Patrick breezed into the kitchen, freshly shaved and wearing a new sweater. “Hey,” he said, greeting Richie with a quick kiss on the cheek. “Did you pick up the wine?”
“Yeah, it’s over there.” Richie didn’t look up from the mail he was sorting through.
“Are you going to shower before we leave? The party’s at eight.” Patrick noticed he was still wearing a hoodie and jeans. He assumed that he would at least want to change before going over to Agustín and Eddie’s.
Richie lifted his eyes from the Christmas card he was holding. “Yeah, I was just looking at this.”
Patrick leaned in to peer over his shoulder. “Aw, who’s that?” The card showed a picture of a very plump, smiling infant in a Santa Claus outfit.
“You remember my friend Santiago? That’s his little girl.” Richie smiled wistfully at the photo for a moment.
Patrick caught the faraway expression on his face and felt a twinge of longing. Lately, their occasional conversations about having kids had started to become more and more frequent. Maybe it was time to start getting serious about it.
“She was born a few months ago,” Richie explained.
Patrick leaned against his shoulder and grinned. “She’s really cute…well, not as cute as ours would be though.”
Richie smirked. “It’s weird, you know, but I can’t help feeling a little jealous of him.”
“Why?” Patrick asked.
“Because it happened so easy for them,” Richie said. “All they had to do was fuck without a condom and there she is.”
“Ugh, yeah,” Patrick frowned. The process would never be that simple – or that cheap – for them. This was where their conversations about conceiving usually hit a dead end.
Richie took the card and put it on the refrigerator with a magnet.
“Maybe that will be our New Year’s Resolution,” Patrick declared optimistically. “We’ll start cutting back and really save up.”
Richie looked at him skeptically. “It’s going to take a lot of money, Pato.”
“I know,” Patrick walked over to him and rubbed his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around his waist, hugging him. “After we get home tonight, we can make a plan and really figure out how we’re going to do it.”
“We’ll just stop paying for rent or food,” Richie joked.
“No, Richie, I’m serious,” Patrick swatted his arm. He put his hands on his face and looked deep into his eyes. “I’m tired of talking about it. I want to have a baby with you.”
“So do I,” Richie smiled. “I want that so much.”
“Ok, then,” Patrick said, his eyes tearing up. He gave him a kiss.
Richie brushed a tear off his cheek and pulled him in for a warm embrace. “It feels like we’re going to need a miracle,” he said quietly. “Maybe I should ask my Mom to light a candle for us.”
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. “Light candles, talk to your Señora. We’ll do whatever we have to.”
Richie looked over at the pile of bills that had come in the mail. They were still stacked on the kitchen counter, waiting to be looked at. He scrubbed a hand through his hair and sighed.
Patrick smiled at him weakly and patted his chest. “We’re going to have a baby,” he promised. “I know it.”
Richie kissed him again. “I hope so, Pato.”
Patrick shifted in his sleep, slowly waking up. It was late, very late, and Richie was pulling back the covers on his side, settling into bed beside him. The room was pitch dark.
“How’d it go tonight?” Patrick mumbled into his pillow.
Richie had taken a second job, working nights as a bouncer at a Latin drag club. They were saving every penny they could, in the hopes that they would someday have the 120k necessary to pay for IVF and surrogacy.
“It was good,” Richie said quietly. “Go back to sleep.”
“No epic drag fights,” Patrick smiled sleepily, rolling over to face him.
“Nope,” Richie chuckled, sounding exhausted. “But Conchita Nicole Smith sends her love.”
Patrick laughed, snuggling up against him. He wished they could win the lottery or something, so Richie wouldn’t have to work so hard anymore. He was doing his part too, angling shamelessly for a raise at work. “Hey, I forgot to tell you earlier…” He trailed off, leaving the thought unfinished.
Richie was already asleep, snoring softly. Patrick pulled the covers up to his shoulders and whispered “Good night.”
“So, I’ve got a guy coming in Monday morning to look at it,” Dom said. “He better show up. It’s really fucking important that we get it fixed.”
Agustín scooped up a forkful of scrambled eggs and chewed them thoughtfully. “Do you guys remember what our Sunday brunches used to be like? We’d all be hungover, talking about the guys we hooked up with the night before…”
“Uh huh,” Patrick said, taking a sip of coffee.
“And now we’re sitting here, listening to Dom’s riveting story about the broken freezer at his restaurant.”
“Hey,” Dom said defensively. “I’m sorry we don’t all have lives as fascinating as yours. What did you and Eddie do last night?”
“Eh, not much,” Agustín shrugged. “We downloaded that new Ryan Reynolds movie – the one where he’s naked a lot. Then I gave him a blowjob and we fell asleep.”
“You gave Ryan Reynolds a blowjob?” Patrick smirked.
Agustín rolled his eyes at him and poured more syrup on his pancakes. “What about you and Richie? How hot are things in Oakland right now?”
“Ugh, not very hot,” Patrick frowned. “He’s been working nights, you know, and I’m usually asleep by the time he gets home. I have to grab him before he leaves in the morning if I want to get any.”
“Morning sex is hot,” Dom said.
“Yeah,” Patrick agreed. “It’s just that we haven’t been doing it as much as we used to and I kind of miss it.”
“Well, you know having a kid is going to kill your sex life anyway,” Agustín pointed out. “So you might as well get used to it now.”
Patrick gaped at him. “That’s so not true.”
“No, it’s true,” Dom said, stirring his coffee. “And you won’t be getting any sleep either.”
Patrick thought about that while he finished off his pancakes. He was aware of all of the possible downsides to bringing a baby into their lives, but it didn’t make him want it any less. They were as ready as they were ever going to be, they just didn’t have the funds to make it a reality.
“How have you been doing?” Patrick asked, while he walked through the park with his sister. It was late January and the weather was brisk. They were both bundled up in coats.
“I’m doing better,” Megan said. “I’ve been going to therapy again and getting the divorce finalized helped a lot.”
“Yeah.” Patrick noticed that she looked healthier than she had in a long time.
“You’re so lucky, Paddy,” Megan said wistfully. “You married a really sweet guy, not some pathological liar with a shiny car and a receding hairline.”
Patrick smiled. He couldn’t disagree with her – in his eyes, Richie was pretty much perfect. “We’re, um, we’ve actually been talking about having a baby,” he admitted.
“I know,” Megan said. “Mom told me.”
“Oh, yeah,” Patrick grimaced. He hadn’t planned to tell Dana, but during her Christmas visit she had accidentally seen some IVF pamphlets that had been left out.
“She said that you don’t have enough money to pay for the treatment.”
“We’re figuring it out,” Patrick told her. “Richie’s working a second job and I might be able to get a small raise. We have put some money away, it’s just not enough.”
The cost of living in the Bay Area, even outside SF, didn’t leave them with a whole lot left over in their savings accounts. They were light years away from reaching their goal of one hundred thousand and it felt like they were kidding themselves that it would ever actually happen.
“IVF is incredibly expensive,” Megan frowned. “My friend Hannah used it to get pregnant and she had to sell one of her cars.”
“I know.” Patrick was starting to get uncomfortable talking about this. He wondered if she had asked him to lunch just to talk him out of trying to have a child.
“And it doesn’t always take the first time,” Megan said. “Sometimes you have to try over and over again.”
“Look, I know,” Patrick blurted out, exasperated. “We’ve researched it and read everything we can find. It costs a shitload of money that we don’t have right now, but all we can do is save up and try to scrape enough together.”
“Yeah, that’s kind of why I asked you to meet with me,” Megan said, pulling her coat tighter around herself.
Patrick braced himself for whatever was coming next. He was fully prepared to tell her that it was none of her business.
“I want you to have the money from my divorce settlement,” Megan announced proudly. She searched his face, trying to gauge his reaction.
Patrick was completely stunned. “You…I mean…are you serious?”
“Isn’t it the best idea ever?” Megan gushed. “You get to have a baby and I can finally rid myself of anything having to do with that terrible marriage.”
“But you fought for that money,” Patrick reminded her. “You were in court practically forever…”
“I know,” Megan winced. “And as soon as I got what I wanted, you know what I realized? I don’t need it. I honestly don’t want one single fucking cent from him.”
“Yeah, well. That’s how you feel now,” Patrick warned her. “What if you change your mind later?”
“I’m not going to,” Megan said emphatically. “I’m selling the car, the vacation house in Tahoe – anything that was paid for with his money. I’m starting over and it’s only going to be my stuff from now on.”
“Wow.” Patrick shook his head in amazement. “I’m sure Mom and Dad are going to take that really well.”
“I don’t care,” Megan insisted. “It’s my life and I’m going to do what I want from now on.”
Patrick could understand where she was coming from. He remembered what it felt like to end a relationship and not want any reminders left over. “Maybe you should think about it for a while,” he suggested. “Give yourself some time to recover from the divorce.”
“I have thought about it,” Megan said. She stopped walking and grabbed his arm. “Paddy, please, let me do this for you. I want something good to come out of this awful experience. You and Richie can have your dream and I can make amends for how badly I fucked up everything.”
“It’s a really sweet gesture,” Patrick acknowledged. He was sorely tempted to say yes. “But…that’s a lot of money, Megan. We would never be able to pay it back. You know that, right?”
“No, I know,” Megan said. “It’s not a loan. It’s a gift.”
Patrick warmed his hands in his coat pockets and looked over at the playground nearby. It was a funny coincidence that their walk had led them here. He watched as a little girl with pigtails came down the slide, shrieking with joy.
“Those are cute kids,” Megan said, hugging his arm.
“Yeah.” Patrick’s heart ached, imagining what it would be like to have one of their own. The possibility that it could be sooner rather than later was too much to even process.
“What do you want to do?” Megan asked quietly, her head resting on his shoulder.
Patrick took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. “I need to talk to Richie,” he said. There was no moving forward until he’d discussed all of this with him.
“Of course,” Megan grinned. They started walking again, arm in arm. “You’re so going to say yes,” she giggled.
Patrick smiled at her. “I’m going to talk it over with Richie,” he repeated. “And then, we’ll see what happens.”
“Oh my God,” Megan squealed, hopping up and down. “You’re going to be Dads – and I’m going to be an Aunt. I can’t wait.”
Patrick laughed, enjoying her excitement. He refused to give her an answer one way or another though, not until he knew how Richie felt about it.
“Are you serious?” Richie stared at him in shock. He had just come home after cutting hair all day. They were planning to grab dinner before he started his shift at the club.
“I told her we’d think about it,” Patrick said cautiously, getting up from the couch.
Richie gave him a disbelieving look. “Patrick, come on. There’s just no way…”
“She doesn’t want us to pay her back,” Patrick rubbed his arm soothingly. “It would just be our money and we could use it to pay for everything we need to have a baby.”
“But it wouldn’t be our money,” Richie reminded him. “We didn’t earn it ourselves.”
“Well, yeah,” Patrick conceded. “But technically, neither did she.”
They went into the bedroom and Richie started pulling clean clothes out of the closet. His brow was furrowed and his mouth was set in a firm line. He definitely didn’t look overjoyed.
“So, um,” Patrick knew he needed to tread carefully. “I know this isn’t exactly how we’d planned to do it, and I know it sounds completely crazy, but I really think this could be the best solution for us. Maybe if we just take some time and let it sink in…”
“I don’t need any time,” Richie said brusquely. “I already know how I feel about it.”
“Oh.” Patrick could tell from his tone and demeanor what his answer would be. His heart sank.
Richie put down the shirt he was holding and looked at him, taking in his forlorn expression. “Pato…” he said, his voice softening. “I get that you want it so bad that you’re willing to try anything, but I’m just not ok with this.”
“Well, why the fuck not?” Patrick blurted out, exasperated. “I mean, isn’t this the miracle we’ve been waiting for? The money we need has basically fallen into our laps and you want to turn it down?”
“Yeah, I do,” Richie said, looking away from his glare.
Patrick drew in a shaky breath, trying to hold back the tears that were welling up in his eyes. “This could be the best chance we ever have,” he said, his voice catching in his throat. “We could work our asses off for the rest of our lives and still never have enough.”
“We’ll find another way,” Richie said, not sounding entirely convinced himself.
“Really? How?” Patrick asked. “Are you planning to rob a bank? Because that’s the only thing I can come up with.”
“I don’t know!” Richie snapped. “I don’t fucking know, but there has to be a better solution than having your family pay for it.”
Patrick’s jaw dropped. “Oh, ok,” he stammered. “Is that what the problem is? That it’s coming from my sister?”
Richie sighed. “It’s embarrassing. I should be able to provide enough to bring a baby into the world without needing any hand outs.”
Patrick didn’t know how to deal with that. He should have anticipated that Richie would see it that way, but he had been so caught up in the excitement that he hadn’t even thought about it. “No one’s going to look down on you for taking Megan’s offer,” he assured him. “And if it matters that much to you, we don’t even need to tell anyone. We can just keep it between the three of us.”
“Yeah, but I’ll know,” Richie pointed out. “Just the idea of taking that much money from your sister makes me feel so uncomfortable. It’s wrong, Pato. I don’t like it.”
Patrick sank down on the edge of the bed, defeated. He wished, for the first time ever, that he had married someone with less pride and a weaker moral fiber. But those were also the parts of Richie that he loved most, even though he couldn’t admit it right now.
“Don’t be upset, ok?” Richie said. He tentatively reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder.
“No.” Patrick brushed the hand away. He had a lot of emotions that he needed to work through, frustration and crushing disappointment being at the top of the list.
“I’m sorry,” Richie offered. “But I can’t pretend like I’m cool with it. I want to have a family with you, but not like this.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Patrick said bitterly, hastily wiping tears off his cheeks. “You’re willing to lose our chance to have kids, just so you can hang on to whatever macho pride bullshit you’ve got going on in your head.”
“You’re not even listening to me,” Richie said, throwing up his hands.
“I am listening to you,” Patrick stated calmly. “I just don’t like what I’m hearing.”
“What do you want?” Richie asked desperately. “You want me to be somebody I’m not? Maybe if I was more like one of the rich white guys you dated – a lawyer or a CEO. Then you could have a house full of kids.”
“Oh, God. No.” Patrick was appalled, even though it was painfully true. Still, he wouldn’t go back and change a thing. He’d fallen in love with Richie because of who he was, not because of his profession. And he was easily ten times the man either of those assholes had been.
“I’ve scraped by for everything,” Richie said tiredly, sitting next to him on the bed again. “I had to work three jobs just to finish cosmetology school and it still took me a really long time.”
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. He’d heard about the shitty jobs that he’d taken and the friends who had offered him their couches when he couldn’t afford rent. It wasn’t a mystery where his self reliance had come from.
“It’s not that I don’t appreciate your sister wanting to do that for us,” Richie said. “It’s really generous.”
“Maybe if you talked to her, you might feel better about it,” Patrick suggested, hopefully.
“Uh, I don’t know,” Richie shrugged.
They both got quiet. Patrick took a moment to breathe and calm down. He couldn’t be mad at Richie about this. He knew where he was coming from and strong arming him into having a child certainly wasn’t the way to go. Not that it would work anyway.
“Hey,” Richie said gently. “I don’t have a lot of time left before I have to get to work. You want me to order takeout?”
“Oh, yeah. Sure.” Patrick had forgotten all about dinner.
Richie got up and grabbed his phone.
“But, um, Richie. Wait.” Patrick hesitated, not wanting to turn this into a fight again.
“Yeah?” Richie looked at him questioningly.
“I don’t want to pressure you,” Patrick said, choosing his words carefully. “And if you really don’t want to take the money, I promise I won’t bring it up again. But could you please just at least think about it? Megan’s going out of town for a few weeks, so we don’t have to give her an answer right away.”
“I don’t want you to get your hopes up about me changing my mind,” Richie cautioned.
“No, I know,” Patrick said. “I won’t have any expectations. I just really want you to consider it before we say no.”
Richie frowned, mulling it over for a very long, drawn out minute. “Yeah,” he finally said, reluctantly. “Ok, Pato. I’ll think about it.”
“Good,” Patrick breathed, relief surging through his body. He didn’t really think Richie would change his mind, but at least the possibility was still there.
“You want Thai?” Richie asked, still clutching his phone.
“Yeah. Sounds good,” Patrick answered, smiling nervously.
They ate on the couch while some awful Bravo reality series blared on the TV in front of them. Patrick had a knot in his stomach, thinking about something Richie had said earlier. He chewed a mouthful of noodles and looked over at him.
Richie had his feet up and was preoccupied with finishing off his curry. He looked tired.
Patrick scooted closer to him on the couch, until their bodies were tucked against each other. “I’ve missed you,” he admitted quietly.
Richie looked up from his food. He lifted his arm and put it around his shoulders. “Me too.” He pulled him closer and kissed his head.
Patrick hugged him tightly and thought, again, about their conversation before. “I’m really happy that I married you,” he said. “You know that, right?”
Richie smiled. “I know, Pato.”
“No, seriously. I really mean it,” Patrick said emphatically.
“Ok,” Richie chuckled.
“I keep thinking about what you said earlier, about the guys I used to date,” Patrick made a disgusted face. “And yeah, it’s true that they’re both probably making a lot of money right now, but I just need you to know how much I don’t give a shit.”
Richie didn’t say anything. He just stared at him with wide, dark eyes. It was hard to tell if he believed it or not.
Patrick climbed into his lap, straddling him. He brushed his thumbs over the stubble on his cheeks. “I can’t imagine doing this – being married, having kids – with anyone who isn’t you. I’d be so fucking miserable if it wasn’t you.”
“Yeah,” Richie said. “I get that.”
Patrick smiled. “Good.” He kissed him, his hands in his hair. “I love you,” he murmured.
“Love you.” Richie’s mouth was on him and it didn’t take very long for the kisses to become desperate and more forceful.
Patrick fumbled with his zipper. They hadn’t fucked since yesterday morning and right now, that felt like a very long time ago. “Do we have time?” he panted, grinding his body against him.
“Yeah,” Richie grunted, rolling him over on his back. He tossed a throw pillow out of the way. “And if we don’t, then fuck it, we’ll make time.”
Patrick couldn’t argue with that.
“That’s not what it is. Stop saying that.” Patrick felt a knife go through his heart at the mere mention of the c-word.
“I feel like shit. My lymph nodes are swollen,” Richie recited his symptoms while he lay in bed, miserable and shaking.
“It’s just the flu,” Patrick stroked his sweaty head, trying to reassure them both. “Everyone’s had it – me, Dom, everyone at work.”
“I can’t go through this again,” Richie was practically crying, the fever only exacerbating his fears.
Patrick rubbed his back, trying to ignore the painful memories that were going through his mind. “I’m going to get a cold cloth to put on your forehead,” he said. “And some ice chips.”
Richie nodded weakly.
Patrick got up from the bed and left the room. When he was in the hallway, he took out his phone and started scrolling through his contacts, looking for the number of a clinic that he’d visited a few times.
“Hi,” he said, when the receptionist answered. “My name is Patrick. I need to schedule an appointment for my husband. When is your next opening?”
Richie grumbled mightily when he found out what he’d done, but Patrick didn’t care. He knew how stubborn he could be about going to the doctor and he wasn’t going to let him drag it out this time.
By the following afternoon, Patrick was in the clinic’s waiting room, thumbing through a magazine.
Richie finally emerged, still weak and flushed with fever, but clearly relieved. “It’s fine, Pato,” he explained quickly, the words tumbling out of him. “I’m gonna be fine. The doctor said I’ve just got a virus and I should be feeling better in a few days.”
“Oh, thank God.” Patrick had suspected as much, but the possibility that it could be more serious had left him deeply worried. He stood up and gave Richie a hug. “You fucker,” he sighed. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”
“I won’t,” Richie promised, hugging him tightly. “I scared myself too.”
“I know you did.” Patrick pulled back and looked at him, taking in his unhealthy complexion. “Come on, let’s go home. You can get back in bed and I’ll make some chicken soup.”
“Yeah,” Richie said, leaning against him for support as they walked out. “That sounds good.”
“And I’ll stop at the grocery store and get those crackers that you like.”
Richie was back to work at his night job by the end of the week.
Patrick pulled back the covers on the bed gloomily. He was glad that Richie was feeling better, but he had forgotten how much he hated falling asleep without him. It was hard to get comfortable when he was used to snuggling up against his body. And there was no one to talk to when he couldn’t drift off right away.
Chiquita jumped up on the bed, always eager to help.
Patrick petted her head and grabbed his laptop, thinking there might be something on Netflix that would help him fall asleep. Instead, he ended up browsing through his bookmarks, noticing how many baby related links he’d saved recently.
He picked up Chiquita and put her on his lap. “Maybe you’ll have to be our baby,” he told her.
Chiquita just stared at him, bug eyed and uncomprehending.
“When does Megan get back from Denver?” Richie asked, out of the blue, while they were eating breakfast the next morning.
Patrick paused, his hand on the coffee maker. They hadn’t talked anymore about Megan’s offer and he had assumed the idea was dead. “Uh, I think Thursday,” he answered. “Why?”
Richie shrugged and scooped up another bite of Cheerios. “Just wondering.”
Patrick was dying to press him further and find out what was going through his mind, but he held back. If Richie was coming around, then maybe the more laid back approach was working. He poured coffee into their mugs. “We could have lunch when she gets back,” he suggested.
“Yeah, I’d like that,” Richie said, taking the mug from him.
Patrick turned his back to him, pretending to rinse a dish in the sink so he wouldn’t see the grin that was spreading across his face.
“Fuck, I love this city,” Patrick sighed, taking it all in. They’d enjoyed a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner in San Francisco and now they were trying to walk off the pasta and bread and wine and Tiramisu.
“Can you believe we ever left?” Richie asked.
“No,” Patrick chuckled. “What were we thinking?”
“We had a good time though,” Richie reminded him.
“I could have a good time with you anywhere,” Patrick said, threading their fingers together.
Richie smiled at him.
They stopped at a street corner. Patrick hit the button, waiting for the signal to cross. “I don’t know about you, but I ate way too much tonight. I’m definitely going to the gym tomorrow.”
“Yeah, me too,” Richie muttered distractedly. It seemed like something was weighing on his mind. He had been quiet during dinner.
Patrick had resisted the urge to pry, but he couldn’t hold back any longer. “What’s going on with you?” he asked. “You seem kind of…far away.”
“Huh?” Richie looked up, surprised that he’d noticed. The signal changed and they started walking again. “It’s nothing, Pato. I’ve just been thinking a lot.”
“Uh huh,” Patrick nudged his shoulder. “About what?”
Richie drew in a breath. “About my life. You know, that virus I had really shook me up. I was so sure the cancer had come back.”
Patrick frowned and grabbed his hand. “That’s not going to happen.”
“It could though,” Richie insisted. “Even if I eat all the healthy, organic foods and take my vitamins, it could still come back. I’ve got no control over it and sometimes that’s really hard for me to deal with.”
Patrick hated thinking about this. He had steadfastly refused to acknowledge that a recurrence was even possible. “You’re healthy. The Doctor said so.”
“Yeah, but we don’t know how long it’s going to last though,” Richie pointed out. “Months, years…”
“Ugh. Please stop,” Patrick pleaded.
Richie rubbed his shoulder. “I’m just trying to be realistic, Pato.”
“I know – and you’re allowed to have your feelings, but God,” Patrick shuddered, “talking about it scares the shit out of me.”
Richie put an arm around him. “I just want to spend whatever time I’ve got being happy.”
“Yeah.” Patrick could understand that. It had been their motto for the last four years. After Richie had been through cancer, neither of them could forget how fragile all of this was. Like it or not, their life together had an end date – hopefully, very far into the future.
Richie pulled him close, stopping on the noisy, crowded sidewalk. He kissed him tenderly, as if they were alone.
“You’re gonna live to be one hundred,” Patrick promised, even though he couldn’t really be sure.
“I think we should do it,” Richie said, when they were on BART later.
“Do what?” Patrick looked up from his phone.
“We should take the money from your sister and try to have a baby,” Richie said.
“Oh.” Patrick froze, completely shocked. “Oh my God.”
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Richie explained. “And, you know, with everything we were talking about earlier, with me getting sick, I don’t want to wait anymore.”
“Yeah.” Patrick swallowed back a lump in his throat. “That makes sense.”
“I mean, obviously I would rather we pay for it ourselves, but I have to be real about it,” Richie admitted. “I honestly don’t think we’re ever gonna make enough and my Señora said I need to accept that so we can move forward.”
Patrick’s mind was whirling. He had hoped that Richie would come to this realization, but he wasn’t emotionally prepared for it to actually happen. “Oh my God,” he said again. “Are you really sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Richie smiled at him.
“Wow. Well, ok,” Patrick breathed. He didn’t even know where they would begin. Calling Megan would probably be the first step.
“Are you ready?” Richie asked. “You know it’s not gonna be easy.”
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. “And I know there’s no guarantee that it’s actually going to work, but I really want to try.”
Richie grabbed his hand. “Just think about it how good it would be if it does work out. Maybe we’ll have a little mini-Patrick running around.”
“Oh, no,” Patrick chuckled nervously. “I think a mini-Richie would be much easier to deal with.”
Richie grinned. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
Patrick laughed and gave him a playful shove. “Be nice or I’ll make you do all the diapers.”
“Ugh,” Richie chuckled. “I think we can share that part.”
“Yeah, we will.” Patrick looked at him, feeling overwhelmed with emotions. They were taking an enormous leap together – bigger than moving to Texas, bigger even than getting married. He sensed that, underneath all the exhilaration, they were nowhere close to being prepared for what was to come. It was terrifying and also somehow completely perfect.
Richie leaned against his shoulder. When they reached their stop, he would have to go home and change before starting his shift at the club.
Patrick hugged his arm, not wanting to part with him just yet. They had so many plans to make. “You’re going to be the best Dad,” he said. “Our kid will be so lucky.”
Richie smiled. “Do you want a girl or a boy?”
“Um, I don’t think I really care,” Patrick answered. “Just as long as it’s healthy…and it has your eyes.”
Richie chuckled. “But not my teeth though.”
“No, don’t say that. I love your smile.” Patrick was already dying to meet their child, even though he or she was still only an idea at this point. “There’s so much we’ll need to do,” he said. “We’ll have to find a fertility clinic, then a surrogate and an egg donor. Oh God, we have to move – our apartment’s not big enough for a nursery. I didn’t even think about that.”
Richie grinned at his non-stop rambling. “It’s cool, don’t worry about it. We’ve got plenty of time.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Patrick furrowed his brow, deep in thought.
“When we get home, you can start making lists and looking up phone numbers for clinics in the area,” Richie suggested. “You’ll probably have it all figured out by the time my shift’s over.”
Patrick smiled at him. Whatever happened next, he was really glad they would be going through this together. He would need his steady, calming influence for whatever stressful situations lay ahead – and he was sure there would be many of them.
“We’ll just focus on one thing at a time,” Richie said.
Patrick nodded, glancing out the window while he plotted it all out in his head. He turned back to Richie and asked semi-seriously, “Do you think Doris’s eggs are too old at this point?”
Richie laughed. “Oh my God. I hope so.”
“What?” Patrick giggled. “I’m just considering all our options.”
“You really want our kid to have Doris’s DNA?” Richie asked dubiously. “Loud, sarcastic…”
“Yeah, I know,” Patrick grinned. “I was only kidding…sort of. Besides, I think she probably is too old.”
“We don’t have very many female friends we could ask,” Richie pointed out.
“Yeah – and why is that?” Patrick asked. “We need to broaden our circle, start hanging out with more women, instead of just gays and Doris.”
“Come hang out with us, we want your eggs,” Richie joked.
Patrick laughed. “Exactly.”
After Richie left for work that night, Patrick settled on the couch with his laptop, googling every question he had about surrogacy and IVF. He learned that there was an egg donor registry, where they would be able to browse through profiles of strangers who were willing to donate their DNA.
He was trying to decide if that was a great idea or possibly very creepy when his phone buzzed. He saw that it was Agustín calling and picked it up.
“Hey,” he answered distractedly, still browsing the fertility clinic’s website.
“Hey, what are you doing right now?”
“Just looking up something online.” Patrick clicked to a different page, this one offering real-life stories of same-sex couples who had conceived through IVF. He smiled mischievously, deciding that he wasn’t going to be able to keep it to himself. “Um, I’ve actually been reading articles about surrogacy and egg donors,” he admitted. “It’s really interesting.”
“Ooh, really?” Agustín drawled. “Is this for educational purposes or did Richie finally cave? I still can’t believe Megan offered to give you all that money. Seriously Paddy, she’s fucking insane. If I had that kind of cash…”
“I don’t care if it’s crazy,” Patrick interrupted him. “We’re doing it anyway.”
“You’re going to have a baby?” Agustín asked, his voice softening.
“Yeah,” Patrick smiled. “I mean, I hope so. We’re going to try.”
“Aw, congrats Paddy. I figured Richie would give in eventually,” Agustín said. “I mean, I don’t understand why you would want to give up all your free time to change poopy diapers but if that’s what makes you happy, then you have my full support.”
“Thank you,” Patrick said, rolling his eyes. “I’m actually really glad you called, because reading all of this information is starting to make me a little nervous. I mean, what if we blow through Megan’s money and the embryos don’t take? What then?”
“Are you kidding?” Agustín scoffed. “Your sperm’s going to kick ass, Paddy. Don’t even worry about it.”
Patrick laughed. He heard the flick of a lighter on Agustín’s end and realized he was smoking pot. “Where is Eddie?” he asked, suddenly curious. “It’s Valentine’s Day – shouldn’t you be with him right now?”
Agustín grumbled something unintelligible.
“What was that?” Patrick asked.
“We had a fight,” Agustín repeated, clearer this time. “It’s my fault. I was being an asshole.”
Patrick could hear the self loathing in his voice and he knew this wasn’t good.
“I’ve just felt so stuck lately, with everything – my life, my non-existent art career,” Agustín paused to inhale. He huffed out a breath. “You know how I get when I’m like that, I shut people out.”
“So don’t do it,” Patrick suggested. “Just tell Eddie how you feel.”
“It’s not that simple,” Agustín insisted. “How can I explain to him how I feel when I’m not even sure what it is that I’m feeling? Am I bored with our marriage or am I just annoyed with myself and taking it out on him?”
“Ugh,” Patrick got up from the couch and went into the kitchen to make a bowl of cereal. “I don’t know what to tell you, except stay away from rent boys.”
“Fuck off. I would never do that to Eddie.”
Patrick poured corn flakes into a bowl. “What are you going to do then?”
“I don’t know.” Agustín was quiet for a minute. “I’ve been thinking about getting away for a while. I met this guy at the Art Institute who told me about this retreat in Oregon. It’s just this really quiet place in the middle of nowhere, where artists can gather and get inspiration for their work.”
“Like a commune?” Patrick asked dubiously.
“No, it’s not a commune,” Agustín corrected him impatiently. “It’s an artist’s retreat.”
“And what would happen to your job - and your marriage - while you’re off…retreating?” Patrick didn’t like the sound of this at all.
“If I can’t get time off from work, then I’ll just quit,” Agustín said nonchalantly. “It’s not like it’s the only art school in the Bay Area.”
“What about Eddie?” Patrick asked again. He wasn’t going to let him dodge that question.
“Eddie will understand,” Agustín said, not sounding very sure of himself.
“Yeah, well, good luck with that.” Patrick chewed on a bite of corn flakes, thinking about the diverse paths their lives were taking. He was worried about his friend and he hoped that he wasn’t making a huge mistake.
“I wish you still lived in the city,” Agustín said mournfully. “You could come over and make macaroni and cheese…”
“And we’d have a Golden Girls marathon,” Patrick finished for him, smiling.
“Those were good times.” Agustín sounded sad and nostalgic.
“Hey,” Patrick said, wanting to cheer him up. “Why don’t you come over tomorrow night? You can have dinner with us, then we’ll hang out for a while after Richie goes to work.”
“Ah, I don’t know, Paddy,” Agustín hedged. “You guys probably have lots of baby stuff to deal with. I don’t want to get in the way.”
“No, that’s bullshit. Of course we’d love to have you.” Patrick quickly thought of a way to convince him. “We can watch the episode of The Golden Girls where they get mistaken for hookers and go to jail.”
Agustín chuckled. “And the one with Dorothy’s lesbian friend?”
“Yeah, that one too,” Patrick grinned.
“Ok, ok,” Agustín said. “I’m sold.”
“Good. It’ll be fun.” Patrick took another bite of cereal. “I really think you should talk to Eddie though. Maybe it will help.”
“I know. I’m going to,” Agustín promised.
“It’s hard sometimes, being married,” Patrick mused while he chewed his food. “You have to communicate constantly about everything or it all just goes fucking haywire.”
“Yeah,” Agustín said. “But that can’t be a problem for you – you’re always talking. You can barely shut up.”
“I’m holding up my middle finger right now,” Patrick smirked. “Just so you know.”
Agustín snickered. “I can’t believe you’re going to be someone’s Dad.”
“I can’t either,” Patrick said. He looked down at himself. “I’m wearing a t-shirt with video game characters on it. I don’t feel very grown up.”
“You’ll be fine,” Agustín assured him. “Your kid’s gonna love you so much.”
Patrick smiled. They had a long way to go before they could actually find that out. Right now, all they were doing was making plans and crossing their fingers. Hopefully, if they were lucky, it would all work out. He glanced over at the fridge, where the picture of Santiago’s infant daughter was still on display. Next year, they might be the ones sending out a Christmas card, showing off their child in a silly costume.
“Just promise me you won’t become one of those annoying parents who constantly talks about their kid and posts way too many videos on Facebook.” Agustín made a gagging sound.
“Oh, I am so going to be that Dad,” Patrick laughed. “Get ready, because it is definitely happening.”
“Don’t freak out,” Richie cautioned. “It’s just a consultation.”
“I know.” Patrick smiled at him sleepily. They were in bed, snuggling under the covers. It was still early, too early to be awake yet. “It’s just, this is the first step…”
“Uh huh.” Richie kissed his shoulder and his throat, trying to distract him from needless worrying.
“This is the beginning of the whole thing,” Patrick continued, “the whole baby making process. And I want the doctor to have a good impression of us and know that we’re really serious about…about…Oh, God.”
Richie’s hand was inside his briefs, getting his cock out.
“Ah, fuck,” Patrick hissed when he stroked the shaft. He turned his head to meet Richie for a kiss.
“Is that good, Pato?” Richie murmured against his lips.
“Mhmh,” Patrick licked at his mouth, grinding his ass back against him. He wanted more. “Suck me,” he breathed. “God, I want you to suck me off so bad.”
Richie kissed him, letting go of his cock so he could shift around in bed, settling on his back. He nuzzled Patrick’s groin and smiled up at him, his head between his legs.
Patrick ran his fingers through his hair, a lazy grin spreading across his face. He had a ton of important things he needed to do before they left for their appointment, but it was impossible to remember what any of them had been. Not when Richie was giving him the look, his eyes boring into him while his tongue flicked out.
“Oh, oh, shit.” Patrick threw his head back and closed his eyes.
Agustín was on a break at work, leaning against the outside of the building while he finished off a Diet Coke. He took his phone out, scrolling through his social media accounts. Facebook was full of the usual - political posts, vacation photos – nothing especially interesting.
He slowed down when a photo caught his eye. A cousin, someone he hadn’t spoken to in years, had tagged him in a post. It was an old picture of the Lanuez family, circa 1980s. His parents smiling brightly, surrounded by young Agustín and his two sisters. To an outside observer, nothing would seem amiss, but Agustín noticed it right away. The smiles were forced and hollow, trying to mask the desperation in their eyes.
If we don’t behave ourselves and take a good picture, Papi’s gonna take it out on Mami, Agustín remembered thinking. He had been a bigger troublemaker than his sisters, never very good at towing the line. There were too many rules to follow and his Dad seemingly lived to impress their snooty white neighbors. He had worked hard after emigrating from Cuba, clawing his way upward so he could finally live amongst them, in a gated community with a BMW parked in the driveway. Everything had to be flawless, even their family portrait.
“Fuck him,” Agustín muttered, moving his finger to exit the page. He paused when he saw the caption.
Rest in peace, Uncle Alberto. We will miss your warm smile, your infectious laugh, and your generous, kind heart. You are with the angels now.
Agustín felt cold, his hand trembling. He reread the words several times, trying to make sense of it. The description didn’t sound anything like the man he remembered. Not that it proved anything. They would continue to keep up appearances for his father, even if he was buried six feet under.
Tears suddenly sprang to his eyes and he wiped them away, anger bubbling up inside of him. He wasn’t going to waste a second of his life mourning him. He didn’t deserve it. As far as Agustín was concerned, he had already been dead for years.
He composed himself, shoving his phone in his pocket, and strolled back into work.
Patrick held Richie’s hand while they walked out of the fertility clinic. They had spent the last hour and a half absorbing all the information they could about the IVF and surrogacy process. He was more grateful than ever to Megan for footing the bill so they could afford it. Seeing the potential cost printed out on paper had been jarring.
Richie chuckled. “I saw the look on your face when they said we could implant five embryos if we wanted.”
“Yeah,” Patrick grinned. “That was a little disturbing, I have to admit. I don’t want to get a reality show out of this: Patrick & Richie Plus Eight.”
Richie laughed, unlocking the car and pulling the door open. “How many do you want to use then? It sounded like two might be a good idea.”
Patrick climbed into the passenger seat. He had been thinking along the same lines. Two embryos would increase their chance of success, but it would also raise the odds that they would end up with twins. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that. “Do you think we could handle two kids?” he asked him pensively.
Richie stared ahead for a minute, mulling it over. “Moneywise, things would be tight, but I’ve got friends who are raising kids on less than what we make. I think what matters most is how much you love them. The rest of it, you just deal.”
Patrick smiled at him. He didn’t doubt his ability to love their children. It was the more practical side of it that he felt completely unprepared for. He had never so much as changed a diaper or warmed a bottle. There was nothing in his history to indicate that he would be any good at this.
“We’ve got time to think about it,” Richie said, inserting the key and starting the car. He turned the wheel, pulling them out of the parking lot.
Patrick stared out the window, lost in his thoughts. He reached down into the collar of his shirt, fingering the escapulario he had put on that morning.
“You poor bastards, you’ve got no idea what you’re getting yourselves into.” Doris hugged Patrick with one arm, a margarita clutched in her other hand.
“It’s nice to see you too, Doris,” Patrick smiled tightly. He didn’t need any reminders that they were flying blind. He was well aware.
Dom patted his shoulder. “So, what’s next for you guys?”
“Well,” Patrick looked over at Richie. “We have to fill out some paperwork and then…”
“Then we start meeting with surrogates,” Richie finished for him.
Patrick grinned, giving Doris a nudge. “How about it? Will you carry our child for us?”
“Oh God,” Doris gave him a horrified look. “That’s not even funny. You do realize I’m over fifty, right? It’s all cobwebs and dust bunnies in there at this point.”
Dom laughed. “But you’re still young at heart.”
“No, I’m not. I’m old at heart – and everywhere else.”
Michael appeared at the bar, giving Dom a quick kiss, his arm lingering around his shoulders. “Catch me up,” he implored. “Where are we in the baby plot?”
“Lots of paperwork, no surrogate yet,” Patrick explained. “Doris just turned us down.”
Michael laughed, looking over at Richie. “What do you think of my hair, by the way? I remembered what you said, about trying a darker shade…”
“It looks hot,” Richie told him. “But, here, let me try something.” He went over to where Michael was standing and ran his fingers through his hair, mussing it a little.
Patrick grinned, sipping his drink. It was sometimes hard to leave the barber truck behind. Richie had very strong opinions about everyone’s hair. He had been trying to talk Doris into a new style for a long time.
“Hey,” Dom said, sliding over to talk to him. “Have you heard anything from Agustín? I’ve been trying to get up with him all day.”
“No, not a word.” Patrick hoped that he was off somewhere having fun with Eddie. He thought their problems would be easily resolved if they would just take the time to talk to each other.
“I’m going to try him one more time,” Dom said, taking out his phone. He ended up leaving another voicemail, letting him know where they were.
Agustín had chosen a different club, a place where he could get as wasted as he wanted to be, without anyone judging him or offering unsolicited advice. He could easily imagine what Eddie’s reaction would be if he told him the news. He would probably go into counselor mode, acting more like a therapist than a husband. That had been happening too much recently and Agustín was sick of it.
He danced wildly, pounding back drinks until he was sweaty and disoriented. A hot guy danced up against him - a big, bearish type. He could almost imagine it was Eddie, if he didn’t focus too hard on his face. All men cheat. He’d said it himself plenty of times. But that was before he’d met Eddie. The thought of crossing the line with this guy or anyone else made him nauseous.
Agustín shoved away the hand that was creeping over his ass and bolted from the dance floor.
In the bathroom, he stood at the sink, splashing cold water over his face. He wasn’t drunk enough yet. That was the problem. He needed to get numb, until he couldn’t feel whatever this was anymore. His friends would probably say it was grief, but he knew it couldn’t be that. You can’t grieve someone you never cared about in the first place.
A lanky young kid with an eyebrow piercing leaned against the sink next to his. He tucked a plastic baggie filled with white powder into his pocket.
“Hey.” Agustín stepped closer to him. “Do you mind sharing?”
“You got money?” the kid asked. “This shit ain’t cheap.”
“Yeah, of course.” Agustín took out his wallet and pulled out some cash.
It had been years since he’d done coke. Frank had convinced him to stop because he said it made him too annoying. Agustín walked out of the bathroom feeling euphoric and very awake. He had so much more energy now. His body was practically vibrating with it.
The rest of the night passed in a frenetic whirlwind. He danced spastically, until he was dripping with sweat. At some point he lost his shirt, but he barely noticed, unable to slow down long enough to care. Agustín’s teeth chattered and he couldn’t seem to stop talking, telling the guy he was dancing with every minute detail of the dream he had had recently about Keith Haring.
“No, Keith Haring,” Agustín said, exasperated. “We were on a float together at Pride and he kept asking me to suck his dick, but my friends were there and it seemed too weird. Then we were in the house I grew up in and he was making pancakes…”
“That’s nice, dude,” the guy said, slipping away from him. “Try switching to decaf or something.”
Agustín quickly found someone else to dance with and re-started his story from the beginning.
“To be honest, I’m trying not to even think about that part,” Patrick said. “It makes me kind of nervous.”
“Nervous about jerking off?” Dom chuckled. “It’s not like you haven’t had enough practice.”
Patrick laughed. “Yeah, but I’ve never done it for this specific purpose before – and never in a private room at a fertility clinic.”
“It’s actually not that bad,” Richie offered. “They have all kinds of porn DVDs.”
“But what if I pick the wrong movie?” Patrick fretted. “I mean, that’s the sperm that will help make our child. I don’t want our kid being created to the sounds of Buttfuck Orgy IV.”
Doris made a face, checking the time on her phone. “As much as I’d love to stay and listen to you talk about your sperm, I’ve got carpool in the morning so I need to get going.” She stood up, pulling her coat on.
“Oh, uh, why I don’t I walk you to your car?” Patrick suggested, getting out of his seat.
Doris was puzzled by the offer. “Okay, I guess. I’m pretty sure I can handle it though.”
Patrick followed her out, explaining in a rush of words why he needed to talk to her. “You’re the only person I know who has a kid and you’re such a good Mom. I’ve got all these questions that I need answers to and you seem like the best person to ask.”
“Yeah, ok,” Doris shrugged. “But if it’s about my eggs, trust me, you don’t want them. They’re all dried up, shriveled like tiny raisins. I barely managed to get one kid out of them.”
“No, it’s not that,” Patrick responded quickly. “I was just wondering if…if there’s anything really important that I should know, before Richie and I start having kids. Do you have any advice that would help me, so I’m ready?”
Doris smiled at him compassionately for a moment and then laughed. “No. There’s nothing I could say that will make it any easier for you. Just know that it’s going to be the best thing that’s ever happened to you – and the worst, the absolute fucking worst. It’s going to be all of that at the same time.”
“Oh,” Patrick nodded, taking that in while they walked across the parking lot to her car. “I don’t have much experience with babies, but I know we’ll have to get up in the night with it for a while. That’s going to be hard.”
“Yes, that will definitely happen,” Doris said emphatically. “You won’t be getting any sleep, the baby will throw up on you and pee on you – and you can forget about having time to take a shower. Every minute of your day will be focused on the baby, but that’s normal and you kind of get used to it. At least until it starts walking and then that’s a whole other thing.”
“What happens then?” Patrick asked, his eyes widening. As much as it stressed him out to hear about all of this, he still wanted to know as much as he could.
“That’s when you’ll need to start baby proofing everything,” Doris explained, “Otherwise, that little fucker is going to start flushing everything you own down the toilet – cell phone, car keys, all of it.”
“Oh God.” Patrick had only been vaguely aware that baby proofing was even a thing. He was a novice, but he wasn’t going to stay that way for long. The first step was picking Doris’s brain, the second step would be buying all the parenting books he could get his hands on.
“Don’t get scared and all Patricky about it,” Doris warned, noticing the panicked expression on his face. “I promise it’s gonna be worth it. Every time your kid smiles at you or climbs up in your lap, you forget about all the shitty parts.”
“Thank you for talking to me,” Patrick said, giving her a hug before she got in her car. “You know I’m going to be calling you constantly with questions.”
“Oh, good,” Doris patted his arm. “I’ll try to remember to get my number changed.”
Patrick lingered in the parking lot, waving at her while she drove away.
Patrick came back into the bar, sneaking up behind Richie and kissing his throat.
“Hey,” Richie looked up, smiling at him. “What is it? You’ve got a goofy look on your face.”
“I do?” Patrick beamed even harder.
“Yeah, like a little kid on Christmas morning,” Richie teased him affectionately.
Patrick hugged him. “I’m just happy,” he explained. “I’m really fucking happy…and I’m glad we’re doing this - trying to have a kid. I know it’s going to turn our lives upside down, but I kind of want that, you know? It feels right, like this is the time for it.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Richie said. He put an arm around his shoulders, holding him close. “I’ve been thinking about having a family with you for a long time.”
“Me too.” Patrick smiled at him, his eyes shining. The music in the bar blared into a crescendo and he snuggled up against him. “I love you,” he said, too quietly to be heard.
Richie read his lips and mouthed back the same words.
“Eddie. Hi, it’s me – Agustín.”
“Where the fuck are you?” Eddie sounded like he had just woken up. “I’ve tried to call you, like, forty seven times. I thought something bad had happened to you.”
“No, I just went out for a drink. I’ll be home soon, in time to have dinner with you. We could order pizza, or whatever. Whatever you want.” Agustín was still jittery from the coke.
“Uh, you do realize it’s past midnight?” Eddie was confused. “Are you on something? How could you lose track of time like that?”
“Oh. Shit.” Agustín almost laughed. He didn’t know where the night had gone. When he looked down, he realized that he had somehow lost one of his shoes. “I am actually a little fucked up right now. Just a tiny bit though.”
Eddie groaned. “Call an Uber or a Lyft. I’m going back to bed.”
Agustín did as he was told and managed to make it home in one piece. He staggered up the stairs to their apartment, fumbling with his keys for a few minutes before he realized the door wasn’t even locked.
Eddie had actually stayed up waiting for him. He was sitting on the couch, in the blue glow of the TV, when he came in. “Jesus, you really are a mess,” he said, taking in his disheveled appearance.
Agustín had managed to find his shoe, but his shirt was a lost cause. The coke was wearing off and he felt disgusting. Everything he had been trying to forget was coming back to him. He was still a miserable, failed artist. His family still hated him and his Dad was just as dead as he’d been a few hours ago.
“What’s going on with you?” Eddie asked, his voice heavy with concern. He got up from the couch and went over to him.
Agustín brushed him off. “I’m fine, ok? I’m completely fine.”
“You seem like you’ve been really unhappy lately. Maybe talking about it would help.”
“Ugh, don’t do that.” Agustín shook his head. “Don’t treat me like I’m one of your homeless kids.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Eddie said bitterly, holding up his hands in surrender. “I thought that maybe, since we’re married, I have a right to know why my husband is going out and getting wasted by himself.”
“I just needed to be alone.” Agustín knew that wasn’t going to fly, but it was the actual truth.
“Alone in a club with a bunch of hot guys who probably had their hands all over you.” Eddie had always had his radar up, throughout their entire relationship. It was like some part of him still thought Agustín might ditch him for someone hotter.
“I didn’t do anything except dance with them,” Agustín said wearily. He needed to find a bed or a couch and crash. “I promise you that’s all that happened.”
“I just feel like I don’t even understand you anymore.” Eddie stared at him, like the answer to his questions might be right there in his face.
“Me neither,” Agustín said quietly, sinking down onto the couch. He rubbed his eyes, feeling so incredibly shitty.
“Drink this,” Eddie said, handing him a bottled water from the fridge.
Agustín took it from him and swallowed a gulp of cold water.
“I’m going to bed.” Eddie sounded tired and defeated. “But I want to talk to you in the morning.”
Agustín nodded, leaning back against the cushions and closing his eyes.
He sat in the living room by himself for a while, drinking water and considering all the myriad ways he had fucked up this relationship. He hadn’t known the first thing about marriage before taking the plunge. His only attempt at cohabitating with someone had barely lasted a month. Still, despite all of that, it had actually been good for a while. They had given each other time and patience while they figured it out.
Eventually, they had become too familiar with each other. There was no mystery anymore, nothing new to learn. He was no longer excited about sharing his day with Eddie. His hat collection, which had been once been cute, was now just something he pushed out of the way when he needed more room for his art supplies.
Agustín got up from the couch and went in the bedroom.
Eddie mumbled something in his sleep when he climbed into bed beside him. Agustín didn’t try to cuddle with him, like he used to. He curled up on his own side of the mattress, pulling the sheet over himself.
For the part of Richie & Patrick's surrogate, I imagined Michelle Williams. I didn't have anyone specific in mind for her husband, but if you want to picture Ryan Gosling, I'm totally fine with that.
Agustín woke up the next morning filled with misery and regret. Eddie was already in the kitchen, making breakfast and getting ready for work. He could stay in bed until he left and avoid the inevitable ass chewing he was going to receive or he could face it head on.
He padded to the kitchen in his briefs and a t-shirt, already working on his apology.
“I finished all the Cheerios,” Eddie said snippily, when he picked up the box and shook it. “And the coffee I made is the blend you hate.”
“Ah, ok,” Agustín nodded, chastened. He opened the fridge, looking for some other breakfast alternatives.
Eddie rinsed out his cereal bowl, leaving it in the sink. He was quiet for a minute, too quiet, obviously gearing himself up for what he needed to say. “Do you not want to be married to me anymore?” he finally asked, desperation in his voice. “Is that why you’re doing this?”
Agustín looked in his eyes for the first time that morning. They were red and puffy. He wondered if he had fallen asleep crying. “No,” he answered, trying to sound more sure than he actually was. “I love you, Eddie. Of course I still want to be married to you.”
“Ok,” Eddie said skeptically. “So what is it then? You just decided to go to a club after work and pretend you’re still single?”
Agustín looked away, grabbing a carton of yogurt out of the fridge. He pulled the lid off and sniffed it. “It wasn’t like that. I just had a really bad day and I thought I might feel better if I did some dancing, had a few drinks…”
“Yeah, the coke was a mistake.” Agustín had a throbbing headache to prove it.
“You know, you can come to me when you’re having problems and you need to talk it out,” Eddie said. “It just seems like you’ve been shutting me out a lot and I don’t like it.”
“I know and I’ll try to do better,” Agustín promised. He considered telling him about his Dad, but he didn’t feel much like talking about it. It seemed easier to just box up what he’d learned and put it away. His family had been out of sight and out of mind for a long time. They might as well stay that way.
“I have to get to work,” Eddie sighed.
“It’s ok,” Agustín said. “We’ll catch up later. I promise I’ll come straight home after work.”
Eddie snorted. “Yeah, you better.”
He didn’t kiss him goodbye on his way out, but he did brush his hand over his shoulder, so at least that was something.
“Pato, we have to decide. We can’t keep putting it off,” Richie said, following him into the bedroom.
Patrick squatted down on the floor, picking up a few pieces of clothing that were scattered near the dresser. “I know,” he said distractedly. “I’ve been thinking about it all the time. I just don’t know what we should do.”
They had spent a few weeks going back and forth over how many embryos to implant. There were many different factors to consider and the more research Patrick did online the more stressed he became.
“Why don’t we try looking at the pros and cons?” Richie suggested. “I could make a list.”
“Not right now.” Patrick huffed, lifting up the heavy laundry bag. “I have to get this downstairs to the washing machine. Jesus Christ, how did we let it pile up so much again?”
“Here, let me carry it,” Richie offered, trying to take the bag from his hands.
“No, I think I’ve got it.” Patrick was resisting the urge to bitch at him about how this was clearly his fault. Richie had a tendency to let things get messy. He would sometimes put off doing household chores until dishes were piled in the sink and all of his clothing was in need of a wash.
“I’m coming with you,” Richie said. “We’ll figure out this embryo thing while we’re doing laundry.”
“Oh God. Seriously?” Patrick grumbled. He was not in the mood for this, but deep down he knew that it was time to make a decision. They had to figure out if they wanted multiples before they could select a surrogate.
Richie held open the door to the apartment for him. Patrick hoisted the bag in his arms and hurried down the steps.
“We’d have to do some serious budgeting if we had two kids.” Richie grabbed the box of detergent. “That’s the only part I’m not sure about.”
Patrick frowned, picking up the laundry bag and dumping the clothes into the washer. Money was only one of the reasons why he wasn’t sure about transferring two embryos.
“But, on the other hand, I keep thinking that this might be it for us,” Richie said. “I don’t see us getting the chance to have another pregnancy and what if our kid never got to have a sibling? That would be kind of shitty, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that too.” Patrick closed the lid on the washer. “As much as Megan and I have been at each other’s throats over the years, I’m still really glad that she’s been in my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up as an only child.”
Richie grinned. “If we only had one, who would our kid complain about us with?”
“Exactly,” Patrick chuckled. He adjusted the settings on the washing machine and turned it on. The possibility of having two children was very appealing. He couldn’t deny that.
“I mean, my parents never had a lot of money and they still managed to feed five kids,” Richie said. “I don’t think it would be completely impossible for us to take care of two.”
“Yeah, well, everything was a lot cheaper back then,” Patrick pointed out.
“You got that right.”
The washing machine rumbled loudly, switching to the spin cycle.
“But what if we don’t end up with two?” Patrick blurted out. “What if we put in two healthy embryos and only one of them survives? What then? Multiple pregnancies are very risky – all of the fertility websites say so – and I don’t want us to get our hopes up and start planning for twins and then something goes wrong…”
“Pato,” Richie said gently, putting a hand on his shoulder. “We can’t think about it like that. We’ve got to stay optimistic, remember?”
“Right,” Patrick exhaled. “I am trying…it’s just that I read this article last night about vanishing twin syndrome and I know that sounds like something out of a horror movie but it is an actual thing.”
Richie leaned against the dryer and scratched his beard. “I know there are a lot of risks,” he said. “We could put in two and only end up with one, or we might not end up with any. It’s a big fucking gamble and I get scared sometimes too. I don’t want us both to end up heartbroken.”
“Hey,” Patrick said softly, putting his arms around him. He had the same fears. It was hard to accept that they could go through all of this and still not have a baby when it was over.
“I want to try for two,” Richie said, still hugging him. “If we’ve only got one shot at this, I think we should really go for it. And if it doesn’t work out…”
“At least we tried,” Patrick finished for him.
Richie grinned at him. “Yeah. At least we tried.”
Patrick tapped his fingers nervously on the table. They were sitting in a booth at a diner near their apartment, waiting anxiously for their potential surrogate to arrive. Well, one of them was anxious anyway.
Richie reached out and grabbed his hand, putting an end to the tapping. “Do you want to order some coffee?” he suggested. “It might help you relax.”
“Uh, I don’t know,” Patrick stammered. “Would that be rude if we order before she gets here? What is the etiquette when you’re meeting a complete stranger who might end up carrying your child…or children?”
Richie shrugged. “If she gets offended about coffee, then she isn’t the right person for us anyway.”
“Oh God, I think that’s her,” Patrick suddenly blurted out.
A petite blonde woman in a wool peacoat lingered at the entrance, her eyes scanning the room. When she saw them, she smiled and gave a cautious wave.
Richie slipped out of the booth, standing to greet her, and Patrick joined him.
“Hi, I’m Michelle,” she said, holding out her hand shyly. “You must be Richie and Patrick…at least I hope you are. Wouldn’t that be terribly embarrassing if I introduced myself to the wrong couple?”
“Yeah,” Patrick laughed nervously. “You could end up having a baby for someone who’s just trying to order pancakes.”
Michelle chuckled at his awkward humor.
“Uh, I’m Richie and this is Patrick, my husband,” Richie explained. “I actually talked to you on the phone for a few minutes earlier.”
“Oh, right,” Michelle said. “You’re the barber. I think I’ve seen your truck a few times. Do you ever park on Alice Street, near the Malonga?”
“Yeah, sometimes,” Richie smiled. “I move around a lot.”
Michelle unbuttoned her coat and settled into the booth with them. “My daughter went to preschool next door, so I was over there all the time until she graduated.”
“You have a daughter?” Patrick was a little surprised. It seemed like a lot to take on, potentially carrying twins for someone else and raising a family of her own.
“I do.” Michelle’s eyes lit up at the mention of her. “My daughter is five and I also have a nine year old son.”
“Oh. Wow.” Patrick glanced over at Richie, who seemed unfazed.
“The clinic said that you’ve done this before,” Richie mentioned casually. “Did you have a good experience last time?”
“And why would you even want to go through this again?” Patrick interrupted before she could answer. “I mean, it would be your fourth pregnancy – and you don’t even get to keep the baby.”
Richie raised his eyebrows at him, clearly wondering why he was trying to talk her out of it.
Michelle smiled at him softly, unbothered by his questions. “It is…challenging,” she admitted, choosing her words carefully. “But the emotional reward is bigger than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I…I get to give someone a family. What better gift is there besides that?”
Patrick chewed his lip nervously. He looked over at Richie, communicating silently with him. Is this going to be the one? I like her - what do you think?
Richie gave an imperceptible nod in his direction. “It’s really kind of you,” he said to Michelle.
She grinned, shrugging it off. “Whatever happens, even if you choose someone else, at least we have a chance to get to know each other, right?”
“Sure,” Patrick exhaled. He hadn’t been this nervous in a very long time. “Do you want to get some coffee? Or a bagel? I think they have good bagels here.”
“Yeah, I’d like that,” Michelle said, looking down at her menu.
Richie rubbed Patrick’s arm comfortingly. He could tell that he was tense.
“This kind of feels like a first date,” Patrick admitted, with a giggle. “Except we don’t want to have sex with you, but we might want to get you pregnant.”
Michelle looked up at him and smiled sweetly. “Well, it’s been a pretty good first date so far. I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”
After breakfast, they made plans for a second ‘date’ with Michelle at her house. They had learned that her husband was in real estate and that she worked as a substitute kindergarten teacher. She was sweet and open, patiently answering all of their questions, even when Patrick’s rambling occasionally went off the rails.
“So, what do you think?” Richie asked.
“I like her,” Patrick said, holding his hand while they left the diner. “It could have been a lot more uncomfortable, but she was so nice and not weird at all.”
“Yeah, it was good,” Richie agreed.
“I guess you’d have to be a nice person to walk around with someone else’s child inside your body for nine months,” Patrick frowned. “I mean, she would be having morning sickness for us, gaining weight for us, pushing the baby – or babies - out of her…”
“I like that she speaks fluent Spanish,” Richie interrupted, deftly changing the subject.
“Oh yeah, that was cool.” Patrick smiled at him. He was getting butterflies in his stomach, he was so excited. It was surreal that it was actually happening. He hoped that she was the one. It seemed like she might be.
“I’d like it if she spoke Spanish to the baby before it’s born,” Richie admitted.
“Aww,” Patrick practically melted into the pavement. “That is so sweet.”
Richie grinned. “I want our kids to be bilingual.”
“Me too,” Patrick beamed, hugging him. “Ugh, I know we have a few more surrogates that we’re supposed to meet, but can’t we just cancel them and pick Michelle?”
“No, Pato,” Richie smiled. “We can’t just jump at the first person. We have to see what’s out there.”
“I know, I know,” Patrick grumbled.
“Maybe we’ll just see one or two more,” Richie conceded.
“And then we’ll decide,” Patrick said firmly.
Richie laughed. “You can’t wait.”
“No, I can’t,” Patrick chuckled. “I’m a very impatient person. You know that already.”
“Feel free to take as long as you need,” the nurse said, leading him to a small room. “There’s no need to hurry. Just get comfortable and relax.”
There were a couple of chairs and a bookshelf. It looked like a small office…an office belonging to someone with an eclectic taste for porn. Patrick’s eyes fell on a stack of magazines strewn over a desk. One of them featured a busty cover model and the other a man with rock hard abs.
“We have something for everyone,” the nurse explained helpfully, placing a thick binder into his hands. “I’ll be outside if you need anything.”
Patrick could only smile weakly, unable to hide his rising panic. She left, closing the door behind her, and he sat, gingerly, on the sofa. Opening the binder, he found page after page of porn DVDs, every fetish and genre well represented. “Oh my God,” he gasped, his eyebrows raised.
He reminded himself why he was doing this. It wasn’t just for the fun of masturbating into a cup. They were going to make a baby – possibly two of them - and they wanted one embryo to be biologically his and the other to be biologically Richie’s. But, in order for that to happen, he needed to get through this weird, embarrassing situation first.
“Ok, maybe this one will work,” Patrick said, placing the DVD into the player. He had selected a movie with a Latino lead who resembled Richie in a vague, porny kind of way.
The movie began and Patrick unzipped his jeans, tugging them down to his ankles. All he had to do was pretend he was at home. Of course, if he was home, Richie would be there to help him and it would be his hand on his cock right now. Patrick groaned, squeezing his eyes shut and giving himself a firm pull.
“I’m here to do yard work,” the Richie look alike announced, with a cheesy accent. “I’ll mow your lawn, Señor.”
Patrick opened his eyes. “Ugh, this is completely racist.”
“I don’t need the lawn mowed, but I’ve got something for you to plow.”
“Oh God,” Patrick rolled his eyes, grabbing for the remote. He fast-forwarded past the part with dialogue to a scene where the two men fuck on a riding lawn mower. The scene was very hot, but he couldn’t seem to get in the right headspace.
Random thoughts kept coming into his mind, like the fact that he was jerking off in a room where literally hundreds of men had done the same thing. Did they disinfect the furniture afterward? If so, how often?
Then there was the added pressure of knowing that this wasn’t just any sperm that he was going to ejaculate, but the actual sperm that would be used to make their child. Patrick realized that he should be thinking positive, life-affirming thoughts while doing this, not watching a guy with a huge cock recite racist dialogue while nailing someone up against a lawnmower.
“Oh fuck it, this is pointless,” he finally relented, taking his hand off of himself and stopping the movie. He had barely been able to get hard, despite his best efforts. There was something, or someone, he would need to get through this.
“Pick up, pick up,” Patrick pleaded, while the phone rang on Richie’s end.
“Hey Pato, how’s it going?”
Patrick breathed a sigh of relief. “Not well.”
“What’s wrong?” Richie asked. “Are you still at the clinic?”
“Yeah, I am,” Patrick admitted. “I’ve tried and tried and it’s just not working. I don’t know if it’s this creepy room or if I just picked the wrong movie, but nothing is happening.”
Richie chuckled. “You’re overthinking it. I knew you would.”
“How could I not overthink it?” Patrick wondered. “We’re making a baby. That’s huge and I want to be able to contribute something to it, but it’s so much pressure and I don’t know if I can…”
“Calm down, take a deep breath,” Richie instructed. “Try to relax.” His voice was very soothing and as sexy as ever.
“Can you just keep talking to me?” Patrick asked. “I just need to hear you.”
“Sure,” Richie said. “You want me to tell you about the sandwich I just had for lunch? Or the haircuts I did this morning?”
Patrick laughed. “No. You know what I want.”
“Yeah,” Richie was smiling. He could feel it through the phone.
Patrick settled back in the chair, trying to get comfortable. He put a hand around his cock again, stroking lazily. “I wish you were here with me,” he said softly.
“Close your eyes,” Richie told him. “Pretend like I am.”
“Yeah,” Patrick did just that, tightening his grip and pumping the shaft. “Ah, that’s better.”
“Keep thinking about us, what it’s like when we’re together,” Richie suggested. “You’re always so sexy, Pato. I remember what it was like the first time I had you in my bed, when you really let me have you…”
“Oh, fuck yeah,” Patrick gasped. He should have known Richie would go there. It was one of the hottest memories they had, still sharp and vivid after all this time.
“I licked the sweat off your body, I can still taste it,” Richie’s voice was getting low and rough. He was jerking off too. “Then I ate out your ass and you loved it so much, you wanted it so bad.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Patrick whined. In his mind, he was right back there.
“You begged me to fuck you and I was so hard, couldn’t wait to get inside you,” Richie grunted. “Fuck, I wanted to feel you so bad.”
Patrick whimpered, his cock heavy in his hand. He jerked himself frantically, balancing the phone between his shoulder and ear while he held the cup in place. It was a little awkward, but still much better than it had been earlier.
“I put you on your back, so I could see your face when I came inside you,” Richie rasped. “I got my cock in you and oh, Pato, you made the most beautiful sound.”
“Ah, Richie, oh shit.” Patrick was so close.
“I fucked you so good, wanted to give you everything, show you how bad I wanted you.”
“Oh yeah, you did,” Patrick panted, remembering it all clearly. An image flashed through his mind – Richie’s body on top of him, inside of him, feeling him everywhere. Loving him so much and knowing that this was beginning of everything and nothing would ever, ever be the same again.
“Come for me, sweetie,” Richie whispered, bringing him back to the present. “Come like you did that night.”
“Uhhhh, shit,” Patrick released a loud groan, his thighs shaking while he spurted into the cup. His heart thudded in his chest. “Oh fuck, Richie.”
Richie was making noises on his end of the phone too. They came down together, listening to each other’s ragged breathing.
“I fucking love you,” Patrick smiled, completely wrecked and so happy.
“I love you too, Pato.”
Michelle and her husband, Chris, lived in Rockridge. The house was cozy and decorated with artwork, some of it from other artists and some of it her own. She led them through the house to the kitchen, passing a large bookshelf crammed with volumes of classic fiction and poetry “I’m a big reader,” she explained sheepishly.
“Me too,” Patrick said. “I’ve been downloading a lot of parenting books to my Kindle. It helps pass the time when I’m on BART.”
Michelle brought them into the kitchen, where Chris was busily chopping vegetables on a cutting board. “Those books can be helpful in some ways,” she said. “But then there are so many things that you have to discover on your own.”
She introduced them to her husband, a tall, geeky looking fellow in wire-rimmed glasses and an old concert t-shirt. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said. “I’d shake your hands, but…” he held them up, showing that they were sticky with vegetable juice.
“No, it’s alright,” Richie said. “You need help with that?”
“Sure, thanks.” Chris handed him a knife and a tomato. A frying pan was bubbling with something that needed his attention.
“Richie’s a good cook,” Patrick confided to Michelle. “I’m all about takeout and frozen pizzas.”
“You make macaroni and cheese,” Richie reminded him.
“I do,” Patrick said. “I also make an amazing grilled cheese sandwich – basically anything that involves melted cheese, I’m in.”
“We’re vegan, so we only have dairy-free cheese,” Michelle explained, pointing out a pile of shredded faux cheese that was waiting to be added to their dinner.
“I’ve never tried that before.” Patrick was curious enough to pick up a shred and pop it into his mouth. He chewed slowly.
“What do you think?” Michelle asked.
Patrick swallowed, choking back a laugh. He didn’t want to say what it tasted like. The flavor reminded him a little too much of a certain part of the male anatomy. “Um, maybe we could just leave it off my plate?” he suggested.
Michelle giggled, lowering her voice to a whisper. “You thought it tasted like dick, didn’t you?”
Patrick chortled, nodding helplessly. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
“It doesn’t taste that way to everyone,” Michelle insisted, unable to contain her own laughter.
The more they thought about it the funnier it became. By the time dinner was ready they were wiping tears from their eyes, chuckling breathlessly.
“It’s ok, you can admit it,” Michelle pestered Chris. “You think I’m hotter when I’m pregnant.”
Their plates were now empty and they were sitting around a table on the back porch, finishing off a bottle of Rosé.
Chris finally caved. “Yes, that is partly why I like the surrogacy thing - that and the fact that your boobs get really big.”
Michelle laughed, giving him a playful slap on the shoulder.
“How do your kids feel about it?” Richie asked. “Do they understand what you’re doing?”
“Yeah, they get it,” Michelle nodded, twirling a lock of blonde hair around her fingers. “Melinda was only three the last time we did it, so it was a little harder for her to grasp, but now they both think it’s really cool.”
“We’ve fostered rescue dogs before, so that’s how we explain it to them,” Chris said. “We told them the baby’s only living in Mom’s tummy until it’s ready to go and live with it’s own parents.”
“That’s nice,” Patrick smiled. He looked over at Richie, trying to gauge how he was feeling about them. He was frustratingly unreadable.
“I made dessert,” Michelle announced, getting up from her chair. “I’ll get it and bring it out here.”
“Let me help you,” Richie offered. He stood, following her inside the house to the kitchen.
Patrick was left alone with Chris. “So, um,” he struggled to think of something to say. They had pretty much exhausted every topic. “You like dogs? We have a Chihuahua.”
“Are we making Patrick uncomfortable?” Michelle asked, as soon as they were out of earshot. “He seems nervous.”
Richie smirked. “No, he’s fine.” He picked up a knife, helping her cut slices of cherry pie and put them on plates. “I think he’s a little stressed because he really wants this to go well. He wants you to like us and us to like you…”
“Yeah, it is nerve wracking,” Michelle admitted. “To be honest, I was worried too, at first. I wasn’t sure if I would be matched with someone that I liked as much as the last couple.”
Richie grabbed a handful of forks while she dolloped dairy-free whip cream on top of the pie slices. “We’re doing alright so far though,” he guessed.
“Oh, better than alright,” Michelle smiled. “I can tell that you and Patrick are very much in love with each other and that’s a really good sign. I want to carry babies for couples who are like that.”
Richie grinned. He was proud that they had a happy, solid marriage. They tried to stay real with each other. After the rocky start to their relationship, they had both known honesty and patience was the only way it would work. It didn’t hurt that he was also still completely crazy about him.
Michelle licked a smudge of whip cream off her finger. “I would be very grateful to carry your babies,” she said. “If that’s what you decide.”
“I know,” Richie assured her. He wanted to tell her that there was no way they would be going with anyone else. In his heart, the matter was settled. But he held back, keeping his feelings to himself.
“So you can tell Patrick to relax,” Michelle giggled. “He passed all my tests. A+ and gold stars all around.”
“He’ll be happy to hear that,” Richie grinned.
“And he’s so cute,” Michelle added. “Just adorable.”
“He is,” Richie chuckled.
Michelle gave them a small bouquet of peonies before they left the house, freshly snipped from her garden. Richie took them from her, holding them in his hand while they walked down the driveway.
“She’s so sweet and motherly,” Patrick said, as soon as they were in the car. He pulled out of the driveway and gave her a little wave back.
“Yeah,” Richie agreed. “I told her about how I sometimes get a pinch in my neck when I’ve been working a lot and she gave me the number for an acupuncturist.”
Patrick grinned. “Did you tell her I’ve been taking care of that for you? I give excellent neck rubs.”
Richie smiled. “Yeah, you do.”
Patrick paused at a stop sign and took a deep breath. He couldn’t hold it in any longer. He had to say it. “I think we should go with Michelle,” he said, the words spilling out. “I know there are other potential surrogates that we haven’t met with yet, but I don’t really care. I want it to be her – she’s nice and funny and she’s vegan and gluten free, which means that our babies would be baking in the healthiest possible oven.”
Richie chuckled. “That is important.”
“And we get along well with her,” Patrick pointed out. “That’s a big deal, because we’ll be spending a lot of time with her over the next…however many months it takes to get pregnant, plus nine more after that.”
“You don’t have to sell me on it,” Richie grinned. “I’m already on board. I think she’s a great choice.”
“You do?” Patrick was a little surprised. He had several more reasons lined up, in case he had been difficult to convince.
“Yeah,” Richie said. “I think she’s awesome. I would completely trust her to carry our babies.”
Patrick beamed. “Ok, then I guess now we know…oh fuck, I completely missed our turn.”
“Shit,” Richie gripped the edge of his seat. “You need to slow it down, Pato.”
“Please don’t get on me about my driving,” Patrick warned.
“What if we had a kid back there?” Richie asked, gesturing to the backseat. “Would you be more careful then?”
“Absolutely,” Patrick promised. “When the baby – or babies come, I’ll follow all the rules and always obey the speed limit.”
“If we don’t die first,” Richie muttered under his breath.
“I heard that,” Patrick smirked, raising his eyebrows at him.
“No, I’m not kidding,” Patrick guffawed, taking a big bite of his chicken wrap. “It just seems like a lot of the women who sign up to be egg donors are…not as attractive as you might expect.”
Dom laughed. “You’re so shallow, Paddy.”
Patrick reached across the table for another napkin. “I’m not. I’m just looking out for my children. Someday they’ll thank me for not picking someone with a weak chin or a huge nose.”
“A big nose can be good,” Dom pointed out, taking a sip of his drink. “Look at Barbra Streisand.”
“That’s true. Barbra does make it work,” Patrick said, chewing the last bite of his food.
They finished their lunch and got up from the table, walking outside. It was a drizzly, overcast Spring day. Patrick pulled his jacket tighter around himself.
“Michael and I were thinking about doing something at our place for Memorial Day,” Dom said. “I’ll grill hot dogs and burgers if you guys want to come.”
“Of course we’ll come,” Patrick smiled. “I fucking love your burgers…and your wieners.”
Dom chuckled. “You had to go there.”
“I really did,” Patrick giggled.
Dom grinned, shaking his head at him.
“So, tell me how things are going with you and Michael,” Patrick said, nudging him. “Are you adjusting to being roomies?”
“We are,” Dom said, “but it’s definitely been a challenge. I mean, it’s been a really long time since I’ve lived with anyone, especially someone that I’m sleeping with.”
“Yeah, I remember finding out all these weird little things about Richie when we moved in together,” Patrick said. “But I was mostly just happy to have someone to be with, because Texas was giving me major culture shock.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“And we had just gotten back together, so we were fucking pretty much all the time,” Patrick giggled. “That helped a lot.”
“I know,” Dom laughed. “I figured that was why I could never get you to answer your phone back then.”
Patrick smiled, thinking about what they had been like in the early days of their relationship. They still had a lot of passion for each other, it was just a little more contained, less impulsive. “Um, I kind of need to ask you something,” he said, when they were almost to the chicken window.
“Sure, what is it?”
Patrick hesitated, trying not to get too emotional. “Uh, well you know Richie is Catholic and it’s really important to him that the baby have godparents and it’s important to me too. So we were thinking that, if anything were to happen to us, you would be the person that we would most want to take care of our child.”
“You want me to be the godfather?” Dom was surprised and touched by the request.
“Yeah,” Patrick smiled, his eyes shining. “Will you do it? I understand if you need time to think about it…”
“No, of course I don’t need to think it over,” Dom said, pulling him into a big hug. “I’m so honored.”
Patrick rested his chin on his shoulder, hugging him back. “Just don’t tell Agustín, ok? I don’t want him to feel left out.”
“No, I won’t mention it,” Dom promised. “It seems like he’s got enough to deal with these days.”
“Ugh, I know,” Patrick frowned. He’d been having trouble prying anything out of him about what was wrong. All he knew was that there were problems in his relationship with Eddie.
They walked the rest of the way to the chicken restaurant with their arms around each other.
Agustín told his boss at the Art Institute that there had been a death in the family and he needed to fly to Florida for the funeral, which was at least partly true. His boss had been very sympathetic and allowed him some time off for bereavement.
The screeching wail of an early 90s punk song blasted through the apartment. Agustín lifted his paintbrush, dabbing a smear of red on the canvas. He sat back, inspecting his work and inhaling from a blunt. It looked like shit. Colorful, eye catching shit, but shit nonetheless.
It could eventually become something really great, if he only had more time to work on it. Great art required patience and focus, qualities that he unfortunately had little of at the moment.
Agustín got up from his stool, walking away from the easel and flopping on the couch. He stared up at the ceiling. It was gray and dirty looking, cracked in a few places. There was a cobweb building in the corner of the room. Maybe he could talk Eddie into clearing it later. They both hated spiders.
Agustín closed his eyes, exhaustion settling over him. He hadn’t been sleeping well, only catching a few hours here and there. Late at night was when everything he’d been trying to avoid thinking about all day finally caught up with him. There were no more distractions, just him lying there in the dark, feeling empty and alone.
He dozed off for a few minutes, waking up when he heard Eddie coming in the door. He sat up, running his fingers through his hair. It felt greasy.
“Hey,” Eddie called out to him from the kitchen. “I picked up some food on my way home. It’s Chinese.”
Agustín mumbled, “Thanks.”
“I got all your favorites – sweet and sour tofu, vegetable potstickers.” Eddie’s enthusiasm was turned up to eleven. He had been doing that a lot lately, being overly cheerful to make up for Agustín’s constant gloom.
“I’ll have some later,” Agustín promised, getting up from the couch and joining him in the kitchen. “I’m going to take a shower.”
Eddie’s eyes swept over him, taking in his unkempt appearance. “Uh, yeah, that’s a good idea.” He was obviously taking note of the fact that he hadn’t gotten dressed that day, spending the entire afternoon in the t-shirt he’d slept in and a pair of pajama pants.
“Save me an egg roll,” Agustín said, leaving him alone with the takeout containers.
He walked down the hallway to the bathroom, closing the door behind himself and stripping off his clothes.
“Oh, Paddy, this is so exciting,” Megan exclaimed, hugging him tightly.
Patrick was so appreciative of what she’d done for them. They were actually in the process of becoming parents and it wouldn’t have been possible without her help. “Thank you,” he told her, for what must have been the hundredth time. “Thank you, thank you.”
“Ugh, stop that,” Megan said. “Just remember what I told you – having a beautiful little niece or nephew is thanks enough.”
“We’re working on that,” Richie smiled, getting up from the table to greet her.
They had met for dinner at a Sushi restaurant in Oakland. Patrick had been trying to make more of an effort to stay in touch with her, even before she had started helping them financially. They had both been through a lot over the last few years and hopefully grown up a little bit in the process.
“How are you?” Megan asked Richie, sitting down at the table with them. “Paddy told me you’ve been doing something with a taco truck.”
“Yeah,” Richie said. “My cousin and I sometimes buy old trucks and flip them. Right now we’re fixing up a truck for someone so they can sell fish tacos out of the back.”
Megan’s face curdled in disgust. “That sounds so…unsanitary.”
Patrick reached out, resting his hand on Richie’s arm. He still felt protective of him whenever they were around his family, no matter how many Christmases they had spent together.
“Who cares?” Richie shrugged. “I still get paid, even if they give people food poisoning.”
“On that note,” Patrick interjected, perusing the menu. “Why don’t we order? I think a California Roll sounds good.”
“We could get the combo plate,” Richie suggested, “If you’ll promise to leave me some salmon rolls this time.”
Patrick grinned. “You know I’m not good at sharing food. It’s not like you weren’t warned.”
“Be careful Paddy, or you’re going to end up with Dad Bod,” Megan smirked.
“Dad Bod?” Richie asked. “What’s that?”
“It’s like when you have kids and you just let yourself go,” Patrick explained. “You stop going to the gym and you just pig out all the time…”
“So, basically what you’ve already been doing?” Richie teased him.
Patrick laughed. “Fuck you.”
“The veggie tempura is really good,” Megan said, picking up a piece with her chopsticks.
Richie nodded, his mouth full of spicy tuna.
“See, this is what’s so great about having a surrogate,” Patrick said, popping a bite of Sashimi into his mouth. “We can drink Sake and eat all the raw fish we want through the whole pregnancy and it won’t fuck up anything.”
“And no morning sickness,” Richie added.
“You’re just making some poor woman go through it all for you,” Megan laughed.
“Ok, yes, that’s true,” Patrick admitted. “I do feel a little guilty sometimes.”
“He sent Michelle flowers after her medical work up,” Richie grinned.
“I felt like I needed to,” Patrick said defensively. “I mean, they put a fucking huge scope into her vagina. I’ve seen pictures of it online – the scope, not her vagina, obviously.” His voice was loud enough to carry over to the next table, where they received some strange looks.
Richie moved the Sake away from him. “We won’t be able to talk to her again until after the legal stuff is cleared.”
“Hmm,” Megan nodded, picking at a Salmon roll. “I guess that kind of makes sense.”
Patrick smiled at Richie. “But at least we finally found an egg donor.”
“Oh my God, you did?” Megan said excitedly. “Who is she?”
“Her name is Christina,” Patrick said. “The clinic helped match us with her…”
“Her father is Mexican,” Richie added. They had both been pleased about that. This way both embryos would have some of his ethnicity, even the one that was biologically not his.
“And she’s really pretty,” Patrick was happy to report. He had looked at so many uninteresting profiles and homely photos that it was a relief to be done with that part.
“Aww, it’s so amazing,” Megan gushed, reaching across the table and squeezing his hand. “I can’t believe my little brother, the one I used to dress up in my doll’s clothes, is going to be a Dad.”
Patrick cringed. “She’s not kidding,” he told Richie. “Dresses, bonnets – the whole thing.”
Richie laughed. “I want to see pictures of that.”
“Actually,” Megan said slyly, reaching into her purse.
“Oh God.” Patrick put a hand over his face.
“It’s not a dress up picture,” Megan insisted. “When I was visiting Mommy in Denver she told me to give you this. She thought it might bring good vibes for you to have it around while you’re trying to have a baby.”
The photograph she placed on the table in front of them was of Patrick as a newborn. He was sleeping in his crib, his tiny face scrunched up and his fists clenched.
“Oh Pato, look at you.” Richie picked up the photo to examine it closer.
Patrick leaned against his shoulder. He remembered the picture from his mother’s photo albums, but seeing it had never made him feel this way before.
Richie pulled him close and kissed his cheek. “Our baby’s gonna look just like that,” he murmured quietly in his ear.
Agustín sat by himself, swigging beer and surveying the scene around him. Eddie was standing by the barbecue grill, catching up with Michael. They hadn’t spent much time with their friends recently. He hadn’t been able to muster enough enthusiasm for going out, even with Eddie cajoling him.
“No, really,” Patrick said, his voice carrying across the patio. “That’s what I read – eating pineapple is supposed to make the uterus sticky so embryos will implant.”
Dom laughed. “That sounds ridiculous, Paddy. It can’t be true.”
“Richie read the article too.” Patrick nudged him. “Tell him.”
“Apparently, pineapple has a lot of different uses,” Richie grinned.
Agustín tuned them out, not listening to the rest of the conversation. He didn’t want to be here. Being around his friends and seeing how happy they were only made him feel worse. He wished he could be as celebratory and joyful as they were, but he didn’t have it in him.
Doris and Malik arrived a few minutes later with Charlie in tow. The little boy made a bee line for Agustín, climbing up in his lap.
“Hey, buddy,” Agustín said, comforted by his affectionate hug.
“Will you draw pictures with me?” Charlie asked, lisping slightly. His front teeth were missing.
“Sure, we can do that.”
“Hey Patrick, how’s it going?” Doris grabbed a cold beer from the cooler. “Have you put your little baby soufflé in the oven yet?”
“No, not yet,” Patrick answered. “There’s all this legal stuff we have to go through first, with the surrogate and the egg donor. It’s taking for-fucking-ever.”
“Of course it is,” Doris said. “Lawyers aren’t known for getting things done quick and easy.”
Patrick looked over to where Agustín had been sitting all night. He was now hunched over, working on a crayon drawing with Charlie by his side.
“What’s up with him?” Doris asked, following his gaze. “Every time I’ve seen him recently, it’s like he’s got a black cloud over his head.”
“I don’t know,” Patrick frowned. He was ashamed to admit that he’d been doing a lousy job of keeping up with Agustín recently. Life had been too hectic and he just hadn’t had time. “I’m going to talk to him tonight.”
“You do that,” Doris said, patting him on the shoulder. “I’m going to get a burger.”
Patrick waited until Agustín had finished drawing pictures with Charlie before coming over to sit next to him. “He’s so cute,” he said, watching the little boy run over to get a hot dog. “I’ve been thinking about what it might be like, if Richie and I have a son. It makes me a little nervous because what if we have a kid who loves sports and wants advice about girls?” He chuckled. “I would be so lost. Although, Richie is really into baseball…”
Agustín stared at him blankly.
“What?” Patrick asked, suddenly feeling self conscious.
“Can you just stop?” Agustín asked. “Please.”
“Stop? What do you mean?” Patrick was confused. He didn’t understand what he’d been doing wrong.
Agustín groaned, massaging his temples. “I just can’t listen to you talk anymore about your baby, Paddy. I’m happy for you, I really am, but please, I’m begging you, can’t you put a fucking sock in it for one night?”
“Oh.” Patrick felt stung. Now he knew why Agustín had been acting so strangely around him, in the rare moments they had seen each other recently. “I didn’t know my happiness was so offensive to you,” he blurted out, anger bubbling up inside of him. “And while we’re on the subject of things that are offensive, how about you not returning any of my texts or calls?”
“I would call you back,” Agustín said snippily. “If you had anything to say that wasn’t about uteruses and implantations and zygotes and…”
Patrick glared at him. “Yeah, you’re right – this whole experience with trying to get pregnant has taken over everything. Having a baby with Richie is probably the most important thing that’s ever happened to me and if you can’t get on board with it and be supportive, then fuck you.”
He started to get up but Agustín grabbed his arm. “Paddy, don’t…”
Patrick looked down at him and was startled when he saw his face. He hadn’t noticed it earlier for some reason but Agustín didn’t look well. There were dark circles under his eyes and it had obviously been a while since he’d had his beard trimmed.
“What’s going on with you?” Patrick asked.
“Don’t worry about me,” Agustín said.
“Too late. I already am.” Patrick sat down next to him again. He put a hand on his shoulder. “Is it about you and Eddie? I thought you guys were working it out and trying to communicate better.”
Agustín shrugged, looking away. “Not everyone has a picture-perfect marriage like yours, Paddy.”
Patrick scoffed. “Richie and I are not perfect. We have fights too.”
“Really? Like what?” Agustín asked dubiously. “When was the last time you guys had a fight?”
“Um.” Patrick bit his lip. He wanted to think of something really big that would make Agustín feel better. It was harder than he’d expected it to be. “I guess it was when we were trying to decide if we would take the money from Megan. Richie was dead set against it at first and it was really frustrating.”
“He got over it though,” Agustín pointed out.
“Yeah, he did.” Patrick took a sip of beer. “I gave him some space and he eventually came around.”
Agustín scratched his beard, tilting his head back to look at the sky above them. “Eddie and I give each other plenty of space. We’re so far apart we’re living on different planets.”
Patrick grimaced at his despondent tone. He didn’t know what to say that would help. “Maybe if you went away for a weekend, like a road trip…”
“Who’s going on a road trip?” Eddie interrupted them, carrying a paper plate with a veggie burger on it. “I brought you some food,” he said, offering it to Agustín.
“Uh, Richie and I were talking about it,” Patrick fibbed. “It’s a holiday weekend, so we’ve got time off.”
“That sounds fun.” Eddie nudged Agustín. “What do you think? We could drive to the Russian River and go for another midnight swim.”
Agustín shrugged noncommittally and picked at his burger. “Sure, if you ever get any time off.”
Eddie scowled at him. “Sorry sweetie, I don’t get to disappear from my job for weeks just because I feel like it. My trans kids expect me to show up.”
“Of course they do. You’re Saint Eddie,” Agustín muttered sarcastically. “I’m surprised they haven’t built a statue of you for City Hall.”
“Ok, I’m going to get another beer,” Patrick said abruptly, standing up from his chair. He really needed to get away from this tension before it escalated into something he didn’t want to be in the middle of. It was so strange and sad to see his friends acting this way, like they could barely tolerate being around each other.
“Hey,” Richie said, when he caught up with him standing beside the cooler.
Patrick didn’t respond, he just put his arms around him and hugged him as hard as he could.
Richie laughed. “What’s that for?”
“I just wanted you to know that I love you,” Patrick explained.
“I know, Pato,” Richie said, brushing a thumb over his cheek. “I love you too.”
“Good,” Patrick exhaled, his arm lingering around his waist.
“I think it’s fucking awesome,” Eddie said, unlocking the door to their apartment. “We’re going to be guncles.”
Agustín winced. “Can we not call it that?”
“Whatever.” Eddie rolled his eyes at his sour attitude, walking inside and flicking on the lights. “I’m looking forward to being Uncle Eddie Bear and you can’t spoil that for me.”
Agustín kicked off his shoes and settled on the couch. He grabbed the remote and pulled up Netflix. The account was actually Patrick’s but he’d been using it for years, going back to when they were roommates.
Eddie came back from the kitchen with a bag of potato chips and sat down next to him. “I can’t wait to watch the new season of Glow. It’s going to be so good.”
“I already watched it,” Agustín said nonchalantly. “It was just ok.”
“Oh.” Eddie was miffed. “That’s not surprising, I guess.”
“I thought you were looking forward to the new season.” Agustín grabbed a potato chip.
“I’m not talking about the show,” Eddie said. “I’m talking about us.”
“What do you mean?” Agustín asked, puzzled. “Are you seriously upset with me because I watched a TV show without you?”
“No. It’s not about the fucking show,” Eddie repeated, louder this time. “I just think it says a lot about our relationship that we can’t even get on the same page about Netflix.”
“Uh, ok.” Agustín raised his eyebrows. “Next time, I’ll tell you before I binge something.”
“That’s not…that’s not my point,” Eddie sputtered.
He got up from the couch and stormed out of the room. Agustín grabbed the bag of potato chips he’d left behind and scarfed them down.
Agustín found him in the bedroom later, watching Youtube videos on his phone. Eddie didn’t look up when he entered the room.
“Can I just ask you something?” Eddie’s voice sounded strained. He was struggling to say what he needed to say. “Where do you see us in ten years…or even five years?”
Agustín had his back to him while he undressed. He finished pulling his t-shirt over his head and froze in place, completely unprepared for the question. “I…I don’t know.”
“I was talking to Richie earlier,” Eddie explained, “and he told me that he’s known for years that he would have kids with Patrick. They were talking about it before they got married.”
“Yeah, well, Paddy is very traditional.”
“But, when he said that, it made me realize that we never talk about it,” Eddie said, getting choked up. “I don’t know what you want and I don’t think you know what I want.”
Agustín sank down on the edge of the mattress, not looking at him.
“Do you ever think about us having some kids some day?” Eddie asked.
“We can’t afford it,” Agustín reminded him, dodging the question.
“If we could,” Eddie amended, “if you had a rich sister who was willing to write a big check…”
“I do have a rich sister,” Agustín quietly interrupted him. “I have two of them.”
“Ok, regardless, if we had the money, would you want to do what Patrick and Richie are doing?”
Agustín felt like he was being backed into a corner. He started to panic, the word No repeating over and over again in his head. The idea of having a child frightened him. His parents had given him a great example of how not to raise your kids. He knew he could do better than they had, but lately even getting out of bed and going to work had been a challenge. Becoming a father was something he couldn’t even consider.
After a few minutes of silence, Eddie put a hand on his shoulder. “I want us to have a future together, with or without kids.”
“Why?” Agustín asked. “Am I really that good for you?” The idea of spending the rest of his life in this suffocating little apartment, pretending not to notice that their relationship was falling apart, made him feel physically ill.
“Yeah, sometimes,” Eddie smiled painfully. “Maybe not recently, but you know…all couples go through shit together. We’ll get past this.”
Agustín didn’t believe that they would. He thought they would only be fooling themselves if they kept trying. “I love you,” he said, tears slipping down his cheeks. “But…I’m not sure if I’m in love with you anymore.”
Eddie didn’t say anything for what felt like a very long time.
Agustín couldn’t bring himself to look at him, but he knew he was crying. “It’s not anything that you did or didn’t do. I don’t even know when I started feeling this way…”
“You’re not in love with me anymore?” Eddie asked, his voice catching in his throat.
“I…I don’t even know,” Agustín answered honestly. He felt lost. He wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore, but it wasn’t this – the painful distance that they had been living with for months, constantly fighting and only occasionally having sex.
“Is that why you’ve been in such a shitty mood recently, skipping out on work and sleeping all day?” Eddie got up from the bed. “Because you’d already figured it out and you didn’t want to tell me?”
Agustín shook his head. He’d only been like that since he’d found out about his Dad. Whatever issues they’d been dealing with before only seemed to have snowballed since then.
“I tried so fucking hard,” Eddie said bitterly. “I’ve been constantly trying to figure out what I could do that would get you out of this…this depression that you’ve been in. I didn’t know I was the problem.”
“You’re not a problem for me,” Agustín said, his vision blurred with tears. He still cared for him. If he didn’t, this wouldn’t have been so painful.
Eddie glowered at him. “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve done everything I possibly could to make this work. I’ve bent over backwards to take care of you and clean up after you and make you feel better. Whatever went wrong here – it’s all on you.”
Agustín couldn’t disagree with him on that. He’d never hated himself so much in his entire life, not even when he’d ruined his relationship with Frank. It seemed to be a pattern. He’d managed to sabotage everything good that ever happened to him.
“If you don’t want to be in this anymore, I’m not going to force you,” Eddie said. He grabbed a duffle bag from the closet and tossed it in his direction. “Congratulations. I’m setting you free,” he announced angrily. “Now you can go ahead and do whatever the fuck it is you want.”
Agustín didn’t know what to say. He’d never imagined it ending like this. There was a time when he couldn’t imagine it ending at all. He remembered dancing with him in the early days, making out with him, getting engaged. He had loved him so much that it made perfect sense. Of course they would be spending the rest of their lives together.
“What?” Eddie demanded, taking in his blank reaction. “Are you staying or going? Make up your mind.”
Agustín rang the bell for Dom and Michael’s apartment, which used to be his and Patrick’s. He felt unmoored, like a boat that was drifting out to sea with no directions. Without Eddie, he wasn’t sure who he would be anymore. His life had been reshaped because of him. Frank had broken him down and Eddie had built him back up again. Who was he without either of them?
Dom came down the stairs in a bathrobe to let him in. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“It’s over, with me and Eddie,” Agustín blurted out, struggling not to break down in front of him. “Can I stay with you guys tonight?”
“Yeah, of course you can.” Dom was obviously shocked, but he didn’t press him for details. “Come inside.”
Agustín adjusted his bag over his shoulder and trudged up the stairs behind him.
Michael brewed tea while Dom grabbed some extra blankets and a pillow. Agustín could hear them whispering about him in the kitchen, speculating on what had happened and if it was really over or if he was just being a drama queen.
“I made you some ginger tea,” Michael said cheerfully, emerging from the kitchen with a teacup on a plate.
Dom followed behind him, his arms full of bedding. “And we’ve got leftovers from the party, if you’re hungry.”
“No, that’s ok.” Agustín took the tea though, stirring it with a spoon before taking a sip.
Dom and Michael exchanged a significant look.
“So…um, I think I’m just going to go off to bed.” Michael gave Agustín a pat on the shoulder. “Sleep well.”
“Yeah, you too,” Agustín mumbled over the rim of his teacup.
When he was gone, Dom sat down on the couch. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asked gently.
Agustín rubbed his eyes. He was emotionally and physically exhausted, still reeling from what had happened. “I’m not ready,” he said. “I just can’t go over it with you right now.”
“That’s alright,” Dom said, putting a hand on his back. “I’m here when you need me.”
“Thanks.” Agustín grabbed a blanket and pulled it over his lap. He finished his tea and put the cup aside. “Can you just sit with me for a while?” he asked. “I mean, I know it’s late and you’re probably tired…”
“No, I can do that,” Dom said. He shifted closer to him and put an arm around his shoulders.
Agustín snuggled up against him gratefully, spreading the blanket over both of them. His eyes welled up with tears and he blinked them away.
Dom eventually went to bed and Agustín stretched out on the couch, trying to get comfortable. After lying in the dark for what felt like hours, he finally sat up and turned on a lamp. In the dim light, he picked up his phone and scrolled through Instagram.
Eddie hadn’t updated, which wasn’t surprising. He thought about messaging him, letting him know how sorry he was for the way things had ended. It wasn’t the most tactful way to communicate with a newly estranged spouse, but Agustín wasn’t thinking rationally.
I’m sorry. Maybe we should get together and talk…
Agustín typed out the words and then hit the back button, erasing all of it. If they were going to communicate again, that wasn’t the way to do it.
Instead, he swiped quickly through his feed, stopping when he saw a post from Lane, a guy he worked with at the Art Institute.
Underneath a picture of clear, blue sky, he had written “Can’t wait to get back to Oregon for a peaceful, relaxing weekend.” #memorialday #zen #retreat #meditation
Lane was a little annoying sometimes, with his constant chatter about inner peace and letting the spirit guide you. Still, the idea of getting the fuck out of San Francisco appealed to Agustín on a deep level. He typed out a message to him.
Have you left SF yet? Can I come with you?
“Pato, I think that’s your phone.” Richie rolled over, burying his face in his pillow.
“Can you get it?” Patrick grumbled, sitting up and pulling the covers back. “I have to pee.”
Richie stretched out an arm to grab the phone off the nightstand. It was Dom calling. “Hey,” he said, propping himself up on an elbow. “Yeah, he’s just in the bathroom right now.”
Patrick cracked open the door so he could listen in.
“No, we haven’t seen him since the party last night,” Richie said. “Why? What’s going on?”
Patrick flushed the toilet and then went over to the sink to quickly wash his hands. He knew instinctively that whatever they were talking about had to do with Agustín.
“Oh shit. Did he say where he was going?” Richie asked.
Patrick hurried back to the bedroom, climbing into bed beside him.
Richie looked up at him, a concerned expression on his face. “Agustín took off,” he explained. “He slept at Dom and Michael’s last night and he was gone when they woke up this morning.”
“Oh my God,” Patrick grabbed the phone from him and pressed speaker. “Dom? What the fuck happened?”
“He was really upset, Paddy. He said it was over with him and Eddie, but he didn’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s it?” Patrick was frustrated. “Maybe he called Eddie and they made up. Have you checked with him?”
“Yeah, he said he hasn’t heard from him,” Dom sighed. “But he did have some very creative suggestions for what Agustín should be doing right now.”
Chiquita came into the room and hopped up on the bed. Patrick held her in his lap and petted her head.
“He might’ve just needed some time alone,” Richie suggested. “He’ll probably call by the end of the day.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Patrick nodded, trying to ignore his growing concerns. “We’re worrying too much over nothing. He could be getting high and watching The Wizard of Oz at the Castro while we’re all freaking out and wondering where the fuck he is.”
“He can’t disappear for too long,” Dom pointed out. “He doesn’t have a lot of cash.”
“And he has to be back at work on Monday,” Richie added.
Patrick was still on edge, despite those reassurances. The idea of Agustín in pain and left to his own devices was slightly terrifying. There were a million different ways he could get himself into trouble.
“We’ll call you as soon as we find out anything,” Richie said.
“Yeah, it could be any minute now,” Patrick added hopefully. Chiquita yipped in his lap and he shushed her.
“In the mean time, I think I’m going to drive around to his usual haunts and ask if anyone’s seen him,” Dom said wearily. “I don’t know why he couldn’t have at least left a fucking note.”
“No, that would have been too easy,” Patrick chuckled darkly. He knew Agustín wasn’t thinking clearly, but it was so typical of him to do something like this. Of course he hadn’t given a second thought to how worried everyone would be.
“I’ll catch up with you later,” Dom promised.
“Ok, bye,” Richie said. “Good luck.”
After the call ended, Patrick leaned against his shoulder, quietly panicking.
“It’s gonna be alright, Pato,” Richie reassured him, rubbing his back. “He just needs some time to cool off and then he’ll want to be with his friends again.”
“I hope so,” Patrick said. “I really fucking hope so.”
It wasn’t until they’d reached Mt. Shasta that Agustín started to seriously consider contacting his friends. He knew what a worrywart Patrick could be and he didn’t want to risk having him file a missing persons report or something like that.
Lane pulled his van over at a rest stop and went inside to use the men’s room.
Agustín hopped out, carrying his camera, and snapped a few photos of the majestic mountain range. The beautiful scenery was a balm for the dark emotional state that he was in. He had fucked up everything so profoundly. Even if he turned around and went back home now, he wouldn’t be able to return to the life he had been living. He was going to have to make a new one.
On my way to Oregon for some R&R. Tell Paddy he can call off the search party. Don’t bother calling or texting – no cell phone service where we’re going. I’ll get back w/ you when I’m ready.
Tell Eddie I’m sorry.
Michelle thumbed through a copy of People magazine while they sat in the waiting room. She had already changed into a surgical gown and they were waiting for the nurse to bring her a Valium.
Patrick thought he might ask for one himself. After finally receiving legal clearance, they had waited for a few weeks while Michelle received all the shots, suppositories, and pills that she needed to be ready for transfer. The fact that she was willing to go through all of this for them was completely incredible.
“Did you guys do anything for July fourth?” Michelle asked idly, looking at a picture of Katy Perry in a red, white, and blue bikini.
“The fourth was our anniversary, actually,” Richie told her. He glanced over at Patrick. “We didn’t do a whole lot this year, just hung out with our friends and watched some fireworks.”
“Yeah, one of our friends is…um…away right now,” Patrick said, “and we all really miss him, so we didn’t want to have a big thing.”
The nurse came into the room and handed Michelle a blue pill and a paper cup filled with water. Once the Valium kicked in, they would be taking her upstairs for an acupuncture session before transferring the embryos.
Patrick reached over to hold Richie’s hand. He had overheard him praying that morning, for the first time since he had been sick with cancer. Only now, Patrick understood Spanish well enough to grasp most of what he was saying. He had knelt down on the floor beside him and awkwardly tried to do the sign of the cross when he was finished.
“It’s almost time,” Richie smiled, nudging his shoulder.
“Two babies, two babies,” Michelle quietly repeated to herself like a mantra. She slumped in her chair, the medication making her groggy and relaxed.
The embryos were brought into the room on an incubator and Richie asked permission to take a few pictures. “Look at that, Pato,” he said, awestruck, while he held up his phone.
“Science is fucking amazing,” Patrick exhaled. “Oops, sorry. I feel like I shouldn’t be swearing in here.”
Richie grinned. “Nah, I think it’s ok. We’ve got plenty of time to clean up our language before they get here.”
If they get here, Patrick thought, his body thrumming with tension. His hands felt clammy so he rubbed them on his jeans. This procedure could either change the rest of their lives or it could lead them nowhere. He stared at the embryos they had created with Christina’s egg and their sperm, silently praying that they would take.
The Doctor came back into the room and began getting to work. Patrick and Richie stepped aside, sitting down next to Michelle. Within minutes the first embryo was being lifted up by a long, thin needle and placed inside of her. Patrick’s eyes widened. He had watched videos and read blog posts about IVF transfers, but actually seeing it in real life was something else.
Richie rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. “That’s our kid in there,” he said quietly, his voice full of amazement. “I can’t believe it.”
The doctor placed the second embryo the same way he had done the first.
“You’re going to have two healthy babies,” Michelle affirmed. She had suggested that they only speak positively in the transfer room, just in case the embryos could pick up on any negativity. It seemed a little silly, but she’d had three successful pregnancies before, so maybe she was on to something.
Patrick’s eyes were wet with tears. He looked at Richie and smiled.
“It’s going to work,” Richie murmured, hugging his arm. “It has to.”
Patrick nodded in agreement.
The doctor pointed out two small air bubbles on the ultrasound machine, proving that the embryos had been moved, and the procedure was over.
“I know I’ve been calling you, like, ten times a day, but I’m just really anxious to find out if you’ve heard anything.” Patrick grabbed a paper towel and dried his hands. He was in the men’s room at work. Loud music blared from the other room, where a celebration was underway for the release of their latest video game.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Dom said wearily. “Agustín’s gone off the grid and we’re just supposed to get used to it, I guess.”
“Well, I’m not,” Patrick declared stubbornly. “If he thinks we’re going to forget about him, then he can just fucking forget it. It’s not happening.”
“What am I hearing? Is that Taylor Swift?”
“Yeah, we’re having a party for that new game I told you about,” Patrick said, tossing his balled up paper towel in the trash. “You know, the one with the zombie mutants who suck your brains out of your head.”
“Ooh, that sounds sexy,” Dom joked.
“I know, right?” Patrick laughed. “It’s been good to have something else to focus on though, instead of worrying about Agustín or wondering if we’re going to be pregnant or not.”
“How much longer do you have to wait?” Dom asked.
“Two more days,” Patrick told him. “Michelle gets the blood test on Thursday morning and then we’ll find out that afternoon.”
“You must be freaking out,” Dom surmised.
“I am freaking the fuck out,” Patrick chuckled. “I’m so nervous, Dom. You have no idea. I don’t know what we’re going to do if the test comes back negative. We’ve spent so much money on this and if it doesn’t work…”
“It’s going to work,” Dom insisted. “You’ve gotta keep thinking about the best case scenario. It’s like when I was trying to get my restaurant started. It seemed hopeless sometimes, but I didn’t give up.”
“Uh, you gave up plenty of times,” Patrick pointed out, “and having a baby isn’t the same as cooking peri peri chicken.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Dom agreed. “I won’t have to send peri peri chicken to college in eighteen years.”
“Ha ha. You’re so hilarious,” Patrick grinned. He stepped aside so someone could get to the sink. “I should probably get back to the party, but I’ll call you again later.”
“I know you will,” Dom said.
Patrick smiled. “I’m gonna need some major distracting over the next few days.”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Dom said. “Come over after work. We’ll get something to eat and start planning your epic baby shower.”
Patrick chuckled. “It will be epic.”
“It’s too bad Agustín won’t be here for it,” Dom lamented.
“Maybe he will be,” Patrick said hopefully. “He might be home any day now.”
“I got to do a mohawk today,” Richie said. “I haven’t had one of those in a while.”
“Oh, that’s good.” Patrick was only half-listening. He held Chiquita’s leash while they walked her to the dog park.
“Pato…” Richie chided him, nudging his shoulder.
“I know. I’m sorry,” Patrick grinned. “I was just thinking about what Michelle said earlier, about having cramps in her stomach. She made it sound like that’s normal, but doesn’t it seem like a bad sign?”
Richie shook his head. “She’s been through this before – if she says it’s normal, then it must be.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Patrick unclipped Chiquita’s leash and let her run off to play in the fenced in park. “She also said she’s been having pain in her…” he held his hands up, gesturing over his pecs.
“Her breasts?” Richie asked, amused.
“Yep, those,” Patrick giggled. “I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad one, but I do feel a little weird that I’ve spent so much time thinking about her tits.”
“So let’s talk about something else then,” Richie suggested, sitting down on a bench. “We came here to relax and get our minds off of everything.”
“Right. No more pregnancy talk,” Patrick agreed. He took a sip of the bottled water that he’d brought and passed it to Richie. “Tell me more about the mohawk.”
They watched the dogs running around and playing together. Chiquita scampered over to a Yorkie and sniffed it’s rear.
“It turned out really good,” Richie said. “She had this bright red hair, so it looked pretty hot once I’d put the product on.”
“It was a girl?” Patrick was a little surprised.
“Yeah. A cool rocker chick.” Richie put an arm around Patrick’s shoulders. “She gave me a flyer for a show she’s got coming up. I’m trying to remember the name of her band – it was something about death and pussies.”
Patrick laughed. “Well, now I’m intrigued. We definitely have to go.”
Richie smiled at him. “I can’t picture you at a punk rock show. A sweet guy like you would get shoved around too much.”
“I’m not always sweet,” Patrick grinned slyly, leaning in to kiss him. “I can be tough when I want to be.”
“Sure, Pato,” Richie chuckled, kissing him back and ruffling his hair.
They turned their attention back to the dogs. Chiquita was frolicking like mad, chasing a ball that someone had tossed over.
“You know what I’m really looking forward to?” Richie asked.
“Hmm. What?” Patrick looked at him.
“Giving our kids their first haircuts,” Richie smiled. “I kept thinking about it when I was at work today.”
“Aw, Richie.” Patrick’s eyes teared up. “That’s so fucking sweet. I can totally picture that.”
“I’ve been trying not to think too far ahead, in case this doesn’t go the way we want,” Richie said. “But it’s like there’s this other part of me that’s ready to buy a crib and start picking out baby clothes.”
“Oh God. Me too.” Patrick was happy to know that he wasn’t the only one whose mind had been in two different places recently.
“By this time tomorrow, we’ll know,” Richie said, “one way or another.”
“Yeah, we will.” Patrick grabbed his hand and held it. He hoped with everything in him that they would be getting the news they had been wanting.
“How are you still awake?” Richie had come home from work at around 2 a.m. and found Patrick sitting up in bed, thumbing through a book.
“I can’t sleep,” Patrick explained, closing the book and putting it on the nightstand.
Richie stripped down to his briefs, leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor. He pulled back the sheet and climbed into bed with him. “You’re gonna have to try,” he said, reaching over and turning off the lamp, “because I’m beat.”
“I know you are.” Patrick rubbed his shoulders. “You work too hard.”
“Yeah, and maybe nine months from now, we’ll get to be even more exhausted,” Richie smiled.
“I hope so,” Patrick grinned. He flopped on his back, looking up at the ceiling. “Fuck, I can’t stop thinking about it.”
Richie nudged his foot underneath the sheet. “We might be parents already and not even know it.”
“Oh, wow, that’s completely true.” Patrick’s eyes widened. “There could be two tiny little embryos growing inside of Michelle right now and we’re just sitting here, reading books and going to work like nothing’s even happening.”
“Mmhm,” Richie mumbled into his pillow. “They’re only about the size of a poppy seed.”
“Really? Did you look that up?” Patrick asked, amused. They were both becoming Google addicts.
“Yeah, I found this really cool website,” Richie said. “It shows pictures of all the different stages.”
“You’ll have to show it to me,” Patrick smiled softly.
“Let’s just get some sleep first, ok?” Richie said, throwing an arm around his waist and pulling him closer. He kissed his forehead, whispering “Go to sleep, Dad.”
Patrick giggled, brushing a thumb over his cheek. “Sweet dreams, Dad.”
“Whatever happens, even if it’s negative, I’m still glad we tried,” Richie declared, grabbing a handful of fries.
They had both taken the day off from work, wanting to be together when they finally got the news. Michelle had promised to call them as soon as she received the test results.
“Yeah, me too,” Patrick said, biting into his burger.
Richie had guessed, correctly, that food might bring Patrick some comfort, so he had taken him out for an early dinner. “I’ve been looking into some other options,” he said, “like financial assistance programs, in case this doesn’t work out.”
Patrick frowned. “I’m not ready to think about that yet.”
“I know,” Richie smiled at him sympathetically. “But it might help if we have some other plan in mind, in case the news is bad.”
Patrick looked down at his phone, which he’d left on the tabletop next to his plate. If he could will it to ring, he would. “Why the fuck hasn’t she called us yet?” he asked, exasperated. “It’s four thirty. She should definitely know by now.”
Richie shrugged. “You know how doctor’s offices are. She’s probably waiting by the phone just like us.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Patrick grumbled. He picked up his phone and checked his texts and e-mails, just in case something had been sent there.
Richie glanced across the room. A man and woman were scarfing down burgers while their infant daughter kicked and screeched in her high chair.
“Shh, Katie,” the woman said. “Calm down.”
Richie quickly looked away, a forlorn expression on his face.
They had left the restaurant and were walking back to their car when Patrick’s phone finally buzzed. “Oh my God. This is it!” he practically shrieked, scrambling to answer the call. His heart was pounding in his chest and he suddenly felt light headed.
“Do you want me to answer it?” Richie asked, noticing that he was barely holding it together.
“Yes. Please,” Patrick breathed.
Richie took the phone from him, his hands trembling. “I’ll put it on speaker so we can both hear.”
“Ok, good.” Patrick leaned against the bumper of their car. He put his head in his hands, whispering, “Please God, please God…”
“Hey, Michelle,” Richie answered. “What did you find…”
“Pregnant!” Michelle blurted out, unable to hold it in long enough to let him finish.
“No shit? Seriously?” Richie was smiling from ear to ear. He jumped up and down, pumping his fist and bellowing “Hell yeah!”
“Oh my God.” Patrick’s jaw dropped, his eyes filling up with tears. He was so stunned that he felt like he was leaving his body. A big part of him had never thought this would actually work, but somehow it had and now they were just two crazy people having meltdowns in the parking lot of In & Out Burger.
“I’m so happy for you guys,” Michelle said. “I wanted so much to have good news for you.” She was crying too. “I actually took a pregnancy test a few days ago and there was a faint line, but I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure.”
“What were the numbers?” Richie asked. It would take another two weeks before they had definite proof that both embryos had implanted, but the HCG level was a good indicator.
“I’m at three hundred,” Michelle reported, “so that’s a really good sign. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”
“Oh wow, that’s awesome,” Richie said, sounding dazed.
Patrick was sobbing hysterically while he listened to their conversation. He wanted to thank Michelle for everything she had gone through for them – and everything she was about to go through – but he was unable to form the words.
Richie rubbed his back gently. “Listen, Michelle, Patrick’s kinda freaking out right now so I need to go. We’ll catch up with you later.”
Michelle laughed. “Aw, I’ve been there. Be well, Patrick. I’ll be thinking good twin vibes for both of you.”
“Thank you,” Patrick choked out.
Richie ended the call and immediately put his arms around him. “I know you’re tripping right now, but it’ll be alright. I’ve got faith in us. We can totally handle this, Pato.”
Patrick pulled back and rubbed at his eyes. He smiled at him weakly. “We’re gonna be Dads,” he said, still in shock. “Holy fucking shit, we’re having a baby.”
Richie laughed and then leaned in to kiss him, wiping the tears off his cheeks with his thumbs. “I’m so happy right now,” he said. “This is the best feeling. I’m never gonna forget it.”
“Oh God, I know,” Patrick sighed. “I just can’t believe that it’s actually happening. I mean, what are we supposed to do now? Do we go home and just act like everything’s normal or should we go the store and buy diapers?”
Richie grinned. “I don’t know. It does feel kinda weird. Maybe we should start by getting out of this parking lot. Then we can go somewhere and figure it out.”
“Yeah, let’s do that.” Patrick walked around to the passenger side of the car. “I’m definitely letting you drive. I don’t trust myself behind the wheel right now.”
“That’s good because I wouldn’t trust you either,” Richie smirked.
Patrick stuck out the tip of his tongue at him. “I get to pick the music then.”
“We could be having twin girls, like in The Parent Trap,” Patrick said excitedly, taking a sip from his wine glass. “I loved that movie so much when I was kid. Megan and I used to watch it over and over again on VHS.”
“Except they wouldn’t be identical though,” Richie reminded him, “and we might have boys or a boy and a girl.” He started to pour himself another glass, then opted to just drink straight from the bottle.
Patrick dangled his feet in the water, watching the ripples spread out. They were sitting by their apartment complex’s pool, enjoying the last moments of sunlight and getting a little tipsy. “Oh c’mon,” he said. “You know they’ll definitely be girls.”
“Because of what my Señora said a long time ago?” Richie frowned, shrugging his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess. She’s been right about everything else. I hope she’s right about this.”
“We should probably hold off on buying baby stuff until after the ultrasound though,” Patrick suggested. “It just seems like it might be bad luck if we start getting ready too early.”
“Yeah.” Richie put down the wine bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “And I’ve been thinking that maybe we should wait a while before we start telling everyone. I don’t want our families to get all excited and then…you know.”
“Ugh,” Patrick shuddered. That was a very good point. The pregnancy was still so early. It would be devastating if it didn’t go to term. “I have to tell Dom though. He knows we’ve been waiting for results.”
Richie grinned. “And then he’ll tell Doris and she’ll tell Malik and they’ll tell everyone they know…”
“Ok, yes,” Patrick laughed. “The entire population of San Francisco will know in a matter of hours, but there’s just no way I can keep it in. I’m tempted to start knocking on our neighbor’s doors right now and telling them.”
Richie got up and pulled his t-shirt over his head. He had put on swim trunks before they came downstairs to the pool. “Mrs. Castigliano will be so happy,” he chuckled, slipping into the water.
Patrick giggled, imitating her shrill voice, “The homosexuals in 7B are having baybeees.”
“What’s the world coming to?” Richie joked, ducking his head under water and slicking back his hair.
Patrick furrowed his brow, his mind wandering while he drained the last of the wine from his glass. They were lucky to be living in an open-minded, liberal community. Aside from one or two judgmental neighbors, they rarely encountered any raised eyebrows or dirty looks.
“What are you thinking about?” Richie asked, swimming over to him.
“Um, I was just hoping that our kids grow up happy,” Patrick said. “I don’t want them to ever feel weird or different because it’s us raising them and not, you know, a Mom and a Dad.”
“Nah, it won’t be like that,” Richie assured him. “There are plenty of gay couples around here. They’ll have friends at school with two Moms and two Dads. It’ll be completely normal to them.”
“Yeah,” Patrick muttered. There was so much to think about and worry over – and none of it was hypothetical anymore. This was actually happening. They were going to be raising a child together, most likely two of them. The next eighteen years of their lives were suddenly mapped out in front of them.
“C’mon, get in the water with me,” Richie said, grabbing his hand. “It might help you chill out a little bit.”
Patrick grinned, pulling his shirt over his head. “I think it’s going to take more than wine and a swim to help me calm down.” He hopped down in the water, making a splash.
“Yeah, today’s been crazy,” Richie said.
Patrick slung his arms around his neck. “You can say that again,” he sighed. “I don’t know how you’re handling this so well. I feel like I’ve had about ten different anxiety attacks since we got the news.”
“I’ve got worries too,” Richie admitted.
“Hmm, like what?” Patrick asked, leaning in to nibble his ear. He really needed to know that he wasn’t the only one feeling like his life had been turned upside down.
“Like, I know we’re gonna have to move,” Richie pointed out. “And we’ll have to find a two bedroom in our price range.”
“That shouldn’t be too hard,” Patrick said, moving his lips to suck on his jawline.
“It’ll have to be in a good neighborhood, near a good school,” Richie said, running his fingers through his wet hair.
“We’ll start looking right away,” Patrick promised. “I’ve got Zillow bookmarked already.”
Richie grinned, kissing his lips and wrapping his arms around him under the water. “We’re really doing it, Pato. You and me, we’re gonna be parents.”
Patrick kissed him back harder, his eyes misting up. “I know. I love you so much, Richie.”
They made out in the dim evening light, water lapping at their shoulders, until Richie took his hand and led him back upstairs to their apartment.
“Oh, fuck. I want you,” Richie moaned, licking at his mouth. He was on his back with his legs up, stretched open and begging for him. “Fuck me, Pato.”
Patrick panted, sweat breaking out on his temple. They had come back from the pool and fallen into bed, peeling off each other’s wet swim trunks and leaving them in a heap on the floor. “Uhh, you feel so good,” he grunted, sliding his cock into Richie. He loved the feeling of being inside him, he always had.
“Jesus…” Richie groaned, throwing his head back.
Patrick grinned, kissing him breathlessly while he fucked him. Their bodies moved together, glistening with sweat and moisture from the pool. “Mmm, you’re so hot,” he murmured. “Oh God, Richie.”
A sudden yelping noise interrupted their passion. They both turned to see an impatient Chihuahua staring up at them from the floor beside the bed.
“Shit,” Richie grumbled. “We forgot to close the bedroom door.” It had happened before, more than once. Chiquita had seen a lot in her life. Thank God she couldn’t talk.
Patrick groaned, burying his face in the crook of his neck. “Please make her go away.” He really wanted to get back to what they had been doing, but he wasn’t interested in performing in front of an audience.
Richie grabbed a pillow, tossing it in the general direction of the dog. It didn’t hit her, but it was enough to get her to scamper out of the room. “Piérdete, Chiquita. Your Dads are trying to have sex in here.”
Patrick giggled. “This is totally what it’s going to be like after we have kids, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, probably,” Richie smiled. He gave him a gentle kiss on the lips, a serious look in his eyes. “Are you ready for it?”
“Oh, I’m ready,” Patrick answered. He pulled back, lifting up Richie’s legs and thrusting into him again. The conversation was over for now.
Patrick pulled back the sheet and climbed out of bed, careful not to wake up Richie. He slipped on a pair of briefs and a t-shirt, then tiptoed out of the room.
In the kitchen, he found a pint of Fudge Ripple in the freezer and grabbed a spoon, carrying it to the couch. Chiquita sat on the cushion beside him, eyeing him judgmentally while he dug in. “Don’t look at me like that,” Patrick warned her. “I really need this right now.”
He had left his phone on the coffee table and when he picked it up he found a few recent texts from Dom, wondering what the results of the pregnancy test had been. Patrick called his number.
“Hey, Paddy,” Dom said, picking up on the second ring. “What’s going on?”
Patrick smiled, his eyes shining. He scooped up a big spoonful of ice cream into his mouth. “Well, we finally got the call.”
“Yeah, and?” Dom prompted him.
“And we’re pregnant,” Patrick blurted out, chuckling at how strange and awesome it sounded to say that loud. “There’s a baby on the way – definitely at least one, but maybe two. We don’t know for sure yet.”
“Oh my God. Are you fucking kidding me?” Dom whooped joyfully. “That’s incredible.”
“I know, right?” Patrick laughed. “I still can’t believe it. After everything we went through over the last few months – and what Michelle went through – I’m so relieved that it actually paid off and we didn’t just get our hopes up and blow through my sister’s money for nothing.”
“And now you get to be parents,” Dom said.
“Yeah,” Patrick smiled. “Richie and I are going to be parents.”
“That’s amazing. I’m so fucking happy for you, Paddy,” Dom said, sincerely. “You guys really deserve this and I know you’re going to make the best Dads.”
Patrick swallowed back a lump in his throat and wiped tears from his eyes. “I have to confess something,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I haven’t really talked about this with Richie yet and I know I’m going to have to at some point, but Dom, listen - I am completely terrified. Like, I cannot even begin to process all of the ways that I could potentially fuck this up.”
Dom laughed. “Of course you’re freaking out. Everyone feels that way when they find out they’re about to have a kid.”
“I can’t guide someone else through life,” Patrick fretted. “I’ve barely figured out how to manage my own life –and even that’s kind of touch and go sometimes. What if my kid ends up hating me?”
“We all end up hating our parents eventually,” Dom pointed out. “It’s the circle of life – you raise them, they become teenagers and decide you’re the worst person ever, then they grow up, get some therapy, and eventually forgive you.”
“That’s so reassuring,” Patrick said dryly.
“I’m just telling it like it is,” Dom said.
“At least I’ve got Richie,” Patrick sighed, scraping up the melty bits at the bottom of his ice cream container. “He’ll know what to do, even if I’m a total wreck.”
“That’s true,” Dom agreed. “You’re a good team. You’ll figure it together.”
“You know what’s crazy?” Patrick asked. “In two weeks we’ll be able to see their heartbeats on the ultrasound. I had no idea it would be that soon.”
“Oh wow. That will be interesting,” Dom said. “So you’ll actually be able to see the baby?”
“Yeah, but it won’t look like a baby yet, just a blurry dot.” Patrick was really looking forward to it. If he could stay focused on all of the exciting milestones ahead of them instead of worrying himself into a frenzy he’d be a lot better off.
“Hey, Pato. Who’re you talking to?” Richie stood at the entryway to the living room, rubbing sleep from his bleary eyes. His hair was matted and he was wearing only a pair of briefs.
“It’s just Dom,” Patrick said, holding the phone away from his mouth. “Go back to bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Richie did as he was told, shuffling back to the bedroom. Chiquita jumped off the couch and followed behind him.
“I heard all of that,” Dom said. “Go get some sleep.”
“Yeah,” Patrick smiled. “I’ll try.”
“And don’t stress out anymore about any of this,” Dom warned. “You’re going to be a lot better at this Dad thing than you think you’re going to be.”
“Oh God, I hope so.” Patrick felt unsure about a lot of things at the moment. The only thing he knew for sure was that he loved Richie and he wanted to have this family with him. The rest of it would have to be sorted out later.
“Good night, Paddy,” Dom said.
“Good night.” Patrick ended the call, stifling a sleepy yawn. There was something else he needed to do before going to bed. He typed out a few texts.
Guess what? We’re pregnant! (Possibly w/ twins. We’ll know in 2 wks).
No, I’m not kidding.
Please come home soon or at least call. I fucking miss you and I want my kid(s) to know their Uncle Agustín. Don’t stay gone forever.
Patrick sent the messages, feeling a sad ache in his chest. Agustín had been gone for two months without contacting anyone. He hoped he would return some day soon so he could kill him for making them all worry like this. He would kill him and then hug him, of course.
Back in bed, Patrick tucked himself around Richie’s warm body. He put a hand over his heart and listened to the sound of his light snoring, slowly drifting off himself. In his dreams, there were two tiny baby girls, so delicate and fragile that he could feel their hearts thumping in their chests. They inhaled and exhaled while he held them, his fear falling away with each breath.
“How are you feeling?” Patrick asked. “Have you been having a lot of morning sickness?”
“No, not really,” Michelle answered. She was sitting on the edge of exam table while they waited for the ultrasound technician to arrive. “I’m just tired – and I have to pee all the time.”
“And that’s pretty normal for this stage?” Richie guessed.
“Yeah,” Michelle grinned. “But wait until we get to the part where I’m eating everything in sight.”
Patrick chuckled. “Well, I love to eat, so when the cravings kick in you should definitely call me. We can binge together.”
“Do you like Donut Farm?” Michelle asked.
“Oh, I’m on board for anything having to do with donuts,” Patrick was quick to inform her. “Jelly, cream filled, powdered…”
“Now you’re making me hungry,” Richie said.
Luckily, the ultrasound technician entered the room before the three of them could become any more ravenous. She was a pretty Indian woman with a warm smile and a messy ponytail hanging down her back.
“How are we feeling today?” she asked, checking her chart and pulling up a stool.
Michelle filled her in on her recent symptoms while Patrick’s gaze drifted around the room. He had never been in an OB-GYN’s office before, obviously, and he felt more than a little out of place. His eyes fell on a plastic replica of the female reproductive system, perched on the countertop next to him.
Richie nudged him, gesturing to a bulletin board on the wall. It was covered with photos of newborn babies, presumably the children of patients. He smiled at Patrick, not needing to explain what he was thinking. Our kids are going to be up there too.
The ultrasound tech, whose nametag read ‘Mindy,’ prepared the instruments and equipment she would be using. “The first thing we’re going to do,” she said, “is look for the gestational sacs. That will tell us how many babies are in there.”
Michelle put her feet into the stirrups and Patrick shifted in his seat, not wanting to catch a glimpse of anything he wasn’t supposed to be seeing.
“And then we’ll count the heart rate and do measurements,” Mindy continued. “At this stage, we’re hoping for a heart rate of over one hundred.”
Patrick nodded distractedly, his eyes widening as the she took out a large wand. She rolled a condom over it and squirted out an exorbitant amount of lube. He desperately hoped she wasn’t planning to put it where he thought she was going to put it, but then…
“Oh, God,” he blurted out, clapping a hand over his mouth. “I’m so sorry, Michelle. Does that hurt?”
“It doesn’t feel great,” she grimaced. “But no, it’s not painful.”
“It’s ok,” Richie whispered, squeezing his hand. “This is what they have to do.”
“I know,” Patrick said, averting his eyes to somewhere else.
“Hey, look,” Richie lifted his chin back up, pointing at the monitor.
The image was gray and grainy. It was hard to make out what exactly they were looking at.
“Here are the two gestational sacs,” Mindy announced joyfully, gesturing to two black circles visible on the screen, separated by a thick gray line. “Congratulations, you are definitely having twins!”
“Yay!” Michelle clapped her hands together. “I knew it!”
“Holy shit,” Richie said, exhaling an anxious breath. He put a hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “It’s really happening. They’re both in there.”
“Oh. Wow.” Patrick's jaw dropped. He’d had two weeks since the pregnancy test to absorb the news and get used to the idea of becoming a father. Now he felt astonished all over again.
“Is that one of the babies right there?” Richie asked, gesturing at the screen.
“Yep, that’s one of them.” Mindy pointed out a tiny dot inside one of the sacs. She then moved her finger over to a similar shape on the other side. “And there’s the other.”
“They’re right where they’re supposed to be,” Richie said.
Patrick’s eyes were glued to the screen. He couldn’t believe he was seeing their kids for the first time. It didn’t matter that they were each only slightly larger than a sesame seed. He still felt like the air had been knocked out of him.
“Look, you can see their hearts beating,” Michelle said.
Patrick immediately saw what she was referring to. There were two small flickers on the monitor. “Oh my God, Richie, that’s their hearts,” he said, grabbing his arm.
Richie nodded, struggling to hold back tears. He wasn’t normally one to weep openly but he couldn’t help being moved. They were finally seeing the proof of what they’d created and it couldn’t have been more beautiful or perfect.
Patrick, on the other hand, had no hesitations about ugly crying in front of strangers. He picked up a Kleenex box and passed a tissue to Richie, keeping one for himself. He blew his nose loudly, still mesmerized by the picture on the monitor.
“I think that one over there looks like you,” Richie joked, dabbing his eyes with the tissue.
“Oh, completely,” Patrick chuckled. “There’s such a strong resemblance.”
“This one is measuring at six weeks, five days,” Mindy informed them, continuing to move the wand, “and the other is at six weeks, four days.”
“They should be here sometime in April, right?” Michelle asked.
“Yes,” Mindy confirmed. “They’re definitely on schedule to be Spring babies.”
Richie put an arm around Patrick’s shoulders and hugged him. “I can’t wait to meet them,” he said.
Patrick smiled at him. “Me too.” April seemed very far away, but they were going to need every minute of that time to get ready. There were so many decisions to make and baby stuff to buy. “Oh my God, we’re going to have to get two of everything.”
Richie laughed. “You’re just realizing that now?”
Patrick smirked and shook his head at him.
“Hey, come and look at this.” Patrick was sitting on the couch with his feet kicked up, peering at his laptop screen.
“If it’s another C-section video, I don’t want to see it,” Richie called back from the kitchen. “I’m all for being prepared, but not that prepared.”
“No, that’s not what this is,” Patrick promised. “Just c’mere, let me show you.”
“Ok,” Richie said reluctantly, bringing two beers into the living room and sitting down on the couch next to him. “But you have to warn me if there’s gonna be any blood.”
“No, it’s completely non-medical,” Patrick reassured him, grabbing one of the beers. His Youtube spiral into birth videos had been disturbing for both of them. “I’ve just been looking up rentals in our price range.”
“Oh yeah? Have you found anything good?” Richie took a sip of beer, inching closer to him on the couch.
“Um, sort of,” Patrick said, pulling up another window. “I know we were planning to just find another apartment, one with an extra bedroom, but then I found this…” he angled the laptop so he could show him the screen.
“A house?” Richie asked skeptically.
“Yeah, but it’s a rental and look…” Patrick scrolled down to show him the price. “It’s not much more than what we would be paying for a two bedroom apartment.”
“Huh,” Richie muttered, looking at the photo curiously. It was a small, older looking house, a typical California style bungalow that had seen better days. There would probably be some repairs needed.
“This is the best part,” Patrick said, sensing his hesitation. He clicked through a slideshow. “We would have a backyard. Can’t you just picture our kids playing under that tree right there?”
“Yeah,” Richie grinned. "I think Chiquita would like it too."
“I know, right?” Patrick was practically giddy. He was falling more in love with the idea now that they were talking about it.
Richie scratched his beard, thinking it over. “We could at least drive over and take a look at the place,” he suggested. “The price is a little steep, but it would be nice to have more privacy and not be sharing walls with the neighbors anymore.”
“Yeah, it would definitely feel more like ours,” Patrick said, clicking through photos while idly rubbing Richie’s leg. His heart was already set on it. The image of two little girls and a Chihuahua chasing each other around the backyard was permanently etched into his mind.
“We could plant a little garden right there,” Richie pointed to a spot on the edge of the yard, where it looked like someone had once attempted the same thing.
“You mean, like, for vegetables and stuff?” Patrick grinned happily.
“Yeah. We could grow our own carrots and tomatoes and peppers…”
“God, that would be so hot,” Patrick giggled.
“Vegetables turn you on?” Richie laughed.
“No, just you – growing your own food, cooking and feeding your family with it,” Patrick beamed. “I just think it’s very rugged and sexy…especially if you get all sweaty and have to take your shirt off.”
Richie chuckled. “You’ve got some Little House on the Prairie fantasy going on.”
“Hmm, maybe I do,” Patrick admitted. “We did watch reruns of that show when I was growing up.”
“That’s what I thought,” Richie smiled, taking another swig of beer and settling back against the couch cushions. “Michael Landon had amazing hair.”
“He really did.”
“No, seriously Richie, please don’t feel bad about it,” Patrick said into his phone. He lowered his voice. “To be honest, this whole thing is kind of boring anyway. I’m just going to have a cocktail and get out as quickly as possible.”
The event was a small awards ceremony, honoring a few bigwigs of the video game industry, including Patrick’s boss. He had discouraged Richie from taking a night off from work to be his date. It hadn’t seemed that important and, now that he was here, he realized he’d been right.
“Could I get a Whiskey Sour?” Patrick asked, sidling up to the bar after he’d ended his call. He was definitely going to take advantage of the free booze before heading for the exit.
The drink had barely made it past his lips when he caught a glimpse of someone standing across the room. He told himself it couldn’t possibly be him, until he turned his head. “Oh shit,” Patrick blurted out, quickly looking away before they could make eye contact. It was too late.
“Oh my God.” Patrick adjusted his tie and tried to put on the friendliest, most pleasant game face he could muster. He turned to greet him, a smile firmly in place.
Kevin looked older, which shouldn’t have been surprising. It had been seven years since they’d seen each other. There were lines around his eyes that hadn’t been there before and the bleached blonde hair was gone, replaced by a silvery mane. He smiled at him genuinely. “I can’t believe it’s you,” he sputtered. “I haven’t seen you since…”
“A really long time ago,” Patrick finished for him, awkwardly accepting his handshake. “I didn’t expect to see you either. Didn’t you move to London?”
“I did,” Kevin confirmed. “And then I came back.”
“To San Francisco?”
Kevin leaned against the bar, ordering a drink for himself. “No, New York actually. I’ve got a little flat in Chelsea. I’ve been there about two years.”
“Oh.” Patrick sipped his drink, trying to think of what else to say to him. He felt incredibly uneasy and he wished he could just be somewhere else, doing anything except having this conversation.
Kevin watched him lift his glass, an odd, wistful look passing over his face. “How about you?” he asked, his tone different than it had been before. “What has become of you, Patrick Murray?”
“Um, well,” Patrick smiled, trying to decide where to begin. “I live in Oakland now. I work at Mind Games…that’s why I’m here, actually. My boss is that guy who gave the self-congratulatory speech that went on way too long.”
Kevin grinned. “That describes all of them.”
“True,” Patrick chuckled. He looked down at his hand, resting on the bar. The gold band on his ring finger stood out, giving away the rest of his story.
“You got married,” Kevin supplied, his eyes soft. He didn’t seem overjoyed for him, just resigned.
“I did,” Patrick confirmed, the next part coming out in one breath. “I married Richie.”
“Really?” Kevin hadn’t been expecting that. He almost laughed. “Well, that’s just…” he tapped his fingers on the bar instead of finishing his thought. He picked up his drink, finally looking at him again, over the rim of his highball glass. “I am happy for you,” he said, possibly lying through his teeth.
“I’m happy that you’re happy for me,” Patrick said, also lying. He didn’t actually care what he thought about his marriage.
“And where is Richie tonight?” Kevin asked, his eyes scanning the room. “He didn’t escort you?”
“Uh, no. He’s working,” Patrick explained. “He could have switched shifts with someone, but I told him not to bother.”
“Switched shifts?” Kevin was puzzled. “He can’t be cutting hair at this hour of the night.”
“No, he’s…” Patrick hesitated, taking a sip of his drink. He really didn’t want to be talking about this with him. “He’s a bouncer. At a drag club.”
Kevin smirked, his eyes twinkling with amusement. He seemed to be suppressing laughter.
Patrick had a sudden urge to kill him. Everything that he had ever hated about Kevin suddenly came rushing back, in vivid, Technicolor memory. “Fuck you then,” he said, getting up from his bar stool. “Enjoy your drink, you snobby son of…”
“Patrick, calm down – please sit,” Kevin reached out to him. “I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not going to sit here with you while you shit talk my husband. That’s not happening.” Patrick was getting more infuriated by the minute.
“I didn’t even say anything,” Kevin insisted.
“But I could tell what you were thinking,” Patrick glared at him. “Don’t even deny it.”
“Ok, yes. Maybe I was being a little judgmental,” Kevin admitted, “but I promise, no more. Just, please sit and finish this drink with me.”
Patrick slowly, very reluctantly, sat down on the stool again. His guard was now up though. One wrong word or dirty look and he would be ready to bolt. “Not that it’s any of your business,” he said, “but Richie happens to have his own, very successful hair cutting business.”
“What’s he doing working as a doorman then?” Kevin asked, curious.
“Um, we’re having…” Patrick stopped himself. He wasn’t going to tell him that they were having twins. It didn’t feel right. He hadn’t even told his parents yet, or anyone besides Dom. “We’ve got some big expenses coming up,” he said, truthfully, “and we’re trying to put some extra money away.”
Kevin nodded, sipping his drink. “That’s understandable.”
“Yeah, it is.” Patrick focused on his own drink, ignoring the tense silence between them.
“I’m sorry, about earlier,” Kevin finally said. “I meant what I said – I am happy for you. I might be a bit jealous, is all.”
“Ugh, no,” Patrick cringed. This was so depressing. He didn’t want to know if he still had feelings for him. That door had been closed a long time ago and he had no interest in going there again.
“You’ve got someone to go home to tonight,” Kevin pointed out, “And I’ll be going back to an empty hotel room…and then, in a few days, an empty flat.”
“Oh,” Patrick frowned, understanding where he was coming from. “It didn’t work out with you and Jon?”
Kevin looked at him, confused for a moment, and then he chuckled dryly. “No, Patrick. It’s been over with Jon for a very long time. I think it was a drunken speech at a Halloween party that finally put the nail in that coffin.”
“Wait, what?” Patrick was baffled. “But you were with him the last time…”
“No, I wasn’t,” Kevin grinned, slightly embarrassed. “I made it up. I wanted you to think everything was just fucking wonderful for me, so you wouldn’t see what a wreck I actually was.”
“Oh my God,” Patrick said. He couldn’t believe he’d lied to him, although, considering their history, it shouldn’t have been so surprising.
“I was a mess for a long time after we broke up. Horribly depressed,” Kevin admitted. “It wasn’t until I got back to London and started seeing old friends again that I was able to put the pieces back together.”
“Jesus, I’m sorry,” Patrick said. “I mean, not sorry that we broke up, but sorry that you went through that. It was hard for me to.”
“But then you found your way back to Richie,” Kevin pointed out, “and I found Stephen…and then Glenn…and a few others that we don’t need to mention.”
Patrick smiled, stirring the ice cube in his drink. Of course he hadn’t been lonely. That’s what Grindr was for.
“You didn’t take the job at MDG,” Kevin said, abruptly changing the subject. He signaled to the bartender that his drink needed refilling.
“No, I didn’t,” Patrick confirmed. “I ended up moving to Texas instead.”
“Texas?” Kevin was horrified. “What the fuck would you want to move there for? Did you have a sudden urge to rope cattle?”
Patrick laughed. “No. I was just…I was in love,” he said, summing it up the best way he could. “I wanted to be with Richie so badly that Texas actually seemed like a good idea, for a few years anyway.”
“You could have been lead designer at MDG,” Kevin reminded him, “the head of your own team.”
“I know,” Patrick said, looking down at his drink and contemplating if he needed another one. “But it wasn’t what mattered most to me at that time. I’ve been really happy designing games and just being where I’m at.”
“You got comfortable,” Kevin surmised.
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded. “I haven’t felt driven to move up the ladder…until recently.”
“Oh really?” Kevin studied him carefully. “What brought that on?”
“Just…changes,” Patrick said, avoiding his gaze. “Personal stuff.”
Kevin chose not to pry. Instead, he accepted another drink from the bartender and downed it quickly. “You should be a lead designer,” he said. “You would be great at it.”
“Fuck yeah, I would be,” Patrick agreed.
“It would be a shame if you stayed in your tidy little comfort zone and never put yourself out there,” Kevin insisted. “You owe it to yourself and to this industry to at least try.”
“You’re right. I think I will,” Patrick said decisively. Maybe it was the alcohol kicking in, but he suddenly felt a renewed burst of confidence. Of course he could be a lead designer – or anything else he wanted to be. “The next job that opens up, I’m going after it.”
Kevin grinned. “There’s one open right now.”
“Really? Where?” Patrick asked.
“At MDG,” Kevin said. “That’s what I’m here in town for – well, partly. I came to see friends and look into the job.”
“So we would be competing for it,” Patrick guessed, his self assuredness dissolving. They would never pick him over someone who’d held the position before.
“Yeah, but if you really want it, I’ll just tell them to talk to you,” Kevin offered. “I’m not really keen on moving back to SF anyway.”
“No,” Patrick shook his head. “You don’t have to do that for me.”
“But I want to,” Kevin insisted. “Like I said, I’m not even interested in taking it. You’ll be saving me the trouble of packing up my shit and uprooting my life again.”
“Wow.” Patrick drained the last of his drink and set the empty glass down on the bar again. “That’s really nice of you to help me out like that,” he said, sincerely. “I appreciate it.”
“It’s no big deal,” Kevin said, shrugging his shoulders. He gave him that same look that he’d given him earlier, fondness and melancholy. He still cared for him and probably always would.
Patrick looked around for the bartender. “I’m ordering one more drink, to celebrate,” he said. “Not that I’m sure I’m going to get it – they probably have a lot of other guys lined up.”
“You’ll get it,” Kevin said quietly.
They drank in silence for the next few minutes, the only sound the clinking of the ice cubes in their glasses.
Patrick stumbled into the kitchen the next morning, his eyes barely open. He leaned against the countertop to steady himself.
“Good morning.” Richie grinned at him. He was standing at the stove, scrambling eggs with a spatula. “You look like you had fun last night.”
“Yeah,” Patrick nodded weakly. He rubbed his eyes. “Free drinks can be very tempting.”
Richie chuckled. “I made coffee. Maybe that’ll wake you up.”
“Of course you did,” Patrick smiled. He walked over and gave him a quick kiss. “That’s why I love you.”
“Really? That’s the reason?” Richie teased him.
Patrick laughed, kissing him again. “One of the reasons,” he added.
Richie scraped the scrambled eggs on to a plate for him while he poured coffee into their mugs. Patrick glanced at him nervously, unsure how to tell him what had happened last night. He had only talked with Kevin. It hadn’t been anything more than that. It barely warranted mentioning, except that he was used to telling Richie everything and it would be weird not to tell him about this.
“You want toast?” Richie asked, opening a bag of bread.
“Hmm, what?” Patrick looked up from his coffee mug.
“Toast,” Richie repeated patiently. “You want some?”
“Oh yeah, of course,” Patrick said apologetically. “Sorry, I’m just kind of…not awake yet.”
“That’s alright,” Richie said, putting the bread in and turning the toaster on. “So, what’d you do last night? Your boss got some kind of award?”
“Uh huh. The Visionary Excellence award…or Excellence in Visionary…I don’t know,” Patrick chuckled. “He did get an award.”
Richie sat down at the table with him, in their small breakfast nook. “That’s cool,” he said, grabbing the bottle of hot sauce and pouring it on his eggs. “Maybe he’ll start feeling generous and give you that raise you’ve been wanting.”
“Um, actually,” Patrick said, scooping up a forkful of food. “I found out something interesting last night. It turns out MDG is looking for a lead designer.”
“Your old company? That’s awesome,” Richie grinned.
“Yeah, it is,” Patrick agreed. “And, uh, the person who told me about it said they would put in a good word for me.”
“No shit? Pato...” Richie got up and went over to hug him. “That’s fucking amazing. You’re gonna crush it, sweetie.”
Patrick hugged him back, guilt gnawing at him. He couldn’t do this kind of evasive shit with him. It was already too much.
The toast popped up and Richie went over to grab it, slathering butter on to the bread with a knife. “I think it would be good for you to be more in charge. I know you get frustrated sometimes when you don’t like the game you’re working on.”
“It was Kevin,” Patrick blurted out. “I had drinks with Kevin and he told me about the position being open.”
Richie put the butter knife down and looked over at him, his cheerful smile gone. He stared at him expectantly, waiting for the rest of the story.
“He’s only in town for a few days,” Patrick explained. “I’ll probably never run into him again, but honestly, I’m kind of glad I did. Seeing him again only reminded me that I dodged a fucking bullet when I broke up with him.”
“It didn’t bring back good memories,” Richie guessed, folding his arms across his chest.
“Oh God no,” Patrick frowned. “All I remember from that time is a lot of lying and sneaking around…and then, after we got back together, trying insanely hard to convince myself that it was going to work out. I wish I’d known that being with someone doesn’t have to be that exhausting.”
Richie brought the toast slices over to the table, seeming to relax a bit. “We both have our pasts,” he shrugged. “I don’t feel great about who I was with Brady either.”
Patrick chewed on a piece of toast. “That’s how it is when you’re young though, right? You have to date all the wrong people before you get to the right one.”
“We’re still young,” Richie smiled.
“You’re forty four and I’m thirty seven,” Patrick chuckled. “We’re not quite AARP ready, but we’re not very youthful either.”
“It’s good that we’re having kids now then,” Richie said dryly. “I wouldn’t want you to break a hip chasing after them.”
Patrick laughed. He lifted up his coffee mug and took a sip. “You know we’re going to be the cutest old gay couple ever.”
“Mmhm,” Richie nodded, passing him the coffee creamer before he’d even asked for it. Their morning routine was well ingrained.
Patrick smiled at him from across the table, a warm, peaceful feeling spreading through him. They had made a really nice life together and he wouldn’t change any of it. He was exactly where he was supposed to be.
The MDG offices were pretty much the way he remembered. Some of the furniture was different, but mostly everything was eerily the same. Patrick arrived early for the interview, in a buttoned up dress shirt and a light jacket.
“This is where our designers do their work.” Stuart, the man he hoped to be replacing, led him on a brief tour on the way to his office. “But you know that already,” he corrected himself. “You were a level designer here.”
“I was,” Patrick confirmed. “For about five years.”
Stuart gestured to the familiar glass box that was his office. “Come on up, let’s have a chat.”
Patrick followed him inside, swallowing back his nerves. He took a seat in the chair across from his desk, déjà vu sweeping over him. He’d worked late nights in this office. He’d even had tawdry, forbidden sex up against the glass windows. Now he would possibly be leading a team from here. It would almost be funny if he wasn’t so nervous.
“So, Patrick, tell me about yourself.” Stuart leaned back in his chair, scrutinizing him. “What made you interested in working at MDG again?”
Patrick survived the interview, only fumbling slightly on one or two of his answers. He took off his jacket as soon as he left the building and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt.
There was a restaurant nearby where he and Owen used to grab a bite to eat. He walked a block in that direction, slowing down in front of a clothing store. The window advertised a sale on back to school clothing for kids.
Lunch plans forgotten, he pushed open the door and went inside. At the back of the store, there were racks filled with outfits for toddlers. Patrick browsed through them, selecting two onesies – one pink, the other lavender, each with a tiny unicorn on the chest. He had to get them. It didn’t matter that it was too early, or that the babies technically didn’t even have genders yet.
“My husband and I are having twins,” he announced proudly to the cashier.
“Good for you,” she responded tiredly, taking out a device to remove the security tags.
There was a shelf lined with stuffed animals near the register. Patrick grabbed a teddy bear and added it to his purchases. If he was going to break his own rule about not buying baby stuff yet, he might as well go all in.
“Here’s to Paddy and his new job!” Dom declared, holding up his margarita glass.
“Yes, here here!” Doris called out.
“To my big fuckin’ raise,” Patrick slurred, giddy and drunk off his ass.
“And more vacation time,” Richie added. He smiled at Patrick, beaming with pride.
“Tha’s right.” Patrick leaned against him, unsteady on his feet. “I’m gonna take my man to Hawaii…or maybe Paris. It’s the mos’ romantic city, so we should definitely go there.”
Richie laughed, slinging an arm around his shoulders. “Sure, Pato.”
“You mean like a babymoon?” Malik asked. “We had one of those.”
“No, we didn’t,” Doris scoffed. “You mean that trip we took to San Diego to visit your mother? That was not a babymoon. I had morning sickness and my ankles were swollen. There was nothing sexy about any of it.”
“I got us a room at a swanky hotel though,” Malik reminded her.
Patrick smirked at Dom. “Of course you told them already.”
“I had no choice,” Dom insisted. “She dragged it out of me.”
“Oh, are we not supposed to know?” Doris asked, feigning innocence. “Because I definitely don’t know anything about you guys having twins…or that they’re due next spring…or that Patrick thinks they’re girls…”
Patrick gaped at Dom, unable to suppress a laugh. “Oh my God, you told her fucking everything.” He didn’t really mind. He was too happy about his new job and buzzed from too many drinks to actually be bothered.
Richie grinned. “It’s alright. Once we get past twelve weeks we’ll be telling everyone anyway.”
Patrick downed the rest of his drink. The music in the bar switched over to Madonna’s Holiday. A faint smile tugged at the corners of his lips. He remembered dancing to this song with Agustín at a party many years ago. It must have been back in college, they had been so young. It didn’t feel right that all of this amazing stuff was happening to him and he couldn’t even call him to talk about it. He wondered where he was.
Later that night, while Richie was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, Patrick sat cross legged on their bed. He typed out a text.
I really really need you to come home. I know you’re going through some rough shit right now and you probably think pushing everyone away is going to somehow make it better. You’re wrong. You need us and we need you. I miss you Blanche. We’ve got cheesecake waiting for you on the lanai.
Patrick added a winking emoji and hit send.
He put the phone down on the bedspread and rubbed his eyes, listening to the whir of Richie’s electric toothbrush. His phone buzzed and he picked it up, assuming it was a text from Dom. “Oh my God,” he gasped in surprise when he saw the name of the sender.
When he read the message, his excitement turned to confusion.
Agustín had sent a string of emojis: A waving hand, a tree, a tent with a little flag on top, a palette and paintbrush, a car, and an hourglass with all the sand collected in the bottom. He was finally communicating again, but only in cryptic symbols.
Patrick texted back. I don’t know what the fuck that means, but it’s good to hear from you.
Agustín responded with a winking smiley face.
“Oh, the neighbors have a swing set,” Patrick noticed. “Do they have kids?”
Ron, their potential landlord, led them through a sliding door onto the back porch. “They do,” he confirmed. “They’re a very nice lesbian couple. There’s another same-sex couple across the street as well. It’s a good, friendly area for LGBT families.”
“And I noticed it’s close to a BART station,” Richie said. “Patrick commutes to SF for work.”
Ron nodded understandingly, rubbing the top of his balding head. “That’s common for many people around here. The city’s gotten so damn expensive it’s impossible for anyone to afford it these days.”
The house had belonged to his mother, who had recently passed away. The inside was a little dated, but otherwise well maintained.
Ron’s phone buzzed in the pocket of his jacket. “If you’ll excuse me for just a minute,” he said apologetically. “Please have a look around the yard and I’ll be right with you.”
He disappeared back into the house and Patrick turned to Richie, anxious to find out what he thought. “You like it,” he said. “I can tell.”
“I do,” Richie admitted, smiling at him. “I like that he’s willing to let us do some upgrades, like painting the bedrooms.”
“And we could Febreeze that weird smell in the bathroom,” Patrick added, making a face. “You don’t think that’s where his Mom died do you? I don’t want an old lady ghost creeping up on me when I’m trying to pee.”
Richie chuckled. “I think he said she had moved to a rest home.” He looked out at the yard approvingly. The area he had designated for gardening looked even better than it had in pictures. “We can get Ceci over here to burn some sage though.”
“So we’re taking it then?” Patrick grinned expectantly.
Richie smiled, rubbing his shoulder. “Yeah, I think we should.”
Patrick hugged and kissed him. He was so glad they had found a place they both loved. “I can’t believe this is where our kids are going to play and grow up,” he said excitedly.
“And they can make friends with the kids next door,” Richie suggested. “It’s a nice, quiet street for them to ride their bikes on.”
“Pink bikes, with sparkles,” Patrick added with a giggle.
Richie laughed. “Yeah, with plenty of sparkles.”
“I feel so bad for her,” Patrick said. “I didn’t know morning sickness could last twenty four hours.”
Richie was behind the wheel, driving them back to their apartment after visiting Michelle. “I remember when one of my sisters had it really bad like that. It went on for months.”
“Ugh,” Patrick grimaced. “Imagine being that sick and having to get a shot in your ass every night.”
“Yeah, but I think she really liked the fruit smoothie though.” Richie steered the car around a corner, heading down the street that led to their apartment building. “That was a good idea to bring it to her.”
Patrick smiled at him and reached over to adjust the volume on the radio. “At least the babies are doing well,” he said. “They’re getting so much bigger every time we see them.”
Richie nodded in agreement. “I can’t wait to hear their heartbeats at the next ultrasound.”
Patrick was looking forward to that too. They’d received encouraging news at every doctor’s appointment they’d had so far. The babies were growing and developing right on schedule.
Richie pulled into a parking space in front of their building. “We should probably get some packing done tonight, if we want to be in the house by next week.”
“But I hate packing,” Patrick groused, getting out of the car. “How about you finish boxing everything up while I eat leftover pizza and cheer you on?”
Richie laughed. “Hell no. You can deal with your half of the closet and I’ll do mine.”
“That’s not fair,” Patrick said, taking the stairs up to their apartment. “I’ve got more clothes than you do. You’ll be done way before…”
“Whoa. What the fuck?” Richie froze when they reached the top of the landing.
There was a thin, bearded figure slumped against their apartment door. Agustín looked up and smiled when he saw them. “Hey, Paddy,” he said groggily. It looked like he’d dozed off while waiting for them to come home. He slowly got to his feet.
“Oh my God. Where the hell have you been?” Patrick immediately hurried over to hug him. Their last communication had been the weird, emoji filled text he’d sent a few weeks ago. He’d been messaging him constantly since then, trying to convince him to come home, but he’d never responded. “I’m so fucking mad at you for running off like that. Jesus Christ, you scared me to death.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” Agustín said, still hugging him. “I promise I’ll explain everything, but first…can you do me a favor?”
“Yeah, what do you need?” Richie asked, glancing at Patrick. They both assumed the favor would involve money.
“Can I use your bathroom?” Agustín asked, picking up his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. “I drank an entire thing of Kombucha while I was waiting for you guys and now I really need to pee.”
“Oh. Yeah, sure,” Patrick said, unlocking the door to their apartment and holding it open for him.
“Thanks Paddy, love you.” Agustín dropped his bag in the entryway and rushed off to the bathroom.
Richie raised his eyebrows, a perplexed look on his face. “Maybe he should take a shower while he’s in there,” he suggested in a low voice.
“You noticed that too?” Patrick wrinkled his nose. “Wherever he’s been, bathing was obviously not a top priority.”
“I stopped by Dom and Michael’s,” Agustín said, his mouth full of leftover pizza. “But they weren’t home and I got tired of waiting.”
“Oh yeah, I think they went to Napa for some wine tasting thing this weekend.” Patrick opened the refrigerator and grabbed a few beers.
“It’s a food and wine festival,” Richie corrected him.
“What’s that?” Agustín asked, swiveling in his chair to get a better look at something.
“Well, I guess it’s an event where they serve a lot of food and wine,” Patrick shrugged.
“No, not that,” Agustín rolled his eyes. He got up and went over to the fridge, lifting a magnet and removing a black & white photo that had been hanging there.
Patrick smiled. “Uh, that’s our kids.”
“Oh my fucking God,” Agustín chuckled. “You’re actually having two? Paddy…”
“What?” Patrick asked. He couldn’t tell if Agustín’s reaction was one of happiness or disapproval. Not that it mattered. The babies were coming, like it or not.
“I just think it’s…it’s wild,” Agustín said, still studying the photo. “You spent the summer making people and all I made was a couple of shitty paintings.”
Patrick put a hand on his shoulder. He could tell that underneath his relaxed exterior there was still a tornado raging inside him. At least he was home now, where his friends could look out for him and hopefully make it easier.
Agustín hastily brushed tears away from his eyes. “This one kind of looks like a peanut,” he muttered. “I can’t even tell which end is the head.”
“C’mere,” Patrick said, pulling him in for a hug. He gestured for Richie to come over and join them. “We missed you so much.”
Richie put his arms around both of them. “It hasn’t been the same without you,” he said. “Whenever we’d try to get together and do anything, it was like something was missing.”
Agustín was enveloped in a warm, loving huddle, with his friends embracing him on both sides. He gave up on the pretense of not crying, putting his hands over his face while he sobbed.
“It’s ok,” Patrick said soothingly, rubbing his back. “Let it out.”
Agustín took a long, hot shower, filling their bathroom with steam. When he got out, Patrick gave him some of his clothes to wear. Everything in the bag he had brought with him smelled like it hadn’t been washed in weeks.
“You want me to just buzz it all off?” Richie asked, holding up the clippers.
“Yeah.” Agustín heaved a sigh, settling on a stool and looking at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His hair and beard were long overdue for a trim. “Keep the beard, just make it less…”
“Less like Jesus?” Richie supplied, grinning at him.
Agustín smirked. “Please. She wishes She looked as good as me.”
“These are all the extra sheets and blankets I could find for you,” Patrick said. “The thermostat is over there on the wall. Richie always turns it up too high, but if you get cold, feel free to turn it down.”
“Yeah. I get it.” Agustín checked his phone while Patrick draped a sheet over the couch.
“Do you think this pillow is soft enough? Maybe you should put your head on it just to check.”
Agustín gave him a withering look. “Paddy, I’ve been sleeping outside in a tent for three months. I think the pillow and sheets that you picked out at Bed Bath & Beyond will work just fine.”
“Uh, ok,” Patrick said irritably, tossing the pillow on to the couch. “Can we please talk about that then? Why you’ve been sleeping outside for three months?”
Agustín frowned at him. He was obviously not in the mood to spill his guts just yet. “It was…I don’t know. It was a lot of things, ok? I needed to remove myself from my ordinary existence and recalibrate my spirit energy.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” Patrick asked, baffled.
“Sorry,” Agustín sighed. “I might have accidentally joined a cult for a few weeks and some of the lingo stuck.”
“You joined a cult? Oh my God,” Patrick gasped. That was exactly the sort of thing he’d been scared of. Had he been brainwashed? Did he need to be reprogrammed? “What did they make you do? They didn’t make you kill anyone, did they?”
Agustín laughed. “No, it wasn’t like Helter Skelter or some freaky shit like that. The worst thing that happened was that I maybe went down on a girl, just a tiny bit – but only for, like, a minute.”
“Eww, why?” Patrick was plainly horrified. He knew he couldn’t possibly be having doubts about his sexuality. That ship had sailed a very long time ago.
“Orgy initiation. That’s how they get you,” Agustín said ruefully. “There were hot guys there too,” he added quickly. “And thank God, because pussy does not taste good, Paddy.”
“So…you slept with other people. Does that mean you’re over Eddie?” Patrick asked.
“No,” Agustín answered quietly. “I’m not over Eddie.”
“I just assumed that you might try to work it out with him when you came home,” Patrick suggested. “I mean, do you want to stay married or…”
“I don’t want to get into that right now,” Agustín said firmly. “Sorry, I’m just really tired and all I want to do is sleep.”
“Yeah, that’s fine,” Patrick said, patting his shoulder. “We can talk tomorrow.” He got up from the couch so he could lie down.
Agustín stretched out, pulling the sheet up to his shoulders. “Good night,” he said drowsily.
Patrick hesitated before turning off the light. “Hey,” he said quietly. “Promise you’ll still be here when I get up in the morning? No running off again, ok?”
Agustín smiled at him. “I promise. My travels are over.”
“They fucking better be,” Patrick muttered, clicking off the light and leaving the room.
“So, if you were only in a cult for a few weeks, what were you doing the rest of the time you were gone?” Dom asked, heaving a large box up the steps into the house.
“Be careful with that,” Patrick warned. “All our dishware is in there.”
“I can’t believe it,” Agustín grumbled, following behind him with another box. “I leave for a few months and come back to find out Paddy has turned into a gay Dad cliché, complete with a house in the suburbs.”
“This isn’t the suburbs,” Patrick corrected him. “It’s just a nice, quiet neighborhood where gay parents can raise their families…”
“I think I saw those guys from Modern Family picking up their mail when we pulled in,” Agustín smirked. “Do you think they’ll invite you to their potluck dinners? You could bake a casserole, something from the Betty Crocker cookbook.”
“You’re being so annoying.” Patrick glared at him. “Keep it up and I’m not going to let you sleep on my couch anymore.”
“Can you please stop bickering and answer my question?” Dom demanded, putting the box down on the floor in the empty living room. “What have you been doing for the last four months?”
Agustín collapsed into one of the few chairs they had managed to move over. “Well, that night when I was at your apartment I started texting with this guy that I met at the Art Institute. He said he was going to Oregon for a spiritual retreat and I thought, with everything that had happened, it might be a good idea to get out of town for a while.”
“Oh yeah, I remember you mentioning something about that,” Patrick said, pulling open one of the boxes. “You said it was a place for artists to go and focus on their work.”
Agustín rolled his eyes. “Yeah, well, art is pretty much the only thing you’re allowed to focus on. It’s all meditation and yoga and clean living. They don’t even allow alcohol or weed.”
“Oh my God,” Dom gasped in pretend horror. “How did you ever survive?”
“By sneaking out to the woods every chance I got,” Agustín said, “Until one of those hippie assholes busted me and lodged a complaint.”
“You got kicked out?” Patrick asked.
“Yep, and that was when I caught a ride from a girl who said she lived on a farm a few hours away.” Agustín frowned. “I knew there was something really weird about her. I should have trusted my gut.”
“Yeah, you should have,” Patrick said irritably. “She could have been a serial killer. You’re lucky you didn’t get taken somewhere and chopped into pieces.”
“Paddy, you have to take risks sometimes,” Agustín said patronizingly. “Otherwise, life gets boring. But look who I’m talking to…” he said, gesturing around the room.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Patrick knew exactly what he was getting at and he didn’t like it one bit.
“Ok, let’s calm down,” Dom said, trying to diffuse the tension.
“Do you really think you’re going to be happy living this 50s sitcom, picket fence fantasy with Richie?” Agustín asked snidely. “C’mon, you know it’s going to get old after a while.”
“Fuck you,” Patrick hissed. “You don’t know a fucking thing about my marriage and the only reason you want to see us fail is because you ruined things with Eddie.”
“That’s not true,” Agustín said defensively.
“We are happy,” Patrick insisted. “Is it going to last forever? I don’t know, but what I can definitely tell you is that I’ll never leave Richie just so I can go on some weird, fucked up road trip and take a ton of drugs and fuck random strangers…”
“Hey.” Dom held up his hands, getting between them. “Let’s all just chill the fuck out, ok? We should be happy that we’re all together again instead of being at each other’s throats.”
Patrick glowered at Agustín, holding back the rest of what he’d wanted to say. “I’m going to take this box to the other room,” he announced, grateful for the excuse to get out.
“I’m sorry, Paddy. I’m a fucking asshole,” Agustín said, leaning against the door frame.
Patrick looked up from where he was sitting on the floor. He had been folding a small pile of baby outfits while quietly fuming. It infuriated him that Agustín would leave town for months without saying a word, make him worry like crazy, then come home and immediately start passing judgment on his choice to start a family.
“You were right,” Agustín continued, ignoring his tense silence. He sat down on the floor next to him. “I was being critical of you and Richie because it’s hard for me to see how happy you guys are together.”
Patrick sighed, taking a pink dress out of the box and folding it neatly on his lap. “I accept your apology,” he said. “I know you’ve been going through a hard time and I’m really sorry things didn’t work out with you and Eddie.”
“But this,” Patrick continued, gesturing at the baby clothes, “this hasn’t been easy either. We held our breath for weeks hoping the embryos would take and now we’re still holding our breath just in case, God forbid, something goes wrong.”
“I’m sorry,” Agustín said. “I didn’t know anything about that. I guess I missed a lot.”
“It’s really fucking scary sometimes,” Patrick admitted. “And I’m very mad at you for leaving town and ignoring me for all those months. That was a really shitty thing to do.”
“I know. I get that,” Agustín said. “I should have handled it better.”
Patrick snorted. “Yeah, you should have.”
Agustín put an arm around him and leaned against his shoulder. He didn’t say anything for a minute, just watched him sort through the clothes. “Why is everything pink?” he finally asked. “I thought you didn’t know the genders yet.”
Patrick smiled. “Um, we actually don’t – and Richie doesn’t know that I’ve bought all of this stuff. We kind of had a pact that we wouldn’t start shopping yet.”
Agustín laughed. “So you’re just assuming that they’re girls? But what if they’re girls who identify as male? You can’t just go by their body parts, Paddy.”
Patrick frowned. He should have guessed he’d have an opinion about that, after working at the shelter. “Yeah, I know we shouldn’t be too gender specific about the clothes and how we decorate the nursery.” He picked up a floral onesie. “But seriously, how cute is this? It’s adorable, right?”
Agustín shook his head at him. “You’re hopeless. This is going to be the most stereotypically girlie nursery anyone has ever seen.”
“Hey, how are we doing in here?” Dom asked, poking his head into the room. “Are we good again?”
Patrick smiled at Agustín. “Yeah, I think we’ll be ok.” It was going to take some time to heal and move on, but he knew they would get there. They always had before. “I was just about to ask him if he would help us paint the nursery.”
“Yes, please do that,” Dom said, coming in and sitting with them. “These walls are the color of pea soup.”
Agustín made a face. “Yeah, you shouldn’t match the room with the baby food.”
“Or what comes out after they eat the baby food,” Patrick said, staring at the wall with disgust. Whatever Agustín chose to paint over it would be an improvement. He reached out and put a hand on his friend’s arm. He was very glad to have him home again, even if he could be a dick sometimes.
Patrick sorted through a box of old photographs. He picked out the best ones and slid them into the picture frames he had bought when they went to Home Depot that day.
Their living room connected to a long, narrow hallway leading to the two bedrooms and bathroom. They had discovered nails already in place along the walls, where the previous occupant, Mrs. Appleman, had hung her family pictures.
Patrick really liked that, knowing that children had grown up in this house before – running and playing, knocking things over. It seemed to bode well for the next phase of their lives.
The muffled sound of Richie swearing carried down the hall from the bathroom. He had bought new fixtures for the sink and was determined to install them himself.
Patrick grimaced. “Do you need any help in there?”
“No, I’ve got it,” Richie called back.
Patrick wasn’t sure if he believed that. He didn’t think he’d be much assistance though, other than offering moral support. Home renovations projects were not exactly in his wheelhouse. He picked up another picture frame and continued with his own task.
Soon, the wall in the hallway was lined with some of their favorite photos. There were shots of Dom, Agustín, and Doris, plus a few wedding pictures – Patrick and Richie smiling at each other ecstatically and kissing in front of the waves. He even found room for a picture of Chiquita, from back when she was just a pup.
Patrick stepped back to get a good look. He was almost finished, but there were a few empty spaces left to fill. He decided to leave it that way, so there would be room for their kids to be added later. There were going to be so many baby pictures and school pictures, enough to fill the whole house. It brought a smile to his face just thinking about it.
“Oh my God, do you need help? Do you want me to hold anything?” Patrick had walked into the bathroom and found Richie with his head under the sink, a scowl on his face.
“No, I’ve almost got it,” Richie muttered. His phone was on the floor next to him, displaying instructions for how to replace a faucet.
Patrick picked it up and read the next step aloud. “Tighten the nut and gasket.” He couldn’t resist a giggle. “If I’d known there were tight nuts involved, I might have come in sooner.”
Richie chuckled. “Not the kind of nuts you’re thinking of, Pato.”
“Hey, whatever we can do to make it more fun, right?” Patrick sat on top of the toilet seat and watched him work. “You’re actually pretty good at this. If it was me under there, there would be water spraying everywhere.”
Richie shrugged. “I’m just trying to be really careful. I don’t want us to have to hire someone just to fix a leaky faucet.”
“Right. Why shouldn’t we do it ourselves?” Patrick said. “I mean, look at us. We are totally domesticating. We can definitely take care of our own house.”
Richie slid out from under the sink. “You want to turn it on and see if it works?”
“Oh, ok,” Patrick smiled. “I think I can handle that part.” He got up and stood in front of the sink next to him.
Richie removed the aerator and nodded at him to go ahead.
Patrick felt a twinge of nervousness. He had worked so hard on this. He didn’t want it to be a disaster for him. “Cross your fingers,” he said, taking a deep breath and flicking on the faucet. Water streamed out and he tested the hot and cold. Both worked. “Holy shit, Richie. You actually did it.”
Richie beamed proudly. “It wasn’t a big deal,” he said modestly. “I just followed the instructions. Besides, I’ve seen my Dad do it a couple of times so I knew it couldn’t be that hard.”
Patrick smiled, putting his arms around him. “You’re a fucking brilliant genius. I’m so lucky I have a husband who can do all this kind of shit that I’m so clueless about.”
Richie leaned in and kissed him sweetly, brushing a thumb over his cheek. “You helped me pick out the right faucet.”
“That’s true,” Patrick agreed. “I did my part.”
Richie nudged him back against the countertop, kissing him again, deeper this time.
Patrick melted into it, tilting his head back. He felt the wetness of his tongue sliding into his mouth and he sighed happily. His hands moved down Richie’s back, clutching at his ass. “Agustín’s not here,” he breathed out. “I think he’s staying at Dom’s tonight.”
“Hmhm,” Richie mumbled, sucking on his throat. He had already started unbuttoning Patrick’s shirt. “You want to go to the bedroom?”
“No,” Patrick smirked, reaching for his zipper. He kicked the bathroom door closed with his foot. “Right here’s fine with me.”
“Oh God, oh shit. Don’t stop,” Patrick whined, babbling loudly. He was white knuckling the countertop while Richie drove into him from behind.
Richie huffed, his balls slapping against him with every thrust. “You’ve been so horny today, sweetie,” he laughed breathlessly. “Fuckin’ love it.”
Patrick smiled. “Uhhhh, Oh God,” he gulped for air, closing his eyes. “It’s those tight jeans,” he confessed. The way they hugged Richie’s ass had practically made him salivate. Not to mention the bulge in front. He had ogled him shamelessly for much of the afternoon, thinking he was being discreet.
“I’ll wear ‘em more often,” Richie promised, stroking his thick, swollen cock. He rolled his hips, fucking into him and grunting at the effort. “Look at you, Pato. Look at how hot you are.”
Patrick opened his eyes and saw himself in the bathroom mirror, with Richie over his shoulder. They were both flushed, their faces red. His hair was sweaty, a few strands stuck to his forehead. He didn’t think much of his own appearance, but Richie looked like a fucking sex God, he was so perfect.
“Fuck, I’m gonna come,” Richie promised, speeding up the pace of his thrusts.
“Yeah, do it,” Patrick begged, his eyes drifting shut again. “Come in me, Richie. Oh God, I want to feel it.”
Richie climaxed with a hoarse cry, emptying into him and slumping against his back, his breathing shaky.
Patrick rubbed his arm and turned his head to kiss him. He could feel hot cum dripping out of his ass. It was messy and a little nasty, but oh, so hot. Especially when Richie’s mouth was on him again and he was tugging at the length of his cock, bringing him to the brink.
“Do you ever wonder if things might be different with us after the babies are born?” Patrick asked. He sat on the edge of their bed, towling off his wet hair. They had showered together afterward, making out underneath the spray while they soaped each other up.
“Different how?” Richie found a clean sweater and pulled it on, tugging it over his head.
“Well, we probably won’t be having random fuckfests in the middle of the afternoon,” Patrick chuckled. “We’re going to be really busy, not to mention sleep deprived.”
Richie smiled, leaning down to plant a kiss on his cheek. “I’ll still fuck you after we have kids, Pato. Promise.”
Patrick smirked at him. “You better.” He wasn’t worried about their sex life dying, he knew that was unlikely. He just didn’t know how they were going to fit it in.
Richie ruffled his hair, running his fingers through the wet strands. “We’ll still be romantic,” he promised. “I couldn’t keep my hands off of you even if I wanted to.”
Patrick smiled, pulling him in for a kiss. The feeling was definitely mutual.
The ultrasound tech squirted jelly on Michelle’s stomach and moved the wand over her rounded abdomen.
“I’ve got a bump now,” Michelle sighed. “Just wait – it’s gonna get a lot bigger than this.”
Richie grinned. “Yeah, I noticed that.”
“I get really big when I’m pregnant,” she warned. “I’m so short I just end up looking like Humpty Dumpty.”
“Oh my God, there they are,” Patrick said excitedly, gesturing to the screen. They were now at ten weeks and the babies were actually starting to look like babies. It was easy to discern the heads and the torsos.
“They’re moving around,” Richie said. “That one’s jumping all over the place.”
Patrick felt a deep sense of relief. He always had trouble sleeping the night before these appointments, worrying that they might not find what they were looking for on the ultrasound. Once again, his fears had been unfounded. The babies were still growing and wiggling around inside Michelle, doing exactly what they should be doing.
A whooshing sound filled the room and buried underneath it were two unmistakable thump thumps. “We’ve got some strong heartbeats,” the tech said. “That’s what we want to hear.”
Richie’s eyes filled up with tears and he smiled at Patrick. “Can you believe that? I think that’s the best sound I’ve ever heard.”
Patrick nodded weakly, his face drenched. He grabbed a Kleenex and wept into it. It felt like something had just shifted inside of him. He realized that up until now some part of him had held back, not entirely believing that they were really going to become parents. Now that he could hear their heartbeats he knew it was real.
Richie put an arm around his shoulders and Patrick leaned against him, smiling through his tears.
They lived roughly twenty minutes away from San Leandro, but in the last four years they had only visited Richie’s mother one time, the Christmas before they decided to move back. The closer he drove to the house, the more his stomach grew knotted with tension.
He hadn’t checked ahead of time to find out if his Dad would be home. His Mom didn’t even know he was coming. Richie exhaled when he turned the corner and didn’t see his Dad’s car parked in the driveway. Then he went from being relieved to feeling foolish. What was the worst that could have happened if his Dad had been home? He could have just driven on, or knocked on the door and faced him again.
Richie shook his head. Just being back in this neighborhood made him feel like an insecure kid again, instead of a grown man who was expecting children of his own. He parked the car at the curb and steeled his nerves before getting out.
There was a jack-o-lantern on the front porch, most likely carved by one of his nieces or nephews. They were getting old enough to be interested in stuff like that. He pressed the doorbell, unsure who, if anyone, would be home to answer.
The door swung open a minute later. His mother’s face instantly lit up when she saw him. “Oh my God, Ricardo. Estoy tan feliz de verte!” (I’m so happy to see you)
Richie was swept into a bear hug, his mother’s ample bosom smashed up against him and her lips peppering his face with kisses. “Es bueno verte también.” (It’s good to see you too).
“Que esta pasando? (What's going on?) It’s not like you to come home suddenly, without calling…oh no,” Dolores looked stricken. ¿Estás enfermo otra vez? (Are you sick again?)
“No mamá, estoy bien.” Richie sat at the kitchen table with the café con leche she had given him. “The doctor says I’m very healthy.”
“Then what is it?” She demanded to know. “Is Patrick sick? Oh, honey, are you getting a divorce?”
Richie laughed. “No. Nothing bad is happening. I promise.”
Dolores finished filling her mug and grabbed a tin of cookies off the countertop before coming over to sit with him at the table. “You know who is getting a divorce?” she asked, lowering her voice to a secretive whisper. “Joe Serrano.”
“No shit?” Richie blurted out.
Dolores tsked disapprovingly at him for swearing. “His wife went through his phone and found text messages from other women.”
Richie was surprised that it had taken his wife this long to figure out what had been obvious to the entire neighborhood for years. He opened the cookie tin and took out a couple of thin mints. “So Teresa’s really going to divorce him?”
“Well, I don’t know,” Dolores shrugged. “They’re good Catholics, so maybe she’ll forgive, for the children’s sake.”
“Uh huh.” Richie dipped the cookie in his mug and took a bite out of it, chewing thoughtfully. “Um, I actually did have something to tell you, Mama. Don’t freak out though. It’s good news.”
“I knew it.” Dolores patted his arm. “Tell me, cariño. I’m so curious.”
“Uh, well…” Richie suddenly felt flustered. He knew she would be happy. His Dad was another story, but his Mom loved her grandchildren more than life and would certainly welcome two more. Instead of getting into an explanation of the surrogacy process and IVF, he opted to reach into his pocket, taking out a folded up copy of their latest ultrasound photo.
“¿Qué es esto?” Dolores asked, unfolding it and spreading it on the table in front of her. She gasped, clapping a hand over her mouth. “Oh, Ricardo…”
“Twins,” Richie beamed. “Due in April.”
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Dolores said, jumping up to grab a box of Kleenex. She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “It’s just so out of the blue. I didn’t know you and Patrick wanted to have children. You don’t tell me things like that.”
“Yeah, I know,” Richie said. It was true that he sometimes held back when discussing his relationship with his mother. She had always completely accepted him, but knowing that she might share what he said with his Dad made him cautious.
Dolores stood at the kitchen counter and wept, clutching a balled up Kleenex in her fist. She didn’t speak for several minutes.
“I’m sorry you’re upset,” Richie finally said. He was hurt by the way she was reacting. He had expected something else. “I thought you would be happy.”
“What?” Dolores looked up at him with tear stained eyes. “No, honey, of course I’m happy.” She went over to where he was sitting and put her arms around him. “I’m crying because it always feels like we’re so apart, even though you live close by. Now I’m going to have two grandchildren who never come to visit, instead of just a son.”
Richie brushed tears away from his eyes. He felt so much guilt over the rift in their family, even though he knew his Dad was completely responsible for it. “I’d love to be able to bring them here to meet their grandparents,” he said. “But only if they were treated the same way as Jackie’s kids and Elena’s kids…”
“Hablaré con tu papa.” (I’ll talk to your Dad) Dolores insisted. “Lo haré entender.” (I’ll make him understand)
"Sabes que eso no va a suceder." (You know that’s not gonna happen) Richie said. He had tried so hard with his Dad, more than once. After their last attempt at reconciling had failed he had vowed to stop trying. It was too painful to be let down over and over again.
“Will I get an invitation to the baby shower?” Dolores asked. “I want to be there.”
“Sí mamá,” Richie promised.
“And I want a phone call as soon as you go to the hospital.” Dolores held him in her arms like she had when he was a little boy, stroking his wet cheek. “I don’t want to be shut out of this, Ricardo. Those babies are going to know me, whether Papa likes it or not.”
“Are you hungry?” Dolores asked, opening the refrigerator door. “I made chicken enchiladas for dinner last night. I could warm you up some leftovers.”
“No, that’s ok,” Richie said. He needed to get going so he could fit a few more haircuts in before the afternoon was over.
Dolores took paper plates and saran wrap out of the kitchen cabinet. “I want you to take this home with you,” she said, scooping food onto one of the plates. “You and Patrick can have a nice dinner.”
“Gracias, Mamá.” Richie's eyes wandered around the room. His childhood home hadn’t changed much over the years. He knew that if he looked close he would be able to see the marks on the door frame where he and his siblings’ heights had been measured. “You kept our old stuff from when we were kids, right?”
“I tried to,” Dolores said. “But with Sofia and Alejandro running around here all the time, I can’t promise I know where everything is.”
Richie got up from the kitchen table and put his coffee mug in the sink. “I’m going to go upstairs for just a second,” he said.
“Ok.” Dolores pulled out a sheet of saran wrap and watched him leave the kitchen. “Let me know if you can’t find what you’re looking for. I’ll help.”
Richie bounded up the stairs and walked down the hall, stopping outside the bedroom he had once shared with his brother. He peered inside, instantly hit with memories. This was the same room where his fourteen year old self had given a Mormon missionary a blowjob. It was also where he had gone to hide after his Dad had found out.
He was determined that his kids would never have to feel the way he had at that moment. They would be loved and supported no matter what.
In the bottom dresser drawer, Richie found his old baby blanket. It was tattered and worn, the once colorful pattern of cars and trucks fading out. He didn’t actually expect his children to sleep with it, but he thought it might be nice to keep it folded on top of their dresser or something like that.
It took a few minutes of digging around in the closet to find the other item that he had been thinking about. Estrella the stuffed elephant had seen better days. One of her eyes was even missing. Richie had brought the elephant home from a carnival when he was six. His Dad had promptly snatched it from his hands and used a pair of scissors to snip the pink ribbon that had been tied around it’s neck.
Richie decided that he was going to find a pink ribbon somewhere and return Estrella to her former glory.
Agustín used a roller to spread paint over the wall of the nursery, covering the hideous pea soup color with an off white shade. He was envisioning a low key, gender neutral color scheme, despite Paddy’s objections.
When half of the wall was painted, he put the roller back in the tray and sat crossed legged on the floor. It was a welcome relief to have this project to focus on, instead of thinking about what a trainwreck his life had become.
Agustín had been unable to get in touch with Eddie since being back and, as painful as it was to admit, he was actually ok with not seeing him. He wanted to want to fix his marriage, but the hardest part was accepting that maybe the feelings just weren’t there anymore. It wasn’t his fault or anyone’s. Somewhere along the way something had changed and there was no going back.
“Oh wow, that looks so much better,” Patrick said, ducking his head into the room.
Agustín patted the floor beside him, gesturing for him to come in and sit down. “Thanks. I’m glad you approve.”
“Of course I do. It looks amazing.” Patrick got the same dreamy look on his face every time he came in the room, like he was mentally picturing where the cribs and baby furniture would go.
“Do you think your little peanuts will approve?” Agustín asked.
“Definitely,” Patrick grinned. “They will be like, holy shit we have the most incredible nursery and we can’t even talk yet but we are loving it.”
Agustín chuckled, reaching over for his bag and taking out his pipe. “What did Dana say when you told her?”
“Nothing, it went to voicemail.” Patrick’s eyes widened. “You’re not going to smoke that in here, are you?”
“Uh, yeah. Why not?” Agustín paused before lighting it.
“Because my kids are going to be sleeping in here,” Patrick said, his voice getting higher. “I don’t want to bring them home from the hospital and put them to bed in a room that smells like weed.”
Agustín rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I’ll take it outside.” He stood up, grumbling. “The babies haven’t been born yet and you’re already a strict Dad. Next you’ll be giving me a curfew.”
“I am not going to be a strict Dad,” Patrick insisted. “I’ll be the Fun Dad.”
Richie was on the back porch, smoking up, when Agustín came outside. “Hey,” he said, looking up at the sound of the door sliding open.
“Did Paddy kick you out too?” Agustín asked, sitting down on the step next to him.
Richie grinned. “No, but he has been on my back about not smoking in the house.”
“Oh God,” Agustín groaned, lighting up his pipe. “When the babies get here he’s going to be insufferable.”
“He just wants everything to be perfect for them,” Richie said. “It’s sweet.”
Agustín blew smoke rings in the air, looking up at the starry sky. He had given Paddy plenty of shit about becoming too suburban, but he actually really liked this house. It was nice to be away from the noise of the city. And one of the gay Dads across the street sometimes mowed the lawn shirtless. He couldn’t complain about that.
“I saw my Mom today,” Richie said, out of the blue. “I told her about everything.”
“And she’s excited?” Agustín guessed. He didn’t really know much about his relationship with his Mom, just that there was a lot of tension with his Dad.
“Uh, yeah. I think so.” Richie breathed out a puff of smoke. “It’s complicated though, because we don’t see each other very often.”
“Are you going to tell your Dad?” Agustín was fairly certain that he already knew the answer.
Richie laughed darkly. “Fuck no.”
Agustín snickered. “That’s what I thought.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, listening to the crickets and the muffled sounds of Paddy talking on the phone in the kitchen. Chiquita was sniffing around on the grass nearby. She lifted a leg to relieve herself.
“We almost got close again a few years ago,” Richie said.
“Huh?” Agustín needed a second to remember what they had been talking about. “Oh…you and your Dad.”
“Yeah, when I had cancer he got really scared that I was going to die, so we started talking.” Richie laughed softly. “How fucked up is that? He can’t pretend to care about me unless I’m near death.”
Agustín shook his head, thinking about his own father. He had gone to his grave without acknowledging him. He still didn’t know if it had been a prolonged illness or if his life had ended suddenly. If it had been prolonged, he wondered if there had ever been a moment where he thought about calling him before the inevitable happened.
“I’m never gonna be like him,” Richie said. “Never.”
“My Dad died,” Agustín blurted out, surprising himself. It was the first time he’d said it aloud. The words felt strange coming out of his mouth, so he tried again. “My Dad died a few months ago.”
“Oh. Oh man, I’m sorry.” Richie put a hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t know about that. Patrick didn’t tell me. I shouldn’t have been going on about my Dad when you…”
“He doesn’t know,” Agustín said. “I don’t mind if you tell him, I just…I didn’t want talk about it with anyone.”
“Yeah, that’s ok.” Richie furrowed his brow, studying him thoughtfully. “You should deal with it however you need to.”
Agustín chuckled. “Well, so far my way of dealing hasn’t been working out very well. I thought walking away from my life would fix everything and make me a better person, but I’m the same as I’ve ever been.”
“Wherever you go, there you are,” Richie said.
“Exactly,” Agustín frowned. “It turns out spending a couple of months in the woods, dropping acid and fucking strangers doesn’t lead to anything except a bad case of crabs.”
“Ugh,” Richie winced, taking another puff of his joint. “At least you came home though, right? You realized how fucked up it was and got out of there.”
“That is true,” Agustín admitted.
Richie gazed upward, seemingly mesmerized by the constellations over their heads. Paddy had mentioned before that he loved the solar system. He was also very stoned. “You should find a way to say goodbye,” he said after a while. “Go someplace quiet and talk to your Dad…I don’t know. Maybe something like that would help.”
“Yeah, I guess I could do that.” Agustín thought it would be a little weird, but he was willing to try.
Richie laughed softly. “What the fuck do I know anyway? I shouldn’t be giving anyone advice about talking to their Dad.”
“No, it’s alright,” Agustín said. “I appreciate it.” He felt a little better after talking with him. Carrying the secret had been weighing him down more than he had realized.
Richie called out to the dog and got up from where had been sitting. “I’ve gotta go inside and get something to eat,” he said. “Do you like chicken enchiladas?”
“I fuckin’ love enchiladas.” Agustín got to his feet.
“Good, because my Mom sent me home with a pile of leftovers.” Richie bent down to pick up Chiquita. “There’s enough for you and me and Patrick.”
“No, Mom, you don’t have to book a flight,” Patrick said, exasperated. “The babies aren’t going to be here for another six months. There isn’t anything we can do right now except wait.”
Dana clucked her tongue. “Oh honey, you’re new to this. There are plenty of things to be done before the birth. You have to prepare and get the nursery ready…”
“We’re already taking care of that,” Patrick interrupted her. Richie came in from the back porch and grabbed him by the waist, nibbling his neck.
Agustín walked past them, making a beeline for the fridge.
“Pothead,” Patrick whispered with a smile, nudging Richie away.
“What’s that?” Dana asked.
“Uh, nothing Mom,” Patrick said. “Richie just came in and we’re going to be having dinner soon, so…”
Dana ignored his attempt to end the call. “Have you started looking into preschools? The application process can be very lengthy. If you want to enroll them in a good school, you need to plan it out well in advance.”
“They’re fetuses!” Patrick exclaimed. “Their fingers and toes haven’t even finished forming yet and you want me to sign them up for school?”
“There are very long waiting lists, Patrick,” Dana said witheringly. “Your father and I didn’t know about that and we almost missed our chance to get Megan into Springvale Academy. If it wasn’t for a friend of ours calling in a favor, I don’t know what we would have done.”
“Yeah,” Patrick muttered sarcastically. “Megan might never have learned how to stack blocks. How tragic.”
Dana scoffed. “You laugh now, but wait until it’s your children. Then you’ll understand.”
Richie put a plate of food in the microwave and set the timer while Agustín mixed together a pitcher full of drinks.
Patrick was suddenly very hungry. His stomach rumbled. “I have to go Mom,” he said. “Richie is getting dinner ready and Agustín is here, so we’ll be eating soon.”
“Please call me back soon,” Dana pleaded. “There’s so much to talk about. I’m just so thrilled. You have to text me your ultrasound photos so I can show everyone. Uncle Bill and Aunt Patty will want to see them, and of course Keith and Marie…”
“Of course, you have to show Keith and Marie.” Patrick raised his eyebrows at Richie.
“Take care of yourself dear – and get lots of sleep. You’re going to need it,” Dana cautioned. “And tell Richie I said hello.”
“I’ll be sure to do that. Good night Mom.”
After dinner, Patrick went in the bedroom to make the call to his Dad. When Richie came in later, he was lying on his back with the phone beside him, an arm slung over his eyes.
“What did your Dad say?” Richie asked.
Patrick laughed painfully. “You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you.”
Richie grinned, stretching out on the bed next to him. “It can’t be that bad.”
“Oh, it is that bad.” Patrick sat up. He massaged his temples, trying to get rid of the headache that had come on since the phone call.
“He’s not happy that we’re having kids?” Richie was surprised by that.
“No, he’s happy.” Patrick didn’t even know where to begin. He cleared his throat, deciding to start from the beginning. “I told you that he’s been seeing a new girlfriend, right?”
“Oh yeah,” Richie said. “The flight attendant?”
“Yes.” Patrick cringed at the thought. She was much younger than him, only a few years older than Megan. He had done his best to be supportive and not show that he was creeped out by it, but it was an uphill battle. “When I told him that we’re expecting twins in April, he said…and this is a direct quote,” he shuddered before saying the words, “‘Son, that’s wonderful, because Cassie and I are having a baby in June.’”
“Whoa,” Richie was stunned for a moment and then he began laughing heartily. “Pato, that’s so…”
“Completely trashy?” Patrick filled in. “I’m going to have children who are the same age as my youngest sibling.” He groaned and put his head in his hands. “Oh God, I don’t know how this could happen in my family. We’re not even from the south.”
“Well, I think we know how it happened…”
“Ewww, no,” Patrick whined miserably. “Please don’t make me think about my Dad having sex. You’re supposed to make me feel better about this.”
“I’m sorry,” Richie said, unable to hide his amusement. He rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. “If being with this woman and having a baby with her makes your Dad happy, then maybe we should just be glad for them.”
“I know,” Patrick sighed. “And I will be, once I can get over how revolting it is. I mean, you would think someone as old as my Dad would know how to use a condom.”
“Well, you know how it is,” Richie smirked, “Sometimes you get carried away and you’ve just gotta have it.”
“Oh my God,” Patrick cringed, shoving him away. “Get out of here. Please, just leave this room before you make me throw up.”
Richie chuckled. “I’m sorry, Pato.” He reached out and tried to hug him. “I was just teasing you.”
Patrick half heartedly tried to push him away before giving into the hug. “It’s just so weird,” he said. “How are we going to explain it to our kids? ‘Here’s your Aunt or Uncle, who’s only two months older than you.’”
“It is unconventional,” Richie said, “But our kids are going to grow up in a family that would be considered weird to some people. I think we should just keep an open mind and let your Dad and Cassie decide what works for them.”
Patrick’s jaw dropped. He hadn’t thought about it like that. His Dad had been nothing but encouraging and supportive when he had told him the news, but he hadn’t been able to reciprocate. “God, you’re right. I reacted to my Dad the way I thought he would react to us.”
“Yeah, it seems that way.”
Patrick reached over and picked up his phone.
“Who are you calling?” Richie asked.
“I’m going to text my Dad,” Patrick explained. “I want to invite him and Cassie to come for Thanksgiving.” He typed out a message. “We should get them a good baby gift too.”
“That’s really sweet, Pato,” Richie said, patting him on the back. “I think they’ll like that.”
Now that their families had been informed, Patrick had the idea that they should make it official on their social media pages. They picked a spot in the nursery, posing in front of the wall that had already been painted.
“Just don’t lean against it,” Agustín warned, lifting up his camera. “It’s still wet.”
Richie put an arm around Patrick, who was holding the sonogram photo in front of them. The camera snapped one, two, three times.
“Paddy, can you try not smiling quite so hard?” Agustín asked. “You look like such a dork.”
“Hey!” Patrick gaped at him. “I happen to be really excited about this, ok? I’m going to smile however I want to.”
“It’s alright,” Richie said, putting his hands on his shoulders. “Just relax and look normal.”
Before they could try again, Chiquita wandered into the room. Patrick hurriedly picked her up before she could get into the paint. “We forgot to include her in the photo,” he said. “She is part of our family.”
“Yeah,” Richie grinned. “You’re going to have siblings, Chiquita.” He petted her head and she licked his hand.
“Let’s do a few more,” Agustín suggested.
Patrick held the dog under one arm and put his other arm around Richie, who was clutching the sonogram photo. He tried to tone down his enthusiastic smiling just a tiny bit.
“Say babies!” Agustín held up his camera and snapped away.
“You’ll never guess who left a comment on my Instagram,” Richie said.
“What? Who?” Patrick muttered distractedly, balancing his phone and a box of donuts while he opened the car door. He was on his way to Michelle’s house. Her morning sickness had finally abated enough that she could enjoy sweets again and he wanted to surprise her.
“Brady,” Richie answered.
“No fucking away.” Patrick almost dropped the donuts. “What did he say?”
Richie chuckled and read the message to him. “You two have become everything that I thought you would be. #mazel.”
“That’s…well it’s actually not as bad as it could be,” Patrick said, getting into the car. It was a little snide, but considering what had happened the last time he’d seen Brady it could have been much worse.
“There’s more,” Richie told him. “He invited us to his book signing at Barnes & Noble in SF next week.”
“He wrote a book?” Patrick laughed. “What’s it about? No, don’t even tell me – it’s a guide book to becoming the perfect gay.”
“Something like that,” Richie said. “It’s called The Golden Gays and the description says it’s ‘a no holds barred examination of sex, stereotypes and self-inflicted homophobia in the modern era.’”
Patrick groaned. “Oh, please. That is so him. You know he only wrote it so he could publically shame everyone that he’s ever slept with, all while painting himself as the all knowing St. Brady.”
“Yeah, and it’s kind of sleazy,” Richie said. “There’s a lot of sex in here…”
“Oh my God, you’re reading it?” Patrick laughed.
“I felt like I had to,” Richie chuckled. “I went and bought a copy when I was on my lunch break today. The first chapter doesn’t mention either of us, in case you were wondering.”
“Oh, I’m so disappointed,” Patrick smirked. “I was hoping he’d trash us in print so we could sue for defamation.”
“Well, I’m only on page twenty,” Richie said, “so keep your fingers crossed.”
“I will.” Patrick navigated the car out of the parking space in front of the donut shop. “I wouldn’t mind taking all of that Ginge’s money and setting up our kid’s college funds with it.”
Michelle came to the door dressed in yoga pants and a stretchy top that showed off her very noticeable bump. “Aw, Patrick, that’s so nice,” she exclaimed, giving him a big hug.
Patrick hugged her back, careful not to drop the carton of donuts. “I remembered that you said you like jellies and cream filled, so I got a dozen of those.”
“Mmm, that sounds so good.” Michelle took the box from him and peeked inside. “Come in,” she beckoned him to follow her. “I was just getting ready for yoga class, but we have time to talk for a few minutes.”
“You’re doing yoga? How does that work when you’re…” Patrick didn’t finish his thought, not wanting to say aloud that she was already huge.
Michelle was already diving into a cream-filled donut, only half listening to him. “This is exactly what I needed,” she mumbled around a mouthful of food.
Patrick tried not to stare at her belly, but his eyes kept drifting back there. He was mesmerized knowing that his babies were in there, hopefully absorbing all the dessert related nutrients he’d brought for them. “Can I?” he asked, reaching out to touch the bump. “I mean, if you’re not comfortable with it…”
“No, of course,” Michelle said. “You can even talk to them if you want, like I sometimes do.”
Patrick hesitantly placed a hand over her stomach. He didn’t expect to feel any movement yet. The books and websites said it was still too early for that. “Hi babies. It’s me…your Dad. Patrick, not Richie. We’re so excited to meet you. It’s all we can talk about. But don’t feel like you need to hurry,” he added hastily. “Definitely stay in there and keep growing.”
Michelle smiled. “I have a good feeling about these two,” she said. “They have very strong, determined spirits.”
Patrick thought that must be true. They had gotten pregnant on their first try, defying all the odds that it wouldn’t work. If it hadn’t, it was unlikely they would have been able to do it again. He had wondered if the babies somehow knew that this was it and grabbed on, literally, for dear life.
“Your Dads love you,” Michelle whispered, rubbing her stomach.
“We do,” Patrick said. “We love you so much.” He pressed two fingers to his lips and then put them on Michelle’s bump, sending them a kiss.
“Do you want to tell them or should I?” Richie asked, smiling at him.
“We should say it together.” Patrick took a sip of his Mai Tai. “I feel like we need a drum roll or something.”
“Oh God, just spit it out,” Doris demanded.
They were all gathered around a table at Li Po, having a little pre-Thanksgiving celebration before everyone left to spend the holiday with relatives. Dom and Michael would be going to Oregon to visit Michael’s family and Doris and Malik were planning a trip to San Diego to see his mother.
“Seriously Paddy, we’re growing old here,” Agustín groused. “Just tell us if your kids have an outie or an innie.”
Patrick smirked at his impatience. He was actually enjoying having everyone in suspense. “Ok, so let’s have a countdown first and then we’ll say it together,” he giggled, grinning at Richie. “One…two…three…”
“Two girls!” Richie announced boisterously.
“No penises!” Patrick called out just as loudly, bursting into laughter. He was so ecstatically happy that he could barely contain it. His face ached from all the smiling he’d done that day.
There was a round of cheering and then everyone started talking over each other at once. Dom reached over and squeezed Patrick’s hand, smiling at him warmly. “Congratulations,” he said. “You called it.”
“Yeah, you should be buying lottery tickets,” Michael added. “You’ve got good intuition.”
“And now you won’t have to return all those little dresses and booties,” Agustín chimed in.
“Uhh,” Patrick sipped his drink, giving Richie a sidelong glance.
“What?” Richie laughed. “You thought I didn’t know that you’ve been shopping already? I figured you wouldn’t be able to wait.”
“I was good for, like, a month,” Patrick claimed. “But there’s so much cute stuff out there. Our girls are going to have the best wardrobe.”
Agustín’s phone buzzed and he took it out of his pocket. When he saw who was calling, he was visibly shocked. “Um, I need to go somewhere where I can take this,” he said, slipping out of the booth.
Patrick watched him go and wondered what was going on.
“I still can’t believe you decided to have two,” Doris said, turning to Richie. “Are you crazy? Do you hate sleep? I don’t get why you would even do that to yourself.”
Agustín took his phone outside so he could talk to Eddie in private. He couldn’t believe he had actually called him. It felt good to hear his voice again, even if the call wasn’t for the warmest reasons.
“I just want you to come by and get the rest of your stuff out of my apartment,” Eddie said. “I boxed it up so all you need to do is get someone with a car to come over here to pick it up.”
“Yeah, sure, I can do that,” Agustín assured him. “I stopped by a few weeks ago but you weren’t home. I left a note on the door.”
“I know. I was…” Eddie stopped himself. “No, nevermind. It’s none of your business where I was. All you need to know is that I’ll be home at 3:30 on Monday. Pick up your shit then or it’s all going in the dumpster.”
Agustín nodded. He deserved that – and more. “Understood,” he said. “I’ll see if Dom can drive me over. Listen, I just want you to know how sorry I am…”
“No,” Eddie said firmly. “We’re not doing tearful apologies over the phone. I had a really shitty day and I’m not in the mood. If you have anything you need to say it can wait until Monday.”
“Ok,” Agustín said, chastened. Whatever happened between them from now on had to be on Eddie’s terms. Considering the way things had ended between them it was a miracle that he had even bothered to call. Most guys would have just thrown out his stuff without giving him a warning. “Thanks for getting in touch with me.”
“Whatever. Don’t make a big thing out of it. I’m just trying to free up some closet space.” Eddie was trying too hard to sound casual. He had been hurt badly and he wasn’t going to open up easily again.
“So I’ll see you Monday then?” Agustín asked.
“Yep, 3:30,” Eddie reminded him.
“Bye, Eddie.” Agustín ended the call, immediately feeling anxious about seeing him again. He didn’t want to say or do anything that would make things even worse between them, but he needed him to know how much he regretted what had happened. He had never intended to hurt him, but somehow, in trying to avoid hurting him, he had done more damage than he would have if he’d just been honest about wanting out of the relationship. It was a tangled, fucked up mess, he had to admit.
Agustín went back inside the restaurant and slid into the booth next to Patrick.
“My sister’s always said girls are easier to deal with,” Richie claimed. “Her boys are really wild.”
Doris shrugged. “I don’t know about that, but whether it’s a girl or boy, they all poop the same. You won’t believe how much comes out of them. It’s like a constant stream – and did I mention it’s liquid?”
“Ewww,” Dom groaned.
Patrick turned to Agustín, whispering, “Are you ok?”
Agustín shook his head. “Eddie,” he mouthed back.
“Oh no.” Patrick put his arm around him.
Agustín hugged him back, grateful to be surrounded by his friends. He signaled to the waiter to come and refill his drink.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Dom asked, after he’d parked the car in front of the building.
Agustín wanted to be alone with Eddie, but getting his stuff out of the apartment would go faster if they had help. They were pressed for time because Dom had to board a flight in two hours. “Give me a few minutes and then come up.”
Dom patted his shoulder encouragingly and Agustín took a deep breath before getting out of the car.
Eddie opened the door on the first knock. He looked great, dressed in a colorful t-shirt and hat.
“It’s good to see you again,” Agustín said sincerely.
“Yeah, let’s just hurry up and get this over with,” Eddie said, stepping back and gesturing for him to come into the apartment. “Your stuff’s over there.”
Everything that had belonged to Agustín had been consolidated into a pile of cardboard boxes. The rest of it had been dropped off at Dom’s a while ago.
“Thanks for doing this.” Agustín said. “I don’t really have a place to put it right now, since I’m still staying with Richie and Paddy, but we’ll probably leave it in their garage until I move out.”
“Why’s Dom waiting in the car?” Eddie asked, peering out the window.
“Um, I kind of asked him to give us a few minutes,” Agustín admitted. “I wanted to talk to you alone.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Eddie groaned. “Please don’t make this into something that it isn’t. I just want your stuff out of my apartment so I can move on with my life, ok?”
“Yeah, I get that,” Agustín said. “But part of moving on, for me, is being able to apologize to you and hopefully make you understand that I never wanted to hurt you…”
“But you did,” Eddie interrupted him. “You hurt me. It took me a really long time to be able to open up to someone again and actually trust them. Do you even understand that?”
“I do.” Agustín’s gaze shifted to the floor. He knew that was the absolute worst thing about what he had done. Eddie had taken a risk and given him his heart, only to have it stomped on in the end.
Eddie sighed, walking over to the pile of boxes. “Re-opening old wounds isn’t going to help anyway. Let’s just get all this downstairs.”
Agustín started to pick up a box and then stopped, pulling back the flap. His heart ached in his chest, but he managed to smile when he picked up the Cece Peniston CD that was sitting on top. “This isn’t mine,” he said, handing it to him. “You had it when we started dating.”
Eddie frowned, his eyes shining. “I know, but I wanted you to have it.”
Agustín might have taken it as a kind gesture, but he suspected the real reason was that Eddie couldn’t stand to listen to that song anymore. He felt the same way.
“Is there anything else?” Dom asked, looking around the room.
“No, I think this it,” Agustín said, picking up the last box. “I’ll carry it down.”
“Do you want me to wait in the car?” Dom glanced back and forth between him and Eddie.
“Yeah, thanks.” Agustín gave him a grateful look.
Eddie had mostly just ignored him while he carried his stuff out of the apartment. Understandably, he hadn’t wanted to help, choosing instead to watch TV or read a magazine while they worked.
Agustín put down the box he had been holding and went over to where he was sitting on the couch. “Eddie…”
“I’ve got plans for later,” Eddie said sharply. “So if you could speed it up a little…”
“I’m sorry for what I did to you,” Agustín blurted out. “When we started having problems, I handled it horribly. I couldn’t admit to you that I didn’t think we were right for each other anymore because I couldn’t be honest with myself.”
Eddie stared at him coldly. “You made me feel like there was something wrong with me,” he said, unable to contain his bitterness. “I spent months trying to figure out what I’d done to make you lose interest in me.”
“I know.” Agustín was deeply ashamed about that. He sat down on the other end of the couch, away from Eddie.
“Can I ask you something?” Eddie asked cautiously. “I’m not sure if I really want to know the answer to this but…did you know for a long time that you didn’t love me anymore?”
Agustín shook his head, wiping tears from his eyes. “No. Not until that night, after the barbecue at Dom’s, when you started talking about having kids...”
“Oh, ok.” Eddie seemed a little relieved about that.
“That’s when I started to realize what I had been feeling…or not feeling,” Agustín confessed. “I still care about you, but I don’t think being married is the right thing for us anymore.”
Eddie snickered. “Yeah, no kidding.”
“I should have ended it sooner,” Agustín said. “I was just going through so much shit at the time. I didn’t know what to do.”
Eddie rubbed his eyes. “We can’t go back. What’s done is done.”
Agustín stared at his hands in his lap. “I don’t mean this as an excuse for what I did, but a few months before we broke up I found out that my Dad had died. I think it kind of fucked me up for a while, trying to deal with that.”
“Oh my God,” Eddie said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I don’t know,” Agustín answered honestly. “Maybe I still partly blamed myself for why my Dad and I stopped talking. I mean, I know there wasn’t anything I could have done to change his mind…”
“No, of course not,” Eddie said. “He’s the one who couldn’t deal with having a gay son. It’s not your fault he pushed you away.”
“I was always a disappointment to him, even before he found out,” Agustín lamented. “I wasn’t the son he wanted.”
“I know,” Eddie said. “I’m sorry.”
Agustín looked up and met his eyes. He saw warmth and compassion there and it reminded him of better times. “I loved you,” he said, his voice catching in his throat, “more than I’ve ever loved anyone.”
Eddie nodded, tears slipping down his cheeks. “I loved you too,” he said quietly.
Agustín sat with him in silence for a few more minutes until it was time to go.
“Did you baste it before you put it in?” Patrick asked, double checking the recipe. “We have to make sure the meat is moist, not dry.”
Richie picked up the can opener and a can of cranberry sauce. “I basted it, I put the thermometer in, it’s all good,” he said, sounding exasperated. “Why don’t you mash the potatoes? They should be ready by now.”
Patrick smirked. He knew he was trying to distract him from worrying about dinner. They had never hosted Thanksgiving before and it would be his Dad and his girlfriend’s first time seeing their house. There was a lot to stress over.
Agustín came in the kitchen, his clothes dabbed with paint. “Oh my God, that smells amazing,” he said, opening the oven to peer inside. “Richie, did you make this pumpkin pie?”
“Actually, Patrick did,” Richie grinned.
“I followed the recipe on Martha Stewart’s website to a t,” Patrick said proudly. “So if it tastes bad, blame Martha, not me.”
Agustín snickered. “Well, look who’s turning into Donna Reed.”
Patrick flipped him off with one hand while he mashed the potatoes with the other. “If you’re going to stay for dinner, you could at least help set the table – and change your clothes. You smell like weed and paint.”
Agustín grabbed a bag of marshmallows off the countertop and popped a handful into his mouth.
Patrick raised his eyebrows at him. “Seriously, I really mean it. My Dad is coming with his girlfriend and you know how critical he is.”
“Please. How judgmental can he be at this point?” Agustín wondered. “He’s the one who knocked up Miss Teen USA.”
“She’s not a teenager,” Patrick insisted. “She just looks really young for her age.”
“Whatever,” Agustín said on his way out of the room. “Just make sure he gets a prenup or shit could get really ugly.”
Patrick shook his head. That was the least of his concerns right now. He opened the oven and checked on his pie again, poking it with a toothpick.
“We’re so glad you could come,” Patrick said enthusiastically, a bright smile plastered on his face. “Cassie, you look beautiful.” He hugged her, shooting a pained look at Richie over her shoulder.
“Yeah, we’ve been really excited about having you visit us,” Richie said, shaking Phil’s hand.
“How’s the haircutting business going these days?” Phil asked, looking around at the front porch and yard. “I guess pretty well, if you were able to buy this house.”
Richie froze, looking uncomfortable.
Patrick grimaced. “We’re renting, Dad.”
“Really?” Phil was surprised. “How much are they getting out of you for it? If you were handling your money properly, you wouldn’t have to deal with landlords anymore.”
“Phil,” Cassie whined, grabbing his arm. “I’m hungry and my feet hurt. I need to sit down.”
“Aw, I’m sorry sweetheart.” Phil put an arm around her. “We can talk about this later, Patrick. If you want, I’ll go over your statements with you and show you where you’re going wrong.”
Patrick smiled tightly, trying to remember why he had thought it would be a good idea to invite them.
“I can’t take much more of this,” Patrick complained, handing Richie pot holders to take the turkey out. “He lost his shit when he found out we’re letting Agustín stay here rent-free. We definitely need to seat them at opposite ends of the table.”
“It’s just one dinner, Pato, and then they leave,” Richie said, a hint of irritability in his voice. He always tried not to badmouth Patrick’s family, but he was losing patience with his Dad’s subtle jabs about his career and their finances.
“I’m sorry,” Patrick said, rubbing his back. “Maybe we can avoid all of them and go away together for Christmas.”
“That’d be nice.” Richie put an arm around his shoulders and kissed his cheek. “You say that every year, but if we ever actually did it…”
Patrick laughed, nudging him in the side. “I mean it this time. It’s our last chance to take a vacation together before the kids are born.”
“Ok,” Richie said. “Where do you want to go?”
“Hmm, I’ll have to think about it.” Patrick could hear his Dad talking loudly to Agustín in the living room. He needed to intervene before it turned ugly. “Let’s just get everyone to the table before we end up on the evening news.”
Richie chuckled and lifted up the platter, carrying the turkey into the dining room.
“We have so much to be thankful for this year,” Patrick said, after everyone had taken their seats. He reached over and held Richie’s hand. “We’ve got two beautiful babies on the way…and my best friend is here with us.” He smiled at Agustín across the table. “And Dad and Cassie, we’re glad to have you here too.”
“And you’re going to have a new brother or sister,” Cassie added cheerfully.
“Right,” Patrick smiled, reaching for his glass of wine. “A new sibling.” He caught Richie’s eye and exchanged a look. He was trying not to judge them so harshly, but it was going to take a while to get used to.
There was an awkward silence and then Agustín cleared his throat. “I just want to thank you guys for giving me a place to stay,” he said. “I’ve been going through a pretty dark time recently and it really helps to know that I’ve got friends to lean on while I figure everything out.”
Richie, who was sitting closest to him, put a hand on his shoulder. “Of course. We’ll always be here for you.”
Patrick shot a nervous glance at his Dad, expecting him to make a rude remark about Agustín’s rent situation, but he didn’t.
Phil took a sip of wine. “Well, I’m thankful that at this time next year, I’ll be a grandfather – and a father again. After your mother left, I thought that I might be alone for the rest of my life, but then I met this beautiful lady.”
Patrick choked down a gulp of wine. He was surprised to find that he actually did feel happy for them. It was still a little strange and definitely not what he’d expected for his Dad, but he was glad that he’d found someone and wasn’t lonely anymore.
“I just can’t wait to be married to him,” Cassie said excitedly.
Agustín arched an eyebrow at Patrick, shooting him a look that said I told you so.
Patrick ignored him, choosing instead to fork a piece of turkey and a scoop of mashed potatoes onto his plate. He had come out on Thanksgiving years ago, never thinking in his wildest dreams that someday he’d be celebrating the holiday with his husband, his Dad, and his Dad’s very young fiancé. It seemed like maybe anything was possible.
Richie picked up Patrick’s hand and gave his palm a quick kiss. He smiled at him, not needing to say what he was most thankful for.
“Oh. Here’s the part about us.” Patrick was lying on the bed in their hotel room, flipping through Richie’s dog eared copy of Brady’s book. “He changed our names – we’re now Peter and Ramon.”
“You should probably stop right there,” Richie warned. “You’re not gonna like the rest of what he says.”
Patrick ignored him. In lieu of buying each other Christmas gifts, they had reserved a room at an Inn on the Mendocino coast. It was an ideal setting for a romantic weekend – they could hear waves crashing when they opened the window and the hotel provided complimentary champagne. If only Brady’s book hadn’t proven to be so engrossing, they might be able to enjoy some of it.
“Ooh, this is interesting,” Patrick laughed. “He says ‘Ramon remained so enamored with Peter that I don’t think there was one single time we were in bed that he wasn’t thinking of him.’ Is that true?”
Richie grinned, declining to answer. He trailed his fingers over his bare hip and kissed his neck, trying to draw his attention away from the book.
Patrick continued reading. “Ok, now this is just bullshit – ‘I wondered what he found so attractive about Peter. His narcissism and insecurity were tiresome to everyone he came in contact with, including his closest friends. Ramon yearned to fix what was broken inside him, not realizing that he was beyond help.’”
“See, I told you not to read that part.” Richie tried to take the book away from him. “I can’t believe you brought it with you.”
“I needed something to read in the car.” Patrick skimmed over the rest of the page, then closed the paperback and tossed it over the side of the bed. It was salacious garbage. The fact that it had sold so many copies was baffling.
Richie snuggled up against him, kissing his shoulder. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s just bitter and jealous.”
“And a terrible writer,” Patrick added. He refused to let Brady’s book send him into a spiral. That would only be proving him right about his supposed insecurity.
“Hey,” Richie smiled, brushing a finger over his nipple. “Let’s order dessert from room service. They’ve got chocolate cake. I know you’d like that.”
“Yeah, that does sound good.” Patrick leaned in and kissed him. He didn’t want to think about Brady anymore. They were on their babymoon. They were supposed to be living it up, drinking champagne and enjoying some alone time before the babies arrived.
“Anything else you want me to take care of first?” Richie smirked, his eyes shifting downward.
Patrick giggled, pulling him closer and making out with him. He gasped when Richie’s hand took over on his dick, stroking him until he was thick and hard.
“Oh shit, slow down. I don’t want to come yet.” Patrick huffed, out of breath from sucking on Richie’s cock. He wiped a string of saliva off his chin, whimpering helplessly when he felt a wet tongue laving at his hole.
Richie was lying on his back with Patrick straddling him backwards, grinding his ass in his face while he blew him. “Ahh, that’s good, baby,” he groaned when he swallowed him down again. “Love that sweet mouth.”
Patrick’s cock was heavy and dripping on both of their stomachs. Richie spread his cheeks and teased at his rim, licking and fingering him until he moaned loudly.
“Oh my God, Richie…Richie,” Patrick whined. He lifted himself up a little, enough to get his hand around his cock. He worked at it frantically.
Richie slid a finger into his ass just before he came, brushing it against him in a way that he knew would drive him wild.
Patrick cried out, coming with a long, drawn out groan, his thighs quivering while he shot all over both of them. He took a minute to regroup, his breathing slowly returning to normal.
Richie rubbed his back. “That was so hot.”
Patrick smiled at him over his shoulder. “And messy.” He laughed softly. “You and your magic fingers.” He sat up, turning around so he was facing him. “I’ll finish you off,” he muttered, wrapping a hand around his cock. “You’re already so close.”
Richie pulled him in for a kiss, his tongue sliding into his mouth. He could taste himself on him. “No, I wanna fuck you,” he said, nudging him over on his back.
Patrick smiled up at him and spread his legs.
“You never would have done that when we first started dating,” Richie said, when they were lying together under the sheets afterward.
“What? Fucking? I know. I had a huge phobia about anal sex.” Patrick pulled the comforter up to cover them. It was a cold December night and the heating system in the hotel wasn’t doing enough to warm the room.
“No, not that.” Richie rubbed his bare shoulder. “I meant, you know…69.”
“Oh.” Patrick shifted closer to him, wanting to share his body heat. “But I love 69. How could I ever say no to that?”
“I don’t know,” Richie said. “But you would have, if I’d asked.”
Patrick couldn’t disagree with that. He’d had so many hang ups. The version of himself that Richie had met back in 2014 wouldn’t have recognized present-day Patrick. “I guess that proves Brady wrong then,” he said, feeling vindicated. “I am definitely not ‘beyond help.’”
“No, you never were.” Richie kissed him sweetly, hugging him close underneath the covers.
“Merry Christmas,” Patrick said softly.
“Merry Christmas, Pato,” Richie whispered, pressing his lips to his forehead.
“No way,” Richie said definitively, while they loaded their suitcases into the car. “I don’t want to name our daughter after the dumbest character on your favorite TV show.”
“Rose is a beautiful name,” Patrick insisted, pulling his coat tighter around himself. “At least I’m trying to come up with something. I haven’t heard any suggestions from you yet.”
“That’s because I’m still thinking about it,” Richie said.
They climbed in the car and Patrick turned on the radio. They wanted either the first or middle names to be Mexican, but the problem was that every option seemed to already be taken by someone in Richie’s family. He had way too many female relatives.
“If you can’t find any good Latina names, then it’s going to be up to my white ass to name the kids,” Patrick warned him. “You don’t want them to be called Tiffany or Kelly do you?”
“Ok, I’ll work on it,” Richie promised, steering the car onto the highway. “Just no Golden Girls, alright?”
Patrick grinned. “What, you don’t think Blanche is a great name? Blanche Donado-Murray has a nice ring to it.”
Richie laughed. “Sorry, Pato. It’s not happening.”
“Hey, I have an idea.” Patrick leaned forward and opened the glove box. He dug around until he found a pen and a scrap of paper. “We’ve got a three hour drive ahead of us. Why don’t we brainstorm? I’ll write down every name that comes into our heads and when we get home we can narrow it down.”
“Yeah, let’s do it,” Richie said. “I’ll start – I like the name Camila.”
“Oh, that’s a good one.” Patrick scribbled it down. “Camila. See, we’re already getting somewhere.”
Two hours later, Patrick was slumped in his seat, holding a pillow between his head and the window while he dozed off. He was still clutching the piece of paper they had used to list their choices for baby names.
Richie had suggested Ana, Gabriela, and Camila, while Patrick leaned towards Adriana or Isabella. He was still secretly clinging to Rose, but he knew it would take some effort to wear Richie down.
“Hmm, where are we?” Patrick asked, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“Healdsburg,” Richie answered. “We’re halfway home.”
“Seriously? Only halfway? Jesus,” Patrick grumbled. “I can drive the rest of the way if you’re tired.”
“Wait until we stop up here,” Richie said. “We can get some food first.”
Patrick stared out the window, still groggy from sleep. They were driving through wine country, past row after row of dormant vines. Rain drizzled down, blurring his view.
Richie found a Wendy’s where they could stop and eat lunch. They ran from the car to the restaurant, hurrying to get away from the downpour.
“Your hair got wet, Pato.” Richie smiled at him, trying to smooth it down. Their sweaters were soaked too.
Patrick crossed his arms over his chest, shivering while they waited in line. All he wanted was a hot cup of coffee. Fast food coffee was sometimes the worst, but he was willing to risk it.
“I think I’m going to get a chicken sandwich,” Richie said.
“Yeah, chicken sounds good.” Patrick was distracted by the view out the window. Across the street, a church had just let out and parishioners were hurrying to their cars. A sign in front of the building said Grace Community Church. He was going to say something to Richie about it, but they finally reached the front of the line and it immediately left his mind.
“What do you think of the name Grace?” Patrick asked later, when they were almost finished eating.
Richie took a sip of Coke to wash down his sandwich. “It’s alright, I guess. It kind of makes me think about when I was kid, how we always had to say grace before meals. My sister would kick me under the table to try to make me laugh and get in trouble.”
Patrick grinned. “So you don’t want me to put it on the list then?”
“I don’t know,” Richie shrugged. “Keep it on there and maybe it’ll sound good with one of the other names that we like.”
Patrick dipped a handful of french fries in ketchup and put them in his mouth. “Grace Kelly was really pretty,” he said after he’d swallowed, “And she became a Princess.”
Richie smiled at him. “I don’t think our kids are going to be marrying royalty.”
“You never know,” Patrick said. “They can become whatever they want to be.”
Agustín got a job at an art gallery in San Francisco shortly after Christmas. He planned to move into his own place after his first few paychecks came in. They were all in agreement that it would be better for him to leave Paddy and Richie’s house before the babies were born. He didn’t want to be woken up by screaming infants at 2 am and he knew they would welcome having the entire place to themselves again.
But first, he had to finish painting the nursery.
“You’ve gotta let us see it,” Patrick pleaded. “We need to put the cribs together and pick out curtains and I don’t know how we’re supposed to do that when we can’t even go in there.”
“Ok, calm down,” Agustín said. Paddy’s nervous energy seemed to be ramping up by the day. He shuddered to think what kind of basket case he’d turn into in the delivery room. “Just let me clean up first and put my paintbrushes away.”
He got up from the couch and went to the nursery while Patrick went to find Richie.
The tarp that had been used to cover the floor was quickly stuffed into the closet, along with painting supplies. Agustín closed the closet door and turned around to look at the room. It had come together really well, he had to admit. There were a few spots here and there that he would touch up later, but for the most part, he was actually proud of it. It had been a long time since he’d been able to say that about anything he’d done.
“Is it safe to come in?” Patrick asked from the other side of the door.
“Yeah, come on in and see your brand new nursery,” Agustín announced, with a flourish of his hand. He felt like he could be hosting a show on HGTV.
“Oh my fucking God,” Patrick gasped when he stepped inside.
“Wow. You did such a great job,” Richie said, clapping a hand on Agustín’s shoulder. “Well done, man.”
Agustín had originally planned to paint the walls off white, but after that night on the porch with Richie, gazing up at the stars, he had re-done everything in pale blue. Using a stencil, he had even made silver stars on one the walls.
“Oh my God,” Patrick said again, hugging him tightly. “I love you so much for doing this.”
“I’m glad you like it, Paddy,” Agustín said. “Sorry if it’s not girly enough.”
“What? No,” Patrick dismissed his concerns. “This is totally perfect. We can add pink stuff later on, like curtains and bedding.”
“I love this painting.” Richie was admiring a canvas that Agustín had hung on the wall. He had made a colorful rendering of the solar system, with a sliver of the moon in the center of the piece. Scrawled along the edge of the painting were the words Te quiero hasta la luna y más allá.
Patrick had barely been holding it together since he walked in the room, but he immediately started bawling when he read the words. The Spanish lessons Richie had given him over the last few years had paid off enough that he could easily interpret what it said.
Richie put an arm around him. “Gracias, Agustín,” he said. “This is just what we wanted.”
Agustín beamed with pride.
The next two months passed quickly. Patrick was swamped at work, spending long hours in his office trying to finish up everything that needed to be done before he took his paternity leave in April. He was at his desk, munching on a turkey sandwich and typing an e-mail to one of his underlings, when Richie called.
“Hi honey, whatcha doing?” Patrick grabbed a napkin to wipe a smudge of mayonnaise off his cheek.
“I was just heading to lunch,” Richie said. “I’ve been looking at baby names all morning and I found a couple of good ones. What do you think of Mariana?”
“Mmm.” Patrick’s mouth was too full to answer right away. He took a gulp of his Coke and swallowed. “I love Mariana. Why didn’t we come up with that before? It’s simple and pretty and I don’t think there any mean nicknames that could be made out of it.” He had been concerned about that, knowing very well from his Fatrick years how cruel kids could be.
“Mariana Megan?” Richie asked skeptically.
“Ugh, no.” Patrick sucked the last of his drink through a straw, the ice cubes rattling at the bottom of the cup. “I still want to name one of the babies after her, but that’s too many M’s – three once you add Murray.”
“I’ve been thinking about Gabriela again,” Richie said. “Gabriela Megan doesn’t sound bad.”
“No, I actually really like that.” Patrick looked up at the sound of a knock on his door. “I have to get back to work. Write all of these down so we can talk about them later.”
“Got it,” Richie said. “Love you. Bye.”
Dana flew in from Colorado for the baby shower and immediately took over, ordering dozens of raspberry cake pops and pink cupcakes from a bakery. Patrick was too harried from finishing up at work and getting everything ready in the nursery to pay much attention to what his mother was doing. If it distracted her and kept her off his back, it was all good.
“Next, it says to attach the stationary rail to the headboard and footboard,” Richie said, double checking the instructions.
Patrick lifted up the rail to put it in place. They had lucked out and gotten both cribs second hand. Doris had still had Charlie’s packed away in her garage and Richie’s sister, Jackie, had generously offered the crib that her youngest had grown out of.
Dana poked her head into the room, holding the phone away from her ear. “Which would you prefer, chicken or beef sliders? The caterers need to know now.”
Patrick’s eyebrows shot up. “You hired caterers?!”
Dana’s mouth tightened and she shook her head, unable to cover her exasperation. “Of course I did. How else do you intend to feed your guests?”
“Uh,” Richie looked up at her from where he was putting the crib together on the floor. “My Mom was actually going to bring fajitas and my sisters will probably cook something too, so I really don’t think you need to order anything extra.”
“Oh, I see,” Dana said, taking a moment to reassess. “I’ll just cancel everything except the desserts and we’ll change it to a Mexican Fiesta theme, like an early Cinco de Mayo celebration.”
“No, Mom, please don’t…” Patrick called after her as she left the room. “We don’t need a theme.”
Richie laughed. “Now she’s going to hire a Mariachi band and hang a Piñata.”
“Don’t even joke about that,” Patrick warned. “You know she would.”
Thankfully, Dana’s idea of a Mexican theme involved pitchers of pink grapefruit Margaritas and several bowls of guacamole dip. Patrick nixed her decorating ideas, insisting that they stick with the pink balloons and streamers they had originally planned.
“What is this music?” Dana asked, perplexed. She was looking around for a place to set a vase of flowers in the dining room.
“It’s my party playlist,” Patrick said. “There’s a little bit of everything – Britney, Adele, Beyoncé of course…”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a baby shower,” Dana sniffed.
“It’s about girls running the world! It’s completely appropriate.”
Richie walked into the room carrying a platter of home cooked food, his mother following behind him.
“Oh my God, Dolores. It’s so good to see you again,” Patrick said, coming around the table to give her a hug.
“Ay, cariño.” Dolores pulled him close, embracing him warmly. “I was so happy to get the invitation in the mail. I told Ricardo he would be in big trouble if he didn’t send me one.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to get sent to my room or anything,” Richie grinned.
“Of course we wouldn’t leave you out,” Patrick said. “This is a family celebration and now you’ll get to meet everyone in my family – except for my Dad, he’s in Colorado – but my sister Megan is on her way over and this is my Mom, Dana.”
“Hello. It’s nice to meet you,” Dana said politely, offering her hand to shake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well,” Dolores said, taking her freshly manicured hand in her callused, sturdy grip. She looked at the spread of pink cupcakes and raspberry cake pops arranged on the table. “I brought fajitas and chimichangas, but I’m not sure they’ll fit in very well with your desserts.”
“No, of course they will,” Patrick said. “It can be an eclectic, buffet kind of thing, right Mom?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Dana smiled tightly. “Everyone loves a buffet.”
“Let me get you a drink, Mamá,” Richie said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“That would be nice,” Dolores said.
“I’ll help,” Patrick offered, even though it wasn’t necessary.
In the kitchen, they talked in hushed tones, sneaking glances over their shoulders at their mothers in the dining room. “I think that went ok,” Richie said, filling a margarita glass from a pitcher.
“It was awkward,” Patrick said. “So awkward.”
“Yeah, but it sounds like they’re talking in there, so that’s a good sign, right?”
“It depends on what my Mom is saying,” Patrick grimaced. “I warned her to be on her best behavior and not say anything offensive or, God forbid, make a negative comment about your mother’s cooking.”
“Yeah,” Richie chuckled dryly. “If she doesn’t like those fajitas, the police might have to get involved.”
“Please tell me you’re not smoking weed at my baby shower,” Patrick said. He had found Agustín in the backyard, leaning against a tree with a joint in his mouth.
“I’m not in the house though,” Agustín pointed out.
Patrick smirked. “That’s true.” He shot a quick look over his shoulder. It was unlikely that anyone would notice them back here. “Can I have some of that, please?”
Agustín’s jaw dropped in mock horror. “Paddy, think of the children…”
“Oh, shut up.” Patrick took the joint from him and put it in his mouth. “My Mom is in there saying God knows what to Richie’s Mom and Doris is freaking everyone out with delivery room horror stories. I need this, believe me.”
Agustín laughed and watched him inhale. “I can’t believe I’ll be moving out next week.”
“I know, we’re going to miss you,” Patrick said. “You know, you don’t have to leave until you’re completely ready. There’s no hurry.”
“No, it’s ok,” Agustín said. “It’s time. It’ll be good to sleep in a real bed again instead of a couch or an air mattress – and you and Richie won’t keep me up anymore with your loud fucking.”
Patrick raised his eyebrows. “I thought we were being quiet this whole time.”
Agustín chuckled. “Nope.”
“Still, we’ve liked having you around,” Patrick told him. “I’m not just saying that.”
“I know,” Agustín smiled. “But you’re about to have two new roommates and, no offense, but I don’t need to be around for that.”
“Yeah, I understand.” Patrick passed the joint back to him. “But you have to promise to come and visit us all the time.”
“I will, Paddy,” Agustín said, taking a puff. “Especially if rent gets to be too expensive. Then I’ll be back really fast.”
“We could always use a nanny,” Patrick grinned. “I’m kidding, by the way.”
“No, that’s not a bad idea,” Agustín said. “I could teach your kids some important life lessons, like how to make a fake ID or where to get their first tattoos.”
Patrick shuddered. “That is so not funny.”
Agustín smirked. “They’ll have to go to someone, so it might as well be me, the cool Uncle.”
Patrick wasn’t sure if he was being serious or not, but he definitely didn’t find it amusing. “This conversation is making me nauseous,” he said. “I need to get back inside before anyone starts looking for me.”
“Yeah, I’ll come with you,” Agustín said. “I could use a few more cupcakes.”
“How much longer do you have?” Ceci asked. Michelle had allowed her to put her hand on her stomach and feel the babies move.
“I’m at 34 weeks,” Michelle said, “so I’m almost at the end of it.”
“You must be so desperate to get those babies out of you right now,” Doris guessed. “I bet you just want to reach right in there and pull ‘em out.”
“God, yes,” Michelle sighed. “I miss being able to get dressed without help and I miss sleeping on my stomach…”
“Don’t you sometimes regret doing this?” Ceci whispered conspiratorially. “It’s so hard on your body.”
“Oh no, not at all,” Michelle insisted. “I knew what I was getting into. I really wanted to carry these babies for them.”
“You might have second thoughts soon,” Ceci chuckled. “I’ve seen pictures of Richie when he was a baby. He had this big, fat head. Imagine pushing that out of your chocho – twice.”
“Oh, you poor girl,” Doris lamented.
Dolores was standing in the hallway, looking at the framed photos of Patrick and Richie that were hanging on the wall. She leaned closer to examine one of the wedding photos that Agustín had taken of them on the beach.
“Did you forget your glasses?” Richie asked, sneaking up on her.
“Yes, I did.” Dolores shook her head. “I’m blind without them.”
“Patrick wants to start opening presents,” Richie said. “Michelle isn’t feeling well and he doesn’t want her to have to leave before we start.”
Dolores stepped back from the photos. “I wish I had been at your wedding,” she said mournfully. “You look so happy.”
“I know.” Richie put an arm around her. They’d had this conversation many times. “How did everything go with you and Patrick’s Mom?” he asked, switching gears. “It seemed like you were getting along well.”
Dolores made a sour face. “She is…” she paused, searching for the right words, “A rich, white lady.”
“She asked me how long I’ve been in this country.”
“Oh God,” Richie winced. “What did you say?”
“I told her I was born in Texas and my ancestors have been here for hundreds of years.” Dolores chuckled. “I should have said I don’t have my papers yet and I carried you over the border in a backpack, just to see what she’d say.”
Richie sighed. “I’m sorry, Mamá. Thank you for putting up with her.”
“I didn’t want to make a big scene at your party,” Dolores said, patting him on the back. “Just seat me far away from her when you open the presents.”
“Oh, it’s a stuffed dog,” Patrick said, peeling back the wrapping paper.
“No, it’s better than that,” Agustín said. “Press it’s ear.”
Patrick did as he was told and the sound of The Golden Girls theme song began to play. “Oh my God,” he guffawed. “This is fucking incredible. Where did you get this?”
“The internet is a magical place, Paddy.”
Their guests were all crowded into the living room while Patrick and Richie sat on the couch, opening presents. Richie’s sisters had given them some beautiful outfits for the babies and Dom, Michael, Doris, and Malik had pooled their resources to get them a stroller.
Patrick put the stuffed dog on the coffee table in front of the couch. It kept moving, tilting it’s head from side to side and wiggling it’s ears. Chiquita took one look at it and left the room.
“I have something for you,” Dolores said, passing Richie a large gift bag stuffed with rose colored tissue paper.
“Thank you.” Richie took out the tissue paper and reached inside, finding two hand-sewn baby blankets. “Oh, these are beautiful…”
Patrick reached over to hug her. “They really are. Thank you so much, Dolores.” It was such a lovely gift and the fact that she had sewn it together with her own hands made it even more special. He couldn’t wait to bundle the babies up in the blankets that their Abuela had made for them.
“I stitched their initials right here,” Dolores pointed out, brushing her fingers over an M and a G.
“That’s perfect,” Richie said, putting an arm around her and kissing her cheek.
They had finally decided on the names a few weeks earlier. Once Richie had suggested Mariana, they had never wanted her to be called anything else, but Gabriela hadn’t been as easy. They had gone back and forth on it a few times, eventually agreeing that it was the right choice.
“Mariana and Gabriela are going to love these,” Patrick said. “They’re going to be sleeping with them for years.”
“Just like Richie and that blanket he used to have,” Jackie chimed in.
Patrick grinned. “Yeah, I’ve seen that one. It looks like it had a lot of wear.”
“That’s because he carried it everywhere,” Elena added. “And one time he left it at our cousin’s house in San Jose and he cried so hard Dad had to drive back and get it.”
“Oh my God, that’s adorable.” Patrick never got tired of hearing stories about Richie’s childhood.
“I don’t even remember that,” Richie said bashfully.
“Paddy was like that too, when he was really little,” Megan interjected. “He got so attached to one of my Barbie dolls I couldn’t get it away from him.”
Patrick gave her a warning look, silently begging her not to finish this story.
“What’s in that box over there?” Richie asked, eager to save them both from further embarrassment.
Doris picked up the gift and handed it over to them. “Here ya go. Maybe it’s another Barbie doll for Patrick.”
Richie laughed, pulling back the wrapping paper.
When most of the guests had left, Patrick went into the nursery by himself and sat in the rocking chair that Megan had given them. They had made her promise not to buy them a gift – it seemed absurd, after she’d already given them so much – but she had ignored them.
The chair was really comfortable though. He leaned back and closed his eyes for a minute.
“Hey,” Dom said, quietly tapping on the door, “Can I come in?”
Patrick opened his eyes and smiled. “Yeah, sure.”
“I didn’t know you were sleeping.” Dom was holding two grapefruit margaritas in his hands.
“No, I wasn’t,” Patrick said, taking one of the drinks from him.
“Maybe you should be taking naps,” Dom suggested. “Get as much sleep as possible before the babies are born.”
Patrick nodded, sipping his drink. “That’s why I was so glad when Richie finally quit the bouncer job. I didn’t want him to be exhausted before they even get here.”
Dom went over to the bookshelf and picked up a stuffed elephant with a missing eye and a pink ribbon tied around it’s neck. “Where did this come from?”
Patrick grinned. “Richie used to play with that when he was a little kid. Isn’t it the cutest thing ever?”
“It’s very unique looking,” Dom said, careful to put it back down gently.
Patrick drank his margarita and rocked slowly in the chair. When he looked around the room, all he could see was how much they still had left to do. Dana had ordered them a dresser/changing table that would be delivered soon. They had oodles of baby clothes to put into it…but no diapers yet, he suddenly realized.
“Oh my God, Dom.” Patrick closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “We’re weeks away from delivery and we haven’t even bought diapers – or bottles. How could I forget about that? Those are the most obvious things that a person would need to buy.”
“So, go to the store and get them,” Dom said calmly.
“You don’t think that’s a bad omen?” Patrick asked. “They haven’t even born yet and I’m already overlooking their most basic necessities. What the fuck is wrong with me? Oh God, I’m going to ruin them. I’m going to ruin their lives.”
“Hey, calm down.” Dom knelt down beside the rocking chair and took his hands. “You’re doing great, ok? Just try to breathe.”
“I can’t do this,” Patrick confessed quietly. “I thought I could but there’s a good chance I might have been wrong.”
“No, you can and you’re going to.” Dom smiled. “Besides, I don’t think you have a choice anymore.”
Patrick took a deep breath. That was a fair point. He had literally signed on for this and backing out wasn’t an option. Not that he would want it to be. He had loved their daughters ever since he had seen them as tiny embryos on the first ultrasound. “I’m really scared,” he confessed. “I know that’s not a cool thing to admit. We’re just supposed to be the happy, picture-perfect gay Dads but sometimes I feel like I could just freak the fuck out.”
Dom laughed. “I’m pretty sure that’s normal.”
“Do you know what Michelle asked us the other day? She wanted to know if we want her to breastfeed our children. I had no idea that surrogates could even do that.” Patrick picked up his margarita glass and took another long drink. “I didn’t even know what to say.”
“So, you’re still learning,” Dom said. “Think of it as a journey. You’re a work-in-progress when it comes to being a parent.”
“But I’m a slow learner sometimes,” Patrick pointed out.
“We all are, Paddy.” Dom patted him on the knee. “Look at me – I didn’t open my restaurant or have a real relationship until I was over forty.”
Patrick got up from the rocking chair and went over to the cribs. They had put mattresses and bedding in them the night before. He picked up a stuffed lamb that was in one of the cribs. “I’m going to be raising two year olds by the time I turn forty,” he said, amazed. “That’s crazy, right?”
Dom walked over and put an arm around him. “I’m proud of you,” he said. “I think you’re going to be a great father.”
“Thank you.” Patrick leaned against his shoulder. “I’ll certainly try.”
“Once they put the babies in your arms, you’re going to forget about all the meltdowns you’ve had over the last nine months.”
Patrick laughed. “You’re probably right about that.”
“I know I’m right,” Dom said. “Besides, if Doris can figure out how to raise a kid, I think you’ll manage.”
Patrick grinned. “Yeah, that’s true. She does seem to be doing a good job.”
“You should have seen how much she was freaking out right before she had him,” Dom said. “It was like you – but with pregnancy hormones.”
“Ugh,” Patrick frowned. “Good thing I was in Texas. I missed all of that.”
Dom pulled him close for a hug. “It’ll be the same for you, Paddy. It might take a while for you to find your groove, but pretty soon you won’t even remember what it was like before you had kids.”
Patrick smiled, resting his head on his shoulder. “You’re so wise, you know that?”
“It’s because I’m so fucking old,” Dom said.
Patrick laughed. “Yeah, that must be the reason.”
Patrick pushed the red shopping cart through the aisles of Target, pulling items off the shelves as he went. Diapers, baby powder, wipes, pacifiers, bottles…
“Do you think this is a good brand?” he asked the woman who had been walking beside him.
“Johnson’s is an excellent choice for baby shampoo,” answered former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. “As a matter of fact, this is the same brand that I used to wash Chelsea’s hair with.”
“Oh, I’m so glad to hear that,” Patrick said. “I’ve been so nervous about making decisions. I just want everything to be perfect for my kids.”
“That’s completely understandable,” Hillary said, putting her hands comfortingly on his shoulders. “We all want our children to have the best possible start in life. It takes a village, Patrick.”
“I know. It really does.”
“Pato, wake up…wake up, sweetie.”
“Huh? What?” Patrick mumbled groggily. He had been in a deep sleep, drooling all over his pillow.
“It’s time,” Richie explained patiently.
Patrick opened his eyes and slowly pulled himself up on an elbow. It was still dark outside. The digital alarm clock beside the bed read 3:47 a.m. “Time for what? Why are you getting dressed?”
Richie zipped up his jeans and gave him a look of exasperation. “The babies are coming! We have to get to the hospital.”
“Oh my God, are you fucking serious?” Patrick stumbled out of bed. “They can’t be coming right now. The due date was supposed to be the twenty-third. It’s only the seventh. We should have two more weeks left.”
“The doctor warned us they could come any time.” Richie reached into the closet and pulled a shirt off the hanger. “Hurry up and get dressed.”
“I am hurrying.” Patrick scrambled to find his clothes and their overnight bag. He was so relieved that Richie had thought to pack ahead of time. “I just didn’t expect it to happen this fast, with no warning.”
“Yeah, Michelle was a little surprised too,” Richie said while he buttoned up his shirt. “She got up to go to the bathroom and her water broke. They’re probably at the hospital by now, so we really need to get going.”
Patrick had wandered out into the hallway, only half dressed. He went into the bathroom and squeezed a blob of Crest onto his toothbrush.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Richie shouted from the bedroom. “We should be getting in the car.”
“I don’t want to have bad breath when I meet our kids for the first time,” Patrick yelled back, his voice sounding strained. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and silently pleaded with himself not to fuck this up. Don’t panic, don’t throw up in the delivery room, don’t ask the doctor ridiculous questions…
Richie hurried through the house with their overnight bag slung over his shoulder. He almost tripped over Chiquita on his way out. “I’m starting the car,” he warned.
“Ok, I’ll be right there.” Patrick closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath, his hands gripping the edge of the sink.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” Richie said when he got in the car. “I’m just kind of freaking out right now.”
“No, it’s ok.” Patrick pulled his seatbelt over and snapped it into place. “Believe me, I get it.”
Richie’s hands were shaking on the steering wheel. “We’re gonna be alright, Pato. It’s going be crazy at first but I think we’ll be ok.”
“Oh yeah, of course we will,” Patrick said, trying to sound more optimistic than he actually felt. He looked in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of the car seats they had installed in the backseat. His stomach clenched. “It’ll be fine,” he muttered. “Everything will be totally fine.”
It turned out that Richie’s fears about getting to the hospital on time had been unfounded. Michelle’s labor dragged on through the morning and into the afternoon, her contractions coming and going at irregular intervals.
In the mean time, Richie played card games with her while her husband massaged her feet.
“I’m going to walk around and get something to drink,” Patrick said, getting up from his chair. “Does anyone want anything?”
“No, I’m good.” Chris looked over at Michelle. “How about you?”
“I just need to get these babies out of me,” Michelle smiled painfully. “But other than that, I’m fine.”
Richie chuckled. “I feel you on that.”
“I’ve got my phone with me,” Patrick said. “Text me right away if anything changes.”
In the hallway, he followed the signs that pointed toward the hospital nursery. He turned a corner just before the elevators and heard familiar voices.
“We’re so lost right now, Dom. Can’t you just admit that you don’t know where the fuck we’re going?”
“Oh my God,” Patrick broke into a wide grin and rushed over to them. “I can’t believe you guys are here.”
“Of course we’re here,” Dom said, pulling him into a big hug. “Did you think we would just stay home and miss out on seeing you become a Dad?”
“You sounded like you were losing it on the phone earlier,” Agustín added. “We were worried that you might be having a full on Paddy Melt.”
Patrick laughed. “I kind of was at first, but everything’s been so boring. We’ve mostly just been watching TV and playing card games.”
They walked over to the window that looked into the nursery. Rows of newborn babies were asleep in their beds, swaddled snugly in hospital blankets.
Dom put an arm around Patrick and he leaned against him, resting his head on his shoulder.
“If you start to freak out again, I brought some Xanax with me,” Agustín offered, reaching into his pocket.
“Oh my God,” Patrick chuckled. “Thanks, but no thanks. I think I’ll be fine.”
“You say that now, but wait until you’re in the delivery room,” Agustín warned. “There’s gonna be blood and placenta and all kinds of disgusting fluids coming out of…”
“Ugh, please stop.” Patrick held up his hands. “Ok, but I’m only taking one.” He accepted a pill from him and swallowed it. “These are prescription, right? You didn’t just buy them from some random guy on the street?”
“Of course they’re prescription,” Agustín promised. “Maybe not my prescription, but…”
“Look at that baby over there,” Dom pointed, diverting their attention. “He looks like a tiny little alien.”
Agustín laughed. “E.T. phone home.”
Patrick smiled. “I think he’s adorable. Look at his little hand and his fingers.” His breath caught in his throat and his eyes welled up. “This is so insane…I can’t believe I’m actually here right now and there’s a woman down the hall who’s about to give birth to my kids. Richie and I are going to be parents. How fucking unbelievable is that?”
Dom rubbed his back comfortingly. “I think it makes perfect sense, Paddy.”
“Yeah,” Agustín agreed. “You always wanted a Disney romance and you got it. This is your happily ever after. Any minute now a cartoon stork is going to swoop down on Kaiser Permanente with twins in it’s beak.”
Patrick chuckled. “I don’t think it’s going to be that quick and easy. It would be nice if Celine or Elton would show up and sing for us though.”
“I can download The Lion King soundtrack on my phone,” Dom offered.
“Oh, no. Please don’t,” Patrick laughed. “I’m already way too emotional and ‘The Circle of Life’ would definitely push me over the edge.”
A cute doctor wearing scrubs breezed past them, blatantly making eye contact with Agustín.
Dom smirked. “That guy seems really into you.”
“I know, right?” Agustín said. “Maybe I should go get his number.”
“Can we please not turn my children’s births into a cruising opportunity?” Patrick pleaded.
“Sorry, Paddy.” Agustín squeezed his shoulder briefly before taking off down the hall. “Uncle Agustín gotsta get laid.”
“Oh God.” Patrick couldn’t help laughing. He locked eyes with Dom and giggled even more.
Dom grinned. “If he starts sleeping with a doctor then he might not have to borrow money from us anymore.”
“That’s a good point,” Patrick agreed. “In that case, I am definitely rooting for them.”
Michelle was eventually given a shot of Pitocin to speed up her labor. Her contractions started coming stronger and faster after that. After a long day of hardly anything happening, Patrick suddenly felt that things were moving at a breakneck pace. The butterflies that had been in his stomach earlier returned with a vengeance.
“Turn around, I’ll tie you up in the back,” Richie offered.
Patrick complied. They had to dress in protective surgical gowns before going into the OR. He looked down at the booties covering his shoes, not wanting to think about what could possibly end up splashing on his feet.
“Michelle’s doing so great,” Richie said. “I still can’t believe that she would go through all of this for us. She’s a really special person.”
“She is,” Patrick nodded, his throat suddenly feeling dry.
“How about you? Are you doing alright?” Richie asked cautiously, finishing up the knots on the back of his gown.
Patrick turned around to face him. “Yeah, I’m totally fine…a little stressed, but that’s normal, right?”
“Yeah,” Richie smiled at him. He put a hand on his face, brushing a thumb over his cheek. “If it gets to be too much for you in there, just squeeze my hand, ok? We’ll deal with it together.”
Patrick’s eyes misted up. He loved him for being so sweet and supportive. He knew that Richie had his back, always. “Let’s go have babies,” he declared with a tearful grin.
Richie beamed, giving him a quick kiss before they tied their surgical masks on.
What happened next was a blur that Patrick could only remember bits and pieces of afterward. He stood by Michelle’s side, holding her hand in a tight grip. On the other side of the delivery table, her husband did the same, encouraging her to push and telling her how beautiful she was.
Richie bravely ventured over to see how much of the baby was visible already. He smiled at Patrick through his surgical mask. “I can see the top of her head, Pato,” he said exuberantly.
“Good…great,” Patrick stammered, his palms sweating and his heart hammering in his chest. A full blown panic attack seemed to be imminent and he didn’t know what he would do if it actually happened. He didn’t want to leave the room and miss his children’s births.
Michelle labored like a champ, keeping her breathing steady and pushing when she needed to. She was still hooked up to an epidural and that was helping to numb the pain. If it had been a single birth, she said she would have chosen to go natural, which Patrick thought was insane. He would have taken the pain meds himself if it had been an option.
“You’re doing amazing,” Richie told her.
Patrick had a sudden, split second fear that something could possibly go wrong. Everything had gone so smoothly up to this point, what if the other shoe was about to drop? He felt his forehead sweating underneath his hairnet and his hands were sticking to the inside of his gloves.
Michelle pushed two more times and then there was a flurry of activity between her legs. The doctor caught the baby as she came out and lifted her up, her tiny arms and legs flailing helplessly while she wailed. She was handed over to Richie, who had been standing close by.
Patrick felt everything go into slow motion. He was in a weird, dreamlike trance, moving toward Richie and the baby girl he was holding proudly in his arms. Any concerns that he’d been having earlier instantly evaporated. All he could see was his daughter, crying and scrunching up her face in frustration. Instinct took over and he rushed to be with her as quickly as possible.
“Shh, Daddy’s got you,” Richie whispered, stroking her bald head. She was covered in a white, pastey substance that smeared off on his glove and gown.
Patrick’s face was wet with tears. “Oh my God, she’s perfect.” He reached over and touched her tiny little fist. “Look – she’s got all her little fingers and toes.”
Richie laughed. “And big feet, like yours.”
Patrick nodded, unable to speak. He felt like he had left his body and was watching himself in a movie. Tears streamed down his cheeks, soaking the surgical mask that he was wearing. Every cliché that anyone had ever told him about this was true. His heart had broken open and he knew he would never be the same again.
They didn’t have time to recover before her sister arrived minutes later. Wide eyed, with squiggles of black hair sticking to her head, she was the last piece of the puzzle falling into place. Their family was complete.
“I can’t stop staring at them,” Richie chuckled. He rubbed his eyes. They were both beyond tired, but they couldn’t sleep. Not when they had two beautiful daughters in front of them, snuggled together in their warming tray. They had been cleaned, dressed, and wrapped in hospital blankets with pink and blue footprints all over them.
Patrick yawned. “We need to decide which one is Mariana and which one is Gabriela before we fill out their birth certificates.”
Richie reached over and adjusted their blankets, making sure they were properly tucked in. The baby girl with dark hair opened her eyes and looked at him. “Duerme, cariño,” he whispered, kissing her cheek. “Te amo.”
Patrick’s eyes filled with tears. Everything he thought he knew about love had completely changed that day. He had never guessed that his love for Richie could grow even deeper. Seeing him be a father to their girls was everything. “Te amo,” he whispered, hugging his arm.
Richie grinned and gave him a quick kiss.
Patrick leaned against his shoulder, feeling completely drained but overjoyed at the same time.
“I’ve gotta say, Pato, I don’t think Gabriela feels right anymore,” Richie said. He looked at the tiny newborn with big eyes and dark hair. She seemed to be smiling in her sleep. “I think we should call this one something else.”
“Oh, really?” Patrick was surprised. “What do you want to call her then?”
Richie smiled, brushing a finger over the girl’s round cheek. “Remember when you said you liked the name Grace, but I wasn’t really into it?”
“Oh yeah, right.” Patrick had assumed it was a definite ‘no’ because they’d never talked about it again.
“I think that should be her name,” Richie said, his voice catching in his throat. “She’s graceful and beautiful and, I don’t know, I just feel kind of blessed that I even get to be her Dad.” A tear slipped down from the corner of his eye. “We are so fucking lucky, Pato.”
Patrick hugged him, weeping onto his shoulder. “I know,” he choked out. “We really are.”
One of the babies made an odd little grunting sound in her sleep. Richie looked at Patrick and laughed, wiping tears away from his cheeks. He grabbed some tissues from a box nearby and they both took one.
“We could call her Graciela,” Patrick suggested, dabbing at his eyes with the Kleenex. “Otherwise, everyone might think of Will & Grace when they hear her name and I don’t want to commit her to a life of being a hag when she’s not even a day old.”
“Yeah,” Richie chuckled. “Graciela sounds perfect.”
“Her sister definitely looks like a Mariana,” Patrick said. “Thank God because I wouldn’t want your Mom to have to re-do those blankets she gave us.”
“Oh, shit. My Mom,” Richie groaned. “I still haven’t called her. She’s going to kill me.”
“Yeah, I haven’t called my Mom either,” Patrick said. “I don’t think I’m ready to deal with her yet. I should probably call Dom though.”
Mariana began to fuss, whimpering and shaking her fists. Richie carefully picked her up and held her against his chest, speaking softly to her in Spanish. “Estás seguro. Tu papá está aquí.” (You’re safe. Your Dad’s are here).
Patrick smiled, his eyes tearing up again. He looked at Graciela, sleeping soundly in her bed, and at Richie, holding Mariana in his arms. Everything in the world that he’d ever need was in that room. “Love you so much,” he said, resting his chin on Richie’s shoulder. “All three of you.”
“5 lbs 13 oz and 6 lbs 7oz,” Richie reported to his mother, bursting with pride. He was standing in the hallway, talking on his phone.
Patrick sat in the chair next to Michelle’s bed. They had brought the babies to her so she could breastfeed, but she wanted to cuddle them for a minute first. Mariana, squirming slightly, was tucked in one arm and Graciela was in the other.
“They’re so cute,” she said, sounding very groggy. “Look at their chubby cheeks.”
“Listen, I know you’re tired of me thanking you…” Patrick said.
“Oh, no. Please don’t,” Michelle smiled sleepily. “You know how I feel about it. Seeing you and Richie with your sweet little girls is enough for me.”
“Can’t I at least do something for you though?” Patrick asked. “I could get you something to eat. I know the hospital food is going to be terrible. My friends could pick up something for you on the way over.”
“No, it’s ok,” Michelle said. “Chris is taking care of everything for me. I mostly just need to rest.”
Patrick took Mariana from her so she could have a free arm. He rocked her gently while Michelle opened her gown and began to feed Graciela. It didn’t feel as awkward watching her breastfeed as he’d expected it to. After what they’d all gone through together in the delivery room, he realized that his threshold for discomfort had probably been altered forever.
Richie came back in the room while Mariana was being gently lifted to Michelle’s other breast. Graciela was still suckling away happily, but her sister protested, refusing to latch on.
“Come on, try it,” Michelle said, gently trying to coax her into it.
“Maybe she just doesn’t like boobs,” Patrick suggested.
Richie laughed. “Well, she is our daughter.”
“Ok, where are they? I need to see these little nuggets.” Agustín was holding a bundle of pink balloons with the words “It’s a Girl” printed on them.
“We got those in the gift shop,” Dom explained, giving Patrick a hug. “Congratulations, Dad!”
Patrick laughed. “Oh God, I’m going to have to get used to that now, aren’t I?”
Dom grinned. “It still feels a little weird, doesn’t it?”
“A little bit,” Patrick smiled. “It doesn’t help that I’m so tired right now I kind of feel like I’m stoned.”
“Yeah, me too,” Richie said, giving Dom and Agustín hugs. “We’ve got a natural high going on.”
“Is that them?” Agustín asked, peering into their bed. “They look like dolls.”
“Oh, they’re definitely real,” Patrick grinned.
Richie picked up the babies and held them in his arms. “Time to meet Uncle Dom and Uncle Agustín,” he told them.
“Oh my God,” Dom sighed. “Jesus, look at them. They’re so little.”
“That one looks just like you, Paddy,” Agustín said, pointing at Mariana.
“Do you think so?” Patrick adjusted the hat she was wearing, pulling it down lower on her bald head. He hadn’t had much hair when he was a baby either. “I can definitely tell already that Graciela has Richie’s mouth and nose.”
“Graciela? What happened to Gabriela?” Dom asked.
Richie smiled at Patrick. “Yeah, we changed our minds about that.”
Patrick beamed. “This is Graciela Megan Donado-Murray,” he said, happily introducing them. “And this is Mariana Rose Donado-Murray.”
Agustín laughed. “So you did get Rose in there, after all.”
“Yeah, it’s not bad as a middle name,” Richie grinned.
Patrick put a hand over his mouth to cover a yawn. He desperately wanted to curl up and go to sleep, but his mother was on her way over with Megan and Richie’s Mom would be arriving soon too.
“Doris and Malik send their love,” Dom said. “They can’t wait to come and see the babies. And Michael told me to give you a hug from him.”
“Look, she’s opening her eyes.” Agustín smiled at Graciela. “Hey, cutie.”
Graciela stared back at him, her eyes unfocused. Then she pooped her pants, the smell quickly filling the room.
“Oh God,” Patrick cringed. “I think some of it leaked out on your arm, Richie. Where did we put the diapers?”
“The bag’s over there,” Richie said, remarkably unfazed by the poop running down his arm. He stayed calm, taking it in stride.
“Don’t worry,” Agustín said soothingly to Graciela, who was beginning to cry. “We’ve all been there. Wait until you hear about the time your Dad and me both had the flu – and our apartment only had one toilet.”
Patrick grabbed a clean diaper and wipes. “Please don’t tell my kids about that – ever,” he begged. “That was so disgusting.”
“Oh, I’m going to be telling them everything,” Agustín promised. “That’ll be my job as Uncle Agustín. Dom will cook them chicken and I’ll bring the dirt.”
Patrick sighed, too tired to protest any further. He had bigger things to worry about, like figuring out how to change a dirty diaper when he’d never done it before. He picked up Graciela out of Richie’s arms and carried her over to the changing area.
Agustín and Dom left soon after. It turned out a smelly diaper was a quick way to clear a room. Richie put Mariana back in her bed and washed off his arm.
“Ok, Graciela,” Patrick said soothingly, laying her down. “We’re going to get through this together.”
The baby kicked her legs after he took her diaper off and he tried to remember everything he had read about how to do this. He knew he could ask for help if he needed it – there were nurses everywhere – but he wanted to be able to do it on his own.
“This is all new for me,” he informed her while he cleaned her with a wipe, “So I’m sorry if I do something wrong.” He tried not to gag at the smell. “But I guess it’s new for you too – you’ve never been a baby before and I’ve never been a Dad, so we’re both learning.”
Graciela looked up at him patiently, like she understood what he was telling her. She seemed like she was going to be a very easygoing baby to take care of. He hoped so anyway.
Patrick put the clean diaper on her and re-dressed her in a new pair of pajamas, proud that they had crossed this hurdle together.
“Did you really name her after me?” Megan asked, smiling widely. “I’m so honored.”
“Of course we did,” Patrick said, giving her a hug. “You know none of this would have even been possible without you. We’re so grateful to you, Megan, you have no idea.”
Dana dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “They’re such beautiful little girls,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m finally a grandmother.”
Patrick glanced over his shoulder. Richie was in the hallway talking to his Mom. He couldn’t hear what they were saying to each other but it looked pretty intense.
“We’re going to spoil them so hard,” Megan said excitedly. “Aren’t we Mommy? I can’t wait to take them shopping and give them their first mani/pedi’s.”
“That’s a long way off,” Patrick said. “I think we should just let them be babies first.”
“It goes by so fast,” Dana told him, patting his arm. “Enjoy every moment you have with them because one day it will feel like you blinked and suddenly they were off to college.”
Patrick looked at Mariana – her tiny little rosebud of a mouth and her round cheeks. He tried to picture what she might be like at eighteen, doing her homework and dating boys…or girls. Whatever she was interested in he would encourage it and help her feel good about herself. She and Graciela would grow up to be strong and confident, always knowing that their Dads loved them.
“We need to take more pictures,” Megan said, holding up her phone.
Patrick smiled for the photo. He knew he looked like a mess, but he was so incredibly happy that he didn’t even care.
“They’re perfect little angels,” Dolores said, a balled up Kleenex clutched in her hand. “God has given you a great blessing, Ricardo.”
Richie nodded, trying to hold back his tears. He hadn’t really hoped for it exactly, but a tiny part of him had clung to the idea that his Dad might surprise him and want to see his granddaughters. When his Mom had shown up alone he had felt naïve for even thinking it.
“Jackie and Elena said they would stop by in the morning. I told them you needed to get your sleep tonight.” Dolores put her hand to Richie’s cheek. “I’m proud of you, my son.”
Richie hugged his mother, crying on her shoulder.
Patrick pulled back the covers on the bed. It was very late by the time everyone went home. He and Richie had been awake since 3 am that morning. It had been the longest, most amazing day of their lives.
“It’s gonna be weird with you sleeping over there,” Richie said. He had already gotten into his bed.
“I know,” Patrick grumbled, slipping under the covers. “Why don’t they make hospital beds big enough for two people?”
They had checked into a room down the hall from Michelle so they could get up in the night and help her feed the babies. Mariana would have to be bottle fed since she was still refusing any other method.
Patrick lay in the dark for a few minutes, rolling over and fluffing his pillow in an effort to get comfortable. As tired as he was, he didn’t think he would be able to sleep like this. “I’m coming over,” he warned, sitting up.
“Huh?” Richie had already been dozing off.
Patrick climbed out of his bed and walked over to Richie’s, pulling back the blankets and trying to squeeze in.
“Pato…” Richie laughed. “There’s not enough room.”
“I don’t care, we’ll make it work.” Patrick shifted and nudged until he was practically lying on top of him.
“You’re ridiculous,” Richie giggled, running his fingers through his hair.
Patrick kissed him. “I fucking love you, you know that right? After everything today, when I see you with them…”
“I know, Pato.” Richie’s eyes were shining. “I love you too.”
He was quiet for a few minutes and Patrick thought he had fallen asleep. He was starting to drift off himself.
“Remember the night we decided we were going to try to have them?” Richie asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Patrick answered. “Of course I do.”
“I was so worried about the cancer coming back. I didn’t want to tell you how scared I was.”
Patrick rested his head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Richie’s voice was soft, confessing his secrets to him in the dark hospital room.
“I had nightmares about it for weeks. I was even researching cancer treatments online, trying to figure out what we could do if…”
Patrick squeezed his eyes shut to stop himself from crying. He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t told him all of this at the time.
“I didn’t want to die and not get to have this with you.”
“You’re not going to die,” Patrick whispered.
Richie sighed. “When I was holding our girls today, I just kept thinking that I don’t ever want to leave them - or you. If it does come back, I’m gonna fight like fuckin’ hell.”
Patrick held on to him, silently begging God or whoever else might be listening to protect him from ever going through that again. “I wouldn’t let you leave,” he said quietly. “We’re in this together, ok?”
Richie stroked his hair. “I know, Pato.”
“We’ve got two daughters now,” Patrick reminded him, “and they’re going to need both their Dads…especially since I don’t know anything about girl’s hairstyles.” He giggled. “That’s going to be all yours.”
Richie grinned. “It’ll probably be Graciela who needs her hair done first. Mariana’s only got peach fuzz.”
“Aw,” Patrick frowned. “She’ll get there. She just needs time to catch up.” He snuggled against Richie’s chest, feeling the weight of sleep settling over him. “Besides, I love her bald head. It’s so cute.”
“Yeah,” Richie smiled. “She looks like that baby picture of you that Megan gave us.”
Patrick breathed raggedly, drifting between awake and asleep. His limbs felt heavy and he was warm all over, tucked against Richie’s body. “’M so fuckin’ happy we did this,” he mumbled, closing his eyes and crashing hard.
“Are you sure you put everything in the bag?” Patrick asked, unzipping it to double check.
“Yeah, it’s all in there,” Richie promised, shaking his head at him.
Patrick re-examined the contents of their overnight bag until he was satisfied. He didn’t want to leave anything behind when they left the hospital. “And you talked to Michelle about pumping more breast milk? Because everything I’ve read says it’s better for them than formula and since Mariana won’t take anything else…”
“Pato, it’s fine,” Richie said, exasperated. “She left us with enough for now and she said she’d come by in a few days when we run out.”
“Ok, good,” Patrick heaved a sigh of relief. “Sorry, I’m just really stressed right now about bringing them home – and it doesn’t help that I’m so sleep deprived.”
The first night had been brutal, with the babies waking up every two hours. They had shared bottle and diaper duty, so at least they were at the same level of exhaustion.
Richie finished dressing Graciela in her ‘going home’ outfit and lifted her up in his arms. “Tell your Dad to calm down,” he whispered to the sleeping infant. She was wearing a pink pullover that had been a gift from her Aunt Jackie.
Patrick smiled at them, feeling like his heart was going to burst. She looked so much like Richie that he was bowled over every time he saw her. “Oh my God, how cute are you?” He peppered her soft cheek with kisses. It was still sinking in that this was their life now. They were going to leave the hospital with them and then they would be on their own, without any doctors or nurses nearby to ask for help. It was a little scary actually.
“Are you ready to go?” Richie asked.
“Uh, yeah, I think I am,” Patrick said, looking around the room to make sure they hadn’t left anything. He picked up their bag and slung it over his shoulder. “I could really use a good cup of coffee right now, but other than that, I’m definitely ready.”
Richie grinned. “Yeah, the coffee here’s pretty bad. We can stop at Philz on the way home.”
Patrick picked up Mariana, who was wearing a sweater identical to her sister’s, except the fabric was pale yellow. He adjusted her hat and made sure she was wearing mittens over her hands to protect her from scratching herself. “I’m going to need an enormous cup of coffee to keep myself awake…and maybe a cruller. Oh.”
“What?” Richie asked, pausing in the doorway.
“Diaper change,” Patrick grimaced, the smell wafting up his nose. He quickly put their bag back down on the bed and unzipped it, pulling out wipes and a clean diaper. He was going to become a pro at this very quickly.
“You’re driving too slow, Pato,” Richie warned.
“Seriously?” Patrick’s jaw dropped. “You’ve been complaining for years that I drive too fast and now it’s too slow? Make up your mind.”
“It’s not safe to drive below the speed limit,” Richie groused. “We could get into an accident.”
“I’m just being cautious because, if you haven’t noticed, we have two babies in the backseat.” Patrick checked the rearview mirror for what must have been the tenth time since leaving the hospital. Mariana and Graciela were still sleeping, oblivious to their Dad’s bickering in the front seat.
“Just pull over,” Richie demanded. “It’s going to take us all day to get home if you keep driving like my Abuela.”
“Ok, fine.” Patrick pulled over to the side of the road. He got out and went around to the passenger side, switching places with Richie. “This actually works better,” he said, snapping his seat belt. “I can keep an eye on the girls and you drive.”
Richie smiled at him, getting in on the driver’s side. “You’re going to be one of those helicopter parents.”
“What does that mean?” Patrick asked. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It means you’re over protective, being too into what your kids are doing.”
“Oh,” Patrick frowned. “Maybe I will be – but just a little. I don’t want to be too much of a pain in the ass.”
Richie grinned. “I promise I’ll tell you when you start going overboard.”
“Thank you,” Patrick smirked. “That would help.”
“Oh my God, I can’t believe you guys did all of this,” Patrick said excitedly. They had arrived home to find pink streamers strewn across their porch. A bundle of balloons were tied to the railing.
Doris, Malik, Charlie, Dom, Michael, and Agustín were all waiting for them. Chiquita yipped at everyone’s ankles.
“This is awesome,” Richie said, giving one-armed hugs while he held Mariana, who was bundled in a blanket. “Thanks so much.”
They went inside where they found a vase of flowers and a cake on the kitchen table. “Lynn sends his congratulations,” Dom said, putting an arm around Patrick.
“Really? You got these from Lynn?” Patrick was shocked. “What was that like?”
Dom shrugged. “It was a little weird, but mostly ok. It’s been a long time.”
“Let me see the babies,” Doris said, her loud voice lifting over the crowd. “Oh my God, they’ve got that baby smell,” she said when Richie handed Mariana to her. “I could just eat their tiny faces.”
Agustín came over to sit next to Patrick. He leaned against his shoulder and they watched Doris’s tough exterior melt under the force of two adorable infants.
“It almost makes me want another one,” Doris admitted. “But then I see how tired you both look and I remember everything.”
Patrick smiled. That was true. He wanted a nap so badly. The coffee they’d picked up at Philz had only helped minimally. “Hey,” he said, turning to look at Agustín. “What happened with you and that doctor?”
“Uh, not much,” Agustín shrugged. “He gave me his number, but he has a husband – and technically, so do I. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.”
Patrick patted his shoulder. “But it’s good that you’re trying.”
“Is it?” Agustín asked. “Maybe it’d be better for gay men everywhere if I kept myself off the market.”
“No, fuck that,” Patrick said. “You are a catch and you’re going to find someone.”
Agustín chuckled. “I love that you just used the f word while holding a baby. Your kids are going to have the worst potty mouths.”
“Oh God, I didn’t even notice,” Patrick frowned. “Did I mention that I’m completely sleep deprived?”
“Maybe this will help you wake up,” Dom said, bringing him a paper plate with a slice of cake on it. He settled onto the couch next to Patrick and cooed at Graciela, who was tucked in his arm.
Patrick rested his head on Dom’s shoulder while he forked a bite of cake into his mouth. His best friends chatted on either side of him while nearby Richie brainstormed with Doris over infant sleeping techniques. He felt so happy, surrounded by all of the people he loved most in the world.
“Can I hold her?” Dom asked, noticing that he was awkwardly trying to balance the baby in his arms and eat at the same time.
“Um, yeah, but be careful,” Patrick warned, “And make sure to support her head with your arm.”
“It’s ok, I know how to do it,” Dom said, “I used to hold Charlie all the time.”
Graciela burbled in her sleep, settling into his arms. Patrick watched, anxious to make sure she stayed comfortable.
Dom smiled down at her, his eyes soft. “She’s beautiful, Paddy.” He brushed a finger over her cheek. “You did good.”
Patrick beamed proudly, scooping a bite of cake into his mouth.
“You’re a lucky girl,” Dom whispered to Graciela. “You’ve got the best Dads ever and all the people in this room love you to pieces.”
“Yep, you really hit the jackpot, little peanut,” Agustín said.
Patrick caught Richie’s eye and smiled at him. He had the absolute best partner to navigate all of this craziness with. The next few days and weeks were sure to be some of the most challenging of their lives, but he felt safe knowing they would be going through it together.
“Can you do me a favor?” Patrick asked. He was sitting on the edge of their bed, holding the baby monitor in his hands.
Richie had just come back in after brushing his teeth. He climbed onto the bed and collapsed. “What is it, Pato?” he mumbled into his pillow.
“I was wondering if you could go in the nursery and say something so I would know for sure that this is working.” Patrick had adjusted the volume as high as it would go but he was still worried that one of the girls might wake up and he would somehow not be able to hear them.
“It works,” Richie said, his voice muffled.
“How do you know?”
“Because I could hear you when you were in there earlier,” Richie said. “You played ‘This Little Piggy’ with Gracie’s toes when you were changing her diaper.”
Patrick smiled. “Yeah, I did.” He put the monitor back on their nightstand, satisfied that it was working properly, and slipped under the covers next to Richie. “I’m so exhausted,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired before.”
Richie snuggled up against him, his arm around his waist. “And this is just the beginning,” he reminded him.
“I know,” Patrick chuckled. “Welcome to parenthood.”
Richie kissed his neck and his shoulder.
“Do you want to have sex right now?” Patrick asked. That was usually where little pecks under the covers ending up leading and he honestly didn’t think he had the energy for it.
Richie hesitated before answering. “No offense, but I don’t think I’m up for it…no pun intended.”
Patrick laughed. “God, me too. I just want to sleep.” He gave him a kiss. “Good night. Love you.”
Richie kissed him back. “Love you too, Pato.”
“Go to sleep, Mariana,” Richie whispered, holding the bottle up to her mouth. She wouldn’t take it. Her diaper was clean, she wasn’t hungry, she was just awake. “Go to sleep, go to sleep,” he urged, gently rocking her back and forth.
Mariana stared at him, unmoved by the desperation in his voice.
Richie walked her up and down the hallway, trying to stay as quiet as possible so Graciela and Patrick wouldn’t be woken up. Out of options, he started singing to her in a quiet voice. “Los pollitos dicen Pío pío pío…”
By the time she finally fell asleep he had gone through every children’s song he could remember.
Patrick opened his eyes. It was still very early and he couldn’t hear anything through the baby monitor. He rolled over, trying to get back to sleep. After getting up for a bottle feeding with Graciela a few hours earlier he’d gone back to bed and had a weird, upsetting nightmare. The girls had fallen out of his arms every time he’d tried to pick them up, bouncing off the floor like basketballs.
Pulling back the covers, he quietly got out of bed and padded out to the hall. He just needed to see them and make sure they were ok, then he would be able to rest again.
The nursery was dark but his eyes adjusted quickly. He made his way over to the crib, careful not to bump into the furniture.
Mariana and Graciela were sleeping soundly, side by side. Patrick watched over them for a minute, a smile spreading across his face. It was crazy how much he loved them. He’d never felt anything quite like it in his life.
Instead of going back to bed, he sat down in the rocking chair near the crib. He picked up a stuffed lamb and held it against his chest, falling asleep.
Mariana woke up first, with a shriek that could wake the dead. Her sister followed suit.
Patrick jumped up, tossing the lamb aside. “Hi, good morning,” he said sleepily, lifting them up in his arms. Their diapers needed to be changed and their bottles warmed up. Somewhere in there he was going to need coffee, but that could wait until later.
Richie stood in the doorway, smiling at them. “We survived the first night,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
“We did,” Patrick confirmed, passing off Mari to him so he could change Graciela’s diaper. “So far, so good, right?”
Mariana continued to screech in Richie’s arms. “Shhh,” he told her. “Your bottle’s on it’s way.”
“She has amazing lungs,” Patrick pointed out. “I don’t know where she gets that from.”
“Yeah, and she’s stubborn as hell,” Richie said.
“So just like her Dad then?” Patrick grinned, looking up from changing Graciela’s diaper.
Richie laughed and gave him a quick kiss. “Like both of her Dads.”
Patrick brought two cups of coffee to their bedroom. Richie was stretched out on the bed with the girls. Gracie was lying on his chest, her head resting over his heart. The sound of his heartbeat seemed to be very calming to her. Mariana was beside them, tucked under his arm, and Chiquita was curled up by his feet.
“I have to take a picture of this,” Patrick said, putting down the coffee mugs on the nightstand so he could grab his phone. He took a few shots, then climbed onto the bed with them. “Our lives have really changed, haven’t they?” he said, understating it just a bit. “I mean, think about what our Saturday mornings are usually like – hangovers, late brunches…”
“Yeah, everything’s going to be different now,” Richie said. “But I really like having this though.”
“Me too,” Patrick smiled, taking a sip of coffee. They were definitely a family now. They had a house, a yard, a dog, two kids, and a lot of love to help them keep it all together. It was bigger than anything he’d ever dreamed of for himself.
“Hey, Pato,” Richie said, reaching for his hand.
“What is it?” Patrick asked.
“I’m really glad we tried,” Richie told him, hugging their daughter to his chest.
Patrick nodded, understanding from the look in his eyes that he wasn’t just talking about having kids. He meant all of it. “I know,” he said, his eyes filling up with tears.