Chapter 1 - "The Kyle-duate"
Oliver Fish opened the rear door of his aged but trusty Jeep and was greeted with a gurgling smile from Sierra Rose.
"Hey there, beautiful," he beamed at his daughter, "ready to go see your daddy graduate?" Sierra answered by giggling and shaking a stuffed, technicolor fish toy at him. Oliver couldn't help but chuckle. Since they had brought the baby home, Kyle had become obsessed with buying her stuffed animals, particularly ones shaped like fish. The one she clutched now – one he had seen in a toy store window on his way home from the hospital – was her favorite.
Slinging his backpack of baby gear higher up on his shoulder, Oliver bent down and carefully unstrapped the car seat straps that he had checked and double-checked before leaving the apartment. He then hoisted the baby into his arms and, despite himself, lightly pressed Sierra to his chest. Reassured to feel her heart beating in a normal rhythm, he closed the car door and started walking towards the outdoor amphitheater on the outskirts of Llanview University's campus.
It was a sunny June morning, almost two months since Sierra Rose had come home with Oliver and Kyle. And as he walked, Oliver felt his insiders warming with a feeling that was practically foreign to him. Pure happiness. Happiness not tainted or diluted by fear or insecurity or shame.
He'd only felt it a few times in his life. During a tipsy afternoon on a Lake Llantano dock when he had realized for the first time that he was in love with Kyle. Less than a year ago in Angel Square when Kyle had halted his wedding to Nick and told Oliver he still loved him. Holding Kyle in his arms after they'd made love on New Year's Eve, listening to fireworks light up the sky. Just the other day when he had come home from work to find Kyle and Sierra Rose snuggled up asleep on the couch together.
As he joined the crowd streaming through the amphitheater's archway, Oliver thought about how much that paralyzing fear had almost cost him, about how much better it felt to face it rather than run or hide from it. He couldn't deny he still had his bouts of guilt, his moments of worry. But on a day like today, with his baby girl safe in his arms and the man that he loved celebrating such a momentous accomplishment, the happiness…it washed everything else away.
"Baby daddy…up in front!" Oliver was pulled from his thoughts by the unmistakable voice of Roxanne Balsom. Glancing around, he quickly spotted her near the stage, frantically bouncing up and down in an effort to get his attention.
Not that she needed to bother; Roxy always stood out in a crowd. Today, for example, her hair was complexly constructed atop her head and she was dressed like she was attending Mother's Day brunch at a rock concert. Oliver admittedly didn't always understand Roxy and could at times find her manic energy…overwhelming. But she loved Kyle and Sierra fiercely and unapologetically and that meant everything in Oliver Fish's book.
"How's the lil' guppy today? She doesn't have that…whatchamacallit…cauliflower thing, does she?" Roxy exclaimed in a rush as Oliver approached. The words were barely out of her mouth before she plucked the baby from Oliver's arms and proceeded to make goofy faces at her. Sierra Rose squealed with delight and thrust her free hand into the mess of curls on Roxy's head.
"Colic?" Oliver translated with a smile in his voice. "Nooo…she's completely healthy. In fact, she passed her check-up yesterday with flying colors."
"Thatta girl! Last thing the lot of us needs is another downer…" Roxy's words made Oliver's insides lurch. Collapsing into his seat, thoughts of the past few months, thoughts of the turmoil he and Kyle and Roxy and especially Sierra Rose had experienced flooded his mind. Was he being naïve or repressing the truth again? Could they really just put all that had happened behind them?
"...not when things are getting so good, huh Oli?" Roxy winked as she plopped the baby into his lap and gave his free hand a squeeze.
Feeling the tension swim out of his system, Oliver smiled and squeezed her hand in return. When Roxy was right, she was right.
Kyle Lewis felt like pinching himself.
Surrounded by the bubbling, excited members of Llanview University College of Medicine's Class of 2010, he was uncharacteristically quiet, reflecting back with a wry smile stretched across his face on everything he had gone through to get to this moment.
Hell, just a year ago, he didn't think he'd ever see the day he'd be able to call himself Dr. Kyle Lewis. He had been kicked out of the program. Fired from his lab tech job at Llanview Hospital. Was facing criminal charges for blackmailing Natalie and Jared Banks. Was still entangled with Stacy Morasco and that whole stem cell fiasco. And on top of all that, it was also when he'd lost Rebec…
Then there was Oliver. Who, when he stumbled back into Kyle's life, could barely look him in the eyes, would tense up every time they were in the same room together, slicing back open all the paper cuts on Kyle's heart that he had tried to so hard to heal.
Kyle had once likened the events of last spring and summer to being trapped in his own personal hell and he had meant that in every sense. But, he realized as he twisted the tassel on his mortarboard around his finger, suffering through all that made the good things in his life now shine that much brighter. He was finally finished with medical school and he was excited about starting his career. He was lucky enough to be a father to an amazing little girl like Sierra Rose. But the best part was Oliver; opening his heart back up to him had been the best decision Kyle had ever made.
Sure…going from dating to living together and raising an infant hadn't been without its hiccups. But from when he woke up in the morning to Sierra's cries over the baby monitor to when he climbed into bed at night and found Oliver's hand when he reached for it, Kyle couldn't imagine being happier with the life he was living.
The opening strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" filled Kyle's ears, bringing him back to the present. The excitement of the moment flooding his senses, he quickly readjusted his cap and shuffled back into line between Sherry Kobach and Laurence Luong. He then followed his fellow graduates out onto the amphitheater's stage, where they were met with polite applause from the audience.
And there, cheering from the very first row, was his family. The family he had forged for himself out of scraps and luck. Oliver…his handsome face full of teeth as he smiled up at Kyle. Sierra…excitedly thrusting the fish toy he'd bought her (which he was secretly thrilled was her favorite) towards the stage as he crossed her eye line. Roxy…somehow managing to snap pictures and whistle wildly and wave her arms with abandon.
His family…all that was missing was Rebec…
Not today, Kyle scolded himself as he took his seat and graced his family with his biggest grin. This was his day and he was going to enjoy every damn minute of it.
Twenty minutes after the graduation ceremony had ended, Kyle offered one more congratulations to his first-year lab partner and then crossed the lawn outside the amphitheater to where Oliver and Roxy were waiting for him with Sierra Rose.
"There he is…my boyfriend, the doctor!" Oliver exclaimed as he spotted him walking up. Passing Sierra off to Roxy, he pulled Kyle into a big hug as soon as he was close enough.
"That's me!" Kyle replied, his ear-to-ear grin a mirror image of Oliver's as they wrapped their arms around each other. "And lucky for you, Officer Fish," he continued, whispering huskily into his ear, "I make house calls." Blushing, Oliver managed to choke out a chuckle around the horny lump in his throat.
"Seriously, Kyle…I am so proud of you." Oliver then brought his face to Kyle's and their lips met in a deep kiss. It was far from their first, but it amazed them both how much of a rush it still was all these years later.
"Awww…I could watch you cuties do that all day. Isn't that right, Sequoia?" Roxy purred. Sierra chose that moment to let loose a gassy burp, eliciting loving laughter from her fathers. Kyle moved over to Roxy, planted a sweet peck on her cheek, and then reached for the squirming baby in her arms.
"C'mere, gorgeous," Kyle drawled. Sierra cooed with joy being in Kyle's embrace and good-naturedly started bopping him on the head with her fish toy. The sight made Oliver's heart swell.
"Alright boys, let me get this precious momento on film," Roxy said, tottering backwards on her impractical heels to get the two men and their baby into frame.
Turning towards Roxy, Oliver slung an arm over Kyle's shoulder, the same way he had what felt like a million years ago on a football field down the street. And as the shutter on Roxy's camera clicked, both guys smiled wider as they realized they were taking their first family photo.
Next up…Kyle and Oliver consider the future.