This is after a few years and Brian and Justin are now fathers.
Categories: QAF US Characters:
Blake Wyzecki, Brian Kinney, Carl Horvath, Claire Kinney, Cynthia, Daphne Chanders, David Cameron, Debbie Novotny, Emmett Honeycutt, Gus Marcus-Peterson, Jennifer Taylor, Jenny Rebecca Marcus-Peterson, Justin Taylor, Lindsay Peterson, Melanie Marcus, Michael Novotny, Molly Taylor, Original Character, Original Female Character, Original Male Character, Other Cast Regulars, Ted Schmidt
Established Relationship, Family, Out of CharacterGenres:
Brian/Justin, Debbie/Carl, Emmett/Other, Melanie/Lindsay, Ted/Blake
Stay With Me
Mar 30, 2017 Updated:
Apr 22, 2017
1. Chapter 1 by starlight
2. Chapter 2 by starlight
3. Chapter 3 by starlight
4. Chapter 4 by starlight
5. Chapter 5 by starlight
6. Chapter 6 by starlight
7. Chapter 7 by starlight
8. Chapter 8 by starlight
9. Chapter 9 by starlight
10. Chapter 10 by starlight
11. Chapter 11 by starlight
12. Chapter 12 by starlight
13. Chapter 13 by starlight
14. Chapter 14 by starlight
15. Chapter 15 by starlight
16. Chapter 16 by starlight
This isn't long but I will say don't put drinks near reading devices.
“Daddy, Papa, hurry!” Nathan screams from upstairs.
“How did he get past the gate?” Brian asks, as we run to the stairs.
“Did you put it back up?” I ask, as we pass the gate, which is wide open.
“I showed him.” Penny tells us, at the top of the stairs, putting her thumb in her mouth.
“Daddy, Papa, I need to show you.” Nathan yelled, excited.
“Please just let there not be a flood.” Brian, who seems to pray everyday since Nathan was born, begs.
We got to the bathroom and stood together, in hopes that Nathan maybe just made a small mess this time. Brian opened the door to Nathan peeing in the toilet.
“I did it.” Nathan announced, turning towards us, still peeing.
“Yes, you did.” I whisper, leaning on Brian as our son soaked us.
“Natty, in the doggy’s water bowl.” Penny tells him helpfully.
“Oh yeah.” He turns and finishes in the toilet.
“Doggy’s water bowl?” Brian asks Penny.
“It's where Fluffy likes to drink out of.” She tells us, smiling the smile that makes a slave of Brian. It's how we got a dog named Fluffy.
When Justin and I met the surrogate, it was with the idea that any children would be from Justin. I had Gus already, so it wasn't a big deal to me that my next child wasn’t biologically mine. Penny came and I got my wish of his eyes and a head of blonde curls. I don't care what anyone says, JR was not attractive at birth the way my Penny was. I had the support of Gus on this, so we all know it’s the truth. Justin seems to think that Gus only sided with me because Gus thinks JR is a pain in the ass. Justin just likes that JR thinks he’s better looking than me. I think Mel needs to get that kid’s eyes checked, because JR declared Blake better looking too.
Justin and I merged our two companies to save the life of my artists. They seem to understand better when Justin explains things than when I do. It freed up Justin’s time to work with Alex and Grant, while managing the art on my campaigns. The only time we disagreed was when Justin wanted Lindsay to be head artist on a major campaign. I’ve never felt her work was more than okay, but Justin told me to have a little faith in her, and in him for knowing what I want. Lindsay knocked me on my ass with the boards she presented. She explained that she learned to use more than one medium to achieve what she saw in her head when Justin told her what we wanted. We won the campaign and Lindsay started exploring art the way Justin does.
With Kinnetik in capable hands, I took a month off to be with Penny and Justin. When it was time for me to return to work, I made the decision that Penny being with someone where I couldn’t see her was not going to happen and called Molly to offer her an internship watching Penny at Kinnetik. Justin and Molly looked at me as if I made it up, well okay, I did. It still gave her credits towards college, so who cares. Molly finished her community service but found that she loved working with special needs children, so she stayed on at the center and is going to college to become a teacher with the idea that she will work with the children that need a teacher the most.
Justin’s birthday came and I asked him what I could give him, because nothing I looked at seemed to be what I thought he would want. Justin is just not materialistic the way the rest of the world is. Mel and Lindsay were completely useless, suggesting romantic getaways and jewelry that Justin never wears anyway. So I did the smart thing and asked my husband, the genius.
“A baby.” He told me.
“I’ll call Tabitha and let her know you're ready again.” I tell him.
“I want you to be the one this time. I want to see you in our next child. It’s what I want for my birthday next year. This year I just want to know that you’ll do it.” He tells me.
Nathan arrived before Justin’s next birthday, because there was no reason to wait, when I wanted it too. Only we just weren’t prepared for a little boy. Gus was easy compared to Nathan, who couldn’t seem to not touch something. I remembered when he was two and I told him not to touch the ashtray Penny made in school for me. (Which I love, but don’t use) The little stinker reached up and knocked it off the desk while I was watching him. Then ran to Justin to hide. Justin brought him back and showed him how to glue the two halves together, so Penny wouldn’t get upset. Later that night we found Nathan laying on his bed as if praying, and Justin grabbed the camera to take a picture of the precious moment. I went to get the alcohol to unglue his hands. Nathan has been the the most fun I’ve had since ‘Gus of the disappearing pants’.
Of course the potty training was easy with Penny, we just let Lindsay and Mel help us, since they understood the plumbing better than we did. A week later Penny was diaperless. Unfortunately Mel decided that since we each had a penis, that we got to teach Nathan. Nathan didn’t want to go near the toilet because he was convinced that if he fell in, Penny would flush him. Penny gave us a wide eyed look and swore on her princess dresses that she didn’t say she would flush him, she had just explained what she saw in a movie to him, she didn’t realize Nathan thought that he would end up in the sewer like the rat. I didn’t even want to know what that meant.
So, standing next to my husband, soaked by my son, I counted it as one of the best days of our lives. Diapers were history.
“Wait, Nathan where is your diaper?” I asked as he reached up to flush.
“In there.” He tells me, flushing and pointing at the toilet that was now overflowing onto the floor.
“Oh.” I tell him raising my eyebrow.
“Was it posta go somewhere else?” He asks, climbing in the tub when the water was everywhere.
“Don’t laugh, we can’t.” Justin tells me, burying his head on my chest.
“It should count that I’m not crying, these pants are my new Armani.” I tell him, kissing his head.
“NOT ARMANI!” My baby girl yells, horrified.
“Okay now you can laugh.” Justin tells me, laughing with tears running down his face.
“Um, Daddy, Papa.” Nathan tells us from the tub.
“Yes Nathan.” I ask, since Justin is incapable of speech.
“I pooped.” He announces happily.
Justin just had to have my kid.
Sitting at the breakfast table I put my head on my fist and stared down Nathan. He copied me and attempted to raise his brow. I tilted my head and he shook his head no. I nodded, he glared. We were having a stare down, when Fluffy came running through and the little stinker pushed his oatmeal off the table, landing it at Fluffy’s feet.
“Oh Daddy, I can’t eat that now.” He tells me, trying to look sorry.
“Don’t worry, I made you more.” I tell him.
“It’s okay, I can have the frosties.” He tells me, running to the stool.
“Today is oatmeal day.” I tell him, pulling him down and putting another bowl in front of him as Penny comes in with Justin.
“I can’t Daddy, it’s gross.” He tells me.
“It’s cinnamon and sugar, like a cinnamon roll.” Justin tells him, taking a bite.
“I won’t eat it.” He tells Justin, crossing his arms and sitting away from it.
“Why not? You’ve always wanted to eat it before.” I tell him.
“Cause it looks like the stuff Fluffy put in your shoe this morning Daddy.” He tells me.
“What shoe?” I ask.
“Penny calls them Pada.” He tells me.
“Bad Fluffy, not Prada, use Papa’s shoes, no one cares about them.” Penny tells Fluffy.
We were on our way to Deb’s for Sunday dinner. With Michael not around, the guys made a point of not missing dinner at her house. Deb still went to see Michael, and being a father now, I understood how hard it would be for her to completely cut him out of her life. We could always tell when the visits had gone badly, by the amount of food that was being cooked. Lindsay was sitting outside when we showed up.
“She’s upset.” Lindsay told us.
“What happened?” Brian asks.
“Gus and JR are waiting for Penny and Nathan.” She tells us.
“Linney, I need kisses.” Nathan runs to her.
Nathan seemed to have a crush on Lindsay, if she was near, he needed cuddles and kisses. Lindsay loved it, because Gus was at the age where those things embarrassed him. I didn’t mind, because my mother was still just a random visitor, and the kids just never really warmed up to her. Lindsay and Mel gave them the mother figure that our kids wouldn’t have gotten from anyone in our families. Penny was more attached to Mel than Lindsay. Lindsay and I thought it had a lot to do with Mel and Brian’s personalities being so alike, not that we ever said that to them, we both liked having places to sleep. We were able to find a balance to co-parent all four of the kids together. Brian and Mel were the softies, which amused everyone to no end. Brian and Mel could be tough as nails at work, but melted when our kids were around. Which left Lindsay and I having to stop them from wanting to give the kids things just because they asked for them. It worked for us, but sometimes had Deb feeling left out when we weren’t running to her for advice. None of us said it, but we all knew that it had more to do with the way she raised Michael, it just didn’t have us seeing that she did it any better than we could. Deb just wanted to be needed, but not at the expense of how we raised our children. Nathan kissed and cuddled his Linney, then ran into see his other brother and sister, with Penny.
“Michael is getting out early, but told her he didn’t want a mother who left him to rot in prison.” She tells us.
“I don’t get how she expects anything to change with Michael.” I tell them.
“Deb wants to believe the sweet boy she raised is in there somewhere. Michael wasn’t the asshole he became until after he left here to go live with his boyfriend. He came back and acted as if anyone outside of the circle, that he approved of, wasn’t good enough.” Brian tells us.
“Which Mel and I weren’t a part of because we were using Brian for everything.” Lindsay tells us.
“Lindsay, I never did things for you and Mel unless I wanted to.” Brian tells her.
“I know that, but Justin wasn’t around then.” She tells him.
“Deb’s upset because Michael rejected her?” I ask.
“She thought that Michael would see that she did what she could, but it’s not why she’s upset. Carl isn’t happy that she’s been putting money in Michael’s account the whole time. She was working all those extra shifts to be able to afford the money she put in his account.” She tells us.
“Which meant that when Carl wanted to take that vacation, she said no because she needed to make money for Michael. When is she going to figure out that nothing she does will ever be enough to make Michael happy.” Brian tells her.
“When is Michael getting out?” I asked her.
“Not for another month. Mel made sure we were informed of any change.” Lindsay tells us.
Lindsay wasn’t kidding, the kitchen was covered in food, and Deb was still trying to find something to make. Brian took her out of the kitchen into the backyard while the rest of us started setting the table. Nathan was sitting at the table eyeing the cake and pies, it’s always funny to us that Nathan eats like a horse, unlike Brian.
“Brian, I need to finish.” She tells me trying to go back in.
“Deb, cooking everything in your house isn’t going to make things better.” I tell her.
“Like anyone cares about Michael. All of you… shit, I didn’t mean that.” She tells me.
“Do you think I like that the person who I thought of as my best friend became the man who treated Justin like shit. There was a time when I couldn’t see Michael not a part of my life. I just couldn’t stay friends with someone who acted like Gus was only important when I was around. Michael didn’t want any of us to have a life unless he approved of it and was the center of it.” I tell her.
“He just thought he knew what would make you happy.” She tells me.
“How could he, when for him the only way I was happy was to be Brian Fucking Kinney, drinking too much, taking anything I could to stay high, and avoiding anyone who could be more than a one night stand. That’s how your son viewed my life.” I tell her.
“Brian, he spent his life waiting for you.” She tells me.
“What was I supposed to do, kick Justin out of my life just to keep your son happy? I thought you got past blaming me for Michael.” I tell her.
“Brian, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m just pissed that I let Michael get to me again. I don’t know how to stop wanting my son to be the son I once thought he was.” She tell me.
“I can understand that, if Gus, JR, Penny, or Nathan were in trouble, I know I’d want to try to help them. It’s just they would have to want the help and be willing to do what it takes to straighten out their lives. Michael apparently still doesn’t see anything he did as wrong. You can’t let him ruin your relationship with Carl because he wants to continue to be a petulant child.” I tell her.
“Carl isn’t happy that I was paying off Michael’s house and giving Michael money.” She tells me.
“How on earth could you afford that, all those extra shifts couldn’t have paid that mortgage?” I ask, wondering what the hell she was thinking.
“Michael needed a place to come home too. I didn’t want any of you having to avoid me because Michael would have had to stay with me, if he didn’t have a place to go.” She tells me.
“How were you paying for it?” I ask.
“I got a second mortgage on my house. It’s why Carl is about to leave me.” She tells me.
“Once again, Michael ruins someone’s relationship. Why would you even do it?” I ask her, as Emmett and Ted come out the backdoor.
“He told me that he didn’t see any reason to live when he’d lost everything.” She tells me.
“What’s going on?” Emmett asked.
“Carl is leaving her because she can’t see Michael needs to be the one taking care of himself.” I tell them.
“I don’t blame Carl for not wanting to watch Deb kill herself to take care of Michael.” Ted tells us.
“You don’t understand what it’s like to be a parent.” She tells Ted.
“I might not have any kids, but I know that having one doesn’t mean my life is never mine.” Ted told her.
“He’s my son.” She tells us.
“I want to be your husband, but I don’t see that happening if you can’t let Michael deal with his own problems.” Carl tells her coming out the door.
“What do you want me to do, he has to have a place to live. We agreed that he couldn’t live here.” She tells him.
“I don’t think he should live in Pittsburgh. He’s hurt too many people and none of them need Michael back in their lives.” He tells her.
“Where is he going to go?” She asks him.
“I’ve been working with a friend who sponsors a program to help convicts when they're released. Michael would be required to earn his keep and train for a job he could get. One of the conditions is that he can’t contact any of the victims that were affected by his crimes.” He tells her.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Deb asks him.
“Michael has to agree first, and with you helping him, he sees no reason to.” He tells her.
“Because I gave him a way out of it.” She tells him.
“Then don’t give him a way.” Carl tells her.
“I need to sell Michael’s house. It’s in my name.” She tells me and Ted.
I nodded and went inside while she and Carl talked. I looked at Nathan, who was sitting at the table while Justin took pictures and Lindsay and Mel laughed.
“Son, what have you been doing?” I ask.
“Nothing Daddy.” He tells me.
“What happened to the cake?” I ask, looking at the side missing from the cake.
“I don’t know, maybe Fluffy ate it.” He tells me.
“Fluffy ate it, from our house?” I ask.
“Fluffy’s might have sneakded in here.” He tells me seriously.
“Fluffy has all kinds of skills, but how did she manage to get cake all over your face?” I ask, grabbing a napkin to wipe the cake off his nose.
“I couldn’t help it Daddy, I needed it.” He tells me, as I wipe his hands.
The peanut gallery behind me didn’t help my comedian, by nodding while laughing.
“I get it Son.” I tell him, looking at Justin.
“Will you sit still.” I hear Penny say.
“I want to play.” Nathan tells her.
“We are playing, so stop moving.” She tells him.
I knock on Penny's door, “What are you doing?” I ask as I open the door.
“Nothing.” Penny tells me, hiding something behind her back.
“We played, but it's boring.” Nathan tells me.
“What was the game called?” I ask, as if I couldn’t tell.
“Barber Shop.” Nathan, who is missing patches of hair, informs me.
“Papa it would have been fabulous if he sat still.” Penny tells me.
“Justin, have you seen my red tie… where is Nathan’s hair?” Brian asks, blinking as if the hair will magically reappear on Nathan’s head.
Justin and I were taking Gus to lunch while Lindsay and Mel got Nathan’s hair straightened out. Justin and I decided that Gus needed to have one day that was just him and us after the kids were born. Gus never minded that all the kids were included, but he was our first and only for so long that we never wanted him to forget he was important to us too.
“Dad, the school offered to take us to on a weekend camping trip, but the moms want to come.” He tells me.
“You don’t want them to go?” I ask.
“It’s just, well, Mom is not someone who camps, and she still calls me Lambskin in front of the guys. I don’t mind Mama coming, she at least would have fun.” He tells me.
“And doesn’t call you anything that embarrasses you.” I add.
“You're worried that if you tell them you only want Mel to go it will upset your mom?” Justin asks.
“I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I don’t know how to say it without hurting her.” He tells us.
“Do you want us to talk to her for you?” I ask him.
“No, I know I need to be the one, but how do I tell her without it sounding like I don’t want her around.” He tells us.
“Tell her you want time with Mama. We’ll help by talking to Mel for you.” Justin tells him.
“Thanks. Mom hasn’t figured out that calling me Lambskin is not cool.” He tells us.
Justin and I managed to keep a straight face, but we both agreed that Lindsay’s pet name needed an upgrade. I looked over and saw Craig staring at Justin. Craig had managed to stay in business but wasn’t doing as well as he once was. Craig was lucky that he raised two kids who got full rides into college. He got up and came over to us.
“Justin, how have you been?” He asks.
“Wonderful Craig, I have everything I wanted in life.” He tells him.
“I heard from your mother that you had two children, is this one of them?” He asks looking at Gus.
“Brian and I have two that live with us, but we also have Gus, and consider his other sister ours too. I guess as usual Mom only knows about half of my life.” He tells Craig.
“She’d know more if you and Molly would include us. I would like to know my grandchildren.” He tells Justin.
“Brian, Gus, I’ll be right back. Craig and I need to talk alone.” Justin tells us, getting up and walking outside.
“You want to talk to him, you have your chance.” I tell Craig, nodding toward Justin, who is walking out the door.
I waited outside for Craig, not my father. Those feeling were gone a long time ago, and I didn’t miss the man who only came around if I could be seen as a benefit. After the boycott, he started coming around to events that Mel and Lindsay dragged us too. Craig was getting pictures with Tannis and Phil, who were probably the only gay people he could stomach.
“Justin, you could have at least introduced me to the child.” Craig tells me.
“You’ll never bring anything into Gus’s life that I could see as a good thing. You can’t honestly tell me that you approve of anything about our lives. Craig, we barely talk and I’m fine with the way things are.” I tell him.
“I’m still your father.” He tells me.
“Not in any way that I believe a father should be. I couldn’t kick out my children because of who they love, for me it makes what you did the end of me seeing you as my father. Why bother, now when I no longer need you around to disapprove of the way I run my life.” I tell him.
“I want a chance to make it up to you and to be there for my grandchildren.” He tells me.
“I don’t believe a word you say, because nothing in your actions shows me that you mean a word that you're saying. I married a man who showed me with his actions that he means what he says. Your actions only say that you were trying to use me to keep your business. My family won’t be the ones you have in group photos to show the masses that gay is okay. Find another way to save your stores, because we won’t smile for the camera.” I tell him.
“For once, couldn’t you see that it’s about family and not your lifestyle?” He asks me.
“My family left me when they found out, so nope, I don’t see how one was exclusive of the other.” I tell him.
“Papa, we’re ready to go.” Gus tells me coming out.
“Yes, Sonny Boy, I’m ready to go too.” I tell him. “My children can love who they want, and it will never change my love for them.” I whisper, patting Craig on the back.
“You were always one big disappointment.” He tells me.
“So were you.” I tell him, shrugging.
Brian came out, looking between me and Craig, when he saw I was fine, we left Craig standing on the sidewalk.
“Is it weird that I don't really feel anything about him?” I ask Brian.
“I think we just don’t have any room in our lives for people who can’t be happy with us the way we are.” He tells me.
“That was your father?” Gus asks.
“He’s the man that my mother had me with.” I tell Gus.
“So that means he’s your father, right?” Gus asks.
“He’s nothing like a father Gus. He wants me to live my life as if being married means to a woman and not your dad.” I tell him.
“But you don’t like women, not the way you like my dad.” He tells me, confused.
“Craig would rather I pretend to like women, the way I love your dad.” I tell him.
“That’s kind of dumb, he’d rather you be miserable than happy?” Gus asks me.
“Yes Gus, but there are people in the world who don’t accept that love comes in all shapes and sizes.” I tell him.
Nathan came running out with his new haircut, or should I say buzz head. Lindsay came out behind him, looking sad that our boy’s waves were gone. Even Justin, who smiled as Nathan laid his head on his shoulder seemed to miss the hair that he ran his hands through when our son fell asleep on his lap.
“Brian, it will grow back, all kids cut their hair at one time or another.” Lindsay tells me.
“Did you have to buzz it all off?” I ask.
“Penny cut more than you saw, the barber found patches under the longer hair. You need to go and talk to her, your little girl thinks everyone is mad at her.” Lindsay tells me.
I go in to find Penny and make sure she knows she wasn’t in trouble. I found her in Mel’s office with Mel.
“Hey Brian, I was reminding Penny that today was your day with Gus.” She tells me.
“I forgot, I thought you were mad at me.” Penny says, not looking up from her coloring book.
“Penny, we didn’t like that you cut your brother’s hair. It didn’t mean that we were mad at you.” I tell her, picking her up and putting her in my lap.
“I didn’t want to cut my dolls hair until I knew I could. I was just using Nathan for practice.” She tells me.
“No cutting any hair, I like your curls just where they are.” I tell her.
“Because you told Papa you wanted blue eyes and blond curls.” She tells me what I told her.
“And because you wouldn’t like to have the haircut Nathan has.” I tell her smiling.
“I wouldn’t, my princess dress wouldn’t look good if I looked like Nathan. Nathan just looks all wrong in skirts.” She tells me.
“When did you put Nathan in your dresses?” I ask.
“I think I need to go see Papa.” she tells me, jumping off my lap and running out the door.
“We are going to have our hands full when the girls get older.” Mel tells me.
“You are going to have your hands full trying to keep Lindsay from being upset when Gus tells you guys that he only wants you to go on the camping trip.” I tell her.
“Is it because she can’t stop calling him Lambskin?” She asks.
“I think that’s part of it, and can you really see Lindsay in the great outdoors?” I ask her.
“Lindsay and I went camping once, and that was the last time she wanted to try it.” She tells me.
“Then convince her that camping with Gus isn’t a great idea. Gus doesn’t want to hurt her feelings.” I tell her.
“Or you and Justin could go.” She smirks.
“Unless it’s five star, my delicate ass doesn’t go near it.” I tell her, ignoring the look on her face that says she is holding back a comment.
Just a note to tell everyone that I'm going to be out of town for the next two days. Tomorrow I drive 3 hours to the hotel and then will be in meetings from 10 am until 11pm and up again at 7 til 2 so I won't have time to write anything but should be back on schedule Friday.
I walked into the kitchen and didn’t see the kids, who were supposed to be here. Justin came in and looked around, noticing the missing children and Fluffy.
“Are they still upstairs?” I ask.
“No, I sent them down here to wait for us.” Justin tells me.
“Nathan knows it lunchtime, right?” I ask, because Nathan is like Justin, never misses a meal.
“Yes Brian, I told him, and Penny, before you ask.” He tell me.
“YUCK.” Penny yells from the laundry room.
“There is a part of me that just doesn’t want to know.” I tell Justin.
“Yet there’s the bigger part that says we need to know.” Justin tells me, going to the laundry room. “Nathan that isn’t for you.” Justin says as he walks in.
I followed, just hoping there wasn’t a complete mess in there. I looked at Fluffy, then at Nathan.
“Why Nathan?” Justin asks, as Nathan crunches away on Fluffy’s food.
“He said it tasted good. There is just something wrong with boys.” Penny tells me, wrinkling her nose at Nathan.
“Nathan, why are you eating the dog’s food?” Justin asks, pulling his hand out of Fluffy’s bowl.
“I eat it for snack.” Nathan tells us, trying to grab another handful.
“Snacks are in the house, not Fluffy’s bowl.” Justin tells him.
“You moved my stool.” Nathan tells us, glaring.
Mel and Gus were off for the wilderness, and Lindsay was thrilled not to have to go. She told me that she, like Brian, just couldn’t stay somewhere without running water. Gus turned the pleading eyes on Brian and of course Brian ended up saying yes. I made sure to pack matching flannel for him and Mel, while unpacking anything that he thought should be worn in the great outdoors. He tried so hard to convince me to go in his place, but like I told him, he’s the sportsman, not me.
Lindsay and I were going over to Alex’s with Jenny, Nathan, and Penny. I planned to take lots of pictures to send Brian. When we got to Alex’s house, Emmett came running out to hug Penny and Nathan. Jenny was copying Gus, not wanting to be hugged.
“I made all your favorites, then we can play while Papa works today.” Emmett tells us.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“They ran into a problem with some graphic, they need to see if you can find a way to make it work.” Emmett tells me.
“Emmett, the program ran perfectly.” I tell him.
“I throw the parties, not write the programs.” He tells me, taking the kids and Lindsay with him.
I went to Alex’s office to see what could have changed in the last two days. Grant was laying on the couch throwing a ball in the air and Alex was pacing back and forth.
“Guys, we ran it two days ago and it worked, what happened?” I ask them.
“Nothing, Dad is all nervous.” Grant tells me.
“Why? The game has already sold enough that you don’t need to worry.” I tell Alex.
“The game is fine, I just didn’t want Emmett to wonder why I wanted you to see me alone.” He tells me.
“Are you okay?” I asked, when he kept pacing the room.
“Dad wants to marry Emmett.” Grant tells me, smiling.
“Emmett is going to say yes, he’s been waiting for you to ask him.” I tell Alex.
“Emmett saying yes isn’t the problem.” He tells me.
“Then what is?” I ask.
“I mentioned it to him and he said he wanted a prenup, so no one ever thinks it’s about the money.” He tells me.
“Did he say why he’s even worried about it?” I ask.
“He dated someone once and people treated him as if he was in it for the money. He doesn’t want anyone to say he married me for the same reason. We ended up at a party where someone said that I should watch out for Emmett, he overheard the bitch.” Alex tells me.
“Then have him sign one, and after the wedding tear it to shreds. It’s not easy when your partner comes into a relationship with more than you have.” I tell Alex.
“It didn’t bother you?” Alex asks me.
“Of course it did, but Brian pretty much told me that if I marry him, I accept who he is and what he has. It helped that he didn’t act like my contribution wasn’t important.” I tell him.
“You think that’s the problem? Emmett is always offering to help out, but I don’t see any reason for it.” He tells me.
“Dad, talk to the man you want to marry. Tell him that you’ll do the prenup but you just don’t see the point when you never see it ending. Tell him I’ve always wanted to be Cinderella with the wicked stepmother who makes me clean the chimney.” Grant tells him.
“Or just tell him that you and Grant don’t put conditions on love.” I tell him.
I hate mosquitos. I hate singing by the fire. I really hate the fucking flannel that seems to have every set of parents assuming that Mel and I are married. I love that Gus is thrilled to have me here. Unfortunately, Mel and I were stuck with the other lumberjacks.
“Isn’t it wonderful to be out here with the kids?” Soccer mom asks me.
“It’s all I wanted to do.” I tell her, when she keeps leaning towards me, showing me her enhanced breasts.
“My Lambchop just loves nature, more that five star hotels.” Mel tells me, trying to leave me with the single moms.
“Sweetcheeks, you know we always want to show Gus we love him.” I tell her, grabbing her and holding her on my lap.
“Now Buttercup, you know we agreed not to make everyone jealous that you can’t keep your hands off me.” Mel tells me.
“Keeping hands off me, is your job, my delicate flower.” I tell her, holding in the laugh when Mom to the left’s hands are stuck between Mel’s ass and my leg.
“Get your hand off my ass.” Mel leans back, whispering.
“Not my hand.” I whisper back.
“You two are just adorable, how long have you been together.” Soccer mom asks, after getting her hand free.
“Since college, wasn’t it Honeylips?” I ask smiling at Mel.
“Yes Love Muffin, but back then I thought you were such an asshole. He stuck around and I finally just gave in.” Mel tells them.
“Now Melly you need to tell the truth. She was always chasing my crowd around, and one day I had to get her out of the chess club and see if being with me would stop the nickname. I mean it was just awful that everyone called her Smelly Melly. I showed her deoderant was her friend.” I tell our audience.
“He likes people to believe that, but you know he was such a shy virgin when I met him. I made the mistake of thinking he could just be a one night stand, but he assumed that we were meant to be. I gave in when he got down on his knees in the middle of the campus declaring his undying love for me.” Mel tells them.
“Dad, why is Mama on your lap?” Gus asks, looking confused.
“They were just telling us about how they met. It’s so sweet to see a couple who seem so in love.” Soccer mom tells Gus.
“Gus how about we go fishing?” Mel asks, when Gus looks like he’s about to out us.
“Sure, I just love spending time with my loving parents. I can’t wait to tell everyone about how in love you two are with each other.” Gus smirks at us.
“I would love to tell everyone about you and pants.” I tell him.
Gus ran to get fishing poles and we followed him out to the lake. I sprayed myself down with the shit Mel handed me. Then tossed the line out and pulled off my shirt to tan.
“Dad, you know you have to have bait.” Gus tells me.
“Gus, I don’t catch fish, I buy it ready to eat in restaurants.” I tell him, closing my eyes. Did I mention I hate fucking sleeping bags too?
I finally saw one reason to be out here, I could get a tan. I turned over and fell asleep on my arms. I woke up to someone massaging my back.
“Mel, as much fun as it was fucking with the breeders, I really don’t think you have to take it this far.” I tell her.
“Fucking sounds so much better.” Soccer mom whispers.
“Can you explain why you’re hands are on my man?” Mel ask.
“I was just checking that he didn’t burn.” She tells Mel, taking her hands off me.
“Jesus Brian, women too?” Mel asks, after Soccer mom takes off.
I swear you’d think a lighter was the end of the world. I mean, I get rubbing your hands raw with sticks but hey, now we flick a bic for that. I just didn’t see the point in taking an hour to light a fire when I could just get the sucker going. And I will never get people wanting to eat twigs and berries when the restaurant in town was happy to deliver. None of the kids complained when the pizza arrived. It was either pizza, or the fish none of them wanted. The next morning I snuck back before anyone woke up. One of the delivery guys mentioned a hotel close by, and really, hot water is just a requirement. Mel came out of her tent and I wonder how seeing her like that didn’t scare Lindsay off. She took one look at me and demanded keys, apparently I’m not the only one who’s a five star around here.(Okay three and a half). Day two was a hike, and yeah I could deal with exercise, but the women kept having to take breaks to gossip when I wanted to run some of the pizza off. The kids were with the teachers, learning all about tree bark or something. We parents were supposed to stay in back to keep the kids from wandering off, but I didn’t think they meant putting a few miles between us. I started jogging again, but had to wait up for the rest of the group. Mel, who was running with me, rolled her eyes as they all called for another break. She then walked over to me and took off my shirt, whispering “Run Forest, Run” and wouldn’t you know it, the women chased me until we caught up. I left camping with number to call if I ever needed a running partner.
I got home and fell into my bed after washing up, clean sheets and a shower were all I cared about. Justin came in a few hours later and pulled off my shirt and pants. Then he gave me a massage.
“It couldn’t have been that bad.” He tells me.
“No Mr Flannel, it was worse. I’ve been violated by the single mom brigade. They didn’t care that my wife was with me.” I tell him.
“How did you get married to someone else?” He asks.
“It all started with enhanced breasts that keep flying at me. I figured Mel would be more than happy to have them swing at her, but Lambchop didn’t do her job. I mean, soccer mom’s hand ended up under Sweetcheeks ass, and all Mel could think was that I was groping her.” I tell him, shivering at the thought.
“Well when Mel sits on your lap, what is she supposed to think?” He asks me, giggling.
“I’m taking Gus’s phone from him.” I tell him, moaning when he rubs a muscle that was sore.
“I’ll just buy him a new one, he takes such interesting pictures.” He tells me.
I turned over and smiled at some pictures I wanted to take. Justin was sitting on top of me in just his robe. “Where are the kids?” I ask him.
“Grant and Dan wanted to see what having kids was like for a night.” He tells me, letting his robe fall off.
“Too bad, I was going to call soccer mom and see if I finally managed to want pussy.” I tell him.
“Well if you need to explore your straight side, I won’t get in the way.” He tells me running his hands down my chest.
“I don’t know, there might still be something interesting right here.” I tell him, grabbing his ass.
“But I don’t have pillows of love for you to lay your head on.” He tells me, leaning down and licking my nipples.
“I’ll just have to lay on these pillows.” I tell him rubbing my cock against my favorite place.
Justin pulled the lube out and wet his hands, then reached back and stroked me. I felt him adjust me so that I teased his entrance, and then lift and take me in. “You prepared yourself for me.” I groaned as he took me all the way.
“I missed you.” He tells me, riding me.
Justin moved slowly, rotating his hips so that I hit the spot he loved. I reached up to stroke him in time with his movements. I let Justin control us, until I needed to move faster. I held him still as I thrust from under him and wait until I feel him cum to finish.
We were laying together when his phone goes off. He looked at the number and rolled his eyes.
“Who’s calling?” I ask.
“Emmett. He’s trying to get Grant and I to agree that Alex should have a prenup.” He tells me.
“When did Alex ask him?” I ask.
“After talking it to death with me and Grant, instead of Emmett.” He tells me.
“Why is Emmett worried about a prenup?” I ask.
“He doesn’t want anyone thinking he married Alex for the money.” He tells me.
“Emmett isn’t poor either.” I tell him.
“It’s hard when you're the one who is coming into a marriage with a lot less than the person you’re marrying. To other people it can seem like you're in it for the money.” He tells me.
“Only to people unimportant to your marriage.” I tell him.
“Brian, unlike you, who didn’t make my contribution seem unnecessary, Alex acted like it wasn’t important that Emmett contribute to the household. After explaining that, Alex realized he made a mistake by telling Emmett he didn’t need to pay for anything. Only now, Emmett sees it as him trying to not do a prenup.” He tells me.
“Emmett needs to see that when you join your lives together, it shouldn’t matter. I didn’t care if you made less, marrying you was about us being a couple.” I tell him.
“If I was the one with more money, would you have had a problem with it?” He asks me.
“I won’t lie and say no, but I love you enough that I would have just accepted it the way you did.” I tell him.
“I love you too, and I did have a problem, until you pretty much told me when we bought the house to get over it.” I tell him.
“I’ll talk to Emmett, it might be good to invite Blake out with us. So he can see it from both sides.” I tell him.
“Why not just have all the guys over tomorrow? Dan and Grant are going to be dealing with the same thing if they get married. I don’t think Dan understands what Grant actually makes, it’s going to come as a surprise to Dan.“ He tells me.
“It’s surprising me that you make it sound like Grant makes more than you do from your projects with Alex.” I tell him.
“Grant owns forty-seven percent, I only own four.” I tell him.
“Crap, I married the wrong guy.” I tell him, joking.
“Maybe I need to show you that you didn’t.” Justin tells me, as he reaches for my cock.
I went to pick up the kids while Brian called to see if there was anything going on at Kinnetik. He’d been letting Ted and Cynthia handle more of the day to day stuff, so that he had time for the kids. I got to Dan and Grant’s house and could tell Nathan and Penny ran them ragged last night. Grant came up and hugged me.
“I decided that all parents need spa days.” He tells me.
“After only one night?” I ask, laughing.
“Man, it’s like having a puppy, you have to constantly run after them.” He tells me, as if this was something I didn’t know.
“While I have you here alone, have you ever told Dan about what you make working for your dad?” I ask him.
“Is this about Emmett still freaking out?” He asks me.
“I was thinking about it when Brian and I talked about it. I mean, anyone who doesn’t know you wouldn’t have a clue about your financial worth, because you never make it obvious.” I tell him.
“My money isn’t who I am.” He tells me, shrugging.
“You should at least tell Dan.” I tell him.
“He knows that I’m not poor, but I guess it’s something we need to talk about. I think he wants to get married. I’m meeting his extended family next week, so I’m actually pretty sure.” He tells me.
“Just make sure he knows.” I tell him.
“Papa, Uncle Dan said to ask you if you were ready to take us home.” Penny tells me.
“He said he needed a nap for a week.” Nathan tells me.
“Yes, Daddy misses you two, go ahead and get in the car.” I tell them. “Brian and I wanted to invite you guys to dinner tonight.” I tell Grant.
“If someone else is cooking, than consider us there.” He tells me, as I leave.
I called Daphne and invited her and Jim over too, since we haven’t had time to see each other lately. When we got home the kids ran up to see Brian and I went to see what I needed if we were going to have everyone over. I called Blake to let him know, and then Mel and Lindsay. I figured we shouldn’t leave anyone out. Emmett wanted to know if I needed help getting dinner ready, I invited him over because I thought possibly talking to Brian would help him. Brian came down with the kids and sat around with Emmett and I while the kids played with Fluffy. Emmett brought up the whole prenup again and I let Brian handle it while I started cooking.
“So do you see you and Alex divorcing?” Brian asks.
“No, I wouldn’t marry him if I thought that.” Emmett tells him.
“Then why are you worried about it?” Brian asks him.
“You wouldn’t understand, you never dealt with people treating you like a gold digger.” Emmett tells him.
“Who did it, people who you don’t give a shit about?” Brian asks.
“All George’s acquaintances know Alex. I don’t want him to constantly have people telling him I’m only marrying him because of what he has.” Emmett tells him.
“Then don’t marry him, if you're going to make this all about other people’s opinions.” Brian tells him.
“Brian, I’m trying to convince him to marry me.” Alex tells him, coming in with Lindsay, Mel, Blake, and Ted.
“I want to marry Alex.” Emmett tells us.
“Then get over the money issue. It shouldn’t matter to you if you love Alex.” Lindsay tells him.
“Ted and I never really had the issue. I think the only thing should matter is that we love each other.” Blake tells him.
“Emmett there is no reason for a prenup. I know why you're marrying me.” Alex tells him.
“Emmett, in the end if something did happen would you try to take Alex to the cleaners or would you walk away with what was yours?” Ted asks him.
“I’d only want what was mine, but nothing is going to happen.” Emmett tells him.
“Then why in the hell are you worrying about this?” Brian asks.
“Brian’s right, why are you worried about this? I waited a long time to find someone I wanted to marry, and it was you. I’m in this for life, which you seem to think you are too, so let the assholes talk, because it’s not about them.” Alex tells him.
“It’s about us and only us.” Emmett tells him, walking into Alex’s arms.
“Papa, I’m hungry.” Nathan tells me.
“How about a snack? Dinner won’t be ready for a while.” I tell him.
“Okay.” He tells me, running towards the laundry room.
“Nathan, get over here.” Brian tells him.
“Yes Daddy?” Nathan asks, crawling on his lap.
“Snacks are in the refrigerator in the drawer marked Nathan.” Brian tells him.
“You said not to open the door.” He tells Brian.
“I said not to leave the door open when you're done.” Brian tells him.
“You should have splained that, it’s why I was eating with Fluffy.” He tells Brian, getting down and opening the refrigerator.
Daphne came in and ran to me, whispering in my ear. Grant came over wanting to know what she was saying. Grant squealed and had everyone staring at us.
“Justin and I are going to be Uncles!” Grant yells.
Around noon on Monday I went with Ted to the diner to give Deb the check for the house that we sold for her. She was gossiping with the other waitresses when we came in, but came over to take our orders.
“Michael told Carl that he wouldn’t go to the group home.” Deb tells us.
“Then I hope he has someplace to go, because we sold the house. Before I give you this check, understand that Carl knows you're getting this.” Ted tells her.
“I’m giving it to Carl, so you didn’t have to tell on me.” She tells him, kissing his head.
“I know it’s hard not to want to help him, but Deb, if you do, it’s likely we’ll be dealing with the same shit.” I tell her.
“He can do what he wants, because Carl and I are going on the cruise that leaves on his release date. I owe it to Carl to take the vacation that I wouldn’t take when he wanted to go.” She tells us.
Ted and I paid for lunch and went back to Kinnetik. Penny came running up to see if I had time to read her book with her. I’d been working with her on her reading since we were about to have to let our baby go to Pre-K next year. She tested high enough to go straight to Kindergarten, but Justin wanted her to start with kids her age. I figured when she got bored and disruptive, Justin would give in. Penny was reading to me when my mother showed up at Kinnetik, sober?
I had Cynthia take Penny out of the room. I hadn’t seen my mother in years, and really hoped never to see her again. Joanie walked in without the usual stumbling around, and I wasn’t sure how to take a sober Joan Kinney. Then Justin walked in, which means Cynthia called him. My mother looked at Justin for a second but didn’t start in on her usual fires of hell.
“Is there some reason you’re here?” I ask her.
“I needed to see you and give you this.” She tells me handing me a letter.
“What is it? Another request for me to pay for something?” I ask her.
“No, it’s a letter of apology. I joined AA.” She tells me.
“Finally almost killed someone driving drunk?” I sneered.
“Brian, don’t do this.” Justin tells me, touching my arm.
“It’s okay, I deserve it. It’s not like I ever did anything for him. I left him to take the beatings that I hid from. I’m okay if he never forgives me for not being there, and then treating him as if God disapproved of a man who still took care of his drunk mother. I just wanted him to know that I was wrong, not him.” She tells Justin.
“You mean I’m no longer going to burn in hell because I fuck men?” I ask, to see how she deals with it.
“All I can see is that you married the person you love and he loves you back. It’s more than I ever had in my marriage, one that was supposedly correct in God’s eyes. I’m just glad you were able to find happiness, even after the things you went through.” She tells me.
“Daddy, Papa, hide me.” Nathan runs in yelling. “Who’s dat?” He asks us, pointing at my mother.
My mother looks down at Nathan and smiles at him. Justin shrugged, because like me, he doesn’t know if anything she says is really the truth.
“That’s your grandmother.” I tell him.
“I have one?” Nathan asks.
“You have two but this one is my mother.” I tell him.
“Do you make cookies or cake?” Nathan asks, her looking up at her.
“I make a cake your father used to like, I’m not sure if he likes it anymore.” She tells him.
“I like cake, you can give it to me.” He tells her.
“If your fathers are okay with it, I’ll make you one.” She tells him.
“Daddy, Nathan put a candy bar in the copy machine. Who is that?” Penny asks after telling on Nathan.
“My mother, your grandmother.” I tell her.
“Kids, why don’t we go see what Nathan did?” Justin tells them.
“I just wanted to make more.” Nathan tells my mother, kissing her cheek, before walking to Justin.
“Hi, I’m Daddy’s princess, Penny.” Penny tells her, hugging her when my mom opens her arms.
I waited until they left to talk to my mom. “If this is some fucked up game you’re playing, I will make it so you are never allowed around my kids or in my life.” I tell her.
“No games, I didn’t want to die one day with you thinking I never cared about you. I don’t expect to be welcome in your life. I’d just like the chance to tell you that nothing was ever your fault. Your father was unhappy that he had to marry me and took it out on you. It wouldn’t have mattered if you were the perfect child, he was an abusive drunk and I was a sanctimonious drunk. It was never your fault that you were stuck with us.” She tells me.
“How is Claire taking you cleaning up?” I ask her.
“She’s just waiting for me to fall off the wagon. Peter and John aren’t allowed around me, since I told them not to speak the way they do about you and Justin.” She tells me.
“I think that’s the first time you’ve said his name.” I tell her.
“Most likely because I was too drunk to remember it.” She tells me smiling. “I really would like to give that precious little boy the cake if you’ll let me.” She tells me.
“You mean my demon child.” I tell her.
“Boys do all sorts of things that will turn your hair gray.” She tells me.
I walk my mom out to the cab that was waiting and try to pay for it but she tells me no. I still didn’t know what to think, but when she hugged me it wasn’t like it use to be, when she barely tolerated anyone touching her. For the first time my mom didn’t smell like sherry.
“We could have lunch tomorrow.” I tell her, giving her a chance.
“I’d like that.” She tells me.
“I’ll pick you up at eleven.” I tell her.
Nathan was very disappointed that candy bars didn’t come out of the copy machine. I pulled the bar out and threw it in the freezer in the breakroom. I wanted Brian and his mother to have a chance to talk, because I really didn’t know how to take her. It made me wonder if people really could change. My mom tends to go back and forth, so I really just don’t see it happening. Although I can’t compare my mother to Brian’s. I know my mother loves me, it’s just that she only calls when she feels neglected. I can’t say that I help much by just going through the motions with her.
When Brian and I were in bed, I decided to bring it up. “What do you think?” I ask him.
“I don’t know.” Brian tells me.
“Did you read the letter?” I ask him.
“No, I guess I didn’t want to find out she didn’t change.” He tells me.
“Do you want me to read it?” I ask him.
“No, I want her to show me she’s serious. I invited her to have lunch with us tomorrow. If she hasn’t changed she won’t make it through lunch.” He tells me.
“Reading the letter won’t change anything if she hasn’t.” I tell him.
He hands it to me and I held it for a minute, almost not wanting to open it and find out that she was screwing with Brian again. I opened it and started reading.
There are so many things that you should have had and didn’t because of my drinking and thoughtlessness. You should have had a mother first and foremost, but I was too busy hiding in a bottle; drowning my sorrows, and your screams for someone to save you. For that I will never be able to forgive myself.
Your father threw in your face that he never wanted you, and I made sure you knew my religion saved you. Know that when I found out I was pregnant with you, that I wanted you, for no other reason than I wanted you. You were not a mistake on my part, but a mistake because I stayed in a marriage for all the wrong reasons and you were the one paying for my mistake. I know it’s hard to believe but I loved you from the minute you were placed in my arms. I just wasn’t strong enough to do what I should have done and leave your father. He hated that you succeeded when he did nothing but fail at everything, including being a father.
I used my religion as a reason you weren’t good enough, but I no longer believe God views the way you love as wrong, it’s just how he made you. Father Tom and I talked about this and he told me that love isn’t wrong, but the hatred that comes from others judging what only God can, is wrong. I think hearing what he said sober, and seeing my life for what it was, made me see how little I did that my God would approve of, in the way I lived my life. I honestly believed you couldn’t be happy married to a man instead of a woman, but I don’t really have any room to make judgements when I married someone who hated every minute of our lives together.
You never gave up, and made a life that no Kinney ever managed. A happy one. A life where there aren’t hundreds of empty bottles in the basement because you didn’t want the neighbors to see the reality of what our life was. You never let us be the excuse for living a life like ours, and that shows us all that you were the better person in this family, which wasn’t much of a family.
I’m happy to see that you aren’t letting the life you had with me affect the life you have with your husband and children. I heard about your children through Deb, who seemed to want me to see that you were going to be the kind of parent you never had. You’re going to be a parent that your kids will always want in their lives and that’s amazing, considering the example we gave you.
I know you hate apologies but I owe you at least that much. I hope one day that you can think of me and not see the passed out drunk who forgot things like birthdays and never once said I was proud of the man you became. You owe me nothing, but I want you to live the life that makes you the happiest.
I love you.
Joan Kinney or Mother (you get to choose)
I put the letter down, not sure if Brian would really need to read this. He picked it up and wiped the tears from my eyes. I put my head on his chest as he read the letter. I felt the tear when it landed on my cheek, but didn’t say anything because he needed to deal with this without having to talk about it, unless he wanted to.
“I want Gus, JR, and the girls to come tomorrow. I’d like to introduce them to my mom.” Brian tells me.
“I think they’d like to know the woman who wrote that letter.” I tell him, laying down with him and letting him sleep.
I called Lindsay to let her know who we were meeting for lunch. She tried to tell me this was a bad idea. I told her about yesterday and the letter, to get her to give Joan a chance. I wanted Brian to have this, it would be the first time he ever wanted his children to have a grandmother.
Hope can cause you to want things that will never happen. It’s why I tried never to have it, until Justin. I spent my life hoping that one day my parents would wake up and realize they were killing me with the version of love they gave me. I remember telling Justin to accept that some people will never love you the way you want them to, but then saw it happen when Molly realized that Justin didn’t cause their parents to divorce. Molly could have hated him for letting her deal with the mess she helped cause, but instead she faced up to what she did and loved her brother for not letting her out of trouble.
When Justin opened that letter that I wouldn’t, I almost tore it up. I waited while he read it and then realized it couldn’t be fire and brimstone, because he wouldn’t have let me read it if that was all it was. I read something I never thought I would, that she loved me. That she wanted me, and was proud of the fact that I got my ass out of the gutter we lived in. I said a silent prayer to the God I stopped speaking to that maybe my mom could change, and that I could love the person she tells me she’s becoming.
When Nathan and Penny crawled into bed with me, I realized that even if she isn’t changing, my children won’t ever have the life I lived. They’ll only have the best days.
I went to pick up my mother at the house of nightmares and found light where there had only been curtains that blocked out the rest of the world. The house needed repairs, but I could tell she was doing what she could to change it. She answered the door sober and invited me in. The furniture was still the crap we always had. She came out of the kitchen with a huge cookies and cream cake that was never really something I liked, but Nathan would be one happy kid.
“Justin wanted to have you over to the house. I thought it would make it easier for you than a busy restaurant.” I tell her
“Brian, the only thing that matters is that you're comfortable with where we go.” She tells me.
“I thought it would be nice for you to see the place I live with my family.” I tell her.
“I’d like that, could you help me get my things? I couldn’t think of something for Penny until I saw some of my old costume jewelry. Little girls love to play dress up.” She tells me, when I stare at her old jewelry case..
“Mom, you don’t have to buy my kids attention.” I tell her.
“I just wanted to give my grandchildren something, it’s not to buy anything. I missed all their lives and it would be nice to be able give them something for once. Something that you didn’t have to pay for.” She tells me.
“I need you to know before we go that Nathan and Penny aren’t the only grandchildren you’ll meet. I have a son Gus that you never met and Jenny his sister is mine too as far as all of us are concerned. Lindsay and I had Gus before I met Justin and Mel, Lindsay’s wife had a child with someone, but biology doesn’t make any of the kids less ours to the four of us.” I tell her.
“I’ve missed so much, do you think the kids will be okay with sharing the cake?” She asks, looking worried.
Just don’t spoil them, it makes Lindsay and Justin cranky.” I tell her.
Lindsay really was skeptical about this whole thing, but she trusted that we wouldn’t do anything to hurt our children. Brian texted me to let me know they were on their way. Lindsay was helping me make lunch for the everyone, when Brian brought her in. Joan walked in and I could see she was uncomfortable in the new surroundings. I was walking over when Nathan was running past and stopped.
“Grandma, I looovvvve you.” He tells her, eyeing the cake.
“Nathan, this is for after lunch.” Brian tells him, picking him up.
“Joan, come in and meet the family.” Justin tells her.
“I can definitely tell this must be Gus.” She smiles as she see Gus.
“This is Jenny.” Lindsay tells her pulling Jenny in front of her.
“I wanted to have something for the kids but I only knew about Nathan and Penny. Hopefully they won’t mind sharing the cake.” She tells Lindsay.
“They won’t mind at all, but I think getting to know you would be more important to them.” Mel tells her.
“Can I help? I’m not much of a cook, but I can clean up or help cut up things.” She asks me, and at first I was going to say no, but could see she needed something to do.
“I think Brian learned that skill from you, he’s never been able to make anything that didn’t require a microwave.” I tell her, handing her the vegetables for the salad.
“Grandma, we don’t need to many of those.” Nathan assures her standing on his stool.
“He likes carrots, but only because they’re not green.” Penny tells her.
“Nathan will eat anything if we let him.” Gus tells her.
“Do I call you Grandma?” Jenny asks her.
“Brian told me you're his daughter too, so yes Sweetheart.” Joan tells her.
Jenny runs to Brian, hugging his legs. “You gave me a Grandma.” She tells him in awe.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Brian asks her, as if puzzled.
“I think she sometimes feels left out. All the other kids call you Papa and Daddy.” Mel whispers to us.
“You could let her call them the same thing.” Joan tells us.
“We never really discussed it before, I mean Nathan and Penny call us by our names. I’m Linny to Nathan.” Lindsay tells her.
“I’m not really someone who should be telling you how to raise kids, but kids notice if there’s a difference in anything the other kids do.” Joan tells us.
“Really, Brian and Justin are the only fathers that Jenny will ever know.” Mel points out.
“What happens when Nathan and Penny get older? You two are the mother figures in their lives.” I tell the girls, and really, why do they have to leak all over lunch?
“Wipe the tears girls, Nathan is waiting for that cake.” Brian tells them.
When Joan opened the chest with the jewelry, Jenny and Penny didn’t care about cake. Gus sat watching but he was slow to warm up to the woman he had been told he wouldn’t ever know. Brian pulled Gus out of the room for a minute to talk to him. I followed to see if I could help him.
“She seems okay, but you always said she wasn’t someone I wanted to know.” Gus tells him.
“At first I didn’t believe she would ever be anyone I wanted you to know. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I’m giving her the chance to show us that she’s changed. I promised myself that my children would never be hurt by anyone, and I’m promising you that if she hurts you or your brother and sisters, she’s not welcome.” Brian tells him.
Gus walked back into the kitchen and sat down and started telling on Brian and Mel. I watched Joan try to hold in the laugh but let it go when Gus pulled out his phone to show her the pictures.
“I’ve never seen her smile or laugh.” Brian whispers to me.
“She never had a reason to.” I tell him.
Gus and Nathan were thrilled at the cake and their new Grandmother, who told them baking was the one thing she did well. When the doorbell rang, Joan went to get it while we cleaned up Nathan, Penny, and Jenny. Emmett came into the bathroom and closed the door.
“Did I just see your mother?” He asks Brian.
“Grandma brought us cake.” Jenny tells him.
“I can see that, but that Grandma is here just surprises me.” Emmett tells Jenny, getting a wet towel to clean her.
“I’ll tell you later.” I tell Emmett.
“I came to let you know that Alex and I set a date. We want to get married in two months.” He tells me.
“After the launch? Don’t you think it’s going to be hard to plan a wedding and the launch?” Brian asks him.
“Renny is coming to help me. He wanted a break from the whole football thing.” Emmett tells us.
“Everything okay with Drew and him?” I ask.
“I’ll leave you two to gossip, come on kids.” Brian tells us, taking the kids out.
“He’s just tired of the way the press is constantly wanting shots of the two of them. I think he thought he was only dating Drew, not becoming the poster child for the Gay Player.” Emmett tells me.
“I could see how hard that could be, but when you love someone and you deal with all the bullshit in their lives.” I tell him.
“I think he just needed a break, he didn’t sound like he was leaving Drew. What the hell is St Joan doing in your house?” Emmett asks.
“She showed up at Kinnetik, sober, and apologizing for the shit she did to Brian. She joined AA and wrote him the apology letter. She seems to see the world differently.” I tell him.
“She better, or she deals with all of us.” Emmett tells me.
“Let’s give her a chance before we worry about it.” I tell him.
After lunch my mom told me she needed to get to her meeting. She was telling me about the counselor and how he seemed to really care about them. I drove her to the meeting place and saw who the counselor was, and understood, because Blake did care about his patients.
“Hi, I guess your mother finally talked to you.” Blake tells me.
“It was time to stop hiding the truth from Brian.” She tells him.
“I hope you understand, I couldn’t tell you.” Blake tells me.
“It’s your job to help your patients, not tell on them.” I tell him.
“Do you want to stay?” Blake asks me.
“I don’t mind, but you don’t have to.” Mom tells me.
“I have something I want to do, but I can come back and get you.” I tell her.
I called Justin and asked him to see if Lindsay and Mel could stay at the house while he and Emmett came with me. I called Ted and told him to get what I wanted done and pay what it took. When I picked up Justin and Emmett they didn’t ask questions, just waited until we pulled up to my mother’s house.
“We need to move the old shit out.” I tell them, as Ted pulls in.
“I want you to know the furniture store says thank you for the many dollars it took to get them to let us have the showroom furniture, and bring it right now. They should be here soon. Blake said he could keep them there for an extra hour, apparently there’s one guy who loves to tell everyone about everything in his life. So for you, Blake is willing to be tortured by him.” Ted tells me.
We were moving all the stuff the guys would take with them when they dropped of the new stuff. I was coming out with the old dining room chairs when Claire came marching up the steps with her two future convicts.
“You actually believe she’s changed?” Claire asks me, as Peter and John roll their eyes.
“Why are you so pissed that she might want better then the life she was living?” I ask her.
“Because she acts like you’re so much fucking better than us.” She tells me.
“What, not being able to talk about your faggot brother bothers you?” I ask her.
“She not willing to watch the boys anymore when I have to work, how am I supposed to work when I don’t have anywhere to leave them.” She tells me.
“Why won’t she watch them?” I ask.
“She said she wasn’t able to keep up with the boys. It’s not like she has to do anything but sit there while they watch TV.” She tells me.
“Aren’t they old enough to stay home alone by now?” I looked at the two teens.
“They can’t stay out of trouble. What are you doing with all Mom’s furniture?” She asked when Ted walked by with the last of the chairs.
“It’s time for Mom to have new things.” I tell her.
“I can’t believe you. Your helping her when she never did anything for you?” She asks me.
“What I do isn’t any of your business. Deal with your sons, and possibly call the father who never does anything and make him be a father to his kids.” I tell her.
“He’s a worthless piece of shit that left us for a younger model.” She tells me.
“You wonder why he wouldn’t want anything to do with his kids when you talk about him like that?” I ask her.
“Like you would understand how hard my life was, since you married your trophy.” She tells me, walking away with her boys.
“How did I end up having to haul furniture if I was your bimbo?” Justin asks, kissing me and sitting on the couch with Emmett and Ted on the lawn.
I left the everyone to get things set up while I picked up my mother, who seemed to be a social butterfly, talking to everyone else waiting with her. She got in the car still smiling. I pulled up and she looked at me when she saw the bow on the door. Only Emmett would think of something like that.
“Brian what’s going on?” She ask getting out of the car.
“I wanted you to have a new house to go with your new life. I couldn’t buy a new one today, but I could give you a reason to keep those curtains open.” I tell her, as she pulled the bow and went in.
“You didn’t need to do this. I would have eventually.” She tells me, touching the new couch.
“I wanted to give my mom something, for wanting to make her life better.” I tell her.
She walked over to Justin and hugged him. “Thank you for loving my son.” She tells him.
The gang was sitting outside together after the kids went to bed. They all looked ready to collapse after helping with my mother’s house.
“I’m going to ask, now that it’s just us. Why the new furniture?” Emmett asks.
“She needs to not have the things around her that remind her of why she drank so much. I can’t buy her a new home, but to be able to look around and not see the couch that my father sat on drinking and bitching about how she caused him to live like this, will hopefully make it easier. It’s why I don’t bother with the loft as much. It’s a place that no longer fits this life.” I tell him.
“Ever think of selling it?” Lindsay asks me.
“Not really, we use it, just not often.” I tell her.
“Like we don’t know where you and Justin disappear to during the times you have lunch without the kids.” Ted tells me.
“Sometimes we all go there, because we don’t want to go to a restaurant for lunch. I don’t want the kids growing up thinking that it’s normal to constantly eat out.” Justin tells them.
“It’s hard to even want to eat at the diner most days anymore. We used to go there every morning, and now it’s maybe once every few weeks.” Emmett tells us.
“It’s what happens when you have relationships. You guys went there to discuss your morning afters.” Blake tells him.
“Or in my case, to find out what the guys did.” Ted tells us.
“Ted you could have had stories, but you were too busy thinking everyone would reject you.” Emmett tells him.
“I always feel bad that we don’t hang out there as much, but after all the crap with Michael and Deb, we just didn’t want to listen to it anymore.” Mel tells us.
“When is he actually being released?” Blake asks her.
“In a week, he could have gotten out sooner if he would have agreed with Carl.” Lindsay tells us.
“I hope he doesn’t come looking for any of us to help him.” Emmett tells us.
“If he does he’ll be right back where he was. He can’t come near Lindsay or me. And I included all the kids in the restraining order.” Mel tells us.
“Are you getting one too?” Ted asks me.
“I have one through our kids. They wouldn’t really cover us because the victims are Mel and Lindsay, but with them as guardians over Penny and Nathan, Mel could include them.” I tell them.
Everyone was going home for the night, while the kids stayed at our house. I walked in the bedroom to see Justin on his laptop, working, until he saw me and put it aside.
“How’s it feel to have a mother?” He asks me.
“It still doesn’t feel real, but she’s trying when she never tried before. I want her to be happy, and she seems to be.” I tell him.
“I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to believe at first. Now I’m willing to believe that she really wants a chance to be in your life.” He tells me.
“Do you ever see your mother being a part of our lives?” I ask him.
“I never stopped her. I think we developed this routine where we don’t really talk to each other, but she talks and I barely listen to her. I told her she needed to show me she wanted to be in my life but I haven’t made it any easier on her.” He tells me.
“If my mother could change, so could yours.” I tell him, believing it.
It was so weird to call Brian’s mother to see if she wanted to come watch the kids. I wanted to let Molly have time to study, so at first I planned on keeping them with me. But I needed to work on some graphics for Alex, which, while having to watch Penny and Nathan would be impossible. Lindsay was working on a new campaign and Mel was busy, Brian and I called to see if she'd want to hang out at Alex’s house with the kids. She seemed surprised that we would call, but happily volunteered to come with me. Brian came with us to pick her up, I loved how he could smile that we were going to that house. We dropped Brian off at work and headed to Alex’s.
She was quiet at first when we got to Alex’s house, but Grant was bubbly as ever and made sure she felt welcome. Alex and Emmett were in the kitchen making snacks for the kids, when we walked in.
“I thought we could hang out while the guys worked. Blake is coming over too.” Emmett tells her.
“You don’t have to interrupt your day. Justin said the kids like to swim.” She tells him.
“I wanted to get to know you, you're part of our crazy family now.” He tells her.
“Grandma, I need my swimmers.” Nathan tells her dragging her off.
“I'll show Grandma.” Penny tells us running behind them.
I went to the office and started working, I stopped when Blake came into the room.
“How is Brian taking this?” He asks me.
“Why not ask him? “ I ask.
“I hated that I couldn’t tell him. I just don’t want him to feel like he has to talk to me.” He tells me.
“He would probably thank you for giving him a mother.” I tell him.
“He needs to thank her for wanting to do this. She told me I could answer anything you wanted to know.” He tells me.
“What made her do it?” I ask.
“Brian. She said she didn’t want to die without doing something that Brian could be proud of her for. She told me he did so many things growing up that a parent should be proud of, and she wanted to be a mother who could tell him that.” He tells me.
“How did you get involved?” I ask him.
“I was at work when she walked into the clinic, with the look you see when someone is serious. I went over before she ran off like we all want to do, and talked to her while helping get signed in. I wanted to help her, because Brian did it for me, by just standing by me.” He tells me.
“How is she really doing?” I ask.
“She’s overwhelmed at how easy it was to get Brian to want her around. Claire hasn’t been very supportive.” He tells me.
“Probably because she can’t leave her kids with Joan all the time. Joan seems to have found a life outside her house.” I tell him.
“I want to help her keep it that way. Claire could make her want to fall, but I think with you and Brian helping her, she’ll do her best to stay away from anything that triggers the need to drink.” He tells me.
“She’s welcome in our lives as long as she stays clean and never hurts our children.” I tell him.
“I’m really glad, it’s what she worked so hard for.” Blake tells me, leaving.
I tried get back to work but there was a part of me that wondered if I should try harder too. I picked up my phone.
“Justin, are you really calling me?” My mom asks.
“I decided to give you a break from always having to be the one calling.” I tell her.
I got out of hell and looked around for Ma. I walked around outside for an hour and then called a cab. Thank God I still had money in my account before I left. I got to her house to find no one there to welcome me home. I went to my house to find some other couple living there. What the hell was going on, I thought she was kidding when she said she was going to sell it. I walked to the diner and didn’t recognize anyone there, I went in to ask if Ma was there and some kid tells me she went on vacation this week. I figured she’d take the week off to see me but where is she?
I went to the police station figuring Carl could tell me where she was, all I got was that he was on vacation too. When I asked where, the guy looked at me like I asked for state secrets or something. I was sitting across from Kinnetik when Justin pulled in with Joan, and the kids Ma told me about. He’s really an idiot if he thinks bringing Joan around Brian will do anything but piss him off. Brian came out, kissed Joan’s cheek and picked up the little girl, smiling the whole way. What the hell is going on? Well, I couldn’t find out because of fucking Mel. I sat there and watched as Brian came back out with his mother and drove off, still trying to figure out how Joan Kinney is welcome in Brian’s world. I was so lost that I didn’t realize someone sat next to me.
“Is there some reason you’re here?” Dan asks.
“Where the hell would I go? Ma isn’t around and someone is living in my house.” I tell him.
“I would assume you had enough of prison but I guess you haven’t.” He tells me.
“I’m not bothering either Mel or Lindsay. How the hell did you even find me?” I ask.
“I’ve been following you since you left. I wanted to make sure Justin and Brian don’t have to deal with you anymore. See, no one felt the need to give Brian and Justin protection from someone like you, but Justin was just as much a victim of your schemes as Mel and Lindsay, I got what no one wanted to give Brian.” He tells me, handing me another restraining order.
“I wonder how Brian would feel, knowing you love his husband.” I sneered.
“Brian knows I love Justin, as a friend, one who doesn’t deserve the kind of shit you bring with you. I protect my friends happiness, not try to ruin it by destroying anything that gets in the way of your goals. If you decide to stay in Pittsburgh, you're going to find it colder than any winter you ever experienced here. The chance Carl offered you would have been a way to rebuild your life, but then you still haven’t been able to see what you did to people you claimed to care about.” He tells me.
“It wasn’t my fault that asshole Chris couldn’t get over Justin, the same way you can’t seem to.” I tell him.
“Chris didn’t do anything alone. You helped even before Justin met Brian. What really pissed you off about Justin, other than your husband wanting him? To me that would be Ben’s fault, not Justin’s, who wasn’t in any way interested in you, or in Ben.” He tells me.
“Justin was nothing to me.” I tell him.
“Yet you couldn’t leave him alone, sounds like he was someone you had a problem with. You have ten minutes to get out of here before I enforce the paper you’re holding.” He tells me, standing and waiting at his car.
“Where the fuck am I supposed to go?” I ask him.
“I would think the offer Carl made you would start to sound good right now. You go willingly and I’ll have you taken there.” He tells me.
“Fine, but it’s just a waste of time.” I tell him.
“I’ll gladly waste it, to get you out of this town.” He tells me, letting me in his car.
“You know, one day my friends are going to remember who they are, and I’ll be back.” I tell him when we pull up to the bus station.
“They haven’t in the last five years, but who knows, maybe they’ll lose their sanity and want to be around you again.” He tells me, handing me the bus ticket and a gift card.
“What’s this for?” I ask, holding the card.
“Your mother asked me to give it to you so you don’t starve on your way. We all figured out that if you didn’t have a choice you’d go. It’s why I got the restraining order, no Brian and you wouldn’t have a reason to stay.” He tells me.
“Where is she?” I ask.
“She’s on a cruise, so that she didn’t have to hear what a shitty mother you think she is. It really amazes me how you view the one person who came to see you and tried to help you. Good luck, and take this how I mean it, I hope to never have to put you in prison, but come back and I’ll find a way to do it.” He tells me.
I stood in front of the two, disappointed in both of them. Neither one seemed to understand why I was making a big deal out of what they tried to do.
“Justin, we were just helping.” Brian tells me.
“That room is really big.” Joan tells me.
“Penny made that mess all by herself, and she will clean it up by herself.” I tell them.
“What harm would there be in us helping her?” Joan asks me.
“I want her to learn to pick up after herself.” I tell her.
“Once we helped she'd see having a clean room was easy.” Brian tells me.
“If you two do it all, she would think that's how it's done.” I tell him.
“We let her carry stuff.” Joan tells me.
“While you two folded it and put it away. Which means she thinks she doesn't have to do it. Neither of you are allowed anywhere near that room until she's done.” I tell them.
You can really see they're related by the twin scowls. Normally, the mess that Penny makes would drive Brian insane if anyone else did it, but not his princess. Joan seems caught in Princess Penny's Web too. Nathan developed Brian’s habit of wanting things where they belong, well, in his bedroom at least. Penny developed my habit that Brian finally broke me of, of throwing things anywhere. Normally I clean up after her, but not this time. She left her skates where I tripped on them and ended up in a pile of dresses and dolls. I looked around and found a half eaten candy bar from who knows when, so I didn’t cave when she turned her baby blues on me, but these two did.
I sat in front of them to keep them from sneaking up there and a half hour later Nathan came down munching on something.
“What is that in your mouth?” I asked him, praying that Fluffy still had food.
“Candy.” He tells me smiling.
“Where did you get that?” I ask.
“Penny gave it to me for cleaning her room.” He tells me, running when I tried to get him to spit it out.
“Penny is going to make a great manager one day.” Brian tells Joan.
Mel showed up in my office, looking worried about something.
“Brian, Michael got released. I'm worried, since no one has seen him.” She tells me.
“He went to the program Carl set up for him.” I tell her.
“How are you so sure? Deb said he refused.” She tells me.
“Dan and I made sure he didn't have a reason to stay.” I tell her.
“You didn’t tell us?” She asks.
“We took care of it. He realized it would be in his best interest not to stay. We took away the only reason he'd want to.” I tell her.
“How, no one wanted to give you a restraining order?” She asks.
“Dan was able to convince a judge that he'd end up with Michael back in a crowded system if we didn't get one. Mel, we did it so our lives didn’t revolve around waiting for Michael to do something worse than he already has. I don't want our kids to have him around.” I tell her.
“Hopefully he stays away.” She tells me leaving.
“You could have told everyone.” Justin tells me, after likely hearing it from Mel.
“I was going to, but I liked not having to hear his name. We've had years of being able to be a family without the shit being there.” He tells me.
“It still had to be hard for you to do that, he was someone you called your friend at one time.” He tells me sitting on the couch next to me.
“When I thought he was just misguided, but not when he tried to hurt the people I love.” I tell him.
“How did it feel to be my hero?” He asks.
“You’re not mad?” I ask.
“You did it to protect us, it wasn’t just me this time, but our children and friends. And I wouldn’t have been mad if you only did it for me. I realize it's not because you think I can't handle things but because you love me.” He tells me.
“Want to go get coffee?” I ask.
“Let's not tempt fate, nothing seems to be worth that.” He tells me seriously.
I was standing around talking to my group after a session. I found it wasn't hard to talk when people around you had dealt with the same things. Brian pulled up as usual to give me a ride home, even when I told him he didn’t have to, but I loved that he wanted to.
“I think you have an admirer.” Brian tells me, when Stuart waved at me.
“He's one of the counselors who works for the rehab. He just comes by to see if Blake needs any help most of the time.” I tell him.
“I'm sure Blake really appreciates the help.” He smirks.
“They care about us.” I tell him.
“Mom he's interested, trust me, I know that look.” He tells me.
“Brian, I'm an old woman. My time for that is over.” I tell him.
“Only if you really believe that. I never saw myself having the life I have, but it was there if I reached out and grabbed it. I could still be drinking my life away, but I didn’t want to miss the promises Justin held for me.” He tells me.
“You deserve only good things in your life for all the bad there was. Justin was just God’s way of making up to you for leaving you with us.” I tell him.
“And you deserve a chance to see that all men aren’t going to be Pop. I think you need to start seeing what the world still has left to offer you. If God gave me Justin, then he might want to give you a chance at happiness too.” He tells me.
“If he asks me, I'll think about it.” I tell him.
“Mom, girls can ask to, it's not like it was when you were dating.” He tells me.
We got to my house and Claire was there, crying on my steps. Being sober meant realizing I raised a someone who cries over anything. It was easier to ignore when I drank.
“We could make a run for it.” Brian jokes.
I couldn’t help how good it felt to see him happy and carefree. “Please. It would only have her at your door, and my babies don't need that.” I tell him, getting out.
“Mother, I'm being evicted all because you wouldn’t watch your grandchildren.” She tells me.
“What did they do now?” Brian asks.
“They had a party with a bunch of thugs. The thugs stole the landlord's car. John swears he didn’t know it was stolen but the guys who stole it said John did it. They want to charge him with theft and our landlord gave us until next week to get out.” She tells us.
“Then why are you here instead of looking for a place to live?” I ask.
“She expects you to let her live here.” Brian tells me.
“You have room and then you could help with Peter. I'm going to need Brian to help with John, he's going to need a good lawyer.” She tells us, holding out her hand to me.
“Claire you need to look somewhere else, because I can't have you or the boys around.” I tell her.
“See, she's still the same uncaring mother we knew.” Claire tells Brian.
“It's sounds more like she knows what having you and the boys around would do to her recovery.” He tells her.
“She could still attend her little social gathering, it's not like she has a life without clinging to one of us.” She tells Brian.
“I'm sorry Claire, but I wouldn't want a potential date to run when he sees you or the boys. Good luck with finding a place to live, but it won't be here.” I tell her. “ Brian, I'm sure you have better things to do with my babies than listen to this one.” I tell him kissing his cheek before he gets more of Claire than he needs.
I wave as he pulls away and turn to Claire. “It's time for you to stop making Brian feel like he owes us for the things we never did for him. You need to learn no one gives you things, something I'm learning at my social group.” I tell her, leaving her outside.
I pulled out the paper Stuart wrote his phone number on and decided to get with the times.
Emmett needs to calm down, he knows things go wrong when planning a wedding, but he seems to forget the many things he’s had to do to marry people.
“I can’t believe I accidentally invited my brothers and sisters.” He freaks.
“Are they coming?” Grant asks.
“They got an RV from some cousin four times removed to come in. Which means most likely someone one of them married, apparently they have to see the queers idea of a wedding.” He tells me, laying his head on Grant's shoulder.
“Did they think it was going to be all disco balls and pink taffeta?” Grant jokes.
“Honey, their idea of a wedding is standing around a keg hoping the bride is having the groom’s baby and not theirs.” Emmett tells us seriously.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad.” Lindsay tells him, holding him when he turns to her.
“My brother asked if we have something to hook up the RV to. Alex is going to run screaming from this wedding.” Emmett tells us. Brian walks in, takes one look at Emmett and leaves us to deal with it.
“We could rent some place for them to stay, I’ll make it your wedding present.” Grant tells him, since he’d been stuck trying to figure out what to get his Dad and Emmett.
“Grant, you’d end up having to buy it after what they’ll do to anything nice.” Emmett tells him.
“Emmett I’ll find a fleabag motel, it will be like home for them, only with running water.” Grant giggles after hearing so much about the family.
“Why couldn’t they just ignore me the way they have for years? Alex and I should have just run off.” He tells us.
“Emmett, there is nothing your family could do that would make me not want to make you my husband.” Alex tells him, coming into the living room.
“I just wanted us to have a wedding where my brother didn’t think bletching was how you said I do.” He tells us, making all of us snicker. “Laugh now, but wait until my sisters see Brian and Dan, then you’ll be sorry.” He tells us.
“Think we could find a way to get them to think the wedding is in Mexico?” Dan asks, looking worried.
I opened the refrigerator door, closed it, and then reopened it, just to make sure some bad E wasn’t coming back to haunt me. Justin came in, seeing me open the door and close it, only to reopen it again.
“Brian what are you doing?” He asks, when I shook my head at what was in there.
“Is there some reason there are live snails in the refrigerator?” I ask.
“You're kidding, aren’t you?” He asks, looking in there.
We looked at the jar with five or six of them making their way out the top of the jar.
“Nathan, can you come in the kitchen.” I yell.
“Yes, Daddy.” My demon child asks.
“Did you put something in the refrigerator?” I ask him.
“Why?” He asks, all innocent.
“Just wondering why there are snails in the refrigerator, trying to escape.” I tell him.
“Oh, well Uncle Emmy said his family likes to eat anything they can catch, so I caught some to help him. I almost got enough.” He tells me.
“Where did you get them?” I ask.
“In the neighbor’s pond, Ms Shelly said I could take them.” He tells me.
“Son, I think Emmett was just saying his family liked catch fish or hunt.” I tell him.
“I got fishes too.” He tells us.
“There’s only snails Nathan, not fish.” I tell him.
“I put the fish in the tub. They wouldn’t fit in the jar. I caught too many snails.” He tells me smiling.
I turned and started looking, because there weren’t that many snails and I realized we had escapees everywhere. Justin ran to the bathroom and groaned. I’m sure we owe Ms. Shelly a few koi.
Renny and I were working on the seating chart for the wedding, I decided against renting a hall when my family said they were coming. Renny and I managed to find a large tent that could be put in the backyard. I also decided to do a buffet style dinner instead of having waiters. Alex and the rest of the guys didn’t understand my family. I know I tend to exaggerate, but really I had to have something to laugh about since my family tends to be a redneck assholes. Which really, it just puzzled me that my older brother Jasper decided he wanted to see me get hitched. He really said hitched.
I got up to get a drink and answered my door when someone knocked, and there stood Jasper with a young guy, who looked enough like Jasper to be his, or really, anyone’s in my family.
“Hey, we came early to see if y’all needed help. Howie here needed to hide for a day or two, jus til his girlfriend's father don’t wanna to shoot his ass.” Jasper tells me.
I looked at Howie, who was way too young to be doing anything that would have his ass shot. “Jasper, I don’t need people shooting at my wedding.” I tell him, not really surprised by it.
“Em, her father ain’t gonna look here for the boy, and really, it’s not like he did anything you wouldn’t understand.” He tells me.
“I’ve never, ever, wanted to knock a girl up.” I tell him.
“Neither does Howie, but ya see, Franny seems ta think she needed knockin’ up, and Howie seems ta think he likes Franny’s brother more. I guess you could say Franny’s dad wasn’t as alternative as I like to think I am. I mean, I figured you bein’, you know, would help a fellow, ya know.” He tells me.
“I’m gay Dad, not ‘You Know’, I swear, if you want to be all alternative than learn to use the word. Also while I’m on this, Uncle Emmett couldn’t have made me, YOU KNOW, by being related to us.” Howie tells him, shaking his head.
“I didn’t say he made you… well you know. I was just saying that until Emmett, we never had a… you know.” He tells Howie.
“He calls that acceptance.” Howie tells me.
“When is everyone else coming?” I ask, not ready for any more of this.
“Sue Ellen, Howie’s mom, is trying to trick Franny’s dad, Bobby Joe, into thinkin’ that we went ta Alabama, so she took everyone with her. I think they stopped off in Nashville to visit the King first.” He tells me.
“Which means what, as to their arrival?” I ask.
“Well if they can keep my newest from popping out, they might be here on time. If not, Sue Ellen will help Elle deliver before they can come.” He tells me.
I didn’t even want to know who Elle was, and why Sue Ellen would be delivering it. It’s just, well I got my gossipy nature from my family. “You're ex baby mama is going to deliver your new baby mama's kid?” I ask him.
“Emmett, Sue Ellen would have my balls iffin I even looked at anyone. Elle’s my huntin’ dawg.” He tells me.
“Dad didn’t understand when I tried to tell him to leave the dogs home.” Howie tells me.
“So where do I bunk down? I brought a tent fer if you don’t have room.” Jasper tells me, patting his tent.
“If you promise to not leave dead things lying around, you can stay in the house.” I tell him.
“I swear there is somethin’ wrong with you two. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with fresh meat. Howie is all twigs and berries, can’t seem to enjoy the food everyone else eats.” He tells me, frowning at Howie.
“Dad, can we can the ‘Howie’, I’m really okay with Howard.” Howie tells him.
“Son, as much as I accept you for you know, not everyone else understands. I’m just helpin’ them by using that pansy name.” He tell him.
“You see why he thinks I need you?” Howard asks me.
Renny goes outside and meets Drew, who just pulled in. Jasper was wide eyed when Renny and Drew started making out. Howard just looked like he found home.
“See I told ya, it’s somethin’ about Emmett that makes more well um, you know.” He whispered, when Drew looked at him, waiting for how Jasper was going to end that sentence.
“I really did make Drew, you know.” I whispered to Jasper, as Alex came to the door.
Poor Howard didn’t know where to look when Brian and Justin pulled in, then Grant and Dan showed up. I looked at Alex, trying to figure out why everyone was here.
“I promised them if anyone showed I’d give them a call. I don’t think they believed you.” He tells me as Ted and Blake arrive.
“Uncle Emmett, you're my idol” Howard tells me, watching it rain gay men.
“He’s kinda of pretty, see I can deal with it.” Jasper tells us, looking at Justin.
“Dad, shut up.” Howard hisses, staring at Brian.
“Honey, you don’t stand a chance, no one ever will.” I tell him.
I hosted Emmett’s pre-wedding party at Babylon. The RV arrived with all ten puppies and eight of the relatives. We were told the others wanted to stay and see if the King was really still alive. Jasper, Howie Sr, and Luke, the brothers, were happy to have an open bar. Sue Ellen, Maggie, Lisa Marie, Priscilla, and Daisy, the wife and sisters, were busy trying to help Howard meet a man. None of them saw any reason a seventeen year old couldn’t date older men. I kind of agreed, not sure why.
I had to ask, because really, you know you wanted to know. “Why is Howard named after your brother?” I ask Jasper.
“I just thought Jasper Jr didn’t have a ring to it.” Was the answer.
We all turned as Lisa Marie demonstrated that she didn’t inherit anything from the King, or Taylor Swift, when she seemed to caterwaul something about her being the one for Justin, not me. Dan was using Grant to block Daisy’s hands when she seemed to think that it was her job to make sure he worked out. Priscilla didn’t get why the dancers weren’t looking at her tits. Jasper, the alternative father he is, decided to help her understand by yelling it across Babylon.
“They don’t do TITS, because they’re, you know, like Howie and Emmett.” He yelled, looking proud of his understanding of, you know.
Justin came running to me and put me in front of him. “You're running from a girl?” I tease.
I jumped when someone, not Justin, ran their hands under my shirt. “I love me some muscles.” I hear from Priscilla. I turned and she reached down smiling at what she was feeling.
“If you do, Drew has better.” I tell her.
When she runs off I smirk at Justin, who smirks back when someone taps my shoulder. I turn to see Dan’s problem somehow just became mine. “I’m sorry, but lesbian’s don’t do it for me.” I tell her.
“I’m not into pussy.” She tells me.
“Me neither.” I tell her.
“Daddy, Uncle Jasper has puppies.” Penny tells me.
“Uncle Jasper?” I ask.
“He told me that we was family, and let me play in the house on wheels.” Penny tells me.
“That’s really wonderful that he wanted to show you the future of a high school dropout.” I tell her.
“But Daddy, he has puppies.” She reminds me.
“No. Fluffy is the only animal we get.” I tell her.
“Fluffy might get lonely, Uncle Jasper said not to worry, dawgs found a way.” She tells me.
“Where is Fluffy?” I ask, realizing I hadn’t seen her all day.
“She’s making friends with Casper.” She tells me.
“The friendly ghost?” Nathan asks, looking up from his drawing.
“No silly, Caper, the best darn huntin dawg, this sides of the sippy. Uncle Jasper says I can have all the puppies I want.” She tells me smiling.
Emmett might need to worry that I’m going to be the one shooting at the wedding.
I woke up enjoying the warm body lying next to me and smiled that for the rest of my life I get this. I turned over to kiss my soon to be husband and got licked in the face.
“JASPER! You better come get this future throw rug out of my bed.” I yell.
“Now Emmett, Dolly just wanted to show you some appreciation for your hospitality.” Jasper tells me, coming in with a large tray of food.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Sue Ellen just felt that we wasn’t pullin’ our weight. Family’s supposed ta help out when ya get hitched. I dragged our brother’s lazy asses out the bed and got that tent set up for ya’ll. Why they just didn’t put it up is beyond me. It’s what you git from hiring out when family could’ve done it.” He tells me.
I look down at grits swimming in butter and ham, I hope. I took a bite and hated that it was really that good, when the grease alone could kill you. Jasper sat next to me, grabbing a bowl with gravy and the toast.
“Biscuits would have been better, nothing like biscuits. Well Sue Ellen makes em good, not like how Mama did.” He tells me.
“Mama thought you put water in flour then bake. Aunt Lulu never could get her to understand that was paste, not biscuits.” I tell him.
“You know all of us usta to be thrilled when you got in a baken mood. It meant our teeth were safe.” He tells me.
“I just couldn’t watch ya’ll try to soften them by covering them in lumpy gravy.” I tell him.
“That's why I snatched up Sue Ellen, that woman can cook.” He tells me.
“Did Mama ever ask about me?” I ask.
“I wish I could say yes, but it was hard for her to understand you know. I didn’t get it either, but I wasn't willing to lose Howie the way our parents done lost you. I realized I might could be happy that my boy was educated and gonna do something or worry about something that he couldn’t change. He's my boy, even iffen he likes, you know. Sue Ellen told the family she ain't having the bullshit take her baby from her. Which was her way of tellin me my ass would end up looking for a new woman iffen I didn’t accept him.” He tells me.
“It's not horrible to love the way God made us.” I tell him.
“Yeah, but I just don’t see howz you wouldn't want tits.” He tells me.
“I'm glad you came.” I tell him.
“Let's just hope Bobby Joe didn’t manage to track us down.” He tells me, shrugging.
Alex asked me to allow him to get the rings, he wanted to do something other than show up. I walked in after putting on my facial mask, and forgot my family was hanging around the kitchen.
“You know, we might be accepting and all, but what is that green shit on your face?” Howie Sr asks.
“Ain't no different than the shit you put on for huntin, Howie.” Sue Ellen tells him slapping his head.
“That’s so the deer don't see me. Ain’t no deer in the kitchen.” Howie mumbles.
“Ain't no women living in your shack neither, but then you seem to think deer piss attracts something.” Luke jokes.
“I wouldn’t be talking Mr got no woman neither. Last I checked your ass can't keep a woman neither, they just ain't gonna support your lazy ass.” Lisa Marie tells him.
“I refuse to take on someone else’s babies. At least I’m not running around thinking pretty boy would trade in what he got fo your ass.” Luke tells her.
“He just hasn’t experience the things I could do for him. I gets it that Brian’s a looker, but ain’t no babies gonna happen with that. I might could show him a good time.” She tells us, as if that would win her some Justin love.
“Hate to break it to you, but Justin and Brian have kids. Honey, there is nothing you’re offering that Justin wants.” I tell her, liking the way it feels to have my family just being them.
“That Penny is a cutie, Jasper wanted to take her home with us. I was gonna see if Brian would let us show her around. I think some people would get over Howie Jr bein like he is iffin they see that he ain’t giving up anything. You planning on making some babies for us to spoil?” Sue Ellen asks.
“Grant is all you get from me, Alex and I just spoil all the Kinney kids.” I tell them.
“You think Dan and Grant might wanna kid? I could deal with that.” Daisy tells me.
“Daisy, gay means gay, not future baby daddy.” Howard tells her.
“Honey, when you manage to land a man, you can talk.” Priscilla tells him.
“At least I wasn’t trying to land a guy in the backroom of a gay club.” Howard snorts.
Alex came walking into the kitchen, only to be yelled at that he couldn’t see the bride, or groom, they weren’t sure which to call me, before hitching his wagon to me. Grant dragged Alex out, laughing that he wanted to keep in touch with this family, because they were a hoot. When Deb showed up I just left her to help Jasper with his acceptance. I heard Deb telling him there was nothing wrong with liking dick.
Ted showed up with Brian, who decided that if I was going to get married, he was going to finally dress me for a change. He pulled out Armani and started straightening the pants, before making sure I tied my tie correctly and shining the Prada boots he brought me. It was nice, but somehow just not me. Brian rolled his eyes and handed me a hot pink dress shirt and rainbow socks, which he told me killed him to do. I was combing my hair when Brian handed me the flower for my lapel.
“I wanted you to wear this, it’s supposed to mean some shit about being with the person you’ll love forever. I snagged it off the bush you bought from here, not China. If I’m cursed to this life, so are you.” Brian smirks.
“Hey, I brought you some cufflinks, Deb told me you could borrow one of her buttons.” Ted hands me the one that said “Got Dick”.
Jasper knocked on the door and came in wearing a suit, I didn’t know he even owned one.
“I didn’t want youz to be embarrassed, Sue Ellen made it.” Jasper tells me.
“You can change after the pictures, but I wouldn’t have cared, a little color never hurt anyone.” I tell him.
“So I brought you what Aunt Lulu wanted you to have iffen you ever got hitched. She told me you would be the only one of us to appreciate it.” he tells me, handing me her cookbook. “The recipes that she never shared are in the envelope, she didn’t trust the girls to not try to take them.” He tells me. “Now Emmett, no need for tears. Ain’t you guys gonna do somethin? I ain’t never understood the crying thing.” Jasper tells them, escaping so he doesn’t have to cry with me.
I walked outside with Ted and Brian who were going to stand with me. Grant and Justin were standing with Alex. Brian and Ted walked ahead and Jasper came over and put out his arm.
“I ain’t Daddy, but then Daddy wouldn’t understand the way I do. Let’s get your man, before he escapes.” Jasper tells me.
I walked down the aisle with my brother, to the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I got to Alex and joined my hands with his as the minister asked who gave me away.
“I reckon we do.” Jasper tells him.
Our vows were simple because I didn’t want to cry the way I did when Alex whispered them to me last night. He told me that I gave him everything he waited his whole life for. I told him that he loved me in the way no one ever had, with all of him.
When we turned around after getting married, Nathan was sitting in the middle of the aisle with a small cake, eating away. Brian walked towards Nathan who picked up the cake and ran, tripping and falling face first into it. Which only meant that Nathan smiled.
“It’s all mine now.” He yells.
“Don’t worry none, I made it when he tried to get the big one.” Sue Ellen tells Brian, picking up Nathan and letting him cover her in frosting.
Everyone went into the tent for dinner and Luke and Howie Sr seemed to think Mel and Lindsay need to sit with them. Lindsay tried to be nice to Luke, I finally had Deb drag Luke away by the ear when he said he could deal with other people's babies if she was looking for a man. Mel just showed why we call her the ballbreaker to Howie Sr, and worried when he told her he liked it rough. Brian came over and told buttercup to let the balls live to torture some other cousin. Penny and Jenny asked where the balls were. Gus was busy trying to explain why Howard’s crush would just end in heartbreak, or Papa breaking bones if Howard didn’t get with the program.
I danced with my Alex, happy that he didn’t seem to care about anything but becoming my husband. He had our rings engraved with our names and an eternity symbol around the names. Everything was perfect until Bobby Joe arrived, then it was hilarious.
“Jasper you get your boy, he turned my boy.” He yells.
“Roberto, what are you doing here?” Todd asked.
“How’s it going Todd. I mean, who are you?” Bobby Joe asks, turning red.
“I’m fine, but what do you mean who am I? Last night you were begging me to let you stay the night.” Todd complains.
“You know Bobby Joe?” Jasper asks Todd.
“I met him when he came to Babylon, he said he was huntin ass and I showed him mine.” Todd smirks.
“You just wait til I tell Franny’s Mama about this, she’ll be showin you how she hunts your ass.” Sue Ellen tells him.
“I can still stay, right?” Howard asks.
Penny came charging into the bedroom and stood in front of me, tapping her foot. I waited for whatever Nathan did to upset Penny to be announced. She wrinkled her nose and shook her head and then marched back out. As usual, I followed behind my baby. She stopped when she reached the back door and turned around.
“He's going to pay for this.” She tells me.
“I'm sure whatever Nathan did can't be that bad.” I tell her.
“It's sacrilege, you'll understand.” She assured me.
I opened the door and screamed. Justin came running outside and looked, then shook his head and went to get Nathan. I stared at the child who couldn’t possibly have my blood pounding through his veins.
“Brian get over it. You didn’t even like these pants when I wore them.” Justin tells me.
Justin couldn’t understand, he didn’t get that Versace was most likely turning over in his grave at this. My child had painted camo over Versace. I hugged my son, who would likely turn into a Hazlehurst minion.
“Why son, why?” I ask.
“You said those pants could catch anything. Uncle Jasper’s huntin’ pants look like these.” He tells me.
“What were you hunting?” Justin asks.
“I dunno, maybe a cookie?” Nathan tells us.
I got the third call this week about Penny’s behavior problems at school. Brian and I were on our way to find out what she did this time. I’d wanted her to progress with her age group, so I didn’t take the advice of the school or Brian and I placed her in Pre-K. The first few weeks were fine but now what they’d been warning us would happen, was happening. We walked in to see Penny sitting at her desk alone, while the other kids were outside playing. Brian and I sat in front of the teacher who tried not to smile at Penny. Nathan sat with Penny, offering her one of his cookies, thinking that she did something she needed a treat for.
“I think it’s time to discuss the best place for Penny to be. She wanted to help, but we need the other students who are learning to do the work, not have Penny give everyone the answers.” Mrs. Lawson told us.
“They were taking too long.” Penny explains.
“Penny really thought she was being helpful.” Mrs. Lawson tells us.
“What did she do?” Brian asks.
“It's nothing horrible, she just started grading the other kids papers and handing them back to redo. Penny needs an environment where she's challenged. I was hoping to take you to meet with Mr Yates. I've taken Penny to his classroom a few times. He agrees that Penny is too advanced for regular classes. I know you wanted her to advance normally but right now she's ahead of kindergarten and in Mr Yates’ class will likely pass up the next grade. If it would help, we can go over so you can see the difference in Penny when challenged with things she still needs to learn.” She tells us.
Brian and I agreed to meet with the other teacher and walked down the hall together while Penny and Nathan ran ahead with her teacher. Brian stopped me before we went in.
“Justin we can't hold her back. I know you worry because she’ll be in school with kids older than her, but she adapts to change easily and will be okay.” Brian tells me.
“I know, I just hated the way my parents pushed Molly and I, and I didn’t want Penny to feel that kind of pressure.” I tell him as we walk in.
We watched as Penny worked with the other students and noticed that she listened and did the work that was asked without looking as if she was puzzled by why she was doing the work. Mr. Yates came over while he had the kids reading their workbooks.
“Is there anything I can answer for you?” He asks us.
“What kind of work are you expecting her to be able to do?” I ask, because my baby is only four.
“We are working with the kids on first grade requirements. She’ll be learning basic math and reading. We plan to start introducing science soon. Most of our classes focus on Primary School, but if students show the ability to advance faster, than we do what they need to keep them challenged. Penny told us that she was reading with her Dad by the time she was three and learned math from an Uncle. She has a lot of potential, and I feel we can keep her from boredom, which is what we are seeing with her in the other classroom.” He tells us.
“Then it makes sense to give her an environment that will give her what she needs.” Brian tells me.
“Stay for the next lesson, and I think you’ll see this is a good move for your daughter.” Mr Yates tells us.
“We’ll stay but I think we already know you're right.” I tell him.
We watched as Penny seemed to enjoy the work, which wasn’t hard for a student in primary school, but harder than her age group. I could see Brian was proud of the fact that our daughter was gifted. We got up to leave with Nathan as Mr Yates wrote a couple math problem on the board and told the kids to work the problems while he talked to us. Nathan stayed in the room while we signed the paperwork to transfer Penny to this class. I walked out with Brian and Nathan, feeling better about her being in an advanced classroom. The other kids were her age or only a year or two older.
We got almost to the door when Mr Yates came running out to us.
“Nathan can I have my marker back?” He asks Nathan, who pulled it out of his back pocket.
“Nathan, you can’t take things that don’t belong to you.” I tell him.
“I forgot, I was playing.” He tells me.
“Did he mess up anything?” I asked.
“No, I just had to rewrite the math problems without the answers under them.” He tells us, smiling down at Nathan.
“Uncle Ted makes us do way harder problems. Maybe I could get him to show you?” Nathan offered him.
Brian picked up our three year old and took off before we ended up losing him too soon too.
I was at the vet’s to get Fluffy, since Brian wanted to keep our girl from delivering a batch of puppies. Jasper had put a diaper on her and I’d never seen Brian so relieved to see one. Nathan came with me as we dropped Fluffy off for her overnight visit and wanted to be there when I picked her up. Nathan walked around the waiting room, asking everyone why they were here and told one woman that shots weren’t a nice thing to do to anyone. I dragged him away when he saw kittens and tried to sneak one out. Brian has never been a fan of cats and barely managed to deal with Fluffy, who lived up to the name with her massive coat of hair. Brian decided on a Golden Retriever after looking up online every dog to make sure it was the right dog for us. It killed him when he saw the coat. Fluffy won him over when she fell in love with all our kids. I turned and looked down at Nathan, who was giving me a sad look while holding up a kitten.
“Nathan, you need to give that back to the nice lady.” I tell him.
“But Papa, I NEED him.” He begs.
“But Nathan, your Dad only wants one pet, and besides Fluffy might not like him.” I tell him, trying to stop him from putting the kitten near Fluffy.
“See, Fluffy likes him.” He crows, as Fluffy licks the kitten.
“Your Daddy is going to kill us.” I tell him, not being able to resist.
We got home and I honestly didn’t know how Brian was going to take this. I put Fluffy on her bed and the kitten curled up under her as if he knew she wasn’t feeling up to speed yet. When Brian came home with Penny neither seemed to notice the new addition, but he had gotten covered by hair and blended in with her coat. I almost hoped Brian might not notice for a while, you know, like until Nathan went to college. Nathan seemed to get that we didn’t want to let Daddy know yet and was sitting next to Fluffy, petting the kitten under her fur. Brian looked over, worried that Fluffy might not like Nathan petting her on her belly after having surgery.
“Nathan, maybe just her head for now.” Brian tells him.
Nathan looked down and acted surprised and pulled the kitten out. “Look Daddy, she had kittens!” He yells.
Brian stared and stared, then laid his head on my shoulder shaking with laughter at the way Nathan seemed to think he would believe it. He didn’t even try to argue, just accepted that Cosmo was a part of our family. I really have to thank Emmett for thinking of that name.
I was sitting in my office going over a campaign, when my mom came rushing in. She was nervous but managed to stop blushing long enough to talk.
“I wanted to know if it was alright if I brought Stuart over to meet the kids, or if it was okay if we took the four kids out together? He wanted to meet them, but I don't want you to feel like I'm stepping over the line.” She tells me, as Lindsay comes in.
“Everything is going well with Stuart?” Lindsay asks.
“Yes, and thank you for helping me get ready.” She tells her.
“Jenny loved having you around, and it was fun. Maybe we should have a family party to meet Stuart.” Lindsay suggested.
“I don't want to put any of you to any trouble. Stuart has had to listen to me go on and on about the children and thought it would be nice to meet them. We were hoping to take them on a picnic.” She tells us.
“I'd like to meet the man who has my mother blushing.” I tell her.
“We would all like to meet him. If he plans to stick around he can’t not meet the all of our crazy family.” Lindsay tells her.
“Mom get used to it, you signed on to be in my life.” I tell her as she sniffled.
“It's just wonderful to know I finally have my son.” She tells me.
“Why not go let your other son in on the love fest.” I tell her.
“He never could stand tears.” She tells Lindsay, getting up to go see Justin.
I went to see Justin, lately I've tried to help him with his mother and maybe understanding her. He always tries to make it seem as if it doesn’t bother him, but I could see he wished for what I found was possible with Brian if I stopped treating everything else it mattered more than him. I want that for the man who loved my son, the way his family wouldn’t.
“Hey Mom, how have you been?” Justin asks. wiping my tears. I’m thrilled that he accepted me in his life.
“I'm happy, and excited to introduce you to Stuart. Lindsay and Brian thought we should have a gathering so everyone could meet.” I tell him.
“We could do it Saturday. My mom is here and it would be a reason to include her. I'm hoping she'll be okay with things. It would be easier if there were more people around.” He tells me.
“She’s trying, give her a chance. Brian managed to do it for me, and I did a lot worse.” I tell him.
“You did everything to help him want you around. She's still doesn't see why I haven't just let it go. I'm trying, but sometimes it's hard to forget she just let me go, without fighting it.” He tells me.
“Parents are just people with flaws, and don’t want to believe they didn't do their best. She'll realize what she's lost, because you're a wonderful son.” I tell him.
I dried his tears and said bye. I needed to help my boy, and I knew who could help. Deb was working when I came in and came over with tea for me and sat down.
I had a lot to thank this woman for, she never gave up on Brian and me reconciling. I remember loathing her for knowing about Brian’s life in a way I wasn’t allowed. She came to me one day at church to tell me about Justin and the happiness Brian had, despite everyone else. I felt vindicated when she told me about her son. She wasn't the perfect mother that had my son's love. Only she still did have his love, regardless of her son. Brian still wanted her around and gave her a place in his life. It wasn’t what made me want to change, but had me drinking more, blaming Deb for getting what should have been mine, my son's love and respect.
Deb visited me at church every time something wonderful happened in Brian’s life. At first I thought it was to rub it in that he still wanted nothing to do with me, but later I realized it was so I could have pieces when I didn’t deserve more from Brian. It was listening to how Brian rose above what he learned in our home and loved his family that made me walk into the rehab. Brian wasn’t letting his past be a reason to continue the Kinney tradition, and I wanted to know the man he became. It wasn’t easy to tell Blake the truth behind the curtains, but he never judged me, just offered a shoulder to lean on when I needed it. It was eye opening to see the people who loved my son, for being the friend they needed. Blake wanted me to talk to Brian, but I wanted Brian to not see the mess I was, but a person who got her life together. Once I did, I went to face Brian, expecting him to spit in my face the way I did to him. It showed me how much better Brian was than our family, because he gave me the chance to prove to him that I'd changed. Justin and Brian gave me a life inside of theirs and I want that for Justin.
“I need to see Justin’s mother.” I tell her.
“We could call Molly. Jen and I really haven't made friends.” She tells me.
“I was hoping to help her find a way to have a relationship with him.” I tell her.
“Then let me call Molly and we’ll make her listen.” She tells me.
Deb and I made our way to Molly’s apartment, where Jen was staying. She opened the door, surprised to see us there. I didn’t give her a chance to make an excuse why she didn’t have time for us, but walked in and sat down on the sofa. Deb dragged her from the door and sat her down with us.
“Is there some reason for this visit, I was planning on seeing if Justin wanted to go to lunch.” She tells us.
“I wanted to help you with Justin. Deb and I know that you and he aren’t as close as you want to be.” I tell her.
“I really don’t feel that it’s Deb’s or your business what goes on with Justin and me.” She tells me.
“Justin is my son and loves Deb like a mother, so we feel we have the right to help him. You think he’s going to just let you walk in and be around the family he created when you and your husband let him go. It’s going to take more than random phone calls if you want Justin to want more from you.” I tell her.
“He just doesn’t seem interested most of the time when I call him. We started talking more when he called me.” She tells me.
“I got the feeling that the calls were more you complaining about Molly than talking to Justin. He needs you to for once ask about his life, and show interest in the things he’s doing.” Deb tells her.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but why would you feel you could offer me advice? Isn’t your son the one who was causing problems for Justin?” She asks Deb, but it was really her brushing off any advice Deb could give.
“Deb loved our boys when they didn’t have anyone in their lives, so she can talk since she knows our sons better than we do. Her son isn’t the only thing to judge her on, because you come out looking just as bad for the way you treated Justin.” I tell her.
“My son didn’t turn into a crazy stalker trying to hurt someone.” Jen defends, and I put an arm on Deb when I knew it upset her.
“Your son turned into a good man, without you. Instead of being jealous of the relationship he has with Deb, do something to fix your relationship with him, before you miss out on our grandchildren. Gus, Jenny, Penny, and Nathan can’t have enough people to love them.” I tell her.
“Jenny isn’t their child.” Jen tells me.
“Jenny is as far as our sons are concerned, and don’t ever say something like that in front of them. Brian and Justin do as much for her as they do for the other kids. Lindsay, Mel, Brian, and Justin don’t see any difference in any of the children but that they are all of theirs. It would be better for you not to come around if you disclude one of the grandchildren because Justin or Brian weren’t the actual parents to them. I won’t have you upsetting Jenny either. To me she is my other grandchild through my girls. Their family is just different from the rest of the world.” I tell her.
“I didn’t mean it to sound like that, but they never included me in the children’s lives.” Jen tells me, deflating.
“Justin and Brian wouldn’t stop you if you showed them any reason to let you in their lives. They gave Joan a chance to be included. She’ll tell you that Brian has more reason than anyone to shut the door in her face.” Deb tells her.
“I don’t understand.” Jen tells us.
“I’m an alcoholic, who let my husband abuse my son while I drank and ignored my child being beaten. When he was older, I hid behind God, and treated Brian as if he would never be good enough if he didn’t turn away from the life he was living, the one that made him happy. I managed to straighten out my life and find a way to have my son in it. I want that for Justin, he needs you, but isn’t going to keep letting you in, if you stay the way it’s been. If that is what you intend to do then stay here and Deb and I will love Justin the way he needs, and have the grandchildren that you will only know in pictures. Do Justin a favor, stop telling Craig anything about him. That book is closed and Justin will not open it again.” I tell her, as Deb and I get up to leave. I did what I could, the rest was up to her.
“Craig is his father.” She tells me.
“The only difference between Craig and Jack Kinney is the beatings, but then words are sometimes worse.” I tell her, walking out.
“Do you think she’ll get it?” Deb asks me.
“You made me get it, so there’s always hope.” I tell her, getting one of Deb’s hugs.
“He needed you, you just needed to see it.” She tells me, smiling as we walked.
“You made sure he knew his life wasn’t to be as Jack’s punching bag, and gave him a reason to open his heart to our Justin.” I tell her.
How did Cosmo become mine? The damn thing thinks if I sit somewhere, it’s a sign for him to take a nap. I gave up when he seemed to find ways to get to me. It helped that Penny started carrying a lint brush to get the cat hair off me. My baby understands, no one wants cat hair on Armani. I fell asleep on the couch with a kitten purring next to my ear, it was weirdly relaxing. Justin and the rest of the gang were getting everything ready for meeting my mother’s boyfriend. I was ordered out of the kitchen when I tried to stop the massive carb fest they were planning to feed everyone. So I sat there, then laid down when Cosmo seemed to want me to, it was the last thing I remembered. I woke up to Nathan sneaking past me with a box.
“Everything okay?” I ask him.
“It’s fine Daddy.” He says loudly, inching away backwards.
“What do you have behind your back?” I ask.
“Nothin.” He tells me, trying to escape.
I grabbed him and he giggled, trying to keep the box away. I finally got the box and pulled it over to see what he was hiding. “What’s in here?” I asked him.
“A present for Grandma.” He tells me.
“Why were you trying to hide it?” I asked him.
“Cause I wanted it to be a surprise.” He tells me.
“Then we’ll wait for Grandma.” I tell him.
“What if she doesn’t like it?” He asked, biting his lip.
“Do you want me to look?” I asked, and he nodded.
“Just don’t let it escape.” He tells me and now I was scared.
I pulled out my Y chromosome and prayed it wasn’t something that would have all of us worried about where he found it. I lifted the lid and found some roses with a butterfly sitting on them.
“Who put the plastic over the top?” I asked him.
“Penny, she said it was so Grandma could release it if back into the wild if she wanted.” He tells me.
“It’s really a good present, and Grandma will love it.” I tell him smiling.
“I wanted the frog, but it got away.” He tells me covering the box again and hopping down.
“Frogs like the outdoors.” I tell him.
“Yeah, maybe he’ll figure out how to get out of the house.” Nathan tells me, shrugging and skipping out the door.
Brian spent the hour before Joan got to the house searching for something, but wouldn’t say what. I left him to it while all of us were helping to get everything together for the picnic we were having. Sue Ellen and Jasper were visiting Howard, so Sue Ellen insisted on teaching us how to make real country cooking, while Jasper took the kids outside to play. Emmett really loved having his family come to visit. We all enjoyed Jasper’s way of looking at the world.
My mother showed up with Molly and at first stayed in the kitchen, not saying much to us. When everything was finished and everyone dispersed in different directions she seemed to want to talk to me.
“Was it really bad having me for a mother?” She asks.
“No, it just seems like when I left, you and I stopped talking about anything that mattered.” I tell her.
“My life was falling apart, I needed you to listen to me. No one else seemed to care.” She tells me.
“So was mine, but nothing seemed to matter to you. I gave up on you being the mother you used to be.” I tell her.
“Justin, I love you, you know that, don’t you? I didn’t know how to handle your lifestyle, and you seemed to just expect me to not have a hard time when you announced you were gay and barely gave me a chance, before walking out the door. It just seemed like you didn’t need me anymore.” She tells me.
“I needed you, but it was like the only time you called was to complain about Molly and then about me not telling you anything. I got tired of you telling Craig everything as if he cares about me anymore. If you want to be a part of my life, then let it be about me and you, and no one else. I would love to have the woman who was proud of the things I achieved.” I tell her.
“You’ve always made me proud.” She tells me.
I hugged my mom as Deb and Joan came in with Carl and Stuart. Joan seemed really happy to see my mom here with me.
Stuart stayed with my mom as she introduced him to everyone in the house. He was really interested in meeting the kids. I sat with Justin while the kids ran around playing and talking to everyone else. His mother made an effort to talk to everyone, which she tended to shy away from doing since Justin and I got together. He told me that they talked, but he wasn’t going to hold out hope that it would mean any big change for their relationship immediately. When it was time to eat I got up to make Nathan and Penny’s plates, so Justin could relax. Jen came and sat with me while Justin was talking to Emmett and Alex. Stuart came over and sat with us while the girls and my mom watched the kids. I really wasn’t sure why they wandered over to me.
“I wanted to thank you for having me over. Joan can’t seem to go a minute without talking about your kids.” Stuart tells me.
“I wanted to meet the guy who could get her out of the house and into the world.” I tell him.
“Joan was telling me that there are two other grandsons?” He asks.
“My sister’s kids, right now one is most likely going to fulfill his dream of prison while the other one I’m not sure of. He never seemed to be as big a pain in the ass as the older one.” I tell him.
“She’s worried about them. I get the feeling your sister isn't very good about taking responsibility for her actions.” He tells me.
“She'd rather believe her problems are more important. She also never believes John does anything wrong, it's always someone else. How she wants to believe John didn’t know he stole a car when he broke into the thing is anyone’s guess. I just don’t need Mom letting Claire drag her into this mess. Justin has Dan looking into it for us.” I tell him.
“If you need any help, let me know, I don't want Joan to backsliding because of it.” He tells me, going back to sit with mom.
I look over at Jen who sat quietly while Stuart and I talked. “Can I help you?” I ask.
She and I have never really exchanged more than a nod. I didn’t like the way she kept telling Justin she wanted to change the relationship they had, but didn't do anything after asking for the chance.
“I thought it was time that we talked to each other.” She tells me.
“Why? I know you don’t like that Justin married me and really just tolerate me.” I tell her.
“I don’t know you.” She tells me.
“I’ve been in Justin’s life for six years. How long were you planning to wait?” I ask her.
“You made it hard for me to try, I could tell you didn’t like me.” She tells me.
“You let him leave without even fighting for him. I know what that made Justin feel like. I know what it’s like when the only time your parents bothered with you was when they needed or wanted something from you. My old man wanted me to keep him in booze and a roof over his head. The only time he called was when he wanted cash, not to see me. You only seemed to call when you were upset and wanted Justin to comfort you, it didn’t really make me see you as someone that would be worth knowing. The only reason I haven’t kicked your ass out of our home is because Justin is still smiling after talking to you. I’m willing to give you the same chance Justin gave my mother, but not if there is anything you do that upsets my family.” I tell her, keeping my voice even, because I’m only telling her why I never talked to her.
“I want to know my grandchildren.” She tells me, wiping her eyes.
“Then ask Justin about them, he can talk for hours about them if you’re interested. Show me that you can be the mother he tells me you were when he was younger. I’m not an obstacle for you, Justin is, because I’d allow Craig near us if he managed to be the father he’s never has been to Justin.” I tell her.
“You love him more than anything, don’t you?” She asks.
“I love him and everything he brought into my life.” I tell her.
“Daddy, it’s in your office.” Nathan tells me running out.
“You wouldn’t want to help your grandson would you?” I ask.
“I would love to.” She tells me, smiling.
I watch as Nathan is about to introduce her to our world, let’s hope she gets that thing out of my office.
I ran in when I heard screamin. Nathan was chasing a frog while Justin’s mama was standin on a chair. I never got what the big deal was, it’s not like it’s gunna eat ya. Our boy Nathan was havin the time of his life tryin to catch it.
“Nathan jist grab it.” I tell the boy.
“It keeps leaping.” He giggles, when it hopped towards Granny.
“You catch her and I’ll show ya how good dem legs are.” I tell him.
“Daddy said unless it comes from the store, I can’t eat it. It’s why I was eating Fluffy’s food.” He tells me, hoppin round after the thing. He wasn’t really trying to catch it.
“Sue Ellen could show yer Daddy, ain’t nothin’ wrong with fresh.” I tell him.
I got in front of the youngin and grabbed the critter. Nathan looked disappointed, but happily took it out the house, sayin his sisters needed ta get over thinkin frogs had cooties. I offered my hand ta help Granny down but she wasn’t havin it. She sat on the chair lookin like demons was chasin her.
“Sorry, frogs are not my favorite thing.” She tells me.
“How did you raise yer boy without dealin with one?” I ask, sitten down.
“Justin never seemed interested in slimy creatures.” She tells me.
“My Howie was, but he didn’t know anythin else. Where we comes from we like it when we catch what we’re eaten, cause who knows what’s in those things in the store. Howie was one of the best at catchin bait, he never had any interest in meat. Well, at least not the kind we caught.” I joke.
“How did you deal with your son telling you he was gay.” She asked, seemed interested.
“Ain’t nothin’ ta deal with, Sue Ellen and I knew we either loved our boy or we lose him. It ain’t the worst thin he coulda done. Most of the boys had babies before they dropped outta school, Howie wanted ta get a fancy education. I wouldn’t mind having grandbabies, but I like that he’s gonna make somethin of hisself. Ya love um or ya don’t, I didn’t wanna lose him the way we lost Emmett. Emmett was a good boy, he ain’t never done nothin fer us ta be ashamed of him fer, but he was different than what we knew. He made a good life and we coulda been family if it hadn’t been for us bein scared a somethin that never hurt no one.” I tell her.
“Justin just expected me to be able to deal with it, he never gave me a chance to try.” She tells me.
“Why would your boy expect anythin less than his Mama loving him? People is suppose ta love their youngins, and not only when they doin what you want. What you thinkin, it had somethin ta do with you? They just love different. You wanna life with yer boy, ya stop makin excuses for why you weren’t his Mama. He’s a good boy who ain’t never looked down on my family for being different.” I tell her.
“He said that it seemed like all I do is complain when I call him.” She tells me.
“Do ya, or do ya ask about his babies and tell him he made a good life with Brian. It’s obvious he done well, so it shouldn’t be hard ta find somethin nice to say about his life.” I tell her.
“I had a lot going on and sometimes needed him to listen.” She tells me.
“You spected your boy ta listen ta your problems? Cause the way Emmett tells it, Justin had a lot of his own thins to deal with besides, you know.” I tell her.
“See, even you have a hard time saying it.” She tells me.
“Now see most think the same, but I cun say Gay, I just thinkin that they all hear too many people sayin it in a way that sounds not as nice. I mean, what people say ta my boy ain’t nice and I try not to say anything, they know who they are and it’s not just bein you know. Emmett got hisself a big business and managed ta find someone who don’t treat us the way we treated Emmett. Ya just need ta stop worryin about who they love and remember he’s yer boy. Ya missing out on those grandkids by bein all stuck up. I better git out there before that baby terrorizes everyone. Not that any pays any mind to it, they just love the kid.” I tell her.
Nathan came running out and huddled with Gus who kept looking at Jenny and smirking. One day he’s going realize that Mel’s blood runs through her veins and she’ll get him back. Penny and Jenny went over to see what the boys were doing and to the boys disappointment they didn’t run screaming but looked annoyed. I watched Jenny whisper something into Nathan’s ear and he turned it and looked then shrugged and kissed the damn thing. When Justin got to them before I could, Jenny tried to act innocent.
“Papa how many times do I gotta kiss it before it turns into a cookie?” Nathan asks.
My mother came over and sat down when Justin was explaining that we don’t kiss anything when we don’t know where it’s been. Nathan told him what happened in my office.
“I wish Claire spent even a tenth of the time with her sons that you and Justin do all your children.” She tells me.
“She’d find out they aren’t what she wants to believe.” I tell her.
“Do you think Jen and Justin will manage a relationship?” She asks me.
“We are, and I honestly never saw that as a possibility.” I tell her.
I took Nathan inside and Sue Ellen took him from me to clean him up.
“Honey, babies put all sorts of things in their mouths.” Sue Ellen tells me.
“You used to eat your crayons and there was that time you ate a dog biscuit.” My mother tells me.
“I love how Nathan is following tradition. We got lucky because he licked the crayon first and didn’t see the point.” I tell her.
“Ain't nothing he won’t grow outta.” Sue Ellen tells me.
“Aunty El, I need cookies.” Nathan tells her.
“Let's clean ya up so Papa don't worry none.” She tells him taking him out.
“They seem really at home here.” Mom tells me.
“They visit a lot, their son is planning to go to college here. Emmett found out he had a family that stopped seeing him as anything but their brother.” I tell her.
“Justin, we need to go. I have group tonight. Thank you for inviting us over.” Joan tells me, coming inside with Stuart.
“Anytime, Brian loves having you here.” I tell her.
“Jen if you're in town feel free to call. I'd like for us to be friends. Deb and I could always use someone to help us with the kids.” Joan tells her, before leaving with Stuart.
“Justin, how did you and Brian meet?” Mom asks, after we sat around for a few minutes silent.
“How we met is not really as important as how Brian showed me he wanted me.” I tell her, not thinking she wanted to hear about the first night.
I told her about everything that made Brian be the person who made me want this life. How he jokingly decided it was time to have children, and the camping trip that had soccer mom still after Brian. I told her why I didn't want Craig in my life, and how it made me feel when she would tell him things about me that I didn’t feel were necessary for him to know. She told me she only told him things because she hoped one day he'd realize how much he missed by not accepting me.
Jasper shook his head when he came in and heard that. “Iffin he hadn't figired it out, ya tellin him isn't gonna change him. I really wanna have a talkin ta with that one.” He tells us.
“Jasper, ain't nothing stringin him ta an anthill with honey all over him will change.” Sue Ellen tells him.
“Trust me even that wouldn't change his opinion.” I tell them.
“We could try it?” Jasper asks, smiling.
“He'd have you arrested.” Mom tells him.
“That wouldn't be so bad, I could visit some kin.” He tells her, walking out rubbing his hands.
“Is he serious?” Mom asks us.
“Could be, he said somethin about seein his cousin. I just thought he meant visitin.” Sue Ellen tells her, pulling a cake out.
“I'm clean!” Nathan yells at me, when he sees the cake.
“Me too.” Gus runs in smiling, with Brian behind him.
“It must kill Brian that they act like you.” Mom laughs.
“No, it's makes our days some of the best.” Brian tells her.
This is the final chapter. This universe will continue when the kids are older. I need time to be ready for Nathan the teen, so I'll be taking a little time off before going on with this series.
I was napping with Cosmo, since everyone else was out. Justin and I never made a big deal out of our birthdays, so I was okay with them being out for the morning. Justin will most likely bring home a cake and we’ll have dinner with the kids. He already told me that he wanted Gus and Jenny over tonight anyway. Fluffy and Cosmo seem to have an agreement that only one used me for a pillow at a time. I really preferred Cosmo over the giant that kicks me off the sofa anyway. I had gotten up to get a drink when my mom called and asked if I would help her hang up some curtains. I agreed and waited to see if she was going to say anything else, but as usual she thanked me and hung up. I went to change and go help her, leaving Justin a note so he would know where I went.
I pulled up to my mother’s house and found Gus kicking a ball around the front. He saw me and ran inside. Now I want to know why Gus is here, and why my mother seemed to need help with curtains that were already up on the windows. I almost ran for it, because I had a feeling that this birthday wasn’t going to be the way I normally spend them. I must have stood there too long because Nathan came out and grabbed my hand to drag me in.
“Daddy, Papa said to tell you ‘deal with it’.” He tells me.
I walked in and they yelled surprise. It was awkward at first, because everyone knows me and birthdays.
“She wanted you to have one that didn’t end the way the others did.” Lindsay whispers, kissing my cheek.
I looked at my mother, who never managed to throw a party that involved me without it becoming a nightmare, and gave in to what everyone wanted.
“I guess I’m going to the gym for the next year.” I joke, when the horror that is cake and a barbeque is spread out before me.
Justin at least saved me from a heart attack by making sure there weren’t enough candles to burn down the house on the cake. Mel handed me a plate with of ribs and chicken, saying that I need to get over the whole idea that I could live without an ounce of fat on my body. I told ‘love muffin’ that I didn’t need the muffin top she would get from the potato salad.
Each of the kids brought me a present that I’m sure Lindsay and Justin help them make. I opened them in order of when each of my kids gifted me with their entry into my life. Gus gave me a coupon book with things only Lindsay could think of, really, a coupon for hugs? I ripped that one out and handed it to Gus to get him started on all the girly things his mother thought I needed. Jenny gave me a rock, they called it a paperweight but you know it’s really just a rock. It would sit on my desk, only because Jenny gave it to me. Penny drew a storybook with me being the a king who takes care of his princess. It’s my role in life in her eyes, and she’s absolutely right. I really didn’t like the part where my princess marries the prince, but I have years to run off any asshole who thinks they get to touch my princess. Nathan handed me a box and there was just fear, because lately he’s been bringing live things in the house. I opened it to find it empty. I didn’t know what to think, it was decorated with all sorts of things, but other than that it was empty. I was hoping that nothing had gotten loose.
“Nathan, I’m thinkin ya need ta explain or he’ll think the gift’s not there.” Sue Ellen tells him.
“Um... it’s a box.” He tells me.
“It’s a nice box.” I tell him.
“Nathan, ya might need ta be tellin him why ya made it.” Jasper tells him.
“It’s spose to be for you to keep all my portant things. So you can open it and see all the great things I do.” He tells me, crawling in my lap. I kissed Nathan for making sure my present included him.
“It’s a great idea.” I tell him.
Emmett and Alex handed me a box with a Hawaiian shirt in it. I thanked them but wondered when I ever made them think I would wear it. Grant and Dan gave me a straw hat and really, where did they get this idea I would wear that? Lindsay and Mel gave me sandals that were dying to belong to anyone but me. My mother gave me snorkels and flippers, I was starting to see the theme, but what the hell? Ted and Blake handed me a box full of sunscreen and something the kids didn’t need to see. Ted managed to stop me from pulling out the dildo, which had been something we all gave Ted for years. Justin handed me an envelope with tickets for us and the kids to go to Hawaii during the summer.
“You refuse to go to the Magic Kingdom until the kids can ride on their own, so this was my compromise. I figured we could take the mom brigade to watch the kids while you and I have a few days kid free.” He whispers.
They brought the sugar overload to the table and I let my kids help me blow out the two candles, then made sure to let them eat it for me.
“It feels like my first time.” I tell Justin, when we were sitting outside watching the kids.
“Brian, we never threw them because you didn’t seem to want them. Your mother wanted it here to try to wipe out all the bad days here.” He tells me.
“Hopefully there won’t be anymore bad days in this house.” I tell him.
“You told me that we would only have best days, so far you’ve been right as usual.” He tells me.
After all the other things that happened, it couldn’t be anything but best days for us. I had a family and the man I wanted to spend every one of my days with. There wasn’t room for anything else. I have a feeling when the kids get older we’ll have days where I’ll wonder what I was thinking but then, why let it matter now.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.