Illustration contributed by an anonymous fan
Prince Gus & the Feline Cavalier
With the new baby taking up so much of the mommies' time, Brian decided to institute a Big Boys' Day Out to keep Gus from feeling less than special now that he was no longer an only child. Twice a month Gus got to go out with his daddies and do whatever he wanted—within reason; no surprise trips to Disney World to see the Big Cheese but if he wanted to go to the zoo or the aquarium, that could be arranged and Brian swore he wouldn’t complain. A lot.
So, on the second Saturday of the month, Brian and Justin found themselves going to the public library. It seemed Gus had fallen deeply in like with the children's librarian. After his mommies and Nanas and Deb, she was his favorite female person, supplanting even Molly, Rennie and Daphne.
"Maybe he is straight," said Justin as he unfastened Gus’ seat belt, releasing the little boy from his backless booster seat in the back. At five he no longer required a baby car seat, something he was very happy about as he was very anxious to be a big boy like his daddies.
"Bite your tongue," Brian retorted. "I was in love with my kindergarten teacher and look at me."
"A nun. Close enough."
As soon as he was freed from the car, Gus began to laugh and dance around, singing, "Miss A'drin," and skipping towards the building, his fathers jogging to keep up with him.
When they did, Brian scolded him. "Gus, haven't I told you about running off without us?" They had this same conversation almost every time they took the little boy out.
Big, hazel eyes upturned and shiny, Gus replied, "Yes;" but before Brian could say anything else, Gus added, "But Miss A'drin, Daddy," as if that explained and excused his behavior.
Nudging his husband, Justin said, "He's excited."
"Last time I got that excited, you were wearing a thong and a smile."
Justin's cheeks went pink. "Brian, behave."
Gus turned to them as they entered the library and put his finger to his lips. "Shh. Got to be quiet, Daddy."
O-kay, mouthed Justin silently and let himself be tugged through the main part of the library to the Children's section which was self-contained behind a garishly painted door.
As said door closed behind them, Gus announced, "Now you can talk."
Brian marveled at the brightly colored posters hung from the ceiling and walls and the multicolored furniture. "They must have used Deb's decorator."
"Bright colors are stimulating," Justin explained.
Stepping out of the way of a pint-sized tornado who was apparently on a mission to snag her favorite toy from an overflowing chest, Brian replied dryly, "I can tell."
Meanwhile Gus cried out, "Miss A'drin! Daddy, Miss A'drin!" He pulled on Justin's hand and led him to where a dark-haired woman stood going through a cart of books. "Hi," Gus said shyly as she turned.
"Hello, Gus. Are you here for Story Time?"
"Did you bring guests?" she asked, eying the two men with him.
"My daddy and my daddy," he told her.
Having heard all about Gus' family from Lindsay and Mel, the librarian wasn't surprised by the appearance of two fathers. However, she hadn't realized how young one of them was. Still, she held out her hand. "I'm Adrianne Noroian, the Children's Librarian."
"Gus really likes Story Time," she told them.
Brian smirked. "Gus really likes you."
"He's a sweet little boy."
Both men chuckled at that. She'd obviously only dealt with Good Gus.
The tot in question tugged on Miss Adrianne's shirttail.
"My daddy tells good stories."
"Yeah. He draws pictures too."
Unsure as to which daddy he was referring to, she gazed at both hoping the correct one would speak.
Justin did. "I graduated from PIFA this past spring."
"He's a genius," Brian boasted.
"An unemployed genius."
"You're an artist, you create," Brian told him.
Adrianne, hating to butt in but sensing the two men had had this particular conversation before, said, "Have you ever considered writing children's books?" By now Gus had tired of the adults' talk and went in search of kids to play with until Story Time began.
Justin shrugged. "Not really. The stories I tell Gus, they're just things I make up at the spur of the moment."
Brian rolled his eyes. "What do you think writers do?"
"He's right. All you'd have to do is write them down and illustrate them."
"And get them published," added Justin.
"We know a publisher," Brian reminded him. Not only did they know a publisher but Frank was a neighbor and a friend.
"I don't think kids would be interested in those stories."
"Gus certainly seems impressed," said Adrianne.
But Justin waved away her comment with, "He's biased. They're about him and Leo. Our cat," he explained. "They're fairy tales and Gus is a prince and Leo is kind of a Puss in Boots character."
"Oh," exclaimed Adrianne, "kids love Puss in Boots. Did you see Shrek 3?"
"We have it on speed dial on the DVD player," joked Brian. "It's Gus' favorite movie."
Checking her watch, Adrianne announced, "I have to get ready for Story Time but I have a proposition for you. If you'd like, you could come and test your stories out on the kids, see if they'd go over with the 3-6 crowd. We'd have to preview them first to make sure the content is appropriate for the age group but other than that, we'd love to have you come."
Brian caught Justin's eye but suppressed his comment. Too easy.
Ignoring the double entendre, Justin gave the offer serious thought. "I'd have to see what I could remember of the stories, maybe draw some pictures…"
"He'll accept," Brian said for him.
Not taking Brian's answer as Justin's, Adrianne asked, "Mr. Taylor-Kinney?"
"Give me a couple of weeks to get something to you."
Shaking his hand and Brian's, she said, "Great. Are you staying for Story Time today?"
"Might as well see what the crowd is like," suggested Brian.
Justin turned to see if his husband was still standing next to him or if he'd been replaced by a pod. He'd expected Brian to want to go back into the main part of the library to wait for Gus to finish with Story Time.
"Come on," said Brian, "let's find a spot. In the back."
"No making out back there; this is a rated G playroom," Adrianne warned and then laughed as she turned back to her cart of books.
For the next two weeks Justin sequestered himself in his studio working on his story and the accompanying illustrations. Over the years since the very first time he'd ever told Gus about the land of Liberty and its two kings and their son, his stories had covered everything from the magical to the mundane, from flying horses to missing lockets, heroic quests to playing in the ocean. But for this first public introduction to the characters, Justin wanted to do something special. He wanted the stories to have meaning beyond just entertainment, after all, the characters were based on them, on their family and nothing meant more to him than that, not even his art.
Brian poked his head in the conservatory. "Dinner's ready."
Putting a few finishing touches on his watercolor drawing, Justin got up and stretched, then joined his partner in the family room. The table was already set, the food plated. Beaming at Brian, Justin said, "You're such a good husband."
"You'll make it up to me later tonight."
"I'm through working for the evening. I could make it up to you sooner."
Brian smirked. "You know me, I'm always up for it. Sooner and later."
Justin grinned, then focused his attention on dinner. He was starving. He hadn't eaten since lunch.
Having dropped the story off at the library a few days ago, Justin was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. He tried to tell himself that even if the story wasn't right for the library's Story Time, it didn't mean he was a no-talent hack. He tried to tell himself that but he didn't know if he was listening. As difficult as it was, he tried to keep his anxieties to himself; the last thing he wanted was a lecture from Brian. Although Brian never pushed him to be more than he was, he knew Brian had high expectations of him. He believed in Justin and his talent and, in his mind, it was only a matter of time before the world recognized what he already knew: that Justin was a gifted artist. A few of his works had already been selected for group exhibitions in the area. Brian assured him that a New York showing wouldn't be far behind. A year or two, pay your dues and, eventually, the word of mouth and positive reviews in the local papers would lead up to bigger venues and the Big Apple.
Justin knew that he was fortunate to have a spouse who not only supported him financially but, who more importantly, believed in him. For that, and a thousand other reasons, he loved Brian more than he had words or pictures to express. It was his only failing, in his own mind, that he could not tell or show Brian just how much he meant to him. Which Brian would say was bullshit: Justin showed him everyday how much he loved him, just by sharing his life.
A life that now included two children. Even though he wasn't related to the kids by blood, he couldn't have loved them anymore if he were. And Brian didn't consider him any less their father than he did himself. Maybe another man might have, a man who'd wanted to be a father, who'd tied all of his self worth up in the idea of fatherhood, but Brian was more than willing to share his children with Justin. There was, in his eyes, no distinction between him and Justin. Indeed, the only thing that tipped the scales in Brian's favor was that both children resembled him. Gus was almost the spitting image of him and Indy, the baby, had both his coloring and hazel eyes.
Sitting in his studio, lazily sketching yet another portrait of his beloved, Justin reflected on his life and it was good.
The sound of the phone ringing disturbed his thoughts and unconsciously he frowned as he picked it up. "Hello?"
"Mr. Taylor-Kinney, this is Adrianne Noroian, the Children's Librarian."
"Call me Justin. Mr. Taylor-Kinney is a mouthful even for me."
"So, Justin, are you ready for Story Time?"
Panic set in. "This week?" he squeaked. "Wait, you like the story?"
"I love the story and I think the kids will too."
"You don't think the subject matter is too controversial?"
"This is a library. It's full of controversial materials."
"What about the more conservative elements in the community?"
"Justin, the most controversial book in the world is the Bible."
He laughed. He hadn't thought of it quite that way. "So, am I up this week?" he asked in what he hoped was a confident voice but what he knew for a fact was not.
Chuckling, Adrianne assured him that he'd have a week to prepare. "Next week. I just wanted to give you the heads up. If you don't feel that you're ready to take on a gaggle of giggling youngsters, I can read the story for you. But," she added, "it'll mean so much for the kids to hear you read your own words. And for you to be there if they have any questions. They’re a pretty smart bunch. By the way, we'll put up notices next week alerting parents to some of the issues raised in your story so they can choose not to have their kids attend or they can accompany their children if they like."
He was instantly alarmed. "I don't want this to turn into some kind of political rally."
"And it won't be. This is just library admin's way of covering their asses, excuse my French. Fortunately, we live in a very progressive neighborhood. Gus isn't the only child with same sex parents. He may be the only one with four gay parents but we haven't taken a survey yet so we can't be sure."
Her candor and humor lessened his anxiety and Justin gave his word that he'd be at Story Time next weekend, illustrations in hand.
The moment Brian walked through the door, he was leapt upon. "You know," he complained as he staggered, "you're not a winsome youth anymore."
"Asshole," Justin said as he thumped him on the shoulder, "I haven't gained a pound since you met me."
Giving him a kiss, Brian smiled. "You're still my little boy." In more ways than one.
"Tremendously. Now, get the hell off of me before I get a hernia." He let Justin down and leaned against the wall. "So? What's up?"
"They agreed to let me read my story next weekend."
"Of course, they did," Brian pronounced as if any other decision was unthinkable.
"We gotta make sure we get Gus next Saturday."
"Call the Ladies Who Munch and let them know." Brian started upstairs to change and put away his briefcase when he paused. Slipped an arm around Justin's neck and gently kissed him. "I'm proud of you."
"I know. Go change. Dinner'll be ready in half an hour."
"We should go out. Celebrate."
Justin wrinkled his nose. "Next weekend. If the kids like it, then we'll go out and celebrate."
"We'll have Gus," Brian reminded him.
"So we'll celebrate at Chuck E. Cheese. It'll be appropriate," said Justin as Brian frowned.
"Why the fuck people buy food from a rat I'll never know. A rat in the house is a bad thing but a rat selling pizza is okay." He shook his head on the way upstairs.
"So," Brian asked over dinner, "if the rug rats like your story, are you going to speak to Frank?"
"Maybe." He'd learned all about being noncommittal from his spouse.
But his spouse wasn't taking 'Maybe' for an answer. "I want you to talk to him."
After a moment, "All right." It was funny, things he wouldn't do for himself, he'd do for Brian. He supposed Brian was the same way. In fact, he knew he was.
With the kids finally settled down on the story rug, Justin began his story with that most traditional of openings:
"Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there lived a king and his consort and their son. King Charming and King Sunshine ruled the land of Liberty and one day Prince Gus would rule the land as well. For the moment though, Prince Gus was just a little boy. His best friend was a beautiful golden-colored cat named Leo. Now Leo wasn't just any old cat, he was special. He could talk and he walked on two legs just like people. Leo was very brave and very smart and they called him the Feline Cavalier because he was a cat and a great swordsman."
Taking out the first of his illustrations, Justin pointed to the different characters. "Here's King Charming and his consort, King Sunshine."
"What's a concert?" one of the children asked.
"Consort means that King Sunshine was King Charming's husband and ruled the land with him." Turning back to the illustration, he changed pictures. "And this is Prince Gus and Leo the Feline Cavalier."
Enough of the kids had seen Shrek 2 and 3 and immediately fell in love with Leo. Some of them also noticed that the picture of Prince Gus looked exactly like Gus who was sitting in the audience. "That's me!" shouted Gus, pointing to the illustration. Justin was hard-pressed to continue with the story as most of them wanted him to pass around the picture of Gus and Leo but Adrianne stepped in and reminded them that there would be other pictures of the two later in the story.
"Prince Gus lived in a palace with his two fathers, King Charming and King Sunshine, although he also had two mommies who lived in a house in the city surrounding the castle. He loved having his own room in the castle but he also liked visiting his mommies because he had a room in their house as well." There were pictures of Gus' room in both the castle and the house and the kids agreed that it was good to have two rooms and twice as many toys.
"Just like other boys and girls, Gus spent most of his day learning things. He learned how to read and write and add and subtract and how to multiply and do long division. But, because he was a prince, he also learned how to ride a horse and use a bow and arrows, how to fight with a sword, and how to be king. Even though there as a lot to learn, he still managed to have fun with Leo everyday." He showed them a picture of Gus and Leo on the swings.
"One day as Prince Gus and Leo were returning from playing in the garden, King Sunshine called him into King Charming's study.
" 'Gus,' said King Charming, 'we’re having visitors to the land of Liberty.'
" 'Who?' asked Gus.
" 'A neighboring king and his family are paying a visit to our kingdom.'
" 'When are they coming?'
" 'Tomorrow,' replied King Sunshine, 'and we have a very important job for you and Leo.'
" 'What?' they both asked.
" 'The king has a little girl about your age. Would you and Leo play with her and make her feel welcome in our home?' asked King Charming.
"Gus felt very grown-up and proud that his father had trusted him with such an important job. 'I'll play with her, Father.'
" 'Good boy,' said the king. 'I knew we could depend on you.'
" 'They'll be arriving after breakfast,' said King Sunshine. 'We'll meet them in the Throne room and then you can show Princess Precious around the castle.'
" 'Precious?' asked Gus with a giggle. 'Her name is Precious? What a funny name.'
" 'You mean funnier than Charming or Sunshine?' King Sunshine asked and Prince Gus realized that he was right. What might sound funny to him wouldn't necessary sound funny to other people and other people might think that their names were funny, even a name like Gus. To them, Gus might be as funny as naming your child Asparagus or Windowsill."
The children giggled at the idea of being named after a vegetable. One little boy turned to Gus and asked, "Is your name Asparagus?" and Gus, ever the joker, said, "Yeah," and laughed along with the other kids who'd heard the exchange. Leave it to Brian Kinney's kid to know how to work a room. Even if it wasn't the backroom.
"So," continued Justin, "the next morning Prince Gus and Leo got up and put on their very best clothes and had breakfast with the kings and then went to greet their royal visitors." He held up an illustration of a family. "The Herald announced them.
" 'Introducing the King and Queen of Freeland and Princess Precious.'
"Both King Charming and King Sunshine rose from their thrones and bade their visitors welcome."
"Why did they bathe them?" a little girl with red hair and freckles asked.
"They bade them," Justin told her. "That means they told them that they were welcome in the court."
Brian smiled from the back. He supposed Justin would be making some revisions to his story.
"While the grownups talked, Gus took Princess Precious on a tour of the castle beginning with his room. 'It's very nice,' said Precious in that tone of voice that people use when they don't really think something is nice but they're being polite.
" 'I also have a room in my mommies' house,' Gus explained.
" 'You what?' she asked.
" 'I have a room in my mommies' house. It's not as big as this room but I like it.'
" 'You have a very strange family,' Precious said, looking down at him even though he was a couple of inches taller.
" 'What's so strange about it?' asked Leo, who didn't like Princess Precious one bit. He thought she was a snob and a nitwit.
" 'Well, in my family we have a mother and a father. My best friend Lady Anne has a mother and a father. My cousins all have a mother and a father. One mother and one father, that's what people have. And they live together in the same house. That's a family. Two of your parents aren’t even your parents,' she said and went out of the room, bored with it and the conversation.
"Gus looked sad. 'Leo,' he asked, 'do you have more than one mother and father?'
" 'No, but—'
" 'Maybe no one else does but me.'
" 'That makes you special,' Leo said, hoping to cheer Gus up.
" 'No, it makes me different.' The little prince sighed. 'And, sometimes, different isn't good.' Reluctantly, he went in search of Precious.
"They found her fingering a tapestry on the wall. 'Not bad,' she pronounced. Then, seeing Leo, she said, 'And another thing, most people have other people to be friends with, not a cat.'
" 'But Leo's special,' Gus argued.
" 'No,' she argued, 'just different.'
" 'Don't listen to her, Gus.' Leo watched as Princess went off to find something else to criticize. 'She's a nitwit.'
"But Precious' words seemed to go right through Gus' heart. The rest of the morning he dutifully showed his guest around the castle but anyone who knew him could tell that he was sad. The Cook, who was a beautiful lady with long, curly black hair," Justin showed them a picture, "offered them each a cookie which Precious refused saying it would ruin her figure. Since she didn't take one, Gus didn't either. Leo, who had taken his and eaten it, wiped the crumbs from his mouth and counted the minutes until their visit with Princess Precious would be over."
"She's not very nice," said the same red-headed little girl.
"No, she's not very nice at all," agreed Justin. "After leaving the kitchens, Gus and Leo took Precious into the garden where they normally played for hours. She took one look at it and found a suitable bench and perched on it, not wanting to get her clothes dirty. Leo tried to get Gus to swing with him or to play Hide-and-Go-Seek but Gus felt uncomfortable with Precious sitting there watching them. He felt as if she were waiting for him to do something stupid so she could point it out. In the end, they all just sat on benches and pretended to enjoy themselves.
"Finally, it was time for lunch and the children and Leo went back inside and into the smaller formal dining room where they were reunited with the adults who all looked as if they'd eaten something unpleasant, especially the King and Queen of Freeland. That look only got worse when King Sunshine took his seat next to King Charming and kissed him. The King and Queen stared at the two men as if they each had two heads and Precious caught Gus' eye and smirked."
A little boy raised his hand. "What's smirked?"
"Ah, it means she smiled like this," and Justin gave them his best imitation of a Brian smirk: lips pressed together in a crooked smile, which made the children laugh. Brian was not amused. "Everyone was very glad when lunch was over and the King and Queen and Princess were on their way home. The two kings waved to their guests as they drove away in their carriage and the moment they were out of sight, stopped waving and went inside and up to their bedchamber. King Charming took off his crown and put his feet up. 'I'm glad that's over.'
" 'Me too,' said King Sunshine even though he normally liked entertaining. 'Gus, did you enjoy your visit with Precious?' They both looked around when Gus didn't answer. He wasn't there. They were so used to him coming with them that they hadn't noticed that he hadn't come upstairs.
" 'I wonder where he is,' said Charming.
" 'He and Leo are probably out playing now that guard duty is over.'
"But Gus wasn't with Leo at all. He'd told Leo that he wanted to be by himself for a while and left his friend downstairs. Leo went up to Gus' room and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited." Justin showed the kids a series of illustrations of Leo in Gus' room. "He played with the toy soldiers, he drew some pictures, he read a book, and still Gus did not return. Finally, Leo went looking for him. He searched the entire castle, including the garden, but he did not find his friend. Thinking that maybe Gus was with his fathers, he went to their bedchamber and knocked. A voice told him to enter. He found them inside sitting by a fire and talking.
" 'What is it, Leo?' asked King Charming.
" 'Have you seen Gus?'
" 'We thought the two of you were off playing,' King Sunshine said.
" 'He said he wanted to be by himself. He's been gone for a long time.'
" 'Was something wrong? Did you two argue?' King Charming asked, knowing the two friends sometimes had spats, most friends did. Even he and King Sunshine occasionally argued." Justin heard a snort from the back and knew it was Brian.
" 'I think,' Leo said, 'he was sad because of the things Princess Precious said.'
" The King looked troubled. 'What kinds of things?'
"And so Leo told them what she had said and the two kings got angrier and angrier. Finally King Charming said, 'That's it! No more visits.'
" 'From the King and Queen of Freeland?' asked Sunshine.
" 'From anyone,' said Charming which was a little silly as they were kings and had obligations.
"Sunshine knew that his consort was only upset so he gave a peck on the cheek. 'Let's go find Gus.'
"They looked everywhere they could think of around the palace but they couldn't find him. After an hour, the three regrouped, the two kings looking very worried.
" 'We'll find him,' King Charming assured King Sunshine.
" 'We'll send out the palace guards,' said Sunshine.
" 'No, they would alarm everyone and would probably scare him to death when they found him. We'll call our friends and have them search. Besides, they know all of his favorite spots, he's bound to be in one of them.'
"So the kings had their messengers send to all of their friends, including Gus' mothers, to let them know that Gus was missing and would they please help look for him. As soon as each person got the message, they went out searching for the missing prince. His mommies were especially upset and came to the castle wanting to know what had happened. After Leo told them what Princess Precious had said to Gus, they too declared that the royal family of Freeland was banned from the land of Liberty even though they didn't have the power to do so.
"As evening approached both the Kings and Gus' mommies grew more and more worried about him. More than anything they wanted to see their little boy safe and sound at home. No one gave up looking for him even though they were tired and hungry. Leo went around to all the places in town where he and Gus used to visit and asked everyone if they'd seen his friend. No one had. Sad and not wanting anyone to see him cry, Leo went to a little park where he and Gus had sometimes played. He sat in a swing and remembered all the fun he and Gus used to have. The tears began to fall down his cheeks and he wondered if he'd ever see his friend again.
"Suddenly he heard a sound. As if someone were saying, 'Psst.' Leo looked around but he didn't see anyone. Then he heard it again. 'Psst.' Finally, he said, 'Who's there?'
" 'It's me,' said the voice from a bush and Leo jumped from his swing and ran towards it. He had found Gus." Justin showed them a picture of Leo and Gus hugging and the kids cheered.
" 'We looked all day for you,' Leo told Gus. 'Why did you hide from us?'
" 'I guess I thought no one would care.'
"Thinking that his friend was not making much sense, Leo convinced him to come home. Although he knew that he'd get a scolding when he did go, Gus agreed that the time had come to go back to the palace. When he got there his parents were in the middle of telling everyone that they could go home, that they would resume the search tomorrow. Gus could hear the sadness in King Charming's voice and he knew that King Sunshine would be standing next to him, holding his hand. Then he heard one of his father's friends, Sir Michael, say, 'No, my Lord, we will continue the search through the night.'
"Gus and Leo came into the throne room. 'You won't have to,' he said and all four of his parents rushed to him and hugged him before they began questioning him as to where he'd been. He told them that he'd been walking around most of the day and then he'd gone to the park and fallen asleep.
" 'Why didn't you come home?' asked King Charming. 'We were so worried about you.'
" 'I didn't think anyone would miss me.'
"King Sunshine kissed him and asked, 'Why would you think that? We love you very much.'
" 'Precious said that we weren't a real family so I thought you wouldn't care.' "
"King Charming took the little boy in his arms. 'Do you know how many people love you and care about you? How many people spent hours and hours looking for you? And if that doesn't make us a real family, then who needs to be a real family? We can be the family that we are and be happy.' “
” ‘There aren’t any rules about families,’ King Sunshine told his son. ‘Families love each other, that’s all that matters.’ “
”But Gus couldn’t forget what Precious had said. ‘She said that you weren’t my real father.’ “
” ‘For a little girl, she sure talks a lot of—‘ began King Charming but King Sunshine stopped him.”
” ‘Gus, I am your real father. I may not be your birth father, but I love you just the same. You’re my little boy and nothing will ever change that.’ “
”Gus’ mom said, ‘Remember Tommy’s family? His birth father and mother got divorced and his mother remarried so now Tommy has two fathers too.’ “
” ‘And,’ said his other mom, ‘Grace’s mother died and she only has a father and no mother. But they’re still a family.’ “
” ‘Families come in all shapes and sizes,’ Leo said. ‘You’re not only my best friend, you’re part of my family too.’ “
”And Gus laughed, seeing himself at dinner with the rest of Leo’s feline relatives. Then he looked around at all of the people who had searched for him and who loved him and he realized that Princess Precious was a nitwit just like Leo said. He did have a real family, a special family. In fact, he had the best family in the whole world.” Justin held up a final picture of Gus and his family. “The End.”
The children, led by Adrianne, clapped at the end of the story and asked if they could see the pictures so Justin passed them around and the kids all marveled at the drawings and how much Prince Gus and his daddies looked like Gus and his daddies.
One little boy with the most beautiful cocoa colored skin raised his hand and said, “My mommy is Japanese and my daddy is Afr’can Amer’can.” He turned and waved at his mother who smiled and waved back.
Another child said, “I live with Nana and Grandpa. Hi, Nana!” she called out to the amusement of the adults in the room.
”That’s right, children,” said Adrianne, “families do come in all shapes and sizes. And they’re all special and real. Now, what do we say to Mr. Taylor-Kinney?”
”Thank you!” the kids yelled and Justin blushed.
”And,” Adrianne added, “how would you like it if Mr. Taylor-Kinney came back and read another story about Prince Gus and Leo?”
”Yeah!” they screamed.
Adrianne raised a brow at Justin and he laughed. She reminded him of Brian.
”I’d love to,” he said.
And the kids cheered and went back to passing around the pictures.
A few of the parents who had come for the reading went up to the front and congratulated Justin on his story and expressed their appreciation of the artwork. One woman asked if he planned on publishing his stories and Justin caught Brian’s eye at the back of the room. “Actually, I am.”
Having finally dragged his two men away from the library and their adoring fans, Brian put aside his dietary concerns and agreed to have a celebratory meal at the House of the Rat. While Gus busied himself with trying to win a cheap, polyester toy out of a cage, Brian and Justin sat at their table and talked.
”So, a writer, huh?”
Justin smiled shyly. “One unpublished story does not make me a writer.”
”You’ll be a hit. Before you know it, you’ll be going on book tours and talk shows.”
Laughing, Justin said, “I don’t think Letterman and I will be doing lunch any time soon.”
”You never know.” Brian studied the surface of the water in his glass. “You did good.”
”I know.” But it meant a lot to hear Brian say so because he never gave out false praise, even if it meant hurting your feelings. He was honest that way.
They smiled at each other, then Brian grimaced. “Too bad Oprah quit the biz. We’re ripe for that show.”
”Rosie. She would have been all over it. Fairy tales for gay families.”
”Can you believe she was ever in the closet? Please, the woman was the poster child for carpet munchers.”
”Would you have gone on the show with me?”
”It would have taken a pretty big reward.”
”Eight and a half big enough for you?” asked Justin with a smirk.
”More than enough. In fact,” said Brian, “I think I might need to be rewarded tonight.”
”For being a good spouse.”
Justin’s sunshine smile lit up the room. “You’re not a good spouse,” he said, “you’re the best.”
”Least that’s what the bathroom stalls in Babylon say.”
Gus returned to the table to find his parents holding hands and laughing and he thought to himself that he was luckiest little boy in the whole world to have two daddies like his.
Even if they were silly.