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Beyond the Gate - Part IV - The Light

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II

July 2014

“This must be the hottest day of all the hottest days we ever had in the middle of July,” Lexa groaned as she plonked down on the sun lounge beside him.

Michael stretched his back and legs, wriggling his toes. He opened one eye to squint at the incredibly blue sky. “Yep. Has to be.”

“Where is the brood?” She had been out shopping all morning and the kids stayed home with him. Their new temporary Toronto home had come with a small pool and a swing set. Very neat.

“We played in the pool all morning. I did the cool daddy thing and let them wrestle and choke me underwater. Then I was the incredible Hulk and dunked them. We had ice cream for lunch. You can shoot me, but it’s way too hot to try and get healthy food into them before dinner. And fruits were out.”

“My hero,” she snorted. “You are forgiven.”

“An hour ago your mom stopped by to pick them up and take them to the Mall. Where it’s air conditioned. She’ll probably buy them more ice cream.”

Lexa sighed. “Did you tell her not to raid the Toys’r’us?”

“Yep. She said it was her privilege as a grandmother to spoil them and it’s our duty to un-spoil them.”

“Hooray.” But there was a smile in her voice and he had to grin, too.

He opened his eyes again and gave her a long, admiring look. “New Bikini?”

“It was on sale, even,” she chirped. “Like it?”

“Hmmm... I’d like to take it off you.” He pulled on one of the strips at the back.

“Later. I need to bask in the sun now and rest my tired bones. Shopping is so exhausting, dear.”

“I feel for you, hon... not really.” He sat up and reached for the sun block to rub some into her back when his phone piped up. Lexa sighed and waved at him to go and get it.

He padded inside, grabbed his phone and answered without checking the caller ID. He expected it to be a) Lexa’s mom to ask for Mia’s size for shoes or something b) Gillies to tell him when and where they’d meet for drinks tonight or c) Tatiana to whine about her mom. If it was Tati he could console her by reminding her that she was going to join them here in just a week.

“’lo?” He continued to walk into the kitchen to get something cold to drink.

“Did ya know I still have a house in Vancouver?”

He almost dropped the damn phone. But he was good. Actor here. Solid education. “You do?” He opened the fridge and pulled out two bottles of ‘Clearly Canadian’ water with, go figure, blueberry flavor.

“Yeah. Always wanted to rent it out, but never did. Someone’s taking care of it, you know, doing repairs and stuff, mowing the lawn. Am thinking of coming up there for a couple of days.” Rick sounded upbeat, casual. Not nervous.

Actor there, too.

“That’s cool. I’m in Toronto though, shooting. And the family is here. But... but I’ll be home more often when school starts up again. That’s at the end of August.”

His heart started pounding. The end of August seemed a lifetime away, if...

“Wylie goes to Hawaii tomorrow with her cousins. She’ll be gone until I’m back from Baltimore... the week after her birthday.”

Michael scrubbed a hand through his short cropped hair. “Could you...”

“Come to Toronto?”

“Would you?”

“The family is with you,” Rick said hesitantly.

“You’d be welcome here. Lexa kind of... expected you to show up sooner or later.”

“Is that woman psychic or something?” Rick sounded spooked.

“She knows how we tick, I guess.” Apparently she knew better than Michael.

“Scary.”

“Yep.”

“Look, I’m going to... “

“Book a flight?” Michael placed the bottles on the table and wiped his hand on his shorts.

“Toronto, eh? My phone says it’s sweltering hot and humid there right now.”

“It’s sweltering hot in L.A., too. Besides, the house has a pool.”

My house has a pool.” He paused, then sighed. “I need a hotel room. Which is...”

“House has two guest rooms.”

“Oh, no. No way....”

“Less complicated. No paps.” Chances that Rick would be recognized and hunted down by the press were slim these days, but you never knew.

Rick exhaled a breath. “You sure about this?”

Michael grabbed the necks of the bottles and sauntered back out on the deck. “Lexa?”

She stopped applying sun block to her stomach and looked up. “What? Who is it?”

“It’s Rick.”

She smirked. “About time.”

“He wants to come over to visit for a couple of days,” Michael said, ignoring Rick’s vocal protests on the other end of the phone.

“He can have one of the guest rooms. We need to talk anyway. No sex while the kids and I are in the house, though. Fast and hard rule.”

“Shanks!” Rick wheezed.

“Okay. You heard that?” He blew a kiss at her and she continued with her sun block as if they had just invited his parents to come over, not his probably soon-to-be old-new lover.

There was a pause and he thought he’d just blown it.

“You’ve got nerves, I’ll give you that,” Rick huffed.

“We talked. A lot.” Michael sat back on his sun lounger, watching Lexa’s hands as they moved on to her legs. He didn’t tell Rick he had read Lexa’s book and found it helpful. But he made a mental note to make Rick read it at some point if … if this was really going to happen.

“I can be there in two days. Where exactly are you?”

Michael rattled off the address and Rick jotted it down, muttering something about GPS and how he was not looking forward to figuring that out on a rental car.

“If you can manage to arrive after 9 pm, I can pick you up,” Michael offered with a grin.

“Deal. And, Shanks? I made that list you were talking about. What I want from this... relationship. I’m prepared. To talk. And... listen. And compromise, and...” Another pause, a heavy sigh. “God, I miss you. I think I seriously hate you for making me do this.”

“Yeah. Ditto.” Michael felt warmth flooding his body, mixed with anticipation and just the tiniest thrill of fear of the unknown. But mostly warmth and excitement and happiness.

And so it began.

Epilogue



Christmas 2014

Michael swept Lexa into his arms and danced her across the living room to “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”. They sidestepped the small mountain of torn and ripped wrapping paper and annoyed one of the cats playing with golden ribbons and almost got underfoot. The kids had carried all their prezzies upstairs, except for the boring stuff like sweaters and new pants.

Wylie and Tatiana had retreated to Tati’s room with a bowl of popcorn and the newest box set of “The Originals” to watch. They’d probably watch all through the night, which was okay since Christmas day was lazy-day at the Shanks household. Everyone got to sleep in, chill out and play with their toys all day long if they wanted. It was a rule.

The tree – a proud fir decked in silver, green and white baubles and tinsel – sparkled in all its glory. Lexa had given in to Mia’s wish to get LED icicles and snow stars which made the tree shine in a magical way.

They continued their slow dance into the kitchen where he finally had to let go of her and face the inevitable task of loading the dishwasher with tons of china, pots, the roasting tin and what felt like every dish of the house.

“Catering next year,” he groaned. Of course he said that every year.

“You love cooking way too much,” she said. “And we love eating your food way too much.”

He patted his full stomach. “The turkey was superb. Best one I ever made.” Of course he said that every year, too.

“Yes, honey, it was excellent.” She kissed the tip of his nose.

“Yep, was delicious. And everything else... Rick was tempted to lick out the mashed potato bowl. And the gravy boat.”

“Awesome, Shanks. If only you could cook without turning the kitchen into a war zone,” she sighed.

“I need room. There’s too little space in here. You should see Rick’s kitchen. It’s like a chef’s dream come true.” Michael had spent time in that kitchen. He had cooked there. And Wylie had actually asked him to give her some of his recipes and to teach her how to prepare the meals.

“I’ll be all impressed, I’m sure,” Lexa said, handing him a dishwashing brush. “And you can cook for all of us every day when we’re down there in the summer.”

He placed the brush on the counter, caught her hand and pulled her close. “Are you really okay with that?”

“Are you kidding? I haven’t been to LA in ages. I can’t wait. I will be good and not do any extra shopping until then.” She grinned like a loon and he winced at the thought of how their bank account was going to suffer. “Besides,” she continued, “I’ve seen pictures of his place. It’s gorgeous. The kids will love it there. And most of all – they will love Andie and Daisy.”

Rick’s dogs. Ever since Sam and Mia knew they were going to Uncle Rick’s next summer, the dogs were a constant subject of conversation whenever they talked about the trip to LA. Rick had shown them pictures and videos on his phone and the kids were already head over heels with the dogs who were taken care of by Apryl and Bill when Rick traveled.

“Yeah... but I’ll be in Toronto for at least part of the time,” he cautioned. They had made their summer plans a while back and it was all settled, but he needed this reassurance from her. That she was truly happy to go.

“Rick and I will be fine. He can sit the kids while I visit Rodeo Drive.” She laughed at his grimace, then sobered. “Seriously, Shanks. I’m good. Especially since Gracie is kind enough to take the cats over to her place so I won’t have to worry about them being alone for too long. I have friends in LA I want to visit and Rick promised to take me on a trip with his BMW. And he’s great with the kids. They love him to pieces.”

“All kids do. He’s like Peter Pan.”

As if on cue there was laughter and whoops floating down from upstairs where Uncle Rick was supposed to tuck the kids in, but was probably engaged into a play session with Sam’s new slot car race track.

They started working on the dishes, a well oiled team, and the kitchen looked considerably better in no time.

He wiped the counters while Lexa put away all the leftovers and sliced off turkey bits for the cats as a Christmas treat.

“Maybe we can take the kids skating tomorrow afternoon if they are up to it,” Michael suggested. “Or go sledding.”

“Actually, I thought you and Rick might want to go over to his place and get some alone time. I can take the kids out – if they get tired of playing and hanging out here in their jammies,” Lexa said with a sweet little smile.

Wylie and Rick had arrived two days ago and officially stayed at his house, but since Tati was visiting over the holidays the girls had decided to spend the nights here and Rick had been more than willing to ‘indulge’ his daughter. Whenever he came over alone he stayed at the guest room anyway. The no-sex-rule while Lexa and the kids were present was still in place, but over the last months they had loosened it a bit.

They had gotten into a semi-routine with the whole relationship arrangement through trial and error and many hours of talking things out – something that had often been difficult in the beginning – and writing down rules or changes of rules as things developed.

Their triad was based on honesty, trust and democracy. That wasn’t always comfortable or easy, but they had slowly found a way of making this work. Rick and Lexa had become fast friends, which had made things considerably less strained in the beginning as they had tried to feel their way into this. Once or twice one of them had been ready to quit, but their relationship worked like a safety net and together they had come to the conclusion that fighting for this was worth it.

Rick mostly came up here alone since Wylie was occupied with her theater and dance lessons and friends, but when Tati was with them Wylie loved coming along and all the kids got along well despite the age difference. Sometimes Michael went down to LA for a couple of days or a week and stayed at Rick’s place.

Their next challenge would be telling the kids. Wylie had figured it all out already because she was at that age where kids were more consciously aware of certain vibes around them. And she got to see Rick and Michael together more than Tati. She had asked questions and after a scary deer-in-the-headlight-moment they had sat her down and explained.

Rick had been right when he’d said she was pretty mature for her age. She didn’t worry about her dad being with a guy. Her first concern had been; was Michael cheating on Lexa? Was her dad part of destroying a family?

Talking to a 16 year old about all this had been one of the scariest things Michael – and Rick - had to face ever since they had started this, but they had been prepared. Lexa had made it a point that if their triad was based on honesty and trust, they had to apply the same values for their kids; be honest with them and trust them to be able to accept it and cope. They had been working on a way to make this transition without slapping them over the head with it, but they all had agreed on one thing; no lies. If one of them asked before the ‘big talk’, they had answers ready.

Wylie had grown up in a patchwork family, none of her adult role models being specifically conservative or religious. She went to a school that focused on theater, arts and music. A lot of her peers came from unconventional families. She had gay friends at school and she had been raised to be open minded and to never be afraid to ask questions or to speak her mind about anything. Rick and Apryl had done some pretty solid groundwork there.

Still, it was a different story when your own father came out to you one day.

But she had listened, asked more questions and immediately come to the conclusion that it wasn’t up to her to tell her mom. That her dad had to do that if and when he felt ready. But what about Tati and the little ones? If they were supposed to become a family, shouldn’t they all know? Then she had hugged and kissed a flabbergasted Rick and said she was so happy for him. Michael had been next with the hugs and kisses. And that had been that.

So, it was time to have a family coming out because they couldn’t have one kid in the known and force her to secrecy around the others.

Mind boggling.

But there it was.

Thankfully there was no pressure from the public eye since Rick had gone more and more private over the last decade. While he was still approached by paparazzi in LA from time to time, no one stalked him like they still had during their SG-1 years. These days Rick mostly only showed up in the media when he went to conventions and did TV appearances or interviews on those occasions.

Michael had most of the fan, press and media circus in Toronto which was great because he was undisturbed during hiatus and no one camped outside his Vancouver home to get a glimpse of him. Both he and Lexa were recognized in the streets, but mostly people were polite and respectful and the paps in Canada were a lot less pushy than in the US.

They still kept their heads down, just to be sure, but if anyone caught Rick showing up in Vancouver or Toronto and they were seen together on the streets it wasn’t a big deal. They’d known each other for a very long time, they were friends. No secrets there.

“We should talk to the kids before Rick and Wylie go home. It’s a good opportunity since we’re all here together til New Year,” Lexa said thoughtfully as she put the turkey bits into the cat bowls.

“Yeah, I was just thinking about that,” Michael agreed and grimaced. “I’m not sure how to make Mia and Sam understand that they shouldn’t talk about this to their friends without making it sound like we’re doing something illegal... or dirty. And I’m a bit worried about Tatiana... she might bleat it out to her mother the next time she’s cross with me.”

“Oh, give her some credit, will you? She won’t do that,” Lexa said firmly.

“Are you sure? She won’t use it to blackmail me or anything, but she can be pretty impulsive and in the heat of things she might just blurt it out and be awfully sorry about it later.” His eldest had her mother’s temper and puberty had hit her pretty hard which made living with her a mine field sometimes.

“Then her mother knows. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. I’d rather it happens later, but if for some reason Vaitiare finds out sooner, we’ll deal with that. We need to make sure Tati understands that her mother might … as a worst case scenario... try to change custody rights if she finds out. But I doubt she really gives a damn about what you’re doing and with whom. She’s happy; she has a son and a husband who worships the ground she walks on. She has no reason to sabotage your relationship with Tati.”

He hung the tea towel up to dry. “Morality issues? Me being a bad influence for a teenage girl?”

“I don’t think she’ll go through all that hassle, honestly. She seems very content with Tati spending more and more time over here so that she won’t have to deal with her.” There was suppressed anger in Lexa’s voice and a hard line appeared around her mouth.

Michael winced. Vaitiare’s tendency to push her oldest daughter off to stay with him was a sore spot for Lexa. Not because Lexa didn’t like Tati; on the contrary, Lexa would welcome her stepdaughter gladly in this house for good. But as much as Vaitiare apparently wanted Tati out of the house, she refused to give Michael full custody. And Tatiana had all her roots in LA.; school, friends, social life. She felt displaced in her mom’s ‘new’ family and wanted to spend more time with her dad and Lexa, but at the same time she wasn’t ready to take the big step to move to Canada for good either, even if her mother gave in to it.

Life was complicated on all levels sometimes.

Lexa wrapped her arms around his waist and placed her head against his chest. “It will be fine. Mia and Sam only need to know that we all love Rick and that he and Wy are now part of the family. I don’t think they are interested in the details of who sleeps with whom at this point. They have seen you two hugging a lot, they’re used to that, you could upgrade to kissing in a while. We’ll take it slow, deal with it on a need to know basis unless they ask specific questions.”

“Who’s kissing whom?” Rick entered the kitchen. “Oh, hugs!”

“Group hug?” Lexa offered.

“You know me and hugs. Come to Papa.” He wrapped them into one of his bear hugs. Lexa was comfy in the middle and Michael shared a kiss with his lover over her head.

“What’s with the serious faces? It’s Christmas, time to be jolly and merry.” Rick dropped a kiss to Lexa’s head, too. They had come to this kind of easiness, this being comfortable with one another, fairly early on. There was nothing sexual between Lexa and Rick, but a bond that had deepened over the months.

“Are the kids in bed?” she asked.

“All tucked away with their new Barbies and favorite light sabers. Well, the all-grown-up ladies are still watching that weird vampire thing, giggling their heads off over Gillies and whatshisname. One can feel the hormones go wild in that room.”

“Gillies is a pretty one,” Lexa said with a smirk.

“You don’t have to work with him every day,” Michael muttered. But it was all show. Gillies was easy to work with. They were rivals on the show, circling around the same woman, but they had hit it off quite nicely in real life. Maybe Charlie and Joel should ask Alex if she was interested in a polyamory relationship? It would give the show a whole new twist.

Lexa yawned and wriggled out of their hug. “Let’s take this to the living room. I’ll open the Merlot.”

When they had all settled on the couch, Michael in the middle this time, Rick put his white-socked feet on the coffee table and threw one arm around Michael’s shoulders. “Gotta tell ya, this was the most fun I had on Christmas since Wylie grew out of the age where it was all exciting and magical. But my back’s killing me. Crawling across the floor, playing with racing cars isn’t something I should do too often.”

“Knee, too, huh?” Michael reached over and started gently massaging the bad knee. The one that was actually in need of surgery again in a not too distant future.

“It’s all worth it, though.” Rick covered Michael’s hand with his and gave it a squeeze.

Lexa poured wine for herself and Michael and water for Rick, who claimed he had reached his alcohol limit when he’d had wine for dinner. They clinked glasses and drank in companionable silence while the fire crackled softly in the fireplace and the house was still and peaceful in its Christmas Eve afterglow.

“You have great kids,” Rick said quietly, then with a sheepish grin corrected himself. “We have great kids. But they were your kids long before they became mine, so... It’s nice to have little ones around again. They make me feel young. Aside from the back and knee crap.”

They were still practicing all the ‘yours’ vs ‘ours’ and they all slipped up there from time to time.

“Same goes for Wylie. She’s great,” Lexa said. “I’m very happy to have her. And she’s good for Tati, I think.”

“Yeah.” Michael couldn’t agree more. “It’s great they hit it off again like this. They used to be like sisters when they were toddlers. I think Tati loves to have a sister-like BFF. And one who’s world isn’t reduced to fashion and make up.”

Vaitiare owned several fashion companies and Tatiana had grown up in that business which gave her a great sense for styles, clothes and everything beautiful, but Michael sometimes feared she might lose sight of other things more important in life. Maybe Wylie was a good counter balance for that. She loved theater, acting and dancing, but she was also interested in environmental issues – an interest her father had nurtured from an early age on – and walked through life with open eyes and an overflowing curiosity for learning new things.

“She’s okay. She’s a brat, but she’s okay,” Rick said with a shrug that didn’t fool anyone. Wylie was his joy and, for a long time, had been the main focus of his life. Now she was spreading her wings and he had to let her go, which he claimed wasn’t an issue. But Michael had a teenage daughter, too, and even though he kept playing it down, it wasn’t always easy to see them grow into young women – a foreshadowing of the adults they were going to be way too soon.

“I’ll take over kids’ duty tomorrow afternoon,” Lexa said. “So you two can go out, have fun, fool around, roll in the hay...”

Michael noticed Rick’s usual wince and Lexa’s answering smirk. Rick still got uncomfortable when Lexa addressed the fact that they were lovers so directly. He was learning to get over that, though.

“We can go to the house,” Michael suggested with a little grin.

“Sure. You can put yourself to good use and shovel the driveway,” Rick said, face straight.

“Naked?”

“If freezing your balls off is a turn on for ya – be my guest.” Rick high-fived Lexa behind his back.

“I might wear my jockstrap,” Michael said. “It’s supposed to protect my manhood.”

“Yeah. From getting beaten with a hockey stick, not from freezing it off. Don’t let him shovel the driveway naked, Rick. We both need him in working order.”

“I knew it. You both just want me for my body,” Michael sighed.

“Exactly!” They both said, laughing.

Lexa downed the rest of her wine. “I’m off to bed, guys. Be good.”

She kissed them both – Michael on the mouth, Rick on the cheek - and a moment later they were alone with the dying fire.

Michael dropped his head on Rick’s shoulder and let his hand slip into the older man’s lap, gently rubbing the growing bulge in his pants.

“You keep doing that and I have to take a shower before bed,” Rick murmured, opening his legs.

“I could join you. It’s late, kids are asleep or occupied with pretty vampires. No one’s going to barge into the guest room,” Michael whispered. It was the exception from the no-sex rule. It was late and the guestroom was in the basement, with a working lock at the door, too.

“And Lexa has a thing for you coming into bed smelling of me...” Rick’s breath hitched a little and he guided Michael’s hand into the waistband of his pants to touch warm skin.

“She’s weird that way,” Michael agreed.

Lexa had confessed this a couple of weeks ago in one of their ‘maintenance sessions’. Making love just after Michael had been with Rick aroused her. Michael wondered if one day they would all end up in the same bed together, if they would make this a true poly relationship on all levels. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but he had to admit that it didn’t seem too far out there. Not anymore.

“She’s the real pervert in this triad,” Rick said, his voice dark and husky.

“So... shower? Then bed, snuggling?” Michael removed his hand and got up, pulling Rick to his feet as he did.

They went downstairs and as soon as Rick’s door was closed and locked behind them, they were into each other’s arms kissing and working on getting their clothes off.

“Tomorrow,” Rick whispered into his ear, “I’m gonna take you to the house and...”

“Keep talking.”

“...am gonna keep you naked all afternoon. I’ll claim you all over, giving Lexa something to get excited about.” Rick gently bit his shoulder. “You’re on hiatus, so... gonna mark you here... and here... and here...”

Michael shivered under Rick’s hand touching his chest, his hip, his ass. “Sounds nice. Tell me more?”

“Nice,” Rick growled, “I’ll give you nice.”

Michael snorted and as they shed the last of their clothes and moved into the bathroom he whispered into Rick’s ear what he expected to do tomorrow. What he expected Rick to do with him. And what he was going to do to Rick in return.

Rick sought great motivation from Michael talking dirty to him and when they were both wet and slick with shower gel and lube, Michael found himself pinned against the tiled wall with Rick thrusting into him while long fingers were pumping Michael’s erection. He bit his lips to keep from yelling out. He was used to being quiet whenever he was up in the bedroom with Lexa while the kids were home, but somehow it was harder with Rick.

Tomorrow he didn’t have to be careful. Tomorrow it would be just the two of them...

“Oh... you,” Rick blurted out as he shot into him. “Love you... love you so... much.”

Those words.

Rick said them out loud now, from time to time. It was huge. It was mind blowing.

Michael closed his eyes as he felt it building up inside him. The orgasm, the love, the incredible feel of all this... then he came with a strangled little cry all over Rick’s hand.

They huddled together under the shower, clinging to one another. Then they washed and slipped out. A moment later they were toweled off and lying in bed, wrapped around each other, foreheads touching.

“I love you, too,” Michael said quietly. It wasn’t the first time he said it either, but it always kind of felt that way.

Rick grinned. “Sappy.”

“I know.”

“Oh, I can top that,” Rick said, taking Michael’s mouth in a gentle kiss. “I want to thank you. You and Lexa. For making me part of your family. For giving an old grouchy fool a chance at... at having this.”

“I just opened the door. Or maybe Lexa did... You made the choice to step through and give it a go. Took you long enough, though.”

“I’m not known for making smart choices when it comes to relationships. Maybe I had to get this old and lonely to get my head out of my ass.”

“And they say old dogs can’t learn new tricks,” Michael teased.

“I’m not saying it was easy,” Rick replied.

“Wasn’t always easy for any of us,” Michael agreed softly.

“No. And there’re going to be more bumps in the road as we go. Telling the kids, dealing with Apryl and Vaitiare... because that day will come, too. One day we might be outed to the world by someone. Might not happen, but could happen. And it’ll be the hardest for you, Lexa and the little ones.”

“I know.”

Rick drew back a little and smiled. “But you know what? We’ll be fine. Whatever happens... in the end we’ll be okay. Because this whacky politically incorrect way of being together feels more real, more authentic, than anything I’ve ever done before in that department. The only thing that had felt this kind of real was you and me. Back then.”

Michael thought about it for a moment. Maybe it was meant to be like this. Maybe they had to find and lose each other only to come back together again as a whole family. Looking back, he wouldn’t want to trade this life for anything. He loved Rick. He loved his wife and all his children. He had always considered himself blessed and rich in many ways ever since he had settled down with Lexa. Now they were complete. He was complete.

It wasn’t a yellow brick road to walk on.

Not always simple and fun.

But they were all walking this road together, having each other’s sixes.

Simple and fun was overrated.

Fin