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Four Guys and a Toddler

Three years later

Dylan was lying on the bench with his hands on the bar. On each side of it was three hundred and fifty pounds. For the past three years of raising Hayley, he bulked up getting bigger in muscle size. He had been working out. Oh his face was a beard and mustache. Gripping the bar, he pushed with effort and grunted pushing the heavy weight a couple times.

From his feet and on the other side of the room, the three year old Hayley sat on her mat. She watched her father lift the weights and cooed with curiosity. Her curled brown hair grew long. When Dylan finished his set and placed it back onto the hooks, Hayley got up on her feet and waddled. With a grunt, she fell forward to her hands. Placing her eight pound monkey doll in her mouth, she crawled on her hands and feet toward the edge of the bench with her knees bent.

Gripping the side of the bench, she climbed using the foot handles to push her up. The three year old was big as her muscles were thick. Feeling the bench movement, Dylan stopped and sat up. Taking the towel to wipe sweat off his face, he smiled watching her climb up. Hayley giggled as Dylan made a silly expression and a noise, “Hey!” Her growing teeth and bigger pointed canines showed.

He watched her use her upper body strength to pull herself up while carrying her monkey doll in her mouth. Placing his hands in front of him, he drummed his fingers as she crawled closer. He exclaimed beckoning her forward with his fingers. Hayley giggled taking the doll from her mouth and grabbed his fingers. Dylan closed his hand on her hand and pulled her gently while placing his hand under her chest. She squealed as he laid himself back on the bench and pushed her body up to make her fly.

As Dylan’s twenty inch arm muscles expanded while lifting her heavy weight, Hayley giggled with excitement while being moved up and down in the air with him grunting with exertion. He stopped moving her close to his chest and held her back when the doorbell rang. Curious, he grunted moving to his side and wrapped her under his arm. Hayley giggled holding onto her doll and pretended she was flying as he walked out of his workout room.

Passing a couple rooms of his large house, Dylan grunted with exertion due to her weight and placed her into her little, secured play room pen for her to play in. She stopped giggling grunted with annoyance baring her pointed canine and babbled while holding her hand out at him. He responded kneeling down before her, “I’ll be right back, little monkey. Just need to check something.”

The doorbell rang again as he kissed her on the head and rushed off. Hayley grunted noisily stretching out her arm to get his attention. She pouted with annoyance placing her hands on the secured gate and waited for him to come back.

The doorbell rang for the third time as Dylan exclaimed rushing toward the door, “Coming, coming! Hold your horses, mates.”

Taking the doorknob, he twisted it and opened the door revealing his three friends. He hadn’t seen them in a long time. They exclaimed as Dylan pumped his fists responding, “Hey! Long time no see!”

One of them with glasses asked, “Did you get your Holo-mail?” He was Australian and athletic.

“What Holo-mail,” Dylan inquired shrugging his shoulders, “Sorry Nathan. Been busy, mate.”

Dylan extended his hand and grabbed Nate by his hand as they pulled together and punched shoulders. His second friend was the Scottish bodybuilder who spoke with a Welsh accent, “Taylor, you rascal! I see you’ve been working out! Doing it for the girls?”

Dylan grinned as he fist bumped him, “Sam. Sort of. I’m doing it for my kid.”

Sam froze for a second and wondered what he meant. His third friend, who was African and a bodybuilder, inquired in his French-Canadian accent, “Wait, a kid? What do you mean?”

“Abraham,” Dylan offered his hand and grabbed his for a greeting handshake, “Yeah mate. A kid. Three years and three months old. I’ve been taking care of her.” He pulled him across, made a fist on his other hand and pounded his back just as Abraham did the same.

Nathan exclaimed pushing his glasses up, “Wait, three years, three months you haven’t been getting touch. You’re not married yet. I don’t see the ring and you haven’t invited your friends. We haven’t seen you in the fights lately either. That means, if you carry the one, umm. I don’t know what that means.”

Sam scoffed scowling at Nate while opening his arms. He retorted, “That means he had sex with that grounder girl that one time we went out, remember? Somehow got her pregnant. It’s been three years right? You skipped out on the birth control pills, did you mate?”

Nate paused. He gulped and responded, “Oh.”

Dylan exhaled nodding, “Yes. Do not breathe a word of this to anyone, okay? I’m in enough trouble as it is, so I don’t need the Alliance or the Senate breathing down on my neck.”

Sam responded smacking his shoulder gripping it while offering his other hand, “Hey, we’re friends aren’t we? Cross our hearts and hope to die. It’ll be our secret we’ll take to our graves. Mates for life?”

Dylan nodded as Sam looked sideways between his friends. Nathan and Abraham added their hands to the pile as they grabbed his hand. He responded adding his own to the pile, “Mates for life. Thanks.”

As Dylan backed, Sam kept his arms open and inquired, “So, whaddya say? Come hang with us?”

Dylan shook his head offering his open palms, “No thanks. I got my kid to take care of.”

Sam scoffed as he retorted scratching his head, “No thanks? Since when do you say no?”

Dylan spat back as he step forward, “Since I got responsibilities. And besides, my sister will kill me if I hang out with you. Sorry mates, I’m gonna have to call this one.”

Sam slapped both Nathan and Abraham on the chest as he shook his head and approached while pointing at Dylan, “You don’t get to say no. You’re our drinking buddy. Get someone to watch your kid.”

Dylan shook his head offering his open palms again backing a little, “Can’t. And besides, even if I left, my kid won’t let me. Watch this.”

His friends watched as Dylan passed the threshold from his doorway. Suddenly, from behind him, Hayley started crying. They exclaimed in surprise. Nathan spoke, “Hey, why don’t you bring her along?”

Sam scoffed looking at him. He growled and smacked Nate on the head. Nathan grunted with annoyance as Sam spat, “Yo, don’t even-“

Dylan reacted placing his arm against Sam’s chest to back him, “Hey, don’t. He’s right. I might bring her along even for a bit.”

Abraham responded, “Didn’t you say your sister will kill you.”

Dylan turned to him and hesitated. He exhaled nodding his head, “Yes. She will definitely kill me and she will hide the body so that no one will know. She’s good like that. I’ll deal with her when I get home. Gimme a sec, mates.”

Dylan entered his house and closed the door. Sam shook his head and argued, “No! Nate, why did you even have to suggest that? It’s a guy’s night out. Do you know what that even means?”

Abraham gripped his arm and pulled him back as he offered himself as a wedge between his two friends, “Hey, lay off him, okay? He was trying to help.”

Sam shook his head and scoffed raising his arms. He walked toward the hanging bench to sit down and spat, “Whatever, mates.”

Nathan nodded responding to Abraham, “Thanks.”

Offering his hand to Nate, Abraham replied as Nate accepted the hand and bumped shoulders, “No problem man.”

As Dylan walked across the living room, he returned to the pen. Hayley watched him. She rubbed her eyes sniffing and whimpered a little. She cooed stretching her arms letting him pick her up. He responded kissing her on the forehead and brushed her long brown hair with his fingers, “Sorry about that, monkey.”

Gripping her eight pound monkey doll, she wrapped her arms around his neck while resting on his chest. She started suckling her thumb while Dylan grabbed the bag and placed the strap over his shoulder. He went to the box on the wall and checked everything to make sure everything was up to specs before setting the alarm. The alarm activated and went on standby just as he closed the door to meet his friends waiting outside for him.

The navy colored sport utility vehcile rode down the mountain toward a small town. Sam was. Abraham sat in the front passenger while both Nathan and Dylan sat in the back. The tote bag was beside the seat. Dylan held the monkey toy while watching Nate play with Hayley. She giggled at Nathan making silly faces.

Sam looked at the rearview mirror and crossed his brows wondering, “What are you doing Nate? Give the kid back to Taylor.”

“Her name is Hayley,” Nate responded.

Sam scoffed and shook his head, “I don’t care. You’re weirding me out. I know you’re married and have a kid, but still give her back.”

Before Nate had a chance to retort, Dylan defended his friend replying, “Aren’t you supposed to be driving, Sam? You’re going to get us all killed if you’re worried about being weirded out.”

Sam scoffed waving his hand while keeping his other hand on the wheel. He remained focused on his driving. Nate turned to Dylan and muttered under his breath, “Thank you.”

Hayley giggled exposing her pointed canines as Nate blew a raspberry and tickled her chest. He inquired, “Hey Dylan, what did you say you named her? Little Monkey? Any reason?”

Dylan smirked holding up the eight pound doll and shook it in front of her. Hayley cooed trying to reach for it. Nate responded taking it, “Oh, right.” Feeling the weight on it, he wondered, “eight pounds? You sure that’s wise? Giving your kid a weighted doll?”

Dylan shrugged and responded, “Well, she had a doll once in the likeness of me, but it was too light for her so she cried for a new one. It wasn’t until she picked up a two pound dumbbell that she calmed down, so I got her a monkey doll and started calling her little monkey. She seemed to like it, so it stuck.”

Hayley cooed grabbing the chewed up doll and placed it in her mouth while biting down with her strong teeth. Nate play a little tug of war with her doll causing her to blush and giggle. Dylan smiled watching both of them play. His expression soured a bit when Sam spoke, “You know, if you want my opinion, are you sure calling her little monkey is wise? I mean, if you’re planning to put her in a school, kids will-“

“Don’t go there, Sam,” Dylan warned him. Sam finished, “make fun of her and call her names. I’m just saying. You might wanna-“

Dylan interrupted, “Aren’t you supposed to be, uhh, driving? And focused on the road?”

Nate sighed shaking his head. Sam signaled turning the car to the right intersection and responded, “Well yeah, but if you want my opinion-“

Dylan spoke turning to Abraham, “Abe, do me a favor. Slap him on the head.”

Abraham muttered in his French accent, “With pleasure.” Raising his hand, he smacked Sam on the back of the head.

“Hey,” Sam protested.

Dylan interrupted pointing his finger and spoke in an infuriated tone, “Hey! Sam! Listen up, if I wanted your opinion on fun nicknames, I’ll ask for it. If I wanted your opinion on how Nate should act around my kid, I’ll ask for it. But since I didn’t ask for your opinion, why don’t you just shut your drek hole and focus on your driving. Hayley is my kid and I have one person in the world telling me her opinion about how I should handle her. My sister. I don’t need a second.”

Unbeknownst to everyone in the car, Hayley became quiet. She watched her father with curiosity. Dylan exhaled an irritated sigh trying to refocus his energy to calm down. Sam spoke, “Yeah, Taylor, I don’t think you sho-“

Dylan snapped glaring at him, “Why are you still talking?”

Sam quieted. He exhaled shrugging his shoulder and waved him off. Refocusing his attention to the road, he let his friend cool down. Nate gulped watching Dylan. He could see that he was still upset. Hayley grunted and cooed touching Nate on the face. Nate replied making a silly face and whispered, “Hey!”

Hayley giggled placing her finger in her mouth. Nate paused and spoke to the father, “Hey Dylan. If you don’t mind my asking,”

Dylan nodded looking at him, “No, I don’t mind. What’s up mate?”

Nate cleared his throat and asked, “Has she spoken her first word yet? She is what, three?”

Dylan shook his head and spoke, “Not yet, but I’m hoping. Why?”

Nate was a bit concerned as he spoke, “Yeah, you might wanna check with your doctor about it. It might be serious, or it might be nothing.”

Dylan nodded replying, “Sure, I should do that. I’m taking Hayley to the doctor today, so I’ll mention it.

The car stopped as Abraham responded, “We have arrived at the bar. Ready for the get together?”

That gathered the multitude of affirmative grunts as they exited the car. Dylan got out first taking the bag and placed the strap over his shoulder. He took Hayley from Nate’s hands and carried her toward the pub. Stopping before the entrance, he hesitated. Sam approached from behind and clapped his shoulder speaking, “Let’s go in.”

Dylan shook his head and shifted Hayley’s weight on his arm. He responded, “Nah, you guys go in. Im gonna hang out somewhere else with Hayley. She’s way too underage.”

With Nate and Abraham behind him, Sam turned to face Dylan and responded, “No, you gotta come in. That was the whole point of our trip here. I told you to get someone to look after your kid. Look, just drop her with some random passerby. No one will-“

Dylan stared at him and exclaimed, “Are you drekking kidding me right now? Leave Hayley with some random stranger? Do you know how much of trouble I will be?”

Nate shook his head and responded touching Sam on the shoulder, “He’s right, Sam. We can’t just do that. Let’s go somewhere else.”

Sam shook his head bringing his open palms up and backing toward the entrance of the bar, “No, no. I’m not going anywhere else with a baby kid in the group. It was supposed to be an all guy’s outing without a plus one. Dylan, the rule was guys only. Nothing in here said we should bring along a whiny kid along just like she she’s about to right now.”

Hayley started crying getting upset. Dylan scowled at him and kept her close while covering her face to protect her from his friend. He spat back, “That’s cause you’re upsetting her, you arsehole. Why don’t you go drek yourself and leave her alone. I’m not hanging around you anymore.”

Both Nate and Abraham stood there watching the onslaught between them. Sam pointed at himself with his thumb and retorted at Dylan’s retreating back, “Oh I’m the arsehole. You know what? Drek you. We never needed you. Come on guys, let’s go in and drink.”

Nate had his hands in his pockets and was speechless. He shared eye glances between Dylan, Abraham and Sam. Abraham responded pointing toward Dylan, “Actually, we came to hang out with him.”

Sam scowled at them both and scoffed holding up his hands and waved them responding, “Oh okay, you know what? Fine. Hang out with him and that crybaby. See if I care. Don’t come to me anymore if you need ’friends’ or ’hand holding’. I’m done with you guys.” He finished with air quotes.

Turning around, he exited into the building. Abraham exhaled a sigh covering his face with his hand. Nate gulped and responded, “Well, that went well,” turning to Dylan, he shouted, “Wait up Dylan.”

Dylan responded turning to face them, “I appreciate that guys, but it’s unnecessary. Sam may be an elite arsehole, but he’s still our friend and we don’t let friends drink alone. Look, I’ll be fine. Sam needs you two. Really. Go on.”

Nate inquired, “You sure?”

Dylan nodded shifting Hayley’s weight onto his other arm. Hayley suckled her thumb and watched. He responded, “Positive. We mid landers need to stick together, but Sam’s the glue that keeps us together. As an elite, he can take us places where we can’t get in. He was the one who started the group. Without him, we’re nothing. He just needs to cool down and be reminded why he started this group the first place. Now go on. I’ll catch up with you later, mates.”

Nate and Abraham looked at each other and shrugged impressed with Dylan’s attitude. Nate responded, “Alright mate. We’ll catch you later. Don’t go too far.”

Dylan offered his hand as he shrugged and turned away. Hayley cooed watching both Nate and Abraham return to the building. She stretched out her hand and waved them goodbye before putting her hand back into her mouth and suckling on it.

Hayley was lying flat, chest down on the table with her head sideways. Thumb was in her mouth and her other hand was holding her eight pound monkey. A blanket was between her and the top of the round table. Dylan was seated behind her as he pulled her shorts back up. She had to go potty and he made sure her underwear was clean. A dry towel was hanging on his shoulder. They were near a restaurant outside on the deck. The tote bag was on the floor next to his foot.

Dylan exhaled a sigh pulling down the ends of her shirt to cover her waist line and picked her up. Hayley grunted taking her thumb out and started chewing her monkey doll with her pointed canines and teeth. He spoke, “Up you go, little monkey. What should we do next?”

Hayley was placed sitting upright on the edge of the table. Chewing on her tough, durable weighted toy, she pointed behind him making a noise. Curious, Dylan turned and noticed that she was pointing at a sign that said Ice Cream. Looking at her, Dylan responded as she cooed lightly, “We already had ice cream, silly little monkey. You’ll get sick if you eat another.”

Hayley stared at him and blinked her amber colored eyes. Dylan sighed taking his towel and placed it on the table before getting up and hoisted her up. She giggled when he started bouncing her and dipped her down. Dylan smiled when she squealed stretching her arm out while holding her doll in her mouth. He replied, “You like that, huh? You like to fly? Do you want me to throw you in the air too?”

Hayley made another sound directing her arm and pointed. Her brown hair hung in the air as she stretched her shoulder muscles a bit. Dylan looked up to see three of his friends approaching and hoisted her up again on his arm. She wrapped her arm around his neck and pointed stretching her hand out. The three year old made a grunt noise.

Nate approached speaking in a silly voice to her, “Hello there! I’m back! Want me to hold you again?”

Hayley understood and grunted stretching her arms out at him. Dylan smirked handing her to him and replied, “Thanks mate. Don’t get too attached. She’s my kid.”

Hayley grunted wrapping her arm around his neck while holding her monkey. She giggled when he tickled her tummy. Nate responded, “Hey, I know. As much as I enjoying having fun with her, I have every intention of going back to my own kid. Don’t you trust me?”

Dylan grinned and retorted teasing him, “Only a little.”

Nate made a slight mock gasp at his teasing and sat down to play with her. Dylan looked at his other two friends and replied to the first one standing in front of Abraham, “Sam.”

“Taylor,” Sam responded.

Abraham interjected offering his hands toward Sam, “Well?”

Sam exhaled a sigh and responded, “I just wanted to say, umm. That I, well.”

“What,” Dylan inquired waiting for him to say it.

Sam shook his head and spoke, “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that. It’s just, well.”

Dylan replied when Sam dropped his pitch again, “What? Spit it out, Sam. I don’t got all day.”

Clearing his throat, Sam responded, “When you dropped off the face of the Earth just like that three years ago, it felt like a kick in the gut. Like you quit the group. You don’t write. You don’t call. You don’t attend our meetings. We don’t see you fighting ringside. It felt like betrayal like you turned your back.”

Dylan furrowed his brow as he crossed his arms and responded a bit angrily, “That’s not fair, Sam. I didn’t quit the group. I just didn’t have the time. I had my kid to take care of.”

Abraham touched his shoulder sensing a little tension, but Sam brushed him off replying, “What about the mother? That hot grounder chick. Kait.”

Dylan raised his finger and hissed, “Don’t speak her name out loud in public. She left the kid under the care of me cause she had no choice. Being a grounder and all. Someone had to step up and it had to be me. Otherwise, Hayley wouldn’t have no one to watch after for.”

Sam responded, “You mean she abandoned her? What for? So she can take care of her own drek?”

Dylan hissed slightly raising his hand and pushed it down in front of him responding, “You and I both know I don’t speak for her, okay? She had no choice but to abandon her. What do you think would happen if the Alliance finds out the child is hers? They’d take her baby and she’d become an Undesirable. The child would be lost in the system. I’m her best hope. Look Sam, Im sorry if my disappearing hurt your feelings and ego, but I had more important things to take care of. I don’t abandon my friends, but I put the kid first because she’s important to me too. If you can’t understand that, then I’m sorry.”

Abraham and Nate watched as they felt the tension between the two big guys. Hayley stopped babbling and watch with her big amber colored eyes. Sam exhaled offering his hands and backed with a nod, “It’s okay. I just would have appreciated a little heads up, you know? We’ve been friends for so long it just felt like you stabbed me in the back when you dropped out. I didn’t know what was going on and I got mad. That’s all. I got mad as hell. But I’m all calmed down now, so are we good?”

He offered his hand and Dylan nodded accepting his hand and tightened his grip responding, “We’re good and I’m sorry. I should have told you.”

Abraham and Nate exclaimed with relief as Sam and Dylan shook hands and made up. Abraham clapped his hands. Hayley cooed giggling. Sam and Dylan started wrestling each other down in a pretend fight. Abraham and Nate laughed. A phone vibrated in Dylan’s pocket as he exclaimed holding Sam back, “Hold on mate, that’s my phone.”

Taking it out, he gulped and hesitated. Sam inquired a bit concerned, “Who is it?”

Dylan responded showing the phone, “You hear that tone? That’s the sound of the Grim Reaper digging my grave.”

“What,” Sam inquired taking the phone and looked at it. His friends grew concerned. Sam exclaimed tapping the screen, “Your sister sent you a text? And she knows we’re with you? How?”

“Huh,” Dylan wondered taking the phone and swore, “Shit.”

Abraham and Nate groaned realizing the reference to the grim reaper was Dylan’s sister. Sam inquired, “She messaged you? Why doesn’t she call?”

Dylan shook his head. He responded with a cringe, “Mate, she doesn’t call when she’s angry. Those are her angry messages. She gets silent and infuriated. I better go.”

Sam took his shoulder and responded, “Mate, you’re not going alone. We’re backing you up. Abe, Code Red. Get the car and pull it up. We’re getting out of here and taking him back to the house fast.”

He took his keys out and tossed it at him as Abraham caught it and nodded. Taking the keys, he rushed toward the car. Dylan responded to Sam as Nate got up, “Thanks.”

Sam gave him a solemn nod and responded straightforwardly, “No problem mate. We got your back.”

As the car drove up the driveway, Abraham stopped before Dylan’s big house. They filed out and headed toward the door. Dylan stopped Nathan who was carrying Hayley and spoke, “I think you better let me carry Hayley for a bit.”

Nate nodded handing Hayley to Dylan. He responded, “Oh sure, no problem.”

Hayley grunted noisily as she was transferred to Dylan. Holding her monkey close, she wrapped her arm around the back of his neck and laid her head close to him. As Dylan adjusted the strap of his tote, he made a few steps as the door opened.

Ellie walked through the doorway and stood straight with her black steel toed military boots on the deck. She wore her black camo tactical Special Forces military uniform and scowled at the small group. Her hair was tied into a tight bun. First Lieutenant rank pip was on her collar. Sternly she inquired sharply, “What have you got to say for yourself, Dylan?”

The three friends stood around behind Dylan as Sam clapped his shoulder to support him. Dylan responded, “Well, I got this morning to work out when the doorbell rang and my friends came. They wanted to hang out, so I took Hayley with me. I just wanted to hang even for a bit. I haven’t seen them in-

Ellie interrupted him as she waved her hand and walked down. She responded taking Hayley, “Stop. Just stop. You promised you wouldn’t hang out with your friends. You promised. Give her to me.”

Hayley protested as she was taken from her father. She lost her toy when she fumbled blindly with her hands and cried. Her pointed canines flashed. Ellie shifted her weight into her arms and switched positions as she responded while pointing her finger at Nathan, “Nate, if I ever see you touch Hayley or hold her, I will let your wife know what you did the other night with another woman.”

“Ellie,” Dylan tried as he stepped forward while Nate raised his hands and backed up a certain distance. Hayley cried gripping Ellie’s muscled shoulder traps and stretched her arm toward her fallen toy. Ellie barely noticed as she interrupted her brother with a vengeance toward his friends, “The day I told you to stay away from Dylan, I expected you guys to obey me. I should have known better. You’d better get out of my property before I report you to the authorities.”

Dylan glared at his sister and scoffed angrily. He turned to see his friends back away. Sam replied, “Sorry Taylor. Looks like you’re alone on this one. We don’t want to cross your sister. She’s Alliance military.”

Seeing that the three guys were headed back to their car, Ellie exhaled satisfied before turning back to the house. Hayley cried as she buried her head into Ellie’s chest. Ellie shifted her weight again placing her on her other arm and placed her hand near her mouth with no idea what her niece was crying about.

Feeling her hand near her face, Hayley growled. She opened her chompers and bit down on Ellie's hand as her sharp canines pierced Ellie’s skin. Ellie exclaimed with pain taking her hand out and spat, “Ow! Hayley!” Hayley withdrew tasting blood. Ellie's hand had teeth marks.

Dylan turned back to his friends and backed toward the house as he responded, “Well, thanks for bringing me back guys. I guess I might catch you later, right?”

Sam shrugged responding as he got into the front of the car, “Oh sure. Just send a message. We’ll talk.”

“Dylan! Get your butt in here, or I swear to God,” Ellie shouted from the doorway. Holding Hayley close to her chest, Ellie looked at the back of her hand and exhaled with pain. Her skin was broken and bleeding. Closing her hand into a fist, she marched through the open doorway.

Dylan turned back and fumed silently as he grabbed the monkey doll toy from the ground. Readjusting the strap on his shoulder, he rushed back toward the doorway of his house while holding his tote bag.

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