About three years later
“We can’t babysit. We don’t have any wall sockets plugged or the cabinets locked. What if Xanth drinks Lysol?”
Jericho lounged on the couch, a DVR football game on in the background while Dorian Cooper, a.k.a. Damian Corsetti, the love of his life and former mob boss, ran in circles picking up dog toys.
“D, come here.” Jericho snagged his wrist when he passed and yanked him onto his lap. It’d taken Jericho almost a year before he stopped thinking and calling “Dorian” Damian. He wasn’t one for cutesy nicknames like some of his friends and family, but he’d had to resort to calling his partner “D”, so he didn’t accidentally reveal his identity in public. “Stop worrying. Xanth is barely crawling. We won’t be able to let him out of our sight. And it’s only for a couple of hours while Rio and Rake deal with some permit issues with their property. We’ll be fine.”
“Why can’t York and Chaze do it? They already have a kid.”
“Because we are Xanth’s godfathers and we need to help take care of him.”
Dorian blew out a breath and relaxed. “You’re right. I hate it when you’re right,” he mumbled.
Jericho laid a kiss oh his temple. “I know you do.”
“Babies are just so tiny and breakable.”
Jericho chuckled and raised Dorian’s chin to kiss his lips. “Have I said I love you today?”
Sapphire blue eyes darkened as Dorian gazed at Jericho. “Not yet.”
“I think it’s freakin’ adorable how scared you are of a tiny person. You were fine when Flip was a puppy.”
The husky raised and tilted his head when he heard his name.
“That was different. He wasn’t incapable of surviving without me there.”
“Not necessarily. Puppies are a lot like babies. And remember how great you were with him?”
Dorian pushed his face into Jericho’s neck—the place where he usually put his cologne—and took a deep breath. He did that a lot. Said it calmed him; that it was his happy place. “You always know what to say to me.”
“I know you better than anyone.”
“True.” They kissed on the couch for several minutes. Until they were both excited, then ran to the bedroom for lubed hand jobs and more kissing. I took a little longer than usual, since Dorian was still nervous, so Jericho was a little sweaty when Rio and Rake rang the doorbell.
“Hey! There’s my godson.”
“I’m still not sure that was the smartest thing we’ve ever done,” Rake said, carrying the car seat with Xanth into the living room. “I mean, you have two sisters, Duran Duran. Neither of them are a crazy ex-Navy Seal or former you-know-what from Vegas.”
“Dorian’s not Voldemort,” Jericho said. “You can speak freely here.”
“How do you know who Voldemort is?” Rio asked, passing him with a bunch of baby junk.
“D reads to me,” Jericho answered absently. “Why are you carrying so much stuff? You’ll only be gone a couple of hours, right?”
“Hopefully, but you know how the government is. A bunch of red tape. We wanted to make sure you had everything you might need,” Rio answered.
Jericho crossed his arms. “I won’t know how to use half that junk.”
Rake turned to his new husband in a panic. “Let’s bring him. People will just have to deal if he cries.”
“Rake, man, chill. I’ve got this,” Jericho said.
Dorian appeared in the living room with damp hair, having jumped into a quick shower after saying, “I don’t want even the mere possibility of our…stuff anywhere near the baby.”
Jericho, being somewhat sane, had washed his hands and called it good. “You do know babies are created with stuff, right?” Jericho had teased. “Xanth won’t be scarred for life.”
That earned him a door in the face. God, D was so fucking cute when he was nervous.
“Rake.” Dorian shook his hand.
“Hi.” Rio gave Dorian a quick hug. They’d bonded over the years because Rio was…well Rio. He was so completely open and kind, no one could resist him, and he’d made it his mission to befriend Dorian/Damian when it was clear Jericho was in love.
Xanth started to wake from his nap, and Rake lifted him out of the car seat. Rio spread a blanket on the floor and opened what he called a Pack-n-Play, and Rake put Xanth inside.
“Okay.” Jericho smiled and rubbed his hands together. “See, D? He’s contained.”
“Yes, but you’ll have to get him out to change his diaper.” Rake shook a bottle and handed it to Xanth, who took it greedily.
“Again, chill. I read the instruction manual Rio sent. We both did.”
“It wasn’t an instruction… You know what? Never mind.” Rio grabbed Rake and dragged him to the door. “We’ve got to go. Call us with any questions.”
“I’ll text first.”
Rake looked ready to chain himself to the Pack-awhatsit, but Rio finally got him out the door. Jericho shook his head with a chuckle as they sniped back and forth on the way to their car.
He inhaled the scent of the desert in the morning sun and looked around their property. Yes, theirs. They weren’t married, and Dorian said he didn’t want to get married, so they’d agreed when purchasing the land and building the house that if they ever split up neither of them would stay. They’d sell and divide it 50/50. Dorian had even put it in a legal document, which Jericho found adorable.
Hell, he found everything about his boyfriend did adorable.
Jericho closed the door and turned to find the love of his life using a dog as a buffer between himself and a baby.
“See, Flip? That’s Xanth. He’s a tiny human who can’t speak yet.” Dorian and Flip peered over the edge of the thing. Xanth threw his bottle at Flip and laughed with glee when the dog jumped back.
“Well, I think it’s safe to say he’s got a lot of Rake in him.” Jericho put a hand on Dorian’s back and kissed his cheek. He bent to pick up the bottle and found it empty, so he handed it over.
“Kitchen. I’ll get him.” Jericho leaned in and scooped Xanth into his arms and proceeded to walk around while patting his back.
“What are you doing?” Dorian cried. “He was contained in there.”
Jericho smiled. “He needs to burp, or he’ll be gassy and irritated.”
“Sounds like someone I know after eating burritos.”
“You know you love my Dutch ovens.”
“Gross.” Dorian wandered over and peered into Xanth’s face over Jericho’s shoulder. “Your uncle Jericho is gross.”
“Oh, please. Like you never fart. We’re both men.”
Dorian ignored him, and Xanth finally burped. He got sleepy again after about an hour of walking around looking at new things. Flip got bored and took a nap, so Jericho put the baby in the crib thing and laid on the couch next to it.
Dorian walked into the great room and found the love of his life fast asleep on the couch next to a sleeping baby and dog. It was too precious to resist, so he snapped a few photos.
Dorian kept busy wandering around and cleaning things that didn’t need cleaning. I’m being ridiculous. He sat in the recliner and watched Xanth and Jericho sleep. The baby was cute. Terrifying, but cute. Flip got up long enough to shuffle over to his feet and fell right back to sleep.
A sound came from his partner; the beginning of his snoring cycle when he slept on his back, something Dorian was intimately familiar with after three years of living with the man. They’d lived a part for a few months when Dorian had first returned to Salt Lake after being in LA with Luke Kairo and his agents. But they quickly realized that if they wanted to spend any time together, it would be easier if they lived in the same place.
He owed a lot to Luke Kairo, but Luke had said they were even after Dorian had led him right to Vincent Mahoney. Luke had avenged his twin, and he was satisfied.
Oddly, Kai and Gannin West were some of Dorian’s best friends. Although, Rio was his first friend…after Jericho, of course.
He shook his head, he never thought he’d have this: friends, a house, a partner. It was all so unfamiliar, and yet, if anyone tried to take it from him, he’d rip them limb-from-limb.
As he gazed at the baby, it occurred to him that for most couples this was the natural progression—marriage and kids—but he and Jericho had talked when the house was being designed. Should they make enough bedrooms to grow their family? They’d decided on two extra bedrooms, but both had said they didn’t see themselves as parents. Jericho because he loved his dangerous job, and Dorian because, well…he didn’t want a child to know all the terrible things he’d done in his past. Perhaps one day they’d settle a bit more and want to foster or adopt an older child, but for now they were happy.
As of a year ago, Jericho became the head of his own team, and Gannin was no longer his boss. Dorian was wealthy (legitimately from good investments) and he’d started his own business consulting firm. It was him and five others. Working from home was no problem, but he often drove to the small suite of offices he rented in downtown Salt Lake to get out of the house. They were happy.
Xanth stirred and began to fuss, so Dorian changed his diaper and held him while he wandered out to the deck. The house had been built on a small hill overlooking a wide expanse of desert with huge, red rock formations in the distance. One of his favorite things to do was to go out on the deck with his coffee and watch the sunrise. His other favorite thing was to go out to there with a glass of whiskey and watch the sunset. The colors were indescribable. Never the same, but always breathtaking.
That was how Jericho found them a little while later. He wound his arms around Dorian’s waist and kissed the side of his neck. “You look very sexy right now.”
“Just right now?” Dorian asked.
Jericho chuckled. “Well, almost always.”
Jericho took Xanth when the little guy reached for him. “You remember Kai’s birthday party last year?”
Dorian groaned. “You’re never going to let that go, are you?”
“Yeah, well, it’s not exactly sexy when your boyfriend gets so drunk, he calls you by some other dude’s name.”
Dorian pursed his lips. “At least it wasn’t an old lover’s name.” It had been his old accountant’s name, for some odd reason.
“Sure.” Jericho winked.
It wasn’t too hot, and he’d kept the baby out of the sun, but they went into the cool house and gave Xanth another bottle.
“You know I love you, right?” Dorian plastered himself to Jericho’s front when he’d set Xanth down.
“I know. I’m just messing with you. It’s what I live for.” He tugged Dorian even closer and kissed him. Breathing hard, they broke it off before it could get out of hand.
“Right.” Dorian cleared his throat. “I’ll make lunch.”
Jericho grinned and licked his lips. “Sounds good.”
Utterly ridiculous, Dorian thought as he watched Jericho playing with Xanth, how much we still wanted each other. Things changed, people grew apart, feelings faded, but so far, he and Jericho were still the same. They were happy. And, he hoped, they always would be.
Jericho lay on his back holding Xanth up in the air, the baby laughing hysterically, when Rake and Rio returned. Babysitting the little guy wasn’t so bad, but he was glad when his dads returned. He was selfish about his time with Dorian, so sue him. He worked long hours and often had to leave town to hunt fugitives, so when he was home, he wanted D to himself.
Was that so wrong?
Although, he hadn’t been lying about how sexy Dorian had looked standing outside with the baby, both staring in fascinated silence at the natural wonders all around them. Something he often found his boyfriend doing. Dorian didn’t have anything to worry about when it came to kids. He was great with Dell, Chaze and York’s daughter, and now he was great with Xanth. If they ever decided to foster or adopt, they’d be kick ass dads.
They said goodbye to the tired parents and locked the doors. It was still early, but the way Dorian was looking at him, they’d be in their bed for the rest of the night, with breaks for snacks and water, of course.
Naked and ready, Jericho thrust into Dorian’s body hard, driving the man underneath him crazy, and himself in the process. They were sweaty, sore, and drunk on each other.
Jericho fell to the side, making Dorian groan when he left him empty. Jericho smoothed a rough hand over his stomach and further to fondle his now soft cock.
Dorian moaned out a chuckle. “You’re insatiable.”
“When it comes to you, I am.”
“And chicken wings.”
Jericho’s chest shook with laughter. “Jericho and Chicken Wings: A Love Story,” he said swiping his hand in an arch. “Fuck, now I want some.”
Dorian shook his head and gave a deep sigh. “They’re frozen. You’ll have to preheat the oven.”
Jericho hopped out of bed and ran naked out the door. He returned a few minutes later with the timer shaped like a rooster he’d come home with one day. He’d set it, and whispered while staring deep into Dorian’s eyes, “My cock is about to go off.”
“My cock is set.”
“You’re such an idiot,” Dorian said with a sappy smile.
“I’m your idiot.” He hovered over Dorian’s body and blew a raspberry on his neck, making him squirm. He dodged a punch to the stomach (well-aware how ticklish his man was) and flattened him with all his weight.
Dorian pinched his ass, but he just wiggled it and pressed his hips down. “Get off, you oaf.”
“Not until you admit you much you love my cock going off.”
“It’s what I live for,” Dorian deadpanned. It would’ve been more devastating had he not been gasping for breath.
Jericho rolled off and laughed when Dorian sucked in air.
“There’re easier ways to kill me, you know,” Dorian said.
“Oh, yeah? Do tell.”
“Cyanide, for example. A syringe full of potassium or air. Dropping me from a hot air balloon.”
Jericho propped himself on his elbows and stared. “You’ve thought way too much about this.”
He shrugged. “I read a lot.”
Jericho’s reply was cut off by the timer, so he went and slid the wings in the oven.
Returning to the bedroom, cock once again set, he gazed at his naked, dozing lover. Happiness rolled through his chest and bloomed from his stomach. Christ, he loved that man more than anything.
Most people thought of love as dark romance and grand gestures, but it wasn’t. It was the little things, like laughing in bed at your boyfriend’s stupid jokes. Listening to him read YA novels to you when you really wanted to watch football. Being secretly charmed that a forty-five-year-old ex-mobster liked reading YA novels. Putting up with late nights and giving foot rubs when he came in exhausted.
Finding the strength to say, “Fuck what other people might think… I love him.”
And Jericho did love Damian Corsetti, now Dorian Cooper, or anything else he wanted to call himself, with all his heart.