Note: This is part of a series:
"I think this is it." Ben climbed out of the cab followed by Michael. They hadn't gone to the hotel yet. Ben knew that Michael was too eager to see JR. If they'd taken a single second longer getting to Mel and Linds'... well Ben didn't want to think about it.
"I know this is it." Michael replied slipping his hand in Ben's and practically bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"Because I can see Gus peeking through the curtains." Michael waved in the direction of the front windows and a little brown head of hair disappeared. A few seconds later the front door swung open and Gus hurtled down the front steps.
"Hey, buddy!" Michael swung Gus up and planted a smacking kiss on his cheek. "That's from your Daddy." He reached into his pocket and produced the red train. "And that's from your Daddy too. He misses you so much and he can't wait to see you!"
Michael let Gus ride his shoulders up the steps and into the living room where Mel and Lindsay were waiting.
"Gus, you know better than to run out into the street!" Lindsay scolded without much heat. "Next time wait please."
"I hate to break it to you, Linds. I don't think 'patience' is a strong Kinney trait."
"Tell me about it." Melanie stepped forward with Jenny Rebecca. "Not that her royal highness does any better when it's time for her midnight feeding." She handed the baby to Michael. "Here you go, sweetheart. I told you Daddy was coming didn't I?"
"Hi there, Honey Bun. Boy, did I miss you." Michael peppered kisses over JR's round face and cheeks.
"Geez, Mel, what are you two feeding this girl?" Ben teased watching the rapt look on Michael's face. Ben placed his own kiss tenderly on JR's forehead. "She's growing like a weed."
"Oh, you know. We're giving her the usual. A little milk. A little cereal. Some Miracle Grow." Lindsay waved them towards the sofas set up on either side of the fireplace. "Please. Sit. I've got coffee, tea and a whole bunch of baked goodies that my official taster..." She ruffled Gus' hair. "tells me are good enough for company. I'll be right back."
Michael and Ben settled in side by side on the sofa, taking time to relearn every inch of JR's face, her ten little fingers and tiny feet. She giggled as Michael's fingers stroked under her chin.
"So, have you heard from Justin lately?" Lindsay asked, coming back in with a tea tray laden with goodies.
"We got a nice painting from him for our anniversary," Michael replied. "A Justin Taylor original."
"Anniversary?" Melanie and Lindsay exchanged 'oh shit' looks. "We are so sorry, guys. We've got to be the worst lesbians on earth for forgetting your anniversary!"
Ben chuckled. "We won't tell."
"Well we'll have to do something while you're in town to celebrate. Where are you staying?"
"Brian booked us into the Royal York," Ben replied.
They spent an hour seeing the new house and chatting with Melanie and Lindsay before leaving to check into their hotel with the promise of coming back for dinner.
At the hotel, Michael went to the front desk to check-in while Ben looked around the elegant lobby. Melanie hadn't been joking when she said the hotel was nice; it was beautiful.
Michael was back after a minute. "Ben? I guess we don't check-in down here." Michael slid his hand into Ben's. "Brian's got us in some sort of hotel within the hotel. We check-in up on the 12th floor." They walked to the elevators and Michael pressed the up button. "This place must be costing Brian an arm and a leg."
Ben squeezed Michael's fingers. "It was very generous of him." They reached the 12th floor and checked in. The room they were shown too was roughly twice the size of their old apartment. While Michael goggled, Ben turned to tip the porter who just smiled and shook his head.
"Thank you, sir, but all that's already been taken care of by Mr. Kinney." He crossed the room and opened the curtains to reveal a beautiful skyline view of Toronto. "My name is Leon. If you need anything at all, you can call the concierge desk twenty-four hours a day. Cocktails and canapés are served in the lounge at six. The lounge is at the end of this hall. Turn left and at the end of that hallway. If you need help arranging for dinner reservations or transportation please call. Enjoy your stay."
"Holy shit." Michael emerged from the bathroom. "Ben?"
"Trust me when I tell you, we are having sex in that bathtub."
"Ooh. I trust you." Ben grabbed Michael as he walked by and planted a smacking kiss on him. "Can't wait."
"You know what we should do while we're here?" Michael melted into Ben's embrace.
"Mmm? What's that?" Ben concentrated on mouthing Michael's pulse just behind his ear.
"Christmas shopping for your family. We're not going to have a lot of time once we get to New York."
"Good idea. I'll make a list and we can see if Mel and Linds can help us figure out where to go."
Michael squirmed in Ben's arms as Ben's teeth scraped along his pulse. "Don't start something we can't finish."
"Who says we can't finish?" Ben gently ran his hand down Michael's stomach. He unbuckled Michael's belt and pulled Michael's shirt out to get better access to his stomach. He stroked Michael's flat stomach with one hand while nuzzling Michael's neck and occasionally stealing little kisses from the corner of his mouth.
"Don't..." Michael lifted his hand so that his fingers could thread through Ben's hair and pull him closer. "I thought we were going to see some of the city before we went back to have dinner with the girls."
Using one hand, Ben began unbuttoning Michael's shirt. "Baby, there's nothing out there that's as good as what I have right here. Sliding Michael's arms out of his shirt, Ben clamped his hands on the waistband of Michael's pants and began slowly pulling him towards the king sized bed in the other room. With a gentle nudge, he pushed Michael onto his back and pulled off his pants. Once Michael was naked, Ben crawled up the bed on all fours. He stopped to take little detours now and then: to kiss the inside of Michael's thighs, and to pay homage to the ugly red scar on Michael's stomach. Silent evidence of the bombing at Babylon and proof that Michael was so much stronger than anyone knew.
"Ben..." Michael tried to squirm out of Ben's hold on him. "You don't have to."
"Michael." Ben lifted his head and met Michael's eyes. "Baby, I love you. I love everything about you. I hate that you got hurt. I hate it more than anything. But I love this scar." Ben traced his fingers over it with a feathery touch. "I love it because it means you're still here. You came back to me." He swallowed. "For a minute there I didn't know if you would."
Michael touched Ben's face, stroking his cheek. "Of course I came back to you. I don't want to be anywhere you're not." He grabbed the collar of Ben's shirt and pulled him up his body until Ben was braced on his elbows over him. "Kiss me?"
Michael barely finished his request before Ben was dipping down and sipping delicately at Michael's lips. One kiss turned into another and another until Michael lost count and they were lost completely in one another.
"So are things any better since the last e-mail you sent me?" Michael finished diapering JR and snapped up her onesie. They'd decided to divide Ben's Christmas list in half with Ben and Lindsay taking one half and Michael, Mel and JR taking the other half. They'd planned to meet for lunch once they finished.
"Not really." Mel shrugged. "I'm having a hard time getting licensed here. Lindsay hasn't been able to find work. It seemed like such a good idea, you know."
"You can still come home, Mel."
"What? It's the truth. I'm not saying you were wrong to leave. If Proposition 14 had passed, I would have thought about coming here and joining you. But it didn't. Prop 14 got its ass kicked at the polls."
"That doesn't mean there won't be another proposition. There won't be another bomb. There won't be another time," Melanie fired back. "What do we do then, Michael? The next time someone wants to take JR and Gus away from us?"
"Your whole point was that Jews in Germany during the second world war were caught off guard. They weren't expecting the Nazis to start rounding them up. But, Mel, we're not unaware. After eight years of Bush in the White House, we're expecting it. We know how bad it can get. None of us are naive. As for raising Gus and JR in a place where people respect gay and lesbian parents? What about raising them with their families?"
Melanie stuck her hands in her pockets. "How long have you been practicing that little speech?"
"About three months," Michael answered honestly. "And, you know, if you're worried about a place to live, there are a few houses still left on our block for sale."
"We can't just move back."
"Because of your pride? Mel, speaking as somebody who's had to swallow my pride more than once, I can tell you nobody's ever choked to death on it. If things aren't working out here, there's no shame in coming back. Just think about it, okay?"
Melanie sighed. "So, what's next on the list?"
"So how does it feel being an old married couple?" Lindsay asked as she and Ben waited for one of the sales associates to help them in the jewelry store.
"Okay, then. Stupid question." Lindsay laughed. "It's so good to see you both. Michael looks good. He looks like himself again."
"He's getting there." Ben nodded. When the sales woman approached them, Ben pointed to the earrings he was considering for Maggie. "We had an interesting time at the GLC ball a couple of weeks ago."
"Really? I never thought the GLC and 'interesting' would go in the same sentence." Lindsay smiled. "How much did they hit you up for this time?"
"Not too bad. $50 tickets and the cost of a couple tuxes. The interesting part was that I finally got to meet David Cameron."
Lindsay's expression was shocked. "David? What was David doing there?"
Ben gave Lindsay a look. "Brian introduced us."
Lindsay's eyes rolled. "Of course he did. Jackass."
"Brian or David?" Ben studied the earrings as the saleswoman laid them out. They were dangly with tiny pieces of jade intertwined with a white gold mesh. "What do you think about these?"
"They're gorgeous." Lindsay said lifting one of them to inspect it more closely. "So I take it you and David won't be pals any time soon?"
"How could Michael ever love him?" Ben blurted out. "The man's an arrogant self-important prick."
Lindsay and Ben exchanged looks and Lindsay laughed. "Years of practice loving an arrogant self-important prick?" She suggested with a smile. "Really, David wasn't so bad. And besides I think Michael had a lot of help being in love with him."
"What do you mean?"
"All of us, well, most of us were so excited when Michael started to see someone seriously. I think Michael had been lonely for a long time when he met David. And David was smart and successful and he was very serious about Michael right from the beginning. So we all kept pushing Michael towards him."
"And eventually Michael went with him," Ben finished.
"Yes. All the way to Portland. Which was a disaster."
"I got that impression." Ben decided he liked the earrings and had the saleswoman wrap them up. "Personally, I could have lived without having the pleasure of an introduction."
"Ouch. You sound just like Brian."
Ben glared at Lindsay. "There's no reason to be insulting."
Lindsay nudged Ben. "Ha. Ha. So is Michael looking forward to meeting your family?"
"There's such a fine line between 'looking forward to' and 'abject terror of'." Ben sighed as he paid and they left the store. "He spent four hours repacking his suitcase last night because he decided he hated everything he'd packed. I think it will be all right once we're there and Hunter joins us. But the anticipation is making him a little crazy. That's what I get for marrying half-Italian, half-drag queen."
Lindsay and Ben both laughed and walked down the street arm in arm.
"I've been thinking..."
The most feared words in the English language, as far as Ben was concerned, were 'I've been thinking' uttered at two in the morning. Ben rolled over and propped his head up on his fist. "About what?"
"About Hunter and JR. I think we're pretty good parents, aren't we? I know I fucked up with JR's custody situation..."
Ben reached over and caressed the furrow between Michael's brow. "But in the end, you did what was best for Jenny Rebecca. That takes a lot of love. You're a damned good father."
"And so are you. Look at Hunter. He couldn't have graduated with his class if you hadn't studied with him practically non-stop for weeks. You got him interested in taking care of himself and not just waiting for the meds to work."
Sitting up against the headboard, Ben reached over to the nightstand and pulled on his glasses, turning on the lamp. "Michael? What's this about?"
"I think we should have a baby."
"I know how much you miss JR. I do too..."
"That's not it. Yes. I miss her, but I'm not trying to replace JR. I want a child we can raise together. I want us to go to doctor's appointments and dance recitals and Little League and PTA meetings. I don't just want to be the 'biological' father. I want to be a Dad." Michael sat back on his heels, looking at Ben intently. "And I think we could do it."
"I don't know what to say." It had been a long time since Ben had indulged in the fantasy of being the father of a baby.
"It's not like we have to decide this minute." Michael ducked his head. "It's something to think about."
Ben reached out and took Michael's hand. "It is something to think about. Something incredible. Something amazing. I like being a father with you." He traced his thumb over Michael's pulse. "I'm just trying to wrap my mind around it. We'd have to find someone to carry the baby."
"We can talk to Eli and Monty when we get home. They used an agency that specializes in matching surrogate mothers with prospective parents."
A slow smile spread over Ben's face. "A baby?"
Michael's smile matched Ben's. "Our baby."
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