To say that Chuck was a wreck when Angela came into their lives was an understatement. Raleigh knew that there was more to Chuck than just the loud and brash jerk persona. He knew Chuck could be gentle and affectionate. He had experienced it first-hand. But fatherhood revealed yet another side to Chuck that Raleigh had not expected. This was a level of vulnerability new even to him.
He thought he had seen overprotectiveness with Max, but this was a whole new experience. Chuck hovered around her constantly, checking in on her and adjusting her blanket to make sure she was warm. Raleigh had to pull him away before his fussing woke her up and caused more problems than solving.
Raleigh watched Chuck as he held Angie in his arms for the first time. His every movement was slow and deliberate as if he were handling a bomb that could go off at any second as opposed to a sleeping baby.
“Just relax. Find a comfortable position for both of you.” Raleigh assured him.
“I don’t want to break her.” Chuck mumbled as he looked down at her.
Raleigh fought the temptation to laugh. He didn’t want to provoke Chuck in his newfound emotional instability because he really wasn’t sure if he’d get angry or emotional. Anyone would have thought he had carried the baby and given birth to it himself from the almost hormonal response Chuck was displaying. Raleigh had heard of sympathy pregnancy but he was pretty sure that didn’t come from adopting.
“You won’t break her.” Raleigh smiled and helped Chuck adjust Angela so that she rested more comfortably in his arms. “See, you’re doing fine.”
“Fuck.” Chuck whispered. “She’s so tiny.”
Raleigh wrapped an arm around Chuck’s waist and leaned into him, resting his chin on his shoulder and gazing down at their daughter. “Yeah, she is.”
Chuck was a deep sleeper. Raleigh knew that from experience too. Getting him out of bed in the morning was a challenge. He slept soundly through the night when Raleigh got up and tried to distract himself on the nights his insomnia played up. He had been afraid that he would wake him but even after stubbing his toe on a chair, knocking it over and swearing loudly, Chuck had kept on sleeping through the ordeal.
That all changed when they got the baby monitors. Chuck insisted on putting it on the table beside his side of the bed so he could hear her if anything happened. Raleigh suspected that Chuck was afraid he might sleep through it and neglect their daughter. His fears were unfounded.
As soon as Angela cried Chuck was falling out of the bed and stumbling through the dark to check on her.
After too many times of running himself ragged taking care of Angela, Raleigh had moved the baby monitor to his side of the bed once Chuck had fallen asleep so he could take the night feeding duties.
Back when they found out that their adoption application had been accepted Chuck had gone out and bought the entire contents of a baby store. He had even started baby proofing the house a few weeks later.
“We’re getting a baby not a toddler, Chuck.” Raleigh said as he watched him installing baby proof locks on the cabinets. “We don’t have to worry about this stuff for a while.”
“Can’t hurt to be prepared.” Chuck shrugged.
“She can’t even reach the cabinets up top.”
“Yeah but she can get under the sink.” Chuck countered. “Have you seen the shit we keep under there? It’s all fucking poison.”
Raleigh just rolled his eyes. There was no stopping Chuck once he had set his mind on something. Their child was going to be the most protected baby on earth. He would put his foot down if Chuck started trying to dress her in bubble wrap though.
“Right.” Chuck stood when he was done. “Gotta install the baby gate on the stairs.”
Raleigh groaned. He already had visions of himself walking into the damned thing half asleep at night.
They both sat in the living room surrounded by various pieces of a new crib when Angie’s old bassinet was getting a little too small for her.
“Where the fuck are the English instructions?” Chuck demanded. He threw the sheet of paper to the ground and started searching for any other instruction manuals he might have missed.
Raleigh picked it up and turned it over. “They’ve got to be here somewhere. They wouldn’t not include them.”
“I’m telling you, they’re not bloody here.” Chuck insisted and gestured to the assortment of wood and screws and tools surrounding them.
Raleigh peered down at the instructions again and inspected the images. “Alright, so according to this we have to connect piece A with the screws provided in bag G.”
“I don’t see them.” Chuck replied. “I’ve been looking for ages.”
Raleigh looked around, searching through all of the pieces. “Well, they must be here.”
“They’re. Not. Here.”
Raleigh bit back any kind of response he wanted to throw Chuck’s way; he knew they would both end up fighting over the damned crib and it would never get built.
“Whatever, we don’t need the bloody instructions anyway.” Chuck waved the instruction manual away. “We are not leaving until this bastard is built. I survived a nuclear explosion, I will not be beaten by a few pieces of fucking wood.”
His last statement was proving to be difficult to live up to.
“I’ve worked in construction for years. I built a giant fucking wall. We both worked on jaegers.” Raleigh folded his arms and surveyed the barely constructed crib. “So how the hell can we not put this crib together between the two of us?”
Chuck gave the crib a gentle shove to test the strength of the thing and a piece fell off onto the floor. Raleigh had to pull him away before Chuck started kicking at it.
Almost an hour later they both sat back and surveyed their work.
“Okay, we’re done.” Raleigh paused and frowned down at several parts still on the floor. “What are those parts for?”
“Oh fuck, we are not putting her in this death trap.” Chuck proceeded to take the crib apart with the intention of starting all over again.
After another argument over the safety of their daughter in the crib that involved several pieces of it ending up broken, Chuck stormed out without another word.
Thankfully he remembered not to slam the door on his way out like he used to. Raleigh sighed and picked up Angie and rocked her in his arms.
“You’ll get used to your dad’s moods.” He told the tiny sleeping form in his arms. “He means well, he’s just new at this. And he’s a big softie deep down.”
It was when he woke up in the chair a few hours later by Angie crying for her next feed that Raleigh started to worry. He wandered around the house with the baby on one arm and bottle in the other feeding her but found no sign of Chuck.
Chuck was a stubborn asshole but he never sulked for this long, especially over anything concerning Angie.
Max was the one to give away Chuck’s hiding spot in the end. When Raleigh approached the garage Max had jumped up, wagged his tail and barked at him. The dog ran over and pawed at his leg. Looked like Angie wasn’t the only one who had been in need of feeding.
Raleigh paused and watched Chuck at work. He had cut, sanded and had almost finished constructing a crib from the spare wood they had left lying around from half-finished or not even started projects.
“Chuck, this is…” Raleigh approached the crib and ran a hand along the smooth wooden surface.
“Yeah, yeah I know, it’s still a work in progress.” Chuck groused as he bent over the crib.
“It’s perfect.” Raleigh breathed and pulled at Chuck’s shirt with his free hand so he could pull him into a kiss.
“I don’t want to go back to work.”
Raleigh looked up from his book to see Chuck watching him with a hesitant expression on his face. Angie was still sleeping soundly in his arms.
“What?” Raleigh asked, wondering where this sudden outburst had come from. Chuck had taken time off work to take care of Angie, as had Raleigh and they were both due to start up again in just a few weeks’ time.
“I know we talked about this but…” Chuck stared down at the child bundled up in the blanket in his arms. Their child. “But, I just can’t.”
Raleigh closed the book and set it aside.
“I know it sounds selfish and it’s asking a lot from you, to be the sole provider and all...” Chuck looked up at him and that hesitant expression became a pleading one.
“Chuck–” Raleigh tried to interject but Chuck kept going.
“It’s just. Dad was never around, you know?” He sighed. “Even before the kaiju. He was away a lot for work. We were never close to start with.”
“Chuck, you’re not-”
Chuck was babbling. He knew it, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Things are better between us now but I don’t want to screw this up. I want her to have all the things I never had. A proper childhood. Parents who are there for her as she grows up.”
Raleigh stood and motioned for Chuck to put their daughter down. Chuck set Angela down gently in her basket. His knuckles turned white from gripping the edge as he looked down at her.
“I don’t want things to be like they were between me and dad.” Chuck’s voice grew quiet. “I don’t want her to hate me…”
“Chuck…”Raleigh could feel his heart breaking as Chuck poured out all of the worries and insecurities that had followed and never stopped haunting him since the day his family and home were torn apart and broken. “Hey...”
“Look at me.” He cupped Chuck’s face in his hands and made him look at him. “You are not going to screw this up.”
“How do you kno-” Chuck began to ask but it was Raleigh’s turn to cut him off.
“You are going to be an amazing dad.” Raleigh assured him. “You already are.”
Chuck couldn’t hold his gaze and his eyes dropped down to his shoes. “I’ve only ever been good at breaking things. I don’t know how to do anything else.”
Raleigh forced him to look at him once more. “We both know that’s bullshit. No one loves this kid more than we do. You’ve already shown that.”
His tone softened and Raleigh smiled warmly at him. “A lot of people raise puppies before they have kids as a kind of test, and from the way you’ve raised Max I’d say you’ve passed with flying colours.”
Raleigh kissed his forehead. “You’ve got this.”
Chuck looked down at Angie when Raleigh let him go. He reached down and gently lifted the stirring child in his arms.
Raleigh watched Chuck as he held Angela in his arms and he could see a glimpse into the future. He saw himself with Chuck and Angela. The two of them were going to be there for her; she wasn’t going to know a world without loving parents.
Chuck was going to worry. He was going to freak out and panic the first time she would get sick, and the first time she would fall down and get hurt. There were so many firsts and experiences that Chuck was going to worry over. Her first day of school, getting her heart broken and the day she would leave the nest and go out into the world.
Chuck was going to worry about their daughter, and that was okay because Raleigh would be there by his side every step of the way.