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With Keegan getting stronger each day and getting closer and closer to being released from the hospital, Brian, a person who liked order and control in his life, felt like things were spiraling out of his control. Not knowing who else to talk to, he called on someone who he hoped might be able to really put things in perspective for him and could give him an objective opinion.

Ringing the bell at the rectory, he hoped that Reverend Tom Butterfield still ran that church and was available. When the door was opened, both men look a little startled - Brian because he didn’t expect the person he was looking for to answer the door and Father Tom because he never expected Brian to come to the church on his own.

“Well, Father Tom, just the man I was looking for. Do you have time to talk?” Brian asked, hoping that he was doing the right thing. “You remember me, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, Brian. Is everything alright? I certainly didn’t expect to see you here.”

“I kind of need some advice and was hoping that you could help,” Brian explained as the priest led him to an office down the hall.

“Okay Brian, what is it that you need advice about?”

“Well, Father…”

Brian told him about all that had transpired in the last week with Daphne’s death and Justin’s newfound fatherhood.

“... and what I’m concerned about is whether I’m cut out to be a full-time father, especially at my age,” Brian concluded. “I mean, I know I’m only forty-four, but… shit, that means I’ll be sixty-two when the kid goes off to college. If I’m lucky, he’ll be some kind of prodigy and graduate high school early.”

Father Tom chuckled. “First of all Brian, age is a state of mind. You are obviously still very active and take care of yourself. Do you have any friends your age who have young children?”  

“I do, actually. Ted and Blake have a son, Phoenix, who they adopted from Blake’s sister. He’s a year old and has mild Down Syndrome. Emmett and Drew have a six year old daughter, Lyla, that they adopted from Pakistan and a three year old son, Sawyer, that they adopted from South Korea.”

“Well Brian, I think the best thing you could do is talk to them, ask how they feel about being fathers in their forties and having such young children. Since I have never raised a child, that is probably the best advice I can give you. I wish there was more I could do for you.”

“You have helped, Father,” Brian answered honestly. “I never even thought about talking to Ted or Emmett about this; that is exactly what I should do. If those two nelly queens can handle raising young kids, then there must be a way I could, too. Thank you.”

The next morning, Brian called Ted, his trusted CFO and business partner, into his office.

“Theodore, I need to talk to you about something…”

At seeing the serious look on Brian’s face, Ted became concerned.

“What is it, Brian? You know I’m always here if you need anything,” he said to the man who had been there and literally given him his life back after Brian took a chance and hired the former crystal queen. Brian often joked that Ted was the Chewbacca to his Han Solo, owing him a life debt.

After Ted had lost everything, Brian had been his savior, making him a partner and the Chief Financial Officer of Kinnetik, after only one year as his accountant. Brian made Justin his business partner and Vice President of Kinnetik before the younger man had left for New York, and Cynthia was listed as Chief Operating Officer.

Brian wanted to ensure that Justin would have Kinnetik to fall back on without anyone being able to contest Justin’s rights to it, in the event that something happened to Brian. Brian and Justin owned controlling shares while Ted and Cynthia owned fifteen percent each. Even after all these years, Kinnetik prided itself on being a boutique company that focused on its client’s individual needs while making a shit ton of money for the four owners. After Justin had earned his degree in Media Design, they expanded the company from just doing old-fashioned print and television ads to online advertising and web design. All four of the partners benefited handsomely from the improvements.

“I want to know how you feel about being a new father at your age,” Brian said. “I was only a drop-in dad with Gus, even when I was in my prime during my thirties. Now that Daphne is gone, Justin intends for us to raise Keegan together. I just wonder if I can do it now, at this point in my life.”

Ted couldn’t help but smile whenever he thought about his sweet little boy. “Brian, I had the same worries when Blake and I decided to adopt Phoenix last year. Blake’s sister couldn’t handle the thought of raising a special needs child, but agreeing to adopt him was the easiest decision for us to make when she asked if we would take him. When I’m around him, I don’t feel like I’m too old to be his father. He is so much fun and loves it when we do silly things with him. He often makes me feel like a kid again. He is the best thing that could have come into our lives and has only strengthened our relationship.”

Brian nodded. “Thanks, Ted. You’ve given me something to think about. I guess I won’t fire you today.”

Ted moved to leave and got near the door before making his final comment. “You can’t fire me. I’m a partner, remember?”

The accountant laughed and got through the doorway just as a throw pillow came sailing across the room toward him.

Brian next called Emmett and asked if he would meet him for lunch at the cafe near Kinnetik. Emmett agreed to meet Brian after picking Sawyer up from preschool at noon. Brian arrived at the deli first and got a table, smiling when Emmett walked in, proudly holding his son’s hand while listening to his tales from school.

Emmett sat Sawyer in a booster seat and took a seat at the table across from Brian.

“Hi, Unka Brian,” Sawyer greeted.

“How's it going, rugrat?” Brian replied, smiling at the little boy he had always considered a nephew.

“Well Brian, this was unexpected. Is everything alright?” Emmett asked, wondering why Brian had wanted to see him alone.

“Why does something have to be wrong?” Brian questioned, shaking his head at the tall queen.

“Because it’s unusual for you to call and ask me to lunch, and especially with not wanting to meet at the diner.”

“I need to speak to you about something private, and if we talk at the diner I may as well stand in the middle of Liberty Avenue and shout it to everyone within earshot,” Brian answered, raising his eyebrows.                                                                                                                      

“Point taken. So, what is on your studly mind that I may be of help with, sir?”     

Brian took a deep breath and started telling Emmett what was going on in his head.“I want to know what you think of being a father at your age. You probably know by now that Justin wants to raise Keegan with me. I was hardly there with Gus and this is going to be much different, having a baby around all the time, not to mention that Gus is now fifteen years old. I regretfully recognize that I’m not as young as I was when he was little.”

Emmett smiled and carefully considered how to answer. “Well Brian, I know everyone sees me as just a silly, nelly queen, but with these two wonderful children, I would do anything, absolutely anything to make them proud to have me as one of their fathers. Other than Drew, our babies are the best, most important things in my life. We’re both so happy, and now that Drew has retired from football and gotten the job as the new sports guy at the television station, we both have time at home with the kids every day. Drew has also volunteered to coach a peewee football team next season, and I’m pretty sure he is hoping that Sawyer will want to play when he’s big enough. He loves going with his Papa to watch the games.

“Brian, children keep you young. There is nothing better than getting down on the floor and playing with a child to make you forget all the stress of being an adult. I have the best of both worlds, having a boy and a girl. I have tea parties and play dress up with Lyla, and then I get to be manly and play with trucks and blocks and cook in the play kitchen with Sawyer.”

Hearing his name, Sawyer said in his high-pitched voice, “I like playing with trucks, Daddy, and I like to do football with Papa.”

“I know you do, and Daddy loves playing with trucks with you, munchkin. Papa loves his football buddy, too,” Emmett said to his son before looking back at Brian. “As much as you love Justin, you will end up loving that beautiful baby just as much. That’ll probably make you love Justin even more, getting to share Keegan with him.”

“Thanks, Em,” Brian told Emmett sincerely. “I really appreciate your insight, and although I have a hard time imagining you wearing flannel and playing with trucks, it sure does give me something to think about.”

“Anytime, Brian.”

“Please don’t say anything to Justin about this. I don’t want to stress him out any more than he already is. I just needed to talk with someone closer to my age who has experience with this. Ted has been a lot of help, too. You may come off as a nelly queen, but you have always been a great friend to me and Justin. Hell, if it wasn’t for you, we probably wouldn’t even be together.”

Brian shuddered and blinked back tears at the memory.

“You are a lot stronger than you appear and can be a really tough butch when necessary,” Brian added.

Emmett put his hand over his heart. “Wow, Brian. That may be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. Even nicer than the toast you gave at my wedding last year when you congratulated Drew for finally making an honest woman out of me.”

“Alright, don’t get moist,” Brian said before a waitress came over to take their order.

Emmett continued to find himself in high demand after Justin called him that afternoon and informed him that Keegan would probably be ready to go home in a week or so. The new father was thrilled that his son would be well enough to leave the hospital soon, but had suddenly realized that he had nothing that was needed to take care of a baby - no crib, clothing, diapers, bottles... nothing at all.

Emmett was thrilled to shop for essential items and help set up a nursery for Keegan at Britin, and he promised to recruit Drew, Ted, and Blake to help. Justin had to remind him that evening when he stopped at Emmett and Drew’s house that Emmett would not be dressing a Barbie doll, like he did with his daughter. Justin was pretty sure that Lyla had more clothes and accessories than most teenage girls did. The six year-old even carried a purse. What she carried in it that she needed to bring everywhere, Justin had no idea.

Emmett rolled his eyes, but agreed.

The first thing Justin asked him to get was paint for Keegan’s nursery, which would be across the hallway from his and Brian’s master suite.

“We’ll need three gallons of Sky Blue and one gallon of Snow White. Would you and the guys please paint the walls and ceiling Sky Blue for me?” Justin requested.

“Then what do you need the white paint for, Sweetie?”

“It’s for the clouds, Em. I’m also going to paint a mural on the ceiling with Daphne looking down on our son, watching over him,” Justin explained with tears in his eyes.

Emmett hugged him, sniffling back tears of his own. “I’m sure it will be beautiful.”

Justin then took out his laptop and showed Emmett the furniture and other items he wanted, including a round crib, dresser, dressing table, cushioned rocking chair, car seat, stroller, and all the other things needed for a new baby. Justin printed out a list, and then gave Emmett his credit card so that he could go to the hardware and furniture stores the next day.

After he finished shopping, Emmett called to say that the furniture would be delivered in five days, giving them time to paint the room and Justin time to paint the mural on the ceiling, which would take at least one full day. They wanted to make sure the room had time to air out before Keegan came home.

Justin loved that he could provide a nice home and nursery for his son, but given a choice, he would rather have Daphne alive and taking Keegan home with her.

Emmett, Drew, Ted, and Blake, along with Lyla, Sawyer, and Phoenix, headed for Britin the following day to get the nursery painted and ready for Justin to work his magic on the mural. Emmett would keep the kids occupied while the other three men got the room painted.

Emmett had gone to Babies R Us and went hog wild buying baby clothes and other essentials. When they got to Britin, he put all of the new clothes in the washer so everything would be clean for Keegan, hoping that the premie-sized clothes he bought would fit him. He recalled having to buy premie clothes for Lyla, who had been a tiny little thing that was abandoned at an orphanage in Pakistan the day before he and Drew had arrived to find a baby to adopt.

After starting the laundry, Emmett set the kids up at the kitchen table with coloring books and crayons, telling them that they could color pictures for the new baby’s room. Emmett had fun with the kids, especially while watching over his two children who loved coloring like “Uncle Jussie,” as Lyla called her favorite uncle. Ted and Blake’s little Phoenix needed more help, so he sat on Emmett’s lap and held a crayon in his little hand with Em’s hand steadying it. Each of the kids colored several pictures for their new “cousin.”

Two hours later, with the laundry, artwork, and painting completed, minus Justin’s mural, the men and their rugrats headed home.


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