When Mollymauk woke up, just for a moment, he was young again. Milky early morning sunlight warm on his bare skin, a sweet but familiar ache in his thighs, the taste of someone else, something other, on his tongue. Caleb, he thought, already reaching for that with everything he had before his brain had even really woken up.
But no. There was someone in the bed beside him but of course it was Trinket, curled up small the way he normally slept, tail held between his pudgy fists for comfort.
The realisation didn’t bring the same pang of disappointment, the one Mollymauk would always feel guilty about a second later, the one he’d felt so many times between leaving Zadash and that pale morning. Because before it could settle on him like an uncomfortable weight, the memory of last night found him.
Caleb smiling at him. Caleb’s tears running down Molly’s own cheek. Caleb kissing him, Caleb in him.
Their last goodnight kiss, after Caleb had insisted he sleep on the sofa, not wanting to impose or ruffle any little feathers after he realised Trinket and Mollymauk slept in the same bed.
Molly rolled onto his side and grinned spectacularly wide, bunching the blanket between his hands as silent delight and joy almost too powerful to bear swept over him, making him tremble.
Caleb was here. They loved each other.
Even with all the questions still unanswered and uncertainty before them, Molly savoured that fact alone, sweet as honey on his tongue.
Molly turned back and saw Trinket’s big blue eyes open and shining in the low light, only half his face surfaced above the blankets. His hair was a bird’s nest of coppery curls, drinking in the fledgling sunlight.
“Good morning, sweetling,” Molly smiles, lifting up on one elbow to smile down at him, “Did you sleep okay?”
Trinket nodded, wriggling out of the little cocoon of blankets his tossing and turning always encased him in, “Had good dreams. Dreamed me and daddy were flying on dragons.”
Molly smiled; his son’s head had been full of dragons lately, ever since he’d found a book on them on the stall of a travelling merchant. Molly had meant to save it for his birthday but his little face when he saw it was far too much to resist.
“That sounds wonderful,” Molly pulled him into his arms, “Was it fun?”
“Yeah,” Trinket nodded, “Mine was blue and yours was…what’s your favourite colour?”
“Purple,” Molly grinned.
“Yours was purple!”
Molly kissed his son right between the eyes, loving how warm and soft he was from sleep. On any other day he would happily stay in the blankets with him for a little longer, as long as he possibly could, trading little stories back and forth, talking about anything and everything.
But today they had a guest.
“Let’s get some breakfast in that little belly, huh?” Molly smiled, rising up and sending the blankets washing down the bed in a silky tide.
“Yeah, yeah!” Trinket followed, standing up on his wobbly legs and fluttering his hands to be picked up, “Breakfast time.”
As he wrapped himself in a robe and carried Trinket through to the living room, Molly was doing quick calculations in his head, as he found himself doing every morning. How much milk did they have? How much bread, how many oats, how much gas in the tank? Could they make it last? Did they have enough lying around to buy more if they needed to?
He’d never share his worries with his son, of course, they were for him alone. But sometimes it was hard to always have his gentle mornings marred by those thoughts running around inside his head.
And it wouldn’t get easier with a third person.
Until Molly turned the corner and found himself in the much brighter living area and realised that he was wrong.
The curtains were open, sunlight streaming in where it only puddled in the other rooms. The blankets Molly had left there last night were put to one side and neatly folded. The breakfast table was already set, bread and pastries piled on wooden plates in the middle, a container of coffee- actual, honest to gods coffee, where in Foamside even sold that? - steaming contentedly to one side. Cups and plates were already marshalled, mismatched and a little chipped, sugar was piled high in the bowl Molly usually used to keep his keys safe.
And Caleb was gingerly sliding a flower into a glass tumbler, setting it in the very centre, nudging it to one side when he wasn’t happy with the placement.
“Caleb?” Molly croaked, stunned.
He jumped a little, eyes darting up, “Oh, morning! I didn’t know when you’d be up so…I just went out and brought some breakfast in.”
“You did a little more than that,” Molly blinked rapidly, coming in and hesitantly regarding the spread before him like he was worried it was just a lovely painting rather than anything real. He’d never seen so much luxury food in one place since he’d left the brothel.
Caleb blushed delicately, “Well…its kind of a thank you, I suppose. For letting me stay.”
Molly smiled, he’d always found that blush utterly adorable, turning to Trinket, balanced on his hip, “Are you hungry, Trinket? Would you like a pastry?
The toddler only nodded, not taking his eyes off Caleb.
“He’s only just woke up,” Molly offered by way of explanation, seating Trinket on the piano bench Caleb had drawn up to the table when he’d obviously realised there were only two chairs.
Caleb nodded, though there was a pinched, anxious look to his face as his eyes flickered to Trinket.
Molly sat a large, golden pastry stuffed with chocolate on the plate in front of Trinket, cutting it into squares designed to fit a little hand. Next was a glass of milk, set safely away from the edge of the table though Molly would keep his eye on it.
Trinket suddenly caught Molly’s robe before he could move away, tugging on it to bring him close.
“Daddy…” he murmured, voice soft and indistinct, “I left Frumpkin in bed.”
Molly saw Caleb’s eyes widen in surprise and jump to the sofa, where a large, mottled brown cat sat contentedly asleep in a puddle of sunlight.
“His toy,” he murmured, realising he’d have to explain that later and blushing, “I’ll go get him, sweetling, don’t worry.”
He hurried back to the bedroom, rescuing the little cloth toy of indistinct species (Caduceus had made him for Trinket’s last birthday and even he hadn’t been sure of what he was) from the folds of the bedding. He let himself have a moment to breathe as he straightened two sagging horns and two loose button eyes.
Caleb and his son- their son, he would have to get used to that- were sitting together, at the same table. They were all eating breakfast together, like a real family.
It was a lot to take in. But it was good, right?
Molly revised his assessment when he came back into the kitchen and saw Trinket, on his feet, pushing on the leg of a very terrified looking Caleb, shoving him determinedly towards the door.
“Customers go downstairs,” he was cheeping firmly, “It’s not store time yet. Go away, please.”
“Trinket, no!” Molly yelped, quickly wading in to rescue Caleb, who clearly hadn’t the faintest idea what to do about this, “Sweetling, Mr Caleb’s not a customer.”
Trinket stopped, though he was still a little unsteady on his legs and had to stay leaning against Caleb or risk slipping down on his bottom, “But…he came from the store?”
Molly plucked him into his arms, though he was getting a little heavy for it, “Caleb is a…”
He found his words running out, none coming up to replace them. What could he say that wasn’t hedging, even outright lying? Molly was tired of that. Caleb’s expression fell further.
“I don’t think we’re going to open the store today, Trinket,” he said slowly, much to his son’s shock, “How about we have a nice breakfast, get ready and go for a walk along the beach? Then we can talk more about it?”
It took a while to coax Trinket into that idea, almost as long as it had taken to get him used to wearing shoes. But with a few bites of chocolate pastry, he eventually accepted that this was a day off, though one without forewarning. Trying to help his son navigate the waters of an unexpected change of routine, Molly thought how similar Trinket was to Caleb.
Maybe that could be their ice breaker.
Molly took the opportunity to drink so much coffee he felt a little sick. He hadn’t had the stuff in years, as freely available as it was at the brothel obviously he couldn’t have any after he realised he was pregnant, and then he moved to a town where it was apparently as rare as gold dust. To someone who used to cover his horns in literal, actual gold dust, it was strange to realise that something he’d taken for granted in his youth was almost unknown to the many, many people, not even all that far from the city, who lived such different lives. There had been a lot of uncomfortable moments like that after he moved, when he realised just how privileged and pampered he’d been, earning a life of near princely extravagance on his back.
He didn’t miss it, the coffee or the gold dust or the riches. He didn’t miss any of it. But it would be nice if he could afford breakfasts like this for Trinket every once in a while.
Molly pulled his thoughts away from the past, sitting with it was never comfortable for him. He looked at Caleb instead, Caleb now, Caleb here.
He didn’t look particularly comfortable, understandable after having your son try and evict you from the breakfast table. Molly wanted to kiss him so badly, in a sudden rush that was difficult to fight. But that would be far too much to explain to Trinket right now, even if he was distracted by the chocolate covering his cheeks.
So instead, he reached under the table and entwined their fingers together. Even that was enough to lift Caleb’s blue eyes to his, startling against the rest of him like chips of sea glass in dark water, and send a smile full of relief flickering across his face.
Molly smiled back, running his thumb over Caleb’s scarred palm. He could still trace those scars by memory if he wanted, he knew each and every one like a road map of his home.
A home he wanted Caleb to be part of.
Molly warned Caleb to dress warmly, there was rain in the air. When the wizard blinked in surprise and asked how he knew, his only answer was a shrug, a smile and an assurance that there was always rain in the air in Foamside.
It turned out to be true though, the sky was slate grey and so was the sea and the sand. There were flashes of blue and deep green when the waves rolled over but for the most part it was a palate of a singular colour. Molly pulled a face. He’d wanted it to look a little bit more impressive for Caleb’s first visit.
But he needn’t have worried. As soon as the dunes cleared and the waves lay out before them, Molly heard Caleb’s breath catch in his throat.
The tiefling smiled as he let go of Trinket’s hand and let him toddle off across the sands he was so familiar with, “You’ve never seen the sea before?”
“A little last night but it was so dark…” Caleb murmured, eyes fixed on the horizon, “I didn’t realise how big it was…”
Molly didn’t feel the need to apologise for the view any more. Clearly Caleb adored it.
“Let’s walk a little way. Help me keep track of Trinket, he likes to run into the waves when I’m not looking.”
After a little while, Molly went to take Caleb’s hand again only to find those long fingers already seeking out his own. It was becoming as easy as that.
“Trinket?” Molly called, deciding that waiting for the time to feel right wasn’t going to get them anywhere, “Come here, sweetling.”
Fortunately, Trinket was dry when he found them again though he had a large clump of seaweed on his head, held up by his stubby horns.
“I found new hair, daddy!”
“That’s great, Trinkie,” Molly smiled with slight exasperation, noting Caleb muffling a snort of laughter into his fist, “But you might get sand in your eyes, so how about we take it off for now?”
There was a bleached white log, clearly well-travelled, lying on the apex of the next ridge. Molly took a seat on it, settling his son on his lap and patting the space next to him firmly when he saw Caleb hesitate.
“Sweetling, do you remember a little while ago when you asked me why the other children mostly had two parents and you just had me?”
Molly wasn’t eager to bring that back up but it was as good a starting point as any. It hurt, remembering how Trinket had clearly held on to this question all through dinner since his daddy had pressed him to play with some of the other village children. Old enough to realise it was an awkward topic but not old enough to know why, he’d finally blurted it out and looked immediately like he’d wished he hadn’t.
Molly remembered feeling a similar way.
“Uh huh,” Trinket nodded, apparently unconcerned as a baby crab crawled between his horns, clearly a stowaway from the seaweed wig, “You said I had another daddy who lived far away and you’d tell me more when I was bigger…” his eyes opened wide, “Am I bigger now?”
“You are,” Molly said cautiously, rescuing the baby crab, “Well…”
Caleb spoke up then, his voice laden, “I’m your other father, Trinket.”
Trinket turned and looked at him like he’d never really seen him before, eyes wide. No one said anything for a long time, except the sea which rumbled on as it always had.
“You have eyes like me,” Trinket eventually said, voice curious, “You have hair like me too.”
Molly fought a tearful smile. His son had picked out the same things he had done, back when he’d seen his face for this first time.
“I know,” Caleb managed a smile, though there was sadness in his eyes that metastasised as he continued, “And I’m so, so sorry I wasn’t part of your life until now. I…I don’t think words are ever going to be enough to make that up to you but I promise, I’m here for you now and I’d love to be your father, the best one I can be…if you wouldn’t mind that?”
This time, Molly took Caleb’s hand where their son could see. Where anyone could see if they cared to look.
Trinket considered that, scratching at a smudge of sand clinging to his cheek, “Daddy said you lived far away?”
“Yes, Trinket,” Caleb nodded, “A city quite a way away.”
“Well, then,” the young boy smiled, like sun breaking through clouds, “No wonder it took you so long to get here, travelling all that way.”
Molly smiled as Caleb chuckled, relief flooding his face. He refused to absolve himself of the part he’d played in Trinket not having Caleb in his life and he would tell him about it. But maybe that was a conversation for another day. When Trinket was just a little bit bigger.
Like a baby bird taking its first flutterings out of the nest, Trinket moved himself over to Caleb’s lap. There was hesitation at first, a moment of uncertainty but only a little before Caleb’s arms encircled him, holding him as safely and securely as Molly ever had.
“I think I’m glad you’re here now,” Trinket said, fastening his hand in Caleb’s scarf.
“Me too,” tears were thick in his reply, though the smile on his face was a mile wide.
“And are you gonna stay now? Forever?”
Caleb glanced over at Molly, his smile softening, “Yes. I think I am. If you’ll have me?”
Molly could feel tears sliding down his face but he did nothing to stop them as he leaned in and let his head rest on Caleb’s shoulder. Trinket’s little hands came up to pat the tears away though he seemed to understand they were happy ones.
“Of course we’ll have you.”