players only. takes place shortly after this family dinner.
With Matt feeling under the weather, the tidal pool walk has been postponed for another day. Instead, Chris has had Greg pick him, Kate and Luca up and drop them off for some window and grocery shopping. Greg's got orders to stick with Kate and Luca but the big man knows enough to stay well back unless needed. They've had lunch, walked through a few stores, crossed off most of their grocery list and now... "I'm just going to grab a new brush for the grill," Chris tells Kate, Luca playing in the toy aisle while Kate looks through a magazine. "I'll take the cart with me."
"Okay." Kate looks up from the magazine she'd picked up, and smiles brightly at Chris. It's been a lovely morning so far, despite them having to leave Matt at the house tucked up with Luca's favorite stuffed bunny for company. She's growing more and more fond of Chris the longer they spend time together and is beyond happy that Matt seems to have found himself such a wonderful partner after the asshole that had been Dylan.
Glancing down at Luca who has sat on the floor to better study a baby doll he's picked up, she then returns her attention to the magazine and its contents.
Moments later her reverie is interrupted by Luca.
"Look Bunny! Look!" His excitement evident by the volume at which he's demanding her attention. "Look! It's Daddy!"
When she looks it's to find Luca pointing at a magazine cover - one with a large headshot of Chris as Thor. Unfortunately, Luca has decided to announce this information loudly enough that the people around them turn to look.
"Bunny! It's Daddy Chris, look!" Picking up the magazine, he waves it at her, clearly beyond overjoyed at his discovery.
Squatting down, Kate smiles. Well aware of the attention currently focused on them, she takes the magazine from Luca and nods. "It certainly looks like Daddy," she agrees, wanting to try and suggest that this is merely an overexcitable toddler's mistake. "But Daddy doesn't have long hair, does he?"
Confused now, his little face scrunched up, Luca thinks on that before patting the paper. "But it's Daddy?" he asks now, less certain and Kate feels like a bitch for making him question this.
It doesn't take Chris long to find a grill brush. There's a whole display in the centre aisle and he picks one up, tossing it in the cart with their other things, before heading back to where he left Kate and Lulu. "Okay, I'm good," he says, pulling back up beside them. "Are you guys still looking?" he asks, smiling down at Luca.
Crap. Kate looks up from where she's still crouched down beside Luca. Before she can say a word Luca snatches the magazine from her and waves it at Chris. "Look Daddy, it's you!" he jabs a finger at the image of Thor and turns his face up to Chris with a proud smile.
Chris recognizes the panicked look on Kate's face, suddenly noticing the people standing around, watching them, clearly having heard Luca's claims. "It does look like me, doesn't it?" he says quietly, nodding at Greg and scooping Luca (along with the magazine) up in his arms. "Let's take it home to Daddy," he says just as softly, already pushing the cart towards the front cash. Ignoring the dozens of phones that suddenly seem to be out, people clearly taping them. He smiles an apologetic smile at Kate. "Sorry."
"Hey it's not your fault," Kate reassures Chris as she looks over her shoulder at the people watching them, and not even trying to be subtle about it. Looking up at Chris she watches him so as to take his lead - which seems to carry on as if nothing is out of the ordinary. Luca meanwhile is more than happy perched on Chris's hip the magazine grasped in one small fist. "I told Bunny it was you," he chatters, planting a wet kiss on Chris's cheek.
The crowd follows them to the front. Chris keeps Kate close and Greg steps in behind them, the cart forming a barrier to the front. Chris puts their items onto the counter, laughing as Luca pats his face and waves the magazine. "My daddy. Daddy Chris," he sing-songs, dumping the magazine on top of the pile.
"We'll take that too," Chris tells the cashier, watching her try and figure out whether she can manage a photo or video as well. Luckily she decides against it and just takes a really long time bagging up their groceries.
This is Kate's first real experience of Chris's fame impinging on their privacy. Sure there had been the brief time at the airport and the odd photograph when they had gone out to dinner, but this is an intrusive and uncomfortable experience for her. She wonders if Matt really knows what he's letting himself in for, thankfully it seems that Luca is entirely unphased, his attention still more on the magazine and offering Chris wet and frequent kisses.
Chris talks quietly to Luca while the cashier finishes up. He's not trying to stop their son from calling out about 'Daddy Chris' but he is trying to make sure he doesn't really notice the people around them and all the attention they've garnered. He glances at Kate, noticing her discomfort and he reaches for her hand, giving it a quick squeeze, something that doesn't go unnoticed by the crowd. Fuck.
Kate looks at Chris, surprised at the gesture, but thankful for it. She and Greg grab the grocery bags while Chris carries Luca - and his magazine - out of the store, which doesn't seem to stop some people following them out, their phones still aimed at them.
"Are we going back home now?" she asks as they load up the car.
"Yeah, unless there's anything else you want to do," Chris offers. The last thing he wants is for Kate to think they need to scurry home every time people notice them. But... "We should probably check in on Matt."
"Yeah and Lulu will be getting tired, I don't really want him skipping his afternoon nap," Kate nods, relieved that they can retreat to the peace of the beach house so she can process this very odd experience.
Chris agrees, getting Luca into his carseat while the few stragglers continue taking video and pictures, some of them right behind him. "You know, guys, it's really not cool to follow us," he says, straightening up, the car door closed so they can't get any better look at Luca. "We have private lives just like you do and you wouldn't want someone getting in your face with their cellphone, refusing to back off."
Kate slides in the back seat beside Luca, leaving Chris to make his displeasure known. Turning her attention to Luca, she smiles and asks him to show her the magazine again. A few minutes later and Greg pulls the car out of the parking lot and aims the car for home.
"That's going to be all over the internet tonight," Greg observes as he drives.
Chris blows out a breath. "Yeah, I know, but we were probably fooling ourselves we could keep things locked down until after the wedding."
"So what do we do?" Kate asks, looking up at the two men in front of her. "This is going to freak Matt out," she adds, reaching up to brush back strands of hair that have escaped her messy bun.
"I don't know," Chris answers honestly. "I guess it depends on just how badly it blows up, and either way, the three of us need to talk."
Kate doesn't talk for the rest of the way back, at least not to anyone other than Luca who seems entirely oblivious to what just happened. He's just happy with his magazine and he's moved on from the picture of Chris to cooing and chattering about other pictures contained inside.
Chris smiles over his shoulder at Luca, breathing a sigh of relief when they pull into the driveway. Kate moves Luca into the house while Chris brings the groceries and their other parcels inside, Greg dismissed for the remainder of the day. "I'll text if we need you, but I expect we're in for good today."
Matt had slept in before crawling out of bed for a long shower after which he had felt much more human. He'd made the bed, a pot of coffee and some breakfast and settled himself down at a small desk in the bedroom with his laptop. The peace and quiet had been exactly what he needed and he'd savoured a couple of hours of writing before the near silence had been broken with the sound of the front door and Luca's excited voice.
"Yes, you can show Daddy," Chris nods as Luca points out the picture of Thor on the magazine again, starting to add, "If he's up," when he sees Matt coming down the hallway. "Hey. How are you feeling?"
"Much better, long shower and some quiet did me the world of good," he admits with a smile. "Hey buddy, what have you got there?" Matt squats down to Luca's level.
"It's Daddy Chris, look!" Luca pushes the now crumbled magazine at Matt. "With long hair."
"Oh, so it is," Matt nods with a grin. "Do you think he looks nice?"
"It's long like Bunny's hair."
"Yes it is, I think I like Daddy's hair short though, like yours..." Matt ruffles Luca's hair and stands.
Chris steps in to give Matt a hug and a kiss before starting to break the news. "He found the magazine at the store and got very excited about it," he says.
"Oh?" There's something there, a hesitation, a tension. "And?"
"He was with Kate and started yelling about it being Daddy Chris which drew some attention and then I came back from grabbing a grill brush, picked him up, and pretty much confirmed it," Chris explains, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, his voice calm, even, trying to make sure Luca doesn't pick up on any real tension or concern.
"Some attention? You mean people were watching this?" Matt reached out to pet Luca's hair as he talks. "So...what does that mean? For us?"
"I don't know yet," Chris says, glancing at Kate. "People were filming and taking pictures so there'll definitely be fall-out. I'm just not sure how much yet. Chances are we'll find ourselves on the news tonight."
Brow furrowed Matt looks between Kate and Chris, "So it looked like you were out with your partner and secret son?" He blows out a breath and shakes his head. "There's no way we're going to dodge this bullet."
Christ. Chris has never even pretended to date a woman or arranged for a beard. It hadn't even occurred to him that people would assume he and Kate were together. But of course they would. "What do you want to do?" he asks. "We can either just lie low and no comment everything until we're ready to come out, or we can just get in front of it and come out now."
Matt shrugs, "I don't know, I need time to think, we all need to talk. Let's get this one settled for his nap and then we can sit down and talk it over." Matt scoops Luca up into his arms. "C'mon buddy, it's time for your afternoon sleep," he leans in to rub his nose against his son's. "You can take your magazine with you."
Chris puts the groceries away and checks his phone while Matt's putting Luca down. Sure enough he's already trending with full-on videos and pictures and people guessing as to why he'd hide his kid and who the mystery woman is. "Fuck," he mutters under his breath, shaking his head, noting he has five voicemails already, one from his agent and two from his publicist among them.
"He went down like a dream," Matt announces as he reappears, having had a few minutes to digest what's happened and eager to talk to Chris about how they proceed.
"Good. He had an exciting morning," Chris says with a smile, trying to see the funny side of things even as it feels like everything is ready to explode.
"So..." Matt spreads his hands out and looks between Kate and Chris. "Shall we talk out on the deck?"
Chris nods. He takes drink orders and then joins Kate and Matt out back, stretching out on one of the loungers. "It's all over twitter and instagram. I've got voicemails from my agent and publicist so I'll have to call them later. Henry too maybe."
"Fuck," Matt snaps, turning to look out over the balcony toward the sea. "And they're assuming you and Kate are a thing?"
"How did you guys plan on spinning this anyway? With me living with you?" It's not something they had discussed in detail, something she now knows was a mistake.
"Yeah," Chris answers Matt, then Kate. "Honestly? I thought they wouldn't notice until we got married and came out and then I thought we'd tell them straight up that we were all co-parenting. I didn't plan on giving them more information than that and if it came out before, I thought they'd know you and Matt were raising Luca together already as friends and now Matt and I were involved. And again, everyone co-parenting."
"We've always kept my private life just that," Matt points out. "Telling you about Luca within an hour of meeting you was extremely unusual. I'm not sure that many people know I have a son at all." He looks at Kate, feeling guilty for dragging her into this shit storm. "Kate, I feel like we need to hear what you want to do first, because if it wasn't for Chris and me getting together you wouldn't be in this situation. You didn't ask for it and it's not fair."
"Agreed," Chris says quietly, watching her.
Kate chews on her lower lip as she thinks about what she's feeling and what she needs. "Well our first priority is obviously Luca. So we should work from that, right? Matt and I agreed early on that two parents are better than one, which is one of the many reasons I stayed, and then when you two met we all agreed we'd continue that co-parenting. I don't see why that has to change."
Chris nods. "I don't either. Luca needs you in his life and I think he only benefits by having three people who love him so much."
"Okay," Matt agrees. "So Chris and I will have to come out now rather than later, I guess. We can either address how you fit in with our lives or we can just not say a thing and carry on as we intended. But I can't see a way around the fact that the press is going to want to try and take pictures of you and know about you."
"We should say something," Chris suggests. "It doesn't have to be much but otherwise they're going to assume Kate's the nanny. I can have my publicist write up a brief statement and we can all go over it, make any changes, before she sends it out. And then we can just 'no comment' until they get bored." He exhales softly, thinking about how it's unlikely he'll get the role of Joe after this, but he'd meant what he'd said: living his life on his own terms, with a family, with Matt, Luca and Kate, means more to him now than any role.
"And what are you going to say about me? That I'm Luca's Mom? Because I'm not, that I'm just the surrogate who didn't leave? Or imply there is some relationship between the three of us?" Kate asks, her attention on Chris, "And maybe we should also consider that you want me to carry another child for you, how will that look?"
Chris blows out another breath. A louder heavier one this time. "I don't know. What are you comfortable with them thinking? And before you say you don't care, remember, this is the stuff kids will eventually parrot back to Luca and any siblings he might have."
Kate turns to Matt. "You and I need to decide what we are to each other, Matty," she says softly, using a pet name rarely used unless she's being serious. "I'm conflicted because I've always said I'm not his mother and yet..." she offers a half shrug. "I'm raising him with you and now with Chris. And I'm happy to talk to you both about being a surrogate for Chris, but if you want me to stay, if I decide that I want to remain in this family and be a parent then... I want to do that as a mother, as an equal parent and not just as a gestational carrier."
Chris doesn't say a word. This part is Matt's to answer, before they can move on and decide anything else, but he does nod at his lover. He's already told Kate everyone thinks of her as Luca's mum and he's told Matt he expects her to be a part of their family forever.
Reaching out Matt takes Kate's hand in his and lifts it to his mouth to press a kiss to her knuckles. "You, my darling Kate, have been more than a friend to me, you not only gave me the most precious of gifts, but you also stood by me when I thought my world was crashing down around me. If it's what you want then you are more than entitled to call yourself Luca's Mama and there will always be a place for you with us. We will be three equal partners, the three musketeers if you will..."
Kate smiles, looking between the two men and nods. "I want that, I want to be 'Bunny', I want to be as much a part of Luca's life going forward as I have until this point. I'd like quality time with each of you separately as well as together and as a family. As to this public nonsense - I'd like to be afforded the same respect as any partner."
"So let's say we're a couple and we're getting married," Chris suggests, sitting forward, "and acknowledge the three of us are in a relationship, but we won't define it beyond that, as friends and parents to Luca, and that we all live together. They can make whatever they want of that and I'm sure they will. They'll probably talk to your neighbours, go digging through our garbage, but if we don't say anything, they'll get bored and move on. At least until we do something that provokes their interest again for a bit."
"Yeah, that works for me," Matt nods. "Kate?"
"Yeah, I'm on board. Is there some crash course in how to deal with this shit for mere mortals like me?" The question is aimed at Chris.
Chris chuckles. "I wish," he says, and he really does. "And most of what I do normally won't necessarily get us through this," he admits. "Let Greg do his job and keep them at a distance, let me get some security set up at the house, here too. When you're out, give them a nice smile and a 'no comment', ignore them completely if they're yelling nasty stuff. It's illegal for them to follow you in California if Luca's in the car so you can call the police. And otherwise, keep what you tell anyone you don't trust a thousand percent to a minimum. People who seemed like really nice neighbours or casual friends can easily have their heads turned by what these guys can offer them financially, or for their own 15 mins."
"Okay," Kate nods. "So essentially we just get on with our lives and be sensible and careful?"
"Seems so," Matt agrees with a smile. "And if I haven't told you often enough... I love you so much," he leans in to kiss Kate.
Chris smiles at the kiss. "You are pretty awesome," he teases. "Both of you." Full-on grinning now.
"And you," Matt points at Chris, "are an incredibly lucky guy to have us both. Don't you forget it!" He winks, returning the grin.
"Um, I think I'm the lucky one, with two handsome beaus," Kate pipes up, laughing. "Oh think of the fun I can have tormenting the press... I am going to be positively wicked!"
Chris laughs. "Just imagine if you do end up carrying Luca's sibling," he says, rising to his feet, a kiss pressed to Matt's mouth and then one to Kate's cheek. "You'll blow their minds." He pulls his phone from his pocket, holding it up. "I should make some calls. Have my publicist get on our statement, send it over so we can give our approval."
Matt watches Chris disappear inside then turns to look at Kate. "Are you sure you're okay with this?" he asks softly. "I've dragged you along with me for the last three years and you've never complained."
Kate smiles and nods. "Yes. Yes, I'm fine with it all. I did not offer to be Dylan's and your surrogate without a lot of thought, and then when he left... well, I was already committed to being around for Luca's first six months so whilst the move and the immediate aftermath were not what I would have wanted for any of us, it was part of the deal. And because I had to step up and parent more than we had initially agreed I fell in love with that beautiful boy of ours. I love our life."
"Now? It's uncharted waters because neither of us knows how Chris's fame is going to really impact us, but like everything, over the last three years, we're in this together. You and I will always have each other's backs, and now we have Chris. You literally brought a superhero into our life, he is everything I could have wished for you, Matt. I adore him and I am happy to be going on this journey with you."
Chris calls his agent and then his publicist, explaining the situation and asking for her to prepare a statement. Neither are happy about the news, both think he's crazy for coming out, but they're also surprisingly supportive when they realize how serious (and stubborn) he is. Next he calls his mum and dad, then Luke and Liam, just letting everyone know what's happened and that they're likely to get asked to comment. Lastly, he calls Henry, the line ringing long enough that at first he thinks he's going to have to leave a message. As expected, Henry's not thrilled. Not about Matt, although he thinks Chris is crazy. But Chris's coming out will shine a spotlight on Henry as well and on their years-long 'friendship'. "Yeah, I know, it's not ideal," Chris says. "But I don't plan on outing you and we would've been coming out sometime in the new year anyway. I just wanted to give you a head's up."
A few pleasantries exchanged, Henry wishing them the best for their future, and Chris hangs up. He's surprised at how it feels to have talked to Henry, the edge of resentment, anger, everything he still felt not that long ago, completely gone. He's no longer mired in his past, what could have been, only what will be and can be with Matt, Luca and Kate. It feels good. Really good.
[feedback welcome. comments screened.]