Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Chapter 8

"We've got food here guys, we really don't need to go into town," Alexis protested even as she helped Rad fasten in the carseat.

"But I don't," said Carlos.

"I offered to share with you, bro," Rad pointed out.

"Yeah, 'cause half a turkey sandwich is sure to fill us up," Carlos said rolling his eyes. He pointedly ignored the suspicion written clearly on Rad's face.

"Why didn't you just pack a lunch?" Alexis demanded, leaving Rad to finish deciphering the instruction label by himself.

"Didn't really think about it. Between putting up with Verda all night and then Lucas crying every five seconds I'm lucky I remembered to change my shirt," said Carlos with a yawn. He was really tired.

"Carlos is lucky to remember how to shower, and that's on a good day," Rad grouched.

"Whatever." Carlos refused to rise to the bait. "Don't you have to check your P.O. Box?"

Rad frowned. He was expecting his divorce papers any day now. If they arrived today he wanted to get a hold of them first thing. He wouldn't put it past Verda to try and get a hold of them. Though she didn't have a key, it was a small town post office. The postmaster, even knowing about the separation, might just hand over the box's contents on request.

"We can swing by and grab your mail on the way back from lunch," Carlos offered.

Tempting, but Carlos was up to something. There was no way that this wasn't part of some diabolical plan he'd cooked up for his own purposes. On the other hand he was hungry. With a final tug and snap the carseat was firmly fastened in. He held his arms out to Carlos, who handed him Lucas.

"Who's paying for this?" Rad asked, gently maneuvering the child into the seat. He then began the arduous process of strapping the baby in.

"Well, I figured we could split the cost," said Carlos, eyeing Rad with suspicion.

"Well from the looks of things I'm gonna need a good lawyer soon. Those don't come cheap, bro," Rad replied, finishing the final snap. "I need to start saving up soon."

"Ten bucks isn't going to break you, man," Carlos rolled his eyes.

He had a point, Rad conceded mentally.

"I'll pay for your meal, if you're that strapped for cash Rad," Alexis offered.

Rad grit his teeth as he was sure Carlos was doing a mental victory dance. Now he had to go. "I'm not that broke yet, Alexis," he assured her. "Where do you two want to eat?"

***

All in all, it could have been worse.

The family run pizza joint in town was inexpensive with a cozy, friendly atmosphere. Rad had spent many a Friday evening in here with his parents, enjoying the good pizza and excellent cheese fries. He'd never brought a date here, preferring to do his wooing at the elegant Chinese place off of Main Street. He had come here with Carlos and Alexis before, both individually and as a group. Homecoming and Prom Night had found the three of them here during their senior year of high school since for some reason none of them had managed to get dates for those dances, or more likely hadn't cared to.

A friendly waitress showed them to a booth by the window. She laid out the menus and place setting and took their drink orders. Rad declined her offer to fetch a highchair for Lucas. The infant could barely hold his head up on his own, much less support himself in the over large highchair. The baby was better off staying in his carrier seat. After the waitress left to get their drinks, the friends settled in to peruse the menus, Carlos and Alexis on one side of the booth and Rad and Lucas on the other.

"The meatlovers sounds good to me," said Alexis.

"I'm leaning more toward Hawaiian," Carlos admitted.

"I'll do either," said Rad. "Just make sure we get plenty of cheese fries."

Rad took a deep breath, sniffing the air. "Damnit," he groaned. "We'll be back," he said, grabbing Lucas's diaper bag from next to his feet. Standing, he lifted Lucas's carrier seat and headed for the restrooms. After an embarrassing conversation with the manager, he was allowed to use the changing table in the women's restroom, as the men's room didn't have one and he refused to lay Lucas down anywhere as unhygienic as the men's room floor.

By the time he got back to the booth, the appetizers were getting cold. "Mozzarella sticks?" he asked dubiously. Rad had never been fond of the stringy dish.

"Your fries'll come with the pizzas," Carlos promised.

Rad nodded and snagged one of the sticks out of hunger. He nibbled on the end, enjoying the breading's flavor. "What kinda pizza did you order?"

"Two mediums instead of a large, one meatlovers, one Hawaiian," said Alexis.

"Rock, papers, scissors was a draw," Carlos shrugged.

Rad snorted. Just like high school.

Moments passed in companionable silence, only broken by Lucas's occasional coos of contentment as he watched the waitresses moving back and forth. "He's pretty alert for a newborn," Alexis commented. "How old is he?"

"Five weeks," Carlos answered.

Rad frowned. He'd thought the baby wasn't due until last Friday. "He doesn't look premature."

"I don't think he is," Carlos replied.

Rad eyed the child again. Verda had gotten the conception date wrong by nearly a month. That meant she could have already been pregnant when she started the physical aspect of her affair with Jace. Rad put it from his mind. No use wondering about it until the results were in.

"So Rad, where are you working anyway?" Alexis asked.

"The Research Center. I'm working in their IT department with the Geographic Information Systems. You?"

"Independent computer company. I'm in management," Alexis replied.

"So you boss around the nerds?" Rad smiled.

"Not much has changed in that respect," said Alexis.

"Hey, we weren't nerds," Carlos protested.

"Sure you weren't," Alexis mock agreed.

"We weren't. We were rebels," Carlos insisted.

Alexis laughed. "Rebels, huh? Without a cause? Or just without sense?"

"Without something," Rad admitted.

"No kidding," said Alexis.

"Hermaño, you're supposed to be agreeing with me," Carlos groused.

"I call 'em how I see 'em, bro," Rad shrugged.

Lucas let out a whine and began to fidget. The baby scrunched up his face and began to wail.

"Not again," Carlos groaned.

"Is he hungry?" Alexis asked.

"I hope so, I just changed him," Rad grumbled. He lifted Lucas out of his carrier and cradled him in his arms. "Carlos, can you hand me a bottle?"

Carlos snatched a bottle out of the diaper bag and held it out. Rad and Alexis fixed him with matching stares. "What?"

"Boys," Alexis hissed, snatching the bottle from Carlos. She shook it and then squeezed the bottle liner to get the air out before handing the bottle to Rad. Rad took it and after minimal coaxing got Lucas to take the teat in his mouth.

Lucas continued to suckle on the bottle until the pizzas arrived. He began to fidget again and spat out the bottle allowing a good bit of formula to dribble down his chin. Making a guess, Rad pulled a dish rag out of the diaper bag and lay it over his shoulder. "Let's hope that he just needs to be burped."

"Hope that's all he does," Carlos muttered.

Rad grimaced but had to agree. He didn't want to end up covered in baby vomit before lunch. Besides, he'd already changed shirts once today since wandering around wearing a snot-covered shirt really hadn't appealed to him.

Gently laying Lucas against his chest, positioned so that any baby spittle should be caught by the dish rag, Rad began patting the baby's back. It took several minutes before Lucas gave a hearty belch accompanied by a warm sensation leaking through the rag on Rad's shoulder.

"Ew," Rad muttered.

"Could be worse," Alexis pointed out. "My cousin's baby got sick all over the font of my best work blouse."

"…Thanks, Alexis."

***

Red Alert was not pleased with his results.

Lucas was B positive.

While not confirming anything, it did not rule Rad out as a possible father to the child. He'd hoped to have more promising results for his young friend, but instead he was just adding more questions.

Sighing, Red Alert put his disappointment aside. He still had time to run a few web searches and hopefully find a credible DNA testing center or paternity lab for Rad to consult with.

***

"Are you sure it hasn't come in yet?" Rad asked the postmaster.

"Sorry, Bradley. If it's not in your P.O. Box then it didn't come in today," the postmaster, a middle aged woman with blonde hair, answered.

Rad sighed. "Could the carrier have taken it to Carlos's house by mistake?"

"Only if his address was on the package. Did you give your lawyer your P.O. Box number or Carlos's address," the Postmaster asked.

"I hope I gave them my P.O. Box number. I'll have to call and ask when I get home." Rad sighed. It was going to be one of those days. Maybe he could talk Sideswipe into swinging by Carlos's place on the way back to the base.

***

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me," Rad grumbled as they pulled up in front of Carlos's house.

A familiar red mustang was parked in the driveway. Leaning against it was a handsome Hispanic man. He wore a tight t-shirt, showing off his well muscled chest and arms, along with blue jeans that clung in the appropriate places to make a woman sit up and take notice. Clutched in his hand were a dozen pink roses, Verda's favorite.

"Who is that?" Alexis asked as they pulled to a stop. The hint of appreciation in her tone didn't escape Rad. "A cousin of yours, Carlos?"

"Not any that I know of," Carlos answered with a hint of trepidation. "Do you know him, Rad?"

Rad didn't answer, but threw the door open and climbed out of Sideswipe's back seat and stalked over to stand by Carlos's mailbox.

The other man tensed when he saw Rad, but as his gaze wandered over the other occupants of the car and didn't find the face he was looking for he relaxed. "What are you doing here?" the man demanded of Rad.

"Looking for my divorce papers. You?" Rad countered.

"Looking for the woman I love," the man answered.

"If you love her, Jace, why the hell did she show up here trying to get me back, swearing you two were through?" Rad asked.

"That is not my child," Jace said, nodding toward the car where Lucas was happily napping, as though that explained everything.

"You were sleeping with a married woman, Jace. You had to know that there was at least a fifty-fifty shot that the kid wasn't yours."

Jace flinched. "Verda said you weren't together often."

"We were sleeping together right up until she ran off with you," Rad told him bluntly.

"I love her," Jace said.

"That's your problem. In the meantime," Rad pulled a large yellow package from the mailbox, "I've got some paperwork to sign and have filed."

Rad turned and headed back toward Sideswipe. "Verda'll probably be back in a few hours," he called over his shoulder.

Sliding back into Sideswipe's back seat, Rad clutched the package like a life line. "Just drive please."

Sideswipe did.

AN: I'll be posting a cleaned up version of this story on my livejournal if anyone's interested. The link on my profile.