"Mister Steve, can you pwease make me annover one? I mistaked it."
Steve smiles at the tiny girl standing next to his chair, blinking the largest pair of beautiful brown doe eyes I've ever seen at him. She's about three and utterly stunning with skin the color of milk chocolate, her curly hair held back with a pink plastic headband. If not for the obviously second-or-third-hand clothes she wears, faded and threadbare, she would look like any other child – except maybe a smidge prettier.
In fact, all of the kids attending the family arts and crafts event at the local homeless shelter are just like other children aside from the lack of privilege that brings them here. That's the main reason Steve and I volunteered to spend our afternoon helping out with the event; we have more than most, and donating our time is the least we can do.
"Of course, kiddo," Steve says, taking a piece of plain white paper from the stack next to him and uncapping his Sharpie with a flourish. "What would you like to color this time?"
"A Cwismas twee wif wots of pwesents!"
"Your wish is my command, princess." Steve sets to work inking the requested coloring page onto the blank sheet of paper, and I can't help watching him as he interacts with the little girl – completely natural, as if he was surrounded by children all his life, which, aside from my younger siblings, he wasn't.
"Mommy, I need help!" comes a frustrated cry from somewhere behind me, and I turn, hands in my pockets, to see a blond five-year-old boy wielding a pair of safety scissors and a piece of paper that can only be described as shredded. "This snowflake looks like crap!"
"Jason!" his mother hisses. She's standing behind him, rocking a baby who looks no older than two months. "Don't say that!"
"Please, Mommy, show me how. Please, please, please—"
Before his wheedling can pierce anyone's eardrums – namely mine – I intervene, flashing the kid's mom a Bucky Barnes Special™ smile, the same one that Steve always says could charm the panties off a nun. The woman is cute, though frightfully skinny, especially for obviously giving birth not long ago. "Can I help?" I ask, nodding toward the boy, but he narrows his eyes and glares at me.
"No, I want Mommy!"
"Jason Wade Graham, don't you dare talk to the nice man that way!"
The boy – Jason – pouts. He has a mean-looking cold sore at the corner of his mouth. "I'm sorry."
"No harm done, big guy." I turn back to his mom and smile again. "I'm James, by the way."
"Hi," she says shyly. "I'm Collette."
"Very nice to meet you. I'd shake your hand, but they're obviously full." That earns me a small smile from Collette, whose lips are chapped so badly they're cracking in places. I lower my voice and lean closer so Jason can't hear me. "If it'd help, I'd be glad to hold the baby so you can show him."
Collette's shoulders visibly slump, the relief on her face overwhelming. "That would be great," she sighs. "Ever since Avery was born, I feel like Jason's not getting the attention he needs, and he's been acting out. Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Absolutely! I had two sisters and a brother, all younger than me, so I totally get it. I'll stay right nearby."
"Thank you," she says, her voice trembling, and clears her throat as she carefully rests the impossibly small baby in my arms.
"Very welcome." I can't help the grin that spreads across my face as I cradle the baby – Avery – whose face is utterly serene, his pink lips moving as if he's dreaming of nursing, his closed eyelids so thin I can see the delicate pink tracery of his veins within them. "He's beautiful."
"He is," Collette says, puffing up with pride as she pulls out a chair next to Jason and settles in to help him create a snowflake that doesn't, in his words, look like crap.
"That looks good on you," comes Steve's voice from beside me, and I turn my head to find him smiling down at the baby in my arms. "Careful; I hear it's contagious."
Steve shoots me a sidelong glance with a strange little smile tugging the corners of his lips upward. "Baby fever."
"Yeah, well." I honestly have no comeback, so I turn my attention back to the baby, whose breath hitches in his sleep before he lets out the tiniest, sweetest sigh, and whatever's left of my heart melts.
Much later, after several hours of paper-crafting and coloring and play-dough rolling and countless other activities shared with a number of less fortunate families, and also after Steve and I quietly slip a very large check made out to the shelter under the program director's office door, we're home, skin pinkened from the shower and bodies entwined on our bed.
"So," I murmur, scattering light kisses across Steve's collarbones, "you had a good time with the kids, huh?"
"They were amazing." Steve hooks his ankles at the base of my spine, his movement in my lap still languid, his arms draped over my shoulders. "I wish we coulda brought all of them home with us. How 'bout you? You looked happy enough with that baby in your arms most of the afternoon."
"Yeah." I don't even bother stifling my grin, my arms looped around his waist, my chin tipped upward so our eyes meet. "That was something else. He was just so tiny and soft and… I dunno."
"Cute?" Steve supplies, a short laugh escaping him on a sigh.
"Yeah, that." I offer my lips up for a kiss, and he obliges most willingly. When we separate, his hips move a little faster, his powerful thighs tight against my sides, and he moans a little. "Steve," I whisper, and he opens his eyes, blinking to focus them on me.
"Do you think you'll ever want a family?"
His baby blues widen a fraction, and he brings one hand up to rest it on the back of my neck. "With you, yeah – I could see it."
We're quiet for a moment aside from our heavy breaths and soft groans, meeting in the middle for a long, unhurried kiss that spins out for untold moments.
"I love you so much, Stevie… I wouldn't want any of this without you."
"Good," Steve sighs. "Me neither."
Our conversation ceases again, our lizard brains taking over as we grind together in a familiar rhythm. When Steve's soft sounds become louder and more urgent, I kiss him again, pulling back enough to meet his eyes. "It doesn't have to be soon," I pant. "We have a lot of lost time to make up. But when we're ready—"
"Don't worry, honey." Steve manages a smart-ass smirk amid the haze of sweat and sex surrounding us. "We'll talk about it when it's time for you to put a baby in me."
I nearly choke on my shocked laughter, which sets Steve off as well, and somewhere in there, clinging to each other, we manage to finish together.