Dele doesn’t think he’s ever been under this much pressure in his life, not in his first game back after injury, the first time he took Eric out to dinner, when he was trying to negotiate his initial signing with spurs, not even during the world cup, did he feel like this.
Dele’s heart was beating faster than usual, his hands were unsteady and a bead of sweat was cutting a line down the overheated length of his back. “Focus Del” he told himself in a firm whisper before he reached up to wipe the back of his hand over his brow.
“You got this” Dele mumbled to himself, nodded his head before he pulled his shirt away from his chest to let air breeze over his skin.
Music played soft and low in the background, an old playlist of Dele’s that played sweet and slowly, a perfect accompaniment to the warm summer air, the afternoon light streaming in from the large windows of their kitchen.
A soft yawn and quiet little squeak drew Dele’s attention out of his own mind and his head snapped to the left, his eyes landing on the small bundle of blankets laying atop the portable baby bed laid on the kitchen counter.
When his sister had gifted it to them, Dele had laughed at the weird egg-shaped looking bed, but Molly had promised they would love her for it, and as usual, she was right. It made it easier when there was only one of them home, a convenient place to lay Hugh down when they needed to do something else.
It was also nice to have the option to use the portable bed and have Hugh nap on the couch beside them. It made it easier, having somewhere to place down their son that was safe and cosy for him.
“Oh hi sweetheart” Dele cooed as he walked over to his son, his fingers rubbing over Hugh’s tummy as the baby kicked his feet out, wriggling as he stared up at his dad.
“Hey mate, sorry I know I’m taking so long aren’t I? But I wanna do this proper, bit nervous if I'm honest” Dele cooed to his boy, swaying side to side, hand gently cupping the back of Hugh’s head. “Your daddy told me this would be easy but I think he was lying” Dele mumbled, kissing the side of his son’s head.
Hugh let out another soft squeak and Dele nodded, “Exactly right bubba, Eric is a liar” Dele whispered, beginning to bounce Hugh when he began to fuss.
“We can do this can’t we bug? You and me yeah, it’s going to be alright” Dele muttered and closed his eyes, taking a moment of cradling his son to his chest, breathing slowly before he placed Hugh down again gently.
Dele looked down at the rounded edge rectangular bath, filled with warm water, two fresh washers folded neatly on the counter beside it. A slightly larger, soft fuzzy yellow towel with a family of ducks embroidered on the corner was laid out also, ready for Dele to wrap Hugh up in once bathtime was over. A bottle of unscented baby body wash sat next to it, along with a fresh nappy, baby powder and wet wipes. He finally checked the temperature of the water with his pinky finger one more time, making sure it was just right, just like it had said online, nice and warm but careful to not be steaming hot.
Everything was perfect, now just to actually give his son a bath. The hard bit. Dele thought he’d gotten pretty good at managing high-pressure situations, staying level headed enough to score goals in the middle of intense play, but for some reason, Dele was intimidated to the point of fear at the prospect of bathing Hugh.
Hugh was only in his first week of life still, soft skin and face wrinkled, so perfectly small and perfect they could barely believe. Biologically, Hugh was Dele’s, eyes a dark black like most newborns, but Eric was convinced they’d fade to a lighter brown or haze like Dele’s. His skin was just a slight lighter tone to Dele’s, a mix between his own complexion and the fairer complexion of their surrogates.
It hadn’t really even been a discussion of who would be the biological father of their first baby, Eric had explained that he wanted it to Dele, and that he would be the donor for their second child whenever that happened. Family was everything to Dele, and Eric wanted more than anything to have Dele be able to extend his family line. With his past experiences with his family, Eric knew Dele felt a certain level of isolation.
Alan, Sally, Molly and Harry had been more than Dele could have dreamed up as a perfect family. Dele was adamant in his conviction that it wasn't blood that made family, had it marked on his skin to signify that, but Eric had spoken in length with Dele and knew deep down that ached for something of himself, to start a family of his own, to get it right this time, be the person for his babies that no one ever was for him.
They’d love their children the same, no matter who they belonged to biologically, but Eric wanted to give Dele the experience first.
Dele adjusted the towel he had laid under the bath to help catch any spills and decided, it was now or never. Eric had given Hugh a bath on his first night at home, and now it was Dele’s turn. Eric was out doing a grocery shop, stocking up on the essentials and a few new things they had come to need with the presence of the new tiny person they had to take care of. Dele hadn’t planned on bathing Hugh while Eric was gone, they had intended to do it once he got home after Hugh finished his afternoon feed.
However the newborn baby had started to fuss and sob, so Dele decide to feed him a bit earlier than usual since his bottle seemed to be the only thing that could settle him. That had meant burping him earlier than usual, and that turned into a mess on both him and Hugh. As Dele had gone to find some wipes to clean them up, Hugh had soiled his nappy and his onesie, and DEle had decided a bath was the only way to go.
It wasn’t that Dele was scared, really (except he was kind of terrified) it’s just it was so foreign having never grown up with baby sibling, all of this was brand new to Dele. It was so new and Hugh was just so impossibly small, so trusting and dependant on Dele that he was scared of letting the little boy down, he wanted to do the best by Hugh, even in the small things like this.
Hugh let out another loud cry and Dele leant over for him, sushing under his breath before he plucked the boy up out of the loose wrap of his blanket. Dele had already cleaned up most of Hugh’s mess from his nappy, but the boy still had some stains from his spit up on his chest.
Dele hadn’t bothered with another nappy before bathtime, since he was just going to put a fresh one on after, so Hugh was naked and squirming away in his arms as Dele walked them over to the bath.
Hugh let out another babbling squeak, one of his stray fists hit the side of Dele’s head gently. “Alright no need to punch me, babe, I know it’s cold, Your naked little butt will be in the warm water in a second” Dele cooed, gently moving Hugh so he was cradled in his hands, heart rate spiking a bit as gently settled Hugh into the water, watching him carefully.
“How does that feel buddy? Is that ok?” Dele asked, watched as Hugh’s face moved, brows wiggling, mouth opening and closing, hands and feet beginning to wriggle fast.
“There we go” Dele mumbled under his breath, felt relief at the way he’d gotten Hugh into the water easily. He smiled when Hugh’s crying settled in the warmth of the water
“Hughie bub careful” Dele managed to get out before it was too late and a large splash of water was kicked up down the front of Dele’s shirt.
“Alright, I guess the shirt is done for today” Dele sighed, and looked at the dark patch of water on his plain grey t-shirt, now company for the stain from Hugh’s spit up.
Hugh seemed to settle the splashing after a few seconds, eyes closing in slow blinks as he began to let out small babbles, but not sad ones, just soft noises.
Dele smiled wide, eyes tearing up just a bit as he watched the content expression on his son’s face, gazing up at Dele. This brand new little human was his, his and Eric’s and it seemed like a miracle every single day since the day he first laid eyes on Hugh that something so perfect existed just for them.
“Hey see dad is doing pretty well isn’t he?” Dele spoke, his voice thick with emotion as he made sure his baby was laid in the netted bed like section of the bath before he very carefully removed his hands from the water, watched carefully to make sure Hugh was laid there safely.
“I’d say dad is doing pretty great” Dele’s head whipped around quickly and he saw Eric standing there behind him, leant against the fridge with his arms full of shopping bags as he looked over at the pair of them, a massive smile glowing on his face.
“Hey” Dele breathed out with a grin before another small splashing sound made him jolt his attention back to Hugh. His son was happily laying there, wiggling away and Dele let out a sigh of relief.
“Didn’t hear you come in, Lil Hugh decided to make an extra big mess because he missed you so much, so we had to have bath time” Dele explained and picked up one of the washers, dunked it in the water before he wrung out the excess water.
“Mm, must have been focused on our boy cause I wasn't quiet” Eric laughed, and placed the bags down on the floor by the kitchen counter, walking over to Dele and Hugh.
“Oh, Hey there little man!” Eric cooed as he spotted Hugh in the bath, wiggling away as Dele carefully dragged a washer over Hugh’s tummy in gentle wipes.
“You made a mess did you Hughie? Are you all gross buddy? That’s so nice of dad to clean you up” Eric spoke softly, neither of them baby-voiced Hugh, and Dele was thankful for that, he’d happily tell his son he loved him and chat away to him all day, but not in a sickly sweet voice.
Eric leant in and aimed a kiss for Dele’s lips, catching the corner of his mouth as dele tilted his head to the side to try and meet him, but kept his eyes on Hugh.
“Oop and looks like you got caught in the cross-fire” Eric laughed, tugging at Dele’s wet shirt before he reached a hand out to wriggle his pointer finger against Hugh’s cheek. Hugh turned his head to the left and caught Eric’s finger in his mouth, suckling on it at as though it was the lip of his bottle.
“I missed you” he whispered down to Hugh, kissing the top of his head before he pulled back. Eric moved to stand behind Dele and wrapped his arms around the low of Dele’s waist, resting his chin on his shoulder.
“Nothing to be worried about hmm? He loves it” Eric said softly, making Dele smile bright and nod. Dele squirted a bit of goat milk baby soap out onto the washer before he ran it over Hugh’s skin again.
For a few moments, the only sound inside the family home was the quiet splashing of water, Dele’s music sweet and low playing softly, and Eric humming along to it right by his ear.
Dele felt his eyes water up as Hugh began his soft squeaks and extra noisy breaths, face wriggling in continuously changing expressions, eyes blinking slowly as he looked up at his parents.
It was unbelievable to Dele, at times, that this was his family, that the best person he’d ever met, had wanted to be a part of his life forever, loved him better than anyone ever had, and now they had the most perfect little thing in the whole world that was their own.
Dele didn’t understand the depth love had until he saw his son for the first time, his universe had expanded, everything made more sense now, everything was driven by Hugh, his happiness, his safety. Dele would do anything for him.
Dele felt himself getting close to tears and he laughed, blinking quickly before he turned his head to the side to quickly wipe away the wetness at his eyes with the short sleeve of his shirt. “God, I think I need more sleep, three hours a night isn't doing me well” Dele explained, voice watery before he cleared his voice.
Eric hummed and kissed a line up Dele’s neck, squeezing him closer “its ok, The other night when he was having trouble settling, One of his socks fell off and it looked so tiny on the floor that I cried” Eric confessed with a small laugh, reaching over to pinch one of Hugh’s toes.
“Help me with his head?” Dele asked, and Eric nodded, stepped away from behind him and moved to grab another washer, dunking it in the water. Dele cupped the back of Hughs' neck as Eric wrung the washer out over the top of Hugh’s head, sprinkling down like light rain.
Eric, using a hand to protect any water from falling into Hugh’s eyes, Wiped delicately over Hugh's head, sushing the boy when he began to fuss.
“I know, I know, almost done” Dele crooned, watching as Eric picked up the towel, handing it to Dele. “you take him yeah?, your shirt is already wet” Eric explained, reaching for their boy to scoop him up out of the water gently, holding him just above the water with one hand under his neck and the other supporting his back.
Hugh began to cry in earnest then, a proper sobbing at the cold air that pricked his skin, legs wiggling as he kicked out. “Pass him” Dele requested, holding the towel in his hands. Eric passed him off and Dele wrapped him up, kissed the top of his Hugh’s head in tiny pecks.
“Shh shh shh” Dele breathed, bouncing Hugh in his arms as he began to dry him off properly, Eric already going about emptying the bath and wiping up any mess.
Soon, Hugh was dressed dried off and in a fresh nappy and onesie, settled in the cradle of Dele’s arm as Eric put away the last of the groceries.
“Alright, let me have a look at this squeaky clean baby of mine, its been hours since i had a proper cuddle” Eric smirked after the last box of cereal had been placed away.
Dele laughed and walked over to Eric, leaning in for a soft peck before he handed over the sleepy newborn. “Hi there handsome! Look at you hey? All clean and fresh looking” Eric spoke to Hugh as he cradled him to his chest, eyes closed in contentment.
“How did we get so lucky” Dele gushed, slipping under Eric’s arm on the free side of his chest, eyes closed as he breathed him in, one hand reached to catch Hugh’s petite foot between his fingers, thumb rubbing at the smooth base of his foot.
“Mmm, our love was just so good, we needed to have an extra piece of it” Eric grinned, both of his boys leaning on him.
Dele rolled his eyes and ignored his own blush at the words, smudging a kiss to Eric’s jaw. “Come on, let’s take a nap while he’s settled yeah? He was up so late last night” Dele yawned, pretty sure he could fall asleep on his feet is he stayed still for long enough.
They headed up to Eric and Dele’s bedroom, at a slow pace, Dele kept himself tucked into Eric’s side, Hugh blissfully asleep against Eric’s chest, the sound of his breathing slow and steady. The egg-shaped bed was under Dele’s arm, a muslin cloth blanket over Eric’s shoulder to swaddle Hugh in.
As they reached their room, Dele dropped the baby bed onto their bed before he striped out of his wet, stained t-shirt and chucked it into their hamper, Yawning as he slipped into their walk in robe to jumper to have a nap in. Usually, he’d just crawl into bed shirtless, but the sun was on its way to setting, and Dele knew a chill would set in soon. They’d need to make sure Hugh had enough blankets layered up on him tonight.
Dele rifled around in Eric’s draws till he found the particular navy hoodie he was after and pulled it on as he walked back into the room. He saw Eric standing over Hugh’s cot, rocking the boy gently in his arms, so much admiration in his eyes it made Dele’s chest hurt.
As Dele passed him he pressed a soft kiss to Eric’s shoulder and mumbled “bring him to bed babe” before he began to arrange the bed for their new boy to join them. They had tried to make sure they let Hugh sleep in bed most nights over the past week, but it was hard to be away from him, and they had caved a few times.
Dele set up a line of pillows at one edge of the bed, before he pulled back the covers to place Hugh’s bed on the mattress. Eric had made quick work of coddling Hugh up in his blanket and carried him over to Dele, the appeal of an afternoon nap with his boys making his body ache.
“Say goodnight to Hughie” Eric smiled before he pressed tiny kisses over Hugh’s eyelids and tiny cheeks, loving the tiny warm weight of his son pressed safely to his chest. Hugh reminded Eric so much of Dele already, he had stolen his entire heart already, but even more in the features he shared with his dad.
“Night sweetheart” Dele whispered, and snuck a kiss to the top of Hugh’s head, breathing in the fresh baby smell that had come to be his favourite scent in the world.
They finally settled in bed, Eric was laid on his back, one arm resting half on the baby bed where Hugh was happily sleeping, the other curled around Dele’s shoulders, fingers massaging lightly across his tense shoulder blades from where the man was sprawled on his chest.
Dele was exhausted, running on maybe four hours of sleep and the weight of Eric holding him had him extra drowsy, eyes drooping in slow blinks as he snuggled into Eric’s body.
Nonetheless, Dele fought every bit of exhaustion in his body to hold on to this moment for just that bit longer, He could see his son sleeping peacefully, his son who he had successful just bathed and kept settled, and had Eric rubbing at his back with presses of his fingers.
“Love you” Dele breathed, and slipped his hand under Eric’s shirt, petting at the warm skin in sleepy movements of fingers.
“Love you” Eric whispered back, voice heavy with exhaustion.
Every part of this was perfect, and as Dele began to give in to his exhaustion, he wished he could send a snapshot of this image to his younger self.
Not the trophies, the wins, the goals- while they meant everything, this somehow meant more, this is what he’d want his younger self to know, that he had this waiting for him one day, it would make anything worth it, to get here.