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family feels

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The heels of Arthit’s black loafers clicked against tile, garnering him the attention of whoever may be lingering in the hallways. He was far too over dressed to be in an elementary school, his suit jacket and newly pressed neck tie far more suitable for the meeting he was meant to be in.

Just as he had been about to leave his desk for the monthly stock presentation, his phone had rung. The secretary on the other end had requested for him to come as soon as possible, hanging up shortly after with little explanation as to why.

If it had been anything else, he would have put it aside until the meeting finished. But this involved his daughter – his sweet, precious, had never done anything wrong in her life Jane – and she took precedent above all else.

So after handing his notes and files to Earth, he’d rushed right over. As he waited, he tried to think of any reason as to why he’d been asked there in the first place. Jane was a good girl, a good daughter, a good student. What she could have done to have the principal call him in was beyond him.

“Mr. Suthiluck,” the principal, Mr. Norrapat, greeted as he opened the door of his office, holding out his hand for Arthit to shake. “Thank you for coming. We tried calling your husband, but it seems his phone is turned off.”

“He’s meeting with foreign investors this week,” Arthit explained as they took their seats on either side of the large wooden desk in the middle of the room. “But I’m sure I can help with whatever the problem is. Has Jane been causing trouble?”

“No, no, she’s more than well behaved,” Mr. Norrapat assured.

“Is she not doing well in her classes? Her last report card was excellent.” So excellent that she’d been gifted two new dolls plus a trip to her favorite ice cream shop.

“It was. She’s one of the top students in her class.”

Arthit raised an eyebrow. “Then what exactly is the problem?”

“It’s her,” Mr. Norrapat cleared his throat, “uniform.”

“What’s wrong with it? It’s what the school gave us at the beginning of term.”

He would know; he dressed her every morning, going as far as refolding the ruffles on her socks after she slipped them on haphazardly through her sleep blurred eyes.

“Are you sure you gave us the correct sizes?”

“We remeasured her over the break. It fits her just fine.”

“The faculty and I would disagree.” Shifting a bit in his seat, Mr. Norrapat folded his hands on top of his desk. “Some of the teachers have complained that the length of Jane’s skirt has been … distracting to them.”

Arthit’s reply was immediate, “Then why aren’t they the ones in your office?” His fuse was short, specifically when it came to idiots who believed they had a say in anything his daughter did, let alone wore. “If they can’t control themselves around a seven-year-old, perhaps they shouldn’t be around children.”

“It really isn’t a big issue. All we ask is that Jane wears a longer skirt. The school will happily give you new ones, free of charge.”

“No, there’s a very big issue here,” Arthit said, teeth ground and fists curled. He couldn’t believe he had abandoned his meeting for this bull shit. “The length of my daughter’s skirt should be of no concern to anyone. Especially not to those who should be teaching her.”

Sitting back in his chair, Mr. Norrapat sighed, mumbling, “Perhaps we should discuss this more with your husband present.”

If Arthit’s blood hadn’t been boiling before, it was on fire now. If he wanted to play the husband card, fine. He could play right along with him.

“My husband would agree with everything I’m telling you.” Leaning forward a bit, he made sure he had Mr. Norrapat’s eyes locked onto his own before he said, “Do you know how much my husband donates to this school a year? Enough to pay your salary. Twice.”

Arthit saw him pale, and his pride was instantly boosted. He didn’t need to hide behind Kongpob or the extensive pay checks he added to their joint bank account, but Mr. Norrapat opened that door on his own and allowed Arthit to walk right in.

Standing, he looked down at the older man. “I’m going to take my daughter home now. If I hear that any of your staff has said anything to her about her uniform, I’ll be sure to let my husband know that the school doesn’t need the million baht he has set aside for it.”

And with that, he left, leaving a thoroughly speechless principal in his dust.

… 

Jane swung her feet back and forth, admiring the way the light bounced off the buckles of her shoes. Her teacher had taken her to the principal’s office after class instead of out to the courtyard where her Aunt May was usually waiting for her. She didn’t know why that was, but both of her dads had always told her to listen to her elders. So she waited patiently.

Hearing a door open, she smiled wide when she saw one of her fathers on the other side of it. This must have been why her teacher had taken her here. Her parents were always too busy working to get her from school, but today must have been special.

“Daddy!” she squealed, jumping from her chair and into his arms. She was lifted up, her arms wrapping around his neck. “What are you doing here? Did you come to get me?”

“Mhm,” he hummed.

His arms were tight around her back, and she could see the little creases between his eyebrows. That meant he was angry. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t like it. They never got to see each other for very long on school days, so he should be happy.

So she did what she saw Papa do whenever Daddy had on his sad face: she pressed a long kiss to his cheek, pulling back with a loud mwuah. That always made him happy (even if Daddy liked to deny it every time).

And just as she’d suspected, the corners of his mouth began to twitch until they stretched into a full smile. “I came so we could go to the supermarket. What do you want for dinner? We can get whatever you want.”

Whatever she wanted? This really was a special day.

When Arthit got home, he went to the kitchen to put away the groceries. With Jane tucked away in her room until dinner was ready, he could finally let his strong parent façade slip.   

Curling his arms on the countertop, he dropped his forehead against them. The deep breath he took in was shaky, and the one he let out was no better. This parenting thing was getting more and more difficult by the day. No one had ever taught him how to be a father, leaving him to second guess every move he made.

Tantrums and time outs and no dessert after dinner was all easy enough to deal with. At the end of the day, he had a daughter that loved him that he loved back twice as much.

The hard part came from outside the little family he’d created. Whether it was old fashioned mothers at the park who didn’t want their children around the kid with two dads or the checkout ladies at the supermarket who scanned judgmental eyes over what he deemed appropriate to feed his child or an out of line principal who believed he had the right to comment on a first grader’s clothing, Arthit couldn’t help the frustration that blossomed in his chest.

He wished he had Kongpob’s patience and level head. Everything would be so much easier if he did. But the Mama Bear Bright had labeled him as from the moment Jane was born held an uncanny truth. But who could blame him for wanting to protect his child? Especially when the world seemed to be changing so often for the worse.

Bracing both hands on the counter, he pushed himself up to look at the digital clock above the stove. 4:53. A little over an hour until dinner and just about an hour and a half until Kongpob would return from work. Then bath time, a story, and checking for monsters underneath the bed.

He only had to be a dad for a couple more hours. He only had to resist the urge to scream and commit multiple murders until seven thirty. Then, he’d have a husband to rant to and a pillow to punch.

The atmosphere in the house felt weighted when Kongpob returned home from work. He toed off his shoes and shrugged his jacket from his shoulders, surveying the air. There was no rich smell of meat being cooked or sound of sock clad feet running towards him with a hug and kiss. Instead, there was an uncomfortable silence and an even more uncomfortable inkling for something wrong.

Kitchen light pooling into the otherwise dark hallway, he stepped in, seeing his daughter at the table and husband at the counter. Stood behind Jane’s chair, he leaned down to press a kiss to the top of her head.

“No welcome home, hm?” he teased. His daughter turned to him with wide eyes, a thin arm quickly coming to wrap around his waist, though not quite able to reach all the way around.

“The triceratops was fighting the stegosaurus. It was important,” she explained, holding up two of her shaped chicken nuggets. “Which one do you think is gonna win?”

“The stegosaurus for sure.” He watched as she went back to making her dinner move around her plate with a surprised eyebrow raise. “Daddy’s letting you have chicken nuggets on a school night?” He glanced up when he saw Arthit stiffen on the other side of the table. The heaviness in the house was beginning to make sense.

“I didn’t feel like cooking,” Arthit mumbled. Placing a takeout container from the noodle place they liked in front of Kongpob’s usual chair, he went back to the counter, stirring a spoon around his mug. Chamomile tea. That meant he was stressed.

The stirring paused as he murmured, almost as if it were meant to be a secret, “Besides, she’s been good lately. She deserves a treat.”

“Of course she’s been good,” Kongpob agreed, pressing another kiss to Jane’s head. “She’s always good.”

They ate their dinner in silence, humoring the occasional comment from Jane and her dinosaur war. Kongpob knew he wasn’t being subtle with the worried looks he sent his husband’s way, but he was desperately trying to read him. There was something wrong, and he couldn’t figure out what that something was.

Despite his concerns, he kept his curiosities to himself. He and Arthit had agreed to keep the grown up talk for behind their closed bedroom door. Only after Jane was deep in her dreams would they even consider airing their grievances.

They’d made the mistake of letting their hostilities out in front of her one time when she was only four. The hurt she’d held in her eyes over her two fathers fighting – the two people who were meant to bring only warmth and happiness into the safety of their home – was unbearable for both of them. Never again, they’d both agreed after apologizing to her with reassuring kisses and then to each other with less innocent ones that night.

Waiting was his only option. It squeezed his heart in every unpleasant way possible to see the person he loved hurt. Hopefully Arthit would allow him to take care of him. After all, he was always so busy taking care of the rest of them. He deserved the reverse; and Kongpob was more than willing to provide it.

After changing into his pajamas and lazily washing his face, Arthit crawled into bed. He let out a long groan into his pillow.

Kongpob, who had been reading through his newest novel, chuckled. Setting his book aside, he pushed his reading glasses farther up his nose. He carded his fingers through Arthit’s hair, lovingly stroking the strands back against his scalp.

“Long day?” he guessed, only laughing more when Arthit continued to groan. “You want to tell me what’s going on?”

“People are the worst,” Arthit said, voice muffled by the pillow.

Kongpob’s fingers paused for a moment as he hesitantly asked, “Does this have anything to do with the call I got from the principal of Jane’s school? Asking about setting up a meeting next week?”

Finally turning to look at his husband, Arthit’s eyes blew wide with disbelief. “He called you?” Shaking his head, he flipped onto his back, staring at the ceiling. “Unbelievable.”

“So that is the problem,” Kongpob said, adjusting to better face Arthit. “Is Jane in trouble?”

“No, but someone’s going to be.” Inhaling deeply, reminding himself that this was Kongpob, his love, his husband, his world, he was talking to, not the man fueling his rage, he explained, “I went to meet with him earlier today. He told me we have to get her a new uniform.”

“Why? Hers fits just fine.”

“Apparently not. He said it was too short and,” his next words were heavily emphasized, “distracting her teachers.”

Kongpob blinked at him. “Then they shouldn’t be teaching children.”

“Exactly.”

“Did you tell him that?”

Arthit furrowed his brow. “Of course I did. But I’m not the one with the massive amounts of money or famous family, so what I say doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does,” Kongpob quickly assured, curling his arm around Arthit’s shoulder and maneuvering him to lay against him. “It matters, because you’re her dad.”

It certainly didn’t feel that way. His daughter was healthy and happy, and that should have been enough to prove that he was a worthy parent. But it was always Kongpob that people turned to when it came to Jane. Maybe it was due to his much warmer personality; or maybe it was because he was the kind of father Arthit could only hope to be.

But then Jane would ask him to push her on the swing at the park or use her little hands to massage his shoulders after a long day at work, and he was reminded that other people be damned, his little family was as perfect as he’d ever want them to be. And anyone who dared hurt any of them would be subject to his wrath.

“On Monday, I’m going to Jane’s school,” Kongpob declared. “Not because I don’t trust you. I’m going to show her principal that he picked the wrong family to mess with. And if he still says she needs a new uniform well,” his smile was proud, “I guess I’ll have to let the other parents know how the teachers are looking at their children.”

“They’ll pull all their donations,” Arthit pointed out, returning Kongpob’s smile when he pressed a sound kiss to his temple.

“What a pity. Maybe the school they give millions of baht to should reconsider the people they hire.”

Arthit laughed and snuggled closer to Kongpob’s chest. Maybe Mr. Norrapat had been right; they should have had a meeting with Kongpob present. There would no longer be an argument over skirt lengths or uniform indecency. Because if Arthit was unreasonable, Kongpob was downright outrageous. Especially when it came to their precious little girl.

Chapter Text

7:30 am

 

Kit loved his days off. Unlike his coworkers, he didn’t spend all day in bed, drifting in and out of the sleep they had all been skipping in favor of saving lives. On the contrary, his alarm went off at 7:30 on the dot, and he was quick to turn it off as to not wake his husband.

He turned over, taking only a moment to press a kiss into Ming’s shoulder. He was still fast asleep, completely dead to the world, but when Kit got out bed, he rolled over to nuzzle into the warmth he’d left behind. Kit smiled down at him, pulling the blanket a bit higher under his chin. He made a mental note to set aside a good amount of time to spend with him later.

But for now, his mind was elsewhere. Namely on the quiet nursery down the hall. There was no crying; there seldom was. But when he peeked through the slightly opened door, he found two big brown eyes staring out at him from between the bars of the crib that was sat proudly in the center of the room.

Pulling open the curtains on his way in, Kit reached down into the crib to pick up the little girl reaching up to him.

“Good morning, Reese,” he cooed, kissing her nose. She babbled up at him, her normal morning greeting, and he nodded along as though he understood every word. “Yes, yes, it’s good to see you too. Is it time to start the day? Hm?”

He carried her to her changing table. The sun pooled in through the windows, illuminating the soft greys of the room. It was still within the first few hours of daylight. He should still be asleep, shouldn’t even think about being awake for at least another three hours.

But when he settled Reese onto his hip and she hugged herself into his chest, he found it all worth it. Even with the early wake ups and the dirty diapers, he wouldn’t want his days off to go any other way.

 

8:00 am

 

“Could you please refrain from eating my daughter’s toes?” Kit asked as he looked away from where he was preparing Reese’s breakfast. Just over his shoulder, Beam was tickling her feet, making her giggle and bounce in her highchair.

“But they’re so cute,” Beam countered, leaning down and making little munching noises over her feet. Reese kicked her legs, barely missing Beam’s nose in the process. “I can’t help but eat them, can I, Reesey?”

“Everything about my daughter is cute,” Kit said, setting down a plate and a sippy cup on the highchair’s tray. On the menu that morning, oatmeal and sliced banana along with her milk. “Since you like her so much, can you watch her while I make the rest of us breakfast?”

“Sure,” Beam agreed, handing Reese the plastic spoon she was looking for. “I am her favorite uncle after all.”

Kit rolled his eyes as he went back to the fridge. He grabbed the carton of eggs and plucked the bag of rice from the top cabinets before he went to the stove. It was a simple meal, but if the rest of the house wanted to eat, they’d deal with the simplicity.

As he began to boil the rice, he felt long arms wrap around his middle and a cheek rest against the top of his head. “I love Saturdays,” Ming sighed, turning his cheek away and replacing it with his lips. “Especially when my favorite person doesn’t have to work.”

Kit let him stay wrapped around him as he cracked the eggs into a pan. The other major benefit of his days off was Ming’s affection. It wasn’t quick kisses as he ran out the door or cuddles that lasted no longer than five minutes before Kit was out for the count after a long day. He could savor it and so could Ming. Husbands had needs too after all.

When it came time to scramble the eggs, he sent Ming away. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as he sat down on the opposite side of Reese than Beam was on. He wiped her messy cheek before kissing it. “Good morning, sweetheart. Are you eating breakfast, huh? Is it yummy?”

Beam and Ming went back and forth, talking to her and trying to make sense of her babbling. It was sweet, his best friend and his best husband melting into their softest spots for one little girl. If every Saturday could be just like this, then he agreed with Ming; he loved them too.

 

9:00 am

 

As it was their shared day to make breakfast, that also meant it was their day to clean up the communal kitchen after everyone had finished eating. When Kit had gone to clear the table, Ming had pushed him out with a kiss and the promise of doing the dishes himself.

By the time he had finished, Kit was fully focused on holding Reese’s hands as she tried to balance on her stubby legs.

“What are you two up to?” Ming asked, joining them on the floor.

“Well, we were supposed to be playing with our building blocks,” Kit said, holding on tighter when Reese wavered a bit. “But it looks like we want to try standing instead.”

“That’s because Reese is a big girl. Aren’t you?” Scooting a small distance away, Ming held out his hands palm side up. “Come here, baby. Come to Daddy.”

“Ming,” Kit warned, not yet wanting to let go of Reese’s hands. She might have been over a year old now, but that meant she was only on the amateur side of walking. And that was only when she held onto something.

“She’ll be okay. We’re right here if she falls.” Ming made a ‘come here’ motion with his fingers. “Come on; she can do it. Can’t you? Show Papa you can do it.”

Reese managed to get one of her hands out of Kit’s and reached towards Ming. Only when he was sure she had her footing did Kit let go of the other. He kept his hands out just in case she tumbled backwards.

But Reese took a determined step forward, holding her hands out in front of her for balance. She’d always been an independent baby, choosing her own stuffed animal to take to bed and just recently, clumsily washing her face with a washcloth during bath time like she’d seen Kit do for her so many times before. It didn’t surprise him much to see her so focused and willing to try.

It surprised him even less when she fell forward into Ming’s awaiting arms after only three steps. She had only just turned one; expecting her to walk all on her own was unrealistic.

Even still, it was enough of a feat for Ming. He scooped her into his arms and held her close for a cuddle. “See? She’s a big girl.”

Kit frowned. “No, she’s not,” he said, taking her from him. “She’s still a baby.” Holding her out in front of him, Kit wiggled her back and forth, bumping their noses together. “Tell him you’re still Papa’s baby. And that you’re never, ever, ever going to get big.”

Ming chuckled. “Of course not. She’s going to be a baby forever, and we’re going to be changing her diapers for the rest of time.”

Well, good. As long as Ming knew the truth.

 

9:30 am

 

Nap time, Kit decided, was the perfect time to give his husband some of the attention he had been so deprived of when he had to work long hours at the hospital.

After lying Reese down, he came back to their private living area to see Ming lounging on the couch and flipping through the television guide. With one arm thrown behind his head, his t-shirt rode up the littlest bit. Kit couldn’t help but stare.

He supposed he had the right; he was his husband. And Kit missed getting to sneak peeks at him. It felt like he hadn’t been able to since university when it was just the two of them, not yet busy with work and children.

“As much as I love knowing that you think I’m attractive, I would love it even more if you’d come and join me,” Ming teased, just as much of a little shit as he’d always been.

Quickly turning his head to have as much deniability as he could, Kit shuffled to the couch. He stretched out across Ming’s front, curling against his chest and nestling his head beneath his chin.

Ming wrapped both arms around him, hugging him close. They stayed like that, enjoying the feeling of being engulfed within the other’s warmth. It was silent until Ming asked, “Are you tired? You must be. I could watch Reese when she wakes up if you wanted to take your own nap.”

His thoughtful idiot, just as sickeningly sweet as he’d always been. His offer was nice, but Kit was content right where he was. Besides, Ming was more comfortable than any bed he could possibly sleep in.

“We’ve got an hour before she wakes up. I can rest here until then.”

He let his eyes slip close, and he heard Ming choose some sports network. His hand smoothed up and down in between his shoulder blades, occasionally dipping further down his back.

That was how they settled. It wasn’t much, but if Ming’s tight embrace and little kisses to the top of his head were any indications of how he felt, then he supposed he was just as happy as Kit was.

 

11:30 am

 

Sharing a house with two other couples meant that whenever he couldn’t have his eye on Reese, someone else could. It was something that Kit appreciated beyond words, and he hoped to repay them that same kindness someday.

While he made Reese’s lunch, Forth was keeping her entertained in her highchair. She was slowly beginning to retain more of what her parents were teaching her, so he and Ming had encouraged her uncles to turn that learning into little games. They were more than happy to oblige.

“Where’s your nose?” Forth asked. Reese only stared at him, so he repeated, “Where’s your nose, Reesey? Show me where your nose is.”

With the little extra coaxing, she managed to slap her hands over her nose, giggling when Forth clapped his hands at her. “See? I knew you knew where it was. Now, where’s your mouth?”

It went on until Kit set her plate in front of her. He made a move to hand her one of the slices of the sandwich he’d cut up for her, but Forth beat him to it.

“I’ve got it,” he assured, offering Reese her food. She took the sandwich in both of her small hands, doing her best to get it in her mouth and not on her face. “Sit down and relax for a bit.”

Kit smiled knowingly as he pulled out his own chair. “I would say you were being nice if I didn’t know you had ulterior motives.” He wiped away some of the peanut butter Reese had managed to smear across her cheek. “Tell me, Ai’Forth, are you using my daughter as your practice baby?”

Forth coughed, looking away from Kit and giving Reese another piece of her sandwich. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Mhm,” Kit hummed with an over exaggerated nod. “Sure you don’t.”

Forth and Beam’s surrogate was due in a few months, and Kit could feel their stress all the way from their end of the house. They were excited; there was no doubt in his mind about that. But he could attest to the fact that babies changed everything, and they were a big change at that.

He didn’t blame either of them for being nervous, and he certainly didn’t mind the two of them wanting to help more with Reese. Seeing how they were with her only solidified what he already knew: they’d be great fathers.

“I was terrified when Reese was born,” Kit admitted honestly. “I didn’t know how to be a dad, and neither did Ming; I don’t think anyone does really. But we learned. And we had you four to help us. We’ll help you too. It’s not like you and Beam have to do it all alone.”

Reese started fussing, squirming in her seat as sign that she wanted out. Kit lifted her up and held her on his lap. She directed her baby babble in Forth’s direction and pointed at him.

“Oh, you’re going to help too?” Kit said, brushing back some of her thin hair. “You’re going to help take care of your cousin?”

She didn’t stop babbling, nor did she stop reaching towards Forth. Kit took it as his cue to hand her over. As soon as she made contact with him, Forth had a tight arm around her back and used his free hand to tickle her tummy.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Forth said, his face softening. “That means you’re going to have to share your toys. Are you ready to do that?”

Kit cleared the dishes and took them to the sink. He listened to Forth talk to Reese and smiled. He really didn’t have anything to worry about.

 

12:15 pm

 

“Come on, Reese. Daddy will catch you, I promise.”

In order to get her tired enough for her second nap of the day, Kit decided they should get some use of the play equipment they’d built in the backyard. As soon as he’d carried her towards it, she’d tried to climb up the staircase that she was in no way big enough to scale yet. So he’d placed her on the platform, and she crawled right to the top of the slide.

Ming sat himself at the end, his outstretched arms easily reaching three-quarters of the way up the slide. Kit stood on the opposite end, just in case she decided to go a way she wasn’t supposed to and he had to grab her.

But she seemed happy with where she was. Before she could send herself down face first, Kit sat her up right. With a little nudge, she rode down, and Ming caught her, squeezing her close to him when she reached him.

“Dada,” she squealed. It was one of her only babbles that made sense, and she said it often enough. But every time she did, Kit noticed the way Ming’s face lit up.

“Yes, hello, my sweet,” he cooed, pressing a series of quick kisses to her cheek. “Was that fun? Do you want to go again?”

Leaning across the opening in the playset to get a closer look, Kit felt himself sag a bit against the plastic flooring. He never forgot how much he loved Ming; that would be impossible. But seeing him like this, looking at their daughter like the little light of their lives that she was, reminded Kit just how wonderful he was.

This man, his death due them part, was an amazing husband and an even more amazing father and – Kit rested his cheek on his arms and sighed – he was so lucky to have him.

 

1:30 pm

 

The second round of naptime called for laundry. Kit supposed they could always hire someone to do it for them. They had the money after all. But Ming was home enough to do it himself and never complained. It was only right that he did his share when he had the time.

It didn’t hurt that he could fold laundry from the comfort of his husband’s lap either. Ming handed him each article of clothing, and he put them into little piles. Every so often, he’d feel a lingering kiss placed on the back of his head.

It was a nice routine they had, calming too. Any time he got to spend with his husband made him happy, even if that just meant organizing onesies and running shorts.

“What do you think about having another baby?” Ming asked, breaking the serenity.

Turning to look over his shoulder, Kit raised an eyebrow at him. “And just how long have you been thinking about this?”

“I don’t know,” Ming admitted with a shrug. He wrapped his arms around Kit’s waist and folded himself over the curve of his back. “I guess P’Forth and P’Beam having their own got me thinking. And Reese is already a year old. She should have a sibling close in age.”

Kit didn’t necessarily disagree. He wanted Reese to have someone to play with. She’d have Forth and Beam’s child soon and Pha and Wayo’s whenever they decided to have one, but a sibling was just different.

The only problem was his job. His hours were unpredictable and long. Being a doctor and having one baby was hard enough but two? That came with a whole new set of challenges.

“I don’t disagree,” Kit said. “I mean, I want another. But we should wait until Reese is walking before we talk to Button about it. Worrying about a new baby and my daughter falling over whenever she tries to stand is way too much stress at once.”

“Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready,” Ming said, rubbing his stomach with one of the hands that was wrapped around him. “I just want to grow a family with my most favorite person.”

Breathing a soft laugh, Kit pulled Ming into a kiss by the back of his neck. “So sappy.”

 

3:45 pm

 

Kit smiled as Reese ate another piece of strawberry that he’d cut up for her. “You’re such a good eater. You eat whatever I put in front of you.” Leaning down, he poked her little nose, making her laugh. “Thank you for making Papa’s life easy.”

Reese lifted a strawberry and poked it to Kit’s lips. “Is that for me?” he asked, lowering his head a bit so she could put the strawberry into his mouth. “Thank you, angel. Thank you for sharing.”

Ming got off the couch to join the two of them on the play mat. “What about me? Will you give Daddy a piece?”

Reese did the exact opposite, feeding herself instead. Pouting, Ming whined, “Reesey. You love Daddy. You’re supposed to share with the people you love.”

When Reese only ate another piece and Ming’s pout deepened, Kit decided it was time to amend the situation. Picking Reese up and putting her in his lap, he handed her some of the strawberry and lifted her arm in Ming’s direction.

“Give Daddy some, so he stops pouting. He’s acting more like a baby than you are.”

Reese leaned forward across Kit’s lap and towards Ming. Pout turning around, Ming let her feed him. “I knew you loved me too much to not give me any.”

When Reese moved to give him another piece, Kit redirected her hand towards her own mouth. “You’re a good sharer, but you need to eat your own snack. Daddy can go get his own. And one for me too while he’s at it.”

Ming rolled his eyes but stood up and went towards the kitchen regardless.

 

5:00 pm

 

They were all sitting in the living room waiting for dinner to be delivered when Pha returned home. He collapsed into one of the arm chairs and leaned far back into it with a sigh. Kit really did pity him; a surgeon’s life was brutal.

“Hard day?” he guessed, snuggling further under Ming’s arm.

“You don’t know the half of it,” he grumbled, running a hand through his hair. “What are you all up to? Waiting on dinner?”

“Yep. I ordered your favorite. Plus, a double helping of pork, because I love you,” Wayo said.

The corners of Pha’s lips lifted into a small smile. “Not enough to come greet me properly though, huh?”

Wayo was sprawled out on his front on the floor, watching Reese as she tried to figure out which shaped block went into each hole in the wooden cube he was holding. When she managed to get the circular one into the matching hole, he cheered for her.

“You’re so smart, Reese. The smartest little girl in the world.” Tilting his head up towards his husband, Wayo gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, P’Pha. She’s just too cute.” Then he went back to Reese, encouraging her to try and find where the triangle block went.

Kit didn’t miss the way Pha’s entire tense body went soft over Wayo playing with Reese. He couldn’t help his growing smirk.

“Better be careful, N’Yo,” Kit warned. “I think Ai’Pha is going to try and get you pregnant tonight.”

Pha shot him a warning glare. “Shut up, Kit.”

“Stop being so obvious then.”

Wayo lifted Reese up, taking away the square block she was waving around before she could accidentally hit him with it. “I mean…I want kids at some point. But we want to wait for P’Pha to work for a little bit so he can work his way up at the hospital without any distractions.”

Ming sat up a bit, looking down at his best friend. “You’ve talked about having kids, and you didn’t tell me?”

Wayo handed Reese the block back and held up the cube for her when she started squirming impatiently in his arms. “Not in depth, no. We just know we want one someday.”

“More than one,” Pha corrected.

“But for now, we’ll just steal yours when we start feeling paternal.” Going to perch on Pha’s lap, Wayo held Reese out so that she was standing on his thighs. “Say hi to your Uncle Pha. He had a hard day today.”

Pha laughed when she made little noises at him. “Hello, sweetheart. Did you have a good day? What did you do?”

While it was all very cute – Pha and Wayo humoring Reese’s incoherent babbling and smiling the entire time – the Papa Bear in him was clawing its way out. Reaching across the couch to take her from Pha, he placed her between him and Ming.

“Better work hard, Pha, because you aren’t taking my baby,” Kit said.

Beam laughed. “Put the claws away, Kitty. No one’s trying to take your kitten away. Besides, something tells me that those two are going to have more than enough kids to keep them busy. They’re not going to need yours.”

“God, this house is going to be overrun with children, isn’t it?” Forth said, leaning into Beam’s shoulder. “Thank goodness we’ve got the space.”

Kit didn’t think Forth was wrong, but he didn’t want him to be either. To him, that didn’t sound too bad, especially if all of their little ones turned out half as good as Reese.

 

6:00 pm

 

Bath time was just for him and Reese. Ming got her far too riled up that close to bed time, so when he had the chance to bathe her, it was only the two of them. Kit kneeled over the side of the tub, and Reese floated her little boats across the surface of the water.

“You’re such a cutie girl,” Kit gushed, rubbing a washcloth behind her ear. “The cutest girl in the world. You get it from your Daddy.”

He was half correct. She definitely had Ming’s big puppy eyes and his smile. But her nose came from him, and with how small she was, her height undoubtedly did as well. It wasn’t clear which parent she’d end up resembling most yet, but it didn’t matter to him; she’d be beautiful regardless.

He cupped a hand over her eyes as he rinsed the shampoo out of her hair. She giggled when the water ran down her back, and when Kit removed his hand, she lifted her arms up towards him.

“Are you ready to get out?” Kissing her nose, he wrapped her duck towel around her. He tugged the hood down over her eyes and gasped softly. “Where did Reese go? She was right here, and now I can’t find her.”

She squealed, trying to tell him that she was still there in her own little language. It wasn’t until she slapped her wet hands against Kit’s cheeks that Kit gave in.

“Oh, there she is. I thought you’d gotten lost. But if you had,” he rubbed her toweled back and nuzzled his nose into hers, “Papa would always come and find you.”

Hoisting her a bit higher in his arms, he carried her back towards her bedroom. All they needed to do now was moisturize her skin and get her into a pair of pajamas. Then he’d read her a story. Or maybe two. This day had gone by far too quickly, and he wanted to milk it for as long as he could.

 

7:15pm

 

After he shut the cover on the second picture book of the evening, Reese begun drifting. She wasn’t quite asleep yet, but a few cuddles would surely get her there. And Kit was more than happy to provide them.

He rocked her softly, humming whatever nonsense came to him. He rested his temple on her head when she laid against his shoulder. It still amazed him sometimes that this tiny person was his. He had his own little bundle to give so much love and care to. It was surreal.

The door creaked open, and Ming popped his head in. “We still awake?” he whispered.

“Just barely,” Kit said, giving Reese’s forehead a kiss. “I don’t even think we’ll last another five minutes.”

Coming fully into the room, Ming squeezed into the small space Kit left in the arm chair. Lifting his husband up slightly by the waist, he put him on his lap and hugged him tight.

“Ming,” Kit warned quietly, afraid he’d disturb Reese.

But Ming didn’t falter, just fit his chin over his unoccupied shoulder and stroked Reese’s cheek with his thumb. “Just let me hold my sweets for a while, okay?”

It shouldn’t have made Kit’s heart falter as much as it did. Try as he might, he could never deny Ming. He’d attempted to for their first few months of university together, but it was all futile. This man won him over time and time again. Pushing him away would be useless, and besides, Kit kind of liked him where he was.

They stayed like that until Reese finally fell asleep and then for a little while after. These were the moments his mind drifted to during long nights at the hospital. Thinking about them was nice, but living them was even nicer.

 

9:30 pm

 

Freshly showered and dressed in his favorite pajamas – one of Ming’s old t-shirts and a pair of sweatpants – Kit was content to fall into bed and snuggle into his pillow. As much as he loved being a dad, keeping a one-year-old entertained all day was tiring. Not as tiring as work but tiring nonetheless.

Ming, already dressed for bed and laid out across the sheets, scooted closer, managing to snake an arm underneath Kit’s back and around his waist. “Want to watch a movie?” he asked, already clicking through the new releases on the TV. “Maybe something other than a Disney princess one for once.”

Laughing softly into Ming’s side, Kit readjusted himself so that he was propped up on his husband’s chest. “That sounds nice. But you know,” he trailed off, not continuing until Ming was looking down at him, “I don’t have to be at the hospital until two tomorrow.”

Ming raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yeah?”

“Mhm.” Sitting up, he lifted himself over Ming’s hips. Ming’s hands immediately went to his ribs, holding him steady as he blinked up at him and waited for an explanation. “So I think I could stay up a little later tonight.”

“Oh…yeah?” Ming said eagerly, slowly starting to read the obvious signs Kit was giving him.

“Oh yeah,” Kit teased, leaning down to nuzzle his nose under Ming’s jaw. “Still want to watch that movie?”

He got his answer when Ming flipped him over onto the bed and pressed a long, sound kiss to his lips. Kit laughed through it, lazily wrapping his arms around Ming’s neck and pulling him closer.

Days off of work were Kit’s favorite. They started and ended with his two favorite people in the whole wide world, and he would never have it any other way.

Chapter Text

There had always been a fear in the back of Tin’s mind about having kids. They said that as you grew older, you became your parents. The very thought of treating his own child how his father had treated him had his eyes set on a childless future.

Dating and eventually marrying Can meant there was no possibility for an accidental pregnancy scare, but the fact that the two of them couldn’t conceive together didn’t stop his husband from wanting the very thing Tin feared.

There were many late nights where the two of them sat up discussing Tin’s deeply rooted insecurities. Tin poured out his heart while Can listened, holding his hands in his lap and stroking his knuckles to assure him he was there to listen and care.

What they’d discovered was that he wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea of miniature Tins and Cans running around their house. The problem came with the parenting part. No child should have to grow up like he had: alone with no one who genuinely loved him. If he really would turn into his father when their baby came out of their surrogate, he was subjecting his child to a life of torture before they could even walk.

Leave it to Can – his rock, his cheerleader, his everything – to remind him that he wasn’t as bad of a person as he thought he was. He’d made major changes for the better and stuck with them. “Remember,” Can had said, “if you were still the same giant asshole I first met at college, I wouldn’t have married you.” And well, that was a good enough argument as any.

So they took the steps – found a surrogate, told their friends and family, picked out a crib. The idea of taking such a large step with the man he loved most, while still scary, was exciting. But even more importantly, this was his chance to change the fates of Medthanan children. He swore, as soon as he heard that first cry in the hospital room, he’d do better by his children than his parents ever did by him.

As soon as Tan had entered kindergarten, he and Can had developed a system. Mondays and Wednesdays were the days Can would pick him up from school; Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days Tin would pick him up. They switched off every Friday.

Tin had refused to be absent from his children’s lives. If going into work a few hours earlier was what it took for him to make it in time for Tan to run out of the school doors and into his arms, then so be it.

It was his opportunity to hear about his son’s day and give him the attention he couldn’t when he spent long nights at the office. Usually, as soon as he strapped him into his car seat, Tan was talking a mile a minute, trying to get in every detail before they pulled up to their house.

Today, however, he was quiet. When Tin looked in the rearview mirror, he saw him staring at his lap, little lips pursed and short legs swinging slowly.

“How was school today?” Tin asked, taking it upon himself to get the conversation going. If something was wrong, he’d want to know, so he could quickly right the situation. “Anything fun happen?”

Tan lifted his shoulders in a heavy shrug. It didn’t seem like he was going to say anything, but he then gripped his seat belt and said, “Golf pulled on Honey’s hair today.”

Tin raised an eyebrow, eyes flickering between the road and the mirror to see how Tan’s body language changed. “Oh? Why did he do that?”

“Because he likes her,” he replied, sounding unsure of his own words. “He said that when you like a girl, you’re supposed to pull on her hair so she knows.” Tiny nose scrunching, he squeezed the seat belt tighter. “But I don’t get it. Why would you hurt someone you like?”

Tin couldn’t help but break into a small smile. So it seemed Tan inherited Can’s innocent, yet oddly profound logic. Though, that didn’t give him the answer as to how he was meant to explain society’s deeply rooted, early developed sexism to a seven-year-old.

“You’re right,” he started. “You’re not supposed to hurt the people you like. You’re supposed to be nice to them. How about this.” He paused to look back at Tan; he finally had his head up, and his eyes were locked onto the back of his seat. “Do you see me pulling on your papa’s hair?”

“No,” Tan said with a shake of his head.

“Do you see Papa pulling on my hair?”

“No. You give each other hugs and kisses.” Tilting his head to the side, Tan asked, “Then why did Golf say that?”

“Because,” Tin bit his lip in thought, “some people think that hurting someone shows that they care about them. But that’s wrong, okay? If you like someone, you tell them. Remember what we said? About using your words?”

“Mhm!” Tan sat up straighter, declaring, “You’re supposed to use your words, not your hands. Because you could hurt someone that way, and that’s bad. You tell people you like them and give them kisses, not pull their hair.”

Tin chuckled. “You’ve got it. But let’s hold off on that kissing part for a while, okay? Because I don’t think your papa will be using his words with me if he finds out you kissed someone.”

Over the years, Tin had gotten used to Can’s sporadic bursts of emotions. He never thought knowing how to handle them would come in handy, but that was before he was the parent to a seven and five-year-old.

Apple barely reached his hip, but for a tiny thing, she sure could yell. She must have gotten that from her father. In her head, her anger must have been justified. Tan had taken her new train set and messed up the track pattern she had spent hours setting up. All of her hard work would have to be redone, and to someone her age, that was just unacceptable.

He and Can had come running at the first scream. Separating the two children, Can had taken it upon himself to herd Tan into the kitchen while Tin crouched down to gather a now crying Apple into his arms.

Curling her little fingers into his shirt, she mumbled, “I hate him.” Most of her tears had dried, and she was only softly sniffling.

“No you don’t,” Tin said, rubbing up and down her back to try and calm her before she said more things he and she would both regret.

But she didn’t let up. “Daddy, I hate him. Hate him, hate him, hate him.”

“Hey.” Pulling back, he took her hands in his, squeezing them tight. He took a couple of breaths, waiting until she followed. After a few rounds of that, he said, “You don’t hate your brother. You’re angry with him. And that’s okay. What he did wasn’t nice, and Papa is going to make sure he knows that.”

“But, Daddy, he ruined the whole thing,” she whined, stomping her foot to show how serious she was.

“I know,” he said.

Because he did. Long before the drug scandal and family betrayal, Tul had kicked over his block towers, stolen his crayons, ripped the batteries out of his remote-control cars. He thought he hated him then; little did he know that those were so miniscule compared to where his hatred would actually stem from.

He didn’t want his children to turn out the same. He refused to let it happen. Things like ruined train tracks could easily be resolved. If they weren’t, tensions would only build, and they would learn what real hatred for your sibling felt like.

“Tan’s your big brother, remember?” he tried to reason. “You share your cookies with him and chase him around in your toy car and push him on the swing set. Would you do all of that if you hated him?”

She thought for a moment, and then shook her head. “No. But…But he messed up my tracks, and I’m sad.”

“And that’s okay,” he soothed, rubbing his hands up and down her arms. “You’re allowed to be sad.”

“Don’t hate him,” she sounded out slowly. “Just angry. And sad.”

“That’s right.” He drew her back into a hug, holding her close and stroking her hair.

Eventually, Can brought Tan back in. His head was hung, and his shoulders were hunched as he apologized. Five-year-old attention spans were a magical thing, and she easily forgave him. Tin sighed; waterworks over nothing.

But he supposed it wasn’t nothing. He watched as Tan lead her back to the train tracks and helped her set them back up the way she liked. It was an important lesson to both of them – apologize when you do wrong and evaluate your feelings before you equate them to something they’re not. His parents had never taught him either of those things. But then again, Tul never helped him piece together wooden railroad tracks either.

“Daddy,” Tan whined. He threw his front over Tin’s legs, hugging onto them as he raised them from where they were curled around the edge of the couch and into the air. Giggling, enjoying the feeling of flying, Tan regained his pout when he was back on the ground. “Daddy, please? Pretty, pretty please?”

Tin sighed. Seeing as his distraction hadn’t worked, he supposed he’d have to face this situation head on.

Since he’d gotten home from school, Tan had been begging him for the newest video game that all of his classmates were talking about. If they all had it, then he needed it too; simple logic for a seven-year-old.

If he was the same Tin from university, he would have easily swiped his credit card and slid the disc into the console by now. But he was a changed man and a married one at that. Can didn’t like it when he spoiled the kids too much. Here and there was fine, but they had enough toys to keep them entertained for the rest of their lives. Their video game shelf alone was nearly filled up.

He should say no. It would be the right thing to do. But Tin was a weak man when it came to his husband and children. They all had the same big, bright eyes. With a pout and bat of their lashes, they had him wrapped around their tiny little fingers.

A happy medium it was then. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, peaking Tan’s attention. Scrambling into his lap, he looked up at him hopefully. “I’ll buy you the game. If,” Tan deflated, his little brows pinched together, “you set the table for dinner for the rest of the week. And you don’t argue with your sister.”

It wasn’t too bad of a deal, but second graders were tricky cases. Clearly not the answer he wanted, Tan let out little irritated huffs as he squirmed in his lap. It was the perfect opportunity for him to give in – seeing as his son had the cutest pout in the entire vicinity of Bangkok – but he stood firm. In the end, it would benefit him.

He and Tul were spoiled as children, and look where that had landed them. Given whatever they’d wanted without question, they’d grown into entitled, rich brats. Luckily, he’d learned and grown. But for his children, he didn’t want it to even be a possibility.

Holding out his hand to him, he asked, “Do we have a deal?”

Tan eyed his hand skeptically. “You promise?”

“Yes, sir,” he assured, moving his hand a little closer. “You never go back on a hand shake.”

Seemingly satisfied, Tan grabbed his hand and shook it with all his might. “Deal!”

Tin ruffled his hair just as he jumped off his lap and ran towards the kitchen. He vaguely heard him ask Can to help him reach the plates, followed by his husband’s choked gasp of surprise. 

“Uncle Pete!”

“Apple!”

Tin shook his head, fond smile inching onto his face as his best friend caught his daughter in a hug. As Pete pulled her onto his lap and chatted with her, Tin popped open the two lawn chairs he had under his arms and set them along the boundaries of the football field.

Both teams were already on the field, going through their rounds of practice drills before the game officially started. Can stood by the goal, watching as each player approached it and kicked the ball into the back netting. He’d encourage them on with a wide smile and a clap of his hands. In that way, he was the perfect youth football coach, at least in Tin’s humble opinion.

Turning back to Pete, he laughed softly when he noticed Apple getting comfortable against his chest. “You know you’re going to be stuck like that for the entire game, right?”

“That’s fine,” he said, using his free hand to stroke through her ponytail. The other was rested on the armrest, palm side up and intertwined with his husband’s. “At least I’ll have someone paying attention to me for the next hour.”

“Think I’ll even get a hello out of him?” Tin asked to which Pete only giggled.

“I wouldn’t hold your breath.” He squeezed Ae’s hand and followed his intense gaze to the littlest player on the field, drowning in his too big red jersey.

“It’s almost been a full season since Pin joined the team,” Tin pointed out. “Shouldn’t he be less worried by now?”

“We’re talking about Ae, right? My husband? The same one who is convinced that if he looks away from the field for even a second, Pin will get hit in the head with the ball?” Pete rolled his eyes. “It’s easier to let him worry than convince him not to.”

“Fair point.”

The whistle blew, and each team went to their respectful benches. From across the field, Tan spotted Tin and began furiously waving his hand, jumping up and down to make sure he saw him. As it was impossible not to, Tin waved in return, sitting back in his chair with an affectionate sigh.

The match started as well as cheering from each set of spectators. Nothing was too intense, seeing as it was a field full of elementary aged children. But the families were enthusiastic regardless, all of their shouts encouraging and proud.

Closing in on the first half of the game, the crowd quieting down as the referees set up for a penalty kick, Tin was pulled away from the field and towards Pete when he said, “I never imagined starting university meant the two of us were signing up for a lifetime of football games. Though, I’m sort of glad it did.”

Crinkle to his brow, Tin asked, “Why?”

Resting his chin on Apple’s head, Pete’s smile was warm as he said, “Because it shows how much you’ve grown.” Reaching to his shoulder, he squeezed it. “You’re a good dad, Tin. Tan and Apple are lucky to have you.”

Stunned into silence, Tin could only stare at his best friend. Out of anyone in his life, Pete had known him the longest. If he had changed, he would be the one to notice. He’d told him in the past how different post-university Tin was to pre-university Tin, but something about this sentiment, about him assuring his role as a parent, hit much harder.

Pete didn’t have the rose colored husband goggles that Can did. Despite their long friendship, he was still an external source, looking in from the outside. He also knew the typical Medthanan parenting style. Being a good father was a direct contrast to that, proving that he was slowly but surely achieving his goal.

Though he wished he would have chosen any other time to give him that affirmation. Hand on his cheek, Tin pushed Pete’s face back in the direction of the game. “Eyes on your kid. Never know when Ae will blink and potentially miss Pin tripping over his own laces.”

Pete laughed, but his sentiment wasn’t lost in it. They focused back on the field, but Tin couldn’t help the happy buzz that ran through his body for the remainder of the game.

Hushed voices on the opposite side of the bed stirred Tin from his slumber. Blinking to adjust to the darkness of what he could only assume came from the too early hours of the morning, he turned onto his side. There he found his husband, wide awake and lying flat on his back. His hand ran up and down the back of the little girl lying on his chest.

“We have a visitor,” Can said when he noticed Tin staring.

“I see that,” he said, reaching over to brush some of the hair off of Apple’s forehead. “And just what is she visiting for?”

“Nightmare,” she said sadly, nuzzling her face closer into Can’s chest. “It was scary, Daddy.”

He cooed sympathetically. The poor thing was up far past her bed time, and with how much she’d been crying, she would undoubtedly have a head ache. And on top of all of that, she was terrified, shaking in Can’s arms and clawing as close as she could into his night shirt.

“I’m sure it was,” he assured softly. “Do you want to tell us about it? Would that make you feel better?” When she only shrugged, unsure, he encouraged more, “If you tell us, we’ll make it better. Sounds good, hm?”

She waited a moment, thinking about it, before she whispered, “You didn’t want me anymore.”

The room stilled, and he and Can shared a worried glance over the top of her head. Before the two of them could comment, she continued, “You said you only wanted Tanny, not me. You walked away and didn’t come back and I couldn’t find you and, and, and–”

“Shh,” Tin quieted her, carding his fingers through her hair as Can wrapped both arms tightly around her. “Breathe, sweetheart. You’re okay.”

They were quiet until she stopped choking on her breath and her little heart stopped racing. Only then did Can say, “We would never not want you. Never ever.” He buried his face into the top of her head. “I hate that you dreamed about that. I hate it so much.”

“We’re never going to not want you,” he continued for his husband, alternating between petting both of their heads. “You’re our little Apple Pie. How could we not want you?”

“But, what if–”

“No buts,” Tin cut her off, tone stern. “No what ifs. We are always going to want you. We’re never going to leave you. We love you.”

“So much,” Can murmured into her hair.

“You and Tan are everything to us. We would never give that up.” Sliding his hand down to cup her cheek, he pinched it softly, if only to see her smile. “So never worry about that, okay? It will only ever be a bad dream.”

“Only a bad dream,” she repeated, sniffling back a few stray tears.

Humming in approval, Tin reached down to pull the blankets up over her and Can. He then tucked himself close, arm wrapping around the both of them. “You want to sleep here for the rest of the night? Will that make it all better?”

Readjusting herself on Can’s front, she grabbed onto Tin’s arm, needing a hold on both of them. She nodded, eyes slipping shut. In little time at all, she was asleep, no doubt exhausted from how worked up she’d gotten.

He waited for Can to follow after her, and only then did he allow himself to drift off. The two of them would have to have a longer conversation about this on a much more mature, adult level, but for now, he would just hold the two of them. Right now, he just had to make everything better.

As soon as Tin walked through the front door, he was sent five steps back from the two little ones running face first into his knees. Their happy, matching cries of “Daddy!” made it easy to forgive them.

Reaching down to lift Apple into his arms, he ruffled Tan’s hair. He was burying further into his trouser leg by the second, but Tin supposed he could live with standing and cuddling with them for a bit. After all, he’d missed them just as much as it seemed they had missed him.

Can joining them was the only thing that could make it better. Stepping around Tan to tuck himself into his side, he nuzzled his shoulder before giving it a kiss. “Welcome home,” he murmured, arms going around his waist in a tight hug. “Good day?”

The amount of love he was receiving – the love he at one point thought was near impossible to find – made him warm from head to toe. His three people made him feel like the luckiest man in the world. And he was; this moment was proof enough.

Pressing a kiss to Apple’s cheek and then one to the top of Can’s head, Tin buried his face into his hair. “It is now.”

Chapter Text

Taking care of two children on his own was hard enough especially when they had the genetic makeup of Forth Jamornhum. But taking care of two very sick children was an entirely different battle.

Don’t be mistaken, Beam loved his kids like nothing else. They were everything to him and more. But that didn’t mean his first choice of a day off was wiping their noses and dishing out medicine.

Thus was the life of a parent however, so he did it all in stride. Television playing a late afternoon cartoon, he lay back against the couch cushions with a child on either side, older on the right, younger on the left.

The door opening was a blessing. Usually the sound of the doorknob turning was followed by socked feet padding across the floor, but today, those little feet stayed curled up beneath the blanket they all shared.

“My three favorites,” Forth said as he joined them. Smile wide, he toed off his shoes. “You’re having family cuddles without me? After I was working all day? That’s cruel, babe.”

“Not exactly,” Beam said. Motioning towards the two at his sides, he further explained, “We haven’t been feeling too good. So we haven’t really left the couch all day.”

“Oh yeah?” Stepping closer, Forth bent down, so he was eye level with their littler and littlest. He brushed the back of his hand over Lace’s forehead, frowning at the heat he felt. “Both of them managed to get sick at the same time?”

Humming sympathetically, he carded his fingers through Lukas’ hair. “Another boy in Lukas’ class was sick, so he must have caught whatever bug he had.” Looking to his right, his lips quirked into an amused grin. “And this one ran outside in the rain the other day when Uncle Kit and I both told her not to.”

Whether she knew she was being called out on her blatant disregard for authority or not, Lace fixed Forth with a pout, her brown eyes widening at the person she got them from. “Papa, my throat hurts.”

Forth chuckled. “I’m sure it does, sweetheart.” His hand moved from her forehead to pinch her cheek. “Guess you’ve learned your lesson then, hm?” Eyes back on his husband, Forth asked, “Have they eaten much today?”

“A little here and there. They haven’t had much of an appetite.” Which was saying something, considering they were Forth’s children. “I was going to go down to the kitchen to make some soup, but as you can see,” he patted both of their heads, “I’m a bit held up.”

“Well, have no fear, your knight in shining armor is here.” Beam rolled his eyes but couldn’t help the softness in his smile when Forth stood up and kissed his head. “I’ll make the soup, and then we can see about giving these little ones a bath. What do you say, guys? That’ll feel good, yeah?”

Beam reached up to cup his cheek. Forth was a great husband and just as amazing of a father. There was no one else he’d want as his partner in raising their little family. Regardless of how hard he worked, he came home with the vigor of a well-rested man who hadn’t already faced a long day. He did everything for them, because he loved them all with his entire heart. And Beam was so grateful for him.

Rubbing his thumb beneath a dark circle, Beam carefully looked over the rest of Forth’s face. His beautiful tan skin was a bit dull, and the slight warmth he felt beneath his fingers wasn’t normal. Call it the doctor in him, but he couldn’t help but worry.

“Are you feeling alright? You don’t look so good,” Beam said, concern laced in his voice.

Forth laughed. “You really know how to make a guy feel special, don’t you?”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“I’m fine. Just a little tired from work, that’s all.” With a final stroke over Beam’s hair, he headed back out the door. “Alright, my babies; one pot of soup coming up. Don’t miss me too much, okay?”

He blew them a kiss over his shoulder, and Beam could only sigh. His husband was an idiot, but he wouldn’t have him any other way.

A series of sniffles woke Beam up well before his alarm. Thinking that one of the kids had wormed their way into his bed in the middle of the night, he sat up, ready to take them back to their own room.

He didn’t find a sniveling child; instead, he found a sniveling husband. Curled tightly into his pillow, Forth took in sharp, nasally inhales every other breath. Just above his brow was a bead of sweat threatening to fall down his temple.

Beam felt his head, and as expected, it was warm, warmer than his cheek had been the night before. He knew something had been wrong, but leave it to his self-sacrificing husband to brush sickness off like it was nothing.

Not on Beam’s watch. Looking to the clock, he noted that there were still a few hours until Forth needed to be at work. Which was perfect; that meant when his boss got to the office, he would see the email Beam planned to write him waiting on his computer.

Stretching across his ailing husband, he plucked his phone off the bedside table. Sliding it open, he began to craft his message.

“Beam?” Forth asked, voice scratchy and lower than normal. “What are you doing?”

“Emailing your boss,” he said, continuing to type with one hand and brushing Forth’s bangs off of his damp forehead with the other. “Go back to sleep.”

Selfless as ever, Forth tried to steal his phone back. “’m fine. It’s just a bit of a head cold. I’ll be better in no time.”

Holding the phone out of his reach, Beam fixed him with a kind yet serious stare. “Babe, I say this with love, but you look awful. You’re sick, and you’re not going to get any better without rest.” He stroked over his cheekbones with his thumb. “Listen to the doctor.”

With a defeated sigh and lack of his normal strength, Forth nuzzled into Beam’s side. “You are the expert after all. If my hubby says I need rest, then I’ll rest. As long as he stays here and cuddles with me. I heard that’s the real cure to a cold.”

It seemed his sickness didn’t deter his normal bouts of flirtation. No matter; if some loving pets and quality time was what Forth wanted, Beam had no gripes on giving them to him. He did look awfully cute burrowing into his hip.

When Forth was back asleep and thoroughly snuggled, Beam slipped out of bed. The kids were undoubtedly ready to start their days, and if they were still feeling bad, he didn’t want to leave them alone for much longer.

He was met with his little girl jumping up from her tip toes as soon as he closed the bedroom door. He caught her easily, adjusting her in his arms so that they were face to face.

“Good morning,” he said. “How are you feeling?” He placed his knuckles on her forehead; she was significantly less warm than yesterday, but there was still that littlest bit of illness she needed to work past.

“Good,” Lace chirped, resting her head on Beam’s shoulder and nuzzling into the side of his neck. She was definitely her papa’s daughter. “But I’m hungry. Lukas and I want breakfast.” She pressed a little kiss just below his jaw. “Please.”

“And where is your brother?” he asked, venturing from the bedrooms to the front of their wing of the house. Having a two-year-old – a sick one at that – on the loose wasn’t exactly ideal.

“Waiting for you. We’ve been up for hours, Daddy. We thought you forgot about us.”

Beam pressed a series of small kisses to her head. “Forgetting about my two favorite babies? Impossible. That could never happen.”

Stepping into the living room, he found Lukas on the couch, stuffed animal under one arm while he ran a toy car along the arm rest. Looking to who disturbed his play time, he broke into a wide smile. Jumping from the couch, he ran himself into Beam’s legs, holding on tight.

“Daddy!” he cheered. “Breakfast time?”

Beam quickly felt his head, and just like his sister, he was considerably cooler. Which was a relief. He hated seeing either of his kids in any kind of pain.

“Yes, breakfast time,” he confirmed, cringing a bit at the happy shout Lukas gave. He looked back down the hall he came from, reminded of the sniffling husband he had just managed to convince to rest.

“But we have to be quiet, okay?” He raised his index finger to his lips, heart melting when Lukas copied him. “Papa needs lots of sleep. He doesn’t feel good.”

“Like me?” Lukas asked around his finger, voice softer.

“Like you.” Holding out his hand, he waited for Lukas to stand up and take it. “So how about we go eat and give him some peace and quiet, hm? What do you think?”

The two happy ‘yes’s were all he needed. Breakfast it was.

Everything fell apart midafternoon.

After his nap, Lukas refused to leave Beam’s arms, eyes teary and mouth pouty.

“My head, Daddy,” he whimpered, burying himself further into Beam’s shoulder. “It hurts.”

Periodically switching from rubbing his temple to stroking the hair on the back of his head, Beam shushed him gently. “I know, sweetheart,” he cooed, rocking back and forth. “It’s because of your nose. It’s all stuffy.”

“Make it stop.”

Oh, if he could, he would. But seeing as that was near impossible, he could only hope that the medicine he’d given him would kick in soon. But until then, he could only hold him and quiet his cries.

“Daddy,” Lace called, feeling just as well as she had earlier that morning. “I’m bored. Can’t I watch a movie?”

Beam sent her an apologetic smile. “I told you, your brother’s head hurts. Too much noise will only make it worse. Once he falls asleep, we can, okay?”

“But, Daddy,” she whined, turning away from the paper she was drawing on to focus on the puppy eyes she gave him. “I’m bored now.”

“Lace,” he warned when he felt Lukas dig further into his shoulder to find some quiet. “I told you, not right now.”

“But, Daddy.”

“Lace–”

“What’s going on?” The groggy voice of his husband drifted into the living room. Dressed in his pajamas and hair ruffled from sleep, Forth sounded much worse than he looked. Beam had been right; rest had helped him exponentially. But that didn’t mean he was well enough to come join the miniature warzone Beam was currently battling in.

“Nothing,” Beam assured him, walking towards him in hopes of herding him back into the bedroom. “Are you feeling better? Do you need me to get you anything?”

“I’m fine,” Forth assured him right back. Glancing down to the fiddly toddler in his arms, his lips quirked upwards. “But it doesn’t look like you are.”

Crouching to try and catch Lukas’ eye, Forth asked, “Are you having a hard day? Not feeling good?”

Lukas turned to look at his father, little mouth pulled into a frown. “Head hurts bad, Papa. Really bad.”

“Really bad? We can’t have that.” Taking Lukas from him, Forth lifted him into his own arms. Beam let his arms drop to his sides, and he let out a sigh of relief. Lukas may have only been two, but he growing fast; holding him for extended periods of time was physically demanding.

Pressing a kiss to Lukas’ pounding temple, Forth then looked to Lace, who was still huffing and puffing on the floor. “And what about my Lacey girl? What’s wrong with her?”

“I’m so, so, so bored,” she said, hoping to earn a few pity points with the pursed lip pout she sent his way. “And Daddy won’t let me watch a movie.”

“Lace, I told you; your brother’s head hurts.”

“Please–”

“Alright,” Forth said, calm and trying to ease the tension. “Lace, go pick out a movie. But we’re going to watch it quietly, so it doesn’t hurt Lukas’ head. Okay?” With an excited nod, she was darting towards the cupboard that housed all of their DVDs.

Forth then went to the couch. “What do you say we lay together? Will that make you feel better? Lying with Papa?” Lukas nodded against Forth’s collarbone.

Stretching across the couch on his back, Forth rested Lukas on his chest and smoothed a hand down his back. The two-year-old curled into him, head cuddled right beneath his chin.

“This one, Papa,” Lace said as she scurried back to them with a film in hand. “Lukas loves Moana. Maybe it’ll help him feel better.”

“That’s nice of you, baby. Go put it in and bring me the remote.” Lace nodded, placed a quick kiss to Lukas’s head, and then ran to the television.

Craning his neck to look over Lukas’s head, Forth smiled at his husband. “I think you’re the one who needs rest now. Go take a nap; I’ll handle the little ones for a bit.”

Beam took in the scene in front of him. His little boy lay on top of his big boy while his excited daughter, all too similar to her father, situated herself and her stuffed animals on the floor.

How was he meant to leave all of this?

Sitting on the opposite end of the couch, Beam moved Forth’s feet into his lap. “No,” he said as the opening credits began to play. “I’m good right here.”

“Ugh,” Beam groaned, pulling the comforter tighter around him when he felt a chill shudder through his body. His throat felt as though someone had drug gravel through it, and though he couldn’t see it, he was pretty positive that his nose was the same color as Lukas’s toy firetruck.

Humming at the thermometer, Forth turned it towards him. Through bleary eyes, he could just make out the thirty-eight degrees staring back at him. “It was only a matter of time, babe,” his husband said, running a sympathetic hand through his sweat drenched hair. “I’ll let Pha and Kit know not to wait up for you on the way to the hospital.”
“But, the kids–” he began, only to be cut off with a shush and a fluff to his pillow.

“I’ll drive them to school. And pick them up.”

“But Lace–”

And I’ll drop Lace off at her singing lesson after. The only thing that you need to worry about is keeping your butt in bed and getting better.” Dropping a kiss to his forehead, Forth stood up to fully shut the blinds. “You took such great care of us. Let me at least manage half of that for you, yeah?”

There he went again, his selfless husband stepping up and going far and beyond any expectation Beam could set. Tucking the better part of his face under the covers, he let his eyes slip close and sleep overtake him. Everything would be well taken care of; Forth would make sure of that. So there was nothing to worry about.