To Face Unafraid


As promised, here's the sequel to Out From Inside.

This story is Brian, Justin and Gus's first Christmas without Mel and Lindz, so it's about six months after their death. Title is from "Winter Wonderland": "To face unafraid, the plans that we've made."

It was really fun to revisit the boys and see how they're doing (I know they're not real -- no, seriously, I know) and I hope you all enjoy the story. Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!


Justin groans as something lands on his foot before bouncing in a flurry of noise and motion.

“Santa came, Santa came!” Gus squeals as he hops on the bed, his little hands tapping Justin and Brian’s bodies urgently.

Brian groans and shifts beside him, but Justin keeps his eyes resolutely shut. Maybe Gus will go back to bed if Justin just stays very, very still. “He’s early,” Brian mutters.

“Santa came!” Gus bounces again.

The threads of sleep begin to curl away and Justin opens his eyes to find Gus staring down expectantly. Justin tries to remember what day it is. “Gus, it’s only the fifteenth. Santa hasn’t come yet.”

“But he did, look!” Gus points to the large window. “Santa brought snow!”

“That was Mother Nature,” Brian says, yawning and stretching his arms over his head.

Gus’s face creases with confusion. “But I thought Santa made snow.”

“Nope, he’s too busy making presents for all the good little boys and girls,” Justin tells him. A quick glance at the clock shows that it is barely seven o’clock in the morning. “It’s Sunday, Gus. I thought we agreed that daddies get to sleep in on Sunday.”

Gus bites his lip and looks down guiltily, his fingers tracing the rocket ships on his pyjamas. “I’m sorry,” he mumbles.

Justin’s eyes meet Brian’s and they can’t help but smile.

“Well, I guess it’s okay just this once,” Brian decrees. “Since it snowed and all.”

Gus’s face brightens immediately and he jumps eagerly. “Can we make a snowman? Can we?”

“After we make coffee,” Brian groans.

Gus bounds to the window and peeks up over the sill, standing on his tiptoes. With a sigh, Justin throws the duvet off and goes to the window. A blanket of snow covers the grounds, the trees all capped in white.

With another thought about how heavy Gus is getting, Justin lifts him up into his arms, perching him on his hip. Justin thinks of a new painting as they watch the snow drifting down in big, fat flakes. Meanwhile, Brian stumbles to the bathroom behind them, muttering a curse as he bangs his toe on the door frame.


That night, Justin idly washes the pots and pans while watching the snow still fall, illuminated by the strings of coloured lights the gardener had put up on the bushes behind the house. The lights out back were nothing compared to the display in the front. Brian felt that if he was going to decorate, it had to be done right. But tastefully, of course. Ever tasteful.

Justin hears Brian’s feet on the stairs and after a minute remarks, “You’re going to have a messy drive in the morning.”

Brian makes a sound that indicates he heard, but says nothing else. After a while, he mutters, “You keep forgetting that you don’t need to do the dishes here. We have a housekeeper for a reason, you know.”

Justin shrugs, his hands immersed in the soapy water. “I hate leaving pots overnight, the food gets stuck on. I feel bad when Maria has to scrub them in the morning.”

“That’s what she gets paid for.” Brian’s voice is becoming sharp. “You can do dishes when you’re on one of your sojourns to New York.”

Justin puts the last pan on the drying rack and pulls the plug. As he dries his hands on a dish towel, he turns to regard Brian, sitting at the kitchen table, eyes on a piece of coloured paper in his hand. “Why are you picking a fight?”

Brian doesn’t look up, but sighs. “Gus wrote another letter to Santa.”

“I thought he already did that at school.”

“He did, but he said he doesn’t trust his teacher or the mailman to deliver it on time. But he knows that I won’t let him down.”

Justin smiles and pulls out another chair at the table. He reaches over and places his hand on Brian’s forearm. “Well, you are Super Dad.”

Brian doesn’t crack a smile, and can’t meet Justin’s eyes. He finally slides the letter across the table and Justin looks down at Gus’s childish scrawl. “A puppy, a bike, a race car — if nothing, you’ve taught him to aim high—” The words suddenly die in Justin’s throat as his eyes scan the list. At the end, Gus has written simply, My Mommies.”

“Oh, Brian,” he murmurs.

“I want this to be a good Christmas for him. It’s his first one here, the first one…without them. It’s barely been six months and he misses them so much, and there’s nothing I can fucking do.”

“You’re already doing it.” Justin feels the burn of tears at his eyes and blinks hard. “We’ll help Gus get through this. We’re going to do everything we can to make it a wonderful Christmas. That’s all we can do. That’s all you can do. You’ll have to explain to him that…they’re really not coming back.”

Brian takes a deep breath and blows it out as he grasps Justin’s hand. He nods and then rolls his tongue into his cheek. “You still shouldn’t waste your time with the dishes.”

“Duly noted,” Justin says as he leans over and draws Brian’s lips to his own. Brian’s hand cradles his head and their tongues wind together. When Justin finds himself on the kitchen floor, he huffs out a laugh before Brian’s body covers him and he can barely gasp in breaths between kisses.

“Fuck me,” he moans, grabbing at Brian’s belt. For a minute, he forgets that they’re not at the loft, and that Gus is upstairs and there aren’t condoms and lube scattered conveniently throughout the house.

With effort, Brian wrenches himself away and yanks Justin to his feet. They race up the stairs quietly and Justin locks the bedroom door behind them. They barely make it to the bed, Justin’s knees hitting the floor as he leans over it, Brian behind him. They’ll have rug burns on their knees later, but as Brian pushes into him, the only thing Justin thinks about is the pleasure. It’s rough and Brian’s fingers will leave bruises on the pale skin of Justin’s hips that will match the marks his mouth will leave on his neck.

Justin feels sorry for people who say children ruin their sex life.


Two days before Christmas, Justin picks Gus up from his last day of school before the holidays. The kids are all high on cookies and chocolate, but Gus is strangely subdued as he trudges to the car, the teacher beside him. Justin gets out and greets them on the sidewalk, leaning down to hug and kiss Gus.

The teacher smiles tightly. “Hello Mr. Taylor.” She clasps her hands behind her back.

“Hi Mrs. Sears.” After a few moments he adds, “What’s up?” As Gus settles himself into the car, Justin and the teacher walk a few steps away.

“Well, I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a problem with Gus.”

“What happened?” Justin hopes with a sinking sensation that they won’t have to punish Gus right before Christmas.

“Gus has been singing a certain Christmas song and apparently some of the other children have mimicked him, and there are some upset parents.”

“Don’t tell me — something about Batman smelling and Robin laying eggs?”

She snorts and tucks a lock of graying hair behind her ear. “No, although that is still a popular ditty with each new generation. I’m afraid Gus has been singing a variation on ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ that some parents find objectionable.”

“Uh, what does he have Mommy doing?” Please don’t let it be blowing Santa Claus, Justin prays.

She clears her throat. “Well, the problem is that it’s Daddy kissing Santa.”

Justin stares at her for a beat before laughter bursts out of him. “That’s it? That’s the big problem?”

Her eyes narrow. “You have to remember that it is offensive to some of the other families. Not all children are raised in…open-minded homes. I have to try to keep everyone happy.”

Shaking his head, Justin says, “If they don’t like Daddy kissing Santa Claus, then they can tell their kids not to sing the song. But Gus’s creativity isn’t going to be stifled because of other people’s prejudices. Understand?”

“Mr. Taylor—”

“It’s their problem, not ours.”

Mrs. Sears sighs. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. But sometimes it becomes my problem.” She hugs her arms around her waist and moves to go back inside. A few feet away she turns back. “By the way, the cookies Gus made were delicious. And thank your husband for the symphony tickets.”

Justin tamps down the impulse to say that Brian isn’t his husband. “I will. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Sears.”

Her smile is genuine. “And to you, Mr. Taylor.” With that, she hurries back inside, the brisk wind swirling the fallen snow over the walkway.

In the car, Gus watches Justin glumly as they head back home. “Am I in trouble?”

“No,” Justin smiles.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Daddy?” Gus has started calling Justin that, and Justin’s heart still clenches just a bit every time he hears it.


“Santa’s definitely not bringing my Mommies back, right?”

Justin swallows roughly. “Right. Daddy explained it, remember?”

He nods. “I wanted to check. Just in case.”

Justin reaches over and runs his hand through Gus’s hair. “You’ve got lots of people who love you. You know that, right?” Gus nods. “But it’s okay to miss them, too.”

Gus’s eyes are big and solemn. “Do you miss them?”

Justin takes a deep breath, flashes of Lindsay and Melanie flicking through his mind like a slideshow on high speed. “Yeah, I do.”

“Me, too.” After a few moments of silence, Gus asks, “Wanna sing?” and they launch into a harmony-free duet about Daddy and Santa Claus underneath some mistletoe.


Jenny toddles by at warp speed, Gus happily trailing after her into Michael and Ben’s kitchen. “When did she get so fast?” Justin asks, amazed.

“Seems like it was overnight,” Ben replies, smiling proudly. He and Michael look at each other and beam, and Justin notices Brian’s small eye roll from across the room.

Emmett sashays out of the kitchen with another dish of delicious-smelling food that he adds to the dining room table buffet. “Before you know it, these two little munchkins will be driving.”

Justin tries to picture Gus as a teenager, but it’s impossible. He glances at Brian and finds Brian’s eyes on him. A small smile lifts the corners of Brian’s mouth and then Deb is yelling at them all to start eating.

“Come on, we can’t disobey the General on Christmas Eve,” Carl says as he heaves himself out of an armchair.

“Wait, there’s a time when we can disobey Deb?” Hunter’s eyebrow arches and Deb swats him on the ass.

“It all smells so delicious,” Jen enthuses.

“Just wait until tomorrow when your son cooks Christmas dinner,” Deb says with a wink.

Justin’s been preparing all week, but he has to admit that Maria’s been helping. A lot. “I just hope it’ll be okay,” Justin shrugs.

“Okay? Sunshine, it’ll be fantastic, you hear me?” Deb pinches his cheek and kisses him, wiping the stain of lipstick from his lips with her thumb.

“Yeah, because you and Mom are totally going to help me, whether I like it or not.”

Jen and Deb look at each other and smile guiltily. “You can never have too much help on Christmas, sweetheart,” Jen says.

Emmett’s phone rings and he steps outside, a troubled look on his face. As he spoons Swedish meatballs onto his plate, Justin quietly asks Ted, “What’s up with Em?”

“Drew’s been calling a lot lately. Wants to get back together, says he misses Em too much, and that he’s done playing around.”

“What about Adam?” Justin realizes he hasn’t seen him around lately.

“Let’s just say our Emmett is torn between two men.”

“And what about you?” Justin had noticed Blake’s absence and hadn’t wanted to say anything in case he and Ted had broken up.

Ted smiles and spears a roasted potato. “Blake’s seeing his family for the first time in years. I talked to him an hour ago and things seem to be going well. And they are definitely going well for us.”

Justin squeezes Ted’s shoulder and presses a kiss to his cheek. “I’m glad to hear it.”

Ted looks slightly taken aback, but smiles widely. “Thanks. And I’m glad things are good between you and Brian. I wish…I mean, obviously I wish things hadn’t happened like they did, but in a way…I’ve never seen Brian so happy.”

As Justin eats his dinner, he watches Brian laughing with Michael, and finds it strange that he’s used to life being this way now.


Justin feels like he’s only just closed his eyes after putting all the presents under the tree when Gus is jumping up and down excitedly on the bed, squealing that Santa has come for real this time.

“Better go wake up Grandma and Aunt Molly,” Brian tells him, voice thick with sleep.

For a few minutes, there is blissful silence once more in the early morning light and Justin snuggles closer into Brian’s side. Then Molly is standing at the foot of the bed, arms crossed over her chest.

“I could have stayed at Dad’s, you know. So if we have to get up, so do you.” She tugs the duvet down and stalks out. A moment later, Gus barrels back in, and both Brian and Justin groan and rouse themselves.

It’s not yet eight o’clock when Daphne arrives, bleary-eyed and soft in Justin’s arms as they hug at the front door. “I haven’t been up this early on Christmas in years,” Daphne says, yawning.

“Me either.” Justin looks to her car in the driveway. “Did you bring it?”

She huffs good-naturedly. “Of course.”

“It wasn’t any trouble?”

“No, everything was fine. Besides, the look on Gus’s face will be worth it. Not to mention the look on Brian’s.” She grins and presses a bag of presents into Justin’s hand.

Inside, Jen is cooking up breakfast and Brian is gulping down coffee. “Well, well, Ms. Chanders,” Brian drawls.

“Mr. Kinney,” she says, planting a kiss on his cheek before moving to hug Jen and Molly. “Where’s Gus?”

“Practically running laps around the Christmas tree. The good news is that he’ll be exhausted by noon,” Molly says.

Gus bounds into the kitchen and Daphne kneels down to pull him into a tight hug. “How’s my big boy?”

“Fine! Ready to open presents! Or they might go bad.”

Everyone laughs, but Gus remains serious. “We’ve got to eat breakfast first, Sonny Boy,” Brian tells him.

Gus whines, “But who cares about breakfast?”

“Why don’t you go get everyone’s stocking and bring them into the kitchen,” Justin suggests. “We can open them while we eat.”

Gus springs into action and soon returns, dragging the bulging stockings behind him. Daphne blinks in surprise when she sees there’s one for her. “Justin, you didn’t need to…”

Justin smiles. “I can’t take the credit.”

Everyone swivels to look at Brian, now on possibly his third cup of coffee. He shrugs. “What? You’re here on Christmas, you get a stocking.”

They all open their stockings and commend Santa on his good taste in gifts, and when Gus runs back to the tree, Brian tells them that Cynthia will be glad to hear she chose well. After barely being allowed to swallow their breakfast, Gus herds them into the den, where the large Christmas tree and its presents awaits.

The gardener had picked the tree out and hauled it in a few weeks earlier, but Justin, Brian and Gus had decorated it. Brian had barely even needed any convincing, and Justin was pretty sure he had only protested out of habit.

After they strung the lights, Brian had moved to put the star on the top of the tree, making Justin gasp. Brian had frozen in place, arm outstretched and said, “What?”

“You have to put the star on last,” Justin had said, horror in his hushed tones.



“Because why?”

“Just…because! Brian, it’s wrong to put it on first. Very wrong.”

Brian’s eyebrow had arched. “So you wouldn’t like it if I…” He trailed off and moved his arm near the top of the tree again.

“Daddy!” Gus yelled out, while Justin went up on his toes to try to snatch the star away. Brian grinned and tried to dodge him, and they ended up on the floor, snagged in garlands of tinsel, Gus giggling and jumping on them. When the time had come to finally put the star on, Brian had lifted Gus up onto his shoulders so he could do the honours.

As they open presents, Justin admires the tree proudly, blushing when Brian catches him. When they are finally left with just a collection of bows and brightly coloured paper littering the carpet, Daphne slips out. Molly gazes at her new tiny iPod in awe, and Jennifer tells Brian once more that it was too much. Gus doesn’t really know where to start with all his toys, but his attention is captured when a dog barks in the hallway.

Brian’s head snaps around and a moment later he’s fixing Justin with a glare. “What was—”

“A PUPPY!” Gus flings himself towards Daphne, who is carrying a little ball of brown fur.

“Look what Santa left for you, Gus!” Daphne exclaims as she crouches down to his level.

Brian levels his gaze at Justin. “Gee, how wonderful of Santa.”

Justin blinks innocently. “Great, huh? Just look how happy our son is.”

Brian sighs and there’s no denying the joy on Gus’s face as the little brown labrador licks his face. “I guess that’s all that matters, then.”

Justin moves to Brian’s side and presses their lips together, Brian stiff and unyielding at first, but then warming up as he slides his arm over Justin’s shoulders.

“What are you going to call him, Gus?” Molly’s attention has finally been wrest away from her iPod.

Gus thinks very seriously, hands on hips. Finally he says, “Armani! That way Daddy will love him.”

The room explodes into laughter and Brian can’t keep the smile from his face.


Justin stands in the doorway and waves goodbye to Emmett and Drew, the last guests to leave. Emmett's smile is bright and Drew is more relaxed than Justin remembers him. He makes a mental note to get all the details from Em at New Year's as he closes the door with a sigh of relief. It’s only ten, but feels later. Christmas dinner was a fabulous success, and Justin is flush with the pride of being, as Brian put it earlier, a happy homemaker.

After a quick look at the kitchen, he decides the rest of the dishes can wait for morning this time, especially since it’ll be him doing them, Maria happy at home with her family for the week, a big Christmas bonus in her account. In the den, Brian is nowhere to be found, but the fire beckons in the fireplace and Justin warms his hands, watching the flames.

He turns to admire the Christmas tree once more, noticing a small, unwrapped box below it. Puzzled, he kneels down and picks it up. It is at once familiar in his hands, and he sucks in a surprised breath.

There’s a noise, and Justin looks up to see Brian in the doorway, the lights of the Christmas tree soft on his face. Brian moves towards him and sinks to his knees, joining him on the floor.

“Brian, what…”

Brian says nothing, just takes the box and opens it. The rings shine beautifully in the coloured lights and Justin swallows the lump that has suddenly developed in his throat. “Brian, we don’t need these.” But he wants them. Wants, wants, wants them.

Brian looks at him steadily. “No, we don’t.” He takes the smaller ring out. “But I spent way too much money on them to leave them in a box collecting dust.” His smile is crooked and Justin hears everything else that goes unsaid as Brian slides the ring over Justin’s finger.

With a hand that only trembles a bit, Justin does the same, pushing Brian’s ring over his knuckle until it sits firmly in place. “I do,” Justin whispers.

“So do I.” Brian kisses him gently and they hold onto each other, hands grasping and tight.

A pine needle pokes through Justin’s sweater as he falls back onto the carpet and he half winces and half laughs. “We should go upstairs so we can lock the door,” he mumbles as Brian’s mouth moves its way down his neck.

“After all that turkey, it would take a freight train to wake him.” Brian opens Justin’s pants and pulls his hardening cock free. As Brian takes it between his lips, Justin stops thinking.

Brian has come prepared and after his tongue works Justin’s ass, he thrusts inside, Justin’s legs up on his shoulders. They kiss almost desperately as Brian plunges in and out and Justin presses his palm to Brian’s cheek. When he pulls away to breathe, he is transfixed by the sight of the wedding band gleaming on his finger. Brian smiles and turns his head, his mouth on Justin’s hand, tongue sweeping over the metal there.

Justin squeezes his ass around Brian’s cock, tries to draw him in deeper as he pulls his head down for another kiss. His knees push into his chest and he moans as Brian hits just the right spot inside him. Brian’s balls slap against his ass and they both gasp, sweat forming on their skin as they rock together.

“I want to fuck you raw,” Brian growls, and Justin nearly comes right there. “I want to come inside you, I want to feel everything.”

The only response Justin can make is a garbled groan as Brian takes his cock in his hand, and Justin swears that he sees stars, but maybe it’s just the tinsel shining on the tree. He comes over and over, Brian joining him, muscles quivering.

They collapse in a heap, chests heaving, limbs heavy. Brian shifts to his side, legs still entangled with Justin’s. They’re quiet for a minute until Justin softly asks, “Why did you say that?”

Brian’s eyes are steady once more. “Why do you think I said it?”

“Did you mean it?” It’s silly, but his breath pauses in his chest.

Brian kisses him firmly. “I don’t say things I don’t mean.” His fingers trail down Justin’s chest. “But if you don’t want to, if you want to still have….”

Justin laughs then. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted.” He sobers and regards Brian carefully. “But are you sure it’s what you want? Are you sure I’m enough?”

Kissing him deeply, Brian’s tongue sweeps into his mouth. “You’re everything,” he murmurs against his lips.

“But you’ve always needed…”

“Things change, Justin.” He motions to the room around them, the roaring fire and Christmas tree, the house beyond. Their house, their fire, their Christmas tree. Their son sleeping upstairs. Their life.

Justin knows they’ll have to wait months until they can be sure it’s safe, but he already feels the quiver of excitement coiling in his belly. “Once we do this, there’s no turning back.”

Brian smiles faintly, a faraway look in his eyes. “I think I said that to you once. A long time ago.”

Remembering a rain of glittery confetti and a pulsing beat, Justin smiles too. They lose themselves in each other once again, until a barking and whining puppy interrupts. Brian grumbles as he dresses quickly and takes Armani outside, even though the dog already gone to the bathroom in the hallway.

Justin goes to bed and waits. The snow drifts down outside the window, and Brian’s skin is chilled when he returns, snow melting in his hair as Justin pulls him closer.