"Aw, she's so adorable," Kai coos, snuggling little Michell close, "You must be so excited to be a Dad, Junior."
"Well, the larval stage isn't so much exciting as it is constant exhaustion and a never ending trail of diapers. But, yes, I am excitedly looking forward to her next level up."
"I know you don't mean that," Kai admonishes his boss, "You've been grinning like a fool since she was born."
"I did mention the constant exhaustion, right?" Junior replies, but as he gently takes Michell from Kai and sings to her as he cradles her, Kai can see how much he dotes on his little girl.
The Arsenaults had always been unconventional in how they manage their business, and now that they have a baby to care for, they've been having Kai come to their house for brainstorming sessions and other 'work' outside the office.
But some work still has to be done in the actual workplace, so Kai gets ready to take his leave mid-afternoon. Junior looks wistfully at him as Kai goes over his project schedule for the rest of the day, clearly wishing he could go into the office for a few hours himself.
Caryn bounds out of the house and into Junior's arms for a loving goodbye kiss before she leaves with Kai. "Don't forget her next feeding about a half an hour," Caryn reminds him, "Love you!"
Kai lets her into his SUV, and watches as she waves back at Junior until they've driven out of sight. He smiles at their happiness, and can't help but feel a touch of envy, knowing that while what he has with Alex is beautiful in its own way, it will never be like the cozy family life Caryn and Junior have built for themselves. Would Alex be willing to adopt a child with him? Would they both be considered parents if one was living in another household?
He and Jillyan had always been so careful about shielding their children from the supernatural world of fairies, dragons and the like. Not that they believed magic was evil, but there was an inherent danger that came with associating with the supernatural world. When they left their past behind, they had hoped to live normal, mundane lives, free of that sphere.
If he had known, when Kai was asking him about wishes and genies, that the his son's questions were not hypothetical fancies or the plot of a story he was working on, Julian would have been sterner with his warnings about dealing with the occult. While he's relieved and grateful that Kai did not request any wishes be granted, the fact that he chose to release a genie, unbound, onto the world, is a cause for considerable worry. Especially since Kai invited his newly freed friend to live with the family.
"I'd like to take a sample of your DNA," Julian asks Bahir. Studying the genie's cellular make up would at least be a step toward understanding him, and assessing what level of threat he might present. That would assuage at least some of Julian's unease at having a supernatural being loving in his home.
Bahir agrees readily to the request, without fully understanding what DNA is, or what his host might be able to do with it once it is obtained. He owes this family a great debt, and without the power to grant their wishes now that he is free, he knows no way to repay them for their hospitality.
"If you wouldn't mind indulging my curiosity," Julian says, "When you were in the lamp, did you take on another form? Some kind of gas, perhaps? I'm just trying to grasp the physics of what happens there." MorcuCorp had invested a great deal of time and money investigating the science of magic, believing firmly that even magic must be bound by laws of physics, even if those laws are different from those that govern the mundane. Though Julian's motives are no longer MorcuCorp's, he hasn't lost his drive to understand the world, both mundane and magical.
"There is no 'inside the lamp', there is only Jinnestan." Bahir answers, "We are made of smokeless fire, but we have form, even in Jinnestan."
"Interesting," Julian murmurs, "So the lamp is like a portal to another dimension? But you are somehow bound to it? And you are aware of the world directly outside the lamp?"
"That is correct. I was bound to the lamp, and to the person that summoned me with it. But the lamp is destroyed now, and I am bound to this form, this world, until I die."
"So you're mortal?" Julian asks, surprised by this revelation.
"This body is mortal. But the smokeless flame never dies. When this form perishes, I return to Jinnestan."
Before Julian can carry on with his queries, Bahir asks a question of his own, "You are a traveler between worlds yourself, are you not? You've come here from a different realm."
Julian's expression hardens. "I am no traveler," he answers, his voice clipped and hard, "My wife and I were drawn here by chance."
Bahir smiles his most charming smile, and shows his opens hands to his host, "That is indeed a rare occurrence, but I have heard tales of such unexpected journeys," he says, and makes no mention of the great age he senses Julian to possess, or of the magic that lingers around him still, though the effect has greatly faded. It is clear his host hides much behind his frown, and keeps secrets close to his heart. Curiosity was never one of Bahir's faults, however, especially when uncovering what is hidden will bring no advantage, and right now, the genie sees nothing to gain by revealing what more he does know.
"Hey, Gibson," Kai waves to the hamster, busy running on his wheel, "You're looking a little chubby there, buddy. You need to work that wheel a little harder, maybe."
"He's actually pregnant," Julian says, joining his son by the cage.
Kai turns to face his father, "You're kidding, right?"
"Not at all. My work here has been largely about creating a viable pregnancy in male animals. Hopefully it will lead to new breakthroughs in Sim fertility."
"Could this work on people, then?" Kai asks, excited by the prospect.
"That's the goal," Julian responds, "But we haven't done any testing on human subjects yet."
"What about me, Dad? I'd volunteer!" Kai says, excited at the prospect of having his own child, his and Alex's, together. It still wouldn't be the close family Junior and Caryn have, but having a child with Alex would at least make them some kind of family.
"Your enthusiasm is commendable, son. But we aren't looking for volunteers at this stage. And there are considerable risks involved."
"I'm not just volunteering for the sake of science and your research, Dad," Kai explains, "I want this. I want to be a father."
"There are other ways having children," Julian suggests.
"Not for me and Alex!"
"Actually, there are. This isn't research I've shared publicly, but I can use your DNA, and Alex's, to create a zygote, and grow it into a viable baby right here in the lab."
"That's, uh, not how you made me, or Dylan, is it?" Kai asks.
Julian shakes his head, "No, you and your sister were born completely normally," he answers, hoping Kai doesn't have a lot of follow up questions about the procedure, which he, well, Geoffrey, technically, had used to create Pearl, his assassin. "The same procedure was used to create the fetus we've implanted in our male subject. Like Gibson here," Julian continues, accepting the name his son had bestowed on the test hamster.
Kai rubs his chin thoughtfully, thinking more about the future than wondering about his father's past, "That still sounds kind of cold and clinical, even if it is better than nothing. But I'd really like to carry my own child. And I'm willing to take the risks."
Gibson the hamster is the fifth test of the new procedure. Three of the previous four trials have been successful, and discussions were already underway for human trials. The Stark Center scientists were eager to make this breakthrough. Their lawyers, however, were worried about the potential flurry of lawsuits should the human trials go wrong in any way. Julian would like to see this done in his own lifetime, and he isn't immortal any longer...
"I'd want to make sure it would be safe for you," Julian says, as much to himself as to his son, "We are nearly ready for human trials. Let me confer with the other scientists working on this."
"How would you feel about having a baby with me?" Kai blurts out his question with no preamble, taking Alex completely by surprise.
"You want to adopt a baby?" Alex asks, "Would you even need me for that?"
That was exactly the problem Kai had with the idea of adoption in the first place. They'd have a better chance at getting approved for adoption with Kai as a single, but very wealthy and stable parent, rather than trying to adopt as a couple not living in the same household. "I want our child to be our child, Alex. Not just mine," Kai explains, "And my Dad has a way to make that happen. He'd just need a DNA sample from you."
Alex is so not ready for this. Being a parent was never something he particularly wanted, and he'd always assumed that it was never going to be an issue for him and Kai. Adoption would have been hard enough, with Kai's expectations of Alex's involvement. But this, this is too much, too fast, and Alex would rather a hole opened up under the hot tub and swallowed him than have to deal with this right now.
Oblivious to Alex's distress, giddy with his growing excitement at the idea of having a family, Kai presses on, pulling Alex close to him. "My father's been doing experiments on male hamsters, making them pregnant. If he lets me volunteer for the human trial, I could be the first man to actually give birth to a baby. Our baby! Isn't that wonderful?"
Wonderful is not the word Alex would choose. Terrifying, and perhaps just a little nauseating. Why would any man want to go through a pregnancy? Alex cannot begin to fathom it, but it's very obvious that Kai is very fired up at the prospect. "I...guess..." Ales murmurs, non-committal, not wanting to disappoint his lover any more than he already has.
Buoyed by his own happiness, Kai takes Alex's wavering as a yes.
"I love you so much, you know that?" Kai says, and kisses him passionately.
Alex steels himself against a near overwhelming urge to cry, to steady his shaking hands and get control of himself before he completely melts down under the pressure Kai is bring to bear on him.
"We are going to be great parents," Kai says, confident, envisioning a bright future as he leans back against the hot tub.
"Sure, Kai," Alex says, his voice quiet and unsteady despite all his efforts at reigning his anxiety in. He wants Kai to be happy, more than anything, but his own needs for privacy and solitude have been a huge compromise for his lover. The idea of being a parent scares him to the very core of his being, but he can't refuse Kai this, cannot disappoint him again, ask him for yet more compromises on his behalf. Not if he wants to keep him.