"Fuck!" Brian looked at the pile of parts and the mountain of packaging spread out all around him. He had no idea how he was ever going to put this thing together. It brought back the not so fond memory of trying to put together Gus' swing set. He couldn't do that either. Why did things for children have a million parts and require a PhD in some unknown science in order to assemble them?
The loft door slid back and Justin walked in. He stopped when he saw Brian sitting on the floor surrounded by the pile of debris. Before he could stop himself, a laugh escaped.
"Shut the fuck up!" Brian snarled.
"What are you doing?" Justin asked.
"Building the next Mars probe."
Justin chuckled. "You sure have enough parts to do that."
Brian looked daggers at him.
"What is all this, Brian?" Justin asked seriously.
"Remember when we went to F.A.O. Schwartz in
Justin looked horrified. "I had no idea there were all these pieces. It was a nice little train that sat on a table."
"Well, this is what it looks like before it's assembled. I thought I would do it tonight so it would be ready for Gus' birthday on Saturday," Brian explained.
"And so you could play with it a bit before it went to live at Mel and Lindsay's."
"That too," Brian grinned sheepishly. "But it will take me a month to put it together."
"I'll help you," Justin offered.
"Thanks a bunch," Brian said sarcastically not having much faith that
the two of them would make any more progress than he had
"Don't give up so easily. We can do this," Justin said trying to encourage Brian.
"Sure," Brian said ruefully.
Justin sat down beside Brian. "Is there an instruction book?" Brian handed him a little pamphlet that contained a list of parts and a diagram of the finished set-up. "It's not a lot to work with," Justin said.
"Tell me about it."
"What are we going to put it on? We can't assemble it on the floor, or we'll have to take it all apart again to get it to Gus."
"Good point, Einstein!" Brian sneered. "I thought I'd just levitate it over there," he added sarcastically.
"Brian, come on. We need something to put it on."
"It's over there," Brian said pointing to a piece of foam core that he had had the art department cut to the size indicated on the box.
"Good, then let's get
Two hours later they had the train tracks all assembled atop the foam core. They had the little village in place with all the trees and the dump for the coal car and the houses and train station. Brian finished hooking up the remaining cars of the train and set them on the tracks.
"Now all we have to do is plug this in and pray," Justin said holding up a wire with a plug on the end.
"Are you sure we've done everything?" Brian asked.
"Everything I can think of," Justin said. "Here, you do the honors." He handed the plug to Brian.
Brian held his breath and plugged it in. Nothing exploded or started on fire. "So far, so good," he said. "Now for the moment of truth." He picked up the control box and tentatively grasped the joystick.
Justin watched as Brian slowly eased the stick forward. The train started to move along the tracks. Brian pushed the stick farther forward and the train picked up speed. He pushed the little button next to the stick and the train tooted as it passed through the little village. Justin had been staring at the train praying that it would work. Once he saw that it was, he looked up to see Brian with a huge grin on his face. The man's eyes followed the little train around the tracks, tooting the whistle as it approached a crossing or neared the village. He was loving every minute of it.
Justin smiled at his lover. Brian was oblivious to Justin's reaction. He was mesmerized with the tiny train and making it do all the things that it was capable of. Justin realized that Brian was living a moment of the childhood that had been denied to him. Suddenly Brian looked up and saw Justin beaming at him.
"It works," he said with a look of pure pride and joy on his face.
"It sure does, Engineer Kinney. I knew we could do it."
"I couldn't have done it without you," Brian said sliding closer to Justin. "Here, it's your turn." He handed the control box to the young man.
Justin slowed the train down and then speeded it up. He managed to stop the train in the village and he and Brian figured out how to dump the coal car. They giggled at each skill that they mastered.
"I hope Gus has half as much fun with this train as we're having," Brian observed.
"I'm sure he will."
For the next half hour they put the train through its paces, making it race around the tracks or dump its load or hook and unhook cars. They laughed and encouraged each other and had one whale of a time.
"Maybe I should keep this for myself," Brian said finally.
"We have to be adult about this and give it to Gus," Justin said seriously. "You can always go visit him and ask to play with his toys," he joked and ducked as Brian tried to swat him. He giggled as Brian caught his wrist and pulled him in for a kiss.
"Thank you for helping me," Brian said when they came up for
air. "I would never have gotten
that thing together by myself."
"You're welcome. I'm always here to bale you out."
"Can you assist in another capacity?" Brian asked, his hand groping Justin's crotch.
"That's my favorite way to be of service," Justin moaned between kisses.
Brian pressed him to the floor covering his body with his own.
"I want you, Engineer Kinney," Justin whispered.
They began removing clothes. As they struggled to get naked as quickly as possible someone's foot hit the train and sent it skittering across the floor. They both stopped, holding their breaths as they looked to see what damage they had done. A few cars were derailed, but other than that everything seemed to be intact.
"Let's take this to the bed where we don't have to worry about damaging anything," Brian said.
They stood and kissed on their way to the bedroom.
"I'm going to make you sound off and dump your load just like the little train," Brian declared with a lascivious grin. "Your heart will be racing around the tracks and heading to its final destination in no time." He gave Justin's cock an insistent tug.
The boy gasped and groaned, "Enough with the railroad analogies! Come to bed and fuck me!" He dragged a willing Brian up the stairs to a safer haven for their nightly activities.
Saturday morning Brian stood looking at the train set. They had lifted it on the foam core and placed it on the dining room table. Every night since they assembled it Brian had spent some time racing the train around the tracks. Often Justin played with him, if he was home.
"How the fuck am I going to get this over to Gus?" Brian muttered.
"What did you say?" Justin asked as he gathered up his jacket getting ready for a morning shift at the diner.
"Nothing," Brian said, not wanting to admit that he hadn't thought this through.
"Brian, when you mutter to yourself, there's always something the matter. Tell me what it is," Justin insisted.
"I brought the foam core home in the Jeep stuck in the back, but standing on its end. I can't figure a way to transport this horizontally. It fucking won't fit in the Jeep."
"What if you put the passenger seat all the way back and set it there?"
"Not enough room," Brian said.
Justin thought for a minute. "Why don't you drive me to work and then swing by Mel and Linds'? You could borrow their station wagon and come back to the loft to pick up the train. I'm sure the foam core would fit in the back of their car."
"Yeah, I bet it would. Okay. You ready to go?" Brian asked picking up his keys.
"You're welcome," Justin said with a grin.
"Thanks," Brian said giving him a kiss. "Your baling me out is getting to be quite a habit."
"Somebody has to look after you."
"Only you, baby, only you."
Justin beamed at his lover as they closed the door to the loft.
Brian borrowed the station wagon and safely transported the train set to Gus' house. He set it up in a corner of the dining room where it wouldn't be too obvious. Melanie had taken Gus for a walk after Brian borrowed the car. Lindsay helped Brian get the card table set up and everything arranged on top of it. She brought a sheet downstairs to cover the train until it would be revealed at Gus' party.
When they had everything arranged Lindsay got them each a coffee and they went to sit in the back yard where the party would take place in a few hours.
"You seem a little edgy today," Lindsay observed. "Is something wrong?"
"Brian, you can't fool me. Talk to me."
Brian sighed, but remained silent. Why did his friends always feel they had the right to interfere and give advice about his private life?
"If you think I'm interfering, too bad! Your idea of interfering is when anyone tries to help you."
Brian remained silent.
"I want to help. You know anything we say stays between us," Lindsay insisted.
Brian groaned. "I have something I need to talk to Justin about, but I'm not sure what to say or how he will react."
Lindsay smiled. "Is this something about your relationship?"
"Yes," Brian said slowly.
"Are you finally going to tell him that you are in a committed relationship?" Lindsay asked with wonder in her eyes.
"I already have."
"I said I already have."
"And you didn't tell anybody else?"
"No, nobody knows but Justin, me, Emmett and now you." He decided to leave Trip Bedford out of the mix.
"Justin had to talk to somebody after he found out about the 'committed' part, so he told Emmett."
"Found out? What does that mean?"
Brian groaned. When would he ever learn to choose his words more carefully? "I don't think I should be explaining this until I've settled the situation with Justin," Brian said carefully, not wanting to expand on what he had already let slip.
"All right," Lindsay agreed. "I'll let it go for now, but I expect the whole story somewhere down the line."
"Sure," Brian said standing up, happy to agree to some unspecified time in the future for their chat. He just wanted to get out of there.
"Brian," Lindsay stopped him, "talk to him. Don't put it off."
"Sure," Brian said over his shoulder as he beat a hasty retreat and escaped out the front door.
On the porch he stopped and lit a cigarette. He had to come back in a few hours for Gus' party and then he would talk to Justin when they went home together. He had a stop to make before he did anything else.
Gus' party was in full swing when Brian arrived. Lindsay had invited some of Gus' friends from daycare and their parents. The usual gang was there. He saw Justin over by the food table talking to Debbie.
"You got here in good time," Brian said giving Justin a kiss on the cheek.
Debbie smiled at them. "That was sweet," she said.
Justin beamed at Brian, the love evident on his
face. "I did the breakfast shift
and then things quieted down, so I left
early. I had a bit of work to
do in my studio space at the IFA, and I got that done before I came
"You've been a busy little boy," Brian commented.
"What did you do?" Justin asked.
"A few errands," Brian said mysteriously.
"I saw the train in the dining room. I take it you got it here in one piece?"
Brian nodded. "When is he opening presents?"
"Soon," Debbie said.
Brian and Justin walked over to Michael and Ben and exchanged pleasantries. Brian realized that he saw very little of Michael these days. He spent most of his time with Justin and that suited him just fine.
A while later Lindsay announced that Gus was going to open presents and everyone found a seat or milled around as he began ripping into the packages. Brian and Justin stood on the back porch where they had stood two years ago on Gus' birthday. Brian watched Justin's face as he looked at the little boy squealing with joy with each new item he discovered.
"Remember Gus' first birthday?" Brian said softly.
"Yeah," Justin sighed. "That wasn't much of a celebration for you," Justin replied.
"Or you! You scared the shit out of me when you had those flashbacks of the bat coming at your head."
"Thank goodness that all seems to be behind me." Justin shook his head at the memory.
"Do you wish you could remember more of it?"
"I'd like to remember the dance and our kiss. Daph says it was so hot."
"Everything we do together is hot," Brian smirked.
Justin giggled. "You are so bad!"
"I know, and you love it."
"I love you."
Brian stared at Justin, refusing to release his eyes from his gaze. "I want to talk to you when we get back to the loft."
"I'll tell you when we get there."
Just then Lindsay announced that the cake was being served. The presents had all been opened.
"When are you going to show Gus the train?" Justin asked.
"As soon as they cut him loose from the cake dispensing," Brian stated.
A minute or two later Gus brought a piece of cake for Justin and ran
back to get one for his father.
Once both men had their cake Gus looked up into his father's
"What is it, Gus?" Brian asked pretending not to know what his son wanted.
Gus scuffed the toe of his shoe across the grass and looked down, not sure how to ask his father for his present. Justin smiled watching the interplay between father and son. They were so alike, neither wanting to give in to the other and ask for something.
"Gus, your daddy has something for you inside," Justin said breaking the stalemate.
Brian smiled at him and took Gus' hand. "Come with me," he said as his other hand grasped Justin's and the three men went into the house. Justin smiled again, loving that Brian was including him in this special moment. They walked into the dining room.
"Close your eyes, Gus, and keep them closed until I tell you to open them," Brian instructed.
He checked that Gus had closed his eyes. He and Justin went over to the still covered up train. They stood on each side of the table and lifted the corners of the sheet.
"Open you eyes," Brian ordered as they whipped the sheet off.
Gus gasped as he saw the little train set laid out in front of him. "From F.O. Schwartz," Gus said his eyes as big as saucers.
"You remember!" Brian said in amazement. "But we need to teach you the correct name of that store."
"Want to run it?" Justin asked Gus.
The little boy bounced up and down in excitement. "Up, dada!" he commanded.
Brian picked Gus up and Justin handed them the control box. Brian started the train moving and Gus giggled his approval. He showed Gus the button to make the train toot, and they timed the sound with the crossings on the little train tracks. Brian made the train go faster and Gus clapped his hands with glee.
"Are you ready to drive it, Gus?" Brian asked.
The little boy nodded and Brian handed him the control box. Gus had watched carefully what his father had done to make the train go. He eased the joystick forward and the train began its route around the track. He smiled at Brian and Justin as he made the train go faster and then slower. Brian reached in and blew the whistle and Gus' face glowed.
"Like father, like son," Justin thought to himself as he looked at the two happy faces in front of him.
"That's some train set," someone said from behind them.
They turned to find most of their friends standing watching them run the train.
"Only the best for my boy!" Brian said proudly and Gus smiled, leaning in to kiss Brian's cheek.
Everyone crowded in closer and Gus demonstrated how to run the train with Brian in charge of tooting the whistle.
After a while Brian set Gus down and they all went back outside. The party was winding down. Some of the parents had started to leave with their children. Brian watched the little monsters depart. Some of them were very good and went amiably with their parents, while others started to cry or throw tantrums not wanting to leave. He was thankful that Gus usually was pretty good and rarely seemed out of control or spoiled. He wondered if that was because Gus knew how much everybody loved him. Everyone saw how bright and kind Gus was and didn't hesitate to tell him.
"Dada!" Gus' voice penetrated his reverie.
"Hi, Sonny Boy, what's up?" Brian asked. He looked down to see Gus standing with his hand firmly clasping the hand of a beautiful little Asian girl.
"Dada, this is 'Mantha," Gus explained.
"Hello, Samantha," Brian said taking the little girl's hand and shaking it gently. "Did you have fun at the party?"
"Yes, thank you," she replied with perfect manners.
"Gus has told me that he likes to play with you at school."
"I like him too," she said proudly. Her porcelain face beamed at Gus.
Gus grinned his approval of her words.
"See," said Gus, "I told you that I had a dada."
"You were right," Samantha agreed. "I have to go, Gus. My Mommy's waiting over there."
"Bye, 'Mantha," Gus said sadly.
Brian smiled down at them. Gus seemed to have it bad for this beautiful little girl. Samantha ran over to her mother and Brian picked up his son. "You'll see her at school on Monday," he told the little boy. He gave Gus a kiss and told him to take care of the train till he came to play with it again. Gus giggled and promised he would. Brian and Justin left shortly thereafter.
When they arrived back at the loft, it was a little after seven. Justin asked Brian if he wanted something to eat, but Brian said he had eaten plenty at the party. He asked Justin to get them a couple of beers. The young man went to the fridge to get them each a bottle and Brian went and sat on the couch.
Justin carried two beers to the living room. As he rounded the end of the couch, he stopped dead in his tracks and burst out laughing. Brian sat on the couch looking up at him, a red clown nose firmly attached to his face.
"Where the fuck did you get that?" Justin giggled.
"I had to try three fucking novelty stores before I found one that carried clown noses," Brian groused.
Justin handed Brian a beer. "Do I take this to mean that you want to have a serious discussion?" Justin asked. "And I'm not supposed to laugh."
Brian nodded. "I hope we got the laughing out of the way when you first saw me."
"I think so," Justin said. "You're not going to leave that on the whole time we're talking, are you?"
"I thought I might," Brian said to be annoying.
"I know you want to be serious, but I don't think I can keep a straight face if you're wearing that!" Justin stated.
Brian pulled off the nose and dropped it onto the coffee table. "I better keep it in case I need it in the future," he said. He took a swig of his beer. "Are you ready to listen?"
"Yes," Justin said in a voice barely above a whisper. He was scared. He wasn't sure why or what Brian wanted to talk about, but he thought everything might change after this discussion and that scared the shit out of him.
"It's taken me a long time to get to this point," Brian began. "I grew up with people who hated me, wished I'd never been born. I never felt loved or wanted, so when I started wanting you, needing you loving you, it scared me shitless. So I drove you away. It was supposed to be safer without you, but all it turned out to be was sad and lonely.
Justin opened his mouth to tell Brian that he loved him and was sorry that he had left him, even for a short time.
Brian raised his hand. "Don't
say anything until I'm through. I
need to say this and you need to hear it.
If I stop now, I might never say
it." Justin nodded, closed his
mouth and swallowed hard. Brian
continued, "I don't think I was ever really happy until I met
you. I remember days of such
sweetness and love that we shared.
Do you remember that day in the park with
nodded. "And taking him fishing
and being together with him and you in
Justin looked down unable to bear Brian's scrutiny any longer. He felt a tear drop from his eye, as the memories that Brian was recalling flooded through his mind.
"I love you, Justin. I never thought I would say that to a living soul, but I love you so much."
Justin looked up, his eyes full of tears that he tried to keep from shedding. They were tears of joy at Brian's words, but he feared that Brian might think he was sad. He saw Brian smile softly at him and knew that the man understood his emotion.
Brian cleared his throat. "I've
given this a lot of thought," he
continued. "You know that I don't
believe in gay marriage and commitment ceremonies and all that
crap. It's not legal and it's
for lesbians. However, I know
that you need some of these things, so when we were in
Brian reached in his pocket and pulled out the little green box with the Celtic knot on the top. He lifted the lid and Justin saw the two gold claddagh rings inside.
"I ordered these while we were in the goldsmith's shop at Bunratty."
Justin stared at Brian. His heart pounded in his chest and he could barely hear Brian's words over the thud of his heart. His throat had gone dry and he could hardly swallow. He continued to stare at Brian and then the rings and then back to Brian's face.
Brian shifted in his seat. He couldn't understand why Justin wasn't shouting and leaping on top of him. He knew the boy had wanted some kind of declaration from him since they had got back together. Hell, he had always wanted a declaration of love from Brian. Had he said something wrong? Had Justin misunderstood when he said he didn't believe in gay marriage? Had he fucked up again?
"Justin, for fuck sake, say something!" Brian ordered panic written across his handsome face.
Justin opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He looked at Brian's scared face and knew he had to reassure the man. He swallowed and cleared his throat. "I'm glad you decided to tell me all those things," he whispered. "I've waited a long time to hear them." Brian smiled a bit at those words. "But I don't want the ring, Brian. I can't take it."
Justin stood up and turned toward the bedroom. Suddenly he ran up the steps and into the bathroom. Brian heard him throwing up and he grabbed his own stomach as a wave of nausea swelled through his body.
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