Disclaimer: QaF is the property of Cowlip Entertainment and no copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: To my amazing beta, Sydney, who braved Katrina then Rita to help me continue this story. Thanks Sydney, couldnít do it without you!
Brian dropped his bags on the bed and headed straight for the shower. Every time he left Justin to return Ďhereí he felt dirty. Brian wasnít sure if it was because he had lied to Justin or just this place and what it represented, a prison. Stuck, snared, like he was struggling to escape an endless pit. Thatís how he felt coming back here. That trapped feeling just got worse the longer in stayed in Pittsburgh, but his son was here and that was enough of a draw to keep him coming back.
Brian stepped from the shower. Barely brushing the towel over his body, he went through the bedroom to the kitchen, his nude skin still damp. Grabbing a bottle of water, he went to his desk. Hitting the play button on his machine, he mentally discarded the calls he would ignore and stored the ones he wanted to bother with returning. As he listened to Mikeyís voice drone on about some contest or something at Babylon that Brian just couldnít miss, his eyes traveled to the small cabinet hidden in a corner of the loft behind his desk. Mikeyís voice continued to whine through the phone as Brian opened the cabinetís doors.
Brian might not carry around pictures of his son and pull them out like some breeder for everyone to admire, but here in front of him was the proof that he did love his son.
No one else had ever seen the inside of the cabinet. Glass shelves filled with photos of Gus from birth through the first four years of his life-- a mirror reminder that he was Brianís flesh and blood.
Brian wasnít in any of them.
Brian finished his water and closed the cabinetís doors. Leaving the empty bottle on the kitchen counter, he moved back to the bedroom and pulled on a pair of jeans before lifting his bags onto the bed. Rummaging through one, he pulled a package from it and went over to kneel next to a bright red toy box. Lifting the lid, he added the new toy to the box, were it joined the many others, still in their packages.
Lindsay said he spoiled Gus, giving him too many toys. With every visit he made, he brought along a gift for the boy. Hell, Brian figured Gus was too young to see the checks he sent; this was the only way he knew how to show Gus that he cared. Besides, he could remember as a boy the envy he felt sitting in the class room listening to other kidís go on about what they had gotten for their birthdays or for Christmas. Brian didnít ever want his son to do without, not if he could help it. Mel would just roll her eyes when he showed up with another toy, or bitch and mumble something about adding another room just for Gusí things. Brian knew it actually shocked the shit out of her, but also secretly pleased Mel that Brian always made sure Gus had whatever he wanted or needed.
Brian rested his hands atop the bright box. He had originally thought that the toy box would be perfect for Gus when he stayed with Brian at the loft, but, despite Lindsayís offers for him to keep the boy, Brian had not been able to work up the courage. Not that he would ever admit that to another soul, but being alone with his small son scared Brian to death. He didnít know shit about kids or how to care for them. What did he really have to offer Gus other than his money? Not like he had a shining example of a childhood to go by, hell that was all the more reason to stay away from the boy! One of Brianís worst and deepest fears was that he would say or do something to hurt Gus, and Brian would rip his own heart out before he allowed that to happen.
Being with Justin had taught him that he could love and care for another person besides himself, but look at how he had accomplished that - by recreating Brian Kinney. No way would Justin love him if he knew the real Brian, not if he saw him here, saw how much of an absent father he really was... Thatís what kept Brian fighting to separate his lives; he didnít think he could handle Justinís look of love and respect turning into one of disappointment and hurt.
Brian finally rose and went about the loft, shutting off the lights and setting the alarm. He was tired; the commuting back and forth and maintaining a double life was starting to wear him.
He had two calls he had to make and then he could go to bed. First to his blond to say goodnight and let him know he arrived safely. It still gave him a thrill and a slight flush of embarrassment when Justin insisted he call so he would know Brian was safe. Besides his pseudo-family, Brian had no experience with such caring, but he liked it.
The second call was to Lindsay, and Ďyesí he was told. He could come over tomorrow to spend the day with Gus. Just like every other time he called, Lindsay said yes.
Surprisingly, Brian slept well that night, thanks no doubt to his lovers erotic goodnight and the promise of seeing Gus.
Brian looked back at the toy box, shaking his head he returned to it and picked up the toy he had decided to take with him. This was the third time he had returned it to the box only to go back and pick it up again, unable to make up his mind. He couldnít go over there empty handed, he thought, and with toy in hand he locked and set the alarm, not planning on returning to the loft any time soon. Brian was hoping to take Gus shopping; he just had to work up an approach to present to the Munchers. The idea of private mommy time always seemed to work; he just had to make sure it seemed like a favor he was doing them, thatís all. It especially wouldnít do for Mel to get the idea that Brian might actually enjoy the father/son excursion.
Plan firmly in place, Brian rang the bell and waited for someone to open the door. It was the sound of the childís shouted ĎI get ití that had a large, genuine smile spreading across Brianís face. That was the sight that greeted Lindsay and Gus as they opened the door. Gusí loud ĎDa!í did nothing to diminish that smile, and Brian gratefully accepted the boy when placed in his arms. Brian hugged Gus tightly, breathing deeply, he committed to memory that wonderful, all too soon lost, little boy smell. That the little boy was happy to see him still shocked Brian, but he soaked up that acceptance.
ďHey Linds,Ē he said, carrying Gus inside and brushing his lips against Lindsayís cheek in passing.
ďBri,Ē Lindsay said, smiling, moving behind the pair and watching as Brian immediately joined his son in playing on the floor.
She loved seeing Brian and Gus like this -- happy to be in each otherís company. She knew no one else would believe this was Brian Kinney. The easy, open expression on his face would never be believed. That Mel didnít see it, that Brian didnít let anyone else see it, frustrated Lindsay, but then their relationship had never been easy or congenial. She felt a flash of guilt at the brief, thankful, thought that Mel was out, but the visit would be much less continuous now.
When it was just the three of them, Lindsay could just tell something in Brianís life had changed. Any other time, the mask was firmly back in place, but around Gus, Brian let down his guard. It was as if he couldnít hide from his son, or that he didnít want to.
Lindsay had begun to wonder about Brianís trips. He would be gone all week, returning only the weekends, then that time was spent with Gus. Lindsay had also heard that Brian had been absent from the local club scene, and that the gossip had been fierce when the stud of Liberty Avenue evidentially stopped tricking. The only thing that preserved his stud status and kept Michael from having him committed was that Brian told tales of his out of town action that seemed to satisfy his best friend.
During all this, Lindsay just shook her head. She knew when Brian was bullshitting them, and his stories of all the wild nights and numerous conquest rang hollow to her. Instead, to her, Brian seemed settled somehow. She couldnít put her finger on it, but he seemed almost at peace. Lindsay was just shocked that no one else in their little family had noticed the changes. But then they had always been blind when it came to Brian. Hell, they even doubted Brian had real feelings. Lindsay, however, got to watch scenes like this one; Brian on the floor, allowing his small son to climb all over him as he growled and had the little boy screaming and laughing with glee.
Whatever it was in Brianís life that he didnít feel like sharing, Lindsay hoped he kept it hidden. If Brian was finally happy, finally had allowed himself to be happy, then Lindsay didnít care at all if Brian needed to keep his secrets.
To be continued...