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Here We Go Again

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If there had ever been a time when Michael had been happier, it was when Alex was still alive. Ever since his death, Michael had found happiness and purpose in raising their daughter, making sure Amanda didn’t want for anything. And he had been mostly successful in that. Amanda was a happy, rebellious, artistic, well-adjusted teenager. Everything he did was for her. He had worked overtime as a financial adviser so he could afford to buy her the fancy photography equipment she needed to achieve her goals. He took time off so he wouldn’t be an absentee father.

Then they downsized. Then they moved into a neighborhood where, miraculously, his best friend from college, Craig Cahn, lived. Then his life became a special kind of fitness hell. His exercise habits were pretty much nonexistent and suddenly he was flying off treadmills, voluntarily getting up early to run until he was bent over a trash can dry heaving, running through the park, and doing hill climbs, all for Craig. Not to say that he didn’t like hanging out with Craig, but man that guy was a demon! What happened after college? This was the same guy who filled his body with the worst kind of junk food the human mind could comprehend. If he had been in college these days, he would definitely have been the sort of person to stuff a duck inside a chicken and stuff that inside a turkey and wrap that in bacon. And now he was running laps around everyone and lifting weights that would make Michael fear for his life.

Then they went on the camping trip and Michael was finally able to get Craig to let his hair down (so to speak) and relax for a weekend. It was one of the most amazing weekends he could remember. They jumped from the top of a waterfall, Craig cooked and it was amazing, and then they lay together. He still remembered the feeling of Craig going down on him, making him wet and hot with lust, driving him mad until he came. He remembered the feeling of Craig as he entered him, slowly, sensually, a decade long stretch of abstinence finally come to an end with his bro, his best friend, becoming his lover.

Amanda spent the months before she left for college making fun of that time he went camping and came home covered in hickeys. Craig had taken some perverse pleasure in marking him. It probably had something to do with the fact that he found the sounds he made hugely arousing. Of course, Craig had returned home with just as many, so it was only fair.

About couple weeks after Amanda started college, Craig invited Michael to move in with him so that he didn’t have to deal with empty nest syndrome. His girls quickly got used to Michael’s presence in the home.

One morning in mid-October, Michael launched himself out of bed and ran to the master bathroom vomiting his guts out. He sat there for several minutes, hunched over the toilet waiting for his stomach to settle. He felt Craig gather his hair up and hold it for him as he bent over the toilet and retched again.

“Thanks, bro,” he rasped when he finally felt like he was done.

“No problem,” Craig said, kissing his head and rubbing soothing circles on his back. “You should take the day off.”

“I can’t, I need to—” he began he went to the sink to wash his mouth out and get the taste of vomit out of his mouth. He looked down at the digital clock. 6:23. He had about an hour and a half to get ready.

“Bro,” Craig interrupted, taking his arms in his hands and rubbing up and down, “you’re not a single dad anymore. You got me. You can afford to call in sick. I got you.”

Michael finished rinsing his mouth and sighed. He’s right, he thought as he leaned back against Craig’s chest, feeling and treasuring his bro, his boyfriend, as he wrapped his arms around him.

“Okay.”

It was around noon when Michael woke up again, feeling completely fine. His stomach growled audibly. Scratch that, he thought, I’m starving. He got out of bed and threw on a binder and a shirt. For some bizarre reason, he was craving seafood. Mussels, specifically. And tuna. I hate tuna, he thought. Actually I hate seafood in general, why do I want tuna?

Tossing it up to his body playing tricks on him, he texted Craig. Do you know how to make mussels?

About 15 minutes later Craig replied, Why? You not happy with mine? ;)

Michael rolled his eyes. Ha ha, very funny.

I do my best, Craig texted. But yeah, I do. I love mussels. Why?

I’m feeling seafood tonight, Michael said. What about tuna?

Bro are you okay? Craig asked. You hate seafood.

I don’t hate seafood, he replied. I just like selectively. About twice a decade.

Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have soup or something a little lighter, bro?

No, I’m definitely craving seafood for some reason.

Okay bro, if you say so, Craig said. I gotta get back to work, take it easy today, okay?

Dude, I’m the king of taking it easy, Michael replied. He got up, walked to the kitchen, made himself a sandwich and walked into the living room and popped the first disc of Firefly. It’s a good day for Firefly, he thought.

 

A few hours later, Michael looked at the clock. 3:30. The girls would get off from school soon. He texted Craig that he would pick them up, changed out of his pajama pants, and headed out the door. The school was packed by the time he got there, the line of cars full of parents picking up their kids winding through the parking lot. Finally he got to the front of the school and the twins piled into the back seat.

“How was school, today?” he asked.

“Boring,” Hazel said.

“Not all boring,” Briar objected. “We learned about bees! We’re going on a field trip to a honeybee farm in a couple weeks.”

“That’s exciting,” he said. “Make sure to con the workers there into giving you free honey.”

“You got it, Mike!” Hazel said, grinning. He could already see the wheels turning in her evil little mind.

They stopped at the pharmacy on the way home to pick up some milk. The twins stayed in because the store was boring. They did, however, request chocolate ice cream. Which worked just as well for Michael, since as soon as he got the groceries in the basket, he made his way over to the over the counter section.

It’s not likely… he thought. I’m 39, though, so it’s not impossible. And my period was supposed to start a few days ago. His hands shook as he grabbed three pregnancy test kits and put them in the basket.

Chapter Text

Craig arrived home that night with all the materials he needed to make the seafood dinner that he would love and his bro was, apparently, craving. He walked toward the kitchen to see his girls working on homework. From the look on their faces, it was math. Hazel was glaring at it like if she could set it on fire with just her mind, she would. Briar was working away without any problem at all. He smiled, set the groceries on the counter, put River in the high chair, then attacked his girls. They shrieked as he tickled them mercilessly.

“How was school?” he asked, kissing their heads.

“We’re going to a bee farm!” Briar said and shoved a permission slip in his hand

“Mike said we should con the farmers there into giving us free honey,” Hazel whispered conspiratorially.

Craig chuckled nervously, not quite sure whether to be worried or encourage them. Michael walked into the room and picked up River and bounced her up and down, smiling.

“Are you corrupting my girls, bro?” he asked.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Michael said.

“They said that you told them to con the farmers into giving them free honey,” he said.

“And the art of getting free food will serve them well in life,” his bro said practically. “I’m teaching them life skills to fight the capitalist machine. Like sewing, but more rewarding.” He blew a raspberry into River’s stomach, making her laugh.

“Bro, I’m trying to scold you, stop being cute with my baby.”

“Awww, he thinks I’m cute,” Michael cooed at River. “Your dad tries to act tough but he’s just a big ‘ole softie.”

Craig chuckled and kissed his bro on the cheek. “How you feeling?” He selectively ignored his twins groan with distaste.

“I’m fine, bro, really,” Michael said. “I’ll go to work tomorrow and say it was just a stomach bug.”

Craig didn’t look convinced but he shrugged and walked over to the counter to get dinner ready. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but as long as his bro said he was okay, he’d live with it. Of course, usually Michael hated the smell of seafood, much less the taste, but even if he wasn’t into it, Craig would get a nice dinner out of it.
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The next morning, just like the first Michael flew out of the bed and made a beeline for the toilet. Craig woke, a bit groggy, and a little more worried this morning than he had been yesterday. Michael insisted he was fine, but he was throwing up again. He got up and just like the previous morning, walked into the bathroom to pull his bro’s hair up out of the way. He knelt behind him and rubbed his back gently.

When he was done and back in bed, Craig decided to forego his morning workout to make some soup for Michael’s… whatever this was. A freak flu or cold or something. Whatever it was, he was determined to help his bro get better. And chicken soup definitely had some kind of healing powers.

Just then he heard River begin to cry and he washed his hands off and went to take care of her. She’s probably hungry, he thought. He grabbed River and began bouncing her up and down gently as he made his way back to the kitchen and got out her favorite food, banana. He marveled at how quiet and peaceful it was this morning, just him and River, his baby girl. Some people might have expected a baby to save his marriage more than a year before, but in reality his relationship with Smashley was over for a long time before they divorced. It was only after they separated that she realized that she was pregnant.

That was an interesting time, he thought. Newly divorced, expecting a new child, platonically supporting his ex through her pregnancy. It was a weird time for everyone involved. When River was born, everyone was surprised again that Craig was given primary custody. It was for the best, though. Smashley was a good woman, but she wasn’t cut out to be a fulltime mom and they knew it. It was one of the main reasons why they split. She just didn’t want to be a mother.

When she was done eating he went back to preparing the soup. It was Saturday, so he didn’t have to worry about getting his girls up in time, though there was soccer practice at noon. Once the chicken was done, he added stock the stock. By the time Hazel and Briar were up and watching cartoons, the soup was bubbling, full of onions, carrots, and celery.

He turned down the heat and headed out to the living room with his kids with a bowl of cereal and strawberries. They were watching Spongebob Squarepants. He sat down on the recliner and his kids turned to stare at him. “What?” he asked.

“What did you make and why are you eating cereal?” Hazel asked.

“What, I’m not allowed to eat cereal?” he asked.

“You never eat cereal,” Briar said. “And you were in the kitchen for like, an hour. And we can smell food.”

“My bro’s sick,” he said. “I made soup.”

Hazel groaned. “Dad, why do you call him bro? He sleeps in your bed for crying out loud!”

“Because he’s my bro, Hazel,” he said.

“But isn’t he your boyfriend?” Briar asked.

“Yeah he is,” he replied. “And he’s my bro. He’ll always be my bro.”

“That makes no sense,” they cried.

“Good,” he grinned.
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Once again, Michael woke up around noon feeling a lot better than he had in the morning. A worrying sign, he thought. He rolled out of bed and went to get dressed when he saw a sticky note on his dresser. “Bro, I made chicken soup for you. Took the girls to soccer practice. Call me if you need anything.”

He smiled down at the note, but got dressed before he could start feeling nauseous again and headed out to the kitchen to get a bowl of the soup. He was honestly dreading what would come next, but everything was better if you had food in your belly.

Thank God my bro can cook, he thought as he warmed up the soup in the microwave. Bless that man.

Chapter Text

Craig returned to the house a couple hours later, grateful that he wasn’t the coach for the soccer team. He’d gotten in a decent run while his twins were at practice and he was ready for some food. He breathed in through his nose and smelled the telltale sign that River needed a new diaper. At least she doesn’t have a twin, he thought. But still, I can’t wait for her to figure out how to use the bathroom.

“We’re home,” he announced as they walked through the doors. Hazel and Briar ran through the house to the back door and left the house as quickly as they had entered. He smiled. At least they didn’t slam the door this time. He went to River’s room where he set her down on the changing table and efficiently changed her diaper, disposing of it in the trash can. He set her down in her play pen and hoped that she would go to sleep. It was about time for her nap. He washed up in the bathroom and went looking for his bro.

He wasn’t in the living room, though there was evidence that he had eaten there, if the bowl was any sign. He wasn’t in the workout room in the basement. Or the laundry room. Maybe he’s sleeping again. He went upstairs to their room. As soon as he opened the door he heard crying from the bathroom. He rushed in to find Michael collapsed on the floor with his head in his hands.

“Michael!” he cried, crashing to the floor in front of him, his heart racing. “Bro, what is it? What’s wrong?” He took his head in his hands. Michael kept crying, though he did lower his hands from his face as he tried to compose himself. Craig tried not to, but his mind was already racing through possible diagnoses that could cause his boyfriend to enter such a state.

Michael eventually sniffed and the crying stopped. He didn’t say anything, but he stood up and pointed at the sink. Craig stood up and looked at where he was pointing. In the sink were three different pregnancy tests. All positive. His stomach dropped. “You’re—“

“I-I’m pre-pregnant,” Michael stammered, sniffling, still trying to get ahold of himself. Craig reached out and took his face in his hands again, wiping the tears away with his thumbs.

“Why are you sad?” he asked. “This is a good thing, right?” His mind raced. Did he not want another child? What would it be?

“I’m n-not sad,” he said, getting a bit more control of himself. “I’m fucking scared!”

“What are you scared of, bro?” Craig whispered. “You’ve done this before, right? With Amanda. She turned out well.”

“Yeah, when I was 21. I’m 39, now!” he cried. “You hear about all the things that could go wrong when people get pregnant later in life,” he said, a bit calmer now. “Like, you’re more likely to have complications, or the baby is more likely to be born with a birth defect, or Down Syndrome. I’m just scared that something will go wrong, Craig… but I don’t want to get an abortion either, cause I really love the idea of having your child.”

Craig’s heart swelled and he took Michael in his arms and felt him shake as he sobbed again. “We’ll figure it out,” he said. “Whatever you want to do, I’ll support you 100%, bro. We’ll find a way.”

Michael settled down a bit and stood back to look up at Craig in the eyes. “I believe you,” he said.

Craig kissed him. He could taste the tears that had flowed down his face. “I love you, Michael. You know that, right?”

Michael kissed him back, full of need and desperation. “I love you too, Craig.”

Craig smiled against his lips and said, “You know, the girls are outside. We might have little bit of time to ourselves.”

Michael grinned and deepened the kiss. “Do we now?” he whispered, “I like the way you think, bro.”

“Bro.”

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“Bro,” Craig whispered. His hands roamed over the expanse of Michael’s back. He bit his lip and Michael made that mewling sound that went straight to his cock. He reached down to cup Michael’s ass, strong and firm from months of running and working out. Michael moaned as Craig squeezed gently and slid his body up along Craig’s. Craig broke contact and ripped Michael’s shirt off over his head. He stopped, looking down at his body. Gently, tenderly he took off his binder, like he had done dozens of times since they’d gone camping in the woods. Michael didn’t move to cover his chest as much as he had those first few times. Craig looked down into his eyes and cupped his face between his hands.

“You’re so beautiful,” Craig whispered.

Michael blushed, and took his shirt and ripped it off his body. He ran his hands over his bro’s sculpted chest, taking in the strength and power of his body. “Hurry up and get me on the bed.”

Craig reached down and unbuckled his lover’s belt and knelt, shoving his pants down revealing Michael’s boxers, already damp. He nuzzled his face in it, breathing in the scent of pine and Michael’s arousal. He ran his hands up his lover’s thighs as he teased him mercilessly. Above him, Michael moaned. He looked up to his face, flushed and flustered. Craig grinned and said, “Might want to make yourself comfortable. I’m gonna make you see stars, bro.”

Michael moaned and began backing up toward the bed until the back of his legs hit it and he fell back onto it. Craig, still grinning leaned up and began leaving light, sensual kisses along the hem of his boxers. He reached up with one hand and began teasing one of his nipples. Michael gasped.

“You okay, bro?” he asked. “Was that bad?”

“No, I’m fine,” Michael answered, in short breaths. “Just a little sensitive.”

“‘Sensitive’ you say?” Craig began teasing the nipple in his hand and Michael whined. Craig rose up slowly and took the nipple into his mouth, sucking on the “sensitive” flesh, teasing it with his tongue. His other hand makes its way to the other side of his chest and begins to tease it.

“I—ahh,” Michael gasped. “hate you.”

Craig let the nipple fall out of his mouth and looked up into his bro’s face. “Do you want me to stop?” he asked.

“Don’t you dare,” Michael moaned. His hands were roaming over Craig’s chiseled body, lingering over every hill and crevice

Craig kissed him deeply while massaging his chest, teasing them with his thumbs. He broke contact and whispered into Michael’s ear, “I told you I was gonna make you see stars, baby.”

He felt his lover shiver beneath him, writhing under his ministrations. He grinned against his skin and began kissing the delicate, exposed skin as Michael arched his back, rubbing his sex against Craig’s thigh. “So impatient,” he whispered, sucking gently on his lover’s neck. He could feel Michael’s pulse racing. He felt him place a hand to the back of his head, silent encouragement to bite, suck, mark him as his lover. Well, silent aside from the debauched moaning and whining.

“Why—” he moaned brokenly. “Why are you still wearing pants?”

It was true, Craig’s cock was straining painfully at the restriction his pants forced on it. Craig leaned up, got off the bed, and unbuttoned his pants, making a show for his lover. Michael’s hand disappeared under his boxers as he laid eyes on Craig’s clothed erection. Craig resumed his position over him, and ran his length over Michael’s damp sex. He moaned into the crook of his neck and reached one hand down under his lover’s boxers.

His bro was wet, he realized with a satisfied grin. He got his fingers wet in his bro’s juices and inserted two of them into his leaking hole. Michael writhed under him. “Deeper, damn you,” he hissed.

Craig chuckled and ran his thumb over his clit, eliciting a debauched moan. “Are you not enjoying yourself, baby?” he teased. “What do you want, bro? Tell me what you want.”

Michael glared at his lover. “Just get inside me,” he whined. “I need you to fuck me, bro!”

Craig groaned and took down Michael’s boxers entirely, revealing his wet hole, his fingers still inside him. “In a minute, love,” he whispered. “I want to taste you, first.” He leaned down and licked Michael’s sex with one broad, sensual stroke. Michael suppressed a particularly loud groan and reached down with his hand and gripped Craig’s hair and pulled, trying to get him to go deeper into him. This was his favorite part, aside from the main part. Michael desperately pulling his hair as he went down on him, hopelessly aroused, moaning beneath him. He pulled himself off, panting. “I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of you doing that to me,” he said.

“You’re one to talk,” Michael replied. Craig lowered his head back down and continued licking and fingering him, working him with slow deliberate strokes.

“Craig, bro, I’m close,” Michael moaned.

Craig pulled his fingers and a tongue out of his boyfriend and finally freed his cock from his boxers. He spread some of his boyfriends juices over his cock. When he was good and slick he leaned over his lover, lining his cock up to his hole and sunk into that tight, wet heat. He kissed him and moaned softly into Michael’s mouth. Michael grinned against his lips and flipped them over. Craig gasped with surprise and looked up in amazement that his boyfriend had gotten the upper hand on him. Michael smirked down at him triumphantly.

“It’s my turn to make you see stars, my love,” he said lowly. He began to ride him, achingly slow, getting used to Craig’s cock inside him. Craig gripped his thighs and groaned with pleasure.

“Faster, bro, before the girls come back in,” he said.

“I should go faster?” Michael asked, deliberately slowing down. “What did I keep telling you while you were making me lose my mind?”

Craig gripped his lover’s hips and thrust up into him. Michael threw back his head, riding his lover’s cock faster. Craig wished he could take a picture of his face. Just his face, knowing that he was feeling such pleasure and ecstasy and knowing that it was his doing, knowing that no one else got to see him like this, the privilege of seeing him come undone.

“Bro, babe, I’m close,” Michael whined.

“Me, too,” Craig said. He rolled his hips upward and fucked him faster. Moments later, Michael cried out his release, riding him through his climax and collapsed against him, completely unable to keep himself up any longer. Craig rolled them over to the side and groaned loudly, releasing his seed into deep into his bro’s hole.

Michael laughed softly between breaths, stroking a hand through Craig’s hair, now plastered to his face. “Mmm… that was amazing.”

Craig was feeling a little short of breath himself. “You are amazing, bro,” he said.

Michael’s already flustered face reddened as he blushed. “You know,” he said between breaths, “this is probably why I ended up pregnant in the first place.”

Craig grinned, a bit smugly. “I think I can live with that blame,” he said. “Maybe we should do it more often.”

“If this pregnancy is anything like my last one we probably will,” Michael mused. “I was horny as hell when I was having Amanda. Though aside from that, I really didn’t have any trouble.”

“Being horny all the time gave you trouble, bro?” Craig grinned.

Michael rolled his eyes. “Being horny while Alex and I were at work and having to wait until I got home gave me trouble.”

Craig chuckled. Michael hit him. Which made him laugh harder. Michael pouted. “Jerk.”

“I’m sorry,” Craig said, still grinning like a loon.

“You’re not sorry, bro,” Michael glared playfully at him. “You’re just looking forward to having lots of sex cause I’ll probably be really horny.”

“Okay, you caught me bro,” he said. He rolled over and placed a hand over his bro’s stomach. “But seriously, I love you so much. And I can’t wait to meet our beautiful child.”

Michael smiled and laid a hand over Craig’s. “Our child. I like the sound of that.”

Chapter Text

They managed to make an appointment with Michael’s ob-gyn, Dr. Whittaker for the following Thursday. In the next couple days, Craig was a bundle of excitement. He spent some time upstairs, trying to decide whether he should have the new child sleep in River’s room with her or whether they should convert the spare room into a second nursery. Michael thought that it was a bit early to be planning anything until they knew how far along he was, but he honestly loved how ecstatic the idea of having another child made his bro. He remembered his first interaction with Joseph and how he had joked that anyone with more than 2 kids had to be crazy. Now he worried whether he might be crazy himself. They had Amanda, who was in college. They had the twins, who were in elementary school. River would be 2 by the time he gave birth, she’d be starting to walk and talk and everything.

He hoped that it was a boy, honestly. They had 4 girls already. And he loved all of them (especially Amanda, but who could blame him? He raised her himself), but he honestly was curious as to what it would be like to have a son (whether he was born that way or came out later in life). He could imagine Craig teaching him how to play sports the way he taught his daughters how to play softball (he only knew the basics about soccer, which was enough to kick the ball around with the girls). He saw himself and Amanda teaching him to be a rebellious rascal.

They hadn’t told the kids yet. It was still too soon. That said, nearly everyone who saw Craig knew that he was even more happy and boisterous than he usually was. It was infectious, really. His personal apprehension at being pregnant again was mitigated somewhat by his bro’s enthusiasm. He honestly could not have asked for a better partner to have another child with. He knew, of course, that there were lots of people who had children later in life and were completely fine. But he had lived so long with the message that pregnancy was dangerous later in life that he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong. It was a huge help that Craig’s boundless optimism and enthusiasm for the situation was so predominant.

By the time the day of the ob-gyn appointment arrived, Michael was a lot steadier and calmer than he had been when he first received the positive result. Craig went with him, of course. For moral support. The official test echoed the over-the-counter tests and Michael’s doctor, Dr. Whittaker, did a general health assessment to determine the risk of complication during the pregnancy. Michael, it turned out, was about 4 or 5 weeks pregnant.

“You seem much healthier than the last time you scheduled a visit with us,” she remarked. “I’m generally optimistic about your prognosis.”

“So there’s no risk?” Michael asked.

“Well there’s always some risk,” she said. “but I would say that your risk is largely minimal.”

“See, dude?” Craig beamed. “All that running and working out is paying off.”

“Your workout regimen should be scaled back, however,” Dr. Whittaker said. “Don’t overdo it.”

“How much are we talking, here?” Craig asked.

“30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 4 days a week is ideal,” she said. “Avoid heavy lifting. Avoid overheating while working out and saunas, hot tubs, and the like. Yoga sessions for pregnant people would be an excellent option.”

They asked some a few more questions, when around the baby would be born, when they could find out the sex, dieting suggestions to help ensure Michael’s health. When they were done, she handed them a schedule that had visits twice a month every month for the first 6 months and then every week for the last 3 months. As they left the office, Michael felt more optimistic about the situation than he had in days. He was actually a little excited to be pregnant again.
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2 weeks after the ob-gyn visit, Michael decided the worst part about being pregnant, aside from the whole throwing up every morning thing, was that he had to limit his intake of caffeine. Which was sort of okay so far, since he hadn’t started feeling tired all the time, but he really hated not being able to drink coffee when he woke up in the morning so he could go into the world without hating literally everyone. The first time Craig said early in the morning that water was better for you anyway, Michael glared groggy, sleepy daggers at him over a mug of said water.

Pregnancy sucks, he thought, sitting at his work desk bitterly wishing he could go get some fucking coffee. He was just tired. All. The. Time. Amanda didn’t give me this much trouble, he tried to telepathically communicate to their little hybrid bro growing in his uterus. Please have mercy on me.

When he was pregnant with Amanda he hadn’t actually been that tired for most of the pregnancy. Just the last month or so. Which was hell, but that was expected. These days, the only way he woke up was by running to the bathroom early in the morning.

He sighed and got back to work. And by work, he meant thinking up baby names for the baby because it was a slow day at the firm and he had finished all the busy work he had for the day. On the sheet of paper in front of him he had a column for boy names and one for girl names. The list of boy names was longer. Bryce. Dakota. Jeremy. Jordan. Aiden. Liam. Julian. Samuel. Landon. Adrian. Brayden. Bryson. Easton. Nolan. Hayden. Leo. Jayce. Chase (the potential for puns would be amazing). Elias. Evan. Asher. Malcolm. Simon. Cameron. Mark. Hunter. Mason. Grayson.

I should really go to human services and tell them that I’m pregnant so no one will be surprised by my frequent need to pee or see my doctor, he thought. That’ll burn, like 30 minutes of my time if I’m lucky. He looked at the clock. 2:30. Maybe I can just leave early to pick up the kids and go home. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.
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Craig got home later that night to find no one home. There was evidence of the twins. Their backpacks were on the kitchen table, homework looked done. But they were nowhere to be found. Finally he heard laughing outside from the back yard and he went out to find his bro and tiny bros running around kicking a soccer ball in the dark with the porch lights on. Michael was carrying River around strapped to his chest, going a little more slowly than his girls so he wouldn’t exert himself. Craig just watched them play for a while. He could get used to seeing his bro and tiny bros running around together. It was a beautiful thing.

Eventually one of them looked up and shouted, “Dad’s home!” They ran up to him and he knelt and grabbed them in one big hug, kissing their heads.

“Hey tiny bros,” he said. “How was school, today?”

“Briar ate a bug at recess,” Hazel said. “It was awesome!”

“Nuh-uh!” she protested. “Hazel ate a bug and she’s trying to pin it on me!”

“Hazel…” Craig said. “What have I told you about impersonating your sister?”

“That it was impulsive and rude?” she asked.

“Yes exactly,” Craig replied. “Except the exact phrase I used was, ‘don't.'”

“I’m so proud of you,” Michael said. “Of your dad, not you Hazel. Don’t impersonate your sister.”

Craig let them go and stood up to kiss his bro. “How are you feeling, bro? How was work?”

Michael sighed into the kiss. “It was boring. I’m tired. I miss coffee. I looked up some baby names.”

“Oh yeah, bro?” he asked, grinning. “Gimme a minute to change and get started on dinner. I wanna hear what you got.”

Craig changed out of his business suit. Michael got out the paper with his list of names and read them aloud as he helped Craig cook dinner. And by help, he mostly just chopped vegetables to throw into the spaghetti. Craig listened and occasionally commented on ones he liked (not surprisingly, he liked any and all nature names). When he was done, Craig produced his list of names and they compared notes.

“Craig, bro, babe, I’m not calling my child Forrest,” Michael insisted.

“What’s wrong with Forrest?” Craig asked. “Forests are awesome!”

“Until you get lost in one,” Michael countered, chopping some mushrooms.

“Whatever, bro. Nature is cool. Nature names are cool,” Craig said. “And may I remind you of how we started dating in the first place?”

“I’m not saying I disagree with you, just not with Forrest,” Michael replied. “And if you ask me, that’s all the more reason to not name our child that. Who wants to be named after the place where their parents first had sex? That would scar them.”

“Bro, I think we need a third opinion.”
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“YOU’RE PREGNANT????” Amanda said calmly over the video chat thing. “Skype” the twins had called it. “POPS, I DEMAND TO KNOW WHY I WASN’T THE FIRST TO KNOW!!! Or, you know, at least the second. But why am I JUST NOW hearing about this?”

“Well…” Michael said, “I was nervous about the whole thing so I didn’t want to tell you/make a general announcement until we were a few months along.”

“I can respect that,” Amanda replied. “How far are you along, anyway?”

“The doctor figures I’m about 6-7 weeks pregnant,” he said.

Amanda nodded. “Yeah, I can see why you didn’t want to say anything. So what do you need my opinion on? I’m not giving up my room for the new kid.”
“No worries Manda Panda,” Michael said. “We already moved all your stuff back to the old house.”

“Wait, really?” she said. “Then hell yeah the kid can have my room! I’ll have loud, obnoxious parties all summer and adopt, like 6 dogs!”

“Nope, sorry kiddo,” Craig said. “We’re converting the spare room into another nursery. Briar and Hazel will room together.”

“Well, as long as I get my own space, I’m happy,” she said. “What’s the question, now that we’ve gotten off topic?”

“If the kid turns out to be a boy,” Michael said, “Craig wants to name him Forrest.”

“No.” Amanda said. “My little brother will not be named Forrest.”

“What do you two have against Forrest?” Craig demanded.

“It’s kind of a boring name. No offense, Craig” Amanda said.

“Thanks, Manda Panda,” Michael said.

“We have to name him something nature themed,” Craig said. “I got a whole thing going with my kids.”

“Craig, I hate to break it to you,” Michael said, “but most nature names are feminine names.”

“So?”

“So even though I’m all for breaking the gender binary,” he explained, “I also know what it’s like to be misgendered and I don’t want that for my kids, bro.”

Craig thought for a moment. “I get where you’re coming from, bro,” he said. “I didn’t think about that.”

Michael laid a hand on his. “We have plenty of time to figure out a name, bro,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Chapter Text

A couple weeks later, Michael and Craig walked into the ob-gyn office for the regular checkup. They still hadn’t settled on a name, but they agreed to hold off any more discussion on that until they knew the child’s sex. They’d be looking for a heartbeat this time around since the baby hadn’t been cooperating the past couple weeks. Michael was nervous/excited. It was a bit disconcerting to have been to the doctor every other week for checkups. It was understandable, considering that he was “of advanced childbearing age.” There was greater risk than the average pregnancy, but his doctor assured him that he there was nothing to suggest that there was anything to be concerned about. Still, he’d be lying if he said it wasn’t a little stressful.

It also didn’t help that this pregnancy was a bit rougher than his last pregnancy with Amanda. He was more nauseous, more tired, more sensitive to nearly everything. His eating and sleeping habits had completely flipped. He fell asleep at work almost constantly. It would have been really bad if he hadn’t gone to human resources and let them know that he was pregnant.

They took the measurements, took the blood pressure, and all the other things. Eventually, it came time for Dr. Whittaker to check for the heart beats. Michael was grateful to have a doctor as experienced as her. He felt the device move around on his stomach, the doctor monitoring the screen as she had done the past two appointments. Suddenly she raised an eyebrow and removed the device from his abdomen. Michael had to suppress the sudden panic that rose at the sight.

“What? What is it?” he asked.

“Nothing to be concerned about,” she said putting the equipment away. “There is something that I would like to check, however, and I would like to do an ultrasound.”

Michael consented and they moved them to a room where they could perform the ultrasound and Michael lied down on the bed. He let them smear the gel on his abdomen and set up the ultrasound computer. He tried not to be nervous, but he hadn’t gotten an ultrasound this early in his last pregnancy. Hell the first time he’d even seen an ultrasound machine was when they found out that they were having a girl named Amanda rather than a boy named Adam (Alex liked A names). Craig squeezed his hand reassuringly, though he could tell that he was a bit nervous about what this all meant, too.

Finally the doctor was ready to perform the actual ultrasound. Michael found himself holding his breath as she moved the head over his abdomen and studied the screen.

“Michael,” she said without taking her eyes off the screen. “Remember to breathe.”

He breathed. “Does it affect the picture quality or something?”

“No, but breathing deeply will help you relax,” she replied. “Trust me. I’m the doctor.”

Michael took a few short breaths. It was a few minutes later that she seemed to find what she was looking for and she hit a few buttons. When she was done she left the room with the promise that she would be right back.

“She certainly likes to keep her patients in suspense,” Craig said. “How are you holding up, bro?”

“Oh, you know,” Michael said nervously. “This didn’t happen last time I was pregnant. I’m worried.”

“Don’t be,” Craig said. “She said nothing was wrong.”

“How can you be sure, though?” he asked.

“Because I’m here. I got you, bro.”

It was a ridiculous sentiment, but it made Michael smile nonetheless. He squeezed Craig’s hand in thanks and Craig returned it as he kissed his hand.

Dr. Whittaker returned a minute later with a couple copies of the ultrasound picture. She handed one to Craig and Michael.

“Michael, the reason why I had an ultrasound performed today was because I believed I detected two heartbeats,” she said. “I was right.”

Michael was stunned into silence. “You’re having twins, Michael,” she said, smiling. “Congratulations.”

Craig was the first to recover. “Twins? Again?”

Dr. Whittaker nodded. “Yes. People who become pregnant past the age of 35 are statistically more likely to have twins due to the body releasing to eggs during ovulation.”

“So they’re not identical?” Michael asked.

“It’s impossible to say at this point,” she said. “This ultrasound is earlier than usual since there was more than one heartbeat. We’ll be able to tell near the end of the first trimester.”

“Is there any additional risk?” Michael asked.

“Yes, but because your overall health is very good, I expect that your risk is still minimal,” she replied warmly.

Michael was still in shock as they left the office, but he had to admit that it was equally exciting, pleasing, and panic inducing to know that he was having twins. Craig, fortunately, interrupted his reverie before he could wander too far down the rabbit hole.

“So if we end up having twin boys,” Craig said. “Does that mean we can call one of them Forrest?”

Michael rolled his eyes and chuckled, in spite of himself. “No bro,” he said. “I’m still not naming one of my sons, if we have 2, Forrest.”

“Oh well, it was worth a shot,” he replied light heartedly. “You know what we should do, bro? We should get lunch to celebrate!”

“Bro, we have to go to work at some point,” Michael said.

“Do we?” Craig asked, spinning Michael around to face him and wrapping his arms around him, letting his hands rest on his waist. “I run my own business. I can always tell them I’m not coming in. You can call in and tell them you’re working from home today.”

“And do what, bro?” he replied. “Go home, have lunch, have sex until someone has to get up and get the girls from school?”

Craig smiled. “I was thinking we could go get lunch, see a movie, walk around town,” he mused. “You know, the kind of date we never seem to have time for. So what do you say, Mr. St Claire? Will you let me spoil you for a day?”

Michael smiled. “You know, Mr. Cahn, I like the way you think.”

Craig rubbed their noses together. “And maybe if we have time after that, we can go home and have sex.”

“I really like the way you think, bro.”

***************************************************************************
As it turned out, they didn’t have time for sex. Not just yet anyway. They were in Craig’s minivan outside their school waiting for them to be released. River was sleeping in her car seat. The twins knew, of course, that something was up with Michael, but he and Craig had decided to hold off on telling them for the moment. They also knew that it couldn’t be that bad because their dad was practically walking on air, something he hadn’t done since the two of them had started dating. Now, of course, it was even worse. Craig could hardly contain himself. It was actually an infectious kind of joy and Michael couldn’t help but feel his heart warm every time their eyes met and he saw the mix of excitement, love, and elation that danced in his bro’s eyes. Especially since Michael himself was a bit nervous, a bit terrified, and a bit ecstatic to be having twins.

“I should talk to Smashley sometime,” he mused out loud to himself.

“Why’s that, bro?” Craig asked.

“She’s been through the whole twin pregnancy thing,” Michael said. “Maybe she can give me a heads up on what to expect.”

“You can always ask her when we drop the girls off at her place next weekend,” Craig suggested. “Speaking of which, do you think we should tell the girls?”

“What now?” Michael asked.

“Sure, why not? We’ve told Amanda already.”

“She’s 18, though. What if—”

“Bro, this isn’t the first time they’ve expected a new sibling,” Craig said. “They’ll be fine, I promise.” He took his hand.

Michael took a deep breath and tried to relax. Finding out that he was pregnant this late in life was scary enough. Finding out he was having twins was even scarier. If only there was a way to make himself calm down and destress. Dr. Whittaker insisted that he would be fine, that his risk was minimal. He needed something to distract himself.

“I don’t suppose you still have the twins’ cribs, do you?” he asked.

“Well, I have one of them,” he replied. “Don’t have their bassinets, though. Wasn’t really expecting to have another set of twins, honestly. Or any more kids, really.”

“I know what you mean,” he said. “We should probably try to get as much as we can before I reach my third trimester and all I’ll want to do is eat and sleep.”

Craig nodded. “Do you mind if I tell my family?”

“Of course you can,” he said immediately. “Your family is awesome. Are they coming for Thanksgiving?”

“You know it, bro,” he said grinning. “Mom told me that I was hosting as soon as I mentioned that we were together.”

“What, she just told you that everyone was going to come to our house for Thanksgiving?” he asked.

“Bro, this is my mom,” Craig laughed. “You remember her, right?”

Michael thought back to the times he had gone to Craig’s house for Thanksgiving when they were in college because they were closer and he couldn’t afford the plane tickets to Florida to see his folks and whenever he had visited them to escape his family. He remembered her chasing a preacher off her property with a broom in one hand and a fire poker in the other when he had “suggested” that she ought to discipline her oldest daughter for being a lesbian. She had then turned around and offered her daughter some lemonade and apple pie. “I remember,” he said fondly. “She threatened to kidnap me if my parents refused to call me Michael.”

Craig squeezed his hand. “Don’t worry,” he said. “She hasn’t changed a bit.”

They finally made it to the front of the line. Hazel and Briar ran out of the school and jumped into the car like they had just robbed a bank. They drove home, chatting about their days at school, Craig and Michael strategically leaving out the part about them going to the movies without them. Hazel complained that long division made no sense and that their teacher was just trying to make their lives difficult by not letting them use calculators. Briar bragged about how her team had won the dodgeball game during gym. As soon as they were in the house, Craig announced that they had news for them. He set River down on the floor and she ran off to find something to play with as he took Michael’s hand.

“Are you getting married?” Briar asked, her eyes lighting up. “Can I be the flower girl?”

“Why do you get to be the flower girl?” Hazel demanded. “That’s not fair!”

Craig put his hand to the back of his neck and chuckled. “So much for the big announcement,” he said.

Michael grinned. “I know, right? They totally stole our thunder.”

“Wait, if you’re getting married, where’s the ring?” Hazel asked. “Dad, you forgot the ring!”

“Kids, we’re not getting married,” Michael said.

“Yet,” Craig amended. Michael blushed a little.

“I’m pregnant,” he said. “We’re having twins.”

The twins were quiet for a while. “Aren’t you a guy, though?” Hazel asked. “Isn’t that… impossible?”

“I’ve told you that I have a female body before, right?” Michael asked. The twins’ eyes widened and they shook their heads. “No I know for sure that we’ve had this conversation.”

“Nope,” they said in unison.

“Huh,” he said intelligently. “Well, the short version is that I was raised a girl because the doctor announced that I was a girl when I was born. But I always felt like I was a boy. So when I went off to college I started calling myself Michael and your dad became my roommate.”

“So you’re like Mr. Bloodmarch,” Briar said.

“How did you know about Damien?” he asked, a little shocked that they knew about their neighbor but him.

“He told us once when he was babysitting us,” she said.

“Besides,” Hazel said. “Everyone knows about him. Are you having boys or girls?”

“We don’t know yet,” Craig answered. “The doctor told us today that we’re having twins.”

“Can you ask the doctor to make at least one of them a boy?” Hazel asked.

Michael laughed in spite of himself. “I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that, Hazel.”

“But I want a brother,” she said. “When will you find out?”

“It won’t be for another few months, I’m afraid,” he replied. “You’ll just have to wait. You can get started on your homework in the meantime.”

Hazel groaned and dragged her backpack along the floor to the kitchen table dramatically. “Waiting sucks,” she declared.

“Dad?” Briar asked. “Will we have to share our room with the new babies?”

“No baby,” he said, ruffling her hair. “We’re converting the spare bedroom for them.”

She smiled. “Good!” she declared and ran off to get her homework done.

“Well that was interesting,” Craig said.

“Was that how they reacted when Smashley was having River?” Michael asked.

“Well, we were in the middle of a divorce at the time,” Craig said. “So, no not really. It was more stressful, really.”

“I can imagine,” he replied. Craig kissed his temple.

“Wanna help me with dinner?” he asked. Michael nodded and followed him to the kitchen, feeling legitimately excited to be pregnant again for the first time. I can’t wait to tell the rest of the family, he thought.

Chapter Text

Thanksgiving Day had arrived. Craig’s family was coming over later that day. All of them. Craig said that they wanted to offer their in person congratulations on their expecting another set of twins. Michael suspected that they were also going to extend their good humored, yet heartfelt condolences. So all five of his siblings were coming in from across the country with their families along with Craig’s parents. Smashley, was apparently seeing someone and spending the day with them, for which Michael was immensely grateful. He really wasn’t in the mood for awkward conversations with the ex during the holidays, even if she did have advice for him.

That being said, he was currently watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with the girls as far away from the kitchen as he could get. Joseph insisted that karma didn’t exist, but today Michael was convinced of it because why else would a pregnant person wake up on Thanksgiving day excited to eat only to have his nausea triggered by whatever was cooking. Craig hadn’t actually started cooking the turkeys yet (he was just stuffing them), but Amanda had woken up early to get the World Famous St. Claire Green Bean Casserole cooked before the double oven was taken over by the turkeys. It was one of his favorite parts of Thanksgiving, and this year it turned his stomach.

You’re going to have to learn how to like green bean casserole eventually, kids, he projected to his children. You’re not allowed to be my biological offspring and not like it, but love seafood. At least he had been awake enough yesterday to make the corn pudding, which came with no side effects at all.

“What is that?” Briar asked, pointing at the TV. He realized that he had dozed off a bit and opened his eyes. One of the floats was… strange. It was a giant, yellow… was it a rabbit? It had a lightning bolt shaped tail and red cheeks and large, expressive eyes that looked vaguely like a Japanese cartoon.

“I seriously need to improve your knowledge of nerd culture,” Amanda said. Behind her Craig wiped his hands staring bemused at the screen.

“This is nerd culture?” he asked.

“You two were what, teenagers in the 90s and you don’t know what a Pikachu is?” she asked shocked.

“I think it’s cute,” Hazel said. “Look at its cheeks.”

“If you say so,” Craig said. “The turkeys are in the oven, so if anyone needs to bake something, you’ll have to wait 4-5 hours.”

“I should be fine as long as there’s time to reheat the corn pudding before the meal actually starts,” Michael said, closing his eyes again. He seemed more tired today than most days, though there was still lots of time before the family started arriving.

Craig walked over and sat down next to him and Michael laid his head on his shoulder. “How’re our little hybrid bros?”

“I’m convinced they’re males,” he murmured.

Craig chuckled. “Why’s that?”

“Yeah, Pops, how would you know?” Amanda demanded.

“Because you didn’t give me nearly as much trouble,” he said.

“Maybe the doctor was wrong about you having twins and you’re having triplets!” Hazel said excitedly.

Michael’s eyes flew open. “Don’t even joke about that,” he said.

“Why? What’s wrong with triplets?” Briar demanded.

“Nothing,” Michael said. “I just don’t want to tempt fate into giving us four babies in the same house when we’re already about to have three. Just think about all the diapers!”

He felt Craig make a face. “Yeah, please, no tempting fate.”

“But what if they were triplet boys?” Hazel asked.

“Boys and girls are just as messy at that stage in life,” Michael said. “They just tend to be dressed differently for some reason.”
**************************************************************************************************

A few hours after the turkeys were put in the oven, the family started to arrive. First were Craig’s parents carrying a couple homemade pumpkin pies. Michael had to physically stop Amanda from absconding with them by braving his pregnancy nausea to take the pies to the kitchen himself and suggesting that she get to know Craig’s parents better. They were so small, it was almost shocking to think that Craig was their child with his broad shoulders and muscled body. But when Craig’s mother embraced him, he could feel the muscular sinews of her arms, just like when he was in college.

“Michael,” she said warmly. “It’s so good to see you again.”

“It’s good to see you again, too, Mrs. Cahn,” he replied smiling.

“Honey, you’re dating my son,” she said, “Call me Courtney, I insist.”

“Okay, I will. Courtney, this is my daughter, Amanda.”

Courtney hugged Amanda fiercely and took her face in her hands. Amanda looked vaguely like a deer in headlights. Michael’s parents weren’t very physical, certainly not the sort to hug people they just met. She hugged and high-fived her dad, but that was different.

“You seem like a bright girl,” she said. “Welcome to the family. Call me Grandma.”

Craig’s father, Bryce, was just as warm and the twins ran to jump into his arms and he picked them up with ease. Okay, maybe it makes complete sense for Craig to be buff. Michael thought.

Amanda began telling her new grandparents about herself, her photography, how her first semester in college had gone, and how she and her roommate had snuck a rabbit into their dorm room and named her Carla. Courtney remarked how much she reminded her of Michael and Craig in their college days and produced Craig’s worst nightmare. A photo album.

While Amanda was laughing hysterically at the embarrassing and extensive photographic evidence of her new family’s antics, more of said family with more food for the dinner. Craig’s huge gaggle of a family trickled in a little bit at a time. One of them brought in creamy mashed potatoes. Another brought in a pan of cornbread. One brought a cranberry jelly with pineapple, walnuts, and apple bits. Someone else brought in caramelized butternut squash. The last sibling to walk through the doors apparently couldn’t cook and had various tubs of ice cream and a few bottles of vodka.

“So there is someone other than me with a tendency to burn things in the kitchen,” Michael said, feeling satisfied.

“Yeah, they can’t cook, but they mix a mean drink,” Craig admitted.

“I expect you to drink mine for me,” Michael said.

“Don’t worry Pops, I got your back, I’ll take one for the team!” Amanda shouted from the living room.

“As long as you live in the same house as me,” Michael replied, “I won’t give you permission to drink until you’re of age.”

“This from the same person who roomed with my son,” Bryce said.

“Ouch.”
**************************************************************************************************

FINALLY the food was done and everyone lined up to help themselves to the various foods assembled. The small army of cousins ran to the front of the line and piled their plates high with food. When Michael had his food he camped out in the living room with Courtney, who was on an ottoman right in front of the tv waiting for “the damn game to start.” Amanda joined him, having decided that her new grandma was her new favorite person.

“Careful, don’t get in her way when the game starts,” Hazel warned.

“But grandma is so sweet,” Amanda protested.

“You know nothing, Amanda,” one of the cousins replied.

They were right. As soon as the game started, Courtney was shouting at the TV like the players could actually hear her critiquing them. Still, Michael was pretty sure their neighbors could definitely hear her. She also didn’t just shout. She cursed. Like a sailor. Michael hoped someone was covering River’s ears so that she didn’t grow up knowing how to drop f-bombs or something.

“This happens every year?” Michael asked after she shouted “What the fuck did they teach you in high school football? Fucking ballet?!?!” at the TV.

“She’s… passionate about the Detroit Lions,” Craig admitted.

“Passionate?” he asked. “I’m concerned about our little hybrid bros will come out cursing.”

Aside from that, the dinner passed more or less uneventfully. Old debates were rehashed and Amanda chose which sides she would take. Michael met Craig’s older siblings at last. All the moms wanted to know exactly when the babies were due, when he had known, and how the pregnancy had gone so far. It was so different from Michael’s family (his mother still called him Michelle). But Craig’s family just accepted him from the moment he came home with him for the first time in college. Courtney had declared that he was part of the family and that was that.

During one commercial break (the Lions were losing) Courtney got off her ottoman and addressed her family like an empress addressing her court. “I believe all of you owe me something.”

Every adult in the room except for Craig and Michael got out their wallets and took out $20 and one by one delivered it to the family matriarch. Craig looked at the nearest relative and asked, “What exactly is going on?” It was his brother Greg.

“We all took bets on if/when you two would end up with each other,” he explained. “Mom was the only one who insisted that you two would end up together before she died. Everyone else thought that it was pretty clear that neither of you were interested in the other, especially after you each started dating different people.”

“All of you bet against us?” Michael asked.

“Well, yes. I mean, we all thought that you two would end up together once,” he said a bit defensively. “But after college was over and you were both happily dating someone else, we figured it wouldn’t happen.”

“I always knew that it would happen,” Courtney boasted. “I know my boys better than they know themselves.”

“I’d disagree, but she’s right,” Craig admitted. “Do we get a cut since we actually made sure you won?”

“I’ll make you a set of baby clothes,” she said. “Mama’s going clubbing.”

Amanda snorted gracefully. “Happy Thanksgiving, fam.”

Chapter Text

Craig woke up the next morning feeling completely lazy and sluggish. He always felt this way the day after Thanksgiving, but today was different. Michael’s arms were around him, for one, his head nestled into the crook of his neck. Second, he felt content. Michael and Amanda were integrated into his family seamlessly. Amanda interacted with his mother like she had been in the family for years. Michael was reintegrated like he had never left their lives in the first place.

He rolled over and looked at the clock. 9:30. His eyes widened. He had slept in! On accident! That never happened. At the very least his kids would have woken him up to feed them on the odd occasion that he did sleep in. He was about to get up and out of bed when he felt Michael stir.

“Mmm… don’t go,” he mumbled. “Warm…”

“It’s 9:30, bro,” he whispered.

“So…?”

“Gotta get up, bro,” he said.

“Brooo, it’s the day after Thanksgiving,” he murmured. “Relax.” He kissed his bro’s neck lazily.

Craig relented and wrapped his arms back around his bro. “I got you, bro.”

Michael nuzzled his face and snuggled closer to him. “Feels good, bro.”

How did I become this lucky? He wondered. He kissed his bro’s cheek and went back to sleep.
**********************************************************************************************

As the spare room had not yet been repurposed into the second nursery, Amanda woke up that morning around 11:30 to discover her grandmother was 1) still there and 2) cooking breakfast consisting of biscuits and eggs.

“Morning, Gramms,” she said, stifling a yawn. She made her way over to the coffee pot. “Have I ever told you that you’re my favorite grandmother?”

“No you can’t have a biscuit yet,” she said from the stove, “but they’ll be ready soon. And don’t call me Gramms. I’m not that old, yet.”

“Gran?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Nan?”

“Do you want to die?”

“What can I call you, then?” she asked. Sitting down as she waited for her coffee to finish.

“Grandma.”

“Everyone calls you Grandma!” she protested.

“Exactly. It’s easier to keep track of,” she said shortly.

“I got it! ‘Gramma!’” she exclaimed, jumping out of her chair.

“That’ll work, dear,” she put the eggs in a bowl.

“Yes!”

Amanda looked over at the clock. 11:00 “Where’s Craig? Shouldn’t he be coming back from some intense workout and drinking kombucha?”

“What the hell is kombucha?” Courtney asked turning around at last.

“I have no idea, but it’s all the rage with health nuts these days,” Amanda said.

“Kid, you wanna know the secrets to a long, healthy life?” Courtney said, pointing the spatula at her. “Drink water. Eat bacon. Swear like hell. Basically, if it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt other people, do it. Life’s too short to be unhappy.”

“Whoa, Gramma. My mind is blown.”

Courtney laughed. “My boy needed to let his hair down and relax,” she said pouring some coffee for herself and Amanda. “So I snuck some melatonin into his water last night.”

“You spiked your son’s drink?” Amanda said, her eyes so wide they seemed they might fall out of her head.

Courtney gave her a conspiratorial wink. “Our little secret.”

“Teach me your ways, wise one.” Amanda said reverently.

“Haven’t you been paying attention? That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
**********************************************************************************************

Craig stirred again from his sleep feeling more rested than he had in a long time. He rolled ever and looked at the clock. Shit it’s noon! He stretched and got up out of bed. Michael was still sleeping, or maybe he was just dozing peacefully. He wandered down to the kitchen. Someone’s cooking. Who’s still here?

“Morning sleepy head,” his mother said. There were homemade biscuits, a bowl full of scrambled eggs, bacon, and a bowl of chopped cantaloupe. Amanda, the girls, and his parents were all seated at the table waiting for him.

“Go get your boyfriend,” his mother said. “Or the food will get cold.”

He turned around, still not quite sure he wasn’t dreaming, but there was food on the table that he didn’t make so he wasn’t going to argue. He went back to their room. Michael was still in bed, hugging one of his pillows. He smiled. His bro was cute when he was sleeping. He went over and sat on the bed. Michael groaned in his sleep.

“Rise and shine, bro,” he said. “There’s food downstairs.”

“What kind offood?” he mumbled.

“Eggs, bacon, cantaloupe, biscuits,” he listed. “She said to eat before it gets cold.”

Michael stirred reluctantly at the promise of food. “Good ‘m starving.”

Eventually they stumbled back out to the dining room where Courtney placed a tall glass of water in front of Michael. Michael glowered at it before drinking it. Craig piled his plate for him with food from the various bowls on the table.

“I’m surprised you can eat eggs,” Courtney commented. “I remember when I was pregnant with Craig, I couldn’t stand them.”

“I haven’t had much trouble with smells this time around,” Michael said. “When I was pregnant with Amanda, I felt like every little smell sent me to the toilet to vomit my guts out. This time, my taste has changed. I’m eating more fish than I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Lucky,” she commented. “Fish was the thing that I was most sensitive to.”

“Hey I don’t mind,” Craig said. “Fish is good for you.”

“All I care is that I can eat it without losing it afterwards,” Michael said, taking a bite out of his biscuit.

“Silver lining, Popsicle. Like you always told me,” Amanda said cheerfully. “Your boyfriend makes a mean salmon.”

“High praise,” Craig grinned.

“So dad,” Hazel said, growing bored with the whole conversation. “Are we going shopping today?”

“It’s Black Friday, are you crazy?” he replied. “Everyone’s going shopping today, we might get in a brawl during the shopping trip.”

“Sounds cool!” she replied. “When do we go?”

The mall was literally a nut house. They couldn’t even find a parking spot. Of course, the only reason they were there in the first place wasn’t to get Christmas gifts for the kids. Michael wanted to browse for baby stuff. Onesies, clothes, toys and such. And what better time to get expensive baby supplies than the day when everything was on sale?

“Remind me why we can’t just reuse some baby clothes when River’s done using them?” Craig asked.

“We will, but it’s fun to go shopping, bro,” Michael replied. “Besides, how much of Hazel and Briar’s clothes did you keep?’

“Yeah, sure, fair point. On any day but Black Friday,” Craig said.

“Just think of it as a broventure!” Michael said cheerfully as they walked through the mall doors.

“Dad, please don’t call it that,” Amanda said, rolling her eyes.

It was a post-apocalyptic scene which awaited them. Hundreds of people milling about shoving each other aside to get through to the stores. Craig and Michael wove through the crowds and eventually they got to the baby store. It was surprisingly calm compared to other shops in the mall. Michael made a beeline for the baby clothes section where he began inspecting different themed clothes with baby animals, like dogs and cats and elephants and lions and giraffes. One yellow onesie even had a capybara, in River’s size, no less! Craig immediately added it to the pile of things to buy (Amanda’s arms).

“Can we stop at Dead, Goth, and Beyond after this?” Amanda asked.

“Why? You want a t-shirt?” Michael asked, inspecting a green shirt with strawberries on it. He put it back.

“Shirts, wallet chains, make up, accessories,” she listed off. “You know, basic girl stuff.”

“I will buy you a single item,” Michael said.

“Yes!”

“Why a single item?” Craig asked.

“I need to know what to go shopping for later for Christmas,” he replied.

“Touché.”

They eventually left the store with their bags of baby clothes in varying sizes and one wallet chain. Craig looked at the bags he was carrying and wondered what had happened to just using River’s old clothes. Not that he was complaining, really. The clothes were cute. He just wondered why they ended up buying so much. The good news was that he had some ideas of what to get his girls for Christmas. Thankfully they were athletic girls and into fairly inexpensive sports.

“Why did we buy so many different sizes of clothes, dad?” Amanda said.

“Because babies grow quickly and even though I’m only 10 weeks pregnant, baby supplies are expensive and best to start getting them early,” Michael replied.

“How many babies are you expecting to have though?” she asked.

“All babies use a shocking amount of diapers and eat a shocking amount of food,” he said matter-of-factly. “And I’m having two.”

“It’s true,” Craig said. “Even when Hazel and Briar were babies it was mind blowing how much stuff Smashley and I went through just to keep them clothed and fed.”

“I used to be so glad I’d never had twins,” Michael said. “I’m definitely not looking forward to getting up in the middle of the night to take care of them.”

“Yeah, dude,” Craig said. “I never thought I’d sleep again when they were born. But it was worth it.”