Christmas Surprise

It's times like these Gus really wishes that his father had a bigger house.

It's Christmas Eve; well, really midnight, so it must be almost Christmas Day. And Daphne and the baby are in the guest room and the baby's been crying for hours and ...

It's not like he still believes in dumb stuff like Santa or anything. He's thirteen now after all. But he still wants to get up early on Christmas morning, right? There are still presents to be opened.

But when the baby cries in this tiny house no one gets any sleep. And yeah, his mother did tell him he should spend Christmas Eve with her. But she's back with Melanie again and Mel always bitches about it if they force her to celebrate Christmas. She doesn't exactly return the mounds of dumb gifts JR always gets from Michael and Debbie; but she carries on like a shrew over every single thing his fathers give him, ranting about how his father represents the worst type of commercialization of a religious holiday and all that shit.

So he'd much rather be here; and he doesn't really mind about Dani - she's kind of cute, even if she doesn't do much except sleep and shit - but still ...

No one, least of all his Dad, is going to want to be woken up first thing in the morning after being awake all night.

He tosses and turns over yet again.

If only his Dads had kept the humungous mansion they used to own. Gus couldn't ever remember being there, but he'd seen pictures. It had been just huge. If they had a place that big now, they could all have got away from Dani's crying and got some sleep and Christmas wouldn't be ruined.

He tries turning onto the other side and putting his pillow over his head, but somehow Dani's wails still penetrate.

He tosses back again and his thoughts keep churning about how much he loves being here with his Dads and even Dani and Daphne if they just had more space.

If they really didn't want to live in a mansion, at least they could make this place a little bigger.

When he was a kid he'd loved his little room; but he was bigger now. He needed lots more space. And now that Dani was here he couldn't even move into the guest room which at least was bigger than this room, because of course when Dani stayed here so did Daphne and they needed the space.

He knows that.

He gets it. He really does. But there were still ways that they could make more space for him if they wanted to. When they'd extended the garage right out to the fence, Gus had been hopeful. But that was just to make room for another car.

Then they'd started talking about building an extension over the garage and he'd crossed his fingers and prayed, silently begged that it would include a bigger room for him. But he'd kind of known he was doomed to disappointment. They'd decided to make it into a studio for Dus.

Which was beyond dumb, because everyone knew Dus already had a studio - the loft near Liberty Avenue; which was like the coolest place ever.

One of Gus's favorite daydreams is that someday he'll have his own place just like the loft, with polished floorboards and a huge bed and a shiny kitchen area - even if it never got used.

But no. At the house that his Mom is living in at the moment, his room has stupid grey carpet and white walls that he isn't allowed to paint over because they probably wouldn't be living there long. They never do. Melanie will leave again and then they'll wind up back in some apartment. And here with his Dads, he's stuck in this tiny room.

And he wouldn't even have a proper Christmas morning.

And to make it worse, his Dads seemed to be having some kind of fight over the whole studio thing.

Not that they're all screaming and yelling like Mom and Mel. Or even icy quiet. There was just ... something.

They seem to have made up or something now, though; they were all over each other like usual earlier tonight.

Gus doesn't know whether to just be embarrassed about that, or to be glad that he's got one set of parents who are still clearly ... you know ... "in love" or something.

Mostly he guesses that he's glad. At least with his Dads he kind of knows where he stands, because he knows where they stand - together. Which is totally not how it is with his Mom and Mel. If they were always together, he'd try to be glad of that, although the truth is his life is usually easier when Melanie's not around. But the constant on again/ off again thing is just ... exhausting. He's never known where he stood with them, really, because he doesn't know from one day to the next where they stand with each other.

Gus knows, because his Moms, especially Melanie, take every opportunity to remind him, that his Dads' relationship isn't perfect. He knows they fight sometimes, although he's never allowed to feel in the middle of it. And he knows that they actually split up a few times along the way. Well, at least they'd been apart a few times. Mel and Mom and even Uncle Michael insist that they split up at least three times, but he'd plucked up the courage to ask Dus once and he'd told him that he'd left his Dad just once and it was the biggest mistake of his life and he'd never do it again.

But anyway, all that was years ago; he'd been too young to ever remember a time when Dus and his Dad weren't together. Well, he thought he kind of remembered when Dus left to go to New York. Dus had sat down with him and had told him that he was going away for a little while, but it wouldn't be forever. He'd said that while he was away Dad might be sad sometimes, so he was relying on Gus to remind him that they both loved him and that Dus would be home as soon as he could.

Then Mom and Mel had taken him away to Canada and for a long while he remembered being afraid that his Dad would be even more lonely.

But then Mom had brought him back here and Dus and been here with his Dad and ever since then Dus and his Dad had been together.

And mostly Gus felt glad about that. Except when they were sucking face right in front of him cos that was kind of gross.

But sometimes he had to admit he watched. He was kind of curious about how it would feel and stuff.

He turns over again.

He supposes it doesn't really matter about the room. It's not like it's anyone's fault. And he doesn't really mind about Dani. He even spent most of what was left of his pocket money after he'd bought Christmas gifts for Mom and Dad and Dus on a present for her, even if she was really too little to even know how to unwrap it. (Mom had insisted he bought presents for Melanie and JR, too, but Dad had given him some money for those; he'd told Dus that he didn't think it was fair that Gus should have to waste his money on people who probably weren't going to be around again by the time the Christmas tree had been turned into firewood but Gus wasn't supposed to have heard that.)

Anyway Dani has finally stopped crying but Gus is still wide awake. He has just turned over again and tried to smooth out his pillow when he hears the door open softly. He immediately lies still and does his best to pretend that he's sleeping, mindful of all those stupid childhood warnings about Santa not coming and shit if he tried to stay awake on Christmas Eve.

He's kind of shocked when his father's voice says, quiet, but with that unmistakable no-bullshit note, "You can go on pretending to be asleep, Sonnyboy, or you can come and get your Christmas present."

Immediately his eyes snap open and he's sitting up almost before he knows it. This is just ... you know ... unbelievable. This never. He always has to wait for everyone to get up on Christmas morning. As he swings his feet out of bed, Dus is holding out his robe.

"And be f ... quiet," his father advises. "We don't want to start the air raid siren off again."

"Brian!" Dus huffs at him. But of course, Dad just grins at him the way he always does and they might as well just kiss and be done with it because they kind of kiss with their eyes anyway.

Then Dad tells him to put something on his feet because he doesn't want him to catch f ... frostbite (and Gus knows he was going to swear but stopped himself which for some reason kind of makes him want to laugh and also makes him feel good in a weird kind of way).

They go downstairs but instead of stopping in front of the huge tree that takes up seriously like half of the main room, they go out through the door to the solarium (which is what they call the place where the jacuzzi is).

Gus finds his heart starting to beat faster.

What have they bought him that they have to bring him out here to show it to him. He's got a bike. And even his Dad wouldn't buy him a car yet.

They get to the new stairs that lead up to Dus's studio and Dad waves him up them.

They can't! They haven't!

Have they?

He finds himself running up the stairs. The door at the top is locked, but the key is in the lock with a Christmas tag hanging off it. (Later he'll read the tag and find: "To our son, Gus. Now that he's a teenager he needs his own space. From Dad and Dus.". And he'll think that it's so cool of his Dads not to include any of the lecture about responsibility and shit that his mothers would have heaped on him. He knows this is a big deal. He knows that it means that they're trusting him to behave responsibly. And by not even mentioning any of that stuff his Dads are telling him that they know that he knows. They are seriously the coolest parents ever.)

But for now he just unlocks to door as fast as he can and stumbles through.

It's like Dus's loft, it really is.

The floor is polished wood and there's lots of open space and a work area with a computer already set up and at one end there's a kind of kitchen area - just a counter and stools and a microwave and a sink and a little refrigerator, but shit!

And at the other end there's a whole set of screens, kind of like the ones round the bedroom in the loft, except not with Justin's art stuff all over them. Next to those there's another wall of the green glass bricks that form most of the walls downstairs. He supposes that's the bathroom.

He's distracted for a few moments by the couch and the wall screen tv and the whole entertainment system. And then he's past them to the bedroom which has a totally huge bed and ...

When he turns to thank his fathers he finds that he can't get his voice to work. He just wraps his arms around his Dad and hangs on tight. He feels, as he always does, the love just pour out of his father's arms and hands. And then he moves to Dus who also loves him and again he just clings on and tries to let his hug do the talking that his tongue can't seem to manage.

Dus hugs him back, warm and safe and solid just like always.

"I wanted to tell you right from the beginning," he says. "But you know your Dad - it had to be a big production number as usual."

Dad snorts and says, "He's been putting the screws on me to tell you. But what's Christmas without a few surprises."

Gus finally finds his voice. "It's the best Christmas surprise ever," he says fervently. "Just the best."

His Dad puts an arm around his shoulder and hugs him again.

"We're going to put a door through from upstairs," he says. "But to do that, we have to remodel the bathroom. Do you think you're going to be okay sleeping here till then?"

Gus looks at them, at these two who love him and who just get him. And he knows that if he was in trouble his Dad would come right through the wall to get to him if he had to.

"I'll be fine," he says. "I'm not a kid anymore."

Dad's smile seems a little more crooked than usual when he responds, "I know, Sonnyboy. You're growing up fast."

Later, Gus will reflect that he doesn't know why he responds the way he does. It's really kind of lame. But he hears himself say, "But I'll always be your Sonnyboy."

His Dad's eyes glow, and Dus beams at him with approval, so he guesses it was okay to say it.

And he knows it's true. Whatever else goes on, whoever else comes into his life, or theirs, he knows that his Dad and his Dus will always be there for him.

He's glad he took so long choosing their Christmas gifts. He hopes they like them. He did his best to get good ones. His Dads deserve to get the best Christmas surprises, just like the ones they give.

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