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Chapter 56 – Returning What Belongs

“Nicky, no, I don’t want to go up there. I’ll just go to my room and get my stuff,” Cheyanne explained with a soft whine to her voice as she tried to pry Nick’s hand from her wrist, frantically attempting to get away as he pulled her to the elevator. After waking up late from the other hotel, Nick had suggested they return to get some fresh clothes. Cheyanne had agreed somewhat with the decision, though he didn’t give much room for argument. That is, until he suggested that she just come to the Penthouse and steal some of his clothing. She knew exactly who was up in the Penthouse and her heart didn’t have the strength to see him again. Actually, it felt like it might leap from her chest as it pounded furiously with dread. “Nicky, please--”

"Sweetheart, my room is right next to the living room. You won't see him. I promise," Nick assured her gently as the doors slid shut. Pressing the button for the top floor, he pulled her into his arms. Resting his chin atop her head so she couldn't squirm away, he lightly rubbed her back. "Besides… I promised Brian that we'd take Bay off his hands today so he can go visit… Somebody."

“Then you can go get Baylee and I can go to my room,” Cheyanne decided, turning in Nick’s arms so she wasn’t facing him. Helplessly, she attempted to reach for the buttons to signal the eighth floor, but Nick drew them further away from the buttons than her arm could reach. Sticking her tongue out with determination, she grunted with frustration, hearing Nick chuckle. She turned around to push on his chest. “It’s not funny!”

"Chey, Sweetheart… I know what's going to happen if you go to your room," Nick told her with a serious expression. "You'll sit there and stew, then when me and Bay get there you'll announce that you're just going home--Don't try to deny it," he said quickly when she opened her mouth to interrupt.

“I need my own clothes,” Cheyanne murmured, refusing to answer the previous comment. Truth be told, she had no desire to spend the next two days at the hotel, though Austin had already expressed her desire to stay for the boys’ few days off. Cheyanne had just figured she could go home with Billy and Jeff, not having to worry about the heartache that faced her at the hotel. Though she had confessed to Nick that she loved him, she couldn’t help but think about Howie. There had been so much between them… So much that was hard to forget…

"Those pants are still clean… And you can wear one of my shirts… If nothing else, you can keep me company while I change, then we can skip down to your room, okay?" he suggested softly, kissing her lightly on the nose when she wrinkled it.

“It’s like I’m on hotel arrest,” Cheyanne sighed dramatically when the elevator doors slid open and Nick drew her out. “And I’m so taking my love back, y’know that?”

"You'd really take your love back?" Nick questioned with a pout.

“Damn straight--” Cheyanne’s declaration stopped halfway when Nick slide his key card into his hotel room, ushering her inward. And she bit down hard on her bottom lip when she noticed the tank top he had stolen from her was draped over his favorite pillow. Turning, she noticed the hurt in his eyes and sighed. “I’d never take my love back, Nicky. Sorry…”

"So does that mean I get to steal this?" he murmured, dropping a kiss to her shoulder. His teeth caught the strap and pulled it aside, and he slipped away when she poked his chest. "Sorry… Love you," he crooned, cupping her face in his hands so he could kiss her gently. When she relaxed, he smiled, motioning her to the bed to sit as he emptied his pockets on the dresser.

“This baby-doll is just not your style, Nicky,” Cheyanne promised with a rueful smile, easing the strap back over her shoulder as she laid on his bed. She curled against his pillows with a soft sigh, just watching him as she brought her fingers lazily through her still damp curls. “Clashes with your tattoos.”

"I was thinking of stealing it to sleep with… But I could wear it under a t-shirt on stage?" Nick gave her a grin, tossing his phone atop the things he'd removed from his pockets. The sight of the ring and necklace Howie had given her gave him pause, and he quickly glanced back at her, smiling when he saw the silver ring on her left hand. She'd made the switch the night before, had given him such a sweet smile while she did it he'd felt his heart somersault in his chest. God, how he loved her. Scooping up the ring and necklace, he kicked off his shoes. "I'll be right back, Sweetheart," he murmured.

“I’m stealing a t-shirt,” Cheyanne told him, oblivious to his intentions as she moved toward his suitcase.

"Help yourself," he called sweetly before heading down the hall.

“Nick! You’re back! Where’s Chey? Is she okay?” Brian hurriedly blurted when Nick actually sauntered into the living room area, flabbergasted to see Brian, Austin, Kevin, and AJ lounging. They looked to have been in deep conversation about the most obvious incident, especially when their gazes switched to Howie’s closed bedroom door and back to Nick.

"Brian! I'm back! She's in my room, stealing a shirt. And yes, she's okay!" Nick exclaimed with a roll of his eyes, flopping down next to Brian on the couch. Glancing around, he saw AJ's worried expression, Austin's somewhat pleased smile, and Kevin's… Kevin's face was blank, he realized. Which couldn't be good. "Has he been out yet?" he asked, jerking a thumb at Howie's door.

“Not since you went chasing Cheyanne down the hall,” AJ murmured, flicking his gaze back to the door once more. “It’s been seriously quiet… He hasn’t made any kind of sounds.. And he should be pissed or… He just should be something.”

Nick shrugged casually, glancing down at his closed hand. "Well, it's not my fault he's a heartless pissfuck, is it?" he questioned, glancing up when Howie's door flung open.

"Oh, shit," Austin breathed, scooting closer to Kevin.

“Hey, you need someone to dress Baylee, right?” AJ suggested toward Brian, springing off the couch when Howie entered the large living room. Immediately, the numb man’s dark eyes moved over the occupants, settling finally on Nick. And, AJ wanted to be no where near this mess, gesturing wildly toward Brian’s bedroom. “Something cute for Chey, right?”

"He's already dressed, J… He was dressed at seven o'clock this morning in his Nemo scrubs," Brian informed him softly.

“Well, he still needs someone to play with!” AJ answered, hurrying quickly down the hallway while calling Baylee loudly.

"He's asleep!" Brian bellowed after him.

"God, he's such a pussy," Austin grumbled, shaking her head.

"Hey, D… I've got something for you," Nick stated calmly, his gaze on the coffee table littered with the remnants of the morning paper.

“What could you possibly have for me, Nick?” Howie sighed, moving toward the kitchen for some coffee. The second Cheyanne had left the penthouse was the moment that the warmth was stripped from his heart. He had felt so cold as he laid in bed for the entire night, just staring at the ceiling. The emptiness in his heart was so deep that he couldn’t even muster the strength to cry. He was just there. Absolved in nothingness.

Getting to his feet, Nick eyed the older man's back as he continued to the kitchen. "It's something you gave Chey that she doesn't want anymore."

Austin’s dark brows furrowed in confusion as Howie turned back to Nick, but when she saw Nick’s hand curled into a tight fist, she breathed in surprise. She immediately leaned forward to say something, knowing exactly what Nick was returning for Cheyanne, but Kevin capped a hand over her mouth and held her still. He wanted her no where near this mess and Brian seemed to agree as he shifted uncomfortably.

"Here," Nick offered, holding out his hand to the stricken Howie. "She said she doesn't want to keep them now," he added.

"Good God," Brian breathed, eyes wide as he watched Howie reach out to take the items in Nick's hand. "That's--"

"Her engagement ring," Austin finished after wrenching Kevin's hand from her face. "Holy shit."

“Her necklace, too,” Nick reminded the audience as he kept his gaze steady on Howie.

"Tell me something, Nick. Did she take it off before or after you had sex with her?" Howie questioned ominously, wrenching the jewelry from the younger man's hands. The fact she didn't want them hurt enough. Having Nick bring them to him hurt even worse.

Brian sat up fully. "Howie--"

"Come off it, Brian. We all know he's been fucking her brains out since the bed and breakfast." His eyes snapping up to meet Nick's, Howie glared at him. "Does she know that the moment you're tired of screwing around with her you'll drop her?"

“Y’know what, Howie, you can suck my--”

"Nicky?" Cheyanne's soft voice interrupted, causing a thick tension to ripple through the living room like a sharp gunshot. Though, she didn't have a clue what she was stepping into, especially as she tucked her hands inside Nick's t-shirt, her damp curls curling sweetly against her shoulders. She had hoped to just find Baylee and get away for the day. Far away. Though, all the color seemed to drain from her face when she saw what Howie was clutching. More importantly, when she saw Howie.

Stepping over to her, Nick draped his arm protectively around her shoulders, holding her close even as Howie glowered at her. "It's okay, Sweetheart… Let's go get Bay and leave," he murmured.

Cheyanne uncomfortably shrugged Nick’s arm away from her shoulders, furrowing her brows painfully as she kept Howie’s dark gaze. She felt torn between the two men, even though the first had told her to leave the previous night. That he wanted her gone before he said something he would regret. That he didn’t love her. But to see the hurt in his eyes was unbearable. She wanted to tell him that what happened with Nick wasn’t intentional. That she never meant to hurt him, though she loved Nick, too. “Howie--”

"It's too late, Chey," Howie interrupted, shaking his head. Turning away, he went back into his room. "You've obviously made your decision. Go, get Bay, do whatever fun thing you were going to do today." Without a parting glance, he slammed his bedroom door shut.

Austin jerked out of Kevin's arms. "That vile, loathsome, evil little troll!"

“Austi, don’t!” Cheyanne yelped in shock, immediately moving to catch Austin before she had a chance to barge into Howie’s room and beat the living daylights out of him. “It’s my fault! I hurt him!”

"He hurt you first!"

"Princess--"

"Sweetheart--"

"MY ANGEL!"

“I want to go home,” Cheyanne stressed with disbelief, wanting to disappear as she heard Baylee’s furious footsteps hurrying down the hallway. Tears of pain streaked down her cheeks unbeknownst to her, unable to keep from flinching at the furious crashes in Howie’s room. “I shouldn’t be here--”

"Chey, Billy and Jeffie left this morning," Austin murmured.

“What do you mean they left? They were supposed to stay--”

"Kevin asked me to stay with him for the next day or so, and I figured you'd want to stay with Nick… I'm sorry, Chey… They can't be too far up the road now, I'll call Jeffie and tell him to--"

"I can take you home," Nick insisted, reaching to brush the tears from Cheyanne's face. When she shrank away from him he bit back a sigh, deciding that now was probably not the best time to touch her.

"My Angel?" Baylee questioned softly, tugging on the hem of the shirt she was wearing. "We goin' to the kwarum?"

“Darlin’,” Cheyanne sighed as she swallowed the hard lump growing in her throat. She wanted to just scream as loud as she possibly could and demand that Jeff swing around to pick her up. She had no place in this life. Howie had millions of fans that loved him. That he would love more than her. And Nick was probably just being nice. But the hopefulness in Baylee’s brilliant sapphire eyes caused her to crumble. She moved to sit on the couch, opening her arms so she could hold Baylee without hurting him. “Who said we were going to the aquarium?”

"Daddy said Nicky pwomised we'd go out today… I wanna go to the kwarum! Please? See the doffins? And…And… DEY GOTS NEMO!" Baylee's eyes were shining with excitement as he crawled up into her lap. "We c'see lots of fishies, My Angel!"

"We'll go too," Austin said, glancing at Kevin for his approval of her decision. He looked as though he were about to disagree, but instead looked to his cousin.

"What are you going to be doing while Bay drags us all to the aquarium?" he questioned.

“I’ll make sure Howie…” Brian’s voice trailed slightly as he watched Howie’s door slam open. Without any word to anyone, he stalked across the living room with his luggage, making sure the living room door slammed with an equal amount of force. “…Or I’ll take a nap?”

Baylee looked up at Cheyanne, tugging on her shirt when he saw she was looking at the door instead of at him. "Daddy's goin' to visit Snookums," he whispered loudly with a secretive grin.

"Scooper! Go get your backpack, okay? In fact, I'll go help you," Brian suggested, scooping him up and toting him down the hall.

"DON'T LEAVE WITHOUT ME, MY ANGEL!" Baylee shouted.

"Chey," Austin murmured, sitting next to her friend. "C'mon, it's going to be okay…"

“He told me last night that he didn’t love me,” Cheyanne whispered as she stared down at her left hand, playing idly with Nick’s ring. “What was I supposed to do? So many weeks with him acting as if I didn’t exist? I just wanted to be loved… That’s all… But I just ripped his heart out… I want to crawl into a hole and die.”

"I know, Chey… You deserve to be loved. I know this has to be hard for you, but…" Austin trailed softly, wrapping her arms around Cheyanne. "Just give Nick a chance, okay? He does love you, and even though the whole world is turned upside down right now, everything's going to work out. I promise…"

Nick, standing a few feet away, simply stared at the two women. He felt so useless, as though nothing he could do or say would right the many wrongs that had occurred. His heart stopped when Cheyanne lifted her head to glance at him, and when she looked down he felt as though his world were about to come crashing down. "Chey…"

“I didn’t mean to push you away… I’m sorry…” Cheyanne whispered softly, rubbing the tear streaks away from her pale cheeks. She hurt so much on the outside that it didn’t seem fair to make herself suffer on the inside. It didn’t seem fair to hurt Nick in the process.

"C'mere," Nick whispered, stepping forward to pull her up into his arms. "I love you," he murmured in her ear, closing his eyes when her arms slid around his waist. "Come on, let's get you downstairs so you can change for the 'kwarum'."

“I still want to wear your shirt,” Cheyanne told him as she let him usher her toward the door.

Austin watched them leave, turning to Kevin with a smile. "See? It worked out. Nobody got killed. Now, go change."

“Howie is broken, Princess--”

"And Chey's not?"

“I didn’t say she wasn’t--”

"Are we getting into another fight about this already?"

“No,” Kevin sighed, reaching for Austin’s hands to pull her into his room. “We need to get ready for the aquarium. I don’t want Angel anywhere alone with Nick while she’s under this kind of stress. If La-La decided to grace our presence today, Angel would be doomed. ‘Cause he’s a mess when emergencies happen.”

Flopping onto the bed, Austin watched as Kevin began undressing. "I trust Nick, Pretty Boy," she admitted after a moment. "I know you still look on him as an annoying little brother that you never wanted, but he's really good for Chey. And if Howie wasn't such a pissfuck--" Cutting off with a sigh, she shook her head, peeling off her shirt and bra. Throwing it aside, she stood and moved over, reaching past him to snatch the shirt he'd pulled from his suitcase away. "Can you just promise me you'll be decent to him today? 'Cause Chey needs as much relaxation as she can get. When we get home she's going to become depressed and withdrawn, and I know the only thing that'll cheer her up is calls from Boohbah. So don't go fucking that up," she ordered, poking his bare back with her fingernail for emphasis.

Kevin swallowed a sharp comment against Nick’s indecency in the situation, turning to help Austin with his shirt. “For Angel?”

"For her, yes… And for me. And Ollie. And--"

“Don’t say his name.”

"I can't say Baylee's name now?" she murmured, sliding her hands up his chest after he'd gotten his shirt onto her. "What've you got against your baby cousin?"

“I thought you were going to say Nick--” Kevin immediately glared toward Austin’s impish smile, reaching down to capture her lips in a sultry kiss before throwing her playfully on the bed. “You’re horrible! But you’re lucky I love you!”

*~*~*


Perched on Nick's hip, Baylee kept his small arm on Cheyanne's shoulder as they walked into the aquarium. Immediately his mouth dropped open, his eyes widening with childish excitement as he looked around. "LOOK! DEY GOTS TOY NEMOS!" he screeched, pointing across to the gift shop. "My Angel, we go buy a Nemo?"

“If you steal Nicky’s wallet later, I’m sure we can get you a Nemo and I’ll get some dolphins for myself,” Cheyanne promised, leaning to kiss Baylee’s cheek affectionately. Though, he was transferred into her arms easily when the manager of the Georgia Aquarium arrived in the welcoming area in order to thank Nick for his generous donation. He had called ahead in order to request that the aquarium just be open to his private party. Not only did he pay handsomely for their troubles, but made a considerable donation to foundation. Cheyanne had wanted to tell him it was too much, but the excited wonder on Baylee’s face seemed to curb her fretting.

"…No, really, it was a pleasure," Nick was telling the manager with a grin. "We can just take it in on our own, right?"

"Of course, sir, of course. There are plenty of guides around if any of you have any questions… And I believe there is a gift bag for the little one in the gift shop--"

"GIFT BAG?!" Baylee cried as Kevin reached to take him from Cheyanne. Cheyanne glanced back at the older man, about to inform him that she was perfectly capable of holding Baylee, but his stern glance at her stomach made her hold her tongue.

“We’ll get that before we leave,” Austin reminded Baylee with a chide. “Though we should get a wheelchair for the Little Momma--”

“Austin, I’m fine,” Cheyanne answered with a grimace, taking the maps from the manager before he hurried away.

"Are we sticking together or splitting up?" Nick asked, taking a map from Cheyanne to look at it.

"I c'walk!" Baylee insisted, his foot making contact with Kevin's thigh sharply. At his older cousin's sharp gasp, he wriggled to the floor, stepping between Nick and Cheyanne. "Why we couldn't bring Mothie?" he questioned, reaching for Cheyanne's hand.

"I vote for splitting up," Austin murmured, sliding her arm around Kevin's waist to hold him back from attacking Baylee.

“Moth couldn’t come because he’d be jumping in the water trying to eat all the fishies and then one of the bigger fishies would eat him,” Cheyanne told the little boy, leaning slightly to kiss his hand as he giggled, reaching for another map. She gestured toward the picture of the dolphins. “Let’s go there, Darlin’.”

"DOFFINS!" Clutching her hand tightly, Baylee headed towards the closest corridor. "This way!"

"You're going the wrong way!" Nick cried, hurrying after them.

"Come on, Pretty Boy… I want to go kiss some dolphins!"

“I’m coming!” Kevin yelped as Austin yanked on his hand much like Baylee was leading Cheyanne when Nick managed to turn Baylee in the right direction. The oldest stumbled slightly at her sharp pull, trying to read the map while he listened to Baylee’s excited squeals. He was thankful that they had decided to stay together, wanting to watch Cheyanne closely. “This is a dolphin tank where you can touch and feed dolphins… Can I throw Baylee in?”

"No… But you are more than welcome to throw me in… Hell, we'll probably have to hold Chey back to keep her from diving in with them. She loves dolphins…" Austin came to an abrupt stop when they passed a large tank. "Look! Seahorses!" she squealed, leaning close to the glass to get a better look.

“Sidetrack much?” Kevin yelped in shock as she yanked him backward, causing him to run into the tank. Immediately, the delicate creatures went racing to hide behind the seaweed and Kevin received a sharp smack. “Damnit, woman! What?!”

"You scared them!" Austin chided, shaking her head. Glancing down the corridor, she saw Nick, Baylee and Cheyanne walking along, Cheyanne pointing out various creatures to Baylee. "They're so beautiful," she murmured, turning her attention back to the seahorses. "Look! That one's about to have babies!" she cooed, leaning close again. "Did you know that it's the male seahorse that has the babies?"

“Well Hell they scared me,” Kevin muttered, peeling himself away from the glass with a snort. “…And don’t even think about it. You’re going into labor, not me.”

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you didn't like seahorses!"

“I don’t like them putting ideas in your head.”

"It is physiologically impossible for a human male to give birth. Not only is there the question of where the baby would grow, but how the Hell would a man push a seven or eight pound baby out of their penis?" Austin gave him a bright smile, reaching for his hand again before heading after the others. "Besides… I kind of look forward to nine months of being pampered."

“I look forward to nine months of being called a pissfuck fuck nut,” Kevin murmured sarcastically as they finally reached the dolphin cove. Cheyanne and Baylee were already on the ledge which made the dolphins eye level and easy for petting. Cheyanne was leaning slightly with Baylee standing on her knee, excitedly cooing as he gestured to the dolphins toward the middle of the large water source, taking a breath of air. Nick was off to the side, buying fish for Baylee and Cheyanne to feed the dolphins.

"Kevin! I would never call you a pissfuck fuck nut!" Austin breathed, aghast that he would think such a thing. At his relieved smile she couldn't hold back a giggle. "Now, when I'm in the delivery room, squeezing a watermelon out of a hole the size of a walnut--"

"'Rincess! Come look at the doffins!" Baylee called softly.

"Ew, Nicky! Those fish stink!"

“What do you expect them to smell like, Sweetheart? Roses?” Nick scoffed playfully as he watched Kevin and Austin climb onto the platform as well, curling their arms around each other. He smiled at their closeness, hoping he could get Cheyanne into the same position. Though, the smell of fish and Baylee in her lap seemed to ruin the mood.

“You’re not funny,” Cheyanne told him as she took the first cup of fish, letting it rest on the ledge as she watched the dolphins swim near. She smiled when the first approached, a small calf at her side. Cooing, Cheyanne let the first fish slide into the water so the mother could eat by herself before taking one from Baylee’s hand. “Do you see the baby, Darlin’?”

Baylee nodded vigorously, grinning from ear to ear as the dolphin leaned out of the water to take the fish from his hand. "Look! My Angel, her's eatin' from my hand!"

Leaning over, Nick took a fish from the cup, dangling it just beneath the water to attract another dolphin. The look on Cheyanne's face was priceless as Austin extricated herself from Kevin long enough to take a picture. When he heard the high-pitched call, he glanced down, finding himself face to face with a dolphin. "Hey there," he said softly, running his hand gently down the smooth snout.

“My Angel! Nicky’s petting a doffin!” Baylee exclaimed with wonder as Cheyanne gave him another fish to feed the baby. He was oblivious to the fact that Austin was taking several pictures of him with Nick and Cheyanne. Instead, when the baby’s snout bumped into his hand, he squealed with excitement. “My Angel! D’ats me as a doffin! Then you the Mommy and Nicky has the Daddy!”

“Oh yeah? Is that how it works?” Cheyanne laughed softly as Baylee scooped up another fish to feed the smallest dolphin. She watched the baby release a series of squeals and clicks, ducking underneath the water for a moment before resurfacing to blow a wet raspberry at Baylee, who giggled immensely. Smiling, Cheyanne grasped a fish, offering her hand toward the mother. She took it without complaint, seeming to smile at Cheyanne as she brushed her head underneath her hand. Cooing, Cheyanne leaned to give the dolphin an affectionate rub along the side, her sapphire eyes lighting with adoration when the dolphin raised up from the water to actually kiss Cheyanne.

"Nicky! Look!" Baylee cried excitedly.

"I see," Nick replied with a grin, sliding closer to Cheyanne and Baylee. "That's a lucky dolphin, huh?"

"Kevvy, here, feed one," Austin suggested, sliding a cup of fish towards him. "And I'll take your picture…"

“Why don’t I feed you one?” Kevin suggested, picking the icy, slimy fish up from the cup by its tail, wiggling it toward his lover with a playful amusement.

"Kevin! Get that thing away!" she shrieked, shoving at his chest.

Nick looked over with a grin. "Yo, Kev, watch out! Don't fall in the--"

Kevin yelped in horror as he lost his footing against the ledge, causing him to fall against the cement wall which divided the humans from the beautiful dolphin tank. For a moment, he thought he was going to land in the beautiful blue waters, forever cursed to swim amongst them and eat salty, cold fish. But, by miracle alone, he managed to catch himself against the edge, just inches from plunging into the water. A majority of the dolphins scattered away in fear, causing Baylee to growl with annoyance. “You scared My Angel’s doffins away!” Though, the male dolphin seemed to appreciate Baylee’s annoyance, sending a quite pinch of his snout to Kevin’s backside.

Austin howled with laughter when Kevin jerked away from the tank, grateful she'd snapped a picture just in time. When he leaned against the railing of the platform, she offered him an apologetic smile. "I'm--sorry--" she choked out amidst giggles. "You're welcome to--feed me the--fish now?"

“I’m going to kill you,” Kevin threatened with a strangled voice, hopping off the platform to wait on the benches, far away from the vicious creatures and his evil lover.

"I'll po'tect you, My 'Rincess," Baylee promised.

"Bay… You want to go get something for me?" Nick whispered in his ear. Kevin was tired of the dolphins, maybe he could get him to go with the boy… And Austin too…

“Whaddya want?” Baylee questioned warily, rolling his eyes as he scooped up another slimy fish to feed to the baby who had returned. He wanted no part of Nick’s antics, perfectly content on Cheyanne’s lap, watching her enjoy the dolphins.

"I want you to go with Kev and Austi to the gift shop and get something special for your Angel, okay? And I mean something very special," Nick whispered, slipping some cash into the pocket of Baylee's scrub top. "And then while you're there, you can get that gift bag…"

“Shopping for My Angel?” Baylee whispered incredulously, glancing down at his pocket and then back to Nick. “And my gift bag?!”

"Yeah… And when you do all that, me and Chey will meet you at the tank with the Nemo fish, okay?"

“Otay!” Baylee squealed, squirming to turn in Cheyanne’s arms. He leaned up to kiss Cheyanne affectionately before hopping from her lap. She looked shocked at his dismissal, watching him hurry to Austin to whisper excitedly to her. Once he was sure she understood, Baylee grasped tightly to Austin’s hand, tugging her from the platform. “Bye-Bye, My Angel! See you at Nemo fishies! Like my ‘rubs! ‘Member! No forget!”

"We won't!" Nick promised with a grin as Baylee rushed to Kevin to whisper. A moment later Kevin shot him a suspicious glance. Nick thought for one brief moment that he would refuse to go, but Austin caught his hand and tugged him away, Baylee crying for them to hurry up. Releasing a breath of relief, he flashed a sweet grin at Cheyanne.

“Why’d you get rid of my Darlin’?” Cheyanne murmured with a wry smile, reaching for another fish to feed the mother dolphin who had finally circled back. She laughed when the dolphin slurped it up with pleasure, swinging to her side to get a few scratches. Cheyanne loved the feel of her wet, rubbery skin, squealing softly with excitement as the dolphin spoke to her before turning onto her back for tummy rubs, which Cheyanne obliged.

"You want the truth?"

“It would be nice?” Cheyanne returned softly as the baby swam underneath his mother in order to get a few more slips of fish, which she nudged Nick to do. “…I’m done with lies.”

Leaning over to feed the baby, Nick offered a few gentle rubs to his stomach. "I wanted to be alone with my Sweetheart for a few minutes?"

“Well, you got me, not that we’re alone,” Cheyanne answered, rubbing the snout of the mother as she popped up from the water once more.

"Now I have to pay them off to get your full attention?"

“I never said you had to pay them… You paid them?”

"I sent Baylee on a mission…" Wrapping his arms around her from behind, Nick nuzzled her neck gently. "You don't mind, do you?"

“No, I don’t mind,” Cheyanne promised as she offered the last fish to the baby, smiling apologetically as she offered his snout a few good scratches. She could have stayed at the dolphin tank all day, but knew Nick would want to see other things. So, she said her goodbyes, allowing Nick to lead her down to the row of sinks to wash the fish smell from their hands. She had to giggle as he lathered her hands with soap, holding them as the warm water rushed over them. A lot had happened within their relationship over the past two days. They had both declared their love for one another, yet they hadn’t spoke much about it. Simply, it lingered in the air, especially after Howie…

Patting her hands dry with a towel, Nick gazed down at her, reaching up to smooth the curls that had loosened from her ponytail. "I never got around to asking you how you slept last night," he murmured, brushing her forehead softly with his lips.

“I was comfortable,” Cheyanne promised, offering a small smile as Nick tossed their towel away, tentatively reaching for his hand. She gave the workers of the dolphin area a soft thanks as she tucked herself close to Nick, allowing him to lead her to another area of the aquarium. “I’m always comfortable with you… My Nicky is a nice pillow, y’know?”

"I'm just a big ole' teddy bear," Nick laughed, draping his arm around her shoulders. Pausing to look into a tank featuring a lantern fish, he leaned to kiss the top of her head. "…Are you okay?" he murmured tentatively.

“No, I’m not okay, those things are ghastly,” Cheyanne growled with a frown at the hideous beast of a fish in front of them. He was completely colorless with a dangling tentacle in the center of his forehead that illuminated. His teeth long, sharp, and vicious. Cheyanne shook her head with a shiver, tucking her face to his chest. “None of them for me.”

Chuckling, Nick led her away, content just to stroll around with her at his side. "I wasn't talking about the fish…" he trailed softly, wondering how long it would be before Baylee found them again. Pausing again, this time in front of a large mural of a killer whale. Cupping her face in his hands, he tilted her head back, looking into her eyes. "I love you, Sweetheart…" He realized he had only said it twice since waking up next to her, and affirmed that he would say it plenty of times to make up for the fact.

“Nicky…” Cheyanne trailed with a soft sigh, sliding her hands up his forearms to gingerly hold onto his wrists. Her dark sapphire eyes glistened with appreciation for his words, obviously still trying to accustom herself to the sentiment flowing past his lips. It had scared her at first. Especially when she realized how much she loved him too. They had yet to talk about their feelings, but his soft murmurs of love seemed to assuage the ache in her heart.

"I'm going to say it until you start rolling your eyes each time I do," he murmured, smoothing his thumbs over her soft cheeks. Leaning close, he caught her lips in a gentle kiss, pulling away with a groan when he heard Baylee shouting loudly that he couldn't find his Angel.

“I don’t think I could ever roll my eyes at you saying that,” she confessed as she took his hands into hers, pulling him away from the darkness of the deep sea corridor, finding Baylee pacing impatiently at the coral reef tanks just before the gigantic tunnel of ocean that held the largest sea creature – the whale shark – among other species.

"MY ANGEL! I GOTS YOU A 'RESENT!"

Austin couldn't help but grin as Baylee rushed to greet Cheyanne. Smoothing her hand over the plush father seahorse Baylee had bought her--complete with baby seahorses in its pouch, she glanced up at Kevin. "Glad you came yet?"

“Maybe…” Kevin decided as he watched Nick stoop to scoop Baylee into his arms. Hefting the small boy upward into his arms, Nick turned so Baylee would be level with Cheyanne, able to give her the gifts. The excitement Baylee had while he searched the gift shop for a perfect present had been adorable. He had to make sure that Cheyanne would love it almost as much as she loved him. Now, he anxiously waited for her to open her gifts, making sure to keep a small hand on her shoulder so he wasn’t disconnected. And the look in Nick’s eyes as he watched the two. It was something that Kevin had never seen before. “…I never noticed it till now…”

"…Noticed what?" Austin murmured, plucking out a baby seahorse and tucking it into the pocket of Kevin's t-shirt.

“Them…” Kevin answered, wrapping his arm protectively around Austin to bring her closer. “The way Nick looks at Angel… Like he couldn’t live another minute without her… Then Baylee with them… How… How perfect they are together? Howie said he couldn’t bear to live with knowing that Nick took Cheyanne from him. I told him he doesn’t deserve her if he can even think of living with her. But Nick… Damn…”

"Can you imagine? If Ollie comes out looking just like Chey… They'd have the perfect little family, wouldn't they?" Austin mused softly, sliding her arm around his waist. "She… She never glowed like that around Howie, Kevin… I mean, I know she loved him, and probably always will, but…"

“You pushed her towards Nick, didn’t you?” Kevin guessed, not that he blamed Austin for what she did. He probably would have done the same, especially as he watched Nick’s eyes electrify when Cheyanne pulled out the necklace Baylee had bought for her. It was a gorgeous lariat-style necklace with a sterling silver dolphin pursuing a beautiful blue topaz. Hell, Kevin even chuckled at the way Cheyanne threw her arms around Nick and Baylee, kissing them both eagerly till they laughed.

"In a manner of speaking… You helped, though," Austin murmured.

“Me? What’d I do?”

"You suggested they go away, remember?"

“But I didn’t realize—Okay, yeah, I did realize…”

"Don't you think they're good for each other?"

“I think Howie had something with Angel that Nick’s never going to be able to replace.”

"But…"

“They’re good for each other, Princess…”

"Not as good as you are for me," she murmured truthfully, rubbing his stomach idly.

“You are fantastic for me,” Kevin promised, pressing a kiss to the top of her head as Baylee finished giving his gifts to Cheyanne – a plush dolphin, a dolphin necklace, and dolphin earrings. All the kisses seemed to have been given as Baylee insisted on seeing more creatures, pointing to the magnificent tunnel that would put water on all sides of them so they could view the wonders of the deep.

"Kevin?" Austin asked softly as they followed the others down the tunnel.

“What Princess?”

"I… I stopped taking my pills last weekend," she whispered, not wanting Nick or Cheyanne to overhear her words.

Kevin stopped their pace in order to catch her shoulders. He immediately gazed down into her light coffee eyes, unable to hide the delighted smile on his face. “Why?”

"Because… I checked with the doctor, and she said if I'm planning on trying to have a baby later this year, I need to stop taking them… It takes a while for it all to get out of my system," she explained softly.

“Baby…” Kevin breathed, immediately lifting her into his arms for a rousing kiss. “That’s fantastic!”

"You're okay with it?" she whispered against his cheek, wrapping her arms around him.

“I’m more than okay with it. I can’t wait till later this year.”

"And if your little soldiers do their job a little too early?" she teased softly.

“Even better--”

“HOLY SHIT!” Baylee shrieked suddenly, startling the couple from a passionate kiss. Immediately, Kevin and Austin turned to look ahead, finding Baylee running from the glass and diving underneath Cheyanne’s legs. He hugged one tightly, squeezing his eyes shut as a giant shadow cast over them. Following Cheyanne’s gaze upward, Kevin’s jaw fell ajar at the size of the mammoth shark whale.

“Holy shit…” Kevin breathed.

"That's so beautiful!" Austin squealed. "Look how big it is!"

“IT’S GONNA EAT’ED ME! MY ANGEL SAVE ME!” Baylee cried.

"Bay, it's okay," Nick assured him calmly, biting back a grin. "He's in the tank, we're out here, he can't--"

“MY ANGEL!” Baylee shrieked, immediately tugging on her cargo capris, attempting to climb up her body.

“Okay, Darlin’, I got you!” Cheyanne promised, reaching to bring the child into her protective embrace. She smoothed the sweetest of kisses over his cheeks, calmingly rubbing his back as she moved further through the tunnel. She pulled her gaze away from the magnificent shark whale, glancing for something that Baylee would enjoy. Finding a sea turtle, she smiled, pointing to the glass. “Look, Darlin’, it’s Crush.”

"I wanta find Nemo!" Baylee wailed, turning his head to look at the turtle. When Nick stepped up beside him, he gave him a big grin. "FIN!" he cried, giving him a high five.

"Noggin!" Nick exclaimed, lightly bumping his head against Baylee's

"DUDE!" they both shouted.

“What am I going to do with you two?” Cheyanne giggled softly, reaching to rub Baylee’s head tenderly to assure that Nick hadn’t accidentally hurt him.

"Love us!" they chimed in unison, each leaning to give her soft kisses on either cheek.
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