[identity profile] annabeth.livejournal.com in [community profile] osgood_asitgets

Chris thinks, blearily, that he might have been asleep for a whole ten minutes before the infant starts wailing again. He cracks an eye open, and Helm is shifting in his arms, rubbing his eyes and mumbling,

"It's crying again?"

"They do that," Chris says. He has a feeling it's still too soon to expect Helm to get up and care for it, so he drags himself out of bed, slips into some sweatpants and pads into the other room.

He realises, as he's cradling it in his arms and making the formula—not at all sure he can do this without setting something on fire or burning the baby's mouth—that they never set up the baby monitor.

But somehow he manages, and he tests the formula on his wrist—some things he does remember—and then settles down on the couch to feed it.

It sucks at the bottle for awhile, then drops the nipple from its mouth and makes baby noises, then screws up its face to cry again, and Chris remembers that he has to burp it.

Which is when he remembers that they didn't buy bibs or anything to put over his shoulder, so he's quickly flinging things about in the linen closet, baby squalling on his shoulder, until he finds a hand towel.

At this rate, he and Helm won't have any towels left, not to mention the obscene amount of laundry that's collected in less than twenty-four hours.

He throws the towel over his shoulder and then shifts the baby to that side, patting its back.

It burps—and then it spits up all down his naked back. Chris sighs.

He rocks his body back and forth on the balls of his feet until he hears a tiny sigh, and then he tucks him back into the drawer, balling up the towel, adding it to the ever-increasing laundry pile, and turns on the shower again.

The baby's crying again before he's even finished washing up.

///

By morning, Chris is so exhausted his eyes are burning and his body is so heavy he can barely move. Helm's only slightly better off, because even though he didn't have to do anything, the child woke them both up over and over all night.

Helm drags himself around the house getting dressed for the morning skate, and Chris tries to summon the energy to get up and kiss him good-bye, but he doesn't even have the energy to brush his teeth, so he doesn't bother.

"See you," Helm says at last. The baby is quiet, Helm's gone in moments, and Chris feels his eyes flutter shut. He allows himself to drift, and soon enough, sleep is a siren's song lulling him into oblivion.

///

The baby cries so often, even during the day, that rather than try to sleep, Chris flips through the baby name book, trying to find one that feels like it fits. He's not at all certain that Helmer really cares what they name it; he's been ignoring him as much as possible, anyway.

He only realises he's dozed off on the couch when the baby's cry wakes him, and he staggers to his feet, and still exhausted, eyes scratchy, pads unevenly into the spare room where the baby's been kept in the drawer all day.

He picks him up, discovers he's wet, and carefully changes him. He's getting the knack now, he doesn't get peed on, even though it has happened twice now. Strangely enough, he's not only getting the hang of changing a boy, but he's remember how after you've cared for a baby awhile, being peed on or puked on suddenly doesn't seem as gross.

He's pretty sure that Helm doesn't share those sentiments, however.

Luckily for them both—well, technically the three of them—they have a few days between games, so tomorrow is an off day. It will give Chris a chance to try and give Helm a crash course in caring for an infant.

He finishes up with the clean diaper and takes him into the kitchen, where Chris makes him another bottle of formula and then carries him into the living room, arranging himself carefully in the rocking chair—picked up at the curb where it had read 'Free'—and gives the bottle to the baby.

When Helm unlocks the door, Chris's eyes shoot open and he discovers that he—and the little boy in his arms—have been sound asleep for hours in the chair.

Helm clicks on the light, locks the door, and walks down the hallway—Chris counts his steps—into the living room where he pauses awkwardly, hands shoved into his jeans' pockets.

"That's disturbingly hot," Helm says. He's not really quiet enough, and the baby, who was still asleep, wakes up and starts to yell. Helm flinches.

"Come on," Chris says to Helm, lumbering to his feet under the burden of not dropping the newborn. "We still need to bathe him."

Helm wrinkles his nose, but he follows Chris dutifully into the bathroom, where Chris unwraps the blanket and undoes the diaper, lifting the baby up and carefully pulling the tiny t-shirt it's wearing over its head.

"Fill up the sink a little," Chris instructs Helm, and his boyfriend does as Chris said, filling the sink about halfway.

Before Chris puts the baby down into the sink, he checks the water on his wrist, and satisfied that it's not too hot, he lowers the kid into the sink and supports his head, realising only at the last second that his hands are now both occupied with holding the baby's head and also keeping him from sliding down into the sink too far.

So, it's Helm's turn to get some hands-on experience. Chris considers. Helm could probably manage to keep him in place and keep his head supported, but Chris doubts he'd do a very good job bathing him.

"All right," Chris says. "You're going to have to hold him while I wash him up."

Helm flushes with anxiety, and Chris tries not to notice how flattering it is.

"Go get the soap we bought, and a washcloth," Chris says, and Helm opens the linen closet—still in disarray—and pulls out both items. He starts to walk back over to the sink and Chris would slap his palm to his face if both hands weren't full of wriggly, unhappy baby, who is still squawking unhappily, though at a much lower volume.

"Towel too," he points out, and Helm grabs one of those. "Okay, put one hand underneath his bottom, and the other one under his head, and at least try to keep him still while I wash him up."

Helm makes the most horrified expression ever—probably afraid of baby poo, which Chris definitely doesn't warn that he should be afraid of such things—and actually succeeds in cradling the baby, even though he does it stiffly, like he's still not comfortable—and why should he be? this is his first baby, and he's not had to do much by way of carrying it around or holding it so far.

Chris tries to wash the soft, sensitive skin of the baby as fast as possible, trying to minimise any damages, but—and Chris has to suppress a smile—they both get peed on this time, along with the sink, the mirror, and a bit of the wall. Helm lets out an aborted yell in disgust, sounding like he might just cry.

"It's all right," Chris says, sighing inwardly at two more shirts and pairs of jeans that now need to be washed. He wipes down the baby's lower region again to clean him up, and then takes him from Helm, wrapping him up in the towel and drying him gently.

Helm wastes no time in stripping out of his clothes, standing, shifting foot to foot, in the bathroom in only his boxer briefs.

If Chris weren't holding an infant, he'd totally jump Helm and drag him to their bed for some serious sexy times.

Chris diapers the baby, puts him in one of the onesies they bought, and then hands him to Helm, who looks startled and terrified all over again. Probably with good reason, because as Chris removes his own soiled clothes, the baby spits up.

Luckily for Helmer, he does it down his own little chin, and not all over Helm's bare chest—probably because Helm isn't holding the baby very close to him.

"God," Helm says, staring down at the tiny face. "Not only are they ugly, but they leak constantly."

"It's just what babies do," Chris says, refraining from mentioning how much more fun toddlers are, with the potty-training and the tantrums and the running after everything that might hurt them. (Or the sticking tiny parts up their noses.)

As soon as Chris is down to naught but his skin, Helm shoves the infant towards him, and Chris sighs but lifts the baby, propping him against his shoulder and rubbing his back as he walks him back to the spare room.

He lays the baby down, covers him with the blanket—this one is blue with yellow ducks on it—and waits for a minute or two until it seems like the bath has worn it out and it drifts off to sleep.

He trots back to the bathroom and, hanging onto Helm's hand, fingers laced together, drags them both under the shower spray.

This time, though, when Chris is finished washing the piss from Helm, he gets rewarded.

"I'm sorry about last night," Helm says, going down to his knees, his breath hotter against his cock than the water. And then he says, lips moving against the crown of Chris's dick, "let me make it up to you."

Chris leans his head back against the wall and enjoys the many pleasures of Helm's mouth, even with his still-inexperienced technique.

///

"You're serious." Julie has an expression on her fine features that suggests she doesn't believe this for a minute. "No," she says. "You're pranking me. I know you, Oz."

"Yeah, not this time," Chris says, shifting uncomfortably. Drapes had insisted he break the news to Julie himself. "It's Helm's," he adds unhelpfully.

"I'm not sure I care whose it is," she says. "If you're not pulling my leg, then I have to say, you two are the last people I'd want caring for an infant together and alone. Not that you aren't a great dad, Ozzie, but..." she trails off, lips pursed a little.

"I'm getting the hang of things again," Chris says defensively. "It took a little bit and some help from Drapes but—"

"So that's what my husband has been doing over there so often lately," Julie interrupts. "I did wonder why a trip to bring over food took three hours."

"We needed a babysitter?" Chris says sheepishly. The door slams, and Helm enters, cheeks rubbed pink by the wind, hands in his jacket pockets. He looks exceptionally shy and discomfited by facing up to Drapes's wife.

She studies him for a long moment. "All right." She wipes her hands on a dishtowel and sets them flat on the kitchen table. "Where is he, then? And what's his name?"

"Well—" Chris starts. He stops and glances helplessly at his boyfriend, who is staring off into space, confusion scrawled across his face. Chris sighs. "We haven't named him yet," he mumbles finally.

"For heaven's sake," Julie says, brushing back a lock of her hair. "Okay, back to my first question. If you're not making this up—and I hope for your sake that you are—you need to produce this baby before I believe you."

That's when the door shuts loudly again, and in walks Drapes, the baby cuddled up in his arms. It's wearing a little fleecy zipper suit that Drapes gave them because of course, Helm and Chris forgot to buy something warm for him to wear when taking him outside.

Julie's eyes widen. "Oh my God," she says, and proves she's a hockey player's wife when she forgets herself for a moment and continues, "you weren't fucking kidding."

Drapes gives his wife a crooked grin. "I wish I had a camera," he remarks. Julie shoots him a glare and then moves around the table and comes to stand in front of her husband, looking down.

"Aw," she says, face softening. "Isn't he precious." She stretches out her arms. "May I?"

Chris shrugs, Helmer is still staring off dazedly, so Drapes passes him over. Julie coos over him for a minute, then turns her shrewd eyes onto Chris. "I sense an ulterior motive," she says. "You didn't tell me about him just to amuse me."

Chris can't meet her eyes. "Yeah, we kind of need a baby-sitter," he slurs quickly.

Julie sighs and looks like she'd put her head in her hands if they weren't currently full of baby.

"I guess I can do that. Occasionally. Sooner or later you'll have to get daycare or a nanny or something, though," she says sternly. She rocks the baby back and forth a little. "You need to name him," she scolds. "And I think he's wet."

This seems to attract Helm's attention back to the conversation at hand. "Not again!" he says, looking horrified and faintly baffled. "How often do they do that?" he says with a note of panic in his voice.

"Often," Chris says at the same moment Drapes says, "A lot," at also the exact same instant Julie says, "A lot," proving she and her husband think alike.

"You need to change him," Julie announces with authority, giving the baby over to Chris. "I'm not on duty right now, so he's your responsibility."

Chris leaves the room to go change the baby—Drapes's youngest is still little enough to need diapers, so he borrows they're changing table—and while tending to the infant, he can hear Julie say,

"Darren, sweetheart. I know this is probably very difficult for you, but you really can't expect Chris to care for your son forever."

Helm's response is discouraging, and makes Chris almost irrationally sad.

"I don't even like it," Helm says, petulance molasses-thick in his voice. "I don't like this whole thing at all."

"I understand," Julie replies. "But this is your son. You have to bond with him eventually."

"I don't see why," Helmer responds. Chris finishes up with the baby, lifts him to his shoulder, and hangs out in Kamryn's room, feeling like he and Helm's child are in some kind of suspended animation as he listens to Helm's true feelings.

He loves Helm, so it's hard for him to hear this, because it makes Helm seem cold and uncaring. And Chris knows that's not true.

"You'll know why when it happens," Julie says soothingly. "I do know how hard this is, finding out you're a father and not knowing how to deal with it. But if you let Chris take care of him forever, you won't ever understand how special it is to have a piece of yourself in someone else. You won't get how special it is to hold your baby and know that you made this."

Helm doesn't answer. He breathes out loud enough for Chris to hear, though, and he pats the baby a couple of times, feeling love for the kid spread through him. It may not be his baby, but Julie's right: he's spent enough time with him already that they have bonded. It makes him yearn for his own baby, even though he knows Jenna's not due for a little bit yet.

And it makes him feel guilty that he's so attached to Helm's son, when they have no right to this. When he first thought about it, it seemed like a chore, a distasteful prospect, but now that the baby's here, Chris realises this might be the only chance he and Helm ever get to raise a child together.

It's a sobering thought. Chris sways side to side a little to calm the baby, who is making tiny noises of unhappiness. He's sure that if the infant cries, Helm might bolt for the door.

They're gay, and they could never have a child together. The only challenge left is showing Helm just how important this unexpected development can be for their relationship.

///

"Hey, Nick?" Chris says, stuffing one hand in his back pocket, watching as his ex-lover starts pulling on his gear. Nick hums in response, indicating that he's listening even as he works on the laces of his hockey pants.

"I have something important to tell you," Chris goes on. This actually causes Nick to pause and look over, one hand on the tapes for his hockey hose.

"I hope you're not sick again," Nick says. "Or that you've broken up with Helmer again."

Nick's voice is concerned but soft, to keep their teammates from overhearing. Nick seems to take in Chris's casual dress, the fact that he hasn't started getting ready, and Chris shakes his head, leaning in very close.

Nick's cheeks actually turn a faint shade of pink, almost like he expects Chris to impart a secret. Chris wonders if Nick is still technically in love with him.

"See, the thing is," Chris says, then swallows hard. Helmer is across the room at his locker, and Chris knows that even though Helm's probably trying to pretend like he's not aware of what's going on, he's got to know what this conversation entails. "You remember Helmer's girlfriend?"

"Please," Nick says, "tell me that Helm hasn't been seeing her too, and you just found out. I'm not a relationship counselor, you know. Contrary to popular belief," he adds, rolling his eyes towards the rest of the team.

"No, it's not that. But she did have a baby—" Chris manages to choke out the last word, the forces himself to continue "—and she didn't want it, so she dropped it off at our house."

If Nick is upset about the fact that Chris referred to it as 'their' house, he gives no indication. He simply sighs and his face is paler now.

"Helm has a baby?" Nick says, showing an awful lot of emotion, considering. "Wait." Nick's a smart guy and it only takes him a second to realise the ramifications of Chris's statement. "Ozzie," he says, looking slightly pained, "are you telling me that you and Helmer are responsible for a baby now?"

"More like a newborn," Chris says diffidently. "And yeah, that's what I'm trying to say."

"I hope you're not looking for advice," Nick says. "I'm not getting in the middle of this." What Nick's also not saying is, I might crumble and sleep with you again if I have to spend too much more time around you.

"No," Chris says, peeking around at his teammates shiftily. "I just want you to break it to the team. Somehow." Chris knows he's making shifty eyes now. "Eventually it's going to come out, and I was thinking, since you're the captain—"

Nick pulls back, putting some distance between them, enough so that their lips aren't mere inches away any longer. Chris gets the feeling that Helmer's going to be jealous the next time he gets to talk to him alone.

"All right," Nick says, and Chris has the sense that Nick's agreeing only because it's Chris who's asking. "I'll figure something out."

"Thanks, Nick," Chris whispers. He wants to reach up and smooth down the wispy spikes of Nick's thinning hair, but he doesn't. He just goes to his own locker next to Jimmy's and starts dressing for practise.

Jimmy gives him a sidelong glance. "That looked cosy," he remarks. "Something I should know?"

Chris remembers that everyone on the team knows he's gay now, and he shakes his head emphatically. Howie doesn't need to know that he used to sleep with Nick.

"Just some personal business," he says, and Howie's eyes sparkle a little. "Not that kind," Chris says, trying to quell the scandal before it begins.

Nick walks over, thoroughly prepared for practise, and leans down to whisper in Chris's ear.

"Can I talk to you alone?" he asks, and Chris steals a peek at Howie, who's distracted now by lacing up his skates, and then nods to Nick.

He's only half-dressed, but he follows Nick down the hall into the lounge, which is currently empty.

Nick wastes no time, saying without preamble, "Just who's watching the baby right now? I see Helmer in the locker room too."

Chris knows he probably has a furtive look on his face, but he admits, rather breathlessly, "Julie. I had to tell her, because Drapes was spending so much time at our house."

Again, Nick ignores that terminology. And then he does something very out-of-character. Even though Nick must know that Chris is happy with Helm, in love with his boyfriend, Nick suddenly dips his head down and slyly skims his lips over Chris's.

As kisses go, it's very tentative, especially what Chris knows about Nick from their time together, but Nick immediately pulls away, looking rueful.

"Sorry," he says softly. "I just couldn't—I miss you, Ozzie."

Chris steps back. "That's not important to me any more," he says repressively. "It's too little, too late, and you know perfectly well that I'm not going to jeopardise my relationship with Helm."

Nick seems suitably chastised. It's a strange look for him to wear, but he does it well, like he does everything else.

"I know," he says, voice getting stronger, more composed, more emotionless like Nick sometimes seems to be.

"I'm going back to the locker room," Chris says, sidling around Nick to get to the door. He glances back over his shoulder. "Even if I can't give you what you want, please still consider breaking the news to the team."

Nick sighs, the last expression of his feelings. "You don't have to worry about that," he says without turning around.

It's one of the longest walks of his life, the trip back to the locker room.

He knows he has no reason to feel ashamed about what just transpired, but he's still a little leery of facing Helm after that kiss, as brief as it was.

Chris doesn't know when his life became so complicated, but he does know that no matter what he says to anyone, there's always a little tiny spark that flares to life whenever it seems like Nick is still in love with him.

///

"So here's the thing, Helm," Chris announces two days later. "This baby's been with us for over a week and he still doesn't have a name. We need to rectify that."

Helm, who's lying on the couch flipping through the TV channels, makes a moue of distaste. "I don't want to," he says. "I don't care if it never has a name."

Chris is really starting to worry. In the beginning, it just seemed as if Helm were so shellshocked by everything that he didn't know how to deal. And then it was clear he had no experience at all with children.

But now Helm is starting to be a little spiteful, cruel. Chris knows Helm isn't that type of person, and he knows Helm isn't behaving this way to be spiteful or cruel, but it hurts.

The baby doesn't know its mother and its father doesn't want it, but Chris does, and his heart aches for the child. He seems to be the only person who loves it.

It took about three days, but their son—yes, he tells himself firmly, their son—is finally sleeping in a crib, where he belongs. And he is currently asleep, which makes this a good time for a showdown with his boyfriend.

"Dare," he says. "I'm gonna withhold sex if you don't start making an effort. If you don't help me name this baby right now, I won't let you fuck me tonight."

Helm switches off the TV. "Fine," he says. He still sounds put-out.

"Gee," Chris says. "If I'm inconveniencing you, I'm so sorry." His sarcasm goes unnoticed, though, Helm's mouth a little bit open as he turns to look at him.

"I just." Helm stares into his lap. "This doesn't feel real to me, you know? I didn't want this."

"I know that," Chris says more gently. "But this is life, and this is the way things are now. We have to make the best of it."

"I'll get the baby name book," Helm says, as if he's trying to placate Chris. Chris isn't sure if it's because Helm wants sex that much, or if it's deeper than that; if Helm wants to please him.

Chris sinks into the rocking chair, and Helm comes back in a few minutes with the book, flipping through it.

"I think we should name it 'Damien'," Helm suggests.

"No," Chris vetoes. "No, no, no. No names that make him sound like the devil. You really don't wanna stick the kid with something like that."

"'Boston'," Helm says, on a different page.

"No," Chris says on a sigh. "Not a city name, either."

"'Abby'!" Helm crows triumphantly. He gives Chris a grin.

"You wanna give your kid the same name as Abdelkader's nickname?" Chris points out.

"Oh," Helm says, face falling. "You're right; I hadn't thought of that."

"Hand me the book," Chris says leaning forward in the chair. Helm drops it into his hands, and Chris opens to a random page.

"Oooh," he says after a moment. "I like 'Brett'."

"No way," Helm says with a degree of confidence Chris rarely hears in Helm's voice. "It reminds me of Lebs, and I don't like the reminder. I miss him."

The way that Helm says that, Chris almost allows himself to wonder if maybe Helmer had a crush on Lebs too, or if perhaps they'd even slept together. He forces the thought back as if he's warding off a poisonous snake. Jealousy won't help anything.

Helm peers over Chris's shoulder and muses, "Maybe 'Chase'? Or 'Colin'?"

"I don't know," Chris says. "They don't seem to fit."

They go through a long list of names, but none of them seem quite right—'Brayden' is too strange for Helm's kid (but maybe not if Drapes had another little boy), 'Sasha' is Semin from the Caps (or Hank), 'Seth' is pretty enough but the baby just doesn't seem like a Seth, 'Brennan' sounds too much like a girl's name, 'Stefan' sounds too foreign, and there isn't anything really wrong with 'Brandon' except neither of them really like the name—and then Helm pauses in the 'C' section.

"'Carey'," he says softly. "I—" he looks away, making his words muffled by the whir of the refrigerator, "I just like it, okay?"

Strangely enough, this is the first time they've actually agreed on a name; Chris likes it too, and he can't explain why, but it really is the baby's name, though he doesn't know how he knows, just that he felt the same way when he and Jenna named their girls.

"'Carey' it is," Chris says, running his hand down Helm's back. Helm makes a choked little noise, and then he flees the room.

Chris tosses the baby name book aside and follows Helm, finding him facedown on the bed in their bedroom.

"What is it?" Chris asks, sitting down on the edge of the bed, placing his hand on the back of Helm's thigh.

Helm speaks right into the pillow, but Chris manages to make out the words anyway. "I don't know what this feeling is," Helm says.

Chris has a flash of understanding. Helm named his son. It was Helm who chose the name, and now Helm's connected to the baby in a way he wasn't before.

And Helm doesn't know how to process these new feelings, how to make sense of the fact that for the first time, he has emotions towards his son besides disdain and fear.

"You'll figure it out soon enough," Chris says, rubbing circles over Helm's thigh. "C'mere." Chris crawls up the bed when Helm doesn't move, and throws an arm over Helm's back, cuddling up close and shutting his eyes.

Helm sighs, but he doesn't shy away. Chris is almost asleep, enjoying the solid warmth of Helm's body, when Carey cries.

"All right, daddy," Chris mumbles sleepily. "Time to take care of the baby."

"Nooo," Helm mutters, shoving his face further into the pillow. "So tired."

"Your kid," Chris says. "And I'm not doing this all by myself any more. So get your ass up."

It's hard knocks for Helm, but it's time. Helm's finally starting to thaw towards Carey, and this as good a time as any to give Helm more responsibility.

Helm moans unhappily, but he pulls himself out of bed.

It's hilariously chaotic, but Helm actually does succeed in changing Carey's wet diaper. Had it been baby poo, Chris would have still done it just because that might have been too much to ask of Helm for his first time, but it's not, so Chris stands close by to make sure everything goes okay, but he doesn't assist Helm at all.

Of course, Helm hasn't been paying attention to Chris, so Carey pees on him this time—again—and Helm jumps back with a yelp.

Chris fights a grin, even though Carey got him too, a little, and after a long moment, Helm steps back to the baby and tries to fasten the diaper around the wriggling newborn.

He huffs in frustration, but eventually he gets it done, and then he looks over at Chris.

Chris picks up the freshly changed baby and cradles it in his arms. Helm can't be expected to do everything at once, after all.

///

Chris knows he's lost when he's sliding through the crease, up to the point and back again, stretching his muscles and working out the kinks in his body as he prepares for practise with the drills that Jim Bedard has him do, and he finds himself distracted by thoughts of Carey.

Distracted enough that he almost injures himself, because he misses the baby. It's only been a short while since he and Helm dropped Carey off at Drapes's house with Julie, but already Chris wants to get practise over with so he can go pick him up and cuddle him, look into that little face with the type of wonder he once reserved for his girls, but apparently now his girls will have to share his affections with a child that's not even his.

Helm seems unaffected at first; he skates the laps Babs asks them to do, he follows instructions and participates in the drills, but when it comes time to shoot pucks at Chris, he can tell Helm's preoccupied because Helm actually forgets himself enough that, instead of slapping the puck directly at Chris, he knocks it high and it goes over Chris's glove and into the net.

Yeah, if Helm is actually scoring, he's definitely off his game. That sounds strange to think of it that way, but Chris's boyfriend does have a tendency to overthink it when he's trying to score.

Of course, Babs thinks it's fantastic and praises Helm, who stands on the ice with a berry flush on his cheeks and a glassy look in his eyes, clearly dazed and lost in thought.

He skates over to Chris's crease as practise is ending.

"Do you think Nick's told anyone yet?" he asks, and Chris knows he was right. Helm's been thinking about Carey, which is a great step forward. Maybe soon he'll actually start wanting the baby to be around—or to be around the baby.

"I think as soon as he does, our teammates are going to be begging us to bring Carey in to show everyone," Chris comments glibly. He grins. "Miss your son?"

"Uh," Helm says eloquently. "I'm not sure, honestly," he mumbles. "I miss you," he adds, pushing out his lower lip. "We never get to have sex any more."

"That's because—" Chris stops though, not really sure why they don't. It's not solely the addition to their family—Carey sleeps for slightly longer stretches now—but Chris has been so wiped lately that it seems like even sex is too much work.

Helm flinches a little, still flushed from exertion, and says, eyes flicking around them as he leans down towards Chris's mask, "I'll let you top." His voice is barely a whisper, but Chris nearly drops his goalie stick. In his hockey pants, in his jockstrap, and beneath that his cup, his dick is trying to harden. That's actually kind of painful.

"That's okay," Chris replies, even though he wants to take Helm up on the offer. But he knows Helm doesn't like it and he's not going to force the issue.

Besides, if he bottoms, Helm has to do most of the work anyway, which means maybe Chris won't be too tired for sex tonight.

"Tonight," he promises, and Helm's skin flushes even darker as he skates away. Chris wonders just how many of their teammates know, at this point, how serious he and Helm are about each other.

Actually, he wonders if Helm knows how serious Chris is about him. Carey's already wriggled his adorable way into Chris's life; he doesn't think he could stand it if they broke up and Helm took the baby away with him.

Whatever, Chris thinks, he has to concentrate—he brings his stick up and blocks a shot from Nick, then throws his glove out to catch the puck that Fil aims towards the net.

Babs does ask, though, at the end of practise why Chris let in more goals than usual.

"I won't be able to play you in a game if you play like that," he says gravely.

"Let Howie do it," Chris says, still focused on Carey. "I mean," he backpedals. "I mean, I'll be okay if—" he stops, swallows hard, and figures that if Nick hasn't done it yet, he needs to be the one to say something to Babs. "I've sort of got a lot going on," he finishes lamely.

"I could tell, playing like that. Sloppy, not good movement, not tracking the puck well—Ozzie, you will have to do better. I am not averse to playing Howie—he's having a good year—but he can't play all the games and I am going to need to rely on you. Can I rely on you, if it's necessary?"

"I have a baby to take care of now," Chris says in a rush, eyes flitting everywhere, landing on every surface but Babcock's face.

"That explains the dark circles, I suppose," Babs remarks, leaning in to examine the puffiness under Chris's eyes. Chris knows how bad under his eyes looks. He hasn't slept a full night in almost two weeks—he's lucky if he's managed eight hours of sleep in the whole entire week. Helm's still not reliable help with Carey, and therefore Chris has a lot to do.

Not that he's letting Helm off the hook. He makes Helm get up when Carey cries, even if he doesn't have to do anything. Slow and simple, but Chris is acclimating Helm to the idea of the baby, getting him used to Carey's routines, his needs, what each individual cry means.

Chris actually can't believe, himself, how in just two short weeks he knows which cry means what: when Carey's hungry, when he's lonely, when his diaper's dirty or when he's just crying because.

Chris nods at whatever Babs is saying now and hightails it out of there, strewing his gear around his locker as he flings it off in a hurry, grabbing his sweatshirt and jeans and pulling them on before he remembers he hasn't showered. Oh well.

He grabs Helm, who's just coming out of the steam that billows from the showers, and drags him out towards Helm's Jetta.

If Helm is upset or bothered by Chris's sweat and the fact that he probably smells completely rank, he doesn't say. He's actually deathly quiet nearly the whole drive, when just as they're pulling into Drapes's driveway, he says,

"Is there something wrong with me?"

Chris is undoing his seatbelt, but he pauses, the metal buckle in his hand, and looks at his boyfriend.

"What makes you say that?" he asks carefully. Helm swallows, Adam's apple jumping, face anxious and open.

"I don't even like it," Helm says miserably. "I watch you all the time and you practically glow with happiness. And I want—I wanna be a part of that, but I don't know how." Confusion settles on his features like rain coating his skin. "I don't know how to make myself like it."

"He," Chris says softly. "That's a start—learn to refer to Carey by the proper pronoun. You're distancing yourself. You're not allowing yourself to get involved, to get attached."

Helm's so quiet when he responds, Chris nearly can't hear the breathy words. "I'm afraid."

Chris drops the seat belt buckle and leans over, brushing his lips against Helm's temple, pressing his palm over Helm's heart. "What are you afraid of?"

"I don't know," Helm says, turning in Chris's direction, their noses bumping. He still has that confusion on his face.

"There's nothing to be afraid of," Chris whispers, kissing Helm lightly. He draws back just a little. "I'm here," he points out. "I've done this before. We'll be okay."

"What happens if—" Helm chokes on the words, which sound wet in the back of his throat. "If you—" he can't seem to get it out. He gulps and flattens his palm along the curve of Chris's jaw. "If you leave," he forces out, "I'll be stuck all alone with it."

"Him," Chris corrects. He closes his eyes, a gesture of trust. He's not looking at Helm, which means Helm could hurt him. And truthfully, the words ache in his chest. Helm really doesn't seem to know.

"Be stuck with him, then." Helm's voice is raspy. "I don't—please, Chris. Please."

"It's not gonna happen," Chris assures him. He turns his head and presses his lips against Helm's palm. "I'm not going to leave you, and I love Carey too much already."

"I'm afraid," Helm repeats in a whisper. "What if—what if that never happens for me?"

"It will," Chris says, opening his eyes. "It's taking time because you're so young and you were so unprepared. But it will happen. It's just... spending time with him, learning how to meet his needs. Pretty soon you'll be surprised you ever didn't want him."

"I didn't want him," Helm admits as if he's copping to a horrible secret. "I just want you," Helm says.

"C'mon," Chris says. He pulls back into his own seat. "Julie's waiting."

He throws open the car door and steps out, trotting up the walkway and ringing the bell. He doesn't look back to see if Helm's gotten out of the car.

Julie answers with a ready smile.

"He's a doll," she says. "I don't know what you're always complaining about; he slept pretty much the entire time. He woke up to eat and be changed and went right back to sleep. In fact," she looks over her shoulder, "he's still asleep. Want a cup of tea in the meantime? I don't wanna wake him."

'No, thank you," Chris says. "I don't think Helmer's in the mood to wait. I'll just try not to wake him."

Julie shrugs. "All right, sweetie," she says. She closes the door behind him and leads him into the nursery, where Carey is asleep in the crib that Drapes and Julie obviously haven't gotten around to stowing away yet. Or maybe Kamryn is still refusing to sleep in a bed.

Carey's got his little fist in his mouth and his blankets are wrinkled from flailing, most likely, but he's sleeping like—well, like a baby. Chris reaches into the crib and oh-so-carefully slides one hand each under Carey's head and his bottom and lifts him into his arms. Carey makes a breathy little noise and stirs, but then settles into the crook of Chris's arm and returns to sucking on his fist.

Chris smiles, staring down at him.

He doesn't know why he loves this baby so much—because the baby is precious to him, or because the baby is a piece of Helm, who's just as precious?

///

Helm is still sitting in the driver's seat, staring through the window with his eyes glazed over, when Chris brings Carey to the car. He very carefully balances the baby in one arm so he can get the back door open, then just as carefully lowers him into his car seat and snaps him in.

Carey makes another tiny noise but doesn't wake up. Chris is starting to wonder if maybe he just likes Julie better, cause heaven knows Carey cries an awful lot when he's alone with them.

Or maybe the kid knows more than anyone thinks he could. Maybe he senses that his daddy—his birth father, anyway—still hasn't figured out what to do with him. Still thinks he doesn't want him.

But Chris understands Helmer better than that. He's young, impressionable, and rash, but he's not careless with people's emotions and he's never intentionally cruel. He can't put a name to what he's feeling yet, but Chris is sure that, given time, Helm will figure out that he wants this baby.

Because ultimately? This baby is theirs. Carey belongs to them now, like it or not.

Chris is kind of ashamed of how much he likes the idea.

Helm backs the car out of the driveway, and as he turns the corner, Carey wakes up and starts to howl.

Helm shrinks away from the back seat and Chris sighs, turning his face to the window.

They both listen to Carey fret the whole way home.

///

Carey seems to get carsick. Either that or it's something they're feeding him; Chris isn't sure, but he doesn't remember his girls throwing up this much when they were little. In any case, by the time they get back to Helm's house—their house—Carey has spit up all over his chin, his little jacket, his sleeper, and part of his car seat.

Helm takes one look at the mess, grabs the house keys, and disappears towards the door, leaving Chris alone with the soiled infant. He sighs.

He's still amazed that it's only been two weeks and he's already back into the swing of things well enough to have baby wipes in the car, stowed under the seat. He's not sure if Helm knows they're there, but it doesn't matter, really; Chris wipes up the car seat and then, walking around to the other side of the car and rifling through the diaper bag, he finds one of their burp cloths and, striding back to the baby still in his car seat—flailing his little fists as he continues to fuss—Chris scrubs away at his face and hands.

Instantly, Carey stuffs one tiny fist into his mouth and gums at his knuckles. Despite the sour smell in the car and clinging to the baby, Chris finds himself smiling as he undoes buckles and straps and lifts Carey into his arms.

He's not at all surprised when Carey spits up on his shoulder and warmth seeps into his shirt. Chris would be disgusted, but at this point, he finds himself laughing near-silently as he juggles diaper bag, infant, and still shuts both doors before heading up the steps to the house.

He gets inside and carefully lays Carey on the couch, sitting next to him with his palm placed gently over his tiny belly, and then he looks towards the kitchen, where he presumes that Helm has disappeared to.

"Hey, Dare," he calls out, "the baby needs another bath."

"Do I have to?" There's a hint of a whine in his tone.

"Yes, yes you do," says Chris.

Helm trots into the living room and wrinkles his nose at the sight of Chris, whose shirt is probably a lost cause to the laundry pile.

"Why," Helm starts, "is he so messy?"

Chris glances up at him, rubbing Carey's belly absentmindedly. "Because that happens, I guess," he says. "It's not really unusual. They do often say all babies do is cry and poop."

"I wish he'd do that less often," Helm mutters, sitting on the armchair across the room. Chris turns his focus back to Carey, who is quieter now, tiny noises escaping around his damp little fist.

Chris brushes soft downy tendrils of hair away from his eyes and starts to unzip his little jacket. He feels a little evil for doing it, but he is getting tired of getting stuck alone with the newborn every time he's smelly or messy or crying.

"Here," he says, holding out the little coat, which has a stain down the front of it now. And then, figuring he might as well accomplish two things at once, he strips his shirt over his head and balls them up. "Put these in the laundry. Hang on, wait, I need to get his sleeper off too."

He makes a mental note to call Julie and ask her if Carey was sick at all when he was with her, then carefully undresses the baby and drops the sleeper onto the pile. Helm makes a moue of distaste again but takes the clothing to the laundry; Chris listens to his footsteps retreat.

"It's just you and me, kid," he says to the baby. "And it's about to be bathtime, which I bet you're not gonna like."

Helm comes back into the room, wiping his hands with a paper towel, indicating he's washed his hands after handling the dirty clothes.

Chris supposes he can't really blame him for that.

He brings his attention back to Carey, who is actually staring up, wide-eyed, making little sucking movements with his mouth; he's wearing only his diaper and Chris indulges himself by tickling his round bare belly. This makes Carey's eyes crinkle up. Chris watches in fascination and amazement as Carey actually smiles.

It's not like it's never happened, but it is awfully rare—their baby seems to be colicky, which is unfortunate because Chris doesn't know what to do about it.

Helm actually steps closer, eyes trained on the baby. "Is he... smiling?" Helm sounds awed. Chris meets Helm's eyes, and discovers that his boyfriend has a soft, wondrous expression on his face, as if for the first time he's actually interested in his baby.

"Here," Chris says, carefully lifting the baby from the couch and handing him to Helm, who shows much less reluctance this time when he settles Carey into the bend of his elbow.

And after a moment, he draws his arm in against his chest, actually holding the baby close for the very first time.

Something balloons in Chris's chest and he is forced to question just how much more he can fall in love with Helmer.

Apparently a lot, because Helm has the most gentle look on his features as he regards his son.

But just as quickly, he's thrusting the baby back towards Chris.

"I might drop him," he says, a tad breathless. He does seem genuinely concerned about it, even though the entire time he was holding Carey—which was really only a few moments, but still—the baby was quiet. Back in Chris's embrace, Carey flails his little fists and starts to cry.

Chris laughs. "He already knows which one of us is the one that subjects him to things he doesn't like," he points out to Helm, then slides off the couch, standing.

He cuddles the baby to his chest, murmuring nonsense words at him as he walks towards the bathroom, Helm trailing behind.

This time, Chris holds Carey still as he observes Helm watchfully to make certain he not only gets Carey clean but that he doesn't accidentally drown him or something.

Which, come to think of it, is why he's the one keeping a careful but firm hold on the damp, slippery, wriggling infant.

"He doesn't really like baths," Chris says, taking his eyes off Helm to gaze at Carey. The baby kicks his feet, spraying them both with soapy water, and screws up his tiny face in preparation for a truly impressive scream.

Helm still seems terrified and appalled by the infant's behaviour, but he doesn't stop what he's doing; Chris's boyfriend runs the washcloth gently over Carey, working it oh-so-cautiously between teeny tiny toes, and then finally, he sets the washcloth on the sink and scoops water up from the basin and over the baby to rinse him off.

Chris is about to tell Helm what to do next, when Helm turns away.

His heart clenches, irrationally afraid that this is just what he's been dreading, that Helm fears getting close and fears his own son enough that he's now going to retreat emotionally—when Helm grabs the towel off the rack and turns back.

There's something very adult and mature on that young face when Helm takes Carey from Chris and swaddles him in the towel.

And, with his palm curved around the wee damp head, he settles Carey against his chest.

Chris holds his breath, afraid to move. Worried that if he does, Helmer will remember his concern about dropping Carey and suddenly return the baby to Chris.

But instead, Helm perches on the closed toilet lid, and leans back against the tank, staring at Carey like he's seeing something there he never noticed before.

Carey is blinking sleepily, his fingers in his mouth, his hair sticking up outside of the towel.

"Come on," Chris says at last, in a hushed whisper. "We've gotta diaper him and put him to bed."

Helm spares one last glance, then relinquishes Carey into Chris's charge.

Helm follows Chris into the spare room—now more accurately the nursery—and actually assists him while there by getting out the powder and the diapers.

Chris lays Carey down on the changing table and pulls the towel back, except for over his little legs to keep from taking an unpleasant shower.

He lifts Carey and slides the diaper underneath him, but Helm shoulders him out of the way and pulls the front of the diaper up between his pudgy little legs and fastens the tapes.

"You know..." Helm says. "I think he's getting less ugly."

Chris smiles secretively behind Helm; the infant's too little to look any different, but Helm's perception is changing.

He's starting to get it.


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February 2014

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