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Fatherhood

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Justin sat in the booth of the restaurant while he waited for his mother. He had chosen the Italian restaurant as it was one of her favorites. It was a small place, barely seating 50 people; therefore, it was usually crowded, especially during the lunch hour on a week day. It was located in the middle of the business district and attracted the business crowd as well as many tourists who happened to venture into the downtown area. The tables were meant to seat 4-6 people and were fairly close together. If a patron wanted total privacy this was not the place to go, but since the din of people talking was usually constant, there was an air of separateness afforded to the patrons.

The small wooden tables had a glossy shine to them, allowing the patrons to see their reflections, personal mirrors as it were. The real reason for the shine was to allow easier clean up especially with red and white sauce served with most dishes. The chairs were wooden as well with straight backs. Pictures of Italian countrysides were mounted on the walls and the lighting was soft as was the Italian music playing in the background.

He was seated facing the door, awaiting his mother's arrival. Small butterflies played in his stomach and he felt a nervous tension drumming through his body. He picked up his phone from its place on the right of his table setting and glanced at the time, realizing that it was still 5 minutes until his mother was supposed to arrive. She was usually prompt, her WASP upbringing instilling in her the importance of not wasting anyone's time. He looked up and smiled when he saw her gracefully coming in the door. She waved at him and made her way back to his table. Leaning down, she placed a quick kiss on his cheek and then sat down.

"I was so happy you called yesterday to invite me to lunch. It's been too long since I've eaten at Erio's. I just love their Eggplant Parmesean. No one makes it like they do." Jennifer picked up her silverware wrapped in the traditional heavy linen napkin, rolled it open, placing her silverware in their proper place on the table and then setting the napkin in her lap.

"I was in the city and I thought it would be nice to visit, just the two of us." Justin smiled and picked up the menu, reading the many options on the multi- page booklet.

The waitress came and set two glasses of water on the table.
"Can I get you something to drink?"

"I'd like a glass of white wine," Jennifer said as she watched her son across the table. "The house brand is fine."

"Just a Coke for me."

The waitress wrote the orders down and said, "I'll be right back with your drinks and some bread.

Justin studied the menu again, trying to pick something. He was too nervous to eat and he knew if he told Brian that, he would just laugh and look at him incredulously. Finally laying down the menu he gave his mother a small smile.

"Is everything okay Justin?" She recognized the slight strain in his neck shoulders and the way his smile didn't quite fill his face.

Justin frowned, realizing that his mom, Brian and Daphne were the only people he really could not fool with his cool aloofness. He was pleased that his mother recognized the slight tension, but he was still nervous.

"No. Nothing is wrong, but there is something I wanted to talk to you about."

Jennifer took a deep breath, quickly running through her mind all the possible scenarios of "nothing is wrong but I want to talk" that Justin would entertain. She didn't speak, waiting for him to continue.

"Brian and I have been talking a lot lately." He wanted to start out small, not come out and tell her his news right away. He didn't want to tease or tantalize her, but instead wanted to determine her reaction before he made his announcement.

"Ok. Brian and you have been talking." She didn't want to speculate on the topic. She took a roll from the bread basket that the waitress had delivered to their table a few moments ago. Tearing it open, she placed the two sides on the bread plate and took some butter from the small round butter dish and placed that on her plate as well. She proceeded to butter one half of the roll and then tore off a small piece to eat it.

"Maybe I should have had a shot of Beam," he joked before continuing with his story. "How did you decide you were ready for me?" Justin plunged into the conversation, hoping his mother would get the gist of his talk.

She looked at him, understanding the anxiety. With a small smile she answered. "We had talked about children, most couples do at some time. Even if they decide not to have them, the conversation usually comes up."

"So I was planned?"

"Yes. We wanted to have a baby." The question threw her off a little. It wasn't everyday your adult son talks about your family planning decisions. She hoped she wasn't blushing, but it was a little embarrassing to discuss your sex life, albeit by proxy.

"I want to have a child." He drew a deep inhale after making the statement. The reason for the get together was now on the table and he hoped that his mother would be supportive.

"You want to have a child," she repeated his statement giving herself a few moments to digest the words. She looked at her son's eager face, recognizing the desire for approval from her, his mother. "And Brian?"

Justin reached for the rolls, taking one from the basket and repeating the routine his mother had recently completed to take a bite from the home made roll. He sucked in his lip and bit it slightly.

"He's okay with it."

"Justin?" she asked, the question obvious without being spoken.

"A few months ago, before the stalker incident..." Justin shivered when he mentioned the event, even though he assured people that he was fine with the outcome. "Daphne and I were talking about kids and she made a comment about me being a dad. I liked the idea but told her it wouldn't happen since Brian didn't want that type of commitment. During the time we were dealing with "him" Linds brought Gus around a lot. Partly because he likes to paint and hang with us but partly to serve as a distraction for me." Justin took a second and third bite of his roll and then took a drink of his Coke. "I realized that a child is a legacy that I could leave, even if I never picked up a paint brush or created another piece of art. Brian and I talked about it and he said if I wanted a child, he was okay with it."

The waitress brought their food, telling them the plates were hot. Jennifer picked up her fork, taking a small bite of her favorite dish. The mixture of tomatoes and cheese with a slight breading was delicious. "Mmmm," she said as she savored the delicacy.

"I hear a hesitation."

"I think it's what I want, a child- a legacy, but it's a daunting task."

"Raising a child is a life time commitment. True. But it's a life time reward as well."

"Did you ever regret having me and Molly?"

"No. Any mother that regrets having her children should never have been a mother."

"Maybe I shouldn't have a child."

Jennifer reached across the table, laying her hand on her son's hand. "Every parent has fears about being a good parent. We don't do everything perfectly and we make plenty of mistakes, but people make mistakes even if they aren't parents."

"So you don't think this is a bad idea?"

"Sweetheart. What I think isn't important. This is a decision for you and Brian."

"Do you think I'll make a good dad?"

"Yes. I see the way you interact with Gus and he isn't even your biological child."

"I've known him since he was born. Was there the night he came into the world. It's the most natural thing in the world to love him. He's an extension of the man I love, the man I chose to spend my life with. Why wouldn't I love him?"

"You have your answer. A child is an extension of the person you love and I know that Brian loves you unconditionally. I take it you would be the biological father?"

"Yes. Brian is Gus' father and he understands that I want this child to be my biological son or daughter." He thought about what his mother said about loving the child when you love the parent and it did make perfectly good sense. "So you don't think Brian would have an issue loving my biological child?"

"If Brian Kinney says he will raise a child with you; I think that is all the truth you need. Brian doesn't agree to things he dislikes."

"So, how far along in this process are you? Do you have any idea who will carry the child? Are you going to hire a surrogate or use someone you know?"

"We aren't sure. We don't think we want to ask Daphne or Mel or Linds. Asking Linds would mean that Gus and the baby would at least share some DNA, but we both agree Linds is not a good choice. She has enough difficulty separating Brian and Gus in her mind and adding another child would just be asking for trouble."

Jennifer frowned and looked a little confused at Justin's statement. "Separating Brian and Gus?"

"While she knows that Brian and she are not a couple, sometimes she acts like the three of them are a little nuclear family. I think she secretly has this fantasy of them being married and Gus is their child. The difficulty being Brian is a homosexual and she's a lesbian, or at least Bi- sexual."

"I didn't know that. It must make things difficult at times."

"Yes. She uses Gus as a pawn when she wants Brian to do things. I feel sorry for Gus and Brian. Brian is really enjoying being a father to Gus, but it seems to me she thwarts his efforts at times. She tells him he'd rather go to the bars or to some orgy rather than hang out with Gus. It really hurts Brian."

"Brian seems very attentive when I've seen him with Gus. I think he makes a great father."

"So do I, but he's always fearful he'll be like his father and he doesn't want to do that."

"Honey, Brian is a very caring man. He wouldn't have come to the hospital every night to check on you if you didn't matter. Whatever his parents did or didn't do when he was a child, he learned compassion and he demonstrates that with everyone he cares about." Jennifer smiled at Justin, hoping her words would assure him.

"Justin. I love Brian. I know we had a rocky start, but I really do care deeply about him and his happiness. I've seen him with Gus and there is obvious love there. I don't think either of you should worry that Brian's less than stellar childhood will result in harming your child."

"NO!!!! He would never hurt our child. He gets upset when Mel and LInds even yell at Gus, even when he deserves it. I just don't want to put him in a position where he's uncomfortable."

"All parents get upset, Justin. We all yell and lose it when we shouldn't. It's about being human. It's important for a child to be loved."

"I know. Do you think we should have a child?" Justin looked eagerly at his mother; an adult wanting acceptance of a life changing decision. He now understood what it meant when people said that you were always your parent's child. He took a drink from his water glass and glanced at the crowd in the restaurant. People were enjoying their meal, some talking animatedly and others softly whispering. Life was happening all around him and his major decision was only one of many that were being made at that point in time.

"Justin, I can't make that decision. It's not up to me whether you do this or not. I will love you regardless of your decision." Jennifer saw a glimpse of her possible future as a grandmother and she liked that vision. She was mentally picking out blankets and books for the unborn child. "It's a big decision. You have to find someone to carry the baby, especially if you don't want to use one of your friends."

"I know. I really want this. I think we'd make great parents. And, we'd have a huge extended family to help. I can just imagine you as a grandma, rocking and cooing a baby." Justin too was picturing a nursery painted with a soothing theme, maybe an ocean or a garden. There would be soft colors on the wall and a few mobiles hanging from the ceiling to entertain the infant.

"I'd like that. Either way you decide, I'll support your decision, honey."

"Thanks mom." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

Jennifer studied her son. He was a far cry from the young naïve 17 year old who was picked up by Brian. She had learned that story from Debbie many years later and was happy that she hadn't known the whole truth at the time. She had come to love Brian as her son's partner and only thought of their rocky start on rare occasions. She hadn't really thought about him wanting a child or being a father, but now that the topic had been broached, she thought it was an excellent choice. But as she told Justin, it was a decision she could not make.

"What else have you been doing lately? It's been a while since we talked."

"I've been busy in the studio and I've been working with Carol to set up a series of small shows. I've decided that I'd like to show my work in a variety of settings, not just the major galleries. When Brian and I have a child, I may be limited in my travel for a few years. We decided I'd like to gain exposure to some smaller markets as well as the major ones."

"You really have thought a lot about having a family," she said as she finished her lunch.

‘Yes. We have. Sometimes it feels that this is all we've discussed in the last month." Justin finished the last of his food and took a drink from his Coke. "As a gay couple, there are so many more steps we have to complete. It's not like we can wake up one day and decide ‘okay, let's try and get pregnant'. We have to consider who's going to carry the baby, find a good OB and hospital, decide how much the mother will be involved, take care of legal issues and then the easy part is getting pregnant. Well, that may not be easy either, but there is so much preliminary work."

"How far along are you in the process?"

"We've discussed the legal stuff and agreed we want a child. The next step is finding someone to have the baby."

The waitress came to take their plates away.

"Can I interest you in any dessert today? Our specialty is cheesecake. We also have a lovely happy hour special on drinks that starts in fifteen minutes."

Jennifer looked at her watch, not realizing they had been at the restaurant for so long. "No, thank you. I have to get back to work." She looked at Justin to see if he wanted anything.

"No, just the check please."

"Brian and I are meeting with a surrogate tomorrow and I think there is another meeting next week. We plan to start very soon." The waitress brought the check to the table and Justin picked it up.

"I'm happy for you, sweetheart. This is an exciting time for both of you."

"I hope you're right." Justin took out his credit card and laid it on the bill. The waitress took the placard and returned a few moments later with the receipt. He signed it and left a nice tip. Leaning over the table, he kissed his mother and then got up from the table together.

"I'll talk to you later this week. Remember, not a word, mom."

"Of course, Justin. I respect your privacy."

They walked out of the restaurant; each going in different directions.

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian walked into Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle, ready to eat some traditional Irish pub food. He'd purchased his loft before loft living was chic, but now the downtown "Strip area" had become the new hip, luxury area to live. Thankful he lived closer to Liberty Avenue and the haunts he frequented, he still appreciated the transformed area of the city with its array of shops, restaurants and lofts overlooking the riverfront. If he was willing to live with "the breeders," this area would have appealed to him. He'd asked Lindsay to meet him here for lunch as it was close to the Bloom Gallery and he knew she enjoyed spending time with him away from "their family".

The host greeted him and he asked for a table for two in the back. He wanted to be far away from the public as possible. The host left two menus and Brian perused it as he waited for Lindsay.

He heard his stomach growl, silently blaming Justin as he missed his guava juice and toast this morning due to a second tryst in the shower. The memory brought a smile to his face, despite his hunger. He was still amazed that after 8 years of sleeping with the same man, he still lusted after his body. Truth be told, it was more than lust, but no one need know that little secret; although he imagined most of the family knew it, they just knew better than to say it out loud. And of course that love for the man he'd married was going to leap into the ultimate step; they were going to have a child together. Hence the meeting with Lindsay today was set to break the news.

Lindsay appeared at the table as he contemplated yet again how to tell her of this latest development in his life. She kissed him on the cheek and took some loose strands of her hair, putting them behind her ear.

"Hi. Sorry I'm a bit late. This area has gotten so busy; I could barely find a place to park. I saw the cutest shop on the way here. There was a gorgeous rug in the window that I know would just look great in the foyer. Even though this area is close to work, I rarely go this way." She picked up her menu and looked over the many offerings. "What are you going to have?"

The waitress arrived at that moment, sparing Brian from having that conversation which in his mind sounded too breeder for his taste.

"I'll have the crabcakes and a Newcastle."

"And for you?" the waitress asked as she wrote Brian's order on her pad.

"I'll have the veggie platter and a diet Coke."

The waitress left and took their menus.

"How is Justin? I haven't seen him in a few weeks. He must be really busy with his next show." Linsday smiled as she looked at Brian.

"He's fine. We're looking forward to spring break and having Gus for the week. Justin has a whole itinerary planned out."

"He's eight years old, not some old tourist on a cruise ship who needs every minute planned." Lindsay frowned at Brian, hoping he would see that all the activities were a bad idea.

"Come on, Linds, I'm teasing. Justin does have a few things planned, but basically they plan on hanging out and seeing what develops. I'm planning on taking a few days off too. He's growing up way too fast."

The waitress brought their drinks and Brian took a drink of his beer, savoring the taste. The beer here was real beer, not the watered down stuff they called beer at Woodys'.

"You said you wanted to talk. What was so important that you didn't want to meet at the diner?"

"Justin and I have been discussing some big changes in our lives and we've decided to have a child."

Lindsay's mouth opened wide and she frowned deeply. "Brian, I'm really where I want to be in my career. I don't think I can afford to get pregnant right now. Maybe in another 6 months or a year."

Brian took several drinks from his beer as he tried to keep from laughing.

"We weren't asking you to carry the child."

"But what about Gus? Don't you think he should be related to a child that you and Justin have?"

"Gus will still have us as his fathers. That won't change. We've decided that Justin will provide the sperm for this one, but we are going to raise it together."

"Oh."

Lindsay had so many thoughts running through her head at the moment, she didn't know which one to voice. She was angry that they didn't ask her to carry the baby. If she carried the child, Gus and the new child would be half siblings and share DNA. And of course, if she had a second child that she could share with Brian, it would mean that she would have influence over him for a long time. On the other hand she was relieved as she told Brian she didn't want to get pregnant at this time. She was at a critical juncture in her career and didn't want to stop to have a baby. Gus had to be considered as well. How would he react to a child in Brian's life, especially one that lived with him all the time? She feared what ramifications that would have.

"Have you really thought about this, Brian? A child is a big adjustment. You won't be able to just fuck when you want to." She decided to go for the jugular, knowing how much Brian and Justin had sex.

"There's more to life than fucking, Linds." Brian had been ready for her objections and they had actually talked about the consequences of having a child on their sex life.

Lindsay almost spit out her water at Brian's statement.

"I don't think I would've believed anyone if they told me you would ever make that statement. I know how much you and Justin have sex. I just can't see you changing."

"People change. I'm not here to debate our ability to change our sex life or any other part of our lives. This is something that we have decided to do and I thought I should tell you."

"When we had Gus, it was a huge adjustment. I just wanted to be sure that you were aware."

"Again, Lindsay. I've been with Gus since he was a baby and he's spent a lot of time with me and us. Sure I don't have him 24/7 year round, but I'm not oblivious. This is something Justin really wants and I'm his partner."

Lindsay saw her chance to question his commitment. "Is this something you want? I know Justin wants it; he's always wanted a family, even when he was in high school he talked about it. But I want to know if it's really something you want. If you really aren't with him, it's going to be a disaster."

"Yes, I want it. I never thought I would want to raise a child, but the more we discuss it the more I realize I do want it."

"Who's going to have the baby? Daphne?"

"We're not sure yet. It won't be Daphne, though. She'll make a great aunt, but Justin and she talked about it and they both agree she's not the right person."

"Finding a surrogate can be really scary. You never know until you hold that baby's papers in your hand that it is really yours. Can you handle that uncertainty?"

"We know what we're doing. W've been around Gus since he was born and this is a well thought out decision. I'm sure you and Mel had many discussions about getting pregnant." Brian finished the last of his beer and waved to the waitress to bring another. He was getting angry at Lindsay but didn't want to say anything he would regret.

The waitress brought another beer and their food. They ate in silence for a few minutes.

"I'm sorry Brian. Your news just really threw me. It's so out of the blue. I know you're a great parent to Gus and I'm sure you will love being a parent to this child as well. I wish you all the best." Lindsay hoped her WASP training would come across as sincere, but she knew she better apologize or risk angering Brian even more. Somehow she knew this unborn child would not be a welcome addition for everyone in their family.

"Sorry's bullshit." Brian didn't need to explain as everyone in his inner circle knew his personal philosophy.

Lindsay ate a few more bites from her lunch and looked at her watch. "I better be getting back. I have a conference call at 2:00." Standing up, she kissed Brian's cheek and said, "Thanks for lunch. Talk to you later this week to discuss Gus' visit."

Brian finished his beer and signaled the waitress for a third. As he drank his beer, he reviewed his lunch with Lindsay, second guessing his decision to tell her before they had chosen a surrogate. "Fuck them all," he said to himself. "We want to have a god damn baby, then we will have a god damn baby." He signaled for the check and left the waitress a big tip.

Walking back to his car, he grabbed his phone out of his pocket and called Justin.

TBC

Chapter Text

After Justin left his mom, he drove to Daphne's office hoping she'd be available. It was Wednesday afternoon and she often had a lighter schedule on that day. He greeted her assistant, Sheila. She was a stunning woman and was dressed in a white blouse and flowing pants that accented her mocha skin. Looking up from her paperwork, she greeted Justin with a smile.

"Daphne just finished meeting with her 1:00 patient and her 2:00 cancelled. You can go in for a bit, but knock first, she may be dictating," Sheila said as she picked up the papers on the desk to get them ready to file.

Justin knocked and heard the familiar ‘come in" from the other side of the door.

Daphne looked up from her notes and waved Justin toward the couch. He stopped at the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water from the shelf. Motioning toward Daphne with the bottle, she nodded that she would like one as well.

Daphne clicked off her recorder and put away her notes, turning toward Justin and grabbing the water he offered. "What brings you by in the middle of the afternoon? I'd think you have a super busy schedule with your upcoming show."

"I had lunch with my mom and was in the area. I have a few errands to run this afternoon but wanted to stop by and tell you the news." Justin took a swallow of the water and played with the bottle, twirling it around.

"News? Did you get offered a great commission? Are you going to exhibit at MOMA? Brian's already married you, so it can't be that. Do Tell!"

"Remember a few months back when you and I had lunch at the mall. You know, before the whole stalker shit?"

"We had a lot of lunches back then. You were still recovering from your car accident and not a 100% yet. Why don't you refresh my memory?" Daphne said, even though she was fairly certain that she remembered the luncheon in question.

"We were talking about me being a father. Remember I told you that Brian would never go for the idea so it was a moot point?"

"Yeah I remember. I told you that you'd make a great parent." She remembered the conversation vividly and had planned on bringing the subject up again but then the whole fiasco with the stalker had happened and she put it on hold. She was pleased to see that Justin remembered the conversation.

Justin took another drink of the water and crossed and uncrossed his legs several times. He wondered why he was nervous since Daphne had been supportive of the idea.

"Brian and I have been talking and we've decided to have a baby." He looked at her as he made the statement, watching for signs of excitement or disapproval. The stalker had changed him and he wondered if he really was ready for this next step. He pulled in his lip, tugging at the pink flesh, unconsciously worrying it as he pushed the uncertainty from his mind.

Daphne stood up from her chair and went over to Justin, giving him a huge hug and kissing his face. "That is so exciting. Who is going to be the mom? Lindsay? Mel? Someone else? I'd offer, but I don't think that would be a good idea. I'd rather be Aunty Daphne."

Justin hugged her back and he could feel a sigh of relief coming out of his mouth. "I'm so glad you think this is a good thing. I just talked to my mom and she wouldn't really give me an opinion but I think she was pretty supportive. It's damn scary to think of being totally responsible for a little person's well-being."

"You and Brian are very happy together and while he's loved you for a long time, he's finally at a place where he can admit it freely. Raising a child together is the next step and I know you will both grow even closer when it's born. I think this is so exciting and I still think you will make a great parent." Daphne returned to her seat behind her desk and swallowed some of her water.

"As for the mother, we aren't sure yet. We don't want anyone in the family. There is too much game playing with Lindsay when it comes to Gus and we both agreed that she would not be a good choice. Mel just had a baby with Michael and I really don't want our child to have any connections to the Novotny's. Deb has been great to me; she's a second mom, but Michael is a different story. He's sometimes pretty good, but other times, I think he still believes he should be the one in Brian's bed, not me. Well, that may be a little off, but I still believe he thinks of Brian as a player and keeps waiting for us to break up."

"Well, I agree there are some unusual dynamics in that group. I know you'll find the right person. I'm so excited for you. I can't wait to hold the littlest Kinney -Taylor or Taylor - Kinney. Have you thought about last names yet?"

"Geez, Daph. We don't even have a woman to carry the child yet, let's get it made before we start worrying about how to address it." Justin laughed at Daphne's banter, loving that his best friend was so supportive of this important life choice. He should have known that Daphne would support him; she'd always believed in Brian and him as a couple.

Daphne's phone buzzed. "Sorry Jus, but that is my alarm telling me I have 5 minutes until the next appointment. Call me in a few days and we'll go out to celebrate in style." She got up from her chair and hugged him again, and then opened the door to let him out.

He left the office and went to run his errands for the afternoon. He decided to stay in town, knowing that Brian was supposed to meet with Lindsay for a late lunch to share their news with her. He wasn't sure how that would go but he feared it might not go as well as his visits with his mom and Daphne. He thought a night in town might do them both some good.

 

 

 

Brian walked into Red Cape comics a few minutes to closing time. There were a few customers in the shop and Michael was standing at the counter watching the young man with the Spider man shirt look at the latest Batman comic. Michael looked toward the door when the chime rang announcing a customer. Smiling when he saw Brian, he came out from behind the counter to greet his friend with a hug.

"What brings you here; you don't usually come this way?"

"Can't a guy visit his friend without the second degree?"

"Sure, but..."

"Okay. You're right. I wanted to talk to you." Brian looked at the two customers in the shop, wishing they would make their purchases and leave so he could talk to Michael.

"Everything okay? You're not sick? Justin's okay?" Michael said quickly, running through all the scenarios that could mean trouble. While he and Brian were not joined at the hip like they were in high school and their early twenties, they were still close and Michael still felt that he was Brian's best friend. It wasn't typical that Brian stopped at the store. While it was on Liberty Avenue, Brian seemed to be very busy with Kinnetik and didn't just pop in unless there was a reason.

"No one is sick or dying." Brian picked up the latest issue of "Rage" and flipped through the pages. It was hard to believe that it was still going strong 7 years later. Who would have thought a gay superhero would be so popular. He wasn't very fond of some of the storylines, especially those that mirrored his and Justin's life, but since art imitates life, he accepted their ideas.

The two patrons purchased their comic books and Michael looked at his watch. It was 5:50, just 10 minutes shy of normal closing time. He walked to the door and flipped the open sign to the closed side and locked the door.

"You say no one is sick and no one is dying, so what brings you here on a weekday?" Michael sat on the wooden stool behind the cash register as he looked at Brian.

"Justin and I are having a baby. Just thought you should know." Brian smiled a slight grin as he shared the news.

Michael looked at Brian trying to see if he was serious.

"A baby? What the hell for?"

"Justin wants a child." Brian bristled as he didn't want to have to defend their decision.

"What about you? I can't believe you would want a child. You have Gus and you barely see him. Why would you want a baby?" Michael was mentally listing all the reasons why this was a bad idea. He knew he had to convince Brian that he really didn't need to go this far to make Justin happy. Michael opened the cash drawer to count the money but decided that he needed to put all his mental effort into the conversation.

"Brian, this is just another ploy of Justin's to tie you to him. A baby is a huge commitment. Whatever happened to being just the sperm donor? It was a great idea with Gus. You get to be a part time dad and you choose when you want to be with him. Don't you realize that fatherhood is a huge job? I just can't see you doing this." Michael closed the cash drawer and looked at Brian, trying to judge if his words were making any impact.

Brian took several deep breaths before answering. He didn't want to regret anything he said but he wasn't sure that was possible. He touched his forefinger and said, "First, I love Justin and this is a decision we have made together. He didn't blackmail me or promise me a 100 blow jobs to trick me." The thought of Justin giving him a 100 blow jobs took his mind off the conversation for just a moment.

"Second," he said as he touched his middle finger. "Why is fatherhood okay for you and not for me? Sure the munchers asked you to be the donor for JR but you are very active in her life."

"Third," and he touched his ring finger. "I would be more active in Gus' life if Lindsay would let me. I love him more than I ever expected." Brian looked around the comic shop, seeing the old racks and the generally run down nature of the business. The front glass case had a large crack in the far right corner. The floors were in need of a good stripping and cleaning and the windows definitely needed washing. He wondered if Michael's shop was a mirror of his life; tired and worn out.

"This is a decision that Justin and I have made together, regardless of your acceptance of it. We are happy with the idea of expanding our family. I just thought you would like to hear it from me and not from the gay grape vine." Brian picked up his briefcase that he had placed on the floor. "I hope you have enough sense not to share your thoughts with Justin. He is my partner and if you push this issue, you will lose. I will choose him over you. Don't make me choose, Michael." Brian gave one final glance to the shop and walked out the door.

After he left the building, he walked a few blocks to his car. Opening the back door, he placed his briefcase on the seat and closed the door. Leaning against the door he took a big sigh and closed his eyes to gather his thoughts. He replayed his conversation with Lindsay and with Michael. They were so caught up in their visions of Brian as he was years ago. He wondered why he never realized their desire to keep him as the club boy he used to be. His desire to be a father and to parent a child with his partner seemed anathema to both of them. They couldn't imagine him wanting to be anything but a party boy with a different trick every night. Yet, when he looked at Justin and watched him with Gus as well as other children, his heart burst with pride. He didn't want to deny Justin that opportunity of being a father and since he was Justin's partner, he would join him in that role.

Jennifer had been very supportive of their decision to have a child; although she said it was their decision. Lindsay and Michael had obviously been against the idea, questioning Brian's desire in that role and wondering if Justin manipulated him to agree. He wondered how the rest of the family would react. After a few minutes, he realized he really didn't care. He and Justin had decided this was what they wanted and they were going to do it. He knew it would be hard, but also very rewarding.

Pulling out his phone, he called Justin.

"Hey," he said, a smile immediately filling his face as he heard the familiar voice.

"Hey," Justin heard Brian's voice and recognized the angst. "What's up? Something happen at Kinnetik?'

"You are amazing, you know that?"

"So I've been told. But what's going on?"

"I just left Michael's shop and his reaction was even worse than Lindsay's. I thought he would be happy. He's been going on about marriage and family like he was the one who invented the concept. Now that I want to have a family, it's like that is the worst idea of the century."

"I'm sorry. I know you wanted a different response."

"Sorry's bullshit."

"I know, but I still am sorry. Hopefully when the baby comes, he'll see that you're serious and will change his tune."

"Fuck it. I don't care what Michael or Lindsay or anyone thinks. I was just being courteous by telling them. This is our decision." Brian opened the car door and closed it with a little more force than necessary.

"Your car didn't do anything," Justin said as he heard the slamming door. "Why don't you meet me at that little Thai place right off Liberty and we can have dinner. Afterwards, I'll think of something to keep your mind off Lindsay and Michael.

"Sounds like a plan. I'll meet you there in a few minutes." Brian started to end the call, but then realized he didn't know where Justin was and how long it might take him. "Where are you?"

"I'm at the diner."

"Is Debbie working? I can just see it now, our news will have traveled throughout Liberty Avenue and we aren't even pregnant yet."

"Debbie's not here, but Emmett and Ted just walked in. I better get off before they catch a few key phrases."

"Later."

"Later."

TBC

Chapter Text

"Hey." Justin answered his phone as he was leaving the restaurant. The traffic was steady but had slacked off since the beginning of the lunch rush and the noise was not too loud. "How'd lunch go with Lindsay?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing. How was lunch with your mom?"

"Good. She seems supportive of us having a child. I think she really likes the idea of being a grandmother." Justin smiled as he thought of his mother holding a tiny infant. Her reassurance that the decision was his and Brian's helped solidify their plans. He knew that his mother's approval was important, but also understood that he and Brian would ultimately be making this journey themselves.

"Lindsay was her typical self, thinking of her needs first. Her first reaction was to try and tell me it wasn't a good idea since she was just getting her career established and it would not be a good time for her to get pregnant." Brian walked toward his car in the adjacent lot to the restaurant. Unlike Lindsay, he'd chosen to spend the money to park close by instead of hunting for a free parking spot.

"Oh, wow. I hadn't thought about that angle. Do you want Lindsay to carry the child?" Justin asked the question, already dreading the possible answer. Brian's relationship with Lindsay was difficult and at times, he wished she were not so prominent in their lives. But as the mother of his child, they were bound forever. He looked both ways as he stepped off the curb, assuring himself there were no incoming cars.

"Hell no! It is difficult enough with her being Gus' mother. I provided the sperm when they wanted a baby, but this time it would be our child. I can see major roadblocks in that scenario." Brian clicked his key fob opening his door. Closing the door, he placed the key in the ignition, but did not start the car.

Justin let out a sigh of relief. He wasn't particularly fond of Lindsay carrying their child, but if Brian had wanted it, he would have agreed. "I'm glad you think that's a bad idea. I understand that finding a surrogate will be hard, but I really can't see going forward with a member of our family as the biological mother." He walked the few blocks toward the gallery, pleased that Brian and he were on the same page.

"Where you headed? Don't you have to be at the gallery this afternoon?" Brian asked.

Brian didn't respond to Justin's statement, knowing that it was superfluous. They'd beat that idea to a dead pulp. He had a sour taste in his mouth from Lindsay's abrupt departure but he didn't feel the need to let Justin know this. Lindsay was his problem, mostly and he made that decision when he agreed to father a child for her and Melanie. Outside a robin was building a nest in a nearby tree. He watched as the bird flew several times back and forth to the tree adding little bits of twine and twigs to build the future home for its chicks.

"Yeah, but I think I'll stop at Daphne's first. I told Rosa to fix dinner for both of us. You don't have any late appointments, do you?" He looked in the shop windows as he walked, enjoying the changing displays as a harbinger of the new season.

"I'm headed back to the office. I promised Cynthia I'd look at the boards for the new Remson campaign before the weekend. I should probably stop by Michael's shop and tell him about the baby. The gay grapevine works pretty fast and I don't want to hear about he didn't hear about the baby first hand. I should be home by 7:00. Later." Brian watched the bird for a few minutes, thinking that even birds prepare for their young. He and Justin had certainly put a lot of thought into having a child. So many breeders just got pregnant without a thought. At least this child would be wanted, unlike himself.

"Later." Justin put the phone in his pocket, a warm feeling washing over him as he heard the familiar closing remark. Even after all these years, Brian still never said goodbye. The restaurant was close to the gallery and since the day was mild, he'd chosen to walk instead of taking his car. He enjoyed the feel of the sun on his face and the feeling of spring in the air. Spring was a time for renewal and it seemed appropriate for them to be contemplating a renewal of their relationship by adding a child. He inhaled the air filling his lungs, but started sneezing from all the pollen. He arrived at the gallery where he finished working on the latest arrangement of the upcoming exhibit.

Brian drove to Kinnetik where Cynthia was waiting for him in the conference room. She had the boards set up on easels for Brian to review.

"How was lunch with Lindsay?" she asked, knowing the reason for the lunch in the middle of the week. Usually Lindsay had to entice Brian to dine with her and this was surely a surprise for Lindsay.

"Fine. She's as self-centered as always."

Through the years Brian and Cynthia had developed a close relationship and he shared a lot of personal things with her. She knew about Justin's difficulties in the last few years, first with his head injury and later with the stalker. Brian had shared with her their desire to have a child and she had been very supportive of the plan.

"Self Centered?"

"Evidently her first response was to tell me we shouldn't do this as she was at a place in her career where she couldn't get pregnant. We never asked her to carry the child, nor would we want to. I love Gus more than anything in the world, but there are so many times her fantasy of the three of us being a family is just too much." Brian walked in front of the first board and eyed it critically. He stepped back to view it from afar, trying to get the impact from both angles."

"Do you have anyone in mind to be the biological mother?" Cynthia asked.

"No. It's more like who we don't want to be the mother. Justin and I are going to start interviewing tomorrow. I'm not really keen on the idea of interviewing a potential incubator for my kid, but there really isn't an alternative.

"I might have a solution."

Brian stopped reviewing the latest boards and looked at his long-time assistant and friend. "Care to share?"

"Maybe," she said.

"You offering?"

She colored a little but nodded yes. "I've thought about this a lot since you told me you wanted to have a child with Justin. I'm 34, still young enough to safely have a child. I love both of you. There wouldn't be any weird stuff about who is the parent or mind games like Lindsay plays. You know me and could watch the pregnancy up close and personal. I don't want to be a parent at this point in my life, but this way I could easily be a favorite aunt and help you guys out."

Brian listened and bit at his lip as he digested her logic. It did make perfect sense. It was someone they both knew and trusted and she wouldn't be changing her mind at the end of the pregnancy.

"I'll have to talk to Justin, but I think it is a good idea." He turned back to the easels and started critiquing them; the remnants of the previous 10 minutes locked in his brain for safekeeping.

"I think these will work. Let Byron know I've signed off on them. I'll see you tomorrow.

Brian drove to their home, barely noticing the traffic. He loved living in West Virginia but he often complained about the drive to and from the city. Sometimes, like today, the drive allowed him time to think, and he couldn't stop thinking about Cynthia's offer. As he pulled into the garage he saw Justin's car was already parked. It was early and Rosa would not have dinner ready; therefore he would have an opportunity to talk to Justin before dinner.

As he entered the Tudor mansion, he eyed Justin sitting in the media room watching the big screen television. Walking closer, he recognized Justin's favorite movie, Yellow Submarine playing on their system. Leaning down, he bent over the back of the couch and kissed Justin on the head.

"What's bothering you? You seemed so happy this afternoon. Problems at the gallery?" Brian walked to the front of the couch, sitting next to Justin.

Justin turned toward Brian and gave him a quick welcome kiss on the mouth. "I love you." Justin loved that Brian knew when he was upset without him having to tell him so. He wondered sometimes how others in their little circle didn't recognize Brian's natural intuitiveness but he was happy that he got to see it every day.

Brian nodded his head, choosing not to respond as he thought this was just a prelude to the issues at hand.

"I've been thinking about the conversation with my mom all afternoon. I guess I'm second guessing our decision." He rubbed his hands over each other in nervous tension.

"My mom asked about the biological mother and I told her we were going to use a surrogate. Your comment about Lindsay being the mother made me stop and think. Maybe we should use someone we know. So much can go wrong." He took a deep breath and hoped Brian wouldn't be too unhappy.

Brian took Justin in his arms and held him tight, kissing him lightly on his face and head. Releasing him after a few moments, he sat back with a huge grin on his face.

"I have the perfect solution. We can use someone we know but she isn't part of our crazy mixed up family."

Justin sat for a few minutes thinking about Brian's words and looked at his partner with confusion, a slight frown on his lips. "We can't use Molly- unless you are the father and I know that you wouldn't even consider Claire. We already know we don't want to use Mel, Linds or Daphne. Who else do we know?"

"Cynthia,"

"Cynthia? Like in your assistant, Cynthia?" Justin looked at Brian like he'd lost his mind. "True, we both know her very well and she is a friend to both of us; but carrying our baby- that goes beyond..."

"She offered," Brian said softly.

"She offered? When? How? Why didn't you tell me? Are you sure? Was she serious?" Justin rattled off each question in such quick succession that Brian didn't have any time to respond.

"When I returned from my lunch with Lindsay, we talked."

"You didn't ask her, did you? I know she's your employee and I think she would do a lot of you, but that is going beyond normal call of duty." Justin remembered the fiasco with Kip many years ago and while this was very different, it still had some traipsing's of sexual harassment.

"No, I did not ask her. She volunteered. Now let me talk and be quiet. I know you can keep your mouth shut for a few minutes, even when you aren't eating or giving me the most fantastic blow job in the Pitts," Brian said tongue in cheek. He knew he needed Justin to be quiet and he needed to convince him that this was a reasonable sound idea.

"I told Cynthia about our plans for having a child a few weeks ago. She told me she was happy for us and thought this would be a great next step. That was the end of the conversation. Today when I came back from lunch she asked how the lunch with Lindsay had gone. I told her about Lindsay's crazy response about it not being a good time for her to get pregnant, as if she were the only one who could carry a child for us. She's seen first-hand all the crazy manipulations and games Lindsay has played with Gus and us and understands that Lindsay being the mother of this child would be a bad idea for everyone. As we were talking, she said she would be the biological mother, but only wants to be an aunt to the child. Her clock is ticking and she wants the opportunity but doesn't want to raise a child."

"She'd do that for us?" Justin practically was bouncing on the cushions.

"If she offered, she was serious. What do you think?"

Justin only had to think for a moment before his megawatt smile filled his face.

"Perfect. We know her and could be a part of the pregnancy without intruding on her life. Well, sort of... pregnancy is an intrusion. We trust her and wouldn't have to worry that she'd decide to keep the baby. Oh, this is such great news. When can we start?" Justin reached out to hug Brian and searched for his mouth to give him a loving kiss.

"Soon. Even though we know Cynthia, we still need to protect both of us. I'll talk to the lawyer tomorrow and the three of us will meet in a week or so to sign the contract."

"Contract? You didn't sign a contract with Linds." Justin looked at Brian with concern.

"No, but it would have probably been a good idea. I was doing a friend a favor and really didn't think I'd be involved as a parent, but we all know how that turned out. I'm not sorry that Gus is here nor am I sorry that I provided the sperm, but I think things would have been easier if there were some legal protection involved."

"Brian. When you did that for Linds you didn't think you'd want to be a part of Gus' life. Back then I bet you would have just signed away all your rights. I'm glad that it worked out the way it did."

Brian thought for a moment. "You are the smart one." He eyed Justin in his pale blue shirt and washed denim jeans. "I think a celebration is in order. Dinner won't be ready for at least an hour."

"I like the way you think." Justin followed Brian up the stairs and they celebrated the next step in the long process to having a family.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Week 18

 

Justin was restless, tossing and turning all night. He tried to stay on his side of the bed, allowing his husband to sleep but he thought he was only partially successful. It was a big day for him, well for both of them really, but especially him. He was going to see his child.

Cynthia had gotten pregnant about 3 months after she offered to carry their child. The doctors said this timeframe was normal. Justin and Brian had been on pins and needles for the entire process, now having a better appreciation for all that traditional couples experienced when trying to have a baby. She'd had an early ultrasound, basically to confirm that she was pregnant and there was a heartbeat but Justin had not accompanied her to that one. Today's ultrasound would be his first introduction to their child. Brian had decided that he would leave the doctor visits to Justin and Cynthia. With the lines between employer and employee were already very blurry, they had all agreed that Brian would not discuss Cynthia's pregnancy at work.

The only allowance being her absence from work for doctor appointments or blood work due to the pregnancy. Cynthia refrained from discussing the pregnancy for the same reason. She hadn't started to show yet, but she knew that her clothes were getting tight and soon she would have to start shopping for maternity wear. Brian had already opened an account at Motherhood Maternity and Nordstrom so she would not have any additional expenses. She was to give the receipts to Ted, the only Kinnetik employee who knew about her situation. Ted had been extremely pleased that Brian and Justin trusted him with this information and was very excited for their child's arrival.

The alarm went off, jolting Justin from his half-doze. His initial response was to pull the pillow over his head, but Brian pulled the pillow off.

"Rise and shine," he said as he kissed Justin on the back of the head.

"I'm sleeping," Justin said as he reached for the pillow to return it to his head.

"Should have thought of that last night when you were tossing and turning."

"I'm sorry. I'm just excited."

"Sorry's bullshit," Brian said, the familiar phrase not needing explanation. "Today's a big day and I need my assistant back in the office as early as possible. There is a big meeting with Remson at noon and I have a strategy meeting to plan a new focus group at 4:00." Brian teased Justin, hoping to show his support for the medical side but still showing his need for the professional responsibilities of his assistant. Brian laid the pillow back on the bed and kissed Justin on his head and then smacked his ass. "Time to get up, Sunshine. Better get used to getting up early. Our child will not understand that daddy isn't a morning person."

"Ugh. You think we can convince him/her to sleep in? I think that's a great skill to ingrain in the very young. I hear that if you teach kids early, they can learn anything." Justin looked at Brian with mischief in his eyes.

Brian laughed and swatted Justin's ass a second time. "Come on. Cynthia told me she had an early morning appointment. You don't want the doctor to wait." Brian got out of bed and pulled his side of the blankets up toward the pillow. Justin sighed and stumbled out of bed making his way to the bathroom.

They showered together, enjoying a quick morning tryst, not willing to forego that pleasure. Brian exited the shower, grabbed a towel from the towel warmer and dried off quickly. He dressed for the day in a dark gray Armani suit with a red shirt and a darker red tie showing off his impeccable physique and great sense of style. Justin followed suit and was soon dressed in khaki pants and a blue screened t-shirt. Brian looked at his partner and shook his head.

"Well at least you don't look like a high school student. Dressed like that people might think you're Cynthia's boy toy; silently congratulating her for scoring the young stud. If they only knew you batted for the other team."

Justin laughed at Brian's teasing. He straightened his side of the bed and walked around the bed to give Brian a kiss on the lips. "I guess some people may consider me your boy toy," he said as he teased back.

"Ha Ha," Brian said as he smiled as well, remembering the ribbing he used to receive regarding the age difference between him and Justin. These days, it was something neither of them really thought about. They were equals, each bringing money and experience to the relationship. "What are your plans for the rest of the day?"

"I need to stop by the art supply store and pick up a few brushes and some canvases for Gus. I promised him we would have another lesson when he comes out this weekend. I also have to meet my mom for lunch and have a meeting with Michael about "Rage". I promised him we would discuss another issue."

"Do not let him design the next issue around the baby. This guy is a superhero and I think Rage needs his own life, not a parallel version of ours," Brian said in a stern voice, letting Justin know there was no argument in this area. Brian walked toward the kitchen.

Grabbing a coffee mug from the cabinet, he poured himself a large cup of coffee and placed sugar and creamer in it. After smelling the delicious aroma, he blew on the hot brew and took a sip. Smiling he said, "I'm glad you indulge me and let me get that Brazilian special blend." He took several more swallows and then grabbed a glass for his Guava juice.

"I still don't know how you drink that stuff. It is really vile."

"And this from the man who likes Oreo's and Captain Crunch." Brian finished his juice and coffee, picked up his briefcase from its place underneath the planning desk and kissed Justin on the cheek.

"You going to find out the sex today?"

"Not sure. Do you want to know?"

"Yeah. Since you've got errands in town, are you stopping by Kinnetik?"

"Thought you had a very busy day," Justin said as he grabbed the bag of bagels and untwisted the closure.

"I do, but you can come by if you have time." Unless there was a crisis, Brian always had time for Justin. If the surrogate had been a stranger, he would be attending the appointment but since it was Cynthia, he respected the lines they had agreed upon, but was disappointed that he would miss those milestones.

"Sure," Justin said recognizing Brian's unspoken communication. Justin leaned over and kissed Brian on the mouth and then popped his bagels into the toaster.

Brian left their home and drove to Kinnetik while Justin finished his breakfast. Setting the alarm and gathering the items he needed for the day, he loaded his car and made his way into Pittsburgh where he met Cynthia at the doctor's office.

Cynthia was seated on a small gray and blue leather couch. There were 5 connecting couches making a sort of U on the perimeter of the waiting area and then there was a row of three seats back to back in the middle of the room. There were 8 people in the waiting room and 4 of those were obvious couples. It looked like the single women were there for regular visits as they did not appear pregnant.

Justin walked in and sat next to Cynthia and said, "Good morning."

"Sorry to get you here this early, but we've got a full day at the office and I need to be there to coordinate stuff." Cynthia said as she looked at her phone.

"Brian said the same thing this morning. We could have done this another time. Do you want to reschedule?" Justin looked sheepishly at Cynthia, feeling a little guilty about taking her away from Kinnetik.

"Justin, having a baby is not really something you can move around on your calendar. The appointments are set at regular intervals to ensure everything is going like it's supposed to. I'm always going to be busy at Kinnetik; I just try to schedule my appointments around the less busy times."

"I know, it's just..." Justin stopped in mid-sentence, not sure what he could say that would fit the situation.

"Cynthia," the nurse called as she stepped into the waiting room.

Justin looked at Cynthia and said, "That's us. I'm so excited to see my child."

The other patients in the waiting room gave him an odd look but of course, proper decorum forbid them from asking any questions.

They were led back to the exam room and Cynthia was asked to strip to her bra and put on the paper privacy garments.

Justin said, "I'll step outside and just open the door when you've changed."

The nurse looked at him oddly.

"She's our surrogate," Justin said and opened the door to wait outside.

"You were talking like you knew each other. I apologize." The nurse got out the gown and the paper sheet for Cynthia to put on.

"I've known him and his partner for over 10 years and his partner is my boss."

"You must really like your boss."

"I do. He's the most kind, generous man I know. Just don't tell him that." She laughed, knowing how much Brian would hate being the topic of conversation, especially in an OB office. She changed quickly and opened the door to allow Justin back in. He sat in the chair, but averted his eyes away from her.

She covered herself with the paper sheet as best she could. "Justin, just try to look at my belly."

"Sure. I guess it just occurred to me that if I'm going to be at the birth..."

Cynthia laughed uproariously. "Didn't you take sex ed in that preppy school you attended? The sperm goes in the vagina to meet the egg and at the end of 9 months the baby comes out the same way- through the vagina."

"Do you have to be so graphic?" Justin nodded and smiled. "And yes, I know where babies come from- how they're made and how they're born. But since I knew I was gay from the time I was about 15, I never really paid attention to the details as I knew I was never going to have to worry about getting a girl pregnant. Now, here you are with my child growing inside you." He placed his hand on her belly with a look of pure awe on his face.

The doctor walked in at that moment and Justin quickly removed his hand form Cynthia's abdomen, almost like the touch was burning him.

"It won't hurt the baby. You can touch as much as you want. And you can have intercourse as well. I promise it won't hurt the baby."

"Oh there is no worry there. I won't be having sex with Cynthia but hey Cyn, you can still get Johan to do the deed."

The doctor looked at Justin and Cynthia with a frown, but proceeded with the exam. As he read the previous notes in the file, he nodded his head and then smiled, relieved to see his notes.

"So you are the biological father?" He asked Justin as he took out his stethoscope to listen to Cynthia's heartbeat.

"Yes. We decided I would attend the appointments with her, but now I'm having second thoughts about watching the birth. Not sure I want to see all of Cynthia." Justin admitted.

"We have a long time until that decision is needed. Let's listen to the baby. See how it's doing." He took out a fetal Doppler and placed it on Cynthia's belly and heard the heartbeat. Taking the corresponding ear piece he let Cynthia and then Justin hear the whoosh of the baby's heart.

"It sounds like a washing machine. Is that normal?" Justin asked, concerned when the sound did not match up to his expectations.

"Sounds just like it's supposed to. Let's get you down to the ultrasound room and take a look at your baby."

They went to the ultrasound room and the technician performed the procedure. The technician pointed out the baby's head and legs and arms. They were unable to tell the sex of the child but both of them watched as the computer rendered a 3D picture of the baby.

Handling the printout to Justin, he stared in awe. "Can Cynthia have one too?"

"Sure." The technician printed one for her as well and then wiped the gel off Cynthia. "You can get dressed now. The doctor will meet you back in the exam room."

They returned to the room and the doc joined them a few minutes later. "Everything looks fine. Based on this ultrasound, the baby is about 18 weeks along. That places your due date in late October. We won't need another one unless there is a problem. We'll see you in another month." The doctor reached out his hand to shake Justin's and Cynthia's hand and left the room.

Justin stared at the picture, still taking in the reality of seeing this small human that was his. "Thank you for doing this for us."

"Your welcome. I'd love to stay and chat but I have to get to work. Brian is probably watching the clock, especially since I told him I'd be in by 9:30 and it's that time now."

"He won't fire you." Justin said as he thought of the many times Brian threatened that action with both Cynthia and Ted.

"No, he won't but I'm not showing enough for him to get a visual reminder of my tardiness either. It will be easier next month when I really start to show."

"I'll see you at Kinnetik later. I have some errands to run." They walked out the exam room door and into the lobby of the office. Cynthia made her way to the appointment desk and made an appointment for her next visit and then left for work.

Justin placed his ultrasound printout in his messenger bag and walked to his car.

He ran his errands and went to lunch with his mom, showing her the picture of her future grandchild. As expected, she was very excited and hugged Justin at least five times during their lunch.

When he got to Kinnetik, Cynthia was at her desk and nodded to him that Brian was free. He opened the door and smiled at Brian who looked up from his computer screen.

"My assistant got here about 10:00 and it's almost 2:00. I take it your errands and lunch with Mother Taylor went well," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

"Mom was so excited about seeing the ultrasound. I've got my copy. Want to see?" Justin asked as he starts to dig into his bag to find the precious paper.

"Bring it here." Brian waves at Justin and points to his lap as the preferred seat.

Justin sat on Brian's lap and laid the paper on the desk. Pointing to the picture, he said, "This is the head and these are the babies arms and legs. Here is the butt. Isn't it amazing?"

Brian followed Justin's finger as he pointed out all the strategic places, nodding at each place. "It still looks alien to me, but I'm sure the baby is gorgeous, like you." He kissed Justin on the lips and Justin opened his mouth to share the kiss. Brian's hands started caressing Justin's back and he hugged him tight to his body. Justin felt Brian's erection hitting him, and he pushed down to stimulate him.

Cynthia walked in just as Brian started to turn Justin around so he could straddle him.

"Sorry to interrupt the baby ogling, but I've got Remson on the phone and he wants to talk about the meeting this morning. He has some additional ideas."

"Okay." Brian let Justin go and Justin stood up, giving Brian a quick parting kiss. "See you tonight."

"Later," Brian said as he picked up the phone to answer the call.

"Later," Justin responded as he followed Cynthia out of the office.

"Thank you." He hugged her and then left the building.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Justin and Brian sat at the table in their kitchen as they ate dinner. Justin was still experiencing a high from his and Cynthia's visit with the doctor this morning; he could barely contain his excitement.

"What has you so pumped up? Dinner is not your usual venue for bouncing out of your chair." Brian smiled as he recalled their almost tryst in his office that morning.

"The baby. You know the baby was still kind of an abstract until today. I know Cynthia said she was pregnant but it wasn't real until now." Justin's eyes shown with the excitement he was trying to convey. "It took three months for her to get pregnant. I remember the clinical parts so clearly. Nothing quite so impersonal as coming in a cup and giving your jizz to the doctor so he can then insert it in Cynthia."

"I did the same thing for Linds and it was very weird. I offered to do the deed with her, having had sex with her in the past. It wouldn't have been such a stretch. She declined and I'm really happy she did. I know she has these fantasies of us as a family sometimes and I think if we'd had sex it would be even more difficult." Brian frowned when he thought about the conversation they'd had a few months ago when he told her that he and Justin were going to have a baby. She'd assumed it would be hers to carry again. There was no way that was going to happen. They had enough difficulties coordinating Gus's time with them. He could just see her trying to impose her parenting thoughts, even though she was not going to raise it.

"I could never have sex with Cynthia. I don't think I could ever look her in the face again. I think she'll need to have a full drape over her face when she gives birth. Maybe that will help me separate her from the baby." Justin grimaced as he thought again about her giving birth.

"Seeing the baby on the screen made it real. Cynthia isn't showing yet and she hasn't appeared to have any difficulties with the pregnancy so it really hasn't seemed real until today." Justin stood up from the table and walked to the island where the picture from the ultrasound lay on top of the mail. Picking it up, he looked at the black and white picture and traced his fingers along the prominent features that were pointed out to him by the technician. "It's finally real. I mean we're going to have a baby."

Pushing his chair back from the table, Brian walked over to where Justin stood and stared at the picture as well. "Now where is the head, it all looks like a blob to me," Brian asked, indulging his partner.

Justin dutifully pointed out each feature and traced them with his finger. "I wish the baby would have faced us so we could have determined its sex," he said, realizing that he was disappointed not to know that information.

"Will there be another ultrasound?" Brian asked, hoping the answer was yes so he could put Justin's mind at ease about the baby's sex.

"No. I don't think so. The doctor seemed to indicate that the baby was growing just fine and there wouldn't be any need to do another one. I guess we'll just have to decorate the room with a neutral theme."

"I think we should just put rainbows all over," Brian said tongue in cheek. "That way it will grow up in a gender friendly environment."

"Brian!!!" Justin laughed at the idea of the baby's room resembling the diner with all its rainbows and gay-friendly paraphernalia. "I guess we should really talk about gender roles and how we're going to raise the child," Justin said with all playfulness set aside.

"Let the kid be born first before you start worrying about how we're going to raise it."

"I've been reading how the baby starts to form an identity soon after birth. I really think we should talk about this, Brian. It's important to present a united front when raising a child."

Brian brought his finger and thumb to the bridge of his nose and pushed as if to massage away an impending headache. "Tell me you are not reading child rearing books."

"I'm not reading child-rearing books," Justin repeated.

"Really, Justin? The kid's like the size of a peanut and you're already got him/ her playing with G.I Joe and Barbie at the same time." Brian walked back over to the table and placed his head in his hands, shaking his hand in mock disbelief. After a few moments, he motioned for Justin to come join him at the table.

"A baby is just a big pooping, eating and sleeping machine. I do remember Lindsay telling me that they don't do much until they're 3-4 months old. Even then, there's not much parenting to worry about. We've got a long time to figure this out." Brian leaned over to kiss Justin, but he pulled back from the kiss.

"Not really. That time will go by so fast; we won't even know what hit us. I was just talking to Carol, the new assistant at the gallery. She had a kid about 7 months ago and was telling me the other day, how Gary, that's the kid, is now sitting up and reaching for everything. They have to clean the floor every day so he doesn't put stuff in his mouth. We're going to have to move the tubes of lube out of reach before the baby is here. Don't want the little guy to find some and think its food." Justin jumped up and started pulling open drawers and removing all the supplies from around the kitchen.

"Justin. JUSTIN!!" Brian yelled when he didn't respond the first time. "Sit your pretty bubble butt ass down and take a few deep breaths."

Justin looked at him and started to respond, but returned to his seat.

"First, put all the supplies back where you found them. Second, the baby isn't going to be pulling open drawers or trying to eat the lube for at least a year, probably more since it won't get here for 5 months or so. That gives us plenty of time to baby proof the house." Brian leaned forward and kissed Justin's lips. "I love that you are so worried about the baby's finding our lube, but I don't think that will be our first concern." Brian smiled as Justin nodded his head in agreement. Seeing Justin start to open his mouth, Brian put up his index finger and shook it back and forth for a moment. "One thing at a time. I know how your brain works so let's do this the Justin Taylor way. Go get some paper."

Brian clicked the pen and wrote on the top of the paper:

Baby arrival

"Since you've been reading all the lesbianic articles about new babies, tell me what I need to know."

Justin let out several breaths and inhaled deeply. He didn't realize how much he was worried about the logistics until Brian said they should make the list.

"Set up the nursery- ie the bed, paint the room, get diapers and wipes. We need clothes and blankets and bedding. We have to buy a crib and a mattress. Toys, we need toys that stimulate the baby's brain. Black and white pictures... babies can't see colors for a few months. We'll need a baby monitor since the house is so big and we might not hear the baby if he's sleeping and needs something. We need a stroller and a car seat. And a coat; it will be cold when it's born."

"Jesus. That's a lot of shit."

"Babies take a lot of stuff. We should go shopping for all of it before it gets here. They won't even let you take the baby home without a car seat."

"Ok, gotta buy the car seat before you take it home."

"But Brian, we have to research the car seats and we have to decide if we're going to go with an infant car seat or one that lasts for multiple years. We also have to decide if we're going to buy one or two car seats. Is the baby going to always be in one of our cars or will the other person sometimes have to pick it up?"

"And we haven't even talked about who is going to watch the baby? We have to start interviewing nannies now. I was reading an article the other day that said it takes 6 months or more to find a good nanny."

Justin's voice was raising a few octaves with each successive thought, almost to the point of working himself into another frenzy. Brian reached over to Justin and pushed his shoulders down, physically anchoring him to the chair.

"Slow down, Sunshine. This baby is not getting here tomorrow or even next week. I think we have some time to think about this." Brian picked up the list that he'd been making since Justin started on his binge. Rereading the list, he silently ticked off the items that needed addressing now and the ones that could wait a bit.

"We can start researching the stroller, car seat and crib. Cynthia said she has several nieces and nephews. She can ask her family about that kind of stuff. They've bought it, at least. Even if we aren't using Mel and Linds for the surrogacy stuff, I'm sure they could help us with suggestions regarding a lot of this stuff. We're not the first ones to ever have a baby." Brian talked very softly and he could see Justin visibly relaxing as he provided some much-needed answers and guidance.

"Thank you. I guess the reality of seeing the baby on the screen this morning brought it close to home. Up till now, I guess I didn't really think about all the things a baby needs. We still need to talk about how we're going to raise it. I mean I don't want our child to be the one everyone shakes their head about, thinking it's unruly, rude or poorly disciplined." Justin said as he tries to keep the discussion alive. He knows Brian doesn't like to be accused of talking things to death, but he feels that if he doesn't bring these topics up, they will never discuss any of it.

Brian took several deep breaths and smiled at Justin. "We talked about a lot of the logistics before we made this decision. It wasn't a whim, Justin. We knew going into this that a baby was a big commitment. We decided that a child would be someone we raised together. I have full confidence in our ability to raise a great kid. After all, I practically finished raising you and you didn't turn out half bad," he said, hoping to get Justin laughing a bit.

"I'm the best homosexual I can be; thanks to you. I guess I should have known better. I'm sorry. I guess I just freaked out, a little."

"Sorry's bullshit. I'll tell you a secret. Ok?" Brian felt this revelation might help Justin.

"Remember the night Gus was born?" Brian got a starry-eyed look on his face as he remembered many of the firsts of that night, including having Justin in his bed.

"Sure. How could I not remember? We met that night and you took my virginity."

Brian shook his head. "Forget the stuff that we did that night," he said and then seeing the crestfallen look on Justin's face, added, "No I don't mean you should forget us, but this secret doesn't involve us, it involves Gus."

Justin gave Brian a little smile, not his full-fledged smile that everyone nicknames Sunshine smile, but a small smile, letting Brian know that he was listening and forgave him the directive to forget their first night.

"While you were down there getting eaten up alive by the lesbians, Mikey and I went to the roof. I was pretty high, but as you know being high doesn't usually affect my memory. Anyway, I was in awe of Gus, falling instantly in love with this tiny baby that I helped create. I vowed right then and there that I would do everything in my power to protect him. He wasn't even going to be a child that I raised, but the bond was instant." Brian's eyes glazed as he remembered the moment of holding the hours-old infant. "This child that Cynthia is carrying is ours. We've both thought about it for a long time before we took the steps to make it. I know the bond will be even stronger with this baby. Our child will have two parents who love it unconditionally and will ensure its safety and well-being from the first day. If that means talking about the best crib or discussing baby rearing techniques, then I want you to know that I will be there." Brian leaned over and kissed Justin fully on the lips and lifted his chin to look in his face. "Now, we are done with all this lesbianic discussion for tonight. I think a good fuck is in order because I realize that once the baby comes, fucking in the living room will definitely be off the list of places we can do the deed.

"Thank you," Justin returned the kiss, opening his mouth to savor his partner's unique taste. "I think fucking in the living room is definitely on the agenda for tonight's entertainment. And tomorrow's entertainment might be fucking in the kitchen, followed by fucking in the rec room and then..."

Justin was unable to finish his statement as Brian took his hands and motioned for him to get up. As he got up, Brian locked his lips on Justin's, stopping his ability to speak and then he followed up on his suggestion.

TBC

Chapter Text

Melanie and Lindsay sat at their kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the Sunday paper. Brian was picking up Gus for the afternoon and would be there in a little under an hour.

"I still can't believe that Cynthia is carrying their child. I told him it wasn't a good time for me as I was just starting back to work, but I really think they could have waited until I was ready," Lindsay said as she tore a small piece from her bagel.

"I didn't think you wanted to be pregnant again, that's why I had Jenny Rebecca instead of you," Melanie said, the slight frown on her face. She took a sip of her coffee and looked at her partner with a sigh.

"Well,..." Lindsey hesitated a few moments before answering. "I thought you would want to carry a second child for us. It would have been nice if Gus had a biological sibling."

"Linds, the baby is Justin's, not Brian's."

"I didn't know that was their plan when Brian told me. I still think..."

"Linds, hon." Melanie reached out and put her hand on Lindsay's squeezing gently. "Something else is bothering you. What's on your mind?"

"I'm worried about Gus. He adores Brian and I wonder if they will forget him when the new baby comes." Lindsay said, voicing the fear that she has harbored since finding out about the baby.

"Gus is very important to Brian and Justin. I can't see that happening." Melanie attempted to assure her, even though she had similar thoughts on occasion. She would literally have Brian's healthy ball if he mistreated Gus and put him second when the new baby came.

Gus came bounding down the stairs before they could complete their conversation and they silently agreed to table it for now.

"Mom, Mama, when is dad getting here? We've got lots to do today and I've got my bag packed." Gus hefted his backpack on to the table, showing his mothers. Lindsay wondered, not for the first time, how visiting with his fathers resulted in prompt fulfillment of all of his chores and being ready at least half an hour before they were to arrive. He was never that way with them.

"Did you pack your socks and underwear? Your Dad and Justin may be able to offer you their shirts if you forget yours, but those they don't have," Lindsay asked, reminding him of his last overnight when he forgot those critical items. Lindsay was appalled when he came home with 6 pair of Kids of luxury briefs. Gus said they were just like Dad and Justin's. She didn't want to think about that conversation.

Gus rolled his eyes. "Yes. I even packed extra. I thought I might leave a few at Dad's."

The doorbell rang and Gus raced to the door, opening it before he asked who it was. Seeing his father, he grasped him and hugged him while yelling, "Daddy."

"Gus, we've told you many times you need to find out who is at the door before you open it." Lindsay chastised him.

"Mom...," Gus started to respond, but stopped when he looked at his father nodding his head in agreement. "I'm all packed. Can we go? I know we've got a busy weekend."

"Woah buddy. I know you are excited about the weekend, but you need to say goodbye to your Mom and Momma. Did you remember to pack underwear and socks?"

Gus sighed heavily. "You guys. Mom and Momma asked me the same thing. I even brought extra to leave at your place in case I forget again."

"Good Sonny Boy. Now tell your Mom and Momma goodbye and we'll be off."

"Bye," Gus said, the faint put upon obedient sigh evident in his tone.

"When will you bring him back?" Lindsey asked.

"He'll be back by 8:00 tomorrow night. I know it's a school day on Monday. Wouldn't want him sleeping in class," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

The two of them walked out and Gus put his bag in the back seat of the car. Gus put on his seat belt and closed the door.

"Where we headed today?" Gus asked Brian, looking expectantly at his father. "You said we have a lot to do. Can we go to the store and buy me some new cleats? My old ones are getting really worn and coach said we need proper ones to play well."

"You sound like Justin with his PSA's," Brian said as he reminisced about the many times his partner spouted information at him.

"What are PSA's?"

"Public Service Announcements. Justin is always sharing information about a variety of topics; a regular font of information." Brian smiled as he thought of the first one Justin ever shared; you should always use protection.

"Ok," Gus said, thinking about the many conversations he'd had with Justin in his 10 years. "But can we go to the store and buy some cleats?"

"Yes, we can buy you some cleats. Justin has some canvases for you and some new paints. I think he wants to paint some pictures on the baby's wall. Maybe you can paint a picture for the room too." Brian opened a window to let in some fresh air. It was not hot enough for the air condition, but it was too stuffy without some air circulating.

"That would be cool. Do you know if the baby is a boy or girl? I'm hoping for a boy. I already have a sister and they are not fun." Gus looked out the window, watching several bikers ride along the bike path on the street. "How come I can't ride my bike to school? There are paths all over. Jimmy and Sam ride their bikes."

"You live on a very busy street and it's not safe."

"But..." Gus said, starting to argue his point of view with his father.

"No. End of discussion. Now, where do you want to go for lunch; the diner or somewhere else?" Brian bridled as he said no to his son. It was very rare that he refused Gus anything, but riding his bike to school was absolutely not going to happen. He thought of his father when he said no and cringed. He never wanted to be compared to that evil man, but he remembered his father said "No" so many times during his childhood, it was ingrained in his mind.

"The diner. I want a chocolate shake. Is Justin coming too? I want to talk about the painting for the baby's room."

"Justin had a few errands to run. I'll call him when we're done at the store and see if he's finished. Otherwise, we'll meet him later at the house."

Brian and Gus completed their shopping and called Justin.

"Hey," Brian said when Justin answered the phone. "We're headed to the diner for lunch. Can you join us?"

"Sure. I'm finishing up at the art supply store and I'll meet you there."

"Later."

"Later."

Brian opened the trunk for Gus to deposit his cleats and new socks and then they drove to the diner. Walking in, they moved toward the back booth which was their favorite and sat down. Brian picked up the menu to review the selections.

"Dad, why do you look at the menu? You practically eat here every day or so Uncle Ted says. Grandma Debbie says that you were here every day when you were younger. I can't remember the menu ever changing. I know I'm only 10 but I've been reading since I was 5 and it's never changed." Gus smiled at his father and looked toward the front door as he heard the jingle announcing a new patron and saw it was Justin. He raised his hand to wave at Justin but knew it was unnecessary as Justin was already making his way to the familiar booth.

Justin leaned down and gave Brian a kiss in greeting and scooted next to him so he could sit opposite Gus. Grabbing a menu, he looked over the familiar plastic coated trifold and also looked at the blackboard reading what the daily special was for today.

"I asked Dad why he looked at the menu since it hasn't changed in at least 5 years and he comes here almost daily. Why do you look at the menu, Justin?"

"Habit. I guess. I never really thought about it. When I go to a restaurant, I pick up the menu, even when I know what I want before I walk in. I imagine it's the same for Brian." Looking at his partner, he raised his eyebrows in question.

"I guess. Never really thought about it, Sonny Boy. I don't expect it to be different, since like you said, it's been the same menu forever. I don't want to think about the kitchen since it's been the same and I don't ever remember it being remodeled or updated." Brian closed his eyes in mock horror.

Debbie came to take their order. "Hi, Gus. Spending the day with your dads? Pretty soon they'll be busy with the new baby and won't have time for Saturday lunch. Better do it now," she said, voicing the opinion of many of their family.

Gus looked at his fathers and then at Debbie. No one was refuting her statement and he could feel the tension in the air.

"Gus, we will always have time for you. Don't mind Debbie; she's just playing with you," Justin said. He placed the menu back in the slot and said, "I'll have the grilled cheese sandwich with a side of Mac and Cheese. And a Coke."

"I'll have a cheeseburger and fries and a vanilla milkshake." Gus grinned and said, "See, I read the menu and ordered a vanilla shake versus my typical chocolate.

"I'll have turkey on wheat toast, no mayo with a side salad."

"Dad. You always order that. Like I said, I don't even know why you look at the menu."

Debbie left the table and placed their orders.

"So is the new baby really going to take that much time? Are you guys going to not want me around?" Gus asked, the worry evident in his voice.

"Of course not, Gus. We will always have time for you. The new baby will be very demanding for a few months, but there are two of us and only one of you. If we both can't come see you, then one of us will come. Of course, you have your room at our house and you are always welcome to stay with us. Babies sleep a lot so in the beginning, all we'll need to do is feed and change it and give it a bath," Brian said, parroting what Lindsay had told him about Gus's first few months of life. He hadn't seen the boy much at that age, still not ready to be a part of Gus' life. Lindsey tried to get Brian involved, even when Gus was a baby. After a few times of watching him for the girls, he started to bond with him and then he was hooked. Looking at the miniature version of himself, he couldn't help but love him. These days, he couldn't imagine not having his Sonny Boy in his life.

"I heard Mom and Momma talking. They said you'd forget me when the baby comes? Will you forget all about me?"

Brian pulled Gus into a hug, something that he'd grown comfortable with through the years. "I couldn't forget you. Who would play soccer with me and who would I have weekly outings to the Lego store? We have to build our cities after all," Brian said.

"And we paint together. You're becoming quite the artist. I love working with you. You have a very critical eye and I value your input."

Gus smiled at his father's statements, but he was still worried and he thought he had a great plan. There was no way they would forget him if he lived with them. After all, he had his own room at their house. His dads already said he could stay with them. It was a perfect solution. He could be one of the guys. The more he thought about his idea, the more he liked it. His mothers were always after him to do his chores and to play with his sister. If he lived with his dads, the baby would be sleeping most of the time and he would have them all to himself.

 

Debbie arrived with the food. "Eat up. No dessert for you Gus unless you finish all your food. And you, Sunshine, no dessert for you either."

 

"Yes, Grandma Debbie. I remember." Gus picked up his burger and took a huge bite.

TBC

Chapter Text

20 Weeks

As Michael and Melanie were shopping for Christmas presents for Jenny Rebecca, Melanie thought about her current life compared to those of her childhood expectations. At eight, she didn't know she was gay, having little sexual awareness at all. She wasn't a Tomboy, playing sports and climbing trees, rather she and her friends watched superhero cartoons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She didn't play princesses or dress-up, but she does remember a time where she and her friends would frequently play wedding and each take turns being the bride and then the groom. She always liked being the groom since she didn't like dresses. She envisioned growing up, getting married and staying home like her mother did. She loved her father, but thinking back on her childhood, the feeling would better be described as idolization. She and her father rarely did things together and she didn't remember many one-on-one conversations. When he did spend time with her, it was to talk about current events and an occasional afternoon at the movies. He seemed to have the glamorous life, going into the city, meeting people and experiencing life while her mother cooked, cleaned and took her and her sister to various after-school activities.

JR enjoyed reading and gymnastics. She didn't compete but she took lessons twice a week and was fairly good. Having two short parents, her body was ideal for the sport. She had four involved parents and an over-the-top grandmother; all who doted on her. They spent time as a family and had one on one time with each of her parents enjoying their unique interests. She often went to museums and cultural events with Lindsay and attended social justice rallies and helped out at the Gay and Lesbian Center with her. Michael often took her to his comic shop, spending endless hours talking comics and watching science fiction movies and tv shows. Ben was teaching her card games and they had begun playing chess occasionally. Mel hoped that the influence from each of JR's parents would help her become a well-rounded adult. When asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, JR would tell the person she would like to be a painter and a lawyer and a writer. It always made Melanie smile.

As they passed the infant aisle in Toys R Us, Michael frowned.

"I still can't believe that Brian and Justin are going to have a baby. Justin must have gotten him really wasted for Brian to agree to become a full-time father."

"I don't know about that. Brian told you and Lindsay they were having a child months before Cynthia was even pregnant. There would have been plenty of time for him to change his mind." Melanie continued to push their cart toward the board games. Picking up a game of Monopoly, she pondered if she wanted to introduce her daughter to the realities of takeovers and conglomerates at her young age.

Looking at Melanie, he made a small frown. "I never really liked that game. Every time Brian and I would play, he would always end up with all the property and I would have to pay him huge amounts of money since he always built hotels," Michael said as he remembered the board filled with red hotel buildings on most of the properties. He was always happy that you couldn't build hotels on railroad properties. "I liked Life better. Come to think of it, Brian always hated getting stuck with the kids. Whenever he would land on a section where he had to get a kid, he always made some remark about never having kids and how they were not ever going to a part of his life."

"Guess some things change, but others stay the same. He still has loads of money and buys very extravagant things. The man has more clothes than I do and he loves to shop. And now he's going to have a second child." Melanie put back the Monopoly box and picked up Life instead, reading the summary on the box as if she had never played the classic game.

"Yeah. Can you imagine him changing a diaper on that fancy couch he has? He practically inspects my clothes for any dirt before I sit on it." Michael took the game of Life from Melanie and placed it in the cart. Melanie nodded her head in agreement and then pushed the cart toward the building block aisle.

"I'm sure he changed more than a few diapers when Gus was little. He did watch him overnight a few times and his furniture was just as extravagant then as it is now."

"But he didn't have to do it every day. I just can't see it. I still think Justin is the one who will do the parenting." Picking up a Castle Lego set, he looked at the kit with a twinkle in his eyes.

"I think you're wrong. Brian Kinney doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do. I wonder how Gus will react to the new baby. There is always some jealousy when a new child comes around and this one is going to live with Brian," Melanie picked up the castle Lego set and smiling approvingly. Gender neutral. At least Michael wasn't trying to stereotype their daughter.

He took his role as a father seriously; spending at least one evening a week and every other weekend with his daughter. It was the perfect set up; he was a part of her life but didn't raise her directly. Melanie had not expected him to be so involved but when he fought for custody and became adoptive father of Hunter, she realized that he took this opportunity seriously. At first she wasn't happy about a third partner in raising her child, but she relented as she knew that legally he had as much right to spend time with Jenny as Lindsay did. She sometimes cringed when she remembered that time in their shared history. Thankfully it appeared to be working out well. Jenny had a father in her life; even if he was a gay man and didn't exemplify the typical male machismo. Ben, her father's husband, on the other hand, was as machismo as any straight male and his participation in her life provided the strong male influence that society expected.

"I hadn't thought about Gus. Gus just sees Brian on occasion. Why would the baby affect him?"

"Gus sees Brian all the time. He's there practically every weekend and Brian goes to every soccer game and most school events. The only time he doesn't come is when he has a business dinner. I think it will be hard to keep up that level of interaction with a new baby. With a new baby, you barely get any sleep and they take a lot of time. You look at the clock and boom it is three hours later than the last time you looked and you wonder where the time has gone." Melanie rolled her eyes at Michael's naiveté. She remembered the sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby and wondered how Brian and Justin would react.

"I didn't know that Brian saw Gus that often. No wonder, he's not at Woody's like he used to be."

Melanie frowned a little at Michael's response, seeing again how self-centered he really was. All he worried about was how the baby would impact him, specifically his ability to continue spending time with Brian. She was still surprised that Michael had not accepted the current version of Brian Kinney- compliments of Justin Taylor's presence. Brian had changed, even she could see that. He was happy and part of a family, albeit an unusual family with no blood relations, but still a family. As a result of her friendship with Ted, she knew he still hit Babylon and the clubs and he and Justin were known to be a bit wild occasionally, but they weren't the same people from a decade ago.

"With his money, he'll probably just hire a nanny."

Melanie chose not to respond, having heard Michael's undisguised feelings about Brian's money on many occasions. Brian was more than generous with his money, especially when it came to Gus. She sometimes wondered if Michael were jealous of his money, but guessed that it was more than he was jealous of Justin and his influence on Brian. She thought Michael believed that Justin was with Brian for his money. She knew this wasn't the case, but trying to convince Michael of this information was like talking to Jenny when she wanted to stay up to see the latest Star Trek episode. Neither one wanted to budge.

Melanie placed a few additional toys in the basket. There was a card game, a new backpack and soccer shin guards that Gus had asked for. Melanie and Lindsay didn't divide the purchases by whose biological child it was, but each did shop with their respective fathers for special presents. She and Michael shopped at Toys R Us while Brian and Lindsay most likely hit FAO Schwartz. She didn't allow that financial discrepancy to bother her as Brian often bought Jenny presents when he shopped for Gus.

"It really isn't our business. I'm sure they will figure it out. Every parent does."

They paid for their purchases and Michael took Jenny's presents home so he could hide them. When he got home, Ben was sitting at the kitchen table working on the term papers his student's had turned in. Michael leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. Placing the package on the counter, he started his latest tirade and show of indignation.

"Did you know that Brian goes to every soccer game of Gus' and he spends most weekends with him? And did you know that he still gives the girls money for him? And did you know that he goes to his school events? No wonder he rarely goes to Babylon; he's too busy supporting them. I'm sure that is how Justin got him to have a baby. I can just see the conversation. ‘You are such a great dad for Gus. I know having our own child would be so great. Come on Brian- let's have a baby.' It just makes me so mad to see the influence Justin has on my best friend."

Ben looked up from his grading and took a deep breath. He really hated when his husband showed this ugly side. Standing up he gave Michael and soft hug and kissed him lightly on the cheek and pointed to the chair opposite him. Michael sat down heavily and Ben returned to his seat. Moving the papers out of the way, he took another deep breath before starting.

"Michael. Gus is his son. Of course, he attends soccer games and school events and gives the girls money for his needs." Ben thought he would start with acknowledging the obvious before he attempted to explain why it didn't matter.

"But he's not his father. The girls are raising him." He stood up and walked to the fridge grabbing a Coke. Popping the top he took several drinks and returned to the table.

"You're not raising JR but you still spend a lot of time with her."

"That's different. I didn't sign my rights away. I always wanted to be a dad. He did Linds a favor. I remember. I was there. He never wanted to have anything to do with the baby."

"Things change, Michael. I think it's great that Brian spends a lot of time with Gus. Have you ever watched the two of them together? Brian is not faking his interest in Gus' life." Ben took a drink from his water bottle that sat on the table. "As for Justin and Brian's decision to have a child, it really is not for us to second guess how they decided or to pass judgement on their decision. They are as much a family as you, me and Hunter. If they want to enlarge that family, I think that's great. I would love to have a child with you, but we talked about that and decided now is not the time to do it. Brian and Justin have the same right to make that decision."

"But, Ben. As Brian's best friend..."

"No, Michael. You don't get a say in this. In fact, unless Brian specifically asks for your opinion, you don't get a say in his life period. You don't ask Brian about things that impact our lives- should we have a child or should we move to a bigger house? Why should you demand Brian seek your opinion on things that do not affect your life."

"But it does affect my life. If he has another kid, he'll have less time to hang out."

Ben reached out to hold his husband's hand and squeezed it hard. He gently smiled at him and spoke softly. "Michael. You guys are not 17 anymore. You both are married and have separate lives. You have jobs, mortgages, and lives that do not always include each other. Sorry, hon, but this time I disagree. Brian has every right to have a child and spend whatever time he feels like he wants to with Gus. I just wish more parents were as interested in their children as Brian is with Gus."

Ben pulled the papers toward him again and started reading the small stack. Luckily he only had three left to grade. He knew his husband was disappointed in his lack of support, but he knew he could not condone Michael's attempt at controlling Brian's actions. Unfortunately, he also knew that Michael would not be satisfied with just one round of this conversation. He determined he had about an hour before Michael would greet him again with the same information presented just a little differently. Michael would try to convince him that he'd made a mistake and he was correct; Brian was making a mistake and had to be stopped. The piece that Michael seemed to forget was that the baby would be there in less than 5 months and he really couldn't stop it.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house- oh wait, wrong story. Twas the night before Christmas, Gus and Jenny Rebecca were tucked in their beds eagerly awaiting the morning so they could finally open their presents under the tree. Jenny Rebecca was hoping that she'd get a Baby Doll Alive. Her friend Emma got one for her birthday and she thought it was the best present ever. With Uncle Brian and Uncle Justin having a baby soon, she thought it would be good practice and didn't want to be seen as a little girl who knew nothing about babies.

Gus and she had discussed the new baby. She was excited about having a baby in the family, then she wouldn't be the youngest anymore. She always hated being the youngest because everyone always treated her differently. Gus was allowed to do so many things because he was "bigger" and now she would be "bigger" too. She'd overheard Momma and Mommy talk about the new baby a couple of times, and it seemed to make Mommy upset. She didn't understand since her friend Olivia's mom had a baby last year and she was always smiling. JR decided that grown-ups were funny sometimes. She held her old baby, gave her a kiss and closed her eyes to go to sleep.

Gus was lying in his bed, his mind racing about the next week. Tomorrow was Christmas and he was sure he'd get a lot of cool stuff, including the new Xbox game he'd been hinting for. His Dad and Justin always bought him a new game for Christmas and his birthday. Well, they bought him new stuff a lot. He wondered if that would change once the new baby came. Justin and Dad had assured him that he would always be special and they wouldn't forget him, but Uncle Michael and Grandma Debbie seemed to think otherwise. He'd heard "the moms" talk about the baby a few times and Mommy seemed to think the baby was a bad idea. She wasn't happy that Dad was having a baby. He heard her talk about how she wasn't able to have the baby so they should not have asked Dad's friend Cynthia. Gus thought having his mom have Dad and Justin's baby was just too weird. It didn't matter, the baby was coming in the spring, and he'd be its brother. Not like JR's brother, since she really wasn't related to him. It was going to be so much fun, being a big brother and living with Dad and Justin. He just knew that his plan would work. Smiling at the thought of all the cool games he could play when he lived with Dad and Justin, he fell asleep eagerly awaiting Christmas morning and all the new toys he'd receive.

Justin and Brian lay in their bed recovering from their latest round of sex. Justin regretfully got out of bed to get a washcloth to clean them up.

"Just think, next year this time, we'll have an 8-month-old baby. Christmas will be so exciting!"

"You are not dressing our baby in cute Christmas clothes and do not even think about putting a stupid Christmas stocking on its head." Brian cringed when he thought of Justin's penchant for kitsch.

"It will be the baby's first Christmas. We, as parents, have to make it memorable," Justin said as he wiped them off, throwing the cloth in the direction of the bathroom when he was finished. Justin smiled at Brian with his best coy smile.

"You little shit. You're just pulling my chain. You wouldn't do that to our child."

"No, I wouldn't, but don't put it past my mother to buy such an outfit. I seem to recall more than a few holiday pictures where I and Molly are dressed in some ridiculous elf or Santa configuration." Justin frowned as he thought of those pictures and wondered how his normally sane and WASPy mother thought this was a good idea.

"I don't think Mother Taylor ever shared those with me. Good thing. I think it would scar me for life. Santa and elves are creepy. The whole holiday thing; I could do without."

"Scrooge"

"It's so fake."

Justin kissed Brian on the lips with a soft kiss and shook his head in mild amusement. "Priceless, coming from the man who makes his living off commercialism and convincing people to buy things they don't need or really want."

"Ah, but you are wrong there. People just don't know they want it until I show it to them. Then, after my brilliant campaign, they realize they must have it to make their lives complete." Brian smiled and reached over to tickle Justin.

Justin attempted to squirm away but Brian followed him across the bed and tickled him until Justin pleaded with him to stop. Brian stopped and kissed him on the shoulder and neck.

"Seriously Brian. Our life is going to be so different when the baby comes. Holidays will mean something. I bet I'll even get you to dress up for Halloween so the three of us can go trick- or- treating."

"You are making my dick soft with all this talk of dressing up. Dressing up is for drag queens. Now we need to go to sleep. I'm sure Gus will be up at the crack of dawn to open his presents."

Justin looked at him with a confused expression. "Gus isn't here unless he snuck in when I wasn't looking."

"No, he's at home with his mommies, but he will certainly call me after he has unwrapped his goodies to tell me all about them."

"I see, so basically you're telling me that you are getting old and need your beauty sleep," Justin said, teasing Brian again.

"I'm not old, twat." Brian turned on his side, placing his arm around Justin's middle and closed his eyes to sleep.

Justin lay in Brian's embrace, enjoying the peace and security he always felt with his husband. Unlike Brian, he was willing to think about how their lives would change once the baby was born. He couldn't wait for them to be a family.

The jarring sound of Brian's cell phone woke him just as the sun came through the window. Brian rolled over hoping the annoying sound would go away on its own. It stopped ringing a few rings later but then Justin's cell phone started ringing. Justin put the pillow over his head, drowning out the insistent noise. Then Brian's phone began ringing again.

"Shit," Brian said as he felt for the offending object, pressing the talk button.

"Dad, It's awesome! I knew you would come through for me. We're going to have so much fun playing this on the system," Gus yelled into the receiver. "When are you and Justin coming over? I can't wait to play."

"Later this morning. Now I'm going to get some sleep like a sane person and we will be over before lunchtime." Brian didn't want to take his son's enthusiasm away, so he added as an afterthought. "Why don't you play the game till we get there and then you can show us how it's done."

"That's great Dad. I'll see you guys later."

Justin pulled the pillow off his head. "I guess he liked the new game," Justin said as he yawned. "Do we have to go now?"

"No. Go back to sleep. I told him we would see him at lunchtime." Brian reached over and pulled Justin close to him and kissed his neck before closing his eyes.

They woke several hours later and gave each other mutual blowjobs. "You do realize that next year we will not be able to do this. We'll be busy with diapers and bottles and wishing the baby would sleep through the night." Justin smiled as he lay on his back.

"No more talk of this baby and what will or won't happen when it gets here. There's a reason babies are babies- gives the parents time to adjust. Now I don't see any children or babies here so I'm going to pound your ass and then you're going to get your present. Lay on your back. I want to see you."

"You got me a present? I thought we weren't going to do that this year," Justin said as he pretended to be upset.

"Twat. I know you have a present for me. I'm not a fool and no, I did not buy you a present because you bought me one. Now on your back." Brian pulled Justin's torso around until he lay on the bed. He bent down to lick Justin's belly and traveled his wet tongue to his erect cock. Engulfing him in one movement, he began licking and sucking him until he could feel the balls tighten. Grabbing the lube, he slicked his cock, placing it at the edge of Justin's hole. Sliding his cock back and forth across the hole, he allowed the tip to slip inside with each pass After a short time, Justin, yelled, "Now."

Brian obliged and pushed through the tight ring of muscle until he was fully seated. When Justin adjusted to him, he arched his back and Brian pistoned in and out of the tight hole. Both men were ready and the joining lasted only a few minutes before Justin shot on Brian's chest and Brian came inside his husband.

Brian stayed for a few minutes and then reluctantly left the warmth of his husband.

"So....Where's my present?"Justin asked, excited about the prospect of a gift Brian.

"In the garage."

"The garage?" Justin looked at him with skepticism, but grabbed some shorts by the bed and walked toward the door. "Aren't you coming?"

"Why? I know what I bought you." Brian smiled and then got out of bed, putting on his shorts as well.

They walked downstairs and toward the garage. Justin wasn't sure what to expect but he eagerly opened the door. There was a new BMW next to Brian's jeep.

"You bought me a fucking car? Brian, why did you do that? I have a perfectly good car."

"But your car is used for canvas and hauling shit. You will need a car to carry the baby."

"Oh. So it's for the baby that we are not discussing until it arrives?"

"I didn't say we weren't going to buy stuff in preparation for its arrival. I just said we weren't going to spend endless hours talking about how life is going to change. We will need a four-door car and I do not want our child being carted around in a Volvo."

"There's nothing wrong with my Volvo."

"It's ugly, it looks like a box, drives like a bus and has paint stains all over it." Brian started listing all the faults of Justin's car.

"So you bought me a car to drive the baby?"

Justin shook his head and kissed Brian on the lips. "I love you." Justin reached out Brian's hand and walked him back to the house. "Now for your present."

Brian followed Justin into the house, wondering what his little blond could have possibly bought him. They walked up the stairs to the baby's room. They had spent an entire weekend debating where the baby should have its room. Justin wanted the baby to have its room next to theirs but Brian thought they would have to temper their sex life and he didn't like that idea. Brian thought the baby should be located at the end of the hall. Justin didn't like that the baby would be so far away; the hallway had 3 rooms in addition to their own. He eventually had agreed to Brian's wish when Brian said they would be able to hear the baby with one of those monitors and agreed that the baby's room would be at the end of the hall. Justin opened the door and gave Brian a small wrapped box. Brian shook the box but it did not make any noise. He flipped it around on all sides but he couldn't figure out what was inside from the shape. Looking at Justin he had a quizzical look on his face.

"Presents are to open, silly man. Shaking it or turning it over on its side is not going to tell you what your present its. Unwrap the package, Brian."

Brian pulled the wrapping off, looking at the package with a silly grin on his face.

"Now who is the present for? This looks surprisingly like a baby monitor."

"It is a baby monitor. This way you can fuck me in our bedroom but hear the baby if it starts crying."

"Seems to me this is a present for you, not me. You're the one paranoid about having the baby close by," Brian said tongue in cheek.

"Ah, you're a very smart man. But you see if I'm not worried about the baby; with it being so far away, then I can enjoy all the sex you want in our bedroom. This makes you a happy man, hence why this is a present for you." Justin smiled as he explained his twisted logic to his partner. He walked over to kiss Brian.

"Your logic is impeccable, but we'll just agree that the camera can give both of us peace of mind. We better get dressed, Gus will be having fits if we don't come soon."

Justin laughed again. "You're just wanting to try the new game out. You don't fool me at all. I had to practically stop you from buying a second copy so you could play it here."

Brian laughed too. They closed the door, leaving the camera in the room. They drove out to the muncher's house and arrived just before lunch.

Before they could close the doors to the car, Gus barreled out to greet them.

"You guys took forever to get here. Come on Dad, I've got to show you the new game. Jimmy Ferreli will be so jealous. He's been asking for the game for months but I just talked to him and he didn't get it. There are zombies and hatchets and dead people. The zombies eat people's brains if they can't run away fast enough. Come on, Justin, you can watch and then I'll play you while Dad visits the moms."

Gus ran ahead to the house, looking back a few times, ensuring that Brian and Justin were following.

"Zombies and hatchets? I'm surprised Linz let you buy it for him. Isn't he a little young for that kind of gore?"

"We used to play 'war' when we were kids and have you watched kids tv lately?"

"Well, I hope he doesn't have nightmares. He is sleeping across the hall from us."

"I would remind you that you were a 10-year-old boy once and 10-year-old boys love guts, guns, and gruesome things, but then I remind myself that you were not a normal 10-year-old boy. I bet you never even played with toy guns."

Justin smiled at Brian as he nodded his head in agreement. "You're right. I never played with guns and I wouldn't know the first things about playing 'war'. My childhood was a little different."

"I seem to recall mother Taylor saying something about you going to art classes at the museum and taking dance lessons. If I believed in such nonsense, I would say ‘no wonder you turned out gay'. We both know that you were born that way and I can attest to your manlihood," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

Justin laughed. "True. It is a wonder I turned out manly since I didn't participate in the ‘normal' male activities of ‘war' and sports. But I guess it worked in your favor. You wouldn't be married to a famous artist if I had not started art lessons at the tender age of 7."

"I think the baby should have both. You know, art classes and sports. Maybe by the time our child is a grown up, his/her sexual orientation won't even be an issue. But we will know we did offer the best of all experiences."

"If I didn't know better, I'd say you've actually been contemplating how to raise our child. Amazing- miracles do happen." Justin smiled his ‘sunshine' smile toward his partner as he opened the door to the house. "I knew you were not as oblivious as you pretended to be."

"Twat," Brian said affectionately as he leaned over to kiss Justin.

"Merry Christmas, Brian," Justin said when Brian finished. He closed the door behind him and hung their coats on the coat tree.

Lindsay came around the corner. "There you two are. I was beginning to think you weren't showing up, but Gus assured us that you'd be here by lunchtime. We're about to set the table."

"I'll help you, Lindsay," Justin said as he walked with her toward the dining room.

"I'll go keep Gus entertained and out of your hair," Brian said as he moved to the family room where Gus was busy playing his new game.

"Great you're here," Gus said as he heard Brian enter the room. "I'm ready to kill the horde of zombies. See, they are trying to take over the world, but for every 3 I kill, I get an extra life. This is the coolest game, Dad. Thanks for getting it for me."

Watching his son kill animated zombies on the screen, Brian contemplated their earlier conversation. He really hadn't thought too much about raising the child that Cynthia was carrying; he was just so excited about the addition to their family. Lately, his thoughts were turning to the child and what that would actually mean for him and Justin and how they were going to raise it. He was starting to think about parenting and he was both excited and a little scared. The stud of Liberty Avenue didn't think about such things as bottles, diapers and which formula was more nutritious, yet this was the exact thing he and Justin were starting to discuss. He wondered when the change had occurred but dismissed the question knowing that he really didn't care. His life was exactly what he wanted at the moment.

After watching Gus kill a few rounds of zombies, he picked up the controller and they played the game as a two-man team.

"Dad, you're a natural. I wish you could come and play with me all time. You and I could beat Jimmie and his buddy Michael every time." Gus grinned at the thought of living with his Dad and Justin all the time and silently counted the time till the baby would be born.

"We could take the game to your house. Mom says it's really violent and I can't play it when JR is around. What do you think? Can we take it with us tonight?"

"Sure. We'll set it up when we get home. I'm sure Justin will be amused by the game as well," Brian said tongue in cheek, based on their earlier conversation.

"Why will Justin be amused? He plays games with me all the time." Gus asked his father as he killed another zombie on the screen. "That's 30 this morning. I rock."

"Justin didn't really play those types of games when he was a kid. Spent time in museums and taking art classes."

"Oh," Gus said, not really understanding the comment, but too busy to question his father at the time.

Walking in the room, Lindsay looked at her son and Brian, smiling at the mirror images they portrayed. She was glad he was involved in their son's life. She still couldn't imagine him raising a child full time, despite Melanie's opinion. Brian was just too self-absorbed to understand how a child would change his life.

"Lunch is ready. Gus, go wash your hands,"

"Mom. Just one more round. I'm almost on the next level," he said as he continued to shoot zombies on the screen.

"You can play later. It's time for lunch," she said, the stern mother voice coming out.

"Ok," he said resignedly. Placing his controller on the table, he turned to Brian. "Can we play after lunch? I want to get to the next level." He looked at Brian with a hopeful expression.

"Sure," Brian put down his controller and walked to the bathroom. "Brian, you really need to set some limits with him. It's important for a child to have boundaries. You'll learn soon enough," she said shaking her head at the problems he would face if he didn't listen to her wisdom.

"Lindsay, I don't need your parenting advice. Justin and I will figure it out, just like millions of other parents do. Just because you think I can't handle a baby doesn't mean that I can't."

Lindsay bristled at his terse tone and the words. "Brian. I'm just trying to help."

"Like you did when you encouraged Justin to go to New York. I don't need that kind of help. Let's eat and then Gus and I will play more zombies. After that, Justin and I will take him to our home for the week where we will undoubtedly participate in many horrible parenting adventures that you and your wife will have to rectify when he returns," Brian said with his voice barely above a whisper, but with the terseness that only he could pull off.

Gus returned from the hand washing detail before Lindsay could respond. "I'm starving. Let's eat." He rushed to the table. "Dad, you sit next to me and Justin you sit on the other side."

The meal was eaten in relative silence and when it was finished Gus asked to be excused so he could return to his game. After getting permission to leave the table, Gus and Brian returned to the game area while Justin helped clear the table.

"Justin, you know you need to set limits for Gus when he visits this week. Children need guidance and if you don't set guidelines, they will have problems as they get older. One study I read..."

"Stop with the parenting lecture, Lindsay. Brian and I have been taking Gus home with us since he was a toddler and you've never felt the need to tell us what to do. Does this have to do with the new baby?"

"I thought you might like some guidance. Gus is getting older." Lindsay said as she put the leftover ham in the container. "When he was with you last summer, he listened to everything we told him to do, but now..."

"Lindsay, it's not like we haven't spent time with him. We know him very well and can handle a ten-year-old boy. After all, we were both 10-year-old boys at one time."

"Well..." Lindsay started to reply.

"Enough. We are not having a parenting discussion with you at this time. We are perfectly capable of handling Gus. I think all the food is put away. I'm going to join my husband and son and play some zombie games." Justin turned abruptly and left the kitchen.

They stayed for a few hours and then told Gus to get his stuff so they could leave. Both men were tired of listening to Lindsay's thinly veiled attempts at parenting advice. Gus gathered his bag that he had packed himself. He'd bought 4 extra pairs of underwear and pajamas as well as his favorite book and a stuffed bear. He'd start leaving things at his Dad's house and wouldn't have to worry about going home after the baby was born.

Gus was excited about spending a week with his Dad and Justin. After listening to his mom all afternoon about rules and guidance, he vowed to be the model child. He wanted his Dad and Justin to want him around all the time even after the new baby arrived.

It was late when they got home and Gus volunteered to take his bath and get ready for bed without any prompting from either man.

"I'm not sure what Lindsay's was going on about tonight. Gus volunteered to get ready for bed," Justin said as he watched him go up the stairs.

"Who knows? She's probably regretting not carrying our kid. Whatever her motives; I don't have to listen to her whining for an entire week."

"It will be great having Gus here. I'm so excited that you are taking most of the time off."

"Might as well take it off. Everyone else is busy with the holidays, so I might as well spend it with my kid."

"Ah, the real Scrooge comes out after all."

"Whatever. Let's celebrate the holiday in our own way after we put Gus down for the night."

"You've got a deal."

TBC

Chapter Text

After Gus was asleep for the night, both men curled up on the couch in the media room, Justin with his back to Brian and Brian wrapped his arms around his waist.

"Do you think our holidays will be so hectic? Lindsay barely sat down until the dinner was served. I don't remember mom being so stressed. What about at your house?" Justin asked and regretted the question as soon as it was out of his mouth. Turning his face toward Brian he kissed him gently and said, "Sorry."

"Sorry's bullshit. Christmas was actually celebrated in my house; it being Jesus' birthday. Of course, St. Joan went to church and drug us along until I refused to go. I think I was about Gus' age when I stopped believing in any of it. But, we're not discussing that topic right now. I had a great day and I want to continue the mood."

Justin sighed, relieved that Brian had deflected the conversation, but sorry he brought the topic up.

"So, what do you want to do with Gus? We've got him for a week, barring New Year's Eve. It was great of Debbie to offer to keep him so we could go out."

"It's too cold to go kick the soccer ball at the park, but I heard there was an indoor soccer field that we could take him to," Brian said.

"Sounds like a plan, but that will take care of ½ day at best. We've got 6 other days to fill," Justin reminded him. "I was thinking of having him help decorate the baby's room. He seems really excited about its arrival and this way he'll feel a part of the process."

"Ok. We can catch a few movies. Take him to see the Star Wars movie. I know you're dying to see it."

"Don't put that all on me. You want to see it too."

"Duh. I'm sure the CGI alone will have you mesmerized. We'll probably have to see it several times, just so you can concentrate on the story and not the graphics," Brian teased. He gently kissed Justin's neck and continued. "Of course, we will be required to play endless hours of killing zombies as well."

"Of course," Justin said, as he laughed at Brian's pretend annoyance at that activity. "I'm sure it will go super fast and this time next week we'll be asking ourselves where the time went."

Brian yawned as did Justin. "I guess we need to get some sleep. 10-year-old boys get up awfully damn early."

They went to bed and slept until Gus knocked on the bedroom door the following morning.

"Dad, Justin. I'm hungry and I think we should have pancakes for breakfast," he said through the closed door.

"Okay, I'll get Justin moving and he will start the pancakes in a bit. Until then, why don't you have a glass of orange juice and play some zombies."

"Cool," came the reply and Gus was off on his own while he waited for his Dad and Justin.

Justin attempted to bury his head under the pillow, but Brian lifted the pillow and tickled him. "Get up. Gus wants the famous Taylor pancakes."

"I'm sleeping. You go," Justin responded as he pulled the pillow back on his head.

"No can do. You were the one who has been going on about how our life will change when the baby gets here so you better get used to it."

Justin sighed and joined Brian in the bathroom where they took care of necessities. Dressed in lounge pants, they made their way downstairs where Gus was in the media room killing zombies.

"Gus," Justin yelled. "Come on in here and help me make the pancakes."

Gus came running from the media room and hopped on a bar stool by the kitchen island. "I can help? Awesome! Mom just tells me I'll be in the way."

"You'll never learn to cook if you don't practice. Go get me three eggs, milk, sugar and flour."

Justin got out the large mixing bowl and Brian took the coffee beans from the fridge.

"Do you know how to crack eggs?" Justin asked Gus as he lined up all the ingredients.

"I've watched Mom, but I've never done it."

"Okay. I'll crack the first one and then you can crack the next two." Justin took the egg and tapped it lightly on the edge of the counter, pulled it apart and dropped the egg into the bowl. "Now you try."

Gus cracked both eggs on the first try.

"See, nothin' to it. Now, have you ever measured flour or sugar?"

"No."

Justin showed him how to measure the dry ingredients and they added those to the bowl. Justin got out the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and showed Gus how to measure them as well. They added the ingredients to the eggs and mixed well.

"Now we turn on the stove and put butter in the pan. Be very careful to turn the skillet handle away from the edge. You don't want to run into it and get hot grease on you." Justin turned the burner on and moved the skillet handle like he described. "Now we just drop the batter in the pan." He gave the ladle to Gus and helped him scoop out the correct amount.

"See how they're bubbling, that's how we know it's time to turn them." Justin showed Gus how to use the spatula to turn the pancakes. He turned all the ones in the pan and then after a few minutes gave the spatula to Gus to turn them over again. He did really well.

"Dad, I'm making pancakes. I can make pancakes for you when the new baby comes. Won't that be a real help?" Gus was so pleased with his new skill and wanted to be sure that his Dad and Justin realized he could do this by himself.

"I'm sure it will be. I know you'll be a big help."

After all the pancakes were completed, Gus brought the plate to the table. He piled several on his plate, added butter and syrup. He cut the huge stack with a knife and took three layers of pancakes at once.

"These are so awesome, Justin! Dad, me and Justin made breakfast. Isn't that the best?"

"Justin and I," Brian said as he corrected his son. It was important that Gus learn proper language skills if he was to take over Kinnetik when he grew up. "These are good, Gus. I bet Justin can show you all kinds of things to cook."

Gus took another bite of pancakes and said, "Really, Justin. That would be so cool. I could be the cook when you have the new baby."

Justin and Brian looked at each other, sensing a theme here, but did not want to address the issue at this time. They just continued to eat their pancakes. After breakfast, they cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher.

"Buddy, we're going to get cleaned up and then we're going into town. Justin needs to get some paints for the wall."

"Cool. I'll just play zombies while you guys get ready."

Brian and Justin went back to their bedroom and locked the door. They undressed and went into the bathroom. After turning on the shower, they started to soap each other. Brian lathers his hand and moves it toward Justin's cock, but Justin smacks his hand away.

"Gus is waiting. While he is busy playing zombies, we can't be having sex. He'll hear us."

"Gus will not hear us. He's on a totally different level. We're going to have sex while he is here or it's going to be a long visit."

"I didn't say we couldn't have sex while he's here, just not right now. Maybe when he's asleep. He's only 10 and sex is not really on his radar, let's keep it that way."

"You are such a spoiled sport. First, you keep bringing up how this future child is going to curtail our sex life and change everything and now you are denying me your cute bubble butt just because my current son is visiting. Maybe we should have really thought this through a little more. I'll have permanent blue balls and will have to resort to copious amounts of masturbation."

Justin frowned and then laughed. "You're pulling my chain and I recognize Brian Kinney's attempts at guilting me, but lucky for me I know you too well. Finish washing my hair and let's get moving. I want to get the paints and sketch the start of the design before it gets dark."

Brian took the shower head and rinsed Justin's hair and then slapped him on the butt. "Okay. Let's go, dream killer."

They dressed and joined Gus only 30 minutes after they went to the bedroom. "Let's go, buddy. You can kill more zombies later."

Gus killed his last zombie and shut down the game. "Where're we headed?"

"We're going to the art store. I have to pick up some special paints and supplies to get the design ready for the new baby." Justin put on his coat and waits for Brian to unlock the doors before setting the alarm.

"Can we paint a design on my walls too?" He asked as he put on his coat and gloves.

Justin grins and ruffles Gus' hair. "Sure. What kind of design do you want?

Gus gets into the car and puts on his seatbelt as he takes a few moments before answering. "A castle, so I can be a knight and protect the baby." He thought for a few more minutes and then said, "How about a pirate ship? That way I can gather lots of gold to buy things for the baby." Then he shook his head again and said, "I know...A picture of Africa- you know where the lions and elephants live. I'll be the king of the area and protect the baby."

Brian and Justin looked at each noticing the theme in protecting the baby and nodded silently toward each other.

"Gus," Brian said as he backed the car out of the driveway. "Justin and I think it's great that you want to protect the new baby, but you're still a little boy and we as the parents will protect both of you."

Gus smiled and said, "thank you, Daddy." He was quiet for a few moments and said, "Okay. I think I'd like the room to be stars and planets. I want to travel to the moon every night."

"Stars and planets it is, Gus," Justin said as he mentally thought about a design for space for Gus' walls.

Brian drove them into town while Gus looked out the window at all the decorated houses. Brian parked the car and Gus got out of the car.

"Gus, Justin may take a long time in the store. Is there anything you want from the grocery store? We could go there while Justin is deciding what paints to buy."

Justin snickered at Brian's suggestion. "I know exactly what I want to paint and the colors I need. It shouldn't take that long."

"What you going to paint on the baby's wall?" Gus asked wondering if he should listen to his father or Justin.

"I'm not sure. What do you think we should paint?"

"How about the planets and stars? I bet the baby would like those too. And we could be the same."

Brian and Justin nodded their heads in agreement. "Okay. I like that idea."

"Well if you are going to paint the same picture on both our walls, I want to help pick out the colors. Daddy, you go to the grocery store and I'll help Justin." He waved his hand toward the exit and the store a few blocks away.

Brian shook his head in amusement, wondering how long Gus would last with Justin in the art store. He'd been subject to Justin's version of "I'll only take a minute". Those minutes were often several hours while Justin contemplated azure blue versus cerulean blue. He walked toward the grocery to pick up a few items they needed for the week.

After loading the car, Brian returned to the art store and was surprised to see the two in the check out line.

"See, Daddy. Justin and I are all done."

"I should send you to the art store with Gus more often," Brian said, tongue in cheek. "We still have daylight for you to sketch the designs."

"I told you it wouldn't be long," Justin said as he grinned at his partner.

They ran a few more errands and then returned to the house where Justin sketched the design on both bedroom walls.

"That is fantastic, Justin. I know I'll like living here when the baby comes. It's the best room ever."

Justin's concerns kicked in high gear. First Gus gets ready for bed without a fuss and then he says he'll help cook when the baby comes. Now, he mentions he's going to live here. He'll have to mention it to Brian, but he hopes he's just over-reacting. For now, it's time to stop for the day as his hand is starting to hurt.

"Gus, I'm going to start dinner in a bit. Do you want to help?"

"Sure. I want to help out all I can."

 

Brian walked into the kitchen just as Gus finished his statement. He looked at Justin who mouthed "we need to talk" and Brian nodded his head.

"Hey, Sonny Boy, why don't you and I go play some zombies?"

"I need to help Justin, Dad. We can play later. Mom and Momma always said that you have to do your chores first and then you get to play. We can play after dinner."

"Ok. We'll both help Justin."

The three of them made dinner and had a lovely evening.

TBC

Chapter Text

Gus woke the next morning and he quietly went down to the kitchen to gather the ingredients for breakfast. He knew he could make eggs just like Justin had shown him yesterday. He would let his Dad and Justin sleep in and surprise them with breakfast in bed.

 

Gently he broke the eggs and put them in a bowl, adding a little milk and some pepper to the mix. He stirred the mixture in the bowl until all the egg yolks were broken. He took out the frying pan and put a little butter in it just like Justin had shown him. He carefully turned the handle away from the edge and dumped the eggs into the pan. Taking the spatula, he scrambled them until they were cooked. He put some toast into the toaster and took out a plate to place the warm bread on when it popped up.

 

Dividing the eggs between two plates, he also placed two pieces of toast on each plate as well. He put some butter on two pieces, knowing his dad didn't like it on his. He got out one of the trays he saw Justin use and put the plates on the tray and walked very carefully to his Dad and Justin's bedroom. He placed the tray on the floor by the door and gently knocked on the door, startling the occupants.

 

Brian heard the faint knocking and sat up in bed. Making sure that both of them were covered by the blanket, he called out, "Come in."

 

Gus opened the door and then picked up the tray and brought it into his fathers.

 

"Good morning, Dad and Justin. I made you breakfast."

 

Brian and Justin looked at each other and motioned for Gus to come toward the bed.

 

"See, there are eggs and toast. Just like you showed me yesterday, Justin."

 

Justin took the plates and gave one to Brian. He picked up the fork and tasted the eggs and then bit into the toast.

 

"These are great, buddy."

 

"See, I can help all the time."

 

Brian put his plate on the edge of the nightstand and patted the bed for Gus to join them.

 

"Gus, I think we need to talk."

 

"Sure, Dad. I can talk, but don't you want to eat your eggs. Mom always said you have to eat them while they're hot. She never lets us finish watching Super Hero Squad. She says that we can watch cartoons later when we finish breakfast."

 

Brian didn't want to contradict Lindsay in this situation and knew it would hurt Gus' feelings if he didn't eat his food. Gus had gone to a lot of trouble to cook them breakfast and he wanted to acknowledge his efforts. Silently nodding to Justin to eat his breakfast as well, he picked up his fork and continued to eat. Gus looked at his Dad and Justin and was pleased that both men were eating the breakfast he carefully prepared.

 

"Did I do it right, Justin? I didn't get any eggshells in the bowl and I scrambled them so they didn't look wet anymore."

 

Justin smiled at the young man, happy that his quick impromptu lesson yesterday was a success. Knowing that Brian was most probably going to talk to him about his recent campaign to "help" Brian and him when the baby comes, he wanted Gus to know that he appreciated his enthusiasm. "Sure did. You added just the right amount of milk and pepper. The eggs are fluffy without being too watery. We'll have to spend some time in the kitchen learning more recipes." Justin ate the last bites of his toast and wiped his mouth with a Klennex, since Gus did not include napkins on the tray. 10-year-old boys were not known for their cleanliness.

 

Brian finished his breakfast and put the plate on the tray and motioned for Justin to do the same.

 

"Why don't I go make us some coffee? I'll take the tray down and then we can plan our day," Justin said. Knowing Brian was better equipped to function with at least a partial infusion of coffee in his system, he felt this would give Brian a chance to think about the upcoming discussion and an opportunity to provide his partner with his much-needed caffeine intake.

 

"I can help," Gus said as he hopped off the bed.

 

"Slow down, partner. Coffee is very hot and I don't want you spilling it on the stairs. Tell you what, why don't you let Daddy get dressed and you and I will go downstairs to get coffee and clean up the kitchen. You know how Daddy is about a clean kitchen. I can make all of us something to drink and then we can come back up here."

 

Brian frowned at Justin's suggestion, knowing he would miss his morning blow job, but realized Justin was right suggesting he make coffee and get dressed. He needed to think about what he was going to say to Gus to assure him he was wanted but also make certain he understood that he was not going to move in after the baby was born. It was a delicate balance and Gus was an impressionable 10 year- old.

 

"Ok. Come on Justin, Daddy needs coffee. He's real grumpy without it." Gus hopped off the bed and walked toward the door.

 

Justin leaned down toward Brian and gave him a kiss on the lips. "Love you," he said softly.

 

"You too. Now go make coffee. I can't think in the morning without caffeine running through my veins." Brian said as he pulled the covers off both of them.

 

Justin grabbed a pair of lounge pants lying by the side of the bed and Brian walked toward the bathroom. As Gus and Justin walked down the stairs, they heard the water in the shower turn on.

 

"Are we going to work on the baby's room some more today? I bet I could help paint some of the design." Gus asked as he bounded down the staircase.

 

"Slow down, buddy," Justin reminded him. He seemed to remember doing the same thing at his old house when he was Gus' age. He had more respect for his mother as he watched Gus grow up and tear through the house like it was made of bouncy foam rather than drywall. Gus often attempted jumping from the bottom stairs as if he were an Olympic skier. It was amazing that he hadn't broken any bones.

 

They entered the kitchen and Justin placed the tray on the table. "Gus, why don't you put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher while I get our coffee made?"

 

Justin took out two mugs from the shelf and retrieved the creamer and sugar. The coffee pot was preset to start at 7:45 and the coffee was waiting to be poured into the mugs. Placing sugar and cream in Brian's mug, he filled the mug to the top as the black liquid turned a light brown color. He frequently teased Brian that he really had a little coffee with his cream, but it was all in good fun. He prepared his own cup to his specifications and blew over the top to cool it down slightly before taking a small sip. He inhaled the aroma and smiled as the hot drink warmed his chest.

 

"Elixir of man," Justin said before he took another sip and placed the cup in the cabinet. "I'm going to wash the frying pan out quickly and then we can go back upstairs with our drinks. Do you want some breakfast, Gus?"

 

"No, I'm good. I had a bagel while I made your breakfast. That's what Momma does in the morning. She puts peanut butter on it; says it has protein. I just put jelly on mine."

 

"Protein is important. Your Momma is right. You should have protein at every meal. It helps you grow big and strong." Justin grabbed the fry pan and squirted some dish soap on a sponge, beginning to clean it. The egg quickly came out and he placed it on the drying rack. He picked up his coffee and took another sip, enjoying the taste. Looking at his cup, he noticed that almost half of it was gone, so he went to the coffee pot and filled the cup up to the top again. He poured a little cream in it and stirred the mixture. Grabbing both mugs, he said, "Ok. Let's see if your Dad is finished with his shower."

 

They returned to the bedroom where Brian was pulling on his shirt. "Coffee," he reached out for the mug Justin was passing his way. "Want to grab a quick shower, Justin?"

 

"Sure. Justin grabbed a pair of underwear and went to the bathroom to shower. Like Brian, he was disappointed that he wasn't going to have his morning blow job, but he knew they would find a way to do so later in the day. He showered quickly and joined them about 15 minutes later. Gus and Brian were watching Power Rangers and laughing at the antics of the superheroes.

 

Brian motioned toward the bed, hoping it would offer a relaxed atmosphere. The last thing he wanted was for Gus to feel like he was in trouble.

 

"Gus, you're my son and I love you dearly. Nothing is going to change that. Justin and I appreciate all the things you've done around the house in the last few days." Brian ruffled his hair even though he knew Gus was almost too old for the gesture.

 

"Thanks. I wanted to let you guys know that I can take care of myself when the baby comes and I'll help out a lot too." Gus smiled at the praise. He always liked it when his Dad or Justin noticed his actions. Gus bounced a little on the bed, showing his appreciation for the compliment.

 

"Gus, are you afraid that we'll forget you when the baby comes?" Never one to sugarcoat conversations, Brian jumped in feet first to the gist of the conversation.

 

"Grandma Debbie and Mom and Momma say that you'll be really busy with the new baby and won't have time for me. I wanted to show you that I can be really helpful." Gus smiled, happy that his deeds were being recognized.

 

"I see." Brian seethed with anger inside but he did not want to scare Gus nor did he want Gus to know that he was unhappy with these ‘family members.' Brian looked at Justin, rolling his eyes at the accusatory nature of their comments.

 

"Gus, who takes care of J.R.?" Brian had thought about how he wanted to approach this sensitive topic and decided discussing the familiar was a good option.

 

"Momma and Mom take care of her." Gus said with honesty, not making the leap that Brian had silently hoped for. He didn't really want to point out the obvious- well obvious to him, that parents care for their children and a second child doesn't result in neglect of the first.

 

"Who took care of you when she was born?"

 

"Momma took care of me when Mom was in the hospital. And then Momma and I left to live with her Mommy and Daddy. It was pretty scary there. They weren't really nice. All they did was yell at Momma and tell her what a bad person Mom was." Gus frowned when he recalled that time in his young life.

 

A stab hit Brian's heart at Gus' story. Wishing Lindsay had shared their problems with him was a moot point at this juncture and he wasn't sure he would have offered a different solution. He knew she wasn't going to come live with him and he wasn't going to support her either. He'd given her plenty of money for Gus, but if he had offered to put her up in her own place, he thought her little fantasies of the Mr. and Mrs. Brian Kinney show would have grown even bigger.

 

"But Momma was always there when you got home from school and spent time with you. She didn't ask her Mommy and Daddy to care for you."

 

"Yes. Momma was there after school all the time. We'd eat milk and cookies when I came home and then we'd play a game or she'd help me with my homework. She always played with me, even when J.R. was born. Mom was too tired, but Momma played games with me."

 

"You know that I love you and so does Justin." Brian leaned over and hugged Justin to him, giving him a little kiss on the cheek.

 

"Yes," Gus said.

 

"Ms. Cynthia is having a baby for us; so it's a little different than Mom and Momma having a baby." Brian could hear the tick of the clock on the wall, surprised that he never noticed it in the past.

 

"I know. I like Ms. Cynthia. She always gives me a piece of chocolate from her desk when I come to see you." Gus started to kick his legs on the edge of the bed.

 

Brian smiled at his son, happy at his easy going nature.

 

"When the baby comes, Daddy and Justin are going to be its parents."

 

"I know that. Uncle Michael keeps saying you will change your mind about being a dad. Are you going to change your mind?" He felt his stomach doing somersaults; fearing the unknown.

 

Again, Brian burned with indignation at the words his ‘family' was using in front of his son. He wasn't surprised at the information but was unhappy that they had so little faith in his choices.

 

"No, Gus. Justin and I want this baby very, very much."

 

"Oh," Gus said, a little disappointed in the answer. He had hoped that his father would decide that he wouldn't want the baby and then he would still be the only child.

 

"We want this baby as much as we want you."

 

"You do?" Gus made a huge smile, one that rivalled Justin's. His Momma and Mom were wrong and so was Uncle Michael and Grandma Debbie. His Daddy and Justin still wanted him. He couldn't contain his happiness and he jumped off the bed and raised his fist in the air saying, "Yes!!!"

 

"Of course," Brian said. He watched his child and chided himself for not having this conversation a while ago. He motioned for Gus to rejoin them on the bed and Gus sat on the bed between the two men.

 

"Gus, you know your friend Colin has a baby brother and your friend Zach has a little sister," Justin said as he decided to enter the conversation.

 

"Yeah. Colin likes his brother- they play Legos together, Zach said his sister always wants to play with her dolls and dolls are boring." Gus thought for a few minutes before continuing. "Do you think I could play Legos with the new baby? That would be awesome. Momma and Mom are busy a lot and can't always play."

 

"I'm sure when the baby gets bigger, he or she will play with you but it will be a bit before he/ she can play Legos." Brian took another sip of his coffee, contemplating the almost empty mug.

 

"OK." Gus' shoulders sagged a little at the disappointing news. He'd hoped that the new baby would be an instant playmate. Gus could see the snow coming down outside and hoped they could go play outside today.

 

"Gus, we want you to be a part of the new baby's life. You'll watch it grow up and I know when the baby gets old enough, the two of you will play together," Brian said, trying to reassure his son of his place in the family. "You'll always be our son and have an important place in our family."

 

"Daddy is trying to tell you that you don't have to take care of us or the new baby. Just like Momma and Mom took care of J.R. when she was really little, Daddy and I will be taking care of the baby. But, we will also be taking care of you when you visit."

 

"Visit? Wouldn't it be better if I lived here with you and helped out when the baby comes? Babies are a lot of work; that's what Mom says. If I'm here, I can help a lot."

 

"Gus, come here," Brian waved his hand at his son. Gus moved closer to his father and looked at his face.

 

"You live with your Momma and Mom and the new baby will live with us. You'll come visit all the time and I'm sure you will be a big help, but you're still a little boy and little boys need to run around, kick the soccer ball, play with Legos and make forts. They don't need to be caring for little babies."

 

Gus looked at his Dad and then at Justin, seeing a familiar look on their faces. He didn't know what it was called, but it was the soft face that his Dad and Justin made when they talked softly. They were always truthful with him; never hiding secrets. "I guess I would get bored without my Legos and soccer ball." He put his finger to his temple and tapped it a few times. "When will the baby be old enough to play with me?"

 

"You can play with the baby when it is a few months old. By that time, it will stay awake for a few hours at a time. While you can't play Legos and build forts, there are lots of fun things you can do with the baby. Daddy and I will teach you to play with the baby. I'm sure you're going to be the best big brother ever," Justin said as he kissed the top of Gus' head. The wind blew a loud gust against the house.

 

"But for now, I think we should get out the new sled you got for Christmas and play on the hills," Brian said.

 

"I love sledding. Justin, are you going to sled with us? Daddy can pull you on the sled too. It will be so much fun." Gus bounced up and down again, having difficulty hiding his excitement.

 

Justin looked at the snow covered grounds of their beautiful home. He wasn't that fond of the cold and snow, but he wanted to share this pre-baby time with Gus. He knew Gus needed reassurance that both of them would be there for him. "Sure. I'll come for a little while. Maybe when we come in, you and I will make some fresh hot cocoa."

 

"Why don't you go get your long johns on and Justin and I will put on some warm clothes too and we'll meet you downstairs in a little bit?"

 

Gus slid off the bed quickly and ran out of the room. Justin looked at Brian, a slight frown on his face. "Sledding? Really? It's got to be 10 degrees out there with the wind chill. He's only going to last 20 minutes- tops." Justin shivered just thinking of the cold outside.

 

"Exactly. When he comes in, he'll want to take a warm shower and we can do the same."

 

"Ah... I see where you're going with this. But, you do realize when the baby comes, someone will have to stay inside. It's too cold to take the baby out in this kind of weather."

 

"I know, I know. When the baby comes..... blah, blah, blah. There is no baby now, so let's live a little," Brian said as he unbuttoned his jeans. "You need to change into something more appropriate. I plan on helping you change, but only after I get my morning blow job." He proceeded to take off his jeans and underwear, standing in front of his partner with a fully erect cock.

 

Justin's mouth watered at the spectacular site in front of him. Bending down on his knees he proceeded to give Brian his morning blow job. He had to be fast; Gus wouldn't be willing to wait and might return at any time. He knew how to bring Brian off very quickly as well as prolong their pleasure when he wanted to do so. He heard the familiar increase in Brian's breathing and when Brian took his head in his hands, moving it so he could deep throat him, he felt Brian shooting down his throat. Justin swallowed everything Brian had to offer and licked his lips in satisfaction. Brian pulled his head up, signalling he wanted to kiss Justin and Justin complied with the request. Brian tasted himself on his partner and moaned as their tastes co-mingled. They kissed for a few minutes but stopped when he heard the familiar footfalls on the stairs.

 

"Better get dressed, Justin. I hear its cold outside," Brian said in a teasing manner.

 

"You too. All your blood is in your dick so you're in jeopardy of getting really cold," Justin said as he walked over to his dresser and picked out a pair of long underwear.

 

"Daddy, I'm ready. Aren't you guys dressed yet? I had to go to the other side of the house cuz that's where my bedroom is. You didn't have to go anywhere," Gus said from outside the door. He'd learned that when the door was closed, he better knock or talk through the door. He knew they were supposed to be getting dressed, so the closed door meant they weren't done.

 

"Almost finished, Sonny Boy," Brian said.

 

A few minutes later both men came out of the bedroom and joined Gus. "We'll need gloves, hats and scarves. It's cold out there," Justin said.

 

Gus had gathered all the cold weather gear and pointed to the pile sitting on the table. "Hurry up. Daddy might get tired pulling us up the hill," Gus said as he started to wrap the scarf around his neck.

 

They dressed quickly, avoiding getting too overheated in the house and enjoyed an hour playing in the snow. When they were done, they came inside, made hot chocolate and showered to warm up just as Brian had predicted in the morning. Justin enjoyed his late morning blow job; each man wishing for the evening to come so they could enjoy themselves even more.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Week 28

 

Cynthia could no longer hide her pregnancy and people at Kinnetik as well as clients commented on her expanding middle. Brian decided he was tired of hearing the poorly disguised whispers and he was determined to stop the gossip. Brian stood in front of the long conference table, its cherry wood shining under the bright lights. Remembering when he first started Kinnetik and it was just him, Cynthia, and Ted on a shoestring budget brought a smile to his face and a shot of “I told you so” to all the naysayers in the business. He’d worked hard and now he was about to embark on an even scarier journey, one he could not turn his back on nor did he want to.

 

“As all of you know Cynthia is pregnant.” Brian glanced around the room as most of his employees moved their eyes toward his assistant. “Normally I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about her pregnancy but this time it’s personal. She is carrying my and Justin’s child. Break time is over. Let’s go back to work.” Brian dismissed his staff and they returned to their work stations and offices.

 

“That’s it. You didn’t … ” Ted started to comment, but Brian cut him off before he could go any further.

 

“I was tired of the looks Cynthia was getting from people. I know better than to think just because folks work here they don’t gossip. I will not have my child gossiped about, even before it is born. I answered all the questions in a quick five minute meeting. Now I won’t hear the constant speculation about whose baby it is and whether she’ll come back to work after it’s born.”

 

Ted nodded and said, “Okay, Bri. You’re the boss.”

 

“Theodore, do you have the third quarter expenditures for me to review or are we going to stand in the conference room and talk about Cynthia all morning? “ Brian opened the door and walked toward his office, not even watching or waiting for Ted to follow. Ted followed and the day continued like any other day at Kinnetik.

 

Week 32

 

Justin rolled out of bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Staggering to the bathroom, he turned the water on in the shower and went to the bathroom as the water heated. After flushing the toilet he felt Brian’s arms go around his waist and pull him close.

 

“You’re up early for a weekend. Couldn’t sleep?” Brian asked as he gently kissed Justin behind the ear.

 

“No. Lamaze class is this weekend. I’m Cynthia’s partner so I need to be there. You can still change your mind and come too. Even though it’s my biological child, it’s your child too.”

 

“No thanks. It’s bad enough seeing her belly grow every week. I think I would be scarred for life seeing her twat as she gives birth.” Brian gave a shiver and smiled at Justin. “I still like the idea of Cynthia being the biological mother of our child, but the reality of seeing her pregnant is a totally different matter.”

 

Justin stepped into the shower and turned the water a little hotter. Brian followed him and grabbed the shampoo to wash his hair.

 

“Having second thoughts about Cynthia being our surrogate?” Justin asked as he tilted his head back ensuring the shampoo stayed out of his eyes. “Child birth is natural; almost all men join their partners in the delivery room. The miracle of birth is really a once in a lifetime event.” Justin said as he sounded like the proverbial public service announcement.

 

“I have to work with Cynthia after the birth of our child and I don’t think there is enough brain bleach to take the vision of her giving birth out of my mind. Better not put it in there and just see the baby after it’s born.” Brian rinsed the shampoo out of Justin’s hair and he handed the soap to Justin.

 

“Don’t you ever wish you had been there when Gus was born?”

 

“Nope. I saw him when he was a few hours old and I think it hasn’t affected my relationship with him at all. We are very close. I’ll be at the hospital and you can keep me up to date while I sit in the waiting room. After it’s born, I’ll see it,” Brian said, the finality of his tone brooked no discussion.

 

Justin took the soap from Brian and nodded his head slightly, wishing that Brian was interested in seeing the birth of their child, but also understanding why he wouldn’t do so. He had already decided to take some videos and if Brian ever expressed an interest in seeing the birth, he would be able to do so. Justin soaped Brian’s chest and arms and when the water washed the soap off his chiseled body, Justin proceeded to kiss and lick the magnificent skin.

 

Continuing the washing and cleansing routine, he made his way down Brian’s body till he was at his cock. He soaped the cock and used the suds to add friction and slide to his hands. Quickly bringing Brian off, he leaned down to swallow his morning treat.

 

Brian’s hands went to Justin’s arms and pulled him up while turning him around to face the shower tiles. He grabbed the soap, making suds with his hands and running them up and down Justin’s crack, making it slick and ready for their joining.

 

“Do it,” Justin urged as he braced his hands against the tile and spread his feet to a comfortable stance.

 

Brian took his hard cock in his hand, running the swollen head over Justin’s sensitive skin and then with a push, entered Justin swiftly. Justin groaned with pleasure and pushed back to feel the cock fill his passage. Brian grabbed Justin’s hips pulling his partner toward him with abandon.

 

There was nothing like being inside of Justin, the walls of his channel hugging his cock and the feeling of connection he felt when they were joined in the most intimate way. Bareback was nothing like he expected; it was 1000 times more stimulating and fulfilling then he ever imagined. He loved Justin and no matter how many times they had sex, he didn’t think he would ever tire of the feelings.

 

Soon his body was completing a race to a finish that he was always sad to win. His heart pumped hard at the exertion and his mind filled with a one thought- completion- orgasm. He felt the familiar tingling in his low back, signaling the end of the familiar race. Pulling Justin to him in several quick focused strokes, he shot deep into his partner as Justin shot his load on the tile. As the adrenaline dissipated from his limbs, he pulled out, but continued to hold Justin, his arms wrapped around his torso and his lips kissing his neck.

 

They stood there under the spray of water until their bodies returned to normal. Justin pulled away, regretting leaving the connection he always felt after they made love.

 

“I have to go. Cynthia said it starts at 9:00.” He turned off the shower and got out, quickly drying his body. He dressed quickly, grabbed his keys off the hook near the garage and glanced at the clock on the microwave. Driving to the Starbucks close to the office where the classes were being held, he grabbed two cinnamon bagels and 2 cups of coffee.

 

As he entered the room, he saw 5 couples and Cynthia. She was sitting in a chair and had two oversized pillows and a blanket with her. Walking toward her, he held up the bag of bagels and she smiled.

 

“Thanks. It’s getting harder to sleep these days and I could use the caffeine.” She said as she grabbed one of the cups out of the cardboard carrying container. She inhaled the aroma from the cup and a smile came over her face. Taking the lid off, she blew over the top and then took a tentative sip. “mmm”

 

“Guess all the runs for Kinnetik have paid off. I actually know what you like in your coffee.”

 

She sipped some more coffee and took a few bites from her bagel. “Cinnamon. How’d you know I like Cinnamon bagels?”

 

“I go in the break room a lot and there are always Cinnamon bagels in the box. One time there was only one left and I started to take it, but Brian informed me that it was yours and that I better leave it alone.”

 

Cynthia laughed. “He never ceases to amaze me. He wants people to think that he doesn’t watch or pay attention to the little things, but he does. He will make a great father. I mean I’ve seen him with Gus and he is wonderful, but this child is for the two of you. Gus is…” She started the sentence, but realized she didn’t want to offend Justin.

 

“Its fine, Cynthia. Brian will be the first to tell you he didn’t expect to be a father to Gus, only the sperm donor. He was more than surprised to realize that he loves the little boy and can’t imagine his life without him. As for our baby," Justin gently put his hand on Cynthia’s swollen abdomen and smiled. “Brian is going in with eyes wide open. This is our child and we are raising it together.”

 

Cynthia didn’t have time to answer as the instructor clapped her hands together and instructed the couples to move their chairs in a circle.

 

“We’re going to be spending most of the next two days with each other so I’d like to have everyone introduce themselves and tell a little something about yourselves.”

 

Cynthia and Justin looked at each other and both smirked. Justin whispered, “I’m not ashamed of us, I’ll go first.”

 

When it was their turn, Justin introduced himself. “I’m Justin Taylor and this is our surrogate, Cynthia. My husband and I are so excited about this addition to our family and I’m going to be Cynthia’s partner during the birth of our child.

 

There were a few uneasy looks but since the passing of the marriage equality act, no one questioned their right to call each other husband and be accepted by the legal system. Justin knew that legislation could not change people’s thoughts, but it did impact the legal process. He hoped when their child was grown, his/ her parent’s marriage would be a non-topic.

 

The instructor began the workshop with a very detailed (pictures and posters included) discussion of the biology of birth. She discussed everything from the pre labor Braxton Hicks contractions that many women experience to the birthing of the placenta. Justin had taken biology in high school but he didn’t remember ever going over the information involving birth to such great detail. The instructor had spoken for almost 2 hours and gave them a break.

 

“I think we’re short changing you in this surrogacy thing, Cynthia. I had no idea that your body went through so many changes and that you would have to go through all that just to get the little guy out. I’m sorry,” Justin said as he looked at her swollen belly and imagined a tiny human coming out of her vagina. It just didn’t seem possible that a hole that small could open that large.

 

“As Brian says, no apologies, no regrets. My sister was pregnant a few years ago and she spoke quite freely about the joys of carrying a child. I’ve had many really close friends that have had kids too. I knew what I was volunteering for. Besides, I’d rather me be the one carrying your child than a complete stranger, or worse, Lindsay. I love Brian in my own way; he’s given me so much. I would never be where I am today without him.” Cynthia faced glowed as she talked about Brian and Justin’s alarm bells rang in his head.

 

Cynthia watched as Justin’s face became a mask, no feelings evident, and realized the impact her words had on Justin. “NO! Don’t go thinking I’m in love with him and secretly think I’m having his love child.” She took Justin’s hand in hers and squeezed it gently. “I think you are a saint for being Brian’s partner. I don’t think I could ever do that. The man has a short fuse and fierce temper.” She placed her hand on her abdomen as the baby kicked, reacting unconsciously to the drama in the room. “I wanted this for both of you and after watching you deal with all the shit that has gone on for the last several years, I thought I could at least make this journey easier for you.” She exhaled a deep breath when she watched Justin relax his face and a small smile brighten it. “Besides, this way I guarantee I will have a niece or nephew that I will see pretty regularly. I only see my nephew a few times a year and I like being the indulgent aunt. Unfortunately, he really doesn’t know me well and sort of cowers in the corner when they visit.”

 

“You know its all show. Brian is the most caring and gentle man and he will do anything for those he loves.”

 

“Maybe at home, but at work….”

 

“I know if you thought he was so terrible, we wouldn’t be sitting here in this Lamaze class. Thank you.” Justin leaned over and gave Cynthia a hug as a tiny drop of moisture slipped down his cheek. He wiped it away with his hand and said, “You’re the best.”

 

When they returned from the break, the instructor showed a film of an actual birth and a “C” section.

 

During the break after that section, Justin and Cynthia got up to walk around the facility. It was a beautiful winter day and they agreed to walk outside to enjoy the bright sunshine. Luckily the weather was cooperating today. The true cold of Pittsburgh winters had stayed away, but both of them knew the bitter cold and snow might come again.

 

“I tried to get Brian to come with me today, guilting him that he should be there for all the parts of the birth of our child, but I’m beginning to think he has the right idea. Birth is really gross. All that blood and stuff and the baby is covered in it.”

 

Justin allowed Cynthia to set the pace. She loosened the scarf around her neck to allow a little cool air in. “One benefit of being pregnant in the winter is I’m not cold.” Cynthia laughed. “What did you think would happen? The baby is just born with smooth skin and no blood?”

 

“Actually I hadn’t thought about it. I was thinking of videotaping the birth for Brian so he could see it later, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I can’t see him ever watching the event.” Justin paled a little at the thought of watching it himself.

 

“My friends tell me that you really don’t notice all the other stuff. Giving birth and then you have a tiny baby when it’s done is so amazing that you just gloss over the birthing process.” Cynthia is enjoying Justin’s sudden realization of the messiness of birth. She silently thinks watching him in the hospital will keep her mind off labor. She’ll be trying to comfort him instead of vice versa. “I think Brian is right. It would be really weird for him to be there. When he told the staff that my baby is actually his- there was stunned silence in the room.”

 

“I wish I’d seen that.”

 

“It was pure Brian. He said I’m sure you all have noticed that Cynthia is pregnant and watched as the staff nodded in agreement. Then he said that the baby is his, now go back to work.” Cynthia smiled at the memory.

 

“Pure Brian. Matter of fact. Just stated the obvious and moved on. Although I can’t really imagine any other way to do it. He’s not the touchy feely type.” Justin stopped his walk and turned toward Cynthia and changed his voice to a deep one, like his partner. “I’m sure you have noticed that Cynthia is pregnant. What you don’t know is that she is carrying a child for me and Justin. We are so happy that she offered to do this for us. Please give her a little leeway.” Justin brought his hand over his face pretending to erase the mask. They both laughed for several moments at the fake rendition.

 

“I guess we need to get back. Wonder what fascinating topics she’ll have for us next?” Justin opened the door and Cynthia walked through. She stopped at the restroom. “Go ahead. I’ll meet you inside. There are definitely some things I will not miss about being pregnant.”

 

Justin returned to the room where the instructor covered anesthesia next. She showed them several needles as well as the hook the doctors use to break the water. He paled as he looked at the instruments and glanced at Cynthia, watching to see her reaction. She nodded and made notes on the side of the papers that were handed out with the class.

 

“Those look like instruments of torture. I’m so sorry, Cynthia. If I’d known…” Justin stammered as he tried to gulp some air into his lungs.

 

“Justin, whether it was me or a total stranger, the birthing process would be the same. It will be fine. If you talk to any woman, she will tell you that she really doesn’t remember labor too much,” Cynthia said as she whispered quietly, trying not to disturb her fellow classmates.

 

After each topic, the teacher gave the couples a break and encouraged them to move around and stretch. Cynthia and Justin walked around the building again. The building housed several suites of medical offices and their classroom was on the first floor of the three story structure. It was in a residential neighborhood and there were several strip malls close by. When it was time for lunch, Justin drove them to a Crazy Bowls and Wraps, deciding he should go the healthy route since he was with Cynthia.

 

“I had no idea there was so much to learn about having a baby. It’s pretty scary … the birthing stuff, but the instructor said she would cover taking the baby home, giving it a bath and care of the umbilical cord tomorrow. Maybe Brian should come tomorrow. All the labor stuff will be finished.” Justin bit into his Greek wrap with feta cheese and Kalamata olives. He’d ordered a yogurt mango shake and had almost finished it.

 

Cynthia finished her Mediterranean rice bowl and sipped her ice tea. She pulled out her packet detailing the topics for the weekend and flipped to the second sheet. “Yeah. He could come tomorrow. As you said, all the gross stuff will be done today. I doubt he really took care of Gus too much as a newborn. I doubt Lindsay would have trusted him.”

 

Justin rolled his eyes as he remembered the time Melanie came barging into the loft while he was babysitting and practically accused him of trying to burn Gus with a too warm bottle. “You’re probably right. At that time, he was still under the delusion that he was just the sperm donor.”

 

Justin gathered their trash and brought it to the bin and refilled Cynthia’s tea. He put a top on it and brought it back to the table. “Ready to hear more about breathing and pain relief?” he joked.

 

“Sure.”

 

They returned to the classroom and finished their training for the day. Justin walked Cynthia to her car.

 

“I’ll talk to Brian. See if I can get him to come tomorrow. I think he will learn a lot.”

 

They drove off and Justin went home to talk to Brian. Brian was finishing his workout when Justin came in. He turned off the treadmill and hung the towel around his neck. Walking to Justin, he leaned down to kiss him and Justin inhaled deeply, enjoying his sweaty partner. Brian’s sweaty body reminded him a lot of sex, as they often were sweaty and slick by the time they were finished and the smell of Brian after a workout was such a turn on.

 

“Have fun dear?” Brian teased.

 

“I guess. I just want to say I’m glad that I’m not a woman and have to give birth. It’s painful and gross. Did you know…”

 

“Stop right there. There was a very good reason that I said I was not going today. You said it yourself. Pain and disgusting- Two really good reasons not to be there when the baby comes out.”

 

After the information he learned today, Justin was in agreement with Brian, but he still wanted to be present at the birth of their child- well his child. It was his biological child and he justified his desire to see it brought into the world, no matter how gross it was.

 

“True. But tomorrow the instructor is talking about bringing the baby home: bathing it, changing diapers, care of the umbilical cord, feeding it. None of the gross stuff. You should come.”

 

Justin decided Brian might need some enticement to get him to agree. “I’ll give you five blow jobs if you come.” He trailed his finger down Brian’s chest and pulled at the waistband of his gym shorts. Brian smiled at Justin’s antics, but remained quiet. Justin put his hand inside the shorts, finding Brian’s cock and stroking it a few times. “I’ll rim you…” He stroked the hardening cock a few more times and palmed the head as it became wet with precum. “Come on, Brian.” Justin urged. Justin could hear Brian’s short breaths and he recognized the increased heaviness of Brian’s cock in hand. “Love you,” he whispered and felt Brian come all over his hand. He pulled Brian’s shorts down and licked him clean, tucking him back inside the shorts when he finished.

 

“Brian?”

 

There was no response. Justin thought he needed more ammunition. “Please. Don’t you want to know how to take care of our baby? You don’t want to rely on Debbie or my mom for advice.”

 

Brian stepped away and shook his head at that image. “Five blow jobs and 3 rim jobs – time of my choosing and you can’t refuse,” he said as he bargained with his partner.

 

“You’ll come. That’s wonderful. You won’t regret it. I learned so much today. Did you know…”

 

“Stop. I don’t need a biology lesson and I already told you, visions of Cynthia’s twat make me gag. You play very dirty, Sunshine. Bringing Debbie and Mother Taylor into the conversation was not nice.” Brian leaned over and kissed Justin. “Now let’s get clean. I promised Mikey we’d come to Woody’s for a few hours.

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The two men walked into Woody’s and saw the familiar faces gathered around a tall wooden table; each man had a glass of beer within his reach. They appeared deep in conversation and when they saw Brian and Justin approach, the talk stopped and each man greeted them.

 

“Continue, ladies,” Brian said in his familiar greeting to the group. “We’re here now so everyone can stop speculating if we were having sex and got too involved to show up.”

 

Justin smacked Brian on the arm. “Brian,” he said in mock horror. “Our friends are really not interested in our sex life.”

 

“I beg to differ. They just don’t talk about it in front of us- well, not too often. Everybody is just jealous of you since you are sleeping with the Stud of Liberty Avenue.”

 

Justin did not want to continue this line of banter; even though he knew what Brian said held some truth. He liked to think that their sex life was private.

 

“What have you two been up to today?” Emmett asked.

 

“Sonny boy has been learning all about birthing babies. Me, well I took Gus to his indoor soccer league practice and we went to the diner for lunch and then watched some lame kid movie this afternoon. I swear the producers of kid’s movies must think children are really stupid. I can’t even remember the plot; it was that forgettable.”

 

“It’s great that you are taking such interest in the pregnancy, Justin. I wish more fathers would share your enthusiasm. I think the miracle of birth is the most fantastic feat of nature. Did you know…” Ben said as he started to engage Justin in conversation.

 

“Professor, I’m sure the topic is incredibly interesting, but I’m here to have a few beers, play some pool and get hit on by random strangers. I’m not here to discuss the grossness of giving birth. You and Sunshine can meet to your heart’s content to talk about the miracle of birth and all the other gross things having to do with children,” Brian said. He nodded his head and motioned to Justin that he was headed to the bar.

 

“That wasn’t very nice. He was just trying to have a discussion,” Justin said as he walked with his husband to the bar. “You should treat him with more respect. He’s a very smart guy.”

 

“Two beers, draft,” Brian said to the bartender.

 

“Justin, I didn’t say that Ben is not smart nor did I indicate that I don’t think he has information relevant to the discussion. I said that I came here to be entertained and that discussion isn’t entertaining. I seem to recall a promise for 5 blow jobs and 3 rim jobs and I think now would be a good time to cash in on one of those blow jobs. I need to forget about babies and birthing and all the gross things that go along with them.”

 

Justin grabbed their beers from the bar and brought them back to the table without saying a word. Tilting his head toward Brian he made a light tilt toward the bathrooms, since Woody’s didn’t have a back room. Brian took a sip of his beer and smiled. The two walked back toward the bathrooms and their friends watched them retreat.

 

“They just got here. I can’t believe they can’t go without sex for an hour,” Michael whined.

 

“There seemed to be more to that than sex,” Ben said as he observed Justin’s face during the interaction. “Justin seemed resigned rather than pleased.”

 

“Come on,” Michael said as he took another drink from his beer. “Justin’s at Brian’s beck and call. That’s how he’s kept him for so long. He’s just a convenient fuck.”

 

“You don’t really believe that Michael,” Ted said. “They’ve been through so much in the last 10 years. If they didn’t love each other, one or both could have easily bailed. Don’t you remember when Justin was in that car accident a few years back and hit his head? He had amnesia for quite a while and didn’t remember that he and Brian were together. Brian stayed with him the whole time.”

 

“Yea, but…”

 

“Stop it sweetie. They are very much in love and now they’re having a baby. I think it’s so romantic,” Emmett said as he got a far-away look in his eyes.

 

“I still say Brian is going to be so sorry when the baby comes. A baby is a lot of work. It’s going to put a big crimp in their sex life and you know Brian and sex; he lives for sex,” Michael said, trying once again to defend his thoughts about the upcoming baby.

 

“Couples lives change when a baby arrives, but they adjust. How do you think people have two and three children? If their sex lives ended after a child was born, there would be many families with only one child,” Ben said, trying to enlighten his spouse. “I suggest you give up on trying to convince Brian that he’s not going to change his life after the baby’s arrival and start thinking about ways that you can fit their new family into your life. I can guarantee that Brian is going to be very active in this child’s life and unless you figure out a way to accept that, you’ll not be a part of his life.” Ben hoped his words would finally get through to Michael, but he had his doubts. He recognized that Brian’s baby would have a profound effect on his own marriage. Michael had difficulty accepting Brian’s desire to sometimes stay in and not go to Babylon or to Woody’s and do something with Justin. He could imagine the conversations that they would be having about Michael’s inability to spend time with his ‘best friend’. He sometimes wondered if Michael’s love for him was stronger than his love for Brian, but then would revisit their last time making love and his questions would be answered. Michael loved him but would never give up his love for his ‘best friend.

 

“You just wait and see. I’ll be right. Brian’s not going to change.”

 

At that moment, Brian and Justin returned to the table and picked up their glasses, each taking a long draw of the cold liquid.

 

“So what did we miss? Have you solved all the problems of the world while we were gone?”

 

“I was just saying that the baby isn’t going to change you, Brian. I know you’ll be here and at Babylon all the time.”

 

Justin smiled at Brian, his knowing smile, the one that said, ‘I told you so’ and shook his head, but he did not respond to Michael. He left that chore to his partner.

 

“I’ll still come to Woody’s and Babylon, but it won’t be as often. Having a baby changes your life. Ask Justin, he keeps reminding me of the upcoming changes on a daily basis,” he said, tongue in cheek, giving his partner a friendly jab.

 

Michael was silent, not really believing Brian, but understanding this was not the time to get into a heavy discussion. Brian had made it clear earlier that he was there to relax. “How about a game of pool? You and me against Justin and Ted.”

 

“Sure. I think we could land a few balls in those holes,” Brian said.

 

The men enjoyed the rest of the evening and there was no mention of babies. About midnight, Justin and Brian said their goodbyes.

 

“I’m so glad you agreed to come tomorrow. I know it will be so much fun learning about taking care of our child,” Justin said as they walked to the car.

 

“You made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. Well I could have refused it, but I do know when to give in to your bribes. I still have 4 blow jobs and 3 rim jobs that you owe me. I’ve been thinking when I should cash those in,” Brian said as he looked deviously at his partner.

 

“I keep my promises,” Justin said, a little fearful of where and when Brian might decide to cash in on the blow jobs.

 

“What time is this shindig tomorrow and how long does it last?”

 

“It starts at nine and it should be over by 5:00. Evidently there is a lot to learn about taking care of newborns.”

 

Brian drove the car toward their home in West Virginia, choosing to think about Gus as a baby.

 

“I’m sure we’ll do just fine and there is always my mom and Debbie to ask if we have questions,” Justin said as he took Brian’s silence as worry.

 

“I’m not worried, twat. It’s a baby, not some multi-million dollar machine. How difficult could it really be? I really don’t think asking Debbie for advice is a good idea. She still thinks she needs to make most decisions for Micky and his father is a drag queen. Not a great role model.”

 

“Brian, that’s cruel. She didn’t know he was a drag queen at the time. It was different, then. Guys were in the closet a lot more.”

 

“Still, I’m not going to be asking Debbie for advice. I can just see it now. You know, Brian you should … . She’d be over all the time and calling even more often. We’ll do what parents have done for eternity, wing it.”

 

Inwardly Justin agreed with Brian but he wasn’t going to tell him that; Brian had enough feelings of superiority already. He did think he would occasionally ask his mom; she’d raised two kids and both he and Molly were pretty well adjusted.

 

They arrived home and got ready for bed. Brian reached out for Justin, pulling him close. “No children right now, so let’s enjoy a little fun.”

 

Justin opened his mouth to kiss his partner; each breath filled with their love and lust for each other. He moaned into the kiss as he felt his erection grow. Pressing his cock against Brian’s stomach he enjoyed the friction of their bodies rubbing against each other. Brian pulled away from the kiss and moved down Justin’s body licking and kissing the smooth flesh until he found his prize, Justin’s cock. Opening his mouth, he flicked his tongue across the sensitive head, tasting the precum as a few beads leaked out and he moaned in satisfaction. Justin maneuvered his body so he could have access to Brian’s cock as well, licking and sucking the turgid flesh. The combination of Brian’s cock in his mouth and Brian’s mouth on his cock brought him very quickly to a point of no return.

 

“Brian….,” he warned as he felt the familiar tingling in the base of his spine.

 

Brian increased his ministrations, adding stroking of Justin’s perineum to the mix of sucking and licking. He pushed on the small rosebud, not penetrating, but adding some additional stimulation. Soon he felt the familiar spasms that resulted in Justin’s shooting his cum down his throat. As he swallowed, he allowed himself to reciprocate and shot down Justin’s throat as well. After his orgasm, he rolled over on his back, but brought Justin’s body on top of his.

 

“No baby is going to stop this. Now, let’s get some sleep. I love you.”

 

Justin smiled at Brian’s words. He understand Kinney speak loud and clear and Brian was telling him he understood that things would change when the baby came, but that he was prepared for those changes. Justin lay on his partner’s body for a while but then got up to grab a wet cloth from the bathroom to clean them up. Throwing the towel in the bathroom when he was finished, he lay down and curled up in Brian’s arms where he fell asleep until the alarm went off the next morning.

 

They got up in the morning and took their morning shower where they shared a quick tryst. After eating a quick breakfast of bagels for Justin and Guava Juice and toast for Brian, they drove to the strip mall where the classes were being held.

 

“Ok, twat, I showed up. Now let’s hear all about taking care of those babies.”

 

When they walked in, they saw Cynthia with her two pillows and a towel sitting in one of the chairs toward the middle of the room.

 

She sensed them as they walked toward her. “Brian, I didn’t expect you to come. I’m so glad you showed up.”

 

“The twat has ways to bribe me.”

 

Cynthia didn’t ask as she had a pretty good idea what that bribe entailed and she didn’t need to know the specifics. “I learned a lot yesterday and I’m sure you won’t regret coming.”

 

The instructor came over to them a few minutes later and asked, “I’m Katherine. Are you the other father?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I’m so glad you could make it today. We’re going to learn about taking care of the baby today. Newborns are so fragile and unlike older children, they can’t tell us what they want.”

 

Brian looked at Justin and Cynthia with a huge frown on his face as the instructor walked away. “Really? You’ve been listening to this woman for an entire day. I’m surprised you haven’t both lost your sanity. She acts as if I don’t have a clue that a baby is helpless.”

 

“Brian, be quiet. She’ll hear you. She was a great teacher yesterday. Look, class is going to start. Just sit down and open your mind. I’m sure we’ll all learn something,” Justin said, urging his partner to cooperate.

 

“I’m learning when the breaks are so I can count down the time till my next blow job,” Brian said as he read the outline the instructor had provided.

 

Justin blushed and said, “Briannnn.”

 

“Don’t be embarrassed, Justin. I’ve worked with the man for many years and don’t think I don’t know what happens when he locks the door when you visit.”

 

Justin started to respond, but decided that there was really nothing he could say to her comment. He knew she was right and trying to deny it was silly. Justin sat a little away from Brian and attempted to concentrate on the instructor. He knew very little about taking care of babies and he knew Brian was right. Neither of them wanted Debbie to get wind of their lack of knowledge or she would be in their face all the time.

 

The instructor started with a lecture on the care of the umbilical cord and presented a slide show of the stages of it falling off. She then discussed bathing a newborn. She had a life size doll and each couple got to try out bathing the doll. When it was Brian and Justin’s turn, Justin pretended to hold the doll’s head just like they were shown in class, supporting the soft spot and the instructor commented on how well he was doing. However, when it was Brian’s turn she urged him to put less water in the tub and to support the baby while he was bathing it. Brian listened and altered his technique demonstrating to both Justin and the instructor he could follow directions and could take care of his child. Justin did not comment on the need for Brian to have additional instruction; he knew Brian was a reluctant participant and he did not want him walking out of the training.

 

When the instructor called a break, Brian gave Justin a gentle nod toward the bathroom, but Justin shook his head.

 

“No way, Brian. This is not the place or the time. I’m not giving you a blow job here.”

 

“You owe me, Sonny Boy. 5 blow jobs at time and place of my choosing and this is my time and place of choice. Now, I suggest you walk yourself over to the men’s room and give me a quick blow job. We only have 15 minutes and you’ve wasted 5 of those.”

 

“I’m not giving you a blow job, Brian. I promise to give you one tonight when we leave, but not here and definitely not now,” he said, trying to keep his voice low so the other participants wouldn’t hear their argument.

 

“No blow job, then the deal’s off and I walk out of here,” Brian threatened.

 

“Okay, then leave. I’m disappointed that you care so little for our child that your need to have a blow job outweighs you learning how to care for it in its first days of life.” Justin looked at Cynthia and mouthed ‘sorry’ to her but she just smiled gently at him.

 

Brian saw the hurt on Justin’s face and realized he was being unreasonable. While he wanted the blow job, it was really his way of pushing parenthood to the back burner for just a little while longer. He knew this wasn’t a time to guilt his partner into compliance. “Okay, but now you owe me more than 4 blow jobs. The clock starts over,” Brian said begrudgingly. He leaned over to kiss Justin and Justin allowed him to give him a quick kiss.

 

“Thank you,” Justin said quietly as he looked at Brian and then Cynthia. “Sorry you had to hear that Cyn, but…”

 

“Don’t make excuses for me, twat. No apologies. No regrets. Since there will be no blow job, I suggest you grab something from the snack machine. I heard your monster growling while the instructor was talking about the bath water temperature.” He walked toward the snack area, fully expecting Justin to follow and wasn’t disappointed. Justin grabbed a bag of peanuts, a bag of Sun chips and some fig bars while Brian got a bag of almonds.

 

Cynthia pulled out her bag and produced a bag of apples and some nut butter in a container. She quietly watched the two men as they ate their snack and was pleased that the anger appeared to have dissipated. She knew her boss had a short fuse but she also recognized Justin knew how to diffuse Brian’s temper even in the most volatile times. They made a good pair and she was looking forward to watching them become parents and raise a child together.

 

The day actually went pretty quickly as the instructor engaged the couples in simulations for most of the topics. When she covered breast feeding, a topic that was slated for 45 minutes, both men left the room and went into the hallway. They walked about halfway down the corridor, before Justin spoke.

 

“Brian, we have 45 minutes. If you want that blow job now, I’m willing,” Justin said as he brushed his fingers along the fly of Brian’s jeans.

 

Brian grinned and they walked a little further down the walkway until they found a bathroom. This bathroom was on the other side of the building from the classroom and Justin was comfortable enough to give Brian his reward since it was far from the other participants.

 

They walked in to the bathroom and entered the handicapped stall. After locking the door, Justin quickly turned around and undid Brian’s zipper. He reached into Brian’s pants, pulling his boxers away from his burgeoning erection and letting it free. He pulled Brian’s pants down until they pooled at his feet. He bent down and started kissing and mouthing Brian’s cock. He knew how to please his partner and gave the blow job that Brian had asked for earlier in the day. When he could hear Brian’s quickened breaths, he knew he was close. Sticking a finger in his mouth to wet it thoroughly, he slid it into Brian’s tight hole as he sucked on his engorged cock. Within a few seconds, he felt Brian pulsating in his mouth as his cum shot out of his dick. When Brian was finished, he licked him clean and tucked him back in his pants.

 

“We better get back,” Justin said as he zipped the pants closed.

 

“Yeah.” Brian did not comment on Justin’s willingness to give him the blow job at a more appropriate break in the class. His silence was just as loud as any words he could have spoken.

 

They walked toward the class and found several members in the hallway.

 

“Guess you guys didn’t really need to know about breast feeding. Lucky. The instructor showed us another slide show of breast feeding. I don’t think I’ll ever see my wife’s boobs in the same way,” said one of the participants. “We got one more topic and then we can leave. I’ll be happy when it’s over. I just want the baby to come. I’m so tired of my wife telling me how our lives are going to change. She acts as if I’m some kind of moron and that I don’t understand that a baby changes things.”

 

Brian and Justin nod at the man’s statement and walk toward the classroom where they find Cynthia drinking from her almost empty water bottle.

 

“You’ve returned and Brian you look positively glowing. I don’t need to speculate what you two have been up to,” she teased. She stood up and walked toward the water fountain where she refilled her water bottle and returned to her two friends. “The instructor said she was going to talk about sleep and then she was going to let us go.”

 

“Sunshine, I think that topic will be of special importance to you since you fail to get up before 11:00 most days,” Brian said, tongue firmly in cheek.

 

Justin did not take the bait, but looked at Cynthia instead. “I know I told you yesterday, but really I can’t express how grateful Brian and I are for what you’re doing for us. You’re the best.” He leaned over and gave her a big hug and kiss.

 

“You’re welcome. You guys will be great parents. Now come sit down, we’re almost done for the day. And after this, I think you owe me a steak dinner, Brian.”

 

He looked at her and grinned. “Well, I guess under the circumstances, that can be arranged. But don’t think you’re going to be able to just demand steak dinners any time.”

 

They listened attentively to the last part of the class and then helped Cynthia gather all her belongings, walking her to her car.

 

“There’s an Applebee’s down the street. It shouldn’t be too crowded on a Sunday night and its close. That okay with you, boss?”

 

“Sure. We’ll meet you there.”

 

Brian and Justin walked to their car. “You’re a good man, Brian Kinney and I know you’ll make a great father.” He leaned over and kissed Brian before walking to his side of the car and getting inside.

 

They drove to Applebees where the three friends went to dinner and actually rehashed some of the information they had learned at the class.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

35 weeks

 

Justin stretched in bed as he watched the sun dance through the slight opening in the curtains. Brian was no longer in bed, having gotten up early to read his emails and work out. At 27, Justin still had a high metabolism and only occasionally worked out. It was not something that Brian appreciated since he had to spend a lot of time at the gym to keep his body in shape. Today was going to be special and he didn’t linger in bed.

 

He quickly showered, shaved and dressed in a pair of jeans and a deep blue Henley topped with a zip up hoody. He may be a famous artist, but he was not going to dress up for a shopping trip to the mall. Making his way downstairs to look for Brian, he stopped in the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee, putting cream and sugar in it. After taking a few sips and enjoying the delicious aroma of the Hawaiian ground roast that Brian insisted they buy, he walked to the study where he thought he heard Brian talking on the phone.

 

“I’ll get the preliminary boards finished this week, Leo, and then we can schedule a time to review them. … Yes, I know there is a deadline. How many years have we been working for Brown Athletics? …. That’s right, 8 years and we’ve never let you down. Now I’ve got to go. We’ll talk next week.” Brian hung up the phone and shook his head.

 

“I’ve been working with Leo Brown for over 8 years and he still worries over every campaign. You’d think after all the campaigns we’ve done, it would be easy for him to trust us.”

 

Justin smiled and kissed Brian before saying, “It’s his company. You want everything in your company to be overseen by you. He’s no different.”

 

Brian nodded his head in agreement and kissed Justin on the lips, smelling the delicious coffee. “Any more of that left?” he asked as he leaned his head toward the coffee cup.

 

“Yes. You about done here? We have a lot to do today.”

 

“Remind me again why we have to go to this baby store. I’m sure I could order everything online and it would take ½ the time.”

 

“I told you. My mom is having a baby shower for us and we have to register for what we want. And a lot of this stuff is not something you would really buy online.”

 

“Why don’t you and mother Taylor go “register” the items? Who the hell “registers” items for a baby? Are you really sure about this? I mean it’s a 7-pound human. How much stuff does it really need? You feed it, change its diaper and dress it. Simple.”

 

“Brian, I’ve explained this to you. We are going to Babies R Us and pick out items we want for our child. Cynthia is going to meet us there so she can give us some ideas of the things we will need. We need to be there at 10:00 and it is almost 9:15 now. We need to leave.” Justin walked to the kitchen, dumped the remaining coffee in the sink and placed the mug in the dishwasher.

 

Brian shut down his computer and checked his pocket for keys and phone. He walked to the kitchen and watched as Justin grabbed a bagel from the fridge.

 

“Ok. I’m ready. Let’s do this. At least Cynthia is going to be there. She’ll keep you in check.”

 

They drove to the Toys R Us in Pittsburgh and Cynthia was waiting inside the store with several sheets of paper. Brian looked at her, belly swollen with their child, face a little more round than normal and her eyes bright with anticipation. Even though he preferred men, especially Justin, she did have a special glow to her. He wondered if he was getting sentimental in his old age. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

 

“You look good. Our baby is lucky to have you.”

 

Cynthia frowned at Brian’s words, choosing to focus on Justin. She knew her boss was happy about the baby, but the specifics of the preparation he was none too thrilled about. She provided Justin with the list of items that she had printed out.

 

“I talked to my sister and she said these are the things you’re going to need when the baby comes home.”

 

“Told you Justin there was a list somewhere. Tell me again, why we couldn’t just go online to buy everything? We could be doing much more enjoyable things at the moment.”

 

 

“Brian. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours and then we have the whole day to do whatever. This is our child and we should choose the first items of its life in person. Later, when it gets older, we can order stuff online. I want to do this together.” Justin kissed Brian lightly on the lips and gave him a genuine smile with the unmistakable look of pleading mixed with awe.

 

Brian made a big production of sighing as if this was a chore worse than the dentist but held out his hand to Cynthia to peruse the list. As he read the list, he mentally checked off the items that he recognized; crib, diapers, wipes, blankets, car seat, but the list went on.

 

“What the hell is a Boppy? And a swing- I know what a sling is but I cannot imagine a baby needing a swing. A Snugglie? Who names these things and what are they for?”

 

“A Boppy is for your lap so when you feed the baby it is higher and much easier to position it. You can also lay the baby on it for tummy time and …. ,” Justin starts to explain. He is using his PSA voice and Brian starts to feel the pressure behind his eyes as he realizes this trip may really take a few hours.

 

“A Snugglie is a carrier that we strap to our chest to carry the baby. The baby is calmed by our heartbeat and the familiarity of the position it was in when Cynthia was carrying it. Babies like to be wrapped tightly; it provides comfort and security.” Justin starts to walk to the isle where the newborn items are shelved, going over to the Snugglies and choosing a few for Brian and him to look at. On the front picture there is a woman with the baby securing strapped to her chest.

 

“No way in hell am I wearing that in public!” Brian took the package and placed it back on the shelf. “There has to be other ways to carry a baby.”

 

Justin’s smile faltered a little at Brian’s outburst, but he knew Kinney speak well at this point in their relationship. While Brian was fully on board with having a child, the realities of existence with a newborn were still a little abstract for him. Justin expected that when the baby was born, Brian would easily and happily step up to the plate to care for their child. After all, he originally didn’t want anything to do with Gus except provide the sperm and everyone knew how well that turned out. Brian was extremely involved in Gus’ life, even to the extent that Gus had wanted to live with them after the baby was born. With this child, he expected Brian would be there for as much as he could.

 

“We can always just carry the baby or place the car seat in the cart at the store,” Justin said, in a tone that brooked no question to his unhappiness with Brian’s closed mind.

 

Brian didn’t respond, recognizing Justin’s tone.

 

Justin held the two packages and read the detailed description on the back of each. He chose the one with the option to carry the baby on his back as it got older. Placing the package in the cart, he walked down the aisle to the Boppy pillows. Brian picked one up and looked at the pictures of a baby using the item at various stages.

 

“I’m so glad that we do not have to put a campaign for this stuff together. I can’t imagine the advertising for it. Sex sells, but how could I make a baby seat sexy?”

 

Justin smiled at Brian’s remarks, knowing that he is finally accepting this outing. When Brian starts connecting his work to any task, he knows that Brian is on board.

 

As they move to the bassinet area, Brian gets out his phone and starts swiping. He quickly pulls up a comparison site of the best and safest basinets. “According to Consumer Reports, you shouldn’t put a baby in a bassinet; I think we can take this off the list and move to the crib area.” Brian doesn’t wait for a response from Cynthia or Justin but looks for the sign indicating the correct part of the store. Again he gets out his phone and begins his research, finding several websites purporting the desired information. He reads diligently for several minutes and then looks at the cribs available. Finally looking at Justin, he asks, “Which one do you like?”

 

“I really like the white one, but I don’t think white is a great color for a baby. Babies are messy.”

 

Brian rolled his eyes; hoping that Justin was not going to evaluate every purchase for their child for the next 18 years. “Consumer Reports states that all cribs have to meet specific safety standards and the choice is purely aesthetic. Since we don’t know if we are having a girl or a boy, I’d go with the coffee colored one. It would go better with the colors in the room.”

 

They moved to the cribs in dark colors and chose an Eddie Bauer crib. Brian took out his phone again and returned to the Consumer Reports web site to investigate mattresses. Spending a few minutes looking at the material, he stated, “Mattresses are a little different. Let’s get the Simmons Kids Pampering Sleep Supreme 234 coil one. It can be flipped when the kid is older and more likely to jump up and down.” He walked over to the display and picked up a card with the designated mattress name on it. They took the scanner that they’d been given by the courtesy clerk and scanned the information into the system.

 

“I guess we need sheets and a mattress pad too.”

 

“Actually, we don’t need a pad, because the mattress is covered in plastic to repel moisture. Kids pee and spit up a lot,” Justin provided another PSA.

 

Brian cringed when he thought of cleaning up after their child, but remained quiet. He knew what he was getting into when he agreed to this. He figured the kid would be at that stage for only a little while.

 

They went to the bedding and picked out three sets of sheets and a comforter, scanning those items as well.

 

“Ok, if this kid is going to shit and puke all the time, he or she will have to get clean too. I guess you are going to tell me there are special towels for a baby too,” Brian said with a little sarcasm.

 

“Actually Brian you’re right. My sister said the towels with the little hoods keep their heads warm and are a great way to wrap the baby,” Cynthia said as she walked toward that area. Scanning a dozen choices they moved on to the next item on the list.

 

After two hours they had scanned over a hundred items for the newborn. They took the scanner to the courtesy clerk and received a print out of the list. “When your family and friends come in, they can go to the kiosk and get a print out of the items you want. That way they are buying what you have chosen for your baby. As a thank you for choosing Baby’s R Us, we’re giving you $100 in coupons for future use. Good luck with your baby and I can’t wait to see you in the future,” the young female clerk said as she cheerfully handed them the coupons.

 

Brian put his forefinger and thumb across his eyebrows as he massaged his brow. Walking out of the store he glared at Cynthia and Justin. “That was the longest two hours of my life. It was worse than seeing all the pictures Mickey and the doctor brought back from their trip to Paris,” he said as they stood at the edge of the sidewalk to the side of the building.

 

He grabbed for his pack of cigarettes but they weren’t in his pocket. “Damn, I really need a cigarette. Tell me again why I had to give them up.”

 

“We talked about this. Smoke is bad for the baby. Babies who are around smoke can develop respiratory symptoms and get more colds and ear infections. We want to provide our child with a healthy environment.”

 

“I can still smoke my weed. I’m not giving up everything for this baby.”

 

“There are carcinogens in the weed too. We agreed that we would only smoke outside or away from home.”

 

“You’re killing me here, Justin. I think I’m going to look into building that little office off the garage so I can smoke in private. It gets damn cold during Pittsburgh’s winters. And admit that you like a good joint too.”

 

Justin nodded his agreement. “That might work. It would be a place where we can unwind and not place the child in danger. Our own play room.”

 

Brian got a gleam in his eye at the mention of a playroom. “I could have a sling put in and some other toys. It would be our little retreat. I’ll call the contractor tomorrow. We’ve got a month till the kid is born. That should be enough time.”

 

Cynthia smiled at the two men and their playful banter. She knew the child she was carrying for them would be loved and cared for. She wondered who would win out in the upcoming discussions regarding wardrobe and toys. Knowing Brian’s penchant for indulging Gus as well as his attempts at spoiling Justin, she thought this baby would most likely have a more expensive wardrobe than she did and more toys than it would ever need. She couldn’t wait for it to be born and watch it grow up.

 

“So we have “registered” for all this shit, now what happens?”

 

“You’ll see, we will be thankful we have it all. At two o clock in the morning when the baby has spit up on the sheets for the third time in 24 hours, you will be really happy that we have another set and don’t have to do laundry at that time of night.”

 

“Sunshine, how do you know all about this shit? You appear to be very knowledgeable and as far as I know, you don’t have a hidden baby anywhere.”

 

“I asked my mom and talked to Mel and Linds. I decided they would be good resources. My mom was the ultimate suburban housewife and mother. My father wanted the very best for her. After all, his wife couldn’t be seen with last year’s baby items and she had to have the latest baby gear. Then we have Mel and Linds who always seem to be short on cash. They would be able to give me information about the absolute necessities and the items I could do without.”

 

Brian nodded and reached out to pull Justin in for a hug. “I love you,” he whispered into his ear. After their hug, he let Justin go and turned toward Cynthia. “Shopping expedition is over. I picked out all the stuff, do I have to attend the actual shindig?”

 

“Yes. We’re going to the shower. The party is for our child and we will be attending. It’s in two weeks and we will be there. All our friends are coming.”

 

“Yes, dear,” Brian said in falsetto tone, knowing it would irritate his husband.

 

Justin understood that Brian wasn’t really against preparing for their baby, but he would rather not think about all the changes in their lives. Instead of pushing him, he changed the topic of conversation. “Let’s go shopping for you now. You’ve been hinting about the new line of Armani shirts that are coming out. Let’s go buy some.”

 

Brian smiled and quickly walked to the car. Justin hugged Cynthia and thanked her for her time and then followed Brian to the car.

 

 

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The shower was the following week and a reluctant Brian attended. The "family" attended and they received a lot of items to start their baby's life. Justin had agreed to go shopping and pick up the remaining items to outfit the room. Since Brian had helped pick out each of them prior to the shower, Justin didn't think Brian needed to be there. When all the items were purchased, they put them in the room and found a place for even the tiny baby nail clippers.

 

"You really sure that we need all this shit?" Brian asked as the last of the bags were unloaded and placed in the drawers.

 

"My mom said she wishes she had a lot of this stuff when I was little. Her mom gave her a crib and that was the extent of her help. She came for a few days after I was born, but didn't stay long. I'm happy that she has offered to come and help us."

 

"I just hope that Debbie doesn't decide we need "help" too. I can just see it now. She'll swoop in with her tuna casserole and Puttenesca, put one in the freezer and the other in the fridge and go directly to the nursery. She'll pick up the baby, announce the baby is too skinny and demand a bottle to feed it."

 

"Brian," Justin chastised but didn't put a lot of force into the word, knowing that his husband provided a fairly accurate picture of the future.

 

"I promised Gus I would bring him over to spend time with the baby when we brought it home. He's so excited about it."

 

"I'm excited too. Aren't you?"

 

Brian leaned over and kissed Justin on the lips with a soft touch. Looking at his partner beaming with excitement and anticipation, an overwhelming feeling of peace came over him.

 

"Of course. Having Gus in my life was the best unexpected benefit of my friendship with Lindz. I never thought I wanted to be a father until I held him in my arms. I can't describe the emotions that pumped through my body as I looked at his tiny body. While my intentions had never been to be a part of his life, as soon as I held him I knew I wanted to be there for him."

 

Brian remembered that fateful night when his son was born and he met his husband. He couldn't imagine the changes he would make in his life as a result of these two people. "I have no doubts about this baby. It's our child and we will raise it together. I have a partner who makes me a better person and we are this child's parents." He reached out to envelope Justin in a huge hug and Justin returned the embrace.

 

Justin beamed at Brian's words as he knew that his husband always told the truth. He knew they would make mistakes; all parents did, but this child would be loved and not used as a pawn like Gus was at times.

 

"Cynthia isn't due for a few weeks. Is there anything special you want before our lives are turned upside down?"

 

Brian got a mischievous look in his eyes and walked out of the room. Justin followed his partner into their bedroom where he saw Brian open the drawer to their nightstand and take out an envelope.

 

Justin recognized the envelope, having the logo of Liberty Air on the outside. "A trip. Really? We can't go on a trip. Cynthia may have her baby any time," Justin said with a look of incredulity on his face.

 

"Yes we can. We're going to New York. It's less than an hour flight and if Cynthia goes into labor, she has strict instructions to call us immediately. We will be home in less than two hours, plenty of time to get to the hospital and be there for our baby's birth. I talked to Mother Taylor and to Cynthia who both assured me that labor takes a long time and the baby will take a while to get here. Cynthia assured me that her doctor said it would be at least a week before the baby is born and we're only going for four days."

 

Justin took the envelope out of Brian's hand and opened it revealing two open return tickets to New York. Their flight was scheduled for that night at 10:00 and it was already 4:00. "Brian. I'm not packed and we have to leave in less than two hours. If this is your idea of a getaway fun weekend, it's not starting well." Justin laid the tickets on the bed and rushed to the closet for his small carryon bag. Opening the closet, he searched the back of the closet for the small suitcase, but he couldn't find it. "Damn, I'm sure I put the suitcase away when I came back from meeting with Carol a few weeks ago."

 

Brian was enjoying Justin's mini frenzy but decided that he should intervene or Justin might retaliate. Tapping him on the shoulder, he leaned in and put a finger on Justin's lips. Pointing to his closet on the other side of the room, there were two small suitcases standing outside the door. "I packed them yesterday while you were shopping for the rest of the baby paraphernalia. We have two hours until we leave. May I suggest a soak in the hot tub followed by a shower to relax and start us on our jaunt?" Brian's eyes swept Justin's body from head to toe and the lascivious grin on his face told Justin there was more than just getting clean on his mind.

 

"I think that's an excellent idea. Thank you. How long are we staying? Please tell me we are doing more than seeing the insides of our hotel room." Justin asked as he pulled off his shirt and unbuttoned his jeans.

 

"Yes, we are. I bought tickets to Cabaret and you talked about the new exhibit at the MOMA that you wanted to see. Of course, no visit to New York is complete without a stop at LS Men's clothier where I will be fitted for my suit. I need a new suit for the upcoming awards banquet in the fall."

 

Justin couldn't help smiling at his partner as he placed his clothing in the hamper and turned on the water in the hot tub. Brian undressed quickly and stepped inside the deep marble tub. Brian leaned his back against the edge and Justin stepped in sitting himself in front of Brian's chest. Closing his eyes, Justin enjoyed the jets of warm and gentle pulsing water that sluiced over his body. Sighing in enjoyment, he said, "This is the life. Sure we want to leave?"

 

Brian ran his hands over Justin's torso, enjoying the still taught muscles and soft alabaster skin. He marveled at how his life had turned out. He knew falling in love and settling down with a partner had never been on his radar when he was Justin's age, but now he couldn't imagine being any happier than he was right now. He had a partner he loved more than anything and they would soon be parents. He had a prosperous business and good friends. Well the friend part was sometimes debatable. He hoped after the baby was born that Michael and Lindsay would come around, but he really didn't want to spend any energy on them. As his hands traveled down Justin's torso, his hard on brought him back to the moment and he wanted to enjoy every minute of these next four days.

 

Slowly he stroked Justin's cock, teasing him with the light touches versus the stronger ones that would bring him closer to release. He gently kissed and nipped his neck, never biting hard enough to leave any marks. Brian hated hickeys and thought them a throw-back to adolescence where they were a sign of prowess. He didn't mind leaving his mark on Justin's inner thigh or having Justin do the same to him, but outward marks were taboo in his book. Justin pushed up into Brian's hands, showing him his desire for more.

 

"Patience, young grasshopper. We don't have to leave for 2 hours."

 

Justin ignored Brian's words and pushed up again. "You know we could spend hours in this tub, have done so as recently as last week. I don't want to miss our flight."

 

"We have time for a little fun. Now close your eyes and enjoy for a few minutes at least."

 

Justin closed his eyes as Brian suggested and he was treated to a full body massage and exploration by Brian's expert fingers and mouth. Brian slipped his finger under Justin exploring the tender skin between Justin's ass globes. Running his fingers up and down as he used the water as lubricant, he slipped one finger into Justin's ass and enjoyed the sound of appreciation from his lips.

 

"More. I want you."

 

Brian took his other hand and grasped Justin's erection pumping it as he slid the finger in and out of the tight channel. Justin pushed and arched in time to the double ministrations. They were so in tune with each other's bodies that no directions were needed by either of them regarding their needs.

 

Brian enjoyed watching his partner as he filled his body with pleasure. His hard on was pulsing and he wanted nothing more than to bury it in Justin's ass. Justin was nearing his limit. He reluctantly pulled away from Brian and turned his body to startle him, and then slowly lowered himself onto Brian's cock. Throwing his head back in pleasure, he raised and lowered himself on the hard flesh.

 

Brian reached up, grabbing Justin's hips as he pushed himself inside the warm channel of his partner. Enjoying the feel of Justin's muscles on his cock, he was thankful that they were monogamous and had been for a long time. Justin squeezed his muscles bringing more pleasure to both men. Justin's slow rhythm had transitioned to a quicker one and soon he was lost in his race to the finish. With familiar tingling in his spine and the quick breaths as his body moved towards completion, he forgot about everything but his impending orgasm.

 

Brian's body was running the same short marathon as his breaths were quick and his hips pushed his cock into Justin's sweet ass at a frantic pace. He came, shooting his cum into Justin just as Justin shot his on Brian's chest. Justin leaned down, kissing Brian with a fierce mashing of his lips.

 

"Love you," Justin said as he broke their kiss.

 

"Mmmm," Brian said as he stroked Justin's back. "Time for round two. The shower is calling us."

 

"I don't know. That seems like a lot of work just to move from the tub to the shower for another fuck. Why don't we just switch places and I'll do you this time. That way we don't have to get out of the water." Justin said as he eyed Brian's cock already beginning to fill at his suggestion.

 

"Deal" Brian and Justin switched places and this time Justin played with Brian's cock and balls as he kissed his neck.

 

"No hickeys," Brian said.

 

"I'm not 19 and besides everyone knows you're mine. I don't need to mark you for the world to see."

 

Justin moved his hands down Brian's legs swishing the water in the direction of his cock. The added push with the water jets made a very enticing feel on his body. He played in the water for a bit but then moved his hands up Brian's body until he reached his chest where he played with his nipples, rubbing and pinching them until they were hard pebbles. He alternately played with Brian's nipples and then would allow his hands to travel down toward his very hard cock. Brian was pushing his ass toward Justin's cock enjoying the feel of the hardness against his ass.

 

"Want something?" Justin said, a little tease in his voice. "Seems to be you were just extolling the virtues of patience just a short time ago."

 

Brian growled in response.

 

Justin continued his erotic torture for a few more passes and then reached his hand under Brian repeating the actions that Brian had used just a short time ago. Brian spread his legs slightly encouraging Justin to continue. Justin added a second finger and pistoned it in and out of Brian until he felt Brian push back again signaling he wanted more. A third finger was added and Brian pushed back with his ass after a few strokes.

 

"Justinnnnnnnn." He too pulled away from the delicious erotic torture and turned toward his partner, changing his mind about the venue. "Bed."

 

Justin grabbed his towel and quickly dried himself as he walked to the bed. Both men were damp but didn't care. Brian turned on his stomach, giving easy access to his hole. Propping his abdomen on a pillow, he pushed his ass up in the air. Justin leaned down spreading the globs apart and licking the trail from Brian's balls to his tight hole. Returning to his earlier ministrations, he introduced his lubed fingers into Brian's ass. Soon Brian was lost in the sensations of Justin's fingers and the smooth fabric of the pillow case.

 

Recognizing the tell-tale signs of his partner's readiness, Justin grabbed his cock, coated it with lube and then removed his fingers. He gently pushed his cock into Brian, but Brian wasn't seeking gentle at this point in time. He raised his ass and practically impaled his ass on Justin's cock. A sigh of extreme pleasure and satisfaction came from his lips as he enjoyed the sensation of being filled. Justin waited a few moments before moving in and out of the tight channel. Reaching for his cock, Brian pulled it as Justin pushed in and out of his hole, feeling the rush of the rollercoaster ride that preceded his impending orgasm. He pushed hard as Justin plunged into his body, both men breathing hard like they were completing a marathon. Brian's hand was quickly covered in cum. The spasms of Brian's ass brought Justin to a quick completion and he stayed until they were complete, rolling onto the pillow to wait for his heart rate to return to normal.

 

Turning toward Brian he said, "I guess that shower would be a good idea at this point. We might want to take separate ones if we intend to get to the airport on time," sporting a satisfied grin on his face.

 

"Twat. I can keep my hands off your cock for a 15-minute shower."

 

"Uh huh. Why don't you go first and I'll check my bag to make sure you didn't forget anything." Justin waved his hand toward the bathroom and Brian reluctantly got out of bed to take a solitary shower.

 

When Brian came out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel, Justin moved toward the bathroom. "You didn't forget anything and you even remembered my special pencil set."

 

"Of course I did. I did not want to spend half a day going to the stupid shop that is halfway to Jersey just to buy you supplies. I know you will be looking for your sketch pad and pencils at some point during our trip. Now go, take your shower, and let's get downstairs. We have about 45 minutes until the cab arrives and I know you're going to be singing in the shower since I'm not with you."

 

Justin laughed at Brian, but continued to the bathroom. He couldn't wait to take their trip.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

They made it to their plane on time, although there were moments that Justin wasn’t really sure that would happen. They were enjoying each other’s company a lot but he really wanted to get away for a few days with Brian and was happy to be sitting on the plane for a short trip to New York.

 

“Ladies and gentleman, please fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tops in the upright position. We are approaching LaGuardia airport. The temperature is a mild 55 degrees. We hope your stay in New York will be a pleasant one and thank you for flying Liberty Air.”

 

Justin looked at his partner and smiled. “Let’s go eat at that little diner by the Ritz. I’m going to need fortification for our weekend.”

 

Brian laughed and tapped his finger on Justin’s stomach. “Yep, there really is a beast in there and I think we missed dinner. So sure, we’ll go to the diner. If we feed you now, maybe we can sleep in tomorrow morning.”

 

They grabbed their small suitcases from the overhead compartment of the plane and walked into the airport. Brian eyed the men’s room and Justin shook his head, no.

 

“Not going there. We have a perfectly good room at the Ritz and I’m hungry. As you said, we didn’t eat dinner.”

 

Brian grinned and said, “I wasn’t really serious. Just wanted to pull your chain.”

 

They took a taxi to the Ritz where they checked in and walked to their room. Of course, the bell hop took their small suitcases as they were checked in to the Penthouse suite. Justin placed his suitcase on the luggage rack and looked around the room, nodding in approval. He barely waited for Brian to place his bag on the other luggage rack before he was walking to the door.

 

“The bed is calling us; don’t you think?” Brian asked as he eyed the bed and the champagne in the ice bucket chilling on the night stand.

 

“No. I think my “beast” is speaking louder. The sooner you feed me the quicker you and I can enjoy the hot tub.” Justin turned the door handle to exit the room, not looking back to see if Brian was following.

 

They waited by the elevator for only a few moments and the familiar ding announced its arrival. Riding it down to the street level, they walked the short block to the familiar diner where they were seated quickly.

 

Justin picked up the menu and his stomach growled loudly and he sheepishly grinned. “The beast has spoken. What are you going to have?”

 

“Egg white omelet and wheat toast,” Brian said.

 

“Really? We’re on vacation. Splurge.”

 

“We may be on vacation, but I ordered us some strawberries, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream that will be waiting when we return from this little side trip of yours. I plan on indulging in my dessert.” Brian eyed Justin from head to toe as he sat across from him in the diner.

 

Justin felt his pants get a little tight and he swallowed hard. “You didn’t say anything,” he said a little accusatorily.

 

“Anticipation is always a good motivator to get your beast fed. Now order and eat a lot, I intend to enjoy my dessert and a growl from that stomach of yours will definitely put a damper in my enjoyment.”

 

Justin ordered pancakes, eggs and hash browns and thoroughly enjoyed his late night meal. When he finished, he wiped his mouth and drank the rest of his Coke. “Finished. Beast is fed. I think it’s time for dessert.”

 

Brian signaled the waitress for the check and they walked back to the hotel.

 

As they entered the lobby, Justin looked around and was slightly amazed that they weren’t the only patrons in the area. “I don’t think I thanked you for this little surprise trip. I love you.” He leaned over kissed Brian on the lips.

 

Brian couldn’t wait to bury his 9” cock deep inside Justin, hearing his cries of more, deeper, now; therefore he hurried them toward the elevator rather than making small talk with his husband. Swiping the key card on the door lock, he pulled Justin inside the room and began undressing him as soon as he heard the familiar click signaling the door was closed.

 

Justin undid his pants and stepped out of them as Brian pulled his shirt over his head. They participated in a wonderfully orchestrated dance; one that they had enjoyed too many times to count. Even though they had made love twice before they left Pittsburgh, an onlooker would think they were recently reunited lovers who hadn’t seen each other in months. Slowing down after their clothing was discarded, they made love several times before falling asleep.

 

As promised they slept in the next morning and enjoyed a leisurely brunch then hit the streets for shopping. Stopping at the clothier they ordered Brian’s new suit and Justin was persuaded to buy a new pair of tailored pants. Justin hated suits and had little use for them. Even at openings, he wore pants and a buttoned down shirt, almost never donning a coat and tie. He was fond of telling Brian that coats and ties were for funerals and since he only dressed up for openings, he did not need neither the coat nor tie.

 

After leaving the clothier, they made their way down the street and stopped in a few shops for Brian to purchase some new shirts and ties. “I need to look sharp at work. Wouldn’t do for my client’s to think I shopped at JOS A Banks; they need to see I’m successful.”

 

Justin just smiled and indulged his partner. He’d learned early on that some things were sacrosanct in Brian’s world and dressing like a million dollars was definitely high on the list.

 

“Are our tickets for tonight?” Justin asked as they sat in the hotel lobby enjoying a drink.

 

“Yes. I wanted to be sure we would be able to see the show. It has great reviews and the star is supposed to be some hot young blonde former TV actor who is now playing Broadway.”

 

“I read about him in the Arts and Entertainment section of the paper a month or so ago. I’m glad we’re getting to see the show. Where do you want to eat dinner?

 

“Maria Pia’s. I booked us a reservation for 5:30.” Brian looked at his clock on the wall to see the time. We have time to shower and dress before we leave.”

 

Justin eyed the clock on the wall, seeing that it was already 4:00 and did a little math in his head. “That does not include time for us to share the shower,” Justin said with a gleam in his eye. “I want to make curtain and I know us…. Sharing a shower would jeopardize…”

 

“You’re no fun,” Brian teased but he didn’t push Justin. He knew that Justin was just being honest. “Finish your drink and we’ll head upstairs. I’m thinking you should wear that pale blue shirt you bought last week.”

 

“Deal. Do I get to choose what you’re wearing? I’m thinking the black Armani pants with your burgundy Dolce and Gabana shirt. You look hot in that shirt.” Justin finished the last of his drink and smiled at Brian. Standing up, he turned toward the lobby, “Are you coming?”

 

“Sure. I’ll have the bill added to our tab and I’ll be right up.” Brian watched as his partner walk out and he went to talk to the Concierge about his next surprise.

 

They attended the play and both were thrilled with the music, enjoying watching the lead actor, Randy Harrison. As the house lights came up for the intermission, Justin said, “He’s so talented. I wish I could sing like that,” the longing evident in his voice.

 

“Everyone has a talent; yours is painting. I’m glad you paint. I wouldn’t want to share you with a hundred audiences and have you bombarded by numerous fans. A gallery opening a few times a year is enough for me.”

 

Justin looked at Brian with immense love in his eyes. “Really?”

 

“Of course. And there is the baby to consider. Our child needs both of us around, not gallivanting around the country. I know we will be away sometimes for work or shows, but at the end of the day we will be together as a family,” Brian said, a genuine smile on his face. While this trip was a last vacation before their lives changed, he was ready for the change and to begin a family.

 

“I can’t wait for the baby to arrive. I know it will turn our world upside down, but I think we will be a great family. I was worried you were having second thoughts.” Justin admitted to his partner.

 

Brian leaned over and kissed Justin on the cheek. “I don’t do regrets, but I’m sure about this decision. It was right for us. We didn’t go into this blindly. And while there are some members of our “family” that aren’t convinced, I am 100% sure this is what I want.”

 

Justin kissed Brian and warmth spread over his body as he looked at Brian. The lights went down and the second act begun. They were quiet as they watched the play, both mesmerized by the music. When the lights went up they were both singing quietly.

 

“That was awesome. Thank you so much. It’s been a wonderful day.”

 

“I think we should go back to the hotel. I’ll get us a cab.”

 

They grabbed a cab and returned to the Ritz where they enjoyed another evening of passion. In the morning there was a knock on the door.

 

“I’ll get it,” Brian said as he went to tip the bellhop who was bringing them their breakfast. He’d ordered a special breakfast for them and asked it to be delivered at 9:00. It was just after 9:00 and he was expecting the delivery. He tipped the man and wheeled the cart into the living area of the suite. “Justin, breakfast is here.”

 

Justin came out of the room, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with one hand as he grabbed the robe tie with the other. Tying the robe around his waist, he eyed the food spread out on the cart. “This looks delicious.” His stomach growled in agreement.

 

“The beast has spoken. I’ll pour us some coffee while you dole out the food.” Brian turned the coffee cups over and poured them two cups of coffee. He placed his requisite three sugars and two creams in his and watched as Justin poured a generous helping of cream into his cup, making the black liquid turn a pale shade of brown. “A little coffee with your creamer?” Brian teased but smelled his own cup and took a large drink. “Mmm, they make a good cup of coffee too.”

 

They ate breakfast, Brian indulging and enjoying pancakes with his eggs while Justin had a little eggs, sausage, pancakes and toast. They chatted again about the play from the night before.

 

“Randy Harrison is really a talented man. I read he has been doing theatre for over 10 years. Thank you again for getting tickets to the show.”

 

“I asked Carol for some recommendations and she suggested this one. I guess your agent is good for something other than selling your work.”

 

“Speaking of work, do you think we could go to Central Park. I’m really wanting to do some sketches and I think it’s a perfect time of year for the park.”

 

“I figured as much; that’s why we brought your pencils and sketch pad. I want to go by the pond. I think it is fitting that I sketch us there.”

 

“Yes. I like that idea. We were married there three years ago and now we are starting our family. Someday you can show our child where it all began,” the sarcasm showing through.

 

Justin laughed a loud raucous laugh. “Where did Brian Kinney go and he better be returned as soon as possible.”

 

Brian laughed too. “I was being facetious. That statement sounds like something Mel and Linds would say to their unborn child. I’m not some sentimental twat but the lake was special. We went through hell to reach that point. After the accident, when ….” Brian didn’t continue, no explanation was needed. They both remembered the accident and its effect on their relationship. Fate had been cruel, allowing him to finally realize that he wanted a relationship with Justin only to have his memory scrambled by a fucking accident. But they had persevered and Justin had regained his memories. They’d also begun to talk about many issues that had been taboo in the past. The hospital, the money, a lot of things.

 

“I think it’s time for my morning blow job and shower,” Brian smiled as he rolled the cart toward the door.

 

“I like the way you think. I’ll go start the water.”

 

After mutual blow jobs in the shower and a fuck, they readied themselves for the day. Justin grabbed his art supplies and Brian grabbed a book. They took a cab to the park. Brian and Justin walked in the park toward the small lake where they exchanged vows.

 

“I’m so happy that you decided to plan this trip. We’ve both been so busy.”

 

“Your welcome. Why don’t you draw for a while? I’ve got a book to read and before you say anything, yes I do read books and it’s not even porn. I’ll be sitting against that tree.”

 

Justin took his supplies and found a place in the shade of another tree and sat down to sketch. They stayed for several hours; Brian occasionally putting down his book and just watching Justin, his pencil to the paper, his eyes and mouth in concentration. When Justin started massaging his hand and shaking it out, Brian knew it was time to leave. Placing the book in his back pocket, he walked over to Justin.

 

“Done?”

 

“Yeah… Damn Hobbs, he…” Justin started to say, but Brian put his finger to Justin’s lips, in essence stopping the words from coming out.

 

“I know. Let’s walk and you can tell me about the drawings. Maybe we’ll come back this afternoon.”

 

Justin placed his supplies in his back pack and took Brian’s book from the back pocket and added it to the pack. They walked for a while in companionable silence.

 

“I love this park. It has so many memories.”

 

“I know. Tell me about your drawings,” Brian repeated.

 

Justin explained about the latest drawings and a new idea for some paintings he wanted to paint. Justin was very animated when he talked about his work and Brian massaged his hand as they walked. Brian’s solicitations were appreciated, but Justin knew enough not to say anything. Partners did things for each other and the two of them were partners in life.

 

He thought about their life together, all the way back to the beginning when Brian picked him up on Liberty Avenue. They had gone through so much heartache through the years. A few years ago, he was in New York trying to pay his bills and paint and got hit by a damn cab. The resulting amnesia brought them closer together; Brian sharing details about his feelings during their tumultuous relationship. He sometimes wondered if there were areas that Brian and he had not explored, but he accepted that if any came up, he would be able to ask Brian about them and he would be truthful in sharing his feelings. They had lived through “the stalker” and the many conversations with Daphne during that time helped him explore his desire to be a father. Brian and he had discussed the choice to become parents and now they were about to have a child. He’d never been so sure of Brian’s love and the rightness of their decision and was anxious for the child to be born.

 

“I’m glad we came. Thank you.”

 

“Speaking of coming, I think something might have come up during our little foray into the park and I suggest we return to the Ritz to take care of the problem,” Brian said, tongue in cheek.

 

“Oh, I think we should definitely return to the Ritz to take care of your problem. I seem to have a similar one. Maybe we can take care of each other?” Justin smiled and laughed a little at their use of euphemisms. Sex was sex but he knew that they were going to make love and he always jumped at that opportunity.

 

They reached the hotel and quickly made it to their room where they undressed each other slowly and were making it to the bed when the phone rang. Looking at each other, they both stopped short and reached for their phone, trying to determine whose was ringing.

 

Justin found his phone first, picked it up and saw there was a missed call. Brian hit the answer key on his phone.

 

“…It’s time.”

 

“We’ll be there soon. Meet you at the hospital?”

 

“Not yet. Just call when you land,” Cynthia said calmly. “I just started labor; it will most likely be a long time before I go to the hospital.”

 

Justin had already begun dressing by the time Brian got off the phone. “I’m so excited. Do you need to call the airlines?”

 

“No. Cynthia called your mom and she has already booked us on the next flight. We leave on the next flight. I’ll call down and get us checked out and get a cab.”

 

Justin finished packing and took a picture of the room with his phone. Brian looked at him a little quizzically as he finished buttoning his shirt.

 

“I want to be able to show our baby where we were when Cynthia went into labor.”

 

“Lesbian twat.”

 

“Sue me.”

 

Brian grinned and quickly kissed Justin. Grabbing his luggage, he motioned for the door. “Our child awaits.”

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Justin and Brian got on the plane a few hours later. Justin pulled out his phone and checked for text messages from his mom or Cynthia, but there were no new messages.

 

"Put away your phone or I'm going to take it from you. It isn't going to get us there any faster." Brian said as he chided Justin for his constant review of his cell phone.

 

Justin swiped the cell a third time in 30 seconds and looked at Brian, the moisture in his eyes almost forming tears. "I should have never let you talk me into this trip. What if we miss the birth? I'll never forgive myself." Justin wrung his hands in anguish.

 

"We aren't going to miss the birth. Cynthia assured us that it takes a long time for a baby to be born and she called us as soon as she knew she was in labor. I texted her before we got on board, when you were in the bathroom, and she said the contractions were only coming every 30 minutes. They have to be coming every 5 before she even goes to the hospital."

 

"What did you say?" Justin looked at Brian, verifying that he had not been taken over by someone else.

 

"I said..."

 

"I mean I heard you, but when did you learn that information? I mean you never picked up one of the books that I bought about pregnancy and you didn't go to the Lamaze classes. I didn't.."

 

"I'm not stupid Justin. I can read and the internet is the most amazing invention. There are thousands of sites on babies."

 

Justin leaned over and kissed Brian on the cheek with a hard kiss. "I love you."

 

"Of course. Did you really think that I would sit in the waiting room for endless hours while you were in there with Cynthia and not knowing what was happening? I asked Cynthia for information and she gave me the URL for the doctor's web site. Seems the good doc has a very informative page on pregnancy and birth. Guess he figures its less time answering basic questions from his patients and it gives everyone good information. I had a few questions and asked Cynthia and she filled in the blanks."

 

"And here I thought you weren't interested all this time. Brian ...."

 

"Twat. Of course, I'm interested, just needed to keep my distance for everyone's benefit. But really, you should put away the phone. You are making yourself crazy and looking at text messages will just make the flight seem longer. I could distract you with a visit to the mile high club."

 

Justin laughed. "Only you would think about sex at a time like this. I don't think I could concentrate on making love. I'm so excited. I just want to get to the hospital as fast as I can."

 

"I'm sure I could help you get excited but since the flashing lights are already appearing on the overhead, we will be landing soon."

 

"Thank you. You managed to distract me the whole flight. I would have been a mess if you hadn't."

 

Brian just smiled and leaned over to give Justin a quick kiss on the cheek. "Brian Kinney, at your service," he said tongue in cheek.

 

"Please return your tray to an upright position and fasten your seat belts. We are approaching Pittsburgh International Airport. It is sunny and mild with a temperature in the low 50's. On behalf of myself and your flight crew, thank you for choosing Liberty Air for your flight and we hope you have a nice stay in Pittsburgh. We hope you choose Liberty Air for your future travel needs."

 

"Oh my. It's time, Brian. We're going to be parents. I've dreamed of this day for months and I can't believe its here."

 

"Yes, but first don't you think we should wait until Cynthia is actually ready to go to the hospital?"

 

Justin laughed and insured that his seat belt was fastened and his phone was off. He never understood why he couldn't use his cell phone when he was on a plane, but electronics were not really his forte. The plane taxied and the roar of the plane made Justin cover his ears.

 

"I hate that part of flying. I always fear that the plane won't slow down and we'll have to take off again and try to land a second time."

 

"Twat. Sometimes I wonder how you ever scored a 1500 on your SAT."

 

The plane stopped and they disembarked with their luggage. When they got to the boarding area, they veered to the seats and Justin called Cynthia for an update.

 

"Hi Justin. You guys are back already?"

 

"Yeah. Are you at the hospital? We can catch a cab."

 

"No. I'm only having contraction every 20 minutes at this point. Why don't you come to my condo? It will be awhile before I'm ready to go to the hospital."

 

"Oh," Justin said, the disappointment evident in his voice. "We'll be there in about 30 minutes."

 

Turning toward Brian, Justin said, "She's not ready for the hospital. Contractions are only 20 minutes apart and she said to just come to her condo."

 

"Ok. Do you want me to drop you off there and I'll take the luggage home and meet you wherever?"

 

"I forgot about the luggage. Guess that's a good idea. Good thing we left the car in long term parking." Justin put away his phone, grabbed the handle on his luggage, and started walking to the long term parking exit. Brian followed him.

 

"Told you we had plenty of time. You should call Mother Taylor and give her an update."

 

"Shit! I forgot about mom. I need to let her know the plans. I know she's as excited about the baby as we are."

 

Justin pulled out his phone again and called his mother.

 

"Mom. We're here. We just talked to Cynthia and her contractions are only 20 minutes apart so Brian's going to take me to her Condo and he'll go to the house to drop off the luggage and then meet me wherever - you know condo or hospital."

 

"Oh Justin, I'm so excited. Have you picked out a name yet?"

 

"I told you we weren't sure but you'll know when the baby is born. Do you want to know when we go to the hospital?"

 

"Of course. I'd go to Cynthia's right now, but I know that she isn't up for another person right now. I remember being in labor with you. I was ..."

 

"Stop, Mom. I do not want a blow by blow description of my birth. It's bad enough to think that I wasn't just found in a bassinet in the hospital, but I do not want to hear the specifics of labor surrounding my birth. As Brian would say, I'm not a lesbian." Justin cringed as he cautioned his mother. Brian watched the conversation and laughed at his partner. "I'll call you when we're ready to go to the hospital."

 

"Thank you sweetheart."

 

Justin turned toward Brian and said, "Are you going to call anybody; Deb, Michael, ...?" Justin did not really want anyone at the hospital besides Brian and his mom but he knew the birth of their child was a big event and he wanted to avoid any more conflict than was already evident in their little circle.

 

"I'll call them after the baby is born. The website said it can take hours even after the mother is fully dilated. I don't think I have the patience for Debbie telling me all about Michael's birth or what her version of appropriate conversation in a maternity waiting room would be. I'd love for Gus to be here, but again, sitting with a 10 year old in a hospital waiting area is not the best of ideas. He'd be bored in less than 30 minutes and while I think I would love his company, someone would have to bring him here and that would mean telling Mel and Linds. This pregnancy is a sore spot with Linds and I don't want to deal with her at the moment. No, I think I'll wait till the rugrat is born and then tell everyone the fait accompli."

 

"You really did read about the birth. I'm proud of you!"

 

"Don't be. Proud is an accomplishment. I just read about what is going to occur via nature and Cynthia. Proud is what we'll be on graduation day. Now we're at the car, put our suitcases in the trunk and get you sweet bubble butt in the car. We can stand here and talk all day, but that baby is coming and I know I'll never hear the end of it if you aren't there for the birth."

 

They arrived shortly afterward at Cynthia's and Brian parked the car and went inside to check on things. Cynthia seemed pretty calm and was watching an episode of some rom com on Netflix.

 

"Hi guys. Justin I'm so glad you're here. Well, Brian too, but ..."

 

"I know, you need your coach. Everything okay here?" Brian asked. He looked at Cynthia sitting on the couch, paper in hand as she marked down her contractions with the length of each and the time between them. She was efficient even in birth.

 

"Good, boss," she smiled. "You sticking around? I didn't think you wanted to watch the process."

 

"I'm dropping off our luggage and stuff from the trip but I'll be back. Can't have either of you two driving to the hospital. You in labor and Sunshine a jack in the box, unable to sit still for 30 seconds. I should be back in 45 minutes. Think junior can wait that long?"

 

"Sure. It will be several hours before anything really happens. Hurry up and wait is the catch phrase right now."

 

Brian leaned down and gave Justin a quick kiss on the cheek and leaned over to give Cynthia one as well. "Later," he said glancing at the pair and then turning to leave.

 

Justin watched Brian leave and turned toward Cynthia. "You okay? Can I get you anything? Do you need a massage? How about a back rub? Do you have your bag packed? Where is the focal point? We need your focal point." Justin stood up and walked around the room looking for the telltale mommy bag they had packed during their Lamaze class.

 

"Justin," Cynthia said in a stern voice. "Relax. I'd tell you to go smoke a joint but then they might not let you in the birthing room. Take a few deep breaths. I'm the one giving birth."

 

"Sorry. I'm just so excited.'

 

"I know, but..." she started to say but stopped as a contraction washed over her body. She took slow deep breaths to push through the pain and in a short time, smiled at Justin. "As I was saying, I'm fine. I have everything we need in the bag by the door. At this time I really don't need the focal point or anything else. I thought I would cook a casserole for my neighbor. Her son just left to serve in the army and she is all alone."

 

"Should you be moving around? Shouldn't you rest? Birthing is hard work."

 

"Don't you remember anything from class? Moving around and walking makes the labor move faster and I'm anxious to have this baby. I don't regret offering to incubate but I feel like a beached whale and I'd really like to sleep through the night without waking up three or four times to pee."

 

"Okay. I get it. Is there a recipe for this casserole? I can help with that."

 

"No recipe, but you can go down to the basement and grab the noodles and a can of mushroom soup. My pantry is small and since I don't cook often I keep the stuff I don't use very often down there."

 

Justin and Cynthia worked on the casserole, chatting away about the baby and his upcoming show. They would stop and time the contractions as they came and Justin would help as he'd been coached in class. At the end of the short time it took to make the casserole and put in in the oven, Brian was pulling up to the curb of the condo again. Justin opened the door for his partner and ushered him inside.

 

"You're back."

 

"Your powers of observation are astounding. Are you sure I did not pick up a clone of Justin when we were in New York. The Justin I know and love is quite capable and usually not so skittish," Brian teased as sat on the couch and picked up the remote.

 

"Brian, we were watching that show. Please turn it back," Justin urged.

 

"You were watching Dancing With The Stars?" Brian walked over to Justin, placing his hand on his forehead to see if he had a fever.

 

Justin swatted his hand away. "I feel fine. I happen to love the costumes and to watch the dance moves. Now, go be a good partner and put Cynthia's bag in the car. It's not time to leave yet, but when its time, we should be ready."

 

Brian put the bag in the car and returned to the condo. Justin and Cynthia made several casseroles and cut up some chicken for chicken salad.

 

"While Cynthia is not going to have to deal with midnight feedings, she will still need to recover from giving birth. We're making some meals for her to eat when she gets home from the hospital. I arranged for a company to deliver some healthy meals for a few weeks after she comes home, but we both agreed that it would be nice to have some of her favorite meals on hand too."

 

"Good thinking. I knew I married a smart man."

 

Another contraction hit Cynthia and this one was stronger than before, making her stop in her tracks and breathe really hard through the pain."

 

Brian turned a little white as he watched Cynthia hold her abdomen and forget they were in the room. "Is it time? Do we need to go to the hospital?"

 

Justin looked at the sheet and shook his head, no. "The contractions are only 10 minutes apart. We won't go until they are 5 minutes apart or her water breaks."

 

"Water breaks?"

 

"The amniotic fluid sac that the baby is floating in will break before the baby is born. If her water breaks, it's important for the baby to be born within 24 hours as there is a higher risk of infection. Usually the water doesn't break early, but it can."

 

"You mean to tell me she might gush water all over the car. I hope the detailer can clean that mess up."

 

"Briannnnnnn," Justin chastised his partner. This is our child we're discussing, not some alien."

 

"I know, but the more I hear about the birthing process, the more I wonder how the earth ever became populated."

 

Justin didn't answer but helped Cynthia prepare the rest of the food containers for the upcoming weeks.

 

"I think I'd like to take a walk, Justin. Remember the instructor said that was a good way to move labor along. Mr. Impatient here is welcome to join us. I'm sure he won't be enjoying any bedroom exercise tonight and might feel the need to let off some excess energy."

 

Justin laughed at Cynthia's jab to her boss and his husband. She really did know him very well. She was right; there wouldn't be any sex until after the baby was born. Brian Kinney was quite capable of abstaining from sex but he didn't usually like it. Justin often times thought if Brian could get away with having him no more than a few rooms away at all times, Brian would be ecstatic as he could have his own personal sex slave.

 

The three of them set out to walk down the end of her block and back; this way never straying too far away from their car. They walked for over 45 minutes and during that time Cynthia had 5 contractions. After the last one, Justin declared it was finally time to go to the hospital. He texted his mom they were leaving and she quickly texted back that she was on her way.

 

They arrived at the hospital and checked in quickly. Part of the Lamaze class was geared toward hospital admittance procedures so they knew exactly where they needed to go and had completed preregistration and insurance verification. Cynthia was ushered into a room and changed into a hospital gown.

 

"I guess they don't want you to ruin your clothes, but seriously there could be a little more modestly to them, " Justin commented as he returned to the room after allowing her to change in private.

 

"Justin, having a baby is messy and the last thing I'm going to be concerned about is covering up. Don't worry about it. I'm not." Another contraction hit and she breathed through the pain.

 

The nurse came in to check her and reported that she was 6 centimeters and asked if she wanted an epidural. They had discussed this and Justin and Brian had left that decision up to her. It was her body and she was the one giving birth. She hadn't decided and thought she would determine her answer when she was in labor. "Yes," she answered and Justin nodded his head.

 

The epidural was given and Cynthia continued in labor for several hours, albeit much more in control with little pain. Justin went out to the waiting room every half hour to report on her progress.

 

Brian sat in the plastic chairs in the waiting room after Justin left for the third time. Jennifer watched her son in law, deciding to try and distract him.

 

"Brian, how was New York?"

 

It took a few seconds for Brian to realize Jennifer was talking to him. "We had a great time. I even bought Justin to buy some new clothes for his next show. I'll get him a decent wardrobe yet." He smiled as he pictured Justin in the new clothes.

 

"What else did you do while you were there?"

 

"Believe it or not, we ate at this little diner. Every time we go to New York, we hit this diner that is located by the Ritz. The food isn't fancy but we like going there. Reminds both of us of the Liberty Diner minus Debbie. While there are so many fine dining establishments in New York, sometimes you want low key and average. Justin taught me to appreciate the little things in life. He's like that." A faraway look entered Brian's eyes but then he quickly returned to the present. " But, I think you already know that about your son. I love him, but you already know that too."

 

"I do. I'm so excited about the baby. You will be great parents. I think Justin's read every single childbirth book that exists and at least a dozen parenting books. I hope he realizes that every child is different and loving your child is probably the biggest hurdle at first."

 

"I know he's worried about me too. I want this child but I know that the "family" isn't convinced about our sincerity. Mikey still thinks Justin tricked me into having this baby and Lindsay, well let's just say her idea of the happy nuclear family keeps moving farther out of reach as Justin and I move through life." Brian pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stay the headache that almost always tried to rear its ugly head when he talked about the "family".

 

Justin rushed out of the maternity ward, the biggest smile on his face Brian had ever seen. "He's here. Colin Aiden Kinney Taylor has arrived. He's beautiful. Come on, you've got to see him." He tugged Brian by his hand practically running through the doors again. Jennifer put her hand to her mouth and sighed loudly.

 

"It's a boy." She sat down in the seats in the waiting area and texted Tucker and Molly. She couldn't wait to see the new baby and hold him but she would wait for his parents to meet him and then the grandparenting would begin.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian followed Justin through the security doors and donned a paper gown and shoes. Justin wanted to laugh but he refrained from doing so as he knew that Brian would not appreciate the humor. They entered the room and Cynthia was holding the baby and smiling at him. She lifted her arms toward Brian and said,

"Here's your son, Brian."

Brian looked at the little boy, eyes closed, bundled in a little hospital issue blanket with a small cap on his head.

"Hey there, Sonny boy," he whispered as he smiled at the small baby. "We're so glad you're here."

Brian walked to the chair in the corner of the room and sat down. "He's here. Welcome to the world. Colin. There are so many people who want to meet you and well, there are a few who aren't really certain about you." Brian spoke in soft tones as he looked at his son, counting his fingers and marveling at the tiny hands.

"Don't start telling him about the negative things already, Brian. He's only 20 minutes old."

"Justin, at this stage I could be reading a story about an axe murderer and he wouldn't care. He's just getting used to my voice. "

‘Okay,' Justin said, eyeing his partner with a frown.

"I told you I read all that stuff that Cynthia's doc had on the web page." Brian smiled as he caressed Colin's face.

Cynthia yawned, suddenly very tired from all the exertion. Justin looked over at her, smiling so hard that his mouth almost hurt.

"Bri, I think we need to let Cynthia rest. Put Colin in the bassinet and we'll come back in a bit. I'm hungry and we need to call Gus. I know he's been so excited about the baby and will want to know Colin is finally here."

Brian placed Colin back in the bassinet, giving him a light kiss on the forehead as he followed Justin out of the room. "He looks just like you, beautiful. Let's go see Mother Taylor."

They walked out to the waiting room where Jennifer was sitting and holding her phone. "I texted Molly and Tucker. She's coming in a little while. Can I see my little grandson?"

"Cynthia's resting but I think they took Colin to the nursery. Let's go look at your grandson and I think they'll let me in to hold him. I'm his dad after all." Justin held his hand up to help get his mom out of the chair and the three of them walked toward the nursery. Justin tapped on the window, showing his id and the nurse beckoned him inside where he walked toward Colin's crib. He leaned over and picked up the tiny baby, kissing him gently on the forehead and walked with him toward the window so his mom could see him. Jennifer put her hand to her mouth and her eyes grew wide with pleasure.

"Oh, he's adorable," she said as she reached out her hand to touch the glass where Justin stood with Colin. She turned toward Brian and said, "He looks just like Justin, down to the small button nose."

Justin returned Colin to his bassinet and joined them outside the nursery. "He's the most beautiful baby."

Jennifer laughed at his enthusiasm and Justin looked offended. "Every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful child in the world. It's how nature helps parents bond with them," Jennifer said as she smiled at her son, remembering a similar conversation she had with her mother when she held Justin.

"Somebody else reads parenting books," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

Justin smacked Brian lightly on the arm, "Mom, tell him that parenting books have a lot of good advice." Justin enlisted his mother's help.

Jennifer looked between the two men and smiled. "I will tell you two once and only once. I'm happy to help, but I will not referee your childrearing decisions. This is your child and you will have to agree or disagree on how to raise him. Right now, I see your sister walking down the hall and I'm going to show her your son. I suggest you start calling everyone, especially Gus. There will be consequences if you wait too long." Jennifer walked toward Molly and took her to the nursery.

 

Brian and Justin drove toward Mel and Lindsay's house, choosing to tell Gus in person and wanting to take him to the hospital. By the time they arrived it was mid-afternoon and Gus was already home from school. Gus answered the door and lunged at Brian and Justin.

"Daddy!!! Justin!!!!. I made a cool picture for the baby's room in art class today," he said as he raced up toward his bedroom.

Hearing the door open, Lindsay walked into the living room, surprised to see Brian and Justin in the middle of the afternoon.

"Hi. Everything okay? Why aren't you at work?"

"We came to bring Gus to the hospital. Cynthia had Colin and we want him to see his brother," Brian said. Without waiting for Lindsay's reply Brian went up the stairs to view the picture and bring Gus downstairs. He wanted both of them to tell him about Colin.

Justin sat on the worn red couch in the living room and motioned for Gus to join him by patting the seat next to him. Gus joined him and Brian sat on the other side.

"I brought the picture, Justin." He held out the picture for Justin to see. "Can we hang it up in the baby's room?"

Justin looked at the picture and smiled. Gus had drawn a picture of four people; one blonde, one brunette and one child and a baby was in a blanket next to them. "See, it's us. This is you," he said as he pointed to the blonde figure. "And this is Daddy and me," he said as he pointed to the other figures. "And this is the new baby. I wasn't sure how to draw a baby so I figured if I put a head in a blanket it would work. Justin, can you show me how to draw a baby? I want to draw him when it's born."

Justin and Brian both gave Gus a huge hug. "Gus, I think that can be arranged. In fact, we can start today. Your brother, Colin was born a little while ago. Would you like to go meet him?" Justin said as he watched Gus' expression when he heard the news.

"He's here. It's a boy and you named him Colin. That's a cool name. Can I hold him? I've never held a baby before. Can we play together? I know he's going to be lots of fun. I want to see him. Can I go see him?" Turning toward his mother, he asked, "Can I go see him? Please? I know it's a school night, but it's not every day that my brother is born."

Lindsay smiled and nodded her head. "Of course, you can go see your new brother. In fact, why don't we all go? I would like to meet him too."

Gus got up quickly and jumped up and down. "I've got a new baby brother. Yeah!!" He rushed up the stairs making Brian and Justin look at each other with eyebrows raised.

"What's he doing and why did he go upstairs?" Brian asked Lindsay, hoping she would have some insight.

"I don't know."

"Gus. What are you doing?" Brian yelled up the stairs.

Gus came down the stairs a few minutes later and said, "I was putting on my big brother shirt. You know the one Justin and I bought at the mall. Colin needs to meet me in my new shirt so he knows who I am."

The adults smiled indulgently but no one said a word, not bothering to correct him and point out that an hours-old baby could not read. "I want to ride with Justin and Daddy." It was said as a statement not a question and Brian agreed.

Lindsay frowned slightly at his request but was not going to argue with him. All those feelings of dread that had been warring in her psyche for months were definitely coming to a head. Was Brian to become the favored parent because he had a little brother for Gus to admire and eventually play with? Would Brian push Gus aside to spend more time with Colin and Gus become the heartbroken little boy that you saw on Lifetime movies? Would Gus push to be with Brian and Justin instead of living with her and Mel? She allowed her mind to wander and answer these questions silently while outwardly she allowed a small smile to cross her lips. "Of course."

She couldn't help the polar pull of her feelings. On the one hand, she was thrilled that Brian was so active in Gus' life but on the other hand she questioned if that was wise given the pull of a new baby. She got in her car and waved at Brian and Justin as she backed out of the driveway and made her way toward the hospital.

"Daddy, how big is he? I mean my friend Tyler said that his little brother was so tiny, his foot fit in his hand. That's little and if Colin's that little, he can't play catch with me." Gus buckled his seat belt and signaled to his father that he was strapped in.

Brian turned the car onto the highway and drove toward the hospital. "Gus, Colin is very small but he will grow really fast. Do you remember when JR was a baby?" Justin asked him.

"Yeah. All she did was cry and it was really annoying. I know Colin won't do that. I'll tickle him and tell him stories about school and give him candy. It will be great."

Justin and Brian looked at each other and each man made a small grimace. Obviously, neither man expected Gus to want to play with the baby immediately. They should have expected his desire to play with Colin but neither of them thought Gus would think the baby could be his playmate immediately. It made Gus' desire to live with them understandable. He was expecting an instant playmate.

"Gus," Brian said as he turned his blinker on to change lanes. "Colin is very small. I know that you want to play with him, but he can't play now. New babies sleep most of the time. As he gets older you'll be able to play with him more, but it will be a long time before you two can play catch."

Gus took out his Iron Man figure and pretended that he was flying in the air. "I will come to your rescue, Colin. Save you from the evil world," Gus said as he listened to his father. "Ok, Dad. I'll be the best big brother ever. I'll show him all about Iron Man and soccer and we'll draw together like me and Justin. It will be great."

Justin put his hand on Brian's and squeezed gently, then whispered, "He'll figure it out. We'll figure it out. I'm going to call Debbie and you should probably call Michael. He will be upset if he doesn't hear the news from you." Justin wanted to say more, but he knew Brian knew exactly what he was alluding to.

"I'll call Michael and you'll call Debbie when we get to the hospital. I know Mother Taylor isn't going to spread the word." Brian looked at Justin, thinking that his smile could not possibly light up the interior of the car any more.

"Maybe I should call them both. After all, Linds is probably calling Mel as she drives to the hospital and we don't really want to hear how Linds knew before everyone else." Justin frowned slightly at the elaborate machinations already in place before Colin was even a day old. It seemed to him that everyone's feelings had to be taken into account or someone would get hurt. He was already starting to resent the machinations of the "family" circle.

"You know, this is already old. I don't want to live our lives trying to figure out who to tell what to and have to keep tabs on who is told first. Call whoever you want or no one at all. I'm sure the gay grapevine will let everyone know that Colin is born." Brian's voice rose a little at the end of his rant, but he didn't want to scare Gus and he was too happy from the arrival of Colin to care what everyone thought.

Justin made the phone calls, deciding to call Debbie first and then Michael, especially since Michael didn't seem to believe that Brian really wanted the baby. Now that Colin was here, he wondered if Michael would accept Brian's commitment to their family. Like Brian, he really didn't want to fight with Michael and he knew Brian would always choose him and Colin and Gus over Michael. He hoped Michael would come around, but it was not his concern.

"Debbie, I have big news. Colin Aiden Taylor Kinney is here!" Justin said as Debbie answered the phone.

"Oh!!!! That's wonderful hon. I've been making casseroles for you boys for the last week or so. I'll bring them over in a few days. Wouldn't want you to worry about cooking when that new baby will have you up at all hours of the night and day."

"Debbie, you don't have to do that. We have a cook."

"Nonsense. I don't have to do anything, but the cook is just going to cook. I'll come to watch and feed the new baby while you and Brian go fuck."

 

Justin was thankful the phone was not on speaker. He didn't want to explain that to Gus, although he had ideas that Gus already knew what that was. Still, it was embarrassing for her to talk like that. Justin turned red as he was talking and Brian turned toward him just as the crimson tint colored his cheeks.

"Debbie, I hate to cut this short, but I have a lot of calls to make. Talk to you soon." Justin pushed the button on his phone to disconnect the call and sighed heavily.

"Let me guess, she wants to come over and watch the baby while we go to Babylon and the back room?" Brian asked as he signaled to change lanes to get off the highway.

"Something like that," Justin answered.

"Debbie never fails to live up to her one-track mind."

"Dad, what do you mean?" Gus asked from the back seat.

"Debbie thinks that your dad and I spend all of our time in the bedroom and offered to watch Colin so we could be in the bedroom," Justin said quickly.

"That's silly. You play with me and we watch cartoons and draw and we go to the diner and to the park. You're only in the bedroom when we go to sleep."

"That's right, Sonny Boy. Okay, we're at the hospital and we need to go over some rules."

"There are rules everywhere. When I grow up I'm going to make a rule that there are no rules."

Both men laughed and Brian leaned down to hug Gus.

"We have to wear a special gown and cover our shoes if we're going to hold Colin. He's doesn't have any protection against diseases right now so we have to be extra careful around him. We will always wash our hands before we pick him up."

"Okay. Anything else. I want to see him."

"We need to talk softly around him. He isn't used to loud noises and everything will be new to him, so he may cry if he gets scared."

"I'll play quietly. Is he always going to be scared of noise? He won't be able to play at the park or go Planet Bounce. I love Planet Bounce."

"Like we said, Gus, he won't be able to play right now, but soon you'll be able to play with him." The three of them entered the elevator and Justin pushed the number 3 for the maternity ward. Gus saw several women walking up and down the hall wearing hospital gowns.

"Dad, why are they walking around in their pajamas? And all the pajamas are the same. That's weird."

"All of these women are wearing hospital gowns. They are getting ready to have their babies and walking helps the babies get ready to be born," Brian said. He looked at Justin for an agreement of his explanation and was pleased to see Justin nodding his head in agreement.

"Where's Colin? And where are the special gowns and stuff?"

They went to a special area where visitors to don the protective clothing and then walked to Cynthia's room where they hoped to find Colin. Gus walked into the room and saw Cynthia in the bed.

"Hi. Miss Cynthia. You're wearing one of those hospital gowns. I guess it worked because Colin is here."

"Gus was asking why everyone was wearing their pajamas and they were all the same. We explained that the women were here to have their babies and the gowns were to keep the germs away."

Cynthia smiled at the three people. "I'm still wearing the special gown because Colin needs to be kept from germs. Do you want to see him?"

"Sure!!!"

"He's over there in the plastic bassinet. You can go look at him." She pointed toward the bassinet and watched as Gus walked over to the baby, peering in, a little uncertain what he would see but very interested in the new arrival.

"Hi there, Colin. I'm your big brother, Gus. We're going to have such fun together. I'm going to teach you everything I know. I'm going to share my toys with you. I'll get Daddy to buy you a set of your own Avengers though, they're my special toys. We're going to climb trees, and fight crime and build legos and all kinds of stuff. Dad says you have to get bigger, and I guess you're a little small to do that stuff now." He reached into the bassinet and touched Colin's face, amazed at its softness.

"Can I hold him, Dad? He's pretty tiny and he should fit right in my arms."

"Go sit in the chair, Gus and I'll bring him to you."

Gus dutifully sat in the chair and waited for Brian to pick up Colin and bring him to him. Gus held out his hands and Brian placed the baby in them.

"You need to hold his head up," Brian said as he positioned Gus' hand under Colin's neck. "Great job, Gus."

"He's still asleep, Dad. How long is it going to take before he wakes up? Watching a sleeping baby is boring."

Everyone laughed, but Justin chose to answer him. "Remember, Gus? We said it would be a few months before he is awake long enough to play with. But you can be a big help to me and your Dad by feeding him and talking to him and holding him. He'll start to recognize your voice when you talk to him. I bet you could read him stories now."

"That would be cool. I like to read."

Lindsay came into the room and watched Gus hold Colin, proud that he was so careful with the baby. She walked over to him and smiled down at the tiny bundle.

"Hi there, Colin. You are so tiny. I can't believe Gus was that small at one time."

"I was that little? Wow! I grew a lot."

Colin took that moment to wake up and let out a soft cry. Gus looked at his little brother and said, "What's up, Colin? Why are you crying?"

"I bet he's hungry or he might need a diaper change," Justin said as he grabbed a bottle of formula and a diaper.

"Are you going to feed him, Justin? Can I watch?"

"Well, first I'll check his diaper. He might just be wet."

Justin went over the chair and gently picked up Colin from Gus' arms and took him over to the bassinet to lay him down. He carefully checked the diaper with his finger and it was wet. "Yep, he needs a new diaper." He changed the diaper while Gus watched, trying to remember all the steps. He picked up the baby and took him to the chair again and then picked up the bottle that he left on the table. He brought the nipple to Colin's mouth and Colin opened his mouth to eat. "Guess he's hungry too." Gus watched Justin feed Colin too.

"I can help you feed Colin. It doesn't look too hard."

"Of course, Gus. You're going to be a big help to both me and your Dad." Justin finished feeding Colin and raised the baby to burp him.

"What are you doing, Justin?"

"When babies eat, they take in air and you have to pat their backs to help them get the air out or it makes them uncomfortable."

"Oh. I guess there is a lot to learn about babies. I'm sure you'll teach me."

"Gus, it's time to go. You have soccer practice this afternoon and then you have to do your homework."

"Oh Mom," Gus said as he eyed his Dad watching Justin burp Colin.

"We'll pick you up Friday afternoon and you can spend the weekend with us. Would you like that?"

"He's got a soccer game on Saturday morning. I could come by and pick him up and take him. I know you'll be busy with Colin," Lindsay said.

"One of us will take him, Linds. I told you nothing is going to change just because we have a new baby. We'll do what other new parents do. One of us will stay home with Colin and the other will take Gus," Brian said as he made a slight frown.

"Okay. But Gus, we do have to go now." She walked over to look at Colin one last time. "He's beautiful, Brian and Justin." She walked out with Gus and Gus disposed of his gown and shoes in a bin by the door.

"Well, four down, another dozen or so to go," Justin said as he put Colin back in the bassinet.

"That went pretty well. Lindsay was even civil," Cynthia said. "I'm just the incubator and I don't intend to have any input into Colin's life, but I wasn't surprised at Lindsay's dig about you being unable to take Gus to the soccer game."

"Unfortunately I think you're right. I think we'll just have to show them." Justin yawned, the excitement of the day and the fatigue from their recent trip catching up to him.

"Looks like I have more than one boy who needs a nap," Brian said in a teasing tone.

"I'm not a boy, but I could use a nap." Justin walked over to Cynthia and leaned down to give her a kiss. "Thank you so much for all you've given us. He's beautiful."

Brian walked to the other side of the bed and gave Cynthia a kiss as well. "Get some rest. You may only be the incubator but as far as the hospital is concerned you are the mother of Colin and unfortunately that means the entire "family" will be in your room to see our child."

"Well, I can always kick them out. For once, I get to be the one in charge." Cynthia smiled at Brian, tongue in cheek.

"True. Later. Get some rest and we'll be back."

"Bye Justin. Bye Brian." Cynthia closed her eyes to rest as the proud parents left for some much-needed rest.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Two months later

 

It was still light outside, daylight savings time had begun in late March and everyone seemed to enjoy the extra daylight. It seemed to Justin that he always had more energy in the spring and summer, corresponding to the increased daylight, but Brian teased him that it was just his imagination as there were still only 24 hours in a day, whether it be fall or winter. This year he doubted if he would ever have energy again. Colin was a good baby, not colicky or fussy but he was always hungry. Justin was exhausted since the baby ate every few hours and felt like he was never so tired in his life. He remembered his early PIFA years when he was juggling working at the diner so he could pay tuition and be taking a full course load and being constantly tired, but this was worse. He'd read about babies needs to eat frequently and the new parent struggles to get sufficient sleep, but he never dreamed it would be this stressful. He would dream of sleep and when he was awake, he constantly felt the pull of his bed calling to him. He'd begun to sympathize with people who were on diets and their constant thoughts of food, except his, were constant thoughts of sleep.

 

Brian and he had agreed that it was silly for both of them to get up with Colin so they took turns. At first, it was every other feeding, but then they decided that they would take a week at a time. Even with this arrangement, he was still tired as he woke every time he heard Colin, often having to push Brian a few times to get up and take care of him. He envied Brian's ability to sleep through anything. It was his turn this week and he'd just fed and changed Colin, laying him back in his bassinet for a few hours. Stumbling back to bed, he was almost asleep before he hit the pillow, but then Brian's alarm went off and jostled his sleep-deprived body.

 

Brian hit the alarm quickly, leaned over and kissed Justin, hoping to enjoy a blow job or even better, morning sex before he had to be at work, but Justin grunted, pulled the pillow over his head and turned away. Brian smiled at his husband but let him sleep, understanding how very tired they both were. He trudged to the bathroom, showered and got ready for work, trying to be as quiet as possible. A few hours later, Colin cried again, waking Justin up for the next round of baby duty.

 

Justin fed and changed Colin again and returned to his bedroom, hoping for a few more hours of sleep before he too had to get up and work. While he worked at home in his studio, his work was no less important than Brian's and they had hired a nanny to watch Colin during the daytime hours. He returned to the bedroom and managed to sleep a few more hours, so when Colin woke around 10:00 he was feeling almost rested and ready to meet the world. He again cared for Colin and dressed him in a light sleeper, bringing him downstairs to the nanny, Chloe. The nanny arrived at 9:30 each morning and it was her job to prepare the daily bottles, and cook a small breakfast for whichever parent was home before she started her duties of caregiving.

 

"There you are, Colin. I was beginning to wonder if your daddy was going to keep you all day," Chloe said as she reached for Colin and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. Chloe was dressed in light jeans and a blue t-shirt that was emblazoned with the logo from the Bloom gallery. She was the wife of one of the employees whose children were grown and wanted something to keep herself occupied. Her husband was ecstatic as she was doing something useful instead of out spending money on frivolous purchases they did not need. Brian and Justin connected with her immediately, Justin thinking she reminded him of Jennifer and Brian thankful she did not remind him of his mother. Chloe carefully placed Colin on the Boppee and put a baby gym over him so he could stare at the black and white objects.

 

"I'll be in town for a meeting and then I may go visit my mother. She was making noises about not seeing me. I'm not sure what Brian has planned today. I vaguely remember seeing him yesterday."

 

"Justin, I'm not your mother or your keeper. I'm Colin's nanny and he's my responsibility between 9:30 and 7:00 each day. You are not my child or spouse and I do not need you to report into me. Now go, work, Colin and I will be fine." Chloe moved her hands in a waving motion, dismissing Justin to do whatever he needed to do.

 

Justin smiled at the woman and went back upstairs to get ready for his day. He had a meeting with Carol, his agent this morning and they were going to talk about his upcoming schedule. Now that he was an established artist, his work was in great demand. She usually had three or four shows wanting his work and he had the luxury of choosing which ones he wanted to show his art. He thought it ironic after all the years and struggles where he fought for every showing and commission and now that he had them, he wanted to slow down his commitments to spend time with his son. He still loved painting and couldn't imagine not creating, but he was torn between his art and his life.

 

His meeting with Carol went well, finishing his discussion in under an hour. It was a little late for lunch, but he wanted to see his mother, deciding to go to her office to see if she had eaten yet. The real estate business was very busy these days and she often ate later in the day. Walking into the office, he spied her as she hung up the phone. Looking up she saw him standing at the doorway and said, "Justin. What a nice surprise. I didn't know you were going to be town today. Come in, sit down."

 

Justin walked into the office, giving his mother a light kiss on the cheek. His stomach growled and she laughed a small chuckle. "Some things don't change, even when you're a grown man with a child. Would you like to go to lunch? I had a breakfast meeting this morning and ate a big breakfast so I haven't eaten yet."

 

"Sounds great. I was hoping you'd not eaten. Where do you want to go?"

 

"How about Hello Bistro? They have some great salads. And I understand their burgers are pretty good too."

 

"Sounds good. I'll follow you there. I could use a good burger. While Rosa cooks for us, she tends to cook with Brian's palette in mind. He wouldn't dream of a juicy burger and a milkshake but sometimes that is just what I crave."

 

They arrived at Hello Bistro and were seated immediately since it was well past the lunchtime crowd. Justin looked at the menu and ordered a hello bistro burger and Jennifer ordered an apple almond crunch salad. Justin drank some water and yawned.

 

"Sorry, mom. It's my week to get up with Colin and I'm just exhausted. Thankfully we have Chloe to watch him during the day so Brian and I can work. She's a godsend."

 

"A new baby is very tiring. It will get better when he gets bigger and can eat more. When his stomach can hold more food, he won't wake up so much and then you'll get some sleep." Jennifer drank a little of her iced tea and smiled as she remembered those crazy times when Justin was little.

 

"I'm so exhausted. I mean I would kill for a solid 8 hours of sleep. I think I might feel human and even be able to spend time with my husband. I feel like Brian and I are like ships in the night, passing but not interacting."

 

"I know. Having a newborn is very stressful on couples. They are so excited to bring the baby home, but the reality of taking care of someone so helpless 24/7 is different than anyone envisioned. Many fathers become jealous of the baby because the mother has to spend so much time caring for it and the father feels neglected. You and Brian share the baby chores and since both of you can take care of him, there is less chance of jealousy."

 

"Seriously, mom. Guys get jealous of their wives when they have to take care of the babies. You're kidding right?"

 

"No. Even if the mother isn't feeding the baby, the father often returns to work and then the mother is taking care of the baby. When he gets home, he oftentimes wants things to be the same as before the baby and resents the intrusion on their time as a couple." His mother was somewhat surprised that Justin hadn't read about this phenomenon when he was studying all his baby books.

 

Their food arrived and both took several bites of their lunch before the conversation continued.

 

"Would you like me to come over one night and watch Colin? You and Brian could go out for a few hours, maybe go to Babylon." She felt the mention of Babylon would be sufficient for them to fill in the blanks.

 

Justin took a drink of his ice tea thinking about the offer. "I don't know. He already spends all day with Chloe. I would feel guilty if we went out and didn't see him or spend time with him," Justin said as he toyed with the offer.

 

"Justin. Colin is two months old; he won't know the difference. It's important for you and Brian to spend time together too. You really don't believe you're never going to go out again." Jennifer was very proud of herself and how she was handling this difficult conversation. Her son was a parent and while she was not going to second-guess any of their parenting decisions, she wouldn't hesitate to remind him that he was a man with a husband who needed his attention as well.

 

Justin considered his mother's words and realized she had some valid points. He would talk to Brian about her offer. His mom didn't realize that Babylon didn't start to get hopping until at least 11:00 and he wasn't going to ask her to stay that late. Maybe going to Woody's would work. His mother had planted a seed and now he was considering her offer.

 

"Thanks, mom. I'll talk to Brian and get back to you." He finished his burger and poured ketchup on his plate to eat his fries.

 

"Colin is my grandson and I love to spend time with him." Jennifer smiled as she watched Justin dip each fry into the ketchup, reminiscing about how he used to do as a child. She wondered if Colin would do that when he got older.

 

They finished their lunch and Justin leaned over to kiss his mom. "Thanks for lunch. There were even a few things that I think Brian would eat. I'll have to get him to go here the next time I'm in town. I'll talk to him about your offer."

 

Jennifer smiled, hoping the little seed she planted would result in an evening of uninterrupted time with her grandson. She placed her portion of the money for the bill on the table along with a tip and returned to her office.

 

It was almost 4:00 when he left the restaurant, too early for Brian to quit work but he decided to go to Kinnetik anyway. He wanted to see what Brian's art department was doing with the latest Eyeconics campaign since he had helped Brian with the new ideas. Driving to Kinnetik, he kept returning to lunch and his discussion with his mom. The more he thought about it the more he liked the idea of spending an evening with Brian. Parking the car in the employee lot, he walked into Kinnetik and was greeted by Cynthia.

 

"Justin, good to see you. Brian is still on a conference call, but he should be done in a few minutes."

 

"Great. I'll wait. Do you want to see new pictures of Colin?"

 

"Of course. I'll always want to see pictures of him. While you guys are raising him, I still want him to know me." Cynthia reached out to Justin, taking his phone and swiping through the pictures. "He's beautiful. I think we made a beautiful baby."

 

Justin smiled as he closed the gallery app and put his phone in his pocket. "Do you think he's done yet?"

 

Cynthia looked at the phone display and saw all the lights were off. "Yes, it's safe, well as safe as it is to go into the lion's den unannounced."

 

"He's always happy to see me, well almost always." Justin opened the door and as usual, Brian didn't look up but said.

 

"I told you not to disturb me. What the fuck do you want?"

 

"Good afternoon to you too," Justin said, unperturbed at the harsh greeting.

 

Brian registered Justin's voice and looked up from his desk. "To what do I owe this unexpected visit? I thought you had a meeting at the gallery and were going to paint. I know you've got that show coming up." Brian left from behind his desk, walked over to Justin and gave him a kiss on the lips, opening his mouth to taste the essence of his partner.

 

Justin returned the kiss, relishing this rare moment where they didn't worry about being interrupted by Colin, returning again to the conversation with his mom at lunch. They broke the kiss after a few moments, both recognizing that continuing would result in more than kissing.

 

Justin walked to the couch and sat down, motioning for Brian to join him. "I did have a meeting at the gallery this morning and then I went to lunch with mom. Carol says that I have all the pieces I need for the show and we set up some dates for future projects." His voice rose in excitement and he turned his body toward Brian. His hands were moving a mile a minute as he spoke about his work. "She's pretty happy with the pieces and feels they will make a great show. She liked the ideas I had for the next set of paintings and she feels that the schedule I set up appears realistic." Justin said as he waxed on about the meeting.

 

"How was your lunch with Mother Taylor?"

 

"Great. We went to Hello Bistro. We should go there. The food is great and there's food there you'll eat." Justin licked his lips as he remembered his burger and fries.

 

"We'll see," Brian said as he could already picture the fat clogging his arteries and the extra time on the Stairmaster that he would have to put in if he indulged Justin.

 

"Speaking of mom, she offered to watch Colin so we could go to Babylon. I didn't burst her bubble by telling her that Babylon doesn't really get exciting until at least 11:00. I thought maybe Woody's would be nice. Have a few drinks, play some pool- enjoy ourselves..." He didn't mention a visit to the men's room, assuming any visit to Woody's or Babylon would include that sweet indulgence. Justin eyed Brian from head to toe, taking a few extra seconds at his crotch and unconsciously licked his lips.

 

Brian watched his partner, not unaware of his thoughts and remembering the decline of blow jobs he received in recent weeks, especially in the mornings. He glanced at his desk, completing a mental list of his "to do's" before he could realistically leave for the day. Sadly, he acknowledged that owning your company, there was a certain responsibility to your employees and customers that he just could not adjudicate. However, the idea of a night out with his partner was a compelling one, especially if Mother Taylor had offered to watch Colin. Understanding that he could relax and enjoy his partner without comments from the family about his irresponsibility leaving a 2-month baby also added to the appeal.

 

"I like the idea. Why don't you talk to her about watching him tomorrow night? I'll have time to finish the work on my desk and we can spend a few hours together shooting pool." He silently added "without messy diapers and baby spit up" but knew Justin would fill in the blanks. Brian leaned over, giving Justin a quick kiss on the lips, got up and returned to his desk. "Now unless there is something else you need, if I'm going to go out tomorrow night, I need to get back to work. I think someone should spend a few hours in his studio too. I don't want to find you painting and can't pull yourself away from your inspiration." Brian sat down and picked up the papers he was previously reading, essentially dismissing Justin.

 

Justin picked up his messenger bag and said, "Later" then returned to the lobby.

 

Cynthia said, "I see you're still whole. Did you calm the beast?"

 

"I told him about mom's offer to watch Colin for a few hours tomorrow while we hit Woody's. That seemed to make him happy."

 

"You know, Justin, I'd be more than happy to watch him too."

 

Smiling, he felt a sense of calm wash over his body. He could trust Cynthia and his mom to watch Colin. He was slowly building a village to raise their child.

 

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind." He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek and left the building.

 

It was early, only 5:00 pm and he thought Brian's idea of painting might not be a good one. He knew that if he got involved in a piece, he could easily forget the time and be late to take over parenting duties. Instead, he knew he needed some supplies and he could stretch a few canvases as well. The ideas he's discussed with Carol that morning were going to need some specific sized canvases and he didn't think he had those in his possession. He spent the remainder of the afternoon prepping for his next painting session. On his way home, he called his mom.

 

"Mom," he said as she answered the phone.

 

"Hello, dear. Is everything okay? We just saw each other a few hours ago."

 

"Everything's fine. I just wanted to ask if you were available tomorrow. I talked to Brian and he agreed that going to Woody's would be great."

 

"Let me look at my calendar," she said as she brought up her Google calendar. Looking at the entries, she said. "I have a showing at 3:00 and if the couple wants the house, we should still be done by 6:00. I could come out by 7:00. Would that work?"

 

"Perfect. Brian usually is home by 7:00 these days. That is the time we let Chloe go home."

 

"I could pack a bag and spend the night if you want. I don't have anything until 2:30 the next day."

 

Justin toyed with her generous offer but said, "Thanks, I appreciate it, but not this time. Colin is still waking up at night and I'm not going to ask you to do that. Maybe in a few months."

 

"Okay, sweetheart. I'll see you tomorrow."

 

Justin pushed the call button in his steering wheel and called Brian.

 

"Mom said yes for tomorrow. Now clear your desk and get home on time. Tell Cynthia and Ted that unless someone is dying or Kinnetik is going under, you are not to be disturbed and get ready to play some pool." Justin said, the excitement in his voice evident by the continual high pitch as he talked.

 

"Great. Later." Brian hung up the phone and made a ‘to do' list for the next day, put a few items in the out box, closed down his computer and grabbed his briefcase as he wondered at the changes in his life over the last year. Never in his wildest dreams did he think he'd get a huge smile at the thought of going to Woody's to shoot a few games of pool, but that was exactly what was happening. He had the largest smile on his face and couldn't wait to spend time with his partner doing the most mundane thing in the world, shooting some ceramic balls into net pockets.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The next day started out as any other day. The alarm went off, Brian got up and Justin covered his head with the pillow. Brian rolled his eyes, but didn't push Justin to get up with him, remembering their planned night out tonight. He thought he was really turning into a lesbian when he realized that he was looking forward to a night at Woody's and some alone time with his partner. After showering, he got dressed, grabbed his usual Guava juice and drove into town. He stopped at the diner and ate breakfast with Ted and Emmett and then made his way to Kinnetik.

 

He'd worked a little later than normal last night trying to ensure that he'd be able to leave on time today and meet Justin at Woody's. He planned on changing at the loft while Justin would drive into town and meet him after Jennifer arrived to relieve Chloe. They hated having two cars in the city, but this was resolved by their plan to leave Brian's car. Justin would drive Brian into town the next day as he had an early meeting in the city with a client who wanted a commission. Chloe had agreed to come in early so she could watch Colin. The amount of discussion needed to coordinate this little outing had been more than he would have anticipated and again he had a larger appreciation of what their future might look like with two professional parents who both had high powered jobs. There were now four people who had to coordinate their schedules so Justin and Brian could have a few hours without their newborn son.

 

As he walked into Kinnetik, he was greeted by Cynthia who handed him a Starbucks coffee. "Morning, Brian," she said without much enthusiasm.

 

Looking at Cynthia, he saw the concern on her face, eyes scrunched and mouth a little tight.

 

"Problems?" he said as he took the cup of coffee and smelled the delicious aroma.

 

"You could say that . Seems that our model for today's shoot for Ray Ban got arrested last night for drunk driving and won't be released for a few days. This isn't her first offense and the courts are holding her. In addition, the photographer was in the car with her and he's a little banged up from the accident so he's not available either."

 

"Shit!!! Shit!!! Shit!!!. What are our options?"

 

"I've contacted the photographer we used for Ice Mountain a few months back. Remember, we really liked his work and told him we would keep him in mind. Of course, he's not thrilled to be second in line, but he agreed to shoot the ad. I had to sweeten the deal by offering him a bonus if he got in done in three days versus four. However; he can't come for two days. This way we aren't out a lot of money with the delay. The location will only charge us for the days used; I checked and they are available for the time we need," she said as she looked at her notes in the file she was holding in her hand. "As for the model, that one was actually a little easier since we have three days until shoot time. It's not as uncommon to get last minute models. I checked with the agency and chose three that I thought would work for the product. I'm expecting a call from them at any time."

 

Brian listened to the information, mentally checking off the details of the ad. "Good job. I knew I hired you for a reason. Now, keep me informed regarding the models. I've got a shit load of work to accomplish and I'm leaving on time today."

 

"You've got a conference call with Tarrington Builders in half an hour and then another call at 11:00 with Logitech. Your morning is pretty full," Cynthia reminded him.

 

"Okay. I'll be in my office, reviewing my notes." Brian blew on the coffee and then took a sip, enjoying the mixture of flavors that Cynthia had ordered for him. Sitting at his desk, he clicked on his computer to open his email hoping nothing else would go wrong.

 

 

 

 

Justin

 

Justin had returned to sleep without any difficulty and awoke on his own. Looking at the clock, he saw that it was almost 10:00. He jolted up, scrambling for some shorts and a T before rushing to Colin's room. He realized he hadn't heard the baby since the early hours of the morning and he knew he should have woken up sooner to be fed. Colin was lying in his bed, and appeared to be asleep. Justin's heart was in his chest, beating so fast he could feel it. His breath came in quick short bursts and he could almost feel himself hyperventilating. Gently he reached down to touch baby Colin, laying his hand on his belly, assuring himself that the baby was still breathing. When he verified that Colin was still breathing, he touched his skin to see if he was warm and found the baby was warm.

 

"Shit!! Colin is sick." Rushing down to find Chloe, he raced into the kitchen.

 

"Chloe. Colin is hot. He didn't wake up to be fed for his 6:30 feeding and I just woke up. What should we do?" Justin had read all the books about caring for a baby, but all of them addressed well babies, not sick ones. The closest ‘sick' baby symptom was diaper rash. He was ringing his hands and alternately running his hand over his face. "Where is the doctor's number? Should I call the doctor? I should call Brian?" He said, the fear evident in his voice and quick sentences.

 

Chloe put a hand on his shoulder. "Take a deep breath, Justin." She waited for him to follow her instructions. "Okay. Now where is the baby thermometer? Let's take his temperature and see if he really has a fever. It could be that he is finally big enough that he doesn't have to eat so often." She spoke softly, hoping her voice would calm Justin.

 

Justin found the thermometer in the baby's room in a drawer with other medical items like a syringe and nose drops. They covered the tip with a plastic cover and put it in his ear. It beeped within 30 seconds and the reading showed 98.0. Normal. Baby Colin did not have a fever. Justin felt his body sag in relief, his breath slowed down and his heart beat returned to normal.

 

"When did you say he ate last?"

 

"About 3:00a.m. He's been eating every 3 and a half to 4 hours."

 

"Well, it's after 10:00 now. Why don't you pick him up, change him, and put new clothes on while I go grab a bottle. 6 hours is long enough for him not to eat and it's been 7. If this continues, you might get a full 8 hours yourself."

 

Justin picked up Colin and got him ready for the day with a new diaper and clean clothes. "There you are buddy, all dry and sweet smelling. If Ms. Chloe is right, you might be sleeping through the night soon. I know me and your daddy Brian would like that a lot. I miss sleeping a whole night and I'm too tired in the morning to say goodbye to your daddy." Justin smiled at the thought of the morning blow jobs returning to their repertoire. Having Colin was worth every missed morning blow job, but it would be nice to be able to enjoy them again. His thoughts brought him back to his planned evening with Brian and he started to get hard, thinking of the opportunity to blow his partner when he wasn't exhausted.

 

Justin picked up Colin and kissed his head, then laid the baby against his chest as he carried him downstairs to Chloe. "Chloe, here you are. One baby Colin all changed and sweet."

 

"Hey there, little man. Your daddy got you all dressed and changed to start your day. Well, we have a big day planned for today. First were going to get your stroller and then we are going to the park to see the ducks. After that you're going to have a nice lunch of a yummy bottle and then take a nap."

 

Justin smiled at the conversation, turned around and made his way up to his studio. Getting out his pencils, he located the canvas he'd begun to sketch yesterday and worked for the remainder of the morning. His hand needed a break and he reluctantly put down his pencil and went to find some lunch. After lunch he returned to the studio and took out his paints as he looked at the canvas deciding which colors fit the sketch. Mixing a palette of blues, greens and yellows, he had begun to fill in the canvas when his hand started to spasm and the brush zigged across the entire canvas. Dropping the brush at the sudden pain in his hand, he used his other hand to shake it, hoping to get the spasm to shorten.

 

"Damn!!! Fuck!!!! Shit!!!" Justin yelled as the pain shot through his hand, the shaking unsuccessful. Justin went over to the medicine cabinet, grabbed his pills and took one, hoping to alleviate the pain and allow him to continue his painting. Accepting that he had to give the pill time to work, he walked to the nursery to play with Colin, but he was sleeping so Justin returned to his studio. He walked around the studio as he looked at the different canvases, deciding which ones would go to each of the upcoming shows. Thankful that he had been painting a lot while Cynthia was pregnant, but would still need to paint in order to fulfill his upcoming commitments.

 

After about a half hour, the pain had subsided sufficiently for him to return to his canvas. As he stared at the zigzag of paint, he tried to envision a new piece of art and eventually came up with a variation of his original design. He returned to painting, but when his hand starting showing signs of fatigue a mere half hour later, he stopped, washed his brushes and reluctantly accepted he was not going to get any real work done today.

 

It was 4:00 and he had three hours until he could leave for Woody's. Too early to leave for the Pitts, but too late to start any big projects. He settled on reading his emails, a chore that he absolutely loathed and spending the next hour perusing the New York times art section. At 6:00, he showered and dressed and went down to play with Colin for a bit before his mother arrived.

 

"Mom, I just changed him and he had his last bottle at 6:00 so he should be good until about 10:00. The bottle is made and in the fridge. We warm the bottle a bit before giving it to him." Walking to the nursery, he opened a drawer that held the medical supplies. "Here's the thermometer and the syringe and baby nose drops. I thought he was warm this morning and took his temperature. If you need to do that, here are the covers for the ear bud," he said as he lifted the box of lids. Pulling out a different drawer, he said, "These are his sheets and in this drawer," he said as he pulled out a second drawer, "are his sleepers and burp rags. He likes to be burped about half way through his feeding." Pointing to the changing table, he said, "Here are the diapers and the wipes. Make sure you change him before you put him down. He pees a lot."

 

"Justin, I've been here a lot. I know where all the baby stuff is located and I have raised a child or two," Jennifer said as a somewhat sly smile filled her mouth.

 

"Oh. Okay. You know our numbers in case of emergency, right?"

 

"Justin. Go. Have fun and I don't want to see you until at least 11:00 pm."

 

"Okay. Going." He said as he grabbed his keys. Bending to kiss Colin who was being held by his mother, he said, "You be good for Grandma Jennifer and I and your daddy will see you tomorrow."

 

Justin drove into town, excited to spend some time with Brian.

 

 

 

 

Brian

 

In the late afternoon Cynthia came in to Brian's office.

 

"Brian, the models have been confirmed. Everything is set up for the shoot and it appears that even with this mishap, it shouldn't cost us but a day in production. With the bonus to finish early, we should meet all our deadlines."

 

"Great." Brian looked at Cynthia who remained in his doorway.

 

"And? What disaster occurred now?"

 

"The boards came back from the printer and they are the wrong color. I thought we changed the Eyeconics from green to blue, but they are this shade of greyblue."

 

"Could this day get any worse?" He rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Don't answer that. Did you call the printers? What did they say?"

 

"I called them and they apologized. Said they would do a rush job on the reprint but it won't get here until late morning on Thursday. Our presentation is Thursday afternoon. That doesn't leave us a big window."

 

"I don't want to reschedule the presentation. Let's hope they are the right color and if not, we'll deal with it Thursday. Any other disasters you need to share with me?"

 

There were some minor personnel issues but she could deal with them, so she said, "No. Everything is good. Aren't you supposed to leave on time today for a date with Justin?"

 

"Just because I'm married... ." Brian did not refute her statement, choosing to let it hang in the air. "Its 5:45 and I'm leaving in 15 minutes. Any crisis better be handled by 6:00." Brian picked up the file on his desk, essentially dismissing Cynthia and any further conversation she might have had. Ten minutes later, he closed down the file he was working on, shut down his computer and grabbed his coat and briefcase. He was on his way to the loft to get ready to meet his husband for some much needed alone time.

 

After arriving at the loft, he showered and changed into a black wife beater and Hugo Boss jeans. Admiring himself in the mirror, he hadn't gained any weight since his early 20's and looked great. "I'd fuck me," he said to the room, smiling at the familiar statement. Of course, at this point in his life, he only fucked one man, but that man kept him very satisfied. Grabbing his phone, keys and wallet, he walked down to Woody's and sat at a tall table top in the back.

 

Going to the bar, he ordered two beers as he waited for Justin to show up. He watched the patrons playing pool and several guys cruise each other as he drank his beer. A feeling of nostalgia came over him as he envisioned the gang and their frequent meetings after work. He remembered when he first met Justin and he stalked him by coming to Woody's. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but was really only about 8 years. How his life had changed in 8 years. If someone had told him that he be married and have a baby 8 years ago, he would have laughed and told them he was not a lesbian. Now he was thrilled to spend time with his husband and newborn child. But tonight, it was just the two of them, no gang, no tricks, just Justin.

 

A few minutes later Justin showed up, kissing him on his lips and then sitting on the high bar stool. He went to grab the beer but his hand cramped and he stopped midway. Brian grabbed his hand, massaging the sore area until Justin smiled and said, "Thanks."

 

"You're working too hard. You know that your hand cramps when you push yourself."

 

"I've got to get the paintings done for the next several shows. I got a lot done while Cynthia was pregnant, but if I'm going to have enough work for the next three shows, I have to paint. We spend our evenings with Colin and I can't just paint anytime like I used to. I have to paint between 10:00 and 7:00 since that is when Chloe is available."

 

"You could cut back on your shows. You are no longer a struggling artist, a few less shows isn't going to impact your opportunities. In fact, it might help your work. Give the public only a few shows a year and then you will be wildly popular." Brian took a few draws from his beer.

 

"I'm not asking you to cut back at Kinnetik. My career is just as important as yours," Justin said, the hurt and anger in his voice evident.

 

Hearing the anger is Justin's voice, he knew he needed to get back to neutral territory, especially if he was going to enjoy the evening. Looking around at the patrons, he saw that no one was paying attention to their little conversation. He was thankful that most people were there to unwind and didn't really pay attention to the other patrons unless they were trying to pick up someone.

 

"Justin, I never said your career is less important than mine. I was only suggesting that you don't have to have as many shows as you used to. I'm not asking you to choose between Colin and your work. I know that Colin will win, as he should. I'm only saying that if you're pushing yourself to complete paintings and its causing you pain, then maybe you should re-evaluate your commitments."

 

Justin heard Brian's words and mulled them over for a few minutes before answering. ‘I worked so hard to get here; I don't want to give up my painting," Justin said softly, the emotions so close to the surface. He too looked around and was thankful none of their friends were here. He knew they would never be discussing something so important if they had an audience.

 

Brian reached out to Justin, putting his hand on his partner's hand. "I know. What would you like to do?" Brian wanted to help, solve the problem, but he had learned that his solutions were not always the best ones for Justin. Justin had to tell him what he wanted, not what he thought Brian wanted to hear.

 

"I don't know. I've been thinking about it for a few weeks."

 

"This is the first time you mentioned it." Brian was surprised by Justin's statement, thinking they had been more open with each other.

 

"I know, but it's not like we have endless time together these days. I feel like we are ships in the night, passing each other as we complete our daily activities." Justin drank some more beer and finished his glass. He saw that Brian's was empty as well. Standing up, he grabbed the empty glasses, pushed them aside and went to the bar to get new ones. This also gave him a few moments where he was away from Brian and he could formulate a response. He brought the new beers to the table and drank a few draws before he continued.

 

"My mom was saying that many new fathers are jealous of their wives when they have a baby since the wife stays home and takes care of the newborn while the father goes off to work. Both of us are taking care of Colin and both of us are continuing to work, but my work is at home so I feel like I'm there more. This morning he was still sleeping at 10:00 and I was frantic that something had happened to him. I rushed in to the nursery and I thought he was warm. I found Chloe and brought her to the nursery."

 

"Why didn't you call me? I would have come home immediately. He's our son and Kinnetik is not important, he is."

 

Justin's heart warmed to hear Brian's statement, reaffirming his commitment to fatherhood over his job. "After Chloe and I took his temperature and it was normal, Chloe said he was fine, just probably getting big enough to eat and could sleep longer. There was no emergency."

 

Brian let out a huge sigh. He was so relieved and didn't realize his heart had sped up until he felt the pounding in his chest as he willed his breathing to return to normal.

 

"So, you're feeling like the wife, staying home with Colin since your studio is in the house?"

 

"Yes. Well, no. I don't know," Justin said as he tried to give names to his feelings. "I work at home and Chloe doesn't interact with me at all during the day once I give her Colin. In fact, this morning, she made a point of telling me that she wasn't my partner or my parent and I did not have to tell her where I was going or what I was doing each day." Justin drank some beer and clenched and unclenched his hand a few times. "I guess I sort of feel like I'm home with him even though I'm working since he is so close. But on the other hand, it's nice to go check on him or play with him when I need a break."

 

"You like working at home, but you feel disconnected from me," Brian said as he listened to his partner. Just as Justin had always teased that he wrote the Brian Kinney operating manual, Brian had learned to read Justin very well in the many years they'd been together. The difference was that now he was willing to address any problems whereas in the past, he would deny they existed or deflect them.

 

Justin smiled, Brian had understood his conflicts. "Yeah. We used to sit and talk about our day, no matter what time we got home. I guess it's not so much that I work at home, but more that my time is not totally mine anymore. While you go to Kinnetik every morning and work until you are finished, it is still meant to be a traditional work setting 9:00- 5:00. I'm finding it hard to paint on demand, rather than on inspiration. It was not unheard of to wake up at 3:00 in the morning and go to my studio and paint if the urge hit, but I can't do that now. If I paint at 3:00 in the morning, I miss waking up with you and that is often times the only time I see you."

 

"So it really is two problems. The first is you're finding it hard to paint in set time slots and the second is that you and I are not spending quality time together."

 

Justin smiled larger this time. "I knew I married you for a reason. You are so smart."

 

Brian took several draws from his beer and smiled back. "Of course, but that doesn't solve the problem."

 

"True. But at least I can now put the uneasy feeling into words."

 

"And...."

 

"I wish there was a way I could paint when the inspiration hit me verses a set time."

 

"Okay. There's no reason we have to continue this week to week schedule for getting up with Colin. We could be more spontaneous. I could invest in a baby monitor to keep on my side of the bed; that would probably alert me to his needs. I could take care of him, especially if you are painting or if both of us are there, we could alternate like we do now." Brian continued to think on the fly; he was used to doing this with his job, reading the companies he was pitching to and adjusting his speech as needed. "I know we want to raise Colin ourselves, but maybe we should get a live in nanny. I think there are going to be times that neither of us is available. We may both be out of town for business and since both of us value our careers, we may not always be home to care for him. If we had a live in, we could let the person know on a daily basis if they would be needed. If either of us had a slow day, we could spend time with Colin or if we needed to work late or at odd times, the nanny would be there to take up the slack."

 

"I don't want Colin raised by the ‘help'," Justin said as his body shuddered at the thought. "I didn't have a child so someone else could raise him.

 

"I don't intend for the nanny to raise Colin. I want you to be able to paint whenever you want to and for both of us to have a little time together without spending 2 hours on the phone arranging schedules. This evening out cost both of us at least 1 hour in wasted time just scheduling the babysitting and carpooling."

 

"True." Justin remembered the numerous phone calls and discussions about cars, babysitting and transportation just to be able to spend a few hours with his husband. Brian did bring up some salient points. "If we hired a nanny, would we still keep Chloe? I really like the way she cares for Colin."

 

"Well we could hire an overnight nanny. One that starts at 6:00 and stays until 10:00, after Chloe gets there. Maybe Chloe could start a little earlier, 8:00 or 9:00. The nanny could travel with us when Colin gets older. We wouldn't be able to spend time with him during the day if we were working out of town, but in the evening we could see him."

 

"If we hired an overnight nanny, then we could both sleep through the night, especially since Colin may have outgrown his night time feedings. She could get up with him at night and then we'd both be rested in the morning. And.... We could return to our morning activities. I miss morning sex, even if I do go back to sleep."

 

Brian felt his pants get a little tight at the mention of sex, but he wanted to finish the discussion. Unlike in the past, when he would let any discussion get derailed by the mention of sex, he knew this was an important discussion and wanted to finish it before they enjoyed the remainder of their short time together.

 

"If we had a nanny, you could get up whenever you had inspiration and the nanny could care for Colin if he had any needs. We both could continue pursuing our respective careers, but with the commitment to be home for Colin as much as possible. Of course, it would allow us to be a little more spontaneous since there would be a nanny around."

 

"No Brian, if we're home and not working, we need to be the caregivers for Colin. The nanny isn't there so we can go have sex at any time. He needs to come first, not our sex life. The nanny is there so we can pursue our work," Justin said, the firmness in his voice, brooking no discussion about his intent.

 

"Speaking of sex...." Brian's eyes moved toward the bathroom of Woody's. "I think we've come to an agreement about our problems, let's say we seal the deal with a visit to the men's room."

 

Feeling better about parenting and his career than he had for a while, Justin got up and walked to the back of the bar, letting Brian see the tight jeans he'd chosen for the evening. Brian could feel his jeans getting tighter as he watched Justin walk and followed his partner. Once inside the stall, they kissed, their lips pushed hard against each other's mouths as they undid each other's jeans. Reaching inside for Justin's cock, Brian was elated to find he'd gone commando. He stroked the cock, relishing in its smoothness and solid girth. He loved Justin's cock, feeling it in his hand, running his tongue around its mushroom head and tasting its sweet cum. He loved the feel of it in his tight channel as well. Tonight he had no time for languishing; he needed to be inside his partner. Grabbing the tube of lube he always kept in his pocket, he quickly prepared Justin.

 

Justin felt Brian's cock, hard and pulsing with desire. He knew they both wanted to get off, their joining quick, but fulfilling. He was happy to know that he could read Brian's moods and needs so well. He recognized the time for quick- in and out with a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of bullshit versus slow and teasing, building up the release for a long period of time. Today's need was quick. They'd come to some major decisions about their family and lifestyle and he was excited about the prospect of his future. He answered Brian's fervent kiss with pressure and moans of excitement. Turning around so Brian would have access to his tight channel, he said, "Now. I need you, Brian."

 

Feeling the same need that Justin did, he placed the condom on his cock and pressed into his husband, breaching the tight outer ring with little resistance as Justin pushed back as Brian pushed in. While they didn't use condoms at home, they used them in public where others could see. Brian grabbed for Justin's cock, working him as he pushed in and out of Justin's body. Justin pushed back harder, signaling Brian to move faster. Brian held on to Justin's hips, pushing back and forth out of the tight channel. He felt his balls tighten, signaling his release. Justin moved faster and Brian let go as did Justin. Justin came all over Brian's fingers and Brian moved his hand to lick them. Brian stepped back, letting his cock leave Justin.

 

"I hate that part. You leaving."

 

"Twat," Brian said as he wiped himself clean and then turned to do the same for Justin.

 

They pulled their jeans back up and left the stall, washing their hands before returning to the bar to order new beers.

 

"While it's not the back room, it will have to do," Brian said as he took a draw from his beer.

 

"It's as close to spontaneous sex as we've had for a while. I'll take it. But unfortunately, we need to leave soon. I don't want mom to drive home too late." Justin hated bringing their evening to a close, but he didn't want to inconvenience his mom.

 

"Let's finish our beers and then we'll go. I'll have Cynthia contact some agencies tomorrow regarding a nanny. Hopefully we can interview someone soon and you can get back to painting.

 

"Sounds like a plan."

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian rolled over in bed three weeks later, pulling Justin into an embrace. It was a weekday and he had to go to work, but he was happy to have his husband in his bed throughout the night. Their decision to hire an overnight nanny had been a good one. They ended up hiring one of Chloe's cousins, Samantha, who had recently lost her husband and needed a job. Her children were grown and she didn't want to be alone in her home. This way she had a place to sleep at night and her days were free to volunteer and pursue her writing.

Sam had been working for a few weeks and it had made a huge difference in their lives. Justin was able to paint when the urge hit him and he'd completed several canvases he had started before Colin was born. They asked Jennifer to watch Colin again so they could go to Woody's and the second time they played pool, drank a few beers and enjoyed a visit to the back room without any major drama.

The alarm went off and Brian hit the button to shut it off. Justin pulled the pillow over his head to muffle the noise. Brian took the pillow off his head and leaned over to kiss him.

"I'll be home early tonight since Gus is coming over for the weekend," Brian said as he thought of his son's visit.

"This will be his first long visit since we had Colin. He's been here every week and loves spending time with him. I love seeing them together." Justin was already thinking of several ideas for portraits of the two children.

"Yeah, I think they are cute together. I love the way he sings to him." Brian was smitten with both children and sometimes wished he had Gus full time.

Justin yawned, covering his mouth and he laid his head down on the pillow. "I feel really dirty. Shower sounds nice."

Brian laughed. "It's nice to have Samantha here so we can enjoy a morning blow job." Brian got out of the bed, walking to the bathroom and turning on the shower. He waited for the water to warm up and stepped inside. Justin joined him a few minutes later. He poured some body wash on a cloth and proceeded to soap up Brian. After he soaped Brian's chest, Brian turned him around and moved his legs apart. Justin braced the wall with his hands, waiting for Brian to ready him.

"Such a great ass," he said as he caressed Justin's white globes. Grabbing the lube from the shelf he squirted some on his fingers and worked them into Justin. "Still so tight."

Justin pushed back into Brian's fingers, enjoying the stretch. "Mmm"

Removing his fingers, He teased Justin's hole with his cock, running it up and down his crack and then pushed it inside the tight cavern.

"Never gets old."

"No, never. Love you," Justin said as he pushed back.

Brian grabbed Justin's hips, pulling them toward him, pacing himself. Justin appeared eager this morning and slammed back into Brian at a quick pace.

"Want you, need you," Justin said as his breathing quickened,

Soon Brian was pounding into Justin's ass, the tight channel a warm haven for his cock. Justin sped up his movements and they erupted simultaneously.

"Briannnnnnnn." Justin yelled as his orgasm swept through his body.

‘Justin," Brian said as he felt his cock shooting into the tight channel.

They both stood under the water until their breathing returned to normal.

Brian grabbed the shampoo, pouring a little into his hand and then proceeded to wash Justin's hair. It was a very intimate gesture, one they had started years ago and continued as often as possible. It was their way of showing each other they wanted to care for their partner. It was a familiar ritual and one they relished. They finished their shower and each man grabbed a towel to dry off.

Brian walked to his closet, grabbing a charcoal grey Armani suit with a maroon shirt and Justin chose a pair of khakis and an old shirt of Brian's.

"I wondered where that had disappeared, but I should have known you chose to make it a rag to paint in." Brian ran his hands down the front of Justin's chest, admiring the fit of his shirt on his partner. "It's a little big and there are some paint stains on it."

"Yes, I know. This is the same shirt that Colin spit up on when he was a few weeks old. You were pretty freaked out about the smell and told me to get rid of it. I think your exact words were ‘burn it', but instead I washed it and voila, Colin gets to see his Daddy Justin in one of his Daddy Brian's shirts. A win for everybody." Justin smiled as he twirled in front of Brian.

"Twat. I guess I learned that baby puke can come out of clothes, otherwise, I would have to buy a new wardrobe every few months."

"You buy a new wardrobe every few months and that was before we had Colin. He's just a handy excuse." Justin's stomach chose that moment to groan very loudly.

"I hope Colin doesn't take after you. Between the two of you, there will never be any food in the house," Brian said tongue in cheek. He grabbed his phone and wallet and went downstairs. Justin followed after he put on his socks.

Brian had poured two cups of coffee and was busy pouring sugar and cream into his. Justin picked up his cup and doctored it to his liking.

"I'm going to paint a little this morning and go into town to talk to the GLC about their upcoming art show. You remember that I offered to auction something for their fundraiser."

"I do remember, but I think it is a waste of your talent. No one who attends the GLC can afford your paintings and you are practically giving it away."

"That's not true. The raffle tickets are $100 a piece and I'm actually not selling a painting. I'm autographing a program from a show I had a few years back. Evidently, even pictures of my pictures are worth something." Justin blew over his coffee in an attempt to cool it and then took a drink. "Mmm. Hawaiian Kona, my favorite."

"Gus is supposed to be ready at 4:00. Are you picking him up?" Brian asked as he finished his coffee and poured another cup.

"Yeah. I promised him we would go to the arcade when I pick him up. He wants to shoot some skee ball. Evidently, he went to a birthday party last week and won a bunch of tickets but doesn't have enough for some prize. I told him we could spend a little time there and maybe we could play some skeeball," Justin said as he opened the pantry to look for something to eat.

"Skeeball, really? You two boys have fun. I should be home by 7:00. Do we have plans for the weekend?"

"We told Gus that we would watch The Avengers. The girls think he's too young but he's read all the comics, thanks to Michael and has been telling me he wants to see it for a few months. I promised him we would watch it when he stayed the night." Justin opened a box of pop tarts and grabbed a package, tearing it open.

Brian cringed as he watched Justin open the package, but didn't voice his opinion. "Okay. I see I can't get away from the comics, even in my own home."

"I told him we would spend some time in my studio. He's hinted at wanting to make something for Colin." Justin took a bite of the pop tart, licking his lips.

"Good. I'll have some time to look at some emails I'm expecting," Brian said as he drank some more coffee.

Justin rolled his eyes at the comment but didn't respond. They had accepted that work sometimes spilled over into family time. "I thought you and Gus could do something together too. I think he said something about wanting to get new shoes for soccer and he's just about outgrown the jeans you bought a few months ago. He's your son when it comes to shopping and I know you'll want to see him well dressed."

Brian's eyes lit up at the mention of shopping, even if it was with his 10-year-old son. "If I leave it up to the munchers, he'd be dressed in Big Q rejects. A young man has to make a statement, even at 10." Brian finished his coffee and placed the cup in the dishwasher.

"You are incorrigible. At 10, he outgrows everything you buy in a few months. He doesn't need to look like a fashion model." Justin smiled when he saw Brian's eyes light up, appreciating his need for his son to look as good as he did. Gus was a miniature version of his father and he was definitely learning to appreciate the finer things in life, especially clothing. Justin tried to mitigate the desire from his father to dress him like a mini-me to the realities of a 10-year-old boy who played hard and still spilled food on himself. Luckily, Brian did not worry about the cost of things and had the ability to dress his son in designer clothing.

"Sounds like we have a busy weekend. I'll see you tonight." Brian leaned down and kissed Justin on the lips, tasting his coffee and the unique essence of Justin. "Mm. If I could bottle that taste, I'd be a millionaire."

Justin laughed, not wanting to point out that Brian was a millionaire. He understood the statement and the sentiment behind it.

It was close to the time Colin got up so Justin made his way upstairs, making sure the baby monitor was on so he could hear him. He returned to their bedroom, gathered his clothing from the night before and placed it in the hamper. He grabbed Brian's suits from the last few days so he could take them to the dry cleaners when he went into town. He picked up his side of the room; having left several art magazines on the dresser and some mail on the nightstand. While he wasn't naturally a neat person, he tried to placate his husband by attempting to put his things in their place. Neat places calmed Brian and with a newborn in the home and two parents who worked crazy hours in high powered jobs, adding a little calm to their world was always a good thing. He was headed toward his studio to review his emails when he heard the unmistakable cry of his son.

Going to the nursery, he picked up Colin, taking him to the changing table to put on a fresh diaper and new clothing. Even though he was almost three months old and still slept a lot, he had a huge wardrobe, thanks to his other father. Justin had tried to convince Brian that babies do not need Armani or Gucci clothing, especially since they are rarely seen by anyone but their immediate family. Justin said there was no need to impress ‘the family' with Colin's wardrobe since they rarely saw him, but that did not stop Brian from spending time online buying him clothes.

Justin took Colin to the rocking chair and brought out a short book and read it as they did most mornings. He wanted to set up routines and had read that reading to a child was a good way to bond. Sometimes Gus would read to Colin when he visited and Justin encouraged Brian to read to him as well.

"Now you have a clean diaper and are dressed for the day. Today you are going to spend time with Ms. Chloe and then when I get home, your brother Gus will be with me. He's going to play with you and he'll be here all weekend. I'm thinking of sketching a picture of the two of you for your Daddy Brian for his birthday. I bet you are getting hungry so we're going to go see Ms. Chloe so you can start your day and I can do a little painting." He kissed the little boy on the top of his head and made his way downstairs to give him to Chloe for the duration of the day. Chloe was waiting in the kitchen and took the baby from Justin.

Justin returned to his studio and worked for a few hours. His hand started cramping so he stopped and reviewed the few emails he had received. Most of the emails he received were personal as all of his business ones were handled by Carol, his agent. He took a few pictures of the latest painting he had worked on to send to Carol. Having Samantha had allowed him to work in the middle of the night without jeopardizing the care of Colin. Earlier in the week, he was able to start a new piece when the inspiration hit him at 2:00 in the morning and was thankful, yet again that they had hired her. He went to the kitchen to grab some lunch around 1:00 and then went to the GLC meeting.

Walking into the GLC, Lindsay saw him and immediately went to talk to him.

"Justin. I'm so glad you're here early. I kept forgetting to call you. Gus has a few commitments this weekend and I was thinking it would be better if he stayed home and came out a different weekend. I know you are still busy with Colin and I wouldn't want to put you and Brian out having to take him to places when you live so far out. I was planning on picking him up after work, so I'll be in touch next week to discuss a new time." Lindsay started to walk away, but Justin said her name and she stopped.

Justin took a few deep breaths before responding. He'd been waiting for something like this to happen and was surprised it took this long. True, this was the first time Gus was planning on spending an entire weekend with them, but they had him over to the house at least weekly since Colin's birth. He's hoped that Lindsay would have finally believed their statements regarding Gus' importance in their lives and their intention to continue their time with him. Actually, this latest ploy was probably an effort on Lindsay's part to undermine their continued presence. Since it didn't appear that they were going to have difficulty integrating Colin into their time with Gus, Lindsay was taking it upon herself to suggest that there were too many commitments that Gus had and they would obviously not be able to address them. He wondered how many of the ‘commitments' were actually things that Gus had scheduled versus ones that Lindsay added at the last minute to make it appear that he was too busy.

"We are perfectly capable of taking care of Gus and seeing that he attends all of his activities this weekend. Brian and I are just as much his parents as you and Mel, and as his parents, we are committed to his needs. Just give me a list of the things he needs to do and we will see that he gets there. You two manage to get both JR and Gus to all their activities and there is no reason that Brian and I can't do the same. Now, if you'll excuse me. I have a meeting to attend. When I get out, I expect you will have the list of things Gus needs to participate in this weekend ready and then I will be picking up our son." Justin did not wait for a response but turned and left Lindsay with a deep frown on her face.

After the meeting, Justin went to find Lindsay but she was not in the Center. He asked Tannis if she had left anything for him and was told no. He wasn't sure if the list actually existed but wouldn't put it past her to go to Gus's school to pick him up since her earlier ploy did not work. He drove to Gus' school, half expecting him to not be there, but he was talking to his friends while he waited for Justin at the curb. As Justin drove up, Gus smiled and said goodbye to his friends, climbing into the front seat of Justin's car.

"Hey, Justin. I'm so excited about spending time with you, Dad and Colin. It will be great to hang with males. The females in my house are driving me crazy. Do you think you could paint a picture of me and Colin? He's grown so much since you guys brought him home. I want to remember him when he's this little."

Gus gave Justin a perfect opening. "Gus, I ran into your mom, Lindsay at the GLC this afternoon. She said you had a bunch of stuff going on and you should stay at home this weekend. She suggested that you come out a different time."

"Nah. She just wants to keep me at home to watch JR while her and Momma Mel do stuff. I often watch her and with me gone this weekend, they have to do it."

"Watch JR? Where are they when you watch her?" Justin's concern rose as they spoke but he tried to keep his voice neutral, not wanting to alarm Gus.

"Oh, they're home. Momma Mel often works and Mom cleans or does other stuff. They'll ask me to watch her."

"I see. Does this happen a lot? Do you get to do stuff you want to do?"

"I don't know. I watch her when they ask me. Sometimes Tom or Benjamin come over and I can't play cuz I'm watching her, but they come over all the time, so it's okay."

"So you don't have anything you're going to miss by being with me and your Dad?"

"Nope. Tommy's party was last weekend and coach said there is no practice because he is out of town. It will be nice being at Britin. I get to play games, eat whatever I want and play with Colin. It's fun. You guys don't ask me to do chores."

"You have responsibilities at Britin. You have to make your bed and keep your room clean. You know Brian would never let you leave your stuff lying around. When you're there, we always spend time reading and if you have homework, you do that too." Justin loved the fact that Gus enjoyed spending time with them, but he didn't want to encourage the boy in thinking that being at Britin was all fun.

"I know. It's just different. It's fun when I'm with you guys. Sure I have to do my homework and clean up after myself. You guys make sure that I don't just play video games all day and spend time doing physical stuff. You want to spend time with me and listen to me. It just seems that the moms are always too busy with their own stuff."

Justin's heart sank as he listened to Gus, wanting to envelop him in a huge hug and make his world right. He wasn't sure what he could do, but he would definitely talk to Brian about the conversation. He was beginning to think Gus' desire to live with him went a little deeper than the fear he would be replaced by the baby.

"Tell me about that Gus." Justin wanted to be sure he really understood what Gus was saying and he didn't want to put his own interpretation into the discussion.

"Like yesterday, I wanted to play this new game that Tommy and I learned. It's a two-person game we have played a few times when he has come over. I thought it would be something Mom would like since you draw pictures as clues, but she said she was busy and to go play with JR. Later, I asked her to help me with my T-shirts. She and Momma decided I should put my clothes away and I wanted to practice folding them. I like putting my stuff away, that way I always know where my favorite T-shirt is. I know Dad would just hang them all up, but I like them folded. She said I should just try and get it right, but that she didn't have any time right now."

Justin thought about Gus' statements. Both seemed innocuous, but he didn't want to ignore the statements either; so he questioned him further.

"She's busy a lot."

"Yeah. When I come to visit, Dad always makes time for me to do stuff. I know he often works when I'm there too, but he always finds time to do something with me. You do too. If I ask to do some activity, you guys always find time to do it. You make a point of including me. Sure, I know I'm not here all the time, but I feel like the moms don't ever put me first. It's always J.R. needs this or has to go here or my work has to be done. It would be nice to sometimes come first."

"What about when you've come here for a few weeks in the summer or during winter break?"

"Even when I'm here for a long visit, there is always a time you guys set aside just for me. I don't even have to ask. You just tell me it's my choice what we are going to do that day. That never happens at home. I'm always asking to do stuff, but a lot of time, I'm told they are too busy."

Justin didn't like to bad mouth Gus' moms and decided to change the subject. He wasn't sure what could be done about the situation. It was easy to tell Mel and Linds that Gus was coming to Britin for the weekend, but it was harder to make them spend quality time with their son. He promised himself that he would continue to spend alone time with Gus and with Colin, hopefully making each son feel important. He also wanted them to do things together with him and Brian.

"We're at the arcade. You said you wanted to earn some more tickets at Skeeball. I've got $10.00 to spend so you get to decide which games we play."

Gus' eyes lit up in excitement. "See, you listened to me when we talked earlier this week. I told you about the birthday party and how I needed some more tickets to get the prize I wanted. The moms would have said something like you can't always win enough tickets for the prize you want and left it. You're taking me here so I can try and earn the tickets."

They spent an hour at the arcade and Gus won sufficient tickets to add to the ones from the party last weekend to get the prize he wanted. He went to the counter and proudly presented all his tickets to the attendant. I want that art set," he said pointing to the kit. Turning to Justin, he said, "I know I can have all the paints I want at your house, but I'd like to have some for my house. Mom says they are expensive and I didn't want to ask you for them. This way she can't say anything since I won them."

"Those are some nice paints. Do you have paper and brushes? We were headed to the art store after this, I could pick you up some." Justin didn't want Gus to have to argue with Lindsay about his supplies. If Gus came home with them, there wouldn't be any discussion regarding them. He knew they were expensive, but he would have bought them for Gus if he'd asked. He decided that Gus was learning not to ask for things he wanted since it appeared that he was usually turned down.

"That'd be great. Thanks. Sometimes I think I want to be an artist like you but then I dream of being a professional soccer player. Dad always says I'm really good. What do you think?"

"I think you should do whatever you want. If you want to paint, great, but if you want to play sports that's good too. I know your Dad would be okay with either choice. Have you thought of anything else? You can't play sports forever and it might take a long time to make money with your art." Justin didn't want to discourage Gus but thought this was a good time to bring up the subject.

"Do you think Dad would let me work at Kinnetik? I could work in the art department and maybe he wouldn't be so upset all the time. He's always talking about them and how they can't do their job."

Justin let out a hearty laugh. Reaching out to Gus, he ruffled his hair. "I think your Dad would let you do anything you wanted. I think he'd be happy to have you work for him, but why don't you talk to him. He might have some ideas."

"Okay. Justin, do you think I could get something to hold my art supplies? That way I could keep them away from J.R. She likes to get into my stuff."

"Sure. Let's see what they have." They went to the art store and purchased some paper and brushes and a portfolio for Gus to keep his supplies in. Justin picked up the supplies he needed which included several canvases and a variety of paint. By the time they were ready to leave, they had been in the store for almost an hour.

Justin saw the clock above the register and muttered under his breath, "Your dad is going to wonder what happened to us. He's going to beat us home."

"Nah. I texted him a while back telling him we were at the art store. He said he'd see us in a few hours since he knew you were like a kid in the candy store when you went here." Gus laughed at the guilty smile on Justin's face. "He knows you so well."

"That he does. Well, regardless of his lack of wonder regarding our location, we should get home. I'm very hungry and I'm sure you are too."

"Okay."

When they got home, Brian was there and he was setting the table. They ate dinner and Colin was awake when they finished.

"Can I go play with Colin?"

"I fed him and changed him when I came home. Since I was home wayyyyyy before you, I think he should be ready for his next feeding in a bit and then he'll be down for most of the night." Brian's tone was a teasing one and both Justin and Gus recognized it. Brian looked at the baby monitor that one of them always had with them when they were home and he saw Colin starting to squirm in his crib, signaling he was almost awake. "We can go up there. Would you like to feed him, Gus?"

"Yeah. He's fun to hold and I've been looking up songs to sing to him."

Brian and Justin looked at each other, both smiling at the obvious caring and love Gus had for his brother.

Gus fed and sang Go To Sleep to Colin and then laid him in his crib. Each father kissed their infant son and they all walked out of the nursery.

"It's 9:00, I think you might want to get ready for bed yourself, Gus," Brian said as he looked at Gus.

"I guess. I'm so happy I'm here. I'll go get ready for bed. Night, Dad. Night Justin. Thanks for this afternoon." He motioned for each man to lean down so he could kiss them and they kissed him good night.

"See you in the morning."

They watched him go to his room and walked downstairs to enjoy the remainder of the evening.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian and Justin went downstairs to watch a movie but Brian sensed Justin's quietness. As they sat on the couch, Brian draped his arm over his partner but Justin failed to move closer.

 

"A penny for your thoughts. You seem preoccupied."

 

Justin turned toward his husband and smiled a half smile. "You are way too observant." He rubbed his hand over his face. He picked up the baby monitor and looked at Colin, sleeping peacefully in his bed and calm came over his body as he saw their son.

 

"Colin is fine and our other son is asleep as well. Spill," Brian said as he recognized the diversionary tactic.

 

"I saw Lindsay today at the GLC." Justin wasn't ready to discuss his conversation with Lindsay, wanting to mull over the information, but he guessed that his subconscious won this round.

 

"You saw Lindsay." Brian just repeated the statement, not wanting to lead Justin in the conversation. He knew Justin would fill in the blanks now that he had broached the topic. He pulled his arm away and turned toward Justin, looking him in the face.

 

"She tried to get out of letting Gus come for the weekend." Justin proceeded to recant the entire conversation including his fear that Gus wouldn't be at the school when he got there.

 

"I'm surprised it took this long for her to try something. I guess she figured you wouldn't fight her if she said Gus couldn't come. She knows I would call her bluff. I'm surprised Mikey hasn't shown up here and insisted I go to Babylon or something. He was less than happy when we announced we were having Colin." Brian stood up and went to the liquor cart, pouring himself a shot of Beam. He motioned to Justin and Justin nodded yes. Brian brought the two glasses back to the couch.

 

"Lindsay's a manipulative bitch, nothing new there." He drank his shot and put down his glass. Looking at Justin, he saw there was more the young man wanted to say. "Out with it. I don't want to play 20 questions all night. Colin's asleep and so is Gus. I would like to pound your sweet ass into the mattress sometime before dawn."

 

"It's about Gus. Remember when Cynthia was pregnant and we put a stop to the idea that he might live with us?" Justin hoped Brian remembered, but really didn't think he wouldn't. When it came to his son, Brian remembered everything.

 

"We never said he could live here. The munchers would never allow it. Besides, he agreed that he would miss them and he liked it there."

 

"I think I have a better idea of what happened back then. He told me today that they mostly ignore him except to watch JR. Seems like he sort of feels invisible." Justin finished his drink and got up to refill them. Suddenly, his conversations this afternoon were turning into deep discussions.

 

"Invisible?" Brian wanted clarification and waited for Justin to continue.

 

"Well, he says that the girls don't spend time with him; they're always too busy and they choose to do things for J.R. but not him. He likes it better here since we always make an effort to do things with him; even if it is homework."

 

Brian nodded his head in understanding. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his two fingers and sighed. "No wonder he was trying to do so many things for us and Colin. Maybe he was trying to tell us in his own way."

 

"Shit! And we just shot him down. We assured him that he was special and that he would really miss his moms if he came to live with us." Justin stood up and paced the room. "What are we going to do Brian? We can't just let it go and we can't exactly tell them to pay attention to Gus."

 

"No, telling them how to raise him always goes over so well. I can just see it now, pay attention to your son or else. Mel would argue that they do pay attention and we have no idea what we are talking about. And I'm sure Lindsay would go on and on about how they spend time with him and he's just going through a phase. What bullshit. How hard is it to set aside time each day for your kid?" Brian's voice was rising with each sentence as he allowed himself to get more and more upset.

 

"Brian..." Justin said, trying to calm his partner down. He touched his hand and said his name very quietly. "We have help, lots of it. We have Chloe and Samantha; they don't."

 

"Don't go making excuses, Justin. We discussed what we wanted for Colin before we ever sought a surrogate. I think we talked the subject to death. At least no one could ever accuse us of going into parenthood blindly. Mel and Linds asked for my sperm and I assumed they discussed the ramifications of parenthood too." He walked over to the liquor cart, placing his glass down for a refill, but turned around instead. "Hell, I've given them enough money to hire three nannies so there isn't any excuse. I'm not sure what they do with the money I give them for Gus, but it sure as hell isn't giving him the things he really needs, time with his moms. Fuck this shit!!! I will not allow my son to grow up thinking he is a second class citizen in his own home." Brian picked up the bottle of Beam and this time poured a third shot in the glass, quickly drinking it down.

 

Justin had not seen Brian this angry in a long time; probably in several years when they were discussing his "job" of stripping *. Brian had been livid then and he was livid now. He wasn't sure what to do to resolve the issue, but he knew that any solutions needed to come from Brian. Justin walked over to the liquor cart and hugged Brian from behind. Brian turned around and hugged Justin back.

 

"We will come up with a solution. I'm not watching Gus grow up in a home where he feels invisible. It's bad enough that I grew up in a home feeling like I was an intrusion and unwanted, but my son will not suffer the same childhood." Brian again placed his glass on the cart and took Justin's glass from him, placing it there as well. Brian needed to think about the situation. Since he was one for action over talk, he said, "I think someone mentioned pinning you to the mattress and I think that might be the only activity I want to engage in at the moment."

 

Justin smiled and walked up the stairs, leaving Brian to turn off the lights and lock up the house. Sometimes it still amazed him how Brian could turn off his thoughts in a quick minute. One minute they were talking about raising Gus and what they were going to do about his current problem; the anger in the air palpable. The next minute the discussion was shelved and the only thought was how quickly they could get to bed. Brian Kinney was certainly a man to be reckoned with, whether it was the bedroom or the hearth.

 

Brian chose to channel his anger into physical release. He wasn't going to hurt Justin or be very aggressive but he could be quick and to the point when he wanted to be. Tonight was not a time for lovemaking but rather a time for release. Brian reached the bedroom and found Justin naked as he waited for Brian. Brian quickly shed his clothes and joined his husband. Straddling his husband, his lips crushed on Justin's mouth as his hands clasped Justin's, their fingers interlocking. Their cocks rubbed together, the friction a delicious torment for both men. Justin pushed up into Brian's cock as he tried to find release. Brian unclasped his hands and reached for the lube that Justin had conveniently placed on the pillow. Flipping the top, he squeezed out some gel and coated his cock. He got off of Justin and took some additional lube to prepare him.

 

"Now. I want you," Justin said as he panted from the intrusion.

 

Brian didn't wait for another invitation, pushing into the tight hole with a long thrust. Justin was ready for his cock and lifted his body to bring Brian's cock further inside his body. Both men were fully aroused and quickly found themselves racing to the finish line. Brian came just as Justin did. Brian got off Justin and lay on the bed. He waited for his breathing to return to normal and then went to the bathroom to get a wet cloth to wipe off both of them. He threw the cloth toward the bathroom and smiled when he heard the unmistakable swish of the cloth hitting the tile floor.

 

He leaned on his elbow and faced Justin. "We could have him here more often. You know, one or two nights a week and then on the weekends."

 

"Brian, I love Gus and I would love to see him more but that isn't really solving the problem at the girl's house." Justin frowned as he thought of possible solutions. "We could invite them over a few times so they could see how we spend time with both kids. I read somewhere that modeling good behavior is an effective way to initiate change."

 

Brian laughed. "Only you could make this conversation into a PSA." He leaned over and kissed Justin on the mouth. "However, I think you might have a good idea. Having the munchers here to watch how we handle the kids might give them ideas. We could maybe mention to Gus something about making comments about what they see. Something like, ‘I love it when Dad and Justin help me with my homework or play a game.' This way Gus is saying to them I like this behavior and would like to see it at our house."

 

"That could work. I think I'll talk to Gus tomorrow and get a better idea of the situation. Why don't we invite them for dinner Sunday night? Deb's out of town at some cop convention with Carl; so there won't be any conflict with the family dinner."

 

"You're a great dad. Gus and Colin are so lucky to have you as their father," Justin said as he kissed Brian. The kiss turned from playful to intense and soon the men found themselves aroused again.

 

Justin kissed down Brian's chest until he found his cock. He licked the sides as he played with Brian's balls. After a few minutes, he engulfed the mushroom head and sucked the engorged cock. He licked it and inhaled the scent that was uniquely Brian. Brian reached over and brought Justin's cock towards his mouth, returning the favor. Moans of pleasure were heard from both men.

 

Justin was a master at sucking Brian's cock and after all these years he could bring him off in a few minutes. He did not want to finish quickly so he slowed down and moved to Brian's balls, taking them in his mouth one at a time. His finger played up and down the sensitive perineum and occasional would push into the tight hole. Brian moaned louder each time Justin breached him, but Justin would only stay for a short moment and then return to his gentle stroking of the area. Justin returned to sucking the head and then the sides of Brian's hard cock. The next time Justin neared Brian's hole, Brian arched into the touch and Justin pushed his entire finger inside.

 

"Yes," Brian said at the desired intrusion. "More"

 

Justin pushed his finger in and out of Brian as he continued to suck his cock. Brian arched up to his fingers at each push.

 

Brian was sucking Justin's cock as well, mirroring his actions. He sucked his balls and stroked the sensitive perineum, gently teasing the opening. Just as Brian did, Justin pushed toward Brian's fingers when he was breached. Both men were enjoying their activity and soon were on the brink of orgasm.

 

Brian hit Justin's ass, a signal they had long ago developed meant the partner was ready for sex. Justin stopped his ministrations and lay on his back, wrapping his legs around Brian's shoulders. Brian took his cock, aligned it with Justin's hole and pushed inside; no need for additional lube as he was still wet from their earlier joining. Brian pushed in and out of Justin, leaning down to kiss him. Justin opened his mouth to receive Brian, returning the hard kiss. Soon both men felt the inevitable tightening of their balls and tingling in their spine. Brian shot first, filling Justin with his cum and Justin followed a moment later, shooting on their chests. They continued to kiss for a few moments and Brian took Justin's legs off his shoulders. Once again he went to the bathroom to retrieve a wet cloth and returned to wipe them off.

 

Justin yawned and Brian kissed his forehead. "Night. We'll talk more in the morning. Colin will be up sooner than we want, I'm sure."

 

"Night."

 

Justin turned on his side and Brian held him in an embrace. Both men fell asleep within a few minutes.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Colin was the first in the little family to wake; his internal clock set to wake when he was hungry. Justin heard the soft cry and nudged Brian.

 

"Colin's awake. Do you want me to feed him in the nursery or do you want me to bring him in here?"

 

Brian looked at the clock. It was 6:30. They had gone to bed about midnight but were busy having sex until at least 1:30. He was tired.

 

"Feed him and then play with him for a bit. I need a little more sleep, especially if I'm going to talk to Gus and figure out a plan. Why don't you wake me by 9:00. You can come back to bed then if you want. I'll spend some time with the boys."

 

"Sounds like a plan. I took a nap yesterday so I'm not a zombie-like some people. Of course, you old folks need your beauty rest." Justin teased. He knew Brian would smile at the comment and not take it offensively. He quickly put on his underwear and a pair of shorts. Looking toward the bed he saw Brian was almost asleep already. He quietly opened the door and went to the nursery to take care of Colin.

 

Picking up Colin, he held the baby to his chest and patted his back.

 

"I know. You're hungry and wet. So let's change you first and then we'll find you some yummy formula for breakfast."

 

He laid the baby on the changing table, changed his diaper and put him in fresh clothes. Colin still had more clothes than he could possibly wear. so Justin changed him anytime he got messy or wet. Colin smiled at Justin.

 

"I see you're smiling. You're such a happy baby. We are so lucky to have you in our lives. I know your brother Gus is excited to be here this weekend. He can't wait to hold you and sing you pretty songs. Time to go down and find us some breakfast."

 

Justin went to the kitchen where he placed Colin in a swing while he turned on the coffee machine and warmed up his bottle. Picking up Colin, he went to the rocking chair they had placed in the living area, grabbed a soft cloth and sat down to feed him. It took only about 15 minutes, just about the time the coffee machine was ready. He burped Colin and rocked him for a few minutes, and then placed him on the floor with the baby gym over his head. He went to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee, pouring milk and sugar into the cup. Smelling the coffee, he sighed in contentment.

 

Taking his coffee to the living area, he sat in his favorite over-stuffed chair and watched his son. He had read that the child needed to experience their environment and not be interacted with every waking moment. This would result in a more self-sufficient child. Justin still read a lot of literature on child rearing and subscribed to Parents magazine and followed several blogs including Ask Your Dad Blog and 8Bit Dad. He loved that they were written by men. Even though he was gay, he felt parenting from a guy's perspective was helpful. He often shared his knowledge with Brian, but he wasn't always sure Brian paid attention to him. He would often espouse Justin's tendency toward PSA's but he tended to follow the advice. Either way, it made Justin feel like he was a well-informed parent. He didn't want to run to his mom or Debbie with every question regarding babies.

 

Colin looked at the baby gym and would turn his head toward the different objects. Justin thought it was time for some tummy time so he placed Colin on the baby blanket and put several toys within easy viewing. Colin raised his head, using his arms to look around. He did this several times and then lay back down. Justin took a sip of his coffee and then looked at Colin again. He decided to try an experiment and lay just out of reach of the baby.

 

"Come to Daddy Justin, Colin."

 

Colin turned toward Justin and then rolled toward him. Colin was a little surprised at the movement but Justin clapped his hands in excitement.

 

"You did it. You rolled over. Great job." Justin moved over a bit to see if Colin would roll again and he did. Justin bent down and kissed the boy. He wasn't going to push the third try so he lay the toys out in front of the baby again for him to look at. Colin gurgled as babies do and stared at his father for a moment and then at his toys.

 

Justin looked up as he heard noise coming from the stairs. He saw Gus coming down the steps.

 

"Justin. Can I feed Colin?"

 

"Sorry, bud. He's been awake for about an hour and you missed breakfast, but I'm sure you can feed him next time. Do you want some breakfast? I can make you something while you play with Colin."

 

"Can I have Oreos and milk for breakfast?"

 

Justin laughed and shook his head. "Your Dad would have my hide if I let you eat that for breakfast. We do have some cold pizza from the other night that I could zap for you. Do you want that?"

 

Gus made a face and scrunched his eyes. "Nope, pizza for breakfast is gross. I'll stick with eggs, cereal or pancakes."

 

"You want all that?"

 

"No. You're funny Justin. I think I'll just have some cereal. I can get it. I'm not sure what kind I want."

 

"Okay."

 

Gus came out with a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a banana. He sat on the edge of the couch to eat it. He looked at the floor where Colin was playing and saw that he'd fallen asleep.

 

"Colin's asleep again. When does he stay awake longer?"

 

"Babies sleep a lot when they are Colin's age. He stays awake about an hour or two at his age. It takes a lot of energy to grow. A baby triples his birth weight by the time he's three and babies grow when they are sleeping."

 

Gus took a few bites of cereal and watched Colin sleep. "But when does he stay awake longer?"

 

"Well, when he's 6 months old, he'll be awake for 2-3 hours at a time and by the time he's 9 months old, it's more like 2-4 hours at a time. So he'll take an hour and a half nap a few times a day when he gets to be about 6 months old. Colin's a good sleeper and is growing a lot. He naps a lot, but soon he'll be awake for longer periods of time. He's only 4 months old now. By the time he's 6 months old, he'll really be doing a lot."

 

"Oh. Well, he just went to sleep so I imagine he'll be asleep till at least 9:00. Did you eat breakfast yet? Maybe we could work in your studio till he wakes up?"

 

"Well, I'd have to move him and I don't like to do that. I'll grab some cereal and make some sausage too. After I eat, why don't you grab some paper and colored pencils from the studio and we can draw."

 

Gus took a few spoonfuls of his cereal and nodded his head. He studied the sleeping baby lying on the large blue baby blanket, watching his chest move up and down as he breathed. Justin assured himself that Colin was asleep and Gus was watching him. He went to the kitchen, refilled his coffee mug and poured a large bowl of Cheerios into it. He grabbed several slices of cheese and a banana, putting them on a plate and carried the bowl and fruit into the living area. He went back to the kitchen to grab his coffee, placing it on the coaster on the end table. Gus watched Justin bring out his breakfast and carefully arrange all his bowls and mug.

 

"Justin, why do you always put your mugs and glasses on coasters? I see Grandma Jen doing it but I never see Uncle Michael or Grandma Debbie using them."

 

Justin took a few sips of his coffee, blowing over the mug to cool the hot liquid. Using the time to formulate an answer that was both truthful and tactful at the same time.

 

"Using coasters is a way to keep your furniture from getting watermarks or heat marks on it. Your dad and I paid a lot of money for our furniture so we don't want to see it ruined. Grandma Jenn uses coasters for the same reason."

 

"But what about Uncle Michael and Grandma Debbie; I'm sure their stuff wasn't cheap."

 

"I think part of it is the way I was brought up. Uncle Michael and Grandma Debbie didn't have a lot of money when he was growing up and maybe their furniture already had stains on it so they weren't that concerned. Grandma Debbie has covers on all of her furniture. The covers make it look nice but they may hide some stains or well worn cloth." He was doing his best not to tell his son that his Uncle and Grandma were not brought up in "country club" ways, but he didn't want to say they were ill mannered either.

 

"But what about now? They're not poor now."

 

"They're just used to doing things that way and as the saying goes, old habits die hard."

 

The little boy finished his bowl of cereal and tilted his bowl up to his mouth to drink the leftover milk as he contemplated Justin's explanation. He decided it would do for now, but maybe he might ask his dad. Sometimes Justin was "too nice" where his dad always spoke his mind.

 

"I'm finished. I'll go up and gather the art supplies."

 

"Get dressed and brush your teeth before you come down. You know how your dad is about staying in your PJ's all day," Justin said as he visualized many a "talk" Brian had with his son regarding dressing for every day.

 

"Okay. Be back in a bit. Maybe when I get back you will be finished with your breakfast. Colin should still sleep for a little while and when he gets up I'll feed him and sing to him. I learned a new song at school that I want to sing for him."

 

Justin watched Gus go up the stairs, smiling at the little boy. He was so happy to be a part of his life and wondered if soon their time together would increase. Knowing his husband as he did, he was eager to see what Brian would do with the information he shared last night about the girls' treatment of their son. He finished his breakfast and drank the last of his coffee, bringing the dishes into the kitchen. He didn't like to have hot coffee around Colin.

 

While he was waiting for Gus to return, he heard Brian's familiar footsteps on the stairs. Brian came over to him, leaned down and gave him a morning kiss. "Mmm, Is that coffee I smell?"

 

"Yep. I made some when I got up. The special blend that you like."

 

"You are a coffee slut," Brian said in a teasing tone. He walked into the kitchen, inhaled deeply and opened the cabinet to grab a coffee mug. He poured some creamer and sugar in the bottom and then filled his cup. After blowing on the mug, he took a tentative sip, ensuring he would not burn his tongue. Smiling at the delicious brew, he took several additional sips and then placed the cup on the counter. He grabbed his Guava juice and protein powder and made his morning shake and then pouring it into a glass. Taking both glasses out to the living area, he joined Justin.

 

"Where's Gus? I can't believe he's still sleeping."

 

"No. He ate breakfast and I sent him to get dressed and brush his teeth. He's going to bring down some art supplies so we can draw. I didn't want to leave Colin by himself. Even though he can't go anywhere, I just don't want to leave him."

 

"Well I'm up now, so I can watch Colin and you two can draw."

 

"Oh!!!! You'll never guess what he did this morning," Justin said in an excited voice.

 

"Colin or Gus?"

 

"Colin. He rolled over. I put some toys out of his reach and he rolled right to them."

 

"Justin, if you get this excited over our son's ability to roll over, I'd hate to think what you will do when he really accomplishes something," Brian said, tongue in cheek, secretly wishing he was there for this early milestone. "Of course, we won't be like most couples and get jealous when he says, Papa or Dada, because he could be talking to either of us."

 

Justin frowned and said, "ha ha."

 

"I'll draw with Gus for a bit and then you can hang out with him while I go back to bed. Are you going to talk to him?"

 

"No, I thought I'd play 20 questions with him. Of course, I will talk to him. Why don't you go upstairs and see if our son is ready to create masterpieces and I'll watch our baby while he makes disgusting diapers."

 

Justin stood up and kissed Brian, and then climbed the stairs to find Gus. Gus was in the studio starting to gather the supplies.

 

"Hey, buddy. Your dad is up so he's watching Colin. We can spend time in the studio and then when Colin wakes up, you can go feed him and play with him. Sound good?"

 

"Yep. I thought about making some pictures of me now- you know full-size ones and then Colin can see what I looked like when he was little."

 

"I've got a perfect idea. We'll make a full-size drawing of you." Justin tore off some long paper he used for planning his drawings and laid it on the floor. "Lay down and I'll trace you. Then we can fill in the drawing."

 

"Cool. Can we do this again in a few months?"

 

"Sure."

 

Justin and Gus worked for about an hour on their project when they heard a knock on the door. "Gus, Colin says he's hungry and he wants you to feed him. You think you can do that?"

 

"Sure dad. Justin, can we come back to this later. I really want to spend time with Colin."

 

"Of course. I got up with Colin this morning so I'm going to take a nap now." He leaned over and gave Brian and Colin a kiss and ruffled Gus' hair.

 

Gus, Brian, and Colin went downstairs so Colin could be fed and Justin would have some quiet when he took his nap. Brian had made Colin's bottle before he went upstairs so Gus was all set to feed his brother. He sat in the big chair and grabbed a baby towel to wipe Colin's mouth and catch any dribbles.

 

As he fed Colin, he spoke to him. "I'm your big brother, Gus. You have two dads, Justin and Dad, but you'll call them daddy Justin and daddy Brian. See they are married and they are raising you together. I'm your brother but I live with my moms and see my Dad and Justin on weekends and sometimes other days too. It's a little confusing, but you'll figure it out. I live my moms and they're okay but sometimes they are a pain. They have me watch my sister, J.R. a lot cause they're busy. J.R.'s momma Mel's kid and her dad is Uncle Michael. Then there is Grandma Jenn, she's Justin's mom. Grandma Debbie is actually Uncle Michael's mom and really not related to us, but she's the best grandma ever. See she works at the diner and gives me milkshakes and they are the best."

 

Brian listened to Gus and was really thankful that Gus gave him the perfect opening to discuss his mom's actions.

 

"Listening to you, our little family sounds so confusing. You have two dads and J.R. has two dads but they aren't the same people, but you have the same moms. And then there is the fact that you are sisters. If I didn't know our little family, I'd need a diagram of who's who."

 

"Yeah, it is a little confusing. I thought I would start telling Colin all about it so when he grows up, he'll have it all figured out."

 

"You mentioned that you watch J.R. a lot. Does that bother you?"

 

Gus picked up Colin and held him to his chest to burp him. He patted his back hoping to bring the bubbles out like Justin and his dad had shown him. Brian watched and the love in his heart increased.

 

"Sometimes. I mean she's my sister but sometimes mom and mamma have me stop what I'm doing to watch her so they can do stuff. Sometimes I'm doing stuff with my friends and I have to come inside to watch her. It's not like she's Colin and needs someone with her all the time."

 

Gus heard the familiar burp from Colin and brought him to the front and kissed him on the cheek. "Your dads love spending time with you. You are so lucky."

 

"Do your moms spend time with you, Gus?"

 

"Dad, I think he's ready to get on the floor. I know you guys don't want me carrying him so can you put him on the floor so we can play."

 

Brian lifted his son from Gus' arms and laid him on the blanket. Gus grabbed a toy rattle and shook it slightly to get Colin's attention.

 

"The moms are always busy. It seems like they are always arguing over whose turn it is to take me somewhere or help me with my homework. They don't like to play games like you and Justin. They do girl stuff with J.R.."

 

"I see." Brian thought for a few minutes while he watched his sons play together. He didn't like that his son was relegated to a babysitter and his moms didn't appear to try to spend time with him. "What about your mom? Does she ever take you to the gallery with her or paint with you? She loves art like Justin and there was a time when she painted and drew."

 

"I've asked a few times, but she always says it's too messy or she doesn't have the time. And momma Mel doesn't like art. She's always saying how mom's job is not as important as hers."

 

"I see. Tell me Gus, and you can be honest, I won't get mad. Would you like to live with us?"

 

"That would be awesome, Dad. Do you think I could? I could help with Colin and I could do stuff around the house. I wouldn't be any trouble. I'd always listen to you guys and go to bed on time and do my homework." Gus thought furiously about all the things his moms and he argued about. Sometimes he thought he just didn't do what he was supposed to do in order to have some type of interaction with his moms.

 

"We don't want you here to help around the house or care for Colin. We'd want you here so you could have parents that spend time with you."

 

"You think mom and momma would let me live here?"

 

"I don't know, but I think it's time we had a little talk with them about treating you like a kid and not a babysitter and errand boy."

 

Gus put down the rattle and walked to his dad, giving him the biggest hug ever. "I'd like that dad. You're the best."

 

Brian realized it would be a tough sell, getting the girls to let Gus live with them, but he thought he had some good leverage and would give it a try. He knew he didn't have to convince Justin, but convincing the munchers was a whole other issue.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian, Justin and Gus enjoyed a fun filled day with baby Colin. They fed and played with him and Gus got to spend time with each parent. He considered Justin as much his father as he did Brian and had started to call Justin, Pop, on occasion. Gus enjoyed painting and drawing with Justin and playing video games with Brian. Baby Colin enjoyed being fed, sung to and practicing his new skill of rolling over.

 

On Sunday, they had finished lunch and Colin had been placed in his crib to nap. Gus took his plate to the sink to dump the crumbs and then placed it in the dishwasher. His dads were sitting at the table eating the last of their sandwiches and discussing their commitments for the next week. Gus frowned when he heard his dad say he would be working late most of the week to finish a campaign and Justin say he had to finish his last canvas for the upcoming show.

 

Justin looked toward Gus, seeing his frown and said, "hey buddy, what's up?"

 

Gus' eyes watered but he was determined not to let his dad's see how disappointed he was. "Nothing."

 

"Bull shit!" Brian said. "You were laughing and playing with Colin just a few minutes ago and now you're practically in tears. Gus, we want to know what's happening." Brian scooted his chair back, held out his arms and beckoned Gus to return to the table.

 

"Promise you won't get mad?" Gus asked in a small voice as he walked toward the table. He knew his dads rarely got mad at him, but he was fearful when he told them his thoughts, they might get angry.

 

"Gus," Brian said as he pulled out Gus' chair. "You don't ever have to fear talking to us. I can't promise I won't get mad at you, but that is no reason to keep your thoughts to yourself." He patted the chair where Gus usually sat and Gus joined them at the table.

 

Gus ran his fingers through some crumbs on the table, eyes, down, avoiding looking at his Dad and Pop. "Remember yesterday Dad? When you asked if I'd want to live here with you and Justin?"

 

"Of course. I may be getting older," he said as he looked at Justin with a fierce gaze that brooked no comment. "But I'm not that forgetful. I told you we would talk to your moms about living here with us."

 

Gus wiped the water from his eyes, trying to keep from crying. "I want to live here with you and Justin. But.... You just told Justin you won't be home a lot next week cuz you have to work and Justin said the same thing." Gus hesitated, afraid he would anger his Dad. He looked at the men and said, "Mom was right, you don't have time for me." Gus couldn't hold back his tears and let them flow freely.

 

Brian and Justin looked at each other and at their crying child. Both stood and walked over to him and engulfed him in their arms.

 

"Gus, we are not too busy for you," Brian said as he kissed the top of the little boy's head. "Sometimes our work keeps us busy at night, but we always find time to spend with Colin and we would do the same for you. You're our son," Brian wished there were more than words that he could offer at this point in time. He hugged him tightly and kissed the top of his head.

 

"Buddy, you know that we always answer your phone calls and we try to go to every soccer game and school event that you have. Sometimes, we can't both be there, but one of us always tries to come," Justin said as he gave Gus a hug and ruffled his hair.

 

"But Momma and Mom said you're always working and you won't have time for me and Colin. This morning, Dad slept while Justin watched Colin. Who would be with me? Colin's so little and can't take care of himself."

 

"Didn't Justin draw with you this morning?" Brian said as he tried to remind the little boy of the day's activities.

 

"Yes."

 

"And I watched Colin and then did some work while he slept. Later you and I played some video games."

 

Gus nodded his head as he remembered the fun activities. "But it's the weekend. Momma said..."

 

Brian was getting tired of listening to what Lindsay and Melanie said. He'd was so tired of Mel and Linds constant berating and belittling his and Justin lives. He's always thought there was some jealousy on their part and realized that the munchers were just not good at balancing their personal and professional lives. It seemed to him that they criticized his life in order to make their life seem better. They seemed to have a reactive life rather than a proactive life, going from one crisis to another. It was no wonder that they had little time for Gus. Still, he didn't like to bad mouth them since they were Gus' mothers. However, he was not going to allow them to poison his own son's view of him and Justin.

 

"Gus, your Mom's not here when you're here with me and Justin. Right?"

 

"No." Gus thought his dad asked weird questions. He knew his mom wasn't there when he visited, that was one of the great things about being with Dad and Justin.

 

"So she is just telling you what she thinks happens." He knew that reasoning with a ten year old had its drawbacks but Gus was smart and he was all ears, paying attention to the conversation and hoping he would be reassured that his mothers were wrong.

 

"I guess."

 

"Do you think if she saw you here, she would feel the same?"

 

Gus shrugged.

 

"We want you here. Maybe we need to show your moms what it's like for you here. Show them that you are included in the activities and not left to care for Colin at every free moment." Brian handed Gus a Kleenex and Gus blew his nose and wiped his eyes.

 

"We wanted Colin and we find time to be with him. Trust me, Colin takes a whole lot more work than you, Gus. He can't do anything for himself. You can do lots of things for yourself. But each of you is special."

 

Gus threw away the Kleenex and pulled another out of the box to wipe his face again. "Do you really think Momma and Mom would let me stay?"

 

"Let's ask. You might be surprised."

 

Gus smiled at his father and Justin. "When can we ask them? Can it be today?"

 

Brian and Justin sat down at the table, their eyes speaking louder than any words could communicate. Justin let Brian take the lead on this conversation since he knew that Lindsay was more likely to listen to Brian than him. He realized she still thought he was giving up his career to have Colin and asking to have Gus full time would just add to her unhappiness.

 

"Gus, I'd love to tell you yes, but we need to make sure your moms are free to talk about this. They are always so rushed when we bring you back home and springing this idea on them would not be fair. Let's plan on talking to them next week. I'll invite them to lunch next Sunday and we will have lots of time afterward to talk."

 

"Can't we do it today? It's just after lunch. Please." The little boy looked expectantly at his fathers, willing them to say yes. He was practically bouncing in his seat with the excitement of possibly living with Pop and Dad.

 

"No. Gus. I think we need to wait. They are probably busy right now and it will be better if they have set aside time to spend here before we talk to them." Brian's heart ached when he saw the crestfallen look on his son's face. "I'll tell you what we can do. What if we picked you up every day after school this week and you can spend a few hours here playing with Colin and hanging out with us. As we said, we are both really busy this week, so you will most likely only get to spend time with one of us each day."

 

Gus clapped his hands and held out his hand for a high five from his Dad and Justin. "Awesome."

 

Justin gave Brian a deer in the headlights look. He knew his husband wanted to make his son happy but he wasn't sure how they were going to pull this off since both of them were really busy. He started to say something in protest and realized that if they got their wish, these kinds of logistics would occur on a regular basis and they would have to figure things out. He was sure his mom could be convinced to pick Gus up at least one day. He loved hanging out with Grandma Jenn and this would be a possible solution.

 

"Gus. It won't be like weekends when your Dad and I don't work, but it would be a good trial. You could test out if you want to live here all the time," Justin said. He looked at Gus' face and realized how his words must sound to the young boy. "This isn't like a test at school to see if we want you here. We want you here and we're not going to change our mind. Don't worry about us not wanting you here. I just wanted you to understand it won't be like it is on weekends."

 

"Ok," Gus said. He was smiling at the new plan and was excited that he would get to see his Dad and Pop every day next week. "Do you think Mom and Momma would let me spend the night one night?" Gus was already plotting the fun things he would do during the week if he was at his Dad's house. These plans were exploding in his head and he readily went to the idea of spending the night one evening.

 

Justin thought about Gus' suggestion and said, "You know Brian, Gus may have a great idea. This week could be a great way to convince the girls that we can and want Gus in our lives. It would give them the freedom to have only one child to parent and they might decide they really like having Gus with us. You might have hit on an even better way to convince them then talking."

 

"I am always brilliant. It's a different type of campaign, but it's still advertising." Brian blew on his finger tips and rubbed them on his shirt.

 

"You're incorrigible. But I love you," Justin said.

 

"What's incur..." Gus asked.

 

"Incorrigible means not able to be corrupted. This means your dad cannot be bribed to get him to do something."

 

"Oh." Gus nodded his head but he was still not clear about the meaning of the word. He saw his Dad smile at Justin and knew it must be a joke between the two of them. He loved the way they always teased and joked with each other. It was just another reason why he wanted to live with them. Things were always light and fun when he was here, none of the arguing and fighting that he had at home.

 

Colin took that moment to cry. Brian picked up the baby monitor to verify that he was awake and not just making noises. "I think it's your turn to feed the baby, Justin. I swear he must be your child. He eats every few hours."

 

"All babies eat every few hours. They don't have big stomachs."

 

"You have a full grown stomach, so what is your excuse," Brian said as he patted Justin on the behind as he got up to get the baby.

 

"I have a high metabolism and I burn off a lot of calories, thanks to you." Justin smirked as he swayed his hips slightly as he walked away.

 

"Dad, what does Justin mean?" Gus asked, trying to understand the conversation. He went to the cabinet to gather the supplies to make Colin's bottle. Brian had shown him how to fix the formula and he'd been helping all weekend. He got a fresh bottle and filled it with tap water to the line where his father had indicated.

 

Brian thought quickly about how to answer Gus' question. He realized that Justin and he would have to curtail their adult conversation out of ear shot of Gus. It was a simple change and he was willing to do it for his son. "We burn a lot of calories running around the house. Britin is really big."

 

Gus nodded. "Yeah it is. I love to play hide and seek here since there are so many places to hide. I guess he would need a lot of food to walk around the big house." Gus thought for a moment and asked, "But why don't you need a lot of calories too, Dad?"

 

"Justin paints here and is here a lot more than I am. Kinnetik isn't as big as the house so I don't need as many calories."

 

Gus nodded his head, accepting Brian's explanation. He finished pouring the formula into the bottle and put the top on it before shaking it vigorously. He put his hand out for his father to inspect the bottle and when Brian nodded he placed the bottle on the counter.

 

"Can I feed Colin?"

 

"Sure. Why don't you go sit in the rocker in the media room and I'll let Justin know to bring him in there."

 

Gus took the bottle with him and grabbed one of the burping towels and waited in the chair for Justin to bring the baby to him. He loved his little brother and felt like such a big brother when he helped take care of him. He wasn't that fond of changing his diapers, especially when he had a dirty one, but Justin and Brian had explained that this was part of being a big brother. There were going to be parts he didn't like but he still had to do them.

 

Justin brought Colin a few moments later. "Here you are, Gus. I changed him while he was upstairs so he's ready to eat. I'm going to talk to Brian for a few minutes and we'll join you.

 

"Okay." Gus placed the bottle in Colin's mouth and he started sucking immediately.

 

Justin walked into the kitchen where Brian was wiping down the table. "You are a great dad and I think having Gus here in the afternoons is really a good idea. It will help the girls realize we are serious and this isn't some fly by night conversation." Justin stood on his tip toes and kissed Brian.

 

"Of course. As I said before, I'm brilliant. Gus asked me why you burn so many calories. I guess we'll have to watch what we say a little sooner than we thought."

 

Justin laughed. "I guess we will also have to limit our sexcapades to the bedroom too. But it will be worth it, if Gus is here."

 

Brian laughed at Justin. "Sexcapades. You make it sound like a circus side show," he said in a whisper.

 

"Well, sometimes I wonder if we were circus performers in a previous life." Justin grinned as he thought back to their antics last night. "Anyway, we better go to the media room. Colin is probably almost finished eating and we only have a few more hours with Gus. Maybe the three of us could play a game while Colin explores the world of black and white swirls."

 

"Sounds like a plan." Brian leaned down and gave Justin a kiss and they walked into the media room to join their sons.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

It was time for Justin and Brian to take Gus home. Gus went upstairs to his bedroom where he gathered his favorite toys; his prized Lego Star Wars pieces and his special art kit that he and Justin had put together. He looked in the bathroom for his toothbrush and comb and placed those in the back pack.

He put his dirty laundry in the laundry bag as he remembered the time he forgot to pack underwear and his dad had bought him underwear just like he had. He felt so proud to be just like his dad, but his Mom had a fit as she said that 10 year-olds don't need designer underwear. He'd never really understood what that argument had been about since no one except him saw his underwear.

He kept quiet on that discussion, choosing to play with his Star Wars figures and pretend he was Luke Skywalker going to Degobah to learn to be a Jedi Knight. As he looked around the room, he got excited thinking about the possibility that this might be his full time home. His Dad had said he would talk to his Mom about him living there and Dad always did what he said he would. Unlike his Moms who would promise stuff and then change their minds. He wondered if all kids had that problem with their mothers or just him because he had two moms. After all, he had two moms and two dads, twice the opportunity to be told what to do. But he liked his dads a lot better than his moms. His dads didn't fight and they made time to do stuff with him. He hoped his Mom would let him stay.

 

"Gus, are you coming down any time soon? Put your Star Wars Legos in your backpack. We don't want to be late. Remember, we want your Mom and Momma in a good mood when we get back," yelled Brian from the bottom of the stairs. He knew that one key to getting Lindsey to say yes was to not give her anything to bitch about. He'd always get Gus back a little early so she wouldn't bitch about how his arrival was right in the middle of whatever they were involved in. It seemed to him that their whole household was always right in the middle of some crisis or another. One time he brought Gus back to a screaming match between the girls when Mel couldn't find a pair of socks for J.R. .

 

Gus looked at his room one last time and fervently hoped he would be back tomorrow instead of next weekend. Turning off the light, he gathered his backpack and trotted down the stairs.

 

"Gus, you're only one little boy. How do you sound like a hurd of elephants coming down the stairs?" Justin smiled as he ruffled his hair. "Daddy has Colin and is putting him in the car seat so we better go."

 

They'd been driving for about 5 minutes when Gus asked, "Daddy, what are you going to say to Mommy when we get there. I really want to come over every day."

 

"Just what you said. I've found the truth is the best persuader."

 

"Purs....? What is that Daddy?"

 

"Persuasion: The act of convincing someone to do something. In my job, I persuade people that they want certain products and that their life will be better if they have these things. I'm going to persuade your mom that her life will be easier if you come to our house after school each day."

 

"Oh," Gus said as he thought about his father's explanation. "How you going to do that, Daddy?"

 

"I have my ways. At the end of our visit, your mom will think it was her idea to have you come over every day."

 

Justin watched Brian smile his "power smile." Justin had given Brian's business look its own vocabulary. He loved watching Brian at work; the man was a genius. He'd won a number of awards for his innovative campaigns and once a company signed with them, it was very rare that they ever left. He was able to schmooze and explain his ideas to even the most reluctant company. He was a very high powered persuader and when he listened to Brian talk to Gus, he knew that most likely he would get what he wanted.

 

"The key to our campaign is for you to not let your moms know about our plan. You need to go in and do what you normally do when you come home on Sunday night. If you start talking about coming over, your Mom will start thinking this was your idea and say "no" without thinking. I've known Lindsey a long time and she works best when she thinks things are her idea. Understand, Gus?"

 

"Yep. When I go home I'll go straight to my room and unload my backpack. But, Daddy...." Gus thought for a few seconds about this elaborate plan. "Can I keep my Star Wars Legos in the back pack if I'm coming to your house tomorrow? I don't want to have to put them away; I might forget one of them. A few weeks ago, I forgot Yoda and it was really hard to play without him."

 

"First world problems," Brian said as he smiled at his two favorite people. "Yes, you can keep them in your backpack. If your mom says no, you'll just take them out later."

 

"Okay. What is a first world problem?" Gus asked.

 

Justin envied the innocence of the young boy. "It means that this problem is not that important in comparison to children living in places that don't even have Star Wars Legos. There are little boys who don't have a house or a bed they call their own because it's been bombed or burned down. They don't have any toys. So for those little boys, having a bed and a place to sleep is a bigger concern than having their favorite toy to play with."

 

"Why don't they have a bed or a house? Everybody has to have a place to sleep."

 

"There are lots of places where people are fighting and they attack their enemies by destroying their homes," Justin explained. He never felt that he should minimize other's situations but he didn't want to upset the young boy either. "So a first world problem is one where someone wants something they can't have or don't have- like when you forgot Yoda. But a third world problem is when someone lacks the basic necessities of living, like clothes or housing."

 

"Justin..." Brian said as he frowned at his partner.

 

"Brian, he needs to learn that there are people who don't have their basic needs met. He's not too young to understand that not everyone has 10 Lego sets and can choose between three cars they want to drive." Justin looked at Brian, there was no brooking this discussion.

 

"Okay. But can we get back to the discussion at hand and not dwell on third world countries. Our son wants to live with us and we have to convince his mothers that this is their idea." Brian turned on the turn signal to exit the highway.

 

"Yeah Daddy. I want to live with you, not in some place where they don't have houses." Gus nodded his head in agreement of his father's statement.

 

"I have some ideas, but let me talk to your moms."

 

"Okay. I'll go right up to my room and I'll get my stuff together to come to your house in the afternoon. I know you will get Mom and Momma to let me come," Gus said, convinced that his father would be successful.

 

They turned down the street of the "girls" house and Brian carefully parked the car. "Remember, you give your moms a kiss and then go right up to your room."

 

Gus got out of the car and walked to the house, ringing the bell. He waited a few minutes and when no one came he rang it again.

 

Lindsay came to the door holding a phone in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. "Gus, how many times have I told you about ringing the bell more than once. I am on the phone and really busy." She opened the door and gave Gus a quick kiss. "Now go upstairs and put your stuff away, you have to take a bath and get ready for school in the morning."

 

Gus dutifully bounded up the stairs as his father had told him and then he begun looking at his toys trying to determine which ones he wanted for the week. He made a big pile of his favorite toys and then thought about those children in "third world countries" who didn't have any Star Wars Legos and the thought saddened him. He would talk to Justin about sharing some of his toys.

 

Lindsay ushered Brian and Justin into the house and motioned for them to sit on the couch while she continued talking on the phone.

 

"Yes.... I understand. I paid that bill on the 13th of last month."

 

"Oh, I see. Well, yes I could do that. I can come tomorrow afternoon. Would that work?"

 

"... Thank you."

 

As soon as she hung up the phone, she looked at the calendar hanging on the fridge which had all the commitments and activities of the family listed. "Shit!! Shit!!!" She said as she grabbed the paper bags in the drawer.

 

Brian casually walked into the kitchen and leaned against the wall. "Problems Linds?" Brian knew that almost every Sunday in the munchers' house was filled with conversations about the difficulties for the coming week. He'd counted on this Sunday being no different. Gus often came home to chaos as there some crisis that just had to be taken care of or some deadline they forgot.

 

"Yes. No. Well..."

 

"It's not really a difficult question," Brian said tongue in cheek.

 

"Well, it seems that I forgot to pay a bill and the store will allow me to pay it late without any penalty but only if I get down there by 4:00 tomorrow. Gus has something after school and Mel has a meeting with a client. I can't possibly be in two places at once. And then I told Mel I could pick up J.R. from school." Lindsay let out a big sigh. "Maybe I can see if Karen can pick up J.R. and Gus could stay at after school activities longer." She mentally calculated the time it would take her to drop off the check and get back to school to pick up Gus and decided that would be a solution.

 

"How about I pick up Gus and take him to his after school thing?" Brian offered.

 

"Oh.... I didn't think... I thought you'd... Could you?"

 

"Gus is my son and I'd be happy to take him to his after school activities. Why don't I take him and he can eat dinner with us and I'll have him back here by 8:00."

 

Lindsay felt a weight get off her chest and smiled. "That would be so helpful. Our lives are so hectic with two children. I'm sure you'll find out when Colin gets older." She smiles her gracious smile, the one Brian calls her WASP smile. She used it when she thought she was superior. While Justin had a similar upbringing as Lindsay, he never used his smile to get his way, only using it to show his good manners. As often was the case, Brian thought she could learn a lot from Justin in the graciousness department.

 

"I'll go let him know." He walked to the stairs and went into Gus's room where he quickly closed the door so his moms can't hear their conversation. "So, big guy, either I or Justin will pick you up from school tomorrow and you will spend the afternoon and evening with us. We'll take you home about 8:00."

 

"Really, Dad?" Gus goes over to hug Brian and Brian returns the hug. "Now why don't you get ready for bed and Justin and I will read you a story before we leave. Justin is downstairs with Colin and you know he's going to want to eat in about an hour. I'd like to be home for that."

 

Brian walks out of the room as he watches Gus start to take off his shirt and grab his PJ's. He returns to the living room where he sees Justin playing with Colin on the floor. He watches the two of them as pride and awe fill his heart. He never believed he would feel like this when they were discussing having a child. He knew he wanted to have a child with Justin, but the reality of it was still an abstract and he was so happy with his life.

 

Lindsay was sitting at the kitchen table, a pad and paper in front of her while she was filling in a calendar. She looked up from her project as Brian entered the room. The calendar looked pretty full and Brian inwardly smiled as he watched her frown at the lack of white space.

 

Brian grabbed a bottle of water for himself and Justin and brought Justin his, giving him a kiss on the forehead before he returned to the kitchen area.

 

"The calendar is pretty full," Brian said as he sat down in the flower covered kitchen chair. He hated the chairs, always thinking they were there more for show than comfort. Lindsay had raved about how she found them at an antique shop and she was so pleased at the recovering job she and Mel had done. Just because something was antique didn't mean that it was comfortable. Again, Brian saw her WASP upbringing come to light. She was more impressed that the chairs were antique and had a "good lineage" than with the way they fit or didn't fit into her everyday décor.

 

Lindsay smiled her "WASP" smile again as she looked at Brian. "Oh yes. I have three late meetings at work this week; we're getting ready for the yearly planning conference. You know the one, ....where we plan for the shows for the next year. Gus has soccer practice on two nights, a play date a third day and there is a meeting for parents for spring sports. It is mandatory or he can't play and he mentioned he wanted to sign up for tennis. Then Mel has been working non-stop on this big custody case so she doesn't seem to be around a lot. Luckily J.R. is still a little young to have her own color code. Mine is blue, Mel is pink and Gus is orange. J.R. is green and you see where everyone's commitments are at a glance." She held up the calendar and it was filled with a barrage of colors.

 

"There is a lot of orange there. Justin and I can help with Gus. Why don't you make a copy of Gus' things and we will take care of those. That way you and Mel won't worry about him missing out." Brian casually threw out his suggestion, knowing Lindsay would jump at the chance not to have to take him places.

 

Lindsay stood up out of her chair and gave Brian a huge hug. "That would be so helpful. Gus is so busy and I just don't know how we were going to get him everywhere."

 

"Good, that's settled. We'll pick him up after school each day and then we'll bring him home at night," Brian said as he was thinking it was silly to have his son sleep there when his mother's didn't do anything else, but feed him breakfast and get him to school. But he had a plan and the plan involved Lindsay thinking she still had control.

 

"I hear Gus on the steps. I told him we would read him a story before Justin, Colin and I leave." He called to Gus who comes in the kitchen carrying his book that he wants Brian and Justin to read. He and his mom's have been reading Secret Agent, Jack Stalwart each night and he hands his dad the book. "We're on chapter 7. Can we read two chapters?"

 

"Gus, only 1 chapter a night. You know the rules. Did you brush your teeth?"

 

"Yes, mom, I brushed my teeth." He smiled showing his bright teeth and both Lindsay and Brian laugh at his antics.

 

"Up to your room and Justin and I will be right there." Brian looked at Lindsay. "If you could get that schedule together before we leave, it would be great. Justin and I need to get Colin home for his bath and last bottle." Brian goes out to the living area and he sees Justin holding Colin and talking to him quietly about all the things in the room. "Come on, Sunshine. We have a secret agent to read about and then we have to get our youngest home. Someone needs a bath tonight before bed."

 

Justin stands up and walks up the stairs with Colin in his arms. They both sit on the bed as they ready the next chapter. Brian leans down to kiss Gus. "See you tomorrow, big guy. Not sure who will be picking you up, me, Justin or grandma Jen but we'll be there for you."

 

"Thanks dad. Love you."

 

Justin leans down and lets Gus kiss Colin on the cheek and then he gives Gus his own kiss. " See you tomorrow, squirt."

 

"Love you too, Justin." He closed his eyes and they walked out of the room shutting off the light.

 

"Time to head home." Brian said as he kissed Justin on the cheek and Colin on the forehead. They go down to the kitchen where Lindsay is rehanging the calendar on the fridge.

 

"I can't tell you how great it is that you offered to help out. It will make our lives so much easier." Lindsay said as she handed him the schedule she copied.

 

Brian cringed at Lindsay's words but tried to keep his face neutral. "We'll drop him off tomorrow." He took the schedule and glanced quickly at it. Gus was busy but he knew they could handle his schedule; it just took a little juggling.

 

Brian and Justin took Colin to the car, locking the car seat in its base. "I love that I don't have to take him in and out of the seat every time we travel. It was such a pain when Gus was little. I always felt bad about waking him up when he would fall asleep," Brian said.

 

Justin closed the door and got in the passenger seat, buckling himself into the seat belt and watching as Brian did the same. "So, tell me about this schedule Linds gave you?"

 

"Easy. She was trying to juggle a million things like always and lamenting that her and Mel were so busy. She was starting to complain that Gus had so many things to do to and she didn't know how they would work it out. All I did was offer to handle Gus and his commitments. She was so thankful; you'd think that I'd offered to do a lot more than spend time with my son."

 

"So we have him after school?"

 

"I started with tomorrow only but then she was writing down the whole month and I offered to take him for the whole month of after school commitments and bring him back each night. I figure after a week or so, I'll ask to just keep him overnight. They will find it a pain to have to be home by 8:00 each night to get him ready for bed etc."

 

"Really? You think they'll give up that easy."

 

"Oh, when I'm done, they will think it's their idea, but for now, Gus is with us every night. We need to look at the list and figure out how we're going to get him where he needs to go."

 

"I'm sure we'll figure it out. But for now, Gus won't have to put up with watching his sister while his moms do their thing. I think everybody wins."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Justin and Brian drove back to Britin with a sleeping Colin in his car seat. Brian drove and Justin looked out the window.

 

"So are you going to tell me about the conversation with Lindsey?"

 

Brian smiled and said, "It was easy. I told you that there is always chaos there when we return Gus."

 

Justin turned to look at his husband, eager to learn about his latest conquest. "Yeah. It's always something. Like Gus said, one time they were screaming because Mel couldn't find two matching socks. So what was it this time, and how did that result in us getting Gus tomorrow?"

 

"This time Linds forgot to pay a bill and the creditor said if she paid it by tomorrow afternoon they would forgo the late fee. Problem is Gus has some after school thing and she couldn't do both. I offered to take Gus to his stuff so she could pay the bill. I told her we never have a problem doing things for Gus, he's our son."

 

"Okay, that explains tomorrow, but what about afterwards. You told Gus that you were going to see about him living with us. One day is a far stretch from every day." Justin frowns a little, thinking he doesn't want to disappoint Gus.

 

"Patience, Padawan. Let me explain. After I agreed to take Gus tomorrow, Lindsay continued to look at the calendar and sigh. I casually ask what is wrong and she laments that life is so busy with two working parents and two children and she just doesn't know how she is going to do everything, ad nauseum. I volunteer again to take Gus' activities and see that he gets to them, feed him dinner and then bring him home in the evening. Problem solved."

 

"Oh. But that is a lot of hauling on our part. Britin isn't exactly next door or a few streets over." Justin hates being the devil's advocate and while he wants Gus with them, he doesn't want to exchange one bad situation for another bad situation - just with different adults.

 

"I know, but we know how to manage our time and resources. We manage in the summers and holidays when we have him and we are both working. We also have a lot of adults that Gus trusts to pick him up and take him to whatever after school activity he needs to attend and then we can pick him up after the activity. That will cut into our work day a little, but as we promised Gus, one of us would always be there for him. We know that the girls can't even promise him that. Based on what he tells us, he is often left to care for J.R. while they do something else. We have the advantage of having Chloe to watch Colin during the day and up until 7:00 and after that time, he is our responsibility. Gus has to be home by 8:00. He is usually finished with his after school stuff by 5:00 or 5:30. One of us will pick him up from the activity, spend time with him and then bring him home."

 

"I guess we could use the loft after his activity. He could do his homework there and eat dinner. It's not that far from his home," Justin said as he thought through the options.

 

"See, you are already better at problem solving than the girls. Besides, Gus doesn't have after school activities every day- just 2 or 3. One day I could take him and one day you could. The other day we could determine."

 

"He's not going to like not seeing everybody. He loves hanging out with Colin and you are his father," Justin said. "I'm not trying to be a pain, but there are a lot of issues here." Justin bit the bottom lower lip as he tried to think positively. "I guess one of the days, Chloe could bring Colin to the loft or I could join you two there two or three days a week. We could decide as the week moves forward.

 

"See, it just takes a little discussion to work it out. Gus stays in town and we get him to his activity and then pick him up, help with his homework, feed him dinner and then spend time with him. At the end of the day, he goes home to sleep," Brian reiterates their plan. "We will need to look at our calendars to see who can do what and maybe we might have to see if your mom or sister can pick him up from school to take him to his activities. He's developed a great relationship with Molly now that she's moved back into town." Brian brings his hand up to his forehead and places his wrist on his temple. "Help Me! Help Me! I'm surrounded by Taylors and I can't get away," he says with a laugh.

 

Justin laughs and then hits him on the shoulder in a playful manner. "You so lovvvvvve me."

 

"I do and I love our family. All of our family. I can't believe I'm saying this but Mother Taylor and Molly are as much a part of our family as you Gus and Colin. I've become quite fond of them."

 

Justin didn't respond, but just gave Brian a huge smile. He knew when the Kinney emotions were going to go back into hiding.

 

"So we've got it locked down for now, but how are you going to get him to live with us all the time? They are still his mothers."

 

"My evil plan to take over the world is actually simple. My guess, and I'm sure I will be right.... Is after a few weeks to a month of this juggling, their home life will still prove to be overwhelming. We've agreed to take him on days he has after school activities. He only has them 2-3 days a week but I'm sure that even keeping up with that level is going to prove difficult. They will forget something on the calendar, something last minute will come up at one of their works and he will need to be taken on a day "not designated as ours" and then finally they will find it difficult to deal with a child who will tell them how much fun he has at Daddy and Justin's."

 

"Won't Mel and Linds push back if they are reminded that they aren't us? I can see that back firing."

 

"Oh, I don't plan on having Gus hound them about how different and better it is at our house. I just plan on him telling them he did this and he did that with Daddy and Justin. I think the munchers will soon see a child who is acting out when he isn't given the attention he deserves. Right now he only sees us on weekends and sometimes during holidays and vacations. He rarely sees us juggling our everyday lives. I think when we have him more often and he sees that parents can juggle jobs and commitments and still have time for their kids, he'll be the one telling Mel and Linds how he feels. He's going to get the great experience and then share his side of the story without any prompting from us."

 

Justin listened and thought about all Brian had said. He thought about what he said and realized that Brian knew the girls pretty well. He was most likely dead on when he anticipated their reaction to life with Gus and the never ending commitments they needed to incorporate into their busy lives. He wished that all parents were like him and Brian, willing to find the time to be with their kids and to make their kids a priority, but he realized he could only conquer one social problem at a time. He chose to make Gus and Colin a priority in his life. He would figure out how to paint around family time. They were only young once and he wanted them to have the best fathers.

 

"You are a smart man. And what is your timeline for all this to occur? I guess I need to let Mom know of our plans for her. I don't want to just assume that she will be available. I bet Daphne will be willing to help out too. There are afternoons that she doesn't have patients. She could be persuaded to pick up Gus and take him somewhere after school. I see where the phrase it takes a village to raise a child comes from."

 

"Public Service Announcement number 2023." Brian said tongue in cheek. He signaled that he was exiting the highway and he felt the usual calm drift over his body. He'd heard people say that there was an energy zapper between their garage and their mud room; pulling all the energy a person had when they left work and leaving it outside the home. He never really felt that way, it was almost the opposite. He was going home, to Justin, to Colin and to his beautiful manor. He'd never regretted the decision to buy the palatial home for Justin and now that they were a family, he was happy that there enough spaces in the home for family while allowing some private space for him and Justin.

 

"I give it two months at tops. I know Gus will easily adapt to being with us and we with him, but it may take a few "disasters" on his mothers' part before they realize and accept he should be with us."

 

"If he comes to live with us, will they see him on weekends? I mean I just don't want things to be flipped. We have him during the week and they get him on the weekends. I still see that as problematic. I see what their lives are like when we bring him home on Sunday nights. I don't see that getting any better just because he isn't living there full time." Justin looked back to watch Colin as he slept, clueless to the changes his fathers were making in all their lives.

 

"I want him to have a relationship with his moms; I'm not trying to take him away from them. But on the other hand, I'm not going to be volunteering to have him go on weekends, holidays etc. I'm sure we can figure something out." Brian took a deep breath, realizing that was one area that he really hadn't considered. He wanted his son happy and to have the carefree childhood that he didn't have. He never wanted Gus to feel that he wasn't wanted or to feel that he was just there as a built in sitter for his sister. Maybe after a few months of living with him and Justin, he might choose to stay with his moms for a bit. He could choose, but he felt pretty certain that after living with Justin and him for a few weeks, he would really bristle about returning to his Moms' home.

 

"We're home. Why don't you feed Colin his last bottle and get him ready for bed? We'll sing his song and then we can spend a little time figuring out the schedule for next week." Brian suggested as he turned off the car. He leaned over and gave Justin a kiss on the cheek and then opened the door, taking the list of Gus' activities into the house.

 

Justin got Colin out of the car seat and brought him in the kitchen where he put him on the floor on his special play mat. After fixing his bottle and Colin drinking it in 10 minutes, he burped him and let him lay for a bit on the blanket, allowing the food to settle. He fixed two bottles for late feedings, if needed, and put them in the fridge. Usually Colin slept through the night but occasionally he got up and was hungry. It was so much easier to feed him if one of them didn't have to stop and fix a bottle in the middle of the night. He took Colin up to the nursery and spoke softly to him.

 

"It's time for bed, little guy. I know you've had a big weekend with your big brother Gus and he'll see you later this week. He's going to be spending a lot more time with us and hopefully he'll be living with us soon." He sat in the rocking chair, looking up to see Brian standing by the door watching them.

 

"I love watching you with him; it makes me melt inside." He leaned down and kissed the top of Colin's head and then sat down on the floor as Justin started rocking gently in the chair.

 

They both sang:

 

"Go to sleep, Close your eyes
Tomorrows a new day
Go to sleep Close your eyes
Tomorrow we...will... play!!"

 

Justin stood up and placed the baby in the crib on his back and closed the door to the nursery.

 

"Let's go look at the schedule. If I have to call Mom, I want to do it earlier rather than later. I know she'll help but I should really let her know as soon as I can." They walked down the stairs and sat at the kitchen table.

 

Justin brought out his phone and so did Brian swiping until they located their calendars. Brian brought up the paper with Gus' schedule and laid it on the table. "Monday, I'm booked in the afternoon with a presentation but I should be free in time to pick him up from soccer practice. Lindsay said it goes until 5:30. Tuesday I'm free after 2:30. I have a lunch meeting but nothing afterward." Glancing at the sheet of paper, he saw that Tuesday was blank so Gus would be going home.

 

"I can pick him up tomorrow and take him to soccer practice. I've got to be in town to pick up supplies and I can go in later and then take him to practice. I'll pick him up and take him to the loft so he can shower and eat. You can join us to help with homework and then head home to be with Colin and I'll join you after I drop him off."

 

They continued planning and juggling the remainder of the week and the rest of the month. There were just a few days where both of them were busy and couldn't rearrange their schedules.

 

"Ok. I'll call Mom and see if she can help out and if she can't I'll check with Daphne and Molly. Between four adults, I'm sure we'll work it out." Justin had starred the commitments in his phone with blue stars when he was responsible for Gus and Brian's stars were green and had left the days and times they needed help with red stars. He picked up the phone and called his mom.

 

"Hello sweetheart. How are you?" Jennifer answered the phone, surprised to hear from Justin at this time in the evening. She forced herself to relax, realizing that there was no need to be alarmed as he sounded calm. She grabbed her cup of tea from the counter and sat down in the kitchen chair.

 

"Great. Colin's growing and I'm just amazed at how much he's changed, even in just a few short months." He could feel his smile on his face even as he talked about his child.

 

"Children do that, Justin. I never thought you would make me a grandmother and I can't tell you how much I love spending time with him." She took a sip of her tea, letting her shoulders truly relax. Still feeling he wanted something, she kept her voice neutral.

 

Justin smiled, happy that his mother accepted his marriage and his child. "Speaking of grandchildren, Brian and I were wondering if you'd be willing to help us out."

 

"You know that I'm always willing to help you sweetheart. When do you want me to watch Colin?" She felt herself smile with the knowledge that they trusted her with Colin and wanted her in his life. Her patience and support were going to pay off.

 

"Well actually. We don't need help with Colin; we need help with Gus."

 

"Gus? Is something wrong with Mel and Linds?" Her breath came quickly when she thought that something was wrong.

 

"No. It's just that we're going to be spending more time with him and have volunteered to take him to his activities after school this month and then to take him home in the evening. Brian and I have it covered except for two days. We were wondering if you could help us out and pick him up from school and take him to his after school activity and then take him to the loft afterward. He gets out of school at 3:00 and usually is picked up about 5:00 to 5:30. We can meet you at the loft and then feed him dinner and get him home. We're just not able to pick him up at school."

 

Relaxing again when she realized that nothing had happened to Mel and Linds, she again smiled at her good fortune. They wanted her to build an even stronger connection to Gus. She adored the little boy. He was a carbon copy of his father without the closed emotions. "Of course. I'm always willing to help out. Let me get my calendar and I'll mark it."

 

Justin explained to his mother a little more of what was happening and they wished each other a good night. Justin hung up and looked at his calendar and the many colors on it. There were a few blue entries and a few green entries and the orange entries were ones where they were going to meet up as a family. It took about half an hour to figure it all out and he was pretty pleased with the plan. He understood that it would take some adjustment but Colin took adjustment and they figured it out. Chloe had been great for them and they thought this would work too. He knew that if the afternoon pick up didn't work well, they could always hire someone to pick Gus up from school and take him to his activities. They would be the one to pick him up after the activity as it was more important to be with him in the evening.

 

He made his way up to their bedroom where Brian was laying on the bed reading a book. Brian looked up from the book when he heard Justin open the door.

 

"She's more than happy to help. Of course, she originally thought I was calling about helping with Colin but when I explained what was happening and that I needed her for Gus, she was still more than willing to help."

 

"Good. Now I've had enough children time this weekend, let's have some adult activities." Brian patted the bed, encouraging Justin to join him.

 

Justin pulled his shirt out of his pants and then over his head, tossing it in the corner. He unbuttoned his jeans and let them slide to the floor. Crawling up the bed, he met his husband and gave him a deep kiss. "Adult is a great idea."

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Monday morning came and nothing had changed in the Kinney-Taylor household. Brian got his morning blow job before he went off to run Kinnetik. Colin was fed and played with by Justin and then Chloe watched him while Justin worked. Justin painted and Brian only threatened to fire one person in the art department for a screw up with color on the boards but nothing unusual happened. Justin stopped his painting by 2:00, cleaned his brushes and showered so he could pick up Gus on time. The pick-up went smoothly and Justin ran a few errands while Gus was at soccer practice. After practice they drove to the Loft and Gus helped Justin fix Mac and Cheese for dinner. Brian joined them for an early dinner and listened to his son tell him about his day. After dinner, Brian listened to Gus read and then took him home. Justin returned to Britin in time for Chloe to leave on time. He played with Colin until it was bath time, gave him a bath and gave him a bottle. While Colin was finishing his bottle, Brian arrived home. They played with their son for about an hour and then laid him down to sleep. After they closed the door to the nursey and ensured that the baby monitor was set, they went to the kitchen.

 

"I made some Chicken Piccata earlier, do you want some? I know you didn't eat any of the Mac and Cheese that Gus and I made." Justin walked to the cabinet, getting out two plates and placed them on the counter.

 

"Sure. Mac and Cheese are not really on my list of favorite dinner foods," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

 

"I wanted our first day to be special. He needs to feel that we are there for him and not just
‘helping out'. He's used to spending time with us on the weekends."

 

"Justin, you don't need to spell it out for me. I understand. While Gus says he doesn't like things at home, it is still home. I don't need a Public Service Announcement on the importance of spending quality time with your kid. Jack and Joan were such great role models," Brian said, the tinge of sarcasm evident in his tone.

 

Justin didn't respond, knowing that Brian's childhood would always be a sore spot for his husband. He understood that his parent's abuse and indifference had a huge impact on Brian's reluctance to show his love for him, as well as his fear of fatherhood. Luckily, Brian appeared to have overcome those obstacles and now they had two sons.

 

Justin plated the chicken and placed it in the microwave. He took out the makings for a salad and began prepping the carrots.

 

"How was your day?" he asked.

 

"I didn't threaten to fire anyone."

 

Justin laughed, the running joke a familiar one. "Good. If you fired someone every time you threatened, you would be constantly interviewing potential employees." Justin placed the lettuce in the bowls and then split the chopped carrots between the two bowls. He washed some cherry tomatoes and placed them in the bowls as well. Opening the fridge, he located the artichoke hearts and the cheese, placing them on the counter. "How did the presentation with ASUS go?"

 

"Their rep is a jerk. He thinks that everything should be done at the cheapest price. When we discussed the terms of the campaign, he balked at the price and tried to low ball every single area. He wants a top campaign for basic prices." Brian grabbed a carrot from the bag and took a bite of the crunchy vegetable. "Their last campaign was such a success and their sales went up 10%. He decided since we already did the work for the last campaign, the foundation would be there and we wouldn't have as much cost this time around. I quickly disabused him of that idea, explaining that the public wanted to see new and innovative ads that showed innovation in a product as well." He reached for a second carrot and ate that as well. Walking over to the liquor cabinet, he poured himself a shot of Beam and asked Justin, "Want anything?"

 

"Sure, pour me a glass of that wine we picked up last weekend." After placing a few artichoke hearts in their salad, Justin took out the cheese grater and grated some fresh feta.

 

"So did you convince him of his incorrect thinking?"

 

"Of course. I am the master." Brian took a drink of his whiskey and put the glass on the table in front of his seat. The microwave dinged and he grabbed the chicken, bringing the plates to the table.

 

Justin brought the salads, placing them on the table and then sat down.

 

"Did you finish painting your piece for the auction?" Brian asked as he cut the first piece of his chicken.

 

"Not yet. There is still something missing. I think it needs more blue. I picked up some blue cerulean while Gus was at practice. I think I'll add it tomorrow and see."

 

"So picking up Gus was not too disruptive?" Brian asked.

 

"Brian, we agreed on this. This is our son. I'm happy to pick up Gus."

 

"I know. I just don't want you to sacrifice your career."

 

"It's my career. Gus and Colin come first. They are more important than painting some picture."

 

"Justin, those pictures are an extension of you. I can't ask that you give that up for them."

 

Justin took a few bites of his salad before responding. "Brian, our family is my life. Do you remember me telling you what I told Lindsay years ago? I told her that my art wasn't my life, you were. That hasn't changed. Yes, I love painting and my art, but you and our family will always come first. The world has many great artists, but Colin and Gus only have two fathers. We need to be the best fathers. Besides, why should I look at taking time out to pick up Gus as intruding into my painting when you don't see doing the same as intruding into Kinnetik?"

 

"Point taken," Brian said, agreeing to Justin's statements. He still had misgivings, but he accepted Justin's statement. He loved that Justin was his family. "So when do I get to see this new masterpiece? After all, you are going to donate it and I might want to bid on it. I need a new piece for the conference room," Brian said as he smiled at his husband. He cut another piece of chicken and drank a sip of his whiskey.

 

"You know the rules; no looking until the piece is finished. That being said, I should finish it by the end of the week." Justin took a sip of wine, savoring the taste. "This wine is really good. I think we should buy some additional bottles."

 

Brian had finished his whiskey and held his hand out for Justin's goblet, signaling he would like a taste. He sipped the wine and nodded his head in agreement. "I'll pick some up when I'm over by the munchers tomorrow. The liquor store a few blocks from them carries the wine."

 

"So tomorrow, Gus doesn't have any activities so he will be going home, but the day after he has art lessons at the North Hills Art Center," Brian said as he looked at his phone. "That's near Kinnetik. I'll pick him up and take him there, then go back to work. Silly for you to come all the way into the city when it's just a few blocks away."

 

"Good. I knew we would be able to handle the after school stuff. Just takes a little effort and planning," Justin said as he finished his wine. "You have work tonight?"

 

"A little, but it can wait. Why don't we enjoy a little rendezvous ourselves before Colin decides he's hungry?"

 

Justin smiled at Brian's suggestion. "Let me load the dishwasher and then I'll join you," he said as he started to put his plate in the machine.

 

Brian walked to the machine and put his plate in. "The dirty dishes can wait. They'll be here when Colin wakes up," Brian said as he laid his hand on the middle of Justin's back.

 

Justin didn't argue and let Brian lead him to their bedroom where they enjoyed some bedroom escapades.

 

"I guess I better finish my work," Brian said as he lay on the bed while his heart recovered from their lovemaking. "I've got some changes to a few boards before the meeting with BJC tomorrow. While your painting can wait, my clients want to be presented with fabulous campaigns when they arrive." Brian got out of bed and walked to the bathroom for a wet cloth to clean them up and then dressed in lounge pants and a black Henley. He kissed Justin on the lips and said, "later".

 

"Later," Justin replied back, using their familiar and comforting address. They did not really use ‘pet' names for each other, excluding ‘Sunshine' for Justin, but the familiar ‘later' was a signal that they were each assuring the other partner that they would see each other in a little while.

 

Justin got out of bed and dressed in sweats and a long sleeve shirt. Deciding he didn't want to watch a movie, he pulled out his Surface and decided to check in on Facebook to see what was happening in the world. An hour or so later, Colin woke for his last bottle and then Justin put him down for the night. After putting him to bed, he went to Brian's home office, knocking before entering.

 

"Yeah," Brian said as he looked up from his computer.

 

Justin yawned as he walked toward his husband. "I'm going to bed. You going to be long?"

 

Brian glanced at the clock in the corner of the computer screen and realized it was almost midnight. "Colin get his last bottle?"

 

Justin nodded. "Just laid him down."

 

"Why didn't you come get me?"

 

"You were working and I was just playing on Facebook. I figured if I let you finish your work, you might be able to come to bed with me."

 

Brian smiled as he looked at the not so innocent smile on Justin's face. "So he's smart and good-looking," he teased. Brian looked at his screen and shook his head. "Sorry, I've still got some work to do on this board. I'll be there in a while. Most likely an hour or so."

 

Justin leaned down and kissed Brian softly on the mouth. "Okay. Night."

 

"Night," Brian said and turned back to his work, eager to finish it and join his husband.

 

The second time they had Gus in the afternoon went as smoothly as the first. Brian picked him up from school, took him to his art class and returned to Kinnetik for a few more hours of work. He took him to the Loft where Gus wanted Peanut Butter and Jelly for dinner and Brian agreed. He never understood the appeal of such a combination, but he remembered many of his friends eating it for lunch when he was in school. Justin did not join them for dinner as he had no reason to be in the city. Brian and Gus watched some cartoons before he returned him home for the evening.

 

"See you tomorrow, Sonny Boy," Brian said as he kissed his son on the forehead as they stood at the front door to his mother's house.

 

"Yep. Love you, Daddy," Gus said and he hugged and kissed Brian before entering the house.

 

Lindsay was standing at the door as Gus entered. "Thanks so much for the help, Brian. It's great that you volunteered to take him."

 

"Lindsay, he's my son. It's not like I'm doing this as a favor. I have a responsibility to him as well."

 

"Well," Lindsay started to answer, but then thought better of it. After all, having Brian pick up Gus was wonderful and it gave her and Melanie a huge break. She didn't want to jeopardize his generosity by saying the wrong thing. She just hoped he and Justin wouldn't get tired of the arrangement.

 

"See you tomorrow. Jennifer is going to pick him up from school and take him to his soccer game and we'll bring him home."

 

"Jennifer?"

 

"Yes. Justin and I both have meetings when Gus is finished with school, so she will pick him up, get his snack and take him to his game. We intend to be at the game and bring him home."

 

"Oh. That's great," she said, the lack of enthusiasm evident in her voice. "I hope to make it to the game, but I'm not sure. I have a hair appointment earlier. We are having a show this weekend and that was the only time I could get in to get my highlights done."

 

Brian inwardly seethed at her lack of sensitivity. Evidently, her vanity was more important than showing up for Gus' game. He was already seeing how unimportant Gus was in her life. He kept his anger in check. He did not want to let her see how disturbing her actions were in regards to their son. It was just one more feather in his hat to gaining full custody of their child. When your own mother places her hair appointments above your game, it says something about her feelings toward you.

 

"Okay. Well, I need to go. Justin and Colin are waiting." Brian turned and walked to the car.

 

It wasn't until the third week that havoc wrecked their perfectly coordinated world. They'd been able to follow their schedule for two weeks without a hitch and they prided themselves at how well organized their lives were. They'd managed to get Gus to every activity he was involved in as well as spend quality time with Colin and each other. Gus seemed to be enjoying life and no longer complained about watching his sister or not having time to play. Colin was thriving and he was really bonding with Gus.

 

Justin had set an alarm for 2:30 so he would know to stop painting and shower. The alarm went off, Justin put his brushes in the turpentine to clean them and he went down to shower. He changed into clean clothing, kissed Colin goodbye and went to his car. Driving into the city, he enjoyed the scenery of the bright colored leaves as they were beginning to show their fall colors. He couldn't wait till next year when he could bring Colin out to enjoy the pretty colors. At this point in time, he went outside but he still didn't appreciate the vibrant colors. As he was driving on the highway he noticed a slow down ahead of him. One mile from his exit the traffic stopped and no one was moving. He looked at the clock on the dashboard and realized that unless the traffic was moving within 10 minutes he would not make it to pick up Gus. He pushed the button on his steering wheel and heard the familiar electronic voice signaling a connection to his cell phone.

 

"Call mom," he directed.

 

"Calling mom mobile, home or work?" The voice asked.

 

"Mobile. 555-1234- add numbers or say call."

 

"Call," Justin said, impatient with the number of directives he had to go through to make the call.

 

"Hi Justin," Jennifer said as she answered the phone.

 

"Mom. I need you to do me a favor. I'm stuck in traffic. Must be an accident, but nothing is moving and I need to pick up Gus. I know you said you'd help and I didn't think it would be this soon, but could you go to the school to get him and take him to soccer practice."

 

"When do I need to be there?" Jennifer was opening her calendar as she was talking.

 

"About 30 minutes. Where are you? Are you close? If not, I can call someone else."

 

"Honey, I'm sorry but I'm clear across town; there is no way I'll make it in time."

 

Justin hit the seat beside him but remained calm. "No worries, Mom. I'll get someone else."

 

He hated to call Brian, but he knew Daphne had clients in the afternoon on Fridays. He repeated the sequence of calling Brian and he answered right away.

 

"Kinney," Brian answered. This response told Justin he was most likely in a presentation or on the phone with a customer. At least Brian had a rule that if Justin called he always answered the phone. He knew Justin did not interrupt his day unless necessary.

 

"I'm stuck on the highway - most likely an accident and Mom is on the other side of town. Gus needs to be picked up in 25 minutes."

 

"Okay. I'll take care of it. Later."

 

Brian turned to the people at the conference table. "Excuse the interruption, but I'll be back in a moment." He walked into the reception area and located Cynthia. "I know you are very busy, but please go pick up Gus from school and drop him off at soccer practice. You can come back here after dropping him off."

 

He didn't stay at her desk but returned to his meeting. He finished his presentation and the company, Extra Help signed a two-year contract. After handing over the delegates to the legal department, he returned to Cynthia's desk.

 

"You got Gus." It was a statement rather than a question.

 

"Sure, no problem. Glad to help."

 

"Good. I'm leaving in about thirty minutes. Anything that needs attention can be given to Ted or wait till Monday."

 

"Sure boss," Cynthia said and smiled when he turned his back.

 

Brian left the office 35 minutes later and arrived on time to pick up Gus. Justin was standing on the sidelines watching the end of practice.

 

Seeing Brian walk toward him, he smiled. "You're here."

 

"The power of your observational skills never ceases to amaze me,' Brian said, tongue in cheek.

 

"Thanks for coming. Stupid traffic."

 

"I told Lindsay that it isn't a favor. He's my son and I want to do this. "Thank You's" are for doing something above and beyond what you are expected. Now, do I have to spank you so you'll remember that lesson?" Brian teased.

 

"I think I'll remember, but if you want to spank me I won't turn you down." Justin eyed his partner with elevator eyes and smiled mischievously.

 

"Save those thoughts for later. It appears our son is finished and we need to get him clean and fed before taking him to Britin."

 

Gus came off the field and started to hug Brian.

 

"Gus," Brian said as he stepped back from the sweaty child. "Armani.... After your shower."

 

Gus laughed and picked up the soccer ball he had dropped. "Sure Dad." He thought for a minute and then looked between his two fathers. "Wait a minute. Why are you here, Dad? Wasn't Justin supposed to pick me up today? Ms. Cynthia said he got caught in traffic so she got me from school."

 

"Justin did get caught in traffic, but I wasn't sure he would be able to make it on time, so I came to be sure someone was here to pick you up. I didn't want you left here alone."

 

Gus broke out in a huge grin. "Thanks, dad. Sometimes mom or momma would run late and coach would have to wait for them to get here. I like it when I don't have to wait."

 

Brian and Justin both cringed at the information Gus shared but neither man spoke. They did not want to undermine the relationship Gus had with his moms; they were just not happy with the arrangement. He should never have to worry if someone would be there to pick him up.

 

"Okay, guys. It's Friday and you are spending the weekend with us, so let's gather your gear and head home. You need a shower and Colin wants his big brother to sing to him," Brian said as he grabbed his car keys out of his pocket. "Justin, why don't you take Gus since your car is already a trash heap from carting your supplies," he teased.

 

"Sure. We'll meet you at home." Justin helped Gus gather his school backpack and his sport bag and walk them to the car. Gus got in the car and they started toward Britin.

 

"That was really cool that Dad showed up. The moms are always so frazzled. They argue all the time when one of them can't pick me up cuz they got tied up at work. It's like I'm a bother."

 

"You aren't a bother, Gus. Your dad and I want to be there for you." Justin signaled and turned onto the highway.

 

"Have things gotten any better at home?"

 

"Better?"

 

"Are you still expected to watch JR when you're not with us?"

 

"Oh, that. We'll yeah. You would think that since the moms aren't taking me so many places they would have more time to get their stuff done. But it seems they don't have any more time then when they weren't taking me."

 

Justin sighed and wondered if he should respond, but before he could Gus continued, "You still think Dad can convince them to let me live with you? I'd really like that. Today was so cool when both of you showed up. That would never happen with the moms."

 

"I hope so. But we can't worry about that right now. What do you want to do this weekend?"

 

"Can we go to the movies?"

 

"Well, either your Dad or I could take you. Colin is too young to take."

 

"Oh yeah. Well. That would be okay. Maybe one of you could take me to see The Secret Life of Pets."

 

"I'll talk to your dad. For tonight, you need to shower and then we'll eat and play with Colin. He misses you."

 

"Really," Gus said, the enthusiasm evident in his voice. "How do you know? He can't talk."

 

"No, he can't. But whenever we walk by your room, he seems to turn his head towards the door. I think he's looking for you."

 

"That is so cool. I'm so glad you guys had a baby. Now I've got a brother and brothers are cool."

 

"We're happy too and you are a great big brother. We're just about home. Go shower and then you can help me make dinner, if you want."

 

"Great. Can we have spaghetti and meatballs? Tommy showed me this cool trick you can do with the noodles and I want to show you guys."

 

Justin shook his head, "I don't think your dad would appreciate any tricks with food, but we can still have spaghetti."

 

Justin parked the car and helped Gus carry in his gear and backpack. Gus went up to take a shower and Justin went to the kitchen to gather the supplies for dinner.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

It had been two weeks and the arrangement with Gus seemed to be going well. There were a few hiccups when bad traffic or last minute deadlines occurred, but overall the men at Britin were handling their sons. Lindsay and Melanie didn't seem to mind the extra time in their day and when Brian came to their home after the third week, Lindsay had Gus' schedule written out and provided it to Brian without a word. Brian smiled as his plan appeared to be progressing just as he anticipated. Soon, he would start to suggest Gus just stay over as it was easier for everyone involved to just have him sleep at their home. Brian was not ready to push his plan just yet, so he took the proffered paper, smiled and told Gus he would see him tomorrow.

 

As Brian was driving back to Britin, his phone rang. Pushing the button on his steering wheel to answer it, he looked at the caller ID.

 

"Hi Mikey," he said as he continued to drive on the highway.

 

"Brian. I can't believe you answered your phone. I've been trying to reach you for a week."

 

"Busy, busy, Mikey. Is there something you need?" Brian was already tired of the conversation and just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Whenever Michael started a conversation with, "I've been trying to reach you. Where have you been? Or are you ignoring me, you never pick up your phone?" Brian knew Michael was unhappy and the conversation would focus on Michael.

 

Michael had been very against Brian and Justin having Colin. Michael was still convinced that Colin was solely Justin's idea and that Brian had no interest in raising a child. He had tried to talk Brian out of the idea and never failed to provide a dig regarding the time it was taking out of Brian's life. True to form, Michael's life still revolved around Michael and he had difficulty seeing other people's lives as important. When it came to Brian Kinney, everything that Brian did, Michael viewed in relation to himself. Having Colin was the ultimate in bad decisions from Michael's standpoint since Colin took up lots of Brian's time.

 

"We haven't hung out in forever. I thought we could go to Woody's tonight and shoot some pool." Michael sat in his living room in his favorite Lazy Boy, his laptop on his lap as he surfed Ebay for any deals on collectibles.

 

"No can do, Mikey. I've got some work I need to finish." Brian read the sign for West Virginia on the highway and mentally calculated that he had 15 minutes until he came to his exit.

 

"It's Sunday. You had all weekend to work. I bet you just spent all your time with the baby. Why don't you have Justin watch him while you work? If Justin watched the baby you would have more free time and we could go out," Michael said, his suggestion making perfectly good sense to him. After all, Brian was his best friend and best friends took the time to spend time together.

 

"Colin is our son. We do things together. And we have Gus on the weekends. The four of us are busy." Brian thought about all the things they did accomplish this weekend. They had taken Gus shopping for new cleats, gone to his game and both he and Justin had done a little work as well. They even managed to have sex. Sex had never been a problem in their relationship, but now it took a little more planning. They could no longer look across the room and decide to have sex at a moment's notice. Colin was too young to be left alone and while Gus could fend for himself, they did not want to drop everything for sex when he was there. Their sex life had curtailed a lot since Colin had been born, but it was a sacrifice they were willing to make and one that they had anticipated.

 

"Well, tomorrow's Monday. You won't have Gus so why don't we plan on getting together at Woody's and play some pool." Michael reached for the can of Pepsi on the end table and took several swallows, enjoying the sweet fizzy drink.

 

"I will have Gus tomorrow."

 

"What? Since when do you have Gus during the week?" Michael was surprised. "What is wrong that you have Gus? I should call Mel and Linds and make sure JR is okay."

 

"Nothing is wrong. Linds and Mel are really busy so we are taking Gus after school." Brian hated having to explain his life to anyone; it wasn't their business. He had chosen to have Gus in his life and had offered to take care of him after school. He didn't like that Gus was missing out on his childhood since Mel and Linds were using him as a babysitter when they were too busy to watch JR. He also wanted to spend more time with his son, accepting that he missed out on many things when he wasn't involved in his life when he was an infant.

 

"Oh," Michael said, relief in his voice. While he loved his daughter, he really did not want to be more involved than he was. He was sure that he would step up and take JR if something were wrong with Mel and Linds but he did not relish that idea. He loved JR but couldn't imagine spending every weekend with her much less seeing her during the week. He took another drink of his soda, realizing that it was empty. He went to the kitchen to grab another one and then returned to his chair. "So, how long is that going to last? I mean you have to have some free time. We haven't hung out in weeks."

 

"About 18 years."

 

"18 years. You can't be serious Brian. I need to see my best friend." Michael was quickly getting perturbed at Brian. Brian was treating this whole conversation way too lightly.

 

"You can come to the house, if you want. We could have dinner. Make it about 8:30 or so. I've usually returned Gus to his moms by then and Colin is sleeping for a few hours at that time of night. That would work."

 

"I don't want to come to your house. I want to spend time with just you and shoot some pool, check out some hot guys and have a few beers."

 

"No can do, Mikey. Come to the house or I guess you wait 18 years to see me. We see you at least once a month at Deb's Sunday dinners. That will have to do for now."

 

"But, Brian......"

 

"No buts, Mikey. I'm no longer the Stud of Liberty Avenue. I'm Brian Kinney, husband to Justin and father to Gus and Colin. I'm also the owner of Kinnetik and Babylon. All of these keep me really busy. If you don't like what I can offer, I suggest you find another best friend. I'm pulling into the driveway now, so I have to go. Bye Mikey." Brian clicked off the phone and ignored it when caller ID showed him that Michael was calling back. He placed his phone on vibrate and went inside.

 

Justin greeted him with a kiss as he held Colin in one arm. Colin looked toward Brian and made a cooing sound, recognizing the man as someone important in his life. "See Colin says hello too. According to the baby books, children start to talk at about 18 months and then by age two can put two and four word sentences together."

 

"Thank you Dr. Spock," Brian said tongue in cheek.

 

"What does Star Trek have to do with Colin talking?" Justin said, confusion in his voice. He kissed Colin and handed him to Brian. Brian took the baby and kissed him on his forehead.

 

"Your daddy, Justin doesn't know about the famous Dr. Spock. He was a Pediatrician that wrote a famous book about parenting," Brian said as he explained the reference to Colin. Colin just giggles at Brian's silly tone.

 

"You know about Dr. Spock? I'm impressed."

 

"I know a great many things. I just do not go around providing the public with random bits of information," Brian said, smiling as he looked at his husband. "As for talking, if Colin is like you, I will never get a chance to say anything in this household. It's hard enough with you and Gus."

 

Justin looked at Brian, determining that he was teasing and he went to the fridge to grab a bottle of water. "Want one?" He asked Brian.

 

Brian walked to the living area and placed Colin on his play blanket. He set him up with a few toys. Instead of sitting down, he went to the liquor cart and poured a few ounces of JB in his glass. "I want a shot of JB. Mikey called on my way home."

 

Mention of Michael, Brian's so called ‘best friend' usually brought the hairs on Justin's neck to a stand. He had always had a precarious relationship with the man and for a time he thought that they could be friends. But through the years, he realized that Michael really had room for one friend and that was Brian. Unfortunately for all of them, Michael's idea of friendship hadn't changed since they were 14.

 

"So, what did Michael want?"

 

"To hang out." Brian took a drink from his glass and enjoyed the slight burn as the liquor traveled down his throat. There was a time when he would have had several shots in response to the irritation of a phone call, but he had matured through the years and didn't need alcohol to deal with his problems.

 

"If you want to hang out ....."

 

"No, Justin. I do not want to hang out. I have a family and I do not want to go to Woody's to shoot some pool, watch guys and have a beer. I invited him here to spend time with me, but I made it clear that he would have to come after 8:30 and could only stay a few hours. Of course, he declined."

 

"Are you sure? I mean, you've been friends..."

 

"Stop. I only do the things I want to do. Haven't you learned that by now? I told him that I'm not the Stud of Liberty Avenue anymore."

 

"You're still a stud to me. Colin will be ready for bed in about half an hour. What do you say to showing me how stud-ly you are?"

 

"Sounds like a plan. Why don't I play with Colin and get him ready for bed? I know you said you had some work to do and I doubt you've had any time this weekend to accomplish it."

 

"Actually, I do have a few emails I need to send about the upcoming show and I need to check my paint supply. I'm going into town tomorrow to pick up Gus and I want to run by the paint store. Why don't you call me when you're ready to put him down? We can sing him his song together."

 

"Deal. Now go take care of stuff and no picking up the paint brushes. I have dibs on your sweet bubble butt."

 

 

Michael

 

Michael looked at the phone when Brian hung up for the second time. He was perplexed at his friend. Brian hung up on me twice. There must be something wrong. After all, he said he'd been watching Gus for a few weeks after school. Brian really wasn't the fatherly type. I better call Linds and Mel and find out the real truth.

 

Before he could make the call, Ben came home. "Hey. You looked worried. Everything okay? Deb okay? JR isn't sick again. That cold she had last month seemed to last forever," he said as he walked over to Michael and leaned down to kiss him.

 

"I'm not sure; something seems off."

 

Ben hung up his grey jacket on the coat tree and sat down on the couch, facing his husband. "I'm listening," Ben said, when Michael didn't start talking right away.

 

"I just got off the phone with Brian and the phone disconnected. So I called him back and it disconnected again."

 

"Michael, signals in cars are notorious for dropping calls. If that is all you're worried about, give Brian a call back. I'm sure he'll talk to you."

 

Ben watched Michael and he realized that he wasn't telling him everything. Michael could not hide his emotions and when he was only telling a portion of the truth, he made this distinct grimace with his mouth. The grimace was there, so Ben pushed a little harder.

 

"What were you guys talking about? I know you've been trying to reach him for over a week."

 

"Yeah. I wanted to get together, you know go to Woody's for a beer and some pool, but Brian turned me down."

 

"Maybe he was busy. He is a very busy man; he's got a husband and two kids and two businesses. I doubt he has a lot of free time."

 

"That's what he said. I mean... well he said he was busy."

 

"Okay, Michael. I don't want to play 20 questions with you. You said you thought something might be wrong. Brian being busy is not new and the lost connection can be easily explained. So what has you so concerned?"

 

"Well. He said that he is taking care of Gus after school because the girls are busy. Do you think JR is okay? Do we need to call Mel and Linds and find out? I don't think anything is wrong, but why would he be watching Gus if everything was fine."

 

Ben nodded his head as he listened to Michael. "You think there is something wrong?"

 

"No. .... Well. Yes. Maybe. I don't know. Why would Brian have Gus so much if everything was okay? Mel and Linds are his parents, not Brian. Why would he have Gus?"

 

"Gus is his son, Michael. I imagine that he wants to spend more time with him. Now that he has Colin, he probably is realizing how quickly kids grow up. He wasn't around a lot when Gus was younger and now maybe he wants to be."

 

"But Gus lives with Mel and Linds. Brian is just a part time dad, if that. Why would he want Gus around so much? He is so busy now and doesn't have time to do fun stuff anymore."

 

Ben listened to his partner and finally understood the crux of the issue. It wasn't that he was worried about JR, but that he wanted time with Brian.

 

"Michael, maybe you could hang out with him at his home?" Ben offered, hoping that would placate his husband.

 

"Brian said I could come over one night and hang out after the kid went to bed. But that isn't hanging out. I want to play pool and drink a few beers. The last time I was there, Justin kept telling me to talk softer so I wouldn't wake the kid."

 

"So you're only wanting to hang out if you can go with Brian where you want to go?" Ben asked, getting perturbed as the conversation continued. He loved his husband but he was tired of trying to get him to understand that Brian had a life away from him.

 

"Hanging out means being at Woody's or Babylon."

 

"I see. Well. I think you are going to wait a long time to hang out with Brian. From where I sit, he has other commitments that come first."

 

"That's what he said. He said I'd have to wait 18 years. That isn't fair. I have a mind to go over there right now and tell him he can't treat his best friend like that."

 

Ben reached out his hand, placing it over Michael's and giving it a gently squeeze. "I know you want your friend Brian to hang out with you and I understand that you miss the old times when you guys would spend many a night at your favorite hang outs. However, Michael, that time is gone. Brian is no longer the Stud of Liberty Avenue. He is Brian Kinney -Taylor and his first commitments are to Justin and his kids. You have been moved to 3rd place in his life."

 

"But I'm his best friend. He can't do that."

 

"He is still your friend, Michael but he has other priorities. The sooner you accept that, the better you can adapt to this new friendship. If you keep expecting Brian to still be The Stud of Liberty Avenue, you will continually be disappointed."

 

Ben's phone beeped, interrupting his thoughts. He took it out of his pocket and looked at the message. It was from Hunter telling him that he would be home in an hour.

 

"Hunter will be here in an hour. I can think of better things for us to do than rehash your conversation with Brian. Care to join me?" Ben stood up and walked toward the bedroom, hoping Michael would join him.

 

A few minutes later they were undressed and enjoying a quickie.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Gus loved his time with his fathers and he felt wanted and cherished. He knew that if he had an afternoon activity, one of his dads or Grandma Jenn would pick him up and take him there. Sometimes Ms. Cynthia would show up. He liked Ms. Cynthia, she always took him to the dollar store when he finished his activity so he could buy a new coloring book.

 

It was the end of the week and he'd been at his Dads' house every night but one. It was the end of soccer season next week and he was dreading it. He loved soccer, but more than soccer, he enjoyed going to his Dads' house on a regular basis. He still had an art class and the occasional after-school playdate, but the bi-weekly soccer practice and games were going to end and he wasn't happy.

 

Justin picked him up from school that day and he was very quiet. His soccer practice was a little later today due to the field being used for another team so Justin parked the car at the edge of the lot to wait.

 

"Hey, big guy. You're awfully quiet today. Anything happen at school?"

 

"No, school is fine. I really liked my art class. My teacher says that I have an eye for color."

 

Justin smiled, happy that his tutelage was paying off. "I think she is right. You always come up with the most interesting color combinations and know just the right color to put on a canvas when you paint with me."

 

Gus smiled at the compliment but then looked out the window at the other teams practicing.

 

"Gus..." Justin said, the question obvious in his words.

 

"I don't want soccer to end," Gus said.

 

"It's been a good season. Dad and I can sign you up for soccer camp this summer so you can practice. You'll see, you will have even more skills for next season," Justin said, attempting to reassure his son.

 

"But that is this summer."

 

"It's only a few months away."

 

Justin looked at his son and he saw tears escape, as Gus tried to wipe away the evidence of his emotions.

 

"Gus?"

 

"You and Dad won't be picking me up from school and I have to go home if there isn't any practice."

 

Justin listened and understood. Gus wasn't upset about soccer; he was upset about not spending time with his dads and Colin.

 

"You like spending time with us after school."

 

"Yeah. I hate going home on days that I don't have stuff. Mom makes you a schedule every week and I saw her making the schedule yesterday. I heard her telling Momma that they had to figure out something to do with me since there wasn't any more soccer. Momma said a bad word and then she was cranky all night. She kept slamming stuff on her desk and muttering under her breath."

 

Justin was furious. He didn't want to denigrate Gus' moms but it appeared that they were angry because they had to take responsibility for him and that it was an inconvenience. He and Brian would have to talk and come up with a solution.

 

"Gus. Don't worry. We'll figure something out. I need some help in my studio next week. Next week, I can pick you up after school and you can help me with my new project."

 

Gus beamed at Justin. "Really? You think mom and momma will let me come?"

 

"Sure they will. If I tell them you are going to help me out in the studio, then I'm sure they won't argue."

 

"Awesome." Gus leaned over and gave Justin a big hug.

 

Justin looked at the field and saw the other teams were dispersing. He started the car and drove to the field, dropped Gus off and watched him join his teammates for their last practice. His mind wandered and started thinking of any projects that Gus could assist him with at the studio or at home.

 

It was 5:00 and Brian had told him he would meet them at the loft this evening. He took a few deep breaths to lessen the tension in his body before he called his husband.

 

"Hey," Brian answered. "I'll be there in about 10 minutes. What kid-friendly dinner have you and Gus cooked up for us tonight? Don't tell me it is Mac and Cheese. I don't think I could stomach looking at that again for a month. How could that be a childhood staple, I have no idea. The stuff is disgusting." Brian made a grimace as he thought of all the carbs that he consumed when eating with his son. He wasn't surprised that children had an obesity problem if his son's eating habits were any indication. He laughed at his thoughts. He was sounding like Justin with his usual PSA's.

 

"Oh. I don't know but each time you eat Mac and Cheese, you feel that we need to have an extra session of sex to help you burn off the calories. I think I like when we eat Mac and Cheese for dinner." Justin grinned as he talked to his husband, secretly agreeing that Mac and Cheese was not his favorite dinner food. He preferred burgers and fries, but there was something about home-made fries that never tasted as good as the kind you got in a restaurant. He liked his fries from the diner and so did Brian, even though Brian would never admit to eating them. He always just stole them from Justin's plate and laughed when Gus would question him about the action.

 

"Actually, I called for another reason. I was talking to Gus and he is really upset."

 

"What the fuck did his mothers do now?"

 

"They didn't exactly do anything, more of what they said. He overheard them talking yesterday when Lindsay was making the schedule for next week. This is the last week of soccer practice and he heard them complaining about what they were going to do with him now that we aren't going to be picking him up as often."

 

Brian pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head in amazement at the situation. "Fuck!"

 

"Yeah, it is fucked. Really, why did they have children if they weren't willing to take the time to spend with them? Babies are adorable, but they grow up and you still have to parent them." Justin was just as frustrated with the situation as Brian and Gus. "I wish we could just go in and tell them we would take Gus full time so they don't have to ‘deal' with him."

 

"We can do just that," Brian said softly. He'd been waiting for soccer season to be over to implement his next phase of the plan and the girls fell right into step with his thoughts.

 

"What? We're just going to waltz into their house and tell them we are keeping Gus?"

 

Brian laughed at Justin's question and slight gullibility. "No, not exactly. But I think now may be a perfect time."

 

"Want to explain to me your thoughts, oh great and wonderful OZ?"

 

"Just leave it to me. When we take him home tonight, we will all go in and let me do the talking."

 

"Okay. Good thing I know you are a master at getting people to do what you want. That is why Kinnetik is so successful." Justin felt his body relax and the tension leave his shoulders as he was comforted by Brian's talk. "I love you. Are you on your way here?"

 

"Yeah. I think I'll meet you guys at the loft. I'm going to pick up some food on the way. I just don't want to stomach kid food another day. When we have Gus living with us full time, he's going to have to learn to eat less crap. I can only run so often on the treadmill and while I love our sex life, I don't want you to ‘suffer' from all the extra sex we would have to have if we continued to eat all that junk food."

 

Justin laughed. "Later."

 

"Later," Brian returned their favorite acknowledgment.

 

Justin got out of the car and walked to the field to watch the end of practice. Gus came up to him about 15 minutes later, sipping at his water bottle and holding his soccer ball under his arm.

 

"So, ready to go to the loft and shower? Your dad is bringing food for dinner. Seems he's not fond of more Mac and Cheese."

 

"Cool. Dad always has the best takeout. Not like the moms who eat all that Tofu stuff. It has a funny feeling in your mouth. Sort of like rubber and it really has no taste. Mom likes to use it instead of meat in her lasagna but Grandma Debbie's lasagna is way better."

 

Brian always complained about the meals at the munchers and Justin did have to agree with him. Tofu was not a food he would ever choose on his own. He thought it would be fun to cook with Gus and teach him to make a lot of good food. While he was a junk food addict, Brian had been rubbing off on him in the last few years regarding healthy eating. He wouldn't admit to it, but he really liked eating less junk food. He didn't think he would ever give up burgers and fries but he did see the advantage of a salad and veggies. He'd read that cooking was a great way to spend time with children. They would learn about healthy choices and it was easy to get them to open up while they were doing something else.

 

They drove to the loft and Gus took a shower and then started on his homework while they waited for Brian to arrive. When Brian arrived, the three of them went to the kitchen area. Justin got down some plates while Gus gathered silverware and napkins for everyone. He set the table and Brian got down glasses and filled them with water, bringing them to the table and placing them at each place setting.

 

Brian had brought burgers and fries for Gus and Justin and picked up a burger and a salad for himself. He placed each order at the correct place on the table.

 

Gus unwrapped his burger and put more ketchup on it, biting into the bun and moaning in appreciation of the taste. After swallowing he said, "Dad, Justin said I could help him in his studio next week on some projects. Is it okay that you guys continue to pick me up after school?"

 

Brian's heart twisted at the request. To an outsider, it sounded innocuous enough, but to him, he knew that the question was really a plea for continued interaction and protection from his tumultuous home life. Brian stabbed a few lettuce leaves and popped them into his mouth, ensuring that he was not ravenous when he bit into the tasty burger. "Sure. I might even have some things you could do at Kinnetik."

 

Gus' smile filled his entire face at the mention of helping his dad at Kinnetik. "Really? That would be so cool. I want to work at Kinnetik when I grow up." He took another bite of his burger and watched his fathers.

 

Justin ate a few French fries and poured more ketchup on his plate as the ketchup had run out. "I need all my brushes really cleaned and I'll teach you how to stretch canvas. We can look at some local contests too. I know you're really talented and I'd like to see you enter some."

 

"Cool."

 

Brian ate a few more bites of salad and then started enjoying his hamburger. When he had finished about half of it, he asked, "Do you have homework today? I want to get to your moms a little early. I have something I want to discuss with them."

 

"Are you going to ask them about next week? I'm sure they will say yes. I heard them talking about how they didn't know what they would do with me after soccer finished this week." Gus looked down at his plate, not really wanting to look into his Dad's face when he answered.

 

The look between Brian and Justin was filled with anguish for their son but also with a determination that they were going to do everything in their power to address it. "Hey, sonny boy, don't be sad. Justin and I are going to talk to your moms. Everything will work out, you will see."

 

"Brian..." Justin said, worried that they were giving Gus potentially false hope.

 

"It will be fine, Justin. Trust me. No child of mine will ever feel unwanted."

 

They finished the meal in silence, each person lost in their own thoughts. After dinner, Gus went to the little desk that Justin used to use to do his homework. Brian watched his son take out his math book from his backpack and turn to the correct page. He took a sheet of paper from his notebook and started to copy the problems. Justin watched and walked over to Brian.

 

"Remember when I use to use that desk to do my Calculus? It seems a lifetime ago."

 

"Back then, I didn't exactly appreciate your presence in my loft. How times have changed? Now, I can't imagine you not in my life." He hugged Justin from the side as they watched Gus complete his work. "Don't you have some laundry to do? I can smell Gus' uniform from this afternoon," Brian said as he changed the subject.

 

Justin laughed, still finding it amusing that Brian occasionally had difficulty sharing his feelings. Gone were the days when Brian would keep him guessing regarding his feelings, and he was happy that their relationship was on solid ground. They were married, had a child and if Brian was correct in his assumption, were soon to have Gus with them as well. He would never have dreamed that 10 years ago when he met Brian under that street lamp he would be here.

 

When Gus finished his homework, he closed his books and put them in his backpack. "Daddy, I'm done. Can we play a card game or watch a show?"

 

"Not tonight. We're going to go to your moms and I'm going to talk to them. Go grab your stuff and we'll get going. Justin has to go home to take care of Colin." Brian went to Justin, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. He whispered in his ear, "It will be fine. I'll see you later. I probably won't be home in time to help with Colin's bedtime, but tomorrow I should be able to."

 

Justin nodded and walked over to Gus. "I'll give Colin a big hug and kiss for you. You listen to Daddy and let him talk to your mommies."

 

"Okay." Gus gave Justin a big hug and grabbed his backpack. "Ready, Daddy."

 

All three left the loft; Brian and Gus headed toward the munchers and Justin toward West Virginia.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian and Gus got into Brian's car and drove to Mel and Lindsay's.

 

"So, Justin tells me you are worried about soccer season ending."

 

"Yeah. Mom and Momma were arguing about what to do with me. Dad, I wish I could live with you and Justin. You never argue about me."

 

"Well, I'm going to see what I can do about that," Brian said. He didn't want to tell Gus that he was definitely going to be staying with them all the time, but this ping pong shit had to stop. "Why don't you go up to your room when we get to your moms' house and I'll go to talk to them."

 

"Really? You going to tell them I should live with you and Justin?" Gus was practically bouncing in his seat.

 

"I have some ideas about how to get them to say yes, but it will be better if you go upstairs and they don't have any idea what I'm going to say." Brian didn't want Gus to hear his accusations against his mothers. While he was very angry about the way they treated his son, they were still his mothers and he wanted to preserve that relationship.

 

"Okay. I want to play with master Yoda and Luke Skywalker when I get home. I forgot to bring them today."

 

They arrived at the house a few minutes later and Brian rang the bell. He had a key to their place for emergencies, but unlike Lindsay who felt that she could walk into the loft at any time she pleased, he chose to ring the bell. Lindsay had walked in on him and Justin a few times and she appeared to be very indignant about finding them actively engaged in sexual activities. The last time she tried to chastise Brian by asking what would Gus think if he walked in on them. Brian turned the conversation around by pointing out that she was the one using a key without knocking, therefore she was the intruder. While he didn't need to give her any more information, he also explained that when Gus was there, they kept their activities in the bedroom- not that it was any of her business. She didn't want Brian to have the final word, even though she realized that he had a point regarding her entering their home unannounced, but stopped when Brian stated he wouldn't do anything to harm Gus.

 

Lindsay greeted Gus and Brian. She bent down to kiss her son and said, "Gus, go upstairs and take a bath and do your homework." Lindsay didn't even stop to look at him, seeing that he was no longer in his soccer uniform.

 

He stiffened from her embrace, hurt that she immediately started giving him things to do rather than asking about his day. "I don't need a bath; I took a shower after soccer at Daddy's loft and then I did my homework too."

 

"Oh," Lindsay said in response. Brian was not really surprised that she didn't realize that he had Gus taken a shower and completed his homework before he was returned to their home. If he didn't do either of these, Gus would be dirty and it would be quite late for him to get to bed. This way, he was clean and had a little time to play before he needed to go to sleep. Just this comment made Brian realize how little the munchers were attuned to their son.

 

"Sonny Boy, why don't you go upstairs and play for a bit. I'm here a little early so I'll be up in a little while to read you your story."

 

"Sure Dad." Gus bounded up the stairs and Lindsay watched in awe.

 

"We have to fight with him to do that stuff. How do you do it?"

 

"He never fights with me and Justin."

 

Lindsay looked at Brian, not believing that he was able to get Gus to do what he needed to do but unwilling to argue.

 

"Soccer season is ending this weekend," Brian said as he moved to the living room and sat on the couch. He wanted to be out of ear-shot of Gus and he knew if he didn't move to the living room area, Lindsay would continue to talk to him at the foot of the stairs.

 

Lindsay sat down and curled her feet under her. She curled a blond hair behind her ear as she looked at Brian. "Yes. It's been such a help with you and Justin picking him up after school. Now we have to figure out what to do with him."

 

Brian took several deep breaths, not wanting to start an argument. He really wanted to yell at Lindsay and tell her Gus was not a puppy that had to be dealt with, but a little boy who wanted his parent's attention and wanted to know he was a part of the family.

 

"Justin and I have really enjoyed spending time with him after school. We love seeing him most nights and helping with his homework or just playing with him."

 

"He loves his time with you guys too."

 

"We'd be open to having him after school all the time."

 

"That would be so helpful." Lindsay nodded her head in agreement, a large smile on her face. She was hoping that Brian would offer to continue picking Gus up several days a week. "With our schedules, it is just so difficult to be here in the afternoon and early evening. He needs someone to help with his homework and to play with and we are just so busy," Lindsay said, trying to justify her position. Gus wanted to do so many after-school activities and both of them were at a critical point in their careers. As a business owner, she knew Brian understood how business had to come first, even if that meant sacrificing time with your child.

 

"I know you two are very busy. You have your job at the Gallery and Mel is a partner now." Brian recognized Lindsay's excuses for their behavior. He was fuming inside but continued to play the amicable dad. He really didn't want to let Lindsay know his true feelings. If she had an inkling of his plans to have Gus full time, she would stop her ‘woah is me' pity party. Gus was her link to Brian and he understood that she had manipulated him into donating his sperm so she would have his child. Unfortunately for Gus, Lindsay hadn't really thought about the true commitment of parenting. Now that Gus was older and needed even more attention, she was finding it to be more time consuming than she wanted. Her career was important and it was evident to Brian that both women really liked the idea of parenthood more than the reality.

 

"Yes. They are tough jobs and take a lot of time. I'm so glad you understand, Brian." Lindsay smiled, so happy that Brian was agreeing with her. She had always wanted him to be a part of Gus' life. Her fantasy of the nuclear family, Brian, Lindsay and Gus would never happen, but if Brian would take a bigger role in Gus's life, then she could move up in her job and Brian would be roped into caring for Gus.

 

"Why don't we just pick up Gus every day after school?"

 

"Oh, that would be a lot of help. J.R. is at the sitters until 6:00 and then she comes home, eats, takes a bath and goes to bed. Mel and I are so tired from our jobs we just don't have time to do a lot with either kid." Lindsay touched Brian on the forearm and squeezed, showing her appreciation.

 

"You know, Gus has a room at Britin. It's silly for us to bring him here at night just so he can sleep. Since we're going to have him after school, why don't we just have him sleep there too? It would so much less stress on you and Mel. You could take care of J.R. and work, and wouldn't need to worry about Gus."

 

Lindsay was tired and Brian made this solution sound so enticing. "You wouldn't mind? I mean... Mel and I were just talking the other day that it seems really silly for you to drop him off just so he can sleep here."

 

"Exactly. So we will pick him up tomorrow."

 

"Okay."

 

"I'm going to go up and read Sonny Boy a story."

 

"Thanks, Brian. This is such a big help."

 

"Any time. Anything to help." Brian bounded up the stairs and knocked on Gus's door.

 

Gus was ready for bed, pajamas on and teeth brushed.

 

"So did you talk to her, Daddy? Can I come to your house after school?" Gus hopped on his bed and grabbed a book from his nightstand for Brian to read.

 

"Yep, you can come by tomorrow. In fact, you can spend the night too and Justin will take you to school in the morning."

 

"Really. I'll get to spend the night in the middle of the week. So cool, Dad."

 

Brian reached out and gave his son a big hug and whispered to him, "Now, your mom said you can stay with Justin and me instead of coming home every night. But your momma doesn't know this arrangement. It's our secret for now. Justin and I will go buy you some pajamas and a toothbrush."

 

"Why can't I take my pajamas and toothbrush?" Gus asked as he looked at his father with a question on his face.

 

"It's complicated, but here's the deal. Your mom said you can stay with us in the afternoon and it is silly for us to bring you home just to sleep; so she said you could sleep at our house too."

 

Gus was bouncing with excitement and he started to yell, but Brian put his finger over his lips to silence his son. "What's complicated? I'm going to be with you and Justin and I don't have to watch JR when the moms are busy."

 

Brian wasn't ready for this in-depth conversation yet and he didn't want anyone to realize what he got Lindsay to agree to. "Gus, your mom still thinks you are living here. She thinks you are going to be picked up by us after school and then spend the night with us since its silly for you to be brought back to sleep. She just hasn't figured out that this means that you aren't here."

 

Gus looked at his father and frowned. "How come she doesn't get that if I stay with you at night and you pick me up after school, I'm not here?"

 

Brian did not want to tell Gus that his mother was so concerned with her career and making excuses for Melanie that she didn't realize what she agreed to. He never wanted his son to feel that he was unimportant and did not come first. "She is really tired tonight and has a couple of big projects at work that are keeping her busy."

 

Gus thought for a minute and then frowned. "So when she gets those done, she'll be picking me up again?" Gus looked at his father's eyes, imploring him to watch over him and take care of him, not leave him to his mother's whims.

 

"No. Your mother and momma are very busy with their work. I'm sure that when this project ends, there will be another one to take its place." Brian glanced at the Mickey Mouse clock on the desk and realized he needed to get home. He had a spouse to talk to and a little boy to kiss goodnight. "Gus, don't worry about it. Justin or I will pick you up after school tomorrow and we'll go shopping for some PJ's and toothbrush. Why don't you pack your Yoda and Luke in your backpack?"

 

Gus looked at all his toys in his room. "Daddy, how am I going to get my stuff? If I don't sleep here, I can't bring my toys to your house."

 

Brian hadn't thought about Gus' toys. He was attached to many of them and he had a set rotation of what he brought to Britin. He didn't want to make a big production of coming in the muncher's house and taking Gus' stuff. It would raise too many red flags. He wanted Lindsay and Melanie to enjoy their busy lives without thinking about Gus. Coming over to gather his toys and clothes would alert them to his intentions.

 

"We'll come by this weekend and get some stuff. We'll tell your moms you need it for the weekend. They are used to you being with Justin and me during the weekend. We can come over for a few weeks and take more of your stuff with us each time. Just stuff your backpack."

 

"But what about my clothes?"

 

Brian cringed. "We'll buy you new clothes. You do not need to look like your clothes were bought at the Gap and Big Q. You're 10 now and can start dressing in nicer things." He knew Justin would fight him on the clothes thing. Justin was always telling Brian that Gus was a little boy and he should be allowed to run and play in the dirt. While Justin did not play outside much as a child, he appreciated that Gus was all boy and loved climbing and playing in the dirt. His clothes were always getting holes in them or had permanent stains from his rough play.

 

"Gus, I need to read your story and you need to go to sleep. I'll see you tomorrow and we can talk more then. I love you." He kissed the little boy and opened the book to read him the story. After a few pages, Gus couldn't keep his eyes open. Brian pulled up the covers and put the book back on the nightstand. He shut off the light and walked downstairs.

 

Lindsay was sitting on the couch reading a magazine and looked up when she heard Brian.

 

"That was a long story. Everything okay?"

 

"Yes, everything is fine. I'll pick up Gus tomorrow and we'll keep him overnight and take him to school." Brian stated the facts, not leaving any doubt that this was how things were going to proceed.

 

"Sure. We appreciate it so much, Brian. Our jobs don't leave a lot of leisure time." Lindsay leaned over and gave Brian a kiss on the cheek as they walked to the door.

 

As soon as Brian walked to the car, a huge smile found its way to his face. "That was even easier than I thought, but Gus has a point about his stuff," he said out loud as he turned the key in the ignition. He pulled the car into the street and drove to Britin.

 

Justin was on the couch in the media room when Brian arrived home. He was reading an Art Forum magazine and looked up as Brian walked in the room. He smiled at his spouse and watched him go to the drink cart to make himself a shot of Beam. Brian motioned to Justin to see if he wanted anything and Justin nodded yes. He fixed Justin a shot and brought it over to his partner.

 

"You okay?"

 

"Yeah. I wonder if I ever really knew Lindsay," Brian said as he took a drink from his glass. He looked into the glass, watching the amber liquid slosh in its confines. He knew there were no answers in the glass, but he still looked down.

 

Justin waited for Brian to continue. His mind filled with at least a dozen retorts to his comment, but he would wait. He took a drink from his tumbler and laid down the magazine, placing it on the coffee table. He glanced at the baby monitor sitting next to the stack of magazines and saw Colin was sound asleep. The monitor showed the time as well and he calculated they had about an hour before he would wake for his last meal.

 

"Oh Brian, I want you to be the father of our child. You have such great genes. Oh Brian, don't you want to say hi to your son? Your son hasn't seen you for a while, don't you want to come for dinner? Blah blah blah." Brian said as he raised his voice in a bit of a falsetto.

 

Brian tipped his glass and finished all the liquor in one swallow. He got up to fix another glass, but left the tumbler on the liquor cart and went to the window to look out at the grounds. He turned toward Justin and asked, "Tell me, Justin, do people really think children stay babies forever? Don't they realize that babies grow up and you have to make room in your life for them? Is this such a hard concept?" Brian returned to the couch and ran his hand through his hair several times and looked at Justin, finally acknowledging he was ready to have a conversation.

 

"I don't know Brian. I know we talked about Colin a lot while Cynthia was pregnant. We discussed how our lives were going to change and how we might not be able to do all the things we were currently doing."

 

"Exactly," Brian said as he nodded in agreement.

 

"But we still had to make adjustments. Remember, before we hired Chloe? We barely saw each other and were exhausted. I didn't have time to paint and sex was certainly on the back burner." Justin frowned as he remembered that difficult time. While both men knew intellectually that their lives would change when the baby arrived, the reality of the interruptions in their daily life was still surprising.

 

"It was stressful, but we talked about it and figured out a solution. We knew our priorities. We didn't want to sacrifice any of the important parts of our lives. Our marriage was just as important as our careers and our family. Hiring Chloe to take care of Colin was a perfect solution. We could dedicate the days to our careers and the evenings and weekends were for family. Sure, our sex life isn't what it used to be and we can't just have a quickie in the kitchen when the children are awake, but that is a small price to pay for our children." Brian said. The last sentence was in reference to the many times Lindsay and Michael attempted to push the sex issue in Brian's face. They still saw Brian as the stud of Liberty Avenue; the man who had sex on his mind 24/7, not the husband and father who, for the most part, relegated sex to the bedroom behind closed doors.

 

Brian wanted a drink, but he had learned that alcohol was not the solution to life's problems. He wasn't trying to drown his problems, but he wanted something to do with his hands. Walking into the kitchen, he grabbed a bottle of water, twisting off the cap and taking several drinks from it. The cold liquid sliding down his throat was in stark contrast to the heat of his body. Returning to the media room, he sat on the other end of the couch from Justin.

 

"Lindsay is more worried about a hair appointment so she can look good at some damn opening than she is about attending Gus' soccer game." Placing the bottle of water on the coaster that was on the coffee table, he looked at Justin, watching his facial expressions. Justin was adept at hiding his feelings when he needed to but with Brian, he was an open book.

 

Justin listened to Brian's tirade, hearing the anger behind the words. Michael and Lindsay were supposedly his husband's closest friends, but neither accepted Brian was not the same man from a decade ago, that he had changed. Michael constantly whined about Brian's lack of time to go to the clubs or hang out and shoot a few games of pool. He remembered Brian telling him about their conversation a few days ago where Brian had invited him to their home to hang out after the kids went to bed, but Michael wanted Brian to come into the city instead. He didn't seem to get that Brian's priority was his family not hanging out in a bar.

 

In his opinion, Lindsay's behavior was worse than Michael's. Lindsay convinced Brian to donate his sperm so she could have a child with her partner, Mel, and insisted that Brian was just the donor. However, when Gus was born, she acted like Brian was actually the father, albeit a "part-time" one and she pushed for him to see the child and be a part of his life, attempting to guilt him into fatherhood. When Brian decided he wanted to be a part of his son's life, she changed her mind, making it difficult for him to spend time with his son. Making excuses for it not being a good time or stating his presence would confuse Gus, he'd had to fight to have Gus stay with them on the weekends. Now, when she decided that Gus was just too much work and his activities took up too much time, she encouraged Brian to be more involved.

 

"It bothers you that Lindsay doesn't want to make Gus a priority," Justin said quietly, hating to put into words the reality of the situation. He reached out to Brian, palms up, encouraging him to put his hands in Justin's.

 

Brian placed his hands in Justin's for a few moments but removed them, message received. "Yes. I know what it's like not to be wanted. For as long as I could remember, my dad reminded me daily that I should never have been born and my mom should have had an abortion. Mom wasn't much better. She never stopped the old man from his tirades and well...." Brian stopped, taking a deep breath before continuing. He reached out for the water bottle and took another drink, returning it to the table. "She turned a fucking blind eye to everything, drinking herself into oblivion every fucking day."

 

Justin wished he could magically change Brian's childhood, but he couldn't. It angered him that Brian was hurting. "You want Gus to grow up loved and not question if he is wanted," Justin spoke in a soft voice, trying to calm his partner. He watched the time on the baby monitor and realized they only had a few minutes to finish this discussion before Colin would wake up. While Colin was too young to understand the conversation, he would be able to feel the tension in his parent's voice and bodies.

 

"Fucking right I do. I know what it's like to be unwanted and I don't want any child of mine to feel that way. While Gus isn't being hit, Mel and Lind's indifference is having an impact on him. I'm going to provide him a home where he is wanted."

 

"I know you will." Hearing the words, he hesitantly asked, "So you talked to Lindsay?" Justin reached out for Brian's hand this time, not giving him an invitation, but taking it in his own and squeezing it, showing his support and love for his husband.

 

Brian smiled for the first time since he came home. "Oh, did I fail to mention that Lindsay agreed to have Gus stay with us after school and spend the night. Seems it's really fucking inconvenient to find someone to watch him after school and in the evenings as they are "so very busy" with their jobs and J.R.. I just mentioned that Gus' soccer season was ending this week and we didn't mind having him after school. I then explained that it was silly for us to take him home just so he could sleep. She informed me that Mel and she were just having that same discussion earlier in the week. About it being silly for him to come home just to sleep. When I offered to have him stay with us in the evening and we'd take him to school, her face lit up like fucking lights on a Broadway Marquee. You'd think she'd been given a million dollars instead of me offering to parent my own son."

 

"So we have him? That was easy. I'm so happy!!!" Justin leaned over and hugged and kissed Brian.

 

Brian kissed him back but backed out of the hug after a few minutes. "Not quite that easy. When I went to read Gus his story and tuck him in, he asked a big question that I hadn't thought about. He wanted to know how he was going to get his toys and clothes."

 

"He's right," Justin said, realizing that neither of them had thought about them. "What are we going to do? Should we just plan on renting a truck and getting his stuff over the weekend?"

 

"No. While Lindsay didn't argue with my offer, I don't think she really thought the implications through. After all, she just agreed that Gus is basically living here all the time. She hasn't talked to the bulldyke that she's married to. I doubt Mel would feel so agreeable to having Gus here all the time. After all, she loses her built in babysitter and while J.R. is her kid, I doubt she pays a whole lot more attention to her than she does Gus."

 

"I hadn't thought about Mel. Do you think she will give us problems?"

 

"Most likely. She hates my guts and wouldn't ever admit that we are better parents than she and Lindsay. She'd rather Gus have a difficult time than admit we were better equipped to take care of him."

 

"So what are we going to do? Gus is right. He needs his clothes and his toys are important to him. I guess we could buy him new stuff." Justin knew that money was not a concern but wasn't sure that buying Gus all new toys was a good option either. He felt that the boy had way too many toys, probably in response to his parents' guilt that they didn't pay as much attention to him as they should. When they got his toys here, he vowed they would really go through them and determine the ones to keep and the ones to donate. He had a feeling once Gus was in a caring environment where he was interacted with, his needs for all his "favorite" toys would be greatly diminished.

 

"Your half right. His clothes need replacing. It's a disgrace that a son of Brian Kinney is dressed in clothing from the Gap and Big Q. But his toys and books need to come here. I told him we would go to his house "to visit" over the weekend and he would just stuff his backpack with as many items as he could fit in there. We could probably get away with bringing home a few bags of toys for a few weeks until all his prized possessions were here."

 

"That's a great idea," Justin smiled, feeling the pulse slow in his body as the anxiety dissipated. Brian had obviously been thinking of solutions as soon as Gus mentioned the problem.

 

"I always have good ideas. After, all, I let you marry me," he said tongue in cheek.

 

"But what about Mel? And don't you think Lindsay is going to realize that she basically gave you custody of Gus?"

 

"I have some ideas about the custody thing, but for now, I hear our other son rustling in his crib and I think we need to feed him and get him ready for bed. Then I think it will be time for us to go to bed. After all, tomorrow our family increases by one little 10 year old and we have one last night where sex anywhere in the house isn't going to be taboo. We might just have to sacrifice and mark a few surfaces one last time."

 

Justin laughed at his suggestion. "I think I like your idea. I hear our son crying so I think he is awake. Why don't you go get him while I get his bottle ready? You missed his dinner feeding and I know you'd enjoy it."

 

"Sounds like a plan." Brian leaned over and kissed Justin quickly on the lips, looking forward to their lovemaking later on.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The Move:

 

Justin picked up Gus the following day after school and brought him to Britin. They ate a snack together and then he took him up to his studio to work.

 

"Gus, are you ready to help me with my paintings?" Justin asked as he gathered the supplies needed for the project.

 

"Sure, just tell me what to do. I can't wait to tell the kids at school that I helped you. You are kinda famous with a lot of my teachers."

 

"Famous? Does that bother you?" Justin had read a lot about celebrity kids and knew that some of them hated being in the spotlight.

 

"Nah. Most of the teachers know who you are but the kids aren't really into art. Maybe when I get older, but right now you are just Mr. Taylor, one of my dads."

 

Justin relaxed his shoulders, the tension releasing. He remembered being introduced as Craig Taylor's boy so many times while he was growing up. Of course, once he came out, that was a title neither he nor his father wanted to be bestowed on him, but when he was younger he had gotten used to people referring to his father as if he were some important person. Maybe, he thought, in their circles, he was important, but to Justin, he was just dad and his father had a cool store with all the latest TVs and stereos. Brian would have loved having an electronics store in the family as that would have allowed him to have all the latest equipment way before his friends did. Even now, Brian would read about a new technology and have it ordered within a few days of its release. They were always the first to have the latest iPhone or IPad or Mac. These days having the latest equipment just made good business sense and it was no longer a status symbol for him or his husband. They could afford anything they wanted but tried to keep their new purchases in line. Those type of things no longer held the allure they once did for Brian. He would rather spend time with his sons and partner than read about the latest tech gadget.

 

"I'm glad it doesn't bother you that we are well known in the community." Justin thought about Kinnetik, but then he thought about Babylon. He wondered if their ownership of a gay nightclub would be problematic. While Brian said that Lindsay practically handed custody of Gus to him, he thought Melanie would fight them on this and she might use Babylon against them. He realized he would have to talk to Brian about that issue, but right now, he needed to concentrate on Gus.

 

"You've watched me stretch my canvas before?"

 

"Well.... Sort of" Gus said, looking down at his shoes. "Lots of times, I just play with my Star Wars figures or my Iron Man. I like being with people. At home...." Gus stopped.

 

"It's okay, buddy. You don't have to be afraid of mentioning your moms. Your dad and I want you to be happy. You told us you want to live here, but we don't want you to forget your moms."

 

"I don't want to go back there, Papa. Mom and Momma don't have time for me and they think I'm a lot of trouble."

 

Justin bent down and gave Gus a hug, his heart hurting at Gus' words.

 

"You're not any trouble. You're a little boy and you deserve to be somewhere where you don't feel like that. We want you here."

 

"So Daddy really talked to Mom and she said I could come here every day. And even stay the night? I didn't dream it?"

 

"Yes, your daddy talked to your Mom and she agreed that we can take care of you." Justin was so angry that he was even having this conversation with Gus. No child should ever feel that they aren't wanted. He remembered when his mom told him she was getting a divorce, and he thought about going to Dartmouth to make his father happy. He even thought about giving up his "disgusting lifestyle" but luckily Brian had intervened. Brian had shown him that what his father was proposing wasn't love, but hate. He, at least, had been 17 when this happened and he had the ability to understand some of what was going on. Gus was only 10 and no 10 years old should be put in that situation.

 

Gus wrapped his arms around Justin, giving him a large hug and kissing him multiple times. "I just kept waiting for Mom or Momma to show up at school and tell me to get in the car. I'm so glad that you came and picked me up."

 

Justin had witnessed Mel and Lindsay in anger and could envision just this scenario. Justin filed that information in his head for his evening talk with Brian. Gus hit upon a very likely scenario and they wouldn't want this to actually play out. He and Brian needed to come up with a game plan. The last thing either of them wanted was for Mel or Lindsay to show up at school and insist on Gus going with them. Not only would it confuse the little boy, but he thought if they took him home, it would be terrible. He envisioned a scenario where they wouldn't allow him or Brian access to Gus and maybe even try legal means to stop them.

 

He and Brian had taken legal steps to safeguard their relationship with Gus but the girls did not know this. A few years back when they threatened Brian's access to Gus, he had a lawyer investigate their third-party adoption and found that it was not valid. In order for it to be valid, Brian had to have signed some key paperwork but Melanie failed to give it to him. Their lawyer discovered that there were no papers filed in the state of Pennsylvania and that legally Brian had equal custody of Gus. When the girls backed down and allowed him access to Gus, he didn't bring up the legal findings.

 

While Lindsay had willingly given Brian permission to take him home after school and stay the night, he doubted she had really thought the ramifications through. He wondered how long it would take before she realized Gus wasn't there after school or in the early morning. It was a no-win scenario. If she never realized it, it would be very sad for Gus to think his moms didn't care. On the other hand, if they did realize it, there was bound to be arguments and accusations between his moms and Brian. He knew they would protect Gus and he knew that he and Brian had to discuss this issue today.

 

"Do you want to live here with Daddy and me?" Justin asked as he laid the canvas on the table. While Brian and Justin had discussed the issue and Gus had expressed his unhappiness with his moms, it didn't mean that he wanted to live full time with his father and Justin.

 

"Yes. It's more fun here and like I said, you and Daddy play with me and don't yell and scream at each other all the time. When is Daddy getting home? He's been meeting us at the loft for dinner, but we aren't there tonight. Will he eat dinner with us?"

 

"Daddy will be home by 7:00. 7:00 is a little late for you to eat dinner, so we'll probably eat a little early and then you can visit with Daddy while he eats his dinner. Colin usually has a bottle about 8:30 and then he goes to sleep for the night. He is awake for a few hours before he has to sleep so we can play with him too."

 

"I'm going to be so busy. I'll be helping you in the studio and then I have to do my homework. I get to play with Colin and then eat dinner and then visit with Daddy." Gus touched a finger as he listed each of these tasks.

 

"Woah, little guy. There will be plenty of time for you to play too. Homework and bath time are non-negotiable. Soon, you will have soccer again and don't forget your art classes." Justin smiled as he heard the enthusiasm from Gus. "But you're getting ahead of yourself. Right now, you are helping me stretch this canvas and then you probably need to do your homework."

 

"Sounds good. So what do I do?"

 

Justin walked him through the steps and Gus was very adept at stretching the canvas. When he finished. Justin said, "Great job. Now I think it's time for you to do your homework. I have some emails I need to send to Carol and I need to look at the mail. I'll come to check on you in a little bit."

 

"Can I do my homework in here?" Gus asked, hoping the answer would be yes.

 

"Not today, buddy. I have some phone calls to make and I need quiet." Seeing the crestfallen look on Gus' face, Justin was saddened at his inability to have Gus stay, but he realized that Gus would not be able to be with him every afternoon. "Why don't you do your homework and then find Chloe and Colin. He should be up by the time you are finished and you can play with him while I work."

 

Gus smiled at the suggestion. "That would be cool. I miss seeing him during the week but now that I live here I can see him any time." Gus went up to hug Justin and then raced out of the room to grab his backpack and complete his homework.

 

Justin closed the door and logged on to his computer to read his emails. He did have some work to complete, but he really wanted to talk to Brian. Normally he would wait to talk to him when he got home, but his conversation with Gus got him thinking that maybe they needed to have all the necessary documents at their disposal.

 

He quickly dispensed with the emails and work he needed to complete and made sure the door was firmly closed. He hated to lock it but this time he felt that it was a good idea to lock the door just in case Gus came looking for him. After all, this was the first day that he was here at Britin with them.

 

While he'd been at Britin on many spring breaks and during the summer, they usually had the day planned out and he was rarely left to his own devices. Justin realized that with him living here full time, they might have to adjust Chloe's responsibilities to include watching Gus. If he and Brian were to get any work done in the hours after school and before dinner, Gus would have to be supervised unless he was participating in an activity. Up to this point, they only had to get him from school and to the activity and then home before bedtime. Now, he would be with them when there were no activities. However, unlike his moms, Justin and Brian didn't see this as a burden, but rather as a normal part of childhood. This was another thing that Brian and he needed to discuss, but that discussion could wait till the evening. Right now he needed to talk about the legal issues before Mel or Linds challenged Gus' living with them.

 

He called Cynthia, knowing she could determine when Brian would be free to talk with him. While his call was important, it was not important enough to interrupt a presentation.

 

"Hi Justin," Cynthia said as she smiled into the phone. Everything okay?"

 

"Good. We're good, but I was wondering if Brian was free. I remember he said something about a presentation this afternoon."

 

Cynthia pulled up Brian's calendar on her desktop and then looked at the time. Her days were so busy at Kinnetik that she often lost track of time and was surprised when it would be time to leave for the night and she still had mounds of items on her to do list. Seeing that it was 4:00 and all his conference calls were complete, she said, "He's free. Do you want me to put you through?"

 

Justin hesitated for a moment. He wanted to ensure that he was really doing this for Gus rather than his peace of mind but then realized that they were one and the same. Gus' safety and peace of mind were just as important to him as they were to Gus. "Yes."

 

"Kinney," Brian said, not looking at the caller ID as it had been transferred.

 

"Hey," Justin said.

 

Brian clicked the save icon on his computer and minimized the screen. "Everything okay? Is Gus okay? Is Colin alright?" While Justin used to come into his office unannounced and call unexpectedly, he didn't do that very often. A call or visit in the middle of the afternoon usually meant there was something wrong. The hairs on Brian's neck stood up, hoping that something hadn't happened, but then his mind recognized that Justin's voice was calm and not elevated.

 

"Everyone is fine. I just..."

 

"Justin," Brian said, a little worried.

 

"Gus was talking this afternoon about being worried that his moms might pick him up from school. He was really worried and was relieved to see that I was there. It got me thinking that the girls might change their mind. You know, realize that Linds just basically gave you custody of Gus. I don't think she talked to Mel about it and I think Mel wouldn't like the idea. I mean she might really be fine with it, but on principal, I could see her fighting it. And Linds...., well I think she's going to realize what she did in a few days. I can just see it now, her showing up at school and demanding Gus get in her car. Telling him that she really didn't mean he could live with us." Justin's voice got higher and higher as he continued his diatribe. Brian could hear the hitch in his voice and wished he could reach out and hold him in his arms, kiss his neck and assure him that everything would be fine. Brian understood that Justin had worked himself into a state of worry so deep that he called him at work instead of waiting till Brian got home to discuss this.

 

"You're worried the munchers are going to change their mind."

 

"Yeah. Aren't you? I mean this was so easy. I never thought Linds would just say yes so easily."

 

"I've known Linds a long time, so it wasn't that much of a surprise. But I do understand where you are coming from. I think I need to get the legal documents that we had drawn up a few years back. I'll get them out of the safe and bring them home."

 

"I was hoping you would say that. I hate to think we'll need them but I think it would be good to have them. What should I tell Gus?"

 

"Tell him that Britin is his home for as long as he wants to live with us. "

 

"I love you, Brian." Justin felt his shoulders lose the tension they were holding. He seemed to relax in the chair.

 

"Love you too, Sunshine. I'll be home early tonight. Want to make Sonny boy's first night special. I asked Rosa to cook that Chicken Teriyaki that Gus loves so much. No more Mac and Cheese or PBJ. He's going to learn to eat real food."

 

"See you soon," Justin said.

 

"Later," Brian said.

 

"Later," Justin said in response. Hanging up the phone, he understood how his partner could persuade anyone to buy anything. Smiling, he went to the table and put away the supplies that he and Gus were using earlier.

 

Looking at the time, he realized that it was close to 5:30 and Gus should be eating about 6:00. He had an idea for a sketch of the two boys together and spent the next half hour roughing out the piece.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian located the papers documenting his legal rights to Gus, made a copy of them placing it in his safe at work and placed the original in his briefcase. After looking at his calendar for the next few days, he mentally determined the appointments he could reschedule, if needed and then shut down his computer. Turning on the alarm, he turned off the lights and went to his car, placing his briefcase in the back seat. He found the local Jazz station on his Sirius radio and listened to the soothing music as he drove home.

 

Parking his car in the garage 35 minutes later, he grabbed his briefcase and went inside where he found Gus and Chloe playing with Colin in the family room. He placed his briefcase in his office and went to the family room where he greeted and kissed both of his children.

 

"Daddy, I helped Justin stretch his canvas for his next painting and now Ms. Chloe and I are teaching Colin how to grab for his toys. He's not really very good at it, but he tries really hard. Come play with us," Gus said, his enthusiasm bubbling out of him.

 

"I'm going to change clothes and talk to Justin for a few minutes and then I'll join you. Did you eat dinner?"

 

"Daddy Justin sat with me while I ate my dinner and Colin sat in his high chair too."

 

"Okay. I'll be down in a little bit." Brian turned to Chloe. "Justin should be here any minute to relieve you."

 

"He came down about 10 minutes ago and asked if I could work a bit longer today and I told him that was fine," Chloe said as she moved the soft block just out of Colin's reach.

 

"Thank you. We'll be down shortly."

 

Gus returned to playing with Colin, content to entertain the little boy. Brian went to their bedroom and quickly changed clothes. Justin was waiting for him in the sitting area.

 

"Hey, you're home," Justin said as he watched Brian step out of his pants and hang them up.

 

"You're observant," Brian said, tongue in cheek. "I brought the custody papers home with me. They're in my briefcase in the office," he said as he pulled on some jeans and a black t-shirt. When he placed his shirt in the laundry, he walked over to Justin and gave him a welcome home kiss. He never tired of kissing his partner and their embrace was always comforting.

 

"I thought about what you said this afternoon. We could play this two ways: one, ignore the possibility that Linds or Mel would show up at school and hope for the best or two, let the school know about the new custody and tell Gus he shouldn't go with his moms," Brian said as he sat in the chair.

 

"I think we need to go with number two, but we don't want to scare Gus. Brian, while Lindsay gave us the go-ahead to keep him, she has as much legal right to him as we do. I don't want the four of us to get in a shouting match in front of Gus. That is just why he wants to live with us; he's so tired of the fighting in his moms' house," Justin said as he shared some of his thoughts from earlier in the day. Justin wrung his hands a few times before continuing. "I think it will be a few days before anything happens. Gus stays with us almost every weekend. I think if Mel even notices that he's not there, Linds will most likely just brush it off as us helping out and Gus staying with us."

 

Brian nodded his head in agreement. "Unfortunately, I think you're probably right. They are so self-absorbed in their own little world that it will probably take them until sometime next week to realize he hasn't been home. For now, let's go relieve Chloe and spend some time with our sons. We can talk later, after they go to bed."

 

"Okay. I told Gus that he could sit with you while you ate dinner. He's really enjoyed the time we've been spending with him at the loft and he was looking forward to spending time with his other dad."

 

They briefly shared a kiss and left the sanctuary of their bedroom. They found Gus, Chloe and Colin where they left them a short time before. Brian went to the kitchen where he pulled out the chicken, green beans and salad that Rosa had made earlier for dinner. He heated up his food and grabbed a beer from the fridge. As he pulled out his chair, Gus came in to the kitchen and sat down at the table.

 

"Hi Daddy," Gus said as he watched Brian stab a green bean. "I had fun playing with Colin tonight. It's so cool that I can do that anytime and not have to wait till the weekend. I'm going to be the best big brother ever."

 

"You're a great big brother."

 

"When he gets bigger, I'm going to show him all my trains and Legos and we're going to build huge cities. I bet we can make a city as big as the one on the Star Wars' planet. Do you think we could make a city that big?"

 

Brian smiled as his son described his favorite movie scene. Gus may be his son, but he loved Star Wars like his Uncle Michael. "Well, I don't know how many Legos it would take to build a city but you could certainly build a few buildings."

 

Gus looked dreamily at his father, thinking that building a city would be a great feat. "Would you and Justin help me build a city? I mean, if you had time. Where could we build it? Could we build it in Justin's studio or your office? That way I could play there while you are working."

 

"You like being near us?"

 

"Sure. When I'm at Britin, you or Justin are always with me. When I was with my moms, I spent a lot of time watching Jenny or playing by myself."

 

Brian ate some of his chicken and took a few swallows of his beer before responding. Looking at his son and seeing the eager face and love there, he was torn between disappointing him and the reality that neither Justin nor him could spend time all their time with him. He knew he would have to explain to Gus that they would spend the evenings together but the afternoons were for working.

 

Justin brought Colin into the kitchen, the baby sitting on his lap facing the table. His fists were in his mouth, his latest discovery and he was gurgling happily.

 

"How's dinner? Rosa tries to leave your food a little undercooked so when you heat it up it won't be overdone," Justin said as he bounced Colin.

 

"It's fine. Gus was just telling me about his idea for a city of Legos based on the Star Wars city."

 

"That would be really cool to make, Gus. There are some awesome landscapes in those movies. Did you know that I originally wanted to do animation?"

 

"Like the cartoon?"

 

"Yes. You know that I love Yellow Submarine and I used to dream about drawing a movie just like it."

 

Gus nodded. "That's the movie with all the music, right? You sing to it?"

 

Justin smiled, "Yes, that's the one."

 

"Well, I'm going to build great cities. I think I should build one in your studio and another one in Daddy's office. That way I can play while you work."

 

Justin looked at Brian, the deer in the headlights obvious in his eyes. He knew that they needed to handle this carefully.

 

"Gus, my studio and Daddy's office are places to work. We can set up one of the extra bedrooms upstairs for your city. Would that work for you?"

 

Frowning, Gus said, "If it's in the extra bedroom, then I'll be by myself. I thought you wanted me here. You're no different than my moms." Tears started pooling down his face and he started to run out of the room.

 

"Gus Kinney!! Sit your bottom on that chair."

 

Gus stopped in his tracks as he heard his father call his name and returned to the table.

 

Brian took another drink from his beer, finishing the bottle.

 

"Our offices need to be a place to work. I have important papers in my office and Justin has expensive paintings. We want you to be able to be messy and noisy with your city. When we are working, we can't have you playing with your city. If you want to build your city in one of the guest rooms, Justin and I will come to help you build it and we will gladly play with you."

"So you'll still play with me?" Gus asked in a quiet voice.

 

"Of course. These last few months when you've had soccer practice, one of us came and picked you up from practice and then brought you to the loft. But sometimes Grandma Jenn or Aunt Daphne had to pick you up because Daddy Justin or I had work to do."

 

Gus nodded his head, acknowledging Brian's words.

 

"We promise that we will spend time with you every night. Sometimes your Daddy has to entertain clients and he can't come home. Sometimes I may have to meet up with Carol or go to an opening in the evening."

 

"What's an opening?"

 

"An opening is the first day of an art exhibit. Remember when you came to the museum a few months ago and you got to dress up in your new suit?"

 

"Daddy took me shopping with him. He bought me this big boy tie and fancy shoes," Gus said, remembering the shopping trip and his mothers' comments when his Dad brought the clothes home.

 

"Right. Well, when I have my pictures shown in a gallery I have to wear fancy clothes and meet all the people who want to buy the paintings. Sometimes I go to other artists shows too. Your Daddy comes with me when it is my paintings and if possible, you will come too. But sometimes, the show is out of town or really far away and you won't be able to come."

 

"If I come, do I get to wear my fancy suit? All the people said I looked just like my dad and I like looking like Daddy."

 

Brian smirked at this comment. He remembered Justin chastising him when he insisted on buying the suit for Gus. He stated that Gus was his son and had a reputation to uphold. It wouldn't do to have Brian Kinney's son wear a suit from J.C. Penny's. Justin recognized when fighting wasn't to his advantage as this was a fight he would not win. He allowed Brian to indulge his over-zealous fashion sense on their 10-year-old son and he would have to admit Gus was adorable. He was Brian's mini-me in his Armani suit.

"Anyway, Gus..... My point is that you will have after-school activities on some days and on other days, you may need to be with Chloe and Colin. But I promise your dad and I will make every attempt to spend time playing with you and hanging out each day. Chloe will be watching Colin, so that won't be your responsibility."

 

"I don't mind watching Colin. He's fun to play with."

 

"I know he's fun to play with, but he's not your responsibility. He may be fun now, but eventually, he'll get bigger and you might not want to play with him."

 

"Gus, what do you say to going upstairs and picking a room for your new Lego City?"

Gus smiled widely and hopped out of his chair. "Daddy, can you finish dinner by yourself? I want to go pick out a room for my Lego's."

 

Brian smiled and mouthed ‘Thank you' to Justin. Justin and the boys went upstairs to pick out a room for the new city.

 

As Brian finished his dinner he thought of all the changes in his life in the last 10 years and he smiled. Meeting Justin under the street light on Liberty Avenue was not unexpected, but the hook up was never meant to change his life. He should have known that picking up a trick that looked nothing like his "typical" prey would result in a life-changing connection. Looking back on that fateful night, he never imagined his life today; father of two boys and married, essentially the life of a breeder. Brian Kinney, married man, and father of two. The statement made him shake his head, but he loved his life and wouldn't change anything about it. He had a job he loved, a partner that was devoted to him and two beautiful children; a very well rounded life. He needed to think about the situation with Gus and how best to handle Lindsay and Melanie should they protest Gus' living with them full time. While he tried never leaving important matters to chance, he felt that specific intervention might do more harm than good. Placing his dishes in the dishwasher and cleaning the table, he ventured upstairs to check on Gus' progress.

 

Gus took the task of finding a room for his new city very seriously. The home was huge: five bedrooms, a studio for Justin, an office for Brian and a suite of rooms for Chloe. Brian and Justin had the master bedroom while Colin and Gus each had their own room. This left two rooms for Gus to choose from. Brian and Justin had bought a house with five bedrooms since they were sure that they would have family and friends visiting and spending the night on a regular basis. They held several large family gatherings and Jennifer and Tucker often spent the night rather than drive back into the city at such a late hour. Daphne occasionally stayed over as well. Also, there was room in the basement area for a blowup mattress, if needed. Brian wondered if inviting Mel and Linds to stay here occasionally would placate their need to feel that they didn't basically abandon their son but quickly dismissed that idea as a very bad one. He was fairly certain that if they were encouraged to come and stay here there would be jabs about how he bribed Gus to live here as he had such an opulent lifestyle.

 

He could speculate on the words out of Lindsay and or Melanie's mouth when they deduced that he was living here, ‘Of course, Gus wants to live here. He has a room for his Lego's, a playroom, a huge backyard that includes horses and a tennis court, not including the pool. You have a live-in babysitter and a cook. He's not even required to do any chores. What 10 years old would turn that down?' Just the thought of that imaginary conversation gave him chills. He was not trying to bribe his son in leaving his mothers' home, but rather he was interested in his son's welfare; something his mothers' seemed to ignore. It was more important for them to attend some hair appointment to look good for an evening with a donor than to attend Gus' soccer game. No, having his mothers' stay at Britin was definitely not in the plan at this point in time.

 

Gus opened the door of the first empty room. It faced the backyard and had a large window on the back wall. There was a closet with a sliding door on the right wall and wood floors. He walked around the room, looked out the window and opened the door to the closets. Gus didn't say anything but walked out and went to the second empty room. Justin and Colin stood in the doorway, allowing Gus to form his own opinions regarding the appropriateness of the room for his "city".

 

Justin held Colin facing forward and they watched Gus. "Colin, see your brother, Gus,' he said in a quiet voice. "He is investigating the two empty bedrooms and determining which one would be better for a Lego City. While I don't remember building Lego cities, I would have loved to have a designated room to paint and do my art." Colin gurgled as his father talked to him, even though he did not understand anything that was said.

 

He repeated his investigation in the second room, walking around and looking at the space. The closet was on the back wall and the window was facing the side yard. Gus looked out the side window. He turned toward Justin, seeing his father had joined him while he was looking at the room.

 

"Daddy, I think the first room is better. The floor in this one is cold and hard. I like the other one better. I could build my city in the first room but I need some tables. A city has different heights. Can I have some tables to build on?"

 

Justin smiled and tried to hide his laugh. He had told Brian the same thing when they were designing the room, but Brian was adamant that tile was the right choice. Justin had insisted that wood was easier to move things on and it was such a beautiful addition to the room. Brian wasn't certain about wood in the room as he wanted Italian tile, but they compromised and one room had a deep Cherry wood while the other bedroom had gray Italian tile.

 

Colin was squirming and showed signs that he wanted to get down and explore. Justin placed him on the floor of the room with the wooden floor. "Sure, Sonny Boy. What kind of tables do you think you would need?" Brian said as he gave Justin a look that included a raised eyebrow.

 

"I have an idea what I need, but maybe we could go shopping for some stuff. All my Lego's are at the other house and if I'm going to build a city, I need lots of stuff."

 

The word shopping brought a smile to his face even if it meant going to a toy store with his son. Shopping for furniture would be interesting as he was certain Justin would not agree with his choices, but he admitted to himself that in this situation Justin's idea of appropriate furniture for a child's playroom might be more in tune with reality than his own.

 

"You do?" Brian said, tongue in cheek. He watched Colin crawl on the floor and was amazed at how good he was at that skill.

 

Gus did not quite recognize the teasing manner of his father's response and said, "Yes, Daddy. I need at least 10 boxes of Lego's and the little people that go in them. And I need a big flat Lego to build the city and..."

 

Brian held up his hand to stop Gus' list of required items. "Gus let's start with getting your Lego's from your house. Maybe later this week you and Justin could go there after school and pick them up."

 

Justin looked at Brian, not asking the question out loud, but wondering if this was a wise thing to do.

 

"You were going home every night and bringing toys with you each day. It will seem perfectly normal to your moms that you want to play with your Lego's," Brian said in response to the unasked question.

 

"But he has a lot of Lego's Brian. Won't that raise a red flag?"

 

"Not really. If they ask, tell them that Gus wants to build a Lego City at our house. Since it would take a lot of space in their house and they don't have a place where Gus could do this without moving the city every day, we offered to let him build it here."

 

Justin nodded his head in agreement with Brian's assessment of the situation. "Sounds like a plan." Colin had crawled around the entire room and crawled back to his fathers.

 

"So can we go tomorrow, Justin? I can't wait to start building my city," Gus said, the smile on his face, lighting it up.

 

"I can't take you tomorrow Gus. I have a meeting in the afternoon with my agent and I've postponed it several times. But, we can go on Thursday. After we pick up the Lego's, we can look online at some tables for the room," Justin said as he picked up Colin to bring him back downstairs.

 

"Thursday? That's three days from now. Can you take me, Daddy?" Gus asked, disappointed in the delay.

 

"I'm not free to take you either. I know you are disappointed, Sonny Boy, but remember what we talked about earlier. Daddy and Justin have to work in the afternoons, but we will always spend time with you in the evenings. Sometimes Justin or I might be free in the afternoon to do something special, but like other parents who work, we just can't be with you in the afternoons. It's almost time for us to feed Colin. Why don't we go downstairs and get his bottle ready? Do you want to feed him his last bottle?"

 

Gus smiled. "Sure. Colin smiles at me and reaches out to my fingers when I feed him. I think he knows who I am."

 

"Babies learn fast. People who give them what they need like food and clean diapers become important to them. You've become an important person to him."

 

"I'm important to him?" Gus asked in amazement.

 

"Sure you are. You spend time with him and even though he can't tell you, I'm sure he recognizes you. Notice how he smiles when you sing to him and how he reaches out to you?"

 

Gus nodded in agreement. "That's neat. So if I can't spend afternoons with my daddies, I can spend it with my brother. I'm going to be the best big brother ever." He beamed and went over to kiss Colin.

 

Gus quickly went downstairs locating the bottle that was in the fridge, placed it in the microwave and pushed the timer. Justin turned toward Brian, giving him a kiss on the cheeks.

 

"It will work out. I know you're worried about Gus but actions speak louder than words. You, of all people, should understand that concept," he said as he gave his partner a huge sunshine smile. "We just need to be sure that we spend time with him every day, make him feel welcome. It may mean that we can't do as much work in the evening, but we were already cutting back since Colin arrived."

 

Brian returned the quick kiss and reached for Colin. "Come here, son. Time for your dinner and then it's time for bed. Your brother is going to feed you and then Justin and I are going to spend some time with him," Brian said to the little boy, talking to him as if he really understood the words.

 

Justin gave Colin to Brian and quickly followed Gus to the kitchen. After testing the bottle for temperature, he gave it to Gus who was already seated in the recliner waiting for his brother. "You're a great big brother, Gus. I know you will always watch out for Colin."

 

Brian came down the stairs with Colin and handed him to Gus. "He's hungry so we better not wait to feed him."

 

"Colin, time to eat and then go to bed. Daddy and Justin are the best parents ever." He popped the bottle in Colin's mouth and started singing to him.

 

Justin and Brian looked at their sons, beaming at their little family.

Chapter Text

The next few days were busy adjusting to life with a 10-year-old. Neither Brian nor Justin was sorry that Gus was living with them, but it did curtail their sex life. While they were used to having Gus on most weekends, his presence in the evening was an adjustment. Prior to Gus' arrival, they often teased each other with little touches and sexual innuendo during the evening and when they were ready for bed, their cocks were ready to be satisfied. With Gus around, the touches could continue but had to be more innocent and the innuendo was curtailed. They knew their sex life would change, but they were still very satisfied.

 

Gus appeared to be adjusting to the move with ease. He'd been spending most weekends with his fathers and since he'd spent most of the afternoons in their care for the better part of the last three months, the adjustment to living with them full time went fairly smoothly.

 

Wednesday evening they were playing with Colin. The four of them were in the nursery giving him toys to reach for and encouraging him to giggle. Justin and Brian had both remarked that Colin's laugh had to be one of the best sounds in the world. There was just something about his laughter that always brought a smile to their faces.

 

Brian loved experiencing the joy that Colin exhibited each day. He laughed, smiled and cooed, showing the world that he was a happy, well-cared for baby. Brian missed out on a lot of Gus' early years since he wasn't ready to really be a father, but after his bout with cancer he'd vowed to spend more time with him and their relationship had blossomed. Brian worried about the type of father he would be since he did not have a great role model, but with Justin's encouragement and natural understanding of Gus' interests, it was fairly easy to fulfill his role as Dad. Now he had both of his sons living with him and Justin. While he knew it would be challenging at times, he finally understood what people said about parenthood being the biggest accomplishment in their life.

 

"Justin, it's Thursday tomorrow. Can we still get my Legos from my moms'?" Gus asked as he placed the toy material block just out of Colin's reach.

 

Justin quickly glanced between Brian and Gus, hoping Brian would give him a gentle nod with the go-ahead on their plan. Brian nodded his head unperceptively, but Justin saw the seal of approval.

 

"Sure. We'll go right before dinner when your moms get home." Justin looked at Gus and could see he was fidgeting.

 

"Don't worry, buddy. Why don't we call them now and tell them we're coming so you can grab your Legos. Tell them you want to build a city here where there is more room."

 

"Okay."

 

"Your Dad will feed Colin and put him to bed while we go make the call." Justin gave Brian a smile as he spoke and the two of them had a quick mental conversation without ever saying a word. They were so in tune with each other that no explanation was needed.

 

Gus leaned over and kissed Colin. "Night, baby Colin. I love you. See you tomorrow. And could you not wake up at 3:00 tonight? You were really loud last night."

 

Both Brian and Justin smiled at Gus' request but didn't comment. Colin had started sleeping through the night when he was 3 months old, but occasionally when he had a growth spurt or wasn't feeling well, he woke in the middle of the night. Both Brian and Justin appreciated the extra uninterrupted sleep, especially now they were up a little later as a result of Gus living with them. They tried not to do too much work while either child was awake and by the time Gus went to bed and they had finished any work, it was a little later than it had been when they just had Colin. Neither man wanted to go to bed without some type of sex, be it a blow job, mutual hand jobs or actually making love. Last night they had not gone to sleep until almost 1:00 and when Colin got up at 3:00, both of them were sound asleep.

 

Justin and Gus left the room so Brian could get Colin ready for bed. He had brought his bottle upstairs with them so he did not have to return to the kitchen to prepare it. Justin turned the dimmer switch on the overhead light and pulled the door mostly closed.

 

They walked down to the Media room and Justin took out his phone pushing the number 4 to call.

 

"Hi Justin," Lindsay said as she opened the car door.

 

"Lindsay, how are you?" Justin asked. He wanted to get right to the point and not spend a lot of time on the conversation, but his WASP upbringing wouldn't allow him to do that.

 

"Good. I'm so busy. The gallery is putting together a new show with a Renaissance theme. We are borrowing some works from other galleries and then showcasing three upcoming artists in the second wing. It opens in three weeks. You should have received an invitation. If not, I can put you on the list and I'll make sure you get one." She pushed the car door closed with her backside and walked to the door attached to the house.

 

"I received mine. Thank you," He didn't comment on whether he would attend, thinking that he most likely would not and he was happy she did not ask.

 

"I was calling to ask if it would be okay for Gus and me to stop over tomorrow. He would like to pick up his Legos. He's going to build a huge Lego city and we've agreed to let him build it in one of the spare rooms so he'll have lots of space."

 

"He loves his Legos. I bet he would like to build a city. What time?" She placed her purse on the chair at the kitchen table and placed her carry bag with all her work papers on the table. Walking over to the cabinet she grabbed a glass and opened the fridge to grab some orange juice. Pouring the juice into the glass, she took several sips before sitting down at the table.

 

"When would be a good time for you? It sounds like you are really busy with work."

 

"Just come by anytime. Gus has a key and he can get in the house. He knows where his Legos are. Mel won't be home until at least 7:00 since tomorrow is a court day. I have a dinner meeting with one of the artists for the show and won't be home till after 8:00."

 

"Okay. Thanks." Justin said and hung up the phone. He was seething at Lindsay's lack of concern for Gus and no mention of missing him or disappointment in not seeing him, but he was happy that it would be easy to grab Gus' stuff. He'd let Brian know and they could determine what they wanted to retrieve. He was still reluctant to get all of Gus' belongings, fearing the girls would figure out that he wasn't living with them anymore.

 

Justin turned to Gus who had sat next to him on the couch during the call. "Everything is set. Lindsay said you can let yourself in since you have a key. No one is going to be home until later at night, so I guess we can go when I pick you up after school."

 

"Yeah. Thanks, Papa Justin. I can't wait to start building my city."

 

"Did you finish all your homework?" Justin asked, hating to sound like his parents, but then stopped himself realizing he was a parent and not just a fill-in surrogate.

 

"Yes. Can we paint in your studio?" Gus smiled and gave Justin a puppy dog look, perfecting the loaded question.

 

"It's too late to start painting, but we can play a game or watch some tv if you want," Justin said as he offered some appropriate alternatives. He glanced at the clock on the wall, seeing that it was already 8:00 and Gus would need to get ready for bed in about half an hour. They would have time for one short tv show or a few rounds of a quick card game.

 

"Let's play Apples to Apples," Gus suggested. "That way Dad can play after Colin goes to bed.

 

"Okay. Sounds like a plan. Why don't you go get it and I'll grab us some drinks. Milk for you and I think I'd like a beer." Justin knew that this game would fit the bill perfectly. He could include Brian in a few rounds and then Gus would feel that he had some independent time with his parents. He still had difficulty understanding how his mothers couldn't find time in their lives with this wonderful young man. Justin grabbed the beverages and grabbed a beer for Brian as well. Luckily it didn't take long these days for Colin to finish his bottle and be put to bed. Brian would most likely be down in less than 15 minutes. They sat at the table and started the first round. Brian joined them and the three of them played 2 additional rounds and then it was time for Gus to go to bed.

 

"Gus, time for bed. Tomorrow we have a big day going to your house to find all your Legos. If I know you, they won't be all in one place so it might take a while," Justin said, the teasing evident in his voice.

 

"Okay. I'll go brush my teeth and put on my p.j's. Can Daddy read me my story since you're going to go with me tomorrow?"

 

"Sure," Brian said. I'll be up in 5 minutes so you better be in bed or we won't have time for the story."

 

Gus finished putting the game away and took it with him to return to the closet where they kept the games. He went upstairs and got ready for bed.

 

"How'd the call go with Linds?" Brian asked when he was sure that Gus was out of earshot. He took the last drink of his beer and started walking to the kitchen to put the bottle in the recycle bin. Justin followed him and gave him a kiss on the lips.

 

"Mmm, you taste good. We can talk about the phone call after you tuck Gus in. It's late and he needs to go to sleep. I think I'm going to soak in the hot tub. When you're done, maybe you could join me." Justin eyed Brian from head to toe and licked his lips.

 

"Sure. I could use a nice soak myself." Brian returned the gaze and licked his lips as well.

 

Justin went to their bedroom while Brian went upstairs to read Gus his story. The hot tub was on the balcony. They enjoyed a soak in the spraying jets and in the summer they would sit on the deck watching the wildlife in their backyard. In the winter, the scenery was postcard like with the snow on the ground and the bare trees for a backdrop. It was quiet and both men felt at peace when they were there. Justin turned on the spigot to fill the tub and undressed. When the tub had a small amount of water in it, Justin got in and waited for Brian.

 

Brian went into Gus' room where Gus sat in bed, book in hand. Picking up the book, he looked at turning it over in his hand and then flipped it to the first page. Darth Paper Strikes Again by Tom Angleberger. "Your uncle Michael would be proud. A Star Wars book. Why am I not surprised?"

 

"Daddy, I love Star Wars. That's why I'm going to build a Lego Star Wars city. This book will help me get ideas." Gus said as he explained to his father why he needed to read this book now as if Brian couldn't figure out the reason the book was chosen.

 

"Of course," Brian said as he started to read the book. It had been a busy week and Gus was asleep after only 5 pages. Brian kissed his son on his forehead, placed the book on the chair in the room and turned the light out as he closed the door.

 

As he stepped into their bedroom, he could see Justin sitting in the hot tub. He'd left the blinds that usually covered the sliding door open so Brian could see him. Brian quickly took off his clothing and joined his husband.

 

"Can't get too much more water in here with both of us," Brian said as he eased himself into the warm water. Justin turned off the spigot and turned on the jets.

 

"You know, I never understood the allure of hot tubs until I met you, Justin," Brian said as he leaned over to kiss his partner. "Who would have thought that getting into steamy water would be so soothing? I love a good shower and I must say that sex in the shower has its advantages, but soaking in the hot tub is..."

 

Justin leaned over to kiss Brian on the mouth before he could finish his statement. They shared a warm kiss that said everything they felt without the words. Justin had learned long ago that Brian was much more adept at showing his love than saying the words, even if these days he would tell his husband them. Brian moved to sit between Justin's legs, turning his body and pushing his backside firmly against his burgeoning erection. Justin in turn, wrapped his arms around Brian's torso. They sat there for a few minutes, the pulsing jets cascading over their skin. Justin kissed Brian on the neck and Brian raised his head giving him easy access to the sensitive skin. Justin ran his hands up and down Brian's torso, enjoying the taut muscles that he found there.

 

"You're so gorgeous. I'm so lucky," he said as his hand trailed down to Brian's crotch. He found his prize and stroked Brian, gliding his thumb over the slit and then on top of and around the crown.

 

"Mmm," Brian said as he opened his legs giving better access.

 

Justin slid his hands down caressing the erection and playing with his balls. Justin reached for the bottle of lube that they kept in a special compartment and squeezed some on his fingers. While the water jets aroused both men, the lube provided some much-needed slickness. Sliding his fingers into Brian with ease he pistoned them in and almost out to stretch his husband. Brian fucked himself on Justin's fingers, enjoying the fullness as his arousal increased.

 

While Brian had been the Stud of Liberty Avenue when he met Justin, their relationship had been equal for many years. They took turns being the top and neither man really thought about those labels. Today, Justin felt the need to give to his partner and he took the lead in their lovemaking. As lovers who've been together for many years, both men recognized the signs of arousal as well as the impending explosion. Brian's breaths were short and labored and he'd grabbed his cock pulling it in time to Justin's pistoning fingers.

 

"Turn around. I want to see you," Justin said as he lightly pushed on Brian's side.

 

Brian turned around, sighing at the loss of fullness. Positioning himself over Justin's cock, he slid down on the erection, burying himself to the hilt in one move. Once Justin was buried inside his tight channel, he stopped moving, enjoying the fullness. Shortly, he began to move, sliding up and down on Justin's cock, but never letting it leave his hole. Grabbing Justin's hands, he intertwined their fingers, making their connection even deeper. The water was not too high and didn't go over the edge, but sluiced over their bodies, adding a light wave to their movements.

 

"Love you," Justin said as Brian moved his body over his own.

 

Brian leaned down to kiss Justin, pushing hard on his mouth, tongue dueling with Justin's. Brian was saying I love you in his own way, with actions and Justin heard the words just as clearly as if he's spoken them aloud. Justin raised his hips to meet Brian's downward stroke and soon both men were breathing heavy, their bodies focused on the task at hand, pushing to reach the climax that would push them over the edge.

 

"Justinnnnnn," Brian yelled as he felt his balls tighten and his climax exploded.

 

"Briannnnn," Justin yelled as he climaxed, shooting his cum all over Brian's torso.

 

They were in tune with each other, two lovers who'd been together for many years and understood each other's needs. No words needed to be shared, inquiring if "it was good for you" or some other euphemism. Once Brian's heart rate slowed, he got off Justin, stepping out of the tub.

 

"I'm going to be a wrinkled prune: you kept me in their so long," he said, teasingly. He grabbed the towel off the towel rack and began drying his body.

 

"But you're my prune," Justin said as he enjoyed watching Brian drying himself. Stepping out of the tub, he grabbed the other towel for himself and dried off. When he was finished he popped the towel over Brian's ass.

 

"Oh, so that is how you're playing it. You'll pay for that, Twat," Brian said as he popped his towel over Justin's ass.

 

The two of them swapped hits for a few rounds, then Brian pulled Justin into his body and kissed him. Justin let the towel drop on the floor and Brian did the same. Brian ran his hands over Justin's torso and then clutched his ass, squeezing the firm mounds. Justin pushed into Brian's torso, his erection starting to grow again. Brian's erection was evident as well and he removed one hand from Justin's ass to clasp the two erections together, rubbing them.

 

"MMM," Justin said as he enjoyed Brian's touch.

 

"Let's move this to the bed. Much more enjoyable to fuck you in the bed than standing in the drafty bathroom," Brian said as he reluctantly released his hand from their cocks.

 

Justin and Brian went to their bedroom, lying on the bed as Brian suggested. Brian motioned for Justin to turn over and he willingly complied, knowing that Brian was most likely going to rim him. He remembered their first night together when Brian had asked if he knew what rimming was and he said sure, not wanting to appear naïve. When Brian had rimmed him the first time, he almost came from the experience. It was one of his favorite activities in bed and he enjoyed giving it as much as receiving it. Brian was a slut for rimming. When they met, most of Brian's sexual encounters were in back rooms, public restrooms or alleys, rimming was not something he experienced very often. When he hooked up with Justin and brought him to the loft on a regular basis, it was something they enjoyed almost every time they got together. As Justin was fond of saying, he "was on to him". Justin knew enough not to share information about their sexual exploits, but he knew what they did was different than what Brian did with most tricks. The fact that Brian did him more than once should have been a clue to everyone, but even that knowledge was kept well under wraps and only the most observant of their friends had an inkling that Brian had sex with Justin more than once.

 

Brian pushed open Justin's ass cheeks, inhaling the unique scent that was his, despite just getting out of the tub. Licking his lips in anticipation, he blew a warm breath on the rosebud hole, watching it wink in response. Sticking out his tongue, he lightly licked the path from the top of Justin's crack all the way to his balls. Repeating that path with his tongue several times, he lingered on the hole, savoring its unique taste. On the fourth swipe, he plunged his tongue inside. Justin moaned in appreciation and his arousal increased. Brian licked the hole, plunging his tongue in and out several times until it was very wet. He pushed his thumb into the tight channel as his tongue continued its assault. Moving his thumb in and out of the hole, he continued to give Justin a tongue bath over his perineum. Justin was humping the mattress, trying to increase the friction on his cock. Brian continued his ministrations until he heard the unmistakable change in breathing, signaling Justin's imminent orgasm. He pulled out his thumb, placed some lube on his cock and plunged into the dark chasm of his partner. While Justin had been on top earlier in the evening, he was very aroused and the stretching from Brian's thumb along with the lube made entrance fairly easy.

 

"Ahh," Justin said as he was filled with Brian's 9 ½ inch cock. "Love you inside me."

 

"You ready?" Brian asked, wanting to be sure his partner was okay before moving.

 

"Move!!"

 

Brian didn't wait for further instruction and started to slowly move in and out of the tight opening.

 

"I said MOVE," Justin said, his voice very commanding. Brian recognized this voice, the one indicating Justin was very close, needed and wanted Brian to move fast and furious.

 

Brian upped his pace from the slow and steady to fast with quick jabs to Justin's prostate. Each jab brought a moan of satisfaction from Justin's lips and urged Brian to increase his pace. Soon both men were breathing heavy and Brian could feel the tell-tale tightening in his balls, signaling impending release. He could not stop the freight train from arriving and soon shot into his partner while Justin shot onto the sheets. When their breathing and heart rates returned to normal, Brian got off Justin and went to the bathroom to retrieve a towel to clean the wet spot and himself. After cleaning, he returned the cloth to the bathroom.

 

"You made a mess. Want to change the sheets?" Brian asked when he returned from the bathroom.

 

"Not yet. We should talk about Gus and his moms," Justin said as he scooted toward the top of the bed and propped himself on several pillows.

 

Brian joined him, propping his pillows on the headboard as well.

 

"You know, this talking thing is getting to be a habit. You're going to turn me into a lesbian if I'm not careful," he said, tongue in cheek.

 

Justin play slapped him on the arm in response, recognizing Brian's teasing for what it was.

 

"So, don't tell me Lindsay changed her mind and now wants Gus back. I'll fight her if she does. No child should have to wonder if they are wanted in their own home. I grew up knowing I wasn't wanted, but Gus...."

 

Justin didn't let Brian continue, putting up his forefinger to his lips, signaling he wanted Brian to stop talking.

 

"No, she didn't fight it at all. All she said was that he has a key and can come in any time to get his Legos."

 

Brian frowned at the statement, "I'm not seeing a problem here. Care to explain your angst?"

 

"When I called, and it was after 8:00 at night, mind you. I could hear the car door being slammed and her fiddling with the door in the garage. Like she was just getting home."

 

"And..." Brian said, sometimes wondering why Justin had to go into every detail of a conversation when just the highlights would be sufficient. He waved his hand in Justin's direction, trying to hurry the conversation along.

 

"She didn't ask to speak to Gus. She didn't ask how he was or what he was doing. It was like she didn't even care. He was sitting right there when I called and I'm glad I didn't have her on speaker phone. I think he would have been really hurt to know she didn't even think to ask about him or want to talk to him. And... She didn't seem to be bothered that we would be coming by when no one was home, like missing an opportunity to see him wasn't important."

 

"So really all this is about her lack of parental interest?"

 

"I guess so. Brian, it's like he's not even her child anymore." Justin wrung his hands together in turmoil.

 

Brian gathered Justin in his arms, hugging him tightly. "He's with us now. Just think of her disinterest as another notch for our side if she contests him living with us. Did you record the conversation?"

 

"Yeah, I did. But since she didn't know it was recorded I don't think we could use it in court, if it came down to it." Justin pulled back from the embrace and looked Brian in the eyes.

 

"True, but I don't think it would ever get that far. I think if she heard all the conversations that we have been taping, it would be an eye-opener for her. I think she would realize that Gus is better off with us, we make time for him and don't feel he is a bother."

 

"You really think she wouldn't fight us on it."

 

"Not sure if she won't fight, but I think in the end, we would win. Gus is old enough to let a judge hear his opinion. While he isn't old enough for the courts to let him choose, I think his opinion with the tape recordings would most likely be sufficient for us to gain full custody. Mind you, I don't think it would come down to that, but I would be willing to go to court if need be."

 

Justin let out a big yawn. Brian looked at the clock on the bedside table and it read 11:30. He turned off the bedside light by his side of the bed and moved his pillows to the bed, arranging them as liked for sleeping. Justin turned out his light as well and moved his pillows. Leaning toward his husband, he kissed him.

 

"Thank you," Justin said quietly into the dark.

 

"No thanks needed. He's our son and part of our family. I will fight for him. Now let's hope our other son will follow his brother's advice and not wake up at 3:00 am. This father needs his beauty sleep so he can wow all his clients tomorrow."

 

Justin turned over, scooting his back into Brian's chest. Brian laid his arm around Justin's middle, pulling him close. Both men closed their eyes and allowed sleep to claim their tired bodies.

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

As planned, Gus and Justin went to his Mother's home after school to get his Lego's and whatever else he decided he needed. They drove up to the house and Justin parked the car in the driveway. They walked up to the door and Gus got out his key and inserted it in the lock.

 

"Did you use your key a lot, Gus? I mean were you home by yourself?" Justin asked, trying to discern if this was a common occurrence. He knew Gus was responsible but overall, he still thought Gus was too young to be left on his own. If Gus was still living here, he'd have a conversation with Brian about it, but since Gus was now living with them, it wasn't necessary. He would have to do a little research regarding an appropriate age for a child to be left alone. While he was protective of Gus, he didn't want to smother him either."

 

"Sometimes. I mean if I didn't have after-school activities, I would come home and call Mom or Momma and let them know I got here."

 

"How long were you home by yourself?"

 

"Until they got here. Usually 6:00 or so. Jenny would be here with me so we would play together." Gus put the key back in his backpack and dropped the pack by the door. ‘I'm hungry. Can I have a snack before we get my Lego's?"

 

Justin was fuming when he heard that Gus regularly watched his little sister for several hours while his parents worked. He knew there were lots of parents who couldn't afford daycare and had to scramble for after-school care, but his moms both had good jobs and he knew Brian gave them more than enough money to pay for daycare for both kids, even if J.R wasn't his child. The upside was if his Moms argued about the custody thing, this situation would be in their favor. They had a live-in nanny who would be there for Gus.

 

"Sure. Let's see what your Moms have." They made their way to the kitchen where the big clock on the wall ticked loudly. Several of the oak cabinets were open as were several of the drawers, alluding to a hasty exit in the morning. There was a cereal bowl with milk and a few spoon fulls of cereal left on the table and a half-eaten piece of toast smeared with jelly on a plate.

 

Again Justin cringed. He would never leave the kitchen in such disarray, Brian would have a fit and honestly, he'd grown used to seeing a spotless kitchen. He would find something for Gus but they would clean up their mess; no way was he leaving any trace of their visit for the girls to criticize.

 

Opening the pantry, he saw a package of Fig Newtons and grabbed those. He got out the milk from the fridge and poured Gus a glass and put several newtons on a plate. He also grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl. Gus sat at the table and peeled his banana, taking several bites before placing it on the table.

 

"Bananas are my favorite. I could eat two or three of them every day," Gus said after he swallowed.

 

"I like them too, but I don't think I could eat two or three a day. I haven't had Fig Newtons in a long time. I think I will grab a few for myself. They look good." Justin got up and grabbed a few newtons for himself and placed them on a napkin. Biting into the first one, he smiled and nodded his head in appreciation. "Yep. Still yummy."

 

They finished their snack and Gus put his glass in the dishwasher and threw his napkin in the trash. "Okay, let's go get my Legos. I was thinking we could bring home some of my Star Wars toys to put in the city. I have an R2D2 and a C3PO and Uncle Michael bought me a Leia and a Lando Calrissian too. I have a Jabba the Hutt somewhere too. I think I need to buy some aliens for my Cantina and I need a few ships too. This is going to be so awesome, Pappa Justin."

 

While Justin was not a Star Wars fan; in fact, he didn't know a lot about Science Fiction, he's been indoctrinated into the fandom by Brian and Michael. Brian secretly loved the genre and of course, Michael, being the comic geek was well-versed in the storylines.

 

"Time to gather your toys. Where are your Legos?"

 

Gus led Justin to several parts of the house where he kept his prized toys. There were figurines in the basement, set up so they could strategically spy on the person doing the laundry. He had several on one shelf posed in a tactical watch position. Several bins in the hall closet held various Lego sets and there were additional boxes of Legos in Gus' room. There was also a large bucket of Legos in the toy room. Gus placed each container by the door. When he was done, he had at least 10 sets of Legos.

 

"Wow, Gus. You could really build a city with all these."

 

Gus' eyes got very wide as he looked over his collection. "My friend, Tommy has way more. I asked for some for my birthday but only got a set from Dad and Uncle Michael. Mom and Momma gave me clothes and books."

 

"Those are good presents too, Gus," Justin said, wanting to acknowledge the value of all the presents. Justin opened the door and started carrying out the many bins and boxes of Legos. "Come on, we need to load these up and see if there is any room for anything else in the car. I don't think your father had any idea how many Legos you actually owned."

 

They loaded up the car and took a few books, clothes and other toys with them. The car was packed pretty tightly and Justin was glad Gus was big enough he could sit in the front seat. When they got home they unloaded all the Legos into the special room and Gus took the other items to their respective new homes.

 

"Papa Justin, let's go build a part of my new city," Gus said after he finished putting all his toys and clothes away.

 

"No. I think you need to do your homework and then we can see what time it is."

 

Gus stomped his foot and frowned at the response, "But Pappa, I haven't played with them in almost a week and I really need to start my city."

 

"Gus. I said no and that means no. If you continue to argue, you won't get to play with them at all today. Now, go do your homework," Justin said, his voice very firm.

 

Recognizing the tone as a serious one, Gus murmured, "okay" and went to get his backpack from the front foyer where he'd left it.

 

Justin went to his studio and opened his email to check his correspondence. He was expecting several emails from Carol regarding some opportunities for upcoming events and he was anxious to see if any word had come of the shows.

 

It was still early, only 5:00 pm and he had several hours before he had to relieve Chloe, but Gus would need to eat in an hour, therefore he did not have a lot of time. He decided that he would draw a few sketches in the short time he had. He knew Gus would finish his homework and then either go find Chloe and Colin or play in his room. He'd been really good about respecting Justin and Brian's need to work in the afternoon and after all, he had just spent several hours with Justin picking up his Legos. Justin grabbed some charcoal and a sketch pad wanting to make some landscape sketches. He set his timer, knowing that he tended to get lost in his work. When it went off, he put the charcoal down and let the picture sit on the table. After spraying it to set it, he put his supplies away and closed the door to his studio.

 

Making his way down to the main floor, he heard Chloe, Gus, and Colin in the kitchen. Colin was sitting in his high chair, a bib around his neck and his little fingers were digging into the plastic lip trying to eat the food he'd earlier dropped. His little face was a mess as were his fingers and he understood why Brian preferred to eat after the children were finished. Something very unappealing about dinner when it was smashed between 6-month-old fingers. Justin made his way to Colin and kissed the top of his head.

 

Looking at Gus he asked, "Did you finish your homework?"

 

"Almost. I got hungry so came in to eat dinner."

 

"Okay. Let's see what Rosa left for you," Justin said as he opened the fridge and looked at the containers on the shelf. There was meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. Justin took out the containers, fixed a plate for Gus, then put it in the microwave to reheat. "Go wash your hands."

 

Gus washed his hands and when he came back he got the milk out of the fridge and Justin poured him a glass. Justin sat down next to him while he ate his dinner.

 

Colin had finished his dinner at this point in time. Chloe had cleaned him up and gotten him out of his high chair. "I'm going to take him to the nursery to play. Gus should be finished with dinner by 7:00 and you can take over."

 

"Sounds good," Justin said as Chloe brought the baby down toward Justin for another kiss. Gus reached out and kissed his brother also.

 

"Thanks for going to my house and getting the Legos Pappa Justin. I can't wait to build the city. Do you think we can start after dinner?"

 

"Homework, first," Justin said, reminding him of the rules.

 

"But after..."

 

"If we don't have time tonight, tomorrow is Friday and you get to stay up a little later on the weekend. We can definitely find time to play over the weekend."

 

Gus frowned but reluctantly nodded in agreement. He knew when to push and this was not one of those times.

 

Justin had poured some milk for himself and drank a bit and then placed his glass on the table.

 

"How was your math test? Did you remember the steps we talked about last night?"

 

Gus ate a bite of meatloaf and swallowed before answering. "I think I did okay. I was one of the last kids to finish the test, but I double checked my work as you told me too. It was a good thing since I added wrong one time and missed a part of an answer. That is a good trick. Thanks, Pappa."

 

"It's not a trick, Gus. It's just good practice. I always check my work. Especially when you see all your friends are finished; you have a tendency to hurry because you think you're doing something wrong. Often times they are the ones that did something wrong by not checking their work. Mistakes can be very costly. That is why Uncle Ted doubles and triple checks his work at Kinnetik. Your Dad would be very mad if Ted made a mistake and cost him a lot of money."

 

"I guess I never thought of math in those terms. Dad's business is very important and Uncle Ted would be in big trouble if Dad lost money because he didn't check his work. I'm going to always pretend that every math problem is one I'm doing for Dad's business and it better be right," Gus said with the seriousness of a person much older in years. He knew his father's business was very important and Justin's example really hit home with him.

 

Justin nodded realizing that he just made math relevant for his son and he was very proud. Gus was a smart child, but when a teacher or parent is able to relate school to real life, it becomes more important and relevant. Kids have shown that learning has to have a personal impact to really stick and now he'd shown Gus how important math is, not just some random problems in a book that his teacher assigned to him. He would have to tell Brian about his conversation and of course, he knew that Brian would tease him about his PSA but he was still really happy with the conversation.

 

Gus finished his dinner and then said, "I'm going to go finish my homework and then play with Colin for a bit. Do you think I could feed him his last bottle?"

 

"Sounds like a plan. I'm going up to the nursery now and relieve Chloe." Justin watched Gus put his plates in the dishwasher and clean the table where he ate and then go to the media room where he had a small desk to do his homework.

 

Justin walked upstairs and went into the nursery. Chloe was reading Colin a book about everyday objects. There were pictures of hands, feet, shirt, shoes and some common foods. Each page had one object on it and Chloe named the object and told Colin a little about it. He looked at each page and appeared to pay attention. When Justin walked in the room, his focus left the book and he looked toward the door.

 

"Hi there, big boy. Time for Ms. Chloe to go eat her dinner and for me and Daddy and Gus to play with you." He walked in the room and reached for Colin. Picking him up, he kissed the baby on the forehead and then rested his head on his shoulders.

 

"He just got a new diaper. He took a long nap this afternoon so he might not go to bed until 8:30 or so. Night Justin," Chloe said as she smiled and left the room.

 

"Let's put you on the floor and practice your crawling. Gus said you were getting up on your hands and knees a lot this afternoon," Justin said as he put Colin on the floor. He put several toys just out of his reach and watched as the little boy pushed on his belly to reach them. He tried a few times to get on his hands and knees and rock but couldn't quite figure out how to move his limbs to move forward.

 

Brian joined him shortly after he put Colin on the floor. "Gus is finishing his homework. Thanks for the math talk. I know he's said that he wants to work at Kinnetik when he gets older. This really hit home for him."

 

Justin leaned over to kiss Brian briefly on the lips and then turned his focus back on Colin. "Gus spends a lot of time in my studio and we mix paint to form new colors and I've shown him a lot of different techniques with brushes and washes. While he's gone to Kinnetik often, I don't think he really has an idea what happens there. He knows Ted works for you and handles money, but this helped a little."

 

"You are so good with him. I guess I will take him with me and start showing him more about what I do. Sounds like he does have some business interest after all."

 

They watched Colin play and reach for the toys for another half hour and then recognized the sounds of distress coming from his mouth, announcing he was getting hungry. Gus heard the noises and came to the door.

 

"I heard him on the intercom. Can I still feed him? I'm almost finished with my homework." He looked from Brian to Justin, hoping to see a nod of affirmation.

 

"Sure. Go down and get the last bottle. It should be in the fridge. Warm it for 10 seconds and bring it up," Justin said. He moved to where Colin had scooted himself across the floor and picked him up, giving him a few kisses on his face.

 

"I know you're hungry. Your brother is getting your bottle right now," He said calmly and softly to his son. He knew that Colin really didn't understand his words, but he felt the soft soothing tones would calm his son.

 

Gus appeared shortly and sat in the rocker. Justin placed the baby in his arms and Gus proceeded to feed his brother, singing a few songs to him as he ate. Brian and Justin looked at their sons, both filled with incredible happiness. Colin finished his bottle very quickly. "Ready to change him, Dad," he said as he looked at his father.

 

"I thought since you were so eager to feed him, you would change him too," Brian teased.

 

"Uh..," Gus seemed to stumble on his words. "I might..."

 

"Your father is teasing you, Gus. Changing a squirming baby is difficult. We'll put him in a fresh diaper and sleeper. Why don't you give him a kiss and go finish your homework."

 

Gus leaned over and kissed his brother and then hugged both Justin and Brian.

 

"You're evil. You know that?" Justin said, smiling as he gathered the supplies to change Colin and get him ready for bed.

 

Brian just grinned but didn't respond. He assisted Justin in getting Colin ready for bed and then they sang him a little song before placing him in his crib. They closed the door, made sure the baby cam was on and then returned downstairs to join Gus.

 

Gus had finished his homework and was in the media room playing a video game. He looked up when he heard his fathers enter. "Dad, can we play with the escape room. It was really fun figuring out the clues."

 

"One game and then it's time for you to head to bed." Brian sat next to Gus as they started clicking on items in the room for clues. They got through about half the room when Gus let out a huge yawn.

 

"Sonny Boy, we can come back to the game later. It's time for bed now."

 

"But Dad, I'm not tired," he protested.

 

"Says the boy with a yawn so big I could see his tonsils," Brian said.

 

"Gus, remember what we said about bedtime. School nights are not negotiable," Justin said as put down the magazine he was reading. "Tomorrow is Friday so you will have a little more time over the weekend to play."

 

"Okay." He hit save on the screen and hugged his father. "I'll go get ready for bed."

 

"We'll be up in a few minutes to tuck you in," Brian said. He shut off the computer and watched as Gus walked up the stairs. "I've got a few emails I need to check. Do you have anything, Justin?"

 

"I'm good. I can go up and tuck Gus in if you want to get started," he said, offering to help his husband.

 

"No, tucking Gus in is important and a few minutes isn't going to make a lot of difference."

 

Justin returned to his magazine, finishing the article he was reading and then placed it on the coffee table. "Ready?"

 

"Sure," Brian said. The two men went upstairs and tucked Gus in for the night. Each man gave the little boy a kiss and hug and told him to sleep well. They walked out of the room and shut off the light. Pulling the door to, they retired to the main floor; Brian to his office and Justin to the media room. Brian worked for an about an hour and then came into the media room.

 

"Bed," Brian said as he tilted his head toward the stairs.

 

"Sounds like a plan. I think you can see my tonsils too," Justin said as he let a huge yawn open his mouth.

 

"I'll have to investigate when we get to bed," Brian said as he held his laugh in check.

 

They ascended the stairs and got ready for bed.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Gus had been living with Justin and Brian for several weeks. It had been a time of adjustment for everyone, but it seemed to be going well. Neither Lindsay nor Mel had mentioned Gus coming home or appeared to feel that the living situation was a temporary one. Gus and his fathers had been busy building his Star Wars city and the city was frequently a topic of discussion at dinner and free time.

 

Brian and Justin were lying in bed on Thursday evening after enjoying mutual blow jobs. It had been a very long day; both men having unexpected late afternoon meetings. They had to call Chloe to stay later and feed Gus as well as give him his bath. They hated that they missed their evening with him, but knew that sometimes it was inevitable. It was just unfortunate that both of them were busy on the same night.

 

"I hated not spending time with Gus tonight," Justin said as he lay on Brian's chest. He lazily circled his finger around his nipple, enjoying his husband's body, but not trying to start another round of sex. "And even one night of not spending time with Colin seems to be too much. He is growing and changing so fast. Every day he can do more things. Just the other day..."

 

"Justin I get it. I see him every day too. You don't have to extol our son's daily feats to me and Gus. I really want him to see at least one of us. I think he believes us when we say that we want him here and that he is important, but when neither of us make it home..."

 

"Yeah, I know. Maybe we should discuss our calendars with each other. I can usually schedule my meetings on a different day. It's not like I'm trying to convince the gallery owners to show my work; more like the other way around. They are trying to convince me to let them show my work. I can make appointments when I choose."

 

"That's an idea. Why don't you call Cynthia and figure something out? It might not always work, but it might help us avoid another night like tonight." Brian kissed Justin on the top of his head and ran his hand up and down his back.

 

"Speaking of Gus and security, I was thinking of Debbie's Sunday dinner," Justin said as he moved his finger away from Brian's nipple and just caressed his chest as he continued to lay on top of his husband.

 

"What about Sunday dinner?" Brian asked, already knowing what Justin was going to say.

 

"We should go," Justin said. He knew Brian understood the nuances involving the "family" dinner and didn't want to harp on the subject.

 

"We should talk to Gus first," Brian said.

 

Justin bent his head down, giving his husband a soft kiss on the lips. "There are so many scenarios that could occur and I've thought of all of them. It's been several weeks and the girls haven't said a word about him living here. I really wonder what is going through their heads."

 

"I know every time he would leave after visiting, I would miss him. I can't wrap my head around their behavior. They haven't even called or asked about him. It's like he just isn't on their radar." Brian flipped Justin off of him and lay down next to him, taking his finger and swirling it on his nipple. "You think we could get lucky and they will not mention anything?" Brian asked, wishing that his life could be that easy. Brian trailed his finger up and down Justin's side, enjoying the smooth flesh.

 

"I wish... Seriously, we have to have a game plan. What are we going do if they push Gus to go with them? We've managed to keep him out of their presence but the minute we show up to Sunday dinner, everyone is going to know that he's living with us."

 

Brian moved his fingers down to Justin's cock, lazily stroking it. "That is why we have to talk to Gus. I don't want to keep him from seeing his moms, but I don't want him to feel that he has to be with them either."

 

Justin pushed himself closer to Brian, enjoying the feel of Brian's hand around his cock as he started to stroke his erection. "Come to think of it, Gus hasn't asked about seeing his moms. I wonder what is going through his head?"

 

"That is why I said we need to talk to Gus. Now, enough about the lezzies; it's making my dick soft and yours seems to be rather excited at the moment. I say we give your cock some relief and then we go to bed. Colin doesn't always sleep through the night and Chloe said he went down pretty early. "

 

"Sounds like a plan," Justin agreed as he grabbed the lube they kept in the bedside table. He got up on his knees, flipped the top and squirted some on his fingers, then pressed them into his tight hole.

 

"You look so hot doing that; preparing yourself for me," Brian said. He leaned over and kissed Justin hard on his mouth as he rubbed their cocks together. He never tired of seeing Justin ready himself. It amazed him that after being with him exclusively for over 5 years and having sex with him for over 10 years, he still found their sex life exciting. He would have never believed anyone who told him that sex would not turn into a boring event after a few fucks with the same guy. He should have known Justin was different from the very beginning when sex was never boring and he couldn't keep his cock out of his bubble butt.

 

"Love you," Justin said as he pushed Brian down to lie on the bed so he could slide his cock deep inside him. He never tired of making love with his husband. Unlike Brian who was amazed that they were still together and enjoying sex, Justin knew that once Brian got over his commitment phobia, they would still be hot in bed.

 

Soon their thoughts were solely on the intimate joining of their two bodies. Gus, Colin, the girls, the family; all were forgotten as their bodies moved to the ancient rhythm that no one had to teach them. Their love flowing through their mouths as they kissed and their hands as they entwined each other's fingers. Both men wished the ecstasy could last longer as the high was reached too soon. Justin felt the familiar tingle in his back signaling his imminent orgasm. Brian untwined their hands, grabbing Justin by the hips as he moved his husband's body, bringing his body to orgasm much too soon for his liking.

 

As he came, he pulled Justin down, kissing his mouth hard and enjoying the spasms of Justin's cock as he too orgasmed.

 

"Love you, Sunshine," Brian said as they both allowed their breathing to return to normal.

 

Justin got off and retrieved the cloth they placed by the bed each night. They had found it easier to keep one there than to get up several times to clean each other. He wiped both of them and put the cloth on the towel on the floor. He lay on the bed and turned to kiss Brian one last time.

 

"I guess we better get some sleep. Tomorrow is Friday and Gus still has school. I remember you said you had a meeting in the morning so I will have to get up and take him to school." Justin turned on his side and Brian wrapped his arm around his waist, gently kissing him on the neck before telling him good night.

 

The next night they both made it a point to be home in time to eat dinner with Gus. Gus was setting the table and Justin was getting the food out of the oven. Chloe placed Colin in his highchair and put on his bib.

 

"It's Friday. Why don't you start the weekend early, Chloe? Brian and I will handle it," Justin said as he got the plates and bowls from the cabinet.

 

"You sure? I can stay till 7:00 like normal. I haven't finished the laundry yet," Chloe said as she walked toward the laundry room.

 

"Move the last load into the dryer, just in case we forget and then you can call it a day. It's been a long day and you stayed over yesterday."

 

"Justin, I knew that there would be days where I would have to stay over. You guys explained that in the beginning. It's not a big deal. I love taking care of Gus and Colin."

 

"Just take care of the laundry," Brian said as he walked into the kitchen, having heard the discussion from the back of the house as he walked in from the garage.

 

"Okay," Chloe said and went into the laundry room to move the last load of laundry before retiring to her nanny suite. She really didn't mind taking care of Gus and Colin but she wasn't going to be told a third time to move the laundry. It was a demanding job, but she loved this little family and was happy to help them.

 

Brian smiled as he looked at his family and went to kiss Colin on the head and ruffle Gus' hair. "Hey, Sonny Boy, why don't you get the silverware and the napkins out. I hear Justin's beast all the way over here by the door."

 

"Daddy, Justin doesn't have a beast in there. He just has a high metabolism," Gus said as he laughed at his father's antics.

 

Justin prepared Colin's plate and placed in on the tray. He scooped up a bite of mashed potatoes and fed it to him. Colin took his fingers and put them in the mashed potatoes and then in his mouth. Liking what he tasted, he did it again. Justin had placed a half a mashed banana there as well and he ate that too. Justin had taken the chicken and cut in tiny pieces and Colin tentatively put one in his mouth. Colin was well on the way to feeding himself.

 

"I'm glad you feed him. I don't think I could stomach my food if I had to watch him play with his," Brian said. He turned toward Gus so he would not have to look at the mess his other son was making with his meal.

 

Justin ignored Brian and his need for cleanliness and continued talking to Colin about his meal, telling him all about the different foods and where they came from.

 

"I can't believe you are telling our son that the potatoes grow in the ground and the banana comes from a special tree. I see that you have not stopped sharing your PSA's with a 9-month-old," Brian remarked as he heard Justin drone on about the fact he was eating antibiotic-free chicken.

 

"Gus, how was your day?" Brian asked.

 

"Good. We got extra recess because everybody passed the math test. Justin's idea of checking my work is really helping."

 

"Justin is really smart," Brian said, smiling at his son.

 

"You're smart too, Daddy."

 

"Daddy Justin and I were talking last night about Grandma Debbie's Sunday dinner. We thought we might try going this week."

 

"Will Mom and Momma be there?" Gus asked. He took a bite of his chicken and played with his mashed potatoes, averting his eyes from Brian.

 

"Probably. Does that bother you?"

 

"Well... Umm... I"

 

"Gus, you can say anything you want. We won't get mad or upset," Brian assured him. He took a bite of the chicken and tasted the mixture of honey and garlic sauce that Justin raved about.

 

"I want to see them, but I don't. I miss them, but I'm not sure they miss me." Gus ate another bite of his potatoes and swallowed before voicing more of his concerns. "I don't want to go live with them, Daddy. What happens if they want me to go home with them." Gus' tears started forming and he wiped at them.

 

"Of course, they want to see you, Gus," Justin said as he walked to the sink to grab a wet cloth to wipe off Colin's face and hands.

 

"Then why haven't they called or come by? It's like they forgot all about me. I guess they like it better since they don't have to argue about who's turn it is to pick me up," Gus said quietly.

 

Justin returned to the table, cleaning off Colin and then got him out of this high chair. He sat him on his lap as he wanted to be a part of the conversation. "No one has forgotten you, Gus. I'm sure your moms are just busy," Justin said, hating that he had to lie to his son about his selfish mothers.

 

"I don't know if I want to go Sunday. What if they argue with you and Dad and want me to come home with them. I like it here and I would miss Colin and you and Daddy," Gus said as his voiced cracked with emotion. "I miss Grandma Debbie and Auntie Em. He always makes me laugh."

 

"You won't have to go home with them, Gus," Brian said, trying to reassure his son. His son's words resulted in a physical hurt in the pit of his stomach and he couldn't imagine what Gus' stomach must me like to share these thoughts with them. All he wanted to do was to gather his son and make all the hurt go away. He damned Lindsay for still managing to hurt his son even when she hadn't seen him in almost a month.

 

"Are you sure? I heard you talking to Daddy Justin when you told him that Momma Mel might argue with you."

 

Both men looked at each other, their eyes communicating volumes without a spoken word. Each man nodded his head in acknowledgment of the silent agreement to each other and to their son.

 

"That was grown up talk, Gus, but I promise you will go home Sunday night with me and Daddy Justin.

 

"Brian...."

 

Brian looked at Justin and smiled a small grin. "He will go home with us, Justin. Those papers in my study will insure that."

 

Justin understood Brian's thinking and was not going to push his partner, especially in front of Gus. He didn't want to worry their son and Sunday was a long way away. He would insure that the four of them did a lot of fun things, keeping Gus' thoughts away from the dinner Sunday night.

 

They finished dinner and Gus helped clean the table while Justin went upstairs to get a clean set of clothes and a new diaper for Colin. They played in the play room that evening where Colin practiced his new skill of standing and babbling. Gus built block towers with Colin's blocks which Colin promptly knocked down, laughing as he did so. Gus enjoyed the interaction and laughed along with his little brother.

 

"See, daddy, Colin can already play with me. Soon he can help me build Star Wars city."

 

"I like the way you play with Colin, but it will be a bit before he can play with your city, buddy. The pieces are too little for him and he could choke," Justin said. Seeing Gus' face he added, "But you guys could play cars together in a few months. You would have to use your really big cars, the ones that didn't have separate parts, but that would be pretty safe."

 

"Okay," Gus said as he mentally inventoried his cars in his head. He knew he would be able to play with his brother for a long time. "I'm a good big brother and I want him safe. Maybe you could pick out some new cars for me to play with him," Gus said, hoping to get some new vehicles for his collection.

 

Brian smiled at Gus's remark, clearly seeing his son's ulterior motive, but appreciating the sentiment. "We'll see," he said in response and waited for his son's disappointment to show on his face, but was surprised when Gus did not respond. He realized that "we'll see" had become synonymous with, yes in Gus' book. Oh well, a few cars aren't going to make a difference in his toy box.

 

Soon it was time for bed for Colin and the three of them got him ready; Gus fed him, Brian changed him and Justin rocked him and sang him a song. They kissed him, placed him in his crib and gently closed the door to his nursery. As they walked down the stairs, Gus asked if they could watch a movie. They agreed and watched Jumanji. When it was over Gus got ready for bed, read his book for a bit and they said good night to him.

 

The weekend was filled with plenty of down time for family activities, but they also did some work projects as well. Gus had art class and homework while the family grocery shopped and did laundry. Brian did a little work for Kinnetik as he had a campaign he needed to finish before Tuesday and Justin sketched a few ideas for his new series. Sunday afternoon, Brian and Justin were sitting in the media room with Gus playing a video game while Colin slept. Gus had just beat Brian for the third time and was very pleased with his performance.

 

"When do we have to go to Grandma's?" Gus asked. His voice was quiet and they could hear the reservations he had aired earlier.

 

Brian motioned for him to sit next to him, patting the space and opening his arms. Gus eagerly moved to sit with his father, this being one of his most favorite places. He felt secure and loved when he sat in the special place right under their arm, but since his father was not quite as demonstrative as Daddy Justin, it was always special when he was invited there.

 

"You still worried about today?"

 

"I'm sorry. I'm being a baby. I know you told me that mom and momma can't make me go with them, but..."

 

"You're not a baby. I'm glad that you feel confident enough that you can tell us these things. You are safe with us and you will come home tonight with us. I promise. If your moms have not asked you to come home for the last few weeks, they aren't going to have you do it now. Even if they tell you to get in their car, you do not have to do this."

 

"You promise? You get in our car." Brian said, attempting to make his son understand.

 

"I promise. I love you, Daddy." Gus took his arms and wrapped them around Brian's neck, kissing him several times on the cheek.

 

"I love you too, Sonny boy. Now, didn't you say that you had a math test tomorrow? Why don't you practice your math problems until Colin wakes up? When he wakes up, we'll go to Grandma Debbie's."

 

Gus kissed his father again and dutifully went upstairs to get his math book and practice his problems.

 

"You handled that really well, Brian. Are you sure about the girls? I mean I can see them insisting that Gus go home with them, pulling the mother card. I don't want Gus to think we lied to him." Justin walked from the chair to the couch, sitting next to Brian and reaching for his hand, squeezing it tight.

 

"I did not lie to my son. Those papers in my office protect us and if the munchers challenge us, I have already put a call into my lawyer who will have the police there to back us up. They are not taking my son home tonight. They may challenge us in court, but tonight he comes home with us." Brian leaned over and kissed Justin on the mouth, but before they could get deeper into the kiss, they heard a loud cry from the nursery, signaling that Colin had woken from his nap.

 

"I'll get him," Justin said as he started to get up.

 

"Okay and I'll get my copy of the custody papers....just in case."

 

Soon the four Kinney-Taylors were off to the family Sunday dinner. As always, they walked in without knocking. Sunday dinner was a tradition and all were always welcome. Debbie turned around at the sound of the door opening and got up quickly to grab Colin.

 

"And look at you. You've grown so much since your daddies brought you over to see your Grandma Debbie," she said, the unsubtle hint that Brian and Justin had not been to dinner in way too long. Turning to Gus, she said to him, " I bet you help your daddies a lot with this little guy."

 

Gus beamed at the compliment. "I do, Grandma Debbie. I feed him and I sing to him and we play blocks together. Daddy Justin said that soon I can play cars with him but I will have to get new cars since he can swallow the little parts from my other cars. He's starting to crawl and I will have to close my door so he can't get into my room."

 

"You'll have to be careful to close the door when you're not there. Soon he'll be walking everywhere."

 

"Ms. Chloe is always watching him and she wouldn't let him in my room."

 

"Ok," Debbie filed that information away and took the baby to the living room. Justin asked Gus to get the blanket for Colin and a few of his toys which Gus dutifully did. Gus got on the floor and started playing with the baby. Debbie watched as Gus pulled out a toy and talked to Colin in a very familiar tone.

 

"Gus, you sure play really well with your brother, Colin. I bet your dads are really proud of you," Debbie remarked, trying to confirm her suspicions.

 

"I love my brother, Grandma. Daddy said when I get older we can play even more together, but right now I have to be gentle. Daddy Justin paints with me and lets me do stuff with him in his studio and I can't wait till Colin is old enough to join us. Daddy says he's always proud of me. I love my daddies."

 

The door opened again and in walked Emmett and Drew, carrying a big shopping bag filled with food. "Debbie, they were out of the coconut flakes that you use, so I brought the ingredients for that scrumptious chocolate cake. I'll just get started and then it will be ready for dessert."

 

Gus looked up and saw Emmett and Drew enter the house. He loved his Auntie Em and got up to give the man a big hug. "Auntie Em, Auntie Em, are you going make that yummy chocolate cake with the dark, dark chocolate flakes on top?"

 

Emmett squatted down to look Gus in the eye and said, "Why yes I am. Would you like to help?"

 

"Daddy, can I help Auntie Em make the yummy chocolate cake? You know the one with pieces of chocolate flakes on top. It's my favorite favoritist cake."

 

"Sure, son. Just listen to Emmett and do what he says. Try not to make a mess of Grandma's kitchen like you and Daddy do when you help him cook dinner."

 

Gus laughed at his father's remarks, knowing how neat his father liked things. Daddy Justin had told him many times that his dad was a neat freak and didn't like anything out of place. He had learned to put away his toys very early after moving in with his fathers. "I will, Daddy. Thank you. Daddy Justin, can you watch Colin while I help Auntie Emm. I don't want Colin to be alone."

 

Justin had already moved down to be with his son and said, "Go help Emmett make chocolate cake. Maybe you can talk him into giving you an extra piece since you helped cook it."

 

"Daddy," Gus rolled his eyes and went to the kitchen to help Emmett.

 

Drew sat down on the couch, joining Carl in watching the basketball game on tv.

 

The door opened again and Mike, Ben and Hunter came in, followed closely by Mel, Lindsay and J.R. J.R. gravitated toward Colin and sat down to play with his toys.

 

"Everybody is here, today. It's so nice for all the family to be together. The last few weeks it's just been Mike and Ben or Ted and Blake."

 

"Where are Ted and Blake, Ma?" Michael asked.

 

"They are on their way. They saw a matinee of some Opera. I'm sure Ted told me what it was, but I didn't pay attention. I'm just happy that all by family is here. Dinner should be ready any time. By the time Gus and Emmett finish their cake, the Putenesca should be done."

 

"Gus is in the kitchen? I want to say hi to him," Lindsay got up and went to the kitchen.

 

Gus was helping stir the batter and didn't look up when Lindsay entered into the room.

 

"Gussy," she said and went to hug him. He stopped stirring and moved closer to Emmett.

 

"Don't call me Gussy. I'm not a baby," Gus said as he pulled away from her attempt at kissing him.

 

"Okay." Lindsay backed out of the kitchen, plastering a smile on her face. "They should be done in a few minutes. Why don't we sit down? I'll help you serve the food, Debbie."

 

Everybody went to the table, claiming their chairs when Ted and Blake walked in the door.

 

"Just in time, Ted. I told you we wouldn't be late," Blake said as he pulled out a chair at the full table.

 

Lindsay followed Debbie into the kitchen as Gus and Emmett were putting the cake in the oven. "Lordy, you have enough food to feed an army, Deb. Good thing everybody showed up today. I'm sure Justin will help you eat it," Emmett said as he high fived Gus. "Come on, Gus. Let's go find your dads and brother."

 

"Dad, Auntie Em and I made a yummy chocolate cake. It's going to be stupendous. Ask Auntie Em. You have to eat some."

 

The mention of chocolate cake made Brian cringe but he knew he would eat at least a small sliver, just to make Gus happy. He'd do anything to make Gus happy.

 

Everyone gathered around the table and passed the food around. Soon everyone's plate was filled with generous helpings of Putanesca, garlic bread, and salad. Brian had more salad than anything else, but he always took a little pasta. Since Debbie did not have a high chair, he held Colin on his lap and gave the young child small pieces of noodles. They brought a special plastic bowl for him and he recognized that as his. Brian carefully placed a few bites at a time on the plate and Colin was happy. Brian was happy to be involved with this process as he didn't have to actually watch Colin eat.

 

"He's a really good eater," Lindsay said as she watched Colin eat another bite of noodle. "I don't remember Gus being that way. Meal times were always so stressful, trying to find something he would eat."

 

"If you fed him real food instead of that vegan tofu crap, I bet he would have eaten. He eats just fine at our house," Brian said in response. He never held back his opinion of the women's choice of food, frequently choosing to eat before any meal that he agreed to attend their home.

 

"How's soccer, Gus?" Ted asked, trying to deflect the tension between Brian and Lindsay.

 

"Soccer is over, but it was a great season. I can't wait to start indoor soccer in the fall. I miss it. Dad said that I was getting really good and I'm going to a soccer camp this summer."

 

"And who do you think is going to pay for this soccer camp, young man? We have a lot of expenses and soccer camp is a luxury," Melanie says. Everyone at the table looked at her, shocked at her tone.

 

Gus started to answer, but Justin put his hand on Gus' thigh under the table, squeezing it gently. Gus turned his head toward his Daddy Justin and Justin smiled at him, reassuring him that he did not need to respond. Gus ignored the question and turned his head toward J.R. to see if she was enjoying the garlic bread since he knew that was her favorite thing at Grandma's.

 

"I don't think you can go to soccer camp. I remember it cost over $1,000 for a week and I, for one, am not going to put that kind of money out for you to play soccer. You can attend regular camp or go the sitter with J.R. which is even cheaper."

 

Justin had finished eating his dinner and wanted to get Gus away from this potential minefield, he tapped the young man on the shoulder and asked, "You done, buddy?"

 

Gus nodded his head in agreement, feeling more uncomfortable as his Momma was questioning his summer activities. Justin pulled his seat away from the table and helped Gus extricate himself from the table as well.

 

"We'll be out back, practicing Gus' soccer skills," Justin said and he led the little boy outside.

 

Justin went to the car to grab the soccer ball they kept in the trunk. They'd started to keep a ball there so a quick jaunt to the park was always an option. They had used the ball numerous times since Gus had come to live with them. While Debbie's back yard wasn't very big and Justin was not adept at soccer, they kicked the ball around and Gus practiced his drills.

 

"Soccer camp is expensive Brian. You shouldn't tell him he can go to such things when you know we can't afford it," Lindsay said as she picked up the conversation once Gus was out of ear shot.

 

"It's my money and since when do you have a say so in what I spend my money on."

 

"Gus is our son. We have a say so in what he does and I don't think expensive soccer camp is something he should be doing. In fact, the camp is very expensive. He probably will just go the sitter with J.R." Lindsay smiled and spoke to the group as if she was the definitive decision maker in this area.

 

"Seems to me that since you haven't had any interaction with Gus in almost a month, I don't think you really have a say in the matter," Brian said, the thinly veiled accusation catching all the "family" off guard.

 

"He's my son. You have no rights to him," Lindsay looked at the people around the table trying to judge who might be on her side. "You aren't there to tuck him in at night and take him to school and to buy him clothes and to go to teacher's meetings. How dare you?"

 

"Really, Lindsay. Seems to me that you've been too busy with your job and other commitments to be bothered by Gus. He's been living with us for the last month and this is the first time you've even said hello. Justin and I have been doing all those things and more for him. He comes home from school and there is always an adult there for him; something he did not have at your place. Although I can't figure out why he needed to take care of himself and Jenny as I gave you plenty of money to hire a sitter or at least put him a program after school." Brian hadn't planned on throwing the kitchen sink at Lindsay but her audacity at providing the laundry list of "things" she was doing for Gus made him incredibly angry and he let her know. "And really, tucking him in at night, fixing his food, taking him to school and buying him clothes does not constitute raising a child. Spending time with them and teaching them about the world, that's what parenting is about. Gus loves talking to Colin about the world. I venture to say he probably spent more quality time with his brother since he was born than you have spent with him in the last six months." Colin could feel his father's tension and heard the anger in his voice. He started to cry.

 

"I don't think you really do have a say in the matter since he's been living with Justin and me. I have a son who needs me and unlike you, I'm there every day for him. I'm going to take my family home." Brian stood up and walked to the diaper bag, picking it up and putting it on his shoulder. "It's okay, Colin. We're going outside to see Daddy Justin and Gus," he said as he headed toward the back door.

 

Melanie stood up and screamed, "Hold it right there, Kinney!!! You drive away with Gus and I will call the police on you and charge you with kidnapping."

 

"I doubt that. I have these papers that prove otherwise." He waved the custody papers in her direction. "I suggest you and your wife leave my family alone. I'm taking my sons where my husband and I are not too busy climbing the corporate ladder to make a home for our children. I suggest you think about making your other child a priority or you will lose her too."

 

The family was stunned at Brian's tirade. They had no idea that Gus was living with Brian and Justin and it appeared this was not the end of the discussion.

 

"Fuck you, Kinney. Don't threaten me. You will be sorry!!" Melanie yelled as he walked out the door. Lindsay started crying, but no one moved to comfort her.

 

After a few moments, Debbie got up and said, "Who wants dessert?"

Chapter Text

Fallout

Lindsay and Melanie watched Brian and his family walk out of Debbie's home. Lindsay was crying softly, saying, "my baby, my baby...I've lost my baby" while Mel was cursing Brian, calling him every derogatory name she could think of.

While Deb tried to distract everyone with the offer of Emmett's famous chocolate cake, no one was paying her any attention. Ted knew about the custody papers Brian waved in front of the group and he was privy to Gus' current living situation. He had made sure Gus was set up with paper and crayons during the visits that he made to Kinnetik when Brian needed to pick him up and couldn't go home immediately. His information about Gus' soccer playing came from their interactions at Kinnetik. He had not found it prudent to mention it to either Mel or Lindsay as he was aware of the potentially volatile situation.

"Ted, did you know that Gus was living with Brian and Justin?" Drew asked. Of the people at the table, he had the least interaction with Mel and Linds and their children. Emmett often saw the gang in town when they came to his shop to buy cookies or cakes and he thought that he would know of the situation.

"Yes, I knew. Gus has been a frequent visitor to Kinnetik lately."

"I didn't know. He told me that he had Gus after school, but he never said anything about having him all the time. I bet that was Justin's idea. I should call and see if he wants to hang out and have some adult time. I'm going to call him and talk to him." Michael started to push his chair away from the table, but stopped when he heard Debbie.

"You will do no such thing. If Brian wanted to tell you, then he would have. Leave the man alone."

"But Ma. I know Brian, and he never signed up to be a father full time."

"Michael, I suggest you let Brian and Justin decide what they want instead of telling them what you think," Ben said as he put his hand on his husband's arm. "Gus isn't your child."

"But J.R. is my child and if Brian and Justin have Gus living with them, then maybe..."

"Stop, Michael," Ben got up and pulled Michael to a standing position as well. "Let's talk," he said and propelled the reluctant man toward the back yard. It seemed that Debbie's back yard was the place of refuge for many of the family today.

"Michael. This situation does not involve you, so please stop. Brian and Justin have Gus at their home and based on what Brian said, he's been there for a while. It's none of our business and we shouldn't comment on the situation," Ben told his husband as he walked him away from the door to the back section of the yard. Debbie had two old lawn chairs out there and they walked there to sit.

Michael looked around the yard, the streetlight on the corner always placed a strange glow on the area and tonight it gave an otherworldly gleam to the area.

"Ben, I know this is not like Brian. He would never volunteer to have Gus full time. This is all Justin's doing. I'm sure that Justin wanted the two kids and the picket fence. I just can't believe that Brian is letting him get away with this. "

"Michael, listen to yourself. You've known Brian since you were 14 and you're always telling me that Brian never does anything that he doesn't want to do. He loves Justin and Gus and I'm sure that Gus didn't just show up at his doorstep and tell him, I want to live here."

Michael listened to his husband but he really didn't know what to think. He knew that Brian never did anything he didn't want to do, but on the other hand he didn't think Brian would just take on Gus full time. "Ben,if Gus is having problems, then maybe J.R. is too. We should do something."

"And, what do you think this something is? Do you really think we are ready to be full time parents? You've always seemed fine with the idea of being a part time father. You've never expressed a desire to have children of our own. "

Ben looked at his husband and wondered, not for the first time, where his husband's obsession with Brian Kinney would lead their lives. It often seemed to Ben that Michael lived his life in the shadow of Brian, choosing activities based on what he thought Brian would do. If Brian went to Woody's, then Michael had to go. If Brian expressed an opinion, then Michael would automatically agree, even if he had no idea what the topic meant to him. However, when Brian got married to Justin, his husband had thrown a fit. Brian can't really want that and Justin pushed him into it. When they told their friends they were having a child, Michael had been livid. He could not be convinced that this was something Brian wanted. This latest development, having his older son live full time with him, just added fuel to Michael's fire regarding his "best friend's " life.

Looking at his husband again, he repeated the question, "Michael, since when do you want to be a full time parent? Are you really up for that job? Because if you go in there questioning Gus living with Brian... Question if J.R. is safe in Mel and Linds care.... Are you stating that you want J. R. full time? If you are, then are ready to be a full time parent with all the responsibility that entails. If not, then I suggest we talk about what you do want."

Michael opened his mouth to answer and then the door opened and Emmett came out with two plates of chocolate cake. "Lordy, the air is so thick in there. I almost didn't need a knife to cut my cake. I put away a big piece for Gus. I know he was disappointed that he didn't get to eat any since Brian and Justin left so abruptly." Feeling the tension between the two men sitting in the yard, he handed them their plates and said, "Well, I think I should go see if Drewsie is ready to leave. I think he has some practice tapes to watch." He turned and walked back to the house.

Michael took a bite of the cake. "This is great. I wish Emmett lived closer. I would have him make cake all the time." Michael ate his cake and concentrated on the plate rather than looking at Ben. "Aren't you going to eat your cake?" he asked as he noticed Ben just holding the plate.

"No, I'm not going to eat the cake. Stop delaying and answer my question, Michael."

"I guess I could be a parent full time. I just never thought about it. It couldn't be that hard, if Brian is doing it. I mean if we had J.R. then Brian and I could do dad stuff together. We could hang out again. That would be fun. Colin isn't all that much younger than J.R. and they could grow up together. That would be fun. I never had any brother's and sisters when I was growing up. Sure."

Ben shook his head, not believing the way his husband 's mind connected everything in his life to Brian. "Michael, this isn't about what Brian is or is not doing. Raising a child is a serious commitment. Raising J.R. takes a lot of time. This is not some quick decision. This isn't about Brian and you hanging out with him. It's about J.R."

Michael took Ben's chocolate cake, stabbing the piece in his typical fashion. "I know. Brian has the baby and he seems to be okay. I can't believe it would be so hard."

Ben stood up and walked around the chairs. He was beyond exasperated. He was not getting through to his husband. He did not want to raise J.R. and really did not think Michael did either, but rather he saw this as an opportunity to spend time with Brian. "Michael, why don't you spend more time with J.R. first. We only see her a few times a month. If you really want to be a parent, a full time parent, then you need to go into this decision with your eyes wide open. I'm not ready to be a full time parent."

"But if Brian can do it..."

"This is fucking not about Brian. It's about J.R. and being parents. Don't you get that? Brian has Gus since Mel and Linds evidently were too busy to be with him. We have no history of being with J.R. more than a few hours a month and I don't think we should rush into this. I also think there is more to this situation then either of us know or understand. I don't think we are in a position to just demand J.R."

Michael finished Ben's cake, dragging the fork across the plate to get the last of the rich icing.

"So we're going in there and telling Mel and Linds we want J.R. more because we think that J.R. isn't safe." Michael stood up and Ben pushed hm down in his seat.

"Michael are you even listening to me or yourself?" Ben stood up and gestured wildly with his hands. "Until an hour ago, did the idea of having J.R. on a full time basis ever enter your mind?" Ben ran his hand over his face and through his hair. "Your whole conversation regarding J.R. is a result of Brian announcing he has custody of Gus. " We have no reason to believe that J.R. isn't safe or well cared for. We can go in the house and ask to spend more time with her. But I would only do that if you are really serious about increasing your role in her life. If you are asking for more time with her because Brian is caring for Gus, then..."

"Then what?" Michael stood up, his anger making him red in the face.

Ben recognized that Michael was beyond reasoning with at this point. He needed to rein him in and calm him down before they returned to Debbie's living room. If he didn't, then who knew what would come out of his mouth.

"Michael, please sit down," Ben said quietly. Ben sat in one of the lawn chairs and patted the other for Michael to join him. "I know you are worried about J.R.. So what if after a month or so, we get the feeling that something isn't right, then we discuss more active parenting."

Michael stood up again and started walking toward the back door gain.

"Michael...," Ben said. "You will not go in their accusing the girls of anything, right?"

"Ok. I will just ask for more time with J.R. Is that okay?" Michael said as he looked at Ben. "She's my kid. Maybe, I should..." Michael said , recognizing Ben's tone and understanding that he meant business. Ben seldom raised his voice, but when he did, Michael knew he should pay attention.

"How about I do the talking?" Ben suggested, but didn't get a response from his husband.

"Michael.... " Ben said a little exasperated. Standing again, he reached out to hold Michael's hands in his hands, gently squeezing them. "Michael, you realize this is a touchy situation. Tempers are high. We don't want to appear not to trust Mel and Linds."

"Ok, but if they say no...I'll.."

"You'll what? You are not going in there and threatening them. J.R. appears well fed and clean and happy. We really don't know what is going on with Gus, Brian and Justin. It's not our concern. J.R. is our daughter and we should be interested in her, not what would Brian do."

"But Brian has..."

"Stop, Michael. This isn't about Brian. Leave him out of this discussion for once."

Michael let out a big sigh, and said," Okay" He secretly didn't agree with Ben, but he accepted that Ben wasn't going to give an inch.

The two men went into the house where it appeared that everyone stopped talking and looked at them as if their appearance was a surprise.

"I've got two pieces of cake left. One for each of you. Now sit your asses down and eat your cake. Everyone else is finished."

"Yes, ma," Michael said as he pulled out his chair to sit at the table.

Ben pulled his chair back as well, but pushed the cake plate away. "No thanks, Deb. I've eaten way too much food already."

"You sure, honey. Em and Gus worked real hard on it."

"No, I'm sure. Why don't you save it for Gus. I'm sure he would want a piece."

"My baby, Gus. He has my baby, " Lindsay cried and tears ran down her cheeks.

"I still can't believe that bastard, Kinney took our son. How dare he..."

Lindsay turned toward her partner and said, "I want my baby."

Mel reached over and hugged lindsay and said, "He can't keep Gus. I'll make sure he won't even be able to see him. That bastard."

No one said a word at the table. Knowing Brian and Justin as they did, they believed there was more to this situation then any of them knew. While Brian loved Gus, any one of them could see that through his interactions; he had never expressed a desire for the little boy to live with him full time. Since Justin returned to Pittsburgh, Brian and Justin had made it a point of having him stay with them most weekends and holidays and took him for a vacation several times a year. He was very involved in the child's life. Even before Justin returned, Brian had made it a point of seeing him at least once a week and he kept him when his mother's were busy with activities. Something major must have happened and no one was willing to share their speculation about the situation. None of them, save Ted and possibly Emmett, knew was that Gus was now living with Brian and Justin and had been for over a month.

"Drew and I will be going, Deb. Thanks for the great meal. I'll just box up the chocolate cake, I'll make sure that Gus gets his piece," Emmett said as he brought the leftover cake toward the kitchen.

"Emmett Honeycutt!! How dare you support that bastard Kinney? I bet you've known all along that he had Gus," Melanie yelled at his retreating back.

Emmett did not respond. Of course he knew that Gus was living with Brian and Justin. The girls were making it sound like Brian kidnapped him, but that was far from the case. He'd pay Brian a visit at Kinnetik tomorrow to see if he needed anything. He knew this could get ugly. He placed the few remaining pieces of cake in the plastic container, making sure to put toothpicks on the top to not smear the icing.

"Ready Drewsie? I've got a few parties to start planning for and I think I need to go home." He knew that this wasn't the truth, but he was not going to sit here while Mel and Linds blasted his friends for something that they did.

Drew walked over to Debbie and kissed her on the cheek. "Dinner was great."

Deb watched as the other family members took their plates to the kitchen and loaded them in the dishwasher. Blake was standing by the sink, washing dishes and directing everyone with chores to put her home back in order. She was thankful for the help, although her and Carl would have managed it on their own. The home was back in order in just under thirty minutes. Everyone went to kiss Deb goodbye and shake Carl's hand. In just a short half hour, their home was quiet and no one would guess there had been such drama there for most of the afternoon.

Debbie went to the couch and sat down and Carl sat down as well.

"What do you think, hon? Do you think the girls just forgot about Gus living there? I can't believe that a mother would do that, but then Brian had those papers he was waving around. It was like he expected problems. Brian loves those boys and I know that he would do anything for them. While early on, he was not very involved with Gus, that hasn't been the case for many years," Deb said as she reviewed the afternoon's events out loud.

"I'm not sure what to think, Red. But I agree that something is up. As you said, Brian bringing those papers to the dinner, that screams at me that he expected a scene."

"You know, now that you mention it, I was in the kitchen when Em and Gus were making their cake. Lindsay came in and Gus told her to go away when she tried to kiss him. I've never seen him do that. Maybe there is really something going on. You think I should go to Brian's and talk to him?"

"I see where Michael gets it," Carl remarked as he gently laid his hand on Debbie's thigh. "This is really between Brian, Justin, Mel and Linds. I'm sure that if there is trouble, Brian has already talked to his lawyer. He leaves nothing to chance. The one I feel sorry for is Gus. Mel and Linds acted like everything was fine and they had total say so in what he did. If he hadn't mentioned soccer camp, I'm sure something would have happened when they were ready to leave."

Debbie smiled at Carl's remark, but didn't argue. "Did you see how mad Mel got when he mentioned soccer camp? The more I think about this afternoon, the more I have to agree with you, dear. Brian expected there to be trouble, otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned the papers. I just hope it doesn't get ugly."

"Me too, Red," Carl said as he leaned over and kissed her. "They've all gone home and we have the house to ourselves," Carl said as his head tilted and he smiled widely.

"Why Carl Horvath... I like the way you think."

****

Brian and Justin put Colin in his car seat and made sure Gus had his seatbelt on before pulling away from Debbie's house. They were each reliving the conversations from this afternoon, but everyone was quiet for the first half of the ride.

"Daddy," Gus said from the back seat. "Can I still go to soccer camp? Mama Mel got really mad when I said I was going, but you said I could."

Brian gripped the steering wheel and took several deep breaths trying to calm himself and refrain from yelling. "I already registered you for camp. Ms. Chloe will take you there and bring you home since it is only a few hours in the morning. There is a park near by and she mentioned taking Colin there while you have camp. Of course, if it's too hot, then she'll take Colin somewhere cool while you practice and then pick you up."

"Yeah," he yelled.

Justin turned around from the front seat and took his hand palm down and lowered it as he looked at Gus. "Remember, Colin gets upset with lots of loud noises. I'm glad you're excited, but you need to keep your voice at a conversational level."

"Sorry, Daddy Justin. I was just excited."

"I know you were, buddy. Just try to remember to not yell inside."

"Ok."

Gus looked out the window for bit and then asked, "Daddy, am I going to go live with Mommy again? I like it a lot at your house. You play with me and read to me and Daddy Justin paints with me. And I don't have to watch J.R. and I have my Star Wars City and I don't come home by myself and ..."

"I don't think so, but you might stay there sometimes like you used to stay at our house," Brian answered. He was not going to go into all the legal issues with a 10 year old and while he thought he had everything figured out, in this case, the lawyers might be the one to decide.

"Ok. I guess that would be okay. Sometimes I miss my Mommy and Momma," he answered truthfully.

Brian cringed a little at the statement, but wasn't going to push Gus to pick a favorite parent. While he had no favorite parent, both were equally vile and reprehensible; he had heard enough horror stories from colleagues and his staff to understand that custody issues were never easy. He hoped to shield Gus from any difficulty, but he also knew that he would fight for his son. No way was he just going to give him back to his mothers. These were the women who said they just were too busy and had too many engagements to be running around taking their son to his activities.

Brian felt his grip on the steering wheel get stronger and Justin recognized his tension. He gently lay his hand on Brian's thigh, making small circles on the sensitive area. He squeezed his leg in comfort and saw that his actions were relaxing his partner.

They were almost to their home when Gus asked, "Can we watch a movie? We left Grandma's house early and I've finished all my homework."

"Sure, buddy. I think that is a great idea. What do you want to watch?" Justin asked. He realized they all needed to unwind from the angst filled afternoon and a movie would allow Gus to let his imagination run wild. Since the movie would most likely be animated, Justin would be able to lose himself in the graphics and Brian could choose to either play with Colin, watch the movie or do a little of both.

"I think I want to watch The Secret Life of Pets. It's got all kinds of animals and they do funny things."

Justin grinned at the mention of the movie, having watched it earlier in the week with Gus and finding it adorable. "That sounds like fun. We can make a big bowl of popcorn too."

"You just finished dinner," Brian said.

"But we left before dessert," Justin reminded him.

"I wanted to eat my chocolate cake. Aunty Em and I worked really hard on it."

"I bet Aunty Em took some home for you. Do you want me to call him and see?"

Gus practically bounced in his seat. "Yes. Do it now. I really want my chocolate cake. Can you go get it now?"

Justin called Emmett. "Hey Emmett,"

"Hi Sweetie. What can I do for?"

"Well, Gus and I were wondering if there was any chocolate cake left? We kind of left in a hurry and he wanted to eat his."

"Of course. I took it home and was going to bring it by Kinnetik tomorrow. Would that work?"

Justin said to Gus, "he offered to take it to Daddy's work tomorrow. Would that work?"

Gus nodded his head in agreement.

"Perfect. Thanks so much, Em. Gus was really bummed that he didn't get any, especially when you guys worked so hard on it."

"Of course, sweetie. He's the best little helper. I took the liberty of taking all the cake Deb had left. I'm sure you want your piece too. I even have a small piece for that husband of yours, even though we all know that he doesn't eat chocolate cake. I'll just put it with yours and he can take a bite. I'll never tell."

Both Justin and Gus giggled at Emmett's explanation, but neither of them commented. They both realized the truth in Emmett's words, but knew better than to say it out loud.

"Well, thanks a lot Em. We will look forward to it. Have a good night." Justin hung up the phone, not wanting to ask how the rest of the dinner went. He was sure that he would have several differing reports by the end of the day tomorrow. For now, he wanted to spend the rest of the weekend with his family.

Brian pulled the car into the garage. He got out and moved to unbuckle Colin while Justin unlocked the house. He hoisted Colin and asked Gus to grab the diaper bag. Not for the first time, he marveled at the changes in his life. He, Brian Kinney, stud of Liberty avenue was carrying a baby into his home. He was looking forward to spending time playing with said baby and watching an animated film with his 10 years old son. How his life had changed and he realized he wouldn't change anything about it. Well, truth be told, he wished that this whole stupid custody thing would just go away and he could raise his son.

"Gus," Brian said. "You can watch the movie, but you need to take your shower and get your P.J.'s on first. This way when the movie is over, you can go directly to bed. And if you give us any trouble about going to bed, we won't watch any movies on school nights."

"Okay, Daddy. I'll go upstairs right now." He rushed up the stairs and within less than 5 minutes the water from the hall bathroom could be heard.

"You're a good dad," Justin said as he grabbed Colin from Brian and placing him on the mat that he had placed down on the floor. "Why don't you go change too. Once Gus goes to bed..." Justin licked his lips and smiled very large at Brian as his eyes traveled up and down his body.

"How long is the damn movie?" Brian said as he returned the look and felt himself harden in his jeans.

"An hour and a half. You can wait that long. Besides, Colin will be hungry soon and he probably needs a bath too. If you give him one, the movie should be almost over when you are done feeding, changing and bathing him."

"The things I do for your body...." Brian said, tongue in cheek.

"You so loveee me," Justin sing- songed as he watched his husband quickly go upstairs to change.

Brian shook his ass a little extra as he walked up the stairs and Justin laughed at his antics.

"Twat," Brian said as he continued up the stairs.

"But I'm your twat," Justin yelled.

"Yes, you are and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Gus came down in record time and they made popcorn for their movie. Brian had grabbed Colin and had finished feeding him.

"Say good night to your big brother Gus and your Daddy Justin. You're going to take a bath and then I'll read you a story," Brian said as he placed Colin in kissing distance of both Gus and Justin. After kisses and good nights, Brian retreated upstairs to take care of Colin while Justin and Gus watched the movie.

When it was over, Gus gave Justin a kiss and hug. "Thanks Daddy Justin. I love that movie. Are you taking me to school or is Daddy?"

Justin returned the hug and said, "I'm taking you tomorrow. Daddy has to be at work really early, but he will pick you up at school. I have an afternoon meeting."

"Okay. See you in the morning." Gus walked upstairs and went to bed.

Justin turned on the alarm, turned off the lights and went upstairs. He found Brian laying on the bed, naked with a large bottle of lube. Justin licked his lips and quickly undressed, letting his clothes drop to the floor. He was hard before he even got to the bed.

"Make love to me, Brian. I need you inside me."

"Bossy, aren't you?" he teased as he lightly touched Justin's hard erection.

"No foreplay. It's been a long day and I need you," Justin said as he lay down on his stomach.

Brian wasn't going to argue or tease Justin for he needed the joining as much as he did. He tasted Justin's ass, inhaling the aroma that was unique to him. He never tired of making love to his husband, something that surprised him at times. He'd been with Justin for 10 years and sex with him never got old.

Justin didn't want a lot of foreplay and neither did he. He poured some lube on his fingers and prepared him quickly. He tapped Justin knees, signaling him to get on all fours, seeing the glistening hole winking at him, and aligning his cock with the hole. Pushing swiftly, he breached the first ring and waited for Justin's signal that he could proceed. As eager as he was to take his husband, he never wanted his pleasure to result in pain for Justin. Justin signaled him in record time, and he moved quickly in and out, bringing moans of pleasure from both of them. Before they both wanted, their bodies were reaching their pinnacles and each man yelled out the other's name.

Justin collapsed on the bed and Brian stayed on top of him until his breathing returned to normal.

"Love you," Justin murmured.

"Me too," Brian said.

Brian rolled over and reluctantly Justin went to grab their wet cloth to clean up.

"Got to change the sheets. There a mess," Justin said as he came back with the cloth. "I'm not sleeping in the wet spot."

Reluctantly Brian got off the bed and they changed the sheets quickly. They lay in bed, Justin's head on Brian's chest, the only noise their soft breathing.

"Do you think Mel will fight us? I mean.."

"Shh. Not now. Let's sleep and enjoy each other. Nothing will happen tonight."

"Okay," Justin said as he closed his eyes and allowed his body to relax into sleep.

Brian, on the other hand did not follow his own advice and it was a long time until his brain shut down long enough for him to attempt sleep.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Gus was up earlier than normal the next day and he wandered down to the kitchen to find his father and Justin already sitting at the table. They both had their mugs of coffee and were quietly talking. Hearing the familiar thump thump of his steps, they both greeted him as he sat down at the table.

"Hey big guy. You're up early," Justin said as he stood up to grab a glass for Gus' morning juice.

"Yeah. I was dreaming about Star Wars city and how I would have to leave it here if Momma and Mom made me live with them. Do you think I could take some of it with me?" Gus asked as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

"You won't need to take it with you, Gus. You will be able to play with it any time you want," Brian assured him as he went to fix a bowl of cereal for his son. After pouring Cheerios into a bowl and putting some milk on top of them, he placed the bowl in front of Gus.

Gus took several bites and said, "But mommy said..."

"Don't worry about what your mommy said, you are staying here and living with us."

Justin looked at Brian, started to say something but didn't want to upset Gus. Brian did not ever say anything he didn't mean and those papers that he waved yesterday must have something to do with his statement. He hated that Gus was caught in the middle.

"You've got school today. Finish your breakfast and I'll drive you," Justin said as finished his coffee and poured another mug for himself. He hated mornings, but like the rest of the household, save Colin, he had a hard time sleeping after the events at Debbie's yesterday.

"Ok. It's super hero day. Can I wear the Rage shirt Uncle Michael gave me? I love his mask."

Brian gulped his coffee, trying hard not to spit it on the table. "When did Uncle Michael give you a Rage shirt?"

Gus scrunched his face and thought for a moment. "I think it was a few weeks ago. When Uncle Ted took me to his store. You were in some kind of meeting and Uncle Ted had to pick me up. He said he had to give Michael some stuff and we went there before we went to Kinnetik. Uncle Michael was unpacking a big box of them and said I could have one. Can I wear it? Please dad."

Justin smirked but hid it behind his coffee mug. He was eager to see how Brian handled this latest gaffe of Michael's. Who in their right mind would give a 10 year old a t-shirt for an in your face gay superhero? While he was not ashamed of his work on the comic, he knew it was not appropriate for Gus to be reading. Gus needed to be sheltered for a few more years from that type of comic.

"Gus...." Brian said, trying to phrase his response without upsetting his son and degrading the comic. "Rage is a grown up comic. I don't think it's a good idea to wear the t-shirt to school. Uncle Michael should not have given you the t-shirt. If you want a superhero shirt, Justin or I will buy one for you. Why don't you wear your Spider man shirt? It's got the newest characters from the movie."

"A grown up comic? How can a comic be for grown ups only? Daddy you're not making any sense. Everybody knows that lots of grown ups buy comics. Uncle Michael loves them and he's a grown up."

Brian ran his hand through his hair and took another big breath, trying again. "Rage is about grown up stuff. Other comics talk about super powers."

"Like guys kissing?" Gus said, giving an example of grown up activities.

Both men looked at each other, taken a little aback at Gus' comment.

 

"Yes, like guys kissing," Justin said, trying to be an nonchalant as possible.

"You guys kiss all the time. In fact Daddy, you look a lot like Rage. Maybe I should ask Uncle Michael about Rage. Do you think he knows that you look a lot like him?" Gus asked innocently.

 

Today was starting out to be a real eye opener in more ways than one for the Kinney-Taylor family. Brian wasn't happy that Michael had given Gus the t-shirt, but he couldn't exactly take it back. On the other hand, he wasn't really ready to have "the talk" with his son. As he was mentally debating what he should do in this situation, Colin chose that moment to let his parents know he was awake, hungry and needed out of his crib right this moment.

 

"Gus. Colin's up now and I have to go get him since Daddy Justin is going to take you to school. We can talk about this tonight, but right now you need to get ready for school, otherwise you will be late."

 

"Okay. I'll go up with you and say good morning to Colin. Then I'll find the Spiderman shirt like you said. I bet my friend Brandon will have one just like it. He told me that he was going to see the movie last week. It will be so cool, like we are twins."

 

"Okay. Go say good morning to your brother and I'll be right up."

 

Gus scampered up the stairs and Brian looked at Justin.

"What the fuck did Michael think he was doing giving Gus a Rage T-shirt? Rage looks like me- of course, he fucking does. Doesn't he think before he acts?" Brian said in quick succession. "I think I'll work from home today. Maybe avoid the "family intervention".

 

"I'll take Gus to school and we can continue our talk when I come back." Justin gave Brian a quick kiss and then followed Gus up the stairs to get himself dressed. Brian followed, but detoured into Colin's room.

 

"Hey there, little buddy. Let's get you into a dry diaper and then get some breakfast. Your brother Gus has to go to school." Turning to Gus, Brian said, "Say goodbye and get ready for school. Justin has things to do today."

 

"Okay Daddy." Gus turned toward his brother and kissed his head. "Bye, baby Colin. See you this afternoon."

 

Gus got dressed and when he returned to the main floor Justin was waiting for him. He handed Gus his lunch and they went to the car. Gus sat in the front seat, put on his seatbelt and watched as Justin backed out of the garage.

 

"Daddy Justin, are you sure that I can stay here with you and Dad? Mom and Momma were really mad yesterday. I know when they get mad, I always have to do what they say. One time when I didn't pick up my toys like Momma said, she took away the toy for a whole week." Gus looked at Justin, hoping he would offer the reassurance he so badly needed to hear.

 

Justin was torn between assuring Gus and following Brian's lead. Brian would never tell Gus he could live with them unless he was certain; therefore there must be something in those papers he didn't know about. But Melanie knew the law, she was a lawyer, and he was fairly certain that she would have arranged it so that something like this would not be an option. He didn't want Gus to worry all day; he was a child and shouldn't have to deal with adult issues. They were only a few blocks from school and he needed to make a decision quickly.

 

"Gus. If your dad says that you won't be living with your moms, then you won't. I want you to promise me that you will not go with either of them if they try to pick you up from school or take you out of school. Wait for me, your father, Cynthia, Ted or Grandma Jenn to pick you up. Don't go with anyone else. Okay?" Justin felt confident that he had listed all the people he trusted completely. He was fairly certain that Em could be included but he didn't want to overwhelm Gus.

 

"But what it they come to the school and tell me I have to go with them?" Gus asked, wanting a plan in case something happened.

 

"If they come to school, then go to the principal's office. I'm going to go in this morning and talk to the school and let them know that Mel and Linds are not allowed to take you anywhere."

 

"You can do that?"

 

"Sure. It is sad that I have to, but we want you safe. Are you okay with all this? I know it's scary."

 

"Yeah. As long as I know I don't have to go home with Mom or Momma, I'm good. I love you, Daddy Justin. And I love Daddy and Colin and..."

 

Justin had parked the car in the visitor space at the school. After undoing his seatbelt he leaned over and gave Gus a big hug. "Let's go. You don't want to be late for school."

 

The duo got out of the car and walked toward the building. There were lots of people around and Gus felt safe with his Daddy Justin by his side.

 

"Why don't you go on to class. I'm not sure what your Dad's day is like, but one of us will be here this afternoon to pick you up." Justin pushed Gus lightly on his back as he watched the child enter the throng of students in the hallway. He turned and headed to the office.

 

Opening the door, he went to the front desk where a young man about 25 years old, wearing a yellow Polo shirt appeared busy rifling through a stack of papers. The bell on the door announced that someone had entered the office and the young man looked up from his task, and greeted Justin.

 

"May I help you?"

 

"I'd like to speak to the principal."

 

"If you are applying for a job with the school, all applications are accepted at the website," he said, deciding that he couldn't possibly be there to discuss a student concern as he was about the same age as himself.

 

Evidently this young man didn't realize that he was a renowned artist and oftentimes he preferred his interactions that way. Obviously he didn't need a job, but he did want to talk to the principal.

 

"Oh no. I need to talk about my son. He's a student here." Justin smiled, enjoying the look of astonishment on the young man's face.

 

"Uh sure," he said, stammering at the statement. "Can I tell him what this is reference to?"

 

"I'd like to talk to him about Gus Kinney."

 

"I'll let him know you're here. Why don't you have a seat? It may be a few minutes. He will probably not be free until the last bell sounds. That should be about 10 minutes."

 

Justin moved to the plastic chairs in the office, rifling through the magazines lying on the table in front of the chairs. Obviously the school didn't expect people to be sitting there for any length of time as the chairs were utilitarian and rather uncomfortable. There were an assortment of women's magazines, a few back issues of People magazine, several Car and Driver issues, and one Architecture Digest. All the labels had been torn from the magazines, indicating they were subscriptions delivered to people's homes and then brought to the school. He had no interest in women's magazines, not needing information about the latest diet, how to tighten his thighs or have a flat stomach and even less interest in Car and Driver back issues. While he was not an Architect, he at least could appreciate the artistry; therefore he picked up the magazine and began to flip through the back issue. As much as he appreciated the aesthetics of the homes they featured, he realized that his home with Brian met every need and was the most beautiful place in the world. He had everything he needed there; his partner, and his sons. Now only if Gus' mothers would leave them alone and go about their obviously career driven lives, his life would be perfect. His mind drifted to the dinner the night before where Melody started dictating to Gus what he was going to do during the summer. She was undermining all the plans he and Brian had discussed with Gus, telling him he was not going to enjoy his summer camp as it was too expensive. The nerve of that bitch. It was their money and they could spend it any way they wanted. Besides, didn't Brian give them enough money to pay for camp, swim lessons, gourmet food and a quality babysitter each month? Yet, Gus said he let himself into the house a few times a week and was charged with watching J.R. Justin could feel his muscles tighten at the injustice. It was evident to him and Brian that Lindsay no longer wanted to be burdened with the little boy she connived Brian to father. She'd rather give his care to him and Justin, tying Brian to her inexorably, without the day to day challenges and responsibilities. Justin got lost in his ruminations and didn't hear the assistant call his name. It was only when the young man came to his chair and touched his shoulder briefly that he brought his mind back to the present.

 

"I'm so sorry. I guess I have a lot on my mind," he said, his WASP manners automatically kicking in. Standing up, he followed the young man into the principal's office and sat in the proffered chair.

 

"My assistant said you wanted to talk to me about your son. How can I help you?"

 

Justin smiled and reached out to shake the principal's hand. He noticed the plaque on the desk listing his name as Jack Silver. "Thank you seeing me, Mr. Silver," he said.

 

"My assistant said you wanted to talk about Gus, Mr. Kinney?"

 

"Oh.. I'm not Brian. I mean Mr. Kinney. Brian is my partner. Well, he's Gus biological father. I'm Justin Taylor. Gus lives with us. Um... Well, Gus has been living with us for the last 6 weeks. That's why I'm here."

 

Jack Silver nodded his head, but he held up his hand to stop Justin. He clicked on the student icon on his desk top and typed in Kinney in the search bar. Gus' information popped right up and he read it quickly.

 

"Gus has been living with Brian and me for the last 6 weeks or so, now his mothers want to take him back. He doesn't want to go back. I wouldn't put it past either of them to show up at school and demand that he come with them. I told him that I would talk to you and that he could come to the principal's office if Mel or Linds showed up."

 

"I see. A custody issue. Do you and Mr. Kinney have any legal papers regarding custody? The school can't really intervene unless there is a legal situation. It would be your word against his mothers'. I see that a Melanie Marcus and LIndsay Peterson are also listed as individuals Gus can be released to. Are these women Gus' mothers? If so, I would have to have more than your word. I'm sorry, Mr. Taylor. Schools cannot enforce parent's custody quarrels without legal documents. If you can present legal documents that would support your situation, then the school would be obligated to comply. Otherwise, any of the designated people on this list can legally pick up Gus."

 

Justin nodded his head in understanding. "Thank you. I will discuss this with Brian and I'm sure we will be back soon."

 

Justin's first impulse was to call Brian and have him send the papers immediately, but since he did not know what information was in the papers, he felt he really needed to talk to Brian first. It was early and he doubted that Mel or Linds would try to take Gus out of school; they were too busy with their careers to have to "bother" with him all day. Justin walked out of the office and returned to Britin as quickly as he could. He needed to talk to Brian as soon as possible.

 

When he came home, Brian was in his study, computer open but he was staring into space. Evidently his mind was not on his work today.

 

"Brian, we need to talk," Justin said as he sat down in the large maroon chair that was positioned next to his desk. While Brian didn't hold meetings and conduct business from his home office, he did work there when going to the office was not the best option. He knew he was very distracted today and the discussion that he and Justin had started this morning really needed to be completed. It was not something that could be done in Gus' presence. They could wait until after the children were in bed for the evening, but he knew that was not the best idea. He imagined that Justin was probably just as anxious as he was to discuss the events at Debbie's last night. When Justin showed up at his door stating they needed to talk, he was not surprised. He'd managed to complete a little work while Justin had been gone; therefore he hit save on the computer and then shut it down. He moved to the other maroon chair in his office and sat down.

 

"After I dropped Gus off this morning, I went the principal's office to talk to him about not letting the girl take Gus. He told me unless I had some legal document showing they weren't allowed to do that, he couldn't stop them. After yesterday's outburst, I don't trust Lindsay to not go to the school. We promised Gus he wouldn't have to live with them. What are we going to do?" Justin's eyes filled with unshed tears. He was so happy about Gus living with them and now it might all disappear just because his mothers were being bitches.

 

Brian stood up and went to his desk, grabbing the papers he'd retrieved yesterday. "Justin, do you have a fax for the school. I can send these to them right now and then we can drive back to the school. This way if the girls show up now, he'll be protected." Brian waved the papers in his hand and moved toward his fax machine.

 

Justin shook his head, " No, but I'll call right now."

 

Justin quickly made the call and got the information, giving the number to Brian as he punched it in on the fax on his credenza. They heard the familiar whine that identified that a fax is being sent and both let go of the breath they were silently holding.

 

"Done. Let's go to the school and be sure Gus is still safe. I know neither of us will rest until we know those bitches haven't taken him."

 

"Brian, what if we're too late? I mean they could..."

 

"Justin, take the papers and read them on the way to the school." Brian handed Justin the papers and the two men walked out to the garage. Brian drove as Justin read.

 

"Brian, how long have you had these?" Justin asked when he finished reading the documents. "Why..."

 

Brian's heart was racing, fear filled his body and he wanted desperately to be living in a time where those crazy machines that Michael always talked about really existed. Michael was such a geek and he waxed on and on about time travel, teleportation, and beaming people to different locations, it had become a running joke between the two men. For once, Brian really wished he could beam himself and Justin to the school to verify Gus' safety.

 

"When Gus was born, before the munchers asked for money and exorbitant life insurance, Lindsay and I talked. She really wanted me to be a part of Gus' life and insisted that I have some legal documents to that effect. These were written then."

 

"But what about the parental rights? I thought you gave those up?"

 

"I talked to my lawyer and he said that this paperwork will supercede those documents since it gives me full custodial rights if Gus is living with me. And I did a little digging. It seems that Melanie, lawyer extraordinaire didn't know about these papers. According to my lawyer, the papers she put together would have to mention these but since she doesn't know about them, those documents don't count."

 

"Wow. So Gus is really ours since he's been living with us. But what if they challenge that? I mean, I wouldn't put it past them. The way Lindsay was going on and crying last night, you'd think someone had died."

 

"The day he started living with us - when Linds suggested that it would just be easier to have him spend the night then to just have him sleep there and the munchers take him to school, I had Chloe go to the lawyer and sign an affidavit to that effect."

 

"Sneaky bastard. I was so worried, but you seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. Why didn't you tell me?"

 

"I was hoping that the munchers would just let it be. I really doubted that would happen, but I had hoped. We were so tired last night and I started to tell you this morning, but Gus got up."

 

"I love you. I'm so glad we don't have to worry about Gus."

 

"My lawyer warned me that Melanie will try to negate the agreement, but since it was between me and Linds and predates the second parent crap, we should be fine. That doesn't mean we are home free. We still have the family to deal with. I can just see Debbie telling us that a child belongs with its mother."

 

The car turned into the parking lot of the school and both men got out and walked toward the principal's office. The young man in the yellow Polo shirt was still there and he looked up as the bell jangled again.

 

"You're back."

 

"How observant. We'd like to see Mr. Silver. It's very important," Justin said, calmly and quietly, his country club manners rising to the task at hand.

 

"Of course. I'll let him know you are back."

 

"He directed me to the district web site this morning, thought I was applying for a job. Guess he thought I couldn't possibly be a parent since he's about my age," Justin said as he watched the young man move toward the principal's office.

 

"I guess your reputation doesn't precede you here. Maybe you should have told him who you are," Brian teased. He knew Justin didn't like to be treated like a celebrity and really liked it when people didn't recognize him in the community. When he was recognized, he was often unable to do daily activities like grocery shop or go to the bank. He enjoyed picking out his own food, but lately it had become such a chore when most of the patrons recognized him and wanted to stop him or have his autograph, he'd finally taken Brian's suggestion and started ordering most of their food on- line.

 

Justin didn't bother with a response, just gave Brian a frown. He wasn't angry at him, just didn't like the reality of being a renown artist.

 

"Mr. Taylor. Mr. Kinney, I presume? Come into my office." Mr. Silver waved a hand toward his office and the two men sat in the light brown office chairs.

 

"Did you get our fax? That should be sufficient?" Justin asked as he wrung his hand, aka Macbeth style.

 

"I did get the fax. It appears that since Gus is living with you, you do have the right to keep him from going with his mothers. We have already taken care to let all of his teachers know this and I appreciate being kept up to date. It's always sad when a child has to be juggled between his parents. It is very upsetting." Mr. Silver looked at the two men and their presence here in the middle of a work day impressed him. Mr. Kinney looked very professional and he was fairly sure that he was normally working at this time of day. The other gentlemen was dressed in khakis but had mentioned his name... Justin Taylor. He racked his brain for a few moments and it came to him."

 

"Mr. Taylor, by chance are you the artist Justin Taylor."

 

Nodding Justin said, "Yes. But today I'm not Justin Taylor the artist, I'm Justin Taylor, Gus' other father and Brian's partner," he said, wanting to make it clear that this was his priority.

 

"Of course. I didn't mean..."

 

"None taken. It's just been very difficult and we don't want Gus hurt."

 

"Certainly. Would you like to see Gus before you leave?"

 

Both men looked at each other, silent communication at its best and nodded simultaneously.

 

"I think he would like to know that he won't be going anywhere with his moms. He was pretty worried this morning."

 

Mr. Silver looked at his computer, determining where Gus was at this hour and took the two men to his classroom. They looked in the window, assuring themselves that he was indeed right where he was supposed to be. Mr. Silver said, "the bell should be ringing in a minute, why don't we step over to the side of the hallway and we'll catch him when it rings."

 

The three men did as he suggested and the bell rang shortly afterward. Brian saw Gus come out and he called his name.

 

"Daddy," Gus said as he hugged the man. "Why are you here?"

 

Justin bent down to Gus and spoke to him. "Remember this morning when I told you that your Daddy had everything under control. Well we just wanted you to know that everything is fine. You can go to Mr. Silver's office if your moms show up and tell you to go with them. Mr. Silver said you can stay with him until me, Daddy or Grandma Jenn come for you. Cynthia or Ted might come, but those are the only people you should go with."

 

"But what about Auntie Em or uncle Michael or Grandma Debbie? Can I go with them?"

 

Brian stooped down this time. "No Gus. For now, only the people Daddy Justin listed. It's hard for the school to keep track of all the important people in your life. Mostly it will be me or Daddy Justin and if we aren't free, Grandma Jenn, Cynthia or Ted."

 

Both Justin and Brian hugged Gus and he hugged them back. "Thanks for coming Daddy. But I got to go. There is a cool experiment that Mr. Shulte is doing today. We're learning about volcanoes and we're going to make one explode."

 

Again, the two men looked at each other, their silent communication speaking volumes. "I bet that would be cool," Justin said.

 

"Okay, we will see you this afternoon. Daddy Justin has some stuff to do in his studio, so I'll pick you up."

 

Gus leaned over and kissed both men, and then rushed toward his classroom, not wanting to miss any of the excitement.

 

"He's definitely your child, Brian," Justin said as he smiled at his partner.

 

"Well if everything is okay, gentlemen, I will walk you out. I have some other pressing matters to attend to. I assure you that Gus will be well protected here."

 

"Thank you, Mr. Silver," Justin said as he held out his hand to shake the older man's hand. Brian reached out and shook his hand as well.

 

As they walked to the parking lot, Brian said, "All this drama has me in need of letting off some steam. I think this calls for a late morning visit to the loft. The maid service visits regularly and there are no current Kinnetik clients staying there. This way we won't disturb Chloe and Colin either."

 

"I like that suggestion. I think I need to blow off some steam too."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

The loft was a perfect diversion from all the drama in the last few days and the two men enjoyed their late morning activities. Justin enjoyed a blow job from Brian and then blew his husband in return. After a quick shower, where they shared wet kisses and a quick fuck, they dried off and redressed for their respective activities.

 

"While I hate to leave, I really do have some work I need to do," Brian said as he donned his pants and picked up his shirt, starting to button it.

 

"Unfortunately I do too. I have a meeting with the arts council president at 1:30 today. The council wants to discuss a commission for the new theatre. Seems one of their board members heard that I live close by and wouldn't have to pay to lodge if I were to paint something for their new addition," Justin said as he stood at the mirror fingering his hair into place.

 

"We do have combs in the drawers you know," smiling as he watched Justin screw up his face as a recalcitrant lock of hair wouldn't go where he desired. "For as long as we've lived in the area, I'm still surprised how many people don't come knocking at your door for your services."

 

"I'm not a publicity hound like some people and while my art brings me a modicum of notoriety, I'm not a household name. I doubt you would find many people who have not heard of Kinnetik. While I don't limit my showings, Carol looks for viewings and shows that have the potential for large numbers of viewers. The Pitts isn't exactly known for its art scene. Need I remind you that Carol was very skeptical of my ability to live here and show enough in prime locations to get me noticed, but relented when she saw the draw my shows garner." Justin left the bathroom and went to the bed, sitting on it to put on his shoes.

 

"Twat. I don't have to be reminded of your evil ways to twist Carol's viewpoint to allow you to live here and show in New York," Brian said tongue in cheek. "I guess I'm stuck with you living here since it is obvious that you can sell your artwork everywhere. I'm proud of your work and I've actually been thinking of having you paint a new piece for the office." Brian sat beside Justin and picked up his own shoes.

 

"I see. And where would you put this piece? There are few places in the office that aren't already adorned with my stuff."

 

"I was thinking of putting it in the lobby of the building. I thought maybe a rotating gallery might be something to investigate. If you wanted to put some pieces in a show and paint new ones, I could think about that as well." Brian finished putting on his shoes and turned to kiss Justin on the mouth. Straightening up quickly, he stood and walked toward the kitchen. "I hope the service has the fridge stocked, I'm thirsty."

 

Justin followed him into the kitchen. "Do you really want a new picture for the lobby? I thought you loved that picture?" Justin got down two glasses from the cabinet and set them on the counter.

"I do love the picture, but I want to keep Kinnetik fresh and I think I new picture would be nice. It would shake up complacency." Brian poured himself and Justin some orange juice and he took a drink while he looked at his partner.

 

"Okay. Think about what you want there and we can talk about it. It will be a few weeks before I have any time. I have the show in Chicago in a month and I have a few pieces to finish." Justin finished his juice and started to open the dishwasher. "How often does the service come? Should I just clean our glasses? It might be a bit before someone is here."

 

"The service comes once a week. There is usually someone staying here at least that often. They will take any towels and sheets used and clean those. If the bed is made and there are no towels, then no one is here so they don't run the wash. They check the drainer for dishes as well. I guess it would be silly to run the dishwasher for two glasses. Go ahead and wash them and put them in the drainer. The fridge is stocked weekly and any opened containers of food are brought to Kinnetik for the staff. This way it's not wasted and the staff has some nice perks." Brian put the juice in the fridge and noted what food was in there.

 

"I didn't know you did that," Justin said as he kissed Brian briefly on the lips.

 

"If you treat your employees right, they are more likely to remain loyal. I expect a lot from them, but they perform well."

 

"So do I need to take you to the office or are you headed home. We only have the one car."

 

"I wasn't going into the office but since you have a meeting and it is silly to have one of us go all the way to West Virginia, just drop me at the office. I'm dressed a little casually, but I have a coat and tie I keep there. Don't want the natives getting any ideas," he smirked.

 

"Sounds good. I think it will be good for both of us to pick up Gus today. You know, just in case...." Justin said as a tiny shiver ran over him.

 

"I've got a copy of the papers on my phone and the school has them as well. Everything will be fine."

 

They set the alarm, walked out the door and Justin dropped Brian off at Kinnetik while he went to the Arts Council for his meeting.

 

................

 

Melanie and Lindsay sat at the breakfast table drinking coffee and finishing their breakfast. J.R. was still sleeping and they could talk uninterrupted for a time.

 

"I miss Gus. I keep looking at his chair and wondering if he's going to come down for breakfast soon since it's almost time for school," Lindsay remarked.

 

"Just because he's been living with Brian and Justin doesn't mean they are his parents. I bet Brian just told him he was going to live there. I wouldn't put it past him," Melanie said, the venom in her voice easily heard.

 

Lindsay took a small sip of her coffee, although it looked more like milk chocolate with as much creamer as she had in it. "Actually I asked him to have Gus live with them," she said softly.

 

"You did what!!" Melanie said, her voice raising a few octaves.

 

"He was picking him up almost every day after school and then bringing him here to sleep. We barely saw him except to take him to school in the morning. I had to be at the gallery really early to work on the new exhibit and so it was just easier that he take him to school."

 

"I see. I guess I didn't really think about it since I've been going to court so much. I've been leaving really early before Gus and Jenny got up in the morning. I just assumed that you were letting them sleep in."

 

"But all the work for the exhibit is done and I think Gus should come back home. I never meant for it to be a permanent thing. Brian was such a big help these last months. I didn't have to worry about Gus and it made my mornings so easy, only having to drop Jenny at the sitter's. Since the sitter dresses her and feeds her breakfast, all I had to do was to get her out of bed and put her in the car seat."

 

"I think we should go to school this afternoon and pick up Gus. It will be good to have both kids home and our family complete again," Melanie said. She finished her cup of coffee and placed the cup in the dishwasher.

 

Lindsay walked to the dishwasher as well and they briefly kissed. "I'll meet you at your office at 3:00 and we can drive to the school. I think they get out at 3:20 so that should give us plenty of time to get there." Lindsay grabbed her lunch bag and purse and went to the garage.

 

As she drove to work, a niggling thought kept pushing through her brain, but she could not figure out why. She pushed her unease aside and smiled at the thought of her upcoming meeting with the board to discuss the ideas she had for a new show and some new pieces the gallery should acquire.

 

.........

 

Michael and Ben sat at their small kitchen table and ate breakfast. Michael had a bowl of Captain Crunch that he was happily scooping into his mouth while Ben was drinking a Tofu, Kale, and protein shake.

 

"That was some dinner at Ma's last night. I can't remember everyone being so loud. Come to think of it, the last time was probably when Brian announced that he and Justin were getting married. I still can't figure out why he did that. I mean he doesn't seem the marrying type. The Stud of Liberty Avenue just doesn't marry some trick," Michael said, as he reiterated his thoughts for the millionth time.

 

"They've been together for over 10 years. I don't see why their marriage or decision to have a child still surprises you. It's obvious that they are very happy. Brian defends those he cares about and he is fierce when it comes to Justin and his children," Ben said as he took another drink from his shake.

 

"I don't know how you drink that stuff. I just can't imagine drinking anything that color," Michael said as he poured more cereal into his bowl. "I can't believe he has Gus living with him full time. He never wanted to be a full-time dad. He didn't even want to give Linds the jizz for Gus. She had to get him drunk to even agree." Michael didn't look at Ben as he espoused his opinions, taking for granted that his thoughts were mirrored by his husband.

 

Ben finished his shake and rinsed out the glass and poured himself some coffee. Inhaling the strong scent, he took in a deep breath as he gathered his thoughts for the inevitable discussion with his husband. Michael's obsession with Brian and his life were frequent in their home. He fervently wished that his husband had a different hobby, as that is what he considered Brian, Michael's hobby. People often talked about their hobby, spent time pursuing their hobby and sometimes lived their lives around it as well. Michael did all three and therefore Ben felt justified to call Brian, Michael's hobby. Michael had opinions about everything Brian did and unfortunately tried to convince everyone that his ideas were the correct ones, not accepting that they might not be the ones Brian gave for his actions. Brian did not have time for Michael's alternate reality and lately brushed him off when Michael wanted to share his thoughts with him.

 

"Brian's life is not really any of our business. He doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do and evidently he wanted Gus to be living with him," Ben said as he hoped this simple statement would stop the discussion. He checked his phone for the time and saw that he had about 20 minutes before he needed to leave for school.

 

"But he's my best friend. I have to watch out for him. Justin surely won't. He's too busy playing daddy. I just can't see why Brian would want to have Gus and a baby living with him. He hasn't been to Babylon in ages. I'm sure he misses it." Michael got a dreamy look on his face as he envisioned the gang at Babylon watching the weekly contest that involved gorgeous men parading on the stage.

 

Ben sighed and decided reasoning with Michael wasn't going to change his mind and he would need to take a different tactic. "Going to Babylon is important to you."

 

"Sure. I mean I've been going there since I was in high school. Brian and I went the night of our prom. He picked up three tricks that night. It was great."

 

"What about you? What did you do? I mean, did you pick up tricks?" Ben asked. Ben didn't feel threatened by Michael's past, even though the same couldn't be said for Michael. He remembered the huge fight they had when he found out that he and Brian had slept together at the White Party prior several years before he met Michael.

 

Michael thought for a bit and then shrugged his shoulders. "No. I don't think so. I was just thrilled to be there. All those beautiful men." Michael smiled.

 

"Tell me about Babylon. What's great about it now?"

 

Michael looked at his husband curiously, not following his line of questioning. "I love Babylon. It's where me and the guys hang out."

 

"So hanging out with the guys is the important thing about Babylon?"

 

"Sure. And Brian hasn't come to Babylon in ages. He's so busy with work and then when he goes home Justin wants him to take care of the baby, he doesn't have any time to hang out."

 

"Didn't Brian invite you to hang out at his house?"

 

"Yeah. But he wanted to hang out after the kid went to bed. That's different. It's not just us guys."

 

"So when you and I take Hunter out to the show, we should invite the gang?"

 

"No, of course not. That's different. We're a family and we need to do things alone sometimes."

 

"It's okay for our family to do stuff by ourselves, but it's not for Brian and Justin?"

 

"But Brian isn't alone with Justin, he's got the baby." Michael finished his cereal and took the bowl in both hands, tipping it up to get the last of the milk.

 

Ben sighed, sometimes talking to Michael was like talking to a three-year-old. The world revolved around them and they are the only one who matters. He was getting really tired of the constant Michael merry-go-round.

 

"The baby has a name; it's Colin and he's 8 months old and you should call him by it. While Colin and Gus are younger than Hunter, they have the same needs as Hunter does. They want to spend time with their parents and their parents want to spend time with them. Michael, how many times do you wish Debbie would make herself a little less part of our lives? She knows everything about your life as you talk to her at least 4 times a day."

 

"But Ma only wants to be sure I'm okay," Michael said in defense.

 

"No different, Michael. I wish Debbie wasn't in our business so much but I accepted that when I married you. But we are not Brian or Justin's parents and we don't need to keep tabs on their lives. We also can't dictate what they do with their children or friends. If you keep insisting that Brian can only see you at Babylon or Woody's and that meeting him at his home is unacceptable, you may find that Brian is no longer a part of your life." Ben sipped the hot coffee in his cup and then placed it on the table. "People change and their priorities change. You really should accept the changes in our friend's lives."

 

"Brian would never cut me out of his life; I'm his best friend," Michael said the familiar statement. Michael could feel himself getting tense; he was getting aggravated with the conversation.

 

Ben finished his coffee and poured one last cup, then shut the coffee maker off. "I have a faculty meeting this afternoon, so I won't be home till six. Are you going to pick up J.R. or should I?"

 

"I'll pick her up. I want to talk to Mel and Linds about keeping her more often. I think we should be more involved in her life. I need to make sure she's safe, especially with all the stuff that Brian said yesterday," Michael said as he placed his bowl in the dishwasher.

 

"Michael, think about what you just said. You wanted to make sure J.R.'s safe as she is your child. Colin and Gus are Brian's children and he wants to be involved in their lives too. How is that different?"

 

"Brian is the Stud of Liberty Avenue and he's just playing at being a father since Justin is pushing him in that direction. He really doesn't care about being a full-time dad," Michael said, without a second thought or having to come up with a reason that would challenge his earlier statement.

 

"Your desire to spend time with your daughter is more genuine than Brian's desire to spend time with his sons?" Ben asked shaking his head in disbelief.

 

"Sure. Everybody knows that Brian isn't dad material. He fucks whatever moves and he's constantly picking up tricks."

 

"When was the last time you saw Brian pick up a trick?"

 

Michael stood at the dishwasher and scrunched up his face slightly. "I don't remember but I'm sure I've seen him do it recently. He's always picking up tricks and taking them to the back room."

 

Michael was floating down the river "denial" and he was so entrenched Ben didn't think any type of lifesaving device would change his mind. He wasn't sure if the discussion was even worth having anymore. Michael's reality was just that, Michael's reality. He was fairly certain that Mel and Linds wouldn't object to his continued contact with J.R. He loved spending time with her and the opportunity to have a child was one he always wanted but never thought would happen.

 

"I don't think you should talk to the girls today. The whole thing with Gus is too fresh. Wait a few weeks and you might get a better response. I'm sure they are still reeling about last night."

 

"But why should Gus' problems affect me? I'm not his father and all I care about is J.R.," Michael said as he sat down at the table again. "Mel, Linds and I share equal custody of J.R. She should spend more time with me."

 

"What time does she take a nap? What's her favorite food? What does she do when she's upset? Who is her favorite character?" Ben rattled the questions off in quick succession, trying to make his point.

 

Michael looked at his husband, frowning. He didn't understand the purpose of the questions.

 

"You don't even know the most basic things about your daughter. For your information: She doesn't take naps anymore. She loves bananas and french toast. She pulls her ear when she is upset and her favorite character is Elsa. J.R. is a person and not a collectible toy. When she is here, you talk to her like she's a baby, not an 8-year-old little girl. She spends more time with me than you as you don't even show the slightest interest in playing with her or talking to her unless you are discussing comics. I would really think twice about asking Mel and Linds about spending more time with her. You barely spend the little time you do have her interacting with her."

 

"That's not true. Last time she was here we watched a movie together."Michael answered quickly, trying to demonstrate his commitment to his daughter.

 

"What was the movie?"

 

"We watched the new Spiderman," Michael answered, happy that he remembered what they did.

 

"I see. And whose idea was it that you watch Spiderman? I bet it was yours as you told me the day before that you had picked up a copy at the Big Q and couldn't wait to watch it. When was the last time you watched something J.R. requested?"

 

Michael started to answer, his mouth opening and closing a few times, but he remained silent. "I just don't know what to do with her. You always seem to connect better with her. The two of you are always talking."

 

"Exactly my point Michael. Raising a child is more than just showing up. You have to get to know them and spend time with them. It's important to find things that the two of you can do together. While J.R. is a girl and I'm her gay father, I have tried to find things that we have in common, rather than spending time doing the things that I want to do. Just last week we watched a show on Laura Ingalls Wilder's life. She's been reading the stories and I mentioned that there was a show about her life and J.R. asked to watch it."

 

"I'm not like you. I didn't go to college," Michael said, in way of an excuse.

 

"Going to college has nothing to do with it, Michael. Quit making excuses. J.R. is a person and I wonder if Mel and Linds hadn't split up right after she was born, you'd even have fought for joint custody."

 

"Of course I would. I'm her father," Michael said, protesting Ben's statements.

 

"I have to get to work Michael. I hope you don't say anything to Mel and Linds about J.R. And before you said anything, I would think really hard why you want to spend more time with her. If the answer has the name Brian in it, then it's the wrong answer. Brian has nothing to do with J.R. and your decision to be her father should be based solely on your interest in having the little girl a part of our lives." Ben picked up his bookbag, grabbed his keys and phone and kissed Michael lightly on the cheek.

 

As he walked out the door, he wondered if this was the last straw. It appeared that Michael wanted J.R.'s presence but not to be a parent, but more to prove a point. He saw her as a pawn to show the world what a good parent he was. Ben couldn't stomach the idea that J.R. would be used in that way and he didn't think he could allow that to happen. If that meant going against Michael's wishes, he would do it. He also realized that in this case, it might mean the end to their relationship. He wasn't sure how he felt about that either.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian and Justin left the loft; Brian going to Kinnetik and Justin attending his meeting. Both men allowed their respective businesses to occupy their mind, but when their initial commitments were complete, each of them thought of their family and hoped the coming weeks would go smoothly.

 

Justin picked up Brian from Kinnetik at 2:45 as he wanted them to arrive at the school early. He walked into the reception area and greeted the new receptionist, Alana.

 

"Good afternoon. Is Brian available?" Justin knew he was always welcome in his husband's office but he'd learned that when Brian was on the phone, he could not be disturbed. Brian put all his attention to his phone conversations, schmoozing the client, or unruffling feathers and if Justin came in, he would stop the flow of Brian's thoughts.

 

Alana smiled at him and nodded. "He's free. He's been a little testy today but not too much," she said, giving Justin a glimpse into Brian's mental state. Anyone who worked at Kinnetik quickly learned that while Brian was always the consummate professional, his mood definitely reflected what was occurring in his life. There were many times that Justin showed up at Kinnetik and Cynthia practically hugged him as she urged him to go calm his partner.

 

"Do you have any new pictures of that adorable baby?"

 

Justin eagerly took out his phone and showed her the latest picture of Colin and Gus. Gus was on the floor playing blocks with him and it was an adorable picture.

 

"That is so sweet. Gus really dotes on him. I'm sure he's a big help."

 

"They are great together. Gus is a loving big brother. Hope that lasts. When Colin starts walking and getting into things, Gus may not like him so much. I remember when my sister was little; I used to love playing with her as a baby but then she grew up and got into everything. I wasn't so happy with her then." Justin smiled and got a faraway look in his eye as if he were remembering some of those times.

 

"I better let him know I'm here. We have to leave to pick up Gus." Justin put away his phone and started walking toward Brian's office when Brian opened the door.

 

"Thought I heard talking out here. Good thing you own half the company. I'd not be happy with you wasting company time showing pictures of your kid," he said, tongue in cheek. Brian had built an employee daycare on site many years ago and even had a paternity policy for those employees who wanted to spend time with their newborns. He researched successful companies and realized that those types of perks meant a lot to employees and they were often more likely to stay when the policies were family friendly. He worked his employees hard but they were always well rewarded for it.

 

"It's almost 3:00, we should be heading out," Justin said, glancing at the clock on the wall.

 

"Okay. I already turned off my computer and my briefcase is at home. I'll go hang up my coat. Remind me that I need to get it cleaned; it's been here a few weeks," Brian said as he nodded at Alana. "I should be in tomorrow, but if not, I'll let you know."

 

"Have a good evening. See you tomorrow," she said and answered the ringing phone. "Good afternoon. Kinnetik. How may I direct your call?"

 

"I really like Alana. Hope she sticks around. Although I will always miss seeing Cynthia in that chair. Speaking of Cynthia, we should probably have her out to the house soon. She hasn't seen Colin in a few weeks."

 

"Yes, we should. With everything going on, that hasn't been a priority. I know she wants to stay involved with him. Look at your calendar in the next few days and pick an evening. Since she has access to my work calendar, she'll know if I have an evening commitment. It will be nice to have a normal family get together," Brian said as they walked to the car. When they got to the car, Brian leaned over and gave his husband a quick kiss. While he would have loved to do more, he did try to be discreet in the parking lot. It wouldn't do to look out your office window and see your CEO playing serious tonsil hockey. Gone were the days, that Brian locked his door, drew the shades and ravished his husband in the middle of the afternoon. While they occasionally did enjoy an afternoon tryst during work hours, they had both agreed that those activities were private and should be conducted off premises. The loft was only a short drive away and they occasionally used it.

 

Justin got in the driver's side since it was his car and Brian entered the passenger side. Justin backed out of the parking space and headed toward Gus' school.

 

"Do you think there will be trouble? If I were Melanie I would go to school today and just pick up Gus as if nothing had changed. She doesn't know about the papers, does she?"

 

"I just waved them at her yesterday. I didn't have her read them. So no, she doesn't know about them. Knowing her, she'd just think I was bluffing and wanted to cause a scene. As I've said before, I think the idea of having a child was much more enticing than the actual raising of said child. She is very career minded and I've always thought she had Gus because Lindsay wanted the white picket fence with 2.2 children."

 

"I think you're right. She doesn't come across particularly motherly, even with J.R. , who is her own kid. I hate to say it, but maybe Michael should be more involved with her."

 

Brian laughed and almost choked on his own breath. "Seriously, Justin, that is the most absurd idea you have ever come up with. Well... running away to be a GoGo dancer might have been worse. But, Michael a parent. The kid would grow up with no fashion sense, loving comics and knowing nothing about the real world. Mikey is constantly harping on me that I don't want to be a parent as it is a lot of work and leaves me with no free time to trick or hang out. If nothing else, Mikey is being honest." Brian thought for a few moments about Justin's statement. "Now Ben as a father would be something to consider. He took in Hunter and turned the kid around. He's now a self-respecting counselor at that youth clinic. I understand he won some award for his work with runaway teens."

 

"Hunter turned out great. I didn't think you kept up with his life," Justin asked, pleased but a little surprised.

 

"Mikey has to brag on the little hustler. He takes full credit for how well he is doing. In reality, the professor had a bigger role in the kid's success. Mikey didn't even want him, but Ben convinced him it would be a good thing. I remember Mikey complaining when they first took him in how he ate a lot of food and was interfering in their sex life; they couldn't just do it in the living room or kitchen." Brian shivered involuntarily at the thought of Mikey and Ben doing it in the living room, knowing he sat on that couch many times. Of course, he reasoned, anyone who came to their home could easily have the same thoughts as he and Justin were known for their sexual adventures. Now that they had Gus and Colin those activities were relegated to the bedroom or their huge master suite. "Ben might be a better choice in raising the little girl. When they bring her to Sunday dinner, he's always spending time with her; reading books and playing games."

 

"Yes, you're right. We're here. I guess we can speculate about parenthood and other people's desire to have kids later, Right now, we need to make sure our son goes home with us," Justin said as he drove the car into the carpool lane. There were about a dozen cars already waiting for the students to be released.

 

Brian looked around and didn't see either Mel or Linds' car in line and took in a huge breath in order to relax his tight muscles.

 

Justin heard the purposeful exhale and turned toward Brian, "You okay?"

 

"Fine. Just have a bad feeling. Lindsay is such a drama queen and I wouldn't put it past her to show up and cause a scene." Brian could visualize the scene in his head. She would stalk up to the car as she saw Gus getting in. She would yell and scream, telling Gus that he "better listen, young man, or there would be no (tv, video games, play date- or whatever fun activity they had planned)." He would cringe, look between her and the car and then start crying.

 

Unfortunately, he'd witnessed this type of scenario more than once when Lindsay wanted him to do something at home and he was not cooperating. He just couldn't understand why she had so much difficulty with him. Whenever they asked Gus to do something, he usually listened and when he wasn't following directions, they would calmly lay out the consequences and Gus would do what he was supposed to do. Gus often remarked that he liked it at their home better than at his moms since they didn't yell. He told them this even before he moved in with them full time. Even though they were his parents, they respected him and he thought Linds and Mel tried to bully him rather than respect that he had interests and opinions.

 

They heard the school bells ring and a horde of children seemed to explode through the school doors. Planned chaos. Brian watched in amazement as the children separated themselves into paths, each leading to different destinations. Watching for Gus, he also kept an eye out for the lesbians. Before he could spy Gus, he heard the familiar voice of Melanie.

 

"What the fuck do you think you are doing here?" She hissed at him as she too watched for Gus.

 

"Picking up my son from school."

 

"He's my son and he will be coming home with me. You might as well leave now, Kinney. There is no way in hell that I will allow Gus to go home with you."

 

Justin felt his nerves jolt at Mel's words and a trickle of sweat ran down his spine, despite the cool day. He knew that they would be taking Gus home; the papers in Brian's possession guaranteed that outcome, but still, a little niggling fear ran through his body.

 

"I'm taking my son home," Brian said as he dug into his pocket. Thrusting the papers toward her, he mildly said, "These give me full rights to him and the school has already been notified. Now, why don't you go home to your daughter? Unlike myself, Mikey doesn't seem to be aware of your desire to pawn your children on the nearest adult."

 

Justin cringed at Brian's words. While true, he knew they would just incite Melanie more. Michael wasn't really that interested in J.R. or at least that was how it appeared. His mother, Debbie, loved the idea of a grandchild and if left to raise J.R. like she had raised her son, the girl would not turn out well. Michael was self-centered, lacked even the most basic table manners and had no desire to learn about the world around him. His entire world revolved around his comics and Brian. Justin wished, not for the first time, that Brian had not been such a savior for Michael when he was a teen. Brian protected him from the bullies at school and hung out with him. Brian was Michael's only true friend and it stood to reason why Michael had clung to him. However, Michael had never grown up beyond high school. He still believed that Brian was his protector and that the two of them were up against the world. Brian had moved beyond high school, moved among the elite in his professional life and had a loving family. Michael didn't know enough about the world to envy him; he just wanted what he had when they were in high school.

 

Lindsay had come walking up to the three of them as they were talking. "Mel, I see Gus. I'll go get him. It's been so long since he was at home, maybe we should take him for ice cream at the little store on the corner. I can't remember the name, but I'm sure it will come to me." Lindsay walked toward the herd of children looking for Gus.

 

Lindsay found Gus a moment later and motioned for him to come with her. Gus ignored her and frantically looked around for his fathers. He trusted his fathers, they told him he would be going home with them and wouldn't have to live with his moms. If they told him something, they always did it; unlike his mothers who changed their minds for no apparent reason. Spotting his fathers, he skirted the area where his mother was and walked quickly toward them.

 

"Gus Markus Peterson, you come here this instant. I know you see me."

 

Gus continued to ignore her and would have started running toward his fathers, but there were just too many children in the path. His heart was hammering in his chest and his hands were clammy with sweat despite the slight chill in the area. He didn't look toward his mother, not wanting to slow down his escape.

 

Lindsay didn't have any qualms about pushing the children out of her way. She hurried toward her son as she felt her anger increase toward Brian and Justin. How dare they poison my own son? He is running away from me.

 

Mel snatched the papers, glancing at them briefly, her fury rising as she read the legal descriptions and circumstances where they would come into play. Despite her understanding of the document, she started tearing the papers. She tore them in half and then in half again and thrust the pile of shreds back at Brian.

 

"I don't see any legal documents. All I see is a bunch of torn paper," she said as she eyed Lindsay pushing through the multitude of children. "We'll see you in court."

 

Brian started to go toward the trash can that sat at the edge of the steps but decided this was evidence if Mel did try to overturn the documents in court. Before he and Justin could discuss the situation, Gus came toward them, frantic that his mother was still going to try and get him to leave with her. Once he saw his fathers, he gave both men a hug, trying to keep back the tears that were threatening to flow down his cheeks. He wiped at the moisture and looked at his dads,

 

"Mom was trying to make me come with her. I thought you said I would be going home with you. Why are they here? Do I have to go home with them? I don't want to live with them."

 

Justin and Brian both hugged Gus and indicated they should walk toward the car. Despite his age, they both reached down to hold his hand and he willingly grabbed each of their hands. They got in the car and locked it, physically keeping the women from entering but also giving them a sense of safety, locking in their family.

 

Brian turned around in the seat to talk to his son. "We told you the truth. I showed your mama Melanie the papers that I have. She understood what they meant; we have legal custody of you and they can't make you go with them."

 

"I saw her tearing some papers up when I came up to you. Our teacher always tells us our homework has to be in one piece or it's not any good," Gus said with concern in his voice.

 

"Those are copies. I have the originals in a safe and they are also filed with the court. Mama Mel knew that tearing the papers up was not going to make the situation go away. She is a lawyer and she recognized the papers for what they were, custody of you. Like we said this morning, you will be living with us unless you want to go live with your moms."

 

"No, I don't want to go back there. I want to live with you and Daddy Justin. Can we go home now? I want to see Colin and play with him."

 

"Sure. Put on your seatbelt and we'll be on our way," Justin said as he smiled at Brian. He was very proud at how he handled the situation and fervently wished that the incident was over, but he knew the girls would most likely fight the custody since Mel did not know about the agreement.

 

"How was your day? I know you were racing off to science class this morning. How did the experiment with the volcano go? Was it as fun as you thought it would be?" Justin asked, hoping to bring some semblance of normality to the ride. He always asked Gus about his day, trying to remember specific areas that the young boy had talked about the night before.

 

"Oh, it was so cool, Daddy Justin. You should have been there. Mr. Shulte had this volcano he made out of soap- Ivory something. And then he poured some really funny stuff- you know the box with the Arm and Hammer that we use to make cookies.... With some vinegar into the hole. And the whole thing erupted.... You know, just like a real volcano- the mountain melted and ran all over the wood table that he had it on. I love science. I think I want to be a scientist when I grow up so I can blow up stuff," Gus said, evidently enthralled and impressed by the simple experiment.

 

"You can be anything that you want to be, Sonny boy," Brian said as he smiled at his son's rendition of the simple experiment. "I bet we could come up with some other stuff to make our own experiments."

 

"That would so cool. Johnny's dad said that real scientists need lots of schooling and have to study a lot. I like science, but I also want to work at Kinnetik. Dad, does Kinnetik need a scientist?" Gus asked as he looked out the window as they drove down the highway.

 

"You're only 10. You don't have to decide right now. We'll set aside some time to do some experiments when Daddy Justin has Colin occupied. Doing experiments when babies are around isn't a very good idea."

 

"Okay. Maybe when Daddy Justin takes Colin to see grandma Jenn. Could we do it then? Each of us would have our daddy to ourselves."

 

Justin looked at Brian, seeing the frown on his partner's face at Gus' proclamation.

 

"Buddy, do you feel daddy doesn't spend enough time with you?" Justin asked solicitously.

 

"No. I just think it would be cool to have time with just Daddy. I spend a lot of time with you when we paint, but I don't do anything very often with just Daddy. This could be something for us," Gus said, not realizing the impact of his words on his fathers. "I and he could do a few experiments and then when you come home, daddy could take Colin and we could paint. That way each of us gets a daddy all to himself for a little bit."

 

"Okay," Justin said as he breathed out a little in relief. It appeared that Gus just wanted some daddy time, not that he was feeling neglected. After all that they had gone through and all the potential fights and arguments that were anticipated with his mothers, the last thing they wanted was for Gus to feel that he was being neglected by his fathers. They wanted to ensure that he always felt wanted and cared for by both men.

 

"I'll let Grandma Jenn know that it will be just the two of us this Saturday and then maybe next Saturday you and I could go to Grandma's and daddy would stay home with Colin. That way Grandma Jenn can have you all to herself too."

 

"I bet Grandma Jenn would like to have just one of us to play with sometimes. That way she could do special stuff with each of us. I don't want that all the time. I like doing things as a family, but it would be fun to be the only one," Gus said, in agreement.

 

They arrived at the house and Gus took his backpack up to his room and took off his school clothes and put on his play clothes.

 

"Do you have any homework?" Brian asked as he got down the plate from the cabinet. He placed a banana and a cookie on the plate and poured a glass of milk as well. Placing the snack at Gus' seat at the table, he sat down in his chair and waited for his son to answer.

 

"Just a little math. I'm going to do it and then can I play with Colin?"

 

"Sure, buddy. Daddy Justin and I have some important grown-up stuff to talk about. After your snack, go do your homework and we'll see you at dinner." Brian bent down and kissed his son on the forehead and Justin did the same.

 

"Bye dads. Later," Gus said and both men grinned at the familiar salutation.

 

Brian and Justin went into Brian's study, closing the door behind them.

 

Brian went to the liquor cart, pouring himself a shot of Beam and offered one to Justin as well. Justin declined and grabbed a bottle of water from the mini-fridge.

 

"What do you think will happen, Brian?"

 

"I think Melanie will realize that we have legal documents that she can't refuse."

 

"Do you think she will just give up?"

 

"No. But I think she will have Lindsay call me and try to use her "Wendy" voice and old friend reasoning to try and change our mind." Brian took a sip from his glass, not finishing the shot. He wasn't trying to get drunk and forget, just wanted to have something to do with his hands.

 

"But Lindsay is the one who asked us to keep him," Justin said, trying to use reason to solve the problem rather than lesbian logic.

 

"True, but lesbian logic is the only recourse Mel has."

 

Before Justin could respond, Brian's cell phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, he answered. "Hello, Lindsay."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Justin heard the tinge of unease in Brian's voice as he answered his phone. He knew Brian was confident regarding custody of Gus, but he also knew he didn't want to drag out the proceedings, nor did he want it to go to a court of law. He was anxious to get his few tasks done before Gus went to play with Colin, but he wanted to hear the conversation. He motioned for Brian to put the phone on speaker and he sat down on the black leather couch to listen to the conversation.

 

"Hello, Lindsey. What can I do for you?" He did not want to bring up that he had a business to run. Knowing Lindsey as he did, he felt she would try to manipulate that sentence into demonstrating that he was too busy for Gus. He sat down in the large executive chair behind his wooden desk and squeezed his forefinger and thumb across the bridge of his nose. He pushed the speaker button so Justin could hear all the conversation. He really did not want to have to replay the conversation once it was over. He decided it would be nerve-wracking the first time and he did not want to get angry all over again.

 

"Brian..." Linds drawled in her best WASP voice. "I just wanted to talk to you. Can't the mother of your child just call to say hi? It's been so long since we had a proper chat." Lindsay sat in her light yellow kitchen chair, the dirty dishes still cluttering the countertops and mail strewn all over the kitchen table.

 

"Lindsay,.... What do you want? You and I both know that you did not call to just say hi."

 

"Well, alright. I'm calling about Gus. I think he should come live with us. We are his mothers and he's used to our family." Lindsay sat up straight in her chair, attempting to give herself an air of authority

 

"I see," Brian said as he poured another shot of whiskey into his glass. This time he did not drink it, but rather swirled it around the glass, watching the amber liquid slosh up and down the sides.

 

"Brian, you know we've been really busy with our jobs and you were really great to offer to help out, but things have settled down now and we want Gus back," Lindsay said as she tried to come up with arguments for Brian. She sat in her kitchen, looking at the mess and thinking if Gus were there, he would have cleared the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher; it was one of his jobs. With him being gone, those tasks had fallen to Mel and Linds and they had been really too involved in their careers to notice how those tasks were left undone.

 

"I have a full-time job and so does Justin. That is no excuse, Lindsay," he said using her full name, rather than Linds, the name he called her the majority of the time. Brian looked at Justin, seeing him play with his water bottle, twirling it in his hand. He wanted to go over and take the bottle away, kiss his husband and hang up on Lindsay, but he did not do any of those things. Instead, he listened to his longtime friend try to convince him of something that wasn't going to happen.

 

"But you have Chloe. She helps so much. We don't have anyone."

 

"Lindsay, you could easily have hired someone to help out. I gave you plenty of money."

 

"But Brian, raising two children is expensive. There is daycare, clothing, food, and activities. There just isn't enough money. If you gave us more money, then we could hire someone like Chloe."

 

"Bullshit, Lindsay. I already give you money for most of those things and the amount of money I give you is sufficient to take care of J.R. as well. What do you do with all the money that I give you?" Brian said in a tone that brooked no discussion.

 

"Briannnnnnnn," Lindsay stretched the syllables of his name, choosing not to answer his questions.

 

"Lindsay, I think you miss the money, more than you miss Gus."

 

"He's my son. How can you say that?"

 

"Easily. Justin and I had Gus living with us for over a month before you even realized he wasn't coming home at night. It was only when he mentioned going to soccer camp and Mel realized that it was very expensive that you realized he wasn't with you."

 

"Of course, I knew he was living with you. He's my son," Lindsay protested.

 

"Really. If he was really that important, you would have been calling and talking to him, checking up on him and seeing what he was up to. Neither you nor Mel did that. I would hate to be the child whose parents didn't care enough to find out how I was......Oh, wait. I was that child and I refuse to let Gus follow in those footsteps."

 

"Brian....You can't possibly compare Mel and me to your parents. We don't lay a hand on our children and would never belittle them as your parents did." Lindsay felt a stabbing pain in her belly and she broke out in a sweat when Brian compared her and Mel to his parents.

 

"In my book what you have done to Gus is the same as what my parents did to me; it's called emotional abuse and you and Mel are just as guilty of abuse as my parents were. If you think your absence from Gus's daily life hasn't impacted him, then you think wrong. Letting a 10 year old come home to an empty house and having him watch his five year old sister is neglect. Threatening him with not seeing me or Justin if he doesn't do as he is told, that is abuse. Don't fool yourself in thinking he's just a kid and doesn't understand what is happening. Gus is very bright and he has told me he doesn't want to go back to living with you. He feels safe and wanted when he is here and that is how it is going to stay."

 

"He's just a child. Of course, we love him and want him. We wouldn't hurt him. He must have misunderstood," Lindsay said, trying to convince herself and Brian at the same time. She looked around the kitchen, noticing the mess on every surface. She sighed at the clutter her life had become.

 

"Oh, he understands Lindsay. You are always telling me how smart he is. Well, his intelligence does not wax and wane depending on who he is living with and the attention they give him. He is staying here. I suggest you talk to your she-wolf and decide if you even want to keep your other child. I have a feeling you may have a battle on your hands where she is concerned. As for Gus, there will be no battle. He remains with us. Now I have things to do before my son finishes his homework. Goodbye." Brian pushed the button to disconnect the call and turned toward Justin.

 

"Do you think she'll fight it?" Justin asked, worried about a legal battle.

 

"I don't think so. At least I hope she doesn't. She'll lose."

 

"That stuff about abuse and neglect..."

 

"Sunshine, I have lived that life and no child of mine will go down that road if I can help it. I wasn't exaggerating, what she and Mel did to Gus is neglect and abuse. No judge would take Gus from them for those things or at least I don't think so. But... there would be oversight and possibly counseling." Brian placed the phone in his pocket and walked over to the couch, sitting next to Justin. He leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on his lips and sat back, to continue his train of thought. "We are protecting Gus but I do wonder about J.R.. Hopefully, the professor will see what is going on with Gus and try to have J.R. over to his home more often. I know that Mikey has no clue about raising a child, nor do I think he really has an interest in it."

 

"I agree. I think he sees her as a way to be equal to you. You know the fatherhood thing. Anything he can do to be like Brian."

 

"Debbie loves her but we all know how Mikey turned out with Deb as his only parent. I wouldn't wish Mikey as a sole parent on any child. The professor is the one who interacts with her at the Sunday dinners and I imagine when they have her for an extended period of time, it is more his influence than Mikey's," Brian said as he pictured Ben playing with J.R. at the last family dinner.

 

"I didn't think Ben wanted to have children," Justin asked, finding the change in the subject a relief after the intense conversation with Lindsay. He drank some of his water and then continued to twirl the small bottle in his hands.

 

"I think his HIV status made him cross that option off his list of life experiences. But with Mikey fathering J.R., he has embraced the opportunity. He appears to be very good with her and you know that he is smart. He has a doctorate in literature. At least he can read some of those piles of parenting books that you are always trying to get me to read," Brian said tongue in cheek.

 

"You know you learn stuff every time you read an article, and I don't have you read everything, just some stuff," Justin said as he defended his practice of PSA's with his husband.

 

"Stop," Brian said as he held up his hand in a flat motion in front of his body. "We are not discussing child-rearing techniques at this time.

 

"Okay. So do you think we should say something to Ben? I mean, the girls sure aren't going to tell him what is going on. And I hate to say that Michael's only interest is that you and he are both fathers, but you know that has some merit." Justin finished his bottle of water and placed the empty bottle on the cherry wood coffee table.

 

Brian took a small sip of the whiskey he had poured earlier. "That is an idea. Not that we need anyone on our side, but I know Gus misses J.R. and I don't want to put him in the position of having him ask the munchers to see her. I'm sure if we allowed him to go over to the munchers, they would use that as an excuse to keep him."

 

"You really are a good dad. I love you," Justin said as he bent towards Brian and gave him a full kiss on the lips. The clock in the living room chimed 5 times. " I guess it is time to check on our son. He should be finished with his homework by now. He mentioned wanting to play with Colin."

 

"Why don't you do that and I'll make a quick call to the professor. I don't like having to show how great we are as parents, but I think he needs to know what is really going on with Gus. He can make his own decision regarding J.R."

 

Justin gave Brian one last kiss and went to find Gus, closing the office door behind him.

Brian took out his phone again and scrolled through his contact until he found Ben's.
Taking a deep breath, he returned to his office chair and then pushed the icon to make the call. He didn't want anyone to overhear the conversation, therefore, he put his blue tooth in his ear.

 

"Brian, hello. Is everything okay?"

 

"Hello and yes, everything is fine."

 

"Good."

 

"Do you have a few minutes to talk?" Brian asked, only now realizing that the Professor may be in the middle of a lecture or something.

 

"Sure. I don't have a class for another hour and I was just reviewing my notes. To what do I owe your call?"

 

"I'm calling about what happened at Deb's the other night."

 

"That was nasty. Glad you guys left. But Brian, you don't owe me an explanation."

 

"I don't owe anybody an explanation, but this call isn't about the blow up at Deb's" Brian said, already dreading the next part of the conversation.

 

"Brian, I'm not going to pick sides here. I imagine that the girls had you watch Gus for a time and they didn't bother to have you bring him home on a regular basis. I believe you when you shared your side of the story. But why are you calling me? I have nothing to do with Gus and I imagine you have many years of experience dealing with the Novotnys."

 

"Good point, professor. I'm not calling to rehash the blowup but I want to ask about J.R. She's not my child, but Gus would like to see his sister and I'm not about to bring him to the munchers."

 

" I'm sure he is worried about her. Michael was speculating about her care the other day and I suggested he go slowly. With the situation with Gus, I don't want them to get all defensive."

 

"So Michael is worried about J.R.?"

 

"Honestly, Brian I don't think he really has a clue about the little girl. He was more reacting to your custody situation with Gus. He seems to think if he has J.R. more then he will get your attention and spend more time with you."

 

"So, what is his concern?"

 

"He got into his head that since you had custody of Gus, maybe he should seek custody of J.R." Ben was sharing the conversation with Brian in hopes that he could feel him out regarding his thoughts on the matter.

 

"I take it you don't agree with his train of thought?" Brian asked, hearing the unspoken words behind what Ben wasn't saying. He'd always respected Ben and wanted to delve into this area more.

 

"Brian, I don't think Michael gives a moment's thought about the little girl. She's just another way to be like you, a father."

 

"I hear a but in there, Professor"

 

"I, on the other hand, do care a great deal for her. I don't know that I'm ready to be a full-time father, but I can't stand by and watch her be neglected either. I think Michael is right to want more time with her, but not for the reasons he states. I think she is being neglected and I hate to see any child passed around when there are adults who want to provide the love and structure she needs."

 

Brian listened to Ben, only slightly surprised by the confession. "What are you saying, Ben?"

 

"I'm thinking of asking for more time with her. I think if I do this, Michael may not step up and be the father he needs to be. I'm prepared to parent her by myself if need be."

 

"So where does that leave Michael?" Brian didn't want to get involved in yet another relationship, as he knew Justin's feelings about Michael. He knew that if Ben were thinking of going alone on his parental journey, there would be ramifications where Michael was concerned. He was certain that Michael would try to spend more time with him and that would not go over well with Justin. And truth be told, he would not relish the idea of spending a lot of time with him either. He had a busy life, between Colin, Gus, Justin and his company, Kinnetik. He barely had time to deal with anything or anyone that wasn't directly involved in any of these endeavors. Michael did not fit the bill for being included in his life based on this revelation.

 

"That would be up to him, Brian. We had a discussion about this issue the other night. I will tell you it did not go well. At this point in my life, I would rather be a father." Ben said the words out loud that he had been thinking for the last few days. It felt good to get them off his chest, but he wondered if this was the right time to express them.

 

"I see. Well, I'm not the best person to give you advice, nor would I attempt to do so. You have to do what is right for you. I will support any decision you make. If you do have JR. more often, it would be great if we could arrange for her and Gus to get together. He misses his sister and I'm leery of taking him to the munchers."

 

"I understand. Well, I should be making a decision in the next day or two. I'll let you know. If I increase my time with J.R., we'll arrange something so Gus can see her. He's a great kid. You should be proud." Ben looked at the clock on the wall and said, "Sorry to cut this short, but I have a class to teach. I'll talk to you soon, Brian."

 

"Thanks, Ben." Brian clicked off the Bluetooth and took the device out of his ear as he reviewed the conversation in his head. Michael wanted J.R. more so that he could have more in common with me, not out of any concern for the child. This was like Lindsay wanting Gus as a way to keep me tied to her. He was beginning to see some similarities to the two friends motivations and he was not happy about the realization. True, he did not want to be a father, but once he held Gus in his arms, he couldn't see a way not to be involved in the little boy's life. He doubted Michael had the same feeling toward J.R., at least what he had witnessed when the two of them were together. It didn't come naturally to Mikey and he didn't think it had anything to do with the fact that the child was a girl.

 

He would have to share the conversation with Justin, but for now, he really did have a few emails and last minute things to take care of before he joined his family for the evening. He wasn't under any illusion that the discussion with Lindsay was over or that the situation with Ben, Michael and J.R. was resolved, but for now, he could only address the things that happened under his roof.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian finished his work and Justin played with Gus. Brian joined the family for dinner and afterward they played some checkers as Colin explored his cloth blocks. He loved to look at the different sides of each one as each was decorated with different stimulating tasks. On one of the blocks, one side was a mirror, the other sides held a crinkly material, a squeaky sound when you pushed it, a black and white design, a fuzzy material and a flap that hid a sun picture. He was enamored with this toy trying to alternately eat if or look at one of the sides. When it was time to put Colin to bed, they did it together, each taking a different job; Justin bathed him, Brian put him in a new diaper and sleeper and Gus read him his story.

 

They closed the door and started to walk down the stairs. Gus said, " Daddy Justin and Dad can we talk for a few minutes?"

 

Both men gave a knowing look at each other but said in unison," Sure. Let's go in the media room so we don't disturb Colin."

 

Justin went to the kitchen and brought everyone something to drink; milk for Gus and water for him and Brian. Brian and he sat on the couch while Gus sat on the ottoman.

 

"What's up, big guy?" Justin asked, thinking he knew what Gus wanted to discuss but allowing Gus to steer the conversation.

 

"I was thinking about this afternoon. I know you said I don't have to go home with Mom and Momma but what if you guys aren't there the next time. I don't like it when she yells at me. Maybe I should just go so you won't have to worry about going to court." Gus eyes were getting really watery, the tears threatening to come down his cheeks.

 

"Gus, you don't need to worry about me and your Dad," Justin said as he walked over to the chair and enveloped his son in a hug. "You already told us that you want to live with us and as long as you want to be with us, then you will be. Courts and legal stuff are things little kids don't need to worry about. You should be thinking about soccer, your homework and hanging out with your friends."

 

"Justin is right, Gus. We love you and want you here. It is not a problem for one of us or Grandma Jenn to pick you up from school every day. We want you safe and your happiness means more to us than anything else. I have the papers giving me legal custody of you, and your Momma Mel saw them. She didn't like that I had them and she tore them up, but she knew that tearing them up didn't change the information in them. You are exactly where you belong; legally and otherwise."

"But what about the stuff Momma said. I mean she was pretty mad and Mom was really pissed that I didn't listen to her and go home with her. She always tries to use her witchy voice when she wants something."

 

"Her witchy voice?" Brian asked, finding it amusing that his son would label Lindsay's attempt to be firm with such a colorful term.

 

"Yeah. That is what Momma Mel calls it when Mom gets angry and is all tight and stuff.," Gus said as he took a drink from his milk glass. "So really it's okay that I live here? I don't have to go home with my moms?"

 

"Do you want to go home with them, Gus?" Justin asked.

 

"No. I want to stay here."

 

"Okay. Then that is where you will stay. What do you want to do for the rest of the evening? You have about 30 minutes until you need to get ready for bed. It is a school night," Justin said. Hearing those words come out of his mouth made him slightly smile. He's heard those words often from his parents, especially in his rebellious teen years and he'd vowed to never speak them to his children. But here he was saying those words to his son. He decided that this was a right of parenting, making sure your kids had boundaries and limits they could count on. Based on everything Gus said, the girls had failed in this area too, relying on Gus to provide supervision for his younger sister and having many chores to run the household rather than by setting limits on appropriate activities for school nights. He felt his anger at the injustice his son had experienced and the missed opportunities of childhood he had been denied.

 

"There is this cool video on youtube that everyone has been talking about. Can I play some videos?"

 

"What is so cool about this video?"

 

"Oh, it's a Halloween video about Toy Story."

 

"Sounds okay. Want to watch it, Brian?"

 

"Toy Story?"

 

"It's an animated movie about a boy's toys that have adventures while he's away at school."

 

"Of course, you know what it is, Sunshine. It's a cartoon," Brian teased, tongue in cheek. "Why don't you put it on the big tv and all of us can watch it."

 

Gus took the controls for the tv and found the video on youtube. The three of them spent the next 40 minutes watching the short videos. When the last one showed, Justin heard the clock chime in the kitchen.

 

"Hey, buddy. It's past your bedtime. Better go get your PJ's on and brush your teeth. Your dad and I will be up in a minute to tell you good night."

 

"Sure," Gus turned off the tv and bounded up the stairs to get ready for bed.

 

"Those were some pretty innovative shorts", Justin said as he ran through the films in his head.

 

"I guess they were okay," Brian said. He walked over to Justin, gave him a quick kiss on the lips and said, "Gus is waiting."

 

Justin recognized Brian's statement as admitting that he enjoyed the activity. They went upstairs and tucked Gus in and then went back to the media room. Brian grabbed two beers from the mini fridge and handed one to Justin.

 

"So how did the conversation with Ben go? You haven't said a word since you came out of your office."

 

"Seems Zen Ben is thinking of taking over more care of J.R.. He feels that she may be neglected too."

 

"Oh," Justin answered, hearing the unfinished statement.

 

"He's not convinced that Mikey wants J.R. He agrees with you that J.R. is just his way to be like me, a father. Ben doesn't think Mikey really has an interest in the little girl, but he wants to be more a part of her life," Brian said as he drank half of his bottle of beer in one swig.

 

"And...." Justin said, still waiting for Brian to drop the other shoe.

He's thinking of going it alone rather than having a partner who really doesn't want to be a parent in the mix."

 

"Shit. That would cause all kinds of major crap. What would Debbie think? Would the girls go for it? I mean he isn't even related to her. Could the courts support him? What do you think about it? I mean wow... I wasn't expecting that," Justin said as he too took a large drink from his beer.

 

"Yeah, shit is right, but I think he is really the only one who cares what happens to J.R. Debbie is so wrapped up in this is my granddaughter that she isn't seeing how her parents are raising her or more appropriately, not raising her. Michael sees her as an opportunity to be like me, a father, although he does little in the parenting sense of the term. The munchers are too damn busy with their careers and they pawn her off on babysitters and her big brother as much as possible. Wonder what they have done for the last month since Gus wasn't there to watch ?"

 

Justin couldn't sit still any longer. The ramifications of Brian's talk were too far reaching. He walked over to the window and pulled back the blinds, looking into the deep blackness. They purposely didn't have many lights on the property, choosing to have motion detectors that triggered lights when someone approached. It gave them some privacy and deterred drop-in visits from their family as the property was dark and appeared empty from the road. Anyone passing by would think they were not home. They were happy that the media room was in the back of the house and the dining room in the front. When they were in the media room or playroom, the house often looked unoccupied to a car driving down the road.

 

"So if he doesn't think Michael wants to be a parent and he does....."

 

"He mentioned that he felt being a father was more important than a relationship," Brian said, repeating Ben's words. He pinched his nose with his forefinger and thumb, realizing that this action would bring its own set of problems.

 

"He'd leave Michael?" Justin asked, a little surprised at this new development.

 

"Sounds like it. Don't think this is the only reason. I think he is tired of being the spouse of someone who thinks I'm more important. I don't have time for Mikey's whining and I sure as hell don't want to play nursemaid to him if Ben decides to end things. From what Ben said, he was going to decide in a few days what he is going to do. It sounded like he and Mikey may be over regardless of J.R. However, if he wants more involvement with J.R., he might need to stick around until that happens. I can't imagine Mel would grant that if he were no longer with Mikey." Brian went to the kitchen to throw his empty beer bottle away. He wanted another one, but decided against it and rejoined Justin in the media room.

 

"What a freaking mess. Reminds me of the custody fiasco when J.R. was born. You had to look at a calendar to figure out who had her that day. Talk about shared custody. And the sad thing was Mel was the only one who really wanted her. Mikey wanted her since Deb pushed him into spending time with her granddaughter. Lindsay wanted her to get back at Mel and Mel only had her since Linds didn't want to get pregnant again," Justin said, stating the history of the young child's parental battles.

 

"Enough about J.R. It just makes my head spin. What are we going to do about Gus?"

 

"Nothing. Mel's seen the papers and while Linds won't give up so easily, there isn't going to be any change to what is happening now. My lawyer already stated that we have an airtight situation and even if the munchers try to take us to court, they will lose. Possession is 9/10th of the law and in this case, we possess Gus. He lives here. He eats here. We buy all of his things. We are involved 100% with his care and activities. The munchers can't say the same about any part of his life. No judge would give him back to them."

 

"Good. I would hate to have to go to court. I love our family and I know Gus would be devastated if he had to leave," Justin said. "I think I'm ready for bed. Join me?"

 

Brian smiled and looked at his husband, giving him an appraising look. "Sure, lead the way. Maybe Colin will sleep until 5:00."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Lindsay sat at the kitchen table, stunned by her conversation with Brian. He was really going to fight for custody of Gus. She would never have believed that her machinations to tie Brian to her version of the nuclear family with mother/father/ and child would ever blow up in her face. She didn't like to admit that she loved her career and had really enjoyed pursuing her professional life without the demands of her son. Mel was due home in an hour but she could not muster enough energy to start dinner.

 

Mel came home, her briefcase filled with work. J.R. walked in and went to the cookie jar to help herself to a snack. J.R. sat at the kitchen table as she eyed the empty stove top and dirty breakfast dishes stacked by the sink.

 

"What's for dinner? I have a ton of work to do on the Flyer case and I need to get started as soon as possible. I'll probably be up late," Mel said as she placed her briefcase on an empty kitchen chair and looked toward the stove to discern what Lindsay was making for dinner.

 

"I haven't started dinner yet. I was thinking we could go out since it's been a rough few days," Lindsay said in way of explanation to the lack of dinner preparations.

 

"You haven't started dinner. I've been working my ass off and all I ask is that you have a little food ready when I come home. What the hell have you been doing all day?" Mel yelled, oblivious to J.R. sitting at the table helping herself to a snack she had found on her own.

 

"I've been talking to Brian...if you must know. I was discussing Gus." Lindsay stood up, staring at Mel. She needed Mel and had hoped they could discuss Brian's conversation. She was not happy that Mel was concerned with work and not the loss of their child.

 

"Lindsay, I told you that Brian's papers are iron clad. Unless Gus wants to live here, Brian and Justin have custody of him."

 

"But we should share custody. He can't keep Gus away from us. I'm his mother."

 

"He will do whatever Gus wants. If Gus wants to see us, then I'm sure Brian will make that happen. But you do realize that since Gus isn't living here, Brian has stopped sending the money he was giving us for Gus' expenses." Melanie pointed out to Lindsay, a fact that she was fairly certain Lindsay had not thought about.

 

"He stopped sending the money."

 

"Yes. And that is why I've been putting in extra hours - billable hours. Without Gus here, he will most likely stop sending us money."

 

"But we need that money. How are we going to pay our bills? I'll call him right now and..."

 

"Lindsay. He won't give us anything since he has Gus. We will just have to tighten our belts."

 

"But that's not fair. I'll talk to Gus and convince him to come back here." Lindsay said, appalled at the realization that she would have less income now that Gus was living with Brian. Life was so difficult and now Brian was making it even harder by insisting he wanted Gus to live with him. She was sure that he would tire of being a full-time parent and it would be very soon that he would be calling her to make arrangements for Gus to move back in with them. She smiled at the thought of their reunion.

 

"Lindsay. For now, we should just leave it alone. Tempers and feelings are raw. If we push it, we will lose. I'm sure that Brian and Justin will quickly tire of being full-time parents to two kids. I know their sex life has already got to be curtailed. And since Brian has always been about the bedroom ... I'm sure Gus's living arrangements will quickly get old. He'll be back here before we know it," Mel said, trying to convince herself that this was the best plan of action. She doubted Gus would tire of living with Brian. Brian gave him everything he wanted; soccer camp, fancy toys, a state of the art media room with every new video game, etc. They really could not compete with the things he could provide and Gus would be easily swayed by all the shiny bells and whistles at his dad's house.

 

"I really do have a lot to do tonight. Why don't you just order pizza or Chinese or go pick up something? The sooner I get to work, the sooner I'll be done." Melanie said as she grabbed her briefcase and headed for their bedroom.

 

"Alright, I'll go pick up something."

 

"Mama," J.R. said. Can I go with you?" J.R. asked, hoping that her mother might show some interest in her, not just Gus. She loved her brother but it seemed that all her moms talked about lately was Gus and Uncle Brian and Uncle Justin. Gus hadn't been at home much for the last few months and she didn't see what the big deal was, but she wished her moms paid a little more attention to her. She knew her Dad, Michael, wouldn't want her living with him, but maybe her Daddy Ben would be interested in her.

 

"No. It will be quicker if you stay here. Why don't you finish cleaning the kitchen and set the table?"

 

Linds grabbed her purse and left J.R. in the kitchen alone. J.R. thought about the conversation her mothers just had and picked up the house phone and pushed the number 4 on it. Her mothers had taught her to call for help in case of an emergency and she decided that while this wasn't an emergency, she was tired of being ignored.

 

"Hello," Ben said as he picked up the phone.

 

"Hi Daddy Ben,"7-year-old J.R. said. "Can I come live with you? Gus lives with his daddies and I want to live with you."

 

Ben was taken by surprise by the phone call and waited for J.R. to say something more.

 

"Mom and Momma are fighting about Gus and Uncle Brian and Mom told Momma that we have to tighten our belts since Gus isn't living here anymore. Uncle Brian isn't giving us any money."

 

"J.R., where did you hear this, honey?" Ben asked, concerned that the women would talk about such a subject in front of their child.

 

"Mom brought me home from school and I was eating my snack at the kitchen table. I don't think they knew I was there. Momma wanted to go out to dinner but Mom said she had to work. Momma left me to clean up the kitchen while she went to get dinner."

 

Ben's heart went out to the little girl. She might only be 7 but she was astute enough to understand that her moms were fighting and ignoring her.

 

"I'll come to get you and you can spend the night at our house. Don't say anything to your moms. I'll be there in a bit."

 

"Okay, Daddy Ben. Love you."

 

Ben put down the book he was reading in preparation for his class tomorrow and grabbed his keys and phone. Until a year ago, he didn't even own a car, but when he and Michael had bought the house in the burbs, he found that riding his bicycle everywhere was not feasible. He was really happy that he had a car and could get J.R. After getting in the car, he placed the phone in the cradle on the dashboard and called Brian.

 

"Hello, Professor. Turnabout is fair play. Everything okay?" Brian asked, referring to the conversation they had the day before.

 

"I just got off the phone with J.R. She asked to come live with us. I'm on my way to go get here. Any words of wisdom? Unlike you, I do not have any legal documents and don't share any DNA with her."

 

"She what?" Brian asked, unsure that he heard Ben correctly. While Gus was 10 and could express his wants and needs pretty well, he was surprised that J.R. would do the same.

 

"Evidently, she was sitting in the kitchen and Mel and Linds were discussing Gus, custody, and money. She felt invisible and was told by Linds to pick up the kitchen for dinner while Mel worked and Linds went to get food. It appears that they are now going to use J.R. to do their chores since Gus isn't here to do so."

 

"Those bitches. I have a mind.... Well, I would suggest just pretending to drop by and see if they would mind letting J.R. come home with you for the night. In the meantime, I will call my lawyer and see what he suggests."

 

"Thanks, Brian," Ben said as he backed the car out of the driveway.

 

"What does Michael say about all this?"

 

There was a moment of silence on the other end. "Um... he doesn't know. He said he was going to Woody's for a beer and to play some pool. I usually teach on Thursdays and he doesn't like to be at home when I'm not here."

 

"I see," Brian said as he thought about their earlier conversation where Ben admitted wanting to be a father over a husband. "Do you want to bring her here? Gus would love to see her. It's still early and they could visit for a while before bedtime."

 

"That would be great. I'm not exactly set up for a 7-year-old and I need to clear out a few drawers for her and make a place for her toys if this becomes more regular."

 

"We'll see you in a little while. I'll go fill Justin and Gus in. Gus will be thrilled as he misses J.R."

 

"Thanks, Brian. I'm not sure how this is all going to work, but I love that little girl and I really think I'm the only one who really does," Ben said as he took a deep breath and started driving toward the girl's house. He really didn't plan on fighting for J.R. so quickly, but the fates obviously had other ideas.

 

Ben showed up at the house and Lindsay's car was not in the driveway. He assumed she was not back from her food run as he knew their garage could only hold one car. He'd thought about the impending conversation with Mel and Linds asking for J.R. to spend the night with him and hoped it would go easier than their recent conversations with Brian. He realized that the girls most likely had no clue that he would be interested in more time with J.R., even though he had no legal connection to her, except being married to her father. He decided that since their marriage was considered legitimate, he would be considered her father ( by way of marriage) and that might prove to be helpful in a court of law. Regardless, he was not going to start those discussions tonight.

 

He rang the bell and J.R. answered the door.

 

"Daddy Ben, you came," she said as she reached her hands up towards him to get a big hug.

 

"Sure I did, sweetie. Where's your momma?" Ben was surprised and disappointed to see that Mel had not appeared yet when the doorbell rang. The lack of safety was concerning. "Mel," he yelled. "It's Ben. Are you busy?"

 

A few moments later Mel came out of the study, looking a little confused. "Ben.... Where did you come from?"

 

"I rang the bell and J.R. let me in."

 

"Oh." Mel wasn't up to arguing or providing guidance to J.R. about the dangers of opening the door since it was Ben, but she made a mental note to discuss this again with her daughter. "Is something wrong? Where's Michael?" Mel's voice rose an octave as she realized that Ben's appearance was really unusual on a day when they weren't supposed to have J.R.

 

"Everything's fine. Michael is visiting friends. I was in the neighborhood running some errands and thought I'd stop by to see J.R. I haven't had dinner yet and was wondering if I could take her for dinner and maybe have her spend the night. We haven't had much time together since school has been crazy."

 

Mel looked at J.R. and saw her eager face at the mention of spending time with Ben. She decided it would be a great help if Ben took her tonight. She would have time to work on her cases and Lindsay would be able to just relax. These last few days had Lindsay really on edge and if she didn't have to worry about J.R., it would be really helpful.

 

"Do you want to spend the night with Daddy Ben and Daddy Michael, J.R.?"

 

"Sure. Can I go pack my bag? Would you take me to school in the morning? I have to go to school."

 

"Absolutely young lady. What kind of father would I be if I didn't take my daughter to school? You know Mel, since its Thursday, we could keep her over the weekend. It's our weekend to have her and it would be silly to have to come to get her Friday night when she could just pack some extra stuff tonight." Ben casually suggested, hoping that Mel wouldn't really think about the offer, but just accept it as him being nice.

 

Mel thought for only a few seconds before answering. "That would be great." Turning toward J.R., she said, " Honey, why don't I come help you. That's a lot of stuff to pack. Ben, we'll be down in a few minutes."

 

Ben watched them as they walked up the stairs. That was way easier than I thought it would be. Of course, now I have to explain to Michael why we have J.R. all weekend. He always seems to complain when we have her for more than overnight. It appears to cramp his freedom. I guess this will be a good judge if he is really interested in being a father or just wants to use J.R. as a means to hang out with Brian.

 

They came down the stairs about 10 minutes later and Mel handed Ben a nice size backpack. "She has clothes for 3 days and an extra change in case she has a mishap. Her favorite bear is in there and I included a few toys and books. This is such an unexpected visit. J.R. seems to be really excited about going. Have fun."

 

Mel kissed J.R. and opened the door for the two of them. After they left she leaned against the door and took a huge breath in. She wondered if she could finish her work early enough that she and Lindsay could share some alone time. If not tonight, they had all weekend, child-free. She was really looking forward to being childless.

 

Just as she smiled at the thought of a childfree weekend, she heard the back door open and Lindsay call out, "Mel, I'm home." She placed the bag of fried chicken, potatoes and gravy on the table. Her mouth watered at the enticing smell. Looking at the uncleared table and the stack of dirty dishes on the counter, she yelled, "J.R. J.R. come in here and finish cleaning the kitchen. We can't eat if the table is filled with dirty dishes."

 

Mel walked into the kitchen and started clearing the table. "J.R. isn't here."

 

"What? Where the hell is she? Did she go play with her little friend next door? How dare she? I told her to clean the kitchen. You really need to be more strict with her rather than let her get away with not doing her chores."

 

"Linds," Mel said, "She's not here and she did not go over to Karen's house. She is at Michael and Ben's tonight and for the rest of the weekend."

 

Lindsay opened and closed her mouth several times before speaking. "What.... How... When..."

 

"Ben stopped by about 20 minutes ago, must have been right after you left. Anyway, he was in the neighborhood, running some errands. He said he hadn't gotten to spend much time with J.R as the school had been really busy and he wondered if he could take her to dinner and keep her tonight. Since this is their weekend to keep her, he suggested she pack enough clothes for the whole time instead of coming back tomorrow night to pick her up."

 

"Oh. So we have three days by ourselves?" Lindsay said as she realized that she had no responsibilities and could do as she pleased.

 

"Yes. I thought I would try and get my work done tonight and we could do some child-free activities. No worries about being interrupted. No worries about staying up late or getting up early to fix breakfast or take anyone to their sporting activities or play date. Just us," Mel smiled as she gave Lindsay her elevator eyes look.

 

"I'll put the food out, if you'll clear the table. I'll watch some tv that I saved on the Dish while you work. Hopefully, you can finish early, but if not, we have all weekend."

 

Mel and Linds ate quickly and while Mel worked until almost midnight, Linds was busy planning their child-free weekend.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Ben picked up J.R. and they chatted while he drove to Britin. Jenny wasn't sure why her moms were always yelling at her and didn't seem to want to be with her. She was happy that Daddy Ben had agreed to come and get her.

 

"Daddy Ben, can I stay with you like Gus is staying with his Daddies?" J.R. asked while she looked out the car window. "Now that Gus isn't home, there isn't anyone to play with and my mommies are always yelling at each other."

 

Ben winced at the innocent statement and didn't like the implications behind it. "J.R. Tell me about the arguing."

 

"Oh, like tonight. Momma brought me home and when she got there, Mom was sitting at the table and they started yelling about dinner. Last night, Mom and Momma argued about cleaning the kitchen and who would take me to school. Tonight, Momma told me to clean the kitchen while she got dinner. She used to let me come with her, but now that Gus isn't here to clean up, she says I have to do it."

 

"Is cleaning one of your chores?" Ben was careful to ask simple questions, wanting to avoid any implication of impropriety.

 

"Yes. Gus used to clean the kitchen and empty the dishwasher every day. I would set the table. Now that he isn't home, Momma says I have to do it. She doesn't do anything. LIke tonight, the breakfast dishes were still there from this morning and I couldn't clean the counter since the dishwasher wasn't all empty. I can empty the silverware, but I can't reach the plates and glasses; that's why Gus did it. Momma seems to forget that I'm not as tall as Gus. She wants me to vacuum and clean the sink in the bathroom too. I can do those since I don't have to be tall."

 

"How long does it take you to do all that?"

 

"I start when I get home from school and I guess it takes until dinner time. Then I eat dinner, clear the table and do my homework."

 

"Do you have any time to play or watch TV?"

 

"A little. There is usually time for one tv show on Nickelodeon. But then, I have to take my bath and its time for bed."

 

"Is it a lot different now that Gus is not living with you?"

 

"Well, sort of. When Gus was at home, we would come home from school and do our chores. Sometimes Momma and Mom would tell him to start dinner or do other stuff around the house. He didn't have a lot of time to play. I miss having Gus around. Even if we had to do stuff around the house, he would help me with my homework and explain stuff to me. When I ask Mom or Momma, they tell me to figure it out myself."

 

"What do your Mothers do while you are doing your homework and chores?"

 

"Mom is usually in her study working. She's always telling me that she has to work at home since she had to stop work and pick me up from school. I'm not sure what Momma does. She comes home for dinner, but then she says she has to leave and go places. She isn't home too much at night. She goes to her room and gets dressed real nice and leaves after dinner."

 

Ben was becoming more agitated as he continued to question J.R. Brian's assessment of the girl's parenting was correct. It really didn't appear that they were all that interested in their children and used them to do chores around the house, but spent little time as a family. He needed to intervene.

 

They arrived at Britin and Ben parked the car. Opening the door, J.R. got out and gave him a huge hug. "We're at Uncle Brian and Uncle Justin's house. Do you think I can see Gus? It's been so long."

 

"Yes. That is why we came here instead of going to my house. I talked to your Uncle Brian and he suggested you come for dinner and then we can stay a little bit. You have school tomorrow but we can come back this weekend too if you want."

 

They walked to the door and rang the bell. Justin answered the door and smiled at them. "Come in, we were just getting ready to eat. Brian told me you were coming so there is a place set for both of you."

 

J.R. practically ran into the house as Justin opened the door and yelled for her brother, "Gus. Gus.. Where are you?"

 

Gus came out of the media room and hugged his sister. "How'd you get here? It's a school night." Gus asked as he looked at his sister.

 

"Mom and Momma were arguing again and I called Daddy Ben to see if he could pick me up and take me to dinner. Momma was sitting at the kitchen table when Mom and I got home and nothing was ready for dinner. Momma said she would go get something but she wanted me to clean the kitchen while Mom worked. No one pays any attention to me. I called Daddy Ben to see if he wanted to spend time with me. He plays with me and pays attention when I'm there." She gave Gus a long explanation for an 8-year-old but she wanted someone to hear her.

 

"I'm sorry, J.R. I know its hard. Mom and Momma forget we're there a lot. It's nice being here with Dad and Justin. Maybe you could stay with your dads?"

"I don't want to be with Daddy Michael. He is just as bad as the moms. All he wants to do is talk about comics. I know he always says he's your Dad's best friend, but I don't see Uncle Brian talking about comics all the time."

 

"What about Ben? He seems really cool," Gus asked. "I remember he played Parchessi and Uno with us."

 

"Yeah. He plays games but he's fun to hang out with too. I don't know. We do fun stuff like making smoothies and he'll watch tv with me. Not just the comic stuff, fun stuff like Girl Meets World. He talks to me too. I like Daddy Ben."

 

J.R. and Gus walked to the media room, unaware that their conversation had been heard by the adults in the house. "Want to play some video games? I've got Toy Story 3. It's pretty cool."

 

"We don't have any video games at home. Momma and Mom think they are a waste of time, but you know that. You're so lucky you get to live where your parents pay attention to you and let you have games and stuff."

 

The two children got out the game console and Gus showed his sister how to play the game, giving her a controller. The adults let them play a little before calling them for dinner.

 

Ben, Justin, and Brian sat in the living room while Colin played on the floor. He had a rug that was spread out on most of the floor, keeping him off the floor and keeping the floor clean from his inevitable accidents. He had a plastic toy ring set with six brightly covered rings in increasing size that went over a cone, several plastic books and about six large connecting beads to explore. Currently, he was trying to fit the largest ring into his mouth but since the hole was almost the size of his wrist, it was an impossible feat.

 

Ben drank from the glass of water that Justin had given him before they entered the room. "I don't know what to do. Listening to J.R., her situation seems to be similar to Gus' but unlike you, I have zero claims to her. It just eats at me that she should have to be where she is not really wanted when I could offer her a loving home."

 

Brian tried to stay away from the liquor cart while the children were awake, but wished he could have a large drink at the moment. "Ben, it is really complicated."

 

"Don't I know it, My husband really doesn't want a full-time child and I doubt he would support going for full custody of J.R."

 

"Tomorrow is Friday and my attorney should be working. I'll call him. Whatever happens, it won't be fast."

 

"Ben," Justin said. "Would you push for custody of J.R. if Michael didn't want her?"

"Yes. I told Brian yesterday that being a father is really important to me. I know Michael doesn't want to be a full-time parent, but if there is any way that I can, I will take that opportunity."

 

"That's a big change," Justin said. "We would help if you needed it. After all, Gus and J.R. are siblings and we don't want to keep them apart."

 

"Thanks. I guess we better feed the kids and I need to take J.R. home. It is a school night. She was so cute, asking me if I was going to take her to school tomorrow. I really love that little girl and I want to see her happy."

 

"Gus, J.R. time for dinner," Brian called. He went to Colin and picked up the baby too, carrying him to the kitchen and putting him in his high chair.

 

"Daddy, can J.R. come over again this weekend? She said that she is staying with Uncle Ben and Uncle Michael. Momma and Mom never want to come over here for us to play together. They are always too busy," Gus asks as he and J.R. walk to the kitchen.

 

"Did you wash your hands?" Brian asks as they start to sit down.

 

J.R. and Gus look at each other, each one realizing the other is guilty of not washing their hands and they shrug.

 

"Go," Brian said as he pointed to the bathroom off the kitchen. "You guys know the rules." He grins and takes a wet washcloth and cleans Colin's hands before placing his bowl on his high chair.

 

The bowl is filled with puffs, one of his favorite foods since he can feed himself these with fair accuracy. Brian likes them as they are easy to clean up. He refused to give Colin traditional baby food as he said the stuff was nauseating. One of the things Chloe does is make fresh food for Colin and stores it in the fridge. She makes it every day and Justin makes it for him on the weekends. Brian refuses to even contemplate what the mystery foods are and is content to let other adults deal with that small detail.

 

"What's for dinner, Daddy?" Gus asked as he sits down at the table.

 

"Chicken and rice in Thai curry sauce. It's really mild so you should like it."

 

"What's Uncle Ben going to eat. He doesn't eat chicken."

 

"Daddy Justin made a tofu stir fry when he heard that he was coming."

 

"Thank you, Justin. I would have been fine with a salad," Ben said.

 

"No problem. We had some tofu left over from the dinner the other night and I just cooked up some veggies and threw in a few spices. I love to cook."

 

"Daddy Ben, if I came to live with you would I have to learn how to eat Tofu? I like chicken and meat."

 

There was laughter from everyone at the table and J.R. looked at her father for an answer.

 

"No sweetheart. Your father doesn't eat Tofu and neither does Hunter. We would find something else for you to eat. When you come to stay with us on the weekends, you don't eat Tofu."

 

"Yeah, but that's different. I visit you then, and Momma always says to treat guests really nice."

 

She took a bite of her chicken and rice. "This is yummy. Can we have this at your house, Daddy?"

 

"I'll ask Uncle Justin for the recipe. Maybe we can make it together. I'm sure Uncle Brian did not cook it."

 

"Why not? Uncle Brian always says he can do anything. I'm sure he can cook." She turned to Brian and asked, " You can cook, right Uncle Brian. Daddy always says you can do anything."

 

All the adults tried to choke down their laughter but were only partially successful.

 

"I can do lots of things, just like your daddy says. But, J.R. cooking is not one of those. Uncle Justin is the best cook and I let him do all the cooking. I do other things."

 

"Momma and Mom used to cook together, but lately, Momma works all the time and Mom brings something in. I think the only time stuff is cooked is at breakfast. I want to learn how to cook. Can you teach me, Daddy Ben? You're really smart. You teach those students at the college."

 

She took another bite of her chicken and rice and drank some milk. She thought for a few minutes and then asked, " Uncle Justin and Uncle Brian did you go to college? Momma always tells me I have to do really good in school so I can go to college. She says Daddy Michael didn't go to college cuz he didn't do well in school."

 

Ben cringed inwardly at J.R.'s words. He knew that Mel always talked badly about Brian, especially to Gus. He often felt sorry for the young boy as he adored his father but one of his mothers never had anything good to say about him. But to hear that his daughter was being told that her father didn't do well in school - ie that he wasn't smart really made him angry.

 

"Honey. There are a lot of things that your Daddy Michael is really smart about. Not everyone is smart about the same thing."

 

"Oh," Jenny said as she tried to think about a topic where he was smart.

 

"Your daddy knows a lot about comic books and movies and he runs a store." As soon as Ben said these things, he thought about the truth behind those words. Michael did know a lot about comic books and superheroes and he did run a store but said store did not really make a profit. If it weren't for Rage, he would have gone under long before. Ben started to question what his marriage was really about. Michael did not seem to care about the same things that he did; ie J.R., social justice. Lately, he has begun to wonder how much Michael really cared about their marriage. It was beginning to feel that Michael was more interested in marriage since Brian and Justin were married, rather than in their own marriage. He wondered when he got so cynical.

 

He imagined that he was finally accepting the fact that his husband saw marriage as a way to be similar to his "best friend" rather than trying to work at their marriage. The conversation they had the other night regarding J.R. and custody brought the reality to an ugly head. Michael only saw the little girl as a means to hang out with Brian. He really hadn't thought about her living arrangements or whether her mothers were caring for her in a healthy way. Since he heard that Brian had taken custody of Gus, he decided that maybe he should take custody of J.R. Ben's advice to take it slow was somewhat backfiring when the little girl called him tonight and asked to be picked up. Seems that Michael was right but for all the wrong reasons.

 

"So Daddy Michael knows a lot about comic books and superheroes. That's cool, but they aren't real. Gus knows about comics too. He tells me about Ironman, Captain America, and Thor. I guess that makes Gus smart too. Do you think he could run the store?"

 

"It takes more to run a store than to know about the comic book superheroes, J.R," Gus said. He saw the adults at the table nod their heads in agreement with his statement.

 

"J.R., speaking of your Dad, we should be getting home soon. He'll be wondering where I am and we need to make up your bed. We might need to stop at the store for something for you to eat for breakfast. I'm sure you don't want a protein shake and all your Daddy Michael eats is Captain Crunch. You need to have something with protein and less sugar for breakfast so you can stay focused in school. What do you eat at your house for breakfast?"

 

"Mom, usually just gives me pop tarts or a rice crispy treat."

 

"Do you have any cheese or eggs with those? What about peanut butter?"

 

"We used to have eggs and sometimes Mama would make waffles and I would put peanut butter on them, but she says she is too busy now, so I just get a pop tart."

"Well, you aren't getting a pop tart at our house. Do you like bagels? We could toast a bagel and put some peanut butter on it?"

 

"Yum. There is nothing better than a hot bagel with peanut butter. The peanut butter justs melts on the bagel. They are great."

 

Brian and Justin looked at each other, communicating in their silent mode, but both obviously thinking the same thing. "Ben", Justin said. "Why don't I get a bag of bagels from the fridge. We have a small jar of peanut butter you can have too. It's getting late and I know you have at least half an hour drive back to the city. This way you won't have to stop at the store."

 

Smiling, Ben said, "That would be great. Thanks, guys." Turning to J.R. he said, "Finish your dinner and you and Gus can play for 15 minutes before we have to leave. We can come back this weekend if Brian and Justin aren't busy."

 

"Why don't you plan on coming out tomorrow night. I will have time to talk to my friend by then and we can discuss the issues," Brian said, knowing Ben would understand the couched language.

 

"Thanks, Brian. J.R.- remember 15 minutes."

 

The children asked to be excused and they left, moving to the media room for a quick game on the XBox.

 

Ben took his and J.R.'s plate to the sink, emptying the scraps into the disposal. "Do you really think I have even the remote possibility of keeping that little girl?"

 

"I honestly don't know, but we will help in any way we can," Brian said.

 

"I don't have the money you guys do. I'm sure Mel will bring up the income and my HIV status as reasons not to have me raise J.R."

 

"Leave Mel to me. Let's see what the lawyer says. I have some ideas." Brian said as he went to Ben and shook his hand.

 

"I guess we better get going. It will be hard enough explaining to Michael why we have J.R. all weekend."

 

"Take care, Ben. If Michael becomes too much of an ass, let me know. I can reign him in too."

 

"I don't know what do say. I'll see you tomorrow night."

 

Ben walked toward the media room and called J.R. when he got to the doorway. " Come on, sweetheart. I know you miss your brother, but we need to get home. We're coming out tomorrow night, so you can play again with him."

 

The two siblings said good night to each other and Ben and J.R. left. Ben holding a bag of bagel and J.R. holding a special rock that Gus had given her.

 

They drove to Ben and Michael's house in the city and J.R. watched the world through the window. They arrived at the house and Ben saw that Michael wasn't home. Michael hadn't expected him tonight as he usually taught on Thursdays. He would have time to get J.R. settled before his conversation with his husband. They made up J.R.'s bed and he made sure she brushed her teeth and washed her face before she got into bed. They read a short story and he kissed her good night. Closing her door, he breathed in a deep breath and walked to the kitchen to grab a beer.

 

He didn't drink very often, but occasionally a good beer was just what he wanted. He popped the top and sat on the couch, allowing his thoughts to coalesce in his mind. About 10:00 pm, Michael came home, smelling like smoke and stale beer.

 

Ben wrinkled his nose at the smell of his partner. "Go shower. You stink," he said as he waved his hand toward their bedroom.

 

"Want to join me?" Michael asked.

 

"No. We have some things to talk about and if I join you, we'll just end up in bed and not talk."

 

"We can talk tomorrow," Michael whined as he went to kiss his husband.

 

"No, we need to talk tonight. J.R. is here and I need to take her to school in the morning."

 

"J.R. is here? Why? How? ..."

 

"Go shower and we'll talk when you are done," Ben repeated. He finished his beer and walked toward the kitchen to put the bottle in the recycling.

 

Michael said, "Okay. But you better have a really good explanation." He walked off toward their bedroom, thinking about why she should be in their house.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

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Michael finished his shower and dressed in sweats and a Rage T-shirt. He often dressed in Rage related paraphernalia, promoting his connection with the well best selling comic. Ben wasn't particularly fond of Michael wearing the clothing as he found it unappealing; a grown man should not always dress in clothing that touted super-heroes. He felt there were a time and place for the clothing, but Michael seemed to wear it everywhere. He knew that wearing it at the comic store was acceptable due to the clientele, but he really disliked that Michael rarely wore other clothing outside of the store. He also had a problem with the way Michael insisted that Rage mirror Brian and Justin's life. He was somewhat surprised that they agreed to the parallel storylines, but since they decided to have a baby, Michael had chosen to diverge their story. Michael had said more than once that it just would not be appropriate for Rage to have a baby. Regardless of Michael's obsession with comics or Rage, tonight Michael was wearing his Rage shirt. Maybe he could channel Rage's strength and save himself from whatever possessed Ben to bring home J.R. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed a Coke from the fridge. He didn't bother asking Ben if he needed anything as he figured that the man was capable of getting whatever he wanted.

 

Michael went into the living room where Ben was taking a drink from a beer bottle. Michael was somewhat surprised as he rarely saw his husband drink at home. Ben occasionally had a beer at Woody's, but it was unusual for him to drink at home, especially alone. Ben was seated on the leather couch, but Michael chose to sit on the overstuffed rust chair. He turned on the lamp that sat on the table as Ben was sitting in almost total darkness. The only light in the room was from a small light that was used for guidance in the dark. It was plugged into the outlet and it gave off a light in the dark, but nothing when the room was lit. It was meant to provide safety lighting.

 

"Why is J.R. here? We aren't supposed to have her till tomorrow night. I thought you had to teach?" Michael took several drinks from the can of soda and looked at his husband, his words projecting the undisguised anger in his voice.

 

"She called me and asked me to pick her up. The class was canceled today due to a water main break so I went to get her."

 

"You could have come to Woody's. You didn't need to go get her. Mel and Linds should be taking care of her. She's their daughter." Michael moved into his whining mode, the one he used when he thought things should have gone differently than they did.

 

Those words hit Ben in the chest like a large brick had been thrown at him. He wasn't even sure he wanted to answer Michael but decided to move slowly.

 

"Michael, remember the discussion we had the other day about J.R.?" Ben hoped that Michael would at least remember some of his fire regarding the situation, even if he didn't think the man had the right feelings behind his words.

 

"We were talking about Gus living with Brian and Justin. I said I wondered if I should push for more involvement with J.R. That conversation?" Michael answered, confused as to what that had to do with the present situation.

 

Ben nodded his head in agreement. At least the discussion hadn't totally fallen on deaf ears. He really had a larger appreciation of that saying now than ever before. "I said we should go slowly, see how J.R. is before we say anything. Well, I think we need to do something."

 

"Something?" Michael looked at Ben with a quizzical expression in his eyes. "What the hell are you talking about?"

 

Ben took a deep breath, finished his beer and placed it on the table, before talking. "I went over there, to the girl's house, because J.R. called me and asked me to come."

 

"I still don't understand what that has to do with why she is here. She talks to you all the time." Michael was getting frustrated at the slow pace the conversation was progressing He still didn't have any idea why J.R. was here and all he knew was that his husband was talking about conversations that happened last week. In his mind, conversations that happened last week were old news and the only thing that mattered was what happened now.

 

"Seems that Mel came home tonight and Lindsay was just sitting at the table with dirty dishes surrounding her. She had not started dinner and was insisting that J.R. clean up the kitchen while she went to get dinner and Melanie worked."

 

"Ok. So she didn't have dinner ready. That's not a big deal." Michael took another drink of his soda, realized it was empty and got up to get another one from the fridge. He left the can on the table, rather than toss it in the recycling bin as Ben always asked him to do. He returned to the living room, popped the top on the can and took several drinks. He continued to sit in his big chair, but he could feel the effect of the two beers he had at Woody's. He was getting tired and wanted this discussion to be over so they could go to bed.

 

"The point is that the place was a mess and they were expecting J.R., a kid, to clean up their mess. There was no dinner for her and she hadn't even had time to do her homework. It appears that since Gus is gone, all the chores are falling on her head and the girls are barely interacting with her, not even making sure dinner is ready when she comes home."

 

"Oh", Michael said. "Ma didn't cook dinner every night and there were many times the place wasn't so clean because she pulled a double to pay the bills. I don't get your point."

 

"Michael. Your mom was a single mom and she had no one else at home to do the chores. Still, she didn't make you responsible for keeping the place clean and she's talked a lot about how she used to bring home food from the diner for dinner. The point is that your mom was there for you. You went to the diner to do your homework and she made sure you were safe and had food to eat. According to J.R., Mel begrudgingly picks her up, interrupting her work time so much that she has to work when she gets home. Mel lets her know in clear detail how J.R.'s need to be picked up from after-school care interrupts her work day. LInds appears to be absent in the evening. J.R. told me that she eats dinner and then goes into her room and dresses really nice and then goes out. My point, Michael, is that J.R. is not being provided with the parenting that she deserves. She has one parent who tells her that she is an interruption to her life and the other one that can't seem to be bothered to spend time with her. Both seem to expect her to be a sort of Cinderella, doing a lot of the household chores and neither seem to be interested in her life." Ben finished his bottle of beer. He really wondered how Michael could be so dense that he had to have it explained why this was not acceptable, but then he thought about Michael and his upbringing. Debbie had her faults, but underparenting was not one of them. If anything, she smothered Michael. She was always at his beck and call and even to this day, she inserted herself into his life way more than appropriate. But she had a good heart and only wanted what was best for him. Ben wondered if he really didn't see the issues here or if he was just not interested in J.R. He feared that the latter was the case.

 

"So are we going to keep her all the time? That will give me a great excuse to spend time with Brian. We could do Dad things together. Justin could stay home with their kid and we could hang out with J.R. and Gus. It'd be like we were their parents."

 

Ben took several more deep breaths, wanting to go over to the chair and shake his husband. His greatest fear was real. Michael only saw J.R. as a way for Michael to have an excuse to hang out with Brian and be a part of his life. He knew Brian didn't want to hang out with Michael just because they could be fathers together. He thought for a few moments and wondered if Michael were given custody of J.R. and he and Michael separated, would he have a better chance of raising the little girl. That line of reasoning had never really been given conscious thought, but it might work. He just wondered if it could happen and whether Michael would protest that plan. He would have to hear what Brian's lawyer said, but that would not happen until at least tomorrow and he needed to get through tonight. He was tired, mentally and physically and he really wanted to go to bed, but he knew this had to be settled at least partially before he could sleep in good conscience.

 

"Michael, stop thinking about Brian for a minute. Can you even try to take him out of the picture?"

 

"Why? He's my best friend and if I had J.R. full time, we would have so much in common again."

 

Ben patted the place next to him on the couch, motioning for Michael to move there next to him. Michael stood up and moved, setting his soda on the coffee table in front of the couch. Ben turned toward Michael and spoke very slowly and clearly, trying to keep his words clear. "This isn't about Brian. It isn't about Melanie or Lindsay. It's about that little girl in the other room. J.R. She deserves parents who want to spend time with her. She doesn't need to have parents that see her as a glorified house cleaner or someone they have to interrupt their day to care for. True, all parents want to teach their children responsibility, but expecting them to clean the majority of the house as their main interaction with the child is not parenting." Ben reached out to Michael and clasped his hands in his own. "Do you want to be parents to J.R.? Parenting is a 24/7 commitment. It means putting her first. She needs to feel loved and cared for. We would have to make changes to our lives if she was to come live with us. Are you wanting to do this?"

 

Michael listened to Ben. He was tired and wanted to go to bed. He knew this was important to Ben, but his only thought was about Brian. If Brian could be a full-time parent, then he could be too. "Sure. Now can we go to bed?" Michael reached for his husband, but Ben shook his head.

 

"I'll be there in a little bit. I have some papers to finish grading."

 

Michael wasn't happy about going to bed alone, but he nodded his head and went to the bedroom. After pulling back the blankets, he lay down and closed his eyes. His thoughts turned to Brian and the fun they would have with the kids. His last thought before falling asleep was that he and Brian would be closer than ever, now that they both had full-time kids.

 

Ben sat in their living room and allowed his thoughts to wander. He really didn't believe that Michael wanted to be a full-time parent. Michael was very transparent when it came to be just like Brian, "his best friend" and having full custody of J.R. would give him that ability. He would be a full-time father and it occurred to Ben that maybe seeking custody in this situation wasn't the best option. But then his thoughts turned to J.R. He wanted her to have the best childhood she could have, despite her parents. If her current parents were too busy with their careers and lives to give her the childhood she deserved, then he would do everything in his power to provide her with the childhood she should have.

 

He understood what sacrifice meant, having parents who were involved in his childhood. He ran cross country and was involved in school government when he was in high school. His dad came to most of the meets, leaving early from work and bringing work home to make up the time. His dad never made him feel that it wasn't worth the extra effort. His mom helped design posters for his campaigns and she helped him write his speeches. He remembered Saturday mornings when they would all go to the farmer's market together. He and his dad would look for old books and interesting pens and his mom would look for fresh fruits and vegetables for their home. They went on family outings and vacations and he remembered sitting on the front porch talking to them about his goals and friends. They were so involved in his life. When he came out to them, they accepted him and didn't question his choices. He still talked to them every week and saw them a few times a year. They lived in Wisconsin and it was difficult for them to travel. They had met Michael and seemed to like him, but Michael never showed any interest in visiting them. He was excited to think about taking J.R. there to meet them. He'd spoken of her many times but they didn't have any relationship with her since he didn't really have custody of her. Michael had rarely wanted to keep her more than one night, so there was never any ability to have her meet his parents. Skype was great but it had its limitations. He quickly got caught up in daydreaming about the daily life he would hopefully have once J.R. came to live with them.

 

He yawned and looked at his watch. Shaking his head, he realized he needed to get to sleep. He would have a big day tomorrow. Correcting himself, mentally, he realized it was already tomorrow as it was after midnight. He better get some sleep. Daydreams were great, but life and reality were going to hit him up very soon.

 

He went to the bathroom, getting ready for bed quickly and quietly. He didn't want to disturb J.R. or Michael. He wasn't ready to deal with his husband at this point. Hoping that this next step in his life would be a great one, he stepped into his bedroom and quietly got into bed. Michael was sleeping soundly and he closed his eyes, willing his mind to stop thinking and allowing him to sleep.

 

The next day came way too early for Ben as he had set his alarm for 6:30. Normally he got up at 7:30, but he needed the extra time to get everything done. He liked to meditate for at least half an hour before starting his official day and then went for a run, and showered before leaving for work. Since Jenny was there, he either needed to cut something out of his morning routine or start it earlier if she were to get to school on time. He didn't want to count on Michael for assistance with J.R. He was somewhat reluctant to be in his face about the reality of his decision to have her full time. He knew it was somewhat dishonest to not include him in the daily routine, but he felt vindicated knowing Michael would balk at the details.

 

Deciding that he and Michael could discuss parenting responsibilities when they had time to sit down and iron out all the details, not during the chaos of getting out the door in the morning was a better idea in Ben's book. He was fairly certain the ins and outs of caring for a 7, almost 8-year-old little girl, were not something he even thought about. They rarely had her overnight and when they did Michael usually enlisted Debbie to help. J.R. was correct when she said all he ever talked to her about was comics. He probably had no real idea what little girls did or thought about. That would need to change, but that change wasn't going to be overnight. Today J.R. needed to get up, get fed and brought to school on time. He had a class to teach and office hours to hold and Michael had a business to run. He could head over to Red Cape on his lunch hour and discuss some of the logistics with him. Maybe if he started a list of all the things they needed to figure out, it wouldn't overwhelm Michael. Instant parenthood wasn't going to be easy.

 

Ben completed all his morning routines and was getting out of the shower when he heard a knock on the bathroom door.

 

"Daddy Ben, I'm hungry," said the female voice.

 

"Ok, sweetheart. Let me get dressed and I'll get you some breakfast. Have you brushed your teeth and gotten dressed?"

 

"Yep. Mama always said the first thing to do in the morning is going to the bathroom and clean up and then we should get out of our P.J.'s."

 

"I'll be in the kitchen in a few minutes. Why don't you go grab your book bag and bring it in the living room."

 

J.R. did as Ben directed and was waiting at the kitchen table when he arrived a few minutes later. Ben quickly looked at the clock and calculated how long they had before they needed to leave in order for her to get to school on time. He decided she had enough time to eat her bagel at the kitchen table rather than in the car. Mentally, he calculated the extra time he would need in the mornings, understanding that today was a good day, but there were bound to be days where people overslept, book bags were lost or breakfast was delayed.

 

He popped the bagel in the toaster and got out the ingredients for his protein shake breakfast. "How did you sleep?" he asked her.

 

"Good. I'm glad I brought my bunny. I always sleep with her. When I stay with Grandma Debbie, she throws him in the wash."

 

Ben looked at the little girl and admired her fortitude. Here she was sitting at her father's table, chatting away as if this was the norm for her, rather than being whisked away from her moms yesterday. In his heart, he hoped that things would go smoothly, but he really wondered if having her here was really in her best interest. Her world would be so different. Shaking himself mentally he reminded himself that the reason she was here was a result of her asking to be brought here. She was unhappy and feeling neglected at her home. She knew she wanted more and it was his duty as an adult to see that she got more.

 

Placing the bagel smeared with peanut butter in front of her, he said, " Here you go. Do you want milk or orange juice to go with that?"

 

"Milk. Orange juice would taste funny, Daddy, Ben," she said as she giggled softly.

 

He poured her a glass of milk and finished making his shake. Pouring it in a to-go cup in case he didn't have time to finish it. He didn't want her to feel that he was rushing her to get out of the house, and realized that if he poured it in a to-go cup and needed to leave it would appear a little less obvious. He sat down at the table and took several drinks, enjoying the breakfast drink.

 

"Where is Daddy Michael?" J.R. asked as she looked around for her other father.

 

"Sleeping. He usually doesn't get up until later. His store doesn't open till 10:00 so he doesn't get up until about 8:30 or 9:00."

 

Ben had tried to get Michael to get up earlier so they could meditate together, but Michael had declared meditation was mumbo jumbo and refused to participate. He thought ahead to the discussion he was planning on having with him at Red Cape this afternoon and acknowledged that he would have breakfast duty for J.R. and by default, Michael would have bedtime duty a few nights a week when Ben had commitments at the college. Things were already falling into place without a discussion. Ben stopped his mental gymnastics when he realized he was getting way ahead of himself. He was just assuming J.R. would be living with them. This was not a foregone conclusion as the topic had not been broached with either of her parents and he really didn't think that it would be that easy. Maybe he should rethink having the conversation with Michael until after he talked to Brian and Justin and their lawyer. He could dream and plan all he wanted, but if Mel and Linds didn't go for it, nothing would change.

 

"I like eating breakfast with you, Daddy Ben," J.R. said between bites of her bagel. "Momma and Mom are always running around trying to get everything ready to walk out the door. They are usually grabbing toast or something to eat in the car. I guess that is why we usually eat Pop Tarts."

 

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You can't expect to concentrate on your learning if you are hungry."

 

"That's what our teachers tell us in school. But you know that since you are a teacher."

 

Looking at the clock, Ben saw the time. "Time to go. Finish that last drink of milk and place your dishes in the dishwasher. Grab your stuff, honey. I'll grab my book bag and we need to take you to school."

 

J.R. did as Ben directed and was ready at the front door in less than 2 minutes. Ben joined her, opened the door for her and then walked out himself. He locked the door behind him and they went to the car.

 

Ben drove her to school. " I don't know who will pick you up. It might be me or your Dad, but it could be Uncle Brian or Uncle Justin. I have to check my schedule, but I promise someone will be here. I'll call the school later and leave them a message. They can let you know who to look for, so you won't be scared."

 

"Okay. Love you, Daddy Ben. Thanks again for picking me up and taking me to see Gus. It was fun. See you later," she said as she got out of the car and walked up the steps to the school.

 

Ben watched as she walked up the steps and drove himself to the college. He lectured to his 9:30 Intro to Film Studies class and then returned to his office. He looked at his calendar. He had another class at 3:00 so he would have to get someone else to pick her up. 3:00 was a busy time for the shop as that was when all the after school crowds came to the shop; therefore he had to enlist some help.

 

Picking up the phone, he dialed 6 on his speed dial and was connected to Kinnetik.

 

"Kinnetik advertising. How may I direct your call?"

 

"Brian Kinney, please?"

 

"May I ask who is calling?"

 

"Ben Bruckner."

 

"Thank you Mr. Bruckner. I'll see if he is available. One moment, please."

 

Ben heard muzak through the line as he held and wondered if Brian knew the music his clients were subjected to. He would mention it later, give him a little ribbing.

 

"Hi Ben. Anxious aren't you. I don't have any answers yet, but I did put a call into my lawyer this morning."

 

"Thanks, Brian. That's not why I'm calling. Well, not exactly. It is about J.R. though."

 

"What can I do?"

 

"I have class at 3:00 and Michael's busy time is then. You know those geeky kids want their comic books. Anyway, I need someone to pick her up and I was wondering if you or Justin could do that? I need to tell the school who will be there. I don't want to call Mel and LInds since they already gave me permission to keep her for the weekend. I don't want them having second thoughts, you know what I mean?"

 

Brian thought back to just a few short months before when he was walking the same tight rope that Ben was, except with his he had legal rights to his son. His heart went out to Ben who was fighting to make his daughter's life better, but with less legal arms behind him.

 

Brian looked at his calendar and saw that it was his day to pick up Gus so he would be at the school anyway. They had chosen to leave Gus at the school where the munchers were living to limit the disruption to his life. They had not decided if they were going to move him to a school closer to their home since it would involve Gus losing access to lots of his friends. They still had a few months left in this school year and then they would think about it over the summer. Justin and he took turns getting Gus from school as they wanted to share that responsibility.

 

"You're in luck, professor. Today is my day to pick up Gus and I can just grab Jenny at the same time. We promised them they would get to spend time together this weekend. Why don't you and Michael come over after work and hopefully we will have some information from the lawyer by then."

 

"That would be great. I'll let the school know and we will be there tonight. I'll let Michael know. I'm sure he will be happy about coming out to the house. He always loves to spend time with you guys."

 

Brian said, "Okay, see you then." He picked up the phone and immediately called Justin.

 

"Hey," Justin said as he answered the phone, recognizing the familiar ring.

 

"Just to give you a heads up, I'm picking up J.R. from school when I pick up Gus and bringing her out to the house. Ben and Michael are going to join us for dinner. I called the lawyer and maybe he'll have some answers by then."

 

"Ok." Justin paused for a few moments before continuing. "Brian, do you really think Michael wants to be a full-time parent?"

 

"Honestly, no. But I don't think Mel and Linds do either. Ben does and he is fighting to do this for J.R. He doesn't have any ulterior motives either. Linds had Gus to tie me to her. Mel had J.R. to be equal to Linds in the parent department. Ben isn't doing this for anyone or to prove something to anyone either. In fact, it's likely if he succeeds it may very well break up his marriage. He's willing to do this for one reason and that is the best reason. He is doing it for J.R. He wants the best for her. He grew up in a loving family who accepted him when he came out. He wants J.R. to grow up in the same type of family."

 

"When did you get to be so smart?"

 

"I've always been smart. I just didn't always listen to what my head told me. Now let me go to work. I have to leave here in a few hours and if I don't get cracking, I won't be pounding your ass into the mattress tonight, I'll be pounding on the keyboard trying to get these reports out."

 

Justin laughed and said, "I love you. Later"

 

Brian said, "Later."

 

They hung up their phones and continued on with their day.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Brian hung up the phone and sat back in his chair thinking about the changes in his life in the last few years. Justin left for New York but wasn't communicating with him about his money problems. As a result, he became a stripper for one of those companies that people hire to dance at birthday parties and other occasions. While he wasn't tricking all over town, he was still putting himself at risk. Brian found out by accident about Justin's new line of work when one of his clients brought him as a guest to a party where Justin was the entertainment. He saw Justin and wasn't going to discuss the issue while he was working, but agreed to meet him at the hotel so they could "talk". Unfortunately, the "talk" never came because the cab that Justin was traveling in was hit and he suffered another concussion and subsequent amnesia. He brought Justin home and eventually Justin regained the majority of his memories. During that time, he and Justin spent many hours talking about a lot of events that they should have discussed earlier in their relationship.

 

When they both thought things were back to normal, a fan from New York developed an imaginary relationship with Justin and even went so far as to apply for a job in Pittsburgh to be near him. This set of events sent Justin into another tailspin and he didn't feel safe for a long time. Eventually, the individual was found and his friends intervened, promising to keep him away from Justin.

 

These events both strained and strengthened their relationship. During this time, they decided to get married and eventually agreed to have a child. Enlisting Cynthia as the surrogate was the perfect solution since neither man wanted anyone in the "family" to be the birth mother. She loved both men but did not want to have a child herself. She was not related to either of them and would be ensconced in the role of favorite aunt, but the child would eventually know that she was her biological mother. Their family's reaction to the pregnancy and birth was mixed. Jennifer, Ted, Blake, Emmett, and Drew were all in favor of the new addition and never questioned their ability to want or raise a child. Lindsey, Michael, and Mel, were on the other side of the fence. None of them could imagine that Brian really wanted the child or that he would willingly give up his lifestyle to be a full-time parent.

 

Now he was the full-time parent of his infant son and he had taken the steps to be a full-time parent to his 10-year-old child as well. Gus' addition to their family was unexpected but very welcome. Gus had said early on during the pregnancy that he wanted to live with Brian and Justin, but they had not taken him seriously, reminding him that he would miss his mothers. Things came to a head when Lindsay and Mel became too busy for their children, choosing their careers over parenting. The changes to full-time parents to two children were huge, but neither he nor Justin regretted their decision. Brian was concerned what type of father he would be based on his terribly abusive childhood, but Justin's reassurance that he was a good man and that he was generous with his friends and Gus resulted in Brian's agreement to have a child with Justin.

 

Last night he talked to Ben, the spouse of his longtime friend, Michael, about gaining custody of Michael's daughter. It appeared that not only were Mel and Linds neglectful of Gus, but they were also demonstrating the same behaviors as their daughter. Unfortunately, J.R.'s situation was very different than Gus'. While Michael, her biological father had joint custody of her, he had shown little interest in spending more than a casual day here and there with her. Brian thought Michael's whole reason in donating his sperm to the cause was to be like Brian. Since Brian was a dad, Michael wanted to be a dad, too. The only problem with this thought process was that Michael really had no interest in children. Truth be told, initially, Brian had no interest in being a father either, but Lindsay pushed his interactions in Gus' life and eventually his place in Gus' life was very important to him. He was so glad that he had talked to the lawyer all those years ago and a custody agreement was written.

 

By the time, the munchers were ready to have another child, Brian was very involved in Gus' life but he did not want to father a second child for them. They wanted the children to be related but Brian had had enough of Linds' manipulations when it came to Gus and did not want to repeat the mistake again. The girls had asked Michael to be the donor, so he jumped at the chance to be like his "best friend" and be a father. They assumed that he would not push for custody and would be a drop in father, at best. When he sued for custody after J.R. was born, they were shocked and hurt. Even though he had joint custody of the little girl, he was not very involved in her life. Michael saw J.R. as a way to hang out with Brian and have something in common with him. Unfortunately for Michael, Brian saw fatherhood as a much more involved process than just showing up every Sunday to eat a meal.

 

Brian had just announced to a friend that he was going to leave work early to pick up his oldest son and would willingly pick up his son's sister, J.R. He wondered when his life became that of a "soccer mom", but smiled at the title. He loved his life; he was married with two kids and he had carpool duty. These were words and actions he never thought would happen. He looked forward to spending time with both of his children and while his relationship with Justin had changed, he was still very much in lust and love with the man. Now, he really should get back to work and stop with the nostalgia. Looking down at his crotch, he verified that he'd not lost his balls in the last 24 hours and wasn't turning into a lesbian.

 

He opened his computer and clicked on the latest file for Ice Mountain, needing to review their upcoming campaign. Quickly he became engrossed in the tasks of running a multi-million dollar company and left behind thoughts of fatherhood. His concentration was interrupted by the phone when his assistant, Cynthia rang.

 

"I've got Sam on the phone. You asked to put his calls through," she said.

 

"Sure."

 

"Sam, that was fast. I hope you have good news for me."

 

"Well, I did some investigating and it is only preliminary. You said your friend has joint custody with the mothers, but he isn't all that involved. You told me that his husband is interested in raising the little girl."

 

"Right on both counts."

 

"With the passage of the marriage equality bill a few years back, his partner is considered a parent, even if he doesn't share a biological connection with the child. This is all contingent on whether they were actually married in the U.S?"

 

"I know they were married in Canada, but a few years ago they were married here. I think it was after we got married, but yeah they are married. So the law allows either partner to claim custody? What if the biological parent ( ie, my friend) isn't interested in custody? Would his partner be able to seek custody since he is his spouse?" Brian asked.

 

"The law is pretty clear in this situation. In mixed-sex couples, either parent can seek custody, but in this situation, there are four parents. Since gay couples often don't have biological connections with their children, the law has decided that any of the parents can file for custody. If either father wanted to seek custody, the law says that he could."

 

"Let me just be clear. This is actually a four-way agreement. The two moms, in this case, Linds and Mel and the two dads. The non-biological parents would not have to go to court to adopt the child. So even though my friend is not biologically related to the child, since he and his husband are married, he can still seek custody? The non-biological parent could legally just have the child come to live with him without agreement from the other parents?"

 

"Yes, you are correct. It gets a little complicated. Of course, one set of parents could sue for full custody, but unless they want a long court battle and can show neglect or abuse, it would be pretty difficult to accomplish."

 

"Thanks, Sam. I'll share this information with my friend. Can you talk to him if he has more questions? You were able to lock up my challenge for Gus so well and I'm so glad that you advised me to write the papers as you did. Gus is now living with us full time and I don't think there is anything his moms can challenge. I'm just not sure if that is the case in this situation."

 

"Brian, you have me on retainer and I'm happy to help."

 

"Look, Sam. My friend doesn't have a lot of money. Give him all the help you can. Just bill me for it. I want that little girl in a loving home."

 

"Sure thing, Brian."

 

Brian hung up and smiled. This appeared way easier than he thought. He was excited to share the information with Ben; although he did have concerns about how Michael would take the news. Michael saw J.R. as a pawn, had always seen her in that way. He remembered when J.R. was born and he helped Michael with custody and they passed the baby around, keeping some complicated custody schedule. He remembered Justin talking about some silly assignment they had in high school where you are responsible for a fake baby for a week. The baby is programmed to cry every so often and you have to log when you feed it and change it. He was glad he never participated in such a silly assignment. He hoped Michael would not make the same mistake again, using J.R. to push his idea of fatherhood.

 

It was almost time for him to pick up the kids. At least today he would not have to worry about J.R.'s mothers being there trying to bully her into going home with them. They had given Ben permission to keep her all weekend. He fast forwarded to a few days or weeks from now when that was a distinct possibility. He wondered if Ben could slip under the radar as he did, casually offering to pick her up from school, keep her overnights, etc. It would be much harder for him since his schedule was probably not as flexible and Ben did not have some of the resources that he and Justin had. While Justin had Jennifer who was always more than happy to pick up Gus or stay with Colin, he didn't see involving Debbie in this mix would be as positive of a move. He wondered too how Michael would see things. Would he willingly take J.R. in their home and actually step up and be the father that he should be or would he argue about not "signing on " for the responsibility? Too many ifs in the mix to think about at the moment and he really did need to save his work and make a to-do list for tomorrow. Today was not a very productive day on his end but he did have excellent employees who made sure Kinnetik ran smoothly. He closed down his computer, put a few files in his briefcase in case he had some time to work this weekend and grabbed his coat.

 

"Cynthia, I'm off to pick up Gus and J.R. from school. Justin and I were talking the other night that you haven't been out to see Colin for a bit. Do you want to swing by sometime this weekend? We will probably be hanging around the house."

 

Smiling, Cynthia said, "Sure. I haven't seen him in at least a month, he's probably doing all kinds of new things. I think Saturday morning about 10:00 would work. Does he still take a morning nap? If so, I can come later."

 

"No, 10:00 is good. He's almost outgrown the morning nap and only does it 1-2 days a week. Usually on the weekends when we are there, we are so busy doing activities with Gus and running errands that he usually only takes an afternoon nap. I'll let Justin know you plan on coming out tomorrow."

 

"See you, Brian," Cynthia said as she took out her phone and put a reminder in her calendar.

 

He listened to some soft Jazz on the way to pick up Gus and J.R. knowing they would be talking a mile a minute once he had them in the car. There were things he missed as a result of being a full-time father, but he knew he would never change having his children.

 

Pulling into the carpool lane, he surreptitiously looked to see how many fathers were there to pick up their children, but he really couldn't see through the tinted windows of the cars. He didn't care if he was the only father since this was a favorite activity of his. Gus shared about his day and he didn't have to share the time with anyone. He wondered what it would be like when Colin was old enough to talk at the dinner table and he and he and Gus would be vying for attention.

 

Gus and J.R. came out and spotted Brian's silver car. They got in and buckled their seat belts and Brian drove toward the exit.

 

"Hi, Uncle Brian. My teacher said you would be here to pick me up. This is so much fun, going to your house. Is Daddy going to be there when we get home? Are we going to eat dinner at your house? I hope so. I love Uncle Justin's cooking. He sometimes lets me help. Do you think I can help cook? Can Gus and I play that cool game on the Xbox?"

 

"Woah there, missy," Brian said. "One question at a time. Let's see.... No, your daddy has class and that is why I picked you up. He won't be at the house until dinner time. I imagine you are eating at our house since there isn't anyone to cook dinner at your father's house. And, hmmm.... Gus, what do you think? Do you think you two can play until dinner?"

 

"Sure, we can, Dad. Do you think we could go play with Colin for a bit? He was sleeping when J.R. came over last night. She hasn't seen him for a bit. He's gotten so big.," Gus said.

 

"Okay. I think you can go see what Ms. Chloe and Colin are doing and if he is awake then you can play with him for a bit. But I don't want you staying too long. Maybe 30-45 minutes. Your brother needs his routine and when you come in the afternoon, it disrupts it. After you play with Colin, you can go play outside for a bit or play in the media room. Ben will be joining us for dinner, but I don't know if Uncle Michael will be here."

 

"Thanks, Dad. I promise not to bother Ms.Chloe and we will be great playmates with Colin."

 

"So how was your day, J.R.?"

 

"Good. We had an assembly and talked about friends. I have lots of friends at school, but I don't get to see them out of school. Mom and Momma are always too busy for me to go to a friend's house."

 

Brian's heart went out to the little girl, yet again. She was missing out on a key piece of childhood. Friends were important for everyone. He didn't have a lot of friends in high school, but Michael and his family were literal lifesavers during those horrible years. He didn't know what he would have done without them. Michael was the subject of many bullying episodes until he came along. Once the guys knew he was friends with Brian, the bullying pretty much stopped since none of the guys wanted to stand up to Brian. He was heartened to hear that J.R. had friends even if she didn't see them out of school.

 

"Did you have the same assembly, Sonny Boy?"

 

"Yeah. It was about bullying and what someone should do if they are bullied."

 

"I see. Have you been bullied?"

 

"No. But I did stick up for this one kid when some other kids were giving him a hard time."

 

"Good. I'm proud of you for that. Being gay, I was bullied a bit, but when the kids realized I could hurt them, they stopped pretty fast.

 

"I didn't know that you were bullied Dad," Gus said, not really knowing what else to add to his statement.

 

"Justin was too, but that is a discussion for another time. If you want to know more, we can talk about it."

 

"Ok. I'll let you know."

 

Brian hated this discussion. He hated admitting that he was the target of bullies and that he knew first hand what it was like. Even worse, he hated that Justin was bullied and as a result of this bullying was a victim of a hate crime. They had not really discussed the bashing with Gus, but he was getting to an age where that discussion would need to be had. Gus had already noticed that sometimes Justin's hand hurt and he winced in pain when he overused it. Gus was a smart kid and it wouldn't be long before he started questioning things. Brian needed to add that topic to the list of things to talk to Justin about. Once again, he wondered when he became the guy that made lists of things to discuss with his spouse.

 

Thankfully before any additional difficult topics could be brought up, they were at Britin. "Dinner is at the usual time, 6:30 so make sure you have hands washed and are at the dinner table by then. Go have fun, you two." Brian said as he motioned for the children to leave the car.

 

It was early, barely 4:00 and usually Justin was in his studio at this time of day. Realizing that the weekend was going to a busy one, he hoped Justin wouldn't mind the intrusion. Knocking on the studio door, he hoped for an "enter" from within. He was rewarded by the door actually opening.

 

"Hey," Justin said. "With all that is going on, I thought it might be you. Let me put my brushes up to soak and we can sit on the couch," Justin said after taking one look at Brian's face. Quickly he placed his brushes in turpentine and closed down the computer program he was using. Grabbing two bottles of waters from the mini - fridge he handed one to Brian and then sat opposite him on the couch.

 

"Why the worried look? Did the lawyer have bad news?"

 

Brian smiled, having half forgotten the discussion from earlier. "No, that is actually some good information. I think Ben may have a chance at custody. We can talk about that after dinner. No need to go over the information twice."

 

"Okay. So if you got good news from Sam, is there something wrong with Kinnetik? A client giving you a hard time?"

 

"No, Kinnetik is great. Cynthia and Ted have all fronts covered. Speaking of Cynthia, I invited her to come out this weekend. She is supposed to try for tomorrow morning. It's been a while since she came out to see Colin"

 

"Brian, you need to tell me what is wrong. It's not the custody thing. It's not Kinnetik. You look like you've seen a ghost or something worse. Help me out here." Justin reached out and grasped Brian's hands and leaned in to give his husband a quick kiss on the lips.

 

"They had an assembly at school today. The topic was bullying. J.R. said she had lots of friends but she didn't see them at home since her moms were too busy."

 

"That seems to fit with the information that we've been given by Gus and her," Justin said.

 

"I mentioned to Gus that I had been bullied when in high school but the kids backed off pretty quickly when they realized I would fight back. I also mentioned you."

 

Justin's face turned white, understanding why Brian was so upset. They had worked through the bashing and after his amnesia a few years back had finally come to grips with the incident. They had talked a lot about many things; the bashing being only one of them. While the amnesia had not been a good thing, it had resulted in bringing them much closer and finally pushing Brian to open up about his feelings.

 

"We knew this day would come. Gus is smart and he has started to notice things. I know he sees you massaging my hand sometimes. What did you tell him?"

 

"I only said that you had been bullied too. I said if he wanted to talk about it, he could ask."

 

"I see. Shit!! We have so much other crap to deal with, but we don't get to choose when the right time to talk occurs. Do you want me to talk to him?"

 

"No. Let's give it some time. A few weeks, maybe. If he brings it up before that, of course, we will talk to him, but until then. Let's just deal with all the other stuff in our lives," Brian said as he leaned in and kissed his husband. "You know, I told the kids that dinner won't be until 6:30. This might be the only time we are free this weekend. What do you say to a little afternoon delight?"

 

"I say that we both deserve some delight. Lead the way."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Ben drove to Britin with a sense of excitement and trepidation. He was going to have J.R. for the whole weekend, something he'd never done before. He and Michael had her overnight but usually, it was one night and often just for the day. He thought this would be the ultimate test to see if he really wanted to move forward with pushing for custody. In his heart, he knew that he would do anything to be a full-time parent to the young child and wasn't worried about his ability to care for her.

 

The bigger concern was the rest of the "family". After his discussion with Michael last night he had little doubt that Michael saw fatherhood as a way to hang out with Brian rather than a way to be with J.R. If Michael did not want to take on that responsibility, he wondered if he even had a chance to be a full-time parent. There was also the legal issues. Did he even have a chance to push for custody in the eyes of the law?

 

Custody of J.R. was not the only issue. He was beginning to wonder whether he wanted to stay with Michael. Their relationship was already strained, each man having different priorities. Adding a child that one of them was not 100% committed to raising was an added stressor that he wasn't sure the marriage could withstand. If J.R.'s situation was different, he wondered if he'd be contemplating continuing his marriage.

 

Michael had been invited to Britin for dinner but had told Ben he was busy with an event tomorrow at the store. Normally, any mention of seeing Brian would have had him jumping at the opportunity, but he thought Michael was still angry about having his daughter for the entire weekend when he'd planned on doing other activities. He'd told Ben earlier in the week that there was a signing at the store on Saturday and then he was planning on attending a special panel discussion the following day. They were supposed to have J.R. on Sunday afternoon and bring her to dinner at Deb's in the evening.

 

He would have liked to see Michael interact with J.R. for the whole weekend so he could judge Michael's commitment to custody, but he was happy to do it himself so he could judge his own ability to be with J.R. on an extended basis. He pulled into the circular driveway and parked the car at the far end. He wasn't sure if there were any other people coming to dinner, but he hoped that at least for part of the evening, he would be able to talk to Brian about the legal issues.

 

Ringing the doorbell, he stood in front of the large house and wondered what it would be like to come home to family each night. He remembered his own childhood, filled with family activities and sporting events. He and his brother played basketball and there were games and practices each week. He had always been interested in learning and had participated in the debate team in high school and was also on the literary magazine. As a young child, he remembered playing basketball with the neighborhood kids and complaining when the street lights came on since that meant he had to go home.

 

To this day, he still loved a pickup game and thought nostalgically about the time Michael interrupted him and his colleagues to insist that he go out with him. There had been such enthusiasm and playfulness between the two of them and now it seemed that they lead two separate lives, only coming together to attend a family dinner or have sex. He appreciated both activities but thought there should be more to his marriage than a meal and a roll in the sheets.

 

Unfortunately, Michael didn't like to talk about their relationship. He'd attempted discussing his desire for them to branch out and participate in cultural activities or even recreational sports, but Michael had no desire to experience anything beyond what he was accustomed to doing. That meant their world revolved around going to Woody's or Babylon, eating at the diner, talking about comics and discussing the latest gossip with his small group of friends. While Ben had tried to get involved with their neighbors, Michael's limited exposure to culture or recreation and unwillingness to expand his horizons, left those possible friendships in the dust. The neighbors could talk about comics or the gay nightlife in the area occasionally; they did not want every encounter to be about those topics. Before he could get too caught up in his thoughts about his marriage, Justin answered the door.

 

"Ben, come on in. No Michael?" he said as he closed the door and waved Ben into the family room.

 

"No. He has a signing of some author at the store tomorrow and said he had to get things ready. It's just as well. I really wanted a chance to talk to Brian more about J.R. and I don't think Michael would have let us alone to do that," Ben said. He followed Justin into the family room where Brian was watching Colin crawl.

 

"When did he start crawling? The last time I was here he was still scooting on his belly. Last night he was in his high chair so I didn't really get to see much of him."

 

"He's been crawling for several months. His biggest challenge right now is that he is trying to stand up. He's 10 months old and the books say he might walk anywhere from 11 months to 14 months," Justin said as he delivered his information.

 

"Thank you for your latest piece of information on parenting, Justin. I don't know what I would do without you telling me the obvious, that our son is getting ready to walk," Brian said, tongue in cheek.

 

The three men watched Colin crawl to his toy block and then roll over to a sitting position where he proceeded to put it in his mouth.

 

"He puts everything in his mouth. Justin says all babies do that, but I say he's just practicing for when he gets older," Brian said, giving both men a smirk.

 

Justin gave him an exasperated look and didn't bother responding, understanding that his husband was teasing him about all the parenting books he read. He and Brian talked a lot about Colin and what he is supposed to be doing at his age. But to be fair, he started reading books about children Gus' age and what kinds of things they like to do as well as what to expect in many areas of their development. He wanted Gus to develop socially as well as academically. He understood that good parenting involved more than feeding and clothing the child. He remembered Brian's conversation from yesterday about bullying and wondered how long it would be until Gus asked them about the bashing.

 

Gus and J.R. come out of the media room adjacent to the living room and J.R. ran toward Ben to hug him. Ben bent down to hug her and the smile on his face showed how much he loved this little girl. Brian and Justin nod toward each other, silently acknowledging Ben's commitment to fatherhood. It's obvious that J.R. and he have a great relationship and she is comfortable with him.

 

"Daddy Ben, Uncle Brian picked me up from school today and Gus and I got to spend the whole afternoon together. It was so much fun. We didn't have to clean house or start dinner."

 

The three men winced at J.R.'s words, their hearts hurting for her loss of a carefree childhood. None of them wanted to call out her mothers, but each of them wanted to throttle them for using her as a maid and cook rather than letting her be the child she deserved.

 

"I bet Gus doesn't have to clean the house or put the dishes away," J.R. said, wanting confirmation that her brother's life was carefree.

 

"Actually, sis, I do have to put my dishes away and clean my room. I have to put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher after every meal and the dads make me keep my room clean and put away my laundry. I do have chores, but they are things to take care of myself. Daddy Justin says that I need to learn to be self-sufficient since I won't always have someone to do things for me. Daddy Justin is teaching me to cook. My dad doesn't cook so before he met Daddy Justin, he ate take out all the time. Daddy Justin says that take out is fine every now and then but it isn't really healthy and if you eat takeout all the time, you don't get all the vitamins and stuff that you need to grow up."

 

Justin and Ben laughed at Gus's PSA and Brian rolled his eyes. "You are poisoning my son, Justin. Your constant PSA's have begun to twist his mind. We all know you love Thai food and your eating habits leave something to be desired. Oreo cookies are not a part of any food pyramid that I know," Brian said as he tried to refute Gus' PSA.

 

"What's a food pyramid?" J.R. asks, not really understanding the underlying message of the conversation.

 

The oven timer buzzed and the men looked toward the sound. "Seems that dinner is ready. Why don't we wash up and continue this in the kitchen? I think it's a great dinner discussion," Justin said as his stomach chose that moment to grumble loudly.

 

"The beast has spoken. Unless you want to see a grown man devour all the food, I suggest we take Justin's suggestion," Brian said as he went to pick up Colin who was busy trying to fit the entire block into his mouth. Brian took the soggy block and placed it on the light blue blanket that was lying on top of the hardwood floor. He picked up his son, gave him a kiss on the top of the head and said to him, "Colin, your father seems intent on discussing the merits of nutrition at the dinner table. This should be an exciting dinner topic." He knew that his young son had no idea what Brian was saying but he gurgled in delight at his father.

 

Brian placed Colin in his high chair and grabbed a wet wipe to clean his hands. "We must wash your hands since you were playing on the floor. Everyone walks on the floor and it's filled with germs. Always wash your food before you put it in your mouth." Brian continued his conversation with the baby, despite his not being old enough to understand anything. Justin had droned on and on about the importance of talking to Colin and explaining everything that they did with him and to him. Justin said that this was a way to build his vocabulary. He smiled to himself when he realized that this was one of many PSA's that Justin had spouted in their long relationship and he did actually listen to many of them.

 

As Brian took care of Colin, Justin set the table and plated the food. He placed it in bowls and platters on the stove so that each person could grab their own food. He liked this method better than putting it all on the table. The table did not get crowded and people were free to converse once they got their food instead of constantly being asked to pass this item or that platter.

 

Ben took care of supervising Gus and Jenny in the bathroom as they washed for dinner. Neither of the children really needed supervision, but he needed to wash as well and it was a good chance to interact with his daughter over this simple but important ritual. He noted that she washed her hands very thoroughly, easily spending 20-30 seconds on the task. He had sent her to wash up before meals when she stayed with them, but he didn't really remember ever watching her perform the task. He was happy to see that she was adept at the task. He remembered the conversation they had this morning when she informed him that Mel had ingrained in her that she should always wash up and get out of her pjs first thing in the morning. He admitted that the girls had done some appropriate parenting in the past. He was just saddened that at this point in time, they had literally dropped the ball.

 

Everyone returned to the kitchen and grabbed a plate off the table, taking it to the stove to get their food.

 

"J.R., let me get your food. You are still a little short to be reaching up to the stove. Come here and tell me what you want and I'll put it on your plate."

 

J.R. was relieved as she was unsure how she would manage getting her food as the stove was really high. She was afraid she would spill something or the platter would end up on the floor since she couldn't really see everything. She knew that if that happened at her house, there would be screaming and yelling and her mothers would tell her that food is expensive and she should be more careful.

 

"Thanks, Daddy Ben. It smells really good. What are we having?"

 

"Chicken and Rice with broccoli. We have salad too," Justin said. He had told Rosa, the cook to make something really simple since he wasn't sure what J.R. ate.

 

"Daddy Ben, I love chicken and rice and broccoli is okay. But I like salad if there is good dressing to go with it. Uncle Justin, what kind of salad dressing do you have?"

 

"We have Ranch, Honey Mustard, Balsamic Vinegar, and Thousand Islands. Do you like any of those?" Justin said.

 

"Ranch," J.R. answered.

 

Ben prepared her plate and brought it to the table. She sat down and waited for everybody to join her. The rest of the family filled their own plates and made their salads and sat down.

 

"What is a food pyramid?" J.R. asked again. She had placed the idea in her head and wanted to know more.

 

"Do you know what a pyramid is?" Ben asked. He didn't often eat chicken but was not going to ask for something different. He had taken a lot of salad and broccoli and a small amount of the chicken and rice. He needed the protein and knew Justin was a good cook so looked forward to eating the dish.

 

"Sure, we studied about them in school. They are really big triangle buildings in Egypt. They're made of stone and they are really old." J.R. took a bite of the rice and put her fork on her plate as she chewed.

 

"Good. Well, a food pyramid is a breakdown of the foods you should eat every day. It is called a pyramid as it is a triangle. The idea is that the foods you should eat the most of are on the bottom and the foods that you should eat the least of are on the top. So when you stack them together, they make a pyramid shape. There are categories of healthy foods. Justin, do you have a piece of paper that I can use to illustrate? I think it would help." Ben took a bite of his rice, enjoying the taste of mushroom soup mixed in the casserole.

 

Justin got up and grabbed paper and pen and handed it to Ben. Ben drew a quick pyramid and labeled all the parts. "The bottom of the pyramid is your bread and pasta group and you should get 6-11 servings of this each day. The next layer is divided into two equal parts- fruits and vegetables and you should get 3-5 servings of veggies and 2-4 of fruit every day. The next layer is also divided into two sections. Cheese and milk, yogurt on one side and meat, fish and protein on the other. Both of these are 2-3 servings daily and the top of the pyramid is fats, oils, and sweets. They don't put a number of servings here, but just say to use lightly." He pointed to each part of the pyramid as he talked. Putting down the paper in front of J.R. in order for her to view it in a larger context.

 

"So where do Oreo cookies go?" J.R. asked as she studied the picture and read the definitions. She took a bite of her chicken and said, "This is yummy, Uncle Justin. Can you teach me how to cook this?"

 

"They aren't really on the pyramid or if you had to put them someplace, you would put them on the top- use lightly, " Brian said. He looked at Justin, smiling. "See, even J.R. realizes that Oreo cookies are not on the food pyramid."

 

"So the bagel and peanut butter I had for breakfast this morning was a bread and .... Where is the peanut butter, Daddy Ben?"

 

"Peanut Butter is here," he said pointing to the meat, poultry area. "Peanut butter is made from nuts so its a protein." Ben ate some more broccoli and drank some water. "I noticed you had a filter on the faucet. Do you filter all your water or just the drinking water?"

 

"The water out here is filled with chemicals and Justin insists that it would not be good for Colin. He insisted that we install a filter on the kitchen faucet since we were making his formula from it. He said that the baby didn't need any additional chemicals, especially while he was young and developing."

 

"That makes sense. Since you aren't able to feed him naturally," Ben said.

 

"Wow. You sure are smart, Daddy Ben. I didn't know that peanut butter is made from nuts, but I guess that makes sense since it says peanut in the name. There is a lot to know about eating. What about my pop tarts? I don't see them on the list. Are they a good breakfast food?"

 

"Not really, sweetheart. Pop tarts are bakery products with a lot of sugar and fat and no protein. They fill your tummy up for a little bit, but then you get hungry since your body doesn't have good fuel."

 

"Fuel? I thought you put fuel in cars?" J.R. drank some milk and wiped her mouth so she didn't have a milk-stache.

 

"Food is fuel for your body. Daddy Brian is always telling Daddy Justin that sweetened cereal and Oreo's are not good for him. Dad usually has a Guava Juice smoothie for breakfast in the morning. It looks gross cause it is ugly green, but Dad says it has lots of nutrients and it is way better than Daddy Justin's sugar cereal. And Dad has this funny rule about no carbs after 7:00 which means we don't get to eat pizza for dinner real often unless Daddy Justin makes something different for Dad. It's complicated."

 

"Is that why Daddy Michael eats different food than you, Daddy Ben? I see him eat Captain Crunch a lot and you eat some kind of eggs for breakfast or have some type of drink. I think you said it was a protein shake. Doesn't Daddy Michael know about the pyramid?''

 

Ben thought this was going to be a great teaching moment and a safe dinner conversation but it was quickly turning into a complicated discussion. He wanted to instill in J.R. that nutrition was very important to good health, but he didn't want to discuss his husband's poor choices in that area. He was still her father, even if Michael and he separated and he raised the little girl on his own. He had seen too many of his friends talk about the "other" parent in a disparaging way. So many of his childhood friends had divorced parents and more often than not, the kids talked about the parent they didn't live with as the "evil" one. He didn't want to talk bad about any of the three other adults, even if he did not agree with the way they were raising the little girl. It would not be prudent for her to share some of his thoughts on their parenting skills as this might hurt his chances in a court of law. But he was less concerned with the court at this point and more concerned with keeping her relationship with her other parents positive. While he did want to raise her and give her a wonderful childhood, he did not want her to feel that he was pitting his parenting against her other parents.

 

"Daddy Michael and I disagree on our food choices. Adults don't always agree with each other, even if they are married. I want to be sure you know about good nutrition and the food pyramid, but you have to choose what you are going to eat. I'm not with you at school or when you go visit family or friends. I think nutrition is important and good nutrition keeps me healthy and my numbers in check."

 

"Does good nutrition keep you out of the hospital, Daddy Ben?" J.R. asked. She knew about Ben's HIV status as it was important to keep her safe and not put her in jeopardy when she interacted with him. Her parents were very open about his illness and keeping her safe from possible infection. She understood precautions like covering any scrapes and not borrowing his personal items. She understood that he took a lot of medication and she should never touch it. The biggest impact his illness had was that she couldn't visit him when she had a cold as he could catch it easily. Since she rarely got sick, that hadn't been very important.

 

"Well good nutrition is a part of it. I also work out to keep my body strong and get enough sleep. Sleep is just as important as good nutrition. Sleep helps me fight off infection."

 

"Gus, do you follow the pyramid now that you live here? I don't think we followed it much when you lived with Mom and Momma."

 

"I don't know. It's not something I really think about. Daddy Justin and I cook and we talk when we cook. He tells me that Dad won't eat carbs so we have to make stuff without those. I'm not really clear on what carbs are except that Dad thinks they make him gain weight. Rosa makes my lunch and she puts fruit in them. I don't get a lot of canned stuff or packaged lunches like Lunchables. I usually get fresh sandwiches or leftovers. We do have cookies in the house, but Daddy Justin doesn't let me eat them all the time. So I guess, yeah. I follow it because my Dads provide food that's healthy." Gus finished eating his chicken and rice casserole and had gone back to the stove to get seconds. He scooped a small portion onto his plate and also put some more broccoli on the plate as well. The rule was if you got seconds of any dish, you also had to get seconds of the vegetable. If you weren't hungry enough for the vegetable, you weren't hungry enough for the main dish.

 

"Maybe I can get Momma to buy me some bagels and peanut butter. It is a good breakfast and I could still eat it in the car. That way she wouldn't have to make me breakfast and make her late for work."

 

Ben thought this might be a good idea, but was again saddened that J.R. was thinking like the adult, trying to find solutions to her morning routine to get a nutritious breakfast without causing stress in the household. "We can go shopping and get you some bagels and peanut butter before you go home on Sunday. You can make your own breakfast and not have to ask your moms to get you some from the store."

 

"That's great. I want to give my body good fuel."

 

Brian hadn't entered into the discussion, finding it interesting to just listen to the three of them talk. He accepted that Gus was a product of two households and his experiences living with his mothers were different than the ones he had living with him and Justin. While he and Justin had different ideas of good nutrition, they basically agreed on its importance and offered their children a variety of healthy food and snacks. He hoped that all the experiences Gus had during his remaining childhood would be positive and give him a good foundation for living when he became an adult. Looking at everyone's plate, he saw that everyone but Gus was finished eating. He wanted an opportunity to talk to Ben before they had to leave, so he was eager to dismiss the children.

 

"The adults want a chance to talk before J.R. and Ben have to go home. When you two finish your dinner, you can go to the playroom for a while and play some games. I think you've had enough video games for the night."

 

Gus and J.R. nodded their head in acceptance. "We could play go fish or some other card game. Mom and Momma don't play too much; they're always busy."

 

"Let's put our plates in the dishwasher and then we can go down and see what we want to do. We have lots of games," Gus said as he finished the last of his chicken and rice. He stood up and walked to the dishwasher and put his plate in the dishwasher and his sister did the same. Then they went to the playroom which was at the other end of the house.

 

Justin put the food away and Brian and Ben cleared the table and wiped it down. They picked up Colin and brought him to the living room where they placed him on his blanket where his toys were waiting for him. Brian grabbed a beer for himself out of the small refrigerator in the corner and held it up in unspoken question to the other men. Justin nodded in agreement but Ben declined.

 

They sat down; Brian and Justin on the leather couch and Ben in the leather chair adjacent to it. Brian and Justin took a few draws from their beers and then Brian placed his bottle on a coaster on the coffee table.

 

"My lawyer got back to me today about your situation. I think you have a chance to raise J.R." He explained what the lawyer had said and the legal precedents in the situation.

 

"Really? That is great news. Of course, legally I may be able to raise her, but I don't think any of the other parents would willingly give up their custody. I'm not really sure where to go from here. It sounds so easy when you discuss it. But as we all know, nothing is easy in this family," Ben said, tinged with sadness at being so close but so far from his goals.

 

"I have some questions for you, Ben. I'm not pressuring you to give me an answer to them right now, but I want you to think about them, " Brian said as he lifted his bottle to take another drink.

 

"You mentioned your relationship with Michael and how you were questioning its validity. What are you going to do with your marriage? Is it over or do you plan to try and salvage it?" Brian asked, wanting his friend to look at all the angles of the situation.

 

"If you intend to end it, the custody gets really messy. I'm not suggesting you stay in a marriage that doesn't work for you. I can verify that an arrangement like that one is not good for any of the involved parties; husband, wife, and children." Justin squeezed Brian's hand for support, recognizing Brian's comment as a personal testimony to his difficult childhood.

 

"If you don't leave the marriage, what does Michael think of being a full-time parent?"

Brian held up his hand before Ben could even begin an answer. "I imagine Mikey would see this as an opportunity to hang out with me and do stuff with just me and Gus and him and J.R, leaving you and Justin to be with Colin. I can tell you that would not happen. While I'm all for an occasional outing or afternoon with friends, I'm not going back to the Brian that hung out with his friends whenever he had any free time. My marriage and both of my children are the top priority in my life. If you gain custody of J.R., I will promise that Gus and she will have many opportunities to see and interact with each other, but it will not be at the expense of my husband and other son." Justin knew that Brian felt this way, but it was always good to hear his thoughts out loud. He leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

 

"No matter what your decision regarding your marriage is, if you gain custody of J.R., it will mean changes in your lifestyle and you will need to figure out some options for daycare or afterschool activities. That being said, I'm sure I speak for Justin that we would assist in any way possible. We have to pick up Gus and we understand the siblings want to be together frequently. We could probably arrange for them to be picked up together on days you or Michael were unable to do so. I imagine that Mikey would not normally be able to do that since that is a busy time at the shop."

 

"Lastly, J.R. is a beautiful and joyous little girl and I want what is best for her. She shouldn't suffer just because her parents can't get their priorities straight and find time to be great parents to her. I know that you have her best interest at heart but may not have the means to fight for her. To that end, Justin and I have already discussed that you can have access to our attorney to help you in this battle. He is already on retainer to us and we have discussed that we want him to help you and to bill us for his time. Your money should be spent providing a great home to her not fighting her selfish parents for the right to provide a good childhood."

 

Ben sat for a few moments before responding. He drank some water that he had leftover from dinner, having kept the glass with him.

 

"I don't even know what to say. Michael and I are at different places in our lives. Michael loves his shop and the opportunity to be with his passion all day. To that end, I'm happy for him. While I think his innocence and playfulness attracted me to him, I think that I want more from a partner. I'm not really sure what will happen to our marriage, but I honestly don't think that it will last." A tear ran down Ben's face as he allowed the words discussing his failed marriage finally be spoken aloud. He hated that he was unsuccessful in his pursuit of a partner, but admitted that Michael was not a partner but more like an overgrown child. When he met him, he admired the innocence and joy Michael exhibited for his comics and the entire comic world, but he didn't count on Michael not taking responsibility for adult things like working at their marriage and interacting with other adults who were different than himself. He wasn't eager to experience life outside his comfort zone and was stuck in the same world he had when he was a teenager.

 

Brian and Justin listened to Ben, each man hurting for their friend and saddened by the progression of events, but neither was surprised at his disclosures.

 

"I love that little girl and when Michael first brought up talking to Mel and Linds about increased interaction with her, I was honestly against the idea. A child is a big commitment and one I wasn't sure we could handle."

 

"When we took in Hunter, he was almost an adult, a scared adult, but he didn't need the supervision that J.R. needs. He needed to know that someone cared what happened to him and that he was worth more than the latest trick he could turn. He's grown into a wonderful young man and I couldn't be more proud."

 

"J.R. is young and needs a lot of guidance, let alone supervision. The more I interacted with her, the more my heart hurt for her situation. I couldn't let my fears of the full-time responsibility get in the way. I knew she deserved better than she was getting and I think I can offer her that, or at least try harder than her mothers. I know that I will need a lot of help and that I can't really rely on Michael, even if we are still together. Your offer of assistance is greatly appreciated. I know that Gus and J.R. deserve to grow up together and me gaining custody may help their situation. As for the financial assistance, thank you. I know that I could not afford to take on this situation without your help."

 

"I guess I am saying that I want to do this and it appears that I may even be successful. Even if I'm not given full custody of her, I would make my wishes known that she deserves better and that I'm willing to provide more. That may prove to be sufficient for me to be more active in her life and give her great opportunities."

 

All three men smiled as Ben talked about the future and J.R.'s potential life changes.

 

"I guess I need to go home and talk to my husband. I think that may be the hardest discussion of this entire saga. I don't want to give him an ultimatum, but I don't really think he wants the same things that I do. It's getting late, friends. I must take my daughter home. I will be in contact with your lawyer next week as I figure all this out. Thank you for your support." He got up and gave both men large hugs. They hugged him back and watched as he left the room to find J.R.

 

Justin looked at Brian and said, "Do you think he'll leave Michael? Better question, is what will Michael do if Ben decides to end things?"

 

"I don't know, but it could get very interesting. We will help in any way we can. Right now, we have a son who needs a diaper change and a bath. I can smell him from here. After we put him to bed, we need to spend some time with Gus. He may have questions about Ben and J.R. I don't want to leave him in the dark," Brian said as he bent down to pick up his son.

 

They left the room and met Ben and J.R. at the door. They all hugged and said good-bye again.

 

"Sonny boy, we are going to give Colin his bath and put him to bed, Then we will join you for some game time or whatever you want to do," Brian said as he closed the door.

 

"Okay. I've got some homework to finish and I'll do it now so I don't have to do it later this weekend. See you guys in a bit." He bent down and kissed Colin on the forehead and went towards his room.

 

"He's a good kid, Brian. You did well," Justin said.

 

"We did well. We did well."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Ben and J.R. drove home. As they drove, Ben started to think about what kinds of things they would do over the weekend. Again, Ben was reminded that he usually only had her for a few hours on Sunday morning and an occasional Saturday night so he was used to focusing all his attention on her. They would play games, go to the playground if it was warm enough and occasionally he would help her with her school work. Michael often talked about comics or sometimes took her to the latest superhero movie that was showing at the cinema. He was torn with focusing all his time on her or doing what he normally did on weekends with some special time with her. He decided the latter was more appropriate. If he was going to fight for her to live with him all the time, he would have to do all the activities that he normally did on the weekends but set aside some time just for her. After he thought about it for a bit, he remembered his childhood where his parents both worked but found time to do special activities with him and his siblings during the week and on weekends.

 

"J.R., what do you usually do on weekends when you are at home?" He decided this was an easier way to determine what was normal for her and to make adjustments to his schedule if possible.

 

"Well...," she paused before speaking. She had to think about her weekends. "On Saturdays Mom and Momma clean house. I dust, clean the bathrooms, and put my laundry away. Mom and Momma vacuum and wash laundry. Then Saturday afternoons we usually go to the store. Buy food and whatever we need. That always seems to take forever as Mom and Momma don't always agree on what food to buy. Then we go home. You and Daddy Michael come over sometimes and take me to your house on Saturday night. When I don't go to your house, I watch tv or ride my bike if its nice outside. Sunday we get up late and eat a late breakfast since we go to Grandma Debbie's for dinner in the late afternoon. I usually do my homework on Sunday mornings."

 

Ben listened and thought the activities were on par with his usual weekend. Usually, Friday night and Saturday night were spent with friends, sometimes at Woody's or Babylon, but occasionally he went to a lecture or special event on campus. He'd tried for years to see if Michael would join him for some of those activities but Michael was not interested in them, preferring to his usual night with the "boys". Ben frowned at that thought as he realized that really hanging with the "boys" was an activity that Michael's friends rarely participated in anymore. He thought about how Michael complained on many Sunday mornings that no one showed up at Babylon. Brian and Justin had a family and they were usually not at Babylon or Woody's. Ted and Blake often took advantage of cultural activities such as opera or plays and Drew and Emmett were busy with their commitments as well. Emmett rarely had a Friday or Saturday night free as he was busy with his catering business and while Drew did not play football, he was a commentator for a local sports channel. On the occasional Saturday, they had free, they sometimes came to Babylon for a few hours, but often left early.

 

"Since you are with us for the whole weekend, we will be doing some of the same things. I don't think you will clean our bathroom but you can dust while I do laundry and clean. I do need to go food shopping and we should pick up a few things for you too. Maybe your mom will let you stay with me and Daddy Michael more often. I want you to feel at home here too. But tonight it's time for a bath and off to bed with you young lady."

 

"Okay, Daddy Ben. Gus and I played outside this afternoon and I'm dirty."

 

"But in the morning, we will cook breakfast together. You told Uncle Justin that your moms didn't let you cook and I think we need to start remedying that oversight. Everybody needs to know how to cook."

 

"Oh!! That sounds like fun. I like staying at your house."

 

J.R. took her bath and Ben read her a story and tucked her in. She had her own bedroom at their house. Michael and Ben had bought a three bedroom home and while Hunter was no longer living there, he still had a room in their home. He attended Carnegie but lived on campus. He had missed out on so much when he was growing up that Ben insisted that he have the "college" experience by living on campus. He was majoring in Psychology, hoping to work with troubled teens. He volunteered at the Gay/Lesbian Center and was active in the Gay Student Alliance on campus. He came home about twice a month to do his laundry and Ben remembered he had mentioned that he would be stopping by this weekend. Hunter and J.R. had a good relationship, but their paths didn't cross too often these days.

 

After putting J.R. to bed, Ben took out his laptop and typed in "Family activities in Pittsburgh." Ben thought they might try to squeeze something different into their weekend. There was a Children's Theatre Festival, the zoo, art museum, history museum, and the science center. They could always go to the park, but since he had her all weekend, he wanted to do something different. He closed the browser and looked up activities for 8-year-olds and found a number of activities there too. Smiling, he thought of his friend Brian teasing Justin about his PSA's. While he wasn't spouting PSA's here he was looking up activities for his daughter to enjoy. His daughter, the words made him smile. Regardless of what happened with Melanie and Lindsay, J.R. was his daughter and he was determined to make the time they spent together special. He wasn't trying to become the "favored" parent, but he was trying to make her childhood one where fun was a regular activity.

 

He had to finish grading the student papers from Thursday night. Stopping in the middle of grading to pick up J.R., he hadn't thought about them until now. The class met Tuesdays and Thursdays and he tried to get the students their work back within a week or less. If the students turned something in on Thursdays, he tried to get it back to them on Tuesday the following week but definitely by Thursday. They had turned the papers in on Tuesday so he only had a few days remaining to grade them. He taught on Monday night so waiting until the end of the weekend wouldn't work. He logged on to his school account and clicked to his class, starting to read the short essays of each student. He completed about half of what he needed to do, but realized it was after 11:00 and J.R. got up much earlier than he did on the weekend. Shutting down his laptop and putting it in his backpack, he turned off the lights and got ready for bed.

 

About two hours later, Michael came home and went into the bedroom. He saw Ben sleeping, but wanted to talk to him about his evening. He purposely made a lot of noise, waking his partner.

 

"Michael, you're home."

 

"Ben, I'm so glad you're still awake. I've got to tell you about the signing. It was great."

 

Ben looked at the clock and immediately became angry. "Michael it is 1:30 in the morning and you know I was sound asleep. We have J.R. all weekend and I need to get my rest. You know I need a certain number of hours of sleep in order to stay healthy. Be quiet and let me go back to sleep." He turned over and pulled the covers over his head, attempting to drown out the noise.

 

"But..." Michael started to respond. Seeing Ben bury his head in the bedclothes, he realized that Ben wasn't going to talk to him now. He finished getting ready for bed and lay next to Ben. He tried to hold him, but Ben turned away and Michael frowned, not used to being rejected. Closing his eyes, he fell asleep.

 

Luckily Ben was able to go back to sleep with little trouble. In the morning, there was a knock on their door.

"Daddy Ben, I'm hungry."

 

Ben looked at the clock, seeing it was after 8:00. He thought that J.R. had probably been awake for a bit, and was thankful that Mel and Linds had taught her some manners. She didn't bound into their room and she most likely entertained herself until she was really hungry. She had learned that you don't bother your parents on weekends until you are hungry.

 

"Okay, sweetheart. I'll be out in a few minutes." He nudged Michael. "Michael, you need to get up. J.R. is awake and we need to have breakfast."

 

"Go away. I'm tired," Michael said as he looked at the clock and saw it was only 8:10. "I don't have to get up till 11:00. The panel doesn't start until 1:00."

 

Ben wasn't going to argue with him. It was clear to him that Michael was more interested in his own activities than spending time with his daughter. Getting out of bed, he performed his morning ablutions and got dressed.

 

J.R. was in the living room watching cartoons. "Morning Daddy Ben. Where's Daddy Michael?"

 

"Sleeping. He came home late last night and has something to do this afternoon. It's the two of us, but I think Hunter maybe home this weekend. Maybe we can convince him to do some fun stuff with us."

 

"Hunter's here? Yeah. I miss Hunter. He's fun."

 

Ben walked into the kitchen and looked in the fridge to see what they could make for breakfast. There were a few eggs and some cheese and milk, but little else. "J.R., all we have is the makings of some basic omelets. What do you say to cooking some eggs?"

"Ok. Uncle Justin showed me how to crack an egg yesterday. I think I can do it again without getting the shell in the bowl," she said with a mix of eagerness and trepidation.

 

Ben took down a bowl from the cabinet and got the eggs from the fridge, placing them on the table. "Do you want me to show you again how to crack them or do you want to do all of them?"

 

"Why don't you do the first one and I'll watch," J.R. said.

 

Ben cracked the egg on the side of the bowl and dumped it in the bowl. J.R. took an egg and did the same.

 

"Great. See you already have one skill in the kitchen," Ben said as he watched her face light up with the praise. "Go ahead and crack the remaining eggs and I'll watch."

 

J.R. cracked the eggs and threw out all the eggshells. "All done," she said proudly. "And I didn't get any eggshells in the bowl.

 

Ben took out the whisk and twirled it in the bowl for a few swirls. "See, this gives the eggs a good mixing. We need to add some spices and cheese and then we are ready to cook." He took down some pepper, Mrs. Dash and a little-dried onion. " We don't want to overwhelm our taste buds so we just put a little of each of these in the mix." He unscrewed the top to each spice and demonstrated with the pepper. "Now you try with the Mrs. Dash and onion."

 

J.R. watched intently and added a little spice to the eggs. She opened the bag of cheese and started to put that in the mix as well.

 

Ben put out his hand, stopping her. "We add the cheese close to the eggs being cooked. That way it doesn't stick to the pan."

"Okay," J.R. said. Are we ready to cook them?"

 

"Not quite. The skillet needs to be hot, so we turn on the oven and let the burner get hot. We put a little butter in the pan to make the eggs not stick."

He took a knife and put about a teaspoon of butter in the pan, listening to the sizzle of the butter as it melted from the heat. "Now we pour the whole thing in the pan and let it cook for a bit."

 

J.R. stared at the frying pan, wondering what was next. "How do we know when to put the cheese in, Daddy Ben?"

 

Ben pointed to the eggs in the pan, "See how the edges are getting less liquidy, that tells me that the egg is cooked on the other side. I take my spatula and put it under the whole mixture. See how it comes up in one big piece? That means it's ready to turn. If it breaks up or doesn't come in one piece, we need to let it cook a little longer." Ben slid the spatula under the egg and flipped it over. " Now we let it cook just a tiny bit and add the cheese on top." After about 30 seconds he pointed to the side again. "See how they don't look so runny?" He added the cheese in the middle. "Now I take my spatula again and flip the edge here folding it in half. That puts the cheese in the middle."

 

"You make it seemed so easy."

 

"We'll practice next time. I wanted you to see what I did, but maybe tomorrow we'll make it again."

 

"That's right. I get to stay the whole weekend," J.R. said as she remembered that she did not have to go home to her mother's.

 

"Now the whole thing should be done and we can eat. Why don't you grab the two plates from the cabinet and I'll separate our masterpiece."

 

J.R. grabbed the plates and Ben divided the eggs into two portions. He poured some juice and milk for both of them. "Do you want some toast?"

He asked.

 

"No. I think this will be good."

Ben popped a piece of toast in the toaster for himself and then sat at the table. J.R. took a bite of her eggs and made a mmm noise.

 

"These are good. I can't wait to tell Gus that I helped cook breakfast."

 

"Speaking of Gus, I'm glad you were able to spend some time with him yesterday. I know you miss him." Ben heard the toast pop up and he went to grab it. Putting it on a plate, he brought it to the table along with some hummus. He spread the hummus on the toast and took a bite, and then put it on his plate.

 

"After breakfast, we have some errands to run. I have a little bit of school work to do as well. But after that, we can do some fun things. What do you want to do today?"

 

"I have some homework too, so we can do schoolwork together. Will Daddy Michael be going with us to run our errands?" J.R. took another bite of her eggs and then drank some juice.

 

"No, he wasn't expecting you to be here this weekend and he has other plans. Maybe he might join us tonight. Do you want to see a movie or we could rent one? We could play a game or go to the library and check out some books. I know you like making things, maybe we could go to the store and buy you some supplies and you could do that." Ben drank some milk and then ate a few bites more of his eggs. He liked the experience of eating breakfast with J.R., planning their day and just doing the things that all families did. He hoped that his dream of being a father would come true.

 

"I like to read. My teacher says I'm good at reading. Maybe we could go to the library. That would be fun. I love to make bracelets. Can we buy a bracelet kit?" J.R. shared her interest with Ben. She thought he would like that she liked to read since he was a teacher.

 

"I think we can do both of these. I think we should buy some games too." Ben drank the last of his milk, took the last bites of the egg and then drank his juice.

 

J.R. looked at Ben and smiled. "It sounds like a lot of fun. Gus told me that he paints with Uncle Justin and plays lots of games with his dads. Do you think Daddy Michael would join us if we played some games?" J.R. finished her eggs as well. She drank the last of her juice and then drank her milk. She made a scrunched up face as the milk was weird tasting after drinking her juice. "Is this a different kind of milk? It tastes funny."

 

"No, silly. You should drink your milk first and then your juice. Your juice gave your milk a different taste since it has acids in it."

 

"I can't drink acids. They are bad for you."

 

"No, sweetheart, the juice is acidic. It is not acid. You know, when you have a sore throat and you drink O.J. it burns your throat?"

 

"Yeah. The last time I had a sore throat, that is how mama knew I was sick cuz the orange juice burned."

 

"Different foods have a different makeup and OJ is good for you but it is acidic. Milk is alkaline and neutralizes strong tastes. When you eat something really spicy, you should drink milk to calm down the spice."

"Wow, you sure are smart, Daddy Ben. But you didn't answer my question about the games. Do you think Daddy Michael will play them with us?"

 

"We could ask him. I bet he would be willing to play some games. Daddy Michael likes games."

 

They had finished their breakfast and Ben put his plate in the dishwasher. J.R. did the same. As they were getting ready to wipe down the counter, Michael came into the kitchen.

 

"I smell eggs. Where's mine?"

 

J.R. looked at Ben for an answer, unsure what to say.

 

"We didn't make you any. Didn't know when you'd be up and cold eggs are not the best. We could make you some if you want. J.R. has been practicing her cooking skills."

 

"Nah. I'll just eat some Captain Crunch. I need to leave in a little bit."

 

"Daddy Michael, will you be home tonight? Daddy Ben and I are going to buy some games and I want you to play with me."

 

"Maybe. I'm not sure when I'll be home."

 

"Okay. But would you play them later?" J.R. asked hopefully.

 

"We'll see. J.R. can I talk to Daddy Ben for a few minutes? Why don't you watch cartoons? That used to be my favorite thing to do on Saturdays."

 

J.R. frowned since she wasn't sure what cartoons were on. She rarely was allowed to watch tv on Saturday morning since her moms insisted that was the day to run errands and clean. However, she wasn't going to argue. She dutifully walked into the tv room and turned it on, looking for some cartoons. She knew that Daddy Michael liked to watch cartoons so if he said they were on, she decided he would know.

 

When Michael was sure J.R. was out of earshot, he said, "What are you doing? Buying games and running errands. Soon all her stuff will be taking over the house. She doesn't live here so why should we have a bunch of her stuff?"

 

Ben thought he had received a huge slap in the face. "Michael. We talked about this just last week. You were concerned that the girls weren't taking care of J.R. as she deserved. You were all for being more involved in her life. What is your problem?"

 

"I don't have a problem, just that bringing her home for the whole weekend and buying her all kinds of shit is not what I had in mind."

"What did you have in mind?"

 

"Talking to the girls."

 

"Michael, J.R. called me. She was so upset she called me to come get here. Talking to the girls is not the solution. We need to step up to the plate and be there for J.R. If that means picking her up from school, then we will do that. If it means keeping her for the weekend, then we do that. She needs parents who want to spend time with her, not ones that just want to talk."

 

"Are you proposing that she is here on weekends and after school?"

 

"If that is what she needs, yes."

 

"I can't do that. I have a shop to run."

"Michael, lots of parents work. Melanie and Lindsay work and right now they leave J.R. to go home and be by herself while they work. They want her to clean the house and she has little time to be a child and play. That is unacceptable in my book. I want her to have a great childhood, not be Cinderella."

"So, what are you saying? You want me to close the shop in the afternoon to pick her up. I might as well just shut it down. Afternoons are one of my busiest times. I worked too hard to do that."

 

"What about having her come to your shop in the afternoon? She could hang out, do her homework and spend time with you."

 

"No. I don't have time to watch her while I'm working. There are a lot of collectibles in the store and she might break them. Why don't you watch her?"

 

Ben had been hoping for a different conversation but expected the discussion with Michael to resemble the one they were currently involved in. It was obvious to him that Michael was giving lip service to being more involved in J.R.'s life. Michael did not really want to be an involved parent and he most likely saw J.R. as a ticket to spend time with Brian doing "parenting things". The conversation solidified his decision regarding their marriage and how he would need to proceed in gaining at least partial custody of J.R. It saddened him to realize that his partner was so disinterested in his own child, but he realized he would rather have Michael say he was too busy at this point in time, then later, after he started the process of custody.

 

"Of course, I'll watch her. I'll figure something out."

 

Michael got down a bowl for his Captain Crunch and started pouring the cereal into the big bowl. After taking several bites of the cereal, he looked up at Ben and said, " She's Melanie's and Lindsay's responsibility. They are her parents."

 

Ben frowned, saddened by Michael's words and attitudes. "Michael, you're her parent too. We need to step up and help her."

 

"We can't do that. We're not her parents."

 

J.R. came into the kitchen. "Daddy Ben, are we going to the store? It is almost noon and Momma says that the morning should not be wasted."

 

Ben looked at Michael, shaking his head in disappointment. "You're right. We should go run our errands and then we will do some fun stuff." Ben walked out of the kitchen, ignoring Michael at the table. "Let me get my phone and keys."

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Britin

 

The Taylor-Kinney family was sitting at the dinner table after a busy day. Gus had a soccer game in the morning and a birthday party in the afternoon. Colin was now old enough for Brian and Justin to bring him to all the family activities, but Colin was more interested in his new found skill of standing and he was eager to explore. Brian watched as he pulled himself up from his blanket to stand as he held on to the side of Brian's soccer chair. Brian watched his children with pride; Gus as he ran on the field, dribbling the soccer ball expertly and Colin, the child he was raising with his husband, partner, and love of his life. He never thought his life would be like this, but he enjoyed every minute he spent with his family. When he thought about it, he questioned how he ever thought he was happy when his life consisted of the latest trick and the acquisition of his latest account. While he still worked hard, he had let Cynthia and Ted take over some of the accounts so he could spend more time with Justin and Colin. Now that they had Gus full time, his life was even busier with family activities.

 

While Gus had been living with them full time, it had only been 2 weeks since he announced to Lindsay his intention of making the arrangements permanent. She had tried to cajole him into changing his mind and tried to convince him that he really didn't want to have Gus full time as he was too busy. His retort to her was that she was the one who was too busy, going to events and parties most nights and leaving her children to basically fend for themselves. When he had shown Melanie the custody papers that he had drawn up years ago, she had read them and promptly tore them up. He knew she had no recourse and was pretty certain she wouldn't try to take him to court to gain custody of Gus. Gus had always been a source of contention for her. While she loved the child, or so he thought, he was always a constant reminder of Brian, his biological father and "best friend" of her partner, Lindsay. Lindsay's insistence of involving Brian in many aspects of Gus' life on the pretense that he needed to forge a bond with his son, had been a ploy to maintain her fantasy that they were a family. However, as Brian spent more time with his son, he came to realize that he really enjoyed the young man's company and enjoyed being a part of his son's life. Brian was thankful to Lindsay for her insistence in his involvement in Gus' life.

 

He felt very secure that he would not hear from any lawyers on Mel or Lind's behalf asking for custody arrangements. He didn't trust them to try and force him to come to live with them and he had spoken to Justin regarding their involvement in Gus' life. They felt that they would return to Sunday dinners in a few weeks, but not until Gus felt safe in his knowledge that he could continue to live with his fathers.

 

Colin was happily sitting in his high chair, picking up his cheerios and puffs and sticking them into his mouth. He would grab for his sippy cup and shake it, sometimes turning it upside down. Luckily child-friendly cups were used avoiding milk on Colin as well as the floor, ceiling, and table. Every now and then, Justin or Brian would look over at him and make sure he had food on his tray. Justin was in the process of cutting up a ripe pear and putting very small pieces on his tray as well. Colin picked them up and quickly popped them in his mouth. He squealed with delight at each piece that made it into his mouth.

 

Brian looked at his young son, " Sonny Boy, you are a very messy eater. Guess you will be needing a bath after dinner."

 

Justin laughed at Brian, hearing the unspoken need for order and neatness in his husband's statement. "Your turn tonight. Gus and I are going to be in my studio. We have a project."

 

Brian raised his eyebrows at the secretive statement. "Oh. What project?"

 

"We are working on a project for Colin," Gus said.

 

"Okay. Good to know that you and Justin can understand Colin speak."

 

"Dad, its for his birthday. He'll be one in about 3 weeks and I wanted to do something really cool. Are we having a party for him?"

 

"A party for a one-year-old? He won't even know it's his birthday."

 

"Brian, I already told you that Mom and Molly have already started planning it. I was told in no uncertain terms that a child's first birthday is very important. It is after all the first time, he or she is allowed to have cake."

 

Brian shook his head in amusement. "Cake for a one-year-old. Next, you will be telling me of other must have milestones. Tell me, Sunshine, are there other absolutes regarding a first birthday?"

 

"Well... Usually, the family invites all the important people in the child's life. Aunts, Uncles, as well as most of the friends of the parents. So many people haven't seen the parents since the baby shower as they are so involved with their baby. It's a chance to reconnect with folks and celebrate the baby's first year."

"And where did you gain all this knowledge?" Justin started to answer, but Brian put up his hand to stop him from responding. "Never mind, I don't need a PSA from you on our child's first birthday. Just tell me who all is coming to this shindig and where do I have to go."

 

"We decided it would be here, at Britin. Everyone has been invited. Yes, even the munchers. We invited Cynthia and her boyfriend, Carol, my agent and of course, Chloe. There should be about 20 of us. We thought since it should be a nice day, we would try to have it outside, leave the mess and chaos out of the home. But, of course, if it rains, we'll move it to the media room. We're having Emmett cater it."

 

"Cater a birthday party for a one-year-old. You have gone mad," Brian said as he smiles at the idea of Emmett decorating and cooking for Colin.

 

"Silly man. He's making the cake and we're having picnic items for everybody else. Hamburgers and hotdogs, potato salad, coleslaw. He's going to make the cake in the shape of a train since Colin seems enamored of Thomas the train."

 

"Whatever." Brian looks at Colin and sees he's kicking his feet, a sign that he's done and wants out of his high chair. "I'm taking our son for his bath. You get clean up duty and Colin made as much of a mess here as he did on his clothing." Brian unlatches the safety strap and picks up his son, holding him facing his other father and brother Gus, as he hoped to avoid getting food on himself. They walked upstairs to the shared bathroom and Brian got him ready for his bath.

 

He plugged the bathtub and started the water. Taking the messy clothes off his son, he placed them in the hamper. They had a small seat that Colin sat in when he was in the tub and Brian placed him in it. Brian carefully felt the water, ensuring that it did not get too hot. When there were a few inches of water in the tub, Brian turned off the water and let Colin play with a few toys. Colin had a rubber duck that he was fond of and he grabbed it, moving it to his mouth to suck on it.

 

Justin and Gus cleaned up the mess that Colin made at his place near the end of the table. They put the food away and Justin grabbed them some cold waters as they headed to the studio.

 

"So I was thinking, Daddy Justin that I want to make something really special for Colin, but I don't know what to make."

 

"Well, do you have any ideas?" Justin asked as he cleared one of his tables so the two of them could work.

 

"I was thinking we could put a growth chart together. Paint it on the wall and then mark it as he grows."

 

"That would be cool. I could help you paint it. Can I?"

 

"Sure. What do you think it should be? Remember it needs to be tall."

 

"What about a giraffe. They are really tall. Or maybe an elephant? Or maybe you could make a whole zoo and just one animal would be the chart." Gus was silent for a few minutes. "His room is a space room, we could make a big standing rocket. I like that."

 

"I think a rocket would be perfect. I'll start to draw it on paper and we'll see where it goes."

 

"That's great." Gus pulled up a chair and sat by the table, watching Justin as he sketched the rocket.

 

"Daddy Justin, can I ask you something?"

 

"Sure, Gus," Justin put down his sketch pad and turned toward Gus.

 

"Well.... Today... I mean..." Gus stammered.

 

Justin waited while Gus gathered his thoughts. After a few moments, Justin said, "It's okay, buddy. Whatever you want to talk about, I'm here to listen."

 

"Promise you won't get upset or mad?" Gus said, looking down at his lap as if his favorite toy was sitting there.

 

"Gus, I love you and so does your father. You are our son and we will always be here for you."

 

"Remember when I was talking about the assembly we had yesterday at school?"

 

"Sure. You said it was about bullying? Is there something that is bothering you?"

 

"Well, today at the ball game there were some kids that were teasing another player and I wanted to tell them to stop but I didn't. I was afraid they might not be my friend if I said anything."

 

Justin nodded his head in understanding but allowed Gus to continue his discussion.

 

"But I knew it was wrong and now I feel really bad." Gus looked away from Justin, his head bowed toward his lap.

 

"So you don't like feeling bad?"

 

"Yeah, but I also want to help the other player."

 

"Help the other player?" Justin didn't want to lead the discussion, but rather allow Gus to come to his own conclusions, so he just waited for him to talk.

 

"Well, see I think the other players teased him because he's new in the area and he talks funny. He's a little hard to understand, but I just listened and understood him just fine. I think the other guys didn't like how the coach kept checking on him all during the game."

 

"Coach checked on him?"

 

"Yeah. He wanted to make sure he was understanding what our plays were and stuff. Alex seemed to catch on really fast, but the other kids didn't like the attention coach gave him."

 

"What do you think you should have done instead?"

 

"I could have gone over and talked to Alex, maybe brought him water from the big cooler. You know, tried to be his friend."

"Are you okay with this plan?"

 

"Yeah. I don't think anyone wants to feel left out. It would be really easy to bring him some water."

 

"I think that is a good plan."

 

"But....."

 

Justin could see Gus was still struggling with some issues, but again he let him talk rather than probing his thoughts.

 

"You and Daddy talked about bullying on the way home. Were you bullied in school?"

 

"Yes, I was Gus," Justin felt his dinner churn in his stomach. He knew that one day this conversation would come up but he always hoped in the back of his mind that it never would.

 

"Daddy Justin, why were you bullied? You are the nicest person. I can't imagine anyone not liking you." Gus said. He looked at Justin, seeing the faraway look in his eyes and the discomfort on his face. He recognized when his Daddy Justin was upset and this question obviously upset him. "Daddy Justin. I'm sorry I upset you, I'll go play in the media room."

 

"No Gus, it's okay. I... Well... It is hard to talk about, but your father and I have always answered your questions and I'm not going to have you go away just because it is a difficult question." Justin reached out and gave Gus a big hug and then sat back in his chair. He ran his hand across the top of his head and took a deep breath.

 

"I was bullied because I was gay."

 

"Because you were gay. Why would anyone care if you are gay? I don't understand Daddy."

 

"I went to a very small private school and in the circles that my family lived in, being gay was a bad thing, an abnormal behavior. I was brought up to date women and marry one and have children. The plan was that I would work in the family business and my wife would stay home and have babies and run the house."

 

"That is silly, Daddy. You don't like girls, except Aunt Daphne and Ms. Cynthia. I guess Grandma Jen and Aunt Molly and Grandma Debbie should be included. Why would you get married to one? You love Daddy and you've known him a long time. Did you ever go out with a girl, Daddy Justin?"

 

"No, I never went out with a girl," Justin answered truthfully, but he did think about the time he slept with Daphne. That was not something Gus really needed to know about and this discussion was not about that topic.

 

"I like women, Gus, I just don't want to marry one."

 

"But Grandma Jen likes Daddy. And Aunt Molly loves to come over and spend time here."

 

"True. But you know that Tucker isn't my father? My father doesn't like that I married Brian. He doesn't talk to me anymore."

 

"I guess I never thought about it, but I know that Tucker is not your dad. That would make me sad if Daddy or you never talked to me because I liked someone they didn't like. Does it make you sad, Daddy?"

 

"It used to make me sad, but I decided a long time ago that it is his loss if he doesn't want to be in my life. I have a wonderful family and you are a big part of it."

 

Gus sat for a few minutes digesting all the information that Justin had told him but then realized that he still wanted more information about Justin and bullying.

 

"Daddy, did your father bully you?"

 

"Well, that is a hard question, Gus. But I guess he did. He told me that if I wanted to be with Brian that I wasn't welcome in his house and I went to live with Grandma Debbie."

 

"Wow. That is really not nice. I'm glad that you don't talk to him. But Daddy, you said you were bullied at school. What happened there? They couldn't kick you out of school, could they?"

 

Justin sat for a few minutes, gathering his thoughts. Gus was 10, almost 11 and while they did not lie to him, he wasn't sure if he was ready to talk about the bashing with him. He wished that Brian would come downstairs from putting Colin to sleep as he could really use his support for this conversation.

 

"Not exactly. Aunt Daphne and I wanted to start a club, you know like the art club you go to after school, but this one was for guys who liked guys and girls who liked girls."

 

"You mean gays and lesbians? We learned all about that in health class. I told the class that I had two moms and two dads and everyone thought that was cool."

 

"Well, we wanted to start this club so that gays and lesbians would have other people to talk to and have friends to hang out with. When I was in high school, being gay or lesbian was not something you really talked about."

 

"We learned in health class that being gay or lesbian isn't any different than liking guys or girls. Our teacher said it is something you are born with, like hair color or eye color. Why did your school make such a big deal?"

 

"Like I said Gus, the friends that my parents had thought it was wrong to like people of the same sex. So the kids in my school learned from their parents that gay and lesbian kids were different and they bullied us."

 

"What did they do? The team called Alex some names, but do they do that in high school?"

 

"They called me names. They wrote on my locker. They even put a fire in my locker and destroyed some of my artwork."

 

Gus got up from his chair and went to Justin, giving him a big hug. "Daddy, I'm sorry you were bullied. I'll never do that again."

 

Justin squeezed him back and gave him a kiss on his temple.

 

Gus went back to his seat and thought for a few minutes. "Daddy, thank you for talking to me. I guess I need to stand up for Alex or any other kid. I don't want them to be bullied."

 

"That's good, Gus. Why don't you go take your bath and get ready for bed? We can work on the sketches later."

 

Gus left the room and Justin let out a sigh of relief. He really didn't want to talk about the ultimate bullying, the bashing, but knew someday he would have to. He wrapped his arms around his torso and gave himself a hug. That is how Brian found him a few minutes later.

 

Brian came up to him from behind and wrapped his arms around Justin, laying a soft kiss on his hair. Justin raised his head and gave Brian a weak smile.

 

"Justin?" Brian asked, using his name with an obvious question at the end.

 

"Gus and I were talking about bullying and he asked me to tell him about when I was bullied."

 

"Fuck. Did you tell him about the bashing?"

 

"No. I just explained to him about how the country club set doesn't like being different and how my father kicked me out. I told him about the name calling and the burning of my locker."

 

"I'm sorry I wasn't here. One day he will want to know about the bashing. And when that day comes promise me you will only talk about it if I'm involved in the conversation. We were both there and it had grave consequences for both of us."

 

"Okay. But for now, can we not talk about bullying and locker fires and bashings? I've had enough drama for one day and would like to end the day on a happy note."

"I think I can accomplish that goal. Let's put Gus to bed and then we shall go to bed ourselves. I think someone needs some special loving tonight."

 

"Deal"

 

Gus came down a short time later and the three of them played a few games on the Xbox and then Gus went to bed. Justin and Brian retired to the bedroom where Brian made Justin forget about the bashing so long ago.

Chapter Text

Mel and Lindsay were lying in bed Sunday morning, enjoying the afterglow of sex and the quiet that comes from a child free home. Melanie stroked Lindsay's belly as Lindsay lay with her head on Melanie's abdomen.

 

"This is nice. Peace and quiet. No errands to run. No breaking up the kids fighting over some stupid toy or whose turn it is to wipe down the table," Melanie said.

 

Lindsay nodded her blonde head and added, "I love that it's the two of us."

 

"Do you ever regret having Gus?" Mel asked. She knew that Lindsay was relaxed and this question was ever present on her mind of late.

 

"Regret... Not exactly. I didn't think that being a parent would be like this."

 

"Like this?" Melanie said, her voice raising an octave in inflection.

 

"Babies are so cute and cuddly. Everybody likes babies. But then babies grow up and want things. They want to play sports, go to the park, and have a zillion birthday party invitations. And you have to be there for them 24/7."

 

"Linds?" Mel was surprised by Lindsay's candor but is uncertain what she was really saying. Mel loves Gus, he's her son, but there has always been an invisible rift as a result of who Linds chose to be his father. She tries not to blame Gus for Brian being his father, but it's hard not to when he looks like a miniature version of the man.

 

"I think I wanted Gus to be linked to Brian. And now..... Brian has Gus. Looks like he's not coming back and...." Lindsay stopped talking. There was a lot she wanted to say, but she didn't want to come across in the wrong way. On the other hand, this was her wife and who knew her better than the woman she was married to. If she couldn't be honest with her, who could she be honest with? "Mel, I'm a terrible person. Well, I'm a terrible mother. I miss Gus, miss his giggles and his smile, but I don't miss the rest. I don't miss the responsibility, the ball games, the parent/teacher conferences, the playdates. I would never tell Brian, but I'm very happy with him having Gus full time. With him gone, I can pursue my art career without feeling guilty that I'm neglecting him."

 

Melanie was shocked at Lindsay's statement, especially since the last conversation they had regarding custody was that Lindsay wanted to fight Brian to regain custody of Gus. Melanie stroked Lindsay's blonde locks, gently caressing the soft hair.

 

"When did this come about? I mean you've been ranting and raving about Brian and Justin and waiting until Brian decides that he doesn't want to be a full-time father. Just the other day you said you couldn't wait to hear from Brian that he had changed his mind and that Gus really belonged with his mothers. Did something happen that you haven't told me about?"

"Well, not exactly, but sort of," she said as she gently pulled Mel's hand to her mouth to kiss it gently.

 

"Not exactly, sort of. Linds, talk to me. This is some serious stuff. If you don't fight now, you will most likely not regain custody of Gus. Is that what you really want?"

 

Lindsay sat up in bed, looking at Mel. She gently put a small lock of hair behind her ear and smiled. "The other day when I was at the gallery, Simon had a guest who was the curator of the Frick Museum in New York but he was telling me that the Frick Collection here in Pittsburgh is looking for a new director. Simon mentioned the last several exhibits that I have put together were highly acclaimed and well.... One thing led to another and he asked me to come in and talk next week. The job would be amazing, Mel, but would involve a lot of travel between here and New York as well as potential trips to Europe and other museums in the US. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know that if I had Gus, he'd be with sitters or I'd be asking Brian to watch him all the time. I know you are very busy with your practice and since you made partner, things are even more intense. If I don't fight Brian, I'm not put into a position of asking him to watch Gus all the time. He would be primarily responsible for Gus and I wouldn't be seen as the "bad" mother."

 

Melanie continued to stroke Lindsay's hair and pondered her latest revelation. It made sense in a twisted convoluted way. Gus would stay with Brian and Linds could pursue the career she's always wanted. Lindsay would appear to everyone as the mom who cared enough for her son to let his father raise him so he would not be with sitters all the time. When she looked at it that way, it did make sense. Everybody won and Gus would be happy. While she loved their son, she thought this would be a good situation.

 

"I think that might really work. Are you going to talk it over with Brian?"

 

"Probably. I don't want Gus to think I don't want him, so I have to explain it to him so he thinks I'm doing this for him.." Lindsay said as she smiled at her clever plan. "Mel, what about you? Do you regret having J.R? It's not like Michael really is father material"

 

"Honestly. I don't know, Linds. I wanted to be a mother since you seemed to really glow with Gus, but as you said, the reality is very different. I find myself resenting the time I need to spend with J.R. Every child deserves a loving, caring parent and I don't think I have that capability."

 

They lay quietly in their bed, each woman thinking of the other's revelations.

 

"I don't think Michael would be a good candidate to raise her and even if he agreed, I just can't do that to her. She would have almost no intellectual stimulation and likely grow up thinking comic books and action heroes were the only things that mattered in the world. I'm not sure why I ever thought he'd be good father material."

 

"We didn't think he would be involved. I had to practically bully Brian into being involved in Gus' life and I'm glad I did since he is actually a good father. Michael, on the other hand, sees J.R. as a way to be equal to Brian. With J.R., he's a father just like Brian."

 

"True. But there is always Ben. He's great with her. Did you ever watch the two of them at Sunday dinners? I was really impressed yesterday when she called him to see if he was available. She loves him and he's a great parent." Melanie sat up in bed. She picked up a few pillows and stuffed them behind her back.

 

"Do you think he would want to be more involved in her life? I mean ... well if he wanted to be more involved then maybe... well ... it wouldn't hurt..." Lindsay started and stopped her sentences several times, not wanting to voice her thoughts out loud for fear of hurting her wife's feelings and appearing to not want their other child either.

 

"Ben would make a great dad. I just don't know if he is interested in a more involved role. He's got a full-time job and I don't want to appear unwilling to raise my own daughter."

 

"We can always talk to him when he brings her back this afternoon. It can't hurt. He can always say no, but we won't know unless we ask."

 

"True. I know he probably wouldn't want to have her full time, but maybe we could work something out so she isn't here all the time and has someone around to watch her. It wouldn't look good if the law firm's new partner were brought up on child endangerment charges. Now that Gus isn't here to watch her in the afternoons, she really shouldn't be by herself for more than 10-15 minutes and even that is a little much."

 

"When he comes back this afternoon, we'll talk to him about it." Lindsay leaned over and gave her wife a kiss. "I think I need a shower and we've got a few more hours of alone time, why don't we go to the new restaurant and have a nice brunch. It's been a while since we ate without children interrupting our conversation."

 

____________________________________________________

 

Ben and J.R. enjoyed their morning running errands and just like J.R. stated she would, she completed her homework while Ben graded papers. Afterward they went to the park and J.R. played on the slide and swing set. Ben had picked up a ball at one of the stores this morning so they played catch as well. When they finished at the park, they went to the library and J.R. picked up several books. They went home and cleaned up, both having gotten a little dirty at the park.

 

"J.R., do you want to help make dinner?" Ben called as he pulled out some pasta and tuna.

 

"Sure. What are we having tonight?"

 

"Tuna casserole. It's quick and easy and you can help me make it. I bet you could even make most of it yourself, except for draining the noodles. You would need an adult to do that as you could get burned."

 

"Sounds like fun. I like cooking. What goes into tuna casserole? I don't think I ever had any." J.R. asked as she surveyed the food on the table.

 

"Noodles, tuna, cheese, celery, and spices. It's pretty simple. We can add some crunch to it by putting corn flakes in it. My mom used to do that when I was a kid." Ben got out the pan from the cabinet and put water in it, and then placed it on the stove to boil. "First we have to boil the water for the noodles. I put a little salt in the pan, but not too much. While the water is boiling, we open the tuna and drain the water from it"

 

"Why do we drain the water?" J.R. was given the can and shown how to hold the top over the sink and push hard to get the water out.

 

"The water is just a preservative and it is salty. It would make our casserole salty and very watery."

The water began to boil and Ben added the noodles. "Now we set the timer for 8 minutes. If we let the noodles cook longer than, they get soggy." Ben took out a long pan and sprayed it with Pam. He took out a bowl and instructed J.R. to put the tuna in the bowl. He showed her how to measure the spices and pour about ½ cup of corn flakes into the bowl as well. The timer went off and Ben turned off the burner. He placed the cauldron in the sink and poured the pasta into the cauldron.

 

"See the steam coming off the noodles. That means it is very hot and we don't want to burn ourselves so we have to be very careful. When you are older, I'll let you try, but for now you let me or another adult do it for you." He turned on the water and washed off the noodles. "See there is a lot of starch on the noodles and we want to rinse those that off." Then he poured the noodles into the bowl with the tuna and spices.

 

"Now take this big spoon and stir it all together," he said as he handed her a wooden spoon and demonstrated a few stirrings. He watched her stir the concoction and when he thought it was thoroughly mixed, he poured it into the large pan.

 

"Now take out the cheese and sprinkle a generous amount on top of our casserole," he said. "Perfect, now we put it in the oven and let it cook for about 30 minutes."

 

"That was fun. I like cooking."

 

"Good, Cooking is an important skill. It's just as important as reading and math. If you don't know how to cook, you end up eating out all the time and that is not very good for you." Ben set the time for 30 minutes. "Let's go read our new books while we wait for our food to cook."

 

They moved to the living room and read their books. The timer went off and J.R. followed Ben into the kitchen where she watched him take the casserole out of the oven and put it on a trivet. "It's really hot but looks very good. Let's go wash our hands and let it cool a little. I bet after we set the table and get our drinks, it will be cool enough to eat."

 

J.R. took a bite of the casserole that Ben had put on her plate and said, "It is yummy, Daddy Ben. You are a good cook."

 

"Thank you. I had the best helper." Ben silently wished for this to happen more frequently and wasn't sure how to approach Mel and Linds about having the little girl more often, but he knew he could not let things slide in this area.

 

After dinner, they cleared the dishes and watched a little TV. Ben read J.R. a story and tucked her in for the night and went back to the living room to wait for Michael.

 

Michael came home about 11:00 and he was all pumped up from the day's activities. He went to the kitchen to grab a Pepsi and sat down in the living room. "I had the best day. It was so cool. The panels were all about the upcoming new comic and they had special screenings of the new Antman and Star Wars Movie. Did you know that Star Wars originally came out in 1977, that is over 40 years ago and it still holds audiences. I wished I had gotten my costume finished. I would have loved to gone like Luke Skywalker or maybe a Tie Fighter Pilot. The Con's organizers took pictures of all the CosPlayers. That would have been so cool. People came up to me when they saw my Rage shirt. Seems that I have a loyal following too. I might have to talk to the organizers about a panel next year. That would be so cool. I could tell them all about RAGE and how I know the real RAGE. I would probably be followed all over the Con and people would ask for my autograph. You should have come. It was awesome." Michael took several drinks from his can and continued. "I got three autographs and they only cost $25.00 a piece. They will look really cool in the display case at the store. I really need to get a special case for things like that. Don't you think? What did you do all day?"

 

"Michael, do you hear yourself?" Ben asked as he questioned his actions from the last 8 years. He wondered what he had seen in this man, this perpetual youth who never grew up.

 

"What do you mean? There is nothing wrong with my hearing"

 

"You are going on and on about some comic book convention and special previews of movies. Did you even remember that your daughter was here for the weekend? The same daughter that you went to court for and fought for custody. Is she just a convenient pawn in your machinations to be close to your friend Brian."

 

"I don't even know what you just said. A pawn in your machinations, I don't have any machinations and I don't know about pawns. I think those are pieces in a game." Michael looked at Ben, a mix of confusion and exasperation on his face. "I'm tired. I don't get what J.R. has to do with any of this. She's just here for the day. I promised Ma that I would go over there tomorrow and help her with some project." He finished his Pepsi and left the empty can on the coffee table. He burped, didn't excuse himself and walked toward their bedroom.

 

"I can't do this anymore," Ben said to himself softly as he watched his husband. He felt the adrenaline surging through his veins and wished he still smoked, as a joint sounded really good right now. He settled for the lone beer that had probably been in the fridge for at least six months. Opening the beer, he absently drank the brew, not tasting the slightly bitter taste as he wondered what he was going to do with his life. He wanted J.R. in his life but wondered if that was possible without Michael in the mix as well. But he also knew he didn't really want Michael as part of the package. He turned the problem over in his head at least a dozen ways but never could find a viable solution. Exhausted from his pseudo-conversation with his husband, Ben attempted to think of the few options open to him to have J.R. in his life, he walked to the linen closet. Carefully he retrieved a sheet, a blanket, and a pillow and proceeded to make up the couch as a makeshift bed for the remainder of the evening. He just couldn't handle the notion of going to join Michael in the bedroom. He thought to himself, that for all intents and purposes he'd made his decision. He didn't want to be married to Michael anymore. Now the hard decision would be how to keep J.R. in his life without her father.

 

He slept fitfully, partially due to the fact that the couch was too short for his long frame and partially as a result of his racing mind. As the sun poured in through the windows, he gave up on the pretense of sleep and carefully folded the linens and placed them on top of the washer. He didn't want to put them in the hamper as he felt that he would be using them again tonight. He also didn't want to explain to J.R. why he was sleeping on the couch and was glad that she was not awake before he removed the evidence of his makeshift bedroom.

 

Going into the kitchen he prepared his morning coffee, making sure to put sufficient water for at least 6 cups in the reservoir of the automatic coffee pot. While it was brewing, he thought about his conversation with Brian the other day. Brian had said that as Michael's husband, he could apply for custody of J.R. even though he wasn't her father. He seriously doubted Mel and Linds would allow him sole custody, but maybe they would be willing to explore some type of joint custody of the little girl. He was supposed to take her back this morning and had decided he would broach the subject when he brought her back. The coffee was ready and he poured himself a cup, placing cream and a tad of sugar in it. Normally he avoided extra sugar and tried to eat and drink as clean as possible. He followed a clean eating diet before it was "the thing to do" and found that when he didn't follow a clean eating plan, he didn't feel as good.

 

His HIV status was something else that he had factored into the thought process. His T-Cell count was near normal and his viral load almost undetectable. Still, he did have HIV and he wondered if Mel and Linds would balk at their daughter spending large amounts of time with him. In a court of law, his HIV status should not come into play in the decision, but he hoped that he would not have to go that far. He hoped, against normal reason that some amazing thing would happen and he would not have to fight for this beautiful little child.

 

"Daddy Ben. I'm all dressed and my teeth have been brushed. I even made my bed. What is for breakfast?"

 

Ben shook himself out of his brooding thoughts when he heard J.R.'s voice. ‘Good morning, sweetie. Did you sleep well?"

 

J.R. came into the kitchen and gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. "Yep. Your bed is really nice and I like it that Alexa sings to me while I fall asleep. Do you think my mommies would buy me one of those? I like her."

 

"Alexa is fun. I don't know if your mommies would buy you one, but you can always use her when you come to visit." Ben went toward the kitchen and opened the fridge, grabbing the milk and orange juice. He took down two glasses and poured her some of each, Pointing to the chair, she sat down and Ben placed both glasses in front of her.

 

"What do you want for breakfast today?"

 

"Can I have cereal? I'm not really hungry and I want to save cooking for later... you know when I'm really hungry."

 

"Sure, cereal is fine. Why don't you grab a box and I'll get you a bowl and a spoon. I'm going to have a protein drink." He grabbed the bowl and spoon and put them on the table. He took down the protein powder from the shelf, measured three scoops and placed them in the blender. He then put a banana in the blender and some water and ice cubes, turning it on to mix."

 

"That sure is loud. Why do you eat that for breakfast? It looks funny."

 

"It has lots of protein and I need lots of protein to keep really healthy. I can get sick really fast so I try to eat healthy and exercise to stay well."

 

"Okay. Can you pour my milk, Daddy Ben. I can't lift that big carton."

 

Ben poured her milk and poured his shake into a glass and sat at the table with her. They ate their breakfast in silence.

 

"I have to take you home later today. I have a few more papers to grade. Do you think you could read your new book while I do that? I promise to come by and pick you up one day this week so you can visit again."

 

"I like the new book I got from the library. I can read it while you work. At least you don't tell me to go to my room and be quiet while you work. I wish that I could stay here all the time."

 

"I know, but I'm going to talk to your mommies about you coming to visit a lot more."

 

"That would be great. I love you, Daddy Ben." J.R. got up from her chair and went to give Ben a hug. She returned to the chair, finishing the last of her cereal and juice.

 

After breakfast, Ben got out his briefcase and the remaining papers to grade, He sat at the table and started reading his students' essays. J.R. got out her book and read as he worked.

 

When they finished their tasks, they still had a little time before Ben was to return her to her moms. Ben got out the playing cards and they enjoyed a few games of "Go Fish". When it was time to leave, J.R. grabbed her clothes from the spare bedroom while Ben retrieved his keys, wallet and cell phone. They hadn't seen Michael this morning and he was thankful that J.R. hadn't asked about him. He knew Michael's thoughts about having the little girl more often and didn't want to get into an argument before he took her back. She was already made to feel unwanted by her moms, she didn't need her father to make her feel that way too.

 

They drove to Mel and Linds house and J.R. told Ben all about the book she had been reading. It was a chapter book and she had just started reading chapter books in school. She explained that chapter books were for big kids and she was a big kid now that she could read them. As they drove close to Mel and Linds' house, Ben could feel the adrenaline rushing through his veins. He had no idea what he would say to them, and he'd tried rehearsing his request in a dozen ways but none of them seemed to feel right. He hoped that he would not make a fool of himself and that it would turn out well today.

 

He parked in the driveway and grabbed the small overnight bag that J.R. had brought with her. He rang the bell. Lindsay answered the door.

 

"Come in, Ben. So good to see you. Sorry I wasn't here the other night when you came by."

She grabbed the backpack and the small overnight bag and placed them by the front door. She bent down and gave J.R. a slight hug. "Why don't you go upstairs for a little bit. Mommy and Momma want to talk to Daddy Ben." J.R. looked at her mother and nodded in agreement. Mommy wasn't usually so nice; she was usually telling J.R. to do some chore or go play somewhere else. She walked up the stairs and sat on the landing. She knew she could hear what the grownups said when she sat there. She and Gus had done this many times.

 

Ben was curious. He'd never known Lindsay to be so solicitous and wondered what she was up to. He joined her in the living room, sitting on the couch and found Melanie there as well.

 

"Can I get you anything? Water, tea?"

 

"No. I'm good," Ben looked from Mel to Linds. Both women seemed to be a little anxious and he was really unsure what to expect from this impromptu conversation.

 

"Ben," Lindsay started. "As you know, Gus has gone to live with Brian and Justin. At first, I was unhappy about this turn of events, but I think it is a good arrangement, I'm very involved in my career and don't have a lot of time to parent Gus in the way he deserves," Lindsay said as she took a sip of the tea that she had brought with her from the kitchen. She ate a bite of a cookie that sat on the plate in the middle of the table as well. The remaining portion of the cookie was laid on a small plate in front of her.

 

Ben looked around, doing a quick inventory of the room and making sure that he was truly in the right home. He felt that he had possibly gone down the rabbit hole and this might be a drunk dream. He couldn't possibly be hearing Lindsay admit that Brian having Gus was a good thing and that her career was so busy that she had no time for her son. He must be in a dream as this could not really be happening.

 

Mel said, "No, you are not dreaming and you did just hear her say that. Your impromptu visit the other night resulted in some soul searching. We had a chance to really step back from our whirlwind lives and discuss what we really want. We love our children and we want what is best for them. Right now, our careers are really busy and demanding and we realize that we aren't spending the time we need to with our children." Mel didn't drink tea but had a glass of water on a coaster in front of her. She picked it up and drank several sips from it before continuing. "You taking J.R. for the weekend made us think. We'd like to discuss your involvement in her life."

 

Ben opened and closed his mouth several times, not sure what he wanted to say or how to voice his thoughts. He was expecting to ask, beg and plead for an opportunity to be more involved in J.R's life, and instead, it was being offered to him with no coercion.

 

"What exactly are you saying?" Ben asked.

 

"We know you love J.R. and feel comfortable spending time with her and taking care of her. We know that when you have her, you are giving her the attention we haven't been able to offer. I've been so busy with the gallery that I'm rarely home in the evenings and Mel has been working so much now that she is a partner that she rarely has time for her either. We realized that J.R. isn't getting very much parent time and when she does, it's more about did she do her chores rather than what happened in her day. We spent a lot of time talking over the last few days and we'd like to co-parent with you and Michael."

 

The mention of Michael's name made Ben swallow hard and frown. "I don't know if Michael is really interested in something like that. He doesn't seem to want to be a parent except when it comes time to do something with Brian. He seems to think J.R. is a way for him and Brian to still connect."

 

"I see," Mel said, her face filled with the disappointment that their plan wasn't going as smoothly as they'd hoped.

 

"However, I would love an opportunity to be a bigger part of J.R's life. I know I'm not biologically related to her, but I love her like she was my own flesh and blood. If you'd be willing to let me be involved in her life, I would gladly do so. I was hoping to talk to you two about that possibility this morning when I brought her back. It appears that we are on the same page. Is this possible?"

 

Melanie smiled and walked over to Ben and gave him a huge hug. "I think we can work something out."

 

"Mel, I think I need some legal protection here. Michael and I.... Well... We don't .... I mean... I think I am leaving Michael. I've come to realize that he isn't what I want in a partner."

 

"I think that can be arranged. What is your plan?"

 

"I'm not sure. This is the first time I actually said the words out loud. I have to tell J.R. Do you think that would change her interest in me if I wasn't with Michael?"

 

Just then a loud noise was heard from the stairs and J.R. rushed down the steps. "Daddy Ben, I want to be with you even if you aren't with Daddy Michael. I love you." She hugged him and kissed him multiple times.

 

"J.R.? Have you been listening to us?"

 

She looked down at her shoes and said, "Yes. I wanted to know what was going on. Can I spend more time with Daddy Ben? He taught me how to break eggs and we cooked breakfast together. We went to the library and to the park and then we read books while dinner cooked. He has this Alexa thing that sang to me while I was getting ready to go to bed. It's really cool."

 

Mel and Linds raised their eyebrows at the mention of Alexa. They gave each other a knowing look, acknowledging their instincts were right; Ben was a very positive influence on their little girl.

 

"You know it's not nice to listen in on other people's conversations, " Ben said as he gave her a small kiss on the cheek. "Your moms and I have grown up stuff to talk about. This time I want you to go upstairs and think about why it's wrong to listen to other people's conversations, I want you to write me a short explanation telling why you did a bad thing. When we are done, I'll come read it and we can talk some more."

 

"Okay, Daddy Ben. I'll go think and write something." She dutifully went upstairs and this time, the adults walked to the landing to verify that she was not sitting up there eavesdropping again.

 

"You were talking about Michael?" Mel said.

 

"Yes. I don't think I can stay with him. The house is mine, so I'll ask him to leave. I'm not so sure this will be easy, especially when he learns that I'm going to be more involved in J.R's life."

 

"We'll figure it out. I'll be more than happy to write up some legal protection for you. We'll need to hammer out the specifics, but I think this is a good plan."

 

"What exactly do you have in mind?" Ben asked.

 

"We thought about it and discussed it. We'd like you to be an equal partner. You can have J.R. as much as you'd like." Mel said.

 

"Shared custody. Like I would have her every other week or some nights and every weekend. What are you saying?" Ben's mind raced at the possibilities.

 

"Something like what Brian and Justin have. Would you be able to pick her up from school several days a week? Linds is up for a new job and may be traveling a lot. I sometimes have court cases that need my attention," Mel said in way of explanation.

 

"Are you offering me custody or shared custody? It sure sounds like you want me to take J.R. most of the time." Ben looked at Mel and Linds, trying to ascertain their true thoughts.

 

"Well. For right now, you would probably be involved a lot, but that will lessen as our jobs are more stable. We don't want her to think we aren't her moms, but we realize we've been neglecting her a lot, especially now that Gus is not here to help." Mel said. She drank some more water and got up to get some more as she finished all that was in her glass.

 

"Can I get you anything, Ben?" she asked as she walked toward the kitchen.

 

"I think I'll take that water, now. Thanks," he said. Mel handed him the glass of water and he drank almost half of it before putting it down on the coaster.

 

"I'll agree under one condition...."

 

"What?" Mel asked.

 

"Well, two conditions. The first one is that I see a legal document giving me shared custody. I don't want you two to decide six months from now that your lives are settled and want her back and I rarely see her again. If I do this, I want to know that this is a permanent arrangement. The second condition is that you set aside at least one night every week, preferably when both of you are home, and you spend it with her. And I mean spend it with her. I'm talking doing something that little girls enjoy and that she has 100% of your attention. She needs to know that her moms have not given her up and are no longer interested in her. Without these, I'm not going to agree. I will be very sad as I love her dearly, but I want to protect both of us."

 

Mel and Linds looked at each other and slightly nodded their head in agreement. "I think that is reasonable," Lindsay said. "We don't want to have J.R. think we don't want her."

 

"I can work up the legal agreement by midweek. Would you like to look over it then?" Mel asked.

 

"That would work. I'm going to ask a friend of mine to review it. I'm not a lawyer and I want to protect J.R. This is all about her."

 

"Of course," Mel said, seeing again that Ben was a good choice for shared custody.

 

"If you'll excuse me, ladies, I have a little girl that I need to talk to and I think she has a short essay for me to read." Ben got up and walked toward the stairs.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Ben went upstairs to see J.R. who dutifully showed him her short essay. She stood to the side of the small wooden desk as he took the paper from her and sat down in the small wooden chair to read it. After reading it he placed the paper on the desk and motioned for her to come to him. She quickly came to stand in front of him.

 

"You did a nice job, J.R. I hope you understand that when grown-ups ask you to go away for a bit, it is not a punishment. There are things that grown-ups need to discuss that children don't need to know about."

 

"I know," she said as she nodded her head in understanding. "But does that mean I'm going to live with you? I would really like that. Gus told me he loves living with Uncle Justin and Uncle Brian." She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and hugged him.

 

Ben's heart melted at her sincerity. He was torn between wanting to wring Mel and Lind's neck at the neglect this delightful child had suffered and relief at their proposal that would allow him to be a big part of her life. He understood that the circumstances surrounding this gift were unusual, but he had done his best to try and safeguard both of them in the future. He'd been around too many of his friends when he was growing up whose parents were either divorced or getting a divorce. He knew first hand how difficult life could be for them. He did not want to be the parent who bad-mouthed the other parent. While he was not married to either of J.R.'s mothers, he still wanted them to be a part of her life and had insisted that they spend at least some time with her each week.

 

Of course, J.R.'s mothers were not really the big problem in his life; that would be her father, or biological father, Michael. He'd finally admitted that he did not want to be with Michael anymore and now had to get him out of their home. He thought Brian and Justin would support him, but what would these actions do to the rest of the family? He wondered how Emmett and Ted and of course, Debbie would handle the news that he was helping raise J.R., but that Michael was not in his life.

 

"Well, your mommy Mel is working on a plan for us to spend a lot of time together. I have to talk to Uncle Brian about it too. He and Uncle Justin offered to help out when I can't pick you up from school. But for tonight, you are going to stay here. I'm going to talk to your moms before I leave about this week, but we will let you know the plan." Ben said, his voice trying to stay warm and reassuring while his mind raced with all the ramifications of his actions tonight. He took a deep breath to re-center himself to the here and now. "Why don't you read some more of your book that we picked up from the library and I'll go talk to your moms. I'll come up and say goodbye when we have a plan for next week."

 

J.R. reached out and hugged Ben a second time. "I love you, Daddy Ben," she said. She released him and went to her bed to pick up the book she had been reading when he came up the stairs.

 

Ben went downstairs and found Mel and Linds in the kitchen drinking tea. "I told J.R. about our agreement and she's really excited. I know you're going to work something legal up, Mel, but what happens until then? Do you want me to pick her up from school and bring her to your house or do you want me to take her home?"

 

"Oh," Mel said in surprise. She hadn't really thought about the logistics beyond getting Ben to agree to co-parenting. "Well, if you are able to pick her up after school and keep her, for now, that would be great. I should have the agreement written in a few days. That will give me and Linds a chance to figure out our schedules and when it would be best for J.R. to come here."

 

"I'll pick her up tomorrow from school. Let's pack some things now so we won't have to come back here. Is there anything I need to know about.... After school activities, playdates, field trips in the next week?"

 

Mel and Linds looked at each other, neither of them had thought of any of those particulars."No. She doesn't really do after school activities as there was never any way to get her to and from them. The same thing for play dates," Mel said, realizing how her busy life was truly impacting their daughters. "Let's go upstairs and pack her a suitcase. Since she will be staying with you most of the time, we should gather some of her toys and books too."

 

As the three of them gathered clothing, books, and toys for J.R., Ben was excited about the prospect of being a more involved parent. He couldn't wait to spend time with J.R. and help her explore and learn about the world. He had a feeling that her existence was not filled with wonder but rather with "to do's". After the bags were packed, he sat down on her bed and motioned for her to sit beside him.

 

"Tonight, you are going to stay with your mommies and then you will come to stay with me. I am taking these bags home with me so you will have lots of your things at my house. Anything you want to come get, we can always arrange to do so. I just want you to know that your mommies love you very much and want you to be happy. They are just really busy right now and that is why you are going to stay with me more. You will still see them."

 

J.R. leaned over and hugged Ben and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I love you and I love my mommies. I'm the luckiest person in the world."

 

Ben grabbed the bags and walked down the stairs. Lindsay was at the foot of the stairs as he came down and reached out to give him a hug. "Thank you for your help."

 

Ben nodded and walked toward the door, not answering. He didn't consider what he was doing was helping, but rather parenting. Evidently, even with this new agreement, he and the women disagreed on what parenting meant. He loaded the bags into his car and left the area. He looked at his watch and saw that it was still early, barely 4:00 in the afternoon and he really wanted advice. He pulled over into a nearby parking lot and got his phone out. Scrolling down to Brian in his contact list, he touched the icon. Waiting with bated breath, he hoped he was home and open to a visit.

 

"Kinney," Brian answered, not looking to see who was calling.

 

"Brian, it's Ben," Ben said, his voice filled with hesitancy and uncertainty.

 

"Hey. Is everything okay? You don't usually call in the middle of the afternoon," he said. Justin looked at him quizzically and he mouthed "Ben". Justin nodded and came to sit by him, leaving Colin to mouth his Duplo block. Brian put the phone on speaker.

 

"Well, I guess that depends on your definition of fine." Ben hated to be evasive, but he really wanted to have this discussion in person. "I was wondering if you guys were busy. I could come out and explain the situation." He had parked his car at the far edge of the parking lot at the local grocery store. He watched as people brought their carts to their cars, unloaded the carts, and then placed the carts into the cart carousel. He noticed there were several people with young children in tow and watched them with a renewed interest. The people put the children in their car seats or in the vehicles first and then unloaded the groceries, leaving the child while they returned the cart. He wasn't sure if that was the smartest move but then decided that a squirming child was hard to contain while someone unloaded groceries and they were probably safer in the car. Assuring himself that the people were locking the car so no one could take off with the children, made him feel a little better. He imagined that the best way was for two people to shop together; one to take the cart and one to take care of the children.

 

"Sure. We're just hanging out with Colin. Gus is over at a friend's birthday party today. We have to pick him up at 7:30."

 

"Thanks. I'll be over in about half an hour."

 

Justin and Brian looked at each other, both men shrugging their shoulders. Justin watched Colin pick up another Duplo and place it in his mouth.

 

"Our child definitely has an oral fixation. I swear everything he has he puts in his mouth," Brian said as he watched Colin.

 

"Every child his age does that. He knows where his mouth is and that is the sense he is most familiar with. He'll outgrow that behavior. Although.... His father hasn't outgrown putting things in his mouth," Justin said as he teased Brian. "I'll go see what kind of tea Rosa has in the kitchen. Ben doesn't drink coffee and he seldom wants a beer unless he's at Woody's," Justin said as he stood up to walk to the kitchen.

 

"Zen Ben does like his tea. Although from the way he sounded on the phone, he might want a beer. I wonder what happened," Brian said as he thought of their last conversation. "Do you think he made a decision about Michael or J.R.?"

 

"It would be pretty fast. Ben doesn't strike me as the type to make quick decisions. No need to speculate. He'll be here soon. Why don't you check Colin? See if he needs a new diaper," Justin said as he called from the kitchen. He looked in the pantry and found several kinds of tea and decided to put the water on to boil. He found some cut up carrots and celery that Rosa had left for Gus' snack. He took out some hummus from the fridge and put some in a bowl and surrounded it with the carrots and celery. He took down several coffee cups and put them on the counter as well. Bringing the tray out to the family room, he smiled at Brian who was sitting on the floor changing Colin's diaper. "You've gotten really good at that. He doesn't even spray you anymore."

 

"Ha. Ha," said Brian. The only thing I want spraying me is your dick," he said as he took the dirty diaper and disposed of it in the diaper genie. He walked to the hall bathroom and washed his hands and then rejoined Justin and Colin. "Colin, your father is teasing me and if things were different, I'd take him over my knee and show him who is boss. But you are too little to hang out by yourself and we are expecting company. He will just have to wait."

 

Justin laughed at the monologue that Brian was providing to their son. "It's a good thing that he is only one and doesn't really understand what you are saying. I'm just saying...." The doorbell rang and Justin didn't finish his sentence. He walked to the door and opened it, ushering Ben inside their home. "Come on in. You missed the Brian and Colin show. I was just telling Brian he's gotten really adept at the diapering thing. I've made some hot water. Would you like Earl Grey or Camomile tea?" He motioned toward the couch where Brian was sitting.

 

"Earl Grey is fine. I didn't know you drank tea."

 

"We don't, but mom does and sometimes Molly likes a cup too. I keep it for them."

 

"So professor, what has you calling on us in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Visiting an almost one-year-old can't be high on your list of great entertainment."

 

"As you know I had J.R. most of the weekend and I took her back today. I had asked you to investigate my legal options for petitioning to be more involved with her."

 

Brian and Justin nodded.

 

"When I went back today, I had already decided that I was going to ask to be more involved, but I was blown away when Mel and Linds asked me to basically take over. They said they are very busy with their careers and realized that they don't have the time to devote to motherhood. I told Mel I wanted a written agreement. I didn't want them to change their mind six months from now and decide they wanted her all the time and I would be left with visiting her at their whim. I insisted that they dedicate one night a week, when both of them were home, to having J.R. in their home."

 

Brian and Justin sat still for a few minutes, not sure where to start with the questions or comments. They looked at their son, playing on the floor, happy to explore his surroundings and couldn't fathom a time where they decided that they were too busy with their careers to be parents. They had worked too hard to get here and their decision to have a child was something they had discussed at great length.

 

"Wow. I didn't expect that," Justin said. "I mean, I know that Lindsay has been spending a lot of time attending functions and Mel is super busy with her practice, but to actually admit out loud that they are too busy to be parents. I..." Justin faltered, not sure how he would voice all his thoughts.

 

Brian said, "Those bitches. They start with not having time for Gus and then they practically accuse me of bribing Gus to stay with me and now this."

 

Justin laid his hand on Brian's, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Hey if they are too busy for J.R., they're definitely too busy to fight us for Gus."

 

Brian nodded in agreement. "So, what can we do for you, professor? Seems that you don't need our input into convincing them to let you be more involved." Brian watched Colin crawl to the couch, roll over and play with his feet. He smiled at the antics of his son.

 

"I'm worried about picking up J.R. after school. I can do it most days, but there are some days I have class. I'm sure the dean will work with my schedule for next term, but for now, that is something I can't change." Ben bent down and gave Colin a pat on his head and watched as he scurried off to find new adventures. "There is so much I don't know, I'm not even sure where to start. We kept J.R. for a few hours each week and occasionally overnight; this full-time parenting is going to be very different."

 

"You've actually done the hard part, deciding to be a parent. Commitment is probably the biggest hurdle. Rules and boundaries are important too. Right now, J.R. is thankful that you are interested in her, something her mothers obviously lacked. But fairly quickly she will start to challenge you. Gus is a great kid, but he tries to push boundaries too. He asks to spend more time playing video games and watching tv then we want him to. He pushes his bedtime and a lot of other things, but we made rules from the start and he appreciates them," Justin said as he got on the floor to play chase with Colin. Ben and Brian watched the two crawl after each other and the giggles and smiles from both made Brian's heart melt. He wouldn't trade this for any amount of money. Moments of play were truly the treasure of life.

 

"I agree with Justin. You need to think about rules and guidelines for J.R. She probably hasn't had a lot of structure from what you are sharing. While she was probably great this weekend and when she comes to visit, it will be different when she is living with you full time."

 

Ben listened to the men and nodded in understanding. "Rules, I guess I need to think about them."

 

"Not really, just incorporate them into routines. She's smart, she'll catch on. Tell her what you want and what to expect, it's way better than a rule chart and make sure you have consequences for when the rules are not followed. Don't just say you will never play video games or play on youtube or any other fun thing unless you really mean to take away the privilege." Justin got up and returned to the couch. Colin decided that since his father wasn't playing anymore, he would see if he could stand up and tried standing at the edge of the couch. All the men stopped their conversation to watch and cheered when he pulled himself up and took a few steps holding on to the couch. He did this a few times and got bored, crawling over to his soft balls and mirror where he decided to have a conversation with the cute baby smiling back at him.

 

"This all makes great sense. I just don't want to ask for advice from Mel and Linds. I don't want them to think I don't know what I'm doing. I have some professor friends in the child development center who could guide me. I also don't want to ask Debbie. She's a great supporter of children, but I don't want child-rearing advice from her."

 

Brian and Justin nodded in agreement. None of them wanted to condone how she raised Michael but it was definitely on all of their minds.

 

"Speaking of Debbie, what about Michael? Is he on board with the whole parenting thing?"

 

Ben grimaced at the mention of his husband. "Well,... actually that is a whole other issue. Michael is not on board at all. Despite his verbiage of "we need to protect J.R., she's my daughter, etc, he wanted Mel and Linds to do the work." Ben looked around the room, seeing all the infant toys, the plugs in the outlets, the soft foam on the edges of the furniture and flashed back to the times he'd been in this room prior to his friends having a baby. They had literally flipped their world upside down and changed their lifestyle for their child. He was ready to do this for the opportunity to be a father, but he understood that Michael was not going on this journey with him. This made him sad.

 

"Michael is vested in his comics, his conventions and when I mentioned having J.R. on a regular basis, he basically balked. I don't want to force him into fatherhood. I'm not interested in fighting that battle. This is really important to me and I don't want to fight with him about whose turn it is to tuck her in or pick her up from school. He's already told me that after school is his busy time at the store and he isn't available. When I unexpectedly had J.R. for the whole weekend, he was unwilling to give up his plans to spend time with her. I don't want a partner that isn't interested in the same things that I am. Unfortunately, I've been thinking about this reality for a while and gaining custody of J.R. solidified it. We are done." Ben rubbed his hands over his face a few times, but then looked at Brian and Justin. "Now the really hard part of this is how do I handle that situation. I think that it will be harder than becoming an instant full-time father of a 7-year-old."

 

Brian and Justin looked at each other, neither speaking but each in deep thought about the latest revelation.

 

"So you're done?" Brian asked.

 

"Yes. Michael sees fatherhood as a way to bond with you and has never understood that fatherhood is its own joy. I know he's "your best friend" and I hope my decision doesn't impact our friendship." Ben said as he finally voiced what he knew in his heart for several months.

 

"Professor, I think that train left the station a long time ago. He still thinks he's my "best friend", but actually that role belongs to my husband. Unfortunately, I agree with you regarding Michael's interest in fatherhood. He just sees it as a way to hang out with me and Gus. He doesn't even want Colin around as he takes my focus away from Michael. He prefers Gus and me to hang out with him as Gus is pretty independent and doesn't require my full attention."

Brian leaned over and gave Justin a quick kiss on the lips. Justin smiled and returned the kiss.

 

"So, do you need a divorce lawyer?" Brian asked as he mentally went through his list of contacts who were lawyers.

 

"I hadn't thought that far ahead, but I guess the answer is yes. Preferably one that is not expensive. We really don't have any assets. The house is in my name since he had no credit. I don't want the comic shop or any of his earnings. We have no children," Ben said but then stopped short. "Do you have a lawyer who could look over the papers that Mel is putting together? I know that she wants me to be the sole custodian of J.R., but Michael is her biological parent. I could see Debbie fighting over her "rights" to J.R."

 

"I agree. Don't worry about a lawyer. I'll talk to my lawyer that helped me with Gus."

 

"Thanks, but I don't..."

 

"...have a lot of money. Don't worry, professor. Money is something I have in abundance. And as we discussed earlier, money is not what J.R. needs. She needs a parent who is there for her and you want to do this. I can help you by paying for the legal side of things."

 

A tear slid down Ben's cheek and he wiped it away. "I don't know how to thank you. You are being so generous."

 

"My thanks will be seeing J.R. grow into a beautiful young woman and my son getting to see his sister on a regular basis. Welcome to the family," Brian said as he moved to shake Ben's hand.

 

"But what should I do about Michael?"

 

"That one is a little harder, but I can pay for a lawyer there as well."

 

"Brian, you are too generous. I can't ask that."

 

"You're not asking, I'm volunteering. You need to concentrate on settling in with J.R and adjusting to parenthood. The Novotnys are known for their drama and no one wants to hear or put up with it. I would suggest you move in with us for a while, but I don't think that would be helpful. I can't guess how Michael will react, but my guess it won't be good. If I may make a suggestion...."

 

"Sure, I'm open to anything," Ben said.

 

"You might want to tell Emmett and Ted before you tell Michael. I know he will go directly to them and start his "I'm wronged saga". But if you get to them first, you will have allies."

 

"Brian, do you really think they will side with me?" Ben asked, uncertain of the loyalty of the members of their group. Ben and Michael had been married for almost 10 years and while he was accepted by the group, he was never sure they would support him if Michael was not in the picture.

 

"Ben, you've been a part of this family for a long time. Don't sell yourself short. Besides, your biggest ally will be J.R. The fact that Mel and Linds are giving you custody will speak volumes," Justin said. He knew what it was like to be the outsider, but had been accepted by the "gang" a long time ago. When everyone saw that Brian was wanting him around, everyone but Michael was supportive of their relationship. Michael still resented the marriage and their child, but that was his loss.

 

Ben looked at his watch and saw that it was almost 7:00. He'd been there for several hours and needed to let them get back to their family and he had some major planning to accomplish. "I guess I need to go figure out how to start the next chapter in my life. If you could talk to the lawyers, Brian, I'd appreciate it. I don't know how I will repay you."

 

"Like I said, professor. I've got more money than I can possibly spend in a lifetime. Let us help you. We can pick up J.R. from school any time. This way she gets to spend time with Gus and you feel confident that she is not left alone. As for the other stuff, it will come together. I do suggest you tell Ted and Emmett as soon as possible. The longer you keep Michael in the dark, the more difficult it will be."

 

"I agree. It's early. I'll give them a call on my way home and tonight I'll tell Michael. Wish me luck, gentleman. I think these next few hours will be the most difficult in my life."

 

Justin got off the couch and gave Ben a huge hug. "We'll be there for you, Ben. Give us a call if you need anything. Do you need us to pick up J.R. tomorrow?"

 

"No. I'll do it. I think I need to pick her up and tell her about Michael and how things are going to work out. These next few days will be a challenge."

 

"Agreed," Brian said. He stood up and walked Ben to the door. He gave him a hug and said, "Take care, professor. I'll make those calls in the morning. I'll text you their information."

 

 

TBC

Chapter Text

Ben left Britin feeling a multitude of emotions: happy, sad, nervous, excited, fearful and fearless. He understood where all the opposites originated from and was slightly surprised that he could feel happiness and sadness at the changes in his life. He was sad to see that his marriage was ending, but knew that he would feel less stress if he was no longer fighting Michael over his pseudo involvement with Brian as his "best friend". He would also not miss the continuing discussions that they had about his proper role in J.R.'s life, as well as trying to convince him that he was not a third party in Brian and Justin's relationship. He sighed inwardly when he finally admitted to himself all the struggles that he had been carrying just to continue his farce of a marriage. Now, as he drove to their home, he had to figure out how to tell Michael. He was fairly certain that Michael had no idea that Ben felt as he did, nor did he expect J.R. to become a permanent figure in their lives. He was uncertain what he would do if Michael insisted on being a part of her life, and when he thought about it, he realized that Michael would still want to be involved, if only for his ability to be like his "best friend" who was also a father. His life was suddenly very complicated. He was happy that Brian and Justin were in his corner. Now he had to see what the remaining members of the family thought of this new development. Deciding this was not a conversation he wanted to have over the phone, he pulled over into the next strip mall and parked his car. He wanted to avoid getting too caught up in the conversation that he got in an accident.

 

Pushing the number 5 on his speed dial, he waited while the call connected.

 

"Well hello, Ben. Are you and Michael planning another dinner party that you want me to cater? Better put your reservations in now, I'm booking my time fast and furious," Emmett said as he sat down at his kitchen table, grabbing his planner.

 

"Actually, I'm not calling to book an event, I was just wondering if you were free to meet me for a cup of coffee," Ben said. He realized that he didn't even know if Emmett drank coffee, as he usually saw the man with a beer or Cosmo.

 

"Well, this sounds serious. I assume you don't want to meet at the diner?"

 

"Yes. I'm on my way back to Pittsburg. I was visiting Justin and Brian. I could meet you at the Starbucks at the North strip."

 

"Okay. I'll be there in 30 minutes."

 

"Thanks."

 

Ben looked at his phone and sighed again as he pushed another number from his contacts list. H