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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

CDMX - 4. CDMX • IV

Insistent tugging on the bedsheet woke CJ. He opened an eye to find Liebe with a thumb stuck in her mouth, looking like a lost puppy. Her other hand held the small, plush emu her Australian uncle and aunt, Spencer and Tilda, had given her as a present the previous Christmas. It had been her first trip to the Southern Hemisphere organized to attend their wedding and meet her other Australian relatives. Out of the unique menagerie she received, the flightless bird was her favorite, although the koala was a close second.

“Morning, Munchkin.” The sun had yet to rise and the only illumination in the room came from street lights glowing through the windows’ glass. “You wanna come up?” Although tall for her age according to the pediatrician, the nearly eighteen-month-old girl remained too short to climb the high bed.

Blue eyes half-closed, she nodded and raised her arms.

CJ leaned over, grabbed her around the waist, and deposited her between him and Owen. “Let’s go back to sleep for a little bit, okay?” On workday mornings, CJ was up much earlier, by this time he was either out jogging, or doing calisthenics in the living room. He had yet to join a gym so weight lifting had been abandoned for the time being.

The girl nodded, stuck the thumb back in her mouth, and laid her head on CJ. The soft chest hair, and the rhythm of his beating heart, always relaxed her. They were a great sleeping aid whenever she fussed. Within moments, her eyes were shut, and her breathing slowed. Owen had not reacted from his side of the bed. A heavy meal and several cocktails the previous night meant he would be recalcitrant about getting up too early.

 

Having already been fed, Liebe nibbled on or scattered Cheerios all over herself and the floor. Her fathers, by now accustomed to her antics, ignored the mess. They would vacuum the cereal after eating their breakfast.

“I think I have an idea about how to deal with Lupe’s lack of computer knowledge and internet access.” CJ often claimed some of his best ideas came while toiling over a hot stove.

Apparently, that was the case this morning. “Another brainstorm while cooking?”

“Kinda… Okay, we get the girl a laptop, a tablet, or both. But we also fund a technology room at her school. We met Mexico’s Education Secretary; let’s use her. I’m sure Lupe’s not the only one facing this issue. Betcha there’s a lot of kids in the same boat.”

“Sounds like a project for the CBC Foundation.” Owen stopped talking for a moment, apparently lost in thought. “It’d be nice to do something positive in our new city.”

“Crap. You sound like a superhero's sidekick.” CJ mimicked a young kid talking: “Oh, gee whiz, CJ, we can save the world.” It was difficult to get the final words out through the laughter.

Owen shook his head, glanced at Liebe, and showed his husband two middle fingers. “Your father’s not all there, Munchkin.”

“Okay, okay. It just felt like we were breaking through the fourth dimension for a second. Why don’t we float the idea by Ritch and the dads when we talk to them tomorrow morning?” Sunday calls to D.C., Colorado, Florida, and Australia was something they wanted to implement on an ongoing basis. Although they would be visiting the States whenever possible, CJ and Owen wanted to ensure Liebe had regular contact with her uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

“You know we don’t even have to discuss it with the dads, right? All we need’s Ritch to agree, and we got a three-two majority.”

CJ chuckled. “You’re devious, Oz. I like it. Let’s put the old geezers out to pasture.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea to me. I’ll vote yes.” Ritch Peterson, CJ’s younger brother, was a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In 2020, after celebrating his eighteenth birthday, he had been elected to the family foundation’s board of directors.

“That was easy.” CJ had barely finished describing what he and Owen were proposing, after initial greetings including Liebe getting a chance to say hello, when Ritch expressed his agreement.

“It’s a no-brainer, bro. Anything anyone can do to improve the lives of Mexicans’ worth trying. If they benefit from your efforts, those kids will be less likely to try and enter the United States illegally, searching for opportunities. Their quality of life improves and so does our border security. Win-win as far as I’m concerned. And a much better option than building walls or detaining everyone.”

“Damn, Cadet. When did you get so smart?” Owen sounded impressed.

Ritch chuckled. “Screw you, Ozzie. We had a leadership seminar on homeland security and protecting our borders earlier in the week. That stuff’s fresh on my mind.”

“Seems like you paid attention.” CJ chuckled. “What happened with the harassing issue?”

Members of the Academy’s boxing team had been subjected to hazing when they first joined. Ritch had experienced it the previous year, disliked it, and spoken to his fathers and brother about it. They had all endorsed his attempt to end the tradition.

“Great! I spoke to the cadet in charge and told him I’d quit and go public if he didn’t put a stop to the bullshit. A couple of days later, a team doolie”what a first-year cadet was called“lingered after dinner, so he could talk to me privately. He had been selected by the other newbies to thank me for putting a stop to what they had all heard about and dreaded.”

This time, Owen sounded proud of his brother-in-law. “Good job, Ritch. I’m suitably impressed. It’s fun to play hardball, isn’t it?”

 

“Who you gonna call?” Brett’s simple question was too easy to pass up.

“Ghostbusters!” The old comedy was one CJ had repeatedly watched with his father while growing up.

“Asshole!”

CJ was laughing hard and unable to respond. Owen did. “Did you and Mr. A read the article I emailed you? The one from last Sunday’s newspaper?”

“We did, Ozzie. It was fascinating to see the two of you blending in so well so quickly.” César shoved Brett aside so both their faces could again be visible on the video call. “But Brett has a point. I don’t think we know anyone we can ask to help with the design and implementation of a technology center.”

“I think we have some ideas, Dad.” CJ had regained his composure.

The first portion of the call had been spent with Liebe and her grandfathers exchanging pleasantries. The girl, her vocabulary constantly increasing, mentioned Lupe, and it provided the opportunity for CJ and Owen to discuss their plans to help the Mexican girl become computer literate.

“One of the people we met at that party was Mexico’s Education Secretary. Her name’s mentioned in the article and there’s a picture of her, her husband, and the two of us. If you guys agree to fund the project, CJ will get in touch with her, and see if it’s feasible.”

César looked at Brett who gave a small nod. “You guys don’t even need us for that. You already mentioned Ritch’s in favor. But we’re in too. How about the foundation chips in a hundred grand as seed money? Let us know when and where to wire the money.”

 

Sunday morning, while Owen fixed breakfast, CJ stripped the bed and threw the sheets in the washer; they did not want Infanta having to deal with the mess they had made the previous evening. After eating, while CJ cleaned the kitchen, Owen shifted them to the dryer.

“Oz…” CJ walked out of the kitchen holding his phone. “Lincoln just texted. He’ll be here in like fifteen minutes and says to meet him downstairs. He’s bringing a friend.”

“Who?”

“No idea. Let’s get changed. You wanna get Liebe ready, or you wanna stock the carriage?” Diapers, a couple of toys, something to drink, and snacks were staples to carry whenever they left the house; unsure how long they would be out, Owen suggested including a container with her lunch.

Exiting the elevator, they found Lincoln chatting with the doorman. A blondish, extremely fit man stood next to the FBI agent. “What up, Linc?”

The man ignored CJ and squatted so he was at eye level with Liebe. “Hey, princess. How you doing today?”

“Good, Unka Linc.” She pointed at the newcomer. “Who’s he?”

Lincoln stood while grinning. “As direct as your father. This is my friend, Austin. Austin, this is Liebe.”

“Hi, Liebe. Nice to meet you.” Austin’s voice was deeper than his size would have suggested. He was shorter than Lincoln and nowhere near as wide.

“I recognize you.” CJ extended a hand to the man. “CJ Abelló. You’re one of the marines at the embassy, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir. A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Abelló. Sergeant Austin MacKenzie.”

“You call me sir again, I’ll have to hurt you.”

Austin raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Ignore my husband, Austin. He likes to brag and let everyone know he has martial arts training. Part of his routine for intimidating strangers. I’m Owen.”

“Great to meet you, siOwen.” Smiling, he turned to CJ. “You gonna hurt me? Not sure if you’re familiar with the Marine Corps, but we’re trained in hand-to-hand combat.”

CJ preened, staring into the military man’s eyes. “My dad’s a jarhead. And I can take him.”

Lincoln had picked up Liebe and laughed. “Your dad’s crazy, Liebe. Austin, CJ has a few black belts. I’d love to watch the two of you go at it.”

“Yeah?” Austin remained focused on CJ. “How familiar are you with MCMAP?”

“That stands for Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.” CJ recalled the description his father had used and paraphrased. “It’s a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence. Any weapon, anytime, anyplace. Any questions?”

Austin chuckled and nodded. “I’m impressed. Did your father train you?”

“Nope. I started with Tae Kwon Do years before I moved to Washington to live with him. Then I hooked up with a high school buddy who practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years.”

“You belong to a dojo?”

“Not yet, man. We’ve been in Mexico less than a month. Still settling in.”

“If you’re interested, you can probably practice with us. I’m sure the other marines would welcome the son of a fellow leatherneck.”

“Hell, yeah! You’re on, dude.”

 

Play was already in process when the four men and the toddler made it to the pitch. Liebe’s feet had yet to touch the ground since leaving the building. Lincoln had carried her most of the way, and at the moment she clung to Owen. “Rugby!” She pointed at the Australians and New Zealanders facing off against a team from African countries south of the Equator. “Wanna play.” She squirmed in her father’s arms trying to stand on the grass.

“Not right now, Munchkin. See how hard they hit each other?” As if on command, an Aussie clobbered one of the opponents the moment CJ spoke. “See? That guy was running towards the goal line, wanting to score a try, and didn’t notice the Australian player run at him from the side. Who should we cheer for?”

“Australia!” The girl was well aware of her heritage.

Owen chuckled. “With a few Kiwis thrown in for good measure. What do you call what they’re doing now?”

“Scrum!”

“How old is she?” Austin looked surprised.

“Almost eighteen months.”

“And she knows about rugby already?”

“She’s watched Ozzie play since she was born. Not that she’d remember that. Earlier this year we took her to a couple of pro matches, and she’s watched games on TV too.” CJ reached for his daughter. “Let’s put her down so she can run around a bit. Hopefully, that’ll tire her out, and she’ll nap while we have lunch.”

As soon as she hit the grass, Liebe made a beeline for a tall man watching from a few feet away. Owen took off after her, but the girl reached the stranger before her father could stop her. She tugged at the stranger’s shorts and with her other hand pointed at the field. “You play.”

“Sorry, mate.” Owen smiled. “She thinks everyone should get on the pitch all the time.”

“That’s all right. She’s adorable. What’s her name?”

“Elizabeth, but we call her Liebe.”

The man gently squatted in front of the girl. “I normally would, Liebe. But I hurt my knee and the doctor won’t let me play yet.” As he rose, he offered Owen a hand to shake. ”Ugo Mapimpi. I’m with the South Africans. Are you and your friends new at the Australian embassy? I don’t recall seeing any of you at a match before.”

“Actually, my husband’s with the American one.”

Owen turned and pointed at CJ. “CJ’s the dark-haired one. The other two are friends of ours. Also Americans. Are you part of South Africa’s mission?”

“Nope. I work for a multinational.” Recognition flashed across Ugo’s face. “You’re the guys in the newspaper last Sunday!”

“What the hell? Did everybody in the country see that?” CJ had followed Owen and offered the stranger a handshake. “I’m CJ.”

“Welcome to Mexico, gentlemen. Way to make a splash upon arrival.” While the man chuckled, CJ shook his head. “Social pages are a good source of information, CJ. Tells us who’s in, who’s out, who’s coming, who’s going. We all at least glance at them.”

“That’s nearly verbatim what someone else mentioned. Did I hear you tell Liebe you play but got hurt?”

“Yep. Sprained my knee when I bumped it against a cabinet’s sharp edge at work. Don’t laugh.” The man lifted and shook his right leg to demonstrate mobility. “At least I’m not limping anymore. I should be back out there in a week or two.”

Lincoln and Austin had drifted closer, and Owen introduced them to the South African. Mapimpi raised a questioning eyebrow. “Three built Americans, one big enough to hurt anyone on the pitch, and an Aussie married to one of the Yanks. You guys thinking of fielding a team?”

“Nah, mate. I’m probably gonna play with my fellow Aussies. But I’m gonna try to recruit Linc to join us.”

 

“Yes.” Calum vigorously shook Austin’s hand. The Aussie had strolled over to the fan section when the match was over, the Oceania team having won. He greeted the men he knew and was introduced to Austin.

Confusion won as the most popular reaction in the group. Austin slightly tilted his head. “Excuse me?”

“Yes. I’ll let you take me out on a date.” Calum grinned, Austin blushed, and the others laughed.

“Conceited much, mate?” Owen appeared unable to stop shaking his head.

“And on that note…” CJ bounced on the ball of his feet, trying to quiet Liebe’s fussing. He had fed her while watching the match and It was past her nap time. “I’m hungry. Let’s get food. Ugo, join us. But one of you needs to suggest a place. Ozzie and I are still discovering what’s in the hood.”

“You know our embassy’s a ten-minute walk from your apartment, right?” Speaking to CJ, Calum’s words became somewhat muffled when he stripped off his jersey. While he used it to wipe his sweaty torso, the Americans stared. Dark hair, abdominal ridges, and lats as wide as a small car caused a couple of grunts and a moan from Austin.

“The Bulldog’s around the corner from us.” Calum reached for a clean shirt from the bag at his feet.

“Stay bent like that, Calum. I like the view.” CJ ducked to avoid Owen’s head slap.

Lincoln cracked up. “CJ’s a huge tease, dude. Trust me. I know. He’ll flirt like crazy, but when it comes down to it, he runs home to Ozzie.”

“Wanker! Not in front of your husband, CJ.” Calum winked at Owen. “Anyway, it’s a nice pub frequented by ruggers. Good slop and cold beer. Shouldn’t be too crowded today since most league matches were yesterday.”

“Ummm, Ugo, you better not be uncomfortable around gay people, dude.”

“Hell, no!” The man’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “My ex-wife would have probably encouraged me to hang out with gay men. It might have kept me from repeatedly straying.”

“Dawg…”

“Liebe, you want to get in your carriage and take a nap?” When the girl nodded, Owen took her from CJ and settled her down with the plush emu in her arms. “Lead the way, Calum.”

Located in the basement of a building with a mattress store above it, the pub was reached by a narrow set of stairs leading down from a nondescript entryway. CJ groaned. “Next time we come here, we bring the stroller I use when I take her jogging. This damn, fancy carriage’s a pain to hold like this.” He grasped the front, and Owen the back, as they gingerly carried it into the dimly lit room.

Sometime later, after a plate of bangers and mash and a couple of pints, Owen pushed away from the table and stood. “It’s been lovely, but we have to go.” He tilted his head towards the baby carriage. “Time to change her, and I have documents to review for work. Same time next week?”

 

Liebe had been asleep for a while when CJ turned off his laptop and stripped off his shorts. Owen was already in bed.

Turning sideways, CJ propped his head on the pillow and leaned over to kiss his husband. “Guess our routines are coming together. Austin said if I was satisfied with their workouts, I could spar with him and some of the other marines every Tuesday after work.” The jarhead had invited CJ to join them after hours at the embassy’s training room too. “You gonna play?”

Owen nodded. “I think so. We’ll see how practice goes this week.” After meeting the Team Oceania players, he had accepted an invitation to practice with them. If he felt comfortable on the pitch and with his teammates, he would join the team for their next match. “Did you send the email?”

“Yep” CJ touched the base of the nightstand lamp to turn it off. “Now we wait.”

Copyright © 2021 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you to my support team, you improved the story. Any remaining errors are my responsibility. And thank you to all readers for supporting me. I hope to hear from you.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Story Discussion Topic

I miss interacting with readers. And since CDMX won't be published for a while, how about a look at part of chapter one?  
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