Title: the beginning of fairies
Characters/Pairings: Kevin Ryan/Jenny O'Malley, Kevin Ryan/Javier Esposito
Word Count: ~3300
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
Contains: Character death, kidfic.
Summary: Kevin's story is about love, loss, and learning to move on. Mostly, though, his story is about family.
Notes: Written for the ryanandesposito ficathon.
What happens is this:
Kevin comes home after work and Jenny's laughing and crying all at once, and he doesn't even care that she shoves something she's peed on into his hand, because they're going to have a baby.
He picks her up in a spinning hug, then almost drops her when he tries to put her down, because he's pretty certain he shouldn't be twirling a pregnant lady. Jenny just smacks him upside the head and kisses his lips and cheeks and neck. She laughs, and Kevin catches the sound with his mouth and gives her his own laugh in return.
They're going to be a family.
What happens is this:
They set up a nursery. Jenny doesn't want to give in to traditional gender role stereotypes, so they paint the walls a bright, happy yellow and stencil fluffy white clouds on a sky blue ceiling. Their free days are spent combing through thrift stores for furniture that they can strip and redo.
“A room needs to have a soul to it,” Jenny tells him while she crochets a bumble bee to hang from the mobile, and it's easy to see the little girl who spent three years running barefoot around a commune while her mom and dad were 'finding themselves'. “There's no history if you just buy something from a store. These pieces have history, they've lived, and now they have a little piece of us in them too.”
There's a patch of tacky green paint on her chin that smears onto Kevin's when he kisses her. She laughs against his mouth and lets him push her back onto the carpet, one hand splayed possessively over the growing swell of her stomach.
What happens is this:
There's a car wreck.
In the first weeks afterward, everything is so chaotic that grieving never even occurs to Kevin. The car had come out of nowhere, slamming into the taxi, and then it had all devolved into a blur of pain and flashing lights and trying to push away his disorientation long enough to sign the form allowing an emergency c-section nearly two months before the actual due date. Kevin knows about shock; he's worked both victims and suspects through it enough times to know the symptoms. So he knows objectively what's happening to him, but he can't shake it.
There's a funeral and Kevin goes, and the looks he gets are sympathetic instead of judging when he skips out early to rush back to the hospital. His chest is too tight and he can't breathe right until he's back in the neonatal ICU. He doesn't have to look to know that Javier's behind him, doesn't have to check before reaching out to grab his arm when he looks through the window at his daughter in one of those weird little plastic pod things and the air rushes back into his lungs.
He spends long, endless days haunting the hospital. The nurses seem to have decided to adopt him, leaving sandwiches at his elbow and looking the other way when he borrows one of the employee showers. Castle stops by with a seemingly endless supply of good coffee—any another time Kevin would have speculated over whether or not he installed a new machine in the nurse's lounge—and Kate brings him fresh changes of clothes every day, sometimes staying to sit with him for a while and sometimes only stopping long enough to squeeze his wrist. Kevin doesn't know how she gets into his apartment; it's possible she has his keys.
If Javier ever leaves, Kevin doesn't notice it. As far as he can tell, Javier's always there, just a step away if Kevin needs anything, even the things he doesn't realize he needs.
The day they finally let him hold his daughter—Bridget, because Jenny had mentioned once that she'd liked the idea of naming her after her grandmother—he cries for the first time since the accident. She's tiny and pliable, her bones soft and so incredibly breakable in his clumsy hands. His knees almost buckle and he sways. It must look at least a portion of as bad as it feels, because Javier's an immediate steadying presence at his side, one arm around his waist and a hand cupping his elbow.
Kevin draws a shaky breath and tries to find the balance between holding Bridget too tight and dropping her.
Her red, wrinkly face screws up in a wordless cry as the first fat tears start rolling down her cheek, and Kevin sobs with her because she has Jenny's nose.
They go home on a Tuesday.
The apartment smells musty and too close after the gaping sterility of the hospital, and there's a horrible moment when Kevin sees Jenny's sneakers sitting in a sloppy tumble next to the front door. Javier steers him around them, a hand hovering at the small of his back without actually touching, and then there are preemie diapers and doll sized onesies to be put away and bottles to be stocked in the cabinets. Every time his eyes snag on another small reminder, another blaring example of all the ways this picture is incomplete, there's something else to take care of.
The crib isn't completely assembled yet. The changing table is missing its pad. Bridget's screaming, and Kevin doesn't know why, but he's afraid she's going to scrape her throat raw and bloody with the force of it.
Javier has to leave. Fair enough; Kevin doesn't know when the last time he actually went home was, and it's not fair of him to ask him to stay, so he doesn't.
The crib's put together now, but Kevin still carries Bridget into the master bedroom with him. Jenny's side of the bed still looks huge, even once Bridget's all situated on it in nest of blankets with her little curl of a pillow that supports her head and shoulders. Kevin crawls into bed next to her, careful to keep his movements slow and smooth to keep from jostling her. He falls asleep with the tip of his index finger hooked over her ankle, and tells himself that it's going to be okay.
For Bridget's sake, he's going to make it okay.
“Do you have any idea how long it's been since I slept? Do you," Kevin asks, his voice going high and squeaky toward the end. Kevin's on maternity leave, but a case had come in the day after he took Bridget home and Javier hadn't been able to talk his way out of working it, and Javier's only been able to check in a few times for the past week. His eyes are wide and wild, there's a smear of what looks like dried applesauce across his cheek, and a—thankfully clean—diaper is stuck to the heel of his shoe. Javier leans a little closer and takes a tentative sniff.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and hazard it's been about as long since you last managed to shower?"
"You, you," Kevin sputters, his hands waving around in frustrated arcs. The bottle in his hand loses its lid and milk splashes all over the wall. Kevin blinks and frowns at the formula dripping down the glass over a picture of him in his dress uniform. "How does anyone do this? Why does anyone do this?"
Javier gently pries the wet bottle out of Kevin's fist and turns him in the direction of the bathroom. "Because sometimes people get too caught up in the moment to remember the most important rule: No glove, no love."
Kevin's shoulders slump and he leans back slightly into Javier's hand on his shoulder blade. "I'm not supposed to be doing this alone." It's a sad, broken whisper, and Javier clamps down hard on the urge to wrap his arms around Kevin and press his face into the crook of his neck. Instead, he gives Kevin a small push toward the bathroom.
"You're not. I'm here, aren't I?" He keeps his tone light, even manages a reassuring smile when Kevin glances at him with huge, bruised eyes. "I'm the oldest of three and have two little nieces. I can handle feeding time and a diaper change while you shower and take a nap."
After that, Javier just never really leaves. A pillow and blanket show up on the couch, new shampoo and body wash materialize in the shower. There's a toothbrush and a razor next to Kevin's on the sink, and the hall closet has been cleared of coats for anything Javier needs to hang up.
It should feel intrusive; they've never talked about it, Javier never asked, and it's a hell of an assumption to just move into someone else's apartment, even if they are a friend.
The thing is, he's really good with Bridget, and Kevin really isn't. He's always thought that parents automatically knew how to do these things, like the baby pops out and the knowledge is just beamed into their heads. It's not that he doesn't love Bridget, because he does with an intensity that continually takes him aback, but she's boring and he doesn't like that new baby smell everyone always seems to rave about and if he'd wanted to deal with other people's bodily fluids, he would have gone into medicine like his brother did.
Javier, though, Javier is really, really good with her. She fits into the cradle of his arms like she was molded for them. When she cries and Kevin is about ready to tear his hair out because he can't get her to stop, Javier will scoop her up and dance her around the room until she's shrieking with happiness instead of distress. Javier changes diapers and warms formula and carries Bridget around in a soft piece of fabric looped around his torso that one of the moms in the building gave him whenever he needs his hands free.
So Javier claims the living room and trades shifts getting up in the middle of the night to take care of Bridget, and Kevin is too grateful to question it.
“I swear you're not even human. You're some kind of magical alien,” Kevin says. Javier's stretched out on the couch with Bridget curled up on his chest, blunt fingertips swirling through the downy fluff on top of her head.
“Hmm,” Javier says. His eyes are fixed on the muted television and he's drinking apple juice out of a bottle. The crowd surges to its feet as someone scores a touchdown, and Javier silently pumps a fist in the air instead of his usual shout of approval. Bridges stirs and Javier drops his hand down onto her back.
Thirty minutes ago her face was red and wet from inconsolable crying. Twenty minutes ago Javier came home.
That's not even fair.
“Magician,” Kevin says again, kicking his feet up on the coffee table and nearly knocking over the swear jar that had just suddenly been there after the last time Javier's sister came to visit.
“I'm soothing,” Javier mumbles around the rubber nipple clenched between his teeth. “You can't learn that.”
“The scent of lavender is soothing,” Kevin says. “The sound of rain is soothing. Home made apple pie right out of the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is soothing. You? You are not soothing.”
Javier tilts his head to the side in concession. He takes the bottle from between his teeth and gestures vaguely with it when he says, “Okay, I have a vibe, then. I have a magnetism that applies to animals and small children. I have mad baby calming skills. Don't hate the player, hate the game, bro.”
“Magic,” Kevin insists. “You're a cheating cheater who uses magic.”
“Tomato, tomahto,” Javier says and pats Bridget's back when she lets out a little hiccuping noise. After a pause, he adds, “She stops crying for Alexis too.”
“Evil magician,” Kevin corrects.
Javier smirks and switches over to an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba.
Kevin cleans the apartment when Javier isn't around. The photos stay on the walls, but he slowly starts to box up Jenny's books, her clothes, the scent of her perfume. Her jewelry goes into a lock box that he stores on the top shelf in the bedroom closet for when Bridget gets older.
Javier would help if he asked, Kevin knows, but it doesn't seem right. It's as close to closure as he can get, and if every knickknack he puts away feels like a cut, at least it's a clean one instead of the festering, pus filled thing that it could have been.
There are years worth of home movies that Jenny's parents sent them when she first told them she was expecting that Kevin can't bring himself to watch. He thinks he probably should, should start Bridget early on learning who her mother was, but it hurts. He can't even say her name most days, much less look at her pictures or see her smiling and breathing and alive.
It can wait until Bridget's older, he tells himself. She's only a few months old now and it's not like she'll understand what she's seeing.
He tells himself and he tells himself and he tells himself, and then one night he walks by the nursery door after his shower and overhears Javier talking as he feeds Bridget her nightly bottle.
“So she's standing there in the middle of the precinct, right? Five feet nothing, pretty and wholesome as some milk maiden out of a picture, and she's yelling her head off at this guy we'd just brought in for a double homicide. 'We have reservations for tonight and I've been looking forward to this for weeks! Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a good reservation for La Mancha? Do you? Because mine is for a half hour from now, and so help me god, if you make me miss it, I will beat you with my shoe.'”
Javier pauses to laugh, and Bridget gurgles up at him, eyes wide and fascinated by the sound of his voice.
“That mama of yours, mija,” Javier says, stroking a hand over the top of Bridget's head with a fond smile. “She was one hell of a classy lady. You know the guy confessed to everything before we even got him to the interrogation room?”
He bends to press a kiss to her forehead. “You got even a little bit of her in you and you're going to turn out just fine.”
Kevin backs away from the doorway, moves until his back hits the hallway wall, and for a long time he just leans there and listens to the indistinct rise and fall of Javier's voice, his heart clenching hard in his chest. It still hurts, but it's a good pain, like remembering how to breathe after going too long without. And for the first time in months, when he breathes in he doesn't feel like he's exhaling on a sob.
“What are we doing?”
Javier looks up at Kevin, who's framed by the nursery door frame, and settles Bridget a little more securely in the crook of his arm. She fusses and smacks a pudgy fist against his chest, and Javier waits until she latches back onto the bottle before answering.
“Well,” Javier says, “I'm feeding the midget. I don't know what you're doing, but it's your turn to make dinner, so I thought you were calling for takeout.”
“I'm serious.” Kevin moves closer, close enough to trace his fingers along the edge of Bridget's cheek. She flails an arm in his direction, but otherwise ignores him. A small smile hooks up the corners of his mouth, but then he looks back at Javier and it drops away. “You and me, Jav. I know you think I'm oblivious and I don't know. You think I don't see, but I do. And you've got to help me here, because I don't know what we're doing and I'm fucking floundering right now.”
“Swear jar,” Javier says automatically, and Kevin thinks he probably doesn't even realize the words slipped out.
Kevin crouches down next to the rocking chair—the chair Jenny had been so excited to find at a second hand store and had spent an entire weekend refinishing—and rests the flat of his hand on Bridget's belly. “Jav.”
“I'm not asking for anything,” Javier says slowly. He keeps his eyes on Bridget, the safest point in the room. “I don't expect anything from you. Whatever you know or think you know, I just want to help.”
“I know you don't. I never said you did. But this isn't fair to you.”
Javier looks up sharply at that, and his grip on Bridget tightens enough that Kevin can see it. “Pretty sure that's my call to make.”
“I love you, you know,” Kevin says, because it's true, he always in one form or another, and Javier deserves to know that. “But I don't know if I'll ever get past where we are now. This whole thing with Jenny,” he pauses, shakes his head and clears his throat. “I don't know if I could stand to go through that again.”
Javier sighs the way he does when he thinks Kevin's being intentionally obtuse and shakes his head. “I'm not asking you to,” he says. “If you get there, then great. I'm not going to put my life on hold waiting for it, but I won't lie and say that I don't want that. So you get there or you don't, that doesn't change one thing.” Javier finally meets Kevin's eyes, and he's deadly serious when he says, “I'm not going anywhere. This isn't me pining or trying to weasel my way into your life, and if you tell me to get lost, then I will. But as long as you need the help, as long as you aren't actively kicking me out, I'm staying.”
He places his hand over Kevin's on Bridget's stomach, and if their fingers get a little tangled together, Kevin doesn't pull away or complain. “That okay with you, bro?”
“Yeah,” Kevin says, his voice rough like sandpaper. “That's great.”
“Bed,” Kevin groans a few months later. Bath time is becoming more and more of a battle lately, and Kevin doesn't think it should be possible that a baby should be this much more tiring than chasing down perps.
“Ungh,” Javier agrees. He's downright staggering, shoulder bumping against the wall when he turns to head toward the living room, and Kevin snags a hold of his wrist before he can move too far away.
“No,” Kevin says. His heart is in his throat, an uncomfortable lump that he can't swallow around, and he feels about ready to jitter out of his skin, but he manages to keep his voice mostly steady. He tugs on Javier's wrist and takes a step toward the bedroom. “Bed.”
It's a testament to how tired he is that it takes a few moments before comprehension spreads across Javier's face, and Kevin can feel the tattoo of his pulse jump erratically under his fingers.
They don't have sex that night. They don't kiss or spoon or even touch, a stretch of space between their bodies when they fall down on the bed and immediately drop into sleep, but Kevin wakes up and the first thing he sees is Javier's face pressed into a pillow, drool gathering at the corner of his mouth.
It feels like a step forward, and Kevin reaches out to touch his fingers to Javier's and tells himself that that's enough for now.
Thank you for reading! Feedback is always appreciated! :)