My Dad Justin

By: Lady DeathAngel

Disclaimer: not mine, not profiting, 'nuff said.

Warnings: somewhat heavy themes

A/N: This came out of nowhere. Originally it was supposed to be funny, but then it sort of grew and evolved into this sort of angsty, bittersweet piece. Please tell me what you think.

Gus loved riding in cars. He liked staring out of the window and watching the trees pass by. This was the best time for it too, when the weather was getting cooler and the leaves were red and orange and yellow. But he had a lot on his mind and he didn't care too much what color the leaves were (though he supposed if they were purple or blue he'd pay a bit more attention).

His mom had been talking on her headset since he'd gotten in the car and he was getting impatient. He had a question, an important question, and she needed to hang up soon. But it seemed like forever until the tell-tale words signaled to him that the conversation was drawing to a close.

"Uh-huh. We'll meet tomorrow then and go over all the details. Uh-huh. Okay then, bye."

Finally, finally she turned off the phone and looked at him in the rearview mirror.

"Sorry about that, Honey," she said. "How was your day?"

Gus wasn't sure how to ask his question so he decided to tell her all about Jimmy and Carol and how he had to stop Nicholas from picking on the two of them.

"They're really little compared to him," he said, and they were.

Nicholas was huge for his age, everyone said so. He was thick and had a mean look on his face all the time. His best friends were a scrawny boy named Sam and a tall girl named Kim and they were mean too. But Nicholas was the meanest and scariest and he hated Carol and Jimmy because they were twins. Gus didn't understand it. Carol and Jimmy were two of his best friends and they were never rude or anything. Besides that, they were tiny compared to the other boy. He didn't know why Nicholas hated them so much, and he couldn't just stand by and watch them getting bullied.

"So are you," his mom told him.

Gus waved it off.

"Pshaw, Mom," he said. "I'm brave enough. Carol and Jimmy are scared of Nicholas but he's just a bully. Daddy says that if you don't stand up to a bully they'll never leave you alone."

His mom was silent for a moment and he decided that now was as good a time as any to ask his question.

"Um . . . Mom?"

She nodded.

"Yeah?"

He looked down at his hands.

"Well . . . it's parent day on Thursday and I've already taken you and Mommy and Daddy so . . . can I take Justin? He's like my dad anyway, isn't he? Kind of like Uncle Ben and Jenny?"

His mom smiled at him.

"You'll need to ask him, but I'm sure he'd love that."

Gus grinned back at her.

"Oh, good. I was hoping it'd be okay."

"I'm sure it'll be fine."

---(

It wasn't very hard to ask Justin. He'd always been able to talk to Justin and his daddy about anything. Sometimes it was easier to talk to them than it was to talk to his moms, even if he told them everything eventually anyway. He got to stay with his dad on most weekends, but once a week his moms would go out to dinner. Jenny got to stay with Uncle Mikey and Uncle Ben and Hunter and Gus got to stay with his dad and Justin. Tonight was what he liked to call Dinner Night and whatever Justin was cooking smelled really good.

"So, how's school been?" Justin asked. "Still getting straight A's?"

Gus made a face.

"I've got a B in science," he said. "I got a bad grade on a test because I forgot what a 'thorax' is."

Justin just smiled at him and Gus loved it when the blonde smiled. It always made him smile back.

"You'll pull it back up," he said confidently. "You're a smart kid."

Gus blushed but nodded.

"Hey, Jus, can I ask you a question?"

He nodded.

"It's parent day on Thursday and since you're kind of my dad and everything can you come? All you've gotta do is tell 'em what you do for a living and stuff. It's easy!"

Justin was looking at him oddly, but not a bad odd.

"You sure you want me to go?"

Gus nodded.

"Yep!"

Justin shrugged.

"Okay, I'll do it."

"Do what?"

Gus jumped off of the stool at the counter and raced to his dad.

"Daddy!" he yelled, jumping into his arms.

His dad caught him up and hugged him.

"Hey, Sonnyboy, how you doing?"

"Good!" he said. "I just asked Jus if he'd go to parent day and he said yes."

His dad set him down and Gus saw him sharing a look with Justin.

"He did, did he?"

"Mm-hm!" Gus said happily.

"And what about me?" he asked, looking back down at him.

Gus just smiled.

"Well, you can come too of course! Lots of other parents come together, so it'd be fine I'm sure!"

His dad smiled and looked up at Justin again, who was beaming. Gus didn't know why his smile was so big. Justin's smile was always beautiful, that's why his daddy and Debbie called him Sunshine. There were times, though, when Justin's smile was so big it looked like it had to hurt but at the same time it made Gus feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like at Christmas when they were all at Deb's house and he fell asleep in his mommy's lap with her fingers in his hair and the whole family talking and laughing. There was a reason for that kind of smile, but Gus couldn't guess what it was. So he just grabbed his daddy's hand and they walked to the kitchen and he told them stories about Carol and Jimmy and even a little bit about Nicholas.

---(

Thursday came slow and then it was the afternoon and Laura's mom was still talking about her job at the bank. Gus didn't want to be rude so he tried to pay attention, but he was sure Justin was going to be better. His moms and dads were the coolest, by far. Even cooler than Tom's dad, and he was a policeman.

"Thanks for coming," Mrs. Brockman said when Laura's mom was done. "Okay, Gus, why don't you introduce your parent?"

Gus nodded and ignored the nervous butterflies in his tummy. He made his way to where Justin was standing to the side of the room, grabbed his hand and pulled him to the front of the class.

"This," he said with a smile at his classmates. "Is my dad Justin. He's an artist."

The kids all ooh-ed and clapped and Gus smiled a bit bigger.

"Hey," Justin said and was answered with a dozen kids saying 'Hi Mr. Justin.'

Justin grinned at them.

"Well, like Gus said I'm an artist. I went to PIFA, that's the Pittsburg Institute of Fine Arts, and I've worked on a comic book and a movie."

The students all ooh-ed again.

"A real movie?" one asked.

"What movie?"

"Yeah, a real movie," Justin answered. "It's called Rage."

"My mom said she'd never let me watch a trashy movie like that," Nicholas said.

Gus glared at him.

"Shut up, Justin's talking," he said.

"Hey! Both of you behave," Mrs. Brockman said. "I'm sorry, Justin."

Justin just shrugged, but he put a hand on Gus' shoulder.

"It's all right. Anyway, anyone got any questions?"

A bunch of hands shot up in the air and Justin picked on Carol. She stared up at him with wide brown eyes and then smiled shyly.

"Um, what do you draw with?"

Justin smiled back at her.

"I draw with the usual stuff. Special pencils and things like that. I work on a computer too."

"Isn't that cheating?" Nicholas asked, and Gus really wished he'd shut up.

"Not for me," Justin told him.

"Why not?" Laura said, somewhere in the back.

Justin hesitated and Gus looked up at him. He was staring at his dad who'd stayed in the corner by the door. He wondered what they were saying to each other, because he was convinced they could read each other's minds. They always looked at each other like that when they didn't want him to know what was going on.

"Well," he said slowly. "When I was younger I had an accident."

Gus heard his dad snort and Justin let out a soft laugh.

"Actually, a classmate hit me in the head with a baseball bat," he said.

Gus gasped because he'd never heard that before. He knew something had happened, that Justin couldn't use his hand too long or it hurt, but he didn't know someone had hurt him. A few of the other kids in class were shocked too.

"I was in a coma and they had to do surgery and they thought I'd never draw again," Justin was saying. "But I worked hard and I can still draw. I just can't hold a pencil too long or my hand aches. So the computer helps me out that way."

"Why'd you get hit in the head?" Carol asked.

"Because he hated me."

A few kids asked at the same time, "Why'd he hate you?"

Gus already knew the answer, he thought, but that didn't make it any better when Nicholas opened his big fat mouth like the stupid jerk he was.

"It's 'cause he's a fag, Carol," he said loudly.

Carol looked at him confused and Nicholas rolled his eyes.

"It means, Stupid, that he loves other men. He sleeps with them and that's just sick."

"Hey!" Gus yelled. "It is not so shut your stupid mouth about stuff you don't understand!"

"Both of you stop it!" Mrs. Brockman yelled, standing up. "Nicholas, your language is . . ."

But he wasn't paying attention.

"I bet I know more than you. It's evil and it's wrong. Boys love girls, not other boys. Your dads and your moms are gonna burn in hell, Jesus says so."

"Nicholas!"

"Jesus loves everybody!" Gus screamed at him. "Even stupid jerks like you! And if he can love stupid jerks like you he can for sure love my dads! At least they aren't mean!"

"Gus," Justin said softly and Brian was walking toward him.

But he was so angry and what Nicholas was saying was wrong. His parents weren't evil, none of them. They loved him. Love wasn't evil. It couldn't be evil.

"It's disgusting, Gus," Nicholas said. "It's gross, gross, gross and I hope your whole family dies 'cause then maybe you'll know how gross and wrong it is."

There was a moment of stunned silence, but Gus didn't notice much. He sort of heard Mrs. Brockman telling Nicholas he'd have to go the principal's office and his parents, who had done their presentations earlier that morning, would have to be called and he knew that the other boy was in big trouble. He was only sort of glad. Well, he was really glad but he didn't care too much. All he wanted was to curl up in a ball and disappear.

He tried not to cry, he really did, but he knew he was. His dad picked him up and held him close.

"I'm s-sorry," he sniffled into his dad's ear.

"Shhh," he murmured as they walked out of the room. "It's okay."

"It all got ruined," he whimpered. "Jus was going to be the best one and then Nicholas ruined it." He tightened his arms around his dad's neck. "You aren't evil. I don't want you to die."

"Hey, hey," his dad said, rubbing his back. "Listen to me, okay? We fags aren't going anywhere. That includes Mikey and Ben and Emmett and, God help us, Ted. And your moms and me and especially Justin. They can't get rid of us just by hating us."

But Gus wasn't too sure. Hate was so scary and powerful. So he kept crying into his daddy's shoulder and he didn't let go until they were on their way back home.

---(

Gus felt better when he woke up. Not because everything was better, but because he was nestled between his dads and he loved waking up that way. He always felt so warm and loved when he fell asleep with his moms or woke up with his dads. It was a good feeling. The best.

He rolled onto his back and noticed that his dad and Justin were doing the mind-reading thing again. He wondered what they were talking about, but he'd probably never know what went on between them in their heads. It was okay, though. It was just part of who his dads were.

"Hey, Sonnyboy."

"Hi, Daddy."

"Are you feeling better," Justin asked.

Gus frowned.

"I dunno," he admitted. "You guys aren't going to die are you?"

Two puffs of air tickled his ears as his dad and Justin chuckled.

"Not if we can help it."

"Okay."

They were silent for a few minutes.

"Is it okay?" Gus asked. "That you love other men and that Mom and Mommy love each other?"

"Some people say it isn't," his dad told him.

"It doesn't seem evil," Gus told them.

"We're not evil, Gus," his dad said. "We're different and people don't like different. They may never accept us, me or Justin or your moms or your uncles, but we won't change."

"I don't want you to change. I just want you to love each other. Love is good, right? Love can't be bad so you should just do that."

"You're right," Justin said with a smile. "We should just do that."

They all got up and his dad made him a snack while Justin drew pictures with him. The phone rang and he heard his dad talking and he guessed by the tone that he was talking to his mom or mommy.

"Hey, Sonnyboy, we'd better get you home. Your moms are worried," his dad said when he hung up.

Gus nodded and put on his shoes. When they got home his moms were standing in the doorway with strange looks on their faces, and not good strange.

"I had a long day," he said when they picked him up and hugged him so tight he couldn't breathe.

"We know, Honey," his mom said. "Why don't you go upstairs and get cleaned up? Dinner's almost ready."

He nodded and gave his dad and Justin a hug each and raced upstairs. He heard his moms ask if they wanted to stay but they didn't. He knew they wouldn't. They seemed like they needed time to themselves. He went straight to his room and looked out of his window because he wanted to see them drive off. Instead he saw them standing on the walk, holding each other tightly.

They never said the words and he'd asked his mommy about it a few times. She just told them they didn't need to say they loved each other out loud.

"Watch them close enough," she said. "And they scream it from the rooftops and mountain peaks."

He always thought it was more of a whisper, but he could see Justin and his dad both shaking from his window and they looked like if they let go they'd break in half and he thought that their love was a pretty loud whisper. And it was beautiful and it was good.