COMMENCEMENT

"A Queer As Folk USA Alternate Stream FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 3

The other sections in "The Angel Stream".

Hanover, N.H., June 2005

This is it, thought Justin as he heard his name called. He walked across the stage and took his diploma. He thought he heard Brian calling his name, but that was probably only his imagination.

It had seemed as if the ceremony would never end. His class lining up, marching in, and then taking their seats. The procession of the professors in their academic robes. The inspirational speeches about meeting the challenges of the real world. Blah blah blah. And 'Taylor' was at the end of the alphabet, so it seemed like forever before he finally reached the podium. Then the pronouncement that the Dartmouth Class of 2005 had officially graduated.

"Thank God!" cried Denny as his eyes searched the crowd for his family and his new fiancée, Carole. Compared to Justin, Denny seemed to have his life all mapped out. He already had a job lined up in Boston. Then, after Carole graduated from Boston College next year, they'd get married. Justin had promised Denny that he'd be an usher at their wedding.

"Did you tell your parents about your engagement?" asked Justin.

"First thing this morning," said Denny. "Ma said, 'It's about time!'" She got married right out of high school, so she was wondering what we were waiting for!" Denny was the oldest son of a large Irish Catholic family from Southie, so his graduation from a prestigious school like Dartmouth was a big deal. "She expects us to give her a lot of grandchildren -- and I mean a lot!"

"There they are." Justin pointed to a hoard of freckled redheads barrelling towards them. "Now I have to find my own parents -- and Brian."

"Good luck, Just," said Denny, before he was enveloped by the celebrating throng.

"Thanks," Justin replied. "I'm going to need it."

Justin took off his mortarboard. He thought it looked silly and he didn't want his mom taking any pictures of him with it on his head. When he'd put on his regalia back at the dorm that morning, Brian had laughed his ass off at the headgear. "That's why I never wear a hat!" Brian said. "You look ridiculous!"

"I know," said Justin. "Asshole!"

"That's me," Brian had said. But then he kissed Justin. "Are you ready to deal with this?"

Justin took a deep breath. "I'm ready."

But was he? Really?

Justin pushed through the crowd until he saw his parents. As usual, Craig and Jennifer Taylor were perfectly groomed and perfectly calm, so different from Denny's boisterous, emotional family. Even on their only son's graduation day, it wouldn't do to show what they were really feeling. Happiness? Disappointment? Hope? Anger? Justin searched their faces for a sign. But on his mother's face he could only find resignation. And on his father's face -- icy indifference.

"Congratulations, honey!" said Jennifer, hugging Justin gently. Then she whispered into his ear, "I'm so happy for you! You looked beautiful up there!"

"Thanks, Mom," Justin whispered back.

"I took some pictures with my new digital camera!" said Jennifer, moving out of Justin's grasp. "But you were so far away!"

"That's okay, Mom," said Justin, glancing at his father. Craig was holding his new video camera and Justin assumed that, as usual, he had been filming everything in sight. But Craig was tight-lipped. "Get some good shots, Dad?"

"I think so," said Craig. The three of them stood in awkward silence for a few moments before Craig finally spoke again. "So, have you come to your senses, Justin? You had your little moment of drama -- I think it's time to move on."

"I agree," said Justin. "It's time to move on. But if by coming to my senses you mean have I changed my mind about not working at the store, then the answer is no."

"Then you know the consequences!" Craig's face turned red as he tried to contain his anger.

"Yes, I know the consequences," Justin replied, unwavering. "I understand them more than you might think. But this isn't about you, Dad. It's about me. About my life. And my choices."

"Can't we leave this until we get back home?" Jennifer pleaded. "I want this to he a happy day!"

"So do I," said Justin, sadly. "But I'm not going to be going home with you. You already know why, Mom."

"Please, Justin!" Jennifer breathed. "Please change your mind!"

But it was too late. Justin had known that for months. There was no turning back. Especially now, when....

"Justin!" And, just like that, Brian's strong arms were wrapped around him. Justin felt himself being lifted off his feet. "The way you smiled when you grabbed that diploma! I thought your fucking face was going to split -- Sunshine!" Brian laughed loudly.

"And who the hell are you?" Craig Taylor's voice boomed like a gunshot.

Justin found himself on his feet again, but Brian's arm was around his shoulder. Holding him up. Supporting him. This was the moment Justin had been dreading, but now he knew that he could do it. From now on everything in his life would be marked 'Before' and 'After.'

"Dad, this is Brian," said Justin. "He's my boyfriend and I'm going to be living with him. I don't need to ask you what you think of this, because I already know. But this is my life. This is what I have to do."

"Your WHAT?" said Craig. He looked as if he'd been hit with a hammer. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You heard me, Dad." Justin's mouth was dry. "I'm gay. I've always been gay. I couldn't say it out loud to you before, but I think you've always known. You just didn't want to believe it."

"And I don't believe it!" Craig yelled. "No son of mine is a faggot!"

"Craig, please keep your voice down!" Jennifer pulled at her husband's arm.

"What did this... this pervert do to you, Justin?" Craig said, glaring at Brian. "I'll call the cops! I'll have him arrested!"

"I'm 22 years old, Dad," Justin said softly. "I'm a grown man. Brian didn't do anything to me. Except love me. And accept me for what I am."

"That's not love!" Craig cried. "That's... that's some sick perversion!"

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Mr. Taylor," said Brian, tightening his hold on Justin. "But it seems to me that what you're showing towards your son doesn't look like love, either. It looks like possession. It looks like fear. It looks like rejection. I know a little about that myself, and I can tell you one thing -- that's not love. That's hate."

"Get away from me, you fucking pervert!" Craig recoiled. "And don't you dare lecture me! Who the hell are you to lecture me?"

"I'm your son's lover!" Brian countered. "That's who the hell I am!"

Brian saw Craig's fist coming at him from a mile away. He pulled himself and Justin back and Craig went stumbling forward, dropping his video camera on the ground. "Shit!" he mumbled.

"Are you all right?" Jennifer asked, reaching for her husband.

"I'm okay!" said Craig. "Don't touch me!" He bent to pick up the camera. Then he turned on his wife. "This is all your fault, Jen! All those art lessons! And fucking Drama Club! When I wanted to send him to military school, you were the one who stopped me!"

"Mom didn't make me gay, Dad," Justin declared, interrupting his father's tirade. "And neither did art lessons or Drama Club. I was born that way, whether you want to accept that or not. Little League didn't straighten me out, and military school wouldn't have, either. I'm gay! I'm a queer! You can either take me or leave me, love me or hate me, but this is the way I am!"

Craig stared at his son, and then at the tall, dark-haired man by his side. Faggots. Both of them.

"Let's get out of here, Jen!" Craig snapped. Jennifer hesitated, gazing longingly at her son. "Now, Jen!" And she followed her husband, away from Justin and Brian, until they were lost in the crowd.

"Now I've really done it," Justin said. He hands were shaking. "I'm out. I'm officially a homosexual."

"Yes," said Brian. "You've done it. And you're the best homosexual I've ever known. So, come on. It's time for us to go, too."

But Justin only nodded.

***

"More coffee, Mr. Kinney?"

Brian looked up. "No, thanks," he told Sidney, the shorter of the two old queens who ran the bed and breakfast.

"How about some bacon and eggs?" Sidney urged. "Or an omelet? My partner Jerome makes a wonderful veggie omelet. He does all of the cooking. You should eat something this morning. You'll feel much better."

"No, really, I feel great. And just toast is fine," said Brian. He only wanted to read his Monday 'New York Times' in peace, but he picked up a piece of whole wheat toast and bit into it to show the old guy that he was, in fact, eating something.

"Where's your young man this morning?" Sidney asked. He was naturally curious about his guests and this couple was especially fascinating. Saturday night the tall, gorgeous man, Mr. Kinney, had checked into their best suite, the Robert Frost. Later he brought his partner, a blond Dartmouth student, back to the room in the middle of the night. It had been impossible to ignore their presence, since the sound of their vigorous love-making had been apparent to everyone in the place.

"Yesterday was kind of hectic, so I'm letting him sleep in," said Brian. "But don't worry, we'll be checking out before noon."

"Oh, I'm not worried at all," said Sidney. "Perhaps you and your boyfriend would like to stay another night? I can suggest some lovely places to explore in the area. Do you like antiques?"

Brian winced at the mention of antiques. "We can't," he said. "We need to get home tonight."

"And where's home?" Sidney prodded.

Brian shook his head. This guy was nosy as fuck! But there probably wasn't much else for him to do out here in the boondocks except torment his guests.

"Pittsburgh," Brian said shortly.

"That's a very long drive!" Sidney exclaimed. "You two should stay another night and get an early start tomorrow."

"Love to," Brian sniffed. "Can't."

Sidney sighed and walked away from the table. Why were the beautiful butch boys always so surly? He wished that the young blond was at the table. He would probably be much more forthcoming.

Brian set down his newspaper and ate the rest of the toast. He was glad that they were getting the hell out of here. Yesterday had been a nightmare for Justin. His fucking father was a jerk and his wimp of a mother wasn't much better. Luckily, Justin held it together. He's a brave one, Brian thought. Braver than I'd have been in the same situation. Braver than I am. Brian had yet to come out to his own mother and he felt like a hypocrite standing next to Justin as he confronted his old man and told him he was gay. But now it was over. Time to move on.

After the graduation fiasco, they had gone to dinner with Justin's roommate and his large extended family. The Duggans were a bunch of blue-collar Boston micks and Brian had felt right at home with them. And not one of them had batted an eye at a couple of fags joining the gang for a meal. Justin later told Brian that Denny had a gay uncle and a lesbian cousin who was an ex-nun, so Brian and Justin hadn't been too much of a shock to their Irish Catholic sensibilities.

Billy, the head of the Duggan Clan, was a red-faced, redheaded man who ate a lot, drank a lot, and laughed a lot -- and who enjoyed needling Brian all through the meal. "Denny and Carole are getting married next June," he said in his heavy South Boston accent. "So, Brian, you and Justin should come up and tie the knot at the same time. Move to Mass where you can make an honest woman of the kid! Am I right?" he guffawed.

Justin blushed while Denny hit his father fondly on the shoulder. "Lay off, Pop! You're embarrassing my friends!"

"Who's embarrassed?" said Billy Duggan. "Go for it, Brian. I'm married -- why should you get off scot-free just because you're a queer?"

"Thanks, Bill," Brian replied. "When Justin gets knocked up, we'll take you up on the offer."

Billy Duggan had laughed loudly at that. "I like you, Brian! You're welcome to come up and stay with Marge and me any time! There's always room for two more!"

Yeah, thought Brian, they've got eight kids. Justin and I would get lost in the crowd.

Justin held up very well all through dinner with the Duggans. He kept his chin up until they were back at the B & B and alone in their suite. That's when the dam broke, and Brian simply held Justin until he finally fell into a fitful sleep. That's why Brian had left him to rest that morning.

But then Brian saw Justin come into the small dining room. "Hey." Justin slipped into the chair next to Brian's.

Brian leaned over and kissed him. "I thought you were going to sleep in?"

Justin shrugged. "I tried to, but it's no fun being in that big bed alone. And I kept smelling bacon cooking, so...."

"You're hungry," said Brian. "What a surprise. That means you must be feeling better."

"I think so," Justin offered. "A little better."

Brian gestured to their host and Sidney bustled over. "Ready for breakfast, young man? What about our English Breakfast? Eggs, sausages, toast, and a fried tomato. Or you can have our New England Special -- eggs, bacon, and pancakes with our local maple syrup."

"I'll take the one with the pancakes," said Justin. "And can I have extra bacon with that?"

"Of course, my dear!" Sidney smiled as he headed for the kitchen. Whatever had been bothering the boy earlier seemed to have cleared up. And now he was ready for breakfast. Sidney and Jerome were great believers in the power of a good breakfast to cure whatever was ailing you.

"So," said Brian. "You're now a college graduate. Feel any different?"

Justin smiled slightly and shook his head. "Not really. I'm still as clueless as I ever was."

"I doubt that, Sunshine," Brian replied. "You're the least clueless person I've ever met."

"Sorry for the queen out last night, Brian," Justin said. "Everything sort of... hit me all at once. It won't happen again. I promise."

"No apology necessary," Brian said. "I'll allow you the occasional freak out if you let me get away with one every once in a while. I mean it, Justin -- I understand. I had more than one tango with my old man before he finally checked out. It's not pretty, but it's what you have to do to live your own life and be your own man."

"I wish my dad could be more like Denny's father," Justin said. "He seemed so... so okay with us. And so did his wife and the rest of the family."

"Yeah, he seemed all right with it," said Brian. "But you're not his son. It might be a different story if Denny told them he was marrying YOU instead of little Carole."

Justin grinned. "Denny is SO not my type, Brian! I'm not into redheads!"

"Good thing," Brian smirked. "You like tall, dark, and handsome devils!"

"Always!" Justin reached over and stroked Brian's arm shyly. They were in a gay bed and breakfast, but Justin still felt awkward showing too much affection in public. He kept thinking everyone was staring at them.

"I had a thought," said Brian, taking Justin's hand. "Why don't we stay over tonight and start back tomorrow morning? I don't feel like driving today."

Justin looked at Brian in surprise. "Really? What about Mr. Vance? Isn't he expecting you back to work tomorrow?"

Brian shrugged. "No problem. I'll smooth it over with Gardner." Then he made a very languid gesture with his hand. "Besides, darling, how could I turn down an opportunity to go antiquing in New Hampshire with my boyfriend?"

"Antiquing?" Justin remembered their Spring Break weekend and Brian's hatred of the Antique Market. He gazed at Brian's quizzical face and then they both burst out in laughter. "You are such a bastard, Brian!"

"I know," Brian admitted. "But I'm your bastard."

©Gaedhal, December 2005.

Posted June 10, 2005.