Caine’s not a coward but he knows that fear can make you do stupid things, like giving a bullshit excuse to the woman you love so you don’t have to face your feelings or freezing you stunned for several minutes instead of taking a Zero and start digging right after she’s kidnapped.
That kind of fear, the one that focuses only in the present, can either make you flee or fall to your knees. He’s used to feeling it shiver through his body and has always managed to fight through it because of its fleeting nature.
But the thing twisting at the pit of his stomach as he climbs up the stairs of their home is a completely different thing. He started feeling it a year before, when Jupiter gave him the news. At first he didn’t recognized it because of all the other emotions ambushing him at once and it took him a few days to go back to his calm demeanor. The months that followed helped clear his head and of course Stinger made fun of him when he asked about it.
“Get used to it,” he said patting his back and then turned to look at Kiza as she painted bees and flowers on the yellow wall, “that anxiety is never going to fade away. You have to learn to live with it.”
And so he does. Or at least, he tries. Caine thinks of it like a mission: little tasks that will get him through the day, so he can keep on living on Earth under Jupiter’s rule and there’s no way he’s going to fuck up this time.
Caine stands by the open door of the yellow room and watches his wife feeding his son before bedtime. He inhales to fill his lungs with their scents. His immediate fear of loosing them to whatever lurks out in the void mixes up with his long-term anxiety of not knowing where the next years of their lives are going to take them.
“Look Max, who’s that?” asks Jupiter and Caine sees Max side-eyeing him with interest, but the presence of his father is not enough to make him stop sucking restlessly at his mother’s nipple, “It’s your daddy! And he comes to save mommy’s boobs from the evil baby that’s attacking them…”
“I think I’ll let him follow his malicious plan, your Majesty,” says Caine sitting by her side and letting the baby catch his finger in his tiny hairy hand, “just this once.”
“Traitor,” she gives him a tiny smile and kisses him lazily, “this is a conspiracy.”
“No need for a conspiracy when you cannot resist us,” he bends to nip lightly at her neck and then whispers, “how are you feeling?”
“Like an empty bottle of milk, but it’s nothing eight hours of sleep can’t fix…” she looks at the baby who has finally lost interest in her and is instead shaking his arms and legs, full of energy “or, you know, three. Whatever the boss says.”
Caine smiles and takes the baby off her arms so she can button up her shirt.
Don’t fuck this one up.
“Go to sleep, I’ll put him to bed.”
“ ‘r you sure?”
“Yes,” he answers firmly with his eyes fixed on Max. He knows that Jupiter knows, there’s no way to hide anything from those big brown eyes of hers, but it doesn’t mean that he’s going to burden her with his insecurities when she has a son, a demanding family and hundreds of planets to look after.
He’s her husband and that means he’s there to help her, not to make things harder.
“Ok,” she says getting up slowly to put away some stuffed animals and pick up dirty baby clothes from the table. Max follows her every move while putting his whole fist in his mouth, “I’ll go so you boys can have some fun,” she says kissing each one on the forehead before heading to the door, “And if you tell him any war stories, tone down the gore, please.”
“As you wish, your Majesty.”
She leaves and Max eyes linger on the door for a few seconds before turning to his dad with a questioning look.
“Your mother needs some rest. You’re a handful,” Caine says playfully. He gets up and sets the baby over his left shoulder before starting to walk around slowly, see if the movement helps him doze.
Of course, Jupiter says he’s a handful but Caine thinks it’s only because it’s their first. Maximillian clearly has trouble to sleep at night but besides that he’s calm, observant and he almost never cries. Stinger keeps saying that he’s a tiny dark version of Caine and the idea terrifies him as much as it thrills him.
Max starts babbling and Caine rubs his back while turning around in the yellow bee-decorated room.
“So you are chatty tonight, huh?”
Just like your mom.
Caine closes his eyes and takes conscience of the weight over his shoulder. He smiles, because nine years before, when he first carried Jupiter out of that clinic, he would have never imagined that he’d end up holding their son in his arms, trying to remember long-forgotten songs he and the other pups used to sing at the crèche or telling him detailed stories about his years in the Legion.
Jupiter Jones, who holds a royal title, is his wife. Maximillian Wise, the future heir of one of the biggest galactic empires in the universe, is his son. Caine has no idea how every victory and mistake in his life has led him to this moment, but…
The baby burps loudly and then laughs. Caine can feel his shirt getting wet but he doesn’t mind.
“Well done pup,” Caine puts Max over his other shoulder and starts walking again, “Maybe now’s a good time to tell you how this whole thing started…”
He begins his tale but decides after a few phrases that a story about kidnapping might not be a good idea, so he replaces Jupiter with a shiny purple jewel that he had to hunt down for an evil old king who wanted it to embellish his golden crown. He sits down and Max interrupts him several times with weird noises and funny faces. He’s so cute that Caine finds difficult to concentrate on what he’s saying.
What was that thing he was thinking before?
Oh, right. He would do it all over again, everything that led him to this moment.
It takes Caine three more stories, two songs and a tour around the house to fall asleep on the couch, under the attentive watch of his baby boy.