Author's Note: First Major Crimes fic and first slash fic so if I do this wrong, give me a break. We don't have much of a read on Gus yet as well beyond Alice/Mariana's brother and possibly in love with Rusty. We also don't really know anything about Paloma or her new family beyond Paloma being loved deeply by her siblings and Cynthia thinking she's in a good home that wants to adopt her.
My personal headcanon is that Rusty agreed to date Gus in Penalty Phase given how happy they both looked after their chat. I also believe that Rusty was at least part of the reason Gus moved to LA, so he could have a chance with him given how deep his feelings for Rusty seem to go. I wrote this as I thought it would be nice to meet Paloma given Gus seemed to think there was a chance her family would let him see her unofficially despite his deal. Also, I think Rusty would be perfect to determine if Paloma is in a good home or not since he mentioned in The Fifth Dynasty that he had been on the other end of a bad home visit more than once and would thus know what to look for better than a social worker and could be more inconspicuous about it. We also didn't get names for Paloma's new parents so I'm making that up here.
Love and Family
Shortly after Gus officially moved to Los Angeles, Paloma's family contacted him and offered to let Gus see his sister if he was willing to do it unofficially. Not wanting to mess up her life, Gus had agreed to these terms but asked Rusty to come along, both as moral support and to get his opinion of Paloma's new home.
As the two approached Paloma's new home, Rusty noticed Gus looked nervous but excited. "You ready for this?" Rusty asked his boyfriend, something he was still getting used to.
"Yeah. I'm excited I'm finally gonna get to see Paloma after over a year of searching, but she doesn't know about Mariana yet and I walked out of her life so I'm afraid of how she'll react to me," Gus admitted. "Thanks for being here for me Rusty. And I don't just mean today, I mean for all you've done for me, Mariana and Paloma."
"I'm glad I could help. And I'm glad I can meet Paloma for myself. She means so much to you and Mariana and after everything, I like the idea that I can see that Paloma is safe as Mariana wanted for myself."
Steeling himself, Gus knocked on the door of his little sister's new home. The door was opened by Paloma's foster parents, John and Mary who smiled at Gus. "Hello, you must be Gus," said John, smiling at Gus. However, at that moment, he noticed Rusty. "Gus, we agreed to do this unofficially so why'd you bring him along? I've seen Identity and I know he's been doing stories surrounding your sister's death. If he does a story on Paloma…"
"No, no," Gus started. "He's not here for a story, he's here for me." Gus took Rusty's hand to highlight his statement. "I asked him to come for support, not because he's a journalist doing a story."
"Well, if he promises not to turn this into a story for his vlog I guess he can join us," agreed Mary. Not having planned on doing otherwise, Rusty agreed and the two were led into the house.
Entering the living room, Gus was excited to spot Paloma though he kept himself in check, unsure of how she'd react to seeing him after so long apart. However, Paloma was just as excited to see her brother and ran to him and pulled him into a hug, sobbing at being reunited with him after so long.
"I've missed you so much!" cried Paloma once she had finally gotten enough control of herself to talk.
"I've missed you too," said Gus, barely keeping his emotions in check. "I'm so sorry I left you and Mariana, but I couldn't take Greg's abuse anymore and then when I got back I couldn't find you again."
"I... I wish you'd stayed, but I get why you left. I would've left too if I could've and so would've Mariana. She was angry you left, but she understood why you did. When mom had us rehomed, we both saw it as a second chance but we were separated and I lost Mariana when the woman I was sent to moved here."
"Paloma, there's something you need to know." Gus sighed, knowing he would have to tell Paloma the truth. "After I came back from the Army last year, I started looking for you and Mariana. I wanted to put our family back together at first so Mariana didn't want anything to do with me. She didn't believe me when I backed off on that idea and she took off for Los Angeles. From what I found out, she came here looking for you."
"She's here in LA?" asked Paloma surprised. "Then where is she? You found me, why didn't she and if she did why didn't she visit me? And what do you mean 'what you found out'? Didn't she tell you herself?"
Gus hesitated, knowing this wouldn't be easy to explain, causing Rusty to squeeze his hand gently in support, a move that didn't go unnoticed by Paloma. "Paloma… I spent a year looking for you two. It took me until a few months ago to have any luck at all in my search." Gus turned to Rusty who gave him an encouraging smile. "This is Rusty. A few months ago he made contact with me, asking to meet to discuss Mariana. I came here to LA to meet with him as he was the only person I could find who knew anything about where either of you were. We had a bit of a… rough beginning," Gus and Rusty grimaced remembering their suspicion of each other, particularly Rusty's of Gus abusing Mariana, "but once we got everything sorted out, he brought me to his mother who told me the truth." Gus trailed off, having a hard time continuing.
Noticing this, Paloma nervously asked Gus "what truth?"
Steeling himself, Gus leaned towards Paloma. "Paloma, Mariana is dead. She died last year a couple of months after she first came to LA."
Seeing Gus was serious, Paloma started to quietly cry. "What happened? And how come it took you so long to find out?"
Gus tried to continue, but found it too hard so Rusty picked up the tale. "Paloma, Gus didn't know because the police were unable to find out who Mariana really was. They just knew her by the name Alice Herrera but couldn't find her real name or anyone who knew it. She didn't have a missing person's report and never told anyone much about her so they couldn't find much on Mariana's real identity. And when they caught Mariana's killer, legally they had to stop looking."
Rusty sighed, knowing the next part wouldn't be easy to explain. "Yes. Mariana… Mariana was murdered. A young man known as Slider drowned her when she wouldn't help him rob a house she worked at. The police investigated and caught Slider, but they had no luck in identifying Mariana. It bothered them greatly," Rusty said thinking of Sharon telling him of the memorial service Detective Flynn had organized "but they weren't allowed to do anything more legally. They didn't forget her though: the squad that caught Slider had their own memorial service for Mariana and they kept her picture up on their white board so they at least would always remember her."
"What happened to Slider? And how did you get involved?" asked Paloma, wanting to find out what happened to the monster that murdered her sister and curious as to how Rusty fit into things.
"Slider recently went on trial for Mariana's murder. He was found guilty and was given the death penalty," explained Gus, glad to at least be able to pass on this bit of good news to Paloma.
"As for me, my adoptive mom is Captain Sharon Raydor, the head of Major Crimes Division which investigated Mariana's death and captured Slider. I first heard about Mariana's death while my mom and her squad were investigating it as a result. I'm working on becoming a journalist and when I was looking for a story, I remembered Mariana and decided to make my story about finding out who she really is. I made it into a vlog on YouTube called Identity. I spent a couple of months hunting down what clues I could find about who Mariana really was."
"And they eventually led him to me," said Gus, having regained control of himself enough to take over the story. "Rusty was able to make contact with me and set up a meeting between us. He didn't tell me what he wanted beyond having information on Mariana but I was desperate to find you and Mariana so I agreed to meet him in a public place as he wanted. It was only then that he told me he was a journalist too. At first he kinda pissed me off with all the questions he asked, including when he insinuated that I abused Mariana, but he eventually took me to his mom after I showed him my burn scars." Gus and Rusty once more grimaced at the reminder of their semi-hostile first meeting. "She told me about what had happened to Mariana."
"I couldn't bring myself to tell him," admitted Rusty. "My mom always talks about how hard it is to tell someone's loved ones about what happened to them and she was right. I couldn't do it so I brought Gus to her instead." Rusty remembered how proud everyone was of him when he brought them Gus but also how disappointed Andy had seemed. Rusty had later realized it was because he had left the notification to Sharon instead of doing it himself when doing it would be just as hard for her.
"Afterwards, I began helping the police and their prosecutor bring Mariana justice by giving them background information on her and agreeing to testify in Slider's trial. One of the cops helped me find you, but I couldn't see you or officially identify you without ruining what you have here. If you were officially identified as my sister, you would have to be sent back to mom and Greg or to a foster home in Nevada. You would lose everything you have here and I don't want that. Eventually the city agreed to help me give Mariana a funeral if I left you alone until you turn eighteen when me being in your life wouldn't ruin it."
"Then how are you here now?" asked Paloma curiously.
"Your new parents agreed to allow me to come unofficially. They've seen Rusty's Identity vlog so they know I had been searching for you and what happened to Mariana. They contacted me and set this up as long as I don't officially let DCFS know I've seen you," Gus explained. "I had no problem agreeing to that as it means I could see you."
Seeing that Gus and Paloma could use some time alone, Mary decided to make a suggestion. "John, Rusty, why don't we go into the kitchen and give them some time alone together? They haven't seen each other in years and I expect they have a lot to catch up on."
Seeing the point in this, John and Rusty agreed and Rusty gave his boyfriend a reassuring smile and nod, silently promising to discreetly look into Paloma's new home for him.
Alone together, Paloma and Gus started sharing stories of what had happened to each of them since they had been separated. To Gus' relief, Paloma seemed to be genuinely happy with John and Mary who were working on getting her adoption finalized. While saddened by her sister's death, Paloma was also happy to learn about her brother's life and was interested in his connection to Rusty, especially with the looks she had seen them give each other and the occasional handholding.
"So what's the deal with you and Rusty?" asked Paloma. "I've seen the way you're acting around him and he doesn't just seem to be your friend who helped you find Mariana."
Gus smiled. "He's not. He started out as that, but he's become so much more. Paloma, Rusty dedicated months to finding out who Mariana was without expectation of any sort of reward. He refused to give up until he found out who she was and then once he did, he didn't stop there. He didn't just leave once he had his story, no, he stayed to help me. When I spoke to Detective Flynn and DDA Andrea Hobbs about finding you in exchange for helping them with Mariana's trial, Rusty helped me in dealing with them. He helped me come to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be able to see you until you were eighteen, reminding me that you getting a chance to start over was what Mariana would want. He helped make sure Mariana got a proper burial, he even helped put Slider on death row." Gus grimaced at the memory of how he'd jumped to conclusions about Rusty after hearing of his "friendship" with Slider without giving Rusty the chance to explain. Afterwards, while he forgave Rusty after learning the truth, he still wasn't pleased Rusty had kept it from him until Rusty explained why at which point Gus got it even if he didn't agree with Rusty's reasoning.
"Are you two together romantically?" asked Paloma, hoping for clarification.
"Yes," Gus admitted, pleased to be able to tell his sister this. "After everything he did, I started too really like him as more than a friend. I was afraid I'd scared him away at one point since I made no secret of the fact that I really liked him and wanted to date him. He doesn't know this, but when I moved to LA recently, it wasn't just so I could be near you as I told him, but also so I could be near him. However, Rusty always shied away from the idea of dating me until I confronted him about it at a Christmas party. As it turned out, he wasn't uninterested in me, he just feared if we dated we wouldn't work out, the fact that he had no idea how to date and especially his belief that I wouldn't like him anymore once I got to know him. After I told him I really didn't think it was possible for me to dislike him no matter what, he agreed to give us dating a chance. I've been taking it slow so I don't risk scaring him away, but Paloma, it's been amazing. I'm really glad Rusty gave us a chance."
Paloma noticed the way Gus looked while talking about his relationship with Rusty and his tone of voice and realized something. "You love him, don't you?" Gus seemed startled so she elaborated. "The way you look and sound while talking about him, the way I see you looking at him…"
Gus sighed. "Yeah, I love him," he admitted. "But I haven't told him yet. We haven't been together long and Rusty's already nervous about dating me as it is. I don't want to put that added pressure on our relationship so soon. But he's been so amazing, both to me and our family and he's done so much for us that I couldn't help but fall in love with him. I've loved him since before we started dating, back when we were just friends. It's why I pushed him so hard to give me a chance. And now that I have it, I don't intend on ruining it."
Paloma smiled, pleased that her brother was so happy after such a hard beginning to his life. "Well he does seem like a good guy. I'm happy for you Gus. And I promise not to say anything to him about it. And I'm sure if Mariana was here, she'd be happy for you too."
"Thanks Paloma. I think your right that Mariana would love him and I'm glad you like him too. It means a lot to me."
Awhile later, Gus and Rusty emerged from the house. As their first visit had gone so well, John and Mary agreed to allow Gus to see his sister whenever he wanted to. Gus was pleased by the outcome of his visit and that his sister was so accepting of his and Rusty's relationship. When he was younger, he'd always had to hide the fact that he was gay from his mother and step-father, but both of his sisters knew and supported him. As a result of having to hide himself so much, Gus had never really dated anyone before like Rusty, a fact he hadn't yet shared with him.
"It was so great to see Paloma. She seems so happy here and I'm glad I got to see that firsthand." Gus told Rusty.
"Yeah. She definitely found a good place here," agreed Rusty. "It looks like Cynthia was right and this really is a good home for her. You made the right choice in not disrupting her new life here when you found out where she was. She has a real chance at a good family and happiness here and that's rare when you're in foster care."
"Thank you for coming with me today. It meant a lot to have you here when I saw Paloma again and helping to make sure she's alright," said Gus, smiling at Rusty. Rusty just smiled back and the two young men left, content that Paloma had found a loving family for herself and was happy as they wanted.
Author's Note 2: I didn't include Rusty's checking of the house because I honestly no nothing about foster care beyond what I see on TV and thus don't know what he would have to look for. I do think he'd know what to look for though given his comments about being on the other side of a home visit to a house that was covering up the fact that it was a bad place to live.