To Keep a Smile

Cover Art by Beth Saintcrow

Story Prompt

I didn't want kids. But my ex was ten years older, ready to start a family. To keep a classy guy like him happy with tattooed me I gave sperm and we got a surrogate. When I saw my son I was in love... I thought he was, too. Six months later he says Archer is a mistake, kicking us out. Now that it is just the two of us can I find true love?

Genre/Tags: Contemporary/ family drama; performance arts; celebrities; musicians/rockstars; sweet (no sex); men with children; HFN; tattoos
Content warning: none
Approx. Word Count: 12,016

The story can also be found on Goodreads in the M/M Romance group






"What the hell is wrong with you?" Zach yelled at Austin, keeping the two step distance between them.
"I'm just not cut out for this. I'm sorry." Austin gave him that puppy dog look, but Zach was too pissed to even notice.
"Are you kidding me? You're the one who wanted this! You said you were ready for a family!" Zach couldn't even be bothered to lower his voice, his heart aching as Archer screamed on the blanket covered floor surrounded by his toys, not liking his parents shouting.
"I'm sorry. I'm just gonna leave. I thought I could do this, but he's screaming all the time. I can't sleep, I go to work tired and then fall asleep at my desk. I can't Zach. I'm sorry." Austin bowed his head in remorse, but fat lot of good that did to Zach.
"What are you talking about? He cries when he's hungry or in pain. Any other time he's the closest you can get to an angel." Zach couldn't contain his shock nor subdue his fear, "I can't raise him on my own. I have to work to pay the rent. You know the savings are gone." His chest was aching from anxiety. He cared for Austin, even though he couldn't quite find those feelings at that particular moment, but what Austin was doing bordered on criminal.
"I'm sorry. I would help, but I'll have to find a new place and that's not cheap."
"Again, are you fucking kidding me?" Zach shouted and Archer screamed, out voicing both men.
"You'll manage. You love him, your friends will surely help." Zach just stared at him in disbelief, intensely enough that Austin took a retreating step.
"I'm gonna go now. I'll pick up my things some other time." Austin said as he rushed toward the door, leaving Zach to pick up the pieces and make sure neither him nor Archer starved.
He walked to the boy, dropping on his knees and picking him up from the blanket. "Shh, baby, it's gonna be okay. We'll figure it. It's just you and me now, Archer, just you and me." He rocked the child in his arms, smelling the soft baby scent and holding his tears away. He would cry when Archer was asleep, no sense in upsetting the little one. No sense at all.

~***~

It was one of those mornings when everything seemed to be slightly off. Zach overslept, not by a lot but enough. With his son to take care of, getting ready for work was always an interesting but way too long a feat.
Archer was still sleeping as Zach stumbled into his room, pulling up his jeans and stepping barefoot onto the softest carpet he'd managed to find when they still had some money, when there were still two providers in the picture. Zach shook his head, dispelling those thoughts. He'd learned months ago that he just didn't have time for unproductive realizations.
One of the things he hated the most was waking Archer up, but no matter how peaceful and amazing his son looked asleep they were already out of time and if he dragged it out he would be late to work, yet again.
Touching him gently, because he was still sometimes afraid he would hurt his child when he saw his big hands against Archer's small body, or his rough, tattooed skin against the softness of a baby's, Zach roused him up.
Archer whined softly, hiccupping himself into a cry and Zach lifted him up, pulling him against his body and shushing him earnestly. "Hush, little baby, it's just morning," he cradled his son's head, rubbing at the soft black hair. Archer looked so much like him it made Zach's heart swell at times, pushing the point forward of why exactly it was so worth it, why he couldn't make himself regret having Archer, not even for a moment.
"We're gonna go see your uncles. Yes, they'll take care of you until daddy is free. And then we're gonna read a story," Zach went to put his hands together and make a sign for a book before he caught himself and kept them securely around his baby.
He's read hundreds of books and articles, the contradictions making his head pound, and even after doing all he was able to do to be a good parent, he felt inadequate.
"Mike and G love having you around, just like I do," he mumbled as Archer calmed down, pushing his knuckles into his mouth, drooling.
Zach put him on the changing table, still way to frightened that Archer might roll off it despite being able to change a diaper even in his sleep. But it was one of those mornings, when Archer seemed to be particularly unhappy and spiteful, and when changing one dirty diaper only meant that Archer was naked long enough to direct that little tool of his, that was sure to break hearts in the future, toward Zach and piss all over his clothes.
He giggled, that little fist still in his mouth as he grinned around it, and despite wanting to be angry, curse the extra work, Zach giggled with him. He never could resist Archer's smile.
"Come on you little prankster, let's get you changed. You'll have to eat with your uncles."
Zach dressed Archer in the tiny blue outfit, liking the color despite not knowing the exact names of each piece of clothes. He'd found out early on that he would be one of those fathers who would forever gesture to the sales women about what exactly he meant when he said shirt or pantyhose - they always seemed to call it differently, listing names that entered Zach's one ear, only to promptly exit through the other.
"You'll have to play for a bit Archer. Daddy needs to change." Zach put him on the thick blanket filled with soft toys and left the bathroom door opened as he pulled off his wet clothes and rubbed down with a wet towel. There was no time for a shower and he knew Archer would get cranky soon enough since it always frustrated him that his muscles weren't strong enough yet to lift him and hold him as he pleased.
Finally ready, Archer in his arms, the baby smell surrounding him, and a gray baby bag he'd learned to always carry with him. He'd wanted a black one, since it was his preferred color, but the best he'd found was gray with big pink letters sewed in the front. Another tripping stone for a single dad.
He looked at his bike and bicycle longingly, then walked to the crap car he'd bought when Austin burned the tires driving off fast from the two of them with his. He had the baby seat, and followed all the precautions necessary for the safety of his son, but he hated cars and he especially had a beef with this one. As soon as Archer was old enough he would be riding with him on the bicycle. He'd even thought about getting one of those trailers, but it would have put Archer too far out of reach and he didn't have enough confidence in the thing to entrust it with the safety of his child. But Archer would be riding with him soon and Zach just knew the little one would love it.
Archer talked with himself during the short ride to Zach best friend's house, pulling at his toes and trying to lift his foot all the way to his mouth. Zach always smiled when he was around his son, but that didn't make every other situation when they were apart, the same.
It was Gabriel who opened the door, serious until he noticed Archer in Zach's arms. Then he grinned, carrying the expression Zach only ever saw on his twin brother, Michael. "Baby boy!" He exclaimed, making Archer almost jump out of Zach's arms into his. Zach's son outstretched his arms and pushed as far from his body as he could to get closer to Gabriel.
"You're one of his favorite people. Strange considering you're the man moms warn their daughters about."
Gabriel smirked at Zach, taking Archer and lifting him high above his head. "Your daddy is delusional. Isn't that so, baby boy? Delusional!" He emphasized the word making Archer giggle. "You know I'm adorable and the best uncle in the world," he said proudly.
"I beg to differ," Michael said coming from the back, "no one beats my charm." And blinded Zach with his grin.
Of course, as soon as Archer heard him, his hands were outstretched again and he demanded attention with his high pitched sounds.
"You little traitor, you." Gabriel hugged him once again before passing him to Michael.
With his head in Archers belly, tickling him until he screamed and squirmed, Michael displayed the perfect image of the man all their friends adored.
"I have to go, I'm gonna be late." Zach said, passing his bag to Gabriel.
"Wait a minute, I have to talk to you for a bit." Michael said, giving Archer, who was happy either way, back to Gabriel.
"Can't this wait?"
"No."
"Fine, but make it quick. G, could you please feed him? I overslept and didn't have time to do it."
"Sure. Me and the little guy are gonna make such a mess. Uncle Michael loves to clean." Zach saw Michael move to slap G's ass, but stopped himself before he could connect, "You're gonna pay for that later," he said instead.
They walked to the living room, Zach dropping down on the couch, bracing himself for another lecture.
"You can't do this anymore, it's killing you," Michael said as he stared Zach down.
"Well what else am I supposed to do? It's not like I have a partner to pitch in with the rent or take care of Archer for a few hours. I can't leave him alone the whole day. I'm a fucking father." Zach snapped back, his gaze never wavering. He was short on patience and Michael wasn't saying anything Zach didn't already know.
"I know that. We're always here if you need help. But you can't just keep working and taking care of Archer. You need to live. I know it's hard and you don't feel like it, but if you're miserable Archer will be too." Michael persisted and Zach put his head between his palms and sighed.
"I know, but I don't remember what dating is anymore. Wouldn't even know where to start. Besides, I feel guilty leaving Archer with others, after Austin left I'm all he has, and he's all I have Michael."
"I know, my friend. We'll work it out. The kid loves us. G and I will take care of him when you need to do your thing."
"I also worry. It's fine now, while he's just a baby, but I can't be dancing at the club when he starts school, it's irresponsible.
"Zach, that's a job. No matter what anyone tells you, you are a great parent and as long as it's legal it doesn't matter what you do to support your flesh and blood. Besides, he's not even a year old, you have more than enough time before he starts school. We'll worry about it then."
"Yeah, you're right. But I can't help it but worry. I have nightmares about something happening to me and Archer being all alone. It's like post-pregnancy terror only I'm not a woman."
Michael smiled at me. "It's normal, you worry. And God knows Austin didn't help any. But Gabriel and I will take care of everything if something happens to you. You know that."
"Yeah, I do," Zach stood, giving Michael a hug, "I'm late, I gotta go."
"Take it easy."
I smiled at him, but there was no feeling behind it. I was wary and tired. I needed another spark in my life except my child or I was going to burn out.


A bell jingled as Zach pushed open the large doors to 'Adam's', a tattoo parlor where he worked in the mornings. There were already a few people waiting in the seating area around the front counter and the buzz of tattoo guns signaled the day had already began.
"Hi Jill, busy day?" Zach walked to our receptionist, nodding at the people waiting.
"Yeah. You have a scheduled industrial, bridge and double nipple. Those are already here. Two walk-in. One for a consultation and one for a nose stud." Jill said, flipping through her notes.
"Cool. Scheduled first, then consultation and leave the nose stud for last. I have a full schedule today, right?"
"As always honey. You're a popular needle man." She smiled showing off her venom piercing, the tongue kind, not that her lips were ring-free. Their Jill was the best advertisement a parlor could want, and most of her piercings and tattoos had been done at Adam's.
Zach smiled at her, "The walk-in?"
"The two flipping through the photos." She pointed to the left where a young woman and a man sat on one of the upholstered benches pushed against the salon wall.
Walking over there, Zach thrust out his hand and introduced himself, giving them a timeline for their appointments and suggesting they take a walk since it's better than waiting for over an hour.
Then he walked over to those waiting for their appointments, greeted Jack, who was a regular and took the girl who wanted the industrial to the back with him.
"Hey, Zach," Adam greeted him as he walked past his working station, the closest one to his piercing area.
"Busy today?" Zach asked, showing the girl where she could sit.
The parlor was essentially a big open space, but the working area was separated from the reception section by a big wooden counter and open shelves riddled with pieces of art and no longer used equipment.
Stations however, did have the option of being closed off by ceiling high, thick curtains, depending on the wishes of the clients. Zach's station was the last one and was more a room than simply a desk with working space. Instead of a curtain it was closed off by a wall with a window in the middle of it and had a set of double doors which stayed open unless they had a big project or an extensive modification.
The window was used for easier communication but had a pull out cover if the client wanted privacy.
"It's a rush as always. I have a friend coming later. A rock star wanting his first tattoo." Adam smirked at what seemed like a private joke.
"Someone I know?" Zach asked almost absentmindedly as he prepared his working surface and took out the disinfecting supplies.
"'Guessing game'" he said, "I don't know if you even listen to music anymore, but they've been around for a few years. Hit it big last spring."
"Never heard of them," but the girl in his seat obviously had because her eyes got big and glazed.
    "You know who they are?" Zach asked, and she nodded quickly, gripping at her seat.
    Adam laughed on the other side of the window, working on the shoulder tattoo. "Noah is an attention whore. Everyone who's bothered to turn on the TV in the past year has heard of him."
    "Yeah, well, I'm not one of those people." Zach said and sat down on his chair, pulling up closer to the girl and appraising her ear.
    "You'll meet him today," Adam said with a much more subdued tone.
    "I bet you would like to stay here until he comes?" Zach grinned at the girl patiently sitting there while Zach measured the bars she's picked out with Jill.
    "Yes!" It was more a squeak than an answer and she blushed, forcing an honest grin out of Zach.
    The procedure was standard considering how many of those he'd done over the years. Zach talked her through it, made sure she really wanted it and disinfected everything twice just to make sure. Something he always did since the first piercing he'd had done to him got infected. There wasn't a better learning curve than personal experience.
    As soon as Zach started working, time started slipping by him. After the girl came another, then a guy, and after that he just lost count. He wasn't fast when it came to the job, since he tried to give everyone the time they deserved and the best focus an artist could give them, but by the time noon rolled over quite a few people had passed over his chair and only the sudden commotion at the front of the parlor made him look up from the cute little belly button and through the uncovered window. The curtains were drawn on a couple of stations, enough to block his view so Zach turned back to the job at hand.
    "Noah!" He heard Adam scream and only by being professional managed to finish and clean the piercing before looking back up again and noticing the exchange of handshakes and hugs with the tall man standing in the middle of 'Adam's' employees.
    Suddenly the girl in his chair screamed and Zach turned back to her, fear gripping his insides. He had moved all the sharp objects from her vicinity. But the girl wasn't looking at him, she was staring through the window, red in her face and fanning herself.
    It seemed so ridiculous in that particular moment that Zach lost it.
    He laughed all the way down from his belly like he hadn't done in months and even though he knew the girl was embarrassed and people we starting to look, he just couldn't stop. Through his laugh he reached for the aftercare pamphlet and somehow gasped out to the now grinning girl to talk to Jill up the front. Jill always repeated the care instructions after the artist was done with the client.
    The girl stopped once she reached the crowd and thrust the pamphlet to the man in the middle who procured a pen from what seemed like thin air and signed an autograph. Oh, well, at least that means she would keep the pamphlet at hand.
    As the man grinned, giving the girl her autograph he looked up and suddenly held Zach's gaze.
    Saying lightning struck would be excessive, but Zach couldn't look away and his laughter was a thing of the past. He was close to smitten as those make-up covered eyes intensified the reach a simple gaze held and twisted something in Zach's gut that he'd thought was long dead.
    His belly butterflies had lost their wings somewhere along the way, but as he shared that single moment in time with a complete stranger, he felt them stir and attempt that one last wingless flight.
    "Hey Zach!" Adam yelled, knocking him out of his daydream, "This is Noah, come meet him."
    So Zach did, he removed the one glove that was still on his hand, throwing it in the trash and composed himself enough to cross the distance to the tall stranger.
    And the motherfucker was tall. Zach gulped, the curse word tasting strange on his tongue as he swallowed it back. He'd forgotten what it meant to curse, he was a father now. He needed to get a better handle on himself and screw his lust dazed head back on.
    "Hi. I'm Zach, nice to meet you," he held out his hand as he croaked, his throat suddenly dry.
    People had somehow moved out of the way, leaving all this empty space between him and Noah and Zach was terrified. It wasn't natural to have the ground just slip from under his feet because he saw a good looking man. And boy was he good looking, tall and dark with a wide face and spell-casting green eyes. He wore more make up than some girls Zach knew but he also carried it way better, and when he smiled Zach all but whimpered.
    "Noah, the pleasure is all mine, sweetcheeks."
    Zach blushed crimson, pulling his hand out of that electrifying grip and stepping away. "Hope you're happy with the tattoo, it was nice meeting you." He said and just about ran away back to his work place, pushing his head closer to the desk so that he could ignore the sight of the gorgeous rock star on the other side of the window.
    "Don't know what's up with him today, sorry." Adam said as he sat Noah down. Zach could hear them but hoped they would move to another topic just as he'd hoped his cock would have enough courtesy to deflate before another client came Zach's way.
    "Nothing to worry about, I'm sure he's just busy. How have you been you old dog? I haven't seen you in ages. I figured the only way to get to you was to set up an appointment where you could stick your tools in me." Adam laughed, but Zach only blushed more despite not being a part of the conversation. He had very different tools in mind and that sweet voice did just about everything but help.
    "So you decided on the biggest tattoo you could find?" Adam joked.
    "Sure, if it means you would work on it longer." Zach could hear the smile in Noah's voice without seeing him and shivered.
    "Okay, well, off with your shirt, I have the stencil we agreed on."
    Zach peeked through the window without even thinking about it. He looked as Noah's shirt slipped off his body, revealing inch by inch of skin. Freckled skin. God, so many freckles. Zach bit his lip and after casting a gaze around for any clients he might have missed, he pressed the edge of his palm against the base of his cock, easing the stiffness while fighting not to lose it right then and there.
    Noah had a wide back with perfectly outlined muscles, and as Zach's gaze slipped lower he couldn't look away from those two dips in the flesh just above Noah's pants. That is until it slipped lower and Zach was blinded by the sinful sight of an ass encased in leather. It hugged those cheeks, and Zach bet it felt smooth against Noah's skin, against his bare skin. Bare skin of his ass. Zach groaned almost painfully.
    Then Jill cleared her voice, obviously amused, and introduced Zach to his next customer.


    Zach had cooled down by the time he'd picked Archer up from Michael and G. His baby was still sleepy but happy enough as he cuddled against Zach's neck. He missed his daddy just as much Zach missed his son, and it was only luck that allowed him to leave the little one so often. With everyone else but his uncles as of late, Archer wailed and cried when it came time for Zach to leave for work. He didn't want to part with his father and it all but broke Zach's heart to see his child cry so inconsolably.
    As they walked into their apartment, Archer started chatting. His rumbling and gurgling little sounds were comforting when there was no one to greet them at home but silence.
    "Are you happy to be home, Archer?" Zach asked as he dropped the bag on the chair and sat down on the couch, propping his child on his knees.
    Archer leaned forward, gripping Zach's T-shirt with his little hands and smiling through a scream.
    "Do you want to eat something?" Brought his hand to his mouth and tapped twice.
    Archer laughed again and brought his own hand to his little mouth.
    "Yeah, you're hungry, aren't you?" Zach picked him up again, kissing his cheek and giving him a finger to wrap his little fist around it.
    Zach made a bottle with Archer in his arms, trying to reach and grab everything around him despite having a pacifier in his mouth. It took skill to maneuver around without the baby knocking anything down and still stay focused on actually preparing food.
    Archer was a good baby. Other than fussing when his teeth first started giving him pains and being upset when Zach and Austin used to argue, he seemed always happy and chatty.
    Zach didn't understand his little words, but loved listening to the gurgles as if Archer told stories of knights and dragons. He might have been as far as Zach knew, Archer was certainly animated enough for that.
    With the bottle done and Archer's eyes already slowly closing, Zach forgo on the solid food again and changed his half sleeping baby before taking them both to the bedroom for a nap.

    He spent the afternoon playing with Archer, reading him stories, driving soft cars around him and watching over him as he gripped the edge of the couch and stood on his little feet. He liked to bounce up and down and G joked he was preparing for the pole, training his hips just like his dad. Michael had smacked the back of his head of course, but Zach was glad every time someone mentioned Archer acting or looking like him. Even when that comparison referred to strip dancing.
    It was past eight in the evening when Carole came over and Archer was already nodding, getting ready to fall asleep. But he knew what Carole meant by then, suddenly he was wide awake, reaching for Zach with something close to panic in his eyes.
    Archer knew that once Carole came over it was time for Zach to leave and while he was alright with that just a month ago, lately it seemed to be more than he could handle.
    "Come to daddy, son," Zach said as he picked him up, feeling the little hands holding him tight.
    "Daddy is going to get dressed now." He told him, heading toward the bedroom and motioning for Carole to follow.
    It was embarrassing at first to let her stay in his room as he changed, but considering his line of work, it quickly became more important to have Archer's cheeks free of tears for at least a couple of minutes more.
    So he handed Archer to Carole, "Daddy is right here. Say hi to Carole, Archer." And while Archer hated the situation he actually liked Carole, and pressed his little face against her neck in hello as he watched Zach change with his sleepy eyes.
Zach pulled on some casual clothes and packed a part of his costume that had needed to be cleaned before leaning over Archer and kissing his cheek, imprinting his baby scent into memory, to help him get through the night.
He heard Archer crying as he closed the door of the apartment behind him, but there was no helping it. At night he danced in a friend's strip club to pay the bills. He loved dancing, loved the club, and he certainly appreciated the cash but it didn't seem like a respectable job for someone with a child and while he worked part time as he did in the tattoo parlor, it still took him away from Archer for a longer time than he was comfortable with.
Shutting the blinds on those thoughts, Zach fastened his carry-on to the back of his bike and turned on the engine. It was time to shake some hips.

One thing that was different from that day when he'd met Adam's friend were the dreams. Nightmares still visited him on occasion, but what haunted him more were the flashes of naked flesh, visions of that naughty smirk and he knew the wetness of his sheets each morning had a direct link to the freckles of a certain man. It was embarrassing to say the least, but Zach still dreamt, almost every night, and he woke up covered in sweat and come, breathing as if he'd spent the whole night running and blushing as if Noah could have seen him so debauched in his own room.
It was maddening and it distracted him for half of each morning. Enough so that even Gabriel asked if he was alright a couple of months after the dreams had first started.
Zach was late for work again and was just leaving Archer with the twins. "Of course I'm alright. Why wouldn't I be?"
"You seem distracted. Something is bugging you, but I'm not gonna pry. I'll tell Michael to do it." G grinned and Zach rolled his eyes, knowing G would do just that and Michael wouldn't let go. He never did once he sank his teeth into something.
"Fine. I still have to go." Zach said as he turned and rushed back to his car.
The parlor was busy once he arrived there and Jill was at his throat straight away. "You're late! And Adam isn't here. He said he'd call you and ask you to cover the shop until he gets here. I moved most of his appointments but you have to talk to the others." She gestured with her hands as she talked.
"I forgot my phone…" Jill interrupted him, "And you have puke on your shoulder. You must change." Zach blushed and stretched his shirt to see. She was right, of course.
"Go in the back. I'll send you your first client. Only Noah is here for Adam. He said he wanted you to do a piercing for him, but asked if he could watch first." Jill was pushing Zach toward the back when he froze at her words and turned around. "What?"
"Adam needs to finish Noah's tattoo, and since Noah doesn't have much time right now he came early to do a piercing as well. He requested you. Can we go now?" Jill was exasperated and I could understand that, but that didn't mean my feet were able to move.
"Why me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Because you're one of the best and he prefers to bring business to 'Adam's' rather than some other parlor. So do a good job and get your head out of your ass. You can't work if you're this distracted."
Zach shook his head and moved after Jill, too numb to process the situation as it deserved.
At his working stations sat a young man animatedly chatting with Noah who had no calms about taking Zach's chair to situate his delectable ass. A shiver ran down Zach's body.
"Oh, you're here!" Noah said, standing up and moving toward Zach like some force of nature.
Zach couldn't move and as Noah hugged him, wrapping those big arms of his around Zach, he couldn't even trigger his breathing reflex.
"You too." He uttered and by sheer luck extracted himself from Noah's grip before his erection killed his career. The last thing he needed to do was molest the rock star clients.
"This here is David and he wants his nipple pierced, just like me." Noah stepped away then mock whispered, "He doesn't like my music," to Zach.
"You're just too pop for me," David said, "I like my music with a bit of anger and more guitar."
"Zach, tell him 'Guessing Game' rocks." Noah's lips turned in a half pout which should have been weird on such a tall and manly guy, but looked almost adorable.
Zach shook his head again, steering away from flashes of his dreams that threatened to fill his head. "Never heard of Guessing Game." He moved toward his working desk and started pulling out his supplies.
"Are you kidding me?" Noah raised his voice while David chuckled.
"No. Never heard of your band, or of you for that matter. Before Adam introduced us, of course." Zach managed to keep his cool. On the outside at least - he was melting inside. The guy smelled amazing.
"Talk about underappreciated." He mumbled and David laughed again.
"I hope it hurts." Now Noah did actually pout and Zach turned to look, mesmerized by those full and wet lips.
"Likewise." David said with a grin and Noah smiled back saying, "I like you."
"Hope you mean in the most platonic way. Married over here." David wiggled his fingers showing off his wedding band.
"Yeah, sure. In a platonic way." If that wicked expression on Noah's face was anything to go by David had plenty of reason to doubt the guy.
"Okay," Zach tried very hard not to stare at the way those black jeans hugged Noah's thick thighs or how the black T-shirt pressed against his chest. Even the leather jacket made him want to sniff, rub himself against all that 'pretty'. What Zach needed to do was get laid.
He almost slapped himself to get a grip, but instead pushed the metal box on his desk hard, making it grate loudly against the surface.
"Can I please have the seat?" He asked Noah who had taken his place on Zach's chair again.
"Of course, whatever the artist wants." Noah stood up quickly and pushed the chair Zach's way.
"Thanks. You can sit over there or stand if you want to watch and David is alright with it." Zach turned to David, "You are okay with it, right?"
David nodded, "Sure. My girl is gonna come when she hears Noah from the Guessing Game watched my nipple get pierced. I bet she'll get her satisfaction from the nearest victim." His grin was infectious and all three laughed.
"Right. Let's get to work." Zach said and went through all the pre-piercing chatter he liked to do in case the client had second thoughts later on. He cleaned the area, marked the spot, so to speak, and got to work. The guy was a sport about it, not uttering a sound as Zach took hold of the nipple with a forceps and actually looking as the needle went through flesh.
Noah leaned forward, watching the whole thing and breathed roughly over Zach's shoulder, making him instantly hard. Zach ignored it as much as he could, but he knew that whole situation was something that was sure to feed his wet dreams.
Following the needle with a ring, he quickly replaced it and cleaned the area once again. He was done.
"That looks great man, thanks. She's gonna love it."
"Happy to help." Zach said doing his best to focus on the client and ignore Noah who was still way too close to him.
Noah stayed surprisingly quiet as Zach talked about after care and directed David to Jill for some supplies and fliers. So it was Zach who eventually said, "Your turn."
Noah got rid of his jacket while Zach cleaned his space, put on another pair of gloves and took out clean supplies. What he certainly wasn't prepared for was a waist-up naked Noah dropping down on the chair in front of him, in his whole freckled glory.
"Holly mother of God!" It just slipped out. Quiet but enough for Noah to grin as widely as he could and for his hand to casually pass over his belly.
    "Is this going to be a problem?" Noah asked, with all his seductive power, and fucking shit they were super powers, working in overload.
    "No. it's not going to be a problem." Zach said and hurried on with his work, ignoring the intense look Noah kept giving him, trying to see all that expanse of gorgeous skin and definitely not focusing on the bulge in Noah's pants as he pushed the needle through the flesh and as Noah moaned so deeply Zach could only do so much not to shiver with lust, clicking his teeth shut to bite back a moan of his own.
    It was completely and utterly unprofessional. Something that hadn't happened to Zach since he'd done some of his first piercings. The anger at himself diffused the arousal buzzing through his body, and Zach rushed through the rest of the mandatory chatter, really not in the mood for the way Noah kept trying to catch his gaze or the way he felt deep inside. The way he'd forbidden himself to ever feel again.
    "May I stay here through your next appointment? Adam is still not here." Noah eventually asked, politely, not even a trace of his seductive ways, and Zach couldn't say anything short of yes.
    He was focused all through the corset piercing of the next client, Mary, A regular girl fame struck enough to let Noah watch, but that didn't mean Zach wasn't aware of the gaze on the back of his neck or the warmth of Noah's body each time the man stood too close.
    "The come out in a few hours, right?" Noah asked.
    "Yeah. It's just for the photo shoot. Plus I'm sort of a piercing junky." The girl's voice was muffled  as she lay on her stomach.
    "Does it scar?"
    "Not at all. This is probably my seventh corset, right Zach? Do you see any scars?"
    Zach hummed in agreement while Noah exclaimed, "You're my inspiration, doll."
    Mary blushed, the heat spreading all the way to the back of her neck, but Noah didn't pay any attention, "Can you schedule an appointment for me as well, Zach? I'll bring a photographer and we can do a few shots for the album.
    Zach had to blink away the image of Naked Noah spread out on his table, "Sure. Just settle everything with Jill and Adam. They now my schedule better than I do."
    "Thanks, sweetcheeks." Zach looked at Noah's black nail polish as the guy gripped the edge of the working table, leaning to have a better look.
    "Be warned, Zach will want to remove them as well. He doesn't do permanent on the first go and especially not to a piercing newbie. He doesn't trust us to not keep the piercings after the shoot."
    "Oh I don't have any issues with having his hands on me twice." Noah shared a grin with Mary, but Zach was at a loss with words.
    "I hear ya." Mary quipped and Zach figured that must have been how Noah felt when on a stage.
    Then a phone rang and suddenly the playful Noah was gone only to be replaced with a businessman. In a furry of words and motion he said his goodbyes and left Zach stunned, leaned over Mary. It was one of those days when nothing made much sense.
    Dancing that night around a pole, having both men and women tuck bills into his thong seemed more difficult than ever. He missed his son and kept thinking about Noah. What would a self-assured and larger-than-life guy see in a stripper? Zach flashed his tattoos, seduced with his gaze but failed to give the crowd even a whisper of a smile. Those he was still only able to give to Archer.

    "I'm sorry Zach, we won't be able to look after Archer this morning. Gabriel was working this morning and broke a glass. I have to take him to the hospital. Even the bar will be closed until I find someone to jump in. Sorry, man. I gotta go, he's bleeding all over the car." Zach listened to the message Michael had left on his cell at something like dawn.
    "Fucking shit! What am I supposed to do now?" Zach jumped out of bed and started dialing while pacing down the length of his room.
    "Hi Carole. Sorry to wake you up this early. But could you possibly take Archer this morning? My morning babysitters can't make it." Zach asked desperately.
    "No? You're at work already?" Zach's heart sank. "No, no, I completely understand. I'll think of something. Have a good day at work." He hung up, at the verge of panic.
    "Hey, Adam. I can't make it today." Zach tapped his hand against his thigh.
    "Yeah, I know there's work. There always is. I don't have anyone to look after Archer. Gabriel got hurt and Michael took him to the hospital."
    Zach listened to Adam then promptly answered, "No, he's going to be alright. Probably just needs stitches or something. But I can't take a baby into a tattoo parlor." Zach sighed. "I don't know why not, it's just not appropriate."
    "Fine. We'll come. But don't bitch at me when he starts crying, and warn Jill before I get there." Zach rubbed at his eyes, already exhausted.
    Through another rush where he kissed his son's head and mumbled limitless words of comfort, Zach found himself entering the full parlor with a sense of trepidation.
    He knew Archer would be safe with plenty of people fussing over him, but he still didn't feel comfortable bringing his son into such a crowd. His sense of responsibility flared and he knew he looked as if he were in shock.
    "Hi, little baby!" Jill rushed right over, picking him out of his carrier and lifting him up in the air. "Your naughty daddy never brings you here to see us. It's because you're better looking, yes you are…" Archer gurgled and laughed at her, trying to grab her pink hair and Zach let out a sigh of relief.
    She situated Archer more comfortably against her body and started giving Zach information on his work day. His heart somehow settled and Zach felt that things just might be alright.
    The first thing that went wrong was Archer crying as soon as Zach left his line of sight. He didn't really know Jill and wasn't comfortable with Zach always leaving him with others. That meant he had to bring him to his working space and alternate between leaving him in his chair and making a soft playing space for him on the floor in the corner of the room.
    Despite all the people being friendly, and Archer reaching for everyone who gave him the time of day, it was very distracting. Zach couldn't stop checking on him and relaxed only when Jill would have a few spare minutes and took Archer's little hands in hers, making him walk in front of her.
    It was near the end of his work day, with just a few more piercings left to do, that Archer became inconsolable. He was secured in his carrier and wanted to go to sleep. But the machines around him buzzed despite the door to Zach's working area being closed and Archer could see his daddy just a few feet away and he couldn't understand why Zach couldn't hold him as he did every day before bed.
    "I'm sorry. I know this is really not the best memory to have for your first piercing. I apologize." Zach said to the man who wanted a lip ring. It was annoying, and it was really bad when it came to working conditions, but other than trying to do the job as fast as he could, all Zach cared about was his child.
    "Are you people insane? You can't have a brat crying in a tattoo parlor. I'm gonna take my business elsewhere. I can't listen to this." Zach heard someone yelling from the other side of the wall and flushed.
    "Sit your ass down!" Someone else yelled, "You know you won't get a better tattoo anywhere else, so get it into your head that people have lives outside of their work and the only one who will suffer from your outburst is yourself."
    Surprisingly enough, Zach heard the chair creak as the man sat down, and the tattoo artist asking if he could continue. It didn't make things any better and Zach swore to himself silently that he was never again going to bring Archer to his work place. He should have stayed at home. His heart had enough heartbreak and Archer inconsolably crying was worse than a knife through Zach's chest.
    He'd just finished the piercing and the man had smiled at him embarrassed for Zach, when there was  a knock at the door.
    "Come in." Zach cleaned the area, threw away his gloves and turned toward the door.
    As if he didn't have enough trouble, the man who pushed his head through the gap was no other than Noah. Just fucking peachy.
    Zach's heard stuttered in his chest and his mouth went dry. If he thought of Noah a sex god before, now he was sex incarnated, with his eyes covered in makeup and glitter, his hair styled to stand straight up and a tight blue hued shirt under a black suit jacket… Zach sighed, completely ignoring his client.
    It wasn't that Noah looked feminine, he was so far from it, it was unreal. Under the makeup and the diamonds at the corner of his eyes, he still had a strong jaw, thick eyelashes and enough height and build on his to make Zach's knees go week.
    "Do you mind?" Noah asked, pointing with his finger toward crying Archer.
    Zach just nodded not even registering the question. He obviously had a thing for blue nail polish and leather, fingerless gloves. Oh yeah, he really did.
    Then Noah started unbuckling Archer and suddenly Zach was on his feet, ready to close the distance between them. But Archer quieted, still sniffling, his eyes were wide and focused on Noah's face.
    "It looks great. Thank you." A voice startled Zach from his day dreaming and he turned to see the client smiling at him.
    "No problem. I'm sorry for Archer crying throughout your session. It really isn't like this usually."
    "Don't worry about it. Kids cry." The guy smiled at Zach and Zach returned the favor, then reached into the drawer and pulled out a care pamphlet.
    "Stick to the rules and talk to Jill up front. We don't want any consequences." The guy smiled again and quietly left the room.
    Zach looked back at Noah who had his arms full of Archer. His son looked even smaller next to Noah's wide chest and unintentionally, Zach's cheeks felt warm with a blush.
    Archer was touching the pointy hair and pushing his fingers in Noah's eyes. He'd never seen so much make up and certainly not anything as sparkly as the colors on Noah's face. But Noah just laughed, cooing at Archer and letting him get away with whatever he wanted. His little fingers were a lethal weapon, still uncoordinated and capable of leaving mighty scratches. Zach knew. And yet, Noah took it all in stride. Completely ignoring Zach, he held conversations with the little guy and Archer couldn't stop grinning at him.
    Before Zach could find enough words to respond another client knocked on the door and until the last scheduled person left Zach had no time to spare for Archer or Noah, nothing except a casual look here and there.
    Then the last lady left and with an exhausted sigh Zach turned toward the rock star and his son only to find them both asleep in the upholstered chair client's friends usually used when they wanted to be there during the piercing.
    Noah had his head tilted to the side and he was lowered in the chair, making for a very uncomfortable position, but Archer stretched over his chest, resting on Noah's torso. He had Noah's shirt firmly gripped in his little fist and drooled on Noah's jacket. Zach's felt that tingle in his chest again, warm all over as he looked at the two of them so peaceful and content. They could have been father and son, with their hair the same color and the way both their mouths stayed slightly open in their sleep.
    Noah didn't drool, which amused Zach but he expected that was due to his position. He wondered if that would that be the case when Noah shared a pillow with Zach. Then promptly shook his head to dispel that delusional thought.
    It felt wrong to wake them up, but Zach crossed the distance to them, rubbing at his tattooed arms hoping his nerves would settle down. Softly he gripped Noah's shoulder, loving the feeling of it under his fingers, and shook him gently.
    Noah opened his eyes, disoriented for a moment, then noticed Zach and smiled. His fingers tightened around Archer, careful not to disturb the little guy before Noah whispered, "Sorry I fell asleep."
    "It's okay, thank you for looking after him for me. You pretty much saved the day." Zach rubbed his palm against his jeans.
    "What's a guy to do when two cuties need help." He grinned at Zach, "He's absolutely adorable." Then he looked up at Zach, "Can I keep him?"
    Zach grinned back, "I'm kind of attached. He's my life." That made Noah's expression turn serious and he spoke, "I know what you mean. There is no way he couldn't be. Makes me want children of my own."
    "Zach just curved his lips, feeling somewhat uncomfortable. "Here, let me take him. I'm done for today and we should be going."
    Noah helped him take Archer who instantly adjusted himself without waking and continued his rest even once he was placed in his carried and secured.
    "I'm still finding it weird that you're not blinded by my fame. I kind of love it." Noah slipped and if Zach wasn't sure Noah never blushed he would have mistaken the bit of red in his cheeks as just that.
    "Dude, I didn't even have time to Google you yet."
    Noah laughed then covered his mouth with his hand. But Zach saw enough to be once again smitten by the guy.
    "No, that's pretty much great. So…" Noah trailed off, seeming suddenly insecure, something that really didn't suit him, but then his lips tightened and he seemed to be standing taller, "Do you want to go out with me sometime?"
    Zach was surprised enough to almost drop Archer's carrier with his son in it. "You…I… What?" he stammered, not quite sure he'd even heard right.
    "I like you. Hell, I'm hard every time I see you. My eyes glitter for you, baby," he grinned with the last of the sentence, "So I want to take you out, get to know you better. Say yes?"
    "Um, yeah?" Zach shook his head slightly again, furiously blushing, "I mean no. I don't have the time. When did you want to go out? No, really, I don't think I can."
    Noah's lips only stretched wider, "You don't have a babysitter for the little guy?"
    "Yes. No." Zach took a deep breath then, "I'm sorry, I'm a blabbering idiot today. I mean, yes, I would like to go out with you. No, Archer isn't a problem. The problem is that I really don't have time. I work every night and every morning. What little time I have is reserved for Archer."
    "So can I spend some time with you and Archer?"
    "What?" Zach stared again, he thought he saw freckles on Noah's lips, imagined licking them.
    "I don't mind spending some time with you and Archer together."
    "Really?" He looked into those intense green eyes again. God, he really was an idiot.
    "Really. I love the little guy."
    Zach would have said that Noah had never seen Archer in one of his moods, but that wasn't true, was it? It was Noah who'd calmed him and watched him for the last couple of hours. "I guess that would be alright. I think." Zach bit his lip.
    Noah's gaze focused on it right away and Zach's waning blush intensified again. "Great. Can I have your number? I'll keep pestering you until you're available. If that's alright with you?"
    "Um, yeah, that would be okay." Zach babbled out the number wishing Archer was awake so that he could use him as a shield. Not that it would have stopped the blood from rushing to his face.
    "Thank you, sweetcheeks." Then Noah leaned forward, his fingers trailing down the edge of Zach jaw, making him shiver.
    It took Zach's breath away, the time seemed to have stopped and all he could see were those freckled lips coming closer, those green eyes holding him in place. He moaned before Noah's skin touched his, and once it did there was nothing but glitter shimmering in his head. Softness and skill reminded him how long ago he'd had his last kiss and the tongue separating his lips showed him how some of the nest things in life were simply sweet.
    Zach was dizzy once Noah stepped away, still looking dazzling and mischievous, his fingers still touching Zach's face, "That was amazing, darling. I hope I get to do it again."
    That was enough for Zach to moan again and even once the grinning rock star left, he took a minute or two getting his head back together.
   
    The call came before a show, while Zach had as much make up as Noah did during his concerts - yes, he'd finally Googled him - and every piece of clothing on him was removable with just a snap of his fingers.
    "Yes?" Zach asked, breathing hard from excitement. The place was full as it usually was at the beginning of the weekend.
    "Hey, sweetcheeks. I've missed you." The already rushing heart in Zach's chest picked up the speed.
    "Hey." Zach squeaked, making one of the other dancers look at him with a tilt of his head.
    "Can I see you this weekend? I'm in town and have a few hours free." Noah's voice still sounded as if he were seducing Zach over the line, so soft when compared to how the guy sounded on a stage.
    "Um, yes. I think." Zach forced his head to focus. "Yes. Sunday would be good if you're free. I'm not working in the morning so Archer and me will be hanging out somewhere the whole day."
    "That sounds wonderful. How about the park, late morning? I think it will be warm enough."
    Zach grinned, liking how Noah thought of Archer first. "Great. The Memorial Park sound good? It's close to us so we'll just walk."
    "Sure, whatever suits my two darlings." Noah stretched the word and Zach had to blush again. He just had to.
    "See you then."
    "You betcha, sweetcheeks."
    Zach hung up and tried to recover his cool. There was no two ways about it, meeting Noah was something he was looking forward two. The man was pure energy the way he moved while singing, and his voice? Zach wasn't sure but it seemed likely he could come just by listening to dirty words from those lips. All his clothes were tight and everything he did seemed to be sexually charged. But one thing that Internet said was what really mattered, Noah didn't fool around. He was a one man guy and he seemed to be falling into relationships with his whole heart.
    With the song ending and Dani getting off the stage, Zach had his cue and rushed forward, feeling the beat that was just his up on that stage, the heat that spurred him on and the calls that made him feel alive. It was another night when he just danced. For Archer and for himself, Zach danced because he liked it.
    A day in the park seemed just what Zach needed come Sunday. He had Archer in his chair, snacks in the compartment below it and a blanket in his backpack. Despite being nervous, Zach was looking forward to seeing Noah and spending an afternoon with him.
    He spread out everything on the blanket on the grass, got some toys out for Archer and sat him in between them. Only recently he started crawling which worried Zach, considering the little guy was already standing when he was just over six months. People said it happens, that he was ready. But crawling was good. Zach didn't like skipping steps, he liked to be reassured that he was doing a good job in raising his boy.
    Nowadays it was a challenge to keep an eye on him, between using the furniture for little walks and crawling about, he seemed to be everywhere he wasn't supposed be.
    Zach even brought a little umbrella to give Archer some shade. When everything was set, he lay down and relaxed, listening to Archer's sounds as he lifted his little diapered butt up, only to drop back down.
    "Hi, handsome." A voice said, startling Zach. Archer looked up and squealed, lifting his hands up in the air once he recognized Noah.
    Zach was surprised how his son knew him without all the make-up and with a different hair, but apparently there was no fooling the little guy.
    "Hey there, cute baby." Noah said as he dropped down, letting Archer touch his shirt, but looking at Noah.
    His hair was different, divided on the side and with much less gel in it. The shirt he worse seemed expensive but was still too casual considering his usual style, and his black jeans kicked ass with the rip at the knee. But he wouldn't have been Noah without his boots, even in a park and Zach just loved it.
    Archer talked to him, babbling enthusiastically about Gabriel it seemed since that was the only word he knew how to say so far - G. It still seemed to Zach that he was screwing something up. But people said boys took their time when it came to talking. It was still scary.
    "You look hot." Noah said and his devouring gaze pushed the point home.
    "Thanks. You too." No stammering this time, thank God, Zach thought to himself.
    "So what is your other job? You never told me."
    Way to break the ice. Zach took a deep breath and decided to come clean from the start, "I'm a stripper. I dance at a friend's club."
    "Oh." Noah moved his head slightly back, his eyebrows doing an up and down dance. "I didn't see that one coming. Okay." He then grinned, "I don't think I've ever met a stripper."
    Zach laughed, still nerveous but feeling slightly better. "I needed the money for Archer and me. I used to dance there when I was younger, or needed some cash. My friends own the club, so I can dance for half a shift. It's the same with Adam, he lets me work only mornings."
    "I can see that. Do you like dancing?"
    "Oh yeah, I love it. Always have. I even love the club, and the people. But it keeps me away from Archer and if I didn't need the money I would quit. It's good that he sleeps most of the time that I'm away, but I still leave him in tears every night I leave."
    "Hey, hey. He's a happy kid. Sure, he cried when I first met him, but essentially he's a happy child. He adores you, and is naturally curious. I'm sure he misses you, and doesn't like to be apart from you, but there are pleanty of parents who work during the whole day and only see their kids for maybe an hour. You're doing the best you can, and he is happy for it."
    "Thanks. I just… I never expected to this on my own." Zach sighed, rubbing at his eyes.
    "What do you mean?"
    "Sorry, that kind of slipped out. I really don't want to drown you with too much drama."
    "It's not drama. It's your life, and I'm interested. You can read everything about me online while I have to ask about anything I want to know."
    "Yes, there's a lot about you out there."
    "Oh," Noah pointed his finger at Zach, only for it to be grabbed by Archer a moment later. Still, Noah, said his piece of mind, "We'll talk about that right after you tell me about your drama, sweetcheeks."
    "Fine. I was in a relationship for a long time. Austin was older than me and I honestly thought we would spend our lives together." Zach smirked, "Yeah, everyone thinks like that when they're in love. He was older, more experience. He said he was ready for a family. I wasn't. I felt too young and inexperienced. But Austin wanted a family, so we found a surrogate, spent all our savings and gave our sperm. Jacking off in a bottle. It still makes me fucking laugh. By the time she was pregnant, I got excited. I felt him kick, saw the ultrasound. Archer was a living being. I don't think I'd ever been so excited as I was the first time I heard his heartbeat. It was bigger than life. I swear." Zach looked up at Noah, who smiled at him, so sweetly. "Anyway, by the time he was born I couldn't have been happier. And he was such a good child, still is. Rarely ever fusses. But Austin couldn't do it. Said he couldn't stand the crying, how being a father wasn't for him. Some such bullshit. Here I am swearing again." Zach laughed.
    "Yeah, I hear it's a no no with kids."
    "They pick up words so quickly. A friend of mine liked to say c-o-c-k-s-u-c-k-e-r a lot. It was her thing you know. So of course, that was the word her daughter first learned. She didn't say mom, or dad, she said c-o-c-k." Zach spelled the words.
    Noah laughed making Archer giggle with him, as he played with Noah's green painted fingernails.
    "So Austin left and here we are. He's mine. Not that it's hard to tell now, but at the time I was so angry and scared that Austin would change his mind, take him away from me. I did a test. So he's my son. Only mine." Zach leaned over and kissed Archer's black hair.
    "That is a sad story. But then again it isn't. You're happy with your son. You deserve better than that j-a-c-k-a-s-s anyway."
    Zach smirked at Noah's spelling, but the words warmed him up.
    "So what gossip did you hear about me? Tell me only nice things." Noah stretched out on the blanket, Propping his head on his hand only to have Archer slap him since it was convenient.
    "Archer!" Zach raised his voice, and the little guy turned, looking at him with vulnerable eyes.
    "Hitting is bad. No hitting Archer." Noah said calmly but more serious than was his usual tone before Zach could, and took the little hand kissing the palm.
    "I watched videos of your concerts. You're amazing. I can understand why all those girls keep on screaming."
    "I figured you would eventually. I'm pretty wild on stage."
    "You saying that's not your usual style?" Zach lifted his eyebrow.
    Noah chuckled, "On occasion."
    "Thought so." Zach continued, "I also watched a couple of interviews. Mostly you talking about your family, relationships. I liked what you had to say. Everyone talks nicely about you. That can't be an easy thing to accomplish when you're so famous and every money hungry individual is gunning for your blood."
    "Yeah, they are. Not a lot of people see that. I've had my moments with the paparazzi and obsessed fans. But that stuff got buried away I think. I have a lot of fan support and they don't like to spread the negative stuff around. But it's hard at times. Like today. I would like to stay with you much longer, but people will notice me eventually, and once they do it's only a matter of time before cameras are in our faces." Noah looked around, as if expecting someone to jump at him before turning back to Zach, "That interview was true by the way. I am faithful and I don't do one night stands. It's not even about publicity. I just don't like taking off my clothes for strangers and sharing intimacy with someone whose name I barely know. It's just not me."
    "Me either. Not that I have a lot to brag about. It's been a while." Zach dropped his head, "It's so easy to talk to you. Stuff just slips out."
    "Don't worry about it. It's not just something you have trouble with."
    "Seriously?"
    "Oh, yeah. You untie my tongue, but I'm thinking that's the way it's supposed to be. I like you, and I'm desperately attracted to you. If I have the slightest chance I'm going for it. It feels to right to let it slip by me."
    Zach blushed, "Do you always say such things? You make my blood rush to my face, it will stay that way."
    Noah chuckled again, "May I kiss you?"
    "Not helping," Zach murmured before saying "Yes."
    They both lifted themselves up a little and leaned over Archer, pressing their lips together. There were no explosions, or snapping erections, but the feeling of safety, comfort and contentment as Noah's tongue touched Zach's was more than he could have asked for.
    It was Archer pulling at their shirts and lifting himself up that startled the in the end. The little guy needed attention and while their left their foreheads connected, they gave their attention to Archer.
    Eventually the fans started trickling in, asking for autographs and pictures, and when they started inquiring about Zach and Archer, both of them knew it was time to go.
    They said their goodbyes, deciding not to kiss again in public and when Zach finally got back home he knew that was the best day he'd had in quite a while.

    Phone calls and text messages followed. Long conversations and casual moments worth mentioning, and soon Zach knew he was in love again. He thought about Noah almost as much as he did about Archer and although it took him close to a year, Zach was truly happy again.
    "You'll have to let us meet him." Michael said one weekend, after Noah sent him a message about wishing all paparazzi got their naked pictures posted online.
    "You will. I think it might be time." Zach smiled, feeling content.
    "It's that serious?" G asked from the couch where he had Archer on his knees, watching cartoons.
    "I haven't seen him naked, and I want to marry him." Zach said, gripping the phone in his hand.
    "Wow, that is serious." Michael said.
    "Zach and Noah, sitting in a tree…" G sang, doing a little dance with Archer.
    "I would hit you, but you're holding a child." Michael said, while Zach just chuckled.
    "Come on, you've been wanting Zach to fall in love for ages. Don't be a spoil sport now." Isn't that right Archer?" He leaned down to Archer as he spoke.
    "G…Tree." Archer almost yelled leaving them all stunned for a moment.
    "That's just great. Now I've got tree and G. How about you teach him to say dad?" Zach sat straight and grumbled annoyed.
    "It's not my fault I'm so amazing little kids can't help it but idolize me."
    "Stuck up… something." Michael said, catching himself just before a curse slipped out and G chuckled at him.
    "He's coming over this weekend. Can you watch Archer for a few hours?"
    "Sure. We'll pick up the little rascal, go to the beach." Michael replied, giving Zach a glass of juice.
    "Thanks."
    "I would sing a song about that too, but then you would blame me for worse words than 'tree'." G gave his two cents.
    "Tree." Archer said again and Zach had to smile. He loved his son.

    When Noah came over that weekend, Zach had cooked. Music was playing in the background and he had on his nice clothes. He hadn't seen Noah in a couple of weeks and couldn't quite contain his excitement.
    "You're here." He said almost out of breath once he opened the door of his apartment.
    "Paparazzi couldn't have stopped me." Noah said with a smile.
    "Come in, please."
    "I think I will, sweetcheeks." Noah gave him a blue rose centered on a peacock's feather.
    "Thank you. That's pretty much beautiful." Zach held it gently, afraid of breaking it somehow. He didn't think he ever got flowers before. Or a flower, as it were.
    "Well I'm a peacock, I wanted you to have a piece of me." Noah said as he came closer, pushing the door closed behind him.
    Then Zach noticed the difference in Noah, a rock star as he'd never seen him before. Freckles covered his whole face, they were just everywhere, and as Noah smiled Zach knew he that was it for him. Those eyes took his breath away and Noah's confidence almost had him dropping to his knees.
    But Noah wrapped his hands around his waist, pulled him against his tight body. He gently took the rose from his hand and placed it on the table then pushed his fingers through Zach's hair, wrapping them around his neck.
    "I've wanted you for myself for months." Noah whispered, only a breath away from Zach's lips.
    "I need you." Zach whispered back, holding on tight.
    "Before I kiss you… No, before I start kissing you, because I don't plan on stopping any time soon, I need you to promise me something." Noah rubbed his stubble against Zach's cheek, breathing against his ear.
    "Yeah?" Zach gasped, not even knowing what solid ground meant anymore.
    "I need you to promise me you will always keep your smile. I want you to be happy with me, let me love you, love me back. We will be together forever, the three of us, as long as I can keep that beautiful smile on your face. I don't think I could live without it." Noah rushed through the words, sounding almost desperate.
    "I promise. I promise to keep a smile. For you Noah, anything for you." Zach choked on a cry and jumped at Noah, wrapping his legs around his waist, feeling Noah's hands supporting him.
    "For us, sweetcheeks. Everything is for us." Then Noah kissed him and kept on kissing him.
    That night Zach connected Noah's freckles with his tongue for the first time, felt his naked body against his own and the next morning he met the grumpy version of a rock star. Noah brought glitter into Noah and Archer's lives, but what kept on shining even after the lights went off with each show, were their smiles.

The End


© Valentina Heart, 2012
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