Summary: Joan wants to see her son but gets to meet his family instead.
Rating/Warnings/Notes: PG-13. Future fic, takes place about 3 years after S4. Justin’s POV.
Beta/thanks: zoisite84, thanks for being so honest and great as usual. Also, many thanks to paddies who more or less co-wrote this with me and helped me edit again and again and again... :D
Disclaimer: Brian and Justin belong to Cowlip, no copyright infringement is intended.
Feedback: Oh yes, thanks a lot.
A/N: I apologize to everybody whom I’ve told I was writing Jennifer/Joan fic and freaked them out for a second or two. It was never meant this way. *shudders*
Brian had never really talked with me about his mother, I never knew if he'd even thought about her. But, as strange as it is, I did, from time to time. Whenever I spent time with my own mother, feeling sorry for Brian about missing something like this in his life, and whenever I saw Brian together with Gus - it made me wonder if Joan knew about her third grandchild at all.
However, everything changed two weeks ago, when these two situations collided in a most bizarre way.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and Brian and me both had ‘family dates.’ He’d gone out with Gus, taking him to the zoo or someplace else, while I stayed home, serving coffee and cookies to my mother. She’d started dating some weeks ago and apparently, things seemed to go well between her and the new man in her life. They’d just returned from a mini vacation in the country and as soon as she’d been back, she’d called me and asked for an opportunity to talk.
“His name’s Robert.” she said. “He’s a lawyer.”
“I know, you already told me last week,” I said and began to wonder what she was up to. My mother described to me in great detail how they’d met (she’d showed him some apartments when he’d moved to Pittsburgh three months ago), talked a bit about his family status (divorced, no kids) and swooned about their mini vacation (in the most romantic guest house she’d ever been in). It all sounded very serious to me.
“Is Molly fine with it?” I eventually asked.
“She adores him. I mean… you know a girl at Molly’s age isn’t easy to handle.”
She smiled. “Yes. But Robert put up with her and now they get along really well. So… Justin, I want you to meet him, too. I was thinking… maybe you and Brian would like to come over for dinner some time next week?”
Oh. Serious indeed. “Sure, why not. I’ll talk to Brian and will let you know when…”
It was then that someone was knocking on the door. We both looked up.
“Expecting anyone?” my mother asked.
I shook my head. “No. Let me just get that.”
I got up and was still wondering who’d pay us a visit on a random Sunday afternoon. My safest bet was Michael, but it wasn’t him. On the other side of the door stood someone I’d never ever expected to see.
“Mrs Kinney,” was all I said.
“Good afternoon.” She looked at me, obviously confused that I knew who she was. Then something changed in her expression, maybe she remembered that she’d seen me before, but didn’t know when or where.
“I’m Justin,” I tried to help after I’ve gotten over my initial shock.
“Justin?” she repeated.
“Yes, uhm, Brian’s partner? We’ve met before, although it’s been a few years. It was here, in fact. You brought Brian some cake…” If I kept on talking, maybe she’d just… go away? I wasn’t sure what I was doing.
Her expression changed again, I guess she remembered. She looked almost disgusted. “Is my son here?”
“No, he’s not.”
“Oh. Well, then, I guess I just…” she turned, walked two steps and stopped, without saying or doing anything else.
I don’t know why I did what I did then. But all of a sudden, I felt bad for her. I had to think about me and my mother, chatting away so easily and being so comfortable around each other… Maybe I’m a naïve fool, but I’d never given up hope that Brian and his mother wouldn’t make up one day. It was just… I mean, she was his mother, despite all the things she’d said and done. And maybe, if she saw us, saw how we lived… yes, I know, silly idea. But I at least wanted to give it a try.
“Mrs Kinney…” I began, “would you like to come in? He should be back soon, if you want to wait for him…”
She looked at me, and all I saw was an old, lonely woman.
I opened the door a bit further. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
She sighed, a short, forced noise, and came in.
I fetched a fresh cup from the counter for Joan, while she looked around in the loft. I tried to see what she was seeing: a place that was occupied by two people. My shoes lying next to the counter, too small to be her son’s. My drawing utensils on the table next to the windows. A shopping list pasted to the fridge with two different handwritings on it. Okay, so maybe she didn’t saw all these details, but I did, and I wondered if Brian had any idea of how domestic we’d become lately. But Joan must’ve surely seen my mother, sitting on the sofa I was walking back to. I felt my unexpected visitor following me slowly.
“Mrs Kinney, this is my mother.”
My mother’s eyes grew wide with surprise. She got up and extended her hand to Joan. “Hello, I’m Jennifer Taylor. Nice to finally meet you.”
To my relief, she took my mother’s hand and shook it. “Joan Kinney. Nice to meet you, too.”
Okay, so her voice was still cold as ice, but at least she was polite. She sat down on one of the chairs and an awkward silence filled the room. I had no idea what to say, so I kept myself busy by pouring her a cup of coffee.
It was my mother who first spoke again. “You came to see Brian?” D’oh, mum.
“Yes. I have to talk to my son.”
My mother smiled nervously. “Just like me. I mean, I had to talk to my son, too.”
Joan smiled back, but it didn’t looked like an honest smile. And then, silence again. Why oh why had I asked her to come in?
The noisy opening of the loft’s door was a huge relief for all three of us, I guess. Some seconds later, a shrill voice filled the air: “Uncle Jus!”
Shit. I had completely forgotten about Gus.
Before I could say or do anything, I was attacked by the youngest member of our unconventional family, who’d climbed onto the sofa and was hugging me, hard.
“Look,” he said after he’d let go of me, “look what Daddy got me! It’s a colouring book with all the animals I saw today!” His cheeks were flushed with excitement as he waved the thin book in front of my eyes. “And I can write the names of the animals, too! Will you help me draw? And write? And can we watch a movie then? Oh, cookies!”
Gus turned and reached for the bowl on the table. Joan was staring at Gus, Brian was staring at Joan and my mother was looking back and forth between them. Holy shit. My question had just been answered.
Joan hadn’t known about Gus.
Gus was happily munching on a cookie, completely ignorant about the tension that had arisen around him. “Oh, hello Auntie Jen,” he eventually said and waved at my mother.
“Hello Gus,” she answered.
Gus then noticed the other woman on the sofa. “Who are you?”
Joan opened her mouth, but no words came out.
“What are you doing here?” Brian snapped at her instead.
Joan drew her eyes away from Gus and stared at Brian. “I… I came to talk to you. What… how…?”
“No, Joan. Don’t.” Brian shook his head. No ‘mother’ for her, not in front of Gus.
“Who is this woman, Daddy? Is she your friend?” Gus asked again, curious as only a six year old can be. He looked at Joan. “Are you a friend of Daddy? Or a friend of Uncle Jus?”
“I am… a friend of your daddy’s,” Joan eventually said, respecting Brian’s silent wish.
Gus seemed to be satisfied with the given answer and turned his attention back to the cookies.
My mother got up. “I’d better leave you alone to… talk.”
Brian crossed the space between them with a few steps. “Jen, sorry for not noticing you earlier. It’s so nice to see you.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, putting up a show for Joan. He can still be the biggest asshole in the world if he wants to.
My mother blushed at Brian’s sudden sign of affection. “Thank you, Brian. Uhm, I’d better keep going, though. I’ll see you two next week then, I guess…”
“Next week? What’s with next week?” He looked at me.
“My mother has invited us over to dinner, to meet…”
“Don’t say it, I know…” Brian cut in, “Robert is it, right? Your new man? How about Tuesday? Justin?”
Like I said, he can be the devil himself. I saw Joan wincing and just shrugged. “Fine with me.”
“Okay… so, Tuesday then?”
“Sure,” my mother said. “Okay, so… I’ll see you then. Bye Justin, Brian, Mrs Kinney… bye, Gus!”
“Bye Auntie Jen!” Gus cooed, spraying tiny crumbs all over my trousers.
“Gus,” Brian said after my mother had left, “you may watch some TV now, if you want. But only the children’s channel.”
“Yay! Thanks, Daddy!” Gus grabbed another cookie and ran over to the television, lying down on the huge floor pillow in front of the set.
I made a move to get up as well, but Brian shook his head. “No. Stay with us.” He sat down next to me and laid his arm around my shoulders. Apparently, his plan was to annoy and hurt Joan as much as he could. “So Mother, what gives us the honour of your visit?”
“Brian… this boy… is he…”
“What, Gus? You’re afraid that me and Justin have adopted some fresh meat to have our way with? Relax. He’s my son. As in offspring. Conceived and born six and a half years ago. To Lindsay Peterson and me, if you still remember her. Maybe it didn’t happen in not the way you might consider normal, but as close as it gets.”
“You’re a father,” Joan concluded. D’oh. Guess Brian’s and my mother have more in common than we’d ever thought possible.
Brian snorted. “This must come as a shock, yeah? Guess what, Joan. You’re son’s more than the fag that will burn in hell. He’s a businessman, and a successful one. He’s, yes, a father. A friend. A lover. A partner. He’s someone who maybe leads the most conventional life of all Kinneys, come to think of it. God help us all.”
“You have a son. And you never told me.” Joan’s voice was shaking and I felt bad for her again. But I knew better than to interrupt this nightmare unfolding in front of my eyes.
“Why would I want to tell you? Give me one good reason,” Brian snapped.
“Because… I have another grandchild? Because the boy has a grandmother?”
“He has more family than the average child next door already, I don’t see why he would need you. And I don’t know why I would need you. As you can see, I got a family of my own now, so what do you want?”
My heart was pounding so heavily in my chest, I swear even Gus must’ve heard it. But of course nobody noticed. Gus was glued to the television, and Brian’s hand from the arm around my shoulders was playing with some strands of my hair. Which told me how agitated he really was, despite his outer calmness. And Joan still just… stared at Brian.
“Brian…,” I whispered carefully. Joan was close to tears, and I just wanted all this to stop. I knew it hurt Brian, too, to treat her like this. I knew he was shocked and confused.
Brian gave in and sighed. “Well?”
She sniffed and shifted her gaze towards me.
“No,” Brian said, guessing what she was up to. “If you’ve got to tell me something, do it now or leave it be. Justin stays.”
“I…,” Joan began, swallowed and went on, “I just… Brian, you’re my son and sometimes, I feel lonely. I just… maybe we can… I don’t know. Do you think we…” She paused. “I can see you’re happy,” she eventually added and fell silent again.
Brian nodded slowly. “Okay.”
All of a sudden, his arm left my shoulder and he got up. “Just go now. I have to think about all this. You can’t just come here and ask… whatever it is you’re asking for.”
Joan rose as well. “Okay.”
“Alright then. Gus! Come over here.”
I didn’t dare to move, so I just remained where I was and watched what Brian was up to now.
Gus pattered over and looked at Brian with his impossible huge eyes. “Yes, Daddy?”
“Gus, I want you to say hello to Joanie.”
Gus eyed the strange woman, who bowed down and smiled at him. I swore I saw tears in her eyes. And Brian… he just witnessed the first real encounter between his son and his mother with the neutral expression only he could manage under these circumstances.
“Hello, Joanie,” Gus said as told and held onto Brian’s leg, overcome by a sudden and unusual wave of shyness.
“Hello, Gus,” Joan said. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. And you?”
“I’m fine, too, thank you. How old are you?”
“I am six and a half. And I go to school!”
“Six and a half…” Joan repeated slowly.
“Okay,” Brian cut in, “now say goodbye to Joanie, she has to go.”
“Goodbye, Gus.” She rose and looked at Brian. “Thank you,” she whispered, turned and left.
Brian stared at the door for a few moments after it had closed. Gus was still holding onto his leg.
“She’s gotten old,” he murmured, probably not even realizing he’d said it out loud.
I stood up and walked a few steps towards Brian, not really sure if I should touch him or not. So I just stood there, close enough for Brian to reach out for me, if he wanted to, and watched as he stroked his son’s hair and looked at him, no longer hiding his feelings anymore, now that Joan had gone.
“Okay, Gus. Now go and get your stuff, I’ll drive you home.”
While Gus walked over to the television area to fetch his temporarily neglected colouring book, Brian turned and looked at me.
He was a mess, no doubt about that. I knew what he needed: a good dose of reality.
“Maybe you could fetch us dinner while you’re out?” I offered. “Thai? Or I could cook something for us. I think we still got some tenderloins left, I could…”
“The hell you will. I don’t plan on paying our cleaning lady an extra fee again just because you decide to carry out another experiment in the kitchen. Thai it’ll be.”
I smirked at him. “Now go. The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll be back and can fuck me through the mattress.”
“Greedy little twat.”
“Yeah, we’ll see who the greedy one is later on.”
Gus, colouring book under his arm and another cookie in his hand, tugged on Brian’s leg. “I’m ready!” He smiled at me, happiness oozing from his face. “Goodbye Uncle Jus.”
I hugged him. “Bye, Gus. Be a nice boy, okay?”
Gus giggled and finally looked at his father, waiting for them to leave. “Daddy?”
“Gus… you know Daddy loves you, right?”
“Yes Daddy,” Gus said, beaming. “And I love you, too.”
“Okay. Let’s go then.” Brian made a move to leave, but decided against it and turned once more.
"Justin… Do you know, too?"
I suddenly felt all warm inside, smiled softly and nodded. Brian doesn't need to tell me he loves me. I've always known.