Well, here it is: The last chapter. I hope you all like it and enjoyed the story overall! I'll miss writing the boys in this context but it's been a fun journey.
Many thanks to everyone who read the story and of course to those who have reviewed - you're wonderful and appreciated more than you know!
BRIAN'S POV – NOT MUCH LATER
After a visit from the doctor saying I could go home at any time after completing the necessary paperwork, I'm busy getting my things together. I obviously don't have much. Mostly I just have to gather whatever had been in my pockets, maneuver back into my street clothes and GO. Deb moves to help me but a glare from Justin thankfully keeps her in her chair. He asks her not to look (at which we both snort; me, because I don't give a shit what she sees and Deb, because she thinks she's seen it all) but he ignores us both and Deb dutifully averts her eyes. He gets my clothes and assists me in the painful task of dressing myself. (Admittedly, it gives me pause when I see the bloody hole in my shirt. Justin almost freaks when he sees it but hastily tosses it out and goes to get me a hospital "scrubs" shirt instead. I don't know why on earth the staff put the bloody shirt in my personal effects bag in the first place. Maybe they thought I'd want a "souvenir". Yeah, right.) After dressing, I take a moment to rest back on the bed, exhausted. Gus, who's been unusually quiet, immediately climbs up to lie next to me again. I pull him against me and kiss the top of his head to reassure him that I'm okay and so is he.
Suddenly, the whole gang descends on us at once. Gus livens, thrilled with the small crowd and he's especially excited to see his mothers. He doesn't leave my side on the bed though, which is a little disconcerting.
Everyone is chattering away after grilling me about what happened - how I feel, what the prognosis is, yadda yadda and when I finally get a small respite from the attention, I take the opportunity to pull Emmett aside. "Emm… Thanks. Whatever magical spell you cast on Debbie has done the impossible. After nearly twenty years, it's admittedly confusing to experience such a one-eighty in her attitude towards me." I clear my throat, uncomfortable with expressing gratitude in any context but with Emmett, it's downright unnatural. "I'm not complaining, mind you; it's just a little surreal. So, thanks. And thank you again for being such a brave little toaster with Sunshine and Sonny Boy at the diner yesterday." Emmett chuckles. "Seriously, Deb's fury even made me waver a bit. Justin's strong but Debbie can be a lot to take even when she's not pissed off."
He laughs slightly. "Well, no worries about yesterday. After you, Gus and Justin left and I went back into the diner, I decided to sit Deb down and really try to get through to her. I don't think anyone's ever done that in a concerted way; her wrath is just too nerve-wracking. But I figured I'd try. After all, she couldn't get MORE furious at me than she already was.
"Brian, I was pissed off. Michael treated Gus and Justin so horribly; he and Deb both treated you like shit too. Gus is a beautiful child and doesn't deserve that. From what I can tell of your young, yummy, blond 'friend'," he winks and I frown, "…he doesn't deserve that either." I look down so he won't see me smile in silent agreement. When I glance back up at him I can tell he sees through me by the grin on his face. I'm thankful that he doesn't comment.
"…It has always bugged me, Sweetie. You get the brunt of so much crap and while some of that is well-deserved, not every single thing that goes wrong is your fault. You can be a real asshole but deep down we all know you have a heart of gold. Debbie has always known that on some level that but given that she has 'poor, little Mikey' for a son, she turned a blind eye. He's responsible for so much of the shit that has gone down in the past but the blame inevitably fell on your shoulders instead. It was easier for Deb that way plus you just accepted it and you always try to fix it. You've always been an idiot that way, Baby." I grimace at SO many things in that last sentence. He ignores me and continues. "So, I just opened her eyes and made her face facts, although it took a few exhausting hours – but Auntie Emm can be a determined little pit bull," he states proudly.
"So don't cross me, fuckwad," he adds sternly, narrowing his eyes and pointing a finger in my face. I snort and swat his hand away. It's then that I notice Justin has been paying close attention to our quiet exchange and he giggles at Emmett's warning; I glare at him. He shrugs and turns his attention back to the gabbing freaks crowding my hospital room.
"Brian," Emm whispers. "The one thing that truly shocks even me is that Michael shot you. As Aunt Beulah would say, 'that ain't natural'. I would've thought he'd shoot himself before shooting you. He loves you so much."
I guffaw. "Pfft. Shocked? You and me both. I think a lot of it was the heat of the moment and accidental. Still, he's been over the top since last night. Well arguably, since earlier than that in the diner. Michael isn't himself; he's fallen over the edge."
Emmett nods and shifts slightly. I notice that Gus is affectionately stroking my chest, carefully not touching the bandaged side; I guess he needs further reassurance that I'm okay because he's not usually quite so demonstrative; I think the hospital is upsetting him. Emm notices too. "Well, Brian, let's get you out of here. I know you hate hospitals." I give Gus a quick squeeze and nod. I was in the hospital for much of my childhood and it was enough for me. Everyone sees us preparing to leave and they take the cue and mobilize. Justin leaves the room immediately but soon comes back with a wheelchair. Aww, man...
"I hurt my shoulder not my legs, Sunshine!"
"Hospital rules," he answers simply. "Let's go!"
EPILOGUE; BRIAN'S POV
An update of sorts, I guess…
So, it's a little over five weeks now since I was shot; my arm's still in a sling but my shoulder doesn't bug me so much, with the exception of it being a pain in the ass to get dressed and undressed. Justin helps a lot (in many, many ways) but I get pissed off and impatient sometimes. Sunshine holds his own though and doesn't tolerate much of my bitchiness without bitching back. I knew there was a reason I liked him that first time I met him at Gus's solo.
I've started back at work part-time which is good; at least I'm not a total stay-at-home invalid anymore.
It makes me sigh to think about it but Choir Boy is officially moving in soon. Not long after I got home from the hospital, Daphne was in town for a few days (she's nearly always away on business, especially after a recent promotion) and the three of us got together to talk. She and I have only met a handful of times but we've gotten sorta close (we're both blunt, don't suffer fools and have certain common "interests", after all); and it was actually Daphne who pushed for us to "really" move in together and have James live with us. She had asked me in confidence beforehand if I'd be agreeable to it. I thought about it a long while and then figured it wouldn't be that different than how things already were, as Justin and James were at the loft all the time anyway; so I said sure. Besides, practically speaking, he and Daph's house was a stupid expense for them both since it was vacant most of the time.
"I'm almost never home, Jus, and it'd be so much easier if I found a smaller place to be my home-base for those few days at a time that I'm back in the Pitts," Daph argued when he expressed concern that he was abandoning her and taking James with him. "I can't take James on my business travels. We can barely afford the house we have as it is and it's silly for you to keep paying half the mortgage if you and James are here at the loft ninety-five percent of the time. I certainly don't want to be paying half the mortgage when I'm hardly ever there either and can find a smaller place for much less."
Justin's brow had furrowed in thought. I remember thinking he was being ridiculous.
"Sunshine, you aren't abandoning Daphne; you can't abandon someone who's hardly ever in town. And you aren't splitting Daph and James apart; when she IS in town, James can stay with her for however long he wants and you already know that all three of you will get together as much as possible." I winked at Daphne. "I'll even tag along, if invited. I've come to like this chick who threatened to undergo a gender change in order to chase after me if you didn't get off your ass and come after me yourself."
Daphne blushed furiously at that; she obviously had no idea I knew she'd said that. Justin had blurted out that little tidbit at the loft long ago; it still makes me chuckle. I watched her blush disappear as she set her jaw angrily. I glanced over at Justin; he was even redder than she had been and was sheepishly avoiding the glare she was directing at him.
I immensely enjoyed that moment of our talk despite the pain in my shoulder (I don't think they enjoyed it so much). Still, within about fifteen minutes, with a little help from me, Daphne had finally convinced Justin that they'd still be best friends; she wasn't upset about his moving into the loft with James; she felt relieved not abandoned; and pretty soon Sunshine was more gung-ho than anybody about the idea.
So just today, weeks later, Daphne finally closed on a place and on getting her call, Justin has just run out of the loft to go see his realtor to put their place on the market. He didn't want to until she had a place to move. I'm sitting here on the sofa chuckling at his eagerness. There was practically a vapor trail behind him as he raced out of here.
Justin doesn't have an appointment with the realtor but he doesn't really need one: The realtor is actually his mother whom I've met a few times now. Justin hasn't "officially" come out to his Mom but I can tell from the knowing looks she sometimes shoots my way that she "gets it". Justin refuses to believe me when I tell him that she already knows he's gay and "with me" though, so it's up to him to choose when to talk to her about it openly. That talk will probably have to happen pretty soon now if he's putting his house on the market and physically moving into the loft with me. Again, I'm pretty positive that Mother Taylor will be fine with it when he tells her; I think she even likes and "approves" of me, too. Plus, she absolutely adores Gus (I dare anybody not to). He likes her, as well; after all, she's like another Grandma – one who's not so… Deb. (Incidentally, Gus has finally forgiven his Grandma Debbie after she apologized profusely to him for her behavior that day at the diner.)
Oddly, I haven't met Justin's father. He's never at home or around. I don't ask questions about that since Justin hasn't brought it up.
So yeah, Justin's moving in but it won't be so different than how things have been for quite a while now. We've had Father Charles over a few times. (Justin cooks, of course. If it were up to me, we'd have take-out.) I think Sunshine's innate strength and wisdom, Father Charles' love and acceptance and having openly gay friends has helped Justin reconcile himself with... well, himself. His sexuality. And the church. He's become much less self-conscious overall. Thank God.
Strange choice of words for me. I use them a lot lately for whatever reason.
'Course, Justin gives me the credit for his new-found confidence and self-esteem. He's an idiot sometimes. Ultimately, it's all him. He simply doesn't see it that way.
As I said: He's an idiot sometimes.
Deb, Emmett and Theodore stop by periodically. More often than before Justin showed up in my life, that's for sure. I don't much like it because all too often, it's unannounced but Sunshine still welcomes them like family. I guess they are in an off-beat way. Deb is still acting a little like a pod person towards me after Emmett reamed her out at the diner that day but I have no real complaints. While I don't like so much attention, it's admittedly kind of nice to be appreciated for a change. We still banter sarcastically like before but now she often smiles and winks at me to take the sting out of her words. It's a little sickening, to be honest. Besides, I've never really felt any "sting" from her insults. It was her knee-jerk assumption that I was inherently heartless and The Root Of All That Was Wrong With The World that bothered me a little. Because while I can be both heartless and evil (and am, more often than not - and proudly so), I'm not when it matters. At least, I don't think so; on a couple of rare occasions, Emmett has said I'm essentially an asshole with a good heart; and Justin says all the time (unasked) that I have the biggest heart of everybody. Whatever.
Have I said he's an idiot sometimes?
Unfortunately, Linds and Mel are officially splitting up; but the upshot is that I've pretty much turned into an official full-time father because Linds is having a hard time with the whole thing and Mel has literally dropped out of the picture (which, in my opinion, is welcome but is still somewhat peculiar). I've been trying to help Linds cope with her life as best I can but she needs space and time-off from being a full-time mother; she's so fragile right now that I worry about her having some kind of nervous breakdown if she gets much more on her plate and she's already pretty overwhelmed. I think my having Gus is an indefinite arrangement, if not permanent with her being the "visiting parent" instead of the other way around. She's truly grateful for my help with Sonny Boy but it's hardly a chore. I don't hate being a full-time Daddy. In fact, I love it. It's a scary world, eh?
Everything's all so disgustingly domestic that it makes me wanna puke sometimes.
Justin's still working as a choir director at the church but is getting really involved with his art, which is fantastic but makes the loft a bit messy at times. He's pretty fastidious though so I guess I can live with it. Still, he needs more space to create and besides that, Gus, James, Justin and I step on each other's toes (and nerves) too often in the loft. It's just not big enough for the four of us. Regardless, Gus and James are best of friends despite the difference in their ages and the close living quarters. Needless to say, the main reason the loft is too small is that Justin and I have to schedule times to fuck when the boys aren't home which thankfully, is fairly often given school, pre-school, after school activities, playing at their respective friends' houses and Theodore, Emm, Deb and even Linds babysitting. But Sunshine and I are not pleased with having to curb any spontaneous urges at all. It's obvious to me that Justin doesn't want to say anything about it because he knows that of the two of us, I'd be the one paying for a bigger place. He just can't afford very much right now but I doubt he'd protest if I tell him all the reasons I need a bigger place and that it's tough shit he can't contribute much at the moment; it's what we and the boys need. Besides, with the quality of his artwork, I wouldn't be surprised if he'll be as wealthy as me once he gets his pieces and name out there.
There's a huge place not too far away in West Virginia I really like; I want to run it past Justin first. Gawd. I'm definitely not used to running anything past anybody unless it's a client. Sigh. Talk about domestic. But I think he'll like it because it's got a beautiful space for a studio with lots of light plus there's plenty of room outdoors for the boys. It has a pool as well and I love to swim.
And there's LOTS of privacy for he and I to go at it whenever we want, especially if we hire a part time maid/nanny/cook/whatever.
...Hmm. I'm rambling. I don't 'do' rambling so what else deserves mention in this odd little update?
Sunshine and I venture over to Liberty Avenue when we can now that my shoulder isn't so painful and Justin's gotten bolder and more comfortable with his sexuality. He lets his "brazen side" out a lot nowadays (that's what he's named his more self-assured demeanor). It's fantastic. He's hot and sensuous on the dance floor at Babylon which is almost comical given how shy he used to be. I don't even mind having to wear the sling (the guys there don't seem to care either, judging by the fact that the number of times I'm cruised hasn't changed since forever). I can watch him dancing with Emmett or whomever from the bar. Justin's also pretty insatiable and once he got over his residual wariness, we make use of the backroom pretty frequently when we're there. Sure, it's hardly private but the audience is appreciative and they aren't our children.
I guess I'm fucking proud to be "his" and vice-versa; now I'm sure everyone knows that's VERY weird for the Stud of Liberty Avenue to admit but it's true and I'm an honest man so I'll admit it, at least in my head. Or maybe out loud if someone dares to confront me on it. Folks are wise though, so no-one's dared to do that. I just have to suffer the smirks, the knowing glances and the knowledge that I'm the fodder for a lot of Liberty Avenue gossip. Pfft. People are pathetic if it's my life they're focusing on and not their own.
I know Justin doesn't care about the gossip either. He's secure in the knowledge that he and I are together. In fact, I think he's secretly thrilled that people are talking about him being the one to "rope me in", which quite frankly, does bother me. I'm not "roped in". I choose to be with him of my own free will. I'll probably still trick on occasion and Justin knows that but waves it off, knowing he's the one I'm coming home to. However, for the first time in my life, it's been months since I've had the urge to trick at all… and Sunshine knows that too. Guh.
…Okay, then: There's Michael. Of course.
Well, last I heard from Deb, Michael is in a mental hospital in Albany undergoing treatment for Manic Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder. In my humble opinion, there's nothing "borderline" about it but nobody asked me (the one he fucking shot). I genuinely hope he can get help but I'm relieved that he's been committed (so he can't voluntarily leave) and since he perpetrated violent crimes, he's in lock-down. Thank God.
There I go using those words again. Whatever. "Thank fuck"; that's much better.
I know that the fact Michael's locked up makes all of us breathe a little easier, not just me. Gus in particular was pretty horribly traumatized by the whole thing. He's slowly feeling better and is getting a little less clingy. For a while, I could hardly move from the bed to the sofa without him following me. Once I lose this fucking sling, I'm sure he'll get back to being his old self pretty quickly. While he's getting better as I said, this sling serves as a constant visual reminder of what happened. It should be gone within a week or so. Can't wait.
Overall, I guess I can admit that I'm pretty happy. Who'd have thought I'd ever be happy or even allow myself to be happy? I've never thought I deserved that luxury but Justin's pretty relentless (and as usual, annoying) in telling me how wonderful I am and that I do deserve it. Gawd. He's got it backwards but like with the situation with Deb: It's kind of nice to be appreciated.
And Sunshine's happy – that's all that matters even though it means he goes around with that stupid grin all the time. That stupid, beautiful, Sunshine grin.
So yeah: Who'd have thought that Brian Fucking Kinney would be happy OR have a partner who's happy and who loves him? Let alone a partner who's a sensitive artist and church choir director? Guh: Not me. I never thought I'd ever have a partner, period. I'd have said all this was a sure sign of the Apocalypse about half a year ago. Now, I'm not so sure that it isn't just one of life's little quirks.
Either way, it suits me just fine.