This story may occasionally include explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adult males.  If you are underage or it is illegal to view this for any reason, consider yourself warned.  If you find this material offensive, I have to wonder why you came here in the first place.

 

This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entirely a coincidence. As author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me.  This work is copyright Fitz, 2013-2014.

 

I love to hear any feedback you have, be it positive or negative.  Send me an email with any comments or questions at movingonstory@gmail.com

 

My wonderful husband gets a shout out for being so supportive and allowing me to bounce ideas off of him. I would also like to thank my editor, David. All errors that remain are mine, and mine alone.

 

I also have a mailing list you can sign up for on my website, www.movingonstory.weebly.com, or by emailing me.

 

~Fitz

 

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Chapter 13

 

As I continue to write this, the fact that I'm rambling becomes clearer the farther and farther I get into telling my story. I just finished writing about the day Zach finally faced his mother, which happened in September of 2018, a year and a half after Scott and I decided to reconcile, and just over two years after the death of Mia. However, I feel like I need to go back in time a bit in order to continue the story. Maybe this would make a lot more sense if I actually put everything in chronological order; I don't really know. In my head, it seems like things would be better lumped together by story, because that's how I recall the events, but I can see how it would become difficult to follow. Maybe once I have finished telling my tale, I can find someone - even if I have to pay them - to look over everything and help put it together in a way that is easier to follow. Until then, I will continue trucking along. Any time I jump through time, I will do my best to make it clear when the events are happening and try to place them in context with as many other events as I can to make following this story as easy as possible.

With all that said, I'm going to jump back about six months. Scott had just moved back into the house, and there was a little tension as we readjusted to living together again. We had finished couples therapy, but we would continue to see Dr. Janet with Zach for a few more months. It was a beautiful April weekend, with all the dogwoods and poplars in the city exploding into colorful displays, and I was sitting in a suite in a Midtown hotel, while Will paced nervously back and forth.

"Will... relax; you're even making me nervous."

"Sorry, I'm just ready for this part to be over. And we still have... four hours before it's time to get ready."

"Just breathe. Let's go get pancakes, or something. You need to take your mind off everything. How much you want to bet Jason's kicking back in a recliner and nursing a beer right now."

"He's not. He won't stop texting me. Maria and Nana are driving him up a wall apparently. Remind me why we decided to renovate our condo right before the wedding?"

"Because you didn't have a choice. A pipe burst and you're waiting for them to finish fixing the water damage."

"So? Jason and I could've roughed it."

"You don't have floors right now," I reminded him.

"Yeah, that might have been difficult. Of course, Nana wouldn't have been able to convince Jason that we spend the night before our wedding apart, if it weren't for the fact we've been living in a hotel for the past two weeks."

"At least with Nana on the case, she's made sure everything is taken care of."

"Yeah, that woman is a firecracker. She may not be a blood relative of his, but I still feel like I'm gaining a mother-in-law."

"Speaking of, I assume there's still no word from his parents?"

"No. We're leaving out the part about objecting just in case. I can't understand how a parent could simply write off their child just because of who they are."

"You and me both. Do you want me to put Scott on bouncer duty, in case they show up?"

"Naw, Jason has a few of his fellow officers taking care of that. One of the perks of marrying a cop, I guess."

"It still feels weird that I'm bringing Scott as my plus-one. I wasn't expecting you to ask him to be in your wedding, or anything, but I at least was expecting his name on the invitations."

"I know, and I'm sorry. The whole dynamic with Scott is difficult for me right now. I'm so happy y'all have patched everything up, but it's hard for me to not think of him as my patient. Inviting a patient to my wedding just felt so completely inappropriate, even if it is someone I have such a long history with."

"Why don't you just tell Scott he needs to see someone else? I still don't entirely understand why you've continued to see him."

"Well, part of it is vanity. I like the idea that 'only I' can help him. But it's a lot more than that. Scott has made tons of progress, and he keeps working to improve. I feel like if I were to tell him to see someone else, he'd have trouble opening up again. The only reason he worked with your other therapists is he knew what was on the line. Now that he's accomplished what he needed to, I'm worried he'll stop making progress in individual therapy if he were to start over with someone new."

"Yeah, I can see that, I guess."

"It'll just take some time for the dust to settle. Now that you've worked things out, I'm no longer mad at him for using me the way he did. Maybe when Jason and I get back from Aruba, we need to karaoke together, just the four of us. I've avoided spending time around Scott outside our sessions, and I think that needs to change for us going forward," Will said.

"That sounds great. I've missed you at karaoke."

"I know, but you've had Jason there, at least. Honestly, it's been nice having a night to myself once a week. There's a big difference between practically living together, and actually living together."

"Don't I know it. Hell, the last three months, Scott's been at the house almost the entire time. He cooked, he cleaned, everything. You would think him moving back in would've been as simple as getting used to him stealing the covers again, but no..."

"But you wouldn't have it any other way, would you?"

"Of course not. Now let's go get pancakes!" I declared, shoving him out the door.

* * *

I should probably point out here that Will wasn't the only one who had a hard time figuring out how to interact with Scott after his return. His parents flew down, and I ended up taking Zach to ride go-karts while Mike chewed into Scott for dropping off the grid. I watched Scott sit on the patio, phone about a foot from his ear as he listened to what his sister-in-law thought of him. Tom was cordial enough at work, but wouldn't even acknowledge Scott's presence whenever we came by the house. It took time, and Scott went out of his way to earn the forgiveness of everyone he could. Ultimately, though, simply the fact that I forgave him, and was willing to work through our issues seemed to be enough for everyone to eventually give him another chance. Once Scott's parents finally got the chance to tell him all the things they had wanted to say during the months he was off the grid, they seemed to bury the hatchet pretty quickly. Richard and Lydia took the longest to forgive him out of our close friends and family. While they had been something of a second set of parents before Scott left, after he returned, they were cordial but a bit distance. We still saw them occasionally, but it was almost always in the context of them visiting Tom. I don't think we were ever invited out to their house again.

I could probably write a lot about Will and Jason's wedding. It was beautiful, and memorable, but it wasn't my wedding, so it's not my story to tell. The only reason I bring up the wedding is because of a conversation Scott and I had with Will's mother at the reception. Zach was off in his own world most of the reception. Jason's former police partner, Maria, and her husband, Carlos, had brought their two sons, Julio and Cesar to the wedding, so Zach spent the entire time getting into mischief with them. They still lived in Macon, but they came often to visit her mother, who everyone called Nana,. Nana was also something of a surrogate mother for Jason, so it was no surprise Nana asserted herself early in the planning process and had successfully orchestrated an amazing ceremony and reception.

Will's parents, Cheryl and Tyler lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, so I'd met them several times over the years. However, I think Scott had only met them a couple times, including our wedding. I was in the middle of a conversation with Cheryl, when Scott wandered over and put his arm around my waist.

"Oh that's great news, dear," Cheryl said, interrupting herself mid-sentence. "When Will said you two had had a falling out, I was devastated for you. I mean, I can't imagine what you were each going through. Imagine, losing your child like that. No parent should ever have to endure such a thing..."

Scott and I simply exchanged looks, and forced ourselves to smile politely. We knew she was just trying to be sympathetic, but had she thought about what she said, she would've realized how painful a statement it was for us.

"Don't get me wrong," she continued, "Will said you two were trying to patch up, but it looks like everything's back to normal."

"It's been a tough journey, but I'm glad we rode it out. We're still getting readjusted to everything, but it's definitely worth it," I said, my forced smile transforming into a genuine one.

"Now I know it's maybe a bit soon, but have y'all thought about having any more children? That's the biggest downside of being gay, for all I care. You can't just decide 'hey let's do this,' but there's a silver lining there, even. Tyler and I were going to wait a few more years before having a kid, but Will had other plans."

Once again, Scott and I exchanged looks. One thing we had purposely avoided talking about in detail was whether or not to have another child. I wasn't sure either of us could go through with it again.

"I'm sorry; I'm not trying to put y'all on the spot or anything. I've just been practicing the best ways to pressure Will and Jason to start a family, and I guess it's seeped out," Cheryl said with a laugh.

"No, it's fine. We just haven't really talked about it yet. I mean, I'd like to have another child, but even if Scott's on board with me "

"I am," he cut in.

"Ok, so even though Scott's on board with me, I'm not sure it's going to happen any time soon. The wounds from losing Mia are still too fresh."

"No offense, but they're always going to be fresh. You lost a part of yourself, and it's going to be hard for that to ever heal. At the same time, you're not getting any younger. I'm not saying going out and get a new baby tonight, just think about it."

* * *

Think about it we did. We talked long into the night about the idea of having another child once we got home from the wedding. Over the course of the next week, it seemed to come up in conversation whenever Zach was busy. We both knew Zach's answer, and we didn't want to tell him until we had made a decision.

Both of us liked the idea of having another child, but we shared heavy reservations. Should the unthinkable happen, and we have another terminally-ill baby, neither of us thought our relationship would be able to weather a storm like the one we had finally recovered from. When talking about hypotheticals, it was easy to claim Scott wouldn't leave again after all, we had been through extensive therapy, and he was still working on how he coped with grief. But realistically, we just wouldn't know how either of us would react until actually placed in the situation again.

Scott was too nervous to even consider being the biological father again. Mia's illness had been the result of an extremely rare genetic mutation, and not the result of bad genes, by any means, but having already endured the death of his biological daughter once, he wasn't willing to take the risk by going through a surrogate again as the biological father. While it had been somewhat important for him to be a biological father to one of our children when we decided to have Mia, Scott was completely over that aspect. The reality was he was as much of a father to Zach as I was, so the biology didn't factor into him being a good dad.

After about a month of talking about having another child, we decided to go for it. Unlike with Mia, however, we decided to adopt. It was amazing the number of hoops the agency wanted us to jump through to prove we would be good parents. I just wanted to show them Zach and rest my case, although now that I think about it, that boy would've probably messed with their minds on purpose.

It actually seemed like they might decide to not take us on as prospective parents when we told them about the schism that nearly tore us apart after Mia's death. After all, their job was to match us with a pregnant woman who wanted to give her baby up for adoption. Anything could still happen. In the end, they interviewed seemingly everyone we ever met. We managed to convince them we wanted to wait until further in the process to actually tell Zach he was going to be a big brother again, and they proved quite creative when interviewing our son without giving away what they were looking for.

It took a couple months to complete all the interviews and start the process of finding us a mother. It was good we kept Zach in the dark. The first woman they paired us with was supposedly carrying twins, and we were ecstatic. When the adoption agency went over the ultrasounds, however, it turned out she wasn't even pregnant. She had miscarried the year before, and was trying to pass off the ultrasounds as current.

The week before Zach's tenth birthday, the agency paired us with a pregnant nineteen year old girl, named Brandi. We went to the agency to meet her. I was a bit surprised to be paired with a black mother, and I'll admit I had a few stereotypical expectations in my mind when we first met her I assumed she must have gotten knocked up, the boy she was with bailed, and now she was looking for an easy way to unload the baby. Of course, simply the fact she had brought along her boyfriend, Deshawne, undermined my preconceived notions. It's not that I had any issues with adopting a non-white baby, but since the company had made such a big deal about matching prospective parents with 'matching and complementary' birth mothers, I had always assumed they purposely tried to match racially.

When we walked into the meeting room, Brandi and Deshawne were already seated. I'll be honest, Deshawne looked something like the typical black man you see driving around the streets of Downtown, and I'm not even sure if I would have given him the time if I had walked past him on the street. His ragged jeans were sagging well below his hips, and he was wearing a clean, but stained, wife-beater. Brandi, on the other hand, was sharply dressed in a smart business suit.

"It's nice to meet you both," I said, as we all shook hands.

"You as well. Sorry about Deshawne. I tried to get him to put on some nicer clothes, but it's the first day off he's had in a few weeks."

"That's fine. You should see how Noah slums it on his days off," Scott replied with a laugh, which earned him a slight jab in the ribs.

The four of us engaged in small talk for a few minutes, staying clear of talking about why we were meeting while still getting to know each other a bit. Really, it was Scott, me, and Brandi doing most of the talking, but that didn't bother me. She seemed to be easily able to hold her own in conversation without dominating it. She was also a bit softer spoken than I was expecting, although I realized later on how prejudicial my expectations were going into that first meeting.

"Why don't we cut to the chase a bit," I said at a pause in the conversation. "Why did you select Scott and me as potential adoptive parents for your child?"

"The way I figure it, my momma raised me right, and she's a big ole' lesbian. Her and her current girlfriend been together like ten years, or so. I thought about it a lot, and if someone other than me is gonna raise my baby, I wanna make sure they gonna love her no matter what. That's why I specifically wanted a gay couple, 'cause they can't have no babies any other way 'cept if they given to 'em."

"Well, there are always other options. I mean, we have a son, Zach. He's ten. His mom's in jail for abusing him," I said, pulling a photo of Zach out of my wallet and handing it to Brandi.

"Aww, he's cute," she responded, handing the picture back to me.

"Thanks. Besides, I would expect most couples who are looking to adopt are doing so because they can't have children on their own."

"Yeah, that's prolly true, but I expect straight couples have an easier time finding matches than gay couples."

"May I ask why you're looking to give your child up for adoption?" Scott asked.

"I want to enroll in a school for cosmetology. I love doing people's hair and nails, and want to open up my own shop. I can't do that if I gots to take care of a baby. I love Deshawne, and I eventually want to get married and have kids with him, but we're not ready yet. He's working two jobs as it is to take care of us, and we got no money to spend on a baby to give it what it needs. Momma tried to convince me to get an abortion, 'cause I can't even afford the doctor appointments, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. The agency said y'all would help pay for the things I need while I'm pregnant, so I know the baby'll be healthy," Brandi responded.

"Yes, if you select us, we'll make sure all the health costs are taken care of. Of course, part of it is just because it benefits us to make sure the baby will be as healthy as possible, but we also don't want anything bad to happen to you, either. You are aware that the birth records will be in our names, and you won't have any legal right to custody, or anything, right?" I said.

"Yeah, they explained that to me. Like I said, I eventually want kids, but I'm not ready for them yet. I mean, I'm older than Momma was when she had me, but I know I'm too young to deal with that."

"Would it still be possible for us to be in the child's life as it grows up? I don't like the idea of having a kid of mine out there that doesn't even know who his daddy is." Deshawne asked, speaking up for one of the first times.

"Well, again, Scott and I would be the child's parents, legally. We'll have to play it by ear a bit, but I can't imagine forcing you two out of the child's life. In my mind, the more adult role-models a kid has in their life, the better."

"Deshawne, quit it. We've been over this. We can't have no baby right now. Give it a few years, and we'll be able to. For now, I just want to make sure my baby goes to a good home. I want to be part of its life, if possible, but that's entirely up to them. Don't worry. They'll love our kid, and raise it in a better home than we could provide.

"Anyways, I've heard enough. If y'all want to be my baby daddies, I'd be more than happy to have y'all adopt it," Brandi said.

I was going to ask for a moment to talk to Scott, but one glance at my husband told me all I needed to know. We were in.

"We would love that," I said, trying to maintain a level of professionalism, but I couldn't hold back a big grin. Scott simply beamed and nodded his head enthusiastically.

We then proceeded to fill out tons of paperwork, making the situation as final as possible. Under Georgia law, Brandi had until five days after she gave birth to change her mind, so nothing was truly finalized, but the first steps were made.

* * *

Waiting until the weekend after Zach visited his mother in prison turned out to be the right decision. Brandi had an ultrasound that Thursday, and it was revealed we would be adopting a baby girl. There was nothing to indicate any complications, although we were planning on having as many tests done to confirm that as possible. We were elated, and couldn't help but think we were being given a second chance with this baby after the hell we went through with Mia.

Saturday morning after breakfast, we sat Zach down and told him the news. He immediately started jumping up and down, excited about being a big brother again. After the initial excitement passed, however, his face fell.

"Wait... is she going to be sick like Mia was? I don't want to go through that again," he said, tears beginning to form in his eyes.

Scott and I immediately enveloped him in a tight embrace.

"The short answer is we don't know, bud," I told him. "However, what Mia had was very, very rare. It looks like she's going to be a perfectly healthy baby girl, but there's always a possibility something might go wrong."

"Do you still want a baby if something does?" he asked.

"Yeah. Pops and I have talked a lot about it. If she's sick, we'll deal with it. But like I said, it looks like she's going to be perfectly healthy. Do you still want another sister if she's sick?"

Zach thought about it for a moment, before cautiously nodding his head.

"I think so. I mean, I'm old enough now to help some, too."

"That's something we wanted to talk to you about too. The baby will be born in mid-January, and like you said, you're old enough to help out. We're going to expect you to help some in taking care of her."

"I can do that!" Zach said excitedly. "You can drop me off at the zoo with her and I can show her all the animals, and I can babysit her, and all that fun stuff!"

"You're getting ahead of yourself, buddy," Scott said with a laugh. "You're dad meant things like helping change and feed her."

"Awww, but that stuff's boring and gross," Zach exclaimed with a look of disgust on his face.

"Yeah, but it's the stuff that has to be done," I told him.

"Fine. What will her name be?"

"We haven't decided yet, but if you think of any good names, let us know."

* * *

In mid-November, I was sitting in my office at work when my cell phone rang. On the other end, was a very frantic Brandi.

"Mr. Hudgins?" she asked tentatively when I answered.

"We've been over this, Brandi; please call me 'Noah'. Is everything ok? You sound upset."

"Our landlord's evicting us. I swear me and Deshawne have been paying him the rent, but he says he ain't never got it. I handed him the cash myself last week."

"Are you at your apartment? Is it ok if I come over?"

"I... I guess so."

She gave me her address, and I told Scott what was going on. He insisted on coming with me. I knew they lived in a rougher part of town, but I wasn't prepared for the sight of the dilapidated building we pulled up in front of. It looked like it should've been condemned years before. Walking up to Brandi's unit, we had to step over someone passed out in the stairwell.

When Brandi let us into her apartment, I was pleasantly surprised. The interior was well decorated. The furnishings were mismatched and inexpensive looking, but she had done a nice job making it feel like a home. Well, with the exception of an expensive television and video game system, which I suspected was what Deshawne preferred to spend money on. Then I realized how cold it was in her apartment. While we had been having a mild November, the temperatures were still in the low sixties, and her apartment didn't feel much warmer.

"Brandi, is your heater on? It feels cold in here," I said.

"Yeah. I don't think it's working, though."

I tinkered with her thermostat, but had to ultimately agree with her assessment.

"Have you talked to the landlord about fixing it?"

"I called him twice this week, and I told him last week when I gave him the money for rent. He told me I was making it up, and the heater was fine. It ain't though."

"Hold on; let me make a phone call," Scott said, walking out of the room.

"Where's he going?"

"If I know him, he's calling our lawyer. Brandi, this guy is clearly a slumlord. Do you have anywhere else you can stay?"

"No, I wanna make it on my own. 'Sides, Momma said Deshawne ain't allowed to stay in her house."

"Speaking of, where is your boyfriend?"

"He's at work. He's always at work. He seems to blow most of his money on useless things, though. He works two jobs, but we barely got enough money for bills. Especially now. The landlord says our rent is now double because he says we ain't paying, but I know we are."

"Don't worry, we'll figure something out. I'm sure Scott and I can help a bit, at least until the baby comes."

Before we could speak any further, Scott walked back into the apartment.

"Noah, can I borrow you for a second?"

When we were both out in the hallway, I asked, "What did Richard say?"

Scott grinned. "You know me too well."

"Yeah, but this isn't the first time you've pulled this."

"Fair enough. Basically, the short version is Brandi can go after this guy for being a slumlord and not properly maintaining the complex, and Richard offered discount rates. However, that doesn't fix the fact that Brandi and Deshawne need a place to live. Does she have anywhere else?"

"Not really. I get the impression she can move back in with her mom, but she wants to live with Deshawne, and he's not welcome there apparently."

"I wondered about that. Sometimes she makes it sound like her and her mother are very close, but other times like they barely speak. Anyway, I wanted to ask what you thought about letting her stay in the guest suite over the garage. It's a one bedroom apartment, and fully furnished already. It's even keyed separately, so we can give them a key for the apartment and it's not like they can just let themselves into our house whenever they want."

"You were already thinking about this, weren't you?"

"Yeah, and I wanted to go ahead and offer it to her, but I wanted to check with you first," Scott said.

"Well, I appreciate that. My only concern is the fact she'll be moving into our property, and then in two months, we're expecting her to give us her baby. What are we going to do then? Kick her out?"

"No. Richard is going to email me a rental agreement for the apartment over the garage. It'll be month to month, and the same price they're paying right now. We won't be giving them anything for free, and they can move out at any time. This just gives them a stable, safe place to stay while they work on getting things together."

"But the apartment is fully furnished. What do we do with everything?"

"This is where we'll be going a bit out of pocket to help them. We'll give them a choice; we either pay to put their furniture in storage, or we put our stuff in storage and move all of their belongings in."

"Where exactly did you have time to come up with all this?" I asked a bit incredulously. Yeah, Scott was always good with finding a solution to other people's problems, but this seemed a bit too easy, even for him.

"Remember the last checkup; the one you couldn't go to?"

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Well, the doctor was running really far behind, and Deshawne apparently had to go to work, or something, so I offered to take her back home. Ever since I saw where she was living, I was thinking of contingencies in case her living arrangements took a turn for the worse."

"Wait... so you've been here before? Why the hell didn't you tell me?" I asked, feeling anger beginning to rise within me.

"Because I know you, Noah. You'd want to swoop in and save her from a situation she didn't think she needed saving from. As much as I wanted to make her just pack a bag and move into our apartment immediately, I knew it wasn't what was best for her. She would resent it. However, right now, she needs saving, and she knows it."

I let out a sigh. "Yeah, you're probably right, but if we'd helped her earlier, it wouldn't be an immediate safety issue."

"So you're on board with renting out the apartment to her?"

"On a month-to-month, temporary basis, yes. I like the idea of her being nearby, but I also don't want to encourage her and Deshawne to think they're going to be extremely involved in the day-to-day activities of our daughter once everything gets finalized."

"She's a smart young woman with a bright future ahead of her. I think she'll be fine," Scott said with a tone of finality.

We went back inside, and offered her the apartment over the garage. I was surprised when she didn't seem too excited about it.

"So would I have to pay rent on this place and yours?"

"No. We're going to get you out of this lease, since the owner is a scumbag. It's fully furnished, so you can decide if you want to move everything over, or put your stuff in storage while you're staying with us. Either way, we'll take care of that, too," I explained.

"And what happens after the baby is born? Once I give her to you guys, will we be kicked out?"

"Not at all. You'll be signing a lease, and the lease will automatically renew each month. You'll need to give us notice before leaving, and we'll need to give you two months notice before we can evict you if we need to."

"Does this mean I'll be able to see my daughter whenever I want while I'm living there?"

"No, it means you'll be living in an apartment over our garage. Your key won't work in our locks, but you're welcome to call and ask to come over, or knock on the door. Don't get us wrong, we want you and Deshawne to play a part in the baby's life, but we also don't want you to get your hopes up that you'll be able to play the role of 'Mommy'," Scott said, fielding the question.

She thought for several minutes.

"I'm not sure what other choice I have, but can I see it before making up my mind?"

"Definitely. We can go over right now. Our lawyer should be emailing us a rental agreement shortly, and if everything seems ok, you can go ahead and sign. Why don't you pack a bag? If you like it, you can go ahead and stay there tonight. What time does Deshawne get off?"

"It's supposed to be eleven, but he usually gets home sometime after midnight or later. Most of the time, I fall asleep before he gets in."

We drove Brandi back to our house. Her eyes were as wide as saucers when we pulled up in front of our house. Located only a block away from Piedmont Park, in the heart of Midtown, it was a far cry from the dilapidated apartment complex she was used to.

"Oh man, I knew y'all was rich, but daaaaamn."

"Trust me, we weren't always," Scott said.

"Well, you've been rich the entire time I've known you, even though I definitely wasn't," I retorted. "C'mon, Brandi, let me show you the apartment. Scott, where's Zach?"

"Tina is watching him. Do you want me to go get him?"

"Sure. That way Brandi can meet Zach."

Brandi and I walked up the steps to the apartment entrance. It had been a while since I had been in there, and it took me a few tries to find the right key. I didn't know exactly what to expect when I opened the door. For all I knew, we had forgotten to clean it after the last time family had visited. As the door swung open to reveal a spotlessly clean apartment, I realized I'd been had. Scott had gotten the place tidied up, and had even rekeyed the locks, just in case Brandi and Deshawne needed someplace to stay.

Brandi immediately fell in love with the apartment, and agreed to our few stipulations, such as no loud parties. She was even happy with most of the decorations. She and I gathered up the ones she wanted to replace with her own possessions, and carried them into the house. Zach and Scott were walking in the front door as we walked in from the side.

"Zach, this is Miss Brandi; Brandi, this is our son, Zach," Scott said, introducing the two.

"Are you the lady that's having my baby sister?" he asked her.

"Sorry, Zach lacks tact," I said quickly.

Brandi just laughed his directness off. "Yes, I am."

A puzzled look shot across Zach's face. "But you're black."

"Zach!" Scott and I half-yelled at the same time.

"What? We're white and the baby'll be black. Won't she know she doesn't belong or something?"

"What are you talking about?" I asked him, my anger rising. Zach had never shown anything approaching prejudice.

"Wait... Noah, I think I know what this is," Scott said. "Are you worried that she'll feel out of place and like she doesn't belong because she looks different than us?"

"Yeah. Why are you two acting so strange?"

"You know I'm not biologically you're father, right?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, but you're still my Pops."

"Do you ever feel out of place at all because I'm not really your father?"

"Of course not! Don't be ridiculous!"

"And you know Mia wasn't biologically your sister, right?"

"Yeah, she was your kid and Dad adopted her, just like you adopted me."

"Well, close enough. Did you ever think of her as anything but your sister?"

"No. Why?"

"So what difference does it make if the baby is black? We'll still love her and treat her as our daughter, because she will be. Just like she'll be your little sister, even if her skin is a different color than yours."

We could almost see the cartoon light bulb appear over Zach's head as he figured out the point Scott was trying to make.

"Ok, that makes sense. I just don't want to her to feel like she's not my sister. She could be green for all I care. She'd still be my sister."

"Well I might care if she was green. Just be the best big brother you can, and she'll always know you're there for her, ok?"

"Ok," Zach replied happily.

"Good, now apologize to Miss Brandi for being rude, please," Scott said calmly.

"But I didn't mean to be."

"That doesn't matter."

"Fine. I'm sorry for being rude, Miss Brandi."

Scott and I exchanged worried looks, unsure how Brandi would respond.

"That's ok. At least you're being honest, and I'm glad you're worried about your future sister. I think that means you'll be a great big brother," she replied with a smile.

"Alright, Zach, why don't you take Bezo out back and play with him for a bit," I told him.

"But I haven't finished my homework yet."

"Do you want to do your homework or play with the dog?"

"Play with the dog, duh! I just don't want to get in trouble. Miss Brandi, don't let them fool you. They are very mean people."

"If you want to see mean, keep it up, mister," I said with a laugh. "I bet you can't wear Bezo out to the point he falls asleep before dinner."

"Five bucks says I can! C'mon Bezo, this'll be easy money!"

As the door slammed behind him, Brandi shook her head and chuckled. "Yeah, y'all be soooo mean."

Brandi called Deshawne and got him to leave work early and come by the house. Scott whipped up a fantastic dinner for the five of us. As the dog snored on the sofa, I thought the five dollars were well spent, since Zach didn't have anyone to make the food he didn't want to eat disappear.

After dinner, we showed Deshawne the apartment. While he was far less expressive of his feelings than Brandi had been, it was clear he loved it. I'm sure we could've gotten far more for it if we were actually looking to rent it out, but this was a special circumstance, and they needed our help.

Like Brandi, Deshawne agreed to the few stipulations we had, before signing the lease. Scott and I gave them copies of the key, before leaving them alone to figure out how they wanted to do the logistics of the move. In the end, it took a few days, but Scott and I helped out as much as we could.

* * *

We ended up making a last minute change of plans for Thanksgiving. We had been planning on going over to Tom and Tina's house for dinner with them and Tom's parents, but Brandi insisted on us coming with her and Deshawne to her mother's house. She said we were responsible for so many of the things she was thankful for, it wouldn't be right to not invite us.

While Scott and I felt a little out of place, the only white people at a massive table set for twenty, everyone was gracious and hospitable. Of course, the food was excellent, and Scott clung to Brandi's mother like a lost child, hoping to pick up as many cooking tips as he could. While Scott liked to claim to be a master chef when it came to southern cooking, he had nothing on her.

For Christmas, we flew to Maryland, and celebrated with Scott's family. I never did figure out who got more gifts that year, our unborn (and still unnamed) daughter, or Emma and Ethan's second son, Adam. Of course, at six months old, he was far more content to play with the wrapping paper. Their oldest son, Justin, was almost five. He followed Zach around like he was his idol. It was cute, but I think Zach saw the visit more as an opportunity to impress Scott and me with how well he could look after a baby, and he regularly asked to help feed or change him. Of course, Emma was impressed that Justin wanted to help too, since he normally wouldn't get anywhere close to Adam when he needed to be changed.

Brandi went into labor around ten in the morning on January twelfth. Knowing she was due any day, Scott and I took turns working from home so we could rush her to the hospital. As soon as I got Brandi in the car, I called Scott, and simply said 'now', before hanging up and racing to the hospital. Brandi had a long, but uncomplicated labor, and at 11:43pm, we ushered our perfectly healthy baby girl, Shannon Amelia Hudgins, into the world.

 

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Many people commented about Noah and Scott mentioning in passing about something happening in five months. Now you know what he was talking about! My concept for Shannon changed drastically while I was writing the chapter, but she was planned from the beginning of the story. Since all that remains is a series of bulleted notes for the remainder of Moving On, I'm working very hard to ensure that Shannon is not just an 'also there' character. Expect the next few chapters to mostly revolve around her!

 

Let me know where you're from! I have a map of readers from around the globe. I currently have readers in 49 states and 2 territories, and 40 countries on every continent (except Antarctica, but I'd really like to think that I have some penguin readers lol) As full as the map has become, I'd love to fill it in even more!! I'm still missing Wyoming, so if you live there, I'd LOOOOVE to hear from you.

 

My story is also hosted at http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/story/fitz/moving_on, and on my story website, http://movingonstory.weebly.com. The map of readers and the signup form for the mailing list are on the website for all who are interested. My website is always updated first, and the mailing list notification is sent out before I update any other site. Nifty is always at least a few days, and sometimes as long as week behind the other sites.

 

The story's Facebook group, 'Moving On' is a good place to communicate with me and fellow readers. It is a 'closed group', meaning nothing posted in the group is visible to nonmembers, and the group does not show up on your timeline for others to see.  The downside is that you receive a message that you joined a 'closed group', and have to wait until I approve adding you, which I do as soon as I am able. Several times, by the time I get the chance to add someone (even immediately after getting the notification), the person has removed their request. I have not, nor will I deny someone from joining the group, although I reserve the right to remove someone if necessary (spammers or people who are rude). All content will be kept at a PG-13 level.  All are welcome to join by clicking on this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/226097850809679/.

 

Don't forget to send me any questions or comments to movingonstory@gmail.com.