COMMENCEMENT

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1

The other sections in "The Angel Stream".

Hanover, N.H., June 2005

"Justin," said Craig Taylor, lifting his martini glass. "I want to make a toast. You're graduating
Cum Laude from Dartmouth and I couldn't be prouder! To my son -- Justin!"

"Here, here!" added Jennifer, holding up her glass of white wine. "I'm so proud of you, too, honey!"

Justin gave his parents a weak smile and held up his glass of beer. Dinner with them had been awkward, but now it was drawing to a close. Tomorrow would be Commencement. He'd have his diploma -- just as his father had wanted -- and then he'd be free to live his life the way HE wanted to, and not the way his parents wanted. But there was still tonight to get through. And tomorrow....

"Thanks," mumbled Justin. He was glad the restaurant was jammed with Dartmouth students, their parents, and Alumni who were in town to attend the ceremony so that he didn't have to talk all that much. The Green Mountain Tavern wasn't exactly the best place for an intimate conversation.

Justin's roommate, Denny, and his girlfriend, Carole, had come in just as the Taylors were starting their dessert, and they both waved at Justin. Denny had confided that he was going to propose to Carole at dinner, but Justin couldn't imagine a less romantic atmosphere than the crowded Tavern. Still, he was happy for Denny and he'd gushed over the engagement ring he'd bought, just as Denny expected him to. Justin also knew that Denny and Carole were staying tonight at a room Denny had booked at the Hanover Inn. He'd also ordered flowers to be sent to the room. A dozen red roses. Girls expected that kind of thing, especially when they were getting engaged.

Craig Taylor was rambling on about something, but Justin was only half listening. Brian was coming up tonight for Commencement. He had also booked a room, but not at the busy Hanover Inn. Brian had reserved a suite at a bed and breakfast some miles outside of town. Justin had heard about the place from one of the guys in the Gay Dartmouth group. It was run by a couple of older men who had been together for many years and collected antiques. Brian would probably hate the place and make fun of it for being hopelessly faggy and schmoopy, but Justin didn't care. He only wanted to be alone with Brian.

He glanced at his watch. Brian was driving up from Pittsburgh. It was a long drive and Brian hadn't been certain what time he'd get to Hanover. Justin finished his beer, anxious to bring the dinner to a close.

"Justin, are you listening to me?"

Justin looked up at his father, startled. "Um... sure, Dad. I'm listening."

"I said that I know you'll want to take a couple of weeks off for vacation, but then I want you to start at the store." Craig pressed his lips together. Justin seemed in a daze tonight. Maybe he was simply tired from finishing up his final projects for school. But now it was all over. Now Justin was ready to begin his life in the real world of business.

Justin took a deep breath. "Right. The store," he repeated. Taylor Electronics. This is what he'd been avoiding for the past four years. His father's store. But he could avoid it no longer.

"Yes," Craig continued. "I think it would be best for you to start out on the main floor. Stocking shelves and getting a feel for the place. Gary will be your supervisor and he'll teach you the ropes. It's good to learn the business from the ground up. Get to know every aspect of the job. Then, when you're ready, you can move to the office. And in a year or two I think it might be a good idea for you to come back here to the Tuck School and get your MBA. That would be the frosting on the cake!"

"Dad," Justin interrupted. This was not the best time and place for this discussion, but Craig had brought it up and Justin could see no other way out.

"You have to stay on top in this business," said Craig, ignoring his son. "It's constantly changing. New products are coming on line all the time and if you slip up, then the big chain stores will kill you."

"Dad!" Justin said more urgently. "Will you stop for a minute and listen to me!"

"Justin," said Jennifer, touching her son's arm. "Is this really necessary right now?"

Jennifer knew exactly what Justin was going to tell his father and she'd been dreading it for months. But graduation was here and there was no putting it off. Craig was not going to take it well. That was an understatement. He was going to go ballistic and the fallout was going to effect everyone in the family, not merely Justin.

"Yes, Mom," said Justin, shaking his mother off. "It IS necessary. I can't go any longer having Dad think that I'm going to do something that I'm not."

"What the hell are you two talking about?" Craig's face was dark. He looked at his son and had a very bad feeling in his gut.

"I'm not going to be working at the store, Dad," Justin stated flatly. "In fact, I'm not going to be working in business at all."

"What do you mean?" Craig asked, his mouth hanging open. He looked over at his wife, but she turned her head away.

"I went to your Alma Mater, Dad, and I studied what you wanted me to study," Justin said, barely keeping his voice steady. "I did what YOU wanted me to do and pretended to be the son you wanted me to be." Justin paused, trying to think of the right way to say it. "But I'm not that person. That's not what I want to do with the rest of my life. And it isn't what I'm going to do. I'm going to be what I wanted to be from the beginning -- an artist."

Justin sat back and crossed his arms in front of his chest. That was the first part. The second part was sure to come tomorrow when Brian was there for Commencement. But that would make it a lot easier -- to have Brian there to bolster his courage when he came out to his father.

"An artist, huh?" Craig sneered. "And how the hell do you think you're going to support yourself as a goddamn artist?"

"Craig, please calm down!" Jennifer begged.

"Did you know about all this, Jen?" Craig blasted. "Have you been encouraging him in this fucking pipe dream?"

"It is my dream, Dad," said Justin. "But it's not a pipe dream. I think I have talent and I think I can make a living with my art -- eventually. I'm not saying that I'm the next Picasso. But I want to try to be. I only want to do what makes me happy! What's wrong with that?"

"That's not the way the world works!" Craig thundered. People at the surrounding tables turned around and stared at the Taylor party. A waiter came over and asked Craig to please lower his voice, which only made him angrier at Justin for embarrassing him in a public place. "If you think that I'm going to support you or that you're going to live under my roof while you pursue this idiotic scheme -- well, think again!"

"I know," Justin said, swallowing hard. "I wasn't planning on living under your roof, Dad. I knew what your reaction would be."

"Then good luck!" said Craig, standing up. He reached into his wallet and took out a wad of cash, throwing it on the table. "Here. This is the last money you're ever getting from me! I hope you enjoyed your meal! Come on, Jen!"

Jennifer gave Justin one more pleading look before she followed her husband out of the dining room.

The waiter came over, hesitantly. "Will there be anything else, sir?"

Justin handed him all of the cash his father had left. "No, thanks. I think that was quite enough for tonight."

***

Justin trudged slowly back to campus from the restaurant. He was almost glad that his parents had taken off without him. Walking gave him time to think.

And he needed to do a lot of thinking.

Was he really doing the right thing? His father was correct about one thing. There was no guarantee that he'd ever make enough money as an artist to support himself. And although Brian had offered to lend him any money he needed to make his dream come true, Justin worried that it would seem like he was taking advantage of Brian. Already Brian's best friend Michael had taken to referring to Brian as Justin's 'sugar daddy,' and although Brian told him to forget it, that Mikey was only jealous, Justin couldn't help think that what Michael was saying was partly true.

That's not what Justin wanted to be. Brian's pretty little blond boyfriend. Brian's boytoy. Brian's trick that came to stay.

No, Justin wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be Brian's real partner. An equal. Someone Brian could be proud of and not a joke all of his friends snickered about behind their backs.

It was funny, but when the two of them were alone together, Justin never had these worries. All he had to do was lose himself in Brian's arms and all of his fears dissolved. But whenever he was in Pittsburgh and they went to Woody's or Babylon or got together with the gang at the Liberty Diner, then all of Justin's insecurities came to the fore. Even Emmett, who out of all of Brian's friends seemed to like Justin the most, often made bitchy comments that cut Justin to the quick. And they all constantly referred to Brian's reputation as the Stud of Liberty Avenue. The man who could never be tamed by any one guy. Brian Fucking Kinney, who had a thousand notches on his bedpost and would probably have a thousand more before he was finished. The guys seemed proud of Brian's legend and their tenuous connection to it.

That was the thing -- Brian's sexual experience was centuries ahead of Justin's and always would be. Maybe Justin was a silly romantic, but he didn't feel the need to fuck every guy he saw, especially not when he already had the most beautiful man he could ever imagine.

At least for now.

But how long before Brian grew bored with him? Justin thought of that a lot when they were apart. He knew that Brian still tricked with other guys, especially when weeks went by when they didn't see each other. Brian assured Justin that those encounters were only about sex, but what if that changed? What if he decided that one of those guys was better than Justin? What if he fell in love with one of them?

Justin also worried about owing Brian, especially now that his father had officially cut him off. If he took Brian up on his offer to support him while he pursued his art, then how would Justin ever pay him back?

Justin yawned as he approached his residence hall. It was getting late and Justin had to get up early the next morning to get ready for Commencement. His robe and mortarboard were hanging in his room. And his bags were all packed, ready to go as soon as the ceremony was over.

But where was Justin really going? That was the question. He'd already burned down one bridge -- his business career -- with his father. Was he really ready to burn down the final one? Was he ready to tell Craig Taylor that his only son was gay?

"Hey, stud," said a voice in the dark. "Looking for some company tonight?"

Justin whipped around to see Brian in the shadows, leaning against a black Jeep and smoking a cigarette. He was wearing faded jeans and a leather jacket and looked dangerous and sexy. He tossed the cigarette to the ground and crushed it with the toe of his boot.

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming!" Justin cried as he launched himself into Brian's arms.

Brian lifted Justin up and spun him around, laughing. "You know that I always come when I say I'm going to. But that drive up here was a lot longer than I thought it would be."

"I missed you!" Justin breathed as he buried his face against Brian's leather jacket, savoring Brian's musky essence. "It's been over a month since I've seen you!"

"I know," said Brian, holding him tightly. He was almost surprised at how happy he felt to have Justin back in his grasp. "I... I missed you, too, twat."

"Really?" Justin was surprised to hear Brian admit it.

"Really." Brian pulled back. "Get whatever you need and let's get going. It's a twenty minute drive out to that haunted house you booked me into!"

"It's not a haunted house!" Justin laughed. "It's a bed and breakfast!"

"You haven't seen the place," Brian huffed. "But I have! I checked in earlier this evening. And believe me -- it's a fucking haunted house! With two resident ghosts!"

"Are you talking about the two old guys who own the place?" asked Justin as he and Brian walked up to the dorm and Justin opened the front door with his card.

"Yes, the Ghosts of Discos Past," said Brian. "And I'm talking 1969 at least -- maybe longer! I think those two guys knew Oscar Wilde personally."

They walked up to the second floor where Justin's room was located. There were last minute parties going on all over the floor, spilling out into the lounge.

"Hey, Just!" called one of the guys who was sitting on the sofa. "We're all getting wasted. Wanna toke?" He held out a fat joint.

"Don't mind if I do," said Brian, stepping forward. He took the spliff and sucked it knowingly. "Not bad." Brian passed it to Justin, who took a more tentative puff.

"Are you Justin's brother?" the guy asked.

"No," said Justin, handing back the joint. "Brian is my...."

"Lover," Brian interjected. "Any of you guys have a problem with that?"

The boys exchanged glances. They all knew that Justin was a fag, but they'd never seen this man before. And he was a man. Not another college student, but a tall, masculine-looking man in a leather jacket. A man who looked like he could easily kick their collective asses.

"No, sir," said the guy with joint. "No problem. We're all cool with it. Right, guys?"

And even the guys who weren't that cool with it nodded.

"Your weed isn't bad," Brian commented before they both went into Justin's room. "But next time roll it tighter. There's nothing worse than a loose joint rolled by a clueless amateur. Nighty night, boys."

And Brian leered at them as he shut the door firmly and locked it.

©Gaedhal, December 2005.

Posted June 10, 2006.