"¿Por qué brilla, Papá?" Lucecita asks as she reaches out to touch the picture in the family photo album laying open in front of her, big brown eyes wide with wonder.
Michael tries to hide a snicker behind his hand but Alex's eyebrow has already shot up, demanding a translation. He answers their daughter in Spanish first, because ten years after "Noahgate" Michael Guerin is still a little shit.
"Porque es hecho de las estrellas del cielo."
"Ooooo," Lucecita responds with awe as Michael turns to look over her head at a patiently waiting Alex. "She asked why you're so sparkly, and I simply told her it's because you're made of stars from the sky."
Alex shakes his head in fond exasperation, a lovely blush counteracting the put-upon look he was going for. "The things you tell our child, I swear, Michael. She's going to come home from school one day very disappointed to find out that I'm just a regular old human being."
Michael leans over to catch Alex's chin in his right hand, tugging him in for a sweet kiss on the lips.
"Where I stand, nothing's changed."
Both of Alex's eyebrows shoot up and he's grinning like the teenager Michael fell in love with oh so many years ago.
"Are you just going to repeat that phrase every ten years?"
Michael doesn't miss a beat, a wolfish grin on his own face. "Is that what you want?"
Alex abruptly bursts out laughing, his head thrown back against the couch where the three of them have been cuddled up under a blanket for the last little while to ward off the chilly desert winter. Michael has never seen anything more beautiful in his whole life.
"¡Mira, Papá, mira! Allí está Chuspi," Lucecita exclaims excitedly, whipping her head up from the photo to point at where Trixie is fast asleep in her little doggie bed in front of the quietly crackling fireplace across from the couch.
"Bien hecho, mi reina, cuando era cachorra," Michael responds with a smile.
"Do we know why she calls Trixie Chuspi?" Alex asks as he notices Lucecita looking intently at the teacup in front of his face in the photo before turning her head, tennis-match style, to glance up at him and back down again. He runs his fingers through her thick, dark, wavy hair and she giggles.
Michael scratches his stubbly chin. "Uh, I think it's because her mom had a dog whose name was Chuspi? That's not a Spanish dog name I was familiar with, so I looked it up and it's actually the name of a mountain in the Andes, near her mom's village."
"Oh, wow," Alex muses, "Well, that makes sense then I guess."
"Yeah, plus, isn't the 'x' sound kind of hard for a three-year-old to make?"
"Lucecita?" Alex waits for her to turn towards him. "Can you say 'x'?"
The little girl smiles brilliantly at him for a moment before opening her mouth to say, "Silly Daddy!" Then she giggles again and turns back to the photo album, flipping to the next page.
It's Michael's turn to throw his head back in laughter and he would have gotten a pillow to the face for his troubles, but he's already tossed the one Alex threw at him earlier over onto the armchair, safely out of his husband's reach.
So, Alex smacks him upside the back of his head instead.
"Ow!" Michael's still giggling.
"Funny how the only two words of English she's learned so far happen to be those two," Alex deadpans.
"Yeah, strange that," Michael manages to say with a straight face. "Kids say the darnedest things."
"¡Agua!" Lucecita declares boldly. Geez, the lungs on this kid are something else, Michael thinks as he wiggles his pinky finger in his ear that's closest to their daughter.
"Yes, good job, Lucecita, that's water." Even Alex knows that word, Michael notes with a smile.
"¿Cómo nos vimos en Moana?"
"Oh gawd, did she just ask to watch that movie again? " Alex leans forward and lets his head drop into his hands with an overdramatic sigh. Michael chuckles because he understands Alex's theatrics.
"Sí, mija," then to Alex, "No, she asked if this water is like the kind we see in the movie. But I'm sure that question will be coming up next."
Alex groans and Michael has to tamp down on his traitorous brain really fast because this really isn't the time! But a groan from Alex is a groan all the same and does the aforementioned traitor listen to him? Of course not.
Oblivious to Michael's plight, Alex sits back up and rubs his hands over his face, smearing his eyeliner a little bit, and up through his hair, making it spike out every which way. Michael's eye starts to twitch with the amount of effort he suddenly has to put into not levitating something.
"Do you know how many Disney movies I've had to watch this month? All in Spanish of course. Some of the newer ones I've never even heard in English! It's been really strange but also kinda fun, I'll admit, trying to figure out what the f–" Alex does a kid!check (Michael does it all the time) , before continuing, "uh, what is going on, you know?" They're much better at it now, but boy did it take some getting used to. "It's like a giant riddle. The words don't match up with their lips and that's sort of distracting, but—"
"And there it is," Michael does his best impression of Vana White.
Alex sighs good-naturedly and puts on his brave face. "Sure, kiddo." When Lucecita turns her puppy dog eyes on him, he repeats, "Sí," for her benefit and she beams up at him. What a great dad.
"Jajaja, papá Alec se ve raro," Lucecita laughs as she continues flipping through the photo album while they watch Moana because the attention span of three-year-olds and goldfish are about the same in length.
"She says you look weird," Michael dutifully interprets, a dopey smile on his face that Alex can't actually see because Michael is resting his head on Alex's shoulder, but can probably hear in his voice.
Alex looks away from the hilarious scene of Maui trying to use his malfunctioning fish hook which keeps turning him into random creatures to glance down at the photograph in question. "You can tell her that's all your fault," he harrumphs.
Michael chuckles. "Hey, I'm just the photographer. I take 'em as I see 'em." He reaches his right arm behind Alex's back up to the nape of his neck to run his fingers through the hair at the base of his skull, a soothing motion that has always worked as a calming gesture in the past. "'Sides," he whispers into his ear because he can't help himself, "You weren't the only one who was wet when that photo was taken."
The shiver that runs down Alex's spine in reply to Michael's whispered sweet nothings is a thrill that will never get old.
"What time is it, babe?"
Michael digs his phone out of his front pocket while snarking, "What am I, your own personal horologist?" He's a contrary sort.
"Language!" Alex whisper!yells in his most imperious Captain America voice, glancing down to make sure they hadn't woken up their daughter, who is fast asleep half-sprawled across the photo album in between them on the couch.
"Keep your pants on, corazón mío, I said 'ha-RAH-lo-gist' as in a person who makes timepieces," Michael soothes, "from the Greek word for 'hour' aka telling time." He wakes his phone up.
"And speaking of pants," he smirks as he holds it up for Alex to both see the time and the image saved to his lock screen.
There's a sputtering sound where Alex is sitting off to his right. Day has become night while they've been ensconced on the couch with munchies and the remote, the movie is over, and the fire has long since burned itself out. "When did you take that?" he finally manages, and the rasp in his voice goes straight to Michael's happy place.
Michael pockets the phone and carefully extricates himself from their blanket burrito to pick up their sleeping daughter. "Oh, you know, the other day when you were getting ready to go to work." He transfers Lucecita to his right hip and she clings to him like a koala in her sleep. He extends his healed hand out to help Alex off the couch because his right leg cramps sometimes when he's been sitting for too long. "Or maybe it was after you came home from work." He shrugs as nonchalantly as he can with a little koala attached to one side. "You can't really tell from looking at it, can you."
He waits as Alex tidies up the living room and deposits their dishes in the sink to soak, then they make their way to Lucecita's room to put her to bed for the night. After tucking her in and giving her goodnight kisses one on each cheek, they head down the hall to their room.
"How long has that been on your lock screen?" Alex sounds a little nervous but Michael knows it's only because he's not big on PDA. He's more of a private exhibitionist, which suits Michael just fine.
"Just put it on there today, actually. I'll replace it with a PG one when I go into town tomorrow, babe, don't worry," Michael aims for innocent as he walks into their en suite bathroom to throw his clothes in the hamper.
The Eyebrow of Doom rises.
Busted. Michael's pretty sure the mischievous twinkle in his eye and that cowboy swagger in his step have made him again. Damn. Okay, might as well come clean.
"Okay, okay, I'll replace it now, but be a pal and let me keep the one on my home screen, yeah? I won't let anyone else see it," Michael pleads as he crawls into bed where Alex is stretched out, always so ready for him. He kisses his way up the wonderland that is Alex's body to lick playfully at his septum piercing, just to elicit another beautiful laugh from his love. "Cross my heart."