summary: Gus has a birthday. Justin has no cash.
disclaimer: not mine.


The year Gus turns ten, Justin is working an obscene amount of hours at his day job. It takes him twenty minutes in a toy store in Manhattan to know that there is no way he can afford anything a ten year old boy could possibly want, he can't even swing a video game for one of the three gaming systems Gus has conned out of his father. It's sad, really, because Gus is, by far, his favorite kid in the entire universe and he wants to get him something unbelievably cool. Unfortunately, it ain't gonna happen.

That's when he decides to write the book.

It doesn't start off as a book. He's on the phone listening to Brian complain about his art department and watching a documentary on PBS about Mayan pyramids, doodling sketches for the next issue of Rage. When Brian segues from incompetent artists to his son's latest achievements on the soccer field, the sketches move away from Rage saving Gayopolis to Gus and Brian exploring the rainforests of South America. He doesn't think much about it until the next day, when he sees the sketches and inspiration hits.

It takes him three months (because that writing shit is hard) but he manages to put together a truly kick ass story about a ten year old boy who lives with his lesbian mother (Lindsay and Mel are on the outs again, permanently this time) but once every couple of months goes on some wild adventure with his gay dad. He thanks PBS for repeating the Mayan pyramid documentary because it was crucial to his eventual plot (which involved mummies, human sacrifices, and a hunt for priceless Mayan treasures). He has the book bound professionally, thanks to having friends in the right places, and ships it off to Pittsburgh (where Lindsay returned after the big breakup) with a card and hopes that Gus likes it.

When Gus calls him up five days later gushing that it's the best present he's ever gotten, Justin figures his plan was a success. He doesn't think much about it after that. He has vague ideas for a new book, something about Alex, his young adventurer, and his dad, Nick, chasing a group of poachers in Africa (thanks to yet another special on PBS). He works on it occasionally, when he's not working on paintings for a show or drawing the latest issue of Rage or selling crappy art to people with bad taste. But he never thinks about it as something other than his own set of personal gifts for Gus.

That is until some guy calls him up and suggests they actually publish the damn thing.

Before he knows it he's meeting with an editor (Tabitha, who is, without doubt, the funniest person he's ever met) and illustrating covers and going on book tours. It's this strange whirlwind that he, somehow, got swept up in and he has no idea how any of it happened.

He finds himself in Miami one Wednesday afternoon in July, doing a book signing at Barnes and Nobles, when Brian calls him up to ask him why he never bothered to mention he'd become an author when he was supposed to be wowing the masses with his artistic genius. It takes him twenty minutes to explain how Gus's birthday present turned into this Big Huge Deal, but when the checks start coming in and, even stranger, Tabitha calls him up at five-twenty on a Monday morning to squee loudly in his ear about making the New York Times Children's Best Sellers list, he figures he can add author to his list of career achievements. He even wins one of those pretentious book awards (though he makes them take their big shiny gold emblem off the covers of his books because they're ugly) and spends twenty minutes on Oprah's couch.

The book tours really suck ass though.

When he's accosted in the supermarket by a bunch of thirteen year old girls, he sets a seven book limit, a la JK Rowling. Alex gets a girlfriend in book four and in book six, Nick drags Jason, his hot blond boyfriend, along for the ride when they chase art thieves in Paris. There's a pretty racy sex scene in that one, which Tabitha declares to be immensely hot, but totally inappropriate for the whole children's fiction market. He agrees to take it out (not that he was serious about keeping it in, but he likes to keep Tabitha on her toes) but he has one copy made up, sex and all, which he sends to Brian, who shows his appreciation by taking him to Paris and re-enacting said scene.

Things die down a bit after the last book comes out. He goes on one last book tour, does one last round of television interviews. He spends a couple more years in New York, doing the art thing and pretty soon he's back to being Justin Taylor, Artist, instead of Justin Taylor, Author, although it was a pretty good gig while it lasted. He moves back to Pittsburgh and then Brian makes him pack up his shit again and move to West Virginia, because apparently they've got a house there Brian is tired of not living in. He meets Tabitha for lunch a couple times a month when he's New York for business or a show, because somewhere along the way she became more than the woman who edited his books and turned into a real friend.

Every now and then people ask him if he'll write another book. He doesn't think he will. Gus is old enough to tell his own stories now.