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Be My Baby

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It was the end of the shift, and when he stepped out of the back of the building, he was hit with cold night air that hit him harder after the hours he spent in the hot air of the club he was working in. With a sigh, he buried his hands in the pockets of his coat and started to make his way down the street, considering to hail a taxi instead of walking, but he needed to clear his head and nothing did that better than a nightly walk through the cold and he needed to save the money. His lawyer had called him in the morning and told him that his chances were bad, and that he should prepare himself for another setback. Those were news that he did not want to hear, and did not want to believe in, even though he had expected nothing else. All the money he had put into this war, and in the end he would end up the loser and up to his ears in debt.

Fuck his life.

Fuck his shitty life.

He looked up and saw the handsome stranger that had been a guest in the club earlier, standing there and waiting for a taxi. He had noticed him before when he got twice drinks at the bar that he had tended, for himself and his company of a few people. Fancy cocktails for the ladies, one of the guys had taken an imported beer, the other just water, and tall and handsome had a nice smooth whiskey on the rocks. A good and expensive choice of drink that he very much appreciated, liking the taste of that brand himself and having it recommended. Already when those large eyes had looked at him, dark in the light of the club, he had imagined what it would taste like to lick a drop of whiskey off those lips, and now, seeing him standing there in his whole height stirred again an unwelcome desire in him that he had not allowed himself to feel for quite some time.

Intending to pass the stranger, he walked on, but then the man said: “Hey,” and smiled at him, a smile that made him look younger and almost boyish.

“Hey yourself,” he replied, smiling up at him and putting a strand of his hair behind an ear.

He was not a small man himself, of average height, but the other one was almost a head taller than him, and he had to tilt his head up, and standing so close now, he could only admire that masculine jawline and the eyes that now seemed to be of a dark blue, still warm and kind but with a glint of temper.

“You’re leaving early. Didn’t you enjoy your stay?” He asked, wind in his outgrown hair.

“Oh,” the other man said, smiling a bit abashed. “Oh, yes, it’s a real cool place. But I don’t like crowds all that much, and it’s really busy tonight. I didn’t expect that on a weekday.”

He smirked up at him.

“Yeah, no idea where all these people come from tonight. I’m sorry you didn’t like it.”

“Oh, no,” tall and handsome started to apologize, blushing a little which he found beyond adorable. “I liked it. It’s cool. I mean, the drinks were amazing, and the staff is, well, it’s nice to look at.”

Was he trying to flirt clumsily with him?

He smiled with a raised brow, wiping another lose strand of his hair out of his face, knowing very well that that gesture counted as flirting.

“I’m babbling, I’m sorry. I’m making a fool out of myself.”

He chuckled.

“No, it’s fine. That’s kinda a nice thing to say, I guess? I assume you talk about my colleague Anne? The hot redhead?”

Tall and handsome raised his brows, his blush growing now.

“Uhm…no. I was actually talking about you.”

His smile beamed now and he got closer to the taller man, having to lean his head now all the way back to be able to look into those pretty eyes.

“Why, thank you,” he said, the voice a little husky – what the fuck was he doing? – and licked his lips. Hell if that man was not hot and cute - what a combination.

Tall and handsome smirked and, damn, he was so close now, standing there with him in the middle of the sidewalk, not paying attention to the people passing them by. Somehow, it felt like time stopped.

“What’s your name?”

He hesitated a second.

“Jamie,” he replied, and tall and handsome nodded with a grin.

“I’m Will,” he said, his thumb touching Jamie’s stubbly chin. “What do you say? Get away from here? Somewhere where we can...talk?”

“Yeah, I’d really, really like that. I'm not sure we will talk much though.”

The fuck.

What was he doing?

A taxi stopped in front of them, and tall and handsome – no, Will – got inside, reaching out for Jamie to follow him and he did not hesitate a moment this time and got into the car next to him, having taken the hand like it was the most natural thing to do.

 

 

The door to the motel room crashed behind them into its frame, being kicked shut by Will’s foot, while his lips were firmly locked to those of the smaller man. Jamie was ready to climb him like a tree and was already tearing at his shirt and trying to get out of his own jacket at the same time. He wanted him, needed him, craved feeling alive and forgetting the world around him, and he was very sure that it would not take long to forget all reason that was left in his mind that was already clouded by lust and desire. He didn’t even know if the other man was gay, or bi like he was, or whatever, but it did not really matter. All that mattered was that he was clinging to this mountain of muscle – holy shit, that man was ripped – and had a hot tongue shoved down his throat that was tasting like the expensive whiskey that he had poured himself just a little while ago.

The kisses they shared were sloppy, not refined at all, did not speak of gentleness or tenderness or, God forbid, love, but only sheer passion. So heated they made his knees tremble, both of them moaning into each other’s mouths, no doubt of what the night would bring.

Finally, Jamie had dropped his black jacket and Will’s hands were ripping at his white shirt, uncaring that a few buttons were torn off while he was stripping Jamie of the cloth. Jamie moaned when his skin was touched the first time and tried to get even closer to Will, who was shrugging out of his own leather jacket and pulled his t-shirt over his head, only leaving Jamie’s lips for a second before he returned to kiss him with the same intensity as before. Jamie’s nipples were stiff little pebbles and when they touched the insanely muscled chest of the other man, he moaned and arched his back at the contact, eyes closed in growing arousal. His cock in his pants stirred already and he could not wait to get naked and onto the bed or whatever flat surface they would come across.

With quick fingers, while continuing the kiss they shared, Will unbuckled Jamie’s belt and tore open button and zipper. Immediately, both his hands found their way into Jamie’s underwear and grabbed his butt cheeks, kneading the soft and still firm flesh and making Jamie whimper into his mouth. A finger pushed between the cheeks and circled his hole, promising what was to come and Jamie trembled, felt the flutter of excitement in his stomach, the anticipation of ecstasy. Jamie’s hands trembled when he unbuttoned Will’s black jeans and slipped a hand into it, grinning into the kiss when he noticed that Will did not bother with underwear and found his half-hard cock, wrapping his fingers around the already thick shaft that gave a promise of pleasure.

He put his free hand against Will’s chest and pushed, so that Will had to make a step back and feel into the armchair they had been conveniently standing in front of. Will looked up at him, lips reddened and wet with spit, and then watched how Jamie got down on his knees between his legs and pulled his pants off him, stroking the insides of this strong thighs, pushing them apart to give him space to get to that gorgeous cock, thick and throbbing, almost completely hard and that he wanted to pay all the attention to it deserved. Looking up to Will, he licked the whole length and then circled the tip with his tongue, before he started to suck with determination and the desire of a starving man. He moaned around the growing shaft in his mouth, and Will put his right hand into his hair, leaning back without being able to take the eyes off the gorgeous man that was giving his erection a thorough tongue bath, making him moan and pant more with every passing moment, shiver at the moans that vibrated around his cock. When he tried to swallow the hard length further, he made little choking sounds that turned Will on even more, not pushing or forcing anything but enjoying the intensity and at the same time carefulness with which Jamie was getting him harder and harder until he could hardly bear it anymore, already at the brink of coming.

He pulled Jamie off his cock, making the man with the shoulder long sandy hair sputter a little and look at him in wonder, fear of rejection in his brilliant blue eyes, but Will reached for his shoulders and pulled Jamie into his lap, kissing him with passion, the taste of spit and pre-cum mixing, before he got him to stand up and turned him around, got down himself while getting Jamie out of his pants and the man to kneel on the armchair. One hand on Jamie’s stiff cock, that filled out his palm nicely, he gave his buttcheeks a kiss and then dove his tongue into the crevice between them, finding quickly the quivering hole and started to rim Jamie, licking him out until he had the opening wet and fluttering, and made the man he did this to a whimpering mess that grabbed the armchair so hard that his knuckles went white.

“Shit,” Jamie moaned, leaning forward so that his head touched the backrest of the chair, panting and sweating already, his whole body on fire when Will circled his hole with one finger and then pushed in. “Fuck.”

Will bit his ass and started to slowly fingerfuck him.

“God, I want you. I want you so fucking much. I wanted you the moment I saw you there behind the bar flirting with anyone,” he whispered against Jamie’s skin, and Jamie could only nod, not able to articulate any word anymore. He put his flat hand on Jamie’s back and let it slid up his spine up to his shoulderblades and got into position behind him, after having gotten a condom that he carried in his wallet.

Jamie bit his lower lip and held his breath when the large cock of the man that just this moment became his lover, entered him in one slow thrust until he bottomed out inside him and his balls rested against his skin, only lubed by the spit that was left behind. His legs trembled, the sharp sting of the stretch robbing his breath, and still he wanted more, wished he could get even farther into him while he already had the impression he could feel him in his chest.

Will pulled almost all the way out, stopped the movement for a moment and pushed back in, again all the way, which he repeated a couple of times until he was secure enough to not hurt Jamie with his size and started to increase the speed. Jamie grabbed his own cock and started to pull, surprised that he had not lost his erection while being penetrated like he often experienced sex, and moaned even more.

He got his right leg up the chair to open himself up more, making it possible for Will to get in half an inch deeper. One of Will’s arms embraced his mid and pulled him upright and back until he was flush against his chest and kissed his neck and shoulder. Jamie turned his neck and they started to kiss again. Each stroke hit his prostate and Jamie was a mess with already sweaty hair and still he wanted more, wanted it all.

He gasped in disappointment when Will left him and turned to see what was happening, but a smirk went over his face when he watched Will get onto the bed, leaning back and giving him a wink. Getting the hint, Jamie followed him on weak legs and crawled into his lap, sharing another heated kiss with him and then sitting up and guiding Will’s cock back into his body. He reached behind himself and spread himself open with both hands, taking him as deep as it would go and started to ride him slowly, savoring the feeling of being filled so completely, not remembering that it had ever been like this before. Will pushed upwards, meeting his movements to perfection, almost like they had done this numerous times before, had gotten to know each other, and were not two strangers who succumbed to the lust they felt for each other without having exchanged more than a few words. They looked into each other’s eyes, a little smile on the flushed faces, and Jamie leaned back when they started to move faster together.

Will pulled him down and kissed him again, humming in content, and rolled them then over with the strength of his tall body, covering Jamie with himself and sitting up to kneel between Jamie’s legs, starting to fuck him in earnest, the bottoming man bend in half and stroking his cock that was red and craved the attention it was getting now. Each thrust was deeper than the last one and will took up speed again, pulling again all the way out, watching the pulsing and red opening to Jamie’s warm body and pushing back in.

He was making Jamie see stars, his breathing being erratic now and the feeling of the nearing climax robbing all his senses, being able to focus only on the man that was doing this to him, making him feel wanted and desired, filling his stomach with a long forgotten warmth.

“Will…,” he whispered, surprised how rough his voice sounded, and reached for him and pulled his lover down to kiss him again. "I'm...Oh my God."

Will’s thrusts became more irregular, indicating that he was reaching the edge, both of them so close to tipping over that edge, and then Will came with a deep scream and filled the condom that separated them with his seed. His hips snapped one last time, before he slumped down on top of Jamie, but then lifted his head, kissed him again, and then slipped out of the tight sheath his body had provided and then let his lips and tongue move downwards, licking over his nipples, nibbling at his hipbone and then swallowing his still hard cock down the whole length. Jamie’s eyes flew open when he let go of his cock and his lips closed around his asshole and started sucking and licking, fingering him with two fingers at the same time and jerked his cock in time with the thrusts of his fingers. The moment Jamie started to pulsate in his hand, he returned to sucking him and allowed the surprised Jamie to come in his mouth, swallowing his release down.

Jamie was panting, not quite sure if what happened between them had been real. This must have been a dream come true, a stranger fulfilling his sexual needs like this, it could not be real. Only slowly he caught his breath, while Will moved up to kiss his face again and then closed his lips over his and shared with him the taste of his own cum, deeply erotic and causing him to moan once more.

“That was…,” Will whispered against his ear, his own voice as rough as Jamie’s.

Jamie nodded.

“Yeah. It was,” he said, leaning against Will’s shoulder who pulled him with him when he moved off his body.

They laid silent next to each other, still close, until Jamie noticed that Will had fallen asleep, his snoring soft and comforting. Jamie, still too exhilarated from what happened, lifted his head to look at the sleeping man, smiling. His strong jaw was covered in light brown stubble. There was a little mole on his right cheek, and a larger one close to his jaw. He had a cute nose and almost elegant brows. Everything about this man was astoundingly handsome, and the smile that he still held on his lips even while sleeping made Jamie feel butterflies in his stomach.

He kissed Will’s shoulder and started to nestle into his arm, when his phone went off, causing him to frown.

With unsteady legs he got up and fished the phone out of the backpocket of his pants and looked at the screen.

“Shit,” he whispered, and pressed the answer button. “Yeah?...No, I’m not home yet….What?...No…Listen…No, no. It’s ok…I’ll be there in half an hour…Yes…Yes, I’m coming now…See you in a bit.”

He closed his eyes and ended the call. Shit. Fuck. Why now?

Silently, not wanting to wake Will, he got dressed.

Before he left, he pressed one last kiss of regret on the sleeping man’s lips, sighing sadly.

“Goodbye, Will,” he whispered, feeling sorry for not being able to look into those pretty eyes again or see him smile at him.

Yeah.

Fuck his life.

Fuck his shitty life.

Chapter Text

Billy was sitting in the cafeteria area of his workplace, the Ranger Gym, relaxing a little until he had his next appointment as a personal trainer, and was having a large protein shake and staring out of the large windows that gave a nice view over the street below them.

His thoughts were still with the gorgeous, hot man he had spent the night with a week ago, that had made him move rapidly out of his comfort zone. He wished he could say that Jamie seduced him, but it had been a mutual experience and part of him was certain that Jamie had been just as overwhelmed by this all-consuming desire as he had been. Another part though was insecure, even more since Jamie had been gone when he woke up.

He took another sip of this shake and pulled a face. Whatever Idelle had put into it, it tasted like smelly feet.

“You don’t look like you’re in the best mood.”

Billy looked up and saw his co-worker and best friend approach and sit down at his table.

“Seriously, one more milf that is telling me that I should touch her butt to check if it’s hard enough and I’m going to scream,” John said.

“They’re that desperate today?” Billy asked with a grin.

“Desperate is not the right word. Determined puts it better,” John took a taste of Billy’s shake and made a disgusted face. “What the fuck is that?”

“Ask Idelle. She’s trying new recipes. This one is called Morning in Nassau.”

“God, if mornings in Nassau are like that, I’m not going there for my honeymoon. Yuck!”

Billy laughed.

“She’s as bad at this as you are with cooking. I don’t know how you survive.”

“James cooks. I’m banned from the stove since the chicken disaster.”

“Ah yes, the chicken disaster.”

John shrugged.

“I still don’t understand why it’s acceptable that beef is bloody but chicken not.”

“One word. Salmonella.”

John huffed and leaned back in his chair, resting his left leg, the prosthesis visible, on the empty chair between them.

“Would you believe it? I got another offer to convert me to being a good and honest straight man,” John laughed, playing with the engagement ring he wore while being at work on a necklace.

“Even if you were straight, you would not be a good and honest man.”

“Hey! I thought you were my friend!”

Billy laughed at the fake shock in John’s face and winked.

“I am. That’s why I’m being honest.” Billy took another sip and had to admit that the more he drank of the shake in the color of vomit it tasted less disgusting. “So, you got hit on? Again?”

“What is it that they all want to convert me? I thought telling them I’m gay and engaged would keep them off my back, but no. They get even more desperate to show me that the right woman would fix me. As if my leg would grow back if I’m fucking a chick instead of James.”

Billy grinned lopsided.

“I’m pretty convinced that it’s usual James who does the fucking part.”

“You know nothing, William Manderly,” John grinned. “But seriously, and they say men are bad at getting the message when a girl says no. These chicks are a bad, bad example for their gender.”

Billy nodded and looked back out of the window, his thoughts drifting.

“What is it? You know you can talk to me,” John said, more silent and serious, making Billy look at his friend.

“It’s nothing. Just a mood.”

“Hmm, does this mood have anything to do with the hickey you sported last week after we went out?”

Billy raised his brows.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

John, who was massaging his leg, leaned forward.

“You sported an impressive hickey last week,” he said. “And that you act like it didn’t exist makes me only more curious. Don’t tell me you and Esther…”

“Esther is in Cambodia,” Billy said.

“Then who sucked at your neck instead?”

“Maybe it was Percy during playtime?” Billy tried.

John’s brows rose up.

“Really?” He asked. “Let me get this right. We go out with the gang to a really nice club. You leave early because it was too crowded and loud for your taste, after eyeing the whole time the cute redhead at the bar.” He tilted his head. “The next day, you appear at work with a hickey the size of Wales, and you tell me it was a four year old sucking at your neck?” John huffed. “You gotta try harder.”

Billy pressed his lips together. How much he sometimes hated his best friend’s sharp mind.

“Yeah..well…yes…maybe…maybe something did happen. But it doesn’t matter.”

John slapped his arm.

“It doesn’t matter? You get laid the first time in…what?...a year? And you tell me it doesn’t matter?”

“No,” he said, annoyance in his voice, the eyes narrowed. “It doesn’t.”

“Was she a bitch? Do I need to kill her? James and I can be very sneaky.”

“He.”

John stared, no word coming from his lips, at his best friend, and then simply repeated: “He.”

“I said, it doesn’t matter,” Billy mumbled, got up and started to walk away, but John stopped him with a hand on his arm.

“Billy, what happened? Did he force you? I mean…”

“Cause I’m not gay? I don’t know, John. I fucking don’t know. And no, he did not force me. It just didn’t mean anything. Can we just drop it?”

“I’m not dropping anything,” John insisted. “You’re my best friend, Billy. And despite me being an asshole, I do care about you. You’re not doing well, and I want to be there for you. Let me.” Billy nodded after a moment of hesitation and sat back down. “So, who is he?”

Billy looked at his hands and John noticed a hint of sadness in Billy’s eyes.

“The bartender.” He said, making John frown a moment.

“The cute blond one? Ponytail, blue eyes, great ass?”

Billy’s eyes snapped up.

“What?” John said. “I might be in a very monogamous relationship with a hot ginger, but I still have eyes. What happened?”

“He kinda ran into me while I was waiting for a taxi, there was something. I don’t know,” Billy told. “It just felt like the right thing to do. We went to a hotel, and well…we…”

“Fucked,” John put bluntly.

Billy sighed and nodded.

“But you’re not…”

“Gay? John, I don’t know what I am, okay? Does that matter?”

“Probably not. Did he hurt you? I don’t get what happened that you’re so down. Or are you just upset because he was male?”

“John. It didn’t matter. I didn’t think,” he sighed. “Maybe I should have.”

“Was it…good?”

Billy closed his eyes, feeling a warm feeling in his stomach at the memory.

“It was the best fucking sex I ever had.”

John smiled.

“I fell asleep and when I woke up, he was gone,” Billy said, “Maybe I did something wrong, maybe I hurt him? I don’t know.”

“I doubt that. Even though you’re a giant, you’re the sweetest man I have ever met. You wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Then why was he gone?”

“Have you tried to contact him?”

Billy looked out of the window, not wanting John to see how upsetting the whole ordeal was to him. Then he nodded.

“Yeah.”

“And what happened?”

“I went to the bar two days later and asked for Jamie,” he said. “They said nobody of that name works there.”

John frowned while Billy chewed on his lower lip, not showing the disappointment he still felt.

“He gave you a fake name.”

Billy only nodded.

“And you think he never intended to see you again?”

“What else could that mean? It was just a hook-up, it didn’t mean anything to him. He probably does that all the time.”

John looked for a long time at his best friend.

“Billy,” he said. “Did you give him your real name?”

Billy looked up, surprise on his face.

Damn. John had a point there.

 

 

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Ben came out of his lawyer’s office, an expression of tiredness and defeat on his face. He felt like he had not slept in years and felt weak and at the brink of tears.

What was going on in his life, what had been going on these past months made no sense anymore. Why did those people this to him? They didn’t even know him, had never bothered to actually meet him and listen to him or his reasons to have taken on this fight. All his savings, all the money he had put aside to go back to school and get a degree were gone by now, and the bills that he would receive in the next months would ruin him. But it was worth it. He did not care about the money, or that his future was not the same he had imagined only a few months ago. He made a living, he had not a bad life, but the future was still an uncertain one.

It was worth it though. For Emmy.

He’s do anything for that little life that had inherited his eyes and sandy hair. He would fight until his last breath so he could stay in the life of his baby girl and not be erased like her grandparents demanded. He wanted to see her grow up, wanted to see her make her first steps and speak her first word. Wanted to shower her with all the love he was able to give.

Instead, the girl was used to hurt him, to blackmail him. Her mother did not want her, wanted to abort her, but he had begged and pleaded that he wanted the child, would take her and raise her if Mary did not want her, and she had agreed. But then, when Emmy was born, everything changed. He was excluded from the girl’s life, was only good enough to watch her when Mary felt the need to go out partying with her clique, and was on call all the time.

Like that night a week ago, when he had felt alive for the first time in months, in Will’s strong arms. He had been able to let go, to lose control and allowed himself to forget he reality that awaited him. And it had worked so well. Until Mary had called him in the middle of the night, demanding that he took care of his daughter because she had guests over at her fancy apartment. So he left his lover behind, took a taxi, got his daughter and took her home with him, a fussing and toothing baby that was dumped at his doorstep all the time.

And still, Mary’s parents, rich and posh, refused to let him have her, hell, even Mary told the lawyers that he was not the right person to be around a little girl. His working hours, his job, his past drug habits. She used everything she knew about him against him, fighting for something that she did not even want. Mary was used to getting everything she wanted, and he believed that she only made him pay for not wanting her. She had been a one night stand. Nothing more. And when she sought him out, telling his co-workers that she was his girlfriend, he told her no. Told her he did not feel anything for her and did not want to be with her. Maybe he had been cruel, but he had seen something in her eyes that scared him. Selfishness. Cruelty. Arrogance. When he had found out that she got pregnant, when she came to the bar again, she told him right into his face that she intended to have an abortion, and maybe that would have been the plausible thing to do. But something in Ben wanted a family, wanted this child, and he told her so. She already held him on a short leash and her beck and call throughout the pregnancy, and after Emmy was born, he was only good enough to be her on-call babysitter and not the little girl’s father.

Why was it, that one night stands always did something to his heart?

First Mary, who was on the crusade to ruin his life.

And now Will, who he wished to meet again. He regretted that he left the man behind without saying goodbye, explaining why he had to leave so suddenly. The feeling of safety he had felt with him, it was something new, something that scared him but also something he craved.

He went down into the metro station and waited for his train. He was already late for work, and letting himself drop in front of a train looked so tempting today. But instead of ending this shitty excuse of a life, he went to the Revenge, where he had worked as a bartender for the last three years, at Anne’s side, with a boss that was grumpy but secretly really cool and nice, co-workers that had his back.

He went to the place, where every day, he waited for Will to walk back into the bar, with his shy smile and kind eyes. Every day, he waited for Will to show up.

But it never happened.

He had not meant anything to the man he wished would become his lover, wished he had the chance to get to know him.

Like he never meant anything to anyone.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Three months later

 

 

Ben was leaving the courthouse, not able to smile. His heart was beating louder and louder with every second in his chest, blood rushing through his ears, and he was about to faint, the stress and panic of the past months only slowing falling off his shoulders.

Even now, minutes after the judge had told them his decision, he could not believe what he heard.

It was over.

It was finally over.

The Rogers’ family had lost. The rich, posh, sophisticated people with the connection and friends in the right places had lost, and he, a kid without a family, without proper education, money, who had went into the hearings without any hope, had won.

His lawyer was close to him, putting a hand on his arm, and when Ben looked up, the older man had a smile on the kind face.

“You look pale,” the barrister said.

Ben nodded.

“I don’t feel so good,” he whispered.

“You should feel good,” the other man said.

“I know. It’s just…it feels so unreal.”

Now the lawyer nodded, looking down at the smaller and younger man, whose clear eyes still showed signs of insecurity and fear.

“I couldn’t have done this without you,” Ben continued, a hesitant smile on the lips, but the barrister shook his head, still smiling.

“No, you are wrong there, Ben,” he said. “I couldn’t have done this without you. There are very few fathers who would fight like this. You gave your whole heart into this battle, and it paid out. You have really no idea how happy I am that we could turn the odds in our favor.”

Ben beamed at those words.

“You will pay for this!” Came a voice from behind them, down the wide stairs, and both men turned around, looking into the furious face of their opponent.

“You heard the judge,” Ben’s lawyer said. “Your daughter is incapable of caring for an infant child, my client is clearly the better choice.”

“Listen, Hamilton,” Mary’s father continued. “Your client is a drug addict man whore, who seduced my daughter with the plan of getting some money out of her, nothing else.”

Thomas Hamilton smiled lopsided and tilted his head.

“You were present in court, weren’t you, Mister Rogers? Then you should have paid attention. My client was cleared of any accusations you made against him, or more, that you tried to make against him. There were absolute no hints of drug use, there is a spotless criminal record, by the way, very different to that of your daughter who has been arrested for drug possession, indecent behavior and disorderly conduct. Not only the judge, but every thinking person would have granted custody to Mister Gunn, and I am very glad to say that there is nothing you can do against it.”

Rogers glared at the smug expression of the barrister, while Ben blinked with growing nervousness.

“I will have my lawyers file for appeal. Emily should grow up with her family.”

“I am her family,” Ben now chimed in, anger in his voice. “I’m her father. I doubt you even know which songs she likes or which food she prefers. If she meant so much to Mary, where is she?”

“She is upset and my wife is consoling her, thanks to you,” Rogers hissed.

“She is probably posting a heart wrenching Instagram story,” Hamilton said. “If you now excuse us, we are going to pick up Emmy from child services now and take her home. Good bye, Mister Rogers.”

Hamilton took Ben’s arm, while he gave Rogers a last look and lead his client down the stairs.

“Can he do that?” Ben asked.

Hamilton smiled.

“He can. And knowing him, he will. But there is no way that an appeal will change anything, Ben. Facts are facts. Mary Rogers is a terrible mother, and you are a good father. And if Rogers tries anything, be assured, you have my support.”

Ben nodded, looking at his feet and pulling a strand of his hair that had escaped his ponytail, behind his ear. He knew that Hamilton was a fantastic lawyer, decent and honest, with a sense of honor that his profession usually lacked, but he also knew that he would not be able to afford more hours of the barrister, not wanting to admit that he already emptied his account and was at the brink of a financial disaster. Now, he had to take care of his daughter, and he was happy about it. But the child would cost more money, meaning he would have to put in more hours in the bar, which meant he needed to hire a babysitter, meaning he needed more money.

He sighed.

“I know,” he said. “I just would like to just live with Emmy in peace.”

“We will do anything in our power to provide that for you.”

Ben’s smile was a little helpless, but not without hope.

 

 

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While picking up Emmy from the social worker who was watching the child during the court hearings and who had been informed that she was to be handed over to her father and that the Rogers family was only allowed to see the child supervised, Hamilton had joked that Ben would be able to get the attention to every single women in the whole of England as a single dad with a cute daughter who giggled at the funny faces the barrister pulled at her.

And indeed, when Ben arrived at the nice playground he had seen a few days before while driving past the park in a bus, it took only minutes until the first woman approached him. He almost rolled his eyes at the not so subtle behavior of the woman who had to toddler sons that were keeping her busy. But the handsome young man with the adorable baby in his arms, had her distracted and she seemed to be torn between fussing about Emmy and flirting with her father.

Ben was tired and had taken place on one of the benches and looked at the playing children. He could not wait until Emmy was a little older, could walk and started to climb the stylized pirate ship on the playground that looked like so much fun. Several boys and girls were climbing ropes, screaming and laughing. He heard phrased shouted that he had heard in pirate movies he knew from his own childhood, and the children were in their own little world. Emmy was again giggling, the happy little girl she was with her butterfly shaped pacifier in her mouth and the large blue eyes, that already were so similar to his own, marking her down as his daughter without any doubt, were looking with excitement at the action that was taking place on the playground. Ben knew that she would not be able to understand what was going on there, but he could feel her excitement and he wished he could take her into the monkey bars, up the ropes, into the sand box to build a castle, or play hide and eek with her. He could not wait until his daughter was big enough to take part in this exciting world.

Emmy spat out her pacifier and it plopped to the ground. Different from other children Ben had witnessed, she did not start to cry, but looked in the same manner as her father down at the pacifier in the sand.

“Seriously?” Ben asked, chuckling, and Emmy giggled and hit him with a tiny fist, already acting so much like him that he sometimes was surprised.

Balancing his girl on his thigh, he leaned down and picked the pacifier up.

“Good thing I came prepared, huh?” He asked her and fished in the bag he had places next to him for the replacement and offered it to her. “Don’t spit it out again. We only have these two.”

Emmy suckled on the pacifier and blinked at her father, those huge eyes so pretty and innocent and full of love and trust that Ben’s heart was bursting with happiness and pride.

“She is such a cutie. Just like her daddy,” the women he almost had forgotten about said, and when he looked up, he saw her smiling a little too brightly at him. Instead of replying, he settled for a smile and touched Emmy’s blonde hair that he just knew would one day turn a darker shade like his own. Mary was a brunet with hazel eyes, but Emmy mirrored him in appearance and he was already curious what she would look like when she grew up. The idea that this tiny girl, that was only a few months old, would one day be a teenager, a woman, was so abstract to him that he could not quite bring himself to think of that. Only a few hours ago, he had not truly believed that he would be allowed in her life, yet alone see her grown up in his own care, and he knew that when they returned home, he would cry his eyes out.

“Robbie!” The woman suddenly screamed, making him wince and Emmy starting to get upset at the loud sound. She started to wail silently, but her baby brows knit together and showing first signs that she would start to cry. Immediately, Ben started to rock her in his arms, whispering her name over and over and pressing soft kisses to her hair until she had calmed a little. It was the only thing that upset her, loud voices, and he did not want to know what had caused that reaction in her.

“How old is she?”

Ben looked down and looked into the deep blue eyes of a little boy with blond curls. He wore a cute jeans overall and a striped t-shirt underneath, the feet in pink sneakers. The boy was chewing on his lower lip, like he was unsure if he had been allowed to talk to the strangers and shifted a little from one foot to the other.

“She’s nine months old,” he replied, still rocking Emmy, who was still fussing a little. “How old are you?”

“’m four,” he said, showing Ben proudly four fingers of his right hand. “’m Percy.”

Ben grinned and reached out with his right hand, that the boy inspected for a moment and then shook.

“Hi, Percy,” he said. “I’m Ben, and this is Emmy.”

“Tha’s a funny name.”

“Well, she’s called Emily, but she doesn’t really look like an Emily, does she?”

Percy seemed to be deep in thought for a second, and then shook his head.

“Nah, she doesn’t. She looks like an Emmy,” he agreed, making Ben grin even wider and laugh a little. “She’s pretty.”

Ben beamed with pride, a little surprised by the boy who had stopped his exciting game on the pirate ship to go and look at a baby he found to be pretty instead. What a strange and adorable little fellow.

“She is.”

Percy grinned.

“Yer her daddy?”

“Uh huh, I am.”

“Doesn’t she have a mommy?”

Ben twitched.

“She has, but she is not here.”

Percy nodded.

“Mah mommy and daddy are over there,” he said, pointing towards the benches on the other side of the playground and Ben followed to look, and froze.

The woman sitting on the bench was stunning, with long dark curls and a slightly tanned complexion, wearing a white blouse and jeans. She had a beautiful face even over the distance, and was talking, using her hands, to the man beside her, a picnic basket between them as well as a thermos, which both spoke of a family trip to the park, enjoying the sun.

Next to her was a tall man. He wore jeans as well, paired with a dark v-neck that hugged impressive muscles in all the right places, showing off strong arms, one of which were draped behind the woman over the back of the bench. His hair, a light brown, was cut short, almost a buzz cut, and he smiled, making him look happy and content in his family’s presence.

The smile that still followed Ben in his dreams.

Dreams that suddenly turned into a nightmare, realizing that the man of his dreams was married and unreachable for him.

 

Chapter Text

“What are you looking at? He’s not going to eat her,” Anne said while polishing another glass.

“Hm?” Ben made, his eyes not for a second leaving his tiny daughter that was mesmerized by his boss’ beard and pulled at the strands, making the man laugh.

Anne grinned and punched Ben’s left shoulder.

“He’s not going to eat her,” she repeated the same moment Emmy shrieked in delight at his boss.

“I’m not so sure about that,” Ben meant, now finally looking at Anne, who had raised a brow. “I mean...,” he shrugged. “It’s not like he’s the embodiment of someone who’s fond of children.”

Anne looked again at the tall man who bounced the tiny girl on his leg, making her shriek and laugh again.

“Looks to me like he’s a natural then.”

Ben nodded and still was a little astonished that his usually grumpy boss seemed to have the time of his life with his daughter who he had brought into the bar today after his babysitter had cancelled. He had looked at Ben, carrying Emmy in a babysling close to his body, first with something that resembled annoyance, but then Emmy had reached out for him and without a word he had taken her from Ben, had ordered him to take care of the glasses together with Anne, and had started to play and entertain the little girl.  And still, Ben was not able to leave her out of his sight, much to Anne’s amusement.

“Can’t wait until she’s a teenager. You’re so going to control her every step. Imagine if she wants to date.”

Ben huffed.

“She’s not dating until she’s at least 30.”

“The bad thing is, I believe you,” She put away the glass she had been busy with and picked another one up, starting to polish it in the same manner. “How’s the hunt for a daycare going?”

Ben sighed.

“Not good,” he replied. “Most are overbooked, or have a waiting list that’s as long as the Great Wall of China. We had appointments to go and look at three, but as soon as they hear that I’m a single dad and on top of that gay, they kinda suddenly are not interested in taking care of my child anymore.”

“Homophobe assholes,” Anne hissed. “What now?”

“I have no idea,” he said, sounding resigned. “Next week I can switch to the brunch and afternoon shifts and only work evenings on the weekends. A daycare is already so expensive if I had one, but a babysitter for every day…there’s no way I can pay for that.” He sighed again. “Maybe I need to look for a new job.”

“Who is going to look for a new job?” His boss said, approaching them, carrying the baby in his arms, who still was interested in his beard, the eyes bright with curiosity.

“Hey, baby girl,” Ben cooed. “Are you having fun with Mister Teach?”

Teach chuckled, a deep and warm sound.

“She’s a princess. Just wait, she will have everyone wrapped around her tiny fingers in no time,” the owner of the Revenge Restaurant and Bar said. “So, who is looking for a new job?”

Ben bit his lower lip.

“I may have to,” he replied.

Teach’s brows went up.

“And why would you need to do that?”

“I know you already gave me the chance to work the day shifts because of her,” Ben said. “But I just can’t find a daycare, and how am I going to do this without one? I’m sorry to let you down, Sir.”

Teach looked at his bartender for a moment, concern in his eyes. In the years that Ben had been working for him, he had gotten to know Teach as a maybe sometimes grumpy, but always fair man who was loyal towards his employees and expected nothing less than the same loyalty from them.

Without saying a word, Teach handed Ben his daughter and walked away.

“Shit,” Ben said, wincing when he remembered that he wanted to not curse in front of his baby. “Now he’s angry with me.”

“Nah,” Anne said. “You’ve been fair telling him that now. But of course he’s not happy that you’re thinking about quitting, you’re his second best bartender.”

Ben had to laugh at her.

“Second best, huh?”

“Well, of course,” she grinned.

Ben put Emmy into the portable playpen they had put up next to the bar while they prepared the bar for their shift, and returned to work next to Anne in silence, a well-oiled machine of collaboration. In the years they had worked side by side, they had learned to do their duties without many words.

Still, Ben’s thoughts were circling around the dilemma he was in. If he had to give up his job, child services would not be happy that he lost his steady income, and he did not know how they would react to that. He feared that if the Rogers’ would get knowledge of that, they would use it against him and he did not dare to think about going back to court, going through another fight.

A few minutes later, Teach returned from his office and put a piece of paper in front of Ben onto the bar. When Ben looked at it, he saw an address and a name scribbled onto it, and he frowned.

“What’s that?”

“That’s the daycare my son and his husband use for their twins,” Teach explained. “I gave them a call and they can make space in one of their groups, but you have to get there today to introduce yourself.”

Ben’s eyes widened.

“Today? But…”

“Benjamin,” Teach said, showing his kind smile, giving Ben a wink. “Go. Anne can manage the brunch rush on her own, and I can’t afford to let one of my best employees quit.”

“But…,”

“Go!” Teach barked, but continued to smile, making Ben nod a little helpless and pack his and Emmy’s things in a hurry.

“Thank you,” he said, when he was ready to leave. “Thank you so much, I will make it up to you.”

Teach gave him a nod.

“Just raise the princess and make her and me proud. And now, go.”

Ben nodded, putting his daughter into the sling and left the bar.

Teach and Anne grinned at each other.

“You’re slacking, boss,” Anne said. “You’re letting your soft side show.”

“Ah, don’t tell anyone,” he gave back with another wink.

 

 

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Ben paid the taxi driver and collected his daughter and the diaper bag, juggling all the items he had carried and stepped onto the sidewalk.

In front of him was a nice bungalow with a neat front yard, planted with colorful flowers and cute lamps in the shape of animals flanking the way to the front door which was painted in a bright blue. The windows of the white bungalow were also painted in bright colors, but every window in a different shade of blues and greens. It looked nice, not too colorful, but also not too boring, so that parents and children would be able to like the place without needing to adjust.

With a nervous tremor in his hand, Ben opened the front gate and walked up the short way and the few steps that lead to the door, which he pushed open. Inside he was met with more colorful walls, framed children’s photographs, and children’s artworks made with fingerpaints or crayons. He found himself impressed by the neat collection and how fancy it looked in the nice colorful frames that all matched the artwork they were displaying. He grinned at a blue bird with a green beak, and a field of purple flowers. All these painting showed also the name of the young artists and when it was made, dates reaching back several years as far as he could see. Of all the daycares he had seen, also on the internet, this was the nicest by far, and he had only seen the hallway.

“Can I help you?” A voice said, and he turned around, finding there a man he would not have had expected in a daycare, with a wide face and neat mustache, the head bald.

“Hi,” Ben said, trying to smile confident and friendly. “My boss, Mister Teach, said he gave you a call and that I should come by? Ben Gunn.”

The man smiled.

“Ah yes, Edward called indeed,” he started. “I’m Hal, I’m something like the housekeeper, cleaning lady, nurse, and kicker of stubborn asses around here.” He offered Ben a hand. “And who do we have here?”

“Oh, this is Emmy. We’re looking for a place where she can stay during day time when I’m at work.”

Hal nodded.

“I tell the boss that you’re here. He has story time with some of the kids, would you like to go watch?”

Ben nodded.

“I’d like that, yes.”

“Follow me,” Hal said, leading the way down the hallway. “We have several different age groups, also one for little ladies and gentlemen as young as yours is. How old is Emmy?”

“She’s ten months now,” Ben replied, his eyes as curious as those of his daughter.

“That’s a great age,” Hal said, and stopped in front of an orange door that he opened without knocking and went straight in, Ben and Emmy following him.

In the room, flooded with natural light coming from large windows, a group of six children of around four or five years sat in a half circle on the floor, watching with wide eyes the man who was sitting in front of them, also on the floor, the legs crossed, talking in changing voices and telling a story about…pirate dinosaurs? Ben smiled at the antics of the stranger, who was wearing a pirate hat and imitated the voices of all the characters from the story he was reading to the children, only very rarely looking at the book he had on his lap. He gave Hal only a short look without interrupting his storytelling, and gave Ben a hint of a smile, who was rocking Emmy a little so that she would not start to fuss and disturb the other children, who were fascinated by what the man was telling them.

“So, Flinn and his friends found the treasure. And now it’s time for your afternoon nap,” the man then said, to which the children groaned. “Hal will get you your blankets and pillows, and if you’re good little pirates, I promise that we will read another story of Captain Flinn tomorrow, okay?”

The children cheered, while he got up and took the pirate head of, showing off waves of ginger hair that fell into his eyes. Ben found him to be an incredibly handsome man, with a dusting of freckles on his chiseled face, a neat short beard and bright green eyes. He looked friendly, yet calculating and inspecting the young man with the baby on his arms when he approached them, while Hal went to take care of the children who waited surprisingly calm while Hal got blankets and pillows from a chest and handed them out.

“Hi,” the ginger man said, offering Ben a hand to shake and gave Emmy a little pat on the back of her head, covered with her knit turquoise beanie. “James Flint. I’m the owner of this little establishment. And you are?”

“Ben Gunn, Mister Teach…”

“Yes, Edward gave me a call,” he smiled. “Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”

Ben nodded and followed him outside.

“Hal told you already a little?”

“Not much, no. He only said that there are different groups?”

“There are. We only have one for children under two at the moment, your daughter…”

“Emmy.”

“Emmy. She would fit into that age group. Edward said she’s one in September?”

“Yeah.”

“The weather is nice, let’s go into the garden.”

Ben followed into a fenced backyard that held a playground and a small pen in which some bunnies and guinea pigs where kept.

“The older kids take care of them, supervised of course,” Flint explained. “It helps them take a little responsibility. Not all are allowed pets at home, but I think it’s an essential social skill. Do you own any pets?”

“I would love to, but they are not allowed in my apartment.”

“We also have two cats somewhere,” Flint went on, sitting down on a colorful bench, Ben doing the same. “So, Edward said you are desperately looking for a daycare for your little girl?”

The younger man nodded.

“Yes. I looked at a few places and called dozens, but there has not been any chance to get a spot so far.”

Flint tilted his head a little to the side.

“Tell me a little about yourself and Emmy.”

Ben hesitated.

“I’m 27 years old. I work as a bartender for Mister Teach, in his Revenge Bar. He gave me the opportunity to change my shifts so I can work during lunch and afternoon hours after I was granted custody for Emmy. I only got full custody of her last month, her mother did not want her from the start, and since then I have been looking. Well, I need someone to look after Emmy during my work hours, and I want her to be around other children too, for socializing?” Flint nodded. “Right now, I have a babysitter that looks after her for a few hours but most of the time I just take her with me anywhere. The babysitter is already really expensive, but honestly, I’m not sure I can afford this…your place is gorgeous.”

Flint smiled softly.

“And we’re quite proud of it. Edward already told me a little about your problems finding a spot somewhere else. Well, we would be happy to have Emmy here. Abigail takes care of the littles ones, I think you should meet her before you make a final decision. About payment, Edward will take care of part of what we need to charge,” Ben tried to say something, but Flint held up a hand stopping him. “He already said that you would try to decline his offer, but he also said he won’t take a no for an answer, and knowing the old scoundrel he will force himself on you. Take his offer.”

Ben nodded, surprised and overwhelmed.

“He said that his son’s twins go here too?”

Flint nodded.

“They were actually in the group you just saw with me. Johnny and Charley junior are great kids, very mischievous, very stubborn and with a lot of temper, just like their dads,” Flint smiled.

“Uhm, about that,” Ben said, not daring to look into the daycare owner’s face. “I need to tell you that I’m gay. It was a problem for some of the other daycares I went to see.”

Flint’s brows knit together.

“Well, we have Charles and Jack Vane’s children here, that could give you a hint about our standing. But if you are still worried about that, I can assure you that we are supporting diversity and inclusion and don’t allow any kind of discrimination,” he smiled, playing a little with the silver band on his left hand. “It would be somewhat of a paradox to be discriminating against homosexuality when I’m myself engaged to a man.”

He winked, and Ben felt a rock drop from his shoulders and tension immediately slip away.

“What do you say, Ben?” Flint asked, the smile still kind and the eyes warm. “Do you think this is the right place for your baby girl?”

He nodded.

“I…I think so, yes.”

“Come on then,” Flint said, getting up and taking Emmy without being prompted from Ben’s arms and carrying her himself, the girl immediately snuggling against his shoulder, sucking on her thumb that he gently pulled from her lips. “I’ll give you the grand tour, and then you meet with Abigail and see if she’s to your liking before you make your final decision. We’d be happy to have you and Emmy here at Walrus Daycare.”

Chapter Text

Abigail Ashe, the nursery teacher that took care of the smaller children, was introduced to Ben when he returned to the Walrus Daycare two days later to get the paperwork done, and turned out to be a young woman with a kind smile and intelligent eyes that were constantly observing. Even while she talked to someone, she never let her charges out of sight, and Ben had from the first moment on the impression that his baby was in the best hands with her.

While James Flint showed him the building and the grounds, he learned a little about the man with the firm voice and stern eyes, who spoke to children only when he got down in a crouching position to be on their level and his voice changed into a soft tone that was calming and showed respect even for little humans. Ben had the utmost respect for the man who was a Navy vet and that he would have never expected to be a person that even liked children. But when they went to Flint’s office, another pretty room, this one in mellow beiges and whites, with more framed paintings on the walls, toys in shelves and a myriad of children’s books, there were also framed pictures of several people on those shelves. Couples with children, pictures of Flint with other people, probably parents and some of his kids. Group photos of toddlers and a few baby pictures. The office for a man who lived for his business and loved it, probably never really leaving the daycare behind when he went home.

Ben sat, Emmy places in a cozy playpen in the corner of the office, occupied by a bunny plushy, on a chair that belonged into a living room and not into an office. This was too good to be true.

Flint was preparing some things on his laptop, printing forms out for Ben to fill out, when his phone went off.

“Excuse me,” he said with an apologetic smile and answered the call. “Yes?” The smile went a little wider. “No, I’m still at the Walrus…At 4, wasn’t it?...Baby, I will be on time, I promise…No, I don’t want to skip this…You’re an idiot…Yes, yes, I love you too. See you then.”

He shook his head when he places the phone back down in the desk.

“I’m sorry, my fiancé is in panic mode.”

Ben smiled.

“Because of the wedding?”

“Yes. He is a nervous wreck,” Flint said, chuckling. He grabbed a photo frame on his desk and handed it over to Ben, who looked at the picture of who he presumed was Flint’s fiancé. The man looking into the camera was wearing a bright smile and had bright blue eyes, the face surrounded by a mop of dark curls that went beyond his shoulders and wore a neatly trimmed beard.

“He is…”

“A poodle, I know,” Flint grinned, making Ben laugh.

“I wanted to say he’s stunning,” he gave back.

Flint nodded and took the frame back and looked at the picture before he put it back down, showing the clear sign of love in his eyes.

“He’s a little insane, but I can’t help loving the little shit.”

“When is the wedding?”

“Five more weeks. Assuming John has not given himself an aneurysm until then,” Flint packed the papers he had printed into an envelope and handed them to Ben. “If you can return them as soon as possible, with copies of the required documentation, we can fit Emmy into the group immediately.”

Ben beamed.

“God, this sounds still too good to be true. I don’t know how to make it up to you.”

“Well, it is my business after all, but I also got the impression that Emmy will fit in here really good, and you seem to be a decent man, Ben. We’re happy to include you two into the Walrus crew.”

He looked for something in a drawer of his desk and then handed Ben a plushy that looked like a walrus with large eyes.

“All our kids get this,” Flint explained. “I have put a schedule with daycare events into the envelope too, we have a summer party in two weeks, if you can manage to come, I can introduce you to John then too, and you will meet some of the other parents and children as well.”

“I have to check my working schedule, but I would like to come,” nodded Ben. “Should I bring anything?”

“Only yourself and Emmy,” Flint winked.

Ben smiled, following Flint’s eyes that were pointed at Emmy, who took this moment to squeal and threw the bunny out of the playpen, making both men laugh.

 

 

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Billy was putting away towels and empty bottles. He had no words for how annoyed he was at people who did not clean up their messes behind them and left the locker room look like a battle field. Sometimes he wondered if the homes of those people looked just as messy as this.

When the door opened, and one of the sweaty clients of the gym came in to take a shower and change clothes, Billy held his breath. The ponytail of sandy blond hair, the lithe and still fit body, the toned arms the shirt showed off – for a moment he thought Jamie had stepped in. The memory of the bright blue eyes and the beaming smile of his one night stand came back and put a sting into his heart, making his stomach flutter.

He gave the stranger a smile and hurried to get out of the locker room. Even after months since their encounter, he could not forget the way Jamie had felt in his arms, around him, how he tasted and smelled, the touch of his hands. God, he was desperate. He never had cared much for sex. Of course he liked it, needed it sometimes to get rid of stress, but it had never had been this intense, this strangely meaningful. Not even with Esther. All his life he had been the tall, shy and a little awkward guy who some people thought of being sexually repressed and who probably had been a virgin until his twenties. He heard co-workers in the gym he had worked before he had taken the job offer in the Ranger Gym assumed that he was not even Percy’s father since he never had sex in his life. Only because he was not someone to kiss and tell his reputation had taken this turn that sometimes hurt him. The crude remarks of those guys had made the decision for a change of jobs easy after he had been approached by the owner of the Ranger after having been recommended by a client. He had been worried to start this new job three years ago, but he had settled into this place quickly. The co-workers were nice and in John Silver, the sassy physical therapist with the leg prosthesis, he had found the best friend he had ever had and he trusted the other man blindly. His bosses were nice even if a little weird at times, and the clientele was usually nice too, except for the always fliting ladies that made him feel insecure and that annoyed John.

While making his way over to the other side of the gym, where John was waiting for him, two women who were working on steppers, looked at him and started to giggle and whisper to each other. John grinned when he reached him.

“They’re talking about you, you know?”

“Thought so.”

John frowned.

“Billy, what’s wrong?”

He shrugged.

“Nothing. The guy you were working with earlier, he looks a lot like him.”

“Him?” John asked, then recognition on his face. “The guy you fucked months ago?”

Billy nodded.

“Man, that must have been the fuck of your life when you still think of him.”

“I don’t know. I’m just being reminded of him now and then:"

"You should have asked in the bar for him, describing him, or asked Vane."

Billy shrugged.

"He gave me a wrong name, John. He doesn't want me to know who he is, that's fine, but ... Let’s get going. James won’t be happy when we’re late after you bugged him to be on time.”

Laughing, John shoved him with one shoulder.

“Let’s,” he only said and the two men left the building, walking to the other side of the street where John had parked his jeep.

When they had taken their seats inside the car, John looked at his friend again.

“Are you really ok?”

Billy nodded.

“It just feels like a missed chance to find someone like you found someone in James. Does that even make sense?”

John’s smile was a little helpless but showed a hint of happiness that always appeared when someone mentioned his fiancé.

“It does,” he said, putting his car into gear and pulling up on the street. “You got the address?”

“You ask me if I have the address for the bakery where you and James are going to order your wedding cake? Which you do really late to be honest.”

“Well, we were busy.”

“You were busy fucking each other, that’s how busy you were.”

John laughed and almost lost control of his car while doing so, and Billy feared once again for his life while being in a car that his best friend was driving.

“How’s my Percy-man doing?”

“He’s better. He will be back in the daycare in a few days. Stupid chicken pox. He’s taking it like a champ though. His best buddies facetimed him yesterday, that was the cutest thing ever. Two four year old twins fighting who can talk to Percy first, who just looked at them and rolled his eyes. They are way too much like their dads.”

“How did they even do that? Charlie looks like Jack, Johnny looks like Vane.”

Billy shrugged.

“I have no idea, but they somehow did it. Maybe fate has just decided to give us another pair like their fathers and finally bring us all into an early grave.”

Again, John laughed, while Billy looked smug at his joke.

“We should probably just be grateful neither of them comes after their grandfather.”

“Oh god, imagine a tiny version of Teach. James would close his business just to not have to deal with that kid.”

“Nah, James loves every child. He told me there’s a single dad with the cutest baby girl who just joined the Walrus crew.”

“That’s nice,” Billy said. “Percy told me a few weeks ago that he saw a little girl in the park, and he told me he’s in love and is going to marry her.”

“You have a tiny heart-breaker on your hands. I wonder where he gets that from.”

Billy laughed.

“Yeah, I wonder that too.”

Chapter Text

“You’re not putting that thing on my head!”

“I absolutely am!”

Billy watched his two friends bicker and banter, curse at each other and roll their eyes, and someone not knowing the men that John Silver and James Flint were would have thought they hated each other. But he saw the deep love and respect they had for each other in their smiles and their looks, and had seen it from the day they had met when James had stopped by the gym to drop of Vane’s children two years ago. He never had believed something like love on first sight existed, but then John had told him that James, not even knowing the name of the ginger-haired stranger, was the man he was going to marry. At first, he had laughed at John, but then he had seen John’s eyes, and he knew, he felt that John meant what he just said.

And now, two years later, John and James would get married in two weeks.

What did not stop them from being both the stubborn assholes they could be.

Again, James put the pirate hat on John’s pulled back curls, making the younger man frown, the eyes narrowed in growing anger.

“What did I just tell you?”

“Stop being an ass and help with the children, you shit,” James snarled. “Max called in sick, she has a fever, and I need an additional pair of hands today. So, be a dear, and fucking wear the dumb pirate hat.”

Billy snickered, earning a glare from both men, which made him shrug and pull his eye patch down. Percy, who sat on his father’s knee, giggled.

“Mister James said a bad word, da,” he announced.

James winced.

“It’s Captain Flint, today, mate,” John said, grabbing the little boy and hoisting him up to sit on his shoulders. “And I am his loyal and trustworthy – stop laughing, James – quartermaster, Long John Silver,”

Percy continued to giggle.

“Why Long, uncle John?”

“Well...that has to do with the length of my…”

“John!” Both James and Billy said at the same time, stopping him from finishing the sentence.

“What? I was going to say ‘leg’. What did you think I was gonna say?” He tsked and walked away with Percy on his shoulders towards a group of children, sitting down in their middle and starting to tell them a story he was just making up in his head, the children gawking at him when he told them how he lost his leg while being a pirate.

“He’s going to be a great dad one day,” Billy said.

James smiled.

“I fear that is not going to happen, but I agree. He is wonderful with children. If he ever wants to stop being a physical therapist, I’d hire him on the spot.”

Billy returned the smile and continued to watch his son and his best friend.

“I’m going to help Jack with the barbeque, I think, before he and Charles start a war,” he then said, earning a laugh from James, who nodded and turned to talk to a group of parents, while Billy started his way to the back of the garden where the Vanes where glaring at each other, Charles a spatula in his hands, holding it like a sword, while Jack was defending himself with a bottle of marinade, how these two men were had been in a relationship for more than ten years, raising two children and being devoted to each other would always remain a secret to him.

“And I’m telling you that the marinade is perfect this way,” Jack said, to which Charles was narrowing his eyes further.

“It needs more chili,” he growled.

“This is a children’s party, if you have not noticed. Spicy food is maybe, just maybe not the right decision to make,” Jack gave back

A deep growl left Charles’ throat and he looked ready to hit his husband with the spatula, and Billy got ready to watch the show they pulled, thoroughly amused.

“You have something to add, Bones?” Charles hissed into his direction, reacting to the chuckle he could not hold back.

He shrugged.

“When Daddy wins, I get to sleep in the big bed with him,” came a tiny voice from Charles’ leg and he looked down at one of his sons.

“No, I am,” the other returned.

“You can sleep with Papa on the couch.”

“Noooooooo.”

Charles’ brows narrowed dangerously.

“The only one sleeping in the big bed with Daddy is me,” he said, a smug grin on his face. Jack rolled his eyes and put the marinade bottle down.

“I want to sleep in the bed with Daddy,” the small black haired boy said, deep brown eyes looking stubbornly at his Papa. “You can go to the dog house with Johnny.”

“Where the fuck have you learned that term?” Charles asked.

“How considerate of you to use ‘fuck’ in front of our kids. Again, I might add,” Jack said, throwing his hands in the air.

“They heard worse,” Charles said, giving the two boys a wink, making them giggle.

“Fuck,” the little boy with shoulder long dark blonde strands said. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.”

“Amazing,” Jack sighed. “I want a divorce.”

“No, you don’t,” Charles said, softly smiling and ruffling the black haired boy’s, Charlie’s, hair.

“No, you don’t,” Charlie said.

“No, ye dun’t,” Johnny parroted, showing the cute speech defect that he was having therapy for twice a week and that had improved significantly already after he had refused to talk for a long time completely.

Both fathers smiled at their boys, and then looked at each other, the eyes still filled with warmth and the love they held for each other, even though they constantly clashed in one way or the other.

“Love you,” Jack said, almost a whisper.

Charles nodded.

“Same. You’re right about the marinade, it would be too hot for the kids.”

“Oh my God,” Jack went on, in mock shock. “You’re agreeing with me. I need fanfares, fireworks. Mark this day and declare it a national holiday. Charles Vane has agreed with me!”

“Fuck you, Jack.”

Billy snorted and sat down on the bench they had put up yesterday to prepare for the garden party James held in the backyard of the Walrus Daycare, and looked around. There were little boys and girls running around, all dressed in one way or the other as tiny pirates, with black hats, or eye patches, or shirts that declared them to be enemies of mankind. Parents sat together and chatted, laughing and relaxed, and everyone seemed happy, mirroring the happiness that the children found in the chill environment that the daycare provided for them every day. True, sending your child here was not cheap, but it was worth every penny, and James and his hand-picked staff always found a way to make this the best pre-school experience for parents and children alike. After working for Charles in the Ranger Gym, and after having met James and being friends with John, it had been a natural decision to have Percy attend the daycare, and he had turned from a shy boy who resembled his tall father in so many ways, into a confident and curious boy who was not scared anymore of other people.

There had been decisions in his life that he regretted. There had been decisions in his life that he had learned to accept. And there were decisions that he would regret for the rest of his life.

He watched Percy, who had left John’s shoulders and had returned to his mother’s hand, looking up at the pretty dark haired woman that was talking to a couple, of which Billy could not remember the name. She looked gorgeous in the tight jeans she was wearing and one of his shirts, knotted at the waist and the sleeves shoved up, the dark waves flowing freely over her shoulders, and the little blond boy at her hand, also wearing jeans and with a t-shirt striped in bright colors, was looking at her with bright eyes.

“She’s really a beauty,” Jack said next to him, leaning a little against his shoulder, always someone who constantly touched or was close to other people, showing that way who he liked and who not.

“She is.”

“How long is she staying?”

Billy sighed.

“Another two weeks, I think. She is still waiting for confirmation, then it’s Central America for a few weeks, if not months.”

Jack nodded.

“Sometimes I wonder how you do that,” he said, the hint of concern in his voice.

“Sometimes I wonder the same,” Billy said.

“Oh God, what in God’s name is he doing?”

Billy looked away from Esther and followed Jack’s annoyed expression, and found Charles climbing a tree, their twins on the ground, hand in hand and staring fascinated at their father.

“I hope you fall down and break your neck!” Jack shouted, earning surprised and shocked expressions from other parents and lots of giggles from the children.

“I’m pretty sure you and Charles will one day be the first people who get asked to leave a children’s party. Not sure you act appropriate,” Billy grinned.

“Pfft, why care about being appropriate when you can be as hot as me?” Jack said, grinning widely, and Billy rolled his eyes at the writer’s antics. “God, he’s going to make me a widower, isn’t he?” He asked, and there was a trace of worry in his voice, before he shouted: “Vane, get the fuck down there!”

Several parents glared at him, some whispered and shook his head, and Billy noticed James, wearing a black pirate hat similar to that he had put onto John’s head, sighing dramatically, knowing though too good to try and get some manners into the couple that were his best friends for years.

“Daddy!” Percy came running towards him, grabbing his hand and trying to drag him behind him. “Daddy! Come!”

He chuckled.

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

“Nuffin’,” Percy replied, a little out of breath. “You gotta come!”

“Okay, okay. Why the hurry?”

“You gotta come. You gotta meet her!”

Billy frowned.

“Her?” He asked.

“Please, daddy,” Percy said, pulling again at his hand. “Please!”

“I’m coming. But you have to tell me what is going on?”

“She’s here!” Percy said, the eyes wide, and Billy could almost feel how his little heart was beating fast in excitement.

“Who?” Billy chuckled at the pull of his little son who dragged him towards the seating area of the garden, nor caring that they bumped into other parents, determined to reach whatever he wanted to show Billy.

Before he saw anything else, he saw Esther sitting on a bench, talking to a man who had turned his back towards him, dark blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, wearing a denim shirt. A baby was on his arms, secured in a sling, looking over his shoulder, large blue eyes lighting up when she saw Percy approaching and a chubby hand reached out for him, wiggling in the man’s arms as if she wanted to get as fast into Percy’s reach as he wanted to get to her.

“This’s Emmy!” Percy said. “I’m gonna marry her!”

Billy chuckled and put a hand onto the baby’s head, making her look up to him, before he offered his hand to who he expected to be her father, and froze when the man turned to him.

Time stopped.

Both men stared into each other’s eyes.

“Will?” Jamie asked, wide blue eyes looking up at him.

“You know each other?” Esther asked.

Billy could not breathe anymore.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ben stared at the other man, speechless and his heart beating in his ears. He had known he had seen the woman before somewhere, but couldn’t quite place her. No wonder. The only time he had seen Will’s wife – WILL’S WIFE – she had been on the other side of a playground and he had not seen much but her pretty figure and the long waves. And honestly, any other brunette could have been her.

Fuck.

Esther, what he now knew was her name, was nice and funny. They had talked mostly about him and Emmy, how cute the little girl in his arms was, that she was not fussing or complaining, but took the noise and people around her in with curiosity, and Esther assured him that she thought that that was the sign of her intelligence. He had been proud and it had been fun these few minutes to be part of something, the feeling of belonging in his stomach.

And then he had showed up.

“You know each other?”

Esther’s words rang in his ears, and he did not know how to react. He could not risk outing Will, could not risk this nice woman, this nice family to get problems just because of a night that had been influenced by alcohol and the heat of the moment.

“Uhm…,” he made. Very smart, Ben.

“We…we met before, yeah,” Will said. “You work in The Revenge, don’t you?”

Was it possible that he did not remember their encounter? Maybe he had been more drunk than Ben had assumed and the night was only a distant memory for him.

“Yeah. Yeah, I do. Bartending,” Ben answered.

“Why did he call you Will?” Esther asked, her brows furrowed.

“Uhm…,” made Will.

Ben and Will stared at each other, not able to stop looking each other.

“Maybe he got my name wrong, t’was loud in the bar,” the tall man said, a little shy and avoiding his eyes. “It’s Billy actually.”

“Billy,” Ben repeated, his voice a whisper and Billy seemed to tense at hearing his name pearl off his one-night-stand’s lips.

Among the regrets if his life was that he had not told him his real name, that he never had heard how it sounded when he moaned “Billy” instead of “Will”, and he felt a flush of arousal when he now heard how the other man said his name, the hint of a Scottish accent on his tongue. He could not avoid a smile.

“I’m Ben.”

Ben’s insanely blue eyes where stuck on Billy’s lips, and then he wetted his own lips with the tip of his tongue, remembering how it had felt to have those lips on his skin. He shuddered, ashamed, and blinked his irritation to his own reaction away, smiling a little insecure at Esther, who looked from Billy to Ben, and from Ben to Billy.

He had to get out of here. Get out of this situation.

“I…,” Ben then said. “I think Emmy needs a diaper change. Excuse me, please.”

His smile was helpless and he hoped that he got away with it, but there was still the little boy with the blond curls, who pulled at his chinos when he got up.

“Can I help?” He asked.

“You want to help changing a diaper?” Ben asked, surprised.

The boy, Percy he remembered, nodded.

“’course.”

“Percy, sweetie,” Esther said, reaching out for her son and pulling him into her lap, the boy wearing now a pout and his eyes still on the baby in Ben’s arms. “Changing a diaper involved poop. That is not very pleasant.”

“But I’m gonna marry her. Wanna help,” he insisted.

“Percy,” Billy said. “I don’t think…”

“Ben,” Esther completed.

Will frowned. Ben.

“You can come help if you like, Percy,” Ben said, a sweet smile. “But I warn you. She stinks.”

Percy gasped.

“But she’s a girl!” He exclaimed. “She don’t stink!”

Ben laughed.

“Believe me, she does,” he said, turning to Esther. “It was nice meeting you, Esther. Nice meeting you…again, Billy.”

He ruffled Percy’s hair, who looked a little sad at the parting man.

“Gonna marry her,” he whispered. “Jus’ wait.”

Ben heard Percy’s father laugh while he left as fast as he could, hiding away in the building of the daycare, panting and pressing his baby tight into his embrace.

What the fuck was wrong with him? Feeling turned on by a man he had sex with months ago in the presence of his wife and their children? True, he had not had sex since that night, which was caused by Emmy’s presence in his life and his full schedule, but that was no excuse for behind inappropriate. He was no home-wrecker. He was no cheater. He was…shit…he was desperate to be touched again by those large hands and held tight in those strong arms, feeling secured and protected.

When he returned to the party after having changed his daughter’s diapers, that indeed needed a fresh up, he avoided getting close to Esther and Billy, which turned out to be difficult because Percy had decided to not leave his side and introduce his baby daughter to everyone as “that’s the girl imma marry”. The determination in Percy’s almost stern voice amused him.

Finally, the little boy dragged him to James Flint, who was in a discussion to a man a little smaller than him, with a ponytail of dark curls, a pirate hat on his head and crossed arms.

“You can not tell the children you were attacked by a shark!” Flint said, but the other one, in whom Ben recognized Flint’s fiancé John from the picture in his office, shrugged.

“Because telling them that I was run over by a drunk driver when I was cycling is so much better? You own a daycare that is mostly pirate themed. You throw a pirate themed party. Why can’t I be a fucking pirate then?”

“Because!”

John frowned, the eyes slits.

“Wow. That is such an elaborate reply. Thank you very much.”

“You see this girl over there? Jeannie?” John followed the pointed finger and nodded. “She is crying because you told them in very colorful words how we were in a rowboat, trying to get food for our pirate crew and a shark jumped into our boat and chewed off your leg!”

“But you saved me. I made you the hero!”

“You fucking little shit!” Flint hissed. “Why do I even bother with you?”

John went silent and stared at Flint for a moment.

“Maybe you need to find the answer to that,” he replied and then tried to turn away, but Flint stopped him.

“I love you, and I’m going to marry you, and you will annoy me every day for the rest of my life. But you also make me happy and you make me smile. But please, please!, don’t tell the children scary stories. It’s me who has to deal with their parents when they have nightmares.”

John nodded and pressed a kiss on James’ lips.

“I’ll try.”

“That’s all I’m asking of you.”

Ben wanted to turn, but James saw him and smiled, waving him over, and John’s eyes immediately lit up when he saw the tiny girl in the stranger’s arms.

“Hey,” he said. “Who’s the princess?”

“Tha’s Emmy. I’m gonna marry her,” Percy said, standing close to Ben’s leg and leaning a little against him.

Ben rolled his eyes, but the other two men laughed at the boy’s words.

“Wow, the famous Emmy. Billy said Perce has not stopped talking about the little girl he met in the park a few weeks ago,” John laughed. “She’s going here now too?”

Ben nodded.

“Hey. Ben Gunn,” he said and offered John a hand that he shook with a grin.

“I hope you are okay with Percy arranging a wedding already, I fear the day your daughter turns 18 she’s going to get kidnapped by this little scoundrel.”

Percy nodded.

“You know…Billy?” Ben asked.

“We’re working together, best buddies and all,” John tilted his head a little to the side, inspecting the face of the man he just met. Bright blue eyes, shoulder long hair in a ponytail, a scruff on his jaw. “Have we met?”

Ben shook his head, but James was quick to reply: “He bartends at the Revenge.”

Something shifted in John’s eyes, a spark, something like a thought that became a sudden realization.

“Benjamin, huh?” He only said, making Ben frown.

“Yeah? Why?”

John smiled a little, but shook his head.

“Nothing, nice name. Good bar you work at, Teach is a legend. We were there some months ago when we got engaged, celebrating. I think you worked that evening.”

Ben swallowed. How much did John know?

“Possible.”

“Anyway, gotta get going, you take care, Benjamin Gunn,” he said, kissing James but his eyes still on Ben. “See ya, babe.” And then he left.

“I apologize, he is a little loopy sometimes,” James said, looking after his fiancé.

“No, it’s all good. I wanted to say thank you for the nice day, but Emmy is a little tired, I should get her home before she gets cranky.”

James smiled and touched the little girl, who indeed had tired eyes, on the head.

“Thank you for coming,” he said. “I’ll see you around.”

Ben nodded and went to grab his things that he left at the wardrobe and then called a taxi to take him home, after saying goodbye to a heartbroken Percy, and promising the boy that he and Emmy would meet in the daycare from now on.

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

John found his best friend sitting near the barbeque, listening to the continuing bickering of the Vanes, who sat close together, feeing each other little bites as if they had just met and were not in a relationship for ten years, married for half of that time and with two children. The first thing John noticed, was that his friend’s eyes were staring into emptiness, unfocussed and his forehead showed lines.

He sat down opposite him and cleared his throat, making Billy look up.

“I just met Ben Gunn,” John said.

Billy only nodded, the eyes drifting away again. The Vanes immediately showed interest in the conversation the other two men were starting to have.

“Cute. Average height, toned, tanned skin, bluest of blue eyes, half long hair the color of sand, bit of beardgrowth,” John continued.

“Oh, the twink. Hot,” Jack said, earning Vane’s elbow in his side. “Hey, I have eyes. He was hot, cute baby he has there.”

“Ben Gunn,” John said, Billy staring a hole into his eyes. “Benjamin Gunn,” Billy bit his lip. “Jamie Gunn?”

“Dunno what you’re talking about,” Billy said.

“I think you know exactly what I’m talking about,” John replied. “Am I right or am I right about who he is?”

After a few seconds of silence, Billy nodded.

“And?” John prompted him.

“And what?”

“And what are you planning to do?”

“Planning to do with what?”

“Are you this obuse or are you just a great actor?” He turned towards the Vanes. “You shut your fucking ears now, ok?”

Both men nodded, but did not stop looking at him, and John knew that they both would never tattle what was said between them, trusting them blindly.

“That was the man you have not shut up about for the past months. Months! And you just let him go? Again?”

“He has a baby,” Billy said, resignation in his voice. “He’s married.”

John raised his brows.

“You have Percy,” he just stated.

Billy stared at him, realization dawning in his eyes.

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

Ben was annoyed beyond words.

On his way home, Mary had called him, demanding to see her daughter, who she insisted to call Emily-Grace, now. Not tomorrow. Not on her supervised appointment that would be on the weekend. Now. He had told her no. Had told her that she was not welcome in their lives like that and that she could not lie and cheat her way into his girl’s life again, knowing that the only two reasons why she wanted to see Emmy were that she had lost and that she still did not accept that he did not want her.

He made Emmy something to eat, fed her and sang a lullaby to her that he remembered from his time before he had ended in the orphanage, maybe from his parents, but he had been too young to have clear memories of the Gunns before they had fallen victim to a car accident when he had been only three. Then he had put Emmy into her bed in room that once had been his bedroom and that was now painted in pastels and that he had turned into the best little girl’s room that he could offer her. He himself slept on a pullout couch in the living room, that he prepared for another lonely night. Maybe he would watch some Netflix, that new superhero family show that Anne had told him about, Umbrella Academy, of which she had been certain he would like it, grab a bottle of beer, eat a few snacks he had in the fridge and try to get his thoughts far away from this day.

He watched his daughter in her bed for a few minutes before he returned to the living room. She had fallen fast asleep, the little angel she was, and he knew that was thanks to the exciting day. In a few hours she would wake up, complain and would keep him awake for the rest of the night. And every second of those sleepless nights were worth it.

“I love you, baby girl,” he whispered and touched her soft hair, a smile on his lips.

With a sigh, he went back to the living room, and sat down on the edge of the couch, pulling the rubber band from his hair and running his fingers through the strands, when it knocked at the door.

An annoyed frown on his face, he got up and walked, dressed now casually in a worn tee and yoga pants, the feet bare, to the door and pulled it open, angry and pissed off at who he expected to find her, with teary eyes and terrible excuses for showing up, like Mary did from time to time.

“Goddammit, Mary, I said you can’t see her at this time. You have your weekend next week, and…,” he looked at a broad chest instead at the frowning face of Emmy’s mother, and looking up, he looked into the blue eyes of... “What…?”

“Hi, Ben.”

 

Chapter Text

A little earlier

 

Billy had his son located on his hip, the sleepy child resting its head on his shoulder, sucking on his thumb like Percy only did when he was drifting off to sleep. He was standing there, after having helped John, James and the staff pack up so that the clean-up crew did not have all the work tomorrow. Now, Percy, who had excitedly bounced around until way over his sleeping time, was fighting sleep in his father’s arms, who did not listen to what Esther and James exchanged, laughing and both looking content, while there was a fight in himself that he did not know how to cope with.

“Is everything okay?” Esther asked, putting a hand on his forearm and looking with concern up into his sad looking eyes.

He nodded.

“Yes. Everything okay.”

“He’s a real bad liar, you know?”

Esther chuckled at John’s words, who came from the inside of the daycare.

“I know. I married him after all.”

John grinned.

“What is wrong, love?” She asked again.

He shook his head this time.

“Nothing is wrong. I’m fine. Really.”

John huffed.

“You’re not. But you will be,” he said, grabbing Billy’s hand and pulled him a little to the side, putting a piece of paper inside the large palm.

“What’s that?” He asked whispering.

His best friend shrugged, winking at James who had a questioning look on his face too.

“An early birthday present.”

“My birthday is in January.”

“I know,” John sighed. “That’s why it’s early.”

Billy shifted Percy in his arms and unfolded the paper, looking at an address that John had scribbled on it.

“Is that…?”

John grinned, looking over Billy’s shoulder at Esther who was talking to James.

“I don’t understand.”

The longhaired trainer rolled his eyes.

“Were you always this slow?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Will you stop making fun of me? What am I supposed to do with that?”

John took the sleeping Percy from his arms, who did not wake up for a second.

“You know what? I take Percy home, read him a story if he wakes up and bring him to bed,” he said, a sweet smile on his lips. “And you…you go and get the object of your dreams.”

Billy’s eyes widened.

“How…?”

“William Manderly, I know you pretty good by now. And I know that look in your eyes,” he continued smiling. “Go. Get him. Talk. Fuck. Do whatever you need. But please do it. Now.”

He nodded and grabbed his jacket from the chair next to him.

“I…,” he started.

“GO!” John said, laughing, while James and Esther still stood close to him both a look of surprise and curiosity on their faces.

While Billy went out of the gate, waving a passing taxi to stop, he heard John say: “You know, James, my love, you need to find a better password to protect your client’s data. JohnIsALittleShit is not very creative.”

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

“Goddammit, Mary, I said you can’t see her at this time. You have your weekend next week, and…,” he looked at a broad chest instead at the frowning face of Emmy’s mother, and looking up, he looked into the blue eyes of... “What…?”

“Hi, Ben.”

Ben started at the man in front of him, stunned and blinked twice as if to be sure he was not just imagining Billy standing in front of his door.

“Can I come in?” He asked.

“What do you want?” Ben replied, sounding not very friendly, and Billy winced at his sharp tone.

“Just talk, if that’s okay?”

Ben looked at him for a moment, then he nodded and stepped aside to let the larger man pass and enter his apartment.

Billy looked a little lost standing there, the large man in the tiny apartment, turning around and looking back at Ben, who had crossed his arms in a defensive pose and stared a hole into him, standing not even a meter away from him.

“If you want to yell at me, don’t. Emmy is asleep and I’d rather leave it that way.”

“I’m not gonna yell at you. Why would I yell at you?”

Ben shrugged and seemingly endless seconds passed in silence.

“Okay, let me start,” Billy then said. “I’m William Manderly. My friends call me Billy.”

Ben continued to look at him before he nodded.

“Benjamin Gunn. Ben.”

“Hi, Ben,” Billy said with a smile, making him look boyish and more at ease with himself, the voice soft and silent.

Ben only looked up at him, and he continued to look up at him when Billy’s right hand touched his cheek, a thumb brushing over the cheekbone, and then stroking one of the long strands of hair out of the pretty face that he was taking in.

“I wanted to do this the whole afternoon,” Billy whispered, and then kissed him.

Ben wanted to draw back, but instead of listening to what his brain tried to tell him, he leaned in and kissed Billy back. Tenderly first, but then he opened his lips and invited Billy into him with a sigh and a moan. Billy kissed him like a drowning man reaching for air, like Ben was the only thing on the world keeping him alive.

Panting and breathless they separated, and Billy leaned downwards, leaning his forehead against Ben’s.

“This is a really bad idea,” he whispered.

“Really bad,” Ben agreed.

And then their lips crashed against each other again, and the two men fell into each other’s embrace, clinging at each other, tearing at their clothes. Ben was not able to say why and how Billy tore down his defenses, but he was the first person he has ever met he could let his guard down with, lose control and be vulnerable without the fear of getting hurt. Something inside him told him he could trust this man, who pushed him onto the drawn out couchbed and followed him immediately, covering his body with his own, so much larger body without crushing him.

Billy sucked at Ben’s neck, for sure leaving a hickey there, when he let his lips trail down his body, pulling the tee over Ben’s head and gaining access to his soft skin, which was already flushed with arousal. His lips nibbled and his teeth bit softly into Ben’s skin, caressing his erect nipple before he paid attention to the bulge that had started to form in Ben’s pants. Billy sat up between his legs, grabbing the waistband and pulling the pants down, smiling softly at the sight before him. Ben was truly a gorgeous man, toned but not overly so, with muscles and lithe lines in all the right way, exactly the kind of body that Billy had always dreamt of touching and having for himself to pleasure, but it was his pretty face and those clear eyes that spoke of a vulnerability and sweetness that he had never seen before and that touched something deep within him.

His large hand grabbed Ben’s hardened cock and started to stroke him slowly, making Ben moan and close his eyes with his neck arched back. He reached out and let his thumb flick over one of Ben’s nipples the same moment as he bend down to swallow all of Ben’s cock into his throat. Ben reached for Billy’s head, his fingers cramping in his short hair, while Billy stroked the insides of both his thighs, and then pulled at the hair, prompting Billy to stop and return to kissing him instead.

They looked into each other’s eyes, taking in each other’s faces, the pupils widened in need, continuing to kiss and lick into their mouths, exploring, needing, wanting, desiring.

Billy returned downwards Ben’s body and continued to suck him to complete hardness, Ben gasping for air and moaning incoherently, biting his lips certain that he was drawing blood.

Suddenly, Billy was gone and Ben looked up. Billy had stood up, still fully dressed, and started to get out of his clothes, painfully slow, his eyes locked with those of the other man, who stroked his own cock slowly, watching how Billy’s impressive muscles moved when he pulled the shirt over his head, opened his belt and pushed his jeans down his legs the same time as his boxers, already painfully hard himself just from touching and sucking Ben.

“Fuck, you’re…,” Ben whispered, to which Billy raised a brow, looking a little insecure. “You’re perfect.”

Billy actually blushed and looked a bit demure, not sure what to do or how to react, which Ben found endearing, but then Billy returned to the bed and laid down next to him, taking him into his arms. They continued to kiss and make out, holding each other close and their skins sticking together, glued to each other with the sweat that was covering them both.

Again, Billy’s lip went down Ben’s body, but this time he turned, and Ben understood the hint and turned towards Billy’s erect and throbbing shaft, that more than filled out his hand when he went to hold it, stroking it with fast movements, before he went to press kisses on Billy’s shaft and then started to suck him in unison as Billy was sucking him. He always had loved this position when he was with another man, but with Billy it was something else, it was perfection how Billy deepthroated him without effort, making him bite his fist before going back down on Billy, taking him as deep as he could, only choking a little on Billy’s length and girth, while Billy pressed two of his fingers – when did he get them wet anyway? – into his eager hole, all the while Ben fucking his mouth. Both were hard as rocks by now.

As Billy had worked three of his finders into Ben, he was a whimpering mess, unable to do anything but moan Billy’s name, his real name, and holding his own cock like his life depended on it. The muscles in his stomach were working as his was fighting against cumming prematurely. He knew he had to be filled, fucked, brought to exhaustion by this perfect specimen that was working him open thoroughly. He wanted nothing more.

Billy sat finally up between his wide spread legs, grabbing the condom he had pulled from his jeans pocket earlier and covered his hardness with the latex, and then pushed into Ben’s awaiting body with a long and slow thrust, until he was settled into him all the way, kneeling there and waiting only a moment until Ben had adjusted to the invasion and then picked up speed. He was holding Ben’s legs apart, while Ben was grasping the bedsheet and started to fuck him fast and deep. Ben had grabbed his own cock and was working himself in rhythm with his thrusts

The taller man looked down and watched his cock disappearing in Ben’s tightness, turned on by the sight of them becoming one. Sweat was covering both men’s bodies, moans coming from their throats.

Billy’s head was thrown back, his eyes closed and the teeth clenched, and the sight he offered Ben when he looked up at him, was that of a man lost in his pleasure and Ben could not help but feeling proud of being the man who provided that pleasure for him.

He felt his climax approach, when Billy touched his chest and bend down, locking their lips again in a deep kiss, only to raise to his knees again and pushing hard and now faster into his lovers body, taking his cock into his hands and stroking him almost to completion until Ben pushed him away, making him frown, not understanding why Ben wanted him to stop, but then Ben pushed him to his back and straddled him, sinking on his manhood until he had taken it all and stared to ride him, the head lowered and the sandy strands hanging sweaty over his face. Ben felt how Billy started to pulsate and throb inside him, savoring the feeling of him filling the condom and wishing he could feel his wet heat filling himself instead.

His own cock did not need to be touched anymore, the arousal an unbearable pull on his insides, making his muscles tense and his thighs tremble when he came while Billy was still in the midst of his own orgasm inside him.

Panting he looked down at the giant of a man who was so tender and gentle, and never seemed to lose control, the blue eyes almost completely black in the heat of their shared lust. He sunk down on top of him, being held, and then slipped from Billy’s body, laying finally next to him.

Only slowly Ben and Billy were able to catch their breath, turned towards each other. They looked into the other’s eyes, a satisfied smile on their faces. Billy touched Ben’s cheek, like he had done shortly after he had come to Ben’s apartment.

“Please,” he whispered. “Please don’t leave this time.”

Ben laughed.

“Hate to tell you, but this is my apartment,” he grinned but then he got serious, a certain sadness in his eyes. “Maybe this is a bad moment, but…your wife…”

Billy frowned.

“My…,” he started, understanding appearing on his face and then he laughed, which made Ben upset and he wanted to get out of Billy’s proximity. Billy though held him and pulled him closer.

“That’s not funny,” Ben said.

“No, it’s not,” Billy agreed. “It would not be if what you are thinking was true. But you’re wrong, babe. Esther is not my wife. We are divorced for more than two years already, I have custody for Percy, she’s only visiting.”

Ben blinked in surprise.

“You’re not married?”

Billy shook his head and kissed him, shutting him up before he could ask more questions.

Ben smiled into the kiss, a feeling of content rising inside him. Billy had called him babe.

Chapter Text

Ben woke up to much too bright sunlight coming through the blinds of his room. He was laying face down on the mattress of his bed, the head buried in one of his pillows and the blanket somewhere around his waist. Only slowly, blinking, he remembered why he felt a throb in his muscles, why there was a pleasant ache in his bones, and he smiled to himself.

But then, he remembered that sunlight meant that the day had already begun and that there was a baby depending on him. Cursing to himself, he got up, stark naked, and found his yogapants next to the couch on the floor where Billy had dropped them.

Billy.

Ben frowned.

The bed was empty now, Billy was gone, and so were his things.

He tried to shut out the disappointment, pressed his lips together and tried to push back the tears that welled up behind his eyes. Billy meant nothing. He was just a guy he had sex with. Three times now, counting the second time they had shared last night, slow and lazy, but oh so intimate that it brought then too tears to his eyes as well as to Billy’s when they looked at each other and found something they both had not expected. But now Billy was gone and that could only mean that Ben had imagined that there was something more.

He sighed and went to the room in which Emmy was sleeping and opened the door trying to make no sound, and stared at the picture he found there.

Emmy was sitting in the old armchair he had found in a thrift store, on Billy’s lap, who was reading to her from a picture book, the little girl giggling at the voices Billy made.

Ben blinked nervously and looked for a moment longer at his daughter and the man who had become his lover, until Billy noticed him standing there and looked up, a bright smile on his face.

“Hey there,” he said, the voice soft and sweet. “Look, Emmy, daddy is up.”

“Da!” Emmy made, one of the few sounds she was able to make by now and that always managed to lighten up Ben’s mood.

“Hey you two,” Ben returned. “Sorry, I didn’t get up earlier.”

He went closer to the two and took Emmy from Billy’s lap when she reached out for him.

“You slept really deep, didn’t want to wake you,” Billy said and stood up, pressing a kiss to Bens cheek and then to his lips. “Good morning.”

Ben could not help but smile at him.

“How long are you up?”

“An hour I think. Emmy was fussy and I changed her diaper and then read to her, I hope that is okay? I haven’t made breakfast yet, don’t know what she usually gets in the morning.”

“Just some porridge and fruit. She loves bananas. Don’t you, baby girl? Bananas?”

“Nana!” Emmy made, making both man laugh.

“Can you stay to have breakfast with us?” Ben asked then a little hesitant, scared of the answer he might get.

“Sure,” Billy smiled. “Esther is with Percy. I’d love to stay a little longer.”

Ben nodded and led the way into the small kitchen, just an assortment of counters and a small table with two chairs as well as a highchair in which he put Emmy.

“I don’t have much to offer to be honest,” Ben said, insecurity showing.

“Porridge and bananas are fine, Ben.”

Ben nodded.

“Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee,” he answers and sat down next to Emmy, watching how Ben got busy, turning the coffee maker on and started to cook some porridge out for them, then cutting up the fruit.

“This is awkward,” Ben then said without turning around.

Now it was Billy who frowned.

“Awkward? Why?”

Ben turned and leaned against the counter, the knife with which he cut the bananas in his hand.

“What is this? This between us?” He asked, waving between himself and Billy with his free hand. “I have a child I have to consider, I can’t bring one night stands home to meet her, that’s just not right.”

Billy raised a brow.

“One night stand,” he said. “Wow.” He got up and avoided looking into Ben’s eyes. “Thanks for the fun then I guess? I thought…God, I’m such an idiot.”

He turned to go, but Ben put a hand on his arm.

“Wait,” he said. “What do you mean?”

“I thought there was something between us, Ben,” he said, still not looking at Ben. “We’re both single dads, and I don’t want to bring anyone into Percy’s life either who comes and goes. But I thought…,” He swallowed. “I thought that you and me, that this could be something? I wanted to get to know you, that’s why I stayed. Wanted to talk to you and ask questions and tell you about me, and maybe spend the day together in the park or whatever. I texted Esther if she can watch Percy for the day so we have a little time for each other, you know, just you and me and Emmy, but God damn it, I feel so stupid and maybe I’m just as naïve as everyone thinks I am. And I’m talking too much. Should go. I’m sorry.” He bit his lip. “Bye, Ben.”

Ben stood there in shock, watching how Billy left the kitchen and went to get his jacket that he had put behind the couch, which was why Ben had not seen it earlier, but then Ben woke from the shock and went after him.

“Billy, wait,” he said, and now Billy looked at him, sadness in his eyes. “I am who is the idiot here.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “I want to get to know you too. I really would like that, but…I have never done this before, this, I don’t know, getting to know someone thing? I only ever had one night stands, only have dated once in my life a little longer and that was just as much of a catastrophe as anything else in my life.” He looked up. “I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll do something wrong? Hell, I already have just now.” The smile he gave Billy was helpless and lopsided. “I love how you put so much thought in today, that you texted your ex cause of Percy and that you want to spend time with us.”

“Yeah?” Billy asked, not hiding the happy smile on his face.

Ben nodded.

“Yeah.”

Billy pulled him to his feet and against his chest, making Ben to tilt his head back to look into his eyes.

“I really, really want to get to know you, Benjamin Gunn,” he said and kissed him softly.

“I really, really want to get to know you too, William Manderly,” he replied. “But right now the porridge is burning, and Emmy gets cranky when she had no breakfast.”

Billy chuckled and followed him back to the kitchen. Emmy was babbling and reached her chubby baby hands towards him and he gave her a finger to hold.

“She’s great. I can see why Percy wants to marry her,” he laughed.

“Don’t start with that. She’s not going to date until she is at least thirty,” Ben grinned while filling the porridge into bowls and putting the bananas on top. “Let it cool a little, s’hot.”

“Like you.”

Ben snorted and went with one hand through his uncombed hair.

“Not so sure about that. You, on the other hand.”

“I have the reputation of being a virgin,” Billy said and blew on a spoon full of porridge and offered it to Emmy first, before he took the next one for himself.

Ben stopped the movement, his own spoon with breakfast halfway to his mouth.

“You. A virgin,” he deadpanned, to which Billy nodded. “You put some pornstars I have seen to shame.”

“You’ve seen a lot of pornstars?”

“I’ve seen a lot of porn,” Ben said, and laughed at Billy’s surprised face. “Oh, come on. I’m a guy. I like sex. Of course I have watched porn.”

Billy actually blushed a little, which Ben found to be endearing.

“Billy, that was a compliment,” Ben said, sounding soft and kind. “Hell, I had a lot of sex. I mean, a LOT of sex. But with you it’s…it’s different.”

Billy nodded.

“It is, yeah,” he said, offering Emmy another spoon, making her giggle and Ben’s heart jump with joy watching his daughter and his…what was Billy even now?

“So,” he began. “You and Esther?”

“Yeah, well,” Billy said, chewing a piece of banana. “Divorced. She’s a photographer for a travelling magazine and she’s travelling a lot, so we agreed that I take custody for Percy and that she can visit anytime she’s here. It works okay, we’re friends.”

“Can I ask why it didn’t work?”

Billy shrugged.

“Her travelling. She felt locked up when we got Percy. Staying at home and caring for a family is nothing for her,” Billy sounded sad. “T’was better this way. For all of us.”

“Do you still love her?”

Billy looked up, looking at Ben’s face, who felt ashamed for his question, that had left his mouth without thinking.

“No, I don’t. I’m not sure I ever loved her like that, like a man should love his wife. We were friends, she’s pretty, it felt like the normal thing to do. But if you ask me if I was happy while married to her, no, I wasn’t. I’m happy I have Percy. But my marriage was…well…it shouldn’t have happened.”

Ben looked at him for a while.

“Thank you for trusting me with that,” he then said, taking Billy’s hand and squeezing it, showing he understood.

“What about Emmy’s mom? Is she still in the picture? When you opened the door you yelled at me, calling me Mary?”

“Yeah, that’s her mother, well, the chick that gave birth to her,” he hissed. “Sorry, that was rude. But it’s true. She was a one night stand, and I’m sure I used a condom, I never ever do it bare, but well,” he made a gesture at Emmy. “Voilá.”

Billy grinned.

“She’s a cute accident.”

“She is. I’m happy to have her, and I don’t regret anything,” Ben said, smiling at his girl who grinned back, showing the bunny teeth she was wearing with pride. “Mary was just a one night stand and then she showed up in the bar, again and again, and told people she was my girlfriend. I had her kicked out, told her she meant nothing. A few weeks later she showed up again and told me she was pregnant and was getting an abortion. I begged her to carry the child to term and let me have her. From that day on, she has used her pregnancy and then Emmy to jump through her hoops. Then, when Emmy was just a couple of weeks old, I saw her partying in the Revenge and when I asked her where Emmy was she just shrugged and said she was home. She let her home alone. I went to see a barrister the next day, and he helped me getting custody of her. Mary has some bad drug habits and she’s unstable, in a bad way, she gets aggressive, she hit me too when I did not do what she wanted. Couldn’t risk her to hit Emmy too.”

Ben looked shattered and avoided again to look at Billy, but this time Billy took his hand and held it, their fingers entwined.

“Hey, look at me,” he said, and continued when Ben did so. “You’re amazing. You are a great dad and you will raise Emmy to be a great girl and woman. That bitch, sorry, she didn’t deserve either of you.”

Ben smiled a little, and looked at their hands that held each other still.

“What do you say? When we’re done with breakfast, you get dressed and we go for a walk somewhere, have some lunch, then we can pick up Percy if you like and do something fun. Just have a nice family Sunday,” Billy offered.

Ben beamed and nodded.

“I’d like that,” he said, almost whispering.

His heart beat fast in his chest, the flutter of butterflies in his stomach.

Billy had said “family”.

 

 

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They did as Billy had suggested.

After a light lunch in a small American styled diner near the park they went to Billy’s place and picked Percy up. Ben only shortly met Esther, who smiled kindly at him and asked how he was. He was surprised how nice she was still, now that she probably knew that he and her ex-husband were, whatever they were. Percy of course was not only excited to meet Emmy again and asked all kinds of question about her favorite food and favorite color, while Ben was staring open-mouthed at the apartment in which Billy and Percy lived. It was a gorgeous spacious place, not quite a loft but the living room with large gallery windows and a furnishing that showed that the person who lived here had style but also paid attention to comfort and warmth. Everything was held in a beige color spectrum, which should have been boring, but gave the canvas to the colorful accents that throw pillows, carpets, pictures and books made that made this place a home. Ben saw in every corner toys and children’s books, and when Percy insisted on showing him his room, he followed the boy to a room that had walls that were painted like a jungle and a bed that looked like a treehouse.

Billy and Esther said their goodbyes and then they left for the park in which Ben had met Percy the first time some weeks ago, with the large pirate ship model.

Ben held Emmy in her sling close, the little girl doing off, while Percy started to play with some other children.

“Can I ask something?” Ben then asked, rocking Emmy softly, his thigh touching that of Billy.

“Sure.”

“Are you rich?”

Billy showed a shy grin.

“Because of my place?”

Ben nodded.

“I’m a personal trainer,” Billy started. “I work also for a film studio to get their actors in shape for roles and I…uhm…I have a few fitness videos out. I’m not rich, but I got enough that I could get a nice place for me and Percy and live okay. Is that a problem?”

“No, God no. It’s just overwhelming. Your place is beautiful.”

Billy grinned.

“You haven’t seen my bedroom,” he said and kissed his ear with his warm breath. “Yet.”

Ben shivered.

 “Ben,” Billy continued hesitating and with insecurity in his voice. “I would like to ask if you’d like to date me?”

Ben blinked and looked into Billy’s deep blue eyes.

“I know it’s maybe a little fast, Ben. I know that, but…I don’t know…I really think…Oh, hell, would you like to be my boyfr…”

“Yes!”

 

 

Chapter Text

When Ben came a few days later out of the storage room where he had put away several boxes of colorful cocktail umbrellas, he returned to a mostly empty bar. Lunch hours on weekdays were slow, and the people that frequented the brunches they offered until happy hour started, enjoyed the casual atmosphere, the great food, drinks and the friendly staff.

Something, that Ben questioned when he heard Anne yelling at someone before he could see her, but when he turned around the corner and stepped from the backdoor into the main room, his eyes widened when he saw Anne, the eyes dangerously narrows, the lips in a snarl, ready to attack a tall man, who held his hands up in a defensive gesture.

“And I tell you, mate,” she hissed loudly. “That Ben is not interested in any of your kind. So leave before I call security and have you thrown out. Or better, I do it myself. Out!”

“What is going on here?” Ben asked when he approached them, brows raised and blinking at his coworker and friend.

“This…gentleman asked if you were done with work already,” she growled. “I told him you’re not interested.”

Ben pressed his lips together, mostly at the annoyed and embarrassed expression on the face of the other man.

“And why do you think I’m not interested?” He asked Anne, examining the toned figure of the man who wore a cute blush on his cheeks.

“Because you do not hook up anymore with fuckboys since you have Emmy,” she looked again at the other one. “I told you to fucking leave.”

“Uhm…I…”

“But Anne. Look at him,” Ben smiled, stepping closer to him. “He’s so handsome, and so tall. And he has these cute dimples and such kind eyes.” He was now close, very close, to the man, their bodies almost touching and Ben had to look up. “Hey there.”

The other man smiled.

“Hey.”

“I think I am interested,” Ben said and went up to his tiptoes to press a chaste kiss to the corner of the other man’s lips.

Anne stared at him.

“What the everloving fuck?”

“Annie, my love,” Ben started, taking the hand of the man. “May I introduce Billy Manderly to you? My boyfriend?”

That word still made him blush. He had never in his life introduced anyone as girl- or boyfriend, it never felt right, but with Billy, everything felt right, even that he wanted to pick him up from work without announcing it first. Ben remembered the unpleasant stalking that he had gone through when Mary insisted they were dating, but with Billy, he was welcoming the attention he was suddenly getting. Billy was not suffocating him in any way, he just showed him that he cared and wanted to spend time with him, and it made him content. It made him happy.

“Your…what?” Anne asked, surprise, almost shock in her eyes.

“My boyfriend,” Ben replied, squeezing Billy’s hand.

“Your boyfriend,” she deadpanned.

“Yep. My boyfriend.”

“You have a boyfriend.”

“Yes?”

“This…giant is your boyfriend?”

“Yes, Anne. Billy is my boyfr…”

“WHEN THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?!”

Ben gave the guests that sat in the booth close to them an apologetic look.

“Will you turn down your volume a bit?” He stage-whispered. “It happened last weekend.”

“And why don’t I know about that?”

“I was not aware I need your permission.”

“God, Gunn, sometimes you are the most obtuse man on the fucking planet. I almost called security on him because I thought you attracted another crazy stalker.”

“Not to mention what she would have done to me herself,” Billy chimed in with a grin.

“Would have scratched your fucking eyes out,” she said, but could not avoid a grin herself.

“I’m sure you would’ve.”

“You bet,” she nodded.

Billy gave her a nod, while Ben looked up at him, something like wonder in his eyes, not quite able to believe how happy he had felt in these past few days.

“Are you done for today?” Billy asked then.

Ben nodded.

“Yeah. Let me grab my stuff, I have to pick up Emmy at the Walrus though.”

“What a coincidence, I have to pick up her fiancé there too,” the taller man laughed.

With a unstoppable smile, Ben went quickly to the backroom and fetched his leather jacket and his messenger bag. On returning, he saw how Anne stood closer to Billy and said something to him, to which Billy nooded and smiled.

“Stop threatening my boyfriend,” he laughed and took Billy’s offered hand.

Anne shrugged.

“See you tomorrow, Ben. And you think about what I told you,” she said and turned to return to her work.

On the street, walking hand in hand, uncaring if anyone stared or mocked the gay couple, until Ben slowed down shortly before they reached Billy’s car that he had parked in a close side street.

“What did she tell you?”

Billy smiled and kissed him on the forehead.

“She said that she will go after me if I hurt you. And to be honest, I believe she would.”

Ben laughed.

“Oh yes. She absolutely would.”

“I like her. She seems to be a good friend.”

Ben nodded.

“She is. She listens to my whining, and even though she pretends to be tough and without emotion, she is full of love. Wouldn’t know what to do without her.”

Billy took him into his arms, embracing him tightly and Ben put his head against his boyfriend’s chest, listening to his heartbeat.

“You’re not alone, Ben,” Billy said, a hand in Ben’s today open hair. “You will never be alone again.”

Ben had a hard time understanding the meaning of those words, but when he did, he believed in them.

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

“And I tell you: YES!”

Ben and Billy both raised their brows when they put foot into the Walrus Daycare, and Hal Gates, who had taken his place at the reception only shook his head.

“It’s going on like that the whole afternoon. I’m very close to just kill them both so we’re over with their bullshit,” he said with a wink.

“And I tell you: NO!” Came John’s voice back.

“Do I want to know what their problem is?” Billy asked.

“You’re Silver’s best friend. Why don’t you step foot into the tiger’s cage and see if the wedding will still happen.”

Ben chuckled and then followed Billy towards Flint’s office, where he only knocked shortly and then opened the door.

Flint was sitting behind his desk, the hair a mess and the face red in anger, while John stood on the other side of said desk, the arms crossed and leaning against a chair. Between them, on the desk, was an open folder, onto which both man stared with glaring eyes.

“You are unreasonable,” Flint said.

“And you are stubborn,” John gave back. “Maybe you should not marry me when I’m so unreasonable.”

Flint’s eyes grew dark.

“Is that what you think this is? That I don’t want to marry you? I may should remind you that we are to be married in less than two weeks. And suddenly you think I don’t want to go through with this?”

John glared at him, nodded, then he turned around and left the room without another word. Billy looked confused and started to go after his friend, but Ben stopped him and shook his head.

“Stay with him,” he said, pointing his chin towards Flint, who stared at a spot on his desk, the eyes empty and filled to the brim with tears.

Ben was the one who turned around and rushed after John, and found him on the porch facing the backyard, panting. He had his head lowered and looked like he was having a panic attack. Without saying anything, Ben put a hand on his arm. Now, John looked up.

“He doesn’t want to marry me,” he whispered, and Ben noticed how there were tears in John’s eyes, his lips trembling. “He…”

“Let’s sit down,” Ben said softly and pulled out two of the colorful lounge chairs, pushing John to sit down. “What happened?”

“We had this discussion like one thousand times,” John’s husky voice was barely audible. “I thought he understood by now that I don’t want this, that I think it’s not the right thing for me, but today, he just handed me those fucking papers, and…I…”

Ben touched the other man’s hand, knowing that they still were not friends, barely knew each other, but there was Billy connecting them, and Ben thought that talking to him would be easier, knowing that he would not judge or be biased, and he hoped that John would understand that too.

“What papers?”

John blinked tears away and leaned back, looking at the grey sky for a moment.

“Adoption papers,” John said. “James wants us to adopt. He has contacts and his lawyer has already arranged everything. It’s as if he has not listened to a word I said.”

“Oh wow,” Ben said. “That’s not cool. He can’t make such a decision without you. Can I ask why you are so against having a child with James?”

John took a deep breath and looked for a moment at Ben, obviously considering if he should tell this stranger about his thoughts and emotions, but then, this was Billy’s boyfriend, and he seemed like a nice guy.

“I grew up in a group home,” he whispered, not noticing how Ben tensed up. “I was taken from my so-called parents when I was four. They were addicts and neglected me, let me almost starve. I spent my whole childhood in the system. I have no fucking clue how a family works. What could I offer a child, Ben? I’m disabled. I’m damaged. I got already so lucky that a man like James wants me, but…”

Ben shook his head.

“Can I tell you something? Just listen and then consider, okay?” He asked, and John nodded. “You may are damaged, but you’re not broken. Billy has told me some things about you, and I think you are cool and I hope we can be friends too, because honestly, I’m planning to stick around. And James is damn lucky that he found a man like you.” Ben’s voice was serious and he was sitting close to John, his leg touching one of John’s. “My parents died when I was three. I went into group homes too and I never got to know what family life is like. But I have a daughter and that’s my chance to have the family I always dreamt of, now maybe with Billy and Percy too. When I was a child, I was jealous of this kids that had a Christmas with presents that were not donated to welfare. I was jealous of kids that got into arguments with their parents or were grounded. A room of their own. I hated being mocked in school for being an orphan. I think you and I know what that feels like. And I think that James would accept if you didn’t want a child if you really didn’t want one,” Ben smiled a little. “But honestly, John. I think James knows you best. And I saw how you were with the kids on the party last week, they loved you and you looked like you had the time of your life. James would be the last man on the world to force you to become a father. But I think he knows you would be a great one.” He straightened his back. “And now, I think you should go and talk to your husband-to-be. The last thing he wants is to make you unhappy.”

John nodded, the words he just listened to settling slowly in his brain, and then he stood up, but stopped in his movement when he looked to the porch door. Ben turned around and saw James Flint standing there. The daycare owner looked like he had cried too, and behind him Billy looked sad and worried. Then, James nodded, and John made the few steps towards him to fall into his embrace, sniffing and burying his head at James’ shoulder.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you, too,” James replied. “So much.”

 

 

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Nine days later, Ben attended at Billy’s side the wedding of James Flint and John Silver.

The ceremony was romantic and intimate, with only friends attending since both grooms had no family to speak of. Ben recognized the Vanes, and Teach, Anne and her girlfriend Max were invited because Max worked for Flint.

Billy smiled with pride, being John’s best man, and Ben and he often made eye contact, both beaming and happy that they could attend this together, the first gathering that they went to as a couple, and it felt to Ben like being really accepted in Billy’s world, like he arrived somewhere that felt like home.

The children were taken care of throughout the ceremony, and Ben loved that James, who he stopped calling Flint in his head by now, had considered that the children would get impatient and bored while the grooms gave their vows, making their guests chuckle with the sassiness in their words, and cry with the heartfelt love they both expressed. The only child present was a little boy who was at the hand of a man Ben was surprised to see there – his lawyer Thomas Hamilton, who was at the side of a pretty dark haired lady, who smiled softly.

Later at the reception, Ben was waiting for Billy to get them something to drink, when he was approached by Hamilton, who was accompanied by the little boy, who was looking with wide and nervous eyes at the many strangers.

“I didn’t know we had mutual friends, Ben,” Hamilton said.

“I’m dating John’s best friend, Billy Manderly, Mister Hamilton,” Ben explained with a proud smile.

“Thomas, please,” the barrister said.

Ben went into a crouching position.

“And who are you, young man? I’m Ben.”

Instead of replying, the boy hid a little behind Thomas’ leg, the blue eyes even wider.

“This is Jim,” Thomas replied for him. “Say hello to Ben, Jim, please?”

Jim went a courageous step forward and offered Ben his hand, which he shook. Now the boy almost smiled, but then remembered that he was scared and pressed his lips together.

“He’s not much of a talker,” Thomas said.

“I didn’t know you had children,” Ben said.

“Oh,” Thomas chuckled, the moment Billy returned with two glasses of cidre, acknowledging the third man with a nod. “He’s not mine. I’m only watching him.”

Ben raised a brow and wanted to ask, but just then, James Flint joined them, a happy smile on his face, a little flushed from all the attention he was getting, and without showing any sign of overwhelming fear anymore, Jim crushed into James’ legs, hugging them tightly, and the groom immediately picked him up and held him.

“Oh, I think now I know whose he is,” Ben said with a grin. “John came to his senses after all?”

“Thomas is helping us with the process, it will take some time, but we are positive that Jim will be able to stay with us,” James said. “We only got the first confirmation yesterday and we wanted Jim to be here today.”

The men all smiled when Jim whispered something to James’ ear, just when Thomas had excused himself and returned to the lady he had come with, already attached to the man who was likely to become his father soon.

“I just got order from Captain Jim to find Mister Silver-Flint,” James winked. “I’m afraid, I have to follow my captain’s orders.”

Ben leaned against Billy’s chest, both still smiling, and watched how James and the boy in his arms, found their way to John’s side, and saw how John’s face was consumed by a bright smile at the sight of the little family he had found.

“They look happy,” Ben said.

“Hmm,” Billy made. “I would make any bet that they are. And you know what?” He asked, looking down at Ben. “I am too.”

For a moment Ben was speechless, then his smile grew wider.

“I’m too. I’m very happy.”

Billy nodded, looking into his boyfriend’s eyes.

But despite being happy, being home at Billy’s side, Ben had learned one lesson in his life.

Happiness never lasted.

 

Chapter Text

“It’s absolutely disgusting how happy you are.”

Billy looked up from supporting a pretty blonde who was only not being able to do the scrunches the way he told her because she had not stopped chatting for a single second since they started their session, flirting with him in the mirror.

John was standing next to him, a stack of towels in his hands, and smirked. He had not even heard his friend approaching.

“What?” He asked.

“You,” John poked him with a finger. “are disgustingly happy. Stop it, you’re bad for business.”

Billy chuckled.

“Says the newlywed.”

At the mention of his recent marriage to the love of his life, John’s eyes turned immediately dreamy and his smirk turned into a genuine smile.

“Can’t argue with that,” John said. “If you asked me three years ago if I could ever imagine being happy like this, married and with maybe having a child in a few weeks, I’d have called you a liar.”

The blonde looked at John, having stopped her training, and smiled at him after having examined him with her eyes, the look having stopped shortly on his artificial and in the training shorts visible leg.

“Happy girl, your wife,” she said with a wink.

John raised a brow.

“Happy guy, but thank you.”

Her smile that had not reached her eyes for a single moment, grew predatory.

“Such a waste,” she said. “All the fun you could have with the right woman, maybe you just haven’t met her yet.”

John laughed.

“Believe me, I’m having all the fun I can handle with my husband, and honestly, you could bind yourself to my chest and nothing would happen, so, thank you, but thank you no, Miss Guthrie.”

She shrugged and got up, drying her sweaty neck and cleavage with a towel and nodded into Billy’s direction, before she left.

Billy raised his brows.

“How do you know her name?”

John looked surprised at his friend.

“Are you really so out of it that you don’t know who that is?”

“Huh?” Billy made.

“Eleanor Guthrie?” Billy’s eyes showed he still had no idea what John was talking about. “Host on Breaking News?” Billy shook his head. “Mistress of Woodes Rogers who wants to be our next Prime Minister?”

Billy got tense.

“Rogers?”

“Yes. Granddaddy of your future stepchild slash daughter-in-law,” John rolled his eyes.

Billy looked into the direction in with the woman went and vanished into the dressing rooms.

“You think it’s a coincidence that she asked for me?”

John shrugged.

“Maybe Rogers wants to know who his close to his grandchild, but hey, stop looking so worried, you and Ben are a great couple and you are great fathers.”

“Yes, but powerful people like that?”

“And he still lost in court against a single, gay bartender.”

Billy nodded.

“True that,” he said with a small smile. “Are you free now? I’m free for an hour now, wanted to take a break.”

John nodded.

“I have an appointment in half an hour. Kid that got into a bike accident and has problems with his back since.”

“Massage therapy?”

“It’s our first session. A lot of talking and trying things before I can make a treatment plan.”

They went to the cafeteria, where Billy got them both two of the new smoothies Idelle was testing out today, and eyed the brown mass when he put the two glasses down. John too looked at the smoothies from narrowed eyes.

“What the fuck is that?”

“She said it’s a surprise,” Billy shrugged and took a sip.

After a second he blinked and took another one.

“Oh my God.”

“That bad?”

“Try it.”

John took a weary sip, then another.

“That is…”

“Heaven!” Billy said.

“Is that chocolate milk or what?”

“It tastes lie a Reese Cup.”

“Holy fuck. I want the recipe. That sweet tooth of a husband I have at home would die for this,” John said with a grin.

“After all those puke inducing shit she made, she finally made something that is awesome, we need to mark this day in a calendar or something. I’m sure Percy and Ben would love it too.”

“Not Emmy?”

“She has a phase in which she hates anything sweet. She would survive on tomatoes and cucumbers alone at the moment, or something meaty. Even though she has not many teeth yet, she munches on a burger with total glee.”

“Girl after my heart,” John laughed.

The friends laughed together and talked a while, until John went to raise to go to his next appointment, feeling happy at his best friend being relaxed and being bright eyes when he talked about his boyfriend. Finally, Billy had found what was missing in his life with Ben.

But just when he was picking up the towels he had places on the chair next to himself, his phone chimed. He frowned when he looked at the display and saw who was calling him during work hours.

“Hey, Gates...,” he answered the call. “Yeah, he’s with me, do you want…What?...When?...Oh God. Yes. Tell James we’re on our way.”

Billy had raised too. He felt a lump in his throat after seeing in John’s face that something had happened.

“What?” He only asked, when John dropped the towels, grabbed his arm and dragged him behind him, starting to run.

“We have to get to the Walrus. Now,” John said, not caring that they were leaving their work place without an excuse, running down the stairs and leaving the building.

Billy stopped him on the sidewalk.

“John. What is wrong? What happened? Is it Percy? Did something happen to my son?”

John looked up at his friend and shook his head.

“No,” he said, worry in his voice. “Percy…Percy is fine. It’s Emmy…”

John started to walk again, stopping cars on the street with a gesture and passing to get to the parking area on the other side, followed by Billy.

“John. Stop!” He held his friend’s arm on the other side, noticing that John was trembling. “Emmy? What is with Emmy?”

“She’s gone, Billy. Emmy is gone. Ben is there and he has broken down, he needs you.”

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

Ben had left the bar a little earlier than usually, his bag slung over his body and in a good mood.

Billy had woken him this morning with sweet kisses and lazy, slow sex, and he felt still the hands of his boyfriend on his body. He still could not believe that this Adonis of a man, absolute perfection in his eyes, was all his, and that he already was so close of imagining a future with him. He did not dare to talk about those thoughts, imagining himself and Billy and their children in Billy’s apartment at all times, watching their children grow up together and seeing the first wrinkles on Billy’s face. He never had felt like this before. Not once in his life, and when he saw other people being in love, he always thought they were delusional.

In love?

Of all the romantic places in the world, that thought sprang to life in his head the moment he walked the stairs up from the subway, and he stopped. A man bumped into his back and apologized, while Ben was blinking, shocked by his thought.

Was he really in love?

What if Billy felt not the same?

Billy, who made him breakfast and watched him cook with a smile. Who slept beside him, always a hand somewhere on Ben’s body, as if he needed affirmation that Ben was really there. Who changed his daughter’s diapers and fed her and picked her up from the daycare when Ben could not make it. Who listened to Ben’s worries and offered his support, and who nodded and told him to do it when Ben told him his secret wish to go to culinary school and open one day a small restaurant himself, and he told him that he would be with him every step of the way. Who watched crappy TV with him and sang off-key to the kid bops they listened to in the car.

Billy, who made him happy.

He was in love with him.

The frown on his face turned into a beaming smile and he had a bounce in his step when he continued the way up and walked the three streets until he could see the Walrus Daycare, that place that had brought him so much happiness in a life that he had thought was nothing but dark clouds and worries.

Billy had become in this short time his sunshine.

He chuckled to himself at the cheesiness of his thoughts. It was so unlike him, but probably because he had never had this before.

He turned into the gate of the Walrus and took two stairs at a time and pushed the door open.

Instead of Gates there was a young man at the front desk who he had not seen before, a mousy man with glasses and a round face.

“Welcome to the Walrus Daycare,” he started, sounding very formally. “Can I help you?”

The stranger looked at Ben’s lose ponytail and the ripped jeans he was wearing, as if he did not fit into his expectations of a client of this quite expensive daycare.

“Ben Gunn, my daughter is in Abigail’s group. I wanted to pick her up. Emmy.”

The man looked confused for a moment.

“I’m afraid, that is not possible,” he then said, the voice cold and stern.

“I know I’m a bit early, but we have a doctor’s appointment today that I don’t want us to miss;” Ben countered, still smiling but getting slightly annoyed by the man who was obviously new. He had called yesterday to ask if it was all right if he took Emmy early from her group, and Abigail had told him that it would be no problem at all.

“No, you don’t understand. Emmy has already been picked up,” the man said, and without paying more attention to Ben returned to the file he had been reading when Ben entered the front room.

“What do you mean, she has been picked up? Has my boyfriend picked her up?” Ben was already fishing for his cell phone in his jeans pocket to check if Billy had texted him and he had not seen the message in time, but he found his phone without any notifications.

That moment, James and Hal Gates came down the hallway, putting some files onto the counter of the front desk.

“I need these copied within an hour,” he said, and then turned to Ben with a smile that turned into concern when he saw Ben’s still frozen expression and the blinking eyes. “Ben, everything okay?”

“Has Billy picked Emmy up?” Ben asked the new man at the front desk again.

“I do not know who this Billy is supposed to be, but Emily-Grace has been picked up by her mother.”

Ben grew pale.

“Her…mother?”

“Yes, of course,” he explained, not understanding why the young man with the ponytail started to pant, his pupils widening.

“What are you saying there?” James snapped. “Who picked up Emmy?”

“Miss Rogers, her mother. She said that she is…”

“Goddammit,” Hal hissed.

“What?”

“You’re fucking fired!” James said, and turned to Hal. “Call the police, tell them we have a child missing.”

“I don’t understand. She said she’s her mother. You can’t fire me for doing the right thing.”

Ben sank down to his knees. The world turned around him in circles, he heard his blood rush in his ears. His legs were not able to carry him anymore and cold sweat shot to his skin. Emmy. His Emmy. His brain could not process the intense feeling of fear, of failure, of loss.

“Miss Rogers has not custody of Emmy, Ben has. She is not allowed to pick her up, if you had checked her file like you are fucking supposed to, you would have seen the names of the people who are allowed to pick her up. Those are her father, Ben Gunn, his boyfriend Billy Manderly, myself and my husband. You have given an infant to an unstable woman who the court has decided is not fit to take care of a child, you fucking moron.”

James went down to his knees, wrapping an arm around Ben, who felt like his heart would stop beating any second, and who had not even the strength left to cry.

It was so cold.

Why was it so cold?

Ben sunk against James, who held him tight and started to slowly rock him.

“Police is informed,” Hal said. “I tried to reach Billy, but he’s not answering.”

“Call John!” Ben heard James yell the moment his world turned completely dark.

 

Chapter Text

“Where is he?”

Ben sat on the couch in James’ office, a blanket around his shoulders and shaking as if he was sitting in the middle of a snowstorm. When he heard Billy’s voice, he lifted his lowered head and the dried tears started to flow again the moment Billy pushed the door open and came running into the room, falling to his knees in front of Ben and wrapping his arms around him. Ben buried his face in his boyfriend’s shoulder, his fingers cramping in the shirt he was wearing and sobbing without shame.

“Sir?”

Billy looked up from where he had been leaning his head against Ben’s. The man that stood next to James’ desk was a stranger, a dark skinned man who was well dressed in a suit and tie, a worried expression on his face.

“Yes?” Billy asked, stroking softly the back of Ben’s neck, who was still unable to say a single word.

“DI Scott,” the man said. “And you are?”

“Billy Manderly, I’m Ben’s, Mister Gunn’s boyfriend. We came as fast as we could,” he said but didn’t offer the detective his hand, too busy with taking care of Ben instead.

“We?”

“Mister Flint’s husband, John, we came together.”

Scott nodded.

“What happened? We were only told that Emmy is gone? God, what happened,” Billy voice broke, but he tried to not show his weakness and that he himself was at the brink of breaking down. He had to be strong for Ben, had to be at his side and help him through this.

“Where have you been, Mister Manderly?”

Billy raised his brows.

“I was at work…,” he started.

“We know it was Mary,” Ben whispered sounding upset. “There’s no use in asking my boyfriend where he has been when that bitch took my daughter.”

A shocked expression went over Billy’s face.

“What?”

“Mary Rogers, the child’s biological mother has come here around an hour ago, and has taken Emily-Grace with her,” Scott said.

Billy looked at Ben, who only nodded.

“How was that possible? She’s not in the file, she’s not allowed to pick Emmy up,” he said.

“There’s a new guy at the front desk, he didn’t know, and he didn’t check like he was supposed to. He…he let her take my baby. He let her take her away. Billy, what am I gonna do without her?”

Billy pulled Ben closer into his arms, the smaller man again starting to shake.

“Shhhh,” he made, kissing Ben’s hair. “We’re getting her back, baby. We are getting her back, I promise.” He looked back up at Scott. “Why are you standing there? Shouldn’t you be looking for her or something?”

“Mister Manderly, we have half of Scotland Yard searching for Mister Rogers’ daughter and the child. We have men at the airport and the train stations, a search for her car is out and we are contacting family and friends already. Only because I am here doesn’t mean we are not doing anything. We take this very seriously, and the child is only gone for less than two hours, there is a good chance she has not left the town yet.”

“Are you aware that she has money?” Billy hissed. “She can be on the continent already and from there, God knows where!”

“You are not helping your boyfriend when you yell, Mister Manderly,” Scott said, and indeed Ben had started to shake even more.

“Do you need a doctor, love?” Billy asked softly.

“He has gotten a light sedative,” James, who just came in with John following him, said. “It should work soon and calm him a little.”

“Good.”

John sat down next to Ben on the couch, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.

“How are you feeling?” He asked, but Ben only looked at him and shook his head. “Yeah, you’re right. That’s a stupid question. You gotta hold on, Ben. For Emmy. It’s no use if you fall apart. We need you. She needs you, okay?”

Ben nodded and sniffed, smiling a little helpless.

“Have you heard anything?” He asked Scott, his voice thin and silent.

The detective shook his head.

“Not yet, sir,” he replied.

Ben pressed his lips together.

“Do you have any idea where she might have gone?”

“No, we have no contact,” he said. “She can visit Emmy every fortnight, but she rarely keeps the schedule. She never cared. Why does she want her now?”

He looked helpless at Billy.

“I don’t understand why she took her. She never wanted her, Billy. Why did she take her?”

“I don’t know,” Billy said. “Do you want to go home?”

The thought of Emmy’s toys, of her bed, her food, her bottles, all the little things in his place that reminded him of her came to Ben’s mind.

“Can we go to your place?” He asked.

Billy nodded, not having the heart to tell Ben that he had meant his apartment and not even had thought of Ben’s for a moment.

“Where’s Percy?” He asked James.

“He’s with Gates and Abby,” he replied. “Want me to get him? I wanted to have Ben calm a little.”

At a gesture of confirmation, James left the room and returned a minute later with Percy at his hand. The boy looked confused and like he had cried, unable to understand what was going on and Billy asked himself what they had told his little boy.

“Daddy?” Percy asked with a thin voice. “Where’s Emmy?”

Ben swallowed.

“Emmy is making a visit with someone. She will be home soon,” he replied for Billy, who nodded in affirmation.

“She forgot her bunny,” Percy said and held out the stuffed bunny toy, light blue terry cloth with floppy ears, the only toy she never left behind and got upset when she didn’t have it.

Ben took the toy from him and pressed his face to it, taking in the scent of baby powder and his daughter’s soap, forcing himself to not break out in tears again. He felt ashamed for being so weak, but he could not bring himself to be strong now.

“Thank you, Percy, that’s very sweet of you to take care of Bunny for her,” he said, trying hard to smile.

Percy looked at him.

“She didn’t want to go with the lady,” he then said, angry sounding.

All men in the room looked at the little boy.

“The lady?” Ben asked. “Did you see where they went?”

Percy shook his head.

“Emmy cried, heard her and wanted to give her Bunny cause she left it,” he said, looking at James with a little concern. “I was on the loo and I saw that a lady carried her out and Bunny was on the floor. I ran after them, but she didn’t care. Got into a car.”

“Percy, listen, this is very important,” Billy said. “Can you tell me what kind of car? Like we do when we play our game?”

Percy seemed to be deep in thought for a moment.

“T’was a blue, shiny car. A p…port?”

“A Porsche?” Billy asked and Percy’s eyes lit up.

“Yes!” He exclaimed. “Tha’s it.”

Detective Scott went to take out his cell phone and made a call, passing the information that they were looking for a blue Porsche to someone on the other end.

“Mary’s not driving a blue Porsche,” Ben said. “Last time I saw her she had a silver something.”

“We’re making some calls, Mister Gunn,” Scott said. “That was a good information, you paid attention very well, young man.”

Percy nodded, looking very serious, but was leaning against his father, his eyes on Ben, not able to understand why they all were so upset, yet feeling that something was very wrong.

“I insist to talk to him!” Came suddenly a voice from the hallway, and seconds later the door was pushed open and Mary’s father, Mister Rogers, stormed into the office, making James turn to him and shield Ben from him, but the politician pushed James to the side. “How dare you accuse my daughter of committing a crime, you vermin!?”

Ben flinched, and Billy got up, towering to his whole height in front of the man.

“How dare you come in here and yell at my boyfriend,” he hissed.

“Boyfriend?” Rogers laughed, actually laughed. “This gets better and better. A faggot now too? Did you get my Mary pregnant to press money out of her? Did you plan that from the beginning, you scum?”

Ben’s large blue eyes stared at the grandfather of his daughter, but before he could say anything, James had taken position between him and Rogers.

“You are not welcome in my house,” he hissed. “You take your arrogant attitude and leave this instant.”

“And who are you to give me commands?”

“Who are you to yell at a father who is fearing for his daughter’s safety?” James gave back, his tone sharp as a knife. “How dare you come in here, uninvited I may add, and make accusations at the man who loves and takes care of this little girl, who we all see every day being nothing but devoted to her?” James made a step towards Rogers, who was forced to make a step back. “I want you to leave. Now. And I want you to think for a moment what your daughter did today. She took a child out a place where she should have been safe. She must have watched for days and waited until the moment was right, until someone was at the front desk that is new here. She must have known when Emmy would be here and not in the care of her dad. She has planned this for a while. And we all ask ourselves one thing, Mister Rogers. Why?”

“I don’t understand,” Rogers said, a little stunned.

“From what I know, Mary was not interested for a single moment in caring or loving Emmy. You only didn’t want Ben to take custody of his baby because you hate losing, especially to a, how you put it so nicely, faggot, which I am sure you knew since you probably had your people run a background check on him. You only didn’t bring his orientation up in court because it would have made you look bad, Mister Rogers. How would it look if the future Prime Minister came out as a homophobic asshole who can’t control his own daughter?”

“What are you implying?”

“I am not implying anything. I am telling you that you give a shit about Emmy. I am telling you that you only wanted her because of your political career, and that is probably why Mary took her. To get back into your good graces, hasn’t she? Aren’t you upset with her for losing the custody battle? Haven’t you yelled at her and told her that she’s a failure?”

“Who the fuck are you?” Rogers growled.

Ben felt how John next to him chuckled despite the tense situation.

“Captain James McGraw Flint, my pleasure, Mister Rogers,” James said.

Ben saw how Rogers’ eyes widened a little and how the man pressed his lips together.

“You will hear from my lawyers,” he said. “This is not the end of it.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, Mister Rogers,” James gave back. “If you now please leave my property before I forget my good manners?”

They all watched how Rogers left, looking significantly angry.

“What the fuck just happened?” Ben whispered, still confused at John’s chuckling next to him.

His friend leaned a little forward, his eyes on his husband, who had the hands balled into fists and held back the true anger that had almost made him lose control of his temper.

“Mister Rogers just met one of the most highly-decorated officers of the British Navy. My man is a fucking war hero. You don’t mess with the wearer of a Victoria Cross if you want to keep your balls,” he grinned.

Ben’s, and also Billy’s eyes widened a little, impressed.

“I’ll call Thomas,” James said. “I think we should get his opinion on all this too.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you take me home?” Ben asked Billy, who nodded. “To your place I mean?”

“I’ll take you home. To our place.”

Chapter Text

When Ben woke up after a short drug induced sleep, after Billy had insisted that the doctors that were still around gave him something to help him sleep and let his mind come to rest, he woke up the to mumbling of voices from the next room. He was upset with Billy for having him made sleep, and he was scared that in the few hours he had been out, something had happened. Something terrible. But then, he wanted to believe that Billy would have woken him in that case.

He had changed into a t-shirt and sweatpants, also on Billy’s insistence who then had tucked him into his bed. When Ben now turned to the side, he saw that Percy was lying next to him, Emmy’s Bunny in his arms, and was snoring softly. The brows of the little boy were knit together, and he looked not as relaxed as he usually did in his sleep, upset and scared himself.

Ben smiled helplessly and put a strand of Percy’s curls behind his ear and then slowly got up, making no sound to not wake the little boy. Billy had closed the blinds, and he could not say if the day was already gone, or how long he had been sleeping. His head ached, from crying but also from the medication he had been given, and he massaged his temples when he left the bedroom and went to the spacious living room.

Billy was on his feet the second he entered the room and rushed to his side, touching his arm.

“Babe, how are you?”

Ben only shook his head.

“Anything new?” He asked, knowing the answer already. “Got a headache.”

He looked around.

James and John were sitting close to each other on the one couch, James leaned back and John plastered like an octopus to his back. Both looked worried and James gave Ben a pained nod. Ben knew that he felt responsible, being the owner of the daycare, but he also did not want to blame the man who had become a friend too. James would have never allowed Emmy to be taken away and he would have kicked Mary out had he been present. It was only the asshole at the reception’s fault. John looked like he had cried, the eyes a little puffy, and Ben had the impression that John had the most terrible worst- case scenarios in his head, just like himself. Of Emmy being taken away, of never holding her again, of her being scared and confused, not understanding why her daddy did not love her anymore, not able to understand that Ben was the last person on the world who would give her up, that she was the center and sun of his world.

One the other couch sat two women. Anne and her girlfriend Max, who was working for James and had probably made the call to inform Anne about what happened. Max held Anne’s hand, her soft brown eyes full of concern and gentleness, while Anne stared at an invisible spot, bloody murder in her eyes. Her lips were a thin line, her red hair was a little chaotic as if she had ran her hands through it several times.

“M’gonna kill her,” she hissed. “M’s gonna cut the bitch into shreds.”

“That is not helping, Cherie,” Max said with a sigh.

“It’s helping me,” Anne continued to hiss. “When the police finds her, I’m gonna kill her very slowly and painfully.”

“If,” Ben said.

Anne looked up, surprise in his eyes, tilting her head to the side, and also the eyes of the other three went towards Ben, who stepped down the two stairs that led to the seating area and sat down on the armrest of one of the couches.

“What do you mean?” Anne asked.

If they find her,” he whispered, feeling tears well up again. 

“You can’t think like that,” Billy said, having followed him and now putting a hand on his arm that he pushed away.

“I can’t think like that? Are you kidding me?” His voice got louder and sounded angry. “My baby is gone. She is fucking gone. Mary can be by now in fucking Brazil with her or God knows where. She’s rich, there’s no way she will still be in the country, and she…she took Emmy away, don’t you get it?”

Billy pressed his lips together.

“I will never see her again. I will never see my Emmy again.”

“Ben…,” Billy started, but Ben stood back up. “Please, don’t give up already. She’s only gone for a few hours. We can’t give up hope.”

Ben stared at his boyfriend. He could almost not believe that just a few hours ago, his world had still be all right. More than that. He had been happy, finally having had a family and a home, when the realization had hit him that he had been in love with Billy. And now, it was lying in shattered pieces at his feet.

“I need some air,” Ben whispered and walked, still barefoot, to the balcony, and left the living room.

It had gone dark in the meantime and the air was chill. He craved a cigarette, even though he had stopped smoking before Emmy was born, just wanting something to do with his hands, something to distract him from the restricting pain in his chest. He put his hands on the railing and looked the five floors down to the street below that had only little traffic at this hour.

Ben had not thought about death in all the months since he had gotten custody for Emmy, having a purpose in his life that suddenly made sense. Now, everything felt empty again. Billy was of course right, he should not think this way, should not give up hope after such little time, but it was hard. So hard.

The door behind him opened, and he heard steps, not wanting to turn around, but the large hand first on the small of his back and then on his shoulder told him that Billy had followed him.

His boyfriend said not a single word. Instead he put a soft, woolen cardigan around Ben’s shoulders, the ever caring man that he was and that Ben had gotten to love. Just today the realization had hit him that he had fallen in love with his boyfriend, and now it seemed so wrong to tell him that. Not in this situation, not with this desperation and the whole in his heart that grew with every second and consumed his emotions and the ability to continue breathing. Alone the thought now felt like it happened in another life.

“I know it’s hard,” Billy then said, but he stopped and sighed. “No, that’s bullshit. I don’t know. Of course I don’t know.”

Ben nodded and leaned against Billy’s broad chest when he wrapped his arms around him from behind, closing his eyes and taking a deep, painful breath.

“I don’t know, Billy,” he whispered, fighting rising tears. “I don’t know how to go on without her.”

Billy pressed his nose into Ben’s hair, inhaling the scent of his shampoo that had gotten such a normal thing for him to do, so comforting. The taller man himself was fighting all the emotions that constantly grew more, but he couldn’t allow himself to cry. He couldn’t allow himself to fall apart. Not when Ben needed his strength and calming presence.

“We will get her back,” Billy said, trying to hide the tremble in his voice. “We have to.”

“It hurts so much.”

Billy nodded into his hair.

“I can’t even imagine your pain, baby,” Billy whispered. “But I am here with you, for you. I am not leaving your side and we will go through this together. And we will get her back.”

Ben turned around, looking up to his boyfriend, his hands flat against his broad chest.

“I…,” Ben said but could not continue. Tears were streaming again down his face.

Billy took him into his embrace, kissing his hair and stroking softly his back, making soothing sounds, his lips in Ben’s hair. His breathing hitched as well, and the tears he had so much wanted to stay put filled his eyes now too. Seeing how Ben fell apart, how the bubbly and charming man had vanished and had made place for this tortured and lost soul, it broke his heart. Of course he feared for Emmy too, and she should have been his priority, but he could not forget the man in his arms over this, who had become a constant in his life, who he wanted to come home to every day, hating those few days they spent apart. Earlier, while his friends had been talking, he had just sat there, listening if Ben or Percy in his bedroom needed anything, and also looking around. There were so many things in his apartment that now made it a home even more. Not only his and Percy things. There was a blanket in which Emmy loved to cuddle, soft orange and apple green, such happy color. A few colorful blocks that she did not like to play with but Ben tried to teach her colors with a little and that she threw regularly after her father, not upset but giggling when Ben pulled faces at her antics. Ben’s mug that said “Thanks for all the orgasms” and that he bought him after a week of dating, and that had made Ben laugh until he cried and that they would have to hide as soon as their children were able to read. Their children. Billy had to smile at the thought. They had become a family in just a few weeks. It all felt so normal and natural with Ben, and it was like the smaller bartender had made him forget his insecurity and made him…happy. It was unfair that their happiness had only been allowed to last such a short time before everything was destroyed like this.

“Ben,” he whispered, kissing Ben’s hair and making him look up at him again. Both their pairs of blue eyes were wet with tears. “This is such a shitty moment to do this, but…” Ben froze and Billy cold see in his eyes that he prepared himself for another catastrophe.

Ben stared at him.

“You’re breaking up with me?” He whispered.

“What?” Billy’s eyes widened. “Oh, no, baby. No. Never. I’m not breaking up with you. God. I’m so sorry.” He kissed his forehead, both sniffing a little. “I…I wanted to tell you…”

Ben held his breath, blinking and his heart beating in his ears.

“I love you.”

Just three words. Three words that were enough to make Ben start to sob uncontrollably and cling to Billy’s t-shirt with balled fists, wetting the fabric and cramping in his arms. He had never heard those words before in his whole life. And this man, this perfect man said them. To him. To Benjaming Gunn. Orphan, school drop.out, never had a relationship to speak of, only one night stands. And then Emmy happened. And now Percy and Billy.

“You love me,” Ben sobbed.

“God, yes I do.”

Ben looked up, sniffing loudly and trying to calm enough to make the sobs stop. He could not bring himself to smile as happy as he wanted to, but at least a lopsided smile appeared under tears. He nodded.

“I love you too,” he said. “I thought that on my way to…to pick Emmy up. I wanted to tell you today, and then…”

Billy nodded, leaning his forehead against Ben’s.

“I know. It’s the worst moment, but I can’t let this shitshow of a day pass without you knowing.”

They embraced each other, not daring to kiss.

The balcony door behind Billy opened, and Ben looked over his boyfriend’s shoulder and saw James standing in the doorframe. Strands of his ginger hair were hanging in waves in his face and he looked exhausted and tired. In his left hand, he was holding his cell phone.

For long seconds, he looked at the two men, his two friends, in front of him, not able to say anything yet, feeling the questioning looks of Ben and Billy, who turned around while still holding Ben, on his skin.

Then he took a deep breath.

“They’ve found her.”

Chapter Text

It took almost 24 nervewrecking hours until Ben and Billy got the second call that they should come to the police station.

Detective Scott who visited them had already informed them that they had arrested Mary at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, having travelled to France through the tunnel, and in the company of her mother, Rogers’ ex-wife, and Emmy. So far, the French police had not given much information, but connections and several phone calls that Rogers had actually made, much to Ben’s surprise, had arranged that all three were brought to London as soon as possible and not be held in French custody first.

What was the worst for Ben was that nobody could tell them how Emmy was. Was she okay? Did they hurt her? Was she upset? Did someone care to give her something to eat and drink? He felt as if he was going insane with worry and no word that Billy told him could calm him.

On their way to the station, Percy did not let go of Ben’s hand, sitting in his lap while Billy was driving. Both men had not had the strength to fight the boy’s stubbornness, and so Ben had taken place in the backseat and held Billy’s son pressed against his chest.

All three of them did not speak on their way, all scared of what the police might have to tell them. Percy did not quite understand what was going on, but they had decided not to lie to him and tell him a nice made-up story, so they had told him only that Emmy was coming back to them soon. Ben though, he was scared out of his mind that child services may decide that he was unfit to take care of his daughter after she had been abducted, which everyone around him assured him was a stupid thought, but still a thought he could not quite shake off.

John and James had decided to stay back at Billy’s place and wait for them there, prepare something to eat, not wanting to crowd them further. Anne and Max had went to work in the morning, their friends insisting that their life had to go on, like theirs would hopefully soon as well.

Arriving at the building, Billy found thankfully a parking spot and they went the stone stairs up to the station, Billy carrying Percy on one arm and holding Ben’s hand in his free one. He could sense how nervous his boyfriend was, that he was feeling nauseous and close to breaking down again, and he wished so much to give Ben all the strength he could.

Scott had given Billy during their last call the room number where they would meet and on the fourth floor, they went right around the corner and found the room they were supposed to meet.

Billy knocked and opened the door without waiting for an invitation.

They found Scott sitting behind his desk. The detective got up and went around the desk to welcome them.

“Good to see you,” he said with a kind smile. “How are you holding up?”

Ben shook his head.

“Not good, to be honest,” he replied. “Can you tell us more details yet? Where is my daughter?”

“Emily-Grace is checked up by a doctor right now.”

Ben grew tense at Scott’s words, but the detective held up his hands to calm him.

“Everything is fine. That is standard procedure. A counselor of child services is with her, there is nothing to worry about, but we needed to do this immediately. Especially bruises are likely to be overseen or fade before they can be protocolled.”

The bartender nodded.

“But she is okay?”

Scott nodded.

“She is. She is crying and fussing, but that was to be expected after all she went through. She of course can’t understand why her father is not with her. I have to say, she has a bit of a temper,” Scott chuckled.

Ben smiled a little.

“She’s stubborn,” he said, looking up at Billy, who gave him a strengthening smile.

“How long will it take until we can get her back?” Billy asked the question that was heavy on Ben’s heart, scared of the answer.

“Not long,” Scott said. “I assume the examination will be over soon and then the social worker will bring her here.”

Ben nodded, feeling so weak and insecure, and if Billy was not at his side, he was sure that he could not breathe anymore.

Scott offered them to sit down. Percy crawled into Ben’s lap again, snuggling against him and pressing Emmy’s Bunny against them both. The boy looked at the brink of tears, and had started his old habit to suck on his thumb when he felt uneasy, and neither man wanted to correct that habit since it only occurred very randomly.

The minutes until the door opened where endless, but then a dark haired lady came in, carrying Emmy in her arms, who was wailing.

Ben was immediately on his feet, handing Percy to Billy and looked at the woman, full of fear and expectations.

“Mister Gunn,” she said. “I have here someone who would like to meet you.”

Ben nodded, starting to cry and to laugh at the same time, al the stress falling from his shoulders, from his soul.

“Can I?” He asked, reaching out for his daughter, and the woman nodded.

“Of course,” she said, smiling brightly and handing Emmy over to her father.

She was crying terribly, upset and the face red and puffy, but the moment she went into Ben’s arms, her wails turned into sobs and her little fits held tight onto Ben’s shirt.

“My baby girl,” Ben whispered into her dark blonde hair. “Oh my God, my baby, my baby, my baby.” He sobbed unashamed, kissing her again and again. “I love you so much, Emmy. I love you so, so much.”

The social worker, in whom he recognized the woman that had attended James and John’s wedding with Thomas Hamilton at her side, smiled genuinely.

“She is okay,” she told, directed at Billy since Ben was busy with his girl. “No physical injuries except for a little bruise on her arm. The doctor thinks that she had been held too tight. We have run a cat scan in the pathology, sorry,” she chuckled. “There are no injuries to her brain. We were worried that she may have been shaken because she did not stop crying, a lot of people react like that, sadly. She’s a healthy, yet very upset girl.” She patted Emmy’s back and then Ben’s arm. “I would suggest you see your family doctor within the next days, but that is only a suggestion. Since she is reported to be all right, you can take her home and spoil your little angel rotten.”

Ben smiled, looking a lot more real than the smiles he had been able to give within the last two days.

“Thank you. Thank you so much,” he said and turned to look at Detective Scott. “And to you too.”

“It was a pleasure,” Scott said.

“What will happen with Mary?” Ben asked, rocking Emmy gently, who was slowly calming down.

“She has been arrested and has made a first statement, her mother as well. They have both a very sick opinion on childcare. Both are not able to accept that anything they did was wrong, they actually think that they were doing Emmy a favor,” Scott replied. “They will both have to pay for this.”

Billy nodded, letting the struggling Percy down on his feet, who now ran the few steps towards Ben and Emmy, Bunny in his grip. Ben went into a crouching position so Percy could reach them, and the little boy hugged both tightly, yet a little clumsy and gave first Ben, then Emmy a smacking kiss that made Billy grin.

“I took care of Bunny for you,” Percy said and offered Emmy the toy that she eyed suspiciously. Then her sobs stopped surprisingly, and she grabbed it.

Only a few minutes later, Ben and Billy went down the hallway side by side, Ben carrying Emmy, while Percy bounced beside them, informing them that he would be a police detective when he grows up, when a door opened and Woodes Rogers left an interrogation room, accompanied by a man in a suit, either a barrister or a police detective, and Mary.

Ben froze and stared at his daughter’s mother, hatred and disgust rising up in him, but before he could say anything, Rogers made a step towards him, his eyes on first Emmy, then on him.

“Mister Gunn,” he started. “Ben. I want to apologize for the injustice that has been done to you, also on my behalf. I’m genuinely sorry for what happened, and also for the things I have said. I hope that you can forgive me one day. What Mary and her mother have done is without excuse.”

Ben only nodded.

“I think about it, but right now I want time with my family. If you excuse us,” he said, to which Rogers replied with a nod.

“Of course. Take care, Ben,” he said, the voice surprisingly soft.

“You really apologize to this…this…thing?” Mary screamed at her father. “He destroyed everything! Look at me! He could have had me! Me! We could have been a family, but he…”

“Stop it, Mary,” Rogers growled. “You’ve done already enough.”

“I did the right thing! Something like that can’t raise MY daughter! He is worthless! He’s just a cheap slut!”

A fist hit Mary straight on the jaw and made her lose balance and fall.

All men turned towards to one that had hit her.

Billy was shaking out his fist and looked at the other men, a little ashamed of his reaction, but before he could say anything, Mary screamed, her voice tipping over: “Daddy!”

Rogers looked down at his daughter.

“Get the fuck up, Mary. You know as good as me that you deserved that,” he said without pity, and looked at the little boy that walked past him and kicked Mary, who was still on the floor, into the side.

“You hurt my sister!” Percy said loudly. “You made her cry! You’re evil!”

Ben tried to hold back laughter when it dawned to him.

Percy had called Emmy his sister.

 

 

--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--<>--

 

 

“Do you really think he meant that?” Billy asked Ben later in the bedroom they shared.

Both were in bed, lying side by side under the soft blankets, still too tired to be intimate with each other, but content and happy. They had been too tired to celebrate, so they only had taken the meal that John and James had prepared for them before their friends had said goodbye for the night and shortly after they had put both children to bed and went to bed themselves.

Ben had turned to his right side, his head resting on Billy’s shoulder, still feeling somewhat numb and far away, not quite getting into his brain what happened within the last only 48 hours.

“What do you mean?” he returned the question.

“Rogers,” Billy said. “Do you think that he meant what he said? That he gets what Mary has done and that he was wrong?”

Ben shrugged.

“I don’t know. I want to believe he does, but maybe he is only worried for his political career. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a public statement soon, distancing himself from his daughter, or whatever.”

The personal trainer nodded and bend a little down to press a kiss to Ben’s hair that was still damp from the shower he had taken, smelling again like the shampoo he used.

“Maybe,” he said. “It would be nice though if Emmy had a grandfather.”

Ben looked up.

“Are you serious?”

“I don’t know,” Billy said, blushing a little. “I’m naïve again, aren’t I?”

“Just a little. Emmy doesn’t need a grandfather, she has me. And I hope she has you.”

Billy pulled the smaller man into his arms until Ben was laying on top of him, kissing him only shortly but without intent.

“”Of course she has me. And you have me too,” he smiled, seeing Ben’s insanely blue eyes sparkle in the darkening room. “By the way, my parents would like to finally meet you and Emmy, my mom called earlier.”

Ben raised his brows.

“You want me to…”

“Meet my parents? Sure,” Billy said, confused sounding but then understanding. “Ben, I love you. I know we said that to each other in the worst of moments, but I meant it, and I hope you did too.” Ben nodded. “It’s maybe too early to ask you, but I will ask you very soon if you want to be my husband, and I want our children to grow up together. That would be awkward if my parents never met you before. But I have to warn you, they will smother you with love.”

Ben was speechless, but before he could yell a “yes” to an unasked question into his boyfriend’s, no fiancé’s, face, the door to the bedroom opened and a sleepy Percy strolled into the room.

“Daddy? Papa?” He asked, both men staring at the boy with speechless surprise. “When Emmy’s mah sister, I can’t marry her,” he pouted, thinking. “Do you think Jim likes boys too?”

Ben and Billy looked at each other, and then they started to laugh.

This life was promising to be an exciting journey, and both men were happy to go on this journey side by side, and hand in hand.

 

 

Chapter Text

20 years later

 

 

Ben and Billy were lying on the couch in the spacious living room of their house, Ben on top of his husband of 19 years and Billy having wrapped his arms around the smaller man, holding him tight. Their lips were locked for minutes and both drank in the breath of the other, moaning softly and feeling subtle arousal grow between them. John once said that it was disgusting how much in love they still were, but then grinned at his own husband who had raised a brow. It was no secret that the Silver-Flints were devoted to each other, inseparable and working like a well-piled machine in those moments when their stubbornness did not clash and make them yell at each other. It was a relationship they would have been jealous of, if their own love and marriage was not still as strong as it had been in those first weeks.

When they had told their children the story of how they met, when Percy and Emmy had been old enough, both children grinned only and told them that they were giving them a bad example. To the question why, Emmy had told them that meeting someone as perfect for them would be near impossible, and that she and her brother were destined to be alone forever.

“You’re disgusting,” a voice said from the doorway, and Ben raised his head to look over the backrest of the couch to look at his daughter, who was leaning against the wall, the arms crossed and the same smirk on his face that he often wore.

She looked so much like him that it surprised him sometimes too. The same sandy blonde hair that grew much lighter in Summer when she was spending more time outdoors, the same brilliant blue eyes and the same full lips and button nose. Even the thick black lashes were the same. Only that she had stayed smaller than him and had curves in all the right places. As a father, he should be worried about his twenty year old daughter being such a beauty, but he was proud and he trusted her judgment. And even if she made him a grandfather before he turned 50 in three years, so what? They would welcome any addition to the family no matter what, even if he hoped that Emmy would take a little more time before she brought another generation of Manderlys to this world.

“You’re just jealous,” Billy said from underneath him, without looking up, and when Ben looked at him, his husband wore a grin on his face that took years of him. Billy was still gorgeous and there was not an ounce of fat on the trainer, and there were only few wrinkles on his face. The single hairs of grey in his scalp were not even worth mentioning, and he thought that Billy was still the most gorgeous man on the world, while he sometimes felt old next to him, even if Billy would disagree.

Ben wore his hair shorter now, but often forgot to go to the hairdresser and found himself at least once a year with hair he could bind back into a ponytail like in the time when they had met each other. There was not even a hint of grey on his head, but when he let his beard grow out, there were strands of white on his chin. The corners of his eyes showed first wrinkles, but Billy was proud that Ben turned heads when he picked his daughter up at university or when they met with friends for drinks.

“Jealous of what exactly?” Emmy asked. “You’re late.”

Ben looked at his watch and cursed.

“Oh fuck, we’re really late,” he said, sitting up on his husband’s groin and making Billy moan at the sudden contact. “Get up, old man.”

“Who are you calling old man?” Billy asked, pushing Billy off him, who had to balance himself out to not fall.

“Can you two stop acting like teenagers and get going? We’re late, and Perce will never forgive us if we’re not there with him,” Emmy said, sounding a little annoyed but with a smile in her eyes.

“Coming!” Ben yelled, getting his shoes on and then running outside, followed by Billy, who took the driver’s seat, and Emmy, who got into the back without any discussion needed.

Ben looked over his shoulder, smiling at his daughter, who looked excited and bouncy.

“Do you think he will like us?”

“He better,” Billy said, while driving onto the motorway that would bring them to Heathrow.

“What if not?”

“Then we will shower him in love and affection until he has no choice,” Ben replied. “Stop worrying, Emmy. Everything will be fine.” He smiled and reached back to take her hand for a moment. “Will Johnny come too?”

She shook her head.

“Nah. He has to work today, his granddad said no excuses.”

Ben grinned, knowing that Emmy loved Teach to bits, even if neither of them would ever admit that. He still worked for the owner of the Revenge, who was as grumpy as ever and whose famous black hair and beard were not, while still as full, pure silver, but not as a bartender anymore. For a few years after their wedding, Ben had saved every penny he could to finally be able to attend culinary school. It had been tough years for him and Billy, money had been tight while he could not work full time, but Teach had surprised them all when Ben had finished school with perfect grades and had offered him a job in the new restaurant he was opening. Ben’s cooking skills and Anne, who had changed jobs with him to work as the sometimes a little grumpy hostess, had made the Colonial Dawn a success that was continuing for more than 15 years now.

After finally finding a parking spot, the three of them went into the arrivals building and found Percy standing there, looking nervous and holding something in his hands, that all three noticed with touched smiled. As soon as the tall man that Percy had become, saw his family, he smiled that smile that looked exactly like that of his father and took his little sister into his arms.

“I was scared you wouldn’t come,” he said, giving both his fathers short kisses.

He wore his hair a little longer than Billy wore it still, but he was too the spitting image of his father, towering in height and always looking a little shy, but other than Billy, he was not the softspoken gentle giant, but had a mischievous streak that had them all hold their breath throughout his teenage years. Now, at almost 25, Percy had turned into a kind man with soft eyes, who was just as stubborn as his sister and was working in one of the Vane’s gyms as a trainer while he put himself through medical school.

“Oh God, there’s my asshole of a boss,” Percy moaned, earning a whack on the back of his head when John had reached them.

“Did you just call me asshole?” He laughed while giving his friends and Emmy hugs, before they all turned to James, who was rolling his eyes at his husband.

The oldest of them, James’ hair had lost most of its red glow and had turned into a soft grey, as had his beard. He still looked not his 61 years yet, mostly due to his sparkling eyes and lopsided, boyish smile. After an accident with his bike while working out, he was leaning on a single crutch that John loved to make fun of and regularly earned a hit against his leg with it. Until his last breath, he would work the Daycare, and still loved it and the many children he had seen come and go in all those years, while John had taken a management position in one of the gyms the Vanes owned after Billy had refused to take that job, not wanting the responsibility.

“Are we late?” John asked. “The angry ginger here thought he knows a shortcut, which turned out to be a lot longer than the usual way.”

“We’re in time,” James said.

“Just so.”

“We are in time.”

“Will you two stop with the bickering?” Emmy said. “It’s as if you were kids in the daycare instead of two grown men.”

“You know I could order you to work overtime,” James said with a wink.

“Do you really want that, Uncle James?”

“Now that I think about it. No,” he grinned and kissed Emmy on a cheek, making the young kindergarten teacher smile brightly.

“Plane has landed half an hour ago, he should be through customs any moment,” Percy said, bouncing on his feet, stretching his neck to look over the people that started to pool out of the gate.

The minutes they were waiting seemed endless. And then, Percy whispered a breathless: “There.”

He made steps through the crowd, pushing people out of his way to get where he wanted to go, and finally stood in front of a handsome man with bright blue eyes and short dark curls. He looked a lot like his adoptive father, who wore his black curls now short too without a trace of growing older, which made all of them joke about John being his biological father in reality, but Jim Flint was nothing like the cocky and cheeky man that was one of his fathers. He was the most gentle soul anyone of them had ever met, smart and observing, he never got loud and never had a temper tantrum. The more his parents had been not only surprised by shocked, when he declared he would join the Navy for a few years like James had done. It had become the one big argument in their family, resulting in all three of them not talking to each other for days, but then, when Jim had left, just eighteen for his basic training, his fathers had brought him to the train station and hugged him simultaneous as tight as they could, telling him that they were proud of him. That Percy had made his plan that had started to grow in his head with he was only four years old, true, should have not been a surprise to any of them, and it still came as one when Jim had returned from his first tour in Afghanistan and he and Percy had declared that they would be getting married before Jim left for his next assignment. A small wedding had taken place four years ago, binding the families of friends together forever.

“Hey,” Percy said, standing in front of the shorter man who still wore his uniform.

“Hey yourself,” Jim replied, a bright trademark smile appearing. “Missed you.”

“You better.”

Jim grinned, while Percy’s attention shifted to the little boy that Jim was carrying on his arms, who was looking at him with huge black eyes and looked ashamed away when he noticed that the tall stranger was looking at him.

“Hey, you,” Percy said softly and touched the child’s head, making him look at him again.

A tear ran down Percy’s cheek that Jim took away with a finger while he leaned a little against him, noticing his family a few meters way, keeping their distance until the young husbands had said their hellos.

“This is Amil,” Jim whispered, kissing the boy’s hair. “Amil, this is Daddy.”

Percy smiled, but could not hold back the tears that caused Jim to sniff a little too.

“Hey, Amil,” he said to the boy, just four years old, the same age Jim had been when he had become a Flint. “I have something for you.”

He heard Ben behind him sniff loudly, embraced by his husband, when he lifted the toy he had been holding the whole time.

Amil, the orphan boy from Syria, looked with wide eyes for seconds at the blue terry cloth bunny and then took it and pressed it to his chest.