Fifteen years later...
"And that is how Cy-uh, your Dad and I met." TJ finished, as their two children, Caleb and Bryony stared between the two of them, wide-eyed.
Some of the events had been discussed between himself and Cyrus, but omitted from their children. This was understandable; lots of violent things had happened, and they had just been explained simply. Not to mention the fact that Caleb was only seven (having been adopted at the age of three) and Bryony was five (having been adopted at the age of two).
Cyrus chuckled at their evident surprise. "What do you think of how Dad and Daddy met, then?"
Caleb wrinkled his nose, and this mannerism was so similar to Cyrus', TJ Kippen-Goodman could only stare at his dark-haired son in wonder. "I think it was icky in places. Like when you kissed. Ew. And I didn't like the bits with Kira in them."
TJ burst out laughing at this. "I didn't, either."
"Nor did I," Cyrus added. He turned to their red-haired daughter, whose thumb was stuck in her mouth. "Bryony, sweetie, what did I tell you about putting your thumb in your mouth?"
She thought about it. "Not to do it?"
She pouted in the same moody was TJ used to do when they were play fighting with each other, the resemblance surprising Cyrus. "But whyyy?"
"Because it's not hygienic, that's why."
Caleb pointed at his sister and laughed. "Ha, you can't even say hygienic and you don't know what it means! Stupid!"
Bryony burst out crying. Being the one who was sat next to her (she was at one end of the sofa, Caleb was at the other-evidently for a reason), Cyrus comforted her and TJ scolded his son.
"Caleb Dante Kippen-Goodman! Say sorry to your sister right now!"
A stubborn boy, he folded his arms and shook his head. "No."
TJ sighed. "Why not?"
"Because why should I?"
"What you said was mean and made her cry. Say sorry or I'll take your Legos away for a week."
"No!" The little boy looked shocked. Would his Dad really do that to him?
"Yes, I would."
"Fine. I'm sorry, Bryony."
Bryony answered him by sticking her tongue out at him and clutching her favourite Teddy, Underdog (it was a purple fluffy dog teddy-she was inseparable from it). Cyrus continued to stroke hair, something which both him and his husband knew she found comforting. She soon stopped crying.
"As you know, every story has a moral," Cyrus began. Their children were very clever, after all.
"What do you two think the moral of our story is?" TJ continued.
"That soulmates are real?" Bryony suggested. Both men shook their heads at the same time.
"Even though they are, no. Try again." Cyrus encouraged. Instead, she decided to play with Underdog.
"Be a good person in life?" Caleb answered, pretty confident in his response.
"Not quite," TJ told him.
"Oh. Then I don't know."
Cyrus shook his head. "Come on Caleb, we've brought you two up to never stop trying-"
"No matter what. I know, I know, Dad. But I can't think right now."
"What about you, Bryony?" TJ asked. She was curled up in a ball sleepily. The darker haired man poked her.
"Bryony Rose Kippen-Goodman. You are awake, I can tell." There was a silence. "Oh no, what a shame. Looks like we'll have to wake her up by tickling her!"
Bryony squeaked and sat up in an instant. She was notorious for her ticklish nature. "I don't know! That everyone lives happily ever after, the end?"
TJ and Cyrus shared a look with each other. "No. Not that." TJ said.
"Oh." She focused on Underdog for a second, before spotting their actual dog, Summer (a beautiful golden retriever) dashing in.
"Summer!" She shouted, opening her arms to greet their faithful animal companion.
"No, no, no. Don't encourage her; her paws are muddy! She's going to make the living room a mess!" The dog jumped up. "Oh no, the upholstery!"
"oH nO, tHe UpHoLsTeRy!" TJ mimicked in a high voice, causing his two children to giggle and his irritated husband to elbow him and scowl.
"I'll have you know, that's not funny. In fact, you'll be the one dealing with it tomorrow." TJ grinned. "That's fine by me."
Cyrus tutted and firmly instructed their pet to get down. "Sometimes it's like I have three children and not two." He looked in TJ's direction. He pointed at himself, all 'who, me?'
Summer began running round and round, chasing her own tail with her tongue stuck out. Cyrus sighed and amended his statement.
"Scratch that, it's as though I have four." He shifted and pulled Bryony onto his knee, jigging her up and down to make her laugh. It worked every time, without fail. Feeling left out, Caleb frowned, so TJ stood up, grabbed him and tipped him upside down, which made him squeal with excitement. Then, he lifted him onto his shoulder and made him 'fly' like Superman. He sat back down, Cyrus asking Bryony if it was a bird, or a plane-but no, it was Super Caleb.
"What were we talking about again? The moral of our story?" TJ reminded him as he sat back down next to his husband, squeezing his hand and interlinking their fingers, the way he had all those years ago when he'd been introduced as Cyrus' boyfriend.
"Oh, yes. That. It's an important one, I reckon."
"Yeah, you could say that," they both smiled at each other softly as they reminisced about the speech TJ had made, all those years ago. How time flew.
"Think about what defines us in life. Many people say it's their reputation, or claim that success is defined by things such as a big house, or a car. That's not always the case. Yes, it's good to have money but what matters more?"
Caleb looked at Cyrus in confusion for a second, before it clicked. "Love?"
"Yes, Caleb. Love," TJ responded as Cyrus nodded. "Love can get you through any rough patch if it's strong enough, and the love between soulmates always is. Soulmates are expressed in different ways, such as unspoken communication-where you don't have to talk to someone to understand what they're thinking. Sometimes, they share dreams or even nightmares. Your Dad and I often do, even to this day-and you heard about the nightmare we discussed with you earlier. That was a sign that we struggled to identify. They also share another thing in common. What seems to be a recurring theme throughout the story?"
"Daddy, what does 'recurring' mean?"
"Oh, sorry. He was confusing you with big words again." Cyrus said to their son as Bryony crawled over his knee to sit on TJ's lap. He kissed her hair as his husband told Caleb what that word meant, but he was still puzzled by the question.
"Yes, but what physical sign of soulmates is there?" TJ asked.
"Okay. Bryony, do you have any idea, sweetie?"
"I think she's just tired now," Cyrus whispered into TJ's ear, his breath warm on his neck.
"Okay, I'll tell them then if that's alright with you, Cy?"
"Of course, Teej." Smiling, Cyrus brought his husband's hand up ever-so-slightly and pressed his lips onto it. TJ glowed as their kids pretended to throw up. He resorted to his storytelling mode.
"The common thread is marks. More specifically, our marks. There are marks of our past that lie within us, defining us all. Marks develop with us over time, they grow and fade and disappear altogether, but some remain and they are an integral part of us all. Our marks, as a strong soulmate match, are symbolic of our connection and relationship with each other." They'd gone to a soulmate matcher once, who rated the strength of their match-she was legitimate, and the best in tbe country. Theirs had been a one hundred percent match. Of course it had. They were TJ and Cyrus, after all. "We have endured many marks and ups and downs in our fifteen year relationship, and they have molded us into the people we are today." Cyrus grinned and nestled into his husband a little, being careful not to squash their daughter in the process.
"Those marks proved that we were always destined to be with each other, one way or another. As we've told you, it's been a difficult journey to get to where we are today, but an incredibly rewarding one. It's been worth every moment to get to where we are today, with two children, a dog, a cat and each other."
Caleb scanned the room. "Speaking of a cat, where is Stormy?"
"No idea," was Cyrus' response. TJ shrugged. A second later, the black cat emerged from behind the couch, causing them all to burst out laughing.
"Anyway, did you take in what I said, or what your Dad said?"
"Of course!" Caleb insisted, stubborn as always. "Your marks have grown with you and you've had them together and it was worth all the bad and good things to get to now."
"Exactly! You're so clever, Caleb, you know that?"
"I know," Caleb responded, smug. He stuck his tongue out at Bryony, who returned the favour to his sister.
"And me! And me!" The little girl insisted.
"And you, silly!" Cyrus added with a laugh.
"You're both smart," TJ conceded, the diplomat out of the couple for once.
"I can prove it!"
"Can you?" The brown eyed boy teased.
"Of course I can!" The freckly girl insisted, her arms folded.
"Go on then!"
She thought for a second or two. "So marks help people grow, they're there then they're not, and it shows ups and downs, and now it has led Dad Daddy to happiness!"
TJ and Cyrus clapped their hands at theit daughter's intelligent insight, while Caleb pouted and looked sad.
"Hey, you're both smart, okay?" Cyrus insisted. Reluctantly, Caleb agreed.
"Okay." There was a pause. "Love you really , Bry-Bry."
"Love you too, piece of kale."
"Dad! Daddy! Tell her that I'm not a piece of kale!" Chuckling, moved his daughter off his lap and onto Cyrus' side.
"Bryony, your brother isn't a portion of a vegetable!" Cyrus pointed out as she giggled.
"But it's funny!"
"Not true, though, is it?" She sighed.
"No. Sorry, Caleb."
"That's okay," he decided, too preoccupied trying to grab Stormy's attention to be petty about it. Purring, the cat jumped up-and onto TJ's lap.
"Aw! No fair! Why does she always go to you?"
"Because he feeds her," Cyrus said at the same time as TJ told him that he was a 'cat whisperer.'
"Cool! Can I be a cat whisperer?" TJ and Cyrus shared a look with each other.
"Maybe when you grow up," TJ lied with a bright smile plasteres on his face.
"Awesome! I'm gonna be the best cat whisperer ever!"
"I don't doubt it for a second," the darker haired man said, nudging the man next to him meaningfully. The blond just laughed. Barking loudly, Sunflower entered the room again, sparking excitement from the two children.
When the two children had calmed down a little, with their dog at Cyrus' feet, their cat on TJ's lap and their children on either side of them, Cyrus spoke. "What marks us as different from others in life is the eay we react to what life throws at us, and the way our words and actions develop our personalities."
"For example, if aunty Buffy was wearing a blue sweater, and I said 'nice sweater', then I said the same about someone else's jeans or socks, and I did this lots, and I smiled at people and helped them with their homework, I'd be seen as a nice person. Got it?"
"Got it." Both kids said, in perfect unison with each other.
"Wait, why is aunty Buffy our aunty if she isn't your sister?" Caleb wondered out loud. People often thought he was related to her because of how similar he looked to her.
"She's my best friend," Cyrus told the innocent girl.
"And one of mine, too," TJ added.
"Just like the way that we call our other friends your aunties and uncles: take aunty Andi and Amber as an example, or uncle Marty (being aunty Buffy's husband and our friend), and Uncle Walker and Jonah."
"Oh, I get it now." Smiling, Cyrus leaned forward as carefully as possible to make sure that he wasn't disturbing Stormy, who blinked at him with unimpressed emerald eyes, and ruffled his son's hair, a sign of affection. The boy chuckled, not minding about his hair too much.
"As we were saying earlier, our marks are a significant part of us and shaped who we are today. I wouldn't be so nice and kind if it wasn't for your Dad."
"And I wouldn't be so confident without my wonderful husband here."
TJ placed a hand on his chest. "Oh, you're too kind."
"I try my best."
They gave each other their lovesick heart eyes, the way they always did nowadays. Caleb rolled his eyes and shared a disgusted look with Bryony at their parents flirting like teenagers. Weren't they too old for that by now?
"What were you saying earlier about marks?" Caleb asked, tugging on TJ's sleeve.
"Caleb, what is it?" he asked, his tone not unkind, while he turned away from the man whose hand hr was still holding and to the seven-year-old boy.
"What is it you mentioned earlier about marks? You didn't sound like you were finished."
"Okay, um, where was I?"
"You were talking about the way marks impact upon us."
"Ah yes, thanks Cyrus." The man in question winked at him, an action which still made his stomach do somersaults to this day.
"Our marks appeared as bruises, scratches, things like that. They are visible signs of our struggles and therefore our strength, and symbolizes the way our strength is multiplied-or, doubled-when we are together. With each other, we can get through anything, big or small." He gazed at Cyrus.
"No matter what we go through in life, we're never alone. There's always someone out there who will help us and understand what's happening perfectly. They inspire us, they wait for us, they care for us, they need us, they respect us as people, and most of all, they love us for who they are." Both of them had teared up at this point.
"Wow." Bryony whispered, awestruck but drifting off to sleep, out of tiredness more than boredom. "Love you both." Caleb yawned and rhnnes his eyes, tired too. It was eight 'o clock, to be fair.
"It's beautiful, your love story," Caleb added. "It's not that yucky, really. You both depended on each other and were there and then the love grew. It's lovely. I love you both, as well."
"And we love you both, too," the married couple spoke in unison.
Caleb's head drooped and found TJ's shoulder, and Bryony was sprawled over Cyrus' lap. Their fireplace, which was opposite of them, was burning. It was raining outside, but they were cosy and warm where they were, with a child on either side of them, a cat placed on TJ's lap and a dog at Cyrus' feet.
TJ turned to Cyrus, his eyes full of love and joy, reflecting his. "How did we both become so lucky, huh?"
Cyrus' face broke into a grin. "I have no idea."
He traced the man's face with his thumb, love written all over his face. "I love you, TJ Goodman-Kippen." He meant it, and would forever.
"I love you too, Cyrus Goodman-Kippen." He whispered back. It was true; he did love him. And he always would do.
Needless to say, the two of them were the happiest they'd ever been in their whole, entire lives. As they took in the scene around them, the couple couldn't help but cast their minds to what had started this off in the first place, what had displayed their love and proved to themselves and the world that their fate had been written in the stars, that these two men had always been destined to be together. Their love had blossomed because of it, and they had never been more grateful towards anything, bar this. The very thing that had begun this beautiful love story, and equally the very thing that was just about to end it.