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Baby, I wished for you

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Tyson had grabbed his phone to check the alarm was set when he noticed he had some new texts. He might have ignored them; if he had texts this late it was normally Josty having a washing machine crisis or Nate wanting reassurance that his ass was just as good as Sid’s (Tyson wasn’t above lying to support his bro). The thing was, the texts were from Gabe.

He thumbed open the chat thinking he’d probably just, like, left his wallet down the back of Gabe’s couch. They’d got kind of gropey and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d left something there after hooking up. The thing was, Gabe didn’t normally text after their hookups and if he did, it was normally just once. It wasn’t an entire half a conversation.

He opened the texts.

“I have a baby.”

“I don’t know when.”

“I went to my room and it was there.”

“Shit.”

The last text was a picture of a basket. A wish basket. The baby inside was still wrapped up and sleeping so Gabe must not have touched it yet.

For half a second, Tyson wondered if it was his. But that was stupid, if he was going to manage to wish them a baby he’d have done it already. He’d seen Gabe with kids a million times and felt that longing right down to his bones but he’d never walked into a room or checked behind the sofa to find a baby sleeping gently in its basket. And Gabe wasn’t likely to wish up a baby with Tyson. It was pretty clear, after years of casually hooking up between relationships, that he didn’t look at Tyson that way.

But he’d wished the baby up with someone.

“Oh god,” he texted back, for lack of anything better to say. Then, “Did you pick it up yet? Did you open the letter? Who did you wish it with?”

“Don’t know,” Gabe replied almost immediately.

This was stupid. Tyson hit call and Gabe picked up.

“Okay,” he said, trying to project calm since Gabe had to be panicking. Tyson would be panicking if he was suddenly a dad. “Like, who’ve you had around today?” Nobody’d really got a handle on what exactly pulled a wish baby into the world yet but it was always two people who’d been together that day.

“Everyone, Tyson. Literally everyone.” Which, duh. Team bonding. Barbeque. MarioKart tournament which he’d lost comically. Everyone else leaving and Gabe pressing him down into the couch and necking like a couple of horny teenagers.

“So, open the letter.”

There was some shuffling, presumably Gabe picking up the letter. Tyson waited.

“No.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to.”

“Gabe...”

“I don’t. It’s my baby. It’s in my bedroom. It doesn’t matter who the other person on this paper is.” Which, well, that was a valid choice. Lots of people didn’t open their letters, probably. But, like, a wish baby. Gabe had really wanted a baby and the universe had looked down and seen him, like, having a special moment with someone just right for him or some shit and then handed him a baby.

Or, you know, random chance or whatever. Whatever you believed.

“Have you picked it up. The baby?”

“No,” Gabe said. “Wait, I’ll do it now.”

“Do you want me to...” Tyson said, trailing off. He should offer to get off the phone, to give Gabe peace to have this moment with his kid because, holy shit, Gabe had a kid.

A kid that might be Tyson’s. After all, he’d been there. Random luck or fate or whatever, at least his name was in the hat.

It might equally have been AJ’s but whatever.

Gabe wasn’t listening, apparently. There was the sound of a phone being set on the ground then a rustling and the soft, distressed cries of a baby being lifted out of its warm safety and into life. Shit, he could just imagine its little eyelids fluttering open, it blinking up into the world, its tiny fists gripping and toes wiggling. Did newborns wiggle their toes? They had to, right?

Gabe was crooning something in Swedish and the baby was still making discontented sounds and, shit, Tyson wanted to be there. He could be there, right? Gabe had texted him, they were friends.

He grabbed a hoodie and pulled it on over his pjs then headed downstairs. He was halfway through pulling his sneakers on when Gabe picked up the phone again.

“It’s a boy,” he said, and his voice was all soft and careful in a way that made Tyson’s heart ache.

“That’s awesome, Gabe. I... want me to come over?”

There was a silence, he thought maybe Gabe had moved away again but then he replied. “Please. I mean, maybe you can stop by the store.”

“Sure, of course.” To get baby things. Shit, he had no idea what a baby needed. “I’ll run to the store and be right over.”

“Okay,” Gabe said, so fucking soft. He was going to be a great dad, the best dad. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah, soon,” Tyson agreed, and the line went dead. He looked at his phone for a second, then shoved it in the pocket of his hoodie and finished getting his trainers on. He should probably put on real clothes if he was going to have to shop but he didn’t want to waste the time.

In the car, he rigged his phone to hands free and called Nate. Nate didn’t answer so he called his mom instead. She picked up on the second ring.

“Tyson, baby, are you okay?”

“What? Yeah. What do I need for a baby?”

“A what?”

“A wish baby? What do they need?”

“Tyson, did you...” she trailed off but he heard the note of hope in her voice and winced.

“Gabe. Not me. Gabe found a baby. A boy. He has a son and I said I’d go to the store.”

A pause then, “Has he opened his letter?”

“No.”

“So it could be yours? You said you were going round there today.”

“Me and the rest of the team. I mean, yeah, maybe, but the odds aren’t great.”

“Tyson.”

“Mom,” Tyson said, tightening his grip on the wheel. It wouldn’t do anyone any good for him to lose his head daydreaming about the kid being his, especially if Gabe wasn’t opening the envelope. If Gabe wanted to have a baby alone, that was his own thing. He’d barely even talked to Tyson until everyone else was leaving. He’d probably had a million significant interactions that day, if that was even what made a wish baby. The baby was probably already lying there, sleeping, waiting, when Gabe had his hands on Tyson’s dick.

“I just, okay, do you have a pen?”

“What?”

“To write a list of things you need.”

“I’m driving.”

“Tyson, you shouldn’t be on the phone when you’re driving!”

“Focus, mom. I’m using hands free.”

She sighed then launched into a list of things. Diapers and wipes and clothes and muslins and bottles seemed to be the biggest deals for the first night, which seemed obvious enough. He ended the call when he get to the parking lot then headed in.

It turned out that the baby section had an entire display for wish babies. He grabbed everything his mom listed, including a couple of little onesies that said “daddy wished me”. Then he detoured through the rest of the baby clothes because they were so tiny, he couldn’t resist. He grabbed a little sleep suit that’d make the kid look like a teddy bear and a couple with tiny lions on the front because somehow that seemed appropriate. Then he grabbed a tiny plush bunny, because it looked soft and because all kids should have a teddy, even though he guessed a newborn was going to be too young to play.

Not that he knew. EJ had gotten a wish baby years ago. Well, his girlfriend was the one to find it. Tyson hadn’t been trusted with the baby until she was six months old. And the other guys were so young. They were all so young.

And now Gabe had a baby.

In the car, Nate finally called him back. Apparently Gabe had texted him too but Tyson wasn’t disappointed at that. Of course Gabe had texted all his friends, not just Tyson. It wasn’t like Tyson was special.

Nate wasn’t coming out to buy weird baby clothes and stuffed rabbits though so score one for Uncle Tys.

Nate seemed deeply underwhelmed by the idea of the baby. Like, he kept saying he was happy for Gabe but he also kept yawning and pointing out that they had to skate the next day which Tyson knew but he wasn’t going to be able to sleep until he’d met the kid so why not be excited?

And then he was pulling into Gabe’s drive so he hung up, gathered his bags (and god, did babies need a lot of crap), and let himself in.

He kind of didn’t want to shout because baby so he toed off his trainers and padded through to find Gabe curled up in one of the big, soft chairs next to the TV. He was looking down in wonder at the tiny baby in his arms and Tyson had to stop for a second in the doorway and just give himself a chance to breathe because it was a lot, okay. Gabe with a baby, his baby, smiling all softly like that and looking so warm and happy.

It was a lot.

Then Gabe glanced up at him and smiled.

“Hey, look who’s here,” he said, turning his attention back to the baby. “Uncle Tyson.”

“Hell, I mean, heck yeah,” Tyson said, forcing himself further into the room. It was fine, it was only soft Gabe with a baby. He could handle soft Gabe with a baby. “Best uncle in the world here with bags full of gifts.”

“I hope you’ve got diapers,” Gabe said, sitting up a little. “I’m kind of worried.”

“Will, he even, like poop until you feed him? Does he have anything in him?”

“I don’t know,” Gabe said, moving to the edge of the chair. “But I’m not going to take the risk if I don’t have to.”

“Fair. So, I kind of grabbed everything from the wishbaby display. My mom listed a load of other shit, stuff, when I called her but she says we, I mean you, can get a lot of it later. I think I got, like, the essentials.”

“I don’t even know what the essentials are,” Gabe said. He was looking down at the baby again, and Tyson could hardly blame him. If he had a baby he’d be sitting there looking down at it too. He kind of wanted to go sit on the chair arm and just stare down at Gabe’s baby. It was so tiny and it just looked so nice.

But he was going to be the awesome friend and awesome uncle who had his shit together.

“I didn’t, like, buy a changing mat or anything because I didn’t want to get one you hate and Mom said we could use a towel for the first night so I’m just gonna go grab a towel?”

Gabe nodded and Tyson scurried up to the bathroom, giving himself a few vital seconds to press his face into the towel and muffle a scream. He could do this. He could. It was just Gabe with a baby. He had so much experience in not letting himself be so in love with Gabe that he exploded. He’d been training for this for years.

Gabe hadn’t moved from his careful seat with his baby held tight against his chest. Tyson knelt down on the floor and spread out the towel, making sure it was folded to keep it soft for baby, then went back to his bags and grabbed a pack of diapers. He took one out and it seemed impossibly small in his hands but then he looked back at the tiny slip of a baby, wrapped in a t-shirt and cradled against Gabe’s chest and, yeah.

Gabe moved to kneel next to Tyson then, cautiously, lowered the baby to the towel. He’d only wrapped the t-shirt around it and he folded it back now so the baby was lying there, completely naked, red and wrinkled and tiny and so fucking beautiful.

“Hey there,” Tyson said, voice soft. “Hey, little guy.” The baby didn’t do anything but, hey, he was less than an hour old. “Let’s get you un-naked.”

“Do you know how to do this?” Gabe asked, reaching his hand out for the diaper. Tyson passed it over with a shrug.

“Can’t be that hard.”

It wasn’t but baby Landeskog obviously protested clothing, which Tyson totally got, because the baby made unhappy noises as Tyson lifted his little bottom up and Gabe slid the diaper into position. Once they’d got the diaper on him they managed to wrangle him into one of the tiny wishbaby onesies, Gabe supporting his head this time while Tyson figured out snaps. Then Gabe was lifting him again and settling back, baby pressed into his chest and shoulders relaxing.

Tyson grabbed his phone and snapped a picture. He was only human, after all. Gabe raised an eyebrow.

“What, you don’t want photos of your first day with your kid?”

“That’s actually not a bad idea,” Gabe said, his hand rubbing gently over the baby’s back. “My mom’ll kill me if I don’t have pictures.”

“Exactly,” Tyson said, snapping a few more. If he kept them too then, well, he was going to be the kid’s favourite uncle. Of course he’d want photos of him.

Then Gabe was looking at the kid with a tender smile again and Tyson had a limit so he went to grab the bags and took himself off to the kitchen to figure out bottle making. It turned out formula wasn’t too hard, it was sterilising the bottles that took a little getting his head around. Like, why did he even have to it the bottles were new but it said to and the helpful label on the formula can told him that his special new bundle probably wouldn’t want to eat for the first six or so hours anyway for whatever reason but it never hurt to sterilise bottles in advance.

And then there was nothing left to do in the kitchen so he had to go back out.

Gabe hadn’t moved which was, like, super rare. He wasn’t, like, a guy who couldn’t stay still but he still normally moved around. Now he just sat there, body perfectly still, tiny baby head on his collar bone.

“You’re sure you’re not going to open the letter.” He couldn’t help but ask.

“I’m sure.”

Tyson nodded. That was Gabe’s right. He was the one who found the baby, after all, in his house.

And it probably wasn’t Tyson’s anyway.

“Do you want to hold him?”

Tyson was pretty sure his eyes just went wide. Gabe was smirking at him, but it was somehow less cutting with the baby pressed against his chest. Fuck, yes.

“Of course,” Tyson said. “But... I’ve never held a baby this small. I’m not gonna, like, break him?”

“He’s not that fragile,” Gabe said, though he didn’t sound that sure either. “Sit down, I’ll give him to you.”

Tyson sat. Gabe approached slowly, doing that weird parent walk where he swayed a bit as he did which meant that was probably, like, innate or something. And then he was right there, kneeling down and holding out the baby. The beautiful, perfect little baby.

Tyson wished it was his.

“What do I do?” he said, holding out his hands and dropping them again. It was so tiny, it had to be breakable. Didn’t people always worry about holding new babies? There was no way he should be allowed to do this.

“Just support his head,” Gabe said, and then he was lying the baby into Tyson’s arms and stepping back.

Tyson understood how still Gabe had been, then. He hardly dared to breathe. The baby was warm and it wriggled for a second, its eyes sliding open, its lips smacking, and then it settled again, curled up against Tyson, and his heart melted.

There was the snap of a camera and he looked up to find Gabe stood there, phone out, shit-eating grin on his face. “Yeah, whatever. Send me a copy.”

“Of course,” Gabe said. “I’m just gonna run to the bathroom while you’re holding him.”

“Sure,” Tyson said. And then Gabe was gone and he was alone with the baby.

Gabe’s baby.

“Hey, baby,” he whispered. He wished he could reach out and stroke its little cheek, run his thumb over the tiny fingernails. He’d never thought about baby fingernails before but they were so soft looking. He wanted to kiss them then wrap the baby in cotton wool and make sure nobody ever hurt it ever. “I’m your favourite uncle. Just remember that. Remember I’m the best. Nate and EJ are going to come around and tell you they’re the best uncles but they’re not. I am.”

The baby didn’t argue with him which already made it better than most of the adult humans Tyson knew.

Then Gabe was back. There was worry on his face that evaporated the second he set eyes on the baby and that’s when it really hit him, like lit him in the gut. This was Gabe’s son. His baby. Gabe had apparently wanted a baby so deeply that this baby had been pulled into life.

“You want him back?” he asked. Gabe’s hands made a little movement towards Tyson but he pulled them back.

“In a minute. You can hold him for a minute.”

“No, man, it’s okay. I get it. He’s your son. You should hold him.”

Gabe hovered for a second longer, then he was there, scooping the baby out of Tyson’s arms. Tyson forced himself to let it go. He really wished he didn’t have to.

He shouldn’t have come here, not tonight. God, he should have known it’d be too much. But he couldn’t just leave Gabe here. It hurt, it really hurt, to see Gabe holding this baby, to know that maybe it should be his too but he couldn’t push.

But he was nothing if not a sucker for Gabe and Gabe needed him right now.

Gabe settled back in his chair, baby tight against his chest. Tyson had to get it together.

“Have you picked a name for him yet?”

“Not yet,” Gabe said, rubbing the baby’s back. “I mean, I haven’t even thought about it. Not really. I didn’t expect this, not today.”

“But, you’re happy, right?”

“Of course I am,” Gabe said, so impossibly sincere. “Of course; I wished for him, didn’t I?”

He did.

***

Tyson managed to stay away for three days.

The thing was, he didn’t want to crowd Gabe. He had a kid and it wasn’t Tyson’s so Tyson shouldn’t be hanging around, it was as simple as that. He’d called his family on that first night while Tyson had cuddled the baby for him and they’d booked the first flight out. He had them with him now, his parents and his sister, so he didn’t need Tyson.

The first day was easy, they had an away game the next day so it was mostly taken up with flights and hotel check-ins and practice. He did still manage a little time in the hotel room to confirm the smallest jersey he could get was in toddler sizes, not newborn, but that the Avs shop would happily sell him a little custom onesie.

The second day they played so he tried to convince himself that was taking up most of his brain space and that he didn’t spend any time googling lists of things you should get for a newborn baby. Gabe’s family was with him, they probably had all this covered. But, still, he kept finding himself on different websites imagining, if the baby was his, which furniture he’d pick out for the nursery, which tiny clothing he’d get, which toys would be best.

The third day, tired from the plane ride, he found himself back in the baby aisle of target and finally gave in and texted Gabe.

“Hey.”

“Can I come over?”

The reply came almost right away. “Please.”

He picked up a plush puppy and a carton of ice cream then headed to Gabe’s house.

He found Gabe sitting on the floor of his living room, watching the baby who was lying on his back on a mat, asleep. He managed not to freeze in the doorway this time and just take it all in but only because Gabe’s family were probably around and he didn’t want them to think he was some kind of weirdo.

Instead he walked into the room and only stumbled a little bit when Gabe looked up and smiled at him.

“Hey,” Tyson said, dropping his shopping bag. “How’s my favourite baby?”

“Great,” Gabe said, reaching down to gently brush his finger along the sole of one soft baby foot. “He’s had a big day. I can wake him up for you to cuddle if you like.”

“Nah, I’ll cuddle him later. Let him sleep.”

Gabe smiled then and sat back then pushed up to his feet, stretching. His eyes kept going back to the baby though and Tyson got that. It was pretty hard to not just stand there and watch the rise and fall of his little chest. It seemed so impossible that he was just lying there, sleeping, breathing, existing.

“Come on,” he said, grabbing the grocery bag again. “I brought ice cream.”

Gabe snorted like there was something funny about ice cream but he did trail Tyson through to the kitchen. It was kind of a mess, which was unlike Gabe, but then Gabe did have a baby now and apparently that took up a lot of time. Tyson grabbed them two spoons and went over to the counter where Gabe had already cracked open the tub.

“So,” he said, sliding on to a bar stool. “Are your family around? Are they going to want ice cream?”

“No, they’ve already left for their hotel.”

Tyson blinked, probably stupidly. “Their hotel?”

“Yeah. They said that, at their age, they can’t be staying up all night with a baby and I understand. He is my responsibility, after all.”

“I guess,” Tyson said. He wasn’t doubting that Gabe’s family loved him, they’d shown that a million times over, but he couldn’t imagine his mom wanting to stay in a hotel if there was a grandchild to love on.

“I think they’re trying to give me space to bond with him.” That made a little more sense. “They’re trying to be helpful.”

Tyson found himself glancing around the mess of a kitchen, the only clean area being a little strip where the bottles and formula sat. Obviously they weren’t being that helpful. He hadn’t come over to be judgy though so he grabbed his spoon and dug into the ice cream.

He only managed a mouthful when, from the living room, there was a desolate little cry. Gabe dropped his spoon and was out of the door in a minute, Tyson honestly wasn’t that far behind. The baby was lying on the floor, little body curled up, face red. Gabe knelt down and put a hand on his little stomach, another on his head, and started making soothing noises. Tyson hung back and watched as the baby stopped crying, its little wails giving way to sniffles.

“Is he okay?” Tyson dared to asked, edging closer.

“Yeah,” Gabe said. He knelt down and pulled at some clothes then wrinkled his nose. “Diaper change time. Though it was nearly dinner time anyway. I don’t suppose you’d mind getting a bottle ready.”

“Sure,” Tyson said, glad for something to do. He’d made up a few bottles in that mad first day so he hustled to the kitchen and set about making up the formula. He could hear Gabe through the door, talking to the baby who was still making little distressed noises, probably about being naked. The kid really didn’t like being naked.

He was going to have problems if he ever wanted to hang out in a NHL locker room.

When the bottle was ready he brought it through to find Gabe already sat in his chair, baby in his lap and cloth in hand, waiting. He handed over the bottle and settled in to watch.

“I’m sorry,” Gabe said, eyes on his son. “This probably isn’t going to be a very exciting visit for you.”

“Hey, no. You don’t have to entertain me.”

“At the moment all he really does is eat and make a mess of his diapers. You can hold him when I’ve fed him. Or I suppose you can take over the feeding...”

He looked reluctant at that and Tyson laughed. “Nah, you keep him. I’m gonna go put the ice cream in the freezer.”

“Okay,” Gabe said, shifting his hold to get the baby a little closer. Tyson smiled; he figured Gabe wanted to be the one to feed him. He should, he should get all the time in the world to bond with his baby.

In the kitchen he dumped the ice cream in a nearly-empty freezer then loaded up the dish washer and set it running. He even wiped down some of the counters, which made the entire place feel a lot better. When he went back out, Gabe was still sat there, baby now sleeping on his lap.

“Hey,” he said. “You want me to go?”

“No, stay. I heard you cleaning in there; you didn’t have to do that.”

“Nah,” Tyson agreed. “But I wanted to. It’s cleaner in there now.”

“Thanks,” Gabe said. His eyes were fixed on the baby in his arms and Tyson would probably be offended if the baby wasn’t so fucking perfect. “I didn’t mean for it to get that bad; it’s just been a busy few days.”

“I bet,” Tyson said. He thought for a second about going over to sit on the couch but he knew what he wanted and Gabe didn’t object when he sat down on the arm of the chair. “I mean, you’ve had a lot of baby stuff to take care of.”

“Kind of,” Gabe said, and he looked oddly shifty.

“You have bought baby stuff, right? I can see new baby stuff...”

“I’ve got some things. I’ll be calmer when my family are gone. They all mean well and they’re trying to help but they just want to cuddle him, you know. Which is fine, but I haven’t even gotten a crib yet, or a car seat, and I need to be thinking about who’s going to look after him when I go back to work.”

“You probably need to name him at some point, too.”

“Yeah,” Gabe sighed. “I just feel like I haven’t had time to think.”

“Well, lucky for you, I got really bored in a hotel room,” Tyson said, opening up his phone and flipping to the tabs in his browser where the nursery sets were still open. “So, what do you think, dinosaurs or jungle?”

Gabe looked so relieved it was unreal and they spent the next little while sat there, baby sleeping between them, Tyson helping Gabe pick out tiny furniture, a car seat that came with a frame and transformed into a stroller, a ton of little clothes, more essentials, and then paying the premium for next day delivery.

“Thank you,” Gabe said once they were done.

“Hey, no problem. I am going to demand at least one baby cuddle before I go, though. In payment.”

Gabe snorted. “Sure, I can spare one cuddle. You don’t need to go, though. It’s getting late, you can stay over if you want. You might want to use one of the spare rooms, he needs to eat every two hours so I’m up and down a lot but...”

“Jesus, Gabe. He eats every two hours and you’ve been doing this yourself?”

“I nap during the day, a little.”

“Yeah but, like, a little nap during the day is hardly a proper sleep. Do you need to go to bed now? I’ll stay up and, like, take first watch then you can get up later and we can swap over.”

“No,” Gabe said, frowning. “That’s not fair. You have to play tomorrow.”

“And you haven’t slept properly in days. Come on, Gabe. I nap before the game anyway, staying up a little late won’t kill me.”

“I guess,” Gabe said. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Tyson insisted, holding out his arms. “Gimme.”

Gabe laughed but he did climb out of the chair and transfer over the sleeping baby. He spent a few more minutes making sure Tyson knew when he feed and when to change and making him promise to fetch Gabe if he needed anything before he finally admitted defeat and headed up to the bedroom.

A couple of hours later, Tyson opened up their furniture order and added a nursing pillow. Turned out babies are heavy.

***

The new nursery set looked good. Tyson had let the workmen set it all up, it was part of the service they’d paid for and he was man enough to admit that he’d never feel quite confident lying a baby down in a crib he had any part in building. But, once they’d gone, he’d been the one to rustle round the room, unpacking while Gabe napped and his parents looked after the baby. He stocked the changing table, folded all the little clothes and put them into the drawers, decorated with the circus animals they’d settled on in the end, and made up the tiny crib, putting the two toys he’d bought up neat the pillow where baby would be able to see them and remember him when he wasn’t there.

He was just finishing up when Gabe came in, baby held to his chest.

“Hey,” Gabe said. “He needs a change so I figured I’d come up here and see how you’re doing.”

“All ready to go,” Tyson said, standing back and gesturing. Gabe looked around and smiled, one of those genuinely pleased smiles that made the sides of his eyes crinkle. Tyson loved that smile.

“Thanks. Show me where things are?”

Tyson did, helping change the baby in the process. Baby seemed pretty happy with his new room, looking around with big eyes and not even sobbing when they took away his diaper and give him a new one. Gabe was appropriately appreciative of the way Tyson had folded the clothes so you could easily see which little onesie you were grabbing and even seemed to approve of the two stuffed animals perched at the top of the bed next to the little pillow.

“It’s great, Tys,” he said, all warm and pleased in a way that, it he wasn’t holding a baby, might make Tyson try to hit on him right now. “Thank you so much.”

“It was no problem,” Tyson said. It hadn’t been, really. He’d rushed home from morning skate and still hadn’t taken his pre-game nap or had lunch but it was worth it for the way Gabe was smiling, as though Tyson had done so much more than supervise a few guys and fill some drawers.

“Here,” he said, shifting the baby. “Cuddle him for a second.”

“Always.” Tyson held out his arms and took the sleepy baby, supporting his head and bottom and then tucking him into his chest where he settled down again quickly, rubbing his little face against Tyson’s shoulder in a way that made his heart flutter.

Gabe was examining the room again so Tyson went over to the rocking chair and sat down. He rocked for a while, watching the baby sleeping in his arms, until Gabe came over.

“Hey,” Tyson said, voice soft. “You want him back?”

“Not yet. I just wanted to talk names.”

“Names?” Tyson asked, blinking. Gabe nudged his feet so Tyson swung them off the stool that came with the rocking chair so Gabe could sit down there.

“Yes, names. I can’t pick one. I think my dad wants me to name him after him.”

“Tony?” Tyson asked, wrinkling his nose a little.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the name, I love my dad, but I don’t think he’s a Tony. And, I don’t know, I don’t want to burden him with a legacy, you know. I don’t want him to think like he has to be like my dad, or me. So many people are already going to look at him and think he’s going to have to be a hockey player because I am, I want him to know he’s his own person, he can be anything he wants.”

“Yeah,” Tyson said, running his hand over soft baby hair. “He’s gonna be awesome, whatever he does.”

“Exactly. So I want a new name for him, not a family name.”

“So, what were you thinking?”

Gabe was quiet for a second. Then, “Noah. I was thinking of naming him Noah.”

“Noah,” Tyson said. He looked down at the baby. It seemed impossible to give him a name, he was so small and vulnerable. But he could be a Noah. “I don’t know many Noah’s. It’s a good name.”

“Yeah,” Gabe agreed. “I think I’m going to go with it. Noah.”

“Hi, Noah,” Tyson whispered. He was definitely imagining it but he thought the baby looked pleased.

***

“Oh my god, Tys, stop hovering.”

“I’m trying,” Tyson said, forcing himself to shuffle half a step back and shoving his hands into his pockets. “It’s just, you’re sure you’ve got his head, right?”

“Yes,” Nate said, obviously completely exasperated. “I’m sure I’ve got his head. I’ve held a baby before, you know.”

“Really?” Tyson said, raising an eyebrow. “Since when?”

“Since, like, forever ago. Don’t look at me like that. I’ve held tons of babies.”

Tyson was pretty sure he was justified in looking sceptical and took his half step back in. “Look, if you drop him, Landy will probably be heartbroken. Then we’ll never win the Stanley Cup. And you’ll be shunned all though the hockey world for, like, the rest of your life.”

“Then it’s a good job I’m not going to drop him,” Nate said, rolling his eyes. It was a good thing Nate was such a good bro or he might have actually taken some of what Tyson was saying to heart. As it was, Tyson felt pretty secure in being a bit of an ass to him. He’d already had to watch Josty and Kerfy hold Noah and he was pretty sure neither of them had ever held a baby before in their lives.

“I know,” he admitted. “I just... he’s really tiny.”

“Yeah, he is,” Nate agreed, voice going all soft. “I can’t believe Landy made a wish baby. Do you know if he’s opened his envelope yet?”

“Nah, he said he isn’t going to. He says it’s random and he doesn’t want someone to feel forced into, like, being with him just because they happened to hang out together one day and they made a baby.”

Nate snorted. Tyson nodded. They’d watched enough trashy TV together to know each other’s views on wish babies. However they were picked, Tyson was pretty sure it wasn’t actually random. Sure, he wasn’t convinced they were about soulmates and true love either and if, like, he accidentally made one with someone he wasn’t in love with he wasn’t going to run away and marry them but, still...

Noah stirred a little, making an unhappy noise, and Tyson stepped in, lying his hand on the baby’s back. Nate sighed in a long-suffering kind of way and moved his arms so Tyson could lift Noah and hold him close, whispering soft words into his sweet smelling baby hair.

“Here you are!”

Tyson looked up to see EJ coming across the room, his own wish baby, Karla, balanced on his hip. “Gabe said you were looking after the baby.”

“He is,” Nate said, grinning like the traitor he was. “He’s taking his responsibilities very seriously.”

“Of course I am, he’s only a baby. You have to be careful with babies, Nathan.”

“Daddy,” Karla said. “Can I hold the baby?”

“Sure,” EJ said as Tyson said, “Absolutely not,” the voices overlapping. Karla looked between them.

“He’s only a baby,” Tyson said, tightening his hold on Noah. “She’s only a baby.”

“She’s four, Tyson. And she’s held babies before. Come on, it’s going to be fine.”

“Please,” Karla said, looking at him with her great big sad eyes and fuck, Tyson was such a sucker.

“I guess. But she’s got to sit down.”

“Of course,” Ej said, swinging her around. God, Tyson could never imagine swinging Noah around like that. He’d be terrified of dropping him or pulling him weirdly or, well, so many things. He was so easy to hurt. He’d cried inconsolably the day before when they’d taken him for his first immunisation.

Still, Karla giggled and let EJ arrange her on the sofa. When she was settled, Tyson approached with Noah. A few of the guys were already pulling their phones out. He ignored them, kneeling down and gently offering the baby to Karla. She was great, sitting still and holding her arms just as he told her while he settled the baby down. Noah wriggled for a second, a little tired of being passed from hockey player to hockey player all afternoon, then opened his eyes to look up at her. Cameras flashed and Tyson made himself lean back out of the way so they could get clear pictures. It was hella cute, he had to admit that.

“He’s cute,” Karla said, little nose wrinkling. “Daddy, was I this little?”

“You sure were,” EJ said, looking vaguely nostalgic. The guys generally presumed that Karla came more from his girlfriend’s wishes than his but sometimes Tyson wondered.

“Okay, time to give him back,” he said, swooping in and lifting Noah up. Nate was rolling his eyes but he didn’t care, just pressed Noah back against his chest. “He’s getting hungry.”

“But he ate only a little bit ago,” he said, screwing up her nose.

“I know,” Tyson agreed. Gabe settling down with the baby and the nursing cushion had been a little bit of a show. “But he’s still growing, he needs to eat a lot.”

“He must poop a lot,” she said, wriggling to get down now she was free of her responsibility. Tyson laughed because, yeah, he sure did. Tyson was on bottom duty today while Gabe took general responsibility for guests and making sure the group of untrained monkeys that were the Colorado Avalanche didn’t unintentionally destroy his entire house.

He excused himself then and made his way through to the kitchen. He saw Gabe along the way, trapped in a conversation with a group of girl and boyfriends, who threw him a pleased smile. He filed it away to think about later.

Nate, of course, trailed thought the house after him and closed the kitchen door to give them some privacy once they were there.

“So,” Nate said. “You want me to hold him while you make a bottle?”

Tyson didn’t, he wanted to lock himself away for a little while and just be quiet with him. He’d been able to do that a couple of times now when he’d taken over baby care duty to let Gabe get a little sleep. He wanted to hold the baby close, breath him in, and remember that he was real, that he was here to stay.

Even if he wasn’t Tyson’s, he was here to stay.

He couldn’t do that now though so, with a dramatic sigh, he let Nate hold the baby and went about making a bottle.

“You know,” Nate said, voice all soft and comfortable. “We always figured that you’d be the most likely guy in the locker room to wish up a baby.”

Tyson snorted. “Yeah, I kind of did too. Only I guess fate knows I’m a disaster zone so gave this little guy to Gabe.”

“Hey, you’re not a disaster.”

“I’m kind of a disaster.”

“You’re not. You’re doing great. I know you’re not his dad or whatever but you’re being an awesome uncle. Gabe was talking earlier about everything that you’ve done for him.”

“Yeah,” Tyson said, glancing over at the baby. He was doing okay, he guessed. He hadn’t managed to kill it yet or drop it on its head or anything. And the baby seemed to like him; he seemed happy when Tyson held him though, honestly, at the moment he was pretty happy with anyone.

But he was trying.

Nate moved them on to talking about other things then and Tyson let him, mostly letting Nate talk to him about the trip he was planning for the summer while Tyson finished up making the bottle. When he was done they headed back out to the party. Nate broke off almost immediately, leaving Tyson and Noah alone. Tyson looked around. He could go over and sit on the couch, he could ever hand Noah over to Gabe for a feed, but nobody seemed to be looking for them so he snuck off, carrying Noah up to his room.

It was quiet up there and Tyson settled back into the rocking chair, settling Noah on his lap. The baby took the bottle easily and Tyson found himself chatting to him as he drank, telling him stupid stories about his Uncle Nate and Uncle AJ and how they were idiots but they were going to look after him.

He made sure to tell him, though, that Uncle Tys was still the best.

The poor kid was obviously exhausted from all the making nice with people as he drifted off before his bottle was even finished. Tyson was just settling him down to sleep when Gabe let himself in.

“Hey,” he said, sliding up behind Tyson. “Is he sleeping?”

“Yeah, went out like a light when his belly was full.”

“Nice,” Gabe said, crowding in. He leant over the side of the crib to run his fingers over the baby’s head and Tyson seriously wished they had the kind of relationship where he could lean in and kiss Gabe.

He didn’t, though. They made out, they fucked, but soft kisses as they tucked the baby into bed...

“Come on,” Gabe said, standing up. “He’ll be out for a while now, come and enjoy the party. I’ll do the next feed.”

“Okay,” Tyson said, letting himself be drawn out of the room. He couldn’t help glancing back at the crib as he went and wanting.

***

It was good to have Gabe back in the locker room, it was unfortunate that their first game after he came back was an away game.

Tyson was trying not to hover, he really was, but Gabe was looking tired and jumpy. Which was fine, he was still unfairly hot for someone who looked so worried, it was just that instead of wanting to climb him like a tree, which was Tyson’s usual reaction to Gabe, he wanted to give him a reassuring hug and then climb him like a tree.

He also kind of wanted to go and find out how Noah was doing. Which was kind of stupid, he was a baby, he’d be fine. The nanny Gabe had hired was a gentle older woman who had seemed really good with him. There was no reason to worry.

He still found himself drifting over towards Gabe in the locker room after practice.

“Hey,” Gabe said, smiling at him and knocking shoulders.

“Feel good to be back?”

Gabe shrugged. “Yeah. Kind of weird, though. I keep thinking I’ve forgotten something important and looking around and then I realise I’m looking for Noah.”

“I guess that’s normal,” Tyson said. “I mean, you haven’t really been away from him for two weeks and now you’re here.”

“Now I’m here,” Gabe agreed.

“And, like, he’s fine, right? I mean, the nanny must have been checking in with you and he’s fine?”

“Yeah,” Gabe agreed, and Tyson tried to pretend he didn’t feel a little bit better to hear that. It was normal to feel better when he knew Noah was okay. He’d feel that way about any kid. “I’m going to call when I get back to the hotel, actually. I... do you want to listen in?”

The thing was, Tyson knew he shouldn’t.

“I’d like that.”

The thing was, Tyson wasn’t great at doing the sensible thing.

Back at the hotel, the other guys peeled off in groups to play games or whatever else to wind down. Nate raised an eyebrow and Tyson could only shrug at him then trail after Gabe to his room.

Pretty much as soon as the door was closed, Gabe pulled his phone out of his pocket. Tyson went over to perch on the end of the bed while Gabe set up the call. He listened to the call connect and to Gabe exchanging a few pleasantries as he came over to the bed and sat down beside Tyson.

“Hey,” he said. “My friend Tyson is here and he wants to say hello to Noah, I’m just gonna switch over to a video call.”

“No problem,” the nanny said, then Gabe switched the call, she moved her phone around, and there he was. He was lying on his back, sleeping. His little hands were twitching in his sleep, grasping for things that weren’t there. Gabe asked questions about sleep pattern and feeding, Tyson dropped his head on Gabe’s shoulder and watched Noah.

He was so tiny. His little mouth opened and closed which probably meant he’d want a feed soon. He shifted a little in his sleep, waved his arms. Tyson could watch him forever.

The nanny gently reassured Gabe that everything was doing fine, that of course Noah missed him but he was okay and Gabe would be home the next day.

Then the call was over. Polite goodbyes were said and the call dropped, taking Noah’s tiny sleeping face with it.

Gabe stood. He walked across the room to the dresser and put his phone down then picked it up again like he wasn’t sure what he was doing and why. Then he looked back across to Tyson and he looked so lost, so confused.

“Hey,” Tyson said, shifting back on the bed a little. “You okay?”

“Sure,” Gabe said, then he looked around the room again and shook his head. “Probably. I just...”

“You... wanna come over here?”

He held his arms open a little, feeling kind of like an idiot. He and Gabe didn’t cuddle. Or, they did, sometimes, in a teammates kind of way. But normally when Tyson needed simple affection, someone to sling an arm around his shoulder and wrestle, he went to Nate. Nate was simpler. And when Tyson was offering here wasn’t the arm of a teammate, thrown around a shoulder when you were drunk or hurting from a bad loss or high on adrenaline. It was something else.

Gabe didn’t wait long before coming over and flopping on the bed next to Tyson, pressing his forehead into Tyson’s collar bone and throwing an arm around Tyson’s waist. Tyson let himself fall back so they were lying there, tangled together, then wrapped his arms tight around Gabe, pulling them against each other.

It should have been awkward but it just kind of wasn’t. Gabe went all in on the cuddling and Tyson had always loved hugs so it was easy to relax into this, to run his hand up and down Gabe’s back gently, to close his eyes and enjoy the feeling of the rise and fall of Gabe’s chest.

“He’s going to be okay, right?”

“Of course,” Tyson said, squeezing a little. “He’s gonna be great and he’s gonna be so excited when you get home.”

“I just... I’m going to be away a lot. We all are. I don’t want him to be upset, I don’t want him to think I don’t love him.”

“Gabe,” Tyson said, “He won’t. It’s a lot, I know. I mean, he’s not even mine and I kind of miss him a lot, but you’re being a great role model, following your dreams and shit. You’ve left him with a really good, qualified babysitter. And, hey, you’ll get to spend the entire summer with him. Sure you’ll miss him in the season, but once the season’s over you’ll be able to be with him all the time.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Gabe said. “It’s just, I didn’t think it’d feel like this, having a baby. I thought... it just feels like I’ve left the most important thing I’ve got back in Denver.”

“Yeah,” Tyson agreed, because he kind of felt the same. “But he’ll be fine and we’ll be back tomorrow.”

“We will,” Gabe agreed. “We should nap.”

“You want me to go?”

“No,” he said. “Stay.”

***

Noah didn’t want to sleep. He didn’t want to be held, or put down. He didn’t want to be driven around in the car. Which would have all been okay if he didn’t clearly want something because he kept sobbing like his little world was ending.

“You know, I’m going to take him on a walk,” Tyson said. “Just, like, around the block.”

“He won’t go in his seat.” Gabe was sat on the floor, stroking Noah’s belly. Tyson kind of hated how big Noah was already, it’d only been three weeks since Gabe found him but already Gabe’s hand seemed smaller on his belly. It wasn’t fair, before they knew where they were he was going to be as tall as Chara and beating the shit out of people on the ice.

“How about the sling thing?”

Gabe opened his mouth then thought for a second and shut it, contemplative. They obviously hadn’t tried the sling thing. Tyson went to unearth it.

Noah was still grumbling back in the living room. Tyson’d be worried but they’d already driven him to the doctor, which was how they figured out he didn’t like being in the car. The doctor had reassured them, told them he was probably just overly tired (he’d refused to sleep for the nanny the night before) and he’d calm down eventually.

Eventually still hadn’t happened.

“How do I even work this thing?” he asked, holding the baby sling out.

“I don’t know.” Gabe didn’t look up from Noah’s sobbing face. “Work it out.”

Tyson might have given him some shit for that if he didn’t know Gabe was blaming himself for being late back the night before. He’d let EJ talk him into coming to the bar with them after the game and he’d looked pinched and uncertain the entire time before ducking out only an hour after they got to the bar.

Instead, he figured out the sling. It wasn’t so hard and, when he was done, my manoeuvred Noah into it. He started to quieten down right away, clearly uncertain about this crazy new thing that was happening to him. He looked up at Tyson with big red eyes and his little lip started quivering again.

Shit.

“Okay,” he said, quickly. “We’re going for a walk. You, like, chill out or something. We’ll be back really soon.”

“Sure,” Gabe said. He was looking a little like he wanted to stop them and Tyson paused to give him the chance but he changed his mind, dropping his hand back to his side. Tyson took his chance to escape. He didn’t think Gabe would actually relax any while they were gone but at least he wouldn’t be listening to screaming.

Noah grumbled all the way down the drive and wailed a little on the walk down the block but then, improbably, started to quieten down. He had his little head tilted back, face up at the sky, and hell, maybe he just wanted some fucking fresh air or something. Or maybe the way he rocked against Tyson’s body in the sling was enough to soothe him where nothing else had been.

Improbably, about halfway around the block, his eyes started to drift closed.

“Hey, baby,” Tyson whispered, daring to brush one hand over the back of his head. “That’s right. That’s awesome.”

He yawned a little, blinked his eyes, fighting sleep, but those eyelids were definitely on a downward trajectory. Tyson kept up his reassuring patter as he continued down the street and eyelids really were falling now.

By the time he turned the last corner towards Gabe’s, Noah was definitely asleep.

It was then he spotted the elderly neighbour.

Tyson had nothing against elderly neighbours. He liked them. He liked that Gabe lived in a neighbourhood with old people like a giant dork. He liked when they’d taken Noah to the park the other week and people had kept telling them how adorable he was. He was adorable, it was good to have that acknowledged.

On the other hand, elderly neighbours tended to like to poke the baby and Tyson really didn’t want anyone to poke the baby right now.

“Oh, hello,” she said as they drew up to her. “What a lovely little boy.”

“Thanks,” Tyson said. He slowed down despite himself. He just couldn’t be mean to an old lady, he couldn’t. “I’ve just got him to sleep.”

“Oh well, I won’t disturb you,” she said, smiling up at them and Tyson let out a sigh of relief. If she’d woken the baby, he was going to be the one sobbing on the floor next. “I just wanted to say how much he looks like you, you must be so proud.”

“Yeah, totally,” Tyson said. “Thanks.”

“No problem dear.” She smiled merrily and carried on down the street and Tyson pretended like his heart wasn’t pounding out of his chest. Of course it meant nothing that this woman thought he looked like Noah, thought that Noah was his son. She’d have probably said the same thing to Nate if he were the one walking down the street with a baby strapped to him. It was just, well, it wasn’t true but Tyson wanted it to be, wanted it so much it hurt.

In his arms, Noah stirred. “Hey buddy,” he whispered. “It’s okay.” Noah settled again, relaxing, little head tucked up safely against Tyson’s chest.

Tyson loved him.

***

The one big downside of Noah was hooking up.

Tyson’s t-shirt was lost somewhere on the stairs, his jeans abandoned in the doorway. Gabe was completely naked and this was the first time in five weeks, excluding quickies in hotel rooms where there was always the chance of interruption.

But now Gabe was pressing him down into the mattress, chest to Tyson’s chest, kissing him like he’d been starving for it. Tyson was busy getting his hands on every inch of Gabe he could. When they were hooking up in hotel rooms he didn’t really get to touch, it was more about pulling out your cock and getting off as quickly as you could so Mikko didn’t come banging on the door and ruin the moment. Bedroom hookups were so much better. He would touch and there was so much of Gabe too touch. He was always a lot but naked, stretched out over Tyson, he seemed almost impossible, almost too good to be real.

“Fuck,” Gabe gasped against Tyson’s lips.

“Yeah,” Tyson agreed, because fuck. Fuck him or fuck Gabe, he didn’t care, he just wanted someone to get fucked. “Condoms?”

Gabe rolled over and fumbled in the drawer, searching. Tyson shimmied a little to see if he could get purchase to get his boxers off. He was so fucking hard, if he could just shimmy out of them.

The baby monitor crackled to life. Noah’s quiet, uncertain little cry came thought. They both froze.

“Don’t panic,” Gabe hissed, hovering on one arm above Tyson. “He might go back to sleep.”

They waited. He was quiet. Calm. Slowly, Tyson dared to wiggle a little, sliding down the bed under Gabe, and Noah cried again, a heart wrenching little cry that erupted into sobbing. He was definitely awake and unhappy.

So much for fucking.

“Fuck,” Gabe said, dropping his weight back on Tyson. Tyson grunted and shoved at him. “Just... he probably just wants changing. He shouldn’t need feeding yet. Just hold this thought. I’ll be back.”

He jumped up, grabbing his underwear and heading out of the room. Tyson lay there on his back, trying to hold on to the thought. On the baby monitor, Gabe reached the bedroom and Noah quietened down right away, his sobs receding to whimpers. He moved a little so he could hear better and listen to Gabe as he chatted to the baby. It didn’t exactly help because Gabe was speaking Swedish. He heard his name a couple of times and hoped Gabe was only saying good things.

Then Gabe was putting the baby down. Tyson listened to the way his voice turned soft, listened to his practiced movements around the bedroom. Listened to him head to the door.

Listened to Noah’s increasingly distressed little cries.

Gabe went back, Noah calmed down. Gabe moved away, Noah cried. They went through the same cycle three times before Tyson heard the defeat in his voice. He appeared in the door a second later, a definitely awake baby lying against his still naked chest.

“I’m sorry,” he said, jiggling a little. Noah didn’t look sorry. He was looking at Tyson and grinning and Tyson couldn’t help but grin back.

“I will accept your apology only in exchange for baby snuggles.”

Gabe snorted, but he came into the room and dropped Nate on Tyson’s chest. Tyson settled on his back, baby curled up against him. Noah looked up at him with big eyes and gurgled, waving his little fists around.

“Hey, Noah,” Tyson whispered. “Get lonely, buddy?”

Noah banged his fist against Tyson’s chest which was basically a yes. Tyson chuckled then leant down to press a kiss to the top of his head. He looked up in time to see Gabe snap a photo. He was grinning wickedly and, whatever. Tyson was allowed to cuddle his favourite nephew.

“You going to send me a copy of that picture?”

“Sure,” Gabe said. He was, apparently, not in the least concerned that he’d been caught. “Come on, let’s take some selfies.”

“Shouldn’t we put shirts on?” Tyson asked, but Gabe was already flopping down on the bed beside him. At least Noah was dressed, Tyson had snuck him into his “Uncle Tys is my favourite” onesie before nap time. One of them had to be decent.

They took a few selfies, lying there, pressed together, grinning. Well, Noah wasn’t grinning, he was still getting the hang of facial expressions. Gabe, however, was apparently enjoying himself and it quickly devolved into a weird photo session. First Tyson with the baby, then Gabe, then both of them, holding him between them, laughing, kissing, even, with the baby lying in the V between their bodies.

By the time that was over, any hope of Noah going back to sleep was truly gone. Gabe dropped his phone on the bed, put on his sweatpants, then wandered off to the kitchen to feed the baby. Tyson waited until he was gone to unlock Gabe’s phone and send all the photos they’d taken to himself. He set the first one, the selfie of them on the bed with Noah on his chest, both of them beaming at the camera, as his background. It’d be fine; unlike Gabe he didn’t go around telling other people his password.

They looked happy in the picture. They looked like a family.

He grabbed a pair of Gabe’s sweatpants to go downstairs in. If sex was out, maybe he could at least get in some Netflix and baby cuddles.

***

“Do you want me to go?” Tyson asked into the darkness of the bedroom.

“Go to sleep, Tyson.”

“Okay.”

***

Tyson was trying to give Gabe some space, he really was. Gabe hadn’t exactly asked for it, he was far too polite to tell Tyson he was being fucking annoying, but he had to want space and Tyson got that so when they got home from the road he didn’t trail after Gabe like a lost puppy, he went and got into his car and actually drove it all the way home to his own house.

Which, like, obviously he did that. Only he hadn’t done that in a while. It was almost weird to be back in his own house. He had to clean out the fridge because he’d been away so long that the milk had gone off. He hadn’t meant to be away that long, it was just that there was a baby and there was always an excuse to stay.

But being home was good, he told himself that as he walked aimlessly around. He could do anything he wanted. He could put in the TV and not have to listen to Gabe complain about whatever was on until they switched to what Gabe wanted to watch. He could play a game without having to worry about whether he could pause it when the baby needed picking up. He could sit on the couch without first checking to see if there were used muslin squares left lying around.

He’d never been so relieved in his life when Gabe called him.

Noah was screaming in the background and Tyson was going for his keys even as he said hi.

“The nanny says she thinks he had colic,” Gabe said, already sounding exhausted. “She’s phoned the doctor and she’s going to take him tomorrow but she had to go home tonight. Could you...”

“Dude, I’m already on my way out the door,” Tyson said, stopping to pull his shoes back on. “Is there, like, anything you can do for colic?

“There are drops, but the internet says they might not help?”

“You want me to go grab some anyway?”

“Please,” Gabe’s voice was full of naked relief. “I just feel like I’m doing nothing. He won’t stop crying...”

“Hey, it’s fine,” Tyson said, opening the door. “I’ll be there soon.”

“Thanks.”

***

The colic drops didn’t seem to help but a few hours of them wandering around the house holding him and gently rubbing his back eventually settled him enough to sleep. Tyson didn’t dare actually believe it until they were both out of the nursery and collapsed on Gabe’s bed.

“Well, that wasn’t fun,” he said, Gabe grunted.

“We’ll take him to the doctor tomorrow. I just hate seeing him cry like that.”

“Yeah,” Tyson agreed. The little bunched up face had kind of broken his heart. He tried to ignore the we in there. Sometimes Gabe made it really hard for him to remember that Noah wasn’t actually his kid too.

Not that, you know, it was definite that Noah wasn’t his kid. He’d had to fight the urge to go looking through Gabe’s drawers a few times to find the envelope but, in the end, it was Gabe’s choice and he got it, he did. He got that Gabe didn’t want to pressure someone or whatever. He just wished he knew. He wished Noah was his.

He looked over and Gabe was lying there, head on the pillow, eyes closed. Fuck, even tired and smelling a little bit of baby spit he was irresistible. What the hell was Tyson meant to do about this?

He pushed himself up on his elbows and crawled a little up the bed. Gabe opened his eyes to watch Tyson coming, smiling as he got nearer. Tyson crawled up Gabe then, when he was high enough, leant in to kiss him.

It was soft, sweet. Gabe’s hands came up to rest on him and Tyson let himself just enjoy the kiss, the moment.

Then Noah started screaming.

“Shit,” he said, pulling away. “It’s like he knows.”

“He’s got great timing,” Gabe agreed. “I’ll get him. You don’t have to stay, you know. I think it’s going to be like this all night.”

“I mean, isn’t that more reason to stay? Come on, Gabe, I’m not gonna leave you alone with a screaming baby. We can take turns and, hey, skate tomorrow’s optional so we can both nap then.”

“Thank you,” Gabe said, oddly sincere. Tyson never knew how to cope with a sincere Gabe. “I mean it. I’ll go get him now.”

“Yeah,” Tyson agreed. He rolled himself back out of bed and went down to the kitchen. They were going to need a lot of coffee.

***

“Do you want me to go home? You probably want space...”

“Yes, of course I want you to go home. This is the first time he’s sleeping at a reasonable hour in a week and I want you to go home.”

“Gabe...”

“Take off your pants.”

***

“Hey, Tys!”

“Hi, Nate,” Tyson said. He had to manoeuvre a little so he could hug Nate on the side that wasn’t currently holding a baby. “It’s really good to see you, man.”

“You too,” Nate said, stepping back. Tyson moved to actually let him into the house. It felt like forever since they last hung out and Gabe had gone out for lunch with EJ so why shouldn’t Tyson have friends round? Sure, it was kind of weird to have Nate over to Gabe’s house and not his but...

“So,” Nate said, toeing off his shoes. “You gonna let me hold the baby.”

“I mean, you can try,” Tyson shrugged. “He’s kind of, you know, it’s normal for this age but he doesn’t really like other people holding him. He’s not even really sure about the nanny, you know.”

“Oh sure,” Nate said, but he was still reaching out. Tyson shrugged and moved so Nate could get his hands on the baby, passing him over easily enough. The look of betrayal on Noah’s little face was instant. His little bottom lip started to wobble. He didn’t even look at Nate, instead fixing his eyes on Tyson as though he wanted Tyson to know the full extent of his unhappiness.

“Hey, Noah,” Nate was saying, and it wasn’t even like it was anything he’d done but Noah’s little face just crumpled. He eyes went red, his nose scrunched and he let out the worst little sob.

“Yeah, okay,” Tyson said, stepping in quickly. Nate, who was looking half panicked already, seemed happy enough to hand him back. “It’s nothing personal; it’s just a stage. Gabe has an app and it says he should be like this now.”

“Yeah,” Nate agreed quickly enough. “I mean, the world’s gotta be kind of scary when you’re a baby, right?”

“Right,” Tyson agreed, pressing Noah to him. Noah, for his part, his quietened right down and was smiling again, gripping handfuls of Tyson’s t-shirt. Tyson leant down and pressed a soft kiss on his little head. “Come on, let’s get a drink and, like, game or something.”

“Sure.” Nate followed him thought into the kitchen and obligingly got them both drinks while Tyson made up a bottle, baby still on his hip. It’d been kind of awkward at first but it got easier the more he did it and he got plenty of practice.

Drinks in hand they headed back to the living room, chatting about normal stuff. Hockey and their families and the vague outlines of their summer plans. Tyson was trying not to think too much about that yet because, sure, Gabe seemed to like having him in the house to help with the baby but, come summer, he was going to fly off to Sweden or whatever and Tyson was going to have to cope with the fact that he wasn’t actually Noah’s dad.

Nate lost a few games of Fortnite while Tyson fed the baby then they put him down on his mat with some toys he could grip and Tyson lost a few games too. It felt good, like old times.

Then Noah started to fuss so Tyson handed the controller over and got him up. He seemed a lot happier once he was safe against Tyson’s chest and started to burble.

“He’s getting big,” Nate said, leaning in. “Like, I knew he’d be bigger than when I saw him last but...”

“Yeah,” Tyson agree. “A little over three months now.”

“Wow. I didn’t realise it had been that long.”

Tyson wouldn’t have if Gabe didn’t keep count. His sister had sent these little cards with things like “three months” written on and they were apparently meant to take photos of Noah with them. Noah had decided three months looked delicious, which would have been fine but he’d cried every time they took it away from him so, in the end, they’d just taken a picture of him eating it.

“And, you know, things are good, right?”

“Right,” Tyson agreed.

“Like, with you and Gabe?”

“Um, yeah,” Tyson said. “Of course. Like, it’s kind of weird that he lets me spend so much time here but, hey, he’s a single dad now so of course he’s going to need all his bros around to help him and, like, I’ve gotta help out my bro too, right?”

Nate was looking at him like he was an idiot which, yeah, he got that look a lot so he focused on Noah instead. Noah didn’t look at him like he was an idiot.

“Tys, you do know that this thing you’re doing where they two of you are living together and raising a baby, that’s not a friends thing, right?”

“Well, not when you put it like that.”

“I mean, I like Gabe. He’s my friend too. But I’m not putting my life on hold to move in with him and raise a kid.”

“Well no,” Tyson admitted. “But he needs me.”

“Yeah,” Nate agreed. “But, like, Tyson, you’ve gotta look after yourself too, you know.”

“I am,” Tyson said. “Look, I’m not an idiot. I know you think I am but I’m not.”

“We don’t think that Tys.”

“I just... you know how I feel.”

“Yeah,” Nate agreed. He knew. He’d been the one to sit up a million times and listen to Tyson talk about his incredibly overwhelming unrequited feelings. He’d been the first to know when they’d actually fucked and the first to gently remind Tyson that throwing his heart at someone who obviously didn’t love him was a great way to get it broken.

“I can’t, like, stop loving him. And now it’s even worse because there’s Noah and, you know, he’s... he’s just so much, Nate.”

“Yeah, I know,” Nate agreed, leaning in to knock his shoulders against Tyson’s. Noah lay there, smiling up at Tyson, gripping the bunny Tyson had bought that first night in his little fists. His eyes were starting to get heavy, he’d actually sleep soon.

Tyson loved him.

“He’s important,” Tyson said, reaching down to stroke his head.

“I know, that’s why you’ve gotta sort this out.”

“Nate.” Tyson knew he was whining. “It’s not that easy.”

“I get it,” Nate agreed. “But look, this kid loves you.”

“He’s a baby, he loves everyone.”

Nate snorted. “He wouldn’t let me hold him. You said he doesn’t even like the nanny, but he loves you. So you’ve gotta sort this out, because if you and Gabe want to run in circles pretending you’re just friends for years on your own time then that’s whatever but this isn’t just about you, it’s about him now too.”

“He’s fine,” Tyson said, curling a protective hand around the back of Noah’s skull.

“Yeah, for now. But, like, is it going to be like this forever? Because, if it is, then Gabe loves you and you need to actually move in properly and, like, start wishing him up some siblings or whatever. And If it’s not forever, he’s gonna be hurt when suddenly one of his favourite people isn’t around all the time any more.”

“I’m not around ALL the time.”

“Tyson, when did you last actually go to your own house?”

He thought about the bedroom upstairs. Most of his stuff had made its way over now, at least all the stuff he could plausibly bring without admitting he was moving in. He and Gabe’s clothes were mixed together in the washing basket. Their toiletries were clustered around Gabe’s sink. They’d had an argument the day before about whose shoes were whose in the mess that was the hall closet.

Maybe Nate had a point.

“I know. I do know, I’m not an idiot. I just... what if he says no?”

Nate sighed, a deep and put-upon heave of breath.

“Then you come around to my place and we eat ice cream and I’ll hug you while you pretend you’re not crying, okay. But he won’t say no to you. Tyson, he’s moved you into his house. He’s letting you help raise his kid. If you were friends he might have done that for a while, he might have set you up in a guest room or let you babysit, but that’s not what this is.”

“No, I know,” Tyson said. Noah was almost fully asleep now, just fighting it that last little bit. He didn’t want to leave. He didn’t want Gabe to reject him but he didn’t want to leave Noah either. That’d break his heart almost as much.

“Talk to him, Tyson.”

“I’ll try,” he promised. “It’s not easy, but I’ll try.”

***

That evening, Gabe seemed kind of distant.

He’d come home while Tyson and Nate were still playing Fortnite on the couch then taken Noah off for a bath. Nate had disappeared soon after, reminding Tyson one more as they hugged at the doorway that he had to try and talk to Gabe.

He knew he did. But then Noah had needed feeding and changing and there were loads of washing to do and a kitchen to clean and they’d bickered over which takeout to order from and then Noah had needed changing again and it was a real explosion so Noah ended up back in the bath and then he’d been upset by it all so hadn’t wanted to go back to sleep and Tyson and Gabe had ended up trading him back and forth for an hour or so, walking around with him in their arms until he’d eventually given up on crying and settled into sleep.

Then they’d finally re-heated the takeout they’d ordered.

Tyson stayed in the kitchen after Gabe drifted to bed, doing a few last tidying jobs and putting things away. Eventually, thought, he stopped stalling and headed up to the bedroom.

Gabe was sprawled out on his back in bed with a book held up in front on his face. His hair was messy, the product washed out of it, and flopped adorably. He looked soft, like Tyson could just crawl into bed and touch him, press up against him, and wasn’t that exactly what Tyson’d been doing for the last however long.

Hell, Gabe had even pulled down the corner of the sheets for Tyson to climb into bed and it that wasn’t a sign.

He had to try to talk to him.

“Gabe,” he said, taking a step towards the bed. Gabe hummed. “Hey, listen to me.”

“Sure,” Gabe said. He lowered his book, letting it fall open on his chest. “Is Noah okay?”

“Yeah, he’s still sleeping. I just... Nate said I should talk to you.”

“Did he?” Gabe asked, narrowing his eyes. “What about?”

Tyson almost thought about faking it, saying that Nate had said they should talk about the power play unit or something else, some bullshit. He couldn’t, though. He couldn’t crawl into that bed with Gabe and pretend he wasn’t in love.

“I just, I’ve been here a lot, right? It’s not... He just thought that, since I’ve been here so much, we should talk, you and me. About, like, our feelings. Or my feeling, I guess. I just...”

“Is you being here a problem?”

“No.” Fuck, this was coming out all wrong. “I mean, unless it’s a problem for you. If you want me to go.”

Gabe snorted, like something was funny. “No, Tyson. I don’t want you to go.”

“You want me to stay.”

“I want you to stay,” Gabe confirmed, smiling softly and fuck, he looked so good.

“Like, for the night?”

“Like, forever?” Gabe said. Somehow he made it sound like a question, like he wasn’t making a statement but asking, offering. Shit.

“Yes, please,” Tyson said, taking a step forward. Gabe was grinning then, reaching for him, and Tyson climbed up onto the bed, pressing Gabe down into the mattress, Gabe’s book digging uncomfortably into his chest between them, and kissing Gabe like the world was ending, like he didn’t ever want to do anything else again for the rest of his life.

So that, of course, was when Noah started crying.

Tyson pulled back. “Fuck,” he said as Gabe started to actually giggle. “I’ll go get him.”

“Give him a second,” Gabe said, hand tugging at Tyson’s shoulder. “He might settle himself.”

Noah wailed, the kind of heart tugging sound that meant he was definitely awake and wasn’t planning on calming himself back down and drifting off to sleep.

Tyson would complain but, hell, he was pretty much all in on both of them so he hauled himself off Gabe with a sigh and made his way to the nursery.

He scooped Noah up and checked his diaper first then, seeing they were in the clear, just held the baby close, rocking him and whispering to him. Noah settled a little but not enough to drift back to sleep so Tyson admitted defeat and carried him thought to the bedroom. Gabe smiled when he saw them and reached out for the baby, curling Noah into his chest. Noah settled then and looked up at him, and smiled.

“I see how it is,” Tyson said, dramatically throwing himself on his side of the bed. “Uncle Tyson’s just not good enough any more.”

“Uncle Tyson?”

He wasn’t sure what he had meant that Gabe made that a question.

“I mean, yeah?”

“I thought, maybe, there’s something else you’d rather he’d call you.”

“Gabe?” Tyson’s mind was whirring, trying to think up something Gabe might mean by that other than the obvious.

“I’ve been thinking I might be more of a Pappa so, if you wanted...”

“You want me to be his dad?”

“Yeah,” Gabe said, sounding just as awkward and vulnerable as Tyson had felt earlier, looking at the turned down bed and wanting it to mean things. “I get if it’s a lot to ask, you can be Uncle Tyson if you want...”

“No,” Tyson said quickly, scooting across the bed so he was pressed right up against Gabe’s side. “I mean, yes, I want to be Dad. I want... I’ve wanted that right from the start, Gabe. I mean, right from when you first phoned me and told me about him, I wanted you to tell me you’d opened the envelope and he was mine but you didn’t want to open the envelope so I thought...”

“I was scared it’d be you,” Gabe admitted. Which, what. “I thought, if it was your name, you’d feel like you had to be with me. You’d always been really clear that it wasn’t like that and...”

“Only because you were. You just wanted a casual thing.”

They looked at each other for a second, processing, then Gabe was the first to start laughing and, once he was laughing, Tyson couldn’t help but join in. Noah looked at them both quizzically and Tyson leant down to press a kiss to his forehead.

They were both such idiots.

“EJ’s gonna give me so much shit,” Gabe groaned. “He’s been telling me just to talk to you.”

“Nate too. We’re gonna be hearing about this for years.”

“Yeah,” Tyson agreed. He leant in again but this time, instead of kissing the baby, he kissed Gabe instead. Because he got to do that now, whenever he wanted. When he pulled back he looked down at Gabe’s smiling face and couldn’t stop words tumbling out. “I love you.”

Gabe’s grin in reply was a thing of beauty. “I love you too.”

“Awesome,” Tyson said, then leant down to kiss him again. He pulled back after a moment, thinking about grabbing Noah and trying to get him back to sleep, but Gabe sat up, moving the baby to lay on the bed between them, then turned and started rifling through the drawers of his bedside cabinet. Tyson started to ask what he was doing but before he could get the words out Gabe pulled an envelope out.

A little white envelope, expensive looking, with no writing on. A wishbaby envelope.

“Shit,” Tyson said.

“Do you want to open it?”

“I... I don’t know.” He really hadn’t expected to be faced with this tonight. “I mean, it doesn’t matter, right? He’s mine.”

“He’s yours,” Gabe agreed. “Whatever this card says. We’re a family.”

Family. God, he really liked that word.

He reached over and took the envelope from Gabe’s fingers. He turned it over a couple of times. It didn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter. Whatever name was in there, Noah was his. This was his family.

“You’re not going to leave me if, like, Mikko’s name’s in there, are you?”

“Maybe for Colin.”

“Fuck you,” Tyson said, and opened the envelope.

There was a little notecard inside, just like the one EJ had framed on the wall of his study.

Congratulations.

Gabriel Landeskog
and
Tyson Barrie.

Tyson closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then pressed his face into Gabe’s shoulder. Gabe’s arm came up to wrap around him and pull him close and he let out the longest breath of his life. Noah was his. Which, duh, they’d already been thinking that. It wasn’t like Noah was any more his now than he had been ten minutes ago, nothing had changed, it was just like the universe had confirmed it, though, looked down on them three months ago making out on Gabe’s couch and decided that, yes, they were meant to be a family.

Noah, apparently tired of being ignored, started making noises between them, Tyson looked up and, yeah, maybe he had to wipe away a stray tear or two but he couldn’t stop crying.

“Hey baby,” he said, reaching out to put his finger into one grasping hand. “Hey Noah, I’m your daddy.”

Gabe squeezed him tight and then reached down to take Noah’s other hand. Noah was apparently delighted by this and waved his arms, then pulled Tyson’s finger close and jammed it in his mouth.

“I guess he’s hungry,” Tyson said. Gabe leant in and pressed another kiss to his forehead. “I guess I should make him a bottle?”

“I can do it,” Gabe said.

“No, that’s fine,” Tyson reached down and picked up Noah, his son. Fuck, he had a son. “You can text EJ and tell him he was right.”

“Never,” Gabe said, climbing out of bed. He looked fucking gorgeous, strong and beautiful and apparently he was in love with Tyson. “You should text your mom, though. Let her know she’s a grandma.”

That was a great point. They’d had a few very pointed conversations since she’d figured out how much time he was spending with Gabe about the possibility of Noah being her grandchild. She was going to be thrilled.

“I’ll call her tomorrow. Let’s feed him together, then maybe he’ll go down quicker and we can... you know.”

“I know,” Gabe said, grinning. He held up a hand to help Tyson to his feet, baby in his arms. Once Tyson was upright Gabe stepped in, surprising him with a quick kiss, the gentle pleasure of hands on his hips keeping him close and steady. “I love you,” Gabe said when he’d pulled back.

“I love you too.”

It was pretty amazing.