Author's Notes: This story was written for this year's QAF Gift Exchange and for Edom56 who requested it.

Warnings: I don’t like the Munchers - in fact, by the end of S5 I detested them. This fic reflects that. Also, I have shamelessly claimed artistic license in terms of the timeline, of the legalities, and most of all, in terms of Laurent’s actions at the end of the story. To those who work in the child welfare field, my deepest apologies. I know what he does is extremely unprofessional, unrealistic, etc, but it wound up the story nicely, so I went ahead with it anyway. Mea Culpa.


It was such a little thing, just a small dark red mark on a child’s cheek; but that one small mark set in motion an avalanche of questions and emotional responses, of fear and anger, and ultimately, a wave of change so powerful that it swept all the way from Toronto to Pittsburgh, and the ripples reached as far as New York.

Gus’s teacher was concerned when she saw the mark. It was small, but a deep red and it looked as if bruising was forming round the edges. She drew him aside and asked carefully, “How did you hurt your face, Gus?”

Her initial concern that this bright young boy might be the victim of bullying. The school did its best to teach tolerance and acceptance, but Gus was a new kid, from another country who was being raised by lesbian mothers; even in Toronto, it was entirely possible that one of the older children, possibly from less tolerant parents, might have targeted him.

His response shocked her and sent her to report the matter to her Principal. She in turn reported it to the local authorities, and the clumsy wheels of the bureaucratic machine dedicated to child protection creaked into action.

The first Brian knew that there was any problem was two days later, right on the dot of nine in the morning, when he received a phone call from some guy with a strong French accent. He couldn’t remember fucking any Frenchmen. In fact, the only one the accent reminded him of was that fucker, Gui.

With the painful memories that name brought back clouding his mind, it took a minute or two for absorb what this guy - Monsieur Laurent or some shit - was saying. But it finally sank in.

There had been some kind of “incident” in Toronto involving Gus.

Brian felt as if his whole being had instantaneously been transmuted into both ice and fire. He felt cold, frozen with fear for his son, and at the same time filled with boiling rage that anyone had dared to allow Gus to be hurt. Gus!

“Is Gus alright?” he heard himself croak.

There was a slight hesitation before M. Laurent said, in tones of professional reassurance that failed to have anything like their desired effect, “Gus is very well, Mr. Kinney.”

Brian was about to interrupt with a furious demand that Laurent tell him the fucking truth, when he heard the French voice go on, “We hoped that it might be possible for you to come to Toronto as soon as possible. Gus has been asking for his father.”

Brian’s throat constricted. He had no idea what the fuck was going on, or why he was hearing this from some fucking French Canadian instead of from Linds, or even Melanie. But clearly Gus needed him.

“I’ll be on the first flight I can get,” he promised Laurent.

There was a small sound that might have been a stifled sigh of relief. “That is very well,” Laurent said. “If you could come straight to our offices, I’ll arrange for you to see Gus.”

Brian baulked. “I want to go straight to the hospital,” he said.

There was a pause. Then Laurent said carefully, “Gus isn’t in the hospital, Mr. Kinney. He’s here with us. If you come to the office of Children’s Aid in Toronto …”

Brian’s brain seemed almost to shut down, overcome with something very like panic. He moved on to auto-pilot, taking down the address Laurent gave him, and even forcing himself to thank the man for calling and to assure him that he’d get there as soon as humanly possible. If Gus was in the keeping of the authorities, then he knew he couldn’t afford to alienate them.

As soon as he’d hung up, he called Cynthia into his office and told her he needed a ticket on the first plane to Toronto for himself, and one from New York for Justin. Something of the frozen chill of fear round his heart warmed, knowing, beyond certainty, that Justin would drop everything he might be doing to be there for him, and for Gus. Gus!

Brian ached, literally ached inside, wondering what on earth had happened that his sonny boy was not at home, safe with his mothers, but in the hands of the child welfare authorities. Had something happened to Linds? To Mel?

He left Cynthia to organize flights and accommodation, and dialed his partner’s phone. He told Justin everything he knew as he caught the lift, and walked swiftly through the foyer. As that wasn’t much, it didn’t take long, but Justin’s response was exactly as he’d expected.

“I’ll get the first plane I can and meet you in Toronto,” Justin said, trying to sound calm. “Brian …”

“It’s alright, Sunshine,” Brian heard himself say, “I know I have to play nice with these assholes. Don’t worry.”

“They might not be assholes, Brian,” Justin said quietly. “They’re probably just trying to help Gus. If something has happened to Linds and Mel …”

Brian bit his lip. If the women were hurt, or worse, then there was no one else up in Canada who could care for Gus. Why the Hell hadn’t he tried harder to stop them …?

He cut off that train of thought. No point in going over that ground again. Right now he just had to concentrate on getting to the airport, and getting to Gus.

He said goodbye to Justin, who promised to call as soon as he landed in Toronto and hailed a cab. Once he’d given directions for the airport, he tried calling the girls. Their cells went straight to voicemail and the home number went unanswered.

He debated calling Michael to see if he’d heard from Melanie, but figured that if Mikey had heard anything important, he’d have let Brian know already, and all that would happen is that he’d get the Novotny clan all stirred up for nothing. He’d deal with Mikey once he knew what was going on.

His phone bleeped, and he read the message - Cynthia had managed to get him on a flight that left in forty-five minutes, just after ten. He told the cab driver he needed him to step on it and offered him a hundred bucks if he could get him there on time.

He nearly lost his mind negotiating the fucking airport, especially since the damned shuttle train seemed to crawl along barely moving. Fortunately, his lack of luggage let him squeak through the gates just as they were about to close. He waited impatiently till after take off and then used the in-seat phone to call Justin and let him know that he was airborne. He caught him just as he was going through security at Newark. “I’m on a flight that leaves at 10.45”, Justin told him. “It gets in around 12.30.”

“About an hour after me,” Brian confirmed. “Can you come straight to the address I texted to you? If I … we’re not there, I’ll text you where we’re going to be.”

“Of course, Brian. I’ll be there.”

The voice was soft but completely sure. The conviction that he could rely on that voice, on the speaker, was so tangible, so solid, that he felt for a moment as if he could actually lean against it for support.

“Brian,” the tone now was not so sure, hesitant, almost nervous.

Brian found himself stifling the smallest urge to grin as he read his partner’s mind. Justin was trying to find a way to reassure him that would not sound trite, and at the same time to warn him to behave himself. He allowed himself one fleeting smirk before replying, “I know, Sunshine. I know we’ll sort it out. And in the meantime I’ll be good.”

Justin’s response was a soft huff, like an exasperated kitten, and then an even softer, “I love you.”

“Later, Sunshine.”

Justin had barely responded with their ritual farewell before Brian ended the call.

By the time he’d finished the cup of coffee he’d accepted in lieu of something stronger, they were preparing the cabin for landing.

It was not much after twelve when he arrived at the address he’d been given in Yonge Street. He’d barely given his name at reception before he was being greeted and escorted into an office by M. Laurent.

“Mr. Kinney, I can hardly believe that you could get here so soon,” the man said, clearly impressed at his speed, and also sounding slightly relieved.

“I was lucky. I just made it to the airport in time to get a direct flight,” Brian explained briskly. “Where’s Gus?”

Laurent nodded. “Your son is here, and you may see him very soon, but …” as Brian attempted to insist on seeing Gus right away, “there are some things that you should know first.”

Brian sighed. “What the .. what on earth is going on? Where are his mothers?”

Laurent gestured for him to sit down, and himself took the seat near him rather than behind his desk. “Ms. Marcus,” he said, his voice disapproving, “left the country last night on a flight, I believe, to Florida.”

Brian stared at him. What the fuck?

“And Lindsay?” he forced himself to say.

Laurent looked even more disapproving.

“We do not know. We have attempted several times to contact her, both at her home, and on her mobile phone and by email, but we have had no response.”

“But Melanie must …”

“Mr. Kinney, perhaps it would be easier if I told you the story as it revealed itself to us.”

Brian nodded. Had something happened to Lindsay? For one moment he found himself seriously wondering if Mel had finally lost it completely and killed her partner. But that was ridiculous. Wasn’t it?

“Early on Monday afternoon we received a phone call from Gus’s school principal. He advised us that he believed that Gus had been the victim of an assault by one of his mothers.”

Brian bit back a furious expletive. Laurent eyed him with some understanding. “Exactly so,” he said. “One of our field officers went to the school and talked to Gus who had a small red mark, surrounded by a bruise on one cheek. Gus told her that his Mama had hit him for wanting to know where his Mommy was, and eventually she clarified that Ms Marcus had smacked him across the face with an open hand, but that a ring she was wearing had twisted, and the stone had caused the red indentation.”

Brian did swear then, but Laurent did not seem shocked.

After some difficulty, my colleague contacted Ms. Marcus and asked her to come to the school. She refused, saying that she couldn’t leave her work. She was advised that if she didn’t come to discuss what had happened, that we would have no choice but to take Gus into our care.”

Brian was scowling intensely, and Laurent did his best to keep his own voice very calm. “She still refused, so we took Gus to a reliable foster parent who has helped us out at short notice before.”

“Why the fuck didn’t anyone call me right away? I could have …”

Laurent nodded in sympathy. “I appreciate your frustration, Mr. Kinney, but the school had no record of who Gus’s father was, and we had to wait until yesterday to access the immigration records of the two women to try to find someone who …”

“Jesus!” Brian exclaimed, extremely agitated now, and desperate to see his son.

Laurent nodded. “We finally persuaded Ms. Marcus to come and speak to us, only because we had been advised by the immigration authorities that she and Ms. Petersen were here illegally, having outstayed the departure date on their temporary visa.”

Brian stared at him again. Lindsay had sworn to him that the immigration stuff was all sorted out, that they’d been granted permanent residence status as a matter of urgency because of the perceived risks - both legal and physical - to their marital and parental status in the States. He sighed. He should have fucking known. Lindsay had never been slow to twist the truth when it suited her.

“During that interview, Ms Marcus advised us that Ms Petersen had left her, had gone away for an indeterminate period of time to ‘sort out her head’.

Brian nodded briefly; that also sounded like Lindsay.

“Apparently Ms Petersen did not leave alone,” Laurent went on cautiously. “She left with a previous lover.”

What? Who the fuck?

“A rather notorious man, an artist.”

Sam! Fucking Sam Auerbach. God! No wonder Melanie lost it. Brian could almost feel a twinge of sympathy for her.

“Sam Auerbach,” he said aloud.

Laurent looked relieved. “Yes,” he confirmed. “You will understand, Mr. Kinney that Mr. Auerbach is a very wealthy man, and has the ability of the wealthy to ‘disappear’, at least temporarily. We have been unable to trace where he and Ms Petersen have gone.”

Brian looked at him and then said hesitantly, not wanting to sound paranoid or hysterical, “You are sure that she …”

Laurent understood immediately what had prompted the question, and hastened to reassure him. “Oh, yes. We asked the police for their assistance and they went to the house, and spoke to some of the neighbors. Ms. Petersen was seen getting into Mr. Auerbach’s car very early on Sunday morning.”

“But I spoke to her on Sunday!” Brian objected. Then he remembered how distracted she’d seemed. “Fucking bitch!” he went on. “She must already have left. No wonder she wouldn’t let me speak to Gus.”

Laurent raised an eyebrow, and Brian, biting back his fury, explained tautly, “I try to call Gus at least once a week; in fact, I gave him a small laptop so that we can skype and use the webcam, but I call first so Linds knows to set it up for him. I called Sunday and Lindsay said that he was at a friend’s house - that he’d had a sleepover Saturday night and that he wasn’t home yet. She said she was out shopping.”

Laurent sighed sympathetically, then went on, “Ms. Marcus was clearly very upset. In fact, she seemed most disturbed. When we tried to discuss with her what arrangements should be made for Gus, she told us to contact you.”

He paused for a moment, and then said frankly, “In fact, she said ‘he’s the fucking father, let him look after his fucking brat; I don’t want anything to do with him’. We were extremely alarmed at her attitude and it was very clear that, even if she had been willing to take him, we could not allow Gus to remain in her care.”

Brian nodded. “So now what? I mean, I can take Gus. I want to take him home with me. But …” he swallowed around the ache in his throat which threatened to choke him. “I don’t actually have any … legally, Gus …”

He broke off, unable to say any more.

Laurent nodded, “Yes, Ms. Marcus mentioned that you had signed some sort of paper. However, when questioned about her own legal status with Gus, she finally admitted that they were not able to have the document registered with the courts, because it hadn’t been formally signed before a notary. And therefore she had never proceeded with her own adoption of Gus.” Seeing the look of hurt and disbelief on the face of the man in front of him, Laurent’s own face tightened. “In fact,” he went on, “Confidentially, she also admitted that they had forged your signature on the immigration documents, which is one of the reasons why she was given the choice between leaving the country immediately and being deported.”

Brian swallowed, fighting to take in all he was being told.

“So, Mr. Kinney, at this precise moment, it would appear that you are, in law as well as in fact, Gus’s father, and therefore have every right to work with us to decide what is best for him. We would have contacted you yesterday, but it was very late in the evening by the time we finished interviewing Ms. Marcus, so we left it till this morning. Our own view is that, as his mother does not have proper immigration status here, then neither can he. And that it would be best for you to take Gus back to Pittsburgh, and file any claim for custody in the courts there.”

Brian gave a strange sigh, almost a groan, and then found himself blinking fiercely.

Laurent smiled at him. “If that would be your wish also, I will have someone fill out all the necessary paperwork, while you discuss it with your son.”

Brian smiled at him, one of the sweet, rare smiles that very few people ever saw.

Laurent blinked himself. He was a straight and happily married, but he realized he had never seen anyone more beautiful than the man before him.

He smiled back, and reached over to push the buzzer on his desk.

A moment later the door opened and a young woman came in, leading by the hand a woebegone and reluctant Gus.

The reluctance vanished however, when he saw his father.

“Daddy,” he wailed and, bursting into tears, threw himself into his father’s arms, which closed around him hungrily.

“It’s okay, Sonnyboy,” Brian heard himself saying over and over, and he stroked his son’s hair. “It’s okay now. Daddy’s here.”

Gus’s sobbing tailed off, and he buried his face in his father’s neck.

“Mommy’s gone and Mama was so mean,” he sniffled.

“So I heard,” Brian said. “But we’re not going to worry about that now. We’re going to go home. Back to Pittsburgh. You remember,” he urged.

“Is Mommy there?”

Brian sighed. “No, Sonnyboy. I don’t think so, but … you can see Debbie,” he offered in some desperation.

Gus considered. “Deb-bee,” he repeated. Then he nodded. “And Auntie Em,” he said, more happily.

‘Yeah,” Brian said, relieved, “And Auntie Em.”

“And Jussin?” Gus asked.

“Justin will be here soon,” Brian promised him.

Laurent coughed. “Mr. Kinney, I understood … Ms. Marcus indicated that …”

He stopped, uncertain how to proceed.

“Told you we’d split up, did she? She f… she would. Well, we haven’t split up. He’s been working in New York for a few months, but … we’re still together. He’s on his way here now.

Laurent nodded. That didn’t tally at all with what Ms. Marcus had indicated, but he wasn’t surprised by that. She clearly hated Mr. Kinney and everything she’d said about him had been laced with vindictiveness and malice.

Still there was another question he had to ask.

“Ms. Marcus indicated that your partner is quite young. How will he feel about …”

“About Gus?” Brian grinned. “He loves Gus. And Gus loves Justin, don’t you Sonnyboy?”

Laurent was smiling at the evident confidence and affection in Brian’s tone, and at the smile the boy gave as he nodded enthusiastically in response to his father’s question when there was a knock on the door. It opened, and the receptionist poked her head in. “M. Laurent? There is a Mr. Taylor here. He says Mr. Kinney is expecting him.”

Laurent nodded permission, and stood back to observe.

As soon as he’d heard Justin’s name, Brian had stood, and was holding Gus in his arms.

Joyfully, the youngster reached out, “Jussin!” he said, clearly delighted.

“Hey, Gus!” the younger man responded, reaching in turn to give Gus a hug, before meeting his partner’s lips in a quick kiss.

“M. Laurent,” Brian announced, “I’d like you to meet my partner, Justin Taylor.”

They turned to face him, standing side by side, Justin’s arm around his partner’s waist as Brian stood proudly holding his son.

Laurent smiled. Looking at the two of them together, there was no longer any doubt in his mind that they were indeed partners. Brian’s face had seemed to soften and his eyes to light as soon as his partner had walked in the door. And the younger man’s smile was all for Brian, and for the child in his arms.

Laurent acknowledged the introduction warmly, and then said, “So, Mr. Kinney, I take it that you agree that what I proposed to you is the best course of action?”

Justin looked at him curiously, but Brian just nodded.

“Yeah. We’ll get on a plane as soon as we can, and I’ll get my lawyers onto doing what has to be done back once we get back.”

Laurent nodded. “Excellent! I’ll get you the paperwork then.”

He bustled out and Brian, with a quick glance at Gus, said quietly, “We’re taking him home.”

Justin, also conscious of Gus’s ears so close, nodded. Although his brain seethed with questions, he knew he’d hear the details later. They had Gus safe. That was all that really mattered. And they were, apparently, taking him home. So things were definitely okay. Better than they could have hoped for, in fact.

He reached out and squeezed Brian's hand. Brian gave him a sweet, almost shy, smile, looking across at him through his eyelashes. Justin beamed at him, and squeezed his hand again, his own heart swelling with relief and joy and love. He still didn't know what had gone on here, but if the authorities were relinquishing Gus into Brian's custody, that had to say something about how Gus had been treated by his mothers. Maybe it was time that he persuaded Brian to do something about getting back his rights. Clearly Gus needed his father. He smiled again at his two Kinney men, and began to consider the options.

Laurent came back in then and handed Brian what seemed like a sheaf of forms. Some of them he had to sign, but it only took a glance to ensure that there was nothing poisonous among them - just some formal acknowledgements that he was taking responsibility for Gus and would be removing him from the country as soon as possible.

Laurent moved now to the other side of the desk and stood there looking a little nervous.

“Mr. Kinney, I hope you understand … we will have to notify the authorities in Pittsburgh about the situation. They will certainly wish to meet with you. They may even want to … monitor the situation for a while. This is in no way a reflection on you, but we all need to ensure that Gus is going to be …”

Brian scowled and seemed about to argue, but Justin smiled, and said quickly, “Of course. We understand. You have to know how grateful we are that you have been looking after Gus so well.”

Brian gave him a look, but then sighed. "Yeah," he said briefly.

Laurent looked relieved once more, and sat down. They did the same, although it was clear Brian was itching to go.

“If I could just give a little advice …”

Justin smiled at him encouragingly once more.

“It’s just … I know what our people would look for, what they would expect to see …”

“Of course, any advice you can give to make sure that there are no problems, we’d be very grateful. Wouldn’t we, Brian?”

Brian sighed again, but then realized that what Justin said was true. They didn’t want any fucking problems with the authorities. They’d have enough with Lindsay once she found out what had happened.

Well, once he’d got hold of his lawyers, she’d have some problems of her own.

Fucking bitch!

Meanwhile, Justin was right. Any hints on how to handle things with child welfare back in Pitts that Laurent could give them would be more than welcome.

Absently soothing Gus, who was ready to be up and going now that his Daddy and Jussin were here to rescue him, he nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Anything you can help us understand about how to navigate through all this sh … all these legalities …,” he corrected himself quickly.

“Well,” Laurent said a little hesitantly, thinking back to the incredibly acrimonious statements made by Melanie Marcus … “Ms. Marcus indicated that your living space is perhaps not suitable for a child. That there is no available space for Gus, and limited facilities …”

He was surprised by Brian’s snort of laughter, and by Justin’s smile. “Mel’s a bit behind the times,” the younger man explained. “She’s thinking of where we used to live. But Brian and I have bought a house. A big house.”

He was interrupted here by Brian’s voice, its tone both ironic and proud, “It’s a f … mansion,” he said. “A kazillion bedrooms, tennis courts, stables, pool. The last things we have to worry about are space and facilities.”

Laurent nodded, much happier. Concerned about some of the accusations made by Ms. Marcus, he’d googled Brian Kinney last evening when he’d arrived home. There were a number of articles about him … some about the extremely unfortunate incident involving Mr. Taylor at a school dance, some about various awards he’d won for his work, more than a few about his new company which was undoubtedly becoming a successful boutique agency for clients who wanted something a little more cutting edge than the usual fodder; one or two had hinted at a less than savory reputation, but they were mainly from right wing papers, deploring his presence at that dance, and decrying the rise of the ‘gay mafia’ who were infiltrating the schools, and so on and so on …

Laurent was no fool. He looked at the man before him; the man who’d leapt on a plane within an hour of hearing that his son was in trouble. He watched as Brian held his son who, exhausted from all his emotional trials, had drifted to sleep with his head on his father’s shoulder, saw the tenderness in his eyes as he looked at his son, and watched the way his knee pressed softly against his partner’s. Laurent knew that he was looking at a man who, while maybe not perfect, was a better bet as a father than most who came through his office, and felt nothing but relief that they’d found someone who would take good care of the sad young boy who’d come to them two days ago.

However, there was one other thing that might make things easier for them back with the Pittsburgh authorities. Wondering how long Mr. Taylor was planning on remaining in New York, he cast through his mind for a way to ask that question. Surely a very personal, and possibly difficult, one.

But before he could say anything, Justin was saying something else about the house …

“We’ve been doing some redecorating, because we were hoping that, if the girls couldn’t come down for Christmas, they might at least let Gus come to us for a few days over New Year’s.”

“So you’ll be in Pittsburgh for Christmas, then?” Laurent asked. It was at least a start on that conversation.

Justin smiled happily. “I’ll be home by Christmas,” he answered, putting much emphasis on that short, but so important, word. “I’ve been working on an Emerging Artists project in New York, but it’s just about wound up now -except for the show next week. And then I’m coming home.”

He cast a glance full of love and mischief at his partner, and Laurent watched a lazy smile cross the man’s face. Good God! It was like looking into the face of sex itself.

For a moment the older man, tongue in cheek, looked into his partner’s eyes, then he turned to smile at Laurent.

“Gus will have two parents to take care of him,” he said, his own happiness showing in the glow in his amazing eyes and the softness about his mouth. “He’ll probably run us ragged till we get the hang of it, but we’ve got back up. Justin’s Mom will help, so will my … Debbie.”

He broke off then, and Justin’s hand brushed his arm. “Deb’s like a kind of foster Mom to both of us,” he explained to Laurent. “She looked after Brian a lot when he was younger, and she took me in when my Dad couldn’t deal with me being gay. She’ll love helping us with Gus. And Gus loves her.”

Gus, who’d just awakened, blinked sleepily at him and said, “Deb-bee. I love Debbee.”

Justin leant and kissed his forehead. “And we’re going home to see her,” he said softly.

“Yeah!” said Gus with satisfaction. ““We’re gonna see Deb-bee. And we won’t come back here no more. I’ll stay with Daddy ‘nstead, okay?” he finished.

“Yeah,” his father agreed, stroking his hair with an aching tenderness that brought a lump even to Laurent’s throat, while the blond young man beside them tightened his grip on his partner’s hand in wordless sympathy and support. “That’s the plan, Sonnyboy.”



Brian was all for heading straight for the airport, but Laurent offered to escort them to the house so that they could collect some of Gus’s things. He explained that they had Melanie's permission to do so, and that she had left them the house key for just such a purpose. Brian would have refused, but Justin convinced him that it would be good for Gus to have some familiar things like his favorite toys with him. Knowing that, no matter how much he might like being with his Daddy, the desertion of both his mothers was not going to be an easy thing for the youngster to come to terms with, Brian agreed.
When they got to the house it had a sad air of abandonment. Mel had clearly packed in a hurry, and there were signs everywhere that something had completely disrupted the usual life of its inhabitants. Gus became teary, and once more asked where his Mommy was. Brian bit back his fury against Lindsay and assured Gus that they would try to find her, but for now they were going to get his best things and go home to Pittsburgh to see Debbie and Auntie Em.

"Jussin too?" Gus asked anxiously.

"Jussin too," he was promised.

He cheered up then, and started piling together his favorite things.

While he was occupied, Brian had a look around the house, a little shocked by the bare state of the cupboards and the lack of … warmth, of personality in the house. He thought of Gus's computer, and went looking for that, but was unable to find it. He went upstairs to where Justin was helping Gus put his things into garbage bags - they'd need to pick up some luggage on the way to the airport - and asked Gus.

He shrugged. "Mama took it away," he said.

Brian frowned, but Laurent drew him aside.

"Ms. Marcus mentioned about the computer."

Brian raised an eyebrow and Laurent went on, "She said that they had been having some money troubles, so they'd sold the computer and a few other things to … tide them over."

Brian gave an exasperated exclamation. "Why the fuck didn't they tell me? Did they really think that I'd let Gus go without …"

Laurent regarded him sympathetically. "Ms. Marcus said that she wouldn't give you the satisfaction of being the hero once again. That she'd been sure she would be able to get suitable work soon, and in the meantime …"

"Gus went without," Brian snapped.

Laurent shrugged.

Brian nodded. Yet another thing to add to his personal list of grievances against the two women. And especially against Lindsay. Mel might have had her reasons for not wanting to have to admit how big a mistake they'd made in coming up here, but Lindsay should have known better. She should have put Gus first, not Melanie's pride.

Well, all of that shit was over now. From now on, his Sonnyboy did not go without anything. If he wanted to take with him every single fucking toy and piece of clothing he owned, so be it.

It didn't quite come to that, but certainly there seemed to be a lot of things that Gus couldn't bear to be parted from, so when they finally boarded the plane it was with a great deal more luggage than they’d expected. But Brian paid the excess luggage fees cheerfully.

Laurent, who had wound up driving them to the airport, was almost sorry to see them get on the plane.

Brief as their acquaintance had been, he’d become fascinated by the pair, by the evident strength of a relationship that, based on what he’d read last night, had started out when the younger of the two was still in high school, and had somehow endured and grown into something that was clearly very special.

He waved them goodbye and then returned to his office, where he sat for some time deep in thought, wrestling with something of a moral dilemma. He considered all his options carefully, thought about the implications of what he was about to do, and came to the conclusion that, setting aside his own desire to help the stunningly beautiful Brian Kinney and his young partner, Gus’s best interests would be served by him carrying out his intended course of action. And promoting the best interests of the child was the guiding principle of his own life as well as that of the organization he served.

Conscience clear, Laurent put through a call to someone he knew down in Pittsburgh.

He didn’t think that Ms. Petersen, after deserting her son and leaving him with someone whom she knew to have no legal status as Gus’s parent to go off for a fling with a lover, would stand a great chance of regaining custody of her son. Especially given that she’d been party to deceit on a grand scale, both in terms of leading the child’s father to believe that his own rights had been legally terminated by the document he’d signed, and also by the lies the twom women had told the Canadian Immigration authorities - including the forging of Mr. Kinney’s signature on the immigration application. She’d shown herself to be both feckless and faithless, dominated by self-interest, and not at all a suitable mother for an impressionable young boy.

But Pittsburgh wasn’t renowned as a gay-friendly place, and it would be a terrible thing if some homophobe decided to punish the child for his parents’ sexuality and take him into care.

Laurent was reasonably sure he could prevent that happening, and he could certainly put a spoke in Ms. Petersen’s wheel should she seek to regain her son.

“Robert,” he said warmly as his call was answered. “How are you? No. No, that’s not true,” he laughed in protest. “I called Suzanne last week. Well, yes, perhaps. There may be some little thing that you could do for me. I had a case come up this week which involved a young boy whose parents are from your beautiful city. It’s a very sad story. Between you and I … his mothers are both cunts. Yes, mothers. Yes, they are gay. So is the father. But he is, I suspect, a very good father. Or will be, now that he has a chance. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. You see …”

Laurent summoned all his powers of eloquence and persuasion to tell Gus’s story, and secure his future with his father.

He was a great believer in Jung's theory of synchronicity - that apparent coincidences are no such thing, but are signs of the universe arranging itself to prompt you to action. After all, the odds of this child and his parents being from Pittsburgh, where Laurent’s sister Suzanne lived were so very high … And as Suzanne’s husband, Robert, was one of the senior judges in the Pennsylvania Family Courts … well, clearly Providence had so arranged things for a purpose.

After his conversation with his brother-in-law, Laurent smiled as he put down the phone.

He was sure now that Mr. Kinney’s application for custody of his son would go smoothly. In fact, if Mr. Kinney’s lawyers filed the application promptly, Robert had said that it could all be sorted out by Christmas.

“Merry Christmas, Brian,” Laurent thought to himself as he headed for home, well satisfied with his day’s work.


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