Brian, Justin, and Gus were enjoying dinner in the breakfast nook of Britin two days later when the doorbell rang. Justin got up and answered the door only to be shoved to the floor by a furious Lindsay.
“Where the hell is my son? Gus, get your ass in here now!” Lindsay screamed in the direction of the kitchen.
Brian and Gus ran to the foyer after hearing the commotion.
Gus looked down at Justin lying on the floor. “What the hell, Mom?”
Brian, after helping Justin to his feet and making sure he was alright, turned to his son’s mother. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Lindsay? This is our house, not yours. You can’t just barge in like a fucking freight train, shoving people around and screaming.”
Ignoring Brian, Lindsay turned to Gus. “Get your things, we’re going home. A cab is waiting outside.”
“No, Mom,” Gus replied firmly. “I’m not going back to Canada, ever. I want to live here with Ima, my sister, and my fathers.”
“Gus, you are coming home with me and that is final. Furthermore, you only have one father,” Lindsay nastily told her son.
“No, Mother, I have two fathers. Papa J is as much my father as Pop.”
Lindsay put her hands on her hips. “Gus, Justin is not your father. He is just your father’s current trick, and don’t you ever let me hear you call him anything but his name. I’d actually rather you never refer to him at all.”
Gus gave his mother a withering look and moved over to Justin. He put his arms around him in a gentle hug and loudly asked in Lindsay’s direction, “Are you okay, Papa J? How about we go up to check on my brother and let Pop handle this, huh?”
Gus lead Justin towards the stairs. Brian kissed both of his favorite boys on the forehead before they left.
Turning to Lindsay, Brian glared at her and spoke in a very clipped tone. “I think you’d better leave now, and do not come back to Justin’s and my house uninvited ever again. Call me tomorrow when I’m at the office, and we can meet somewhere in town. You had better adjust your attitude in the meantime.”
With that said, Brian opened the front door and pointed to the cab sitting in the driveway. Once Lindsay was back out on the porch, Brian slammed the door as hard as he could, armed the alarm, and went upstairs to check on his family.
Brian looked into the partially opened doorway of Keegan’s nursery. He saw Justin in the rocker holding Keegan while Gus sat on the floor with his head on Justin’s knee. Justin was reading Pat the Bunny to Keegan, taking the baby’s tiny hand and letting him feel the different textures in the book.
When Justin stopped to turn the page, Gus remarked, “I remember when you used to read that to me. It’s one of my earliest memories.”
Brian watched as his lover smiled and ruffled their older son’s hair, his blue eyes filling with tears.
Pushing the door open all the way, Brian stepped into the room and smiled at his little family. “Are you guys okay?” he asked, concerned for both of them.
Justin nodded and wiped his eyes. “I can’t believe that she would treat me like that, say those hurtful things about me. I always thought she liked me.”
Gus looked up at his Pop. “Now do you understand why I don’t want to go back?”
“I’m sure your Ima doesn’t want you to go back, either. I’m just glad she didn’t see that exchange downstairs or there would have been bloodshed. You don’t need a reason to live with us, Sonny Boy. We’re your fathers, and you are always welcome in our home. We love you.”
Justin reached down and squeezed Gus’s shoulder in agreement.
The next day, Lindsay called Brian and asked him to meet her at a park near Kinnetik to talk to him about Gus. It was the same park where they would often take their young son to play before she and Melanie had run off to Canada.
Brian headed into the park and found Lindsay pacing back and forth near a bench, talking to herself. Figuring that she was rehearsing what she was going to say to him, he called out to her.
“I’m here, Lindz.”
Lindsay turned around, startled after not having heard him approach. “Brian, I want you to tell Gus that he can’t live with you, that he needs to go back to Toronto with me as soon as possible.”
“Why would I tell him that? He has begged Justin, Mel, and me not to send him back to Toronto, and we would never force him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Gus’s happiness and wellbeing are our main priorities. Justin and I have plenty of room at Britin and would love to have him live with us,” Brian answered, not understanding why she wouldn’t want Gus to be happy.
Lindsay lifted her chin in defiance. ”Because I’m his mother and it’s my decision, that’s why.”
Brian looked at her blankly. “Yes, his mother... the mother that did not notice her son was missing for four days until I called and asked to speak to him.”
Lindsay ignored his answer and went on with what she wanted to say. “Mel told me that Justin intends to keep that baby he made with Daphne and has told you that he wants you to adopt it. Why would you want to take on someone else’s child and have to raise it? It’s not even related to you, so it shouldn’t be your problem. Why does Justin even think that you should do that? If he wants the kid, let him take it somewhere and raise it by himself.”
“What if someone had said that to you about JR?” Brian countered.
“That’s different; Mel and I are a real couple.”
“You were a real couple, but she’s done with you,” Brian reminded her. “Justin and I are a real couple, as we have been for most of fifteen years now; monogamous for the past eight.”
“It’s not the same thing and you know it. Mel and I married and have a family, unlike the two of you. You and Justin are just playing house until one of you gets bored and leaves. How many times has he left you in the past, huh? If you adopt this kid, then you are stuck with both it and Justin forever. Hell, he will probably run off with someone and leave you to raise his brat on your own. Why the fuck would you want to do that? Justin will expect you to act like a father to it, to financially provide for it. You can’t let him do this to you Brian, to us!”
The longer Lindsay talked, the louder and nastier she became. At first Brian had just stared at her, not believing the vitriolic diatribe that was coming out of her mouth.
Finally, he put up his hand to stop her. “What is wrong with you, Lindsay? Justin has been a part of my life since the day Gus was born, certainly not a ‘trick’ as you referred to him last night. He is my partner and that child, whose name is Keegan in case you’ve forgotten, is his son. Hopefully soon, he will also be mine. If Justin is awarded custody of Keegan, why would I refuse to adopt him?”
Lindsay’s answer was quick and loud. “Why… why? Why would you want to take responsibility for someone else’s kid? It’s not yours, Brian. Adopting it will just tie you to both of them and make it harder to get them out of your life. Justin is just doing this to get more of your money, for himself and his kid. I know that you probably put in your will that Justin would get half of your money, all of your shares of Kinnetik, and your loft and house if you die first; how much more fucking money does he need? That should be mine and Gus’s inheritance, not his and his kid’s. Oh, and I do not want my son calling your boy toy ‘Papa’ or any other little endearing nickname, am I being clear enough for you?”
Brian was about to lose it. “Lindsay Peterson, how dare you? What I do with my money is my choice, not yours, and why you would expect to inherit any of my money or property is totally beyond me. Gus is my son too, and he can call Justin ‘Papa J,’ ‘Daddy,’ or anything else that he wants to call him. He doesn’t need your permission to do it. Justin has always loved and treated Gus as his own son, and you never seemed to have had a problem with that before. Why shouldn’t Gus consider Justin to be his father, too? And another thing, don't you ever refer to Justin’s son as ‘it’ again. How would you feel if Justin or anyone else referred to Gus as ‘it’?”
“That’s different, Brian. Gus is our son, and Justin only treated him well so that you would keep him around, spend your money on him and take care of him. You’ve always been nothing but his sugar daddy, and you only keep him because of his pretty face and tight ass. I doubt that he really cares about Gus like a real father would. I wish that you and Michael would have gotten together so Justin would still be in New York. That was one of the reasons that I wanted Michael to be the father of Mel’s baby after Justin had left you for that violin player and you refused to give Mel your sperm, because I figured it would give you a push towards Michael so that both of our kids’ parents would be together. Hell, maybe if Justin would have stayed in New York, he wouldn’t have made that baby with Daphne in the first place.”
“Lindsay, you have totally lost touch with reality. We all know now that you only wanted Justin to go to New York so he and I wouldn’t be together anymore. There once was a time when you adored Justin and constantly encouraged me to let him into my life. When I finally did and proposed to him, you did a complete one-eighty, because he could finally have me like you never could. And just so you know, I know about the photo album that you hid at your house in Toronto, the one where Justin’s face has been replaced with yours. Get this through your head right now: that will never happen.
“I don’t know where you have come up with these crazy ideas you have, but they are wrong. Justin is not after my money and he never was, unlike most of the other people in my life, including you. He earned his position with Kinnetik due to his education and talent, and he earned a place in my life because of his unconditional love and devotion to me and my son.
“Now, I’m done with this conversation. If Gus wants to live with his fathers, both of them, he is more than welcome. He’s old enough to decide who he wants to live with and I’m quite sure he would like to get to watch his baby brother grow up, as well as be close to Mel and JR.”
“Well Brian, when you realize how much Gus eats, you won’t want to have him live with you anymore,” Lindsay complained.
Brian scoffed. “Do you honestly think I can’t afford to feed a teenage boy? I could easily feed him nothing but lobster and caviar for every meal of his life, if he so pleased.”
“He will eat six full meals everyday if you let him. I can hardly afford to put food on the table for the two of us.”
“Is that why he complained that you don’t cook anymore, and you have hardly anything besides PB&J and Ramen noodles in the house for him to eat? The money I sent you every month should have adequately covered all of the food and clothing that my son needed. ”
“Brian, I needed that money for other things, too! Did you expect me to spend every God damned cent on Gus?”
“Yes! The money I sent you was to be exclusively used for Gus. I know he’s not cheap, because no kid is, and especially ours with his ever-changing wardrobe and hobbies. What else have you spent it on?”
Lindsay looked down at her shoes. “I… I have a bit of a shopping addiction, Brian. Much like yourself, I like wearing designer clothing and keeping current with styles. Selling my slightly-used clothes and shoes on eBay doesn’t pay for all new stuff.”
“That money should have been used for Gus and only Gus, not on your wardrobe! Besides, don’t you work?”
“I was working part-time at a small gallery, but then they needed to cut back on staff after an exhibit didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. All the newer people, including me, were let go and I haven’t had time to look for anything else yet.”
“Haven’t had the time?” Brian asked incredulously. “You’re unemployed! You have nothing but time to look for a job to provide for yourself and your son! What do you do all day?”
Lindsay ignored that last point. “Melanie is refusing to give me any money, since we split the kids and she’s threatening to file for divorce. Even if Gus does live with you, I expect you to continue with the current support payments to me, at least until after he graduates from college.”
Brian burst out laughing. “And why, pray tell, if Gus lives with me, and I’m the one who opened his college fund after he was born and have put over $200,000 in it over the last fifteen years, would I still give you money?”
“Because Brian, what do you expect me to live on? If you refuse, I will take you to court and get support ordered.”
He could not believe the words coming out of that woman’s mouth.
“On what grounds? Lindsay, do you realize that because I signed over my parental rights, I was never obligated to pay you any child support at all? I only did it because I love my son, and you and Mel have always had trouble making enough money to support your family. I know for a fact that Michael never gave Mel a dime for JR, even before he signed his rights over. No court in this world is going to order me to pay you support. Here’s a thought: go get a job to provide for yourself like an adult. And Lindsay, if you do take me to court, good luck on not getting laughed right out of there.”
“You know I have access to his college fund, right?” Lindsay said. “I could take every penny out of there if I wanted to, and I know you would still pay for his tuition, since I’m sure you’d like to see him get a college degree and possibly take over Kinnetik for you.”
Brian took a step back, blown away by Lindsay’s audacity. “You know that I could report you for theft if you actually did that, don’t you? You could go to prison.”
Lindsay sat on the bench and suddenly broke down in tears. “Brian, I need your help. I don’t think Mel will ever come back to me, and she took my sweet little girl from me, too. You and Gus are all I have left in this world. All I want is for the three of us to be a family, a real family.”
“You never had me Lindz, not the way you want. By the way, Mel told me how you’ve been feeding Michael information about all of us over the years, and I can’t begin to understand how you could do such a thing. The fact that you think I should have chosen him over Justin is unfathomable, and the disrespect you’ve shown my partner is something I will not tolerate. You know Lindz, you couldn’t get me on your own, so you had to use our son to get my love and my money. Now he doesn’t even want to live with you anymore, and you’ve got nothing.”
Brian turned to leave, but Lindsay grabbed him by his arm.
“Let’s make a deal: Gus can stay here if you throw out Justin and his kid, and become a real couple with me,” Lindsay offered. “That would fix everything. Justin is the only thing standing in our way now, and you have nothing legally tying you to him or his kid. Mel and I can get divorced, and then you and I can get married and give Gus the real family he deserves.”
Brian’s mouth dropped open, and he blinked a few times as he stared at Lindsay in disbelief. “Wow, Lindsay… just… wow.”
He walked away, ignoring Lindsay’s cries.
“Brian!” she called out. “Brian, please don’t leave me! I love you! We belong together!”
Brian went back to the office and tried to get some work done, but was too stressed and distracted after his confrontation with Lindsay. He decided to go home to Britin, looking forward to a nice dinner and a pleasurable night with his partner. The hour-long trip out to the house, along with blaring Metallica along the way, helped calm him a bit.
He let himself into the house, where he could hear yelling and Keegan crying upstairs. He followed the noise and went into the bedroom at the top of the stairs, which was Gus’s room.
“You can’t make me go!” the angry teen yelled at his equally-angry mother.
“You are going and that’s final!” Melanie yelled back.
“Hey!” Brian yelled, causing both of them to quickly turn their heads. “What the fuck is going on?”
“Gus has decided that he doesn’t want to go to school anymore,” Melanie informed Brian.
“I didn’t say that I didn’t want to go, period,” Gus clarified. “I said that I don’t want to go to that country-ass high school out here. Why can’t I do online homeschooling like JR?”
“Because you need to be around other kids your age, even if it is a rural school with less students than you’re used to going with,” Melanie said. “I’m enrolling JR at a local school here next week, like I plan to do with you.”
“You can say that we live at Pop’s loft or Grandma Deb’s house so I can go to a high school in Pittsburgh,” Gus said in an annoyed tone. “I could go to the same school that Pop went to.”
“Like I said before, that would be fraud, Gus!” Melanie answered impatiently, clearly having gone over this with him before Brian got home. “I’m not going to risk criminal charges or possibly losing my law license just so you can go to a different school.”
“Then Pop can enroll me!” Gus said, pointing to Brian. “He can say he’s a single parent and that we live at the loft, so it won’t fall back on you.”
“Oh, so it can fall back on me instead if they find out you live here and not at the loft?” Brian said. “Besides, I’m not even legally your father, so I couldn’t do that if I wanted to.”
“Then sue Mom for custody and get your parental rights back!” the teen insisted. “Fuck, do something!”
Brian looked between Gus and Melanie, who were each looking back at him as if they expected him to save the day. The sound of Keegan wailing down the hall broke through the silence.
“I… I’m going to go see what’s wrong with the baby,” Brian said before walking out of the room.
He walked into the nursery, where Justin was frantically rocking Keegan.
“Oh, thank God you’re home,” Justin said when he saw Brian come in. “He’s been crying for the past two hours, and I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with him. He’s not wet, he’s not hungry, he’s not running a fever…”
Brian held out his hands. “Here, let me have him.”
Justin happily handed the screaming infant over to his partner.
“What’s wrong, buddy?” Brian asked Keegan.
The baby responded by letting out an ear-splitting shriek.
“I need to go get some air,” Justin said before nearly running out of the room.
Brian sat down in the rocking chair and tried his best to soothe Keegan.
“Give me a break, little dude, please?” he asked the baby as he lightly patted his back. “Today has been a massive shit storm, and all I wanted was to come home and have a peaceful night with my family.”
Keegan clearly didn’t give a fuck what Brian wanted, continuing to cry his little lungs out.
Melanie came in a short time later to see what was wrong, and Brian passed the baby off to her wordlessly. Without telling anyone he was leaving, Brian changed into some casual clothes and headed back to Pittsburgh.
He found himself pulling into his parking space behind Babylon, figuring he should probably check out how things were going, having neglected his other business since Keegan was born. He went in through the back door and walked straight up to his office.
Brian opened a bottle of his old friend Jim Beam and took a seat at his desk. He logged onto his laptop and started doing some research on how he could get his parental rights to Gus reinstated. He knew that he could not use Melanie as his attorney, since she had a conflict of interest. The more he drank, the less he paid attention to the information on his computer screen, and pretty soon he was only drinking as he listened to the thumpa-thumpa coming from the dancefloor downstairs. He hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast earlier that morning, so the alcohol hit him fast and hard.
Brian stumbled downstairs some time later and got another glass of Jim Beam at the bar. He downed it in one gulp, then turned around to look out at his old playground. Desperately needing to let off some steam, he began to wade through the crowd on the dance floor. Before long, men started moving toward the dancing stud and it suddenly felt like old times for him, as if he had instantly shed at least a decade off of his age.
A young dark-haired twink started dancing close to Brian. Without even thinking of the consequences, Brian grabbed the twink by the front of his shirt and headed to the backroom. He found a deserted spot on the wall and leaned against it, pressing on the twink’s shoulder to get him on his knees.