"Have a seat" Aggie motioned to a hard wooden chair that faced her paper stacked desk.
"Thank you." Brian was dressed in his finest. It was important to make the perfect impression. He was surprised by Ms. McNamara's firm handshake it did much to belie her slight look. She couldn't be over 5-foot, maybe 90 pounds or so, with brilliant red hair and bright green eyes. A quick thought flashed in his head. She reminded him of one of the Little People from the Wizard of Oz.
"I have to admit this situation confuses me. Not that I have a problem with the dynamics of your family, it simply threw me off guard when you called regarding Gus."
"In what way?" Brian raised an eyebrow already on the defensive should this woman turn out to be less than accepting of his place in his sons life.
"Ms. Marcus informed me that Gus' father... I'm sorry... that you were not involved in Gus' life. I remember she was offended by having to give information regarding Gus' biological father. I would have thought her being a lawyer she would understand the legalities of such information."
"I signed over my parental rights a few years ago." Brian admitted.
"Yes, she made that perfectly clear, but since Gus is in our care more than 20 hours each week the state requires we know the entire parental situation. In case a problem should arise."
"When my son was signed up to your school I wasn't actively involved in my son's life. That has changed over the last six months. Gus' mothers and I made a verbal agreement with allows me regular visitation."
"Lindsay did explain that in our last phone conversation. Not that I'm in a position to hand out legal advice Mr. Kinney, but I would get that in writing."
"You're right. You're not. I'm here to discuss my son's behavior problem not his living arrangements." Brian's mood turned to all business as he felt the conversation had become entirely too personal.
"Of course, I apologize for overstepping my bounds. Mr. Kinney."
Brian softened his tone. Mentally kicking himself, Brian realized he needed to make a friend of this woman not an enemy. "Apology accepted and please I prefer Brian to Mr. Kinney."
The change in Brian's demeanor brought a flash of smile to Aggie's face. "Brian. Gus'habit of biting his classmates has been going on for a few months. The first few times we consult the parents and try to correct the problem within the confines of the school. After the third time it becomes the parents sole responsibility to correct the problem or we have no choice but to remove the child from our program."
"Does it involve the same child?"
"That would make things easier. No each time a different student. From the incident reports..."
"Incident reports? Gus is not a delinquent." Brian interrupted.
"They are incidents of one child attacking another it is not a judgment of his character. Mr. Kinney Gus is a very angry child. He may not seem like it to you and most of the time Gus' is an absolute charming young boy."
"Is there a pattern?"
"When he gets frustrated over something, for example, a few weeks ago the students were doing an art project and Gus became frustrated that his project didn't look right. Samuel was sitting next to him and innocently pointed out what he saw as a small flaw. Gus grabbed Samuel's hand and bit it."
"It is hard to take criticism at any age." Brian smiled slightly. "Sorry, go on."
"Friday during recess several students, including Gus, were playing with a large beach ball. When it was Gus' turn to throw the ball to another boy he decided to walk away from the game with the ball. A female student told him he wasn't being fair and asked him nicely to throw the ball back into play. He was adamant about keeping it. Before the student could get one of the teachers involved Gus grabbed her by the arm and bit it."
"He sounds like a spoiled brat."
"Brian all children, if they're loved, are spoiled. It's the way of our society. Gus show's a great deal of guilt and shame over his attacks. Without being prompted he apologizes and tries to make it up to the child he's attacked."
"An anger management problem."
"Gus has been here for two years now and this is the first we've seen of this kind of behavior."
"Since I became more involved in his life -- so this is my fault."
"No Brian, every child deserves a father. And Gus speaks a great deal about you and someone named Jusin. I've listened in when the kids have Star time..."
"Every other day one of the students is allowed to get up in front of the class. It's like Show and Tell. Only we let them be the Star of the moment. Anyway, in the last few months Gus has told about the time he gets to spend with his daddy and Jusin. He becomes very animated and excited during his retellings."
Brian's smile broadened as his chest swelled with pride. Maybe he was doing something right with his kid after all.
"Jusin is Justin, my partner."
"Gus is a very lucky child to have so many people in his life."
"So where is the anger coming from?" Brian was at a loss.
"Home, Lindsay believes that she has spoiled Gus. Ms. Marcus blames it on the disruption in Gus' life by you're visitations."
"Which leaves Gus caught in the middle."
Aggie nodded in agreement. "Parents often don't realize that little ears hear everything. Their understanding of the world is only what affects them. Children are incredibly intuitive."
"Strange how grown-ups forget kids are people too." Brian added. He knew exactly how Gus felt and it hit hard that his son was being so affected as to act out because of it. He recalled several visits to the principles office for which he had done the same thing in school. What else was a kid to do? You sure as hell couldn't tell your parents to stop fighting and get along, especially, when you were the main subject of their arguments.
"I have a feeling you understand Gus' situation quite well." Aggie only had to look at Brian to know her statement to be true.
"Aggie in your professional opinion is Melanie right in her accusation?" Brian's voice cracked with the last word.
"Brian every child deals with stressful situations at home at one time or another. You want what is best for your son and so do his mothers. What needs to happen is some kind of compromise so that Gus can feel comfortable and secure at home."
"And you think that will make the incidents stop?"
"I'm not a psychologist, but I have worked with children for most of my life. If things calm down at home I'm positive that Gus will find better ways to handle his anger. Think about how hard it is for an adult to deal with stressful situations at home. Even we lash out at innocent bystanders who have nothing to do with why we are angry. Kids are no different."
"Give Gus the opportunity to voice his thoughts."
"You think he can articulate his frustrations?"
"If he feels he is not being put on the spot. Give him a comfortable forum where all are present. At a meal perhaps, lead him towards discussing the problem without pushing. I'm sure the minute he feels stressed he'll either clam up or act out."
"He really is my kid." Brian laughed.
"Then you better than anyone will know how to get him to talk."
"Not sure his mommies will feel that way."
"I'm sure it will be fine."
"Thank you for your time Aggie." Brian stood and offered his hand. "Uh...do you mind if I watch Gus for awhile?" Aggie returned the handshake a little less forceful this time.
"By all means, we love to have parents take part in the day. I'll go get Gus and he can formally introduce you to his class and give you a tour of his classroom."
I'm only telling you what Aggie suggested, I don't have some dark desire to undermine your parenting, but you have to see that your attitude towards my involvement in "
"I've heard enough Dr. Spock!" Melanie turned on Brian. "You think a few books and one talk with the chick who runs the preschool makes you a fucking expert in the mental workings of a three year old!!!?"
"No! And let me finish. We made a deal remember? I'm trying to find the best way to deal with this and both of you have blown it into a major storm, and the backlash is causing our son to act out even more."
"Brian that is not true. Mel and I have discussed this rationally..."
"You blame yourself and she blames me. How is that rational?"
"Gus had no problems until you suddenly decided you wanted to play daddy." Mel shot at Brian. Knowing full well she was pushing the limits of his patience.
"Every kid deserves to have a father." Brian's voice came out low with a bite to it that warned Mel she was charting into dangerous waters.
"Stop being mean to my dada!" The sudden scream from the small boy standing on the staircase landing caused both mommies to jump. Brian closed his eyes tight against the pain that seared in his chest and throat he couldn't do this to his son. He loved him far too much to be the reason his son was hurting. Brian turned to Gus then knelt down and kissed him on the forehead. "Its okay sonnyboy your mommies aren't being mean to me." Not wanting to cause his son anymore undue stress he looked into Gus' eyes and said. "I have to go."
Gus let go and gave his father a tentative smile. "See you waiter huh? K'ay daddy?"
Brian nodded and Gus threw his arms around his father's neck and gave him a big hug, then pulled back and focused solely on Brian's eyes. "wuv you."
"Love you too." Brian leaned in, kissed Gus on the forehead once again, gingerly ruffled the boy's hair and stood. Brian left without even a glance towards the two women. He couldn't let them witness how shaken the encounter had left him.
At the loft.
"So you're giving up on Gus just like that?" Justin was livid that Brian had decided to back off from being a bigger part of Gus' life.
"It's better this way." Brian spoke quietly resigned to letting go of his son.
"That is such bs Brian."
"You didn't see his face or hear him scream "
"God don't you get it? He was standing up for you. YOU! No matter what you think is best' for him, what is' best for him is to have you in his life."
"Not if Melanie has any say in it."
"Talk to her."
"That's what I was trying to do."
Justin put his arms around his partner's waist from behind and lay his head against Brian's back.
"Don't give up on Gus. You never gave up on me and look where we are now."
Brian laughed and turned in Justin's arms.
"One fine mess." Brian giggled and captured his lovers' mouth with his own.
And back at Muncher Villa.
"Don't say it. I know what I agreed to and I was wrong for going along with it." Lindsay held up her hand in silencing any comeback Melanie may have had, bent picked up a laundry basked and trudged upstairs. Half way up the stairs she stopped squared her shoulders, turned around and walked up to face her wife, dropping the laundry basket at their feet.
"We made a deal with Brian and we are going to see it through. Maybe you should think real hard why you hate him so much, and then decide weather it's worth losing your family." Once again Lindsay held up her hand before Melanie could speak, signaling that there was nothing more to be said leaving her wife stunned and speechless, she picked up the laundry basket and disappeared up stairs.
Melanie entered her office in a huff to see Brian Kinney calmly sitting there waiting for her after having been summoned, by her secretary, from an important meeting because of an emergency.
"This better be important Kinney. I just left in the middle of "
"It's about our son." Melanie opened her mouth to correct Brian but was silenced instantly. "That's right our' son so get used hearing it."
"Fine, what about our' son?" Melanie mocked as she slid her suit coat from her shoulders.
"We " Brian pointed to Melanie then back to himself. "You and I need to work out a truce and stick to it. I am not going to let the animosity we feel for each other hurt my son sorry our son any longer." Brian kept eye contact hoping to make his point and to show his long-time advisory that he was dead serious.
"And the stipulations of this 'truce'?" Melanie sneered and folded her arms tightly across her chest.
"Number one, stop bad mouthing me in front of Gus, do it all you like in the privacy of your lesbo boudoir, just make sure Gus doesn't overhear. Two, stop challenging my authority as Gus' father. I'm sick of you throwing up the fact I signed over my parental rights. You know why I did that and both of you promised I would still be involved in decisions. Three, I will be informed of any praises or problems from Gus' preschool and beyond.
"You have that all in writing?" Melanie knew he did, but the lawyer in her made her ask.
"Yes, do you agree?" Brian reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and withdrew the unsigned agreement.
"That is not a legal document."
"It will be when we sign it in front of a notary."
"You think that will hold up in court?"
"I'm not stupid."
"Then why even bother?"
"Because you're a lawyer and I believe in contracts. We both know if we sign this we'll abide by it."
"What do I get out of this truce?"
Brian flipped to the documents second page and handed it to Melanie. After a few moments Melanie's expression went from lawyer serious to complete shock.
"You and Justin discussed this?"
"Why would you two agree to this?"
"Justin and I discussed it and we think it will make you feel more at ease with my involvement in Gus' life."
"Lindsay will never let me agree to this, she'll think it's unfair."
"Lindsay isn't involved she doesn't even have to know about it."
Melanie sat silently for a few moments then, answered with an enthusiastic "deal."
A month later at the Mommies house Gus is at his little art table, in the living room coloring. Lindsay crawled up to him to peek over his shoulder smiling proudly. Her smile diminished when she sees her little artist's latest creation.
"Gus is that you in the picture?" Lindsay pointed to the smallest figure standing between two larger figures on the paper. Gus nodded as his chubby little hands continued to draw.
"Why are you crying in the picture?" Lindsay sat down behind her son.
"Cause dada doesn't wuv Jusin anymore." Gus said sadly, sniffled then rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.
Lindsay hugged her son to her.
"Why do you think daddy and Justin don't love each other anymore?"
"I just know. Jusin is busy wots of da times and he don't go wif us to da musaum, or da zoo, or to bizet gamma Debbie. And Dada doesn't hug Jusin or kiss him, but mosty cause I don't get to sweep in da middo. I wiked sweeping in da middo." Gus rubbed his eyes as tears streamed down his tiny little face.
Lindsay pulled her son into her lap.
"So where do you sleep when your with daddy?"
"Next to daddy."
"And where does Justin sleep?"
"On da couch. He wakes up wif a sore head too."
"Honey, I'm sure daddy and Justin still love each other."
"Ask daddy k'ay? Say he has to wuv Jusin k'ay?" In Gus' mind mommies can fix everything.
Brian is alone at the loft when Lindsay shows up.
"Where's my son?"
"We're not always joined at the hip. He's at a play date."
"That is such a hetero phrase. Can't you just say he's, at a friends."
"Okay, he's, at a friends." Lindsay laughed at Brian's little peccadillo.
"And the reason for your impromptu visit?" Brian opened the refrigerator he grabbed two bottles of water tossing one to Lindsay, who narrowly caught it.
"Hey! And I don't need a reason to stop by and see a member of my family."
Lindsay followed Brian's lead and they plopped down on the sofa together.
"What's the problem?" Brian took a long draw from the water bottle, swallowed and waited silently for Lindsay's answer.
"Are you and Justin okay? You're still together, not fighting or anything?"
"We're fine, great closer than ever. Why?"
"Gus thinks you two aren't in love anymore. He says you two don't hug or kiss anymore and he doesn't get to sleep in the middo." Lindsay mimicked her son's concerned expression.
"What?" The last part threw him off guard.
"It's okay Brian. Gus sleeps with us sometimes too and it's extra special that he gets to sleep between dada and Jusin."
"It was only a few times and ."
"Brian it's okay. Why are you two keeping your distance from each other around Gus?"
Brian only stared at his water bottle.
"Showing love and affection to each other in front of your son is a good thing."
"We made a deal I made a deal with Mel, even put it in writing. It seemed the only way."
"The only way to what, satisfy Melanie?" Lindsay could feel her face going red.
"Don't interfere Linds Gus will get used to it. Justin and I discussed it, and we realized that Mel was really afraid of losing Gus."
"I'm not following."
"Before it was Gus visiting daddy and Justin. I think she was afraid that Gus would want to be with us instead of you two. It was Justin's idea. I didn't don't think its fair, but neither was putting my son our son in the middle."
"So now it's just a visit to Daddy's house and Justin stays out of the picture as much as possible?"
"It's worked. Mels not such an uber-bitch and Gus is doing better at school."
"How does Justin feel about that?"
"We don't talk about it."
"But you know it hurts him."
"It's hurting Gus too! He drew this today." Lindsay pulled out the picture Gus drew from her bag. "I asked him why he was crying and he told me he didn't think you and Justin loved each other anymore. It's because he doesn't see you show affection toward each other."
"Damn! I can't do this anymore Linds. Nothing I do is right. This was such a mistake. I shouldn't have even started any of this." Brian stood up and walked to the large windows.
"That's sure as hell not the Brian Kinney I'm used to."
"NO! No its not. I'm not the same .how hard is that for everyone to understand!"
Lindsay sighed loudly then squared her shoulders. "I'm going to fix this. You and Justin come for dinner tonight and bring whatever that thing you made with Melanie with you. Did you hear me Brian?"
"Yes, tonight what time?"
"Seven." Lindsay pulled Brian into a hug before leaving.
Dinner at seven Lindsay's in charge.
" Justin sit next to Brian, Mel next to me." Lindsay noticed Brian's concerned daddy face. "Gus is fine dad he was tired from playing with his friend so I gave him and early supper and put him to bed. Besides I wanted this to be just between grown-ups. We're going to have a lovely dinner with only nice interesting conversation. There'll be no talking about sex, family problems or Gus. Then afterward we will all sit in the living room enjoy cake and coffee and have a family meeting."
"A family meeting?" All three adults spoke in unison.
"Yes, because that's what we are. Now make nice and eat."
The only sounds coming from the table were clinking utensils, plates and polite "please passes" until everyone had a full plate and settled comfortably into the routine of eating dinner. Lindsay enquired about Justin's classes and Rage. Brian proudly announced Justin's major coo in having a piece being accepted into an art show in Washington DC in the spring. Melanie and Brian bantered lightly back and forth about recent news items. There was a calmness in the air that all of them enjoyed.
The family meeting.
After everyone had gathered in the living room Lindsay took center stage.
"Brian did you bring along the deal'?"
Brian reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out the contract he and Melanie had signed. Both Melanie and Justin looked surprised at the presenting of this contract to Lindsay.
"Brian I thought you said " Melanie began to admonish.
"I made him tell me about it after talking to Gus about a picture he drew this morning." Lindsay handed the picture to Melanie. "Notice the small figure crying. When I asked him why he said it was because he didn't think Brian and Justin loved each other anymore." Lindsay skimmed through the document and stopped when she got to the second page. "Melanie why did you agree to this?"
"I just think it's inappropriate for Gus to see "
"See them show their love for each other? Why are they different from us?"
"They're not in a committed relationship. It's different between us we're showing how much we love each other, their just horny."
"That's so unfair and not true." Justin was the first to defend their relationship.
"Justin, honey I know you want to think that Brian really loves you "
"I do I do really love him. After all these months of us being back together why would you think "
"Brian you don't have to defend your love for Justin to anyone." Lindsay tore up the contract. "We are a family and we have a huge extended family. All of us should be grateful for all the wonderful, loving, caring people we have around us. How much better can one kid have it, two mommies, two daddies, and lots of crazy loving relatives." Lindsay's voice rose to accentuate the wonderfulness of Gus' extraordinary family.
"And will you still feel that way when Gus tells you he wants to live with his daddies because he's happier there?" Mel stood up to face her wife. "That's what is going to happen. We're the ones who take care of him 24/7. We discipline him, make him clean his room, then he goes to dada and Jusin's where it's all fun and games. Hell, if I were a kid I know where I'd choose to be. Overnight we'll become the bad guys and the daddies will be wearing white hats.
"While I'll admit I look fabulous in white, but everything you just said is based on irrational fears and keep you from seeing the reality. You know Gus follows the same rules as he does here. He has a bed time, he's disciplined and he even helps with little chores around the loft. Justin and I both make sure he picks up after himself, brushes his teeth and cleans behind his ears."
"Mel, it's been really hard having to stay away from Gus. Brian is Gus' father and I would never interfere with that."
"And what happens when you walk away, again?" Mel gave Justin a hard stare.
"And what happens when you walk away again Mel?" Brian stood up defending his partner. "And don't pull that shit that, it's different."
"Families change things happen and as long as a kid knows their loved things usually work out okay." Lindsay rationalized as she stepped between Melanie and Brian.
"Mommy I's aw wet." Gus' tiny voice called from the top of the stairs.
Everyone's eyes went to the stairs as Gus' slowly made his way down the staircase keeping a tight hold on the railing with each step. "Dada, Jusin I see you." He giggled and hurried to his dada.
Brian knelt down and hugged Gus not caring that he was getting his brand new silk shirt full of Gus pee pee.
"I dwank too much juice." Gus admitted proudly to his father.
"I see. Well no big deal. Let's go get changed." Brian headed up the stairs with Gus in his arms. Lindsay trailed behind him. "It's okay Linds I'll clean him up."
"And I'll change his bedding." Justin trotted up behind Lindsay.
"Be my guest. Everything is in his room."
The boy's disappeared upstairs. "Oh and don't forget to put a towel over the wet spot." Lindsay added then laughed at herself when she realized what'd she'd said. She could hear Brian and Justin laughing too.
"Wow, Brian didn't even flinch when Gus ran up to him all wet." Melanie was shocked by Brian's reaction to his son little accident.
"You have never given him much credit Mel. Underneath all that I don't give a shit' Kinney attitude is a guy who turns to mush where Gus and Justin are concerned." Lindsay laughed.
"I'm not totally convinced yet, but you're right he deserves a chance. I know I've been a real "
"Uber-bitch." Lindsay added.
"Okay okay I give, but I'm still keeping my eyes open."
Later at the loft.
The boys stumble into the loft groping, kissing, hugging, pulling off clothes you get the idea.
"Watching Melanie eat crow made me soooo " Justin said while kissing Brian's neck.
"Don't say it. Sex and Melanie do not go together so if you " Brian whispered into Justin's ear after covering his mouth with his hand.
"I know, but her face when she agreed she'd been so ." Justin blurted out after pulling Brian's hand from his mouth.
"It was priceless, and I smell like piss. Join me?" Brian pulled Justin to the bathroom with him.
Later that night the two lovers are sated. The boys are molded together as Brian strokes Justin's hair.
"You were wrong Jack." Brian spoke to the ceiling smiling broadly.
"I love you." Justin whispered. He was so proud of Brian for standing up for himself and him they were the only words that would come out.
"I love you." Brian sighed softly into Justin's hair. "It almost feels too good."
"Now you sound like Melanie, don't be so cynical. Good things happen without the bad things all the time."
"That made no sense whatsoever." Brian laughed giving Justin a light tap on his bottom.
"Yes it does, it's Justin speak for stop worrying and go to sleep." Justin gave his partner a noisy kiss on his cheek.
"I'm not worrying it's just...."
"Shut up Kinney and go to sleep."
"When did you turn into such a bossy little...."
"Goodnight dear." Justin kissed his partner again and closed his eyes.
"Goodnight dear." Brian replied in falsetto then turned to spoon himself around his sunshine.