destroy Brian all over again.

"I'm worried that he will become very emotional, and he hates public displays of emotion, especially his own."

"You're pretty fucking quick on the uptake," Debbie said with a grin.

"Thanks, but the question is how do we stop this potential catastrophe?"

"That's why I'm here."

"What are you planning to do?" Justin asked. He had no idea what Debbie had in mind.

"First I have to get in to see him," she said looking pointedly at Justin. He nodded. "And then I know I'm going to fucking blubber like a fucking idiot when I see him."

Justin smiled fondly at her. He could see that she really did love Brian. "And…?"

"And then he's fucking going to blubber right back."

"How do you know?"

"I've looked out for that little asshole since he was fourteen years old. I fucking know."

"And what will this display of emotion accomplish?"

"It will show Brian what's going to happen when he meets his old friends … and Vic. I'll tell him that each of us needs to see him separately first. We need to talk to him and tell him that we miss him. We need to do it privately, not in front of everybody. I want to be the first."

"I agree," Justin said.

"That's it? You agree. Well, what the fuck are we waiting for?"

"He's going to be royally pissed at you … and at me," Justin warned.

"I fucking know that, but it has to be done."

"Then let's go," Justin said getting up and heading for the door.

They took the stairs taking their time and thinking about how they were going to handle what lay ahead. At Brian's door Justin decided what he thought was the best way to play this out. "I'm going to knock and open the door," Justin said. "Then I'm running like hell. You're on your own."

"You're a fucking big help," Debbie said with a glower. "Save yourself. I'll take on the lion in his den."

Justin smiled trying to feel reassured that this was for the best. He sincerely hoped no one lay dead or dismembered after this was all over. He tapped on the door, pulled it back and beat a hasty retreat down the stairs.

"Hey, Sunshine," Brian called, "you're up early today."

When no reply came, Brian looked up from his computer. He turned towards the door and found Debbie standing in the opening not sure whether to proceed further into the loft or stay where she could make a quick getaway.

"Debbie?" Brian said his face trying to conceal the myriad of emotions that flowed across it.

"It's me, kiddo," she said softly.

"How did you get in?"

"Some blond kid…" she replied with a nervous laugh.

"I'll kill him."

"Don't do that," she said hastily. "Brian, you … you look good, honey."

Brian could hear the catch in her voice and it hit him right in the heart, his little used heart that had lately found something to love. He tried to think of a snappy answer but nothing came to mind. "You look … just the same," Brian managed to finally get out.

"Are you taking good care of yourself?" she asked taking a few more steps into the loft.

"I'm doing okay."

"I … I can't tell you what it meant to me when Michael told me he had seen you. We weren't even sure that you were … still alive."

"Takes a lot to kill me," Brian said with a shake of his head. Although, there had been a few times that it wouldn't have taken much. "Want to sit down?" Brian asked.

Debbie nodded and moved to the sofa. "I hear you have a son," she said with a smile. "Do you have any pictures?"

Brian swallowed and picked up the little album that Michael had looked through. He handed it to Debbie. She flipped it open and he watched her examine each picture running her fingers lightly over Gus' little face, making little oohs and ahs as she did so.

"He's beautiful, just like you," she said when she was finished.

Brian looked into her eyes and all the old memories came flooding back. Memories of Debbie wiping his eyes and bandaging his cuts, holding him when his ribs had been kicked in, lecturing him about being a man and making the right choices, chewing him out when he'd made some colossal mistake, beaming with pride when he accomplished something big … or something small, just being there when he needed her. He saw the same recognition in Debbie's eyes. He felt her heart reaching out to his and his reached back. Suddenly she was beside his chair holding his head against her ample stomach. She ran her fingers through his hair and whispered his name. And the tears flowed and flowed … from both of them. Brian held on to her as if his life depended on it, and sometimes his life had depended on Debbie.

"Mom," he whispered.

"My boy, my sweet boy," she repeated again and again.

They stayed like that for a long time. Thoughts and memories swirled through their minds as the emotions played out. Finally Brian pulled back, cleared his throat and brushed the remaining tears from his eyes.

"I … I don't know where that came from," he said softly.

"I do," Debbie replied. "It came from your heart … and mine. I missed you and you missed me."

"Maybe … just a bit," he replied with a touch of the smartass that she knew so well.

She swatted him on the arm and chuckled affectionately. "Asshole," she felt compelled to say.

Brian laughed at that familiar term. She had called him that so many times over the years, in frustration, in anger, in love.

"So," she said reaching for a tissue and blowing her nose. She handed him one too and he used it. "What do we do now?"

"You could start by telling me why you came here when I asked you not to."

"Still defiant after all these years," she said staring at him. "You know I never do what I'm told. Brian," she began with a more serious tone, "I knew this would be what would happen when I saw you, at least on my part. I didn't want to do that in public, and I thought maybe you wouldn't want that either."

"Yeah," was all he said.

"I love the idea that you want to have this dinner, but I really think you should see everybody separately first. We've missed you and want you back, but none of us wants to do this in front of everybody else."

Brian thought about that for a moment. "Yeah, sure, like Ted will break down as soon as he sees me," Brian said trying to make it sound like his usual sarcastic comments about Ted. It didn't come off quite the way he intended.

"He will, you know," Debbie told him.

Brian shook his head. "So you think I should postpone the dinner for a bit?" She nodded. "I guess it wouldn't hurt."

Debbie breathed a sigh of relief. He had understood. Her mission had been accomplished.

"Are you both still alive?" Justin asked from the still open doorway.

"Blond boy, get that exquisite ass of yours over here!" Brian ordered. "I am going to have to spank you so hard."

"Promises, promises, big man," Justin joked. He could tell Brian had recovered from all the emotion. He had listened from the stairwell until it was all over. Justin moved over to Brian leaning down and kissing Brian gently. The hazel eyes looked into his and then the asshole pinched his ass … hard. "Ow, you son of a bitch," Justin reacted swatting Brian hard on the arm.

Debbie giggled watching the interaction. She was pretty sure Brian had met his match in Justin. That boy sure as fuck didn't back down. She couldn't imagine anyone who would be better for Brian than Justin. "Is that my cue to leave?" Debbie asked with a chuckle.

"Some people just have no manners," Brian stated giving Justin the raised eyebrow treatment.

"And we all know who that is," Justin replied eyeing Brian.

"Vic would really love to see you," Debbie said. "Can I send him over?"

"Tomorrow, Deb," Brian asked.

She could tell that he had had enough for one day. "Shall I send one a day, like the vitamins?"

"My daily dose of family and friends. Cure's what ails ya, if it doesn't kill ya," Brian scoffed.

"And you be nice to them," Debbie warned as she headed for the door. "And reschedule that dinner. I've never been to a civilized party in the loft. I want to experience everything at least once in my life."

"Debbie," Brian said catching her in the doorway. "Thanks."

She nodded and disappeared from view.

"Are you okay?" Justin asked touching Brian's shoulder.

"I think so."

"Was it bad?" Justin asked trying to get Brian to talk about it. He had heard it all from the stairwell.

"It was … okay," Brian said. "Besides, you heard it all, didn't you?"

"You knew I was listening?" Justin asked in disbelief.

"Not till you walked through the door at the most a propos moment."

"I just wanted to be sure I was handy if you needed me."

"Of course," Brian said sticking his tongue in his cheek.

"I mean it."

"I know you do," Brian admitted pulling Justin down for a kiss. "And you were right."


"I wouldn't have wanted to do that in front of everybody," Brian said cautiously.

Justin knew Brian's emotions were still pretty close to the surface. "See, Justin does know best."

"I'll never doubt it again," Brian said with a mock solemn face. "I think Debbie's right too. I'm going to see them individually. Can we put off the dinner for a bit?"

"Not a problem."

"Are you ready for your spanking now?" Brian asked with a smirk.

"You were kidding, right?" Justin asked his eyes very big.

"I never kid about spankings."

"I have a feeling I should run," Justin giggled.

"I'd never catch you. We wouldn't want that now, would we?"

Justin giggled more. "Maybe not. I haven't been spanked since I was three."

"I promise this will be nothing like that spanking," Brian said his voice getting husky.

"Then what are we waiting for?" Justin asked staring at Brian and feeling his cock get hard just at the thought.

"For you to shut the fucking door."


Justin moved to comply with Brian's request. He hauled the door across with a little flicker of trepidation. They had never done anything like this. He wondered if he would like it. His cock was telling him that he would. He turned back to Brian with his sunshine smile.

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