Kevin's not going to say he's intimidated by his kids, but, well. . .Sam is eight and already smarter than him, and Tess is barely four and has already learned how to use her prettiest smile and giant sad eyes for evil. Kevin might not be intimidated by them, but he's not really learned to say no yet. Which is why when Sam watches a Lassie marathon on TV one night and crawls into their bed with his serious face on, Kevin looks to Mike to be the sensible one.
"A puppy," Mike says.
"Or a whole dog," Sam says, "it doesn't matter."
Kevin smiles against Mike's shoulder before sitting up to watch Sam crawl closer and sit cross-legged next to Mike, skinny ankles showing under the bottoms of his favorite dinosaur pajama pants, the ones he refuses to let them replace even though he outgrew them months ago. He pokes at Mike's arm, and Mike pokes his stomach in reply, gently, so Sam laughs.
Mike says, "We'll think about it."
Sam says, "That means yes, right?"
In one swift motion, Mike stands up and sweeps Sam off the bed. Sam makes outraged noises until he manages to climb onto Mike's back, legs around his waist and arms clinging to his neck. As they leave the room, Kevin hears Mike say, "That means go back to bed and we'll think about it," and Sam says, "But, Daddy, doesn't that really mean yes?" and Kevin laughs into his pillow. He's half-asleep by the time Mike makes it back, but he just slides back into bed and insinuates an arm around Kevin's waist, presses a kiss against the back of his neck.
"He's going to get the girl on his side, too," Mike whispers. "We won't stand a chance."
"Mmm." Kevin presses closer, yawning quietly. "We're thinking about it."
They don't really have time to think about it, because TAI is recording an album (their last album, or so Bill says, though he's said that about the last two albums and they're still going strong) and Kevin's helping to produce an album for Nick's latest side project, a freak folk band with Sterling Knight that Pitchfork is calling the most degrading thing to ever happen to music. It's actually kind of awesome; they wear masks and sing about, like, deserts and metaphors for lady parts, and Kevin's gotten pretty good at making them sound like actual people.
A few days after he asks them if they can get a puppy, though, Sam comes home from school with a cost estimate of caring for a dog. When Kevin picks Tess up from preschool, she's convinced her teacher to put her pale red hair up in pigtails because she knows that nobody can resist her in pigtails, and she hands him a picture she drew of their family and a brown and yellow spotted creature that he's pretty sure is supposed to be a dog.
"Our kids are manipulative," he says, later, when Mike's home with Chinese food and a demo for Kevin to review. He holds up Tess' drawing, and Mike grins down at it then takes it from him and pins it up on the refrigerator.
"I think they learned it from your brother," he says.
"Which one?" Kevin laughs, gently hip-checking Mike so he can pull plates from the cabinet.
"The loud one, I don't know," Mike says.
"You know my brothers' names by now."
"Whatever," Mike says, airily, "all you Jonas brothers look the same to me," and he catches the napkin that Kevin throws at his head, reaching out to grab him by the wrist and pull him closer. Kevin lets himself be pulled. He leans up into a kiss, pressing Mike against the kitchen counter, breath coming warm and fast.
"Did I say hello to you when you came in?" Kevin murmurs, and Mike kisses his cheek, lingering close.
"No, but this might make up for it," he says, and Kevin slides his lips down his jaw, grazing skin with teeth. He thinks about dinner, and Tess getting fussy like she always does when she thinks they're not going to eat at the exact same time every single day, and the dishes from yesterday's spaghetti that are still in the sink. Mostly, though, he's thinking about how he's really not seeing enough of Mike lately and how much he really wants to go hide with him in their bedroom for awhile.
Mike slides fingers over his hips, against the waistband of his jeans, then says, low, "Tonight, yeah?"
"I'm thinking early bedtime," Kevin says.
"Sounds like a plan."
Kevin steps away to let Mike go get the kids while he sets the table, preparing to ignore half an hour of veiled references to dogs and how necessary they are to a child's future.
Mike gets home from one of Bill's emergency band meetings that mostly end up with the rest of the band baby-sitting his kids while he takes his wife on dates, and he has a piece of paper in his hand that Kevin steals from him as soon as he sees it.
"Humane Society?" he asks, raising his eyebrows.
"I may have stopped by," Mike says, innocently.
"You did not bring a dog home."
"Of course not," Mike says. "I mean, almost, because one looked at me and whimpered and licked my hand, but of course not."
"Are we finished thinking about it?" Kevin asks, staring at the picture of a tiny terrier on the brochure, frowning.
"That really just meant yes. . .right?"
"But I know how this works. We'll get it, and it'll be cute for a day, and then I'll be the one stuck feeding it and cleaning up after it," Kevin says, stealing his mom's scary face, even though it probably falls flat because Mike just crowds into his space and smiles slow, sliding their fingers together.
"Isn't that exactly the same thing you said when I mentioned wanting kids?"
". . .maybe. But you don't exactly seem like the most nurturing type at first glance, okay." Kevin says, "At that point, you were still living on Red Bull, and I had to remind you to shower."
"Yeah, and who's an awesome father?" Mike asks. "I nurture the fuck out of those kids."
"You're also the reasons I keep getting letters from Tess' preschool teacher about her inappropriate language," Kevin says, smirking at him.
"That kid who was picking on her was an asshole," Mike murmurs, but he leans into it when Kevin sighs and steps forward to wrap arms around his waist. Mike really is an awesome dad, and Sam and Tess keep making anguished noises of longing every time they see or hear or think of a dog, which stopped being funny after about the fifth time. Kevin's pretty sure that Mike can tell that he's already given in by the way he sighs and shifts his weight, because he kisses him on the lips, once, grinning.
"You have no idea," he says, "it's going to be great. Plus, we're going to score some dad points for this."
"I'm going to have to house train it," Kevin says. "And teach it to sit and, and roll over and not attack your bandmates."
"I'll just let Sam loose in the pet section at Barnes and Noble for a couple of hours, he'll figure it out himself," Mike says, pulling away from Kevin and going for the stairs to tell the kids the good news. Kevin turns back to the dishes, but approximately two minutes later he's interrupted by two identical screams from upstairs and the sound of their children dashing down the hall towards the stairs. He turns around to tell them to be careful, but Mike's already pulled them up by the necks of their t-shirts, telling them to walk so they don't break their tiny bones.
It doesn't make the way they scramble to hug Kevin any less awesome, though.
They definitely just scored some serious dad points.
Kevin and Mike pick them up together after school to go to the Humane Society, and, in ten minutes, Sam and Tess decide that they want to take every single dog home. After Kevin tells them that it's one dog or no dog, they get steely, determined looks on their faces and walk ahead of them, gazing intently into pens. Mike grabs one of Kevin's hands as they walk, swinging their arms.
"Best dads ever?" he asks, and Kevin shakes his head, smiling at the floor.
"Maybe we should wait and see how this works out before we claim that title," he says, and Mike scoffs. They walk the hallway slowly until they come across Sam and Tess kneeling on the floor in front of a pen. There's a puppy, a little grungy ball of fluff that is equally pathetic and the most precious thing ever, with its front paws up against the door, licking at Tess' hand while she giggles. Kevin looks up at Mike, and they nod at each other.
"What kind of dog is it?" he asks, quietly, and Sam stands up to squint at the tag attached above him.
"He's all kinds of dogs," Sam says, and Kevin steps up behind him to see that it's a boy and mixed with everything imaginable. It also doesn't have a name yet.
Tess tears her attention away from the puppy for long enough to say, "I want to take him home and give him a bath and keep him forever," and from the look on Sam's face as he kneels back down to coo softly, he feels the same.
They bring him home that day, and they discuss names in the car while Sam holds him in his arms and tries to keep him from squirming away.
Tess suggests naming him Sisky, and Mike laughs so hard that he can't breathe while he fumbles for his cellphone to call Bill and tell him. Bill demands that they name him that, but it had already kind of stuck, anyway.
"Tell Adam he's an uncle," Mike says, and he hangs up to turn around in the passenger seat and watch as Sisky slowly falls asleep in Sam's lap while Tess pets his head.
Later that night, both of the kids are passed out on the living room floor with the puppy curled between them, and Kevin takes about a hundred pictures.
"Best dads ever?" he whispers, after he's put the camera away and moved over to where Mike's watching them sleep, sliding an arm around his waist.
"Or best kids ever, I can't decide," Mike says, leaning down to kiss his forehead. They stay there for awhile, because this is one of those moments they're supposed to remember forever, with Sam and the puppy both snoring softly and Tess' face hidden in its fur. Tomorrow, he's sure they're going to discover one of them is allergic to dogs, or Sisky is going to turn out to have rabies, or something else catastrophic, but he doesn't have to think about any of that while Mike's leading him over to sit on the sofa together so they can rest before they wake up.