In Shadow or In Light, Part One

For Kym on the occasion of her upcoming birthday
and for her excellent help with all of the complicated legal issues!
(Again, if there are errors, they are all mine.)

Saturday, November 3, 2001

Justin traced the line of Brian's arm from his shoulder to his wrist, delighting in every muscle, deriving pleasure from each tendon. In the half-light of the early morning their faces were cast in shadow and he couldn't see Brian's expression clearly but he could feel the warmth of his smile on his skin. His lips followed the previously explored path and upon reaching Brian's hand, he kissed his fingers, then closed his lips around the tip of one and sucked it gently deciphering the mystery of its whorls with his tongue, longing to know Brian in his entirety. No matter how much he knew about the man, it never seemed to be enough to content him, he always needed more. From the very beginning, having had a moment with him, he wanted to have him everyday, and now that he had him on a daily basis, he found that he couldn't love him enough, couldn't touch him, kiss him, taste him enough to satisfy his need. Sometimes his hunger, his overwhelming desire for Brian frightened him. It probably frightened Brian as well. But he bore with it. In the same way that he bore the incessant questions and the numerous drawings Justin had done of him, he indulged the teen's voracious appetite for sex; they were all parts of the same impulse, the same need to know him. The questions, the sex, the sketches, all attempts to capture his lover in whatever fashion was open to him.

Brian withdrew the finger and cupped Justin's face; leaned in and kissed him.

"I love you," the boy whispered.

And Brian replied, lips warm against Justin's, "I love you too." His baby. So beautiful. From his warm, rosy skin to his fine, blond hair and bright blue eyes, he was a work of art. He'd probably shot three or four rolls of film of the teenager and would probably shoot a dozen times that amount before he tired of doing so, if he ever did grow tired, which he doubted. Justin was still growing, still changing. Everyday there seemed to be something different about him, something that caught Brian by surprise and yet he remained the same person he'd always been, his baby, his little boy. Only he was no longer a boy, he'd become a young man and one day he'd be a man period, no qualifiers needed. Brian thought about them twelve years from now, when Justin would be thirty and he wondered if he'd still recognize him and he told himself that he would, he couldn't imagine Justin ever changing so much that he wouldn't know him, or going someplace he couldn't follow, the teen's goodness and strength like a beacon even in the darkest night. A light that not only guided him but kept him safe from harm, from his own inner demons, from his self-destructiveness and the pain he kept bottled up inside. All of that and more, Justin did for him, without guarantees, without hesitation. And that was only one of the reasons why he loved him.

For the longest time they did no more than lie in one another's arms and kiss, content to be together, to feel the silky smoothness of a lover's skin against their own, to feel his heart beating, his chest rising and falling with each breath. Like a child Justin curled in the hollow of Brian's arm but, unlike a child, he sought more than just comfort there. He sought pleasure, even as leisurely as he went about his task, seeming in no hurry, as if he didn't have an appointment in two hours. The world outside of their bedroom had ceased to exist.

Nuzzling his lover's neck, Brian kissed the soft skin of his throat, feeling the teenager's pulse beneath his lips, and made his way up along his chin until their mouths met once more. Tenderly, he kissed the boy, kissed his mouth, his cheek, brushed his lips across his eyelids, his forehead, blessing him with his touch. They shifted in the bed and Brian stretched out over him, supporting himself on strong arms, Justin's pelvis against his belly, his groin against Justin's thighs. He could feel the teen's hands upon his shoulders. Such strong hands yet capable of such tenderness. Soothing him when he was upset, extracting pleasure from his body when he was aroused. Justin kneaded the man's back, the muscles shifting beneath his palms, then plied his nipples as they kissed. The sensation went straight down to Brian's cock which he rubbed against the teen's thighs, feeling it grow heavier as his hips pressed it against Justin's body. And he could feel Justin's penis stirring against his belly, warm and a little moist. Laying to the side of Justin, Brian cupped the boy's cock while they gnawed on one another's lips, rubbing his thumb over the tip and spreading a bead of precum over the head. Even though just kissing Brian was usually enough to get him hard, he couldn't deny the effect the man's thumb was having on him, tracing the edge of the broad head, moving in a circle just over the spot where the glans joined the shaft. Oh God..., he thought as each touch increased the length and girth of his dick.

Justin kissed down Brian's body, leaving a wet trail from his breastbone to his pubes. Ticklish, Brian giggled a little as the teen flicked his tongue over his belly button. Then Justin's head dipped lower and he began licking his lover's cock. Brian sighed while the boy lapped the tip of his dick, his tongue curving beneath the head, and then gasped as he slid his lips down the shaft, sucking him in earnest, the taste, the smell, the feel of his man's cock urging the teenager to take more inside his mouth. He didn't just like sucking dick, he loved it, especially Brian's, the way it fit perfectly inside his mouth, as if they had been made for one another.

As Justin fed at his groin, Brian took hold of his cock and began beating him off. Justin lay half on him, his legs up near Brian's chest and it was no great feat for the man to reach around and pull on his dick, stroking it, making him even harder. Brian's fist around his cock, his lips around Brian's, Justin forgot himself in the motion of head and hand and it was impossible for him to say which he enjoyed more. Finally, he came up for air and Brian took the opportunity to roll the youth over onto his back and to find his own pleasure between his smooth thighs.

Licking his way from the boy's knees to his scrotum, Brian traveled the creamy path to its luscious destination. But Justin thwarted him, pressed his cock and balls back between his legs so Brian turned him over onto his belly and sucked him from behind, the plump balls and thick cock like exotic fruit secreted between the slender planes of his thighs and the rising hills of his ass. Licking up the shaft, he made his way to the teen's sac which he sucked into his mouth, fat balls filling his cheeks. Then up and around his hole repeatedly, never touching the hot center, until the boy's lips spasmed begging him to caress them. Taking a deep breath, Brian placed his open mouth around the boy's bud and exhaled. The feel of Brian's breath upon his ass made Justin moan. He could feel the wet hairs around his hole flutter. And then the tip of Brian's tongue brushed against him. He raised his hips with a cry and sank back down. Over and over Brian tongued his anus until he'd gotten Justin's fuckhole to open. His tongue slithered inside. Justin writhed about beneath him, trying to push his ass back further onto his lover's tongue. And as he fucked his hole, Brian squeezed and kneaded the boy's cock head until Justin was a panting, trembling mass of need. When he released him, at last, the boy was hard and sticky. As was he.

He lay back against the pillows with his legs spread open and held his cock upright while Justin sipped precum from the bubbly tip. When he had quenched his thirst, his face smeared with his lover's juice, the teen straddled his hips and rubbed the still-moist head between his buttocks, brushing against his empty hole. Brian eased his hand between Justin's thighs and lubed his cock, fingered the lips of Justin's ass, and waited for the teen to devour him.

His cock sank into the warmth of Justin's bowels and found all it had ever desired there inside of him. Justin held onto his shoulders and rose and fell upon the rigid column of flesh. He rotated his hips, moaning, as Brian's dick made a circuit of his ass. As he pumped his hips, his cock rubbed against Brian's belly leaving silvery trails of precum on his skin. Brian rubbed the swollen bump on Justin's shaft just below the head until the boy began to shudder and begged him to stop. "I don't want to come yet," he whispered and Brian let go of his cock and held him by the hips to steady him as he continued his ride.

Brian himself felt dizzy with desire, his eyelids fluttering as his little boy bounced on his cock and fucked him with the strong muscles of his ass. He had given up control, let the teenager take the reins and dictate the pace and flavor of their fucking. Justin rose up so that only the head remained inside him, stretching the lips of his hole, and he squeezed his muscles, the walls of his rectum tightening around the most sensitive part of his man's cock. Brian cried out and felt a spasm go through his balls.

Their skin glistened with sweat, shiny even in the semi-darkness and the only sound in the room was their harsh breathing and the occasional moan or sigh. Justin whimpered as Brian pumped his cock up into his hole: each stroke seemed to send him that much closer to the edge. Mouth open, tongue peeking out, he gave a great, low moan and gripped Brian's dick. Cum erupted from his cock, bathing Brian's belly. The man grabbed it and rubbed the head against his skin as the boy continued to spit creamy, cloudy juice. Justin held onto him, slumped against his chest. Limbs like rubber, he was Brian's to do with as he pleased.

Getting to his knees, Brian tipped Justin over onto his back. Held his ankles in his hands and thrust his cock back inside him. Justin gasped as Brian pounded his hole, his cock like iron battering his flesh. The rosy lips of his ass darkened as the man continued to fuck him, drawing nearer to his climax. Finally, he gave a cry and slapped against Justin's buttocks, filling his hole with spunk. One of his spasms pulled him almost out of the teen's ass, the next one pulled him out completely, spilling cum as it did so. After he had dropped his load, Brian rubbed the entire length of his cock between Justin's cheeks, the slippery lips leaving wet kisses all along the shaft and head.

Brian gathered the teen in his arms and held him until the first rays of morning fell upon their bed, the sunlight dull in comparison to his golden boy. Finally, after thirty minutes or so of lying quietly together, they rose and headed for the shower. The day would wait no longer.

Of course, Brian bathed his little boy as thoroughly as he had made love to him, washing him from top to bottom. Raising each arm and scouring his pits, spreading gel over his chest and belly, down between his legs, paying particular attention to his balls and the head of his cock, then turning him around and easing a soapy finger into his tender hole. Justin moaned and placed an arm against the wall, laid his head upon his arm. "I want you nice and clean," Brian whispered in his ear, flicking a tongue over his lobe and twisting his finger inside his rectum.

"Yes..." Justin hissed.

Slipping his finger out of Justin, Brian squeezed more gel upon his palms and caressed the boy's plump buttocks, knelt and washed his thighs, his calves, then stood again and soaped his upper body once more until the his entire body was slick with suds. Then Brian wrapped a hand around Justin's cock and began stroking him. Justin caught his lower lip between his teeth and fought the urge to scream. How could Brian make him so hard again so soon after coming? He didn't have much time for thought as the man's actions quickly had him convulsing in his arms.

It took all of his strength to hold onto the slippery, jerking teenager. Burying two fingers in his ass Brian released Justin's dick and wrapped his free arm around the boy's waist. Justin held onto Brian's arm with one hand and formed a fist around his cock with the other. As he pulled on his dick, he panted. Brian's fingers wound him tighter and tighter and his cock continued to grow inside his fist. Faster and faster he beat on his meat until he stiffened and groaned. His asshole gripped Brian's fingers as he came, his spunk splattering the tiled wall and sliding down to join the suds upon the floor of the shower.

After Brian nearly had to carry Justin from the bathroom, they managed to get dressed and to scrounge up a decent breakfast and to eat a couple of mouthfuls. Justin claimed that he wasn't hungry (a first) but Brian coaxed him into having a small bowl of Cheerios. As the teen consumed them, Brian snorted in amusement. "What?" Justin asked.

"Do you remember when I asked you if you liked Special K and you said," Justin groaned, "you liked Cheerios better?" He laughed again and shook his head.

Justin dunked his spoon and let it rest against the edge of the bowl. "Seems like all of that happened to a different person."

"Least now you know what rimming is," teased Brian and Justin kicked him beneath the table. "Ow!"

"Do you think I've changed?"

"You're not as annoying. But you're meaner," he said, rubbing his shin.

"I'm serious."

Taking him as such, Brian asked, "From what to what?"

Justin pondered the question. "From being so... innocent, I guess."

"To being what?"

"Not innocent."

"And guilty of...?"

Justin paused. Then answered, "I don't know," although he did know, they both knew what he was alluding to and why.

"Of nothing. You didn't do anything. Justin--" Brian reached for his hand and held it. "Don't let this change you." Kissed his fingers. "Remember? You promised me that you would never change. That you'd always be young and cute and incredibly smart..."

"And in love with you," finished Justin, recalling the words he'd spoken that first time, the first time they'd made love.

"That's my little boy."

As always, the words made Justin shiver. Rising, he sat in Brian's lap and kissed him. "I promise."

Despite wanting to stay home all day and play house, Brian groaned and eased Justin off his lap. "Keisha's waiting."

"I wish--"

"I can't. So there's no point in wishing."

Keisha had come clean and told them one of the reasons she wanted to see them separately was because Brian wouldn't be allowed to sit in the courtroom until after he'd testified. Justin had protested until she'd explained that those were the procedures and they couldn't change them unless the defense agreed and no attorney would. "You can't hear the other witnesses' testimony before you testify. So there's no chance of contaminating yours."

And Justin had argued, "But Brian already knows what I'm going to say."

"Justin--" she'd begun, trying to explain all of the ramifications when Brian interrupted.

"Baby, let it go. Those are the rules. So we live with it." The teen had looked at the man as if he'd grown a third eye. "It's probably better if I'm not there."


"Because if I were there, every time you said my name, they'd look around and see this thirty-year-old man."


"He's right," Keisha had agreed. "I don't want them to see him until you've had a chance to sell them your image of him. I want everyone in that courtroom to be half in love with him by the time His Big and Badness shows up." Brian had raised an eyebrow at the nickname but hadn't protested.

So now Justin was preparing to meet with the Assistant District Attorney alone to go over his testimony and to prepare for potential bombshells the defense might drop. "What are you going to do while I'm with her?"

Brian shrugged. "Go see Gus and the munchers maybe."

"Wish I were going to see him," Justin confessed as they gathered their coats and keys and headed out the door.

"Maybe I'll bring him when I pick you up. And he can see his Pooh," Brian said, smirking.

"Don't call me Pooh around him or he'll never learn to say my name," Justin replied, a tad annoyed by the whole thing. He had more nicknames: Pooh, Sunshine, the Boy Wonder... What was wrong with Justin? Not that he minded Brian calling him his little boy or baby. And he couldn't complain about the Pooh thing because the one time he had, Ted had teased him saying, "Oh, bother," just like Winnie-the-Pooh in the cartoons and the guys had laughed at him for five minutes straight.

"I don't know," said Brian, "I like Pooh." He kissed Justin softly and whispered, "My sweet, sticky honey bear." He licked Justin's lips and the boy had to admit that he did love eating Brian's honey. "Later," Brian promised and Justin smiled, loving it whenever Brian said so, remembering that time in the parking garage. After and before everything had changed. After everything had changed between them and before the world had changed around them.

Keisha directed him to the witness stand. "Have a seat." After he'd taken it, she stood down front and explained how the session would go. "All right, I'm going to take you through your testimony and then we're going to do a mock cross-examination. Get you used to the feel of one. I can't promise to anticipate every question he might ask you, but I'm going to try. Understand?"

"I understand." He was still getting used to being inside an actual courtroom. He'd never been in one before, had only seen them on television. Not that he was really into courtroom dramas or legal shows. He'd seen The Practice once and thought Dylan McDermott was kind of hot but not as hot as Brian. And he didn't dress nearly as well. But seeing a courtroom on TV and being in one, being a witness in a trial, were two different things and he found it difficult to reconcile his views on either one. He imagined himself on The Practice being cross-examined by Bobby Donnell and he smiled. Brian would hate him, sensing another predator like himself.

"Okay." Keisha spoke, interrupting his musings. She went around and sat at the Prosecution's table. "So, the judge will ask me to call my first witness which will be you." She stood and positioned herself by the jury box. "Then they'll swear you in. Now, I want you to keep your eyes on the jury. Chris Hobbs will be in the courtroom, sitting there," she pointed to the other table opposite the Prosecution's, "with Raymond Mason." She snorted. "Can you believe that? Raymond Mason." When Justin didn't laugh, she asked, "Ever watch Perry Mason? With Raymond Burr?" Shook his head. "Children," she pronounced much as Brian did whenever Justin showed his age or lack thereof. "Anyway, he'll be over there with that asshole and Mason's gonna tell him to keep his eyes on you the whole time you testify, so that the jury sees that he doesn't think he did anything wrong but really it's to try and shake you up. Now, I'd have him over there looking contrite as hell but Mason is an arrogant sonofabitch who thinks he could have gotten Satan off even though it says in the Bible that he gave the apple to Eve. So you keep your eyes on the jury. Until I tell you to look at him. Got it?" He nodded. "Good. Ready?"

"I'm ready."

"Please state your name."

"Justin Taylor."

"How old are you, Mr. Taylor?"

"I'm eighteen."

"And what do you do?"

"I'm a student at the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Arts."

"What are you studying?"

"Art. I'm taking Drawing and Art History and Painting right now but I want to be a computer animator when I graduate."

"And do what?"

"Make animated films like Ghost in the Shell or Akira or Waking Life."

"Do you live on campus?"


"With your parents?"

"No, my parents are getting a divorce."

"Just answer the question. Don't volunteer information unless it's an open-ended question." At his confused look, she explained, "If I ask you how do you feel about Brian that's an open-ended question; but if I ask you if you love Brian, I want a yes or no answer. Got it?"


"Where do you live?"

"With Brian."

"And who is Brian?"

"My boyfriend."

"Is he another student at the Institute?"

"No." He bit off the rest of his answer and she smiled, seeing that he had done so.

"What does he do?"

"He's an advertising executive."

"And how old is Brian?"

Justin hesitated. "Thirty."

"Don't worry about that," she said. "I'm gonna cover it during the jury selection, so don't let it trip you up. They'll already know. So you just answer the question like it doesn't mean jack. Cause it doesn't," she told him and she meant it. Having seen them together, she didn't understand how anyone could say they weren't good for each other, that Justin wasn't a match for Brian and that Brian had taken advantage of him. But the jury hadn't seen them together and it was her job to try and show them what she'd learned: that they loved and supported one another despite the age difference, despite all of the differences between them. It was going to take a lot of work, to move people past their initial perceptions and she had to admit to herself that some of it looked bad. Theirs hadn't been a fairy tale romance, that's for sure. "How did you and Brian meet?"

He paused, then said, "We met on Liberty Avenue."

"Aren't there a number of gay bars and clubs located on Liberty Avenue?"


"How old were you when you met Brian?"


"Why exactly were you on Liberty Avenue?"

"I was..." How could he say he wanted to get laid? "I wanted to meet someone."

"Why did you go to Liberty Avenue? Why not go someplace where gay and lesbian teenagers hang out?"

Despite the fact that she was on his side, he was instantly on the defensive, having had to explain it to his mom on more than one occasion. "I didn't know any gay and lesbian teenagers. Not at my school. I thought I was the only one. They didn't have a gay and lesbian group at school or anywhere in my neighborhood. I didn't know where else to go."

"So you went down to Liberty Avenue to meet someone and you met Brian?"


"Did you approach him or did he approach you?"

"He approached me."

"How did you feel when you saw him coming?"

A smile shyly appeared. "I thought he was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen."

Despite herself, Keisha found her attention turning from her questions to the expression on his face. She could just imagine what Brian had thought when he saw the boy, the thrill he must have derived from seeing the desire in his eyes. Continuing, she asked, "Did he ask you to go home with him?"


"Did you tell him you were seventeen?"


"Did he ask you how old you were?"

"No. Not right then."

"He asked you later?"


"So Brian took you to his home?"


"Did you have sexual intercourse?"

"Not right away. I mean, we started to, yes."

"What do you mean started to?"

"He..." Justin didn't know how to explain. "He was touching me and the phone rang. So he answered it." God, he hoped she didn't ask him what Brian did to him while he was on the phone. Days after that, he could still feel Brian's hand on his cock, stroking him. He could still remember how relieved he'd felt when he'd come all over Brian's chest and the duvet beneath them. Even with Brian yelling at him at the time, it had been unbelievable.

"Did he stay on the phone?"


"Didn't it seem a little strange that he would stop having sex to talk on the telephone?"

He was not going to tell her they hadn't stopped. "No, because it was about Gus."

"Who's Gus?"

"Gus is Brian's son. He was born the night we met." Keisha didn't interrupt as Justin continued to speak. "The telephone call was to tell Brian he'd been born."

"Now after Brian got the call about his son being born, did he send you home and go to the hospital?"

"No, he took me with him."

"Why? He didn't know you."

"I told him I didn't have anyplace else to go."

"After you and Brian went to the hospital to see his son, did he take you back to his place?"


"And then what happened?"

"We had sex."

"Did you engage in oral or anal intercourse?"


Keisha paused. "You were smiling."

Remembering that first time, Justin's smile broadened. "It was the best."

"Were you a virgin?"


"And yet you trusted this stranger? Why?"

"Because I thought I could. I'd just seen him with his son. He kissed him. I couldn't believe that anyone who'd just kissed their newborn son could hurt me."

"So, after you had sex, did you leave?"

"No, I spent the night with Brian."

"The next morning, did you leave then?"

"No, Brian took me to school."

"Did you make plans to see one another again?"


"So it was just a one-time only thing? A one-night stand?"

"No, it was more than that. We didn't just have sex. We talked about everything." He remembered Brian telling him about the Coach and even though that memory proved false, the fact that Brian had confided in him still touched him. "I fell in love with him."

"Wasn't that a little fast? I mean, one night and you fell in love?"

Justin said in a clear, confident voice, "I've loved him since that night. And nothing's ever changed that."

"But you weren't going to see him anymore?"

"He didn't want to see me."

"Well, obviously you did see each other again."

"Yes." He blushed a little, thinking of all of the times Brian had accused him of stalking him or got annoyed with him for hanging around. But it all worked out in the end.

"And now you're living with him?"


Keisha looked directly in Justin's eyes. "Now, that's all I'm gonna ask you about meeting Brian but you can bet the defense is gonna try to dig deeper. I'll object if they try to pry because you've already told the court how you met and why you were down there in the first place but be prepared. Judge Kramer might allow them to go even further, especially if they're going to try and say that Brian corrupted you."

"He didn't corrupt me. He didn't even want me. I chased him!" he exclaimed.

"Even that's gonna look bad, a seventeen-year-old kid chasing a thirty-year-old man."

"He was only twenty-nine then."

"It won't matter." She took a deep breath. "All right, let's move on from there to Chris Hobbs. Do you know the defendant, Christian Hobbs?"


"How did you meet?"

"We went to high school together."

"And where was that?"

"The St. James Academy."

"Is that a private school?"


"And were you and the defendant friends?"

"No," he said shuddering.

"Were you in classes together?"


"Any clubs or extra-curricular activities?"


"Then you had no contact with Chris Hobbs outside of class?"

"I used to go down to the football field and watch the team practice."

"Was Chris Hobbs on the football team?"


"Why did you watch the team practice?"

" I used to make sketches of the players. To help me learn how to draw bodies in motion." People who didn't draw had no idea how difficult it was to capture a body in motion, to be able to convey motion in two-dimensions.

"Did you make drawings of Chris Hobbs?"


Keisha paused in her questioning. "Your eyes shifted when I asked you about that. Why?"

"I made some nude drawings and some of them were of Chris. They were in the art show at the Gay and Lesbian Center."

"Could anyone tell they were of Chris Hobbs?"


"Then leave it alone. But you cannot look as if you have something to hide. Understand? The defense will jump all over that look. So keep your eyes up and on the jury."


"Don't be sorry. Just do like I tell you."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Excuse me? I am not a ma'am." She smiled softly then wiped the smile from her face, back to business. "So you had no contact outside of class with Chris Hobbs? Other than watching the football team so you could practice your sketching?"

"We had detention together once."

"Detention for what?"

"Well, he had detention. For goofing off during English class. The teacher made him stay after school to clean up the sports equipment shed."

Of all of the sticky things she had to present to the jury, this was the one she dreaded the most. In a perfect world, the case would be cut and dry but this wasn't a perfect world and Justin, no matter how angelic-looking, wasn't a perfect teenager, he was just a teenager, with a teenager's needs and desires. Unfortunately, getting this one need filled had opened the doorway to a number of thorny issues, all of which the defense was bound to try and exploit to their advantage. She had to diffuse the situation during the direct examination or the damage would already be done by the time it got to cross. "And why were you with him?" she asked.

"I went to help him."


Without missing a beat he replied, "I figured the sooner he got done, the sooner he could get to practice."

Keisha very nearly rolled her eyes. "No one's gonna buy that, Justin. You stay after school to help a guy who isn't a friend of yours clean up a sports equipment shed? Uh-uh. Now, I'm going to ask you again, why were you with him?"

He glanced away from her.

"Look at me and answer the question."

Obeying her, he bit his lip. "I went because I thought I could make it with him."

"Make it?"

Was she deliberately being obtuse? "Have sex with him."

"What about Brian? Weren't you having sex with Brian?"

"It wasn't the same thing." He'd said that to Daphne too when she'd asked pretty much the same question.

"Explain how it was different."

"I loved Brian. Chris Hobbs was just sex."

"Did you have a crush on Chris Hobbs?"


"Then why did you want to have sex with him?"

"Because," he said, "I thought he was kind of hot."

"What do you mean by you had sex with Chris Hobbs?"

Although Justin ordinarily wasn't shy when it came to talking about sex, the words got stuck in his throat and he cleared it before he spoke. "I gave him a hand-job."


"I jerked him off."

"At any time did you engage in oral or anal intercourse with the defendant?"

"No." Justin lowered his eyes, embarrassed beyond belief. He didn't know why she'd made him explain in such detail.

As if she had read his mind, Keisha approached the witness stand and said gently, "I need them to see the difference between what you and Brian did and what you and Chris Hobbs did. Because I don't want there to be any doubt in anyone's mind about who you wanted and why." She paused. The answer to this next question was probably the most damning of them all. "Did you initiate the encounter with Chris?"

Ashamed, he answered softly, "Yes."

Gus giggled as his daddy tickled his bare belly where his shirt had ridden up. They lay on the carpet playing together while the mommies cleaned. After rolling around on the floor, Brian chauffeured the baby and Beh on a circuit of the room atop the fire engine his Da da and Pooh had bought him for his birthday and Gus shrieked with excitement and joy forcing the two women to abandon the lower half of the house for the relatively quieter upper level.

Finally the toddler began to nod off and Brian carried him to his room and lay him in the crib. Gus uttered a couple of sleepy Da das and fell sound asleep. His play partner dozing, Brian went back downstairs where Mel and Lindz had returned, the first floor safe again for grown-ups now that one of the infants was out like a light. The other kid, however, plopped down on the sofa and watched them bustle about the room. The question having been bubbling in his mind for some time, Brian asked Melanie, "You think she'll get a conviction?" meaning Keisha.

Mel glanced around. "She's good. One of the best prosecutors they've got. Probably the best. She'll get a conviction. Kramer's conservative and he doesn't give a good goddamn about gay rights but he's not an idiot. I take that back, he may be an idiot but the fact remains that Chris Hobbs assaulted Justin and there was an eyewitness. No matter how biased. The defense doesn't have much wiggle room but the room they do have, they'll use. And if Kramer doesn't keep a tight rein on them, that trial is gonna be like a three-ring circus. It won't work but it may make things difficult. The question is what'll that asshole be convicted of and how much time will he serve?"

Shaking her head, Lindz said, "I can't believe they'd let him off with probation after what he did. He could have killed Justin."

"But he didn't. And Justin is physically fine for the most part. No lasting neurological damage. Which counts for a lot with some people."

"So it's his fault he's not a fuckin' vegetable?" Brian asked, getting angry.

She held up her hands, knowing the signs of an impending Brian Kinney hissy fit almost better than anyone else. "You asked. That Hobbs kid comes from a good family, was a football star, had an athletic scholarship to college. Despite what he's done, a lot of people think he deserves a second chance. Reduced charges and a lighter sentence. They did a poll on the news, what? Thursday, I think?"

Lindsay nodded. "Only 10% of the people they polled thought he ought to be sent to prison for longer than a year."

Her words chilled him and he had this irrational desire to run and get Justin and hold him in his arms, to protect him from the world.

Lindz could tell. She brushed his hair back and said, "Don't worry."

"Don't worry?" he asked in disbelief. "I can't even be in there with him. There's gonna be a courtroom full of people who think that psychopath didn't do anything or that he ought to be let off cause he comes from a good family--well, fuck him. And fuck them. I should be in there with him," he said, frustrated and angry and a little afraid although he wouldn't admit it.

"It'll be all right. We'll be there. Us and the guys. He won't go through it alone," she promised him.

And he shook his head. "Just Emmett maybe. If he behaves. Mikey and Ted are afraid they'll be outed on TV and Keisha's afraid Em's gonna show up as Sandra Day O'Connor."

"You okay with that?"

He paused before answering. "I understand why they're not gonna be there." Smiled ruefully. "His mom'll be there. And Deb after she testifies."

Mel laughed. "Does she own anything that doesn't scream PFLAG mom?"

"Jennifer's going with her to pick out a tasteful, sedate suit next week. And to get her hair fixed." As casually as he could he checked the clock on the dining room wall since he only wore his watch to work during the week.

"It's only been an hour," Lindsay reminded him. "He'll be fine," she said, and both she and Mel wondered how he was going to make it during Justin's testimony, unable to hear or even see Justin as he took the stand.

The teen was quiet as Brian spoke briefly with Keisha about their meeting the next day and he said very little as they made their way to the parking garage, both of them keeping an eye out for the press as they walked down the street, but as soon as they came abreast of the Jeep, Justin hugged Brian hard and held him in an iron grip. Leaving questions for later, Brian just stood still until Justin's heart stopped thumping and he was able to relax his grip on the older man. Brian kissed him softly on his forehead. "What's wrong?" Only Justin couldn't answer. He just stood with his arms around Brian's slender waist and his head upon his chest and a tear slid down his face wetting Brian's shirt.

Although he appeared calm on the outside, inside Brian raged. What had she said to Justin to upset him like that? He wanted to head back to Keisha's office and cross-examine her but he realized in the midst of his anger that the best thing for Justin would be to take him home or maybe someplace quiet for lunch.

The moment they entered the cafe, Brian knew he'd made yet another mistake. From the reaction of one person, he realized that their identities were known at least to a few people. They hadn't dared go to a place on Liberty Avenue. People constantly walked up to them to offer their best wishes or condolences or just to touch Justin as if he were the Pope. Or worse, reporters would show up and try to get a statement about the trial. Most camped out at the loft waiting to catch a glimpse of them or record a careless word but Keisha had prepared them well and so far the hounds had gotten nothing out of them. Justin had stopped working at the diner until the trial was over and that grieved him too. Now, he became aware of the woman's interest in them as well and he tugged on Brian's sleeve. "Let's go." Turning, they headed back to the Jeep and drove home.

As soon as they walked inside the apartment, Brian said, "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"That you have to go through this."

Instead of responding to Brian's statement, Justin declared, "I want pasta," and he went into the kitchen and put on a pot of water.

Not sure if he should push it or not, Brian decided to let it go for now. Went to hang up their jackets. When he came out of the bedroom he saw Justin sitting in one of the bar chairs, staring out the far window. Of course he couldn't see much as the curtains--however sheer--were drawn. "What kind of sauce are we having?" he asked.

Absent-mindedly, Justin replied, "Sun-dried tomato pesto." Glanced at the water. It hadn't begun to boil yet but he got up anyway to get the linguini.

"Justin." Brian stopped himself. He'd wait until the teen was ready to talk. "I'll get the cheese grater."

Lunch was a quiet affair, neither one of them saying very much although Brian wanted to find out what had happened to put his little boy in such a mood. They had just loaded the dirty bowls in the dishwasher when Justin said softly, "I had to tell her everything. About us. About how we met and... intimate stuff. She's gonna ask me about it in court, in front of all those people."

"Better her than the defense," he replied, although what he wanted to do was to scream.

"That's what she said."

"Pre-emptive strike. Least this way she controls things."

"It's nobody's business what we do. Brian..."

"I know. But we have to do this if we want that asshole to pay."

Justin looked away. "We don't have to go to trial."

"What are you talking about?"

"Keisha said the defense suggested a plea bargain. Chris Hobbs is convicted is a lesser charge and gets three to ten years in prison. Probably less than two years with probation since this is a first offense."

His first reaction was to say, No fucking way but he restrained himself. "So what did Keisha say?"

"She asked me what I wanted to do. I know you don't want to go through with the trial--"

"I don't. But I will because he can't get away with what he did to you."

"I could still accept their offer."

"Is that what you want?"

"I don't know." He gazed at Brian, his blue eyes troubled. "If you could be there with me when I testified..."

"You don't need me. Baby, you're the strongest, bravest person I know. You don't need me. You'll do fine whether I'm there or not. And I will be there." He closed his fingers around the cowry pendant on the chain Justin wore, having taken the nipple ring out for the trial even though no one could see it. "I'll always be with you, no matter how far apart we are. You're stuck with me," he grinned. "So, are we gonna do this thing or do I call Keisha and we spend Sunday together and forget about it? It's up to you."

Justin pressed his lips together as he thought, then said, "Let's do it."

"Good. I can't wait to see my fabulous new suit on the news." Brian had bought a dark grey Hugo Boss suit for the first few days of the trial. To give his testimony, he'd wear his black suit, the one Keisha had picked out for him.

"I kept thinking about you wearing that suit all morning. Whenever it got..." He couldn't explain it but Brian understood anyway.


"Well, I mostly thought about you taking it off."

"The truth and nothing but," prompted Brian.

"Okay, I thought about me taking it off you."

"I bet you had a hard-on all morning."

Justin rubbed up against Brian. "It's back," he whispered, then pulled away and swished his way to the bedroom.

Brian watched his swaying hips and growled, feeling his own cock stir and followed with a wolfish grin on his face.

Sunday, November 4, 2001

He didn't feel so wolfish or cocky as Keisha tore into him the next morning regarding his relationship with the teenager. Even though he knew she was only trying to prepare him for the worst, he wanted to strike out at her, tell her it was none of her fucking business.

"Why do you need to know that?"

"Because Mason'll ask it if I don't."

"You can object. What the fuck does it matter why?"

"I need to convince the jury that there's nothing wrong with your relationship."

"And telling them I picked him up because I wanted to fuck him is gonna convince them of that?"

She didn't buy the blustering. "No. But seeing how things have changed between you two over time will. So are you ready?"

Reminding himself that he was doing this for Justin, he settled back down. "Yeah."

"Why did you pick Justin up that night on Liberty Avenue?"

He began to speak, "Because I wanted to--I wanted..." He faltered.


"I'm not doing this." He stood, began to leave the witness stand.


He stopped. "Fuck it."

"You walk away, you ruin any chance I might have to put that asshole away. And if you fuck this up for Justin he'll never forgive you." She knew she had his attention. "Is that what you want?"

In a soft voice, he replied, "I can't do this."

"Yes, you can."

"It's no one's business what I felt, why I did what I did."

She gave him a moment, waited until he returned to his seat. "What are you afraid of? That people might actually find out that you have a heart? That you love Justin? That maybe you have from the very beginning?"

"It wasn't like that."

"Then you tell me how it was."

He folded his arms across his chest and looked down at the railing in front of him.


"I wasn't looking to be involved with anyone. Especially not a seventeen-year-old twink who didn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. I saw him standing on the sidewalk and I wanted him. I wanted to have sex with him. I thought I could fuck him and send him home and I'd never have to see him again. But it didn't work out that way. Right from the beginning, he became a part of my life and I don't now why I didn't just send him out on the streets. I could have. I could have turned my back on him like I did all the others. But I didn't."

The honesty in his voice surprised her. "Why not? Why didn't you turn your back on him?"

"I don't know." He smiled, remembering what Lindsay had said about feeling vulnerable. "Maybe I was feeling a little vulnerable too."

"So, do you want us to come to court or what?" Rennie asked, dipping a brush in turpentine.

"You'd miss class," Justin replied and she shrugged.

"So?" She wiped her hands clean of any paint. "If Brian's friends are gonna wimp out then, at least, we should be there. I don't care if someone thinks I'm a lesbian."

"It's be a step up from unidentifiable freak," said Xavier and he ducked as she threw the turpentine rag at him.

"Well, Lindsay's gonna be there. She and Mel both, if they can get away from work. Emmett too. But he's got to work so he might not be able to come everyday. And my mom." But none of those people really mattered. "It's just the first couple of days," he admitted. "After Brian testifies, we can sit together. I know it'll be okay, I just--" Ran his hand through his hair. "It's just that Chris Hobbs is gonna be there and Brian won't be."

Xavier took hold of Justin's arm and shook him a little. "Rennie's right. We'll be there too, J."

"Thanks, guys."

Rennie pursed her lisp. "Hey, Xavier, what do you wear to court?"

"Why are you asking me? Just because I'm Black, you think I've been to court?"

"No," she replied, "because you're Black and you grew up in the projects."

Justin stood and made for the door. "I'm already involved in one felony trial..."

Xavier flipped Rennie the finger and followed Justin. "Bitch."

"Hey, you know Rennie," Justin said out in the hallway.

"Yeah. She needs to get laid!" he yelled so she and everyone else around would hear it.

She poked her head out of the door. "You volunteering? Oops, I forgot--"

"Shut the fuck up."

Justin looked from one to the other. "Hey... How about we go back to the loft and hang out? I'll order pizza and we can watch a movie."

"Can't," Rennie said. "I gotta finish this painting for class."

Xavier shook his head. "Got stuff to do."

Rennie crossed her eyes, then said, "Look, I'm sorry about what I said. It was pretty bitchy and I'm sorry. 'kay?"

"No problem."

"You wanna go eat later?"


She ducked back inside her studio and the guys headed to Xavier's.

Justin perched on a stool while Xavier wandered around. He picked up a plastic block and began tossing it from hand to hand. "So what's up with you and Rennie?"


The same nothing between us? he thought. But aloud he only said, "You sure you can't come hang out this afternoon?"

"Can't. I'm behind in Drawing."

"Well, I--" and he dropped the block. He was worse than Brian at juggling. As he got down from the stool to pick up the block, he bumped into Xavier who had bent over to get it too. He could feel the tight cornrows brush against his hair and he was tempted to rub his head against them. Then, realizing what he was thinking, he pulled away. Blue eyes met brown.


"No." He turned away and halted at the door, confused, afraid Xavier would come up behind him and touch him and he wouldn't know what to do. But Xavier didn't.

He just stood where he was too, rooted to the spot by fear. Fear that he'd gone too far, pushed Justin too hard and he'd go away and something special would be lost. At last he found his voice. "I'm sorry."

And Justin looked around, deliberately misunderstanding. "It's okay." Rubbed his head. "My head's like iron. Least that's what Brian says. Otherwise, how could I have survived getting hit with a baseball bat?"

So Xavier went with it too. "Why do you think he did it?"

"Because he's a homophobic asshole."

"But a lot of people are homophobic and they don't go around bashing people."

"And a lot do." Justin was starting to get annoyed. "Look, are you asking me if I did something to him?"

"No. J... No."

"I know I shouldn't have jerked him off. I shouldn't have gone after him. But I did and I can't change anything. But I left him alone after that. I didn't push him. I was willing to forget what happened. It was just sex. One time only. But he couldn't let it go!" He snatched open the door, angry now that even Xavier had seemingly turned against him.

Xavier moved quickly and pushed the door closed, brushing against Justin. In a rush he grabbed his friend by the shoulders and held him without speaking. His mind was racing at about light speed. What was he going to do?

Softly, Justin said, "Xavier... I can't. I love him."

His fingers released Justin seemingly of their own accord. "I..." He walked away, leaving Justin at the door. After a moment, Justin reached for the doorknob. "See you tomorrow?" he asked tentatively, afraid to ask the real question Are we still tight?

Justin smiled softly. "Yeah. Later."

"Later, J." Listening for the door to close, Xavier found a seat and sat in it, limbs shaking. He'd had Justin in his hands, it wouldn't have taken much effort to draw him close and to kiss him and yet he'd hesitated, afraid to cross over the one boundary that separated them. One boundary? He nearly laughed. There were a whole host of boundaries between them: black and white, rich and poor, out and... And what? Back home they called it being on the down low. And if Justin knew the whole story, he'd never want to have anything to do with him. He was sure of it. So he could never tell him. But if he couldn't confess his biggest secret, how could he hope to ever have Justin? He knew how much Justin valued trust, how hard he'd worked to get Brian to trust him, to confide in him. He'd expect no less from any guy he'd get involved with. And then Xavier did laugh. What the hell? Did he think Justin would leave Brian for him? "I love him," Justin had said and he meant it. Look at all the shit they've gone through just to be together, he told himself and that decided it for him. He'd just put all thoughts of him and Justin aside. It would never happen and all he was doing was torturing himself. He'd take what Justin offered and wouldn't wish for anything more.

Only, he knew that would never be enough. What was he going to do?

Justin began trembling as soon as he left Xavier's studio and he didn't stop until he arrived back home. Luckily there was only one reporter waiting and he seemed more interested in getting a photo than attempting to wheedle a quote out of him. Maybe he'd learned it was pointless to try. The teen got inside as quickly as possible and forgot about him.

But he couldn't forget what had happened--almost happened--between him and Xavier quite as easily. He'd been so close to kissing Xavier that even now he could feel his friend's lips pressing against his and they hadn't even done that much in reality. But he had thought about it. They both had by their reactions. When Xavier had grabbed him and held him, Justin had been sure that they would kiss and it had taken all of his willpower to say no, to stop Xavier before they took that next step.

But what would it have hurt? his mind asked before he had a chance to abort the thought. It would have destroyed everything, he told himself. He would never do anything to hurt Brian and that would have hurt him, even if he never found out, something would have changed between them, Xavier would have always been there between them. And he isn't now? Justin asked silently, acknowledging a fact that he would have rather ignored. The truth was Xavier was coming perilously close to becoming a problem, one that Justin wasn't sure he could handle alone. But who could he talk to about it? What could he say to make them understand how he felt when he wasn't sure himself? He loved Brian, that much was certain, and he couldn't imagine his life without him. And he didn't want to, he wanted to cleanse his mind of any thoughts that threatened them, but what about Xavier? What was he going to do about Xavier and about his feelings--whatever they were--about him? He didn't love Xavier. He didn't even want him. Not consciously. Not rationally. But he couldn't lie to himself and not admit that sometimes, when his defenses were down, he imagined touching Xavier...

Justin sat on the couch and covered his face.

Imagined running his fingers over Xavier's arms, tracing the lines of his tattoos from the crook of his elbow up over his biceps. Touching his lips, the stud in his nose, the ring through his eyebrow, his earlobes...

"No," whispered Justin. But it was true. He did imagine those things and more.

Xavier's lips around his nipples, his fingertips, his cock...

Standing abruptly, Justin wrapped his arms around his waist and paced the floor. He couldn't believe he was having these thoughts about another guy when he had the most beautiful, the most sensual, the sexiest of lovers. Men envied him because he had Brian, because Brian had chosen him. Michael envied him, maybe even hated him a little because he had what Michael wanted most in the world. What he, Justin, wanted most in the world and Brian was what he wanted. He paused in front of the sketch he'd done of him hanging in the niche by the chaise lounge, and his cock stirred as he thought about drawing Brian while he slept, thought about how aroused he'd been just looking at him, the sleeping man's flesh still slightly flushed from sex, his lips swollen and tender. So many times as he'd sketched him, Justin had wanted to wake him and to make love again, to feel Brian moving inside him. He sat upon the chaise lounge remembering the times they'd had sex on it, how hot it had been. He cupped his groin and squeezed his thighs tightly together. What he wouldn't do to feel Brian's hands touching him now, feel Brian's lips brush over his skin, his cock hard inside his hole...

Laying back upon the chair, Justin closed his eyes and unzipped his pants. How could he have doubted what he really wanted, really needed? As he stroked his cock, he smiled and thought of Brian.

The session with Keisha had left him feeling raw and vulnerable, although he wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, not even Justin, and ordinarily he would have gone home and let Justin soothe him but this afternoon he needed to see Deb for some reason. Although he had Drew's number and the shrink had made it clear Brian could call him anytime he needed, he wanted Deb. He didn't know why, wasn't quite sure what she could do to ease his jangled nerves, but everything inside him told him that's who he needed to see. So he drove over to her place with the excuse that he had to drop off the money for her makeover. Although she had sworn not to take his money, he was bound and determined to give it to her. New clothes from some upscale place and a new do from Jennifer's salon wouldn't come cheap and he knew she couldn't afford it. He could.

As soon as she saw him saunter in, she held up her hand. "I said no."

Vic was sitting with her at the table, the two of them clipping coupons. Brian had never clipped a coupon in his life. "She's not kidding."

"Neither am I. You don't have the money."

"That's my problem."

"No, it isn't. You're doing this for me and Justin, it's only fair that we pay for it."

"I don't see why I can't just wear what I always wear." She glanced at Vic. "It was good enough for your trial."

Grimacing at the mention of that farcical ordeal, Vic pointed out gratefully, "Court TV wasn't at my trial. They will be at this one."

"And CBS and NBC and CNN and every other fucking television network, newspaper and magazine in the country with nothing better to do than to--" Brian began angrily and then he just stopped and walked away from them. Brushed back the curtain as if he expected to see a news van out there.

Deb and Vic exchanged glances and Deb rose to go to him. Touched his arm gently to get his attention. "Kiddo, you okay?"

"Take the money. It's not a lot."

She smiled softly. "All right. I'll take the goddamn money." He removed it from his jacket and gave it to her. She checked it out and started to argue that it was too much and didn't. Tucked it away in the front pocket of her smock.

"Don't forget where you put it," he warned her. "That's a lot of fuckin' money."

"I thought you said it wasn't," she reminded him and he grinned, caught out.

"I lied."

Patting him on the arm, she left him and he followed her back to the kitchen. "You talk to your mom lately?" He shook his head. "Brian--"

"It's how she wants it. I'm sure she's mortified by all of this. Probably lives at church. Praying for my wicked soul."

Vic got up. "If you'll excuse me, I've got a meeting to get ready for."

Brian watched as he climbed the stairs. "He didn't have to go."

"You gonna tell me what's wrong or do I have to drag it out of you one syllable at a time?"

He took a seat at the table and looked down at his hands. Inhaled deeply and let it out. His shoulders slumped a little. "I'm just tired, that's all."

Taking the envelope from her pocket, Deb said, "This could have waited until tomorrow," letting him know she knew he was bullshitting.

He rubbed his eyes and said wearily, "I've never regretted living my life the way I've wanted..."

"Then don't start now." He looked up at her. "I know it's rough--"

"My own mother won't speak to me because she's ashamed of me."

"Well, I'm not. I'm proud of you." She wiped a tear that slipped from beneath her lid. Was that poor kid ever gonna get a break? "So fuck her. If she can't see you for who you are and be proud of you, she doesn't deserve to be a part of your life. The last thing you need to be worrying about is Joanie Kinney."

"It's not just that." He closed his eyes briefly, then reopened them, shiny with tears he refused to let fall for fear they'd lead to a torrent. "The things I've done..."

"They don't matter now."

"Yeah, they do." He laughed. "What the fuck kind of a world do we live in where a maniac like Chris Hobbs can almost kill Justin and all people care about is that fact that Justin's fucking me?" Restless, he stood and leaned against the counter. "Chris Hobbs comes from a good family, from the right background--"

"So does Sunshine."

"Yeah, but Justin's gay. And not only is he gay but he's living with me. And I don't come from a good family and I sure as hell don't have the right background."


"My own fucking family hates me. Claire emailed me to tell me that. That she hates me. That her kids get picked on at school because their uncle's a fucking fairy." He hadn't even told Justin about that hateful message, hadn't wanted to burden the boy with anything else.

"You're not responsible for Claire or her kids. She is."

"But I'm responsible for Justin. And his being with me is hurting him."

"So what are you gonna do? Leave him? Make him leave you?"

"No." Christ, he didn't think--no--he knew he couldn't make it anymore without Justin. Well, maybe he would make it, he just wouldn't enjoy it as much.

"Then quit your bitching and get on with it. I swear, I never thought I'd see the day when Brian Kinney would sit in my house and cry about how unfair the world was. You knew that. You knew that when you were fourteen for Christssake and the world hasn't changed a bit since then." He didn't know what to say. "You wanna help Justin? Go into that courtroom and you charm 'em. You charm 'em the way you used to do those poor bastards at Babylon and Woody's. You do that and no one's gonna blame Sunshine for falling for you. No matter how big an asshole you've been. You hear?"

"Yes, ma'am." He sat back down at the table.

"And don't call me ma'am."

Michael came in just as she finished speaking. "Jeesh. You called her ma'am?"

"Momentary lapse of reason."

"I'm glad you're here cause I gotta get ready for work. You can keep laughing boy company." But she paused and kissed Brian on the top of the head and gave Michael a peck on the cheek.

After she'd gone, Michael asked, "She been giving you motherly advice again?"

"Yeah. But I asked for it."

Michael scrounged around in the refrigerator until he came up with a grape soda. Popped the top. "You okay?"

"I don't know, Mikey."

"Listen, how about you and the Boy Wonder come over to my place tonight? We're ordering in. New Vietnamese place, I think. Ted's coming."

"Thanks, but..." There was no point in rehashing old business.

"And Jeff's not," he added.

"Mikey..." Maybe they needed to talk about it, only, how could he tell Mikey to put him and Justin before Jeff? He couldn't. He'd messed up things between Michael and David no matter what MIkey said and he wouldn't do it again.

Always willing to be the one to make the first move towards reconciliation, Michael said, "Look, I know why you can't be around him and I understand. And I'm sorry I was such an asshole about it. So, we're gonna cool it until the trial is over. Well, we're gonna slow it down a little. Which is good cause I'm not in a big rush to do another Dr. Dave." Just thinking about David made him a little sad but he took a swig of soda and waited for Brian to make the inevitable joke about them.

"You mean you don't have your china pattern all picked out?"

"Fuck you. You and your ward are closer to hearing wedding bells than me and Jeff. So when's the big day?" Brian gave him the finger. "Oh, so mature. Will you be honeymooning in Disney World?"

Brian smiled. "Euro Disney. I promised Justin we would go on a month-long European tour next summer."

Michael's eyes widened. "No shit."

"No shit." He raised and then drew together his eyebrows. "If I make it through this fuckin' trial without killing anybody."

Michael knew Brian wanted to ask him to come to court but wouldn't. "I'll come if I can get out of work."

"It'd really help if you were there."

He couldn't believe Brian had admitted even that much. Guess miracles never ceased. "All right. I'll do what I can."

"Thanks, Mikey."

"Only this time you owe me big. And if you don't come back from Europe with some comic books for me, I'm gonna kick both your asses." Michael was determined not to let them forget the fact that they didn't bring him back any comics from the Bahamas. Although he had liked the Eiffel Tower made of straw. It occupied a prominent spot on one of the bookcases in the living room.

Brian, putting his own ass before his lover's just this once, said, "Kick Justin's. He got more padding."

Having had noodles and beef at Mikey's place, Justin and Brian returned home to knock around for a couple of hours until bedtime. Justin gout out his sketchpad and started two or three drawings before giving up. He didn't know whether to tell Brian about the episode with Xavier or just pretend it had never happened. After all, nothing had really happened. They hadn't even kissed. Right now Brian had a very laissez faire attitude towards Xavier's crush on Justin but if he knew about Xavier's attempt, his attitude might change and Justin didn't want that to happen. Brian definitely did not like to share and Xavier would find himself on the receiving end of his considerable and infamous bad temper if Brian ever found out Xavier had made a serious play for his little boy.

"Fuck!" exclaimed Brian appreciatively.

"What?" Brian was online and who knew what he'd found.

"Come look at this." Justin went over and stood next to him. Brian was looking at a picture of a guy with what had to be a ten-inch cock. "That's enough for you and me both."

"I'm not a size queen. You oughta know that." Justin scooted away before Brian could retaliate physically.

"I know someone who is so not getting any of my less-than-ten-inches tonight."

Ignoring the threat, Justin asked, "Do you still--"

"No." He knew what Justin wanted to know. "After fucking you all week, I don't have the energy to fool around." He paused. "Or the desire."

Smiling brightly, the Boy Wonder sauntered over to his lover and sat crossways his lap. Wrapped his arms around his neck and kissed his throat. "You smell good. Eau de Brian."

Brian disengaged his arms. "Sorry. The butcher shop is closed. No more meat for you."

Justin turned around in his lap and sat facing the computer. Took the mouse from Brian and went to one of his favorite spots online: About Face. As if he weren't sitting on Brian's lap, he surfed the site, checking out the new pics and seemingly ignoring Brian's growing erection. He could feel it stretching beneath his buttocks. And he continued to click on page after page of guys having fun with cum. Licking spooge from their lovers' cocks or from their holes, faces and necks covered in jizz. And then he stopped on a page and said softly, "Read this."

Brian was trying hard not to grab him and throw him on the desk and fuck him since he'd already told him he wasn't getting any but the feel of the teen's warm cheeks pillowing his hard-on was driving him crazy as were the pictures on the site. He could just see Justin kneeling between his legs, cleaning his cock of goo. Fuck. Thoughts like that weren't doing a damn thing to reduce the size of the bulge at his groin. Still he leaned forward to look at whatever it was Justin wanted him to read. It was an email message to the site owner.

From Bountiful Bottom.

"Dear Joey, I love your site. It's one of my favorite places to visit on the web. About a month ago my lover and I decided to bareback it during sex. I sucked his cock, licking all that delicious precum as it bubbled up from his pisshole and then he mounted me and fucked me raw, coming in my asshole. Afterwards he opened my legs and licked his cream from my hole. By the time he went down on me, I was about to lose my mind. I came in his mouth and just seeing him with my juice on his face was enough to make me hard all over again. We kissed and I could taste our cum in his mouth. It was totally intense. Since then I take every opportunity I can to suck him off. I can't get enough of his spunk. He calls me his sticky, sweet honey bear. Maybe one day I'll get him to take a picture of me with his honey on my face and I'll send you a copy."

Brian reached down inside Justin's pants and cupped his crotch. The cloth over the teen's dick head was moist. "You're wasting it," he complained.

"No," whispered Justin, correcting him. "You are."

Kissing the length of his neck, Brian paused long enough to pull Justin's shirt off, then went back to brushing his lips over the nape of his neck and over his shoulders, his hands stroking Justin's chest and abdomen.

Justin loved the feel of Brian's hands on his body. It drove him wild to feel Brian's long fingers tweak his nipples or curve into claws to lightly scratch his belly. Sometimes the man just ran his hands up and down and across his ribs and even that made him so hot he could barely believe it. As Brian kissed his back and shoulders and felt him up, Justin worked at getting his pants and underwear down around his ankles. Loathe to part from Brian even for a moment, he barely raised his hips just long enough to push his clothes down around his thighs. The feel of the rough denim against his bare bottom seemed almost sinful. Bending over just a bit, he finished working his pants and briefs down his legs and actually managed to get one leg free. He didn't care about the other one cause by then Brian had begun rubbing a fingertip over his rectum. Justin grunted as Brian fingered his hole, the tip pushing up into him, then sliding back out again to rub around his wrinkled lips. The other hand closed around his cock.

His fingers instantly became slippery as he stroked the wet tip of Justin's dick. He was dripping juice. Brian wanted so badly to stand the boy up and turn him around and suck him dry but he didn't. There'd be time for that later. Right now he liked the position they were in, liked having an armful and lapful of naked teenager. Justin leaned back against him and he ran his hand down the length of his cock and back up again. Heard the teen sigh. He cupped Justin's balls and played with them until moans filled the air. They were so full, so round. Jesus, he loved the feel of the heavy sac in his palm. But as good as Justin's felt, his own cock and balls were beginning to feel cramped inside his jeans. So, regretfully, he released Justin and motioned for him to raise up. Justin did and Brian unzipped his jeans and pushed everything down around his calves. Worked the jeans and his briefs off with ease, having undressed more times for sex than he had to bathe or sleep. When he was done, Justin sat back down on his lap and his dick was pushed down parallel with his thighs so that the boy rubbed his balls along the length of it.

Justin parted his cheeks and brushed his hole over the hard shaft. Stood and leaned over so that Brian could rub the head over his lips. "Ahh," he breathed as the wet tip touched his hole. Using his precum as lube, Brian eased a finger into him again and worked his hole until it had relaxed enough to take his cock. With one hand on Justin's hip to steady him, Brian used the other to feed his cockhead into Justin's ass. The boy's lips opened wide to accommodate the girth of the glans. Taking it all inside, Justin rotated his hips and heard Brian cry out. As his lover's hands roamed his torso, the teenager encircled Brian's cock with his hole, his muscles squeezing, caressing, kneading Brian's dick as the teen slowly fucked his lover's meat. Just when Brian didn't think he could take anymore, Justin began to bounce on his cock and all he could do was hold onto the bucking boy as he rode his dick, drawing the cum from his balls with his luscious ass. Brian gripped Justin's waist and shouted as he filled his baby's hot tunnel. Still buried to the hilt, he began to jack off Justin and was soon rewarded for his efforts. Justin tensed and his cock spat a slitful of cum onto his belly. Brian continued to pull on him until Justin's skin was spotted with jism. Giving his cock a few last strokes, Brian ran his hand through the spunk and spread it all over Justin's abdomen and chest, and kissed his sweaty neck.

Monday, November 5, 2001

It took everything Jennifer had not to laugh at Deb while they drove to the mall. You would have thought she was taking Debbie to have a lobotomy instead of going shopping for a new outfit or two. Brian had been very liberal with his contribution. With what he had given Deb, they would be able to buy a couple of nice suits and get her hair done, no problem. Maybe pick up a new pair of shoes if they were lucky enough to find something on sale. Probably be able to swing a new dress too.

Bypassing Nieman-Marcus, Jennifer took Deb to Macy's instead. Although she'd never shopped in the Women's section (read: large sizes) she'd noticed that the clothes were quite nice. They'd have no problem picking out something suitable for court.

Charged by Keisha via Brian to find something that didn't make Debbie out to be someone she wasn't, Jennifer escorted her friend through the section pointing out things that would be appropriate. Very nearly wrestling a yellow flowered-print dress from Deb's grasp, Jennifer finally got Debbie to agree on three suits and an armful of dresses which they took to the changing room. Jennifer found a chair and waited while Debbie tried on each outfit.

The first was a simple navy blue wool sheath with a knee-length jacket. It looked beautiful, she looked beautiful, so much so that Jennifer longed to pull Deb's wig off right then and there to complete the transformation. Maybe they should have gotten her hair done first but Jenn had figured they'd start small--the clothes--and then build up to the bigger things--the hair. "I think it's perfect," she told Deb.

Checking the tag, Debbie whistled. "It's a little pricey."

"Well Brian was quite generous. You can afford it." She smiled. "Now, go try on the cream-colored dress."

The cream-colored dress was again quite simple but Jennifer could already picture Deb wearing it with maybe a lovely pin or a scarf. Mentally she made a note to stop by the jewelry counter.

In the end Deb got the blue sheath and jacket, the cream-colored dress, and a tasteful grey suit, a pair of navy pumps, two pairs of gold earrings, a pin in the shape of a butterfly with garnet eyes, and a gold bracelet. They even stopped by the make-up counter for a total makeover and left with a bag of cosmetics and strict instructions on usage.

Both of them a little tired from shopping, they stopped at a small cafe on the way to the salon for lunch. Noticing that Jennifer hadn't mentioned anything about the trial, Debbie broached the subject.

"So how are things? How you holding up?"

"As well as can be expected. Molly's a little upset because of the reporters. But we're lucky because most of them are going after Justin and Brian." She sipped her tea. "Justin says they show up first thing in the morning before they leave and every evening before they get back home."

"They quit coming around the diner once Justin stopped working. Which is a shame because he's a damn good waiter. The customers miss him. Hell, I miss him."

"I worry about him," Jennifer confided in her.

"Don't. He'll be fine. He's strong. Stronger than you think."

"But it's just so much to deal with." She paused. "And his father, well, Craig... Craig is still so very angry. They've talked on the telephone but I don't think Craig's seen him more than once since graduation."

Keeping what she thought of Craig Taylor to herself, well aware of how much Jennifer still cared for him, Deb assured her, "Sunshine'll be all right. Brian'll see to that. He won't let anything happen to him. Not while he's got breath in his body. You can count on that."

"It still can't believe they're together sometimes. It seems like only yesterday that Brian was telling Justin he didn't mean anything to him." She remembered how distraught Justin had been each time Brian had rejected him, pushed him away.

Deb chuckled. "Well, that's certainly changed."

"Has it?" she asked and yet she knew, deep down, that Brian did love Justin, it was just... hard sometimes to admit it, that her child was content to be with the man and that the man was content to be with the teenager. Despite everything that had happened she still found it difficult to believe that they were building a life together.

"Listen to me, Brian loves Justin. There's a thousand reasons why he should and only he really knows the reason why he does, but, believe me, he does. And he's nothing if not loyal. When he and Michael were kids, Brian looked after him, made sure nothing harmed him. Michael was always the quiet, shy type and he took everything to heart, way too hard. And Brian, well, Brian was a little shit sometimes but he took care of Michael." Still angered by the episode, she told Jennifer, "One time in high school this football player dunked Michael's head in the toilet. Brian followed him and slammed his hand in his locker so hard it broke three of his fingers. The next day, the kid's friends beat the shit out of Brian but they never bothered Michael again because it wasn't worth it. They knew Brian wouldn't let them get away with shit. That's the way he is. I took him to the hospital myself because Jack Kinney would have killed him if he knew and never, not once did Brian ever blame Michael for what happened to him."

"But that's what I've tried all my life to keep Justin from, that's what's gotten him in this situation: violence." Jennifer tried to hide her agitation in the motion of lifting a lemon cookie from her saucer but she didn't eat it, only held it in mid-air as if she'd forgotten what to do with it or forgotten that she held it at all.

"Look, Brian could have killed that Hobbs kid. He had the bat in his hands and he could have beaten him to death and gotten away with it. But he didn't. Because he was more concerned about Justin. Justin and Michael, they're the reason Brian didn't become another Jack Kinney. He's a good man because of them. And that's why, no matter what, he'll never abandon them, never. And he'll protect them, do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Even if it means doing the things they can't. He'll take care of them."

"And who takes care of him?" she asked because suddenly it made sense: the drugs, the men, the anger.

"They do. They keep his heart and his soul and his goodness safe from harm." She thought of all the times Brian had turned to Mikey for comfort, all the times he'd come looking for him when they were teenagers; remembered all the times he'd come looking for Justin the same way and for the same reasons. As strong as he was, there were times when even he needed a shoulder to cry on, an understanding and sympathetic ear to listen to him, and more. "And when he's tired," she said, "he goes to them and they give him the strength to keep going."

Brian punched the intercom button. When his secretary answered, he said, "Cynthia? I asked for those demographics five minutes ago."

"Are you sure you don't have that file?"

"Why would I ask you for it if I had it?"

"All right. Keep your pants on. Least until you get home."

"The file?"


He huffed and severed the connection. If he had to ask her for those figures one more time... Shading his eyes momentarily, he took a couple of deep breaths, practicing the anger management techniques Drew had taught him. He knew that he wasn't really angry with her. Okay, he was annoyed--what he was really angry about--it didn't matter. Wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. Hearing a soft knock on the door, he girded himself for yet another confrontation with Ryder--because that's who it was. Cynthia would have just come in. "Hey, Marty."

"Brian. How's the Latham account coming?"

"It'd be going a lot better if Brad and Bob started impersonating real advertisers and stopped pretending to be completely incompetent."

His boss didn't sit, as usual, but stood in front of and slightly to the left of his desk. "I'm sure you'll come up with something."

"Between now and Friday?"

"What about the weekend?"

"I'm not coming in." He looked directly at his boss. "The trial starts Monday. It's gonna be Grand Central Station outside my place. We're not leaving the loft until it's time to go to court."

"So what about the account?"

"I'll do what I can and then the Wonder Boys can take over while I'm gone."

"And how long is that going to be?"

"I don't know. Two weeks, maybe three. I've never been involved in a felony trial before."

"Have you seen the papers?"

"What's the point? We're either martyrs to the cause or fucking terrorists, take your pick."

"They've already started coming around here. We've hired extra security to handle the ones who try to come inside the building."

His apartment building had taken similar steps. They now had a doorman who looked suspiciously like a bouncer. He rustled through some papers. "It'll be over soon."

"You hope."

"It's not like we're talking about OJ Simpson; the trial can't last forever."

Ryder nodded noncommittally. "And then what?"

"And then things go back to normal, that's what."

"You're certain about that? There won't be a businessman in Pittsburgh who won't have heard or read about you and Justin. Who won't know intimate details about your life. How are you supposed to conduct business like that? When all people can think about when they see you is that you're sleeping with an eighteen-year-old?"

"What? They run a story in the Pittsburgh Business Times?"

"You've been in every newspaper in the city."

Brian felt a chill begin to creep into his body from his fingertips and toes. "So what are you saying?"

Ryder looked away from Brian. "That maybe some changes might have to be made." When Brian didn't respond, Marty left the office, closing the door behind him.

In a moment Cynthia arrived with the file he'd asked for. "I found it." Then she noticed the look on his face. "Brian?"

He glanced up at her and then back down at his desk. For a moment he was tempted to let it go but it felt to him like lying down and rolling over and if the trial was about anything it was about not doing just that, about standing up for yourself. So, ignoring Cynthia and the file he'd requested, Brian rose and traced his boss' footsteps until he came to Ryder's office. Susan, Ryder's secretary, seemed about to say something when she caught a glimpse of his eyes and decided not to. Knocking, he opened the door and went in as Ryder was wont to do. As Marty looked up, Brian said, "We need to talk."

"We just did."

"No, you threatened and I listened."

"I've said all I have to."

"Then it's your turn to sit there and say nothing." He didn't take a seat. "I'm sick and tired of you coming down on me because of Justin. I'm tired of defending my relationship with him and I'm not doing it anymore. You want to fuckin' fire me, go ahead. There's plenty of agencies, plenty of companies that'd give up entire divisions to have me come on board. Because I'm that good. I'm the best. And if you can't support me, then stay out of my way, and if you can't do that, then let me go. You and other partners offer me a generous severance package and I'm outta here. But I'm not gonna have another conversation like the one we just had. Not about Justin. Not again."

"Are you through?"

"That's up to you and the other partners," Brian replied and he left without waiting to hear anything further.

Catching sight of Xavier leaving Justin's studio, Brian started to call out to him and then he remembered that he wasn't really the kind of person who went around yelling down hallways. Besides which, after he got Xavier's attention, then what? Say hello? Shaking his head, he wondered what in the hell was going on with him. First that tearful episode at Deb's and now this. Christ, next thing you know he and Justin would be on the cover of The Advocate as couple of the year. He wished it was a joke because they'd been approached once by the magazine about telling their story. And they'd gotten calls already from producers wanting to turn their lives into a made-for-TV movie.

Sighing, Brian pushed open the door to the studio. Justin was sketching at his table. Brian could hear his studio partner on the other side of the partition. Justin looked around. "Hey."

"You ready?"

"In a minute."

Bledsoe peeped around the corner. "Hey, Brian."

"Sold a million dollar painting yet?"

The budding artist ignored the man's ribbing. "You coming in tomorrow?" he asked Justin.


"See you then." His head disappeared back around the corner.

The first thing they saw as they neared home was the news vans. Begrudgingly the building had assigned Brian a spot in front by the door so that he wouldn't have to run the gauntlet of reporters any longer than was absolutely necessary. And they'd employed the new doorman/bouncer to keep the reporters from bothering the other tenants. Not that there still hadn't been complaints. Almost daily Brian and Justin got hard looks from the other residents who resented the invasion of their privacy. As if the two men enjoyed the media attention.

Justin waited until Brian had gotten out of the Jeep and come around to his side before opening the door. He could tell Brian was about two seconds away from slugging some guy who persisted in pushing a microphone in his face. At the last possible moment the reporter must have realized how close to death he was and he pulled back from them. With the doorman shielding them, they punched in the code for the building and went inside.

Almost instantly the roar of the reporters subsided. Forsaking the elevator, they took the stairs and gratefully opened the door to the loft. Barely pausing to put down briefcase and backpack, they came together in a tight embrace.

"Another day," said Justin.

"And how many more to go?" Brian asked. They kissed for a moment and then parted, then came together again, unwilling to let go, not just yet. In between kisses, Brian asked, "You hungry?" and Justin shook his head so Brian picked him up and carried him to their bedroom.

They'd gotten all of Justin's clothes off and Brian's shirt and trousers out of the way before the buzzer sounded. It was like a curse. How they ever managed to have sex without someone interrupting them was a miracle. Brian disengaged himself from Justin's arms and answered the unwelcome summons. "Yeah."

"Papers for Justin Taylor from Keisha Thomas."

"Come on up." Brian pressed the button and went and slipped on his robe. "Something from Keisha." Justin put on his robe and followed. At the knock on the door, Brian pulled it open and a flash went off in his eyes. "What the--" Justin slammed the door closed just as the guy began to back away and held onto Brian's arm to keep him from going after the reporter.

"No," he said firmly when Brian tried to pull away. "No! It's--" as Brian struggled, "It's not worth it." Trying to hold him back was like holding onto a tiger, muscles tensed, ready to strike. Finally, he relaxed and Justin released him.

"Fuck!" Brian hit the door with his fist.

"He's gone."

Brian called the doorman and made sure the reporter had exited the building. "I should have double-checked with Keisha. That was stupid. That was so fuckin' stupid."

"I didn't think of it either." Justin stroked his arm. "Come on, let's--" but Brian stepped away from him. "Brian." The man stopped. "So they got a picture of us, so what?"

"A picture of us half-naked. Probably gonna show up on the front page of some goddamn newspaper tomorrow." Fuck, Ryder is going to have a aneurysm when he sees that picture. How much worse can it get? he thought, keeping it to himself, no need to alarm Justin, not yet.

"There's nothing we can do about it," Justin explained hoping it would put an end to the discussion and they could return to the bedroom but Brian opted for the sofa instead and flicked on the television. Resigned, Justin joined him and sat curled against him. Brian didn't dislodge him, but he kept his eyes on the television screen and Justin could feel him shaking with anger. Gradually, the teenager began touching him, running his fingers through the older man's hair, up his neck, inside his robe and over his chest until Brian gave up on the news and pulled Justin over onto him and held him, just held him until he stopped trembling.

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Ted was pouring over the paper when Em and Michael arrived at the diner for breakfast. He pointed to the front page. "You see this?"

They both looked. Saw Brian and Justin in their robes showing a surprising amount of flesh. "Holy shit," said Michael. "Brian must be freakin' out."

"He didn't call you?"

"No." Mikey got out his cellphone. "Goddamnit." Dialed the loft. Heard Brian answer. "Hey. You okay? I just saw the paper." He listened. "Yeah. Yeah." Fell silent until Brian was done. "Okay. Later." Closed his phone. "Brian said the guy buzzed him with some phony story about having some court papers from the DA. He and the Boy Wonder were caught in the act. He's working from home today. Ryder told him not to bother to come in. It's like a zoo over there. And Keisha showed up this morning and reamed them out."

"Christ," said Ted. "Of all the luck."

"Maybe we should go over there tonight," said Emmett. "Take them some food. I bet they're stuck inside all day."

"And after last night, they won't trust anyone claiming to be the delivery guy," added Ted.

Michael shook his head. "This is like a nightmare that won't end."

"Yeah, Mom. Okay. Bye." Justin put the phone down on the night table and stood with his hand on it for a moment, unsure what to do next. He didn't feel like sketching and Brian was sitting at his desk brooding in the guise of doing work and he wasn't up to taking him on just right now, not after the lecture Keisha had given them this morning. She'd come down especially hard on Brian since he was the one who let the guy in and because he was older and should have presumably been wiser about the world and the ways of reporters. Justin could tell it had smarted but Brian had sat meekly while she delivered her ten commandments regarding their behavior in the future. He heard a sigh. Looked over to see Brian put down his pencil and stand up, walk over to the window and gaze at the sky without drawing the curtains. After thirty seconds or so, he gave up and sat down in one of the armchairs in the livingroom. Cradled his head in his hand. That was as much of a call for comforting as Brian would allow himself. Answering the unspoken request, Justin went over to him and knelt at his side. Laid a hand upon his thigh. Brian lifted Justin's hand and kissed his fingers. "You didn't eat any breakfast. You want me to fix you something?"

"Maybe some coffee."

"I meant something to eat. Food. For lunch."

"I'm not hungry."


"Let it go, Justin." He stood and climbed the stairs to the bedroom.

Instead of following him, Justin went into the kitchen and put on another pot of coffee. When it had begun to drip, he found his sketchpad and sat at the dining table. Took out his colored pencils and began designing his very own Junkanoo costume based on the ones he'd seen in the Bahamas. After a while he felt Brian pass by him. Heard him stirring in the kitchen. The refrigerator opened and closed. Which was strange because Brian took his coffee black with plenty of sugar, no milk.

"You want any of this?"

"I had a cup this morning."

"Not coffee. Do you want any of this?"

He glanced over his shoulder. Brian was holding one of the containers of the tomato-mushroom bisque he'd made and put away in the freezer to take to school for lunch. He smiled. "Yeah. Thanks."

After heating the soup in the microwave, Brian poured them each a bowl and carried both to the table. Returned for the silverware and his coffee. Justin put away his sketchpad and grabbed a soda from the fridge. For the first few minutes of lunch neither of them said anything. Then Brian spoke. "I wish I could promise you that it'd get better."

"I wouldn't believe you even if you did. I'm not a child, I know what we're in for." He reached across the table and stroked Brian's hand. "Besides, it will get better. The trial'll be over in a few weeks and we can pretend like it never happened."

"There's still the sentencing. And everything after."

"It'll be over for us."

He shook his head. "You don't believe that anymore than I do."

"What are we supposed to do about it? Worry ourselves to death over what might happen?"

Brian looked down into his bowl of soup. "If I had to move away, go someplace else, would you come with me?"

Fear seeped into his stomach and he felt a little nauseous. "What are you talking about?"

"Starting over. Someplace new."


He hesitated.

"Why, Brian?"

"Because I might be finished here." He closed his eyes. "Ryder was livid this morning. He'd already made vague threats and then the papers this morning and that picture... Jesus Christ." Brian put down his spoon and pushed away from the table, appetite suddenly gone. Justin padded behind him. "Everything I've worked so hard for, gone."

"It can't be that bad."

"Yeah, it can be. It is. There's only a handful of agencies in town. We're one of the best. If I have to leave the firm, there's no point in going to any of the others. It'd be a step down. Except Ketchum Pittsburgh. If they'd even take me."

"You're the best."

"I'm..." He laughed bitterly. "I'm tarnished goods." Laughed again, just a breath through his nose, nothing more.

Justin slipped his arms around Brian's waist and laid his head upon his back. The fear had subsided in the wake of having to take care of his man. "I would go with you. As long as we're together. Nothing else matters."

As if the person on the other end of the line knew they were having a quiet moment, the phone rang. Justin, with regret, released Brian and answered it. Instantly his face darkened and he began shouting. "Don't you ever call here again!"

Brian started towards him, alarmed.

"Do you understand? We don't want to talk to you! Don't you ever get tired of hounding people? Why can't you leave us alone?"

By that Brian understood it to mean that yet another magazine, newspaper, or TV show was trying to get them to talk. Wanting to handle it, to take the phone from Justin and yell at the asshole on the other end, Brian made himself stay put. Actually, Justin was doing a pretty good job of reaming out whoever it was who'd made the mistake of calling them today.

"Even if we do eventually talk to someone, you can believe you'll be the last fucking person I call!" and he slammed the phone down.

Eyebrows raised, Brian didn't know whether to applaud or to hug the teen. He even felt a little sorry for the idiot who'd called. Damn, Justin's tongue lashing had been just as good as a kick in the nuts.

"Fuck!" Justin exclaimed. "How many times do I have to say no?"

Brian crossed to his lover and shook his head, grinning, "I don't think he'll be calling back any time soon. Unless he's a masochist. Who was it anyway?"

"Some asshole from this teen magazine. Wanted to do some lame-ass feature called 'Twenty Ways to Please Your Older Man.' They wanted me to tell them about us, about our sex life."

"No fucking way," said Brian, feigning indignation. Then he cracked a smile. "Although you are the expert."

"Kiss my ass."

"Is that an invitation?"

"You're a dirty old man."

Justin yelped as Brian grabbed him and growled, "Who you calling old?" They kissed and then Brian said, "I bet you don't even know twenty ways to please me."

"How much?"


"How much you wanna bet?"

Getting into the spirit of things, Brian replied, "You decide."

Justin pondered his options, came up with something. "Okay. If I win, we invite everybody over to our place for dinner on Saturday."

"Shit... And if I win?" Brian asked.

"You get to teach me all of the ways to please you that I don't already know."

Brian grinned. He knew a good deal when he heard it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Hoping Michael would arrive soon, Jeff had ordered a bottle of red wine and sat nibbling on a breadstick wondering if he'd been stood up. Especially with the trial looming closer, the time he had to spend on himself was diminishing. So far he had refrained from joining in the daily feeding frenzy outside the loft but any day now his boss was going to demand that he produce something to put them ahead of the competition. And so far he hadn't let it slip that he was dating the best friend of the prosecution's key witness. If that little piece of information ever fell into Herb's hands, it'd be all over. For either him or his relationship with Michael and he didn't know what to do. He genuinely cared for Michael but he'd worked hard to get where he was, especially since he hadn't made a secret of being gay and even now there were a lot of stations that managed to sabotage the careers of their openly gay reporters either overtly or covertly. To be fair to Herb he'd gotten his share of exclusives and choice stories. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was easy on the eyes and had a huge female following. Herb knew that what was good for Jeff was good for WPXI.

Finally he glimpsed Michael out of the corner of his eye, weaving his way through the tables that crowded the floor of the tiny restaurant. There were a lot of newer, fancier Italian restaurants in the city but he liked Sabatino's. The food was fantastic, the service second to none, and there was a booth in the back that Luigi reserved for him whenever he wanted it. Ever since he'd covered the story on the murder of Luigi's brother Fredo, the man had been eternally grateful. Both men recent immigrants, Luigi hadn't believed anyone would care about his brother's murder but Jeff had done a number of pieces on Fredo's death which resulted in a witness coming forward and providing the information the police needed to catch and convict his killer.

Michael sat across from him and smiled. He really had a lovely smile, sweet and diffident usually, as if he wasn't quite sure how he'd be received but hopeful nonetheless. Not that he had anything to worry about, Jeff was always glad to see him. "Hey."

"Glad you could make it," replied the reporter.

"Traffic was a bear. Plus, I got hung up at the store. Cashier went into labor. Everyone was looking at me like I know something about babies or pussy. Not."

Jeff chuckled. "That's why I love seeing you. You always make me laugh."

"We gonna go back to your place after this?"

"You want to?"

"Yeah," Michael replied, his tone of voice implying that Jeff was stupid for even asking.

Pouring Michael a glass of wine and laughing, the motion giving him a little while longer to figure out a way to approach the topic of conversation, Jeff decided to take the most direct route. "Listen, I saw that picture in the papers."

"Of Brian and Justin? Yeah, that was too much. Brian was pissed." And that was an understatement.

"I bet."

"Least you haven't gotten involved in all that shit," Michael said feeling just a little smug because he'd told Brian that Jeff wasn't like that, he wouldn't take advantage of their relationship. 'He has integrity,' he'd told his friend.

He hadn't gotten involved yet. "Michael..."


"I know Brian and Justin can't talk to the press but I was thinking maybe I could do a piece on them, maybe talk to some of their friends who aren't testifying. Maybe talk to you," he said and took a sip of wine.

"Me?" Michael almost choked. He put down his glass. "Are you crazy?"

Time to break it down. "Look, the straight press is doing a hatchet job on Brian. It would really help public opinion if the other side of the story was told. Especially by someone who was there. Like you and Em and Ted."

"Forget it. First of all, I have to keep a low profile because of work and second of all, Brian would freak."

"But it could help him."


Not wanting to complicate matters but aware of the fact that the situation was anything but simple, Jeff asked, "Are you sure this is about how Brian would feel or it is it because you're afraid to come out of the closet?"

"Fuck you." Michael started to rise but Jeff caught his hand.

"Wait. Michael, I don't understand."

"If I come out at work, my job would be for shit."

"But you're the manager."

"Yeah, and there's a district manager over me. My old boss. You think he'd like to find out that I lied to him on the local news?" He thought of the party the Barbarosas had thrown where Michael had let everyone think that he and Tracy were an item in order to get a promotion, knowing how family-oriented Bob was, knowing that he and Tracy presented a pretty picture of heterosexual bliss.

"Then come clean and deal with it."

"That's easy for you to say."

"You think so? It hasn't been easy for me." And it hadn't. Everything he had, the awards, the prestige, the respect of the other journalists in the area, he'd earned. "But I'm good at what I do. So are you. You could deal with this."

"I don't want to. And neither does Ted. And I don't care what you think, Brian would hate it. He'd never forgive me if I went on TV and told the world about him and Justin."

"It's out there already. At least this way they'd get a fair shot at the truth being told."

Michael picked up a menu, not really hungry, not really caring what the place offered, just wanting something to do with his hands. "No. I'm not doing it. So drop it."

For a moment Jeff was almost amused. Did Michael think that was the end of it? "What if I told you that I'm doing it anyway. With or without your help?"

"How?" He put down the menu, stunned into inaction.

"You're not the only ones who've been around them. There are enough gay guys in the community who are pissed as hell about what's happened. They'd talk. Tell what they know. Brian and Justin haven't exactly been discreet. A lot of people know them, know about them, have seen them together. And they wouldn't see it as a betrayal. They'd see it as helping them. As helping all of us. And it would be."

Michael couldn't believe what he was hearing. "So you're going to do it?"

"I'm seriously thinking about it." He tried to explain. "Michael, this isn't just about Brian and Justin or you. It's about making the world understand that we're not expendable."

He rose. "Fine. Do what you want." He walked away even as Jeff tossed some money on the table and followed.


They stood out in the street by Michael's car. "This totally sucks."

"I'm a reporter."

"Brian was right all along. He knew you'd do something like this. 'Don't be naive, Mikey.' That's what he said and I defended you!"

"I'm not trying to hurt them. Or you."

"Then don't do this." God, how many times was he going to have to put Brian's needs before his own? How much more was Brian's relationship with Justin going to cost him?

"I'm sorry. I've got a job to do."

Michael opened the door to the Miata and said without looking at Jeff, "Have a good life." Got inside and started the engine.

There was nothing Jeff could do but watch him drive away. It was over between them. Before it had even gotten started really.

Saturday, November 10, 2001

The last time that they'd all gathered in the loft was to help Justin move in. Now, less than two days before the trial was scheduled to begin, they had come together once more, this time to offer comfort, bringing food to the two lovers who'd been sequestered in the apartment all day, hiding from the army of reporters outside. Their friends and family had had to virtually fight their way pass the media and Gus had been so upset by the cameras and the yelling people that it'd taken Brian five minutes to calm him down and stop him from crying. Even now he sniffled a little, his head on his Da da's shoulder, one hand entwined in Brian's hair.

Justin was in the kitchen helping his mom and Deb with dinner. Nothing fancy, just pasta in a red sauce but when you were serving it for fourteen, the proportions alone posed a slight logistical problem. While the trio cooked and the rest of the guests sprawled out in the living room talking and half paying attention to the DVD that was playing, Brian carried Gus into the bedroom and sat on the bed holding him in his arms, stroking the baby's hair, hair that was nearly the same shade of brown as his own. And he thought about the people who were missing from the gathering: Craig, Joanie, Claire... At that moment Justin's little sister, Molly, entered the room shyly. He raised his eyebrows, curious and bemused. During the dinner he and Justin had hosted for Jenn and Molly, the little girl had sat quietly at the table, looking mostly at her mom or her big brother and every now and again Brian had caught her sneaking at peek at him. But not being very good with kids, he hadn't attempted to draw her out. Now, she slowly neared the bed, the lure of a baby too great to resist. At first, she just stood a few feet away from them and stared at the baby and then, moving closer, she asked, "What's his name again?"

"Gus," said Brian not believing for an instant that she'd forgotten, and he smiled as the baby, hearing his name and another person in the room, raised his head and looked around. "Hey, Gus, look who's here. It's Molly." The little girl looked surprised, as if she hadn't expected him to remember her name. Brian put Gus down on the bed and the baby immediately focused his attention on Molly. Held out his hand. She hesitated. "Go on," Brian urged and she came forward and took Gus' hand. The baby giggled and drew it away. Then offered it again. Justin had taught him that game. Again Molly reached for his hand and again he pulled away and laughed. "He never gets tired of that."

"Could I play with him?" she asked.

Not even two-years-old and he already drives women wild. "Come on." Brian carried Gus into the niche where the chaise lounge was and put him on the floor. Retrieved the baby's toys from the bag near Lindsay's feet and left the two children on their own. Pretty soon the little girl and the baby were laughing up a storm and Molly was pushing Gus on his fire truck.

Abandoning his mom and Deb momentarily, Justin snuggled up to Brian and gave him a kiss. "What's that for?" he asked.

"For being the best Da da there is."

"Well..." admitted Brian, "I'm at least in the top ten."

"Remind me to give you your reward after everyone leaves."

"What if I get them to go now?"

"Later. Remember, you lost the bet."

Brian grimaced and swatted Justin on the rear as he returned to the kitchen. Then he smiled because he'd actually enjoyed losing. Who would have thought Justin not only knew twenty ways to please his older man, he knew ways in excess of that number. Brian caught Mel looking at him. "What?"

"Brian Kinney, domesticated. I never thought I would see the day."

"You still haven't," he explained.


He had also noticed that Xavier had followed his and Justin's exchange quite closely. It didn't matter. So far Xavier had managed to keep his feelings for Justin from interfering with their friendship which was all Brian asked. Hell, if he'd put up with Mikey's feelings for him for all these years, he certainly couldn't be bothered by Xavier's for Justin's. Especially since he knew Justin had about as much intention of granting Xavier's wish as he had of granting Mikey's: none.

Eventually the sound of Molly and Gus playing proved too great a temptation and the three teenagers joined the children much to the amusement of the adults. While the sauce cooked, Deb and Jenn rejoined the others in the livingroom where Emmett was regaling them with a tale about the boys' trip to New York to get Justin.

"And, I swear," he said, "Brian reached into the back and grabbed Justin's coat and tried to pull him into the front seat so he could throw him from the car."

"I told you, I hate 'People'. And I'm not too fond of 'Woman in Love' either."

"I wonder why?" asked Mel.

"That trip, that's when I first knew," began Em.

"Knew what, oh Wise and Fashionable One?" Ted asked.

"That Brian cared about Justin. Because if he hadn't, no way would he have gone to New York to find him. He would have cancelled his card and waited for Justin to show up again in Pittsburgh. But he didn't. He drove sixteen hours to find him and bring him home."

"Apparently the course of true love runs down the Pennsylvania Turnpike," said Ted dryly.

"Is the food done yet?" asked Brian. "Because I don't want to heave on an empty stomach."

Lindz nudged him with her knee; he was sitting on the floor at her feet. "Admit it, it was true love."

"It was love at first sight," Mikey added.

"No way," Brian argued.

But Michael held his ground. "You should have seen your face when the Boy Wonder first showed up outside of Babylon. You looked like you had just seen, I don't know, the burning bush or something." Brian shook his head. "You stopped right in the middle of getting into the Jeep and just stared at Justin, like you had never seen anyone like him before."

And he hadn't. Even if he'd never admit it to them, he couldn't deny it to himself. He'd been floored by the teen. The combination of beauty and innocence had been an irresistible force. And the way the light had shone on Justin, he hadn't been unaware of how silly it kind of was, like something out of a Hollywood musical, but it had seemed appropriate somehow, that they should meet like that.

"They were like Romeo and Juliet," explained Em.

Ted revised that. "More like Romeo and Romeo."

"Tybalt," offered Lindz. "The Prince of Cats." More than one person had remarked on Brian's feline characteristics.

"Uh-uh. Mercutio," added Mel. "He must have been on drugs, all that talk about Queen Mab and the moon. Sound like anyone we know?" Brian flipped her the bird.

"I've always thought Mercutio was gay," said Vic, "and in love with Romeo."

"They did that in the new movie, the one with Leo. You could tell Mercutio was gay," Michael said.

"He was dressed as a fairy," said Ted. "Not exactly subtle."

"I liked that film," Brian commented. "We watched it in the Bahamas. Well, Justin watched it while I was asleep. We did go see Moulin Rouge though."

At that the teenagers and the two kids returned to the living room. Justin handed Gus to Brian and sat down next to him. "What are you talking about?"

"I was saying that Brian fell in love with you from the moment he first saw you," Michael repeated for Justin's benefit. The boy looked shocked.

"But you told me it didn't mean anything. Remember? In the diner? You told me to forget about Brian."

"Because I figured he'd only hurt you. Just because he was in love with you didn't mean he was going to do the right thing. Besides, I didn't figure it out right away." He paused. "Neither did he."

"So when did you know?" Em asked Brian, the only person in the room who would dare ask him that.

And instead of answering that he didn't know, which was what they all expected--meaning, it's none of your fuckin' business--he said, "I was watching him walk away in the parking garage after the prom. He had my white scarf around his neck and he was the only bright thing in there. I was looking at him in the side mirror and I suddenly realized that I loved him," he finished softly a gentle smile on his face. Justin slid his hand into Brian's free one.

Xavier caught Rennie's eye momentarily, then looked down at his hands. What chance did he have in the face of that?

There was silence in the room as if they'd all been ensorcelled by his confession. And then Jenn got up to check the sauce, breaking the spell.

After dinner was over and the dishwasher loaded, people began to say goodnight. Jenn, Mel, and Lindz were the first to go as they had sleepy kids to put to bed. Brian held Gus for a few moments, the baby's soft cheek against his face, before giving him a gentle kiss and handing him to Mel. Drowsily Gus said, "Da da," and wiggled his fingers in imitation of someone saying good-bye. Even Molly waved shyly as she and her mom left and Jenn, for the first time since Brian and Justin had gotten together, actually touched him, squeezing his arm and saying, "Take care."

Deb and Vic took the two coeds with them and Rennie and Xavier both promised to be in court when Justin testified. "Least we'll get out of LaGrange's boring lecture for a couple days," said Rennie. And she too waved at Brian. "Bye, Brian."

Knowing how much she lusted after him, he grinned and gave her a peck on the cheek. "Bye, sweetie," he said, 'darling' being reserved for his other love, Daphne.

Justin tugged on the back of his sweater. "Would you behave?"

The guys, as usual, were the last to go. When Ted heard that Em and Michael both were attending to the trial, he gave in as well. "What the hell. Maybe if guys think I'm gay, I'd get more action."

Having noticed that Michael seemed a little down all of a sudden, Brian pulled him aside. "You okay?"


"You meeting Jeff later?"


Brian gazed into his eyes. "What happened?"

"We broke up."

"Because of the trial."

"No," replied Michael. "Because we really weren't compatible. We wanted different things." Yeah, he wanted me to come out at work and I wanted to stay employed.

"I'm sorry, Mikey."

Shrugging, Michael smiled softly and squeezed Brian's arm before joining Em and Ted. "See ya."

"Yeah." Watching him go, Brian felt a twinge of guilt and sadness. It didn't seem fair somehow that he should be happy and Mikey not be. But there was nothing he could do about it, no sacrifice he could make this time for Mikey's sake. More than ever, he felt the distance between them increase and he wondered if a time would come when they were so far apart that they lost sight of one another, and he wondered what he would do when it happened.

Finally, everyone was gone and they were alone at last. Curling up on the couch, they didn't even pretend to miss their friends and family. "My my, isn't this cozy?" Justin asked and Brian laughed and squeezed him tight. Tomorrow they'd have all to themselves, their last day alone before the trial.

Justin smiled and said, "Later," Backed away facing Brian and then as the man got inside the Jeep, he turned and headed back to the prom. He couldn't believe what had just happened. Couldn't believe that Brian had shown up at the prom and danced with him in front of all of the kids from St. James. And then, at the end of the song, Brian had twirled him around in his arms and kissed him. He'd never forget that for as long as he lived, the feeling of flying through the air, being held off the floor in Brian's strong grip, and then the touch of his lips, so soft...

He had around his neck the white scarf Brian had worn, could smell Brian's scent on it, faint, intoxicating. This was the happiest night of his life and it wasn't over yet. He was going to drop Daphne at home and head over to the--

Pain. Something struck him in the back of the head and he crumpled to the ground in agony. He could hardly see and everything looked black and then he realized that he was looking at the asphalt. His body jerked and he half turned over, just in time to see Chris Hobbs standing over him. With a baseball bat in his hands. Justin could see a smear on the end of the bat. Red. His blood. But where was Brian? Why wasn't he here? And then Chris Hobbs mouthed something, he could barely hear it, but he could read his lips: "Faggot." And then the bat descended again and there was nothing more.

The cry woke him and his heart began pounding. Justin was lying on his back, thrashing about, sweat glistening on his face and torso. Brian took hold of his shoulder and shook him. "Justin. Baby, wake up. Justin. Justin, you're dreaming, wake up." The teen's eyes flew open and he moaned and pulled away from Brian. "Baby..."

"You weren't there!" Justin exclaimed. "You weren't there," he repeated even though it had made no sense, it was so confusing because... because... He couldn't think and everything was so hazy.

"Where, baby?"

"You let him hurt me," he accused and then belatedly he realized that it had been a dream, but the harm had been done; he saw the pain dull Brian's eyes. Yet he could do nothing for him because his own pain was so great, so deep that he moaned and covered his face mumbling, "I'm sorry," aware of its inadequacy, aware and nonetheless helpless to say anything more.

But Brian took his hands away from his face and kissed them and kissed his face and lips and wouldn't let go of him; and Justin wept because Brian understood, he understood and forgave him and led him back to the present, away from that darkened parking garage and into the light where love waited to heal him.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

The nightmare, although hours in the past, cast a pall over brunch. Despite his actions, his comforting of Justin, Brian seemed unable to drag himself out from under the deep funk that had settled upon him that morning and refused to lift. Silently the teen cursed himself although how could he have prevented the nightmare? It had been unfortunate, that's all, and he wished he could convince Brian of that but he was insisting upon reading more into the dream, believing that it was Justin's unconscious mind projecting the boy's hidden feelings, that he, in fact, did blame Brian for his attack, for not preventing it. Brian had spoken none of his fears aloud but Justin could tell what he was thinking and feeling by the way the man refused to look at him directly, in the way that he had avoided touching Justin overly much as they had prepared their meal, in the silence that he wrapped around himself like a blanket.

Finally Justin couldn't take anymore. "Brian." The man looked up, his eyes not quite meeting the teen's eyes. "We only have one day left. I don't want to waste it." He walked around the table and held out his hand. When Brian didn't take it, Justin lowered his head and kissed his lover upon the cheek, then bushed his lips along his jaw line until Brian turned his head and their mouths met. Sliding onto Brian's lap, Justin embraced him and felt Brian's arms tighten around him in return. He bussed Brian's neck and nipped him lightly, his blue eyes sparkling at the look of surprise on Brian's face. "How many times do I have to tell you that I love you before you believe me?"

Brian flushed with shame. "It's not that..." he began.

"When I woke up in the hospital and you weren't there, the first thing I thought was that he'd gotten you too, that somehow he'd hurt you. Or worse. Even after my mom said you were all right, I didn't believe it until I saw you for myself. It took a long time for me to realize that she was wrong. You weren't all right. I wasn't the only one who got hurt that night." Brian looked away. "I know what it did to you. I understand."

Still not facing Justin, Brian said, "I don't know what I would have done without you."

"You don't ever have to find out either. Because I'm here and I'm always gonna be here. I promise."

"Don't. You don't know--"

"I do know," Justin said without any trace of doubt in his voice. "I've always known that where I belonged was with you."

"How could you know, Justin?"

He smiled. "I just did. Even if we had never met, I would have always had this yearning inside of me. For you."

Brian snickered. "That's silly."

But Justin was serious. "I would never have been content with my life. Never happy. You wouldn't have been either. You weren't even happy when I met you."

"Says who?"

"Says me. I could tell. And you know why?"

"Because we weren't together," Brian answered like a good pupil.


"I think you've been smoking one of my doobies."

Justin kissed Brian on the nose. "I believe we were meant to be together. No matter what."

"That's it. No more soaps for you." The teen had watched them with interest on Tuesday prompting Brian to tease him about turning into the perfect housewife.

Sliding from Brian's lap, Justin held out his hand once more and this time Brian took it. There had never been any other choice.

Monday, November 12, 2001

Waking at dawn, Brian held Justin against his chest and watched the sunlight fill the loft, Justin's features gradually coming into focus as the room was illuminated. He could feel the teenager's heart racing as if by beating fast enough it could outrun the day. Tenderly, he ran his thumb down his spine, not in a carnal way, just to soothe, to comfort, to reassure the boy that he was there.

The day had come at last and there was no holding back the dawn, it had come already and in two hours they would be seated at the courthouse waiting while Keisha and the defense attorney questioned potential jurors. In two hours a process would begin that would ultimately decide Chris Hobbs' fate and perhaps their own.

They showered together and shaved at the sink together, hips and arms bumping, prompting Brian again to think about adding a second sink to the vanity which would mean having the plumber come in and redo the pipes and replace the vanity. He and Justin had been talking about a major redecorating project but there hadn't been time really to look at options. He was all for hiring someone to redo the apartment--after all, he'd hired someone to decorate it in the first place--but Justin argued that it'd be more fun (i.e. work and aggravation) if they did it themselves. But so far they hadn't looked at one paint swatch or single solitary piece of furniture. He'd even thought mentioning the Marforth Showroom would be incentive for Justin to agree to hiring a designer since the Marforth was for trade only, you had to have a designer and be pre-approved before they'd even let you in the door. That was exactly Brian's idea of how to do things but Justin balked at the plan wanting 'to do it together.' Brian pointed out that they would 'be together' but the teen held out and he agreed to try it Justin's way once the trial was over. In the meanwhile, they'd just have to share the single sink. Not that Brian minded bumping hips with Justin.

Taking one last look at Justin's attire before they left the loft, Brian pronounced that the teen looked honest and sincere in his navy blue suit that his mom had bought him a year ago. "I, on the other hand," Brian announced, "look fabulous." Just as they were about to walk out the door, Brian noticed Justin hesitate. He cupped the boy's chin and kissed him softly. "Have I told you that I think you're the hottest, sexiest, smartest, bravest, strongest little twinkie I know?"

"Don't call me a twinkie," Justin said but he smiled when he said it because Brian's words made him feel all warm inside.

Brian gave him another kiss and tugged on his sleeve. "Move it. Keisha'll be looking for us pretty soon."

Amazingly there were only a few reporters outside when they exited the building, all shouting for a quote.

"Well, it's not like they don't know where we're going," Brian said once they were inside the cab. They'd decided it would be better to arrive in a taxi than to drive and have to park and then walk a couple of blocks. This way they could pull up, get out, and get inside with the least amount of hassle. Brian dreaded walking into the courthouse. Not only would the press be there but the gay rights demonstrators would be out in full force, as well as the hate crime legislation proponents, the anti-hate crime legislation proponents, the anti-gay groups, and the nut jobs that habitually showed up whenever there was a high-profile trial. All trying to get a piece of them. Keisha had directed them to the back entrance where she'd be waiting, hoping that most of the reporters and demonstrators would be around the front but there was no guarantee that they wouldn't be met by a couple hundred people as they tried to get inside.

The cab driver gave them a look but said nothing as he drove them downtown. Brian could tell he knew who they were and didn't approve of them at all. Well, fuck him, he thought and he set about ignoring the furtive glances the man cast at them through the rearview mirror. What did he think? That they were going to go at it right there in the back of the cab on the way to court? Maybe they should have taken Mel up on her offer to drive them but he hadn't wanted to put any of their friends through any more hassle than was necessary. Noticing the man's scrutiny, Justin had moved away from him a little but Brian, giving into the hot pulse of anger that surged through him, reached for Justin's hand and held it until they neared the courthouse. Taking out his wallet, he paid the driver, even gave him a decent tip, wanting to make sure the guy didn't do something stupid in front of the press. Which he could see a block away. Along with a long line of demonstrators carrying signs.

"Shit," Justin whispered. "Are you sure this is the back?"

"Yeah," replied Brian. "The Ross Street entrance. That's what she said."

"Maybe we should have gone around front."

"Probably isn't any better. I'm sure they've got both sides covered." Taking a deep breath, he risked touching Justin's face, just for a moment, and then the cab pulled up to the sidewalk and the race was on.

Justin knew they had been spotted when one group of demonstrators began chanting, "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Homophobia's got to go!" in remembrance of the rally Senator Baxter had attended at St. James in support of the Gay Straight Student Alliance. A number of the demonstrators were carrying signs in support of the hate crimes legislation currently being considered in the House. Brian figured they were probably from the Center for Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights or from SPARC, the Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition. There were also members of PFLAG-Pittsburgh in the crowd but not Debbie. Just this once. And the Rainbow Alliance at U Pittsburgh, CMU's Allies, and Pittsburgh Out. The teen spotted a couple of religious organizations including Integrity which was a group for gay, lesbian, and transgendered Episcopalians. But they weren't the only ones.

The ad exec noted the first of the anti-gay signs just as they were exiting the cab and he wanted more than anything to shield Justin from them but he couldn't. "Homosexuality is a disease--Wipe it out," one of the signs read. Another said, "Christian Hobbs--Doing the Lord's Work;" and still another, "No Tears for Queers." In an instant he felt lightheaded with anger and he wanted to strike out at someone, at anyone who got too close to him and his baby. Justin looked up at him and spoke his name softly and he suppressed the impulse, put his arm around the teen's waist, and pushed through the crowd, ignoring as best he could the chanting, the shouting, the reporters yelling to be heard, just wanting to get Justin inside and away from the insanity. Only, instead of cringing, Justin seemed to stand taller, eyes straight ahead, head held high, and Brian found himself smiling grimly, proud of his baby for being better than any of those assholes. As they passed through the entrance of the courthouse, Brian felt someone grab his arm and he whipped around, ready to fight, terrified that they were after Justin. But it was only a teenager holding out a card with a rainbow on it. Although the boy's reasons might have been pure, Brian wasn't about to take any chances, especially with all of the rumors and rumors of rumors regarding Anthrax and everything else these days, it was best not to take anything from anyone, no matter how innocent the messenger appeared to be. Disregarding the proffered gift, Brian continued through the door.

Keisha met them inside. "Well, congratulations. You didn't get arrested," she told Brian.

"Is it going to be like that every day?" Justin asked, the tremble in his voice betraying the fact that he had been shaken a little by the mob scene outside despite the brave front he had put on for the public.

"Worse," she said. "Especially after the jury selection is over and we start presenting our case."

He glanced towards the door, then looked back at Brian who ran a hand down his arm and encircled his wrist lightly.

"Come on, let's get you settled in."

They followed her up to her office and took seats in a pair of uncomfortable chairs. Brian grumbled, "I don't know why we have to be here anyway. If it's gonna take three days to get a jury, and you don't want us in the courtroom, what's the point of us coming down here?"

"Because Chris Hobbs is going to be here and I don't want anybody forgetting about Justin."

"I don't think you have to worry about that. We're on the front page of every fucking newspaper in the city and on the news every night. If anything, people ought to be sick of us."

She understood his real complaint. "I know it's a hassle, I know it's unfair, I know it's interfering with your lives, but this has to be done. Just be glad that Justin's alive and able to come to court."

Brian's eyes flashed. "Don't you fucking try to guilt trip me."

"Brian--" Justin began and then fell silent because he'd felt a twinge of anger himself at her choice of words. Hadn't he just spent most of yesterday convincing Brian that he had no reason to feel guilty? And here she was threatening to undo all of his work.

Aware that she'd gone too far, Keisha retreated a little. "I didn't mean it that way." She dropped it. "You want some coffee, donut, Danish, something like that?" At the word Danish Justin's face lit up and she laughed. "I'll see what I can find. We've got about a half hour before I have to be in court." Leaving them, she went in search of pastries.

Rubbing his lower face, Brian shook his head. "Sorry."

"For what? She had no right."

Brian reached for him and entwined his fingers with Justin's. "Did I mention you were the creamiest little twinkie too?"

"Fuck you," Justin mouthed, afraid someone would hear him even though the door was shut.

Grinning, Brian stuck his tongue in his cheek, then slowly let it appear between his lips. Flicked the tip.

And with each acrobatic move of Brian's tongue, Justin felt his cock twitch. God, he couldn't wait until this day was over.

Keisha returned not soon after she'd left carrying a plate with three cream cheese Danishes on it. She also brought two mugs and pointed to the coffee maker in the corner. It was half filled. "Help yourself. There's cream and sugar in the fridge," she said, meaning the small refrigerator upon which the coffee maker sat. Gathering her trial notebook and a couple of pencils, she paused, giving them the once over. "Stay in the office. I don't care if you hear the fire alarm, you'd better call me first before you evacuate the building."

"Do we have your cell phone number or should we just send smoke signals?" Brian asked and Keisha grinned despite herself. He was quick.

"Just be on your toes."

They watched her leave, looking rather natty in a grey on grey pinstriped suit. As she sauntered out of the office, Justin said to Brian, "I never realized it but she kind of looks like Angela Bassett. In Strange Days."

Brian, who had watched the film with Justin, added, "Let's hope she can kick ass like Mace."

Justin thought about it. "I bet she could beat Mace."

Having gone up against her during their intense session and come out barely alive, Brian decided that was one bet he wouldn't touch. Too close to call.

Standing behind the Prosecution's table, Keisha waited while the Sheriff's Deputy brought in the panel of prospective jury members and seated them in the courtroom. Normally there were about thirty to forty-five people called at once but because of the nature of the trial, one hundred persons had been called. The Clerk of Courts declared that the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas was in session, the Honorable Judge Leonard Kramer presiding.

Judge Kramer spoke. "This is the time set for the trial by jury of the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Christian Hobbs. The court notes the presence of the defendant, defense counsel, and counsel for the Commonwealth. Is the prosecution ready to proceed with the trial?"

Keisha stood. "The prosecution is ready, Your Honor." Sat.

"Is the defendant ready to proceed?"

To which Mason stood and replied, "Ready, Your Honor."

Taking over, the Clerk proceeded to swear in the jurors. "Will all the prospective jurors seated in the courtroom please stand and be sworn." Once the juors had gotten to their feet, he continued. "Do you solemnly swear by Almighty God or do declare or affirm that you will answer truthfully all questions that may be put to you concerning your qualifications for service as a juror?" All of the jurors answered in the affirmative. "You may be seated."

"Ladies and gentlemen," began Judge Kramer, "although each of you were asked to fill out a questionnaire prior to coming in this morning you may be asked to repeat that information today in court. In addition, you will be asked a number of other questions. These questions are not designed to pry into your personal life or to cast judgement or aspersion upon your intellect or integrity. They are asked in order to assure each party that the jury will be fair and impartial." Turning to the two counsels, Kramer asked that they introduce themselves and read their list of potential witnesses.

Keisha greeted the prospective jurors. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Keisha Thomas and I'm an Assistant District Attorney with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office." To Judge Kramer, she said, "If it pleases the Court, Your Honor, I'd like to read the list of potential witnesses for the prosecution." At his nod, she read the list. "Justin Taylor, Lane Jenkins, Jordan McLachlan, Max Freiberg, Debbie Novotny, Brian Kinney, Daphne Chanders, Charles Martin, Lauren Holt, Tabitha Brown, Gordan Grant, Officer Paul Trumball, Officer Leo Webb, Jean Quinn, Sarah DeGeneres, Dr. John Gates, and Dr. Franklin Winchell."

After she had finished and sat down, the defense attorney stood with Chris. "Good morning, everyone, my name is Raymond Mason and I'm the counsel for the defendant, Christian Hobbs."

Chris, trying to wipe the sullen look from his face, stood and said, "Good morning," and then sat down.

Mason addressed the bench. "If it pleases the court, I'll read the list of potential witnesses for the defense." Securing the judge's go-ahead, Mason read, "Christian Hobbs, Matthew Lewis, Lisa Monroe, Bailey Dixon, Dr. Lawrence Perkins, Rev. James Collier, and Coach Mark Smithers."

The lists of witnesses read, Judge Kramer instructed the Clerk to call sixteen names from the prospective jurors. The Clerk read the requested number of names and each of the summoned persons came forward to take their seats in the jury box in order, beginning with the first seat closest to the prosecution. As the jurors were called, Keisha filled in a seating chart with their names and then quickly pulled the questionnaires of the sixteen jurors and went over their information noting any jurors whose answers might mark them for dismissal.

And now, she thought the fun really begins.

In Shadow or In Light, Part Two

Heels Over Head | Stories