"So where the fuck's Brian and Sunshine?" Debbie asked, looking around the table indignantly.

"You wouldn't expect Brian to tell us to meet him and then not be late, would you, sis?" Vic smiled, taking a seat next to Emmett. "I don't see Michael or Ben, either."

"Well, Michael was right there when Brian called, and he said they'd be coming."

"I wonder what's going on?" Lindsay said, looking worried. "Brian sounded as though it was really important. Maybe he's got a job offer and he's planning to move away."

"That ought to put a smile back on Mel's face," Deb snorted. "Where is she anyway? Needing a pee again?"

"I don't know," Lindsay replied. "Emmett and I came in the car. Mel went out for a walk earlier ... she said she'd meet us here, but she hasn't shown yet."

Debbie frowned, immediately concerned. "She's not sick or anything?"

"No, she seemed fine. Just ... preoccupied, I guess." Lindsay shrugged uncomfortably. "I upset her a couple of days ago, and she's been a bit edgy since."

"Mel edgy! Who'd believe it?" Deb chuckled. "So what did you do to piss her off this time?"

"It wasn't anything, really. I found this beautiful antique blanket for the baby, and I couldn't resist. But when I showed Mel she told me to get rid of it. She said it was bad luck to buy anything for a baby before it was born; she said it was a Jewish custom. So I said I'd return it, only with one thing and another I forgot." Lindsay smiled a little sheepishly. "Well ... truthfully I thought it was just a silly superstition and I really wanted the blanket. But then Mel found it, and she got pretty upset. She told me she remembered her mother telling her how she was going to have a new brother or sister, and how her parents fitted out a nursery and started buying clothes and toys ... but then her mother miscarried in her eleventh week. Now Mel's in her eleventh week, and she thinks the same thing's going to happen to her. "

"Sweetheart," Debbie sighed. "You remember what being pregnant is like. All those irrational fears and superstitions? Well, for Mel it's worse, because she's already had problems. You're just gonna have to be patient with her."

"I know. And I feel really bad for making her worry ... I just didn't realise what a big deal it was for her."

Debbie pressed her lips together. Ecstatic as she was to finally have the chance of being a grandmother, she couldn't help but wish that Mel hadn't been the one carrying the baby. She knew that Mel adored Gus and would no doubt be equally devoted to her own child, but Mel was even more disinclined than Lindsay to take advice and Debbie wasn't at all sure how the situation would play out once the baby was born. Debbie foresaw stormy times ahead when both mothers would have to temper their wilful stubbornness, and agree to disagree for their children's sake.

There was an awkward silence. "No Carl tonight?" Emmett asked brightly, changing the subject.

Debbie's heart ached for him. She'd had her reservations when he and Ted had first taken up together, and she still wasn't convinced they worked. But Emmett loved the guy to bits and he was hurting now, despite a brave effort to sound cheerful. She reached out and patted his hand comfortingly. "He's working. Some big case came up suddenly and he had to stay ... I guess I'll hear all about it tomorrow." She craned her neck towards the entrance. "Where the fuck are those boys? If Brian's dragged us all out here for nothing, I'm gonna tie his balls in a knot. Some of us have an early shift."

"Here they are now," Vic said as Brian pushed through the door with Justin behind him. Brian headed straight for the bar and collared Sean. "Switch on the television!" he said urgently.

The barman looked puzzled, but picked up the remote. "Which channel?"

"Any fucking channel!" Brian yelled.

The emotion in his voice drew the attention of the whole bar. Debbie stood up, staring; she thought she'd never seen him look more charged, more intense; and damned if Sunshine didn't have the same buzz about him ... it was like they were crackling and throwing off sparks or some fucking thing. Justin's expression was both stunned and joyful, and when he caught Debbie's eye he broke into a blinding smile, almost bouncing as he beckoned her wildly. She began to walk towards him, Vic following.

Sean pointed the remote and switched on the television; immediately a female news announcer appeared on the screen, her face both tense and excited.

"... more on the breaking news that Police Chief Jim Stockwell has been arrested – I repeat, arrested - at his home earlier tonight by officers from the Pittsburgh Police Department ... we understand that he is currently being questioned about his involvement in the abduction, rape and murder of a young male prostitute, Jason Kemp, and that ..."

A roar of delighted disbelief went up. Emmett grabbed Lindsay and started jumping up and down, squealing. Brian turned to Justin and put his arms around him in a manner which in anybody else would be described as tender, before clutching him in the tightest, warmest embrace Debbie seen for a long time. She turned to Vic, who was toasting the oblivious couple with a huge grin on his face. "Oh my God, Vic," she gasped; "they've done it! My fucking boys have only gone and fucking done it!"

"They certainly have, sis," Vic replied, hugging her with his free arm. "This is the best night in Pittsburgh since Nixon got impeached!"

On the screen above them appeared images of a handcuffed Jim Stockwell being helped out of a police cruiser and then being led through a gaggle of hysterical reporters. As the flash bulbs exploded in his face, Debbie thought his expression looked just like the one poor Ted had worn when they'd arrested him.

"... we are hearing as yet unconfirmed reports that there have been arrests of other prominent citizens in the city tonight, including members of the medical profession and one who is rumoured to be a high-court judge ..."

There was an explosion of laughter. Brian looked up briefly before turning his attention back to Justin: he cupped Justin's face in both hands and Debbie saw him speak; she didn't need to hear the words to recognise the sentiments being expressed, because Brian was saying it more eloquently with his eyes and smile than he ever could have in words. Justin obviously got the message loud and clear; he threw his arms around Brian's neck and Debbie was pretty fucking sure he was saying those same words right back.

She felt tears trickling down her cheeks. She waved her arms above her head. "Let's party!" she yelled. "Everybody in the street! Let's dance!"

A raucous cheer greeted her suggestion and as Sean turned the sound system up full blast the Pet Shop Boys began to belt out of the speakers. Debbie led the charge out of Woody's but she pulled up at the top of the steps leading to the sidewalk as people erupted from other bars and clubs, yelling and laughing and dancing, halting the traffic as they spilled out onto the street. Rainbow flags and sparklers appeared in all directions as Liberty Avenue broke into spontaneous celebration and someone started letting off firecrackers and sky rockets. Across the street a guy balanced on a friend's shoulders to spray a Hitler moustache on one of Stockwell's campaign posters.

I used to think that the day would never come

I'd see the light in the shade of the morning sun

My morning sun is the drug that brings me near

To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear.

I used to think that the day would never come

That my life would depend on the morning sun.

Debbie made her way out into the middle of the street, followed by Vic and Lindsay. Lindsay was screaming into her cell.

"What? Where are you...?" She jammed a finger in her ear in an attempt to hear above the music and the sound of car horns blowing triumphantly. "Mel ... oh, this is insane!"

She backed away, trying to get a better signal, only to nearly walk into Melanie who was fighting her way through the crowds from the opposite direction. "Oh my God, there you are! It's wonderful!"

"I know!" Mel shouted, smiling from ear to ear.

"He got arrested!"

"Who?" Mel asked, still laughing.

"Stockwell!" Lindsay stared at Mel's surprised expression. "You didn't know? Then why are you celebrating?"

"Because I passed my first trimester today!" Mel whooped, taking a flying leap at Lindsay, who staggered but managed to hold her.

"Oh my God! That's something really worth celebrating!" Lindsay gasped. They reeled together, laughing, and Debbie felt another weight slipping from her shoulders. One more hurdle safely negotiated; perhaps Mel would settle down a little now, and concentrate on the really important job of producing Debbie's grandchild.

"Excuse me," a man's voice said diffidently. "I was wondering ... would you like to dance?"

Debbie turned. He was a little taller than her, nicely dressed, good looking ... and he was looking at Vic hopefully. Debbie nearly swallowed her gum in surprise.

"Who's asking?" Vic replied, striking a pose and cocking an eyebrow. Debbie goggled. Was he fucking flirting with the guy?

The man smiled, a little shyly. He was probably around Vic's age with greying brown hair and dark eyes. Kind eyes, Debbie thought approvingly. "Um, my name's Rodney."

"Well, Rodney; I'm Vic, and I'd be delighted." Vic took Rodney's arm, and he winked over his shoulder at Debbie as they moved off together, and she did a happy little victory jig all by herself about that. Debbie couldn't remember the last time a man had shown any interest in Vic and she knew he'd reached the stage where he was beginning to believe he'd spend the rest of his life alone. She watched them as they began to dance together; Vic confident – fuck, he'd been a great mover when he was a kid – Rodney a little more awkward. But it looked like there was interest on both sides, so she offered up a little prayer to St. Jude; it seemed he'd been working overtime around Liberty Avenue since little Sunshine came into their lives, and she figured he deserved a thank you. That way he might keep up the good work a little longer. Smiling, she turned slowly around, soaking up the atmosphere of relief and celebration. She could see only one person who wasn't joining in the party ... Emmett, leaning alone against the streetlamp outside Woody's, watching the revellers sadly.

Debbie threaded her way through the dancing crowd until she reached his side. "A word of advice, my sweet Emmett. Mourn the losses, because they are many; but celebrate the victories, because they are few." Emmett managed a small smile. "You know," she went on suggestively, "I haven't danced since last century..."

Emmett turned to her and this time his smile was genuine. "Well, in addition to throwing fabulous parties and being a world master in the art of fellatio, I'm one helluva dance instructor." He held out his right hand. "May I?"

"I'd be honoured." Debbie replied, putting her hand in his and then shrieking with delight as Emmett whirled her out to join the dancers.

Brian stood at the entrance to Woody's with one arm slung around Justin's shoulders and the other clutching a bottle of claret, watching the wild impromptu street party before him. He swigged a mouthful of wine and then turned to share it with Justin by kissing him soundly. "Well, Sunshine ... we did it."

"Yes. We did." The little twat grinned back at him smugly, and Brian was mesmerised by he sight of his wine stained lips. He couldn't resist kissing them again. He felt euphoric, and kissing Justin seemed to be the best way of expressing it.

"Can we forget about my blood pressure issues just for tonight?" Justin whispered against his mouth.

"Mmm. I think some kind of celebration is in order ... as long as it's not too strenuous."

"Of course not. Just a gentle workout." Justin's tongue was trying to find Brian's tonsils.

"Mmmm." His free hand slipped down the back of Justin's cargoes. "Maybe we ought to get an early night then ..."

"Brian!" He froze as he heard Michael's voice, and turned his head to see Mikey fighting his way towards the steps, a harried-looking Hunter at his heels. "What's going on?"

"The downfall of Jim Stockwell, Mikey," Brian proclaimed, waving his wine bottle. "The fucker's been arrested."

"Wow." Michael smiled warmly. "Congratulations. The Gay Crusader and his trusty sidekick making the streets of Pittsburgh safe again for queers ... it sounds like something out of a comic strip." His smile faded. "Hunter's in deep shit trouble. His mom came to take him away."

"Yeah! She turned up with the cops!" Hunter gasped, wide-eyed.

"So I took him and ran," Michael finished. He looked stunned by his own audacity.

Brian smirked. "What? Have you no respect for the authority of the law?"

Michael wiggled his shoulders. "I had to do something," he replied simply.

Brian rolled his lips to hide his smile. It seemed little Mikey had finally grown some balls. Good for you, Mikey; good for you. "So you risked it all?" He shook his head. "You are so..."

"Pathetic. I know," Michael agreed. "So what am I gonna do?" He looked at Brian expectantly.

Brian reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out the keys to the Jeep and tossed them to him. "Go for it. I'm parked down the street."

Michael stared at the keys nestling in his hand, and then looked up uncertainly. "You sure...?"

Brian nodded. "I've lived with a mother," he said to Hunter. "It's a fate worse than birth."

The gratitude in Michael's eyes was all the thanks he needed; so before Mikey could start babbling Brian kissed him hard, the way he hadn't in a long time, and he didn't feel guilty at all even with Justin standing beside him. They had been welded together by circumstance, he and Mikey, into something more intimate than friends and closer than brothers. But that inflexible bond of interdependence had allowed no room for growth in either of them; the pressure of years had warped and twisted it until it had finally fractured, with pain and trauma and acrimony on both sides. Now they had a chance to re-forge their friendship without misunderstandings and false expectations, as men and not children; the kiss was a promise for the future just as much as an acknowledgement of the past. "Go," he said, releasing Michael and giving him a gentle shove.

Michael nodded; he took Hunter's arm and, with a last backwards glance, hurried down the steps. Brian watched until they had disappeared into the crowd, wishing them well with all his heart. Drive carefully, Mikey. Love you ... always have, always will.

"Jesus Christ, Brian." Justin sounded incredulous. "Your car?"

Brian shrugged. "It's just a car. And since I'm about to lose everything anyway, what's the difference?"

Justin smiled and bumped his shoulder. "Not everything. Besides, I think your clients might be having second thoughts about you from now on. It'll be alright, Brian. You'll see."

"Mm." Brian found he didn't really care one way or the other. He reached for Justin's ass again. "Now, where were we...?"

"Wait." Justin leaned his head back so that he could see Brian's face. "Dance with me first."

Brian rolled his eyes; but much as he wanted to whisk the kid straight back to the Loft he also wasn't averse to dancing with him either, especially tonight. He put down his wine bottle and allowed himself to be tugged down the steps to join the party.

"You know, we really ought to establish some rules," he mused, turning Justin to face him and running his palms down the blond's back.

Justin raised his eyebrows. "Rules?"

"Well ... more like terms of acceptable behaviour, I guess."

"I thought we'd already worked them out."

"Only in a general sense ... I don't think we ever clarified them properly." He reached down and clasped Justin's butt in both hands. "You know I'm in love with your ass, right?"

Justin giggled. "Sorry to tell you, Mr. Kinney, but I come as a package. You don't get to pick and choose."

"You know what I mean, twat." He pinched hard, making Justin yelp and then giggle again. "I wouldn't ask you for anything I'm not prepared to do myself, Sunshine. I told you I can't promise you monogamy."

Justin huffed impatiently. "Brian! How many more times? I don't expect that. I told you what I wouldn't accept; as far as everything else goes, I don't own you. You're a man, not a fucking poodle."

"Glad you noticed," Brian replied dryly. "Justin, do you know the last time I tricked?"

"No. And you don't have to tell me."

Brian did anyway. "My debacle in the Back Room, the one you found so fucking amusing."

Justin snickered at the memory; then his eyebrows shot up.

"I haven't wanted to," Brian said honestly. "I'd like to tell you it'll stay that way, but I don't want to promise you something I'm not sure I can keep." He pressed his forehead to Justin's. "But I do promise you this ... I'll always want to fuck you more than any trick." He saw Justin's expression and winced. "Okay. I probably didn't phrase that very well..."

Justin laughed. "Don't worry, Brian. I know what you mean. And I'm incredibly flattered."

"Twat." He butted Justin's head gently. "So yeah ... rules. Okay, I understand what you can't live with and I'm happy with that. But I get a line in the sand, too." He dug his fingers fiercely into Justin's ass. "This is mine, for as long as we're together. You want to fuck tricks, fine; only not in the Loft, same as me. But I'm the only one who gets to fuck your ass."

They grinned at each other as a new song started, blaring from somebody's car stereo.

Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter;

Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here:

Here comes the sun, do-do-do-do,

Here comes the sun and I say, it's alright.

"Appropriate," Brian murmured into Justin's hair.

"Highly." Justin smirked up at him.

Little darling, the smile's returning to the faces;

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here;

Here comes the sun, do-do-do-do,

Here comes the sun and I say, it's alright.

Justin's eyes twinkled. "Can I expect the same assurance from you?"

Brian blinked. "Of course. Nobody gets to fuck my ass but you."

To his complete chagrin Justin burst out laughing. "Brian! You're a top! You don't ever get fucked up the ass! You're not exactly going to be sacrificing anything by that arrangement, are you?"

Little shit. Brian waited until Justin's hilarity had died down before answering. "Shall I tell you something, Sunshine? You'll never get to be a great top if you don't know what it's like to bottom. I did my share when I was your age ... and just because I prefer to top now doesn't mean I don't still get the itch occasionally." He leaned in to brush Justin's ear with his lips. "You're not listening, as usual. I said, nobody gets to fuck my ass ... but you."

Justin stared at him. "You mean ..." his jaw dropped comically. "You mean ... you'd let me ..."

Ah. That was better. Brian loved pulling the rug out from under the lad – he really was irresistible when he was startled. "I want to be your first time for everything, and that includes the first time you top. Only it's not gonna be tonight, so don't get all flustered ... your blood pressure wouldn't take it." He smiled down into the wide blue eyes as a rocket screamed above them, exploding in a starburst of silver and gold. "There's no hurry, Justin; I promise you'll get plenty of opportunities. We have all the time in the world."

Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting;

Little darling, it seems like years since it was clear.

Here comes the sun, da-da-da-da,

Here comes the sun and I say, it's alright.

It's alright.


Phew. There were times I didn't think I'd get here ... many, many thanks to everybody who's reviewed, particularly Itzy, Bigdogz, Cheburashka, bksbracelet, sophie'smom, JustBeAQueen, MelanisticLeopard, CaseyRachel, jumango, sandraj, Bryton4ever, Shauna Fletcher, albiku, koalared, Ireland22 and Kinneyinmyheartforever for all your support and enthusiasm. If you've read the story and liked it – or hated it – and haven't left a review, I'd love a quick comment. Maybe you'd like a sequel?

Let me know ...