Caring Christopher

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#45 Two very hot minutes

Christopher

Jagger puts his hands in his coat pocket and pulls out a lighter and a cigarette, not caring one bit about my disapproving look. Now is not the time to tell him off for smoking, although I definitely will get back to this. His own mother died of cancer – not lung cancer, but still. Why would he take the risk to end like up like her?

“Abby’s got you wrapped around her finger again, doesn’t she?” Jagger asks, taking a drag from his cigarette while I tug Titus back from crossing the street, forcing him to wait a second.

“I’m getting ready to forgive her,” I confess, still convinced it’s the right thing for all of us. “I’m still not okay with what she did, but I do get why she made that decision and it’s obvious she regrets it now.”

“I don’t get it at all,” he grumbles, kicking a pebble across the street. “She promised me, Chris. She promised me she had my back no matter what, and then I find a goddamn note saying she’s sorry, but she had to leave. She knew how that would make me feel, but she did it anyway.”

“She thought she was saving you from even bigger heartbreak,” I try to reason with him. “I met her mother, Jagger, so I think I get it better than you do. She doesn’t even know who Abby is. She has no idea she’s her daughter. She’s not even 50 yet, but she looks like she’s 70. She will probably even die within the next year or so.”

Jagger mutters something under his breath, opening the gate to the large dog park, bending over to Titus to set the dog free. The big blonde Labrador bounds off, barking loudly as he runs off to jump straight into a puddle, making me grunt.

“Do you think you’ll ever be able to forgive Abby?” I ask, dreading his response.

“Doubt it,” Jagger scoffs. “Fucking bitch.”

“Jagger…” I sigh and pull a hand through my hair, thinking about how to say what I need to get out. “Look, I get it. I do. I just really need to know if you think you will be able to forgive her. Not now, but maybe a few months from now, or even a year. Because if you can’t…”

“What?” he asks angrily, throwing his cigarette on the grass and stomping on it before lighting another one. “You’re going to throw me out, aren’t you?”

“No, the opposite,” I say, looking away from him and sinking down onto the bench behind us. “I love Abby, and I want her in my life, but you’re my son. If you truly feel that having her in your life is a bad thing for you… I need to know, Jagger.”

“Because…?” he asks, facing me, his expression blank as he blows out smoke.

“Because if you can’t live in the same house with her, I need to break up with her.” My heart breaks as I say it, but I know it’s the only thing I can do. Jagger, Yoah and Davy will always come first, even before Abby.

“W-what?” Jagger asks, his eyes going wide. “You’d break up with Abby for… me?”

“Yes,” I state simply, locking my gaze with his to make sure he sees I’m serious.

“You can’t do that!” he says incredulously. “You can’t let me rule your life!”

“You’re not. I’m picking you over her,” I explain. “That’s my decision, not yours. All I need to know from you is if I need to pick a side or not.”

“Fucking hell,” he breathes, sitting down next to me with his eyes closed, breathing hard. “This is so not the conversation I thought we’d be having.”

“So?” I ask, feeling impatient. “What’s it gonna be, Jagger?”

He opens his eyes and takes another drag of his cigarette before tossing it aside. “She can stay. Don’t expect me to be nice to her, though.”

I’m so relieved I could cry, but I manage to keep a poker face. I meant it when I told him that he and his brothers are my priority, but I don’t want to cut Abby out of my life. I was hoping he’d be okay with her staying and that offering to kick her out would make him calm down, but I was seriously prepared to end things with her if Jagger needed me to.

Thank God he doesn’t, though.

“I made a decision about the adoption,” Jagger says, surprising me. “I’d very much like you to my dad for real.”

“Really?” I put an arm around him and pull him to me, ignoring his heavy sigh of annoyance at my display of affection. “I’d love that.”

“I don’t want Abby, though,” he says softly, looking down at his hands. “I know I said I want her too, but… I mean… after what happened… Maybe if you guys get married or something and I truly believe she won’t bolt, I may change my mind, but for now… just you, okay?”

“Of course.” It was always going to be just me when the adoption papers go through in a couple of months, and Abby would be added on later when we eventually get married – which I still hope will happen – so this isn’t actually a change, except for the way Jagger feels about her.

“If I ever want to call you Dad…” Jagger whispers, sounding like he’s not sure he is truly still talking. “Could I?”

“You can call me whatever you want, Jag,” I tell him, fighting against my emotions. If I cry now, he will push me away and shut down. “I don’t mind being just Chris to you for the rest of your life, but in my heart, I’ve been your dad for a while now.”

“Yeah,” he says, wiping at his eyes with a grunt. “I know. You just offered to kick a hot 27-year-old girl out of your bed for me. If that doesn’t tell me you love me, I don’t know what does.”

I laugh softly at his attempt to lighten the mood and ruffle his hair. “You know I love you, Jagger.”

“I guess I think you’re alright,” he replies, getting up and lighting yet another cigarette before taking a tennis ball out of his pocket and throwing it for Titus to fetch.

I watch him play with Titus for a while, feeling calm and happy despite everything. Davy called me his father yesterday, and he sees Abby as his mother. And now Jagger wants me to adopt him and contemplates calling me dad for real. Even with me and Abby not completely back to normal, this is actually a pretty good week. Now that we’ve got the test back, we know that Abby is not going to forget about any of us, which is the best news ever. Maybe I’ve still got a shot at keeping this weird family together.

***

When the kids are finally all in bed, even Jagger – without Celeste, thank God – I sink down onto the couch and take the glass of red wine Abby offers me, taking a small sip, savoring it.

“I love you like this,” she says, throwing her legs over mine and covering us with a blanket. “Your hair is all wild, and you look so… happy.”

“I am,” I say with a sigh, rubbing her cold feet in my warm hands. “Jagger asked me to adopt him this morning.”

“Oh Chris!” She puts a hand over her heart and sighs happily. “That’s amazing.”

“He asked if he can call me dad if he ever feels like it,” I add, smiling to myself.

She pulls her fingers through my hair, making me groan at how good it feels. “I’m so glad you and him are bonding more. I guess that’s the only good thing to come out of the mess I created.”

“Right,” I realize. “We still need to talk about all of that.”

“I’m so sorry,” she says for the millionth time.

“I know,” I assure her, not angry anymore. “I need you to promise me never to leave without saying goodbye, though. You know I want to marry you one day and have kids with you, but there’s always a chance things won’t work out and you will want to breakup with me one day. That’s okay, no matter the reason, but you can’t walk out on the kids without at least explaining to them what is going on, giving them a chance to have some kind of closure. You heard Davy yesterday. You’re basically their mother.”

She nods, fighting the tears I can see in her eyes. “I know. The note… that was me being a coward. I run when things get hard and I’m working on that.”

“Were you truly going to leave?” I ask, thinking back to what Jaxon said about him thinking she never would have gone through with it. “If you had the gene, would you be sitting here with me on the couch, or would you be taking care of someone’s else’s kids right now?”

“I don’t know,” Abby replies honestly, and I can tell it’s hard for her to put it all out there. “I know what’s it like to see someone you love forget who you are at such a young age, and I still think I was right for not wanting to do that to you. The way I went about it was wrong, but Chris… don’t you think that… I mean, if I did have the gene, it would be easier on the kids for me to walk out right now, after only being in their lives for barely four months, instead of becoming more important to them every single day, and breaking their heart ten years from now. When I don’t even know who they are… right?”

“Maybe,” I admit. “You’re already important to them, though. Look at Jagger. He wouldn’t be this mad at you if he didn’t love you. No matter when you leave, it will always hurt them. And what about you and me, Abby?”

She sighs and fidgets with the hem of her shirt. “I know. Brittany has been telling me all week that she doesn’t think I would have stayed away even if I had left, and I think she’s right. I think I’d have been back on your doorstep after only a few days, begging for you to take me back, but that would’ve been selfish.”

“You deserve to be happy, and I did tell you I want to be with you with or without some stupid gene,” I remind her, taking her hands in mine. “I need you to know I still mean that.”

She cocks her head to the side, studying my expression. “We already know I don’t have it.”

“Life is unpredictable,” I tell her, thinking of all the patients I’ve lost over the years. “You can get hit by a bus tomorrow and lose half of your brain function, or get a stroke, or get diagnosed with cancer. Same goes for me. I need to know for sure that if something like that happens, you won’t walk out.”

“I would never walk out if you get sick!” she exclaims, her expression furious. “What kind of person do you think I am?”

“That’s not what I’m saying.” I brush her hair our of her face and tip her chin up, locking my eyes with hers. “I think that if you get a diagnosis one day – whatever it might be – or if you’re in an accident or something, you will write a note, pack your bags and leave, thinking you’re doing me and the kids a favor.”

“Oh.” She bites her lips, contemplating that. “Yeah, I think you’re right. That sounds like something I would do. After last week, though… I know how stupid I was now, so maybe it’s a good thing we went through this now, because I’ll never do something this insane ever again.”

“You’re all in?” I ask, just to make sure. “Even if that means me taking care of you some day?”

“Yes,” she says, and I can tell it takes every ounce of her strength to agree to this. “I’m all in.”

“Then we’re good,” I decide, pulling her onto my lap so I can kiss her.

She moans against my lips and pulls at my hair. Abby tasted like red wine and popcorn, and I smile into our kiss. Abby always smells and tastes sweet. I love that about her.

“Okay,” she breathes when we break apart. “We still have something left to talk about before we get all… distracted.”

“What?” I ask, my fingers training down her shoulder, across her cheekbone and to her breast, brushing my fingertips across her nipple, making her gasp.

“Stop,” she moans. “I can’t think when you make me feel all… horny.”

I laugh at the way she breathlessly moans that last word. I put my hands on her hips, pulling her against me a little more so she can feel how hard I’m getting just from kissing her. She drives me crazy with those big breasts of hers and the way she moans when I touch her.

“Stop,” Abby repeat a little more firmly. “Like I said, we need to discuss something.” A huge smile lights up her face. “I don’t have the gene.”

“I know, I was there,” I remind her, smiling as well.

“Yeah, but we never properly talked about what that means.”

“Marriage and kids,” I reply immediately.

Her cheeks flush bright red and her smiles widens even more. “I know, honey, and I want that too, but… I mean… we’ve only been together for… what? Two hot minutes?”

“Two very hot minutes,” I murmur, pressing my lips to her neck. I’m so goddamn turned on right now that I can’t concentrate on what she’s trying to talk to me about.

“I was just wondering what the timeline is, and what your views are on… you know… marriage, kids, the whole thing.” She’s nervous and it’s adorable. “I don’t have a lot of money, you know, so I wouldn’t contribute much, and I don’t think-”

I cut her off with a hard look. “Abby, money is the last thing you need to worry about. I already told you I want to put you in my will. I want to do that even before we get married. Unless…” Oh God, here we go. “Unless you want to get married within the next few months, before I adopt the kids. You could… I mean, I know Yoah and Davy want you as their mother. Jagger doesn’t, not right now, but with time…”

“No no no,” she says, her eyes wide. “I mean, I’m not saying I’d turn you down if you’d ask me, but I think that… I mean, we need to give Jagger some time. I hurt him even worse than I hurt you.”

I study her face and contemplate her words. I’m not saying I’d turn you down if you’d ask me… What does that mean? Is she saying… is she saying she’d say yes if I got down on one knee right now? Not that I’m planning on it, but I know myself well enough to know that in a month or two… Yeah, I might. Even my own mother told me that she knows I want to ask her, and that I should wait.

“Can I put you in my will?” I ask, deciding to put a pin in the marriage thing for now. We’ve only been together for two months, which isn’t long at all. Gianna and I had already been together for five years when I proposed, and we’d been living together for two of them. Sure, I had only been 25 back then and I’m a lot surer of who I am and what I want at 46, but two months is still soon. Too soon.

It’s too soon… right?

“Yeah,” Abby says softly. “You can put me in your will if you want.”

“I just want to make sure you and the boys can stay here in this house and you’ll all be taken care of if I get hit by a car or something,” I explain, smiling at how flustered she’s getting.

She opens her mouth to say something, but the alarm of her phone starts blaring, and she jumps up from my lap, grabbing it from the coffee table with a sigh.

“What?” I ask, reaching to pull her back to me.

“I put an alarm on my phone to remind me to take my birth control pills,” she says with a small smile. “I’ll be right back.”

I get up from the couch and throw the blanket down. “How about you take your pill and we go straight to bed?”

Her eyes light up at that. “You want to put the pill to good use right away? I like that idea.”

“What I’m planning to do to you will be very enjoyable, but it won’t get you pregnant even without birth control,” I tell her, enjoying how flustered she gets when I talk to her like this. I’ve never been one for dirty talk, and I’m still not the best at it, but I do know how to turn Abby on, and I love doing it. “Or is your ass still sore from this morning?”

“No,” she breathes, her dark eyes hooded. “No, I’m good.”

“Then get your tight ass upstairs,” I say with a smirk, feeling more confident than ever before.

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