The bus was quiet. My mouthwash was empty. I pressed my hands against the sink and looked at my reflection.
Last night I was one half of the Wahlberg-Carter wild-and-crazy guy troupe.
Today I was a...a dad.
My tongue burned from the power of the spearmint wash. For the first time in my life, I had a fear of penises. I had never seen anything like it. The kid was possessed. Who peed in another person's mouth?
Okay, so there was that one porno I saw...
Shivering just from the thought of the golden stream drenching me, I grabbed a cup of water, tilted my head back and gargled. I spit out into the sink and then opened my shower. There was no way in hell I was touching the contents of the diaper. I headed out to the living room and grabbed a NKTOBSB glow stick and a Wal-mart bag. Using the glow stick as a skewer, I dumped the diaper and ran nilly-willy to the door.
"You son of a bitch."
I skidded to a stop. AJ was standing right outside my bus, his hand propped up on the side. His eyes were narrowed.
"I just heard, no saw, the news."
I decided to play dumb. "What news?"
"The kid! You asshole! I was supposed to be the next one in line. You ruined the order!"
Now I didn't even have to play dumb. I just was confused. "Hunh?"
"It's like Final Destination. Ro and I were the next ones in line to have a baby. Now you've messed up the earthly order."
I shook my head. "You don't understand. It's not my fault."
AJ stopped glaring. Instead, his nose wrinkled in disgust.
I lifted the bag. "Dirty diaper."
AJ's hand clamped over his nose. "That's gross."
"Tell me about it!"
He suddenly turned curious. "What are you gonna do with it?"
"What am I gonna do with it? I'm going to throw it away!"
J lowered his hand and smiled. "I have a better idea," he said, his voice dropping to a whisper.
He had my attention. "What is it?"
AJ turned his head. I followed his gaze and grinned. He was staring right at Danny's bus.
"Now that you're a dad, you probably wouldn't appreciate the humor," J said lightly.
"First off, I don't know that I'm the kid's dad. And secondly...I so appreciate the humor. Let's do it."
We both hunched down. Halfway across the lot I saw Leighanne leaning over Brian's shoulder. He was holding Bentley. For a second I almost felt jealous. Brian was so perfect at that kind of stuff.
I shook my head. I was on a mission. Feeling very Tom Cruise-esque, ala Mission Impossible, AJ and I flipped and crawled our way through the busses. AJ got there first. He pried open Danny's door. We listened for a moment. Empty. I darted inside.
"Where should I put it?" I called out in a loud whisper.
"Under his bed!"
Thankfully all of the NKOTBSB busses were laid out the same. I quickly scampered to the bedroom. I didn't waste any time kicking the bag under the bed. The first thing I saw was a large stain on the covers that sent an image into my mind that I couldn't get out. I turned around and hauled ass back outside.
"Success," I confirmed. We high-fived. J gasped.
"Woody, four o'clock!"
We took off away from the bus. I wanted to go lock myself back in my own, but AJ tugged me in the direction of Brian's. As we walked, he sniffed the air. "Why do I smell pee?"
"The kid peed on me. In my mouth."
A loud laugh filled the air.
"That's great. No need for a DNA test. That's something only a Carter would do."
He slapped me on the back.
"By the way, you owe me a cigar, Carter."
"He is so adorable, Nick," Leighanne cooed, running her fingertip across Bentley's cheek. I stared down at the baby, wanting to agree but not being able to get my mouth around the words. He was heavy in my arms, that kind of heavy babies get when you've held them a long time but still don't want to put them down just yet. I smiled and made my best Donald Duck face down at the little baby. He reached a chubby hand up and grabbed my lips.
"Yeah he's great," Nick answered, "Look, don't get attached to it."
I looked up. "Bentley, Nick," I said, "His name is Bentley."
"Okay first of all, I don't know that kid is mine," he said without reacting to my name correction. I scowled.
AJ glanced over the end of Bentley's toes at his crop of wirey blonde hair and wildly blue eyes. AJ looked up at Nick. "Dude he's so you," he said, "Look at his goofy ears."
Nick glowered. "Look I don't know that 'til I get an eternity test."
"Paternity," I corrected.
"What-the-fuck-ever," Nick answered. "I don't know it's mine until I get - get that done." He stared at me as I dipped my nose against the baby's nose. "Second of all no matter what either way I can't keep it," he added.
Leighanne and I looked up in what seemed like one motion. "What?" we both demanded. "What are you going to do with him?" Leighanne asked, her hands hovering over Bentley protectively.
"I dunno, there's tons of like adoption places or whatever," Nick replied with a shrug, "Someone is bound to be interested in a kid with my DNA in it."
"Him, Nick," I snapped, "Bentley is a him, not an it. Stop calling him it, it's disturbing."
"It's not like he understands what I'm saying," Nick growled, "I don't wanna get attached. I don't want this kid."
As though on cue, as though he could understand, little Bentley broke into sobbing wails. Nick covered his ears again and stomped his feet. "This is what I'm talking about," he shouted, "I can't fucking stand children, why the frig would I want to keep one that shows up in the mail?"
My heart felt heavy. I stared down at Bentley and something welled up in me. I looked up at Nick. "You're a fucking coward."
"Brian," Leighanne hissed. Her eyes traveled from my face to the baby, who continued to cry.
I pushed Bentley into her arms. Nick was staring at me wide-eyed. "That's right, Carter," I snapped, stepping up to him, "You're a coward. You're scared because your old man was a fuck-up that you're gonna fuck-up, too. Well guess what? You aren't gonna fuck-up, you aren't. This kid needs a father. Just because you didn't get one doesn't mean he doesn't need one. He doesn't need adoption, he needs you, he needs his father."
Nick's eyes had travelled down to the cement at some point during my miniature speech. He studied the toes of his stupid construction boots. After a long moment, he looked up at me and our eyes connected. "I can't do it alone," he muttered.
I put a hand on his shoulder. "I didn't expect you to."