Canes and Planes and Christmas Pains

"For fuck's sake, Linds!" I hear Brian snap into the phone, and I feel really guilty. If it wasn't for me, for my stupid clumsiness, Brian would already be in Toronto. Now it's the day before Christmas Eve and he's stuck here in Pittsburgh with me.

Fucking Pittsburgh winter. Trying to make it from the diner to the car (which of course was parked miles away – well, over a block, anyway) without freezing my ass off, I slipped on a patch of black ice, twisting my foot. I actually heard one of the bones in my foot snap. Oh, yeah, and trying to break my fall, I sprained my wrist.

That was two days ago. Since then, I've been stuck with my right foot in some kind of "walking boot" and my left wrist wound up in a bandage. I feel like the fucking Mummy.

And I feel guilty for keeping Brian here. I already felt bad because I'd refused to go to Toronto with him. I just couldn't face more of their usual "oh, Justin, you should be making the most of your chances in New York" sugar sweet shit. Every time I leave New York, even for a weekend, it's the same.

Plus I don't see why Brian always has to fly to Toronto to see Gus. Why couldn't they bring the kids down here for the Holidays? Brian offered to pay for flights, hotels, anything they fucking wanted, but oh no … down here they'd have to fit in with everyone else's plans and the kids' Dads would get to see all they wanted of their offspring – Michael because he still has legal rights, and Brian because he would be paying for everything. But up in Toronto the women get to call all the shots. If Brian or Michael want to see their kids, they have to follow all of "the rules". They're told what time they can arrive and how long they can stay and what they're allowed to do and where they're allowed to take the kids; and Brian at least never gets any real time alone with Gus. A few minutes here and there maybe, but that's all.

It sucks.

This year Michael had to choose between going up to Toronto to see his daughter and staying down here to help his Mom. Deb hasn't been really well for a while. The doctors say it's just that she works too much and she needs to take it easy and all that stuff that we've all heard before, but getting Deb to take it easy is … well, keeping an eye on her is a full time job. So Michael decided that one thing he could do to help was for him to host Christmas for the family at his place this year so that at least she didn't have that to worry about. (Of course she calls him twenty times a day to remind him of what food he has to buy and what decorations he has to fetch from her place so he can put them up "like always" and ask him if he's got all the recipes for everything she always makes and remind him that Brian won't eat gravy so he has to have cranberry sauce as well and a million other things but at least she's not actually doing all that stuff).

That was when we still thought the girls were coming down here.

But then they announced that they thought the kids should have Christmas "at home" in Toronto, so then Michael had to choose between seeing JR at Christmas and canceling everything, which would of course had meant Deb would go back to hosting dinner at her place because there's no way she'd miss Christmas, or leave Emmett and Ted with nowhere to go for Christmas dinner.

Brian's solution was to pay for everyone to go to Toronto. But Carl didn't want Deb traveling when she's not really well, Ben doesn't really like air travel (he says that anyone with a compromised immune system should avoid planes and hospitals because they're both breeding grounds for germs, bacteria and viruses), Emmett's got functions on Christmas Eve and all through the week leading up to New Year, Ted and Blake felt like they'd be intruding on a family holiday, and I told Brian that part of the reason I'd come back to Pittsburgh was to spend some of Christmas with my Mom and Molly.

That's true, of course, but mainly I just didn't want to have to deal with all the bullshit from Lindsay and Melanie. When I was a kid they were kind of okay – even if they were incredibly patronizing. But since Brian and I really got together they've both spent way too much time meddling in our relationship – like it's any of their fucking business.

I don't know what annoys me more – Mel's constant bitching about Brian and telling me I should be looking for someone much better, or Lindsay telling Brian about how I really need to "concentrate on my art right now" and making him feel like he's holding me back, when most of the time he's the only thing holding me together.

So I guess I put him in a horrible position because he had to choose between staying here with me or going to see Gus. But we reached a compromise we could both live with – like we usually do if people just leave us alone to work it out. He was going to fly up to Toronto two days before Christmas, spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Gus, and then fly back here sometime Christmas Day so we could have Christmas dinner at Michael's with the rest of the family. Meanwhile I'd spend the time he was away with Mom and Molly.

So everything was going to be fine, until I inadvertently tried skating down the street and broke my foot.

I think Lindsay's called him about six times in the last two days laying on the guilt and telling him how disappointed Gus is that he can't be there and that she was sure Jennifer would like the chance to take care of her son for a few days.

She would too; but when (after Brian finally found me at the hospital) I told Brian that he didn’t have to change his plans, that I could totally stay at my Mom's, he looked at me like I was crazy.

"So you're going to let your Mom help you shower and wash your hair, are you, Sunshine? Or will Molly do it? Oh, no, I know. You could get Tucker to help you."

Okay, so he had a point there. But I would have managed somehow.

I didn't need him to get all control freak on me.

But of course, being Brian, that's exactly what he's done ever since we got home. If I even look as if I'm going to stand up for a fucking minute without the stupid cane they gave me, he threatens to tie me to the chair. If I'm ten minutes late with the pain killers they prescribed, he's all over me, telling me he doesn't want me crying on his shoulder because my foot hurts. (That was only the first night when I just couldn't get comfortable in bed because I was either lying with weight on my broken foot or my sore wrist. Brian solved that by having some amazing specially designed support pillows delivered the next day.)

Right now, though, Brian's still on the phone to Lindsay and I hear him snap, "That's how it's going to be, Linds, so unless you want to pay all your own Christmas bills this year, I suggest you shut the fuck up and let Gus know that I'll see him on Christmas Day."

That's new.

I guess by then Brian figures my wrist will be better so I won't need his help as much. And I was going to have Christmas lunch with Mom anyway. So I guess Brian and I will have Christmas morning together and then he'll fly out. It still sucks, but at least I can stop feeling so guilty about Gus not seeing his father at Christmas.

Deb will be upset that Brian's not going to be at Michael's for Christmas dinner but as it's for Gus, hopefully she'll understand and won't spend the whole time telling everyone who'll listen what an asshole he is.

I really wish that we spent our time at Britin when I'm in town, or even lived together in New York, because sometimes I just need to get away from our "family" and all their bullshit.

Even if they don't mean any harm (and I'm not always sure of that, especially where Michael and Lindsay are concerned) they still manage to be hurtful in a kazillion small ways that really add up after a while. It's a "death of a thousand cuts" kind of thing, and they'd had years to do a number on Brian before ever I came along. No wonder he's such a fuck up where emotions and relationships are concerned.

And he just takes all their shit. Every time.

Except today it sounded like he lashed back for once. I can hardly believe he threatened to derail the fucking gravy train those women have been riding ever since Gus was born.

Even when he was so completely broke after the Stockwell thing, he would have sold a kidney rather than have Gus go without; and ever since they moved to Canada he's been practically supporting them, because of course Mel's qualifications are pretty much useless up there and Lindsay hasn't been able to find anything that pays nearly as much as Sydney used to pay her. I have a fair idea of how much that was because he advertised the position in a whole batch of art magazines just after they left and the ad gave the salary range.

Of course, with Kinnetik's success, Brian can afford it. But he shouldn't have to. They shouldn't expect him to. He's got no legal obligation to them at all, since they won't let him have any legal recognition of his relationship to Gus. And the money he sends pays for a lot more than Gus could ever need.

But I bet neither Linds nor Mel see it that way. They seem to think that he owes them for just being allowed to breathe the same air as Gus occasionally.

I try to rein back those thoughts.

There's no point into getting into all that with Brian because he doesn't want to acknowledge any of it, let alone deal with it. Plus he's got enough to deal with without me adding my frustrations to the mix.

Instead I watch as he tosses his phone onto the counter and switches on the coffee maker.

"You want one?" he asks.

"Sure," I tell him, not sure whether to say anything about what I heard. It's not like I was eavesdropping. He was right in the room with me.

In the end, I feel like it's really fucked to pretend I didn't hear. "So you're going up there Christmas Day?"

He does one of those pulled in lips things and fusses with the coffee filter so he doesn't have to look at me. "I need to see Gus sometime," he offers. "He's disappointed enough. I don't want him to think his old man is a total fuck up."

I stifle a sigh.

This is the worst thing about the issues he has with Linds and Mel, and Michael and Deb, for that matter. Whenever they pull one of their hatchet jobs on him he shuts down. Even with me. Especially with me, because he's more vulnerable with me than with any of them, except where Gus is concerned.

It's really frustrating, even when I know it's just that their shit has triggered the defense mechanisms that he had thirty years to perfect before I even met him.

Showing my frustrations will just make things worse though, so I try to let it go.

"I was going to Mom's for Christmas lunch anyway," I remind him. "And by then my wrist should be okay, so I won't need to rely on Mom or Molly to help me in the shower."

"Or Tucker. Don't forget Jenn's sugar-baby."

I still don't like Tucker. Or at least, I still feel weird about him being with my Mom. I mean, she's my Mom! It's weird seeing her riding around town on a fucking motor cycle like some bikie bimbo.

But at least we know Tucker's not after her money or anything because it turns out he's loaded. Well, his Dad was, and Tucker inherited most of it. Mom thinks it's really noble or something that with all that money he wants to teach, but I think it's just … I don't know … safe or something. Like if he never uses the money to do anything, it will always be there so he doesn't have to worry. But I guess he makes Mom happy, so I try not to get all obsessive about it.

Still, he's my Mom's boyfriend and I would never want him anywhere near me when I'm naked. That would just take the weirdness too far.

There's one other thing that I'd like to know though. Even if I am kind of wary about asking.

"So how long are you planning on being in Toronto?"

Brian and I had kind of made plans (not that making plans with Brian is anything like a cut and dried process because he never fucking wants to be tied down to anything) to spend New Years at Britin. So I'm hoping that he'll just go to Toronto for three or four days and be back in plenty of time.

Predictably, he shrugs. "Who knows? Depends on how things go with the Munchers."

Knowing that asking if he would be back by New Years Eve would be like poking an already irritated tiger, I let it go.

If Brian would rather spend the whole of the Holidays with his son instead of with me, that's … well, not okay, but understandable.

It's all my own fault anyway. If I'd just fucking agreed to go up to Toronto with him in the first place, if I hadn't been rushing so much I wasn't taking proper care on the slippery sidewalk, if … if … if …

Brian comes to sit beside me on the sofa where I've got my foot propped on the coffee table, the walking boot looking huge and awkward. Looks don't always deceive. He drapes an arm round my shoulders, tangling his long fingers in my hair.

"I won't go if you're still bandaged up like the Mummy," he says. "But the doc seemed to think you'd have your wrist out of its wrappings by then anyway, right?"

I nod. For some reason I'm finding it hard to speak.

He sighd. "Justin, if you really want to come up there for a few days, I'm sure …

Just the thought of that is enough to remind me why I didn't, and still don't, want to go. If ever I'm going to be able to deal with Linds and Melanie on my own terms, to get them to see me as another adult, not just some infatuated kid Brian fucks, it sure as shit isn't when I'm half an invalid.

So I shake my head. "No, travel with this thing on my foot would be a real pain. Besides, I promised Mom I'd be there Christmas Day."

I try not to believe that he looks … relieved. Well, maybe he does. Maybe he doesn't want to have to deal with the two women's patronizing attitude to me, which kind of carries over to him – like the only partner he'd ever find to put up with him is some love-struck kid. They're both so full of bullshit.

Lindsay wants him and Mel wants to be him. Oh, not a gay guy, necessarily. But someone who is brilliant and successful and who has a partner who loves him, a son who adores him, a bunch of friends who rely on him and who hasn't ever compromised one atom of who he is to achieve any of that. That's why Mel resents Brian so much – because he's everything she'd like to be and isn't. She's compromised herself all the way along the line.

Like getting involved with those losers at the GLC. If Mel were honest with herself, she'd admit that Tanis and the rest are the pretentious and elitist useless pricks Brian has always called them. But instead she used to pretend to go along with all their horse shit so she could lay claim to some kind of "status" by being on the GLC committee. Brian would never do that. And Mel knows it. And really, really resents him for having the integrity she lacks.

It took me a long while to understand that. I used to think they clashed because they're so much alike, but in fact it's the opposite. They have similar aspirations, I guess. And they're maybe driven by similar demons of growing up feeling that they weren't quite good enough, could never quite fit in with the kids from the country club set. So they both had something to prove. But the difference – and it's fucking huge – is that Mel decided that she would fit in by pretending to be something less than herself. Whereas Brian … Brian has always said, "Fuck you, world. You'll take me as I am and learn to fucking love it."

And doing that he's achieved more success, more status, than Mel could even dream of.

Of course, the other thing that Mel hates Brian for is Lindsay. Not that Brian can do much about that. He truly loves Linds, like he loves Michael, like friends, like family. I might not understand it, because neither of them seem worthy of his constant, unswerving loyalty. But you love who you love, and once Brian gives his love, he can never really take it back.

He can't help the fact that their love for him is all mixed up not just with sexual desire but with some kind of vision of him as their natural provider and protector.

I don't quite get it, because I've never wanted to be dependent on Brian that way; I've never wanted to be dependent on anyone that way. But maybe they tell themselves that that's how they know he loves them. It sure as fuck seems like that's how they kind of bind him to them. Especially Lindsay. She plays vulnerable and helpless better than anyone I've ever seen.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that's maybe what WASP women do; but I do know better, because I know my Mom would never manipulate people the way that Lindsay does.

Especially, Lindsay tries to manipulate me; or Brian through me. Because I'm her worst nightmare.

I'm the one Brian comes home to, I'm the one Brian wants to shelter and protect, even though he knows I'd tell him to fuck off if he tried it. I'm the one that Brian wants. I'm his partner.

And Lindsay can't stand it. So she refuses to see it. She refuses to acknowledge it. She treats me as if I'm some dumb kid who is going to grow out of his infatuation, and treats Brian as if he's some kind of predator keeping a sweet young thing as his plaything. She has no respect at all for our relationship, and if I had to spend more than a couple of hours with her at a time, I couldn't resist telling her what I think of that.

I don't want to do that. Lindsay is important to Brian, and not just because of their history, or his emotional attachment to her. She's his son's mother, and the only factor that allows him to have any interaction with Gus; because if it were up to Melanie, he'd never be allowed to spend any time with Gus, never be allowed to contact him even.

So it's best that he goes to Toronto alone, even if it means that he'll miss some of our Christmas celebrations; even if it means he misses New Years (if they'll let him stay that long). Because Gus needs to know that his father loves him enough to do that, and Brian needs Gus. Gus gives him a kind of love that he hasn't had from anyone else in his whole life. It's not based on his image or his looks or his sex appeal or his money. Gus loves Brian just for being his "Dad", for being Brian.

So even though my own Holidays will sparkle less because Brian isn't here, I'll just have to suck it up and make sure my disappointment doesn't spoil Brian's time with Gus.

But right now I kind of need a minute to get myself together so I get up and start to move towards the steps up to the bathroom, when Nurse Ratchet snaps, "Where the fuck are you going without that fucking cane!"



By Christmas morning, I'm almost glad when he drops me at Mom's on his way to the airport.

Between the whole thing with the cane, and the cutting up the meat thing, and the opening every damned can or bottle I pick up thing, I'm just over his whole control freak obsessive protectiveness.

Or not.

Because I do know that it's one of his ways of showing me how much he loves me, and how he hates that I'm hurting and how he'll do anything to make sure I'm not hurt for a minute longer than I need to be.

But, fuck! He could drive a saint to want to beat him severely over that stubborn control freak head of his with the fucking cane.

There've been more calls from the women over the last few days of course. One from Melanie where I could hear her yelling down the phone clear across the loft. Fuck, but she can be a total shrew when she doesn't get her own way over something. I don't know what the big deal with Brian going up to Toronto is, but she's over the top infuriated over it.

Or maybe she's just mad because he threatened to cut off the money.

Or both.

Who the fuck knows, with Melanie?

He's an asshole if he doesn't spend every weekend going to see Gus and an asshole if he wants to spend any time at all with his son. If he doesn't give them all the money they think they need he's a selfish prick, and if he does he's trying to buy Gus's love, or Lindsay's.

Brian can never win any points with her.

He ended that phone conversation with her by snarling, "Don't make me get the lawyers involved."

Which kind of shocked me, and I guess didn't make Melanie any happier because Lindsay called later all tears and turmoil.

But Brian must have finally got sick of all the drama, because he switched off all the phones except his cell phone and he only answers that if the caller ID tells him it's not one of them calling.

Now he's going to have to deal with them face to face. I hope it goes okay. I hope they don't spoil his time with Gus. Especially on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, I have to try to forget about all that, and forget about the fact that my partner is leaving me alone at Christmas and flying out to another country and I don't even know when he'll be home and just try to enjoy today with my Mom and Molly and then later with my other family.



In fact, it's kind of nice to be fussed over by my Mom for a few hours at least, and maybe I need it more than I think, because Christmas seems a little flat this year. But Mom clearly loves having me here, and seeing how hard Tucker is trying to make things work with me to keep her happy makes me realize he really is a nice enough guy. Even Molly doesn't give me a hard time the way she usually does. And Christmas lunch is fabulous of course. My Mom's a great cook. Now that I'm doing more cooking for myself (because what normal person could afford to eat out all the time in New York?), I really appreciate it more.

By the time I get to Deb's I'm wondering how I'm going to eat another thing, but by the time I've had a couple of drinks (I'm off the pain killers now, thank God, so even if Mr. Fucking Control Freak extraordinaire was here he couldn't complain about me enjoying a glass or two of Deb's high octane eggnog) I'm getting hungry again and when Deb announces that dinner is ready, I'm all for it. Em is shepherding me carefully into a chair at the end of the table when the door bell rings. We all kind of look at each other, because everyone is here already, even Mom and Molly and Tucker, so it's kind of unexpected that anyone else would come calling.

But then the hair on the back of my neck kind of prickles and I hiss at Emmett that he has to get my cane.

Right. Now.

He fetches it for me and I'm already standing braced virtuously on the cane when I hear an excited treble over Carl's deep rumble of greeting and then Gus is running towards me and Brian is trying to catch him to make sure he doesn't knock me over or leap on my foot. And suddenly this Christmas, which had been fairly lack luster up till now, is just the best Christmas ever.

I'm sorry for Deb and Michael's disappointment that Brian couldn't get the women to let JR come as well, but I'm too excited to see Gus, and too … overwhelmed? relieved? ecstatic? … all of the above to have Brian here with me to be able to spare much thought for that right now.

Now I understand why he put the screws on the women over the money, and why he couldn't tell me in case it didn't work, and they didn't let him bring Gus back with him.

I want time to think about that later, because it seems to me that if the money's that important to them then there's a lot more Brian could get with his dollar in the way of access to Gus.

But none of that is important right now. Everything that is really important is here round the table – my whole family together for Christmas.


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