He'd put her down for a nap, well more like laid down her exhausted body on the couch and tucked pillows and blankets around her so she wouldn't fall, before going to the entryway to see his parents out. His mother was still looking a bit shell shocked and he couldn't figure out why, but his father was beaming.
"You're in for it now, Jackie. Just you wait." His father's broad hand clapped his shoulder, and he grinned at his father ignoring the dull ache. "She's going to be makin' you drink at her tea parties, and talkin' 'bout boys and the like before you know it."
"She's so little." They both turned to look at her, and Charlie rolled his eyes with a smile. "Charlie? Do you remember when they were that little? Oh my gods..."
"Yes, pet. I remember."
He wasn't ready for the tight embrace, or the fact that his shoulder grew wet as his mother held him so tight his ribs screamed in protest. Patting her back awkwardly, he kissed her hair before looking at his father helplessly.
"You watch her, Jackie. I mean it. Don't you let anything happen to her, do you understand me?"
"Of course I will, Mum." Silently pleading with his father with his eyes, he felt his throat tighten when he heard her take a shaky breath. "Nothin's goin' to happen to her I promise."
There wasn't a hint of tears when she pulled back, her hands moving to cup his jaw as she pulled his head down to kiss his forehead.
"You little shit, you just had to go and grow up."
"You never did."
His father let out a sharp sound of protest when she smacked his chest, turning back to give Jackie one more hug before walking towards the door. Charlie rubbed the spot on his chest, with an amused smile curling his lips.
"I should have beat her, she always was thinkin' she could take down the nastiest cunts out there." Throwing an arm around his son's shoulders, he pressed a kiss to his temple. "You did good, yeah? Little girl's prettiest thing I've seen in ages."
"I don't think you would've survived beatin' Mum, she'd have killed you in your sleep."
"Nah, she's got her principles." Giving him a quick squeeze, Charlie let go and shrugged. "She would have killed me slow though, she's a vindictive cunt."
He couldn't help feeling a bit lost when they were gone, his wife at the store, and the baby sleeping. A soft noise made him turn sharply, running to the living room only to find that she was still and it had only been her making noises in her sleep. Kneeling down beside the couch, he rested his arms on the cushion and watched her breathe for a while, his fingers lightly skimming over her stomach. When her face squinched, her little arms shifting restlessly, he laid an arm by her side, leaning over her before pressing his forehead against hers.
"You're not goin' to go through what I did, okay? You're goin' to have a Mum and a Dad anytime you need them." He smiled when she sighed, her small body relaxing. "I'll teach you what my parents taught me, all the good stuff. How to walk before you can crawl, how to tell the truth no matter what, and family comes first."
The door opened but he didn't hear it, his thumb working into her small fist and kissing the knuckles.
"You're gonna fight better than you Grandad ever did, and you're goin' to be able to talk your way out of trouble better than your Grandma." He grinned when he felt a hand on the back of his neck, a thumb slowly stroking his hair line. "And you're goin' to be sneaky like your Mum, and drive me looney but I promise not to care, okay?"
"I'm not that sneaky!"
"Shh, I'm talkin' to Charlotte."
Chuckling when she pinched the nape of his neck, he kissed his daughter's forehead.
"And when you start chasin' boys, I hope Grandad is still kickin'. He likes prison, I'll let him kill those little cunts so I can hug you when he's done knockin' them about, okay?" Shoving back the old bitter resentment he still carried over his father's frequent absences when he was growing up, his other fist clenched tightly on his thigh. "I will never, ever, go to prison. I promise. It'll be me and you against everyone, all of them, and I won't ever let you fall."