Rictor crouched behind the wall, clutching the bundle to his chest with one hand. He shook his hair out of his eyes as Star ducked down beside him and they both paused for a long moment, listening for the sound of pursuit.
"I'm pretty sure we lost them a while back," Rictor finally said, keeping his voice low.
Star hummed agreement deep in his throat, but didn't relax his stance for several long moments. His eyes were focused on the corner of the wall, his head cocked to the side as he listened for any little sound that would warn him they were about to be attacked. Finally he nodded and shifted off the balls of his feet to sit with his back against the stone wall. "That probably could have been avoided," he noted.
Probably. "But what fun would that have been?" Rictor demanded. He shook his hair out of his eyes again and sank to the ground. "Ah, geez. Why is the ground wet? It hasn't rained in days."
"It is likely best not to inquire," Shatterstar said. "You are uninjured?"
Ric took a moment to think that over. He'd hit his head pretty well back there but it wasn't going to slow him down any. "Give me a scalp massage when we get home?"
"That could be arranged."
"Then I'm fine." His hair was in his face again but before he could do anything about it, Star reached across and brushed it away from his face, tucking it behind his ears.
Ric hesitated at the feel of Star's hands on his skin. He was about to say something very un-Julio about how this was neither the time nor place, but they both knew he didn't care, and they both knew he didn't mean it. Instead he leaned across the space between them and kissed Star.
They'd both changed so much in the last year, so much Rictor wasn't even sure they were done getting used to each other again, but this was the same: this kiss, the touch between them, the way Rictor knew exactly how Star was going to move against him. This hadn't changed.
The baby squealed and bumped against Rictor's chest. He pulled away and gave the rugrat an exasperated glare. "You mind? We're kinda doing something here."
Gerber burbled at him and bounced up and down. His hands patted at Rictor's chest and he gripped the cloth in his little fists. "Mamamamamama," he chanted.
"Seriously," Rictor said. "We gotta lose this kid."
"I know you guys have been together forever and all that," Guido said, from his place on the couch. "But isn't this a little sudden? I mean, you aren't even married yet." He lifted an eyebrow. "Are you? Rictor, is there something you want to tell me?"
Rictor hefted the kid a little as he squirmed. "Get off it, Guido. Someone abandoned the kid."
"And you decided to adopt?"
"We decided to get him out of the dumpster next to the meth lab," Rictor said, flopping down in a chair and letting the baby sprawl over his chest.
"Meth lab?" Guido echoed. "Have you two been vigilante-ing again?"
Rictor smiled innocently.
The effect was ruined when Star dropped to the ground in front of his chair and leaned back against Rictor's legs. "Indeed."
"You know Jamie hates that."
"Jamie hates a lot of things," Rictor said.
"Mostly he hates us taking jobs for free," Guido persisted.
"There's probably something he hates more than that, all right? Jesus." Rictor narrowed his eyes at the baby as Gerber started trying to chew on his shirt. "Don't tell him about this."
The other man crossed his arms. "Give me one good reason."
"Because he just lost his own kid, all right?" Rictor shook his head a little when Star glanced at him curiously. "I mean… he didn't know what was going on any more than Terry did and it's – well, I mean, it was kinda – listen, he just might not appreciate being reminded of the whole thing right now, all right? That's all I'm saying." He wrestled his shirt away from Gerber and let the kid gnaw on his fingers for a minute instead. "Whatever. You've known him longer than me."
Guido didn't say anything for a minute and they all of them sat in silence as the television flickered. Finally Guido shifted in his seat and uncrossed his arms. "Anyway, since it's a non-paying job we probably shouldn't bother the boss about it."
"Good point." Rictor let his eyes slide away from Guido and toward the television where Richard Dean Anderson was doing something unlikely with a pair of pantyhose and a wire coat hanger. "This should be pretty simple. Just find out where the kid belongs and then get him there. We can do that. Heck, with Star's powers it should be a cakewalk."
Shatterstar pulled his attention away from the television long enough to cast the baby an uncertain glance.
"Are you gonna kiss it?" Guido asked.
"Would that even work?" Rictor asked doubtfully. Gerber shook his fists in the air and Rictor grabbed one, shaking it back and forth while the kid cooed at him. "I mean, it's not the kiss, it's the intimacy, right? Can you even get intimate with an infant?" That sounded incredibly wrong. "I think I don't want you to try."
"I agree with Ric," Guido said. "Seriously. Don't try."
Star ignored them both in favor of the television. "Even if my powers did work on the, ah, baby, it would be of no use. He does not possess the cognitive faculties to aid us in –"
"What?" Guido said.
"He doesn't even know his own name, let alone his address and phone number," Star said. "Please. MacGuyver is on."
"Is he for real?" Guido asked Rictor.
Rictor shrugged and tried to wrestle his finger free from Gerber's surprisingly strong grip. "You gotta stop asking me that."
"Not until I get a straight answer."
"Good luck, amigo." Rictor sat Gerber up and waved one of his little hands at Guido. "Uncle Statterstar is an enigma, isn't he little guy? Can you say 'enigma'?"
The baby shrieked happily and kicked his feet. Star and Guido just raised their eyebrows at each other and Star went back to watching television.
"Besides," Rictor said. "He was abandoned. So all we gotta do is contact social services, right? They're in the phone book. How hard can that be? We'll call them in the morning and they'll take care of Gerber."
"Gerber?" Guido echoed. "You named him?"
"Star named him," Rictor said.
"Gerber," Guido said. "Star named him Gerber."
"He bears a strong resemblance to the Gerber baby," Shatterstar said. "I have seen that infant on television numerous times over the years. The child seems healthy and successful. I deemed it to be an auspicious name for an infant."
Guido rolled his eyes. "Are you for real?"
"What's that smell?" Rictor asked. They all looked at Gerber who scrunched his face up. Star leaned away from Rictor.
"Gross," Rictor said.
"Let me guess," Guido said. "You didn't stop to pick up diapers on the way home."
"We were being pursued!"
"You guys are unfit parents," Guido said. "If you weren't already giving that kid to social services, I'd have to insist on it."
Shatterstar dropped the bag of baby supplies on the couch. "Fatherhood is apparently an aphrodisiac to the local female population," he said. There might have been a note of gloating in his voice, but Rictor thought it more likely Star was teasing him. "The salesperson who assisted me told me so. As did her friend. And the cashier. And the customer in line behind me."
"Better watch it," Guido called from the far side of the room where he'd retreated in a valiant effort to escape the smell without giving up his television entirely. "You'll make Julio jealous."
"Were any of them hot?" Rictor asked.
"Reasonably so," Star confirmed. "Did you know babies require a formula to consume?" He eyed Gerber suspiciously. "Why do they require their own food source?"
"I think it's just milk," Rictor said, fishing the diapers out of the bag. "Tell me you got baby wipes."
Star frowned. "We want to wipe the baby?"
"Yes," Rictor said. "We really, really do." He grabbed the formula and bottle. "Here, go-" he paused and looked from Star to the formula and back to Star. "Guido," he said. "Go help Star heat up the formula."
"MacGuyver!" Guido said.
"It's a marathon. It'll be on when you get back. Work with me here, huh? You're getting as bad as Star."
"Star can't heat up a bottle of formula on his own?"
"Star can't boil water," Rictor said. "If it's more complicated than cooking something dead over an open fire, Star is out of his league. So either help him with the formula, or come change the baby."
Guido was out of the room so fast Rictor almost missed it.
Even Star looked impressed. "For a man of his size," he said, "he is remarkably fast."
"Don't tell him that," Rictor advised.
The formula was made, the diaper changed and Rictor took a laundry basked, lined it with a comforter and declared it a bassinet. They put it beside the bed – on Rictor's side, he couldn't help but notice – and went to bed.
Rictor flopped back against the pillows with a tired sigh and shivered when Star's fingers ran through his hair, skimming the sore spot where he'd been hit earlier that night. Warm lips touched his own and he slid across the few inches of sheets to close the space between them.
"Scalp massage?" Star offered against his mouth and Rictor groaned deep in his throat.
Star paused. "Why not?" He touched his fingers lightly against the back of Rictor's head. "Were you injured more significantly than I believed?"
"The baby," Rictor said. "We can't have sex in front of the baby."
Star rose up on his knees and leaned across Rictor's chest to check on Gerber in his make-shift bassinet. "He is asleep," he reported. "He'll see nothing."
"He'll hear us," Rictor countered. "Then he'll wake up and then he'll see us."
"We could put a blanket over his head."
"Then we will stay under the blankets," Star proposed, leaning in close for another kiss, his lips brushing over Rictor's. "And if he wakes up and spontaneously develops the ability to speak we will inform him we were merely wrestling."
"Wrestling," Rictor said, feeling a little breathless as Star's leg slid between his. "I don't – he can't talk."
"Then we won't have to worry about it."
"We can't," Rictor said, but even he wasn't listening to himself anymore. "Star, oh God."
Something banged on the wall of the room, startling them both. "Not with the kid in there, you don't!" Guido shouted through the wall.
Rictor groaned again. "Shit."
Shatterstar pulled away and lay back with his arms folded under his head. "I hope Madrox approves his request for soundproofing soon."
"His- What?" Rictor propped himself up on one arm. "His what? He didn't! Guido!"
"I can't hear you," Guido said through the wall.
A piercing cry woke Rictor and he was halfway out of bed, reaching for the gun in the bedside table before he realized it was only Gerber.
He paused with one foot on the ground for a long minute before he realized he was flashing the baby and hastily grabbed a sheet. "Shit. That kid has lungs."
"Make the lungs stop," Star said.
Rictor glared at his lover, who hadn't so much as twitched a muscle. "You could contribute a little, here."
"I have no experience with the comforting of larval humans," Shatterstar said. "You are clearly better equipped for the situation."
"Why do I have to be the woman?" Ric demanded, letting his voice raise loud enough to be heard over the cries.
Loud laughter floated through the wall from the next room.
"Shut up, Guido!"
Rictor woke up when someone sat on the side of the bed. He blinked sleep out of his eyes and grinned when he saw Star, dressed and looking horrifyingly awake, holding Gerber under the arms and studying him. The baby was returning the gaze, the two of them sizing each other up. "Let me guess," Rictor said. "He needs his diaper changed."
"I dealt with the diaper situation," Star said. His tone of voice suggested it was on a level with killing armed invaders, if not worse. "Do they need to refuel regularly?"
"He's not an airplane, Star."
"No," Star agreed. "I'm not sure why that's a distinction we need to make, however. He is obviously nothing like-"
"Oh, shut up." Rictor scrubbed a hand over his eyes and yawned. "What time is it?"
Rictor rolled over and pulled the blanket up to cover his head. "I'm going back to bed."
The bed shifted a little as Star stood. There was silence for a long moment and Rictor was just slipping back into sleep when Gerber burbled happily.
Ric cracked an eye. Star had come around to this side of the bed and was holding the baby under one arm like a football. Gerber grinned and kicked when he saw Rictor watching him. "I'm not going back to bed, am I?"
"It is time to call social services," Star announced.
Rictor swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached over to bop Gerber on the nose. "You really in such a hurry to get rid of the kid?"
"He is preventing you from having sex," Star said. There was a stern note of disapproval in his voice, though it was a toss-up if it was aimed at the baby or Rictor.
"One night, Star. We've gone longer than that."
"I was on another planet at the time," Star said. "I find it significantly harder to abstain when you are nearby."
Rictor pursed his lips. "I'm almost flattered."
Star held the baby out one-handed. "Social services."
The door closed behind the police officers who had come to pick up Gerber and Rictor groaned long and deep in his chest as he buried his face against Star's neck. "We are never, ever, ever having children. If you get pregnant, I'll kill you."
"I'll see what I can do," Star promised solemnly, patting his back. "Now that the baby is gone can we have sex?"
"Shower first," Rictor said. "I smell like a baby."
"You do. Sex in the shower," Shatterstar offered.
"I never did get my scalp massage," Rictor pointed out.
"You forfeited that," Star told him. "I was ready to fulfill my end of our arrangement, but you opted to decline."
"Postpone," Rictor objected, pushing away from Star's chest long enough to glare at him. "It was postponed!"
"I don't believe that was specified at the time," Shatterstar said without a hint of sympathy in his voice. "Sadly, the offer has since expired."
"You two flirt weird," Guido grunted as he wandered past them toward the kitchen. "It's like listening to someone negotiate a contract."
"I could give you a scalp massage," Rictor said. "And then, if you wanted to reciprocate… In the shower."
"Stop talking about sex!" Guido shouted over his shoulder.
"Breakfast?" Shatterstar asked.
"Anything, as long as it's not mashed or pureed," Rictor said. He paused a moment as Star kissed him. "-or we could skip breakfast?"
"You need to keep your strength up," Shatterstar said, releasing him and following Guido. "It will be a very long shower."
Guido paused in the kitchen doorway. "Stop it!"
Rictor swallowed a laugh, then paused as he saw Madrox sitting at the table, a cup of coffee on the table in front of him, reading the paper with his chin propped on his hand. "Morning, boss."
"You get the kid taken care of?" Madrox asked without looking up from his paper.
"Uh," Rictor shot a look at Guido who was just looking at his friend a little warily. "Yes?"
Madrox grunted. "Thank god. That is what all the noise was about last night, right? Because if there's some other reason you were screaming about being a woman, I don't need to know about it." He looked up from the newspaper for just a moment, long enough for Rictor to see his eyes. "And Guido? I'm approving your request to have their room soundproofed."
"Oh, thank god."