Pulling up to the curb outside of Mel and Lindsay's place, Brian could see that their car was gone but enough lights were on inside the house to make him believe that either one of them was home or they'd all gone out together on a quick errand. He hoped Lindsay was home as he'd driven all the way over here to see his son and he didn't want to leave without seeing Gus but he didn't want to have to deal with Mel either. Despite his best efforts, which even he admitted weren't stellar, he and Mel just couldn't seem to get along. Especially now that they all shared something, someone who, for better or worse, bound them together for the rest of their lives: Gus. When he'd agreed to father Lindsay's child three years ago, he hadn't counted on falling in love with his son but he had. Not only that but Gus loved him as well. He didn't think he'd be winning any Father of the Year awards anytime soon but, inexplicably, he'd become a good father. Least a lot better than his old man had been, no great feat to be sure, but it would have been easy for him to follow the patterns set by Jack Kinney. Maybe it wouldn't have since neither Mel nor Lindsay would have allowed him to treat Gus the way he'd been treated as a child. They would have kicked his ass up and down Liberty Avenue.

With his latest Gus purchase in hand, Brian sauntered up the sidewalk to the front door and knocked. Glimpsing a blonde head through the window, he breathed a little easier. Lindsay. "What took you so long?" he asked, as she opened the door. "I know you weren't in there going down on Sme—you're not Lindsay."

A bright smile greeted his faux pas. "I hope not. I wouldn't know what to do with pussy."

His comment surprised a laugh out of Brian. Before he could respond any further, however, Gus came running to the door from upstairs.


Brian caught the little boy up in his arms and kissed him. "What's that on your head?" Gus had the hood of one of his jackets over his head while the rest of the jacket hung down over his back.

"I'm a pooper hero!"

"Well, you do produce a lot of poop."

Gus beat on Brian's shoulder. "Put me down." When Brian did so, Gus ran around in a circle making whooshing sounds, with his arms out so that the jacket flapped behind him, like a cape.

Brian got it. "You mean you're a super hero, Gus."

"Oh, yeah. Say, hi, Daddy."

"Hi," said Brian to no one in particular.

Gus giggled. "To Justin, Daddy."

"Hi, Justin," Brian said, hazel eyes studying the babysitter as if he were memorizing every feature of his face.

"Hi," the teen said, suddenly shy which made Brian realize that he was staring. Most of the time he wasn't aware that he was doing it. His friends had told him that one of the most daunting experiences any one could have was to be on the receiving end of one of his infamous Brian Kinney stares, benevolent or otherwise.

Releasing Justin from his gaze, he handed Gus the present he'd brought him and the toddler dashed into the living room to unwrap it, his superhero cape falling to the floor. Picking it up, Brian, accompanied by the babysitter, followed. "I haven't seen you around before."

"Guess we just missed each other."

"Guess." Brian shifted his attention to Gus and watched as his son opened the unwrapped box and took out a radio controlled car.

Gus' eyes grew large and he begged his daddy to show him how to operate it. Once he'd gotten the hang of it, he began sending the car all throughout the lower level of the house.

"Looks like you'll be the hero around here, at least for a few days."

"Yeah," agreed Brian, "that's about the shelf life of Gus' interest in most of his toys."

"I saw the leather bear; you give him that?"

"Guilty as charged." Brian chuckled. "I thought Mel's head would explode."

"He loves it."

"Well…" He looked away and watched Gus for a while. Then asked, "So where are the Mommies?"

"Board meeting."

"Christ. The Gay Losers Center."

"Hey!" scolded Justin with a laugh. "I like the Gay and Lesbian Center. It's a good place to hang out, especially if you don't have a lot of other gay friends."

"It's for losers."

"I go there a lot."

"You don't have to," Brian told him and the teen blushed. "So what does your boyfriend say about you spending all that time at the GLC?"

The rose color in Justin's cheeks deepened. "I don't have a boyfriend."

"You could have." He couldn't resist adding, "Especially if you stopped hanging around Losers Anonymous."

"And do what? I'm too young to go to bars or clubs."

"Please," Brian snorted. "Let me see your fake ID. I know you have one." Justin shook his head. "No?" He waited and when Justin didn't offer up an ID, said, "You really are a baby."

"I’m not a baby," Justin said, vehemently. "I'll be eighteen soon."

"A baby who can shave."

"And I'll be graduating—"

"A baby with a diploma."

"And going to college."

"A baby with ambitions."

Crossing his arms, Justin huffed. "I can see why Mel calls you an asshole."

"Well, she lacks creativity. I've been called worse," he said proudly.

"You're something else," said Justin with a slight smile.

Gus returned with his car, tired of playing for the moment. "Can I have a cookie?" he asked and Justin got up and gave him one out of a jar.

"But just one and then you're going to take your bath and get ready for bed. Okay?"

"Milk," said Gus, nodding his head, whether in acknowledgement of Justin's orders or the need for liquid, the adults didn't know. In any case, Justin got him a short glass of milk which he finished after devouring his cookie.

"Good luck getting him to sleep after that."

"It's a low sugar cookie and he won't be going to bed for, at least, another hour," Justin informed Brian.

"What did you do? Write the babysitter's manual?"

Ignoring him, Justin said, "All right, bath time."

"Daddy, stay?"

"I should get going, Gus." He'd dropped by early so he'd have plenty of time to hit Woody's and then Babylon afterwards.

"Stay." Of course, Gus turned those big hazel eyes on his daddy, much the same way his daddy did when he wanted to get his own way. With much the same results.

Sighing, Brian agreed. "But I'm not bathing you. The last time I helped you with your bath, you got water all over my new silk shirt."

"Who bathes a three-year-old wearing a silk shirt?" asked Justin.

"No one, which is why you're bathing him and I'm sitting out here and reading a magazine," replied Brian, picking up the latest issue of Cosmo and crossing his legs. Idly, as he opened it, he wondered just what straight women could teach him about giving blow jobs.

One bath, one game of Super Heroes, and two stories later, Gus was ready for bed. Fussing only as long as it took for his eyes to shut, he fell fast asleep, his leather bear by his side to keep away the bad dreams. Turning off the lights and pulling the door to a bit, Brian went downstairs where Justin was busy cleaning up. Coming down the steps, he was presented with the sight of Justin's upturned, chino clad ass as he bent over to pick up Gus' new car. Always appreciative of a nice derriere, Brian smiled slightly imagining the teen naked and spread across his bed, pink hole nestled between plump cheeks. A low growl curled up in Brian's throat.

Standing upright, Justin tossed the last of Gus' toys into his downstairs toy box. "He asleep?"

Brian plopped down on the couch. "You think I could have gotten away otherwise?"

"Point taken." Although there was plenty of room on the couch, Justin slid back into an armchair.

"So, do you live in the neighborhood?" Brian almost did a double take. Who the fuck had taken over his body? Like he'd ever given a shit about Gus' babysitters. He didn't think he'd actually met one of Gus' babysitters before.

"Out in the 'burbs."

"How'd you meet—oh, the GLC."

"I went to one of their art shows," he explained.

"Sorry." Brian completely commiserated with anyone who had to endure an evening at one of the GLC's parodies of an art show. If there was anything worse than the "art" on display, it was the watered down liquor, inferior wine, and cardboard hors d'oeuvres.

"I like art."

"I don't think vagina statues count as art."

"A critic."

"No, I just know what I like."

"How do you know what kind of stuff they show at the Gay Losers Club if you aren't a member?" Justin asked smugly.

Ouch. The kid was sharp. "Lindsay made me go once or twice," he admitted shamefacedly.

"I really can't see you doing anything you don't want to do."

"You, obviously, haven't been around a lot of dykes. She talked me into having a kid with her, believe me, she barely broke a sweat blackmailing me into attending a GLC art show."

"Ever buy anything?"

"I write the checks and she picks out whatever the hell she wants and hangs it wherever the fuck she wants."

"You two sound really close. So why don't you and Mel get along?"

"Who are you? Doogie Howser, Licensed Therapist?"

"Just killing time. You don't have to stay," Justin told him, reaching for his backpack which was lying next to the chair, having been dropped there earlier. "I can read or watch TV or something."

Smirking, Brian asked, "Have you done your homework?"

"Fuck you," said Justin, amazed at the man's gall.

"Too young. I'm not into chicken." He got up and grabbed his jacket. "Well, tell the Munchers I stopped by and did my obligatory Daddy duty for the week."

"I'm sure I won't have to. The scent of asshole will linger in the air long after you're gone."

Brian laughed. "Definitely gay. Fixated on assholes." Pausing at the door, he called out, "Later, Baby."

Justin flipped him the bird, then chuckled.

One of the benefits of owning your own business was taking off work at five instead of seven or eight and just loafing around town, no destination in mind, no desire to do anything in particular. Since he'd found himself on Liberty Avenue, he figured he'd drop in at the diner and let Deb rib him for a while before the other guys showed up as they invariably would. Not that he was anxious to consume another heartburn inducing meal at the diner but it was marginally better to have dinner with friends than to eat takeout alone in the loft. He could have invited them back to the loft but there was no point in encouraging Theodore and Emmett in being any friendlier towards him than they already were. If they got the impression that he actually liked them, who knew what they'd do? Start inviting him for pedicures or to movies or other shit like that. Dealing with one Mikey was enough.

Of course, now that Mikey and the Professor were an item, Michael hadn't been as clingy. Sure, he and Brian were best friends, always had been and always would be, but it didn't mean that he wanted to spend every freakin' waking moment with Michael or that he really had anything in common with Mikey outside of the fact that they'd shared the past fourteen years of their lives. Michael and Lindsay, they grounded Brian, kept him from just flying off on some drug high and reminded him of his limitations while encouraging his dreams. They believed in him. Sometimes, a little too much. One of his only fears was that he'd disappoint them by not being enough: strong enough, smart enough, rich enough. He supposed it had to do with the fact that both Lindsay and Michael were more than a little in love with him. Still.

Despite spouses and lovers and families, they still managed to reserve a portion of their hearts just for him. But it wasn't a healthy kind of love, he knew that, that's why he tried not to encourage them but it seemed that everything he did was seen as doing just that. Deb ragged on him for leading Michael on; Mel could barely say two civil words to him for fear of him stealing Lindsay away from her. Fuck, if he had wanted either of them, he would have been with them. The fact that he wasn't should have told everyone something. And it wasn't just that he was a selfish sonofabitch who didn't give a shit about anything but himself, it was that he didn't feel the same way about them. Never had.

But it didn't mean that he couldn't feel. It was just that he'd never met anyone who both challenged him and excited him enough to fall in love. He'd been in lust and in extreme like but never in love. He supposed it was some failing of his, that's what everyone else would say, that he wasn't capable of loving anyone. Maybe it was his upbringing, maybe it was genetic. He tried not to believe that, tried not to condemn himself for his apparent lack but it was hard to maintain a healthy attitude about yourself when nearly everyone around you condemned you as the devil incarnate. Even Lindsay and Mikey made excuses for him as if they were needed. Was there some fuckin' rule that said everyone had to fall in love at some point in their life? Would he have been better off being like Emmett, getting his heart ripped to shreds on a regular basis? He guessed his friends could have, at least, felt sorry for him and praised themselves for comforting him while he fell apart. But he wasn't a fall apart kind of person. If he had been, he would never have survived in business for as long as he had, never would have accomplished the things he had.

That's what happened when you got off work hours earlier than normal, your mind began to wander and you indulged in a bunch of bullshit navel gazing. Snickering to himself, he glanced towards the sidewalk and pulled over. "Justin!" The teen jerked, startled, then took a deep breath and walked over to the Jeep.

"You trying to give me a heart attack?"

"At seventeen?"

"It happens."

"Heading to the Gay Losers Club?"

He shook his head, bright blond hair catching the last of the day's sunlight. "Wasting time before I catch the bus back home."

"You mean Mommy and Daddy haven't bought you your very own Boxster?"

"Maybe for graduation," Justin replied.

"Get in," Brian told him, opening the door and pushing it out towards Justin. "Go on," he said when the teenager hesitated. "I won't bite." Justin got in. "Not unless you want me to."

"Are you working on your dirty old man routine or what?"

A frown darkened Brian's brow. "Old?"

Justin grinned. "I'm just teasing. You're not old. You don't look a day over thirty-two."

"Asshole. Lindsay told you, didn't she?"

"Well, I knew you weren't nineteen."

Saying nothing, Brian kept his eyes on the road. He knew he bordered on the irrational about his age. The strict diet, exercise regimen, French anti-aging cream, and assorted vitamins and minerals all to regain the youthful appearance he'd been so anxious to shed when he'd actually been that age. Idiot.

"Actually," Justin said softly, "you look like you're twenty-something." At Brian's glare, he hasted to add, "Really. I wouldn't lie to you."

"Why not?"

Justin looked taken aback. Probably hadn't expected Brian to ask that. "I guess because I don't know you well enough to lie to you."

Nodding, Brian pulled up to a light. "So where, exactly, is home?"

"Do you—Nevermind."

"Do I what?" Justin shook his head. "Do I what?" Brian asked once more, emphasizing each word.

"Do you mind if we go somewhere?"

"The arcade? The mall? What?"

"You know, I'm not your typical teenager," Justin said and then turned his attention to the foot traffic off the passenger side.

Realizing that he had been riding the young man a bit much, Brian said, "I know."

"How could you? You don't know me," challenged Justin.

Accepting the challenge, Brian said, "Okay, tell me where to."

"Could we go to your place?"

Raising a brow, Brian called the teen's bluff. "My place it is." As he drove to the loft, he kept glancing surreptitiously, he hoped, at Justin and was surprised that he couldn't see the boy's heart about to burst through his chest. He knew that Justin was nervous, anxious, unsure of Brian's motives. Well, he didn't have to worry, Brian hadn't lied when he told him he wasn't into chickens. Twinks, maybe, chicken, no way. Too dangerous. Never knew when there might be some enraged parent lurking in the background ready to kick your teeth in for corrupting their virginal sons. As if.

Most of them went out looking for what they eventually got. And if they were pure of body, they certainly weren't pure of soul. Faces hardened to reflect an unsentimental spirit. God knows, he'd been no innocent when he'd gone out into the streets but his had been a special case. Unwanted and abused by his parents, deflowered at fourteen, blessed and saddled with a friend who was a bit too soft for his own good, Brian could have been harder than he'd been but, he supposed, Michael had kept him from completely divorcing himself from the hope of being something, someone better. And, later, Lindsay had helped. Still, he protected himself from hurt the best way he knew how: he didn't set himself up for it in the first place.

But, again, that wasn't the same thing as not believing in love at all. He figured if it ever happened, it would happen whether he wanted it to or not. He just wasn't going to help it happen.

As if he'd suddenly remembered that he had a passenger, he glanced over at Justin to find the teen watching him.

"Where'd you go?" Justin asked.

"A dark and scary place," Brian answered, then turned onto Tremont.

After parking, Brian led Justin to the front door and punched in his code on the keypad.

"Looks kinda dumpy from the outside," he said.

"Deters theft."

They didn't say anything as they journeyed up to the top floor by way of the elevator. As Brian threw up the gate, Justin said, "This really did used to be a warehouse, huh?"

"Yep." He unlocked the heavy, battered, grey door to his apartment, and threw it open. Not bothering to invite Justin in, he just left the door as it was and went to get a bottle of water.

"This is some place," Justin said with something like awe in his voice. He slid the door closed after coming inside.

"It's what I work for. It, and the Jeep, and the drugs, and the designer clothes. Speaking of which, I'm gonna get changed. Make yourself at home. There's water in the fridge. Don't touch the beer or the liquor or I'll have to spank you." He carried his water upstairs into the bedroom leaving the teenager to wander as he would. He heard the refrigerator open and close and then footsteps padding around the apartment. Not bothering to go into the bathroom to change, Brian stripped down and hung up his suit, tossed his shirt in the hamper, and then found something suitably broken in to wear. When he appeared downstairs in his jeans and tee-shirt, he found Justin standing in the living room gazing down at the traffic below.

"I bet you get fabulous light in here."

"Too damn much when I'm trying to sleep in on the weekends." He took in the teen's pale skin. "You don't look like a sun worshipper."

"For my art."

That explained his interest in the GLC art show. Remembering his unkind comments, Brian wondered if Justin had had any pieces in any of the shows he'd attended. Probably not. It had been a while since he'd made an appearance at one and he definitely would have remembered Justin. Chicken or not, he was a beauty and Brian Kinney was a connoisseur of beauty. "An artist, huh?"

"I got into PIFA."

Brian raised a brow. "Really? We've had interns from there."

"My dad wants me to go to Dartmouth, study business but… it's not gonna happen."

"Least he's still paying for school." At Justin's frown, he asked, "He is still paying, right?"

"He hasn't said whether he is or not."

"He's your father. It's one of the fatherly duties, or so I'm told that's the reason why I have $500 less to spend each month."

"I'm sure he'll come around," Justin said, putting on a blatantly fake happy face.

"Sure." Sensing that he'd be poking a beehive with a stick, Brian poked anyway. "Do your parents know you're gay?"

Justin snorted. "Fuck no. If my dad even suspected I was gay, no way would he pay for PIFA. It'd be Dartmouth all the way."

"What?" snickered Brian. "Does he think Dartmouth can cure homosexuality?"

"It wouldn't matter. Just as long as I wasn't able to do what I wanted." Justin fell silent.

Brian waited a few moments before risking another potentially thorny question. "So why are you afraid to go home?"

"I'm not afraid."

"O-kay. Why are you avoiding going home?"

"I'm not avoiding—"

"Delaying, then."

"I like Liberty Avenue. I like the way people seem so free to be who they want to be."

"Most of the people down there have fought pretty hard to be where they are, to be who they are."

"What about you?"

Brian fidgeted, then walked to the kitchen and opened a drawer and removed a handful of takeout menus. "You hungry?"

"Do you always avoid answering a question by asking a question?"

"You know, one day you'll learn that it's not polite to call people on their foibles and neuroses."

This time he got a genuine grin. "You mean the way you don't?"

"I'm an asshole and one of me is quite enough."

Justin's smile got wider. "Too bad cause Gus is going to be just like you. Least he looks just like you. And he's very strong-willed."

"No point in letting people walk all over you, even if you are only three."

Sidling next to Brian, Justin looked over the menus. "Got Chinese?"

"Szechwan or Cantonese?"

Plucking the last of the won tons from the container before Justin could get it, Brian crowed victoriously. "Where do you put all that food?" he'd asked earlier, having watched Justin consume almost an entire carton of noodles without pause, and Justin had turned slightly aside and patted his behind. Brian laughed again thinking about it.

"Won't your parents be worried if you're not home for din-din?"

"I called earlier and told them I'd be having dinner with a friend from school."


"I don't know. I don't have very many friends from school. Except Daphne. And I couldn't use her as an alibi because she was going out with her family to celebrate her grandmother's sixtieth birthday." Justin searched one of the containers with his chopsticks and came up with an overlooked shrimp.

"I hated school," Brian told him. "Couldn't wait to get the fuck out of there."

"I just hope I make it to graduation."

Worried, Brian asked, "Why wouldn't you?"

"Just some assholes at school. They haven't said anything outright but they keep hinting around and they're always pushing me and shit, making comments under their breath."

"And if you say something to the teachers, it'll only make it worse."

"Exactly." He squared his shoulders. "I've survived this long, I can last a few more months."

Brian could imagine what it was like for Justin, so fine-looking, so delicate-seeming, like porcelain. Only, he also imagined that a core of steel ran down the middle of his slight being. He'd been lucky. Always tall, wiry in his strength, and good-looking enough to constantly have a flock of girls jostling for his attention, he hadn't had to worry about the rumors. There hadn't been any rumors. Not about his school's star soccer player. Except the ones that had implicated him by proximity to Michael who had been most definitely geeky and gay, an almost lethal combination. But Brian had protected him and they'd made it through high school relatively unscathed. "You know," he found himself saying, "if you ever want to just talk or hang out," deep breath, "I'm around."

"What am I? Your charity case?"

"Okay, fuck it, then," said Brian, ready to wash his hands of Justin.

"Wait. I didn't…" Justin paused, "I didn't mean to say that. Thanks," he added.

"For the General Tso's Chicken?"

Justin nudged Brian with his foot. "Why are you being so nice to me?"

"You baby-sit my kid. If I'm not nice to you, Gus might wind up in therapy or worse, on America's Most Fashion-Challenged."

There’s a stranger in a car
Driving down your street
Acts like he knows who you are
Slaps his hand on the empty seat and says
“Are you gonna get in
Or are you gonna stay out?”
Just a stranger in a car
Might be the one they told you about

Justin had Brian drop him off a couple blocks away from his house. Before he got out of the car, he leaned over and pecked Brian on the cheek. "Thanks again. For dinner," although they both understood it was more than that.

"Later, Baby."

Turning back, Justin rolled his eyes. "Would you stop calling me that?"

"Sure, little boy."

Huffing, Justin gave up. "Just stick to Baby." He got out of the Jeep and closed the door, started to walk away, then looked back over his shoulder and waved.

Before he knew what the hell he was doing, Brian returned his wave, then looked around to make sure no one had seen him. Fuck. Like who would he know out here in white bread suburbia? Shaking his head, he waited until Justin turned left and walked out of sight before pulling away from the curb and heading back to the safety of the city and the loft.

If Deb didn't work there, he'd never set foot in the greasy spoon known as the Liberty Diner. Just walking into the door sometimes made him queasy. The food was nauseatingly bad, the décor atrocious, and the coffee barely tolerable. Yet, year after year, week after week, meal after meal, they continued to occupy their booth in the back. It was a good vantage point from which to scope out potential tricks though because almost every gay boy in Pitts ended up at the diner due in large part to the presence of the city's biggest fag hag: Debbie, and the city's most fabulous fag: himself. He supposed he could have hung out at a better class of dining establishment but he really loathed most of the A-Gays (A-list queers) who were, as a group, mostly unfuckable, comprised primarily of middle-aged has-beens with hair plugs and chest implants. He shuddered just thinking about it. Much better to get indigestion from the few dishes he'd allow himself to consume at the diner and pick up something hot and fresh—that most definitely wasn't on the menu.

So, here they were, on another boring Wednesday evening, waiting for Deb to return with their euphemistically named food when the door opened and Emmett cried aloud, "Lord, have mercy, would you look at that."

The guys as a group turned to see who had gotten Em's panties twisted in a knot and there stood Justin looking a little bewildered. Whether he was stunned by the smorgasbord of guys arrayed in booths around the room or stunned by the interior design, Brian couldn't tell. But before Em or Ted or some other unworthy fag could pounce on the teen, he said casually, he hoped, "That's Justin," and waved, releasing Justin from his frozen pose by the door.

"How do you manage to know every fuckable guy in the city?" asked Ted.

"He's Gus' babysitter and he's not fuckable, he's seventeen, for Christ's sake."

"So," said Em, "seventeen-year-olds have sex. I certainly did."

"I don't think sheep count," countered Brian.

"Fuck you, Brian," hissed Em.

"Baa," bleated Brian as Justin came up the table and Michael said, "Pull up a chair; the cat fight's just starting."

"Hi," said Justin shyly, sliding into the booth next to Emmett.

"Well, hello, Baby."

Justin frowned. "Did you—"

"No," Brian said, cutting him off. "Em's from the South. Everybody's Baby to him."

"Except you. Asshole." Em held out his hand. "I'm Emmett."

Ted gave a pathetic wave. "Ted."

Michael raised his water glass. "Michael."

"Ben," said the professor with a warm smile. "Welcome."

"What are you doing here anyway?" asked Brian.

"Hanging out. I'm babysitting Gus tonight and I thought I'd come down here before I went over to Mel and Lindsay's house."

Ted leaned forward. "Hey, Brian, why don't Mel and Lindsay ever ask you to baby-sit?"

Ben laughed. "Probably not a good idea to leave him alone with impressionable children. Gus could wind up being Liberty Avenue's youngest stud." The group all laughed, including Brian.

"That's my boy."

"So, who's the chicken?" asked Deb, coming over with another glass of water.

Brian saw the look of alarm on Justin's face and said, "She really is a woman. Deb, Justin; Justin, Deb. Deb is Mikey's mom and Justin is Gus' babysitter."

Having put down this water, Deb pinched Justin's cheeks. "Aren't you just the cutest thing?" Justin smiled hesitantly then more brightly as he saw Brian laughing. "Ah!" she exclaimed; "Look at that smile. Just like sunshine. So," she asked, taking out her order pad, "what'll it be, Sunshine?"

After they'd all finished eating, Brian gave Justin a lift to the Munchers, even went inside to see Gus for a little while.

Mel rolled her eyes as he walked through the door with Justin. "Don't tell me you're fucking our babysitter."

"Bitch," growled Brian but before their argument could develop fully, Gus came flying out of the kitchen.

"Hey, Daddy!" Got a hug. "Hey, Justin," he said, waving at his friend from the safety of his father's arms.

"I brought Justin over to play with you," Brian told him. "You love me?"

"Yeah." He kissed his daddy and then motioned to be put down. Went and got his remote-controlled car. "Do it, Daddy."

"Can't tonight, Gus," and the little boy went off to play by himself in the dining room.

"Too many dicks to suck?" asked Mel just beneath her breath.

"Usually, they're sucking mine."

Lindsay caught the gist of their exchange as she entered the room and sighed.

"Are they always like this?" Justin asked.


"Hey, I told you to use an anonymous donor."

"I'd like to see some anonymous donor contribute to Gus' college fund or write a fuckin' check every other week for some shit he just has to have," Brian challenged.

Laying a hand on his arm, Lindsay kissed his cheek. "For which we are very grateful. Right, hon?" She waited for Mel to respond.

"Least the asshole's good for something."

Taking a deep breath, Brian bit back whatever he was going to say in response to her comment and, instead, called out to Gus, "See you later, Sonny Boy."

Gus put down his car and came to get a farewell hug. "Bye, Daddy."

"How about you and me hang out this Saturday?"

"You can't just—"

"Yea!" yelled Gus and Brian defied Mel to say anything else. Wisely, she said nothing more.

With a peck on the cheek for Lindsay, Brian started out the door, only pausing to say, "Later," to Justin who smiled and replied in kind.

If there was one thing his old man had taught him, it was an appreciation for the manly arts: pool, bowling, and drinking. A real man, according to Jack Kinney, could sink a ball in the center pocket, throw a strike, and knock back half a dozen shots of Scotch without falling on his ass. Much. Brian remembered the times his mother had gotten him out of bed to help his Pop up the stairs to their room or, if that failed, just to get him off the front lawn and into the house. He'd thought that he would never drink after having seen Jack lying a pool of his own filth but genes will out and he could party with the best of them. Booze, drugs, sex, his appetite was legendary. It surprised him that he didn't get his drinks for free, he brought in so much business to the bars and clubs he frequented along Liberty Avenue. All coming out to see first hand the Great Brian Kinney.

Sometimes he laughed at the absurdity of it all. Other times he staggered beneath the burden. Mostly, he tried not to think about it in any real fashion. He accepted the empty praises of would-be tricks and went on with his life. It felt good though, occasionally, even he had to admit that. Especially when some stunningly beautiful man approached him, wanting to fuck, to be fucked. He was happy to oblige, happy for the brief time they spent together, the all too brief moments. Because it never lasted long. A few hours, a night at the most. Then the glamour faded and whatever it was they were each seeking, they'd realize that they hadn't found it yet. Some he sent off with a harsh word, most with a malaise that he struggled to hide behind an impassive facade.

This evening, like most of his evenings, he was bent over the pool table about to sink a corner shot while flirting with some guy across the room. They'd been eyeing one another for the past fifteen minutes and he was determined to make the guy come to him. He was always in control, even if he was passively hunting like he was tonight. It was a matter of the mind.

He took his shot, deliberately missing to give Mikey a fighting chance, then sat down on his stool and finished off his beer. At that moment, his attention was diverted to the door and, in particular, to the blond who was coming through the door.

"Isn't that Justin?" Ted asked.

"A little young to be in a bar," said Ben, waving the teen over.

Brian waited until Justin had come into the fold to ask, "You get a fake ID or what?"

"My friend, Daphne, hooked me up."

"I hope you'll be careful," cautioned Ben.

"There are a lot of duplicitous people in the world," Brian warned.

"Some of them in our very own group," teased Ted.

Surprisingly, it was Em who came to Brian's defense. "Brian's a lot of things: selfish, self-centered, narcissistic—"

"You do realize those are all synonyms, don't you?" asked Brian.

"But he's honest," Em said, ignoring Brian's jibe.

"I don't think he's selfish," said Justin. "He seems to really love Gus."

"Extension of self," Ted explained.

Mikey lost control of the table. "What is this? Beat Up on Brian Night?"

Turning a lazy eye to the guy who had finally gotten up the nerve to approach him and was walking towards them, Brian said, "Well, you can do without your whipping boy. I've got other plans this evening." The trick paused by Brian and laid a hand upon his bare forearm.

Brian's grin widened. That never failed to excite him, a man touching his arms. It was why he always rolled up his shirt sleeves. He thought the forearms were some of the sexiest parts of a man and he loved to be touched on his. Lowering his head a bit to compensate for the difference in their heights, he listened to the guy's proposition. Leaned back to check out his ass. "I can definitely accommodate you," he decided, then handed Justin his pool cue and walked towards the restrooms, the trick following dutifully behind.

When he returned some ten minutes later, the guys had given up on pool and were sitting at the bar nursing their drinks. Brian signaled the bartender and ordered a Beam. The trick hadn't been bad. Another evening he might have invited him back to the loft but he hadn't been in the mood for some unknown reason. He drank his bourbon in one gulp, then noticed that one of their party was gone. "Where's Justin?"

Mikey shrugged. "He got this weird look on his face and just took off."

"How long ago?"

"Soon as you disappeared, he did too."

Brian frowned, then said, "I think I'm heading home."

"You're not going with us to Babylon?"

"Can't. I've got Gus tomorrow and I need all the rest I can get if I'm taking on the Terrible Tot first thing in the morning. Later, guys." Barely pausing to give Michael his customary smooch on the lips, he exited the bar.

And went in search of Justin.

Almost immediately his task seemed Herculean. He had no idea in which direction Justin had gone or if he'd caught a bus home already or what. But something drove him to try in any case to find him.

Having driven the length of Liberty Avenue in the direction of the loft, Brian spotted a bright head in the semi-lit darkness. As he had once before, he pulled over and rolled down the window. "Justin!"

The teen cut his eyes towards the Jeep but kept on walking.

"O-kay," Brian muttered to himself and he drove a bit further and paused. "You need a lift?"

Justin didn't even grace him with a look that time.

On the verge of saying, "Fuck it," and going home, Brian decided to give it one more shot. He drove up the block and parked and got out of the Jeep, leaned against the hood on the passenger side. Justin, coming abreast of the car, tried to cross the street when he saw who it was but Brian caught him by the forearm and held him fast. Looked into his eyes and saw that the boy had been crying. What the fuck…? "Justin, what's wrong? Did something happen in the bar?"

Giving him an incredulous look, Justin pulled away. "Fuck you!" he shouted and started to walk away again but Brian snatched him back, jerked open the car door, and practically shoved Justin inside.

"Stay," he barked before closing the door and going around to the other side. He was faintly surprised that Justin had obeyed. Starting up the Jeep, he drove home.

Once he'd gotten Justin inside the loft and situated with a bottle of water, he demanded that Justin tell him what the hell was going on. "And don't say nothing. I hate that shit."

"Why do you care?"

"Maybe I don't. But for shits and giggles, let's say I do. So talk."

"I'm not a dog. Stay. Sit. Talk."

"Stop being a smartass."

"I am smart. I got a 1500 on my SATs."

"Good for you."

"And I'm too smart to fall for a bunch of bullshit from an asshole like you!" he retorted and he got up and made to leave but Brian blocked his only avenue of escape.

"First of all, I don't know what in the hell you're talking about. What bullshit?"

"Nothing," huffed Justin and he tried to get around Brian but the man was just too big.

"Don't give me that. What bullshit?" Brian asked again. He was genuinely confused. He'd done everything he could to be nice to the kid, even offered to be there if he needed someone to talk to. He'd introduced him to his friends and… Shit. Brian took in the teen's lowered head and sighed. Shit. "Justin…"

"Don't, okay? Don't say it. Spare me. I don't want to hear how you're too old for me—"

"Actually, you're too young for me."

"—and how you don't do relationships or love or any of that shit."

"You've been talking to Mel and Lindsay."

"Just—save it, okay? And let me go."

Brian placed a finger beneath Justin's chin and raised his head. "I thought we were going to be friends."

"Well, we can't, so—"

"Justin, it's just a crush. Everyone has them. You feel like you've found your soul mate and really it's just hormones. And you get over it. You realize what a jerk the guy really is or maybe you realize he's someone you can be friends with and you move on."

"I could—"

"No," he said, firmly, "you can't. Because I won't let you. I won't let you waste yourself on me."

"But I love you."

"Some of my friends do too. But that doesn't mean we're anything more than friends. It's all I can offer, Justin." He stepped away from the teen. "Take it or leave it." He watched Justin struggle with his decision for a moment, then left him to make up his mind in private. Pouring himself a drink from the cart in the living room, he wondered how he'd gotten himself involved with a teenager, the most volatile creature on God's green planet. He didn't even know why he cared about Justin—just that he did. There was something bright and shiny about the boy and he didn't want to see it tarnished. He heard the door open and then shut and his shoulders slumped. It was probably for the best. It'd been a long time since he'd been seventeen and—


He looked around to see Justin standing behind the sofa.

"Would you mind if I stayed the night?" he asked softly.

"The couch." He had to be clear about the terms, leave no room for misunderstandings.

"The couch," agreed Justin.

He could hear Justin lightly snoring in the quiet of the open space. It was after one by his clock's reckoning and he still hadn't been able to fall asleep. Thinking. Always thinking. Never able to shut off his thoughts unless he was high or fucking and, even then, sometimes, unwanted thoughts slipped through to plague him. Usually he was thinking about work but, sometimes, he thought about his fucked-up family, especially after he'd had to endure another phone call from his mom extolling the virtues of Christ. With Jack dead, he didn't get hit up for his money any more, least not in person. Claire sent him emails telling him what Joanie needed and he wrote a check and mailed it. Sometimes he thought about Gus and the kind of father he was to the little boy, if he was doing the right things, helping him to grow into the best man he could be. He thought about Michael and his best friend's fixation on him and his unrealistic expectations. Thought about Lindsay and her numberless requests: for sperm, for a shoulder to cry on, for money, and he wondered if she'd ever come to him for something he couldn't give her.

But tonight his thoughts were filled with the blond sleeping soundly on his sofa. From babysitter to houseguest in a few short weeks. How had they gotten to this point? To where Justin was professing his love to Brian and Brian was running the other way? But not running very fast nor very far, he had to admit. Why couldn't the Munchers have found a troll to baby-sit Gus or, better still, a dyke-in-training? Then they could be dealing with unwanted urges instead of him because he knew just how easy it could be to give Justin what he thought he needed. How easy it would be to divest him of his unwanted virginity by making promises he couldn't keep. He was so fair, so beautiful… One look in those big, blue eyes and Brian wanted to be the man Justin saw when he looked at him but he wasn't and there was no point in pretending otherwise.

Making up his mind finally, Brian closed his eyes. Tomorrow he would rescind his offer of friendship and send the boy on his way.

He moaned as he woke to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Got up to find Justin in his briefs, sitting on a bar stool.

"Hey. I hope you don't mind. I was hungry but you don't have any food."

Brian heard himself say, "We'll get something after we pick up Gus." Who the fuck was using his mouth to speak? "I've got him today."

"I know. I was there."

"So, you want to hang out with us?"

Justin flashed him a blindingly white smile. "Okay."

Too late, Brian realized that he'd tossed away his good intentions.

Over the next few weeks Brian managed to rein in his impulses when it came to Justin and to keep the boy at a friendly arm's length. And Justin, for his part, was working on accepting Brian's friendship and not pushing for anything more. After his disastrous debut at Woody's, Justin hadn't returned and Brian found himself relieved that he hadn't. It was easier to keep his resolution when his contact with Justin was limited to the Munchers' place and the diner. Justin hadn't even returned to the loft since the night they'd had their talk.

So, it was with some trepidation, that he heard Justin accept Em's invitation to come to Babylon with them.

"It's every gay boy's dream. To be surrounded by hundreds of hot, horny, and half-naked guys."

"You'll stunt his growth," sniped Michael.

"Is that what happened to you?" asked Justin as they were of the same height. Justin might have had an inch on him.

Brian cackled. "Watch out. He looks delicate but he's got claws." Inside, though, he wanted to choke Em. That urge only increased when the self-proclaimed "couturier to disco trash" offered to go shopping with Justin to find something suitable to wear.

"This isn't a debutante's ball," Ted reminded his lanky friend.

"As close as he'll ever get," Ben said. "Em's right. You should celebrate life, even with something as mundane as going to Babylon."

"Thank you, Dr. Freud," sneered Brian although he secretly agreed. It was just that the last thing he wanted was to see Justin all tarted up for a night of debauchery. Justin was too innocent looking for one to carry off the look; and, for another, Brian didn't want to have to think about Justin in connection with sex. As long as he could regard the teen as his protégé, the little brother he'd never had, things were fine. He couldn't predict exactly how he'd react to seeing Justin in a sexual situation but he had a sneaking suspicion it wouldn't be one of his finer moments. Still, all he could do was to ignore Em's plans for Justin and pretend that he couldn't care less.

They'd agreed to meet up at the diner beforehand since Justin would have had to go to Michael and Em's place to change and Deb (and Brian) wanted to make sure that the teen didn't look too trashy. They'd both retained veto right over any outfit Em might have cooked up.

"What are you? His dad?" Michael had asked and had gotten the cold shoulder from Brian for more than a day until Michael had called and apologized profusely. Brian had accepted but his response had only made him more self-conscious of his feelings for Justin.

No, he wasn't the teen's father and he wasn't his big brother no matter how much easier things would have been if he'd been able to think so. He was all too aware of the teen, even when he wasn't around. Sometimes he told himself that all they needed was to fuck and get it out of both their systems. But he knew that to be a lie and he didn't lie to himself. Not about the important shit. Not about this.

Showing up at the diner and waiting like a nervous prom date, Brian tried to get his shit together. Justin was just a boy, no matter how smart, how mature, how beautiful, how desirable. He could do this.

And then Justin walked in with Emmett and all of his resolutions took a walk off a short pier into the Susquehanna. Fuck.

Emmett had heeded his call for restraint and, instead of trying to make Justin over into something he wasn't, he'd emphasized his youth—and his youthful beauty. Dressed simply in a pair of fitted, stone-washed jeans and a white, short-sleeved jersey, Justin shone.

"Ah, look at you, Sunshine." Deb fawned all over him and made him turn around to check out the goods. "You look good enough to eat."

"Let's hope someone thinks so," Em hinted with a gleam in his eye. "Our baby's all grown up."

"What?" Brian inquired, sensing there was more to this than he knew.

"Yesterday was my birthday," Justin told him.

"You should have said something."

Justin shrugged. "My parents took me out to dinner. It's okay. It's not like I'm a little kid. I don't need a party or gifts and shit."

"Eighteen," beamed Deb. "How about that."

"I can vote, get married, and join the Army," Justin informed them.

"Hopefully not all at the same time," replied Ted.

"And," added Em, "you can get laid. Speaking of which, let's get moving."

But Justin didn't budge from his spot. Instead, he asked Brian, "You think this is okay?"

Brian paused for a moment, wishing he could say no, could veto the outfit and send Justin home where he'd be safe from the predators at Babylon, but he couldn't. "It's okay, Sonny Boy."

From his spot at the bar, Brian watched Justin dance up a storm with some twink maybe four or five years older than the teenager. Justin had made a big splash among the jaded throng at the club and hadn't taken a break since arriving an hour ago. He, apparently, loved to dance and he did so with guy after guy, smiling widely at each corny pick-up line, dodging the grabby hands, just happy to be alive and to be dancing. To be wanted. Brian knew that feeling and he didn't begrudge Justin the experience. Maybe one of those guys would be the one to make Justin forget all about him or, at least, make him forget about wanting to sleep with him. Only, he knew Justin wanted more than that, more than a quick, meaningless fuck. Justin wanted a relationship: wanted someone to talk to in the wee hours of the morning as they lay curled together in bed, to play footsie with him beneath the table at the diner, someone to hold him and tell him that the world was a wonderful place and all of his dreams would come true. Brian wanted that for Justin because he deserved it, even if he thought it was a pipe dream of the crack variety. Staring at the bottom of his glass, he held it up so the bartender could hit him again.

Justin danced on.

"Our boy is certainly slaying them," Ted felt the need to announce enough though they all had eyes and could see.

Em clapped his hands happily. "I feel like a mama bird seeing her little one fly for the very first time."

Ted turned to Brian. "What do you think? There might be a new King of Babylon, huh?"

Newer, fresher, younger. Brian heard all the unspoken jabs and refused to be baited. At least he'd had his reign. Ted couldn't say the same by any stretch of the imagination.

Finally Justin seemed to need a break. Brian watched him leave his current partner and look for them. He raised his glass and Justin smiled and headed their way. He was greeted by Em's enthusing remarks.

"Baby, you were fabulous!"

"They definitely like you, Boy Wonder," said Mikey.

Justin shrugged. "Just dancing. But it was fun," he confessed. Then said matter-of-factly, "I like this place."

Brian chuckled. "You thirsty?"

"You buying?"

"I can afford water."


"Don't whine. It doesn’t become you. And I'm not buying you any liquor."

"A beer?"

Brian relented. "One, that's it." He turned to give the bartender his order.

"You could always get one of your dance partners to buy you a drink," said Emmett who quailed under Brian's resulting glare. "I'm just saying…"

"Don't say anything and you'll live longer, trust me." He handed Justin his beer and endeavored to find himself a partner for a quick turn on the dance floor and maybe a trip to the backroom. No point in acting like a fuckin' chaperone even if that was what he was. Spotting a likely candidate heading in their direction, he got ready to reel him in when the trick caught Justin's attention and whispered something in his ear. Justin giggled, then set down his beer and accompanied the guy to the dance floor. Brian's eyes narrowed. The trick reminded him of himself down to the long legs, dark hair, and commanding presence. No wonder Justin had giggled like a school girl and gone off with him. And that bothered Brian. It was one thing to hand Justin over to some twink but to see him in the arms of another man, it was too much. He had to do something. If he couldn't take the trick away from Justin, he'd take Justin away from the trick. Just as he'd made up his mind, he saw Justin smile at the guy and head off the dance floor.

Towards the backroom.

"No fuckin' way," gasped Michael. "He's not…"

"He is," snorted Ted. He raised his glass to Brian. "I salute you, sir, you've taught him well."

Ignoring them all, Brian started after Justin. No fucking way. If he wanted to fuck some guy, let him go home and do it, not here, not in the backroom with a dozen guys staring at his ass, getting off on watching him. Justin was better than that. Just as the trick and Justin reached the entrance to the backroom, the teen turned around and saw Brian. Justin didn't say anything, just waited. When Brian didn't speak, Justin turned away and disappeared beyond the black, plastic strip curtain. Heart pounding, Brian returned to the bar to the curious glances of his friends. "He's eighteen," he explained. "He can do whatever the fuck he wants. I'm not his goddamn keeper." Then, without any further explanations, he left the club.

Since the Jeep was parked outside the Diner, Brian was forced to walk a couple of blocks in the cold night air. For which he was grateful. Maybe by the time he got there his heart would have stopped racing and he would have silenced the voice in his head that kept urging him to turn around and drag Justin from the backroom and… And do what? Take him home and fuck him? Swear his undying love? What the fuck did he want?

Peace. He wanted peace but he didn't think he'd ever have that again. So deep in thought was he that even though he'd heard the sound of someone running, he hadn't realized how close they were until he felt a hand on his forearm and his heart did some kind of funky lambada. He was standing beneath a street light and he felt foolish, like he was in a movie or something.


"Through already? That was fast." He started walking again.

Justin followed. "I… I couldn’t do it. I… Brian?" The man stopped, waiting to hear the words that would doom him. "I want you."

"Come on," he said quietly, as if he could barely catch his breath. "I'll take you home."

They didn't speak again until Justin realized that they were about to turn onto Tremont. "I—" he began and then closed his mouth.

For the first time since he'd bought the loft, Brian felt nervous as he pulled open the door, so much so that he paused on the threshold and it was only Justin brushing past him and holding out his hand that moved him to close the door and to reach for Justin's hand. He followed the teen up the steps to his bedroom. "Justin…"

The teen laid his fingers against Brian's lips. "No more excuses."

Pressing Justin's fingers to his mouth, Brian kissed them in agreement.

Piece by piece, he stripped Justin of his clothes to reveal his smooth pale skin except where golden blond hair grew: under his arms, at his crotch, across his buttocks, and down his arms and legs. His task complete, Brian gave control over to Justin, if he'd ever had it to give. Lying down at Justin's command, he lay still as Justin undressed him, his fine artist's hands working calmly, steadily, only betraying him when he unbuttoned Brian's jeans and his knuckles sank into the thatch of brown hair at Brian's groin. Then the teen paused and smiled, as if ashamed of his nervousness. But the moment passed and when Brian was completely nude, Justin sat back on his haunches and just looked at him and Brian thought that no one before had ever done anything as erotic as that.

And then Justin began to touch him; tentatively, at first, then with greater assurance, but never roughly, never with less than perfect grace. He began at Brian's feet, made his way up his calves, up his slender thighs to his tight buttocks. Justin's hand cupped his hip and squeezed almost imperceptibly. The muscles in Brian's stomach rippled as Justin ran his hand over his belly and up along his ribcage. The hand paused over his chest, Brian's heart beating against his palm. He'd had to move since Brian was much taller than he was and now he straddled his lover. Of its own volition, Brian's cock had stiffened and risen and was pressing against Justin's balls. The teen's breathing had increased and as he ran his hand up the long column of Brian's neck, the man could hear him sighing and he closed his eyes against the image of Justin's cock, wet-tipped and swaying between his thighs.

Justin shifted and brought their bellies and chests and mouths together. Given permission by his actions, Brian did what he'd longed to do all evening: he wrapped his arms around the teen's slender torso and held him close. Oh, God…

Parting from Brian, Justin whispered against his mouth, "Show me what to do," and Brian nodded and eased him over onto his back, spread his legs, and knelt between them.

"It's okay if you come," he told Justin. "In fact, I'll take it as a personal affront if you don't," he said with a grin. Justin grinned back and then caught his breath as Brian lightly took hold of his cock. "Breathe, Baby." No longer overcome by the feeling of Brian's hand around him, Justin began to breathe more normally but he was far from calm. Slowly, Brian ran his hand up and own the length of Justin's penis, not really stroking him, just moving his palm over the neck of his shaft. When Justin seemed to have become used to his touch, he began to stroke the head, gently, a couple of fingers at a time brushing over the fleshy cap from the edge to the tip. Precum spilled from the opening and Justin gasped. "Relax. Take a breath. It's okay, if you cum. It's okay," he reminded him. Justin nodded and grasped Brian's forearm briefly.

Lifting Justin's cock from his belly, a line of precum stretching from the tip to his smooth skin, Brian curled his fingers around the shaft and began jacking him, the tight, thin skin of Justin's cock moving in response to his motions, massaging the muscle beneath. Justin's hips rose from the bed and he squeezed his eyes shut.


Brian pressed down on his stomach with one hand, grounding him, and with the other hand continued to work his dick. A few hard strokes was all it took for the teen to cum, spraying his neck and belly and Brian's hands. "Yeah," Brian purred as he coaxed a last few drops from him. "That's it." Barely giving Justin time to recover, Brian swooped down on his semi-hard cock and started blowing him.

Justin's cries filled the room and he gripped both Brian' hair and the sheets in an effort not to cum again. But Brian was too good, knew too many ways to drive a man crazy; a mere teen had no defenses against his skill. He dragged his tongue up the length of Justin's shaft before sucking the head into his mouth and giving it a good workout. By the time he took all of Justin's cock into his mouth, the teen's pisshole was gaping open and weeping prodigiously. At the end of each upstroke of his sucking, he lapped precum from the tip and swirled his tongue around the head; at the completion of the down stroke, he swallowed so that the muscles of his throat either squeezed or caressed Justin's cock according to his will. The teen shouted and struggled against the arms that held him down on the bed. His dick slipped free from Brian's lips and slapped his belly, wet and shiny with saliva. He moaned as Brian stuffed it back into his mouth and began sucking him once more, still holding him down in an iron grip. The teenager groaned and fought the desire to thrust his cock into Brian's mouth. When Brian finally stop holding him down, he pumped his hips as he'd wanted until he ejaculated, shuddering with the last spasm and slumping against the comforter. Licking a last bit of cum from his lips, Brian lapped the dregs from the head of Justin's cock as well before slipping next to him and taking him in his arms.

Tears streaked Justin's face and Brian kissed them away and held the teen while he recovered from his second orgasm of the evening. He ignored his own cock, hard against Justin's thigh. This was Justin's night. But when the teenager had calmed down enough to speak, he asked, "What about you?"

"This is about you," Brian told him.

"I want you… inside me," he said in a whisper.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Just—go slow, okay?"

Nodding, Brian began kissing him lightly, at first, the kiss deepening until they had to break apart to breathe. Justin swallowed, having imbibed a good deal of Brian's saliva along with his own. Brian licked the teen's mouth before locking their lips together again. This time, as Justin moaned into his mouth, he spread the boy's legs and began to stroke his thighs, moving closer and closer to the plump sac between them with each upward motion. He waited until Justin took hold of his hand and put it on his crotch to cup his balls and caress them. Heavy, skin soft and smooth, they nestled snugly in his palm. He massaged them until they began to feel more solid and then he let his fingers slip down behind them, following the trail of Justin's perineum to his hole. When his fingers brushed against the tight bud for the first time, Justin jerked. "It's all right," Brian told him. "I'll go as slow as you want. We won't do anything you don't want to do," and Justin settled down.

Brian reached for the lube and squirted some on his fingers, rubbing them together to warm the liquid, and then he probed between Justin's cheeks again. The boy fidgeted a little as Brian began fingering his hole. Brian didn't attempt to enter him, all he wanted was for Justin to get used to the feeling of someone touching him down there. As he rubbed his hole, he continued to kiss him until the boy's lips were red and swollen and his cock was hard again.

Without being aware of his actions, Justin had begun to push against Brian's finger. It was only as said finger squeezed inside his ass that Justin realized what was happening, realized that one of their goals had been this: to get Brian's finger inside his hole. After a moment, he adjusted to the feeling but the burn when Brian removed his finger made him cry out. "Shhh," Brian said soothingly as he applied more lube to his fingers so that they were good and slippery before he eased one inside again. This time Brian was able to slide back and forth without any discomfort on Justin's part. He'd forgotten how tight virgins were.

Once Justin had gotten used to one finger, Brian kissed him hard and pushed in a second, the teen's cry lost in the depths of his mouth. Justin's left leg jerked and Brian told him to put it up on his shoulder. Justin did so, opening himself up and making it harder for him to tense up. Brian also got him to add more lube to his fingers. "I know it feels tight but it's nothing compared to taking a man's cock up there." He watched Justin's face for any signs of fear. "You still want to go through with this? We can stop."

"I don't want to stop." Justin's voice was breathy and his cock had softened a little but he hadn't lost his hard-on completely.

"Relax," Brian told him again, and pushed two fingers back inside his hole; the opening had begun to stretch a little more, making it easier for him to go foraging. He loved this, fingering a man's hole, the soft feeling of their slick insides sliding over his knuckles. Gradually, Justin opened up enough to take a third finger. By then his cock was rock hard and he was pumping against Brian's hand. "Ready?" Brian asked.

"I think so."

Smiling softly Brian kissed him gently as he slid his fingers free. Then he took a condom from the bowl on the bedside table and handed it to Justin. "Never let anyone fuck you without a condom. Now put it on me. Go on," he said when Justin hesitated, "slip it on my dick." The sound of the foil wrapper sent a jolt down his cock and if he hadn't been as experienced as he was, the feel of Justin's hands on his meat might have set him off. Whatever hesitation the teen had shown earlier, wrapping his hand around a man's cock for the first time had dispelled any fears he might have had. He cupped Brian's balls and stroked them a bit before releasing them and taking hold of Brian's dick again. "You like my cock?" Brian asked as Justin continued to hold onto the latex-clad shaft.

"Yeah," he replied bashfully.

Very nearly growling with need, Brian said, "Open wide," and he threw Justin's legs up over his shoulders and positioned his cock up against the teen's hole. He pressed forward and his cockhead began to stretch Justin's hole open even wider than his fingers had.

Justin gasped, "It hurts. Does it always hurt?"

"A little. But that's part of it," Brian told him, no point in lying about it. But the pleasure greatly outweighed any momentary discomfort. "Now, relax." He pushed harder, kept up a steady pressure until he was halfway inside and paused as Justin screwed up his face in pain. Praying Justin would relax a little and stop squeezing his cock so tightly, Brian waited until the teen's face cleared before pushing the rest of the way inside. When his balls brushed Justin's ass, he sighed in relief and looked down at his young lover. "You okay?" Justin couldn't speak could only nod. A tear slipped down his cheek. Brian shifted positions, so that he lay almost on top of Justin, and kissed him. "I want you to always remember this. So that no matter who you're ever with, I'll always be there." Justin cried out as Brian backed up and then he couldn't spare another breath as Brian began to fuck him in earnest.

With every thrust, Justin's muscles relaxed until they both began to enjoy themselves. Especially when Bran's cock bumped his prostate; each time, Brian could tell by the way the teen's eyes widened and then glazed over that he was about to go out of his mind. He'd gone back on his knees again and held Justin's legs by the calves kissing them as he continued to pump him. Justin's toes curled and his belly tightened in preparation for cumming but Brian knew how to keep a man hovering on the brink of an orgasm and did so now. Twice, when it seemed that Justin was getting too close, Brian stopped moving and pressed down on Justin's cock, just above his balls, and just held him until the urge to cum passed. The third time, as Justin hummed in the back of his throat, so close to cumming he could taste his own spunk, Brian decided to let him blow. Besides, he had yet to get off himself and he desperately wanted to: his cock felt like a bar of steel and his nuts were a pair of twenty pound ball bearings. Giving Justin a couple of hard thrusts, he watched as the teenager's cock twitched and Justin came, crying, "Oh, God, Brian!"

As the boy's ass tightened with each spasm, he brought Brian off too, the man barking a shout, his hips pounding Justin's battered hole as he came. Relieved, he collapsed on top of the teenager, spunk smearing, then cementing their bellies.

While Justin ate takeout that they'd ordered, Brian smoked and tried to convince himself that he'd done the right thing. But he couldn't be certain and the doubt and uncertainty kept him company long after Justin had fallen asleep at his side.

Ten minutes after he'd arrived 'by coincidence' while Justin was babysitting Gus, Brian could tell something was up with the teen. They hadn't seen one another since the night he and Justin had fucked. There had been one furtive phone call about the babysitting gig and no more. It was how Brian wanted it. No one was to know about their relationship, it was his sole condition. He wasn't stupid enough to deny his feelings for Justin and so he'd told him that he loved him and left it at that. But they couldn't start going out on dates on Liberty Avenue. The time they were able to spend together in secret would have to be enough.

In any case, despite having to be careful because of Gus, Brian sensed something else behind the teenager's restraint. Once Gus was occupied with his toys, Brian asked, "What's wrong?"

"No—" and Justin stopped, knowing how much Brian hated that answer from anyone. "I came out to my parents."

"Well, obviously, they didn't kill you," he said, trying to lighten things.

"No. But I think my mom wants to lock me away and never let me be with anyone."

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair time, huh?"

"They asked me if I had a boyfriend. Well, my mom asked. My dad just looked like he was about to have an aneurysm."

Well you never were one for cautiousness
You open the door
He gives you a tender kiss
And you can’t even hear them no more —
All the voices of choices

Fighting to remain calm, Brian asked, "What did you tell them?"

"Don't worry, I didn't give away your secret," Justin said, with a bitter undertone to his words. He got up and went into the kitchen.

Brian followed. "You know why we have to do things this way. How do you think your dad would have reacted if you'd told him a thirty-two-year old had popped your cherry?"

"You're not just a fuck," hissed Justin.

"Better still. 'Mom, Dad, I have a thirty-two-year old lover who has a three-year-old son and owns his own company.' " Brian shook his head angrily and made for the living room.

"Brian, I'm sorry." The man paused. "I know why we're keeping our relationship a secret. I understand. A few more months and I'll have graduated and then we can do whatever we want. I know that," he said, touching his head, "up here. I just…" He lowered his eyes. "It was so hard, telling them I was gay. But I didn't want to hide who I was anymore."

Brian checked to be sure Gus was still occupied and hugged Justin. "I know. That was very brave of you," he said. "Braver than I ever was. I never told my parents. My old man got cancer a few years back and I still wouldn't tell him even though he was dying."

His turn to play comforter, Justin cupped Brian's face and asked, "Why not?"

"They never wanted me but after I become such a big, fuckin' success they needed me and my money and, as long as I was the golden boy in their eyes, I could forget, for a little while, that they'd never loved me. If I had told them I was gay…" He shook his head. It had been more than he'd wanted to deal with; ever.

"I love you," Justin assured him.

"It's only for a few more months, okay?" Brian asked, forehead pressed to Justin's as if they could share their thoughts without words.


When the Munchers returned, Brian bitched, "Don’t you two ever stay home? Every time I come to see Gus the babysitter's here." He thought Justin would lose it trying not to laugh. Keeping up appearances. "Even though he is better company than Mel."

She shot him a dirty look. "You can leave now."

"You need a lift, Justin?" Brian asked as he got his coat.


Having said their goodbyes, the two men walked to the car in companionable silence. It was only after they'd gotten in the Jeep that Justin cracked up. "You're evil."

Brian pecked him on the lips. "I'm sweet. Come back to the loft."

"Can't. I told my mom I'd come home after babysitting Gus."

"I've missed you."

They had to pass through Liberty Avenue on the way to Justin's house and the teen told Brian to pull into an alley, and they climbed in the back of the Jeep and fucked hard and fast. Sated, for the moment, they resumed the journey to suburbia.

Brian insisted on dropping Justin off at his house. "I want to see where you live."

"It's nothing like the loft."

"Few places are," bragged Brian.

"I can't invite you up to my room."

"Fuck! Now I'm going to have a hard-on all the way home thinking about us fucking in your bed."

"Your feet would hang off the end."

To take his mind off fucking Justin, Brian asked, "So, how did you explain knowing two dykes to your mom if they didn't know you were gay?"

"I told her I met Lindsay at the gallery where she works. My mom knows I hang around all the galleries in town, seeing what's new. I told her Lindz and I hit it off and she was advising me about school and there you go. Had nothing to do with Lindsay being a lesbian."

"Smart boy."

"I'd better go."

"No kiss goodnight?" teased Brian.


"Later, Baby." Justin paused and smiled before closing the door and walking to his house with a sway in his hips. How the hell they hadn't figured out he was gay, Brian would never know. Except that he did know: they hadn't looked. And if they'd seen, they'd lied to themselves and called it something else: being sensitive, artistic, different. Anything but what it was: gay. As Vic would say, 'It's just cock,' as if he couldn’t believe anyone would get uptight about dick.

Picking Gus up from his sleepover at his daddy's house, Lindz informed Brian of a visit she'd had from Justin's mom.

"And I care for what reason?" he asked, sprawled in a chair, long, lean form draped over both arms.

"Because," she said with a grin, "she wanted to know if you and Justin were an item."

Despite himself he jerked. "What?"

"Don’t worry. I straightened her out. I told her that, first of all, you're not sexually interested in teenagers; and, secondly, you don't believe in relationships. You're more than happy to fuck some guy but he's gone with the sunrise and you never see him again."

"I'm sure that reassured her," he retorted dryly.

"Well, she believed me although she didn't understand how I could have a child with someone like that."

Against his better judgment, he asked, "What did you tell her?"

"That we'd been friends since college and I loved you for who you were. Faults and all." She gathered Gus' bags. "Come on, baby, we gotta go meet Mama."

Gus hugged and kissed his daddy goodbye and then he and Lindsay left.

The day wore on and Brian realized that he was officially in a funk, that he'd been in a funk since Lindsay had recounted her analysis of him. He didn't know why her words should have bothered him—because everything she'd said had been true—but they did. More than anything he wanted to see Justin, to touch Justin, to make love to him and reassure himself that he was capable of more than fucking strangers and leaving guys strewn in his wake.

But midday passed and the afternoon progressed without him having heard from the teenager. Hell, he was still in high school. He had projects and papers and he couldn't spend every free moment he had with his much older lover. Probably didn't want to. And, even if he did, Brian had warned him more than once that no one could find out about them. So what the hell did he want?

He wanted Justin to be an adult so that they wouldn’t have to hide their relationship. Yet neither of those things were true. Part of Justin's charm came from his youthful innocence and exuberance. And he really didn't want to open their relationship to his friends' scrutiny. They'd never be able to just be themselves without the weight of everyone else's expectations. No one would believe that Brian Kinney was serious and they'd probably take bets on how long they'd last. Not for the first time did Brian wish he could just pull up stakes and go someplace where no one knew him, where no one had predisposed ideas about him, no expectations of him.

In the midst of his ruminations the intercom buzzed. He padded over to the door. "Yeah."

"Let me up."

He'd forgotten to give Justin the code for the building. When the teen arrived at the door the first thing Brian did was to write the six numbers on a slip of paper and make Justin put it away in his wallet.

"You mean I don't have to memorize them and eat the paper?" Justin joked.

"You can eat me," Brian growled, nuzzling the teenager's neck.

Justin kissed him and then laughed. "You know, you never did teach me about rimming."

Brian's eyes went dark with lust. "A serious oversight. Come on." He dragged Justin into the shower and gently washed his hole, sliding a finger up him until he declared him to be clean enough to eat.

"Promises, promises," teased Justin and Brian dried them both off and practically threw Justin onto the bed.

Kissing his boy for a while, Brian massaged Justin's ass, then made him turn over onto his belly. Following a path from his neck to his tailbone, Brian kissed his way down Justin's back and paused. Gently, he parted the teen's plump cheeks and gazed longingly at his rosy pucker. Blew on it causing the hole to tighten, then relax.

"Is that it?" Justin asked, partly to be facetious, partly out of ignorance.

"You've got the internet. Why didn't you look it up?" asked Brian and he could tell Justin was blushing.

"I was too scared someone would find out."

"Well, you're in luck, cause I'm an expert," and with that he thrust his tongue between Justin's cheeks and licked his hole vigorously, causing the teen to cry out. The moment Justin relaxed enough to release his vise-like grip on his muscles, Brian plunged his tongue into his hole and Justin's cries increased threefold and his voice deepened, hoarsened as Brian ate him out, working his tongue around the rim of his ass, delving deeply, and stabbing repeatedly until Justin tensed and came without ever having his cock touched.

He trembled as he struggled to catch his breath. "Fuck. That was… amazing."

"Only gets better," promised Brian and he slipped on a condom and lubed his cock. He mounted Justin from behind and fucked him until the teen again shuddered and came, the sheets soaked beneath him. Brian climaxed and pulled out, tied off and tossed the condom, and lay staring at Justin's asshole, still pulsing from the pounding it had taken.

Justin looked over his shoulder. "You sure are into ass, aren't you?"

And Brian kissed Justin's sweaty flank. "I love it. Especially a piece of Grade A ass like yours."

"You say the sweetest things." Justin dropped his head onto his crossed forearms.

"Don't go to sleep. I want some more."

"No fucking way."

Brian turned over so that Justin could see that his cock was already stirring again. "He's still hungry."

Laughing, Justin bent over Brian's lap and licked the head of his cock, still wet with cum. "We can't let him starve, can we?" He began to blow Brian.

"Hmm," the man hummed and he cupped Justin's ass. "Delicious."

Minutes later he was sucking on Justin's cock and listening to his young lover call out his name. Letting Justin slide from his lips, Brian lay back against a mountain of pillows and unrolled a condom over his dick. Spread lube along the length. "Climb aboard," he told Justin and the teen crouched over him and lowered himself onto Brian's cock.

"Oh, fuck…" He came to rest at the base of Brian's shaft and ran his hands over his hips and belly. Brian knew that he was feeling full and adjusting to it. When he was ready, Justin rose up again and hovered over Brian's groin, his ass muscles squeezing Brian.

"Shit, Baby."

Justin sank back down on him then, placing his hands on Brian's chest, he got up on the balls of his feet and began pumping his hips up and down, Brian's cock pistoning in and out of his ass. His sweat fell to mix with Brian's and he fought to maintain his position, his hands sliding a bit on Brian's slippery pecs.

Brian wished he had a mirror at the foot of the bed so that he could see Justin's ass bouncing on his cock, see his dick disappear between his lush buttocks. Groaning, Brian pulled Justin down on his cock and held him there for a moment before letting him rise up just enough for Brian to take a more active role in their fucking. Back and belly muscles working like bellows, Brian slammed up into Justin's ass. "Yeah," he groaned. "Yeah, Baby." Wrapping his arms around Justin's waist, he held onto him while Justin went down onto his knees and then they struggled against one another, Justin meeting Brian's thrusts and wishing his ass could swallow Brian's cock, balls and all; and Brian wanting to fuck Justin's ass until it collapsed in on itself. Muscles locking, they came within moments of one another, then curled up, one around the other, still wet and sticky.

"Do you have a lot more to teach me about sex?" asked Justin.

"This is just the beginning, Grasshopper."

"Good," came the drowsy reply.

Brian was dreaming about baking and the timer on the oven was going off. He woke up and disentangled Justin from his body and rushed to the intercom to see who it was because, if it was Mikey, eventually he'd just punch in the code and come on up, using his key to get into the loft. Not for the first time did Brian regret giving him that key. "Yeah?" he barked into the speaker.

"It's me." Michael. "What took you so long?"

"I was in the middle of something."

"Someone, don’t you mean? Well, get rid of him and come to the diner with us."

"Us who?"

"Me and Ben and Em and Ted."


"You'd rather spend time with some trick than your friends?"

"Mikey—I always go to the diner with you guys. I'm just not in the mood."

"Well, what are you in the mood for? Maybe we can do that instead."

Brian heard Ben say, "Maybe we should go."

Good idea. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mikey."

"You're not coming to Babylon later? What? You're not in the mood for that either?"

"Later, Mikey," and he cut the connection. Turning, he heard Justin rustling around and glimpsed him heading towards the bathroom. Better idea.

Not only did he have Lindsay on his case but Justin as well. Of course, Justin's nagging was a little more understandable—he had some drawings in the show—and his nagging was a lot more enjoyable—as he used his nubile, eighteen-year-old nakedness to try and persuade Brian to come. To the GLC art show.

In the end, he agreed to show up for an half hour or so. And he made Justin promise not to be upset when he didn't pay the artist or his work any undue attention.

"I promise," the teen agreed readily.

"I mean it, Justin. If I—"

"I understand. We can't be seen together, we can't fraternize—"

Brian caught the sarcastic tone. "We can talk to one another the same way I talk to one of the guys but that's it. Your mom's already suspicious, we can't give her any more reason to suspect something is up."

Justin crawled into Brian's arms. "I hate this, sneaking around, stealing an hour here and there. I feel like your fuckin' mistress. I want to be with you all the time."

"No, you don't. You just want to spend more time with me. Believe me, if we spent all of our time together, you'd want to kill me and I don't know how fond I'd be of you."

"You adore me."

"You, yes; your mess, no."

"What mess?" and Brian raised a brow. The teen looked around. His backpack rested against the sofa, contents spilling onto the floor; his tennis shoes were over by the counter; he had a sketch book on the coffee table; and his clothes surrounded the bed. "It's not fair, comparing me to you. Most of the time it hardly looks like anyone lives here. I give it that homey, lived-in look."

"You mean messy?"

Justin conceded defeat. "My mom says my room should be declared a disaster area but she's a neat freak like you. You two would get along."

"Not when she found out I was fucking her little boy."

Justin bristled. "I'm not her little boy." Grinned. "I'm yours."

Brian sauntered into the Center's exhibition hall an hour and a half after the start of the show and scanned the room supposedly for the gang but, inexorably, for Justin. Spotted him talking to Lindz. She had Gus with her and the toddler was telling Justin something very important. With his son as an excuse, Brian walked over.


"Hey, Sonny Boy," he replied and took Gus from his mommy. "Are you here to see Justin's pictures?"


"Well," Brian asked the artist, "where are they? The sooner I see them, the sooner I can blow this joint and hit Babylon and have some real fun."

"Can I go, Daddy?"

Brian chortled. "Not until you're, at least, seventeen."

"Bite your tongue," Lindsay told him. "Not every gay boy is into clubbing. Some are more interested in the finer things; right, Justin?"

"Ah… actually, I like Babylon."

Lindsay fixed Brian with a glare. "You've corrupted him."

"I never touched him," he said in his defense, lie that it was.

"Let's see you keep it that way," Deb said coming up alongside him. "Especially after I just got through telling his mom earlier tonight that he'd be safe with you."

"Why did you stick your nose into at all?" he asked harshly.

"She asked me about you and I told her the truth. That you're an asshole but you wouldn't fuck him, not if you were friends. After all, how long have you made Michael wait for you? And for what?"

Brian gave Gus to Lindsay and got in Deb's face. "You don't know shit about me."

She stabbed a bright red fingernail in his direction. "I've known you longer than you've known yourself."

"Fuck you and fuck your truth," he spat and he left the center without having seen Justin's drawings.

The guys found him up on the second level brooding over a bottle of beer, eyes fixed on the dance floor but not seeing the dancers for the red haze of anger that veiled everything.

Michael nudged him with his shoulder. "Why do you let her get to you?"

"Because she can," he answered. "And she knows it."

"And since when did you give a fuck what anybody thought about you?"

"Let it alone, Mikey," he said and started down the steps when he met Justin, a mocha-colored girl by his side.

"This is my friend, Daphne. You didn't get a chance to meet her earlier."

"Hi," she said brightly. They were like the fuckin' Doublemint Twins.

"Yeah." He made to push by them when Justin announced, "Someone bought one of my drawings."

"The one of the naked guy," added Daphne.

"For three hundred dollars. I know it's for charity but how awesome is that?"

Ted joked, "Too bad it wasn't of Brian. Could have brought in a fortune from one of the many horny, old queens desperate for a piece of the Stud of Liberty Avenue."

Daphne giggled but Justin just looked a little green around the gills.

Silently, Brian left the club, hoping Justin would find a way to come to him.

Unfortunately it was days before Justin managed to come over and the intervening days had, apparently, only served to make Justin more apprehensive about the welcome he would receive. He entered the loft rather tentatively and perched on the edge of the sofa, refusing Brian's offer of a beer or a bottle of water. Instead, he started to speak. "Brian…" but Brian took advantage of his hesitation and went into his bedroom closet and returned with a mounted drawing. Justin's eyes sparkled despite his confusion. "You bought it?"

"I made that bitch, Tannis, promise not to tell anyone it was me. Cost a little more than three hundred dollars but it was worth it." As Justin jumped up and into his arms, Brian said, "You know I can't put it up yet, right?"

"I don't care," Justin said, pulling Brian towards the bedroom.

After they'd made love and settled down, Justin stroked Brian's chest and broached the subject of Brian's blow up at the GLC. "What happened?"

He shook his head.

"Remember what you tell me about nothing?"

"I get tired," he confessed.

"Of what?"

"People judging me. People acting like I don't feel anything, that I don't have any fuckin' feelings. They think they can call me an asshole to my face, tell me how worthless they think I am, and I won't care, that it doesn't hurt me." He reached for a cigarette but put it back. "I know Deb is Mikey's mom and I know she put up with me when we were kids mostly cause I looked after him and kept him from getting his ass kicked on a regular basis but I thought she understood about us and I thought … that maybe… maybe she cared a little about me, just for myself. Not for what I could do for Michael but because I deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else." He shrugged. "Stupid," he pronounced and then did remove a cigarette from its case and light it.

Justin kissed his chest. "It's not stupid. And she does love you. You should go see her. She misses you."

"How the hell do you know that?"

"She told me."

"And why would she do that?"

"Cause I told her I thought it was a pretty shitty thing to do to you."

"Justin—you can't—"

"I can and I did. I told her she shouldn't cut down Gus' father in front of him, that Mel does enough of that and that Gus once asked me why his mama didn't like his daddy."

Brian felt an ache in his chest. "Did he?"

"No. But it made her feel bad and made her think about what she'd said."

"Only cause she doesn't want to hurt Gus. She could give a shit about me."

Justin studied Brian. "I thought self-pity made your dick soft?"

A puff of smoke accompanied Brian's laughter. "I gotta stop telling you shit."

"Uh-uh. I want you to tell me everything."

"Could take a long time." He kissed the fingers that had reached for his cheek. "Could take forever."

"I can do that," the teen replied.

Deb had invited them all for a spaghetti dinner at her house—including Justin and his family but only Justin and Jennifer showed up. She was, Justin had complained one day, trying to 'understand him'. Brian had told him that he was lucky to have a mother who cared enough not to judge him but to support him. God knows Joanie Kinney would rather burn in hell before ever accepting his being gay. Which was why he'd never bothered to tell her.

Seated three people away from Justin, Brian stopped moving his food around on his plate and pushed back from the table. Gus, who had finished too, got down and demanded that Brian play with him. So he did, the two of them building a tower of Lego. As a result, he hadn't caught much of the conversation at the table after he'd left and so, could only respond with a "About what?" when Deb asked his opinion.

"Sunshine doesn’t want to go to his prom."

"And what? Is the world going to end?"

"He should go. It's one of those rites of passage kind of things."

Michael disagreed. "Just so he can say he drank crappy punch and danced to bad music—"

"And the outfits. Talk about fashion tragedies," interjected Em.

"Definitely not worth the cost of renting a tux," said Ted.

"What do you think, Ben?" Jennifer asked.

Of course, she'd listen to him. He was respectable. Him, on the other hand, she could barely look at after the character assassinations Lindz and Deb had performed on him. Fuck it.

"Well," began Ben, as if he were about to hold forth on the importance of pagan religion in the poetry of Wordsworth, "I agree with Deb. It is a rite of passage. But," he added, "if Justin doesn’t want to go, he shouldn't be pressured."

Good ole Ben, never saw a fence he couldn't straddle.

"Did you go to the prom?" Justin asked Brian.

"Yeah. Mikey and I went together. Not as dates," he clarified. "A lot of people go solo and hang out with their friends and have a shitty time and wonder what in the hell they were thinking." Leaving it at that, he turned back to Gus who had ignored the entire exchange. The obliviousness of toddlers.

But he'd known that Justin wasn't through with the topic. Especially after Jennifer had suggested that he go with Daphne and Justin had replied that if he couldn't go with a guy, with someone he cared about, he wouldn’t go at all. So Brian counted down the days until Justin came around with the not-so-brilliant idea that Brian go with him.

True to his fears, Justin showed up one evening bearing Thai takeout and over spring rolls sprung his idea on Brian.




"Can't you say anything but no?"


Justin hit him on the arm. "Asshole."

"You've been hanging around Mel too long. Her lack of creativity is rubbing off on you."



"I thought you loved me."

"Oh, fuck, no, you're not using that. Next topic of conversation."

"So the Great God Kinney has spoken and we mere mortals have to hear and obey?"

"You said you understood."

"There's only a month of school left after the prom. It's so close, Brian. Please."

"Justin—I'll be thirty-three fucking years old. What the hell would I look like going to a fuckin' high school prom!"

"You don't have to get pissy."

"Then let it go!"

"You're so afraid of getting old. Well, guess what, Brian? It happens to all of us."

"So says the eighteen-year-old. Come back when you're my age and let me know what you think then."

Justin took a sip of beer, then said quietly, "I don't ask you for much."

Angry now, Brian dropped his chopsticks into a carton of cold noodles and left Justin sitting on the floor. Alone. Minutes later he heard the door open and close and knew that he wouldn't turn around and find Justin still there.

His birthday arrived without any fanfare. He'd warned everyone not to plan anything and, for once, they cooperated. Even Cynthia forewent her usual tasteful gift. He supposed he'd been a real bear at work but he hadn't been able to help himself. He and Justin had never fought before, not like this, and he'd missed his little boy, missed his bright blue eyes and shiny gold hair, his warm smile and talented hands. More than once he'd wanted to call Justin but he'd never called Justin and he wasn't about to start now, especially if it was really over between them. No need to blow his cover if it was going to be for naught.

Only he didn't want it to be over. He wanted so badly to find a reason to call Justin but the only thing Justin wanted from him was his agreement to accompany him to the prom and he could not give him that.

Standing by the window with a glass of Beam in his hand, Brian could see Justin in his mind, so bright, so beautiful in his tuxedo and he desperately wanted to share that; but how could he? If he were twenty-three even he could have gone. But he wasn't. And although he wasn't ashamed of Justin for being young, he would feel uncomfortable at the prom, being so much older than the teen, probably as old as the chaperones there. Christ, he was older than the man who had taken his virginity at the ripe old age of fourteen.

He couldn't go to the prom and he couldn't explain to Justin why, least not so the teen would understand. He couldn't understand. He had no idea what it was like being Brian's age and he had no idea what he was asking of his much older lover. To publicly announce that they were indeed lovers, to expose themselves to the ridicule, the misunderstandings. For who would understand that a grown man had fallen in love for the first time in his life with a boy of seventeen? He couldn't claim to understand it himself. All he knew was that he did, indeed, love Justin. It was just… so hard. Not to love him, it was easy to love him, but it was hard to be with him.

He tried to imagine taking Justin to business functions and he couldn't. Justin was smart, hell, he'd gotten a 1500 on his SATs; but getting a fabulous score on a standardized test wasn't going to make for interesting after-dinner conversation with clients who were being billed in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bragging about Justin's latest foray into the world of student art wouldn't cut it and he wouldn't know how to soothe the hurt Justin would feel.

Never, he should never have let himself fall for the boy. But he hadn't. He had fought it tooth and nail but to no avail. As he'd suspected would happen someday, he'd fallen head over heels; only he could have never imagined it would be with a prep school student.

Yet, for all of their problems, he was proud of the teen; Justin had had the courage to come out not only to his parents but to the world. He'd taken his lumps and kept on shining. This past year at school had been pretty shitty. Once Justin had come over to the loft with a bloody lip that he'd gotten defending himself against St. James' resident homophobe. But that hadn't stopped Justin from being out and proud.

Christ. That's what this prom was all about. Justin wanted to show up with his handsome lover and prove everyone wrong who had ever doubted him and the choices he'd made in his life. But more than that, he wanted to celebrate their love, their happiness. Brian shook his head. Sometimes he was so fuckin' stupid.

Walking into the ballroom of the Highland Hotel was probably the hardest thing he'd ever done but the instant he saw Justin turn, at Daphne's prodding, and smile, he knew he'd done the right thing. Running his fingers beneath the collar of Justin's jacket, Brian returned the teen's smile.

"Thought you said you were too old?"

"Never too old for this," said Brian and he kissed Justin sweetly before leading him onto the dance floor as some old song began to play. He remembered his parents dancing to it when he was a kid. Seeing them swaying together, he'd almost been able to believe that they actually might love one another. The moment hadn't lasted long but he'd never forgotten it.

Now, as he and Justin took a turn around the dance floor that was conspicuously clear of any other couples, he hoped that the people surrounding them could see how much in love they were. Then again, if they didn't, fuck 'em. Tonight was their night and nothing could spoil it…

He heard the whoosh of air as the bat swung towards them and he grabbed Justin to pull him out of the line of descent just as the teen threw up his arm to protect his head from his attacker.

He heard the sickening crack of bone as the bat connected with Justin's forearm.

Heard the cry of pain that Justin released.

Heard himself shout as he chased the boy who'd hurt his lover.

Heard a voice that sounded surprisingly like his own tell the 911 operator that his boyfriend had been attacked and that they needed help.

Heard that self-same voice comfort Justin while they waited for the police and the ambulance.

He yelled for everyone to keep back from Justin, to keep that asshole Chris Hobbs down!

Argued when the police and the emergency workers tried to separate him from Justin and refused to leave his side.

Carefully he dialed Michael's number while Justin was being examined and explained that Justin had been attacked at the prom and that someone should call Jennifer and Craig.

Not once did he raise his voice, not even when Jennifer screamed at him or when Craig threatened to have him arrested for corrupting a minor.

It was like a dream that was happening to someone else.

And then he stepped outside the hospital doors and the first flash went off and he knew that the dream was actually a nightmare that was, indeed, happening to him.

His days took on a numbing regularity. He got up, went to work, returned home, and fell into bed. He got up, went to work, returned home, and fell into bed…

He didn't drop in at the diner or Mikey's place or the Munchers'. He did not return anyone's calls even though he did check his messages just in case something had happened to Gus or—or Justin. He refused to face his friends when they tried to see him. He changed the locks at the loft and gave Cynthia strict orders not to allow any non-business related people past Kinnetik's reception area.

He fielded questions from a few of his local accounts, grateful that the incident hadn't garnered national attention. He supposed if Justin had gotten bashed in the head, CNN would have been parked on his fuckin' doorstep.

Numbness was good. Feelings only got you screamed at in the middle of a hospital, only led to people coming after your lover with a baseball bat.

Nightly he woke up sweating, the sound of a Louisville slugger slicing through the air the soundtrack to a nightmare that would not release him.

Two weeks after the prom, he called Justin and asked him to come to the loft. He knew nothing would keep the teen away now that he'd been asked. A glass of Beam on the counter in front of him, Brian waited for Justin to arrive and buzzed him up when he did.

To his credit, Justin didn't leap into his arms when Brian slid open the door. Of course, it would have been difficult to do with a cast on his right arm, no way to really grab hold of Brian's neck the way Justin loved to do. But he did give Brian a bright smile as he waited to see what kind of reception he'd receive this time.

"Justin…" Brian looked away from his face. "I'm sorry."

"For what? You didn't hurt me, that asshole Chris Hobbs did. He fuckin' tried to kill me."

"I know. I was there."

Justin must have heard something alarming in Brian's voice because he moved closer to him and asked, "Are you okay?"

Brian gave a sad laugh. "You should be worried about yourself, not me."

"Brian… my parents had no right to treat you the way they did."

"They had every right. I almost got you killed."


"Do you think Chris Hobbs would have come after you if I hadn't shown up at the prom like some kind of idiot?"


"It was fuckin' stupid and I should have known better. I'm the goddamn adult and I should have used my head."

"Don't. Don't regret what we had."

"I do. I do regret it. And I wish I'd never gone to that prom. I wish…" He choked back a sob. "I wish I'd never gone to Lindsay's place that night and met you."

Justin took a step backwards, clearly disturbed. "Please, don't say that."

"It's over. Do you understand? I don't want to ever see you again. From now on, our lives are separate; you live yours and I'll live mine. Understand?"

"Brian…" Justin's face crumpled as he wept. "Don't send me away."

"Now go. You heard me; get out!" he shouted when Justin remained where he was. "Get the hell out of here!" As Justin fled the loft, Brian slumped against the door. It was over.

His relationship with Justin history, Brian decided he had no more reason to live a hermit-like existence; so, on Friday evening after work, he changed and drove over to see his son.

The toddler greeted him as if he hadn't seen him for months. His mothers glared at Brian as if he'd been AWOL a year. But, after a moment, Lindsay must have seen the sadness in his eyes and she softened towards him. Getting Mel to take Gus into the kitchen for a cookie, she sat Brian down. "So? How long were you going to keep it a secret?"

His relationship with Justin, she meant. "Just until he graduated."

"Well, he's graduating in a few weeks."


"He loves you and you, obviously, love him."

"Doesn't matter. He's better off without me. Before I came along no one tried to kill him."

"Before you came along he was in the closet and lonely."

"I don't want to hear it. He'll go to IFA and meet some twink and fall in love and he won't even remember my name."

"He said he's going to Dartmouth in the fall."


"Said that he can't stay here, apart from you, seeing you everywhere and wanting you. He said it'd be better for him just to go away."

"He's so talented, Lindsay."

"I'm sure they've got art courses at Dartmouth. It's Ivy League, after all."

Brian stared down at this hands and a tear fell onto his knuckles. He'd fucked up everything.

"Go to him," she whispered as she kissed his cheek and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. "It's not too late. It's never too late."

You don’t know where you’re goin’
You don’t know what you’re doin’
Hell it might be the highway to heaven
And it might be the road to ruin

Coming to a halt outside the Taylor manse, Brian gripped the steering wheel and stared at the lit facade. They were probably inside watching TV or playing some fuckin' board game and he was about to go in there and tear their family apart. He started the car again. He couldn't do it. And then he remembered Justin smiling up at him as he dipped him on the dance floor and he cut the engine off again and strode up the walkway to the front door. Knocked in his haste and then found the doorbell and rang it too for good measure.

A strawberry blonde answered the door and yelled over her shoulder, "It's the guy from Justin's dance!" before heading back to the other room.

Brian almost laughed to hear himself reduced to that description. Taking advantage of the opened door, he went inside just as Craig and Jennifer and Justin tumbled into the foyer.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Craig demanded, playing the man of the house to the hilt.

"I love your son," Brian said plainly, "and I'm here to beg him for another chance to get this right."

"You almost got him killed, " said Jennifer hotly.

"No. Fear and intolerance almost got him killed." He caught Justin's eyes and saw a slow smile spread over the teen's face. An answering one crossed his own.

Craig glared at Brian. "Get the hell out of my house."

"Justin…You coming?" Brian asked, holding out his hand.

With a laugh of pure joy, Justin took it and, together, they rushed from the house to the Jeep.

Brian snapped Justin's seat belt shut since the teen was one-handed. "Buckle up," he grinned. "It's going to be a bumpy ride," and Justin whooped in the darkness as they sped down the street towards the future.

But this is a song
For strangers in a car
Baby maybe that’s all
We really are

The End


I always wanted to read a fic where Brian and Justin have a secret relationship and the gang doesn't know anything about Justin. Then have it come out and shock everybody that the stud of Liberty Ave. is in a relationship.

Author's Note:
I changed this slightly in that the gang does know about Justin, they just don't know about Brian and Justin.


"Strangers in a Car," Marc Cohn, from the album Marc Cohn, Museum Steps Music, ASCAP, © 1990.

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