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HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY

Thanks to Pfyre for the story graphic!

Happy Mother's Day to all the women on the site, whether you have children or not. Thank you for being loving, nurturing and tolerant. This story is a little thing that came out of a discussion with Gael McGear about what it would be like in the Peterson-Marcus household for those two very different children. So, I zoomed them ahead sixteen years to where Gus is about to graduate from High School and Huey (Mikey and Melanie's son--hehehe) is turning sixteen. It's not particularly light-hearted, but it is complete in this one chapter. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks to the team for posting it, and to Cael for a fast and unexpected beta while Alan was betaing Reconstructing Brian.

Gael McGear and I were exchanging e-mails on the progress of season 3 and she said it would be a difficult endeavor to write about the evolution of Gus and Mikey and Melanie's kid, in the future, if the show continued as is. I can't let that go by without giving it a shot so, Gael, here is my take on the two boys sixteen years in the future. ( I made the kid a male named "Huey".)

"Where's my widdle birfday boy?" Debbie snuck in the unlocked back door of Melanie and Lindsay's house to surprise her grandson on the morning of his sixteenth birthday. She carried a box of fresh donuts and a jug of chocolate milk which she placed on the kitchen table, then opened her arms to crush the celebrant in a bearhug of grandmotherly bliss. Huey Marcus feigned suffocation, flapped his arms like a trapped bird and made comical sounds of asphyxiation as his mother beamed at them from her post at the stove, where she was cooking her son's favorite breakfast.

"Deb, let the poor boy breathe!" Melanie pleaded and Debbie released him and sat down heavily at the table. Now pushing seventy, she still wore the wig, the garish makeup and the carnival clothes, becoming more eccentric by the decade.

"He's just such a huggie-wuggie, aren't you, precious?"

Huey grinned at her. He was an even distribution of his parents' DNA, with his father's stature, coloring and sense of humor, along with his mother's more delicate features, brains and determination. "Mom, I really don't have time for a big breakfast. I'll just take some of Grammy's donuts with me. I have cheerleader practice before school."

"It's your birthday. You'll eat," Melanie insisted and he knew better than to argue. Lindsay breezed in, pausing first to kiss Huey on top of his head, tickling her nose with his spiky black hair.

"Happy birthday, honey."

"Thanks, Lindsay." They had given up the fiction of the two women acting as equal mothers to both boys long ago.

"Hi Deb," she said, and then noticed the open box of pastries. "Yummy… donuts! Where's Gus?" she asked as she removed a pink frosting and sprinkles prize from the nest of sugar and fat. Melanie shrugged.

"You know how impossible he is to wake up. Huey, go make sure your brother is up."

"He's not my brother," Huey said with a scowl. "We share no DNA."

"You have your mother to thank for that," Debbie quipped, not even noticing Lindsay's glare.

"Whatever he is, go get him up!" Melanie insisted. He groaned as he left the table and climbed the stairs to check on his older "brother". Huey's room was a blitzkrieg of posters, comic books, discarded clothes and paraphernalia from his cheerleading activities, while Gus's room was an oasis of studious calm. His futon set the stage for a sparse, clean look that was Zen-like in its simplicity. Two red banners bearing large black Chinese characters symbolizing tranquility and beauty were the only wall hangings. His desk was perfectly ordered. Even his music was organized by type, and all of his clothes were either neatly hung or folded. Candles provided ambiance along with light fixtures diffused with rice paper. Huey jokingly referred to Gus's domain as a "sushi parlor" and took delight in sneaking in and messing something up or leaving some half-gnawed food in a prominent place.

Gus kept several photographs that he had taken himself in Lucite frames scattered across surfaces, but nothing else to suggest his personal life. Huey stared at Gus's sleeping form, sprawled above the sheets on his futon, clad only in briefs. Huey hated Gus for wasting his advantages. He was tall, while Huey was short. He was naturally slim, but well-muscled, while Huey had to battle the bulge and work out constantly to retain any definition. Gus's hair was smooth and streaked with natural gold, while Huey's was black and unruly. While his older brother was a straight-A student, Huey set his brains to other tasks. Gus also had his father's incredible beauty combined with his mother's delicate skin and ebony eyes, while Huey was lucky to manage "cute". And yet Gus was one of the best kept secrets in their school.

Huey was the class clown, beloved by everyone; Gus was a cipher, a loner, as quiet as a ghost. His only extracurricular activities were track, where he won medals for his speed and agility in solo events, and theater, where he directed school plays, not wanting the spotlight.

"Yo, Grasshopper!" Huey said in a loud voice, tossing a silk throw pillow at Gus's bare back. "Mom says to get your ass out of bed!"

Gus groaned and turned over on his side, squinting at his brother. "What time is it?"

"You're late. I need you to take me to school early. I have cheerleader practice."

Gus was the one with the car, a gift from his rich daddy. Brian would have bought him almost any car he wanted. Instead of a hot sports car, Gus chose a vintage Mustang convertible, which was a muscle car, but which was also in the shop or being tinkered with by Gus half the time. Now that Huey was old enough to get his license, he expected his mother to come through with a car of his own so he wouldn't have to rely on Gus to chauffeur him around. "I'll be down in a minute," Gus mumbled into his pillow.

"Don't go back to sleep."

"I won't. Huey?"

"What?"

"Happy birthday."

Huey rolled his eyes and left the "sushi parlor" to return to the adoration awaiting him in the kitchen. Just as he took his place at the table, the back door opened once again, and Brian entered. In his Italian suit and Italian shades, he was still fit and handsome, the image of well-maintained advantages. Brian tossed Huey a turquoise box tied with a white satin ribbon, telltale Tiffany's. "Happy birthday, kid. Junk food!" He inhaled a chocolate-covered donut in two bites.

"You should have held onto that gift until the party tonight, Brian," Lindsay chided him and he shrugged.

"I may not be able to go. I have a conflict."

"Of course you do," Melanie said bitterly. "It's just Huey's sixteenth birthday, why should you bother coming? It's meaningless to you."

"Yeah, Brian," Debbie piled on. "What's so important that you can't come to a stinking birthday party?" Brian glared at both women.

"It's business. I have a meeting I can't rearrange. Sorry, Huey."

He shrugged, always a little intimidated by Brian; anyway. He was opening his gift as they argued.

"Are you losing your hair?" Debbie shot at Brian, reaching over to touch the carefully cut mane that was streaked with silver, but no less luxurious than ever. He smirked at her.

"Are you putting on weight?"

"Bastard!"

He laughed and Huey let out an excited squeak as he showed off an elegant watch with a gold rectangular face and lizard strap. "Thanks, Uncle Brian! It's beautiful!"

"It's from Justin, too."

Lindsay smiled, figuring Justin picked it out and Brian paid. Their partnership still seemed to work after all these years. Who would have thought it possible? "That is way too expensive a watch for a young boy, Brian," she gently scolded him and he shrugged.

"Why should he wear plastic?"

"I love it!" Huey buckled it on and admired it on his wrist, mentally calculating its cost. Gus stumbled in, literally, tripping over the threshold as if suddenly discovering it was there, and steadied himself with the edge of the counter. Dressed in faded jeans and a black shirt with red Chinese characters spelling out Peace, Freedom and Love, his heavy black hornrims neutralized the impact of his eyes. His long, uncombed hair fell forward to cover his face. He sat down heavily in a chair and smiled shyly at his father.

"Hi, Dad."

"I don't get a kiss?"

Gus lumbered over and pecked his cheek, then waved at Debbie and returned to his chair.

"Look what your dad gave me!" Huey flashed the watch at him and Gus nodded.

"It's very elegant."

"Donut?" Brian pushed the box towards him, and Gus cringed.

"No thanks."

Lindsay placed his usual breakfast in front of her son. Miso soup, steamed rice, fresh melon and green tea. He was the most Asian white boy everr born.

"I wish to hell you would cut that hair, Gus!" Debbie insisted and Melanie laughed.

"Forget it, Deb. This is the boy who quit the soccer team rather than cut his hair. Remember? Stubborn as a mule. Gee, wonder where he gets that?" She glared at Brian who merely smiled sweetly.

"Why should he cut his hair just because some fucking coach doesn't approve?" Brian defended. "Not to mention taking advice from a waitress who gets her fashion cues from Ronald MacDonald."

"Listen, you little shit…" Debbie began and Gus winced.

"Please don't fight," Gus said quietly, causing Huey to laugh and wail,

"Why can't we all just get along?" He was quoting an icon from the last century. The conversation turned back to Huey and his birthday, but Gus was aware of his father's stare as he finished his breakfast.

"Guess who I'm taking to the prom, Uncle Brian?" Huey challenged him and then answered his own question. "Melissa Major!"

"Why?" Brian quipped. "Was Melinda Minor busy? What prom?"

"The SENIOR prom," Huey bragged. "At least ONE of us in this house is going, even though I'm only a sophomore. Melissa Major is a cheerleader and a real babe. Who da stud?"

"You aren't going, Gus?" Brian asked. His son frowned and shook his head. "Why not? It's your class's prom." Lindsay was giving Brian the "don't ask" look, but he ignored her as Huey giggled.

"His true love, his right hand, had a better offer."

"Shut the fuck up, Huey!" Gus snapped at him and Melanie frowned.

"Hey! Watch your mouth!"

"Sorry," Gus said softly.

"Gus, walk me to my car," Brian insisted, and Gus nodded, reluctantly aware that he was about to be lectured about something. Brian said his goodbyes, wished Huey well again, and walked out with his son, slipping an arm across Gus's shoulders. They were the same height, roughly the same weight and build. That they were father and son was unmistakable, even if Gus did resemble the before picture in a makeover special.

"Have you made a final decision about summer school? Your time is up."

"I think I want to go to Yale, Dad. They have an excellent summer internship where you work with local theater groups in New Haven, and I can get some credit hours to carry into the fall when I start the regular curricula there." Gus's academics and a short film he submitted earned him offers to attend both Yale and UCLA. Both had prestigious dramatic programs, but he chose Yale. He was more comfortable with the campus and student body there than he was with the casual, hyper-blond atmosphere of California. He wanted to be a cinematographer, and he had a true gift for framing an image.

Brian nodded, "That sounds good."

"I know it costs a fortune," Gus went on, and Brian stopped him.

"Let's not discuss the cost. I can afford to send you wherever you want to go, and I'm proud to have a kid who can get into an Ivy League school. I'm proud of you all the way around, Gus."

Gus blushed, always uncomfortable when his father turned serious. "Thanks," he mumbled, and Brian sighed and reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind his son's ear. The boy had such a beautiful face; why was he so determined to conceal it?

"Gus, in a couple weeks, high school will be history for you. I think you missed a lot, you were so shy, so deliberately outside of things, but I'm not riding your ass about that. What I don't want is for you to miss your prom."

"Dad, no way am I going to the prom," he said firmly.

"I know. So Justin, and now you, tell me. That's bullshit."

"Why should I go?"

"Because you'll regret it later if you don't."

"I'll take that chance."

"What are you afraid of, Gus? Can't dance?"

"Won't dance."

"No date?"

"Don't want a date."

"What is it, then? Afraid they'll dump a bucket of pig blood on your head?"

Gus had to laugh. "Stop!"

"I see the way girls look at you. The glasses and the hair and the attitude are a deterrent, but not a shield. They still notice you, despite your best efforts to hide your looks. I know you could get a date if you wanted."

"Dad, I don't want a date. I don't want to go to the prom. I'm not going to the prom. Butt out!"

"Gus, I feel like you're at the starting line, but the gun won't go off. What are you waiting for, kid? This is your life, it's already underway. Get off the block."

Gus met his father's eyes, wanting to say something, but unable to find the words. "I'm living my life, Dad," he said instead and Brian shook his head.

"Half a life."

"We can't all be like Huey!" Gus suddenly erupted. "Everyone's favorite, the life of the party, the pet of all the girls, Melanie and Debbie and Mikey's little darling! I'm sorry I'm not more like him, Dad, with lots of friends around all the time, and a stable of girlfriends, and always able to make people laugh. I'm not Huey, and I'm sorry you got stuck with the other brother! I know it's strange for you since you were always on top of everything, but I can't help who I am!"

Brian sighed, wishing he still smoked. He was dying for a cigarette right now. "Gus, I love the person you are and I wouldn't trade you for ten Hueys. But I worry about you. And if you think I'm always on top, you bought into my bullshit more than I would've ever believed possible."

Gus shook his head. "You're rich, successful, happy with someone wonderful, still handsome, and you were the biggest stud in Pittsburgh until you decided to settle down with Justin."

Brian laughed. "Gay stud. Biggest gay stud in Pittsburgh. Does that bother you, Gus?'

His son sighed. "I was raised in the gay culture, Dad. If it bothers me, you're way too late to worry."

"Does it?"

"Sometimes," he said honestly and Brian nodded.

"That's normal."

"Don't get me wrong. I love Justin."

"I know you do. He loves you too."

"I know. He's maybe my best friend, strangely enough. Despite the age difference."

Brian smiled. It was funny to think of Justin as the "older man", but his lover's friendship with his son was gratifying to Brian, and was also his greatest source of information about Gus. "Sonny Boy, are you hiding from women? Is that what this hair and these glasses and the attitude are all about? Barriers?"

"Why would I do that?" Gus insisted, feeling his face burning with color. Brian sighed and took his hand between his own.

"I don't know. You tell me."

Gus met his eyes, then shook his head and pulled free. "I have to go. I have to take Huey to school early. He has cheerleader practice."

Brian sighed. The Kinney Family Denial Gene yet endured, generation after generation. "Okay, kid. You're free this time. I want you to go to that prom, though. I mean it."

"Later, Dad."

Brian smiled, watching his kid's lanky gait as he walked away from him. There was a reason Gus was so afraid of life, so afraid of his own potential, and Brian was determined to uncover that cause.

Justin was working on a canvas, intensely concentrating on the abstract image when he felt two strong arms close around him. He inhaled the familiar scent and smiled as he closed his eyes and leaned into his lover.

"Hi, Bri. Watch your suit. I have paint on these overalls."

"In that case…" Brian slipped the straps off Justin's shoulders and the overalls fell to his feet, leaving him standing there in nothing but a pair of briefs. He turned to kiss Brian, who returned his affection. At thirty-four, Justin was still boyish, slim, and beautiful. For Brian, he would never change from the twink he fell in love with seventeen years earlier.

"Shouldn't you be at work, making a living?" Justin teased as the kiss ended. Brian's hands spread on Justin's firm rump, drawing him close to his pelvis. Justin smiled as he felt the nudge of a burgeoning erection against his groin.

"I thought you might like to feed me lunch," Brian responded, watching his lover unthread his tie and open the buttons of his shirt.

"I'd like to feed you something," Justin agreed, tossing Brian's jacket and shirt onto a chair. His body, at forty-seven, was still fit and alluring. Brian would always be beautiful, just as Michael had once predicted. Especially in Justin's eyes.

Little by little, Brian had taken over the building on Tremont street, buying each loft as it became available. Now they owned all of it, and they converted it into an enormous single residence, with the entire top floor devoted to Justin's studio. A swimming pool had been built on the roof, complete with invisible edge to make it appear as if the water was running off the side of the building. Brian led Justin up the short flight of stairs to the roof and they both stripped and dove into the azure water, ignoring the slight chill of late spring.

Brian grabbed him almost immediately and treaded water as Justin wrapped himself around him and kissed him with renewed passion. Following the fucking, they put on terry cloth robes from the cabana and returned to the kitchen, suddenly ravenous. As Justin threw some lunch together, Brian watched and admired his expertise.

"Huey loved the watch," he said and Justin smiled slightly.

"That's nice." He tried to like Huey, he really did, but he found the kid even more obnoxious than his father.

"Are you going to the party this evening?"

"Without you? Nooooooo."

Brian smirked at him. "Want to join me at this business dinner?"

"I hate playing the wife at those things. Do you really mind if I say no?'

"I don't mind. I hate them too. Babe, I'm worried about Gus."

Justin glanced at him. "Nothing new about that. You worry too much. Gus is a great kid."

"I know he is, but he's not happy."

"He's as happy as anyone could be growing up with Huey and Melanie Marcus. Jesus, it's a miracle he has such inner tranquility."

"I really wish he would go to his prom."

"Brian, you have to let go of that. My prom was so important to both of us, but it won't necessarily be that way for Gus. There's no one he wants to take. He feels awkward about it. Why force him?"

"What's his problem, Justin? I think Gus is a beautiful kid, and not just because he's mine. He got the best of both Linds and me. He has perfect skin, gorgeous hair, a nice body. Why is he so damned inhibited?"

Justin handed Brian a plate of food and carried his own to the table where they sat down to eat. "You used your looks the way a Venus Fly Trap uses its beauty, Brian, to lure them in and trap them. I used my looks to lure you in and trap you. We were both self-aware gay men and pretty comfortable with that concept. You've heard my theory about your son."

Brian sighed. "That he's suffering from gay panic."

"Bingo."

"But why? It's not as if his parents would slap him around if they found out he was gay. He's already been accepted at Yale, and I don't think the drama department is known for queer bashing. Why so afraid if it's true?"

Justin rolled his eyes. "This from a man who didn't even tell his own mother until he was over thirty?"

"Times have changed."

"How? Because it's legal now? Because we can marry and own property together? We're still a minority, Brian, and minorities are treated differently by the majority. He's scared, he's shy, and he has this overhang of a dazzling, super-stud faggot father to live up to. How hard do you think that is? He's not interested in being the backroom raider you were, but he still has the competition angle. He fears he could never be the uber-homo that is Brian Kinney."

Brian glared at him. "I'm not competing with my son. Why would he feel competitive with me?"

"Because he wants you to be proud of him. My biggest fear is that he'll deny his true nature and try to live a straight life just so he won't be compared to you."

"Look, for most of Gus's life, I've been in a fairly monogamous relationship with you. He never knew me as a swaggering stud."

"Oh please, ‘Kung Fu: The Legend Continues'. Mikey alone keeps the ghost of your promiscuity alive. He makes you sound like Robo-Homo."

Brian snickered at that description. Justin wasn't wrong. Michael missed Brian's promiscuity a lot more than Brian did. His vicarious sex life through Brian's exploits suffered greatly due to Brian's love for Justin. "Has Gus admitted point blank to you that he's queer?"

"No, but I can read the subtext. Never dates, has artistic inclinations, the way he looks at certain men longingly when we're together, the questions he's asked me."

"I can't believe he doesn't feel like he can be honest with me."

"Get over it, Brian. It's not an insult to you, it's his shyness and fear. You know what he needs, don't you?"

"A shrink?"

"He needs someone like you. Like when I met you when I was his age. An older man who knows the ropes, who can lead him into it gently and take away the fear and anxiety. Someone to ground him, sexually. Give him enough experience to go out and get it for himself."

Brian raised a single brow as he focused on his lover. "Incest is not best, Justin. It ain't happening."

Justin laughed. "I didn't mean YOU, specifically, god! I meant someone who could lead Gus into it the way you led me. Hopefully Gus wouldn't fall madly in love the way I did, because most of the time you don't get lucky, like we did. Most of the time, you just get burned."

Brian stared at Justin for a long time, then said, "I think I know someone who would fit that bill."

Justin looked up, curious about the person Brian would choose for his son's deflowering.

Gus worked at a Starbucks after school to earn some pocket money. Both of his parents believed it was important for teenagers to learn the value of working even if their generosity provided him with most of what he needed and wanted.

"Hi, Gus. The usual non-fat double mocha latte, fully loaded with caffeine," Gus looked up at the man placing an order and smiled.

"Hi, Ben." He had always liked his Uncle Michael's former lover and thought Mikey, as his Dad called him, was an idiot to let Ben slip away while continuing to pine hopelessly for Gus's father. Ben looked great, maintaining his hard body into his forties. Now that science had finally found a cure for the AIDS virus, Ben's new lease on life had turned him into a world traveler. But he always came back to Pittsburgh where he was a tenured professor and a much published and highly regarded author of several gay- themed novels and some texts on the gay subculture.

Ben went through a few live-in lovers after Michael left, but no one seemed to capture his fancy for long. With his looks and brains, even at forty-something, he had no trouble playing the field. Gus thought again about how glad he was that the AIDS epidemic had been stemmed. Like all kids growing up since the cure was found, he received a vaccination against the virus at age eleven, the small scar left on his shoulder a meaningless price to pay for a lifetime free from worry over what once was the scourge of sexually active people around the world. Other STD's were still around, caution was still required, but so far none with such deadly results as AIDS. Gus believed if it saved even one man like Ben, the billions spent on finding the cure were well directed.

"When did you get back from Nepal?" Gus asked with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.

"Two days ago. Still adjusting to the cultural and time changes. Can you take a break and have a cup with me?"

Gus glanced at his manager, who nodded. He made a chai for himself and joined Ben at a back table. "You look a little thinner," he said.

"I probably am. I haven't weighed, but the mountain climbing, even as low as I reached, was pretty rugged. And the diet was Spartan. I'll pack it on again now that I'm back in the United States of Flab."

Gus smirked at that remark, an expression so like his father that Ben had to smile. "Are you coming to my graduation?" Gus asked.

"I wouldn't miss it."

"Good. I was afraid…" he hesitated, grimaced. Ben sighed.

"Gus, it doesn't pain me to be around Michael. That's long dead. We're quite civil."

"I know, I just…" he blushed and shrugged. He was very unlike Brian when he became shy like this, and Ben found it most charming.

"I had a call from your father today."

Gus looked up, surprised. He knew his father and Ben were casual friends, but they didn't really hang out much together. "Why?"

"About you."

"Me?" Gus was totally confused now.

"Yes. It seems Brian is convinced you're gay, if closeted, and you need a gentle, caring older man to bring you out. Someone like me, it would seem."

Gus turned the color of the Chinese characters on his shirt and leaned back, exhaling slowly. "Please tell me this is a joke."

"No joke," Ben's steely blue eyes were as hard as the steely silver frames of his glasses. "I'm telling you this because I don't want to see you get trapped in one of Brian's machinations. He's such a control freak, he has to try and manage even the most personal elements of your life. I know he means well, he adores you, but this is overboard and none of his business and I told him so."

"I'm so sorry, Ben," Gus said quietly, staring fixedly at his drink, unable to meet Ben's eyes. He was so humiliated and angry he didn't know how to react. Ben reached over and touched his hand, causing Gus to pull away.

"Maybe you should tell him, kiddo."

Gus looked up at him, his dark eyes registering panic. "You promised!"

"I would never betray a confidence, Gus. I won't tell him, but you should."

"Why? So he can set me up with a date? So he can instruct me on the handbook of how to be a super faggot? So there can be one more area of my life where I can never overtake my father?"

"So he can help you through a very confusing and difficult time, because he loves you, Gus. And he's always been there for you."

Gus exhaled sharply as he leaned back with a scowl. "I know he loves me, Ben. I love him too. But he makes me crazy sometimes."

"Of course he does, Gus. He's your father. All fathers make their sons crazy sometimes. It's required."

"So he thinks I'm such a loser that if I were gay, I couldn't get laid on my own?"

"Loser? No. Shy? Yes. And you are."

"Christ, I'm so embarrassed for him and for myself and so sorry for you."

"Don't be sorry for me. In a way, I'm glad that Brian has enough confidence in me that he would trust his son to my evil ways. It wasn't always that way between us. We had our moments when I was with Michael, although most of them were Michael's fault, not Brian's."

"So he thinks I'm gay…"

"Don't start cataloguing your obvious traits, because there aren't any, Gus. It's his instincts that told him and he knows you so well and is so concerned about you. This was wrong, yes, but his motives were good."

"What exactly did you say to him?"

"I said I would take his request as a compliment, but that there was no way I was available for seduction upon demand. I said you're a very brilliant young man who knows your own mind and when you're ready for a sex partner, male or female, you'll make your own choice. If you haven't already."

"And his response?"

"You know Brian. He just said ‘yeah, yeah' and hung up, probably to consider his other alternatives. Thus the warning."

"First he forces me to go to the prom, now he's trying to get me laid. He needs to back off, Ben."

"Of course he does."

"Maybe I should talk to Justin."

Ben reached over and closed his hand on Gus's forearm. "Maybe you should talk to your father."

Gus sighed and nodded, dreading that truth.

Justin looked up when he heard the elevator engage. Since they owned the building, no one but the few who had a key could call the elevator. He was on the third floor, where their master suite took up almost all of the space. With Brian out, he was enjoying a quiet evening with a pizza and some rented movies. He paused the action as the elevator doors opened. Sprawled on the suede couch, dressed only in a robe, he smiled, anticipating his lover's entrance.

"That was a short meeting. Did you…" he stopped, surprised to see Gus. "Oh, hi, Gus. Brian's not here."

"When will he be home?"

"I don't know. Business dinner. Could be an hour, could be three. Shouldn't you be at Huey's birthday party?"

"Fuck him," Gus said curtly, dropping onto the sofa beside Justin and helping himself to a wedge of pizza. Justin stared at his handsome profile, wondering at his uncharacteristically surly mood.

"Something wrong?"

"Other than my dad thinks I'm a faggot and asks his old friend to fuck me? No."

Justin winced. "What old friend would that be?"

"Ben."

Good choice, Justin thought to himself, then said, "Ben told you?"

"Yes, Ben told me, Justin! What's wrong with you two? Do you even know how sick that is? I don't need my Dad's help to get laid!"

"He was just trying to help, and frankly it's my fault, Gus. I'm the one who told Brian I think you're gay and why I think so. I'm the one who suggested it would be great if you could have a first lover as experienced and sexy as mine was. He didn't mean anything twisted by it, he was just trying to help you get past the initial introduction in a good way."

"Did you ever stop to think I may not be queer? That this whole thing would make me hurl? That I prefer pussy? It's possible to have two queer parents and still be straight, you know. Look at Huey!"

"If you're straight, you're straight. Fine. But I don't think that's true. Is it?"

Gus cut him a glare. "I'm still a virgin, I guess that makes me nothing."

"I was a virgin until I met your father, Gus. But I was still queer."

"He wants me to be gay, doesn't he? He wants it. Carry on the tradition."

"Don't be stupid. He wants you to be happy. Straight or gay, to be fulfilled, to have someone who cares about you. To have some fun."

"To fuck anything that moves the way he did when he was younger?"

"No, Gus. To fuck someone, though. To be comfortable with that part of your makeup."

"Christ!" Gus went over to the small fridge under the corner bar in the suite and removed a bottle of water, sucking it down in three long draws. He looked around, as if seeing this vast space for the first time. The colorful paintings by Justin that dressed up the bare brick walls were reflected in the color of the linens on the king-sized bed and in the upholstery on the sofa and chairs. Indirect lighting made everything glow and an unlit fireplace awaited cooler temperatures. The cement floor was covered in slate tiles and the tall windows offered an unimpeded view of the city streets. Photographs of Gus at various ages decorated surfaces, combined with photos Gus had taken of Brian, Justin and their friends. He sat down again, combing his lean fingers through his hair. "I can never live up to Brian Kinney," he said softly.

Justin sighed and moved closer to him, slipping a comforting arm across his bony shoulders. "Gus, Brian can't live up to Brian Kinney."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean your father is forty-seven years old, almost forty-eight. He's healthy, he still looks great, he's still sexy, but he's forty-seven years old. He's not that bitch-stud he was when I first met him, just like I'm not the twink he first met. He couldn't walk into a club and have his pick of tricks today, and he knows it."

Gus frowned. "Does he still trick?"

"No, not really, but that's not the point, Gus. The point is, the gay venue is a youth obsessed culture, and Brian is past it. We're happy together, he loves me, and I love him. Over the years, Brian's used up several quotas of tricks. It's still a fact that the Brian Kinney of legend is no more."

Gus sighed, leaning the back of his head against Justin's arm. "At least he had a legend. I'm going to graduate from high school a virgin. It's embarrassing."

Justin laughed. "I didn't miss the deadline by much, myself."

"Did it hurt?"

"Sure, a little. Brian's hung like a mule. But he knew what he was doing, and he was very thoughtful."

"Were you scared?"

"I was terrified."

"Did he know?"

"Know what? That I was scared or a virgin? Yes and yes."

Gus took off his glasses and tucked an earpiece in the round collar of his t-shirt to hold them, reminding Justin even more of the younger Brian when he was without his Clark Kent disguise. "Was he…gentle? Kind?"

Justin laughed, his fingers aimlessly drifting through Gus's long, silky hair. "I wouldn't say kind. Kind is not Brian's thing. But he was gentle and considerate. And once I was relaxed and really into it, he was every erotic fantasy I ever had rolled into one man. Of course, this annoying little baby being born sort of interrupted the flow for awhile."

Gus smiled. "It's funny that he met us both the same night."

"I think it's destiny. That means Brian and I have been together almost eighteen years, give or take the odd drama queenie breakup. Hard to believe."

"I know you love him, Justin, but are you still, you know, hot for him?"

"As much as ever, oddly enough. Say what you will about living with Brian, but it's never dull."

"You guys are lucky."

"Gus, what are you waiting for? Is it love? Do you want to be in love first? I can understand that if you do. Is it fear? If so, fear of what? The sex or the fact you aren't comfortable in your own skin?"

Gus sighed. "There is someone, but he's way older than me, and he isn't interested."

"Brian's way older than me, and that didn't stop us."

"But… you didn't know Dad. You guys just hooked up. This is someone I know. That makes it more complicated."

"Is he straight?"

"No."

"Involved in something with someone?"

"Not at the moment. Okay, it's Ben. I've always had a crush on Ben."

Justin laughed. "Me too! Who doesn't? Ben is great!"

"We're kind of friends, Justin. We talk about things, lots of things. He was the one I came out to. He's given me a lot of advice and encouragement and books to read, stuff like that."

"So what's the problem?"

"He thinks I'm a kid. And if there was ever any hope of anything happening with us, Dad ruined it by trying to convince Ben to fuck me."

The door opened and Brian came in, looking from his son to Justin, and taking in their cozy pose with a smile. "Interrupting something?"

"That's sick, Dad," Gus scolded him. "What? Justin's not good enough for you? Aren't you supposed to be at your brother's party?" Brian took off his jacket and tie, following it with his shirt, his pants, his socks, pulling on a pair of jeans and nothing else as he walked over to them and sat on the chaise, waiting for Gus to respond.

"I wanted to talk to you. To tell you to stay the fuck out of my personal life. I love you, Dad, but that's just wrong."

"I'll leave you two…" Justin started to get up, but Brian waved him back down.

"Stay, it'll save me from having to repeat the conversation to you later when you wheedle it out of me. What are you talking about, Gus?"

"He knows about Ben," Justin said quietly and Brian stared hard at him. "Not from me!"

"Ben told me," Gus said. "How could you do that? You don't even know if I'm queer!"

"So tell me, Gus. Are you gay?" Brian asked bluntly.

Gus blushed and looked down at his bony fingers. "I don't know. I think so."

"You'd know," Brian said with a smile and Gus shrugged.

"I don't like girls if that's what you mean."

"You jerk off to guys?"

He winced, nodded.

"Okay, then you're gay. So what's the big deal? You think I care?"

"Yes, because I'll never be your kind of homosexual."

"And just what is MY kind of homo, Sonny Boy?"

"Hot, self-assured, promiscuous. I'm none of those things."

Brian laughed. "You're not two of the three, but you could be hot, if you made a little effort. As for the rest, what the fuck do I care if you're promiscuous? I won't fuck you. And no one is really self-assured, some of us are just better actors than others."

Gus stood, walking over to the bar to retrieve a Coke. He remained standing, framed by the windows, struggling to discuss this sensitive subject. "Dad, remember when I played soccer and you would come to the games and after each game tell me exactly what I needed to do to improve?"

"Yeah, so?"

"I played the game my way. But you thought because I wasn't playing the game your way, I was wrong. I wasn't wrong, and neither were you, but you couldn't see that maybe I should be allowed to do it the way I was comfortable playing. I was good, everyone said so. But I wasn't you. I don't want that to happen in my private life. I don't want you watching me from the sidelines and then critiquing what kind of faggot I am. I should date more, I should fool around, I should go for this type or that experience. I shouldn't act this way and don't let anyone do that."

"Gus, you've given me nothing to critique. You do nothing. That's what bothers me. You're so isolated."

"I haven't been ready, Dad. I've been coming to terms with it and discussing it with people I really trust."

"Does your mom know?"

"NO!"

"It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I'm not ashamed, I'm just not ready to share the intimate details of my life with the world."

"What can I do to help, Gus? I've been queer a lot longer than you have. Surely I can offer some wisdom, some comfort."

Gus walked over and sat beside his father on the chaise, reaching out and squeezing Brian's hand firmly. "Pop, if you really want to help me, butt out. Let me handle this my way and just support me, okay? From a distance."

Brian said nothing, and Gus kissed his cheek, then walked over and did the same with Justin before waving goodnight and walking out the door. "What the fuck just happened?" Brian said to his lover, his confusion obvious. Justin smiled and took his arm, leading him towards the bed.

"Your son just came out to you, papa."

"Then why do I feel like a door was closed instead of opened?"

"That's called a boundary, Brian. I know it's an alien concept to you, but mortal people set boundaries even with those they love in order to segment their life into areas that work for them. You're his daddy and he loves you for that, and wants you to be there for him. But as his daddy, he doesn't think you have any right to interfere in his sex life. I think he has a point. Now come interfere in my sex life, because, as you know, we have no boundaries. We're hopeless."

Brian smiled and kissed him, allowing himself to be manipulated into the bed by Justin's uniquely blond wisdom.

Gus was disappointed to discover cars still parked in front of his house when he came home. The party wasn't over. He steeled himself for the inevitable as he entered the house. Because it was a school night, Huey's friends were gone. All that remained were family and adult friends. Emmett, the widow of Ted who died of a sudden coronary last year, and single "mother" to their adopted son, now aged twelve, was helping put food away. His son, a surly adolescent of mixed Asian and anglo blood, was up in Huey's room, playing a video game. Gus's heart skipped a beat when he saw Ben in close conversation with Uncle Vic, back for a visit from New York. Vic's cure prompted him to return to his first love, cooking, and he was now the assistant chef for a chic restaurant in Manhattan. His newly restored health took years off his looks, and he was happier than Gus could remember.

Debbie was less happy to be without her brother in the house, so Michael had moved back in with her to fill the void and save the rent. His comic book store was making a subsistence living for him, but he loved it and wasn't motivated by cash. He had a brief prosperity when the Rage comic was hot, but Justin went on to a real career as an artist and Michael lost interest when he lost his partner. He was talking to Huey, the two of them as alike in appearance as Gus was like Brian. Debbie was helping Melanie and Lindsay tidy up.

"It's about time," Huey snarked as Gus entered the room. "You missed the party. Where were you?"

"I had to work."

"Not this late, you didn't," Melanie came in, adding her venom as she cleared up some dishes. "You're so like your father."

If Gus had a dime for every time he heard that lament from her since the day he was old enough to understand it was meant as an insult, he would be independently wealthy. "Sorry, I had something I had to do."

"It's your brother's birthday! You should have spent the evening with your family!"

"I did. I went over to Dad's." He exchanged a glance with Ben, who smiled and nodded.

"Mom, it's not like I care if Gus was here," Huey added. "He'd just creep out my friends the way he always does."

"That's not nice," his father chided him. "Hi ya, Gus, welcome home."

"Hi, Uncle Michael."

"Come give your old uncle a kiss."

Gus winced, but dutifully went over to kiss Michael on the cheek. He ignored the brush of Michael's hand against his ass, but quickly disengaged. Since he was around fourteen, Michael had been grabbing his ass and trying to get into his pants when no one was around. Gus understood it had very little to do with him, and a lot to do with Michael's unresolved feelings for Brian. If he wasn't going to fuck Brian, at least he could fuck this younger and more accessible version of his best friend. Gus told no one about these incidents, never feeling he couldn't handle it, and experiencing more pity than anger for Michael.

"I thought Brian was out, honey," Lindsay entered the room, followed by Emmett, who exchanged a friendly hug with Gus.

"He was. I talked to Justin until he came home."

"Well, well, the prodigal son," Debbie came from the kitchen with another piece of chocolate cake to stem her voracious appetite.

"Look," Gus suddenly exploded with unusual vehemence. "I said I was sorry. I had to talk to my Dad, okay? It's not like Huey needs me to have a party! Why don't you all just get the hell off my back?" He stormed up the stairs and slammed the door to his bedroom.

"He's such a drama princess," Huey said with a laugh.

"I'd better go see…" Lindsay started towards the stairs, but Ben stopped her.

"Do you mind, Lindsay? Why don't you let me talk to him."

She smiled and nodded, always finding Ben to be a comforting force for Gus. Michael watched his former lover's fine ass as he climbed the stairs, regretting again his stupidity for letting him get away. Ben knocked, and Gus responded, "Go away!"

"It's Ben, Gus. May I come in?"

Silence, and then Gus opened the door and waved him in, shutting it behind them. Ben looked around at the orderly chamber and smiled as he saw many of the Asian artifacts he had brought back from his travels for Gus were prominently displayed. He and Gus both sat on the end of the futon. Gus was staring at his hands, his tension evident. Ben draped an arm over his shoulders.

"Are you alright?"

Gus shook his head.

"Want to talk about it?"

Another shake of his head. Ben saw a crystal tear roll down his cheek to balance on the tip of his perfectly straight nose and then fall and splash on his hands. He sighed and lifted Gus's chin on his fingertips, rubbing his thumb across his cheek to absorb more tears. He opened his arms and held Gus against his chest, stroking his back as Gus clung to him in a desperate hug. Finally, the tears stopped and he sniffed as he leaned back on his elbows on the bed, embarrassed for his breakdown. "I hate living here."

"You won't be much longer."

"I know, but all my life, I've had to deal with Melanie telling me what a piece of shit my father is and how I'm just like him, and then listening to she and my mom argue about him. If not that, it was Debbie coming around Huey, spoiling him and cooing over him and bringing him shit while she treated me like a trespasser in my own home. I wish they just let me move in with Dad when I asked them to."

Ben sighed, remembering that family trauma. While Brian was willing, Lindsay was hysterical over the prospect of "losing" her son, and Melanie insisted Brian was the wrong influence for a young boy. Gus had withdrawn his request just to buy peace. Since that day, his misery had increased exponentially. "Did you tell Brian?"

Gus nodded.

"How did it go?"

"Just the way you'd imagine with my pop. He was supportive, but wants me to get going with it. He's so fucking type A about everything!"

Ben laughed. "That's why he can buy and sell all of us added together."

"I guess, but can't he separate that behavior from his private life?"

"Apparently not. Did you tell him you knew what he said to me?"

"Yes."

"Swell, he'll be gunning for me tomorrow."

"Sorry, Ben."

"Don't be. I expected you to tell him. I've handled Brian's ire before. No big deal."

Gus placed his glasses on the table beside his bed, and pulled off his t-shirt, revealing a torso that was smooth and firmly muscled. Ben had to think sweet thoughts to stop his natural reaction to that much young male sexuality within easy reach. Gus felt his gaze like a caress, and the impact of it tightened his jeans. Their eyes met and Ben smiled slightly. "No way, kid. I can't take advantage of your vulnerability after all you've been through today."

"But…do you want to, at least?" Gus asked softly and Ben sighed.

"Of course I want to, Gus. You're a beautiful young man."

"It's not because I remind you of Brian, is it? I know you two…"

Ben laughed. "That was so long ago, I've forgotten it. Sort of. And no, I'm not your Uncle Michael, lusting hopelessly after Brian Kinney. You're a very individual person to me, as we've gotten to know each other, Gus. I've watched you grow up and now you're a man, not a boy, and my feelings for you are more complex….confused."

Gus took heart in that remark. "But we're not related, not really. There's nothing standing between us."

"There are thirty years standing between us, Gus, and a hell of a lot of experience on my side, and innocence on yours."

"I don't want to be innocent anymore," Gus said, rubbing his palm across his chest, stiffening his small tan nipples, and down his flat belly, resting his fingers beneath the waistband of his jeans. "I'm of age. I know my own mind."

Ben felt an undeniable thrill at Gus's sudden sexual tease, and he was finding resistance difficult. Gus let the back of his hand pop open the buttons on his fly and when he withdrew his fingers, his cock came with them. It was large, like his father's, even when only semi-erect and the semi part of that erection was fast disappearing into a full blown hard on. Ben moaned and leaned over him, kissing his full, raspberry lips that yielded beneath his mouth, his tongue darting into Gus's mouth where it was met by the boy's eager caress. Gus pulled Ben on top of him, sliding his arms under his shirt to explore his hard as mahogany body, grinding his pelvis under Ben's crotch.

Ben moaned and took off his glasses, placing them beside Gus's on the bedside table. He pulled up the front of his shirt and moved his torso so he could feel Gus's erection against his bare skin. Abruptly, he pulled back, sitting back on his haunches as Gus reached for him. "We can't do this," Ben said, as much to himself as to Gus. Gus moaned and stroked his painfully throbbing cock, bringing up a steady ooze of pre-cum. Ben forced himself to look away from that enticing sight.

"Please…" Gus pleaded and Ben weakened.

"Not here, baby. Not with the house full of friends and family."

"Then let's go somewhere."

"But…okay, let's go to my place. We'll just say you want to get out for awhile."

"Ben, I can't go like this," Gus said in a hoarse whisper and Ben smiled and nodded. He remembered endless wood from his own youth. He moved Gus's hand and replaced it with his own. Gus clenched his buttocks and lurched up from the futon as Ben began to stroke him. His dark eyes closed as the most delicious warmth he had ever felt began to build in his groin, and he realized how much better someone else's hand felt on his dick. He was about to shoot when the bedroom door opened. Ben moved to cover Gus up with his discarded t-shirt, but what was happening was obvious to Huey who stood frozen in the threshold, staring.

"Get out!" Gus shouted at him and Huey slammed the door. Gus met Ben's stricken look, then reached for his hand and replaced it on his cock. "Please finish me off," he pleaded and Ben sighed and did so, the damage already done. Once Gus was back in control, and their clothing was straightened and the mess disposed of, they went back downstairs, prepared for any onslaught. But other than Huey's stony stare, they got no real response.

"Gus and I are going to go over to my place, to talk," Ben said uneasily. Lindsay smiled and nodded, relieved by Ben's pacifying effect on her complex son. Gus was carrying an athletic bag, obviously planning to stay the night. "I'll see that he gets to school on time."

"Do you think that's such a good idea?" Huey piped up, and they all looked at him in confusion. He never expressed any interest in anything Gus did. "No offense, Ben, but do you think a teacher should have a teenager staying over at his place?"

"I'm a professor, not a high school teacher, and Gus is not my student and not a minor, Huey," Ben pointedly reminded him of the facts. In Pennsylvania the age of consent was seventeen and Gus would be eighteen soon.

"Huey, what's wrong with you? Ben's a friend," Lindsay said as Debbie winced.

"Why would Ben have any interest in that scrawny brat?"

"I can hear you, Deb. Can we just leave, please?" Gus shot Huey a poisonous glare as they left the house.

Huey felt the others in the room stare at him when they were gone and he stood up, feeling suddenly uneasy. His brother, like practically everyone else in his family, was a fucking faggot! He always suspected it, and now he knew. What did that mean for him? Was it predestined? Was he next? "I'm going to bed," he said with a scowl, lumbering up the stairs as Emmett called,

"Send Joey down, we need to be leaving."

"Happy, happy birthday, baby…" the old song began to play on the sound system and the party was officially over.

Gus was always comfortable in Ben's flat. Their tastes in décor matched up, and Ben's intellectualism and love of books appealed to Gus's own interests. But tonight he felt awkward as he sat down tensely on the sofa, watching Ben mix up a couple smoothies in the blender. Except for some clumsy experimentation when he was in Boy Scouts on a camp out, no other person had ever touched his dick until Ben. The impact left him reeling.

Ben handed him a tall glass of blended fruit juices and other delights, and then sat beside him, sipping from his own glass and staring at the beautiful boy. "I have a second bedroom, Gus. You are more than welcome to use it and I promise you, I won't invade your privacy."

"Why would I want to do that?" Gus asked, directly, and Ben smiled and twisted a lock of the kid's hair around his index finger. He definitely had Brian's sense of coming straight to the point.

"Second thoughts, maybe?"

"Do you have second thoughts?"

"Sure I do, and third and fourth. Huey knows we were up to something, Gus. You know Huey. How long do you suppose he can keep this a secret?"

"I don't care. Dad said not to be ashamed."

"That's good advice, but I'm not some kid, Gus. I'm way too old for you. And it's complicated."

Gus put down his glass and leaned over to kiss Ben squarely on the mouth. The kiss held for an eternity, Gus's tongue probing, his hands roaming. "This isn't complicated, Ben," he whispered in his ear as he peeled off his shirt. "This is what I want." Ben moaned and smoothed his hands over Gus's hard torso, unable to resist.

Gus was naked, stretched out on Ben's bed as he watched the older man undress. His phenomenal body was undaunted by age. He was a massive man, and Gus had to stroke his cock as he watched, his passion was so intense. Once he was nude, Ben climbed onto the bed and kissed Gus while he draped himself over the boy and rubbed his cock against Gus's erection. Gus moaned and wrapped his legs over Ben, trapping him in his embrace.

"I'm going to make you cum," Ben whispered. "Then you can relax more and enjoy everything."

Gus nodded, looking down his belly as Ben trailed kisses down the center of his torso, not stopping at his pubes. Instead, he engulfed Gus's stiff cock in his mouth, his lips sliding down the pole until they touched the taut skin of his belly. Gus held his head there as if afraid he might stop. The pleasure was so intense he wanted it to last forever, but his body had other ideas. He was released in rolling waves of orgasmic joy that pumped what seemed to be an unending flow of cum down Ben's receptive throat. Only when he could breathe again did he realize he had masturbated Ben to completion while this was going on. Ben stretched out above him and kissed him on the mouth as they both waited for control to return. Finally, Ben whispered, "How far do you want to take this, baby?"

"What do you mean?"

"You want to try it all, or do you want time to adjust to what's already happened?"

"You mean…?"

Ben raised himself on his arms and smiled down at the flushed, beautiful face of the boy. "I mean do you want to fuck, Gus?"

Gus reached up, drifting his fingers across Ben's handsome, granite face. "I don't want to miss anything. But I'm scared, Ben."

"Don't be scared. The last thing I would do is hurt you. Just kiss me for awhile, we don't have to decide anything right now."

Gus welcomed him into his arms, agreeing to let the night unravel at its own pace.

For the first time in the memory of any teacher, administrator or student, Gus was late for school. As a senior, his grades were already in and he was just marking time with his classmates until their graduation. If he didn't burn down the school or sexually abuse the lab rats, there was very little he could do to get himself in serious trouble.

He seemed relaxed and oddly at peace with himself as he slumped into his desk and ignored the curious stares of the others. His mind was far away and nothing anyone said or did could destroy the giddy mood he was in that morning. Until he ran into Huey at lunch. Huey's usual manner was to ignore Gus completely if they happened to pass in the hall, their different grade levels ensuring they shared no classes. Huey was always surrounded by his gaggle of sparkly, noisy friends, while Gus was either alone or with one of his few buddies, whom Huey had christened ‘The Odd Squad'.

Because of this history, Gus was shocked when Huey walked up to the table where he and two friends were devouring lunch. They all stopped talking and stared up at Gus's diminutive younger brother, who had become such a social force at their school.

"You fucking queer," Huey said with unrestrained anger. Gus blinked, forcing a calm demeanor.

"Shut up, Huey."

"Don't tell me to shut up, faggot! Your daddy must be so proud!"

People were beginning to stare as Huey got louder, and Gus began to get angry. "I'm warning you, Huey, shut up!"

"Or what? You going to hit me with your purse? Slap me with a limp wrist?"

In a flash, Gus was around the table and on Huey. Someone yelled "FIGHT!" and the rumble was on.

The principal's small office was crowded with parents, two for each boy, as well as the two boys and the principal, a severe African-American woman who was named Dillon, but who was called Marshall Dillon behind her back for her strict disciplinary measures. Huey was holding an ice pack against his blackening eye while Gus appeared angry but unscathed.

"The usual response to a fight is suspension of all the participants," Mrs. Dillon explained. "But there are several factors to consider here. First, the boys are brothers, suggesting a home dynamic rather than a turf battle at school. Second, Gus has a flawless record, both academically and behaviorally, and is facing a brilliant future at Yale. It would be a shame to darken his potential this late in his high school career. Similarly, Hugh has been a positive force at this school, popular and with no record of troublemaking. So I've called you all together to see if there is some problem at home that caused this, and what can be done to see that there's no repeat for the short time Gus will be a student here."

"There won't be a repeat," Gus said firmly. "I'm sorry I did it. He's not worth ruining my future."

"You're not worth a black eye!" Huey shot back. "Homo!"

"He's just like his father," Melanie began her usual rant. "Remember when Brian slugged you at the party, Michael?"

"Sixteen years ago?" Brian interrupted. "Shut up, Mel."

"No, you shut up!"

"Both of you shut up," Lindsay said firmly. "Gus, why did you do it?"

"I'm not talking about it," Gus responded, crossing his arms over his chest.

"He just attacked me," Huey complained. "He came across the table and hit me before I had time to protect myself."

Gus smirked at him. "Like you could stop me."

"Oh, you want a re-match, pansy boy?"

"What is with the homophobic slurs?" Michael intervened. "That's twice now you've made a homophobic remark directed at your brother. What's going on?"

"Just DROP it," Gus pleaded, as the principal frowned.

"We do not allow slurs at this school, whether directed at race, gender or sexual orientation. Your father's right, Hugh. Twice you used derogatory terms to Gus. Is this what started the fight?"

Huey became uncharacteristically quiet.

"Why would you say such a thing, Huey?" Lindsay asked and he glared at her.

"Because he's a fag, Lindsay! Your baby boy is following in the family tradition of cocksucking, except in the case of you and my mother who prefer carpet munching to dick!"

The room erupted in protests and chatter until Brian brought them to silence by shouting, "Enough!"

Everyone looked at him and he went on. "Too many people are talking at once. Huey, what's your bitch with Gus?"

Huey, responding to an innate fear of Brian, calmed down several notches before he answered. "My bitch is I find out my brother is gay and I'm the only one in the entire family who isn't queer, other than my grandmother, and even she's a gay wannabee!"

"Hey!" Michael complained as Gus chuckled at that observation.

"How can you say such a thing about your brother, Huey?" Lindsay insisted and Gus sighed.

"Because it's true, Mom. I'm gay. He's right."

Lindsay stared at her son in shock. "Y-you don't know what you are, Gus. You're just a child." All the men, including Huey, groaned at her conclusion. Gus shook his head.

"I know what I am, Mom. I'm queer. I guess I've always been queer. But I tried to deny it to myself."

"I blame you for this, Kinney!" Melanie sniped and Brian shot her a look of pure malevolence.

"Of course you do. You've obviously forgotten you're queer too, and there's not a damned thing wrong with it!"

Lindsay began to cry and Gus sighed. "Why are you crying, Mom? Is it that big a disappointment for you?"

"I'm crying because I know how much harder your life will be, Gus. I'm not disappointed, I love you, no matter what, but I do worry. It's not easy to be gay in our society, not even now. I know that for a fact."

Brian put a comforting arm around her. "Even if it isn't easy, we all made the best of it, and so will Gus. He's a Kinney, we're made of strong stuff." He turned his gaze on Huey. "As for you, I don't give a shit how you feel about the gay agenda but you'll treat your brother with respect and you'll also respect his privacy or I'll kick your ass into next Tuesday!"

Michael snickered at his old friend's idle threat but Huey looked terrified and Melanie flared. "How dare you threaten my child!"

"How dare your child humiliate Gus in public!"

Gus stood up, holding out his palms in surrender. "Everyone get out! This is really between Huey and me. You guys are making me crazy! Leave us alone with Mrs. Dillon, please."

"Excellent suggestion," the principal agreed. The four adults reluctantly exited the room, remaining in their hostile camps. The silence that followed was deafening. Huey sat with his arms tightly crossed over his chest, his legs splayed and lips drawn into a thin, bloodless line. Gus leaned his back against the window sill, staring at him.

"Are you mad because I'm gay, or because I didn't tell you, or because it scares you?"

Huey let his dark eyes cut to his brother. "Yes."

"All of it?"

"Yes."

"Look Huey, I wasn't sure myself."

"Until when? Until Ben jerked you off? Sorry, Mrs. Dillon."

"No, you should discuss it. In fact, I'll step out and speak to your parents. You two can have some privacy. But if there's any more trouble, I'll suspend you both, Yale or no Yale."

They nodded, waiting for the door to close behind her before they spoke.

"I'm sorry you walked in on that, Huey," Gus said quietly.

"Not half as sorry as I am. Christ, Gus, he's an old man! And he was my father's lover! It's sick!"

"Ben hasn't been with your dad in years. And I don't care about his age. He's beautiful."

"Are you in love with him or something?"

Gus winced. "No, Huey! It was my first time. Ben was the first. I like him and I wanted him and he was gentle and made it nice for me."

"Yuck, too much information! When did you suddenly decide to be queer?"

"I think I've always been gay, I just ran from it. But look, Huey, it has nothing to do with you. Hell, we aren't even related, so heredity can't play a role."

"What about environment?"

"I think you'd know by now if you want dick, Huey. You're fine. I mean, its not as if it's a sickness, but whatever it is, you don't have it. You're straight."

"Gus, if you've never fucked a girl, how can you be sure you're straight?"

"Because I don't want to fuck a girl. Clue bus arriving. All my fantasies are about men."

"Are you sure you're not just trying to please your parents?"

"You saw how pleased my mom is, and my dad is so worried I'm becoming a hermit, he'd be happy if I told him I was into sheep."

Huey laughed. "That would explain the Woolite by your bed." The boys met eyes and then giggled at the joke, suddenly reverting to typical adolescent male behavior.

"Huey, I want you to do me a favor," Gus said. "I'm going away soon for the summer internship at Yale and then I'll start regular classes in the fall."

"You're leaving so soon?" Huey's expression reminded Gus of when they were small and Gus left for camp. Huey was too young to go, and he cried when Gus left. Not because he couldn't go along, but because he didn't want to be separated from his brother. Gus sighed, wondering when things went off-track between Huey and him. When did their close, fraternal relationship turn competitive and ugly?

"Yeah, I'll get advance credits."

"I thought you'd be home all summer."

"Does it really matter?"

"No, I…it'll just be strange at home without you."

"So here's the favor. I can't have a car on campus my first year. Rather than put it up on blocks, I want you to take care of the ‘stang for me. Wash it, fill it up, rotate the tires, change the oil. And don't put a ton of miles on my new engine."

Huey's eyes grew wide. "Seriously? I can drive the ‘stang?"

"After you get your license, of course."

"Think Uncle Brian will mind?"

"It's mine, not his. It was a gift to me. Why would he mind my entrusting it to my brother?"

Huey looked at Gus and smiled. "You know, our Dads aren't related by blood and were never lovers, and yet they've been close friends all these years. No one says we can't do the same."

"True. I'm sorry I slugged you, Huey."

"I'm sorry about what I said."

"I'd hug you but you'd probably mistake it for a pass."

"Ew," Huey said with a laugh. Gus feigned a shudder.

"I guess we'd better face the ‘rents. They're the ones in total panic right now."

"As usual," Huey complained.

"Drama queens," Gus quipped and they both laughed as they walked out of the office, their big smiles completely disarming the crowd of adults they encountered in the hallway.

In the days leading up to the Senior Prom, Brian took his son to his own hair cutter, who transformed Gus's shaggy locks into a flattering, chic look. He also bought him soft contact lenses and made him promise to wear them. Finally, Brian supervised the alteration of one of his own tuxes to fit Gus's lanky frame. On the evening of the prom, he waited downstairs at Melanie and Lindsay's house, joined by Michael and Justin as well as the women, including Debbie. The two boys were dressing while the adults sipped wine and reminisced about other days, other proms.

Huey came downstairs first. He looked older and spiffy in his rented tux and silver brocade vest and with matching bow tie. His hair was spiked with gel and his boutonniere was a silver tinged white rose. They all complemented him, and the picture taking began as soon as they could pry Debbie off of his body. Finally, Gus followed. He paused on the stairs as he noticed the reaction of his audience.

"My God, you look just like Brian when I first met him," Lindsay said as her eyes filled with maternal tears. Brian laughed.

"Don't worry, Gus. You look much better than that. In fact, you look beautiful," his father reassured him. He did look beautiful. His classic features emerged from hiding and his dark eyes were enormous and expressive without the glasses. The black tuxedo, shirt and silk suspenders emphasized his lean physique and his boutonniere was a soft coral rose, the color of his lips.

"Cinderfella," Huey teased as their mothers forced them to pose for even more pictures, some together, some with parents, some individual. Brian squeezed Justin's hand, recalling Justin's prom and the aftermath that brought them to where they were today. He had rented a limo for the boys, in case there was drinking, and it idled at the curb. He took Gus aside.

"Are you okay going alone to this thing?"

"I'm not going alone, Dad."

"What do you mean? You mean because you're tagging along with Huey and his date?"

"I'm not tagging. I have a date, too."

"Since when?"

"Since last week."

"You didn't tell me."

Gus beamed at him. "I know. On purpose. I'd never hear the end of it."

"Who is she?"

"She's not a she," he said as he met Brian's gaze squarely. "She's a he."

Brian looked confused. "Ben?"

Gus laughed. "What would Ben want with a bunch of eighteen-year olds?"

"Don't throw me a straight line like that and expect me to let it slide. So tell me. What's going on?"

"He's a guy I've known for years, at school. He's out, but I was always too shy to ask him for a date."

"So you just asked him to go to the prom, or what?"

"I didn't go down on one knee," Gus said with a smile. "Or even two."

Brian laughed and clapped his back. "The night's still young."

"Dad…"

"Sorry. I want a picture of the two of you together. No corsage?" he teased, and Gus held up an extra boutonnière that matched his own. Brian nodded, appreciating his attention to detail. "Promise me you'll dance."

"Of course we'll dance. Times have changed, Pop. We won't be the only gay couple there."

"And don't take any shit off of anyone."

"I never do."

Brian nodded, leaning over to kiss his son's cheek. "Happy, happy birthday, baby."

"It's not my birthday."

"It's the start of your life as an out and proud gay man. That's a birth of sorts."

"Are you ready?" Huey interrupted. "We still have two people to pick up, bro'."

"I'm ready." And he was.

The adults watched them leave together, feeling the same mix of fear, pride and sadness all parents experience when their children go through a ritual of impending adulthood.

"They look so grown up," Michael said with a sentimental sniff as his mother wept openly. "And we have no others."

Brian smirked at him. "Isn't that a line from the Birdcage? It's not too late for you, Mikey, but you'll have to turkey baste a new hen because Mel's eggs passed their expiration date long ago."

"Listen, Brian…" Melanie began, but Justin interrupted her by grabbing Brian's hand.

"Let's go to Babylon, Bri. I feel like dancing."

"And be snarked at by all the twinks?"

"Let them snark. Come on, it'll be fun. We'll get them to play ‘Save the Last Dance' for us."

Brian laughed and started following Justin out, still holding his hand. He stopped Justin at the door and looked over his shoulder at the others. "Are you coming?"

They exchanged looks and all except Debbie agreed, deciding they shared a desire to celebrate and to remember their youth beneath the mirrored lights of Babylon.

The 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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July 25, 2004