They met in college.
Christian Harvey found himself struggling with his calculus homework in the library. Why a pre-law student even needed to take calculus was far beyond him, but that didn’t change the fact that this was due by midnight and he had no clue what he was doing. Derivatives. Something pointless, really, unless someone was going into some sort of math field. In which law was not.
Honestly, he didn’t even want to be a lawyer. But if he told his father, Charles Harvey Esq. that, he ran the risk of breaking his heart and being written out of the will. So, for appeasement’s sake, Chris worked hard to get into a good college, joined their pre-law program and faked it, at least for the time being.
Everyone thought Chris would do well as a lawyer, live up to his father’s prestigious name and become as well-known as him, simply because he liked to read and he was good at arguing. However, if he had it his way, he’d write. Once, he mentioned it to his father who shot it down almost immediately.
“It’s good to have dreams, Christian. But let’s think logically about your future, shall we?”
He punched some numbers in his calculator. 7,334.9 cubed? No way was that right. Not even in the slightest. “Damn it,” he groaned, looking at his watch. It was already eleven thirty seven. There was no way he was going to finish in time, it seemed.
“Just when I was starting to think I was the only one in here.” Came an unfamiliar voice from the stacks. Chris looked up towards the location of the voice. A guy, no much older than him, was sitting on the floor, back leaning against a bookshelf. He was in the psychology section, textbook opened in his lap, highlighter between his fingers. “What are you working on?” Before Chris could tell him that it didn’t matter, that he wasn’t in a good mood and wanted to be left alone, the guy closed his highlighter in his book and stood.
He was good-looking, Chris wasn’t going to deny that. Hair the color of raven’s feathers that just flopped in his eyes that resembled two frozen lakes. He was tall, lanky with lean muscle and a casual way of holding himself. Honestly, his first impression of this guy, besides the fact that he was gorgeous, was that he was probably an asshole. Chris swallowed as this unknown man leaned forward over the desk where he was working. “Ah, derivatives.” He sighed and smiled. Chris noted that laced in his easy smirk was a dimple in his left cheek. Somehow, that made him more attractive. The guy pointed to the answer written on the paper. “That’s wrong.”
Annoyed, Chris slammed his calc textbook closed, trapping his sheet inside, and stood up. It was glaringly obvious that his homework was not going to get done, he didn’t need put down by this-admitting attractive-strange jerk. “Thanks,” he muttered sarcastically. Chris, growing more agitated by the second, slung his bag over his shoulder and made to leave.
“8x cubed + 3x squared + 5x + 7 = 24x squared + 6x + 5. That should’ve been what you got for your answer.” He said to Chris’s back, making him stop in his tracks. Seriously, the guy probably stared at the problem for a minute, tops. And he did calculus in his head. “You were close.”
“So, technically,” Chris said, spinning back around to face this guy. “I wasn’t wrong.” He pointed out. “I was headed in the right direction and probably would’ve gotten it right if you hadn’t distracted me.” The guy grinned again, leaning against the white wall and crossing his ankles. His shirt, vintage style and heavily faded, sported an old Coke ad.
“Let me guess.” He laughed. “Pre-law?”
Somewhat shocked, he squinted. “How do you know?”
“I know things.” He said elusively. “Just like I know you’d like to have coffee with me sometime. When you’re not filling your schedule with things you don’t want to do. Like your law classes.”
“That’s rather presumptuous of you.” He derided.
The guy shrugged slightly, that cocky grin still wearing on his face.
Chris scoffed, rolled his eyes and hoisted his bag higher on his shoulder. “I don’t have time for this.” He grumbled, turning around again. “So, thanks for the answer and the random and uncalled for offer, Mysterious Stranger. I’ll be on my way, then.” Chris said, cynicism dripping from his voice.
Before he could walk another couple of steps, he felt a hand over his shoulder softly, making him gasp and whip back around. He found himself two inches from that guy, staring past his choppy bangs and into his icy blue eyes. Chris swallowed hard, feeling the breath leave him. He smelled of cigarette smoke and the inside of Abercrombie and Fitch. “I’m Seth.” He whispered, close enough to kiss.
Chris felt himself melt beneath his hand. “Christian.” He said, unsure as to why he used his real name considered everyone called him Chris except for his parents.
“There.” Seth said. “Now we’re not strangers.”
“Daddy?” Chris’s teenage daughter, Sophia, said pulling him out of his reverie. “Daddy, you’re burning the eggs.” She snatched the spatula from him and immediately scooped up the egg he was frying. He looked down, somewhat stunned, lost in a time that had long since passed.
“It’s chill. I’ll just give it to Luke.” She said, breaking another egg to get her veggie omelet started. Chris added the peppers, the onion and the cheese for her as Sophia disappeared from his side with the plate of eggs. She sets it on the table where the younger ones, Luke and Lacie, argue over who would get to swing first at the park later.
“Do you have any homework for the weekend?” Chris asked Sophia when she returned to the kitchen. Sophia was still clad in her pajamas which mainly consisted of shorts that looked more like boxers, and a brightly colored tank top. She shook her head no and poured herself a glass of orange juice, resting the small of her back against the counter. The baby cooed from her high chair before something knocked over and she giggled. Chris sighed. “Soph, what fell?”
She laughed. “It’s okay, Willow just pushed over her Cheerios.” Sophia set down her glass and went to clean up the mess, baby-talking to her little sister.
“Morning, everyone.” Seth yawns, walking down the stairs. “Baby, I have a meeting today, so I might be a little late.” He kissed Chris’s cheek, grabbing a to-go coffee mug and bidding the kids goodbye. He shouted a meager, “I love you,” over his shoulder before he ran out the door, directed at nobody.
Seth hadn’t changed much by way of appearances. He cut his hair so now his eyes were visible, but other than that, he stayed the same.
At least, his looks did.
He quit smoking when he found out he was accepted into med school, figuring it didn’t go over well with being a doctor. Also, after they got married and adopted Sophia, he lost most, if not all, of his boldness. He hung back now, edging on the side of caution. Seth called it maturity, Chris wished for a little more passion nonetheless.
When they met, Seth would drive without a seatbelt, normally speeding. He partied, he was rather reckless, wild. And that was something Chris admired, honestly, how carefree he was. How his attitude was almost always, “I don’t give a damn.”
“Have you been listening to a thing I’ve said?” Sophia asked from the table. Chris snapped out of his thoughts again and turned his full attention to his daughter, pretending that he did indeed hear every word she just said. She launched back into her story about something funny that happened in school the other day.
Each of the kids were unique and significant in their own way.
Sophia was vegetarian. Which was a little annoying because that meant Chris and Seth constantly have to have the house stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables just for her to make salads or other veggie-appropriate meals. She painted her nails dark blue or rustic red and burned incense in her room, no matter how many times they told her not to. Her hair was long and wavy and natural. Chris could count on one hand how many times she’s straightened it or done something else to it. Her style was something all her own, consisting of jeans that her dads used to wear. Literally. She found a box of their old things sitting in the attic and gushed over the “vintage” jeans and graphic tee’s.
She was largely into causes and has never let anyone get away with making fun of her family. She had stood up for them more times than Chris had and wasn’t at all ashamed to admit that she had two gay dads.
She listened to indie music, watched D-list films; those underrated things that never made it to theaters. Sophia got a kick out of those old horror movies, especially the black and white ones and is the most random, down-to-earth, satirical and sarcastic teenager that Chris had ever met.
Her adoption story was much like any other that Seth and Chris had heard. Her mother had seven other kids by different fathers and did even know who Sophia’s was. When she couldn’t pay her bills and things began to look sketchy around her mother’s run-down apartment, Child Protective Services was called. Eventually, after a long process, all of the kids were places into foster homes, some, like Sophia, were adopted.
Luke was going to be a ladies’ man when he gets to be Sophia’s age. With his huge green eyes and flop of chocolate brown hair, he’s going to have girls falling at his feet. He was hugely protective of his sisters and it was obvious by how he looked at Sophia’s boyfriend-of-the-moment whenever they would come by the house. He was the only boy, so he must’ve found it in his job description as “only brother.” He was put up for adoption when he was five months old, due to an abusive home and ill-equipped parents.
Lacie’s mother was fourteen. Her father was twenty. The police were involved and her father was charged with statutory rape and her mother was forced by her parents to give her up. She was incredibly shy, unless it was around her family and she tended to do that little girl thing and hide behind their legs whenever anyone unfamiliar came over.
Willow’s father split from her mother once she discovered she was pregnant. Only being in her mid-twenties without any sort of real job or means to afford to keep her child, she made the difficult decision to give her up. Seth and Chris had made plans to adopt her before she was even born. Out of all their children, Willow’s mother was the only one to request an open-adoption.
Of course, after Sophia, they found all of their kids because Chris begged Seth for another child. And another. And another. And another. Thinking about it, he was most likely trying to fill the void in his heart that Seth had inadvertently left.
All by six o’clock PM, Chris would have taken the kids to the park, changed diapers, filled bottles, settled arguments about toys and T.V time, argued with his teenager about her clothes and vacuumed the downstairs. He would’ve finished paying bills, balanced a checkbook, started dinner, colored with the two middle kids and rocked his crying baby to sleep.
He was alone, but tried not to think about it. The truth was, he missed his husband. It was almost as though he was a widower, or divorced. Seth simply was never home, which, granted, he couldn’t control. But it still didn’t change the fact that Chris was, well, lonely.
As Chris soothed a crying Willow, the front door opened, the alarm system was turned off and Luke and Lacie were off and running down the hallway, yelling, “Dad!”
“Hey!” came Seth’s voice from the front door. With Lacie wrapped around his left leg and Luke around his right, Seth beamed, walking through the front room into the kitchen. He stoked Willow’s cheek and kissed Chris’s. “Missed you,”
“You’re home earlier than I expected,”
Willow cried harder from the space on his chest. She immediately twisted her body away from Chris and reached towards Seth. “She would want you, wouldn’t she?” Seth caught Willow from under her arms and scooped her up. He blinked at Chris, puzzled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means I’m here with her all day. And you’re never home. And she would rather be with you than me.”
Everyone was deadly silent except for Willow gurgling with her fist in her mouth.
“Come on, guys. Let’s go work on that puzzle again.” Said Sophia from the family room, pulling Luke and Lacie away from her dads, sensing a possible fight coming on.
“That’s not fair, Chris.”
“No, Seth, what’s not fair is I’m doing all of this alone. The house and four kids and…everything I’ve been doing? What do you think this is doing to me?”
He stared at Chris, this little fire in his eyes that he hadn’t seen in so long, it felt like a distant memory from too long ago, Willow still in his arms. “I’m out making a living.”
“You’d sacrifice your family for-”
“I’m sacrificing for our family, Chris!” he yelled suddenly, making Willow cry again. It was amazing to Chris, actually. He was honestly, legitimately happy they were kind of getting into a fight. At least Seth was paying attention to him for the first time in forever.
Still. Chris wanted nothing more than to touch him. He wanted Seth to touch him. Chris wanted so desperately for Seth to recognize him as more than just a father, or even a husband, really. All he wanted was for Seth to see him as a lover, simply as a boyfriend, maybe just once in a while. Like he did when they were young. But he knew that wasn’t going to happen.
“Don’t you miss me at all?” Chris whispered hollowly, almost afraid of his answer.
He laughed, frustrated. “Of course I miss you! But I have to work, Chris! I can’t just-”
“You can’t just what, Seth? You can’t just be fucking home for once?!”
Seth’s lips pulled together in a tight line. He stared at Chris for a long moment, his eyes flicking with emotion, their daughter squirming in his arms with her tiny fist enclosed around his tie. “If I stay home then people die, Chris. I think sometimes you forget what I do.”
“I think sometimes you forget who you are.” Chris retorted, folding his arms across his chest indignant. Seth let out a breath through his nose and rubbed circles on Willow’s back absently.
“You think I’m just doing this for shits and giggles-”
“Don’t put words in my mouth!”
“Well, it’s obvious what you’re thinking!”
It was past frustration and anger and hurt for Chris. No matter what he said, it seemed as though Seth would never get it. And that was truly more painful than anything else. “You call this a marriage, Seth? Goddamn it, I forget what your voice sounds like sometimes!”
He turned on his heel and made to walk up the stairs. He heard his baby wailing behind him as Seth groaned. “Come on, Chris. Don’t do this.”
But the door to their bedroom slammed shut, leaving Seth standing at the foot of the stairs, holding Willow who was screaming her head off. He sighed, shook his head and bounced the baby, glancing at Sophia who was biting her lip.
“I think he’s just stressed.” She offered weakly.
“Do you think I’m gone too much?” Seth asked her bluntly. He watched his oldest falter, deciding on her answer before nodding.
“I miss you. And I know Daddy does too. But I understand why you’re gone.”
Sometimes, Seth wished Chris did.
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