“Josten, your daughter is crying.”
Neil groaned and rolled over as he woke up, letting out a slow breath and letting his eyes adjust to the half-light. “She’s your daughter too, you know.”
Andrew tugged the blankets back off him and wrapped them around himself. He looked adorable, all bundled up like that, but that didn’t excuse the fact that Neil was left blanket-less. He pulled it up, until only his face was exposed, his eyes full of sleep and his hair messy and knotted.
“Not at 5am, she isn’t. You were going to go for a run anyway, right babe?” Andrew smiled sweetly at him and Neil’s resolve crumbled, though he still cursed as he went to check on Noah.
The crib was over by the door to their en-suite bathroom, and Neil almost tripped on three different toys on his way to it. The foxes’ dorm situation had been shuffled around in order to give them he space they needed for a baby while still following the college’s criteria for athletes, and therefore it wasn’t long before Neil’s phone buzzed with a new text.
Aaron: Shut your baby up, Josten.
Neil rolled his eyes and lifted the crying baby into his arms, swaying with her gently until the crying calmed down to just a whimper here and there. He padded his way to the kitchen then, and began the now familiar process of heating up a bottle of milk for her. Andrew had reluctantly declined to breastfeed, for the sake of his own mental health, but Neil had looked it up and there wasn’t any proof that bottle milk was bad. Noah seemed to like it anyway. After testing it on his wrist, like Renee had shown him, he let her drink from it, still rocking her gently as she sucked on the bottle quietly. She seemed satisfied after that, and he burped her gently after sitting down on the couch, sitting her on his lap. Her hair had grown in the few short months since she was born, and he pressed a gentle kiss to it, hearing her gurgle in response.
“You ready to sleep again now?” He chuckled as he already drowsy expression answered his question, and he picked her up again, carrying her back into their bedroom. Andrew was still wrapped up in the blankets inside, but he didn’t seem to have gone to sleep like Neil had thought.
“Here, Josten, give her to me.”
Neil grinned softly and nodded, walking over to lay their sleeping daughter on his boyfriend’s chest, brushing a quick kiss to her hair again before pressing a firmer one to his lips. “I’m gonna go for a run, I’ll be back before breakfast?”
Andrew shoved his face away. “Yeah, yeah. Don’t get lost.”
Neil laughed, and then grabbed his sneakers and running leggings, getting dressed quickly before leaving as quietly as he could.
When Neil came home from his run, Andrew was up and around, making breakfast and listening to the radio while Noah ‘sang’ along from her high chair, watching him as he moved around. It was so painfully domestic that Neil’s heart stuttered in his chest, and he felt himself smiling.
That was, until Nicky and Aaron steamrolled into the kitchen looking for food, too.
Neil snorted at Nicky’s impressive bed head, dodging around the table to kiss Noah’s head. “Morning, guys.”
Aaron moved his hand as a sort of salute, grabbing toast from the toaster, and Nicky grinned at him. Andrew, on the other hand, shoved him away again as he tried to kiss him and then brandished a spatula between them.
“Go shower, Josten. You stink.”
Neil rolled his eyes and laughed, before pulling his hoodie off and going to turn on the hot water. He could hear the others outside, and if he listened carefully he could hear Noah’s delighted laughter at the attention she was receiving. She was so friendly, it was funny that she was half Neil, half Andrew at all. She made similar expressions to Andrew though, much to Neil’s amusement. Her eyebrows drew together and her lips pursed when she was trying to focus, the same way that Andrew’s did when he was reading or playing video games, and her smile was just a little crooked, the same way Andrew’s was. On the other hand, she blushed just as easily as Neil did, and she had dimples the same way he did, at least before the scars stopped them from being as pronounced.
He showered quickly, and got redressed in one of Andrew’s bigger shirts and sweatpants, leaving his hair towel dried and going back out to his family, small as it was.
Andrew was feeding her when he re-emerged, while Aaron and Nicky were bickering at the kitchen table over something they had seen online. Neil ignored them, since Nicky would probably tell them all about it later, instead gesturing for Andrew to let him take over feeding. She was only starting to eat baby food now, rather than milk bottles, and she seemed to share Neil’s love of fruit.
He took the spoon and little pot out of Andrew’s hands, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “Go eat, babe.”
Andrew nodded and yawned, going to grab some milk and chocolate cereal, pouring himself a bowl. Neil chuckled and then fed Noah some more of the banana and apple puree he was holding, thankful that she was sitting still for them that day.
“Here comes the airplane, Noah!”
Andrew rolled his eyes at the sight of his boyfriend, asleep on the couch with their daughter lying on his chest while he was supposed to be keeping her entertained. She smiled at him when she saw him, exposing her gums endearingly. Andrew’s heart melted, just a little.
It seemed to be doing that a lot, lately.
He went to sit at the edge of the couch, and then lifted the little girl onto his lap, letting her grab at his shirt again the way she usually did.
“Hey, Noni.” He chuckled and then wiped her face with his thumb, wiping away a bit of her lunch that Neil must have forgotten to clean away. “Daddy’s doing a real good job of watching you, isn’t he?”
He heard Neil stir next to him, and grinned as the man replied snarkily. “Daddy’s doing his best!”
He laughed softly and then rubbed Noah’s back. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Wanna get the remote? Her show is on in a few minutes.”
Noah had become enamoured with television, fascinated by the colours and the moving shapes on the screen. Andrew remembered being the same way when he was a child. He had been older than her, granted, and it probably hadn’t been healthy for him, but he remembered watching television for hours at a time in the homes where no one seemed to care what he did. He shook his head quickly, to stop that train of thought in its tracks.
Neil hummed and flicked through the channels quickly, finding her favourite show and then putting the remote down. Andrew hunched forward a little to let him wrap an arm around his shoulders, leaning into his side as Noah smiled and clapped excitedly, her eyes focused on the screen as the opening theme played.
Andrew felt himself smiling again, and he allowed his head to rest on Neil’s shoulder. He had smiled more in the past couple months than he had in the 21 years prior to it, more easily too, even if his mood hadn’t changed all that much otherwise. It felt… good, having a child to care for, especially with Neil there to help him. Not that Andrew would say that out loud, but he reckoned that the message came across anyway. It always seemed to, with Neil.
He watched the screen absentmindedly, letting Neil play with his hair, running his fingers through it over, and over, letting the curls wrap around his fingertips. It felt good, and Andrew could practically feel himself slipping into unconsciousness, falling asleep on his boyfriend’s shoulder. He could feel Noah breathing too under his hands where he was holding her, and the slow rise and fall of her breathing helped to soothe him to sleep.