Nick grunted as Zak rolled his hips down against him. “Zak, untie me,” he groaned out as those evil hips swirled before raising again.
“Nope.” Lust filled blue eyes stared intently down into the chocolate browns, almost daring the younger man to challenge him.
“Fuck, Zak, come on!” Nick screamed out tugging at the restraints on his wrists. He knew what Zak wanted. He wanted, he needed, him to beg for it, like Nick had made him do so many times. Beg for release- whichever type of release his captor was willing to give him. Zak held on, fucking himself down Nick’s length slowly, teasing both of them.
Nick grunted in frustration as Zak stood up and got off the bed, his own lubed cock smacking against his stomach as it was so rudely released. He watched as the sculpted man made his way over to their suitcases, lube coating his backside. Pulling out a long piece of black silk Zak grinned devilishly. Nick frowned back at him. “No, Zak.”
Humming, he climbed back on top of his captive, taking care to rub their cocks together as he straddled him. “I think you’re under my control now,” he said, wrapping the blindfold around Nick’s head.
“This is evil. I want to see you,” he whined.
Lips softly caressed their way around his beard, pressing gently against his own. “You’ll feel me and that will be even better.”
Nick groaned as he felt Zak leave him once again. They never used blindfolds. This was so not fair. What the helldid he have in mind? His question was answered as an ice cube was run up his chest, dancing around each nipple, teasing them into even tighter buds. “Fuck, Zak that’s cold.” He could feel Zak’s grin as the man dipped his head down, that evil tongue following the trail of chilled residue left by the ice. Nick moan loudly, arching his back as the tongue flicked against each over sensitive nipple, letting each one go with a single nip before dragging the ice up his thighs. Nick groaned as he felt Zak kneel between his legs. “Please,” Nick begged. “Not there.” The bed shifted again before Zak rejoined him, straddling his waist once again.
He felt the form cage him in, lips barely above his own and Nick considered reaching up to capture them before Zak spoke. “What do you want?”
“I want you to let me go and take this damn blind fold off me.”
“Nope,” Zak said.
A searing pain ripped through his right nipple and didn’t leave. “Fuck!” he screamed.
“What do you want?” he asked again.
“Let me go.” A clothespin was pinched on his left nipple and Nick gritted his teeth. Clearly those were not the right answers.
“One more try.”
Nick hissed at the smile in Zak’s voice. “Ride me.”
In one swift motion, Zak sank back onto Nick’s weeping cock, groaning at the fullness inside him. Taking seconds to let himself adjust, he positioned his body. “Right answer.” Resting both hands on Nick’s chest to steady himself, careful not to be anywhere near the clothespins, Zak started to rock his hips back and forth, slowly at first. Nick groaned at the sensation, feeling his cock slip in and out of the heat. The sloppy wet sound of their bodies meeting filled the room as Zak’s hips rocked faster. Nick groaned as he felt the clothespins move with their bodies, pulling on his nipples, rippling a pain throughout his chest.
Nick anchored his feet as leverage to rock his body up against Zak’s, fucking up into him hard. Zak’s telltale high pitched moans filled the room as they moved harder, faster. Nick grunted, “Please… I want to see you…”
Quickly, Zak ripped the blindfold off and clicked the release latch on the handcuffs. In one swift motion, Nick had them rolled, pinning Zak’s body beneath him, pulling one leg up around his hips as he held the man against the mattress. Using one hand he removed the clothespins and flung them across the room, giving the man beneath him a dirty look. A quick swat to the exposed ass cheek had Zak grinning up at him. “Just trying something different,” he grunted, trying to swivel his hips to get some momentum going, “now move, Nick! I’m going insane.”
Raising his body up slightly, Nick caged in the man beneath him as his hips found a pounding force, driving his throbbing cock deep into the welcoming hole. Zak screamed at the force, his cock bobbing between them as he grabbed at the sheets, arching his back. Incoherent words babbled out of his mouth as Nick shifted and wrapped one hand around the cock between them. That was all it took. Zak’s body tensed and twitched against him as hot liquid released onto his abdomen. Nick fucked him through his orgasm, his hand milking his cock until it was batted away. Grunting, Nick looked down at the satiated face of his lover as he felt his own orgasm building in his body. “Where do you want it?” he asked.
Running his hands up the strong arms anchored around his body, Zak whispered, “Fill me. I want to feel you release inside of me.” Nick grinned, pulling Zak up against him to straddle his waist as his own orgasm overtook him.
An hour later they were showered and laying in bed, Nick running his fingers through Zak’s productless hair as he lay cradled against him drifting in and out of sleep. Sighing, Zak said, “I can’t believe you’re moving on Sunday.”
Nick sighed back. “You know if I had a choice I wouldn’t go. It will be easier on her though.” Kissing Zak’s forehead, he closed his eyes. “I’ll still be around. Now Vegas can be our town. Remember… what happens in Vegas…”
Zak rolled his eyes. “Stays in Vegas.”
Three weeks later Zak laid in his bed, listening to Aaron grumble at him through his speakerphone. “Dude, you need to get out of your funk of Nick being gone. Your other friends still want to see you.”
“Aaron, bro, I feel like shit. I have noenergy. I think I’m getting sick,” he grumbled, rolling over to face the phone laying next to him.
“Whatever, man. You’re always sick. Get over it. Bill and I are on our way to get you. We’re heading out to the strip tonight.”
Zak opened his mouth to protest as the call ended screen came up on his phone. Fuck. He considered laying there, putting up a fight when they got to his house. Instead, he got up and went to shower. There was no use in fighting them and they were right. Maybe all he needed to do was get out of the house.
When he got out of the shower fifteen minutes later, Aaron and Billy were already sitting in his living room. “Dude, stop fucking with my fish,” he said as he walked past Billy tapping at his fish tank.
The microwave dinged as he walked into the kitchen. Aaron swooped past him, opening it before Zak could get to it. “I stole a can of chili, bro. I’m starving.”
Zak wrinkled his nose at the smell. “Whoa, has it gone bad?”
Aaron sniffed the bowl and looked at him quizzically. “No? Smells like it usually does.”
Shoving him out of the kitchen, Zak felt his stomach churn. “Go eat that… somewhere else.”
“Maybe you aregetting sick. Any other night you’d be bitching at me for stealing it. It’s your favorite food, man. What the hell is wrong with you?” Aaron asked, as he spooned the meaty soup into his mouth.
Billy joined them in the kitchen area, eying Zak carefully. “He’s missing his boyfriend, that’s what’s wrong with him.” Zak scoffed, still not entirely comfortable with their close friends knowing about his and Nick’s relationship. “We need to get him out and introduce him to other men.”
That was it. Zak rolled his eyes, pushing his way out of the kitchen. “I don’t want to be introduced to other men. I’m not gay! Nick is just… he’s special.” His blood began to boil at the doe-eyed looks the other two were giving him, clasping their hands in front of their chests in mock jesters of love.
“I dunno, Bill. Sounds like love to me,” Aaron snorted.
“True wuv,” quipped Billy.
Zak blew it. “That’s it! Get the fuckout of my house!” he screamed, physically shoving them towards the door. “I’m exhausted and I feel like shit! I don’t need any of this! What kind of friends are you?”
They found themselves standing on the front step as the door was slammed and locked behind them. A silent look passed between the two men and they mentally agreed that Zak needed an intervention. Who else was better to give one?
Nick smiled as he picked up the phone. “Hey Aaron! How’s it going?”
“Bro…,” Aaron started. Nick knew from his tone that something was wrong. Veronique looked at him quizzically as he stepped out of the room, a look of concern on his face. “It’s Zak. You gotta do something.”
“Zak? What’s wrong with him? I just talked to him earlier today and everything seemed pretty good.”
“No man. Last night, Billy and I were going to drag him out of his house and take him down to the strip and he just blew up at us. He’s depressed or something, Nick. You leaving really fucked him up. He hasn’t left his house. You know, not to give you a guilt trip or anything.”
Nick chuckled slightly. Zak already gave him enough guilt trips on moving away. He didn’t think that anything Aaron said would make a difference. “He’ll get over it. I’ll see you guys soon anyways. We have that investigation next week.”
“Yeah but bro. Bro.He won’t eat Skyline Chili anymore. I warmed some up at his house last night and he told me to get out of his kitchen to eat it. It smelled bad.”
Nick went silent. Now thatwas unusual Zak Bagans behavior. Moodiness, that’s not very unusual. But when that man willingly lets go of a can of Skyline Chili he might need to be hospitalized. “I’ll call him. Maybe he’s just getting sick. Flu or something. You know how sick he always gets.”
“Yeah. Just call him? Check on him?”
Nick smiled into the receiver at Aaron’s concern. “Yeah man, I’ll call him. Thanks for trying to drag him out. I’m sure somewhere in his heart he appreciates it.”
Hanging up with Aaron, Nick dialed the familiar number. “Hey,” Zak answered, his smile evident in his voice. “Today must be a special day. I get two phone calls.”
“Today is special. Aaron just called me…,” Nick started.
“I don’t want to hear it!” Zak cut him off, his voice screeching on the other end of the line. Maybe Aaron was right. Something was off here. “They came over here last night, Nick, trying to drag me out of the house when I’m so damn exhausted. And everything hurts! My shirts are rubbing my chest raw!”
Nick raised his eyebrow, stepping farther away from the room where his wife was. “Are you ok, babe? You sound a little… agitated.”
“I amagitated, Nick,” Zak answered, annoyed. “Why can’t everyone just leave me the hell alone? I’m tired. I hurt. I just want to sleep.”
“Aaron mentioned the chili. What’s up with you not liking Skyline anymore?”
That question earned him an exasperated sigh. “I don’t know. It smelled so gross. Maybe it was just that one can.”
“Ok… well… are you ok?” He wasn’t going to ask if he needed to come back out there because he knew Zak would say yes. And he knew that he would go, making up some kind of bullshit excuse to tell his wife.
Zak paused for a long time. “I feel weird, Nick. Like, I can’t describe it. Just weird. Maybe I’m turning diabetic. I’m going to the bathroom constantly, drinking a ton of water. Maybe I’m just sick. I don’t know. I guess I’ll make a doctor appointment.”
Nick nodded. “Ok. Well you know you can call me anytime,” he said. Something didn’t seem right about Zak. It was just… off. “Love you,” he whispered.
“Love you. Bye, Nick.”
As Nick walked back into the living room, pocketing his phone, Veronique looked up from playing with Annabelle. “Everything ok?”
Nick shook his head. “There’s something up with Zak. He’s apparently barely left his house since we left. He says he’s exhausted, his body hurts, shirts rub his chest dry. He’s not eating Skyline! His favorite food!”
Roni snorted. “Is he going to the bathroom all the time and constantly dehydrated?”
Nick looked at her. Maybe it was a virus. “Yeah! Is it something going around?”
“Oh yeah, it goes around. It sounds like he’s pregnant!” she laughed.
Nick blinked. Impossible.
He waited impatiently by the phone. He had a plan, albeit not a very good plan, but a plan nonetheless. Zak was supposed to call him when he got out of the doctor’s office. If the doctor said he was good, then he was going to call Billy and get his wife to buy Zak a home pregnancy test as a joke. Then when Zak called him to bitch, it was his job to convince Zak to actually take the damn test. This whole thing was absurd though. Men don’t get pregnant, except in that one awful 80s movie Twins with Arnold and Danny DeVito. But that was just the movies.
Right on time, Nick’s phone rang. “You ok?” he asked.
“Well hello to you too. And yes, the doctor seems to think I’m fine. He just told me that I’m exhausted and my body was telling me to rest.” The turn of the car engine momentarily muted Zak’s voice. “… so in two weeks if I don’t feel better I go in for bloodwork.”
Nick nodded. “Okay. Well go home and get some sleep.”
Zak yawned at the mention of it. “That sounds like a great idea.”
Nick stared at his phone before dialing the numbers. He knew that Billy knew about his and Zak’s relationship. He really hoped that Billy believed that this home pregnancy test was going to be nothing but a gag. Because really, a man getting pregnant?
Minutes later, he had Billy convinced to get Zak a pregnancy test- along with crackers and seltzer water for morning sickness and prenatal vitamins. Nick figured that was a little overboard, but hell. They might come in handy.
The next day, Nick knew he would be getting a phone call. Sure enough, around 3pm Zak called. Nick dove for his phone as it vibrated across the table. “Hey!” he said, stepping outside onto the back patio.
“BILLY GOT ME A PREGNANCY TEST!” Zak screamed. “And… and… all this other shit. Fucking hell, Nick.”
Nick sighed. One final step in his plan. “I asked him to get you a pregnancy test. The rest of the stuff was his idea.” He could feel the anger bubble in Zak’s chest from half a continent away.
“You what?” he asked, completely deadpan.
“Please Zak. I don’t know why and I know it sounds absolutely insane, but take that test. For me.”
“You have lost your damn mind.”
Ok, so this part of the plan was a lot harder than he thought it would be, so he had to change his tactic. “Zak, babe. Take the damn test. Roni said you sound pregnant and I agree with her. I know it sounds insane, believe me. Billy thinks it’s a joke, but I don’t know. Just take the damn test. What will it hurt?”
Zak grumbled and hung up on him. Nick set his phone down on the patio table and waited.
Zak stared down at the gift basket that Billy had strategically placed at his front door- complete with “It’s a Boy!” mini balloons and ribbon. Men can’t get pregnant. What the hell was wrong with Nick to make him think they could? But to assuage him, Zak relented, opening the box and reading the directions. This was totally something he never thought he’d have to do but it sounded easy enough. One line in the view window meant not pregnant and two lines mean pregnant. Going into the bathroom, he figured out how to hold the stick and wondered how the hell women could pee on such a small space when they couldn’t aim?
For some reason as he sat there on the toilet seat, he was actually anxious to see if there really were double pink lines that appeared. Wouldn’t that just set everyone off if he was pregnant? Five minutes later, he picked up the test. Two pink lines looked back up at him.
Nick drummed his fingers on the armrest of the first class seat of the airplane. This four hour flight was killing him. It had been days since Zak had called him to tell him about the test. Neither one of them knew how to react. His suitcase had five more pregnancy tests in it that his wife had bought. He had extended the joke to her, saying he wanted to bring them to Zak and maybe it would get the point across for him to change his moods. But as he zipped them up in his suitcase, his hands started shaking. There were so many different things that this meant for them.
Finally in Vegas, Nick stood outside of the terminal with his luggage, waiting for Zak to pick him up. He looked out over the desert. This had been his home for so long. The reason they had moved was to give his daughter a better life, one away from Sin City. Now, it looked like he may be meant to raise a family here.
Zak pulled up in his Jeep, stopping directly in front of where Nick stood. Slowly, he got out of the car, coming to face Nick, hands in his pockets. Nick smiled at him, mimicking his stance. “Hello,” Zak said formally.
Nick smiled, reaching out to touch his stomach. Zak jumped back and looked around quickly. “Dude, not here. Throw your bag in the back and let’s go.”
“You’re not going to grab my bag?” Nick quipped.
Zak grinned at him as he climbed in the driver’s seat. “Can’t lift heavy objects. Learned that from my sister’s pregnancy.”
“It’s not thatheavy,” Nick mumbled, throwing it in the back of the Jeep before climbing in the passenger side.
The ride back to Zak’s house was quiet. Eerily quiet. “I brought more tests,” Nick said, just in an effort to break the awkward silence. Zak just nodded, still staring ahead at the road, refusing to say a word.
Back at the house, Zak rolled Nick’s luggage into the bedroom. Laying down on the bed, Nick pulled Zak on top of him. “I missed you,” he said.
Zak buried his face into the strong chest beneath him, wrapping his arms tight around him. “What’s going on, Nick?”
Sighing, he had to answer honestly. “I don’t know. Do you want to take those tests?”
Zak shook his head, standing up. He went into the bathroom and came back with a trash bag setting it down on the bed. Nick sat up, looking at him curiously. “That’s 20 home pregnancy tests. They’re all positive.”
Opening the bag, Nick saw a bunch of pink lines in the sea of white plastic. “Damn, Zak.”
“I think I’m pregnant, Nick.”
Nick tied the bag shut and tossed it to the floor, pulling him back on the bed to straddle his hips. Carefully he rested his hands against the strong stomach, trying to imagine what it will look like in just a few months. “Nick…,” Zak whispered. “We can’t have this baby. I don’t want to have this baby. I don’t want to be a freak! I don’t wantkids! You’re the one that wants kids. Your damn super sperm all wanting to father babies. Doesn’t it know the difference between a man and a woman?”
“But Zak,” Nick said, his hands and eyes still focused on his stomach. “This is a miracle. It’s not just my sperm. It’s a part of the both of us. I mean, how the helldid this happen? Where is it growing?”
“How the hell should I know? If it’s growing in my ass, I’m going to be so pissed at you.”
Nick snorted. “Pissed at me? You’re the one that tied me to the bed.”
Zak sighed, laying down on Nick’s chest, tucking his head underneath his chin. Nick wrapped his arms tight around the strong body. “Do you want this baby?”
Nick sighed. “I want to say yes. But you know it’s a huge change in our lives.”
“What about your wife? Annabelle? The show? The fans? This literally changes everything. There are so many questions.”
“Yeah, like when did you get a sex change without telling me.”
Zak pinched a nipple through his tshirt. “I did notget a sex change.”
Nick laughed softly. “Well, how else do you explain this?” They laid in silence for a few minutes, deep in their own thoughts. Nick’s hand soothingly rubbed along Zak’s back. He pondered how many hours he had sat there like this with his wife when she was pregnant with Annabelle, just rubbing her back. His thoughts changed to how in the hell Zak is carrying this baby. Where wouldit be? A thought flashed through his mind. “Oh my God, Zak are you a hermaphrodite?”
Zak sat straight up, staring down at his lover. “The fuck? No, Nick. I would think you would have noticed that my balls dropped.”
Nick smiled slightly and shrugged. “I’m just trying to figure this out.”
Zak grumbled and stood up. “There’s nothing to figure out, Nick, except for how to make this go away. The guys are supposed to be here in a few hours. Why don’t you shower and unpack?”
Nick nodded, crestfallen. Zak left the room as he picked his suitcase up off the floor and set it on the bed. He pulled out the five pregnancy tests first. This whole situation was just blowing his mind. When Roni got pregnant they had almost the same discussion about keeping the baby. With his schedule, it would be as though she was a single parent, which spawned their move back east. Now, Nick faced an entirely different scenario and he had no idea what the hell to make of it, but for some reason he wanted this baby. It was a part of him and his love for Zak. He should at least get fifty percent of the say in this. Dumping his clothes into his drawer in the dresser, he grabbed some track pants and headed into the bathroom.
Zak stood in his living room, quietly listening to Nick move around in the bedroom. He couldn’t help but feel complete now that he was here, as cliché as that sounded. It seemed like Nick wanted this baby, but Zak just didn’t know how he could do that. Where the hell was it in his body? Was he going to have some giant bump in some odd place? Or did he really have… No, he didn’t have ovaries. That was impossible. He’d been on a thousand doctor visits over the years, surely someone would have said something. Regardless though… He grabbed a pillow and fluffed it in his hands. Carefully, he pulled the bottom of his shirt out, trying to stuff it up underneath. He forced the tight tshirt down over the pillow, bunching it into what he figured resembled a baby bump. With his hands under the pillow, he looked down. Huffing, Zak wiggled his toes, but he still couldn’t see them. One thing he did notwant to be was fat. That would destroy his career. A lot of what he had become was built around his muscle and he couldn’t risk losing that. Ripping the pillow out from under his shirt he threw it back on the couch as he heard the shower start in the master bathroom. He placed his hands on his stomach, as Nick had. He did carry a piece of Nick with him now. This was theirs. In a world that didn’t accept them, a world that could never really be shared, this baby was theirs. There was something to that…
Nick stood under the stream of hot water, the thought of Zak being pregnant still rolling through his brain. How do you explain to your wife that your boyfriend that you’ve been seeing on the side is pregnant? He didn’t think he could Google an answer for that one. It sounded like a perfect setup for the Jerry Springer show. Annabelle would be thrilled to have a little brother or sister, he was sure. And she wasn’t old enough to ask questions about how Uncle Zak is carrying a baby- he hoped. His wife though would certainly want answers. Maybe a divorce. Fuck.Nick punched the wall hard. If they kept this baby everything he had built for himself would crash down around him. What would he do anyways? Split time between two families? He already felt guilty enough leaving Roni and Annabelle. Now he’d be leaving one family to go to another either way he went. Turning off the water and stepping out onto the mat, he wondered if there was some kind of cheating support group he could join.
When Nick walked out of the bedroom, shirtless and in track pants, he found Zak sitting on the couch with his laptop. He plopped down next to him, resting his head on his shoulder, glancing at the computer screen. “The Baby Center?” Nick asked.
“Yeah…,” Zak said quietly. “They tell you what’s going on inside your body and when. They’ll send you weekly emails during your pregnancy.”
“So… you’re keeping it?” he asked, raising his head off his shoulder.
Zak shrugged. “I don’t know yet. This website says you can get an abortion up to three months in and you don’t really start to show until your fourth month I guess. I figured I… we… had some time to figure it out.”
Nick smiled, gently taking Zak’s chin in his hand and pulling it towards him, kissing him softly. “We’ll figure it out.”
Zak sighed, looking back at the computer screen and the “One Month In” webpage. “Yeah, I hope so.”
“You know those prenatal vitamins that Billy got you? You should take those.”
“And you shouldn’t drink any more alcohol.”
Zak nodded again, scrolling down on the website.
“And you shouldn’t-”
“Nick. I got it.”
Nick nodded, but watched Zak as he intently read the information on the website. When he was determined to do something, nothing was going to stop him. Now, Nick really did have to figure out what the hell he was going to do about his family and their friends. He tried to think back on Roni when she was two months pregnant. She was moody as hell with all of those hormones raging. Nick raised an eyebrow, side eyeing Zak. The man was already moody. He couldn’t possibly get more moody…at least, he hoped he couldn’t. Though he did throw Aaron and Billy out of his house that night, that was a change. Nick sighed. This pregnancy was going to be hell.
Aaron nudged Billy. Zak was fighting with the wrapper to his candy bar before Nick took it from him and opened it. “I can do it, Nick!” he said, frustrated. Nick just handed it back to him and Zak grumbled, taking a bite. Overhead, the call for the flight back to Boston announced that it would be boarding within the next ten minutes. Zak’s face darkened as his lips formed a pout watching Nick grab his bags. “Come back to Vegas with us.”
Nick smiled at him weakly. “You know I can’t.” Aaron and Billy watched in mild disbelieve as Nick wrapped his arms tight around a stiff Zak, whispering something into his ear before sliding his hands around to his stomach, resting momentarily before kissing his cheek and pulling back. “I’ll see you soon, don’t worry. Call me when you land.”
Both men said their goodbyes to Nick before turning to Zak. The three of them watched Nick’s back retreat down the center of the terminal, back home to his wife and child. “So why weren’t we invited to the wedding?” Aaron asked, teasingly.
Zak scoffed at them, grabbing his luggage and walking away. Billy whispered, “Is he… crying?”
Grabbing his bag, Aaron shook his head. “No way, man. There is no way Zak Bagans would cry in a public place. And it’s not like Nick is never coming back.”
They watched as their fearless leader sat down heavily in one of the bench seats, pulling out his phone. The red eyes and hunched posture told Aaron that he was wrong. “Shit,” he mumbled, quickly walking over. Sitting down next to Zak, he leaned over, “We’ll see him in a few weeks, man. I’m sure he’ll call you every day.”
The hard glare that he was given shut him up. “What the fuck are you talking about, Aaron?”
Billy appeared in front of them, holding out toilet paper from the bathroom. “You’re leaking,” he said. He mumbled his thanks as he snatched the offering from his hand, wiping his face roughly. Sitting down on his other side, Bill leaned forward into Zak’s personal space. “Are you ok?”
“I was until you guys sat down.”
“Liar. Look, dude, if it bothers you that bad, then why don’t you move closer to him? You’ve been talking about moving for months now too.”
Zak nodded his head at Aaron’s logic. That would be ideal and they had actually talked about that the other night- ifthey kept this baby. But how suspicious would that look? People online were already catching on and posting things to their pictures and vlogs. Hell there were even communities where people wrote stories about their relationship! Him moving closer to Nick and suddenly appearing with a baby would just add fuel to their fire. “Not going to happen, bro.” Zak sat up, wiping his hands down his legs to his knees, forcing a smile to his face. His emotions hadn’t been his own the past few days. He was convincing himself it was because of their lockdown location the night before, but he knew better. However, Aaron and Billy didn’t. “I’m fine guys. Just after effects from last night. It will wear off.” Zak knew that in minutes he was going to have the energy of a 5 year old, so hopefully that would ward them off. Damn mood swings.
Overhead, boarding for their flight was announced. Aaron clamored for the window. Inside, Zak fumed because Aaron always got the window. Always. Him and his damn View from a Plane nonsense. What kind of crap was that anyways? Photos from an airplane window? Who buysthat sh…. Zak stopped the internal rampage in his head as he thought back to the calendar hanging on his office wall. Aaron and Billy were his best friends. This mood swing shit needed to stop before he went off on one of them. Sighing, he sat down in the aisle seat, with Billy in the middle, and put his earbuds in. Closing his eyes, he settled in for the short flight home to Vegas.
Roni looked squarely at Nick from across the table. “You need to tell him that you’ll talk to him tomorrow.” Nick nodded sending off a quick S.O.S. text message to Aaron. “It has been nonstop since you got back, Nick. What the hell is wrong with him?”
Nick practically snorted his food, causing a slight coughing fit. Wiping his hands off on his napkin self consciously, he shook his head. “Nothing… nothing is wrong. He’s just Zak. He misses me.” How do you tell your wife that you think your male lover is pregnant with your child? That’s not something that you just casually bring up over dinner. Eyeing the champagne bottle, he thought about ordering two more. This fight, however, was one that he could practically recite from memory.
“He misses you and you text him back immediately, even interrupting a date that we rarely get. I miss you and your daughtermisses you and we barely get half the attention.”
Nick shoved his food away, resisting the urge to fight back. He wanted to yell at her that Zak was scared and he was scared. Life changed in the blink of an eye and one dirty fuck out of a million and Zak is pregnant- something they never thought could happen. Something damn sciencesaid could never happen. But instead, he kept to their predetermined script from so many arguments before. “You know I’m working and when I’m working I can’t talk.”
“That’s right. Work is more important than family. I forgot. You know, I thought it would be different since we moved out here,” she sighed, looking down at her wedding ring.
Nick smiled, reaching across the table and taking her hand. “It will be. It’s just an adjustment period. This is different for all of us, Zak included.” Pulling out his phone he hit the “off” button. “See, look. No more Zak.” He knew he was going to pay for that later, but hopefully the plan was in effect.
Roni smiled at her husband as he poured her another glass of champagne. “Love you,” she said.
Nick smiled back, picking up his own glass, “I love you too.”
Zak heard his phone crack as it came into contact with the wall. Tears stung at the back of his eyelids as he clenched his eyes shut. He was not going to cry over this, over something as stupid as Nick not answering his text messages. Nick had told him that he was taking his wife out on a date tonight. Most other days Zak could just pretend like she didn’t exist, like she was just a background minor character in a major motion picture. Most days, she was just a minor nuisance. Now, she was a thorn in his expanding side. It had been a little over two weeks since he had watched Nick walk back to her. He hated that the last image he had of Nick was him leaving, but he supposed that was the last image everyone has of people.
The sound of the front door opening from downstairs should have alarmed him, but he didn’t move. Random whistling made its way up the stairs and Zak relaxed back into the bed. It was just Aaron.
“Bro?” he called from downstairs.
“Aaron,” Zak answered back.
“I brought movies! And Chinese food! I’m going to be sitting in your living room watching Dracula on your tv if you want to join me.”
Damn it, thought Zak. That Chinese food did smell amazing and if they were going to keep this baby he supposed he was going to have to feed it. You know, ifthey keep it. But dammit if Nick didn’t answer his text messages then Zak was going to march down to the abortion clinic tomorrow just to spite him.
“I have Spring rolls!”
Zak stood up from the bed. “Fine! I’m coming down!” Slowly he padded down the stairs, clad only in his workout pants. He snorted as he entered the room to Aaron with his feet on his coffee table, a fork and takeout container in his hand with the opening credits of Dracula rolling.
Half an hour into the movie, empty takeout containers littered the coffee table illuminated by the glow from the tv, the only light in the room. Zak was casually leaning shoulder to shoulder against Aaron, his mind going a mile a minute with the amount of guilt he felt for the way he had treated this man over the past month, even though most of it was internal and never really outwardly expressed. “I’m sorry,” Zak whispered.
Aaron grunted, never taking his eyes off the screen.
“No really. I’ve been a dick.”
Aaron paused the movie, pulling Zak to lay down, his head on his leg just like Nick did when he knew Zak was upset about something but he knew he wouldn’t say anything about it. Both men felt a little awkward, but Zak relaxed when Aaron’s large hand came to rest on his side. “What’s going on man? Are you ok?”
Zak laughed. Was he ok? Hell no he wasn’t ok, he was pregnant. “No.”
Aaron sighed. “Okay… Do you want to talk about it?”
Zak sniffled. “Not really.”
“Do you want me to start the movie again?”
“Lay with me.” The words came out so soft and weak, Zak wasn’t sure that he said them out loud. He felt Aaron’s body tense beneath him and then relax.
Zak rolled his body into the back of the couch. “Lay down.” Aaron nodded, stretching out next to Zak.
As the strong man, curled himself around his lithe body, tucking his head under his chin, Aaron chuckled. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with his hands. This whole thing was so awkward. He wondered how the hell this worked with Nick, but he supposed that this was probably natural for them and that’s why Zak wanted to do it. It was a comfort thing but it just seemed so intimate. He was pretty certain that… Aaron moved his leg a little… yes that was Zak’s limp dick against his leg. Great. “Nick never mentioned this position to calm you down. I’m not sure this is allowed and its hella awkward dude.”
Zak laughed into his chest. “Nick told you what? Positions to calm me down?”
Aaron nodded, his chin bumping the top of Zak’s head. “He warned me that you’d probably get all moody and bitchy so he gave me strategies that I guess he uses to calm you down. Thiswas not on the list.”
Zak smiled. So that was why Aaron pulled him to lay on his lap because that wassuch a Nick thing to do. “So he trained you to be his temporary replacement?”
“Not a replacement, bro. More like a seat filler. I don’t uh… Don’t expect to… I’m not… uh… It’s not…” A sharp poke to his ribs stopped his stuttering.
“Right. Okay. So, what do I do with my hands?”
“Dude, please tell me you’ve done this with girls before.”
Aaron sighed and wrapped his arm around Zak’s back. Still awkward, but there was definitely almost an hourglass, feminine shape to Zak’s body. His hand touched warm, bare skin as it glided along his side, down to his hip bone, feeling the indent around his waist. Looking down, he saw that Zak’s eyes were closed and his breathing was evening out. Using his other hand, he hit play on the remote. If sitting here with Zak like this made him sleep, then Aaron would do it. But Nick so owed him.
“We have to tell them.”
“Well are you keeping it? Because a few weeks ago it sounded like we weren’t going to have this baby.”
Zak huffed as he paced barefoot through his living room. Having Aaron over the night before made him realize how valuable his friends were going to be to him during this time, especially with Nick a world away from him. “I… don’t know yet. You never told me if you wanted it!”
Nick looked down at Annabelle playing on the floor in front of him. Roni had gone out with some friends for the afternoon, letting him have some time with his daughter. He had Annabelle with his wife, would it be wrong to want a child with his other lover? “Yes. I do want it. That’s a part of me and you, Zak. By some miracle of God, we created that and its growing inside of you.”
Sitting down heavily in a chair, panic rose in his blood. “But Nick! What if it has like three heads? Or its green? Or an alien! Oh my God, Nick, what if it’s twins? How are we going to explain that?”
Annabelle held up a ball to him. Sitting on the floor next to her, Nick took it and then handed it right back to her as she went on playing. “Well, you can go to the doctor and get an ultrasound. Then you can see if it has three heads and eight legs.”
“I’m not going by myself. You either have to be here or we have to tell someone.” Nick could hear the pout in his voice.
“Ok, well schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN for the day before we leave on the next lockdown next week. I’ll fly out to Vegas and help you guys get everything together and then we can go to the doctor before we go. How does that sound?”
“Okay. But who the hell are we going to trust with this? I mean, what doctor isn’t going to just plaster this all over the news for his own benefit?”
Nick sighed, tugging at Annabelle’s dress as she stood up and wobbled. “I’ll send you the name of the OB that Veronique used. He was good and trustworthy and he knows me.”
Zak grumbled but agreed. “Nick, if we keep this baby, this is going to change the upcoming season.”
“Zak, if we keep this baby it might be the end of the upcoming season.”
Back on an airplane, Nick was questioning his move from Vegas. He had been tired of airplanes and travel before then, now he was overit. Someone really needed to invent that teleporter from Star Trek or he was going to have to have a serious talk with either his wife or Zak about moving. He hoped that teleporter came out soon. As he stared down into the tops of the white clouds, he sighed. Airplanes gave him too much time to think.
Standing outside of the Vegas terminal, it was déjà vu seeing Zak pull up in his Jeep, but the broad smile on his face was a change from the last time. “Hey beautiful,” Nick said. Zak wrapped his arms around his body, holding him close. Nick inhaled his scent, closing his eyes at the warmth passed between them. “I missed you.”
“We missed you too,” Zak whispered in his ear before pulling back and rolling Nick’s suitcase to the back of the Jeep and throwing it in. “Let’s go home.”
Nick’s grin never left his face as he took the keys from Zak. “I’ll drive.” Handing the keys over, Zak climbed in the passenger seat, back in their familiar positions in the car. Nick pulled out of the terminal drive through and onto the highway. Glancing over at Zak, he said, “So ‘we’ huh?”
Zak shrugged. “It’s in there. Might as well say we.”
“You can feel it? Do you know where it is?”
“Not really, not yet. But it’s making me hungry and moody.”
“You’re always hungry and moody, how can you tell any difference?” Zak scoffed at him and crossed his arms over his chest. Nick just grinned as he took the exit to Zak’s house. “So did you make the appointment?”
Zak nodded. “It’s for 11am tomorrow.”
“What did they say?”
“They said they would be more than happy to answer any questions you had about a second pregnancy Mr. Groff!”
“Wait, what? What did you tell them?”
“I told them that I was Nick Groff and that I wanted to make an appointment for us to come in. The receptionist was so excited about a second pregnancy for you, she said she’d book you in right away.”
A flush of anger and embarrassment spread from Nick’s face down his neck. He hoped to God that no one from the office called Roni to tell her congratulations. “I wish you hadn’t.”
Zak grew quiet in the seat next to him. “But you’re going to be there with me right? I didn’t want to give them my name. I didn’t think they would think I was serious.”
Nick sighed, turning into the driveway up to Zak’s house, hitting the button for the garage door. “Of course I’m going to be there. I just hope no one calls Roni.”
Nick rolled his suitcase into Zak’s bedroom into the corner. No sense in unpacking since they were just going to be leaving again the next day. Strong arms wrapped around his waist from behind as soft lips pressed against his clothed shoulder blade. “Thank you for coming.”
Nick smiled, turning in the embrace and wrestling the tight tshirt off the slightly shorter man. Running his fingertips down the muscled chest, Nick smiled. His warm hands came to rest over the strong stomach. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
“Two and a half months.”
“Has it been that long?”
Zak nodded. “I think so anyways. Based off what the Baby Center says and the way I’ve been feeling, it was the last time we had sex.”
Nick laughed softly. “The Baby Center. You’re going to start showing soon then. I’m going to have to start fending off all the people that want a piece of you.”
Zak pulled out of his grasp. “Your wife is going to want a piece of me.”
Nick pulled his own shirt over his head, before pulling Zak back into him. “Well she can’t have you and we’re not talking about her right now. Vegas is ours now. And I love you, and I love our baby.”
Running his hands down Zak’s back, he guided him to lay down on the bed. Slowly, Nick climbed over his body on all fours, leaning down to brush his lips softly against his lover’s. Zak’s hands went for his belt buckle as he hovered over him, but Nick pulled back, smiling, taking his hands from his waist. He shook his head, “Tonight I want to love on you.”
Zak smiled insecurely and chuckled softly as Nick’s lips slowly made their way along his jawline and down to his neck. “Nick, come on.”
“Nuh uh. I haven’t tasted you in two and a half months apparently and if I remember right-” he bit Zak’s neck gently – “I was tied to the bed last time.”
Zak’s grin turned devilish. “That was some good sex.”
Between kisses and nibbles along his shoulder back up to his neck, Nick agreed. “Apparently. It even created a baby it was so good.”
Zak’s eyes fluttered close as Nick sucked on his neck, swirling his tongue around the sensitive skin. His arms wrapped around the nude back, holding him in place. Normally he would be worried about marks, but now none of that seemed to matter. Zak rolled his hips up against Nick’s as his lips travelled around the base of his neck to administer to the other side. His hands pushed down his back to the waistband of his pants. Grunting in frustration, Zak whispered, “These need to come off.”
Nick laughed kissing a lazy wet trail down to a nipple, completely ignoring Zak’s hands pawing at his pants. He was driving this and he knew Zak liked it when he took control – it was just that fight to maintain control that drove him insane. Zak’s back arched as the tip of Nick’s tongue flicked over his sensitive nipple before blowing out cool air. Zak groaned in anticipation as he kissed over to the other nipple. Lips latched over the small pink bud and rolled his hips hard against the man above him. He celebrated the small victory in his head of eliciting a soft moan but the lips never left his body. “Fuck, Nick, please,” he whimpered in defeat.
His smiled against his skin as he ran his tongue down his stomach, placing small, feather-light kisses around the area that would be swollen in only a few months. Zak squirmed under him, hands in his hair already as Nick undid the enormous belt buckle. Zak lifted his hips as Nick pulled this pants and boxers off, tossing them off the bed. Immediately, Zak’s hands went for Nick’s pants, but they were batted away again. “I toldyou…”
Zak flopped back on the bed in frustration. “You can love on me by fucking me.”
Nick shook his head, before diving down, licking up the underside of his cock before taking the head in his mouth. Zak groaned out, his body stilling, “Yeah, that works too.” Nick took his time, sucking on the head, gently flicking his tongue out against the slit, massaging it before taking the rest in his mouth. Muscles twitched underneath his fingertips as he lightly traced them up and down Zak’s thighs. Hands petted at the back of his head, carding through his short hair as they insistently pushed his head down farther and farther. Zak groaned at the gagging sound Nick made as his nose dipped into dark curls, feeling his cock against the active wet muscle of Nick’s tongue as the head hit the back of his throat.
Nick pulled back, letting Zak’s cock smack wetly against his stomach. Looking up into the deep blue eyes, the pupils were blown wide with desire. He moved one hand to cup and massage his balls as he tapped Zak’s leg with the other. “Legs,” he commanded. Zak instantly bent his legs, opening them wider, fisting the sheets as he intently watched Nick’s movements. Nick’s other hand massaged the exposed opening before dipping in one finger to the knuckle. Bending down, he blew cool air on the swollen cock before taking it back into his mouth, inserting a second finger and scissoring them gently before moving them in and out.
“Too much,” grunted Zak, trying to push Nick’s head off. “I’m gonna cum, Nick, stop.”
Nick sat back up, taking the hand from Zak’s balls and wrapping it around the abandoned cock. “That is the idea.” Inserting a third finger, Nick felt the orgasm building in the body beneath him. Zak white knuckled the sheets as his cock was pumped furiously and the fingers worked magic inside him. Nick slowed his ministrations as Zak’s body twitched with his orgasm, wet hot semen streaking across his abdomen.
Taking advantage of Zak’s recovery time, Nick stood up off the bed, quickly shedding himself of his clothing before climbing back on. Collecting the cum from Zak’s stomach on his finger tips, he rubbed it gently along his cock and a quick swipe over the opened asshole. “You ready for me?”
“Ugh, fuck Nick,” Zak grunted, pulling his knees up a little more, providing more access as the hot cock slipped inside of him. Nick moved his body slow against him, rocking sensuously. Lowering himself down, resting on his forearms, he caught Zak’s lips against his own. Zak’s hands clutched at his back as his legs wrapped around his waist. “Faster, Nick,” he groaned against his lips.
He shook his head. “No,” Nick grunted back. He continued his slow pace, placing kisses along any exposed tanned skin within his reach.
Zak whimpered as his cock slowly came back to life between them, his body working up against Nick’s, trying to quicken his pace, make him go faster, deeper, something, anything to satisfy his body and his lust. But still, his hips rocked achingly slow against him. The feel of Nick’s cock pulling out so slow, inch by inch only to be pushed back in at the same pace, Zak thought he was going to lose his mind. He tried to take control and roll them, but Nick’s body was anchored above him, making the younger man chuckle as he struggled underneath him. “Whyare you teasing me so bad?” he panted.
Nick leaned down and kissed him. “I’m not teasing you. I’m savoring this.” Zak’s fighting stilled as Nick’s lips traced a wet line up to his ear. He whispered, “I’m making love to the man that’s carrying my baby.”
Zak blushed deeply, ending his fight. Instead, he ran his hands down Nick’s back, pulling his hips closer. “I love you,” he whispered.
Nick rolled his hips, brushing the head of his cock over the bundle of nerves he had found years ago. “Love you more,” he grunted, increasing his pace slightly. “Not going to last.”
Zak hooked his feet behind Nick’s knees, guiding his hips with his hands, whispering words of encouragement as he wrapped his own hand around his cock between their bodies. Nick felt his orgasm building in his body; his legs started to tremble and his abdomen tensed. “Want twins?” he laughed slightly.
Zak groaned, “Fuck no, pull out. You and your damn super sperm.” He pulled him down, pressing their lips together as he felt Nick’s cock leave him. Nick groaned into the kiss, releasing between their bodies onto Zak’s stomach.
Pulling back, he looked down at the mess between them, Zak’s hand still fisting his cock, now in desperation. Quickly batting his hand out of the way, Nick took over. “You going to cum again for me, babe?”
Zak nodded his head against the pillows, his eyes darting between Nick’s face and his own cock in his hand. He didn’t know which to look at but he wanted both. His hands clutched onto Nick’s shoulders, his body shuddering with the intensity of the buildup. The hand around his cock squeezed tighter and moved faster, milking him for all he was worth. “Fuck, Nick,” Zak moaned, his body tensing stiffly before releasing, his own cum joining the mix on his stomach. Taking in deep breaths, he felt Nick get off the bed only to return moments later with toilet paper to wipe off his stomach. He grunted his appreciation after he heard the toilet flush, feeling Nick climb back in the bed. On the verge of sleep, he felt his body being pulled into the warmth of his lover. In the haze of the afterglow and seconds before sleep, Zak curled his body around Nick’s, whispering softly, “I want it to call me Papa.”
Zak felt awkward sitting in the waiting room of the OB/GYN’s office. The nurse at the desk kept giving them weird looks even though she recognized Nick. They had asked about Roni and he smiled politely and said that they weren’t here about her and took the clipboard to fill out the paperwork. Between the two of them, they strategically tried to answer the questions as honestly, but also as minimally as possible. Quietly, Zak wondered now what the gossip was that was going on behind the glass enclosure. He was certain that the nurses were talking about them. Looking over at Nick, he was going to suggest that they just leave but he couldn’t. Nick was smiling, watching two kids play on the floor with blocks. Zak nudged him to bring him out of his thoughts. “Staring at other people’s kids is weird.”
Nick smiled at him. “That could be ours and Annabelle in a few years.”
Zak shushed him, but realized just how much Nick really did want this baby. He was excited about it, looking forward to it. Hell, he already seemed to be making plans. Zak wished he could get that excited, but Nick was also the one not carrying this baby.
Relief came as the nurse called Nick’s name and they walked back to a waiting room. Zak couldn’t help but notice the strange looks they were given as they walked by the nurses’ station though he did have to laugh at the uncomfortable look on the nurse’s face who walked them back before she left the room. She put the chart that they had filled out the pocket on the door. “Mr. Bagans… if you uh… wanna take your clothes off and put one of these robes on over here… with the front open… the doctor will be in shortly,” she said and quickly closed the door.
“Great… I’m a freakshow.”
Nick rolled his eyes, grabbing one of the robes. “Come on, strip for me.”
“This is so not happening,” Zak said as he began to pull of his clothes. “This is some kind of prank that you, Billy, and Aaron cooked up isn’t it? It has to be.”
Nick folded the clothes as Zak shed them, leaving them in a pile on the counter. “Ok, now climb up on that gurney thing.”
Zak shuddered. “Don’t say gurney. I’m not dead, man.”
Twenty minutes later they were still sitting there, waiting for the doctor. Zak was just about ready to bolt when a knock came on the door. The doctor entered, immediately greeting Nick warmly, with their case file in his hand. “Nick, so good to see you. So I’m told you brought someone new here with a special case.” Turning around, the doctor eyed Zak on the table. “Oh… I see.”
“So yeah… Dr. Zune… about keeping this confidential…,” Nick said nervously.
The doctor waved his hand. “Doctor-patient confidentiality. Your life is none of my business. However, this … now this… is new.” Quickly, he flipped through the information in the chart. Zak shifted on the table nervously as Nick watched him. “So you think you’re pregnant,” he said flatly to Zak, who shrugged his response. The doctor turned to Nick. “And you think you’re the father.” Nick nodded. “Did you have sexual relations?” Nick resisted the urge to roll his eyes and nodded again. “I see. Well, Mr. Bagans, I’m not entirely sure pregnancy is what you have to worry about. Studies have shown men who test positive on pregnancy tests have prostate cancer. I assume since you are under 40 that you have never had a prostate exam.”
“No… I haven’t…,” Zak said, his eyes seeking out Nick’s. He wasn’t certain which was scarier, pregnancy or cancer.
“I would think I would have noticed if his prostate was enflamed,” Nick huffed, immediately blushing at his outburst.
The doctor eyed him. “Well, there’s only one way to find out. Mr. Bagans if you will step down off from there and face the gurney, bending over onto your elbows,” he said, pulling out some latex gloves and lubricant from a drawer.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Zak said.
“Just do it. We’re trying to figure this out,” Nick coaxed.
Zak grumbled, sliding down and bending over. The doctor flipped up the hospital gown, lubing up his hole slightly before pressing in. It was so much more awkward when it wasn’t Nick. The doctor hummed as he pressed into his prostate before pulling his hand out and tossing his gloves into the bin. “Ok, well your prostate appears normal. Have you ever had a sex change operation?”
Zak’s eyes went wide. “No! What the hell?”
The doctor chuckled. “Just a question, just a question. Since you believe you’re pregnant, sir, we’ll go ahead and do an ultrasound, just to see what’s going on in there. If you’ll lay back on the gurney and pull open the gown…” The doctor paused for a second before handing Zak another gown. “Use this to cover yourself with, but leave your abdomen exposed.”
The doctor turned, starting up the machine and grabbing the tube of special jelly. Zak eyed Nick until he came over, taking his hand as he laid the robe over his soft cock. He could not get over the awkwardness of this whole situation but he supposed he would have his answer in moments. Closing his eyes, he felt the doctor spread the cool jelly over his stomach then a rounded metal probe swipe through it before stopping a little to the left of his belly button. The silence in the room was palpable. “Holy shit,” breathed Nick.
“I’ll be damned,” whispered the doctor.
Zak opened his eyes, looking at the screen. Nick squeezed his hand as he stared hard at the monitor. Right there in green and black was a small fetus. The doctor cleared his throat, “Well… it uh… congratulations. You do… uh…. You are pregnant.” He moved the probe around a little bit more, pressing in slightly on his stomach. “It seems to be developing normally.”
Nick nodded. “That’s good. Right, Zak?” He squeezed his hand, but the older man’s gaze could not be torn from the monitor. “Say something, please…”
Slowly, Zak turned his head towards him, a look of amazement and sheer horror on his face. “HOLY FUCK, NICK! I’M PREGNANT!”
The investigation had been awful. They all sat in the airport lounge, thankful to be heading home. Zak had been completely off his game. Aaron had even commented how he wasn’t sure they had enough good material to use for the show. They didn’t catch anything and it was almost like Zak didn’t wantto get anything. Nick had been hovering more than he normally did, but Aaron just figured he was feeling guilty or they had gotten into a fight. But hell, this seemed like they had broken up. He wanted to get to the bottom of it, but not when they were together. Zak and Nick excused themselves to the bathroom before Nick left for his plane home to Boston. Aaron figured they wanted to have more of a private goodbye than they did last time. He just hoped that Zak didn’t cry like he did before. He didn’t have Billy here to back him up like he did last time.
Minutes later they came out and Nick said goodbye to Aaron. Watching him walk away, Zak sat down heavily next to him. “You ok, man?”
“No. I’m not, Aaron. And I don’t think I’m going to be for the next six months. Hell, longer than that,” Zak said, defeated.
“Want to talk about it?”
Zak nodded. “Yeah. I think I finally do, but not here. When we get home, I have something I want to show you.”
Hours and a layover later, Aaron sat in Zak’s living room. Zak nervously ran his hands down his chest and over his stomach repeatedly before Aaron pulled him to sit next to him. “Dude, just tell me. It will be all right if you just tell me.”
Zak shook his head. “I won’t be all right, man. It won’t be.” This reaction was making him nervous. He had never seen Zak this shaken up about anything. “I should wait until Nick is here to tell you.”
Aaron shook his head. “No way man, I’m here now and you have me all worried about you. What the fuck is going on? I won’t say anything to anyone, you know that. You’re one of my brothers, man, just tell me.”
Zak took a deep breath, pulling out his wallet. Slowly he opened it up, taking out the small printout from the doctor’s office just a few days before and handed it to Aaron.
“Dude…,” he whispered. “You got a girl pregnant?” No wonder his and Nick’s relationship seemed so strained. But Zak shook his head. “Roni’s pregnant again?” Zak shook his head again. “Ok, I’m lost bro.”
“I’mpregnant,” he answered, eyes never leaving Aaron’s face, gauging his reaction, but it wasn’t exactly what he was looking for.
Aaron fell back on the couch, the picture still in his hands, laughing hysterically. “Dude, nice joke. Seriously. Great buildup. I’m going to go home and shower and sleep now,” he said, standing up, handing the picture back.
Zak grasped onto his wrist without taking the picture. “Bro, it’s not a joke. That’s a real ultrasound. Look at the date on it.” Aaron stopped laughing and looked down at the picture again. The date was only a few days before, the day after Nick flew into Vegas. He had wondered why he flew here instead of just meeting them out at the lockdown site. “That’s Nick and my baby.”
Aaron sat down hard when Zak released his wrist, staring at the picture in his hands. “No shit. How the hell?”
Zak shrugged. “We have no idea and the doctor doesn’t either. But he gave me a whole stack of information that I have to read through.” He sighed, “The doc wants to give me estrogen shots.”
Aaron’s eyebrows raised dramatically. “This may be a stupid and insensitive question… but you’re going to keep it?”
Zak nodded. “Nick and I talked about it before we left for this lockdown. We are going to keep it.”
“Bro… How long?”
“It will be three months in a little over a week. I have an appointment next week to go in and find out the gender.”
“Is Nick coming back?” Aaron asked, handing the photo back over. Zak shook his head. “Do you… would you like for me to go with you?”
Zak smiled widely. “That would be so awesome. You have no idea how scary that place is man.”
Aaron shook his head, laughing. “No, I don’t. Kind of glad I don’t. Congrats, though, man. That’s… that’s huge news.”
Zak nodded. “Thanks… so, this is ok?”
Aaron nodded, pulling Zak into a bear hug roughly. “I’m going to get to be the awesomest uncle ever… again!”
Nick sat in Annabelle’s play room in the rocking chair, watching her play quietly. He had spent the better part of the time since he had gotten home the day before just sitting with his daughter, thinking about the future, herfuture, theirfuture. He told Zak that he was going to tell Roni this weekend about their baby since they had decided to keep it. He wanted to get the anger and frustration and any repercussions out of the way before the baby came. There was no good way to tell her and no perfect time. Standing up, picking up Annabelle, he decided sooner was better than later. Walking into their master bedroom he found her in front of the mirror getting ready to go out. He had agreed to stay home with Annabelle while she went out with her sister that night for a reprieve. “Hey honey,” she greeted him as his visage appeared in the mirror.
“Roni… I have something I have to tell you.”
“Okay,” she said, putting in an earring and turning around to face him.
“Zak’s pregnant with my baby,” he blurted.
One eyebrow raised, she snorted, turning back around to the mirror. “Right. Okay, Nick.” She grabbed her clutch and walked past him towards the door. “I’ll be home late, make sure Annabelle gets to bed early. No keeping her up all night, daddy,” she said, kissing him on the cheek and their daughter on the head before she walked out of the room. Nick blinked. That did not go anywhere close to the way he thought it was going to. She didn’t believe him. He nearly laughed out loud. He told her. Nick did his part. It wasn’t his fault she didn’t believe him.
Walking back into Annabelle’s play room, he set Annabelle back on the floor before sitting back down in the rocking chair. He heard the front door close as his wife left the house, leaving them alone together in the back room. “Looks like it’s just you and me, kid,” he said. Annabelle walked over to him, handing him a toy before crawling up into his lap. “Hey baby girl,” he said, wrapping his long arms around her as she snuggled into his chest. Slowly, he started to rock. “So I have some news to tell you. You’re going to have a little brother or sister. Your uncle Zak is pregnant. So in six months, we’re going to have a new addition to the family. How about that?” Annabelle yawned in response. “Yeah, that’s about what I expected. Better than the reaction mommy gave me though.” Slowly, her blue eyes closed as she grew heavier in his arms. Nick continued rocking her, not wanting to put her in the crib yet. “My perfect little girl,” he whispered. “You’re going to be an awesome big sister.”
Aaron sat next to Zak in the waiting room at Dr. Zune’s office wondering why he had agreed to do this. The other patients in the waiting area eyed the two men, questions floating between them in single shared glances. Beside him, Zak tapped his leg nervously with his hands, keeping his eyes on the floor. Aaron nearly snorted, thinking this was the most nervous he had ever seen the man and they had been to hell and back together- literally. Zak shot up like a bottle rocket when his name was called by the nurse. He was greeted warmly, unlike his first visit and shown immediately to a room, Aaron following closely behind. However, this time the nurse stayed in the room with them and started pulling out needles and other accessories that looked inherently dangerous to his well being. “Um… what’s that stuff for?” Zak asked, glancing sideways at Aaron. Silently, he was thankful for his presence, but he wished Nick had still been here.
“These are typical tests and things that we use during the second trimester prenatal visit. Now first, we’re going to ask that you give us some urine so we can run a few tests,” the nurse stated, handing Zak a piece of paper with an alcohol wipe taped to it and a cup.
Aaron attempted not to snicker as Zak stepped out to go to the restroom. Minutes later, Zak came back in the room, minus the cup. “Did you make it into the cup, dude?” Aaron said as Zak slid up onto the gurney.
“Shut up, bro,” he mumbled. “You’re supposed to be here to supportme.”
Aaron shrugged his response as the nurse came over with empty vials with Zak’s last name written on them. “Ok, Mr. Bagans, just lay back. I’m going to take your vitals and then I have to take a little bit of blood from you. Are you scared of needles?”
Zak steeled his face. Scared of needles? No. He was terrifiedof this whole damn process. How the hell do women do this voluntarily? Slowly, he shook his head. Aaron came around onto his other side while she tied his arm off and looked for a decent vein. “Just like giving blood, right man?” he said, trying to calm the man on the table who wouldn’t even look at him.
“Nothing like giving blood, bro.” Zak ran his free hand over his face. “It’s not too late…”
Aaron rolled his eyes. He had been expecting at least one comment about abortion. “You know you and Nick made a joint decision to keep this baby. And I’m Awesome Uncle Aaron. I need someone to be an awesome uncle to around here.”
Zak grunted as he felt the needle slide in his arm. “Billy has kids.”
“Who are not babies.”
“Whatever. They’re still kids.”
Aaron got quiet for a moment before walking the gauntlet in saying, “What would Nick say?”
Zak sighed, resting his head back against the elevated headrest of the gurney. “It’s my body.”
Aaron shrugged at him. “Whatever you want, dude. I’m just here to support you. But… how would they do it? Where is it going to come out?” He noticed the nurse trying not to listen in, her eyebrows furrowing as she tried to force away a smile, or possibly a laugh, he couldn’t tell which.
Zak stayed quiet, averting his eyes down to his shirt until the nurse finished taking his blood and left the room. “I don’t know, Aaron. I have no idea where the baby is going to come out of. I don’t know if I’m going to have contractions just like women, or anything like that.”
The fear in his quiet voice was evident. Aaron almost regretted asking the question. One more burned at the back of his head though. “Are you going to get breasts to breastfeed?” That question earned him a pillow tossed at his head.
Minutes later, Dr. Zune appeared, and firmly shook Zak’s hand as he lay on the table. The whole atmosphere was drastically different than the first time he had been in there. Dr. Zune smiled and nodded politely as Aaron introduced himself as one of Zak’s best friends. He sat down on the rolling stool and flipped through the chart on the clipboard. “Well, it looks like all of your vitals are good. You are in good shape to be carrying this baby. So, during today’s visit we’re going to look at how the fetus is developing and I want to pay special attention to the area that it’s developing in. I am a little concerned about your vital organs. Typically, in a female, the vital organs are pushed out of the way as the uterus grows to accommodate the new baby. I’m interested to see how your body reacts, but my assumption is that it will do the same thing. We also should be able to tell the gender of your baby today. Are you ready, Mr. Bagans?” he asked as he pulled the sonogram machine out.
The words swirled around in Zak’s head as Aaron just stood staring at the doctor. His vital organs were going to be pushed out of the way? This is normal? “Yeah… I’m as ready as ever I guess.”
Dr. Zune nodded and smiled widely. “This is usually the most exciting visit, you see. When parents find out if it’s a boy or a girl, that is. Do you and Nick have a gender preference?” he asked, clearly trying to make small talk as he rubbed the cool gel over Zak’s lower stomach. Zak shook his head no with his eyes glued on the screen, waiting to see their baby’s image. “That’s good. No disappointments then!” He pulled the imaging wand around and slid the rounded end around in the gel until he fell upon the small fetus. “There you are… let’s see what you are…”
Aaron stood staring at the screen harder than before and refrained from saying what was on his mind… but holy shit Zak was pregnant. Zak suddenly gasped in front of him, pointing at the screen. “Well, Mr. Bagans,” Dr. Zune smiled at him, hitting print on the screen, “it appears as though you and Mr. Groff will be having a baby boy.”
“A boy…,” Zak whispered, looking up at Aaron.
Nick grabbed his cell phone as it vibrated on the coffee table in front of him and his wife. Annabelle had just been put down for his nap and they were taking some time to themselves to catch up on a tv show. He knew Zak had a doctor’s appointment today to find out the gender of their baby and had been waiting impatiently for the phone call. He had never felt as guilty as he did this morning, waking up next to his wife, holding his baby girl in his arms yet wishing he was 2000 miles away with Zak mirrored with the guilt of abandoning Zak to go to this appointment alone. Being torn between two families was something he was going to have to learn to manage. Standing up so his wife couldn’t see, Nick brought up the welcome screen and opened the text message from Zak. Staring back up at him was an ultrasound image of their baby. Beneath it, Zak had typed, “It’s a boy!”
Tears stung his eyes as the phone vibrated in his hand, Zak’s picture showing up on the caller ID. “Hey…,” he answered it, standing up and walking out of the room, making sure to have at least two doors between himself and Veronique. He couldn’t hide the wide smile on his face or the excitement in his voice. “It’s a boy huh?” he beamed.
“Yeah,” Zak answered, his voice was quiet, barely heard over the background noise of the car engine. “I can’t believe it, Nick. We have a baby boy. I’m growinga baby boy.”
“Ourbaby boy,” he corrected him.
“That’s so awesome. How did the appointment go? Is everything ok? Did the doctor say anything?” Nick asked, keeping his voice as low as possible, facing away from the direction he came from.
“Yeah, yeah. Appointment went well. He said I’m in great health so I should be ok to carry him. We talked about moving organs and stuff… they took a lot of blood so I’m a little light headed right now…”
“And you’re driving?”
“No, no. Aaron drove. He’s here…” Zak paused, realizing that he never told Nick that he had let Aaron in on their secret. “I told him. I had to tell him. I couldn’t do this alone, Nick. I couldn’t. Those women… and the nurses… the whispers…”
Nick breathed in deep, holding the breath in. He knew it was no secret about his and Zak’s relationship among their friends, but he thought that they had agreed to tell them together. Regardless, he was glad Aaron was there and supporting him because Nick wasn’t and he couldn’t. Not yet, not right now. Releasing the breath, he said, “It’s ok, Zak. Did you tell anyone else?”
“No. Just Aaron.”
“Ok. Well are you almost home?”
He heard Zak yawn through his muted reply of, “Yeah.”
“Good, then take a nap. That probably wore you out.”
“When are you coming home?” Zak asked, his voice small, almost pleading.
Sighing, Nick realized how much he was beginning to hate the word ‘home.’ Now it had so many different meanings for him and none of them fulfilled him completely anymore. “I’ll be back in Vegas in two weeks, remember? We’re doing that investigation there. We have two more to go before we can let you go on pregnancy leave,” he laughed.
Zak chuckled back at him. “We can’t wait to see you. We have to talk about a name.”
“We do have to talk about a name,” Nick smiled, his entire body felt elated. “Get some rest, think about names and I’ll call you later.” The sound of the garage door opening was loud through the speaker of the phone.
“Love you,” Zak said.
“Love you more,” Nick answered and hung up the phone. He stood for a moment, looking out the window to their back patio. The sun was shining; he could hear the birds singing; he could feel the warmth radiating through the sliding glass door. It truly felt like a perfect day. He was going to be a daddy- again- to a baby boy with Zak. Truly a miracle. Turning around to walk back to their living room, he found Veronique slumped in the doorway, tears streaming down her face, her blue eyes turned red.
“It’s true… you weren’t… you were telling the truth….,” she wavered.
Nick froze. “Yeah, I was telling the truth.”
She sunk down to the floor. “You’ve been sleeping with Zak. With Zak.” Across the house they could hear Annabelle waking up, screaming for them, but neither moved. “You fuckedZak Bagans.” Anger was entering her voice as she looked up at him. “How long, Nick? Should I get tested? I need to get tested…”
Nick shook his head, cautiously taking a step towards her on the floor. “No, you don’t have to get tested. We don’t have anything.”
Veronique stood as he came closer, stepping back away from him. “How long, Nick?” Annabelle’s scream went into desperation mode.
“Years, V… years,” he said quietly.
“You love him.” It wasn’t a question. She had heard the end of their conversation, their customary closing. All he could do was nod.
“So, what, Nick? Is this it?” she asked, taking a step closer to him, her anger giving her amplified courage.
Nick shook his head. “I don’t want this to be it. I love you too.” He swung his arms wide. “I moved us out here to be close to our families so we could raise Annabelle in a better place. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t want to be with you.”
Roni sighed. “Or did you move us so that Vegas could be your little love nest with your… with…” She cut herself off and turned away from him, walking towards the direction of the screaming toddler.
“Veronique…,” Nick started, following after her.
“Dude, you’re going to put the baby’s room next to the dungeon? Isn’t there like something inherently wrong with that?” Aaron said, sitting on Zak’s couch shoving lo mein noodles into his mouth.
Zak winced at the heartburn as he ate his Chinese food. “I don’t have anywhere else to put it. And it’s not like he’s going to understand what that is just yet. Maybe by the time he’s in school we won’t even be living here.”
Nodding, Aaron threw his empty food container on the coffee table. “Well we can start clearing it out this weekend if you want. You and Nick going to go shopping for baby stuff when he gets here next week?”
Zak shrugged. “I don’t know. He told Roni about the baby so you can imagine how that went.”
“Man… what did she say?”
Shaking his head, Zak stood up to collect their food containers. “No idea. He wouldn’t give me details. Said he didn’t want to stress me out. So, I’m guessing, not well.”
Aaron rolled his eyes behind Zak’s back. “Well what were you expecting, dude? Nick telling his wife that he’s been cheating on her with a guy and now this guy is somehow pregnant and she’d be ok with it?”
Zak came back from the kitchen and sat down heavily. “I don’t know, bro. I knew it wasn’t going to go well, but I don’t know what Nick is going to do now.”
“He’s not going to leave you… he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t let you have this baby by yourself. Regardless, I’m here, bro. And I’m Awesome Uncle Aaron!”
Zak shrugged. “I guess we’ll see. He’ll be here soon. We still talk a lot, it’s just a little different now.”
“Well… we will just see when he gets here what’s going on. I’m sure he just doesn’t want to worry you.”
“Yeah… I guess so…,” he said, laying back against the couch.
Aaron could feel the gears turning in Zak’s head. He had obviously been thinking about this since Nick told him and he didn’t like the stressed and depressed look Zak was taking on because of it. “Dude… so have you thought about like themes for the baby room? Colors? We need to throw you guys a baby shower.”
Zak laughed, waving his hands. “No, no. No baby shower. I haven’t really thought about it. I guess skulls wouldn’t be appropriate for a baby’s room, huh?”
“Where’s your computer, bro? Let’s look at some stuff.”
Zak stood up, grabbing his computer from the other room and dragging it out to the coffee table, setting it up. “Where do we even start?”
Aaron shrugged. “Just Google baby stuff. I’m sure crap will come up.”
Zak couldn’t help the smile as he pulled up the search engine and searched through the various websites. “Dude, there’s so much shit. Do babies really need all this stuff? I don’t even know what half of this is for!”
Aaron laughed. “No, they don’t need allof this stuff. But you know, think about how you want the room to look.”
Zak shrugged. “Like a baby’s room. I don’t know, man. I’m not opinionated about this stuff. I could care less.”
“Well, it’s a boy. So what about like a jungle theme?” Zak shook his head. “Ok, sports?”
“Maybe… I don’t know.”
Aaron sighed and shook his head. “Right, you’re not opinionated. Ok, well…. Colors then. Blue? Green? Yellow? I will not let you paint a baby’s room black or red, bro.”
Zak laughed as a knock came at his front door. He left Aaron to the computer while he went to go answer it. It was strange to have someone knocking on his door. People don’t typically visit him and he hoped to God it wasn’t a fan who had found out where he lived. He hated when that happened, but especially now. The awkwardness that would be when he’s eight months pregnant answering a door to a fan… He shuddered at the thought and the backlash that would surely appear on tv and in the tabloids. At least people would probably just think he was getting fat. Glancing through the peephole, he spied Nick’s tired face.
Throwing open the door, Zak gasped, taking in the sight of his boyfriend’s unexpected presence. “Hey…,” Nick said, his smile laced with sadness.
Pulling him into the house, wrapping his arms tight around his body, Zak refused to acknowledge any reason why he would be early. “Since when do you knock? God, I’m so glad to see you.”
Nick held him tight, breathing in his scent. “I missed you so much.”
Aaron came up behind Zak, hands in his pockets, waiting patiently for the couple to separate. Realizing his presence, Nick pulled back, but still not letting go of Zak. “Hey, Aaron,” he said.
“Hey man. Good to see you. You sound exhausted.” Nick just nodded. “I’ll head home, give you guys some alone time… Call me… for anything…,” he said, moving around them and out the front door, depositing Nick’s large suitcase in the foyer before closing the door behind him.
“Can we go to bed?” Nick asked.
Taking in the dark circles under the taller man’s eyes, Zak knew that the past week after Roni had found out about them was not a pleasant one, not that he had suspected otherwise. “Yeah… of course.” He lead Nick up the stairs, abandoning his suitcase at the front door. Zak didn’t care about the reasons that brought him there early because Nick was here and in minutes, he would be able to fall asleep in his arms again.
Nick lay curled next to Zak, hand over his clothed stomach, fingers delicately stroking their son through the soft skin. He waited for Zak to ask why he was there early, what was wrong, what happened, but thankfully none of those questions came yet. All he cared about right now was being here, with him and their baby. The past week had been fitful and ugly. His wife slung accusations and curses at him, most of which he couldn’t deny. He hadfucked up and fallen in love with two people and now had a child with both. She wanted him to choose, issuing him an ultimatum. He didn’t want to choose, so he left. It wasn’t a choice, he wasn’t choosing Zak necessarily, but more of an avoidance. She gave him until the end of their next lockdown. His plane ticket would determine his fate – Vegas or Boston.
Zak stirred next to him. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Nick shook his head. “No. I want to just spend this time with you.”
Nick smiled. “Love you more.” Sitting up, he tugged on Zak’s t-shirt. “Take this off. I want to see you and our son.”
Zak obliged, pulling the black shirt over his head and tossing it over the side of the bed and laying back down. Nick nestled himself against his side, resuming his position. His hand gently laid over the barely visible bump. “How have you been feeling?”
“Ok… heartburn with everything I eat. I’m tired. I hate being pregnant. I don’t understand how women do this voluntarily,” he said, laying his head against Nick’s, wrapping an arm protectively around his back.
“You’re doing it voluntarily.”
“Yeah… I suppose. But this baby is us, Nick. It’s all I have sometimes.”
Nick winced. “Don’t say that. You know you have me.”
“I know… you’re just not always here,” Zak cast his eyes down, looking away from the younger man. He didn’t want to make him feel any more guilty than he already did.
Nick sighed. “How about we tell our friends tomorrow about our baby? They’re going to wonder why you’re getting fat.”
Zak smacked him. “It’s not fat. And you know if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be pregnant.”
“I don’t know… Are you sure it’s not Aaron’s?”
Zak scoffed. “What the fuck ever. You know Aaron is straight.”
“So are you,” Nick snorted.
Zak shoved him off. “Go get your suitcase and unpack. We need to move shit from the new baby room while I still can.”
Nick snickered, standing up from the bed and walking towards the hallway. “Because you’re going to balloon up in the next few days?” Rolling his suitcase into the master bedroom, he wondered why he never just left more than a few articles of clothing here. He had his own drawer so it was in his right to leave things. Zak lay on the bed, still shirtless, watching him. “Alexander,” Nick said, as he tossed clothes in the drawer.
“My middle name? No… Damien.”
“I am not naming my son after the possessed kid in the Omen.” He punctuated the statement by slamming the drawer shut. Moving into the bathroom to put away his shaving kit, he shouted back out, “Michael.”
“Too common. Ridley.”
“As in your dog that you gave your mom or the director? Either way, no. Jacob?”
Zak scrunched his face. “Reminds me too much of that stupid Twilight movie Aaron made me watch. What about… Bartleby?”
“What the fuck?” Nick asked, sticking his head out of the bathroom. “No. I like Alexander.”
“Well then what about Joshua?”
Nick grinned at him, leaning against the doorframe of the bathroom. “Are we using our middle names?”
Shrugging against the pillows, Zak smiled sheepishly. “I’d agree to Joshua Alexander Bagans-Groff.”
Nick smiled, slowly climbing on the bed, straddling Zak’s legs, leaning down to kiss his stomach. “Hello Joshua Alexander.”
An hour later, Zak and Nick stood in the middle of the room next to the dungeon, the room he used as storage. “So what are we going to do with all of this stuff?”
Zak sighed, hands on his hips. “I don’t know… Maybe I don’t need all of this stuff. I can probably get rid of some of it.” Opening the box closest to him, he pulled out some old clothes.
Nick snorted. “Hey look, a white tshirt. I remember when you used to wear that actually.”
Pulling it over his head, it fit snugly around his broadened chest. “Man, I used to be so skinny,” he said, running his hands down over his chest. They came to rest down around his lower stomach, cradling it gently. “I hope I don’t gain a bunch of weight.”
Nick smiled at him. “I kind of like that shirt on you,” he said walking over and tugging on one of the short sleeves.
Zak smiled and flexed, feeling the back of the shirt pull against him. “Yeah, there’s no way I’m going to be able to wear these clothes anymore. Might as well give them to Goodwill or the homeless shelter.”
“Going to give them back to where you bought them?” Nick quipped, peeking into another box.
“Hey, Goodwill was awesome. We both have bought a lot of clothes there before. Don’t deny it.”
Nick waved him off, pulling some picture frames out of the box he was looking in to. “Dude… remember these?” he asked, handing them over to Zak.
Flipping through them, he nodded almost sadly. Each picture was of him and Nick, all on various investigations before they got the show. One was his favorite picture of them, wrapped in each other’s arms, heads pressed together, both men staring at each other smiling on the banks of a river. They looked so young. Aaron had taken the picture a long time ago, back when he was the only person who knew about them. Now, Zak had stored all of these pictures because he didn’t want someone, anyone, to find them and out them. It was a part of his heart that had become hidden and locked away.
“Why don’t you have those up?” Nick asked, looking down into the box again.
“What if the maid stole them and used them against us?” he asked, clutching them tightly in his hands.
Nick shrugged. “You’re pregnant, Zak. I think people are going to figure it out eventually. Plus, now that Roni knows, I have nothing else to hide from anyone.” He smiled, tossing the empty box aside and taking the pictures from him. “My mom and my sister figured us out years ago. I just didn’t want to tell you and make you all paranoid.”
Zak snorted. “They figured us out? How?” he asked, following him back into the master bedroom.
Nick strategically placed the photos on the dresser and nightstand under Zak’s watchful eye from the doorway. “I guess it was obvious to them. My mom actually asked me if I was gay. My sister just assumed I was.”
Sighing, Zak admitted, “I told my family about us awhile ago. They thought I was crazy but were thankful that it was you.”
Nick smiled, taking the older man in his arms. “So we’re out to our families and our friends. I think it’s safe to have these pictures on display. Now… I suppose all that’s left is to tell everyone about the baby.”
Zak grunted, resting his forehead against Nick’s. “This whole thing is still insane.”
“Tell me about it. Let’s go through some boxes and then plan out this party for tomorrow night.”
The clock on the nightstand read 4:00am. Nick closed his eyes, willing the sunlight to streak through the window as Zak seemed to make an attempt to burrow into his chest. One squeeze of his ribcage stopped the movement. Softly, Nick patted where he squeezed, silently apologizing to their baby. Since they had gone to bed, conversations between he and his wife had played and replayed through his mind. The scenes broadcast on the backs of his eyelids every time he closed his eyes. An ultimatum. She wanted him to choose a family. He sighed, resting his head against the top of Zak’s soft hair. He very much preferred the non-gelled, semi-fresh from sex state of it. Legally being with Zak was impossible, but hell… In every technical sense, Zak shouldn’t even be pregnant. If there was a God- and he never denied it- this would surely be a sign that he and Zak had some kind of something that he should stick around for. Unless the little boy growing inside of the warm body on top of him was actually the Devil Incarnate based upon all of their investigations and collective spirits that still followed them. Which, in this apparent reality, also seemed possible.
Zak stirred against him, rolling over, grumbling in his sleep. Nick didn’t want to tell Zak about the choice he had to make. He didn’t know what the stress would do to him and the baby. He so loved showing up and seeing the small bump under the tight tshirt. They would need to go shopping and buy him bigger clothes. Certainly there was no men’s maternity section so they’d have to improvise. “I can feel you thinking. Shut up and go to sleep,” Zak grumbled against the pillow.
Nick smiled into the darkness, rolling over onto his side, wrapping a long arm around the body of his lover. “Then what was I thinking about?”
Nick winced at the tone Zak used, even through his half sleep state. Of course he was right, but not entirely. “Wrong. I was thinking we need to buy you bigger clothes.”
Zak grunted. “Not getting fat.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “No, not fat. Just pregnant.”
Zak grunted again and seemed to fall back asleep.
Closing his eyes, a new scene played out behind his eyelids. Cleaning out that spare room, stumbling across all the things that were mementos and reminders of their relationship over the years tucked away in boxes in a storage room hurt. Those pictures of he and Zak together on investigations, vacations, screwing around in Vegas, those meant something to him and he knew that they did to Zak too. But that was why they were hidden. Because of their situation, because of Nick’s situation, a whole part of Zak’s life and being were hidden from the world. That part was neatly tucked into boxes and stored next to a dungeon. That was some kind of fucked up. But who’s fault was that? It was Nick’s fault… he had told Zak a long time ago that he would never leave his wife, he didn’t know what this was between them at the time, but leaving Veronique was out of the question. That conversation had taken place eight long years ago. He had shamed the older man into hiding their relationship. Nick sighed, placing a kiss to Zak’s shoulder blade, he slowly let his body fall into a gentle slumber as he whispered into the dark room, “I’m a selfish bastard.”
Zak’s living room buzzed with the sound of their friends as he hid in the master bathroom. Nick’s soft knock came on the door, followed by his pleading. “Zak, come on. It’s going to be ok.”
He looked at himself in the mirror, trying to convince his image that Nick was right. They were their friends for a reason. They wouldn’t just abandon him. Nick and Aaron hadn’t left. But what would he do if someone just exploded and ran off to tell the media? Everything would be over. His life, his world would come crashing down. What would he be left with? Would Nick leave then? Would Aaron drift off and leave him too? He’d be stuck alone with this baby. A long lasting memento of Nick.
The door handle jiggled. “Zak, come on. If you don’t come out of there I’m just going to tell everyone without you.”
With that, Zak flung open the door. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would. It’s my baby too. I’m proud of what we created. Aren’t you?”
“Oh, that’s just wrong, Nick,” he scowled.
Quickly, deft fingers wrapped around his wrist, pulling him out of the bathroom. Zak was shoved out into the hallway. “Downstairs, let’s go talk with our friends. They’re starting to think you’re crazier than you actually are.”
“There he is!” shouted Aaron as Zak came down the stairs. “You ok, bro?” he asked. Zak was surprised to actually see his face laced with concern.
“Yeah… I’m fine,” he answered, shoving his hands deep within the pockets of his jeans.
Beside him, Nick cleared his throat. “We actually asked you guys over here for a reason.”
“Oh, so you want us to donate to charity again? Or are you starting a new show? Wait wait, I know, we’re going to a super scary awesome location and this is like a ‘just in case we don’t come back’ party!” interrupted Billy.
Nick rolled his eyes. “No. None of that.” He wrapped his arm around Zak’s waist, pulling his body in close. “You guys know about …uh…” Okay, so this was harder than Nick thought it would be. “You know about our relationship.” Everyone in the room nodded; there were a few eye rolls as their admission about something they had all already figured out.
“Is that what this is about, because that’s such old news.”
Nick shook his head. “No… we actually uh… Well, we have some news… Um… There’s been… We have…”
“I’m pregnant,” Zak interrupted, his voice screeching at an unnatural level. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “I’m pregnant. Freakish, right.”
The room sat silent. Aaron smiled brightly at them. Sure enough, just as Zak had suspected, one by one, each person started laughing. “Great joke, guys. Seriously original,” Jay said, leaning back into the couch.
Nick shook his head. “No, he actually is. It’s a boy.” The laughter abruptly stopped.
“Do you have the picture?” prodded Aaron.
“Yeah, yeah, here,” Zak said, pulling out his wallet and passing around the latest sonogram. The room still sat in a stunned silence.
“So that pregnancy test…,” started Billy.
Nick nodded. “It wasn’t actually a joke.”
“That’s… great then, guys. Wow… I want to ask how but I don’t think I want to know the answer,” Bill said as he looked intently at the sonogram and down at the name on the bottom.
A round of confused and hesitant ‘congratulations’ circled the room.
“This doesn’t change anything,” Nick said, still clinging desperately to Zak, mostly for fear that the older man would run. “We still have a lot of things to figure out but we’re pretty excited about it.”
Ashley still sat stone faced as the sonogram made its way around to her. “Ash?” Nick said, watching her facial expression as she held the print out.
“I can’t… What about your family, Nick? You’re going to throw that away to be… to have this?” she yelled, standing up and throwing the picture at them. “I can’t believe you would do this to Veronique,” she spat before walking out of the room and slamming the front door.
Jay stood up, clearly embarrassed. “I support you guys. Anything you need… Congrats,” he said before following his wife.
Zak sighed. He knew he should have stayed in the bathroom. “I guess I really know how to kill a party.”
Zak rubbed his arm as he got into the car. “You know, these hormone injections better be helping this kid develop properly.”
Nick smiled across the console at him as he climbed in the driver’s seat. “At least they’re not giving you enough to grow breasts since you told them that you didn’t want to breast feed.”
“Thank God. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened.”
A week after their house party where they shared their happy news with friends, Zak still wasn’t sure it was the best idea. Everyone had been very supportive with the exception of Ashley Wasley. Nick hadn’t told Zak, but Ashley and Roni had formed a friendship over the years. He knew that Ashley had called Roni after their party… she had to have called. So now Roni knew everything that was happening in Vegas. He still hadn’t told Zak about her ultimatum either. Sighing inwardly, he wondered when he had started keeping secrets from Zak of all people. Pulling into the Babies R Us store, Zak groaned in the passenger seat. “Really, Nick?”
“Hey, we need to buy stuff for Josh’s room before you actually look pregnant. Otherwise you’ll bitch that you hate everything I buy.”
Rolling his eyes, Zak got out of the car. He and Nick went shopping together all the time, but for some reason this was significantly more awkward. At least he wasn’t waddling yet. Grabbing a cart, Nick headed straight for the baby furniture. “Ok, what color should the furniture be?”
“Ok… so like an ebony wood?”
Zak nodded, subconsciously placing his hand on his stomach. At almost four months along he was just beginning to show but his baggy clothing helped hide any signs of pregnancy.
Turning the corner, a set of furniture caught his eye. A giant sign hanging over the ebony collection read “Da Vinci.” “Nick… I love this,” he whispered as he walked up to it, running his hand along the crib rail.
Nick nodded, eyeing the furniture. It looked decent enough and it was black. He pointed in the corner of the staged room, “Look, a rocking chair.” Pulling Zak closer, he smiled as he whispered in his ear, “I can’t wait to see you rock our baby to sleep in your arms.”
Zak blushed a deep crimson as a salesperson walked up to them. He ordered all of the pieces of the furniture to be delivered to his house. “Are you going to be having a baby shower? Would you like to create a baby registry?” she asked them.
Zak shook his head. “No shower needed. I’ll just buy everything we need.”
The sales girl nodded. “Well my name is Laura so just let me know if there’s anything else you’d like for me to order.”
Again they were left in peace as she went off to the computer to place their order for the furniture to be delivered the day after Zak got back. Nick felt a twinge of guilt as Zak started picking up baby clothes, inspecting them as he would a strange piece of paranormal equipment, and setting them back down again. How could he leave him to do this by himself? He has no idea how to handle a baby. How dare Roni give him an ultimatum. This baby was half his. He helped create it; he was going to help take care of it. It was the right thing to do. Had he cheated with a woman he would be in the same predicament. Though imagining Zak alone with a room full of furniture that he had to put together himself was rather amusing. “Zak, themes?”
The older man sighed. “Do we have to have one?”
“Well we at least have to pick out a color… What about this safari theme? It’s cute. It has sports stuff in it too.”
Zak nodded. “Yes, ok. That looks good.”
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah… I’m just getting nervous. I don’t want to get recognized here, Nick. You and me together in a baby store.”
Nick rolled his eyes. “It’s not like people are going to be put two and two together.”
“No… but what if they do?”
“Well, you know we don’t have to decide these things right now. We still have a few months.”
“No, let’s do it now. I want to get this done and have the room set up,” Zak said, loading the cart down with all the different safari accessories. Nick laughed as he watched the cart fill up. It only seemed like just a short time ago that he and his wife had been in this store looking for stuff for their princess room. “Ok, now what? I suppose we need clothes and diapers and toys…”
Nick shook his head. “We’ll come back later to get that stuff. Let’s go home.”
Zak nodded as he walked in front of the cart Nick was pushing back up to the checkout lines. He stopped abruptly before choosing a line, huffing when the cart pushed into his back. “Zak, what the hell? Are you ok?” Nick asked, pulling the cart back.
Zak turned and looked at him, worry and fear in his eyes. “Will you be here to help me set up the baby’s room?”
The whole store grew quiet around them, the noise falling off as he considered the question. He watched as Zak’s hand cradled the small bump under his tshirt. Their baby boy. “Yeah, of course I’ll be here. Why wouldn’t I be?” Nick had to make a decision so he could stop lying to himself and everyone else. There was no way he was going to have it both ways.
Later that night, he dialed the familiar numbers, exactly 15 minutes before Annabelle’s bedtime. “Daddy!” she screeched into the phone.
“Hey sweet girl! I miss you,” he cooed, adjusting himself back on the pillows on the bed. “Its time to go to sleep now, ok? Remember, Daddy kicked out all the monsters before he left so you’re only going to have good dreams.”
“Ok. Night night. Love you!” Annabelle said before he heard rustling and a squeal as she ran into her bedroom.
“You’re still leaving tomorrow?”
“You know we are.”
“Will you be coming home next week or staying with your pregnant boyfriend?”
Nick sighed. If he told her that he hadn’t decided that would spark a fight. If he told her that he wouldn’t choose, she would choose for him and be gone before he could ever get there. This was a losing battle. “I love you, V. Go tuck our daughter in and kiss her for me,” he said instead before hanging up.
Minutes later, Zak stepped out of the bathroom dressed only in his boxers, his skin still red from the hot water in the shower. “Everything ok?” he asked, seeing the look on Nick’s face.
Nick shook his head. “Sit down. I have something I need to tell you.”
Zak’s heart pounded in his chest, tightening his grip on the towel in his hands as he sat down on the bed. Nick’s fingers ran up the pale leg, dancing around the hem of his boxers. He just knew that this was it. This was the end. All of his fear bubbled to the surface and he fought with himself to keep the emotions inside.
“Before I came here last week… Veronique gave me an ultimatum. She…,” he sighed. It hurt to say the words out loud, especially to Zak. “She wants me to choose,” he whispered. “And I don’t want to. I’m a selfish bastard. I want to keep both of you, all four of you. She said that she would give me until after this investigation. If I go to Boston, I choose her. If I come back to Vegas, I choose you.”
Zak smiled sadly, placing his hand over Nick’s on his leg. “I love you,” he said, his voice cracking as he fought back the tears that threatened to fall. He wanted to beg, plead for Nick to choose him, but deep down he knew it was no contest.
A long, lone tear slid down Nick’s cheek. “You’ve been asking me to choose for years. I should have done it a long time ago.”
Zak blinked. “Are you going to choose?”
Nick shook his head. “I don’t have any other options.”
Zak stood in front of the camera, his body was achy and his mind was no where even close to thinking about this investigation. These next few days would seal his fate. They could be his last days to spend with Nick, together, wrapped in his arms at night. After this, they would just go back to being friends, but that could never really be the case. Not with Zak having this baby with or without Nick. Zak sighed heavily, looking down at his feet. Roni would make him quit. She would take him. He knew she would.
“Zak, come on, we have to do this,” Nick coaxed softly.
Aaron smiled at him, ignorant to their new situation. “Are you feeling ok? Do you need to sit down?”
Zak smiled back at him. He would always have Aaron. Though he would never see Aaron as more than a friend, the man was a constant in his life and he valued that consistency and friendship. Probably more than Aaron would ever know. “No, I’m ok. Just tired. Let’s film this so we can get back to the hotel.”
Filming in a dusty old house with cobwebs was not exactly how he wanted to spend the last investigation- hopefully- of his pregnancy, especially since he already had so many problems with his allergies. Deep in the attic, the dust from the brick and general age of the home without the proper care nearly dropped him as he went into a coughing fit.
Quickly, Nick yanked him out as if he were a child, dragging him by the arm. “I’m going to pull the plug on this investigation. We shouldn’t be doing this with you… with your health,” he told him once they got outside.
Zak shook his head. “No, I’m fine. We’re doing this. I get these last few days with you, Nick. You’re not taking thataway from me,” he whispered, wiping his mouth and walking back in the house.
Nick sighed, readjusting the camera on his hip and going back in. They had two more interviews to do before they could leave the area. Lockdown was the next night. He had to make a decision by then. Feeling eyes on him, he turned, aiming his camera at Aaron. “What’s up, bro?”
“You ok man? In all seriousness? Zak ok?”
Nick nodded. “Yeah, he’s a stubborn bastard you know that. I think he’ll be ok though.”
Nick shrugged. “I will be in a few days.”
Zak coughed through the mask, trying to convince himself that he was breathing clean air through the little air vents. He wasn’t entirely sure these masks worked, but they were expensive as hell for them to not be at least somewhat helpful. Nick would not leave his side the entire investigation. Granted, that wasn’t really anything unusual, but this time he’s actually literally bumped into him a few times. The touch of the warm body against him lit him on fire and he was really glad he was wearing his extra baggy clothes. He had read on the website that during the second trimester, hormones would be raging and these injections he had been receiving every week were not helping. It felt like he was walking with a constant piece of wood between his legs. Nick still loved to touch him and he was so thankful for that, but apparently the sex was limited. When it did happen, it was far too gentle to Zak’s liking but Nick wanted to be sure and careful for the safety of their baby because this was just so different…
And now, they were stuck here in this lockdown, with some kind of psycho male spirit of a homeless man who raped and killed children. Zak feared the sunrise even more than he hated the soul of the man he hunted. With the sunrise, came Nick’s decision. His choice. Everything that Zak had feared for the past eleven years boiled to the surface and it was showing on film. He jumped at every little noise, every shadow. This was not badass Zak Bagans, Demon Hunter Extraordinaire. No, this was broken-hearted, pregnant, hormonal Zak Bagans, lover of Nick Groff and future… mother? No, he refused to call himself that. He wasn’t female, this was just some kind of fluke of nature.
“There it was again! Aaron did you get that on video this time? Did you guys see it? My shirt was tugged down! Like by a little kid!” Zak yelled into the darkness.
Aaron rolled back the video on his camera while Nick still filmed. There it was, the t-shirt tug. “Dude, it totally is like a little kid. And it said something too! Did you hear that?” He rewound the video again, turning up the volume on the camera as high as it would go.
“Was that a kid saying ‘momma’?” Nick asked. Aaron rewound the video several times just to be sure. Zak paled as he saw his shirt being tugged down right before the little tiny voice seemed to whimper ‘momma.’
Nick shut his camera down as they watched it one final time. “The kids are calling you momma, Zak. The activity has been happening all around you. I don’t like this. I don’t like the idea of this guy latching onto you too.”
Zak waved him off. “I’ll be fine. If these kids are connecting with me because of Josh then ok but we don’t need to talk about that on camera.”
Aaron shook his head. “Bro, I’m with Nick. This just feels … bad… like more bad than usual. I don’t want something to happen to you or the baby.”
Zak rolled his eyes before he walked away. Seriously? “I’ve always been fine guys. Just because I have a baby growing inside of me doesn’t make me any different.”
“Zak,” Nick’s voice took on an authoritative tone that made his eyebrows rise, ” that baby is half mine. I want at least that half protected.”
Zak snorted. “Ok, fine. I’ll walk sideways. Seriously guys, pick up your cameras and let’s finish this. I’m getting tired.”
“Do you want to sit? Take a break? We can take a break…,” Nick said, coming up to him and rubbing his back.
Zak rolled his eyes again. “I’m not made of glass. No, I don’t want to take a break. Can we just finish this please?”
Two solid hours of walking and investigating later, Zak was really wanting to take that break but he was not willing to back down from telling both men that he was fine. Instead, he leaned against a lot of walls and insisted upon ‘investigating’ in rooms that he didn’t really feel there was anything at the moment just for a minute to lean against something. Last time he was at the doctor, he had only gained 11 pounds but damn did that 11 pounds weight a lot.
The room that they had entered felt dense. So dense even Aaron commented on it as Zak leaned against a wall holding out his hand for the squawk box. Random, disassociated words began to filter through immediately after he turned it on. “What’s your name?” Zak asked over the static.
“George was the homeless guy!” he said, getting excited. These were the moments he lived for.
“George, you were a bad man. I’m here to make sure that you don’t hurt any of these kids anymore!” Zak said, standing up straight.
“Zak…,” the box said in his hand, followed by what sounded like laughter.
“Dude, is he laughing at you?” Nick asked, smirking.
“He totally is. That’s kind of awesome,” Aaron said, zooming in.
“What are you laughing at me for? I didn’t say anything funny!”
“Ok, we’re shutting down,” Nick said, dropping his camera and turning on his flashlight. Aaron’s camera immediately followed.
“Nick, what the fuck are you doing?” Zak asked, the squawk box still in his hand.
“You leave my boyfriend and our baby the fuck alone, do you hear me?” Nick screamed into the room. The laughter quickly followed again.
“Bro… don’t piss him off,” Aaron warned.
“We’re done, here Zak. We only have two hours left until daylight. I think we have enough to make an episode so let’s just cut it.”
Aaron nodded in agreeance. “Too dangerous… for you… and Josh. Dude, he said his name.”
Zak nodded, shutting the box down. “We said it earlier. He just heard us talking about him.” Silently, he welcomed the shut down. Gently, Aaron and Nick prodded him back to homebase, insisting that he sit while they collect the cameras and equipment. It had been a long lockdown. Ripping the mask off his face, Zak rested his head in his hands. Unfortunately, these next few hours might be the last he got with the most important person in his life. He was going to spend them wrapped in Nick’s arms in the darkness here in this dank, horrid place.
The time passed too quickly it seemed. Zak’s heart beat harder in his chest as Nick handed the van keys over to a PA so they could ship the equipment back to Vegas and return the van. He had minutes left. He wanted so desperately to ask… Silently, he followed behind Nick and Aaron, wheeling his suitcase along beside himself. He tried to glance over at Nick’s destination while they checked in at the kiosk but he was too slow. Would he be at the same terminal?
Zak inhaled deeply as Nick smiled at him sadly as they dropped off their checked baggage. Aaron grinned at them as they walked towards the security check. “Let’s go home, guys,” he said, tiredness etched in the lines on his face.
Nick walked shoulder to shoulder with him while Aaron led the way. Zak kept feeling like Nick wanted to say something. He just wanted to yell at him to get it out, tell him what’s going through his head, was he leaving? Was he just going to collect some things? Or… or did he choose her? Was this baby their blessing and his curse?
Security check was easy enough. Shoes, belt, jewelry, laptop. Then the frantic rush to put yourself back together. Zak and Aaron turned towards the left terminal, not noticing their third stop in his steps. Nick cleared his throat, “Uh, hey guys…,” he said, raising his voice.
Zak’s heart cracked in his chest. He didn’t want to turn around. He didn’t want to face this. He had expected this goodbye for years but expectation does not prepare you for the actual event. Aaron turned. “Oh that’s right, I almost forgot…,” he said, hugging Nick goodbye. “See you soon, bro.”
Nick nodded, releasing Aaron to stare at Zak’s broad back. Aaron cleared his throat. “I’m going to make a stop at the bathroom… I’ll see you at the gate, Zak,” he said, and walked away, leaving them alone together in the sea of disinterested people.
“I love you.”
Zak cursed at himself inwardly. He was not going to cry. This was not worth crying over. Relationships are not worth crying over. “Yeah…,” he mumbled, turning to face the end. Nick’s face was etched in pain, the lines deepening as he worked to control his emotions.
“It’s not the end, I promise. I’ll call you tonight. I can’t explain it here.” Zak nodded. He didn’t want to say anything for fear of what would come out. “Take care of our baby and yourself,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around him. “Everything will be ok.”
“Whatever,” Zak mumbled, pulling away and grabbing his suitcase. “Have a safe flight. Text me at least to let me know you got there safe,” he said and walked away leaving Nick standing there in the middle of the terminal.
Zak wheeled his suitcase into the bathroom, sat down in one of the stalls, and sobbed. Fifteen minutes later, his phone buzzed in his pocket. Pulling it out, he saw the text message from Aaron. Where are you bro? We’re boarding in five.He pulled himself back together, wiping his face with some wet paper towels before walking out of the restroom.
“Are you ok, bro?” Aaron asked as he sat down next to him.
“No. Nick left.”
Aaron shrugged. “He’ll be back soon.”
Zak shook his head. “No, Aaron. He left.Veronique told him to choose. So he chose.”
“Dude…” Aaron froze. He had no idea that this was coming. A little heads up would have been nice since Nick was leaving a pregnant and broken-hearted diva Zak with him. Wrapping his arm around Zak’s shoulders, he pulled him in close. “I’m sorry. You know I would have chosen you. Your boobs are bigger.”
Veronique sat on the floor with her daughter as they brushed out Barbie hair and put together outfits for each doll. She kept her cell phone and the house phone by her side since she woke up. Normally, Nick would call when he was getting on the plane to let her know that he would be home soon. This morning, she didn’t even get a text message. They typically were out of lockdown by 7 and packed and in the van by 8am. The way she figured it, he would be on any flight between 10 and 11am. Looking at the clock it was 10:30am.
The fear thrived in her heart that Nick wouldn’t choose her. She kept ignoring the small voice in her head telling her that they had gotten married young and Nick didn’t know what he wanted then. They had met Zak through planning their wedding. Had Nick started cheating on her with him then? He said it had been years and refused to give her an actual number, causing her to play out every worst case scenario in her mind. Having Annabelle made the pain hurt worse. Every night she would ask for him, still not able to comprehend that daddy was away at work and would be home in a few days. Now if Nick chose Zak, what would she tell her daughter? Daddy chose to live with another family?
Veronique had lived a lie their entire life together, she just wasn’t aware of it. Now that she knew… would she really even welcome him back if he came?
Nick stepped off the plane, immediately feeling the weight shift on his shoulders. He felt better, lighter. Roni asked him to choose, so he did and he felt comfortable in this decision. It wasn’t the best decision he had ever made in his life, but he really honestly felt like in the end everyone would be happier this way, including himself. Especially himself. Ok, maybe this was a horrible, selfish decision.
Rolling his suitcase through the airport, he stopped at a bar. He wanted to have at least one drink in him before he had to make the phone call he dreaded. An explanation that he didn’t want to make and justify. One drink turned into two drinks, turned into three drinks. Nick wasn’t a light weight, but he was starting to feel more relaxed and the more relaxed he felt, the more comfortable he felt in his decision. With a sigh and a smile, he paid his tab and left a large tip. Might as well start out this new segment of his life with some good karma.
Rolling his suitcase out of the airport, he hailed a taxi. A large man wearing suit pants that may have been new about six years ago got out to help him with his luggage. Nick noticed the stains on his shirt and the scuffs on his shoes. In this man, he saw himself from so many years ago, a grim reminder of exactly how far he had come in life and what he risked losing. Stepping into the cab, he put on his seatbelt, noticing the cab driver’s name on his taxi license was “Mickey.” Nick smiled at the goofy grin in the picture. This guy seemed all right.
Mickey stepped back into the cab, putting the car into gear and driving away from the airport. “Welcome to Chicago, where ya headed?”
Nick smiled, pulling out his cell phone. “The Drake hotel.” Plane landed safely, headed to hotel, will call you shortly, he texted both Zak and Roni.
Mickey adjusted his rearview mirror, looking at Nick through it as he pulled up to a stoplight. “Hey, I recognize you. My daughter watches your show all the time.”
Nick’s smile widened. “That’s great. I’d be happy to sign something if you want.”
“Yeah yeah! That would be great. She’ll think I’m the best dad ever!” Mickey laughed a dry, smoker’s laugh. “So what brings ya here? Every building in Chicago is haunted.”
Nick’s smile faltered, looking back at him in the rearview mirror, “A new start.”
Roni cradled the cell phone in her hands, sitting on the floor. Tears stung her eyes but refused to fall. Chicago? What the hell was in Chicago? Was there someone she didn’t know about? Was he just done with both of them? What the fuck? She dropped her cell phone down to the floor, leaving Annabelle in the playroom, and walked to the living room, laying on the couch. She couldn’t look at Annabelle right now. She had his cheekbones, said things and had mannerisms that reminded her of Nick… Looking at the ceiling fan, she refused to cry.
Half an hour later, the house phone rang. Veronique picked up the handset without a word. “V…,” Nick’s voice came from the earpiece.
“V, I decided not to choose. I can’t choose…”
“You bastard!” she screamed.
“V, listen to me. Both families are my responsibilities. I can’t just abandon Zak and I can’t abandon you either. I love both of you. I can’t choose,” his voice broke.
Roni finally broke down. She cried silently, cradling the phone against her ear, clenching her eyes shut.
Nick continued, “I won’t choose. Kick me out, divorce me if you want, but I’ll still support and love you and Annabelle whether you want me to or not. Zak can’t do this without me. He’s terrified. Hell, I’m terrified. We don’t know how this happened, but it’s some kind of miracle. Doesn’t that say something?”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to us,” she whispered.
Nick sighed heavily. “I’m sorry. As shitty as it sounds, I didn’t think you would find out. It had just… it had been going on for so long…”
“How?” she asked. “I think I have a right to know, Nick. Is he there with you right now? Did you run away to Chicago with him?”
The bed springs squeaked as she heard him lay down on the bed. “No, he’s not here. I left him at the airport with no explanation. He thinks I went back to Boston. I haven’t talked to him yet but I wanted to call you first.”
Veronique breathed a small sigh of relief, wiping her tears away. “Tell me. I want to know it all. Since we were married?”
“No, later than when we got married. I met him there and you know we kept in touch. You know every time that he and I spent time together. I never lied to you about when I was with him, you just didn’t know what… I don’t really know how it happened, V. I don’t. I wasn’t looking for it and I don’t think he was either. We’re not gay, not even bi. I’m not attracted to other men and he says he isn’t either. It’s just… it’s just something between us.”
“Did you ever think about leaving me for him?”
“No, I didn’t, and he knew that. I love you now just as much as I did on our wedding day, if not more. We have a beautiful baby girl who looks just like you.” There was a long, heavy pause. Nick spoke again before Veronique asked if he was still there. “The first thought that I had when Zak told me he was pregnant was that I can’t wait to see Annabelle and him playing together.”
“Do you have a name for him?”
“Joshua Alexander Bagans-Groff.”
“I’d feel more comfortable if he just had your last name, Nick.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to Zak. That’s his baby too and he’s the one carrying it. You know how uncomfortable that is. Imagine being a guy and doing it.”
“Zak’s going to get fat. He’s going to flip out,” she couldn’t hide the small amount of satisfaction she got from that fact.
“V… I’d love it if we could all do this together. I know you and Zak have never really been on friendly terms and that’s probably for good reasons, but I want the kids to play together. You don’t have to talk to him but I don’t want to tear my families apart.”
“Nick, you’ve already torn them apart. You cheated on me right under my nose and now you’re telling me that you’re not willing to leave the person that you cheated on me with?”
“I’m not willing to leave him with a baby. I helped create it so I need to help raise it and support it.”
“So if he wasn’t pregnant you’d leave him?”
“Yes,” Nick lied.
Veronique sighed, laying back down on the couch. “What are you proposing?”
“The same thing that we’ve been doing, only more planned. Two weeks on the east coast and two weeks on the west coast. I’d like to take Annabelle with me sometimes and that would give you a break. And then sometimes bring Josh back with me and give Zak a break.”
Zak buried his face into a pillow on the couch. Aaron sat in the chair across from him, afraid to leave the man alone but desperately wishing he could walk out the door. Zak was pathetic when he didn’t get his way and watching Nick walk away from him was most certainly not his way. The iphone buzzed on the kitchen table across the room, but both men ignored it. The buzzing sound repeated as the phone danced across the table.
Sighing, Aaron stood up to retrieve it before it dove over the side. A picture of Nick and Zak showed up on the screen, cheek to cheek smiling at the camera. Aaron rolled his eyes assuming it was Zak’s caller ID image for Nick. Stepping outside, he answered the phone. “He doesn’t want to talk to you right now, bro.”
“Hey Aaron… I didn’t exactly leave him.”
“Sure feels like it from here. He said that V gave you an ultimatum and then you left dude.”
“I didn’t fly to Boston. I’m in Chicago.”
“What the fuck are you doing in Chicago?”
Nick audibly sighed. “I refuse to choose between two families so I chose neither. Chicago is in between. I love Zak and I love Veronique and I’m being selfish not wanting to give up either. Aaron, I love you like a brother, but I’d like to talk to my pregnant boyfriend and try to convince him not to hate me.”
Aaron looked through the window as Zak walked by and into the kitchen. “Hold on.” Opening the front door, he walked inside and thrust the phone at Zak. “You need to hear this.”
Zak furrowed his eyebrows, taking the phone and putting it up to his ear. “Hello?”
“Hey babe,” Nick smiled hearing Zak’s voice.
“Did you land in Boston ok?” he asked, steeling his face, staring at Aaron.
“I’m not in Boston. I’m in Chicago. I didn’t go back to Veronique.”
Zak’s heartbeat sped up in his chest. Was there someone else? “What the fuck is in Chicago?”
“Nothing, just me. It’s in between you and V. I can’t choose, Zak. I love both of you. I want to be a part of both families. I created both of them, I want to be there to see them both through and support them.”
Zak still stood staring at Aaron. Neither man moved. Aaron could hear Nick’s voice through the speaker; he listened intently to every word. Half of him wanted to kick Nick’s ass but the other half applauded him for the ballsy move for basically leaving both of them and neither of them at the same time.
“So what do you want, Nick? What are you going to do? Just live in Chicago?”
“No, I don’t want to live here. I want to set up a kind of system.”
“What kind of system?” Zak asked, shoving Aaron backwards and walking them both into the living room. Zak took the couch while Aaron sat back down in his former position in the chair.
“Like a visitation system. Two weeks with you and two weeks with V. Sometimes I’ll bring Josh back with me to V’s and give you a break and sometimes I’ll bring Annabelle to Vegas with me to give Roni a break.”
“What do you mean no?”
“I don’t want her around our child.”
Nick grumbled. “Zak, that’s my baby too. I want him to be around Annabelle and know her as a sister.”
“Half sister. And I don’t mind if Annabelle comes here but I don’t feel comfortable about Josh going there. I don’t like this, Nick.”
“Zak, this is what we’ve been doing for years, just not really talking about it. I’d spend a certain amount of time away with you and then come back and spend time with Veronique. This is just out in the open.”
“I want you here with me, Nick. I don’t want to split time with you.”
Nick rolled his eyes. These conversations were not going as well as he had hoped. He thought this was the perfect solution to the problem, but negotiating with a pregnant Zak was proving more difficult than an emotional wife. Hell, negotiating with Zak was always difficult. “It’s either split time with me or you don’t get me at all, Zak. What do you want?”
Zak sighed heavily, running his hand over the ever growing bump beneath his tshirt. “I guess I don’t have a choice do I? I want you to help me raise our son.”
Nick breathed a sigh of relief. “Ok. I’m buying a ticket tomorrow to head to the East Coast. We can try this at least until Josh is born. I’ll probably spend some more time with you then because that first month is brutal.”
Aaron watched Zak’s eyes fill with tears as he listened to Nick through the receiver. In the living room, he couldn’t hear the other end of the conversation so he only got the bits and pieces that he heard Zak say, but he wasn’t very happy about what he heard.
Minutes later, Zak whispered his “I love you” and hit the ‘end’ button. “So what’s going on?”
Zak laughed before laying down on the couch. “He’s in Chicago. He says that he didn’t want to choose so he wants to spend two weeks a month with both of us.”
Aaron nodded. “That sounds like a fair system. But what about when the kids are in school? And they have plays and baseball games and stuff that dad’s are supposed to be there for?”
Zak laughed again. “You think this is actually going to work that long? He’ll leave me completely within a year and go back to her. ”
“That’s positive thinking… At least see if this works, bro. For Josh if nothing else. And you know I’m always here. I’ll help you with him as much as you want me to.”
Rollin over onto his side, Zak smiled at him. “Thanks, man.”
“Until then… I’m going home to sleep and you’re going to go upstairs to sleep. Then tomorrow we’re going to tackle that baby room before you start waddling.”
Nick looked at himself in the bathroom mirror in his hotel room. The lines in his face had deepened, signaling the stress in his life. This stress that he had created. He was the one that had pulled Zak against him that night during the lockdown. He initiated all of their firsts, so yes, he felt that it was his responsibility to help Zak raise this baby. This was his fuck up, the whole damn thing.
Deep down, he knew this two week system wasn’t really going to work, but he wanted to delay his wife for as long as possible. Nick really did love both of them and he couldn’t tear himself away from either without killing a piece of himself. Tomorrow would start everything anew. His wife now knew about his love affair with one of his best friends. This was going to change everything but he had to see exactly what those changes were going to be if he was actually going to make a choice between them.
Zak stepped out into the bright, early morning sunshine, keys in hand. He was going to do what he always did when he got back from a lockdown, after leaving Nick to his wife. He was going to drive as fast as his engine would allow him. Sighing as he got behind the wheel, he debated on calling Veronique and trying to make peace. The thought was fleeting as his pregnancy hormones that were being injected into his body on a weekly basis kicked in. Tears staining his face, Zak backed out of his driveway and rolled on into the desert, his emotions alternating involuntarily between anger, sadness, and revenge. Zak knew that Aaron was home asleep, thinking Zak was doing the same thing so he wouldn’t be worried about him. It was the perfect opportunity.
Leaving the city street lights behind him, he pressed down on the gas pedal. Quickly the speedometer needle climbed, sinking into the 140s. The power of the car beneath him vibrated through his legs and into his chest. The power became his. He could harness it, keep it, it. Flexing his hands on the steering wheel, his body relaxed into the contoured racing seat. This was living. Zak smiled. “In 16 years maybe I’ll take you out in this car, Josh. Hell, maybe I’ll even give it to you. What a fucking awesome first car it would be,” he said outloud. At first it was weird talking to him, but then he realized that talking to air is really what he gets paid to do anyways, only this time there was a small person listening.
Over nearly four months pregnant and here he was out on the open road. Not too much longer and he wouldn’t be able to fit behind this steering wheel, he imagined. That was not something he was looking forward to experiencing. The excitement of having the baby was wavering with Nick officially leaving him. To be fair, he left both him and his wife, but that doesn’t make the sting any less powerful.
The Vegas lights slowly dimmed in his rearview mirror as the desert sun was beginning its descent in front of him. In his pocket, his cell phone vibrated. He knew who it was. Nick was checking on him. Zak was still digesting the conversation that seemed to have happened so long ago but was just a few hours. He had been waiting for years for Nick to leave him, but this was never something he expected. Pregnant. And now Veronique knows. Zak pressed the pedal down to the floor and the car lurched forward to its maximum speed.
Nick held his cell phone in his hand as he listened to Zak’s voice mail. Holding in a breath, he dialed Aaron’s number. There was nothing else he could do being so far away. On the fourth ring, Aaron answered. “Nick?”
“Aaron, Zak isn’t answering his phone.”
Aaron sighed audibly. “No shit? He’s a little hurt right now, bro. Give him a day or something.”
“No, Aaron… please… are you at his house?”
“No, I wanted to sleep in my own bed.”
“Will you call him or check on him?”
“Aaron, please,” he knew his voice was near desperation at this point. “I just… I have a feeling. Something’s wrong.”
Grumbling, Aaron finally relented. “Ok, I’ll give him a call, but he’s probably just sleeping, Nick. You know pregnant people do that a lot.”
“I know. Thanks, man. I’ll just feel better knowing that you’re checking on him.”
Nick sighed as he hung up the phone. This was definitely the most selfish decision he had ever made. But in his mind it would have hurt both Zak and Veronique more if he had just completely cut one or the other out of his life. And it would have hurt him more too. He couldn’t imagine his life without either of them, or without Annabelle and now Josh. His life revolved around his family and work and somehow over the years they had become intertwined. But now, he wondered what kind of unintentional damage his selfishness was doing.
Aaron grumbled bitched and moaned his way through finding Zak’s number in his contacts and hitting the “call” button. Zak’s phone rang and rang until his voicemail picked up. He called two more times in quick succession thinking that would wake him up and he could go back to sleep, but no luck. With a last exasperated sigh, he pushed himself out of bed and pulled some pants on, grabbing his wallet and car keys. Now he was slightly worried. He could understand Zak ignoring Nick’s calls, but his own? Surely Nick had called him enough that the man would be even slightly awake to hear his phone.
Pulling up into Zak’s driveway, Aaron pulled out his spare key, entering through the front door. He he called out but with no answer. The pillows were still a mess on the couch where they had been sitting not too long ago. Slowly, Aaron ascended the stairs to the master suite. Carefully, he cracked the door open, hoping to just see Zak sacked out in his bed, so asleep that he didn’t hear his phone. Instead, he was met with an empty, made bed. “Shit,” he breathed.
Aaron’s feet thudded hard on the metal stairs as he stormed down them and into the garage. The lambourgini was gone. Zak was driving the lambo in the desert. Fuck, why hadn’t he predicted this? He always did that whenever he left Nick at the airport.
Quickly, Aaron ran to his car, not even bothering to lock the front door again. He knew where Zak went. He also knew how fast he drove.
Veronique sobbed into her pillow as Annabelle lay sleeping next to her, soundlessly and deeply. Her family was being traded for a new one. Two weeks on and two weeks off. Wasn’t that what divorced kids went through? Isn’t that the way that worked?
He said they could try it. See if it worked. So what if it didn’t work? Then would he choose or just completely leave? A soft wail escaped her mouth. Her hand quickly flew over her lips, for fear of waking her daughter. Theirdaughter. Was it because Zak and Nick were going to have a boy? Was that was this was about? That whole masculine thing. It wasn’t her fault that she had a girl. She had loved him since high school. Through rich and poor, health and sickness. Doesn’t that account for something? She thought it did.
Picking up the phone, Veronique decided that they were going to have to choose for him. She had to scroll through the contact names on her phone for a number she so rarely used she wasn’t even sure she still had it. Sure enough, last name on the list, Zak Bagans. Hitting “Call” she steeled herself, getting up from the bed and walking out of the bedroom.
To her surprise, he answered. “Veronique.”
“What do you want?”
She held back a sob, reminding herself to be strong. She was in the right. “I want my husband.”
“He’s not here. He’s in Chicago. He didn’t want to stay with me and he didn’t want to go home to you. What does that say about us both?”
Veronique scoffed. “It says that you put him in a situation and he didn’t want to abandon you! It shows what kind of man he is!”
Zak laughed a she heard wheels squealing. “What kind of man he is… right. You know we’ve been fucking since we started going out hunting ghosts right? Behind your back this entire time. He’s begged me for it. Do you want to hear what we do, V? Do you want to hear about how he lays me on the bed and slowly takes of my clothes-”
“Enough!” she shouted into the receiver, immediately cringing and hoping she didn’t wake Annabelle. “I can tell you about all the times he’s come home to me and begged me for the same thing. Gotten in the shower with me and bent me over, telling me how coming home sex is the best sex ever.”
Zak laughed again, a little more strangled this time. “You know I always hated you because you had him. But really, neither of us had him.”
Veronique’s mind stuttered. He was right. She didn’t want him to be right, but he was right. If he could so easily transition into seeing both of them, then neither of them ever had him. Shame and anger slowly grew in her heart, radiating from her like a heatwave. That bastard.
“Look,” Zak continued. “Neither of us want to give him up, and we both need him. Let’s just work this out. I don’t want to fight with you any more than we already have. It’s not going to get us anywhere at this point.”
She sighed. “You’re right. You know, I called to bitch you out but I’m glad we had this conversation. You’re right. Neither of us ever had Nick if he can’t choose between us.”
Zak threw his phone onto the floorboard after hanging up with Veronique. He had played that perfectly. Absolutely perfectly. Get her to fight more with him and Nick will come running back into his arms for good. Flawless. Now if only Nick and Aaron would stop fucking calling him. This was his time. His only time to think. Away from everyone and everything.
Zak whipped the car around the curves of the rock formations, a side road that so few people knew about and no cops ever patrolled. It was perfect for him to open up his engine. Now, he felt like he had the world at his fingertips: a hot, fast engine, a healthy baby growing inside, and a boyfriend who was soon to see the light of his crazy wife.
In the light of his headlights, rocks encompassed the road ahead of him. Mild panic took over his central nervous system, his eyes blown wide with fear. A quick serve couldn’t save him. Zak felt his body go sideways, the car door and roof slamming against something hard before the blackness overtook him.
Zak woke up to bright lights and hushed voices. He knew those voices but his head throbbed so hard he couldn’t determine their owners. His eyes would not adjust to his surroundings but he could feel the bandages wrapped around his body and a cast on his right arm. Was there gauze over his face? His skin burned underneath the bandages. Zak could feel someone on his left side. A hand gripped his tightly so he squeezed it, causing the owner to squeak slightly. “He’s awake!” Ok that was Aaron. One person accounted for.
The voices stopped whispering at Aaron’s outburst. He felt more than saw people crowd around the bed. Someone came over and was shining an even brighter light in his eyes. “Mr. Bagans, can you hear me?”
Ugh, it was a doctor. “Where…?” he croaked out. Squinting at his hoarseness, he swallowed a few times, but his throat was raw no matter what he did. Had he been screaming?
“You’re in the hospital. You had a nasty crash.”
Zak just nodded the best he could. He remembered driving far too fast on that road and coming up to the rocks. After that… well apparently he crashed, as the doctor said. Aaron left his side as someone else came up. “Zak….”
“Nick,” he mumbled. His voice wasn’t working with him, but he could reach out for the man that he thought had left him.
Nick took his groping hand, clutching it tightly between both of his. “Hey, I’m here. You’re ok.”
Zak sighed, feeling relieved. Nick had come for him. God, how long had he been out? “How long?” he asked.
“Six hours at least. Aaron found you and he called 911, then me. I flew out here as soon as I could.”
Nick shook his head, tears stinging his eyes as Zak’s other hand not enclosed in Nick’s groped over his stomach. Closing his eyes, he fought back the emotion welling up in his chest.
Zak’s eyes flew open. Veronique stood in the doorway, her hands clutching her purse nervously in front of her. Nick leaned down to him, quickly whispering, “I called her… I had to tell her that I was coming here. She insisted… I’m sorry.”
Veronique stepped farther into the room, her footsteps still unsure. He thought back to the last conversation he had with her, where he tried to convince her to start a fight between her and Nick. That plan probably wasn’t going to matter now. She probably came here to collect him after Zak was released from the hospital.
“Where’s my baby?” he asked instead of dealing with the new problem at hand. Silence was his answer.
“He’s… you’re not pregnant anymore, Zak,” Aaron finally said from across the room. Nick let out a small sob next to him but quickly composed himself.
His hands roamed his stomach. He felt the stitches and the tape covering them just below his belly button. They had taken him. “Where is he?!” Zak screeched, a moment of panic rushing through his veins.
“He’s in the morgue, Zak.”
“iV/i, really?” Nick chastised her. She shrugged back her response at him but kept quiet.
“I killed him… I killed our baby,” Zak whispered.
“It’s my fault. I put you under stress. It’s my fault,” Nick said quietly next to him. “I knew what you did every time I left. I knew you got in the car, but I didn’t think… I thought you wouldn’t because of him. I should have known better. I’m sorry, Zak. I’m sorry.”
Slowly, Zak turned to look at Veronique. “No, this is your fault,” he said, allowing the anger and hatred to take over his body, channeling his grief. “This is iyour/i fault. Everything was fine until you made him choose! Everything would have worked out fine! Get iout/i of my room! iGet out!/i”
A look of horror came over her features, looking over at Nick for backup but he just shook his head. With a frustrated hmph she turned and left the room.
An hour later, Zak had sucked on a whole cup full of ice chips and was starting to sit up more. Dr. Zune walked in the room, sorrow in his eyes. “Mr. Bagans, Mr. Groff,” he nodded at them in greeting. Aaron left the room, leaving them to talk with the doctor alone. “I’m sorry about your loss. You’ve suffered some major damage, Mr. Bagans, but your internal organs are still in good shape. You bruised a kidney in the accident so your lower back is going to hurt for a bit. We’re going to keep you here for a few days just to make sure you are well enough to go home. After that, I’d like to see you in two weeks to inspect your stitches and your kidney. Please call me if you have any questions or concerns about anything. And should you decide to have any more children… I would of course keep everything confidential.”
Zak smiled sadly. “I don’t expect to be pregnant again, but thank you. I’ll make an appointment.”
Quietly, Dr. Zune left the hospital room, leaving the two men alone. “I’m sorry, Nick. I know how excited you were about this baby.”
“I’m happier that you’re alive and okay. What were you thinking, Zak? You could have died!”
“I was trying to get you out of my blood. I hated your plan. I hated that you were in Chicago. I hated that you left. I always hate it when you leave. You know I do this every time you leave. I’ve never crashed before.”
Nick sighed. “Well the plan is moot now anyways. What’s the point in splitting time now?”
Zak winced. “So now you don’t even want to give me two weeks? Are you just going to go back to your wife with your tail between your legs now that you don’t have any responsibility to me?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“Well that’s what I’m hearing.”
“Fuck, Zak, do you want me to leave? Everything is going to go back to the way that it was.”
Zak sulked into the bedsheets, trying to cross his arms over his chest but failing because of the cast. “No, it can’t go back to the way it was because now she knows everything. It’s not going to be the same and you know it.”
Nick sighed, sitting back in the chair, running his hands down his legs to his knees. “What do you want me to do? You know I can’t leave my wife for the same reason I couldn’t leave you.”
“Yeah… when I was pregnant. So now what, Nick?”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“Well, you can’t leave your wife and I’m not pregnant anymore so where does that leave us in this equation?”
“Are you going to make this decision for me?”
“Do you want to be with me?”
Nick sighed. This was not going the way he thought it was going to. This wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have in the hospital, Zak all banged up and aching from the loss of a child. “You’re bitter and angry and hurting right now. We can talk about this when they discharge you.”
“No, I want to talk about it now,” Zak said, defiantly.
“You always have been a bastard. Yes, I want to be with you. You know I love you, but I love my wife too and our daughter. They depend on me.”
“And I’m independent.”
Nick nodded, “And you’re independent. So I’m with you because I want to be with you. I want to be with my wife and daughter too, but it’s a little different with them.”
Zak nodded as a soft knock came at the door. Aaron peeked his head in. “How are you guys holding up?”
Zak smiled at him sadly. “I think we’re ok.”
Nick looked down at his hands and nodded. This conversation was going to go drastically different with his wife, but at this point he really didn’t care. When Aaron called him to tell him he had found Zak, his heart fell out of his chest. He paid a mint to get on the next flight out to Vegas to be there as soon as he could. Joshua Alexander, their tiny growing baby was the second person on his mind. Zak’s safety was his first thought. Nothing would stop him from loving this man, not even a marriage and another child. So yeah, they’re ok. When Aaron closed the door, he looked up at Zak. “Would you leave me after this?”
Zak shook his head. “I don’t think I could ever leave you. I’m addicted to you.”
Nick smiled, taking Zak’s left hand. “I think I’m addicted to you too.”
“How’s Veronique going to take this?”
Nick shrugged. “I don’t care. This is what she’s going to have to deal with to continue to live the comfortable life she has been living.”
“She could always divorce you and take you for everything.”
“She wouldn’t. She has too much at stake. Otherwise, she would have left me when she found out I had been sleeping with you. That was how I got her to agree to my plan of the two weeks on and two weeks off.”
Zak nodded, squeezing Nick’s hand in his, settling back into the pillows and closing his eyes. “So back to the same.”
“Back to the same. Love you.”
“Love you more.”