Saturday, January 30, 2016
Lessons from the Universe--A Keeping Promise Rock ficlet
Crick narrowed his eyes in the early March sunshine and latched his good arm more solidly around his son. "I said no, dammit. You can't stand on the top rung of the damned pen, because you are your father's son and you will fall off the top of the rail."
J.D. scowled at him from a pair of familiar green eyes and tossed his brown hair out of his eyes. "Cause I b'long dere!" he insisted. Oh God-- he didn't even have shoes on when he escaped. He was wearing an old onesie, because that was the only thing he had clean, and it was chilly in early March. His feet were covered in mud.
Crick tightened his hold and counted to ten, and Andrew looked up from where he was breaking a sweet little mare and laughed. "You're going to lose that battle," he said mildly.
"Yes," Crick agreed, "but not until he's five. He's two and a half." Oh God. Crick's heart had stopped so many times after watching Deacon in the pen. "Deacon promised."
Andrew nodded. "I hear ya. I even agree. I"m just saying, you need to give him something or he's going to climb in here when someone's not looking, and that would be pretty bad too."
Crick's heart stuttered. The kid was just so fast. If it hadn't been for the dog, who tended to run around in circles wherever J.D. had wandered off to, Crick thought for sure they would have lost him before now. His eyes burned in that terrible retroactive fear parents felt whenever they perceived a near thing.
"Daddy, too tight!"
Crick adjusted the little terror on his hip, scrubbed his face with his hand, and tried to get himself together. J.D.'s molars had been coming in and he fussed late into the night. He'd started potty training the month before, but the molar thing had happened and so had a lot of accidents. The result was a whole lot of Huggies Pull-Ups being used for their original intention: diapers.
And Deacon and Crick were exhausted.
Deacon, true to his gentleman's soul, took J.D. duty as soon as he came in and washed up. He got up in the night, got up early in the morning, and tried to give Crick a break in the middle of the day. But Crick woke up every time Deacon got up, and during the day, J.D. just didn't quit. Deacon was gone at the moment because Crick had been so out of it he'd forgotten about Huggies and milk, and Crick and J.D. had been sleeping off an epic cry-athon.
"Sorry, buddy," Crick said, turning back into the house. "I just really need you to chill out until Deacon gets home, okay? He's going to have milk and snacks and Huggies and you and me can sit and watch cartoons and chill."
The house was not in great shape. Again, Deacon helped--but Crick had never realized how amazing his sister was to raise Parry and help Deacon with the business and go to school until right now. Yeah, he remembered being tired during the first couple of months, but his body--not at optimum--was a hindrance now in ways he'd never imagined when he'd first come home.
Suddenly J.D. began to cry, curling into Crick's arm with a pathetic little sniffle. "'Toons?'"
"Yeah, buddy," Crick said wearily. The house could wait. Hell, they had fruit snacks and tinned chicken soup-- cooking could wait. "Toons."
A half an hour later they huddled on the couch while the brilliant March day went on around them. J.D. had his face tucked into Crick's chest and Teen Titans, a cartoon Crick loathed played endlessly on the television. They were both covered in mashed cracker crumbs and chicken soup residue, and Crick wasn't sure he could move if a tornado touched down.
Deacon's tread in the house was as leaden as Crick felt, and like a coward, Crick closed his eyes and hoped the sleep card would get him out of being a grown up for one more chore. He listened as Deacon moved around the kitchen, putting stuff away and cleaning up the lunch mess and, oh thank you, singing quietly to himself--Damien Jurado, "Sheets". Is he still coming around like an injured bird, leaving a nest...
Crick smiled softly, loving the song even though the story--that of a love triangle--was about the furthest thing from their lives right now.
The final thump and the final crinkle of a reusable bag, and the couch next to Crick depressed.
"C'mon, Crick, help me out and lean on my chest."
Oh, God, he sounded exhausted.
Crick did just that and snuggled. He hadn't showered that morning because they'd been that tired, and he smelled like horse and sweat and whatever J.D. had eaten that morning.
He smelled wonderful.
Crick allowed himself to be enveloped, and the three of them settled in to a drowsy, heavy-bodied nap on the couch.
He woke up and his game leg and arm were cramping like mad.
He gave a little cry and tried hard to stretch that side of his body without disturbing Deacon. Deacon startled and then--prompted by a lot of nights when Crick would wake up in pain and need stretching, got with the program immediately, kneading his arm and pushing against his foot at the same time.
J.D. slept through it all.
Deacon laughed a little when Crick's last cramp gave, and he stood up and walked to the refrigerator, coming back with a soda and some Advil to loosen the muscles. Then he picked J.D. up and kissed his cheek.
"Damn, little guy, you sure do have us at our wit's end."
"Deac'n," J.D. murmured, and snuggled in some more.
"We're going to have to wake him soon," Crick mumbled. "Or we'll get our days and nights turned around." It had happened in the first two months--sleeping in the day and being awake all night. They'd fixed it, but it had sucked.
"Yeah." Deacon took a swig of Crick's soda. "I'll take care of that. You go lay down and sleep off that cramp in the bed, Carrick. Don't worry about things tonight. We're tuckered."
Crick didn't even ask questions. He dragged his ass to bed, shucked his clothes and fell in. God, who knew the terrible twos were more terrible for the parents than the two-year-old?
He woke up, heart pounding, to the early spring evening chill.
On God. Deacon--J.D.! Dinner, laundry, childcare--shit!
He threw on his jeans and and a T-shirt and limped out to the front room, looking around wildly.
Missy was home from junior college classes and was cleaning the kitchen. He vaguely remembered that it was her turn, but her schedule was pretty brutal, so they'd learned not to count on her. Kimmy was dusting in living room, and Benny was folding clothes on the couch.
"Oh, hell," Crick mumbled, feeling inadequate as hell. "Did Deacon call you all?"
"Missy called us, asshole," Benny muttered. "Jesus, look at this place. Why didn't you tell us J.D. was teething?"
"Because maybe I wanted to not be helpless," Crick muttered, stretching out his scarred arm with a vengeance.
"Oh please," Benny snorted. "I took help every chance I got. You weren't so squeamish when he was a fry."
"Sit down and have a cookie," Missy ordered. "Deacon bought the kind with a thousand milligrams of fat in them-- you need to have a few."
"Oh, God--someone needs to not let that man go shopping." The shortbread with the fudge centers--every damned time.
"Well, better him than you when you're falling apart," Benny said practically, making a neat pile of J.D.'s jeans. A good thing too--he had actually been wearing a onesie that morning--because it was the only thing he had clean. "Honestly, Crick." She stood, her tummy popping out just a tad from the waistband of her leggings. "It's going to be hard. I mean, I know you managed diaper changing when he was tiny, but you're chasing after a kid who can outrun a fully functioning adult. It's going to tire you out."
Ugh. Crick shoved half a cookie in his mouth and followed it with a gulp of milk. "Mothers have been raising toddlers while pregnant for years."
"Well yeah," Kimmy agreed, putting the feather duster in the cupboard by the washroom. "But usually with help from parents and family. I mean yeah, Shane and I were twins, but we had a nanny a piece."
"Fan-ceee!" Missy sneered--but playfully, which was a nice change from the surly child she had been.
"Yeah, it was," Kimmy agreed. "You do not know what I used to try to do to get their attention."
"What about Shane?" Crick asked curiously. Parenting--and what kind of parenting had gone into making his friends--had become his hobby in the last two years.
"Shane decided to save the world," Kimmy said, smiling with affection. "The first try didn't work great, so he tried again, and then a third time."
"Third time's the charm," Missy said, and not even she could be facetious about Kimmy's kind-natured brother.
"The point is," Benny said, grabbing her own cookie and drinking some of Crick's milk, "that whole village thing to raise a child is no joke."
Grimly Crick remembered their own parents--and the social workers who had kept trying to take Benny and Parry Angel away from Deacon. "As long as it's not the village idiots."
Missy guffawed and Benny giggled and Kimmy rolled her eyes.
"Here--I'm going to put in the lasagna Deacon bought and we can cookie and kvetch for a while."
"Lasagna? God, that man can't go shopping again!" His heart was fine-- but that took hard work!
"I'm saying," Kimmy agreed. "I'll go next time. I'll call you and you give me a list."
Crick couldn't argue-- not after almost breaking into tears when J.D. had run out the front door that morning. "Thanks, Kimmy." Gratitude didn't cover it.
"Yeah, well..." She squeezed his shoulder as she took her spot at the table.
"Where is J.D.?" he asked. He'd known the baby was safe--but obviously not with any of the women since they were all in the kitchen.
"Outside with Deacon," Benny said blithely. "He's on that pony-- you know, the little one with the real sweet temper. Deacon has him with a helmet and a belt-strap from Project Ride, and they've been going around in circles for like, an hour."
"He's on a horse?" Crick half stood up. "We weren't supposed to do that when he was five?"
The women all looked at him blankly.
"He's on a pony," Benny said, nonplussed. "Strapped in, like the Project Ride people do. And a helmet. And Deacon and Drew. Crick, do you or do you not want to sleep tonight?"
"Oh God." Crick buried his face in his hands. "I do. I so do."
"Well then, trust in the universe a little and let Deacon do his thing. Tire the kid out, make him happy, give him some Orajel and maybe be a human being tomorrow." Benny could shrug. She'd been mommy for nearly nine years and Auntie Benny for two and a half, and she seemed to just have this shit all sorted. Once again, Crick couldn't find his if it was handed to him in paper cup.
That night, though, Missy did the dishes and J.D. went down like a dream, and Deacon came to bed early. It was... oh my God, an Easter miracle.
Deacon slid into bed and had Crick roll over on his stomach while he gave him a rubdown, and then, when Crick had groaned and all his tight muscles felt like spaghetti, he settled back with his Kindle and a pair of reading glasses recently adopted for just this moment in time.
"That's it?" Crick asked, feeling a little bereft from Deacon's side.
Deacon looked at him, smiling sweetly, his green eyes lighting with a hint of mischief. "You were tired," he said mildly. "A man doesn't like to presume."
Crick thought about the shopping and the singing, the nap time and the taking the baby right when Crick thought he'd had his absolute limit.
"Presume," he said, grinning. "by all fucking means, presume all over me!"
Deacon laughed heartily, then stood up and locked the door and turned out the light. When he slid back into bed, he was naked and hard, his skin like silk and his muscles as reassuring and sexual as always. As Crick succumbed to their lovemaking in the dark, feeling Deacon's lips and hands on all of the places that made Crick's body sing the most, he had a passing thought.
All of it, sometimes, boiled down to making love in the dark. Trusting that, if you knew your partner, had chosen well, you could have a little faith in the universe, and even if it fucked you, it all felt so damned good.
And oh, yes. When Deacon was inside him, moving powerfully, kissing his back an his neck and his shoulders, it all felt so damned good.