Conclusion. Gus gets his wish when his father comes to show and tell with his cast. Some surprises occur along the way.
Wexner Primary School - One Week Later - Morning
"Didn't you have some finger painting or sandcastle sculpting to do back home? Some nails to trim? Bushes to beat?"
Justin beamed, clearly enjoying himself as he shook his head. "Nope. Nothing more important than this."
Gus peered up at the two men, his little hand clutched in his father's, as he chirped, "I make castles, too, Justin! But I always have to use a bucket to throw lots and lots of water on top of my sandbox, or the sand doesn't stick together. You want to come over sometime and make some with me? I've got finger paints, too!" He frowned. "Can you paint sand castles?"
Justin laughed. "Well, probably not the kind you're talking about. But I would love to be your sandbox companion anytime...and your finger-painting buddy."
Justin grinned. "Companion," he enunciated slowly. "It's another word for friend," he told him affectionately as he reached down to ruffle the little boy's hair. The older Gus became, the more he reminded him of Brian. Even his hair had somehow changed to more of an auburn color, rather than all brown. And his hair was just as soft as Brian's...he removed his hand slowly and cleared his throat, suddenly conjuring up images of him and Brian that was not appropriate at the moment. He glanced over at Brian, who smirked back at him, and he had to roll his eyes at him as he felt his cheeks warm. It always amazed him how Brian seemed to pick up on precisely what he was thinking.
"Well, you're already my friend, Justin. Aren't you?"
Thankfully brought out of his reverie, Justin turned his attention back to Gus, smiling warmly down at him as he assured him, "Yes, of course I am."
Gus nodded, satisfied. "Good. And com...panyons..." he struggled to say the word, "...like to play together." He paused for just a few seconds before unexpectedly asking, "Do you like mud?", squinting his eyes against the bright sunlight in the blue, cloudless sky.
Justin laughed as they continued to walk toward the entrance of the school. "Mud?"
Gus nodded vigorously.
"Well, I guess I've never thought about it. But I suppose it has its uses. Why do you ask?"
"Because when you come over to make sand castles with me, we can make some mud pies, too."
"Oh, joy," Brian deadpanned as Justin gave him a pointed look.
"You want to come, too, Daddy?" Gus piped up.
"Oh, I want to come all the time, Sonny Boy," he reassured his son as he grinned over at Justin, obtaining the blush he expected he would get as he smugly smiled back at him. "But your father has to work a lot right now."
Gus sighed. "I know...But I miss you, Daddy." His eyes peered up at him, full of both love but with a touch of wistfulness.
Shit. Brian felt like an ass right then. He was having to work some ungodly hours - even more than he normally did - to try and make up for some lost ground while he had been incapacitated. He had eventually been able to do some work from home, but the catching up had cut into his weekly visits with his son. "I know," Brian acknowledged as he continued to hold onto his son's little hand. "I've missed you, too, Gus. A lot," he admitted softly. He took a deep breath. "But you know what?"
Gus shook his head as they neared the entrance doors.
"Your Daddy is almost caught up with what he had to get done because of breaking his arm, so he will be able to see you a lot more now. In fact, why don't we ask your mommies if I can pick you up on Friday next weekend? I'll leave work a little early that day, and we can go to the baseball game. Would you like that?"
Gus's eyes lit up as he jiggled excitedly up and down. "Yeah! Can we eat hot dogs, too? And nachos with cheese? And we have to get lots of peanuts, too."
Brian frowned, temporarily forgetting the horrendous food choices Gus was requesting - and what sort of artificial ingredients went into them. "I didn't think you liked peanuts."
"I don't," Gus verified as Justin reached for the handle to swing the school's door open. "But YOU can eat them. I just like to throw the shells on the ground."
Both men had to laugh at that comment as Gus added, "Justin's coming, too, isn't he?" Brian looked over at his partner before nodding, receiving a smile in confirmation.
Justin couldn't keep a smile off his own face at the thought. He loved being included in their father-and-son activities. He had been there from the moment Gus had been born, and he had grown into an intelligent, thoughtful, if not precocious child. At Gus's age, also, there was no such thing as being 'politically correct.' Thanks to all three parents, he had been taught good manners. But he said whatever was on his mind; things that oftentimes others were thinking silently, but wouldn't say. Thankfully, Gus was also a kind child, so he seldom said anything that was hurtful, and he didn't look at others who were 'different' as inferior. It was one of the things he loved the most about Gus. And he did love him. Not in the same way, of course, as he loved Brian, but just as deeply.
"I would love to come...whenever I can," he told Gus before he looked over at Brian with a twinkle in his eye.
Touché, Sunshine, Brian responded with a smile. "Don't worry, Sunshine; I'll make sure that you do."
As they entered the private school, Gus instantly became their tour guide. "This way," he told the two men authoritatedly, leading his father and Justin to the hallway that ran off the right-hand side of the lobby. There were children of every size and shape bustling around them in their school uniforms as they made their way to Gus's homeroom, reminding Brian of a hive of bees buzzing to and fro. He was bumped occasionally by one of them as they animately yammered with their friends, their backpacks jostling him as they scurried to their rooms.
After three or four doors, Gus stopped. "This is it," he told them, his eyes lighting up as he entered the room, a reluctant Brian following along behind him. He hadn't really given his brace much thought until now, but all of a sudden he felt a bit ridiculous wearing a psychedelic contraption that looked like it had come straight out of the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco - or a relic from Woodstock. The garishness of the artwork contrasted starkly with his charcoal-colored business suit, complemented by a lavender shirt, and a deep purple tie. Only someone with Brian's panache could carry off such a ensemble, but on him - as with everything else he so meticulously chose to wear for professional purposes - it looked perfect on him. He would be heading into work after Gus's first period class was over, dropping Justin off at the diner, since his partner had promised Debbie he would fill in for a few hours due to an employee's illness.
"Hello, there, Gus!" A tall, dark-haired man who appeared to be around Justin's age greeted him enthusiastically as the other children took their seats, some carrying shoeboxes or the item they wanted to show clutched in their hands. "I see you brought your father with you." He walked a few steps over to extend his hand outward toward Brian. "Even without the brace, I would know who you are. Your son looks so much like you," he commented with a polite smile. "I'm Ian Mockbee, Gus's teacher," the man introduced himself, a distinctive Irish lilt to his rich-sounding voice.
Brian began to extend his right hand - until the man's first name caught up with his brain. What the fuck? Even though he knew it was irrational, it made him wary. But he wasn't the best advertising genius in the state for nothing; he knew how to put his game face on. So with as genuine-looking a smile as he could muster, he reached to shake the other man's hand - until he realized he had his brace on that hand, and couldn't do it. He had wanted to just carry the damn thing in, but his son had insisted it wouldn't be the same. So he awkwardly stuck his left hand out, instead, to briefly shake the other man's hand. Unlike the 'other' Ian, this man was hot...and the flicker of appreciation he was receiving made his gaydar ping. "Brian Kinney," he told him, as the man nodded.
The teacher then looked over at Justin curiously as he smiled warmly at him, his eyes lingering a bit more on his partner - or so Brian thought, anyway. "And you are?"
"I'm Justin Taylor," he told him, not quite sure how to explain his complex, complicated relationship with Gus's father. He, too, had been taken aback when the man had mentioned his first name, inwardly groaning. Gus had never mentioned his teacher's first name. But something told him that the man already had figured his and Brian's connection out; he hadn't been around Brian for as long as he had not to pick up on some of his methods for determining if someone was gay, and the way this man seemed to be eating him up with his eyes was a clear indication. He deliberately broke off their gaze as Brian bestowed a territorial death glare on the other man, Justin's face flushing as he turned to peer around at all the children's artwork that was hanging up with thumbtacks to a corkboard-like strip that ran along the length of three walls. "That's great, the way you have all the children's artwork displayed around the room," he told the man, smiling when he recognized Gus's nearby. "That's yours over there, isn't it?" he asked the child. He could see a watercolor drawing of a rainbow with a child and two larger figures with him. Gus beamed at him proudly and nodded. Justin hadn't seen the picture before, but Gus was constantly drawing similar ones in his presence, and he could see the child's large-lettered scrawl of his name, 'GUS,' written in the lower right-hand corner...the same place that he always signs his own works after he is done painting. He had felt flattered when Gus had explained to him during one of their painting sessions that he did it because he wanted to be a 'great artist' just like he was.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Taylor," the teacher told him, also shaking his hand. The man held onto Justin's hand just a little longer than necessary before he finally let go of it, noticing a flicker of displeasure on the face of his student's father. The teacher cleared his throat, then, turning his attention back to his young pupil. "Well, Gus, if you and your father and Mr. Taylor will take a seat, we'll be getting started soon. Why don't they sit right behind your desk, since there're two empty seats there?" he suggested.
Gus nodded happily, once more reaching out to grab his father's uninjured hand as he began to pull him toward the first aisle on the left between two rows of desks. "Come on, Daddy, Justin. We're sitting over here."
Gus slowly ambled toward his seat, taking time to introduce his father and Justin several times to other schoolmates, before he slid his backpack off to drop it on the ground, next to his seat. Sliding into it, he peered up at his father to instruct him, "Sit down, Daddy. You, too, Justin. Mr. Mockbee always calls on us in order of our first names for show and tell, so I won't get to show you off for a little while yet."
Brian looked aghast at the old-fashioned, midget-sized desk that was attached to a chair. "Fu..." he started to say, before he caught himself. He looked over helplessly at Justin, who gave him a stern, 'don't mess this up' look, before he sighed. Fortunately, he was slim enough that he was just able to finally slide into his seat, but with his long legs he was forced to hang them straight out in front of him in order to fit. He shook his head in disgust as he peered over at Justin in challenge, one eyebrow lifted. He waved a hand at him in a 'have a seat' manner as Justin realized he, too, would have to sit in the same configuration. "Well, you heard my son. Sit down, Mr. Taylor," Brian drawled with a smirk as Justin glared at him. He chuckled amidst the sounds of several children still speaking in the room before class time officially began.
Justin looked skeptically at his seat for at least the next several seconds before he contorted his body enough to slide under the desk part and took his seat, finding his ass more than filling out the hard, plastic surface as part of it hung over the edges. Brian's, on the other hand, naturally fit without any problem. Well, scrawny ass, gloat all you want. At least I don't have to get up in the front of the class as an exhibit, and I can fold MY legs, he couldn't help thinking as Brian rolled his lips under in amusement over his partner's expression of discomfort.
Bubble butt, he mouthed to Justin, who rolled his eyes.
Both of them looked up at the front of the class as the teacher picked up an old-fashioned bell with a wooden handle and rang it to get everyone's attention. "Good Morning, class," the teacher greeted them, as the students dutifully repeated the same greeting to him. "I can tell everyone is excited today about show and tell, so why don't we get started? Abbie? Would you like to start us off?" A little girl with long, brown hair nodded from across the room as she stood up with a stuffed giraffe in her hand and walked to the front of the class to explain she had obtained her beloved item on a trip to the zoo, and how it was her favorite animal 'in the whole world.' Once she was finished, the teacher nodded approvingly while the other children politely clapped, and the process was repeated several times.
After several minutes, Brian leaned over to Justin to mutter under his breath, "How many children ARE there in this class that start with the letter C? Two dozen?" They had started with Caitlyn, then Caroline, then Carlos, Cassidy, Celia, Chad, Charleen, and then Charlie. Now a boy named Christian was up at the front of the class, extolling the joys of building model airplanes.
Justin shrugged, squirming in his seat. His back was killing him now, but he wasn't about to tell Brian that. He knew Brian had to be feeling the same sort of pain, but he also knew the man wouldn't let him know that. Both of them sighed in relief when the next one called up was "David." They figured there would be a few 'D's,' but not a lot of 'E's' and 'F's.
Finally, after Gary, Gerri, and Greg had their turns, Gus's name was called. Beaming widely as everyone's eyes fell upon him, he slid handily from his seat and turned to peer down at his father, who was struggling to get back out of his chair. "Do you need help, Daddy?" he asked as Justin snickered.
Giving Justin a pointed look, he shook his head. "No, Sonny Boy, just give me a minute to wake my feet back up," he told him, stomping them on the floor a couple of times to get some blood flowing into them again as they tingled. Grunting as he struggled to rise, he almost fell out of his seat before he managed to hold onto the edge of the desk and shakily stant. He stiffly started to accompany his son up to the front of the class before Gus spoke up. "Justin, too," he unexpectedly stated.
Brian's eyes rose with surprise, but he peered over at Justin expectantly. Justin frowned. He figured he would just suffer in his seat until they were done, and then somehow manage to escape from his confinement and leave immediately after they were done. But apparently, Gus had other plans. "Gus, it's okay. I'll just stay here until you're done," he hastily told him.
But the little boy was adamant. "No, Justin," he replied with a firm shake of his head. "You have to come, too."
"Coming is very important, Sunshine," Brian agreed with a grin. "Upsy Daisy." He obligingly held his good hand out toward him as he added, "Let's see how fast YOU get out of YOUR seat."
Wincing at the thought as all eyes were now cast upon him, he nodded in resignation as he, too, slid toward the aisle to reach for Brian's hand...only to promptly fall on his ass to the delight of all the kids in the room, who broke out in spontaneous laughter, including Gus, who giggled along with the others.
Even Brian chuckled as he helped his embarrassed partner to his feet. He whispered in his ear, "At least you had a good cushion to land on." Justin snorted before Brian placed his right hand on his shoulder to gently prod him toward the front of the room ahead of him.
Once the three of them were facing the class, the teacher nodded. "Okay, Gus...show us what you brought today...or should I say who you brought, too?" he asked for the benefit of the class.
Gus smiled as he stood between Brian and Justin as he motioned with a wave of his hand. "This is my Daddy. He broke his arm when he fell off a ladder, and he had to have a doctor fix it. He's got a lot of screws and a plate inside his arm!" The students gasped in awe as he continued. "And he got to wear this cool brace! See!" he told the others, as he grabbed his father's arm and held it up like a prize at the local fair. "Daddy, let them see it," Gus pleaded with his father. "It comes off," Gus explained to his schoolmates, who seemed enraptured with the contraption.
Brian grimaced, but did as he was asked, pulling on the Velcro straps to loosen the brace and remove it. As soon as he grasped it in his left hand, his son promptly grabbed it away from him so he could hold it up in front of the class. "Isn't it neat?" he asked, as the other students nodded in agreement over the colorful object. "And no one else has another one just like it, cause my other Daddy, Justin, drew it for me," Gus commented as he gazed up at Justin in adoration. "He draws pretty things," he told them. "And he helps me draw pretty things, too. Can I pass it around?" The teacher nodded his agreement as Gus walked over to the first student's desk to hand it to him. Satisfied that his treasured item was safe, but keeping a close eye on it to make sure he received it back eventually, Gus walked back over to his father and Justin, this time reaching to clasp both their hands in his smaller ones.
Gus had never referred to Justin before as "Daddy," even though they had always been close. Brian smiled as he held his son's hand, while Justin promptly teared up, hurriedly wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his other hand before the tears could fall.
Gus frowned as he noticed the misty eyes. "Justin, are you okay?" he asked as the students took turns examining the artist's latest piece.
Justin smiled at him through his tears as he struggled to speak. "Yeah, I'm fine, buddy," he reassured him in a choked-up voice.
"Then why are you crying?" Gus asked curiously as he peered up at him in concern.
Sensing his sentimental partner was having difficulty speaking, Brian interjected, "Don't worry, Gus. They're happy tears. I'll explain it to you later." Gus nodded then, satisfied that he hadn't done anything wrong, or that Justin wasn't feeling okay.
By then, the brace had wound its way back up to the front of the room. The teacher walked over to retrieve it and hand it to Gus, casting a wistful, if not disappointed, glance at Justin, since he was now convinced that even if he wanted to entertain the notion of getting to know the beautiful, blond man who had accompanied his student and the student's father to class, he would be wasting his time. "Thank you for bringing your item to class," he told Gus, who nodded as he happily accepted the brace from him, clutching it to his chest as if it were a horde of gold. To him, it was worth much more than that. "Can I keep it with me today, Daddy?" he asked Brian, knowing his father and Justin would have to leave now.
Brian smiled as he reached down to affectionately tousle his son's soft hair. "Sure you can, Sonny Boy. Just take good care of it, okay?" He looked over at Justin as he added, "We wouldn't want anything to happen to something that your other Daddy painted, would we?" Justin blinked at that and had to wipe his eyes again with his sleeve before sniffling.
Gus nodded vigorously as he continued to hold on tight to his unique 'treasure.' "I'll watch it all day long," he promised. "Even at lunch and recess."
Brian nodded back at him, then, as he leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. "Okay, then your two Daddies have to go now. We'll see you later, okay?" He had promised to take Gus and Justin out for pizza later; at least at Luigi's his they could get pizza, while he could order something healthier due to their extensive menu options.
Gus nodded back at him with an eager smile, anticipating his treat later. "Okay!" he chirped. "Bye, Daddy! Bye, Justin!" he called out to them as he skipped back to his seat.
The teacher looked at them, this time his previous admiring glance toward Justin replaced with a more professional one as he told them, "Thank you both for coming. Gus is a delight to have in class, by the way."
Both men nodded at him as Brian replied, "I'm not surprised," before the two of them walked out of the room, but not before giving Gus a goodbye wave as the little boy cheerfully waved back, the brace sitting on top of his desk in clear sight where he could carefully watch over it.
A few minutes later, the two men were seated in Brian's car, heading back toward the main road. Brian glanced over at his partner, who had been inexplicably silent ever since they had bade his son goodbye. Normally Justin couldn't go more than a few minutes without commenting on something; and even when any type of music was playing in the background, when he wasn't talking, he was humming or singing. Brian grinned; the boy certainly has talented lips, he couldn't help thinking. But, still...this was unusual. Unusual, but he could guess the reason.
Before he could verify his theory, however, Justin finally spoke up as they stopped at a red light. "Brian?"
"Yeah?" he replied, his eyes darting slightly back and forth between Justin and the light.
"Did you hear Gus?" he asked, his voice thick with emotion.
"Are we talking about my son, Gus? Did I hear him? Who couldn't? When that kid gets excited, he could replace the speaker system at the ballfield." He paused for a couple of seconds before asking, "You mean when he introduced us to his class...Daddy?"
Justin opened his mouth, only to close it as he nodded, trying to compose himself. He hadn't figured on that simple, little word having such a profound effect on him.
Brian grinned before noticing the light turning red, stepping on the gas pedal as he threaded his way through the morning traffic. "That's the first time he's ever called you that."
Justin bit his lip, his heart thumping as he thought about it; even now, it made him feel warm inside; loved. Well, he knew what love was - and with Brian, what it was like to BE loved, even though his partner wasn't very open about that, at least not verbally - but this kind of love was new to him. He had never thought too seriously about becoming a father, but... "Yeah, it was," he finally replied, his voice full of wonder and emotion. "I didn't see that coming at all." A sudden thought occurred to him as he turned to peer over at Brian. "You're not upset about that, are you? I mean, him saying he has two daddies?"
Brian paused for a moment, making Justin a little apprehensive, before he stated simply, "Justin, I think Gus has always considered you a daddy. He just never thought to say it out loud before. But trust me; that kid fucking adores you." He snorted. "You WOULD be the member of the family with the artistic talent. Gus practically started finger painting from the day he came out of the womb. Except he started with food first, instead of paint. I can definitely say he didn't get that from me. Maybe Lindsay, I guess. But you've been the one who has nurtured it the most."
Justin laughed. "I remember that chocolate cupcake he tore apart during his birthday party a year ago. He had more icing on his face than in his stomach."
Brian turned at the next stop toward the Liberty Diner as he replied, "And don't forget the spaghetti. Talk about a bowl cut." When Gus had been younger, he had managed somehow to dump an entire bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce over his head while Brian had his back turned to retrieve a sippy cup for him. He had heard giggling coming from his son, prompting him to turn back around and observe sauce running down the boy's face, along with a few strands of the spaghetti. Needless to say, a bath was in prompt order after that. Thank God the meal by then was lukewarm, and hadn't hurt him. In fact, Gus thought it was hysterical. But it taught him a major lesson to never turn his back again on his son, even though he still found ways to make big messes.
"Maybe your son will create a new type of art: food art. You know, they DO pay people to arrange food in a certain way to make it look attractive on a menu, for example."
Brian huffed. "Yeah, and it never looks like that in real life." But he of all people knew how important a visual response was to a product; it could make all the difference between a good product, and a great product. He sighed. "I wonder what his teen years will be like." As they pulled up to the Liberty Diner then, he slowed down to come to a rest at the curb to let Justin out. "You'll just have to be strict with him...Dad."
Justin harrumphed at him before he smirked at Brian. "Well, I would be closer in age to him," he pointed out sensibly. "Damn. By the time he's a teenager, let's see...you'll be...really, really..."
"Just never mind," Brian hastily responded. "I'm sorry I brought the subject up."
Justin grinned at him as he moved to get out of the car, before he felt Brian gripping his wrist. He turned around, his brows lifted innocently. "Yes? Did I forget something?" He laughed as Brian promptly yanked on his arm to pull him closer, stealing a kiss that lasted a lot longer than both had thought it would, and leaving them both breathless.
"See you later," Brian told him as he reluctantly let go, watching as Justin slid out of the car and closed the passenger door. "And Justin?"
Justin rolled his eyes as he bent to peer through the open window of the passenger door. "Brian, I'm going to be late for my shift...what?"
"Show and tell at the loft starts tonight at seven. Sharp."
Justin grinned. He had no idea what Brian what sort of 'show and tell' he had in mind for him, but he knew one thing. He couldn't wait.