Building Memories

Seanmegansean

Christmas/New Year’s 2006
Rating: R


***************

December 22

Justin is looking down on the crowded streets beneath him, watching the people rush up and down the pavement, bags in their hands and grim expressions on their faces. The shop displays and entrance areas are decorated with their usual cheerful pines and holly, red bows and ribbons, even fake snow.

Justin’s not sure if it’s Brian’s constant reminder of how Christmas has turned into advertising heaven that has finally done it, or if it’s something in himself that’s changed, but this year everything just seems overly bright and loud instead of festive. He remembers the time when being a part of those hectic masses filled him with joy, but now it’s just a pain to have to go out there again. Even if it’s just to get to the car, parked one block down, next to the supermarket.

It’s the first time really Justin isn’t too thrilled about the holidays. The year before, not too long after his move to the Big Apple, he had been looking forward to it. Not so much because of the emotional or religious impact of the holiday, but because it had meant going back home. It had meant being home without having to make up an excuse Brian would accept – without having to ward off one or two of his twisted defense mechanisms.

Lately, it’s felt as if everybody had been trying to get a piece of him. And he’s fucking tired of it all. The phone calls from his mom about finally picking up the boxes she took with her when she moved into her new place, or the ignorant buyers trying to convince him what he really meant when he painted something. He’s annoyed about last minute changes to how he wants his work arranged – in a gallery, which is far less renowned than the owner seems to imagine – or the seemingly endless calls from journalists who can do nothing about putting him on the map since they themselves never appeared on it. He really needs to change his agent. Again. He should have known having somebody named Max Bland represent him couldn’t come to any good.

Justin remembers making that decision eight months ago, the big name agency winning out over the smaller one. A lot of good that did him. He should have listened to his gut feeling back then instead of the figures. Or to Brian, who had told him how sales figures and profit graphs like that were quite likely made up anyway.

Well, Justin thinks, while spying a small girl in a bright red coat, standing here and regretting past decisions isn’t going to change anything. The way the girl is bouncing with each step reminds him of Molly, who hardly ever walked when bouncing worked just as well – something that often drove their mom crazy – and he follows it with his eyes until she disappears into the crowd further down the road.

No time for idle staring though. Justin turns around and goes back to stuffing his things into his backpack, checking the lids of his paints, switching off the computer, and then grabs his cell. He hardly ever calls in advance but this time he just feels like it.

Brian picks up on the third ring.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Have you guys eaten yet or would you like me to bring something? How about pizza?”

“There it is.” Brian sounds amused. “And here I was wondering when I’d get the first call about food today.”

Justin snorts into the phone, feeling better already, trying to tell what Brian is doing just by the sounds he’s making. He’s pretty good at that. Well, he used to be when he was still living in New York – the sounds of Brian stroking himself over the phone are pretty distinguishable.

“I’ve already had Gus call and ask if I would allow his friend Bob to build a cave under the staircase.” Sounds perfectly logical to Justin. “You know his friend Bob?”

“Bob the Builder?”

“Bob the fucking Builder.”

Justin can’t help but grin. “Lindsay warned you about him.”

“I know. I just wouldn’t have thought his infatuation with the guy would warrant a phone call to work. Seems I was wrong.”

“Just be glad it’s not that remote-controlled helicopter you showed me the ad for the other day. That would do so much more damage than a crush on a helpful little TV tool guy.”

“If only it was a crush, I’m starting to feel he’s going to become a carpenter when he grows up. Shouldn’t he be too old for this kind of thing by now?”

“For crushes? You mean too young.”

“Fuck you. You know what I mean. The stupid building guy.”

Yes, Mel said Gus was pretty much the only boy in his class still playing with him, but Justin thinks that it’s hardly their place to tell Gus what he is supposed to like. Or anyone’s place, really.

“As long as he doesn’t end up working at a gas station.”

“Has Mel been reminding you of your bad taste in names again?” Brian asks, sounding smug. “Somebody’s scared it seems.”

Justin snorts. “Like you aren’t.”

“I’m not scared of anything. And certainly not of Mel.”

“Sure. You just keep telling yourself that.”

More paper rustling. “Was there anything you needed me for? I’m trying to work here.”

“How about Gus asking you ‘Can we fix it?’ about seventeen times between dinner and bedtime? You’re really not scared of that?” Because Justin is.

Before Brian can answer that, there’s the sound of a knock at the door. “Hang on.”

Justin listens to Brian give seemingly short-tempered instructions to whoever entered his office. He can just imagine the look on Brian’s face when he does it. Brian in charge is still one of the hottest things he has ever seen.

Justin takes one last look around the place that serves him as studio and small office space. So he’s going to be stuck here tomorrow again, all day long. He honestly can’t remember any of the holidays being busy like this, but it probably can’t be helped.

He switches off the light and locks the door behind him.

Fortunately, these days, going home doesn’t take as long as it used to.

***

Justin arrives at the house with two grocery bags instead of take-out. Brian probably has a point when he wants Gus to eat something real instead of the ready-made “happy meal”, coming in a box. Or he is scared of Mel in more ways than he imagined, Justin grins to himself.

Linds has been the one doing the cooking during their stay – a fact which Brian claims has nothing to do with him not wanting to step into his kitchen, but rather Gus being picky about food. Justin usually gets a kick out of watching Brian deal with Mel when she reminds him of his own eating habits. In fact, the conversations during dinner which are not centered on Gus and JR playing with their food are spent watching Brian and Mel try to find a child-friendly footing for their verbal tugs of war. Not only amusing for Lindsay and himself, but also non-conventional enough in Brian’s eyes to spare Justin the comments on Stepford families later, or God forbid, happy hetero life.

Justin is glad to be home. An icy rain had started to fall as soon as he had left the parking lot and it took him a little longer than usual to get here. Stepping out of his shoes in the hall, he starts to feel a little better. If Mel and Linds were there right now, he’d probably shout out “Honey, I’m home,” just to see who’d show up first, a grinning Mel or a glaring Brian, flipping him off.

But Mel and Linds are out for the evening, spending it with old friends in the city. It’s good to know that they could always crash at Debbie’s or Michael’s if the weather gets worse.

The area under the staircase doesn’t look as if Bob had done any work yet, so Justin makes his way to the kitchen to drop off his bags. There are half-empty take-out boxes from the Indian place down the street, and a pizza carton with a sticky note on it, saying ‘Upstairs’.

Justin wants to be irritated that he spent an extra half an hour buying groceries when Brian was going to bring take-out anyway, even after telling him on the phone he wouldn’t, but then even cold pizza sounds better than having to cook himself, so he doesn’t bother. He grabs a slice, and puts away the things he bought while munching on it. When everything is more or less where it’s supposed to be he grabs another slice of pizza, decides to take the whole carton after another bite (just in case), and goes upstairs after taking a soda out of the fridge. No drinking beer in front of Gus.

As soon as he’s on the top stair, he can hear something in Gus’ room, two doors down the corridor. Gus is giggling and squealing, and Justin can make out more and more of Brian doing his Sauron-meets-Darth-Vader-bit, the closer he gets to the open door. The words themselves don’t even have to make sense but the dark voice itself has yet to fail to work on Gus.

Justin quietly chews on a third piece of pizza, hiding a little behind the door when he leans on the right door jamb and watches Gus sit on Brian’s lap, laughing at whatever it is Brian is whispering into his ear now. Brian has his back to Justin, and Gus’ attention is fully on his dad, so Justin remains unnoticed. Gus looks so happy. Even trying to squirm away from Brian when he starts tickling him, he is clearly having a ball. It is good to see him like this. Sometimes during the last year when he talked to Lindsay on the phone she had been worried Gus wasn’t dealing with the move too well. But things are okay now, and everybody seems to be doing just fine.

Justin keeps watching. Brian has turned a little on the bed and Justin can see his face. Brian’s wearing the look Justin thinks of when somebody, even Brian himself, doubts his feelings for his son. Adoration, and quiet contentment. And maybe the tiniest bit of awe that all this, he, is still real. Justin is certain Brian would guard that expression if he was feeling watched. Too bad for him he doesn’t give a shit about privacy right now, Justin thinks, taking a sip from his soda. Then he puts it down on the floor and leaves the pizza box right next to it.

Justin pushes the door open all the way. Gus is grinning at him, “Justin!”

“Hey, Gus.”

“Look, daddy, he’s here!”

Brian turns around a little, holding Gus’s hands to keep them from poking him. “Yeah, I can see that, Sonny-boy.”

Justin watches Brian’s face and takes in the raised eyebrow.

“You look like sh… you’ve looked better.”

Justin sticks his tongue out at him, not caring if Gus sees it or not, Brian almost said shit, that trumps tongue. “Thank you.”

“Anything happen at work?”

“No.”

“On the way over here? Something with the car?”

“No.”

“If something is broken, we can fix it,” Gus pipes up helpfully, and Justin allows himself to laugh whole-heartedly when he sees Brian roll his eyes behind Gus’ back.

“I’m sure you can, Gus, thank you,” he says, still chuckling. Ignoring Brian’s glare, he leaves his place at the door and sits down at the other end of the bed, putting a safe distance between Brian’s fingers and himself.

Gus is completely unaware of his father’s mood and starts talking about his day with his mommies, while Justin tucks one of his legs under himself and grins at Brian. He figures Brian keeping his son from falling off his lap is as safe to silently mock him as it’ll ever get.

“We ate Indianese!”

“That sounds wonderful, Gus,” Justin assures him, effectively drowning out Brian’s “It’s called Indian.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yes!”

“Not too spicy for you?”

“No!”

“He had rice and extra mild veggies,” Brian says, letting Gus clamber out of his lap.

Justin holds his hands up in defeat, “I didn’t say anything.”

“Right. You just asked if I tried to kill my son by force-feeding him hot Indian curry.”

“You should have your hearing checked,” Justin says while they both watch Gus climb down the bed and pad over to the other end of his room, where his toys are stacked, more or less neatly, in a large colorful box. Justin leans back against the wall and feels the mattress wobble under him when Brian moves a bit closer.

“Nothing happened, I’m just tired.”

Now it’s Brian’s turn to hold his hands up. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You were going to though.”

“But now I’m not.”

“Oh please.”

Gus is busy unpacking every last toy he owns, looking at them, and then arranging them into a big pile without seeming too enthusiastic about any of them.

“Where’s Bob?” Justin asks after a while. “Drawing up cave plans?”

Brian nods. “Funny.”

“Yup.”

“He’s already asleep.”

Justin watches Brian point towards the dresser. Bob is lying under a towel in the corner, only his helmet sticking out.

“He doesn’t even get a blanket?”

“No.” Brian glares at him, and Justin finds himself grinning in return.

“That’s too bad. Can’t we fix that?”

“Oh, shut the fuck up.” Having to say it under his breath so as not to reach Gus of course ruins the impact of it – at least to Justin’s ears.

“So, any idea when Mel and Linds will be back?”

Brian shrugs. “How the hell should I know? JR is staying with Michael tonight, maybe they’ll take the opportunity to recapture their lost youth.”

“I thought they were going to go visit Marie and the kids.”

Justin watches Brian glance over to Gus once more to make sure he’s out of earshot, and then scoot a little closer just the same. “No fucking clue. And who is Marie? You expect me to remember all their lezzie friends by name?”

Justin doesn’t. Usually he doesn’t care too much himself.

“Dusty’s partner.”

Brian looks at him quietly. “The Dusty?”

Justin nods, “Yeah.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

Brian’s hand finds its way to Justin’s ankle, and they just sit there and watch Gus mumble to himself while making a second pile of unused toys.

***

The weather remains critical, and Lindsay calls to tell them they’ll stay at Michael and Ben’s for the night. Justin can’t remember her ever sounding as relaxed and easy-going as she has been the last couple of days and it strikes him that coming here might almost be considered a vacation for her.

He had never quite felt like that himself. It was either home or work that brought him here, and, depending on Brian’s mood and schedule, had also felt like either one.

Sprawled on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table, Justin’s not sure if he needs a vacation himself, but he’ll definitely look forward to having a few days to himself. Not all by himself, of course, with the four extra people added to the household, but at least without clients or deadlines.

It’s funny how he could never have imagined being so tired when he told his mom living as an artist was exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

“What the fuck is wrong with you today?” Brian asks from behind, dangling a shot of whiskey in front of Justin’s face.

“Nothing’s wrong.” Justin takes a healthy gulp and suppresses a cough while Brian steps around the sofa and sits down next to him.

“Worried about getting me a really good Christmas present?”

“No.” Justin is all set as far as presents go. “I’m not you.”

“Haha.”

“You remember last year?”

“All of it?”

Justin nudges him half-heartedly with his knee, “Asshole, last Christmas.

Brian shrugs. “Course I do.”

“When I came to visit and we stayed at the loft most of the time, only with short visits to Debbie’s, and once to Woody’s.”

“I remember.”

Justin places his glass on the table and lies back again, not sure how to proceed. “I like thinking back to it. It was really nice.”

“It was alright.”

Justin pokes him once more for good measure, this time with his fingers though, and he lets his hand rest on Brian’s forearm instead of retreating it.

“But before and afterwards really sucked.”

Brian nods and puts down his empty glass. “You’ve been thinking about last year all day? Is that it?”

“It’s just that I think I thought life was going to be so much easier once I was back here, you know. No more traveling back and forth, always wondering if I missed packing something. No more missing you.”

“You think you thought?” Typical, Justin thinks, leave it to Brian to pick on the least important details in a sentence.

“Okay, I thought.”

“You thought being here would be easier than what?”

“It’d be easier than not being here.”

Justin can feel Brian’s body tense beside him, and squeezes his arm, almost out of reflex, but not quite.

“And is it?” Brian asks quietly.

Justin is glad he’s still leaning on Brian so he can’t run from him right now, and tightens his hold, “Of course it is.”

“But?”

“No but. I had just forgotten it wasn’t going to be perfect all the time.”

Brian looks at him, his forehead wrinkled. “You thought your life was going to be perfect?” he asks, incredulously. “Just from coming to live here?”

Justin’s not sure if Brian hears a “With me?” in his head when he says that. And yeah, if you put it like that, Justin knows it sounds totally idiotic. “Not perfect perfect, just… you know… I don’t know.”

“Wow. You’re eloquent when you’re confused.”

“Asshole.”

As much as Justin wants to be mad that Brian cannot stay in the moment and let him think things through, seeing him relax into the cushions next to him is probably just as important. He really isn’t in the mood for more drama tonight. Not that there had been any, but there could have been, and Justin’s glad it’s averted. He briefly wonders when Brian will stop fearing he might leave again. They will need to work on that. One of these days Brian will have to believe him.

“Would you be feeling better if I helped you get rid of that Bland guy?” Brian asks after a while. “I told you he was a fucktard.”

Justin shakes his head, smiling. “I think I’ll be able to kick his ass by myself, but thanks.” He leans to the side and swings his legs from the coffee table onto the sofa, his feet coming to rest against Brian’s thigh.

“Really, I could do it. Gus had me kicked countless guys’ asses tonight because they wouldn’t let him renovate their garages. I’ve gotten quite good at ass-kicking.” And Justin is treated to a self-satisfied grin.

“Garages?”

“Don’t ask.”

“But you could fix it?” Justin chuckles under his breath, and doesn’t even bother to evade Brian’s hand when it slaps away his feet.

“Of course we could,” Brian sighs, sounding as if he couldn’t decide between amused and exasperated.

“Would you prefer it if Gus wasn’t here?” he asks all of a sudden, making Justin quickly shift his focus from Brian’s hand on his shin to one of the stupidest questions he’s heard in a long time.

“Are you crazy? Of course not, I love Gus. And I love having him here.”

“Relax, I just wanted to check.”

Justin kicks Brian’s side lightly, “Well, it’s complete bullshit, so cut it out.”

He doesn’t object when Brian grabs his ankles and starts pulling him closer, “Would you be happier if Gus wasn’t here?” Justin asks.

Brian stares at him. “Why the fuck should I?”

“Exactly,” Justin says, scooting closer until his ass bumps Brian’s leg, his back now flat on the sofa. “Then there is absolutely no reason I wouldn’t want him here either.”

“Okay.”

Justin shifts from lying backward and hoists himself up to straddle Brian’s legs. “Don’t ask me that again.”

“I won’t.”

“Good.” Justin presses a kiss to Brian’s lips, his eyes open, trying to see if Brian really heard him.

Brian pulls away before things get any further, “Then what the fuck is it?”

“Huh?”

“If it’s not Bland, and not Gus, and it’s not living here either, what is it?”

“Can I say I’m just tired?”

“You could, but I probably wouldn’t believe it.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.”

“You would have had a better chance by saying it was Mel who was ruining your holiday spirit,” Brian smirks, but Justin sees true concern in his eyes, despite the playful tone.

“I bet.”

“If you’re going to be pouting and not spreading any cheer either, she will have both our balls.”

Justin’s not too concerned in that area, but it’s fun to imagine Brian thinking it none the same.

“I’m really good at fixing things, ask my son.”

“I know you are,” Justin smiles. “But there is nothing to be fixed.” He wriggles a little in Brian’s lap when he feels two warm hands slowly push up his shirt.

“I think I’m going to stop by my mom’s tomorrow. Get a few things. Bring them over.” The hands on his back stop moving.

“What things?”

“There’s four more boxes of God knows what at her new place. And an old suitcase filled with old sketches and school books and things like that. She left another message today.”

“The same boxes she called about the other day?”

Justin nods. He knows it’s silly to make such a big deal out of it, but this year it’ll be the first time where he and all his possessions will be in one place only. No more family back-up. And, for some reason, it feels unsettling.

“Then what difference does it make if there are boxes you’ll never open again in your mom’s new basement, or in our basement?”

“I don’t know. No difference I guess.”

“Maybe she’s just looking forward to having the place tidy and clean for the holidays,” Brian shrugs. “Which would be much preferable to the state Debbie’s house is right now.”

“Don’t mock the reindeer.”

“I wouldn’t dare.”

“Right.”

Brian smiles and leans forward a little, locking his eyes on Justin’s. “You do know that this is your home, right?”

Justin doesn’t dare break their gaze, “I do.”

He really does, it just seems he hadn’t realized every last bit of it. He lets Brian pull him closer, hiding his face at his neck.

“And that, thanks to a certain someone who wanted stables even though they don’t like horses, there is room for a million boxes of yours?”

Justin can’t help smile at that. “Okay.”

“That we might even throw out some of my boxes I’m never gonna open again just to make room for yours if you needed it?”

“I don’t need it.”

“It’d be there nonetheless.”

“It isn’t about the stupid boxes.”

“No kidding.” Brian tugs Justin’s shirt out of his pants at the front and pulls it over his head.

”It’s about you being a perfect twat because you have this idea in your head that your mom is trying to get rid of you, just by moving into a new house, with a new man.”

“That’s not true,” Justin protests, even though it might be, just a little bit. He’s not too fond of thinking back to when his mom told him about Tucker the first time, but it had been quite similar. Irrational and spiteful and he hadn’t been able to help it.

“Well, if it’s about fearing there’s no room in this house for self-doubting artists who think they don’t have a say in anything, this whole thing is even more ridiculous.”

“I never said it wasn’t ridiculous. It just feels weird, so final.”

“It is final. You live here.”

“I know.”

“Until you don’t want to anymore.”

“Yeah, good luck waiting for that.”

“Justin, I mean it.”

“I know. And so do I.”

“Ok, then.”

“Yeah.”

They keep looking at each other quietly. Justin feels strangely exposed, even though he knows Brian would tell him it’s bullshit. And then Brian grins at him softly and cups his ass, closing the distance between them and the moment of imagined awkwardness is gone just as quickly as it came.

“We should really make better use of the house now that the munchers are gone,” Brian whispers against Justin’s lips.

Justin couldn’t agree more. “We really should. Although not down here, I’m not too keen on Gus walking in on us.”

“Good point.”

Justin stands and pulls Brian up with him. Brian’s eyes are on his face, lingering, after Justin’s pulled his shirt back on. “I’m sorry.”

“No need to be.”

“I guess I had imagined things to go differently.”

“Yeah, you had imagined them to go perfectly.”

Damn, Justin thinks, he will probably hear that for a while. “Very funny.”

But Brian just shakes his head at him and grabs his hand, “It’s okay. I think you finally made it to be the mature grown-up who you claimed to be when we met. Realizing nothing’s perfect was the last step on that road.”

“Except for you, of course.”

“Of course.”

“You’re unbelievable.” But Justin is grateful for the light tone nonetheless.

“Look at it this way, Sunshine, as a grown-up you can have lots and lots of very hot sex. And I won’t have to worry anymore about pounding your ass into the mattress.”

“Right,” Justin frees his hands and brings them together behind Brian’s shoulders. “Because you were so very shy and restricted yourself to holding hands and writing love letters during my teens.”

“Exactly.” And when Brian is grinning at him like that, Justin just has to kiss him.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Brian murmurs into his mouth. “While your life might not be perfect, I’ll see what I can do about a perfect orgasm.”

Justin laughs, “That’s so good of you. And you do it so gracefully, too.”

“I know. I’m quite the gentleman.”

“You’re full of shit is what you are.” But he can’t help but smile, he hasn’t felt this relieved in days.

“Be sure to tell your mom that when you’re getting your things tomorrow, I’m sure she’ll be delighted to hear it.”

“Oh, she already knows.”

“Yeah, I bet.” And the sparkle in Brian’s eyes when he smiles at him is the best thing Justin has seen all day.

***

December 29

Justin shuts the door behind him and hangs up his coat. Even before he has untied his laces, there’s a small hand grabbing his pants. “Justin, Justin, we fixed it!”

Justin ruffles Gus’ hair and tries not to lean on him when he steps out of his shoes, “What did you fix?”

“Your boxes!”

“They needed fixing?”

Justin loves the serious look on Gus’ face – the one Gus uses whenever he cannot believe someone could ask something so stupid. “Of course, they were very ugly.”

“But they weren’t broken.”

“No, but my daddy said something should be done with them.”

“Well, if your daddy said that…”

“He did!”

“Okay!” Justin laughs, “I believe you.”

“You’d better,” comes Brian’s voice from the other end of the hall, “They were ruining the tasteful decor of our basement. Which, of course, was totally unacceptable.”

“Of course.”

Justin watches Gus run towards him and raise his arms until Brian has picked him up. “We need to show him, dad.”

“We will, Sonny-boy. Later. Right now your mommies want to see you in the kitchen.”

“Why?”

“They didn’t tell me, Gus.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. Make sure to ask them when you see them, ok?”

“Ok, daddy.” And with that Brian puts him down again, and Justin tries to stop smiling before Brian tells him to, but doesn’t quite succeed.

Brian pulls him close when Justin wants to pass and Justin doesn’t particularly mind. “Jesus, your face is fucking cold.”

“Must be the temperature outside,” Justin replies happily.

“No shit.”

Justin kisses him then, pressing their bodies together, making sure that Brian will have contact with a cold hand when he least expects it.

“You little shit.” Justin retreats his hand from Brian’s back.

“That’s what you get for lying to your son.”

“That wasn’t lying, that was conveniently stretching the truth to catch a moment alone with you, away from all the holiday cheer inside.”

“Poor you. Your life is hard. Happy people all around. Must be hell.”

“It is.”

“No doubt about it.”

“My life could be harder though,” Brian grins while trying to guide Justin’s hands towards his crotch. “I bet,” Justin pushes his hands into Brian’s pockets, “but my hands are too cold.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah.” Justin brushes his lips against Brian’s neck. “But just imagine, if you were as happy as you could possibly be in this moment, in other words, adding to the cheer inside, the house would probably go up in flames.”

“Sounds highly unlikely.”

“Even so, good thing we have a handy-man in the family, just in case.”

Brian sighs against Justin’s hair, “He’s been driving me insane.”

A whole day with Gus by himself, Justin can just imagine. “I’ll make sure Bob is mentioned on your tombstone.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”

“Why do I get the distinct feeling you’re already adding to the cheer?”

“So what’d you do with the boxes?” Justin asks instead of an answer.

“Nothing much, we found some wood outside and he spent the better part of the afternoon building a fort for them. Looks like a poorly built cave to me.”

“How very Freudian.”

“Indeed. Let’s bury everything behind self-made walls. Only in this case I provided the wood to bury your childhood.”

“Sounds accurate.”

“While adding a nice twist to it.”

Justin can’t help but agree. “Knowing you, anything else would be a disappointment.”

“Speaking of disappointments, are your hands any warmer yet?”

Justin grins, “I think it’s safe to try.”

***

December 31

The lights in the living-room are dimmed, and Justin listens to Mel and Linds talk to each other quietly at the kitchen island, without understanding a word they say. JR is asleep upstairs, and Brian has woken up Gus, just a few minutes ago, to be ready for midnight.

Now Brian’s standing at the window overlooking the estate to the west with Gus in his arms, his head on Brian’s shoulder, slowly waking up. Their neighbors half a mile down told them they’d have a huge fireworks installation this year, and invited them to watch. It’ll probably be Brian’s… their turn to do it next year – apparently that’s how it’s done around here – and Justin has to smile when he thinks of the different ways he could use to bribe Brian into doing it. Just in case he would need some sort of incentive, of course.

Brian’s chuckling about something Gus must have said and, apparently following Gus’ instructions, walks a few steps closer to whatever it is Gus wants to show him. Justin can’t remember ever having seen Brian and Gus like this, or in that spot, and yet the sight seems familiar and oddly comforting. The light is too bad to be drawing anything, but even if it wasn’t, he’d probably just be watching, without any distractions.

His parents used to wake him up just in time for New Year’s when he was a kid as well, and Justin remembers getting only orange juice instead of the champagne his parents had shared with the neighbors. Just like Gus tonight.

Justin is grateful Mel and Linds were able to stay this long. If they hadn’t, Brian would probably have worked a lot more, and definitely smiled less. And no matter how much energy Gus takes up, Justin knows Brian enjoyed every single second of it.

Of course, having Gus over only four or five times a year makes it easier for Brian to be a fun dad than if he was raising him full-time. But then it seems to be an appropriate pay-back for the fact that Brian is also missing out on so many details in Gus’ life, or only learns about them when speaking to Lindsay after they happened.

Justin wonders if they’ll ever witness Gus using a visit to them to complain about his moms. He thinks they just might. He remembers a few conversations he had with Debbie about his mom that he’d rather forget. Of course Deb had never let him get away with it, and he always listened to her in the end – not only because she could be scary as hell, but also because she had the bonus of not being his “real” mom. The fun mom. Even after his own had come around to accept him.

God, he was so young back then.

Justin notices that the talking has stopped and sees Mel and Linds stand together silently, also looking over to the window, watching Brian with their son. It’s eight minutes to midnight, and somebody should probably get the champagne flutes out of the cabinet. Justin thinks it’s surreal, nobody moving, all of them staring at the same point and probably seeing something different.

“I swear if you all keep looking at us like that, Gus will start thinking he grew a horn.” Brian turns and smirks at Justin briefly, then rubs Gus’ tummy. “Right, Sonny-boy?”

Gus is always shy when he’s tired, right before he turns into a ball of energy that is, and he just nods a little and goes back to hiding his face against Brian’s neck. Justin gives him ten minutes to run around the room to look for Bob.

Brian shifts Gus in his arms and goes back to where they were standing before. “If the three of you are waiting for written invitations to join us,” he says over his shoulder, “don’t get your hopes up.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Justin sees Linds poke her tongue out at Brian’s back. Mel leaves the room, maybe to check on JR one last time, and Justin gets up from his place at the table to join Brian and Gus in front of the window.

“You will really have to work on your verbal skills next year,” Justin teases.

“Right. Don’t hold your breath.”

Justin grins, he wasn’t planning to.

Gus lifts his head from Brian’s shoulder and points towards the house in the distance, a collection of brightly lit windows. “Fireworks, daddy.”

“In a minute. Just be patient.”

Gus is staring out the window, looking more excited than tired all of a sudden, and Justin hopes he will remember this night at some point in the future, thinking back to his family greeting the New Year, together.

Because Justin will.

It’s the first time he and Brian will see the beginning and end of a year together, in the same place. No more discussions about rules, where to live, or what to call each other – just together, finally sharing the same home.

And Justin can’t imagine anything better than that.

End