Author's Notes: This fic is set about 12 years after
the end of S5. Justin came back to Pittsburgh and he and Brian have been
together through all that time. With thanks to the lovely Emily who so patiently
helped me work through one of the worst cases of writers' block I've ever had,
and beta'd the finished fic. And to Sandi - who put up with my pernickityness
and complete inability to explain what I meant and did a wonderful image; if I
stuffed it up at the end, then that's my clumsiness. One warning - if you're a
big Mel and Linds fan, you might not like this.
* * *
Brian wasn’t exactly shocked when the woman stormed into his office and
dumped the overnight bag full of clothes on his desk; he was too angry to be
shocked. But even through his anger, he couldn’t help but flash back to a
That time, he’d been shocked alright; one of the rare times when he’d felt himself totally wrong footed. That woman had taken him completely by surprise. When he’d tossed a blanket to her son the night before and told him he could sleep on his couch, the last thing he’d expected was that anyone could imagine it meant the kid would be moving in.
He’d had a reputation as a loner. Unattached. Answerable to no one. Everyone had known that. Well, everyone but for Justin … and Justin’s mother.
But that was then. When this kid’s mother dumped a bag full of her son’s clothes on his desk she knew exactly who she was confronting.
“He’s your fucking son,” she screeched at him. “He proves that more and more every day. So you deal with him.”
Brian pulled in his lips, considering his options.
Favorite among them was to tell this fucking cunt exactly what he thought of her while he physically threw her out of his office.
The only thing stopping him was the memory of the bewildered pain in the eyes of another teenager, a lifetime ago, when that boy’s parents had apparently been willing to simply throw him aside like discarded trash.
Now he had to consider the latest heart-sore and bewildered teenager he’d left sitting at home. The seventeen year old boy who’d sat on his couch last night, trying to shrug off his hurt and sense of betrayal, fighting not to shame himself by crying in front of his fathers. The one who’d brought back intense memories for them both when he’d said defiantly, fighting to control his treacherously shaky voice, “I’m not some weak little faggot, you know.”
That boy was relying on Brian to try to make things better for him, not fuck them up completely.
So the man settled on the finesse he could wield like a rapier.
“Does your wife know you’re here?” he asked silkily, his voice shaded with both mockery and contempt.
The woman in front of him flushed darkly. “Lindsay agrees with me that this time Gus has gone too far.”
Brian smirked. So Linds didn’t actually know then that her partner was effectively throwing her son out of his home.
“Tell his mother that we’ll bring Gus round tonight to discuss the situation,” he said calmly and dismissively.
She was about to spit something else at him when the door opened and Ted poked his head tentatively round the door frame.
“Ah, Bri … the people from Smith and Harkness are here …”
“That’s fine, Theodore,” Brian said smoothly, sliding to his feet. “Ms Marcus was just leaving. Can you see her out?”
With one last smirk at the fuming Melanie, Brian moved past her, confidently leaving Ted to deal with her. It had been a long time since he’d had any reason to doubt Ted’s loyalty.
For now, he had a client to charm. He’d take care of business with the munchers later. And, unlike his clients, he very much doubted that they’d like what he had to say.
Justin too was having flashbacks to another time.
Gus had arrived on the doorstep last night, doing his best to appear nonchalant after the latest in a series of rows with “the Moms”. But even before he’d stumblingly asked if they’d thought it would be okay if he stayed for “maybe a while”, it had been clear that this time there was more to it than just another blow up. This time, Gus was clearly hurt as well as angry.
It had taken all Justin’s considerable expertise to dissuade Brian from heading across town to have it out with the women there and then. But, Justin had argued after they’d sent Gus off to settle into his room and shower, they needed to think about Gus. It wasn’t about how they felt, but about how he felt - and about how he was going to feel in the future.
That had stopped Brian in his tracks, as Justin had guessed it would. They never spoke about the past, especially not about Craig. There wasn’t a lot of point. Justin hadn’t even seen his father in years, not since he’d married again and moved south. The last time had been at Molly’s graduation, where Craig had thrown a complete hissy fit over Brian being there - till Molly had told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t like it he should leave, and if he wanted to stay he should shut the fuck up. Jennifer had backed her up and informed Craig that he was only there on tolerance - unlike her son and son-in-law who were part of the family. But the loyalty of his sister and his mother, while it had been welcome and warming to Justin’s heart, could not completely allay the pain he’d felt then, and still felt, remembering a seventeen year old boy who’d suddenly found out that any love his father may have felt for him was purely conditional on him being the son his father wanted - and how it felt to be simply discarded without a backwards glance when his father decided he didn’t like the man his son was becoming.
All of which Brian knew.
Brian had always known, and understood, about how much that hurt. Just because they never talked about it didn’t mean that Brian didn’t know and didn’t care. He’d shown at the time how much he did both, in the way he’d taken Justin in (though having a doting teenager move in with him must have been absolutely the last thing he’d wanted) rather than leave Justin to live in the coldness of his father’s contemptuous disregard of his feelings, his needs, his whole being. He’d shown them even more since in the way he didn’t discuss it, didn’t ever refer to it, but was always there when anything occurred that might vaguely remind Justin that he’d once had a father; offering himself, not as a substitute, but as a reminder of why Justin had walked away rather than try to be something he simply wasn’t born to be; a reminder not of what he’d lost, but of what he’d gained.
It was thanks to that understanding and support that Justin had been able to cope at the time, and that he’d been able to live with it since - knowing that however much it might have hurt, he’d made the right choice, and definitely gotten the best of the bargain.
But the scars were still there; and Brian knew that too.
So a reminder that they had to try to manage this situation in a way that didn’t leave Gus feeling the way that other boy had, didn’t leave Gus with those same scars, was all that was needed to keep Brian from storming into the Munchers’ residence ready to pour his anger and contempt all over the women who called themselves Gus’ mothers.
The problem was, Justin wasn’t sure that there was a way to protect Gus in this - especially not when Melanie, who’d always resented Brian and now seemed to truly hate him, couldn’t help but see the boy’s father every time she looked at her son. Gus at seventeen was going through a kind of geeky stage, but there was still no mistaking who his father was; it was apparent in his looks, in his intelligence and the charm he could wield like a weapon at times, but most of all in his attitude. Gus had been raised to share his father’s - fathers’ - dislike of bullshit and hypocrisy and their uncompromising readiness to call anyone who used it.
Even when that was his own “mother”. In fact, especially when it was his mother - either of them. On numerous occasions recently, he’d stood up to Melanie when she tried to play the “I’m your mother” card and told her what bullshit he thought that was when she’d been in and out of his life for years, leaving without apparently a backwards glance, and only being interested in him when she thought it would annoy his father. And more than once he’d told Lindsay what he thought of the way she allowed her sometimes-lover to speak about his father, told her she should be ashamed to let her lover bad mouth the man who’d supported them both for long chunks of his childhood when Melanie was nowhere to be seen.
None of which, of course, had gone down particularly well with his mothers.
No, Justin feared that maybe there was no way to repair the relationship between Gus and Melanie. Or between Lindsay and Gus, if Linds kept choosing placating Melanie over the welfare of her son.
Frowning, Justin thought about the relationship between the two women. For as long as he’d known them they’d been breaking up and making up and everything in between. He considered their relationship beyond dysfunctional - a truly perverse form of co-dependence where they didn’t actually love, or even like each other very much, but for some warped reason still kept trying to live together. What really amazed and affronted him was that all through their own disasters they always had the fucking nerve to sneer at his and Brian’s relationship because they still tricked occasionally. It was very occasionally now; but sometimes when he was traveling he’d get bored and lonely and head out to see if he could find someone who could give a decent blow job; and sometimes, not often, but every now and again, Brian would come home with a sort of shame-faced smirk, and a little spring in his step, and Justin would know that someone hot had hit on him and tempted him into a bathroom or backroom somewhere. Brian didn’t begrudge Justin his relaxation when he was out of town and he certainly didn’t begrudge Brian the little ego-boost that his forty-something partner found in still being sought after by some hot guy. Just the opposite, in fact, since the ego boost did wonders for Brian’s libido and for days afterwards their sex life would be even more stellar than usual. And it was still pretty good, Justin reflected with something very like his partner’s smirk.
But the two women, if they happened to hear about it, were “horrified” and either contemptuous or unctuously pitying in their response.
Mentally, Justin shrugged. It didn’t matter. He and Brian were still going strong. Stronger than ever, maybe. They had a home they loved, and professional lives they found challenging and satisfying and financially rewarding. They had a son who visited them often, loving the small suite of rooms they’d built for him over the garage, where he had a bedroom with a tiny ensuite bathroom, plus an open living/study space that even had its own food prep area.
All in all they had a pretty good life.
The one thing he did regret was that they’d never been able to find a civilized way to deal with the munchers over Gus.
Between Lindsay’s determination to retain what she seemed to see as her right to manipulate Brian, and Melanie’s bitter resentment over that relationship and her deep dislike of the man she must have always seen as in some sense her rival, things had never been easy.
Any agreements that they’d reached about Gus had been hard won, and had remained the source of bitter conflict. If they’d been five minutes late picking him up or bringing him back, there had been recriminations. If they’d taken him anywhere the women didn’t approve (and Melanie at least, disapproved of everything on principle), there were harsh words. If he got sick when he was with them, it was their fault. If he had a good time when he was with them, they were spoiling him. If he didn’t want to come home after he’d been with them, it was because they were turning him against his mother(s).
Factor in the whole on again/off again nature of his mothers’ relationship and it was a wonder the poor kid hadn’t had a meltdown long ago, Justin reflected ruefully.
But the question was, were they going to be able to prevent him being pushed into one now?
Brian did his best to push aside his anger during the client meeting and, once that was over, he simmered for a while then called his partner and told him what had happened.
“If that cunt thinks she can throw Gus out of his own fucking home, then she can fucking think again,” Brian fumed.
Justin sighed. “Brian, don’t say anything that Gus is going to regret,” he advised cautiously.
Brian was silent for a moment, and Justin was sure he could actually hear the steam escaping from his ears. Despite himself, he grinned.
“It’s his fucking house,” Brian growled. “If anyone moves out it, sure as Hell shouldn’t be Gus.”
“I know,” Justin acknowledged. “But he can’t exactly live there by himself, can he?”
That silenced Brian as Justin had known it would. The house might belong to Gus, because during one of the longer breaks in the women’s relationship Brian had stepped in to ensure that his son would at least have a stable home base so he’d bought a house and put it into a Trust in Gus’ name, but pushing that to its logical conclusion could lead to the worst possible outcome. It would crush Gus if Brian pushed the issue and Lindsay chose to leave with Mel rather than stay with her son.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that we have to make sure he doesn’t feel like he’s not welcome to stay here,” Brian said. Justin didn’t have to voice agreement, they both knew that letting Gus feel they didn’t want him simply wasn’t an option. “Fine!” Brian spat. “But if that cunt starts going on about how disgusting it is that her son actually wants to get laid, don’t blame me if I let her have it.”
“You might have to get in line,” Justin said, the smile in his voice not entirely hiding the fact that he too was extremely pissed off with the way the women were dealing with the issue of their son’s sex life. “Now, are you listening? Because I’ve had an idea”
After disconnecting from the call, Brian told his staff that he was finished for the day and headed home. Normally he could put his personal issues aside when he needed to and concentrate on work, but that was a lot more challenging when the issues involved his son. He wanted to be sure to be there when Gus got home from school.
As it happened, Gus walked in just after Brian got home, looking tired and strained. As soon as he saw his fathers, however, his head came up. Brian was again reminded of another teenager who’d lifted his head in just that fashion, and had said with the same would-be bravado, “I’m not some little faggot.”
“I’m not going back to live with that cunt,” this one said defiantly. “If you don’t want ...”
His treacherous voice wavered a little and Brian cut in quickly, speaking with quiet, matter of fact emphasis, “Don’t be fucking ridiculous. If you want to live here, that’s what your fucking room’s for.”
Gus sucked in a deep breath, suddenly shamefully near to tears with relief.
“But we need to sit down and talk about it with your mother first,” Justin said, deliberately using the singular word.
In one of his disconcerting gestures of open affection, Brian hooked his hand round the back of Gus’ neck and squeezed. “It’s okay, Sonnyboy. Whatever goes on at Muncherville, you’ll have a roof over your head.”
Gus gave a nod, still unable to trust himself to speak. He heard clearly his father’s unspoken message – ‘whatever those women think, we love you and we’d love to have you here’.
It meant more to him than he’d thought it would.
He’d always regarded his fathers’ house as a refuge from the smothering female-ness of life with his mother, or mothers, or whatever it was this month. Especially because when Melanie was there, that meant JR was as well, and that meant that he always felt relegated to second place. It was odd, he’d lived for most of the time with his mother, but, while he was constantly being told that he was loved, the truth was that, especially when Mel was there, he’d mostly felt that he was at best tolerated, whereas at his dads’ house, although people didn’t run around saying ‘I love you’ all the time, he’d always felt sure of his place, sure that they wanted him there.
But that was just for a few days at a time, not for weeks on end. He was going to college in the fall, but that was months away. He’d never stayed with them for anything like that long at a time and hadn’t, he realized, been really sure that they’d want him to. Not that he couldn’t have coped on his own for a few months, of course. He wasn’t a kid any more, after all. But still, it was good to know that he had some choices.
One thing was sure, whatever his mother and her sometime lover had to say, there was no way he was going back to their home. He’d rather stay here where he had his own rooms, and surely his dads would be more reasonable than his mothers had been. Even if his father did laugh at him. Dus wouldn’t, he was fairly sure of that. And Dus could handle his dad.
Secure in that knowledge, Gus was even ready to face the upcoming confrontation with his mother.
“I don’t care if your son is as big a slut as his father, what I care about is my daughter. And I won’t have her exposed to every fucking asshole Gus drags home with him.”
As Mel ranted, Lindsay made a gesture of distress, and then said quickly, “It isn’t that we mind Gus being sexually active, Brian. We understand that he’s seventeen, so of course he will be starting to ... experiment ...”
At those words, Brian, who had been sitting in sardonic silence, snorted, and Justin gave a strangled gasp of laughter. Fuck! You’d never believe Lindsay was a dyke.
She did her best to ignore them. “But you must see that we can’t have him bringing his tricks into our home. That we have to think about JR.”
“It’s his home too!”
“He’s not a trick!”
Justin’s words clashed with Gus’. Brian said nothing.
“He’s not a trick,” Gus repeated. “He’s ... I love him.”
He said the words defiantly, knowing that his father, as well as his mother, would decry them.
But aside from one raised eyebrow, Brian didn’t respond, he simply rose to his feet and when he did speak, it was to the two women.
“So what you’re saying is, he’s free to fuck around in back alleys, or risk his fucking neck going home with some asshole he’s picked up, but you don’t want him bringing anyone back to this house where he might conceivably be safe,” he said caustically. “Because you don’t want JR to maybe run into a strange face at the breakfast table.”
He leaned over Lindsay who cowered a little in her chair. “Well, maybe you should fucking think about who actually owns the fucking house!” he spat.
“I knew it! I fucking told you he’d hold that over us. I told you we should never have let him ...”
Brian whirled on her. “You fucking shut your mouth!” he said with deadly quiet. “You were nowhere around when I bought this house for Gus. You’d pissed off again and left your son and your little wifey on the verge of being kicked onto the street.”
He turned back to Lindsay but before he could say anything more, he was pulled up by the sound of his name.
“Brian!” Justin’s voice was soft but insistent and as he spoke he gave the slightest jerk of his head towards Gus.
Brian stopped and sucked in a deep breath.
Before he could say anything else, his son spoke again.
“Gareth isn’t a trick,” he insisted, sounding forlorn. It seemed to him that no one was listening, and this, being with Gareth, was the biggest, the best thing that had ever happened to him. And none of them were even interested. Just like last night, when Mel had walked in just after he and Gareth had got to his room, and had starting screeching like a banshee. She hadn’t listened then, either. Just insisted that she didn’t care who Gareth was, he had to leave. So he’d left as well. Because Gareth wasn’t just some guy … he was Gareth. And he just couldn’t be in the same house as someone who would treat him that way. He just couldn’t.
Brian gave him a long look, and Justin smiled at him. “We’ll talk about it later,” he said to the distressed teen. “I want to hear all about him. But that’s not the point, right now.”
He stood and moved to Brian. Taking his partner’s hand, he said calmly, “Gus is coming home with us.”
Lindsay went to protest, and Justin shook his head, determined not let her say anything else, determined to stop her from totally destroying her son by showing how willing she was to let him go. He’d been there.
Although Jennifer had done much to redeem herself later, Justin would never forget that night when she’d sat in silence and effectively allowed his father to throw him out of his home.
“Gus, go and get your things,” Brian cut in.
“Asshole, you can’t just ...”
“Look, let’s get this clear. You don’t want Gus bringing tr...”
Justin nudged him.
“Anyone home,” Brian amended quickly.
“And we don’t want him fucking on the streets, or going back with guys he might not know,” Justin said.
“So he’s coming home with us, where he doesn’t have to pretend to be some kind of fucking monk in case he corrupts Mel’s little angel,” Brian finished.
Justin turned again to Gus. “Come on, Gus, the sooner you get your stuff, the sooner we can get out of here and you can fill us in on this whole thing with Gareth.”
Gus flushed and cast a glance at his father. Brian shrugged, his mouth twisting, as if despite himself, into a slight grin. Gus grinned back. He’d been trying to find words all day to tell his fathers about Gareth. Maybe they’d even let him invite him over, get to meet him. He knew that his Dad was going to say he was too young, and how dumb it was to think about being “in love” and all that crap. But Dus would understand.
That bitch Melanie was spluttering and his mother was twisting and turning, trying not to look relieved that she wasn’t being asked to choose. For a moment, that thought hurt, but then he realized that he was the one doing the choosing – and he was choosing the right way for him. And for his relationship with Gareth. At least his fathers were showing interest; even his Dad wasn’t totally laughing at him and looked like he was ready to listen. Plus, living with his Dads would be way better than being the odd one out here. Gus sped upstairs.
Once he was gone, Brian sat down again. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s talk turkey.”
“Brian ... perhaps this isn’t the best idea,” Lindsay faltered.
“Are you going to get that cunt off his back, and treat him like the fucking adult he’s becoming?” Brian asked bluntly.
“You asshole!” Melanie spat.
“Brian!” Lindsay protested.
Justin cut in. “This isn’t helping,” he said. “It’s quite clear that Gus is going to be better off with us. And we want him there.”
The implication in his tone was clear, and Melanie couldn’t help responding, “Just because we don’t appreciate him behaving like a slut and ...”
“He’s nearly eighteen!” Brian snapped at her. “He’s going to get laid. And personally, I think the whole back of cars thing is a little out-dated, don’t you?”
“I’m surprised you don’t just rent him a room,” Melanie responded.
He gave a shark-like smile. “I don’t have to. I bought him a house.”
That made even Melanie take a moment’s pause. With one thing and another, including all the constant moves she’d made, she had very little nest egg put by to afford to set up in another place. And she had JR to think about.
“Even you wouldn’t ...”
“I wouldn’t what? Wouldn’t let my son starve on the streets because you two were so intent on fucking up your lives that you’d split more times than any fucking banana and each time you did it cost you such a shitload of money that you were going financially backwards? Wouldn’t get tired of Lindsay crying on my doorstep looking for somewhere for her and Gus to stay ‘for a few nights’? The sarcasm in his voice on those last words struck the woman like a physical blow. “Wouldn’t decide that the only way to be sure that Gus would always have a roof over his head was to put one there for him, and make fucking sure that neither of you could sell it out from over him?”
The woman’s desire to slap him, scratch his eyes out, spit and hiss and bite him was so obvious that he almost recoiled, but he didn’t. Eyes on hers he leaned forward menacingly, but before he could speak again, Justin’s hand on his shoulder silenced him.
“Mel, don’t be silly,” Lindsay said placatingly. “Brian would never just throw you out. And anyway, as he said, it’s not his house.”
“No, it’s not,” Brian said, that shark smile back in place. “It’s Gus’. It’s held in Trust for him. But I’m one of the trustees. And as a trustee, I can tell you this ...” He paused and gave them another smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Now that he’s not living here anymore, you can start paying him rent.”
“What!?” both women screeched, totally shocked.
Justin smiled at his partner, a warm smile of approval that Brian had tabled the idea he’d suggested earlier that afternoon; the smile turned to an expression of steely hardness as he turned to the women.
“I don’t think you can complain about that,” he said. “You’ve lived here rent free for years. If you haven’t saved any money along the way, that’s your problem.”
Hearing his son’s footsteps on the stairs, Brian stood once more. “After all, what sort of example are you setting for that impressionable little angel of yours if you just spend, spend, spend,” he smirked.
Gus came into the room, clutching various bags. Brian went and took a couple from him and shepherded him briskly to the door, allowing Gus time for only a quick goodbye. He had no intention of allowing either of the women to stage some big farewell scene that might feed their own need to justify themselves, but could only bring more pain to his son.
Justin gave the women one final cold smile as he made his own way out. Then, catching up with his family as they stuffed Gus’ bags into the car, he slipped his arm round Gus’ shoulders, and said, “So, tell us all about him. What’s he like? Where’d you meet him?”
Brian gave them both one of his folded lips looks, then said laughingly, “Yes, Sonnyboy, spill. Is he hot? Does he give good head?”
Justin gave Brian a stern look, then, as Gus clambered into the back seat, he hissed to his partner, “Behave! You’ll be wanting some later.”
Brian subsided, and started the car, reflecting that while he was once more taking a teenager home to live with him, rescuing him from a home situation which had become untenable, at least this one wouldn’t be sneaking into his bed.
Justin, meanwhile, did his best to reassure Gus that his fathers were genuinely interested in hearing about Gareth. He knew that he’d have to keep a tight rein on Brian, and try to prevent him coming out with any of his idiotic notions about “fucking not love”, notions that he’d stopped trying to live by a long time ago. Sometimes it seemed to him that Brian truly forgot how much had changed, how much he’d changed.
But Justin remembered another seventeen year old who’d driven home with Brian, finding not only a refuge, but also a lover. Everyone had scoffed at him when he’d said he’d fallen in love, and he knew that that first emotion wasn’t anything like the mature love that had grown between him and his partner. But that didn’t mean that the feeling hadn’t been real. He’d known even then that what he’d felt for Brian wasn’t just a crush, or the overwhelming intensity of his first sexual liaison – it was much more than that.
Perhaps it was for Gus as well. Only time would tell.
Meanwhile, he’d have to get Gus to invite Gareth around to meet them soon. He’d never had the chance to actually introduce Brian to his parents. Both Craig and Jennifer had, as it were, introduced themselves, in scenes that had been fairly traumatic for his partner. He didn’t want it to be like that for Gus. Or for Gareth.
At least this teenager would have the loving support of his fathers, and hopefully this evening hadn’t totally burned all bridges with Lindsay. Plus, of course, there was the fact that Gus would never have to dance on a bar top, or consider selling himself to someone like the Sap to pay his way through college; even Ted considered that his college fund was more than adequate; and now he’d have a nice regular income as well to cover his living expenses.
All in all, Justin considered, things hadn’t worked out too badly this time round.
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