The crying woke him up again. With a groan, he turned two sleepy brown eyes to look at the clock. The glowing green numbers proclaimed that it was 3:41am. Sighing, he climbed out of bed and walked down the hall to his daughter's room. "April.." He yawned, opening the door. "What is it?"

April was on the floor at the foot of her toddler bed, hugging her favorite teddy bear and crying. "Want Mama!"

Justin closed his eyes and sighed painfully. 'Mama' had run off on them a year earlier, leaving only a note and a closet full of clothes. He wasn't sure if he loved her, but he would've stayed with her because of April. "Honey... mama's.... on vacation." He said quietly.

He was eighteen years old, but he felt fifty. Miranda, his girlfriend, had been two years older than he was, and he'd agreed to work full-time to support them and drop out of school. However, he hadn't foreseen the way it would be now. Eighteen years old, working full-time with a two-year old to take care of. He wished he'd listened to his parents..

"Go to sleep, honey, please.. I have to work in the morning.."

Thank god he had a neighbor who was home all day and would baby-sit April. The woman felt sorry for him, and practically did it for free, and Justin felt guilty about not being able to pay her much, and about not being able to give April any extravagant gifts for her birthdays or Christmas.

April sniffled and held her arms up to be picked up. Even though it had been a year, she was only two, and she still had dreams about her mother occasionally. Those dreams usually resulted in tears, like it was now.

Stifling a yawn, Justin pulled the girl into his arms. The lucky kid had Miranda's big blue eyes, and Justin's soft brown hair (which Justin haphazardly tried to braid some mornings), and Justin usually ended up giving into her. "You gonna go to sleep?"

She nodded, sticking a thumb into her mouth and mumbling a quiet 'Yes, Daddy' around it.

"That's my girl." He mumbled, half-asleep. "C'mon.. I'll tuck you in." He stood up to tuck her into bed.

"Can I sleep with you?"

"Alright.." Justin sighed and carried her to his tiny bed; lying down and kissing the top of her head, letting her have most of the blanket. "Sweet dreams, April." He mumbled into the pillow. She curled herself up into a pint-sized ball next to him, and fell asleep with her thumb still in her mouth.

In the morning, Justin had a quick shower and dropped April off at Mrs. Halloway's, next door. "Be good, sweetie." He kissed her cheek and hugged her.

April nodded and hugged her bear. She was a good girl most of the time, but even as a two-year-old, she knew that acting up could gain attention from adults--usually her father.

"I'll see you after work." Justin stood, walking down the hallway. He was working as a bellboy at a nearby hotel. Luckily for him, most women would tip him well enough if he agreed to take his shirt off for them. He used to be on the high school sports teams (all of them), but now the exercise he got was going up and down stairs and carrying heavy luggage. His boss had actually approached him about doing bachelorette parties, but Justin had reluctantly turned him down. He wasn't sure what would happen if people found out he was stripping by night and raising a two-year old by day. He couldn't bear to lose April. She was, plain and simple, his life. He didn't have anything else.

After work, he dragged himself into McDonalds and ordered himself dinner. He got paid the next day, and would go grocery shopping with April. "Big Mac, please.. And fries, and a coke." His eyes barely flicked over the cashier. Cute boy. Didn't matter. He didn't have time to date, and besides, how many hot young things would date a single father?

The cashier smiled at him and handed him his change, making sure to brush their hands together. Subtle, sure, but hopefully noticeable enough. 'Ugh, get real Brad. What are the odds someone as hot as him is single? Hell, what are the odds he even -likes- guys?' Still, Brad couldn't help but take a chance. Besides, it's not as though he was humping the guy's leg, right? If he looked weirded out or anything, Brad could chalk it up as an accident. Even though it was anything but.

His name was Bradford Dobson. He was a junior in high school, and the star player of the tennis team, as well as a member of the All-State Men's Choir. He had a dazzling smile, and shaggy strawberry blonde hair which hung just long enough to drive his mother nuts, but not so long that he needed to wear a hair net to work. (Thank god. He hated his job enough as it was.) His eye color was hazel--at least, that's what it said on his birth certificate. To him, they were more green than anything else, and they were framed by insanely long eyelashes, giving him a somewhat feminine appearance.

"...sir? Your change?"

Justin was practically falling asleep at the counter. There was one other person in the restaurant - an old man reading the newspaper and having his apple pie and coffee. He snapped out of it and smiled weakly. "Sorry.. Just worked a twelve hour shift at the hotel.." He took his change and sipped on his pop. Yawning, he opened his wallet, and like every father, had a picture of April in the tiny little picture spot.

Brad couldn't help himself. Besides, he'd read his horoscope that morning, and it had predicted a lucky day for love. Who cared if it was true? There was always a chance. "Cute kid... "

"Hm? Oh.. thanks.. That's my daughter."

"You have a daughter?"

He nodded, stifling another yawn. "Two years old."

"You don't look much older than me..." Bah, he had a kid. Must be straight.

Justin smiled sadly. "I'm eighteen."

"...oh." Well, good job Brad. You're really going to impress people with a foot in your mouth.

As his food arrived, Justin nodded. "Yeah.. Thanks." He mumbled, walking to the corner booth and sitting there alone, leaning his head against the wall. God, he wanted to go to sleep, but he had to pick April up in half an hour. And that cashier was hot.

Brad sighed and went back to work. Not that there was anything to do. The place was dead at this hour. His gaze kept drifting back over to the guy in the corner. Too bad he was straight.

It was the weirdest thing.. Just couldn't help but feel as if the cashier was staring at him.

"Hey, Brad, why don't you go home?" The supervisor asked. "There's no reason for you to be here. It's dead."

"..are you sure, sir?"

"I'm sure. Go home and study."

Justin finished the last of his food and leaned back, closing his eyes. He'd just rest his eyes for a little bit, and relax. He wouldn't fall asleep.

He fell asleep.

"Thank you, sir." Brad finished his daily chores and started to leave, when he realized that the guy in the corner was....sleeping? He frowned and went over to him. "...excuse me... sir?"

Justin was curled up in the corner booth with his head resting on his shoulder. April kicked in her sleep, and he rarely got six hours or more good, long rests. "Nn. April, let daddy sleep for a minute. I'll be right there." He mumbled.

Brad couldn't help but smile. But... it couldn't be safe for the guy to be sleeping there. He tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Sir?"

Justin jerked slightly and his eyes snapped open. "Huh?" He realized where he was, and looked sheepish. "Oh.. god.. I'm sorry.." He sighed, shaking the sleepy feeling from his mind and forcing a smile. "Should've gotten a coffee, I guess."

Brad wasn't sure what made him say what he said next. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was stupidity. Maybe he'd just grown a set of big steel ones. But something made him blurt it out before he could stop himself. "Hey, no problem. You can sleep here whenever you like." He punctuated this with a wink, then realized what he'd just said, and quickly retreated.

His stomach grumbled, and he ignored it. He'd find something to eat at home. Something that hadn't gone bad. Justin blinked a few times. Did the cashier just hit on him? .. To be honest, he wasn't sure. Sighing, he took his tray over and dumped it in the garbage, following the boy out of the restaurant and heading for home.

Brad's cheeks were burning. He couldn't believe he'd just hit on a customer. A straight customer. With a toddler. What the hell was wrong with him?

Justin picked up the sleeping April from his neighbor's and put her into bed, kissing her good-night. Two years ago, he was sure he would've gotten a sports scholarship.. and now.. Nothing was the way he wanted it.

Burying his face into his pillow so that his daughter couldn't hear, he sobbed quietly. Usually, it happened every week or so that he cried himself to sleep. Sometimes more than that. What had happened to his life?

A moment later, there was a small voice in his ear. "...Daddy? Why are you crying?"

He looked up and hastily wiped the tears from his cheeks. ".. I wasn't, April. Go back to bed, okay?"

She frowned. "You miss Mama too?"

"Sort of."

"Want Brownie?" She offered him her teddy bear.

He smiled weakly and kissed her. "You keep him. Go on back to sleep. We'll go to McDonalds for dinner tomorrow since I'm not working, okay?"

"Do I make you sad?"

"..what?"

"...people cry when they're sad. Are you sad?"

"Not about you."

"Why?"

"Grown-up things."

"Oh." She quieted down at that and sucked her thumb.

"You can sleep here tonight if you want."

"I can?" He nodded and moved over so she could get in. She hopped up into the bed and snuggled against him. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too." He kissed the top of her head and held her close. She was all he had.

"Don't be sad, Daddy." Those were the last words she said that night, because almost immediately after, she fell asleep.

Tears snaked down Justin's cheeks as held his daughter tightly. He hated feeling like this... So helpless and alone... He'd just have to try harder, and be a better father for April.. because he was all she had, too.