When his young niece Bailey moves in, Cory knows he needs to end his casual fling with Ken. Bailey’s had enough upheaval in her short life, and Cory doesn't want her to get attached to a “friend” who won't be sticking around. Even so, Cory finds himself continuing to let Ken into his life, but a one-night-stand gone serial isn’t what Cory wants, and so he makes The List: his requirements for the perfect partner.
Helping out during a difficult time, Ken finds himself being pulled into the family unit despite Cory’s previous emotional distance. He hopes he's finally breaking through, on the verge of convincing Cory to make their relationship more than a casual one. Then, while helping Bailey write to Santa, he finds Cory's list and takes it as his cue to bow out—just when Cory needs him the most.
"I threw up."
The quavering voice brought Corbin jackknifing up out of a sound sleep, struggling to get his bearings.
"Oh, for Christ's sake." This in a disgruntled, groaning whisper from Ken on the other side of the bed.
Well, that helped settle who the participants were. And apparently something was going to have to be done about Ken--soon--but first things first. He pulled Bailey into a sour-smelling and unfortunately damp hug, resting his cheek against her extremely hot temple. Oh man.
"Where's your mom?"
"Dont know. I threw up on my bed." The tears were starting, and God knew that wouldnt help matters any.
"Do you want to sleep with the throw up or should I change your sheets?"
A watery giggle. "Change them."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! Uncle Corrrry..."
"Okay, okay." He stood, glad that hed had the foresight to put on his pajama pants after hed fielded the booty call-turned-sleepover Ken probably now wished he hadn't insisted on. Picking Bailey up--man she was scorching all over--he walked her into the hall bathroom, trying to remember what his mom had done for them when they were sick.
He flipped on the light, and then turned it back off again when Bailey winced and cried out. Turning the hall light on instead, he saw that there would definitely need to be a wardrobe change. He grimaced at the damp spot on his shirt. For both of us. He carefully pulled the nightie over her head backwards, taking care not to get any throw-up from the nightie into her hair or anything and tossed it in the sink for lack of a better plan.
"Do you think you could take a bath?"
"Don't know. I'm cold."
She was anything but cold, but she was shivering, so he wrapped a towel around her. "You sit here on the rug." He sat her on the floor in front of the toilet. "I'm going to change your bed and get another nightie, okay? I'll be right back."
Becky was nowhere to be seen. Must've gotten a phone call of her own, he thought, and then cringed. He so did not want to think of his little sister in drunk dial terms. He hustled to strip the bed and remade it with the last sheet. Looking at it dubiously, he added a few bath towels for layers. At least if she continued to throw up, she wouldn't get to the sheet until--he counted--the fourth time.
Arms bundled full of the abused bedding, a clean nightie dangling from his one clean finger, he almost ran into Kenneth coming down the hall. Fully dressed and apparently fleeing the scene.
Cory felt a swell of anger, even as he recognized it was unrealistic--after all, why would Ken stick around? Sex was obviously out for the rest of the night, and that was the sum total of their relationship to date. He ruthlessly suppressed the vulnerable twinge at being abandoned and kept walking. Good riddance. Guess now that Bailey was living here, he was going to have to add "Likes Kids" to The List.
Ken reared back to avoid the collision. "Whoa."
Cory didn't even stop, just veered around him. "See ya."
"Hey! What's your problem?" Ken actually sounded like he believed he was the injured party. Amazing.
"Just a puking kid in my bathroom, and an asshole in my hallway."
He caught snippets of the defensive response but tuned it out, dumping his armload in the laundry room sink. A thought occurred to him, and he went back out to the hallway.
"Hey, can you go to the all-night drugstore for me?"
Ken's jaw dropped. "Are you joking? You just called me an asshole..."