Summary: Stan is away for the night.
Notes: Read on Tumblr for a beautiful companion illustration by negniahn.
Exhausted, Kyle reaches for the baby; he pulls his son from the crib and strokes the baby’s hair. “What’s wrong?” he whispers, against the baby’s ear. “What do you need?” Kyle turns the lights on in the hall and takes the baby back to the den, where Kyle tries rocking him. He presses soft kisses to Julian’s forehead, both upset and touched by the tearstains on his fat cheeks. Kyle takes a page from Stan’s book and tries singing, but he doesn’t have Stan’s sweet voice or his natural warmth, and Kyle ends up annoyed with himself and just unhappy that now it’s 3 in the morning and Stan’s not home and their son is crying and Kyle is so bad at this that he can’t even get the baby to shut up. Kyle carries Julian back upstairs and grabs his cell off the bedside table.
Kyle can tell that Stan was sleeping, and now he feels bad for even calling. “Hey,” he says, over the sound to the baby’s cries. “I’m sorry, you’re sleeping.”
"It’s okay. Kyle. Hey."
"Hey. Sorry, I didn’t — I shouldn’t have called."
"Is everything okay?"
"Yeah, um. Everything’s fine. It’s just – Julian is crying and I can’t get him to stop."
"Is he sick?" Now Stan sounds more awake.
"Maybe he wants a bottle."
"I just fed him an hour ago."
"Well, if you’re sure he’s not hungry, and he’s not sick, he might need a new diaper."
Kyle gets up and, with the phone tucked between his shoulder and cheek, carries the baby back to his room. “I changed him earlier. So maybe he’s okay.”
"Well, did you give him a whiff?"
"I don’t know, Stan, I think I’d smell it if he needed a change."
"Well, maybe he went number one."
Depositing his crying baby on the changing table, Kyle leans over him with his elbows and looks into his eyes. Julian’s eyes are blue like Stan’s. It’s the first night Kyle’s been alone since Julian’s arrival, and never in a million years did Kyle ever think he’d feel so lost, so emotionally wrecked, by missing Stan for just one night.
Kyle clears his throat. “I guess maybe he feels kinda damp.”
"You should check."
"Well, when are you going to be home?"
"I’m on a 7 a.m. flight, but the chick working the United counter said just between us she didn’t think anything would get out until noon. Not on United, anyway."
"So it would be sort of cruel to make our kid wait twelve hours with a wet diaper, right?"
"Maybe bordering on abusive, yeah." Stan is quiet. "It’s just pee, dude. You pee every day."
"Yeah, but I don’t, like — touch it."
"I’m right here on the phone." Stan sounds fully awake now. "Though I hear him crying, poor little guy."
"Yeah. I know. It’s pretty stupid to be so grossed out by pee, right?"
"Well, I don’t know, everyone’s grossed out by something." Stan himself gets so queasy at the sight of blood and gore that he struggles not to puke. When discussing whether to even have a baby, they’d reached this tacit agreement: Stan would change all the wet diapers if Kyle bandaged all wounds. But now Stan is grounded in a snowstorm in Boise, and what was supposed to have been a quick day trip for business has turned into the breakdown of their entire system.
Kyle sighs and says, “I’m going to put you on speaker.” He does, setting the phone aside, and pulls an antiseptic wipe out of the little plastic box full of them, on the window sill. It’s too dark out to see but out of that window is a view of their garden, which is buried now under many many feet of snow. Last summer, before the baby came, they sat on the patio in their plastic chairs, half-bakedly drinking coffee (Kyle) and mimosas (Stan) on Sunday mornings, Stan shirtless and Kyle reaching over with his foot to fondle Stan’s dick through his soccer shorts. It was a long and hot summer during which Kyle felt insane every single day, apprehensive about everything, but especially about moments like the one he’s living through now.
Stan’s voice comes over the phone, crackling because speaker never works right: “You got this, dude.”
"I know, I know." Kyle bins the wipe and shushes the baby, unsnapping the bottom of his little onesie. It’s a hand-me-down from Stan’s sister, as with much of Julian’s wardrobe. Kyle peels it up and catches one of Julian’s chubby legs, bending over to kiss one of his little feet and then stopping because Kyle can’t bear the idea of putting his face 10 inches away from urine, no matter how effective generic Target diapers claim to be over the leading brand.
"Poor baby," Stan says. "i wish I were there."
"I wish you were here."
"You’re doing great."
"I’m so disgusted right now." Kyle tears off the sodden diaper and quickly flings it into the disposal with an undignified shriek. It comes out girlishly, and Stan laughs when he hears it. "Don’t be a douche." Kyle grabs another wet wipe for his fingers, sighing, "That was awful." He grabs another wipe and dabs at the baby’s ass.
"Tell me how it’s going?"
"This part’s just like the non-wet diapers, and you do those all the time."
"It is not, there’s this like, sticky pee residue? This is so gross. It’s not dignified."
"When Julian’s older you can tell him all about how you heroically changed his wet diaper that one time."
"Whatever." Kyle grabs a diaper from the shelf under the changing table. "It’s very naive of you to think children grow up and appreciate anything."
"Even if he doesn’t you’re still going to bitch about it."
"Probably," Kyle admits. He fastens the diaper and closes the onesie up, then wipes his hands off with another antibacterial wipe before taking Stan off speaker phone. "All done," he says.
"Well, you did it," Stan says. "Congratulations."
"Yeah. I guess I’ll put him back to bed, since he’s not crying anymore."
"Okay. Lemme say good night."
Kyle grins at how sentimental and silly this is, putting the phone near Julian’s ear. He hears Stan say “good night” and “I love you” and “I miss you” and “be good for your mother, he’s kind of a pussy about the diaper thing.”
"All right, all right. I’m not a pussy, you’re a pussy."
"Am I? Okay. Well, this pussy’s going back to sleep."
"Okay. Yeah. I’m sorry, but thanks—"
"Jeez, yeah, of course. Dude, I just wish I could be there."
"Come home soon."
"I’m gonna try. Cross your fingers for the weather to cooperate."
"Okay. I mean, I am. Love you."
Kyle puts Julian back to sleep and kisses both of his fat cheeks and his little nose. “Sleep tight,” he says, hoping for at least a few hours. Kyle leaves his phone in the baby’s room and climbs back into bed with the monitor, taking off his clothes and pulling the comforter over his head. It’s been so long since he fell asleep without Stan’s skin pressed up against his. Kyle wishes he’d gone out to Boise, too.
It’s also been a while since Kyle had a restful night of sleep, though maybe “night” isn’t quite accurate, since he doesn’t pass out until 4. But when he wakes up it’s well into midmorning and Stan is standing next to the bed, holding the baby.
"When’d you get in?" Kyle asks.
"Shh." Stan sits down on the edge of the mattress. "I just got him to sleep again."
"Oh." Kyle says in a stage whisper, "When did you get in?"
"About an hour ago. You were out for a while, huh? I tried texting you, but I called Southwest and got on the 7:40."
"Shit, I’m sorry, I left my phone in the other room. And I’m sorry about last night. I didn’t mean to wake you up."
"No, it’s cool, don’t apologize. I called the airline, so. Thank god that’s behind me." With the baby in one arm, Stan leans over, softly saying, "Hey," and kissing Kyle on the mouth.
"Hey. Good morning."
"I missed you." Kyle rubs his eyes. "We missed you."
"I missed you." Stan sits for a moment, admiring Kyle with his big, sleepy blue eyes. "I actually think he needs a change, so."
"Okay, I’ll be quick. Hopefully he’ll go back to sleep afterward. Fingers crossed." Stan gets up and starts to leave the room.
He turns and looks at Kyle. “Yeah?”
"I’m really glad you’re home."
"Oh. Well, me too." With the baby in his arms he can’t do much, so red-faced and grinning, he blows Kyle a kiss. Then Stan goes off to change the baby.
Kyle sinks deeper into the covers and looks forward to Stan’s imminent return.