This ficlet is a bit of a change of pace, set post-S4.
Thanks so much to everyone who has been reading and giving feedback, you have no idea how much I appreciate it. :)
John looks around the waiting room and yawns. He wonders if they’ll have to stay all night, like they do sometimes on TV. He hopes not, because he’s got the new Mortal Combat at home, just waiting to be played. He hadn’t wanted to come out to the stupid church picnic to begin with, but his mother wouldn’t take no for an answer.
He looks over at her, sitting with his grandmother. Grandma’s saying something about how the lord won’t let anything happen to Peter. John isn’t so sure that God is really paying such close attention. As he gets older, he starts to wonder if the whole God thing is actually just a big crock.
He shifts in his seat, the hard plastic beginning to numb his butt. He just wants the doctor to come out and say that Peter will be okay. Because then everything can be normal again, and they can leave this gross waiting area, with green paint and crappy art and ancient magazines. All the church families are here, and John looks forward to being in his own room again.
One of the mothers asks him if he wants a snack from the vending machine, and John says no as he scowls to himself. If it weren’t for his stupid little brother, he’d be back home by now, joystick in hand and BBQ chips spilling onto the carpet beside him. But no, Peter had to go run after a soccer ball and get hit by a car. Stupid little brat. John’s always telling him to watch where he’s going.
The thought of what will happen if his brother is not okay flits through his mind, but he banishes it quickly. He may tease Peter, and Peter may get on his nerves, but John knows that deep down, he loves him. Even if he is a tagalong and a tattletale.
When he sees Brian striding down the hall towards them, he tenses. His mother’s brother has always been a menacing figure on the outskirts of his life; he never thinks of him as an uncle anymore and never really has, even when he was little. He wonders if Brian’s still mad about that thing that happened. John suspects he is.
His mother looks up as Brian walks in. “Brian. You got the message.” Her voice is hoarse from crying.
“How is he, Claire?”
“We don’t know yet, the doctor hasn’t said.” She sniffles again and blows her nose on a kleenex.
Brian looks at Grandma coldly and says, “Hello, mother.”
She forces a smile that John knows is just for the benefit of the others. “Brian, thank God you’re here.”
The new reverend’s wife says, “So this is the famous Brian. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Her husband nods and gives Brian a two-handed shake. A bunch of the Church Ladies start to coo over him, talking about how successful he is, how he has his own ad agency at the age of 33, how he’s not married yet – can you imagine?
John smirks to himself. Brian smiles a dangerous smile and says, “No, not married yet.”
John wonders why he doesn’t just tell them he’s a fag. As he gets older, he starts to see that his mother and grandmother are complete hypocrites. They’ve only called Brian today because they don't have insurance and they need money. He wonders why Brian came, after everything that happened. But he always seems to be there when they need him.
“So, John, how’s it going?”
He looks up and finds Brian’s knowing gaze on him. “Fine.”
“Still reading comic books? You should come by Michael’s store sometime.”
John blinks in surprise and feels an unwelcome flush of shame when he remembers how nice Michael was to him, how many free comics he gave him. Gay people don't seem so bad sometimes, and it occurs to John that if all the stuck-up assholes from church don’t like them, then maybe gay people really aren’t so bad. “Yeah, that would be cool. Um, thanks.”
Brian nods and John feels somehow like he’s been forgiven. The shame still burns uncomfortably in his stomach when he remembers how eagerly his mother and grandmother had believed his lies.
The reverend starts going on about what an amazing help Grandma is to the church, telling Brian about all her good deeds. He nods and smiles, but John sees the tension in his jaw. Just then, the doctor comes out, and silence falls.
“Don’t worry, Peter’s going to be just fine.” The doctor smiles reassuringly and, as her words sink in, John can’t help but notice that she’s pretty hot.
Everyone exhales, and most people start thanking God and saying little prayers. His mom hugs him and John smells stale cigarette smoke and sweat. He clings to her and lets the relief wash over him.
Everyone starts talking at once, except Brian, who stands and waits. As the doctor leads her and Mom through some doors, Grandma stops and tells Brian he needs to fill out some forms, pointing him towards the desk further down the hall where a clerk sits, typing on a computer.
It’s only about a minute later when John sees the blond guy who busted him about the bracelet come through the door at the other end of the hall. What was his name? Jamie? Justin? He walks towards them, and John knows this is not a coincidence.
“Hey, John,” he says. “I’m Justin, remember me?”
John stares at him for a few seconds, then blurts out, “What are you doing here?”
This gets the attention of the rest of the room, but Justin just smiles softly and John knows that his grandmother is the one who’s getting busted this time. “How’s your brother?”
The words don’t seem to want to come out of his mouth, so someone else pipes up that Peter is going to be okay. Justin nods and says he’s glad. He seems so calm and collected, while John's heart races. Justin sees Brian at the desk, filling out forms, and heads off towards him.
The reverend’s wife smiles at John quizzically. “Who was that?”
“Um….” He has no answer. He just watches Justin walk down the hall, and everyone in the waiting room watches, too. When Justin nears, Brian looks up from the paperwork and smiles as he kisses him. It’s definitely more then a peck, and John doesn’t so much hear the gasps around him as much as he feels them rocket through the air.
Brian and Justin talk with their heads together, bodies close and hands touching. John swallows, his throat suddenly gone dry, as he looks around at the shocked faces. He realizes that it’s the first time he's ever seen these people speechless.
“Joan’s son is…he’s….” The reverend’s wife boggles, and her husband gapes. Everyone begins murmuring, their eyes still glued down the hall.
Mom and Grandma come back and immediately look to see what everyone’s staring at. Both of their jaws drop in unison, and Grandma clutches her throat. Brian gives the clipboard to the chick sitting at the computer, and he holds Justin’s hand as they come back towards the waiting room.
John feels like he’s in one of those movies where time freezes, but he’s the only one who realizes it. Or maybe a bomb just dropped that turned everyone in the waiting room to stone.
“Mother, you remember Justin.” Brian’s voice is cheerful.
“Hello, Mrs. Kinney. Claire.” Justin smiles. Mom and Grandma look like they want the floor to open up and swallow them.
“This is my mother’s church group,” Brian says, as he sweeps an arm around the waiting room. “Everyone, this is my partner Justin. He’s an artist.” Justin waves hello.
Finally, one of the old women speaks. “You’re a…you’re….”
Brian’s brow furrows and he looks at Grandma. “You mean, my mother never mentioned that her rich, handsome, fabulously successful son is queer?”
Grandma’s lips thin. “That’s enough." She looks around at the stunned congregation and tries to talk, but no words come. Finally she speaks to Brian again, tears in her eyes. "I hope you’re happy.”
“You know what, Mother?” He looks at Justin for a second and then smiles at her. “I am.”
Brian takes his chequebook out of his pocket and writes in it with a flourish. “All these years, it’s been a faggot who’s supported you and Claire and her snot-nosed kids when they needed it. It’s a faggot’s money that paid your bills when Dad drank and gambled it all away. And it’s a faggot’s money that’s going to make little Peter all better.” He rips the cheque off and picks up Grandma’s hand, forcing the paper into her palm as he says softly, “But this time, you won’t forget it.”
Brian smiles at Justin again and kisses him as Grandma walks stiffly from the room, the cheque left crumpled on the floor. After a minute, Mom sighs and picks it up, flattening it out against her leg. Brian and Justin stroll down the hall towards the door, arms slung around each other, and John watches them go as shocked whispers echo off the ugly walls.
When a couple of people frown at him, John's surprised to find a smile on his face.