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Brian could tell Justin was nervous to walk into Deb’s, as he should be. Just because they broke up didn’t mean that he should have cut himself off from the rest of them, like none of them meant a damn to him. The first year he sent birthday presents for Gus and JR but then he kept making excuses not to visit. Not even the Pope was as busy as Justin claimed to be. That was still preferable to a little later after everyone heard he was getting married the radio silence that followed. Brian didn’t blame him for not giving him an invite but Deb, Emmett and Ted? What the hell was his problem? Too good for the Pitts anymore probably.

Jennifer had told them that Justin had his reasons, and it wasn’t her place to tell them. The blond little fucker broke Deb’s heart. Brian would understand if he wanted to be his own man and get some distance but just never to contact them again. Not only that forbidding Jennifer from even saying his name to them. Brian hadn’t even known Justin had kids, the girl was quiet, and the boy was being very protective of her.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” Justin muttered.

What did he think would happen after abandoning everyone for nine years? Brian had noticed that Justin’s sunshine smile was noticeably lacking. Not that Carl’s death is a barrel of laughs, but Justin always tried to find the best in a situation. Overall, Justin just seemed different, just not like his Justin. Brian knew Justin had to grow up some time, but he didn’t think Justin would change so completely.

“Never knew you to be scared of Debbie, just power through Sunshine.”

Justin grabbed the knob and turned. Unlike the usual madness at Deb’s, it was a somber place. Just inside was Michael, Ben, Hunter and his girlfriend Lily. Lily was cleaning the table in the kitchen; Hunter was fixing a bookshelf that Carl had been promising to get to for months. Ben was on the couch pouring over Deb’s bills and Carl’s life insurance policy. Michael was just staring at them with his jaw dropped.

“What the fuck is he doing here?” Michael demanded.

There was a whimper from the little girl, her brother put his arm around her. “Christ, Mikey, didn’t anyone teach you any manners? He came to pay his respects, let him. And watch your mouth around the little ones.” He included Gus in that, he had never seen Mikey really get mad before.

“I don’t want to stay where I’m not wanted but I wanted to be here for Deb.”

“That’s a decade too late,” Michael sneered. Michael had been hurt just as much as the rest of them. He kept trying to reach out about the comic until finally he got a letter from Justin telling him that he no longer wanted anything to do with anyone from that part of his life.

“Sunshine?” Debbie’s raw voice said from the stairs. She had barely been out of bed since leaving the hospital.

“Deb, I’m so sorry about Carl,” Justin said, stepping towards the stairs before he was stopped by the look on Deb’s face.

“Why? You haven’t been here. Why are you sorry about Carl keeling over? Where the fuck have you been?” She was two seconds from losing it and breaking down on the stairs.

“I-I’m flawed.” Was all that Justin said. Debbie looked at him for a moment longer before her eyes went to the two huddled children with Gus standing protectively near them.

“Who are these dolls?” she asked, her voice was still strained.

“These are my children; Mark and Emma.”

“Oh, Sunshine has little Sunshines. They’re just beautiful, bring them in the kitchen I’ll make them something to eat.”

“Deb, stop, we’ve already eaten. We didn’t come for food; we came for you.”

“I like your hair.” For a moment Brian had no clue who talked before he realized it was Emma. She was looking at Lily with awe in her eyes. Lily was a shade taller than Hunter with pale skin and several tattoos. Her hair was dyed pink this month and shaved at the sides.

“Aww, thank you. I like your hair too. I would love to have your curls,” Lily told Emma. Emma was a tiny girl with a full head of curly black hair.

“Dad says I can go get it professionally done whenever I want.”

“Well, that’s sounds great. I would love if my dad could take me to get my hair done,” Lily said with a sad smile.

“Where is your dad?” Emma asked. The whole room was intent on the little conversation between the two girls.

“He died a long time ago.”

“My mom did too. Then I stayed with a lot of people until I came to live with Dad and Papa.”

“Do you like it?” Lily asked.

“Dad is funny, he makes pancakes with designs on them. He’s an artist, did you know?”

“I didn’t know but that’s great. I do a little drawing too. Me and Michael have a comic book called Cotidie Morimur.”

“What’s it about?”

“Umm…a very sad villain.”

“Why’d you write a comic about a villain? Comics are supposed to be about heroes,” Mark said.

“Villains weren’t always villains,” she said simply.

Michael refused to ask to buy out Justin’s rights to Rage. Said it wouldn’t be the same without him. So, Mikey asked a girl that frequented his shop and showed him her work, if she wanted to do a comic. She was thrilled. That was how Hunter and Lily met. The new comic didn’t have the magic that Rage did, but it had a small following and made them happy.

“She’s just so adorable,” Debbie said to Justin.

“That she is, she’s a fighter too,” Justin said smiling down at both children.

“Dad, I’m bored,” Gus whined. Gus was a great kid but being a teen brought out a level of selfishness.

“Are you ready to go back to your moms?” Brian asked.

“No, it’s boring there too. Mama just wants me to study all the time. I’m not gonna be a lawyer, I’m gonna run Kinnetik.”

“When the hell do you think you’re doing that? You make C’s and D’s, the only class you’re acing is gym.”

“Aww, Dad, do you have to talk about that here?”

“I’m on the A honor roll,” Mark spoke up.

“I’m on the AB honor roll,” Emma added.

“If I was in grade school I could make those grades.”

“Because you’re like old,” Mark said.

“Old? I’m not old. I’m a teenager.”

The littles looked at him suspiciously. “Where’s your girlfriend?” Mark asked.

“I don’t have one.”

“Where’s your boyfriend?” Emma asked.

“I don’t have one, I’m not gay.”

“Where’s your car?” Mark asked.

“I’m only fifteen. I’ll get one next year.” Not likely unless he gets a job to pay for it.

“Where’s your friends?” Emma asked.

“They’re doing stuff with their families.”

Mark shook his head. “No girlfriend. No car. No friends. No A’s or B’s. No life.” Mark looked at Emma. “It’s sad really, he doesn’t even know.”

“You just got roasted by two toddlers,” Hunter said to Gus laughing his ass off.

“We’re not toddlers, we’re ten,” Emma said. Gone was the quiet little girl and in her place was a lesbian in the making.

Brian watched Justin look at Emma with a big smile, not his usual but still there. Before he could say anything more, Justin’s phone started to ring.

“I’ve got to get this,” Justin said. “Can I leave them in here for a moment?”

“Go on, we’re enjoying the show,” Ben said.

Justin went out the door and after a moment, Brian followed him. Justin was walking around the house.

“Of course, he’s here, this is where he lives.” Justin groaned. “Your children are fine in case you want to know…I’m just tired, I didn’t mean to snap. I’m sorry…I was thinking asking if I could stay at Mom’s with the kids…They don’t like hotels…What do you think I’m going to do if I’m at my Mom’s? What? Why would I sleep with Brian? Just calm down…Jake…Please…Don’t do anything rash…No, I didn’t mean to tell you what to do, I wouldn’t…Alright, I’ll stay at a hotel with the kids…You should have seen Emma, she’s coming out of her shell. She only just met them, and the kids totally roasted Brian’s son Gus…What? I can’t leave now, I just got here…Look, I’m here for Deb, I can’t do that in a hotel waiting for you to get here…It’s almost two weeks away…No, I didn’t mean it like that…I do thank you for letting us come here, I know you didn’t have to…Hey, I got to go…Deb is waving me over, alright…bye, I love you.”

Brian wondered if the man knew his husband was lying his ass off. Let him come? That wasn’t the Justin he knew. The Justin Taylor that didn’t do anything that anyone told him to do even if it was for his own good. That Justin faced off with Chris Hobbs at seventeen. That Justin told his father who he was and didn’t back down. That Justin was bashed in the head and didn’t give up. That Justin was a fighter. This Justin was a stranger to Brian.

There was a gasp, Brian hadn’t realized that Justin turned around. “Did you hear all that?” he asked.

“Yeah. What the fuck Justin?”

“He’s just worried I’m going to cheat on him.”

“Have you before?” Not that it mattered. Just what Brian heard of Justin’s responses the guy was a tool.

“Yes. Not physically but emotionally and he said that was worse. After us, I knew it was true. You didn’t care who I fucked; it was me falling for Ethan that hurt. I had hurt Jake and I need to make up for that.”

“You didn’t even fuck the guy and you’re getting blamed for it? Who was it?”

“A guy who vacations on Nantucket, he was nice and sweet. But Jake assumed it was because Malik was rich, Malik is rich but that had nothing to do with it. Want to know a secret?”

Brian wasn’t sure he wanted to know but nothing could stop him. “Sure.”

“I was going to run away with him.”

“Really? What stopped you?”

“We got the call about Mark. I realized that I was being stupid, throwing away a great relationship for a summer sort of romance. I was twenty-seven for Christ’s sake.”

Brian decided to ignore all that for the time being and ask what’s been on his mind for a long time.

“Can you tell me why you didn’t invite anyone to your wedding? Deb had wanted to go so much and watch her Sunshine get married.”

Justin scowled at him. “What are you talking about? I invited all of you. I even invited you and your husband. None of you even sent a card or a call.”

“What are you talking about? None of us got any invite.”

“That’s impossible, I sent them with…” Justin’s shoulders hunched, and he sat down on Deb’s lawn chair.


“The pilot who flies the mail plane is unreliable. Because of that I gave all the invites to Jake to take to the mainland. Everyone else got their invites. I know you wouldn’t lie so that only leaves one way it happened.”

“Your husband to be at the time trashed any invite that had our names on it. I’m guessing he knew all of our names, right?”

Justin nodded. “I would tell him stories about the best time in my life…minus the bashing and explosion.” Brian winced at the casual mention of both horrifying times.

“That’s some controlling behavior he’s expressing,” Brian said.

“Why did you and Ozzy break up?” Justin asked, changing the subject. Anger filled him like it always did when Ozzy’s name was mentioned.

“Let’s just say he wasn’t who he said he was and leave it at that.”

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