‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Human Tonight

Chance stared at me for just a moment as he waited for me to say something. When I didn’t - when I couldn’t find words to put together that would make any sense of this, he spoke up first.

“I’m in love with you,” he said, “and I’m sorry if you didn’t want me to tell you that at the baby shower or if you still don’t want to hear it now, but I’m tired of pretending that nothing exists between us. I know that I’m probably not what you want, Atti, and that’s why you haven’t even thought about me, but I love you. If I could make myself stop, I would, but I’m stuck like this until I can convince myself that you don’t matter.”

He sucked in a deep breath, blue eyes dark, and swallowed, Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. “Looking at you,” he said, “I doubt I’ll ever fool myself into believing that you mean nothing to me. I try to stay away so that I can forget the sight of you and the sound of your voice in my head, but you’re around when I don’t expect you to be and I have to start all over again.”

I reached across the gap between us and grabbed Chance by the wrist, allowing myself to touch him this way. I wanted to speak, to apologize for hurting him, and to promise that I never meant it, but my words were the soundtrack of a broken record.

In frustration, tired of having an audience for every difficult part of my life, I turned from my father and his parents and dragged him with me to the back porch. I couldn’t talk to him with my father three feet away, couldn’t even start to explain the tangled mess in my head. I yanked open the sliding glass door and pushed Chance through, following him out and slamming the door behind me.

“I’m not going to apologize,” he said, leaning back against railing as I turned to face him, “and I’m not going to take it back.” He slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans, leaning back. His expression was defiant but cautious, prepared.

“I’m not asking you to,” I answered. “I just didn’t want to talk with an audience.”

Chance straightened up like he was preparing to be shot down and he gripped the porch railing, his knuckles white. “I don’t think I want to hear anything you’re about to say,” he said quietly.

I flinched. It hurt to look at him, to see the armor he donned just to speak to me. “I know I haven’t acted like it lately, but I care about you,” I spoke, hoping he’d take it the way I meant it. “I know how much you were there for me this summer and that I’ve treated you like shit since Ronnie came back, and I’m sorry.”

“I don’t want an apology,” he said, flinching at Ronnie’s name. “I want you.” He tipped his head back as he looked at me, like he knew my answer and wouldn’t accept it.

Looking at him like this, speaking in circles and dredging up these thoughts hurt more than anything. “I’m sorry,” I said, vibrating in place as I tried not to feel too much, tried not to cringe at my own flimsy apology. “I wish I hadn’t hurt you so much that you’re unable to believe in me. I wish that I could take it all back and make you understand the things I feel for you.”

The blue eyed boy stared at me, letting silence stretch between us. After a few moments, he tipped his chin forward and asked, “Do you wish it was my baby?”

I wiped at my eyes and met his gaze straight on.

“I thought about it, you know,” he said casually. “Thought that maybe if it was my baby, it’d be easier for you to pick me. Because that’s the only thing keeping you from me, right? The fact that you’re having his baby. I know you love me.”

“Chance,” I breathed, stepping forward to stand in front of him. I grabbed for him, wrapping my fingers around his forearm and pressing tight so he would feel me. “You’re not ready to be a father,” I said, “and we can’t change it. I wouldn’t want to change this. I know you hate when I tell you that you’re too young, but I wouldn’t put this on you now. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I’m different than I was when you met me,” he answered, slipping his hand into mine. “I could’ve handled it, Atticus. I could’ve been the one that was there for you and Arch.”

“Even if it was your baby, Chance,” I said, watching his expression as he tried to guard himself from my words, “it wouldn’t make things easier. I’d still love him.”

Chance’s baby blues met my dark eyes and he shook his head, rejecting my words. “You love me,” he said, open at the end of his words, waiting for confirmation - so easily fractured and not so easily put back together.

“Yeah,” I answered, shaking my head, unable to lie to him even when I should’ve, “but I love him too, Chance. I’ve tried not to do this to either of you. Tried not to treat you like this, but I can’t make myself stop caring about either of you.”

“There’s a quote,” Chance said, laughing slightly, ironically. “It says that if you think you love a guy and then you realize that you love another guy too, you should pick the second one. Because how could you have loved him if you were able to love me too?”

“It’s not that easy,” I argued, pulling my hand from his.

Chance reached out for me again, anticipating that I would walk away from him. He slipped his fingers into mine, even as I tried to pull away.

“I know,” he breathed, “that Ronnie will always be in your life. If we’re together, Atticus, you won’t lose either of us. I won’t make you give him up.”

Chance took my other hand and pulled me towards him. He leaned back against the railing and wrapped my arms around his waist so that we were face to face. I held onto him, grasping fistfuls of his shirt. His hands moved to my face and cupped my jaw as he spoke.

“I won’t ask for him not to be around,” he said, “and I won’t be jealous that you’re having his baby and not mine. I won’t need all of your attention; I know that you need time for your kids and for Ronnie, and I won’t get mad when you don’t have anything left over for me. I just need to know that you want me, Atticus. That you’ll call me when you need someone.”

“That’s not healthy,” I breathed, pressing my palms against his back. “It’s not healthy for either of us, Chance. Relationships don’t work like that. I can’t give you what you want because even though you say it’s fine, I’ve seen the look on your face when I’m with Ronnie and when I can’t make time for you. I won’t let you be okay with me treating you that way.”

“I love you,” he spoke, enunciating every word. “If you walk away from me, it’ll hurt more than if I skirt the edges of your life, Atticus. And I know it’ll hurt you too.”

I nodded, leaning forward to press a kiss against his chest, against the shirt and the jacket covering his skin. I nodded against him, pressing my face into the apex of his chest. His hands came up and he cupped the back of my head, holding me to him.

Chance sighed, sliding his fingers into my hair and brushing it out from between us. “You are everything to me,” he said, shaking against me, unable to stand still in light of everything happening between us. “I just want you in my life, Atticus.”

I slid my hands from his back to his sides, grabbing at his jacket as I met his eyes. I lifted my hands from his clothes to his face and he leaned into me. “I don’t know what to do,” I spoke, splaying my fingers against his neck. “I don’t want either of you hurt.”

He shook his head and closed the gap between us. His fingers tangled in my hair and his hot breath hit my cheek as he moved to kiss me. I couldn’t remember the last time he kissed me. I couldn’t remember an easy goodbye and a promise of seeing him later. It seemed that we were always leaving without words, always ending and beginning again without talk or consideration. It was his willingness to be thrown to the wolves that landed us here and I always let him.

I leaned away, just enough to stop his heart.

“Don’t walk away from me,” Chance breathed, tilting his mouth into my hair.

I shook my head, his lips skimming my cheek as I moved. “I can’t walk away from either of you. That’s the problem.”

The twenty-one year old wrapped his arms around my shoulders and crushed me to him. My stomach pressed against him, Ronnie’s baby between us, but he didn’t pay it any attention. I pressed my palms into his spine and held him, wondering how long it would take him to move past all the bullshit I put him through.

“Ronnie will hate me if I do this,” I said quietly, lifting my hands off of him, “and you’ll hate me if I don’t.”

“What do you want?” Chance asked as he pulled back, looking at me with those eyes. “What do you want right now?”

“I want you both in my life,” I answered, offering a small, uneasy smile, “but I know that’s not enough and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Chance shook his head. “I want to be here,” he spoke, pressing into me to drive home his point. “You know that. And if you’re worried about him then you should know that he won’t walk away either. He wants to be with you, Atticus. He won’t let that go.”

“You don’t know that,” I answered, pressing back and away from him. “You don’t know that, Chance, and I appreciate how kind and good you are, but you don’t have to convince me that Ronnie will stay with me. It’s not fair to you.”

Chance nodded, cupping my neck. “I will do whatever you need,” he said, pressing his finger tips into my skin. “If you need me to be your best friend and reassure you that another guy won’t walk out of your life, then I’ll do that. I’ll do whatever the hell you need, Atticus. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

“You’re too good to me,” I answered, unable to stop myself from being completely overwhelmed by the kind of person he was. Chance was inherently sacrificial, willing to give himself up just for me, even though I continuously let him slip my mind.

“You’re wonderful,” he answered, tucking my hair behind my ear. “Just let me be good to you for a while longer, okay? Don’t push me away because you’re afraid of losing him.”

I nodded, slowly, unable to find words to explain what being near him did to me - what hearing his voice and seeing those baby-blues did to me. There wasn’t a single part of me that wanted to be away from him, even when I knew that more complicated things could come of it.

Chance took my hand as I stepped back. He slipped his fingers between mine and met my eyes, smiling just a little. “You’re practically my best friend, Atticus,” he said, “which is good enough for now.”

I took him back into my father’s house, feeling out of place with his fingers tangled between mine. Ronnie was the only man who I’d walked into this house with. The only man I’d presented to my father and demanded acceptance from. Chance was a whole different story; he was a background of unknowns and the son of my father’s neighbor. And even now, holding my hand, there were no promises between us.

I saw the looks on Chance’s parents’ faces when we walked into the kitchen together. My father looked up immediately, frowning at the sight of our entwined hands. I let go, offering Chance a smile, when I saw Arch sitting at the kitchen table with Frida. He saw us too and he grinned before it slipped from his lips.

“Chance,” he said automatically. I’d never asked him to lie about it, never asked him to keep a secret for us, so he didn’t. “What are you doing here?” Arch looked at the dark haired, blue-eyed man and frowned before turning around in his chair to get a better vantage point.

Chance smiled at the boy who’d always been difficult with him. “I live next door with my parents,” he said, motioning to Natalie and Todd, who looked less pleased than Arch to see us together.

Arch’s frown became one of confusion and his eyes narrowed. He looked at me now. “Are we leaving soon?” he asked, holding onto the back of the chair. “I want to see Charlie.”

“Ronnie’s dog?” my father asked, and I wasn’t sure whose eye contact to avoid the most - his or Chance’s.

I nodded slowly. “We’re staying at the apartment this weekend,” I explained, motioning Arch to me as he climbed up from his spot. “The house is being shown so it’s easier if we don’t have to work around it.”

“It was nice of Ronnie to offer to let you stay with him,” Gena said, always the mediator.

I glanced at Chance’s parents, wondering how much of the politics they understood. They’d met Ronnie, seen him and I together as we announced our son to the world. They’d seen Chance and Ronnie argue. I didn’t know how much they knew, but it was probably enough to want me to stay away from Chance.

“I should get going,” I said, resting my palms on the counter-top. “Ronnie’s expecting us back and I want to get Holland home and fed before she falls asleep.”

Dad nodded. “We already put the girls’ things in your car,” he said, trying to hold onto some semblance of normalcy despite the tense air in the room. “Please drive careful and text when you get home.”

“I’ll bring Holland out,” Frida said, getting up from the table. She walked around the island and pulled the six-month-old from the highchair. Holland, realizing that she was being taken further from her mom, squirmed in Frida’s arms and gave a couple cries.

“Give her to me,” I said, reaching for my youngest sister. She was about double her size from the day she was born, but still pretty tiny. She pressed her forehead against my shoulder, mashing her dark ringlets. I held her up over my stomach and cradled her against my shoulder.

“Nico, lets get your shoes on,” I called to my middle sister, motioning for her to scoot off the chair and come around. Frida helped her down and Nico raced across the kitchen to me. Arch followed and the two of them headed to find their shoes. “Don’t forget your jacket, Arch.”

The baby wore a lacy, pink romper but her arms and legs were mostly bare. It was only in the low 60s todays, so I turned to my step-mother. “Does she have a jacket ready to go?” I questioned.

“I think it’s in the car,” she answered. “Your brother took the bag out there already.”

I rounded up Nico and Arch and ushered them towards the door. My parents hovered around us as I reached for to open the door with my freehand. I stepped back towards my parents to give Nico and Arch room to step through. When I glanced back to my parents to say goodbye, the Wilkins were standing in the doorway of the kitchen, watching with cautious eyes as Chance followed me out of the house.

I could only imagine how I looked to them, leaving my family’s home pregnant, with a child on each side, and another one in my arms. Chance didn’t bother with a double-take. It was as though nothing shocked or surprised him anymore. He accepted my pregnancy without a second thought, and my son as though he was an extension of myself.

“I’ll see you soon,” I said to my parents.

Chance helped me get the kids into the car. He held onto Holland as I opened the door for Arch and buckled him into his seat. Nico moved to climb into her carseat, but I motioned her back, leaning into the car to put Holland in first. Carefully, Chance passed Holland into my arms.

“You sure you got her?” he asked, bending down to see into the backseat as I loaded the kids in. “I can figure out how to get her in, if you want.”

I settled her into her seat and fastened the harness. “I got it,” I said, reaching back to anchor myself with his weight. He pulled me up and out of the backseat so that Nico could climb in. I buckled her in without having to climb into the backseat and then closed the door.

I leaned against the window and stared at Chance, scanning his features while he looked down at me. “I’ll call you, okay?” I said, meaning it.

He rested his hand on the side of the car and nodded. “If you don’t, I’ll call you anyway,” he said, crooking his elbow as he leaned forward. He kissed me gently, not touching me anywhere at all, and then leaned back. “I don’t know where you’re living now,” he said, blue eyes serious. “Where’re you going to be when you get out of Ronnie’s apartment?”

“Downtown,” I answered, fiddling with his jacket. “A blue house on Bonnie Brae street.”

Chance grinned. “What kind of street name is that?”

I jabbed at him. “Don’t laugh at my house,” I said, reaching up to touch his face with my fingers. “It’s amazing, Chance. You won’t believe it when you see it. It’s gorgeous.”

He nodded, leaning into my hand. “Farther away though.”

I nodded too.

Chance titled his head toward the car. “You shouldn’t keep them waiting,” he said, leaning down to peer through the window. “Arch is staring right at us. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking up ways to make my head explode right now.”

I grinned despite his words. “He is not,” I said, glancing down to double check. “He’s fine.”

Chance grinned too, raising his eyebrows at me. “That boy is team Ronnie all the way,” he said, tangling his fingers into my hair. “I’m sure he’d be happy if he never saw me again.”

“There are no teams,” I answered immediately. “This isn’t a game. I don’t like it when you think like that, Chance. It’s not a competition.”

“It is for Arch,” he said quietly, “and that’s okay. I want him to like me, but I’ll survive if he doesn’t. I just need you to like me.” He grinned, eyes flashing, daring me to challenge the idea that I did in fact enjoy him.

“Stop it,” I said, shaking my head at him as I slipped out from between his body and my car. “I’m leaving now.”

Chance nodded and followed me around to my side of the car. “Let me know when you guys get there safe,” he said, opening the driver’s door for me.

“Don’t think I can drive pregnant?” I questioned.

Chance grinned, but shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’ll just need something to interrupt the conversation Todd and Natalie are going to want to have with me when I go back inside.”

I cringed at the thought of Chance facing my parents and his alone. We hadn’t given them a definite explanation of what there was between us, but it was more than enough to raise some questions. Unlike me, Chance didn’t have the opportunity to escape. He had the whole night with my family and his makeshift parents to explain to them the things we couldn’t even explain to ourselves.
♠ ♠ ♠
Halsey - "Young God"

Thanks so much to lizinreverse. for the comment!