The only part of Matt’s birthday weekend that was worth remembering were the glimpses and broken memories of Seamus in his dark green undie as he brought water, toast, and wet towels while Matt died on the guest bathroom floor. Miles of skin and stomach and shapely arms. Those fleeting memories triggered a change in Matt.
One hour left of this torture. Seamus already came back from running errands with Aidan and now the duo was walking around the cafe.
Seamus was leaned over, holding Aidan upright while his seven-month chubby legs wobbled on the ground. One of them was excited and the other wasn’t even crawling yet. Aidan finally gave up, his face went red. There would be no more steps being taken.
It was over.
Seamus tossed him in the air with a twist, when Seamus caught him, they were face to face. There was cooing and laughter. Yeah, Aidan liked that a lot better than trying to walk.
Matt smiled from behind the counter where he was steaming milk. Hilary was perched next to him on the counter. They both watched Seamus with the same too-fucking-perfect look in their eyes.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“He’s my best friend,” Matt said. “No offense—”
“Offense taken,” she pouted, then winked because she couldn’t blame Matt for being half in love with the most perfect man on earth. “There’s a reason the best friends-turned-lovers is such a popular trope.”
“Well,” he said. “If my life was a book, it would be in the unrequited-love genre or if you were looking in the LGBT section, the I-fell-for-my-straight-best-friend section.”
“He’s not even straight and whatever teenage angst-drama is going on between you two, unrequited isn’t the issue.”
“I’m not even in love. It’s just a crush. He’s cute, successful, and good with Aidan. I’d be blind and dumb to deny an attraction. It doesn’t mean I actually want anything to happen. I just enjoy watching. He’s fun to daydream about.”
Not believing a bit of his denial, Hilary squeezed Matt’s shoulder as she walked away.
“You ready?” Seamus asked, starting Matt from wherever he was in his head. He had Aidan on his hip and the diaper backpack hanging off his shoulder. Matt looked at the clock and realized his shift ended five minutes ago.
“Yeah, sorry. Let me grab my stuff.”
Leaving work with Seamus started just before his birthday. Randomly at first, then semi regularly, then daily.
Once they were in the SUV, Matt checked his email from his phone as they drove. “Barbara from DHS emailed me the outline for the home-study.” He didn’t know why he was so nervous. It was unlikely that the courts were going to contest the adoption. It’s just that there was just so much to the process. Adoption wasn’t something Matt hadn’t given much thought about. He stupidly thought it just magically happened over time, kind of like common law marriage or something. If you have a kid long enough, they just become legally yours. That was not the case. It was actually fairly complex. Getting Aidan’s birth certificate and social security card had been hard enough. If his mom had them before she died, who knows where they were. But with a little elbow grease, Matt got everything submitted and filed, the next step was the home-study.
“What’s it say?”
Matt opened the PDF file and zoomed in. There were different requirements based on the type of adoption. Since Matt was adopting his brother, it was a lot less invasive than say a private adoption. “Pretty much what we expected. They’ll come check out the apartment; make sure all safety precautions are in place. It looks like she included a list of what they’ll be looking for in the home. Safety latches, fire detectors, baby gates around fireplaces, blah blah blah,” he continued to scroll, then he paused. “Oh no.”
Seamus glanced over. “What’s ‘oh no’?”
“He has to have his own room.” Matt had kind of looked for a new apartment but people weren’t usually moving mid-term and there was a hefty fee if he broke the lease so he decided to wait until school was out. He didn’t think it would be a big deal. “She wants to come in two weeks. There’s no way I can find a two-bedroom apartment and be moved in by then.”
“What will happen if you postpone?”
“I don’t want to find out. What if she takes him away?”
“I don’t think that’s how this works. I’m sure you’ll have time to rectify the situation. They’d rather you find a proper place to live than try and find a foster family for Aidan. It’s not like he’s being abused.”
“They might think that a one-year-old shouldn’t be sharing a room with a twenty-one-year-old. They could see it as abuse. What if they think—”
“Wow,” Seamus put his hand on Matt’s arm to stop the train wreck going on in his head. “That escalated quickly. I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. If you’re really worried about it—you and Potatoes-For-Legs can move in with me.”
Matt looked at Seamus like he was fucking crazy. “Well, that escalated quickly.”
“Has it?” Seamus asked with a is-this-really-that-unbelievable-of-an-idea? tone. “You already have a room there and so does Aidan. If you’re not at the loft, I’m at your apartment. It’s not that big of a leap.”
“I don’t think you know what you’re signing up for. It doesn’t seem like a big deal because right now you can go home anytime you want, anytime you need a break. It’s your space to do as you please. If we moved in—”
Seamus adjusted in his seat and gripped the steering wheel with both hands. “It was just an offer. No one’s forcing you. You can say no.”
“It’s not about saying yes or saying no, Seamus. You already do so much. Hell, you do more than me, but having a baby in your loft is a big deal.”
“There’s a baby in my loft every day.”
“It would be different if he lived there. And what about our friendship? What if we’re terrible roommates and it all goes to shit?”
“You know we won’t be terrible roommates.”
“I leave towels on the floor.”
“I know, I pick them up.”
“I know. If we lived together then you’d be picking them up all the time. It could drive you crazy.”
“I do pick them up all the time and it does drive me crazy. Yet, we’re still friends. Imagine that.”
Matt turned in his seat. There was a bite to Seamus’ words and he was practically white-knuckling the steering wheel. “You’re mad.”
Seamus pulled into the parking spot, put the SUV in park, and got out before Matt could respond, which meant the conversation was over. Seamus grabbed a cart while Matt got Aidan out of the car. The walk across the parking lot was silent and awkward.
They got everything they needed, plus a few extras like chips, salsa, and some candy they hid so Aidan wouldn’t see. Not that he cared. They went home, made dinner, and watched Aidan refuse to crawl in silence. What conversation they did have was so simple you hardly needed to grasp English to understand.
After an hour of trying to get Aidan down for the night, they let him fall asleep on the couch while they watched TV. When Aidan was dead to the world, Seamus carried him to his crib.
“He’s down so I’m gonna head out.”
Matt grabbed Seamus’s wrist. “Sit down.” Seamus sat. “I’m worried you didn’t think it through or fully consider what you signed up for when you offered for us to move in.”
“I didn’t ask you on a whim,” Seamus said. “And I know exactly what I’m ‘signing up for’.”
Matt smiled at the sarcastic retort. “I’m still worried. If you ever, for even one second, felt like I was taking advantage of your generosity—well, I’d rather die.”
“Then don’t make me sleep on this terrible couch one more night.”
Seamus had a playful glint in his eyes, almost suggestive like. If he didn’t know better, he’d think that Seamus was coming on to him. Matt flushed.
“Oh my god. I didn’t—” Seamus laughed. “I meant it like, ‘move into the loft so I don’t have to sleep on your couch’. I didn’t mean it as an invitation to your bed.”
“I didn’t think that’s what you meant,” he lied.
“Mmhmm,” Seamus hummed, sure you didn’t.
“Well,” Matt said in an attempt to move away from his awkward thought process. As if Seamus would’ve ever meant it like that. “If you were serious about the offer, I’d be interested in the terms.”
“What? Like you cook on Thursday/Friday and I cook Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday? I pick up towels and wash the laundry?”
Matt laughed. “No, I mean how much is rent? When's it due? What's the security deposit? That kind of stuff.”
“Why would I charge you any of that?”
“Because I’m renting a room. And while I think it’s noble of you to consider doing it for free, I can’t do that to our friendship.”
Seamus looked like he was going to argue but decided against it. “How much do you pay now?”
Seamus was appalled. “I’m not charging you $850.00.”
“Why not?” Matt asked. “This place is way nicer, has a view of something other than the other apartments, and it has a garage—and a laundry in the unit,” he added.
“$400,” Seamus offered.
“I own it free and clear. $400 is basically paying all the utilities and part of my HOA fees,” Seamus explained. “Honestly, I feel like I’m robbing you.”
“And I feel like I’m robbing you.” He went to the small desk on the other side of the living room and rummaged around. He found his rarely used checkbook and filled it out. “Here’s a check for fourteen-hundred. First, last, and six-hundred for security deposit.”
Seamus looked annoyed but put the check in his wallet anyway. With things settled between them, Seamus was free to stay. They watched a movie and fell asleep; Matt in his bed and Seamus on the couch.
Not in Matt’s bed. Because, yeah, that had been a stupid, stupid thought.
Matt woke to a subway band playing for tips in his kitchen. Nope. No band. Just Seamus. Matt stepped over the mess, made a bottle for Aidan, and went back to the bedroom. He didn’t have to ask what the fool was doing.
When he came back out a half-hour later, Seamus had everything in two piles. He pointed at the small pile, “This is stuff for the loft.” Then he pointed at the much larger pile, “This needs to be packed for storage.”
“We’re doing this now? It’s not even eight. I’m not even awake.”
Aidan was reaching and whining for Seamus so Matt handed him over. Seamus said his good mornings then set Aidan on the floor next to him, handed him a wood spoon, and showed him how to bang the saucepan. Aidan’s coordination was lacking but, through sheer will and determination, he was able to make the spoon hit the pan.
“I have neighbors you know.”
“Quiet hours ended at seven,” Seamus looked at his watch. “It’s eight.”
“Good thing I’m moving,” he mumbled as he poured himself a coffee. Aidan thought his new drum set was something special. Matt did not.
The living room offered little reprieve from the noise but it was enough to spend a few minutes checking his phone while he woke up.
“I was thinking Aidan and I might run to the cafe and grab some boxes, then come back and pack. Between college and work, you won’t have much time and the sooner we get everything moved, the better.”
The offer was more than ridiculous. “I don’t have that much. I can pack between work and school. We have plenty of time. I haven’t even put my notice in.”
“Yeah, but I could have this place packed in two days. Maybe less if Aidan’s not a total terror.”
“Seamus,” Matt held up his hands. Stop. The guy needed to slow down. “I can’t have you pack while I’m gone. I need to go through my own stuff.”
Seamus sat on the other end of the couch with a huff. He agreed but under duress it seemed.
Matt closed the door slowly. Something was off. Matt sensed it the second he walked in. Besides the stack of empty boxes by the door, everything looked the same as when he left but—
“What?” Seamus asked. He was staring at the TV a little too hard. His voice was a little too casual.
Matt walked over and kissed Aidan. “Hey Aido-Potato. What were you and Seamus up to today?” He turned and narrowed his eyes at Seamus. He did not trust him. Aidan smiled brightly and reached for Matt, who happily picked him up.
“I didn’t pack any of your stuff,” Seamus said.
Matt ignored the lying liar on the couch and spoke to Aidan. “I won’t judge you for what Seamus did. I know you had no part. Just tell me the truth. I might even give you rice cereal for dinner if you do.”
Matt walked into the kitchen. Things were as they had been. He glanced around. He couldn’t put his finger on what was different. Stopping at the bathroom, he realized what it was. The bedroom and confirmed it.
“You weren’t lying,” Matt deadpanned. “You didn’t pack any of my stuff.” But all Aidan’s stuff was gone. Toiletries, clothes, diapers, toys, most of the bottles.
Matt wanted to be annoyed but he wasn’t. It was cute and wildly clever. He set Aidan on the floor and grabbed a box from the pile. “I guess we might as well get started.”
Seamus smirked at the TV like they had an inside joke about how well the plan had worked. The sly victory smile made Matt want to roll his eyes and laugh at the same time.
They spent the rest of the afternoon packing. Seamus packed apartment stuff, deciding what they could use and what needed to go to storage while Matt packed his bedroom.
A few hours later, Matt was dead.
“Well, I’m tapped. I got the important stuff packed. Everything else can wait.”
Seamus finished taping a box closed then sat back on the couch. “Dinner?”
“Yeah. Your treat.”
“Deal,” he reached his hand out and the two shook on it.
Seamus loaded some boxes into the suburban while Matt grabbed Aidan and locked up the apartment.
The next day, when Matt got back from class, there were more boxes in the loft and even less at Matt’s old apartment.
“I took a bunch of stuff to storage. Just the stuff you agreed would go,” Seamus clarified. He pointed at what was left. “I think this stuff should also go into storage.”
“I don’t have storage.”
“You do now.” Seamus was quick to keep talking so Matt couldn’t scold him. “Everything but your bedroom is packed. It’s either at the loft or here waiting for you to decide its fate. I dropped your notice at the office, so that’s done and I have Rudy coming in two days to do a once over on the apartment.”
“Rudy?” Matt asked. Everything was happening so fast. Usually, Matt was the one taking charge.
“He’s my cleaning guy.”
Seamus studied Matt. “Yeah, he cleans the dealerships and then does my apartment once a week. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, it’s just—so fast. I feel like I’m playing catch up. Yesterday morning I was waking up in my own apartment with no intention of moving and now it’s practically empty,” Matt said, looking around the space. Seamus sure worked fast. “You put my notice in?”
“Yeah, if you waited much longer, you’d have to pay an extra month of rent.”
True. “I can at least clean the apartment.”
“Sure,” Seamus placated. “But why? We’re both busy and you need to focus on school, studying, and the DHS lady coming in less than two weeks. The faster we get this apartment done and out of the way, the quicker we can focus on getting the adoption finalized.”
Matt tried not to look at Seamus like he was roping the moon, which was near impossible because that’s exactly what he was doing.
“Now I feel bad for making you buy dinner last night. I owe you a hundred dinners. One for every nice thing you’ve done for me.”
“I’m just building up my case so when I ask a real big favor of you, you can’t say no.”
“You don’t have to ‘build a case’ just to ask a favor. That’s not how friendship works.”
“I know,” he said and then snapped his fingers in remembrance. “Oh, you need to call the DHS lady and let her know you moved.”
“You didn’t do that for me?”
“I can’t do everything.”
“No, you can’t. You only take care of Aidan while running five businesses, sort, pack, and move my entire apartment in twenty-four hours, find me a storage unit, and give my apartment official notice that I’m moving. I suppose letting the State know my change of address would be asking too much.”
“I also picked up your towel,” Seamus added.
Matt laughed. “Are you still trying to build your case?”
“Maybe a little,” Seamus held his fingers close together, indicating how very little of a case he was building.
“What's the favor anyway?” Matt asked. He was curious. Matt wasn’t sure what he had to offer Seamus.
“I’ll let you know.”
Matt handed Seamus a box and let him know it was for storage.
Getting moved quickly and letting Rudy clean the apartment had been the right call. Between class, homework, work, and Aidan there was just no way Matt had time to do much else. Getting his stuff settled into the loft and then getting the loft ready for the inspection was all he could handle.
Now that Matt and Aidan were officially living with Seamus, Seamus got pulled into the adoption process. It wasn’t much, standard stuff like a background check. He also had to be there for the interview. Neither of which seemed to put him off.
The day of the inspection Matt spent too much time getting ready. Everything he read online said it was a simple process. Still, he was nervous and wanted to make a good impression.
Matt walked into a freakishly clean living room. Aidan was rocking back and forth on his hands and knees while Seamus coaxed him along.
“How about this?” Matt asked. He was wearing dark blue jeans with a simple black sweater. He wanted to look nice without looking like he tried too hard, even though that's exactly what he was doing.
Seamus glanced up. The scrutiny in his eyes made Matt anxious and he nervously smoothed his sweater down.
Seamus nodded. “Good.”
Matt glanced up. “It’s not too much?”
“Nope. The pants are nice.”
Matt looked down at his pants. They were his favorites. He thought they made his butt look nice without accentuating his more unflattering assets. Not that Barbara would be looking at those.
“Maybe we should mess the room up a bit,” Matt said, picking up a few toys and carefully tossing them on the ground.
“We just spent three days cleaning.”
“I know but it should look like we actually live here. We have a kid after all.”
Seamus didn’t react to Matt’s ‘we have a kid’. That was good. Matt hadn’t meant it as anything other than what it was.
By the time the DHS lady arrived, the loft was clean but also lived in by two people who wouldn’t raise any red flags and could adequately raise a baby into a decent human.
Barbara was in her forties and not overly excited or friendly looking. Desensitized from years of doing the same things. They walked around the apartment. Barbara took notes and asked questions here and there but mostly she worked in silence.
At one point Matt looked at Seamus with wide I-don’t-know-what-to-do-here eyes. Seamus tried to offer a comforting look but he was just as lost. She’d been far more personable in her emails.
When she was done with the inspection, she had the three of them sit in the living room for a chat. She was less rigid during the interview then she was during the walk-through, thank god. She asked them about their routine and what a typical day looked like. She asked Seamus what he did for a living and seemed amused when she found out that he took Aidan with him to work every day.
Then she asked Seamus if he’d mind taking Aidan for a walk. And then there were two.
“How are you doing with all this? These are big changes for someone your age,” Barbara asked.
“I’m doing good,” he responded. “I could be doing a lot worse.”
“Have you seen a therapist?”
He tried to hide just how much the question threw him off. “No,” he said. He was careful with his answer. “Do you feel there’s a reason I should?”
“Well, you lost your mom and your step-dad and now you’re a full-time care provider for your infant brother. That’s a lot.”
Matt wanted to argue that Mike wasn’t his step-dad but it didn’t really matter and probably wouldn’t earn him any points.
“I agree that it flipped my life around. I’m not denying that. But I don’t feel like I ever reached a point where I needed to see someone about it. Not that I wouldn’t benefit from it,” he quickly added. “One day I didn’t have a kid and the next day I did. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard either. It was—inconvenient, I guess, but I love my brother so it’s not a chore or anything.”
“And how about losing your mom?” she asked. “That can’t be easy. Coping with her loss while raising your brother and going to college full time.”
“We weren’t terribly close,” he said, honestly, boldly even, because who knew how she’d feel about that answer. “I was sad, still am, but I’m raising Aidan and his health is more important to me than being sad about something I can’t change. I don’t know if that’s the right answer but it’s the truth.”
Barbara made a few notes. “Your honesty is appreciated.”
They talked for another half hour. By the time they were done Matt felt like he needed to refresh his deodorant. It wasn’t a brutal interview or anything, just stressful.
“Thank you for making time to meet with me,” Barbara said as she stood and grabbed her tote bag. “You should hear from someone in a few weeks.”
Matt thanked her then let out the biggest breath of his life the second the door closed behind her. He just wanted this whole thing over with. It was hard not to feel extra scrutinized because he was a) a single male and b) twenty-one. He felt like both of those things made him look less than ideal in the eyes of the State.
Seamus came through the door less than five minutes later. “How’d it go?” He asked. Seamus set Aidan on the floor then slid next to Matt on the couch.
“We’ll find out in a few weeks.”
“Well, Aidan and I got you something.” Seamus handed over a chocolate crunch ice cream bar. Matt’s favorite.
“Thank you,” Matt smiled. He closed his eyes in ecstasy the moment the ice cool, smooth chocolate hit his tongue. “Mmmm.” When Matt opened his eyes, Seamus was looking a bit terrified. “Sorry,” Matt said. “It’s the closest thing to sex I’ve had in a long time.”
Matt thought he’d have to stand in front of a judge before the whole thing was said and done. That wasn’t the case. He’d gone to the lawyers office at one point and signed some paperwork in front of a notary. A couple of months after Barbara’s visit, he received certified mail. Matt was officially Aidan’s parent or guardian or big brother with ultimate big brother powers. Whatever the term was, Matt was officially that person for the now nine-month-old Aidan.
The mail had arrived while Matt was at work. By the time he got home, Seamus was pacing like a caged lion. He barely let Matt in the door before he had the large envelope pressed against his chest.
“This is a big day for you.” Matt smiled and took the envelope. He looked at the white package then at Seamus who was waiting so very impatiently. It was almost as if Seamus was equally as invested in Aidan’s life as Matt was.
Matt dropped his jacket on the chair and slowly pulled the cardboard tab. He removed the papers from the pouch, set the envelopes on the table, and began looking, sifting through the documents.
“Are you kidding me?” Seamus groaned. He pushed past Matt and sat at the kitchen table.
Matt smiled to himself then handed the paper over. “Well Seamus, it looks like you’re officially Aidan’s Guardian Nanny.”
No sooner had Matt held out the official court documents, they were snatched from his hands. Seamus finished confirming the information with his own eyes, then started again from page one, slower this time.
He was so serious. Matt loved that about him. He tore his eyes away, no use fawning. Matt took a moment while Seamus was busy to send a text to Kase and Hilary and then he called his dad.
“Hey Dad,” he smiled at the phone. “Guess what.”
There was a brief silence before his dad asked if it was done. Matt could hear him smiling through the phone.
“Yep. Everything official.”
“What a relief. This is great news,” he congratulated. “Are you going to go out and celebrate?”
Matt hadn’t thought about it. “Yeah, maybe we’ll go get pizza tonight.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of a night without Aidan. I was actually thinking I could come get him tomorrow and keep him all weekend. Maybe you could pick him up Sunday and stay for dinner.”
“I hate taking him on the bus.”
“I figured you’d bring Seamus,” he said. “He could drive.”
Matt eyed at Seamus, who was too busy with the documents to listen in on the conversation.
“You want to take Aidan for the weekend and have Seamus and I come get him from your house on Sunday and then stay for dinner?” Matt repeated for Seamus’ benefit. Seamus nodded then went back to the documents. “Sure, I guess we’ll celebrate Aidan’s adoption without him,” he said, making all three of them laugh. Matt and his dad talked a little longer before confirming plans and saying goodbyes.
Seamus got up and followed Matt to the kitchen. “So, your dad wants to take Aidan all weekend?”
“Yeah. A whole weekend.” Matt took a deep, relaxing breath. The breath of freedom. “I get to do nothing but sleep in, work, sleep some more, and eat without someone trying to steal every bite. It’s going to be a perfectly uneventful weekend.”