Title: Can A Leopard Really Change Its Spots?
A/N: Written for the Evil Kinney Girls
Birthday Project for yvonnereid.
CAN A LEOPARD REALLY CHANGE ITS SPOTS?
"I'm just gonna run in and get Molly as fast as I can. This jet lag is kicking my ass." Justin leans over and sticks his tongue down Brian's throat before he gets out of the car. "Flying across the country without you to take care of business really sucks."
Brian glances down at Justin's lap and smirks. "I've got plans for that jet-lagged ass, you know. Sorry I told Lindsay we'd pick Molly up on our way home from the airport."
"It's okay. Be right back."
. . .
"Hi, honey! How was L.A.?" Jennifer reaches out and hugs Justin when she opens the door. "Where's Brian?"
"He's waiting for me in the car. Is Molly ready to babysit Gus?" Justin gives his mom a quick kiss. "I was hoping we could get together this weekend. Why don't you and Molly come out to the house for dinner? I'll make-"
"Sure, honey," Jennifer interrupts, trying to warn him before the shock kills him. "Justin, someone's here, and he's-"
"Hi, son. It's good to see you."
Astonishment ripples through Justin's senses, a voice he hasn't heard in years invading his ears and catching him off guard. Daring to peek inside over his mom's shoulder, he sees a much smaller man than he'd remembered, although decidedly happier.
"I waited for you to get here. Can you come in and talk?"
Justin mines Jennifer's eyes for answers, wondering what the fuck is going on. He shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other when Craig Taylor smiles at him and comes over to shake his hand. "Dad. I thought you never wanted to see me again," he forces up and out of some dark hiding place. "You said-"
"Life is just too short. I hope you can forgive my atrocious behavior in the past, Justin. I'm really happy to see you. Come in and sit down."
Taken aback, Justin's gut reaction is mistrust. How can his dad look and sound so sincere? "I can't stay. My husband's out in the car." He knows he should feel rotten for goading his father into a scene right there at his mom's front door, but he doesn't. An eternity of hurt has taken its toll.
Craig's still smiling, though. "Okay. But I'd like to see him again before you take off."
"You'd like to see him again?" Justin's eyebrows raise halfway into his forehead. "He's gay, too. Remember? Is that going to bother you?"
Jennifer's house is suddenly filled to the rafters with Craig's booming laughter, she and Justin both peering at him rather warily before breaking into grins of their own.
Molly walks out of the kitchen and stands by her dad. "What'd I miss?"
"Your brother's really funny!" Craig roars. "I've missed that all these years!"
Jennifer takes a deep breath. "Molly, why don't you go ask Brian to come in for a minute?"
Justin nods at his sister. "Go ahead. He's wondering what's taking me so long."
"When did you get married?" Craig asks when Molly slips outside.
"Two years ago this June. We had a big wedding."
"Wish I'd been there. Your mom says you're a famous artist. I'd love to see your work sometime."
"Dad . . ."
"I know." Craig hangs his head and inspects his shoes. "It's my own fault that we've ended up here, son. Maybe someday-"
"Hey. Molly said you wanted me to come in?" Brian walks up to the door with her and gives his mother-in-law a peck on the cheek.
Grabbing his husband around the neck, Justin plants a big wet smack on his mouth. Then he pulls him in for more, sealing their lips together and putting on a show. "Brian, I'm sure you remember my dad, Craig Taylor," he says when he finally backs off. "Dad, this is my husband, Brian Kinney." Justin takes a step to the side, anticipating his father's meltdown.
"Great to see you again, Brian." Craig extends his hand out toward him. "After all this time," he adds as it hangs between them in limbo.
Speechless, Brian freezes, his eyes growing wide with suspicion.
"It's okay," Justin breaks the silence. "He's sorry. He wants to make up for lost time." Lifting Brian's right hand, he connects it with his dad's. "It doesn't repulse him anymore that you're gay."
Craig laughs again, though not as loudly as before.
Brian shakes hands with him cautiously. "You're sorry?" he starts. "For all the years of-"
"Brian." Justin lets his eyes finish when Brian glances at him sideways.
Craig squares his shoulders, facing Justin's husband man-to-man. "I don't blame you for being skeptical, Brian. In time, I hope to prove to you and Justin that I've changed." He stands a little taller. "Jen was right. She told me you're a special breed. That your love for Justin is fierce."
"Mother Taylor said that?" Brian's face softens. "I've always admired her. She gave me the benefit of the doubt very early on, and that took guts. We've been close ever since."
"She didn't deserve the way I walked out on her." Craig eyes his ex-wife with sorrow. "And I can never get back all the years with Justin that I threw away. I've been so foolish."
Justin squints, imperceptively rolling his eyes. "Okay, we gotta get going," he announces. "You ready, Mollusk? We'll drop you off at Lindsay's." He turns to hug his mom good-bye. "So about five o'clock Saturday for dinner?"
Craig smiles at Brian. "It was a pleasure to see you again." Offering his hand once more, he breathes a sigh of relief when Brian's less standoffish and shakes with him. Then he thrusts both arms out toward his son. "Justin." He reels him close and holds on.
Justin's eyes are fixed on Brian's, a crazy idea running amok in their brains. "You want to come with Mom and Molly for dinner on Saturday?" he asks, freeing himself from his dad's grip. "Maybe we can get to know each other again. Maybe we won't, you know, hate each other this time."
"I'd love to, Justin. Thanks." Is that the painful reality of the last six years biting Craig Taylor in the ass? "Well, I guess Jen can tell me where you live."
"All right. Saturday it is." Brian kisses Jennifer good-bye, reaching for Justin's hand as they walk to the car with Molly. "What the fuck just happened?" he mumbles when they pile in.
Molly laughs, buckling her seat belt in the back. "I think he's going through a midlife crisis or something. It's like he's a totally different person lately."
Justin can't stop shaking his head. "All I know is we're slugging the asshole in the face and kicking the shit out of him as soon as he lets one wrong word out of his mouth."
"Yes, dear." Brian squeezes Justin's leg and puts the key in the ignition. "It is kind of empowering to give him enough rope to hang himself."
Molly looks at her brother and his husband. "Or maybe you guys just might be surprised. He's really not homophobic anymore."
Justin rolls down the window while Brian backs out of the driveway. Rubbing his eyes, he tries to reconcile years of rejection with the last ten minutes of his life. Brian runs his fingers over his sore jaw, a sharp pang attacking his rib cage.
"We'll see," they utter as one, each lost in his thoughts.