Vasquez had ignored the letter at first. He noted that there was no return address, that it was addressed to Josh, and that it was handwritten, and left it at that. Most likely some note from some acquaintance or maybe even the elusive mother that Josh rarely spoke about.
At best, he suspected it would be no big deal, at worst, it had the potential to bring Josh’s mood down for a portion of the evening. Vasquez prepared himself for the latter and left it on the island in the kitchen for when Josh got home.
Either way, Maria was antsy for her walk, and Ethel was pawing at her bowl, so the letter fell quickly from Vasquez’s mind.
When he got back from walking the dogs, he heard the telltale noises from within their apartment that indicated Josh had returned, and he smiled to himself.
“’Ey, ‘ey, calm down, give me a second to open the door,” he muttered to the dogs pulling impatiently at their leashes toward the sound of Josh’s rather distinctive voice. Vasquez smiled and shook his head, finally getting his keys in the lock and releasing the girls to go greet their Favorite Human.
“You’re early,” he called by way of greeting. For a moment, he received no reply, but he put that down to the excited yipping and crooning baby-talk he could hear from the kitchen.
His suspicions were confirmed as he rounded the corner and saw Josh kneeling on the floor getting aggressively licked, cuddled, and jumped on by two very excited dogs.
He watched fondly for a moment before clearing his throat and saying, “You know, I was going to ask when I get my kiss, but now I’ve seen where that mouth of yours has been, I’m rethinking that.”
Josh beamed up at him, and Vasquez felt his heart swell.
“Hey, now, c’mon,” Josh rolled his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. He wound his arms around Vasquez’s waist and leaned up to plant a wet and sloppy kiss right on Vasquez’s cheek. Vasquez winced.
“Ugh, if there’s one thing that’s worse than dog slobber, it’s dog and human slobber,” he groused playfully, shoving Josh away. He got a cheeky grin in response.
“Now that is the pot calling the kettle black, and you know it. I saw you and Maria the other day, she was all over you.” Josh went to the counter, looking at the mail. Vasquez shrugged and went for the dogs’ leashes.
“If you were paying attention, querido, you’ll also remember I washed my face afterward.”
“Eh, semantics,” Josh muttered, distracted.
Which... Really? Vasquez rolled his eyes heavenward, giving up on the conversation. “…That is not what that word means.”
No response. Vasquez would take it as a win. Shaking his head, he made a beeline for the couch, preparing himself for an evening of television. It was Friday, and he’d damn well earned it. Chores could wait until Saturday.
He was just settling in when he heard it, a more subdued, “Hey, Alejo?” than he usually got from his boisterous partner.
Curious – and a touch concerned – Vasquez pulled himself back to his feet and retraced his steps.
“Cariño?” he called. It didn’t sound like Josh was upset; the particular tightness in his tone that came from trying too hard to keep something bottled up was absent. It sounded more like perplexity than anything else.
Still, Vasquez kept his approach light and careful, and when he reached Josh, he stood maybe a bit closer than he strictly needed to.
“Querido, what is it?”
For a second, Josh was silent. Then, he took a breath, folded whatever it was in his hands – the letter from before? – and turned with a serious look on his face.
“Okay,” he began. “I guess the cat’s out of the bag.” He took in another deep breath and reached a hand to clasp Vasquez’s shoulder.
“Alejo. I’m pregnant.”
Vasquez stared. The concern evaporated.
“…What the fuck.”
Josh burst into laughter. When Vasquez managed to pull himself out of his reverie enough to shoot his idiot boyfriend a glare, Josh at least had the decency to look slightly abashed. “Okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but I promise, this ain’t just me taking the piss. Here, look.” With no further preamble, Josh pushed the letter at Vasquez.
Vasquez made a show of rolling his eyes, and then - knowing Josh would not let this go until he did as demanded - looked down.
Again, he stared.
He… wasn’t quite sure what he’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been this.
The card was a rich purple color, its cover laminated, with some sort of cartoon fruit standing in the center. Across the top and bottom, in white loping scrawl, was the message, “Congratulations! You’re gonna avo baby!”
“Josh, what the hell is this?” He couldn’t stop staring at it. Was that… what was that green thing on the front?
Beside him, Josh laughed in delighted perplexity, “I know, it’s awful! ‘You’re gonna avo baby.’ I don’t—”
For a moment, Vasquez tuned him out, trying to solve the mystery of the odd green fruit on the cover.
He’d seen the damn thing before, he knew that, but the English word for it was escaping him.
Meanwhile, Josh was still talking. That would have to wait until later; Vasquez was almost there...
Then it clicked.
“Oh, ¡entiendo!” Vasquez declared, gesturing triumphantly at the cover. “ Avo, like avocado . That’s what that… thing on the front is supposed to be. ...That’s terrible. ”
Now it was Josh’s turn to stare.
“An avocado,” he repeated. “And the pun they went with is ‘you’re gonna avo baby?’ Oh, you’re right, that is terrible.”
Abruptly, Josh was at his shoulder now, embarrassing pun apparently forgotten, gesturing impatiently for Vasquez to open the card. Vasquez didn’t know why he didn’t just do it himself if he was so eager.
“Hey, hey, look inside, Ale, that’s the best part,” Josh urged. Vasquez pointedly stared at Josh until the man got the hint and backed off with a roll of his eyes. Just to be a dick, he took another long look at the cover of the card, feigning interest, and then opened it as slowly as he could. He grinned at the huff his actions earned him.
His eyes widened when he actually saw what had Josh so excited.
“Josh, this is--”
“$245 of gift cards, I know!” Josh reached over and grabbed at the receipt sitting on top of the small pile. Vasquez grabbed it right back and looked down at the total near the bottom.
There it was… $245 for a handful of gift cards, all for this or that baby store that would apparently make raising an infant a little easier.
Because Josh was, according to this card, pregnant.
“This has to be a scam,” Vasquez said, turning to raise his eyebrows at Josh. Josh snorted.
“Oh, no question.” He held up the gift cards. “But it’s the weirdest and most expensive scam I’ve ever seen, and it’s taking the dumbest gamble. There’s no guarantee I’d even use the gift cards.”
Vasquez said nothing and gave Josh a look. Josh conceded the unspoken point with a lazy wave of his hand.
“Alright, yes, I’m absolutely going to use the gift cards,” he admitted, sounding not at all concerned. Vasquez bit back a grin and an ‘of course you are’ and instead handed over the receipt.
“Don’t register any of our credit cards to these, Josh.” It should be a no-brainer, but free things sometimes messed with Josh’s decision-making skills. Josh waved him off.
“Of course not,” he assured, looking for all the world like Vasquez was the unreasonable one to even put forth the possibility. “If I go over the limit, I’ll use cash. Happy?”
“Some of these cards have $50 or $60 dollars on them, cariño,” Vasquez pointed out. “What could you possibly need from a baby store that is more than that?”
“Ethel needs new booties for winter; her paws get cold. Maybe I could get some baby socks and repurpose them or something... I’ll figure something out.”
Without another word, Josh grabbed the card, threw it down on the countertop, and began digging around in his pocket.
“Gotcha,” he muttered a second later, fishing out his phone. Vasquez leaned against the countertop and quirked an eyebrow.
“Now what are you doing?”
Josh hummed. “I’m taking a picture of this and sending it to all our friends.” He centered his phone, moved around like a professional photographer trying to find the perfect angle for his shot.
A few clicks later - Josh liked the authentic camera sound for some reason - his thumbs were flying over the screen of his throne. Vasquez narrowed his eyes, knowing what would come if this made it to their shared group chat. He poked at Josh’s shoulder.
“Don’t use the group chat that I’m in—”
“Too late, babe.”
Josh grinned impishly. Vasquez flicked his ear. Josh yelped and scurried away, still grinning.
Now, because Vasquez knew intimately the kinds of people his and Josh’s friends were, he was confident in his ability to accurately predict response time, as well as the kinds of reactions they would have to a given phenomenon.
Josh declaring himself pregnant may have been an entirely new situation, but Vasquez was sure his prior knowledge of the colorful crowd of characters he called friends would more than suffice. It would not take long at all for someone to respond, and probably with something ridiculous.
When the first ping sounded, Vasquez mentally awarded himself a point and prepared for what was sure to be an onslaught of messages to come.
“Do you want to be the father?” Josh was already typing. Vasquez spluttered, taken aback. Alright, that he hadn’t expected.
“What—you—Are you saying that someone other than me would be the father?” Josh shrugged, not even bothering to look up.
“Yeah, if we want a little scandal or something, have a little fun. So, is that a yes to the father thing?” Josh looked entirely too unconcerned with this particular line of questioning. Vasquez, on the other hand, found himself slightly offended at the casual talk of implied hypothetical infidelity.
“You— yes , cabrón, I’m damn well the father, or things are gonna get real messy for you.”
Josh hummed, still typing away, and Vasquez decided enough was enough.
“Wha-hey!” Josh protested as Vasquez reached around him and plucked the phone from his hands.
“Alright, let’s see what we have here,” Vasquez said easily, as though he were reading over a shopping list, ignoring his boyfriend’s half-assed swipes. “So who--oh, it’s Red, of course it’s Red. ‘Who’s the father?’ Pinche pendejo…”
“Hey, come on, Alejo, give it--!”
“‘Ey, I’m in on this too, you made sure to include me, I’m just participating like you wanted,” Vasquez claimed, ducking around Josh to continue at his leisure. He felt a grin coming on and didn’t even try to stop it.
“You got your own damn phone, look at that one!”
Maria danced around them at their feet, tail wagging, yipping up a storm. Vasquez laughed and held the phone further out of Josh’s reach.
“Will you calm down, please, you’re riling up Maria,” he chided. Josh swore at him, but he was fighting off his own grin.
“This wouldn’t be an issue if you’d just give me back m'damn phone--!”
Another ping interrupted him and Vasquez glanced down at the screen, pushing Josh away as he did.
He burst into laughter.
“Alejo, I swear--”
“Ha! Here, cariño, look at this,” Vasquez dropped the phone back into Josh’s hands, folding his arms and smirking as Josh took up a protective stance and backed away, precious phone back where it belonged. He looked down at the screen.
“What the fuck!?”
Vasquez laughed so hard his stomach began to hurt.
On Josh’s phone, from one Emma Cullen, was an innocent little message that read only, “You know being pregnant means you can’t have any alcohol, right?” Josh looked wonderfully affronted.
“Alright, that’s it, joke’s over,” he declared, roughly pocketing his phone and glaring at Vasquez, who had yet to even attempt to calm his laughter. “I’m officially no longer pregnant, we’re done.”
Of course, his phone chose that moment to ping again, causing Josh to swear violently and Vasquez to fall again to hysterics.
It got better (Josh would have said “worse”) when he actually read the text, sent by one Goodnight Robicheaux:
“Don’t worry, I can come over tomorrow to help clear out all that vile alcohol. Cheers on the pregnancy!”
“Oh, fuck you , Goodnight! Dick!” Josh snarled at his phone. Vasquez couldn’t breathe.
Billy’s text followed mere seconds later:
“I don’t have to get a gift for the baby shower, do I?”
Josh jabbed a finger at the screen, “Yes you do, jackass, or you ain’t invited to any of the birthdays!”
With that, he silenced the phone and shoved it back into his pocket. Vasquez, finally having managed to get his laughter into some semblance of control, slid up behind him and wrapped his arms around Josh’s waist.
“Isn’t it nice how supportive our friends are?” he teased, nuzzling into the curled hairs at the base of Josh’s neck.
Josh chuckled, leaning back into him, “Oh, shut up.”
The laughter faded, and they stood together in silence for a moment, swaying together.
There was a thought, though, niggling in the back of Vasquez’s mind, but it wasn’t in keeping with the lightness of the atmosphere, with the laughter, and he hesitated to voice it.
In the end, he licked his lips and took the risk.
“...Mijo, you do know that if you were really pregnant, I would remove every ounce of alcohol in this apartment.”
Josh scowled in his arms and twisted around to glare at him.
“Alejo, you better know that if I were actually capable of carrying and birthing a child, and had a kid growing inside of me, there would be no smoking or drinking anywhere in this fucking building,” he snapped. Vasquez hummed and kissed apologetically down his jaw.
“I know,” he assured - because he really did. “I’m sorry, querido, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.”
Josh held his scowl for a moment, as though making sure Vasquez absolutely meant it, but eventually settled back into Vasquez’s hold, only a mild sulk in his expression. Vasquez smiled.
It was only a joke, he knew that. And he hadn’t meant to turn things in this direction. It was just… thinking about it now, Vasquez couldn’t really help but wonder…
He could remember the feeling of taking care of his many little brothers and sisters, once upon a time, remembered how it felt to know that he could be relied upon to protect someone vulnerable and small, and his, his in that ineffable sense of family, of familia.
He wanted to ask, but he also really didn’t.
“You would be a good father, I think, if you wanted to be,” he murmured instead against Josh’s skin, the words bubbling up from that… softer place deep within him that he was so often nervous about showing. He carefully added nothing else, and buried his face in Josh’s neck to hide his own uncertainty.
Having children was a touchy subject for the both of them, for their own reasons, and Vasquez knew that neither of them were ready for a serious discussion about it. But still. He’d wanted to say this.
Strong arms wound around his and pressed lightly. Josh spoke up, soft and tentative, “So would you.”
His tone was uncertain, but his grip was sure. Vasquez smiled.
“I’m still using those gift cards, though,” Josh’s voice was stronger that time, breaking into Vasquez’s thoughts and bringing them back to a lighter mood. Vasquez chuckled, allowing him to change the subject, ignoring the mixture of relief and disappointment he felt. Too complicated for right now.
“Of course you are,” he grumbled.
Josh laughed and steered them both toward the couch. Ethel hopped up beside them to curl up in Josh’s lap as soon as they were settled, but Maria continued to skip back and forth on the floor, clearly still in a mood to play. Vasquez clicked his tongue and muttered some calming words in Spanish to her. She listened to exactly none of them. He rolled his eyes and turned to Josh.
“Do you want to go tomorrow?” he asked. “I’m curious about this… ‘Happiest Baby’ place. Do you think they have avocado-themed baby cards?” Josh snickered and pushed further into his side, hand running through Ethel’s fur.
“Absolutely. But, we are going no later than 11am, does that leave enough time for you to get all your beauty sleep?” he teased. Vasquez raised an eyebrow, unrepentant.
“We’ll see. Depends on how late you keep me up tonight.” He grinned.
Josh met his gaze at that, and Vasquez felt a familiar warmth rise low in his stomach at the heat in his partner’s eyes.
Of course, then Josh decided to ruin the moment by straightening slightly and shooting Vasquez a haughty look.
“Excuse you, I’m pregnant, Alejo, you’re going to have to be gentle with me.”
Vasquez took in Joshua’s smug grin, narrowed his eyes, and pounced. Josh yelped and went down, Ethel yipped and scurried down from Joshua’s lap, Maria barked and tried to jump up into Joshua’s lap, and the evening devolved into playful tussling.
Overall, Vasquez thought, as he and Maria triumphantly pinned Josh to the couch cushions, not a bad way to spend a Friday.
Two days later, as Josh fussed about with two baby caps he’d purchased with the gift cards and proceeded to butcher for Ethel and Maria, Vasquez quietly pulled out his phone and surreptitiously aimed it at his partner.
Josh was on the ground, trying to convince Maria to let him slide the new cap - complete with ear holes - over her head. She was determined to make him work for it. Meanwhile, Ethel sat demurely a ways away, nosing contently at the cut up scraps of the baby hats.
Vasquez took a single picture.
Twenty minutes later, their group chat exploded in texts, and Josh groaned when he saw the cause of it.
At the top of the conversation was a single picture of Josh, mid-sentence, talking to a very stubborn Maria, while Ethel deposited one of the hat scraps in his lap. Both dogs were wearing their respective baby hats, but Maria’s was in the process of being shaken off. Below the picture was the caption, “We had twins!”
“You know, I don’t know why you think you’re so funny,” Josh grumbled, biting back a smile. Vasquez only grinned brightly, smug and unrepentant, and reeled Josh in for a messy kiss.