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Empty Stockings

Ok gang, SURPRISE! Here is a little Christmas treat for all my friends on the site. Hope you enjoy, just some holiday fluff. Love and peaceful holidays with those you love, Randall

Two months without a job, carrying a hundred grand plus in debt, burdened with a loft he couldn't afford, it was almost Christmas in Brian-ville. Fa la la la fucking hell, Brian Kinney thought as he walked across the snowy park towards home. His credit card had been declined when he tried to buy Justin a present at Torso. Not only had he exceeded his credit limit, but he was thirty days past due on his payment. How humiliating was that? The guy in line behind him snorted with derision as Brian walked away, leaving his unpurchased present on the counter. Now what?

He had to give him something. If he didn't, he'd be looked upon as the heartless lover who never bothered to remember a holiday, and he had grown weary of that rep. He spent the last of his available cash on Gus's Christmas, and they delivered those gifts last night. Justin had been like a kid himself, delighting in Gus's wreckage of the paper and ribbons to get at the guts of the gifts. Justin helped Brian pick them out and they were both relieved when the baby seemed thrilled with every selection.

Driving home after Gus finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion and attention overload, Justin was still beaming. "Gus is such a little person now. He was always cute, but now he has his own personality, and he can express himself and everything. He's adorable."

"Of course he's adorable," Brian agreed with a smile. "He takes after his old man."

"Really? I don't think he's so much like Melanie," Justin teased and Brian reached over to cuff him.

"Brat."

"What was your favorite Christmas present growing up, Brian?"

"I'd have to say it was my twelfth Christmas when Jack didn't get drunk and abusive, for once. He was recovering from the flu. Going through the holidays without the usual drama was a great gift."

He felt Justin staring at him through the darkness. "That's so sad."

"Whatever, you asked. What's yours?"

"The art box I got when I was eight. I loved that box with all of those cool pastels and pencils and paint. For once, my parents got it right."

"If you could have anything in the world for Christmas, and not some stupid Miss America bullshit answer, like world peace or an end to famine, what would it be?"

Justin was quiet for a minute, and then he said, "I'd like to erase a significant portion of last year, starting with the Rage party up until I went to work for you as an intern."

"If you're going to erase a portion of your life, shouldn't it be the bashing?"

"No, that's already erased, Brian. I don't remember it, don't want to remember it."

"I wish I could erase the bashing from my memory banks," Brian said with a sigh.

"You'd erase that before you'd erase my stupidity with Ethan?"

"Of course I would, Justin. Not put you through that agony? In a New York minute. Now that we've talked about impossible things, what MATERIAL thing would you want?"

"I'd like money so I could pay off your debts and make you feel you're on solid ground again."

"Why can't you just wish for a football like other little boys?"

Justin laughed. "Never in my life have I wished for a football."

When they arrived at the loft, Brian stared suspiciously at a large gift -wrapped box under the tree that wasn't there when he left earlier in the day. "What is that?"

Justin shrugged, walking towards the bedroom. "Just a little sumpin-sumpin for you."

"Bitch. We promised, no gifts, remember?"

"It's not worth fighting over, Brian. Don't worry about it."

He followed Justin into the bedroom, sitting down heavily on the bed, watching Justin undress. "I thought we agreed on this. I can't afford gifts this year. We said we'd blow the wad on Gus, since he's a kid. Now what am I supposed to do?"

"Brian, what I want from you doesn't cost money," Justin began unbuttoning Brian's shirt. Brian stopped him, running one palm up the smooth skin of Justin's bare torso.

"I'm serious."

"So am I."

Brian sighed and let it happen, wanted it to happen, wanted to lose himself in the power of Justin's flesh. And for an hour or so, he did. And then he relaxed, listening to the soothing sound of Justin's sleep, trying to be at peace. The blinds were open, and he could see snow falling outside, a phenomenon that usually made him feel calm. But not tonight.

He left the bed, turned on the lights of the Christmas tree, solid burning whites, none of that twinkling colored shit for him, and stared at it. He was trying to get in the mood as he smoked a joint. They had been rationing the pot, and they were now getting down to stems and seeds. He went over and picked up his mystery present. Justin used white tissue paper to wrap it and then used colored markers to decorate the paper with a fantastic design of his own creation. Brian felt the paper itself was a gift, a work of art. No clue what was inside the large rectangular shape, which wasn't heavy, but wasn't light. He shook it. Nothing.

"Put that down, you big kid, and come to bed," Justin's voice, from the bed. Busted. Embarrassed, Brian did so.

"Just making sure it wouldn't detonate."

"You are so fake," Justin took the roach from between Brian's lips when he joined him in bed, and sucked down the final two puffs. "You know what I think you should do, big guy? I think you should suck me," he pulled back the duvet to uncover his erection and Brian leered at him.

"Again? What am I now? Your sex slave?"

"You have a problem with that?"

Brian smiled and dropped down, dragging kisses down Justin's bare belly as he went for the goal.

The next morning, Christmas Eve, Brian was at the diner, sitting at the counter, while Justin went to the gallery where some of his and other students' work had been displayed. He had to pick up his canvases before they closed early for the holiday. He dropped Brian off, but kept the Vette so he could transport his work. Debbie, looking like a Christmas tree with all her tinsel, blinking jewelry and bells, leaned over the counter to say to Brian in a voice heavy with fatigue, "I fucking hate fucking Christmas."

"Joy to the fucking world, Deb," he joined her, raising his coffee mug in a toast.

"Which reminds me, you and Sunshine will definitely be at dinner tonight, right? Vic is cooking, so you have nothing to fear."

Brian smirked at her. "Why Deb, I love your tuna-noodle surprise."

"Don't get smart with me. What are you giving Justin?"

"I gave it to him last night, a couple of times, and once this morning."

She glared at him. "Don't make me slap you."

"Well, it's like this, Deb. I have no money, I have huge debts, no job, and my credit cards are all maxed out, so I guess I plan to give him nothing."

"You need to borrow some money, honey? It's tight for me, too, around this time of year, but if you..."

Brian was touched by her offer, but he didn't want to show it. He'd sell a kidney before he'd take money from Debbie. "You feed us. That's enough."

"Look at it this way, Brian. You already gave him what he really wanted, the chance to be your partner. You can't improve on that."

"Yeah, that's a real treat," he said in a sullen voice.

"Tell him you love him. Flat out say it. Write him a little poem. He's the romantic type."

Brian laughed and lit a cigarette. "Christ, Deb, you think I underwent a personality transplant just because he moved in with me? He'd drop dead on the spot if I gave him some sappy poem. The only poems I write are to sell soap."

"Well, then, you come up with your own idea, Kinney. But I'm telling you as your adopted mother, sometimes the very best most touching gifts are those that don't cost a dime and that come straight from the heart."

"Thanks for the helpful hint, Heloise. See you tonight." Brian surprised her by leaning over the counter and kissing her on the cheek. She looked shocked as he smiled as he pointed up at the mistletoe someone had attached to the light fixture. "Tradition," he said, enjoying her blush and smile as he left her there with her work and her worries.

That afternoon, Brian showed up at Michael and Ben's apartment, carrying a paper bag full of groceries. Michael opened the door, surprised when Brian brushed past him, announcing, "I need to borrow your kitchen."

"Why? Are we making Christmas cookies?" Michael teased, and Brian frowned at him.

"No, 'we' are not making anything. I just need you to stay out of my way."

"Are you assembling a bomb?"

"Probably. Wouldn't surprise me."

Ben looked up from the sofa where he was grading end of term papers. "What are you up to, Brian? Kitchens are not exactly your thing."

"How hard can it be to cook something? You read a recipe, you measure ingredients, you do have measuring stuff, right? Then you mix it up and cook it. Any idiot can cook."

Michael and Ben exchanged a silent communication. Ben said, "There's cooking and then there's cooking. You have twice the kitchen we do. Did they turn off your gas?"

"Very droll, professor," Brian removed his leather jacket and tossed it on a chair, pushing up his sleeves as he said, "It's going to be a surprise for someone."

Ben and Michael both mouthed the word, "Justin". Brian ignored that and asked, "So where do you keep the bowls?"

"Your friend, your problem," Ben said with a smile as Michael rolled his eyes and went into the kitchen to do what had to be done.

Justin was miffed at Brian. Brian called to say he was riding over to Debbie's with Mikey and Ben and would meet him there. He hadn't seen him all day, and it annoyed him that he spent the time hanging with Mikey rather than with him. Normally he tolerated the Mikey and Brian show rather well, but this was a holiday, and they should be together. Besides which, the snow was falling even faster and he didn't like to drive the Corvette in this kind of weather and Brian knew it.

Ben was experiencing similar concerns about driving conditions as they headed towards Deb's house. In the backseat, a dish covered in foil was on the seat beside Brian. He turned away from it, his body language suggesting a man stuck with an ugly blind date. The bittersweet aroma of singed sugar hovered in the close atmosphere.

Michael tried to infuse some holiday spirit as he said, "Brian, I really think..."

"Shut the FUCK up, Mikey," Brian warned. So much for holiday spirit.

They arrived at the house and Gus ran to Brian, exclaiming "DADDY! Pick me up!" Brian handed off the dish to Debbie, who looked confused.

"What's this?"

"Just hide it in the kitchen," he said quietly as he scooped up his son, smiling for the first time in hours. Watching Brian with his son, Justin couldn't remain angry. He walked over and kissed Brian on the lips, while patting Gus's back.

"I missed you."

"I had shit to do," Brian said with a frown, and handed off his kid to Justin as he escaped into the kitchen. Vic and Debbie had lifted the foil on the mystery dish and both looked perplexed. Brian reached over to replace the covering and said, "I don't want to hear it. Just serve it."

"But...what is it exactly? What course?" Vic asked and received a glare in response.

"Dessert. What do you fucking think it is?"

"A disaster," Vic said quietly as Brian walked away.

The meal was good, the company even better. Ted and Emmett made an effort to get along, Melanie didn't complain about her advanced pregnancy nor did she snipe at Brian, and Justin let Brian have his sullen pout. When it was time for dessert, Vic looked a little nervous as he walked in with the foil covered surprise.

"Brian has kindly supplied us with dessert tonight," he said. "It's um, homemade."

"You cooked?" Justin asked, amazed and Brian shrugged.

"I had twenty bucks. I could have bought you a CD or something cheap, but that seemed lame to me. So I spent it on groceries and got your mom's recipe and decided to bake your favorite dessert. Merry fucking Christmas, Justin."

Justin was touched beyond words. That Brian would bother to think of something he would really want, and then seek out the recipe, buy the groceries and bake it was unbelievable to him. So now he understood the afternoon at Mikey's. Justin rushed over to hug him tightly and then followed it with a kiss as everyone but Mikey and Melanie made noises over how sweet the whole thing was. Brian looked embarrassed as he pulled Justin onto his lap and said, "Maybe you'd better wait until you taste it to decide whether or not to thank me."

"I don't care how it tastes. It's the thought and the caring and your last twenty bucks," he nuzzled Brian's cheek as Vic removed the foil with a flourish. A heavy silence fell across the table. The pie plate contained a tall mound of blackened peaks with white bases, like snowy mountains melting from the top down.

"It's not my fault Mikey's oven doesn't heat correctly, so the meringue got a little scorched. And the crust burned around the edges, so I had to trim them off. You know, meringue is a bitch to make. It never sets up! It's too gooey and then all of a sudden, it's too thick."

Vic bit his tongue, then said, "I can shave off the top of it, the burned part."

"I want it just the way it us," Justin insisted. "I like my meringue well done. Let me cut it.It's my mom's fudge pie, right?"

Brian nodded.

Justin beamed as he took the pie server from Vic and sliced through the meringue to the crust. "You'll all love it! It's the best pie in the world." As he went to lift out the first slice, the filling ran over both sides of the server to plop back into the plate. Lindsay giggled, trying to hide it with a cough. Emmett picked up on it and soon all were laughing, except Brian and Justin. Brian simmered while Justin used a serving spoon to ladle the dark chocolate mixture onto a plate.

"I like it that way," he said with a confirming smile. "It's like pudding."He picked up a fork and exchanged it for a spoon and filled the spoon with a blob of chocolate, raising it towards his mouth.

"If you eat that, I'll lose all respect for you," Brian grumbled, but Justin smiled and took the bite, insisting the taste was delicious, despite the texture, "I think your mom sabotaged that recipe," Brian complained.

"Pudding!" Gus demanded and Lindsay scooped out a couple spoonfuls for him, sans the meringue. The baby was as enthusiastic about it as Justin, so the adults politely tried a bite or two as Vic brought out a yule log cake to give them alternatives.

Driving to the loft, later that night, Brian was still sulking. He had personally thrown out the remnants of the pie, and he was furious that his gesture was such a disaster. Justin reached over and stroked his thigh. "It was delicious, Brian. And the most thoughtful present I've ever received."

"I should have bought that fucking CD you wanted."

"You're wrong about that."

At the loft, he insisted Brian open his gift as they drank brandy to close out the night. Brian was careful not to rip the paper he found so beautiful and he peeled it back to reveal a portrait of himself. Painted by Justin, it depicted Brian from his head to his belly, and the subtle use of shadow and sparse color was striking.

"I should look this good," Brian said, and Justin leaned over to kiss him.

"You do look that good," Justin responded, kissing him gently. "You look even better. I can't capture the impact of your flesh. Since you sold the ugly naked guy, I wanted to substitute a handsome naked guy instead. Merry Christmas, Brian."

"Merry Christmas, Justin," he leaned him back on the sofa, reaching under Justin's sweater as their tongues touched and the familiar heat took over.

This time, Justin was the one who woke up a few hours later. He brushed Brian's hair from his forehead to watch him sleep, then got up and pulled on a robe, padding into the kitchen for a bottle of water. He noticed a container on the counter that he hadn't seen before. He opened it to reveal a perfect chocolate pie with creamy peaks of lightly tanned meringue and curls of shaved bitter chocolate on top. The fluted crust rested in a cranberry glass pie plate and a note in his mother's hand read, "The manager of your loft building let me in to leave this. When Brian called for the recipe, I decided to make one myself so you two could enjoy it. I'm sure the gang at Deb's will devour the other one. Merry Christmas, see you tomorrow at brunch, love, Mom." Justin regarded the pie wistfully, wanting nothing more than a thick slice of that yummy concoction.

But instead, he covered it back up, tossed her note, and wrote another. "Merry Christmas from Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney." He then left it outside the manager's door on the ground floor and returned to the loft. The last thing he needed was for Brian to see the way the pie was supposed to look. As he crawled back in bed, Brian stirred and enfolded Justin in his arms, nuzzling his neck without waking up. Justin smiled and relaxed in his embrace, realizing this was, indeed, the best Christmas of his life.

His eyes closed as he remembered a line from a classic, a fitting end to this day: "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

END

Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
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Beginning
July 25, 2004