Brooke stretched her legs out onto the coffee table as she leaned back, relaxing, baby Ashlyn asleep in the bassinet beside her. They had been home for three days now... Brooke reached down and let her hand rest on the baby's softly rising chest, marveling at the tiny little person that she and Neal had brought into this world.
Ashlyn was everything to them, and absolutely perfect.
She watched as Neal walked through the house, carrying a clothes basket to the laundry room, trying to get the house straightened up before their guests got there. She stood up slowly, picking up the pile of burp rags and the wet onesie from beside the bassinet, and followed him into the laundry room, handing Neal the clothes to throw into the washer. "Hey..." she whispered as she wrapped her arms around him, letting her chin rest on his shoulder.
"...Hey," Neal murmured back, wrapping his arms around Brooke's where they rested at his waist. Turning carefully in the circle of her arms, he brought his hands up to gently cup her cheeks, giving her a tender kiss.
"Ashlyn still asleep?" he asked softly, brushing her cheekbones lightly with his thumbs, his eyes studying the faint dark circles under her own. "Do you need a nap, love? I'm sure everyone would understand if you weren't right there when they all show all..."
Brooke smiled, leaning into the kiss. "Yeah, she is... Hopefully she'll sleep till they get here." She let out a soft sigh, closing her eyes and letting her head rest on Neal's chest. "Nah...I'll just sit back down on the couch and rest till everyone starts arriving."
"Should be soon, yeah?" Neal replied, rubbing her back gently. "I'm surprised Carly wasn't camped out on the front porch at dawn three days ago, waiting for me to bring you guys home."
Brooke let out a soft sigh. "Feels good... She wanted to make sure she gave Ashlyn a chance to get used to being home...and for her to decontaminate from being on tour," she laughed softly.
"Tell you what..." Neal murmured. "Let me get these clothes and things in the washer, and I'll be right out to give you a back rub while we're waiting on them all. Sound good?"
Brooke squeezed Neal tighter and nodded. "Okay...that means I have to move again, huh?" she grinned.
Neal's eyes widened slightly. "Oh, God, I'm sorry!" he murmured, cupping Brooke's face again. "Are you still that sore? Do you need some...God, what can you even have? Tylenol? Motrin? Anything?"
Brooke laughed softly and touched Neal's cheek. "Honey...I was saying that I would have to leave your arms, not that I was sore," she whispered.
Neal grinned sheepishly as a wave of relief washed over him. "...Oh, okay..." he replied, kissing her forehead softly. "I worry," he whispered with a slight shrug.
Brooke smiled. "I know. I feel good today..." She heard Ashlyn start to cry and smiled as Sixx raced into the living room to make sure she was all right. "Sounds like someone is hungry."
Neal nodded and gave Brooke another quick peck on the lips. "Better go feed her - I'll finish loading the washer, and I'll be right there."
Brooke smiled and headed back into the living room, scooping Ashlyn up. She settled onto the couch, getting her situated. Slowly, she was starting to get the hang of breastfeeding... She settled back and closed her eyes.
Neal dumped in the special organic, biodegradable detergent they'd bought, and added the dirty laundry quickly before shutting the washer and turning it on. Closing the door behind him, he wandered back to the living room, smiling tenderly at the sight of Sixx curled up on the floor at Brooke's feet, his head pillowed on his front legs, eyes locked on his alpha female and her strange, hairless pup.
Neal settled to the couch beside his girls, slinging his arm across the back cushion behind Brooke's head, and smiled down tenderly at his daughter (daughter!) nursing.
"...She's quite the eater, isn't she..." he whispered, stroking Ashlyn's chubby cheek with the backs of his fingers.
Brooke looked sleepily over at Neal and smiled. "Yeah, she is..." She gently moved Ashlyn to the other side and watched as Ashlyn's hand managed to snag Neal's, her eyes open and locked on his as she ate. Brooke let her head rest on Neal's arm and closed her eyes again. "How much longer till everyone gets here?"
Neal grinned with delight at Ashlyn's grip on his fingers, and leaned his head against Brooke's, glancing over at the clock. "Soon, love...it's almost 5:30..."
Brooke smiled at Neal and nodded. "You want to get the stuff out for the grill while we finish up here? I'll take her and get her changed so she will be nice and fresh for all her visitors..."
"Will do," Neal replied, gently extracting his finger from the baby's surprising grip, and kissed Brooke's temple softly before getting to his feet and stretching slightly. "C'mon, Sixx," he murmured, "let's go and get the grill started, huh?" He whistled softly for Einstein, sprawled on his back in his crate in the living room, and let the dogs out into the yard, firing up the grill as he watched them play. Sixx didn't move like he used to, and it was mostly Einstein running up to the elderly Dane and barking before skittering away at the Dane's booming answering bark, but it was still something...
Sighing softly, Neal closed the lid to grill, mentally reminding himself to slip Sixx a little something later when Brooke and Einstein weren't looking.
Brooke sat and watched as Ashlyn fed, finally stopping, her mouth going lax, as she fell asleep. Brooke shifted her up onto her shoulder, rearranging herself so that her shirt was back in place before she started to burp her.
Close to a minute later, Ashlyn burped and started to fuss. Brooke patted her back, and as she started up the stairs, there was a knock on the door.
Neal had just stepped back inside when he heard the knock. He slid the screen door shut to the patio and headed to the front of the house.
"Hey, guys!" he said with a big grin, and stepped back, allowing Andy, Monty and Nick to enter. "I just started the grill...and I guess Brooke just finished feeding Ashlyn, so she's probably getting her all dressed up for company..." he continued, sweeping his arm around the living room. "Make yourselves at home, as usual - you know where the beer is, and if anyone wants t'help me get the food ready..."
Andy grinned and looked up the stairs. "What all do you need help with? You and Brooke handling everything okay?"
Neal shrugged. "Wrapping the corn and potatoes for grilling, getting the meat ready t'go, settin' out the chips and dips and shit... Y'know, the usual..." He headed toward the kitchen, gesturing at the food set on the rear of the counter, and in the middle of the kitchen table, well out of Great Dane-sized reach.
Nick grinned widely, grabbing Neal and dragging him into a gigantic bear hug. "No way, buddy, you don't get away that easily!" he chuckled, squeezing Neal hard. "Congratulations, you son of a bitch!"
Monty closed the door behind the trio and clapped Neal on the back heartily. "Yeah, daddy, congratulations! Now, where's my God-damned cigar?"
Brooke smiled as she walked into the nursery setting Ashlyn carefully down on the changing table. She quickly changed her and got her dressed in the clothes that Neal had picked out for her. Picking her up, she returned downstairs, seeing Neal, Andy, Nick and Monty. "Hey! Glad you guys could make it." She stopped beside Neal and smiled. "You want to take her, so I can go and get changed?"
Smiling, Andy looked at Neal and Brooke. "I'll take her, if that's okay..."
Neal grinned at his best friend slyly. "Oh, I don't know...you're not gonna drop her on her head, or anything, are you?" he teased, taking Ashlyn from Brooke's arms. He looked down into his daughter's face and felt the now-familiar feeling of his heart just melting...
"Hey, baby girl," he murmured softly, his voice remarkably tender as he held her up for his friends to see. "Today's your big debut, little love...time to meet your family..." He looked up with a smile. "Guys...meet Ashlyn Ryane."
Nick, Monty and Andy all crowded together around her, cooing softly.
"...And Andy? I was just kidding - of course you can hold her," Neal said with a gentle smile, passing her carefully on to Andy's arms. "Don't you all fight over her, now... She's still too young to date any of you filthy old men."
Brooke laughed at Neal's antics, and pressed a quick kiss to his cheek before she made her way upstairs to change.
Still not able to fit back in her jeans, Brooke pulled on a loose-fitting skirt and a flowing top. She ran her brush through her hair with a smile and headed back downstairs.
Andy held the tiny baby carefully in his arms. "She is beautiful... Too bad the poor girl has your red hair," he teased.
"Hey now, Skibby - watch it!" Neal warned in mock-annoyance, propping his hands on his hips. "You can't hold that baby forever, you know, and the minute you pass her on to whomever, I can kick your ass at will.."
Nick grinned at Andy over Neal's shoulder, chipping in, "And besides, you should talk, Skib - your kids are all gonna have the Skib eyes and schnoz..."
Monty snorted and stepped away from the gang, holding his hands up. "Nope, not gettin' involved in this... Neal, show me what you need me to do to be useful, okay?"
Shaking his head slowly, and giving Andy the "my eyes are on you" sign, Neal started pulling things out of the fridge and cabinets, putting Monty to work.
Neal got Monty started on cutting veggies for the hamburgers and salads as he dumped some chips and dips into bowls, and then pulled a couple of beers out of the fridge, passing one to his bassist. "Here, man - it's not a cigar, but it's the best I could do..."
Monty accepted it with a smile, and twisted the top off. "To the happy couple, and their new arrival," he said softly, holding his bottle up.
"I'll drink to that," Neal murmured, clinking his bottle lightly with Monty's, and they both took a sip. "Okay, man, let's get the meat on the grill."
Andy laughed as Neal walked away with Monty, swaying softly back and forth as he held Ashlyn. "Shhh... You are a beautiful little girl...and you have your daddy wrapped around your little finger already." He leaned back into Nick and looked at him over his shoulder. "Yeah...don't think kids are happening for me."
Nick nipped Andy's neck very gently, chuckling under his breath. "Not unless we find us a surrogate, man...and then we'll have t'flip a coin t'see who gets to have all the fun." He shot Andy a shit-eating grin, and then glanced up as Brooke entered the room, heading over to give her her own giant bear-hug. "Congratulations, beautiful! You guys did real good - she's absolutely gorgeous."
Brooke hugged Nick back and smiled. "I like to think she is, too - takes after her daddy."
Andy was staring at Nick open-mouthed, as if he'd grown three heads. He looked down at Ashlyn. "Did you hear that too, or am I just going crazy?" he asked, leaning down and kissing her on the forehead.
Nick grinned back at Brooke. "Well, I don't know if I'd call Neal 'gorgeous' or anything... He's hot, sure, but gorgeous?" He laughed softly, toning it down so he didn't startle Ashlyn, and turned back to Andy, who was still looking a little shocked at Nick's statement to him seconds ago. "What?" Nick snickered, holding out his arms. "C'mon, don't bogart the baby, man - my turn."
Just then, another knock came at the front door, and a lilting Irish brogue rang out, muffled by the door. "Open this door immediately! I hear there's a baby inside!"
Andy shook his head and gently shifted Ashlyn into Nick's arms. "We'll talk later," he whispered in Nick's ear as he leaned in, kissing him softly, before he backed away and headed into the kitchen to see if he could help out.
Brooke laughed and headed for the door, opening it for Carly, and then smiling even more when she saw Kira standing there with her, their arms laden down with presents. "A baby? Are you sure you're at the right house?" she teased as she stepped to the side and let them through the door.
Carly walked into the house and made a beeline for Nick, instantly cooing and murmuring nonsense to Ashlyn.
Nick held Ashlyn up for Carly to see her, shaking his head stubbornly when Carly put out her arms. "Nuh-uh, missy - I just liberated her from Andy. It's my turn, dammit! You can have her in a bit."
Carly laughed. "You've got five more minutes, then it's my turn," she said, crossing her arms.
Kira gave Brooke a crooked grin and followed Carly in, trailing a batch of balloons in her wake. "We went shopping, naturally," she grinned at Brooke. "The balloons were Joey's idea. I think he just wanted something to punch. The flowers are yours, of course..." she murmured, handing them over, "...and the champagne is to be shared -- you can tell Neal I said that, by that way, strict orders to share...and there's a few things for Ashlyn, as well..." She bustled her way into the kitchen, smiling widely at Andy as she set the boxes and bags on the kitchen table.
Brooke waited for Kira to unload her arms before she pulled her into a hug. "Thank you, so much..." she whispered, holding her tight.
Kira squeezed Brooke tightly, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "You are most welcome, beautiful..." she murmured, pulling away to grip Brooke's upper arms gently. "C'mon, show me your little girl."
Brooke smiled, and led Kira over to Carly and Nick, where Nick was still cradling Ashlyn in his arms.
Andy walked into the kitchen and grinned at Neal talking to Monty, his head still racing from Nick's seemingly-casual words. He looked up at Neal and leaned against the counter. "Can I help?"
Neal watched Kira and Brooke's affectionate hugs, smiling softly, and then clapped Andy lightly between the shoulder blades. "Yeah, you can help Monty keep an eye on the meat for a bit, okay? I'm gonna say hi to the girls." He steered Andy toward the patio door, and headed back into the living room, smiling at the new arrivals. "Hey, guys, glad you could come!"
Carly looked up at Neal and Brooke and smiled. "She is gorgeous, guys... You two make beautiful babies."
Neal smiled tenderly, slipping his arm around Brooke's waist. "Thanks, Carls," he murmured, leaning his head against Brooke's, his eyes immediately wandering back over to his daughter in Nick's arms, a look of awestruck wonder crossing his face.
Kira grinned at the look on Neal's face. Shaking her head, she stood up on her tip toes and pressed a soft kiss to Neal's cheek.
Brooke leaned into Neal's arms with a soft release of breath. She was still tired but she didn't want to miss their friends meeting Ashlyn for the first time.
Carly held her arms out in front of Nick. "Okay, time's up. My turn."
Nick narrowed his eyes and pretended he wouldn't surrender, but relented with a smile when Carly narrowed her eyes back. She was dangerous like that.
Smiling gently, Carly walked around the living room with Ashlyn. "So precious..." she whispered.
Brooke smiled at them and let out a content sigh. "Did you get the stuff on the grill yet?" she asked Neal softly.
Neal stroked Brooke's hair gently, rocking her very slightly. "Yep, Monty and Andy are on it," he murmured into her hair. "Not sure I should trust them, but...yeah." He chuckled softly, squeezing her gently.
Another knock at the door, and Kira dashed for it, opening it to let David and Michael in.
"Wow! are we late?" Dave asked, glancing around at the room full of people. "Wait, did I actually beat Andy here?"
"No way, man - we came together!" Nick replied, and then grinned wickedly. "More than once, actually, but that's not a story for children's ears!" He covered Ashlyn's ears playfully, and then backed off as Carly glared and Ashlyn frowned prettily.
Nick was so lucky Carly was holding this child just now, or she would've smacked him so hard...
Kira slapped playfully at Nick's arm. "Don't you dare corrupt this child, Mr. Gibson!" she huffed. "That's my fuckin' job, and you know it!"
Nick grinned back at her and wrapped an arm around her waist. "C'mon, Greenie - let's grab some beers and toss some tennis balls for the dogs - wear 'em out so the new parents can sleep tonight, all right?"
Kira grinned and pecked Nick on the cheek, giving him a push toward the kitchen. "Maybe later, NDN. I want to catch up with Brooke, first."
Laughing, Brooke pulled gently out of Neal's arms and hugged both Mike and Dave hard. "So glad you guys could make it! And no, Andy is in the kitchen, making himself useful. What are you going to do?" she teased.
Mike laughed and hugged Brooke tight. "Yes ma'am, momma Brooke."
"I think that's a hint if I ever heard one, guys..." Dave muttered, punching Neal's arm lightly as he walked by. "Beers still in the fridge?" he tossed back over his shoulder with a grin.
"Yeah, you know the drill," Neal replied, waving him on, and gave Michael's shoulder a light squeeze as the other man hugged Brooke. "How've you been, 'Roo? Long time, no see, man..."
Mike laughed at Neal and smiled. "Yeah, too long...thanks for the invite," he said as he grabbed Dave's shoulders, following him into the kitchen.
Brooke leaned into Neal's chest and watched as Carly walked the living room with Ashlyn still in her arms. She couldn't tell if the baby was awake or asleep. Looking back at Neal, she smiled. "Are you going to set up the playpen outside? The one with the netting over the top, so no bugs get in it?"
Neal smiled softly and kissed Brooke's hair. "Yes, ma'am...in the shade, on the deck, where we can see her...?" Squeezing her softly, he headed back to the kitchen, grabbing the folded-up playpen out of its niche by the door.
Monty glanced up as first Andy, followed by Nick, Dave and Michael, walked out onto the porch. "Gentlemen, we have barbecue!" he announced with a grin, and then gave Dave a hug. "How about all that?" he murmured, jerking his head back toward the house. "Did you ever think you'd see the day?"
Andy grinned at Monty. "Never in a million years... Always thought that Davey boy, here, would be the first of us to be daddies."
Dave held his hands up, his eyes wide. "Hey, hey, hey now - just because I love kids, doesn't mean I want them! Shit - Neal's the only one of us with a female partner - he was always gonna be the one to have 'em before any of us!"
Neal popped his head out the screen door, narrowing his eyes at the group on the porch. "Hey, m'ears are burnin'... You takin' my name in vain out here, boys?" Relaxing his mock-glare, he wrestled the door open and pulled the playpen out, constructing it quickly. "Damn, I'm gettin' better at this shit, aren't I..." he murmured to himself.
Andy laughed at Dave, and then bit his lip thinking back to Nick's surprising words to him in the house. "Well, Dave, that really doesn't matter though - there's adoption, and surrogacy," he said, tipping his head to the side as he thought about it. He turned back to the table where he was throwing together the salad, stopping to take a drink of his beer.
Mike walked up behind Dave, wrapping his arms around him as Neal put up the playpen. "Well, I'll be damned... Give the man a hand for doing that in record time. Those things confuse the hell out of me."
Dave leaned back into Michael's arms, closing his eyes a moment. "All it takes is practice, Mike...and a willingness to actually, you know, look at the instructions?" He opened his eyes and tilted his head to grin at Mike, giving him a quick peck on the jaw. "Love you," he whispered, for Mike's ears only.
Mike tightened his arms around Dave and smiled. He leaned in, whispering, "love you too... Hey, what's up with the dazed look in Andy's eyes? He seemed to have a rather caught-in-the-headlights kinda look to him when we walked in."
Kira wrapped her arms around Brooke as Neal moved away, leaning her head against Brooke's. "How are you feeling, new mommy?" she said softly, squeezing Brooke in another hug. "Does she keep you guys up at night? Is Neal taking his fair share of the parenting? You tell me if he isn't, 'cause I'll kick his ass, a'ight?"
Brooke smiled at Kira and nodded. "He is being absolutely perfect. He knows what I need before I do, and he doesn't complain about the sleepless nights." She smiled as she glanced out at Neal putting up the play pen. "Ashlyn is usually up every four hours wanting to nurse...so not much sleep on either of our parts."
Kira grinned, kissing Brooke on the cheek. "That's my boy toy," she chuckled softly. "I'm glad to hear it, though it doesn't surprise me, with his insomnia... Does he help with the 3 am feedings, too?"
Brooke smiled and nodded. "Oh, yeah..." she leaned in, whispering to Kira, her smile mischievous. "I think he helps even more after she is back in her bassinet."
Carly looked up at Brooke and Kira laughing and walked back over as Ashlyn started get fussy. "I think this little one wants her momma."
Nick clapped Neal on the back as he headed back inside for a beer. "Looks good, man..." he said with a nod toward the playpen, and then shook his head as he entered the kitchen, stealing some chips from the bowl as he passed.
He opened the fridge and froze for a moment in shock, confronted by several bottles of what had to be breast milk staring him in the face. He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, and then looked around a bit furtively. No one was watching... He quickly snagged a glass from the cabinet and poured a little of the milk into it, taking a quick taste. "Whoa, rich!" he muttered, setting the bottle back on the glass shelf, and grabbed a beer from the door instead. Yeah, leave the breast milk for the babies.
Monty shook his head at Andy's observations. "Yeah, there's that... Can't really say that I'm the daddy type, though - I'm more of the 'crazy uncle with candy and beer' type."
Neal's head popped up over the edge of the deck chair he was readying for Brooke. "Hey!" he barked out. "Candy? Sure. Beer? Not till she's twenty-one, dammit!"
Andy laughed and hummed the Willy Wonka tune, "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."
Nick wandered back outside with extra beers in his arms and a still-thoughtful look on his face, running his tongue along his teeth. "...Anyone need refills?" he asked, setting the beers down, and wiped his tongue with his hand.
"Got no idea..." Dave murmured back to Michael. "Gotta catch his ass alone, I guess..." He slipped out of Michael's arms, and gave him another quick peck. "Y'want a beer, man?" he tossed over his shoulder as he approached the table where Nick had set them, and then blinked in confusion at Nick, who was still running his tongue over his teeth and staring at his hand. "What's the matter, NDN? Is the beer stale, or somethin'?"
Nick glanced up, his face flushing beet red immediately. "Uh...no! The beer's fine. It's just...something else I drank in there. It's all good..."
Dave frowned slightly. "What the hell did you drink, man? You look like you're trying to scrub your mouth clean."
Nick blushed even harder, and looked around him quickly before leaning in to whisper, "...I think it was breast milk."
"You think it was?" Dave blurted out. "Why would you drink it if you don't know?"
"Drink what?" Monty asked, curious.
"Nothing!" Nick squealed, slapping Dave hard on the arm.
Neal's head popped back up over the deck chair. "Oh, the breast milk?" he asked, crossing his forearms on the arm of the chair, using them to prop his chin. "Yeah...that shit tastes better warm and fresh."
Five heads snapped around to stare at him, with varying degrees of horror on their face.
"...What??" Neal asked, lifting his head and looking back at each of them. "...Dude! Of course I've tried it! I've got the udder right there!!"
Andy burst out laughing and shook his head. "Dude! That is something I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing..." He looked at Nick, his eyes gleaming. "Well...?"
Brooke took Ashlyn back in her arms and leaned in, kissing her softly. She heard Neal's voice raised outside and raised her eyebrow at Carly and Kira. "Not sure I even want to know what that conversation is like outside," she grinned.
Carly laughed and sauntered outside, grabbing a beer from the table where Nick and Dave were standing. "You boys look absolutely horrified! what happened?"
Dave shook his head. "You don't want to know..."
"Oh, come the fuck on," Neal groused, standing up with his hands on his hips. "Don't try 'n tell me you fuckers wouldn't do it too!"
"'Well,' what?" Nick squeaked, backing away from Andy slightly with his hands raised. "...Nuh-uh, no way, man! I can't..." He backed into Monty, who gripped his arms and held him tightly. "Oh, my God - seriously?"
Neal rolled his eyes. "You people are fuckin' hopeless, okay? That's it. You're all gonna have some before you go home, swear to God..." He stalked back into the house, grumbling under his breath.
Dave shuddered slightly. "Guys, do you think Neal's serious?"
Monty shook his head and let go of Dave's arms. "Whatever. I gotta flip the burgers."
Carly looked around the yard, completely confused. "What the fuck are you guys talking about? Jesus - don't think I've ever seen so many men cower at like this before!" she grinned.
Kira glanced over at Neal, re-entering the house. "Well, we could just ask..."
Brooke laughed. "Neal, what's going on?" There was another knock on the door and she turned to Kira. "Will you get that, please, so I can find out why my husband has come back in the house with that look on his face?" she asked with a smile.
Kira smiled and nodded. "Of course, love!" She sauntered over to the door and flung it wide open. "Hi, guys!!" she greeted Joey and Kyle, and stooped down to ruffle Hayden's hair. "Wow, look at you, little man! You're getting so big!!"
Kyle smiled and nodded at Kira. "Yeah he is... Of course, you'd never know he was there, with his head stuck in these damn games all the time..." he said, shaking his head as he pushed Hayden into the house.
Kira smiled at Kyle and gave him quick pecks on both cheeks. "He's a boy - he's to be forgiven. C'mon, everyone else is outside..." she said, grabbing Kyle's hand and steering Hayden with the other hand between his shoulder blades toward the kitchen and the great outdoors.
Joey chuckled at the welcome, and wandered in, kissing Brooke lightly on the cheek as he smiled down at the bundle in her arms. "Yep, that's a baby!" he pronounced, and grinned up at Neal and Brooke. "Good job, guys."
Brooke leaned in and kissed Joey on the cheek. "Yeah, it's a baby all right...and thank you. Everyone else is out back."
Joey grinned widely. "No problem - guess I'll join the pack of hooligans roaming the back yard, then..." he said, and followed Kira and the Peeks out the door.
Neal shook his head as he draped his arm around Brooke's shoulder. "Oh, apparently breast milk is 'icky', or something. Whatever. I told them that they're all gonna drink some before they get to leave."
Brooke looked at Neal, shaking her head and laughing softly. "Oh, really now? Which one said it was icky, and how would they know?" she grinned.
Neal shook his head too, rolling his eyes again. "Apparently, Nick found the milk in the fridge, and decided he'd like to taste it. I don't know. He's out there acting like he's poisoned himself, or whatever, and all I said was it tasted better fresh... They all looked at me like I'd said I'd had a shit shake for lunch, or something."
Brooke laughed and shook her head. "Boys." She wrapped an arm around him, keeping Ashlyn cradled against her, and leaned up, kissing him softly. "Nothing wrong with you knowing. Not a thing," she grinned.
Neal kissed Brooke back, smoothing her wispy bangs out of her eyes. "Got the playpen set up outside," he murmured softly, "...and a couple of deck chairs beside it. Meat's on the grill already, too. The brats and burgers will be done first, and the chicken in a little bit... Andy was workin' on the salad, when he wasn't teasin' Nick, and there's a bunch of chips and veggies and fruit and dips and all that out there, too... Y'want t'go out and sit down, and i'll bring you some lemonade, or somethin'?"
Brooke nodded. "That sounds absolutely wonderful. You want to grab the blanket off the chair? That way, if she gets hungry, I can just cover us up."
"Of course, love..." Neal murmured, and leaned down to kiss Ashlyn's plump little cheek. "See you soon, little one..." he whispered, and headed toward their brand-new rocking chair to get the blanket that his mother had crocheted for them.
Andy looked at Nick and walked over to him, kissing him hard and licking into his mouth. "Huh, just taste beer..." he laughed.
Nick stared at Andy, his mouth hanging open. "Of course you just taste beer, asshole! I've been drinking beer to get rid of the funky taste!" he sputtered.
Andy laughed and kissed Nick again. "Really, Nick - what did it taste like? It can't be that bad if babies drink it all the time!"
Nick gave Andy a light shove backwards, bouncing him off of Dave's ass. "Dude, babies don't have a choice in the matter, right? And they don't know any better, anyway! Someone sticks a nipple in their mouth, and they suck! End of story!"
"That's what she said," Monty chuckled quietly, turning the chicken pieces and dousing them with more barbecue sauce.
Andy laughed and launched himself at Nick, taking him to the ground.
Kyle walked through the door with Hayden and smiled at the guys milling around outside. "Hey! Looks like we came just in time for food."
Carly grinned as Kira walked out with them. "You won't believe what these chicken shits are moaning about!"
"What, whiny boys? Here, in our family? Say it ain't so!" Kira snarked, her fists perched on her hips, arms akimbo. "What's the problem now, boys?"
Carly leaned in and told Kira what Nick had done, and the rest of the guys' reactions, so that Hayden didn't hear what was going on.
Kira threw her head back, roaring with laughter.
Carly looped her arm through Kira's and grinned. "Let's get some snacks, shall we?"
Still giggling uncontrollably, Kira allowed Carly to pull her to the snack table, and the girls loaded up their plates.
Joey bounced over to the chips and dip beside them, throwing some of all the different types on his plate. "Got anything besides beer to drink?" he asked, and glanced around, startled, at the loud groans that rose behind him. "What?" he asked, looking slightly wounded.
"Best not to ask, man..." Monty murmured to him softly, patting his shoulder. "It's just best not to ask."
Joey tilted his head at Monty and nodded slowly, stuffing several heavily-laden chips in his mouth. "I'm going to assume you're right, since you usually are... So. When's dinner?"
Monty grinned at Joey. "Right now, you bottomless pit, if you help me get the food off the grill."
Nick let out a loud grunt as he hit the grass in the yard with Andy on top of him. "Goddammit, Andy, why you always gotta pull this shit?" he growled, immediately wrestling around with him.
Andy squirmed and slipped his hands out of Nick's, laughing. He leaned up, licking Nick's ear with a grin. "'Cause you love having any excuse to pin me down."
"Ten bucks on Andy," Dave called out, laughter lacing through his voice.
Mike laughed and threw a chip at Andy and Nick wrestling. "Nah, I say ten on Nick."
Dave turned to Michael and stuck out his hand. "It's a deal, man."
Nick snared Andy's wrists again, pinning them above Andy's head as he straddled Andy's hips, and dangled a spit loogey just inches above Andy's face, frowning in concentration.
Mike burst out laughing at Nick and Andy. "Mate, that is fucking gross!"
Springing to his feet, Einstein galloped over, barking loudly, and crammed his wet nose in Andy's ear.
Andy screamed as Einstein's nose plunged into his ear, and the dog started licking all over his face. He looked up in time to see what Nick was doing. "AHHHHH!! Noooooooo, ewwwwww!!! That is so gross!" He tried desperately to escape, laughing and pushing at Nick.
Nick turned his head to the side and spit out the dangler onto the grass as Andy flailed beneath him. "Gotta learn, Skibby - I always win," he rumbled lowly, and leaned down to kiss him soundly, ignoring Einstein altogether.
Dave grumbled under his breath and pulled out his wallet, handing Michael two five-dollar bills. "Fuck you, Aussie," he muttered, pouting.
Michael leaned into Dave and whispered into his ear. "Later, if you are really good..."
Dave grinned at Michael, his cheeks reddening slightly. "I'm gonna hold you to that."
Sixx looked up from his spot in the grass and heaved a long-suffering sigh, pushing slowly to his feet and climbing the deck stairs carefully, wagging his tail at his alpha female who was just then bringing her pup outside.
Brooke settled into her deck chair and put Ashlyn on her chest. She looked down at her and kissed Ashlyn's head tenderly, marveling at the softness of her hair. "You are such a precious angel," she whispered. She watched as Sixx laid down next to her chair, and she reached down, scratching behind his ear.
Neal locked the front door and wandered back to the kitchen, grabbing a glass and pouring Brooke's lemonade out of the pitcher. He headed out through the patio door, shaking his head at the scene confronting him. Skirting behind Brooke's chair, he laid the folded blanket on her lap, and squatted down, petting Sixx's greying muzzle. "Never thought I'd see the day when I was the grown-up of this bunch," he murmured softly, handing her the glass. He laid his hand gently on his daughter's back, losing himself in her huge, blue eyes staring back at him.
Brooke shook her head and laughed softly. "Had to happen to one of you... but I'm glad that it's you," she teased.
Andy moaned into the kiss grinning when Nick pulled back. "Damn... how do you know that I don't let you win."
Nick grinned down at Andy breathlessly. "Don't really matter t'me, as long as I keep winnin', lover."
Monty glanced down at the couple on the ground. "Hey, jackasses, if you're done making out, there...come and get it!"
Joey socked Monty in the arm. "Language, asshole! There's kids around!"
Kira narrowed her eyes and clapped a hand over Joey's mouth. "Shhhhhhhhhhhh!"
Andy smiled up at Nick and grinned. "Food?"
Nick grinned. "Food." He rolled off of Andy and got to his feet, holding out a hand to pull him to his feet.
Michael smacked Dave's ass as he stood up. "Come on - let's go and get some food before you steal Ashlyn away...I can see that look in your eyes."
Neal shook his head slightly in wonderment, and glanced up at Brooke's face, smiling softly. "Hey, since the food's ready...if you want t'eat first, I'll hold Ashlyn..." His smile became a slow, deep grin.
Brooke smiled. 'Yeah... you make me a plate and it will be a hand off... and honey.. none of the spicier stuff... don't want it to bother her stomach."
The group crowded around the food as Joey and Monty cleared the grill, each grabbing their favorites quickly. Kira's green head popped up out of the scrum. "Hey, Tiemann -- Tiemannzzzzzzzzzz -- what's your preferred food, so I can make sure there's something--" she paused to slap a groping hand -- "...son of a bitch, seriously! behave! -- make sure there's something left?"
Neal nodded, kissing Brooke softly. "Chicken for Brooklyn, a couple burgers for me," he called over to Kira, watching her immediately go into pit-bull mode, stabbing plastic forks at grabby hands invading her defended territory.
"Better go get your food before there's bloodshed," Neal murmured, ruffling Sixx's ears and stroking Ashlyn's hair softly as he stood up, completely missing how her wide blue eyes followed him as he moved.
Brooke laughed and took a drink of her lemonade before she leaned down, kissing Ashlyn's head. "You have so many people that love you, little one..." She watched as Neal grabbed their plates and headed back over. "It won't take me long to eat," she murmured, "and then I'll take her back so you can eat."
Neal set their plates on the small table between their chairs, and held out his arms for his daughter. He smiled as Brooke laid Ashlyn into his arms, and he settled back into his chair, losing himself in his baby daughter's perfect features. Her eyes met his, and he smiled tenderly, his heart melting once again.
Andy snagged a couple of burgers and sat down next to Nick, snagging a chip off of his plate with a quick kiss.
"Dude, there's a whole fuckin' bowl of chips on the table..." Nick whined playfully, and then reached over and nabbed a baby carrot from Andy's plate with a grin. "Now, we're even," he murmured, brushing his lips against Andy's ear.
Andy grinned. "But it tastes better off of your plate," he said, snagging another chip.
Nick let out a sigh. "Andy... Just..." He gave up, turning his plate so that his chips were on the side closest to Andy, and continued to eat his bratwurst with a slow head-shake.
Andy grinned. He turned his plate so that his carrots were close to Nick, smiling softly as he took another bite of his sandwich.
Nick smiled faintly and pressed lightly into Andy's side, leaning his head against his lover's with a soft sigh.
Kira pulled over one of the camping chairs that had been pressed into service, and settled down beside Brooke, beckoning Carly over. "Gonna keep you company while you eat," Kira confided, "since it looks like your hubby over there is completely fuckin' smitten."
Brooke smiled at Kira and Carly and nodded. "Yeah, he is. He never wants to put her in her crib! She's her daddy's girl, for sure," she said, taking a bite of her salad, and looked around their back yard at all of their friends. This was the way that it should be...surrounded by friends and family.
Kira grinned widely, leaning into Carly as she watched Neal and his daughter. "Oh, she's going to spoiled, that one..."
Brooke nodded. "It'll be a good spoiled, though," she smiled, and took another bite of her chicken.
Dave and Michael joined Monty, Joey, Kyle, and Hayden at the large patio table, the older men all laughing and joking. Hayden bent over his video game, occasionally looking up and shaking his head or rolling his eyes at something one of his 'adopted' uncles said, still managing to devour his food with no trouble at all.
Michael reached over and ruffled Hayden's hair as he glared at his dad. He leaned in and grinned at Dave. "You gonna go snag the baby, now that you're done eating?"
Dave looked over at Neal and the baby, and let out a soft snort of laughter. "Holy shit, would you look at that..." he murmured, shaking his head. "Only three days old, and he's already wrapped around her little finger..." Dave grinned softly at his boyfriend, tapping Michael's knee lightly with his fist. "Cover me, man...I might need to make a break for it..."
With that, Dave got to his feet and wandered over to Neal's side. "So, uh...you look pretty hungry, there, Neal..." he said. "Why don't you let me hold Ashlyn - that way, you can eat."
"Hmm?" Neal glanced up, hearing his name, and blinked up at Dave a moment. "...Oh...yeah, sure, sounds good..." he murmured, and handed Ashlyn over to his friend gently. He picked up his plate and started eating slowly, watching Dave like a hawk as he carried the baby back to the patio table to join the rest of their friends.
Brooke finished her plate and snuck a piece of chicken to Sixx. She grinned and leaned over to Neal, watching Dave with Ashlyn. "He is really good with kids, isn't he."
Neal shifted over to Brooke's chair and snuggled in beside her, shaking out the crocheted blanket and tucking it around them. He snaked his arms around her waist and propped his chin on Brooke's shoulder lightly. "Looks like we've got us a sure-fire baby sitter if we ever need a night out," he said softly, tucking her body against his.
"Oh, no you don't, Tiemann," Kira scolded him softly. "I get first fuckin' dibs on the baby-sitting, mister."
Brooke laughed softly. "Well, looks like we have more than one set of babysitters when it comes down to it, huh..." She let out a contented sigh and snuggled into Neal's side.
Neal made a soft sound and held Brooke close, rubbing her back slowly. He brought a hand around to rest on her belly, and brushed his lips lightly over her hair. "Love you so much..." he murmured softly, tightening his arm around her.
Carly smiled and nodded at Kira. "You gonna let him hog the baby?" she teased.
"Oh HELL no!" Kira retorted, stuffing the last bit of hamburger in her mouth before standing up and setting her plate on the table in front of David. "All right, Heartthrob, your time's up. I've been here longer than you, and I still haven't got my chance to hold her. My turn."
Dave grinned up at Kira, pretending to consider her request, until he saw her eyebrow arch up and her lips begin to thin. "...Okay, okay..." he relented, and stood carefully, placing the sleeping Ashlyn carefully in Kira's arms.
"Finally!" she crowed softly in victory. She looked down into Ashlyn's face, her own expression going as soft and tender as Neal's ever did.
Brooke laughed softly at Dave and Kira shifting slightly into Neal's arms. "Love you too..." she whispered.
Nick finished his brat and propped an arm behind Andy's back, slowly sliding his hand into the back pocket of Andy's jeans. He left his plate on his lap with all of his chips still close to Andy's hand, and stared out at the yard, beginning to fall into shadow as the sun set in the west.
Andy stretched his leg out, entwining it with Nick's. He looked at Nick and smiled. "You want to head home?"
"Sounds good t'me..." Nick murmured, pressing his lips softly to Andy's temple.
Andy stood up and made his way over to Brooke and Neal. "We're gonna head out... Love you guys. Call if you need anything, okay?"
Neal smiled up at Andy, and wormed an arm out from under the blanket to wave him and Nick over for a hug. "Thank you guys for coming," Neal murmured into Andy's ear, squeezing him tightly. "You both take care - and call us, too, okay?"
Nick bent down for his hug, and kissed Brooke gently on the forehead. "Will do, man. Get as much rest as you guys can - you're gonna need it..."
Brooke pulled Andy and Nick both in for hugs and smiled softly when they said their good-byes. She curled back up into Neal's arms and smiled. "I'm glad they came..." she whispered, kissing Neal's jaw before she settled back down against him, her eyes closing slowly.
Neal smiled sleepily and tugged the blankets further up around their shoulders. Curling protectively around his wife, he leaned his head against hers and closed his eyes, exhaling a soft breath as he drifted off.
Carly smiled knowingly at the sleeping couple. With a slight nod, she rose and walked over to Joey and Kyle, joining in on their conversation. "Keep it down, guys," she warned the group. "The new parents are sleeping..."
A soft chorus of "Aw..." greeted her words, and voices immediately gentled.
Michael stood up and started to gather up the paper plates. He took them inside to throw them away, and poked his head back out the door. "Anyone need a refill on drinks?"
"Nope, I'm good!" Dave replied with a smile. "Anyone else?" When no one answered right away, he patted the chair beside him. "Sit back down with me, y'big lug...we're just talking about the good old days, when Neal was a committed bachelor, and Brooke was a carefree girl, and none of us were paired off like we are now..."
Kira shook her head, laughing softly, and looked down at the baby in her arms, who was starting to stir. "Never fails," she murmured. "Momma falls asleep, and the baby wakes..."
Everyone around the table held their collective breaths as Ashlyn opened her eyes, waving her tiny fists around.
"Oh, hey now, wait a minute..." Kira whispered. "No, baby girl, those boobs don't give milk... Uh... Shit. Can someone help - grab us a bottle from the fridge and warm it up, please...?"
Dave, Mike, and Carly jumped to their feet as one, following Kira inside. As Carly filled a saucepan with water, setting it on the stove to heat, Dave and Mike opened the refrigerator, staring at the bottles of milk confronting them.
"...Neal said it tasted better warm..." Dave said softly.
"...He said we all had to have some before we left..." Michael murmured back.
Shooting each other sly glances, they smiled.