Happy Holidays, Becca! I hope this wee gift brings you some yuletide merriment.
After removing the plastic packaging and reading the first three sentences of the instruction manual, Luke had let out a frustrated cry, thrown down the little bag of dowels, and drama-queened out of the room, causing his husband to raise his eyebrows in resigned exasperation and his dad to let out a small but amused grin.
The two men exchanged a brief glance from their separate corners of the room. Then Noah turned his attention back to the part of the nursery set he was assigned to put together. Holden would tackle the crib, which had by far the most components. Noah had taken charge of chest of drawers, the second largest item. The elements of the changing table now lay unattended on the soft carpet that was put in a week earlier.
Noah blinked and raised his head to take in the room that was nearing completion with the addition of the furniture. It was a bright and friendly space, the walls a soft yellow, the window framed by colourful curtains that had toy air-planes on them. The message board that was placed on the wall over where the changing table would stand, already bore a drawing for the baby, courtesy of the unborn's eleven year old--and super exited--uncle Ethan. The other wall held a comfy chair, shielded from the LA-sun, its armrest covered by a small folded quilt, which Emma had put together from pieces of Luke’s old baby blanket and onesies.
Looking further around, Noah caught Holden’s eye. “Hard to believe your little girl will be here in about a month huh?”, the other man asked, interpreting the look on his face correctly. “Yeah”, Noah replied. “Three years of stress, and hope, and discouragement, and talking to every adoption agency under the sun, and suddenly she’s almost here.” His voice became as soft as a whisper. “Sometimes I still can’t believe we got so lucky.”
Holden had gone back to work. Strong, steady hands, laying out the pieces in the right order, before assembling them to build his first grandchild’s first place to lay her head. “It’s an exciting time for sure, waiting for your baby to come into the world. Is the mother letting you be there for the birth?” The brunet nodded, and supplied “Luke and I have been attending Lamaze classes for months now. I know Luke is not having a good day today, but you should see him, Holden. He is going to be such an awesome dad!”
“I know” came the reply from the other side of the room, where the outline of the crib was already taking form. ‘Better catch up’, Noah thought, and he picked up the chest’s top panel, inspecting the edges for splinters before he placed it against one of the side panels and checked the fit.
Ah, the joys of spending time with another introvert. For a while, the two men worked, side by side and in silence. Holden’s company never failed to soothe Noah. Even without words, the older man emanated a calming demeanour, wordlessly communicating a sense of ease, of comfort. Of belonging. ’I’m so glad my daughter gets to have you in her life, Noah found himself thinking. ‘I wish I had known you when I was growing up’.
Apparently mind-reading was a Holden Snyder superpower (not for the first time, Noah found himself wondering about that), because at that moment he picked up the conversation where they had left off, and asked “What about you? Do you feel ready to be a dad? ‘Cause knowing you, I’m betting there’s a ton of what-ifs going through your head.”
“I think so”, Noah replied. “For the longest time I didn’t believe I should have kids, didn’t even want to. But now I honestly think I’m ready” Holden noticed his son-in-law’s shoulders tighten, as he transported himself to an earlier--unhappier--time in life.
“My dad, he… He had all these terms and conditions, for being an acceptable son, a child that was worthy of his love. And I never managed to meet them, no matter how hard I tried. I thought that that was what being a family meant. That kids were destined to disappoint their parents and feel bad about that.” Holden felt Noah look at him, from beneath his now bowed head, as if trying to draw strength from his presence. He didn’t let on. He just gave a small encouraging nod and pretended to refasten the drill bit in the electric screwdriver.
Noah let out a breath and continued. “I didn’t want my child to experience that. Ever. Why would I want my kid to constantly feel like it let me down? If that was what ‘being a parent’ was, I never saw myself wanting to be somebody’s father.” Noah raised his head, and looked the other man straight in the eye.
“But then you guys took me in. I saw how you are with Luke, and with Ethan and the girls. I met Emma. And she just loved me, without wanting anything in return.” The shoulders loosened a little. ’Good’, thought Holden. Let it out, son.’ “You showed me how to do barn chores and trusted me to take care of the animals. You took time out of your busy schedule to teach me how to ride a horse. And you were so patient with me. I wasn’t used to so much kindness.”
Noah took a deep breath and straightened his spine, dissipating the last tension in his shoulders. “That’s when I started to realise: loving your children can be unconditional. It should be unconditional. My dad was wrong. But you!” If there had been anybody else in the room, Noah would have fought the colour he felt rising on his cheeks. But he felt safe here, so he let it happen. “You’re the kind of father I could see myself wanting to be. The kind of parent I know I can be. And now I’m not afraid anymore.”
“You shouldn’t be”, Holden reassured him. “I see you. And I’ve seen you grow in the ten years I’ve known you.” Holden put down his tools and made sure he had the other man’s undivided attention. “Your capacity for love is different from Luke’s. He is loud and pushy, and he wears his big heart on his sleeve. Your heart sits quietly on a chair in a corner of the room, ready to come out whenever it’s needed. But it is no less large than his, son. You have the kindest soul of anybody I ever met.”
Pretending not to see the tears rising in the brunet’s eyes, Holden grabbed the next piece of the crib and slotted it in place. Both men returned to their work. There was nothing more to be said. They knew they understood each other perfectly.
Soon they were engrossed in the construction again. And before long the furniture was ready for its finishing touches. Over the whirr of the electric screwdriver, neither of them heard the door of the room open, or noticed the person peeking in.
Taking a moment, Luke looked at the two most important men in his life. Two dark heads bowed in concentration. The soft smile on his face formed automatically. He pulled himself together and made his presence known, holding out a tray in front of himself. “I come bearing coffee and food, to say sorry for storming out.”
Noah lifted his head. Luke had a selection of smiles. There was the ‘Hi Bubby, I’m so glad you’re home’ full wattage special. The ‘If I point my left dimple at you just so, I can get you to do my evil bidding/the dishes/basically anything I want’ grin. And right now he was wearing his patented ‘I’m five years old and I’m so sorry’ contrite smirk, which always melted Noah from the inside out. Luke, of course, knew this. The little jerk.
Noah was determined not to let him off the hook, but then he recognised the pastries on the tray his husband had put down. “Luke, are those…?” he enquired. “Your favourite from Becca’s Bakehouse”, the blonde confirmed. “But that place is a thirty minute drive from here!”, Noah said, incredulously. “Well, I owed you guys a big apology, didn’t I?” came the reply. And in spite of his best intentions, Noah felt whatever irritation he had left dissolve. Luke took one look at his softening eyes and knew he was forgiven. Mission accomplished.
Half the mission, anyway. Because the other occupant of the room was not so easily won over. Holden took a pastry from the tray. Then he took the coffee cup his eldest son held out to him in a gesture of atonement, and replaced it with that wretched bag of dowels. “That’s okay, kiddo,” he said, giving Noah a wink. “We left you the changing table. You can start on that, while we take our coffee break.”
A vexed scream. A slamming door. And then there were two people left in the room again, albeit this time with caffeinated beverages and food to keep them going.
Noah sighed, picked up the manual for the changing table, and got to work.
The prompts were:
1. LITERALLY ANYTHING DOMESTIC/THEM LIVING TOGETHER.
2. AU where Noah and Luke aren't together (but have secret!feelings of course) and they pretend to be boyfriends for the sake of Luke's upcoming high school reunion.
3. Noah & Holden bonding of any kind
4. Kid!fic (AU where one has a kid and the other falls in love with them both? one where they have a kid together? whatever! I'm here for it! kids!)
5. Anything where Noah saves the day for Luke (can be ~dramatic or just in really small, sweet ways).
Thanks for reading!