Chapter Two: Nobody's A Picture Perfect
Vince seemed down lately. (Peter would've noticed, even if Chess hadn't pointed it out, probably.) Fleming didn't think it was a coincidence that Dana and her second husband, Jack, were expecting.
Peter remembered asking Trip, before introducing the boy to his stepsister, Jamie, about his opinion of siblings. The child had replied: "I told my parents I'd rather have a puppy." The statement revealed more than Trip's (rather irrelevant) preference for being an only child. It meant that the Faradays, when they had still been together, had seriously discussed the possibility of having more children.
Perhaps if Vince hadn't had to fake his death—that was your, well alright, our doing, Peter—he and Dana would've had another child by now. Or the Faradays might have gotten divorced anyway. (Vince had accepted a job offer with ARK, after all. It was conceivable Peter and Faraday would've gotten together eventually. Bloody unlikely, though, Chess commented.)
After his wife, Danielle, had died, Peter hadn't given much thought to the idea of having another child. He'd tried to be a good father to Jamie—
And you buggered that, didn't you?
Peter rubbed at his temples. Whose side was Chess on?
In retrospect, he could've done things differently with his daughter. Maybe he had pushed Jamie away. He could blame her creation of Orwell's blog on Chess, but he had to take responsibility for his own actions. He had tried to micromanage her life, had practically kept her under house arrest—all for her safety, of course. But his motivations hadn't kept her from running away.
At least they had been working on repairing their relationship over the past few years. He had Vince to thank for that. He rather doubted Jamie would have given him a second chance if he hadn't married her best friend/partner in fighting crime.
Peter could learn from the mistakes he had made with Jamie; surely he'd be able to do better if he had another child to raise. And unlike with Jamie, he wouldn't have to do it alone.
"Alone"? Don't tell me you've forgotten about me, Peter.
Fleming snorted. As if Chess shared parenting responsibilities.
Well, no, but I wouldn't mind being able to pass on a legacy. "Chess Junior" has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
God; he really did need to find a new therapist. Perhaps eventually he'd be able to shut up the annoying voice in his head.
The point was that now he would have Vince to help him—
Unless Faraday gets himself killed, but we've taught him not to take stupid risks. And we'd level the city to the ground to destroy his killer.
…No argument, Peter?
…No, he agreed with the maniac on that point.
Peter could concede that Vince was a better father to his son than he had been to his daughter. The hero would never have driven his son away from him. Hell, he'd learned that the former cop had only donned the cape in the first place in order to have a means of keeping in touch with his offspring.
(That revelation had bruised his ego a bit. As the Cape's nemesis, he had assumed he'd been the hero's raison d'être. It had seemed like a logical conclusion. The Cape kept going on and on about how he would bring Chess to his knees—I don't think he meant to give us those ideas, though, Chess mused.)
The billionaire tried to picture bringing up a child with his husband and smiled. It was possibly the best idea he'd had in a long time (and he was a criminal mastermind, so that was saying something).
He'd better verify that Vince was amenable to having another child before beginning the adoption process. He frowned.
It did seem too bad that they'd have to adopt. If only they could have a baby that was biologically both his and Vince's… He visualized a little girl or boy having a mixture of their features. (Chess tried not to gag at Peter's ensuing sappiness.) Suddenly, he found himself wishing there was a way. Perhaps if he'd studied genetic engineering he'd be able to find a solution.
Wait. He was Peter Fleming, the CEO of ARK Corporation, the richest inhabitant and unofficial ruler of Palm City. If it was possible, he had the resources at his disposal to find out.
He could start by taking a look at the research developed by Luthor Corp. before the company had fallen to ruin. Lex Luthor had funded a number of interesting projects before his death. In fact, it had been one of Luthor's associates, Miranda, that had perfected the pheromone compound that had changed the course of his relationship with Faraday.
I still say you might've gotten the same result by getting the Cape drunk. Although that might've been a bit tricky since you couldn't spend five minutes in the same room with him without going for each other's throats.
"Vince," Peter began one evening. The younger man was currently sprawled on a couch in the penthouse, munching on potato chips while watching television. For a moment, Peter thought "Saving Private Ryan" was on. Then he saw some computer-generated monster come on the screen. So Faraday was watching the ScyFy network, again.
"What is it?" the security guard asked, without taking his eyes off the T.V.
"If you could have another child now, would you?" Vince spluttered, spraying crumbs over himself.
"You mean with you? Like that'd ever happen."
"Humor me. Would you want another son or a daughter?" Faraday met Fleming's eyes for a moment, before looking away.
"If things had been different," he replied after a beat, his voice hoarse. He and Dana had wanted a larger family, before their marriage fell to pieces. He tried to shrug nonchalantly. "But it doesn't matter now. No point obsessing over the road not taken, right?"
"Indeed. Much better to focus on the future and the options available to you now," Peter replied.
"What makes you think I'll sign this contract?" Deveraux asked. He'd reverted to his masculine form.
"It's just a formality; my lawyers prepared it so—"
"So that I'll give up all rights to the child and won't challenge you for custody or visitation! What is this?"
"I thought I was clear. I'm looking for a surrogate. After the child is born, my husband and I will take things from there. That's the deal. If you're not interested, walk now. I'll find someone else."
"You'll find someone as discreet as me?"
"That contract has a gag clause. Whoever signs it will be bound to secrecy."
"And you'll pressure some poor woman into signing it without consulting a lawyer first. Alright, hang on, I haven't said no. Can we talk about this? I'd be going through nine months of pregnancy and childbirth. I don't think it would be unreasonable to want to remain a part of the kid's life."
"Oh my; accused of being unreasonable; whatever shall I do?" Peter sarcastically drawled.
"At the very least, you could let me babysit. You and your spouse both have jobs—"
"Frankly, I think Jamie would be a more responsible babysitter than you. For that matter, so would Faraday's teenage son. Oh, all right. You will have the opportunity to babysit when you're in town, but if we find your performance unsuitable—"
"You won't, I promise," Deveraux beamed. "Now that that's settled," André glanced in the direction of the master bedroom, "how much time do we have before Vince gets home?"
"Forget it, André."
Two weeks later:
"Vince," Peter called, as he entered the penthouse. "I have a surprise for you."
The shape shifter beside him, now in the guise of Rebecca, turned to the billionaire and frowned.
"What do you mean, 'surprise'? I thought you said he knew about this!" Deveraux hissed.
Author's Note: First and foremost, thanks to the talented IronAmerica for designing the cover for this fic! Lovely work. IA is willing to do covers on commission.
And thanks to Orwell and IA for reviewing!
Well? Enjoying Chess' antics? Disappointed in Peter?
Chapter title from Kelly Clarkson's song, "Dark Side."