Brian pulled on his jeans and t-shirt, grabbed his leather jacket and headed down to the Jeep.  He was going to pick up Gus and spend the rest of the morning with him, have lunch with Justin who was working at the diner, and return Gus to his mothers by three pm.


As he climbed into the Jeep he thought about spending time with his son.  It had become kind of a guilty pleasure for him.  He got to do all the things with Gus that he had been deprived of doing in his childhood.  He knew that Gus loved him and he loved him back just as much if not more.  They were almost like two playmates instead of father and son.  He had never gone to the park with his own father.  The closest they ever came to going anywhere together was the bowling alley, and then he never played well enough to suit his father.  He would never do that to Gus; never make him feel like he wasn't good enough.


He pulled to a stop at the Munchers and climbed out.  Even though the Jeep was now officially Justin's car, they still kept Gus' car seat in the back of it for times they transported him.  The Corvette just wasn't suitable.  Pretty soon they would have to get a booster seat for the little boy.  He was almost too big for the seat they had now.  He was growing up so fast.


"Dada!" Gus shouted to him from the porch.


"Hey, Sonny Boy," Brian responded as the little guy ran down the sidewalk to get scooped up in his father's arms.  They kissed each other as Melanie and Lindsay carried his package of necessities out onto the porch.


"So, what are your plans?" Lindsay asked.


"I told you that we're going to the park.  Did you pack his pail and shovel?  How does that sound, Gus?"

"Good," Gus said smiling at him.


"All of his supplies are in the bag.  Try not to get him too filthy," Lindsay admonished.  She had some idea how much they both liked playing in the sandbox.


"I'll do my best," Brian said picking up Gus' bag and carrying it and his son to the Jeep.  "Wave bye-bye," Brian told him as he strapped him into his seat.


Gus waved and Brian pulled away with his son safely stowed behind him.  He glanced in the rearview mirror to find Gus staring back at him. 


"You want to go to the park, don't you?" Brian asked.


Gus nodded.  "Where's Justin?" he asked.


"He's working at the diner," Brian explained.  "We're going to have lunch there with him after we … you … play in the park."

Gus grinned.  "Good."


Now all was right with his world.  He knew where everybody was and he was going to get to see Justin and eat at the diner and have French fries and maybe see Debbie.  His mind raced ahead to all the fun stuff he would get to do.  He smiled again at his Dada who smiled back at him in the rearview mirror.


When they arrived at the park Brian got Gus out of his seat and warned him to stay close while he gathered up his bag of goodies.  Once Brian had everything, Gus, who had been hopping from foot to foot in anticipation, looked at his father and asked, "Now?"

Brian nodded and Gus took off as fast as his little legs would carry him.  Brian ran behind him making sure he stayed close, but he always let Gus win the race to the sandboxes.  Gus hit the middle of the sandbox and bounced up and down in victory.  The smile on his face always made it worth losing the race.


Brian unpacked the shovel and pail and some of the cars and trucks that Gus' mothers had stuffed into the bag.  Gus sat down and started making his roadways and trails in the dirt.  He loved driving his cars around the sandbox and inventing stories about what they were doing.  Brian watched in silence for awhile.


"Play with me, Dada," Gus ordered.


Brian picked up a car and drove it along one of Gus' roadways.  "It looks like we're traveling through the desert."

"Sand," Gus smiled.


"Deserts have sand, "Brian agreed.  Gus smiled at him.  "What else do deserts have?"  Brian liked playing this game with Gus.  Lindsay was always reading to the little boy and he knew so many things already.  Plus, Brian never knew what weird and wonderful thing would come out of his mouth.


"Camels," Gus said after a little thought.


"Yes, they do.  Have you seen any camels today?"

Gus looked around.  He slowly shook his head.  "Go look for my camel?" he said.


"You have a camel … of your own?" Brian asked.


Gus nodded.  "Come, Dada.  Find my camel."

Brian took his hand and they set out to find Gus' camel.  Brian smiled to himself.  This would be a real adventure.  They walked down the grassy knoll and came to a large maple tree.  Gus went behind the tree and looked all around.


"Did you find your camel?" Brian asked.


Gus shook his head and marched along with Brian staying close behind.  They approached a bench where an elderly man sat reading his newspaper.


"Have you seen my camel?" Gus asked the man.


The elderly gentleman lowered his paper and looked at Gus.  "No, I'm afraid I haven't," he said.  "Is he lost?"


Gus nodded.  The man looked at Brian and smiled.


"I hope you find him," the man said.


"Me too," Gus agreed and marched on to look elsewhere for the missing pachyderm.


Brian gave the man a little grin and followed his son.  Gus began running from tree to tree looking for the camel behind each one.  Brian asked him each time if the camel was there, but the answer was always 'no'.


The next people they came to were a couple of teenagers making out on a bench.  Gus ran up to them and stared.  They seemed completely oblivious as they continued to kiss.


"Gus," Brian said wanting him to come away.


Gus reached out and tapped the knee of the boy with the palm of his hand.


"Wha'?" the kid gasped coming up for air.


"Have you seen my camel?" Gus asked seriously.


The boy looked stunned and in bewilderment said, "What the fuck?"

The girl looked at Gus and saw Brian standing a bit behind him.  She grinned at Brian and then at Gus.  "You'll have to forgive his bad language," she said giving her boyfriend a swat on the chest.  Gus giggled.  "Have you lost you camel?" she asked with a look of mock worry on her face.


Gus nodded and said, "Yes, have you seen him?"


"No," she said, "but I hope you find him."


"I will," Gus declared and set off again.


"Good luck," she called after Gus and gave Brian a grin as he went after the little one.  Brian mouthed a 'thank you' before her boyfriend grabbed her and stuck his tongue down her throat once again.


As Brian trailed behind his son he realized that Gus was having the time of his life.  He was getting to explore the whole park and talk to all kinds of people that would never speak to him otherwise.  Brian realized that it might be a long time before they found the camel, if at all.  His son was a resourceful little dickens.


Gus continued to check behind each tree that they passed.  He always waited for Brian to ask if the camel was there, but it never was.  They met several more people.  Brian's favorite was the woman walking a little schnauzer.  Gus stopped to ask if she had seen his camel.  When she said no, he squatted down and asked the dog.  Gus and the dog had quite a little conversation with Gus declaring that the dog had seen his camel way down at the end of the park.


Off they went to check there.  No camel came to light, however.  Brian finally managed to turn Gus around and head him back in the direction of where they had left the toys and Gus' bag in the sandbox.


Gus continued to check behind every tree.  They were about halfway back to the sandbox when Gus spotted a woman pushing a stroller with a little girl in it. 


"Have you seen my camel?" Gus asked the lady.


"No, little boy," she replied abruptly.


"Have you seen my camel?" he asked the little girl.  She giggled and looked at Gus with wonder.


"She hasn't seen a camel," the woman said rather harshly.


"Come on, Gus," Brian said taking his hand.  Brian didn't like the woman's tone.  They quickly walked away.  Gus kept looking over his shoulder at the little girl who looked longingly at the two as they walked away.


"She not nice," Gus said.


"No, she wasn't very nice, was she?"


Gus shook his head.  He saw a couple sitting on a bench up ahead and ran over to them.  "Have you seen my camel?" he asked them.


"You know," the man said, "I thought I saw a camel pass by a little while ago."

Gus smiled at the man.  "Where did he go?"


Brian gestured in the direction they were headed and the man said, "That way, I think."  It was the direction Brian had indicated.


"Are you having a lot of trouble finding him?" the woman asked.


"Yes," said Gus nodding his head.  "Naughty camel."

The couple stifled a giggle.  Gus started up a little hill to check behind the tree up there. 


"Stay in sight," Brian said to Gus.  "Thanks for going along with him and pointing him in the right direction.  We've almost covered the whole park," Brian told them.


"He's a sweet little boy, so imaginative," the woman said.


"He's pretty bright, if I do say so myself," Brian bragged.


"He looks just like you," the man said.


"Everybody tells me that."

"He's lucky to have such a handsome and caring father," the woman added.


"Thanks," Brian replied touched that someone had actually told him that.  He tried his best but he was always afraid that some of Jack's bad habits would creep in.


"Come on, Dada.  We have to find my camel," Gus called.


"Got to go," Brian told the couple and took off after Gus.  They smiled at each other as Brian and Gus made their way up the hill to the sandbox.


Luckily nobody had walked off with Gus' toys or his bag.  Brian found him the juice box that Lindsay always included and Gus drank greedily.


"Good, Dada," he said when he had had enough.


"Do you think you would like to try the slide before we go to the diner?" Brian asked.


Gus nodded and they gathered up his toys and bag and moved over to the slides.  Gus had learned to love the covered one that curved around.  It always surprised the little boy that his daddy would be at the side where he went in and then waiting for him at the bottom when he popped out.


Gus climbed the steps carefully with Brian's hand on his back.  He sat down at the top.


"Ready," he said and pushed off.  Brian quickly ran around to the end of the slide and caught his son as he popped out.  Gus giggled with delight.  "Again," he demanded immediately.  Brian walked him around to the back and they repeated the performance.


After countless times, Brian decided they better go get something to eat.  Justin would be waiting for them.  He was going to take his break and eat lunch with them.  When he suggested this to Gus, the little boy agreed, deciding that he might find his camel there.


Brian smiled as they packed everything into the Jeep and got ready to leave.  The couple they had talked to walked past and asked Gus if he had found his camel.


"Not yet," he said.  They wished him luck and gave him a big smile.


Brian found a good parking space across the street from the diner.  He took Gus' hand and they walked into the restaurant.


"Hey," Brian said to Justin who was in the middle of waiting on a table.


"Hey," he replied.  "Hey, Gus.  Find a booth and I'll join you in a minute or two."


"Hey there, gorgeous Gus," Debbie called.


"Hey, Debbie," Gus responded.  "Have you seen my camel?"

"Camel?" Debbie asked looking at Brian.  "There hasn't been a camel in here all day."

"Oh," Gus said.


"Where did you lose him?"

"At the park."

"Maybe he'll turn up later," Debbie suggested.


Justin came over to the booth and gave Brian a quick kiss.  "Did you two have fun at the park?"  Gus nodded and Justin gave him a kiss and a hug much to the delight of the little boy.  "Everybody want the usual?" Justin asked.  Father and son nodded and Justin went to put in their order.


Brian left their coats and Gus' bag in the booth and took Gus to the restroom to clean up.  He washed the little boy's face and hands.  That's when he noticed the grass stains all over the knees of Gus' pants.


"Where did you get these?" Brian asked knowing that he would probably get shit about it.


"Looking for my camel," was Gus' explanation.


Brian snorted.  He could hardly wait till he told Lindsay that Gus got the stains chasing his camel all over the fucking park.


"All clean, Dada," Gus said having had enough of being rubbed with toilet paper.


"Good enough, Sonny Boy."

They went back out to the booth to find Ted and Emmett sitting in it. 


"There's my handsome boy," Emmett said. 


"Thanks so much, Emm," Brian responded.


"Not you, silly.  Gus."  The little boy gave Emmett a hug and sat down between the two men.


"Have you seen my camel?" Gus asked looking at the two men.


"Don't tell me your father got you a camel?" Ted asked.


"Are you out of your fucking mind?" Brian demanded frowning at Ted in disbelief.


"Language," Debbie said as she passed by and swatted Brian on the back of the head.


"Ow," Brian responded.


Gus giggled knowing his father had been punished for using a bad word.  "Play in the park," Gus said.  "Looked everywhere for my camel."  Gus' little arms spread out wide to show Emmett how far they had gone to look for the camel.


"But you couldn't find him?" Emmett asked.


"Gus tried very hard," Brian said solemnly.


Gus beamed at his father's approval. 


Justin appeared with their food and slid into the seat next to Brian.  "Yours will be out in a minute or two," he said to Ted and Emmett.


"Justin," Gus said reaching across the table to tap the young man on the arm and get his attention.  "Justin."

"Yes, Gus."

"Have you seen my camel?"

Justin looked at Brian.  "No, Gus, is he lost?"

Gus nodded and stuffed a French fry into his mouth.


"Gus had to search the whole park for his camel," explained Brian.  "We went all the way from one end to the other and back again.  Gus worked very hard to find him."


Justin smiled at Brian.  He loved it when Brian let his imagination run, and when he was so supportive to Gus.  He could imagine the happy little boy that Brian might have been if he had had parents like Gus' who didn't stifle him and criticize him and beat the crap out of him.


"What's wrong?" Brian asked and Justin realized that his face must have turned sad as he thought about what Brian had suffered through.


"Oh … um … I was thinking about where the camel could be.  I wonder if something has happened to him," Justin lied.


Brian gave him a look, but quickly said, "I'm sure he's all right.  We'll find him soon, won't we, Gus?"

"Maybe," Gus said and Brian knew that the camel was too good an excuse to meet and talk to people.  Gus would never find him and lose that opportunity.


They ate and chatted with Ted and Emmett until their food arrived.  Gus wolfed down his French fries and hot dog.  He was really hungry after all the running around he had done.


"Sundae," he said to Justin when he had eaten all of the main course that he wanted.


"Ask nicely," Brian warned.


"Please, may I have a sundae," Gus said slowly and deliberately.


Everybody at the table stifled their laughs and looked away.  Gus studied the reaction and giggled. 


"He's going to use that again sometime," Brian thought to himself.  His son was one smart little fucker.

Debbie brought Gus his sundae.  Justin said he better get back to work and would see Brian at the loft for dinner.  Brian gathered up his son and all of his paraphernalia.  They said goodbye to Ted and Emmett and Debbie and went out to the Jeep.


"Dada," Gus said as he was being buckled into his seat.


"Yes, Gus."

"I had fun looking for the camel."

"So did I, Sonny Boy, so did I."


Gus kissed his cheek as he leaned in to make sure he was secure.


"Love you, Dada."

"Love you too," and he hugged his son pleased at how well the day had gone.


When they arrived at the Munchers it was a little before three, but Gus was having trouble keeping his eyes open.


"Nap time for you," Brian said as he helped the little boy out of his seat.


"No," Gus whined.


Brian didn't argue.  He took Gus' hand and they walked up to the front door.  Melanie opened it.


"You're early," she said.


"I hope I interrupted something," Brian said with a sneer.


Melanie ignored the crack.  "Couldn't stand him a minute longer?" she asked.


"Not at all, but he's kind of tired.  I think he should have a nap."



Lindsay came to the door looking a little disheveled.  "I did interrupt them," Brian thought.  "But I won't let my mind go there."

"Hi, sweetie," Lindsay said to Gus.  "Did you have fun?"

Gus nodded and let out a yawn.  "Have you seen my camel?"


"What?" Lindsay asked.


"I looked everywhere for my camel."

"You did?"

"Mm hmm," Gus said sleepily.


"I think somebody needs his nap."  Lindsay picked up Gus and carried him upstairs.


"So what's all this about a camel?" Melanie asked Brian.


"We were playing … he was playing in the sandbox at the park and we decided it was like a desert with all the sand around his cars," Brian began.  Melanie noted the 'we were playing' part but decided not to say anything.  "I asked him what else deserts had besides sand and he came up with camels.  He took me all around the park searching for his camel."

"Did you find it?"

"Of course not, or he wouldn't be asking if you had seen it," Brian said.  Sometimes women were too obtuse.


"Are we going to have to listen to him ask about his camel every two minutes?" Mel asked testily.


"I don't think so.  It was just a way for him to get to explore the park and talk to new people."

"You let him talk to strangers?" Mel asked in astonishment.


"Right," Brian agreed knowing he could get her goat.  "I just sent him off to ask anyone he met if they had seen his camel and I laid in the sun and waited for him to come back."

"You shit!"


"I wouldn't do that," Brian defended himself.


"I should hope not, but you're still a shit for saying that you did."

"I was right behind him every moment."  Brian let out a yawn.

"It's a big park, isn't it?" Melanie said with a grin.


"Humungous!  Gotta go."


Brian was out the door before he had to endure any more questioning from the Grand Inquisitor Melanie.




When Justin opened the loft door he couldn't see Brian anywhere.  He had brought dinner with him and wondered where Brian could have gone.  The man knew what time he was coming home and that he was bringing the meal.


Suddenly he heard a snort from the sofa and walked quietly over to find Brian sound asleep, curled up in a fetal position.  It wasn't like Brian to take a nap in the daytime.  His idea of a nap was a vigorous round of fucking or two or three.


Justin watched him.  He was sure he was dreaming; his eyelids were fluttering in an erratic pattern.  He looked so beautiful and so vulnerable when he was like that.  It was like he reverted to the little boy that he was never allowed to be.


Justin backed away and carried the bag of takeout over to the kitchen.  He wasn't that hungry.  He'd wait for awhile and see if Brian woke up.  He had work he could do.


About fifteen minutes later Justin was engrossed in a book he had to read for one of his classes when he heard Brian groan and stretch.


"You awake?" Justin called across the loft.


"Yeah, when did you get home?"

"A few minutes ago."

"Why didn't you wake me?"

"You looked so peaceful and I wasn't very hungry, so I thought I'd wait till you woke up."

"I'm awake and I'm hungry.  How about you?"

"Ready when you are.  We probably need to nuke the Chinese food though."


They both made their way to the kitchen and scooped out what they wanted to eat.  The plate was put in the microwave to make it piping hot and they carried it over to the sofa.


Justin took a bite.  "This is good."  Brian nodded eating more heartily than he usually did.  "So did Gus tire you out and make you hungry."

Brian grinned.  "Yeah."

"Have fun with him?"

"He's a tricky little thing.  He used that camel story to explore the whole park and get to talk to everyone he met."

"And you let him?"

"He was having a great time and … so was I," Brian admitted.


Justin smiled at him, glad that Brian enjoyed being with his son, that they could have a good time together.  "Did he ever find the camel?"


"Nope, and I don't think he ever will, but it makes a good reason to wander about."

"I love you, you know."

"I know," Brian said softly.  "By the way have you seen my camel?"

"No, you have one too?"

"Oh yes."


"Since when?"

"I think he might be up in the bedroom," Brian replied ignoring the question.


"The bedroom?  Imagine that."

"Want to come help me look for him?" 




They set down their plates and holding hands they walked up to the bedroom.


"I bet you won't find your camel either," Justin said.


"Probably not, but you never what you'll discover along the way."  He gently pushed Justin onto the bed and spread himself overtop.


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