As the car pulls off with Allie and Will inside, Grizz searches the crowd desperately for Sam. When he can’t find him, he grabs the nearest person he knows.
“Kelly, have you seen Sam?”
“Becca had the baby,” Kelly tells him. She looks a little surprised by his urgency, his hand gripping her forearm. “I sent them home from the hospital a few hours ago.”
The baby. The words hit him like a punch to the gut, bile rising in his throat, and he tries not to let it show.
“Oh my god, wow,” he fumbles. “Is, um, is it okay? The baby?”
Kelly beams. “She’s perfectly healthy.”
“She?” Grizz asks, eyes widening in surprise. A little girl. Sam’s little girl. A sour feeling twists in his gut.
“And, uh, Becca?” he asks. “She’s okay too?”
“She’s fine,” Kelly assures him. She frowns. “But, um… if you need to talk to Sam you might want to wait until tomorrow. I think they’re all pretty exhausted.”
“Oh, yeah, of course…” Grizz trails off, nodding his head a little too hard as he tries to convince himself she’s right. “Thanks, Kelly.”
“Of course,” Kelly replies. She squeezes his arm sympathetically, giving him a quizzical look, before disappearing into the crowd.
So Grizz goes home. Gwen tells him that she doesn’t want to go back to the room she shares with Clark so he says she can stay with him for a while, and they hang out in his living room, drinking beers and talking about the land they found and how they might farm it. Gwen describes a book she found in the library on biodynamic agriculture, but thinking about the library just makes him think about Sam – about his soft, surprised voice on the morning Grizz found him there, the morning before Grizz’s life changed forever, for the second time this year – and the pang in his chest deepens to a dull ache. After a while, Gwen drifts off to sleep, her head lolling back against the arm of the couch.
Grizz sits with her for a few minutes, staring into the dying embers of the fireplace, trying to come up with reasons not to go to Sam’s. He just had a baby. Becca, the baby’s mom, doesn’t know about Sam and Grizz and whatever it is they have going on. He doesn’t really know what it is Becca and Sam have going on. He doesn’t even really know what it is he and Sam have going on. And as if that weren’t stressful enough on its own, Grizz’s supposed best friends just staged a military coup and arrested Sam’s cousin.
In the end, none of the reasons are good enough, which is why half an hour later he finds himself standing outside the Pressman’s house, hands shoved in his pockets and head bowed against the cold while he waits for somebody to answer the door. When someone finally does, it’s Gordie, cracking the door a few inches and then opening it all the way when he sees Grizz, spilling light out onto the dark lawn.
“Hey, man, you’re back!”
“Yeah, hey…” Grizz replies awkwardly. He rocks back on his heels, doesn’t know what to say.
“Come in, come in!” Gordie insists, and steps aside to let him into the warmth of the foyer. “Bean said you guys found viable farmland? That’s amazing, dude, I can’t wait to see it.”
“Yeah, yeah...” Grizz mumbles, trying not to sound too unenthusiastic. He’s not in the mood to get caught in a long conversation about agriculture with New Ham’s resident scientist. “Listen, uh, is Sam around?”
Gordie pauses, surprised. “Oh, uh, yeah he and Becca are upstairs with the baby. You want me to tell him you’re here?”
“Uh, yeah, that’d be great,” Grizz replies lamely. Gordie nods and disappears up the stairs.
Grizz shoves his hands in his pockets again, staring at the ground, his stomach in knots. He doesn’t know what he’s going to say to Sam. Doesn’t know if he’s going to touch him, or hold him, or kiss him. Just knows that he needs to see him.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs makes him raise his head. It’s not Gordie this time. It’s Sam. And Kelly was right, he looks exhausted - his red hair is rumpled and there are dark bags under his eyes – but he also looks impossibly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Their eyes meet, hazel to blue, and Grizz feels something hook into his chest, an irresistible pull towards the other boy. Unconsciously, he takes a step forward, and Sam, who has taken the rest of the stairs two at a time, meets him halfway and flings his arms around him. Grizz buries his face in Sam’s shoulder, sighing in relief as something uncoils within his chest at the feeling of having Sam in his arms again, warm and solid against him.
After a long moment, Sam pulls back. He pushes the hair off of Grizz’s forehead, strokes his cheek.
“You’re okay,” he murmurs, signing with his free hand. Grizz nods, unable to stop from leaning into the warmth of Sam’s hand on his cheek as his eyes slip closed.
“What did you find?” Sam asks.
“A lot,” he replies, opening his eyes and smiling half-heartedly. That, at least, is good news. “We found land to farm, and even some wildlife.”
“That’s great,” Sam replies. His smile is tired.
“What about you?” Grizz asks. “How’s the baby?” He’d practiced the sign for baby earlier, so he does it now, mimicking the motion of rocking a baby with both arms.
Sam’s face breaks out into a wide, ecstatic smile that makes Grizz’s stomach flip-flop. “She’s great,” he says. “She was sleeping but she just woke up. Do you want to come up and meet her?”
The question takes him by surprise.
“Oh! Um… is that okay? Like with Becca?”
“I think so,” Sam says, nodding. “She slept, too, so she’s feeling much better.”
Grizz follows him upstairs, his insides churning. He doesn’t have the heart to tell Sam he doesn’t want to see this baby – not when Sam looked so utterly blissful at the very mention of her. But he’s not sure how he’s going to feel seeing Sam with his daughter and his… baby mama, or whatever, looking the very picture of domestic bliss. Not sure he has the strength to handle it.
Upstairs, Sam knocks on Becca’s door, then pushes it open, at the same time calling and signing, “I brought a visitor!”
The lights inside the room are dimmed, but Grizz can see Becca leaning up against the pillows in the middle of the bed, cradling the baby in her arms. She looks up when they enter, smiling softly.
“Hi, Grizz!” she greets him, her voice hoarse but friendly.
“Hi,” Grizz croaks, trying not to stare. From here, the baby just looks like a bundle of blankets, with a tiny head capped in a pink hat. So small and soft and insubstantial. He clears his throat, forces himself to meet Becca’s eyes. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay, thanks for asking,” Becca replies. “How was your trip?”
“Good! It was good…” Grizz trails off again. He tries not to stare, tries not to feel, tries not to forget what they are talking about. He fails.
“They found farmland,” Sam says, signing to Becca but looking at Grizz, his blue eyes soft and searching.
“Really? That’s amazing!” Becca replies. She follows Grizz’s gaze to the baby’s head and smiles. “Do you wanna see her? Here, Sam.” She gestures for Sam to come closer and ever so gently hands him the baby, not letting go until she’s sure Sam has her securely in both arms.
Grizz can’t help but stare openly as Sam approaches him with the baby cradled in his arms. He watches Sam smile down at her, radiant, and feels something twist inside him. But this feeling isn’t so bad. It’s less like bile and more like butterflies, beating their wings against his abdomen, his chest, as he watches Sam gaze at his daughter. Then Sam is standing in front of him and he tilts his arms toward Grizz, gently pushing away the fabric around the baby’s cheeks so Grizz can see her tiny, pink face. His breath catches in his chest.
“You can hold her if you want,” he hears Becca say. She sounds like she’s smiling.
“I – I can?” Grizz gulps, unable to tear his eyes away from her miniature button nose, her small, puckered lips.
Sam nudges Grizz’s elbow with his own, holding her out, and Grizz reaches for her carefully, delicately, like she’s made of glass. Her weight settles against his chest and he gasps a little, hearing Sam and Becca laugh.
Subconsciously, he rocks her, his torso swaying from side to side. “What’s her name?” he asks softly.
“Eden,” Becca replies. Grizz glances up at Sam to watch him sign it – E D E N.
“Eden…” he repeats, looking back down at her. Her tiny black eyelashes flutter against her pink cheeks and he can feel tears welling in his eyes. “She’s perfect.”
He looks up at Sam, his heart in his throat, and sees the other boy looking back at him, his eyes shining with the same emotion. Grizz feels a tear slip from the corner of his eye.
“We think so,” says Becca.
In his arms, Eden stirs, and begins to cry. Grizz stares down at her, panicked.
“What’d I do?”
“Nothing,” Becca laughs. “She’s probably just hungry. Here.” She holds out her arms and Grizz walks carefully around the side of the bed to hand Eden back to her mother. Becca takes the baby easily, cooing, “It’s okay, sweetie. I know you’re hungry, but Mama’s here.”
Grizz clears his throat, looks down. “I should – I should go,” he realizes, stepping back. “Thanks for… thanks for letting me meet her,” he says, giving Becca a forced smile. Without looking at Sam, he dashes out of the room.
Sam watches Grizz practically trip over himself to get away, his own heart thumping painfully in his chest. Today has already been an emotional rollercoaster of epic proportions – but watching the boy he is rapidly falling in love with staring down at Sam’s newborn baby like she is the most precious thing in the world is a new, overwhelming addition. He turns away from Becca to wipe his eyes, school his face, press the complicated feelings down into himself, then returns to her side as she frees one breast from her t-shirt and gently encourages Eden to nurse. He still feels a little weird watching this part, but Becca has already told him that it’s going to be happening so much over the next few months that he might as well get used to it. Once Eden seems comfortably attached, she looks up at him and smiles softly.
Sam nods, trying to force an easy smile. “Just a long day,” he signs.
Becca just nods back – doesn’t look convinced, but doesn’t try to push it. Sam is grateful; he’s so tired he doesn’t think he has the strength to tell her another lie. He settles against the pillows next to her and closes his eyes, and sleep has just started to tug at the edges of his consciousness, heavy and oblivious, when he feels Becca’s hand touch his shoulder. He blinks his eyes open, looking at her questioningly.
Half-signing with one hand, she asks, “So what’s going on with you and Grizz?”
Sam’s stomach drops. “What do you mean?” he asks, trying to sound carefree, confused, anything other than what he really feels.
Becca rolls her eyes. “Come on, Sam, I just had a baby, not a lobotomy. I’m your best friend, I can tell when there’s something going on.”
Sam stares at his hands, not sure what to tell her when he himself doesn’t really know what’s going on with them. But he knows can’t lie to her anymore, knows he owes her the truth.
“We have feelings for each other,” he says finally. But that’s not the whole truth. “We slept together.”
Becca’s eyebrows shoot up. “When?”
“Thanksgiving,” Sam signs guiltily.
Becca stares at him, obviously stunned. “Um, okay. Wow.”
“I know I should have told you,” Sam says in a rush, his fingers slipping through the signs. “But you were so stressed about the baby, and I didn’t want to make things worse.”
Then, to his surprise, Becca laughs. Sam watches her mouth fall open and her eyes crinkle up, taken aback.
“No wonder he was so freaked out when he found out we were having a baby,” she explains with a smile. “I thought maybe he had a crush on me or something. Guess I was half-right.”
Sam chuckles warily, still afraid her mood might turn. “So… you’re okay with that?” he asks.
“Sure,” Becca replies. She frowns at him, seems to register how truly stressed he is about this, and reaches for his hand to squeeze it affectionately.
“Sam, when you offered to be her father, that was like the nicest, most incredibly generous thing anyone has ever done for me,” she says, her smile warm. “But I never expected you to be my husband or anything. We’re more like… domestic life partners, right?”
Sam smiles and nods, feeling like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders, like he can finally breathe in her presence again.
Becca continues, “And if you found someone here? And I mean Grizz? Like, there’s not a lot of guys here who I would think are worthy of you but, come on…” she laughs, nudging his shoulder with her own. “He’s adorable!”
Sam laughs too, glancing down to hide his pleased smile.
“He’s like a puppy-dog,” Becca teases. “A puppy-dog that reads Shakespeare for fun and probably has great abs.”
“He does have great abs,” Sam replies with a grin. Becca gives him a faux-scandalized look, eyes wide with delight. She glances at the door, where Grizz had just exited, and grows more serious. “And he obviously really likes you,” she adds.
“I really like him,” Sam admits, feeling his chest tighten. “More than I’ve ever liked anyone.”
Becca considers him for a moment, her hand idly stroking Eden’s silky head.
“You should tell him,” she says. Sam frowns at her, not sure what she means.
“About Eden,” she clarifies. “If you want to. You should tell him you’re not her biological father.”
Sam can’t help his eyes from widening in surprise, his mouth from dropping open. “Are you sure?” he signs.
He wants to tell Grizz so badly. Wanted to tell him that day at the hospital, and later in Grizz’s room. Wanted to tell him every day since. But it’s not just his secret to tell. Becca is his greatest friend in the whole world. He is in awe of how strong and resilient she has proven herself to be, carrying and giving birth to this baby in whatever fucked-up alternate universe they’ve landed themselves in. From the moment he found out about her pregnancy he’d promised himself he wouldn’t let her go through this alone – and if she doesn’t want anyone to find out that he’s not Eden’s real father, then he will never tell them. But god, he wants to tell Grizz.
Becca nods at him, solemn. “We’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices for her.” She glances down at Eden’s head, lovingly. “But I don’t think this should be one of them. You deserve a real relationship, Sam, with someone who can love you in all the ways you deserve to be loved.” She smiles at him, misty-eyed, and Sam’s vision swims with tears. “And real relationships are built on trust and honesty. So if you trust him, and you want him to know, then you should tell him.”
“Thank you,” Sam signs, too overcome with emotion to speak the words.
“Besides, we know he can keep a secret,” Becca adds. She grins. “He’s been gay this whole time and no one had any idea.”
Sam laughs a little, wipes away his tears, tries to calm the anxious fluttering of his heart. Becca reaches for his hand again and squeezes it.
“I love you,” she signs. “Now go get your man!”
“I love you, too,” Sam replies, squeezing her hand back, hoping she knows how much he means it. He drops a kiss to the top of Eden’s head, and tells her, “And I love you.” And he goes to get his man.
Grizz must have gotten caught up talking to Gordie because he’s just crossing the front yard when Sam bursts out of the door. He rushes after him, raising his voice as much as he can to call, “Grizz!”
Grizz turns at the edge of the lawn, and in the light from the streetlight Sam can see tears forming shiny tracks down his cheeks. Sam’s chest aches, tears springing to his own eyes. Determined, he crosses the distance between them and rises up on his tip-toes to pull Grizz’s face down to his. Grizz kisses him back a little desperately, one arm wrapping around Sam’s waist while the fingers of his other hand curl around the back of Sam’s neck, holding him firmly in place. Sam cups Grizz’s square jaw, coaxing his lips open, doing his best to pour all of the feelings bubbling up from within him into their kiss. Willing Grizz to understand just how much he wants him, cares for him, wants to be with him.
Sam doesn’t know how long they kiss before he starts to run out of breath and pulls away. He drops back down onto his heels, lets his hands slide from Grizz’s face down to rest on his chest, curls his fingers in the lapels of Grizz’s jacket.
“I’m sorry I ran out of there,” Grizz murmurs. He drops his hands to his sides and Sam feels bereft of their warmth. “I just felt like I was intruding.”
“You weren’t,” Sam tells him softly. “But I understand it’s a little overwhelming.”
“Yeah.” Grizz gives a watery laugh. His hazel eyes shimmer in low light. “You could say that.”
Sam steels himself, looking away from Grizz’s eyes and fiddling distractedly with his zipper. Grizz’s thumb finds his chin, tips it up to see him ask, “Everything okay?”
“There’s something I need to tell you. Something I should have told you before,” Sam says slowly. He lets go of Grizz’s collar so he can sign, because it will help him think through what he says next. He takes a deep breath, lets it out. “Becca and I never slept together.”
Grizz frowns at him, confused, still in the dark. “What do you mean? That doesn’t make any sense.”
Sam continues slowly, deliberately, “She had a one-night stand. Before, you know, everything… I don’t know who. But she felt so scared and alone and she’s my best friend in the whole world so I had to do something. I said I would be the father.”
Grizz just stares at him with glassy, tear-filled eyes, painfully silent. Sam wants to ask what he’s thinking, but he needs to make everything clear first.
“Becca and I were never together. I never slept with anyone, before you,” he admits, sees Grizz’s eyes widen a little, forges on. “Becca and I have never been anything more than friends, and we never will be. But Eden is my daughter. It may not be biological, but I am her father, and nothing is going to change that.”
Sam stares up at Grizz, at the edges of his chestnut hair haloed in the light from the streetlight above, and waits for him to decide their fate. After a moment, Grizz nods slowly, and Sam sees something raw and hopeful dawn in his gaze. “I understand,” he says.
“Good,” Sam sighs. He blinks back tears as he takes hold of Grizz’s collar again to pull himself closer. “Because I want to be with you. More than anything.”
“I want to be with you, too,” Grizz replies softly. His arms encircle Sam’s waist. “More than anything,” he echoes.
Warmth blossoms in Sam’s chest, replacing the dull ache he’s felt ever since Grizz looked at him with heartbreak in his eyes at the hospital on Thanksgiving. He feels a wide smile take over his face, can’t fight it, doesn’t want to. He just barely has time to see Grizz’s answering smile, to appreciate the way his eyes crinkle and the dimples that form at the corners of his mouth, before Grizz bends down and kisses him again.
Sam lets himself get lost in Grizz. In the feeling of his big, gentle farmer’s hands cupping his cheeks, stroking his hair, pressing at the small of his back; the feeling of his mouth, his soft, pliant lips and his warm, searching tongue; the feeling of his hair, silky beneath Sam’s fingers, and his skin, warm to the touch, and his body, solid and strong beneath his winter coat.
When they pull apart to breath, Grizz’s hair is disheveled and his lips are swollen, but his smile is almost shy as he asks, “Can I see you tomorrow?”
Sam nods, reaches up fondly to tuck Grizz’s floppy hair behind his ear. “I should stay with Becca and the baby. But maybe you can come over around lunchtime? We could go for a walk?”
“That sounds perfect,” Grizz replies. He leans down again, deposits a swift, tender kiss on Sam’s waiting lips. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Sam.”
“See you tomorrow, Grizz.”