Brendon had been tossing and turning for what felt like hours trying to get comfortable. On top of the increase in Things to Worry About, his body was aching and the baby was restless. Theresa and Dr. Pierson assured him this was normal, but as much of a relief as that was, it still sucked.
He eventually gave up trying to sleep and found Keltie in the lounge, nursing a cup of tea. She smiled softly when she saw him and patted the free bit of couch next to her. Brendon sat down and couldn’t think of anything to say in the quiet of morning, so he didn’t say anything. She sipped her tea and he rubbed his belly (finally his baby seemed to realize it was too early to be on the move) and they sat in companionable silence.
“Ryan told me he talked to you,” Keltie said after a moment.
Brendon blinked over at her. She didn’t look upset, exactly, just a little resigned.
“It was more of a fight than a conversation,” Brendon said and Keltie snorted.
“That sounds about right. He can’t ever say the important things unless he’s arguing about them.” She paused and added, “we broke up. Or went on a break. Or, you know, whatever the cool kids are calling it these days.”
Brendon flinched and fought the urge to curl into himself. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Keltie looked up quickly and shook her head. “Oh, hey, no. It’s not your fault. I mean, I was mad at you for a long time, I think. Or jealous. I don’t know. Just . . . it was always you. That’s not your fault.”
Brendon frowned and looked down at his hands on the gigantic swell of his stomach. “Still. I never meant for you guys to break up or anything.”
“Yeah, well, he needs the chance to figure some things out, you know? And I love him. I love him so fucking much it hurts sometimes. But that’s part of life, I guess.” She caught Brendon’s eye and smiled. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.”
She looked sad but beneath that she looked like she always did: strong and optimistic and still happy, somehow. It made Brendon’s heart ache a little.
She hesitated before setting her cup of tea aside and nodding at Brendon’s belly. “Can I?” she asked, and Brendon nodded.
They shifted on the couch so that she could curl up with her head on his stomach. She curled one hand around the swell and spoke so softly Brendon could only make out a few sentences.
“I get it,” she said, “why he would love you.”
Brendon bit his lip and said, “I always knew why he would choose you.”
She looked up at him, eyes sparkling, and went back to murmuring quietly to the baby. After a while, it started to move, dancing, almost, to the cadence of Keltie’s voice.
That was how Ryan found them a bit later. Brendon looked up to see him standing in the doorway, his face open and lovely in spite of the way it made Brendon’s stomach hurt. He just stared at them for the longest time. Brendon wasn’t sure, but he thought Keltie probably sensed him in the doorway. She didn’t look up, though, just kept talking in the same low voice. A moment later, Ryan turned on his heel and left. Brendon closed his eyes and let Keltie’s murmurs lull him to sleep.
Exactly thirteen hours before Brendon officially went into labor, Shane came back. Nobody had seen him since January and they certainly weren’t expecting him to show up at the birth center. Brendon had pretty much given up hope that Shane was going to magically show back up period; he was mostly (but not really) okay with that.
He was playing cards with Spencer and Haley, trying desperately to get comfortable again, when they all heard Jon’s raised voice outside the lounge and coming closer.
The muffled words became clear just as the door swung open.
“- not kidding, get the fuck out,” Jon said and it took Brendon a handful of seconds to register the fact that Shane was standing in the doorway.
He didn’t look good. His hair was mussed, his eyes rimmed with circles of exhaustion. He stared at Brendon and Brendon stared back but neither of them said anything. Ryan and Keltie ran into the room but Brendon barely registered them.
“What’s he doing here?” Ryan asked Jon before spinning on Shane. “What are you doing here?”
“I don’t know,” Jon said, voice hard, “but if he doesn’t leave soon I think we should call the police.”
“Nobody’s calling the police,” Spencer said with a soft sigh. “Come on, let’s give them a minute.”
He stood up, Haley on his heels, and ushered a reluctant Ryan and Jon out with Keltie’s help. Brendon and Shane still didn’t move and they didn’t say anything. There was too much to say, too many questions to ask, for it to be easy.
Eventually, Shane closed his eyes and whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“You said that already,” Brendon pointed out, “and I told you it was okay.” He paused and added, “you didn’t come home.”
Shane nodded and didn’t respond. Brendon felt every single shred of hurt and anger and fear he’d suffered through since Shane had disappeared rush to the surface and he picked up the nearest solid object, a book of Ryan’s that was still on the coffee table, and threw it at Shane’s head. He missed, of course, because he had bad aim and wasn’t really trying that hard anyway.
Shane blinked, rapidly, when the book connected with the wall behind him.
Brendon glared and said, “you’re such an asshole.”
“I know,” Shane said a little desperately. “I was trying to fix it or make it better.”
“You didn’t need to do that. I was fucked either way, but . . . you should have come back. You should have stayed.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Shane said.
Brendon squeezed his eyes shut and said, “it’s too late for that.”
He opened his eyes again when he heard movement and frowned when he saw Shane heading for the exit.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going this time?” Brendon demanded.
Shane stopped in his tracks and turned around. Brendon held out a hand.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not glad that you came back,” he said, and Shane hesitated before taking a step forward, reaching out and fitting his fingers against Brendon’s palm.
Brendon tugged and Shane fell onto the couch next to him. They settled comfortably against each other and Shane tucked his face into the crook of Brendon’s neck. Neither of them moved for a while. They were too busy soaking up each other’s warmth, too busy breathing.
The contractions started during the night when Brendon was asleep with Shane curled up behind him in a way that was painfully, wonderfully familiar. There was a tiny flash of pain and a tightness in his belly; the sensations jolted Brendon awake. He was almost asleep again, convinced it was a false alarm, when he felt it again. He swallowed hard before prodding Shane awake.
“I think you need to go get Dr. Pierson,” he said when Shane mumbled groggily at him.
Shane sat up quickly and looked down at Brendon in the dark of the room. “Is everything okay?” he asked.
Brendon nodded and winced at another low-centered spasm. “Yeah,” he said breathlessly, “I’m just, you know, having a baby.”
Shane bolted out of bed at that and Brendon got carefully to his feet. Walking helped a little, helped him remember to keep breathing even though he was pretty sure a panic attack would be pretty awesome right then.
“Hey,” Spencer panted, racing into the room with Jon and Ryan at his heels. “Shane woke us up.”
Jon walked over to Brendon’s side and paced with him for a few steps. “You okay?” he asked. Brendon slanted a glance up at him and Jon snorted. “Right, but other than going into labor are you okay?”
Brendon sucked in a breath and nodded. He was afraid to speak so he just kept walking around the room, rubbing his belly, while Jon, Spencer and Ryan watched him.
“What about you guys?” Brendon asked in a lull between contractions. He stopped in front of where they were all sitting on his bed, pressed close from shoulders to hips.
“Fine,” Ryan said, but his voice was a little thin.
“Good,” Jon said.
“This is really happening,” Spencer said, eyes wide.
He looked up at Brendon and maybe it hit them all at the same time that Brendon was having a baby because all of a sudden the room was tense. Ryan, Brendon was sure, was barely breathing. Someone had to do something about that, but before he could say anything, another contraction hit. Brendon picked up the pace again, muttering to himself that it would be fine, it would be okay, he could totally do this, he and his baby could so do this.
A few minutes later, Dr. Pierson and Theresa entered the room with Shane behind them. Shane peered over their shoulders worriedly and Brendon gave him a small smile.
“So,” Dr. Pierson said, clapping his hands together, “it’s baby time!”
Brendon and Jon shared a look and started laughing. It broke the tension a little and Brendon figured Dr. Pierson’s levity was a sign of confidence. It would be fine. Everything would be fine.
“Let’s get you to the birthing room,” Dr. Pierson continued, beckoning Brendon forward.
He looked over his shoulder at Jon, Spencer and Ryan. When he reached out behind himself, Ryan grabbed his hand and let himself be tugged to standing. Jon and Spencer followed. They made their way out of the room; Brendon grabbed Shane on the way and squeezed both of them tight when another contraction hit on the way. Keltie and Haley tacked on to their silly little parade halfway down the hall, smiling encouragingly at Brendon the whole time.
They had to separate; Brendon got settled in a bed surrounded by doctors and nurses and shiny, scary-looking equipment while everyone got into their scrubs.
Dr. Pierson stood at Brendon’s side and patted his shoulder. “Ready?” he asked.
Brendon shook his head and said, “yeah. Yes.”
Afterward, Brendon would remember everything moving in slow motion. He would remember pain and he would remember being terrified. He would remember the clinical, confident voices of the doctors and the calming, steady voices of Jon and Spencer. He would remember the feel of Shane holding one hand while Ryan held the other and he would remember the rest in bits and pieces that wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense later.
It was scary. At times it was a little touch-and-go. It always, always hurt so bad that Brendon yelled and screamed and waited for it to be over. And in the end, it was worth it. Because in the end, Brendon gave birth to a baby boy who wailed incredibly loud, full of life from his first breath, and that was the only part Brendon would remember with breathtaking clarity: hearing that sound for the first time and then, after everything was finished and he’d been sewn up, holding his baby for the first time.
A nurse placed Brendon’s son carefully in his arms and Brendon had never felt more simultaneously powerful and useless in his life. He’d given birth to the tiny life in his arms, had somehow gotten them both through nine terrifying months, and he was so scared of fucking up that his throat got tight. All of that paled in comparison to the way his heart constricted when his baby’s wide, blue eyes blinked up at him. Brendon fell in love at first sight and he was never going to forget the way that felt, either, the rush of warmth, the weightlessness, the overwhelming strength of it.
He sat in the quiet of the room and basked in it, forgetting his soreness and his nerves, focusing just on his baby, his son, lying in his arms. Brendon kissed his baby’s cheeks and nose and didn’t even care that the nurses in the room could see him cry.
Ryan, Spencer and Jon were the first ones in a bit later. Brendon was humming quietly, a song he barely knew but that he remembered from when he had first heard Jon singing it. Jon looked a little surprised, but he couldn’t stop smiling, either, so it was hard to tell.
“He’s perfect,” Brendon said softly. “I already checked. Ten fingers. Ten toes. Everything present and accounted for.”
“And you?” Spencer asked, eyes darting from the baby’s quiet, peaceful face to Brendon’s.
“I feel kind of like I was hit by a truck,” Brendon answered. “But I’m pretty perfect, too.”
Spencer beamed at him, relieved, and sat in the chair next to his bed. Jon perched gingerly at the foot of Brendon’s bed.
“What’s his name?” he asked, eyes glued to the baby.
Brendon had been tossing around name ideas in his head for a while. He’d avoided learning the sex of the baby every time the option had come up, but he’d narrowed it down pretty easily even without knowing.
“Freddie Ellington,” he said, and Jon groaned.
“He is gonna get the shit kicked out of him every day for the rest of his life,” he said with a small laugh.
Brendon made a face at him. “Watch your language, heathen,” he shot back quietly.
Jon made a face back and Brendon laughed, looking up when Ryan walked to the head of the bed and stared down at the both of them.
“I think it kind of fits,” Ryan said, and Spencer said, “you would,” with a soft grin.
Ryan reached out with a hesitant hand to brush his fingers over Freddie’s forehead. The baby scrunched his face a little but didn’t stir any more than that. Brendon looked up at Ryan.
“Want to hold him?” he asked, and Ryan bit his lip before nodded.
Brendon transferred his baby to Ryan carefully. Ryan looked scared out of his mind to be holding such a tiny, fragile life, but he got used to it quickly and rocked Freddie gently.
“He’s so small,” Ryan breathed, and Brendon just smiled because yeah.
Eventually Spencer stood up and walked around to stand at Ryan’s side and gaze down at Freddie. He had the softest look on his face, the brightest, sunniest smile.
“He’s beautiful, Bren,” Spencer said, and Brendon felt like he was glowing with pride and joy and now that made sense, why his mom used to call him that.
My pride and joy, she used to say, and Brendon wondered if maybe one day he’d get to introduce the two of them.
After a moment, Ryan passed Freddie carefully to Spencer. Spencer held him for a while; his eyes were a little wide and locked on the baby in his arms, his hands steady and gentle. Then it was Jon’s turn. Jon cradled Freddie close, took one look at his face and sighed gustily.
“Oh,” he said softly, “oh, I am going to spoil you forever. We’re totally keeping you.”
Freddie made a small noise and Jon’s face softened like butter and he leaned forward to speak softly to the baby. Ryan perched on the bed next to Brendon’s head and Brendon leaned over, practically falling into Ryan’s lap; he was tired and so unbelievably happy he could barely stand it.
“You did it,” Ryan said quietly.
“Yeah,” Brendon agreed. “I wasn’t sure I would.”
Ryan shrugged and ran his fingers through Brendon’s sweaty, tangled hair. “I was,” he said.
Brendon stayed at the center for another week. Recovering took him a bit longer than it took most women who had just given birth. His body had to make some new adjustments fast, not to mention the part where “giving birth” had actually meant “getting cut open”. He spent the next few days sore and tired, but slowly and steadily his energy began to increase. Without the baby inside, it was like his body realized it could go back to old habits, soon.
“Your ADHD should come in handy now,” Spencer teased. “You and Freddie can keep the same crazy hours.”
Brendon rolled his eyes and rocked Freddie and tried not to worry about things like 3 a.m. feedings. He was nervous enough about taking his son home; thinking about all the stuff that went along with it definitely didn’t help.
Spencer sat next to him and said, “you know you’re not on your own, right? Freddie’s got, like, four other dads to help with late night feedings and sh- stuff.” He glanced around and then added, “Ryan totally volunteers for diaper changing, by the way.”
Brendon relaxed a little and laughed. Freddie made a soft sound and scrunched up his face but, thankfully, didn’t start crying.
“He does not,” Brendon shot back.
Spencer shrugged. “Well I’m sure as hell not doing it,” he said, but they both knew he probably would and Ryan would get the job of testing bottles on the inside of his wrist or something.
It didn’t really matter, though. Jon, Spencer, Ryan and Shane all did their best to help Brendon out at the center and Brendon was pretty sure they already had lists of assigned tasks for when they got out. It was nice to constantly be reminded that he wasn’t in this alone, not by a long-shot.
There were a dozen messages of congratulations waiting for Brendon when he finally got home, including the balloons and cards that had been sent to the birthing center. Pete and Ashlee visited him on his first day back, all smiles.
“How’s fatherhood, dude?” Pete asked.
Freddie was sleeping, so in that moment it was actually pretty awesome. When Brendon answered, Pete and Ashlee shared a look and Pete said, “that’s good. You gonna be willing to give me advice when it’s my turn?”
Patrick showed up later that week with Travis, both of whom were total rockstars with Freddie; he loved them on sight and Ryan laughed, leaned into Brendon, whispered “just like his dad”. Singer, Marshall and Johnson dropped by one afternoon bearing enough caffeine to last Brendon a lifetime, and they came back the next day with Cash, Ian and what looked like half the Disney Store.
“Not all of this is for you, Brendon,” Cash said, waggling a small, plush Tramp in front of Freddie.
Brendon rolled his eyes good-naturedly and let them hold Freddie for a while. They were less panicky about it than Singer had been. The poor guy had nearly had a heart attack and worried the whole time he was going to drop and break Brendon’s baby. Cash and Ian were like pros, cradling Freddie close and making faces at him and cooing. Freddie took to them pretty fast, too.
Tom and Cassie flew out the weekend after Brendon got home (Freddie seemed to adore them which prompted Shane to wonder if there was a pair of arms and a smile Freddie didn’t fall for on sight, to which Ryan just smirked and said, “see? Just like his dad.”); The Academy and The Hush Sound recorded their congratulatory videos and posted them online. A few reporters called wanting the story, and there were insane and huge offers of money for the first baby photos, but Brendon wasn’t really interested in becoming the centerpiece of some gossip rag. Pete managed to hold them off.
It all settled down after a couple of weeks. The outside stuff, at least. Freddie did not settle down. If nothing, he gained momentum, and Brendon started getting less and less sleep. He was pretty much keeping the same hours he’d had before getting pregnant, usually less than that, actually, but it wasn’t like he couldn’t function; he just kind of missed sleeping through the night and those long naps he’d indulged in all the time.
Brendon thought he was pretty good about not complaining, though. He had Shane helping him out, and Ryan and Spencer and Jon who were pretty permanent fixtures around the house. And, most importantly, there was Freddie. It was insane that Brendon could be so in love with one tiny little human being, but it was epic. As harrowing as it got sometimes, as scary and hard to adjust to as the whole situation was, Brendon fell more and more in love every day.
He wasn’t the only one. Freddie had charmed everyone. Jon was constantly taking pictures and Shane was taking home videos that he promised to keep under lock and key this time (it was slow-going, but Ryan, Spencer and Jon were learning to forgive him and that had never been a problem for Brendon in the first place). Ryan and Spencer were both wrapped around Freddie’s tiny, adorable little finger already, buying him more stuff than he could possibly need and hogging him for naps and walks and cooing at him all the time.
Haley was over a lot, too, and she was just as bad. One memorable night in particular, she was holding Freddie close and eyeing Spencer even more closely. She said, “will you freak out if I say that I want one?” and Spencer choked on his own spit.
Keltie had gone back to New York a week after Freddie was born, but she had a few pictures of her own on her myspace. There was one that Brendon loved in particular, of Freddie’s small foot cradled in one of his own hands. The caption underneath it said ‘believe in miracles’ and it reminded Brendon, every time he saw it, of just what a miracle his son really was.
Freddie was lying on his back, gurgling up at nothing, while Brendon and Ryan plucked out aimless melodies on their guitars. Brendon kept glancing over at his son and grinning, his smile widening whenever he caught Ryan doing the same.
“I want Jon’s lullaby on the new album,” Brendon said, stilling his fingers on the neck of the guitar.
Ryan nodded. “I like that one. I’ve been toying around with some lyrics. I don’t know, though, I want you to see them first.”
They shared a long look, Ryan’s gaze careful and earnest. Brendon glanced away and said, “I wrote a song, too. I mean, it’s not finished yet and it doesn’t have to go on the album but I thought you might want to hear it.”
“Does it sound like a showtune?” Ryan asked, voice light.
“Yes, Ryan, I wrote a musical number that I think will blow your face off,” Brendon shot back, deadpan.
Ryan snorted and set his guitar aside. “Alright then, Rockstar, let’s hear it.”
Shane walked into the room and scooped Freddie up into his arms. “New song?” he asked, sitting next to Ryan and bouncing Freddie in his lap.
Ryan glanced over with a soft smile and nodded.
“Spencer’s already heard it and he told me it doesn’t suck so if he lied, you have to let me know so I can kill him,” Brendon said.
“Yeah, yeah, just play it,” Ryan said, holding out his finger for Freddie to grasp and hold on to.
Brendon watched the two of them. There was a gentle look of awed affection on Ryan’s face and a carefree expression of adoration on Freddie’s. Brendon shared a warm smile with Shane over their heads and readjusted the guitar.
When he glanced up, his son beamed at him, bright and happy, tiny feet perched on Shane’s thighs, tiny hand clinging to Ryan; Brendon closed his eyes, still smiling, and played.
A Million Ways To Fall: The Fanmix
A Million Ways To Fall: The Masterlisting