Complications of the Mind

Chapter 7

To a casual observer Brian might appear outwardly calm, but to Justin who knew him so well, he looked shaken. Justin did not doubt the veracity of his words as he looked at him. His lover looked tired and worn out. They'd both had a long night filled with emotional turmoil and a family crisis. "Are you okay?"

Brian turned to him with a bleak expression. He looked past Justin at the wall clock and uttered a curse. "Not really," he answered. "It's been a long night. That's all."

Not really believing that but not having the heart to press him on the matter further, he stepped towards him. Brian enfolded him in a fierce embrace that reminded him of the one they'd shared in Woody's when Stockwell had been defeated. Brian let him go and said, "I need to e-mail Cyn and tell her I'm not coming into the office. Can you find a way to the Institute?" Though he hated to miss work, he also knew he would be a bear and difficult if he was dead on his feet. It was more a matter of sparing his employee's the view of him as tyrant. Normally it was a role that didn't even make him pause but today he'd be liable to take someone's head off with a meat cleaver.

Justin nodded. "No problem. I'm going to drop off some prelim sketches at Michael's. Do you want to grab lunch?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. Just not at the diner. I'll meet you at the comic book store. What time is your class out?"

"11:30," he responded. Then with a mischievous glance at Brian, he asked, "So is this a date?"

"Yeah, it's a date," Brian said, figuring that he'd done and said just about enough to make Justin realize that he had all the control in their relationship.

Brian took in Justin's appearance, noting that he looked as tired as he felt. Remembering the earlier offer for cuddling, Brian asked quietly, "Want to go to bed?" There was no hint of seduction in the question. The spark of desire had faded, and now didn't seem the right time to attempt to rekindle the flame.

Justin reached for his hand, turned it and kissed the palm. It was an action that had a soothing effect on Brian when he was tense. He smiled slightly and let Justin lead him up to the bed. Justin helped him slip off his jeans and t-shirt and Brian slipped naked under the covers, watching as Justin undressed. He breathed a sigh of relief as Justin slid in next to him. Noting the distance between them, he inwardly smiled. "You can move closer. I won't bite. Unless you want me to."

Without a word, Justin adjusted his body position so that his head lay on Brian's chest, the man's good arm wrapped around him. The soft glow of the blue neon tube lights bathed them as Justin listened to Brian's heartbeat, slowing as he drifted into sleep.

Morning came too rapidly as the harsh clanking of the alarm clock pulled him from slumber. Brian threw a hand up over his eyes, opened them slightly, saw the time, and muttered a fierce, "Fuck!" He gingerly dislodged a still sleeping Justin and padded downstairs to his laptop. Pulling up his e-mail account, he e-mailed Cynthia a brief, terse message explaining how he'd had a family emergency and was taking the day off.

Noting the time, he pinpointed the location of the portable phone and dialed Deb's number. When the woman answered, Brian said in lieu of a standard greeting, "How's my son?"

"He's fine, Brian. Did you get my note?"

"Yeah, thanks. When do you want me to pick him up?" Brian asked.

"Whenever. I guess he has to be at daycare at 9 a.m., doesn't he?" Deb asked as Brian pawed through the bag Lindsay had left, sure that his son's schedule must be in there somewhere. Ah ha, he thought, as he founded the neatly printed schedule. He wasn't the only one who was anal.

"Yeah. Justin's still sleeping so I'll leave him a note. He's going into the Institute." Brian paused a moment to take a breath and then exhaled, saying, "Thanks for helping out last night, Deb."

"No problem, kiddo," she responded, knowing that he was referring to his meltdown and taking care of Gus when his sister's kids had shown up on his doorstep. "I'll fix you something to eat."

Brian smiled and said, "Thanks." He hung up the phone to find a sleepy Justin standing at the top of the stairs with a morning woody. "Hey," he said. Justin nodded, too exhausted to say anything. He glanced down and saw his erection, then glanced back at Brian. Brian simply smiled and then pushed the chair back as he went to join his lover.

"Happy to see me?"

"You think?" Justin said, unsurprised when Brian knelt and began to fellate him. He tilted his head back as his hands fisted in Brian's hair. He found release within moments as Brian took every last drop, milking him dry. He sighed and looked down at Brian, remembering again just how much he loved him and it wasn't just because he was an amazing lover. "So what's the plan?"

"I drop you off at the Institute, pick up Gus, drop him off, and then I figure out what the fuck I'm going to tell the cops. Because the cops are going to call me because I'm gay and they have this skewed opinion that means I'm a pedophile. And I don't trust Claire not to fuck me over. It would be her style to placate me and then screw me over. She's the proverbial viper in the chicken house and I'm the cock of the house. Then you and I are going to have a long leisurely lunch followed by a long leisurely fuck and then we are going to talk about New York because we have to get the fuck out of this burg, Justin. And then I have to go pick up my kid at daycare." Brian said, as he moved to a standing position. He glanced down at himself and then at Justin and smiled wryly. "Let's go take a shower, kiddo."

Half an hour later, Justin had been dropped off at the Institute and Brian was sitting in Debbie's living room with Gus on his lap. "Daddy," he whined, "I don't want to go to daycare."

Debbie fought a smile as she watched Brian in an unfamiliar role, that of caretaker, a job he'd so willingly relinquished to Lindsay. "Sonny boy, you have to. Tell you what, we'll have ice cream sundaes tonight as dessert."

"Resorting to bribery, Kinney?" Debbie asked, smothering a grin that threatened to split her face.

He sent her a pleading glance and her response was to shrug her shoulders. It wasn't her job and he was surprisingly good with the kid. Debbie returned to the kitchen, piling a plate with eggs and sausage. She handed the plate to Brian who looked at it and then at her like she'd lost her mind. It was a familiar look and she returned it with one of her own. "Eat it. I made it special for you."

"Deb, it's a fucking heart attack on a plate. The doctors told me to eat healthier not actively raise my cholesterol level and my blood pressure."

"Kinney," she said patiently, "you don't want to hurt my feelings, now do you? After everything I've done for you."

His eyes narrowed as he realized that he'd just been manipulated. He shifted Gus off his lap and asked, "Can I at least have a fork?"

She grinned at him and handed him one. He was so predictable. "So how did last night go, really?"

"The boys have been sexually abused. John more severely than Peter. Claire was a nervous wreck but she was relatively calm when I left. I still find it difficult to believe that they came to me. I'm not exactly their most favorite person."

"Well, your nephew is a frigging demon, Brian. You should have seen the way he treated his mom that day when we confronted him about your bracelet. Totally unapologetic like he was entitled to it. But Justin really lit into him and I gave Claire a piece of my mind." She hesitated a moment and said, "I'm sorry to hear that the boys were molested. That's terrible, Brian."

Brian speared another forkful of eggs and said, "Good. Deb, these are really good. They've got an extra special kick. What is it?"

"Tabasco. And a healthy dose of pepper. Don't change the subject."

Neither one of them were paying much attention to Gus who figured out a new way to get his father's attention. He began to undress with such speed that a Tasmanian devil would have nothing on him. Then he attached himself to his father's denim-clad leg like a little barnacle. "Daddy!"

"What, kiddo?" Brian said, cutting into his sausage, trying hard to forget that this was perhaps the unhealthiest thing he'd had to eat in months, perhaps even years. He couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten like this but there was something about Debbie. It was a mortal insult to turn down her cooking and she'd been invaluable last night. He looked down at his son and began to laugh as Debbie noticed the naked child. Was there any doubt that he was a Kinney? She wondered, amused. The kid certainly shared the same propensity his father did for preferring nudity.

"Time to go, Daddy," Gus insisted. Brian gave his son a glance and then looked at Debbie who was trying not to laugh at the expression on Brian's face. Finally she just gave up and gave into a bout of belly-shaking laughter. His son could play his father so well.

"Let me finish eating and then we'll go. Get dressed, sonny boy."

Fifteen minutes later, he'd cleaned his plate and given Debbie the condensed version of the events of the previous night including his reconciliation with Justin. He ended it with a terse, "If you talk to Carl, let him know that I expect to have to give a statement but if he can keep my name out of it, I'd be eternally grateful."

"Yeah, kiddo," Debbie said. She'd noticed that conditions between her lover and Brian had warmed a bit. While Brian still had a relatively low opinion of cops, the two men had forged a grudging sort of respect for each other. "Take it easy."

"Always," Brian threw back as he closed the door behind him and Gus.

When Brian arrived at the daycare center, he was met by an administrator who immediately said, "Who are you and why are you with Gus Peterson?"

Instantly on his guard and not wishing to deal with this shit, Brian said, "I'm his father, Brian Kinney. His mother, Lindsay Peterson, asked me to take care of him for a few days. I'll be by at 5:00 to pick him up."

"I'm sorry but I can't allow you to do that."

Not accustomed to being told that he couldn't do anything and resenting it, Brian narrowed his eyes at her and repeated himself, "I'm his father."

"I was told by his other mother, Melanie Marcus, that Gus's father had nothing to do with his life. That you weren't involved." The woman was nothing if not officious and was not in the least bit solicitous. And she had no idea that she was seriously pissing him off.

Brian glanced down at his son and said, "Gus, go inside. Mrs. Kincaid and I have to have a little discussion."

Once Gus was in the classroom, Brian glared at the woman. "You do not tell me in front of my kid that I'm not allowed to pick him up. His mother, his biological mother, has given me permission to take care of my son."

"You are not on the approved list of people who can pick up Gus Peterson," Mrs. Kincaid said, snootily.

Brian felt a surge of anger and then whipped out his cell phone. He hit a speed dial button and was instantly connected with the gallery where Lindsay worked. "Lindz, its Brian. We've got a little problem at the Sunshine Daycare Center. Mrs. Kincaid is refusing to allow me to pick up Gus after school. Yes, I know, Lindz." Brian handed the phone to the administrator and said, "She wants to talk to you."

Mrs. Kincaid took the phone and listened for a moment, then turned to Brian with a chagrined expression on her face. She handed him the phone. "I'm sorry, sir. But you understand we have to adhere to certain security measures and since you are the non-custodial parent I couldn't just allow you to pick up Gus."

"Melanie is his non-biological mother. I'm his biological father and I pay for the outrageous tuition so my son can go here. I do not like having to deal with this bullshit. I assume that I will now be put on the approved list of people who can pick up my son."

Mrs. Kincaid nodded contritely. "I am sorry, Mr. Kinney. Yes, the matter will be taken care of immediately. I apologize for the mix-up. We will see you at 5:00."

Brian turned on his heel, knowing that anything he had to say further would only land him in hot water. He fucking hated people who didn't understand the relationship he had with his own kid. He took his cell phone and dialed the number for the town house that Lindsay and Melanie shared. When his arch-nemesis answered, Brian immediately started in. "Melanie, you do not have the right to say that I cannot pick up my child."

Melanie set Jenny back down in her crib and rebuttoned her blouse. She squinted her eyes and then said, "Brian, can this possibly wait? I do not have time for this."

"No, it can't wait. I have been up half the night dealing with family shit and then I go to drop my son off and am told that I can't pick him up. Did Lindsay talk to you?"

"About what?" Melanie cautiously inquired. They hadn't been talking much aside from the occasional question about post-partum recovery. Thoughts of reconciliation weren't even on the horizon for her.

Being a new mother was hard enough, especially when she didn't have Lindsay around as back-up.

"Custody. About the fact that I want more rights where Gus is concerned."

Melanie sat down and took a deep breath before responding. "You want custody? You are the biggest whore in Pittsburgh, Kinney. No sane judge would give you custody. You give promiscuous a whole new meaning. I guess you taught Lindsay a few things about how to screw people over."

"Not full custody, you cunt," Brian hissed. "I want joint custody. He is my son. And for the record, I am in a committed relationship which is more than I can say for you at the moment. And don't blame me for fucking up your relationship with Lindsay. I'm not the one she fucked."

"Committed for the moment," she retorted. "And last I heard nothing was formal with you and Justin. Besides, who is to say when you'll toss him out again?" It was a low blow and she knew it but Brian Kinney could get to her like no other man alive. Then she responded to the last comment he'd made. "You do realize that she's still in love with you. She fucked Sam because she couldn't have you."

Brian took a deep breath and said, "You know what, I think we should let our attorneys talk. Buh-bye." He had heard the last thing Melanie said and took a brief moment to consider the comment. Was it possible that Lindsay still harbored a fantasy about them together? He wondered, unsettled by the thought.

Melanie sat looking at the phone in her hand and at the surprisingly empty living room. She'd never realized how empty the house would be when Lindsay left. The original artwork by Lindsay was gone, leaving only various impressionist prints that they'd picked up at galleries. She missed her with a sudden pang and then her eyes flooded with tears. Fucking asshole, she thought. I'll be damned if I let him get custody of Gus. I'll take his other fucking ball before I let that happen, she thought with sudden resolve.

Brian, on the other hand, dialed another number. When Liam Kilkully answered, Brian said, "Hey, Liam, it's Kinney. What do you know about custodial arrangements?"

Brian listened a moment and then set up an appointment with Liam, including Justin. He glanced at his watch and saw that it was nearly ten. Michael would just be opening the shop, he thought, deciding that he should go visit his best friend.

When he reached the Red Cape, Michael had just hung the open sign. Obviously delighted to see his best friend, Michael greeted him with an enthusiastic, "Hey, Brian. What's up?"

Without preamble, he said, "I'm going for joint custody of Gus. I learned yesterday that you didn't have to give up your parental rights. When the fuck were you planning on telling me that? Why did I have to hear it from Lindsay?"

Stunned at the force of Brian's ire, Michael took a step backward, nearly knocking a display cutout of Superman over. "Um, I didn't think you'd care. After all, you barely see Gus."

"I see my kid more than you think, Michael," Brian said, his anger dangerously close to the surface, exacerbated by lack of sleep. "I pay for his daycare and some of his medical bills. I'm the one who is taking care of him while Lindsay and Melanie deal with their bullshit. Do you remember telling me that you wanted to be a better dad than I am?" Man, that one cut me deep, he thought.

Michael winced at the tone and the reminder of a flippant statement he'd made. He slowly shook his head and met Brian's blazing eyes. "I didn't mean it, Bri. I know you're a good dad."

"Apparently not, as you don't have to sign away your rights to your daughter. Do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to do that?"

"I thought you didn't care!" Michael blazed at him. "You didn't even want him to begin with. I wanted Jenny. I know it was difficult for you."

"No, Mikey, you don't," Brian said in a deadly calm tone of voice. "Justin is the one who woke up and found me with a bottle of Jim Beam, thinking about the role I'd play in my own son's life. Justin was the one who kept reassuring me that I'd be a good dad. He was there for me on nights when I agonized about it. Where the fuck were you? You just thought this was one big joke that I agreed to while I was flying on E and coke. Tell me something, Mikey, did it ever occur to you that having this kid was my one chance to prove that the Kinney legacy could be good? That Jack Kinney's evil would not spread to the next generation? That I'd be a different father than my old man?"

Michael slowly shook his head. He was stunned at the force of Brian's emotions. "Brian," he began but Brian glared at him with such ferocity that Michael cut his words off.

"Tell me something, Mikey. Did you know that Keller was going to offer Justin a job on the movie?"

"Yes," Michael said. "I thought you'd be happy for him."

Oh, the naïveté, Brian thought, feeling sorry for his best friend even as fierce anger roared through him. "You just want him gone. You are still jealous of him, Mikey. You're Michael Novotny-Bruckner now, Mikey. You and I will never happen."

"Why not?" Michael asked, and Brian just barely restrained himself from throwing another punch. He couldn't believe his best friend was so delusional.

Brian took a deep breath and said, "Because I do not love you, at least not in the way I love Justin. And you have a husband. Or have you forgotten about Ben?"

"You don't love Justin," Michael scoffed. "You're infatuated with the twink but you don't love him. I love Ben. It's different. What Ben and I have is real."

"Don't you dare tell me that what I feel for Justin isn't love," Brian nearly shouted. "You were there the night I almost lost him. You know how much pain I was in. How close to the edge I was when I thought I was going to lose him. His leaving is cutting me up inside and all you can think about is that you'll have me all to yourself again. Michael, get a clue, you're fucking married now. And I might as well be. In the eyes of the state, he and I are legally bound together." Brian realized what he'd just admitted and felt the wind go out of his sails as he leaned against the counter. "Why can't you let me be happy? Are you happier when I'm miserable? Do you really think that I'm going to turn to you for comfort? I'm not going to seek you out for comfort." He left it unsaid that he'd done just that in previous times but he hadn't turned to Michael when Justin had left him for the fiddler. Instead he'd turned inward because he'd known that his fair-weather friends had taken the young blond's side over his because he was always the villain in every scenario regardless of the truth.

Michael looked pretty shaken up himself. Neither one of them had heard the door open during their argument, nor had they seen Justin walk inside. When they heard a throat clear, both turned to face Justin. Brian looked at his partner, then back at his best friend, or former best friend, and then said quietly, without betraying any more of his emotions, "Let's get the fuck out of here, Sunshine."

Justin tossed a portfolio onto the counter and avoided looking at a still shell-shocked Michael. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard Brian admit to. Still he knew that he couldn't take what Brian had said at face value. It was only when they reached the diner that Brian stopped. He turned to look at Justin and said only, "You want to make it formal?"


"Us, Sunshine. You and me. I'm not talking walking down the aisle. I still don't believe in that shit but I think we need to make it known. I have dealt with enough bullshit today from my supposed friends. So can you give me a straight answer, please?"

Justin looked at his lover, fairly vibrating with suppressed rage, and nodded. "Yeah, Brian. I can deal with making it formal in the eyes of our friends and the state. You want to tell me why?"

"It's time we stopped fucking around and dealt with what's between us. I don't want some fairy-tale relationship because that's not us but what we have doesn't come around very often. I never expected it and I'll be damned if I lose it. Lose you. Lose whatever the hell we're building." Brian took a deep breath and said, "I'm still not proposing, Sunshine. But some shit happened today that reminded me of just how little respect people have for me, for our relationship."

"Brian, I respect you." Justin took a tentative step forward and embraced Brian, surprised when the older man leaned into him, as if gaining strength from him. He stroked Brian's back and just let himself hold his lover. Oblivious to the stares they were garnering, Justin wondered just what had happened in the few hours since they'd parted.

Brian broke away and said quietly, "Let's go home, kiddo. Can we take a rain check on lunch?"

"Yeah," Justin said, wrapping an arm around Brian's waist. "I'll fix something at home for you."

Brian leaned into him, and whispered quietly against his ear, "I meant what I said in there, Sunshine. I meant everything I said. I don't want you to doubt it." He paused and said, "And I don't mind you calling me 'baby', so stop fucking worrying about it. If it bothered me I'd let you know. It's okay. Just don't make a habit of saying it in public."

Justin nodded as they began to walk back to the Corvette, wondering just what prompted Brian's turnaround. He had never seen Brian go off on Michael like that before and was faintly surprised that the two men hadn't come to blows. He hadn't heard much but what he had heard shocked him.

He was quiet when they drove home, knowing that Brian was wondering what was wrong. Once in the loft, Justin grabbed a bottle of water as Brian hit the play button on the answering machine. When he wanted to talk about the events of earlier that morning he would. Justin knew that, yet he was still curious.

"Brian, it's Claire. Call me at home." She left her number and Brian scowled.

"Brian, it's Cynthia. I cleared your schedule for the day. Call me if you need me to clear it for the rest of the week."

"Brian, it's Lindsay. You need to call me. Right away."

At the last, Brian rolled his eyes and looked at Justin. "I'm so tempted to just ignore the messages and go back to sleep until I have to pick up Gus, but I'm supposed to be the adult here, right?"

Justin smiled at him and said, "Cynthia can wait. Lindsay sounded pissed so you should probably call her but I think you should call Claire first."

Trust Justin to put the messages in terms of priority, Brian thought. He moved to his desk, sitting down, and rubbing his temples. It felt like someone was playing a bass drum in his skull. He dialed the number Claire had left on the machine and waited until he heard her nasal voice pick up. "Claire, Brian. What do you need?" He listened a moment and then sighed. "When?"

A brief pause and then he sighed again, saying, "Yeah, Claire, I'll be there. I'll be there."

When he hung up the phone, he rubbed his temples again and Justin came over to him. "What's up with Claire?"

"The school is giving her shit. The cops want to talk to me and, oh yeah, she wants me to talk to her and mom. And, you'll love this; she wants you to be there."

Justin's mouth dropped and Brian smiled slightly. "Close your mouth, Sunshine, I don't intend for you to play sword swallower right now. Christ, that's the last thing on my mind right now. And I'm always ready for sex."

Justin swallowed a retort, settling for narrowing his eyes at Brian, and pouting. It didn't work, he realized as Brian simply said, "Stop that. It doesn't work. Hell, that look doesn't even work for Michael." Realizing what he'd said, Brian flushed.

"I'm sorry, Brian. I know how much your friendship with Michael means to you."

"Not your fault. I should know by now that Michael plays saboteur when he sees that I'm happy with you. But he's fucking married now and he should know by now that you're not going anywhere."

"Do you really believe that?" Justin said, resting his hands on Brian's shoulders as he began to massage the tension away. "That I'm not going away."

It took Brian a moment to respond. "Yeah, I do. You're coming back. And we're partners with whatever the fuck that entails. I know you'll look back." Brian knew he'd emptied the emotional floodgate and felt relieved rather than tense about the disclosure.

"Want to tell me what happened today to prompt all these decisions?"

"How much time you got?"

"Enough. I'm not going to like this, am I?"

Brian shook his head and said, "Most definitely not. I guess it started with the daycare. I went to drop Gus off and the bitch who runs the daycare center asked me who I was. When I told her I was Gus' dad, she told me that I couldn't pick him up because I'm not on the approved list of people who have the right to pick him up. So I had to call Lindz who is still upset with me because I want joint custody or partial visitation rights. She cleared everything up but I know that it was Smelly Mel's idea to excise me from my son's life. She had the balls to tell them that I had no involvement in my son's life. I'm the one who pays the fucking tuition because those two don't know how to save a frigging dime (so that was kind of unfair but Brian was really on a roll). Then I go to Michael's and find out that he knew that Brett was going to offer you the job before we went on the ride and didn't bother to give me a head's up." He paused and looked over at Justin who had a stunned expression on his face. "I'm sure he figured that you'd wait till the last possible moment to tell me then he could swoop in and tell me that you were going to fuck me over again. God, how pathetic is that."

Justin had to agree but he was still kind of surprised that Michael had known about the job offer and hadn't mentioned it to him. It was of some small comfort to him that Brian was finally beginning to realize just how manipulative his best friend really was and how deep his dislike and jealousy of Justin still ran. "I'm sure he didn't expect me to tell you first," Justin said. "I wasn't going to keep this from you. It was too important not to tell you."

Brian cast a glance at him and said wryly, "You know, maybe we need to get new friends. Cause the ones we've got have a tendency to fuck us over. Remember the bet they made after you got out of the hospital and we had gotten back together?"

Justin inclined his head and said, "You're still pissed about that, aren't you?"

"Aren't you?" Brian retorted. It made his blood simmer to think about it. "Nobody thought you and I could make it work. But we're still standing. That's a fucking miracle. I never expected to be in a committed relationship. Sure we've had our bumps and rough patches, namely the fiddler, but we're the ones who are together. Not Melanie and Lindsay, though this thing over custody may just push the lesbians back together again to gang up on Big Bad Brian."

A thought suddenly crossed Justin's mind and he hoped that he wasn't right and he knew he had to ask even though the likelihood of Brian getting pissed was about 100%. "You want to make sure everything's stand-up with our domestic partnership agreement because it'll look better to the courts if you are in a committed relationship, don't you? You'll have a better chance since Melanie and Lindsay are experiencing problems and Lindsay cheated on her longstanding partner."

"You pissed?" Brian asked. He hoped Justin didn't really believe that was the only motivating factor in his decision. He'd meant every word he'd said in the comic book store, every last syllable.

"No, I understand. But it's going to look odd that we're having a bicoastal relationship. I can talk to Brett and see if he can defer the offer. I don't want to fuck up your chances of getting more time with Gus, Brian."

Brian stared at him, the look intense and Justin looked away. "I'm not using you because of my kid. I want this, Justin. And the fact that we filed the DPA months ago will help us. This isn't just about me. This is about all three of us; you, me and Gus. I made an appointment with a college friend of mine who knows about custody and parental rights. This may get ugly."

"Are you prepared to lose Lindsay as a friend?"

Brian closed his eyes and then opened them, meeting the blue eyes he adored. "Yeah. It'll hurt but Gus is more important. You know, Melanie told me today that the reason Lindsay fucked Sam was because she couldn't have the person she really wanted."

"And who was that?"

"Me. Can you believe that?"

Justin forced back a giggle. "Brian, Sam Auerbach is notorious for fucking anything in a skirt. He's been married like four times and pays alimony out his ass. He's like the straight you. And Lindsay is still in love with you. Why do you think Melanie has always seen you as such a threat? It's because she knows that there is some small part of Lindsay that loves you more than she loves her own wife."

"That's insane," Brian said. "How did I not see it?"

"Because you see Lindsay as a friend and it's hard to face reality. I've seen the way she looks at you. She may love Melanie but she's still deeply in love with you."


"To put it mildly, yeah. So what else should I be prepared for?"

"To have our sex life examined under a microscope. To have every bad thing that has ever happened between us revealed. Our partners, how many times we had group sex, how many times we hunted together, Ethan. The prom. Every fucking thing. The fact that I have done pretty much every drug known to man and basically corrupted you. My perceived promiscuity."

"You didn't corrupt me," Justin said. "I went after you," he reminded his forgetful lover.

"Let me finish. This is going to be painful and they are going to say that I don't have feelings for you. I'm going to have to get up on that stand and reveal things that you don't know. Things that only Lindsay knows. But we need to hope that it doesn't come to that, Justin. I don't want to reveal painful stuff about her. I'm going to be depicted as a whore, a disco slut."

"Are you ready for this?"

"No," Brian admitted. "But Gus is my son. I hate the idea of going up there and laying myself bare. I don't want to relive every bad thing that ever happened between us."

"Then why?"

Brian looked at him and said, "Because you do this for blood. You do this for family. Gus is the only child I will ever have, Justin. I'm not going to lose out on his life because one of his mommies hates me."

"I support you. But you know how pissed Deb is going to be at you and everyone else."

"Let them be pissed at me. Gus is still my son and I'm sick of their hypocrisy, Justin. Deb uses the fact that she was a surrogate mother to me like a weapon. I'm thirty-three years old, a cancer survivor, and I'm in a committed relationship. I haven't really tricked in several months. Lindsay and Melanie are not the only people who can be positive influences in my son's life. I have a role there too."

"What about the parental rights you signed away?"

"There was a clause in the contract that stipulated that I would retain my rights if they ever split up again. I'll point out that the only reason I signed that was because Lindsay was going to break federal law by marrying Guillaume to enable him to get a green card." He hadn't forgotten saying that he wanted him to be raised by the two parents who loved him and loved each other but he was a different person now.

"Okay, I'm behind you 100%, Brian. Can we talk about something more positive now, like New York?"

At that, Brian smiled. "Yeah, let's look at hotels and airplane ticket prices. I don't want to think about any of the negative shit for a while."

Since Justin concurred with that assessment, he watched as Brian logged on and pulled up his Internet browser. They spent an enjoyable hour, mock arguing over reasonable airfare and hotel prices, finally settling on the Waldorf Astoria. "This is going to be good for us, Brian. It's just what we need. But I think we need to talk to Miranda before we go."

Brian groaned. "I don't want to go see the good doctor," he protested. "Things are good between us."

Justin arched an eyebrow at him and he sighed. "I know that you and I are going to give this bicoastal relationship our best effort but we need help. This is going to test us like nothing else has."

"I'd say the cancer tested us," Brian snarked. "Next you'll be telling me that you have us booked on Dr. Phil."

"Hey, I happened to like the Focus on the Family stuff he does. It's kind of nice to see families more fucked up than ours. Brian, I know we can handle this separation but it's still going to be hard. Especially with the monogamy thing. That can't be easy for you."

"I never said no occasional tricking," Brian reminded him. "And I said it was something I thought we should try. It's not locked in stone."

Justin narrowed his eyes at his lover. "You backing out, Kinney?"

Recognizing the tone, Brian backpedaled. "No, I'm just saying that I fuck up. That we fuck up, we're men after all. It doesn't mean the death of us. I'm not saying that I'm going to go out looking for it, Justin, but if it happens, it happens. Same goes for you."

"Okay," Justin said, vaguely disheartened by the response. He'd rather liked the direction they were heading in and it kind of hurt to see Brian so casual about it.

"Hey, kid, I'm not saying that I don't want to try. I know you want to fuck raw, to feel that connection with me. I want that to but not enough to jeopardize your life. So stop over-analyzing. We're taking baby steps at this. One day at a time, Justin. Can you handle that with me?"

Justin nodded and embraced him. "Yeah, I can handle it. Sorry about the drama princess moment."

"Oh, is that what that was?" Brian teased.

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