Chapter Summary/Teaser: Brian, Justin and Melanie confront Lindsay. Michael is concerned for his daughter and convinced that Lindsay, Mel and Brian's custody battle is his problem. Justin reassures Brian and the legal process is started.
This is the first half of chapter 19. It was 15 word doc pages long. I know I've been sticking to one or two POVs per section, but so many people are together in this one that the POVs might jump around a bit. Sorry.
Emmett flopped down in the booth beside Ted, leaning most of his weight on the other man.
"Whew! Well, all the planning and scheduling and buying is done, now all that's left is the actual wedding!"
"Con…gratulations?" Ted said slowly.
"Thanks, Teddy!" Ted nodded, waiting until Emmett finished giving Kiki his order.
"Do you think the lawyer will grant Brian rights to Gus?" he asked, taking a bite of his sandwich.
"I really hope so." Emmett's voice turned sympathetic. "Brian deserves to be part of his son's life. He's really not as bad as some people say he is. I know he cares about all of us. And you know, he really, really does love Gus."
"I know. He wouldn't have let Melanie and Lindsay walk all over him like he did if he didn't love him." Emmett nodded gravely.
"You know, I think I'll offer to put in my two cents about him with the custody lawyer. That is, if he needs it."
"That sounds like a good idea, Em."
"Yeah?" Brian asked the intercom.
"It's Melanie. I don't know your code."
"Come on up." He buzzed her in. Justin raised a brow but continued to work on his charcoal drawing. Brian sat back down at his computer and saved the files he had been working on. They both looked up again when the door rumbled open.
"Hey, Mel." Justin put down his charcoal stick and went to give her a hug. She embraced him, nodding a hello to Brian, who nodded back. She sat with Justin on the couch.
"Where's Jenny Rebecca?"
"Emmett's got her. She's probably all decked out in makeup and glitter right now, but she loves her Auntie Em." She smiled for a moment, then turned serious. "So, how are we going to do this?"
Brian raised a brow from his seat behind the desk. "Deal with your unfortunate choice for a wife?"
"You're one to talk, asshole." But there was no malice in it; the pair were no longer truly at odds.
Justin brought them back on topic. "Since I'm the only one who this won't affect legally, I was thinking I should do it. Or at least, I should be the one who does the talking, because that wont affect custody issues with either of you." Melanie nodded.
"The sooner we do this, the better. The more time Lindsay has to plan what she's going to say or do, the more likely it'll be that she'll do something drastic."
"Don't law firms usually keep copies of these papers?"
"Yeah, and I looked. I think the copies may have been lost in their transference to Canada. So the one I know for certain that we have is the one that Lindsay's got."
"So we go today?"
"We go today."
"What are we going to do?" Justin asked, watching Brian as he shuffled around the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of Beam and pouring each of them a glass.
"Well, she's hidden the papers somewhere, I think. Thanks," she took the proffered glass. "We need to get her to give them to us, and I really don't want to have to fight. I'm tired of yelling."
Brian sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "This is fucking ridiculous. I just want my son to have something fucking better than—than what I had."
Melanie watched as Justin got up from the couch and leaned up to Brian, pressing their foreheads together. She could see his fingers tangled in the hair at the back of Brian's neck, stroking soothingly. He whispered something that she could not understand. Brian nodded and smiled a little as Justin kissed the side of his mouth. Melanie looked away, feeling suddenly like she'd just witnessed a moment much too private for her eyes.
When Justin sat back down, Brian looked considerably more normal. He drummed his fingers on the desk. "Why don't we just go in without a plan, and be ready for anything. That's the best plan anyone can have."
"You're right, I guess." Melanie lifted one shoulder towards her ear. "With Lindsay, nothing is ever certain."
Two hours later after discussing what Brian could and could not do or say, they squeezed into the Corvette and drove toward what used to be Melanie and Lindsay's house.
"Mel…" Justin's voice was cautious. "Who's going to get the house?"
Again, Melanie shrugged. "I don't know, Sweetie. We're just going to have to figure it all out."
They were silent the rest of the drive. Melanie was the first one out of the car when they pulled into the driveway. Justin got out and joined her, looking up at the house where he had, not long ago, scolded off Lindsay for other indiscretions. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Brian get out of the car and subtly square his shoulders, pulling his lips into his mouth and then exhaling as if readying for a battle. Together they stepped up to the porch, waiting with bated breath as Melanie unlocked the door.
"Lindsay said that Melanie took JR. Just left, like that, with our daughter!" Michael was pacing back and forth in his bedroom. Ben sat on the bed, propped against the headboard with a reluctantly abandoned book by his side.
Ben realized that he'd been doing that a lot lately, watching Michael pace as he queened out about something or another. He sighed. "JR's her daughter, Michael. She's allowed to take her with her someplace."
Michael didn't understand his husband's patient understanding of the situation. It was all so fucked up. Brian was trying to get custody of his son for some ridiculous reason, Melanie and Lindsay were splitting up, and Melanie was running around Pittsburgh with his kid. He didn't know which thing to deal with first.
"Michael, maybe you should just stay out of this one. I don't know, let the three of them work it out. It doesn't concern you as much as the rest of them."
"Bullshit, it doesn't concern me! That's my daughter they're risking. It certainly does concern me."
Ben sighed. He had no idea how to get through to his husband. Sometimes Michael was just ridiculous and Ben's logical and peaceful mind had no idea how to decipher the way the other man was thinking. "JR's not in any risk, Michael. Melanie loves her daughter, and I'm pretty sure Brian and Justin will make sure she's got the right place to stay and the right things she needs."
Michael blew an angry puff of air out through his nose. It always seemed to come back to Brian and Justin.
For a moment, it was quiet, and the three of them stood in the foyer, looking around at the parts of the house that still looked new and just barely unpacked. Then Lindsay came stomping in from the back of the house.
"What the hell do you want now, Melanie? I told you—" She stopped when she reached the entryway, shocked for a moment at seeing Justin and Brian there with her as well. Then she recovered quickly, her face smoothing over into the WASPish mask of politeness that Justin knew all too well from growing up. "Hello, Brian, Justin. What a surprise to see you here."
"Is Gus here?" Justin inquired, as Brian simultaneously demanded, "Where's my son?"
"He's in the backyard, playing with his action figures." She answered. "Why?"
"Good." Justin stepped forward. Now it was his turn, and he wasn't going to let Brian down. He knew how to play her game, he had grown up with people like her, people with the instinct of subtle manipulation and imperious disdain hidden behind polite remarks. "We need to talk."
Now Melanie stepped forward. "I need the folder with the papers for my custody of Gus. I don't care where you hid them, you need to give them back."
"Mel, what are you talking about?" Her voice and face were deceptively impassive. She turned to Justin. "I don't know what she told you, but I don't have any papers, or any folder."
Brian took a step forward, but Justin's hand on his arm kept him behind them both. Melanie realized, even through her anger at Lindsay, that the pair always seemed to protect each other, each shielding the other from whatever might cause them pain.
"Lindsay…" Melanie warned.
"I don't have anything."
Justin held his hand out, palm up. "Give it to her." He bit each word off, one by one. Lindsay's gaze lifted to his, but she quickly glanced down; there was a fiery anger in the blue orbs that she was not used to seeing, and it frightened her. She could see in the flash of his eyes what he was probably capable of doing, especially now, when it had to do with the happiness of his partner.
"I—" Three pairs of eyes glared accusingly at her, and her shoulders dropped, defeated. She turned and walked to the back of the house, and came back with a legal sized folder. She placed it in Justin's outstretched hand, and he gave it to Melanie. The lawyer scrutinized it for a moment, then nodded. All the documents were there.
Lindsay blew out an angry breath. With her hands on her hips, she turned to Brian. "Do you really think you'll be a good fucking father? After the way you grew up? After the way you passed him off to Justin when he was an infant? After you never came to see him when we were living here, just an 'uncredited cameo appearance'? After the fact that you rarely ever came up to see him when we were living up North? All you ever do is throw money at the situation. I don't see how you could possibly be able to handle a child."
Brian stared at her, shocked. He had no reply. Justin could see the hurt in his lover's eyes; that blow had struck perfectly. Melanie glared, but did not react.
"Expect a call from both my and Brian's lawyers in the next few days," Melanie advised her ex. Brian tried not to acknowledge or react to the blonde woman standing there, instead he wrapped an arm around Justin's shoulders and they trouped out of the house.
Brian sighed as he stripped off his suit. He hadn't been able to concentrate on work at Kinnetic, because his mind kept slipping to what Lindsay had said to him. As Justin rubbed the tension out of his shoulders, he turned to him on the bed.
"Maybe Lindsay is right. Maybe I'll be a shitty father. I mean, what kind of example did I have?"
"Brian. You are not your father, you are never going to be your father."
"How do you know?"
"Because. Okay, let me ask you something. If Gus did something wrong, broke something of yours or stole something or whatever, what would you do?"
"I'd tell him that he fucked up. I'd make him fix whatever it was that he did. I'd tell him to learn from it."
"Would you hit him?"
"What? Hell no. I know what that's like. It doesn't fucking work. And it makes everything worse."
"See? That's how I know you're not your father. And you're so fucking kind and selfless."
Brian barked out a laugh. "What planet are you living on, Sunshine?"
"I'm serious, Brian. You help everyone. You saved my life, you helped me get my art back—"
"That's because I actually like you."
"You sacrificed your friendship with Michael to make him go with David."
"Yeah. Look how that turned out."
"You gave Lindsay and Melanie money whenever they needed it. You signed over your rights to Gus because it would get Mel and Linds back together." Brian was about to interrupt again, but Justin held up a hand. "You didn't tell your mother about Reverend Buttfuck. You paid for my tuition. You gave up all your money, your fucking job, to bring down Stockwell. You told me I was an ass for joining the Pink Posse, but you let me make my own mistakes even though I know you worried about me every night. You surprised Michael and Ben with a fucking party in the middle of nowhere after their wedding—yes, he told me about that. You let Mel and Linds walk all over you, just because you thought it would be beneficial for Gus. You bought that guy a fucking lawyer and encouraged him to prosecute his bashers, without a second thought." He put a hand to Brian's face. "You let me go. Multiple times, even though I know it hurt you. You are the most generous person I've ever met in my life, and I fucking love you for it."
He pulled Brian's face close and kissed him softly, lapping at his mouth. He felt Brian's body relax, felt at least some of the tension seep out. He nipped at Brian's lips, wrapping his arms around his lover's body. Brian got the message, sliding his fingers under Justin's shirt to tug it off. Justin's hand's roamed across his back as they kicked off their pants.
Brian kissed Justin, wanting to bury himself in the heat of the other man's mouth. His fingers found their way to blonde hair, and he fisted the strands, tugging lightly as he devoured Justin. The blonde's hands caressed his neck, squeezing gently. Brian slowed just a little, pulled back. He nuzzled the side of Justin's face, huffing softly against the pearly skin. Then they were falling back on the bed, and Brian was pulling Justin to his knees, running his tongue down his lover's spine.
"Brian…" Justin murmured.
Brian slid a hand up Justin's side, then reached over to the dresser for a condom and lube. He slicked himself and Justin up and pushed inside, grunting softly as Justin pushed back against him.
His first strokes were slow; he was fixating on how smooth the skin of Justin's back looked in the blue light. But then Justin's hand was reaching back, pressing on his thigh, fingernails digging in, and Brian's thrusts grew faster, pressing relentlessly against Justin's prostate, making him moan deep in his chest. Brian could feel his groans through his cock, vibrating up his body and making his head swim.
Sliding his fingers into Justin's hair, he gripped the strands and yanked Justin's head back, leaning down to attack his lover's neck with lips and teeth and tongue. He nibbled on Justin's ear, groaning as Justin gasped and clenched around him.
Justin turned his head, capturing Brian's lips with his own in a bruising kiss. Brian slid down, his hands roaming from Justin's shoulders down his arms to twine their fingers together as they came, gasping against each other. They flopped down onto the bed, spent, and Brian kissed Justin's neck gently as the blond reached behind and stroked the back of his neck with soothing, massaging fingers.
"Sunshine…" Brian's eyes were soft, his mouth open just a little.
Justin nodded, smiling a little. "I know." He kissed the corner of Brian's mouth, then snuggled up against him as Brian's arms wrapped around his body. "G'night, Bri."
"Night, Sunshine." Brian sighed, closing his eyes and letting Lindsay's words leave his brain as he felt Justin's body press against his in slumber.
"Bri." Justin shook his lover's shoulder. Brian groaned and buried his face further beneath the pillow. "Brian. Wake up. We need to go to lawyer's office in a few hours."
The pillow spat out Brian's head, mussing his hair up into an even more impressive bird's nest. "Fuck. Alright, okay, I'm up."
Justin started up the shower, listening to his lover's morning bitching and moaning with a slight smile. He knew Brian was nervous as hell about meeting with the lawyer, and wanted more than anything to give Gus a good life. He began to tug off his sweatpants just as Brian joined him in the bathroom. They stepped together into the shower.
Justin soaped Brian's back, rubbing his shoulders gently; he could feel the tension already present in the man's muscles. "It's gonna work out, Brian. I promise, it will." Brian nodded, but didn't look like he quite believed it. Justin pressed gently on one of Brian's shoulders until he turned around, then he slid down his lover's body and wrapped his lips around Brian's cock, determined to calm his lover down, if only for a bit.
One blowjob and shower-doused makeout session later, they emerged from the shower and dressed. Justin scarfed down his breakfast while Brian spent twenty minutes perfecting his "I rolled out of bed looking this beautiful" hair.
They parked outside of the building, both tense with nerves. Before they stepped inside, Brian took a deep breath and let it out with a whoosh of air, squared his shoulders, rubbing his mouth with his hand. Justin leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek. Giving him a wan smile, Brian opened the door and the two of them entered the building.
They were unsurprised to find that Melanie had beaten them there, and that both her lawyer and Brian's were present. Brian's lawyer shook Justin's hand.
Justin smiled politely. "Justin Taylor. I'm Brian's…." He paused, still uncertain as to what to call himself. "Partner." The man nodded.
Melanie's lawyer also shook his and Brian's hands. "Bradley Standford."
They sat down. Holstead nodded at Brian and then turned to Melanie, spread his hands out on the table. "So, you want to give Brian your custody of your son, Gus?"
"Yes," Melanie folded her hands in her lap and nodded, expression stoic. "My…ex-partner, Lindsay Peterson, and I moved up to Canada just under four years ago. We….had a rough time there, and we fought quite a bit. Our two children, my daughter Jenny Rebecca and Brian and Lindsay's son Gus, were caught in the middle. At the time, we were thinking more about ourselves and our own problems rather than the welfare and happiness of our children. At present, I believe that I have the ability and means to look after Jenny Rebecca's best interests and to care for her well being. I am also of the opinion that Brian should have a say in his own son's life, and I think it would be best for both Brian and Gus for Brian to have custody and a constructive role in Gus's life."
The lawyers nodded. Holstead looked now at Brian. "Do you have proof, whether oral or in writing, that you are fit, prepared and qualified to care for and support your biological son?"
Brian nodded, but looked nervous, although no one would know it except Justin, who put a hand gently on his lover's left arm. "I do. I make extremely good money and I own my own advertising business. I see my son as often as Lindsay and Melanie have allowed, and he calls me 'Daddy.' I am aware of his medical records, of when he's been sick and of how to treat him. My relationship with Justin is…relatively stable. And Justin loves Gus like his own; he's been around since the day Gus was born."
Justin nodded. This seemed to be his cue for his own input. "Brian loves his son. He gave up his custody originally because he thought it would be better for Gus. I've seen him with Gus. He's everything a father should be. He's helping Gus with preschool, he babysat him, he took care of him. He did everything a custodial father would do."
"Mr. Holstead," Melanie included. "Mr. Kinney has also paid a great deal of money for the care of Gus, ever since his son was first born." She gestured to Brian, who handed her the papers of financial records that had been tucked away in his jacket. She slid them across the table to the lawyers. "Though he has no legal obligations, Brian has always given us financial help if it concerns his son. In the past, I fear we may have abused this privilege, but I do not think that will occur again. He put Gus's needs before his while we were living in Toronto. Even with his…past…I feel he would be an extremely capable father."
Brian cleared his throat, blinking. He looked down, his right hand reaching over to fidget with Justin's fingers on his other arm. "I was raised in a verbally and physically abusive household. My…my father used to drink excessively and come home and…beat the sh—beat me…quite often, until I was about seventeen. My mother did nothing. She and my father would tell me I was worthless and selfish and a f—and…other things. My father was also abusive to her and my older sister, but…I—bore the brunt of his anger."
Taking a breath, he squeezed Justin's hand gently as if to steady himself, then he raised his head and looked straight into Holstead's eyes. "I do not want to be the kind of person my father was. I want my son to have the happy, normal childhood I did not. I want my son to be able to experience and have the things that I did not. A son should not fear his father. Because of the way I grew up, I do not practice violence. I refuse to put any person, any child through those conditions."
Holstead scrutinized him for a moment, then nodded. "I believe you are telling the truth, Mr. Kinney." He looked at Melanie. "And you are sure you want to give up custody of Gus Peterson to his biological father?"
"I plan to give her full visitation rights, Mr. Holstead. I trust Ms. Marcus, and I believe she loves Gus as a mother." Melanie looked surprised, but Holstead nodded.
"That will be taken into account. The papers will be drawn up very soon. Thank you."
The group stood. Brian and Justin shook the hands of the two lawyers. Melanie shook Holstead's hand, but waved off the pair who looked at her expectantly. They left together, Brian's arm around Justin's shoulders, but not before Justin caught the words 'Jenny Rebecca,' 'three parent adoption,' and 'custody' before the door closed behind them.