"I'm sorry, I'll probably be stuck here for another hour at least."
"And the new shift can't take care of it?"
"You know they can't. Do you want me to call Bettina and-"
"No." Kay sighed and rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger, then lowered the hand to his mouth and took another pull off the cigarette before putting it out and flicking the butt over the edge of the balcony railing. "No, it's okay."
"Yeah, just hang up the phone, get the work done and get back here."
Obviously they both knew that police work was no ordinary nine-to-five-gig, but there were certainly times when Kay wished it was. Now was one of those times. He fished out his packet of cigarettes to light a new one, but the doorbell rang. Punctual as ever. The packet went into the pocket again.
"Hello Bettina" he greeted the woman as he opened the apartment door, "hi there, August. Your daddy isn't home yet."
"Where is he?"
"On his way. He was delayed at work."
She eyed him suspiciously and seemed reluctant to put her one-year-old down on the floor, despite his sprawling and kicking in her arms. Kay could understand that reluctance to a certain extent, and did not blame her for it. It was a mother's privilege to decide whom to trust her offspring with, and to leave August with the man his father had left his mother for… Even so, it was Friday night and she was all made up and in nice clothes.
"You have a date?" he asked, and was happy for her.
"Yes." The reply was instant, not a hint of surprise but not of defensiveness either. See, this was why he rather liked Bettina, despite their differences. Straightforward, she was. "We're going to the movies and then to Dreiberg's."
"I could make rearrangements" she said, still holding on the wrapped up child in her arms. While August had momentarily given up the struggle to get down, Kay suspected it would not be long until he would start to squirm again.
"I'm sure you could, but there's no need. Honestly, Bettina. Your date awaits. August and I will be alright until Marc gets back, won't we August?"
The boy nodded, though Kay suspected it was more due to his tone of voice rather than from understanding the question.
"Okay then" she said and set her son on the floor. "Bye darling, be nice."
Finally released, the boy tottered off into the apartment and Kay took the overnight bag from Bettina's hand.
"Is it really okay?" she asked.
"Well, I'll see you Sunday then."
"Yeah. Good luck with the date."
"Thanks. Good luck with the rug rat."
They smiled at each other, nodded, and then Kay closed the door. Leaning back against it, he closed his eyes momentarily. That had gone far better than he had imagined.
He and Marc had been back together for about half a year and lived together only half that time. Marc had custody of August three days per week, though usually not weekends, and while Kay had spent quite a lot of meals and mornings with the kid, he had never during those three months been alone in receiving him. Marc took care of that. But meeting and talking with Bettina had not been so awkward after all. That was a relief.
He opened his eyes and caught sight of the child who sat on the floor and examined a shoe from the shoe rail.
"Okay kid" he said, squaring his shoulders at the task, "let's get you out of those burly clothes."
The "one hour at least" proved to be a good two hours and Marc felt sufficiently drained when he turned his key in the lock of the door and entered the apartment that he had shared with Kay for the past three months. He entered as quietly as he could, shucked of his jacket and unlaced his shoes. The living room area was to the left of the hallway and sneaking to the doorway he could look in on the scene.
The TV was on, but no one was watching the show, the muffled sound merely background noise to the reading of a bedtime-story. Kay's voice was soft and low and he caught Marc's glance without breaking off on the reading for even a moment. August did not notice his father's homecoming though, sleep-heavy eyes trying to focus on the illustrated pages in front of him. He was in his pajamas, teddy hugged close to his body and nestled in the crook of Kay's arm. Just another minute and he would definitely be asleep.
Marc went to the kitchen and took a beer from the refrigerator. It had been a long day and the attempted robbery with its following aftermath of questioning and report-writing had been thoroughly exhausting. Out in the living room, Kay stopped reading, and Marc took another bottle from the refrigerator.
August was asleep, as predicted, chubby cheeks rosy and mouth slightly open. He looked comfortable enough where he was, so Marc sat down on Kay's other side and gave him the beer and a kiss.
"Hey" he said, "how's it been?"
"Full action nonstop" Kay replied and smiled before taking a sip of his beer. "We had some sandwiches after the building blocks and then he nodded off pretty soon."
"It was nothing."
"Yes, it was. Babysitting isn't something you signed up for and I know this isn't your idea of a good Friday night, so yeah, it was something."
Kay gave Marc a queer look and then shook his head as he took another healthy swig from the bottle. Then he glanced at the toddler still nested in the crook of his arm.
"I did sign up for it" he said, his eyes now on Marc again. "That was why we moved here, right?"
They had started talking about living together a few months into their rekindled relationship. The only problem was that while he and Kay could live in Kay's new apartment with one room and a kitchenette, he and Kay and sometimes August could not. Marc's house was never an option, both because of his previously living there with Bettina and because of his parents living next door. Finding a good place to live had taken some time and effort, but never, never, had Kay said anything about not wanting August there. Not that he had really said anything about particularly wanting him there, either.
"You know what I mean."
"No, I don't. Marc, August isn't a burden you've laid on me. I chose this myself."
But had he really had a choice? If Kay had ever voiced feelings of being against August's presence, their relationship would have definitely been over. Was it really that foolish of Marc to feel that he had somehow pressed Kay into an all but normal family life? It was only a year ago he had left Bettina as that sort of life began to form, and now he was here with Kay, whose life without strings attached had been so tempting then?
"And as for my idea of a good Friday night" Kay continued, perhaps imagining the thoughts crossing Marc's mind, because his voice was a bit softer now, "I like this. I've had a nice evening with August and now that you're here, it's even better. There are other nights for clubbing."
"Oh, don't talk about clubs, please" Marc said, grimacing. "Can you imagine trying to rob a club at five in the afternoon?"
"They really did that?" Kay laughed. "Either they were extremely stupid or extremely desperate."
"Both, I think. Worst part was that the staff hadn't even brought out the change to the cashier, so there wasn't a single euro to be had."
"Crime of the year, right there."
"Yeah…" Marc felt positively deflated, but instead of sinking deeper into the sofa like he wanted to, he braced himself and got up. "I'll… put him to bed."
So Marc got up and lifted his son from the couch, the small form warm and soft against his chest as he carried him into the small bedroom. There, he kissed the boy's head and put him into the bed, tucked the blanket over him and put the teddy within reach in one of the corners. He stood there for some time, perhaps only a minute, perhaps longer, and watched the child in the bed. Then, shaking his head as if to clear it, he went out of the room and, leaving its door ajar, returned to the living room. Kay was still in the sofa and the sound of the TV was turned up a bit, but he did not seem to be very involved with the show.
Marc stopped in the doorway, leaning against its frame. Tired as he was, he felt also content and at peace, and very, very thankful. Kay looked up at him with a smile and patted the sofa cushion, and Marc obediently went over.
"Thank you" he said again as he sat down, and as Kay raised his eyebrows enquiringly, added: "For what you said."
Kay smiled and shook his head dismissively.
"Don't worry about it. Now…" He sat up and then climbed onto Marc's lap, the heat and weight of his body suddenly very close and his kiss hot and tender all at once. "Now, do you feel like having some grown-up fun before I put you to bed?"
The TV was still on, the volume still set low but it felt strangely loud – perhaps because of the lack of heavy breathing and other sounds of pleasure which had only just ceased to fill the room.
Kay's breath was warm and humid and his wolf grin audible as he leaned forward and nibble on Marc's earlobe.
"See?" he said, voice rich with satisfaction, like a cat about to feast on cream, "this is my idea of a perfect Friday night."