‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Parallel Lives

Like he said, the restaurant that Ronnie drove us to was one I was familiar with. It was one we’d been to a couple times in the past. Way back before our first tour together. It was moderately nice, mildly enough that the kids could come without being out of place. The guys weren’t there when we pulled in, but Ronnie assured us that they were on their way. I got out and Ronnie grabbed Arch. We joined with Heather and Kyat in the parking lot and headed inside.

The was a man at the front who greeted us and started reaching for menus. “How many?” he asked, smiling politely.

I paused, quickly counting us up in my head. “Eight adults and two kids,” I said, sliding over to Ronnie, “Are any of the girls coming?”

Ronnie shrugged, lifting Arch higher as he did so. “I’m not sure. I don’t know what’s going on between Der and Christina and I think Ryan mentioned something about Jenn heading out to visit her sister. I don’t know about the others.”

I frowned. I hadn’t heard anything about Derek’s relationship struggling, but I knew what tour could do couples. I’d been there myself, especially recently. I nodded then, turning my attention back to the waiter. “There should be about twelve of us.”

“I’ll see what we can do,” he answered, rounding up the menus, “If you’ll just follow me, I’ll show you to our back table. There should be plenty of room for you up here.” He climbed a couple of stairs and took us to a large table in the back corner.

As we moved around the table to sit facing each other, the man spoke, “Ben will be your waiter. He’ll be with you in a few minutes. Would you like highchairs?” He motioned to Kyat and then Arch, who’d already climbed into the seat near the end of the table.

I shook my head and Heather answered. “Just one,” she said, still holding Ky in her arms. She stood behind her chair, next to me, and I slid a chair out between us to fit the highchair in its place. The employee returned, carrying a wooden seat and slid it into place for us.

I sat down as Heather slipped her son into his seat. Arch scooted around the chairs and came up to the end where we were sitting. Ronnie sat down across from me where his jacket was hung across the back, and Arch scrambled up next to him, claiming the spot for himself. He sat up on his knees and leaned into Ronnie’s side so he could see the singer’s phone.

“Guys are on their way,” Ron said, glancing up to me from his cell. His eyes turned to Arch, who was trying to read over Ronnie’s shoulder.

Arch fell back into his seat and slid his feet out from under him. He was directly across from Kyat and he watched the younger child. After a moment, he turned away, back to Ronnie.

“Can I sleep over at your house?”

Ronnie’s dark gaze turned from the little boy to me and back. I wanted to give them enough space so they could get used to Ronnie parenting. He wasn’t legally adopting Arch, so he wasn’t technically his parent, but he would be in his life as the baby’s father, which meant Arch would have to get used to Ronnie as someone’s parent and not just his friend. And Ronnie would need to learn to make decisions about the boys on his own.

“What did you guys do today?” Ronnie asked, turning Arch’s attention away from his question and over to us. He set his phone face down on the table.

“We went shopping,” Heather answered easily, grinning at all the trouble she tried to cause, “I picked out a few things for the baby, but Atticus wouldn’t let me go too crazy.”

Ronnie frowned at me. “I told you to buy whatever you wanted him for him. We can keep it at my house until you find a new place.”

“I bought some clothes,” I mollified.

“You need more than just clothes, Atti,” Heather answered, talking fast in her excitement, “I know you got some really nice stuff from the baby shower, but you’re going to need a lot more than that. A carseat, for instance, and a crib, probably two since he’s going to stay at Ronnie’s too. And a whole room full of diapers and wipes, toys, bottles, nookies.”

“We have to get him a bedroom first,” I answered quickly, drowning in her half-constructed list.

Ronnie perked up, leaning forwards towards us across the table. His fingers tapped idly on the back of his cell. “Speaking of which, I emailed your realtor and he sent me a list of places in LA. I looked over a couple and emailed them back so he’s going to set up a couple of walk-throughs for sometime next week. I’ll let you know.”

“I just talked to you about that like six hours ago,” I answered, surprised by how quick Ronnie was jumping into this, “How did you already manage to set all of this up?”

Ronnie grinned and slid his phone into the pocket of his jeans. “I told you I’d handle this,” he replied, pleased with himself, “You said we need to get on this, so we’re making it happen. It'd be nice if you could in in a new place before New Years.”

"That's less than two weeks from now," I said in disbelief, "You know how quickly we'd have to get everything together for that to be feasible? I didn't even think we'd be moved in before the end of January."

"I've got it covered," he said, "Just show up to the walk-throughs and pick out your house and I'll work everything else out. There's nothing to worry about."

Arch was sitting on his knees again. “Can I come?” he asked, desperate and eager to have some say in where we would live, “I want to pick out my room first.”

“Arch, the baby is too little to pick a room,” I said, “But I get to pick my room first and then you can.”

The blonde fell onto his butt and pressed back against his chair. “Why can’t I pick my room first?”

“Because you’re six and I’m buying the house,” I joked. I handed a menu over to him and opened it to the kid’s section. “What do you want to eat, Arch?”

“Technically, we’re buying the house,” Ronnie answered, smirking at me, “But you don’t see me claiming bedrooms for myself.”

“You can pick your own room in your own new place,” I retorted, “and the baby’s room for that matter.”

“We could be next door neighbors.” He grinned, challenging me with those dark eyes. “I bet your new boyfriend would love that. I could pop over and get the boys ready and bring you breakfast in bed.”

“Yeah, and change all the diapers and I’ll call you over when the baby’s crying at four in the morning.”

His grin didn’t fade. “I’m fine with that, actually.”

I rolled my eyes and pointed to Arch. “Help him pick out something to eat and shut up.”

Arch folded his menu closed to stop Ronnie. “I already know,” he said quickly, pressing his hands down on top to keep the singer from opening it up, “Why can’t Ronnie live with us?” he asked, frowning when Ron yanked the menu away from him, “Then he can make the baby be quiet when I’m sleeping.”

Ronnie grinned, looking to me with raised eyebrows in that cocky sort of way. Arch looked at me too, light eyes all hopeful and uncertain, encouraged by Ronnie’s silence.

I shot Ronnie a look, trying to shoot down his attitude and get him to be the bad guy for once. “Ronnie can’t live with us, Arch,” I said, becoming more serious, “He’s going to get his own place.”

Arch frowned. “Why not?”

I faltered, unsure how to tell a six year that we just didn’t want to live together anymore. We’d been together since before he met us. Been together his first night with us and for all the times after that. I couldn’t remember a night before now that Arch spent with me when Ronnie wasn’t around. Now that he was back from tour, it was hard to imagine that the two of us were planning a life separate from each other.

“Atticus and I are having that baby,” Ronnie said, speaking up so I wouldn’t have to, “But people with babies don’t always live together. For now, it’s just better if I don’t live with you guys. But you’ll be close, I promise.”

“But why can’t you live with us?” Arch repeated, “If you live close to us, why can’t you just live with us? You’re the baby’s dad and I don’t want you to be away from him. What if something happens?”

Ronnie frowned, turning in his chair to face Arch directly. He slid Arch’s chair so that they were facing each other, chairs pointed at one another. Heather caught my eye as she looked away from their conversation. She held Kyat’s hand, probably thinking about how much easier life was when you were still in love with the father of your child.

“Nothing is going to happen,” Ronnie spoke, holding onto the edges of Arch’s seat, “We’ll be in the same city, minutes apart. I’ll be there everyday to see you and the baby. I’m not going to live with you guys, but I’ll be there. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“I want you to live with us,” the six year old replied, stubborn and sad and hurt. He slid his arms across his chest and straighten up so that he was facing the table instead of Ronnie.

Ronnie sighed and turned Arch’s chair back around. The little boy resituated himself and set his elbows on the table, ignoring the world and the truths he didn’t want to hear. Ronnie put his hand on top of Arch’s head and ran his fingers down through his curls, accepting the fact that the little boy wouldn’t accept anything. “What do you want to eat?”

The guys showed up all within the next fifteen minutes. Derek dropped in beside me and slipped his arm over my shoulder. “How you’ve been?”

I nodded as I leaned into his side. How much had I missed when the guys were gone? “I’m fine, Der, how have you been? How was tour?”

The dark-headed guitarist shrugged, reaching for the menu that Jacky passed over to him. “It was alright. It kinda sucks that it got shut down early because we had some pretty cool shows planned, but I’m happy you and Ronnie are working things out. He was turning into a fucking monster to live with.”

“How are you and Christina?” I asked, trying not to monopolize the topic of conversation, “I know that being away can be tough on a relationship.”

Derek glanced at me, avoiding eye-contact as he considered his relationship. “We’re alright,” he answered, “We’re trying to talk through some stuff, which is easier now that I’m actually home to do it.”

“Is it the distance?” I asked, frowning.

The guitarist met my eyes and shrugged a bit. “Yeah, I mean pretty much. I don’t blame her though. I don’t think there’s a lot of people who can handle being apart for that long.”

“You can do it,” I replied, leaning back in my chair, “If you really want to, you can make it work, Derek. Don’t let touring be the reason you guys break up.”

“Look at you and Ronnie,” he said, shifting away from the man, “Look was touring did to you guys. We all thought you were solid and the separation broke you guys up.”

“That’s not the reason we broke up.” My frown deepened. “We broke up for a lot of reasons, Der, but it wasn’t because of tour.”

“You wanted him here and he couldn’t be. You needed him here so you guys could start a life and he couldn’t give you that, Atticus. It’s understandable. I can’t blame you or Christina for wanting more. Especially you. You have Arch to think about and now there’s a baby. None of this is ideal. No sane person wants to be with someone who’s gone for six months plus at a time.”

My eyes were on Ronnie, watching him as he held conversations with Arch and Ryan and Jacky simultaneously. He grinned, tilting his head back as he laughed and then quickly stifled it so he could reply to something the drummer said before too much time lapsed. Derek was right. It was the separation that broke us. The need for Ronnie to be here and there at the same time. The need I felt to be there with him when I had to be here without him.

“Don’t let that be your excuse,” I said, turning my attention back to Derek, “She knew what she was getting into when she met you, Derek. I know it’s hard, but remind her why it’s worth it.”

“I care about her, Atticus,” he answered, green eyes focused on me, “But I don’t think I can give this up. If that’s what she needs from me, I don’t think I can do it.”

“Don’t worry,” I said, “If she knows how much this means to you, she won’t ask you to do that.”
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Comments are really needed. Still working out the kinks.