The Letters by mandagrammy

Although Brian has had little to nothing to do with his mother or sister in well over a decade, his life is changed forever following a surprising call about them from an unexpected source.  Thankfully, he will have his husband, Justin, to help him deal with what is coming.

Categories: QAF US Characters: Brian Kinney, Claire Kinney, Jack Kinney, Joan Kinney, Justin Taylor, Original Male Character
Tags: Canon Divergence, Death, Family, Homophobia, M/M, Minor Character Death, Post-series
Genres: Alternate Canon, Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Pairings: Brian/Justin
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: Yes Word count: 11273 Read: 2891 Published: Feb 16, 2019 Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Story Notes:


Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. 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.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my wonderful beta, Judy, for her skills in tidying up my work, and my beloved granddaughter, Marika, for her evocative banner.  I love you girls.

I would also like to add one special note for this story.  I have been under the mistaken impression for years that Brian was Joan's firstborn.  Thankfully, many of you have straightened me out on this point. However, it is integral to this story that Brian is the firstborn, so please indulge my twist on this one canon issue.  Thank you.


1. Part One: Death in the Family by mandagrammy

2. Part Two: The Will by mandagrammy

3. Part Three: The Attic's Surprise by mandagrammy

4. Part Four: A Secret Revealed by mandagrammy

Part One: Death in the Family by mandagrammy
Author's Notes:

Brian is living his happy uncomplicated life, with husband Justin, in New York City when he gets a most unexpected and unwelcome phone call from a stranger.


Brian Kinney, ad man extraordinaire, woke with one of the worst hangovers he had ever experienced in his entire misspent lifetime.  It took him several minutes before he could muster the courage to open his eyes and face the streaming light coming through the hotel windows.  He wasn’t even in the bed, which told him that he had passed out before making it there.  He finally managed the strength to push himself up on one elbow, so he could look at his surroundings and get his bearings.  He found himself sprawled haphazardly on the couch, one leg dangling over the side.  He let out a loud groan, along with a few choice curse words.  That’s when he heard sounds coming from the bathroom.  A moment later, he saw Justin entering the room.  He had the bedsheet wrapped around his body like a toga, which trailed along the floor behind him as he joined Brian, who was doing his best to sit up straight. 




“Morning, lover.  I’m sorry you got stuck on the couch, but I did try to move you to the bed.  But in your own words… ‘leave me the fuck alone!  Just let me die here.’  So, I did.”




“Coffee!  I need a gallon of coffee!” Brian croaked through parched lips.




Justin tried not to smirk as he stepped towards the couch and planted a quick peck on Brian’s flushed cheek. 




“Coming up, sire,” he grinned.  He tossed off a ‘I warned you last night to slow down’ over his shoulder when he heard Brian groan loudly again as he finally sat upright.




Brian grimaced, hating to hear ‘I told you so’ from his husband, especially when he knew Justin was in the right.  But after a little over ten years of marriage, it had happened often enough for Brian to let go of his irritation quickly.  He figured it was what he deserved for settling down with someone as smart and intuitive as his beloved Justin.  Actually, Brian seldom lost control of his drinking now that he was in his mid-forties.  It wasn’t as easy to spring back into tip-top shape the next day as it had been a decade ago.  So, he simply gave up his hard-drinking ways, for the most part.  But last night was an exception.  Anyone who knew Brian, and the family he sprang from, would certainly understand his actions last night.  He knew Justin did, even if he didn’t fully approve.  It all started with the lawyer he spoke with the day after he returned to Pittsburgh.  No, first came the phone call a couple of days before that.  Then the lawyer changed everything.








Brian came home from work on Monday feeling tired and irritable.  Although his business was prosperous and considered one of the top-notch ad agencies in New York City, he still had to deal with difficult clients on occasion.  He could, of course, leave those to some of his best employees, but Brian liked keeping on top of things personally.  His personal touch often helped to keep clients coming back time and again.  Today, however, was one of those days in which Brian wished he had turned the client over to someone else.  By the time the client had left his office, Brian had a headache that felt suspiciously like he was being repeatedly hit by a blunt object to the temple.  The moment he walked in the door of their upscale loft apartment, with the artist’s studio attached, Brian hastily made his way to the bathroom to find the bottle of Tylenol.  He didn’t really like for Justin to see him so grumpy.  He hoped the meds would soften the throbbing in his head. 




Brian had just downed the first two tablets when he heard the front door opening and closing.  He heard Justin calling for him.  Brian swallowed one more tablet, closed the cabinet door, and went out to the living room.  There stood his husband, arms loaded with several packages, some looking quite heavy. 




“There you are.  I’m glad you’re home.  Can you come here and help me with some of these packages.  I feel like my arms are going to break any second now.”




Brian hurried over to help his husband, momentarily forgetting the pain in his head.  But Justin, always the perceptive one, saw something in his face, despite the attempt at a smile.




“Hey, lover, what’s up?  You look like death warmed over.”




“Thanks!  I thought you said I’d always look young and beautiful.  Now give me some of those packages.  What did you do, spend every last penny of your most recent artist’s commission in one day?”




“Very funny!  No, most of this stuff is just additional art supplies.  I just received a new commission this morning, along with the one I’m working on now.  Then, I just happened to notice that your favorite men’s shop was having a huge sale, so I stopped in to pick up a few things I thought you might like.  And don’t you dare say a thing.  You know damn good and well that you love buying new clothes and shit for me whenever you get a particularly nice bonus from one of your clients.  What’s good for the goose, etc. etc. etc.”




Brian laughed for the first time today.  He knew Justin was right.  They did love spoiling each other.  Amazingly, he felt his headache fading away.  It might be the pills, he thought to himself, but chances were more likely that it was just being with Justin.  The young man did have quite a way with making everything alright in Brian’s world by simply being himself.  The couple carried the packages into the bedroom and deposited them onto the bed.  One by one, they opened each bag and removed the contents… artist’s supplies on one side and clothing on the other.  Brian admired each of the articles Justin had chosen for him, along with the ones he’d bought for himself.  His husband had such good taste… taught to him by Brian, of course.  Justin carried his art supplies off to his studio while Brian began putting up the new clothes. 




Once Justin returned to the bedroom, Brian scooped him into his arms and gave him a deep satisfying kiss of appreciation for the new wardrobe.   Within seconds, the kiss became more passionate and flames ignited, as they always did with the couple.  Forgotten completely was Brian’s angst over his bad day at the office.  The heat began building immediately as they deepened their kisses and began pulling off pieces of clothing.  Quickly, they found themselves locked in a tight embrace with not a stitch of clothing separating their bodies.  They tumbled together onto the king-sized bed, still wrapped in each other’s arms.  Tongues snaked out to lick sensitive spots which experience taught them were favorites.  Despite the fact that their joint manhoods were as rigid as steel and weeping for attention, neither lover felt the need to hurry things.  Long ago, they had learned to savor their lovemaking and make it last as long as possible.  They began exploring all the special nooks and crannies of each other’s bodies, as if they didn’t already know every single inch of skin by heart.  But eventually the need to be one again became too strong to resist.  Justin made the entrance to his body totally accessible as Brian joyfully accepted the invitation.  Soon the room was filled with the sound of torrid passions being fulfilled as they came together as one.




Totally spent, and completely forgetting that he had ever arrived home with a headache, Brian stretched out hip to hip with Justin as they allowed their bodies to slowly revert back to normal.  Once their breathing was back in control, they got up and made their way to the bathroom to clean up.  A hot shower together found them refreshed and ready for the dinner, which their activity had helped them work up an appetite for.  After redressing, Justin headed for the kitchen to prepare their meal, while Brian retired to the living room to see what was on TV.  It was then that Brian’s cell phone rang.  Brian answered with a smile.  He was feeling so much better.  Then he frowned.  He didn’t recognize the voice on the other end of the line.




“Hello.  Is this Mr. Brian Kinney?” Came the strange voice.




In an irritated voice, Brian answered, “It is.  And just who are you?”




“This is Detective Richard Clemson of the Pittsburgh Police Department.”




“What can I do for the boys in blue, Detective?  I haven’t been back to the Pitts in quite some time.”




“Yes sir, I understand.  I’m calling to inform you that there has been an accident, and…”




Brian interrupted.  “An accident.  Who are you talking about?  What kind of accident?” 




Brian’s mind raced.  Why in the world would they be calling him about an accident happening in Pittsburgh?  Could it have something to do with the club?  Although he was still the owner of Babylon, he left all the running of the place to Ted and his loyal staff.  He finally heard the detective’s voice penetrating his thoughts.




“It was a car accident.  Apparently, your mother and sister were on their way to evening church services last night when a drunken driver collided with their car.  They were taken to the hospital and rushed into surgery.  We had a hard time finding any relatives to inform.  We finally spoke to neighbors who told us that the women lived alone together.  Apparently, you have two nephews, but they left home as soon as they graduated from high school, and no one has heard from them since.  They couldn’t give us any information on how to find them.   They mentioned that Mrs. Kinney had a son who lived in New York City, but we were only able to find your address and phone number when we entered the house, and located an address book.”




“Address book?  I never gave Joan or my sister our address.”




“Nevertheless, it was in there and that’s how we knew how to reach you.”  The officer sounded taken aback by Brian’s response and the casual way he called his mother by her first name.  “I regret to inform you that neither woman survived the surgery.  They both passed from their injuries.  It appears that you are the next of kin, so we will need to know what you wish to do with their bodies.”




Brian’s brain shut down.  Both his sister and mother were dead… it didn’t sound possible.  He barely ever thought of either of them anymore.  He didn’t even know that the two brats his sister gave birth to had left home… probably to get away from both women, he thought to himself.  And who could blame them?  But why did that have to mean that he would be responsible for decisions regarding what to do with them now?  No, he couldn’t think straight right now.  He needed to talk to Justin before making any decisions.




“Look, Detective Clemson, this is the last thing I expected to hear tonight.  You will have to give me time to talk with my husband about this.  Where are they now?”




The detective caught the word ‘husband’ but wasn’t bothered.  He had a gay brother.  “The bodies are still in the hospital morgue.  They will need to know as soon as possible as to who they should release them to.  Can you get back to me tomorrow?”




Brian agreed and wrote down the man’s number, along with the name of the hospital.  As he hung up the phone, his mind began racing again.   Justin… he needed Justin!  Brian walked slowly into the kitchen, where Justin was humming some cheery show tune as he whipped up his usual spectacular meal.  He heard Brian approaching behind him, turned with a smile, which faded the moment he saw Brian’s face.  Justin dropped his ladle onto the counter and walked quickly over to where Brian stood, looking upset over something.




“What’s going on, Brian?  You look like you’ve just lost your best friend.”




“Not a friend, Sunshine.  Not even close.  I just got a call from the police in Pittsburgh.  They informed me that Joan and Claire were killed last night in a car accident… something about a drunken driver while they were on their way to a church service.”  Brian grimaced.  “Ironic if you think about it.  If she wasn’t such a ‘devout’ religious fanatic, she’d still be alive today.”  Brian gave a short mirthless laugh.




Justin gathered Brian into his arms.  “I’m so sorry.  I know there was little love lost with your mother and sister, but they were all the family you had left.”




Brian’s voice rose as he stepped out of Justin’s arms.  “Family?  They didn’t know the meaning of family.  Debbie, Vic, and Michael were my family growing up, and still are… and of course, you!  The only thing that has me upset is that they can’t find Claire’s two sons, so they expect me to handle all the funeral arrangements.  I don’t even know what the fuck they wanted done with their remains, although I guess they would want to be buried where Jack is.”




“So what do you want to do then?  Whatever you do, I’ll help in any way I can.”




“I guess I don’t have much of a choice,” Brian said, with obvious reluctance.  “I’ll make arrangements at work for a few days away and return to the Pitts.  I’ll get things settled about them there and get back home as quickly as possible.  As soon as I have them laid to rest, I…we can get back to our lives.”




“You’re not going alone.  I’ll be with you.”






Justin pulled Brian back into his arms.  He didn’t pull away this time.  It felt safe being held by the one person that he knew loved him without any reservations.  With Justin by his side, he could handle anything.  That included finally laying to rest the last remnants of the family that never loved him the way a child deserved.




To be continued……   

Part Two: The Will by mandagrammy
Author's Notes:

Brian and Justin return to Pittsburgh to take care of family matters, which become even more complicated when Brian gets a call from another stranger.


Brian and Justin had barely checked into their hotel room in Pittsburgh when Brian’s phone rang.  He recognized the number of the detective he had spoken to before.  He answered right away, watching Justin as he set their luggage down and began unpacking.  They hadn’t packed a lot, hoping to make this visit a short one, although Justin had insisted they visit some of the Liberty Avenue gang once their tasks were completed.




“Hello, Mr. Kinney?”




“Yes.  We just arrived here.  I was going to call you as soon as we were settled.  Are there any legal things I need to take care of outside of handling funeral arrangements and such?”




“No.  I’ve already given you the information you need on who to contact.  However, you may be interested to know that there will be charges made against the driver who struck your mother’s car.  And, of course, there may be a trial.  We will keep you informed, and you can call me if you have any questions.”




Brian hadn’t even thought about the driver who was responsible for their deaths.  He knew he should care, but somehow couldn’t muster up any strong feelings about it one way or another.  Then, out of nowhere came a strange thought about his mother… ‘If only you had shown me just an ounce of love, I might have cared about what happened to you.’  Brian shook his head, desperate to shake loose the brief moment of grief he felt, not so much for her passing but for what could have been.  Brian quickly thanked the detective and hung up.  He was about to say something to Justin when his phone rang again.  A quick glimpse at the phone told him that it was once again a number he didn’t recognize.  Cautiously, he answered.




“Yes, who is this?”




“Am I speaking with Mr. Brian Kinney?”




“I asked you first,” Brian answered snippily.




“My name, sir, is Lloyd Jenkins.  You don’t know me, but I was your mother’s lawyer.  I got your name from her records.”




“Lawyer?  What the hell was she doing with a lawyer?  The woman never even got a speeding ticket.”




“Not her criminal lawyer, Mr. Kinney.  I am speaking with Brian Kinney?  Is that correct?”




“Yes.  But what do you want with me?  Look, I have a lot of issues to deal with right now.  I don’t have time to chat about Joan’s legal issues,” Brian told the man dismissively.




“Mr. Kinney, I’m afraid you’ll need to make time.  You see, I am the one who handled your mother’s will and…”




Brian interrupted.  “If this has to do with a will, then I doubt you need to speak to me.  There is no way she left me a damn thing, even if she had anything worth leaving.”




“Oh, I assure you, Mr. Kinney, she had a fairly decent estate left behind, although not exorbitantly high.  The thing is, she left everything to her daughter, Claire.  However, as you know your sister was also killed in the accident.  Let me explain.  If your mother passed away before your sister, the entire estate would go to Claire’s next of kin.  However, I have learned from the hospital that Claire passed first, thus the entire estate goes to Joan Kinney’s closest next of kin.  That, sir, is you.  What I will need is for you to come to my office at your earliest convenience, so that I can go over all that your inheritance entails.  So, when can I expect you?”




Once again, Brian found himself perplexed.  He knew he couldn’t handle this news without talking to Justin first.  “Just give me the address of your office and I’ll get back to you, Mr. Jenkins.  I presume at this number?”




“Yes, thank you, Mr. Kinney.  I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”




The moment the phone hung up, Brian told Justin all about the strange call from his mother’s lawyer.  They spent some time discussing what to do next.  In the end, Brian called the lawyer and made an appointment to meet late the next afternoon.  It would give Brian and Justin time to deal with the funeral home that they had talked to before leaving home and settle all the last details before seeing the lawyer.








The next day was extremely stressful.  All the funeral arrangements for his father had been handled by his mother.  This was the first time Brian had had to deal with anything like this and he didn’t like it one bit.  The only thing that kept him from walking away from the whole affair was the supportive hand of his husband.  It helped that there was a family plot, which included a spot right next to Jack Kinney for his wife.  Although Brian had not once visited his father’s gravesite, he did know where it was located and which funeral home had handled all the details.  Unfortunately, there was no such prepaid spot for his sister, Claire, so Brian had to purchase one for her.  The only brief moment of levity he experienced throughout the entire business came when Justin joked how Jack was probably not going to be too thrilled to have Joan spending eternity next to him and vice versa, even though they had purchased the adjoining plots years earlier.




Finally, all the details were taken care of and the funeral home was given permission to pick up the bodies.  By this time, it was close to time to keep their appointment with the lawyer.  The couple drove to the Liberty Diner for a quick bite first.  It was a bit disappointing that neither of them recognized any of the staff or patrons in the diner, even though the place looked exactly as it had more than fifteen years ago.  Debbie had retired after she and Carl were finally married, so that they could enjoy their golden years together.  After eating, the couple took a short trip down Memory Lane while driving by Brian’s old loft and past all their favorite haunts on Liberty Avenue.  Memories flooded over them as they made their way to the other side of town where the lawyer’s office was.  Once they arrived, Brian parked the car and sat with his hands gripping the steering wheel. 




“Come on, Brian.  It’s going to be fine.  No matter what Joan’s will says, you are your own man.  You will abide by her wishes as best you can and then that will be the end of it.  That chapter of your life will be closed, once and for all.”




Justin gently pulled Brian’s head around and kissed him warmly.  Brian relaxed and got out of the car.  They walked into the three-story building, checked the names on the plaque by the door, and found the office number they were looking for.  They rode the elevator up to the third floor in total silence, but with their fingers entwined in a reassuring grip.  They stepped through the door of the office, and into a sterile looking waiting room, with a row of half a dozen brown chairs that looked none too comfortable.  A receptionist at the small desk across from the row of chairs looked up and smiled.




“Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly.




Brian told her who he was and watched as she spoke into an intercom.  A voice that Brian recognized as the man he had talked to on the phone, answered.  The receptionist asked the couple to be seated and that Mr. Jenkins would be with them shortly.  They complied and waited.  Ten minutes passed before the lone inter-office door opened, and a tall thin man, of approximately fifty years or more, stepped out behind an older lady with grey thinning hair.  The two spoke for a few minutes, before the elderly woman smiled at the receptionist and left the office.  The gentleman stepped over to Brian and Justin and put out his hand.




“Mr. Kinney?” he asked, speaking directly to Brian.  “I’m Mr. Jenkins, your mother’s attorney.  Will you please follow me?”




He turned and made his way back through his office door, with Brian and Justin following close behind.  Once inside the office, which was tastefully and simply decorated, he motioned to two brown leather chairs facing a large office desk filled with supplies, two photos in frames, and several stacks of stuffed folders.  Once seated behind his desk, Jenkins started shuffling the folders until he found the one he was looking for.  He pulled it out and opened it up.  Inside was a sheaf of papers bound in a blue colored cover.  There were actually two separate sets of these papers.  He handed one over to Brian and kept the other for himself.




“Now, Mr. Kinney, what you have in your hands is the last will and testament of Mrs. Joan Kinney.  If you will read it over, it will explain what she intended after her passing.  As I’ve already told you, although Mrs. Kinney intended to leave her entire estate to her daughter, Claire, circumstances have changed that.  Because her daughter died before Mrs. Kinney, the estate has to go to the closest next of kin, which is her son.  I believe she had two grandsons…”




Brian interrupted.  “Three… she had three grandsons.”








“Yes, three.  I have a son too, but he was raised by his two mothers and they are his legal parents.  But do go on.”




“Yes, well as I was saying, the grandsons may want to dispute your right to the inheritance, if they ever return to Pittsburgh, but the law is quite clear on this matter.  Because she designated that her entire estate would go to one person only, and never even mentioned the grandsons, then they have no legal claim to any of it.  Now I’m sure you would like to know what the inheritance entails.  If you read further into the will, it states everything quite clearly.”




Brian settled in his chair and began reading the documents.  Justin sat beside him, waiting.  He sensed that there were parts of the will that surprised Brian but said nothing.  He knew his husband would explain everything as soon as they were alone.  When Brian finished with the last page of the will, he set it down on his lap and looked up at the lawyer.




“I know what to do with all the stocks and bonds she had purchased, but what the fuck am I supposed to do with all her property… the house and everything in it?  I sure as Hell have no plans of living in that mausoleum.”




“That’s entirely up to you, Mr. Kinney.  The house had no mortgage attached to it, so all we must do is have the deed transferred into your name.  Then you can do what you will with it… rent it, sell it, have it torn down.  It’s your prerogative.  Same goes for the contents.  My advice, if you don’t wish to live in it, and you have no desire to keep track of any rentals, is to sell the property.  Of course, if you choose to do that you will first need to empty it of all its contents.  Those things you can either keep, give away, donate, sell, or dispose of.  That choice is yours too.”




Brian felt his head throbbing for the umpteenth time since he first got the call from the police.  Even in death, his family was a giant headache.




“Alright, Mr. Jenkins.  Can you handle getting the necessary paperwork taken care of so I can move ahead with whatever I decide to do with the house and all?”




“Of course, Mr. Kinney.”




The three men shook hands, then Brian and Justin left the office.  The couple drove back to the hotel in relative silence.  Justin knew that Brian was struggling with the whole situation.  He wisely waited until they were back in their hotel room before asking the obvious question.




“Do you want to tell me what is going through your mind right now?”




“I don’t know exactly what I should do.  Joan didn’t leave behind a small fortune, but she sure as Hell had more money put away than I ever suspected.  I knew that Jack left her a decent sized life insurance payout, and she had her Social Security as well as widow’s pension from Jack’s job, but apparently she was a lot more frugal than I would have expected.   The stocks and bonds are worth somewhere in the low six figures.  Looks like we’ll have a tidy little nest egg for our old age, and of course I’ll make sure that Gus gets his share.  After all, whether she liked it or not, he was her grandson too.”




“That sounds like a good idea, Brian.  But what do you want to do about the house?  Although I’ve never seen it myself, I’ve heard stories from Debbie and Michael that it is quite a nice middle-class home in a very good neighborhood.  It’s probably worth a pretty penny in today’s market, as long as she took good care of the upkeep.”




“Well, the one thing I’m not going to do is live in that place.  It was never a real home for me.  Debbie’s house was more home for me than the Kinney house could have ever been.  And personally, I want to get back to New York and forget about Pittsburgh, except for the occasional visit with our friends.  I don’t feel like having to deal with rental agents or renters.  You never know what kind of jerks might rent your place.  Too many issues to deal with.  The best bet is to sell the old place.”




“That makes sense, but that means we will then have the task of emptying it out for it to be sold.  Are you prepared to do that?”




“I guess I don’t have a choice.  And I’ll have you to help me.  We’ll get through it and then I’ll be done with that family once and for all.  We’ll go there and check it out first.  Then I’ll hire someone to handle the details of anything that is worth putting into an estate sale.  Anything left over after that we will just donate to some charity or toss, if it isn’t worth anything to anyone.”




“Sounds like a plan.”  Justin hugged Brian tightly.  “Don’t worry.  This will all be behind you before you know it.  I love you, Brian.”




“I love you too, Sunshine.  But right now I love the idea of getting drunk as a skunk even better.  Let’s see just what the mini bar has to offer.”




Thus, began a night of one drink followed by another.  Justin made sure to keep his head about him, knowing they had a monumental task ahead of them in the morning.  He made a couple of weak attempts to get Brian to slow down his drinking, but then decided to let the poor man slip into much-needed oblivion for now.  Time enough to face their tasks when they had to, he decided.  And he knew Brian would handle things successfully.  He always did in the end.




To be continued…………

Part Three: The Attic's Surprise by mandagrammy
Author's Notes:

Brian reluctantly returns to the Kinney family home.


Brian felt an almost physical jolt to his stomach when he first stepped into the Kinney house he had grown up in.  He still felt the effects of the hangover as his reward for drinking himself into oblivion the night before.  But that was nothing compared to the uncomfortable feelings he was experiencing when he walked into the house for the first time since his father passed years earlier.  The only thing that helped steady his nerves was having Justin by his side this time.




The couple were not alone.  Brian had hired an appraiser, who also handled estate sales, to help them catalog what was in the house so they could determine what to do with everything.  Hours passed as they visited each room one by one.  They discovered a number of items of some value.  Joan Kinney loved collecting pieces of crystal and porcelain, which the appraiser assured them was worth selling.  Even the furniture, although not very new, was in very good condition and of good quality.  It was sellable.  Brian was surprised to find that both his mother and sister had some decent pieces of jewelry, along with a lot of costume jewelry.  Once they had explored every room, they determined that about a third of the contents of the home were worthy of an estate sale, and the rest would make a decent donation to some charity.  Justin suggested that their donation could go to The Vic Grassi House.  Brian felt the first moment of levity from the entire day. 




“How fitting that will be.  Of course, she just might decide to haunt us for doing such a thing with her possessions if we do,” Justin joked.




“A chance worth taking,” Brian laughed, kissing Justin on the cheek as he wrapped his arms around him from behind. 




For a brief moment, Brian thought to himself that it would be even more ironic to take Justin into his old room, and then fuck the living daylights out of him once the appraiser had left, but decided that donating her things to a hospice for the LGBTQ community was enough of a ‘fuck you’ for one day.  Besides, this old house didn’t exactly put him in the mood for pleasurable pursuits.  After the appraiser left with his notepad in hand, Justin thought of something that hadn’t occurred to Brian.




“We’ve checked the whole house, but we forgot the attic.  That will need to be cleaned out too before selling the house.  And who knows, there may be some treasure stashed away up there.”




Brian groaned.  He was more than ready to get back to the hotel and find that bottle of Jim Beam left over from the night before.  But Justin was right.  They decided to get it over with now, because the sooner the house was cleared away, the sooner they could have their realtor start showing it to prospective buyers.  At least they knew they could go back home to New York without waiting for it to be bought.  So, gritting their teeth, Brian pulled down the stairs leading to the attic, and they made their way up into the darkened space that Brian hadn’t seen since before he graduated from high school.








More than an hour passed as the couple browsed through all the nooks and crannies of the large attic space.  Luckily for them, the darkened corners were lit up quite nicely by several overhead lights, which Jack had installed the day he nearly broke his neck tripping over unseen things in such a large area only lit by a single bulb.  The attic ran the entire length of the house and had one window at each end of the room, but it was nearing sunset outside, so no light penetrated the attic.  The place was dusty, as expected, and showed signs of being neglected for some time.  They wondered if the women had even gone up into the attic since Jack’s passing.




The room was filled with boxes of discarded memories from more than thirty years of marriage and family life.  There were also a number of pieces of furniture, such as a dilapidated crib that hadn’t seen a baby tucked inside for decades, and an old rocker.  Brian found it hard to imagine either of his parents ever rocking their babies to sleep in the rocker.  Brian recognized some of the old toys he and his sister had as children.  He was surprised that his parents kept any of them.  He found it hard to remember any happy playtimes at home as a child, although he probably did have some.




As Brian was dusting off some of the furniture to determine if any of it was worth selling, or should be scrapped, Justin wandered off to the far end of the attic.  He had noticed an old cedar chest… the kind that brides once called their ‘hope chest’, in which many once used to keep their wedding gowns and other memorabilia after being married.  He was curious as to whether there would be some items inside that might be of interest to Brian, despite his cavalier attitude about his family.  Justin checked to see if the chest was locked.  He wasn’t surprised to find that it was.  However, the chest was not in the best of conditions, so he decided to see if he could somehow pry it open. 




Earlier, he had noticed an old half-rusted crowbar in one corner of the attic, along with some old tools.  He found it again and brought it back to the chest.  He could hear Brian mumbling to himself on the other side of the attic as he rummaged through box after box looking for anything worth keeping or selling.  Justin worked the crowbar into the edges of the lid.  At first it looked like the task would be hopeless.  Just as he was about to admit defeat, he heard the sound of cracking wood.  As if by a miracle, the lock gave way.  Justin gripped the lid and opened it up.  Dust flew up into his face as it swung open.  He coughed and brushed the air to scatter the dust.  He looked down into the chest.  Sure enough, there was an old-fashioned white wedding gown tucked neatly inside a clear plastic bag. 




Justin also spotted a handful of photo albums and a couple of handmade quilts.  There were some baby clothes too, that appeared to be hand-made, but the thing that interested Justin the most was a shoe box with the cover on and a rubber band securing it.  He took it out and removed the cover.  Inside, sat a small bundle of envelopes, which he presumed had letters inside.  Justin’s curiosity was piqued. 




He called over to Brian to tell him about the letters, but only received a derisive response telling him to trash them for his efforts.  Without thinking about why he did it, Justin sat down on the floor of the attic and removed the ribbon that held the letters together.  He was surprised to see that none of the half dozen or so envelopes had a stamp attached, although each did have a name and address neatly written on them.  They were supposed to be mailed to someone named Virginia Kelly.  The name and address of the sender was also clearly visible.  It was Joan Kinney.  There were dates scrawled on the back of the envelopes.  The first date was when Brian was still a baby.  Justin couldn’t stop himself.  He pulled out the letter with the earliest date and began to read.




To be continued………… 

Part Four: A Secret Revealed by mandagrammy
Author's Notes:

Justin discovers a deep, dark secret that will change Brian in ways he would never have expected.


Little by little Justin found himself drawn into a world he would never have expected to enter.  Although he had only seen Brian’s mother once at the loft, and from a distance once or twice since then, he had a strong impression as to who the woman was, based on stories he had heard from Debbie, Michael, Vic, and others.  Brian told him some things about his childhood since they finally settled down together, but he did so almost painfully.  Justin tried to avoid bringing the subject of Brian’s family up to avoid seeing the hurt that sometimes peeked through, even when Brian tried to mask it.  The one thing that Justin knew for sure was that Joan Kinney hated that her son was gay.  She had been adamant that he was bound for Hell because of it.  Justin understood how this hurt Brian, because it still pained him that his own father was the same.




Yet, now Justin was learning something about Joan Kinney that belied everything he had heard about her.  Most of the letters were short, so it didn’t take him long to get through them all.  As he finished reading the final page, he set it down on the pile with the others and felt his heart squeezed tight with emotion.  Whether he liked it or not, Justin knew that Brian needed to read the letters too.  But not here, he decided.  Brian needed to be in a safe place.  This house was too full of negative memories.  That might taint Brian’s reaction to the letters.  Justin bundled up the stack and put them back into the shoe box, covering it up with the lid and rubber band once more.  He joined Brian, who was just finishing up his perusal of the last things in the attic.  The couple climbed back down the stairs and closed up the entrance to the attic.  If Brian wondered what Justin was holding onto so tightly, he didn’t ask.  Soon, they were back in their rental car and returning to the hotel.  Justin knew he would have to tell Brian about the letters then.  He prayed that he wasn’t making a mistake saving them, and giving them to Brian to see.








The couple had their dinner brought to the room.  They were mentally and physically exhausted from the ordeal of assessing the value and dispensation of the Kinney house contents.  Justin waited until Brian was finished, and had settled into an easy chair in front of the wide-screen TV set, a glass of Jim Beam in hand.  Before he could turn the set on, Justin walked over to him and sat on the floor in front of him.  He rested his arms on Brian’s legs and looked up at him with an expression Brian couldn’t describe.  But there was definitely a question in that look.




“What is it, Sunshine?  You seem to have something on your mind.  Truthfully, I noticed that you appeared a little off on the way home too.  Is there something you want to say to me?  Was visiting the place where I grew up too much for you?  It certainly won’t ever be my favorite experience to look back on.”




“You’re right, Brian.  I could feel how tense you were when you first stepped into that house, and you never did seem to relax completely.  I hated seeing you like that, but that’s not what has me so distracted.  I have something that I brought back from the house that I really think you should see for yourself.  I think it may help you come to some kind of understanding about your past, especially in regards to your relationship with your mother.”




Brian’s brow furrowed as he looked quizzically at his husband.  What in the world could he be talking about?  He already knew all he needed to know about his relationship with her.  She had made it very clear that she wished he had never been born.  She didn’t really seem to even like her own daughter very much either, although she wasn’t quite as cold to Claire as she had always been with him.  She definitely didn’t care for her husband.  Sometimes he even thought that she hated Jack.  As far as he was concerned, Joan Kinney wasn’t even capable of loving anyone, except maybe for her mystical God and Jesus.  He barely knew her side of the family, because she seldom talked about them, and they rarely visited when he was young.  He couldn’t imagine that Justin had found anything in that old house that would change his opinion of the woman who gave birth to him.




“Alright, Justin, what the fuck are you talking about?”




Justin rose from the floor and walked over to the desk, where he had left the mysterious shoe box Brian had noticed him carrying from the car into the hotel.  He had intended to ask Justin about the box later on, but really didn’t care that much what he might have found that was interesting enough to bring with him.  Justin walked back to Brian and sat down next to him in the other easy chair.  He removed the band around the box and opened it up.  He reached in and pulled out the bundle of letters inside.  He set them down on Brian’s lap and gazed over at him.




“What is this?” Brian asked.




“These are letters that Joan wrote many years ago, but never mailed to the intended recipient.  Did you know that she attended college after high school?”




“I think I heard them talking about it once, but didn’t pay any attention.  I know she married Jack after getting knocked up with me when she was nineteen or twenty.”




“Well, according to what I’ve read in the letters, she did attend college for one year before she married.”




“Okay.  So why is it so important that I read her letters?  If they were about her college year, then it means nothing to me.”




“Brian, do you trust me?”




“With my life, but what does that…?”




“Then I’m telling you that I believe you need to read the letters.  I don’t think you knew Joan Kinney at all, at least not in the way you thought you did.  It could change your outlook about her and your childhood entirely.”




Brian was doubtful that anything Joan Kinney had to say to anyone would alter his feelings about her, but there was something so adamant and intense in how Justin was talking to him, that he decided he would at least glance through them… just to appease Justin, if nothing else.  Brian picked up the small bundle and removed the ribbon tying the letters together.  He checked the name of the intended recipient.  He didn’t recognize the woman’s name at all.  He opened the first envelope on top and removed the letter inside.  Justin nodded, and retired to the couch where he picked up his drawing pad and the pencil he’d left on the coffee table earlier that morning.  He began sketching, all the while keeping an eye on Brian.  He watched intently as Brian began to read the words written in the first letter.








My Dearest Ginny,


Although I doubt you will ever read this letter, I feel compelled to write it anyway.  I can’t believe it has been a full year since I last saw your beautiful face.  I only wish the memory could be more pleasant, but I realize that it is entirely my own fault that we parted with so much hurt between us.  But I must set the record straight, if only for my own sake. 




My dearest, I lied to you for both our sakes.  I truly believe it was the right thing to do, even if it tore my heart out to do it.  What was happening between us was endangering both our immortal souls.  I could not let that happen.  I only pray that I will see you again in Heaven when our time here is over.  God will surely reward us for not giving in to our sinful desires.  When I look back on how it all started, I am torn with emotion. 




I will never forget the moment I first saw you.  You walked into the dorm room we were to share for our freshman year at college, and I was struck immediately by your beauty, and the contagious smile you had that lit up the dreary room we would inhabit for the next nine months.  Your laugh was even more contagious, as you plopped down on the bed on your side of the room, and complained that it felt like the Rock of Gibraltar.  Your words were harsh, but your laugh softened them.  It didn’t take me long to realize that you would always find the light humor in things, even when others would find only the dark.  I had never known anyone like you before.  My family had no sense of humor about anything.  I was certain we would have trouble connecting.  We were so different.  But I was so wrong.




The change came so slowly that I hardly recognized what was happening until it was too late.  By the end of the first semester, I knew that my feelings for you had become something strange, yet wonderful to me.  I had never had such feelings for anyone else in my entire young life.  They frightened me a little, but also gladdened my heart.  I felt alive whenever you were near.  I began to sense that you were feeling some of the same things I was.  And yet, we did nothing about those feelings.  Yes, we hugged each other often, and occasionally offered a gentle kiss on the cheek, but nothing more.  Still, there were times when those hugs lingered, and I could feel your heart beating so close to mine.  And there were times when a quick kiss also lingered.  Oh, Ginny, how I longed to feel your soft lips on mine and not just your cheek at times like that.  But fear held me back.




Then came our second and final semester together.  At first it seemed that nothing had changed when we came back after Spring Break.  But then I slowly felt a tenseness that wasn’t there before.  And then it happened!  We each lay on our beds reading a book and munching on our snacks.  You suddenly yelled out and jumped off the bed, shocking me.  I looked over and saw that your soda bottle had somehow fallen onto the bed and spilled its contents all over the bedcover.  I jumped up to help you, and together we pulled the bedcover and sheet off the bed.  It was too late.  The mattress had a large circle right in the center of it that was soaked with cola.




That was the first night that we slept together in my bed, squeezed in tight on my tiny twin mattress, after I refused to let you sleep on the floor.  But it wasn’t the last time, was it?  It soon became a habit.  And although we did nothing more than cuddle close together, occasionally hugging until we fell asleep, and even sharing a soft kiss or two, we never went any further.  I don’t know how you felt inside with what was happening, but it both scared me senseless, and gave me such a feeling of comfort.  And although I knew how wrong it was, a part of me wished for more… wished for your touch against my skin with more than a gentle hug.  But somehow, I managed to avoid telling you, even though I also sometimes sensed you may have been feeling the same thing.  Yet, I told myself that as long as I didn’t give in to my wicked thoughts, I was committing no sin against God. 




And so we continued on this path until the end of the year.  When we parted to return to our own homes and families in different cities, we promised each other that we would remain close through phone calls and letters, and then we would return to school for our sophomore year to continue our devoted ‘friendship’.  And the day I hugged you goodbye, I truly meant every word.  But then, oh my dearest, without the ability to see your beautiful loving face every day, I began to feel my strength waver and all I could think was how wicked my longings for you were.  I finally got up the nerve to speak to our family pastor, and his words chilled me to the bone.  He reminded me, through many private consultations, that what I was experiencing with you was unnatural and a sin against God.  Finally, his advice that I find a more appropriate outlet for my feelings sunk in.  And that is how Jack Kinney came into my life.




Jack was the son of my parents’ best friends.  We had known each other for years, but he was slightly older than me and never seemed to pay attention to me before that Summer.  Then, out of nowhere, he came to our house and asked me out.  The first few dates were fine.  But then he made it clear he wanted more from me than kisses (which always made me feel uncomfortable).  I told myself that I had to prove something… that I was interested in men, not a woman.  I thought that if I had sex with Jack, it would banish my feelings for you, and I would no longer be in danger of God’s wrath.  So, I gave in to his persistence. Oh, Ginny, how painful and degrading it made me feel.  His touch repulsed me, but I kept those feelings buried deep inside. 


I swore I’d never let him touch me again.  I wanted to be with you and could hardly wait for the Summer to end.  We continued to talk on the phone sometimes and write friendly letters to one another.  Then, barely over a month later, I realized that I might be pregnant.  I visited a doctor in the neighboring town a couple weeks later and found out it was true.  I can’t begin to tell you the fear and anger I felt that this had happened to me.  I was terrified to tell my parents.  I decided to tell Jack first, not having a clue how he would react.  And it wasn’t good.  He started out by suggesting an abortion.  I had to remind him that as a devoted Catholic, I could never do such a thing.  Finally, after much arguing and tears, we realized that we had no choice but to tell our parents what we did.




Confronting our parents was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Of course, they insisted that we must marry.  Thus, I ended my Summer vacation as a wife and expectant mother.  Then I sent you that letter telling you that I was not going back to school because I had married.  I said good-bye in the letter and thanked you for being my friend.  I thought I’d never see you again.  Then… there you were, on my doorstep.  You were so upset, wanting to know what had happened, and why I married this man so suddenly, whom I had never even mentioned the entire time I shared a room with you at school.  I said nothing about the baby.  I just told you that I realized how much I loved him, once I came back home, and he finally noticed me.  I told you how happy I was, while my heart cried out for you to see through my lies.  Of course, you were far too hurt to see anything but my betrayal.  As I watched you walk away and get into your car, I knew I’d never see or hear from you again.  And I knew I would never be truly completely happy again. 




And now it has been a year since you left my house.  I had my baby… a little boy we named Brian.  Oh Ginny, I tried so hard to love him, but I can’t seem to bond with my baby.  Every time I see his face, I think about all I have given up for him.  Believe me, I am paying a very high price for hurting you.  I will do my best to be a good wife for Jack, but I will never be able to love him.  And I can tell, after only a year, that he feels much the same for me.  When he comes home drunk after work, he reminds me how he was trapped into our marriage.  I suppose this will be my lot in life for as long as I live now.  Maybe I will grow to love my baby with time.  I’ll try.  At least I know that I deserve a place in Heaven, because I am living my Hell now on earth. 




So, now I have told you the whole story.  I hope you have learned to forgive me, Ginny.  Maybe I’ll have the courage to send you this letter someday, and maybe not.  Only time will tell.  I just hope you are having a better life than I.  With all my love, Joanie








Brian set the pages of his mother’s letter down onto his lap and looked over at Justin.  His eyes were unreadable.  Justin had never seen that look in his eyes before, and he thought he knew them all.  They were unfathomable.  He couldn’t know that Brian had retreated deep into the darkest recesses of his mind, a place haunted by his lonely confused childhood.  Now, for the first time, he had the evidence of why his mother never seemed to love him, even when she put on a show of caring when others were around.  He had always suspected that his father didn’t love him as much as most men would, because he had to marry Joan.  Brian knew he had been born less than nine months after their wedding, although no one ever talked about it. 




Now, as he slowly digested all that he had read in his mother’s unsent letter, he began to feel a completely different emotion start to take over.  He felt an anger building that he had never felt before.  He had always tried to dismiss both of his parents as the useless part of his life, especially once he was old enough to get away from them.  He only tolerated them when he felt it was necessary for one reason or another.  He told himself that he didn’t have time to be angry with them, that it was a waste because they didn’t care enough for it to matter.  Of course, much of his behavior with others was a direct result of their neglect and treatment of him, but he avoided thinking about that.  But now, he could not disguise or avoid the anger he found himself feeling.  Justin had been watching Brian closely and saw how his eyes began to change.  He clearly saw the anger, which Justin was familiar with in the past.  He hurried over to once again kneel in front of Brian, laying his hands carefully on the papers in his lap.  Brian’s eyes finally focused on the man he loved.




“Talk to me, Brian,” he gently entreated.




“You read the entire letter?” Brian asked him.




“I did, and the others too.”




“And do they reveal even more that I should know?”




“For the most part, they are much shorter and really just a litany of complaints about her lot in life.  She doesn’t mention her love for this woman, Ginny, again until the final letter.  She just talks about the bad choices she made in her life and how she regrets them, without being very specific about those choices.  If you don’t read the first letter, you would have no idea what choices bother her so much.  She does end each one by saying that she knows she will probably never mail them, but it helps her deal with things when she can get them off her chest by writing her feelings down.”




“So, what is different about the final letter?”




“Even if you don’t read any of the others, I think you should read that one too.”




Brian hesitated.  He didn’t know if he wanted to read any more of her words.  But he knew that Justin would not suggest he read the last letter unless it was important.  He trusted him, so he gathered the bundle of letters and pulled off the final one.  Justin returned to the couch as Brian began reading again.








My Dearest Ginny,




It’s been a long time since my last letter, which I also never had the courage to send.  I don’t quite know why I keep writing them when I am fully aware that you’ll never see them.  All I know is that it helps me cope with how my life has turned out during those times when I feel I’ll lose my mind.  So, why am I writing now, especially when it has been so long since the last time?  It is because I saw you for the very first time since we parted so long ago.  I was meeting an elderly fellow parishioner for lunch at one of our finest hotels, and I saw you entering the lobby.  You looked every bit as beautiful as I remembered.  I thought, for a brief moment, of calling out to you, but then I saw an attractive woman step up behind you and wrap her arms around you.  You turned, smiled at her (as you once did for me) and gave her a sweet kiss. 




My dear Ginny, I felt as though the world had upended and I could barely breathe.  It was at that moment that I realized what I had lost.  I had nothing left but my faith to cling to… faith that I had done the right thing if I ever wanted to see the face of God when my time comes.  The rest of the day is still a blur.  When I returned home, I saw Michael Novotny, a neighbor’s boy who is my son’s best friend, sitting in the living room waiting for Brian.  Brian is a senior in high school now.  I can’t believe the years have flown by so fast.  I must confess to you and you only, that I still find it hard to bond with Brian.  I wish I could, truly I do, but I just can’t seem to.  What makes it worse are the suspicions I have about my boy.  He and that boy, Michael, just seem too close sometimes.  I don’t know it for a fact, but I suspect that Brian is cursed with the same affliction that I suffered when I met you.  He never dates any girls, although they throw themselves on him all the time.  If I am right about him, I know it is probably my fault.  God help him if I am right.  God help us both. 




Anyway, I just wanted to say that I don’t regret knowing you, Ginny, but I am sorry that the way our friendship developed forced us apart.  But saying that, although I mourn for your immortal soul, I do hope you will be happy in whatever life you choose for yourself.  Even if it is one that I know is not right.  I just want you to have love in your life, even if it has been denied to me. 




And now that I’ve said that, I feel that this may be the last time I will write a letter to you.  I will tuck all the letters away in a safe place that I know Jack will never bother to look, and perhaps someday when I am old and my time is about over, I will bring them out again.  Then I will destroy them so that the past will be in ashes, much as my life has been.  Who knows?  Farewell, my dearest friend… my beloved.  God bless and keep you, no matter what.




With true affection, Joanie








When Justin saw that Brian had finished the last letter, he returned to him again.  At first, the couple said nothing.  Then Brian broke the silence.




“She hated me because she hated herself.  I was nothing but a reflection of her bad choices.”  His voice rose.  “But how dare she judge me when she was no different than me!”




“She was a lost human being, Brian… a sad pathetic creature who couldn’t accept herself and it colored everything in her life.  Perhaps, without ever realizing it, some of her animosity towards you, especially once she had proof of your sexuality, was as much about envy as it was condemnation.  Some part of her had to recognize that she would have had a much happier life if she had stayed in her relationship with this Ginny, which she obviously cared for so much.  But before you allow yourself to hate her for what she put you through, maybe you should remember that it was a very different time when she was young, as well as the kind of upbringing she must have had.  I think pity is more in order for her than hatred.”




Brian listened intently to every word his beloved Justin spoke.  Although Justin was a dozen years younger than him, he knew that there was a wisdom Justin showed far beyond his years, and sometimes he was much wiser than he himself was.  As he gazed into the eyes of the man he loved, he realized how lucky he was.  Unlike his mother, he had lived his life free of guilt and self-hatred.  His reward was right in front of him and he knew he would be a happy contented man every day of his life, thanks to Justin.  All his mother had was bitterness and emptiness, living with a man she despised.  Yes, Justin was right… Joan Kinney deserved pity, not hatred.  Suddenly, unexpectedly, he felt as if a ten-ton weight had been lifted from his shoulders.  He realized that he felt a kind of freedom that he had not felt before.  He had not been aware that his hatred and anger at his family had been weighing him down since childhood, but it was no longer there. 




Brian stood up and gathered Justin into his arms.  He kissed him deeply, hugging his love as tightly as he could.  Just as he had so many years ago, he whispered in Justin’s ear… “I love you”.  They kissed again and Justin sensed that everything would be alright for Brian from this day on.  And if Brian was at peace, Justin was happy. 








Before leaving Pittsburgh, Brian made the arrangements with Joan and Claire’s church to handle their joint funeral services.  Originally, he hadn’t planned on staying around for that day.  He had wanted to get back home as soon as possible, and simply wait for the day the house was sold, so that he could fully close that chapter of his life.  But after reading his mother’s letters, he changed his mind.  Justin convinced him to keep the letters and consider trying to locate the elusive Ginny.  Brian wasn’t so sure he wanted to do that, but he would keep that thought in mind.  Now, he stood in front of his mother’s casket inside her church, Justin beside him, and stared down at her face.  It looked so calm and peaceful, something he seldom saw on her face throughout his life.  Then he made one final gesture.  He leaned over and whispered…




“Goodbye, Mother.  I’m sorry you wasted your life, but I can promise you that I never will.”




The End

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